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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Apr 25

China Watch Blog reports that just three days before International Workers’ Memorial Day, honoring workers around the world who have died as a result of their jobs, two groups — Green America and China Labor Watch (CLW) — will hold a demonstration at the Apple Store on 5th Avenue in New York City to protest worker poisoning in the factories that supply Apple’s iPhones and iPads.  The event will take place at 12:30 p.m. on April 25, 2014.

The planned protest stems from the “Bad Apple Campaign,” launched jointly by Green America and CLW on March 12, 2014. To date, the campaign has collected nearly seventeen thousand signatures urging Apple’s CEO Tim Cook to remove dangerous chemicals in an effort to protect the young Chinese workers who manufacture Apple’s products. See http://www.greenamerica.org/bad-apple/ for more information.

The protests’ location at Apple’s “Cube” store, near Central Park, is significant in that the store is one of Apple’s most profitable retail locations, grossing more than $350 million per year.  Industry experts estimate that Apple could remove benzene and other dangerous chemicals from production for as little as $1 dollar per device.

Smartphones and other electronics are made with thousands of chemicals, many of which are known to be harmful to human health such as benzene or n-hexane.  Occupational exposure to benzene can lead to leukemia.  Apple is profiting at the expense of the workers who assemble their iconic products in China, even though safer chemical alternatives are available.  The campaign is calling on Apple to lead the way in protecting worker health and safety.

In April 2012, Greenpeace hosted an action at this store to call attention to Apple’s wasteful energy practices. As a result, one year later, Apple announced a plan to use 100% renewable energy at its data centers.

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Apr 11

China Watch Blog has learnt that the heart of the Internet is “bleeding” from a bug in widely-used encryption technology, according to security experts.

The online threat, code-named Heartbleed, could affect millions of Chinese computer users by exposing their passwords, credit card numbers and other sensitive information to potential theft by computer hackers.

“Heartbleed is the No. 1 online threat this year,” said Shi Xiaohong, a security expert with Qihoo 360.

Shi likened it to a “nuclear crisis in the Internet landscape” due to its potential for damage.

More than 30 percent of domestic websites requiring web log-ins — covering online payment, e-commerce, online bank and e-mail services — have been affected by the bug. Users can’t protect their information if they have used the services of websites with OpenSSL encryption technology, even if their computers are well protected by anti-virus tools, according to Qihoo 360.

The security researchers who uncovered the threat are particularly worried about the breach because it had gone undetected for more than two years. Hackers may have been exploiting the problem over that period.

Domestic websites, including Taobao, the online shopping site, and train ticket site12306.cn, and global sites such as Yahoo were found to have the bug. By yesterday evening, most websites had been upgraded to fix the bug.

“All of our websites, including Taobao, Alipay and Tmall are safe now with system upgrading,” Alibaba said.

Beijing-based Qihoo 360 sent alerts to around 120,000 website owners in China urging them to upgrade their systems.

The Heartbleed bug was found by Google Inc and US security firm Codenomicon, and prompted the US government’s Department of Homeland Security to advise businesses to review their servers to see if they were using vulnerable versions of OpenSSL, Reuters reported.

Ordinary computer users are advised to change passwords or at least not to access websites that haven’t been upgraded.

Yahoo, which has more than 800 million users worldwide, said most of its most popular services — including sports, finance and Tumblr — had been fixed, but work was still being done on other products it didn’t identify.

In a statement, it said it was “continuously working to protect our users’ data.”

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Apr 06

China Watch Blog reports that authorities around the world should set up emergency communication teams to manage the amount of misinformation circulating on social media during disasters, terrorist attacks and other social crises.

A study on the use of social media in three major incidents, including the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, by Dr Onook Oh, of Warwick Business School, Manish Agrawal, of the University of South Florida, and Raghav Rao, of the State University of New York at Buffalo, revealed that Twitter is emerging as the dominant social reporting tool to report eye-witness accounts and share information on disasters, terrorist attacks and social crises as a collective effort to make sense of what is happening.

