Hate crimes: Online abuse ‘as serious as face-to-face’

Media captionKaye Medcalf explains what online hate crime looks like

Online hate crimes should be treated as seriously as abuse committed face-to-face, prosecutors in England and Wales have been told.

Revising its guidance for prosecutors, the Crown Prosecution Service said the impact of tweeting abuse can be as “equally devastating” as shouting it.

The guidance includes offences against bisexual people for the first time.

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said online abuse can fuel “dangerous hostility”.

A hate crime is an offence motivated by a “hostility or prejudice”, including racism, sexism or homophobia.

Writing in the Guardian, Ms Saunders said recent events in the US – where white nationalists clashed with counter-protesters in Charlottesville – showed what online abuse can lead to.

“Whether shouted in their face on the street, daubed on their wall or tweeted into their living room, the impact of hateful abuse on a victim can be equally devastating,” she said.

She said the internet and social media in particular have provided “new platforms” for abuse.

In December 2014, Scotland’s Crown Office issued similar prosecution guidance, saying “if it would be illegal to say it on the street, it is illegal to say it online”.

‘Not just words’

Media captionLove Island’s Olivia: I’ve received death threats

Love Island contestant Olivia Attwood told the Victoria Derbyshire programme: “There are things I look at and I think ‘is this normal? Are you just meant to see this and just pretend you haven’t seen it?’”

Labour councillor Seyi Akiwowo received a tirade of racist and gender-based slurs in February 2017. She was called the N-word and “a monkey”.

Ms Akiwowo told BBC Radio London: “They’re not just words. They actually echo the behaviour we don’t tolerate in society so we shouldn’t start thinking its OK to say on any platform, on social media and the internet.

“There needs to be a big campaign about proper conduct online…[and] about what you can do as a witness.

“You wouldn’t be a bystander to a crime in society. If we saw someone being mugged, or being abused we wouldn’t stand back we would try and intervene in some way.”

The CPS says it has set out more clearly what victims and witnesses should expect from the law.

The new legal guidance and accompanying CPS public statements guide prosecutors deciding whether to charge suspects of offences motivated by hostility towards people of different races, religions, sexuality, gender and disability.

Cases should be pursued with the same “robust and proactive approach used with offline offending”.

It says exceptions to prosecution should be made in the case of children who may not appreciate the potential harm they have caused by publishing something online that amounts to a hate crime.

Until now, CPS guidance on hate crime motivated by sexual orientation has had a general focus on all victims.

The new guidance specifically refers to bisexual victims, particularly if they report being victimised by gay men or lesbians.


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Gina Miller says she felt “violated” by the abuse she received

By Dominic Casciani, home affairs correspondent

Hate crime is any criminal offence “which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice”.

The difficulty is working out where the line is drawn between that and words that are simply offensive.

Obvious examples are words linked to violence – such as the racially-aggravated threat made by an aristocrat on Facebook against businesswoman Gina Miller.

Other online abuse can amount to harassment or the crime of inciting hatred.

Campaigners say too many charging decisions based on existing guidance have landed on the wrong side of the line, leaving victims let down.

If the CPS is serious about getting tough with online hate crime, they say there needs to be more than a change in guidance – there needs to be a change in will.

According to the latest figures, the CPS successfully prosecuted more than 15,000 hate crime incidents in 2015-16 – the highest number ever. A third of those convicted saw their sentence increased because of the hate crime element of the offence – also a record.

However, in the same year, the number of cases being referred by police to prosecutors for a decision fell by almost 10%.

Nik Noone, chief executive of Galop, a charity that campaigns against anti-LGBT violence and hate crime, said its own research suggested many victims did not have confidence in the police to report online hate attacks.

“The threshold for prosecuting online hate crime is very high, and the investigative process is often too slow and cumbersome to respond to the fast-moving online world,” she said.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40981235

Killer robots: Experts warn of ‘third revolution in warfare’

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Experts have warned that “lethal autonomous” technology could be hacked

More than 100 leading robotics experts are urging the United Nations to take action in order to prevent the development of “killer robots”.

In a letter to the organisation, artificial intelligence (AI) leaders, including billionaire Elon Musk, warn of “a third revolution in warfare”.

The letter says “lethal autonomous” technology is a “Pandora’s box”, adding that time is of the essence.

The 116 experts are calling for a ban on the use of AI in managing weaponry.

“Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend,” the letter says.

“These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways,” it adds.

There is an urgent tone to the message from the technology leaders, who warn that “we do not have long to act”.

“Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”

Experts are calling for what they describe as “morally wrong” technology to be added to the list of weapons banned under the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).

Along with Tesla co-founder and chief executive Mr Musk, the technology leaders include Mustafa Suleyman, Google’s DeepMind co-founder.

A UN group focusing on autonomous weaponry was scheduled to meet on Monday but the meeting has been postponed until November, according to the group’s website.

A potential ban on the development of “killer robot” technology has previously been discussed by UN committees.

In 2015, more than 1,000 tech experts, scientists and researchers wrote a letter warning about the dangers of autonomous weaponry.

Among the signatories of the 2015 letter were scientist Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Mr Musk.

What is a ‘killer robot’?

A killer robot is a fully autonomous weapon that can select and engage targets without human intervention. They do not currently exist but advances in technology are bringing them closer to reality.

Those in favour of killer robots believe the current laws of war may be sufficient to address any problems that might emerge if they are ever deployed, arguing that a moratorium, not an outright ban, should be called if this is not the case.

However, those who oppose their use believe they are a threat to humanity and any autonomous “kill functions” should be banned.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40995835

Apple’s ‘hidden’ job ad found online

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An advert for an engineer at Apple has been found hidden in the tech giant’s website.

The text begins: “Hey there! You found us”, and says the firm is looking for “a talented engineer to develop a critical infrastructure component”.

It has since been either removed or moved elsewhere.

Cyber-security reporter Zack Whittaker discovered it by chance while analysing some data being sent from iPhone apps – but he is not applying for the job.

“As part of the stream of traffic I could see, it was connecting to this one URL – and there it was,” he said.

The page was listed under the web address “us-east-1.blobstore.apple.com” – which now contains an error message.

“Blobstore” is the name of a series of servers that belong to Apple.

Apple has been contacted by the BBC.

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Mr Whittaker, who is cyber-security editor at tech news website CNet, said he was excited by his discovery.

“It’s remarkable to see these companies taking innovative ways to entice people to work for them,” he said.

“A lot of times finding a job is down to chance and luck. This definitely keeps things interesting.”

Key qualifications required for the position include familiarity with modern server technology and distributed systems.

Mr Whittaker added that he did not apply for the job.

“Apple is not looking for me,” he said.

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Zack Whittaker found the advert by chance.

The use of “hidden” messages in recruitment campaigns has a long history.

During World War Two, codebreaking headquarters Bletchley Park set puzzles in newspapers to attract inquiring minds.

In 2016, British firm Dyson devised a series of four challenges, beginning with a key hidden inside a YouTube video.

And in 2015, GCHQ used a pressure washer and stencil to spray-paint cryptic graffiti on the pavements of various UK cities as part of its recruitment campaign. The department has also used online quizzes.

In the same year, former Google engineer Max Rosett wrote an article describing how after searching for a series of programming terms while seeking a career change, a box appeared in Google’s search results asking if he was “up for a challenge”. This led to a series of problems to solve – and eventually a job with the firm.

“One of the most important skills as an engineer, and especially a cyber-security specialist, is a mindset that can solve problems,” said Prof Alan Woodward from Surrey University.

“Puzzles are a great way to discover that. Technical skills can be taught.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40999316

Google’s stance on neo-Nazis ‘dangerous’, says EFF

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Events in Charlottesville have spurred a national conversation in the US about far-right groups, free speech and censorship

Decisions by Google, GoDaddy and Cloudflare to eject a neo-Nazi site from their services were “dangerous”, a US-based digital rights group has said.

The Daily Stormer had denigrated 32-year-old Heather Heyer who died while protesting against a far-right rally in Charlottesville.

This led to a backlash in which multiple web firms kicked the site off their platforms.

But the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has now criticised this response.

“We strongly believe that what GoDaddy, Google, and Cloudflare did here was dangerous,” the EFF said.

“Because internet intermediaries, especially those with few competitors, control so much online speech, the consequences of their decisions have far-reaching impacts on speech around the world.”

It added that it believed “no-one” – including the government and private companies – should decide who is able to speak or not.

“We wholeheartedly agree with the concerns raised by the EFF,” said Cloudflare chief executive Matthew Prince.

“They reflect the same concerns we raised in our blog.”

