‘Bots’ spam FCC website over proposed net neutrality reversal

FCC sealImage copyright
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The FCC is currently proposing to go back on rules that safeguard net neutrality

Bots appear to be spamming a US regulator’s website over a proposed reversal of net neutrality rules, researchers have said.

According to three separate analyses, a flood of automated comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was detected over the weekend.

More than 400,000 comments with remarkably similar wording have been detected in recent days.

Net neutrality proponents argue that all internet traffic should be equal.

This means that no content provider should be able to, for example, charge more for faster access to certain data.

One expert described bot activity as a new form of protest.

“Someone has gone out of their way to make these seem like real submissions,” wrote Chris Sinchok in a blog post about the apparently automated activity.

Having downloaded the comments and associated data, Mr Sinchok noticed that the names and email addresses associated with thousands of them also turned up in lists of personal data stolen from websites.

Using ‘breached data’

He told the BBC that this suggested someone might be using information collected from breached databases to make the submissions look more authentic.

“It really seems like this is getting pooled from some place in an automated fashion and it’s coming in at unreasonable rates,” he said.

He added that the uniformity of the data was also a possible giveaway.

For example, many comments are essentially identical save for the occasional, small difference – such as the exact same sentence appearing in multiple comments, but with different letters capitalised each time.

And the rate at which comments were posted also seemed suspicious, starting and stopping in bursts, he added.

Other watchers, including a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and another at Harvard University, have also tracked a boom in apparently automated activity directed at the site in recent days.

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John Oliver urged his viewers to post comments to the FCC, opposing the reversal of net neutrality rules

Earlier this month, the FCC said it had been targeted by a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that led to downtime for the comments system.

This followed a television appearance by comedian John Oliver in which he urged people to post comments against the proposals on the FCC’s website.

“Net neutrality is such a hot-button issue and it’s one of the few examples of online activism that’s actually amounted to something,” noted Prof Phil Howard at the Oxford Internet Institute.

He cited the 2014 online protests, after which President Obama stepped in to recommend that the FCC drop earlier proposals to curtail net neutrality.

“This is how people protest these days,” said Prof Howard, referring to the apparently automated comments.

He also pointed out that a growing number of people had the necessary programming skills to do it.

However, Mr Sinchok is concerned that the bot activity will create the impression that genuine opposition to the FCC’s current proposals does not really exist.

“There are people that care about this issue a lot,” he told the BBC.

“Activity like this is really muddying the waters – and I don’t want it to give [the FCC] an excuse to say, ‘Hey, there’s mixed support for this.’”

The FCC has not yet responded to a BBC request for comment.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39950399

HPE unveils ‘world’s largest’ single memory computer

The MachineImage copyright

A prototype computer with 160TB of memory has been unveiled by Hewlett Packard Enterprises.

Designed to work on big data, it could analyse the equivalent of 160 million books at the same time, HPE said.

The device, called The Machine, had a Linux-based operating system and prioritised memory rather than processing power, the company said.

HPE said its Memory Driven Computing research project could eventually lead to a “near-limitless” memory pool.

“The secrets to the next great scientific breakthrough, industry-changing innovation or life-altering technology hide in plain sight behind the mountains of data we create every day,” said HPE boss Meg Whitman.

“To realise this promise, we can’t rely on the technologies of the past, we need a computer built for the big data era.”

  • Japan kicks off AI computer project
  • IBM’s online quantum machine gets faster

Prof Les Carr, of the University of Southampton, told the BBC The Machine would be fast but big data faced other challenges.

“The ultimate way to speed things up is to make sure you have all the data present in your computer as close to the processing as possible so this is a different way of trying to speed things up,” he said.

“However, we need to make our processing… not just faster but more insightful and business relevant.”

“There are many areas in life where quicker is not necessarily better.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39936975

Tinder fights one-man dating platform

Shinder appImage copyright

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The Shinder app was built with one man in mind

Tinder has filed a legal objection to a dating platform created by a British man on which he is the only male date.

Shed Simove called the app Shinder and said he built it to find himself a partner.

