Entries in Internet (23)


Japanese Political Campaigns Go Digital

KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- For a country known for its high-tech prowess, Japan has had surprisingly archaic election laws.

Political parties have traditionally been banned from using the internet to aid their campaigns, thanks to a decades-old law that dictated everything from the amount of fliers a candidate could hand out to the exact size of campaign posters allowed, to ensure parity. In place of get-out-the-vote campaigns online, candidates armed themselves with megaphones, attached them to compact vans, and drove around cities and rural towns to trumpet their cause.

A legal change this spring reversed the trend, allowing politicians to tweet and Facebook their way to victory. Now candidates are getting their first taste of what’s been dubbed Internet Elections here, with the two-week campaign period officially underway for the upcoming Upper House Elections.

“There is some degree of excitement, and certain business opportunities for software companies. Whether it will revolutionize campaigning in Japan remains to be seen,” said Koichi Nakano, a political science professor at Sophia University.

The introduction of cyberspace into politics has pushed campaigns to find creative ways to woo voters.

Last week the ruling Liberal Democratic Party unveiled a new smartphone game application, featuring Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopping and somersaulting his way to the sky. In “Abe-Pyon,” the popular Japanese leader’s avatar is seen jumping from one platform to another, with players racking up points while gaining access to information about the LDP’s campaign platform.

Not to be outdone, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan released an application that allowed voters to take virtual photographs with their favorite candidates, and create their own campaign posters on smartphones. The pitch from the DPJ? “Now you can be famous too!”

Since becoming prime minister in December, Abe has taken to Facebook to give voters a behind-the-scenes look at daily life, while other leaders have been urged to regularly tweet personal messages.

The efforts aimed at courting young, tech-savvy voters come amid increasing apathy over politics in Japan. The country has gone through seven prime ministers in six years, though Abe is expected to outlast his predecessors. Voter turnout in the Lower House election in December, which put Abe back in power, set a post-war record low, with just 59% going to the polls.

“If you look at the numbers, there are only one in six Japanese actively supporting Prime Minister Abe and the LDP,” said Nakano. “It’s not as if people are enthusiastically endorsing him and his agenda.”

Despite the perception that internet usage has added transparency to campaigns here, restrictive rules remain. While candidates are now allowed to email voters, election law bans voters from forwarding that email to others. Those too young to vote are restricted from re-tweeting campaign messages.

Nakano says the rigid rules stem from a fear that false information could be passed on virally, damaging the reputation of candidates in a relatively short campaign period.

Major parties have hired outside agencies to monitor blogs and social networking sites for “flaming” or candidate bashing, around the clock. Deliberate comments to discredit the candidates would promptly be taken down, LDP Public Relations Chief Yuriko Koike said, in a recent interview with broadcaster NHK.

“I worry [internet campaigning] will lead to irresponsible voting,” voter Sumiko Yasuda said. “It’s important to study the issues before [casting a vote] but people may just vote based on information that is conveniently available.”

The prime minister himself has gotten heat for online postings directed at his critics. Last month, he lashed out at former diplomat Hitoshi Tanaka after he criticized the administration’s foreign policy, and its “rightward shift.” Abe took to his Facebook page, saying Tanaka was “not qualified to talk about diplomacy.” Referring to previous disagreements over policies to bring home Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea, he added, “If [Tanaka's] judgment was accepted, the five [North Korean] abductees and their children would still be trapped in North Korea.”

“There’s a strong will of eliminating lies and untruthful messages altogether,” Nakano said. “It seems impossible in cyberspace but the state continues to hold a very naïve view that only truthful information should be disseminated within the supervision of the state.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Internet Shut Down in Syria; Fighting Cripples Airport

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Someone in Syria pulled the plug on Internet access in the country Thursday, and most of the nation’s telephone service was also cut, raising concerns of many observers that the government of President Bashar al-Assad is gearing up to escalate its crackdown on a rebel uprising.

