Displaying items by tag: US

US drone row with China sparks new security fears

Written on Monday, 19 December 2016 13:43

Political tensions between the US and China may have now calmed, but the incident has only served to increase further fears over security. Political tensions were heightened between the two nations when China decided to inexplicably seize an underwater research drone owned by the US.

Senator John McCain described the act as a ‘gross violation of international law.’ President-elect Donald Trump also became embroiled in the political row and denounced China’s actions - before later appearing to reverse his statement via Twitter, by telling China they should keep the drone.

The incident according to political analysts has served only to heighten domestic fears over security following the high-profile hacking scandal - with both the CIA and FBI confirming they suspect Russia was behind the hacks which derailed Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

China have engaged directly with Pentagon officials in Washington and confirmed it will return the research drone, although they’ve been critical of the US for the way they dealt with the incident claiming they hyped up the incident into a diplomatic row which was played out in the public eye.

Senator McCain suggested China could have gained a lot of valuable information by seizing the drone, claiming China can perform an act called reverse-engineering on the drone in order to retrieve information. McCain said: “The Chinese are able to do a thing called reverse-engineering, where they are able to, while they hold this drone, find out all of the technical information. And some of it is pretty valuable. China’s act is a gross violation of international law.”

President Trump initially tweeted: “China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters - rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act.” He later suggested China should keep the drone. When Trump’s Public Relations team was queried as to what this last tweet meant, Jason Miller, his communications director claimed that China were likely to return a chunk of metal and a bag of wires after seizing the drone for several days.

China’s ministry of defence pledged an “appropriate” return of the drone on its Weibo social media account, while also criticizing the U.S. for hyping the incident into a diplomatic row. It followed assurances from Beijing that the governments were working to resolve the spat.

The drone incident was disclosed by the Pentagon on Friday. China’s ministry said the U.S. “hyped the case in public,” which it said wasn’t helpful in resolving the problem. The U.S. has “frequently” sent its vessels and aircrafts into the region, and China urges such activities to stop, the ministry said in its Weibo message.

China is very sensitive about unmanned underwater vehicles because they can track our nuclear ballistic missile submarines fleet,” said retired Major General Xu Guangyu, a senior researcher at Beijing-based research group the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association. “If one from the Bowditch can be detected and even snatched by a Chinese naval ship, it shows it’s getting too close to the sensitive water areas.”

The tensions unleashed by the episode underscored the delicate state of relations between the two countries, weeks before Trump’s inauguration. Trump has threatened higher tariffs on Chinese products and questioned the U.S. approach to Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory. Meanwhile, China is growing more assertive over its claims to disputed sections of the South China Sea.

 

Published in Government

US president elect holds talks with Silicon Valley tech leaders

Written on Thursday, 15 December 2016 13:01

US president elect Donald Trump has met with a number of the world’s leading technology figures ahead of his inauguration ceremony next month. During a toxic battle for The White House, which has divided a nation, tech leaders in Silicon Valley were extremely critical of Trump – and said if he were to be elected, it would be a disaster for innovation and the technology industry.

However, the 70-year-old billionaire has attempted to alleviate fears in the tech sector by organising a meeting with industry leaders in the US. Many of those that attended the meeting were pro-Hilary Clinton during the campaign, with many being vocal in their support for the Democratic nominee. The one exception was PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, and it was conveyed that he was the central figure in organizing the meeting.

Trump headed into hostile territory knowing how he was perceived by some of America’s most powerful tech executives, but he was undeterred as he attempted to form new relationships in an effort to promote job creation and facilitate trade.

Some high-profile senators have expressed concern over Trump’s decision to make ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson his Secretary of State, with the oil tycoon having close ties to Moscow. Relations with Russia are at their worst in years – following the CIA’s assessment that Russia where in fact involved in the hacking scandal that disrupted the presidential election campaign. Some tech leaders have also expressed concern at Trump’s response to the CIA’s report. He rubbished Russia’s involvement and slammed the report labelling the claims as ‘ridiculous’.

