Watchdog clamps down on online gambling

Online gambling

The competition regulator is to take action against some online gambling companies which it suspects of breaking consumer law.

The some punters did not get the deal they expected from sign-up promotions offering cash bonuses to attract them to gaming websites.

The CMA also said the firms were “unfairly holding onto people’s money”.

Online gambling companies should “play fair”, said the CMA.

Nisha Arora, CMA senior director for consumer enforcement said: “New customers are being enticed by tempting promotions only to find the dice are loaded against them.

“And players can find a whole host of hurdles in their way when they want to withdraw their money.”

The CMA launched its investigation into the gambling sector . It has since heard from about 800 “unhappy” customers and has “demanded companies answer questions about how they operate, and closely examined the play on a range of websites”.

As a result it has identified “a number of operators engaging in practices likely to be breaking consumer law”, which is why it is taking enforcement action.



The controversial promotions involve terms and conditions which prevent punters from walking away from play with their winnings at a point of their choosing.

For example, someone might bet £10 of their own money which is then matched by £10 from the online betting company.

However, in the terms and conditions of play it might state that the customer has to play several hundred times within a certain period of time before they can cash in their winnings.

In some instances, under these “wagering requirements” people have amassed winnings of several thousand pounds but they have had to keep on betting, said the CMA, meaning that their chances of losing money increase.

“They don’t have the choice to quit while they’re ahead and walk away with their winnings when they want to,” the CMA said.


The Remote Gambling Association (RGA), whose members include many online gambling firms, said it would take “some time to digest and consider properly” the CMA announcement.

“However, where failings are identified companies individually will rectify them,” it added.

“If there are generic lessons to be learned then, as ever, we will work with the Gambling Commission to bring those to the attention of the wider industry with a view to raising standards across the board.”

Initially the CMA is talking to the companies involved, which it says it cannot name, demanding that they change their practices.

If they do not meet the requirements, the CMA can take them to court. The court could fine the companies or ultimately revoke their licences.

The Gambling Commission has been working alongside the CMA on the investigation.

It said identity checks were an “important duty” for the gambling industry to “prevent money laundering and to ensure responsible gambling”.

But, it added, concerns had been raised that some operators might be “applying these requirements in a restrictive way, preventing consumers from legitimately withdrawing funds from their gambling accounts”.

The online gambling sector has grown by about 150% since 2009 and is worth £4.5bn. The CMA said more than 6.5 million people regularly use the sites.

The CMA’s George Lusty led the investigation. “If you’re required to place hundreds of thousands of bets before you can make a withdrawal, then that is going to require you to invest a lot of time into these promotions,” he told the BBC.

“Our main interest is these casino-type products, but we do also have some concerns in relation to free sports bets promotions as well.”

The CMA is also asking for other people who have had trouble withdrawing their money to come forward by 31 August to help it “probe this issue even further”.



Chris Sattin from Gloucester was playing roulette on a website called Maria Casino and won £35,000, but he wasn’t allowed to withdraw his winnings.

He told Radio 4’s You and Yours: “I was shaking, my adrenaline was pumping. I pressed on the iPhone to withdraw, but nothing was happening. Because I’d never won these sums of money before, I thought maybe it’s only happening because it’s a large sum of money and I need to contact customer services.”

Maria Casino told Chris he had an account with its sister company Unibet, and he had used a self-exclusion feature on the site – something introduced by the Gambling Commission to help problem gamblers.

Chris told the company he had self-excluded only to close his account. But Maria Casino said this breached the company’s terms and conditions.

You and Yours contacted Maria Casino about Chris’s case and they decided to pay him the £35,000 winnings.

WannaCry helps speeding drivers dodge fines in Australia

Peak hour traffic in Melbourne as the morning fog makes way for sunrise

Hackers behind the infamous WannaCry virus have inadvertently helped speeding Australian drivers avoid costly speeding fines.

Fifty five traffic cameras, most in inner-city Melbourne, were infected by the ransomware.

A maintenance worker unknowingly uploaded the malware to the camera network using a USB stick on 6 June.

Victorian Police have cancelled 590 speeding and red-light fines despite the belief they were correctly issued.

“I cancelled the fines because I think it’s important the public has 100% confidence in the system,” Acting Deputy Commissioner Ross Guenther said.

