With China’s new restrictions on minors playing online games, the global gaming industry wonders what’s next. Michelle Quinn reports.
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 the rubber keys of a Spectrum in your honour. RIP.”
Tom Watson, former deputy leader of Britain’s opposition Labor Party, tweeted: “This man changed the course of my life.
“And arguably, the digital age for us in the UK started with the Sinclair ZX80, when thousands of kids learnt to code using 1k of RAM. For us, the Spectrum was like a Rolls-Royce with 48k.”
However, not all of Sinclair’s inventions were a runaway success.
The Sinclair C5, a battery-powered tricycle touted as the future of eco-friendly transport, became an expensive flop after it was launched in 1985.
But in retrospect, it was ahead of its time, given today’s attention on climate change and the vogue for electric vehicles.
“You cannot exaggerate Sir Clive Sinclair’s influence on the world,” gaming journalist and presenter Dominik Diamond tweeted. “And if we’d all stopped laughing long enough to buy a C5, he’d probably have saved the environment.”
Born in 1940, Sinclair left school at 17, becoming a technical writer creating specialist manuals.
At 22, he formed his first company, making mail-order radio kits, including what was then the world’s smallest transistor radio.
Other ventures included digital watches and an early version of a flat-screen television.
He was knighted in 1983.
Ironically, in a 2013 interview with the BBC, Sinclair revealed that he did not use computers.
“I don’t like distraction,” he explained. “If I had a computer, I’d start thinking I could change this, I could change that, and I don’t want to. My wife very kindly looks after that for me.”
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 moratorium on the use of remote biometric recognition technology in public spaces given the serious threats to public freedoms associated with such surveillance. “Without immediate and far-reaching shifts and how we address AI deployment and development, the existing harms will multiply at scale and with speed,” she said. “And the worst part of it is, we will not even know the extent of the problem because there is so little transparency around artificial intelligence and its use.” U.N. rights chief Bachelet says there needs to be much greater transparency by companies and states in how they are developing and using AI. She says the power of AI to serve people is undeniable, but so is its ability to invade their privacy and violate human rights on an enormous scale and with virtually no visibility.
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, though they have been hesitant to attribute the change to any action by Moscow. “The present absence of criminal activity should not be confused with solid policing,” U.S. National Cyber Director Chris Inglis told an audience later Tuesday. “There’s still a monetary incentive and possibly a geopolitical incentive to allow that to come back,” he said, pushing back against calls for the U.S. to go on the offensive. “There is a sense that we can perhaps fire some cyber bullets and kind of shoot our way out of this. That will be useful in certain circumstances if we have a clear shot at a cyber aggressor and it could take them offline,” Inglis said. “That’s not going to affect the leadership that allows this to happen.” “We have to figure out what is it that matters to Putin and the oligarchs and how do we change their decision calculus,” he added. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any role in a series of ransomware and cyberattacks against U.S. companies and infrastructure. And following the Biden-Putin call in July, it issued a statement supporting collaboration on cybersecurity, calling for such efforts to “be permanent, professional and nonpoliticized and should be conducted via special communication channels … and with respect to international law.” New: Discussions w/#Russia on #cyber continue, per Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber Anne Neuberger@POTUS “looking for action” she says, adding US must also focus on “doing everything we can to lock our digital doors”— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) September 2, 2021The U.S. blames Russia or Russian-based cyber actors for a series of high-profile hacks and ransomware attacks, including the December 2020 hack of SolarWinds, a U.S.-based software management company, and for the May 7 ransomware attack against Colonial Pipeline, the largest fuel pipeline operator in the U.S. U.S. officials have blamed the GRU for targeting the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 elections and the pharmaceutical companies developing vaccines against the coronavirus. US, Britain Warn of Russian ‘Brute Force’ Cyber CampaignUS officials urge agencies and organizations to take basic precautions as a first step in fighting backAsked Tuesday whether the U.S. has reached the point where it is ready to take action against Russia, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command deferred to the White House. “That’s obviously for the president to decide,” CYBERCOM’s General Paul Nakasone said. “But those options certainly will be provided for his consideration.” VOA’s Masood Farivar contributed to this report.
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 to the activist’s phone via the iMessage instant-messaging app before it was hacked with NSO’s Pegasus spyware, which opens a phone to eavesdropping and remote data theft, Marczak said. It was discovered during a second examination of the phone, which forensics showed had been infected in March. He said the malicious file causes devices to crash.
Citizen Lab says the case reveals, once again, that NSO Group is allowing its spyware to be used against ordinary civilians.
In a blog post, Apple said it was issuing a security update for iPhones and iPads because a “maliciously crafted” PDF file could lead to them being hacked. It said it was aware that the issue may have been exploited and cited Citizen Lab.
In a subsequent statement, Apple security chief Ivan Krstić commended Citizen Lab and said such exploits “are not a threat to the overwhelming majority of our users.” He noted, as he has in the past, that such exploits typically cost millions of dollars to develop and often have a short shelf life.
Apple didn’t respond to questions regarding whether this was the first time it had patched a zero-click vulnerability.
