WeChat, Weibo and Baidu under investigation

WeChat logoImage copyright Reuters

China's largest social media platforms - Weibo, WeChat and Baidu Tieba - are under investigation for alleged violations of cyber security laws.

The Office for Cyberspace Administration said the three platforms had failed to police content on their sites.

It said people had been using the platforms to spread terrorism-related material, rumours and obscenities.

The breaches "jeopardised national security," the administration said.

Analysis:China continues to tightens online rules

John Sudworth, BBC News, Beijing

Weibo, WeChat and Baidu's Tieba are among the most powerful social media platforms in the world, each attracting hundreds of millions of users in China.

In China, posts are easily traceable through registered phone numbers and most people already know well the topics and opinions to steer clear of.

But despite the tight surveillance and censorship, dissent still bubbles away and, ahead of a highly sensitive Communist Party Congress this autumn, the authorities are tightening those controls further.

The move to place the three platforms under investigation will almost certainly prompt the sites' owners to do even more to police their own content.

Last month 60 popular celebrity gossip sites were closed overnight for corrupting "core socialist values," and a new regulation released in May requires all online news portals to be managed by Communist Party sanctioned editorial staff.

The authorities in China heavily censor the internet, routinely blocking content or search terms and removing posts they consider sensitive.

They also block foreign social media sites and apps, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Search engines like Google are blocked, and access to many foreign media outlets is restricted too.

It is also clamping down on users who try to get around the restrictions, by tightening regulations on Virtual Private Networks.[1]...

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Overwatch League strikes London deal

OverwatchImage copyright Activision Blizzard Image caption Overwatch deliberately contains little gore to aid its appeal to younger audiences

The American founder of a leading e-sports business has become the first owner of a European squad in the forthcoming Overwatch League.

Jack Etienne, chief executive of Los Angeles-based Cloud9, has bought the rights to field a London team in the sci-fi video game competition.

The BBC understands he paid roughly $20m (£15.4m) for the privilege.

The league represents game producer Activision Blizzard's most ambitious venture into e-sports yet.

The company believes the "family-friendly" shooter should have wider appeal to both audiences and advertisers than existing e-sports events.

It has suggested the contest could eventually become more lucrative than England's Premier League or the US's National Football League for those involved.

The company will split revenues generated by the competition with each of its team owners.

"We view this as a major milestone marking the league as truly global - it now has representation in Europe, Asia and North America," Pete Vlastelica, an executive in Activision Blizzard's e-sports division, told the BBC.

Several of the previously announced investors had ties to traditional sports teams, including the New England Patriots American football team, the New York Mets baseball team and the Sacremento Kings basketball team.

Image copyright Activision Blizzard Image caption Overwatch League matches will be streamed over the internet

Mr Vlastelica said that there had been discussions with unnamed European equivalents to buy the London rights, but that Cloud9 - which already fields an Overwatch team in other competitions - had won out.

"Cloud9 may be a new name for some in the traditional sports world, but I can assure you they are not a niche or fringe player in e-sports," he said.

"As we build this league, it was really important to us to combine the capabilities of owners from both traditional sports and the world of e-sports."

The league will get under way later this year, with its initial matches held at a studio in Southern California.

But the intention is for later games to be played locally to help teams attract supporters.

It is not yet clear where Cloud9 will host its home matches.

"Buying into the Overwatch League for a franchise remains relatively high risk because of the costs involved and Overwatch's immaturity as an e-sports title," said Piers Harding-Rolls, from the IHS Technology consultancy.

"Traditional sports team owners have to be prepared to commit fully to an e-sports strategy to make this work, and it is clear that US-based teams are more willing to make the transition at this early stage.

"For European buyers, I think the risk increases somewhat due to the fragmented nature of the market in the region, the more diversified gaming tastes and the impact that can have on sponsorship rates, advertising and consumer interest."

Activision Blizzard also announced that it had licensed the rights to a second Los Angeles team.

Stan and Josh Kroenke - who have investments in the UK's Arsenal football club and the Los Angeles Rams American football team - bought the franchise.

Noah Winston, the chief executive of the Immortals e-sports organisation, owns the city's other Overwatch League team.

A brief introduction to Overwatch

Image copyright Activision Blizzard

The first-person shooter features about two dozen characters who engage in team-based battles set across a near-future Earth.

Each character has a distinct personality - including a genetically engineered scientist ape, a cowboy-styled bounty hunter and a nerdy-looking climatologist - and unique abilities.

