US woman used bitcoin to move cash to Islamic State, police say

Bitcoin can be purchased online or via special ATMsImage copyright PA Image caption Bitcoin can be purchased online or via special ATMs

A New York woman has been accused of laundering bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and wiring the money to help the so-called Islamic State.

Zoobia Shahnaz, 27, was charged with bank fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering and is being held without bail.

Ms Shahnaz was born in Pakistan and worked as a lab technician in the US.

Prosecutors say she took out fraudulent loans of $85,000 (£63,000) in order to buy the bitcoin online.

Bitcoin is an online currency.Despite not being legal tender, the value of bitcoin has rocketed this year.

It has been exploited by criminals to launder money.British authorities are pushing to increase regulation of the currency.

According to court records, Ms Shahnaz, who lives in Brentwood on Long Island, was a lab technician at a Manhattan hospital until June.

Prosecutors said that Ms Shahnaz obtained a Pakistani passport in July and booked a flight to Pakistan with a layover in Istanbul, intending to travel to Syria.

She was arrested at John F Kennedy airport carrying $9,500 in cash, just under the limit of $10,000 that a person can legally take out of the country without declaring the funds.

Searches of her electronic devices showed numerous searches for Islamic State-related material.

Ms Shahnaz faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the money laundering charges and up to 30 years for the bank fraud charge.

Her lawyer, Steve Zissou, said she was sending money overseas to help Syrian refugees.

"What she saw made her devoted to lessening the suffering of a lot of the Syrian refugees and everything she does is for that purpose," Mr Zissou said outside the courthouse....

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Million Britons miss out on 'decent' broadband speeds

North WalesImage copyright AFP Image caption Decent broadband can be hard to find in some rural areas, said Ofcom

The UK's digital divide has narrowed but more than one million homes and offices still struggle to get good broadband, says an Ofcom report.

The Connected Nations report[1] found that about 4% of properties cannot get a broadband speed fast enough to meet their needs.

Last year, about 1.6 million UK properties were in this position.

Smartphone access to the net also needed to improve, it said, as many only got weak signals when travelling.

"Broadband coverage is improving, but our findings show there's still urgent work required before people and businesses get the services they need," said Steve Unger, Ofcom's technology chief, in a statement.

"Everyone should have good access to the internet, wherever they live and work," he added.

The UK's appetite for data has grown at a huge rate in the last 12 months, found the report.

The average amount of data carried across UK networks grew by 52% during that period.The average home broadband connection now carries about 190 gigabytes of data every month, it found.

Mobile measure

Telecommunications watchdog Ofcom defines decent broadband as a speed of about 10 megabits per second (Mbps) to download and one mbps to upload.

At these speeds, downloading a high-definition movie could take up to 90 minutes, said Ofcom, if no one else was using that link to the net.

Ofcom said the 1Mbps upload speed was becoming more critical as small businesses and families make greater use of video-sharing and conferencing, which require good upload speeds.

Ofcom said the problem of poor broadband was most pronounced in rural areas, where about 17% lack decent broadband.

The 10 down/one up split is the specification for Ofcom's proposed universal service offering - which every property in the UK should be able to receive, it said.

Many places cannot obtain these speeds because they are in rural areas that are far from telephone exchanges or street cabinets through which broadband is delivered.

More broadly, said the report, access to superfast broadband services that run in excess of 30Mbps was improving.

By May 2017, 91% of properties could receive such a service - a small increase from last year when the figure stood at 89%.

The higher speeds were proving popular, suggested the report, with 38% of premises that can get it signing up for the service.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Mobile signals are often weak on road and rail routes

As well as fixed-line broadband, the Ofcom report also said mobile operators needed to work harder to give customers a better experience.

Now, about 58% of premises can get a 4G signal indoors - up from 40% in 2016.

However, it said, many people struggled to receive good coverage when they were out and about.Currently only 43% of the UK's landmass can get signals from all four mobile operators.