However, Trump reassured tech leaders of his commitment to the sector, and promised to help them continue their incredible innovation plans, adding that he was here to help.

Trump said: “I'm here to help you folks do well," Trump told the industry leaders in opening remarks that reporters were briefly allowed to observe after the tech titans went around the table introducing themselves. We want you to keep going with the incredible innovation. “There's nobody like you in the world," he said.

Trump was joined at the meeting by Vice President elect Mike Pence and a number of high-profile CEOs that included Tim Cook (Apple), Satya Nadella (Microsoft) and Larry Page of Alphabet (Google). Also in attendance were Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg and Oracle chief executive, Safra Catz, although it was noted that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was not present. Reports suggested Twitter were excluded from the meeting due to their refusal to allow an emoji version of the hashtag which read ‘crooked Hilary’.

Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence sat in the middle of the table with CEOs that included Tim Cook of Apple, Satya Nadella of Microsoft and Larry Page of Alphabet (Google). What effects a Trump presidency will have on the tech sector is hard to predict.

While the tech industry is likely to oppose any trade barriers or efforts to limit immigration, many companies are expected to welcome a lowering of corporate tax rates promised by Trump, especially on profits repatriated from overseas. "We're going to make fair trade deals. We're going to make it a lot easier for you to trade across borders. There have been a lot of restrictions, a lot of problems that I think you see. And if you have any ideas on that issue then that would be great.”

Tech firms led by Apple are responsible for the lion's share of an estimated $2.5 trillion being held overseas by US companies, and are reluctant to bring those funds back and face a hefty tax bill. A potential clash between Trump and the sector is possible over encryption, and the ability of enforcement and intelligence services to decrypt devices for national security investigations.

None of the industry leaders stopped to talk to reporters on their way out of the building at the end, except Catz who gave a little wave. Trump said he would add Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to his advisory council of business leaders tasked with helping to create new jobs "across the United States from Silicon Valley to the heartland."

Trump is putting the finishing touches to his cabinet, nominating former Texas governor Rick Perry as energy secretary and reportedly choosing Montana Representative Ryan Zinke as interior secretary. Perry, who participated in the Republican primary but was crushed by Trump early on, once assailed him as a "cancer on conservatism." On Wednesday, Forbes magazine ranked Trump as the second most powerful person of the year -- right behind Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Published in Government

Outgoing US President Barack Obama has called for a broad review to be conducted into the Russian hacking scandal which disrupted the US presidential election campaign last month. US Democrats believe the hacking scandal significantly benefited Donald Trump’s successful bid candidacy.

White House counterterrorism and Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco confirmed that President Obama has ordered intelligence officials to file a report into the hacking of Democratic officials’ e-mail accounts and Russia’s involvement in it – which has also further raised concerns over ‘foreign meddling.’

President Obama has requested the report to be submitted before he leaves office next month. However, it has not been confirmed whether or not the findings of the report will be made public. During a hostile campaign between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump – Trump regularly referenced the e-mail hacking scandal involving Clinton, labelling her ‘crooked Hilary’ and said he believed she should be in jail.

US intelligence officials accused the Russian government of ordering the breaches as part of an effort to interfere with the presidential campaign.

In the months leading up to the election, Hillary Clinton faced intense scrutiny after it emerged she used a private server when she was Secretary of State, rather than official State Department email accounts maintained on federal servers. Those official communications included thousands of emails that would retroactively be marked classified by the state department.

The FBI initiated an investigation but recommended that no charges be filed against her. Many political analysts believe it strengthened the campaign of President elect Donald Trump. However, Trump has downplayed the possibility that Russia was involved in the hacking scandal.

Since Trump's victory, Democratic senators on the intelligence committee have been pushing Obama to declassify more information about Russia's role. Congressman Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said he welcomed Obama's call for a review.

