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Taiwan Plagued by Cyberattacks on Convenience Stores, Train Stations Over Nancy Pelosi Visit




By Reuters | Updated: 5 August 2022

As US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a brief visit to Taiwan this week that enraged Beijing, the welcome she received from government officials and the public was in sharp contrast with a different sort of message that began popping up elsewhere on the island.

On Wednesday, in some branches of 7-11 convenience stores in Taiwan, the television screens behind cashiers suddenly switched to display the words: “Warmonger Pelosi, get out of Taiwan!”

The largest 24-hour convenience store chain on the island was the victim of what Taiwanese authorities are calling an unprecedented amount of cyberattacks on government websites belonging to the presidential office, foreign and defence ministries as well as infrastructure such as screens at railway stations, in protest against Pelosi’s visit.

Taipei has not directly blamed the attacks on the Chinese government but has said that the attacks on government websites — which paralysed the sites’ operations — originated from addresses in China and Russia. It also said the firms whose displays were changed had used Chinese software that could have contained backdoors or Trojan horse malware.

Taiwan’s digital minister Audrey Tang said the volume of cyberattacks on Taiwan government units on Tuesday, before and during Pelosi’s arrival, surpassed 15,000 gigabits, 23 times higher than the previous daily record.

Lo Ping-cheng, Taiwan Cabinet spokesman, said on Wednesday that the government had stepped up security at key infrastructure including power plants and airports and increased the cyber security alertness level across government offices. On Thursday, he said no related damage had been detected so far.

“Government departments have been very careful. In these past few days, in terms of public security, we have set up a three-tier government security and communication mechanism, it is already tough and defensive enough, so these adaptations have been beneficial,” he told a briefing.

Theatre, rather than threat

Pelosi’s visit triggered furious responses from the Chinese public and Beijing, who said the trip to the self-ruled island it regards as its territory infringed its sovereignty. On Thursday, China fired missiles around Taiwan as part of a series of unprecedented military drills.

A cybersecurity research organisation said the attacks against Taiwanese government websites before Pelosi’s visit were likely launched by Chinese activist hackers rather than the Chinese government.

Hacker group APT 27, which has been accused by Western authorities of being a Chinese state-sponsored group, claimed responsibility for the cyberattacks on Taiwan on Wednesday, saying on YouTube that they were done to protest how Pelosi had defied China’s warnings with her visit. It also claimed it had shut down 60,000 internet-connected devices in Taiwan.

Asked about the cyberattacks in Taiwan on Thursday at a regular Chinese foreign ministry briefing, a spokesperson declined to comment. The Cyberspace Administration of China, which regulates the country’s internet, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Experts said that the cyberattacks, combined with China’s live firing exercises, provide Taiwan’s leaders with a preview of what an invasion from China would look like.

In recent years, several reports from think tanks in Taiwan and the United States have emphasised the high likelihood that, in the event of a military assault of Taiwan, China would first launch a debilitating cybersecurity attack on Taiwan’s key infrastructure, such as its power grid.

Still, Eryk Waligora, a cyber threat intelligence specialist at Accenture, said the latest ones appeared to be “more theatre than threat” so far. He said past attacks, like a campaign between November last year to February that forced several financial institutions in Taiwan to suspend online transactions, were more sophisticated technically, and damaging.

“There have certainly been far worse cyber-attacks,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Luna-25, Russia’s First Moon Mission in 47 Years, Ends in Failure After Crashing on Lunar Surface




Russia's state space corporation, Roskosmos, said it had lost contact with the craft at 11:57 GMT on Saturday after a problem.
By Reuters | Updated: 21 August 2023

Russia’s first moon mission in 47 years failed when its Luna-25 space craft spun out of control and crashed into the moon after a problem preparing for pre-landing orbit, underscoring the post-Soviet decline of a once mighty space programme.