The heroes divide into four broad categories:

  • offence - fast-moving characters that can inflict a lot of damage quickly
  • defence - warriors best suited to guarding key parts of the battlefield and repelling attacks
  • tank - fighters that can sustain a lot of damage and are therefore well-suited to leading attacks
  • support - champions that help other players heal and access their most powerful attack modes more quickly than normal

Squads of six characters are pitched against each other in a range of challenges, including protecting/capturing a location;defending/destroying a vehicle as it is driven across a zone;and being first to wipe out the enemy team....

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China's VPN developers face crackdown

Apple store in ChinaImage copyright EPA

China recently launched a crackdown on the use of software which allows users to get around its heavy internet censorship.As the BBC's Robin Brant in Shanghai found, developers are facing growing pressure.

The three plain-clothes policemen tracked him down using a web address.They came to his house and demanded to see his computer.They told him to take down the app he was selling on Apple's App Store, and filmed it as it was happening.

His crime was to develop and sell a piece of software that allows people to get round the tough restrictions that limit access to the internet in China.

A virtual private network (VPN) uses servers abroad to provide a secure link to the internet.It's essential in China if you want to access parts of the outside world like Facebook, Gmail or YouTube, all of which are blocked on the mainland.

"They insisted they needed to see my computer," the software developer, who didn't want us to use his name, told us during a phone interview.

"I said this is my private stuff.How can you search as you please?"

No warrant was produced and when he asked them what law he had violated they didn't say.Initially he refused to co-operate but, fearing detention, he relented.

Then they told him what they wanted:"If you take the app off the shelf from Apple's App Store then this will be all over."

'Sorry, I can't help you with that'

Up until a few months ago his was a legal business.Then the government changed the regulations.VPN sellers need a licence now.

Apple decided it had to comply[1].Two weeks ago, over a weekend, it removed dozens of VPN[2] apps from its App Store, because they didn't have a licence.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionExplained:What is a VPN service?

When I asked Apple's virtual assistant Siri to "open VPN" on my phone this is what she said:"Sorry, I can't help you with that."

There are still plenty of VPNs available on the App Store.They are the legal ones that meet government regulations.But about 60 were removed in that weekend purge.

Apple's Chief Executive Tim Cook said the company would "rather not" have done it, but he insisted the biggest company in the world had to abide by the law.

Speaking in June at the company's annual developer conference he had much praise for the "developer community".There are almost two million in China alone.I'm told the company expends "tremendous energy" to ensure they are successful.

The company didn't want to comment to the BBC, but its position is clear:Apple will only work with people making legal VPN apps, something one critic said was "aiding censorship" in China.

However, the US firm's mobile devices can still be manually set up to connect to the wider range of VPN services if users know what details to enter into their settings menu.

Keeping China onside?

The outlook for Apple's business in China is mixed.Sales of iPhones dipped last year, but the App Store is going great guns.Revenue more than doubled in the same period.

Apple has just appointed it's first China-wide managing director, and it's in the midst of a multibillion dollar localisation project to establish a data centre and more of its cloud computing.

Image copyright AFP

Despite suggestions that it's "fighting back" against the government crackdown on internet access it's clear that keeping on side - complying with China's regulations - is crucial for Apple's future.

But this fresh move against free access to the internet isn't just about Apple and censorship.Some think it's also about competition.

If you have a branch office in Shanghai and your headquarters in New York, there is more than one way to get your internet traffic out of China.There have been significant price drops for those facilities, but not from the behemoth state-owned firm China Telecom.

"Those price reductions are not from China Telecom, those big names, but from smaller, much smaller operators," another software developer told us.

"That has a big impact on the whole industry because this is the bread and butter for the China Telecom."

He didn't want to give his name either, but this developer thinks the other reason for what he calls this "clean up" of the market is to protect the monopoly position of China's big state owned telecoms companies.

As for the future, he thinks the government has no desire to shut down all the VPNs.He says Beijing has the technology to do that.They can see who is using them, and they can shut them down instantly.But he believes they want control, not closure.

Addressing a crowd of thousands of soldiers last week, China's President Xi Jinping made much of his country's sovereignty.

"Nobody should expect to infringe on China's sovereignty or security," he told them, as he marked the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Peoples' Liberation Army.China believes that sovereignty extends to the internet.

It sees virtual borders where others see no boundary.China is using its security apparatus to force its own people to abide by that and its laws to force the world's biggest company to comply....


