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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The Age of Uncertainty


We are entering the age of dealing with unknown unknowns – as Brexit and Turkey’s failed coup show

The dark future of Europe

THE Age of Uncertainty is a book and BBC series by the late Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith, produced in 1977, about how we have moved from the age of certainty in 19th century economic thought to a present that is full of unknowns.

I still remember asking my economics professor what he thought of Galbraith, one of the most widely read economists and social commentator of his time. His answer was that Galbraith’s version of economics was too eclectic and wide-ranging. It was not where mainstream economics – pumped up by the promise of quantitative models and mathematics – was going.

Forty years later, it is likely that Galbraith’s vision of the future was more prescient than that of Milton Friedman, the leading light of free market economics – which promised more than it could deliver. The utopia of free markets, where rational man would deliver the most efficient public good from individual greed turned out to be exactly the opposite – the greatest social inequities with grave uncertainties of the future. Galbraith said, “wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding”. Perhaps he meant that poverty and necessity was the driver of change, if not of revolution.

The economics profession was always slightly confused over the difference between risk and uncertainty, as if the former included the latter. The economist Frank Knight (they don’t make economists like that anymore) clarified the difference as follows – risk is measurable and uncertainty is not. Quantitative economists then defined risk as measurable volatility – the amount that a variable like price fluctuated around its historical average.

The bell-shaped statistical curve that forms the conventional risk model used widely in economics assumes that there is 95% probability that fluctuations of price would be two standard deviations from the average or mean.

For non-technically minded, a standard deviation is a measure of the variance or dispersion around the mean, meaning that a “normal” fluctuation would be less than two; so if the standard deviation is say 5%, we would not expect more than 10% price fluctuation 95% of the time.

Events like Brexit shock us because the event gave rise to huge uncertainties over the future. Most experts did not expect Brexit – the variance was more than the normal. It was a reversal of a British decision to join the European Union, a five or more standard deviation event – in which the decision is a 180 degree turn. The conventional risk management models, which are essentially linear models that say that going forward or sequentially, the projected risk is up or down, simply did not factor in a reversal of decision.

In other words, we have moved from an age of risk to an age of uncertainty – where we are dealing with unknown unknowns.

There are of course different categories of unknowns – known unknowns (things that we know that we do not know), calculable unknowns (which we can estimate or know something about through Big Data) and the last, we simply do not know what we may never know.

Big Data is the fashionable phrase for churning lots of data to find out where there are correlations. The cost of big computing power is coming down but you would still have to have big databases to access that information or prediction. Most individuals like you and me would simply have to use our instincts or rely on experts to make that prediction or decision. Brexit told us that many experts are simply wrong. Experts are those who can convincingly explain why they are wrong, but they may not be better in predicting the future than monkeys throwing darts.


Five factors

There are five current factors that add up to considerable uncertainty – geopolitics, climate change, technology, unconventional monetary policy and creative destruction.

First, Brexit and the Turkish coup are geo-political events that change the course of history. In its latest forecasts on the world economy, the IMF has called Brexit “the spanner in the works” that may slow growth further. But Brexit was a decision made because the British are concerned more about immigration than nickels and dimes from Brussels. This is connected to the second factor, climate change.

Global warming is the second major unknown, because we are already feeling the impact of warmer weather, unpredictable storms and droughts. Historically, dynastic collapses have been associated with major climate change, such as the droughts that caused the disappearance of the Angkor Wat and Mayan cultures. Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan and all are failing states because they are water-stressed. If North Africa and the Middle East continue to face major water-stress and social upheaval, expect more than 1 million refugees to flood northwards to Europe where it is cooller and welfare benefits are better.

The third disruptor is technology, which brings wondrous new inventions like bio-technology, Internet and robotics, but also concerns such as loss of jobs and genetic accidents.

Fourthly, unconventional monetary policy has already breached the theoretical boundaries of negative interest rates, where no one, least of all the central bankers that push on this piece of string, fully appreciate how negative interest rates is destroying the business model of finance, from banks to asset managers.

Last but not least, the Austrian economist Schumpeter lauded innovation and entrepreneurship as the engine of capitalism, through what he called creative destruction. We all support innovation, but change always bring about losses to the status quo. Technology disrupts traditional industries, and those disappearing industries will create loss in jobs, large non-performing loans and assets that will have no value.

Change is not always a zero-sum game, where one person’s gain is another’s loss. It is good when it is a win-win game; but with lack of leadership, it can easily deteriorate into a lose-lose game. That is the scary side of unknown unknowns.

I shall elaborate on how ancient Asians coped with change in the next article.

By Tan Sri Andrew Sheng

Tan Sri Andrew Sheng writes on global issues from an Asian perspective.

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Brexit boosts bitcoin price, Is bitcoin a safe haven?


‘Brexit’ Boosts Bitcoin Price, But Too Early to Call it a Safe Haven

Despite the increase in the price of bitcoin amid the UK’s recent EU referendum, a new research note from Needham & Company asserts it might be too early to call the digital currency a “safe haven” asset.

Global bitcoin prices have risen nearly 6% over the day’s trading to reach a high of $680, a figure up more than $100 from a low of $561.46 on 23rd June. Market observers were quick to assert the increase, which occurred as sentiment in the ‘Brexit’ vote shifted, was a sign this uncertainty had encouraged new investment in the digital currency markets.

However, Needham said its researchers are “hesitant” to call bitcoin a safe haven alongside gold, US Treasurys, yen and USD.

The note reads:

“For one, calling it such obfuscates the fact that bitcoin is a high-risk and volatile investment and, second, bitcoin’s correlation to other traditional safe-haven assets has fluctuated significantly.”

Still, Needham called the ‘Brexit’ a positive for the digital currency market, as it shows that bitcoin has the potential to rally around marcoeconomic uncertainty and on developments within its own technical ecosystem.

“On the one hand, bitcoin is performing like a safe-haven asset but, on the other hand, its newness and dynamism do not resemble US Treasurys or gold,” the note reads.

Ultimately, the note concludes bitcoin might not fit into any existing asset definitions, concluding:

“We believe that bitcoin is something entirely different that does not fit into the normal buckets that investments are typically bracketed into.” – http://www.coindesk.com

Is bitcoin a safe haven against mainstream money mayhem?

We unlock the mystery of the digital currency with a cult following

bitcoin/ n. A type of digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank.

Eh? No wonder so many people are confused about bitcoin. What you see above is the Oxford Online Dictionary definition of what is probably the most fashionable currency in the world. I realise that’s not saying much: currencies don’t usually have cult followings. But if the euro is the nerd no one wants to be seen with, bitcoin is the coolest kid in the class.

Perhaps part of the attraction of bitcoin for techie types is the very fact that it’s such a mystery to everyone else, accustomed as we are to traditional currencies. That makes the bitcoin club very exclusive.

So what is a ‘digital currency’ anyway? How can any kind of real money exist only in a digital form? Well, the two things that enable it to work are a) the fact that there are a finite number of bitcoins in existence, and b) the clever bit of technology that underpins it: the blockchain.

The blockchain is, in a way, the best thing about bitcoin. Safe to say that whatever may happen to bitcoin in the ephemeral world of digital fads, blockchains have a serious future in the technology of payments and money transmission: central banks are already working on what that future might be. Essentially, a blockchain is a record of digital events: in the case of bitcoin, any change in ownership of any one ‘coin’. This record is impossible to change, so it can’t be edited after it has been confirmed. The only way of altering the blockchain is by adding to it, rather than erasing previous entries. And the record is not stored in just one place, but shared across hundreds or thousands of networked computers, making it harder to hack.

The other interesting thing is that the system is anonymous. Unlike a bank or Paypal, which request all sorts of personal details from you, bitcoin doesn’t care who you are. That makes it popular with people who don’t want their financial activities traced, whether because they are extreme libertarians or because they have something to hide. Many users feel a political affinity with the bitcoin concept of a currency that functions independently of any bank, government or institution full of men in suits. As one user told me: ‘Bitcoin doesn’t have a CEO; it has no ability to care either way about who uses it or why.’

But beyond those who want to hide, is bitcoin flourishing among everyday consumers? Well, it’s certainly a growth market. Plenty of people have given it a shot to see what the fuss is about, but it’s the drug-dealing and cybercrime fraternities that allegedly make up a large proportion of bitcoin turnover.

When, for example, the first Silk Road online market-place (a site which mostly sold drugs on the ‘dark web’, the part of the internet inaccessible through normal search engines) was shut down in 2013 by the FBI, the price of bitcoin saw a short-term crash because so many coins had been seized by the US authorities.

But one aficionado who has lived off bitcoin trading for the last two years told me: ‘It’s very convenient to paint the whole [bitcoin user] group as one homogenous entity. But I’ve met people from all sides of the political spectrum in bitcoin forums on the internet.’

What else is bitcoin good for? Charities are keen to use it, especially when transferring money to, say, Africa, because the transaction costs are much smaller than with services such as Western Union. A number of places and websites also accept bitcoin payment (full list at http://www.wheretospendbitcoins.co.uk), including the Pembury Tavern in Hackney, which was the first British pub to join this new marketplace.

But bitcoin, as with any other currency, is still at the mercy of exchange-rate fluctuations. Even the most dedicated bitcoin users agree on this point: it’s no more reliable than any other currency, and possibly less so. In the past, bitcoin prices against US dollars have fluctuated massively in short spaces of time — and with no central authority in control, its market is vulnerable to manipulation.

The same applies to bitcoin as an investment: will it stand the test of time? One benefit — so it is said — is that once 21 million bitcoins have been released, production will stop, meaning that your virtual cash could hold its value, on grounds of scarcity, more than a traditional currency. But some devotees have already raised the question of removing or raising that cap.

Meanwhile, Wall Street has also been showing more interest in the currency, with a bitcoin index introduced on the New York Stock Exchange last year. It also has been gaining traction in countries with unstable currencies or weak banking systems. If the mainstream financiers who brought the world to its knees in 2008 decide to embrace bitcoin, who knows what will happen to it.

So how about bitcoin as a hedge against the Brexit result, or a safe haven in the current round of financial turmoil? Whichever way the EU vote goes, it looks like sterling is in for a torrid time in the short to medium term, and shares have already gone into a bear market. So if you’re looking for somewhere safer to keep your cash, is bitcoin an option?

It’s certainly a volatile proposition: you might make money if your timing is exactly right but if there’s a sudden panic over bitcoin’s future, the bottom could fall out of this market very quickly indeed. There’s always a risk of cyberattack too, especially given that so many bitcoin users tend to be high-level techies.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that this is the first digital currency to go large — and just look at the fate of other web firsts. Few of the earliest social media networks are still going today; everyone in the digital arena is always looking for the new, new thing.

Bitcoin is an intriguing phenomenon, for sure, but its fate hangs in the balance. Would I risk putting my savings into such a mysterious thing? No, probably not. But a small punt? Well, in an uncertain world, it’s got to be worth a try.

Source: By Camilla Swift The Spectator

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