‘Nearly half’ of firms had a cyber-attack or breach

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Nearly half (46%) of British businesses discovered at least one cybersecurity breach or attack in the past year, a government survey has indicated.

That proportion rose to two-thirds among medium and large companies.

Most often, these breaches involved fraudulent emails being sent to staff or security issues relating to viruses, spyware or malware.

The survey was completed by 1,500 UK businesses and included 30 in-depth interviews.

The government said a “sizeable proportion” of the businesses still did not have “basic protections” in place.

While many had enacted rudimentary technical controls, only one-third had a formal policy covering cybersecurity risks.

Less than a third (29%) had assigned a specific board member to be responsible for cybersecurity.

‘Box-ticking exercises’

Businesses’ susceptibility to cyber-attacks was a known issue, noted Prof Andrew Martin at the University of Oxford.

“A lot of businesses have responded to the problem with a box-ticking exercise or by paying an expensive consultant to make them feel better – it’s far from clear that what people are doing is protecting them very well,” he told the BBC.

He added it remained difficult for most people to distinguish malicious emails or websites from safe ones.

“It’s all very well to say don’t open emails from an unknown source – but most of us couldn’t do business if [we] didn’t do that,” he added.

The government’s survey indicates, however, that fewer businesses in 2017 consider cybersecurity to be of “very low priority”. It said 74% now agreed it was a high priority issue for senior management.

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One construction firm received more thousands of phishing emails a month

The report also highlighted some unusual cybersecurity cases.

It said a large materials supplier for the construction industry faced “significant and ongoing” attacks, despite not having any e-commerce activities of its own.

“This included over 3,000 phishing emails a month and various ransomware attacks,” the report noted.

Phishing is a form of cyber-attack in which emails with malicious links or attachments are disguised as genuine.

The most damaging case of ransomware at the firm in question caused its IT team to lose “around two weeks” of productivity.

Since then, the business has reviewed its cybersecurity policies.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39641292

Holiday Inn hotels hit by card payment system hack

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The malware could hijack credit card details when front desk payments were made

The owner of the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotel brands has disclosed that payment card-stealing malware has struck about 1,200 of its franchisees’ properties.

UK-based Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) said all but one of the locations affected were in the US, with the other being in Puerto Rico.

Guests have been warned they could have had money stolen as a consequence.

One expert said there might be further hotels affected.

Buckinghamshire-based IHG had previously reported in February that a dozen US hotels that it managed itself had been affected by the same attack.

“Individuals should closely monitor their payment card account statements,” a spokeswoman told the BBC following the latest discovery.

“If there are unauthorised charges, individuals should immediately notify their bank.

“Payment card network rules generally state that cardholders are not responsible for such charges.”

Other affected brands include Hotel Indigo and Candlewood Suites.

Hijacked card data

IHG said an investigation had detected signs the malware had been active at front-desk payment locations at the hotels between 29 September and 29 December 2016.

However, it only has confirmation that the threat was definitely eradicated last month.

The attack hijacked information taken from the payment cards’ magnetic strips as it was being routed through the hotels’ computer servers, said the hotel group.

This could include the card number, expiration date and verification code.

IHG does not believe other guest information was stolen.

It has published a tool for visitors to check if hotels they stayed at are among those affected.

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The Candlewood Suites hotel at New York’s Times Square was one hotel affected

The firm notes that other franchisees that had adopted an encryption-based security measure would not have been affected.

But one cybersecurity expert said that the list might not be comprehensive.

“IHG has been offering its franchised properties a free examination by an outside computer forensic team,” wrote Brian Krebs.

“But not all property owners have been anxious to take the company up on that offer.

“As a consequence, there may be more breached hotel locations yet to be added to the state look-up tool.”

Other hotel chains to have been struck by payment system hacks in recent years include Hyatt, Mandarin Oriental and Trump Hotels.

The US has been slower to switch to a chip-and-pin system than many other countries, which makes it more difficult to carry out such attacks.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39642172

Hermes begins trial using self-driving robots in London

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Deliveries are carried in a compartment accessible via a code sent to the customer’s smartphone

Courier company Hermes has announced a trial of self-driving robots in the London borough of Southwark.

The six-wheeled robots from Starship Technologies will be used to collect parcels rather than deliver them.

The project follows a pilot scheme in Germany in which the robots delivered parcels to several suburbs in the city of Hamburg.

But one expert suggested there might be a backlash if the facility became commonplace.