Russia’s state space corporation, Roskosmos, said it had lost contact with the craft at 11:57 GMT (5:27pm IST) on Saturday after a problem as the craft was shunted into pre-landing orbit. A soft landing had been planned for Monday.

“The apparatus moved into an unpredictable orbit and ceased to exist as a result of a collision with the surface of the Moon,” Roskosmos said in a statement.

It said a special inter-departmental commission had been formed to investigate the reasons behind the loss of the Luna-25 craft, whose mission had raised hopes in Moscow that Russia was returning to the big power moon race.

The failure underscored the decline of Russia’s space power since the glory days of Cold War competition when Moscow was the first to launch a satellite to orbit the Earth – Sputnik 1, in 1957 – and Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to travel into space in 1961.

It also comes as Russia’s $2 trillion (roughly Rs. 1,66,18,000 crore) economy faces its biggest external challenge for decades: the pressure of both Western sanctions and fighting the biggest land war in Europe since World War Two.

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Fake Image of Pentagon Explosion Goes Viral, Affects Markets; Generative AI Use Suspected




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Instagram, TikTok and Twitter Among 19 Tech Giants Set to Face Stricter EU Online Content Rules




All 19 firms that will be subject to the EU's Digital Services Act have more than 45 million monthly active users.
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 26 April 2023

The European Union on Tuesday designated 19 online platforms, including Instagram, TikTok and Twitter, as having user numbers so big they will come under stricter regulatory rules for content.

The list — on which services from Amazon, Google, Meta, Instagram and Microsoft also feature — all have more than 45 million monthly active users.

That puts them in a category under a new EU law, known as the Digital Services Act (DSA), imposing measures from August such as annual audits and a duty to effectively counter disinformation and hate content.

In four months’ time, “these platforms and search engines will not be able to act as if they were ‘too big to care’,” Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, said in a statement.

“This new supervision system will cast a wide and tight net and catch all points of failure in a platform’s compliance,” he added.

Platforms meeting the 45-million-plus threshold include Twitter, owned by US billionaire Elon Musk); Alphabet’s Google Search, Google Maps, Google Shopping and Google Play units as well as its YouTube subsidiary; and Meta’s Facebook and Instagram.

Others are Microsoft’s LinkedIn, Apple’s iOS App Store, online encyclopedia Wikipedia, messaging app Snapchat and creative image website Pinterest.

Under the DSA, they are categorised as a “Very Large Online Platform” (VLOP) or a “Very Large Online Search Engine” (VLOSE).

Most of the companies on the list are US-based, but Chinese-owned platforms TikTok and e-commerce site AliExpress also feature.

The commission also listed German online fashion retailer Zalando.

Huge fines
Breton told journalists on Tuesday his team will hold “stress tests” to check Twitter’s compliance readiness “at the end of June”.

He added that TikTok had also expressed an interest in cooperating to ensure compliance.

Tuesday’s announcement follows a deadline in February for online companies to publish user figures in Europe.

The DSA has a wide range of objectives, including forcing platforms to better protect children, strengthen transparency around digital services, prohibit the sale online of unsafe goods and allow users to have greater choice when online in the EU.

The rules allow the EU to impose fines of up to six percent of the platforms’ annual global sales for repeated infringements.

By August 25, 2023 the 19 platforms must have an independent compliance system in place and give their first annual risk assessment to the European Commission, including how they plan to handle content on mental health and gender-based violence.

There will then be an independent audit and oversight by the commission.

Commission vice president Margrethe Vestager said the designations were a “huge step forward” for the DSA to bring “meaningful transparency and accountability of platforms and search engines and give consumers more control”.

Online platforms declaring themselves below the 45-million user threshold include Swedish music-streaming site Spotify, US dating app Tinder and home-rental platform Airbnb.

Breton said “four to five” more platforms could be added to the list “in the coming weeks” but refused to name which ones.

The DSA is one of two major laws the EU passed last year to rein in digital platforms to protect EU users.

