FBI Pressured on Cost of iPhone Hack Tool

FBI Pressured on Cost of iPhone Hack Tool
Three news organisations have asked a US judge to force the government to reveal the amount it paid for technology to unlock an iPhone used by the San Bernardino gunman. In the court filings, the organisations said that there was “no adequate justification” for the FBI to continue to withhold the information. They added that they did not seek information that would jeopardise national security. The groups sued the FBI last year.

Associated Press, Vice Media and Gannett, the parent company of USA Today, are seeking to learn more about the circumstances surrounding the event.

The FBI has never named the security firm or group of hackers who helped unlock the phone, which was used by killer Syed Rizwan Farook. The process would have involved finding a way to bypass the passcode on a locked phone. In normal circumstances, if 10 incorrect attempts at the code are made, the device will automatically erase all of its data.

“While it is undisputed that the vendor developed the iPhone access tool, the government has identified no rational reason why knowing the vendor’s identity is linked in any way to the substance of the tool, much less how such knowledge would reveal any information about the tool’s application,” lawyers for the news organisations wrote in the filing to the US District Court in Washington.

“Release of this information goes to the very heart of the Freedom of Information Act’s purpose, allowing the public to assess government activity – here, the decision to pay public funds to an outside entity in possession of a tool that can compromise the digital security of millions of Americans.”

Farook and his wife killed 14 people in the Californian city in December 2015.

In February, a court order demanded that Apple help unlock the phone, something which Apple resisted, saying it was unable to do so. It added that it hoped that the government would share with the company any vulnerabilities of the iPhone that might come to light.

There was speculation that the FBI paid at least $1.3m (£1.05m) to break into the phone, based on calculations following comments by FBI director James Comey who said that the agency had paid more to get into the phone than he “will make in the remaining seven years” in his post. He added that it was worth it, even though no details of what was found have been released.

Heathrow Expansion Update

Heathrow Expansion Update
The BBC News Service is reporting that the much talked about Heathrow expansion can only be justified if the government proves it will not breach laws on climate change and pollution, MPs say. Ministers say a third runway will not exceed environment limits. However, the Commons Environmental Audit Committee has accused the government of “magical thinking” – wishing the problem away without a proper solution. They say ministers must show the expansion will not fuel climate change.

Committee chair Mary Creagh told BBC News: “There’s plenty of talk about how the government wants to solve environmental problems at Heathrow, but a total absence of any policy guarantees. The implication of this is that they think other sectors of the economy like energy and industry are going to have to cut their carbon emissions even more so people can fly more – but the government’s been told by its own advisors (the Committee on Climate Change) that’s not possible.”

The MPs also criticised the government’s reliance on a projected increase in electric vehicles on the roads to keep local air pollution within safe limits. “The government has missed already its targets for electric vehicles,” Ms Creagh said. “Our committee has no confidence it will meet its target for 2020 or 2030. Ministers have got to put proper policies in place instead of relying on magical thinking.” The committee previously urged a step change in the way the government tackles environmental issues at Heathrow, but says there is little evidence this has happened.

The UK has already breached EU limits in London for the pollutant NO2 for 2017. The committee says a new air quality strategy is urgently needed to ensure that airport expansion does not harm public health.

The government has said after Brexit that EU environmental laws will be imported wholesale into the UK, but the MPs say they have seen no guarantees that the government will keep pace with future EU air quality laws.

The report calls on the ministers to implement an alert system for nearby residents who are especially vulnerable to short-term exposure to air pollution.

Budget Help for Business Hit by Rates Increase

Budget Help for Business Hit by Rates Increase
The government has promised measures in the Budget for firms facing the “steepest increases” in business rates. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said it was “clear to me that more needs to be done to level the playing field and make the system fairer”.

A fierce campaign has been waged against rises, which ministers say will affect a quarter of business in the UK. Labour said the government had allowed a “crisis” to develop. The rate change is due to happen on 1 April.

