Chancellor Philip Hammond sets out the government’s Cyber-Security Strategy

(qlmbusinessnews.com via bloomberg.com – – Tue, 1 Nov, 2016) London, Uk – –

Cyber security
UK in Spain/flickr.com

Businesses and homes are increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks as people install Internet-connected appliances and companies rely on outdated systems, U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond warned.

Hammond used a speech in London Tuesday to set out the British government’s Cyber-Security Strategy, pledging to “strike back” against malicious activity. It came as the U.K.’s spy chief warned Russia is using the same online tools to target Britain. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, MI5 Director General Andrew Parker said Russia is an increasing threat to the U.K. and is employing cyber attacks to threaten its industry, economy and military capability.

Russia “is using its whole range of state organs and powers to push its foreign policy abroad in increasingly aggressive ways — involving propaganda, espionage, subversion and cyber-attacks,” Parker told the Guardian. “Russia is at work across Europe and in the U.K. today. It is MI5’s job to get in the way of that.”

Parker’s claims were dismissed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said they had no bearing in reality.
‘Activist’ Approach

Parker said his interview, the first given by the service’s chief in its 107-year history, reflects the need for the public to understand the interventions required to keep them safe. That point was taken up Hammond, who pledged to boost law-enforcement capabilities and encourage universities to conduct research into security as part of a more “activist” approach.

“Britain is already an acknowledged global leader in cyber security,” Hammond said in a statement before the speech. “Our new strategy, underpinned by 1.9 billion pounds ($2.3 billion) of support over five years and excellent partnerships with industry and academia, will allow us to take even greater steps to defend ourselves in cyberspace and to strike back when we are attacked.”

Britain has identified cyber attacks as a “tier one” national-security risk, alongside terrorism and global instability. To fight the threat, a National Cyber Security Center is due to have a full staff of 700 in its new London headquarters next year. The government is also seeking to push through a bill before Parliament to preserve and extend the powers of security and law-enforcement agencies, allowing them to gain access to communications.

The bill is a proportionate response to the threat to the U.K. and effectively balances privacy and security, Parker told the Guardian.

By Robert Hutton and Thomas Penny

Hitachi invests millions of dollars in robots meant to help Japan’s aging citizens

 

Bloomberg's Hello World host Ashlee Vance visited Japanese technology giant Hitachi. The tech conglomerate has invested millions of dollars to invent all manner of robots meant to help Japan’s aging citizens in the years ahead.

 

Significant price overhaul of Apple’s new MacBook Pro in the UK post Brexit

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.businessinsider.com – – Fri, 28 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

 

Macbook
Gordon Mei/flickr.com

Apple's new laptops are extremely pretty — but they don't come cheap for Brits.

On Thursday, the Californian technology announced an overhaul of its MacBook Pro line, giving the devices a redesign and adding a touch-sensitive screen that sits above the keyboard.

But it also bumped up the prices for the laptops very significantly in the UK — far more than it did in its home market, the US — in what seems to be a response to the weakness of the pound following the Brexit vote.

Even existing Mac lines — ones that haven't been updated — have had their prices raised in the UK.

Some kind of price increase is often inevitable when doing a big product overhaul. And that's what you see in the States. The cheapest 13-inch MacBook Pro before the upgrade was $1,299; now, it's $1,499.

But in Britain, this price bump is far larger. The cheapest 13-inch MacBook Pro, pre-upgrade? £999. Now? £1,449.

That's an increase of £450 in the UK, compared to $200 in the US. (And remember: The dollar is worth less than the pound!)

This is even more pronounced on the more expensive 15-inch MacBook Pros. The cheapest model, pre-upgrade, was $1,999 in the US and £1,599 in the UK. Post-upgrade, it's $2,399 and £2,349.

That's a price increase of £750 in the UK, compared to an increase of $400 in the US.

An Apple spokesperson provided Business Insider with a boilerplate statement it has used in the past on the subject (emphasis ours):

“Apple suggests product prices internationally on the basis of several factors, including currency exchange rates, local import laws, business practices, taxes, and the cost of doing business. These factors vary from region to region and over time, such that international prices are not always comparable to US suggested retail prices.”

What's changed in Britain this year? Brexit! In June, Britain voted to leave the European Union — shaking markets and causing the pound to lose 18% of its value, dropping to 31-year lows.

Apple isn't trying to fleece British consumers here. As The Guardian's Alex Hern pointed out on Twitter, a “straight USD/GBP exchange, plus 20% for VAT, results in much the same prices.”

It's just that the previous relationship between US and UK prices is no longer applicable due to the falling value of the pound, and so Apple has updated it to correspond with the current USD-GBP exchange rate — protecting its margins, and sending British prices rocketing.

It's also worth noting that the online price listings aren't necessarily direct comparisons, as the US prices don't include sales tax, while the UK ones do include VAT (Value-Added Tax). But sales tax is generally lower than VAT, and in some states like Oregon it's as low as 0%.

We saw something similar happen in September, after the iPhone 7 was announced. Apple took the opportunity to quietly bump up the prices for certain models of iPhone and iPad in the UK — while not changing prices in the US.

And now Apple's doing it again. The MacBook Pro price hike at least comes alongside a redesign — but the company has also raised UK prices on a number of existing products. The 6-core Mac Pro now costs £3,899, £600 more than its previous price of £3,299, while its US price hasn't budged. The Mac Mini and iMac have also had UK price increases.

Rob Price

 

UK technology start-up Improbable seeks backing from both sides of the Atlantic

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.finance.yahoo.com via new.sky.com – – Wed, 26 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

A British technology company which last year attracted money from one of the hottest investors in Silicon Valley is in talks with prospective backers about a new funding round that could value it at more than £400m.

Sky News has learnt that Improbable, which creates virtual worlds used in complex computer games, has approached investors on both sides of the Atlantic (Shanghai: 600558.SS – news) about putting fresh money into the business.

The talks, which have yet to be concluded, come 18 months after Improbable took $20m from Andreessen Horowitz, the California-based tech investor which was an early backer of Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB – news) .

Improbable is widely regarded as one of the most exciting companies to be based in Tech City, the district of London which acts as a hub for digital start-ups.

The company, which says its software has a wide variety of potential applications, such as modelling how a virus might spread through a major city, was founded little more than three years ago by Herman Narula, a Cambridge computer science graduate.

Improbable has also described its Spatial operating system as being applicable in areas such as economics, finance, town planning, transport and military training.

Last year's fundraising was reported to have valued Improbable at $100m, with talks about a new round raised at five times that valuation raising eyebrows among some technology investors.

“It's a fantastic idea, but the revenue model isn't really proven yet,” said one serial backer of London start-ups.

Improbable is understood to have presented at a conference hosted by Allen & Co, the investment bank which focuses on technology and media deals, earlier this year.

Augmented and virtual reality companies are attracting significant investment from global technology investors, further inflating many of their valuations.

Allen & Co is now said to be assisting Improbable with its fundraising discussions. Improbable declined to comment.

Major websites across the internet knocked out by massive cyber attack

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Sat, 22 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Hackers unleashed a complex attack on the internet through common devices like webcams and digital recorders and cut access to some of the world's best known websites on Friday, a stunning breach of global internet stability.

The attacks struck Twitter, Paypal, Spotify and other customers of an infrastructure company in New Hampshire called Dyn, which acts as a switchboard for internet traffic.

The attackers used hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices that had previously been infected with a malicious code that allowed them to cause outages that began in the Eastern United States and then spread to other parts of the country and Europe.

“The complexity of the attacks is what’s making it very challenging for us,” said Dyn’s chief strategy officer, Kyle York. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said they were investigating.

The disruptions come at a time of unprecedented fears about the cyber threat in the United States, where hackers have breached political organizations and election agencies.

Friday's outages were intermittent and varied by geography. Users complained they could not reach dozens of internet destinations including Mashable, CNN, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Yelp and some businesses hosted by Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O).

Dyn said attacks were coming from millions of internet addresses, making it one of the largest attacks ever seen. Security experts said it was an especially potent type of distributed denial-of-service attack, or DDoS, in which attackers flood the targets with so much junk traffic that they freeze up.

VULNERABILITIES EXPLOITED

Dyn said that at least some of the malicious traffic was coming from connected devices, including webcams and digital video recorders, that had been infected with control software named Mirai. Security researchers have previously raised concerns that such connected devices, sometimes referred to as the Internet of Things, lack proper security.

The Mirai code was dumped on the internet about a month ago, and criminal groups are now charging to employ it in cyber attacks, said Allison Nixon, director of security research at Flashpoint, which was helping Dyn analyse the attack.

Dale Drew, chief security officer at communications provider Level 3, said that other networks of compromised machines were also used in Friday's attack, suggesting that the perpetrator had rented access to several so-called botnets.

The attackers took advantage of traffic-routing services such as those offered by Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google and Cisco Systems Inc's (CSCO.O) OpenDNS to make it difficult for Dyn to root out bad traffic without also interfering with legitimate inquiries, Drew said.

“Dyn can't simply block the (Internet Protocol) addresses they are seeing, because that would be blocking Google or OpenDNS,” said Matthew Prince, CEO of security and content delivery firm CloudFlare. “These are nasty attacks, some of the hardest to protect against.”

GOVERNMENT WARNED OF ATTACKS

Drew and Nixon both said that the makers of connected devices needed to do far more to make sure that the gadgets can be updated after security flaws are discovered.

Big businesses should also have multiple vendors for core services like routing internet traffic, and security experts said those Dyn customers with backup domain name service providers would have stayed reachable.
The Department of Homeland Security last week issued a warning about attacks from the Internet of Things, following the release of the code for Mirai.

Attacking a large domain name service provider like Dyn can create massive disruptions because such firms are responsible for forwarding large volumes of internet traffic.

Dyn said it had resolved one morning attack, which disrupted operations for about two hours, but disclosed a second a few hours later that was causing further disruptions. By Friday evening it was fighting a third.

Amazon's web services division, one of the world's biggest cloud computing companies, reported that the issue temporarily affected users in Western Europe. Twitter (TWTR.N) and some news sites could not be accessed by some users in London late on Friday evening.

PayPal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O) said that the outage prevented some customers in “certain regions” from making payments. It apologised for the inconvenience and said that its networks had not been hacked.

A month ago, security guru Bruce Schneier wrote that someone, probably a country, had been testing increasing levels of denial-of-service attacks against unnamed core internet infrastructure providers in what seemed like a test of capability.

Nixon said there was no reason to think a national government was behind Friday's assaults, but attacks carried out on a for-hire basis are famously difficult to attribute.

(Reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco, Jim Finkle in Boston and Dustin Volz in Washington. Additional reporting by Eric Auchard in Frankurt, Malathi Nayak in New York, Jeff Mason and Mark Hosenball in Washington, Adrian Croft and Frances Kerry in London; Editing by Bill Trott, Lisa Shumaker and Jonathan Weber)

HSBC : Virtual reality worlds the future of holidays

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.businessinsider.com – – Thur, 20 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

The future of transport and tourism may well involve not going anywhere.
Researchers at HSBC have seen the future and it features a lot of virtual reality.

People will be able to use the technology to visit virtual worlds as real as our own, HSBC analysts Davey Jose and Anton Tonev said in a note to clients.

And, while they'll be free to visit, they might be full of ads.
VR could “create a many new avenues for recreation and leisure, and if it follows the ad models of many of the technology giants today, these VR recreation activities could be free,” HSBC said.

“If this is the case, instead of recreation costs going up, costs could decline, even if the number of hours spent in virtual worlds for leisure increases.”

Tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Sony are pushing virtual reality headsets as the next big thing. In a demo last week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed off “Social VR,” using a combination of the Oculus Rift headset and a 360-degree camera to mash together virtual reality and the real world.

The technology has endless applications and the workplace of the future may well only exist in virtual reality, eliminating the need to commute to the office, the HSBC analysts said.

Meanwhile, physical transport will become totally autonomous. With less traffic and more AI-driven vehicles, the era of car collisions and deaths on the road will end sometime around 2040, according to the HSBC report.
Key to this change is the development of “haptics” – technology that engages all the senses in the virtual world, rather than just sight and sound, to make it feel more real.

“With technology rapidly advancing and R&D efforts going into the development of better ‘haptics’, where one will be able to ‘feel’ in the virtual world, we believe that it’s likely that the next generation of ‘VR natives’ may find it preferable to utilise VR to travel virtually rather than physically,” HSBC said.

The investment bank added that this might not be such a big leap as we might think. “The shift from the physical to a digital format, in general, is not a novel concept, it has happened before,” HSBC said, pointing to the communication switch from physical letters to virtual e-mails.
“For example, physical mail in US and China declined from the early 2000s to 2014/15 by about 40%. However, in this time, average emails sent increased fifteen-fold, from 12bn to over 200bn per day,” HSBC said.

Travelling to virtual rather than real places is quicker, cheaper and safer than conventional physical transport, HSBC said.
The rise of the technology could cut commute times and make it more attractive to live out in the countryside rather than the city.
This would solve the problem of rising commuting times and growing work days, freeing up precious time to spend in virtual reality holiday worlds.

While it remains to be seen whether the experience of virtual reality will top the excitement of travelling to new places, it certainly would be more convenient.

By Ben Moshinsky

Uk hit by £10 billion annual cybercrime

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.businessinsider.com – – Wed, 19 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

The UK economy lost up to £10.9 billion as a result of online fraud and cybersecurity last year, according to new research — that's around £210 for every person over the age of 16 in the country.

The figures, from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and crime awareness group Get Safe Online (GSO), would likely be even higher if more cybercrime was reported. 39% of those who had been victims of cybercrime in a GSO survey said that they hadn't reported the incident.
The report also highlights a worrying gap in people's understanding of what constitutes an online crime.

86% said that they had not been targeted by cyber criminals in the past 12 months. 68% of respondents, however, said they had been targeted in a variety of ways — deceptive emails, fraudulent websites, and email account hacking, all of which are common methods for online theft.
Another worrying trend is the rise of ransomware, a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. 3% of victims in the survey had been victims of ransomware.

The research also highlighted a widespread belief that cybercrime is inevitable — 37% of those surveyed who have been a victim of cybercrime said that they felt there was “nothing that could be done” to prevent it.
Tony Neate, chief executive of GSO, said in an emailed statement: “The fact that over a third of people felt there was nothing that could have been done to stop them becoming a victim is alarming indeed – particularly when it’s so easy to protect yourself online.”

City of London Police’s commander Chris Greany said: “The huge financial loss to cybercrime hides the often harrowing human stories that destroy lives and blights every community in the UK.

“All of us need to ask ourselves are we doing everything we can to protect ourselves from online criminals. Unfortunately, people still click on links in unsolicited emails and fail to update their security software. Just as you wouldn’t leave your door unlocked, so you shouldn’t leave yourself unprotected online,” he added.

By Thomas Colson

Saudi Arabia and Japan’s SoftBank Group, to create technology investment fund of $100 billion

(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com – – Sat, 15 Oct, 2016) London, UK – –

Saudi Arabia and Japan's SoftBank Group (9984.T) will create a technology investment fund that could grow as large as $100 billion, making it one of the world's largest private equity investors and a potential kingpin in the industry.

The move is part of a series of dramatic business initiatives launched by Riyadh this year as Saudi Arabia, its economy hurt by low oil prices, deploys huge financial reserves in an effort to move into non-oil industries.

Earlier this year, it invested $3.5 billion in U.S. ride-hailing firm Uber, surprising many.

SoftBank, a $68 billion telecommunications and tech investment behemoth, has also been stepping up investment in new areas. It agreed to buy U.K. chip design firm Arm Holdings in July in Japan's largest ever outbound deal.

Saudi Arabia's top sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), will be the lead investment partner and may invest up to $45 billion over the next five years while SoftBank expects to invest at least $25 billion.

Several other large, unnamed investors are in active talks on their participation and could bring the total size of the new fund up to $100 billion, SoftBank said.

“Over the next decade, the SoftBank Vision Fund will be the biggest investor in the technology sector,” SoftBank Chairman Masayoshi Son said in a statement.

At an annual rate of $20 billion, the new London-based fund could at current levels account for roughly a fifth of global venture capital investment.

In the year to September, venture capital-backed companies globally raised $79 billion, according to data from KPMG and CB Insights, with tech start-ups attracting the lion's share of that cash.

“Son is very good at looking for companies with big growth prospects, and that will create fierce competition,” said Hiroyuki Kuroda, secretary general of the Venture Enterprise Center in Japan.

The project will be led for SoftBank by Rajeev Misra, the group's head of strategic finance and who joined the Japanese firm in 2014 from Fortress Investment Group, a private equity and hedge fund group. PIF will engage its own team.

INVESTMENT POWER

Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, leading an economic reform drive in the kingdom, has revealed a string of high-profile investment plans this year.

He aims to expand the PIF, founded in 1971 to finance development projects in the kingdom, from $160 billion to about $2 trillion, making it the world's largest sovereign fund.

In June, the PIF departed from Saudi Arabia's traditional strategy of low-risk investments and took a step into the tech world with the Uber investment.

That deal which illustrated how Riyadh now hopes to use its investments to develop the economy: Uber is a popular form of transport for Saudi women, who are banned from driving, and is creating badly needed non-oil jobs for Saudi citizens.

SoftBank, a diverse company with stakes from U.S. carrier Sprint (S.N) to e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA.N), is also changing, shifting towards cutting edge tech investments after Son scrapped retirement plans in July and announced plans to reinforce “SoftBank 2.0”. It is still wrestling with a $112 billion debt pile and the turnaround of Sprint.

“SoftBank has been looking to invest aggressively in the internet of things, and this fund is part of that wider move,” said Naoki Yokota, analyst at SMBC Friend Research Center Ltd.

(Reporting by Andrew Torchia and Tom Wilson; Additional reporting by Sami Aboudi in Jerusalem, Ali Abdelatti in Cairo, William Maclean in Dubai and Eric Auchard in Frankfurt; Writing by Clara Ferreira-Marques; Editing by Edwina Gibbs