Laptop runs both Android and Windows

Asus Transformer Book TrioAsus’s chairman showed off its dual-booting Transformer Book Trio

A laptop running both Windows 8 and Android; a 6in (15.2cm) smartphone; and a hybrid mouse-touchpad are some of the devices to have been unveiled ahead of the start of Computex.

The tech show in Taipei, Taiwan runs from Tuesday to Sunday.

Other launches included the first PCs to feature Intel’s new processor, codenamed Haswell.

The event comes a week after researchers suggested PC sales were declining faster than had been thought.

IDC predicted that shipments of personal computers – including both desktops and laptops – would fall by 7.8% over the course of 2013. The firm had previously forecast a 1.3% decline.

It added that it believed tablet shipments would grow by 58.7% over the same period, putting them on course to overtake PCs by 2015.

Continue reading the main story

Foxconn and Firefox

Taiwanese firm Hon Hai revealed it is to develop five devices powered by Mozilla’s new Firefox mobile operating system.

Hon Hai is perhaps best know for making Apple devices at its Foxconn factories in China. However, analysts have suggested the firm could be responsible for assembling as much as 40% of the world’s consumer electronics.

Hon Hai said its Firefox line-up would include smartphones and televisions. It added that they would be released under others’ brands, rather than its own.

The news offers a boost to Mozilla’s HTML5-based OS which it is pitching as an “open alternative” to Android for low-end handsets.

The move also allows Hon Hai to diversify its operations. That may reassure investors following a Wall Street Journal report last week which said Apple was increasingly sending orders to another Taiwanese firm, Pegatron.

That trend poses a potential problem for manufacturers since margins on tablets are often thinner than they have been accustomed to with PCs.

Hybrid devices

Acer kicked off the announcements with news of an 8.1in tablet capable of running the full Windows 8 operating system.

The firm described the Iconia W3 as being the first device that lets Microsoft’s desktop OS be used comfortably with “a single hand”.

The Taiwanese company also announced a 5.7in Android handset which it called its “first phablet” – signifying a cross between a phone and a tablet.

The Liquid S1 offers slots for two Sim cards – allowing consumers to use it with both their business and personal accounts. However, its 720p resolution screen and a lack of 4G support may limit its appeal to buyers wanting a high-end device.

Asus – which is also based in Taipei – announced the Transformer Book Trio as the centrepiece of its news conference.

The device is marketed as a three-in-one device which can be used as a desktop, laptop or 11.6in tablet. Its key feature is that it can run both the Jelly Bean version of Google’s Android OS and Windows 8.

The firm said users would be able to synchronise data between the platforms in order to enjoy a “smooth transition” between each mode.

Acer press conferenceAcer’s new line-up included what the firm said was the industry’s first 8.1in Windows 8 tablet

Other news from the firm included the Fonepad Note – a 6in phablet featuring a stylus and 1080p resolution display – and the Zenbook Infinity Ultrabook, a laptop which has toughened glass covering the back of its display. At 15.5m (0.61in) thick, it is thinner than Hewlett-Packard’s Envy Spectre 14 which pioneered the idea of a glass-clad laptop in 2012.

Perhaps more unusual was the company’s VivoMouse. The wireless device combines a circular touchpad and mouse into a single device which can be dragged across a surface or operated while being held in the air.

Asus said the controller was particularly suited for Windows 8 users whose PCs lacked touchscreen displays.

New chips

Other announcements included:

  • Dell’s 11.6in-screened XPS 11 laptop. The device’s screen is attached to its body with a hinge which allows it to be twisted round and folded back over the keyboard in a similar manner to Lenovo’s Yoga range.
  • Two new Android tablets from Samsung. The 8in and 10.1in Galaxy Tab 3 computers offer an alternative to the firm’s existing 7in model. The larger model is unusual in that it is powered by an Intel-made chip rather than one of Samsung’s own ARM-based processors.
  • Gigbayte’s Slate S10A – a 10in tablet which is one of the first Windows 8 devices to be powered by AMD’s new A4-1200 processor.