But when it is the online community who are creating and exchanging the news rather than official news channels, this can not only exaggerate the unfolding situation, but also unintentionally turn it into misinformation, diverting attention from the real problems.

Dr Oh, Assistant Professor of Information Systems, believes authorities or organisations involved in a disaster or terrorist attack need to set up an emergency communication centre to provide speedy, relevant information on the unfolding crisis and to confirm or dispel misinformation circulating on social media.

The study, which is the first application of rumour theory to social media and community intelligence, analyses three large Twitter data sets: the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, where a group of gunmen killed 165 and injured 304 people, the May 2012 shooting of five people by a gunman in Seattle and the recall of four million cars by Toyota in 2009 and 2010 because of a faulty accelerator pedal.

Within minutes of the initial terrorist attack in Mumbai, a local resident posted a stream of pictures on photo sharing website Flickr. Almost concurrently, a group of people voluntarily formed a Twitter page with a link to the Flickr site and spread eyewitness accounts of the terrorist attacks with texts, photos, and links to other sources.

While the flurry of social media activity had many positive outcomes, enabling people to contact family members, encouraging blood donations and providing eyewitness accounts, it also caused many rumours to circulate.

In total 20,920 tweets were analysed on the Mumbai attacks in the study, ‘Community Intelligence and Social Media Services: A Rumor Theoretic Analysis of Tweets During Social Crisis’ published in MIS Quarterly, from the moment the terror attack occurred on November 26 until November 30.

Dr Oh said: “Natural disasters and crises such as terrorist attacks provide the optimum conditions for rumours to spread which can exacerbate the situation for emergency response operations and cause panic amongst the public. For example, during the Mumbai terrorist attacks, the police control room was flooded with incorrect reports of explosions at leading hotels.

“Misinformation on the internet was also influencing what was being reported on official news channels. In fact, the BBC was forced to admit they had made a mistake after using Twitter coverage of the Mumbai terror attacks as a source of their official news.”

Dr Oh believes the main motivation for people turning to Twitter in a crisis is to find out what is happening in their immediate area or to acquaintances, so in order to control the flow of misinformation, emergency communication centres need to be set up quickly to respond to misinformation through social media channels.

“People use mainstream media to try to make sense of the situation but it usually provides general information or repeatedly broadcasts a few sensational scenes over and over again,” said Dr Oh, who cites the US Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Rumour Control Centre website during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 as an example of one way of using emergency communication centres. “Whereas what people involved in the crisis really want is very localised information in real time to aid their decision-making. Hence they rapidly realise that mainstream media do not provide them with local information that they desperately need to overcome the extreme situation, hence, they turn to social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

“Emergency response teams need to put in place prompt emergency communication systems to refute the misinformation and provide citizens with timely, localised, and correct information through multiple communication channels such as website links, social network websites, RSS, email, text message, radio, TV or retweets.

“In cases of community disasters, emergency responders need to make extra effort to distribute reliable information and, at the same time, control collective anxiety in the community to suppress the spreading of unintended rumour information. This includes the setting up of an ‘emergency communication centre’ in the local community who would monitor social media very closely and respond rapidly to unverified and incorrect rumour information.

“Given that the motivation of rumouring is fundamentally to make sense of uncertain situations such that people can deal with a possible threat, the provision of timely and certain information may lead to successful crisis management in partnership with voluntary online citizens.

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Mar 25

China Watch Blog reports that twenty-five distinguished scholars and internationally recognized experts have been appointed to the Global Commission on Internet Governance’s (GCIG) new Research Advisory Network (RAN).

The Global Commission is a two-year initiative launched in January 2014, by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and Chatham House. Chaired by Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, the commission will produce a comprehensive stand on the future of multi-stakeholder Internet governance.

The commission’s RAN, led by CIGI Senior Fellow Laura DeNardis, will assist in identifying and prioritizing Internet governance and Internet policy related issues within the commission’s mandate. Members of the RAN will provide expert briefings to the members of the commission and conduct research and analysis for the commission’s preparatory work and final report.

“The research advisory network will be an indispensable component of the Global Commission on Internet Governance,” said Fen Osler Hampson, co-director of the commission and director of CIGI’s Global Security & Politics program. “Under the direction of Laura DeNardis, the RAN will be of great benefit to this initiative’s critical analysis and findings. I’m grateful that these experts have agreed to participate.”

The twenty-five member network consists of:

Sunil Abraham
Izumi Aizu
Peng Hwa Ang
Subimal Bhattacharjee
David Clark
Sadie Creese
Leslie Daigle
Oleg Demidov
William Dutton
Lorraine Eden
Laurent Elder
Patrik Fältström
Tobias Feakin
Urs Gasser
Clem Herman
Jeanette Hofmann
Konstantinos Komaitis
Ronaldo Lemos
Meryem Marzouki
Carolina Rossini
Michael Schmitt
Emily Taylor
Rolf H. Weber
Andrew Wyckoff
Christopher S. Yoo

Additional RAN members will be confirmed over time. For more information on the GCIG, including its twenty-nine commissioners and twenty-five research advisers, please visit: www.ourinternet.org. Follow the commission on Twitter @OurInternetGCIG.

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Feb 18

China Watch Blog reports that no one could argue very convincingly that mobile isn’t one of the most disruptive, transformational factors in business – and in life – today. Consumers are armed 24/7 with ever more powerful smartphones and tablets. But most aren’t dying to download the app you paid handsomely to develop.

Most consumers are using their mobile devices to access the web while away from home and from the couch. They’re using them to read your opt-in emails, clicking on your links and forwarding your offers to friends. They’re comparison-shopping, pitting brick-and-mortars with online stores, and reading reviews as part of their decision-making process. They’re relating their experiences with ratings and photos in real time with their social networks.

Anyone competing today for consumers’ hard-earned income, loyalty or even just their attention simply MUST embrace mobile. And they must develop a multi-faceted strategy to take advantage of it..

Building your own mobile app is hardly ever a best first step. Building a useful app is a considerable investment in time and money. Instead, these four strategies can make you immediately mobile friendly. Plus, they can actually inform your future app development process.

1. Make your website mobile friendly
More than half of your customers are searching for your information using their smartphones. Three-quarters of them won’t come back if your site isn’t optimized for mobile. More than 90 percent of websites are not optimized for mobile, so optimizing yours becomes a competitive advantage. What’s more, your mobile site can incorporate features unique to mobile device like geolocation, tap-to-call and others.

An easy way to make your site mobile friendly is to create a dedicated mobile website, separate from your main site. This site would be served up automatically when people navigate to your site using a smartphone or tablet. The drawbacks to having separate sites are that the branding between the two can be limited and the need to coordinate the content between the main site and the mobile version.

Responsive design is a set of web technologies that enables developers to change the visual appearance of specific elements of your website depending on the screen size the site is displayed on.

2. Collect customer and prospect contact info with a tablet in your store
People love to have insider access to special offers, flash sales and seasonal discounts. While they’re in your store or interacting with you at an event, use a tablet to collect their email address for exactly those purposes. Never use paper forms—they send the wrong message in this age of mobile and require someone to input the data after it’s collected. Offering a coupon or chance to win in exchange for contact information will significantly increase the volume of contact details you collect.

Even if you don’t yet have a structured email marketing process in place, you can start collecting this info to build this very strategic asset for future marketing activities.

3. Use mobile to grow your social following
People engaged with a personable employee in your store or at an event are great candidates to become Facebook or other social media followers. All you have to do is ask. Why not have them—right then and there—use their personal mobile to like your FB page or follow you on your other social outlets?


(photo attribution: http://www.wildli.com/blog/slick-facebook-like-counter-for-your-shop-or-event/)

4. Engage event attendees using mobile
Event attendees can be easily engaged with a mobile survey at your booth or out on the floor of the event. You can survey in real time via a QR code or offline with a tablet-based survey that will upload survey results the next time the tablet connects to the internet.

