VOA Science & Tech

Subscribe to VOA Science & Tech feed VOA Science & Tech
Updated: 17 min 42 sec ago

Seeing Microscopic Creatures from Space

3 hours 51 min ago
The oceans and lakes are full of life, and most of it is not visible to the naked eye. In most bodies of water, every cubic centimeter contains many microorganisms — bacteria, zooplankton as well as single-cell plants called phytoplankton — all of them important links in the natural food chain. Scientists are now using satellites to observe and study these tiny creatures. VOA's George Putic reports.

Chinese Theme Park Seeks to Ride Boom in Demand for Virtual Entertainment

7 hours 48 min ago
Giant robots and futuristic cyberpunk castles rise out of lush mountain slopes on the outskirts of Guiyang, the capital of one of China’s poorest provinces. Welcome to China’s first virtual reality theme park, which aims to ride a boom in demand for virtual entertainment that is set to propel tenfold growth in the country’s virtual reality market, to hit almost $8.5 billion by 2020. The 330-acre (134-hectare) park in southwestern Guizhou province promises 35 virtual reality attractions, from shoot-’em-up games and virtual roller coasters to tours with interstellar aliens of the region’s most scenic spots. “After our attraction opens, it will change the entire tourism structure of Guizhou province as well as China’s southwest,” Chief Executive Chen Jianli told Reuters. “This is an innovative attraction, because it’s just different,” he said in an interview at the park, part of which is scheduled to open next February. New growth engines The $1.5 billion Oriental Science Fiction Valley park is part of China’s thrust to develop new drivers of growth centered on trends such as gaming, sports and cutting-edge technology, to cut reliance on traditional industries. In the push to become a center of innovative tech, Guizhou is luring firms such as Apple Inc., which has sited its China data center there, while the world’s largest radio telescope is in nearby Pingtang county. The park says it is the world’s first of its kind, although virtual reality-based attractions from the United States to Japan already draw interest from consumers and video gamers seeking a more immersive experience. The Guiyang park will offer tourists bungee jumps from a huge Transformer-like robot, as well as a studio devoted to producing virtual reality movies. Most rides will use VR goggles and motion simulators to thrill users. “You feel like you’re really there,” said Qu Zhongjie, the park’s manager of rides. “That’s our main feature.” China’s virtual reality market is expected to grow tenfold to 55.6 billion yuan ($8.4 billion) by the end of the decade, state-backed think tank CCID has said. Farmers in the nearby village of Zhangtianshui said they were concerned about pollution from big developments, but looked forward to the economic benefits a new theme park would bring. Most were less sure about virtual battles or alien invasions, though. “There are lots of good things that come out of these projects,” one farmer, Liu Guangjun, told Reuters. “As for the virtual reality, I don’t really understand it.”

Russian Tech Firm Wins U.S. Intel Prize

17 hours 34 min ago
Amid concerns about Russian hacking and online influence, Russian technology firm NtechLab has won a prize awarded by the United States intelligence community. VOA’s Moscow Bureau visited NtechLab to ask its general director about the award, the technology, and concerns about privacy.

Tech Firms Scrounging for Skilled Workers Training Their Own

17 hours 52 min ago
Some information technology companies are growing so concerned about not find enough digital talent that they're training their own.   IBM, Amazon and Microsoft all now have apprenticeship programs that pay workers learning on-the-job while they build IT skills. The programs cost companies tens of thousands of dollars per trainee.   IBM Vice President Joanna Daly says the apprenticeship program the tech giant started last month will help fill the several hundred vacant early-career IT jobs in the U.S. Rhode Island-based Carousel Industries executive Tim Hebert says the company's apprentices are loyal and stay for years.   The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median pay last year for computer and information technology occupations was about $83,000, compared to $37,000 for all jobs.  

What Happens Once 'Net Neutrality' Rules Bite the Dust?