“At the moment, in big cities, it can be hard to walk down the street because of the number of people,” commented Prof Andy Miah, from the University of Salford’s School of Environment and Life Sciences.

“In time, it could be the robots we are trying to dodge. I’m not sure that would be a better world.”

Starship Technologies’ machines are already used by Just Eat for food deliveries in parts of London.

They are 55cm (22in) tall and 70cm (28in) long.

They weigh 18kg (40lb), and can travel at up to 4mph (6.4km/h).

Hermes is only using the robots within a two-mile radius of its control centres, in a limited number of 30-minute collection slots to see how they cope with tight turnarounds.

Each robot will be able to carry a maximum of 10kg in cargo in a secure compartment, which customers can access using a code sent to their smartphones.

Smooth ride

The self-driving robots are thought to have several advantages over aerial drones, from being able to carry heavier payloads to being less likely to fall foul of aviation laws.

“In the sky, we still have to figure out what a drone highway would look like and figure out some sophisticated collision-avoidance technology,” noted Prof Miah.

By contrast, Starship’s ground-based robots will be kept under close supervision by human operators.

Each supervisor will watch over three robots via their on-board cameras and take control of road-crossings and other challenging situations.

In time, however, Starship says one operator should be able to control up to 100 robots, which would make its operation more cost effective.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39589967

Google takes Android search blow in Russia

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Google has struck a deal in Russia but is still fighting its case in the EU

Google has promised to allow rivals’ search engines and apps to be pre-installed on phones running its versions of Android in Russia.

The concession follows an out-of-court deal with the country’s competition watchdog.

In addition, Google has promised to develop a tool to make it easy for users to change their device’s default search engine.

Shares in Google’s local Russian rival, Yandex, rose more than 7% on the news.

It brings to an end a long-running battle between the US firm and Russia’s competition regulator, the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS).

Google had argued the regulator had no case because manufacturers could develop their own versions of Android or pre-install other apps of their choice.

But the FAS had argued that, despite its denials, Google was indeed “prohibiting” rival software to its own YouTube, Maps and Photos apps to be pre-installed alongside its own dominant version of Android.

The agency became involved after Yandex filed a complaint in February 2015.

Despite the nature of the settlement, Google will still have to pay a 438m rouble ($7.8; £6.2m) fine imposed after it failed to appeal the case last August.

“We are happy to have reached a commercial agreement with Yandex and a settlement with Russia’s competition regulator, the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS), resolving the competition case over the distribution of Google apps on Android,” a spokeswoman for Google told the BBC.

Yandex’s chief executive Arkady Volozh declared the settlement “an important day for Russian consumers”.

“I am thankful to the Federal Antimonopoly Service for applying the law in a manner that effectively and efficiently restores competition to the market for the benefit of Russian users, as competition always breeds innovation,” he added.

The EU continues to pursue similar claims against Google, saying the firm is “requiring and incentivising” Android hardware manufacturers to exclusively use its services.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39623343

Internet pioneer Robert Taylor dies

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Robert Taylor helped bring about the creation of the internet

One of the founding fathers of the internet, Robert Taylor, has died.

While working at the Pentagon in the 1960s, he instigated the creation of Arpanet – a computer network that initially linked together four US research centres, and later evolved into the internet.

At Xerox, he later oversaw the first computer with desktop-inspired icons and a word processor that formed the basis of Microsoft Word.

Mr Taylor died at home aged 85.

His family told the Los Angeles Times that he had suffered from Parkinson’s disease among other ailments.

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Despite the groundbreaking nature of the Alto computer, only about 2,000 were built

Mr Taylor studied psychology at university, but worked as an engineer at several aircraft companies and Nasa before joining the US Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Project Agency (Arpa) in 1965.

At the time, Arpa funded most of the country’s computer systems research.

In his role as the director of the organisation’s Information Processing Techniques Office, Mr Taylor wanted to address the fact different institutions were duplicating research on the limited number of computer mainframes available.

In particular, he wanted to make “timesharing” more efficient – the simultaneous use of each computer by multiple scientists using different terminals, who could share files and send messages to each other.

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Arpanet went on to connect dozens of research sites after Mr Taylor left the Pentagon

Mr Taylor was frustrated that the Pentagon could only communicate with three research institutions, whose timeshared computers it helped fund, by using three incompatible systems.

So, he proposed a scheme to connect all of Arpa’s sponsored bases together via a single network.

“I just decided that we were going to build a network that would connect these interactive communities into a larger community in such a way that a user of one community could connect to a distant community as though that user were on his local system,” he later recalled in an interview with the Charles Babbage Institute.

