Project Loon gets underway

Project Loon gets underway

Peruvians have been getting online using Project Loon, the ambitious connectivity project from Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

Project Loon uses tennis court-sized balloons (about 20km above the ground) which contain a small box of equipment to beam internet access to a wide area below. Only small-scale tests of the technology have taken place so far.

Project Loon is in competition with other attempts to provide internet from the skies, including Facebook’s Aquila project which is being worked on in the UK. Project Loon have recently figured out how to use artificial intelligence to ‘steer’ the balloons by raising or lowering them to ride weather streams. This led to balloons being used to connect people in Lima, Chimbote, and Piura. The balloons were launched from the US territory of Puerto Rico before being guided south.

Over the course of three months the balloons were still providing access with users sending over 160GB worth of data (the equivalent of 2 million emails).

The connectivity (roughly covering an area of 40,000 square kilometres) was enabled with the help of Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica, which operates in Peru, and several other organisations who aided in setting up ground stations that enabled the balloons to connect to the internet.

The technology is still in its early stages, the concept still faces a number of challenges, most related to keeping the equipment in the air.

Some have questioned the motive of companies expanding into the developing world with such vigour – particularly over how both Facebook and Project Loon may be bale to collect data that could later be used to sell targeted advertising.

www.bbc.co.uk/technews (17th May 2017)

Microsoft makes emergency security fix

Microsoft makes emergency security fix

Microsoft has released an urgent update to stop hackers taking control of computers with a single email. The unusual bug, in Microsoft anti-malware software such as Windows Defender, could be exploited without the recipient even opening the message. Hackers could exploit the flaw simply by sending an infected email, instant message or getting the user to click on a web browser link. Researchers working for Google’s Project Zero cyber-security unit discovered the flaw at the weekend.

The fix has been specially pushed out hours before the software giant’s monthly Tuesday security update.

Windows 8, 8.1, 10 and Windows Server operating systems were affected by the bug. Anti-virus software such as Windows Defender would simply have to scan the malicious content for the exploit to be triggered.

Cyber-security expert Graham Cluley said that Microsoft had acted brilliantly to release the patch so quickly.

www.bbc.co.uk/technews (9th May 2017)
Vodafone to close down pager business after CMA shock

Vodafone to close down pager business after CMA shock

Vodafone has pulled the sale of its paging business to Capita and will shut it down after the competition watchdog threatened to investigate the deal. The Competition and Markets Authority said it was concerned customers may now face price rises. Vodafone said it was disappointed by the CMA’s decision, but made more sense to close the business due to the expense involved with a prolonged investigation. Vodafone said they would do their utmost to minimise the impact on the 1,000 or so customers still using the service.

Vodafone and Capita run the UK’s last two paging businesses and agreed the sale in February. Pagers, a decades-old technology, are still used by many people such as those working in the emergency services because of their reliability, coverage and battery life. They are used by the NHS and the Army as well as lifeboat services.

www.bbc.co.uk/technews (10th May 2017)

China announces tighter regulations for online news

China announces tighter regulations for online news

The Chinese government has issued new regulations tightening its control over online news content. Companies that publish, share or edit news will need a government licence, and senior editors must be approved by the authorities. Other staff will be required to undergo government training and assessment, and receive official accreditation. The legislation will bring online news providers into line with traditional news media operating in the country.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said the new rules would ‘strengthen management of information and promote the healthy and orderly development of internet news, in accordance to law.’

Organisations that do not have a licence will not be allowed to post news or commentary about the government, economy, military, foreign affairs, or ‘other areas of public interest’. Only publicly funded organisations will be able to carry out their own reporting.

The CAC has made increased efforts to tighten online media regulation in recent months – particularly as live streaming and video blogging becomes a popular means of telling news.

Chinese outlets will not be allowed to enter joint ventures with foreign partners, or accept foreign funding, until thy have passed a security assessment carried out by the government’s State Council Information Office.

Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and many foreign news websites are banned in China.

www.bbc.co.uk/technews (3rd May 2017)

Which? announce UK’s best and worst cities for 4G mobile coverage

Which? announce UK’s best and worst cities for 4G mobile coverage

Consumer group Which? and analyst Open Signal measured data from mobile phones across twenty cities in the UK. They say that critical reforms are needed to perform a better service for customers. The Open Signal study analysed more than 500m data readings from mobile phones taken from more than 30,000 users between 1st December 2016 and 28th February 2017 via an app. It ranked 20 of the biggest towns and cities from top to bottom based on their 4G availability.

The Top 5 were –

  • Middlesborough/Teeside – 82.7%
  • Sheffield – 79.3%
  • Sunderland – 79%
  • Leicester – 78.6%
  • Leeds/West Yorkshire – 78.2%

The Bottom 5 were –

  • Bournemouth/Poole – 67.5%
  • Southampton/Portsmouth – 69.6%
  • Cardiff – 71.8%
  • Nottingham – 73.3%
  • London – 73.6%

The report also looked at average 4G download speeds across the UK, finding Stoke-on-Trent to be the fastest city and Brighton the slowest. Which? said that big cities often suffer with below par mobile networks because it is more difficult to build towers and masts in built-up urban areas.

Ofcom said its rules meant that nearly all UK premises would have to receive a 4G signal by the end of the year. Ofcom has stated that mobile coverage must improve and that it understood the importance of having a reliable mobile broadband where people live and work.

www.bbc.co.uk/technews (3rd May 2017)

Google and Facebook revealed as victims of $100m scam

Google and Facebook revealed as victims of $100m scam

Earlier this year it was reported that a Lithuanian man had been charged over an email phishing attack against two American based internet companies. The victims were not named at the time but have since been revealed as Google and Facebook. They had allegedly been tricked into wiring more than $100m to the alleged scammer’s bank accounts.

The man behind the scam, Evaldas Rimasauskas, allegedly posed as an Asia-based manufacturer and deceived the companies from at least 2013 until 2015. The Department of Justice said that ‘Fraudulent phishing emails were sent to employees and agents of the victim companies, which regularly conducted multimillion dollar transactions with ‘the Asian’ company’. Mr Rimasauskas was accused of forging invoices, contracts and letters.

A spokeswoman for Google said ‘We detected this fraud against our vendor management team and promptly alerted the authorities. We recpouped the funds and we’re pleased this matter is resolved.’ However, the firm did not reveal how much money it had transferred and recouped. Neither did Facebook, but a spokeswoman said, ‘Facebook recovered the bulk of the funds shortly after the incident and has been cooperating with law enforcement in its investigation.’

Commenting on the phishing threat facing big companies, James Maude at Avecto ( a cyber-security firm) said, ‘Sometimes staff think that they are defended , that security isn’t part of their job. But people are part of the best security you can have – that’s why you have to train them.’

According to a Europol report, the sophistication of phishing scams has increased lately. ‘CEO fraud’ – in which executives are impersonated by the scammer – is a particular worry. Such attacks often take advantage of publicly reported events such as mergers, where there may be some degree of internal flux and uncertainty. Firms are being advised to carefully verify new payment requests before authorising them.

www.bbc.co.uk/technews (28th April 2017)