Spear-phishing scammer demanded sex show

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It took minutes for the scammer to take over

Six weeks ago, a young woman called Zed (not her real name) was in a meeting at work when a message popped up on Facebook Messenger from a distant friend.

“Hey babe,” it began.

The friend asked Zed to vote for her in an online modelling competition, which she agreed to do.

But then – disaster. Adding her email address to the competition register had caused a tech meltdown, her friend said. She needed to borrow her email log-in to fix it quickly and restore her votes.

Zed was unsure. The friend begged – her career was at stake, she pleaded. Still in the meeting and powerless to make a call, Zed gave in – a momentary leap of faith.

Except it was not her friend that she was talking to – someone else had got into the account and was pretending to be her.

It’s a scamming technique known as spear phishing.

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What is spear phishing?

“Phishing uses behavioural psychology to trick victims into trusting the attacker in order to obtain sensitive information,” said Paul Bischoff of Comparitech, who also talked to Zed.

“Spear phishing is less prevalent, but far more dangerous. Spear phishing targets an individual or small group of people. The attacker can gather personal information about their target to build a more believable persona.”

How do I protect myself?

Besides never sharing the credentials for your online accounts, a good way to stay safe is to enable “two-step authentication”. This means that users must enter another code besides their password, received for example by their mobile phone, to log in.

This can usually be set up in the security settings for your account or during the sign-up process. Two-step authentication is offered by Gmail, Hotmail, Apple, Amazon, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter among others.

Within minutes, Zed watched in horror as she was locked out of one account after another, as well as her Apple iCloud where she stored all her data – including a photo of her passport, bank details, and some explicit pictures. The hacker took control of all her IDs as they were all linked to the email address details she had supplied.

The scammer also activated an extra layer of security, called two-step authentication, meaning that they received all alerts about her accounts and could reset them.

Then a man called. The number had a Pakistan area code.

“He started the call by saying he didn’t want any drama, he didn’t want me to cry, he wanted me to talk to him like a professional,” she said.

He sounded young, perhaps a college student, she thought.

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He accused her of leading an “immoral” life. He had seen her photographs, he knew she had smoked and had boyfriends and was sexually active.

He asked her what her parents would think and was furious when she said they already knew.

“He claimed he had hacked thousands of women,” Zed says.

“He said 10 or 12 he had felt bad about because he couldn’t find anything about them that was ‘wrong’.”

Zed was not part of that group.

“He said he was happy when he hacked my account. That I deserved everything.”

He told her he would post the explicit pictures on her Facebook page – where she has more than 1,000 friends.

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The scammer said he had targeted thousands of people.

“I offered him money. I asked if I could pay. He said, ‘Don’t talk about money.’ He sounded irritated,” she said.

Instead, he wanted her to perform a sex act for him on camera.

Zed refused.

“Either you do it for me or you do it for the whole world,” he told her – and uploaded one of the photos to Facebook.

Zed had already warned her boyfriend and parents who assembled an army of friends waiting to report activity on her account. Within 15 minutes it had been disabled by Facebook – but she still received concerned messages from contacts.

“A friend who is like a brother sent me a message – it wasn’t him who had seen [the photo] but a friend of his,” she said.

“I feel like I mustn’t think too much about how many people saw [the photos].”

The last thing the scammer said to her was, “Have a great life.”

“It seemed to me the only reason he was doing this was to morally police women and get them to do stuff for him,” Zed said.

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The man didn’t want money

“He wanted a gallery of explicit photographs of women. That seemed to be his motive.”

Zed does not consider herself to be digitally naive. She is a bright, articulate 20-something from India who works in the media industry on the US east coast.

“I have been tech savvy and on the internet almost my entire life – but I’ve never really seen the power of what people can do until now,” she says.

Regaining control of her accounts has been a struggle. It took Zed a month to get her Apple ID back after engineers created a bespoke questionnaire for her containing answers that were not stored in her account.

Gmail and Facebook have also been restored, but she has lost Snapchat and her Hotmail address – her central account which she had used for more than 13 years.

‘Chink in the armour’

“I feel for the poor woman – these scams are so easy to fall for,” said cybersecurity expert Prof Alan Woodward from Surrey University.

“I think what it shows is that security is a combination of people, process and technology. You can be very ‘savvy’ in any one or two of these but scammers are superb at finding novel combinations that, frankly, we just wouldn’t think of.

“I know it sounds so obvious but, regardless of who they are, you should not share your username and password. Give these scammers a small chink in the armour and they are sadly brilliant at getting in and running amok in your digital life.”

