Sep 14

China Watch Blog has learnt that approximately 4.93 million Gmail usernames and passwords were published to a Russian Bitcoin forum on Tuesday, as first reported by Russian website CNews. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that this leak doesn’t seem as massive upon further inspection. First off, we got in touch with Google regarding the issue. The company does not believe this is the result of any sort of security breach on its end.

“The security of our users’ information is a top priority for us,” a Google spokesperson told TNW. “We have no evidence that our systems have been compromised, but whenever we become aware that accounts may have been, we take steps to help those users secure their accounts.”

Next, since the posting, the forum administrators have purged the passwords from the text file in question, leaving only the logins. Furthermore, tvskit, the forum user who published the file, claimed that some 60 percent of the passwords were valid.

A quick analysis of the text file shows it includes mainly English, Spanish, and Russian accounts, but also that it seems to combine older lists accumulated over a longer period of time. There could thus be a link to hacks of sites unrelated to Gmail or any of Google’s services, especially if users are choosing the same usernames and passwords for other accounts, as well as phishing attacks.

As a result, this leak likely affects significantly fewer than 5 million users. Many have likely changed their passwords, and certain entries could be for suspended accounts, duplicates or simply outdated.

If you want to check whether your account is included in the leak, you can head to isleaked.com and input your email address (English translation here). We wouldn’t necessarily recommend doing so, however (email addresses could always be accumulated for later spamming): changing your password regardless of whether you’re on the list or not can’t hurt.

Google has taken steps to help them secure their accounts and given them usual recommendations to protect their devices from malware. The company also recommended enabling 2-step verification.

 

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Sep 12

China Watch Blog has learnt that as with every year over this transitional period, tens of thousands of recently graduated young people take their first tentative steps into the employment market, swelling the ranks of job seekers. Faced with increased competition and globalised hiring practices, new certificate holders are expected, now more than ever, to guarantee the authenticity of their key means of communication and persuasion: their CV and academic qualifications.

Meanwhile, major universities and other educational institutions are taking charge of their destiny by combating fraud to protect their most valuable assets: the reputation of their education level and the guarantee of excellence of their alumni. To offer a concrete solution to these significant challenges, CVTrust has developed Smart Diploma™, a unique online platform for education professionals, enabling them to design, format, manage and issue digital certificates of all kinds to their communities of graduates, including diplomas, transcripts, badges or even letters of acknowledgement. This solution is in line with the inevitable trend towards digitisation, a turn that has already been taken by telecom companies, banks and public institutions.

This innovative solution delivers outstanding added value to graduates by allowing them to store their academic credential(s) in a highly secure personal encrypted electronic ‘safe’, which remains entirely under their own control at all times. This facility makes it easy to present their invaluable documents to potential employers by downloading them as a PDF, inserting a hyperlink into their CV or directly integrating them onto their social networks.

After first getting some prestigious names in the academic world on board (in Europe and across the Atlantic), including INSEAD (France and Singapore), IMD in Lausanne (Switzerland) and the MIT Sloan School of Management (Massachusetts, USA), Smart Diploma™ has continued to develop abroad, with new renowned players such as HULT (international), Mannheim Business School (Germany), Nyenrode (Netherlands), GMAC (international) and Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management (Belgium).

“At a time when we are witnessing an unbundling of the value chain in the education sector and the democratisation of access to teaching, and when continuous training is increasingly becoming the norm, Smart Diploma™ is much more than just a secure repository for credentials. This platform is a digital passport, a true integrity label, allowing communities of graduates to value their most precious assets and ultimately opening doors to promising career opportunities”, stresses David Goldenberg, co-founder and CEO of CVTrust. “In other words, Smart Diploma™ is positioned as the critical missing link in the educator/pupil/recruiter ecosystem.” 

CVTrust has recently been awarded a contract in an open tender process from the Paris-Île-de-France Chamber of Commerce and Industry, gaining access to twenty schools facing similar challenges in terms of administration, prestige and sustainable relationships with their alumni. This achievement now puts the company at the head of the pack to provide these schools with a dynamic, intelligent and user-friendly credentials management tool that has already won over eminent references on the French market, including HEC Paris, Science Po Paris, Institut Mines-Télécom, Novancia Business School, INSEEC, Studialis.