Businesses pay tax based on the rateable value of their property, including pubs, restaurants, warehouses, factories, shops and offices – and these values are being reassessed for the first time since 2010, meaning changes to the amount many firms will pay.

In the face of opposition from business groups and some Conservative MPs, the government has defended the reforms and said 2017-18 “will see the biggest ever cut in business rates” and “three-quarters of all businesses, right across the country, will see their rates either fall or stay the same”.

But Mr Javid told the House of Commons he was “acutely aware” of problems for some others, saying: “There are clearly some individual businesses facing particular difficulties.” He added: “I have always listened to businesses and this situation is no exception. It’s clear to me that more needs to be done to level the playing field and make the system fairer.”

Mr Javid promised help for those “facing the steepest increases”.

He added that he and Chancellor Philip Hammond were looking at “how best” to proceed, telling MPs: “We expect to be in a position to make an announcement at the time of the Budget in just two weeks’ time.”

At Prime Minister’s Questions earlier, Theresa May was asked about the changes by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who said the changes would “devastate” the economy in her Brighton Pavilion constituency. The prime minister said it was “right” for rates to change to reflect changing property prices, saying the system was underpinned by fairness. She added: “We also, though, want to support businesses and recognise that, for some, business rates will go up when these revaluations take place.”

Mrs May also said there was “significant funding in place for transitional relief”. For Labour, shadow communities secretary Gareth Thomas said there was a business rates “crisis”, saying it had taken Mr Javid “apparently until now to grasp its seriousness”.

Asked whether the government was in “chaos” over business rates, the prime minister’s spokesman said: “I don’t think it is chaos. We’ve set out our plans to provide a transitional relief fund to make sure that those affected by the rise in business rates have a smooth transition.”

He later added: “The PM was absolutely clear today that there is a transitional fund already in place – and that she has asked the chancellor and the communities secretary to make sure that this is being spent appropriately. She also asked them to work to ensure that there was appropriate relief in place for the hardest cases.

“Sajid echoed this exact statement this afternoon – and made clear that we will come back to this issue at Budget. We would never confirm or deny what would be in the Budget this far in advance.”

The chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie, has written to the chancellor to ask for “the facts” about the changes. He said there were “several problems” with the proposals, citing “considerable concern” about the impact on smaller firms.

The Federation of Small Businesses said it welcomed the PM’s “intervention” to tackle what it called an “extremely worrying situation for many small businesses”.

Business Rates: Fundamental Reforms Needed: Sainsburys

Business Rates: Fundamental Reforms Needed: Sainsburys
The chief executive of Sainsbury’s has called for “fundamental reforms” to business rates, amid concerns increases could spark High Street store closures. Mike Coupe called the system, pegged to property valuations, “archaic” and ignored the rise of online shops based in out-of-town warehouses.

From April the effects of the rate revaluations will be felt and business groups have been asking for help. The government says the majority of firms will pay the same or less.

Authorities in Scotland and Wales have also undertaken revaluations, the effects of which will also be felt in April.

Companies with properties concentrated in the south-east of England and urban centres are likely to be disproportionately impacted by the first revaluation since 2010. Retailers in some areas could face rises of up to 400%. But the government says although more than 500,000 businesses will see their rates increase, 1.34m will see a fall or no change.

Mr Coupe, boss of the UK’s second-largest supermarket chain, urged the government to undertake a wide-ranging review of the way businesses are taxed, highlighting changes in retailing culture. Mr Coupe said: “The way it currently stands, there is an advantage for those without bricks and mortar operations, so there’s a strong case for a level playing field in business rates and taxation more generally. Businesses like ours with lots of property and employees face a bigger burden than others.”

Referring to the revaluation plans, he said: “As it stands, we could see High Streets face serious challenges and ultimately more closures. It could impact investment in places that most need it, in areas of the country where there is already a marginal call on investment.”

How are business rates calculated?
Rates are calculated by multiplying the rateable value of a property by a multiplier set by the government. But as property values change over time, rateable values need to be reassessed periodically – usually every five years. However, this update to property values is two years behind schedule, making it a harder pill to swallow in areas where the price of real estate has been rising.

