Flicking the switch: Cisco adapts to the rise of cloud computing

Print section Print Rubric:  A technology titan shifts strategy to cope with the cloud Print Headline:  Flicking the switch Print Fly Title:  Cisco UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  India’s prime minister is not as much of a reformer as he seems Fly Title:  Flicking the switch Main image:  20170624_WBD001_0.jpg WHEN John Chambers ran Cisco, the world’s biggest maker of networking gear, his hyperactivity nearly matched that of the high-speed switches and routers that made the firm’s fortune. He pushed Cisco into dozens of new businesses, from set-top boxes to virtual health care. He travelled the world preaching the virtues of connectivity. In interviews it was hard to get a word in edgeways. Conversations invariably ended on a restless question: “What should we do differently?” Chuck Robbins, who succeeded Mr Chambers in July 2015, has two decades of ...

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Hacking the hacks: Is Mexico’s government spying on its critics?

Print section Print Rubric:  Is the government spying on its critics? Print Headline:  Hacking the hacks Print Fly Title:  Mexico UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  India’s prime minister is not as much of a reformer as he seems Fly Title:  Hacking the hacks Location:  MEXICO CITY Main image:  20170624_amp502.jpg MEXICANS do not trust their government. Just 29% have some confidence in the institution, according to Latinobarómetro, a polling firm. A report in the New York Times on June 19th, widely broadcast by the Mexican media, must have reduced that number. It said that software sold to the government to spy on suspected criminals had turned up on the mobile phones of journalists and human-rights campaigners who criticise the government perfectly legally. Investigations by the Times, ...

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Difference Engine: New technology is eroding your right to tinker with things you own

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Difference Engine Byline:  N.V. Location:  LOS ANGELES Main image:  20170624_stp501.jpg CONSUMERS across America can thank a recent ruling by the Supreme Court for granting them the right to do whatever they want with gizmos and gadgets they own. Eh? Surely, one might think, ownership automatically confers such a right. In an increasing number of cases, sadly, it does nothing of the sort. If people cannot repair a product when it breaks, alter it to suit their needs, sell it or give it away when done with it, then they do not “own” it in the traditional sense. Even when they pay good money for something, restrictions buried in the small print can limit what they may, or may not, do with it. The Supreme Court ruling is a small, but significant, victory for consumers at a time when the whole notion of ownership is being rapidly eroded by digital technology. Until recently, jail-breaking (unlocking) a mobile phone, even one that had been ...

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Seeing is believing: Drones—what are they good for?

Print section Print Rubric:  Today’s drones are mostly flying cameras. They are already being put to a wide range of business uses Print Headline:  Seeing is believing Print Fly Title:  Commercial applications UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Commercial drones are emerging as the most promising part of the market Fly Title:  Seeing is believing Main image:  Up in the air, down on the farm Up in the air, down on the farm PHOENIX DRONE SERVICES, operating from a business park on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona, is typical of the small firms that have sprung up in recent years to pursue the commercial opportunities around drones. Its founders, Mark Yori and Brian Deatherage, started off by building radio-controlled planes. To stream live video, they modified a baby monitor and attached its camera to a fixed-wing drone. These were the days of “crash, ...

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Body language: How retailers are watching shoppers’ emotions

Print section Print Rubric:  Shoppers’ emotions may help physical retailers compete with online ones Print Headline:  Body language Print Fly Title:  New retail techniques UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  — Terror and the internet — Theresa May’s failed gamble Fly Title:  Body language Main image:  In the mood for buying? In the mood for buying? FOR eight months up to this April, a French bookstore chain had video in a Paris shop fed to software that scrutinises shoppers’ movements and facial expressions for surprise, dissatisfaction, confusion or hesitation. When a shopper walked to the end of an aisle only to return with a frown to a bookshelf, the software discreetly messaged clerks, who went to help. Sales rose by a tenth. The bookseller wants to keep its name quiet for now. Other French clients of the Paris startup behind the technology, ...

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Babbage: Podcast: Battle of the maps

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Babbage Main image:  20170610_mma901.jpg Published:  20170607 Enabled

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Technology governance: China’s new cyber-security law is worryingly vague

Print section Print Rubric:  China’s new cyber-security law overreaches Print Headline:  Going its own way Print Fly Title:  Online regulation UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The middle has fallen out of British politics Fly Title:  Technology governance Location:  SHANGHAI Main image:  20170603_WBD002_0.jpg “IF YOU want to stay in China, you have to go all in.” So says James Fitzsimmons of Control Risks, a consultancy, of the impact China’s new cyber-security law will have on multinational companies (MNCs). These firms have moaned for months about the law’s intrusive and vague provisions and asked for a delay in its implementation, but to no avail. It came into force on June 1st, and foreign firms are now scrambling to figure out its implications. Mr Fitzsimmons, for one, is convinced ...

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Unshackled algorithms: Machine-learning promises to shake up large swathes of finance

Print section Print Rubric:  More firms are experimenting with artificial intelligence Print Headline:  Unshackled algorithms Print Fly Title:  Machine-learning in finance UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  How to improve the health of the ocean Fly Title:  Unshackled algorithms Main image:  20170527_FND002_0.jpg MACHINE-LEARNING is beginning to shake up finance. A subset of artificial intelligence (AI) that excels at finding patterns and making predictions, it used to be the preserve of technology firms. The financial industry has jumped on the bandwagon. To cite just a few examples, “heads of machine-learning” can be found at PwC, a consultancy and auditing firm, at JP Morgan Chase, a large bank, and at Man GLG, a hedge-fund manager. From 2019, anyone seeking to become a “chartered financial analyst”, a sought-after distinction in the industry, will ...

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Babbage: Podcast: Anticipating terrorism

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Babbage Main image:  20170527_mma902.jpg Rubric:  In the wake of the Manchester bombing, Dr Robert Wesley explains how artificial intelligence can spot extremist behaviour early. Coloured light can now be used to control how genetically-engineered organisms behave. Also, what we must to do to preserve the oceans Published:  20170524 Enabled

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Babbage: Podcast: Technology in 2050

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Babbage Byline:  Economist.com Main image:  20170520_mma903.jpg This feature-length episode dives into the technology that will shape our world over the next decades. Host Kenn Cukier and The Economist's Executive Editor Daniel Franklin are joined by experts in artificial intelligence, cyber-security, healthcare and warfare to discuss how technology will transform many aspects of our lives Published:  20170518 Enabled

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From blue-chip to chip blues: Embattled Toshiba tries to sell its flash-memory unit

Print section Print Rubric:  An embattled giant tries to sell a crown jewel Print Headline:  Blue-chip chip blues Print Fly Title:  Toshiba’s chip blues UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Why Israel needs a Palestinian state Fly Title:  From blue-chip to chip blues ONCE an electronics and nuclear-power empire that was the pride of corporate Japan, Toshiba is threatened with a stockmarket delisting. It missed a deadline to file its annual results, on May 15th, for the third time this year. In earnings estimates (auditors are refusing to sign off on its results), it warned of a loss close to ¥1trn ($9bn) for the financial year that ended in March. That is the steepest loss on record for a Japanese manufacturer. To make things worse, Western Digital, an American joint-venture partner in its semiconductor unit, last week took legal action to block Toshiba’s plan to shed their flash-memory business. The case could drag on, but ...

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App wars: Tencent takes on Apple in China

Print section Print Rubric:  Tencent takes on Apple in China Print Headline:  App wars Print Fly Title:  Apple in China UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Why Israel needs a Palestinian state Fly Title:  App wars Location:  SHANGHAI Main image:  20170520_wbp506.jpg IN MOST of the world, the success of Apple’s “walled garden” of proprietary software has two elements. First, its attractive services: users tend to be addicted to its iTunes music shop and iBooks store. Second, the complexities involved in switching from an iPhone to another device without losing music files or having to re-download apps. Neither factor works as well in China. There, many of Apple’s services have not taken off. The American giant missed the boat on music sales in the country, reckons Matthew Brennan of China ...

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Hack me if you can: How governments in the Middle East snoop on human-rights activists

Print section Print Rubric:  Governments are paying millions to snoop on dissidents Print Headline:  Hack me if you can Print Fly Title:  Human rights in the Middle East UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Why Israel needs a Palestinian state Fly Title:  Hack me if you can Location:  CAIRO Main image:  20170520_MAD001_0.jpg ONLY a few hours after Azza Soliman, an Egyptian feminist, was arrested in December her colleagues received an e-mail supposedly containing her arrest warrant. It was a sham—slickly designed bait to lure them into handing over their passwords. The messages, sent while Ms Soliman was still being interrogated by police, were probably the work of the state security services. Researchers have documented nearly 100 similar hacking attempts to gain information from some of ...

