Trial by Combat – As Outdated As You Think?

We’ve all seen the dramas, times when people are insulted by another person or they’ve had some disagreement over actions someone has done. In modern days, this normally involves a few choice words and maybe a small brawl outside, but these can even end up in court, with people claiming financial revenge for their actions. One that is very rarely used, but is seen a lot on TV is trial by combat, but the tradition is all but dead.

Trial by combat was originally created in germanic law, with two people fighting in single combat, the winner being proven right in the eyes of the law and the witnesses. The tradition died off as legal systems relied more on facts and evidence, with it rarely ever invoked because of the “barbaric” nature of it.

Back in 2002, Leon Humphreys challenged the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) to trial by combat. His original charge was to pay a £25 motoring fine for not informing the DVLA about his motorcycle being off the road. The magistrates saw this as a waste of time though and fined him £200 with another £100 in costs; it didn’t quite work out for him.

In 2015, this came before the Staten Island Supreme Court when a layer cited the right in the case where he is being accused of helping a client commit fraud. Richard Luthmann states that trial by combat was never outlawed in New York state or even the United states. Luthmann, a Game of Thrones fan, stated that “They want to be absurd about what they’re trying to do, then I’ll give them back ridiculousness in kind”.

So while an old tradition, you never know who would invoke the right to single combat in order to defend their actions in the eyes of the law and their makers. Something work keeping in mind next time you’re stuck with an odd fine, just be ready to fight if they agree!

Russia Request Permission to Fly Spy Plane Over the US

Today Russia requested permission to allow an advanced surveillance plane with advanced electro-optical imaging sensors to fly over the US. The request is valid as both Russia and the US are signatories of the Open Skies Treaty, which permits unarmed observational flights over any of the 34 member nations, despite the arguments from US officials. These officials believe that the sensors equipped on the plane they wish to use are too advanced and exploit the spirit of the treaty, which is to increase military transparency amongst the nations.

With tension between the west and Russia at its highest since the Cold War, the move seems to be a clear move to see how far they can push their luck. “The treaty has become a critical component of Russia’s intelligence collection capability directed at the United States,” Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, wrote in a letter earlier this year according to the AP. “In addition to overflying military installations, Russian Open Skies flights can overfly and collect on Department of Defense and national security or national critical infrastructure,” Haney continued. “The vulnerability exposed by exploitation of this data and costs of mitigation are increasingly difficult to characterize.”

Russia’s chances of its request being approved may be hampered by their recent refusal to allow other nations to engage in surveillance over its own territory. A number of key locations including the capital, Moscow and potential conflict areas such as Chechnya and the areas around Abkhazia and South Ossetia are considered off-limits, despite the treaty.

Due to the nature of the treaty being that of transparency it will be hard for Russia to keep secrets of what it is observing, as the treaty rules that all images taken as part of flights under its regulations must be shared with all of the treaty’s member states. It remains to be seen whether the request will be accepted, but even if it is, Russia’s flight would only take place in summer at the earliest, with the treaty having a 120-day lead time on agreements.

Image credit to Kremlin.ru

UN Rules Julian Assange is Being ‘Arbitrarily Held’ And Deserves Compensation

Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks caused a media frenzy by publishing classified documents about Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo. By 2015, Wikileaks has published more than 10 million documents and associated analyses, and has been described by Assange himself as “a giant library of the world’s most persecuted documents” As a result, Assange was treated as a fugitive and subject to a prosecution by the Espionage Act of 1917. There’s also been a slur on Assange’s character which stems from allegations of a sexual assault against two women in Sweden. To properly hear the case, Assange has to leave his safe haven at the Ecuadorian embassy. Many argue this is simply the workings of a corrupt government trying to capture Assange by any means possible.

Today, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention made a landmark ruling and claimed Assange’s decision to reside in the Ecuadorian embassy was “arbitrary detention” and breached international law. Furthermore the UN suggested that Mr Assange’s detention “should be brought to an end, that his physical integrity and freedom of movement be respected”. Apparently, the Wikileaks founder was subject to “different forms of deprivation of liberty” and “… afforded the right to compensation”. It’s important to note that this isn’t a legally binding arrangement, and doesn’t alter Assange’s current plight. However, this should apply some pressure on the UK and USA governments to give Assange freedom of movement without any arrests occurring.

Mr. Assange reacted to the decision via a direct video link and said it was a “really significant victory that has brought a smile to my face”. However, the UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond dismissed these recent comments and claimed he was a “fugitive from justice” Not only that, Hammond said Assange could “come out any time he chooses” but would still have to face a trial.

Do you think Julian Assange is a hero or villain?

Internet To Leave US Control

While it is designed to be independent, avoiding control from any country of government the internet is a little bit different from that dream. Sadly, like with any large system, someone has to be there to help maintain and support the complexity of the system, something connecting the entire world is no different in this respect. Now, the Internet could soon be leaving US control.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a non-profit company that manages internet protocols and domain names. With the ability to register custom domain names and with new protocols like IPV6, the internet is expanding with new services and systems taking up everything from bits to petabytes.

The transition from US control, if it goes ahead as planned, will change hands on September 30th. While there will be no change in the fundamental workings of the internet, the control that the US had will be gone leaving for a more global service, something that countries like Russia and China have been requesting goes to a global body like the UN.

Many who use the internet believe in a principle known as Net Neutrality. This principle is that all traffic on the internet, no matter the destination, content or type should be treated the same. This means that if you and your neighbour were both watching content, one football one League of Legends, neither of your connections would be chosen above the other. This leads to everyone and everything on the internet being treated, above all else, equally. Many countries don’t employ this, with giant firewalls and companies looking to find new ways to prioritise connections.

While sharing control all over the world is a good thing, making sure that people don’t use the new control to enforce restrictions, censorship or global monitoring is also important. The freedom of one cannot come at the cost of another.

Portugal’s Piracy Blocklist Censors US Indie Developer

Portuguese internet server providers currently have a voluntary agreement with anti-piracy groups and began blocking hundreds of websites which allegedly host links to copyrighted content. This allows copyright holders to easily add new pirate sites to the blocklist without requiring any jurisdiction from a court. More specifically, websites should contain a minimum of 500 links to infringing material to be flagged. Of course, ISPs prefer this scheme because it doesn’t cost them any money to become involved in expensive legal proceedings on behalf of their customers. However, blocklists have a propensity to wrongfully include certain websites with legitimate content.

For example, according to TorrentFreak, US indie developer, Carbon Games has for some bizarre reason been added to the blocklist. The issue was first reported by Revolução dos Bytes, and confirmed various ISPs including NOS, MEO and Vodafone had restricted access. This is quite an embarrassing turn of events, and showcases the pitfalls of content flagging via blacklists. I’m not entirely sure how Carbon Games’ website fell prey to the algorithm as it’s only meant to apply to websites with loads of illegitimate referrals.

Thankfully, the block is easily circumvented by accessing the website using a non-www address. Additionally, users can change their DNS to something that doesn’t rely on their ISP, such Google DNS or OpenDNS. Once again, this illustrates how pointless many blocklists are, because they can be expensive to implement and take seconds to circumvent. Perhaps, a more sensible approach would be to keep the internet’s open ideology and stop profit organizations from seeking control. In almost every circumstance, anti-piracy measures appear to make the situation worse for rightholders, or legitimate customers. I can’t see this changing anytime soon though, and if anything, anti-piracy groups are becoming more aggressive and a threat to the internet’s open roots.

I’d love to hear if you’ve experienced any problems accessing legitimate websites.

Imagining The World If Powerful Leaders Were Transformers

Well, erm, yes, as you do, have you ever wanted to see famous political leaders being depicted as Transformers? Now you can after a talented artist and satirist by the name of Gunduz Agayev has bought an updated 2015 incarnation of his “Transformers” series back to the public eye.

First up below is the former research scientist and current Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel who looks quite calm and authoritative, well for a transformer anyway.  Germany as a country has had quite a difficult year, from a faltering economy to the current refugee situation, I think the illustration captures the demeanour of the German Chancellor over the past year.

Next up below is what appears to be a cross between a transformer and Robocop in the form of current president Barrack Obama, this illustration perfectly captures the relentless attacks by Donald Trump over the course of 2015 as the US gears for this years (2016) presidential election, who would have thought Republication Trump could still have a chance of running for the White House. The illustration also conveys a sense that President Obama is attempting to be Robocop for the entire world after attempting to push through laws that impact more than just the US.

Below is the next illustration and it perfectly captures and also satirizes the current president of Russia Vladimir Putin, his 2015 has been somewhat gung-ho and has included verbal threats against numerous countries as well as air strikes in Syria etc.

Last but not least is the current Queen of the UK Elizabeth II, who looks quite cheerful as a red London bus transformer, it pretty much sums up 2015 for the Queen when you consider her personality never really deviates when greeting people in the public eye.

These pieces of artwork are memorable, unique and convey key characteristics while making a statement, they also have more significance rather than being just a series of over the top images.

Apple CEO Tim Cook Refutes Tax Avoidance Claims

Apple has been accused of tax avoidance and exploiting loopholes in US legislation to move profits to tax havens. For example, Apple’s tax base is in Ireland with a 12.5% corporate rate while the US taxation figure is around 35%. As a result, some critics have argued this is a sophisticated way to either delay paying tax or reduce Apple’s bill. Recently, Tim Cook described the current US tax system in an interview with Charlie Rose on the programme 60 Minutes:

“This is a tax code, Charlie, that was made for the industrial age, not the digital age. It’s backwards. It’s awful for America. It should have been fixed many years ago. It’s past time to get it done.”

Cook became quite aggravated and described the claims of tax avoidance as:

“total political crap.”