Mr Prince had said that explained that he made his decision after the Daily Stormer’s administrators suggested that Cloudflare supported their cause.

Google and GoDaddy said earlier in the week that they were cancelling the Daily Stormer’s registration with Google Domains as it had violated the terms of service.

In the dark

The Daily Stormer is currently inaccessible on the open web, after various domain providers and hosting firms – including one in Russia – banned it from their services.

However, it has relocated to the dark web.

Dark web network Tor has said it cannot stop the Daily Stormer from using its technology.

“Tor is designed to defend human rights and privacy by preventing anyone from censoring things, even us,” the Tor Project explained in a blog post.

But the list of businesses that have shut out the Daily Stormer and other neo-Nazi or white nationalist sites has now grown very large.

Payment giants Mastercard, Visa , Paypal and American Express all said this week that they would take a tough stance on sites that engaged in illegal activities.

Paypal, for example, mentioned sites that incite hate, racial intolerance or violence.

And music streaming services offered by Google, Deezer and Spotify have said they would remove music that incites violence, hatred or racism.

Spotify said: “We are glad to have been alerted to this content – and have already removed many of the bands identified, while urgently reviewing the remainder.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40974069

Australia blocks another 59 popular pirate sites

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340 domains relating to pirate sites will soon be blocked in Australia

Australia’s federal court has ordered internet service providers (ISPs) to block dozens of popular pirate sites.

The crackdown prevents users from accessing 59 illegal torrent and streaming sites including Demonoid, EZTV, YTS, RARBG, 1337x and Putlocker.

A total of 160 domains have been blocked in two orders, including alternative routes to the Pirate Bay.

The blockades were requested by film studio Village Roadshow and Australian broadcaster Foxtel.

Many pirate websites are already banned in Australia, with the two new court cases bringing the total number of domains blocked in the country to 340.

The country has wrestled with curbing citizens’ illegal downloading habits for some time.

In 2014, Attorney General George Brandis told reporters that Australia was the “worst nation for piracy on the planet“.

Individuals caught offering pirated material can face fines of up to A$117,000 (£72,000) – up to five times more for corporations – and may also receive a prison sentence, according to the Australian government website.

In 2016, the Hollywood studio behind the US film Dallas Buyers Club announced that it would not pursue a piracy case it launched against Australians accused of illegally downloading the film.

The studio said at the time that it had identified 4,726 unique IP addresses from which the film had been shared online using BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file-sharing network.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40976600

Reddit launches its own video hosting platform

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Users in some pre-approved Reddit communities can now upload videos directly to the website

News and community website Reddit has launched a new video player that allows users to directly upload videos.

The player has so far been tested in more than 200 of the site’s community groups, known as subreddits.

With 48 million annual visitors, Reddit is the eighth most visited website in the world, according to statistics from Amazon-owned Alexa.

Posters have been able to share images and gifs, as well as text and links, since 2016.

“Prior to this launch, content creators had to go through a time-consuming, circuitous process to post videos, using third-party hosting platforms, copying URLs, and sharing them as link posts,” said the firm in a blog.

“This inhibited many users, especially those who capture videos on their phones and want to share them quickly with their favourite subreddits.”

The new system “streamlined” the process, it added.

In an interview with tech news website The Verge, Reddit product manager Emon Motamedi said it also kept people on the platform, rather than clicking links to videos posted on other sites and then coming back to comment.

Ad revenue

The potential for ad revenue if Reddit starts incorporating ads around user content is significant, Lauren Foye, senior analyst at Juniper Research, told the BBC.

“By hosting their own content, they can start adding ads on top of it and monetising the content,” she added.

However, the site has yet to confirm specifically that this is what it will do.

“Video is classed as a more premium content type,” added Charlotte Palfrey, senior analyst with Ovum.

“They can charge more for advertising alongside it because it’s more engaging. I would anticipate that we’ll see a launch of pre-roll and mid-roll adverts in the future to fully exploit this new content.”

Early Reddit video posts include a golfer seeking tips on his swing, a man asking for advice on his next haircut, and cute videos of pets.

Policing issues

However, enabling video uploads may mean the platform will have to deal with the same policing problems faced by other social networks including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“It is going to be a headache for moderators, but moderators can opt out of having video on their boards,” said Charlotte Palfrey.

“Moderators will have to be careful to avoid copyright infringement and content not suitable for a family audience.”