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 20:42
The Federal Communications Commission formally released a draft of its plan to kill net-neutrality rules, which equalized access to the internet and prevented broadband providers from favoring their own apps and services. Now the question is: What comes next? 'Radical departure' The FCC's move will allow companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to charge internet companies for speedier access to consumers and to block outside services they don't like. The change also axes a host of consumer protections, including privacy requirements and rules barring unfair practices that gave consumers an avenue to pursue complaints about price gouging. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says his plan eliminates unnecessary regulation. But many worry that his proposal will stifle small tech firms and leave ordinary citizens more at the mercy of cable and wireless companies. "It would be a radical departure from what previous (FCC) chairs, of both parties, have done," said Gigi Sohn, a former adviser to Tom Wheeler, the Obama-era FCC chairman who enacted the net neutrality rules now being overturned. "It would leave consumers and competition completely unprotected." During the last Republican administration, that of George W. Bush, FCC policy held that people should be able to see what they want on the internet and to use the services they preferred. But attempts to enshrine that net-neutrality principle in regulation never held up in court - at least until Wheeler pushed through the current rules now slated for termination. Pai's proposals stand a good chance of enactment at the next FCC meeting in December. But there will be lawsuits to challenge them. More details The formal proposal reveals more details of the plan than were in the FCC's Tuesday press release. For instance, if companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon decide to block a particular app, throttle data speeds for a rival service or offer faster speeds to companies who pay for it, they merely need to disclose their policies for doing so. The FCC also says it will pre-empt state rules on privacy and net neutrality that contradict its approach. Verizon has noted that New York has several privacy bills pending, and that the California legislature has suggested coming up with its own version of net neutrality rules should the federal versions perish. The plan would leave complaints about deceptive behavior and monitor privacy to the Federal Trade Commission, which already regulates privacy for internet companies like Google and Facebook. Best behavior Broadband providers are promising to be on their best behavior. Comcast said it doesn't and won't block, throttle or discriminate against lawful content. AT&T said that "all major ISPs have publicly committed to preserving an open internet" and that any ISP "foolish" enough to manipulate what's available online for customers will be "quickly and decisively called out." Verizon said that "users should be able to access the internet when, where, and how they choose." Some critics don't put much weight on those promises, noting that many providers have previously used their networks to disadvantage rivals. For example, the Associated Press in 2007 found Comcast was blocking some file-sharing. AT&T blocked Skype and other internet calling services on its network on the iPhone until 2009. But others suggest fear of a public uproar will help restrain egregious practices such as blocking and throttling. "I'm not sure there's any benefit to them doing that," said Sohn. "It's just going to get people angry at them for no good reason. They don't monetize that." Fast lanes, slow lanes Sohn, however, suggests there's reason to worry about more subtle forms of discrimination, such as "paid prioritization." That's a term for internet "fast lanes," where companies that can afford it would pay AT&T, Verizon and Comcast for faster or better access to consumers. That would leave startups and institutions that aren't flush with cash, like libraries or schools, relegated to slower service, said Corynne McSherry, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital-rights group. In turn, startups would find it harder to attract investors, Sohn said. Michael Cheah, general counsel of the video startup Vimeo, said broadband companies will try to lay groundwork for a two-tiered internet - one where cash-strapped companies and services are relegated to the slow lane. To stay competitive, small companies would need to pony up for fast lanes if they could - but those costs would ultimately find their way to consumers. The view is different at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington, D.C., think tank funded by Google and other established tech companies. Doug Brake, a telecom policy analyst at the foundation, said there's little chance broadband companies will engage in "shenanigans," given how unpopular they already are with the public. Brake likewise played down the threat of internet fast lanes, arguing that they'll only be useful in limited situations such as high-quality teleconferencing. Like the FCC, he argued that antitrust law can serve to deter "potentially anticompetitive" behavior by internet providers.

