Internet News (March 2017)

Claims that President Obama ran a surveillance operation on Donald Trump prior to last year’s US election have been referred to as “utterly ridiculous, complete tosh and should be ignored” by Intelligence Agency GCHQ. The current claims were disclosed during a press conference by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

According to reports, the British Foreign Surveillance Service provided former President Obama with information and details of Trumps’s telephone conversations, his phones had reportedly been tapped and had been completely undetectable to American Intelligence services.

Fox News commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano reported:- “When senior American intelligence officials denied that their agencies knew about this, they were probably being truthful”.

Policies within the GCHQ confirm that they can neither confirm or deny any intelligence operations.  Since then, on Monday 20th March, a rare open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, the director of the FBI, James Comey confirmed that the agency is in fact investigating allegations of Russian interference during the 2016 election.  Comey said that the investigation had been “ongoing” since July 2016.

The FBI investigation includes looking at some possible links between Trump’s campaign and officials within the Russian government.  Comey said that the agency would look into any collusion and assess if any crimes had in fact been committed, adding, that the inquiry was “very complex” and that he couldn’t give a timetable on its completion, or those individuals within the Trump campaign might be involved.

“We will follow the facts wherever they lead,” he said.

John Rayne Rivello has been accused of a crime that has been described as criminal cyber stalking and could leave him facing a 10 year jail sentence.

The US Justice Department has confirmed the arrest of John Rayne Rivello, 29, from Maryland, and have accused him of sending animated images with flashing lights in order to trigger an epileptic episode to Kurt Eichenwald, and a possible cause for his death.

Mr Eichenwald, a Senior Writer at Newsweek Magazine and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair is known to suffer from epilepsy and it appears that the attack may have been a response to Mr Eichenwald’s criticism of US President Donald Trump on Twitter.  According to the Justice Department, Rivello had allegedly written, “You deserve a seizure for your post”, and, “Let’s see if he dies!” to other Twitter users.  It has also been reported that other messages had been sent about his virtual attack plan, including one that read, “I hope this sends him into a seizure” – this message has been likened to a “bomb sent in the mail, or anthrax sent in an envelope” according to Steve Lieberman, a lawyer for Mr Eichenwald.

Eichenwald endured continued effects from the seizure for several weeks following the attack.  Current separate investigations from the FBI are also taking place after Eichenwald received a further 40 plus images of “strobes” after learning about the case.

Following this incident in December, UK Professor of Neurophysiology at Aston University, Stefano Seri has reported that the material used in the tweet to have been carefully constructed to cause a seizure.

“Abrupt changes in light intensity, or luminance, can trigger seizures. The most sensitive range is about 15-25 flashes per second,” he said.

“The picture would need to occupy most of the visual field. It would take some very sick people to do this, but technically, it is possible.  “Modern LED screens are not as provocative as older ones. It takes a very carefully designed stimulus to induce a seizure,” Professor Seri added.

Rivello will appear in a Texan court where Eichenwald is reported to be based.

Two Russian Intelligence Officers and two hackers have been arrested and impeached in the US in connection with the hack of a billion world-wide Yahoo accounts in the midst of extreme political controversy.

Information disclosed by the US Justice Department reports that the hackers had targeted the email accounts of Russian journalists alongside opposing politicians; former government officials and numerous individuals from the US Government included “Cyber security, diplomatic, military and White House personnel”.

Mary McCord, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security said “The Department of Justice is continuing to send a powerful message that we will not allow individuals, groups, nation-states, or a combination of them to compromise the privacy of our citizens, the economic interests of our companies or the security of our country”.

Wednesday’s condemnation has marked the first criminal case involving cyber crime again Russian Government officials, and has appeared right in the midst of claims against Russia’s interference during the US election, in which the data breach of the Democratic National Committee was reported.

Following McCord’s previous statement, McCord refused to comment or confirm whether there was a direct connection concerning the Yahoo hack, and the alleged attempts to influence the US Presidential election by Russia.  However following the indictment, the US are proving to other foreign governments that the US are not prepared to take a dim view on cyber crime and will take any necessary actions to retaliate against data theft.

The names of the Russian agents have been confirmed as Dmitry Dokuchaev an officer in the FSB Centre for Information Security (the successor to the KGB) and Igor Sushchin, alleged to be a Russian Federal Security Service Officer of unknown rank. The freelance hackers were named as Russian citizen, Alexsey Belan and Canadian citizen Karim Baratov. It has been reported that Belan is currently under protection from the Russian authorities from extradition, however this cannot be confirmed or denied.  MI5, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Toronto Police Department have all been involved in the investigations.

McCord said the attack was aimed at gathering information, “Clearly some of which has intelligence value”. But she added that “The criminal hackers used this to line their own pockets for private financial gain”.

Reports from the Justice Department show that the hackers used underhand tactics to enter the Yahoo networks in 2014 when they began to explore and gather information.  Data was not stolen until October or November in the same year, with the thefts continuing until 2016. These were not exposed until September 2016, and it wasn’t until December that the true extent of the thefts were finally discovered.

It has since been described as one of the largest hacking attacks in history.

Holographic images of Buzz Aldrin, (the second man to set foot on the Moon) have been revealed as part of a virtual reality movie that he hopes will aid future plans to get humans to the planet Mars.

“Cycling Pathways to Mars” has been created by “8i” a virtual reality firm partnered with Time. The film is aimed at the viewer, and shows Buzz as a holographic astronaut narrating the experiences through a Mars landing, describing and envisioning a Mars colony and what it would look like. Being a merely scientific production and exploration, the scenery has been described as ‘unpleasant’, and travellers could experience ‘harsh conditions’.

Aldrin commented that new arrivals on the planet would need to have the same outlook as early settlers.  He said, “I think we’re going to have pioneers, but they’re going to be very well prepared, and what troubles me is that they need to be motivated and they have to retain that motivation in a mind that changes. I think that’s one of the biggest concerns. I don’t think we should just go there and come back – we did that with Apollo.”

Following an interview with the BBC, Aldrin expressed his desire that the US Government would soon take a stand and introduce a plan of action for space travel to Mars, and also to look into further investigations about what should happen once the first arrivals have landed.  Although investment from SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk has been welcomed in space travel, Aldrin has said that it’s the government’s support that is required to achieve a Mars colony, not just the transportation that Elon Musk has expertise on.

Using the moons around the Earth and Mars as pitstops, the journey would take approximately 6 months each way.  Reviews from Charles Singletary from Upload VR have been respectfully received, describing the film as “incredible”.

Singletary told the BBC, “The production quality makes you feel like you’re standing in the middle of a high tier sci-fi film, which makes it all the more mind blowing that Buzz is guiding you through something that could realistically be implemented.”

“The hologram was very crisp and was presented as a projection in the virtual space, a small detail that keeps the immersion intact.”

Buzz Aldrin doesn’t want to be remembered in the history books for “kicking up moon dust”. Buzz has dreams of laying the foundations for a permanent human settlement on Mars, and this VR movie is just the start of his plan.

The film is due to be ready to view on HTC’s Vive VR headset, and is soon to be released to rivals Oculus Rift.

The NSPCC have recently turned a school project created by four UK students into a reality. The “For Me” app was designed by the students who were given a school project about helping the community using technology. The students recognised that there was an urgent need for young people to access advice and support on a mobile device rather than a landline or home based computer.

First launched over 30 years ago, Childline was available over the phone, and in more recent years, emails and 121 chat has been introduced.  However, studies have shown that the world has changed, and that 71% of counselling sessions are delivered online via email and live chat; 1.8 million counselling sessions from the Childline website were conducted on a mobile device, rather than a landline or computer.

Dame Esther Rantzen, founder of Childline said on the NSPCC website, “We know hundreds of thousands of young people use our website for help and support, with more than half those visits coming via mobile devices.

“Now young people can get immediate access to our counsellors through this brilliant, innovative app. Every young person will at last be able to tell Childline, ‘This app is what I really needed. This is ‘For Me'”.

The App, is available now as a free download and has been developed in partnership with Barclays.

The on-line services that users can now access include a 1-2-1 chat with a counsellor, an ‘Ask Sam’ problem page, and a ‘Private Locker’, a personal area where young people can track their moods and write down their thoughts.

Laura Hindle, a co-creator recently commented of the app, “I hope that young people now realise they have somewhere to go.  I can’t believe this app is a reality and is out there for people all over the country to access and use,” … “It’s absolutely amazing that we’ve been on this journey and been involved in this process.  I hope people find it useful, and they can get the support they need when they’re going through troubled times. I hope that young people now realise they have somewhere to go and with the support they need they can overcome their problems.”

The introduction of an adult version of this app is currently being investigated and will hopefully be available to users in the not too distant future.  The “For Me” app is now available as a free download from the iOS app store and an Android version is soon to be released.

Internet News – February 2017

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