Virgin Media ‘falling short’ on broadband speeds

Virgin media logoImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Virgin Media was overselling in some areas, leading to over-utilisation

A BBC Watchdog investigation has found Virgin Media customers across the UK are receiving only a fraction of the broadband speed they were promised.

It found the company had been signing up too many customers in some areas, leading to issues relating to “over-utilisation”.

Some customers were receiving just 3% of the speeds promised, it said.

Virgin Media said it was “disappointed” that it “fell short” of its own high standards on broadband speeds.

‘Hoodwinked’

Chief executive Tom Mockridge said: “We apologise for the inconvenience to these customers and have resolved the issues they raised.

“All of our sales agents have been re-briefed on the company’s sales policy, and we are providing additional training to ensure everyone complies with it.”

Virgin Media has not confirmed the exact numbers of affected customers.

Virgin Media customers in the affected areas were struggling to complete tasks such as streaming video, listening to music and downloading games, despite paying for speeds of about 200Mbps, Watchdog found.

At the end of May 2017, Mr Mockridge said 100Mbps would now be the “broadband standard” for the company and the industry needed to improve the way it advertised speeds, so customers were not “hoodwinked”.

The BBC Watchdog investigation into Virgin Media is broadcast on Wednesday, 5 July, 20:00, BBC One.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40504354

Call for a ban on child sex robots

Dolls at Real Doll

Image caption

Abyss makes dolls for clients around the world, but does not release figures on how many it sells

There should be a ban on the import of sex robots designed to look like children, the author of a new report into the phenomenon has said.

Prof Noel Sharkey said that society as a whole needed to consider the impact of all types of sex robots.

His Foundation for Responsible Robotics has conducted a consultation on the issue.

Only a handful of companies were currently making sex robots, said Prof Sharkey.

But, he added, the upcoming robot revolution could change that.

The report, Our Sexual Future With Robots, was written to focus attention on an issue barely discussed at the moment, he said.

The report acknowledged that finding out how many people actually owned such robots was difficult because the companies that made them did not release the numbers.

But, said Prof Sharkey, it was time society woke up to a possible future where humans and robots had sex.

“We do need policymakers to look at it and the general public to decide what is acceptable and permissible,” he said.

“We need to think as a society what we want to do about it. I don’t know the answers – I am just asking the questions.”

Companies making sex robots include Android Love Doll, Sex Bot and True Companion. Most have previously made realistic, silicone-skinned sex dolls and are now considering or starting to ship dolls that can move and speak.

The most advanced of these is San Diego-based Abyss Creations, which ships a product known as Real Doll and is due to release a sex doll with artificial intelligence later this year. Called Harmony, the robot moves its head and eyes and speaks via a tablet-enabled app.

The company has already released the app, which allows users to program moods and voices for an existing doll.

The report considers a few options for how such robots could be employed as:

  • robot “prostitutes”, working in brothels
  • sexual companions for the lonely or the elderly
  • a new means of “sexual healing”
  • a sexual therapy tool for rapists or paedophiles

The last of these was the most problematic, said Prof Sharkey.

Media captionAimee Van Wynsberghe, co-director of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics on the pros and cons of sex robots

Sex dolls that resemble children do exist, and a court in Canada is currently determining whether owning one is illegal.

Newfoundland resident Kenneth Harrison ordered a doll from a Japanese business called Harumi Designs.

The company is on a Canadian watch-list, and the doll was intercepted at the airport. Mr Harrison was charged with possessing child pornography but has pleaded not guilty.

In Asia, there are already brothels that use adult sex dolls. And there are reports that a doll-maker operated one in Barcelona, although this has not been verified.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The report examines the nature of a human-robot relationship, but would women want a male sex robot?

Dr Kathleen Richardson, a robot ethicist at De Montfort University, agreed with the report authors that child sex robots should be banned but stopped short of calling for a ban on all such sex dolls.

“The real problem here is not the dolls but the commercial sex trade. Sex robots are just another type of pornography,” she said.

She believes such robots would inevitably “increase social isolation”.

She also criticises the report for what she said is a failure to address the issue of gender.

“Why does the report have a picture of a male robot on the cover when we know that the doll market – which is driving this – is mainly female dolls?

“It is perpetrating the idea that this is gender-neutral, but the truth is that there are not many women buying such dolls, it is largely driven by men and male ideas of sexuality.”

Prof Sharkey said that there was currently a mismatch between what those selling such dolls wanted their customers to believe about the dolls and the reality of what they offered.

“The manufacturers of sex robots want to create an experience as close to a human sexual encounter as possible,” he said.

“But robots cannot feel love, tenderness or form emotional bonds. The best that robots can do is to fake it.”

Human-like

Sex robots are a relatively new phenomenon and an obvious next stage for sex dolls, which have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years. Most have silicone skin, articulated metal skeletons and realistic features such as hair and eyes.

In the main, these dolls are designed in female form, although Sinthetics has had some commercial success with its male sex dolls.

But Prof Sharkey has doubts about how human-like such dolls will become.

“I can’t see them as being like humans in the next 50 years. They will always be slightly spooky, and their conversation skills now are awful,” he said.

Dr Richardson also questioned whether such robots would become mainstream or even be possible technologically.

“The report assumes that you can create a functioning robot that can respond to humans, but in fact it is incredibly complex,” she said

Image copyright
HBO

Image caption

One of this year’s big TV series – Westworld – explored the idea of people paying to have sex with human-like robots

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40428976

Petya hackers issue fresh ransom demand

Petya malwareImage copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Ukrainian cyber-security researchers have been trying to uncover the secrets of the malware’s code

The perpetrators of a recent cyber-attack that disrupted businesses across the world appear to have accessed the ransom payments they raised.

Just over £7,900-worth of virtual currency has been moved from the Bitcoin address listed in the blackmail demand that appeared on hacked PCs.

One expert said there was little doubt the funds had been tapped by those responsible for the crime.

And it seems they have now made a fresh ransom demand.

However, analysts suggest the move is intended to confuse investigations into the matter.

In other related developments, Ukraine’s interior minister has said the police managed to prevent a second wave of attacks by shutting down and confiscating computer servers used by a local software company, which is thought to have unwittingly helped the Petya-variant virus to spread.

Image copyright
Kiberpolitsiyi Police

Image caption

Ukrainian police issued this image of the confiscated computer servers

And after having repeatedly denied any involvement in the transmission of the malware, the developer Intellect Service has acknowledged an upgrade to its MeDoc tax software was indeed “contaminated”, allowing the attack to be carried out.

“As of today, every computer which is on the same local network as our product is a threat,” the company’s chief executive Olesya Bilousova told reporters.

She added that one million computers in Ukraine had MeDoc installed on them.

The police have recommended that everyone stops using the program and turns off computers that have it.

Image copyright
EPA

Image caption

Hacked computers were forced to reboot, after which they displayed this ransom demand

Although the majority of the detected attacks occurred within Ukraine, according to analysis by security firm Eset the malware also affected businesses across the world.

Their computers became inaccessible after the code spread over their internal networks, scrambling a part of the PCs’ operating systems used to locate where files are stored.

High-profile casualties included Nurofen-maker Reckitt Benckiser, Oreo cookie manufacturer Mondelez International, the shipping group Maersk and the advertising agency WPP.

Most of those struck did not, however, pay the ransom demand. This was in part because the email address given by the attackers to contact them was shut down by its German operator.

And until Tuesday, the funds that were raised lay dormant.

Image copyright
Blockchain

Image caption

The Bitcoin address used in the ransom demand has been emptied of most of its contents

But at 22:32 BST on Tuesday, three transfers were triggered.

Two of these were sent to Bitcoin wallets used to collect donations to the PasteBin and DeepPaste text-sharing services – platforms often used by hackers to announce their activities.

The third and largest of the transfers went to an address that had previously been empty.

A little later, a post appeared on DeepPaste demanding 100 bitcoins ($256,300; £198,500) for a “private key to decrypt any hard disk” affected by the attack.

Image copyright
DeepPaste

Image caption

This message appeared on DeepPaste shortly after funds were transferred to the site’s Bitcoin account

“Unless the hackers gave away the Bitcoin account linked to the original ransom demand, only they could have moved the funds,” Prof Alan Woodward from the University of Surrey told the BBC.

“People are gobsmacked they have gone anywhere near it – they can’t be daft enough to try and cash it out.

“As far as we can tell, there’s no way to actually decrypt affected PCs even if you paid the new demand.

“So, it may be that they are trying to lead a false trail away from themselves.”

Ukraine has accused Russia of being involved in the attack, but the Kremlin has denied any responsibility.

The news site Motherboard said it spoke to someone claiming to be one of the hackers on a dark web chatroom.

The supposed criminal offered to demonstrate that they could decrypt any file scrambled by the Petya-variant. However, they failed to deliver on the promise when given an example to test.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40506616

LeEco chairman ‘has bank accounts frozen over debt’

LeEco co-founder and chief executive Jia Yueting, at a press event in San Francisco.Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Jia Yueting, the founder of LeEco, stepped down as chief executive of the company earlier this year but retained the position of chairman.

The billionaire co-founder of struggling Chinese technology giant LeEco has had personal assets frozen by a Shanghai court, state media reports.

Assets worth a combined 1.24bn yuan ($183m; £141m) belonging to Jia Yueting, his wife, and three affiliates have reportedly been blocked.

The ruling follows LeEco’s failure to pay interest due on bank loans taken out to fund its smartphone business.

Neither Mr Jia nor the company has commented on the reports.

‘Severe’

LeEco was for a while known as the Netflix of China, a company that streamed content and eventually started making its own original material.

But it then drew comparison with the likes of Apple and Tesla when it began branching out into hardware, including a smart TV, phones and electric cars.

LeEco started selling devices in the US at the tail end of last year, but is now facing a cash crunch and has been forced to slash costs, including making job cuts.

Mr Jia, who resigned as chief executive in May but retains his position as chairman, recently admitted to shareholders that its financial problems were “more severe than we expected”.

In April, a $2bn deal to buy consumer electronics-maker Vizio was called off because of “regulatory headwinds”.

Business problems

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

LeEco’s television business Letv launched in the US last year

Meanwhile LeEco’s smartphone unit, Coolpad, has further delayed its 2016 financial results because of audit issues. The company’s unaudited results from May suggest it lost $542m last year.

Coolpad shares listed in Hong Kong have been suspended from trade for three months.

The news of the court freeze on some of LeEco’s assets was welcomed by Philip G Chiu, CEO of US-based marketing firm Beyond Media Global.

He took LeEco business LeTV to court over debts of $1m but claims that it still owes his firm around $100,000.

“LeTV has still not paid all their debt to our company,” he told the BBC.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-40490216

Premier League: Third of fans say they watch illegal streams of matches

Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Aguero of Manchester City

BBC Radio 5 live Daily surveyed 1,000 Premier League fans

More than a third of Premier League football fans say they regularly watch matches live online via unofficial streams, according to a BBC survey.

The poll suggests younger adults are most likely to say they stream matches via unauthorised providers.

Nearly a quarter of all fans surveyed regularly watch matches online via special technology, such as Kodi boxes.

Sky and BT Sport hold the live rights for Premier League football, and unofficial streams are illegal.

The Premier League says the law is catching up with pirates and that it will continue to protect its copyright.

According to the poll of 1,000 people for 5 live Daily:

  • Nearly half of fans say they have streamed a match online through an unofficial provider – just over a third do so at least once a month and about one in five at least once a week.
  • The main reasons include a friend/family member doing it and they just watch; the quality of the stream; and because sports TV packages are considered not good value for money.
  • Just under a third of fans do not know whether it is illegal to stream live Premier League matches online from unofficial providers, but another third believe it is always illegal.

In April, a ruling by the European Court of Justice put pirated streams on the same legal footing as copyright-infringing downloads, making it illegal to watch them.

Kieron Sharp, director general of the Federation against Copyright Theft (Fact), said: “People need to be aware that this is no longer a grey area, in fact it is very black and white.

“If you are accessing content for free such as sport, TV and films for which you’d normally need a subscription, or go to the cinema, or buy a DVD, this is illegal.

“As the old saying goes, if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.”

<!–<!–

Google DeepMind NHS medical trial broke UK privacy law

Patient recordsImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The records collected by DeepMind went back over the past five years

A UK hospital did not do enough to protect the privacy of patients when it shared data with Google, the UK’s Information Commission (ICO) has ruled.

The ICO censured the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust about data handed over during trials of a novel way to detect kidney injuries.

Among other failings, the ICO said the hospital did not tell patients enough about the way their data was used.

The trust said it would tackle “shortcomings” in its data-handling.

Privacy impact

Details on about 1.6 million patients was provided to Google’s DeepMind division during the early stages of the medical trial last year.

The information was used to develop and refine an alert, diagnosis and detection system that can spot when patients are at risk of developing acute kidney injury (AKI). The result of the trial was an app called Streams designed to help doctors spot patients at risk of AKI

In a statement, information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said attempts to make creative use of data had to be carefully managed.

“The price of innovation does not need to be the erosion of fundamental privacy rights,” she said.

The trust has not been fined as a result of the investigation, instead it has signed an undertaking to make changes to the way it handles data.

The trust has pledged to:

  • sort out the legal basis for future trials with DeepMind and other companies
  • set out how it will meet its duty of confidence to patients in future trials
  • assess the impact the trial has had on privacy
  • audit the trial to see how it performed and share the details with the ICO

In a statement, the Royal Free said it had co-operated fully with the ICO’s investigation and welcomed the guidance it had received on the best way to use patient data in future trials.

Image copyright
PA

Image caption

The hospital said it accepted the ICO’s findings and would make changes to how it handled data

It added that it was “pleased” that the ICO had let it continue using the Streams app to help patients.

“We accept the ICO’s findings and have already made good progress to address the areas where they have concerns,” it said.

“We passionately believe in the power of technology to improve care for patients and that has always been the driving force for our Streams app.”

In a statement, Google said it welcomed the “thoughtful resolution” of the case and added that it would reflect on its involvement with the hospitals.

“We underestimated the complexity of the NHS and of the rules around patient data, as well as the potential fears about a well-known tech company working in health,” wrote Dominic King, DeepMind’s clinical lead on health, and Mustafa Suleyman, DeepMind’s co-founder.

The statement said the AI division had concentrated on building tools for clinicians rather than thinking about how the project should be shaped by the needs of patients and the public.

“We got that wrong, and we need to do better,” they wrote and then went on to outline steps the division would take to make sure future trials took more notice of privacy worries.

The deal between the Royal Free and DeepMind first became public in February 2016 and caused controversy over the amount of patient information being shared without public consultation.

In March this year, an academic report into the way patient data had been handled found “inadequacies” in the way information had been handed over.

The authors said that it was “inexcusable” that patients had not been told about what had been happening to their data.

At the time, Google DeepMind said the report had “major errors” that misrepresented the way it and the Royal Free had used data.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40483202

UK PlayStation Network fans using PayPal have their accounts suspended by Sony

PlayStation Network (PSN) users in the UK who’ve paid via PayPal have had their accounts suspended.

Some users received an automatic refund for purchases they made with the US money transfer service.

But their accounts have been automatically suspended because Sony hasn’t received the money – which means they can’t play online.

Affected members in the UK should have received an email from PayPal saying they’ve been refunded.

A PS4 console and controllers

One PSN user, Adam, has told Newsbeat that he received the email on Thursday.

More
related stories

A picture from inside the E3 convention

E3 2017: New Xbox and Mario’s still got it

Old Atari console

Atari is making a new video game console

Star Wars: Battlefront 2 press image

How gamers influenced Battlefront 2

He’d made an in-game purchase on 11 June for £1.99, which was refunded automatically.

“I had no control over it coming back to me. If they asked for it to be sent back to them I’d have no problem,” he says.

“I tried going on the PlayStation and it said I need to sign in. So I put my login details in, and it said I am banned from the network.”

The PlayStation stage at E3

Adam was faced with the error code WS-37368-7, which means: “This Sony Entertainment Network (“SEN”) account has been temporarily suspended from accessing SEN services for violating our Terms of Service and User Agreement. Please check the e-mail account associated with the account for further information.”

At the moment, Adam says he hasn’t received an email from Sony.

“I tried to get in touch with PlayStation online and couldn’t get through to anyone,” he says.

In the email from PayPal, there was a blank space where a message from Sony should have appeared.

The message from PayPal

However, Adam can now log in to his PSN account on the computer but hasn’t tried on his PS4 yet.

According to gaming site Kotaku, Sony and PayPal are in talks to resolve the issue.

PlayStation has released a statement saying: “We’re aware that some users experienced problems accessing their PSN accounts overnight. We are working hard to ensure that all affected accounts are accessible and continue to fully resolve the issue with our partners.”

Find us on Instagram at BBCNewsbeat and follow us on Snapchat, search for bbc_newsbeat

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/articles/40455433

Jean-Claude Juncker: I don’t own a smartphone

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker (L) and Prime Minister of Estonia, Jueri Ratas during a joint press conference to mark the start of Estonia's six month rotating EU presidency on 30 June 2017.Image copyright
AFP/Getty Images

Image caption

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker (L) spoke to the press alongside Estonia’s Prime Minister Jueri Ratas

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, has admitted that he does not own a smartphone.

“I shouldn’t say, but I have to say it – I still don’t have a smartphone,” the 62-year-old told a news conference.

The light-hearted confession came as he helped launch the EU presidency of digital-savvy Estonia.

Mr Juncker joked that the country’s Prime Minister Juri Ratas had “sent me, like in the 19th Century, a postcard inviting me to Tallinn”.

According to EU sources, Mr Juncker’s telephone of choice is an old Nokia mobile.

The EU chief is a former prime minister of Luxembourg, but said that with such technophobic tendencies, he “couldn’t become prime minister of Estonia; this would be totally impossible”.

Estonia is one of the world’s most digitally-connected countries, and was the first to introduce online voting.

It hopes to push digital issues as part of its six-month stint as president of the EU, which begins on Saturday.

  • Has the time now come for internet voting?
  • How Estonia became E-stonia
  • Rebooted Nokia 3310 goes on sale

Tech matters will have to share space with the pressing issues of Brexit and migration, however.

Mr Juncker’s admission comes 10 years after Apple introduced the iPhone, setting a global revolution in motion.

Image copyright
European Parliament

Image caption

In a 2014 picture, Jean-Claude Juncker (L) stares at a non-smartphone with Martin Schulz, former president of the European Parliament

And yet, he is not the only political heavyweight resisting the march of technology.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has led Germany since 2005, still does not have a Twitter account.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-40459504

Russia behind cyber-attack, says Ukraine’s security service

Ransomware can spread quickly, affecting computers around the world within hoursImage copyright
EPA

Image caption

Moscow said that cyber-attack allegations from Ukraine’s security services were “unfounded”

Ukraine says it has proof that Russian security services were involved in the cyber-attack that targeted businesses around the world earlier this week.

The country’s security service, the SBU, said it had obtained data that points to a link with an attack on the nation’s capital, Kiev, in December.

Ukrainian firms were among the first to report issues with malicious software on Tuesday, before the virus spread.

Moscow denied any involvement, adding that the allegations were “unfounded”.

The virus, which disrupted IT systems across the globe, froze computers and demanded a ransom be paid in the digital currency Bitcoin, which is untraceable.

However, the attack also hit major Russian firms, leading some cyber security researchers to suggest that Moscow was not behind it.

But on Saturday, Ukraine’s SBU said in a statement that – through data obtained from international anti-virus companies – it had established a connection with a previous attack involving the so-called Petya virus, which it alleges was not designed to secure ransom payments.

The SBU later said the ransom demand was a cover, adding that the attack was aimed at disrupting the operations of state and private companies in Ukraine and causing political destabilisation.

The lack of any real mechanism for securing financial payments, the SBU said, led the agency to this assumption.

Ukraine appears to have been particularly badly hit in the recent attacks.

The police received about 1,000 messages on intrusions in the operations of computer networks over a 24-hour period. A total of 150 companies filed official complaints with the police.

In December, the country’s financial, transport and energy systems were targeted by what investigators judged to be a cyber-attack. The incident resulted in a power cut in Kiev.

The attack earlier this week comes two months after another global ransomware assault, known as WannaCry, which caused major problems for the UK’s National Health Service.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-40471310

Facebook drone in successful test flight

Aquila droneImage copyright
Facebook

Image caption

The drone flew at an altitude of 3,000ft, much lower than Facebook eventually wants its fleet to fly

Facebook has completed a second test of a solar-powered drone designed to bring internet access to remote parts of the world.

The drone – dubbed Aquila – flew for one hour and 46 minutes in Arizona.

On Aquila’s maiden voyage last summer, the autopilot system was confused by heavy wind and crash-landed.

This time, the drone flew at an altitude of 3,000ft, a long way from Facebook’s intended 60,000ft goal.

The social network has ambitious plans for its drone fleet and eventually wants to have them communicating with each other via lasers and staying in the air for months at a time.

The test – which took place in May but is only now being made public – went “perfectly”, according to a blog post detailing the flight.

Facebook had initially heralded its June 2016 test a success but later admitted the drone had crashed on landing.

The crash was only revealed when it emerged that it had been investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

This time, the engineering team added “spoilers” to the wings to increase drag and reduce lift during landing. They also modified the autopilot software and applied a smoother finish to the craft.

The team filmed the landing and included the video in the blog post.

Director of aeronautical platforms Martin Luis Gomez said the drone had suffered “a few minor, easily repairable dings”.

Aquila – which has a wingspan of a Boeing 737 – is part of Facebook’s ambitious plans to connect the world to the internet.

This week, it announced that it has two billion users, more than a quarter of the world’s population.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40456093