Twitter boss apology to abused women

Stella Creasy MP

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Stella Creasy: ”An apology [from Twitter] is not the end of the matter”

The boss of Twitter UK has said sorry to women who have experienced abuse on the social networking site.

Tony Wang said the threats were “simply not acceptable” and pledged to do more to tackle abusive behaviour.

The apology came as Twitter updated its rules and confirmed it would introduce an in-tweet “report abuse” button on all platforms, including desktops.

Police are investigating eight allegations of abuse including bomb and rape threats made against women.

Two people have been arrested in relation to rape threats against Labour MP Stella Creasy and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, who received the threats after a campaign to have Jane Austen on the new £10 note.

The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman, the Independent’s Grace Dent and Time magazine’s Catherine Mayer all said they had received identical bomb threats on Wednesday.

The revelations sparked a backlash online, with a petition calling for Twitter to add a “report abuse” button to tweets attracting more than 125,000 signatures so far.

‘Protect users’

In a series of tweets, Twitter UK general manager Mr Wang said: “I personally apologize to the women who have experienced abuse on Twitter and for what they have gone through.

“The abuse they’ve received is simply not acceptable. It’s not acceptable in the real world, and it’s not acceptable on Twitter.

Tony WangTony Wang said Twitter would do more to tackle abusive behaviour

“There is more we can and will be doing to protect our users against abuse. That is our commitment.”

Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson said unchecked Twitter abuse had been a problem for a long time and she was “delighted” the company was apologising and taking action.

Ms Mayer, Europe editor of Time magazine, said she had yet to receive a personal apology from Twitter, despite contacting the website on Wednesday evening.

“I’ve been deeply amused by the phrase I’ve received a personal apology from Twitter,” she said.

“If he [Mr Wang] would like to make an apology to me, he can direct message me if he doesn’t want to do it publicly.”

She added: “We’re not being targeted because we’re activists, we’re being targeted because we’re female.”

‘Panic button’

Ms Creasy said she had received a “very welcome” apology in an email from Mr Wang – but it had taken a week.

She said stalking was taking a new form online and called for a mechanism similar to a panic button system to be put in place.

Screen-grab of Grace Dent's Twitter page, showing a retweet of the threatJournalist and broadcaster Grace Dent received a bomb threat on Twitter

“We need to get round the table with the police and experts to identify the best way we can keep people safe online,” she said.

In an earlier message posted on the Twitter UK blog, the company’s senior director for trust and safety, Del Harvey, and Mr Wang, said the company had clarified its anti-harassment policy in light of feedback from customers.

They said: “It comes down to this: people deserve to feel safe on Twitter.”

Twitter has clarified its guidance on abuse and spam – reiterating that users “may not engage in targeted abuse or harassment”.

The “report abuse” button already available on the iOS Twitter app and mobile site will also be rolled out to the main website and Android app from September, Twitter said.

The bosses said in the blog that additional staff were being added to the teams that handle reports of abuse and the company was working with the UK Safer Internet Centre, which promotes the safe and responsible use of technology.

“We are committed to making Twitter a safe place for our users,” they said, adding: “We’re here, and we’re listening to you.”

‘Sustained attack’

Ms Criado-Perez, 29, welcomed Twitter’s response but said the process for reporting abuse should be further simplified to take the onus off the victim.

She said: “Twitter’s ‘report abuse’ button on the iPhone application goes through to the old reporting form. What we’re looking for is an overhaul of the system which sits behind the button.

“Right now, all the emphasis is on the victim, often under intense pressure, to report rather than for Twitter to track down the perpetrator and stop them.”

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Latvia resists hacker extradition

US Attorney Preet Bharara explains how the scheme worked. Photo: 23 January 2013US Attorney Preet Bharara accused the trio of being “modern day bank robbers”

Latvia is resisting calls to extradite a man the US alleges wrote a computer virus used to steal millions.

In January, Latvian Deniss Calovskis was named by the US as one of the creators of the Gozi virus.

Latvian courts have twice rejected US extradition requests and its foreign minister has now backed their stance.