The feature will only be available in certain communities and will not be rolled out across the entire site, the firm said.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40973259

Chinese ‘cyber-court’ launched for online cases

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The digital court has heard its first case – online

China has launched a digital “cyber-court” to help deal with a rise in the number of internet-related claims, according to state media.

The Hangzhou Internet Court opened on Friday and heard its first case – a copyright infringement dispute between an online writer and a web company.

Legal agents in Hangzhou and Beijing accessed the court via their computers and the trial lasted 20 minutes.

The court’s focus will be civil cases, including online shopping disputes.

Judges were sworn in and the first case was presented on a large screen in the courtroom.

‘Saves time’

Defendants and plaintiffs appear before the judge not in person, but via video-chat.

“The internet court breaks geographic boundaries and greatly saves time in traditional hearings,” said Wang Jiangqiao, the court’s vice-president, via state media.

In 2016, China began streaming some trials in more traditional courtrooms online in an apparent effort to boost the transparency of the legal system.

Some questioned the move, however.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to broadcast trials online because many people involved in these cases probably don’t want the public to share their personal information,” human rights lawyer Liang Xiaojun told the BBC at the time.

In some other countries, online portals to allow people to resolve legal disputes in cyber-space already exist.

Canada’s Civil Resolution Tribunal starting accepting claims for $5,000 (£3,000) or less in British Columbia in June.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40980004

How hackers are targeting the shipping industry

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Breaking into a shipping firm’s computer systems could allow attackers to access all kinds of sensitive information

When staff at CyberKeel investigated email activity at a medium-sized shipping firm, they made a shocking discovery.

“Someone had hacked into the systems of the company and planted a small virus,” explains co-founder Lars Jensen. “They would then monitor all emails to and from people in the finance department.”

Whenever one of the firm’s fuel suppliers would send an email asking for payment, the virus simply changed the text of the message before it was read, adding a different bank account number.

“Several million dollars,” says Mr Jensen, were transferred to the hackers before the company cottoned on.

After the NotPetya cyber-attack in June, major firms including shipping giant Maersk were badly affected.

In fact, Maersk revealed this week that the incident could cost it as much as $300 million (£155 million) in profits.

But Mr Jensen has long believed that that the shipping industry needs to protect itself better against hackers – the fraud case dealt with by CyberKeel was just another example.

The firm was launched more than three years ago after Mr Jensen teamed up with business partner Morten Schenk, a former lieutenant in the Danish military who Jensen describes as “one of those guys who could hack almost anything”.

They wanted to offer penetration testing – investigative tests of security – to shipping companies. The initial response they got, however, was far from rosy.

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Shipping giant Maersk was a target of the Petya cyber attack

“I got pretty consistent feedback from people I spoke to and that was, ‘Don’t waste your time, we’re pretty safe, there’s no need’,” he recalls.

Today, that sentiment is becoming rarer.

The consequences of suffering from the NotPetya cyber-attack for Maersk included the shutting down of some port terminals managed by its subsidiary APM.

The industry is now painfully aware that physical shipping operations are vulnerable to digital disruption.

Breaking into a shipping firm’s computer systems can allow attackers to access sensitive information. One of the most serious cases that has been made public concerns a global shipping conglomerate that was hacked by pirates.

They wanted to find out which vessels were transporting the particular cargo they planned to seize.

A report on the case by the cyber-security team at telecoms company Verizon describes the precision of the operation.

“They’d board a vessel, locate by barcode specific sought-after crates containing valuables, steal the contents of that crate – and that crate only – and then depart the vessel without further incident,” it states.

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The control systems on ships are often connected to the internet

But ships themselves, increasingly computerised, are vulnerable too. And for many, that’s the greatest worry.

Malware, including NotPetya and many other strains, is often designed to spread from computer to computer on a network. That means that connected devices on board ships are also potentially vulnerable.

“We know a cargo container, for example, where the switchboard shut down after ransomware found its way on the vessel,” says Patrick Rossi who works within the ethical hacking group at independent advisory organisation DNV GL.

He explains that the switchboard manages power supply to the propeller and other machinery on board. The ship in question, moored at a port in Asia, was rendered inoperable for some time, adds Mr Rossi.

Seizing the controls

Crucial navigation systems such as the Electronic Chart Display (Ecdis) have also been hit. One such incident is recalled by Brendan Saunders, maritime technical lead at cyber-security firm NCC Group.

