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Police And Demonstrators Clash, Ending Stretch Of Calm : NPR

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Police and pro-democracy demonstrators clashed during a protest in Hong Kong on Saturday. The protests in Hong Kong started in June over an unpopular bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China.

Vincent Yu/AP


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Police and pro-democracy demonstrators clashed during a protest in Hong Kong on Saturday. The protests in Hong Kong started in June over an unpopular bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China.

Vincent Yu/AP

After a stretch of relative peace in Hong Kong, a standoff between protesters and riot police became violent again on Saturday.

Police fired tear gas after pro-democracy demonstrators blocked roads with barricades made of bamboo sticks and hurled bricks, in the district of Kwun Tong.

In a statement, police said protesters paralyzed traffic and affected emergency services in the area near a police station.

Protesters tore down and dismantled “smart lamp posts” out of a fear that they contain high-tech cameras and facial recognition software used for surveillance by authorities in China.

Some used an electric saw, attempting to slice through the bottom of the lamppost, while others tied a rope around it to successfully bring it crashing to the ground, the Associated Press reported.

The government in Hong Kong insists that the lampposts only collect data on weather, air quality and traffic, according to the AP.

There are plans to install about 400 of these smart lampposts over a three-year period, according to a government report.

Demonstrators try to pull down a smart lamppost during the protest in Hong Kong on Saturday that turned violent. The smart lampposts are raising fears of stepped-up surveillance from authorities.

Kin Cheung/AP


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Demonstrators try to pull down a smart lamppost during the protest in Hong Kong on Saturday that turned violent. The smart lampposts are raising fears of stepped-up surveillance from authorities.

Kin Cheung/AP

The latest skirmish marked the 12th straight weekend of demonstrations in Hong Kong and ended nearly two weeks of relative calm, according to the AP.

Just a day before, thousands of Hong Kongers held hands and formed human chains, in a peaceful bid to gain support from the international community, NPR’s Anthony Kuhn reported.

On Saturday, Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam expressed a desire to open a dialogue on Facebook.

“I don’t expect that dialogue will be able to easily untangle this knot, stop the demonstrations or provide a solution to the problem,” Lam wrote. “But continuing to fight is not a way out.”

“After more than two months, everyone is tired. Can we sit down and talk about it?” she wrote.

Just a few hours later, protests in Kwun Tong turned violent, according to the New York Times.

The protests in Hong Kong originally began in June over a bill that would have allowed some extraditions of Hong Kong residents to mainland China. The bill sparked a backlash among those who saw it as a violation of the “one country, two systems” agreement that was formed in 1997 when Hong Kong was returned to China from the British.

The bill has since been shelved but it’s not formally dead. Hong Kong’s government indefinitely suspended the legislation in June but hasn’t withdrawn it entirely from the legislative process.

The demands from the movement have since expanded and now include calls to investigate excessive police violence during the demonstrations and a more transparent and open government.

Also on Saturday, Simon Cheng, a worker from the British Consulate in Hong Kong, was released after being detained in mainland China.

Cheng disappeared on a business trip in mainland China two weeks ago amid the rising tensions between Beijing and London.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Cheng’s detention had anything to do with Britain’s support of the pro-democracy protests, NPR’s Scott Neuman reported.

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Cloud and IoT cybersecurity threats demand an army of security experts

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By 2022, 1.5 billion devices with cellular connections are expected to be scattered around the world

These devices which form the Internet of Things (IoT) coupled with the adoption of cloud services has the potential to create an even more complex cybersecurity landscape and businesses ought to be prepared.

Even today, as the Internet of Things grows, the attack vectors we face in 2019 are far more different than those we saw even five years ago.

What’s more is that according to specialist security sales executive at T-Systems, Lukas van der Merwe the threats a business faces are more sophisticated and more persistent.

“The development of IoT has seen the advent of a multitude of smart devices that are connected to the Internet, which traditionally ran on closed and secure Operational Technology (OT) networks. This can impact an organisation’s risk profile, as these devices are open to a number of new vulnerabilities,” explains van der Merwe.

“Ultimately, the implications of a cyberattack could range from shutting down a small manufacturing plant to affecting power distribution across half of the country,” he warns.

Despite the rise of these threats, the solution remains somewhat the same – a good IT and security team.

That having been said, the rapid adoption of new technologies coupled with the growing cyber threats means that IT and security teams are struggling to keep up with new developments.

“There is a multitude of platforms, developed by third parties, that are constantly changing and growing, based on consumer demand. These are deployed and adopted by the organisation at a pace that the internal security team cannot keep up with. So, your subject matter expert is no longer a subject matter expert in your environment, because your environment has become so much more complex,” explains deal solutions manager at T-Systems South Africa, Andre Schwan.

The manager says that businesses can no longer rely on one person or a small team to handle cyber threats.

Due to the nature of the landscape a team made up of individuals that are experts in specific fields that can address a multi-cloud, multi-device and IoT environment.

In lieu of this a firm can tap up a security service provider that can assist in this regard. Especially in respect of South Africa, cybersecurity skills may be in short supply so drawing on a provider’s services may be the best option.

“The right partner can provide R&D, broad experience and development across a client’s environments, bringing much deeper capability and security experience at a much lower cost than if the client did it themselves,” Schwan explains.

While a firm may be hesitant to look outside of its walls for help, the rising threats mean that any firm can become a target. Perhaps then it’s time to consider employing the service of a firm made up of cybersecurity experts rather than going at it alone.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]

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Facebook lists countries backing the stability of its Libra cryptocurrency

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When Facebook first debuted its new cryptocurrency, Libra, a few months ago, the general reaction was mixed. Most people were hesitant to use “Zuck bucks” if the divisive social media company was behind it, whereas governments raised concerns over stability of the currency and what the endgame was for Facebook.

While we cannot speak for consumers, governments have been poking around under the hood of Libra, with those in the European Union in particular wanting to know more about the cryptocurrency.

To that end Facebook sent a letter to German politician, Fabio De Masi, in a bid to explain how the cryptocurrency is backed and that it will not suffer from the same volatility and instability that Bitcoin and others suffer from.

Having read the letter, published by Der Spiegel, it goes on to list the countries and currencies that will be backing Libra. Perhaps unsurprisingly the United States is the largest backer, with the dollar accounting for 50 percent of its backing. The US is followed by the EU at 18 percent, Japan at 14 percent, Britain at 11 percent and Singapore with seven percent.

As Reuters points out, it is rather telling that the Chinese Yuan has not been listed, with tensions between the US and China potentially scuppering any plans that Facebook has for Libra in Southeast Asian markets.

It’s also interesting to see that no African, South and Central American countries or currencies are backing Libra at this stage.

With Facebook noting that it is a solution designed specifically with the previously unbanked in mind, many of which live in those aforementioned regions, not having backing in those areas may mean a launch in less developed nations is still some ways off for Libra.

Added to this is continued uncertainty in the EU, with French and German officials having already raised issues regarding how a cryptocurrency like Libra could prove destabilising for their economies, not to mention others.

With the cryptocurrency facing heavy scrutiny before it has even been launched, which is still unknown at this stage, it’s clear that Facebook has an uphill battle on its hands with Libra, not to mention whether its intended target audience are even interested in the platform.

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Paypal brings back policy to take percentage of refunds from sellers

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If your business or site routinely uses PayPal to facilitate online payments, you may want to think twice about using the platform.

There hasn’t been a data breach or any kind of security threat of late, but rather a change in policy that will leave many sellers scratching their heads, with the firm noting that it will once again take a percentage of any refunds handled on the platform.

The controversial policy was removed for obvious reasons, but will once again be reinstated, seeing PayPal netting a cool 2.9 percent commission fee from sellers. This fee will be applied across the board as of 11th October this year, even if you’re refunded a customer in full, which essentially means your business will be taking a small loss.

As The Verge reports, PayPal had rolled out this new policy in April, but sellers were none too pleased and voiced their anger over the fees. Now the firm says it has updated its policy, and cites costing structures as the reason for the latest change, as well as it being in line with industry practices.

“Earlier this year, PayPal updated its User Agreement to change our refund policy. In line with industry practice, and according to our updated policy, we do not charge fees to process refunds, but when a seller refunds a transaction to a buyer, the fees originally paid will not be returned to the seller. The policy change is going into effect beginning on October 11, 2019,” an unnamed PayPal spokesperson told The Verge.

It’s unclear if both reasons given are indeed correct, but sellers using PayPal are naturally irritated by the policy change.

“We believe that this policy change is in line with industry practice. We know businesses depend on us and the decision to update our policy was not made lightly. The policy change allows us to align more closely to our cost structure, to the policies of our payments partners and to industry practice,” the spokesperson added.

“We only adjust our policies when we are confident the changes are fair and aligned with the value that our services provide to businesses,” they concluded.

With PayPal arguably being the largest online payment platform globally, this latest policy could well see the company net quite a bit in fees while earning and seemingly ignoring the ire of its seller community.

If it persists with this refund policy, it will be interesting to see if sellers opt to move to a different platform with the festive season around the corner. Either way we should have a better idea of the impact this will have among sellers after 11th October.

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