Bitcoins Losing Value for Cyber Thieves

Bitcoins Losing Value for Cyber Thieves
The falling value of bitcoins have made them much less attractive to cyber-thieves, claims a security expert. The anonymity of the virtual cash has made it a favourite with thieves who blackmail victims with viruses.

Now hi-tech gangs quickly convert payments into other currencies, said IBM security expert Etay Maor in an interview with The Register.

One bitcoin is now worth £155, much lower than the £728 value it hit in late 2013.

Scrambling data with malicious programs known as ransomware – which demand payment from victims to decrypt data – has been popular with some hi-tech criminals over the past few years. The gang behind the notorious cryptolocker program is believed to have made about £2m from victims before it was broken up.

Bitcoins have been the preferred payment method, said Mr Maor, but the volatility of the currency and its falling value has forced criminals to convert it into other forms of cash as soon as possible. “Most of them won’t keep bitcoins – they don’t like the valuations bitcoin has – so they just use it as a layer of obfuscation, and move it to a different form of money,” Mr Maor told The Register during an interview at the RSA security conference in San Francisco.

Many ransomware gangs use people not directly connected with the gang, known as mules, to clean up the cash by paying it into a legitimate bank account. Mules generally get a 20% cut as a fee.

Police forces and computer security firms have scored some successes against ransomware gangs. Computers involved in the cryptolocker malware were seized and the encryption system for the program broken so victims could get their data back without paying any cash. In addition, Dutch police have worked with security firm Kaspersky Labs to analyse a server seized during an operation against the coinvault ransomware. This led to the creation of a program that can decrypt scrambled data. The firm has also retrieved lots of encryption keys that can be used to unscramble data.

Inconsistency in Air Passenger Duty Refunds

Inconsistency in Air Passenger Duty Refunds
Parents due partial refunds on their children’s air tickets face a variety of ways to claim the money.

Air passenger duty (APD) for children under the age of 12 on economy travel will be abolished from 1 May. That means some passengers who have already booked and paid for flights that take off after 1 May are due a refund of the duty.

Some airlines are giving refunds automatically, but others require passengers to fill in a claim form. “Some airlines are operating a refund by request system and this could be one extra job that many parents never get around to doing, leaving much of the money stuck in APD limbo,” said Hannah Maundrell, of comparison website, which has a guide to the changes.

“Airlines are already awash with consumers trying to reclaim money for delays, these new applications for APD refunds could simply add to the administrative nightmare. The important point here is that anyone that’s booked a flight for a child aged two to 11 for after 1 May must check whether they paid APD. If they did, they need to make sure they get the money back from either the airline or the travel agent.”

The British Air Transport Association (BATA) said the different systems of refund were the result of airlines requiring different levels of information at the ticket booking stage.

Some ask for the age of the passenger when a ticket is booked, so these airlines have been able to make automatic refunds. Others may not ask for the age until passengers confirm details closer to the flight departure, in which case parents might need to actively make a refund claim for children aged under 12. Some airlines have automatic refunds, some may require a refund claim to be made online, while others ask passengers to follow email or booking account instructions.

The APD cut was announced in December’s Autumn Statement, and followed an announcement in the previous Budget to scrap two APD tax bands.

Air passenger duty is charged on all passenger flights from UK airports. The rate of tax varies according to where the passenger is going, and the class of travel. The amount paid in duty can range from £13 to £71. From May 2016, APD for children under 16 will also be abolished.

The changes will cost the Treasury £40m in 2015-16. The cost will jump to £80m the following year, and rise to £95m in 2019-20.

Lloyds Share Sale Cuts Government Stake to 21%

Lloyds Share Sale Cuts Government Stake to 21%
The government has sold more shares in Lloyds, raising about £586m and taking its stake in the bank to below 21%. The government originally owned a 41% stake after ploughing £20bn into the bank during the 2008 financial crisis. It started selling Lloyds shares in 2013, and the latest sale means it has now raised more than £8bn.

Last weekend, David Cameron said the Conservatives would offer up to £4bn of Lloyds shares to private investors if he won the general election.

The prime minister said it would “help us recover billions more to pay down the national debt”. The Labour party said the Tories had announced the plans several times before.

In the latest sale, the government sold 742 million shares which, at Thursday’s closing price, would have raised £586m for the Treasury. The actual total may be slightly lower as the government would have sold its shares during the day, during which Lloyds shares rose steadily during the afternoon to hit a closing high of 78.99 pence.

The sale means the government’s shareholding has been reduced by another 1%, and is now down to 20.95%.

“Today’s announcement shows the further progress made in returning Lloyds Banking Group to full private ownership and enabling the taxpayer to get their money back,” a statement from Lloyds said. “This reflects the hard work undertaken over the last four years to transform the group into a simple, low-risk and customer-focused bank that is committed to helping Britain prosper.”

HSBC Considering Moving HQ out of the UK

HSBC Considering Moving HQ out of the UK
HSBC has said it is considering moving its headquarters out of London. The bank said the review followed “regulatory and structural reforms” since the financial crisis.

