The tyranny of Pokemon Go, more addictive than other games


It’s repetitive. The ‘game play’ is puerile. But it does cast a spell on players.

Malaysia, a plague has just arrived in your land and, if the rest of the world is any indication, it will infect every corner of your society. I’m talking of course about the infectious tyranny that is Pokemon Go. Really.

This is a game with very little in actual game play. You throw Pokeballs at Pokemon that spawn seemingly all over your neighbourhood, on your friends, and even in your own home. You capture them to fight other Pokemon, then you wash, rinse, repeat.

The battle aspect comes down to swiping right and tapping your screen a bunch of times. It’s not exactly the most nuanced or skilled or even fun game play in the world but yet, Pokemon Go has taken over the world.

I didn’t quite understand it until it arrived in Hong Kong, but suddenly on the street people were face down in their phones even more so than usual. And whenever I snuck a look there was a little critter bouncing around on their screens that they were trying to capture by tossing Pokeballs at it.

Silly. Ridiculous. So of course, yours truly had to try it.

And of course, yours truly got addicted just like everyone else.

Really, the game should be called Pokecrack or something a little more indicative of its addictive nature. Walking the dog at night, I seek out the local gyms – Pokemon Go locations where you can train or battle other Pokemon, but only at certain locations in the city – see, that’s why it’s got the “Go” in its name, this isn’t a game you can play from home – and at all these locations, even at midnight, I find people milling around in their pyjamas outside, with their faces stuck to their phones. Me included.

I went to a bar to meet a friend the other day and of course we started hunting Pokemon while there, which quite a few others were already doing. On the way out to the pay the bill the barkeep invited us back on Saturday because they would be “buying lures all day to attract more Pokemon”. Yes, Pokemon is now a way to attract people to your business.

Pikachu, I choose you.

But why is this game so addictive? I just said the game play was infantile. So simple that it boggles the mind. And it is. But everything in Pokemon Go centres on the rewards of new and exotic Pokemon and levelling up.

Basically it’s a game that hinges on the Random Reward Schedule.

The Random Reward Schedule is a tenet of behavioural psychology. It’s a form of reinforcement. Reinforcement, of course, “strengthens an organism’s future behaviour whenever that behaviour is preceded by a specific antecedent stimulus”. That’s a mouthful.

Basically, what it’s saying is that you will continue to do a thing if you get positive feedback.

This all goes back to the research of B.F. Skinner, who noted that the variable reward schedule or the random reward schedule resulted in the most compulsive and addictive behaviour in mice. Basically, mice were trained to press a lever that would dispense treats.

The mice that were rewarded with a treat every time were less inclined to keep pressing the lever, than the mice that were rewarded with a large treat at random intervals. The idea being that when a mouse thinks there could be a nice reward just around the corner, it will keep performing the same action.

The same goes for humans.

In Pokemon Go you’re constantly checking for Pokemon appearing in your vicinity. Most times they are common ones like Pidgeys or Caterpies, but every once in a while, you find something exciting like a Vaporean or an Electabuzz. And yes, I know how nerdy this sounds right now. Those rare and exotic Pokemon are just like large treats to a mouse.

The random reward schedule is linked to the Hook Model which is a technique employed by social media and mobile game designers and, of course the designers of Pokemon Go. Its mission – the name gives it away – is to hook you.

It goes beyond simple reinforcement of behaviour; it’s all about creating habits so that we’ll continue doing something the designers want us to do. In this case, it’s to continue searching for Pokemon and hopefully spend a few of our hard-earned dollars for gear that will help us do just that.

Pokemon Go also employs another aspect of the model, and that is our need to hunt. In the evolutionary sense, we are hunters, hunting for food in the wild. Pokemon Go employs a tracking system to find those rare and exotic Pokemon so that we are literally hunting down little virtual critters. All. Day. Long.

But we’re not hunting for sustenance, now we’re just hunting for the sake of hunting. Our genetic urges are misfiring all over Pokemon Go.

And knowing that I’m being manipulated on the most fundamental level by this game, I’m still checking my phone periodically to see if any rare Pokemon have showed up. And it’s not even fun.

So what to do, now that Pokemon Go has come for … to us? It really depends. It does make you walk more, and it can make your daily commutes a little more enjoyable (depending on your definition of enjoyable) – but if you don’t like having your face stuck in your phone, then you’re better off treating Pokemon Go like drugs, and not even trying it.

By Jason Godfrey –

Catch Jason Godfrey on The LINK on Life Inspired HD (Astro Ch 728).

More addictive than other games

CATCHING virtual critters on Pokémon GO has a tendency to be more addictive than other online games.

Experts say the risk of being addicted to the highly-popular game is increased because it is a feast for the senses.

This is especially since it is an augmented reality game, which requires players to have a live direct or indirect view of their physical surroundings.

“The risk of addiction is increased as there are multiple sensory bombardments that sustain playing Pokémon GO.

“Such sensory bombardments are continuous, leading to pleasure and satisfaction highs once players level up in the game and are motivated to continue,” explains Universiti Sains Malaysia criminologist and psychologist Dr Geshina Ayu Mat Saat.

She says this can be dangerous as it makes individuals dependent on the game for pleasure or happiness and some people may confuse the two.

“It could also lead to despair when the game is concluded, when they experience problems, or when a level objective could not be met.

“These are similar responses that an addict experiences. Normal functioning is disrupted, the least being in terms of sleeping and eating patterns,” Dr Geshina says.

