News & Sports Websites Vulnerable to Attack

News & Sports Websites Vulnerable to Attack
News and sports websites have some of the lowest levels of security adoption, a study has suggested. A team of cyber-security experts looked at the security protocols used by the top 500 sites in various industries and online sectors. They found that fewer than 10% of news and sports websites used basic security protocols such as HTTPS and TLS.

Even those that do are not always using the “latest or strongest protocols”, one of the study’s authors said.

“As time goes by, all encryption gets weaker because people find ways around it,” Prof Alan Woodward, a cyber-security expert at the University of Surrey, told the BBC. “We tested the University of Surrey’s website using a site called Security Headers a couple of weeks ago and it got an A,” he explained, “but it’s only a C now.”

The research, published in the Journal of Cyber Security Technology, shows that some sectors seem much more security-conscious than others. The websites of computer and technology companies and financial organisations showed a much higher level of adoption than shopping and gaming sites, for example.

“In the financial sector, almost every one of the sites we looked at had encrypted links”, Prof Woodward said, “but even in retail the adoption of the very latest standards is low.”

A quarter of the shopping sites studied were using Transport Layer Security (TLS), which offers tools including digital certificates, remote passwords, and a choice of ciphers to encrypt traffic between a website and its visitors. But among news and sport websites fewer than 8% were found to be using the protocol. Among those that did, many failed to make use of some of the strongest tools available, such as HSTS, which automatically pushes users accessing an unsecured version of a website on to the encrypted version instead.

“It’s like news and sport content providers don’t value the security of their content,” Prof Woodward said. “They’re leaving themselves vulnerable to attacks like cross-site scripting, where an attacker can pretend something’s come from a website when it hasn’t.”

But Prof Woodward warned against putting too much faith in sites that appear to have the most up-to-date and comprehensive security protocols in place.

“People assume that because they’re using TLS they’re having a secure conversation, but there’s no guarantee about who they’re having that secure conversation with,” he explained. “Some of those spoof sites are using more up-to-date security than the genuine sites. You’ve got to click on that padlock and check who it is you’re talking to.”

UK Inflation Rate Rises to 2.9%

UK Inflation Rate Rises to 2.9%
UK inflation rate rose to 2.9% in May, up from 2.7% the previous month, official figures show. It is the highest rate since June 2013 and keeps inflation above the Bank of England’s 2% target.

The Office for National Statistics said one of the main reasons for the rise was the cost of foreign package holidays for British tourists.

Another factor was the price of computer games and equipment, which are usually imported. They are part of the recreational and cultural goods and services sector, where prices rose overall by 0.9% between April and May compared with a fall of 0.4% a year ago.

Food and clothing also went up in price slightly after falling 12 months ago, with the sugar, jam, confectionery and children’s clothing markets mainly responsible.

There were also rises in the cost of furniture and household goods, and electricity, with further price increases coming into effect in May.

RBS Reaches Settlement with Shareholders

RBS Reaches Settlement with Shareholders
RBS has finally reached a £200m settlement with investors who say they were duped into handing £12bn to the bank during the financial crisis. The RBoS Shareholders Action Group has voted to accept a 82p a share offer.

The amount is below the 200p-230p a share that investors paid during the fundraising in 2008, when they say RBS lied about its financial health.

A settlement means that the disgraced former chief executive of RBS, Fred Goodwin, will not appear in court.

The investor voted on the settlement on Monday evening, but declined to comment on whether the decision was unanimous.

Shares in RBS fell 1.1% to 256.85p.

Shortly after the rights issue in 2008, RBS was bailed out with £45bn taxpayers’ money. The state still owns more than 70% of the bank. In contrast, the government recently sold its last remaining stake in Lloyds, which took over HBOS during the crisis before receiving £20bn of rescue funds from the state.

General Election 2017: May Would Revive Board of Trade

General Election 2017: May Would Revive Board of Trade
Theresa May plans to set up a network of nine trade commissioners across the world to boost trade after Brexit. The Conservative Party said they would be part of a new Board of Trade to help exports and attract foreign investment.

The UK’s first Board of Trade has its roots in the 17th Century and through several transformations became the Department of Trade and Industry.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats said the prime minister’s plan was outdated.