HSBC’s board has asked its management to “look at where the best place is for HSBC to be headquartered in this new environment,” the bank said. “The question is a complex one and it is too soon to say how long this will take or what the conclusion will be; but the work is under way.”

Shares in the company jumped 3.7% higher on the news. “Clearly their investors are saying ‘maybe you should just get out of London and have a fresh start'”, said BBC business editor, Kamal Ahmed.

The bank may decide to sell its retail bank, originally called Midland Bank, he added. HSBC, along with the UK’s other banks, will be required to separate its British retail business from the rest of the group by 2019.

The review also follows plans announced in the Budget to increase the bank levy from 0.156% to 0.21%.

The bank has had its headquarters in the UK since 1992 but it makes most of its money overseas. Asia accounts for about 80% of its profit.

HSBC’s profit dropped 17% in 2014. HSBC blamed its “challenging year” on the $2.4bn it was forced to pay in fines and settlements in relation to foreign exchange manipulation and mis-selling of payment protection insurance. The scandal-hit bank has also faced allegations that it helped people evade UK tax using hidden HSBC accounts in Geneva.

When asked about his view on HSBC’s potential move on 5Live, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: “They can make their own mind up… but I hope they will stay in the UK.”

Searching for High Quality Tools

Searching for High Quality Tools
Are you searching for hand tools? Perhaps some welding equipment of industrial work wear? Like most people who work in an industry where you use tools and mechanical equipment, then you will already understand the benefits of buying high quality tools, tools made specifically for the job in hand.

Obvious really, but always try and make sure you but only good quality hand tools – the right tool for the project or task. Good quality tools will last many years if they are taken care of and used for their intended purpose.  We would also suggest you buy tools from a well-respected tool merchant and only use the tools for their intended purpose.  Not only can this save you time and money, but it can help achieve better results and help you do your job more safely.  An important factor!

Think about tool safety each and every time you begin a job, and you’ll perform your job safely and effectively. Those are your hands that are being extended by the pliers or the screwdriver. Treat your tools as carefully as you treat your hands.

Buying Tools at the Supply Chain Warehouse
A great place to buy your hand tools, work wear, welding equipment and lifting gear is form the Supply Chain Warehouse. Located in the North East of the UK, they offer a great range of high quality and well-priced professional tools and associated equipment.

For further information on the tools, work wear, welding equipment and much more on offer – including some great special offers why not visit the Supply Chain Warehouse website today.

Business:             Supply Chain Warehouse


Programmes for Healthy and Happy Children

Programmes for Healthy and Happy Children
If you have a child in the reception class, then you know how very much is involved in getting your child ready for school and for preparing him for later classes and life in general. Gone are the days when play time, story time, nap time and learning to read and write being enough for five- and six-year-old children: children at this age and even toddlers are able to use a tablet computer with greater dexterity than their grandparents! Whatever happened to the simple life, with its simple toys and simple fun?

While none of the fun or toys have gone away, parents and teachers have more to concern themselves with than ever if they want to live up to today’s standards of childrearing. In today’s world, people skills and “soft skills” matter more than ever, as the lion’s share of jobs are now in the knowledge sector. That may seem a bit far off to worry about now, but the truth is that we can’t begin too soon to impart emotional intelligence to our children and teach them how to integrate the different facets of knowledge, as they are acquired, in a way that will allow them to make friends and be truly happy amidst all the distractions of the modern age. This is especially true as children’s obesity rates continue to climb due to increased “screen time” and poor diets of mostly processed foods.

KidzRFit, an established provider of children’s fitness programmes across the North East, is now happy to introduce a new programme called FunFit. Like our existing programmes, FunFit teaches children in the reception class the importance of being fit and healthy but takes it a step further by teaching basic social skills such as taking turns and making friends.

This is a crucial age for children to learn how to interact with others in ways that make themselves and others happy, and doing so will allow them to cultivate the emotional stability and happiness they will need to be happy and successful adults. FunFit teaches your children these skills in an environment that encourages kids’ fitness and activities they already enjoy. Don’t let your child miss out on this extraordinary opportunity!

KidzRFit is dedicated to providing classroom-based children’s fitness programmes for children of all ages. Activities include dance for children as young as two years, hula hooping for older children and much more. Along with helping your children to become physically active, KidzRFit programmes teach children about healthy eating and help to build confidence by leading all activities in a fun and supportive environment. All KidzRFit programmes for children under the age of five link to the EYFS.

For more information on bringing KidzRFit programmes to your child’s school, nursery, playgroup or recreation centre, call us today on 0191 4387632 or visit the KidzRFit childrens fitness website today.

Business:             KidzRFit


Government Borrowing Below Forecast

Government Borrowing Below Forecast
Government borrowing fell to £7.4bn in March, figures show, taking the total for the financial year to £87.3bn. That is below the £90.2bn figure estimated in March by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility, and £11.1bn lower than last year’s total.

March’s borrowing figure was down £400m from a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics figures showed.

Finances in the month were helped by increased revenues from income tax and national insurance. The ONS said taxpayers paid a record £15.5bn in income tax last month.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, borrowing peaked at £153bn in 2009-10, the year before the Coalition government took power. As a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), the deficit has more than halved since then from 10% to 4.8%.