Fall of China’s Former Internet Censor Highlights Frustrations Over Controls

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 17:22
The former face of China’s “Great Firewall,” Lu Wei, has become the first “tiger” to come under the Communist Party’s corruption investigation since President Xi Jinping began his second term last month. Analysts say the graft probe into Lu’s corruption practices is widely believed to be legitimate and long overdue. But Lu’s downfall has highlighted the simmering discontent among the country’s netizens, many of whom have been frustrated with tougher internet regulations imposed by him. It has also made a mockery of so-called Xi Praise, a flattery culture centering on the building of the Xi cult, analysts add. ​Graft probe Late Tuesday, China’s top anti-corruption agency announced on its website that 57-year-old Lu, who formerly served as deputy chief of the party propaganda department, has been detained in an internal graft probe. Along with six of his colleagues and family members, Lu was reportedly taken away by investigators late last week. Lu, who served as the head of China’s cyberspace administration between 2013 and 2016, was the key person in implementing Xi’s cyberspace policies. In that role, he wielded great power over what the country’s 730 million internet users could access and acted as the gatekeeper for foreign technology companies seeking to enter the Chinese market. Because of that, Time magazine named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2015. ​Just a cat But his political career ended when he was stripped of the title as China’s internet censor and was replaced by Xu Lin, a Xi protégé, in June 2016. “Actually, he ceased to be a tiger long ago. He’s not a fly, but he’s now just a cat instead of a tiger because he already lost his power in June 2016,” Hong Kong-based China watcher Willy Lam told VOA. In one of its two other statements, China’s anti-graft body Wednesday explained why Lu became the first tiger under graft investigation after the party’s 19th National Congress. The cyberspace administration with Lu at the helm was found to have not been staunch enough in executing Xi’s instructions, lacked political responsibility and integrity while being operated by a network of small circles, the statement said. ‘Offenses of bygone’ The other statement warned not to “expect [criminal] offenses of bygone will be bygone today, lessons learned from the fall of Lu Wei.” No details about Lu’s corruption offenses were revealed. Chinese media reported that investigators would be mainly looking into corruption charges against Lu during the period when he worked for state-run Xinhua News Agency from 1991 and 2011. Media speculation is also rife that Lu had angered Xi when the top leader discovered that the former internet censor had hired foreigners to masquerade as CEOs of multinational tech companies attending the World Internet Conference held in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, in 2014. ​Xi praise But Lam said that Xi, who he said is a “macromania,” has no one but himself to blame for the trend of Xi Praise, a flattery culture in Chinese politics. “This is the art of survival in the Chinese empire, so to speak. The officials have to be seen as bending forward and backward to please Xi Jinping,” Lam said. But Li Datong, managing director of Freezing Point, a weekly that reported on all aspects of contemporary life in China, said Xi Praise is an act of self-deception. “If Xi Jinping knows how to surf on the Internet, he will see from a bevy of [online] chat rooms that many [netizens] not only made fun of him, but also lashed out at Xi Cult. It’s a game for government officials themselves to play,” Li said. Discontent with internet controls Chinese internet users, however, are happy to see Lu go, venting their frustrations over Internet controls. But on Wednesday, a report in the state-run Global Times pointed out, “while news of Lu’s removal has made a buzz on the internet, his corruption investigation isn’t aimed at addressing dissatisfaction expressed by a minority of people over tighter internet controls. Neither is it a signal that internet controls will be re-evaluated as some have expected.” Li said netizens are aware of the fact that the country’s internet controls won’t be eased following Lu’s downfall. “Everybody knows that there won’t be a change of policy. But they are still happy to see the executioner [Lu], who has done all evils, being taken down. [Internet] policies are national policies, which won’t be easily revised as a result of personnel reshuffle,” Li said. On Thursday, Lu Wei was the top-trending topic on freeweibo.com, a website that captures censored social media posts. On SINA Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform, online comments posted by users in response to news reports were mostly erased.

Coffee-Based Fuel to Power London Buses

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 14:20
A startup is making fuel from waste coffee grounds to power some of London's buses. VOA's Steve Baragona reports.

Facebook to Let Users See Whether They 'Liked' Russian Accounts

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 08:52
Facebook Inc. said Wednesday that it would build a web page to allow users to see which Russian propaganda accounts they have liked or followed, after U.S. lawmakers demanded that the social network be more open about the reach of the accounts. U.S. lawmakers called the announcement a positive step. The web page, though, would fall short of their demands that Facebook individually notify users about Russian propaganda posts or ads they were exposed to. Facebook, Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Twitter Inc. are facing a backlash after saying Russians used their services to anonymously spread divisive messages among Americans in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. elections. U.S. lawmakers have criticized the tech firms for not doing more to detect the alleged election meddling, which the Russian government denies involvement in. Facebook says the propaganda came from the Internet Research Agency, a Russian organization that according to lawmakers and researchers employs hundreds of people to push pro-Kremlin content under phony social media accounts. As many as 126 million people could have been served posts on Facebook and 20 million on Instagram, the company says. Facebook has since deactivated the accounts. Available by year's end Facebook, in a statement, said it would let people see which pages or accounts they liked or followed between January 2015 and August 2017 that were affiliated with the Internet Research Agency. The tool will be available by the end of the year as "part of our ongoing effort to protect our platforms and the people who use them from bad actors who try to undermine our democracy," Facebook said. The web page will show only a list of accounts, not the posts or ads affiliated with them, according to a mock-up. U.S. lawmakers have separately published some posts. It was not clear whether Facebook would eventually do more, such as sending individualized notifications to users. Lawmakers at congressional hearings this month suggested that Facebook might have an obligation to notify people who accessed deceptive foreign government material. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who had asked for notifications, said Facebook's plan "seems to be a serious response" to his request. "My hope is that it will be a responsible first step towards protecting against future assaults on its platform," he said in a statement. Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, called it a "very positive step" and said lawmakers look forward to additional steps by tech companies to improve transparency.