At the same time, CVTrust has launched a pilot project with a number of high schools in Paris’ region to support them in digitising their baccalaureate qualifications. This means that CVTrust is diversifying its position across numerous sectors of the educational market, reaffirming once again the universality of its solution, be it in terms of implementation (in SaaS or integrated mode), markets, issuers of qualifications (initial and continuing educational institutions) or compliance with privacy regulations (European and American markets).

In addition to being an ingenious service to kick-start your working life and pursue your career under optimal conditions, Smart Diploma™ constitutes a valuable promotional tool for graduates to demonstrate their acquired qualifications as well as for institutions to enhance their visibility and reputation. Indeed, it is possible to endorse the diploma[1] with a banner (Smart Ads™) that redirects visitors to the website of the issuing institution, if desired by the latter. This provides the best possible exposure via the qualifications of the institution’s ultimate and most loyal ambassadors, setting in motion a real relationship of trust between the institution and its alumni.

CVTrust has also carved out a position as the ideal partner for MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and LMS (Learning Management Systems) by integrating Smart Diploma™ into their e-learning platform so that they can provide certificates to their thousands of subscribers in the most convenient, transparent and secure way. In addition, a recent collaboration with a renowned professional social network allows alumni (Smart Diploma™ holders) to post their official digital credentials in the appropriate slot on their personal profile, without tedious manipulation and in a completely safe manner, allowing recruiters to verify the integrity of the uploaded documents beforehand and in a single click.

“According to our calculation, the fraud of one’s expertise costs European companies an average of 8 billion Euro a year, while American companies face a loss of 7.7 billion dollars. Consequences can be tragic, be it on the operational level for the employer or in terms of reputation and therefore professional future for the ‘cheater’”, concludes Pierre-David Dewaele, co-founder and CTO of CVTrust. “Smart  Diploma™ constitutes a true shield against falsification, re-establishes confidence in the work sector and allows for an good return on investment for our clients as they can easily and rapidly save money on administration, logistic, printing and communication cost items.”

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Sep 02

China Watch Blog has learnt that flight 370 conspiracy theories are everywhere on the internet, almost six months since it went missing without a trace. The southern Indian Ocean is being called the Boeing 777’s “final resting place”, but no evidence has been found.

One conspiracy theory suggests the plane was shot down by military ops, specifically US-Thai strike fighters, by mistake.

Another theory is that the plane was taken to the highly secretive Diego Garcia Island as part of a US military plan. There is enough room to land such a large plane, but could there have been something on board the US military wanted? A dismantled drone with sensitive information was on board, according to some reports.

Some theories point to a hijacking, for the plane to be used for a greater plan at a later time. How did it fly off radar? By “hiding behind” another aircraft, such as Singapore Airlines’ Flight 68 if the planes were within a thousand metres of each other, through Indian and Afghanistan airspace.

Other conspiracy theories include a life insurance scam, the “Asian Bermuda Triangle” and alien abduction. However, the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, remains the prime suspect for many. Could he have had a breakdown, killing everyone on board, re-pressurizing the cabin and flying for four hours to the middle of nowhere?

The Inquisitr / The Mirror UK / The Telegraph

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Aug 03

China Watch Blog reports that organizations are like Rubik’s Cubes. Multifaceted, sometimes frustrating, with many possible moves leading to a single desired outcome. A leader cannot twist one side of the cube without affecting the others. Mastering the Cube: Overcoming Stumbling Blocks and Building an Organization that Works (AlignOrg Solutions) is by Reed Deshler and Kreig Smith. A leader’s guide to orchestrating complex organizational change, it’s a practical approach to a topic that is usually academic, too technical or overly complex.

Changing a large business to maximize opportunity in the marketplace is a process of aligning a multifaceted organization. Following the metaphor of an organization as a Rubik’s Cube, Deshler and Smith have identified eight common but misguided moves of organizational change.  These are Stumbling Blocks. But for each of these they offer an alternate move, or Building Block. These are solid principles or methods for leading organization alignment.

Reed Deshler is a principal with AlignOrg Solutions and a leading organization design and change practice leader with extensive corporate and consulting experience. He has worked with leaders at some of the largest and most respected companies in the world. Deshler’s expertise is in the science of organization design and change coupled with a talent for diagnosing organization misalignments. This facilitates the insights needed to drive business change and growth. Deshler is a regular presenter at industry conferences and a noted educator of organization design and change management skills with business executives around the world.