Total Public Sector Net Debt (PSNB), which excludes help for state-controlled banks, stood at £1.484 trillion in March, equivalent to 80.4% of GDP. The figure is £500bn higher than it was the year before the Coalition government took charge.

The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has completed an analysis of the main parties’ plans for public finances. It says: “None of these parties has provided anything like full details of their fiscal plans for each year of the coming parliament, leaving the electorate somewhat in the dark as to both the scale and composition of likely spending cuts and tax increases.”

Vicky Redwood, chief UK economist at Capital Economics, said: “March’s public finance figures bring some good news for the coalition parties in the run-up to the general election.”

But Sumita Shah from the Institute of Chartered Accounts in England and Wales (ICAEW), said the figures meant the next government would still face a major challenge: “Whoever forms the next government will have to face up to the stark reality of the UK’s fiscal position.”

The Institute of Directors (IoD) said none of the contenders for the next government had been clear about how they would deal with the issue. “All the major political parties have talked about the importance of fiscal responsibility. However, they are reluctant to give even the broadest of details about how they are proposing to eliminate the deficit.”

The IoD called for a “mature debate” on what constitutes a sustainable level of public finances.

Sainsbury’s to Cut 800 Jobs

Sainsbury’s to Cut 800 Jobs
Supermarket Sainsbury’s is cutting about 800 jobs as part of a restructuring at its stores. The changes will see the loss of department and deputy manager positions.

The cuts are part of a plan announced in November to save £500m over the next three years. “These are exceptionally difficult decisions to make and we have not taken them lightly,” said Roger Burnley, retail and operations director.

The company said it would also replace night shifts with early-morning and evening shifts in some stores as part of an effort to improve customer service.

Last month, Sainsbury’s warned that the trading outlook for the rest of the financial year would “remain challenging for the foreseeable future” after reporting a drop in like-for-like sales for a fifth consecutive quarter.

BBC business correspondent Emma Simpson said Sainsbury’s has already cut 500 jobs at its head office, and the changes follow similar moves at rivals Morrisons, Asda and Tesco. “All the big established supermarkets are trying to cut costs and simplify their business as they grapple with falling sales, the rise of online and changing shopping habits,” she said.

Sainsbury’s employs about 161,000 staff across 1,200 stores, depots and support centres.

Greece asks Public Agencies to Hand over Cash Reserve

Greece asks Public Agencies to Hand over Cash Reserve
Greece has ordered its public sector bodies to hand over any reserve cash to help it meet a payment due to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The country is running out of cash and must repay the IMF nearly €1bn in May. It comes after the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, said that Greece needed to do much more if it wanted access to bailout funds.

Negotiators are trying to strike a deal ahead of a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Friday. There are mounting fears that Greece could default on its debts and exit the eurozone. Prime minister Alexis Tsipras urgently needs money to pay government salaries as well as the country’s debt repayments.

In order to get the funding, he needs to strike a deal with eurozone lenders at the European Central Bank, the European Union and the IMF, and introduce economic reforms.

“More work, much more work is needed now and it’s urgent”, said Mr Draghi at the weekend. “We all want Greece to succeed. The answer is in the hands of the Greek government.”

Asked whether Greece could default, Mr Draghi said “I don’t want to even contemplate such an event… the Greek leaders repeatedly state that they want to honour all their obligations”.

Greek public agencies have already been asked for voluntary payments, but this now looks set to be made compulsory. The decree by the Greek government, which must still be passed by parliament, says “with this act, the government hopes to cover urgent needs of the state amounting to three billion euros for the next 15 days”. It includes all public bodies and local authorities, but, according to Reuters, excludes pension funds and some state-owned firms.

An Athens-based analyst told Reuters: “This is a pre-emptive move to ensure that they will be able to secure as much liquidity as possible because of the squeeze. “There are still some billions of euros in cash reserves parked in banks by state entities.”

Sky Profits Boosted by Strong Demand

Sky Profits Boosted by Strong Demand
Pay-TV broadcaster Sky has reported a 20% rise in operating profit helped by strong demand across Europe. Sky said operating profit for the nine months to the end of March was £1.025bn, up from £854m a year earlier.

The broadcaster, which merged with Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia last year, reported record third quarter growth in customers in Germany and Austria.

Sky UK posted the highest third quarter rise in users and the lowest churn, customers leaving, in 11 years.

Across the group, Sky added 242,000 net new customers in the third quarter. That was almost 70% up on the same period a year earlier. But the “stand out” performance came from its UK market which saw a 41% increase in net new customers in the third quarter to 127,000.

The rise takes Sky’s total number of customers across Europe to 20.8 million.

Sky said it also grew paid-for subscription products by one million, taking total product sales to 3.8 million for the year to date. Chief executive Jeremy Darroch said: “As these results demonstrate, our teams are working well together right across the new Sky. “Five months in, our integration plans are progressing well and we are well positioned for the expanded growth opportunity ahead.”

Sky said group revenues for the nine month period grew by 5% to £8.453bn. The UK and Ireland saw revenues rise by 6% to £5.824bn, in Germany they rose 9% to £1.037bn, while revenues in Italy were flat at £1.592bn.