The networking firm Renesys reported that just after noon local time in Syria, Internet usage dropped to zero and all 84 of the country’s IP address blocks became inaccessible, “effectively removing the country from the Internet.”

Twenty-four hours later, there is still no Internet in the country.

The Net has played a vital role for both sides in the continuing struggle between rebels and government forces of Assad.  It helps activists organize and communicate, but it also exposes them to government surveillance.  Rebels and ordinary Syrian citizens have uploaded countless videos to document government crackdowns and rebel achievements.

It’s not clear if the communication breakdown is the result of deliberate acts or a power outage.  The BBC reports Syria’s information minister, Omran al-Zoubi, told State TV, “The terrorists targeted the Internet lines, resulting in some regions being cut off.”

Meanwhile, fighting continues to rage on a main highway that connects Damascus with the country’s largest commercial airport.  There are also reports of constant government shelling of rebel positions in the city of Aleppo.

Two Austrian soldiers who are members of a United Nations peacekeeping force were injured Thursday when their convoy came under attack along the airport road.

A number of airlines have canceled flights to Damascus because of the deteriorating security situation in the country.

There have been conflicting reports about the status of the commercial airport itself.

The New York Times quotes an anti-government activist as saying the airport was forced to shut down because rebel forces were edging closer. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights blamed the shutdown on an intense government military offensive, while Syrian state media simply stated the airport was closed Thursday for maintenance.

Syria’s information minister, Omran al-Zoubi, told a Lebanese news website that the airport road was not closed and the government was not responsible for the Internet outage.

The fighting in Syria has gone on for 20 months, with over 35,000 lives lost.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Russia to Tighten Restrictions on Public WiFi?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- A Russian government panel thinks it's found the solution to the problem of exposing children to dangerous material online.  
In just a few years, ubiquitous, open WiFi has gone from a luxury to an expectation. But the Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications, a Russian government consumer watch panel, is warning that WiFi everywhere may not be good for everyone.

They want WiFi access restricted in public places for children under the age of 18, claiming it's the only way to protect them from harmful information on the Internet.  The new restriction would take effect next year.

Critics, however, are rolling their eyes at the suggestion, pointing out that young people are more than capable of cracking WiFi passwords.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Who Is Behind Super Cyber Spy Tool?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Cyber security experts around the world are racing to dissect Flame, the largest cyber espionage program ever discovered, as clues in the code and vague statements from Western officials fueled speculation as to whether the U.S. or Israel may be behind what researchers are calling a potential game-changer in the burgeoning arena of cyber warfare.

The existence of Flame, an unprecedented intelligence-gathering program designed to track and record basically everything an infected computer does, was disclosed Monday by two international cyber security firms as well as the Iranian government, which said Flame had been discovered on its networks.

One of the firms, Kaspersky Labs, reported the malware had been discovered in several countries in the Middle East, mostly in Iran, and had been operating for at least two years. Kaspersky Labs, along with a Hungarian cryptology lab called Crysys that also analyzed Flame, said that because of the expertise, time and funding required to create such a large and sophisticated program, it was likely some government agency had created the malicious code, rather than a group of cyber criminals or rogue hackers.

Clues in the code, such as the names of processes like "Beetlejuice" and "Platypus," led some experts to believe it could have been written by native English-speakers, but others pointed out that English is a common coding language in many countries.

Roel Schouwenberg, a senior researcher at Kasperky Labs, told ABC News on Wednesday some monikers used in coding mean nothing at all or are just inside jokes among the programmers.

"We are talking about a very high stakes operation here, covert cyber ops, but that doesn't mean these guys aren't just having fun sometimes," he said.

Another possible clue in the code, Schouwenberg said, is that even though the program's structure and capabilities are very different, Flame shares some sophisticated techniques and geographical targets with another infamous cyber weapon, Stuxnet. Stuxnet was an offensive cyber weapon that was only discovered in 2010 after it had reportedly infected and caused physical damage to an Iranian nuclear facility.

Schouwenberg said Kaspersky Labs is operating under the theory that Stuxnet and Flame were created by different development teams but likely under the direction from the same backer and with access to each other's work. A researcher with the U.S.-based cyber firm Symantec told ABC News that scenario was a "definite" possibility and in its report Crysys said it could not be ruled out.

After Stuxnet's discovery, a Congressional report in December 2010 put the U.S. and Israel on a short list of countries believed to be capable of carrying out that attack -- a list that also included China, France, Russia and the U.K. A month later, The New York Times reported Stuxnet may have been the result of a joint U.S., Israeli project to undermine Iran's nuclear program.

Publicly, U.S. officials repeatedly denied involvement in Stuxnet, while Israeli officials declined to comment.

Within hours of Flame's public disclosure, a top Israeli official, vice prime minister Moshe Yaalon, sparked speculation when he hinted to an Israeli news outlet that his country may have been behind it all, as ABC News reported Tuesday.

"Whoever sees the Iranian threat as a serious threat would be likely to take different steps, including these, in order to hurt them," Yaalon told Israel's Army Radio, referring to the cyber attack. "Israel is blessed to be a nation possessing superior technology. These achievements of ours open up all kinds of possibilities for us."

However, after those comments made headlines, Yaalon took to Twitter and said that "plenty of advanced Western countries, with apparent cyber-warfare capabilities, view Iran and especially its nuclear program as a real threat."

Later, NBC News reported that an unnamed U.S. official who acknowledged having no first-hand knowledge of the virus said, "It was us." And on Wednesday the Israeli military magazine Israel Defense quoted its own unnamed Israeli officials who said they believe the virus came from the U.S.

For their part, the official spokespersons for an alphabet soup of American government agencies have stayed quiet on where exactly Flame came from.

In response to questions from ABC News on Wednesday, the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense Cyber Operations and State Department either declined to comment or referred ABC News to the Department of Homeland Security. The DHS said in a statement it was analyzing Flame to determine its impact on the U.S., but refused to comment on whether the U.S. had a hand in its creation.

Though cyber security experts said it will be months, and possibly years, before Flame is completely analyzed, Schouwenberg said there is little chance much more information about the author will be gleaned from the code itself.

"What is proof in cyber? It's very tough. When you look at the remnants of a bomb, at least you know who made it," he said. "In cyber, you never know for sure."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Twitter to Censor Tweets Country By Country?

SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Twitter announced Thursday that it now has the ability to selectively block tweets country by country.

A post, titled "Tweets still must flow," on the company's blog Thursday said that, until now, administrators at the micro-blogging site could only account for any one country's mandated limits on expression by removing content globally.  As of Thursday, Twitter now has the ability to "reactively withhold content from users in a specific country -- while keeping it available in the rest of the world," the blog post states.  The site also notes users can be notified when content is blocked and why.

Twitter explained that international growth means entering "countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression." For example, the company notes France and Germany's restriction on pro-Nazi content.

Though Twitter has not used this ability yet, but says it plans to maintain transparency with users by notifying them of blocked content and clearly identifying content that's been withheld.

Some of the site's users have already expressed their opposition to the decision's impact on freedom of expression.

"Say goodbye to your global twitter community," tweets the user @Steckel.

"All aboard the Censor Ship!" @YourAnonNews writes.

It should be noted that Twitter has been key to groups organizing some of the last year's biggest social and political events -- namely the London riots, the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring. Iran and Egypt both blocked the service in retaliation to the protests being organized via Twitter. The service also does not operate in China, but similar sites have become popular there.

Promoters of free speech are sure to be unhappy with the announcement. Still, Twitter maintains it will be true to user expression.

"One of our core values as a company is to defend and respect each user’s voice. We try to keep content up wherever and whenever we can, and we will be transparent with users when we can't. The Tweets must continue to flow," the company says.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Latest Arab-Israeli Conflict Is Growing Cyberwar

Antenna Audio, Inc./Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- It is a conflict that is growing bigger by the day -- on the digital frontlines -- as Israeli and Arab hackers attack national websites across the Middle East and release thousands of items of personal data.

The hacking appears to be the work of civilians rather than governments, and there has been little economic damage, but all sides are threatening widen the scope of their attacks in the coming days.

On Wednesday night, pro-Palestinian hackers attacked the website of Israel’s anti-drug authority. They redirected visitors to a page showing masked gunmen next to the phrases “Death to Israel” and “Gaza hackers were here,” according to the Jerusalem Post. The site has since been restored.

Thursday morning, denial-of-service attacks were launched against the websites of the Arab Bank of Palestine and the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates. An Israeli group calling itself “IDF Team” claimed responsibility.

“We are operating in the name of the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces],” they wrote on Wednesday after attacking the websites of the Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi stock exchanges. “If you don’t stop attacking us, we will paralyze your economy.” (Saudi authorities later denied the hackers had managed to take down their site.)

These episodes are the latest in a back-and-forth that has been going on for two weeks. It started when a hacker called “0xOmar,” claiming to be from Saudi Arabia, published online hundreds of thousands of credit cards numbers belonging to Israelis. Israeli authorities said that due to repetition, the actual number was around 15,000 or so but banks scrambled to shut down the accounts.

“Israel attacks and kills innocent Palestinian people, they (commit) genocide, they even break legal international rules,” 0xOmar told the Israeli news site YNet. “I want to harm Israel financially and socially.”

He banded together with a group calling itself “Nightmare” to hamper the sites of the Israeli national airline El Al and the Tel Aviv stock exchange on Monday.

Hackers from Israel, a country known for its technological prowess, joined in the retaliation calling themselves names like “Hannibal,” “Anonymous972″ (Israeli’s country code), and “Team IDF.”

“We are doing this out of a sense of concern and caring,” members of Team IDF told newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. They claimed to have thousands of Saudi credit card numbers as well as the holders’ details.

“We don’t believe in hurting innocent civilians. There is no reason to publicize the data at this stage,” they said. “If there isn’t any choice, we’ll have to do that as well. We are only trying to prevent further attacks in the future on the State of Israel.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dead Sea Scrolls Now Available Online

File photo. Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It took 2,000 years, but the Dead Sea Scrolls have finally entered the digital age. Monday, for the first time, some of the scrolls are available online thanks to a partnership between Google and Israel’s national museum.

Five of the most important scrolls can now be seen in high-resolution on the Internet. Users can zoom in and out, translate passages to English and access supplemental material.

The scrolls were written from about 200 B.C. to 70 A.D. and, according to Jeffrey L. Rubenstein, professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at New York University, they offer an unrivaled look at the time after the biblical books were penned and before the Christian texts and documents of rabbinic Judaism were written.

“The Dead Sea Scrolls help us fill in this two- to three-century gap to help us understand what religious developments took place,” said Rubenstein. “We see changes among different groups as they wrestle with powerful cultural and political forces....These changes help us understand where monotheistic traditions in the west came from.”

Custodians of the scrolls had been criticized for only allowing select groups of scholars access to them.

The original scrolls are located in a specially designed vault in Jerusalem that requires multiple keys, a magnetic card and a secret code to open.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Aruba Murder Suspect, Missing Woman Met on Swingers Site

Handout photo.(ORANJESTAD, Aruba) -- Gary Giordano and missing woman Robyn Gardner met online on the website "Adult Friend Finder," which describes itself as "the world's largest sex and swinger personals community," Gardner's friend told Aruban investigators.

Gardner has been missing since Aug. 2. She was last seen at a restaurant with Giordano, the prime suspect in her disappearance. He is in an Aruban jail, but has not been charged with a crime; a hearing is expected Tuesday to determine if there is enough evidence to hold him in jail for another 60 days.

ABC News reviewed witness statements given to Aruban investigators by Gardner's family and friends. A female friend of Gardner told investigators that Giordano, 50, and Gardner, 35, had previously planned a vacation together but Gardner backed out because of Giordano's "scary behavior."

Gardner's best friend and roommate told ABC News last month that Gary Giordano sent aggressive, angry texts to the missing Maryland woman when she backed out of the cruise.

"He was texting her while we were at breakfast, very angry at her because she decided she wasn't going to go on the cruise," Jones said on Aug. 11. "And his responses by text, which I don't feel comfortable repeating, were aggressive, harmful, something that doesn't sit right within myself."

Since Gardner disappeared, Giordano moved to redeem a reportedly $1.5 million insurance policy on Gardner. Witnesses and an Aruban Police report described him as uncooperative with investigators and eerily calm about Gardner's disappearance.

The witness statements also reveal more about Gardner. A friend and family member told police she was a "sneaky drinker," according to the witness statement.

Police also found Ambien, the sleep medication, prescribed to Gardner in the Marriott Hotel room where she was staying with Giordano. Giordano told police that he saw Gardner take a sleeping pill the day he claims they went snorkeling and she never returned.

Witnesses who saw Gardner the day she vanished described her as drunk and woozy.

The family member who told police she drank heavily said she was close to confronting Gardner about her allegedly excessive drinking.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Chinese Couple Sells All Three Kids to Play Online Games

Comstock/Thinkstock(DONGGUAN, China) -- A young Chinese couple has sold all three of their children in exchange for money to play online games at Internet cafes, reports a southern Chinese newspaper.

According to Sanxiang City News, the couple met in an Internet cafe back in 2007 and bonded over their obsession with online video games.  A year later, the parents -- who are both under 21 -- welcomed their first child, a son.  Days after his birth, they left him home alone while they went to play online games at an Internet cafe 30 km away.

In 2009, Li Lin and Li Juan welcomed their second child, a baby girl, and came up with the idea to sell her for money to fund their online game obsession.  They did so, receiving RMB 3,000 (less than $500), which they spent entirely shortly after.  The couple then proceeded to sell their first child and got 10 times as much for him -- RMB 30,000, or about $4600.

Upon having their third child -- another boy -- the parents followed in their previous footsteps and also got RMB 30,000 for him.

They were finally turned into authorities when Li Lin’s mother found out what her son and his girlfriend had done.

When asked if they missed their children, the parents answered, "We don’t want to raise them, we just want to sell them for some money.”

Sanxiang City News reports the couple didn't know they were breaking the law.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Social Media Day: Guinness Releases New World Records

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Just in time for global "Social Media Day," Guinness World Records on Thursday released the latest social media world records.

Dan Barrett, Guinness World Records community manager, noted the high interest in social media records.

"Social media records are some of the most asked about by our fans and readers," Barrett said.  "Along with the world's tallest, smallest and heaviest, record fans want to know who has the most comments on Facebook, followers on Twitter or views on YouTube."

Barrett adds that what is perhaps most appealing to fans is that they can "be a part of a world record just by 'liking' a post on Facebook or watching a video on YouTube."

Here are some of the standout social media records noted by Guinness:

-- Most Likes on a Facebook Page: Facebook itself achieved this record with 47,194,601 likes.  Rounding out the top five are the pages for Zynga's Texas Hold'em Poker (45.78 million), rapper Eminem (42.05 million), YouTube (40.44 million) and Lady Gaga (39.49 million).

-- Most "Disliked" Video on YouTube:  The music video for Justin Bieber's song Baby holds the record with 1,490,076 "dislikes."  However, the same video also carries the record for the "Most Viewed Video Online" with 575,118,703 views on YouTube.

Twitter wasn't left out of the running either. Charlie Sheen was the fastest to reach one million followers on the micro-blogging site, doing so in just 25 hours 17 minutes in March 2011.  The former Two and a Half Men star was the subject of several trending topics and hashtags, including Sheen's catchphrases "winning" and "tiger blood."

Lady Gaga currently leads Twitter with the most followers at 11,259,372.  Gaga was the first to surpass 10 million followers on May 15, 2011, Guinness says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio