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Bitcoin is vulnerable to sabotage from the Chinese government because of its overwhelming exposure to the country, researchers have warned.

Beijing could render the Bitcoin network effectively useless by taking control of the powerful computers used to maintain the digital currency, which are largely based in China, according to a report from security companies Hacken and Gladius.

This is cryptocurrency explained in video

Bitcoin is seen by its supporters as free of government control, a feature that is highlighted as one of its key benefits.

The digital currency is maintained not by any central organisation but by a collection of “miners”, computers that are rewarded in new Bitcoins for updating the ledger of all transactions known as the blockchain.

As Bitcoin has grown, it has required more expensive and powerful computers, and meant mining has migrated to parts of the world where electricity is cheap, in particular China.

Some 77.7 per cent of the “hashpower” – the computing strength behind Bitcoin – is now based in China, according to the report, leaving the network vulnerable. The majority of the specialised hardware used to mine Bitcoin is also made in China.

“It is obvious what this country can do to the network. [It] is over-exposed to China and the government can sabotage it,” said Vladyslav Makarov, an author of the report.

Bitcoin transactions must be confirmed by a consensus of users, which protects the currency from cyber attacks.

However, if one party were to control more than half of its processing power, they would be able to manipulate Bitcoin in a way that renders it useless, the report says. Such a “censorship attack” would cause transactions to grind to a halt, be completed twice, or result in Bitcoins disappearing from wallets. These events could be launched by Beijing if it coerced enough miners in the country.

Beijing has already proven itself to be sceptical of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, prompting fears about financial stability and capital flight. This year China has already banned initial coin offerings, a form of crowdfunding that involves companies issuing cryptocurrency-like tokens, and has shut the online exchanges that allow people to buy and sell cryptocurrencies.

Neither act dampened appetite for Bitcoin, whose price rose to an all-time high near $US20,000 this month, before dropping back last week.

An attack on the network could have potentially devastating effects. Even if it does not completely freeze the network, it could cause a confidence crisis that leads to Bitcoin’s price collapsing.

It is obvious that a huge amount of hashpower concentration in a single jurisdiction is detrimental to the health of the Bitcoin ecosystem.

“It is obvious that a huge amount of hashpower concentration in a single jurisdiction is detrimental to the health of the Bitcoin ecosystem,” said Hacken’s Hennadiy Kornev.

Adam Anderson from Gladius said that the damage from such an attack could be limited by cloning, or “forking”, Bitcoin to create a version less vulnerable to Chinese influence.

“[However], I’m not sure faith in Bitcoin could be restored,” he said.

The Sunday Telegraph, London

THE WORLDS RICHEST PERSON BILL GATES TO REACH THE 1ST TRILLIONAIRE STATUS

BILL GATES MICROSOFT SUPER RICH IMAGE www.acbocallcentre.com

Will Bill Gates be the world’s first trillionaire? Photo: AP

The world’s first trillionaire could emerge within just 25 years, financial forecasters have claimed.

Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder and world’s richest person, is expected by many to be the first to reach trillionaire status.

If the world’s greatest fortunes continue to grow at their current rate, boosted by the rapid wealth creation in emerging markets such as India and China, then Gates or one of the planet’s super-rich elite could have a trillion US dollars to their name by 2039, according to some predictions.

Others, such as investment bank Credit Suisse, believe there will be 11 trillionaires within just two generations.

“Two generations ahead, future extrapolation of current wealth growth rates yields almost a billion millionaires, equivalent to 20 per cent of the total adult population,” the bank wrote in its annual Global Wealth Report last year.

“If this scenario unfolds, then billionaires will be commonplace, and there is likely to be a few trillionaires too, eleven according to our best estimate.”

A trillion dollars is a million million or $1,000,000,000,000, the equivalent of $US140 for every person on the planet.

It is enough money to buy up every last inch of property in central London at today’s prices, according to The Times.

Mr Gates, 58, currently the richest man on Earth with a fortune of about $US120 billion, is widely expected to be the world’s first trillionaire.

If the US national wealth carries on growing at its current rate and the richest few continue to increase their share of it in an increasingly polarised economy, Mr Gates will claim the title of world’s first trillionaire in his old age.

The share of America’s national wealth held by the country’s 400 richest individuals has more than tripled from less than one per cent to three per cent since the Forbes 400 list was launched in 1982.

American tax lawyer Bob Lord, who writes for Inequality.org, believes the growing concentration of world wealth will lead to a trillionaire in just a quarter of a century.