Uber Reveals Cover-up of Hack Affecting 57M Riders, Drivers

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 22:13
Uber is coming clean about its cover-up of a year-old hacking attack that stole personal information about more than 57 million of the beleaguered ride-hailing service's customers and drivers. So far, there's no evidence that the data taken has been misused, according to a Tuesday blog post by Uber's recently hired CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi. Part of the reason nothing malicious has happened is because Uber acknowledges paying the hackers $100,000 to destroy the stolen information. The revelation marks the latest stain on Uber's reputation. It also brought an investigation from New York's attorney general and threats of larger-than-normal fines from British authorities for failing to promptly disclose the hack. The San Francisco company ousted Travis Kalanick as CEO in June after an internal investigation concluded he had built a culture that allowed female workers to be sexually harassed and encouraged employees to push legal limits. It's also the latest major breach involving a prominent company that didn't notify the people that could be potentially harmed for months or even years after the break-in occurred. Yahoo didn't make its first disclosure about hacks that hit 3 billion user accounts during 2013 and 2014 until September 2016. Credit reporting service Equifax waited several months before revealing this past September that hackers had carted off the Social Security numbers of 145 million Americans. Khosrowshahi criticized Uber's handling of its data theft in his blog post. "While I can't erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes," Khosrowshahi wrote. "We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers." That pledge shouldn't excuse Uber's previous regime for its egregious behavior, said Sam Curry, chief security officer for the computer security firm Cybereason. "The truly scary thing here is that Uber paid a bribe, essentially a ransom to make this breach go away, and they acted as if they were above the law," Curry said. "Those people responsible for the integrity and confidentiality of the data in-fact covered it up." The heist took the names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers of 57 million riders around the world. The thieves also nabbed the driver's license numbers of 600,000 Uber drivers in the U.S. Uber waited until Tuesday to begin notifying the drivers with compromised driver's licenses, which can be particularly useful for perpetrating identify theft. For that reason, Uber will now pay for free credit-report monitoring and identity theft protection services for the affected drivers. Kalanick, who still sits on Uber's board of directors, declined to comment on the data breach that took place in October 2016. Uber says the response to the hack was handled by its chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor whom Kalanick lured away from Facebook in 2015. As part of his effort to set things right, Khosrowshahi extracted Sullivan's resignation from Uber and also jettisoned Craig Clark, a lawyer who reported to Sullivan. Clark didn't immediately respond to a request for comment sent through his LinkedIn profile. Efforts to reach Sullivan were unsuccessful. On Wednesday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office confirmed that it had opened an investigation into the data theft, but a spokeswoman wouldn't comment further. New York law requires that companies notify the attorney general and consumers if data is stolen. In London, Britain's Deputy Information Commissioner James Dipple-Johnstone said Wednesday the company faces "higher fines" because it concealed the hack from the public. The Information Commissioner's Office and the National Cyber Security Center are working to gauge the severity of the problem for British Uber users. Uber's silence about its breach came while it was negotiating with the Federal Trade Commission about its handling of its riders' information. Earlier in 2016, the company reached a settlement with the New York attorney general requiring it to take steps to be more vigilant about protecting the information that its app stores about its riders. As part of that settlement, Uber also paid a $20,000 fine for waiting to notify five months about another data breach that it discovered in September 2014.

Robotic Fingers Get a Feel for the Real World

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 14:25
You can reach into your pocket and tell whether you’ve grabbed coins or keys, and now researchers in California have developed a robot with a similar level of tactile sensitivity. Faith Lapidus reports.

Uber CEO Says Company Failed to Disclose Massive Breach in 2016

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 08:12
Uber Technologies Inc failed to disclose a massive breach last year that exposed the data of some 57 million users of the ride-sharing service, the company's new chief executive officer said on Tuesday. Discovery of the company's handling of the incident led to the departure of two employees who led Uber's response to the incident, said Dara Khosrowshahi, who was named CEO in August following the departure of founder Travis Kalanick. Khosrowshahi said he had only recently learned of the matter himself. The company’s admission that it failed to disclose the breach comes as Uber seeks to recover from a series of crises that culminated in the Kalanick’s ouster in June. “None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Khosrowshahi said in a blog post. According to the company’s account, two individuals downloaded data from a web-based server at another company that provided Uber with cloud-computing services. The data contained names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers of some 57 million Uber users around the world. The hackers also downloaded names and driver’s license numbers of some 600,000 of the company's U.S. drivers, Khosrowshahi said in a blog post. Bloomberg News reported that Uber’s chief security officer Joe Sullivan and a deputy had been ousted from the company this week because of their role in the handling of the incident. The company paid hackers $100,000 to delete the stolen data, according to Bloomberg. Though such payoffs are rarely discussed in public, U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation officials and private security companies have told Reuters in the past year that an increasing number of companies have made payments to criminal hackers who have turned to extortion. None have previously come to light that aimed to suppress breaches that would have required public disclosure, such as those involving protected personal information. Sullivan did not immediately return messages seeking comment. Sullivan, formerly the top security official at Facebook Inc, is a former federal prosecutor and one of the most admired security executives in Silicon Valley. Kalanick learned of the breach a month after it took place, in November 2016, as the company was in negotiations with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over the handling of consumer data, according to Bloomberg. Uber representatives did not respond when asked to comment on the Bloomberg report. Khosrowshahi said he had hired Matt Olsen, former general counsel of the U.S. National Security Agency, to help him figure out how to best guide and structure the company's security teams and processes. “While I can’t erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes,” he said. “We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers.”  

US Charges Iranian National With Hacking HBO Computer Systems

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 02:45
U.S. prosecutors charged an Iranian with hacking into computer systems of the cable TV channel HBO earlier this year, stealing information about the hit program "Game of Thrones" and attempting to extort millions of dollars from the company. In an indictment Tuesday, prosecutors said 29-year-old Behzad Mesri has had ties to Iran's military and is a member of an Iran-based hacking group known as the Turk Black Hat security team.   Mesril's stolen material included video of unaired episodes of several original HBO shows, scripts and plot summaries of upcoming episodes of "Game of Thrones," and confidential cast and crew contact information, according to the indictment. Mesri claims to have stolen 1.5 terabytes of data from HBO. Demanded $6 million in Bitcoin In late July, Mesri emailed HBO executives on several occasions, threatening to release the material unless the entertainment company paid him $5.5 million worth of Bitcoin digital currency, a ransom amount he later increased to $6 million.   "Hi to all losers! Yes, it's true.  HBO is hacked! Beware of heart attack!!!" he allegedly wrote in one anonymous email.  In another he bragged that "HBO was one of our difficult targets to deal with but we succeeded."   After HBO refused to make a payment, Mesri allegedly posted portions of the stolen videos and five scripts from Game of Throne episodes on websites he controlled. Mesri has not been arrested, and faces multiple charges, including wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and one count of computer hacking, which could be punished with up to five years in prison. More indictments expects  The indictment is one of several cases involving Iranian suspects prosecutors plan to announce in the coming month, the Washington Post reported on Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter. In July, the Justice Department indicted two Iranian nationals with hacking a Vermont-based software company.   "Mesri now stands charged with federal crimes, and although not arrested today, he will forever have to look over his shoulder until he is made to face justice," said Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon Kim. Prosecutors allege that Mesri "had previously worked on behalf of the Iranian military to conduct computer network attacks that targeted military systems, nuclear software systems, and Israeli infrastructure." As a member of the Turk Black Hat, Mesri is alleged to have conducted hundreds of website defacements in the United States and elsewhere using the online pseudonym Skote Vahshat,  according to the indictment.   In a note to journalists, HBO said it had been "working with law enforcement from the early stages of the cyber incident."  