Police detected the virus last week after noticing that cameras were rebooting more often than usual.

The virus infected organisations in 150 countries in May.

Among those affected were the UK’s National Health Service, US logistics giant FedEx and Russia’s interior ministry.

Facebook launches initiative to fight online hate speech

Facebook

Facebook is launching a UK initiative to train and fund local organisations to combat extremism and hate speech.

It comes a week after the social network from its site.

The UK Online Civil Courage Initiative’s initial partners include Imams Online and the Jo Cox Foundation.

Facebook has faced criticism for being slow to react to terrorist propaganda on its platforms.

“The recent terror attacks in London and Manchester – like violence anywhere – are absolutely heartbreaking,” said Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg.

“No-one should have to live in fear of terrorism – and we all have a part to play in stopping violent extremism from spreading.

“We know we have more to do – but through our platform, our partners and our community we will continue to learn to keep violence and extremism off Facebook.”

In recent months, governments across Europe have been pushing for technology companies to take more action to prevent online platforms from being used to spread extremist propaganda.

In particular, security services have criticised Facebook, Twitter and Google for relying too much on other people to report inappropriate content, rather than spotting it themselves.

In April, Germany passed a bill to fine social networks up to €50m (£44m) if they failed to give users the option to report hate speech and fake news, or if they refused to remove illegal content flagged as either images of child sexual abuse or inciting terrorism.

Following the , UK PM Theresa May announced that new international agreements needed to be introduced to regulate the internet in order to “deprive the extremists of their safe spaces online”.

And last week in Paris, Mrs May and French President Emmanuel Macron to look at how they could make the internet safe, including making companies legally liable if they refused to remove certain content.

Similar initiatives to counter hate speech were launched in Germany in January 2016 and in France in March 2017.

They have held training workshops with more than 100 anti-hate and anti-extremism organisations across Europe, and reached 3.5 million people online through its Facebook page.

In the UK, people are being encouraged to visit the , to share stories, content and ideas, and use the hashtag #civilcourage.

Brendan Cox, the widower of murdered MP Jo Cox and the founder of the Jo Cox Foundation, has welcomed the move.

“This is a valuable and much needed initiative from Facebook in helping to tackle extremism,” he said.

“Anything that helps push the extremists even further to the margins is greatly welcome. Social media platforms have a particular responsibility to address hate speech that has too often been allowed to flourish online.

“It is critical that efforts are taken by all online service providers and social networks to bring our communities closer together and to further crack down on those that spread violence and hatred online.”

Danger map reveals health threat zone

Danger map

South America is a hotbed of potential viruses that could be the next major threat to the world’s health, according to “danger maps”.

The EcoHealth Alliance in New York looked at mammals, the viruses they harbour and how they come into contact with people.

It revealed bats carry more potential threats than other mammals.

The researchers hope the knowledge could be used to prevent the next HIV, Ebola or flu.

Some of the most worrying infections have made the jump from animals to people – the world’s largest Ebola outbreak while HIV came from chimpanzees.


The researchers’ challenge – and it was far from easy – was to predict from where the next could emerge.

They looked at all 586 viruses known to infect 754 species of mammal. This included 188 zoonotic infections – those that have infected both humans and other mammals.

But they also knew some species had been studied in incredible detail while others had been practically ignored.

So the researchers used the information they did know to fill the gaps in their knowledge and estimate which species were harbouring viruses with the potential to infect people.

The study, published in the journal Nature, predicts 17 zoonotic infections in every species of bat and 10 in every species of primate and rodent.

The team then mapped the ranges of species and the infections they carry to work out where the world’s danger zones are.



The threat from rodents was again global, but with a concentration in South America.

Dr Kevin Olival, one of the researchers, told the BBC News website: “The missing hotspots are different for different groups of mammals in different parts of the world, but the bat signal overwhelms some of the others.

“But I’m not scared of bats, it’s not the bat’s fault.”

The researchers hope their maps will help the world prepare for the next infection that makes the jump.

Dr Olival added: “Our take-home message is these diseases are emerging because of the human impact on the environment. Our answer is minimise our contact with wildlife, including through hunting and habitat destruction.”

James Lloyd-Smith. from the University of California, Los Angeles, said: “Although most pandemics are zoonoses, most zoonoses do not cause pandemics.

“[The] predictions are best used to prioritise research and viral surveillance efforts, not to drive specific policy decisions.”

The researchers’ next project will look at birds which are another source of zoonotic infections such as avian flu.

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Mexican president denies spying on journalists, lawyers and activists

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto delivers a speech during an event in Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco. 22 June 2017

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has strongly denied his government spied on prominent journalists and activists by hacking their phones.

He said there was “nothing more false” than to suggest his government was behind the installation of spyware.

Several alleged victims have filed a criminal complaint following reports that the Israeli-made spyware had been found on their mobile phones.

Mexican prosecutors have opened an investigation.

A report in the said lawyers, journalists and activists investigating corruption and human rights abuses in Mexico were targeted with spyware that can infiltrate smartphones and monitor calls, texts and other communications.

The software, known as Pegasus, was sold to Mexican federal agencies by Israeli company NSO Group on the condition that it only be used to investigate criminals and terrorists.


An internet watchdog at the University of Toronto sent to Mexican journalists and lawyers which contained links to the NSO Group’s spyware.

Speaking at an event in the state of Jalisco, Mr Peña Nieto said those accusing his administration had to produce more evidence.

“This government categorically rejects any type of intervention in the private life of any citizen,” he said.

“None of the people who feel aggrieved can affirm, demonstrate or show evidence that their life has been affected by these supposed interventions and by this alleged espionage.”

On Wednesday, the Mexican attorney general’s office said prosecutors would investigate the origin of the fake messages as well as the supplier of the spyware.


  • A link is usually sent in a message to a smartphone. If the person taps on it, the spyware is installed, and huge amounts of private data – text messages, photos, emails, location data, even what is being picked up by the device’s microphone and camera – is hacked
  • Very little is known about NSO Group, the secretive Israel-based company behind Pegasus, but security researchers have called it a cyber arms dealer. The company was thought to be worth $1bn (£780m) in 2015
  • The company has acknowledged that it sells tools to governments but has given very little details about who its customers are. It has said, however, that it has no control over how its tools are used and for what purpose


  • Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Centre: One of the most respected human rights groups in Mexico, it has looked into the of 43 students in 2014 and other high profile cases, including that left 22 dead in 2014. Its executive director and two other senior executives allegedly received infected messages
  • Aristegui Noticias: Award-winning journalist Carmen Aristegui, who also hosts a daily programme on CNN en Español, has reported on suspected cases of corruption and conflict of interest, including a scandal involving the wife of President Enrique Peña Nieto from a government contractor. Two members of her investigative team and her under-age son allegedly received some 50 messages
  • Carlos Loret de Mola: A popular journalist at leading TV network Televisa, he allegedly received several messages containing the software
  • Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO): It has led efforts for anti-corruption legislation. Two senior members were allegedly targeted.

Virgin Media urges password change over hacking risk

computer hacker

Virgin Media has told 800,000 customers to change their passwords to protect against being hacked.

An investigation by Which? found that hackers could access the provider’s Super Hub 2 router, allowing access to users’ smart appliances.

A child’s toy and domestic CCTV cameras were among the vulnerable devices.

Virgin Media said the risk was small but advised customers using default network and router passwords to update them immediately.

A spokesman said: “The security of our network and of our customers is of paramount importance to us.

“We continually upgrade our systems and equipment to ensure that we meet all current industry standards.

“We regularly support our customers through advice and updates and offer them the chance to upgrade to a Hub 3.0 which contains additional security provisions.”


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How safe is your router?

The company said the issue existed with other routers of the same age and was not exclusive to their model.

The study, carried out in conjunction with ethical security researchers SureCloud, tested 15 devices -of which eight had security flaws.

In one case a home CCTV system was hacked using an administrator account that was not password protected. Hackers were able to watch live pictures and in some cases were able to move cameras inside the house.

Which? called for the industry to improve basic security provisions, including requiring customers to create a unique password before use, two-factor authentication, and issuing regular software security updates.

Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said: “There is no denying the huge benefits that smart-home gadgets and devices bring to our daily lives.

“However, as our investigation clearly shows, consumers should be aware that some of these appliances are vulnerable and offer little or no security.

