Saturday, 30 November 2013

Starting Off Right??

The Apprentice wannabe who was fleecing the VAT man

After boasting on his application form to appear on The Apprentice that he was prepared to commit VAT fraud, a student is convicted of tax offences

A student who boasted he was prepared to commit VAT fraud in an application to appear on the BBC series The Apprentice, has been convicted of tax offences.

Revenues inspectors found the form when conducting a search of Max Tappenden’s university accommodation, while they were investigating him.

The 23-year-old had written “I’d commit VAT Fraud!,” in response to the question: “Describe something you would do if you knew you would not get caught.”

He also told programme makers he would feel no regret and would use the money from the fraud as “start up” cash for his entrepreneurial plans.

Tappenden was last week convicted of illegally obtaining £11,125 pounds from HM Revenue and Customs by filing three bogus VAT claims for his IT firm. He had apparently attempted to get on the show at the same time he carried out his deception.

Canterbury Court heard that he did not even own his own PC but claimed to be trading in the development and sales of computer software.

He had registered for VAT in April 2012 as Tealbury Limited, later known as Wavedon Internet Ltd, while studying web design at the University of Kent.

However, tax officials found he had been using university computers to falsify sales figures and invoices in order to claim back VAT that he was not entitled to.

Tappenden, of Caldecote, Milton Keynes, Bucks, was sentenced to 150 hours of community service, given a three month home detention curfew, ordered to pay £1,200 in costs and banned from being a company director or running a company for the next five years.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Public Complacency??

People Don’t Care That Government Is Spying

According to researches, most people don’t worry that the authorities are collecting their personal information, even after Edward Snowden’s revelations exposed a terrifying level of the surveillance.

The observers point out that there is very little public disquiet about government surveillance. The recent poll revealed that 42% of respondents believe the security services have balanced powers to spy on ordinary people, and a further 22% said they didn’t have enough powers. When asked whether Snowden’s leaks were a good or a bad thing, 43% of respondents believed they were bad and only 35% thought they were good.

Perhaps, the level of public complacency about the shocking leaks was a reflection simply of ignorance. After all, most Internet users have no idea about how the web works and so may be very naive about the implications of the authorities being able to read everyone’s email metadata and call logs.

The alarming fact is how relaxed many of the professional peers seem to be about it. To them, the recent leaks only confirm what they had suspected. For some reason, the discovery that our societies have managed to achieve Orwellian levels of surveillance only makes them smile wryly or shrug. This level of passive acceptance can be found quite scary.

Even the journalists seem to have succumbed either to a weird kind of spiteful envy, or to a desire to behave as the unpaid stenographers to the security services and their political masters. This could be seen before in the visceral hatred directed towards WikiLeaks and Julian Assange by the mainstream media in Britain and the United States.

Just a few days ago a welcome sign could be seen in the US, where some people in journalism have woken up to the existential threat posed by the National Security Agency to their profession – and, by implication, to political freedom. A group of researchers from Columbia Journalism School and the MIT Center for Civic Media have recently submitted a paper on “the effects of mass surveillance on the practice of journalism”, where they
argued that what the agency was doing was incompatible with the existing law protecting the confidentiality of journalist-source communications. They also claimed that the climate of secrecy around mass surveillance was harming journalism, because their sources couldn’t know exactly when they are monitored, or how intercepted data might be used against them. The NSA should supposedly defend freedom, but it seems all the wrong way...

Thursday, 28 November 2013

More Transparency?

Tech Giants Urge More Transparency over Industry Requests

Mainstream Internet giants, including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and Twitter, argue that transparency would encourage debate over surveillance powers. This followed the UK’s GCHQ attempts to tap subsea fiber-optic cables in order to get access to vast quantities of broadband traffic.

The tech giants believe that the country needs to have a full public debate about the scale of Internet surveillance in order to provide confidence that state powers aren’t being abused. The companies have called for the British government to allow transparency about requests to hand over information on their users.

The files revealed by Snowden showed that GCHQ was tapping undersea fiber-optic cables in order to get access to online traffic under its Tempora program. Meanwhile, the US NSA has been collecting information directly from the servers of some ISPs, including people’s search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats. The Internet service providers didn’t even know about it.

The tech giants recommended that requests for user data made by the British government were made as transparent as possible. The companies themselves already publish transparency reports, because transparency is very important in maintaining confidence that powers aren’t being abused.

The companies also call for more transparency about state data requests in the United States: there has been a storm of political debate about the leaks, followed by a series of investigations which even forced the Obama administration to consider reforms. As for the British authorities, they have been slower to respond and Prime Minister has condemned the Guardian newspaper for endangering national security by publishing Snowden leaks.

