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‘Saudi Arabia hacked phone with Israeli firm’s help’

RAMALLAH CITY, Palestine (AA): An Israeli firm provided Saudi Arabia with technological services to hack a mobile phone, Israeli website TheMarker reported Wednesday.

A representative of the Israeli-based company Cellebrite arrived in Riyadh from London on a commercial flight in November 2019 “to hack into a phone in the possession of the Saudi Justice Ministry,” the website said.

The company asked Saudi authorities to receive its representative at the airport to finish his arrival procedures without stamps in his passport and without inspection of his electronic equipment.

It said the request of the Saudi general prosecutor’s office in Riyadh was to hack a Samsung S10 phone, and when the job was completed, the representative flew back to London.

The phone’s owner was not identified by TheMarker.

The report said Cellebrite was not the only Israeli company to provide hacking or other cybersecurity services to Saudi Arabia, but it is the only firm to work without Israeli Defense Ministry oversight.

It noted that Cellebrite was also working in Saudi Arabia at the time of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing Oct. 2, 2018 in Istanbul.

At that time, the accusation was directed at another Israeli cyber firm, NSO, for providing remote cellphone hacking services to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to TheMarker.

The accusation was, however, denied by NSO, but it continued to work with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic or official ties with Israel, unlike the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which signed normalization agreements Tuesday with Tel Aviv under US President Donald Trump’s sponsorship.

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TikTok won’t sell its US operations, says owner

BEIJING (AA): Chinese video-sharing app TikTok is not selling its US base but is in talks for a possible cooperation in operations, state-run media said on Thursday.

In a statement to Global Times newspaper, TikTok owner ByteDance said it is in talks with US software giant Oracle, which beat Microsoft in a bidding war to buy the popular app, but any agreement would require an approval of relevant authorities in both Beijing and Washington.

“Plans under discussion don’t involve sales of its business or technology, and a final deal hasn’t been signed yet,” the company said.

US national security officials fear the firm could provide American user data to the Chinese government.

ByteDance, however, has denied the allegations, saying its user data is stored outside China, and that it is committed to protect the privacy and safety of its users.

US President Donald Trump had previously threatened to ban the app unless its US operations were sold to a US company. He has said that there will be “no extension” to the Sept. 20 sale deadline.

TikTok was downloaded 315 million times in January-March 2020, more than any app in a single quarter in history, and 26 million times in August, according to analytics company Sensor Tower.

China recently updated its export control rules to give it a say over the transfer of technology. Beijing says it will take “all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.”

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Robot helps India’s virus patients speak to loved ones

Monitoring Desk

NEW DELHI: A hospital in India has deployed a customer-service robot to patrol its wards, connecting coronavirus patients to friends and relatives.

Mitra, meaning “friend” in Hindi, is best known for interacting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an event in 2017.

Its piercing eyes are equipped with facial recognition technology to help it recall people it has previously interacted with.

A tablet attached to Mitra’s chest allows patients to see loved ones, as well as medical staff unable to access the wards.

‘Feeling happy’

“It takes a lot of time to recover, and during this time, when patients need their families the most, they are unable to visit,” said Dr Arun Lakhanpal, a doctor at the Yatharth Super Speciality Hospital in Noida Extension, a satellite city of the capital New Delhi.

Mitra is mainly used by patients who are not able to communicate using their phones.

“We mainly discuss my health,” said Makhanlal Qazi, a retired government bureaucrat and coronavirus patient who has used the robot to communicate with relatives. “I came here on Friday and now I have started feeling better. I am feeling very happy now.”

The robot, developed by Bengaluru-based start-up Invento Robotics, cost the hospital 1 million rupees ($13,600), according to Yatharth Tyagi, director of the company that runs the hospital.

Remote consultations

Mitra is also being used for remote consultations with specialists to reduce their risk of becoming infected, he added.

“Normally it is very difficult for a psychologist or a dietician to see a Covid patient,” Tyagi said, adding the robot is “very useful”.

India’s novel coronavirus cases surged past 5 million on Wednesday, only the second country in the world to cross the grim milestone after the United States.

Courtesy: (TRTWorld)

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Facebook allows users to watch videos together online

Facebook Inc said on Monday that its users will now be able to watch videos with their friends online using the social media company’s Messenger app, enabling them to see reactions in real time.

The “Watch Together” feature will allow a user to add up to eight people through a video call and up to 50 people through its videoconferencing tool Messenger Rooms.

The company launched the tool in July as it looks to take on Zoom Video communications inc that became a household name driven by the coronavirus-driven boom in demand for its platform.