Coverage was often poor on roads and railways, said Ofcom.

It said it was engaged in work to measure mobile connectivity on travel routes to monitor if operators are improving services for customers.

"People have never relied so much on their phones in daily life," said Mr Unger, adding that Ofcom's work would help to give people a more accurate picture of the quality of the service they can expect.

Matt Hancock, minister for digital, said there was a "clear need" for rapid improvements to mobile coverage.

"We've recently removed outdated restrictions, giving mobile operators more freedom to improve their networks including hard-to-reach rural areas," he said."But industry need to play their part too through continued investment and improvement in their networks, making sure that customers are not paying for services they don't receive."...

References

  1. ^ The Connected Nations report (www.ofcom.org.uk)

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Amazon backs down in Google streaming spat

Amazon Echo ShowImage copyright Amazon Image caption The row meant YouTube was not accessible via Amazon's Echo Show smart speaker

Amazon has started selling Google's Chromecast devices two years after it originally removed them from its store.

Amazon said it removed them to end customer confusion about which services were available on which device.

Analysts said it was because they let people watch services that competed with Amazon's Prime Video.

Google retaliated by blocking access to YouTube on some Amazon gadgets and threatening further restrictions.

In September, Google stopped YouTube playing on the Amazon Echo Show.It said it took the step because the way Amazon got the video-sharing service working on the device was "broken".

It also threatened to stop Amazon Fire TV sticks getting access to YouTube from January 2018.

'Productive discussions'

The search giant said it took the decisions because of a lack of "reciprocity" by Amazon.

In response, Amazon criticised Google saying its actions hurt customers of both firms.

The row is also believed to have been behind Amazon's decision to stop selling Google's smart home speakers last month.

Amazon's decision to restock some Google products is believed to have emerged from "productive discussions" the two have had to end the dispute.

A Google statement said it hoped the dialogue would result in further co-operation with Amazon.

"We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon," the company told tech news site CNet.[1]

No information was given about whether Google smart home products would go back on sale.

Earlier this week Amazon also started selling Apple TV devices - a move believed to be linked to Apple making Prime Video available via its platform....

References

  1. ^ the company told tech news site CNet. (www.cnet.com)

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Schools warned over hackable heating systems

Playground in snowImage copyright Getty Images Image caption Concerns have been raised that hackers could attack schools' heating systems during a cold spell

Dozens of British schools' heating systems have been found to be vulnerable to hackers, according to a probe by a security research firm.

Pen Test Partners says the problem was caused by the equipment's controllers being connected to the wider internet, against the manufacturer's guidelines.

It says it would be relatively easy for mischief-makers to switch off the heaters from afar.

But an easy fix, pulling out the network cables, can address the threat.

Even so, the company suggests the discovery highlights that building management systems are often installed by electricians and engineers that need to know more about cyber-security.

"It would be really easy for someone with basic computer skills to have switched off a school's heating system - it's a matter of clicks and some simple typing," Pen Test's founder Ken Munro told the BBC.

"It's a reflection of the current state of internet-of-things security.

"Installers need to up their game, but manufacturers must also do more to make their systems foolproof so they can't be set up this way."

Image copyright Pen Test Partners Image caption Trend Control Systems tells customers not to connect its controllers directly to the public internet

The cyber-security company made its discovery by looking for building management system controllers made by Trend Control Systems via the internet of things (IoT) search tool Shodan.

It knew that a model, released in 2003, could be compromised when exposed directly to the net, even if it was running the latest firmware.

Mr Munro said it had taken him less than 10 seconds to find more than 1,000 examples.

In addition to the schools, he said he had seen cases involving retailers, government offices, businesses and military bases.

Pen Test blogged about its findings earlier in the week[1], but the BBC delayed reporting the issue until it had contacted and alerted all of the schools that could be identified by name.

West Sussex-based Trend Control Systems advises its customers to use skilled IT workers[2] to avoid the problem.

But it responded to criticism that it could have done more to check its kit had been properly installed after the fact.

"Trend takes cyber-security seriously and regularly communicates with customers to make devices and connections as secure as possible," said spokesman Trent Perrotto.

"This includes the importance of configuring systems behind a firewall or virtual private network, and ensuring systems have the latest firmware and other security updates to mitigate the risk of unauthorised access."

He added, however, that the company would "assess and test the effectiveness" of its current practices.

One independent security researcher played down the threat to those still exposed, but added that the case raised issues that should be addressed.

"The risk is limited because criminals have little incentive to carry out such attacks, and even if they did it should be possible for building managers to notice what is happening and manually override," said Dr Steven Murdoch, from University College London.

"However, these problems do show the potential for far more dangerous scenarios in the future, as more devices get connected to the internet, whose failure might be harder to recover from.

"And we still need manufacturers to design secure equipment, because even if a device is not directly connected to the internet, there almost certainly is an indirect way in."...

References

  1. ^ its findings earlier in the week (www.pentestpartners.com)
  2. ^ advises its customers to use skilled IT workers (www.trendcontrols.com)

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'Meghan Markle' and 'fidget spinners' top UK Google search

Meghan MarkleImage copyright Getty Images Image caption "Meghan Markle" topped the list of search terms, following her engagement to Prince Harry

"Meghan Markle", fiancee to Prince Harry, has been revealed by Google as the top most searched term in the UK for 2017.

It puts the royal bride-to-be ahead of "iPhone 8" and "Hurricane Irma" in the list of top search terms.

The Manchester bombing and Grenfell Tower also featured in the top 10.

The UK election featured heavily in the list of top "What is...?" queries, with people asking about a hung Parliament and the Democratic Unionist Party.

"Bitcoin" became one of the year's buzzwords and "What is Bitcoin?", "How to buy Bitcoin" and "How to mine bitcoins" all appeared on trending lists, as the crypto-currency rose in value through the year.

The online lists also reflected some of the key playground trends of 2017 - including the toy known as a "fidget spinner", which made it to number four in most searched terms, and the rise in popularity of making home-made slime, which featured in the "How to..." list.

According to Google, searches beginning in "how" increased by 150% over the last decade, hitting an all-time high in 2017.

Top trending news events included the Manchester bombing and the London Bridge attack, with the top global news trends including North Korea, the Las Vegas shooting and Catalonia's bid for independence.

"People aren't only using Google Search to find information about the topics that matter to them.They're increasingly searching for ways to take action and find out how to do things - including how to donate or volunteer in moments of crisis," said Hannah Glenny, a Google Search trends expert.

Meghan Markle also featured on the top trending "people" queries, followed by Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, who died in February.Donald Trump made it to only number six on the list.

In global search, the number one most searched term was "Hurricane Irma", followed by "iPhone 8" and "iPhone X" in second and third place.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Fidget spinners were a hit toy of 2017 and made it to number four in most searched terms

Google UK top trending searches of 2017:

1.Meghan Markle

2.iPhone 8

3.Hurricane Irma

4.Fidget spinner

5.Manchester bombing

6.Grenfell Tower

7.13 Reasons Why

8.Tara Palmer-Tomkinson

9.Shannon Matthews

10.iPhone X

Google UK top trending 'What is...?' queries of 2017:

1.What is a hung Parliament?

2.What is an exit poll?

3.What is the Confederations Cup?

4.What is Bitcoin?

5.What is the Antikythera mechanism?

6.What is a pangolin?

7.What is a general election?

8.What is waterboarding?

9.What is the DUP?

10.What is Pink's real name?

Google's global top trending searches of 2017:

1.Hurricane Irma

2.iPhone 8

3.iPhone X

4.Matt Lauer

5.Meghan Markle

6.13 Reasons Why

7.Tom Petty

8.Fidget Spinner

9.Chester Bennington

10.India National Cricket Team...

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