This also concerned a ship at an Asian port, but this time it was a large tanker weighing 80,000 tonnes.

One of the crew had brought a USB stick on board with some paperwork that needed to be printed. That was how the malware got into the ship’s computers in the first instance. But it was when a second crew member went to update the ship’s charts before sailing, also via USB, that the navigation systems were infected.

Departure was consequently delayed and an investigation launched.

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Malware can hit a ship’s navigation systems

“Ecdis systems pretty much never have anti-virus,” says Mr Saunders, pointing out the vulnerability. “I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a merchant ship Ecdis unit that had anti-virus on it.”

These incidents are hugely disruptive to maritime businesses, but truly catastrophic scenarios might involve a hacker attempting to sabotage or even destroy a ship itself, through targeted manipulation of its systems.

Could that happen? Could, for example, a determined and well-resourced attacker alter a vessel’s systems to provoke a collision?

“It’s perfectly feasible,” says Mr Saunders. “We’ve demonstrated proof-of-concept that that could happen.”

And the experts are finding new ways into ships’ systems remotely. One independent cyber-security researcher, who goes by the pseudonym of x0rz, recently used an app called Ship Tracker to find open satellite communication systems, VSat, on board vessels.

In x0rz’s case, the VSat on an actual ship in South American waters had default credentials – the username “admin” and password “1234″ – and so was easy to access.

It would be possible, x0rz believes, to change the software on the VSat to manipulate it.

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Commercial ships carry 90% of the world’s trade

A targeted attack could even alter the co-ordinates broadcast by the system, potentially allowing someone to spoof the position of the ship – although shipping industry experts have pointed out in the past that a spoofed location would likely be quickly spotted by maritime observers.

The manufacturer behind the VSat unit in question has blamed the customer in this case for not updating the default security credentials. The unit has since been secured.

Safe at sea

It’s obvious that the shipping industry, like many others, has a lot of work to do on such issues. But awareness is growing.

The Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) have both recently launched guidelines designed to help ship owners protect themselves from hackers.

Patrick Rossi points out that crew with a poor understanding of the risks they take with USB sticks or personal devices should be made aware of how malware can spread between computers.

This is all the more important because the personnel on board vessels can change frequently, as members go on leave or are reassigned.

But there are more than 51,000 commercial ships in the world. Together, they carry the vast majority – 90% – of the world’s trade. Maersk has already experienced significant disruption thanks to a piece of particularly virulent malware.

The question many will be asking in the wake of this and other cases now being made public is: What might happen next?

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40685821

App iTrump wins trademark fight against Trump Organization

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iTrump was a follow-up app to iBone, a trombone simulator

An app developer appears to have prevailed in a long-running trademark war against the US president’s business operation.

The creator of iTrump first clashed with the Trump Organization in January 2011, when the billionaire’s lawyers alleged the trumpet simulator’s name falsely suggested a link to the tycoon.

After defeating this claim, the developer then went on the attack.

And this resulted in the company losing a key trademark of its own last week.

On 11 August, the US Trademark Trial and Appeal Board cancelled the New York-headquartered company’s exclusive right to use “Trump” in relation to entertainment services, including reality TV shows.

The ruling followed earlier victories by San Francisco-based Tom Scharfeld, in which he prevented the Trump Organization from owning the exclusive right to use “Trump” in connection with computer games, golf-related mobile apps and music streaming.

What are trademarks?

Trademarks are the distinctive name or symbol used to identity a product made by a manufacturer or a good distributed by a dealer.

Trademark law is generally concerned with avoiding consumer confusion regarding the origin or manufacturer of a product.

To trademark an existing word, the applicant needs to demonstrate they have given it new meaning and that there would not be grounds for confusion with other marks.

The Bloomberg news agency was first to report last week’s development.

It brings to an end the legal action between Mr Scharfeld’s company Spoonjack and the US president’s conglomerate, assuming neither side launches a fresh claim.

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Donald Trump passed control of his business to his two eldest sons after becoming the US president

Mr Scharfeld had represented himself, which required teaching himself about trademark law.

He told Bloomberg that he believed Mr Trump’s legal team “didn’t seem to respect that I could do this”.

“I just wanted to be treated fairly,” he said.

He added that he now planned to spend more of his time marketing his music apps rather than defending them.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40948722