“We’re sliding back to Gilded Age levels of wealth concentration,” he said. “My guess is 2039 is the most likely time frame to cross that threshold.”

When Forbes began tracking the wealth of the richest 400 Americans, those with $US75 million could make it onto the low end of the list. Now at least $US1 billion is needed.

Other contenders for the world’s first trillionaire include Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecoms mogul and legendary US investor Warren Buffett.

But there are some that doubt the 25-year predictions and believe it may take few generations for another Gates-style entrepreneur to take the title.

Oliver Williams, of the London-based consultants Wealth Insight, told The Times: “You can’t be exact on when we will see the first trillionaire, and it is ‘when’ not ‘if’, but it is doubtful that it will be within 25 years; double that estimate would be more likely.

“The first trillionaire will be an inventor, someone who creates something world-changing, like Bill Gates did with the PC.

“It might be a solution to a global problem, such as the lack of fresh water, or something the world didn’t know we needed, like Facebook.”

Mr Williams believes the world’s first trillionaire would almost certainly be based in the US, where wealth accumulation is most acute.

Others argue they may come from a fast-growing economy such as India.

The Telegraph, London

Henry Sapiecha

China has built the world’s fastest supercomputer, almost twice as fast as the previous US record holder and underlining the country’s rise as a science and technology powerhouse.

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The Tianhe-2, developed by the National University of Defence Technology in central China’s Changsha city, is capable of sustained computing of 33.86 petaflops per second, according to the semi-annual TOP500 official listing of the world’s fastest supercomputers. That’s the equivalent of 33,860 trillion calculations per second.

The computer uses a total of 3.12 million processor cores, using Intel’s Ivy Bridge and Xeon Phi chips to perform calculations

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The Tianhe-2, which means Milky Way-2, knocks the US Department of Energy’s Titan machine off the no. 1 spot. That machine achieved 17.59 petaflops per second.

Supercomputers are used for complex work such as modelling weather systems, simulating nuclear explosions and designing jet planes.

It’s the second time China has been named as having built the world’s fastest supercomputer. In November 2010, the Tianhe-2’s predecessor, Tianhe-1A, had that honour before Japan’s K computer overtook it a few months later.

The Tianhe-2’s achievement shows how China is leveraging rapid economic growth and sharp increases in research spending to join the US, Europe and Japan in the global technology elite.

“Most of the features of the system were developed in China, and they are only using Intel for the main compute part,” said TOP500 editor Jack Dongarra. “That is, the interconnect, operating system, front-end processors and software are mainly Chinese,” said Dongarra, who toured the Tianhe-2 development facility in May.

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Henry Sapiecha
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CHINESE ARMY CYBER WAR AGAINST USA IS A SENSITIVE ISSUE

The New York Timesfront-page report this week that the Chinese army is hacking into America’s most sensitive computer networks from a 12-story building outside Shanghai might finally persuade skeptics that the threat of “cyber warfare” isn’t the fevered fantasy of Richard Clarke, the producers of Die Hard 4, or the generals at the ever-growing U.S. Cyber Command. Alas, it’s real.

But what is the threat? Few of those in the know believe that some fine day, out of the blue, China will zap the programs that run our power grids, gas lines, waterworks, or banking systems, sending our economy—and much else—into a tailspin. Even if the Chinese could pull off such a feat with one keystroke, it’s hard to imagine what they’d accomplish, especially since their fortunes are wrapped up with our own.

The more worrisome threat is subtler: that the Chinese (or some other powers) will use their ability to wreak cyberhavoc as leverage to strengthen their position, and weaken ours, in a diplomatic crisis or a conventional war.



For instance, in a brewing conflict over Taiwan or the South China Sea (areas where China has asserted claims aggressively in recent years), would an American president respond with full military force if he knew that the Chinese would retaliate by turning out all the lights on the Eastern Seaboard?

A familiar concept in strategic war games is “escalation-dominance.” The idea is that victory goes to the player who can take a conflict to the next level of violence in a way that inflicts enormous damage on his opponent but very little on himself. The expected outcome of the next round is so obvious that the opponent decides not to escalate; the dominant player thus controls the subsequent course of the battle and possibly wins the war.

Real war is messier than war games. Escalation holds risks all round. The two sides might have different perceptions of which one is dominant. Or the dominant side might miscalculate the opponent’s strategic priorities. For instance, China might think the American president values uninterrupted electricity on the East Coast more than a free, independent Taiwan—but that thought might be mistaken.



Still, leaders in war and crisis do take these kinds of factors into account. Many surrenders in history have been prompted less by the damage already absorbed than by fears of the damage to come.