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Cyber-security: The exploits of bug hunters

Print section Print Rubric:  Trading in software flaws is a booming business Print Headline:  The exploits of bug hunters Print Fly Title:  Cyber-security UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Why Israel needs a Palestinian state Fly Title:  Cyber-security Main image:  20170520_STD002_0.jpg TO HELP shield their products from ransomware like the recent worldwide WannaCry attack, most big software-makers pay “bug bounties” to those who report vulnerabilities in their products that need to be patched. Payouts of up to $20,000 are common. Google’s bounties reach $200,000, says Billy Rios, a former member of that firm’s award panel. This may sound like good money for finding a programming oversight, but it is actually “ridiculously low” according to Chaouki Bekrar, boss of Zerodium, a firm in Washington, DC, that is a dealer in “exploits”, as programs which take ...

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Cyber-crime: WannaCry should make people treat cyber-crime seriously

Print section Print Rubric:  Malware attacks are not new. But the spread of WannaCry might tip the balance towards treating them seriously Print Headline:  Electronic bandits Print Fly Title:  Cyber-crime UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Why Israel needs a Palestinian state Fly Title:  Cyber-crime Main image:  20170520_STD001_0.jpg IN 1933 Britain’s parliament was considering the Banditry bill—the government’s response to a crime wave. The problem was that criminals were using a newfangled invention, the motor car, to carry out robberies faster than the police could respond. The bill’s proposed answer to these “smash-and-grab” raids was to create new powers to search cars and to construct road blocks. In the end, the Banditry bill was not enacted. Its powers were too controversial. But the problem did not go away; what the bill proposed was eventually ...

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The worm that turned: The WannaCry attack reveals the risks of a computerised world

Print section Print Rubric:  Companies, individuals and governments need to wake up to the dangers of a computerised world Print Headline:  The worm that turned Print Fly Title:  The WannaCry attack UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Why Israel needs a Palestinian state Fly Title:  The worm that turned Main image:  20170520_ldp501.jpg IT SOUNDS like a Hollywood disaster film. A group of hackers use a stolen cyber-weapon to try to extort money from people worldwide. The attack cripples hospitals, causing ambulances to be diverted and operations to be cancelled. Then a lone security researcher stumbles across a way to halt the bug in its tracks. Yet that is exactly what happened last week when a piece of ransomware called WannaCry, which infects computers running outdated versions of Microsoft’s Windows operating system, hit not just Britain’s National ...

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Daily chart: Ransomware attacks were on the rise, even before the latest episode

Main image:  THE internet is wonderfully useful. The autodidact no longer needs a library. The film aficionado can live without a cinema. But life is easier for the extortionist as well, who can rob hundreds of thousands of people at once while still in pyjamas. Such power was on ample display this weekend, when a large cyber-attack afflicted an estimated 200,000 computers in 150 countries.The cyber-attack, dubbed “WannaCry”, was built to go global. It helpfully offers victims translations of its demand for money in 28 different languages, and does not discriminate much in its targets. Chinese universities, Russia’s interior ministry and Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) all saw their computer systems taken hostage in the attack. WannaCry is only the most recent example of “ransomware”, malicious programs that block access to files unless the victim pays off the hackers (usually in Bitcoin, an untraceable digital currency).Since 2014 the varieties of ransomware have more than tripled, according to the Internet Security Threat Report by Symantec, a computer-security vendor—a sign that internet bandits are catching on to the lucrative rewards it offers. The FBI reckons that CryptoWall, a particularly nasty strain of ransomware, netted at least $18m for cyber-crooks in 2015. Hackers are also ...

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Cybercrime: A large-scale cyber-attack highlights the structural dilemma of the NSA

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Cybercrime Main image:  20170520_blp901_apple_news.jpg IN BRITAIN, doctors could neither access their patients’ files nor make appointments to see those patients. In Russia, hundreds of the interior ministry’s workers sat idle. In China, students were locked out of their theses. As the latest cyber-attack rippled around the globe, infecting at least 45,000 computers in 74 countries, according to Kaspersky Labs, a Russian cyber-security firm, it seemed for a moment that the world was facing digital apocalypse. In the event, catastrophe was averted when somebody found a kill switch, which stopped the malicious software involved spreading further. The attackers will still make a pretty penny, however, and untold hours will have to be spent cleaning up the mess. What is more galling than that is that all of this was entirely avoidable. From the victims’ perspective, the Great Cyber Attack of May 12th was a typical, if widespread, example of extortion by “ransomware”, to which users of Microsoft’s Windows operating system are particularly vulnerable. After they had received ...