“There are a number of steps people can take to better protect their home, but hackers are growing increasingly more sophisticated.

“Manufacturers need to ensure that any smart product sold is secure by design.”

Which? said it had contacted the manufacturers of the eight affected products to alert them to the security flaws.

Ebola virus burial teams may have ‘saved thousands of lives’

Ebola burial team in Freetown, Sierra Leone (file picture)

They were ordinary people doing an extraordinary job in extremely dangerous times.

Now new research suggests Red Cross volunteers who helped bury most of the bodies of Ebola victims in West Africa could have prevented more than 10,000 cases of the deadly disease.

More than 28,000 people were infected with Ebola in 2014-2015. Of those, 11,310 people died.

The worst affected countries were Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

A major part of the response was ensuring the safe burials of people who had died of Ebola. The bodies of victims were particularly toxic.

Community funerals, where people helped wash the bodies of their loved ones, contributed to so many people becoming infected in the earlier stages of the outbreak.



Within months, the epidemic had become the worst public health emergency of modern times.

The study, , used statistical modelling to measure the impact of the Red Cross safe and dignified burial programme.

Researchers focussed on 45 unsafe community burials and the 310 people who were identified as having had contact with the infected bodies. They found, on average, just over two people went on to develop Ebola for every unsafe community burial that took place.

The bigger risk was to those who cared for a loved one with Ebola before their death. Researchers found many more infections could have been prevented if the sick were treated in hospital rather than by their families and communities.

However, using these estimates, the study suggested safe and dignified burials by Red Cross volunteers prevented between 1,411 and 10,452 cases of Ebola.

The authors said these are conservative estimates.

They highlighted a number of limitations in the study, including the challenges of collecting very personal and sensitive information about funerals, and the length of time between when some of the burials took place and when the data was collected.

Hundreds of paid volunteers took on the grim task of collecting bodies from people’s homes in full personal protective gear, while also having to manage the grieving families and communities.



They were ordinary West Africans, such as teachers and college students. Many carried out the relentless and dangerous work for months.

Some were stigmatised in their communities, because people became scared they might bring the virus home with them.

In reality, they were helping to stem world’s worst ever Ebola outbreak.

“It was very difficult work,” said Red Cross volunteer Mohamed Kamara who I spent a day with as he collected bodies in Sierra Leone in 2014.

“It’s good news that people realise the impact of what we did to help end the transmission of Ebola,” he said while reacting to the findings of the study from the capital Freetown.

“Some people didn’t even want to come near us at that time.

“But the team we worked with helped give us the courage to do this important work… and we ended this war.”


  • Teams managed over 47,000 burials
  • Carried out more than 50% of all burials during the outbreak
  • All deaths at home were presumed to be Ebola
  • About 1,500 Red Cross volunteers involved in burials


Ebola virus burial teams ‘saved thousands of lives’

Ebola burial team in Freetown, Sierra Leone (file picture)

They were ordinary people doing an extraordinary job in extremely dangerous times.

Now new research suggests Red Cross volunteers who helped bury most of the bodies of Ebola victims in West Africa could have prevented more than 10,000 cases of the deadly disease.

More than 28,000 people were infected with Ebola in 2014-2015. Of those, 11,310 people died.

The worst affected countries were Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

A major part of the response was ensuring the safe burials of people who had died of Ebola. The bodies of victims were particularly toxic.

Community funerals, where people helped wash the bodies of their loved ones, contributed to so many people becoming infected in the earlier stages of the outbreak.



Within months, the epidemic had become the worst public health emergency of modern times.

The study, , used statistical modelling to measure the impact of the Red Cross safe and dignified burial programme.

Researchers focussed on 45 unsafe community burials and the 310 people who were identified as having had contact with the infected bodies. They found, on average, just over two people went on to develop Ebola for every unsafe community burial that took place.

The bigger risk was to those who cared for a loved one with Ebola before their death. Researchers found many more infections could have been prevented if the sick were treated in hospital rather than by their families and communities.

However, using these estimates, the study suggested safe and dignified burials by Red Cross volunteers prevented between 1,411 and 10,452 cases of Ebola.

The authors said these are conservative estimates.

They highlighted a number of limitations in the study, including the challenges of collecting very personal and sensitive information about funerals, and the length of time between when some of the burials took place and when the data was collected.