He also went onto say that moving the assets into the US would have severe financial implications:

“Because it would cost me 40% [in taxes] to bring it home. And I don’t think that’s a reasonable thing to do,”

Clearly, Tim Cook believes that the current US tax system is completely broken and in need for huge reforms. Not only that, he made bold statements about Apple’s behaviour and the amount of tax they put into the US economy:

“There is no truth behind it. Apple pays every tax dollar we owe,”

“We pay more taxes in this country than anyone.”

This is an interesting statement to make, and the idea that Apple pays a large amount of tax seems fairly credible. However, the amount paid is due to how successful Apple is compared to other companies. What really matters is the percentage of tax paid in regards to Apple’s total earnings. Are they actually paying the full amount, or employing complex schemes to maximize profits? Sadly, I don’t think we will ever know unless there is an independent investigation.

Image courtesy of newspaperplus.com

51 Percent of US Internet Users Watch Netflix

Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu and others have revolutionized the way we watch video content. In the digital age, there’s no need to wait for your favourite TV shows, or watch a bunch of adverts, as streaming services offer instant gratification. Netflix is evidently the most popular choice due to the superb TV and film library. However, many customers outside the US have to use a VPN as content is restricted on a geographical basis. Nevertheless, the affordable pricing and huge range of shows in the USA is proving a popular combination and according to research firm RBC Capital Markets, 51 percent of US internet users watched content on Netflix during the last 12 months.

Netflix’s viewing figures as a percentage even surpassed YouTube which finished in second place. The data is intriguing and illustrates the popularity of streaming services. As a result, it’s perfectly feasible for traditional TV to struggle in the next decade as consumers expect more and become sick of TV scheduling. Furthermore, Netflix now offers a premium service capable of 4K streaming, which is bound to please customers with a brand new 4K television. Although, the company has gradually increased the subscription costs over time. Therefore, it’s unknown how expensive Netflix might be in the next few years.

9/11 Oculus Rift Game ‘8:46’ is Horrifying and Distasteful

September 11th, 2001 is a date in history which will always be remembered as the moment when global terrorism came to the doorsteps of ordinary US citizens. The morally repugnant attack shocked the world and demonstrated how unsafe modern society can be. Whatever you’re political affiliation or beliefs about American foreign policy, you cannot forget the innocent people who died on that fateful day. As a student of history, it’s important to look at atrocities and not shy away from the events of the past. This is so we can educate others to avoid future mistakes.

However, this has to be conducted in a respectful manner which puts academic interests first. Unbelievably, a game has been created for virtual reality devices entitled 8:46 which puts you in the footsteps of someone trapped in one of the Twin Towers. According to the project’s creative director, the game is designed:

 “As a tribute to the victims of our generation-shaping experience.”

Realistically, 8:46 won’t be a commercial endeavor so the developer isn’t making any money from 9/11. Although, this doesn’t sit right with me as you hear the screams ringing throughout the buildings. Currently, you can download the game for free but it requires a VR device such as the DK2.

Krafft was interviewed by Tech Insider and said:

“In the team, we are all in our twenties,”

“And 9/11, on a global scale, changed as much our social interactions as our geopolitical context.”

“We worked with a lot of references, from an interview with a survivor to plans of the floors or journalistic works … to be precise about the events and the human dynamics in the towers,” 

Clearly, this is a controversial release and one which divided opinion among some people. In my view, it is quite disrespectful to those who died in 9/11 and almost trivializes what transpired. Although, other opinions are just as valid, and it could be argued that the game finds a way to discuss 9/11 among modern audiences. Whatever the case, it’s certainly an eye-opening project.

Are you offended by this game or do you think it’s an interesting historical tool? To reiterate, we welcome a lively discussion but please refrain from political arguments as this is a technology site first and foremost.

The Intercept Leaks Huge Cache of Documents on the USA Drone Strike Program

Leaks of classified information have been part of the fabric of social interactions and also modern-day communications that includes the Internet, from hacked celeb pics to the now infamous Edward Snowdon cache of documents that detailed the extensive surveillance states and operations around the world. This leak is no different, yet if genuine, (I have to put this caveat in just in case someone is lying here and it comes back to bite me firmly on the posterior), is a huge trove of secret documents which have been published by The Intercept, detailing the Obama administration’s secretive and controversial drone-based assassination program.

If you’re not familiar with this program then let me elaborate, The US military and figures including the Obama administration have implemented a program that sort to track and kill high-value enemy targets throughout Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Now onto the documents which have been classed as being leaked by an anonymous whistleblower, this information covers an extensive array of subjects which includes kill chains, operations and also the standard intelligence flaws.

Skimming through this information reveals some extremely sensitive documents, for example “One top-secret document shows how the terror watchlist appears in the terminals of personnel conducting drone operations, linking unique codes associated with cellphone SIM cards and handsets to specific individuals in order to geolocate them”.

Another document reveals a case of a British citizen, Bilal el-Berjawi, who was stripped of his citizenship before being killed in a U.S drone strike in 2012. “British and American intelligence had Berjawi under surveillance for several years as he travelled back and forth between the U.K. and East Africa yet did not capture him. Instead, the U.S. hunted him down” and eventually used a drone strike to kill him in Somalia.

The “Kill Chain” sounds like a title to a film, yet this purported leak is very compelling, interesting, informative and also fascinating. It details the steps required to authorize a drone strike on a target in Yemen and the people who it passes through. It also shows that according to a Pentagon study, president Obama signed off on a 60 day authorizations to kill suspected terrorists, but he did not sign off on individual strikes.

According to the documents, there are two steps. Step 1 is choosing the target and step 2 is taking a strike. Step 1 starts from a JSOC task force before going through officials including Leon Panetta who is the Secretary of Defence, a principals committee which includes Hillary Clinton all the way to President Obama. Step 2, in the case of strikes in Yemen, ranges from a JSOC task force all the way to the president of Yemen.

Well yes, this is indeed big, am I surprised? No, the US is addicted to the Find Fix Finish mantra which has made drone strikes popular for the administration. The cache is extensive and it is far too much information to detail here, otherwise this article would be 5000 words long, and few want that.

It will be fascinating to see further developments in the coming days, weeks and also months.

Thank you theintercept for providing us with this information.

How Effective Is Body Armour Against An Assault Rifle?

This question is like a Russian roulette version of popular website Wikihow, anyway, body armour is deployed with the aim of being an essential form of protection against the most violent of circumstances, quick but interesting fact on this, the term “bullet proof vest” is not actually correct, manufacturers describe their products as “bullet resistant” and by doing so this places a mental caveat that ensures the user feels aware that they are in fact not indestructible.

Back to the original point, how effective is a body armour-plate? To test this in a practical way, a Youtube channel by the name of “Demolition Ranch” decided to shoot at a piece of body armour while using an ARAK-21 XRS gun, if you’re wondering, this gun is a hybrid of both the AR-15 and AK-47. The Facebook page of Demolition Ranch describes itself as “making you smile with guns” only in the US.

Below is the video, after conducting the experiment it was found that a piece of ceramic body armour could absorb 8 rounds before finally being breached, this is theoretically impressive but the effectiveness would depend on factors including distance etc. Body armour has a ceramic layer that is designed to break up the bullet and a composite layer of fabrics to hold the bullet from wounding the individual.

Body armour does indeed work and offers a good level of protection against, well death, but as good as the armour is, it can still be penetrated with dire consequences. The maker of the gun that was used in the experiment is a company by the name of Faxon Firearms; according to their website it states the company are “proud defenders of the 2nd Amendment”, too bad this cannot be amended, oh wait.

Thank you gizmodo and faxonfirearms for providing us with this information.

Apple Reigns Supreme at US Tax Avoidance

The legality and moral outrage surrounding tax avoidance has been a hotly-discussed topic throughout the world. Many leading corporations from Apple to IBM exploit loopholes in the tax system to reduce their bill and hold assets offshore from their US base. As a result, this net revenue isn’t taxable and allows for increased profits. Sadly, many companies refuse to publicly disclose the nature of moving assets offshore, but new data provides evidence regarding the top 30 US companies who didn’t object to this information going public.

In the US, this data was collated by the Center for Tax Justice’s analysis of SEC filings. As you can see from the graph, Apple came in 1st place moving $181 billion of taxable assets offshore to avoid paying taxation. This is a significant margin ahead of other companies but might simply refer to Apple’s financially strong situation. The chart contains a wealth of technological companies and signifies how tax avoidance is commonplace in the industry. In recent years, governments have promised to clamp down on tax avoidance due to public pressure.

However, very rarely does this result in any meaningful change. Only recently did Amazon start paying corporation tax in the UK after a long period of employing complicated tax schemes. I highly doubt the data will deter people from buying Apple products but it emphaizes how their company and similar technology behemoths are run. From a business standpoint, if a company can maximize their profits, they will within the confines of the law.

How do you feel about technology companies avoiding taxation?

Thank you Quartz for providing us with this information.

Volvo to Accept Blame in Event of an Accident

Well in the case of the autonomous cars anyway. Up until now, the only company to come forward with a fully working prototype is Google and the accidents that occurred were never blamed on the company, rather the external parameters such as traffic and pedestrians. It has now come to light that Swedish-based company Volvo will “accept full liability whenever one if its cars is in autonomous mode” and is the route cause of an accident.

This announcement follows the steps taken by Volvo to protect the main software that controls the car by passing it through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This Act prevents occurrences such as vehicular hacking being blamed on the company itself and treated as a criminal offense.

If we remember back a few months, vehicle hacking way a hot news subject with a small team taking it upon themselves to hack multiple cars, including a brand new Jeep.

In the US specifically, the government has allowed monitoring and regulating of autonomous vehicles to be controlled by the individual states, but Volvo is now calling out for a country wide regulation format and this will be discussed further tomorrow at a seminar for self-driving cars.

I can see Volvo is taking a massive step forward by trusting the car’s software and hardware this much and removing the blame from the driver almost entirely. Let’s hope that this allows lawmakers and legal systems to become more lenient with autonomous vehicles operating in each state and each country of the world.

Thank you to Mashable for providing us with this information.

Should We Replace Doctors With Computers?

A new announcement from Jeremy Hunt is yet another cost cutting attempt at trimming down front line services with the aim of saving cash. The health secretary wants to remove more medical decisions from the hands of doctors and therefore let computers and protocols decide aspects of care instead” I like tech, but I would prefer a qualified human doctor and not Microsoft XP handling all aspects of my care if I were to be in hospital. Mr Hunt also states that this implementation has been successful within the US health system and therefore we in the UK should be adopting similar processes.

It would not be an elected politician without a bizarre example, and Mr Hunt gave just that with the notion of production techniques that have been copied from a, (you may think originally from a hospital) no, a “Japanese car company had been copied and applied to healthcare” within a hospital in the US. Not sure human organs and brake pads can be particularly compared when devising healthcare policy. If you’re wondering, it was a hospital in Seattle that copied the production techniques from Toyota and by doing so is ranked among the safest hospitals in the world, read that in a Clarkson voice if you will.

This idea depends on the agenda of execution. Yes we all want safer hospitals and any PROVEN protocol is to be welcomed, but, is this with the aim of cutting both doctors and also staff from wards. The Tory government is aiming to cut billions from spending and is also looking to force through a new working contract for junior doctors that will see penalties for over working doctor’s scrapped and longer working hours implemented. There has been a track record in many sectors of reducing staff in favour of computer IT systems, hopefully staffing levels can be maintained and increased to meet demand, after all, a virtual paperclip cannot treat you in real life.

Thank you independent for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of twitter.

Encrypted Communications May Make Discovering Aliens Impossible.

Well, it’s taken a bit longer than expected, but Edward Snowden has finally lost his sanity in Russia, this is rather a joke considering the headline sounds quite bizarre, but the cogent statement which Mr Snowden conveyed is, as expected a lot more sensible than that.

Snowden appeared on the astrophysicist and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Podcast from Moscow via a robot video link called a “beam remote presence system”. Basically this gadget is a virtual presence device which has been conveyed within the medical profession with the aim of allowing doctors to see patients without seeing them in person. The wide-ranging interview included the assertion by Edward Snowdon that “It took a very long time for me to develop any kind of scepticism at all even to the most over-extended claims of the extension of programs or policies [by the US security services],” he said.

This may sound slightly naïve, but when an individual is in an environment as in these case, scenarios and policies become normal, why you would question the day-to-day reality with which you have been accustomed to. Now for the alien bit, according to Snowden, “encrypted communication, if they are properly encrypted, there is no real way to tell that they are encrypted, “You can’t distinguish a properly encrypted communication from random behaviour.” 

What Edward Snowdon was surmising is that if a life form on a distant planet was attempting to identify new signs of life, or vice versa, it would be impossible to decipher where those signals were emanating from if communications were encrypted. Theoretically therefore, if both sides used encrypted communications, it would make it impossible to read them or even recognise them.

This view of a new civilisations communications skills are as good a one as the next person, considering there haven’t been any recent sightings of aliens, or at least proven beyond all doubt 100% bona fide beings and not a 1990s video camera with a blurry shot .

Thank you techworm and startalkradio for providing us with this information.

School Student Arrested For Bringing Homemade Clock To School

The current world climate is one of placing people into narrow pre-perceived boxes which are based on current world stereotypes. A person is judged solely on their looks, dress sense and their social standing within society among others. Are these connotations correct? No, not really considering an individual could have 6 tattoos and a perception of being a wild character, yet could be kind and gentle.

This notion of stereotyping has sunk to a whole new level after a 14-year-old boy was arrested in Texas on suspicion of constructing a “hoax bomb.” Was it a real or counterfeit bomb? No… it was a clock. Officials at MacArthur High School in Irving alerted police because they thought the device was a threat to the education facility.

The teenager’s name was Ahmed Mohamed’s and below is an image of the homemade clock which was conveyed by Irving Police Department at a press conference. Perhaps it would have been better to ask the teenager concerning the device instead of ringing the police. The teen was subsequently placed in handcuffs and fingerprinted but later released after it was determined there was no threat.

To protest against this ludicrous situation a hashtag by the name #standwithAhmed was born and immediately garnered support from powerful individuals, these included NASA scientists, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and US President Barack Obama. Mr Ahmed’s family have arrived at the conclusion that his detainment was down to his name.

So, what is the response from the school? According to them, they have “always asked students and staff to immediately report if they observe any suspicious items”. MacArthur High School would argue that it’s better to be safe than sorry, but, in this instance could this not have been handled by someone asking him concerning this device? After all, Ahmed said that he had made a clock at home with the view to convey this to his engineering teacher.

I do feel suspicion has risen to the point of hysteria, yes there are many instances which have tragically occurred over the decades that have highlighted failures in legislation, but to roll out an overused phrase, would there have been the same reaction if this individual had been of a different ethnicity? It’s a shame that society has reached such a juncture to where even school goers are on the look out for potential terrorists and gun wielding people, one has to wonder as to how far this could go, the only thing I was afraid of at school was algebra, not suspected terrorists.

Thank you bbc for providing us with this information.

Four Men Charged Over $1m MacBook Air Heist

It just goes to show the strength of Apple’s brand or pricing structure when criminals decide to plan to conspire in a robbery of expensive computers. Four men have been charged over the theft of approximately 1200 MacBook Air computers which have an estimated value of $1 million dollars (£660,000) and were thought to be in the process of being delivered to two high schools in New Jersey.

According to federal prosecutors, an individual by the name of Anton Saljanin was hired to transport the computers from a technology compound in Massachusetts to New Jersey on the 16 January 2014. Mr Saljanin reported to police that said delivery van had been stolen from a car park near his home where he parked it overnight. Sounds plausible, but for a few key details, firstly the gentleman in question claimed to have spotted the truck when driving along a highway by chance 27 miles away in Connecticut when out looking for the stolen vehicle. Police investigated this and ran tests before concluding that the truck “would not have been visible in the (Connecticut) Parking Lot to a driver passing by on Interstate 84”.

Further investigation by the FBI into Mr Saljanin phone records indicated that he in fact did not take the route in question when he claimed to have been searching for the truck; he was subsequently arrested along with his three alleged accomplices and charged with participating in a scheme to steal, transport, and sell the shipment of computers. It is also claimed that the four individuals sold at least a dozen MacBook Airs between January 2014 and April 2014 for between $500 – $800 dollars each, this is far below the retail price of around $1000 dollars per machine. Each person paid in cash and were handed the computer in brown cardboard packaging, this is certainly different to the well designed authentic Apple packaging.

What is evident is high-end tech products are a target for criminals with a propensity for theft albeit allegedly at this stage. It would have been ironic if Mr Saljanin had used an iPhone when police analysed it for phone data records.

Thank you ibtimes for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of the-anecdotes

Facebook Is Sued (Again) This Time For Storing a Billion Face Prints

Facebook’s business model is a paradox for consumers who yearn for privacy yet share their selfies, intimate images and sometimes bizarre postings within its borders. How much privacy would you expect from a company built on making a substantial profit from your data? Facebook has decided to push the storage of your information even further and has subsequently been handed a class action complaint over consumer biometric retention.

So what and who, have Facebook violated this time? According to the filed complaint, Facebook “has created, collected and stored over a billion ‘face templates’ (or ‘face prints’)”, which, ostensibly, are as uniquely identifiable as fingerprints. These have been gathered “from over a billion individuals, millions of whom reside in the State of Illinois”. It is alleged that by harvesting this sensitive data, Mark Zuckerberg is in violation of the state of Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which was passed by the state legislature in 2008.

Now for the punchline, as noted in the complaint, under BIPA a private entity such as Facebook is prohibited from obtaining or possessing an individual’s biometrics unless it achieves suitable consent, which is constituted by the following:

  • Informing that person in writing that biometric identifiers or information will be collected or stored
  • Informing that person in writing of the specific purpose and length of term for which such biometric identifiers or biometric information is being collected, stored and used
  • Receiving a written release from the person for the collection of his or her biometric identifiers or information
  • Publishing publicly available written retention schedules and guidelines for permanently destroying biometric identifiers and biometric information

The group of plaintiffs state that they have not and never had a Facebook account, but their images were uploaded onto the site which resulted in the creation of a biometric template which was then stored by Facebook..

It’s difficult to imagine the social networking giant complying with the current legal and acceptable definitions enshrined in law. If Facebook loses this case then it would effectively open the door to millions of possible claimants who would seek damages for breaches of privacy. This stand-off is very much a .com terms and conditions VS real world laws and consequences, Facebook will no doubt argue that consumers shared this information voluntarily regardless of who actually shared it for the corporation to handle as they wish, one thing is certain; the outcome could pinpoint the paths which define consumer protection in the face of a growing will to collect more and more info by large corporations.

Who owns your image once it’s uploaded onto Facebook or any other site?

Thank you theregister for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of 1en

Analysing Your Brain Could Be 30 Times Faster Than A Supercomputer

The human brain, fascinating, exciting and full of possibilities, the notion to create, form an opinion and challenge the environment which we live in, is truly exceptional. We now might be able to find answers as to how powerful the human brain is after a project which is designed to compare a supercomputer with that of a brain.

An Artificial Intelligence project which has been devised by two PhD students from the University of California Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon University, will be the first of its kind to compare the human brain with the world’s best supercomputer. The AI Impacts project aims to determine how fast the human brain sends signals in its internal network compared to that of a supercomputer.

The scholars compared the power of our brains with that of IBM’s Sequola supercomputer which is in the top 3 of the most powerful supercomputers. “Sequola has a TEPS (Traversed Edges per Second) benchmark of 2.3 x 1013 TEPS”. The estimates suggest the “AI Impacts are that the human brain should be at least as powerful as Sequoia in the lower limits and for the upper estimates, therefore the human brain could surpass the IBM Sequoia speed by 30 times at 6.4 x 1014 TEPS”.

Which is both a lot to take in but also equally and potentially incredible, evolution has formed an instrument which is quite amazing, and it begs the question, what else will we find as research and tech advances with the aim of exploring us. It is also interesting to note if the wiring of for example a genius brain, think Stephen Hawking, is different to that of an average mind or the best sportsman evolved differently with more advanced genes, or if are we all capable. If we spent enough time learning a skill to be able to adapt to anything? Its compelling none the less.

Thank you aiimpacts for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of fossbytes

Drone Munition Now Available To Consumers

Picture the scene; you look skywards and what lies before you? Some morons drone which is circling above your house, what do you do? If you live in the good old US of A, you walk into your garage with the aim of fetching your shotgun or course. But there is a problem, what if you do not have the correct ammunition? Luckily help is at hand as a product is now being marketed which promises to be the right kind of bullets for these pesky drones.

A company by the name of Snake River Shooting Products and Consulting Inc, consulting? We consult to offer you products which will maim or kill you, anyway, is proud to announce a new product by the name of Drone Munition. Which according to ammoland, is a

“Shot shell based defence rounds are now shipping. The rounds are a 12 gauge 3″ shot shell solution aimed at defending against drone-based privacy concerns and terror!”

Not too sure it’s the best idea to defend privacy by shooting expensive pieces of kit out of the sky, but there you go. The following sentence makes me laugh; apparently this ammunition has environmental credentials which are

“Drone Munition is lead free and safe for the environment”

Good to know, at least the planet was not harmed from the manufacturing of these bullets at someone’s funeral.

I can see this company being open to many a lawsuit, if you’re effectively condoning shooting an individual’s unmanned aerial vehicle to bits, then this will be seen as damaging property which does not belong to you. I do agree these Drones need more robust regulation, but you cannot if you feel like it, aim and fire skyward.

Casey Betzold, who is the president of Snake River Shooting Products, stated that “We are very excited to be manufacturing a product focused on defending our freedoms. We see this line as a game changer in the industry and as an important defence against rising threats to our way of life”

The words “Defending Our Freedoms” is interesting, would it be really against ones freedoms to spot a drone flying in the sky? What about if it’s a US government drone, would it be then safe to shoot that as well?. If it was a suspected terrorist drone then it would be considered OK to shoot it, but then again, I doubt it will be sign posting itself when flying.

Well, at least we know for any of life’s problems, there will be Ammo for that.

Thank you ammoland and snakerivershootingproducts for providing us with this information

Hacking team and Boeing Built a Surveillance Drone

The hack of Hacking team was hilarious but serious at the same time, to contemplate a freelance company hell-bent on hacking any target for a variety of employers seemed, well not surprising, but certainly a disappointing period for the ideological view of democracy. But at least the Italian surveillance team only hacked computers, I mean it’s not like they were developing any weaponry… oh my god they planned a Drone!

According to the released emails which became public thanks to Wikileaks, the firm have been planning for just over a year to develop a drone by the name of ‘Snoopy” which was capable of intercepting data from users smartphones through spoofed wireless networks. The emails also reveal that both Boeing and Hacking Team want unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS) with the aim to carry out attacks which inject spyware into target computers or mobile phones via Wi-Fi.

The plans also reveal that public Wi-Fi networks would also be used to intercept targets internet traffic before injecting malicious code into said machine, with the aim of installing spyware which was developed by Hacking team. This news is also accompanied by techniques which makes use of “man in the middle attacks” and exploits to fish for information.

Well, I am not sure I particularly want surveillance drones which have the ability to spy on computers belonging to anyone. This news also highlights the line which blurs the view of good and evil, if governments were contemplating this concept, how does this make them any better than criminals? Yes, it’s technically for a noble cause by catching alleged targets, but who are the targets? This also goes back to the same question of transparently, governments quite happily inform us that money is tight for essential facilities for example hospitals, yet could well have been planning to purchase eyes in the sky which intercepts data at taxpayers expense.

Thank You The Hacker News and Wkileaks for providing us with this fascinating information

Walmart Launch Sale to Rival Amazon Prime Day

The battle for retail dominance has just escalated. Again. Walmart, the US retail chain, are not letting amazon steal the spotlight. This year they have announced that they are going to launch a rival sale on Wednesday in retaliation to Amazon’s recently released “Prime Day” meaning more than 2000 rollbacks in prices. The price reductions will last 90 days and will include electronics, home, baby and toys. Starting Monday, Walmart is also reducing the minimum order for free shipping from $50 to $30 for at least 30 days.

Walmart have out-done Amazon for making its lower prices on Prime Day available only to Prime members, who pay $99 a year to be part of the service that offers free shipping upgrades, access to video streaming and music. Walmart plans to say that it is “standing up for our customers and everyone else who sees no rhyme or reason for paying a premium to save.” In addition to the rollbacks and lower free shipping minimum, Walmart also promises “some special atomic deals,” with more details to come later.

Last week, Amazon announced that Prime Day — scheduled for July 15 and billed as a blowout sale bigger than Black Friday — would be held in honor of the e-commerce company’s 20th anniversary. It will include thousands of deals, with new ones as often as every 10 minutes.

Thank you to Usa Today for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of melanoidnaton.

Lets Get Ready To Robot Rumble!

Gundam, Evangelion, Tengen Toppa Gurren Laggan. If you’ve recognised those three names, you’ll be aware of the thing they have in common. Giant Robots. In response to this we have aspired as a race to make giant robots, but now two companies want to take it further. They want to fight!

Suidobashi Heavy Industry, a Japanese based company, already announced that they had constructed the Kuratas. A giant four-wheeled (at the end of legs) robot capable of using its built in BB gatling gun to fire a whopping 6,000 pellets a minute! If that’s too violent you can also replace it with a water cannon, and it’s even up for being purchased!

Meanwhile across the water in the USA, MegaBots wants to create a sport behind fighting with giant robots. So what’s the sensible thing to do? Of course, challenge Japan to fight against their own robot! Designed as a giant bipedal (two legged) robot, the robot looks to copy those designs found in cartoons and anime.

Suidobashi’s founder Kogoro Kurata replied with:

“Yeah, I’ll fight. We can’t let another country win this. Giant robots are Japanese culture”

With no set date or location, we can only wait for that moment where it’s revealed and suddenly it all becomes a reality. In his response though Kogoro did state that he wanted the fight to take place with physical weapons, not paintball or bb guns.

Thank you the Verge for the information.

Image courtesy of Popular Airsoft.

US, UK, New Zealand and France – Who’s Spying On Who?

Over the past few years, people have been told more and more about countries which have been part of or are actively spying on one another. The biggest revelation coming when it was revealed by Edward Snowden the extent at which the American government was spying not only on foreign entities but also on their own citizens. If the latest reports are correct it would seem France has joined the list of countries spying on foreign entities.

In a report from the L’Observateur, it claims that the french agency DGSE tapped several undersea fiber cables in an attempt to gain access to the information transmitted via them. This action was conducted and completed with cooperation from both the telecom supplier Alcatel-lucent and the operator Orange.

The received information was then shared with GCHQ, the British security agency responsible for digital and online security. If these reports are confirmed it could be a little trouble with GCHQ, given that they also received information from the American’s PRISM program. The PRISM program is reported to have recorded the conversations and communications of several high-ranking French officials including the President himself but also tried to access and gather all information relating to French companies which were valued over $200 million. PRISM then shared the information with the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

It seems that everyone is shocked when they find out  that someone spied on them, but then it all changes when it turns out they were spying on that country at the same time. I’ve lost track of who’s spying on who and sharing that information with what country.

Thank you Engadget for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Reuters.

Hackers Took Up Residence Inside Government PC for a Year!

I recently wrote an article which looked at the Cyber attack and subsequent theft of 4.2 million American Federal data of employees which was transferred from the Office of Personnel Management to an external source. At the time it seemed to be a well orchestrated planned attack which granted criminals access to a government network for a brief period of time, the word brief in this case is very much redundant now, as  new information has come to light.

This attack on the Personnel Management’s security-clearance computer system which is slightly different to the personal database was first breached in June, 2014 according to new information. This effectively means that hackers had access to a sensitive system for at least a year. Hackers had access to the personal database for 4 months before this intrusion was detected. The confirmation came from Stewart Baker who is a former National Security Agency general counsel. There is also strong speculation that these Hacks had originated from China, which means if true, this is one of the most sensitive pieces of information to be reached by state-sponsored hackers.  If these virtual intruders stayed any longer, officials would be asking them to pay rent.

There lays the murky layers of state organized crimes, if true, China will deny responsibility, but as we all know, China has farmed hacking and infiltration out to factory designed hackers who are still on the payroll, but the Chinese government can deny this as it was not directly them.

Perhaps it’s time for the US government to invest in protecting its citizens rather than placing them under virtual surveillance, if this information leakage continues; private citizens will find themselves virtually held in a different country.

Thank You The Washington Post for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of huffingtonpost