Under the Conservative plans, the trade commissioners would be based “overseas in nine different regions, determined by markets rather than national borders, to ensure UK trade policy is guided by local experience and expertise”.

The Board of Trade would bring together leading business figures and politicians to help lead trade delegations, boost exports and “make sure the benefits and prosperity of Brexit are spread equally across the country”.

Mrs May, who plans to take Britain out of the European Union’s tariff-free single market, has said Brexit will allow Britain to seek bilateral trade deals with “old friends and new allies”.

Scottish Economy ‘Stuck in Slow Lane’

Scottish Economy ‘Stuck in Slow Lane’
Scotland’s economy is showing signs of slowing faster than the rest of the UK as consumer spending fades and firms remain reluctant to invest, according to a report. The EY Scottish Item Club has predicted “below-par” GDP growth of 0.9% in 2017 – half of that expected for the UK. It suggested the retail sector would be worst hit by “mounting pressure” on consumers.

Employment in Scotland is also forecast to continue to fall this year. In 2017, it is expected to drop by 0.1%, followed by further decreases of 0.5% and 0.3% in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

However, manufacturing output is predicted to grow in line with the overall economy for the first time since 2013, as weaker sterling and a pick-up in global demand “ultimately provide a boost to exports”.

The item club said Scottish households were “likely to endure a fall in real incomes” this year as a result in part of rising inflation and “weak” labour market conditions. It expects consumer spending to rise by just 1% in 2017, and by less than 1% per year between 2018 and 2020. This compares with an average annual rate of 2.3% over the past five years.

The forecaster said this reflected “a significant loss of momentum from a key driver of the Scottish economy”. It expects Scottish growth to slow a little in 2018 to 0.7% before gradually accelerating to around 1.4% by the end of the decade. However, it predicts that throughout this period, the Scottish economy will grow more slowly than the UK.

Dougie Adams, senior economic advisor to the EY Scottish Item Club, described the Scottish economy as being “stuck in the slow lane”. He said “As flagged in previous EY Scottish Item Club reports, one factor is the ending of the outsized contribution to GDP growth from construction as many of the big-ticket public sector-funded infrastructure projects near completion.”

He added: “Consumer spending, which last year proved surprisingly resilient and helped buoy the economy, is fading.  A weak labour market and rising inflation is putting further pressure on incomes and recent research reveals that households expect worsening economic conditions. All of this means consumers are likely to be more cautious.”

EY’s chief economist for UK and Ireland, Mark Gregory, said: “Scotland’s economy is showing signs of slowing faster than the rest of the UK which sends a clear message that business and government will have to work harder and smarter to achieve sustained growth. The economy has to rebalance and shift away from a reliance on public-funded major infrastructure projects. Sector diversification is also required to help move away from an over-reliance on the oil and gas, construction and financial services sectors.”

Responding to the report, Scottish Economy Secretary Keith Brown said: “Despite serious challenges such as the slowdown in the oil and gas sector, the foundations of Scotland’s economy are strong. Unemployment is falling and we are seeing early signs that the situation is improving for North Sea operators.  This report from E&Y builds on the Scottish Engineering quarterly review figures released earlier this month by showing positive signs for the manufacturing sector in Scotland. This report also comes after the 2017 EY Scotland Attractiveness Survey confirmed 2016 was a record-breaking year for foreign direct investment into Scotland. For the second year in a row we have attracted more projects than ever before and Scotland has been the top UK region outside London in every one of the past five years.”

Meanwhile, a separate report has suggested improving labour market conditions in Scotland.

The latest IHS Market Report on Jobs for Scotland found that last month there were sharp rises in worker placements, record growth in permanent staff demand and falling availability. In terms of staff demand, the data signalled the fastest rate of expansion in the survey’s 14-year history, with growth faster in Scotland than across the UK as a whole.

Scottish recruitment consultancies also recorded further steep growth in demand for temporary staff. Sector data indicated that staff demand rose fastest in the IT and Computing sector for both permanent and temporary roles.

Meanwhile, the rate of expansion in permanent staff placements in Scotland reached its highest in 27 months as growth matched the UK as a whole, which was at a 25-month high.