“Most of the people I talked to were not initially enamoured with the idea. I think some of the people saw it initially as an opportunity for someone else to come in and use their [computing cycles].”

Nevertheless, he was given $1m (£796,000) to pursue the project.

And in 1968, a year before Arpanet was established, he co-authored a prescient paper with a colleague.

“In a few years, men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face,” it predicted.

“The programmed digital computer… can change the nature and value of communication even more profoundly than did the printing press and the picture tube, for, as we shall show, a well-programmed computer can provide direct access both to informational resources and to the processes for making use of the resources.”

Sugar supplies

Mr Taylor’s time at Arpa was also spent trying to see whether his country could make use of computer technology to solve logistics problems during the Vietnam war.

The White House had complained that it was getting conflicting reports about the number of enemies killed, bullets available and other details.

“The Army had one reporting system; the Navy had another; the Marine Corp had another,” Mr Taylor later recalled.

“It was clear that not all of these reports could be true.

“I think one specific example was that if the amount of sugar reported captured were true we would have cornered two-thirds of the world’s sugar supply, or something like that. It was ridiculous.”

His efforts led to a uniform method of data collection and the use of a computer centre at an air force base to collate it.

“After that the White House got a single report rather than several,” Mr Taylor said.

“That pleased them; whether the data was any more correct or not, I don’t know, but at least it was more consistent.”

Apple and Microsoft

Once Arpanet was up and running in 1969, Mr Taylor left the Pentagon and the following year he founded the Computer Science Laboratory of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (Xerox Parc).

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The Xerox Alto featured the first desktop-inspired graphical interface

There his team built Alto – a personal computer that claims several firsts. It was networked, controlled by a ball-driven mouse and used a graphical user interface (Gui).

Steve Jobs and others from Apple were given an early look, and it went on to inspire them to create the Apple Lisa and later the Apple Mac.

Its software included Bravo – a what-you-see-is-what-you-get word processor. Its primary developer, Charles Simonyi, later joined Microsoft where he created Word.

Despite their achievements, Mr Taylor became frustrated with Xerox’s failure to capitalise on his team’s work and quit in 1983.

“Xerox continued to ignore our work,” he told an interviewer in 2000.

“I got fed up and left, and about 15 people came and joined me at DEC [Digital Equipment Corporation].”

There he helped create AltaVista, an early internet search engine, and a computer language that later evolved into Java.

Mr Taylor continued to dream of new technologies – predicting that the public would one day wear a device that would record everything they saw or heard.

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Mr Taylor’s team at DEC developed one of the first search engines

But he also reflected that his greatest legacy – the internet – had taken longer to catch on than anticipated.

“My timing was awful,” he conceded, adding “I didn’t anticipate [its use for] pornography and crime.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39621198

Toyota develops robotic leg braces for older people

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Toyota will be renting out robotic leg braces to 100 Japanese medical centres from autumn this year.

The Welwalk WW-1000 system is designed for people with severe mobility loss in one leg, such as stroke patients.

The motorised brace fits around the knee and lower leg, helping the wearer to bend and straighten the joint.

Experts say that being able to rent the equipment should make it more affordable for medical facilities than buying it outright.

The system will cost one million yen ($9,130; £7,298) up front, with a monthly fee of 350,000 yen ($3,195; £2,554).

Toyota has not released details of how much it would cost if it were available to buy rather than rent.

It was developed in conjunction with Fujita Health University Hospital.

Patients first learn to use the device by walking on a special treadmill that monitors their gait, with their weight supported from above by a harness.

‘Just enough assistance’

One of Toyota’s chief research officers, Toshiyuki Isobe, said this approach helped “to reduce the burden on the patient and allows them to engage in training for longer.”

As users continue their rehabilitation, sensors in the brace monitor how they are walking, adjusting the amount of support it provides.

Dr Eiichi Saito, executive vice president of Fujita Health University, said the aim was to provide “just enough assistance”, gradually reducing it so that patients learned to walk better on their own.

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But as Dr Farshid Amirabdollahian, an expert in rehabilitation robotics and assistive technology at the University of Hertfordshire, explained, such technology is not new.

“A system called Lokomat, which works on both legs, has been adopted by the NHS,” he said.

“There are similar systems in use in the Netherlands and the United States.”

These walking assist systems provide support for both legs, as this can help train the user to balance their weight and movement.

“What is interesting here is the service model,” he continued.