VivoMouseAsus said its VivoMouse touchpad-mouse hybrid was an “entirely new kind of pointing device”

Several of the new laptops used Intel’s latest generation of Haswell chips.

The US firm said last month that the processors would be 50% more power efficient than the previous generation, Ivy Bridge. However, full details about their capabilities are being held back until a press conference at Computex on Tuesday.

One analyst said the variety of computers on show was evidence of innovation, but warned that the amount of choice might end up leaving shoppers perplexed.

“Many users have already moved away from wanting a fully functional PC to an iPad, Android tablet or smartphone,” said Ranjit Atwal, an analyst at tech consultants Gartner.

“As a result that leaves a smaller audience and now the challenge for PC-makers is how to target this group, which is also – by its nature – likely to be more demanding.

“The problem is that by throwing so many different designs at the wall in an effort to meet the challenge of wooing them, they risk confusing shoppers rather than winning them over.”

Article source:

Mind the app: Tube warns phone users

A man takes a picture at a London Underground exhibitionMobiles would previously be useless in many of the Tube network’s stations

Passengers on the London Underground have been warned to keep better hold of their smartphones after dropped devices have caused delays in service.

Anecdotal evidence from Tube drivers and staff suggests such incidents have been increasing since January.

Wi-fi internet access has now been installed across much of the 150-year-old transport network.

On the Victoria Line, a special announcement reminding customers to take extra care is being trialled.

The wi-fi system, installed and maintained by Virgin Media, has 800,000 registered users, according to figures released by the company at the end of last year.

Previously, most Tube stations – some of which are deep underground – would be communications black holes, requiring travellers to bury their gaze in newspapers or books to make journeys more interesting.

‘Number of incidents’

But a spokesman for the Victoria Line – one of the network’s busiest routes – explained that owing to the short intervals between trains, delays caused by phones needing to be retrieved from the track had created problems.

“We’re asking customers on the Victoria Line to be more careful with their mobile and smart phones while waiting for a train,” said Dean Horler, its stations manager.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

In some instances customers have put their own safety at risk by attempting to get down onto the electrified track to retrieve their property”

End Quote
Dean Horler
Stations manager, Victoria Line

“There have been a number of incidents where the service has been delayed due to staff having to retrieve phones that customers have dropped accidentally onto the track.”

He urged customers to not attempt to reach dropped phones themselves.

“In some instances, customers have put their own safety at risk by attempting to get down onto the electrified track to retrieve their property.”

Station staff are required to stop trains and put protection in place to retrieve articles from lines.


For less important items, such as hats that have been blown off, customers are often told to collect items later in the day to avoid disrupting peak-time services.

To combat delays, customers on Victoria Line platforms are being played this message: “Please ensure you stand well back from the platform edge when using your mobiles and smartphones.”

London Underground said it would be “monitoring its impact over the coming months”.

Annie Mole, a writer who blogs about the Underground, expressed bemusement at the announcements.

“Are [Transport for London] worried that we’re becoming so mesmerised by the internet that we’ll fall onto the tracks?” she wrote.

“Surely we can be just as engrossed in newspapers, books or magazines and we should be warned to stand back from the edge when reading those too?”

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

Article source:

Start button returns to Windows 8

Windows 8.1 screenshotMicrosoft has released screenshots confirming the return of a Start button to Windows 8

Microsoft has confirmed a Start button is returning to the desktop mode’s taskbar of its Windows 8 operating system.

The lack of the facility – which had been in every previous version since Windows 95 – has been one of the most controversial aspects of the software.

However, it will not offer all the functionality previously associated with the feature.

Instead it will take users to the recently-introduced “Metro” interface.

“We’ve improved the way you navigate to Start with the mouse by changing the Start ‘tip’ to be the familiar Windows logo,” the company said in a blog post.

