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  1. Yesterday
  2. Since 2017, many Kodi addon and 'pirate' app developers have chosen to discontinue their projects and disappear into the shadows. Yet, unlike historical shutdowns of torrent and streaming platforms, most of these moves haven't made the headlines. The informational black hole is notable but can be explained. Those targeted are compelled not to say a word. It’s impossible to say how many lawyers have been deployed to shut down piracy-related projects over the years. Dozens would be a conservative estimate but just one beating down the door can be an intimidating experience. In the early 2000s and for at least the next decade and beyond, many efforts to shut down pirate sites and services were accompanied by triumphant press releases. Arrests, court appearances, and usually negative verdicts against pirates became a rallying point for the content industries, with the head-on-a-pike deterrent proving a valuable tool in the propaganda wars. Last year, however, a new tactic appeared to gain momentum. In addition to strategic publicized cases against larger-scale infringers, a steady undercurrent of threats became evident in the Kodi addon and pirate application community. Rather than breaking down doors, content owners approached developers quietly, warning that shutting down is the only real way to avoid punishing legal action. Most of the approaches were made by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), the global anti-piracy coalition made up of 30 of the world’s most powerful entertainment companies. This fact has been made public by a number of developers, with some publishing correspondence on the web. Many others, however, simply announced their retirement and disappeared, often around the same time that other developers took the same course of action. When approached for comment most refused to offer details but it’s clear that decisions weren’t being made freely. It won’t come as a surprise to learn that many, in exchange for not having their lives ruined, agreed to take a vow of silence. After collating information from a number of sources, we can now reveal some of the tactics being used against developers involved in ‘pirate’ projects. While the details vary from case to case, most approaches begin with a detailed overview of the project the developer is involved in and various laws that ACE believe are being broken. This is followed up with details of a multi-point settlement deal which can potentially see the developer exit with a minimum of costs. As previously reported, some of the terms are fairly unpalatable, including an agreement to report on associates and colleagues involved in the project and associated projects. We have no idea whether anyone targeted has done so but we know the settlement agreement contains such clauses. However, aside from ending all infringing activities, the number one insistence is that recipients keep their mouths firmly shut. In order to protect those who have disclosed information, we aren’t publishing direct quotes from the settlement agreements. However, we can disclose that those entering settlements are forbidden from speaking to anyone (apart from their legal advisors) about the contents of the agreement, but it goes further than that. Those targeted are expressly forbidden from telling anyone that they have even been contacted or that discussions are taking place, something that really isolates people seeking to receive external help and advice. Furthermore, if the recipient’s case is discussed with ACE at all, no information – whether spoken or in written form – can be revealed to any third-party (outside legal counsel). As far as we can see from the documents available, this means they aren’t even allowed to discuss the terms with a close friend or family member. However, in return for their full cooperation, it appears that ACE will keep their identities a secret. If announcements to the press are made (which thus far hasn’t been the coalition’s modus operandi), ACE has told those who sign agreements that they won’t be named or identified in other ways. With this background, it’s not difficult to see why developers are choosing to shut down their projects and disappear quietly. While some will find the terms of ACE’s settlement agreement difficult, it’s undoubtedly better than the alternative. With billions of dollars up their collective sleeves, ACE members have unlimited access to legal weaponry and could drain the average person’s finances in a matter of months in legal fees alone. Quite why ACE has chosen to act against developers so quietly isn’t clear but given that most of their targets thus far have been bedroom-based Joe Publics, it’s possible that the “30 Goliaths versus David” imagery is something some its members would prefer not to be associated with. Finally, users worried by a potential hand over of information to authorities as highlighted by the Terrarium TV case this week (note: we have no confirmation that ACE was involved) shouldn’t be surprised when developers act to save their own skin. Privacy and security is the user’s own responsibility and in the Wild West of piracy, anything can happen.
  3. A Latvian hacker behind the development and operation of counter antivirus service "Scan4You" has finally been sentenced to 14 years in prison. 37-year-old Ruslans Bondars, described as a Latvian "non-citizen" or "citizen of the former USSR who had been residing in Riga, Latvia," was found guilty on May 16 in federal court in Alexandria, during which a co-conspirator revealed he had worked with Russian law enforcement. Bondars created and ran Scan4you—a VirusTotal like online multi-engine antivirus scanning service that allowed hackers to run their code by several popular antiviruses to determine if their computer virus or malware would be flagged during routine security scans before launching them into a real-world malware campaign. While legal scanning services share data about uploaded files with the antivirus firms, Scan4you instead informed its users that they could "upload files anonymously and promised not to share information about the uploaded files with the antivirus community." Bondars was one of the two hackers found to have been running Scan4you from 2009 to 2016 and helping other malware authors test and improve the malware they then "used to inflict hundreds of millions of dollars in losses on American companies and consumers." Bondars’ partner Jurijs Martisevs, who was also arrested while on a trip to Latvia and extradited to the United States, pleaded guilty to similar charges back in March this year. scan4you online antivirus scanner According to the Justice Department press release, Scan4you customers used the service to steal millions of payment cards from retail stores across the world, including the United States, which led to some $20.5 billion in losses. For instance, one Scan4you customer used the service to test malware that was subsequently used to steal approximately 40 million credit and debit card numbers, and other personal information from a US retail store, causing $292 million in losses. Another customer used Scan4you to assist the development of "Citadel"—a widely used malware strain that infected over 11 million computers worldwide, including in the United States and resulted in over $500 million in fraud-related losses. "Ruslans Bondars helped malware developers attack American businesses," said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski. "The Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners make no distinction between service providers like Scan4You and the hackers they assist: we will hold them accountable for all of the significant harm they cause and work tirelessly to bring them to justice, wherever they may be located." Bondars was convicted of three counts, including conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and computer intrusion with intent to cause damage and was sentenced to 168 months in prison on Friday. Although US court never charged Bondars with direct involvement in any hacking, court documents show he used malware to rob online users and trick them into buying antivirus services they did not need. Moreover, prosecutors also say Scan4You was an "innovation" in malware that has inspired many copycats, which resulted in such services being readily available on the Internet.
  4. Organized crime is moving online and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is struggling to keep up, according to a briefing note prepared for RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki when she took over the top job earlier this year. The memo, obtained under the access to information law, may launch a renewed battle between the national police service and privacy advocates. "Increasingly, criminality is conducted on the internet and investigations are international in nature, yet investigative tools and RCMP capacity have not kept pace," says the memo tucked into Lucki's briefing book. "Growing expectations of policing responsibilities and accountability, as well as complexities of the criminal justice system, continue to overwhelm the administrative demands within policing." In 2016 nearly 24,000 cybercrime-related cases were reported to Canadian police, up 58 per cent over 2014. The report's authors note that cybercrime tends to be under-reported. •Federal budget shores up cyber defences but is silent on new jets and warships •Number of police officers per Canadian hits 13-year low, Goodale told •THE HOUSE: Modernizing the Mounties Encryption of online data has a been a persistent thorn in the RCMP's side. Lucki's predecessor lobbied the government for new powers to bypass digital roadblocks, including tools to get around encryption and warrantless access to internet subscriber information. "Approximately 70 per cent of all communications intercepted by CSIS and the RCMP are now encrypted ... 80 organized crime groups were identified as using encryption in 2016 alone," says the 274-page document. Some critics have noted that non-criminals — journalists, protesters and academics, among others — also use encryption tools online and have warned any new encryption legislation could undermine the security of financial transactions and daily online communication. Ann Cavoukian was Ontario's privacy commissioner for three terms; she now runs Ryerson University's Privacy by Design Centre of Excellence. She called the RCMP's push for more online policing power "appalling." "I guess we should remind them that we still live in a free and democratic society where people have privacy rights, which means that they should be in control of their personal information," she said. "If you're a law abiding citizen, you get to decide how your information is used and to whom it's disclosed. The police have no right to access your personal information online, unless of course they have a warrant." Lucki was specifically warned about criminal suspects "going dark," a term used to describe the gap between the lawful ability of police forces to obtain online evidence and changing technology. She also was advised the RCMP's court-authorized arsenal (things like court orders and "computer network exploitation techniques," which cover hacking) are "rapidly declining." "Get more efficient," said Cavoukian. Parliamentary committee promises to study issue A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said that "encryption is critical to safeguarding our cybersecurity, privacy and the digital economy." "However, it has also created gaps for law enforcement and national security agencies," wrote Scott Bardsley in an email. Earlier this year, the House of Commons' public safety and national security committee released a 76-page report that recommended "no changes to the lawful access regime for subscriber information and encrypted information be made." But the committee didn't shelve the issue, promising instead to study the evolving challenges. "The government will support the standing committee on national security and public safety in its continued work to study these and other emerging technological issues related to cybersecurity," wrote Bardsley. "It will also continue to examine options to ensure agencies have the resources necessary to gain access to decrypted data required to address criminal activity." Cavoukian predicts "a real fight" over the issue. The RCMP receives about $8.5 million annually as part of the government's cyber security strategy. The RCMP didn't meet CBC's deadline for a comment. Attrition issues The briefing binder also flags the RCMP's persistent problem with replenishing its ranks when officers retire or otherwise leave the force. "The RCMP has a growing vacancy rate that exceeds its present ability to produce regular members at a rate that keeps pace with projected future demands," it warns. As of April 2018, there were 1,122 funded vacant regular member positions —a vacancy rate of 5.6 per cent. That's down slightly from the previous year, when the vacancy rate was 6.6 per cent. The briefing note says that in the last five years, there has been a "dramatic" increase in the number of new recruits needed to fill operational vacancies and evolving program requirements. About 1,280 cadets were expected to be enrolled in 2018-2019, up from 1,152 the previous year. In 2016, CBC News reported that the RCMP was dropping its requirement that applicants be Canadian citizens, and that it would accept applications from permanent residents. The RCMP also loosened entrance requirements to deal with a wave of retirements, low pay and the need to expand its pool of potential new officers. Starting this month, the RCMP is dropping its requirement that applicants must be Canadian citizens. It will now accept permanent residents. Post-secondary graduates no longer will have to write an entrance exam that measures aptitude for police work and the force will no longer require a physical abilities evaluation before people submit an application.
  5. BAE Systems is seeking to make the jet fighter cockpit of tomorrow a much simpler place by replacing conventional instruments and controls with a virtual reality system. This "wearable cockpit" would use artificial intelligence and eye-tracking technology to allow pilots to control their aircraft simply by looking and gesturing. The vision is that instead of a complex arrays of dials, touchscreens, buttons, and knobs, the sixth generation fighter interior will be dominated by wide expanses of blank plastic panels with only a few of the most vital readouts and controls available. That is, until the pilot puts on their helmet and turns it on. Then the panels, canopy, and even the pilot's person will be festooned with readouts and controls designed to quickly provide critical information and respond in the most efficient way possible. It will also be a cockpit that can be reconfigured as easily as the home screen on a smartphone. "In terms of future concepts, we are looking at what we are calling a 'wearable cockpit'," says BAE Lead Technologist Jean Page "Here, you remove many of the physical elements of the cockpit, and replace it with a virtual display, projected through the helmet. Essentially, it's a software-only cockpit that's upgradeable, adaptable and reconfigurable. "In such a world, we need to think about what controls are critical to the pilot and then make them easier to manage. Eye-tracking gives you the option of looking at something to highlight it and then making a gesture to 'press' a button, rather than having a series of physical buttons on the aircraft." Developed as part of the Tempest concept fighter, such a cockpit would have a number of advantages. Some of these would be quite obvious – fewer physical readouts and controls mean less material, less weight, and lower costs to build and maintain. In addition, a virtual cockpit could be modified by simply tweaking the software, and could even be altered in flight to match the mission. Such a cockpit can even learn, allowing engineers to make it more efficient by, for example, making sure a warning light wasn't set on the left-hand side of the pilot in a situation when he's more likely to be looking to his right. The result would be cues that would be easier to read and easier to react to. "The really clever bit will be that based on where the pilot is looking, we can infer the pilot's goal and use intelligent systems to support task performance and reduce the pilot's workload," says Page. "We want to do it in a way that doesn't always ask for permission, because that would get very annoying very quickly but equally, it is essential that it is always evident to the pilot what task the intelligent system is performing." Source: BAE Systems
  6. After months of hovering around its target, Japan's Hayabusa 2 mission has made contact. Two of the host spacecraft's landers (ROVER-1A and 1B) have touched down on the surface of the asteroid 162173 Ryugu and have already been hopping around as they take photos (like the one above) and gauge the space rock's temperature. As far as the mission has come, though, it's really just the start. Hayabusa 2 is also poised to launch ROVER-2, which adds optical and ultraviolet LEDs to spot floating dust particles. MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout), meanwhile, will tumble rather than fly but can use its camera, infrared spectrometer, magnetometer and radiometer to study the smaller structural details of the asteroid's looser surface material. The main Hayabusa 2 vessel should near the surface in October, when it will shoot a tantalum 'bullet' into the asteroid so that it can catch particle samples and return them to Earth. You'll be waiting a while for the samples to return. Hayabusa 2 doesn't leave until December 2019, and isn't expected to return home until December 2020. The payoff promises to be huge, though. Scientists will not only collect more samples than during the first Hayabusa mission, they'll have lander data that wasn't available after the first Hayabusa's Minerva robot failed.
  7. U.S. military forces are testing a new, lightweight one-person electric vehicle. The DSRaider all-terrain vehicle has the advantages of traditional ATVs in a smaller, more compact package. Ridden upright like a Segway and capable of carrying more than three hundred pounds across rough terrain, the DSRaider is aimed at soldiers, first responders, and outdoorsmen. DSRaider, an Israeli company, is marketing its EZRaider series of personal all-terrain vehicles as a sturdy, quiet transportation tool for commandos and other troops. The vehicle allows helicopter-borne troops to exit from a helicopter cargo ramp and off into rough terrain without stopping to unpack larger vehicles. The news site Breaking Defense states that, “U.S armed forces have evaluated the EZ Raider and, after a successful set of tests, have purchased a number of them in order to continue the operational evaluation.” The EZRaider line consists of the EZRaider, EZRaider HD2, and EZRaider HD4. Each carries a progressively larger load and can tow an additional payload in a trailer. The HD4 weighs 250 pounds and can carry 462 pounds or two fully equipped soldiers. Two 1200 watt electric motors drive the EZRaider to speeds of up 43 miles an hour, and a 60 volt, 3000 watt hour battery allows it to travel up to 24 miles on a single charge. As an electric vehicle, the EZRaider line is almost totally silent, allowing troops to move quickly and silently across their patrol routes or to their objectives. Unlike a gasoline engine the electric motor produces little heat, giving it a lower infrared signature than an internal combustion engine. According to the manufacturer, the vehicle is steered via handlebars like a jetski. In addition to "operational testing," which typically involves testing vehicles under realistic combat conditions, the personal all terrain vehicles were also tested in a law enforcement exercise in the U.S., where they were used “above and under the ground.
  8. The Russian government plans to demonstrate “stealth camouflage” technology for ground forces capable of changing its appearance. The camouflage, developed by Russian defense contractor Rostec, will be shown off at this week’s Army-2018 defense exposition in Moscow. According to Russian state media the camouflage can change its color and pattern depending on the soldier’s environment. Rostec CEO Sergei Chemezov stated that the technology, “can reflect color changes and imitate complex graphical depictions, up to the leaves wavering in the wind.” Rostec plans to demonstrate the camouflage system on a helmet at Army-2018. It’s unknown exactly how the technology works except that it is “electrically controlled.” Rostec claims that the system could be used for soldier uniforms and even tanks and armored fighting vehicles. The camouflage system is part of the Ratnik-3 soldier improvement program shown above. Ratnik is a decade-long effort to improve the equipment of soldiers in the Russian Ground Forces, particularly the infantry, with new body armor, outdoor equipment, and weapons. Rostec says that 120,000 Ratnik kits have been provided to the Russian Army. Some of the more mundane equipment, such as clothing, compasses, and ear protection, isavailable on eBay. Ratnik-3 is the most ambitious stage to date, including stealth camouflage and a powered exoskeleton system designed to reduce fatigue and increase the carrying capacity of Russian soldiers. While previous iterations of Ratnik concentrated on fairly inexpensive kit, Ratnik-3’s goals are the most technologically complex and expensive to date. Even if Russian industry was able to perfect stealth camo and exoskeletons, it would likely be too expensive to fit to ordinary Russian troops, with small numbers of Russian special forces—spetsnaz—the likely recipients.
  9. The fierce bidding battle over Sky has come to a close -- Comcast has successfully outbid 21st Century Fox to acquire the UK media giant for $39 billion. It clinched the deal following an unusual blind auction through the UK's Takeover Panel, which helps moderate these large scale acquisitions. Comcast had led the bidding for months (including a $34 billion offer in August), but had to go through the Panel after neither side made a final offer. It's a huge coup for Comcast. Sky has 23 million customers across Europe, and has backed the production of shows for Amazon, HBO and Showtime. It's also well-known for its sports broadcasting, such as its Premier League channel. Comcast will soon have a much larger international presence in these fields. It'll certainly help make up for losing Fox's entertainment assets to Disney in July. For Fox, however, it's a serious blow. Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation had been trying to snap up all of Sky over the past decade, but the phone hacking scandal at News International (where newspaper employees compromised phones in the name of stories) derailed that effort. After this defeat, it won't have Sky at all. It's unclear how Comcast's takeover will affect either its efforts or Sky's at this stage. With that said, it's safe to presume there will be some harmonization between the two. That might be good if it leads to easier access to content on both sides of the Atlantic. At the same time, it's yet another example of a mega-merger -- Americans were already concerned about Comcast's size when it bought NBC, and now its empire will span across the ocean.
  10. Last week
  11. US Air Force F-22s and F-35s will soon launch and control recoverable attack drones from the cockpit of the plane to expand air-combat operations, test enemy air defenses, conduct long-range ISR, and even deliver weapons. This fast-approaching technology, which calls upon advanced levels of autonomous navigation, is closer to reality due of DARPA's Gremlins program which plans to break new ground by launching — and recovering — four drones from an in-flight C-130 in 2019. Air recoverable drones, slated to become operational over just the next few years, will bring a new phase of mission options enabling longer ranges, improved sensor payloads, advanced weapons, and active command and control from the air. "The team looked at how fifth generation aircraft systems like the F-35 and F-22 respond to threats, and how they could incorporate Gremlins in higher risk areas," a DARPA statement said. For years, it has been possible to launch expendable drones from the air, without needing a ground control station, provided they do not return to an aircraft. Gremlins, by contrast, is a technical effort to engineer specially configured aerial drones able to both launch and return to a host aircraft. The program is now moving into a phase three, according to DARPA statements, which cite a new demonstration and development deal with Dynetics to execute the upcoming launch and recovery C-130 flight. "DARPA is progressing toward its plan to demonstrate airborne launch and recovery of multiple unmanned aerial systems, targeted for late 2019. Now in its third and final phase, the goal for the Gremlins program is to develop a full-scale technology demonstration featuring the air recovery of multiple low-cost, reusable UASs, or "Gremlins," a DARPA announcement said in early 2018 This technology, which hinges upon higher levels of autonomous navigation, brings a wide swath of improved mission possibilities. These include much longer attack and mission reach, because drones can begin missions while in the air much closer to an objective, without having to travel longer distances from a ground location or forward operating base. Furthermore, perhaps of even greater significance, air-launched returnable drones can be equipped with more advanced sensor payloads able to conduct ISR or even attack missions. A flight test at Yuma Proving Ground in early 2018 provided an opportunity to conduct safe separation and captive flight tests of the hard dock and recovery system. "Early flight tests have given us confidence we can meet our objective to recover four gremlins in 30 minutes," Scott Wierzbanowski, program manager in DARPA's Tactical Technology Office, said in a written statement in early 2018. Gremlins also can incorporate several types of sensors up to 150 pounds, DARPA statements said. Maturing a full-scale operational capability for this technology has force engineers to confront a range of technical challenges, Dynetics engineers told Warrior Maven. Safely docking a returning drone aboard a moving C-130 requires an as-of-yet unprecedented level of technical sophistication. "The key technological advance is achieving increased safety through software redundancies to be able to operate a vehicle of this size in close proximity to a C-130 and tether it to stabilize the vehicle," Tim Keeter, Deputy Program Manager and Chief Engineer, Gremlins, Dynetics, told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview. Once stabilized, the drone can then be stowed safety in the cargo bay of the C-130, Keeter added. "This certainly involves precision navigation and we need the structure of the airframe to bear the burden," he said. In preparation for the upcoming drone air-recovery demonstration, Dynetics conducted a safe separation flight test from a mock air vehicle. "We are ready to fabricate," Keeter said.
  12. The commander of Army Futures Command told Congress this week that the command wants to field a long-range cannon that can shoot out to 1,000 miles. Gen. John "Mike" Murray testified at a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Readiness to explain to lawmakers how the newly established Futured Command will change the Army's acquisition and modernization process. Development of long-range precision fires technology is the Army's number one modernization priority. In October, the service unveiled LRPF, along with its five other modernization priorities -- the next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, a mobile network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality -- as part of a plan to overhaul modernization and build a future force. "From a tactical fires perspective, we are going through basically a two-step upgrade to our current Paladin, going to the M109A7, which is a new chassis," Murray said. "The next step is coming very quickly. We call it the extended-range cannon artillery. ... We have already shot a ... round out of that tube and more than doubled the range of our current artillery. And the goal is to get that out even further." For operational fires, the Army is working on a Precision Strike Missile "that will have a range of approximately 499 kilometers," he said, adding, "Our current missile has a range of 350 kilometers." Murray said the Army wants to get out much farther with strategic fires. "We are looking very hard and starting down the path of hypersonics and also looking at what we call the Strategic Long Range Cannon, which conceivably could have a range of up to 1,000 nautical miles," he said. That’s the equivalent of 1,150 land miles. Murray didn't provide any further details but said in the short term, the Army is adding back "both cannon and rocket artillery into our formations." In air and missile defense, the Army plans to field mobile short-range air defense, or MSHORAD, "to keep up with our maneuver brigades," he said. Under a new streamlined acquisition approach, the service was able to shave five years off the development process, Murray said. "The initial estimate was we could field one in 2025. We are now down to [fielding] four battalions in fiscal year 2020. The requirements process was done in 90 days, as opposed to the three to five years."
  13. AI weapons could soon execute military strikes on their own. Some think that's a bad idea. As the power of artificial intelligence grows, the likelihood of a future war filled with killer robots grows as well. Proponents suggest that lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWs) might cause less “collateral damage,” while critics warn that giving machines the power of life and death would be a terrible mistake. Last month’s UN meeting on ‘killer robots’ in Geneva ended with victory for the machines, as a small number of countries blocked progress towards an international ban. Some opponents of such a ban, like Russia and Israel, were to be expected since both nations already have advanced military AI programs. But surprisingly, the U.S. also agreed with them. Picking Sides In July, 2,400 researchers, including Elon Musk, signed a pledge not to work on robots that can attack without human oversight. Google faced a revolt by employees over an Artificial Intelligence program to help drones spot targets for the Pentagon, and decided not to continue with the work. KAIST, one of South Korea’s top universities, suffered an international academic boycott over its work on military robots until it too stopped work on them. Groups like the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots are becoming more visible, and Paul Scharre’s book Army of None, which details the dangers of autonomous weapons, has been hugely successful. But the government’s argument is that any regulation would be premature, hindering new developments which would protect civilians. The Pentagon’s current policy is that there should always be a ‘man in the loop’ controlling any lethal system, but the submission from Washington to the recent UN meeting argued otherwise: “Weapons that do what commanders and operators intend can effectuate their intentions to conduct operations in compliance with the law of war and to minimize harm to civilians.” So the argument is that autonomous weapons would make more selective strikes that faulty human judgements would have botched. “Most people don’t understand that these systems offer the opportunity to decide when not to fire, even when commanded by a human if it is deemed unethical,” says Professor Ron Arkin, a roboticist at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “Most people don’t understand that these systems offer the opportunity to decide when not to fire, even when commanded by a human if it is deemed unethical." Arkin suggests that autonomous weapons would be fitted with an “ethical governor” helping to ensure they only strike legitimate targets and avoid ambulances, hospitals, and other invalid targets. Arkin has long argued for regulation rather than prohibition of LAWs. He points out that in modern warfare, precision-guided smart weapons are now seen as essential for avoiding civilian casualties. The use of unguided weapons in populated areas, like the barrel bombs dropped by the Syrian regime, looks like deliberate brutality. Smarter is better, and an autonomous system might just be better than a human one. Robotic Vision The greatest promise for smarter machines comes from deep learning, an AI technique that feeds massive amounts of sample data to a neural network until it learns to make necessary distinctions. In principle, deep learning might help distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, valid targets and invalid ones. Arkin warns that much more research needs to be conducted before fielding them in lethal systems, but there are already systems which can outmatch humans in recognition tasks. Australian beaches are now guarded by Little Ripper quadcopter drones equipped with an AI system known as SharkSpotter developed by the University of Technology in Sydney. This automatically scans the water for sharks and alerts the human operator when it sees something dangerous. SharkSpotter can identify humans, dolphin, boats, surfboards, rays, and objects in the water and tell them apart from sharks. “The system can detect and identify around sixteen different objects with high accuracy. These advanced machine learning techniques significantly improve aerial detection accuracy to better than 90 percent,“ says UTS researcher Nabin Sharma. This compares to about 20-30 percent for a human operator looking at aerial imagery, though the SharkSpotter’s identification is still checked by a human before raising the alarm. “There is no guarantee it would work under all conditions. But sometimes is better than never.” In combat, a drone operator squinting at a screen may struggle to tell whether people on the ground are insurgents with AK-47s or farmers with spades. Arkin says humans have a tendency toward “scenario fulfillment,” or seeing what we expect to see, and ignoring contradictory data in stressful situations. This effect contributed to the accidental shooting down of an Iranian airliner by the USS Vincennes in 1987. “Robots can be developed so that they are not vulnerable to such patterns of behavior,” says Arkin. At the very least, these AI-guided weapons would be better than current ‘smart bombs’ which lack any discrimination. On August 9th a laser-guided bomb from the Saudi coalition struck a bus full of schoolchildren in Yemen, killing forty of them. “Recognition of a school bus could be relatively straightforward to implement if the bus is appropriately marked,” says Arkin. “There is no guarantee it would work under all conditions. But sometimes is better than never.” A Flaw in the Machine Noel Sharkey is professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield and chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. As a leading voice against AI weapons, he remains unconvinced that AI would be an improvement over current weapons technology. "After all of the hype about face recognition technologies, it turns out that they work really badly for women and darker shades of skin," says Sharkey. "And there are many adversarial tests showing how these technologies can be easily gamed or misled.” This was demonstrated in 2017 when some MIT students found a way of fooling an image-recognition system into thinking a plastic turtle was a rifle. "There are many adversarial tests showing how these technologies can be easily gamed or misled.” Today current artificial intelligence cannot make better battlefield judgements better than humans, but AI is getting smarter, and one day they could theoretically help limit the loss of innocent lives caught in the crossfire. “We cannot simply accept the current status quo with respect to noncombatant deaths,” says Arkin. “We should aim to do better.” When a Hobby Drone Becomes a Military Sniper Sharkey disagrees that autonomous weapons are the tools that will eliminate collateral damage, referencing a principle known as Marten’s clause. This clause states that "the human person remains under the protection of the principles of humanity and the dictates of the public conscience.” This means that however well machines work, they should not be making life-and-death decisions in warfare. “A prohibition treaty is urgently needed before massive international investment goes into LAWs,” says Sharkey. With DARPA announcing a new $2 billion investment in "next wave" military AI, time is running out. The U.S. decision to back the development of ‘killer robots’ is a controversial one, and the argument is far from over. But if LAWs are fielded first, we may find out the hard way which side is right.
  14. The US Navy has a new Head-Up Display (HUD) for combat divers that works even in zero-visibility conditions. Developed by James Fisher and Sons and the US Navy's Naval Surface Warfare Centre – Panama City Division, Shadow NAV is a visor projector that mounts on a standard diver's half-mask to provide hands-free underwater navigation capabilities. If your experience of the sea is video documentaries or diving holidays in the Bahamas, it's easy to think that the underwater world is like a giant aquarium where you can see for miles. While that's true in some places, many others are dark, choked with silt and algae, and generally awful. Combat divers more often than not have to work under these types of unpleasant, zero-visibility conditions, which can be so bad that wrist or swim board-mounted instruments become unreadable – even when they're self-illuminated or when lit with a torch. Because this information can include such literally vital data as depth and dive time for closed circuit oxygen rebreathers, this is much more than a simple inconvenience. Shadow NAV is designed to help both improve the data flow to combat divers and reduce the equipment needed during a dive with a mask-mounted HUD display that is not affected by low visibility conditions. Winner of a 2018 Excellence in Technology Transfer Award by the Federal Laboratory Consortium, it uses an an adjustable micro-optical display module that can flipped up when not in use. It provides a continuous display of the compass heading, diver depth in feet or meters, the time in minutes and seconds, and remaining battery. In addition, it uses low-light characters to preserve the wearer's night vision. "The Combat Diver may have a significant amount of essential equipment to carry while conducting missions, says Danny Gray, Products and Support Director at James Fisher and Sons. "Traditional kit such as the compass and depth gauges not only increases the amount of equipment required, but, more critically, they are of little, or no use in water with very limited visibility, even with auxiliary illumination. This puts the diver at too great a risk of injury or even fatality. "To address these challenges for potentially dangerous underwater combat missions, the expert technical team S3D at the NSWC PCD worked to develop a small, low-cost, low-power enhanced navigation capability to significantly improve safety standards for military divers and give them the best possible chance of successfully completing their missions. In bringing this to market, JFD will be making this capability widely available to divers operating across the globe." Source: James Fisher and Sons
  15. Coca-Cola is best known for its eponymous caffeine-based drink, but the firm now appears to be experimenting with a different drug: cannabis. According to Canada's BNN Bloomberg, the drinks giant is in talks with local producer Aurora Cannabis about developing marijuana-infused beverages. These would not aim to intoxicate consumers but to relieve pain. The firm declined to comment but said it was watching the cannabis drinks market closely. "Along with many others in the beverage industry, we are closely watching the growth of non-psychoactive cannabidiol as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world," Coca-Cola said in a statement. Cannabidiol, a constituent of cannabis, can help ease inflammation, pain and cramping, but has no psychoactive effect. It comes as Canada prepares to follow certain US states in legalising cannabis for recreational use, after years of permitting it for medicinal purposes. It has given rise to a large pot growing industry and some high-profile partnerships. Earlier this year, beer giant Molson Coors Brewing said it would make cannabis-infused drinks with Hydropothecary, while Corona-beer maker Constellation Brands invested $4bn more into pot firm Canopy Growth. A partnership between Coke and Aurora would mark the first entry of a major manufacturer of non-alcoholic drinks into the market. Quoting unnamed sources, BNN Bloomberg said Coca-Cola was in "serious talks" with Aurora but no deal had been finalised. "They're pretty advanced down the path" of doing a deal, one source was quoted as saying. "It's going to be more of the 'recovery drink' category," the source added. Aurora, in a separate statement, said it would not discuss business development initiatives until they were finalised, but added: "Aurora has expressed specific interest in the infused beverage space, and we intend to enter that market." Coca-Cola's shares rose marginally in early trade this week.
  16. Canadian cannabis entrepreneurs and investors could face a lifetime ban from the US over their involvement in the industry, US media report. A senior US border official told news site Politico that Canadians in the burgeoning sector could be deemed inadmissible to the US. Canada is a month away from becoming the first industrialised nation to legalise recreational cannabis use. While some US states allow pot use, the drug remains federally illegal. There have been concerns within Canada's growing cannabis industry for months that they may face trouble crossing the border. In July, a Vancouver businessman was banned from entering the US for life because he had investments in US marijuana companies. Immigration lawyers have said they have heard similar stories from clients in the industry. There have also been concerns that more Canadians will find themselves denied entry into the US if they admit to using marijuana, or face increased searches or interrogation by US officials. Todd Owen, executive assistant commissioner for the Office of Field Operations, told Politico that border officials will question Canadians about their marijuana use if they have cause to do so. "Our officers are not going to be asking everyone whether they have used marijuana, but if other questions lead there - or if there is a smell coming from the car, they might ask," he said. He also said that investors in the industry could also face a ban. "We don't recognise that as a legal business," Mr Owen said. US border officials can deny entry to people who admit to consuming pot or admit they plan to purchase or use marijuana in the US, even in a state where it is legal. People who have received bans still have the possibility of applying for a waiver from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In a statement, CBP said that "working in or facilitating the proliferation of the legal marijuana industry in US states where it is deemed legal or Canada may affect a foreign national's admissibility to the United States". Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government officials have maintained that despite the change in law, there is no indication marijuana legalisation will shift the US approach in how it deals with Canadians crossing the boundary, and confirmed that involvement in the industry could result in denied entry. They say that despite one in eight Canadians using cannabis today, 400,000 people move between our two countries every day almost entirely without incident. Jordan Sinclair, with Canopy Growth, a major medical marijuana supplier said that while their employees have yet to face difficulties at the US-Canada border, the industry as a whole is seeking more clarity as to how cases will be consistently handled by border officials. He also said many Canadians may be investors in cannabis stocks through major pension funds and mutual funds without being aware of it. "There's absolutely no way you can say if you've invested in the industry you're not going to be allowed into the United States," he said. Recreational cannabis will be available legally in Canada nationwide as of 17 October. Medical marijuana has been legal since 2001. Nine US states - Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Vermont, and California - have now legalised recreational and medicinal marijuana. But the drug remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance - alongside LSD, heroin, and ecstasy - under US federal law.
  17. Cannabis could be a kinder exit strategy for crustaceans doomed to the dinner plate. The next time you go to dinner at a fancy restaurant you might spot a chilled-out lobster hanging out in the seafood tank. While most of us would like to believe lobsters don't feel pain when we boil them alive for dinner, one restaurateur wants to find a more peaceful end for the tasty crustaceans. Maine-based seafood restaurant Charlotte's Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor is experimenting with cannabis to sedate lobsters before they are killed. Restaurant owner Charlotte Gill placed a test lobster she named Roscoe into a covered box with water at the bottom. She then had marijuana smoke blown into box for Roscoe to inhale. Later, Gill removed the bands on Roscoe's claws, and the lobster was allowed to roam free in the tank for nearly three weeks without any incidents of aggression. "The reason for keeping it so long, I wanted to make sure there were no adverse affects," Gill says. As a thank you to the lobster for participating in her experiment, Gill returned Roscoe to the sea. While pot sounds like a friendly way to de-stress lobsters before they are killed, not everyone believes the creatures need to be given such special treatment. "When you put them in boiling water, the primitive nervous system that does exist is destroyed so quickly they're unlikely to feel anything at all," Dr. Robert Bayer, executive director of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine, told the Portland Press. Even though Gill is experimenting with the idea of selling pot-relaxed lobsters, she does emphasize that the creatures are not considered cannabis edibles. "THC breaks down completely by 392 degrees, therefore we will use both steam as well as a heat process that will expose the meat to a 420-degree extended temperature, in order to ensure there is no possibility of carryover effect," Gill said in the interview. Here's hoping lobsters everywhere get one last toke before they hit our dinner plates.
  18. How comfortable are you with facial recognition? Apple garnered lots of buzz over the launch of Face ID to unlock its iPhone X, and facial recognition software has since become the security standard for smartphones. Now the technology is being pitched as the future of everything from advertising to law enforcement. And, sure, it's convenient. But should the normalization of facial recognition be concerning? You may be comfortable using it to unlock your phone — but would you be comfortable if it were used to track your attendance at school? Or by governments to deem your trustworthiness? Experts caution that the concern is not all facial recognition is created equal; there are different ways that these smart systems work, depending on their purpose. Broadly speaking, it often comes down to whether they're being used for convenience or for surveillance. Authentication vs. identification Consider whether facial recognition is being used for authentication, by comparing your image against another image of yourself, as is often the case when unlocking your phone. Or consider if it is being used for the purposes of identification, comparing your image to a database to search for a match and associate a name to a face in a crowd. The appeal of facial recognition is that "you cannot forget it, like a password, and cannot lose it, like a physical token," said Julie Thorpe, an expert in information technology security and an associate professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Considering how often we unlock our phones throughout the day — this isn't like unlocking the front door of your home, which you may do just a few times a day — it has become desirable to have protection without having to fumble around with a complex alphanumeric passcode. "Biomemetric systems, such as face recognition, reduce the number of times you need to enter a password or PIN, which in usual situations reduces the time and effort required to login," said Thorpe. But the ubiquity that comes from having this technology built in as a default security system on smartphones has made us increasingly comfortable with the tool — and that makes some experts wary. "They're convenient," said Pablos Holman, an inventor at the U.S.-based Intellectual Ventures Laboratory. "But certainly it's giving people the sense that it is OK for computers to identify them with facial recognition." Apple exemplifies the right way to use biometrics, according to Holman, explaining that with the iPhone, "you're only using a biometric to authenticate yourself to your own device, but there's no central database of fingerprints or faces." But he cautions that "unfortunately, there are very few other examples where biometrics are used in this way." Instead of a signature While reports suggest that consumers are increasingly concerned about their privacy and the misuse of their personal data, historically, when we get comfortable with a technology, we stop being as alert or as aware of it around us, said Ann Cavoukian, the distinguished expert-in-residence at Ryerson University's Privacy by Design Centre of Excellence. In addition to using facial recognition to unlock your phone, authorize downloads and pay for purchases, there are credit cards that are using it as a security measure instead of a signature. Visitors experience facial recognition technology at a Face++ booth during the China Public Security Expo in Shenzhen last fall. In China, facial recognition is being used by the government to help monitor the movements of the country's 1.4 billion people. Beyond the ways consumers can benefit from the convenience of this new tech, corporations are also using it on us: social media platforms can automatically identify users in photos, and shopping malls can use it to track consumers. Those things combined are inevitably creeping into advertising, targeting us in real time — the way online ads already do. And what happens when this technology, which once caused such a stir, becomes normalized? After all, there are cameras everywhere we go, and as the technology gets more robust, we'll reach a level of tracking or identification that is unprecedented, said Cavoukian. More troubling yet is the fact that this technology is still far from perfect. For some facial recognition systems, if the lighting conditions are unusual, they may reject a legitimate user, Thorpe said. Then there's the issue of false positives, where two individuals can have sufficiently similar faces that a recognition system may identify them as the same. While it may not seem like anything more than an inconvenience when Face ID doesn't recognize your face in low light, the consequences can be dire, as facial recognition technology is being utilized by an ever-growing list of industries. Prone to misidentifying In the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union has found that the technology is prone to misidentifying faces, which can have terrible repercussions in fields like law enforcement, for example. Facial recognition is also being used in airports to confirm the identities of passengers. And while critics worry about what a system like this means for privacy and the freedom of travellers, that's not slowing its spread. According to NPR, U.S. Customs and Border Protection hopes to have face scanners installed at all the nation's airports within four years. Meanwhile, in the U.K., some schools are now using facial recognition technology to take attendance, triggering additional concerns over privacy and the consent to be tracked. And in China, facial recognition is being used by the government to employ a new kind of "digital authoritarianism," with the intent of assigning citizens a social credit score based on how trustworthy they are deemed to be. While the government refers to this networked tracking system as "Internet plus," critics call it a 21st-century police state. As Holman puts it, the technology is "being deployed to watch people very deliberately, to see if you step out of bounds." From airports to banks, and hotels to sidewalks, seemingly everything that people say and do is being monitored in detail, used to do everything from predicting crime to co-ordinating emergency services — and ultimately controlling the lives of those being tracked. So as Apple unveils its latest and greatest shiny gadgets with impressive new features, Cavoukian warns, it is to our benefit to think of not only how we use these tools — but how corporations, organizations and government might use them as well. While we may like using them, we don't necessarily like it when they're used on us.
  19. GovPayNow.com says customers are safe, despite the breach. Government Payment Service Inc -- the company thousands of local governments in the US use to accept online payments for everything from court-ordered fines and licensing fees -- has compromised more than 14 million customer records dating back to 2012, KrebsOnSecurity reports. According to the security investigation site, the leaked information includes names, addresses, phone numbers and the last four digits of credit cards. KrebsOnSecurity alerted the company -- which does business as GovPayNow.com -- to the problem on September 14th. The site found that it was possible to view millions of customer records simply by tweaking the digits in the web address displayed by each receipt. Two days later, the payment site released a statement saying it had addressed a "potential issue," and that while there was "no indication that any improperly accessed information was used to harm any customer" the company has nonetheless updates its systems to prevent the issue reoccurring. Government Payment Services Inc was acquired by Securus Technologies at the start of 2018. The Texas-based company provides telecommunications services to prisons, among other things, and has come under fire a number of times for data breaches this year alone. In May, it emerged that Securus was abusing its cell phone-tracking capabilities, then just weeks later hackers broke into its system and stole the online credentials of multiple law enforcement officials. As KrebsOnSecurity notes, fixing these information disclosure issues is relatively simple, so it's remarkable how many organizations are falling foul of these basic vulnerabilities -- especially if their name, 'Securus' suggests they should really be on top of their game.
  20. Both Wasaga Beach and Midland have paid ransoms to reclaim data after the towns computer systems were hacked Town officials in Midland, Ont., have paid the ransom to reclaim data after hackers held their computer systems hostage for 48 hours, and are working to get servers back up and running again. On September 1st, anonymous hackers took control of the town's encryption keys, rendering computer operations useless. "At that point you confront the situation that your systems could be gone for weeks or you pay the hackers and provide the services that are absolutely needed by your citizens," explained Midland Mayor Gord McKay. The town has not disclosed the ransom amount, but McKay said Midland made the decision to take extra precautions by isolating their systems back in April after nearby Wasaga Beach experienced a similar attack. He said the hackers were paid through the town's insurance policy, not taxpayer dollars. "So in terms of just a large dollar being paid out, there's no taxpayer impact on that. It's just our regular annual premiums on this service." Town officials have not yet identified the source of the attack. Back on April 30th, the town of Wasaga Beach had their computer system compromised, shutting down its software and back-up system for seven weeks. The town paid a $35,000 ransom for de-encryption codes to allow recovery of the data. The total cost of the virus, including consultants, overtime, and productivity loss, saw taxpayers on the hook for just over $250,000. "Best defence is simple, have good backups," David Skillicorn, Professor in the School of Computing at Queen's University explained. "Files have to be somewhere else that they're backed up, obviously not on your system. This is routine...everyone should be doing it." Skillicorn said employee training is also important, so they know not to click on links in e-mails because that's how the ransomware gets into the system. He says cyberware attacks are fairly common but that unfortunately e-mails are getting more and more sophisticated, making attacks more difficult to avoid.
  21. Me World Economic Forum estimates that machines will be responsible for 52 per cent of the division of labour as share of hours within seven years, up from just 29 per cent today. By 2022, the report says, roughly 75 million jobs worldwide will be lost, but that could be more than offset by the creation of 133 million new jobs. A major challenge, however, will be training and retraining employees for that new world of work. Outsourcing and retraining "By 2025, the majority of workplace tasks in existence today will be performed by machines or algorithms. At the same time a greater number of new jobs will be created," said Saadia Zahidi, a WEF board member. "Our research suggests that neither businesses nor governments have fully grasped the size of this key challenge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution." The "Future of Jobs 2018" report, the second of its kind, is based on a survey of executives representing 15 million employees in 20 economies. Its authors say the outlook for job creation has become more positive since the last report in 2016 because businesses have a better sense of the opportunities made possible by technology. In North America, 84 per cent of executives surveyed in fields ranging from automotive to oil and gas to finance said they were looking to automate more work. And 83 per cent expected to hire new staff with a new skill set. Most planned to do some retraining, but 65 per cent said they expected workers to pick up skills on the job, and 63 per cent said they would be outsourcing work. Among the new technologies expected to change the world of work: •Big data analytics. •Internet of things. •App- and web-enabled markets. •Machine learning. •Cloud computing. •Augmented and virtual reality. •Digital trade. •New materials. •3D printing. •Autonomous transport. Emerging job roles in this new world of work included app and software developers, data analysts, sales representatives for technical and scientific products and electrotechnology engineers. The WEF said challenges for employers include enabling remote work, building safety nets to protect workers, and providing reskilling for employees. However, the report found that only one in three respondents planned to reskill at-risk workers. Challenge to find talent Despite net positive job growth, the WEF anticipates a "significant shift in the quality, location, format and permanency of new roles. Businesses are to expand use of contractors for task-specialized work, engage workers in more flexible arrangements, utilize remote staffing, and change up locations to get access to the right talent." The report said nearly half of all companies expect their full-time workforces to shrink by 2022, while nearly two in five expect to extend their workforce generally, and over one-quarter expect automation to create new roles in their enterprises. Germany's powerful DGB trade union association warned against too-rapid change in the world of work. "People, whether they're workers or consumers, will only accept and tolerate the consequences if technology serves them — and not they it," Reiner Hoffmann told daily Welt in reaction to the WEF report.ore than half of all workplace tasks will be carried out by machines by 2025, organizers of the Davos economic forum said in a report released Monday highlighting the speed with which the labour market will change in coming years. The World Economic Forum estimates that machines will be responsible for 52 per cent of the division of labour as share of hours within seven years, up from just 29 per cent today. By 2022, the report says, roughly 75 million jobs worldwide will be lost, but that could be more than offset by the creation of 133 million new jobs. A major challenge, however, will be training and retraining employees for that new world of work. Outsourcing and retraining "By 2025, the majority of workplace tasks in existence today will be performed by machines or algorithms. At the same time a greater number of new jobs will be created," said Saadia Zahidi, a WEF board member. "Our research suggests that neither businesses nor governments have fully grasped the size of this key challenge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution." The "Future of Jobs 2018" report, the second of its kind, is based on a survey of executives representing 15 million employees in 20 economies. Its authors say the outlook for job creation has become more positive since the last report in 2016 because businesses have a better sense of the opportunities made possible by technology. In North America, 84 per cent of executives surveyed in fields ranging from automotive to oil and gas to finance said they were looking to automate more work. And 83 per cent expected to hire new staff with a new skill set. Most planned to do some retraining, but 65 per cent said they expected workers to pick up skills on the job, and 63 per cent said they would be outsourcing work. Among the new technologies expected to change the world of work: •Big data analytics. •Internet of things. •App- and web-enabled markets. •Machine learning. •Cloud computing. •Augmented and virtual reality. •Digital trade. •New materials. •3D printing. •Autonomous transport. Emerging job roles in this new world of work included app and software developers, data analysts, sales representatives for technical and scientific products and electrotechnology engineers. The WEF said challenges for employers include enabling remote work, building safety nets to protect workers, and providing reskilling for employees. However, the report found that only one in three respondents planned to reskill at-risk workers. Challenge to find talent Despite net positive job growth, the WEF anticipates a "significant shift in the quality, location, format and permanency of new roles. Businesses are to expand use of contractors for task-specialized work, engage workers in more flexible arrangements, utilize remote staffing, and change up locations to get access to the right talent." The report said nearly half of all companies expect their full-time workforces to shrink by 2022, while nearly two in five expect to extend their workforce generally, and over one-quarter expect automation to create new roles in their enterprises. Germany's powerful DGB trade union association warned against too-rapid change in the world of work. "People, whether they're workers or consumers, will only accept and tolerate the consequences if technology serves them — and not they it," Reiner Hoffmann told daily Welt in reaction to the WEF report.
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  23. The US Government is recommending a six-month prison sentence for a California man who uploaded a pirated version of the movie Deadpool to Facebook. In just a few days the copy was viewed 6,386,456 times. A strong sentence is needed to deter the defendant, other Facebook users, and the public at large, the US argues. While lost people use Facebook to share relatively harmless content, some share things they are not supposed to. A pirated copy of Deadpool, for example. This is what now 22-year-old Trevon Franklin from Fresno, California, did early 2016. Just a week after the first installment of the box-office hit premiered in theaters, he shared a pirated copy of the movie on the social network. To be clear, Franklin wasn’t the person who originally made the copy available. He simply downloaded it from the file-sharing site Putlocker.is and then proceeded to upload it to his Facebook account, using the screen name ‘Tre-Von M. King.’ This post went viral with more than six million viewers ‘tuning in.’ While many people dream of this kind of attention, in this case, it meant that copyright holder Twentieth Century Fox and the feds were alerted. The FBI launched a full-fledged investigation which eventually led to an indictment and the arrest of Franklin last summer. Earlier this year, Franklin signed a plea agreement with the Government where he admitted to sharing the pirated film on Facebook. In return, the authorities recommended a sentence reduction. This week the Government submitted its sentencing recommendation. Franklin pleaded guilty to a Class A misdemeanor which carries a maximum prison term of a year. While the Government doesn’t go that far, it believes a significant sentence is required. “[T]he government recommends the high-end sentence of six months’ imprisonment, to be followed by a one-year term of supervised release, and a mandatory special assessment of $100,” the sentencing position reads. The Government argues that a prison sentence is warranted given the “brazen and public” manner in which Franklin broke the law and “appeared not to care” that this would affect the makers of the movie. This is also illustrated in dozens of pages of Facebook comments which were presented as evidence. Among other things, these show that many Facebook users warned Franklin that uploading a pirated copy of Deadpool was a crime. Instead of taking these comments as a warning, Franklin found them irritating. “If it’s a crime, why my shit ain’t got reported??? That part, Just stfu already,” he responded to one user. In addition, he also went on to create a new Facebook group titled “Bootleg Movies,” indicating that more movies would be shared in the future. “Defendant even created a Facebook group for the purpose of illegally sharing movies with others, posting ‘EVERYBODY JOIN’ in relation to the Facebook group he created called ‘BOOTLEG MOVIES’,” the Government writes, pointing out the screenshot below. All in all, the Government argues that a six-month prison sentence is needed to send a strong message to Facebook users and the public at large, to show that there are real consequences for such a crime. The defense, for its part, points out that Franklin has endured many personal problems in the past. He has no criminal record but regrets the mistakes that were made and hopes to turn things around. As such, his attorney believes that a sentence of one year probation is sufficient. “Such a sentence would be sufficient, but not greater than necessary, in light of Mr. Franklin’s tumultuous personal history, remorse for the offense, and his continued desire to redirect his life,” the defense attorney writes. The matter is now with the court which will decide what sentence is appropriate in this case.
  24. Developers of 'pirate' apps that provide access to mainstream movies and TV shows face a catch-22 situation that's really difficult to escape. While success and indeed reward is measured by a large uptake and corresponding levels of adulation from users, rocketing popularity means that sleeping easy at night becomes increasingly difficult. With software development and associated skills now accessible to millions of regular citizens, applications are released and updated every few minutes of every day. While undoubtedly useful, the vast majority are completely benign, helpfully solving problems experienced by computer users with little fanfare. On the other hand, applications that seek to provide simplified access to copyrighted movies, TV shows and another content face an inherently uncertain future, largely due to opposition from entertainment industry groups. In itself, this precarious position can deter many developers but for others with an interest in file-sharing (and often the freedom from worry that comes with relative youth), the challenge can prove irresistible. As a result, dozens of applications are available today, providing mainly Android and Windows users with a free alternative to Netflix and similar products. However, being the creator of such software presents a catch-22 situation that’s almost impossible to beat and even harder to extricate oneself from. There is a theory that none of us ever does anything completely altruistically. Donating to charity, supporting a friend in need, or providing free access to content, are all driven by the reward we get from the experience, whether that’s pride, warm satisfaction, or the inevitable recognition. Few app developers think that their hobby project is going to make worldwide headlines but when they are really, really good, word spreads – quickly. Software like Popcorn Time, Showbox, or more recently Terrarium TV, all started under the radar but as their popularity grew, their developers received the confirmation that most had longed for – that their skills and hard work had resulted in something great. This reward (and the adulation that comes with it) is an intoxicating mix that few can resist. As a result, these apps and others like them go from strength to strength, with the download numbers further encouraging their creators to continue. Meanwhile, however, we know that many would prefer not to be in the limelight. Recently there has been some controversy in the Kodi community when popular YouTubers reviewed addons that their creators would rather have kept low-key. This publicity boosts interest but at the same time increases pressure on developers who really don’t want copyright holders knocking on their door. The only answer, of course, is not to produce these tools in the first place. Any addon or APK that does something great WILL get traction, it’s as simple as that. There is no way to stop people talking about these tools and with that comes even more publicity. And downloads. And reward, even if grudgingly received. Before developers know it, they have a monster on their hands, and then what? Shut it down, throwing thousands of hours of work away and losing all that recognition and feelings of reward? Or carry on, knowing that the better they do, the more likely it is that copyright holders will come calling? In most instances, developers appear to ride the wave. With great popularity comes great responsibility, and with hundreds of thousands of users now relying on them, shutting down is difficult. And for those who generate revenue from their work via advertising or affiliate schemes, the problem is even more complicated – or straightforward – depending on perspective. In the end, there are three basic types of developers who ‘survive’ to tell the tale. Those who back away voluntarily with perfect timing (it’s otherwise convenient for them not to develop anymore), those who are threatened or sued into doing so, and those that somehow – against all the odds – manage to keep their identities a secret from start to finish. Achieving the latter is not impossible but it is extremely difficult, requiring much forward planning and caution. This, it appears, is the only way to have a really successful project or application that doesn’t prove to be a huge liability when the masses really get on board. Trouble is, few people expect this level of success at the beginning, meaning they’re ill-prepared for the fallout when things get big. Erasing online history is virtually impossible so the crumbs often lead to their demise. An unknown pirate hero, an unsuccessful or fringe project, or legal worries. Pick one.
  25. The Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that ISPs are entitled to compensation for looking up the details of alleged copyright infringers. This is the result of a dispute between Rogers and movie company Voltage Pictures, which demanded details of tens of thousands of alleged pirates. The scale of compensation is yet to be determined. Movie studio Voltage Pictures is no stranger to suing BitTorrent users. The company has filed numerous lawsuits against alleged pirates in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia, and is believed to have made a lot of money doing so. In 2016, Voltage launched a “reverse class action” in Canada to demand damages from tens of thousands of Internet users whom they accuse of sharing films, including The Cobbler, Pay the Ghost, Good Kill, Fathers and Daughters, and American Heist. This meant that, in a single swoop, many Internet subscribers were at risk of having their personal details exposed. However, Internet provider Rogers was not willing to hand over this information freely. Instead, the ISP demanded compensation for every IP-address lookup, as is permitted by copyright law. The provider asked for $100 per hour of work, plus taxes, to link the addresses to subscriber accounts. The Federal Court initially agreed that the charges were permitted under the Copyright Act. However, when Voltage Pictures appealed the decision, this was reversed. Unhappy with this outcome, Rogers took the matter to the Supreme Court In a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in Rogers’ favor this week. The Internet provider is entitled to recover costs to link IP-addressed to customer details. Exactly how much will be determined in a future Federal Court hearing. Justice Russell Brown argues that while the costs may be relatively small, they are not negligible, as the Court of Appeal argued. “While these costs, even when combined, may well be small, I would not assume that they will always be ‘negligible’, as the Federal Court of Appeal anticipates,” the Judge writes. According to Justice Brown, “an ISP is entitled to the reasonable costs of steps that are necessary to discern a person’s identity.” The scale of the costs Rogers can recover will play a major role in the profitability of these file-sharing cases. In the event the costs are set relatively high, Voltage and other copyright holders may have to try their luck elsewhere. David Watt, Rogers senior vice-president of regulatory affairs, is happy with the ruling and told the local press that it’s “an important win for our customers and millions of internet subscribers facing open season on their personal information.”
  26. Last week NitroXenon, the developer of popular 'pirate' app Terrarium TV, announced he was shutting the project down for good. While that was a big enough blow to fans around the world, the developer has worrying news for former users. NitroXenon says that if required, he'll give up user data to the authorities. Terrarium TV was one of the most impressive ‘pirate’ apps in recent years. Utilizing video content hosted on file-hosting platforms, it grew to become a serious competitor to apps like Showbox and Popcorn Time. Last week, however, developer NitroXenon announced that the project would be shutting down “It has always been a great pleasure to work on this project. However, it is time to say goodbye. I am going to shut down Terrarium TV, forever,” he wrote. “I know this day will come eventually. I know it would be hard to let go. But it is really time for me to move on to other projects.” As always, people wanted to know why the project was really being shut down. When questioned he refused to speak about his motivation, which of course led to speculation, some of it reasonable, some of it less so. The big possibility, of course, is legal threats. Given that NitroXenon refused to answer, we might deduce that he’s under pressure not to speak. However, no substantial facts were available to definitively back that up so we had to take his statement at face value. And then this weekend, out of the blue, NitroXenon scared thousands of Terrarium TV fans with a surprise announcement. Former users of Terrarium TV, who didn’t immediately uninstall the app as NitroXenon had previously advised, suddenly started receiving notifications on their devices. “Uninstall immediately!” one warned. “Your IP address and location are being tracked!” “We can’t guarantee that details won’t be shared upon request,” advised another.These kinds of notifications are not what the average user expects and of course, panic ensued. Was this some kind of scare tactic to ensure the last few people uninstalled the app or were the notifications sent out of genuine concern for users? “I’m just telling the truth,” he said. “Almost every app tracks user’s IP [addresses]. And if I must [hand] the info to authorities then I’ll do it.” Other than this statement, NitroXenon had nothing to add. However, on behalf of people getting the scary notifications, we asked the obvious question. Why would NitroXenon retain logs after the application had been shut down and why, if he hasn’t been asked to retain them already, didn’t he simply purge them? We received no response but if we have to analyze this situation, we’d say that something doesn’t feel right here. Presuming for a moment that NitroXenon has come under pressure to a) shut down the app and b) not speak about the fact that he’s been threatened, that would fit the current pattern of developers who have found themselves in a similar situation over the past few months. That being said, if IP address and location details are indeed being logged (the app had permissions for location), then why publicly warn users that is the case? The data has already been logged and deleting Terrarium now probably isn’t going to make much difference. Also, if the aim is to collect details of pirates, why sabotage that by giving out a warning while, potentially, undermining a non-disclosure agreement? That leads us to the possibility that these are scare tactics but, put very simply, we have no proof either way. There might be a threat and there might not but we’ve never heard of a case where people who have simply streamed content (rather than uploaded) have been pursued by content companies. There are several other possibilities too, including that NitroXenon got sick of the whole project and decided to burn the thing to the ground (unlikely, given how friendly he was in the past) or maybe he’s having his strings pulled by parties keen to send a message to movie and TV show pirates. To our knowledge, this is an unprecedented development for ‘pirate’ applications, no matter what is going on behind the scenes. Whether users choose to uninstall the app moving forward is their prerogative but it seems unlikely that IP address evidence would prove of much use in this case, given that Terrarium never hosted the infringing content itself. There are no guarantees, of course, so the rumors and speculation will continue, including that a hostile third-party, not content companies, have taken over both the app and NitroXenon’s Reddit account…..
  27. The high court sides with Rogers Communications in ruling that the companies pursuing copyright violators should reimburse service providers a reasonable amount for the effort of looking up subscribers suspected of breaking the law. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press) Internet service providers can recover some of the costs of helping movie companies and other copyright holders find illegal downloaders, the Supreme Court of Canada says. In a 9-0 decision Friday, the high court sided with Rogers Communications in ruling that the companies pursuing copyright violators should reimburse service providers a reasonable amount for the effort of looking up subscribers suspected of breaking the law. The decision could end up saving Rogers and other internet providers many thousands of dollars, but the Supreme Court said the appropriate fees should be decided at a future Federal Court hearing The case began when Voltage Pictures and several other movie production firms asked Rogers for information about an alleged violator under provisions of the Copyright Act. Rogers retrieved the information but agreed to disclose it only upon payment of a fee — $100 per hour of work plus HST. Voltage Pictures and its movie company allies hope to eventually obtain the information of tens of thousands of suspected copyright infringers, and they argued the federal legislative regime precluded Rogers from charging a fee. In 2016 the Federal Court said Rogers was entitled to levy the fee but the decision was overturned the following year on appeal, prompting the telecom company to take its case to the Supreme Court. Rogers said the appeal was about who must bear the costs of enforcing copyright on the internet: the copyright owner who launches the proceeding, and who can collect back costs from an infringer, or a third-party Internet service provider, whose only option is to raise prices for its customers. The Supreme Court ruling is "an important win for our customers and millions of internet subscribers facing open season on their personal information," said David Watt, Rogers senior vice-president of regulatory affairs. Rogers uses an automated system to send a notice to the more than 200,000 alleged copyright infringers brought to its attention each month — something it is required to do under the Copyright Act without charging a fee. But Rogers said it should be compensated for the steps it must take when confronted with a court order from a movie company or other copyright holder for the name and address of a subscriber. In writing on behalf of eight of the members of the Supreme Court, Justice Russell Brown noted Rogers undertakes an eight-step manual process to comply with such an order. But he indicated it was unclear how many of those steps Rogers must already carry out at no cost under the law as part of its routine functions. Brown said Rogers and other service providers are entitled to "reasonable costs of steps that are necessary to discern a person's identity" using the records it is required to keep. He added that while these costs "may well be small," it is impossible to determine them based on current evidence, meaning a fresh Federal Court hearing must be held to assess fees a provider can charge. While agreeing with the majority, Justice Suzanne Cote went further, saying Rogers should be able to levy a fee for all eight steps it takes to respond to a court order.
  28. Did you ever wonder if your Twitter account has been hacked and who had managed to gain access and when it happened? Twitter now lets you know this. After Google and Facebook, Twitter now lets you see all the devices—laptop, phone, tablet, and otherwise—logged into your Twitter account. Twitter has recently rolled out a new security feature for its users, dubbed Apps and Sessions, allowing you to know which apps and devices are accessing your Twitter account, along with the location of those devices. In order to find out current and all past logged in devices and locations where your Twitter account was accessed for the last couple months, follow these steps: Check Twitter Login Sessions On Smartphone: twitter account security login sessions •Open the Twitter app, and head on to your profile •Tap on 'Settings and privacy' section •Inside the section, select 'Account' •Once inside the option, tap on 'Apps and sessions' Check Twitter Login Sessions On Desktop Or Laptop: The process is almost the same using a desktop or laptop. •Open Twitter and tap on the photo icon on the top right corner where you find all the account settings. •Tap on 'Settings and privacy' section •Inside the section, scroll down to 'Apps and devices' Once you tap 'Apps and sessions' on mobile or 'Apps and devices' option on desktop, you will be shown a list of all devices active on your Twitter account in the last month, as well as location they're in, along with a list of third-party apps that have access to your Twitter account. Now, you can click on the devices to see more information, including the name of the device your Twitter account was accessed on, what browser it was used on, date and time, and the approximate location the device was used in. If you found any suspicious device that you never logged in, you can revoke back the access in just one click. This will close any open session, preventing people with your Twitter account access to log into your account again. However, you are highly recommended to change your password as well as recovery and 2-step verification settings, if you found such situation, as this will prevent people that may have your current password from signing back in.
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