“Previously users of this technology were limited by how much they could afford: rehabilitation technology is quite expensive and many [hospitals] cannot afford it.”

He said that Toyota’s decision to allow facilities to rent the equipment meant more should be able to meet the initial costs and the monthly premiums.

Reducing the burden

Japan is the fastest-aging nation in the world.

In 2015 more than a quarter of the population was aged 65 or older, compared to the global average of 8.5%.

As the number of elderly people requiring care and assistance increases, the number of working-age people able to provide those services is decreasing.

That has prompted Japanese companies to develop mobility assistance devices aimed at improving the wellbeing and independence of the elderly and reducing the burden on their caregivers.

In 2015, Honda launched a rental service for its own walking assistance system.

Unlike Toyota’s mobility aid, it fits around the wearer’s waist and thighs and works to improve their stride.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39577323

Industrial strategy ‘must help’ UK creative industries

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The creative sector is said to support 2.9m jobs in the UK

Creative companies are becoming increasingly important to the UK’s future economic success and should be at the heart of the government’s new industrial strategy, a trade body says.

The Creative Industries Federation says film-making, music, advertising and video games are all big export earners but are often overlooked by ministers.

It says enterprise zones, tax breaks and access to finance could help firms.

The business secretary says he was committed to a “deal” with the sector.

The role of the UK’s creative industries, which also includes theatre, architecture, broadcasting, fashion, museums, and galleries was recognised when the government unveiled its industrial strategy Green Paper in January for boosting the post-Brexit economy.

The Creative Industries Federation says ministers need to “overhaul” their approach.

The federation has unveiled a blueprint of policy recommendations for the creative industries which it says is “the fastest growing sector of the UK economy”.

It said the creative economy supports 2.9m jobs, a rise of 5.1% between 2014 and 2015.

Brexit means it is now “even more crucial” for the sector “to deliver more jobs, trade and exports”, it adds.

The federation’s chief executive, John Kampfner, said: “There has been a tendency to dismiss the creative industries as something lightweight while claiming the glory of billions of pounds in trade that comes from hits such as War Horse, Sherlock and Slumdog Millionaire.”

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He said the government should recognise that creative industries “will be as important to future economic success as traditional industries, such as cars or oil and gas”.

Among its other recommendations are campaigns to increase diversity in employment in the sector and advice for start-ups on exporting.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said creative industries contributed nearly £90bn to the economy in 2015.

He said TV producer Sir Peter Bazalgette is carrying out an independent review of how the sector “can help drive prosperity across the country by developing new technologies, capitalising on intellectual property rights and encouraging creativity from people of all ages and backgrounds”.

He added: “Through our industrial strategy I want to ensure we build on this sector’s strengths, which is why we have committed to an early sector deal for the industry in our green paper.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39604320

Driving test: Learners must be able to use sat navs

Media captionWhat’s in the new driving test?

Learner drivers will have to be able to follow directions from a sat nav and drive into a parking space to pass their test.

Ministers have announced four changes to the current test which will come into force on 4 December.

Drivers will also be expected to answer vehicle safety questions while on the move and complete 20 minutes of independent driving rather than 10.

The RAC Foundation said it would be a “far more realistic assessment”.

Changing behaviours

The Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), which is in charge of running driving tests and approving instructors, said it wanted the test to have “more real life scenarios” such as driving into and reversing out of a parking space.

It said it wants the test to reflect the changing behaviours of drivers.

Manoeuvres such as “reverse around a corner” will be replaced in the new test and examiners will test a driver’s ability to use a sat nav as an alternative to following road signs.

About half of all car drivers now have a sat nav and using them teaches drivers to better manage distractions, the DVSA said.

The “show me” and “tell me” question at the beginning of the test will become a “show me” question while driving such as asking candidates to use the rear windscreen heater.

The DVSA said increasing the time candidates had to do independent driving would allow the examiner to better assess the driver’s ability to drive safely on high risk roads.

Currently, learner drivers spend a large amount of test time on low risk roads such as housing estates.

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Transport minister Andrew Jones said despite the UK having some of the safest roads in the world, the government was “always looking to make them safer”.

Mr Jones said: “Ensuring the driving test is relevant in the 21st Century – for example, the introduction of sat navs, will go a long way towards doing this.”

Evolving technology

The DVSA said a public consultation on the changes received almost 4,000 responses, with 71% agreeing with asking candidates to follow directions from a sat nav.