Zed still uses iCloud but does not store personal stuff on it anymore – and has activated two-step verification everywhere.

“I still see the value in the storage. But I will never ever give any information away again,” she said.

Zed originally decided to share her story on community site Reddit after trying to find others who may have been conned by the same man.

“I was really shocked to discover that I found absolutely nothing,” she said.

“I was hoping that speaking up about it would remedy that problem and encourage others to share their stories.

“It also felt like the only way to get back at him.”

As far as Zed knows, the scammer has not been caught.

“Cyber-criminals come in all shapes and sizes,’ said prof Woodward.

“Their motive is not always monetary gain. As we have sadly seen of late, revenge or just being plain malicious is a growing trend.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39338004

Two major US technology firms ‘tricked out of $100m’

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Evaldas Rimasauskas posed as Asian-based hardware manufacturer to trick staff into wiring him money

A Lithuanian man has been charged with tricking two US technology firms into wiring him $100m (£80.3m) through an email phishing scam.

Posing as an Asian-based manufacturer, Evaldas Rimasauskas tricked staff into transferring money into bank accounts under his control, US officials said.

The companies were not named but were described as US-based multinationals, with one operating in social media.

Officials called it a wake-up call for even “the most sophisticated” firms.

According to the US Department of Justice, Mr Rimasauskas, 48 – who was arrested in Lithuania last week – deceived the firms from at least 2013 up until 2015.

He allegedly registered a company in Latvia which bore the same name as an Asian-based computer hardware manufacturer and opened various accounts in its name at several banks.

‘Fake email accounts’

The DoJ said: “Thereafter, fraudulent phishing emails were sent to employees and agents of the victim companies, which regularly conducted multimillion-dollar transactions with [the Asian] company.”

The emails, which “purported” to be from employees and agents of the Asian firm, and were sent from fake email accounts, directed money for legitimate goods and services into Mr Rimasauskas’s accounts, the DoJ said.

The cash was then “wired into different bank accounts” in locations around the world – including Latvia, Cyprus, Slovakia, Lithuania, Hungary and Hong Kong.

He also “forged invoices, contracts and letters” to hide his fraud from the banks he used.

Officials said Mr Rimasauskas siphoned off more than $100m in total, although much of the stolen money has been recovered.

Acting US Attorney Joon H Kim said: “This case should serve as a wake-up call to all companies… that they too can be victims of phishing attacks by cybercriminals.

“And this arrest should serve as a warning to all cybercriminals that we will work to track them down, wherever they are, to hold them accountable.”

The DoJ would not comment on possible extradition arrangements and said that no trial date had been set.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39351215

UK flight ban on electronic devices announced

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The UK ban applies to direct inbound flights from six countries; the US ban lists eight countries

The British government has announced a cabin baggage ban on laptops on certain direct passenger flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

The ban, which also applies to tablets and DVD players, follows a similar US move affecting eight countries.

Downing Street said it followed talks on air security and was “necessary, effective and proportionate”.

US officials said bombs could be hidden in a series of devices.

The ban applies to any device larger than 16cm long, 9.3cm wide or 1.5cm deep. It includes smart phones, but most fall inside these limits.

Any affected device, including e-readers and games consoles, will need to be placed into hold luggage.

Number 10 said it was up to individual airlines to decide when to begin enforcing the ban and passengers should contact their airline for more information.

Which airlines are affected?

Six UK carriers:

Eight overseas carriers:

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We understand the frustration that these measures may cause and we are working with the aviation industry to minimise any impact.”

Air industry consultant John Strickland said the ban would cause “headaches for airlines and customers”, but carriers had “no choice but to put security first”.

What are the new rules?

Simon Calder, travel editor of the Independent, told the BBC the ban would particularly affect passengers who booked cheaper, hand luggage-only tickets, but would now have to pay to check a bag in.

While the US government cited unspecified “threats” in its announcement, the prime minister’s official spokesman declined to discuss whether the new rules were prompted by specific intelligence.

Media captionWhy are gadgets banned but mobiles ok? Daniel Sandford explains

The US ban applies to flights from 10 airports in eight countries. Nine airlines are affected – Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.

Asked why the US ban differed from the UK, Theresa May’s spokesman said: “We have each taken our own decisions.”

A sign of mounting concern

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By Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent

This is a controversial decision, and, I’m told, not an easy one for the government.

The UK ban goes even further than the US move which does not affect national carriers.