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WannaCry Ransom Notice Analysis Suggests Chinese Link

WannaCry Ransom Notice Analysis Suggests Chinese Link
New analysis suggests Chinese-speaking criminals may have been behind the WannaCry ransomware that affected thousands of organisations worldwide. Researchers from Flashpoint looked at the language used in the ransom notice. They said the use of proper grammar and punctuation in only the Chinese versions indicated the writer was “native or at least fluent” in Chinese.

The translated versions of the ransom notice appeared to be mostly “machine translated”. The WannaCry ransom note could be displayed in 28 different languages, but only the Chinese and English versions appeared to have been written by humans. The English text also used some unusual phrases such as: “But you have not so enough time”.

The WannaCry cyber-attack infected more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries, affecting government, healthcare and private company systems.

The UK’s National Crime Agency, the FBI and Europol are investigating who was responsible for the ransomware.

Some earlier analysis of the software had suggested criminals in North Korea may have been behind it. But the Flashpoint researchers noted the Korean-language ransom note was a poorly translated version of the English text.

“It was only really the Chinese and the English versions that appeared to be written by someone that understood the language,” said cyber-security expert Prof Alan Woodward from the University of Surrey. “The rest appeared to come from Google Translate. Even the Korean.”

Prof Woodward noted that the people behind the ransomware had not attempted to retrieve the money victims had paid in Bitcoin, and added it was likely they were keeping a low profile.

“I actually think they’ve run for the hills,” he told the BBC. “Their so-called command and control system, the thing that controls quite a lot of the software, has all been turned off. They know that so many people are watching them now and that following the money could lead to their downfall. I suspect if they’ve got any sense at all they’ll leave it well alone.”

Sterling Dips after Poll Suggests Hung Parliament

Sterling Dips after Poll Suggests Hung Parliament
The value of the pound dropped after a projection suggested the Conservatives could fail to win an outright majority in the election on 8 June. Previous opinion polls suggested Prime Minister Theresa May’s party would increase its majority, which is currently 17 seats. But the projection, published in the Times and based on YouGov research, suggests a possible hung parliament.

Sterling fell by more than 0.5% before recovering some losses. By Wednesday morning the currency was 0.36% lower against the dollar at $1.2813 and 0.35% lower against the euro at 1.1453 euros.

The pound has been volatile since the UK voted to leave the European Union in a referendum last year. On the day of the referendum, 23 June 2016, the pound hit $1.4883. The day after, it fell below the $1.35 mark. Sterling fell further in October and hit a low of $1.2047 in January this year. It has struggled to reach the $1.30 level ever since.

The Times said the YouGov data suggested that the Tories could lose up to 20 of the 330 seats they held in the last parliament, with Labour gaining nearly 30 seats. The Conservatives would still be the biggest party, but would not have an overall majority.

Kathleen Brooks at City Index questioned the accuracy of the research. “This was not a poll, rather it is the outcome of a model that has used untested methodology to come up with this hung parliament conclusion,” she said. “Other polls are predicting a completely different outcome, so we would use this information with a pinch of salt.”

However, Neil Wilson at ETX Capital commented: “This is new territory, The model is based on 50,000 interviews over a week, with voters from a panel brought together by YouGov. It uses a new “constituency-by-constituency” model for polling, which the paper says allows for big variations.

According to the Times, “the estimates were met with scepticism by Tory and Labour figures”.

YouGov’s chief executive, Stephan Shakespeare said the model had been tested during the EU referendum campaign, when it consistently put the winning Leave side ahead. But he added: “It would take only a slight fall in Labour’s share and a slight increase in the Conservatives’ to result in Mrs May returning to No 10 with a healthy majority.”

Theresa May: Online Extremism Must be Tackled

Theresa May: Online Extremism Must be Tackled
Theresa May has urged world leaders to do more to combat online extremism, saying the fight against so-called Islamic State is “moving from the battlefield to the internet”. At the G7 summit in Sicily, the PM said tech companies had to do more to identify and remove extreme material. She also urged more action on tackling foreign fighters who travel to join IS.