Facebook joins a crowded field of companies rushing to dominate the stay-at-home market as millions of people turn to online platforms to stay connected for work, social life and school amid health concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Netflix Inc also has a similar feature called “Netflix Party” that allows multiple users to join in and watch a film on the same screen.

Courtesy: (Yenisafak)

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China launches 9 satellites into space from sea

Continuing its space buildup, China on Tuesday sent at least nine satellites into space, official media said.

The satellites from the Jilin-1 Gaofen 03-1 group took off from the Yellow Sea at 9:23 am (0123 GMT), Xinhua News reported.

The indigenously-built Long March-11 carrier rocket was used for the launch, a first from the sea.

Last week, China sent an observation satellite, Gaofen-11 02, into the orbit through a Long March-4B carrier rocket. It will be used for mapping efforts in China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.

With its expanded space work including the launch of satellites, China is closer to completing its own space station.

It plans to inaugurate its large modular space station this year, which will be placed into low orbit.

It will be roughly one-fifth of the mass of the International Space Station and about the size of the decommissioned Russian Mir space station.

Courtesy: (Yenisafak)

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French President Macron defends 5G technology

Monitoring Desk

PARIS: France will move forward with its planned deployment of 5G telecom networks despite detractors who would prefer “the Amish model” and “going back to the oil lamp”,  President Emmanuel Macron said Monday.

Nearly 70 left-wing elected officials and environmentalists called on Sunday for a moratorium on 5G technology, which is due to be rolled out in France at the end of the month.

5G networks are touted as promising an exponential leap in the amount and speed of wireless data, enabling advances in self-driving vehicles, virtual reality, connected health and more as sensors and servers communicate instantly.

But the technology has come under scrutiny, and officials have called for more studies on the environmental and health impacts of its infrastructure. “France is the country of innovation…

We are going to put to rest all false ideas,” Macron told entrepreneurs at a gathering of French tech start-ups at the Elysee Palace. “I hear a lot of voices being raised to explain to us that the complexity of contemporary problems should be addressed by going back to the oil lamp.

I don’t believe that the Amish model can solve the challenges of contemporary ecology,” Macron joked, referring to the American community which is suspicious of technology.

Courtesy: (AFP)

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From BoJo to Royals: Chinese Tech firm draws up database on tens of thousands of Brits – Report

Monitoring Desk

In a bid to “rejuvenate” the Chinese nation, a private firm has reportedly included specific details in its profiles on foreign big shots from politics and business from a range of countries, primarily those belonging to the Five Eyes intelligence network.

A Chinese tech firm has drawn up a database on tens of thousands of British figures, including top UK politicians like Prime Minister Boris Johnson, their children and their families, for use by the country’s intelligence services, according to a report by the Telegraph, which obtained part of the compilation.

The files on senior politicians, royals, businessmen, religious and military leaders and their families are reportedly to be currently stored on a Chinese server as part of a massive worldwide collection compiled by a private company, Zhenhua Data, which claims to be pursuing “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.

Among the named persona are dozens of British cabinet ministers, peers and Members of Parliament, including the family of Tom Tugendhat, a Tory MP who has been a staunch critic of Beijing and the integration of Huawei equipment into the UK’s nascent 5G networks. Separately, the database includes Amber Rudd’s daughter, the journalist Flora Gill, and the families of Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi.

The data lists private details like names and dates of birth, professional bios and criminal convictions, hobbies and the contents of diverse social media accounts which had ostensibly been deleted. The movements of UK and US naval ships tracked by special programmes are also there for sale.

Along with an estimated 40,000 Britons, millions of people in the US, Canada, India and Japan are named in the files, with Zhenhua Data claiming it provides “services for military, security and foreign propaganda” and “human-oriented threat intelligence services”, and has allegedly sold its database to security clients in China.

The full contents of the said servers were reportedly stolen earlier this year by an anti-China activist, who then shared the files with the the Five Eyes intelligence network comprising the UK, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, before the contents were leaked to the Telegraph and other media organisations.

Senior MPs called for the UK government to take note of the compilation and be wary of China’s purported interference, alerting it to the electronic surveillance of British citizens.

Tugendhat earlier expressed concerns that he is under surveillance by Chinese intelligence and said the data leak showed an “important change” in the country’s approach.

“This is a further indication that their interest in UK politics has gone beyond the general and into the specific,” he told The Telegraph. He believes it is clear that the Chinese government is seeking to get increasingly involved in politics abroad, and is thus exploiting private companies to this end – as part of a broader information-gathering bid.