The special obligations for very large platforms are in addition to the DSA rules that will apply to all from February 17, 2024.

The second law, the Digital Markets Act, prohibits anti-competitive behaviour by so-called “gatekeepers” of the internet.

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Assam Likely to Be First State to Achieve 100 Percent Electric Three-Wheeler Sales by 2025, US Study Shows




Assam achieved about 85 percent of new electric three-wheeler sales between April 2022 and January 2023, according to a recent study.
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 17 January 2023

Assam is likely to achieve 100 percent electric three-wheeler sales by 2025, making it the first Indian state to reach the milestone, according to a study carried out by a top US university.

As of fiscal 2023 — April 2022 – January 2023 — Assam has achieved about 85 percent of new electric three-wheeler sales, being among the only three states in India to achieve such high levels of electrification in any segment (the other two being Uttarakhand and Chandigarh), said a recent study by the India ZEV Research Centre at the University of California Davis.

“At the current pace, Assam will likely achieve 100 percent electric three-wheeler sales by 2025, being among the first states to achieve this, not just in India but also globally. More importantly, the robustness of electric 3W sales has continued as total 3W sales in Assam have grown while recovering from the pandemic,” the University of California Davis said in its study.

Over 25 states in India have now announced their own State EV Policy, focusing on both demand-side incentives including vehicle purchase subsidies, tax benefits and incentives for charging infrastructure, as well as supply-side incentives that promote investments in EV manufacturing. Many of the states also include varying ambitions, setting targets for vehicle electrification for 2030.

While India has set a net zero goal by 2070, it has not set any sector-specific targets, and more specifically, with respect to road transport electrification, it has promoted state-level action as a key driver of EV adoption.

In the absence of a national EV target, the state-level EV policy goals can provide an important market signal at the sub-national level, for demand creation and enable a strong environment for capital flow towards the EV ecosystem, guiding India to high ZEV adoption.

The study estimated that the total cumulative incentives being provided by states totals about USD 1.1 billion by 2030.

The study said that since the Assam EV Policy went into effect in January 2022, the state has seen sales of 38,710 electric 3Ws, 1,903 electric 2Ws two-wheeler and 90 electric 4Ws (four-wheeler), for the calendar year 2022.

The fact that the state has already achieved 85 percent of 3W electrification of new sales is indicative of the favorable economics of this segment even with just the FAME-II subsidy scheme.

“The state is lagging with regards to sales in electric 2Ws and 4Ws, and the additional state subsidy will go a long way in improving the market economics of these vehicles,” it said.

According to the study, the benefits of the Assam State EV Policy which include subsidies for EVs, as well as zero registration and road tax and free parking, will be key in driving the transition from ICE to EVs in 2W and 4W segments as well.

Noting that Assam has been among the more recent ones to notify its State EV Policy in September 2021, it said the state policy has set a target of electrifying 100,000 two-wheelers, 75,000 three-wheelers, and 25,000 four-wheelers in the five-year operating period of the policy (by 2026-27).

Further, the state also aims to electrify 100 percent of its public transit buses and government vehicles by 2030, including banning ICE purchases for government vehicles from 2025. Finally, it aims to phase out all fossil fuel commercial and logistics vehicles by 2030.

As state governments create frameworks for EV policies, significant capacity development is needed to align an enabling transportation policy ecosystem, as various issues regarding transport and energy are under the jurisdiction of multiple levels of government, especially, state, and local government bodies, the study said.

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Auto Expo 2023: EVs Take Centre Stage With Participation From Over 70 Automakers




The government will work on encouraging 30 percent of vehicle owners to switch to EVs by 2030, as per the report.
By ANI | Updated: 14 January 2023

The Auto Expo got off to a rousing start in the national capital on Friday, showcasing electric vehicles (EVs) by more than 70 domestic and international automakers.

EVs are at the centre stage of this year’s Auto Expo, Japan’s NHK World international service reported. Maruti Suzuki, a subsidiary of Japanese auto manufacturer Suzuki Motor, has the largest share in the passenger car segment in the Indian market.

According to the NHK World report, Suzuki Motor President Suzuki Toshihiro said electric vehicles have emerged as a viable option for vehicle owners and synthetic fuel and hydrogen are also new-age options in the automobile space.

He also stressed the importance of thoroughly considering customers’ needs, the report said.

With India grappling with serious air pollution over the last few years, the Central government has planned to reduce vehicular pollution. As part of its plan of cutting down on vehicular pollution, the government will work on encouraging 30 percent of vehicle owners to switch to EVs by 2030.

India’s car population of 1.4 billion is expected to expand even further, according to the NHK World report. Maruti Suzuki’s latest concept EV was the main attraction at the event. The Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) can travel 550 kilometres on a single charge and the manufacturer aims to put it up for sale by 2025 in the Indian automotive market, the NHK World report claimed.

Other manufacturers in the Indian auto space such as Tata Motors and South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Company also showcased their EVs at the event.

Earlier, New Delhi created history by achieving the highest ever state-UT-wise monthly electric vehicle sales in the country.

As of December last year, New Delhi registered 7,046 electric vehicles with a year-on-year growth of 86 per cent. Since the launch of the EV policy, the UT registered 93,239 electric vehicles, of which two-wheelers contribute nearly 55 per cent of the total EV sales in the year 2022.

Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot, in a media address, said Delhi has always led from the front on the registration and sale of electric vehicles, making it the EV capital of the country and it is ready with the required private and public charging infrastructure with a total of 2300+ charging points and 200+ batteries swapping stations operating across the city.

Delhi’s EV policy was launched on August 7, 2020, with 2-wheelers (2W) and 3-wheelers (3W) identified as the priority vehicle segment.

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Fortnite Maker Epic Games Hit With $520 Million Penalty Over Alleged Violation of Children’s Privacy




Fortnite Maker Epic Games Hit With $520 Million Penalty Over Alleged Violation of Children's Privacy
By Reuters | Updated: 20 December 2022

Fortnite creator Epic Games will pay $520 million (roughly Rs. 4,305 crore) to settle allegations that it illegally collected children’s personal information and tricked people into making purchases, the Federal Trade Commission and the company said on Monday.

It will pay a record penalty of $275 million (roughly Rs. 2,300 crore) for violating a children’s privacy law and adopt strong default privacy settings for young people. Epic Games will also pay $245 million (roughly Rs. 2,000 crore) to refund consumers duped by so-called “dark patterns” into making purchases they did not intend to make, the FTC said.

“Epic used privacy-invasive default settings and deceptive interfaces that tricked Fortnite users, including teenagers and children,” said FTC Chair Lina Khan in a statement.

The announcement comes as the agency has taken a more muscular role in policing the gaming industry, announcing last week a complaint against Microsoft over its $69 billion (roughly Rs. 6 lakh crore) bid to acquire Activision.

Epic said in a statement on Monday that it had eliminated pay-to-win and pay-to-progress mechanics when two players compete against each other and that it had eliminated random item loot boxes in 2019. It also said that it was putting into place an explicit yes/no choice to save payment information.

It said that players could seek refunds via credit cards. “If a cardholder sees an unauthorized transaction on their statement, they may report it to their bank to have it reversed,” the company said in its statement.

To protect children, Epic said it had created features like easier-to-access parental controls and a PIN requirement to allow parents to authorize purchases and a daily spending limit for kids under 13.

The FTC said that Epic employees had expressed concern about the company’s default settings in place for children, saying that people should be required to opt-in for voice chat. The FTC said that voice and text chat must be turned off by default.

Children’s privacy advocates were pleased with the settlement, with Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy saying that “kids should also have their data privacy rights better respected through this enforcement of the federal kids data privacy law (COPPA).”

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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