Meanwhile, UK police have arrested another man in connection with Monday’s terror attack in Manchester. Twenty-two people were killed and 116 injured when a suicide bomber targeted an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena on Monday evening.

Mrs May warned that fighters returning to their home countries from countries like Iraq and Syria posed a new terrorist threat and urged G7 members to work with “our partners in the region to step up returns and prosecutions of foreign fighters. “This means improving intelligence sharing, evidence gathering and bolstering countries’ police and legal processes,” she said. G7 members needed to be able to share data securely in order to track fighters as they cross borders and make decisions about whether to prosecute them, she said.

The PM also sought common ground on tackling online extremism as she chaired a counter-terrorism session at the summit in Italy, looking at how countries could work together to prevent online plotting of terrorist attacks and to stop the spread of extremist ideology. She also argued that, as IS militants lose ground in the Middle East, the threat was “evolving rather than disappearing” and that the industry had a “social responsibility” to do more to take down harmful content, arguing it had taken some action but had not gone far enough.

She wants an international forum to develop the means of intervening where danger is detected, and for companies to develop tools which automatically identify and remove harmful material based on what it contains and who posted it.

French President Emmanuel Macron vowed France’s total support for Britain’s fight against terrorism as he met Mrs May at the summit. “We will be here to cooperate and do everything we can in order to increase this cooperation at the European level, in order to do more from a bilateral point of view against terrorism,” he told her, in their first formal meeting since he took office.

Security minister Ben Wallace told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the use of online communications was “one of the biggest challenges” in the fight against terrorism, with encryption making it “almost impossible for us to actually lift the lid on these people. The scale of it is not just the UK, it is across the whole of Europe, across the world.”

He said the giant American tech companies like Facebook and Google could be doing more. “We are determined to not let these people off the hook with the responsibility they have in broadcasting some horrendous [material], not only manuals about how to make bombs, but also grooming materials,” he said. “We all think they could all do more… we need to have the tools to make them, where we need to, remove material quicker.”

Google said it was committed to creating an international forum designed to tackle extreme content online, to make sure “terrorists do not have a voice online”. “We employ thousands of people and invest hundreds of millions of pounds to fight abuse on our platforms, and will continue investing and adapting to ensure we are part of the solution to addressing these challenges,” it added.

Call to Raise Retirement Age to at Least 70

Call to Raise Retirement Age to at Least 70
The retirement age should rise to at least 70 in rich countries by 2050 as life expectancy rises above 100, according to a new report. The World Economic Forum said that employees should continue working until 70 in nations such as the UK, US, Japan and Canada.

The increase will be needed, as the number of people over 65 will more than triple to 2.1 billion by 2050. By then, the number of workers per retiree will have halved to just four.

Michael Drexler, head of financial and infrastructure systems at the World Economic Forum, said the expected rise in longevity was the financial equivalent of climate change. “We must address it now or accept that its adverse consequences will haunt future generations, putting an impossible strain on our children and grandchildren,” he said.

In the UK the state pension age is due to rise from 65 in 2018 to 68 by 2046.

A report for the Department for Work and Pensions earlier this year has suggested that workers under 30 may not get a state pension until they are 70. The Forum’s report, We’ll Live to 100 – How Can We Afford It, said that governments need to make it easier for workers to save for their retirement and praised recent reforms in the UK.

The auto-enrolment scheme means more than six million British workers have now been signed up automatically to a pension savings scheme, but fears remain over how much is being set aside.

The WEF said the retirement savings gap was forecast to rise from $70tn to $400tn by 2050 in the eight countries studied: Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, Netherlands, the UK and the US. The gap is the amount of money required in each country to ensure a retirement income equal to 70% of a person’s pre-retirement income.

Jacques Goulet, president of health and Wealth at Mercer, which worked with the Forum to produce the report, said the issue was at a crisis point. “There is no one ‘silver bullet’ solution to solve the retirement gap. Individuals need to increase their personal savings and financial literacy, while the private sector and governments should provide programmes to support them,” he said.

The Forum also says that countries should aggregate and combine pensions data to give workers a full picture of their financial position. It cites Denmark, where an online dashboard collates pension information to give individuals details of their different pension savings accounts.