Bupa data breach affects 500,000 insurance customers

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Getty Images

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No medical data was made vulnerable in the breach, Bupa said

A Bupa employee inappropriately copied and removed information relating to 547,000 international health insurance plan customers, the company has said.

The data included names, dates of birth, nationalities, some contact and administrative information but not financial or medical data.

The private healthcare firm said concerns were first raised about a breach in June.

It is now contacting affected customers.

In an online statement, Bupa explained that data relating to 108,000 international insurance plans were taken and that these belonged to customers whose policy numbers begin with “BI”.

Customers with domestic health insurance have not been impacted, but British customers could be if they purchased plans for use abroad.

Bupa said that 43,000 of the customers had a correspondence address in the UK.

“A thorough investigation is under way and we have informed the FCA [Financial Conduct Authority] and Bupa’s other UK regulators,” said Sheldon Kenton, managing director of Bupa Global.

“The employee responsible has been dismissed and we are taking appropriate legal action.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office said that it is aware of an issue involving Bupa Global and is making enquiries.

Victims of the breach should look out for signs of identity theft, said Paul Edon at security software firm Tripwire.

For example, scam emails might use data from the breach to trick the recipient into thinking they are being contacted on legitimate grounds.

“Unfortunately, humans are the weakest link in security,” he added.

“Despite many of us being trustworthy, there are some insiders that break and damage that trust.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40595581

‘Smart’ vending machine could sell alcohol and ammunition

A vending machine fitted with biometric security has been developed which could be used to dispense a variety of restricted goods including alcohol, ammunition and cannabis.

The “secure” device attached to the machine identifies users by the veins in the fingers and verifies that they have the right to buy the products.

BBC Click finds out more.

See more at Click’s website and @BBCClick.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40598462

Luxury phone-maker Vertu collapses

Media captionWATCH: Luxury phone-maker Vertu collapses

A British-based company that made smartphones costing thousands of pounds will be liquidated after a plan to save it failed.

Vertu was known for its high-end, jewel-encrusted handsets, but recently faced financial difficulties.

The company’s liquidation will result in the loss of nearly 200 jobs.

One technology analyst said Vertu would have faced competition from companies offering to customise other smartphones with precious materials.

Vertu phones carry hefty price tags – its Signature range starts at £11,100, and one model featuring 18-carat red gold costs £39,100.

When contacted by the BBC, an external spokesman for the firm, which is based in Church Crookham, Hampshire, said: “Well it’s gone into liquidation and I’m not being paid by them any more.”

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Vertu

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Vertu phones typically cost thousands of pounds – some were encrusted with precious metals and jewels

In March, the company was sold by its former Chinese owner to Hakan Uzan, a Turkish exile in Paris.

The Daily Telegraph reports that he had planned to pay £1.9m to bring the company out of administration, but it had an accounting deficit of £128m.

Mr Uzan will retain the Vertu brand, technology and licenses.

“It is very unusual, they hand make the phone at incredibly low volumes and they were incredibly high-priced,” said Ian Fogg, an analyst at IHS Technology.

He pointed out that some of Vertu’s recent phones had used synthetic sapphire for its screens – something that Apple had considered for its iPhones but later abandoned because of production issues.

“It is a difficult material to work with,” Mr Fogg told the BBC. “One practical benefit is that the smartphone screen is made incredibly difficult to break.”

He also pointed out that other businesses that offered to customise consumer smartphones with precious stones or metals offered an alternative.

That meant that wealthy customers could choose the handset they wanted but add the desired “bling” later.

Vertu was founded by Nokia in 1998, but it was sold in 2012, and the following year Vertu switched from using Nokia’s Symbian operating system on its devices to Google’s Android.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40593936

Australian PM seeks access to encrypted messages

Malcolm TurnbullImage copyright
EPA

The Australian government says it wants new laws to force tech firms such as Apple and Facebook to provide access to encrypted messages.