Hundreds of paid volunteers took on the grim task of collecting bodies from people’s homes in full personal protective gear, while also having to manage the grieving families and communities.



They were ordinary West Africans, such as teachers and college students. Many carried out the relentless and dangerous work for months.

Some were stigmatised in their communities, because people became scared they might bring the virus home with them.

In reality, they were helping to stem world’s worst ever Ebola outbreak.

“It was very difficult work,” said Red Cross volunteer Mohamed Kamara who I spent a day with as he collected bodies in Sierra Leone in 2014.

“It’s good news that people realise the impact of what we did to help end the transmission of Ebola,” he said while reacting to the findings of the study from the capital Freetown.

“Some people didn’t even want to come near us at that time.

“But the team we worked with helped give us the courage to do this important work… and we ended this war.”


  • Teams managed over 47,000 burials
  • Carried out more than 50% of all burials during the outbreak
  • All deaths at home were presumed to be Ebola
  • About 1,500 Red Cross volunteers involved in burials


Ford demonstrates self-driving Fusion at Mcity

PHOTO GALLERY: Ford Fusion self-driving demonstration








PHOTO GALLERY >>

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In controlled “geofenced” areas, today’s technology already enables cars to drive themselves automatically, safely and very smoothly. The challenge remains moving from tests on closed courses to the real world.

At the University of Michigan’s Mcity proving grounds for autonomous cars, Ford engineers on Wednesday rolled out a fleet of self-driving Fusions and let reporters ride in the backseat. The cars successfully piloted themselves around the faux city landscape, top speed around 25 mph. The cars correctly read stop lights, negotiated turns, identified pedestrians — real ones, not dummies — and cyclists in the road, and interacted without drama. More than that, the cars drove themselves smoothly.

But there is still a long road ahead before Ford’s, or anyone else’s self-driving cars, are ready to pilot themselves on public streets. For one thing, high-definition mapping of the nation’s roads, which can overcome some of the country’s infrastructure issues, is not nearly complete enough.

James McBride, a Ford senior leader for autonomous vehicles, said high-definition mapping can help a vehicle “see” the environment, such as around corners, where cameras and lidar can’t.

Ford is aiming to have Level 4 autonomous vehicles commercially available by 2021. The vehicle would drive itself with no human interaction in a pre-mapped area, such as a section of a city or say, the parking lot of Walt Disney World in Orlando.

Yahoo closes internet prodigy’s news app

Yahoo has announced it is shutting down its award-winning News Digest app at the end of this month.

It was launched in 2014 and is based on a technology developed by a British teenager that compressed other news outlets’ reports into shorter articles.

Yahoo was reported to have paid £20m for the tech and offered its creator Nick D’Aloisio a full-time job, but he opted instead to go to university.

The closure marks one of the first cuts made since Verizon bought Yahoo.

The telecoms company paid $4.5bn (£3.6bn) for the internet services firm in a deal that was completed on 13 June.


Yahoo News Digest was a past winner of Apple’s software Design Award and it has been installed more than 9.5 million times onto iOS and Android devices worldwide, according to the market research firm App Annie.

Twice a day it presents each user with a digest of six to eight major stories made up of text, images and graphics, telling the reader they are “done” when they have all been flicked through.

The Next Web tech blog the service as “shooting itself in the foot by doing away with the best app it’s ever built”.


Users are now met with a message saying that they should download a different app, Yahoo Newsroom.

It acts as a wider news aggregation service that also lets users post articles they have seen elsewhere and discuss them with others.

“Yahoo News Digest was particularly popular with the tech-savvy part of the population,” said Sameer Singh from App Annie.

“But Yahoo Newsroom is probably a better fit with Verizon’s current advertising strategy.”

Yahoo Newsroom was launched in the US in October. However, a link provided to the service does not work for users elsewhere – including in the UK – because it is not available worldwide.


Mr D’Aloisio originally said he would combine his degree in science and philosophy at the University of Oxford with time working on maintenance of the News Digest app.

However, the 21-year-old split with Yahoo more than two years ago and has since had published by a peer-reviewed journal.

A friend told the BBC that Mr D’Aloisio did not feel he had any comment to add.