Anonymous hacks US agency website

Screenshot of USSC websiteA video statement was embedded on the website for the United States Sentencing Commission

Hackers claiming to be from the activist group Anonymous have hacked a US government website in response to the death of Aaron Swartz.

Activists embedded a video statement on the homepage of the United States Sentencing Commission, an agency of the US government.

The statement referred to the death of Mr Swartz, an internet activist who apparently killed himself in January.

“Two weeks ago today, a line was crossed,” the statement said.

“Two weeks ago today, Aaron Swartz was killed. Killed because he faced an impossible choice. Killed because he was forced into playing a game he could not win.”

Mr Swartz, who was 26, was facing hacking charges and is believed to have taken his own life.

His federal trial was due to be held next month. If found guilty, he could have faced up to 35 years in prison.

Following his death, Mr Swartz’s family released a statement blaming “intimidation” and “prosecutorial overreach” from the criminal justice system.

‘Operation last resort’

The attack on the website was scheduled to begin at midnight eastern standard time, according to documents that appear to have been posted online by Anonymous activists.

Later on Saturday the website was not functioning.

Aaron SwartzAaron Swartz took his own life two weeks ago

The USSC is responsible for issuing sentencing guidelines for US federal courts.

The hackers, who had labelled the attack “Operation Last Resort”, said the site was chosen for symbolic reasons.

“The federal sentencing guidelines… enable prosecutors to cheat citizens of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to a fair trial, by a jury of their peers [and] are a clear violation of the 8th amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishments,” the video statement said.

The statement also suggested the hackers had sensitive information relating to a number of US judges that may be made public.

There have been numerous attacks by hackers operating under the Anonymous banner in recent months.

On Thursday two British men were jailed after taking part in an attacks on payment services including Paypal, organised by Anonymous.

Government websites of the UK and other countries have also been the subjects of attacks.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-21213793#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Apple audit finds under-age workers

factory workers examine motherboardsMany of Apple’s suppliers are in China.

Apple has terminated a contract with Chinese circuit board manufacturer PZ after discovering 74 under-age workers were working there.

The workers, who were all under 16, had been supplied by a regional recruitment company who gave them fake identity papers, the tech giant said.

They have since been returned to their families.

Apple has carried out 393 audits of its suppliers for its latest investigation into staff working conditions.

The recruitment company, named in the report as Shenzhen Quanshun Human Resources Co Ltd, has had its business licence revoked by the regional government as a result of the findings, Apple claims.

Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics Co Ltd, more commonly known as PZ, makes “a standard circuit board component used by many other companies in other industries”, according to the report.

Apple eventually hopes to eradicate child labour from the technology manufacturing sector completely, senior vice-president of operations Jeff Williams told Reuters.

“We go deep in the supply chain to find it,” he said.

“And when we do find it, we ensure that the under-age workers are taken care of, the suppliers are dealt with.”

The report also claims that 92% of the 1.5 million workers covered by the audit worked a maximum of 60 hours per week.

In October 2012, China-based iPhone and iPad manufacturer Foxconn admitted hiring 14-year-old interns in one of its factories

“We recognise that full responsibility for these violations rests with our company and we have apologised to each of the students for our role in this action,” the electronics manufacturer said in a statement.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21195762#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Skype privacy called into question

Skype graphicMicrosoft has said it will pass on some messages if law officers follow the “appropriate” steps

Microsoft is under fresh pressure to disclose information about how confidential its Skype user data is.

Reporters Without Borders, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and 43 other campaign groups have signed a letter asking the firm to reveal details about what information is stored and government efforts to access it.

Google, Twitter and others already provide such transparency reports.

Microsoft is to consider the request.

“We are reviewing the letter,” a spokeswoman said. “Microsoft has an ongoing commitment to collaborate with advocates, industry partners and 2,112 governments worldwide to develop solutions and promote effective public policies that help protect people’s online safety and privacy.”

Report request

More than 600 million people use Skype to make voice and video calls and send text and audio messages. Microsoft is currently in the process of migrating users from its Windows Live Messenger product to the service.

The US firm took control of Skype in 2011. Since then, the letter alleges, it has issued “persistently unclear and confusing” details about how confidential conversations on the service were.

Among the details the campaign groups want Microsoft to provide are:

  • Details of how many requests for data each country’s government has made and the percentage that the firm complies with.
  • Information about exactly what information Microsoft keeps itself.
  • The firm’s own analysis about the current ability of third-parties to intercept conversations.
  • The policy its staff has for dealing with disclosure requests.

Privacy policies

Skype last commented in detail about privacy issues in a blog post last July.

It said that Skype-to-Skype calls between two participants did not flow through its data centres meaning it would not have access to the video or audio.

It also noted that calls made between two devices using its software would be encrypted – limiting the ability of anyone to make sense of the data even if they could listen in.

However, Microsoft acknowledged that group calls using more than two computers did pass through its servers which were used to “aggregate the media streams”, and that text-based messages were also stored on its computers for up to 30 days in order to make sure they were synchronised across users’ various devices.

Skype group call graphicMicrosoft acknowledges that group calls do pass through its servers

“If a law enforcement entity follows the appropriate procedures and we are asked to access messages stored temporarily on our servers, we will do so,” it added.

Microsoft also noted that calls which linked Skype to mobile or landline telephone networks would flow through the relevant networks’ equipment, potentially offering an opportunity to tap in.

Furthermore it recognised that a China-only version of its service involved certain chats being stored and uploaded to the local authorities in compliance with the country’s laws.

Surveillance efforts

Beyond China, several governments have signalled they want to have access to Skype data.

The UK’s draft Communications Data Bill suggests internet service providers retain information about their subscribers use of Skype and other internet communications tools.

The Cnet news site reported last year that the FBI had drafted an amendment to US law which would require Microsoft and other net chat tool providers to create surveillance backdoors in their products.

More recently the netzpolitik.org blog published what it said was a leaked document from Germany’s government stating that its Federal Criminal Police Office was working on surveillance software to allow it to track Skype and other data communications. It said the agency hoped to have it ready by 2014.

An expenditure report by the country’s Ministry of Home Affairs suggests the local authorities have already spent money to try to monitor Skype using third-party software.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21194801#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Antigua applies to run ‘pirate’ site

Roulette wheelThe row blew up following a US clampdown on cross-border gambling

Antigua is seeking permission to run a website that sells music, movies and software – but ignores copyright law.

The Caribbean island is due to appear before the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 28 January seeking permission to run the site.

The decision to set up the site is the end point of a long-running dispute with the US over gambling.

The US has objected to Antigua’s plan saying it amounted to official “piracy” of intellectual property.

Officials from Antigua will make their plea before the WTO’s dispute settlement body on Monday to get “final authorisation” to set up the site, Mark Mendel, a lawyer representing the island nation told the BBC.

Antigua went to the WTO after the US moved to stop American citizens using gambling services, including web-based betting shops and casinos, run from the Caribbean country. Antigua claims that action deprived it of billions of dollars in revenue.

The WTO agreed with Antigua and dismissed a US appeal against its ruling. However, because the US took no action to lift the controls on cross-border gambling Antigua filed an application to recoup its lost cash by other means.

‘Official pirates’

It sought permission to sell movies, music, games and software via a store that would be able to ignore global agreements on copyright and trademark controls, reports filesharing news site TorrentFreak. It wanted to be able to sell up to $3.4bn (£2.15bn) of those goods before having to make copyright payments.

The WTO rejected that figure, but said Antigua could sell $21m (£13.2m) annually via the store before it had to consider paying copyright fees. The US is believed to have offered to pay Antigua $500,000 annually as compensation for the lost revenue.

The US has also written to the WTO criticising Antigua’s plans. In a letter to the WTO, excerpted on the Caribbean 360 news website, it said the plan amounted to “government-authorised piracy”.

It also warned that if Antigua did go ahead with its plan “it would only serve to postpone the final resolution of this matter, to the detriment of Antigua’s own interests”.

Mr Mendel added that just because Antigua had permission to run the site did not mean it would go on to set it up.

“When or exactly how it will do so is within the government’s discretion and will be considered and taken or not in due course,” he said.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21193634#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Sky Broadband struggles with demand

Sky logoSky promotes the fact that its “unlimited broadband” deal has no usage cap

Sky has acknowledged that some of its customers are experiencing slow internet speeds as a consequence of it signing up new subscribers.

The firm said that it was working to boost capacity at telephone exchanges in the worst hit areas.

The news coincided with the launch of Sky Go Extra – a service allowing users to download movies and TV shows so they can be watched offline.

One expert said the product might add to the strain.

Sky Go Extra still works at slow internet speeds – however, Sky’s other streaming services rely on the user having a 2 megabit per second connection. Some subscribers have complained their download speeds have fallen below this level at peak times.

A Sky spokeswoman apologised for the problems.

“Following a combination of an underlining increase in network traffic as well as a high rate of new customer additions, we are aware of capacity issues in a small number of exchanges,” she said.

“We are working on adding new capacity to those exchanges as quickly as we can. We apologise to all customers who have been impacted by this issue.”

She confirmed a report by The Register that users in Doncaster, North Wales and Bristol were among those affected, but declined to be more specific or name other locations.

However, the firm has provided an online postcode checking facility for its subscribers to check if their local exchange has been flagged as having an issue.

Sky also indicated that less than 5% of its broadband customer base used the affected exchanges.

‘Unlimited downloads’

Andrew Ferguson, editor of the Thinkbroadband news site noted that Sky had recently run a major promotion highlighting the fact it did not place “fair use” caps on the amount of data its customers use.

As a result, he said, the firm had probably attracted subscribers who downloaded significantly more than the average 23 gigabytes per month consumed by the average UK broadband user.

“Sky had this problem last year in some of its exchanges, and it’s definitely not the only service provider to have experienced this problem,” he told the BBC.

“It’s very much related to the firms’ promotional activities. Sky has also been pushing its fibre products recently – they offer higher speeds and people who sign up generally use more data afterwards.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21164871#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

First Firefox smartphones revealed

Firefox smartphonesGeeksphone is offering developers two types of Firefox phones

Mozilla has published details of the first smartphones to be powered by its Firefox operating system.

Two handsets are to be made by a small Spanish firm called Geeksphone and will be targeted at developers ahead of the system’s formal launch.

The platform is based on the HTML5 web programming language and is being marketed as offering software writers more “freedom” than alternatives.

However, it faces competition from other soon-to-be-released systems.

Blackberry 10, Ubuntu, Tizen and Sailfish are all due for release for smartphones before the end of 2013, joining a market already occupied by Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry 7 and Symbian among others.

One analyst said he did not believe there was enough room in the market for all to survive.

Low and high-end

The two new handsets are codenamed Keon and Peak.

Keon is the more basic model, including a 3.5in (8.9cm) screen, a 3MP (megapixel) camera and Qualcomm’s low-end Snapdragon S1 processor.

Peak has a bigger 4.3in display, an 8MP camera and a more powerful Snapdragon S4. Mozilla noted this was probably “slightly faster” than the first generation devices that would be marketed to the public.

It added that Geeksphone’s phones would be made available for sale next month, but did not provide a price.

It said that when devices went on general sale they would be cheaper than many alternatives and would be targeted at emerging markets.

Open source

The Mozilla Foundation already uses the Firefox brand for its web browser – an offshoot of the 1990′s Netscape Navigator product. The software is developed by a community of volunteers and is run as an open source project, meaning its code is accessible to others allowing them to make their own modifications.

Firefox OS phoneA Firefox OS simulator is also available for Android devices

The same principles are applied to the operating system and Mozilla highlights the fact that coders can market their apps through their own websites or any store they wish in addition to the organisation’s own marketplace.