In a statement, he said the potential jail term Mr Calovskis faced was too severe for the crimes he is alleged to have committed.

The US began its campaign to extradite two of the three men alleged to have used Gozi soon after publicly accusing the trio of infecting more than one million computers with the virus and stealing data that was then used to plunder bank accounts.

They ran a “modern-day bank robbery ring, that required neither a gun or a mask”, said US attorney Preet Bharara in January.

Romanian Mihai Ionut Paunescu and Russian national Nikita Kuzmin were named as the co-creators of Gozi. Mr Kuzmin is already in jail in the US following his arrest in May 2011 on separate hacking and fraud charges. Extradition proceedings against Mr Paunescu are currently on hold pending an appeal.

In a message posted to the website of Latvia’s Foreign Ministry, minister Edgars Rinkevics said Latvian law guaranteed that people who broke the law suffered only “proportionate punishment”.

Mr Rinkevics said the US sought a jail term for Mr Calovskis that exceeded 60 years.

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Start Quote

In my view, such a penalty is disproportionate to the amount, and so far no-one has been able to conclusively dispel my fears that it might be otherwise”

End Quote
Latvian minister Edgars Rinkevics

While he could not take a view on whether Mr Calovskis broke the law or not, the jail term amounted to an effective life sentence, he wrote.

“In my view, such a penalty is disproportionate to the amount, and so far no-one has been able to conclusively dispel my fears that it might be otherwise,” he said.

In addition, he said, there were questions over whether any of the crimes Mr Calovskis is alleged to have committed actually took place on US soil. The trans-national nature of much cyber crime would make it hard to prove his involvement, wrote Mr Rinkevics.

Finally, said the minister, if Mr Calovskis was found guilty there was no reason why he could not serve a sentence for his crimes in his native Latvia.

Security analyst Graham Cluley said Gozi was a very successful trojan that pilfered huge sums from bank accounts.

“If you caught a criminal who stole sums like that in traditional bank robberies, you would expect them to have the book thrown at them and wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up with a serious criminal sentence,” he said.

“It’s important to see more co-operation internationally to bring internet criminals to justice, and a consistency in the treatment and sentencing of convicted hackers,” he added.

“It’s necessary when investigations cross national boundaries that proper legal processes are followed, which can mean it takes a lot of time and effort to get a result,” said Mr Cluley.

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Avatar will get three sequels

Sigourney Weaver in AvatarAvatar featured Sigourney Weaver, Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana – it has made $2.8bn (£1.8bn) at the box office worldwide

Fox Studios have announced there will be three sequels to Avatar, after director James Cameron found two films “would not be enough”.

The three sequels will be filmed simultaneously beginning in 2014, and will be released respectively in December 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The 2009 3D film is the highest grossing movie of all time.

It told the story of a paraplegic soldier sent to the alien planet of Pandora.

“In writing the new films, I’ve come to realize that Avatar’s world, story and characters have become even richer than I anticipated,” Cameron said in a statement.

“It became apparent that two films would not be enough to capture everything I wanted to put on screen,” he continued.

While Cameron wrote the original film, four screenwriters have been signed up to work with him on the sequels.

They are Josh Friedman, who wrote War of the Worlds; Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, who wrote Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Shane Salerno who scripted Armageddon.

Jim Gianopulos, head of Fox Films, said that everyone at the studio had “no higher priority, and can feel no greater joy, than enabling Jim to continue and expand his vision of the world of Avatar”.

In 2010, Cameron said that there would be two sequels that would feature “self-contained stories that also fulfil a greater story arc”.

“We will not back off the throttle of Avatar’s visual and emotional horse-power,” he said.

Last year, Sigourney Weaver said she will appear in the sequel, despite her character dying in the first instalment.

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UK smartphone users wary of 4G

UK EE 4G launchUK consumers are unsure of the benefits of 4G mobile services, according to analysts

Many people in the UK see no reason to upgrade to 4G mobile services, according to Ofcom research.

Just under a quarter of UK smartphone users have no intention of signing up to 4G, according to an Ofcom report.

Although many people are aware of the existence of 4G mobile data services, they have no immediate plans to upgrade.