“The new tip appears anytime you move the mouse to the bottom left corner of the screen, and is always visible on the taskbar when on the desktop.”

On current versions of Windows 8, the start tip would only appear when users hovered their cursor over the lower-left corner of their screen.

In the 8.1 update, the area will be more visible.

A left-click on the tip will bring up a tile-based Start Screen – formerly known as the Metro interface – designed for touch-screen users.

A right-click will display a small menu of other options such as Event Viewer, Device Manager and Disk Management.

Another change will allow users to boot their computers directly into desktop mode, meaning they can avoid ever using the Start Screen if they wish.

Windows 7 Start buttonThe Windows 7 Start button triggered a menu with apps and other links

Many users had complained that ditching the traditional Start Menu and introducing the Start Screen had made the system less straight-forward to use, meaning businesses which adopted it would need to retrain staff.

‘New Coke’

Microsoft had been stung by claims that the expected reintroduction of a Start button would mark a major U-turn.

An article in the Financial Times described the move as one of the “most prominent admissions of failure for a new mass-market consumer product since Coca-Cola’s New Coke fiasco nearly 30 years ago” – making reference to the soft drinks company’s decision to ditch a new recipe after overwhelming customer dissatisfaction.

Microsoft later issued a statement saying it was “unfortunate” the FT did not represent the “good response to date on Windows 8.”

A preview download of Windows 8.1 will be released to the public in June, and a final version before the end of the year. Both will be free of charge to existing users.

‘A fudge’

Chris Green, principal technology analyst for the Davies Murphy Group, told the BBC he did not think the change would be enough to silence the critics.

“What they’re proposing to do is a bit of a fudge.

“It’s the bare minimum to say they’ve addressed people’s complaints while not having to really backtrack on anything.”

He said Microsoft faced a challenge in being able to innovative with Windows while also keeping its vast user base comfortable.

“When new operating systems come along, same with major applications, everything moves around. People hate it because they have to re-learn from scratch.”

Other changes that will appear to users running the update include:

  • Added customisation options, with more choice over colours and backgrounds on the Start Screen.
  • An improved search function that covers web content as well as apps, files and settings on the PC.
  • A new version of the firm’s web browser – Internet Explorer 11 – which Microsoft said would offer improved tools for developers.

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

Article source:

‘Password’ you swallow in a pill!

Person swallowing a pill

Always forgetting your password? Tech company Motorola is working on some rather unusual solutions!

They’ve unveiled an electronic ‘tattoo’ that sticks to your skin. It has a circuit so gadgets can identify you.

Motorola's electronic tattooThe electronic tattoo shown off at a conference this week

Another experimental idea is a password pill you swallow – that transmits a signal to devices outside the body.

The pill doesn’t need batteries because it’s powered by stomach acid – but Motorola bosses say it won’t be on sale any time soon.

The password pillThe password pill Motorola is experimenting with

So you’ll have to keep remembering those passwords for now!

Article source:

Web porn curb urged after April case

Computer keyboard and mouseThe conviction of Mark Bridger has raised questions about access to illegal material on the internet

Search engines such as Google should do more to restrict access to online pornography, a government adviser on child internet safety has said.

John Carr says internet companies should block links which paedophiles use to find pictures of abuse.

It comes after a court heard April Jones’s murderer Mark Bridger searched for child abuse and rape images.

Campaigners backed the call as Google said it has a “zero tolerance” policy to child sexual abuse content.

Mr Carr, a member of the government’s Council on Child Internet Safety, said Google and other search engines should reset their default search setting to the safest option – blocking access to legal as well as illegal images.

Those wanting to reach such material would have to register to search for other content, which would deter many from doing so, he argued.

Mr Carr told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme internet search engines did prevent access to web addresses that contain child abuse images.

But he said one of the “key routes” paedophiles used to find content was through adverts containing “code words” that are placed on legal hardcore pornography sites.

He said: “Google’s moral leadership is essential here. They are the biggest player in this space in the world. If they did it, I think others would have to follow.”