It is not the result of a specific, identified terrorist plot, but of mounting concern in US and British intelligence circles at the ongoing interest amongst jihadist groups in the Middle East in blowing up a passenger plane in mid-air.

There are some in Whitehall who fear this may be an over-reaction, with damaging commercial and diplomatic consequences. But others have pointed to last year’s laptop bomb smuggled onto a flight from Somalia by insurgents from Al-Shabaab.

The year before, so-called Islamic State blew up a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai Peninsula. But that bomb was hidden in the hold, where laptops and other devices will still be allowed.

The editor of Aviation Security International, Philip Baum, told the BBC that “encouraging people to check laptops, and other such items, into the luggage hold simply makes the challenge of screening even harder”.

For more than two years, the official UK threat level for international terrorism has stood at severe, meaning an attack is “highly likely”.

In July 2014, passengers at UK airports were advised to ensure electronic devices were charged so they could be switched on for security checks.

The ban on liquids over 100ml in hand luggage – introduced after a foiled 2006 plot to blow up planes using explosives hidden in drink bottles – also remains in place.

‘Evaluated intelligence’

The US has given airlines 96 hours, beginning at 07:00 GMT on Tuesday, to implement its ban, which officials said had no end date.

Passengers on some 50 flights a day from some of the busiest hubs in the Middle East, Turkey and North Africa will be affected.

The Turkish government has said the US ban is wrong and should be reversed.

But the Department of Homeland Security said extremists were seeking “innovative methods” to bring down jets.

Citing the Somalia incident in February 2016, as well as the 2015 downing of a Russian airline in Egypt and attacks at airports in Brussels and Istanbul, it added: “Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.”

Which airports are affected by the US ban?

  1. Mohammed V International, Casablanca, Morocco
  2. Ataturk Airport, Istanbul, Turkey
  3. Cairo International Airport, Egypt
  4. Queen Alia International, Amman, Jordan
  5. King Abdulaziz International, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
  6. King Khalid International, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  7. Kuwait International Airport
  8. Hamad International, Doha, Qatar
  9. Abu Dhabi International, United Arab Emirates
  10. Dubai International, United Arab Emirates

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39343971

US man loses appeal over encrypted drives

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The suspect has been in custody for nearly 18 months, his lawyer says, over the encrypted devices

A US man has lost an appeal over his refusal to decrypt hard drives seized during an investigation regarding child sexual abuse images.

The man, who has not been named in court documents, has been held in custody for nearly 18 months.

No criminal charges have been filed against him.

The man’s lawyer has argued that his client is protected by the Fifth Amendment, which protects US citizens from incriminating themselves.

A police search in 2015 at the suspect’s home recovered an Apple iPhone 5S, Mac Pro computer and two external hard drives.

Authorities allege that they found evidence suggesting that child sexual abuse images had been accessed with the devices after they were able to decrypt the Mac Pro.

Prosecutors also say that images of a six-year-old girl that “focused” on her genitals were found on his iPhone 6 Plus, which had been seized separately and which the suspect unlocked during a forensic examination.

The external hard drives remain inaccessible, however, and the suspect has been held in contempt of court – and remanded in custody – since late 2015.

At one hearing, court documents say the suspect claimed he could not remember the password to unlock the drives.

‘Disappointed by ruling’

“The government has provided evidence to show both that files exist on the encrypted portions of the devices and that [the suspect] can access them,” wrote the circuit judges, rejecting the appeal.

They added that they disagreed the Fifth Amendment was grounds for a successful appeal in this instance.

“We are disappointed in the ruling and [are] studying the decision to determine what further review it may be appropriate to seek,” said Keith Donoghue, a federal defender representing the suspect.

“The fact remains that the government has not brought charges and our client has now been in custody for nearly 18 months based on his assertion of his constitutional right against self-incrimination.”

The US Supreme Court has never ruled on the issue of whether suspects can cite constitutional protection when refusing to unlock a smartphone or decrypt a computer drive.

Taking the Fifth

However, it is becoming an increasingly common discussion in American courts.

Last year, in a separate case, a Florida court said a suspected voyeur could be compelled to reveal his iPhone passcode to investigators.

“I think they got it wrong,” Mark Rumold, a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the BBC at the time.

He added that he believed there were “sound constitutional reasons” for preventing the state from compelling information from a defendant’s mind.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39339408

Canadian photographer ‘sorry’ for explicit image sharing

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A Canadian photographer and comedian has admitted posting explicit images of women along with their names on controversial internet forum 4Chan.