It adds that the lightweight nature of the system means that apps should run smoothly and offer “optimal battery life” on low-end devices.

However, one analyst questioned whether this would make Firefox OS stand out, bearing in mind developers were already free to offer web apps for most other devices, and in the case of Android could also sell native apps outside Google’s own Play store if the user adjusted their settings to accept them.

“What Firefox is trying to do is make the web the app store and bring the openness of the web to phones,” said Nick Dillon, senior analyst at the consultants Ovum.

“But the question is what does this offer over a cheap Android phone to a consumer looking to buy a low-end handset?

“On Android you got Google services pre-installed and the 700,000 apps in its store but Firefox OS isn’t going to have these so will have reduced functionality.”

Native or not?

If Firefox OS is a success it should help drive the creation of HTML5 apps, which by their nature should work on any smartphone.

In theory this works to developers’ advantage as they can write a single program and then offer it across a range of platforms.

However, many view the language as a “work in progress” when it comes to mobile and believe that for the time being native apps – those coded for a specific platform – offer advantages.

“Applications that require more processing power and the full capabilities of a phone – games for example – lend themselves more to native applications,” said Mr Dillon.

“Although HTML5 has come a long way there are still gaps, like for notifications, that have not been fully standardised across all browsers – so if you are building an app that can alert users to the fact they have received a new message, it’s easier to do in a native app if you want to ensure a consistent experience.

“The trade-off, of course, is that it will take more time and effort to make the app for each platform.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21159531#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Apple revenues miss expectations

Attendees at Apple's developer conferenceApple is coming under increasing pressure from Samsung and other rivals

Computing giant Apple has reported flat profits and record revenues that still fell short of market expectations.

Net profit came in at $13.1bn (£8.7bn), unchanged from a year earlier due in part to higher costs associated with new product launches.

Revenue was up 18% at $54.5bn, thanks to record sales of iPhones and iPads, the company said.

But Apple shares fell in after-hours trading, as sales of the iPhone in particular disappointed.

Continue reading the main story




After seeing Apple’s shares plunge nearly 30% – a move based almost entirely on sentiment rather than hard information – investors finally have some data to assess. Apple’s Tim Cook said he was thrilled by results showing his firm’s best ever revenue. The superlatives kept pouring out during the analysts’ conference call – best ever iPhone and iPad sales, record music and app sales, growth in iPhone sales in China in the triple digits – and a cash pile of $137bn.

But, strange as it might seem, all of that evidence that Apple continues to be a phenomenal money-making machine may not be enough for Wall Street, which had expected even more. The big worry will be about iPhone sales which analysts had expected to be about 2 million higher.

Tim Cook was pressed on whether the firm had got the right sized screens, and on rumours that orders for new component supplies had been cut. He insisted Apple had got the best screens in the ideal size and that a complex supply chain made the rumours about cuts meaningless.

But the real problem for Apple is not the numbers but the fear amongst investors that its best days may be over, that it will never find another innovation to match the iPhone or iPad. Tim Cook insisted his firm was working on some “incredible stuff” but Wall Street will want to see it before it starts buying the shares again.

Shares in the firm have fallen almost 30% since September over concerns the company may be losing its edge over increasingly confident competitors.

The company’s products are facing a growing challenge from Samsung and other makers of Android-based devices.

‘Thrilled’

Apple said it sold 47.8 million iPhones in the quarter, up from 37 million a year earlier, and 22.9 million iPads, compared with 15.4 million in the same period in 2011.

Many analysts had expected iPhone sales, following the release of the iPhone 5 in September, to break the 50 million mark.

“We’re thrilled with record revenue of over $54bn and sales of over 75 million iOS devices in a single quarter,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive.

“We’re very confident in our product pipeline as we continue to focus on innovation and making the best products in the world.”

Analysts took rather a different view.

“The revenue number is dismal as far as what the expectations were,” said Jeff Sica at Sica Wealth Management. However, he added that Apple was suffering from a “curse of high expectations”.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21172259#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Atari Inc. files for bankruptcy

Atari computer from 1982Atari was behind ground-breaking early video games

The US operations of Atari have filed for bankruptcy protection.

The maker of the ground-breaking video game Pong is seeking to separate from its loss making French parent Atari SA.

Atari Inc, together with Atari Interactive Inc, Humongous Inc. and California US Holdings Inc. want to secure independent funding to develop digital and mobile games.

Atari said in December it was looking to raise cash and was talking to investors.

In a statement, the companies said, “with this move the US based Atari operations seek to separate from the structural financial encumbrances of their French parent holding company, Atari SA”.

Atari SA, formerly known as Infogrames SA has been struggling financially for years.

The US operations of Atari have shifted their business from retail games to digital games in recent times and have become a growth engine for Atari SA.

“The Chapter 11 process constitutes the most strategic option for Atari’s US operations as they look to preserve their inherent value and unlock revenue potential unrealized while under the control of Atari SA,” the statement said.

Atari’s Pong was an arcade game credited with helping kick-start the multi-billion pound video games industry but more recent titles include ‘Centipede’, ‘Missile Command’ and Rollercoaster Tycoon’.

Neither Atari SA or Atari Inc. were available for comment.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21124214#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Atari Inc. files for bankruptcy

Atari computer from 1982Atari was behind ground-breaking early video games

The US operations of Atari have filed for bankruptcy protection.

The maker of the ground-breaking video game Pong is seeking to separate from its loss making French parent Atari SA.

Atari Inc, together with Atari Interactive Inc, Humongous Inc. and California US Holdings Inc. want to secure independent funding to develop digital and mobile games.

Atari said in December it was looking to raise cash and was talking to investors.

In a statement, the companies said, “with this move the US based Atari operations seek to separate from the structural financial encumbrances of their French parent holding company, Atari SA”.

Atari SA, formerly known as Infogrames SA has been struggling financially for years.

The US operations of Atari have shifted their business from retail games to digital games in recent times and have become a growth engine for Atari SA.

“The Chapter 11 process constitutes the most strategic option for Atari’s US operations as they look to preserve their inherent value and unlock revenue potential unrealized while under the control of Atari SA,” the statement said.

Atari’s Pong was an arcade game credited with helping kick-start the multi-billion pound video games industry but more recent titles include ‘Centipede’, ‘Missile Command’ and Rollercoaster Tycoon’.

Neither Atari SA or Atari Inc. were available for comment.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21124214#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Architect plans 3D-printed buildings

Landscape HouseThe buildings would still require concrete reinforcements, the architect said.

An architect in Holland has revealed plans to 3D print buildings inspired by the Earth’s landscape.

The buildings are designed to resemble a giant mobius strip – a continuous loop with only one side.

Janjaap Ruijssenaars hopes to create the buildings, which he estimates will cost 4-5 million euros (£3.3- £4.2m), all around the world.

Museums, visitor centres and private individuals had already expressed interest, he said.

Mr Ruijssenaars is working with large-scale 3D printing expert Enrico Dini on the project.

According to his company’s website, Mr Dini’s industrial sized 3D printer uses sand and a special binding agent to create a “marble like material” stronger than cement.

But the 1,000-sq-m buildings would still require concrete reinforcements, Mr Ruijssenaars said.

“3D printing is amazing,” he told the BBC.

“For me as an architect it’s been a nice way to construct this specific design – it has no beginning and no end and with the 3D printer we can make it look like that.

“In traditional construction you have to make a mould of wood and you fill it with concrete and then you take out the wood – it’s a waste of time and energy.

“You can print what you want – it’s a more direct way of constructing.”

The first “landscape house” should be in position by 2014, said Mr Ruijssenaars.

“We would like to construct one per country,” he said.

“A private individual who lives by a national park in Brazil would like one to display the native American art they have found in the park.

“For a museum, the price is around the right mark.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21121061#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa