Biden Pushes Expansion of Domestic Semiconductor Manufacturing

U.S. President Joe Biden touted a $20 billion investment by American technology company Intel to build a semiconductor factory in Ohio to address a global shortage that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the U.S.-China trade war. In a speech from the White House on Friday, Biden said the Intel factory, part of the administration’s effort to work with the private sector, would create thousands of jobs. He urged Congress to pass legislation to further expand domestic chip manufacturing, framing it in the context of strategic competition with China. “Today 75% of the production takes place in East Asia; 90% of the most advanced chips are made in Taiwan,” Biden said. “China is doing everything it can to take over the global market so they can try to outcompete the rest of us.” Semiconductor chips function as the brains of cars, medical equipment, household appliances and electronic devices. The $20 billion factory is an initial investment, said Patrick Gelsinger, chief executive officer of Intel, at the White House event. “This site alone could grow to as much as $100 billion of total investment over the decade,” he said. The White House pointed to other investments in semiconductor manufacturing in the United States earlier this year by Samsung, Texas Instruments and Micron. “Congress can accelerate this progress by passing the U.S. Investment and Competition Act, also known as USICA, which the president has long championed and which he called for action on today,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki, referring to legislation that aims to strengthen research, development and manufacturing for critical supply chains to address semiconductor shortages. Driven by Washington’s desire to retain an edge over China’s technological ambitions, USICA was passed with rare bipartisan Senate support in June but still needs to be passed by the House of Representatives. It includes full funding for the CHIPS for America Act, which provides $52 billion to catalyze more private sector investments in the semiconductor industry. “The Chinese have been really clear. They want an indigenous chip industry. They want to be globally dominant, and that means displacing the U.S. and …

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Israel Probes Allegations Police Cyber-Spied on Citizens

Israel on Thursday launched an investigation into allegations police used the controversial Pegasus spyware on the country’s citizens. In a letter sent to police commander Koby Shabtai, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit asked to receive all wiretapping and computer spying orders from 2020 and 2021 in order to “verify allegations made in the media.” The Israeli business daily Calcalist reported Thursday that Israeli police used Pegasus software to spy on an Israeli they considered a potential threat and attempt to gather evidence that could be used as leverage in future investigations. According to the newspaper, which did not cite any sources, the police action represents a “danger to democracy.” Police commissioner Yaakov Shabtai, reacting to the story, said that “the police have not found any evidence to support this information.” “The Israeli police are fighting crime with all the legal means at their disposal,” Shabtai added in a statement. Israeli security forces have wide leeway to conduct surveillance within Israel with judicial approval. On Wednesday, Israel’s justice ministry pledged a full investigation into allegations that Pegasus spyware was used on Israeli citizens, including people who led protests of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Pegasus, a surveillance product made by the Israeli firm NSO that can turn a mobile phone into a pocket spying device, has remained a source of global controversy following revelations last year it was used to spy on journalists and dissidents worldwide. Once installed in a mobile phone, Pegasus allows access to the user’s messaging and data, as well as remote activation of the device for sound and image capture. NSO would neither confirm nor deny it sold technologies to Israeli police, stressing that it does “not operate the system once sold to its governmental customers and it is not involved in any way in the system’s operation.” “NSO sells its products under license and regulation to intelligence and law enforcement agencies to prevent terror and crime under court orders and the local laws of their countries,” it said in a statement sent to AFP. Israel’s defense ministry, which must approve all exports of Israeli-made defense industry products, …

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Senate Panel Moves Forward With Bill Targeting Big Tech

Legislation that would bar technology companies from favoring their own products in a way that undermines competitiveness moved forward Thursday after a Senate panel voted to move the bill to the Senate floor.  The American Innovation and Choice Online Act received bipartisan support in a 16-6 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The bill targets Amazon; Alphabet, the parent company of Google; Apple; and Meta, which was formerly called Facebook.  The companies had worked strenuously to sink the bill, arguing it could disrupt their services.  Smaller tech companies that supported the bill argued it will benefit consumers through adding competition.  “This bill is not meant to break up Big Tech or destroy the products and services they offer,” said Senator Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the judiciary panel. “The goal of the bill is to prevent conduct that stifles competition.”  Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, was critical of the bill and said he thought it would not pass the full Senate.  “Antitrust policy should aim to promote consumer welfare — not punish specific companies,” he said in a statement.  Another bill aimed at Big Tech, which has bipartisan sponsorship, is also working its way through Congress. The Open App Markets Act would prevent the Apple and Google app stores from requiring app makers to use their payment systems.  The House of Representatives is also considering versions of both bills.  Some information for this report came from Reuters.  …