However, when he tried to trademark it, a Notice of Threatened Opposition was filed to the Intellectual Property Office by dating giant Tinder.

He also received a letter from lawyers representing the elevator firm Schindler.

Schindler asked him to commit to refraining from entering the elevator or escalator market.

Both firms were contacted by the BBC for comment. Tinder said it was aware of the situation.

Its filing means that it could formally oppose the trademark at a later date.

Mr Simove said that while he had no interest in the elevator industry he didn’t believe he was a threat to Tinder either.

“I think it’s a case of a big corporate giant looking at an entrepreneur who sees the world differently and being punitive,” he said.

“It’s unlikely that the female population will stop using Tinder and start using Shinder.”

  • The most ‘swiped-right’ man on Tinder
  • Tinder wants AI to set you up on a date

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Shed Simove has been on three dates since launching his app

The Shinder platform invites people to register via Facebook, and after a few questions, decides whether the potential date is a match with Shed Simove.

Mr Simove, a serial inventor and speaker, said he had received 150 matches and been on three dates.

However, he also said he had heard from others who wanted to create a similar platform for themselves which was why he decided to trademark it.

“I think there might be commercial possibilities for it,” he said.

“I have to keep my eye on that. If it was ‘white label ‘ – that would mean if I chose to I could take the raw guts of the code and allow people to have their own versions. Jane could have Jinder, and so on.”

He added that he had not decided whether he would be able to fund a court case.

In 2016, Tinder, which is owned by Match Group, sued UK platform 3nder (pronounced Thrinder) – an app for non-monogamous couples – for copyright infringement because of its name.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39936967

Google DeepMind patient app legality questioned

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The Streams app is saving nurses hours each day says the Royal Free hospital

The head of the Department of Health’s National Data Guardian (NDG) has criticised the NHS for the deal it struck with Google’s DeepMind over sharing patient data.

In a letter dated February and leaked to Sky News, Dame Fiona Caldicott throws doubt on the legality of sharing 1.6 million patient records.

Patients should have been informed about the deal, she says.

Google said that the deal was covered by “implied consent”.

This rule exists to allow the NHS to share medical data with third parties for direct patient care, without informing patients about each deal.

In the case of the partnership with DeepMind, data was collected from patients at the Royal Free Hospital Trust in London in order to test an app to help doctors and nurses identify those who might be at risk of acute kidney disease.

Implied consent

In her letter to Prof Stephen Powis, medical director of the Royal Free Hospital in London, Dame Fiona said: “We keenly appreciate the great benefits that new technologies such as Streams can offer to patients, in terms of better, safer, more timely care.”

But she added: “It is absolutely paramount that this is done in a transparent and secure manner, which helps to build public trust, otherwise the full benefits of such developments will not be realised , and indeed harm may be done.”

She questioned the use of “implied consent” as the legal basis for the transfer of identifiable patient records, because the data was initially used just to test the app.

“My considered opinion therefore remains that it would not have been within the reasonable expectation of patients that their records would have been shared for this purpose,” she says.

She has written to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which is currently investigating the data-sharing deal and is due to report its findings imminently.

In response to the leaked letter, a Royal Free London representative said: “The Streams app was built in close collaboration with clinicians to help prevent unnecessary deaths by alerting them to patients in need in a matter of seconds.

“It is now in use at the Royal Free, and is helping clinicians provide better, faster care to our patients. Nurses report that it is saving them hours each day.”

DeepMind said: “We’re glad the NDG has said that further guidance would be useful to organisations which are undertaking work to test new technologies.”

“The data used to provide the app has always been strictly controlled by the Royal Free and has never been used for commercial purposes or combined with Google products, services or ads – and never will be.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39934316

NHS cyber-attack: More ransomware cases ‘likely on Monday’

A programmer decrypting source code of the WannaCry ransomwareImage copyright

More ransomware cases may come to light on Monday, possibly on “a significant scale”, the UK’s cyber-security agency has warned after a global cyber-attack.

The National Cyber Security Centre has advised firms how to protect computers as they start the working week.

It comes after Friday’s attack caused disruption in 150 countries. In the UK, NHS hospitals, pharmacies and GP surgeries were the worst-affected.