Users should get alerts on their iPhones prompting them to update the phone’s iOS software. Those who want to jump the gun can go into the phone settings, click “General” then “Software Update,” and trigger the patch update directly.
Citizen Lab called the iMessage exploit FORCEDENTRY and said it was effective against Apple iOS, MacOS and WatchOS devices. It urged people to immediately install security updates.
Researcher John Scott-Railton said the news highlights the importance of securing popular messaging apps against such attacks.
“Chat apps are increasingly becoming a major way that nation-states and mercenary hackers are gaining access to phones,” he said. “And, it’s why it’s so important that companies focus on making sure that they are as locked down as possible.”
The researchers said it also undermines NSO Group’s claims that it only sells its spyware to law enforcement officials for use against criminals and terrorists and audits its customers to ensure it’s not abused.
“If Pegasus was only being used against criminals and terrorists, we never would have found this stuff,” said Marczak.
Facebook’s WhatsApp also was allegedly targeted by an NSO zero-click exploit. In October 2019, Facebook sued NSO in U.S. federal court for allegedly targeting some 1,400 users of the encrypted messaging service with spyware.
In July, a global media consortium published a damning report on how clients of NSO Group have been spying for years on journalists, human rights activists, political dissidents, and people close to them, with the hacker-for-hire group directly involved in the targeting.
Amnesty International said it confirmed 37 successful Pegasus infections based on a leaked targeting list whose origin was not disclosed.One case involved the fiancee of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi just four days after he was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018. The CIA attributed the murder to the Saudi government.
The recent revelations also prompted calls for an investigation into whether Hungary’s right-wing government used Pegasus to secretly monitor critical journalists, lawyers and business figures. India’s parliament also erupted in protests as opposition lawmakers accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of using NSO Groups’ product to spy on political opponents and others.
France also is trying to get to the bottom of allegations that President Emmanuel Macron and members of his government may have been targeted in 2019 by an unidentified Moroccan security service using Pegasus.
Morocco, a key French ally, denied those reports and is taking legal action to counter allegations implicating the North African kingdom in the spyware scandal.
Four people are set to become the world’s first all-civilian crew to fly into Earth orbit when they blast off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Wednesday as space tourism takes its biggest leap yet. Weather conditions are 70% favorable for Wednesday night’s scheduled launch of Americans Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Chris Sembroski and Sian Proctor from the U.S. spaceport’s historic Launch Pad 39A, which was used for the Apollo moon missions during the 1960s and 70s. The four-member crew will fly into space aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft built by SpaceX, the privately-run company which has begun sending astronauts to the International Space Station. The fully automated Crew Dragon spacecraft will take the crew to an altitude of 575 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, just above the current positions of both the ISS and the Hubble Space Telescope. SpaceX said the four space tourists will “conduct scientific research designed to advance human health on Earth and during future long-duration spaceflights” before splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean near the Florida coast three days later. The mission, dubbed Inspiration4, will be led by the 38-year-old Isaacman, a billionaire technology entrepreneur and founder of an online payment-processing company who is said to have paid SpaceX several million dollars for the flight. The 29-year-old Arceneaux is a childhood bone cancer survivor who has a titanium rod in her leg, which makes her the first person to fly in space with a prosthesis. Sembroski is a 42-year-old retired U.S. Air Force ballistic missile maintenance engineer who now works in the aviation industry, while 51-year-old Proctor is a geoscientist and community college professor who was a NASA astronaut finalist in 2009. Sembroski and Proctor were selected through a nationwide search contest, while Arceneaux is flying as a representative of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where she was treated during her battle with cancer and now works as a physician’s assistant. Isaacman is using the flight to raise $100 million for St. Jude, and has pledged $100 million of his own money to the hospital. Isaacman’s flight will far exceed those of fellow billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, who each took brief non-orbital flights to the edge of space aboard their own self-financed vehicles — Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, respectively — earlier this year. Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France Presse.
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 protected the system. “Popular chat apps are at risk of becoming the soft underbelly of device security. Securing them should be top priority,” said Citizen Lab researcher John Scott-Railton. The U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency had no immediate comment. Explosion in attacksCitizen Lab said multiple details in the malware overlapped with prior attacks by NSO, including some that were never publicly reported. One process within the hack’s code was named “setframed,” the same name given in a 2020 infection of a device used by journalists at Al Jazeera, the researchers found. “The security of devices is increasingly challenged by attackers,” said Citizen Lab researcher Bill Marczak. A record number of previously unknown attack methods, which can be sold for $1 million or more, have been revealed this year. The attacks are labeled “zero-day” because software companies had zero days’ notice of the problem. New cybersecurity focusAlong with a surge in ransomware attacks against critical infrastructure, the explosion in such attacks has stoked a new focus on cybersecurity in the White House as well as renewed calls for regulation and international agreements to rein in malicious hacking. As previously reported, the FBI has been investigating NSO, and Israel has set up a senior inter-ministerial team to assess allegations that its spyware has been abused on a global scale. Although NSO has said it vets the governments it sells to, its Pegasus spyware has been found on the phones of activists, journalists and opposition politicians in countries with poor human rights records.