The joint statement from Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Google and Yahoo! also includes a plea for the authorities not to enforce any more legislation on access to user data until the country has considered reforming international treaties covering surveillance and law enforcement. The companies remain opposed to any move to resurrect the communications data bill. It is known that the suggested laws handing greater online surveillance powers to British authorities were killed off in 2013 but MPs have warned that spies are already up to get access to this kind of information through the above mentioned Tempora program.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Pirate Films?

People Pirate Films Which Hollywood Can’t Sell

It seems that Hollywood has only itself to blame for pirated films. It turned out that the top 10 pirated films are mostly those which the entertainment industry, for unknown reasons, has refused to release legally and are not available at the theatres anymore. A new service, called, tracks the most pirated films and shows whether file-sharers could have purchased the movie legally.

According to its data, 40% of most pirated movies cannot be bought legally online. Then, out of the remaining 60%, 30% are available for full-priced purchase, but not for rent. Moreover, none of the top 10 movies can be watched via such subscription streaming services as Netflix.

In means that the viewers have nothing left but to turn towards piracy when they fail to buy or at least rent the films they want to watch. In the meantime, each movie on the list of top 10 was released in 2013, but is no longer showing in major theaters. With the exception of 3 movies, most of them are now in an awkward stage – people can buy them on DVD, but can’t rent them online. The problem is that nobody wants to buy DVDs today – people are used to pressing a button and streaming a film instantly.

It means that the Hollywood’s idea of withholding new films from digital rental just to inflate DVD sales is just lossmaking. Especially for such movies that people can watch one time and instantly delete them from their brain in order to make way for more interesting stuff. Actually, a number of the films on the list are legally available and very popular on the pirate websites. The matter is that many of them certainly wouldn’t exist if Hollywood became a little more modern.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Mega O.K. For White Collars!

Mega Attracts White-Collar Professionals, Not Pirates

Mega’s CEO Vikram Kumar claims that Dotcom’s cloud storage service is appealing less to pirates and more to white-collar professionals: accountants, lawyers, financial advisers, architects. In other words, Mega’s users are people who are concerned that their confidential client data may get compromised, and therefore are willing to pay for online security and privacy.

Kim Dotcom started Mega in January, exactly a year after his previous company MegaUpload was closed by police, and recruited telecoms exec Kumar as CEO of the new company. Vikram Kumar was keen to emphasize Mega’s credentials as a law-abiding service. Its simplest explanation is that it is a secure and faster Dropbox. At the moment, it is a cloud storage company, but it is planning to turn into more of a cloud collaboration and communication company.

Mega, which accounts for 5 million customers at the moment, is currently attracting few copyright takedown notices from copyright owners. The service has about 2-3 million files uploaded every day, while getting only 100 takedown notices for alleged copyright violation. In comparison, YouTube receives 15 million takedown requests per month. As you can see, Mega isn’t being used for wide-scale copyright violation.

One of the main advantages of the service is its end-to-end encryption technology. Mega promises users that since their files are encrypted on their devices before being uploaded, the company can never see the decrypted versions – and nobody can, until the user provides their decryption key. Perhaps, this is the real reason the service receives so few takedown requests: rightsholders simply cannot see infringing files being shared on the service without the keys.

In response, Vikram Kumar suggested that if the main concern of the copyright owners is their music or video being shared, they are still be able to spot this violation, because it requires decryption keys to be shared publicly. In the meantime, Mega is going to crack down on external search engines claiming to index files stored on the service.

Finally, Mega’s CEO criticized copyright owners for their approach to copyright takedowns with other companies, saying that the automated nature of both sending takedown notices and acting on them leaves the process open to false positives. The examples are numerous.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

What A Surprise?

Microsoft Former Employee Doesn’t Trust the Company

An ex employee has warned that people should be very careful about trusting the software giant anywhere near their personal data. Microsoft ex privacy analyst, who left the company two years ago, claimed that he doesn’t trust Microsoft after Edward Snowden leaks about Internet government surveillance.

Analyst said that earlier he had some difficulty making anyone else in the European Union understand his concerns. He approached many of the EU authorities with his concerns, but they just shrugged. However, after the Snowden leaks proving him right, an ex employee suddenly found itself in demand as a pundit.

Microsoft and other tech giants are fighting a public backlash after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden proved they were handing over user information to an American surveillance program called PRISM.

Microsoft has denied allegations that the National Security Agency could directly access its servers, but its ex privacy analyst has stopped using Microsoft products and switched to open source software. He also hasn’t owned a mobile phone for a couple years now. The matter is that he didn’t even know about PRISM when he was working at Microsoft, though questions of privacy should have crossed his desk anyway. This is why he doesn’t trust Microsoft now.

An expert has called for the creation of a cloud in Europe and said that users should be warned when they log on to services based in the United States that they may be under surveillance.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Stepford Wives = Facebook??

Facebook Will Build Its Kingdom

The social network is considering building its own town so its employees never have to leave work. The campus in Menlo Park will include a $120 million, 394-unit housing community within walking distance of its offices. Dubbed Anton Menlo, the 630,000 square-foot rental property is supposed to include a sports bar and a day care for pet dogs.

Media reports admit that the move towards a 24-hour work lifestyle is new, even for Silicon Valley. The social network insists that employee retention is not a major factor in the plan. Instead, it is a great idea to have more housing options closer to campus. Facebook believes that people will want to live there because they believe in the company’s mission.

The sources revealed that there will be many amenities on the site, including cafes, a store, a sports pub, bike repair shop with onsite storage, pool, spas, and gyms. This move may fix some of the company’s accommodation problems for workers. Indeed, a housing shortage is reported in Menlo Park and some employees couldn’t find places to stay near the corporate campus.

In the meantime, the industry experts point out that in many ways the move is turning the clock back. America had its “company towns” at the turn of the 20th century – the US factory workers were living in communities owned by their employer and provided housing, health care, law enforcement, church and just about every other service necessary. But the drawback is that your life becomes the company, and this is why the 20th century company towns died out.

This move means that employees will always be working. Only 10% of Facebook’s employees will be housed on-site. Apparently, there will not be too many families. The housing will go for market rates, with some being set aside for low-income staff.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Jump For Joy??

Tor Attack!!

Security Agencies Target Tor Network

The NSA has repeatedly tried to attack people using Tor, a popular tool protecting their Internet anonymity. This is despite the fact the software is primarily funded and promoted by the government of the United States itself.

According to secret NSA files, disclosed by Edward Snowden, the agency successfully identified Tor users and then attacked vulnerable software on their machines. One NSA technique targeted the Firefox Internet browser used with Tor and gave the agency full control over targets’ computers, including access to files, all keystrokes and all Internet activity. However, the files suggest that the fundamental security of the anonymity service remains intact.

Tor (The Onion Router) is an open-source public project which redirects its users’ traffic via other PCs, called “relays” or “nodes”, in order to keep it anonymous and avoid filtering tools. Journalists, activists and campaigners in America, Europe, China, Iran and Syria rely on Tor network to maintain the privacy of their communications and avoid reprisals from the authorities. The network currently receives around 60% of its funding from the American government, primarily the State Department and the Department of Defense.

Despite the importance of the network to dissidents and human rights groups, the National Security Agency and its British counterpart GCHQ have devoted their efforts to attacking Tor. They claim that the service is also used by people engaged in terrorism, trade of child abuse images, and virtual drug dealing.

While it seems that the agency hasn’t compromised the core security of the Tor software or network, the leaked files detail proof-of-concept attacks, including some relying on the large-scale Internet surveillance systems used by the NSA and GCHQ via Internet cable taps.

Foremost among the concerns is whether the agency has acted against users in the United States when attacking the network. The matter is that one of the functions of the anonymity service is to hide the country of all of its users, which means that any attack could be hitting members of Tor’s American user base.

A less complex attack against the network was also disclosed in July 2013, with its details leading to speculation that it had been built by the FBI or another American agency. While at the time the FBI refused to admit it was behind the attack, it subsequently claimed in a hearing in an Irish court that the agency did operate malware to target an alleged host of pictures of child abuse, with the attack also hitting Tor network.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Web Freedom?

Web Freedom Doomed

A recent report, carried out by the advocacy group Freedom House, has taken a look at Internet trends in 60 countries. The results were that despite a pushback from activists which successfully blocked some repressive laws, web freedom still plummeted in 2012.

In 35 of those 60 countries, governments had grown their legal and technical spying powers through the web. A global decline in web freedom in 2012 was determined by broad surveillance, new legislation controlling Internet content and growing arrests of social media users. For instance, Iceland has the most web freedom. On the contrary, China, Cuba and Iran had the least.

In the meantime, declines in Internet freedom were led by 3 democracies - Brazil, India and the US. Apparently, revelations by Edward Snowden demonstrated that changes in online freedom of the United States were eroding extremely fast. Anyway, the United States still made it to 4th in Freedom House’s list.

A number of the governments have acted against the worldwide web because social media was exploited to arrange national protests. Since 2012, two dozen countries have adopted some kind of legislation restricting web freedom. For instance, Bangladesh imposed a 14-year prison sentence on a group of bloggers who wrote posts critical of Islam. Bahrain has also arrested ten people for “insulting the king on Twitter”, while Morocco jailed a teenager for 18 months for “attacking the nation’s sacred values” via a Facebook post which also ridiculed the king. Finally, a woman in India was arrested for just “liking” a friend’s Facebook status.

According to Sanja Kelly, project director for Freedom on the Net at Freedom House, banning and filtering are still the favorite methods of censorship in lots of countries, though the governments are increasingly looking at who is saying what on the Internet and finding ways to punish them. According to the report, law restricting Internet freedom are still sometimes blocked with a combination of pressure from advocates, lawyers, businesses, politicians and the international community. However, this is the 3rd consecutive year web freedom has declined.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Local Cafe.

Internet Cafés Disappear

Internet cafes, once being the communication hub in developing countries, are fast disappearing from our life. The reason is obvious – the rise in smartphones is making the need to go into a café largely redundant.

For example, in Rwanda one Internet café went from 200 daily customers to just 10. India is suffering as well – for instance, some businesses in the southern city of Mysore have opted to sell stationery or sweets instead of Internet access. In the meantime, Internet café owners have to diversify their offerings in order to include flight bookings, mobile phone top-up cards, and accessories for different gadgets. Even cafés in Myanmar, where mobile penetration is very low, are facing the same trend there.

However, more developed countries had seen cafés survive to cater for immersive Internet gaming. At the same time, the number of such cafes in South Korea dropped to 15,800 in 2012 from 19,000 in 2010. As for China, the number of online cafes there dropped 7% to 136,000 in 2012 from 2011.

The above mentioned statistics flies in the face of a 5-year study released by the University of Washington in July, which discovered that Internet users in developing countries still rely on such public venues as cafes and libraries for Internet access even when smartphones are available. The research insisted that one technology won’t replace the other and smartphones are not responsible for the current trend.

Pirates = Profits??

Samsung Is a Top Advertiser with Ukrainian Pirates

The Korean tech giant has been outed as one of the major advertisers on the Ukraine’s largest file-sharing websites. The entertainment industry has launched an initiative dubbed “Clear Sky” in Ukraine, which is focused on naming and shaming the advertising antics of such giants as Samsung, Nokia, Canon, Carlsberg and even Coca Cola.

The initiative sees funding of peer-to-peer websites by the major international brands as a core problem. After the Ukraine has been labeled by the United States as one of the top piracy havens worldwide, the anti-piracy groups decided to “counter this image” and established Clear Sky.

Apparently, the task of the coalition is to find ways to fight Internet piracy. First of all, it is going to name and shame global companies who advertise with pirates. A couple of largest local portals, and, accounts for millions of visitors weekly and generates a healthy revenue stream via adverts, which are partly paid by multinational corporations.

Indeed, it turned out that almost 10% of all advertisements on those file-sharing services are financed by famous international brands, and almost half of all those adverts belong to Samsung. The report revealed that a big chunk of the company’s advertising budget in Ukraine goes to those file-sharing services. In the meantime, the industry observers found out that both services are rather short on adverts.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Oil Trolls??

British Petroleum Uses Online Trolls

BP is accused of hiring Internet trolls to attack and threaten people who are discontent with the way the company has handled the spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. It turned out that after the single largest environmental disaster in American history, the oil giant hired PR company Ogilvy & Mather to run a BP US Facebook page.

The Facebook page was supposed to encourage interaction with the oil giant, but after people posted anti-BP comments there, they were attacked, bullied, and even directly threatened. One of the anonymous posters named “Marie” has recently produced boxes of documents and research data that prove the people harassing BP’s critics online were hired by BP or Ogilvy.

The poster has passed the collected evidence on to the body investigating the disaster – GAP. Their investigators admitted that the documentation of more serious threats made on the BP page was clear enough to start an investigation of its own. Although all of the threats started on the Facebook page, they later escalated offline. They included identifying where somebody lived, an online troll referring to having a shotgun and making use of it.

The poster provided the investigating body with files of complaint letters, computer screenshots of the abuse, and a list of FB profiles used by the people who harassed them. It was said that the attacks were racist, sexist, and threatened people with legal action and violence. They have insinuated that some of the commenters were “child molesters”. Their aim was to get people posting negative comments to quit the social network.

One of the trolls used the nickname “Griffin” and made several allusions to gun violence. For example, he threatened to shoot an environmentalist with his .50 caliber gun. Another troll, known as “Ken Smith”, edited a photo of the company’s critic’s pet bird into the crosshairs of a gunsight.

You’re Banned!!

Microsoft Will Ban You from Xbox One if You Swear

The software giant will ban those who use bad words while playing games and upload recordings of their gameplay via the “Share” function. A number of customers have already complained that they couldn’t use Skype and other apps reliant on Xbox Live on their new consoles.

The tech giant confirmed that while they don’t monitor P2P communications like Skype, videos uploaded through the Xbox One’s “Upload Studio” feature are monitored, and the company treats “excessive swearing” as the breach of terms of service.

Microsoft claims to take Code of Conduct moderation through Upload Studio very seriously. The company wants a clean, safe and fun environment for everyone, and excessive profanity and other violations will be enforced upon. Microsoft claimed that such behavior may even result in suspension of some or all privileges on Xbox Live. The company didn’t specify whether the monitoring was conducted through automated means or not, or whether the suspensions could escalate with repeated offenses.

Everyone knows that Internet gaming is notorious for its foul language with gamers experiencing abuse at the hands of other gamers across in-game communication services. Those have even led to a reporting mechanism where victims could flag abusers to warn or ban them.

Nevertheless, the decision to ban gamers for swearing in some games that themselves employ profanity as part of their mechanic brings in double standards. The users of the official Xbox online forum believe that it is quite strange that Microsoft allows people to record any game footage when there are games having really bad foul language.

Even The Irish Want Their Share!!

Apparently, Irish Finance Minister is committed to a crackdown on multinational corporations’ big business tax avoidance. As a result, Apple and Google will be affected first.

At the moment, the Irish government remains under pressure to do something about its low corporation tax rate. The matter is that its tax strategy made the country very popular with tech giants like Apple, Facebook and Google. Finance Minister has promised that the 12.5% tax rate wouldn’t be touched, and revealed a new plan which is supposed to prevent big businesses from being “stateless” for tax purposes. The government confirmed that they have a statement on international tax strategy in Budget 2014, which would set out the country’s objectives and commitments on global tax and avoidance issues. Finance Minister announced they are going to include a reform to make sure that no Irish registered entity can be stateless for tax purposes.

Apparently, the country has been under a fair bit of pressure for a while. For example, Germany claimed they would have to bail out the Irish economy when it is ignoring pots of gold from the likes of Google and Apple. Of course, the people are also unhappy that they are expected to be austere and lose government services while tech giants are making millions. However, the new rules for “stateless” entities will only apply from January 2015, so tech giants will have plenty of time to find a new tax haven.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

We’re Watching All Of You!!

National Security Agency Maps Social Connections

According to the latest Snowden leak, for the last three years, the National Security Agency has been creating sophisticated graphs of the US citizens’ social connections.
Investigating the shedloads of information the agency has collected, NSA is now able to tell who your friends are, your locations at certain times, your travel companions and other personal data.

One of the slides from a leaked NSA presentation reveals the way it uses e-mail and phone information in order to analyze the relationships of foreign intelligence targets. Another file revealed that the NSA was told to carry out large-scale graph analysis on communications metadata “without having to check foreignness of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier”.

The NSA was mix and matching communications information with public, commercial and other sources. The list included bank codes, insurance data, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls, GPS location data, and even property records and unspecified tax information.

It seems that the agency may also know more about foreign citizens than their own government does. The Americans may also have been caught up in the effort. Actually, lots of foreigners might know the US citizens and sometimes send them emails.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Tablets Are Go!

Electronic Gadgets Will Be Allowed During Flight Takeoff & Landing

Media reports confirm that a federal advisory committee has prepared a report for American Federal Aviation Administration, saying that flights can handle switched-on gadgets at all times, including takeoff and landing. This is true about the devices not connected to the web.
In case the suggestion is approved, the passengers will be able to enjoy their ebooks, music players and other devices during takeoff and landings. The above mentioned report, commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration, recommends testing transmission tolerance on older aircraft. As for the newer aircraft types, they will be considered safe for electronic transmissions.

According to the industry officials, the suggestions could be approved as early as the end of 2013. The aircraft types able to tolerate electronic transmissions are already in use, some of them fitted out with picocells for in flight phone calls. In case a plane already has a picocell, it means that it has already been evaluated to have electronic devices for all phases of flight. Such aircrafts are Airbus 330 300s and Boeing 747 400s, for example.

However, the report still doesn’t recommend using mobile or Wi-Fi connections below 10,000 feet. While tablets and e-readers can be allowed for use during takeoffs and landings, larger laptops are expected to be stowed away. Amazon, which has one employee on the committee, claimed that the report was a “big win for customers”.

Delta Airlines recently announced that its pilots will be given Windows Surface 2 tablets for their electronic flight bags. The kit will be given to pilots of Boeing 757 and 767, with more to come in 2014.

Friday, 15 November 2013

What A Surprise??

Google Pays Corporation Tax in the US instead of the UK

Google paid only £11 million in British corporation tax in 2012, despite revenues of £500 million. Indeed, the company made global profits of £6 billion last year, but says that it pays bulk of its tax where business originated – the United States. Its representatives argued that the company made a significant contribution to the United Kingdom through investment and jobs.
Back in 2011, Google paid £6 million while showing a £24 million loss on a £400 million turnover. The US company has been repeatedly accused of failing to pay its fair share of tax in the United Kingdom. In addition, the tech giant has been criticized for designating Ireland, and not the United Kingdom, as Google’s official European sales base in order to benefit from lower company tax rates.

Google’s former employee, who turned to be a whistle blower, handed over documents to HM Revenue and Customs to show how the company’s London sales staff would negotiate and sign contracts with UK customers, with cash paid into a British bank account. However, the deals were allegedly booked through Google’s Dublin office in order to minimize its liabilities.

According to the recent Companies House filings, the tech giant also set aside £24 million for taxes associated with shares awarded to staff between 2005 and 2011, in order to comply with new rules from HMRC. In response, Google claimed it was right that the majority of its tax should be paid in the United States. The company’s representatives argued the company made a huge contribution to Britain via investment and jobs.

Google explained that like most multinationals it pays the bulk of its £1.2 billion corporate tax bill where its business originated – the United States. This is a rate of almost 20%, roughly what a Britain-based entity would pay. Google also considers itself a significant contributor to the British economy having created more than 2,000 jobs. The company has invested over £300 million in property in 2013, with tax related to British operations totaled £150 million.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Dead & Forgotten?….No!

Social media users warned to prepare for digital afterlife

Millions of Facebook and Twitter users are being urged to leave instructions to manage their social media accounts from beyond the grave

A new Digital Legacy Guide from has been made available, containing advice on how people can ensure their online accounts expire when they do.

The guide covers everything from social media accounts to online logins for sites such as Amazon, Google, professional directories, supermarket voucher schemes and music and film sites.

People with a significant online presence could find friends and family receiving sombre and unnecessary reminders of a recent death, for example, via poorly-timed social media birthday notifications.

More importantly, unplanned digital legacies could pose potentially harmful security issues. Any digital legacy should contain a financial element, as direct debits will continue to leave a bank account until it is frozen by the provision of a death certificate.

Silver surfers are increasingly adopting the internet with nearly one in five people aged 65 to 74 using social network sites, according to the Office for National Statistics. In addition, more than half of Facebook users are over the age of 35.

And as well as social media profiles, many people store a wealth of sensitive personal information on websites and email accounts which could go unchecked on someone's death.

Emma Myers, Head of Wills, Probate and Lifetime Planning at, said it was important people consider what will happen to their digital existence when they pass away.

"Being a relatively new invention, there are not yet any substantial legal procedures in place to protect your online presence and even less still when you die," she said.

"In the same way you would not want your loved ones falling out or being inconvenienced over a missing will when you die, it's also imperative to plan ahead for the great internet cafe in the sky."

The guide also advises the public to compile a secure "online directory", detailing all active internet accounts along with requests for how each should be dealt with.

Ms Myers continued: "Given how new an invention the internet is, it's perhaps not surprising that many people are not yet familiar with the idea of a digital legacy.

"Yet as we continue to live more and more of our lives online, it's become increasingly important to start planning for our virtual afterlife when we pass away.

"Accounts registered with everything from social media pages, email providers, online retailers and online banking contain sensitive information that should be removed. This is especially true where banking information is involved."

"With the internet still being somewhat of a legal grey area, we understand the importance of consumers being aware of the risks - emotional, practical and financial - of not properly setting your online affairs in order."

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Cyber Wars??

UK to Form a Cyber Army

Britain is going to recruit hundreds of computer experts to create a cyber-army. The unit is supposed to defend vital networks against virtual attacks and launch high-tech assaults of its own. The Ministry of Defense announced that the country is spending increasing amounts on defending the people from the threats they are unlikely to ever face.
Despite the fact that the United Kingdom is broke, it still has the 4th largest defense budget in the world. A large part of this cash is not being spent on cyber intelligence and surveillance. Back in 2012, cyber defenses blocked about 400,000 advanced malicious cyber threats against the government’s secure Internet alone. This shows that the threat is real.

However, the Ministry of Defense points out that building cyber defense is not sufficient, because the United Kingdom also has to deter attacks. The country said that it is going to build a dedicated capability to counterattack in cyberspace and, in case of necessity, to strike. The representatives of the Ministry added that clinical “cyber strikes” could disable enemy communications, nuclear and chemical weapons, planes, ships and other hardware.

It was announced that the British government would recruit a new Joint Cyber Reserve. The “reservists” are supposed to work alongside existing experts in numerous government agencies, including the Ministry of Defense and the extremely unpopular GCHQ surveillance agency.

Saturday, 9 November 2013


French Watchdog Threatens Google

It seems that the search giant is tired of getting threats from watchdogs all over the world – every day someone barks at Google. Today France’s data-protection watchdog warned that it is going to impose sanctions against the company, after it missed a 3-month deadline to adjust its privacy policy.
CNIL, the French outfit, claimed that it had initiated procedures to fine the search engine after Google failed to meet a deadline to fix its policy on how it gathers and uses information. CNIL pointed out that on the final day before the deadline, the search giant contested the request.

The fine of up to $200,000 is insignificant for Google, which made $10.7 billion in profits last year. However, the fine comes as data-protection agencies in the UK, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands are investigating the company’s privacy policy. Google is also facing pressure to adjust its privacy policy in the United States.

A year ago, the tech giant changed its privacy policy in EU to combine over 60 of its services into one. In other words, Google consolidated data collected across the services. This is why consumer groups expressed concern that people might not want the data from those services to be connected.

The French watchdog claimed in June that the company’s new privacy policy was a violation of the local 1978 data protection act. CNIL asked Google to clarify its privacy policy and to modify its data-collection instruments.

Google replied that its privacy policy respects EU law and allows to create simpler, more effective services. The company has engaged fully with the watchdog throughout this process, and is going to continue doing so. The CNIL's move comes in a week when an American judge ruled that the tech giant may violate wiretap legislation when it scans the e-mails of non-Gmail users. This court decision will allow a class action lawsuit against Google, backed by privacy advocates, to move forward.

Judge Lucy Koh also decided that the company’s privacy agreements were less than explicit. She pointed out that a reasonable Gmail user reading the Privacy Policies wouldn’t have necessarily understood that their e-mails were being intercepted in order to create user profiles or to provide targeted advertisements.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Happy Birthday

Free Software Foundation Turns 30

Richard Stallman, recognized worldwide as free software guru, president of the Free Software Foundation and a person who started the development of the free software operating system GNU nearly 30 years ago.
As you know, the GNU/Linux system is used on tens of millions of devices these days. Stallman also established the League for Programming Freedom. The latter campaigned against legal threats to programming.

Richard Stallman explained that it is now thirty years since he started the campaign for freedom in computing. According to his words, since he started, the IT scene has changed dramatically – today most people in advanced countries own PCs and smartphones which can be like computers.

However, he is still worried that non-free software makes users surrender control over their computing to someone else. Actually, the situation has become worse because of Service as a Software Substitute (SaaSS), which means allowing someone else’s server do your own computing activities.

This was all highlighted by the PRISM scandal, revealing that non-free software and SaaSS are able to spy on the user, shackle the user, and even attack the user. Stallman admitted that malware was common in services and proprietary software apps because people don't have control over them.

In the meantime, free software is controlled by its users. Therefore, freedom means having control over their own lives. Nevertheless, Service as a Software Substitute leads to the same injustices as using a non-free app.

In case someone uses a SaaSS translation service, their text is sent to the server. Then the server translates it and sends the translation back to the user. In other words, users are entrusting all the relevant information to the server operator. The latter may be forced to show it to the state under the current law. The scheme is simple: if the users don’t control the software, the software controls the users.

Richard Stallman was also talking about another difficulty: non-free software forces other people to use it as well. For example, if you use the non-free Skype app, another person has to use it as well, thus surrendering their freedoms along with yours.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Here Chick Chick!!

Best dressed chicken in town: hens go hi-vis

Chicken owners are dressing their animals in hi visibility jackets to help them cross the road safely

It will not solve the riddle as to why the chicken crossed the road, but it might mean that the bird is more easily spotted when it does so.
After public officials, cyclists and schoolchildren, the nation’s pet chickens have become the latest group to succumb to Britain’s “high visibility” culture.
Owners are dressing their domestic flocks in new fluorescent bibs, which have been specially designed to keep the creatures seen in the autumn evenings.
The bibs are meant for the growing numbers of people who keep chickens as pets, especially in urban and suburban areas, to protect the birds from motorists.
The bibs, costing £12 and available in pink or yellow, went on sale earlier this month.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Canada + VPN = Chaos

Canada Wants VPNs to Log and Warn Pirating Customers
Canada is moving forward with the implementation of its new copyright bill, which spells trouble for VPN providers based in the North American country. Under the new legislation Internet providers and VPN services will be required to log customers for at least six months, and forward takedown notices they receive from copyright holders. Aside from the obvious privacy implications, the new rules will drive up costs and increase liability for companies large and small

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

We’re Watching You!!

Luxembourg Authorities Investigating Skype’s Relationship With NSA

Skype is not spying on you, or at least that’s what it said back in July of last year. That claim is now suspect in the wake of the Snowden leaks, especially one that found Skype had made it easier for the NSA/FBI to intercept calls being made on the service. Now Skype’s home country of Luxembourg has opened an investigation into the company.
The Guardian reports that Luxembourg’s data protection commissioner has opened an investigation regarding Skype’s alleged ties to the NSA. In particular, the commissioner wants to find out if Skype is in violation of the country’s strict surveillance laws. The country only approves surveillance in one of two ways – judicial approval or through a tribunal.
What’s interesting about this investigation is that Skype’s work with the NSA could be totally legal in Luxembourg. The Guardian notes that Skype’s activities may have been approved through some secret means not privy to the data protection commissioner. If that turns out to be the case, he will be hit with the one-two punch of not only being able to prosecute, but also learning that the government went over his head to approve surveillance.
If Skype is found in violation of the law, however, the commissioner will be able to pursue a number of remedies. For starters, he could outright ban Skype from sharing communications data with the NSA or any other government entity. It also faces the usual fines that come with privacy violations.
A lot of the concerns regarding Skype are not new. Last year, the company announced that it was moving from decentralized P2P communications to servers. The move was defended as a way to increase call quality, but moving away from P2P also makes it easier for the authorities to eavesdrop on and even save calls made over Skype. The company vehemently denied such accusations last year, but as noted above, it’s a little harder to do so now that we know about PRISM.
With Skype under investigation, where does this leave Microsoft? Well, the company has already made it clear that it intends to fight the U.S. government on making the NSA and its federal data request program more transparent. If its wish is granted, we would most likely be able to see how many people are targeted on Skype. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t seem too interested in actually stopping Skype surveillance though. Maybe Luxembourg’s data protection commissioner has more luck in his investigation.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Anything For A Bone?

Tightrope act that’s barking

EVERY dog has its day...and that certainly applies to four-year-old Ozzy who has earned himself the title of fastest dog to cross a tightrope.
The border collie-kelpie crossbreed, a former contestant on Britain’s Got Talent, made it into the Guinness Book of Records. Ozzy, who lives in Norwich with his owner and best friend Nick Johnson, crossed an 11ft rope in 18.22 seconds at the Faith Animal Rescue Centre in Norfolk. Father-of-two Nick, a 51-year-old carpenter, has no formal dog training experience and had never had a pooch before Ozzy.
He said: “We only practise when Ozzy is in the mood, after he’s done all his important dog stuff like sniffing around and meeting other dogs.”

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Phew…..A Bit Of A Drop!!

Don't look down - the stomach-churning Swiss mountain ride

These are the stomach-churning pictures of Europe's steepest funicular which has a gradient of 106 per cent - but not a seatbelt in sight.
The breathtaking images show two children clutching onto a single rail as the ground drops away beneath them in Bern, Switzerland.

The Gelmerbahn funicular takes tourists a vertigo-inducing 6,000 feet above sea level to Lake Gelmer and while the journey might be slow it's not for the faint-hearted.
Open carriages take 24 passengers up the steep cliff face from Handegg, in Hasli Valley, on a scary but scenic ride which lasts about 12 minutes.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Pay & Display??

Vegetation hides parked vehicle

Making your car disappear under a mass of vegetation is one way to ensure you won’t be getting a parking ticket.
But we’re not too sure that was what this car owner was aiming for when their vehicle was overrun with shrubbery in a neighbourhood in Chengdu, Sichuan province.
It turned out the car had been left in the parking area for more than a year and in that time had become camouflaged by plant life.
Its original owner, Wang Ping, told authorities he had sold the vehicle three years ago after he was tracked down via the license plate, NBC News reported.
Unfortunately he had long disregarded any information he had on the buyer, so they were unable to be contact the new owner.
The vehicle was snapped from above in a picture that showed vegetation growing out of it.
Bemused onlookers stood by as officers inspected it.
It was eventually towed away after police were unable to remove the thick vines that had consumed it.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Whose A Pretty Boy??

Man Arrested After Throwing Parrot at Cop

Waterbury police arrested a man they said threw a parrot at a police officer during a chase in the Connecticut city on Tuesday night.
Police were responding to Orange Street for a report of a fight just after 10 p.m. when the bizarre incident happened.
Officers did not find a fight, but saw Luis Santana, 32, nearby on High Street running away, wearing no shirt and holding a white parrot, police said.
When police told Santana to stop, he tossed the bird at the officer, police said. The animal bit the policeman’s finger and Santana ran away through the woods, police said.
A witness was able to lead police to the suspect, who had allegedly barged into an apartment and was hiding in a bathroom.

Santana was charged with cruelty to animals
, assault on a police officer, disorderly conduct, second-degree burglary and interfering with a police officer.
He was released from custody and is due in court on Nov. 18 for the charges, as well as a breach of peace charge and a charge of resisting arrest in connection with an incident on Oct. 9.
The Waterbury pound has the bird.