28 February 2024

Motorcyclists: no more chrome plating for you! Or anyone else for that matter!


Starting in 2024 the EU is pushing through a bill that will effectively ban the process of hexavalent chrome plating on any new vehicles.

And it’s not just the EU, because the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is also looking to prevent the process from 2027 onwards. The move, in both cases, is being driven by health and environmental concerns, with hexavalent plating thought to produce around 500 times more toxic pollutants than those from diesel engines.

Specifically, hexavalent chrome plating can be linked to lung and nose cancer, while also posing a risk to the liver and reproductive system of the operator performing the procedure. Of course, these risks can be mitigated by proper safety precautions, but they can’t be totally ignored. To the wider world, the byproducts of chrome plating can, if not treated and handled with care, be just as dangerous to the environment, with wastewater being hazardous to flora and fauna if not properly treated at the plating works. Read more...


27 February 2024

Underwater cables in Red Sea damaged months after Houthis threatened to do just that

Undersea data cables in the Red Sea have reportedly been damaged, months after Yemeni Houthi rebels threatened to do so.

At least 15 submarine cables pass through the Bab al-Mandab Strait at the southern end of the Red Sea, a body of water just 26km wide at some points. Yemen is the Strait’s northern shore.

The first reports of damage to submarine cables off the coast of Yemen began emerged on Monday morning, with Israeli news outlet Globes claiming that four cables (EIG, AAE-1, Seacom and TGN-EA) had experienced damage. Seacom has reportedly confirmed damage to a cable it operates on a stretch between Kenya and Egypt.

"The location of the cable break is significant due to its geopolitical sensitivity and ongoing tensions, making it a challenging environment for maintenance and repair operations," Seacom said. "The team is currently working towards restoration timelines and will communicate these plans with our clients."

Meanwhile in other news: The Xlinks Morocco-UK Power Project is planning to power Britain using solar farms thousands of miles away in the Sahara. It is moving a step closer to fruition as its backers prepare to commission the world’s biggest cable-laying ship. The 700ft vessel will lay four parallel cables linking solar and wind farms spread across the desert in Morocco with a substation in Alverdiscott, a tiny village near the coast of north Devon. What could possibly go wrong?...


Thought for the day: following the Way of Jesus

Almighty God,

by the prayer and discipline of Lent

may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings,

and by following in His Way

come to share in His Glory;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.


23 February 2024

Avast shells out $17M to shoo away claims it peddled people's personal data


The US regulator filed [PDF] a lengthy complaint against Avast regarding its use and alleged misuse of customer data. The security shop collected people's info through its browser extensions and antivirus software, stored it indefinitely, failed to properly anonymize it, and sold it to "more than 100 third parties" – including "advertising, marketing and data analytics companies and data brokers," the FTC alleged.

"While the FTC's privacy lawsuits routinely take on firms that misrepresent their data practices, Avast's decision to expressly market its products as safeguarding people's browsing records and protecting data from tracking only to then sell those records is especially galling," FTC chair Lina Khan declared in a statement [PDF] earlier today.

Avast apparently sold the data through a subsidiary, Jumpshot, that it purchased in 2014 and set up as an analytics firm. According to the FTC's allegations it sold browsing information collected by its parent from 2014 until Avast grounded the biz in 2020 when allegations of customer data sales emerged.


Gig: Think Floyd. Mayflower Mast Southampton, 22 Feb 23.

Kim & I went to see Pink Floyd tribute band: Think Floyd yesterday (22nd Feb 23) at the Mayflower Mast theatre, Southampton

The venue is excellent: lovely friendly helpful staff, a well laid out theatre with great seating, visibility & acoustics.

Think Floyd are truly brilliant! We are big Pink Floyd fans & have seen several tribute acts: gotta say these guys are about the best. Their musicianship it first class, honestly it's like listening to the real thing. Their light show was out of this world (pix here). If you get a chance to see this band: please do book tickets - you won't be disappointed!



21 February 2024

Electric car charger pulled over fears hackers could use it to attack National Grid

An electric vehicle charger has been pulled from sale amid warnings that foreign hackers could use it as a “weapon” to cause electricity blackouts.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards, the consumer safety regulator, has told charger company Wallbox that its Copper SB electric car charger does not comply with cyber security laws. That means it cannot be sold because it cannot be properly secured against hackers.

Critics say continued sales of the Copper SB charger, which sells for around £500, risks letting hostile nations disrupt the UK’s critical national infrastructure.

Wallbox has sold close to 40,000 electric car chargers in Britain, although it is not known how many of these are the affected model. Copper SB chargers already installed in homes are not being recalled.


20 February 2024

Navalny: The disciple who 'laid down his life' to fight Putin

A Christian historian and analyst of Russia told Premier that the death and courageous example of Putin-opponent Alexei Navalny are impacting even those "who are sympathetic to the Putin narrative" in Russia.

Navalny, who was 47 and a professing Christian convert from staunch atheism, was announced dead on Friday, having died in a penal colony in the Arctic Circle.

His mother and lawyer have been stopped from seeing his body, while his widow Yulia claims he was poisoned with Novichok by the Kremlin.

Navalny survived an FSB Novichok attack in 2020, becoming unwell after getting on a plane in the Siberian city of Tomsk for a flight back to Moscow.

Five months after falling victim, he decided to return to Russia and was arrested on arrival.

Speaking on Premier's Inspirational Breakfast, historian Martyn Whittock said Navalny's legacy would be one that enables other Christians to stand up to Putinism in Russia, despite the Orthodox church's official support for the leader.


16 February 2024

Google extends a helping hand to Windows 10 users with its auto-updating ChromeOS Flex solution

Microsoft's Windows 11 operating system has been available for almost three years now. However, its adoption has been rather slow for varied reasons, including the stringent system requirements for the OS. 