However, he denied doing so for “malicious intent” – a practice known as doxxing.

Ren Bostelaar apologised for his actions but said the photos had already been posted elsewhere on the net by the women themselves.

Toronto Police is investigating but no charges have been made.

The allegations were made on social media by several women who claimed they were contacted by men after their photos and details appeared on 4Chan.

Some of their stories date back to 2005, they claim.

They say the images were never intended for public viewing and were shared in closed groups.

It is unclear whether Mr Bostelaar was the original photographer.

Under the Canadian Criminal Code it is illegal to distribute images “knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct”.

‘Deeply remorseful’

The photographer issued an apology on Facebook in which he described his behaviour as “reprehensively bad” but has since deleted all his social media accounts.

“Mr Bostelaar is deeply remorseful for his actions,” said his lawyer Sam Goldstein in a statement.

“The photographs he re-posted were photographs that the women themselves had posted on the internet in public forums such as Facebook, Reddit, or Tumblr.

“He did not deliberately disseminate private details for malicious intent.”

Mr Goldstein added that “not every personal moral failing requires judicial intervention”.

Ren Bostelaar is one of the writers in a successful satire group called Stats Canada.

The group tweeted to its 603,000 followers that his behaviour was “completely inexcusable”.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39338006

US will ‘not repeat’ claims GCHQ wiretapped Donald Trump

Media captionThe White House press secretary pointed to Fox News sources

The US has agreed not to repeat claims the UK’s communications intelligence agency wiretapped Donald Trump during the presidential election campaign.

GCHQ rejected allegations made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, that it spied on Mr Trump, as “nonsense”.

No. 10 has been assured by Mr Spicer he would not repeat the claims, which he cited from US TV channel Fox News.

The White House has said that Mr Spicer was “simply pointing to public reports, not endorsing any specific story”.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said it had been made clear to US authorities the claims were “ridiculous and should have been ignored”.

Former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said it was not enough to promise not to repeat the allegation.

“That’s not the same as saying it was rubbish in the first place,” he told the BBC.

GCHQ rejected the allegations as “utterly ridiculous”. The unusual move by the agency to comment on the news came after Mr Spicer cited claims first made on Fox News earlier this week.

Mr Trump said Trump Tower in New York was under surveillance, but has provided no evidence for the claim.

The allegations of GCHQ involvement were initially made by former judge Andrew Napolitano.

Mr Spicer quoted Mr Napolitano as saying: “Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command.”

He said Mr Obama “didn’t use the NSA, he didn’t use the CIA, he didn’t use the FBI and he didn’t use the Department of Justice, he used GCHQ.

“What the heck is GCHQ? That’s the initials for the British spying agency. They have 24/7 access to the NSA database.”

A GCHQ spokesman said: “Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct ‘wiretapping’ against the then president-elect are nonsense.

“They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”

Analysis: A rare response from GCHQ

By Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent:

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British intelligence relocated GCHQ from Bletchley Park to a new site in Cheltenham

It’s a bad day for the transatlantic intelligence community when Britain’s largest and best funded spy agency – GCHQ – has to come out and publicly contradict a claim made by its closest ally.

GCHQ, MI6 and MI5 rarely, if ever, comment on ongoing intelligence stories in the news.

But the allegation made by Mr Spicer was seen as so potentially damaging – as well as being untrue – that it was decided to make an exception.

The BBC understands that a discussion was held earlier this week in No 10 on whether and how to respond.

When Mr Spicer repeated his claim of GCHQ collusion on Thursday the strongly-worded denial was written and published.

Career intelligence officers on both sides of the Atlantic will now be at pains to protect their historically-close relationship from any further perceived gaffes coming out of the White House.

Sir Malcolm, speaking on BBC Radio 4′s World at One, said the allegations were “foolish and very dangerous” as they implied UK government involvement.

“It’s not just about GCHQ”, he said. “The inference is that the British government – either directly or indirectly – were involved.”

Media caption“What is needed is a clear unambiguous statement from the White House” Sir Malcom Rifkind tells The World at One

Former MI5 intelligence officer Ben Owen said he would be “shocked” if the claims turned out to be true.

“It’s not something GCHQ would do”, he told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme. “They have to stick to the letter of the law.”

He said leaks by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the CIA, had eroded public trust in intelligence agencies.

“These stories have more credence with the public,” he said.

