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Greek Government Rocked by Resignations Amid Long-Simmering Surveillance Scandal

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 6 August 2022

Greece’s conservative government was rocked Friday by a long-simmering surveillance scandal after its intelligence chief and a close aide to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis resigned in the space of an hour. Panagiotis Kontoleon offered his resignation due to management “errors” during his time in the role, Mitsotakis’ office said in a statement.

The announcement that Kontoleon had resigned from his position at the head of national intelligence service EYP came less than an hour after the secretary general of the prime minister’s office, Grigoris Dimitriadis, also quit.

The resignations came a week after the leader of the country’s Socialist opposition party, Nikos Androulakis, filed a complaint with the supreme court over “attempted” spying on his mobile phone using Predator malware.

Two Greek journalists have also taken legal action this year after they claimed to have been victims of surveillance.

Androulakis on Friday called for a special investigation by parliament into the incident.

“I never expected the Greek government to spy on me using the darkest practices,” he said.

Two Greek journalists have also taken legal action this year after they claimed to have been victims of surveillance.

Androulakis on Friday called for a special investigation by parliament into the incident.

“I never expected the Greek government to spy on me using the darkest practices,” he said.

The government has consistently denied any state involvement, saying it had not bought software of that type, but the rows have sparked an outcry in the country.

Government spokesman Yiannis Economou has said it was “plausible” that individuals used Predator to spy and that all of Europe faced surveillance threats.

In November, Greek minister of state George Gerapetritis had insisted to AFP that there is “no surveillance of journalists in Greece” by the state.

“Greece fully adheres to the values of democratic society and rule of law, especially pluralism and the freedom of the press,” Gerapetritis said.

As such, he argued there was “no need for further action” to verify the alleged monitoring of investigative journalist Stavros Malichudis.

Kontoleon, who was appointed EYP head in 2019 after Mitsotakis’s conservative party won power that year, had implied while in that role that the journalists had been targeted on the order of foreign intelligence services.

Investigative websites Reporters United and Inside Story have accused Dimitriadis — a nephew of Mitsotakis — of being linked to the alleged spying scandals involving Androulakis and Greek financial journalist Thanasis Koukakis.

Dimitriadis on Friday threatened to sue Reporters United and leftist daily Efsyn unless they withdraw a story on the case. Koukakis was also warned to refrain from retweeting the story.

In one of his first acts upon assuming power in 2019, Mitsotakis raised eyebrows by attaching the national intelligence service to his office.

The main opposition party, the left-wing Syriza, called the affair “a huge scandal”. Its leader, former premier Alexis Tsipras, said the resignation of Dimitriadis was “an admission of guilt” and that Mitsotakis himself bore some of the responsibility.

“Mr Mitsotakis must give explanations to the Greek people over his own Watergate,” Tsipras said.

A dystopian, Orwellian reality

Experts note that Predator, originally developed in North Macedonia and subsequently in Israel, can access both messages and conversations.

“A few days ago I was informed by the European Parliament that there was an attempt to bug my mobile phone with Predator surveillance software,” Androulakis told the media as he left a court in Athens on July 26.

“Finding out who is behind these harmful practices is not a personal matter but a democratic duty,” he added.

The European Parliament set up a special service for MEPs to check their phones for illegal surveillance software following hacks using a spyware similar to Predator called Pegasus.

Androulakis used the service for “a precautionary check of his phone on June 28, 2022”.

“From the first check, a suspicious link related to the Predator surveillance tool was detected,” his PASOK party said in a statement.

The software can infiltrate mobile phones to extract data or activate a camera or microphone to spy on their owners.

“Predator is among the most expensive spyware and is out of reach for individuals,” cybersecurity specialist Anastasios Arampatzis told AFP, saying only a state would need its sophisticated security features.

“Security and the protection of one’s private life must be guaranteed by any democratic regime. If a state spies on its citizens, we’re heading towards a dystopian, Orwellian reality.”

Spain’s intelligence chief was sacked earlier this year after it emerged that top politicians — including Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Catalan separatists — had been targeted by phone hacking.

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NavIC Rollout: No Timeline Fixed For Implementing Indigenous GPS Alternative, MeitY Says

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By ANI | Updated: 27 September 2022

The central government has said that it has held a meeting with mobile manufacturers to discuss the compatibility of the home-grown global positioning system — NavIC — in smartphones, but no timeline was fixed for its implementation.

This clarification by the government came on Monday after media reports suggested India was looking to mandate its indigenous navigation system “within months”.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said the meeting was “consultative”.

“A media report has claimed citing a meeting that mobile cos were asked to make smartphones compatible with NavIC within months. This is to clarify: (1) No timeline has been fixed. (2) The cited meeting was consultative; and (3) the issue is under discussion with all stakeholders,” the Ministry of Electronics and IT said in a tweet late on Monday night.

What is NavIC? How is it different from its previous version IRNSS?

NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation) is the name of the independent stand-alone navigation satellite system of India.

This system was earlier known as IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System).

The name NavIC was coined by the Prime Minister of India on the occasion of the completion of the constellation in April 2016.

Which are the navigation satellite systems operational currently in the world?

Presently, there are four global systems, GPS from the US, GLONASS from Russia, Galileo from European Union and BeiDou from China.

In addition, there are two regional systems, NavIC from India and QZSS from Japan.

What is the need for NavIC when already GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and BeiDou are operating?

GPS and GLONASS are operated by defence agencies of the respective nations. It is possible that the civilian service can be degraded or denied.

NavIC is an independent regional system over the Indian region and does not depend on other systems for providing position service within the service region.

It is fully under the control of the Government of India.

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Apple to hike App Store prices in several countries from Oct

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By: Reuters, Updated September 20, 2022

Apple Inc said on Monday prices of apps and in-app purchases on its App Store will increase in several countries including Japan, Malaysia and all territories that use the euro currency, from next month.

The new prices, excluding auto-renewable subscriptions, will be effective as early as Oct. 5, Apple said in a blog post.

These changes will also reflect new regulations for Apple in Vietnam to collect and remit applicable taxes, being value added tax (VAT) and corporate income tax (CIT) at 5% rates respectively, the company added.

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Apple plans to use latest chip tech by Taiwan’s TSMC in iPhones, Macs – Nikkei

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By: Reuters, September 14, 2022

Sept 14 (Reuters) – Apple Inc is planning to use an updated version of Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC’s (2330.TW) latest chip producing technology in iPhones and Macbooks next year, the Nikkei Asia newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The A17 mobile processor, which is currently under development, will be mass-produced using TSMC’s N3E chipmaking tech, expected to be available in the second half of next year, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter.

The A17 will be used in the premium entry in the iPhone lineup slated for release in 2023, it added.

Apple declined to comment, while TSMC did not immediately respond to Reuters request for a comment.

The current iPhone model has an A15 processor chip and in the recent Apple launch event, the company said iPhone 14 Pro models will also have the same.

The chipmaker controls about 54% of the global market for contractually produced chips, supplying firms including Apple and Qualcomm Inc.

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New Apple iPhone will be available in Russia, trade minister says

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By: Reuters, September 8, 2022

Sept 8 (Reuters) – Russians will have the chance to buy the new Apple iPhone 14 despite the U.S. tech company having left the country thanks to Moscow’s parallel import scheme, a senior government official told the RIA Novosti news agency on Thursday.

Russia announced the scheme in March when it authorised retailers to import products from abroad without the trademark owner’s permission. read more

Asked whether the new iPhone, unveiled by Apple on Wednesday, would be imported under the scheme, Trade and Industry Minister Denis Manturov said: “Why not? If consumers want to buy these phones, yes. There will be the opportunity.”

Apple halted new product sales in Russia in March, a week after Russia invaded Ukraine, though the iPhone, MacBook and other Apple goods have remained available in Russian stores as retailers sell down their remaining stock of old models and get hold of newly released devices through the import scheme.

Russian mobile network MTS on Thursday morning was already selling the new iPhone 14 models on pre-order. Prices start from 84,990 roubles ($1,398) for the 128GB version.

MTS said delivery could take up to 120 days and it retained the right to cancel orders if it faced difficulties importing the products.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Manturov, who is also a deputy prime minister, said last month that the scheme, which covers Western products ranging from luxury clothes to cars, could reach $16 billion in value this year, equivalent to around 4% of Russia’s 2021 imports.

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Apple to appeal Brazil sales ban of iPhone without charger

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By: Reuters, September 7, 2022

SAO PAULO, Sept 6 (Reuters) – Apple Inc said on Tuesday it will appeal a Brazilian order banning it from selling iPhones without a battery charger, pushing back on claims that the company provides an incomplete product to consumers.

The Justice Ministry fined Apple 12.275 million reais ($2.38 million) and ordered the company to cancel sales of the iPhone 12 and newer models, in addition to suspending the sale of any iPhone model that does not come with a charger.

In the order, published on Tuesday in the country’s official gazette, the ministry argued that the iPhone was lacking a essential component in a “deliberate discriminatory practice against consumers.”

The authorities rejected Apple’s argument that the practice had the purpose of reducing carbon emissions, saying there is no evidence that selling the smartphone without a charger offers environmental protections.

Apple said it would continue to work with Brazilian consumer protection agency Senacon in order to “resolve their concerns,” while saying it would appeal the decision.

“We have already won several court rulings in Brazil on this matter and we are confident that our customers are aware of the various options for charging and connecting their devices,” Apple said.

The order comes a day before Apple is expected to announce its new iPhone model.

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India considers restricting sale of sub-$150 phones by Chinese firms, Bloomberg reports

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By reuters | Updated: 29 August 2022

NEW DELHI, Aug 8 (Reuters) – India is seeking to restrict Chinese companies from its sub-$150 phone market in a bid to revive the prospects of domestic players, Bloomberg News reported on Monday, citing unidentified sources.

The move would be a blow to Chinese companies such as Xiaomi , according to the report. The plans coincide with rising concerns in India about Chinese brands undercutting local smartphone makers, it added.

It is unclear if the Indian government will announce policies or use informal channels to execute the block on Chinese smartphone makers, Bloomberg said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Chinese firms account for a major chunk of entry-level smartphones that are popular among users shifting away from traditional devices in India, which is the second largest mobile market in the world.

Indian firms such as Lava and MicroMax rapidly gained popularity after their launch over a decade ago, but have since lost market share to stiff competition from Chinese players.

Many Chinese companies have struggled to do business in India due to political tensions following a border clash in 2020. India cited security concerns in banning more than 300 Chinese apps, and has also tightened rules for Chinese companies investing in India.

Xiaomi and rival Vivo are being investigated by India’s financial crime fighting agency for alleged illegal remittances and money laundering. Both deny any wrongdoing.

The companies and the Indian government did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report.

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