FCC Chairman Sets Out to Repeal 'Net Neutrality' Rules

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 02:09
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Tuesday followed through on his pledge to repeal 2015 regulations designed to ensure that internet service providers treat all online content and apps equally, setting up a showdown with consumer groups and internet companies who fear the move will stifle competition and innovation. The current rules, known as net neutrality, impose utility-style regulation on ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to prevent them from favoring their own digital services over those of their rivals. Pai said that he believes the net neutrality rules adopted during the Obama administration discourage the ISPs from making investments in their network that would provide even better and faster online access. "Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet," Pai said in a statement. Pai distributed his alternative plan to other FCC commissioners Tuesday in preparation for a Dec. 14 vote on the proposal. He promised to release his entire proposal Wednesday. The attempt to repeal net neutrality has triggered protests from consumer groups and internet companies. More than 22 million comments have been filed with the FCC about whether net neutrality should be rolled back. The Internet Association, a group whose members include major internet companies such as Google and Amazon, vowed to continue to fight to keep the current net neutrality rules intact. "Consumers have little choice in their ISP, and service providers should not be allowed to use this gatekeeper position at the point of connection to discriminate against websites and apps," the group's CEO Michael Beckerman said in a Tuesday statement. Consumers Union predicted a repeal of net neutrality would allow ISPs to raise their prices and give preferential treatment to certain sites and apps. "Strong net neutrality rules are vital to consumers' everyday lives and essential to preserving the internet as we know it today _ an open marketplace where websites large and small compete on equal terms and where information and ideas move freely," said Jonathan Schwantes, the advocacy group's senior policy counsel. Two of the FCC's five voting commissioners signaled they will oppose Pai's plan. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel derided Pai's plan as "ridiculous and offensive to the millions of Americans who use the internet every day." Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn skewered Pai's proposals as "a giveaway to the nation's largest communications companies, at the expense of consumers and innovation." Rosenworcel and Clyburn are the lone Democrats on the FCC. Pai's proposal on net neutrality comes after the Republican-dominated commission voted 3-2 last week to weaken rules meant to support independent local media, undoing a ban on companies owning newspapers and broadcast stations in a single market.

Defense Minister - Denmark to Ramp up Cyber Security Efforts

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 22:47
Denmark intends to invest to boost efforts to prevent cyber attacks in a strategy to be presented early next year, its defense minister said on Tuesday. "We are going to spend more money in this area," Claus Hjort Frederiksen told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Copenhagen, though he declined to disclose a figure. Cyber security is "very high on the agenda" for the right-leaning government, but also for the broad selection of Danish political parties negotiating a new defense strategy for the coming six years, he said. The government would like to expand an early warning system with sensors that detects when Danish companies or authorities are under attack from, for example, malware. "To some degree we do have a system today, but we would like to expand it to the strategic infrastructure and to private companies," he told Reuters. The government also wants to increase the preventive capacity at the Danish center for cyber security to increase its ability to better catch and inform about imminent cyber threats, he said. World's no.1 container shipper and one of Denmark's largest companies Maersk was hit by major cyber attack in June, one of the biggest-ever disruptions to hit global shipping. The government also works for a deeper cooperation between authorities and private companies in battling cyber attacks, Frederiksen said. He said he believed companies were sometimes reluctant to inform they had been hit by cyber attacks, because they were afraid to scare off customers or investors. Frederiksen said he saw the overall cyber threat as "one of the greatest threats of our time." "If you can undermine our democratic nations by hacking the energy systems or the communication systems or the financial systems it will undermine our own people's belief in our societies' ability to protect them," he said. Russia hacked the Danish defense network and gained access to employees' emails in 2015 and 2016, Frederiksen said in April. Danish troops will get training in how to deal with Russian misinformation before being sent to join a NATO military build-up in Estonia in January, Frederiksen said in July.  

Virtual Reality As a Mental Health Tool

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 13:20
It is a simple, but startling, statistic: one in four people around the world will have a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their lives. But dealing with mental health issues is so much easier if they are caught early. VOA's Kevin Enochs reports that is the thinking behind a new method using virtual reality to gauge mental health.

US Sues to Stop AT&T's Takeover of Time Warner

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 09:28
The U.S. Justice Department is suing to stop AT&T's multi-billion dollar bid to take over another communications giant, Time Warner, calling it illegal and likening it to extortion. "The $108 billion acquisition would substantially lessen competition, resulting in higher prices and less innovation for millions of Americans," a Justice Department statement said Monday. "The combined company would use its control over Time Warner's valuable and highly popular networks to hinder its rivals by forcing them to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more per year for the right to distribute those networks." CNN, HBO top Time Warner products Time Warner's products include CNN, HBO, TNT, The Cartoon Network, and Cinemax — these networks broadcast highly popular newscasts, movies, comedy and drama series, and sports. AT&T and its subsidiary DirectTV distribute these programs, as well as others, thorough cable and satellite. The Justice Department decries the possibility of AT&T not just controlling television productions, but also the means of bringing them into people's homes. In its lawsuit, it threw AT&T's words right back at the communications giant, noting that AT&T recognizes that distributors with control over the shows "have the incentive and ability to use ... that control as a weapon to hinder competition." It also cited a DirectTV statement saying distributors can withhold programs from their rivals and "use such threats to demand higher prices and more favorable terms." Assured transaction would be approved AT&T's CEO Randall Stephenson told reporters the Justice Department's lawsuit "stretches the reach of anti-trust law to the breaking point." He said the "best legal minds in the country" assured AT&T that the transaction would be approved and said the government is discarding decades of legal precedent. AT&T and Time Warner are not direct competitors, and AT&T says government regulators have routinely approved such mergers. President Donald Trump has made no secret of his contempt for one of Time Warner's crown jewels — CNN, the Cable News Network — because of his perception of CNN being a liberal biased provider of "fake news," including direct attacks against his administration. Trump vowed during last year's presidential campaign to block the merger. Stephenson called the matter "the elephant in the room," saying he said he "frankly does not know" if the White House disdain for CNN is at the heart of the Justice Department lawsuit. But he said a proposal that Time Warner sell-off CNN as part of a settlement with the Trump Justice Department would be a "non-starter."

A School of Robot Fish Is Testing the Water in Venice

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 13:49
Lily pads, fish and mussels of the electronic variety are being deployed in and around the canals of Venice. It's part of a project designed to monitor the water quality of the watery city. VOA's kevin Enochs reports.

Online Abuse Silences Women and Girls, Fuels Violence, Survey Shows

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 09:18
Pervasive online abuse and harassment pressure women and girls into censoring themselves on social media and fuel gender-based discrimination and violence, rights groups said on Monday. About one in four women in Britain, the United States and six other countries said in a survey they had experienced online abuse or harassment. More than 40 percent said the online abuse made them fear for their physical safety and more than half reported trouble sleeping, loss of self-esteem and panic attacks after the incidents, according to rights group Amnesty International. About a third stopped expressing their opinions online or withdrew from public conversations as a result, Amnesty said. "It's no secret that misogyny and abuse are thriving on social media platforms, but this poll shows just how damaging the consequences of online abuse are," said Amnesty researcher Azmina Dhrodia. "This is not something that goes away when you log off." Online harassment starts at a young age and may be more common for girls and teenagers than adults, according to U.K.-based child rights group Plan International. Nearly half of girls aged 11-18 in the U.K. said they had experienced abuse or harassment on social media, Plan found in a survey earlier this year. Like women, most of the girls said they stopped sharing opinions or otherwise changed their online behavior out of fear, according to Plan. "Very young girls are learning that they need to take responsibility for harassment and abuse," Kerry Smith of Plan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "What they are saying is that they are holding themselves back." Parents, teachers and police often respond to online abuse by taking away girls' phones or telling them to go offline, which teaches victims that they are responsible for the problem, Smith said. Online harassment, including crude comments on pictures or sexual references, teaches boys that it is okay to treat girls as sexual objects and to exercise power over them, which can lead to physical abuse and rape, she added. Social media attacks are so common for female politicians that they deter women from running for office around the world, advocates and female lawmakers have said. Companies and governments need to step up to make the internet a safe space for girls and women, campaigners said. "Social media companies have a responsibility... to ensure that women using their platforms are able to do so freely and without fear," said Amnesty's Dhrodia.

Toyota Banking on Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology

Sun, 11/19/2017 - 12:18
When it comes to cars, generally there are three options, there is gas, a gas-battery hybrid, or a full electric car. But for a fourth option, some car companies are banking on hydrogen as the fuel of the future. VOA's Kevin Enochs reports.

A Gastronomical Virtual Experience: Enjoying the Taste of Food Without the Calories

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 13:10
Through a headset around the head and over the eyes, virtual reality can take us to computer-generated environments very different from the physical environment we're in. Now, virtual reality technology is offering the food industry a new life. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, virtual reality can change the future of our dining experiences and make food tastier and healthier. Faith Lapidus narrates.