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US Air Travel Safety Questions Linger Amid 5G Rollout

An unresolved disagreement between U.S. wireless communications carriers and commercial airlines over the rollout of new 5G networks continues to generate confusion about whether air travel is safe in the United States.  On Wednesday, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest providers of mobile voice and internet service in the U.S., began turning on new wireless towers across the United States, making the ultra-fast 5G spectrum available to consumers, primarily in the more densely populated parts of the country. Up until the last moment, there was a dispute between the carriers and major U.S. airlines over whether or not the new service would be deployed near airports. This caused a handful of international carriers, including British Airways, Lufthansa, All Nippon, Japan Airlines and Emirates, to announce that they would suspend some service to the United States until the issue was resolved. Emirates President Tim Clark described the situation as “utterly irresponsible,” speaking earlier this week on CNN. By Thursday morning, most of the concern about international flights had been resolved, but lingering questions remain for the United States’ vast system or regional air travel. Interference with landing instruments possible The 5G C-band spectrum signal used for mobile communications – for which mobile carriers paid more than $80 billion in an auction last year – is similar to the signal that commercial airlines use to measure the altitude of planes landing during inclement weather. Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration have expressed concern that some aircraft devices, called radar altimeters, could experience interference from the new 5G signals, creating dangerous conditions. On Wednesday, in a deal brokered by the Biden administration, mobile carriers said they would delay activating 5G towers near airport runways, leaving about 10% of the planned rollout inactive. In addition, the FAA specifically cleared several kinds of radar altimeters, including those commonly used in the Boeing 777, saying the data shows that 5G signals do not interfere with their systems. In a press release Wednesday, the FAA said its new approvals “allow an estimated 62 percent of the U.S. commercial fleet to perform low-visibility landings at airports where wireless …

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Explainer: How Sweeping EU Rules Would Curb Tech Companies

Online companies would have to ramp up efforts to keep harmful content off their platforms and take other steps to protect users under rules that European Union lawmakers are set to vote on Thursday. The 27-nation bloc has gained a reputation as a trendsetter in the growing global push to rein in big tech companies as they face withering criticism over misinformation, hate speech and other harmful content on their platforms. Here’s a look at the proposed EU rules, known as the Digital Services Act, and why they would make an impact: WHAT IS THE DIGITAL SERVICES ACT? The legislation is part of a sweeping overhaul of the European Union’s digital rules aimed at ensuring online companies, including tech giants like Google and Facebook parent Meta, protect users on their platforms and treat rivals fairly. It’s an update of the EU’s two-decade-old e-commerce directive. “The Digital Services Act could now become the new gold standard for digital regulation, not just in Europe but around the world,” the lead EU lawmaker on the bill, Christel Schaldemose, said during a debate Wednesday. “Big tech nations like the U.S. or China are watching closely to see what we’re now going to agree.” The proposals are one-half of flagship digital regulations drafted by the bloc. EU lawmakers are also working on a separate proposal, the Digital Markets Act, which is aimed at reining in the power of the biggest online “gatekeepers.” Both still face further negotiations with EU bodies before taking effect. WHAT WILL IT COVER? The Digital Services Act includes a raft of measures aimed at better protecting internet users and their “fundamental rights online.” Tech companies will be held more responsible for content on their platforms, with requirements to beef up flagging and removal of illegal content like hate speech or dodgy goods and services sold online like counterfeit sneakers or unsafe toys. But lawmakers have been battling about the details of such takedowns, including whether court orders would be required. Online platforms will have to be more transparent about their algorithms that recommend the next video to watch, product to buy or news …

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Security Scanners Across Europe Tied to China Government, Military

