Business, Rights, Technology

UK spies continue ‘quantum insert’ attack via LinkedIn, Slashdot pages

According to a new report by Der Spiegel, the British signals intelligence spy agency has again employed a quantum insert technique as a way to target employees (Google Translate) of two companies that are GRX (Global Roaming Exchange) providers.

The lead author of the story in the German magazine is Laura Poitras, one of the journalists known to have access to the entire trove of documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.

GRX is roughly analogous to an IX (Internet Exchange), and it acts as a major exchange for mobile Internet traffic while users roam around the globe. There are only around two dozen such GRX providers globally. This new attack specifically targeted administrators and engineers of Comfone and Mach (which was acquired over the summer by Syniverse), two GRX providers.

Der Spiegel suggests that the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British sister agency to the NSA, used spoofed versions of LinkedIn and Slashdot pages to serve malware to targets. This type of attack was also used to target nine salaried employees of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the global oil cartel.

This new revelation may be related to an attack earlier this year against Belgacom International Carrier Services (BICS), a subsidiary of the Belgian telecom giant Belgacom. BICS is another one of the few GRX providers worldwide — via


Post offices under pressure as parcel business rises

Australia Post franchisees say their businesses are under pressure to survive because of the small sum they are paid to sort and deliver parcels.

The Licensed Post Office Group (LPOs) said there had not been an increase in the sorting rate since 1993.

The franchisees get just 29 cents per parcel.

Group member Angela Cramp said a fall in the number of letters for delivery has been replaced by a big rise in parcel business, because of the popularity on online shopping.

She said the rate of payment was not enough to cover operating expenses.

We are 75 per cent of the Australia Post footprint. We are the best asset that Australia Post has and we are the most undervalued part of their network, she said.

They cannot hope to service Australia-wide without the LPOs — via

Business, Technology

Experian Sold Consumer Data to ID Theft Service

An identity theft service that sold Social Security and drivers license numbers — as well as bank account and credit card data on millions of Americans — purchased much of its data from Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, according to a lengthy investigation by KrebsOnSecurity.

In November 2011, this publication ran a story about an underground service called, a fraudster-friendly site that marketed the ability to look up full Social Security numbers, birthdays, drivers license records and financial information on millions of Americans. Registration was free, and accounts were funded via WebMoney and other virtual currencies that are popular in the cybercriminal underground — via

Business, Rights, Technology

Palantir Technologies defence contracts in Canberra

On the fourth floor of an office building on Northbourne Avenue, in what passes for Canberra’s CBD, is an outpost of a much talked-about company that has so far gone under the radar in Australia. It is, however, unlikely that many Australians have avoided the company’s forensic gaze.

Palantir Technologies was established in 2002 by a clutch of US information analysts to explore the potential of datamining tools developed for Paypal. The CIA was a foundation investor, providing $2 million, and for several years its only customer. However, unusually for a company that has become a key vendor to the US military-industrial complex, its senior ranks are almost entirely men (and they’re pretty much all men) with Silicon Valley-style IT or financial backgrounds; the revolving door to the US military and foreign policy establishments that typifies most defence and intelligence companies doesn’t appear to be in full operation (yet).

Palantir does datamining, and does it very, very well. So well, in fact, that the US government and major companies have hungrily devoured its data search tools (for an account of what exactly its products can do, try this). As we’ve since learnt courtesy of Edward Snowden, agencies like the NSA are compiling vast amounts of personal information on most of the planet’s internet users. Palantir’s products help agencies effectively search through huge amounts of different information and collate them with other agencies’ data. It has rapidly become a key player in the establishment of the US surveillance state and a poster boy for what smart people and lots of computing power can do to strip away privacy and garner intelligence down to the individual level. And it has rapidly become an attractive investment: two weeks ago the company, now estimated to be worth $8 billion, announced it had raised nearly $200 million in capital.

And behind a unicorns-and-rainbows façade (Palantir is a Lord of the Rings reference; its California headquarters is called the Shire) is a ruthless player in cybersecurity. In 2011, as Crikey reported at the time, the company joined with Berico Technologies and HBGary Federal to develop a multi-million dollar plant to disrupt WikiLeaks and discredit journalist Glenn Greenwald. The plan, only revealed when Anonymous hacked into the IT system of HBGary Federal’s Aaron Barr, involved proposals to feed false information to WikiLeaks, break into its servers and wage a media campaign against it and Greenwald — via

Business, Technology

Nokia is dead, Newkia rises from its ashes

Nokia’s fate would have been a lot different today if it had taken the Android route, and this is what freshly minted company — aptly named Newkia — plans to do by acquiring as much of Nokia’s know-how as possible.

Speaking to ZDNet in an interview Thursday, Thomas Zilliacus, executive chairman and founder of Mobile FutureWorks, did not mince his words when asked about his views on Microsoft’s US$7.2 billion deal to buy out Nokia’s devices and services unit. The deal reflects the complete failure of the Windows strategy Stephen Elop chose when he was appointed Nokia CEO some two years ago.

Nokia, which only three years ago was the world’s runaway market leader in mobile phones, is today a small and insignificant brand, he said, noting that the purchase price announced yesterday represented just 2 percent of Nokia’s market cap over 10 years ago — via

Business, Technology

Microsoft to buy Nokia’s devices, services unit for $7.2B

Microsoft announced on Monday it will acquire Nokia’s devices and services unit in a bid to accelerate the software giant’s Windows ecosystem.

The deal is set to go ahead for about $5 billion (€3.79bn), with an additional $2.17 billion (€1.65bn) to be spent on licensing Nokia’s patents.

Boards of both companies agreed the transaction, which will see the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant purchase the Espoo, Finland-based company’s phone making unit, patents, and license and use its mapping services — via

New Zealand bans software patents

New Zealand has finally passed a new Patents Bill that will effectively outlaw software patents after five years of debate, delay and intense lobbying from multinational software vendors.

Aptly-named Commerce Minister Craig Foss welcomed the modernisation of patents law, saying it marked a significant step towards driving innovation in New Zealand.

By clarifying the definition of what can be patented, we are giving New Zealand businesses more flexibility to adapt and improve existing inventions, while continuing to protect genuine innovations, Foss said.

The nearly unanimous passage of the Bill was also greeted by Institute of IT Professionals (IITP) chief executive Paul Matthews, who congratulated Foss for listening to the IT industry and ensuring software patents were excluded — via

WinCo: Low-Key, Low-Cost Grocer Called Wal-Mart’s Worst Nightmare

Prices are kept low through a variety of strategies, the main one being that it often cuts out distributors and other middle men and buys many goods directly from farms and factories. WinCo also trims costs by not accepting credit cards and by asking customers to bag their own groceries. Similarly to warehouse membership stores like Sam’s Club and Costco, and also to successful discount grocers with small stores like Trader Joe’s and Aldi, WinCo stores are organized and minimalist, without many frills, and without the tremendous variety of merchandise that’s become standard at most supermarkets. “Everything is neat and clean, but basic,” Hauptman told Supermarket News. “Though the stores are very large, with a lot of categories, they lack depth or breadth of variety.”

While all of these factors help WinCo compete with Walmart on price, what really might scare the world’s largest retailer is how WinCo treats its employees. In sharp contrast to Walmart, which regularly comes under fire for practices like understaffing stores to keep costs down and hiring tons of temporary workers as a means to avoid paying full-time worker benefits, WinCo has a reputation for doing right by employees. It provides health benefits to all staffers who work at least 24 hours per week. The company also has a pension, with employees getting an amount equal to 20% of their annual salary put in a plan that’s paid for by WinCo; a company spokesperson told the Idaho Statesman that more than 400 nonexecutive workers (cashiers, produce clerks, and such) currently have pensions worth over $1 million apiece.

Generally speaking, shoppers tolerate Walmart’s empty shelves and subpar customer service because the prices are so good. The fact that another retailer—even a small regional one—is able to compete and sometimes beat Walmart on prices, while also operating well-organized stores staffed by workers who enjoy their jobs, like their employer, and genuinely want the company to be successful? Well, that’s got to alarm the world’s biggest retailer, if not keep executives up at night — via

Man who created own credit card sues bank for not sticking to terms

When Dmitry Argarkov was sent a letter offering him a credit card, he found the rates not to his liking. But he didn’t throw the contract away or shred it. Instead, the 42-year-old from Voronezh, Russia, scanned it into his computer, altered the terms and sent it back to Tinkoff Credit Systems.

Mr Argarkov’s version of the contract contained a 0pc interest rate, no fees and no credit limit. Every time the bank failed to comply with the rules, he would fine them 3m rubles (£58,716). If Tinkoff tried to cancel the contract, it would have to pay him 6m rubles.

Tinkoff apparently failed to read the amendments, signed the contract and sent Mr Argakov a credit card.

The Bank confirmed its agreement to the client’s terms and sent him a credit card and a copy of the approved application form, his lawyer Dmitry Mikhalevich told Kommersant. The opened credit line was unlimited. He could afford to buy an island somewhere in Malaysia, and the bank would have to pay for it by law.

However, Tinkoff attempted to close the account due to overdue payments. It sued Mr Argakov for 45,000 rubles for fees and charges that were not in his altered version of the contract.

Earlier this week a Russian judge ruled in Mr Argakov’s favour. Tinkoff had signed the contract and was legally bound to it. Mr Argakov was only ordered to pay an outstanding balance of 19,000 rubles (£371) — via

Email service thought used by Edward Snowden shuts down amid fight over customer information

An encrypted email service believed to have been used by American fugitive Edward Snowden has shut down abruptly, amid a legal fight that appeared to involve US government attempts to win access to customer information.

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people, or walk away from nearly 10 years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit, Lavabit owner Ladar Levison wrote in a letter posted on the Texas-based company’s website.

Mr Levison said he has decided to suspend operations but was barred from discussing the events over the past six weeks that led to his decision.

That matches the period since Snowden went public as the source of media reports detailing secret electronic spying operations by the US National Security Agency.

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States, Mr Levison wrote — via Founder to Buy The Washington Post

The Washington Post, the venerable newspaper whose reporting ended a presidency and inspired a generation of journalists, is being sold to the founder of, Jeffrey P Bezos, in a surprise deal that has shocked the industry.

Donald E Graham, chairman and chief executive of The Washington Post Company, told the newspaper’s staff about the sale late Monday afternoon. They had gathered together in the newspaper’s auditorium at the behest of the publisher, Katharine Weymouth.

I, along with Katharine Weymouth and our board of directors, decided to sell only after years of familiar newspaper-industry challenges made us wonder if there might be another owner who would be better for the Post (after a transaction that would be in the best interest of our shareholders), Mr Graham said.

The announcement stressed that Mr Bezos would purchase The Post in a personal capacity, and not on behalf of Amazon, the Internet retailer. The deal includes all of the publishing businesses owned by The Washington Post Company, including the Express newspaper, The Gazette Newspapers, Southern Maryland Newspapers, Fairfax County Times, El Tiempo Latino and Greater Washington Publishing.

The Washington Post company plans to hold onto Slate magazine, The and Foreign Policy. According to the release, Mr Bezos has asked Ms. Weymouth to remain at The Post along with Stephen P Hills, president and general manager; Martin Baron, executive editor; and Fred Hiatt, editor of the editorial page — via

Rupert Murdoch Wants To Destroy Australia’s National Broadband Network

With the Australian Federal Election looming, Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Australia’s biggest newspapers, is looking to unseat the incumbent Labor government over its centerpiece National Broadband Network policy. The media mogul sees the NBN as a threat to his media empire and has ordered newspapers to attack the project at every opportunity. The NBN seeks to bring 100Mbps Fibre-To-The-Premises internet to 93% of the country with wireless and satellite for the remainder. It currently reaches 4% of the population and is slated to complete in 2021. The conservative opposition has promised to dramatically scale back the project — via Slashdot

Drastic govt measures needed: IT price hike report pulls no punches

The Federal Parliament committee examining IT price hikes in Australia has published an extensive report recommending a raft of drastic measures to deal with current practices in the area, which, the report says, are seeing Australians unfairly slugged with price increases of up to 50 percent on key technology goods and services.

In mid-2012, spurred by the campaigning efforts of then-Labor backbencher Ed Husic, who has since been promoted to the dual roles of Parliamentary Secretary for Broadband and Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications kicked off hearings into the Australian cost of popular technology goods and services, as well as some forms of content, with reference to the issue of unfair price increases by international vendors.

Late last week, the committee handed down its report on the issue to Parliament, and this morning it was made available in full on the committee’s website.

In the foreword to the report, Committee chair Nick Champion noted that the importance of IT products to every sector of Australian society can hardly be overstated. IT products are woven into the fabric of our economy and society, and have driven rapid change in the way Australians communicate, the way we work, and the way we live, the Labor MP noted.

However, Champion added, the committee hearings held over the past year had found that Australian consumers and businesses must often pay between 50 and 100 percent more than those residing in other countries for the same products — via

Court Says Broadcasters Can’t Use Copyright To Block Commercial Skipping

This morning there was a huge victory for common sense in the Ninth Circuit appeals court ruling in the Fox v Dish case over Dish’s AutoHopper technology. As you may recall, pretty much all the major broadcasters sued Dish a year ago, claiming that its AutoHopper technology with the PrimeTime Anytime feature — which would record the entire primetime lineup, and allow Dish customers to watch everything (starting the next day) while automatically skipping the commercials — was infringement (and breach of contract). As we noted at the time, the broadcasters’ arguments made very little sense. The basis of the argument was that skipping commercials is a form of copyright infringement. We couldn’t see how skipping commercials violated the copyright in any way at all, and while Fox pretended it won the initial ruling at the district court level, the reality was that Dish won big.

Fox immediately appealed, and Dish has won big yet again with this latest ruling, which is a huge victory for common sense. The court makes a number of important findings, nearly all of them good and sensible. To be specific, the nature of this ruling was over whether or not the broadcasters could get an injunction to block Dish from offering this technology while the case was ongoing, but the court rejected it, saying that the broadcasters did not demonstrate a likelihood of success. This means the full trial can still go forward, but the technology can still be offered during that trial. However, the fact that both the district court and the appeals court have clearly stated that they don’t see a likelihood of the broadcasters succeeding shows that the broadcasters are likely to be wasting a lot of time and money only to lose.

The key point in this case: skipping commercials is not copyright infringement. For years, Hollywood has tried to claim that skipping commercials is a form of copyright infringement. All the way back in 2002, a TV exec claimed that skipping commercials was a theft (even merely going to the bathroom during a commercial). A couple years later they even tried to get Congress to pass a law explicitly banning commercial skipping (sponsored by Orrin Hatch, of course). Without that, they’ve just been pretending that commercial skipping must be illegal. In court, the TV networks have argued that anything that hurts their business model must be illegal — via

Exposed: Telstra’s secret FBI spy deal

Telstra signed a secret agreement a decade ago with US Government agencies such as the FBI and the Department of Justice that provided American law enforcement and national security organisations with an extremely broad level of access to all of the telco’s telecommunications passing in and out of the US, it was revealed late last week.

On Friday independent media outlet Crikey published what what appeared to be the text of the agreement. It notes that it was signed in November 2001 between Telstra and its Hong Kong partner telco PCCW, and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice.

The document cites principles such as the US Government’s need to preserve the national security of the US and to ensure that US communications were secure in order to protect the privacy of US persons. It notes that the stimulus for the agreement to be signed was the application of Telstra/PCCW submarine cable joint venture Reach — which operates major underwater fibre links between a number of Asian countries, as well as Australia and the US — to provide telecommunications services from the US back in 2001, shortly after it was formed by Telstra and PCCW.

The agreement states that all telcos operating in the US must maintain facilities that were compliant with US law enforcement regulations in that country, such as the ability to hand over details, including calling data but not the content of communications, of all communications received or which originated in the US.

Data to be stored by Reach for two years included identifying information relating to telephone calls, such as telephone numbers, Internet addressed used, the time, date, size and duration of a communication, any information relating specifically to the identity and physical address of those communicating, and a host of other information, especially billing records, which typically show details of all telephone calls made by telephone service subscribers — via

Planting mangrove trees pays off for coastal communities in Kenya

When Kahindi Charo gathered 30 of his friends to replant mangroves in the 32 square kilometre (12 square mile) Mida Creek area, people in his village of Dabaso in Kilifi County dismissed them as crazy idlers.

Charo recalls that back then, in 2000, the creek had suffered badly from unregulated harvesting that had left the area bare, with rotting stumps and patches of old mangrove trees.

Today, Mida Creek, about 60 km (38 miles) north of Mombasa, flourishes with dense mangrove plantations that provide a habitat for birds, fish, and crabs. There is also a boardwalk leading to a 12-seat eco-restaurant perched beside the Indian Ocean — via

Google accused of shameful hypocrisy in helping re-elect anti-global warming senator

Google’s PR machine has this week been trumpeting its wind and sun energy ventures.

But you’ll have to go elsewhere to hear about its support for Senator James Inhofe, described by a San Francisco Chronicle columnist as the delusional or dishonest Oklahoma Republican who has called global warming the greatest hoax.

The “Green” giant is helping to raise lots of green for his re-election by hosting a lunch at its Washington office on July 11, costing as much as $2,500 per plate.

James Temple, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, called it a shameful act of corporate hypocrisy — via

Samsung buys set top box maker Boxee

Samsung is buying Boxee — an Israeli firm that makes media streaming devices.

The South Korean electronics giant said it had acquired key talent and assets from the company.

This will help us continue to improve the overall user experience across our connected devices, it added.

Boxee’s latest product lets subscribers record TV shows onto its servers and then stream them to TVs, computers and smart devices from the cloud — via

Stratasys to Acquire MakerBot for About $403 Million

Stratasys Ltd unveiled plans to buy privately held MakerBot in a stock-for-stock transaction valued at $403 million, a deal that expands Stratasys’ position in the three-dimensional printer market.

Stratasys said the merger is poised to drive faster adoption of 3D printing for multiple applications and industries.

After the deal closes, which is expected to occur in the third quarter, MakerBot will operate as a separate subsidiary of Stratasys. MakerBot Chief Executive and co-founder Bre Pettis will continue to lead the business, Stratasys said — via

Twitter buys Spindle to thread in location discovery tools

Twitter has bought Spindle, a search technology company that informs users about what’s happening with local businesses and organisations around them.

The deal, the terms of which were not disclosed, could help Twitter beef up its efforts to keep users in the loop. The company has been rumoured to be working on its own location discovery feature to surface certain tweets posted by people nearby.

Spindle’s technology was based on delivering social updates from businesses and other sources to users. For example, Spindle users could use interactive maps to see where things were happening nearby and also set alerts to receive notifications from specific places — via

Cashout Service for Ransomware Scammers

There are 1,001 ways to swindle people online, but the hardest part for crooks is converting those ill-gotten gains into cash. A new service catering to purveyors of ransomware — malware that hijacks PCs until victims pay a ransom — levees a hefty fee for laundering funds from these scams, and it does so by abusing a legitimate Web site that allows betting on dog and horse races in the United States.

Ransomware is most often distributed via hacked or malicious sites that exploit browser vulnerabilities. Typically, these scams impersonate the Department of Homeland Security or the FBI (or the equivalent federal investigative authority in the victim’s country) and try to frighten people into paying fines to avoid prosecution for supposedly downloading child pornography and pirated content.

Ransomware locks the victim’s PC until he either pays the ransom or finds a way to remove the malware. Victims are instructed to pay the ransom by purchasing a prepaid MoneyPak card, sold at everything from Walgreens to Wal-Mart (some scams tell victims to pay using a PaySafe or Ukash card). Victims are then told to send the attackers a 14-digit voucher code that allows the bad guys to redeem those MoneyPak vouchers for cash.

Trouble is, taking funds off of a MoneyPak requires either spending it at stores that accept it, or hooking it up to a US bank account, to PayPal, or to a prepaid Visa or Mastercard. What’s more, most miscreants who are even halfway competent at spreading ransomware can expect to collect dozens of MoneyPak codes per day, so cashing out via the above-mentioned methods simply does not scale well for successful bad guys (particularly those who live outside of the United States) — via

Australia’s de-facto net filter has zero regulation

A couple of weeks back, Australia’s Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) made a mistake: by trying to take down a Website promoting an investment scam, it accidentally blocked 1,200 sites using the same IP address as the scammer.

ASIC was able to attempt the take down thanks to a Section 313 Notice, a legislative instrument that instructs telcos and ISPs to block sites that break Australian laws.

It has now emerged that there is little or no oversight or transparency in how such notices are issued, who’s allowed to request one or when they’re permitted to make such requests. That means, as a Senate Estimates hearing was told, that nobody really knows exactly how many agencies might have the right to use the notices to, as Greens Senator Scott Ludlam put it, knock a site off the Internet.

A Section 313 notice refers to this section of the Telecommunications Act. The act requires carriers to try and prevent their networks being used to commit offenses, and requires them to assist an undefined list of officers and authorities of the Commonwealth, states and territories in preventing crimes using their networks.

Unfortunately, when the legislation was framed, the legislators had in mind telephones and fax machines, not the Internet. Its application to the Internet was the brainchild of Senator Stephen Conroy, as a way to implement the Interpol worst of the worst Internet blacklist (which mainly concerns child pornography) without having to pass new legislation — via

Contributor Sues Newsvine For Failing To Share Ad Revenue

A Web user who contributed to’s citizen journalism site Newsvine has sued the company for allegedly depriving her of money she earned through a revenue share program.

Kathleen Wilkes of Wisconsin says in her lawsuit that she earned around $180 from Newsvine’s prior business model, which paid users 90% of ad revenue associated with material they posted to the site. Wilkes says she requested payment in February, but that the company refused to pay her.

Newsvine quietly revised its revenue-sharing program late last year, and as part of that shift, required contributors to claim any proceeds they were owed by the end of the year, Wilkes alleges. Newsvine informed users about the change by posting an article to its home page, according to the complaint.

But Wilkes says that like many other users, she never saw that article, which ran in November and carried the headline Newsvine Now Supports Google AdSense. She also says the company buried the most critical information at the end of the article. The last two sentences of the article said that November was the last month that users would receive 90% of ad revenue. Newsviners must cash out — or donate — their earnings Monday, December 31st, the article ended — via

Nick Cave to sing Barossa’s praises

A $6 million tourism campaign has been launched to promote the Barossa Valley as the nation’s top food and wine destination.
The advertisement features a soundtrack by Australian singer Nick Cave and will appear on television networks around Australia from 2 June 2.

There will also be a digital and print media campaign, in an effort to attract interstate visitors.

Tourism Barossa chairman Chris Pfeiffer said there was more to the Barossa Valley than wine production — via

IRS sued for seizing 60 million medical records

A healthcare provider has sued the Internal Revenue Service and 15 of its agents, charging they wrongfully seized 60 million medical records from 10 million Americans.

The name of the provider is not yet known, United Press International said. But Courthouse News Service said the suit claims the agency violated the Fourth Amendment in 2011, when agents executed a search warrant for financial data on one employee — and that led to the seizure of information on 10 million, including state judges.

The search warrant did not specify that the IRS could take medical information, UPI said. And information technology officials warned the IRS about the potential to violate medical privacy laws before agents executed the warrant, the complaint said, as reported by UPI.

Despite knowing that these medical records were not within the scope of the warrant, defendants threatened to ‘rip’ the servers containing the medical data out of the building if IT personnel would not voluntarily hand them over, the complaint states, UPI reported.

The suit also says IRS agents seized workers’ phones and telephone data — more violations of the warrant, UPI reported — via

Yahoo to buy Tumblr for $1.1bn

Yahoo’s board has approved a deal to buy New York-based blogging service Tumblr for $1.1bn (£725m), US media reports say.

The acquisition is expected to be announced as early as Monday.

The deal was a foregone conclusion and was unanimously voted for by the board, tech blog AllThingsD reported, citing sources close to the matter.

If confirmed, it will be CEO Marissa Mayer’s largest deal since taking the helm of Yahoo in July 2012.

Neither Yahoo nor Tumblr responded immediately to requests for comment.

Under the terms of the acquisition, Tumblr would continue to operate as an independent business, the Wall Street Journal said, citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation.

The company is currently run by David Karp, a 26-year-old New Yorker who founded Tumblr in 2007, and he is expected to remain in his role.

Analysts say that by acquiring Tumblr, Yahoo will gain a larger social media presence and enhance its ability to attract younger audiences in its battle with internet rivals Google and Facebook — via

Reckless Oz regulator runs roughshod over rights

…if Section 313 sounds wide ranging, that’s because it is, and its use by ASIC is rather different.

ASIC has warned consumers about the activities of a cold-calling investment scam using the name ‘Global Capital Wealth’ … The scammers offer consumers opportunities to invest in a managed share trading fund, it wrote in a media release dated 22 March.

The scammers operate websites at and, which purport to provide share trading services. ASIC has already blocked access to these websites.

ASIC’s concern is that the scammers, via their websites, promotional material, and cold calling, appear to be fraudulently using the Australian business number (ABN), Australian company number (ACN), and Australian financial services (AFS) licence number of Global Capital Resources Pty Ltd, a licensed financial services business with no connections to Global Capital Wealth.

Life and limb are not under threat here, nor are young children being abused. The only risk is about money — and, even then, the only people at risk are those too greedy or too stupid to realise that the deals being offered are too good to be true. That’s quite a bit of scope creep — especially since ASIC only has concern about what the sites appear to do.

ASIC made the mistake of requesting that access be blocked to the sites’ internet protocol (IP) address. More than 1,200 other sites used the same address — a common situation with commodity-grade shared internet hosting. That ASIC didn’t know this demonstrates a fundamental ignorance of how the internet works. It’s like putting road blocks around an entire suburb because one shop is selling dodgy merchandise. And the problem was compounded by not providing an explanatory web page — via

Interpol filter scope creep: ASIC ordering unilateral website blocks

The Federal Government has confirmed its financial regulator has started requiring Australian Internet service providers to block websites suspected of providing fraudulent financial opportunities, in a move which appears to also open the door for other government agencies to unilaterally block sites they deem questionable in their own portfolios.

The news came tonight in a statement issued by the office of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, following a controversial event in April which saw some 1,200 websites wrongfully blocked by several of Australia’s major Internet service providers.

On 12 April, Melbourne publication the Melbourne Times Weekly reported that more than 1,200 websites, including one belonging to independent learning organisation Melbourne Free University, might have been blocked by the Australian Government. At the time, Melbourne Free University was reportedly told by its ISP, Exetel, that the IP address hosting its website had been blocked by Australian authorities. The block lasted from 4 April until 12 April.

Subsequently, the US-based Electronic Frontier Foundation issued a media release linking the issue to the Labor Federal Government’s various Internet filtering initiatives, especially the voluntary filtering scheme currently implemented by a number of major ISPs including Telstra, Optus and Vodafone — via

Amazon staff go on strike in Germany

Amazon employees in Germany have staged their first ever strikes, in a dispute over pay and benefits with the vast US online retailer.

Employees at two huge distribution warehouses, in Bad Hersfeld and Leipzig, launched the one-day strike, the giant services sector union Ver.di said.

Ver.di is demanding that Amazon’s 9,000 workers in Germany be paid according to a wage deal in place for the retail and mail-order industries. The head of Amazon Germany, Ralf Kleber, rejected these demands, arguing that the retailer’s staff were working in the logistics business, packing and dispatching parcels, rather than in the retail and mail-order sector.

Bad Hersfeld has a workforce of more than 3,000, while the Leipzig site employs around 2,000 people.

Amazon says it pays an hourly wage of €9.30 (£8) to employees in their first year, rising to €10 after that. Ver.di is demanding the minimum hourly retail wage of €10.66 for Leipzig; in Bad Hersfeld, the union wants staff to be paid the agreed sector rate, of just over €12 per hour, compared with the €9.83 Amazon currently offers — via

Jail Terms For Unlocking Cellphones Shows The True Black Heart Of The Copyright Monopoly

There is a weak copyright monopoly reform bill happening in the United States Congress at the moment.

This bill is not about the copyright monopoly at all, and at the same time, about everything that the monopoly actually is. It is the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013.

The bill, which was presented to the US Congress three days ago, makes it legal to unlock devices such as phones that you own, and do what you like with them. Let’s take that again, because it is jaw-dropping: the bill reforms the copyright monopoly to make it legal to tinker with objects that you own. It has nothing to do with BitTorrent, MKVs, streaming, or what we normally associate with the activity of sharing culture outside of the copyright monopoly distributions.

The bill is about your ability to take your phone to a different wireless operator. Your own phone, that you bought and paid for. Your legal ability to bring your own property wherever you like, without breaching criminal law and risking jail. How on Odin’s green Earth did this come to have to do with the copyright monopoly?

Few contemporary discussions put the spotlight like this one on how the copyright monopoly is not about rewarding artists, but is a political war on property — on our ability to own the things we paid for. (I won’t say bought, as that implies we actually own them.) The copyright monopoly is dividing the population into a corporate class who gets to control what objects may be used for what purpose, and a subservient consumer class that don’t get to buy or own anything — they just get to think they own things that can only be used in a predefined way, for a steep, monopolised, fixed price, or risk having the police sent after them — via

Netflix, Reed Hastings Survive Missteps to Join Silicon Valley’s Elite

On a normal weeknight, Netflix accounts for almost a third of all Internet traffic entering North American homes. That’s more than YouTube, Hulu,, HBO Go, iTunes, and BitTorrent combined. Traffic to Netflix usually peaks at around 10.00pm in each time zone, at which point a chart of Internet consumption looks like a python that swallowed a cow. By midnight Pacific time, streaming volume falls off dramatically.

As prime time wound down on 31 January, though, there was an unusual amount of tension at Netflix. That was the night the company premièred House of Cards, its political thriller set in Washington. Before midnight about 40 engineers gathered in a conference room at Netflix’s headquarters. They sat before a collection of wall-mounted monitors that displayed the status of Netflix’s computing systems. On the conference table, a few dozen laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other devices had the Netflix app loaded and ready to stream.

When the clocks hit 12.00am, the entire season of House of Cards started appearing on the devices, as well as in the recommendation lists of millions of customers chosen by an algorithm. The opening scene, a dog getting run over by an SUV, came and went. At 12.15am, around the time Kevin Spacey’s character says I’m livid, everything was working fine. That’s when the champagne comes, says Yury Izrailevsky, the vice president in charge of cloud computing at Netflix, which has a history of self-inflicted catastrophes. Izrailevsky stayed until the wee hours of the morning—just in case—as thousands of customers binge-watched the show. The midnight ritual repeated itself on 19 April, when Netflix premièred its werewolf horror series Hemlock Grove, and will again on 26 May, when its revival of Arrested Development goes live — via

Adobe goes all in on the cloud, ditches Creative Suite

The latest version of Adobe’s Creative Suite — the exceedingly popular design, web and multimedia software suite that includes Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, After Effects, Dreamweaver and Acrobat — will be its last, the company announced at its MAX conference in Los Angeles.

Moving forward, the company will double down on its Creative Cloud software-as-a-service offering, introduced last year.

Creative Suite 6 — the current version of the desktop-based offering — will still be available for purchase, but it is the final version and will not be updated beyond routine maintenance.

Goodbye, CS. Hello, CC — via

Mozilla: government spyware disguising itself as Firefox

Mozilla has called on a commercial spyware company to stop masquerading as its Firefox browser to avoid detection on people’s computers.

The action comes after a report from human rights group Citizen Lab claimed that Gamma International, a controversial surveillance software company, was using Firefox as a mask to hide its FinSpy software, which is used by governments to snoop on citizens.

British-based Gamma disguises its surveillance tool — which can be installed covertly, and then access key-strokes, activate webcams and record Skype calls — as Firefox so that users don’t delete it, Mozilla said.

We’ve sent Gamma a cease and desist letter today demanding that these illegal practices stop immediately, Mozilla said in a blog.

We cannot abide a software company using our name to disguise online surveillance tools that can be — and in several cases actually have been — used by Gamma’s customers to violate citizens’ human rights and online privacy.

Mozilla stressed that the two software packages remained separate and that FinSpy did not affect Firefox itself or the way the browser operated. Gamma’s software is entirely separate, and only uses our brand and trademarks to lie and mislead as one of its methods for avoiding detection and deletion, Mozilla said — via

Excite Mobile found guilty of outrageous customer deception

South Australian mobile phone provider Excite Mobile has been found guilty of false, misleading and unconscionable conduct by the Federal Court after the ACCC took action against the company for faking a debt collection agency, creating a fictional complaints body, and misrepresenting scope of mobile coverage.

The Federal Court ruled Excite acted unconscionably in getting customers onto a 24 month phone contract, and used “undue coercion” when sending fake debt collection letters to 1074 customers, according to a statement by the competition watchdog.

The phone number included on the fake debt collection letters was answered by Excite Mobile staff.

The ACCC said the company had falsely stated on the letters that a court would make the customers pay 20 percent of the debt for failing to pay on time, and would order the repossession of all valuable assets owned by the customer, including children’s toys, to force late-paying customers to hand over the owed amount.

Excite Mobile directors Obie Brown and David Samuel were also found to have created a fake complaints company, called Telecommunications Industry Complaints, to deceive customers into believing their complaints were being handled externally and independently.

Additionally, the company told customers mobile service was available at their premises when it wasn’t, including in indigenous communities — via

Lesley Kemp faces libel suit over Twitter comments

A woman who complained about an unpaid £146 invoice is facing a libel battle that could cost her more than £100,000.

Lesley Kemp, 55, took to Twitter claiming that a company based in the Middle East had failed to pay her promptly for transcription work.

Now the firm is suing Mrs Kemp, of Milton Keynes, for defamation, claiming up to £50,000 in damages and a further £70,000 in costs.

The company, Resolution Productions, based in Qatar, has yet to comment — via

LVMH-backed fund buys stake in RM Williams

A private equity fund sponsored by French luxury brand LVMH Group has snapped up just under half of Australia’s RM Williams in a deal aimed at helping the bushwear firm expand further overseas.

The sale of the 49.9% holding was valued at around A$52m (£35.4m), said a source close to the deal who was not authorised to speak on the record.

Singapore-based L Capital Asia, which is also backed by Groupe Arnault, the holding company of LVMH chairman and chief executive Bernard Arnault, and Malaysia’s YTL Corp, specialises in developing distinctive but affordable brands in the Asia-Pacific region.

Last year, it took a 50% stake in upmarket Australian food store Jones the Grocer — via

Sky Email Avalanche Angers Customers

Sky customers are complaining they were bombarded with literally thousands of old email messages when the company switched email provider from Google to Yahoo last week.

Sky has been looking into the issue since Friday, but has so far failed to find a solution — so on Monday afternoon, users are still reporting a flood of old messages. The company’s only advice so far has been to delete the unwanted emails through Yahoo’s cloud client — via

Waiting for a train that has yet to be built

Gen Okajima is waiting for a train. He knows it won’t arrive soon, not even in the next few years, but he isn’t feeling anxious or impatient. He says it will come once Australia is ready for it.

Mr Okajima, general manager of the Sydney office of Japan’s biggest railway company, is waiting for the day Australia builds a high-speed rail line between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, the subject of a federal government study.

It is his job to ensure that when or if that happens, Australia uses Shinkansen, the bullet trains that carry hundreds of millions along Japan’s great network of high-speed rail lines.

Since the Shinkansen technology is a world-class system, we are proud as a nation, Mr Okajima said. And Australia is such an important friend to Japan we are looking to share its benefit.

This partnership would include sharing research and development costs with the Central Japan Railway Company, Mr Okajima’s employer. But the company has been waiting 26 years for high-speed rail to come to Australia. It opened its Sydney office in 1988. For now, its main line of business is exporting Australian wine and snacks such as beef jerky to Japan to be sold on the Shinkansen — via

Amazon Is Buying Goodreads

Noted online bookstore and retailer Amazon is buying the excellent online books-related social network and information portal Goodreads. Well, that’s a deal that makes a lot of sense.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Goodreads, the online books portal is a place where users can connect with each other and keep track of the books they’re reading as well as what they’d like to read. So, you know, it’s exactly the type of service that Amazon would want to acquire, given that it’s in the business of selling books — via

USPS Discriminates Against Atheist Merchandise

Suspecting that their strongly branded Atheist products may be treated differently by more religiously-oriented postal regions, Kickstarter success Atheist Shoes conducted an experiment. They sent 178 packages to 89 people in different parts of the US, each person receiving one package prominently branded as Atheist merchandise, and one not. The results: packages with the atheist label were nearly 10 times more likely to be lost, and took on average 3 days longer to show up when they did. Control experiments were also done in Europe and Germany — it’s definitely a USPS problem — via Slashdot

Consumers abandon newspapers, local TV as quality of coverage sinks

Cutbacks at newspapers and local television stations have left the news industry undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories or dig deep into public issues, according to the Pew Research Centre’s annual report on American journalism.

That conclusion might be expected to matter most to journalists struggling to keep their jobs. But members of the general public have noticed the cutbacks in quality, which have caused them to turn away from news outlets, reports Pew, a respected non-partisan organisation.

Nearly one-third of US adults have stopped using a news source because it no longer provided them with the quality of coverage they were accustomed to getting. With reporting resources cut to the bone and fewer specialized beats, journalists’ level of expertise in any one area and the ability to go deep into a story are compromised, the report said — via

Adobe: Fly to US for cheaper software

Australians can go to the US if they want lower American prices on boxed Adobe products, or buy the company’s cloud-based offering, an Adobe official told a Parliamentary panel today.

In a hearing about higher IT pricing in Australia compared to other markets, Adobe managing director of ANZ, Paul Robson, dodged and slapped back a flurry of volleys from the House Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications.

Robson stressed that the Australian price of Adobe’s Creative Cloud, $49.99 per month, is similar to the US price. He said that most of Adobe’s customers are moving to the cloud versions of the company’s software — via

Crown Casino rocked by massive betting scam

Melbourne’s Crown Casino is working with police and Victoria’s gaming regulator to investigate a betting scam which is believed to have netted a high-rolling cards player $32 million.

A staff member who looks after VIP gamblers has been sacked over the scam and a gambler has been banned from the premises.

The Herald Sun has reported the scam netted the high roller $32 million, but Crown is refusing to confirm that figure.

It is believed the scam involved the use of the casino’s own surveillance system, but Crown is not commenting — via

Yahoo CEO Mayer Now Requiring Remote Employees to Not Be (Remote)

According to numerous sources, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has instituted a HR plan today to require Yahoo employees who work remotely to relocate to company facilities. The move will apparently impact several hundred employees, who must either comply without exception or presumably quit. It impacts workers such as customer service reps, who perhaps work from home or an office in another city where Yahoo does not have one — via