Windows 10 continues to dominate the market share with a 66.45% stake, while Windows 11 comes in second with 27.83%. Microsoft has been urging users to upgrade to Windows 11 ahead of Windows 10's cutoff date, which is slated for October 2025. The tech giant has heightened pressure on Windows 10 users to make this upgrade, and was recently spotted using full-screen multipage popup ads to further this agenda.

As it happens, there might be an extended lifeline for users who may not be able to upgrade to Windows 11. Google will let businesses install an auto-updating version of ChromeOS Flex on Windows devices that are not eligible to upgrade to Windows 11, while simultaneously ascertaining security and sustainability.

For those unfamiliar with ChromeOS Flex, it's simply a version of Google's ChromeOS operating system that can be installed on x86-64-bit devices. Google has listed several reasons why users should consider transitioning from macOS or Windows OS to ChromeOS Flex, including its capability of extending the lifespan of existing devices thus preventing e-waste, energy efficiency, flexibility, and familiarity.

Google's decision will allow users to continue using their old PCs, even after Microsoft cuts support for Windows 10. Last year, a public interest research group filed a petition asking Microsoft to reconsider its decision to cut support for Windows 10. The group pointed out that over 40% of users still run Windows 10.

Consequently, if Microsoft moves forward with its plan to cut support for the OS, it could potentially lead to "the single biggest jump in junked computers ever." This will push the company further away from its sustainability and environmental goals.

When Microsoft cuts support for its Windows 10, it'll no longer ship updates, new features, or bug fixes to the OS. This will leave users who continue using the OS susceptible to malicious attacks from hackers. However, Google's ChromeOS Flex OS will continue receiving regular security updates and features, thus allowing users to keep using their existing PCs.


Microsoft will end Publisher support and remove it from Microsoft 365 in October 2026

Microsoft has published some big news for its Office users. Microsoft Publisher, a program for designing brochures, flyers, newsletters, posters, and other print materials, will soon reach its end of life. The company plans to end Publisher support in October 2026 and remove it from the Microsoft 365 subscription afterward.

The announcement was quietly published on the official Microsoft Support website. The company says that the reason behind the decision was to "focus on new benefits" and "provide customers with the tools they need to achieve what matters." However, no tools for you if you are a Microsoft Publisher user. The company will kill the software in less than two years.

According to the support document, most of the Publisher features for creating professionally branded templates, envelops, and label printing are already available in other Microsoft 365 applications. Therefore, you can use Word or PowerPoint as a replacement for the outgoing app. Microsoft also promises to share more as it is "exploring modern ways to achieve common Publisher scenarios" in Word, PowerPoint, and Designer.

Existing Publisher users can continue working with the app until October 2026. In that month, Microsoft will end Office 2021 LTSC support, including Publisher. As for Microsoft 365 users, the company will remove Publisher from their systems once it reaches the end of life.


15 February 2024

Southern Water customer data was stolen in ransomware attack

Southern Water: On Monday 12 February 2024 we announced that data from a limited part of Southern Water’s server estate had been stolen and was at risk following an illegal intrusion into our IT systems. This arose from our ongoing investigation into suspicious activity, as detailed in our statement on 23 January 2024.

We are very sorry that this has happened.

We continue to work with our expert technical advisers to confirm whose data is at risk. Our initial assessment is that this is the case for some of our customers and current and former employees.

We have engaged leading independent cybersecurity experts to monitor the “dark web”. They continue to report to us that, since we were named on the cyber criminals’ site on 22 January 2024, they have found no new evidence of the data potentially involved in this cyber incident being published online. They will continue to carry out their checks for as long as is necessary.

We take data protection and information security very seriously and, in accordance with our regulatory obligations, we are making contact with anyone whose personal data may be at risk.

Based on our forensic investigations so far, which are ongoing, we are notifying in the order of 5 to 10 percent of our customer base to let them know that their personal data has been impacted. We are also notifying all of our current employees and some former employees.


08 February 2024

Deepfake scammer walks off with $25 million in first-of-its-kind AI heist

On Sunday, a report from the South China Morning Post revealed a significant financial loss suffered by a multinational company's Hong Kong office, amounting to HK$200 million (US$25.6 million), due to a sophisticated scam involving deepfake technology. The scam featured a digitally recreated version of the company's chief financial officer, along with other employees, who appeared in a video conference call instructing an employee to transfer funds.

Due to an ongoing investigation, Hong Kong police did not release details of which company was scammed.

Deepfakes utilize AI tools to create highly convincing fake videos or audio recordings, posing significant challenges for individuals and organizations to discern real from fabricated content.

This incident marks the first of its kind in Hong Kong involving a large sum and the use of deepfake technology to simulate a multi-person video conference where all participants (except the victim) were fabricated images of real individuals. The scammers were able to convincingly replicate the appearances and voices of targeted individuals using publicly available video and audio footage. The Hong Kong police are currently investigating the case, with no arrests reported yet.


05 February 2024

A sizable chunk of the US’s electricity generation is wasted on mining bitcoin


Electricity demand associated with U.S. cryptocurrency mining operations in the United States has grown very rapidly over the last several years. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) preliminary estimates suggest that annual electricity use from cryptocurrency mining probably represents from 0.6% to 2.3% of U.S. electricity consumption.

This additional electricity use has drawn the attention of policymakers and grid planners concerned about its effects on cost, reliability, and emissions. Key challenges associated with tracking cryptocurrency mining energy use include the difficulty of identifying cryptocurrency mining activity among millions of U.S. end-use customers and the dynamic nature of the crypto market, where mining assets can be moved rapidly to areas with lower electricity prices.