And China is not the only foe or rival whose calculations are complicating this new cyber world. Iran is another. Last summer, all of a sudden, a computer virus nicknamed Shamoon erased three-quarters of the Aramco oil company’s corporate files, replacing much of it with images of a burning American flag. It is widely believed that the Iranians planted the “kill switch” in retaliation for the U.S.-Israeli Stuxnet virus that disabled the centrifuges in their nuclear program


The implicit message sent not only to the United States but also, and perhaps more importantly, to its Arab commercial partners: Don’t mess with us, or we will mess with you. The Shamoon virus is now regarded as the hint of another consequence that we’d likely face in the aftermath of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Will it deter such a strike or serve as the final straw in a pile of risks that deters us from striking (or deters the West’s Arab allies from playing whatever part they might play in an attack)? Hard to say, but the Iranians probably intended the virus to have that effect.


So, what to do about all this?

The basic task is to dissuade potential foes from thinking that they would gain escalation-dominance by launching, or having the ability to launch, a cyberattack on America’s infrastructure.

A popular notion of how to do this is to threaten “retaliation in kind”—or, taking a phrase from the nuclear-deterrence playbook, “mutual assured destruction.” This threat has its place in cyberwar but also its limits, because the United States is far more dependent on computer networks, in every aspect of its national security and its daily economic life, than China, Iran, or any other prospective foe or rival. Retaliation in kind might not serve as a sufficient deterrent because it would inflict much less damage on them than their first strike would inflict on us.

A better, but much harder, way is to defend the critical infrastructure in the first place. There are limits to this, too. First, we’re in too deep; we can’t untether our economy from the Internet any more than we can detour all road traffic off the interstate. Second, there is no such thing as a perfect defense; if well-funded, well-trained predators want to get in, they will get in. Still, there are ways to wall off or split up the most critical segments of infrastructure—and to monitor further efforts to break in. If they haven’t already, the private companies responsible for this infrastructure should start to take these steps immediately.




That is the point behind President Obama’s recent executive order on cybersecurity. In recent years, Congress has rejected bills requiring Internet service providers to follow government standards on security for various reasons, many of them legitimate. The executive order at least allows government agencies to share information with ISPs, some of it classified, on how to meet these standards themselves. It’s a good first step.

But there’s another way to stave off the danger of cyberwar, and that’s diplomacy.

In his extremely important 2010 book Cyber War, Richard Clarke likened the current era to the decade after the first atomic bombs, when American, then Soviet, scientists built these weapons of enormous destructiveness—but before politicians or strategists devised ways of thinking about them rationally: how to control them, deter their use, or limit their damage if a war couldn’t be deterred.


It’s time to move on to the next era, when this sort of thinking did occur, not just in secretive research tanks but also in open discussions and international negotiations. Clarke, who was chief of counterterrorism and cybersecurity for Presidents Clinton and Bush, spells out ways that concepts from nuclear arms control—inspections and verification, no first use, and ideas from other accords, including the Geneva Conventions—might be applied to cyberweapons.

In any case, it’s sheer silliness, at this point, to keep cyber issues off the table for fear of upsetting the sensitivities of Chinese officials (who deny that they have offensive cyberwarfare programs) and thus possibly triggering a diplomatic crisis. A crisis already looms from all sides of the globe; the United States, after all, has an offensive cyberwarfare program, too. Best to deal with it head-on, and soon.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

SHOULD CHINA BE IMMUNE FROM IT CRIMINAL PROSECUTION

Google chairman Eric Schmidt brands China in his coming book an internet menace that sanctions cyber crime for economic and political gain, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The New Digital Age authored by Schmidt in collaboration with Jared Cohen, a former US State Department adviser who now heads a Google Ideas think tank, is due for release by Random House in April.

The book looks at how the internet impacts culture, commerce, politics and other aspects of life, while depicting China as a powerful and dangerous force in this new world, according to the Journal.


The authors called China the most prolific hacker of foreign companies and the most enthusiastic filterer of information.

“The disparity between American and Chinese firms and their tactics will put both the government and the companies of the United States at a distinct disadvantage,” the newspaper quoted the authors as saying in the book.

“The United States will not take the same path of digital corporate espionage” due to stricter laws and the American “sense of fair play”, it added.

The book reportedly also points to US flaws, such as Washington’s suspected role in a Stuxnet virus that targeted nuclear facilities in Iran and private companies here that sell surveillance technology to oppressive regimes.

