Category Archives: Technology

silicon valley & technology news

Vietnam Unveils 10,000-strong Cyberunit to Combat ‘Wrong Views’

Vietnam has unveiled a new, 10,000-strong military cyberwarfare unit to counter “wrong” views on the Internet, media reported, amid a widening crackdown on critics of the one-party state.

The cyber unit, named Force 47, is already in operation in several sectors, Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted Lieutenant General Nguyen Trong Nghia, deputy head of the military’s political department, as saying at a conference of the Central Propaganda Department on Monday in the commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City.

“In every hour, minute and second we must be ready to fight proactively against the wrong views,” the paper quoted the general as saying.

Communist-ruled Vietnam has stepped up attempts to tame the internet, calling for closer watch over social networks and for the removal of content that it deems offensive, but there has been little sign of it silencing criticism when the companies providing the platforms are global.

Its neighbor China, in contrast, allows only local internet companies operating under strict rules.

The number of staff compares with the 6,000 reportedly employed by North Korea. However, the general’s comments suggest its force may be focused largely on domestic internet users, whereas North Korea is internationally focused because the internet is not available to the public at large.

‘Bad and dangerous content’

In August, Vietnam’s president said the country needed to pay greater attention to controlling “news sites and blogs with bad and dangerous content.”

Vietnam, one of the top 10 countries for Facebook users by numbers, has also drafted an internet security bill asking for local placement of Facebook and Google servers, but the bill has been the subject of heated debate at the National Assembly and is still pending assembly approval.

Cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc. said Vietnam had “built up considerable cyberespionage capabilities in a region with relatively weak defenses.”

“Vietnam is certainly not alone. FireEye has observed a proliferation in offensive capabilities. … This proliferation has implications for many parties, including governments, journalists, activists and even multinational firms,” a spokesman at FireEye, who requested anonymity, told Reuters.

“Cyberespionage is increasingly attractive to nation states, in part because it can provide access to a significant amount of information with a modest investment, plausible deniability and limited risk,” he added.

Vietnam denies such charges.

Vietnam has in recent months stepped up measures to silence critics. A court last month jailed a blogger for seven years for “conducting propaganda against the state.”

In a separate, similar case last month, a court upheld a 10-year jail sentence for a prominent blogger.

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Securing Your Data in Cloud Storage

Saving digital files in commercial memory banks called cloud storage is a cheap and convenient way for long-term storage of documents, photos, music and video. Private users as well as businesses can access them from anywhere and share them with whomever they give the password to. Providers, such as Dropbox, Google Drive or Amazon S3, claim almost absolute security. But computer scientists say the protection should be in the users’ hands. VOA’s George Putic has more.

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Bitcoin’s Roller-coaster Ride May Get Wilder

What’s a bitcoin worth? Lately nobody knows for sure, but after a wild ride Friday, it’s worth a good deal less than it was Thursday.

After losses over the last few days, the digital currency fell as much as 30 percent overnight in Asia, and the action became so frenzied that the website Coinbase suspended trading. It later made up much of that ground, and slumped 9.5 percent to $14,042 Friday, according to the tracking site CoinDesk.

Experts are warning that bitcoin is a bubble about to burst, but things might get crazier before it does: A lot of people have heard of bitcoin by now, but very few people own it.

“Bubbles burst when the last buyers are in,” said Brett Ewing, chief market strategist for First Franklin. “Who are the last buyers? The general public, unfortunately.”

1,000 people own 40 percent

Ewing said 40 percent of bitcoin belongs to just 1,000 people, and hedge funds and other major investors are going to start buying it soon. But those funds may buy bitcoin and also protect themselves by placing bets that it will fall. Retail investors may just buy it only to see it fall.

“I think investors should approach it with caution and I think many people will dive into it not understanding what it is,” he said.

As bitcoin skyrocketed this month, the volume of trading was unprecedented as investors hoping to catch a ride up piled in. Prices have risen so fast, the fall on Friday returned the price of bitcoin only to where it was trading two weeks ago.

From tea to blockchain overnight

The volatility has created a circuslike atmosphere. Some companies that have added the word “bitcoin” or related terms to their names to get in on the action. The craziest thing is, it’s worked.

Long Island Iced Tea Corp. until this week had been known for its peach-, raspberry-, guava-, lemon- and mango-flavored drinks. Then, on Thursday, the company announced a radical rebranding. It’s changing its name to Long Blockchain Corp., shifting its primary focus from iced tea to “the exploration of and investment in opportunities that leverage the benefits of blockchain technology.”

Blockchain is a ledger where transactions of digital currencies, like bitcoin, are recorded.

Shares in Long Island Iced Tea soared 200 percent in one day.

The Hicksville, New York, company did what investors are doing, hitching a ride on a currency that raced from less than $10,000 at the end of November to almost $20,000 on Sunday. And it cost less than $1,000 at the beginning of the year.

Crash every three months

The rise of price of bitcoin, which is still difficult to use if you actually want to buy something, has led to heated speculation about when the bubble might burst.

The currency has been, if nothing else, highly elastic, bouncing back every time it crashes, which occurs about once every quarter.

It fell 11.5 percent over two days in early December and 21.5 percent over five days in November.

Curiosity has now driven bitcoin to the futures market, where investors bet on which direction it will go.

Bitcoin futures started trading on two major exchanges, the Cboe and CME, this month. Those futures fell about 8 percent Friday.

Investor beware

If people get burned, it won’t be because they were not warned.

The Securities and Exchange Commission put out a statement last week warning investors to be careful with bitcoin and other digital currencies. The Commodities Futures Trading Commission has proposed regulating bitcoin like a commodity, similar to gold or oil.

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a financial watchdog, issued a similar warning recently.

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Rocket’s Arc Across California Sky Stops Traffic

A reused SpaceX rocket carried 10 satellites into orbit from California on Friday, leaving behind a trail of mystery and wonder as it soared into space.

The Falcon 9 booster lifted off from coastal Vandenberg Air Force Base, carrying the latest batch of satellites for Iridium Communications.

The launch in the setting sun created a shining, billowing streak that was widely seen throughout Southern California and as far away as Phoenix.

Calls came in to TV stations as far afield as San Diego, more than 200 miles south of the launch site.

Cars stopped on freeways in Los Angeles so drivers and passengers could take pictures and video.

The Los Angeles Fire Department issued an advisory that the “mysterious light in the sky” was from the rocket launch.

Jimmy Golen, a sports writer for The Associated Press in Boston who was in Southern California for the holidays, said he and other tourists saw the long, glowing contrail while touring Warner Bros. studio in the Los Angeles suburb of Burbank.

“People were wondering if it had something to do with movies, or TV or a UFO,” he said. “It was very cool.”

The same rocket carried Iridium satellites into orbit in June. That time, the first stage landed on a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean. This time, the rocket was allowed to plunge into the sea.

It was the 18th and final launch of 2017 for SpaceX, which has contracted to replace Iridium’s system with 75 updated satellites. SpaceX has made four launches and expects to make several more to complete the job by mid-2018.

The satellites also carry payloads for global real-time aircraft tracking and a ship-tracking service.

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Researchers Date Parts of Jesus’ Tomb to Time of Constantine

Over the next month, Christians of all kinds will celebrate the birth of Jesus. The world has been wondering about the reality of his existence, his life, death, and the question of his divinity for thousands of years. But the place considered to be his tomb has been dated to the time he is believed to have walked the earth. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.

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