The company’s website has gone down, sincee The Telegraph attempted to reach it for comment. A contacted representative of the company refused to address the allegations of the firm’s involvement in espionage at Beijing’s behest saying these questions concern “trade secrets, and it’s not convenient to disclose [them.]”

A spokesman for the Chinese government hasn’t commented on the alleged liaison between its intel and Zhenhua files, stressing China “has not asked, and will not ask, companies or individuals to collect or provide data, information and intelligence stored within other countries’ territories for the Chinese government by installing ‘backdoors’ or by violating local laws.”

The news about the Zhenhua files comes at a time of fierce tensions between the British and Chinese authorities over new tougher security laws in Hong Kong, Britain’s former colony, and the scraping of Chinese telecom giant Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s promising 5G network, after the US had pressed its allies to do so citing national security grounds.

Courtesy: (Sputnik)

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Children need ‘digital parents’ on online platforms

Monitoring Desk

WASHINGTON: Experts said fathers and mothers should become “digital parents” because of the time their children spend on online platforms, which increased significantly during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a US technology company, OpenVault, time spent on the internet rose nearly 50% during the pandemic, on a yearly basis.

Experts say families should limit and plan children’s time online.

Dr. Hatice Yalcin, manager of the Center for Child Education, Research and Application of Turkey’s Konya Chamber of Commerce Karatay University, said parents should focus on educating their children when using the internet and digital technologies at an early age.

For distance education after the pandemic, parents are confused about the time their children are on digital platforms.

“If parents pay attention to some basic principles during the distance education process, serious harm may not occur as much as feared,” she told Anadolu Agency.

She noted that instead of imposing strict restrictions, the process should be managed with stretched rules, and children should gain digital habits and awareness at an early age.

“It is very important to manage time with children. No matter how old the child is, they should plan the frequency of using social media and playing online games by themselves,” she said.

Control applications

Providing children with the ability to think critically will minimize the possibility of harm, said Yalcin.

“Children should be suspicious that some content on the online platforms may be incorrect. They must learn to question the content and must have a habit of suspecting inappropriate information.”

She also said that families should be careful with the digital privacy of their children, and stressed that parents must avoid actions that limit freedom, while also protecting children.

Yalcin added that parents should use control applications for internet usage.

“With the right guidance, digital technologies allow children to develop their digital communication skills and increase their creativity,” she said. “Families should spend quality time with their children even on the internet to protect them.”

Digital literacy skills

Dr. Nabat Garakhanova, a digital communication expert, said families should learn how they spend quality time with their children to raise awareness.

Young children can be protected via the child-modes of web-sites, such as Google Family and YouTube Kids, she said.

“Mothers and fathers should become digital parents to protecting them on online platforms,” she underlined.

She said one to two hours of internet usage is enough for children aged two to 10 years, and three hours for those 10-13 years old, under parents’ control.

Parents should warn children about online crimes just like in the real world and families should learn digital literacy to use internet platforms properly, she noted.

“Children consult their friends instead of their families about the problems they face in the digital world, digital parenting has become very important,” she added.

Courtesy: (AA)

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IT expert issues warning on computer brain chips

Monitoring Desk

ISTANBUL: With implantable brain chips, there is a risk that the devices could be hacked for malicious intentions and hackers could involuntarily turn users into “killing machines,” according to a Turkish IT specialist.

Elon Musk unveiled in late August a pig that had a computer chip in its brain for two months, in hopes that the small device would be able to “read” from neurons and “write” signals to the brain.

Musk said his four-year-old neuroscience company, Neuralink, is “preparing for the first human implementation soon.”

But that revelation worries Rahmi Aktepe, who heads the Informatics Association of Turkey.

“If the chip in question is widely used, it is possible to control people against their will and even turn them into a killing machine by seizing the chip,” he told Anadolu Agency.

One scary scenario could involve users being controlled and unconsciously acting because they cannot decide if their actions are ethical or even true. They could steal the possessions of others or, in the worst-case, kill.

All kinds of computer-based systems can be hacked by cyber attackers, he said, and it is obvious that Neuralink’s tiny computer chip can also be seized and used for malicious purposes.

Aktepe said the main purpose of brain-computer interface (BCI) studies is to learn about the human brain, and to treat memory loss, hearing loss, depression and similar diseases by monitoring and changing brain signals.

“However, no one can claim that this will definitely not to be used to control people in the future,” said Aktepe.

There is a hidden aim of the chips he described as a “project of creating smart people versus smart robots.”

With advancements in artificial intelligence and robots getting smarter by the day, Musk could potentially create the best and smartest version of humans with his chip to make the user act faster or possibly memorize everything, like a computer.

– Chips can damage mental, physical health

“I think the main purpose is to load brain signals received from people to smart robots and/or load those signals to people, turning them into robots,” said Aktepe.

“If the chips are used within ethical frameworks, people can make faster and correct decisions since it is supported by artificial intelligence,” he said, highlighting the importance of ethical matters.

Aktepe warned that new viruses will be created and it would lead users to act unethically and damage their mental and physical health.

If a computer virus was to enter a chip, it could potentially damage not only a user’s brain but other parts or functions,.

The chip is about the size of a large coin and can be fully embedded in the skull and without harm to brain over time, said Musk.

The all-day battery can be charged wirelessly via an induction coil.

“Almost everyone overtime will develop brain and spine problems,” Musk said, and the goal is to “solve important spine and brain problems with a seamlessly implanted device.”

Musk, also the founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, gave no exact schedule for the chips’ release, nor details on how they would cure neurological conditions.

Courtesy: (AA)

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Zimbabwean students switch to social media for lessons

Monitoring Desk

HARARE: Reacting to the coronavirus spread March 30, the Zimbabwean government closed the entire country, shutting down schools indefinitely. But, for many like 13-year-old Adrean Machingura, a grade seven primary school student in Harare, learning did not stop.

The teen, who is set to take his national examinations later this year, switched to social media platforms like WhatsApp to receive tutorials from his class teacher.

Social media the answer

For Machingura, a student at one of Zimbabwe’s government schools, social media has become the way to go.

“I will pass my exams, this I know. There is nothing I have missed because my class teacher, even after we closed schools due to coronavirus in March, she has not stopped sending the lessons and weekly tests for me,” Machingura told Anadolu Agency. “In fact, for all of us as a class.”

But continued lessons has come at a cost, which his mother, Miriam, a single parent, said is a lot to shoulder.

But the 39-year-old mother said that WhatsApp is the cheapest.

“The method of using WhatsApp for learning should have been adopted long back; it’s cheaper than keeping children in the classrooms where we are required to part with much sums on money in school fees,” she said.

Each month, with her son learning via WhatsApp, Machingura has to give $10 directly to her child’s teacher.

Social media platforms more a blessing than curse

For information technology specialists like Desmond Mawere, social media platforms that has often been abused, now have become positive instruments to educate students during the pandemic.

“Coronavirus has necessitated online learning in Zimbabwe, but online learning is not for the poor because they can’t afford to buy internet bundles,” said Juliet Mbiza, a school teacher doubling as a trade unionist with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the nation’s primary trade union federation.

“The poor remain at a disadvantage as they cannot afford to turn to the platforms to receive their school lessons because more often than not, they don’t even have the gadgets for use in any online form of learning,” said Mbiza.

But children like Machingura have not stopped learning thanks to social media platforms which many have embraced ahead of school examinations at the end of the year.

Smartphones now common

In fact, according to developments experts like Clayton Makuvaza, more and more people now have access to smartphones that is helping students access applications like WhatsApp to stay abreast with their schooling.

“Smartphones are very common now and almost every home has a smartphone, which means school-going children also have access to gadgets that enable them to use affordable applications like WhatsApp to continue with their learning even under the indefinite lockdown,” Makuvaza told Anadolu Agency.

But when the national lockdown began, the government warned schools that were charging exorbitant school fees for online tutorials.

Of late, however, the government has had second thoughts, especially for tertiary students.

Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education is on record urging universities and colleges to develop online tutorial material to ensure learning is not disrupted.

Social media boost private school businesses

For private schools, even as the government discouraged school re-openings, business is booming a lot more than before the pandemic.

“I can tell you, business is surely doing good; parents are eager to keep their children progressing in their academic paths and so you would realize almost all parents at this school are paying the full fees to enable their children to keep receiving tutorials from our teachers,” said a principal of a top private school in Harare, who declined to be give his name for fear of getting his school in trouble with authorities.

“As a school, we purchase WhatsApp bundles for our teachers who in turn start engaging with learners, sending them all the earning material via WhatsApp which is largely affordable,” said the principal.

Now, thanks to social media platforms, many students like Machingura bubble with confidence as they inch toward examinations.

“I will pass, yes, I know it. I’m ready. The phone and the WhatsApp readied me even as COVID-19 tried to disturb me,” he said.

Courtesy: (AA)