Navalny App Gone from Google, Apple Stores on Russia Vote Day

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny’s Smart Voting app disappeared from Apple and Google stores Friday as Russians began voting in a three-day parliamentary election marked by a historic crackdown on the opposition. “Removing the Navalny app from stores is a shameful act of political censorship,” top Navalny ally Ivan Zhdanov said on Twitter. The app promoted an initiative that outlines for Navalny supporters which candidate they should back to unseat Kremlin-aligned politicians. Russia had accused Google and Apple of election interference, demanding this week that they remove the app from their stores.  Exiled Navalny ally Leonid Volkov said the companies had “caved in to the Kremlin’s blackmail.” “We have the whole of the Russian state against us and even big tech companies,” Navalny’s team said on Telegram. In a message from prison, Navalny had urged supporters to download the app, which aims to help Russians to vote out candidates from President Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party in the upcoming polls.  On the eve of the vote his team urged Russian voters to back Communist Party candidates.  Navalny – who was detained in January – has this year seen his organizations declared “extremist” and banned, while all his top aides have fled. Russia’s media regulator has since barred dozens of websites linked to Navalny including his main website navalny.com.    …

Clive Sinclair, Computing Pioneer, Dies at 81

Sir Clive Sinclair, the British inventor who pioneered the pocket calculator and affordable home computers, died Thursday at age 81. He died at his home in London a decade after being diagnosed with cancer, U.K. media said, prompting tributes from many who fondly recalled their first experience of computing in the early 1980s. He was still working on inventions last week “because that was what he loved doing,” his daughter Belinda Sinclair told the BBC. “He was inventive and imaginative, and for him, it was exciting and an adventure. It was his passion.” Sinclair’s groundbreaking products included the first portable electronic calculator in 1972. The Sinclair ZX80, which was launched in 1980 and sold for less than £100 at the time, brought home computing to the masses in Britain and beyond. Other early home computers such as the Apple II cost far more, and Sinclair’s company was the first in the world to sell more than a million machines. Follow-up models included the ZX Spectrum in 1982, which boasted superior power and a more user-friendly interface, turbocharging the revolution in gaming and programming at home. British movie director Edgar Wright, whose latest film, Last Night in Soho, premiered in Venice this month, paid tribute to Sinclair on Twitter. “For someone whose first glimpses of a brave new world were the terrifying graphics of 3D Monster Maze on the ZX81, I’d like to salute tech pioneer Sir Clive Sinclair,” he said. “He made 21st century dreams feel possible. Will bash away on …

UN Rights Chief Calls for Moratorium on Artificial Intelligence Systems

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, is calling for a moratorium on the sale and use of artificial intelligence systems, which she says pose a serious risk to human rights. The High Commissioner’s report, which will be submitted to the U.N. human rights council, provides an analysis of how advances in digital technologies are affecting people’s human rights.   The report argues that artificial intelligence, or AI, can be a force for good, but also can be overly intrusive and have negative, even catastrophic, effects on people’s right to privacy and other human rights. Peggy Hicks, director of thematic engagement at the U.N. Human Rights Office, says AI systems can be faulty and have embedded biases. These, she says, can lead to discrimination that might jeopardize job prospects or welfare and social security benefits.   She says there are numerous cases of people being treated unjustly because of the faulty use of AI in law enforcement, national security, and criminal justice and border management areas. “We see AI being used for profiling and suspect identification,” she said. “Biometric technology, such as facial recognition and emotional recognition, are being used, including remotely in real time to identify people — with documented cases of erroneous identification and disproportionate impact on certain groups, often minorities.”   The report notes biometric technologies increasingly are being used by governments, international organizations, and technology companies to identify people in real time and from a distance. This potentially allows unlimited tracking of individuals. Hicks says the High Commissioner specifically recommends a …

US Accuses Russia of Stonewalling on Cybercrime

U.S. warnings to Russian President Vladimir Putin over shielding cybercriminals holed up in Russia appear to have made little impact, according to top U.S. law enforcement and cyber officials. “There is no indication that the Russian government has taken action to crack down on ransomware actors that are operating in the permissive environment that they’ve created there,” Paul Abbate, deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said Tuesday at an intelligence summit just outside Washington.  “We’ve asked for help and cooperation with those who we know are in Russia, who we have indictments against, and we’ve seen no action,” Abbate said. “So, I would say that nothing’s changed in that regard.” U.S. President Joe Biden has twice called on the Russian leader to take action against cybercriminals operating out of Russia — first at a summit in June in Geneva and again in a phone call a month later. FILE – President Joe Biden, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet at the Villa la Grange, in Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2021.”I made it very clear to him that the United States expects when a ransomware operation is coming from his soil, even though it’s not sponsored by the state, we expect them to act if we give them enough information to act on who that is,” Biden told reporters following the July phone call.Biden, Putin Discuss Ransomware Attacks From Russia Biden warns of consequences if attacks continueSince the initial talks, senior White House officials have noted a decrease in ransomware attacks, …

Apple Plugs ‘No-Click’ Phone Hack Attributed to Pegasus Spyware

Apple released a critical software patch to fix a security vulnerability that researchers said could allow hackers to directly infect iPhones and other Apple devices without any user action.   Researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab said the security issue was exploited to plant spyware on a Saudi activist’s iPhone. They said they had high confidence that the world’s most infamous hacker-for-hire firm, Israel’s NSO Group, was behind that attack.   The previously unknown vulnerability affected all major Apple devices — iPhones, Macs and Apple Watches — the researchers said. NSO Group responded with a one-sentence statement saying it will continue providing tools for fighting “terror and crime.”   It was the first time a so-called “zero-click” exploit — one that doesn’t require users to click on suspect links or open infected files — has been caught and analyzed, the researchers said. They found the malicious code on September 7 and immediately alerted Apple. The targeted activist asked to remain anonymous, they said.   “We’re not necessarily attributing this attack to the Saudi government,” said researcher Bill Marczak.     Citizen Lab previously found evidence of zero-click exploits being used to hack into the phones of Al-Jazeera journalists and other targets but hasn’t previously seen the malicious code itself.   Although security experts say that average iPhone, iPad and Mac user generally need not worry — such attacks tend to be limited to specific targets — the discovery still alarmed security professionals.   Malicious image files were transmitted …

Cyber Arms Dealer Exploits New iPhone Software Vulnerability, Watchdog Says

A cyber surveillance company based in Israel developed a tool to break into Apple iPhones with a never-before-seen technique that has been in use since February, internet security watchdog group Citizen Lab said Monday. The discovery is important because of the critical nature of the vulnerability, which requires no user interaction and affects all versions of Apple’s iOS, OSX, and watchOS, except for those updated Monday. The vulnerability developed by the Israeli firm, named NSO Group, defeats security systems designed by Apple in recent years. Apple said it fixed the vulnerability in Monday’s software update, confirming Citizen Lab’s finding. An Apple spokesperson declined to comment regarding whether the hacking technique came from NSO Group. In a statement to Reuters, NSO did not confirm or deny that it was behind the technique, saying only that it would “continue to provide intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world with life-saving technologies to fight terror and crime.” Citizen Lab said it found the malware on the phone of an unnamed Saudi activist and that the phone had been infected with spyware in February. It is unknown how many other users may have been infected. The intended targets would not have to click on anything for the attack to work. Researchers said they did not believe there would be any visible indication that a hack had occurred. The vulnerability lies in how iMessage automatically renders images. IMessage has been repeatedly targeted by NSO and other cyber arms dealers, prompting Apple to update its architecture. But that upgrade has not fully …

Apple Must Loosen App Store Grip, Judge Says; What’s the Impact? 

Apple will be forced to loosen the grip it holds on its App Store payment system, a U.S. federal judge ruled Friday in a closely watched battle with Fortnite maker Epic Games.Though app makers will be able to take steps to skirt the up to 30% commission Apple takes on sales, the tech giant avoided being branded an illegal monopoly in the case.Here are some key questions on the App Store and the impact of the ruling:How does the App Store work?The App Store acts as the lone gateway for mobile applications of any kind onto iPhones or other Apple devices. Apple requires developers to adhere to its rules for what apps can or can’t do, and Apple makes them use the App Store payment system for all transactions there.Apple takes a commission of up to 30% of app purchases or transactions, contending it is a fair fee for providing a safe, global platform for developers to hawk their creations.Apple maintains that 85% of the estimated 1.8 million apps at the digital shop pay nothing to the Silicon Valley based tech giant.What was the ruling?The ruling by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez-Rogers said that Apple’s control of the App Store did not amount to a monopoly, but that it must let developers include links to other online venues for buying content or services.App makers will be able to provide links that users can click on to take them to another website to buy content or otherwise interact. Apple can still require its …

Qatar Awards Scholarship to Afghan Girls’ Robotics Team

Qatar has granted academic scholarships to members of a girls’ robotics team from Afghanistan dubbed the “Afghan Dreamers,” the Persian Gulf nation’s education and science foundation said on Tuesday.   Qatar has been instrumental in efforts to evacuate at-risk Afghans and foreigners from Kabul airport, including members of the team who are being housed in Doha’s Education City campus of schools and universities.   “They will receive scholarships that enable them to keep pursuing their studies through a partnership between Qatar Foundation (QF) and Qatar Fund for Development,” QF said in a statement. The team of high-achieving high school girls has about 20 members, mostly still in their teens, and are now dotted around the world with some in Qatar as well as Mexico.  The girls made headlines in 2017 after being denied visas to take part in a robotics competition in Washington — before then-President Donald Trump intervened and they were allowed to travel.   Last year, they worked to build a low-cost medical ventilator from car parts hoping to boost hospital equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.    “These talented, creative students have been living through a time of uncertainty and upheaval, and at Qatar Foundation we want to do whatever we can,” said Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al-Thani, vice-chairwoman and chief executive of QF. “By providing them with scholarships to study at Education City, their education can now continue uninterrupted.” The girls’ needs were being assessed to determine which schools or pre-university programs they should be placed in, she added.   The Taliban’s seizure of power a little over one week ago has furled a chaotic …

Ireland Fines WhatsApp for Breaching EU Privacy Laws

Ireland on Thursday slapped Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service with a record fine for breaching EU data privacy laws after European regulators demanded the penalty be increased.Ireland’s Data Protection Commission was entrusted with the case because Facebook’s European headquarters are situated in the country.”And following this reassessment the DPC has imposed a fine of 225 million euros ($267 million) on WhatsApp,” the commission said, by far the largest penalty it has ever issued to a company, dwarfing the 450,000-euro fine imposed on Twitter last year. As Ireland hosts the regional headquarters of a number of major tech players such as Apple, Google and Twitter, the DPC has been largely responsible for policing adherence to the EU’s landmark General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) charter.But Ireland has come under pressure for not taking a firm enough line against tech giants, who are generally understood to be drawn to the country by its low corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent.WhatsApp said it would appeal the decision.”We disagree with the decision today” it said in a statement, calling the penalties “entirely disproportionate.”‘Dissuasive fine’The DPC launched the WhatsApp probe in December 2018 to examine whether the messaging app “discharged its GDPR transparency obligations” with regard to telling users how their data would be processed between WhatsApp and other Facebook companies.In an initial finding submitted to other European regulators for approval last December, the DPC proposed imposing a fine of between 30 and 50 million euros, but a number of national regulators rejected the figure, triggering the launch …