"Given President-elect Trump's disturbing refusal to listen to our intelligence community and accept that the hacking was orchestrated by the Kremlin, there is an added urgency to the need for a thorough review before President Obama leaves office next month. If the administration doesn't respond "forcefully" to such actions, "we can expect to see a lot more of this in the near future.”

The news of this investigation come hot on the heels of an announcement made by Kremlin officials last week, in which they disclosed information that Russian leader Vladimir Putin had signed a new cybersecurity doctrine in an effort to bolster Russia against cyberattacks from abroad.

Published in Government

AT&T CEO defends Time Warner deal worth $84.5 billion

Written on Thursday, 08 December 2016 10:19

American Multinational Telecommunications conglomerate AT&T has defended its acquisition of Time Warner in a deal which was worth $84.5 billion. The CEO of AT&T Randall Stephenson was forced to defend the deal and presented his case in a hearing in front of US Senators. Stephenson highlighted the pro-competition benefits of the merger and described the deal as the ‘classic vertical merger’.

When the deal was announced in October it was greeted frostily by lawmakers, but following the presentation of the merger the tone and fears over the partnership seems to have subsided somewhat. During the US presidential election campaign, when news circulated of the deal, Donald Trump said if he were elected he would block the merger. He had singled out CNN, the cable news network owned by Time Warner, with particular rancour for its election coverage at the time.

He has since made no further comment in relation to the hearing which got underway yesterday, and while people seemed to be more receptive to this massive merger, one US Senator expressed his grave concerns over the deal.

US Senator, Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, said: “I have serious concerns about this transaction. The deal potentially has serious negative impacts on competition and on consumers.”

During the hearing, AT&T and Time Warner pitched a message that catered to the new administration: a populist promise of lower prices and the potential to build more wireless infrastructure through the merger. While AT&T and Time Warner are powerhouses, they presented themselves as weaker rivals to the cable industry and Silicon Valley tech companies

AT&T, a telecom giant, and Time Warner, which owns CNN and HBO, had said in October that AT&T would buy Time Warner to create a mobile video powerhouse. The hearing may have implications beyond this deal, with the comments potentially encouraging more acquisitions by companies that have been waiting out the Obama administration, which has rejected several mergers.

Consumer groups have rejected the characterization of AT&T and Time Warner as disadvantaged rivals, saying a combined company would create a powerhouse that all cable providers and networks would have to negotiate with.

“If a single company is able to control so many key inputs to online video, this new market could be snuffed out,” said Gene Kimmelman, president and chief executive of Public Knowledge, a nonprofit consumer group, at the hearing.

After today’s session the case will go through several other committees and official departments, including potentially the FCC, before a final ruling will be made.

 

Published in Telecom Operators

A Japanese Telecoms company has agreed to invest a staggering $50 billion in business and job creation in the United States - following a deal which was brokered by incoming US president, Donal Trump. The president elect triumphantly told the assembled media in the lobby of Trump Tower, New York, that SoftBank had agreed to invest $50 billion in the United States which would create 50,000 jobs over the next four years.

Since that deal was officially announced by SoftBank, shares have soared in the Tokyo-listed telecoms firm. SoftBank jumped more than 5% after the opening bell, which came just hours after the tycoon announced the deal while he wrapped his arm around flamboyant billionaire founder of SoftBank, Masayoshi Son.

During his election campaign Trump passionately declared that he would bring jobs back to the US and insisted he would also attract investment from overseas investors. He has already delivered a huge statement of intent before he even sets foot in The White House with the announcement of this deal.

A smiling Trump told reporters: “SoftBank from Japan have just agreed to invest $50 billion in the United States which in turn will create 50,000 jobs.” It was also disclosed that SoftBank brandished a document which featured the names of his firm and that of Foxconn, the Taiwanese technology colossus that read; ‘Committed to invest $50bn + $7bn in US which will create 50k + 50k new jobs in the US over the next four years.’

The soon-to-be US president offered no specific details, and a Tokyo-based spokesman for SoftBank declined to comment. Foxconn, which assembles Apple's iPhone and supplies parts, also refused to comment. Son told reporters the money will come from a $100 billion investment fund he is setting up with Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund and other partners, a move announced in mid-October, Japan's Jiji Press reported. "Investors are welcoming the announcement," Shuji Hosoi, a senior strategist at Daiwa Securities revealed. He added that it was something unexpected, and the size of the pledge is big. Son's remarks were generally in line with what Trump has been saying (about boosting the economy).

SoftBank already has investments in the United States: in 2013 it paid $22 billion for 80 percent of Sprint. Son initially set his sights on a merger with T-Mobile, but that plan was abandoned owing to likely opposition from US regulators.

Published in Government

US tech company Uber is fighting a legal battle following a decision by a Spanish judge in 2015 to ban the company from operating in the country. He referred the case to the European Court of Justice at the time to decide how to define Uber’s service. At the core of the European Court case is whether or not Uber can be defined as a transportation company or a digital platform. The American company, which has its HQ in San Francisco - was founded in 2009 and recognizes itself as a digital platform.

However, that assessment has been disputed by those who believe Uber are using labels so they don’t have to comply with national laws if it is defined as a transportation company - that would ultimately impact Uber’s growth in Europe. A lawyer for the Spanish Taxi association who initially filed the complaint against Uber argued that they can’t allow a business model to develop in Europe that could undermine the rights of consumers.

The American company has been accused of aggressively pushing itself into overseas markets, and has often in the past clashed heads with law makers and taxi associations who say Uber flouts transportation and competition rules. That is what occurred in Spain which subsequently led to this long-awaited trial in the European Court of Justice which will go a long way in determining the future of the US firm in Europe.

Uber has expanded its operations into more than 300 countries and is worth an estimated $68 billion.However, Europe’s legal challenge is a direct attack on how Uber operates in the region, one of its most important markets – but it also raises questions regarding the company’s future growth plans as it looks to expand beyond the transportation of people to food delivery and other online services.

At the hearing the company defended itself by framing an argument that it was a new player in Europe’s often lacklustre digital economy, which was offering users and drivers new ways to connect which would also support cities’ existing transportation networks.“Uber’s services can’t be reduced to merely a transport service,” Cani Fernández, Uber’s lawyer, told the Court of Justice during a lengthy session here that also included arguments from the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, and several European countries.

“The reduction of unnecessary barriers to information society services is critical in the development of the digital single market,” Ms. Fernández said, in reference to the commission’s goal to reduce national barriers that prevent Europeans from gaining access to e-commerce platforms, streamed television content and other online services.

One of the critical aspects of the legal dispute is actually not whether or not Uber can be defined as a transportation service or digital platform – instead it could well be its blurry stance on consumer rights. At the hearing yesterday afternoon, several of the European judges questioned Uber in relation to its relationship with drivers and about who should be held responsible if a passenger was hurt?

Such consumer protection issues were not part of the original case referred from the Spanish judge but it is now clear that it could form part of the final decision when it is made next year and could be a central topic for the prosecution in this case. “What liability does the platform have?” asked Daniel Svaby, one of the European judges. “The customer doesn’t know the driver who will pick her up. What can a user do to protect herself from harm?”

The trial continues at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg today.

 

Published in Government

US Road Safety Authorities have called on smartphone makers to develop additional applications to its devices in order to combat the surge in deaths which have been caused due to distracted driving. The claim by US highway safety officials drew immediate objection and opposition from the electronics industry who have argued that distracted driving is not entirely caused by phone checking.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued voluntary guidelines to tech companies in an effort to try and stop an alarming rise in road deaths – which they believe is as a result of engagement with a smartphone device. In the guidelines they request device makers to block video displays and prevent manual text entry when vehicles are moving and under way.

US Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx believes far too many people are put at risk on the roads by drivers who are distracted by their smartphones, and he feels companies directly involved in producing these products should take more responsibility in terms of road safety.

“As millions of Americans take to the roads for Thanksgiving gatherings - far too many motorists are put at risk by drivers that are distracted by their cell phones - and we have submitted straightforward and basic guidelines which are grounded in the best research available that will enable designers of mobile devices to build products that can cut down distraction on the road.”

The proposal submitted by the US Transportation Department comes in light of a report that suggests that over 3,500 road deaths last year were due to driver distraction.

Industry groups are urging regulators to proceed cautiously against safety advocates who have chided the government for acting too timidly. The debate could also have implications for technology giants Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google who are both embarked on programs designed to develop vehicle technology.

The Consumer Trade Technology Association, a trade group whose members include top smartphones makers Apple and Samsung have labelled the guidelines as ‘extreme.’ President of The Consumer Technology Association, Gary Shapiro said: “This regulatory overreach could thwart the innovative solutions and technologies that help drivers make safer decisions from ever coming to market. The NHTSA doesn’t have the authority to dictate the design of smartphone apps and other devices used in cars – and its legal jurisdiction begins and ends with motor vehicle equipment.”

CTIA, a trade group for wireless companies including AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications were also critical of the guidelines characterized by the NHTSA – the Washington based company felt the proposal was the wrong approach for consumers.

“A regulatory path can’t keep pace with efforts to reduce distractions, whether they arise from interacting with mobile or embedded devices or other activities like eating, said Tom Power, general counsel for CTIA.

However, William Wallace, a policy analyst for Consumers Union spoke in favor of the guidelines proposed and said the issue of distracted driving had reached epidemic proportions. “The problem of distracted driving has grown into an epidemic. These guidelines could help stem the increase in traffic deaths that we’ve seen in the last two years.”

It was also revealed that research found that interference with a driver’s attention is equal whether the driver is holding a device or not. In several crashes investigated it was established drivers were on hands-free devices. Incredibly though only 14 US states and the District of Columbia ban the use of hand-held mobile phones. There are currently no jurisdictions that prohibit the use of hands-free devices

A number of major US technology companies suffered a drastic decline in its stocks following the presidential election of Donald Trump – and are now quite fearful for the future under his administration. During the election campaign close to 150 tech leaders including founders of worldwide brands such as Apple, Reddit and Wikipedia penned an open letter in July - in which it warned that his nomination would be a ‘disaster for innovation.’

However, the controversial Republican candidate and New York based billionaire secured the nomination on November 8th and will now subsequently become the 45th President of the United States. His success has left the technology sector pondering its future under Trump – and already stocks have taken a huge decline since his nomination.

Trumps pre-election rhetoric sent shivers through Silicon Valley as he announced that he intended to squeeze trade on China, clamp down on immigration which is critical to many tech firms - and he also issued a warning to online giants Amazon suggesting they could have ‘a huge antitrust problem’ if he were to be successful in his candidacy.

Gene Munster, an analyst on the technology sector at US investment bank and asset management company Piper Jaffray has moved to dispel some of the fears surrounding immigration and Amazon.

Munster said: “The tech sector is in more control of its own destiny than Donald Trump and will work through these problems.”

“I think the ‘antitrust’ probe of Amazon is unlikely, and I don’t think there will be major change on skilled immigration under Trump, and there could be an increase on tariffs for electronics components and that could potentially impact companies such as Apple, but it would be equally spread over manufacturers because they all rely on imports.”

However, many tech companies could boost significantly from Trump’s pledge to lower taxes on capital repatriated from overseas, which could well benefit companies such as Apple and Google. The tech sector holds the lion’s share of an estimated $2.5 trillion (Dh9.18 trillion) held by US firms overseas.

Bob O’Donnell, a consultant at Tech-analysis Research in Silicon Valley believes there could be a lot of money repatriated by tech companies. O’Donnell said: “Tech firms could use the repatriated money for job creation, and that would be very interesting - the tech sector may get a fresh look at the kinds of services and technologies that people want to invest in under Trump.”

“For example, a major push on infrastructure investment could be a big opportunity to integrate ‘smart’ technology for services such as transportation.”

While Trump has said very little in relation to the tech sector thus far, analysts and consultants have noted that the tech industry is such a huge part of the economy that you simply can’t ignore it. However, it has also been noted and taken into account that things that were viewed as special privileges may be taken away.

Some within the tech sector are gravely concerned that a Republican administration may seek to roll back so-called ‘net neutrality’ which ultimately prohibits broadband firms from playing favorites – which could spell trouble for online video operators like Netflix and Amazon.

Many tech leaders have simply had to put the disappointment of Trump’s election result behind them and move forward. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple CEO, Tim Cook sent a memo to staff in which he said that the only way to move forward is to do so together. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg brushed off the election result by stating that it would not be right to say the election of Donald Trump changes the fundamental arc of technology over time.

Published in Government

UAE based telecommunications firm du have launched a large social media campaign which focuses on making users aware of the potential dangers posed by posting information online.

The social media awareness campaign is entitled #PostWisely - and du created a series of hard hitting videos that emphatically delivers its message to UAE residents about the threat of disclosing their personal information on social media platforms. The series of short films are being shown in cinemas feature monologues from actors - that are incredibly based on real-life crimes that occurred in both the UAE and the US.

In one short film created by du, they reenact the account of one UAE resident who believed it was harmless if he posted an image of his airplane ticket on Instagram. However, the luxury villa in which he lived in was subsequently cleared out by thieves who ransacked his property and made away with a whole host of expensive items – including a watch worth $150,000.

In its second video, du issue an even tougher message, again based on real life events. It features a scruffy looking man in a dingy home posing as a young boy who offers to help a young girl with maths, after sending her a direct message online.

The actor says, “I know maths is tough, but I can help if you want. I’m very good at maths. The girl responds positively to his offer, and then the video shows the man saying, “Yes, I know how to get to your villa, and tonight, you’re home alone which is great.”  It was confirmed by du that the film was tragically based on a real life crime in the US in which a 14-year-old girl was brutally murdered.

Humaida Al Khalsan, Director of Corporate Communications Projects at du said, “The instances in the videos we released really happened – and that’s very scary.

“We did huge research and we saw what was happening, people share a lot of information and they don’t even know who their followers are. “People are putting their boarding passes on social media, with the barcode showing and anyone can get all of their information off that barcode – their names, numbers, where they live and so much more.”

It was also revealed by du that having surveyed a pool of 500 people – it established that 75% of respondents polled have been befriended or followed by people they don’t normally interact with.

Al Khalsan added, “We actually went on a colleague’s social media profile and took all her information that was available. “We put it all in a presentation and showed it to her – we were able to tell which days she went on holiday and where she went. “She was so scared and she completely changed the way she used social media after that.”

Published in Telecom Operators

Millennials are technology natives, and have a sea of options when it comes to viewing digital content. But even though streaming content online has taken the world by storm, a U.S. study says more adults aged 18-34 watch TV now than they did at the start of the millennium, suggesting that TV isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The study, conducted by the Video Advertising Bureau, says branded TV content, accessed across screens, is still its most popular form of digital viewing. The study says more millennials continue to watch television, where the majority of video consumption takes place than any platform or device. The reason TV remains popular with millennials, the report found, is because TV continually creates moments that transcend the viewing experience and generates a social atmosphere.

The results of the study are similar to one conducted among Mexican millennials. The study reports that even though millennials are taking to streaming content online, they spend more time with TV brands than with any other site across a wide variety of internet genres. One of the most surprising findings of the study is that many millennials are consuming more TV content than they are checking Facebook or watching YouTube videos. That’s why millennial-focused TV shows deliver higher audiences and engagement than most popular personality-driven YouTube channels.

 

Published in Satellite Industry
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