Infosys chief executive Vishal Sikka resigns

Former Infosys chief executive Vishal Sikka

The chief executive of Infosys, Vishal Sikka, has resigned from his post with an unconventional and lengthy letter blaming “personal attacks”.

In the letter Mr Sikka said the “continuous drumbeat of distractions” contributed to his decision to resign.

It follows public criticism of the company and its board by its founders.

Infosys is one of India’s largest IT services firms. Shares in the firm plunged 9% following news of Mr Sikka’s departure.

Mr Sikka was appointed in June 2014 and tasked with turning around the struggling business.

The company announced he was resigning as chief executive and managing director with immediate effect, but would stay on as executive vice chairman.

Infosys chief operating officer U. B. Pravin Rao will take over as interim chief executive, the firm said.

The move follows disagreements between the company and its founders, who were unhappy with various decisions taken by the board.

The firm’s founders, who still own 12.75% of Infosys, had questioned a pay rise granted to Mr Sikka and the size of severance payouts given to other employees.

In his resignation letter, Mr Sikka covers a wide range of topics – from artificial intelligence, to the Charlottesville tragedy, Brexit and US President Donald Trump – as he explains his decision to step down.

He notes constant “distractions” frustrated his efforts to grow the company.

“Over the last many months and quarters, we have all been besieged by false, baseless, malicious and increasingly personal attacks,” he said.

“This continuous drumbeat of distractions and negativity over the last several months/quarters, inhibits our ability to make positive change and stay focused on value creation.

“Allegations that have been repeatedly proven false and baseless by multiple, independent investigations,” he wrote.

Under Mr Sikka’s leadership the firm, which exports IT services, has shifted away from traditional IT services to focus on new products.

Some parties, including the company’s founders, have been critical of the approach.


The bitter acrimony between the board and Infosys founders had been brewing for some time. But Mr Sikka’s decision to quit the company under these circumstances has left investors and shareholders worried.

In his first comments to analysts following his resignation, Mr Sikka described the continuous allegations against him by the founders headed by Mr Narayana Murthy as ‘sickening’. The Infosys board has backed Mr Sikka and squarely blamed Mr Murthy – the main founder of the company – for Mr Sikka’s resignation.

Infosys has been grappling with challenges the IT industry has faced in recent years. With the Trump administration cracking down on H1-B visas, which were primarily issued to Indian IT employees, profits of Indian IT firms have been under pressure.

The US is a significant market for the Indian IT industry, contributing more than 60% to overall revenues. There’s also the rise of artificial intelligence, which has led to massive job cuts at Indian IT firms.


In a statement, Infosys said it was “profoundly distressed” by the personal attacks on its management team in recent months.

The company denounced its critics and said the allegations had “harmed employee morale and contributed to the loss of the company’s valued CEO”.

It praised Mr Sikka’s efforts in providing a new direction for the company, increasing revenues and reducing employee attrition.

Mr Sikka will receive an annual salary of $1 in his new role as executive vice chairman.

How hackers are targeting the shipping industry

A laptop being used in a mock cyber attack

When staff at CyberKeel investigated email activity at a medium-sized shipping firm, they made a shocking discovery.

“Someone had hacked into the systems of the company and planted a small virus,” explains co-founder Lars Jensen. “They would then monitor all emails to and from people in the finance department.”

Whenever one of the firm’s fuel suppliers would send an email asking for payment, the virus simply changed the text of the message before it was read, adding a different bank account number.

“Several million dollars,” says Mr Jensen, were transferred to the hackers before the company cottoned on.

After the NotPetya cyber-attack in June, major firms including shipping giant Maersk .

In fact, Maersk that the incident could cost it as much as $300 million (£155 million) in profits.

But Mr Jensen has long believed that that the shipping industry needs to protect itself better against hackers – the fraud case dealt with by CyberKeel was just another example.

The firm was launched more than three years ago after Mr Jensen teamed up with business partner Morten Schenk, a former lieutenant in the Danish military who Jensen describes as “one of those guys who could hack almost anything”.

They wanted to offer penetration testing – investigative tests of security – to shipping companies. The initial response they got, however, was far from rosy.


“I got pretty consistent feedback from people I spoke to and that was, ‘Don’t waste your time, we’re pretty safe, there’s no need’,” he recalls.

Today, that sentiment is becoming rarer.

The consequences of suffering from the for Maersk included the shutting down of some port terminals managed by its subsidiary APM.

The industry is now painfully aware that physical shipping operations are vulnerable to digital disruption.

Breaking into a shipping firm’s computer systems can allow attackers to access sensitive information. One of the most serious cases that has been made public concerns a global shipping conglomerate that was hacked by pirates.

They wanted to find out which vessels were transporting the particular cargo they planned to seize.

A report on the case by the cyber-security team at telecoms company Verizon describes the precision of the operation.

“They’d board a vessel, locate by barcode specific sought-after crates containing valuables, steal the contents of that crate – and that crate only – and then depart the vessel without further incident,” it states.


But ships themselves, increasingly computerised, are vulnerable too. And for many, that’s the greatest worry.

Malware, including NotPetya and many other strains, is often designed to spread from computer to computer on a network. That means that connected devices on board ships are also potentially vulnerable.

“We know a cargo container, for example, where the switchboard shut down after ransomware found its way on the vessel,” says Patrick Rossi at consultancy DNV GL.

He explains that the switchboard manages power supply to the propeller and other machinery on board. The ship in question, moored at a port in Asia, was rendered inoperable for some time, adds Mr Rossi.

Crucial navigation systems such as the Electronic Chart Display (Ecdis) have also been hit. One such incident is recalled by Brendan Saunders, maritime technical lead at cyber-security firm NCC Group.

This also concerned a ship at an Asian port, but this time it was a large tanker weighing 80,000 tonnes.

One of the crew had brought a USB stick on board with some paperwork that needed to be printed. That was how the malware got into the ship’s computers in the first instance. But it was when a second crew member went to update the ship’s charts before sailing, also via USB, that the navigation systems were infected.

Departure was consequently delayed and an investigation launched.


“Ecdis systems pretty much never have anti-virus,” says Mr Saunders, pointing out the vulnerability. “I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a merchant ship Ecdis unit that had anti-virus on it.”

These incidents are hugely disruptive to maritime businesses, but truly catastrophic scenarios might involve a hacker attempting to sabotage or even destroy a ship itself, through targeted manipulation of its systems.

Could that happen? Could, for example, a determined and well-resourced attacker alter a vessel’s systems to provoke a collision?

“It’s perfectly feasible,” says Mr Saunders. “We’ve demonstrated proof-of-concept that that could happen.”

And the experts are finding new ways into ships’ systems remotely. One independent cyber-security researcher, who goes by the pseudonym of x0rz, recently used an app called Ship Tracker to find open satellite communication systems, VSat, on board vessels.

In x0rz’s case, the VSat on an actual ship in South American waters had default credentials – the username “admin” and password “1234” – and so was easy to access.

It would be possible, x0rz believes, to change the software on the VSat to manipulate it.


A targeted attack could even alter the co-ordinates broadcast by the system, potentially allowing someone to spoof the position of the ship – although shipping industry experts have that a spoofed location would likely be quickly spotted by maritime observers.

The manufacturer behind the VSat unit in question has blamed the customer in this case for not updating the default security credentials. The unit has since been secured.

It’s obvious that the shipping industry, like many others, has a lot of work to do on such issues. But awareness is growing.

The Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) have both recently launched guidelines designed to help ship owners protect themselves from hackers.

Patrick Rossi points out that crew with a poor understanding of the risks they take with USB sticks or personal devices should be made aware of how malware can spread between computers.

This is all the more important because the personnel on board vessels can change frequently, as members go on leave or are reassigned.