Kreig Smith is the founder of AlignOrg Solutions and a principal with the firm. He has consulted with a wide range of organizations—from Fortune 50 corporations to small businesses, for profit and nonprofit organizations, and domestic and international enterprises—for nearly thirty years. His expertise centers in the alignment of organizations to marketplace positions. Kreig focuses on large-scale change efforts, strategy clarification, organization design, and education.

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May 27

 

China Watch Blog reports that Asia’s biggest wine and spirits fair opened in Hong Kong on Tuesday, drawing the world’s top producers from France to Chile despite China reporting the first decline in wine consumption for a decade.
According to a survey by Vinexpo Asia Pacific, mainland China’s wine consumption fell by 2.5 percent last year, after ten years of uninterrupted growth at a rate of 25 percent per year, AFP reports.
The drop comes as Beijng reins in luxury spending and extravagant banquets, against the backdrop of a slower economy, and an anti-graft campaign backed by President Xi Jinping to root out official corruption.
However, show organizers, who expanded the trade fair by 50 percent in floor space from its last edition in 2012, are adamant there are still strong opportunities for the wine and spirits markets in the region, because of increased demand from a growing middle class.
Winemakers and industry executives also say that the economic slowdown will not prevent people from drinking, but the focus may now shift to mid-range wine and spirits.”This is the largest Vinexpo Asia Pacific ever. The markets of South East Asia and China are still booming,” Vinexpo chief executive officer Guillaume Deglise said.
“There are many markets in Asia where the middle class is expanding and this represents a great potential for the wine and spirits industry,” he said.
Xavier de Eizaguirre, chairman of Vinexpo, added: “Little did we know two decades ago Asia led by China and Japan would reach 63 percent of world’s spirits consumption.”

In 2013, China overtook France as the world’s largest consumer of red wine, guzzling more than 155 million 9-litre cases or 1.865 billion bottles that year, according to Vinexpo.

But the official austerity drive in China has meant that people are increasingly turning to cheaper wines.

“Cheaper wines are selling better because of the anti-corruption campaign. the government did not say you shouldn’t drink,” said Angel Lee, director of Hong Kong-based wine trading company MBL.

Pier Luigi Calcagnile, marketing director of Italian winemaker Caviro, said: “We consider good value for money very important for Asia. Premium wines are important to promote quality but if you want to expand, you need to approach also the middle class.”

Some 1,300 exhibitors from 31 countries attended the event packed with wine tasting sessions as well as discussion forums for sommeliers, distributors and importers.
This year Chinese wine tastings are also a feature, along with a bar showcasing innovative cocktails for the first time, organizers say.

French exhibitors make up more than 500 booths, while producers from Italy to New World countries such as the United States are also vying to gain market share.

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May 15

China Watch Blog reports the amount of money stolen from Internet bank accounts in Japan so far this year has already exceeded the annual record marked last year, the National Police Agency said Thursday.

Jiji Press reported that the amount in a four-month period through Friday stood at some 1,417 million yen, compared with 1,406 million yen in 2013. A total of 58 banks were hit by illegal money transfers this year, up from 32.

A growing number of regional and “shinkin” banks, as well as “shinyo kumiai” credit cooperatives, reported illegal transfers, while corporate bank accounts were hit by a surge in theft.
“Thieves are widening their targets and stolen amounts may grow in size,” an NPA official said. The police urged nine financial industry groups, such as the Japanese Bankers Association, on Thursday to strengthen preventive measures.

A total of 873 cases of illegal money transfers were confirmed by Friday, with victims in all Japan’s 47 prefectures except Tottori.

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May 12

China Watch Blog has learnt that there was renewed criticism of the oversight and management of the HK$250 million Mega Events Fund at a public hearing of the Legislative Council’s Public Accounts Committee on Monday.

An Audit Report had earlier revealed potential conflicts of interest and irregularities in its accounts and records. Civic Party legislator, Alan Leong Kah-kit, questioned why the Council had not been informed of a recommendation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption that the Fund should not continue beyond 2012 as it had fulfilled its ‘historical mission’.

The Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Andrew Wong Ho-yuen, said the Fund — which was set up in 2009 — aimed to attract overseas visitors back to Hong Kong and to provide short-term employment for a period of three years.

He said it was decided to continue with the Fund so that Hong Kong could compete for tourists with regional neighbors.

Wong said the Fund would aim to rectify the current situation.

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May 12

China Watch Blog reports that the Hong Kong government is about to burn 28 tonnes of confiscated ivory – the largest stockpile ever burned in history. WWF-Hong Kong and TRAFFIC will be holding a press conference this Wednesday to reveal new figures regarding seized ivory, showing that Hong Kong ranks fifth in terms of the quantity of ivory seized and highlighting Hong Kong’s importance as a major transit country and an end-use market.

WWF-Hong Kong and TRAFFIC appreciate the strong statement the government is making with this ivory burn and their prioritization of this issue, and we hope that the momentum will not stop here. WWF and TRAFFIC now call on the government to strengthen monitoring and control over ivory being currently sold on the market, and to strengthen the regulation of the domestic ivory market.

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May 08

China Watch Blog has learnt that a Japanese man suspected of possessing guns made with a 3-D printer has been arrested, reports said Thursday, in what was said to be the country’s first such detention.

Officers who raided the home of Yoshitomo Imura, a 27-year-old college employee, confiscated five weapons, two of which had the potential to fire lethal bullets, broadcaster NHK said.

Japan Today reported that they also recovered a 3-D printer from the home in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, but did not find any ammunition for the guns, Jiji Press reported.

It is the first time Japan’s firearm control law has been applied to the possession of guns produced by 3-D printers, Jiji reported.

The police investigation began after the suspect allegedly posted video footage on the Internet showing him shooting the guns, the Mainichi Shimbun said on its website.

Officers suspect that he downloaded blueprints for making the guns with 3-D printers from websites hosted overseas, the newspaper said.

The daily said the suspect largely admitted the allegations, saying: “It is true that I made them, but I did not think it was illegal.”

The police refused to confirm the reports, although broadcasters showed footage of Imura being taken in for questioning.  The rapid development of 3-D printing technology, which allows relatively cheap machines to construct complex physical objects by building up layers of polymer, has proved a challenge for legislators around the world.

Weapons assembled from parts produced by the printers are not detectable with regular security equipment, like that found at airports, leading to fears that they may be used in hijackings.

The debate about home-made guns took off last year in the United States when a Texas-based group, Defense Distributed, posted blueprints for a fully functional, 3-D-printed firearm, a single-shot pistol made almost entirely out of hard polymer plastic.

In December, the U.S. Congress renewed a ban on guns that contain no metal.

While Japanese police are armed, Japan has very strict firearms control laws and few people possess guns or have ever come into contact with them, AFP reported.

 

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May 01

China Watch Blog has learnt that WWF-Hong Kong welcomes a recent decision by China’s legislators to jail people who eat protected wild animals.

This can be a first step to mitigate deterioration of the population of 420 threatened species, including pangolin, tiger, golden coin turtle and Asian elephants, WWF said.

Under a new interpretation of existing Chinese criminal law (Article 341 and 312), the Standing Committee last week decided that consuming an animal protected by the national wildlife protection law as “rare or endangered” could be punished by imprisonment of 10 or more years. Those who knowingly buy wild illegally hunted animals could also face a sentence of up to three years.

Cheryl Lo, Conservation Specialist at WWF, comments that “We welcome the new decision to further protect threatened species. The penalty on consumption of wild animals and their products is a strong message sent by the Chinese government to drive down consumer demand and illegal poaching. Populations of species such as the Chinese pangolin, which is categorized as endangered by the IUCN, may have a chance to recover.”

In response to the growing environmental awareness among the general public, governments have strengthened their protection over threatened species in recent years. For example, in early this year, China has destroyed illegal ivory it confiscated while Hong Kong will begin burning 28 tonnes of ivory stockpile a few weeks later.”

WWF strives to conserve wildlife species. It is crucial to protect both individual species and the habitats upon which they depend. Ongoing research and programmes are needed to successfully achieve this goal, as greater knowledge of the status of various species will enhance our ability to act and greater awareness is a key building block of nature conservation.

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