  1. ^ decided it had to comply (www.bbc.com)
  2. ^ removed dozens of VPN (www.bbc.co.uk)

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Chinese satellite sends 'hack-proof' message

Red laser lightImage copyright vladimir_n Image caption Lasers help generate a quantum state that changes when anyone eavesdrops on it

China has successfully sent "hack-proof" messages from a satellite to Earth for the first time.

The Micius satellite beamed messages to two mountain-top receiving stations 645 km (400 miles) and 1,200 km away.

The message was protected by exploiting quantum physics, which says any attempt to eavesdrop on it would make detectable changes.

Using satellites avoids some limitations that ground-based systems introduce into quantum communication.

Weak signals

Complicated optics on the Chinese satellite protect messages with entangled photons - sub-atomic particles of light manipulated so that some of their key properties are dependent on each other.

The curious laws of the quantum realm dictate that any attempt to measure these key properties irrevocably changes them.By encoding a key to encrypt data using entangled photons, it becomes possible to send messages confident that they have reached a recipient free of interference.

Ground-based encryption systems that use entangled photons have been available for years.However, the maximum distance over which messages can be sent securely is about 200km.This is because the fibre-optic cables through which they travel gradually weaken the signals.

Repeater stations can boost distances but that introduces weak points that attackers may target to scoop up messages.

By contrast, laser signals sent through the atmosphere or via satellites in space can travel much further before being weakened.

Image copyright kynny Image caption Fibre-optic cables can speed light but signals have to be boosted over long distances

Data transmission rates possible with satellites are about 20 orders of magnitude more efficient that fibre-optic cables, Jianwei Pan, lead scientist on the Chinese project, told Reuters[1].

"That, for instance, can meet the demand of making an absolute safe phone call or transmitting a large amount of bank data," he said.

The Micius test was one of several experiments "bringing the concept of a global quantum internet closer to fruition", wrote Robert Bedington, Juan Miguel Arrazola and Alexander Ling in a review article in the journal Nature[2].

The reviewers said many "challenges" remained to be ironed out before the technology could be widely adopted.

The Micius satellite was launched in August 2015 and the first tests of its laser-based communications system were carried out in June this year.

The satellite is named after the ancient Chinese scientist and philosopher.

China is also working to establish a large ground-based[3] network that also uses quantum communication to protect messages....

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Ukrainian postal service hit by 48-hour cyber-attack

A hacker on a computerImage copyright Getty Images Image caption Ukraine's national postal service has suffered a 48-hour-long DDoS attack to its website

Ukraine's national postal service has been hit by a two-day-long cyber-attack targeting its online system that tracks parcels.

Unknown hackers carried out a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against Ukrposhta's website.

The attack began on Monday morning, but ended shortly after 21:00 local time (1900 BST).

However, Ukrposhta reported on Facebook[1] that the DDoS attack continued again on Tuesday.

"Friends, we've been DDoSed," the company in a post on Tuesday."During the first wave of the attack, which began yesterday in the morning, our IT services could normalise the situation, and after 17:00, all the services on the site worked properly.

"But today, hackers are at it again.Due to their actions, both the website and services are working, but slowly and with interruptions."

'Inadequate protection'

DDoS attacks occur when hackers flood a website's servers with a huge amount of web traffic, with the intent of taking the website offline.

Attackers do this by secretly infecting computers, routers and Internet of Things-enabled devices,[2] such as thermostats, washing machines and other home appliances, with malware and then roping the zombie computers into a botnet.

"With critical systems exposed to the internet and inadequate protection, denial of service attacks can have an impact way beyond taking a website down or preventing online transactions from taking place," Sean Newman, director of Corero Network Security, told the BBC.

"In this case, it was a service that was reportedly brought to its knees, but outcomes for other organisations could include manufacturing processes being interrupted or halted, potentially impacting productivity, quality and even safety.

"This serves to highlight how any organisation, including those which don't transact directly with consumers, can be seriously impacted by denial of service attacks.With the level of sophistication of today's attackers, and without the latest generation of always-on, real-time automatic DDoS protection, all organisations are vulnerable to DDoS attacks of all sizes and durations."

This is not the first time that Ukraine's postal service has been targeted this year - in June, Ukrposhta was hit by the NotPetya ransomware attacks,[3] as part of a wider national attack on Ukrainian banks, the state power provider, television stations and public transport services....

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