A handful of NHS trusts are still dealing with the problems it caused.

In a statement, the National Cyber Security Centre said a ransomware attack of this type and on this scale could happen again although there is “no specific evidence” as yet.

It said it knew of attempts to attack organisations other than the NHS, and warned more cases could “come to light” in the UK and elsewhere as the new working week begins.

Ransomware attacks are “some of the most immediately damaging forms of cyber-attack”, it said, and advised companies to:

  • Keep your organisation’s security software patches up to date
  • Use proper anti-virus software services
  • Back up the data that matters to you, because you can’t be held to ransom for data you hold somewhere else

Media captionHow to protect yourself online

What happened?

The NHS, Fedex and the main telecoms operator in Spain were among 200,000 known victims – organisations and private individuals – of Friday’s global cyber-attack.

The ransomware, which locked users’ files and demanded payment to allow access, spread to 150 countries, including Russia, the US and China.

In England, 47 trusts reported problems at hospitals, GP surgeries or pharmacies and 13 NHS organisations in Scotland were also affected.

Some hospitals were forced to cancel treatment and appointments and, unable to use computers, many doctors resorted to using pen and paper.

The cost of the attack is unknown, in the UK or beyond, but BBC analysis of three accounts linked to the ransom demands suggest hackers have already been paid the equivalent of £22,080.

What can patients expect?

The Scottish government said the cyber-attack had been isolated and it expected that most NHS computers would be back to normal by Monday. NHS England has told patients to attend hospital if they have an appointment unless they are told not to.

However, several trusts in England have issued their own advice to patients. As of Sunday night they were:

  • St Bartholomew’s in London – IT disruption ongoing. Planned surgery and outpatient appointments will be reduced on Monday at the trust’s five hospitals – the Royal London, Newham, Whipps Cross, Mile End and St Bartholomew’s. Patients should attend booked appointments on Monday unless their hospital contacts them to say otherwise
  • East and North Hertfordshire Trust – Patients should assume their appointment is going ahead unless they hear otherwise. Neither Lister Hospital nor the New QE2 are doing non-urgent blood tests
  • James Paget University Hospitals Trust, Norfolk – All clinical and surgical appointments this weekend were cancelled. Patients with appointments on Monday and Tuesday are being advised to attend unless they hear from their hospital. AE wait times are longer than usual
  • Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust – Problems continuing with IT systems. Patients scheduled for surgery on Monday are being told not to attend unless they are contacted. All outpatient and endoscopy appointments for Monday are cancelled
  • Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust – Outpatient appointments, diagnostic tests and routine operations are cancelled on Monday
  • York Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust – Services are “almost back to normal” albeit a little slower so patients can assume their appointments on Monday will go ahead
  • Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh – People are told to avoid AE unless it is an emergency. The trust is working to restore its IT systems

What are the political parties saying?

The government is insisting that the NHS had been repeatedly warned about the cyber-threat to their IT systems.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said £50m of £1.9bn set aside for UK cyber-protection was being spent on NHS cyber systems to improve their security.

Media captionThe NHS has been given about £50m to improve its computer systems, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon says.

But Labour say the Conservatives have cut funding to the NHS’s IT budget and specifically a contract to protect computer systems was not renewed after 2015.

The Liberal Democrats and Labour have both demanded an inquiry into the cyber-attack.

In an interview on BBC One’s Andrew Marr show, Sir Michael said NHS trusts had been encouraged to “reduce their exposure to the weakest system, the Windows XP”, with fewer than 5% of trusts using it now.

“We want them to use modern systems that are better protected. We warned them, and they were warned again in the spring. They were warned again of the threats,” he added.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to ask why concerns repeatedly flagged up about the NHS’s “outdated, unsupported and vulnerable” machines had not been addressed.

On ITV’s Robert Peston, Mr Ashworth accused the government of having “cut the IT and infrastructure budget” by £1bn in the NHS, and said his party, if elected to power, would put £10bn into the infrastructure of the NHS.

He called for the Conservatives to publish the Department of Health’s risk register to see how seriously they were taking IT threats.

Scottish Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said more than 120 public bodies were being contacted to ensure their defences were adequate.

What are others saying?

Kingsley Manning, a former chairman of NHS Digital – which provides the health service’s IT systems – told the BBC on Saturday that several hundred thousand computers were still running on Windows XP.

And a neurology registrar from London, Dr Krishna Chinthapalli, wrote an article for the British Medical Journal just a week ago, warning that hospitals would “almost certainly be shut down by ransomware this year”.

He told the BBC the NHS was in a tricky position – treating sick patients, as a 24/7 operation with specialist software – making update implementation complicated.

“People developing ransomware know a hospital is a good target because the information is about patients and is time-sensitive – hospitals need to get their data back quicker,” he said.

Attacks on hospital data and patients were “despicable at the basic level”, he said.

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Meanwhile, digital rights campaigners Open Rights Group has accused GCHQ of a “very dangerous strategy of hoarding knowledge of security problems”.

It said Britain’s electronic surveillance agency was “in charge of hacking us and protecting us from hackers”, making it hard to balance the risks of keeping vulnerabilities secret.

Jim Killock, the group’s executive director, said: “US and UK security agencies kept a widespread vulnerability secret rather than telling the companies so they could fix it.” He called for the National Cyber Security Centre to be made independent from GCHQ.

Has the virus been stopped?

It’s unlikely. Europol head Rob Wainwright said he was concerned that the number affected would continue to rise when people returned to work on Monday morning.

He told the BBC there was an escalating threat from the virus, known as Wanna Decryptor or WannaCry, adding: “We’ve never seen anything like this – it’s unprecedented in scale.”

Media captionEuropol director Rob Wainwright warned that companies must patch their systems before Monday morning

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39916778

Ransomware cyber-attack threat escalating

Media captionHow to protect yourself online

Friday’s cyber-attack has affected more than 200,000 victims in 150 countries, Europol chief Rob Wainwright says.

He told the BBC the act was “unprecedented in its scale” and warned more people could find themselves affected on Monday morning.

The virus took control of users’ files, demanding payments; Russia and the UK were among the worst-hit countries.

Experts say another attack could be imminent and have warned people to ensure their security is up to date.

Mr Wainwright said that the ransomware – software that blocks access to data until a ransom is paid – was combined with a worm application – a program that replicates itself in order to spread to other computers.

This, he said, was allowing the “infection of one computer to quickly spread across the networks”.

He added: “That’s why we’re seeing these numbers increasing all the time.”

‘Patch before Monday’

Although a temporary fix earlier slowed the infection rate, the attackers had now released a new version of the ransomware, he said.

Companies need to make sure they have updated their systems and “patched where they should” before staff arrived for work on Monday morning, the EU law enforcement agency head said.

In England, 48 National Health Service (NHS) trusts reported problems at hospitals, GP surgeries or pharmacies, and 13 NHS organisations in Scotland were also affected.

Media captionFirms must patch their systems before Monday morning, Europol chief warns

What occurred was an “indiscriminate attack across the world on multiple industries and services”, Mr Wainwright said, including Germany’s rail network Deutsche Bahn, Spanish telecommunications operator Telefonica, US logistics giant FedEx and Russia’s interior ministry.

However, he said that so far “remarkably” few payments had been made by victims of the attack.

BBC analysis of three accounts linked with the global attack suggests the hackers have been paid the equivalent of £22,080.

  • Blogger halts ransomware ‘by accident’
  • Is my computer at risk?
  • Analysis: How it started
  • NHS ‘repeatedly warned’ of cyber-attack

The Europol chief said his agency was working with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to find those responsible, and that more than one person was likely to be involved.

The virus exploits a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows software, first identified by the US National Security Agency, experts have said.

After taking computers over, it displayed messages demanding a payment of $300 (£230) in virtual currency Bitcoin to unlock files and return them to the user.

Microsoft released security updates last month to address the vulnerability, with another patch released on Friday.

The UK security researcher known as “MalwareTech”, who helped to limit the ransomware attack, predicted “another one coming… quite likely on Monday”.

MalwareTech, who wants to remain anonymous, was hailed as an “accidental hero” after registering a domain name to track the spread of the virus, which actually ended up halting it.

The 22-year-old told the BBC it was very important for people to patch their systems as soon as possible.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39913630

Microsoft warns ransomware cyber-attack is a wake-up call

Media captionHow to protect yourself online

A cyber-attack that has hit 150 countries since Friday should be treated by governments around the world as a “wake-up call”, Microsoft says.

It blamed governments for storing data on software vulnerabilities which could then be accessed by hackers.

It says the latest virus exploits a flaw in Microsoft Windows identified by, and stolen from, US intelligence.

There are fears of more “ransomware” attacks as people begin work on Monday, although few have been reported so far.

Many firms have had experts working over the weekend to prevent new infections. The virus took control of users’ files and demanded $300 (£230) payments to restore access.

The spread of the WannaCry ransomware attack slowed over the weekend but the respite might only be brief, experts have said. More than 200,000 computers have been affected so far.

Read more:

But on Monday South Korea said just nine cases of ransomware had been found, giving no further details.

Australian officials said so far only three small-to-medium sized businesses had reported being locked out of their systems while New Zealand’s ministry of business said a small number of unconfirmed incidents were being investigated.

In Japan, both Nissan and Hitachi reported some units had been affected, while in China energy giant PetroChina said that at some petrol stations customers had been unable to use its payment system.

‘Like stealing Tomahawks’

A statement from Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith on Sunday criticised the way governments store up information about security flaws in computer systems.

“We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world,” he wrote.

Media captionFirms must patch their systems before Monday morning, Europol chief warns

“An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.”

He added: “The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call.”

The organisation also said that many organisations had failed to keep their systems up to date, allowing the virus to spread.

Microsoft said it had released a Windows security update in March to tackle the problem involved in the latest attack, but many users were yet to run it.

“As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, there is simply no way for customers to protect themselves against threats unless they update their systems,” Mr Smith said.

Analysis: Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter

There are going to be some tough questions on Monday for those institutions which didn’t do enough to keep their networks secure, as well as the organisations that were best placed to stop it happening in the first place – the NSA and Microsoft.

The NSA keeps a chest of cyberweapons to itself so it can hit targets, but Microsoft has long argued that this is dangerous. If there is a flaw in Windows, the company said, surely the safest thing to do is to let its team know straight away so it can be fixed.

But then Microsoft also needs to consider what obligation it has to update all users – not just the ones who pay extra for security on older systems.

Updating your computer if you’re an individual is a piece of cake, but for a network the size of Britain’s National Health Service? Tough – time-consuming, expensive and complex.

For a company like Microsoft to say it won’t keep those systems safe unless they shell out more money, then that in itself is something of a ransom.

Meanwhile Europol’s chief told the BBC the ransomware was designed to allow “infection of one computer to quickly spread across the networks”, adding: “That’s why we’re seeing these numbers increasing all the time.”

Although a temporary fix earlier slowed the infection rate, the attackers had now released a new version of the virus, he said.

A UK security researcher known as “MalwareTech”, who helped to limit the ransomware attack, predicted “another one coming… quite likely on Monday”.

MalwareTech, who wants to remain anonymous, was hailed as an “accidental hero” after registering a domain name to track the spread of the virus, which actually ended up halting it.

Becky Pinkard, from Digital Shadows, a UK-based cyber-security firm, told AFP news agency that it would be easy for the initial attackers or “copy-cat authors” to change the virus code so it is difficult to guard against.

“Even if a fresh attack does not materialise on Monday, we should expect it soon afterwards,” she said.

In England, 48 National Health Service (NHS) trusts reported problems at hospitals, doctor surgeries or pharmacies, and 13 NHS organisations in Scotland were also affected.

Other organisations targeted worldwide included Germany’s rail network Deutsche Bahn, Spanish telecommunications operator Telefonica, French carmaker Renault, US logistics giant FedEx and Russia’s Interior Ministry.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39915440

The rise of the tweenage vlogger

Nikki ChristouImage copyright
George Christou

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Nikki Lilly found a new hobby as a YouTuber when a medical condition caused her to give up swimming and dance

Nikki Christou, 12, known in the vlogging world as Nikki Lilly, makes YouTube videos about baking, make-up and a rare medical condition known as arterial venous malformation (AVM), something she was diagnosed with when she was six.

Her condition has resulted in a severe facial disfigurement and the constant risk of life-threatening nosebleeds.

She doesn’t get many “haters” on her channel but admits that when she began vlogging, the cruel comments did upset her.

“It definitely got to me at first, and I may have shed a few tears – but, as I’ve grown as a vlogger, I’ve learnt that the comments from the haters are basically all the same.

Media captionWATCH: Justin Escalona’s vlogging tips

“They may say things like, ‘You are ugly,’ but really they don’t like themselves and they have nothing better to do.”

Nikki currently has more than 200,000 subscribers to her channel and hopes to break the million mark at some point.

Making videos started as a hobby, a natural follow-on from the role-playing games she already loved.

When she began posting them to YouTube in 2013, she became part of a new generation of tweenagers – children from eight to 13 – who run their own channels.

She advises any newbies to “make sure they always show what they have made to their parents”.

At first, Nikki’s parents, worried by the reaction she might receive, insisted that the comments section was turned off.

But her mother says that once they saw how much it meant to Nikki and how much she craved feedback, they changed their minds.

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Getty Images

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Many young girls are blogging about beauty and most of them are “pretty and thin”, according to one academic

Pretty and thin

Shauna Pomerantz, associate professor at the department of child and youth studies at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, says Nikki is a great role model for young girls.

“She is the champion of the not-perfect girl, and she is absolutely inspirational to watch,” she told the BBC.

“I can see why people love her – she is a hero to anyone who feels like an outsider.”

Across the pond, 13-year-old American dancer and singer JoJo Siwa vlogs about much the same thing as Nikki Lilly, although, with more than three million followers, she is better established.

There are, says Prof Pomerantz, thousands of similar girls on YouTube and they are “mostly white, upper-class, pretty and thin”.

Prof Pomerantz’s own nine-year-old daughter is a mega-fan of JoJo’s, and while her daughter doesn’t know why she likes her so much, her mother thinks there are two main reasons.

“Firstly, this is a world where no adults are visible and it is fantastic for children to see a world where kids are in charge.”

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Zoe Sugg – who now writes books as well as vlogging – has become the godmother of the beauty vlog, with 11 million subscribers

The second reason is likely to be the normalcy of the videos.

“This stuff is really very mundane,” Prof Pomerantz says.

“Any adult watching would be bored within seconds.

“These vloggers invite their fans on closet tours, show them how to do a high ponytail, show them their underwear.”

And this means children can relate to these “stars” in ways a previous generation could not, says Prof Pomerantz.

Gone are the days when celebrities were one step removed, in the pages of a glossy magazine or on the set of a TV programme – now children are quite literally invited to look around their bedrooms.

Nikki Lilly is a huge fan of Zoella, who, at the grand old age of 27, is a veteran of the beauty vlog.

She says she loves her because “she is like a chatty girl next door”.

But Zoella, like other celebrity vloggers, has another secret to her success, a willingness to share her vulnerability with her fans – in her case, crippling anxiety.

Image copyright
Getty Images

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Are young people becoming too image conscious because of social media?

Much has been written about how the YouTube generation are growing up with no privacy – willing to share on social media every detail of their lives, but Prof Pomerantz is not overly concerned.

“While their mothers may have kept a diary under lock and key, now there is a different way of sharing secrets and young people are happy to tell the world,” she says.

“In some ways, this is a form of empowerment.

“Young people are more likely to be open and honest.”

Journalist Zoe Williams worries, though, that YouTube could be spawning a generation of egotists.

Writing about Zoella in the Guardian newspaper, she says: “Her delight in the inconsequential is perversely infectious; there is something rather relaxing about the company of a person who will say out loud anything that pops into their head.”

But, she adds: “The depth of her fascination with herself is also rather alienating.”


There is no shortage of children desperate to mimic their YouTube heroes and start their own vlogs – but, for the vast majority, stardom is unlikely to follow.

Amanda Lenhart, a senior research scientist at the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, says for those who do not get many followers, it is simply a valuable life lesson.

Image copyright
Justin Escalona

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Justin Escalona uploads a new vlog every day

“It is not pleasant, but is it any different from wanting to be a professional football player and finding you are not good enough? It is part of growing up,” she says.

Justin Escalona, 20, who started a YouTube channel with his friends when he was 11, has some advice for children wanting to do the same.

“I think having an outlet for young kids to express their creativity is a positive thing,” he says.

“Just don’t put stupid or inappropriate stuff online and don’t worry about getting views.”

Now a film student, his vlogs have morphed into slick, cinematic affairs, but he advises children against feeling the need to always be “camera-ready”.

“Just be genuine,” he says.

“If you’re faking the best version of yourself, it will show over time.

“If you’re sharing your genuine high points, along with maybe your not-so-high points, people will respect and like you for being real.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39641264

Cyber-attack: Europol says it was unprecedented in scale

WannaCryImage copyright

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The ransomware has been identified as WannaCry – here shown in a safe environment on a security researcher’s computer

A cyber-attack that hit organisations worldwide including the UK’s National Health Service was “unprecedented”, Europe’s police agency says.

Europol also warned a “complex international investigation” was required “to identify the culprits”.

Ransomware encrypted data on at least 75,000 computers in 99 countries on Friday. Payments were demanded for access to be restored.

European countries, including Russia, were among the worst hit.

Although the spread of the malware – known as WannaCry and variants of that name – appears to have slowed, the threat is not yet over.

Europol said its cyber-crime team, EC3, was working closely with affected countries to “mitigate the threat and assist victims”.

Media captionNHS cyber attack: “My heart surgery was cancelled”

In the UK, a total of 48 National Health trusts were hit by Friday’s cyber-attack, of which all but six are now back to normal, according to the Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

The attack left hospitals and doctors unable to access patient data, and led to the cancellation of operations and medical appointments.

Who else has been affected by the attack?

Some reports say Russia has seen more infections than any other country. Banks, the state-owned railways and a mobile phone network were hit.

Russia’s interior ministry said 1,000 of its computers had been infected but the virus was swiftly dealt with and no sensitive data was compromised.

In Germany, the federal railway operator said electronic boards had been disrupted; people tweeted photos of a ticket machine.

France’s carmaker Renault was forced to stop production at a number of sites.

Other targets have included:

  • Large Spanish firms – such as telecoms giant Telefonica, and utilities Iberdrola and Gas Natural
  • Portugal Telecom, a university computer lab in Italy, a local authority in Sweden
  • The US delivery company FedEx
  • Schools in China, and hospitals in Indonesia and South Korea

Coincidentally, finance ministers from the G7 group of leading industrial countries had been meeting on Friday to discuss the threat of cyber-attacks.

They pledged to work more closely on spotting vulnerabilities and assessing security measures.

Read more:

‘I was the victim of a ransom attack’

Who has been hit by the NHS cyber attack?

Explaining the global ransomware outbreak

A hack born in the USA?

How did it happen and who is behind it?

The malware spread quickly on Friday, with medical staff in the UK reportedly seeing computers go down “one by one”.

NHS staff shared screenshots of the WannaCry programme, which demanded a payment of $300 (£230) in virtual currency Bitcoin to unlock the files for each computer.

The infections seem to be deployed via a worm – a program that spreads by itself between computers.

Most other malicious programs rely on humans to spread by tricking them into clicking on an attachment harbouring the attack code.

By contrast, once WannaCry is inside an organisation it will hunt down vulnerable machines and infect them too.

Media captionThe BBC’s Rory Cellan Jones explains how Bitcoin works

It is not clear who is behind the attack, but the tools used to carry it out are believed to have been developed by the US National Security Agency (NSA) to exploit a weakness found in Microsoft’s Windows system.

This exploit – known as EternalBlue – was stolen by a group of hackers known as The Shadow Brokers, who made it freely available in April, saying it was a “protest” about US President Donald Trump.

A patch for the vulnerability was released by Microsoft in March, which would have automatically protected those computers with Windows Update enabled.

Media captionWhat is ransomware?

Microsoft said on Friday it would roll out the update to users of older operating systems “that no longer receive mainstream support”, such Windows XP (which the NHS still largely uses), Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003.

The number of infections seems to be slowing after a “kill switch” appears to have been accidentally triggered by a UK-based cyber-security researcher tweeting as @MalwareTechBlog.

But in a BBC interview, he warned that it was only a temporary fix. “It is very important that people patch their systems now because there will be another one coming and it will not be stoppable by us,” he said.

Media captionHow a computer expert managed to slow the spread of WannaCryptor

‘Accidental hero’ – by Chris Foxx, technology reporter

The security researcher known online as MalwareTech was analysing the code behind the malware on Friday night when he made his discovery.

He first noticed that the malware was trying to contact an unusual web address but this address was not connected to a website, because nobody had registered it.

So, every time the malware tried to contact the mysterious website, it failed – and then set about doing its damage.

MalwareTech decided to spend £8.50 ($11) and claim the web address. By owning the web address, he could also access analytical data. But he later realised that registering the web address had also stopped the malware trying to spread itself.

“It was actually partly accidental,” he told the BBC.

Blogger halts ransomware ‘by accident’

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-39907965

Global cyber-attack: Security blogger halts ransomware ‘by accident’

Media captionLISTEN: How ‘Malware Tech’ became an ‘accidental hero’

A UK security researcher has told the BBC how he “accidentally” halted the spread of the malicious ransomware that has affected hundreds of organisations, including the UK’s NHS.

The 22-year-old man, known by the pseudonym MalwareTech, had taken a week off work, but decided to investigate the ransomware after hearing about the global cyber-attack.

He managed to bring the spread to a halt when he found what appeared to be a “kill switch” in the rogue software’s code.

“It was actually partly accidental,” he told the BBC, after spending the night investigating. “I have not slept a wink.”

Although his discovery did not repair the damage done by the ransomware, it did stop it spreading to new computers, and he has been hailed an “accidental hero”.

“I would say that’s correct,” he told the BBC.

Cyber-attack scale ‘unprecedented’

NHS ‘robust’ after cyber-attack

“The attention has been slightly overwhelming. The boss gave me another week off to make up for this train-wreck of a vacation.”

What exactly did he discover?

The researcher first noticed that the malware was trying to contact a specific web address every time it infected a new computer.

But the web address it was trying to contact – a long jumble of letters – had not been registered.

MalwareTech decided to register it, and bought it for $10.69 (£8). Owning it would let him see where computers were accessing it from, and give him an idea of how widespread the ransomware was.

Image copyright

Image caption

Owning the web address let MalwareTech monitor where infections were happening

But by doing so he triggered part of the ransomware’s code that told it to continue spreading as long as the mysterious web address did not exist.

Analysis: How did it start?

What is the ransomware?

This type of code is known as a “kill switch”, which some attackers use to halt the spread of their software if things get out of hand.

He tested his theory and was delighted when he managed to trigger the ransomware on demand.

“Now you probably can’t picture a grown man jumping around with the excitement of having just been ‘ransomwared’, but this was me,” he said in a blog post.

MalwareTech now thinks the code was originally designed to thwart researchers trying to investigate the ransomware, but it backfired by letting them remotely disable it.

Does this mean the ransomware is defeated?

While the registration of the web address appears to have stopped one strain of the ransomware spreading from device-to-device, it does not repair computers that are already infected.

Security experts have also warned that new variants of the malware that ignore the “kill switch” will appear.

“This variant shouldn’t be spreading any further, however there’ll almost certainly be copycats,” said security researcher Troy Hunt in a blog post.

MalwareTech warned: “We have stopped this one, but there will be another one coming and it will not be stoppable by us.

“There’s a lot of money in this, there is no reason for them to stop. It’s not much effort for them to change the code and start over.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39907049