Schmidt and his co-author verge on suggesting that Western governments emulate China when it comes to building tight relationships between government interests and moves by technology companies, according to the Journal.

Countries stand to have an advantage if the gear and software they use to get online is made by companies they can trust, the book reportedly argues.

“Where Huawei gains market share, the influence and reach of China grow as well,” the Journal quoted the authors as writing.

Despite unscrupulously using internet technology to its advantage, China will see “some kind of revolution in the coming decades” as citizens armed with digital age gadgets are pitted against tight government controls, the book is said to predict.

AFP



Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

CHINESE COMPUTER HACKERS ENCOURAGED BY THEIR GOV

JOURNALISTS are on notice. If you investigate the Chinese government, Chinese hackers will come after you.

That’s what you should conclude from the disclosure by The New York Times that it was hacked for four months by attackers it suspects were associated with the Chinese military.

The likely motive, the Times said, was retaliation for the newspaper’s investigation into the wealth amassed by the family of China’s Premier, Wen Jiabao.

This was not the first time Chinese hackers had attacked journalists. They infiltrated Bloomberg News last year, the Times reported. They have also gone after the Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal and other Western media.

The outcome might be chilling: now that a Chinese attack on The New York Times is international news, any dissident or potential whistleblower in China will be wary of talking to journalists. In other words, the hack worked.

The attack on The New York Times points out why cyber-attacks are such an effective weapon, especially when aimed at journalists.

The Times was quickly on to the hackers as the paper had expected a response to its investigation, and AT&T, which had been monitoring the paper’s network, alerted the Times to a potential hack on the day it published the Wen investigation.

But anticipating the hackers would come in response to the Wen Jiabao expose did not really help the Times – the hackers still managed to obtain the corporate passwords of every one of its employees and broke into the PCs of 53 of them. They also infiltrated the email accounts of two reporters who cover China, including David Barboza, who conducted the investigation into Mr Wen’s family.

Unfortunately, security experts said, the Times could not be sure the hackers were gone, nor that they did not find anything of value.

Until now, a government or criminal enterprise had two options if did not like something a reporter had written – it could shut down the outlet or kill the journalist. Hacking presents a third option, one that is far more nuanced and effective.

It is anonymous and China can maintain plausible denials.

The hackers can get what they want – a reporter’s sources, information about how a news outlet works and who to cozy up to, perhaps personal information that could be helpful for blackmail – all without anyone finding out.

Hacking crosses borders. In the past a foreign paper would have been more protected from Chinese governmental repercussions than a local paper. Not any more. Now hackers can get you anywhere, and they can make life hell for everyone you work with.

Finally and most importantly, hacking is almost impossible to defend against.

Journalists have to use computers and the internet. If they do that, they are opening themselves to attack.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Web wanderers are more likely to get a computer virus by visiting a religious website than by peering at porn, according to a new study.

 

“Drive-by attacks” in which hackers booby-trap legitimate websites with malicious code continue to be a bane, the US-based anti-virus vendor Symantec said in its Internet Security Threat Report.

Websites with religious or ideological themes were found to have triple the average number of “threats” that those featuring adult content, according to Symantec.

“It is interesting to note that websites hosting adult/pornographic content are not in the top five, but ranked tenth,” Symantec said in the report.

“We hypothesise that this is because pornographic website owners already make money from the internet and, as a result, have a vested interest in keeping their sites malware-free; it’s not good for repeat business.”

The report was based on information gathered last year by the Symantec Global Intelligence Network, which monitors cyber attack activity in more than 200 countries through its services and sensors.

Symantec said that it blocked 5.5 billion attacks in 2011 in an increase of 81 perc ent from the prior year.

In keeping with trends seen by other internet security firms, Symantec reported surges in hacks aimed at smartphones or tablet computers and in attacks targeting workers in companies or government agencies.

AAP

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Web wanderers are more likely to get a computer virus by visiting a religious website than by peering at porn, according to a new study.

 

“Drive-by attacks” in which hackers booby-trap legitimate websites with malicious code continue to be a bane, the US-based anti-virus vendor Symantec said in its Internet Security Threat Report.

Websites with religious or ideological themes were found to have triple the average number of “threats” that those featuring adult content, according to Symantec.

“It is interesting to note that websites hosting adult/pornographic content are not in the top five, but ranked tenth,” Symantec said in the report.

“We hypothesise that this is because pornographic website owners already make money from the internet and, as a result, have a vested interest in keeping their sites malware-free; it’s not good for repeat business.”

