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Mishandled CIA Communications System Helped Blow Cover of Chinese Agents

New report has described how a catastrophic failure on the part of the Central Intelligence Agency, combined with the Chinese government’s steadily more sophisticated internet monitoring capabilities, led to the dramatic collapse of an American intelligence network in China and the executions of dozens of spies and their associates. The incident is just one example of how authorities in Beijing are overseeing the creation of an ever more effective police state, complete with technology and tactics straight out of a certain genre of near-future science fiction movie.

It is considered as one of the CIA’s worst failures in decades: Over a two-year period starting in late 2010, Chinese authorities systematically broke up the agency’s network of agents across the country, executing dozens of suspected U.S. spies. But since then, a question has loomed over the entire debacle.

Foreign Policy revealed how Chinese state security officials were able to completely demolish a CIA-run intelligence operation over the course of two years, beginning in 2010.  The New York Times first broke the news of the debacle in 2017, but its sources either did not disclose or did not know exactly what had happened or the true scale of China’s response. In May 2018, U.S. officials charged former CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee with conspiracy to commit espionage over the affair, nearly five months after indicting him for retaining classified information.

The CIA turned to the FBI to help uncover the source of the leak, according to the report. That investigation helped turn up Lee, who allegedly received tens of thousands of dollars to deliver information to the Chinese Ministry of State Security, which oversees both foreign and internal intelligence operations.

Xinjiang, where Uighurs, a non-Chinese Turkic ethnic group that is predominantly Muslim, make up the bulk of the population, has been an ideal setting to test out new equipment and concepts of operation far from both Han Chinese and outside observers.

To help exercise social control, China has put into place one of the most elaborate surveillance architectures in the world, complete with omnipresent cameras connected to monitoring stations running advanced facial recognition software, checkpoints with paramilitary police, and a system of systems all tied to a government-issued identification card that includes a “score” of how much a threat an individual poses to the state. Authorities have also begun implementing mass biometric data collection, including blood and DNA samples, to go along with other official information on file. All this can limit a person’s ability to buy goods and services or get a job.

The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP

An archway with no less than seven cameras in front of the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgarin in Xinjiang.

After a spate of knife attacks in Xinjiang by alleged separatists, Chinese officials instituted a policy where cutlery vendors must physically laser-etch a QR code linked the buyer’s ID into the blade.

In July 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported that some 11,500 Uighurs that the Chinese government had approved to go on the Hajj, the sacred Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, had to carry special cards with a GPS tracker inside on a lanyard around their necks. Ostensibly for their own safety in the event of some sort of crisis, this system would obviously be able to monitor their every movement and it seems likely that anyone who decided to leave it behind would, if nothing else, take a serious hit on their social scorecard.

The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP

A security guards man a checkpoint with a metal detector and an ID scanning system in a shopping mall in Xinjiang’s Kashgarin.

 Recently added in Xinjiang itself are small drones shaped like birds with realistically flapping wings, according to a June 2018 report from the South China Morning Post. These “Doves” can fly for thirty minutes and carry a small, color video camera and an ability to transmit the feed down to an individual on the ground. It reportedly has a GPS antenna and could be able to fly a pre-programmed route or operate under line-of-sight control.

The Chinese are “applying a very, very broad attempted solution to what they see as an ideological danger,” James Millward, who teaches Chinese history at The Georgetown University, told The Atlantic earlier in August 2018. “In Xinjiang, the definition of extremism has expanded so far as to incorporate.

Northwestern Polytechnical University

China’s “Dove” drone, a product of the country’s Northwestern Polytechnical University.

 

Imaginechina via AP

Chinese police officers and dogs, all with cameras, in Tiananmen Square.

China’s Police are now wearing Google Glass-style headsets with similar recognition capabilities to spot repeat offenders for crimes as minor as jaywalking. In the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, public restrooms use facial recognition software to give out only a specific amount of toilet paper per person. Even the police dogs have cameras.

 

 

Sixteen Year Old Teen Hacks Into Apple

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  • A 16 year old Australian teenager pleaded guilty to hacking Apple, stealing 90 gigabytes of secure files, and accessing customer accounts.
  • The 16-year-old broke into Apple’s mainframe several times over the course of a year, according to The Age, and stored hacking instructions on his laptop under a folder named “hacky hack hack.”
  • Apple identified and reported the hack to the FBI. It said “at no point during this incident” was personal user data compromised.
  • The teen will return to the court for sentencing in September.

The UPS TentativeDeal

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A tentative deal for a new labor contract between UPS and the Teamsters union creates a new category of drivers to handle weekend shifts, as the increase in online shopping prompts increased demand for deliveries on the weekends.

The deal also calls for the company to review technological changes with the union six months before rolling out changes, such as the deployment of delivery drones, driverless vehicles or some other innovation, according to a document on the deal released by the Teamsters on Tuesday.

Research Says Shoppers Will Leave Checkout Line If Checkout Is Too Hard

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  • a recent consumer study by Splitit, 87% of online shoppers said they would leave their shopping carts during checkout if the process was too difficult. And on top of that, 55% admitted they would never return to the retailer’s site.
  • In addition, 90% of shoppers over 55 would not follow through with a purchase and 7% would never return to the site after a lengthy checkout process. Ads are another checkout annoyance, with 28% of consumers over 45 saying they would leave their cart if they felt there were too many ads.
  • Overall, digital cart abandonment is currently as high as 70%. Gil Don, CEO and co-founder of Splitit, noted in the release that, “Online merchants must be sure to include clear and easy ways to enter customer details, choose delivery options and make payments, while ensuring that the process does not become cumbersome for the shopper.”
  • No. 1 reason for shopping cart abandonment — cited by 58% of consumers — is high shipping costs. Another 8% cited longer-than-desired delivery times as reasons to abort. In an era of Amazon Prime’s free two-day delivery, other retailers are under pressure to match with free delivery or include other incentives at checkout to continue to compete with the marketplace giant.
  • A study by Optimizely, reported in Biz Rate, states that 35% of all shoppers can be turned off of a brand from just a single bad user experience.

 

Silicon Vallye’s Number One Enemy’s Next Target –Apple

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Silicon Valley’s enemy number one, Margrethe Vestager, has revealed her next target — and it’s bad news for Apple.

The European Union’s competition commissioner is a genuine thorn in the side of US tech giants, patrolling and enforcing antitrust laws with a vigour that last month saw her slap Google with a record $5 billion fine .

Now the dust is settling on the EU’s action against Google for exploiting the dominance of Android, Vestager is casting around for her next tech project. And we got a big clue about what it is this week.

Vestager said her team is about to launch a review of smartphone chargers, as a result of concerns that tech firms have not acted on a promise to standardize charging points.

Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and Nokia were among 14 companies to sign a voluntary deal in 2009, agreeing to harmonize chargers for new models of smartphones coming into the market in 2011.

Margrethe Vestager
Margrethe Vestager.
Reuters

Vestager said progress against this aim had not been good enough. “Given the unsatisfactory progress with this voluntary approach, the Commission will shortly launch an impact assessment study to evaluate costs and benefits of different other options,” she said.

This could spell all sorts of trouble for Apple. Android phones use either USB-C and micro-USB connectors into the handset, and Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector is something of an outlier. This may make it an obvious target for Vestager’s investigation.

Artificial Intelligence Changing The Way People Are Hired

 

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AI, can help HR understand whether they need to put in more sources to shorten hiring cycles for critical vacancies. Alongside, AI also helps HR pitch the job opportunity to extremely relevant candidates, thus weeding out outliers, and contributing to shortening the hiring cycle even more.

Recruitment agencies, as well as enterprise HR, have already adopted chatbots to perform many of the repetitive tasks that HR executives have to perform otherwise.

AI can help. Whether it’s sourcing, scheduling, or screening, AI-powered tools have a lot to offer to make the recruitment process better for everyone involved. AI-based programs can connect with different sources of candidate information and initiate email conversations.

The same tools can then build candidate profiles, keep on following up for a formal application, track application progress, and filter relevant applications from the larger set.

AI-powered tools can also engage in natural conversations with candidates on social media, mobile platforms, and instant messengers, using natural language processing capabilities to ensure the conversations are enjoyable and value adding. Apart from this AI has a role to play in scheduling candidate interviews and interactions without requiring an executive to do all the arrangements.

Cultural mismatch is a major reason why people leave organizations. AI can help you mitigate the cultural mismatch between your organization and your employees. AI-based tools can help build dynamic questionnaires which are used to assign cultural scores and grades to employees, and then match them with the cultural attributes of the organization, to determine better fits.

A 2017 Glassdoor report suggests that almost 66 percent of millennials expect to leave their current job by 2020. AI seeks to  reduce the numbers for your organization, saving you time and money.

New York Plans To Cap Uber & Lyfte

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New York City Council moved to impose a slate of new regulations on ride-hailing services. If Mayor Bill de Blasio signs off on the new legislation, New York would be the first city in the U.S. to cap the number of Uber and Lyft vehicles, as well as establish a minimum wage for drivers. It would also impose a new license requirement with more robust data-sharing requirements for the fiercely proprietary companies.

During the year-long cap on vehicle growth, the city would also conduct an impact study of the services. However, foes say it could lead to higher fares and more limited services. Ride-hailing has devastated the yellow cab industry, which is highly regulated in New York City compared to Uber and Lyft. Taxi medallions, once highly sought, have plummeted in value since TNCs came onto the scene, casting many drivers into financial ruin & death. A 2017 survey by the Independent Drivers Guild, which represents ride-hailing drivers, found that 57 percent of app based drivers bring in less than $50,000 annually, and 22 percent less than $30,000.

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