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Head in the clouds

 

Stuart White

THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

Where do you stand on hacking v personal privacy?  It’s been a controversial issue over the past few years, most notably in 2011 with the row over the interception of celebrity cellphone calls and messages by several British newspapers, culminating in criminal charges being brought against The News of the World editor, Rebekah Brooks,  against which she was eventually acquitted,  the successful prosecutions of several NOTW journalists and some from other publications and the dropping of unsubstantiated cases against others.  It even drew in former British Prime Minister David Cameron, a personal friend of Ms Brooks and her husband, referred to as part of the Chipping Norton Set, owing to the fact that Ms. Brooks owned a house in the exclusive Gloucestershire village in Cameron’s constituency and where their two families often entertained each other at weekends.  It even emerged that Ms Brooks had bought a retired police horse called Raisa, in order that Cameron, a keen horse rider, could have the use of it when he was at his country residence.  The implications of an editor of a leading scandal newspaper cosying up with country’s top politician made for uncomfortable reading for both of them and played no small part in the ultimate demise of NOTW, a paper which had first been launched in 1843.

And this month comes another hacking exposé, this one concerning the medical records of several Olympic athletes and their drip-feed release to the international press.  The records are of those held by the World Anti-Doping Agency and though to date, no smoking gun or Lance Armstrong-type scandals have been uncovered,  some of the athletes so far named may rather wish the confidential records had remained just that.  Here’s a run-down of the story so far:

“Twenty five athletes, including Tour de France winning cyclists Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins, are the latest victims of the World Anti-Doping Agency's security breach.  On Sept. 13 WADA  HYPERLINK "https://www.wada-ama.org/en/media/news/2016-09/wada-confirms-attack-by-russian-cyber-espionage-group" t "_blank" confirmed that a group of Russian hackers had accessed confidential medical records of athletes who participated in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.  After gaining access to WADA's Anti-Doping Administration and Management System (ADAMS) via an International Olympic Committee account, the Tsar Team (APT28), also referred to as Fancy Bear by cybersecurity company CrowdStrike, leaked confidential medical data of  HYPERLINK "http://mashable.com/2016/09/13/doping-hack-olympics/" l "WGzJZY8eddq0" United States athletes including Serena Williams and Simone Biles.

A day later a second round of confidential files  HYPERLINK "https://www.wada-ama.org/en/media/news/2016-09/wada-confirms-another-batch-of-athlete-data-leaked-by-russian-cyber-hackers-fancy" t "_blank" was released, including medical records of 25 athletes: ten from the United States, five from Germany, five from Great Britain, one from the Czech Republic, one from Denmark, one from Poland, one from Romania and one from Russia.  Access to ADAMS allowed the hackers to obtain athletes' Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE) covering certain  HYPERLINK "https://www.wada-ama.org/en/what-we-do/prohibited-list" t "_blank" prohibited drugs that athletes are allowed to take if an illness or condition requires the medicine.  For example, after leaked data showed Simone Biles had tested positive for methylphenidate — a banned WADA substance — also known as Ritalin, the gymnast later  HYPERLINK "http://mashable.com/2016/09/13/simone-biles-adhd-announcement/" announced her ADHD diagnosis on Twitter and assured fans that she had not broken any drug-testing regulations during the games

In response to the second release, Olivier Niggli, director general of WADA, said, "WADA is very mindful that this criminal attack, which to date has recklessly exposed personal data of 29 athletes, will be very distressing for the athletes that have been targeted; and, cause apprehension for all athletes that were involved in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.”  

Though the records showed no indication of wrongdoing, the records will likely raise questions about athlete performance.  “To those athletes that have been impacted, we regret that criminals have attempted to smear your reputations in this way; and, assure you that we are receiving intelligence and advice from the highest level law enforcement and IT security agencies that we are putting into action,” Niggli said.”

 

And from the sublime to the truly ridiculous, this week also saw the arrest of  an unnamed 35 year-old man in connection with the alleged hacking of Pippa Middleton’s iCloud account.  Ms. Middleton is the sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, and her photo collection is said to contain at least one image of her Hedge Fund Manager fiancé James Matthews, as well as presumably many intimate images of her famous sister and her family, which would undoubtedly fetch tidy sums of money in the popular press and celebrity gossip magazines.

So in a way this little discussion has gone full circle – from celebrity phone hacking to hacking of celebrity athletes medical records and right back to celebrity phone hacking, though internet storage.  But the thing they all really have in common is this:  that if you choose to store information either online or accessible via the worldwide spy web, sooner or later someone might well, with a little judicious inter-web digging, chance upon it and decided to capitalise.  Because even as recently as 25 years ago, to hack a celeb’s phone you would have needed to have access to their home and put a physical tap on the line or handset; similarly if you wanted saucy celeb pics you would have had to have filched a few of the family albums, also by stealth and burglary.  And if you wanted anyone’s medical records, that too would have taken a Watergate-style break-in to the relevant medical offices to steal or alternatively photograph the hard-copy papers that made up our medical history back then. 

But that was then and now’s now.  Cellphones are a massive convenience but equally they are massively insecure; and if you really don’t want people to see your intimate pics, don’t post them on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram and don’t store them in the clouds here you have no control over who’s trying to view them.  As far as the World Anti-Doping Agency records are concerned, the real pity is that such a body is ever needed in the first place but this latest hack sure puts a new  and very literal interpretation  on that old gum shoe phrase of ‘getting the dope’.

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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