Some 88% agreed with increasing the length of the independent driving part of the test, it said, while others agreed with the changes to the reversing manoeuvres and “show me” questions.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said: “We are very supportive of the revisions DVSA is making to the practical driving test, which will mean candidates undergo a far more realistic assessment of their readiness to take to the road unsupervised.

“Much has changed since the first driving test was taken in 1935, and it must be right that the test evolves, just as the cars we drive are themselves changing to incorporate ever more driver assist technology such as inbuilt sat nav systems.

“Novice drivers need to demonstrate the right skills and driving style to cope with the new environment.”

In December 2016, the Department for Transport announced plans to allow learner drivers on the motorway. Results from this consultation will be released later this year.

Disabled Motoring UK also supports the changes because many disabled drivers use sat navs regularly.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39594852

Burger King advert sabotaged on Wikipedia

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It is unclear whether Burger King realised how the public would react to the ad

A Burger King TV advert which was designed to activate Google Home smart speakers and some Android phones to describe its Whopper burgers has been hijacked by members of the public.

The ad triggered the devices to read out information about the burgers from online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

However, somebody edited Wikipedia to describe the Whopper as the “worst hamburger product” and another added cyanide to the list of ingredients.

The BBC understands the ad was blocked.

Google did not publicly confirm this, saying only that it had “no involvement” in the campaign.

But Burger King confirmed to the BBC that after the first iteration of the ad was blocked, it ran a tweaked version on US TV.

According to a Burger King spokeswoman, the new ad was revoiced using a “different intonation” that bypassed the ban.

In the 15-second advert, a Burger King employee asks “OK, Google. What is the Whopper burger?”

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The public reacted with some interesting views about the chain’s burgers

The stunt has put Wikipedia in the spotlight after reports that Burger King’s own marketing team edited the Whopper page shortly before the ad campaign.

The history of the page shows that changes were made on 4 April by Burger King Corporation. It edited the description of the product to include the lines “America’s favourite burger” and “100% beef with no preservatives”.

This change was quickly re-edited back to the original version.

Wikipedia has not responded to requests for comment.

Invading homes

Whether Burger King expected users to go on to make their own, less flattering edits is unclear but Emily Tan, technology editor at marketing news website Campaign, thinks it might have been aware such a reaction was likely.

“Burger King has a reputation as quite a provocative brand and the idea that users are hijacking a brand can charm and amuse people. There is a chance that Burger King expected this to happen,” she said.

However, she thought it was less likely they expected the backlash from users about the intrusive nature of such adverts.

“People didn’t like this invading their living rooms. Studies suggest that people feel quite close to these smart speaker devices, they become a personality, and when something you regard as your friend pipes up with information that you didn’t ask for, that creeps people out.”

The stunt has also renewed concerns about voice-activated home speakers being used for advertising.

While Burger King said that it “saw an opportunity to do something exciting with the emerging technology of intelligent personal assistant devices”, others feel it should have acted with more caution.

“Brands are always keen to jump on the newest technologies to engage their audience and sometimes this means mistakes are made.,” Justin Pearse, managing director of Drum Studios, an arm of marketing news website, The Drum told the BBC.

“While it’s crucial brands have the bravery to experiment with new ad models, such as voice-activated advertising, it’s also vital to do this with caution.”

Google and Amazon are currently engaged in a battle over who will dominate the new voice-activated AI-enabled smart assistant market.

Both rely on their products to help sell more products, with Amazon’s Alexa recommending discounts and offers to users.

Previously Google came under fire when Google Home began playing out information about new film Beauty and the Beast. Google denied the material was an advertisement but removed it anyway.

“Voice-activation is the new frontier for advertising and will provide incredible benefits for brands and consumers alike,” said Mr Pearse.

“But like any new frontier, it pays to tread with caution. Brands need to consider how consumers will react rather than just what the technology can do.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39589013

Airbnb account hijackers burgle homes

Airbnb is improving the security of its app and website after a BBC investigation found people’s homes had been burgled by scammers using stolen accounts.

The BBC spoke to three people who were robbed after they advertised their properties on the accommodation-booking service.

The scammers hijacked accounts with verified badges and changed some of personal details to pull off the thefts.

Airbnb said it had already been working on the changes – which include sending text warnings if profiles are altered – when the crimes were brought to its attention.

“Unfortunately there have been some incidents where hosts and guests have suffered,” said Nate Blecharczyk, co-founder of Airbnb.

“This is not acceptable to us, therefore we’re working around the clock to do everything we can to improve our detection and prevention methods.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39589241