SpaceX is set to launch four people into space Wednesday on a three-day mission that is the first to orbit the Earth with exclusively private citizens on board, as Elon Musk’s company enters the space tourism fray. The “Inspiration4” mission caps a summer that saw billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos cross the final frontier, on Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin spaceships respectively, a few days apart in July. The SpaceX flight has been chartered by American billionaire Jared Isaacman, the 38-year-old founder and CEO of payment processing company Shift4 Payment. He is also a seasoned pilot. The exact price he paid SpaceX hasn’t been disclosed, but it runs into the tens of millions of dollars. The mission itself is far more ambitious in scope than the few weightless minutes Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin customers can buy. The SpaceX Crew Dragon will be flying further than the orbit of the International Space Station. “The risk is not zero,” said Isaacman in an episode of a Netflix documentary about the mission. “You’re riding a rocket at 17,500 miles (28,000 kilometers) per hour around the Earth. In that kind of environment there’s risks.” SpaceX has already given no fewer than ten astronauts rides to the ISS on behalf of NASA — but this will be the first time taking non-professional astronauts. Lift-off is scheduled for Wednesday from 8:00 pm Eastern Time (0000 GMT) from launch pad 39A, at NASA’s Kennedy Center in Florida, from where the Apollo missions to the Moon took off. ‘Are we going to the Moon?’In addition to Isaacman, who is the mission commander, three non-public figures were selected for the voyage via a process that was first advertised at the Super Bowl in February. Each crew member was picked to represent a pillar of the mission. The youngest, Hayley Arceneaux, is a childhood bone cancer survivor, who represents “hope.” She will become the first person with a prosthetic to go to space. “Are we going to the Moon?” she asked, when she was offered her spot. “Apparently people haven’t gone there in decades. I learned that,” she laughed, in the documentary. The 29-year-old was picked because she works as a Physician Assistant in Memphis for St. Jude’s Hospital, the charitable beneficiary of Inspiration4. One of the donors secured the seat of “generosity”: Chris Sembroski, 42, is a former US Air Force veteran who now works in the aviation industry. The last seat represents “prosperity” and was offered to Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old earth science professor who, in 2009, narrowly missed out on becoming a NASA astronaut. She will be only the fourth African American woman to go to space. Months of trainingThe crew’s training has lasted months and has included experiencing high G force on a centrifuge — a giant arm that rotates rapidly. They have also gone on parabolic flights to experience weightlessness for a few seconds and completed a high altitude, snowy trek on Mount Rainier in the northwestern United States. They spent time at the SpaceX base, though the flight itself will be fully autonomous. Over the three days of orbit, their sleep, heart rate, blood and cognitive abilities will be analyzed. Tests will be carried out before and after the flight to study the effect of the trip on their body. The idea is to accumulate data for future missions with private passengers. The stated goal of the mission is to make space accessible for more people, although space travel remains for the moment only partially open to a privileged few. “In all of human history, fewer than 600 humans have reached space,” said Isaacman. “We are proud that our flight will help influence all those who will travel after us.”
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 payment system to be used for in-app purchases, meaning it should still get its share of transactions such as buying virtual gear in a game or a subscription.Gonzalez Rogers wrote that Apple violated California’s laws against unfair competition but that it was not “an anti-trust monopolist … for mobile gaming transactions.”Big change?The biggest change lovers of Apple mobile gadgets might notice is that apps should start showcasing links enticing them to leave the App Store to spend money.Apple representatives called the ruling a validation of the App Store business model.The judge did not order Apple to let Fortnite back into the App Store, and the studio’s CEO Tim Sweeney said on Twitter that the game would return only “when and where Epic can offer in-app payment in fair competition with Apple.”Bite out of Apple’s revenue?It will be difficult to estimate what sort of bite the ruling will take from the company’s income.Most of the offerings at the App Store are created by small developers who haven’t built their own payment systems the way Epic Games runs its own online shop, analyst Carolina Milanesi said.Small developers likely see benefits to using Apple’s payment system and provided perks, such as promoting apps or handling refunds, the analyst added.App users might also feel more comfortable trusting transactions on Apple’s platform rather than entering credit card or other information in on third-party websites.”How many developers can do something else when it comes to payment systems and how many customers are interested in using something else?” Milanesi asked. “I don’t think this ruling is a problem for Apple from a revenue perspective.”And Apple may be planning to more than offset any lost revenue with its own advertising business, according to the analyst.
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 mass exodus as many Afghans fear a repeat of the brutal interpretation of Islamic law implemented during the militants’ 1996-2001 rule. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with several members of the team on Tuesday during a whirlwind tour of the emirate. “You’re famous around the world and a source of inspiration,” he told them. “The story you’ve already told about the importance about women engaging in science… sends an important message around the world, well beyond Afghanistan.” Roya Mahboob, the founder of the Digital Citizen Fund, parent organization of the team, said the girls were “excited and grateful for this opportunity to study abroad.” She also questioned Blinken on what the future would hold for Afghan women. Several other members of the robotics team, none of whom were identified for security reasons, have relocated to Mexico.