People are unsure of the benefits of 4G and may have been put off by jargon, according to analysts.

According to Ofcom, over half of all people in the UK own a smartphone and their research found that 22% of people with smartphones strongly disagree that they will sign up to 4G in the future.

Almost two thirds of smartphone users are unsure about upgrading, or are unlikely to upgrade in the coming year, Ofcom said in its 2013 Communications Market Report.

Part of people’s reluctance to upgrade may be because of the binding nature of their mobile contracts. Three in 10 smartphone users said they would like to upgrade to 4G, but are waiting until their current contract expires to avoid termination charges, said Ofcom.

Many people are unsure of the benefits 4G can give, said research director Jessica Ekholm of technology analyst house Gartner.

“4G is new and doesn’t mean much to consumers,” said Ms Ekholm. “Any technology is intangible – people ask: ‘What does it mean to me?’”

She added that people will not become enthusiastic about 4G until they hold a handset and experience faster mobile internet speeds.

People being exposed to 4G will give them an appetite for 4G services, she explained.

“It needs to go viral. It needs people’s friends and family to say ’4G is fantastic’.”

Acronym soup

Mobile operators have not done a good job of explaining how 4G can help in people’s lives, relying on technical terms such as ‘LTE’ and ‘megabits per second’ to explain benefits, said Ekholm.

“At the moment it’s acronym soup.”

People also may have been put off 4G by higher data tariffs, she said.

4G services are generally more expensive than 3G. Consumer uptake will happen when [4G] pricing comes down to 3G level, said Ms Ekholm.

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Eventually we will all be using 4G. It’s like moving from dial-up to broadband.”

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Matthew Howett
Ovum analyst

Mobile operator EE is the only company in the UK to offer 4G at present, although O2, Vodafone and 3 all plan to offer 4G.

EE data plans have come down in price since it launched 4G services in October 2012, but the company does not plan to price 4G on a par with its 3G services.

EE will keep its 4G services on a premium tariff, the BBC understands.

The company said that people’s awareness of 4G will increase and that 4G uptake will pick up pace.

“Awareness and adoption of 4G is growing at a significant rate already and this can only accelerate as other operators finally begin marketing the service too,” said an EE spokesperson.

EE said that Ofcom’s figures were derived from a survey conducted in April 2013, and that it had launched its 4G services in October 2012, giving people only half a year to have formed an opinion on 4G.

EE had 687,000 4G customers the end of June 2013, and expects to have one million customers by the end of the year, said the spokesperson.

4G benefits

Consumers and businesses will see the benefits of 4G in time, according to analyst Matthew Howett of independent consultancy firm Ovum.

4G gives consistently faster and more reliable service for video and music streaming, mobile gaming, and sending emails with large attachments, said Mr Howett.

“Eventually we will all be using 4G. It’s like moving from dial-up to broadband,” he added.

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Zynga sues Bang With Friends sex app

couple kissingBang with Friends says it has more than a million registered users

The makers of a “casual sex matchmaking app” called Bang With Friends are facing legal action over its name from games studio Zynga.

The app, which launched in January, alerts Facebook friends who express mutual interest in a sexual encounter.

Bang With Friends Inc says it has more than a million registered users

Zynga, which owns games Words With Friends and Chess With Friends, has filed court papers in San Francisco complaining of trademark infringement.

Intellectual property

Zynga says Bang With Friends Inc “selected the name Bang With Friends for its casual sex matchmaking app with Zynga’s game trademarks fully in mind”, reports Bloomberg.

“Zynga filed a lawsuit to stop blatant infringement of its valuable ‘With Friends’ brand,” Renée Lawson, the firm’s Deputy General Counsel, said in a written statement.

“A company calling itself ‘Bang with Friends’ – whose own founders played Zynga’s ‘With Friends’ games – decided to gain attention for its sex-related app by leveraging Zynga’s well-known mark. Zynga is compelled to file suit to prevent further consumer confusion and protect its intellectual property rights against infringement.”

Bang With Friends said it had yet to receive official papers.