At some of the world’s most sensitive spots, authorities have installed security screening devices made by a single Chinese company with deep ties to China’s military and the highest levels of the ruling Communist Party. The World Economic Forum in Davos. Europe’s largest ports. Airports from Amsterdam to Athens. NATO’s borders with Russia. All depend on equipment manufactured by Nuctech, which has quickly become the world’s leading company, by revenue, for cargo and vehicle scanners. Nuctech has been frozen out of the U.S. for years due to national security concerns, but it has made deep inroads across Europe, installing its devices in 26 of 27 EU member states, according to public procurement, government and corporate records reviewed by The Associated Press. The complexity of Nuctech’s ownership structure and its expanding global footprint have raised alarms on both sides of the Atlantic. A growing number of Western security officials and policymakers fear that China could exploit Nuctech equipment to sabotage key transit points or get illicit access to government, industrial or personal data from the items that pass through its devices. Nuctech’s critics allege the Chinese government has effectively subsidized the company so it can undercut competitors and give Beijing potential sway over critical infrastructure in the West as China seeks to establish itself as a global technology superpower. “The data being processed by these devices is very sensitive. It’s personal data, military data, cargo data. It might be trade secrets at stake. You want to make sure it’s in right hands,” said Bart Groothuis, director of cybersecurity at the Dutch Ministry of Defense before becoming a member of the European Parliament. “You’re dependent on a foreign actor which is a geopolitical adversary and strategic rival.” He and others say Europe doesn’t have tools in place to monitor and resist such potential encroachment. Different member states have taken opposing views on Nuctech’s security risks. No one has even been able to make a comprehensive public tally of where and how many Nuctech devices have been installed across the continent. Nuctech dismisses those concerns, countering that Nuctech’s European operations comply with local …

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Felony Charges Are a First in Fatal Crash Involving Autopilot

California prosecutors have filed two counts of vehicular manslaughter against the driver of a Tesla on Autopilot who ran a red light, slammed into another car and killed two people in 2019. The defendant appears to be the first person to be charged with a felony in the United States for a fatal crash involving a motorist who was using a partially automated driving system. Los Angeles County prosecutors filed the charges in October, but they came to light only last week.  The driver, Kevin George Aziz Riad, 27, has pleaded not guilty. Riad, a limousine service driver, is free on bail while the case is pending.  The misuse of Autopilot, which can control steering, speed and braking, has occurred on numerous occasions and is the subject of investigations by two federal agencies. The filing of charges in the California crash could serve notice to drivers who use systems like Autopilot that they cannot rely on them to control vehicles. The criminal charges aren’t the first involving an automated driving system, but they are the first to involve a widely used driver technology. Authorities in Arizona filed a charge of negligent homicide in 2020 against a driver Uber had hired to take part in the testing of a fully autonomous vehicle on public roads. The Uber vehicle, an SUV with the human backup driver on board, struck and killed a pedestrian.  By contrast, Autopilot and other driver-assist systems are widely used on roads across the world. An estimated 765,000 Tesla vehicles are equipped with it in the United States alone. In the Tesla crash, police said a Model S was moving at a high speed when it left a freeway and ran a red light in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena and struck a Honda Civic at an intersection on December 29, 2019. Two people who were in the Civic, Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez, died at the scene. Riad and a woman in the Tesla were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. Criminal charging documents do not mention Autopilot. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which sent …

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US Telecom Carriers to Limit 5G Rollout Near Airports

Major U.S. telecommunications companies Verizon and AT&T agreed Tuesday to delay their deployment of new 5G mobile services around key airports after airline executives contended that the technology posed safety threats to airliners. U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement that the government’s agreement with the telecom companies would “avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery” while allowing them to deploy more than 90% of their wireless towers on Wednesday as they had planned. “This agreement protects flight safety and allows aviation operations to continue without significant disruption,” Biden said, “and will bring more high-speed internet options to millions of Americans.” The two telecom firms reached agreement with federal authorities after major U.S. air carriers warned Monday that the country’s commerce would “grind to a halt” if the 5G mobile technology were deployed near major airports. The White House did not say at how many airports the 5G technology is being delayed. Biden thanked the mobile carriers for the delay and said negotiations would continue. “My team has been engaging nonstop with the wireless carriers, airlines and aviation equipment manufacturers to chart a path forward for 5G deployment and aviation to safely coexist,” he said. “And, at my direction, they will continue to do so until we close the remaining gap and reach a permanent, workable solution around these key airports.” The airlines say the new technology will interfere with safe flight operations, while the mobile carriers claim the airlines have known about the problem and failed to upgrade equipment on their aircraft to prevent flight problems. The new high-speed 5G mobile service uses a segment of the radio spectrum that is close to that used by altimeters — devices in cockpits that measure the height of aircraft above the ground. AT&T and Verizon argue that their equipment will not interfere with aircraft electronics and that technology is being safely used in many other countries. In a letter Monday to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, chief executives at Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines and seven other passenger and cargo carriers protested the …

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US Airlines, Telecom Carriers Feuding Over Rollout of 5G Technology

Major U.S. air carriers are warning that the country’s “commerce will grind to a halt” if Verizon and AT&T go ahead with plans to deploy their new 5G mobile internet technology on Wednesday. The airlines say the new technology will interfere with safe flight operations.  The dispute between two major segments of the U.S. economy has been waged for months in Washington regulatory agencies, with the airline industry contending that the mobile carriers’ technology upgrade could disrupt global passenger service and cargo shipping, while the mobile carriers claim the airlines failed to upgrade equipment on their aircraft to prevent flight problems. The new high-speed 5G mobile service uses a segment of the radio spectrum that is close to that used by altimeters — devices in cockpits that measure the height of aircraft above the ground.  AT&T and Verizon argue that their equipment will not interfere with aircraft electronics and that the technology is being safely used in many other countries.  In a letter Monday to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, chief executives at Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines and seven other passenger and cargo carriers protested the mobile carriers’ plan to roll out their upgraded service on Wednesday.  While the Federal Aviation Administration previously said it would not object to deployment of the 5G technology because the mobile carriers said they would address safety concerns, the airline executives said aircraft manufacturers have subsequently warned them that the Verizon and AT&T measures were not sufficient to allay safety concerns. The mobile companies said they would reduce power at 5G transmitters near airports, but the airlines have asked that the 5G technology not be activated within 3.2 kilometers of 50 major airports.  The airline executives contended that if the 5G technology is used, “Multiple modern safety systems on aircraft will be deemed unusable. Airplane manufacturers have informed us that there are huge swaths of the operating fleet that may need to be indefinitely grounded.”  The airline industry executives argued that “immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies.”  …

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Microsoft Discloses Malware Attack on Ukraine Government Networks

Microsoft said late Saturday that dozens of computer systems at an unspecified number of Ukrainian government agencies have been infected with destructive malware disguised as ransomware, a disclosure suggesting an attention-grabbing defacement attack on official websites was a diversion. The extent of the damage was not immediately clear. The attack comes as the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine looms and diplomatic talks to resolve the tense stand-off appear stalled. Microsoft said in a short blog post that amounted to the clanging of an industry alarm that it first detected the malware on Thursday. That would coincide with the attack that simultaneously took some 70 government websites temporarily offline. The disclosure followed a Reuters report earlier in the day quoting a top Ukrainian security official as saying the defacement was indeed cover for a malicious attack. Separately, a top private sector cybersecurity executive in Kyiv told The Associated Press how the attack succeeded: The intruders penetrated the government networks through a shared software supplier in a so-called supply-chain attack in the fashion of the 2000 SolarWinds Russian cyberespionage campaign targeting the U.S. government. Microsoft said in a different, technical post that the affected systems “span multiple government, non-profit, and information technology organizations.” It said it did not know how many more organizations in Ukraine or elsewhere might be affected but said it expected to learn of more infections. “The malware is disguised as ransomware but, if activated by the attacker, would render the infected computer system inoperable,” Microsoft said. In short, it lacks a ransom recovery mechanism. Microsoft said the malware “executes when an associated device is powered down,” a typical initial reaction to a ransomware attack. Microsoft said it was not yet able to assess the intent of the destructive activity or associate the attack with any known threat actors. The Ukrainian security official, Serhiy Demedyuk, was quoted by Reuters as saying the attackers used malware similar to that used by Russian intelligence. He is deputy secretary of the National Security and Defense Council. A preliminary investigation led Ukraine’s Security Service, the SBU, to blame the web defacement …

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China Seen Backing ‘Digital Authoritarianism’ in Latin America 

Chinese technology and expertise is making it possible for Venezuela and Cuba to exercise suffocating control over digital communications in the two countries, according to insider accounts and several international investigations.  Venezuela and Cuba do more to block internet access than any other governments in Latin America, according to the U.S.-based advocacy group Freedom House, which has documented what it describes as “digital authoritarianism” in the region since 2018.  “Whoever believes that privacy exists in Venezuela through email communications, Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram is wrong. All these tools” are totally subject to government intervention, said Anthony Daquin, former adviser on computer security matters to the Ministry of Justice of Venezuela.  Daquin participated between 2002 and 2008 in delegations sent by former President Hugo Chávez to China to learn how Beijing uses software to identify Chinese citizens, and to implement a similar system in Venezuela.  Key to those efforts was the introduction in 2016 of the “carnet de la patria” or homeland card, developed by the Chinese company ZTE. While theoretically voluntary, possession of the cards is required to access a vast range of goods and services, ranging from doctor’s appointments to government pensions.  The cards were presented as a way to make public services and supply chains more efficient, but critics denounced them as a form of “citizen control.”  Daquin said China’s role in recent years has been to provide technology and technical assistance to help the Venezuelan government process large amounts of data and monitor people whom the government considers enemies of the state.  “They have television camera systems, fingerprints, facial recognition, word algorithm systems for the internet and conversations,” he said.  Daquin said one of the few means that Venezuelans have to communicate electronically free from government monitoring is the encrypted messaging platform Signal, which the government has found it very costly to control.  The former adviser said Venezuela’s digital surveillance structure is divided into five “rings,” with “Ring 5 being the most trusted, 100 percent Chinese personnel supervising.”  According to Daquin, the government receives daily reports from the monitors that become the basis for decisions on …

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‘Be Afraid’: Ukraine Hit by Cyberattack, Russia Moves More Troops

Ukraine was hit by a massive cyberattack warning its citizens to “be afraid and expect the worst”, and Russia, which has massed more than 100,000 troops on its neighbor’s frontier, released TV pictures on Friday of more forces deploying in a drill. The developments came after no breakthrough was reached at meetings between Russia and Western states, which fear Moscow could launch a new attack on a country it invaded in 2014. “The drumbeat of war is sounding loud,” said a senior U.S. Diplomat. Russia denies plans to attack Ukraine but says it could take unspecified military action unless demands are met, including a promise by the NATO alliance never to admit Kyiv. Russia said troops in its far east would practice deploying to far-away military sites for exercises as part of an inspection. Defense Ministry footage released by RIA news agency showed numerous armored vehicles and other military hardware being loaded onto trains in the Eastern Military District. “This is likely cover for the units being moved towards Ukraine,” said Rob Lee, a military analyst and a fellow at the U.S.-based Foreign Policy Research Institute. The movements indicated Russia has no intention of dialing down tensions over Ukraine, having used its troop build-up to force the West to the negotiating table and press sweeping demands for “security guarantees” – key elements of which have been described by the United States as non-starters. Ukrainian authorities were investigating a huge cyberattack, which hit government bodies including the ministry of foreign affairs, cabinet of ministers, and security and defense council. “Ukrainian! All your personal data was uploaded to the public network. All data on the computer is destroyed, it is impossible to restore it,” said a message visible on hacked government websites, written in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish. “All information about you has become public, be afraid and expect the worst. This is for your past, present and future.” Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson told Reuters it was too early to say who could be behind the attack but said Russia had been behind similar strikes in the past. Russia did not immediately …

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SpaceX Rocket Lifts Off with South African Satellites on Board

A SpaceX rocket launch Thursday carried three small South African-made satellites that will help with policing South African waters against illegal fishing operations. Produced at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, the satellites could also be used to help other African countries to protect their coastal waters. SpaceX’s billionaire boss Elon Musk has given three nano satellites produced in his birth country, South Africa, a ride into space. The company’s Falcon rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in the U.S. state of Florida with 105 spacecraft on board. All three South African satellites deployed successfully. This mission, known as Transporter 3, is part of SpaceX’s rideshare program which in two previous outings has put over 220 small satellites into orbit. The three South African nano satellites on this trip were designed at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Africa Space Innovation Centre. The institution’s deputy vice chancellor for research, technology and innovation Professor David Phaho says “it marks a quantum leap in terms of South Africa’s capability to participate in the space sector. As you can imagine the issue of oceans economy has become topical globally. And the fact that we’ve developed this capacity in South Africa, and we are launching this (sic) satellites will go a long way in enhancing our capabilities to monitor our coastline and grow our economy.” Phaho notes the university has been building up to the launch of these satellites, known collectively as MDASat-1, with a previous satellite launch in 2018. “These three satellites, there was a precursor to these current three satellite constellation. Zcube2 is the most advanced nano satellite developed on the African continent and it was launched in December 2018 so these ones are basically part and parcel of that development. And they are probably the most advanced nano satellites developed on the African continent,” Phaho expressed. Stephen Cupido studied at the space center and graduated in 2014. Today, he works here as a software engineer and points out that “it’s been a ride, it’s been amazing, ups and downs but this is definitely an up today. Just to get everything ready for today has been a lot of pressure.” And the interaction with SpaceX has been complicated he says laughing “but it’s necessary. We are putting objects in space and space is for everyone, we have to keep …

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Hong Kong COVID-19 Tracking App Spurs Opposition

A new Hong Kong mandate that restaurants and other establishments require use of an app aimed at recording people’s locations and telling them if they have been near a COVID-19 patient has spurred opposition from the city’s pro-democracy voices. The LeaveHomeSafe app scans a two-dimensional QR barcode at taxis and other locations. If a COVID-19 patient has been there, the app will alert users and provide health advice. The government required the use of the app Dec. 9 in all indoor premises including government buildings, restaurants, public facilities, and karaoke venues. Those over the age of 65, 15 years or younger, the homeless and those with disabilities are exempt. Previously Hong Kongers could record these movements using a paper form, but the cursive characters written by opposition Hong Kongers or pro-democracy activists expressing their distrust in government were often illegible for authorities. Hong Kongers believe the app can be a tool used by authorities to monitor citizens, according to a human rights advocate. “Given Beijing’s use of mass surveillance in China, many Hong Kong people suspect that the app is one way for the Hong Kong and Beijing governments to normalize the use of government surveillance in Hong Kong,” Human Rights Watch senior China researcher Maya Wang told VOA by email. An office worker in her 20s entering a Taiwanese restaurant recently was one of the Hong Kongers harboring doubts about the app. Before entering the restaurant, she said she stopped texting on her phone to use a second phone to scan the restaurant’s QR code using LeaveHomeSafe. “It’s an act of human right and privacy violation as we can no longer choose the way we live and the app is part of the digital surveillance system,” she told VOA, referring to the government app. Government officials sought to allay such privacy concerns last February, as health secretary Sophia Chan said the COVID-19 tracking app would not send personal data to the authorities. “The fact is there is no issue of data privacy, because the data would be just stored in the phone of the person. There is no platform that …

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World Economic Forum Warns Cyber Risks Add to Climate Threat

Cyberthreats and the growing space race are emerging risks to the global economy, adding to existing challenges posed by climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, the World Economic Forum said in a report Tuesday.   The Global Risks Report is usually released ahead of the annual elite winter gathering of CEOs and world leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, but the event has been postponed for a second year in a row because of COVID-19. The World Economic Forum still plans some virtual sessions next week.  Here’s a rundown of the report, which is based on a survey of about 1,000 experts and leaders:   World outlook  As 2022 begins, the pandemic and its economic and societal impacts still pose a “critical threat” to the world, the report said. Big differences between rich and poor nations’ access to vaccines mean their economies are recovering at uneven rates, which could widen social divisions and heighten geopolitical tensions.  By 2024, the global economy is forecast to be 2.3% smaller than it would have been without the pandemic. But that masks the different rates of growth between developing nations, whose economies are forecast to be 5.5% smaller than before the pandemic, and rich countries, which are expected to expand 0.9%.   Digital dangers  The pandemic forced a huge shift — requiring many people to work or attend class from home and giving rise to an exploding number of online platforms and devices to aid a transformation that has dramatically increased security risks, the report said.   “We’re at the point now where cyberthreats are growing faster than our ability to effectively prevent and manage them,” said Carolina Klint, a risk management leader at Marsh, whose parent company Marsh McLennan co-authored the report with Zurich Insurance Group and SK Group.   Cyberattacks are becoming more aggressive and widespread, as criminals use tougher tactics to go after more vulnerable targets, the report said. Malware and ransomware attacks have boomed, while the rise of cryptocurrencies makes it easy for online criminals to hide payments they have collected.   While those responding to the survey cited cybersecurity threats as a short- …

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US Cyber Officials Bracing for ‘Log4j’ Vulnerability Fallout

U.S. cybersecurity officials are still sounding an alarm about the so-called Log4j software vulnerability more than a month after it was first discovered, warning some criminals and nation state adversaries may be waiting to make use of their newfound access to critical systems. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said Monday that the vulnerability, also known as Log4shell, has been subject to widespread exploitation by criminals over the past several weeks, but that more serious and damaging attacking could still be in the works. “We do expect Log4Shell to be used in intrusions well into the future,” CISA Director Jen Easterly told reporters during a phone briefing, adding, “at this time we have not seen the use of Log4shell resulting in significant intrusions.” “This may be the case because sophisticated adversaries have already used this vulnerability to exploit targets and are just waiting to leverage their new access until network defenders are on a lower alert,” she said. The vulnerability in the open-source software produced by the U.S.-based Apache Software Foundation, was first discovered in late November by the Chinese tech giant Alibaba. The first warnings to the public went out in early December.  Cybersecurity officials and experts initially described the flaw in the software as perhaps the worst vulnerability ever discovered, noting the software’s widespread use – in at least 2,800 products used by both private companies and governments around the world. CISA on Monday said the vulnerability has impacted hundreds of millions of devices around the world, with many software vendors racing to issue security patches to their customers. So far, U.S. agencies appear to be unscathed. “We, at this point, are not seeing any confirmed compromises of federal agencies across the broader country, including critical infrastructure,” CISA Executive Assistant Director for Cybersecurity Eric Goldstein told reporters. But he cautioned the danger has not yet passed despite the lack of destructive attacks by sophisticated hacking groups and foreign adversaries. “It is certainly possible that that may change, that adversaries may be utilizing this vulnerability to gain persistent access that they could use in the future, which …

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Indian Muslim Women ‘Auction’ App Shows Tech Weaponized for Abuse

Six months ago, pilot Hana Khan saw her picture on an app that appeared to be auctioning scores of Muslim women in India. The app was quickly taken down, no one was charged, and the issue shelved – until a similar app popped up on New Year’s Day. Khan was not on the new app called Bulli Bai – a slur for Muslim women – that was hawking activists, journalists, an actor, politicians and Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai as maids. Amid growing outrage, the app was taken down, and four suspects arrested this week.   The fake auctions that were shared widely on social media are just the latest examples of how technology is being used – often with ease, speed and little expense – to put women at risk through online abuse, theft of privacy or sexual exploitation. For Muslim women in India who are often abused online, it is an everyday risk, even as they use social media to call out hatred and discrimination against their minority community. “When I saw my picture on the app, my world shook. I was upset and angry that someone could do this to me, and I became angrier as I realized this nameless person was getting away with it,” said Khan, who filed a police complaint against the first app, Sulli Deals, another pejorative term for Muslim women. “This time, I felt so much dread and despair that it was happening again to my friends, to Muslim women like me. I don’t know how to make it stop,” Khan, a commercial pilot in her 30s, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Mumbai police said they were investigating whether the Bulli Bai app was “part of a larger conspiracy”. A spokesperson for GitHub, which hosted both apps, said it had “longstanding policies against content and conduct involving harassment, discrimination, and inciting violence. “We suspended a user account following the investigation of reports of such activity, all of which violate our policies.”   Misconception Advances in technology have heightened risks for women across the world, be it trolling or doxxing with their personal details …

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Biden Touts Deal Delaying 5G Rollout by AT&T, Verizon

President Joe Biden touted an agreement Tuesday between wireless carriers and U.S. regulators to allow the deployment of 5G wireless technology in two weeks. AT&T and Verizon said Monday they would delay activating the new service for two weeks following a request by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. He cited airline industry concerns that the technology’s rollout could interfere with sensitive electronic systems on aircraft and disrupt thousands of daily flights. The telecommunications giants’ announcement came one day after they maintained they would not postpone the introduction of the service. But they agreed to the delay amid pressure from the White House and aviation unions, and concerns expressed by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Biden said in a statement Tuesday the “agreement ensures that there will be no disruptions to air operations over the next two weeks and puts us on track to substantially reduce disruptions to air operations when AT&T and Verizon launch 5G on January 19th.” In an email Tuesday to employees, Verizon Chief Executive Hans Vestberg said the company saw no aviation safety issue with 5G, but added the FAA “intended to disrupt an already difficult time for air travel if we move ahead with our planned activation… We felt that it was the right thing to do for the flying public, which includes our customers and all of us, to give the FAA a little time to work out its issues with the aviation community.” Buttigieg and FAA Administrator chief Steve Dickson said in a letter sent Monday to AT&T and Verizon that the agencies would not seek any further delays beyond January 19 if there are not any “unforeseen aviation safety issues,” according to Reuters. The letter also reportedly said the agreement “will give us additional time and space to reduce the impacts to commercial flights.” Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters. …

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