Some apps such as WhatsApp use end-to-end encryption, making messages unreadable if intercepted.

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has warned that encrypted messaging apps could be used by criminals and terrorists.

But security experts say strong encryption protects citizens’ privacy.

What’s the issue?

Many countries, including Australia, have laws in place that can force messaging services to hand over a suspect’s communications to police with an appropriate warrant.

However, messaging companies cannot hand over messages that have been end-to-end encrypted because they do not receive a legible copy.

Media captionWhat is encryption?

This encryption means ordinary citizens’ messages cannot be intercepted by criminals or spies as they travel across the internet.

But some people worry that terrorists and criminals can communicate secretly this way.

“I think most people agree that there is a problem,” said Prof Alan Woodward, a computer scientist at Surrey University.

“The trouble is trying to force companies to decrypt via legislation is the very reason end-to-end encryption was introduced – particularly by US-based firms post-Snowden – to give their global customer base confidence that no government could get them to do what the Australians now propose.”

What does Australia want?

Mr Turnbull said encryption meant online messages were “effectively dark to the reach of the law”, which he said was “not acceptable”.

He said companies had to “assist the rule of law” and provide law enforcement with access to encrypted messages.

“For this to work, the companies will have to change their technical architecture or somehow weaken the encryption,” said Prof Woodward. “Either is a bad idea.”

Some politicians have called for apps to build a “back door” into their systems, to allow law enforcement access to unencrypted messages. But such a system could also be exploited by criminals, defeating the purpose of encryption.

Mr Turnbull said he was not seeking a “back door” and wanted communications handed over in “the usual way that applies in the offline world”.

Prof Woodward said modern encryption methods had not been cracked.

But Mr Turnbull said Australian law would prevail over the laws of mathematics.

He told journalists: “The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40606493

Overwatch: Bigger than the Premier League?

OverwatchImage copyright
Activision Blizzard

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Overwatch League teams will each be based in a different city

Could Overwatch be the game to take e-sports mainstream?

Its developer Activision Blizzard has just announced the first seven team owners for a forthcoming league. It believes, in time, the tournament could prove more lucrative than the UK’s Premier League – football’s highest-earning competition.

Several of the successful bidders have made their mark with traditional sports teams, and the buy-in price has not been cheap.

The BBC understands the rights cost $20m (£15.5m) per squad. For that, owners get the promise of a 50% revenue split with the Overwatch League itself for future earnings.

The fast-paced cartoon-like shooter was designed to appeal to both players and spectators. It’s low on gore and features a racial mix of male and female heroes, including a gay character – a relative rarity in gaming.

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Activision Blizzard

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Players get a first-person view of proceedings but spectators will be shown third-person views

Unlike most e-sports competitions, each team will be based in a different major city to help owners attract home crowds.

And they will pursue the world’s biggest consumer brands as sponsors, rather than the kind of games-related businesses usually associated with e-sports.

“If you want to reach 18-to-35-year-olds, you really need to be where they are, and they are playing games,” Activision Blizzard’s chief executive Bobby Kotick told the BBC.

“The other thing that we offer uniquely is that Overwatch is a very family-friendly game experience. It’s a teen-rated game; it’s super-colourful, super-friendly.

“And if you look at the geographical diversity of the maps or the ethnic and racial diversity of the characters, those are all things that we took into consideration in the construction of what we thought would be a globally appealing experience.”

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Activision Blizzard

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Overwatch battles take place in 19 locations across the globe including Egypt and Iraq

To start with, teams are expected to make use of existing venues, but in time Activision Blizzard believes owners will build huge dedicated stadiums of their own.

Fixtures will also be streamed online, and be made accessible from within the game itself.


A brief introduction to Overwatch

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Activision Blizzard

The first-person shooter features about two dozen characters who engage in team-based battles set across a near-future Earth.

Each character has a distinct personality – including a genetically engineered scientist ape, a cowboy-styled bounty hunter and a nerdy-looking climatologist – and unique abilities.