According to analysts, Sainsbury’s will see its annual rates rise to £500m, up from £483m, while internet giant Amazon will see its bill cut. Rate increases could also hit NHS hospitals in some areas, as well as pubs and hotels.

On Friday, business groups, including the British Retail Consortium and the CBI, signed a letter asking the government to drop plans to change the process by which firms can appeal against their new rateable value. Business groups claim it will prevent many firms from appealing at all.

Meanwhile, pubs and restaurants have called on the chancellor to dilute the impact of the changes by providing more transitional relief for the sector.

A government spokesman said: “Nearly three-quarters of businesses will see a fall, or no change, in their business rates as a result of the revaluation. “The generous reliefs we are introducing mean that 600,000 small businesses are paying no rates at all – something we’re making permanent so they never pay these bills again. Across the country, there’s also a £3.6bn scheme to support companies affected by the business rates revaluation.”

Amazon Plans 5,000 New Jobs in UK

Amazon Plans 5,000 New Jobs in UK
The BBC News website is reporting that Online retail giant Amazon has said it will create 5,000 new full-time jobs in the UK this year. The firm said it was looking for a range of staff including software developers and warehouse staff. There will be jobs at Amazon’s head office in London, as well as in the Edinburgh customer service centre and in three new warehouses.

The recruitment will take Amazon’s workforce in the UK to more than 24,000.

Doug Gurr, the head of Amazon’s UK business, said: “We are creating thousands of new UK jobs including hundreds of apprenticeship opportunities as we continue to innovate for our customers and provide them with even faster delivery, more selection and better value.”

The company is opening three new warehouses, or what it calls “fulfilment centres”, in Tilbury, Doncaster and Daventry. The extra warehouse space will be used to cope with existing growth and to speed-up deliveries. It will also handle deliveries for third-party retailers, who sell through Amazon’s website and use Amazon for deliveries.

Clothing Alteration Made Easy with Easy Stitch

Clothing Alteration Made Easy with Easy Stitch
If you like to keep your clothes looking great but don’t have the time and expertise to carry out all the sewing tasks required why not consider taking advantage of the excellent services offered by Easy Stitch?  With over forty years’ experience offering clothing alteration and clothing repair services to their customers in Newcastle and the North East they are able to carry out most sewing tasks to a really high professional standard.

At Easy Stitch offering first class customer service is their main priority so they offer everything that you may require, with a friendly team of qualified seamstresses available to offer any help and advice, fitting rooms and a private changing room they will do everything they can to make sure that your visit is comfortable and that any measurements are completely correct before any work is carried out.

With a range of services on offer including many types of clothing alteration no matter what item you may want to have altered you can be sure that Easy Stitch will be able to get the job done, whether you need items shortened, waistbands to be adjusted or want to have a dress or pair of trousers taken in so they appeared more fitted they have all the skills and expertise required to make sure that your clothes fit you perfectly.

If you have a favourite item that needs to be repaired, has missing buttons or ripped pocked before you throw it out why not find out if it can be repaired?  At Easy Stitch no matter how large or small the job may be they are happy to carry out most repairs and with other services on offer such as sewing on name tags and household linen alterations they can help you save not only time but money as well as you will be able to make sure your clothes stay in great condition for longer.

With many different services available including alterations to waistbands, trouser and skirt lengths, tapering and taking in of trousers and dresses, repairs to almost clothing, sewing on buttons badges and other emblems and adjustments to children’s clothes including school uniform and household items such as curtains you can be certain that no matter tailoring help you may require the team at Easy Stitch have all the skills and expertise required to carry out almost any sewing task.

If you require any additional help or advice or simply don’t know if a job is even going to be possible the friendly staff at Easy Stitch are always happy to let you make use of the private fitting room so they can help you to decide what work needs to be done and you can be sure that you clothes will fit you perfectly.