The report was based on information gathered last year by the Symantec Global Intelligence Network, which monitors cyber attack activity in more than 200 countries through its services and sensors.

Symantec said that it blocked 5.5 billion attacks in 2011 in an increase of 81 perc ent from the prior year.

In keeping with trends seen by other internet security firms, Symantec reported surges in hacks aimed at smartphones or tablet computers and in attacks targeting workers in companies or government agencies.

AAP

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

AUSTRALIAN DEVELOPMENT OF THE JAJA STYLUS BREAKS NEW GROUND

The jaja stylus uses sound to transmit pressure


Drawing styluses are, for the most part, simply glorified sticks. They do what your finger would do, but have a finer point. The new jaja stylus developed by Australia’s Jon Atherton, however, has a few tricks up its sleeve – the big one is, it is capable of registering 1,024 levels of user-applied pressure, which it transmits to the tablet or smartphone’s microphone using sound. The resulting lines drawn on the screen will be of varying thicknesses, depending on the amount of pressure applied.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

INTERNET LANGUAGES ARE MANY & COMBINED ARE NOT ENGLISH

Five hundred and thirty seven million people use the Web in English; 445 million use it in Chinese. Yet the vast majority of users, 985 million people, navigate the Web in other languages.

“Although every Web site is global from the moment it goes live, few are designed with a worldly aspect,” says author John Yunker. Companies miss crucial opportunities if they don’t address a global audience. Research shows that people prefer to visit Web sites written in their own language.

A Eurobarometer survey, for example, found that 90 percent of European Web site users will always visit a Web site in their own language if they are offered a choice. Only 53 percent of users would choose to use an English Web site in place of one in their own language. Up to 60 percent of users who did navigate to an English language website expressed missing interesting information. In some countries, users only watch and read online content in their own language. This reluctance extends to buying products. A paltry 18 percent of users surveyed said they would “frequently or always buy products in a foreign language.”

Businesses ignore translation and localization at their own peril. The rise of the Millennial generation underlines the need for these tools. People under the age of 30 comprise more than half of the world’s population. The majority of Millennials live in China, Africa, South America, and other countries with per capita incomes of less than $1,000 per year. More than half of the users in China, which is expected to surpass the U.S. in terms of Internet users by 2013, are under the age of 25. Most U.S. Internet users are between 18 and 29 years old, according to a December 2010 Pew Internet survey.

Millennials are poised to make big changes to the global economy. The world is facing a peak population of 9.7 billion estimated for the middle of the century, an aging global workforce, and decreasing fertility rates. It is ready for the Millennial business model, which focuses on social causes in addition to the bottom line. An entrepreneurial group, Millennials harness widespread access to information and markets to collaborate internationally. Lower equipment costs, improved telecommunications infrastructure, and widespread mobile adoption around the world have ensured that almost everyone can connect easily and cheaply. Income no longer presents an insurmountable barrier to entry.

In many ways, big organizations are on the same page as millennials. A hypercompetitive economy has forced corporations to decrease their response times around both market and stakeholder needs. As a result, collaboration has to be efficient and take place on a global scale. Corporations have flattened their organizational hierarchies and become more flexible. Offshoring and outsourcing have led to a more diverse, multilingual global workforce, even within the same organization. Within this context it is essential to have training, marketing and technical materials available in relevant languages so that global teams can collaborate and work more efficiently.

Meeting Translation Needs

International collaboration is a must in the modern, Millennial-driven economy. Still, most translation options are one-size-fits-all solutions that don’t address a company’s unique needs. Hiring a good human translator is the traditional course of action. But at an industry-standard rate of 23 cents per word, the average millennial entrepreneur, who probably comes from a country with a low per-capita income, wouldn’t foot the cost. Considering the increasing predominance of social media within the organization, combined with how quickly content ages online, the time it takes to find the right translator, communicate the parameters of the project, find a project manager, wait for the translator to finish, then correct the content could cost a company its competitive edge & position.

One recent alternative, machine translation, is fast and free. But it doesn’t guarantee quality. The solution lies in combining the speed and low price of machine translation with the expertise of humans. Corporations today need a collaborative translation platform, which leverages both technology and crowds to create custom translation solutions. Through a combination of software and humans, analyzed and customized translations can match the level of importance of content. Instead of applying a uniform solution to unique needs, companies can match the workflow to the job at hand.

Millennials and multinationals alike benefit from fast, accurate, and cost-effective translation. In the new global economy, massive international collaboration is a core facet of doing business. The need for localized content and translation is no longer a luxury. It’s an absolute bare necessity.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

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