This real-time interaction with your audiences yields a goldmine of fresh insights and opinions you simply won’t be able to capture days or weeks later—assuming you even have their email address.
Mobile has changed everything, and you can leverage it to your advantage.

Use some of these quick-strike strategies to begin creating a more well-rounded mobile strategy.

Stefan Debois is Co-founder & CEO of Survey Anyplace. Survey Anyplace Mobile Surveys allow for the capture of real-time customer insights without an app or need for an email address.

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Jan 14

China Watch Blog reports the malware attack that took advantage of Yahoo’s Java-based ad network around Christmas Eve was far greater than anticipated, the company confirmed in a post (via CNET) on its help web pages.

Initially believed to have affected only European users on January 3, 2014, the malware ad attacks were then said to have occurred during December 31, 2013 – January 3, 2014.

But Yahoo on Friday revealed the attack actually took place between December 27, 2013 – January 3, 2014, and affected users outside of the European Union as well.

It’s not clear how many users may have been affected by the hack, although initial estimates from security companies said that up to 2 million machines might have been compromised during a four-day attack.

Yahoo says that the attack happened after an account was compromised, without revealing more details about said account.

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Jan 08

China Watch Blog reports the leak of information via Alipay, China’s largest third-party payment platform, has sparked a public outcry over transaction security at a time when the Internet is soaring as a major shopping avenue.

“The leaked data revealed only transaction information before 2010. They excluded sensitive information such as usernames or passwords, which were ciphered through a sophisticated method that is not available to anyone,” according to a statement by Alipay on Sunday.

The China Daily reported that Alipay apologized for the leak, saying it has notified Chinese regulators and will keep the public informed about the investigation in a timely manner.

Alipay accounts for 61 percent of the country’s third-party payment market, according to IT consultancy iResearch. Currently, about 200 banks and 400,000 e-commerce vendors or online units of brick-and-mortar stores accept Alipay as an online payment channel, according to company statistics.

Earlier media reports said police have held a former employee of Alipay, who told police he downloaded 20 gigabytes of personal information in 2010 — including users’ names, cellphone numbers, e-mail addresses, home addresses and purchase records — and his accomplices sold the information to others. Industry insiders said the information was useful for some e-commerce websites who need to locate their potential customers.

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Jan 04

China Watch Blog has learnt that in room-size metal boxes, secure against electromagnetic leaks, the National Security Agency is racing to build a computer that could break nearly every kind of encryption used to protect banking, medical, business and government records around the world.

According to documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the effort to build “a cryptologically useful quantum computer” — a machine exponentially faster than classical computers — is part of a $79.7 million research program titled, “Penetrating Hard Targets”.

Much of the work is hosted under classified contracts at a laboratory in College Park. The development of a quantum computer has long been a goal of many in the scientific community, with revolutionary implications for fields like medicine as well as for the NSA’s code-breaking mission.

With such technology, all forms of public key encryption would be broken, including those used on many secure Web sites as well as the type used to protect state secrets.

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Jan 02

China Watch Blog has reported that the US National Security Agency can reportedly sniff out every last bit of data from your iPhone, according to leaked NSA documents published by German magazine Der Spiegel.

Known as DROPOUTJEEP, the spyware is said to be one of the tools employed by the NSA’s ANT (Advanced or Access Network Technology) division to gain backdoor access to various electronic devices.

On Sunday, leaked documents obtained by Der Spiegel showed how these tools have reportedly been used to infiltrate computers, hard drives, routers, and other devices from tech companies such as Cisco, Dell, Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor, and Samsung. Those same documents reveal how DROPOUTJEEP can infiltrate virtually all areas of the iPhone, including voice mail, contact lists, instant messages, and cell tower location.

The tool’s abilities are revealed in the following description from one of the apparently leaked NSA documents published by Der Spiegel, Shelly Palmer reported.

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