Category Archives: Internet

Farewell the ‘porn block’ – a PR exercise but lousy policy | Amy Orben

Without greater access to our online habits, politicians cannot frame laws for the digital age

The UK government’s porn block was a dead man walking for months, if not years. It is long overdue that this attempt to curb children’s access to online pornography is scrapped. Almost two years ago, a close colleague and I sat in a meeting with one of the policymakers who had recently been asked to implement the proposal. The pained look on his face when we queried his progress confirmed our suspicions that it was an impossible task. It was clear to many that the block could – and would – never come to pass.

The plan did not have just one achilles heel – it had many.

Scientists and other stakeholders cannot access information about what the population is actually doing online

Related: UK drops plans for online pornography age verification system

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YouTube’s fine and child safety online | Letters

Fining YouTube for targeting adverts at children as if they were adults shows progress is being made on both sides of the Atlantic, writes Steve Wood of the Information Commissioner’s Office

The conclusion of the Federal Trade Commission investigation into YouTube’s gathering of young people’s personal information (‘Woeful’ YouTube fine for child data breach, 5 September) shows progress is being made on both sides of the Atlantic towards a more children-friendly internet. The company was accused of treating younger users’ data in the same way it treats adult users’ data.

YouTube’s journey sounds similar to many other online services: it began targeting adults, found more and more children were using its service, and so continued to take commercial advantage of that. But the allegation is it didn’t treat those young people differently, gathering their data and using it to target content and adverts at them as though they were adult users.

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Data breach may affect 50,000 Australian university students using ‘Get’ app

Students using events app Get, previously known as Qnect, may have had their personal data exposed online

The personal details of an estimated 50,000 students involved in university clubs and societies around Australia may have been exposed online, in the second breach of its kind for the company holding the data.

Get, previously known as Qnect, is an app built for university societies and clubs to facilitate payments for events and merchandise. The app operates in four countries with 159,000 active student users, and 453 clubs using it.

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A ‘deep fake’ app will make us film stars – but will we regret our narcissism?

Users of Zao can now add themselves into the scenes of their favourite movies. But is our desire to insert ourselves into everything putting our privacy at risk?

‘You oughta be in pictures,” goes the 1934 Rudy Vallée song. And, as of last week, pretty much anyone can be. The entry requirements for being a star fell dramatically thanks to the launch, in China, of a face-swapping app that can decant users into film and TV clips.

Zao, which has quickly become China’s most downloaded free app, fuses the face in the original clip with your features. All that is required is a single selfie and the man or woman in the street is transformed into a star of the mobile screen, if not quite the silver one. In other words, anyone who yearns to be part of Titanic or Game of Thrones, The Big Bang Theory or the latest J-Pop sensation can now bypass the audition and go straight to the limelight without all that pesky hard work, talent and dedication. A whole new generation of synthetic movie idols could be unleashed upon the world: a Humphrey Bogus, a Phony Curtis, a Fake Dunaway.

Related: The rise of the deepfake and the threat to democracy

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Chinese deepfake app Zao sparks privacy row after going viral

Critics say face-swap app could spread misinformation on a massive scale

A Chinese app that lets users convincingly swap their faces with film or TV characters has rapidly become one of the country’s most downloaded apps, triggering a privacy row.

Related: The rise of the deepfake and the threat to democracy

In case you haven't heard, #ZAO is a Chinese app which completely blew up since Friday. Best application of 'Deepfake'-style AI facial replacement I've ever seen.

Here's an example of me as DiCaprio (generated in under 8 secs from that one photo in the thumbnail) pic.twitter.com/1RpnJJ3wgT

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Maths and tech specialists need Hippocratic oath, says academic

Exclusive: Hannah Fry says ethical pledge needed in tech fields that will shape future

Mathematicians, computer engineers and scientists in related fields should take a Hippocratic oath to protect the public from powerful new technologies under development in laboratories and tech firms, a leading researcher has said.

The ethical pledge would commit scientists to think deeply about the possible applications of their work and compel them to pursue only those that, at the least, do no harm to society.

Despite being invisible, maths has a dramatic impact on our lives

Related: Google whistleblower launches project to keep tech ethical

Related: To fix the problem of deepfakes we must treat the cause, not the symptoms | Matt Beard

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Chinese cyberhackers ‘blurring line between state power and crime’

Cybersecurity firm FireEye says ‘aggressive’ APT41 group working for Beijing is also hacking video games to make money

A group of state-sponsored hackers in China ran activities for personal gain at the same time as undertaking spying operations for the Chinese government in 14 different countries, the cybersecurity firm FireEye has said.

In a report released on Thursday, the company said the hacking group APT41 was different to other China-based groups tracked by security firms in that it used non-public malware typically reserved for espionage to make money through attacks on video game companies.

Related: Australia joins condemnation of 'huge, audacious' Chinese hacking plot

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Briton who helped stop 2017 WannaCry virus spared jail over malware charges

  • Marcus Hutchins pleaded guilty to two malware charges
  • 25-year-old ‘incredibly thankful’ to be sentenced to time served

The British computer expert who helped shut down the WannaCry cyberattack on the NHS said he is “incredibly thankful” after being spared jail in the US for creating malware.

Marcus Hutchins was hailed as a hero in May 2017 when he found a “kill switch” that slowed the effects of the WannaCry virus affecting more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries.

Related: FTSE 250 firms exposed to possible cyber-attacks, report finds

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The Guardian view on cybercrime: the law must be enforced | Editorial

Governments and police must take crime on the internet seriously. It is where we all live now

About half of all property crime in the developed world now takes place online. When so much of our lives, and almost all of our money, have been digitised, this is not surprising – but it has some surprising consequences. For one thing, the decline in reported property crimes trumpeted by successive British governments between 2005 and 2015 turns out to have been an illusion. Because banks were not required to report fraud to the police after 2005, they often didn’t. It would have made both banks and police look bad to have all that crime known and nothing done about it. The cost of the resulting ignorance was paid by the rest of government, and by the public, too, deprived of accurate and reliable knowledge. Since then, the total number of property crimes reported has risen from about 6m to 11m a year as the figures have taken computerised crime into account.

The indirect costs to society are very much higher than the hundreds of millions that individuals lose. One example is the proliferation of plagiarism software online, which developed an entire industry in poor, English-speaking countries like Kenya, serving idle or ignorant students in England and North America. The effort required by schools and universities to guard against such fraud has been considerable, and its cost entirely disproportionate to the gains made by the perpetrators.

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