Media captionPresident Trump’s wiretap saga explained in two minutes

The allegations relate to Mr Trump’s earlier claim that his phones were tapped by predecessor Barack Obama during the presidential race.

He tweeted on March 4: “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found.”

A Senate committee on Thursday concluded that there were “no indications” Trump Tower was under surveillance by the US government before or after the election.

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Michael Clarke, the former director of the defence think tank Rusi, said that relations between President Trump and US agencies had “got worse”.

He told BBC Radio 4: “After the election, it was hoped that the relationship between President Trump and the American agencies would settle down and it hasn’t.”

Mr Spicer said Mr Trump stood by his allegations.

GCHQ is one of three UK intelligence and security agencies, along with MI5 and MI6. It delivers signals intelligence – the intercepting of communication between people or electronic devices – to the prime minister and foreign secretary.

The agency credits its “particularly strong” relationship with its US equivalent, the National Security Agency, to the collaboration it began at Bletchley Park during World War Two.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39300191

These teenagers built their own mental health app

These four students have created an app to help teenagers talk about being bullied and get access to counselling.

For Me was originally a school project but the NSPCC’s Childline has turned it into reality.

“I hope that young people now realise they have somewhere to go,” one of the creators, Laura Hindle, tells Newsbeat.

The app features a private “locker” area where users get a daily mood tracker and can write down their thoughts.

It also lets users chat with a counsellor.

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Howv the app looks

“I can’t believe this app is a reality and is out there for people all over the country to access and use,” Laura tells Newsbeat.

“It’s absolutely amazing that we’ve been on this journey and been involved in this process.

“I hope people find it useful and they can get the support they need when they’re going through troubled times.

“I hope that young people now realise they have somewhere to go and with the support they need they can overcome their problems.”

Laura Hindle

Now they want to create an adult version

“We’ve always said there should be an app for adults as you can only use For Me until you’re 19,” Laura explains.

“Problems don’t stop once you become an adult – they’re around your workspace – wherever you are.

“It would be amazing if there was an app like this for adults.

“It would be pretty amazing to see that happen.”

The app is now available as a free download from the iOS app store and an Android version is due to be released in the coming weeks.

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

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/articles/39303006

YouTube: UK government suspends ads amid extremism concerns

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Navy recruitment ads are among those believed to be affected

The government has removed its adverts from YouTube amid concerns they are appearing next to “inappropriate” material on the video-sharing site.

The Cabinet Office said it was seeking assurances from YouTube’s owner Google that its messages would be displayed in a “safe and appropriate way” in future.

The Guardian, Channel 4 and the BBC have also pulled ads citing similar worries.

Google said it would review its controls.

The firm has been attacked by MPs in the past for not doing more to curb online hate speech.

The internet giant said it had “strict guidelines” about the placement of adverts but conceded “we don’t always get it right”.

A recent investigation by the Times found adverts were appearing alongside content from supporters of extremist groups, making them around £6 per 1,000 viewers, as well as making money for the company.

Ministers have summoned Google for talks at the Cabinet Office after imposing a temporary restriction on its own ads – including for military recruitment and blood donation campaigns – appearing on YouTube.

‘Strict guidelines’

The Cabinet Office said digital platforms such as YouTube were a “cost-effective” way of reaching mass audiences but the taxpayer demanded high standards and it would be seeking action following recent negative media coverage.

“Google is responsible for ensuring the high standards applied to government advertising are adhered to and that adverts do not appear alongside inappropriate content,” a spokesman said.

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The Guardian has also pulled its advertising from YouTube

“We have placed a temporary restriction on our YouTube advertising pending reassurances from Google that government messages can be delivered in a safe and appropriate way.”

Google acknowledged its record was not perfect and said it was committed to “doing better”.

“We have strict guidelines that define where Google ads should appear,” a spokesman said. “In the vast majority of cases, our policies work as intended, protecting users and advertisers from harmful or inappropriate content.

“We accept that we don’t always get it right and that sometimes, ads appear where they should not…We will make changes to our policies and brand controls for advertisers.”

‘Safe environment’

But Channel 4 has questioned whether YouTube remains a “safe environment” for advertisers, saying it had removed all its promotions with immediate effect.

“We are extremely concerned about Channel 4 advertising being placed alongside highly offensive material on YouTube,” said Dan Brooke, the broadcaster’s chief marketing and communications officer.

“It is a direct contravention of assurances our media buying agency had received on our behalf from YouTube.”