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Letters: Letters to the editor

Print section Print Fly Title:  On bonds, birds, sea levels, central banks, quantum computing, split infinitives UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The policy designed to make America great again Fly Title:  Letters The SeLFIES model “Taking the ultra-long view” (May 6th) overlooked other critical reasons for governments to issue ultra-long debt beyond locking-in their financing costs. With life expectancy increasing, pension funds and annuity-writing insurance companies require longer-maturing bonds to hedge their obligations. The looming crisis in defined-contribution pension plans, and the need to fund infrastructure, requires novel alternatives to traditional debt models. Currently, there is no truly safe, low-cost, liquid instrument tailored for retirees. But governments could issue an innovative, “safe” ultra-long bond instrument, which we call “SeLFIES” (Standard of Living indexed, Forward-starting, Income-only Securities). These proposed bonds start paying investors upon retirement, and pay coupons-only for a period equal to the average life ...

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Artificial intelligence: Why AI researchers like video games

Print section Print Rubric:  Why AI researchers are so keen on video games Print Headline:  Shall we play a game? Print Fly Title:  Artificial intelligence UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The policy designed to make America great again Fly Title:  Artificial intelligence Main image:  20170513_STD001_0.jpg LAST year Artur Filipowicz, a computer scientist at Princeton University, had a stop-sign problem. Mr Filipowicz is teaching cars how to see and interpret the world, with a view to them being able to drive themselves around unaided. One quality they will need is an ability to recognise stop signs. To that end, he was trying to train an appropriate algorithm. Such training meant showing this algorithm (or, rather, the computer running it) lots of pictures of lots of stop signs in lots of different circumstances: old signs and new signs; clean signs and ...

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Cloning voices: Imitating people’s speech patterns precisely could bring trouble

Print section Print Rubric:  It is now possible to imitate people’s speech patterns easily and precisely. That could bring trouble Print Headline:  You took the words right out of my mouth Print Fly Title:  Cloning voices UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Why an election offers the chance of a better Brexit Fly Title:  Cloning voices Main image:  20170422_STD001_0.jpg UTTER 160 or so French or English phrases into a phone app developed by CandyVoice, a new Parisian company, and the app’s software will reassemble tiny slices of those sounds to enunciate, in a plausible simulacrum of your own dulcet tones, whatever typed words it is subsequently fed. In effect, the app has cloned your voice. The result still sounds a little synthetic but CandyVoice’s boss, Jean-Luc Crébouw, reckons advances in the firm’s algorithms will render it increasingly natural. ...

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Telecomulonimbus: Cloudification will mean upheaval in telecoms

Print section Print Rubric:  Turning networks into software will trigger a storm in the telecoms world Print Headline:  Telecomulonimbus Print Fly Title:  Cloud computing and telecoms UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  As Turkey votes on a new constitution, it is sliding into dictatorship Fly Title:  Telecomulonimbus Main image:  20170415_WBD001_0.jpg IN THE computing clouds, startups can set up new servers or acquire data storage with only a credit card and a few clicks of a mouse. Now imagine a world in which they could as quickly weave their own wireless network, perhaps to give users of a fleet of self-driving cars more bandwidth or to connect wireless sensors. As improbable as it sounds, this is the logical endpoint of a development that is picking up speed in the telecoms world. Networks are becoming as flexible as computing clouds: they are being ...

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Automatic for the people: How Germany’s Otto uses artificial intelligence

Print section Print Rubric:  How Otto, a German e-commerce firm, uses artificial intelligence Print Headline:  Automatic for the people Print Fly Title:  Algorithmic retailing UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  As Turkey votes on a new constitution, it is sliding into dictatorship Fly Title:  Automatic for the people Location:  HAMBURG Main image:  20170415_wbp501.jpg A GLIMPSE into the future of retailing is available in a smallish office in Hamburg. From there, Otto, a German e-commerce merchant, is using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve its activities. The firm is already deploying the technology to make decisions at a scale, speed and accuracy that surpass the capabilities of its human employees. Big data and “machine learning” have been used in retailing for years, notably by ...

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Safety last: How to manage the computer-security threat

Print section Print Rubric:  Computers will never be secure. To manage the risks, look to economics rather than technology Print Headline:  The myth of cyber-security Print Fly Title:  Computer security UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  How to manage the computer-security threat Fly Title:  Safety last Main image:  20170408_LDD001_0.jpg COMPUTER security is a contradiction in terms. Consider the past year alone: cyberthieves stole $81m from the central bank of Bangladesh; the $4.8bn takeover of Yahoo, an internet firm, by Verizon, a telecoms firm, was nearly derailed by two enormous data breaches; and Russian hackers interfered in the American presidential election. Away from the headlines, a black market in computerised extortion, hacking-for-hire and stolen digital goods is booming. The problem is about to get worse. Computers increasingly deal not ...

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