A person using a computer mouse and keyboard

Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play.

Vile trade

Mr Carr said there was “no question” that some men who look at child sex abuse images go on to carry out abuse.

Earlier, speaking to BBC Radio 5 live he said: “There is enough evidence to suggest that if we can put more barriers towards guys getting to child abuse images, fewer of them will do it and more children will be safe.”

He said between 15 and 50 per cent of men who previously had no involvement with child abuse images would go on to physically harm children once they accessed them.

It has been suggested that some internet companies are reluctant to change their search settings as it would drive users to sites unwilling to change their policy and put them at a competitive disadvantage.

Children’s charity the NSPCC said April’s killing highlighted the increasing evidence of a link between disturbing and violent images of children online and serious sexual assaults.

“April’s death will hopefully lead to effective measures to stamp out this vile trade,” acting chief executive Philip Hoyes said.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

We need to invest in the work that’s done to identify and locate these offenders earlier”

End Quote
Jim Gamble
Former head, Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre

A Google spokesman said it immediately removed illegal online sites from its search index when they were brought to its attention.

In a statement the internet giant added that it funded and was a founder member of the Internet Watch Foundation – a hotline for online criminal activity run by the industry.

“Google has a zero-tolerance policy on child sexual abuse content,” the statement added.

“When we discover child abuse imagery or are made aware of it, we respond quickly to remove and report it to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.”

Paedophile Bridger was found guilty at Mold Crown Court on Thursday of abducting and murdering five-year-old April in Powys last October.

During his trial, the jury was told that police had found a library of pornography on his laptop which included violent images of children.

BBC political correspondent Chris Mason said Bridger’s conviction had renewed the debate about what could be done to limit access to such material online.

Commons Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz told the Times newspaper that the case had shown “we need to act to remove such content from the internet”.

He called for a code of conduct to ensure internet service providers “remove material which breaches acceptable behaviour standards”.

A former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre called for more investment in identifying potential abusers.

“We need to invest in the work that’s done to identify and locate these offenders earlier, and to interdict their behaviour before they step into the real world and harm a child,” Jim Gamble said.

Life sentence

Bridger, 47, of Ceinws, Powys, claimed he had accidentally run April over and could not recall where he had put her body.

But a jury unanimously convicted him in a case lasting four-and-a-half weeks.

The judge branded him a “pathological liar” and “a paedophile”.

April went missing on 1 October 2012 near her home in Machynlleth, sparking the biggest search in UK police history. Her remains have never been found.

Bridger was given a whole-life tariff prison sentence, meaning he must spend the rest of his life behind bars.

How far should internet access be restricted? Should it apply to child sex abuse images? Send us your comments using the form below.

Article source:

Court win over Megaupload evidence

Kim DotcomMr Dotcom faces 20 years if convicted in the US

Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom has won access to evidence seized during raids on the file storage service.

The decision to grant access was made by the New Zealand high court which said warrants used to grab the material were illegal.

The ruling is a victory for Mr Dotcom who said his defence was harmed because police could see evidence he could not.

Computers, hard drives and documents were grabbed in January 2012 during raids co-ordinated by US authorities.

They accused Megaupload of making massive profits from digital piracy by helping people share movies and music illegally. The raids, led by the FBI, forced Megaupload to close.

Mr Dotcom has denied the charges saying Megaupload was just a storage service that should not be held responsible for what its users did with it. He has fought a long-running legal battle over the case in New Zealand where he lives and has scored several victories. In September 2012 he won an apology from New Zealand’s prime minister over the handling of the case.

The latest decision requires New Zealand police to comb through the evidence scooped up in the raid and return any data files considered “irrelevant” to the case. Clones of this information created by investigators must be destroyed.

In addition, copies of any information considered “relevant” to the ongoing case must also be handed over to Mr Dotcom’s legal team.

Lawyers working for Mr Dotcom have long requested access to the information as they prepare for an extradition hearing scheduled for August. US authorities want Mr Dotcom to face charges in the US over alleged copyright theft.