But there are more than 51,000 commercial ships in the world. Together, they carry the vast majority – 90% – of the world’s trade. Maersk has already experienced significant disruption thanks to a piece of particularly virulent malware.

The question many will be asking in the wake of this and other cases now being made public is: What might happen next?

Roaming downtime hits customers on Three in Europe

Three logo

Roaming services have now been fixed for all customers on the Three mobile network in France, Portugal and Luxembourg, the operator has said.

Three apologised for the issue, which had lasted since yesterday.

On Twitter, several customers complained about problems they had experienced.

“The issue with our roaming partners which was affecting roaming service in France, Portugal and Luxembourg has now been fixed,” said Three in a statement.

“We apologise for any inconvenience.”

One : “I’m travelling alone and can’t make any calls or send any texts.”

Another said: “I’m driving to Paris tomorrow, and I’ve got to follow road signs because I have no connection for my Google Maps.”

BBC journalist Dougal Shaw – on holiday in France – also that he had been affected.

“I got lost in a market,” he wrote.

Very few girls took computing A-level

Girls with laptop

A worrying statistic for the tech industry was revealed in freshly-released A-level data – only 9.8% of those completing a computing course were girls.

It comes amid a storm in Silicon Valley over the number of women employed in the tech industry.

Experts agree that the world faces a digital skills shortage and that a more even gender balance is crucial.

One industry body worried that too few boys were also choosing the subject.

“Today’s announcement that nearly 7,600 students in England took A-level computing means it’s not going to be party time in the IT world for a long time to come,” said Bill Mitchell, director of education at the IT Chartered Institute, BCS.

He said that it fell well short of the 40,000 level that “we should be seeing”.

But he added that the fact so few girls were taking the subject was particularly worrying.

“At less than 10%, the numbers of girls taking computing A-level are seriously low.”

“We know that this a problem starting at primary school and it’s something that we need to address at all levels throughout education.

“As a society, we need to make sure that our young women are leaving education with the digital skills they need to secure a worthwhile job, an apprenticeship or go on to further study.”

The figures, from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), are not all bad news. They reveal that there has been a 34% rise in the number of female students sitting the computer science exam, up to 816 from 609 in 2016.

Google engineer James Damore caused controversy this month when he penned a memo suggesting that there were fewer women at Google because of biological differences. The search giant sacked him over the remarks, saying they were “offensive”.

A recent survey of 1,000 university students conducted by audit firm KPMG suggested that only 37% of young women were confident they had the tech skills needed by today’s employers.

A total of 73% said that they had not considered a graduate job in technology.

Aidan Brennan, KPMG’s head of digital transformation, said: “The issue here isn’t around competency – far from it – but rather how businesses understand the underlying capability of an individual and how to unlock it.

“I think this research highlights the work that needs to be done to show the next generation that when it comes to a career in tech, gender isn’t part of the equation.

“Competition for jobs is tough and we know that female job seekers can be less likely to apply for a role than their male counterparts if they don’t feel they already possess every prerequisite the job demands.”

Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, who founded the charity Stemettes to persuade more girls to pursue careers in Science, Technology Engineering and Maths has her own view about the low number of girls taking A-level computing.

“Girls often don’t want to be the only one in the class so they tend not to pick the subject when it is an option,” she said.

“Also, it’s often not even an option in a lot of schools so it’s an uphill battle but fortunately, a lot of computer science courses take A-level maths students, so there is a very viable route for girls into the course itself and related courses.”

Chinese media ‘racist’ video on India clash sparks anger

Screenshot of Xinhua video on Doklam standoff

Chinese state media have released a propaganda video that lambasts India over a border dispute, sparking accusations of racism.

, accusing India of committing “sins”, features a Chinese actor in a Sikh turban, speaking in a mock Indian accent.

Xinhua published the clip on Wednesday from a chat show discussing a border stand-off between the two countries.

It has been met with both bewilderment and anger in India, and amongst Sikhs.

Titled “7 Sins of India”, the video stars female presenter, Dier Wang, who lists out China’s grievances against India in the in the Doklam area, which borders China, India and Bhutan.

It is the latest episode of an online series called The Spark, an English-language online chat show recently launched by Xinhua.

Speaking in an amused yet indignant tone, she accuses India of “trampling international law” and “inventing various excuses to whitewash its illegal moves”.


Her monologue is interspersed with dialogue from an “Indian”, depicted by a Chinese actor wearing a turban, sunglasses, and an obviously ill-fitting beard.

In what appear to be attempts at humour, he waggles his head and speaks English in an exaggerated Indian accent, amid canned laughter.

In another scene he points a pair of scissors at another actor who is supposed to represent Bhutan – a clear reference to the Chinese view that India is “bullying” the tiny Himalayan nation.


The video appears to be solely targeted at a foreign audience. It is delivered entirely in English and appears on Xinhua’s YouTube, Twitter and Facebook feeds – services which are banned in China.

Chinese reports say the online chat show aims to “comment on hot domestic and international topics from China’s perspective and with an international vision”.

Previous episodes have also focused on the stand-off and Sino-Indian relations, as well as relations with the US and President Donald Trump, but were more sober than this one.

Indian news outlets have rounded on the video, slamming it as racist.

said Xinhua released “a racist video parodying Indians” which “particularly targets the Sikh minority”.

News portal said it was “yet another attempt by Chinese media to push its aggressive rhetoric on the stand-off”, while accused Chinese media of going a “step further” in mocking India.

The UK-based Sikh Press Association said it was “sad to see just how low Chinese media have stooped in using Sikh identity as a pawn in their state propaganda against India,” pointing out that Sikhs make up less than 2% of India’s population.

The video also prompted criticism from social media users.

Skip Twitter post by @ananthkrishnan

FYI @XHNews: It's not okay in the 21st century to have someone dress up in a turban, mock an Indian accent. Shocking from official agency. pic.twitter.com/1oC0MsOG59

— Ananth Krishnan (@ananthkrishnan) August 16, 2017

Report

End of Twitter post by @ananthkrishnan

Skip Twitter post by @jojjeols

Propaganda is not enough for Xinhua, it now also makes racist videos about India. This is really unbelievable coming from state news wire. https://t.co/doU7bPO8J1

— Jojje Olsson (@jojjeols) August 17, 2017

Report

End of Twitter post by @jojjeols

But it has also generated some debate on the Doklam stand-off, with many on Facebook arguing about which country has sovereignty over the disputed territory.

The conflict began in mid-June when India opposed China’s attempt to extend a border road through a plateau known as Doklam in India and Donglang in China.

The plateau, which lies at a junction between China, the north-eastern Indian state of Sikkim and the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, is currently disputed between Beijing and Bhutan. India supports Bhutan’s claim over it.

India and China fought a war over the border in 1962, and disputes remain unresolved in several areas, causing tensions to rise from time to time.

Each side has reinforced its troops and called on the other to back down.

On Wednesday, Indian officials said another border confrontation had flared up, this time in

Chatbot helps students choose courses

The Leeds Beckett chatbot

Leeds Beckett University has launched a chatbot to help prospective students find the right course.

It follows the publication of A-level results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Using Facebook Messenger’s chatbot technology, students would be able to “assess their suitability” for different courses, the university said.

But if they would prefer to speak to a human, “phone lines will continue to be open throughout the clearing process”.

The university’s head of digital experience and engagement, Dougal Scaife, said: “We know that our prospective students already use lots of messaging software for communicating with their friends, such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, as well as texting, so developing a chatbot was a natural evolution in order to engage with our prospective students in a medium that is ubiquitous, familiar, and comfortable for them.”

Pamela Clark-Dickson, an analyst at research firm Ovum, thinks it is a good use of the technology.

“More and more organisations are using chatbots and for quite simple tasks they can be useful and effective.”

“It frees up human agents to deal with more complex enquiries.”

Leeds Beckett is not the first university to employ chatbot technologies.

Georgia Tech University used a chatbot to answer questions from students enrolled in an artificial intelligence course last year.

It is dubbed Jill Watson because it is based on IBM’s Watson technology.

The chatbot was one of nine teaching assistants answering thousands of questions on the course’s online forum.

And Prof Ashok Goel, who hired Jill Watson, did not reveal that she was not human until after the students had completed their final exams.

China cracks down on VPN vendors

Chinese net user

China’s latest crackdown on those attempting to skirt state censorship controls has seen it warn e-commerce platforms over the sale of illegal virtual private networks (VPNs).

Five websites, including shopping giant Alibaba, have been asked to remove vendors that sell VPNs.

It is the latest in a series of measures from the Chinese government to maintain strict control over content.

Apple has previously been asked to remove VPN apps.

A virtual private network (VPN) uses servers abroad to provide a secure link to the internet. It allows users in China to access parts of the outside world like Facebook, Gmail or YouTube, all of which are blocked in the country.

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EXPLAINED: What is a VPN service?

China’s cyber-regulator the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has ordered the websites to carry out immediate “self-examination and correction”.

“The CAC has ordered these five sites to immediately carry out a comprehensive clean-up of harmful information, close corresponding illegal account.. and submit a rectification report by a deadline,” the regulator said in a statement.

Authorities in China have already taken down popular celebrity gossip social media accounts and extended restrictions on what news can be produced and distributed by online platforms.

As well as clamping down on dozens of local VPNs, the authorities have ordered Apple and other app stores to remove foreign VPN apps that allow users to access websites censored by the Chinese government.

Daily Stormer: Cloudflare drops neo-Nazi site


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The Daily Stormer has been a source of significant controversy in recent days

A neo-Nazi site that disparaged a woman who died during protests in Charlottesville has faced another wave of rejection by web companies.

The Daily Stormer’s account with Cloudflare – which protects websites from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks – has been terminated.

Cloudflare’s chief executive Matthew Prince said he had “had enough”, in a .

However, he added that he felt conflicted over the decision.

“Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet,” wrote Mr Prince.

“No-one should have that power.”

On Sunday, the Daily Stormer published an article denigrating Heather Heyer, 32, who was killed after a car rammed into protesters against a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

This led to a backlash in which the site had to switch domain name registrars twice in 24 hours, after from their services.

Cloudflare’s service involves handling web users’ requests to view a site and filtering out those that appear to be coming from systems set up to overload the site.

Without such protection, websites can sometimes be knocked offline.

Mr Prince said leaving the site open to DDoS attacks could lead to “vigilante justice”, published later on Wednesday.

However, he also said: “Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion.

“The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.”

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EXPLAINED: What is a DDoS attack?

Earlier in the week, the Daily Stormer was set up as a site on the dark web and later relocated its open web presence to a Russian domain name ending “.ru”.

A spokesman for the Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor said it had asked web firm Ru-Center to shut this down.

A BBC check on Thursday morning found that the .ru address no longer appeared to be working.

The Daily Stormer has faced frustration elsewhere in recent days.

Three Twitter accounts associated with the site that had previously been active were suddenly listed as “suspended” on Wednesday.

And cyber-security researcher Joseph Evers an internet chat channel he said was used by staff at the Daily Stormer.

Describing himself as having once been a “free speech absolutist”, Mr Evers added: “I’m glad to do my small part in countering white supremacy.”

Besides the Daily Stormer’s case, this week Paypal reiterated its stance on blocking donations to organisations that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance.

“This includes organizations that advocate racist views, such as the KKK, white supremacist groups or Nazi groups,” the payment-processing firm said.

Internet companies were facing a “dilemma” over how to balance support for freedom of speech with a desire not to encourage hate groups, said Prof Eric Heinze, at Queen Mary, University of London.

“Had the Charlottesville events not occurred, the hate sites would still be operating from Cloudflare, GoDaddy, and other such venues,” he told the BBC.

“Some might call it satisfactory to wait until actual harm occurs before closing such a site. But others will say that’s too little and too late.”

Apple boss Tim Cook joins Donald Trump condemnation

Tim Cook

Apple chief executive Tim Cook has become the latest boss to criticise President Donald Trump over his response to the white nationalist rallies in Virginia.

Mr Cook said he did not agree there was a “moral equivalence” between white supremacists and “those who oppose them”.

Mr Trump after top bosses resigned.

Mr Cook said Apple will also make donations to human rights charities.

In an email to staff Mr Cook said: “I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights.

“Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.”

He added that “in the wake of the tragic and repulsive events in Charlottesville, we are stepping up to help organisations who work to rid our country of hate”.

Apple will donate $1m to both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. It will also match two-for-one any staff donations to these and several other human rights groups until 30 September, Mr Cook said.

On Wednesday, Mr Trump said he was scrapping two business councils after more bosses quit over his handling of the violent clashes in Virginia.

Business leaders left the White House manufacturing council after the backlash against how he reacted to the far-right rally last weekend.

The clashes culminated in a woman’s death and nearly 20 wounded when a car ploughed into a crowd of anti-fascist protesters.

Mr Trump’s reaction has sparked outrage and generated global headlines.

His announcement on Twitter came as the heads of 3M, Campbell Soup, Johnson & Johnson and United Technologies announced their resignations on Wednesday.


Mr Trump said: “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both.”

Before Mr Trump’s announcement, the Strategy and Policy Forum announced it was a joint decision to disband the council.

Businesses have been under pressure to distance themselves from Mr Trump over his handling of the clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

On Monday, Mr Trump belatedly condemned the white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups that rallied in a small Virginia town on Sunday.

But in a rancorous news conference on Tuesday he backtracked and again blamed left-wing counter-protesters for the violence too.

JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon, a member of the Strategy and Policy Forum, released a separate statement on Wednesday saying he strongly disagreed with Mr Trump’s recent statements, adding that “fanning divisiveness is not the answer”.

“Constructive economic and regulatory policies are not enough and will not matter if we do not address the divisions in our country. It is a leader’s role, in business or government, to bring people together, not tear them apart,” he said.

Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup said she could not continue to participate in the advisory panel after Mr Trump’s comments. Activists had called on Campbell Soup, among other firms, to take action.

HBO social media hacked in latest cyber security breach

Jon Snow and Drogon

HBO’s Facebook and Twitter accounts have been compromised in the latest cyber security breach to hit the firm.

A group called OurMine appeared to take control of the main HBO accounts, as well as those for the network’s shows including Game of Thrones.

One post said “OurMine are here. we are just testing your security”.

It is the latest cyber security headache for the entertainment firm after hackers released Game of Thrones scripts and company data.


Some of the social media posts were removed quickly afterwards.

HBO did not immediately respond to the BBC’s request for comment.

OurMine has a reputation for hacking high profile Twitter accounts.

Last year it , as well as Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai.


The hack is the latest in a string of security setbacks for HBO in recent weeks.

Unidentified hackers claim to have stolen 1.5TB of data from the company in July.

Out of the haul they released Game of Thrones scripts, company documents and unbroadcast episodes of HBO’s other shows including and Insecure.

Separately, for leaking an episode of Game of Thrones before it aired. The accused were current and former employees of a Mumbai-based company that stores and processes the series for an online streaming service.

Next came a leak in Europe. An episode of the fantasy show was on to its broadcaster’s Spanish and Nordic streaming platforms days before it was scheduled to be broadcast.

The episode, titled Death is the Enemy, has since been withdrawn, but not before it was copied and circulated on several file-sharing platforms.