So if you regularly need to have your clothes altered or have some sewing tasks that really need to be done why not get in touch with Easy Stitch?  With reasonable rates, excellent customer services and all work carried out to the highest possible quality you can be certain that you won’t be disappointed. For more information call today on 01661 820 700 or visit the Easy Stitch website.

UK Retail Sales Fall in January

UK Retail Sales Fall in January
Retail sales slipped back unexpectedly in January, following on from December’s dip. Official figures, from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), showed retail sales volumes dropped by 0.3% compared with the previous month, well below the 0.9% rise expected.

The ONS said the data indicated the first signs of a fall in the underlying trend since December 2013. It said evidence suggested higher fuel and food prices were key factors.

Compared with January 2015, sales were up 1.5%, the weakest performance since November 2013.

Figures earlier this week from the ONS showed inflation rose to its highest level in two and a half years at a time when wage growth was slowing down.

Fuel prices jumped 16.1% in January, the biggest changed since September 2011.

Kate Davies, senior statistician at the ONS, said: “In the three months to January 2017, retail sales saw the first signs of a fall in the underlying trend since December 2013. “We have seen falls in month-on-month seasonally adjusted retail sales, both in conventional stores and online, and the evidence suggests that increased prices in fuel and food are significant factors in this slowdown.”

Analysts said consumers were becoming wary of spending at a time when employment and earnings growth was slowing and inflation rising.

Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Economics said consumers were starting to “crumble” in the face of inflation pressure.

Ruth Gregory, from Capital Economics, said: “January’s surprise fall in the official measure of retail sales volumes has brought the recent run of resilient economic news to an abrupt end. And the rest of the year is shaping up to be tough on the high street, given the expected squeeze on consumers’ real pay growth.”

Revolt Grows Over ‘Outrageous & Unfair’ Rate Change

Business Revolt Grows Over ‘Outrageous & Unfair’ Rate Change
Some of the UK’s biggest employers’ groups have united in condemning the government’s “outrageous” changes to business rates in England. They are most vexed about a clause they say could prevent firms appealing against rate rises, even if firms can prove they are wrong. Thirteen of them, including the British Retail Consortium and CBI, have written a letter calling for it to be dropped.

But a government spokesman said the “claims are simply false”. And Treasury Minister, David Gauke, told the BBC three in four businesses would not see an increase in their bill.

Other signatories to the letter include the Federation of Small Businesses, Revo, the Association of Convenience Stores, and the British Property Federation.

The next business rates revaluation comes into effect on 1 April – the first for seven years – but the lobby groups said that tens of thousands of firms still face uncertainty over bills. Earlier this week, pubs and restaurants called for Chancellor Philip Hammond to dilute the impact of the business rate rises in his March Budget.

What is the rates row about?
Business rates are in effect the commercial version of council tax, and are paid on the rental value of the space that businesses occupy. The amount depends of the size of the property and what it’s used for. The last time properties were valued, in 2010, almost half of businesses appealed against how much they were due to pay. The government wants to cut down on the number of these appeals.

The trade groups say the government wants the right to dismiss appeals against incorrect valuations that are deemed to be within the bounds of “reasonable professional judgement”, or margin of error. This allowable margin of error has not been disclosed, but experts say it could be as much as 15%.

John Webber, head of ratings at property company Colliers International, said the problem was that the “margin for error” allowed by the government was simply too wide.

He told the BBC: “Every rateable value is an opinion, so there will be a boundary of judgement there. The problem you’re going to have is if you have a property with a rateable value of £100,000 and you think it should be £90,000, then that 10% tolerance is arguably still within the bounds of reasonable professional judgement. Therefore, the list will not be altered and as the rating list lasts for five years potentially you will be paying, over a five year period, at least 10% more than you should do,” Mr Webber adds.

Helen Dickinson, director-general of the British Retail Consortium, told the BBC that the tax was “no longer fit for purpose in the 21st Century”.