This hearing may be delayed because of questions over whether the evidence being given by the US as justification for extradition was acquired illegally.

A year after the Megaupload shut down, Mr Dotcom, formerly Kim Schmidt, started a separate online file-storage service called Mega.

Article source:

BT Openzone closes to O2 customers

woman sitting under a tree on her laptopO2 customers will no longer be able to use BT Openzone after 30 June

From 1 July customers of O2 will no longer have access to BT Openzone wi-fi hotspots around the UK, when a four-year deal between the two firms ends.

In an email to customers, O2 says its own network of more than 8,000 wi-fi hotspots will still be available in various shops and restaurant chains.

BT Openzone has five million hotspots but O2 says that only 4,200 of them were ever shared with its customers.

It means O2 will lose around one third of its current wi-fi hotspot network.

The change is the result of a four-year agreement between the two telecoms firms coming to an end on 30 June.

“From 1 July 2013, we will no longer offer access to BT Openzone wi-fi hotspots to our customers,” said O2 in a statement.

“We’ll continue to extend the reach and scale of O2 wi-fi through exciting partnerships with venues including O2 shops, restaurants, retail outlets and outdoor and indoor locations across the UK.”

The firm says it has six million wi-fi customers.

The end of the deal with BT Openzone follows disappointment for O2 in the 4G spectrum auction held in February, Kester Mann, senior analyst at CCS Insight, told the BBC.

“The reduction in the number of hotspots is a blow to O2 customers,” he said.

“At the recent 4G auction, O2 failed to secure frequencies at 2.6GHz. This may mean that it will struggle to meet the growing data-needs of its customers, particularly in high-density areas.

“A focus on alternative technologies such as wi-fi may have given the operator the opportunity to address this potential shortfall,” Mr Mann added.

“This is particularly important given that its 4G licence mandates a minimum indoor coverage requirement of 98% of the UK population by the end of 2017.”

Article source:

Hacker admits to pilfering Stratfor

Screenshot of Wikileaks Stratfor pageInformation taken from Stratfor was published by Wikileaks which defended Hammond after his guilty plea

A 28-year-old US man faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to carrying out a cyber-attack on global intelligence firm Stratfor.

“Anarchist and hacker” Jeremy Hammond – who said he was part of activist group Anonymous – was charged with stealing information from Stratfor in 2011.

The data included details of more than 850,000 clients, including government and law enforcement agencies.

Some of the accessed material was subsequently published by Wikileaks.

Credit cards linked to some of the accessed details were used to spend more than $700,000 (£465,000) – with some of the money going to charities including the Red Cross and Save the Children.

His supporters have called Hammond “one of the few true electronic Robin Hoods”.

Wikileaks’ Julian Assange released a statement after the guilty plea saying: “The Obama administration’s treatment of Jeremy Hammond is a disgrace.”

Hammond, who operated under pseudonyms such as “crediblethreat” and “yohoho”, was arrested last year after US authorities were helped by Hector Monsegur – a hacker-turned-informant known online as Sabu.

Hammond told a judge in Manhattan: “As part of each of these hacks, I took and disseminated confidential information stored on computer systems websites used by each of the entities.”

He is expected to be sentenced on 6 September.

His brother, Jason Hammond, told the media that Jeremy should not face a “harsh sentence” for an “act of protest from which he did not personally benefit”.

Article source:

Facebook bows to anti-hate campaign

Mark ZuckerbergMark Zuckerberg’s Facebook has admitted that hate speech on the site should have been removed

Facebook has said it will review how it deals with “controversial, harmful and hateful” content after admitting current measures are not effective.

The admission follows sustained pressure from campaign groups, advertisers and the media.

An open letter from several feminist groups urged Facebook to ban pages that they said promoted violence.

In a blog post, the social network said: “We need to do better – and we will.”

The company said it would begin rolling out changes immediately after it became “clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like”.

Marne Levine, Facebook’s vice president of Global Public Policy, added: “In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want.

“In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using outdated criteria.

“We have been working over the past several months to improve our systems to respond to reports of violations, but the guidelines used by these systems have failed to capture all the content that violates our standards.”

‘Doing better’

Facebook has been involved in a number of recent rows over content.

At the beginning of May, it reversed a decision not to remove a video which showed a man being beheaded as it did not break the social network’s policy.

Following this most recent outcry, Ms Levine put forward several changes the social network would be making.

Continue reading the main story

Facebook, like other web superpowers, has always wanted to be seen as a technology business, not a media player.

That’s because media companies, which control their own content, are under the spotlight from regulators, politicians and advertisers.

She said Facebook would consult lawyers and interest groups to upgrade its guidelines on removing hate speech.

Training of staff will be stepped up, again by working with interest groups to ensure coaching is appropriate.

Facebook also pledged to work to make sure the posters of such material were made to “stand behind the content they create” so that other users could hold them accountable.

Commenting on Ms Levine’s blog post, many Facebook users expressed annoyance at the length of time it had taken for the issues to be addressed.

“It took incredible public pressure for you to look at it… you should have had the guts and morals to do it on your own!”, wrote one user.

Nissan boycott

Facebook’s response comes off the back of a large-scale online campaign from a number of prominent women’s rights groups.

They included the Everyday Sexism Project, a site that uses social media to highlight what it sees as casual sexism in the media and other arenas.

In addition to their letter to the social network, the groups also called on advertisers to boycott the site, noting that their advertising appeared alongside user-created pages showing images of violence towards women that were “shared, boasted and joked about”.

One petition calling for action closed with 225,049 signatures.

The groups called on Facebook to take three specific actions. They were to:

  • “Recognize speech that trivializes or glorifies violence against girls and women as hate speech and make a commitment that you will not tolerate this content.
  • “Effectively train moderators to recognize and remove gender-based hate speech.
  • “Effectively train moderators to understand how online harassment differently affects women and men, in part due to the real-world pandemic of violence against women.”

According to campaigners Women, Action the Media, one high-profile advertiser, Nissan, suspended its advertising on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the company told the BBC that following Facebook’s assurances, it had begun advertising on the platform again.

UK building society Nationwide also took action to remove its promotions: “We welcome the initial commitments made by Facebook yesterday to continue to improve their responses to violations of standards.

“As a responsible and trusted consumer brand, we do feel that sites like Facebook should have stringent processes and guidelines in place to ensure that brands are able to protect themselves from appearing alongside inappropriate content.”

Others brands such as Dove said they were working “aggressively” with Facebook to attempt to solve the problem.

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

Article source:

Digital cash arrests cause ‘pain’

Liberty ReserveUS prosecutors outlined their case against Liberty Reserve on Tuesday

The takedown of the Liberty Reserve digital cash exchange has caused “pain” to criminals who used the facility, according to a leading security expert.

Brian Krebs said he had seen comments on crime-linked restricted access forums suggesting many had suffered “steep losses”.

US prosecutors published an indictment against the site’s staff on Tuesday.

It says they deliberately helped users “distribute, store and launder the proceeds of their illegal activity”.

Costa Rica-based Liberty Reserve had essentially functioned as a “black market bank” which had “allegedly processed 55 million separate financial transactions, and laundered a staggering $6bn [£4bn] in criminal proceeds”, said Preet Bharara, Attorney for the Southern District of New York, at a press conference.

He added that about $25m had been seized following the arrest of Liberty Reserve’s founder Arthur Budovsky in Madrid, Spain.

Four others have also been arrested and at least a further two men are being sought. In addition, computer servers used by the firm in Costa Rica and Switzerland are being examined.

According to the indictment, Liberty Reserve was estimated to have had “more than one million users worldwide”, a fifth of whom were in the US.

Entrance to property linked to Liberty ReservePolice have raided businesses and homes linked to Liberty Reserve in Costa Rica

However, since the site is accused of failing to verify its members’ identities, it is unknown how many accounts were registered to identical individuals.

“Short-term it will cause quite a bit of pain,” Mr Krebs told the BBC.

“If you’re running a cybercrime operation and you lose half or three-quarters of your capital that can hurt and put a dent in your overall ability to perpetuate your business or whatever you are doing.

“The medium to long-term impact is going to hinge largely on what law enforcement is able to glean from the data it has taken from Liberty Reserve.

“It may lead them to be able to identify people who are ringleaders in cybercriminal activity. That said, it’s very likely that information is heavily encrypted, and [based on the experience of other cases] the government is going to need the co-operation of the people they’ve arrested.”

Child abuse

Troels Oerting, head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre, added that EU police forces had also long been aware that criminals were making use of Liberty Reserve.

US dollars

Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play.

“It created an infrastructure that was popular with criminals because they provided financial transactions without any trace, which could be done anonymously. Then they took their cut,” he said.

“We’ve known about Liberty Reserve for a long time. It’s served a lot of cybercriminals involved in activities such as online credit card fraud, identity theft and hacking but also child sexual exploitation and the drugs trade.

“This [takedown] will be a stiff blow, but unfortunately the criminals will adapt and there be other services like this that require law enforcement to continuously do operations like this.”

He added that the EU law enforcement agency had been informed of the case but it was not involved in the US’s current investigation.

Wider crackdown?

This is not the first time the US has targeted services offering users an opportunity to carry out transactions via the internet while preserving their anonymity.

The operators of E-Gold, the Shadowcrew message board and the Western Express International Currency Exchange have all faced prosecution over the past decade for violating money-laundering regulations.

Liberty Reserve shopping cartBrian Kreb’s blog has documented cases where Liberty Reserve’s currency could be used to buy illegal goods

However, some believe the latest move could be part of renewed efforts to tackle the problem.

On 18 March the US Treasury issued guidance making it clear its anti-money-laundering rules applied to administrators and exchanges offering any type of virtual cash which acted “as a substitute for real currency”.

Newspaper reports focused on how this might be applied to Bitcoin.

However, Mr Krebs noted that the fact Bitcoin was not pegged to another currency would have scared many criminals away.

“Currency stability is really important for these guys,” he said.

“With Liberty Reserve one dollar equals one Liberty Reserve dollar.

“That’s not the case with bitcoins. A lot of people have said, ‘What happens if I pay this guy and he waits until the next day to cash out and the deposit is worth 50% less?’”

Mr Krebs noted that one of Liberty Reserve’s main competitors – Webmoney – no longer accepts new sign-ups by US citizens.

The Russian company offers currencies pegged to dollars, euros, roubles and gold among other options.

A spokesman for the firm told the BBC that the ban dated back to March 2012 when it first received notification of changes to the US payment systems legislation, and followed “long correspondence with officials in Washington”.

Yegor Kuzin added: “There never [has] been a possibility to register in Webmoney Transfer anonymously and make transactions without verified personal information.”

Another electronic currency provider, Panama-based Perfect Money, introduced a similar policy last weekend. A spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Bank accounts

Mr Budovsky and the other men facing charges have yet to appear in court.

In the meantime US prosecutors have begun releasing some of the evidence they may use if the case goes to trial.

Evidence in Liberty Reserve caseUS prosecutors said an investigator was able to sign up to Liberty Reserve using fake details

It includes screenshots showing how an undercover agent was able to sign up to the service calling himself Joe Bogus and using “tostealeverything” as his account name without apparently setting off a red flag.

In addition they revealed a Barclays Bank personal account registered to Mr Budovsky’s name was one of several that had been seized. The British firm confirmed to the BBC it had been co-operating with investigators since last week.

Warrants have also been issued for funds deposited with Cyprus’s Hellenic Bank, Australia’s Westpac and Russia’s Sovetsky Bank among others.

Article source: