Accenture and Microsoft give millions of refugees digital IDs

Migrants carry their belongings at the Jungle camp in CalaisImage copyright
Reuters

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Accenture and Microsoft are working with the UN to build a digital ID network that refugees can access from anywhere

Technology companies are helping the United Nations provide digital legal identification for refugees who have no official documents.

Accenture and Microsoft have designed a digital ID network running on blockchain technology.

The prototype connects existing public and commercial records so people can access their personal details from any location.

The UN wants everyone on the planet to have legal identities by 2030.

There are currently 1.1 billion people around the world with no official documentation, including people who have been displaced from their original homes.

The UN’s latest report estimates that there are about 22.5 million refugees. There are no figures for how many of these are undocumented, but it is likely many are.

The digital ID network was unveiled at the ID2020 summit in New York on Monday. ID2020 is an alliance of governments, public sector organisations and technology companies working together to help the UN realise its goal.

The system, which builds on Accenture’s existing biometrics identity management platform, will be tested with aid agencies in the near future.


How it works

Image copyright
Accenture

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Using the digital ID network, the refugee’s data from a previous employer can be authenticated and a “stamp” is issued

Often when people arrive at a refugee camp for the first time, they don’t have anything to prove their identity, which is essential for a range of health, financial and education services.

Usually, several aid agencies at once will be trying to work with the same refugees, and, until now, there has not been a way for them to share data securely.

Now, when a refugee arrives at a camp, their face, irises and fingerprints will be scanned and the resulting biometric data stored, with their name, on one of the aid agency’s servers.

The blockchain digital ID network then creates a “stamp” – a unique identifier between the refugee and the data on the servers – that proves they have been authenticated for each service they receive.

If they receive healthcare services in the camp, such as a vaccine, then they receive a stamp.

If another agency confirms their education and birth, these become other stamps.

Eventually, they will have an album of stamps they can show to any provider or government to prove their identity digitally, without needing to worry about data going missing from various providers.


What is blockchain?

The blockchain is a method of recording data – a digital ledger of transactions, agreements, contracts, anything that needs to be independently recorded and verified as having happened.

The big difference is that this ledger isn’t stored in one place, it’s distributed across several hundreds or even thousands of computers around the world. No one person or entity can control the data, which makes it transparent.

The data forms blocks that are encrypted into a continuous chain using complex mathematical algorithms. Once updated, the ledger cannot be altered or tampered with, only added to, and it is updated for everyone in the network at the same time.


“For someone who has nothing, who is starting over, this is a means by which they can start over and not lose their identity again. It’s a much richer set of identity information than we have today,” David Treat, a managing director in Accenture’s financial services practice, told the BBC News website.

But the technology would be very useful for the rest of society, as there was always the fear that we could lose our identity data too, he said.

“We all have challenges with identity because it is fragmented and it is owned by the authorities and not by us. If you count the number of logins you have, there are a lot, and you don’t own a lot of your information, someone else does. This is the basis by which identity can be stolen or corrupted,” said Mr Treat.

“The ability for us to control our own data opens up the possibility for us to decide who we want to get marketing from, and whether we want to share the accurate data for them to do so.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40341511

South Korean firm’s ‘record’ ransom payment

WannaCryImage copyright
Webroot

Image caption

Ransomware known as WannaCry recently infected hundreds of thousands of computers around the world

South Korean web-hosting firm Nayana has agreed to pay a $1m ransom to unlock computers frozen by hackers.

It is believed to be a record amount, although it is worth noting that many ransom payments are never made public.

Nayana’s chief executive revealed that the hackers initially asked for $4.4m, payable in bitcoin.

Security experts warned that firms should not pay such ransoms or enter into negotiations with hackers.

Angela Sasse, director of the Institute in the Science of Cyber-Security, said that she was surprised both by the size of the ransom and that the firm went public about paying.

“This is a record ransom from what I know, although some will have paid and not gone public.

“It could be that it had to disclose the amount under the South Korean regulatory structure or it could have been done out of a sense of public duty,” she said.

“From the attackers’ point of view, they might have preferred that the firm kept quiet. It is such a large ransom that it might spur a lot of companies to look more carefully at their security.”

Bankrupt

The ransomware – known as Erebus – targeted computers running Microsoft Windows and was also modified so a variant would work against Linux-based systems.

It appears that Nayana entered into negotiations with the hackers, lowering the fee from $4.4m to less than $500,000 although at the last minute, the hackers doubled the negotiated amount to $1m.

They are believed to have encrypted data on 153 Linux servers and 3,400 customer websites.

An update posted on Saturday said that engineers were in the process of recovering data but added that it would take time.

Nayana’s chief executive apologised for the “shock and damage” of the incident.

In an earlier statement, he said that the attack had hit his bank balance.

“Now I am bankrupt. Everything I’ve been working on for 20 years is expected to disappear at 12:00 tomorrow.”

Ms Sasse said that ransomware attackers had grown much bolder in recent years.

“Two years ago, they tended to target individuals or smaller businesses believing that they would have less good security measures but they have found that they can get bigger targets and the pay-off is much larger. It is a lucrative business.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40340820

Amazon to buy Whole Foods for $13.7bn

Whole Foods storeImage copyright
Reuters

Online retail giant Amazon is buying Whole Foods in a $13.7bn (£10.7bn) deal that marks its biggest push into traditional retailing yet.

Amazon, which has long eyed the grocery business, will buy the upmarket supermarket for $42 a share.

Investors greeted the deal as game-changing for the industry, sending shares of rival grocers plunging.

But Whole Foods, which had been under pressure, climbed.

Founded in 1978 in Texas, Whole Foods was a pioneer of the move towards natural and organic foods.

It has grown to more than 460 stores in the US, Canada and the UK, and employs about 87,000 people.

Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos said: “Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy.

“Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades – they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.”

‘Maximise value’

Whole Foods has faced dissatisfaction from investors, amid falling same-store sales and increased competition. Last month, the company named a new chief financial officer and new board members.

In April, activist investor Jana Partners called the firm’s shares undervalued, noting “chronic underperformance”.

The price being paid by Amazon marks a 27% premium to the level Whole Foods’ shares closed at on Thursday. The $13.7bn value includes assumption of the grocer’s debt.

The takeover deal – the biggest in Amazon’s history – is expected to be completed in the second half of the year, pending approval by shareholders and anti-trust regulators.

Whole Foods boss John Mackey said: “This partnership presents an opportunity to maximize value for Whole Foods Market’s shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers.”

The Whole Foods brand will continue. Mr Mackey is expected to stay on as chief executive.

‘Inherent logic’

Whole Foods stock soared 29% on the news. Amazon shares closed up 2.4%.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said the deal should give the grocer financial breathing room, while making it more competitive online and improving its supply chain logistics.

The takeover also makes Amazon an instant player in the grocery industry, where it has operated at the fringes since launching its food delivery service Amazon Fresh in Seattle in 2007.


Whole Foods and Amazon were staying quiet on Friday about how they might introduce technology to stores, merge their supply chains, or cross-sell Amazon products.

Brendan Witcher, principal analyst at Forrester Research in Boston, said any changes are further down the road.

But that didn’t stop instant speculation about what changes might be coming. Possibilities include:

Lower prices? Amazon has a long history of deferring profits in favour of winning customers with low prices. It could try a similar strategy at Whole Foods, now knocked by some as “Whole Paycheck”.

Techie shopping? Amazon is also interested in how technology can make shopping more efficient. The firm’s Alexa robot maintains shopping lists and Amazon is testing a convenience store in Seattle that operates without check-out lines.


“There is an inherent logic in the move which, in our view, brings benefits to both businesses,” Mr Saunders wrote.

‘Potentially terrifying’

Shares of other supermarket chains took a beating. The industry has already seen significant consolidation, with smaller players wiped out.

Kroger shares fell more than 9 %, Target plunged 5% and Costco Wholesale Corp. dropped about 7%.

Walmart, which announced its own $310m deal to acquire the online clothing company Bonobos, slid 4.7%.

The reaction spread to companies in Europe. Dutch retailer Ahold Delhaize fell nearly 10%.

Mr Saunders said the deal is “potentially terrifying” for other companies.

“Although Amazon has been a looming threat to the grocery industry, the shadow it has cast has been pale and distant,” Mr Saunders wrote. “Today that changed.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-40306099

Legal threat shuts down GTA game toolkit

Grand Theft Auto 5Image copyright
Rockstar games

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The toolkit let people modify the basic elements of the GTA game

Players of Grand Theft Auto are up in arms after legal threats forced the closure of a popular toolkit used to make add-ons or “mods” for the game.

GTA creator Take-Two issued a “cease and desist” letter to Open IV toolkit’s creators, saying it aided piracy.

Open IV’s Russian developers said they did not have time or energy to go to court so have stopped distributing it.

Gamers have filled GTA forums with criticism of Take-Two for shutting down the long-running mod toolkit.

One player said he hoped the legal claim was a joke, another said it was a “sad day” for GTA fans and a third said Take-Two had removed a “massive selling point” for the PC version of GTA.

Legal limbo

“Almost ten years of my life were dedicated to @OpenIV and now this time is over,” tweeted Open IV lead developer Good-NTS after deciding to shut down the project.

In a message posted to the GTA Forums website, Good-NTS said the team had received a “cease and desist” letter on 5 June alleging that it allowed “third parties to defeat security features of its software and modify that software in violation Take-Two’s rights”.

He wrote that fighting the claim in court would take months of time and effort and, even if they won, would not help the company more forward.

Image copyright
Watanabe

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One modded version let an AI-powered deer rampage through the game world

“Spending time just to restore status quo is really unproductive, and all the money in the world can’t compensate the loss of time,” he said. As a result, Open IV would no longer be available for download.

Anyone using the kit is now greeted with a message explaining what has happened when they start up a modified version of GTA. Players are urged to uninstall the software to “avoid possible legal issues”.

The kit has proved hugely popular as it let people who own the single-player version of the game fiddle with its data files to customise objects, models and textures. The tool first appeared in 2011 and a new version for GTA V was released in 2015.

In a statement, GTA creator Take-Two said: “Take-Two’s actions were not specifically targeting single player mods.

“Unfortunately OpenIV enables recent malicious mods that allow harassment of players and interfere with the GTA Online experience for everybody. We are working to figure out how we can continue to support the creative community without negatively impacting our players.”

“Game mods have always existed in a legal gray area, and they have often operated via the tacit blessings of rights holders,” wrote David Kravets, senior editor at new site Ars Technica.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40301450

Programmers who use spaces ‘paid more’

Computer codeImage copyright
maciek905

Image caption

Code can be easier to read when it is properly indented

Computer programmers who use spaces as part of their coding earn $15,370 (£12,000) more per year than those who use tabs, a survey of developers has revealed.

The survey found the salary difference stretched across different languages, countries and experience levels.

The debate over whether it is better to use spaces or tabs to indent code has raged among programmers for years.

Indents act like paragraph markers and help define how programs work.

The result was “surprising,” said David Robinson, data scientist at Stack Overflow which carried out the survey of 12,400 developers.

‘Pepsi or Coke question’

He at first thought it was just a quirk of the survey rather than a real phenomenon and said he could not explain why the difference emerged.

He even encouraged others to go through the data themselves to see if they could find a factor he had missed.

“Spaces versus tabs is the Pepsi or Coke question for developers,” said Jordan Poulton, a spokesman for London’s Makers Academy that teaches people to code.

“It’s almost impossible to draw an objective conclusion about which is the best,” he said.

Mr Poulton said there were some computer languages, such as Python, in which indenting was essential but in others, such as Ruby, it only helped to make it easier to work out the structure of the code.

Whether tabs or spaces were used could have an impact, he said, when hand-written code was turned into working software. This process is handled by a separate program called an interpreter or compiler. Some of these can crash if they encounter something, such as a tab, when they were only expecting spaces.

Professional developers typically set up their coding editor to use either tabs or spaces to show the relationships between functional elements, he said. Code can get harder to read if viewed in an editor expecting tabs and getting spaces or vice versa.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40302410

India internet shutdowns ‘violate human rights’

Kashmir internet banImage copyright
Abid Bhat

Image caption

Authorities say they shut internet and telecommunications services to stop rumours during times of unrest

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said India needs to cease “arbitrary restrictions” on internet and phone services.

The organisation said state governments had imposed 20 temporary internet shutdowns in 2017.

Authorities say they shut internet and telecommunications services to stop rumours during times of unrest.

But the rights group said arbitrary internet shutdowns “violated India’s obligations under international human rights law”.

Kashmir social media ban criticised

Heat wave in India: Frustration, rumours and memes

Indian authorities frequently shut telecommunication services in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Earlier this month, the government in the western state of Maharashtra shut down internet services after protests led by farmers turned violent.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the authorities’ concern about misuse of social media “should not be the default option to prevent social unrest”.

“The lack of transparency and failure to explain these shutdowns only further the perception that they are meant to suppress nonviolent reporting and criticism of the government,” she added.

The organisation, however, said that social media in India “has at times fuelled rumours leading to violence”.

But it advised the government to not fully shut services during protests.

“Instead of fully shutting down networks, authorities can use social media to discourage violence and restore public order,” it said.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-40298722

UK’s fraud hotspots revealed by Which?

North NorfolkImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Norfolk has the dubious distinction of being home to the most dating fraud

Norfolk is a dating scams hotspot, Surrey succumbs to investment fraud and west and mid-Wales suffers cold calling computer cons, according to data from UK cyber-crime centre Action Fraud.

Consumer watchdog Which? has collated the data, which came via a Freedom of Information request

And it wants the government to do more to tackle the problem.

A recent Office of National Statistics survey suggested there are 5.4 million fraud and computer misuse cases a year.

Other findings include:

  • Northamptonshire residents are most likely to report suffering online shopping and auction scams – it affected 21.6 victims per 10,000 compared to 16.9 nationally
  • Those living in Dorset fall for computer virus, malware and spyware fraud with 15,561 reports from 2014 to 2016
  • Warwickshire is a victim of retail fraud with 30,944 in the same timeframe.
  • London is the fraud capital of a range of scams, including 16,249 reports of social media hacking

Which said that it could not explain why certain frauds occur more in some areas rather than others, partly because so many fraud cases go unreported so the data is incomplete.

Media captionA woman who lost more than £300,000 in an online dating scam has spoken about her experience

There were 264,204 frauds reported to Action Fraud in 2016 but this is likely to be a fraction of those that occur.

Which’s report did suggest that certain demographics are targeted by different scams – so, for example, fake computer fixes tend to focus on elderly women living in rural areas.

Members of the public can click on an interactive map to find out the most commonly occurring fraud in their county.

Gareth Shaw, Which? money expert, thinks there is little doubt that online fraud is on the rise: “This research highlights how reported fraud in the UK is on the increase and the kinds of scams you are most likely to fall victim to will depend on where you live.

“These criminals are constantly finding new ways to rip us off and those tackling fraud should be upping their game. The government needs to set out an ambitious agenda to tackle fraud, while law enforcement agencies need to be working harder to identify and protect the people most at risk from fraud.”

Commander Dave Clark, City of London Police, National Co-ordinator for Economic Crime said: “Fraud and cyber crime are global problems with many of the offenders targeting UK citizens from overseas,”

“Law enforcement is not the single solution to this phenomenon. The solution requires every individual, business and organisation to take responsibility to ensure they take steps to protect themselves and others.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40272732

NHS cyber-attack was ‘launched from North Korea’

GCHQImage copyright
PA

Image caption

GCHQ can detect the work of hackers around the globe

British security officials believe that hackers in North Korea were behind the cyber-attack that crippled parts of the NHS and other organisations around the world last month, the BBC has learned.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) led the international investigation.

Security sources have told the BBC that the NCSC believes that a hacking group known as Lazarus launched the attack.

The US Computer Emergency Response Team has also warned about Lazarus.

The same group is believed to have targeted Sony Pictures in 2014.

The Sony hack came as the company planned to release the movie The Interview, a satire about the North Korean leadership starring Seth Rogen. The movie was eventually given a limited release after an initial delay.

The same group is also thought to have been behind the theft of money from banks.

NHS hit

In May, ransomware called WannaCry swept across the world, locking computers and demanding payment for them to be unlocked. The NHS in the UK was particularly badly hit.

Officials in Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) began their own investigation and concluded their assessment in recent weeks.

The ransomware did not target Britain or the NHS specifically, and may well have been a money-making scheme that got out of control, particularly since the hackers do not appear to have retrieved any of the ransom money as yet.

Although the group is based in North Korea the exact role of the leadership in Pyongyang in ordering the attack is less clear.

Detective work

Private sector cyber-security researchers around the world began picking apart the code to try to understand who was behind the attack soon after.