She says that although technically, under new government rules, business owners will be able to appeal against a higher valuation, a clause states that even if rates are found to be unfair they can still stand if they lie within the bounds of “reasonable professional judgement”. This somewhat vague wording is, she says, “what everyone is upset about”.

Jerry Schurder, head of business rates at property consultancy Gerald Eve and a supporter of the protest, said: “The government’s outrageous proposals… would force hard-pressed businesses to cough up an extra £1.9bn to pay for the Valuation Office Agency’s (VOA) mistakes. “The way that trade bodies from a wide spectrum of industries have been motivated to unite against this clause shows the strength of feeling against what is a punitive and deeply unfair proposal,” Mr Schurder said.

But the government issued a strong rejection of the claims. A spokesman said: “These claims are simply false. We are not preventing anyone from appealing their bills, or setting any margin of error for appeals being heard.

“We’re reforming the appeals process to make it easier for businesses to check, challenge and appeal their bills, while at the same time generous business rate reliefs mean thousands more businesses are seeing a reduction.” He added that, once the changes come in to effect, 600,000 businesses will pay not rates at all.

Market your Business on the Internet

Market your Business on the Internet
If you want to be sure that your company’s website has the best possible chances of success you might want to consider hiring an expert service such as Direct Submit to help you create an internet marketing strategy that is certain to ensure that your website is seen in all the right places and by all the right people, helping your internet based sales and leads begin to grow in no time at all.

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By implementing strategies such as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) at Direct Submit they are able to your ensure that your businesses website will be seen by the people that are already looking for services or products that you provide. By making sure that your business appears higher up on the pages of results produced by search engines such as Google or Yahoo, people will be far more likely to see your site and click through to your page, increasing the amount of relevant traffic that your website receives.

Making sure that your page can be found by potential customers and investors is essential if you want your online business to grow, no matter how small or large a company is if their website is difficult to find it is unlikely to be a success. Effective SEO requires ongoing motoring and maintenance along with expert knowledge making it a time consuming and complicated process, although when it is carried out correctly the results can really pay off.

So if you are a new business or your existing website isn’t performing as well as you would like contacting a company such as Direct Submit could be a really worthwhile investment. Their friendly team are always on hand to help you plan an internet marketing strategy that is completely suited to your company’s individual needs and implement it to the highest standards, not only saving you a lot of time and effort, but also boosting your internet sales far more quickly than you may think.

By employing an expert service such as Direct Submit you will be able to have more time to get on with other work to keep your business growing while they make sure that your website really works for you. With a focus on paying attention to detail and providing every client with the right advice so they can help them build an SEO strategy that is completely suited to the needs of their business, they pride themselves on offering the best possible service to every business no matter how small or large.  With each stage of the process being carried out by one of their team of fully trained staff including key phrase research, website analysis and compliance, SEO promotion and marketing, linking strategy and ongoing monitoring and maintenance you can be certain on having expert advice and support every step of the way.

For more information on making your website work harder for you, or you would simply like to discuss your Internet Marketing or Search Engine Optimisation project, call us today on 0845 2722350 or visit the Direct Submit website.

Good Keywords for Any SEO Project

The Importance of Good Keywords for Any SEO Project

Keywords are integral to the amount of traffic your website can potentially receive. If your website isn’t embedded with money-making keywords, it won’t receive as much traffic as it could potentially receive.

Good keywords can help your website attract customers in the long term, and it’s essential that you target the right keywords when carrying out SEO.  In this article, we’ll check out what “good keywords” mean and how you can conduct vital keyword research for your website. Keyword research will lay a solid foundation for your website, helping it attract traffic and customers for years to come.

Why Do I Need Good Keywords?

Each keyword is searched by a certain number of people each month. So the keyword “gardening tools uk” is searched by less than a thousand people per month. The more people search for that keyword, the more traffic the first website ranking for that keyword receives.

Websites are ranked in order of how relevant they are to the keyword. This means that they might have the keyword in their title, in the web content, and in other relevant parts of the page. If the article answers the question or addresses the keyword in an informative (or entertaining) way, it will rank higher in the search results because the bounce rate would be lower and the time on site would be much higher. (Google also factor user experience metrics into their rankings of websites in search results.)

Therefore, your website is actually targeted around a certain group of keywords. However, are they profitable keywords? We aim to check this out.

To see how many people search for a certain keyword per month, you can see this in the Google Keyword Planner (www.adwords.google.co.uk). There are many guides online which show you to sign up for the Keyword Planner. If you have an AdWords account, you will be able to access the planner quickly.

Type the keyword into the keyword planner and you will find monthly search estimates for each keyword.

If your website is targeted around a keyword which isn’t searched for by many people, there is no way that you can receive a lot of traffic.

Instead, target your website around keywords which receive a lot of monthly searches. Ideally, for a small business, this should be around 2000 to 5000 monthly searches if you’re just starting out, and for larger businesses, you might be able to target keywords with higher searches.

However, with local keywords, there comes an exception. If you’re targeting a local area, the monthly searches would naturally be a lot smaller. For example, “gardening tools durrow” would receive a lot fewer searches than “gardening tools uk.” It might only receive a hundred searches each month, but it’s still profitable because these are a hundred people who are highly interested in buying from a gardening shop in Durrow. These people are more interested in visiting a local shop in Durrow, than buying from a well-known gardening shop anywhere in the UK.

Check Your Competition

Once you have found keywords which relate to your website and get a sizeable amount of monthly searches, you need to check your competition.

The competition basically includes all the websites which rank for that particular keyword in Google’s search results. So the top ranking websites for “gardening tools uk” include Homebase, Fiskars and Argos. A small business would find it difficult to compete with these websites – so perhaps, they could try ranking for local keywords instead.

If the competition contains a mix of middle-competition websites (websites that are not very well known, but still have a Page Rank of 2 or 3) – you should try to rank for that keyword and beat that competition.

Where To Put Keywords?

Once you have a handful of keywords selected, you need to start creating content around them so Google will associate your website with these keywords.

You should place these keywords naturally into the homepage (where it looks natural, remember!) such as in the title tag, in paragraphs, in menu navigation and in sub-headings. However, don’t place too many of them into content, because it will look shady and you could be penalized! A good rule of thumb is: Use them where you would naturally use them.

You can also write blog posts about these keywords and create high-quality content about them that will genuinely help a reader. This includes how-to’s, tutorials, infographics, informative articles, list-based articles, and so on. Not only will you start ranking for these keywords, but you’ll also attract much traffic from social media, too!

These keywords are classified as “good keywords” because of the following:

  1. They receive a sizeable amount of traffic each month, which means that potential customers are continually searching for this keyword each month. That means a constant supply of traffic.
  2. The competition isn’t too high, meaning you can try and get to the first page using other content marketing and SEO strategies such as linkbuilding.
  3. These keywords are embedded naturally into the title tag, articles, web content, and “About Us” pages.

Conclusion

At first glance, keyword research looks like a complicated science, but in this article, we’ve broken it down into key, fundamental steps. It’s not that difficult once you actually break it down into a series of steps.

To summarize these steps once more:

  1. Make a list of keywords related to your website.
  2. Check for their monthly searches on the Google AdWords Keyword Planner.
  3. Identify keywords with a few thousand monthly searches if you are a beginning website or a small business that has only been online for a few years.
  4. If you are a local business, identify local keywords with a few hundred monthly searches or less (or more, depending on your local area).
  5. Check for competition. If your keyword is dominated by large-name, well-renowned websites, it would be difficult to compete with them.
  6. Start creating content around these keywords.

Keywords are the foundations for your website and they are the main piece of content that Google scan through when indexing their website. If you aren’t targeting profitable keywords, you won’t be able to receive as much traffic as you could potentially be receiving, so make sure to cast your net wide and search for keywords which are profitable and easy enough to rank for. This shouldn’t be difficult, thanks to the AdWords Keyword Planner.