“We heard through media reports that Zynga has filed a trademark infringement claim with respect to the ‘with friends’ part of our name,” the company told the BBC.

“As a technology company, we take intellectual property seriously, and will evaluate the case in detail once we receive a copy.”


Trademark expert Roland Mallinson, a partner at Taylor Wessing legal firm, said Zynga would have to weigh up whether the legal action would be less harmful to its reputation than any parody of the brand.

“Some parody uses actually support a brand and can make it more ‘cool’ – but ultimately you want to control your brand and how it is presented,” he told the BBC.

“The argument is about some quite generic words – can Zynga have a monopoly on ‘…with friends’?

“Just because they might have ‘Words With Friends’ protected does not necessarily mean they can stop Bang With Friends – this would certainly apply in the UK and Europe.”

‘Offensive content’

The Bang With Friends app was removed from the Apple app store a week after it was initially listed in May but it is still available for Android devices via Google Play.

Apple had pulled the app on the grounds of “offensive content”, Bang With Friends Inc chief executive Colin Hodges said in an interview with Business Insider.

“We just want to work with them to get back into their store,” he added.

“We feel like our app goes with their guidelines – especially with similar apps that have a matching ability.”

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Living room TV ‘making a comeback’

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1950s typical familyThe way we were – in the 1950s homes were likely to have one screen at most

'Typical' living roomThe way we are – Ofcom says mobile devices are bringing us back to the living room

Continue reading the main story

UK families are more likely to watch TV together now than they have been in over a decade, according to a study.

Communications regulator Ofcom said 91% of adults watched their main TV set once a week – up from 88% in 2002.

It said the popularity of smartphones and tablets was taking teens out of bedrooms back into family rooms.

However, their attention may be distracted. Most family members now multi-tasked while sat in front of the TV, the study said.

Far from technology pulling family time apart, it said, the huge growth in mobile was actually having the opposite effect. Family members are being brought together just as they were in the 1950s when a TV was likely to be a home’s only screen.

“There are number of factors that are fuelling this – we’re now watching on much bigger, better television sets,” said Jane Rumble, Ofcom’s head of media research.

“But also, there’s the rise of connected devices, such as a smartphone or tablet. We’re coming into the living room today clutching those devices, they offer a range of opportunities to do things while we’re watching television.”

More than half of those surveyed said they distracted themselves from television by talking on the phone, texting friends, using social networks or even watching different content altogether on YouTube or other streaming sites.

Nokia Asha 210 phoneInstant messaging apps like Whatsapp are more popular among young people than normal texts

A quarter of those asked also said they were “media meshers”, people who use devices to do something related to the programme they are watching. This might be tweeting or using tie-in apps for shows such as Britain’s Got Talent.

Backing up a long-regarded view of the sexes, the research said it was women who were more likely to multi-task when watching TV.

These changing habits have left advertisers needing to adapt but change is slow in happening, said Daniel Knapp, director of advertising research at the IHS consultancy.

“Advertising is an extremely conservative industry, focusing on what works and where a return on investment is clear,” he told the BBC.

Multiplying machines

The trend has been attributed largely to massively increased ownership of smartphones and tablets.

Ofcom said that just over half of adults now use a smartphone, up from 27% just two years ago. The number of tablet owners has more than doubled too, from 11% to 24% in a year.

It means the average UK household owns more than three devices capable of connecting to the internet, with one in five homes having more than six.

Ninety-one percent of adults view TV on the main set each week. 49% use smartphones and tablets while watching. 25% share their viewing via phone (16%), text (17%) and social networks (11%)

In contrast to the proliferation of mobile devices, the number of televisions we own is steadily decreasing.

Teenagers’ bedrooms, once incomplete without a small TV in the corner, are now less likely to have sets.

According to Ofcom’s data, 52% of UK kids aged 5-15 have TVs in their room, compared with 69% in 2007.

Watching television – particularly sports and other live events – is becoming a pursuit enjoyed solely in the living room on TVs that are getting larger.

Sets measuring 43in (109cm) or above accounted for 15.8% of all TV sales during the first three months of this year, up 4.3% on 2012, said Ofcom.

Despite the popularity of on-demand services such as the BBC’s iPlayer, the huge majority of TV watching is still as-broadcast.

“Although there are changes in audience behaviour, when it comes to overall scale, on-demand still cannot complete with linear TV,” said Mr Knapp.

Breaking up

The Communications Market Report, which the regulator publishes once a year, also looks at habits across various different parts of our digital lives.

Tablets are seen by parents as a great way to keep children entertained with apps, as well as providing a way for the youngsters to watch the programmes they want while the adults view other shows.

One in three parents said they encouraged their child to use their tablet for school or college work.

Young child playing with a tabletAlmost all tablet-owning parents said they used the device to keep kids entertained

For teens and younger adults aged 16-24 sending messages via mobile internet messaging apps, rather than the typical SMS text, is now more popular.

And compared to older generations, this age group has less restraint when it comes to what is off-limits.

One in five 16-24 year olds said they considered it reasonable to start a relationship via text, email or instant message.

Sixteen percent said they had no problem with ending a relationship in this way. Two percent of over-75s surveyed thought the same.

The report also indicated:

  • 85% of tablet owners keep it at home
  • 91% of parents said their children use a tablet
  • 11% of tablet owners use their device in the bathroom
  • Drama is the most popular programme genre to watch on catch-up, news is the least popular
  • Mobile internet use among the over-55s has increased considerably in the past three years

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O2 reveals 4G network launch date

O2 logoO2 has beaten Vodafone and Three to revealing a 4G network launch date in the UK

O2 has announced that its 4G mobile network is set to launch on 29 August.

The service – offering higher mobile data speeds than 3G – will initially be available in London, Leeds and Bradford.

O2 said it planned to extend the service to a further 10 cities by the year’s end.

It will compete against EE, which is already offering 4G data to 15 cities and has a cheaper basic tariff than O2′s lowest-cost option.

O2 – which is owned by Spain’s Telefonica – has said that its basic 4G tariff would cost £26 a month.

By contrast EE’s cheapest rate is £21 a month for voice and data, or £15 a month for just data. However, until O2 reveals what its cheapest rate includes it is not possible to compare the offers properly.

Telefonica UK’s chief executive, Ronan Dunne, said that his firm intended to match EE’s launch speeds. But he acknowledged that his network would be slower, at least initially, in areas where his rival had subsequently installed “double speed” 4G equipment.

He also confirmed that unlike EE, O2′s 4G network would not be compatible with Apple’s iPhone 5, but said he “would be frankly gobsmacked if their roadmap didn’t address that issue”.

Vodafone and Three have also said they intend to launch 4G services before the end of the year but have not given dates.

BT – the other winner of February’s spectrum auction – has said it plans to use its frequencies to let broadband customers connect kit to their internet routers via 4G as an alternative to wi-fi, and has no plans to compete directly with the mobile networks.

Buffer killer

Switching to a 4G network offers subscribers the chance to download movies, music, apps and other content several times faster than is possible on 3G.

4G compatible smartphonesO2 says customers owning a 4G-compatible phone can switch without affecting their upgrade rights

It can also reduce the risk of streamed video or interactive games freezing due to buffering, and allows higher-quality video calls.

Taking advantage of all this will encourage subscribers to use more data. O2 has confirmed that like EE, it will charge higher prices for bigger data caps and not offer an “unlimited” option.

But Mr Dunne hinted that his firm would try to distinguish itself from others by offering bundled media content.

He said consumers who bought a tariff directly from O2 would get a year’s “free music content”, but would not reveal what that involved at this stage. He added there were also further announcements to come about gaming.

He said that subscribers who switched to a 4G contract but did not ask for a new handset would not affect when they qualified for a later upgrade. They can also get the required new Sim cards for free but will need to pay a higher tariff after the move.

By contrast, Three has said it will offer its customers 4G at no extra charge and without the need for a new Sim.

O2 says its network will cover areas housing five million people at launch, and it plans to increase that number by about two million people a week.

The other cities it wants to cover by the end of the year are Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Liverpool, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry, Sheffield, Manchester and Edinburgh. It aims to reach 98% of the population by the end of 2015 – two years earlier than the deadline set by regulator Ofcom.

‘Tricky situation’

Telefonica paid £550m for O2′s 4G licences, which will use the 800MHz part of the radio spectrum.

That was less than the amounts EE and Vodafone invested. However, they also purchased 2.6GHz frequencies in addition to 800MHz bands.

The 800MHz bands are better at providing long-distance and indoor coverage, while 2.6GHz is capable of higher speeds.

Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5Apple’s iPhone 5 is not compatible with the 800MHz spectrum, but Samsung’s Galaxy S4 can use it

One expert suggested O2′s failure to secure a mix could put it at a disadvantage in densely populated towns and cities.

“It’s not just about speed issue but also capacity,” said Matthew Howett, an analyst at the telecoms consultancy Ovum.

“The higher frequency spectrum effectively has fatter pipes – you can get more data through them.

“When lots of people are using 4G to do things like streaming high definition video, it’s important not just to have the availability of the signal but also that the pipe is wide enough to carry all that traffic. Without 2.6GHz O2 is in a bit of a tricky situation.”

One option might be for the firm to pay BT for some of its capacity, but Mr Dunne said “there haven’t been and there are no discussions on that”.

Another might be for it to carry out a process called “refarming” which would see O2 free up some of the frequencies it currently uses to transmit 3G data and use them to provide added 4G capacity.

The firm’s 3G service would in turn take up bands currently used by its older and less-used 2G network. However, Mr Howett warned that this could take years to accomplish.

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UK aims to tackle mobile black spots

Mobile phone mastThe government says Cornwall, Powys, Strabane and Aberdeenshire will be among the areas to benefit

The government has published details of its plan to provide mobile coverage to 60,000 homes and businesses currently in black spots before the end of 2015.

It has named which parts of the country will share cash set aside for the project, and the order in which they will receive this investment.

It says efforts to identify sites for new masts are already under way in much of Wales, Lancashire and Aberdeenshire.

The Scottish Highlands is among areas where the work will be completed last.

A total of £150m has been set aside for the Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP), which was first announced in October 2011.

The money will be used to buy the right to erect masts on various properties and to pay for the infrastructure itself. The equipment will then be used by country’s network operators, Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three.

The government says it hopes the first of the new sites will “go live” by the end of this year.

Phased approach

A map showing which areas are being given priority by communications infrastructure company Arqiva – which is running the project – has been published by the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS).

Mobile reception map

The scheme has been divided into five phases, the first two of which are already under way.

Areas including the Highlands, Dumfries and Galloway, Argyll and Bute, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Fermanagh and parts of Tyrone are set to be among the last areas dealt with.

But since Arqiva will need planning permission before it can carry out the work, it is possible some places will end up leapfrogging others.

“The project will provide a significant boost to local economies across the UK,” said Communications Minister Ed Vaizey.

However, the Countryside Alliance – a lobby group running a “not-spots” campaign – said it was disappointed the government was no longer talking about providing mobile coverage to 99% of the country’s population, as suggested by the Treasury in 2011.

“We have previously welcomed the government’s investment,” said the group’s executive chairman Barney White-Spunner.

“We do have concerns, however, that the Mobile Infrastructure Project has been significantly scaled back from its original target, and is now delivering mobile signal to just 60,000 extra premises and 10 sections of A-road where there is no currently signal.

“This falls a long way short of the original target. £150m is certainly a good investment, but we urge government to be more ambitious rather than scale back.”

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‘Hacker heroin frame plot’ foiled

Close up of heroin bagsBrian Krebs thinks the heroin was bought on an online black market called the Silk Road

A respected US-based internet security expert says he has foiled an attempt to frame him as a heroin dealer.

Brian Krebs says the administrator of a Russian cybercrime forum hatched a plan to order heroin, arranged for it to be delivered to his home, then tipped off the police, making it look as if the call had come from a neighbour’s house.

Fortunately, Mr Krebs was already monitoring the website and saw the plot being planned in real time.

He alerted the FBI and local police.

“I am little concerned”, he told the BBC. “But then there are a lot of things people can do to upset you and get under your skin using a keyboard and few clicks of a mouse.

“But what’s the next level?”

The person behind the attempted plot, according to Mr Krebs, set up a bitcoin wallet to accept donations of the digital currency from fellow forum members.

He raised about $200 (£131) worth of bitcoins and used it to buy 12 small bags of heroin using the Silk Road online black market.

Brian KrebsBrian Krebs is speaking at the Black Hat hackers conference in Las Vegas on 1 August

The package duly arrived at Mr Krebs’s house, and he handed it over to the police.


This is just the latest example of a sustained smear campaign against Mr Krebs orchestrated by hackers and cybercriminals disgruntled at his exposure of their antics.

In March he was visited by a heavily armed police unit tricked into responding to a 911 call that had been made to look as if it originated from his home.

Mr Krebs says he opened the front door to find a squad of policemen pointing a battery of guns at him.

After being hand-cuffed and questioned, he managed to persuade the police they had been hoaxed by hackers.

The informant had used a instant message relay service designed for hearing impaired and deaf people to pretend to be Mr Krebs reporting that Russians had broken into his home and shot his wife.

The phenomenon, known as swatting, after the special weapons and tactics (Swat) teams called out to handle hostage and other dangerous situations, had begun on the West Coast, the police told Mr Krebs, but had been working its way eastwards.

“This type of individual prank puts peoples’ lives at risk, wastes huge amounts of taxpayer dollars, and draws otherwise scarce resources away from real emergencies”, Mr Krebs blogged.

“What’s more, there are a lot of folks who will confront armed force with armed force, all with the intention of self-defence.”

Denial of service

Mr Krebs also says his website suffered a major distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

This is when a large number of hijacked computers flood another computer server with messages to render it helpless.

The site was taken offline temporarily as a result.

Mr Krebs will be giving a talk about the rise in DDoS attacks for hire at the Black Hat hackers conference in Las Vegas on 1 August.

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Rise in abusive online message cases

Close up of smartphone Twitter buttonTwitter handles 400 million tweets a day worldwide

More than 1,700 cases involving abusive messages sent online or via text message reached England and Wales’ courts in 2012, the BBC has learned after a Freedom of Information request.

This is a 10% increase on the figures for 2011, according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Nearly 600 charges were brought between January and May 2013, the figures show.

The revelations come as police say they are investigating abusive tweets sent to MP Stella Creasy.

Under the Communications Act 2003, a person is guilty of an offence if they send “a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” by means of an electronic communications network.

But the CPS could not tell the BBC how many individuals these charges related to nor how many resulted in a successful prosecution.

Professor Mary Beard

Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play.

A CPS spokesperson said: “We cannot disaggregate offences data centrally to indicate the number of people prosecuted or the outcome of the prosecution proceeding – it is often the case that a person is charged with more than one offence.”

Reporting abuse

Ms Creasy received the abusive tweets after publicly backing feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, who was also targeted by Twitter “trolls” following her campaign to have a woman featured on a UK banknote.

Both Ms Criado-Perez and Ms Creasy received rape and death threats via Twitter.

On Monday, Del Harvey, Twitter’s senior director of trust and safety, blogged that the micro-messaging platform would extend the “report tweet” function, already available on its iPhone app, to Android phones and desktops.

But she did not give a timescale for the change.

Pressure has been building on Twitter to do more to combat abusive messages sent via the platform.

On Monday, Andy Trotter, chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers’ communications advisory group told BBC Radio 4′s The World At One: “They need to take responsibility as do the other platforms to deal with this at source and make sure these things do not carry on.

“They need to make it easier for victims to report these matters and, from a police perspective, they need to know that they can report these things to us.”

A petition calling for Twitter to add a “report abuse” button to its service had attracted more than 71,000 supporters on Tuesday morning.

But while Twitter’s rules “explicitly bar direct, specific threats of violence against others”, the company says “manually reviewing every Tweet is not possible due to Twitter’s global reach and level of activity”.

The question for Twitter is how, having made it easier for people to report abusive tweets, it will cope with the potential flood of reports.

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