Adrian Nish, who leads the cyber threat intelligence team at BAE Systems, saw overlaps with previous code developed by the Lazarus group.

“It seems to tie back to the same code-base and the same authors,” Nish says. “The code-overlaps are significant.”

Image copyright
Webroot

Image caption

The WannaCry ransomware has been linked to a North Korean hacking group.

Private sector cyber security researchers reverse engineered the code but the British assessment by the NCSC – part of the intelligence agency GCHQ – is likely to have been made based on a wider set of sources.

America’s NSA has also more recently made the link to North Korea but its assessment is not thought to have been based on as deep as an investigation as the UK, partly because the US was not hit as hard by the incident.

Officials say they have not seen any significant evidence supporting other possible culprits.

Central bank hack

North Korean hackers have been linked to money-making attacks in the past – such as the theft of $81m from the central bank of Bangladesh in 2016.

This sophisticated attack involved making transfers through the Swift payment system which, in some cases, were then laundered through casinos in the Philippines.

“It was one of the biggest bank heists of all time in physical space or in cyberspace,” says Nish, who says further activity has been seen in banks in Poland and Mexico.

The Lazarus group has also been linked to the use of ransomware – including against a South Korean supermarket chain.

Other analysts say they saw signs of North Korea investigating the bitcoin method of payment in recent months.

Scattergun

The May 2017 attack was indiscriminate rather than targeted. Its spread was global and may have only been slowed thanks to the work of a British researcher who was able to find a “kill switch” to slow it down.

The attacks caused huge disruption in the short term but they may have also been a strategic failure for the group behind it.

Researchers at Elliptic, a UK-based company which tracks bitcoin payments, say they have seen no withdrawals out of the wallets into which money was paid, although people are still paying in to them.

Those behind the attack may not have expected it to have spread as fast as it did.

Once they realised that their behaviour was drawing global attention, the risks of moving the money may have been seen as too high given the relatively small amount involved, leaving them with little to show for their work.

The revelation of the link to North Korea will raise difficult questions about what can be done to respond or deter such behaviour in the future.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40297493

E3 2017: Wiggling fingers fire virtual weapons

A sensor-packed glove that turns your hand into a games controller is on show at E3 in Los Angeles.

Captoglove began life as a military training tool but is now being pitched as a controller for virtual reality games.

However, as the BBC’s Dave Lee found out, the price tag may hold it back.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40284714

UK’s fraud hotspots revealed by Which

North NorfolkImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Norfolk has the dubious distinction of being home to the most dating fraud

Norfolk is a dating scams hotspot, Surrey succumbs to investment fraud and west and mid-Wales suffers cold calling computer cons, according to data from UK cyber-crime centre Action Fraud.

Consumer watchdog Which has collated the data, which came via a Freedom of Information request

And it wants the government to do more to tackle the problem.

A recent Office of National Statistics survey suggested there are 5.4 million fraud and computer misuse cases a year.

Other findings include:

  • Northamptonshire residents are most likely to report suffering online shopping and auction scams – it affected 21.6 victims per 10,000 compared to 16.9 nationally
  • Those living in Dorset fall for computer virus, malware and spyware fraud with 15,561 reports from 2014 to 2016
  • Warwickshire is a victim of retail fraud with 30,944 in the same timeframe.
  • London is the fraud capital of a range of scams, including 16,249 reports of social media hacking

Which said that it could not explain why certain frauds occur more in some areas rather than others, partly because so many fraud cases go unreported so the data is incomplete.

Media captionA woman who lost more than £300,000 in an online dating scam has spoken about her experience

There were 264,204 frauds reported to Action Fraud in 2016 but this is likely to be a fraction of those that occur.

Which’s report did suggest that certain demographics are targeted by different scams – so, for example, fake computer fixes tend to focus on elderly women living in rural areas.

Members of the public can click on an interactive map to find out the most commonly occurring fraud in their county.

Gareth Shaw, Which money expert, thinks there is little doubt that online fraud is on the rise: “This research highlights how reported fraud in the UK is on the increase and the kinds of scams you are most likely to fall victim to will depend on where you live.

“These criminals are constantly finding new ways to rip us off and those tackling fraud should be upping their game. The government needs to set out an ambitious agenda to tackle fraud, while law enforcement agencies need to be working harder to identify and protect the people most at risk from fraud.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40272732