The heroes divide into four broad categories:

  • offence – fast-moving characters that can inflict a lot of damage quickly
  • defence – warriors best suited to guarding key parts of the battlefield and repelling attacks
  • tank – fighters that can sustain a lot of damage and are therefore well-suited to leading attacks
  • support – champions that help other players heal and access their most powerful attack modes more quickly than normal

Squads of six characters are pitched against each other in a range of challenges, including protecting/capturing a location; defending/destroying a vehicle as it is driven across a zone; and being first to wipe out the enemy team.


Overwatch launched more than a year ago. Numerous awards and a thriving community of about 30 million players prove it has appeal.

Even so, the new league is not guaranteed to succeed on the scale Activision Blizzard hopes.

Critics suggest some potential investors have been put off by a demand that the firm gets a reported 25% cut of any team sale.

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Activision Blizzard

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Overwatch competitions have already drawn large crowds

And there is concern that ticket and sponsorship sales could be hit by plans to launch a similar venture based on its Call of Duty titles.

Moreover, existing e-sports competitions have yet to collectively make more than £1bn a year – by contrast Premier League clubs jointly earned £3.6bn in the 2015-16 season, according to a recent study.

“I think it’s a bunch of rubbish that it will approach anything like pro-sports revenues,” commented Lewis Ward from the consultancy IDC.

“The size of the gamer base, demand for video content and all the rest will drive its sponsorship deals.

“But the second-biggest e-sport at present [in terms of prize money] – League of Legends – only sold its global media broadcast rights in December for $50m [£38.9m] a year through to 2023, which is the biggest deal of its kind as far as I am aware.

“So, I think the people who are investing tens of millions to buy an Overwatch team are likely to lose money.”

To help make the league a less risky investment, Activision Blizzard has opted not to relegate or promote teams at the end of each season.

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Activision Blizzard

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The Overwatch League’s first games are set to be played later this year

Players will also need to sign full-time contracts, and in return be guaranteed a baseline wage and other benefits.


The first seven team owners:

Boston:

Robert Kraft – billionaire chief executive of the Kraft Group, which owns the New England Patriots American football team and the New England Revolution soccer club.

New York:

Jeff Wilpon – chief operating officer of the New York Mets baseball team and vice-president of the property investment firm Sterling Equities, which operates the Mets’ home stadium.

San Francisco:

Andy Miller – chairman of NRG eSports, which already maintains an Overwatch team, and co-owner of the Sacramento Kings basketball team. Mr Miller was previously vice-president of mobile advertising at Apple.

Miami-Orlando:

Ben Spoont – chief executive of Misfits Gaming, an e-sports organisation formed last year, with teams competing in Overwatch among other games. The National Basketball Association’s Miami Heats owns part of the business and shares its team colours with the gamers.

Los Angeles:

Noah Whinston – chief executive of Immortals, a multi-game e-sports organisation that already has an Overwatch squad.

Seoul:

Kevin Chou – chief executive of a new venture, KSV eSports. He was previously chief executive of the mobile games publisher Kabam.

Shanghai:

NetEase – a Chinese tech company, which publishes several Blizzard titles, including World of Warcraft, in mainland China as well as distributing its own games. The firm also operates social media, email and e-commerce businesses in the country.


Talent-spotters will monitor smaller third-party Overwatch competitions to identify new talent.

Activision Blizzard acknowledges that existing squads tend to be male-dominated, but has “zero desire” to set up a separate female league or enforce a form of “positive discrimination” to address this.

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Activision Blizzard

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The Overwatch League plans to announce teams in Europe, Latin America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand soon

“Right now most of the pro players are male,” Nate Nanzer, the league’s commissioner, acknowledged.

“But there’s no reason that women cannot play Overwatch at the same level as men, and our intention is absolutely to have the two genders mixed.