Other aspects that could be affected are family interaction, work-life balance, carrying out responsibilities and daily tasks.

Dr Geshina finds that there are pros and cons to playing the game.

“On one hand, players will get more physical exercise, apply problem-solving skills, and have some social interaction when they meet other players in real life,” she says.

But on the other hand, too much focus on their phones may narrow their perception, leading to selective attention on the immediate environment to fulfil the needs of the game rather than a genuine appreciation of the outdoors.

“Social interaction may be limited to brusque questions of where the characters are, rather than polite or pleasant queries to initiate meaningful conversation,” says Dr Geshina.

She also notes that there is also a possibility that players, especially children, will be unable to separate between reality and the game as it blurs the lines and makes players a living game avatar.

Malaysian Mental Health Association deputy president and consultant psychiatrist Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj Chandrasekaran says people are generally eager to embrace new technology and will surely warm up to augmented reality games like Pokémon GO.

Describing the game as “taking it one step further”, he says one positive point of the game is that it can motivate people to get out more and connect with others with common interests.

“This is particularly relevant to people with introverted personalities and those suffering from depression.”

Dr Andrew, however, points out that the game can be a double-edged sword and could also work negatively in making people more engrossed in their phones.

“Ultimately, technology must be embraced for the right purpose – be it for recreational, therapeutic or competitive purposes.

“Technology can also be harmful, destroy interpersonal relationship, affect social cohesion, blur the lines between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour and cause confusion between reality and the virtual world.

“Knowing how to embrace technology in a balanced manner is the answer,” he says.

Sources:  The Star/Asia News Network

Bitcoin is not money, judges rules in victory for backers


 

Ruling means no specific licence needed to buy or to sell crypto-currency

Bitcoin, a Florida judge says, is not real money. Ironically, that could provide a boost to use of the crypto-currency which has remained in the shadows of the financial system.

The July 22 ruling by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Teresa Pooler means that no specific license is needed to buy and sell bitcoins.

The judge dismissed a case against Michel Espinoza, who had faced money laundering and other criminal charges for attempting to sell $1,500 worth of bitcoins to an undercover agent who told the defendant he was going to use the virtual money to buy stolen credit card numbers.

Espinoza’s lawyer Rene Palomino said the judge acknowledged that it was not illegal to sell one’s property and ruled that this did not constitute running an unauthorized financial service.

“He was selling his own personal bitcoins,” Palomino said. “This decision clears the way for you to do that in the state of the Florida without a money transmitting license.”

In her ruling, Pooler said, “this court is unwilling to punish a man for selling his property to another, when his actions fall under a statute that is so vaguely written that even legal professionals have difficulty finding a singular meaning.”

She added that “this court is not an expert in economics,” but that bitcoin “has a long way to go before it is the equivalent of money.”

Bitcoin, whose origins remain a mystery, is a virtual currency that is created from computer code and is not backed by any government. Advocates say this makes it an efficient alternative to traditional currencies because it is not subject to the whims of a state that may devalue its money to cut its debt, for example.

Bitcoins can be exchanged for goods and services, provided another party is willing to accept them, but until now they been used mostly for shady transactions or to buy illegal goods and services on the “dark” web.

Bitcoin was launched in 2009 as a bit of software written under the Japanese-sounding name Satoshi Nakamoto. This year Australian programmer Craig Wright claimed to be the author but failed to convince the broader bitcoin community.

In some areas of the United States bitcoin is accepted in stores, restaurants and online transactions, but it is illegal in some countries, notably France and China.

It is gaining ground in countries with high inflation such as Argentina and Venezuela.

But bitcoin values can be volatile. Over the past week its value slumped 20 percent in a day, then recouped most losses, after news that a Hong Kong bitcoin exchange had been hacked with some $65 million missing.

Impact across US, world

Arthur Long, a lawyer specializing in the sector with the New York firm Gibson Dunn, said the July court ruling is a small victory for the virtual currency but that it’s not clear if the interpretation will be the same in other US states or at the federal level.

“It may have an effect as some states are trying to use existing money transmitting statutes to regulate certain transactions in bitcoin,” Long told AFP.

Charles Evans, professor of finance at Barry University, said the ruling “absolutely is going to provide some guidance in other courts” and could potentially be used as a precedent in other countries to avoid the stigma associated with bitcoin use.

Bitcoins can store value and hedge against inflation, without being considered a monetary unit, according to Evans, who testified as an expert witness in the Florida trial.

“It can be used as an exchange,” he said, and may be considered a commodity which can be used for bartering like fish or tobacco, for example.

Evans noted that “those who are not yet in the bitcoin community will be put on notice: as long as they organize their business in a particular way they can avoid the law.”

But he added that “people who are engaged in illegal activities will continue to do what they are going to do because they are criminals.- AFP”

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Bitcoin falls after exchange is hacked, US$72 mil stolen from Bitfinex exchange in HK


Securing the bitcoin trading platform has proved elusive.

The price of bitcoin fell sharply today exacerbating an already ongoing decline as global market participants reacted to news that one of the largest digital currency exchanges had been hacked. Bitcoin Drops Nearly 20% as Exchange Hack Amplifies Price Decline

The price of the virtual currency bitcoin fell sharply after Hong Kong-based digital-currency exchange Bitfinex said it was hacked, resulting in the possible theft of about $65 million worth of bitcoin.

News of the Bitfinex hack hit the price of bitcoin hard in heavy trading on Tuesday. It fell to $540 by late in the day, down about 12% from its level near $613 early Tuesday, according to CoinDesk. At one point, it traded as low as $480, down about 22%, though it recovered to about $548 by late morning in New York on Wednesday.

The hack marks one of the largest thefts in bitcoin’s short history and follows a separate alleged theft of an estimated $60 million worth of ethereum, a rival virtual currency, in June. In 2014, investor confidence in bitcoin also was dented by another larger cybersecurity breach, at the Japanese exchange Mt. Gox.

Hacking and thefts of investor property stand as two of the biggest issues that may prevent the fast-growing digital currency from gaining more widespread use. Bitcoin trades on an open ledger known as the blockchain that has excited technologists for its ability to cut out expensive layers of bureaucracy in various areas of commerce.

But securing the bitcoin trading platform has proved elusive. Tuesday, Bitfinex acknowledged the latest theft in a statement on its website and said it was halting all trading on Bitfinex as well as the deposits and withdrawals of digital tokens.

“The theft is being reported to—and we are co-operating with—law enforcement,” the statement said. “We are deeply concerned about this issue and we are committing every resource to try to resolve it.”

Zane Tackett, Bitfinex’s director of community and product development, confirmed that 119,756 bitcoins were stolen and said the company knows “exactly how relevant systems were compromised.” At Tuesday’s value, the amount of bitcoin stolen was worth about $65 million. Mr. Tackett said the company is working with law enforcement and analytics companies to try to track down the stolen coins and is working to get its platform back up so customers can check their accounts.

It wasn’t clear what percentage of Bitfinex’s overall assets were stolen or whether or not the company had adequate insurance to cover the theft.

“We are investigating the breach to determine what happened, but we know that some of our users have had their bitcoins stolen,” the statement added. “We are undertaking a review to determine which users have been affected by the breach. While we conduct this initial investigation and secure our environment, bitfinex.com will be taken down and the maintenance page will be left up.”

In 2014, the Tokyo-based exchange Mt. Gox collapsed after a yearslong series of attacks resulted in the theft of about 850,000 bitcoins, at the time worth about $450 million. About 200,000 were later recovered. In June, Mt. Gox Chief Executive Mark Karpales was released from a Japanese prison on bail, after serving 10 months. The company’s liquidation is ongoing.

Bitcoin rallied earlier this year but had been selling off lately after an anticipated event known as a “halving” in early July lowered the subsidy paid to bitcoin miners supporting the network.

In 2015, Bitfinex switched to a system protected by what is known as “multiple signature” security, a feature that requires multiple “keys” to access bitcoin in a virtual wallet, and keeps the customers’ money in separate accounts, rather than pooling them into one larger account.

The exchange was fined $75,000 by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission in June for offering illegal off-exchange commodity transactions financed in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and for failing to register as a futures commission merchant. The CFTC said at the time that Bitfinex cooperated with its investigation and voluntarily made changes to its business practices to comply with regulations.

– The Wall Street Journal BY PAUL VIGNA AND GREGOR STUART HUNTER

Bitcoin worth US$72 mil stolen from Bitfinex exchange in Hong Kong


A Bitcoin (virtual currency) paper wallet with QR codes and a coin are seen in an illustration picture taken at La Maison du Bitcoin in Paris, France, May 27, 2015.
Reuters/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

HONG KONG (Aug 3): Nearly 120,000 units of digital currency bitcoin worth about US$72 million was stolen from the exchange platform Bitfinex in Hong Kong, rattling the global bitcoin community in the second-biggest security breach ever of such an exchange.

Bitfinex is the world’s largest dollar-based exchange for bitcoin, and is known in the digital currency community for having deep liquidity in the US dollar/bitcoin currency pair.

Zane Tackett, Director of Community & Product Development for Bitfinex, told Reuters on Wednesday that 119,756 bitcoin had been stolen from users’ accounts and that the exchange had not yet decided how to address customer losses.

“The bitcoin was stolen from users’ segregated wallets,” he said.

The company said it had reported the theft to law enforcement and was cooperating with top blockchain analytic companies to track the stolen coins.

Last year, Bitfinex announced a tie-up with Palo Alto-based BitGo, which uses multiple-signature security to store user deposits online, allowing for faster withdrawals.

“Our investigation has found no evidence of a breach to any BitGo servers,” BitGo said in a Tweet.

“With users’ funds secured using multi-signature technology in partnership with BitGo, a lot more is at stake for the backbone of the bitcoin industry, with its stalwarts and prided tech under fire,” said Charles Hayter, chief executive and founder of digital currency website CryptoCompare.

The security breach comes two months after Bitfinex was ordered to pay a US$75,000 fine by the US Commodity and Futures Trading Commission in part for offering illegal off-exchange financed commodity transactions in bitcoin and other digital currencies.

BITCOIN SLUMP

Tuesday’s breach triggered a slump in bitcoin prices and was reminiscent of events that led to the 2014 collapse of Tokyo-based exchange Mt Gox, which said it had lost about US$500 million worth of customers’ Bitcoins in a hacking attack.

Bitcoin plunged just over 23% on Tuesday after the news broke. On Wednesday it was up 1% at US$545.20 on the BitStamp platform.

Tackett added that the breach did not “expose any weaknesses in the security of a blockchain”, the technology that generates and processes bitcoin, a web-based “cryptocurrency” that can move across the globe anonymously without the need for a central authority.

A bitcoin expert said the scandal highlighted the risks of companies using cryptography for their ledgers.

“The more you rely on its benefits, the greater the potential for damage when keys are stolen. We still have some way to go to create highly secure but convenient systems,” said Singapore-based Antony Lewis.

The volume of bitcoin stolen amounts to about 0.75% of all bitcoin in circulation.

It is not yet clear whether the theft was an inside job or whether hackers were able to gain access to the system externally. On an online forum, Bitfinex’s Tackett said he was “nearly 100% certain” it was no one in the company.

Bitfinex suspended trading on Tuesday after it discovered the breach. It said on its website that it was investigating and cooperating with the authorities.

The security breach is the latest scandal to hit Hong Kong’s bitcoin market after MyCoin became embroiled in a scam last year that media estimated could have duped investors of up to US$387 million. The bitcoin trading company closed after the scandal.

The president of the Hong Kong Bitcoin Association said the only way to protect information is to disperse it in so many small pieces that the reward for hacking is too small.

“For an attacker, the cost-benefit strategy is quite easy: How much is in the pot and how likely is it that I’m getting the pot?” said Leonhard Weese.

The attack on Bitfinex was reminiscent of a similar breach at Mt. Gox, a
Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange forced to file for bankruptcy in early
2014 after hackers stole an estimated $650 million worth of customer
bitcoins.  – Reuters

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Why have US tech giants Uber sunk in China? Its legal status, plans in Asia


China’s ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing on Monday announced a strategic deal with Uber China. Under the agreement, Didi Chuxing will acquire all assets of Uber China including its brand, business operations and data. Didi will also obtain a minority equity interest in Uber.

The acquisition has sparked strong reactions among the US and other Western media. They portrayed the deal as “Uber’s surrender” to Didi, repeating the failures of other American high-tech firms in China.

An article in The New York Times claimed that over the last couple of decades, Amazon, Facebook, Google and other American technology giants, like an imperial armada, rolled out from North America’s West Coast, to “try to establish beachheads on every other continent. But when American giants tried to enter the waters of China, the world’s largest Internet market, the armada invariably ran aground.”

The US media advocate that China’s problem is largely to blame for the sinking of the American high-tech armada. According to them, the Internet has been divided into two parts – the Chinese Internet and the Internet of the rest of the world. The Chinese Internet lacks transparency and is subject to the government supervision. Only homegrown firms can adapt to it.

The Internet does have its own supervision system, but the supervision is fair to both local and foreign companies. US Internet giants are at the helm of networking technology development, while Chinese homegrown companies as a whole still lack the ability to lead the industry. As the US firms are naturally in an advantageous position, what makes domestic Chinese firms triumph over them?

Despite starting by imitating US companies, Chinese Internet giants have based themselves on China’s realities. They not only have extensively made technical innovations in accordance with the demands of Chinese users, but also adapted their business modes to the Chinese market and other non-market factors. But when US firms operate in China, they often confound the core pursuits of Chinese users.

Take Google. Bound by values and emboldened by support from netizens who are well-disposed toward the West, Google had developed the ambition to transform China. But it made a strategic misjudgment of the Chinese market. When it was squarely at odds with the Chinese government, it didn’t have support from the majority of Chinese netizens.

With growing strength, China’s local Internet companies are becoming more confident and their employees are more industrious. All these add to their chances of defeating foreign competitors.

Apart from the Internet industry, foreign enterprises are also facing fiercer competition from their local rivals. The vitality of China’s own business is being continually unleashed. If foreign companies want to win in the Chinese market, they have to invest more efforts. Don’t use politics as an excuse for their failures. It won’t be of any help. – Global Times

Legal status of app-based ride-sharing a new start

A Chinese mobile phone user uses the taxi-hailing and car-service app Didi Chuxing on his Apple iPhone smartphone in Jinan city, east China’s Shandong province, Feb 22, 2015.[Photo/IC]

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/tWC74SRSgsk

Customers love them, because private transportation has never been this convenient, efficient, and accessible.

Taxi drivers oppose them, because their rapid expansion and popularity have resulted in conspicuous customer drain for the traditional taxi market.

Government regulators find them concerning, because they do raise questions about safety, fairness and legitimacy. Not to mention, they do not fit into any existing regulatory framework.

Which is why mobile app-based ride-sharing services, such as Uber and various indigenous cousins, have found themselves in a largely undefined gray zone.

In Beijing, for instance, where Uber and its Chinese look-alikes have grown phenomenally, contracted drivers have been operating in stealth mode for fear of heavy fines.

But despite all the complaints, resistance, even bans in some places, Uber and similar services have continued mushrooming and prospering.

The popularity of app-based ride-sharing has a lot to do with dissatisfaction with taxi services in the pre-Uber days.

In China, however, it goes far beyond a more pleasant user experience. Multiple recent surveys have highlighted the new services’ role as job creator.

Uber and its local peers have reportedly become an important income provider for workers displaced in the process of reducing industrial overcapacity. One survey even reported that being a contracted driver for Uber or a similar ride-sharing service provider is the only source of income for more than half of the workers laid off recently in the coal and steel industries.

Given the obvious loopholes in operation and management of such services, especially with regard to driver certification, security guarantees and taxation, it is certainly necessary to regulate the industry.

But an all-win, all-happy solution is difficult to arrive at precisely because such services are too new, too complicated for regulators.

The authorities made a daring, respectable move on Thursday by giving app-based ride-sharing legal status and introducing standards for the new sector.

Yet although it has been reviewed and revised repeatedly based on feedback from the public, the regulatory regime unveiled still needs further research and clarification.

The stipulations show plenty of thought has been given to key problems surrounding the brand-new business model. But they do display the inclination to include the new services into regulators’ modus operandi, and render them another part of the traditional taxi service market.

Such an inclination may undermine the otherwise promising prospects of something the public clearly wants. – China Daily

Uber plans to boost resources in SEA, India

Out of China: A man walks past an Uber station outside a shopping mall in Beijing. Didi Chuxing said on Monday it will buy Uber’s operations in China, putting an end to a year-long war between the world’s two largest ride-sharing companies. — AFP

This comes after sale of China ops to Didi Chuxing

SINGAPORE: Uber Technologies Inc will redeploy 150 engineers from its China operations to other key markets such as Southeast Asia after agreeing to sell its business in the world’s most populous nation, according to people with direct knowledge of the plan.

The San Francisco-based employees will develop new features such as mapping as it boosts services for the region that includes Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private.

Didi Chuxing said on Monday it will buy Uber’s operations in China, putting an end to a year-long war between the world’s two largest ride-sharing companies.

The China deal will also allow Uber to free up capital to double down on putting resources into other markets and hire more engineers locally in India, the people said. Uber has a total global workforce of about 8,000, spanning engineering, marketing and operations. Uber declined to comment.

Uber’s shift is a sign it won’t let up in its battle for customers elsewhere in Asia even after reaching a peace deal for China.

The world’s most valuable startup competes with Singapore-based Grab for ride-hailing customers in South-East Asia, a region that also includes Malaysia and Vietnam, while also tackling Go-Jek in Indonesia and going head-to-head with Ola in India.

Didi is in an alliance with Grab, Old and Lyft Inc. that unites four rivals to Uber. It’s not clear what impact the China deal will have on that alliance.

Grab chief executive officer Anthony Tan sent an internal memo to employees yesterday, reassuring them Didi’s victory showed that local companies are better positioned for dominance of the local market and he expected Uber to put more resources into the region.

Grab operates in 30 cities across six countries. Having raised more than US$15bil and valued at US$68bil, Uber has a long bench of investors from venture capitalists and hedge funds to sovereign wealth funds.

Since its inception in 2012, Grab has raised at least US$680mil, based on disclosed information, with investors including Vertex Venture Holdings Ltd, Tiger Global Management LLC, Hillhouse Capital Management Ltd, SoftBank Group Corp, China Investment Corp and Didi.

Under the Didi deal, Uber and its backers will have a 20 percent economic interest in China’s largest ride-sharing company. — Bloomberg

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Take precautions on public wifi, hackers are watching you, travellers !


Video:  //players.brightcove.net/4405352761001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5066118149001

http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/08/01/take-precautions-on-public-wifi-cybersecurity-firm-hackers-can-gather-sensitive-data-via-unsecure-co/

KUALA LUMPUR: If you are surfing the Internet on a public Wi-Fi, always assume someone is watching you out there.

Better yet, do not connect to any public Wi-Fi at all, said LE Global Services (LGMS) executive director Fong Choong Fook, whose private cybersecurity firm employs hackers to test the network security of the country’s major banks.

“I would never use a public Wi-Fi,” he said.

“Even an IT person may not be able to tell if the access point he is connected to is safe or if the activities are being watched.

“There may be signs like your Internet is slowing down but hackers can make it so elegant that you won’t even notice,” he said in an interview.

Malaysia’s national cybersecurity agency CyberSecurity Malaysia (CSM) said hackers could position themselves between a person’s device and the Wi-Fi router and are able to record sensitive data that the surfer is keying into his device.

Hackers can also “create” their own Wi-Fi and trick people into thinking they are connected to a credible public access point like the one from a restaurant, airport or office – when in actual fact these devices are connected to the criminals’ hardware.

Thus, they would be able to remotely watch everything a person is sending out on the Wi-Fi like passwords, e-mails or credit card information.

As frightening as these attacks may sound, Fong said this had been going as early as the 1990s.

Demonstrating to The Star how a hacker could steal information, LGMS set up an “evil twin” Wi-Fi using a laptop and named it after a famous franchise restaurant just below its office in Puchong, Selangor.

Fong connected two devices to this Wi-Fi and proceeded to log into social media, e-mail and Government websites.

Within seconds of logging in, the hacker’s computer began recording the activities in both devices in the experiment – recording every e-mail address, username and password that was keyed in.

Though the demonstration was only meant for the devices in the controlled environment of the LGMS office, three other users got connected to the dummy Wi-Fi, thinking they were linked to the franchise restaurant’s Internet, during the experiment.

“Hackers can target one specific person or they can target everyone in a cafe to get their devices to send all their data through their dummy Wi-Fi

“When they have your information, they can steal your identity. They can pose as you on Facebook, or send out e-mails to your contacts under your account,” he said.

Fong advised users to avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi or to only limit their browsing to Internet searches if they must connect to one.

The firm also suggested users to subscribe to VPN (virtual private network) technologies to secure their traffic.

VPN encrypts data on devices, making it hard for hackers to spy on the user’s online activities. Most VPNs are available on a subscription basis, much like an anti-virus programme.

So far this year, CSM has recorded eight instances where private Wi-Fi networks were hacked and 1,462 cases of online intrusions have been reported, which is nearly double the number of incidents compared to the same period in 2015.

It advised users to keep their Internet browsers up to date and to disable the feature which automatically saves password in the cache –as it makes it easier for criminals to steal.

by Nicholas Cheng The Star/Asia News Network

82% of travellers would use public Wi-Fi

 

KUALA LUMPUR: You are on a holiday in a foreign country. Naturally, you want to upload pictures to your Facebook or send messages to your friends back home or trawl the Internet for places to visit.

Chances are there is no Internet data connection where you are and you would search for whatever free Wi-Fi there is at the airport, hotel or cafe to stay connected.

An estimated 82% of travellers would choose to connect with unsecured public Wi-Fi, a practice which could up risks of cyberattacks, said Kasper­sky Lab.

The cybersecurity company surveyed 11,850 people worldwide and found that people on holiday would be carefree when it comes to their personal data protection.

The study found that 42% of travellers said they were less likely to care about the credibility of the Wi-Fi when they were on holiday compared to on business travels.

A third (33%) admitted to visiting websites of sensitive nature using foreign Wi-Fi, while almost half of the respondents conducted online banking (48%), shopped online (46%) and made private calls (35%) when they were abroad.

In a separate study, it found that at least 22% of travellers who conducted transactions online had experienced money loss while 8% had had a credit card compromised while in a foreign country.

Most of the time, victims do not even know they are being watched.

CSM advised users to keep an eye on their devices’ firewall alerts. Any trigger may indicate that a third party may be trying to access their devices illegally.

A report by MasterCard estimates that 10.9 million Malaysians travelled for overseas holidays in 2014, with the numbers expecting to hit 15.2 million by 2020.

The Kaspersky study also found that people were more likely to throw caution to the wind while on holiday with respondents saying they were 18% more likely to let strangers handle their smartphones to take pictures, 28% more likely to leave their devices unsupervised, 18% more likely to contact strangers online and 6% more likely to engage in “sexting”.

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Who created Bitcoin? How? Why? The long search may not be over


 

SAN FRANCISCO  — Who is Satoshi Nakamoto? For many in the tech world, the identity of bitcoin’s elusive creator has been a long-running parlor game. And the speculation might not be over.

Australian entrepreneur Craig Steven Wright, who announced Monday that he founded the digital currency , convinced at least one longtime bitcoin contributor that he’s the real deal. He managed that feat via a technical demonstration involving Nakamoto’s secret bitcoin keys. But Wright’s public documentation, which he posted online Monday , underwhelmed others and left the question of Nakamoto’s true identity far from settled.

“There’s no way you can conclusively prove that you are the creator of bitcoin,” said Jerry Brito, executive director of Coin Center, a Washington, D.C.-based crypto-currency think tank, who is skeptical of Wright’s claims.

Tracking a pseudonymous cryptographic genius would be challenging under the best circumstances. And here we’re talking someone who invented a way for people to send money around the world anonymously, without banks or national currencies. Someone who apparently disappeared five years ago for unknown reasons.

None of that has stopped people from trying. Journalists, researchers and amateur detectives have scoured Nakamoto’s emails and online posts, plus the original bitcoin code, for unusual phrases, cultural references and other potential clues to their author.

One of the most celebrated candidates — to his own dismay — was an unassuming Japanese-American engineer who found himself in the cross-hairs of Newsweek magazine in 2014.

A Newsweek cover story fingered Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, a retired resident of suburban Los Angeles County, after citing circumstantial clues and a vague comment that Nakamoto made when confronted briefly on his front doorstep. The article sparked a media frenzy and a car chase with reporters that ended at the Los Angeles offices of The Associated Press — where Dorian Nakamoto emphatically denied any involvement with bitcoin.

An earlier contender named in a 2011 New Yorker magazine piece was Michael Clear, then a graduate student in cryptography at Trinity College in Dublin. The New Yorker cited some of Nakamoto’s writings, which used British slang such as “maths” for mathematics and “flat” for an apartment. It also noted that Clear had worked on currency-trading software for an Irish bank and co-authored a paper on “peer-to-peer” technology similar to that used in bitcoin.

At first, according to the New Yorker, Clear was evasive when asked at a cryptography conference if he had created bitcoin. But he later denied it repeatedly. He also suggested another candidate to the New Yorker reporter, naming Finnish researcher Vili Lehdonvirta, who studied virtual currencies and created video games.

“I would love to say that I’m Satoshi, because bitcoin is very clever,” Lehdonvirta told the New Yorker, after laughing for several seconds. “But it’s not me.”

Speculation has also focused on a Hungarian-American computer scientist named Nick Szabo, who was called a likely candidate by linguistic experts who conducted their own “reverse textual analysis” — essentially, looking for distinctive phrases or word patterns — on an early white paper by the bitcoin creator.

The only problem? Szabo, who has worked on other digital currencies, has repeatedly denied creating bitcoin.

Other scientists’ names have surfaced over the years; some theories pose the notion of two or three working together. But denials have usually followed each new mention.

At one point, two Israeli mathematicians floated, and later retracted, the notion that bitcoin was created by the founder of Silk Road, an online bazaar known for trade in various illicit goods.

Conspiracy theorists have even speculated it could have been the work of some shadowy government agency — no one’s saying which government — to undermine established currencies or somehow monitor online transactions. (That theory depends on the unproved notion that the creator retained the ability to decode bitcoin’s encryption.)

Vice magazine once suggested Nakamoto might be Gavin Andresen, an American software expert and early bitcoin enthusiast who has helped push bitcoin forward in Nakamoto’s absence. Andresen has denied it — and on Monday declared that he believes Wright is Nakamoto.

But other cryptocurrency enthusiasts aren’t convinced it’s Wright. The truth, they say, is still out there. – AP

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AP EXPLAINS: What Is Bitcoin? A Look at the Digital Currency How it work, security, vulnerability and why? 

Comments:

Indeed, the way Wright has stage-managed the latest revelations about himself seem inconsistent with what we know about Nakamoto. Wright chose to give his scoop to the BBC, the Economist, and GQ. These are all excellent publications, but none of them are known for their in-depth coverage of computer security. The real Satoshi Nakamoto should have anticipated that no one would give much weight to a GQ scoop about his identity.

Bitcoin was Nakamoto’s attempt to create a financial system that didn’t require trusting the fallible human beings that run the banking system. Yet when Wright decided to reveal his identity as Nakamoto, he chose to do it via face-to-face meetings with a handful of journalists and Bitcoin insiders instead of providing mathematically rigorous proof that anyone could verify. It’s hard to believe that’s what Nakamoto would have done.

http://www.vox.com/cards/bitcoin

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One phone to rule all; Fintech, the healthy disruptors of forex


Software rules: Less than 20 of the iPhone comprises hardware and labour costs. The real profit is in software, which is all about knowledge and mindsets. – Bloomberg

WHO dominates the phone dominates the Internet. The whole world of information is now available in your hand, replacing your own mind as a memory base for instant decision-making.

The reason why traditional bank shares are dropping like a stone is that mobile phone companies and financial technology (FinTech) platforms “get it”. Banks and conventional financial institutions are stuck with so much legacy hardware (branches and outdated mainframes) and complex regulation that their CEOs feel beseiged by bad news – cyberattacks, privacy leakages (like the recent Panama leak), capital requirements and huge fines.

No wonder top bank talent is leaving the industry. In Silicon Valley they get fat bonuses to become “cool” without regulations. Regulated bank CEOs are held personally responsible for everything that goes on in their bank, having to deal with soul-destroying staff and expenditure cuts, on top of their own pay cuts.

I was at the Singapore Forum this month moderating a panel on FinTech when the Alibaba strategist mentioned that the current battle for market share is all about “mindset and handset”. The mindset of the Internet age is that you do not need to own any assets – you simply share or rent them from those who have excess capacity. The mobile handset is where most of the world’s population is moving towards doing business, from dating to buying a house, phone, using your fingerprint and retina as digital signature.

Finance today is an information business and FinTech (see below) can deliver payment services at 1-2 cents per transaction compared with US$10-US$12 per paper-based payment. Increasingly, we spend more on apps and software than on the actual hardware.

Did you know that the fastest adopters of technology in the world are porn, gambling and politics, in that order?

The financial consultants Oliver Wyman have come up with a major report on “Modular Finance”, which argues that technology has transformed finance into modular parts – modular supply (provision of financial services by specialists); modular demand (buying new services from such specialists).

Oliver Wyman’s report begins with a cartoon about a customer buying a house, arranging a mortgage and insurance, selling stocks and wealth products for the downpayment and paying for all fees through a single mobile phone. Equipped with the latest encryption, digital signatures and right apps, the mobile phone has empowered the customer to everything what used to take several visits and weeks to the bank, the lawyer, real estate agent and even land registry to complete the transaction.

In short, the game of finance is being fought by one super-bank to rule them all (Goldmans?) or one phone to rule them all.

The global supermarket model (one brand to rule them all) is having a serious re-think about being labelled G-SIFIs (global systemically important financial regulations), requiring special regulatory attention and additional capital and liquidity requirements. Increasingly, these universal banks do not need to own and supply all services in-house – they simply outsource the back-office or even key services to trusted specialists.

On the other hand, FinTech aims to change our lifestyles through different types of technology. First, frictionless and seamless inter-operability integrates businesses like logistics with payments, such as Alibaba, making it easier to buy, pay and deliver in one pass.

Second, Big Data analytics, which Amazon uses suggest to you what to buy next and understand how customers are changing. Third, Blockchain and Distributed Ledger technology, which makes systems more secure. Fourth, artificial intelligence, such as robo-advisers on investments.

Fifth, data secrecy and unique identity codes that ensures privacy and confidentiality.

FinTech platforms have less staff, less legacy assets, less regulation and more flexible mindsets. These barbarians at the gate are only stopped by regulations that currently protect the banking franchise. This is not to say that they don’t have defects, such as lack of attention to anti-money laundering, terrorist funding and cyberattacks. When they reach super-scale, they are also Too Big to Fail.

The rapid evolution of FinTech means that Asia now has the money and the technology to transform our antiquated financial systems into the 21st century.

The Asian population is young, tech-savvy, mobile and willing to experiment with new services and equipment, which we are creating in Asia. The good news is that if our young startups get it right, the world is their market. The bad news is that if our regulatory and government support services don’t allow our startups to compete, our markets and jobs will be someone else’s lunch.

What is holding back this transformation to FinTech Asia is still mindsets. Look at how Jakarta taxi drivers are protesting against Uber. Regional banks are expanding their footprints by buying the franchises of retreating European and American banks in investment and private banking. But they and their regulators have not thought through how to use FinTech to cut back their legacy systems, many of which are obsolete and operating under-scale, because many regulators still insist on each bank owning and running their own hardware and branches. To be fair, not all regulators think that way.

Barriers to FinTech are sometimes regulatory mindsets. Asian regulators are more willing to accept the entry of financial institutions from outside the region than from their neighbours. Without regulatory concurrence, many banks and financial institutions do not dare to experiment with new technology.

We now have Asian customers moving to global service providers like Apple, Google and Amazon, if Asian financial service providers do not get their act together. Compe-tition is good – look at how Sri Lanka is negotiating with Google to provide balloon-suspended cheap high-speed wifi coverage.

Asian bankers and regulators need to think hard about what Asian customers really want to achieve global scale in terms of efficiency, stability and trust.

FinTech and mobile handsets are not the solution to all our problems, but they will change how the problems are resolved. The real problem is our mindset. Less than 20% of the iPhone comprises hardware and labour costs. The real profit is in software, which is all about knowledge and mindsets.

That belongs to the realm of politics and education, which is another story.

Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

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Fintech, the healthy disruptors of forex

SINCE the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, investment banks have spent much of their time and energy on regulatory compliance, leaving them “on the back foot” innovation wise.

Faced with growing regulatory demands in recent years, investment in new technology has had to take a back seat. This does not come as a surprise given the lack of deals and flows as well as the broad-based decline in commodity prices. That little space innovation wise has been quickly filled by fintech firms.

There are traditional fintech firms that act as ‘facilitators’ (larger incumbent technology firms supporting the financial services sector) and there is emergent fintech firms who are “disruptors” (small, innovative firms disintermediating incumbent financial services firms with new technology).

The fintech space can be further broken down to four major sectors – payments, software, data and analytics and platforms.

In the foreign exchange market environment, a typical trading would include sourcing for the best price either via electronically or via the voice broker.

In Malaysia’s financial market landscape of foreign exchange trading, the wholesale price or in other words interbank market is dominated by investment banks facilitated by money brokers who source the best available price to match foreign exchange trades.

With the wholesale market dominated by firms with deep pockets and ample liquidity, customers are subject to a spread cost, whereby prices they receive naturally takes into account a spread from the screens and a spread from the interbank price as well as a spread that is subject to the credit profile of the customer.

Global fintech firms however are altering this process or at least are gradually making inroads.

These firms provide a platform that offers a comprehensive foreign exchange solutions, including live mid-market exchange rates updated in real-time, customised foreign exchange rate alerts, a fully automated transaction information dashboard, multi-user and multi-subsidiary control panel as well as on-demand forex reports.

The best part is, these firms charge a flat fee of which is detailed before each currency trade with absolutely no additional or hidden fees.

Until recently, SMEs have had little choice in terms of where to go, other than to the banks, but now it seems a different foreign exchange model is emerging in the fintech sector, giving banks a run for their money.

The crux of these business models by fintech firms in the foreign exchange business is service via the use of technology.

The automation of the process, eliminates the middlemen and therefore reducing cost, fintech has enabled companies to be more transparent with their pricing.

In the case of Malaysia, SME’s play a vital role in Malaysia’s economy, with foreign exchange risks increasingly being a volatile variable in their cost structure.

These form of fintech solutions are likely to witness exponential growth, but the cost would be, a gradual erosion of SMEs foreign exchange business that are currently held by our local investment banks.

Fintech firms’ foreign exchange model broadly encompasses four major steps, namely, the SME firm carries out their foreign exchange transaction by selecting the currency, the amount, delivery date and beneficiary account and confirm the exchange rate.

Once this is done, the next step is, the SME firm sends the fund to the fintech firm whereby the fund is segregated and held in a local bank.

Bear in mind these funds don’t form the part of the assets of the fintech firm and are held separately to ensure full client fund security at all times.

The third step is, the fintech firm’s matching engine will proceed to the exchange, matching the SME firm’s fund with another company or through the wholesale foreign exchange market.

Throughout the process, the SME firm is provided full transparency on prices, giving the SME firm the liberty to be fully in control.

Once the trade is matched, the funds are sent to the chosen beneficiary account of the SME firm, either its own, a subsidiary or directly to its supplier.

A four-step approach that uses the middle rate of the foreign exchange, removes the so called spread cost that is usually charged by banks to these SME firms and finally gives full transparency on the whole process itself.

With the clout and importance of these fintech firms, the Monetary Authority of Singapore recently announced the formation of a new FinTech & Innovation Group (FTIG) within its organisation structure.

FTIG will be responsible for regulatory policies and development strategies to facilitate the use of technology and innovation to better manage risks, enhance efficiency, and strengthen competitiveness in the financial sector. The upcoming Singapore FinTech Festival, to be held in Singapore from Nov 14 to Nov 18 will be an event to watch.

Organised in partnership with the Association of Banks in Singapore, the week-long event, which is the first of its kind in Asia will bring together a series of distinct, back-to-back fintech events.

Bottom-line, Malaysia’s financial sector, in particular its foreign exchange market needs vibrancy and fintech firms are likely to add spice to the local foreign exchange market, aside from creating value added business processes and technology intensive jobs, it would provide a healthy competition to the local investment banking scene.

Suresh Ramanathan believes gone are the days when foreign exchange trading was noisy, loud and unruly. It’s more about savvy technology driven trading. He can be contacted at skrasta70@hotmail.com

By Suresh Ramanathan Currency Insights.

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Exchange rates | Rightways

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