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Russia cyber attackers may target UK elections, warn spies

Experts at GCHQ have made protecting the political system from foreign hackers as “priority work”.

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Cyber Attacker on Election

London, March 12 : Spies at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have called an emergency summit with Britains political parties after warning them that the next general election is vulnerable to cyber attacks by the Russians.

Ciaran Martin, chief executive of GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), has written to leaders of all the main political parties offering expert help to strengthen network security, reported the Sunday Times.

In his letter, Martin said: “You will be aware of the coverage of evnts in the United States, Germany and elsewhere reminding us of the potential for hostile action against the UK political system.”

He called a “technical seminar” on cyber-security for politicians.

“This is not just about the network security of political parties’ own systems. Attacks against our democratic processes go beyond this and can include attacks on Parliament, constituency offices, think tanks and pressure groups and individuals’ email accounts,” Martin said.

Experts at GCHQ have made protecting the political system from foreign hackers as “priority work”.

They fear that Kremlin-backed hackers could steal and leak internal emails or publish private databases of voters’ political views in an attempt to damage the standing of political parties with the public, according to the report.

A senior government source said GCHQ would help with the security of “personal datasets, including the electoral roll and voter identification data”.

Security officials stepped in after Russia was accused of helping Donald Trump win the US presidential ­election by hacking and publishing 20,000 emails from the rival Democratic Party.

Russia was also accused of infiltrating the German Parliament’s computer network in 2015.

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Western Railway uses modern technique to scan old Mumbai bridges

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Western Railway

Mumbai, July 14 (IANS) After Railway Minister Piyush Goyal cracked the whip, the Western Railway (WR) launched a safety audit of all 445 bridges on the Mumbai suburban section, deploying modern techniques to scan some of the oldest structures, an official said here on Saturday.

The first to be inspected and audited was the 98-year old Mahalaxmi road overbridge (ROB) and later the Bandra ROB, with the new time-saving technique through the “tower wagon car”.

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“The tower wagon has been designed to save inspection time to two hours against the normal four hours by conventional methods and even perform urgent repairs,” said WR spokesperson Ravinder Bhakar.

Image result for WR spokesperson Ravinder Bhakar.

Western Railways chief spokesperson Ravinder Bhakar

Conventionally, a long ladder was transported from Lower Parel station to the required station, shifted manually to the bridge site and only one person at a time could climb it, while clutching a load of equipment. The ladder needed to be shifted continuously for examining each girders, pillars or spans.

However, the new tower wagon allows the entire inspection team to climb to the targeted site armed with tools and machinery, and even carry out spot emergency repairs, making it a quick, safe and quality process, said Bhakar.

On the WR’s Churchgate-Virar sector, there are 29 ROBs, 110 Foot overbridges (FOBs) and four pipeline bridges, and the rest are on the Central Railway (CR), across Mumbai, Thane, Palghar and Raigad districts, catering to over eight million daily suburban commuters.

Top WR officials including General Manager A. K. Gupta, Divisional Railway Manager Sanjay Mishra, Principal Chief Engineer R. K. Meena and Chief Safety Officer Manoj Sharma were present when the inspections were carried out in the early hours on Saturday.

Image result for WR General Manager A. K. Gupta,

Western Railway top boss Western Railway GM A.K Gupta

Spelling relief, the Mahalaxmi ROB was found to be “structurally sound and in safe condition” at all its 15 girders and five spans after it was inspected in minute details by two tower wagons.

The 56-year old Bandra ROB with 13 girders and three spans was also found structurally safe and sound, the WR said.

Bouyed by the results, the WR will now carry out the safety audits of all the remaining bridges with tower wagons over the next three-four months, as resolved at a high-level meeting on July 5.

Following stringent observations by the Bombay High Court, a public uproar after the July 3 crash of a portion of the Andheri FOB which killed one woman, the beleagured WR, CR, BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation along with IIT-Bombay experts launched the full-scale bridges’ audits.

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July 3 crash of a portion of the Andheri FOB

It was decided to order repairs or reconstruct the stressed bridges on priority without procedural delays, with precedence given to the oldest structures, while ensuring complete coordination among various agencies.

The three organisations will also conduct regular monthly meetings of top officials, clear issues about designs, drawings, approvals, land issues, etc, to speed up the required works.

They would also explore the feasibility of creating a special corpus fund for the purpose of an appropriate amount, to ensure financial resources are readily available, especially for undertaking works of urgent nature or in emergencies.

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Apple increases support for Malala Fund to advance girls’ education

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Apple CEO 'Tim Cook' and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 'Malala Yousafzai'.

Rio de Janeiro, July 14: Apple Developer Academies will play an important role in supporting the Malala Fund’s mission to provide educational opportunities to girls across the globe, Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai has said, referring to deepening of partnerships between the tech giant and the fund.

Meeting the young developers at the Apple Developer Academy here on Friday, Malala said the fund will gain access to new tools to support its mission of free, safe, quality education by tapping into Apple’s network of student developers.

“The students in Apple’s Developer Academy programme share my passion for improving the world around us, and I am eager to see their innovative ideas to help girls in Brazil and across the globe,” Malala said.

The Nobel peace laureate was speaking on the occasion of Apple launching on Friday a new collaboration between its 10 Apple Developer Academies in Brazil and Malala Fund to advance girls’ education opportunities.

“My hope is that every girl, from Rio to Riyadh, can be free to choose her own future,” she said.

In January this year, Apple entered into a partnership with the Malala Fund to support new programmes in India and Latin America, with the initial goal of extending secondary education opportunities to more than 100,000 girls.

Read More: Apple joins Malala Fund to empower girls’ education

“We share Malala’s goal of getting more girls into quality education and are thrilled to be deepening our partnership with Malala Fund by mobilising thousands of Apple Developer Academy students and alumni across Brazil,” Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.

“Apple has been committed to education since day one, and we can’t wait to see what our creative student developers come up with to help Malala Fund make a difference for girls around the world,” Cook added.

IANS

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Microsoft calls to regulate face recognition technology

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New York, July 14: At a time when facial recognition technology is fast becoming a part of our lives, Microsoft has become the first tech giant to initiate a call for regulations to limit the technology that can be used for mass surveillance affecting civil liberties.

In a blog post on Friday, Microsoft President Brad Smith said a government initiative to regulate the proper use of facial recognition technology is the need of the hour.

“We believe US Congress should create a bipartisan expert commission to assess the best way to regulate the use of facial recognition technology in the US,” Smith said.

The purpose of such a commission “should include advice to Congress on what types of new laws and regulations are needed, as well as stronger practices to ensure proper congressional oversight of this technology across the executive branch”, the Microsoft President noted.

Several tech companies, including Microsoft, have utilised face-recognition technology in the past several years to turn time-consuming work to catalog photos into something both instantaneous and useful.

However, Microsoft has already rejected requests to deploy the technology in situations involving “human rights risks”, Smith informed.

Smith earlier called for a new digital Geneva Convention that commits governments to defending and protecting civilians from state-sponsored cyber-attacks.

“We live in a nation of laws, and the government needs to play an important role in regulating facial recognition technology.

“A world with vigorous regulation of products that are useful but potentially troubling is better than a world devoid of legal standards,” Smith suggested.

The computer-assisted facial recognition can recognise people’s faces from a photo or through a camera.

This technology can catalog your photos, help reunite families or potentially be misused and abused by private companies and public authorities alike.

“Facial recognition technology raises issues that go to the heart of fundamental human rights protections like privacy and freedom of expression,” Smith wrote.

In recent weeks, a group of Amazon employees objected to its contract with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), while reiterating concerns raised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology.

IT company Salesforce’s employees have raised the same issues related to immigration authorities and these agencies’ use of their products.

“Demands increasingly are surfacing for tech companies to limit the way government agencies use facial recognition and other technology,” Smith said.

The only effective way to manage the use of technology by a government is for the government proactively to manage this use itself, the Microsoft President added.

Issues relating to facial recognition go well beyond the borders of the US and “it requires active engagement by governments, academics, tech companies and civil society internationally”.

“As we move forward, we’re committed to establishing a transparent set of principles for facial recognition technology that we will share with the public,” Smith informed.

IANS

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