“The demographics of people who play video games in the year 2017 tend to be more male than female… but I think that’s changing and it’s much more commonplace for young girls today to play video games right alongside their brothers.”

He added that some competitions his firm had hosted in South Korea had attracted more women than men to their audiences, suggesting the current gender imbalance need not limit interest.


Pro-gamer’s view:

Harrison Pond, professional Overwatch player for eUnited

“I’m still quite young – 20 years old – and I had been concentrating on my studies, but dropped all that when Overwatch came out.

“I was in top teams from pretty much the beginning.

“Until recently, we practised seven days a week and up to eight hours a day. But we’ve toned it down a bit if there’s not a tournament coming up.

“It’s like a normal job to me.

“There’s a lot of depth to the game that new players might not understand, like making sure you use your Ultimates [special powers] at the correct time instead of wasting them.

“It also appeals to more people than e-sports games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which involves playing as terrorists – some people have problems with that.

“About 96% of my YouTube subscribers are Korean and they are amazing fans. They want photos and bring you gifts.

“I think we will eventually see a similar reaction in the West, but I think it will take a long time to get to Korea’s level.

“I’m excited by the new league – it seems they want to shift e-sports into a new era, shaping it into something more professional like the NFL.

“I also like the idea of being an employee with job security and the possibility of funding for college when your career ends.

“I have faith that Activision Blizzard will pull this off but I understand the scepticism from other people based on how it has handled e-sports in the past.”


Another issue the league will inevitably have to face is the influence it has over young minds.

Parents might be more relaxed about their children watching a traditional sport that spurs them on to exercise afterwards than one that encourages even more screen time.

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Activision Blizzard

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Activision Blizzard says more than 30 million people already play Overwatch

But the league’s creators still believe their “athletes” can act as role models.

“Our players generally need to be well conditioned and they need to be physically fit,” said Mr Kotick.

“A big part of the mental acuity that they have comes from their training regimens, their diet, their exercise.

“It’s not the same as having the same physical requirements that you might see in football or basketball. But our players take care of themselves.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40561417

Afghan girl roboticists granted US visas

Two members of the Afghan robot teamImage copyright
Reuters

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The girls were planning to participate via Skype if they were not allowed entry

A group of Afghan school girls taking part in a robotics competition in the US have been granted visas to attend it, after their initial applications were denied, US media said.

US President Donald Trump had urged authorities to rethink their decision, AP news agency said.

A US travel ban is in place for six Muslim-majority countries, which does not include Afghanistan.

Students from The Gambia earlier also had their visa rejection overturned.

According to AP, Homeland Security Department spokesman David Lapan said the visas for the Afghan girls had been approved after a request by the state department.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders attributed the request to an intervention by President Trump, the news agency said.

The competition organised by non-profit group First Global will see teams from 164 countries compete in a series of robotic games.

“I am most grateful to the US Government and its state department for ensuring Afghanistan, as well as Gambia, would be able to join us for this international competition this year,” First Global president Joe Sestak said in a statement.

The US president’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump tweeted in response to news that she looked forward to welcoming the Afghan team to Washington.

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Twitter/@IvankaTrump

The Afghan team of six teenage high school students are participating in the competition which runs 16-18 July with a ball-sorting robot.

The girls’ visa applications for the one-week trip to the US had reportedly been blocked despite two rounds of interviews.

After the initial rejection, the students expected they would have to watch the competition via Skype from their hometown of Herat in western Afghanistan.

“We were not a terrorist group to go to America and scare people,” 14-year-old Fatema Ghaderyan told the AFP news agency in Herat.

“We just wanted to show the power and skills of Afghan girls to Americans.”

First Global aims to promote Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).

“All 163 teams from 157 countries have gained approval to the United States, including Iran, Sudan, and a team of Syrian refugees,” Mr Sestak said. “I could not be more proud.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-40590885

Google not liable for back taxes in France

Google officeImage copyright
Getty Images

Google will not have to pay 1.1bn euros (£970m) in back taxes, after the technology giant won a legal case brought by the French authorities.

A court in Paris ruled that the internet search firm’s Irish subsidiary was not liable for tax in France.

Google employs 700 people in France, but advertising contracts sold for display in France are booked through its subsidiary in low-tax Ireland.

In 2015 the company paid just 6.7m euros in corporate taxes in France.

The court was advised that Google did not have a “permanent establishment” or sufficient taxable presence in France to justify the bill.

“Google Ireland Ltd isn’t taxable in France over the period 2005-2010″ the court said in a statement.

European authorities have become increasingly tough on American technology giants including Google and its parent company Alphabet.

In June the EU fined Google a record 2.4bn euro for abusing its dominant position in the search engine business.

France’s newly elected administration, led by Emmanuel Macron, has also reiterated the intention to pursue international companies they perceive as not paying their fair share of tax.

Italian and British authorities have struck deals with Google to reclaim some of the tax they believe the search giant owed. But the figures agreed were much smaller, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars rather than the $1.3bn claimed by France.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-40584402

Sharing firm loses most of its 300,000 umbrellas

A colourful umbrellaImage copyright
Getty Images

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Sharing E Umbrella has not been deterred – it wants to place millions of brollies in public places by the end of the year

A Chinese firm that allowed people to rent umbrellas via an app has said thousands of them have gone missing.

Sharing E Umbrella had left 300,000 brollies in public places in 11 cities, including Shanghai and Nanjing.

Customers pay a 19-yuan (£2.15) deposit to unlock the umbrellas after scanning a code with their smartphone.

Every half hour of use costs a further half yuan, though users must top up in order to keep being charged.

Each brolly costs the firm 60 yuan to replace, but it is undeterred – 30 million new umbrellas will be introduced to the scheme, it has said.

Sharing E Umbrella was launched in April and the initial supply of umbrellas had been distributed to public places, such as railings next to bus and train stations.

The umbrellas were probably taken home by people, suggested the firm’s founder Zhao Shuping in an interview with Chinese website, the Paper.

He added that Sharing E Umbrella plans to rely mainly on profits from adverts, some of which may be printed on the umbrellas themselves.

“Umbrellas in China are generally quite cheap,” said Kerry Allen, a China analyst with BBC Monitoring.

She pointed out that the ones distributed by Sharing E Umbrella would have stood out.

“They were pretty fancy, you could tell the quality was good – the ones you usually get at subway stations tend to be small and very simple.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40567156

TripAdvisor teams up with Deliveroo

Deliveroo cyclistImage copyright
AFP

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TripAdvisor listings will connect to Deliveroo in more than 140 cities in Europe, the Middle East and Asia

Restaurant delivery service Deliveroo is to be incorporated into TripAdvisor listings in cities across 12 countries, thanks to a partnership between the two firms.

Customers will be able to access Deliveroo by clicking “order online” within TripAdvisor.

The scheme will connect more than 20,000 restaurants.

One e-commerce analyst said the move was a “logical step” to encourage customers to use such services.

The countries where the new feature will apply are the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia.

“Whether reading reviews, reserving a table through TheFork or placing a food order through Deliveroo, our goal is for TripAdvisor to serve as a one-stop-shop for diners around the world,” said Bertrand Jelensperger, senior vice president, TripAdvisor Restaurants.

The strategy was probably designed to improve customers’ relationships with both brands, suggested Martin Gill, an analyst at Forrester.

“Essentially it’s all about connecting service providers to consumers in a more dynamic way,” he told the BBC.

“TripAdvisor has been working on monetising its content for a long time – this is a logical step.”

The news comes on the day of the publication of a British government report on employment practices, which focuses on the “gig economy” – in which people work on a short-term basis, including for companies such as Deliveroo and Uber.

The report recommends that workers for these firms should be classed as dependent contractors, with extra benefits.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40573272