The Guardian has withdrawn all its advertising from both Google and YouTube after it said a promotion for a membership scheme had been inadvertently placed next to extremist material, including videos of American white nationalists, a hate preacher banned in the UK and a controversial Islamist preacher.

David Pemsel, the media group’s chief executive, said the error had been “completely unacceptable.”

During a recent appearance before the Commons Home Affairs Committee, executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google were told they had a “terrible reputation” for dealing with problems and should be policing their content more effectively, given the billions they made.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-39301712

Google pulls Beauty and the Beast ‘ad’ from Home

Emma Watson by Beauty and the Beast logoImage copyright

Google has removed audio about the movie Beauty and the Beast which played out unprompted on Google Home.

“By the way, Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast opens today,” the smart speaker said after listing the time, weather and travel update.

In a video posted on Twitter, it then talked about the plot and suggested asking it about main character Belle for “more movie fun”.

Google denied that the material on Home was an advertisement.

It appeared as part of a “My Day” feature where the digital assistant provides an update which can include calendar events and news bulletins.

“This wasn’t intended to be an ad,” said a spokeswoman.

“What’s circulating online was a part of our My Day feature, where after providing helpful information about your day, we sometimes call out timely content.

“We’re continuing to experiment with new ways to surface unique content for users and we could have done better in this case.”

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On its website Google demonstrates the My Day feature.

The device is not yet available outside the US.

The tech giant has experimented before with including what it calls “seasonal timely content” on the Google Home device without it being requested.

Previous material on the themes of Black History Month and the Oscars has also run.

‘Tricky conundrum’

The rise of digital assistants presents a “tricky conundrum” for advertising sales, said analyst Ben Wood from CCS Insight.

“Unlike adverts inserted on a screen which can be glossed over, anything presented in an audio format risks being incredibly intrusive,” he said.

“The most likely outcome will be that there would be ad-funded voice assistants where the user gets a discounted device in return for accepting adverts.”

He added that Google faces a different challenge to Amazon, which markets rival home assistant the Amazon Echo.

“Google’s primary business model is predicated on advertising,” he said.

“Whereas for Amazon its about transactional revenue where a voice assistant like Echo can help drive sales.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39304468

US man held for sending flashing tweet to epileptic writer

The red and yellow picture with blue lettering tweet which allegedly caused the seizure

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A still of the tweet which contained flashing images

A man accused of sending a flashing image to a writer in order to trigger an epileptic seizure has been arrested, the US justice department says.

John Rayne Rivello, 29, of Maryland, sent Kurt Eichenwald an animated image with a flashing light on Twitter in December, causing the seizure.

He has been charged with criminal cyber stalking and could face a 10-year sentence, the New York Times reports.

“You deserve a seizure for your post,” he is alleged to have written.

Mr Eichenwald is known to have epilepsy. He is a senior writer at Newsweek magazine, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a best-selling author of books including The Informant.

‘Let’s see if he dies’

Investigators found that Mr Rivello had sent messages to other Twitter users about Mr Eichenwald and a plan to attack him virtually, including one that read: “I hope this sends him into a seizure”.

Tweet ’caused’ epileptic seizure

“Spammed this at [victim] let’s see if he dies,” another message read, according to the justice department.

Investigators found a screenshot on his iCloud account of an altered Wikipedia page for Mr Eichenwald, falsely listing his date of death as 16 December, a day after the image was sent.

He had also researched epilepsy seizure triggers on the epilepsy.com website.

The Twitter message was no different from “a bomb sent in the mail or anthrax sent in an envelope,” Steven Lieberman, a lawyer for Mr Eichenwald, told the New York Times. “It triggers a physical effect.”

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Mr Rivello will have his case heard in Texas, where his alleged victim is based.

The justice department did not say what motivated the attack, though reports have speculated that it may have been related to Mr Eichenwald’s frequent criticism of US President Donald Trump on Twitter.

Mr Eichenwald is reported to have suffered the effects of the seizure for several weeks. He tweeted on Friday that more than 40 people had sent him “strobes” after learning about the case.

After the attack was reported in December, Stefano Seri, a professor of neurophysiology at Aston University in the UK, said the material in the tweet must have been carefully constructed.

“Abrupt changes in light intensity, or luminance, can trigger seizures. The most sensitive range is about 15-25 flashes per second,” he said.

“The picture would need to occupy most of the visual field. It would take some very sick people to do this, but technically, it is possible.

“Modern LED screens are not as provocative as older ones. It takes a very carefully designed stimulus to induce a seizure,” Prof Seri added.

Read more:

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-39315393