Get ready to see more geofilters on Snapchat

Snapchat is making it easier to create your own geofilter with new customizable templates.
Image: snapchat

Snapchat wants to make your party planning easier.

The mobile storytelling app has released customizable templates for geofilters, the in-app illustrations that are seen more than 1 billion times every day.

Now, Snapchat users can go to the on-demand geofilter page on desktop to access a setof tools for designing their own. Users choose a theme birthdays, celebrations and weddings and select from several designs. They then add their own text and colors.

These geofilters can be made in minutes and no longer require people to use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or another third-party software to create one. The designs still take at least one business day to be approved by Snapchat.

Pricing is staying the same. On-demand geofilters starts at $5 for 30 minutes and 20,000 square feet but can go into the thousands depending on time and size. Geofilters can be set for up to 30 days and at a 5-mile radius.

Birthdays is one of three themes Snapchat offers for its new customizable templates.

Image: snapchat

Interestingly, the update comes shortly after the release of Confetti, an iPhone app that also offers custom templates for Snapchat geofilters. Using Confetti costs between $9.99 or $14.99 per design depending if you want the app to take care of the submission process.

Snapchat taking control of the process makes it much simpler for any user to hand over money to one of the world’s most valuable startups. Geofilters for weddings and events are some of the most popular on the app, Snapchat told The Guardian in May.

On-demand filters is one of several ways Snapchat generates revenue. Brands can pay for a sponsored geofilter, a lens or a video ad within Snapchat Discover or Snapchat Stories.

Geofilters are one way Snapchat is still distinguished from Instagram, which earlier this month launched its own version of Stories, a 24-hour feed of users’ photos and videos. Instagram could soon introduce its own version of filters as well as integrate Facebook’s MSQRD.

Snapchat is continuing to expand its own features. As of an app update Tuesday, Snapchat users can now access italics, bold and underline styles for text in captions. These captions can also be animated in video snaps, similar to what is available for stickers, by being placed on moving objects.

Beyond filters, Snapchat lenses are also now easier to use. Instead of having to press and hold on a face, Snapchat users can simply tap once to apply them.

The app is also making it easier to see content from people you do not follow. Snapchat users can search for an account and view their public snaps on the Stories page without having to add them as a friend.

Still, users’ hopes of Snapchat adding friend groups has yet to be realized.

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‘Smart energy’ revolution to balance electricity demand – BBC News

Image copyright Getty Images

A “smart energy” revolution could help ensure that the UK does not suffer blackouts, according to National Grid’s new UK chief.

Nicola Shaw, its executive director, said technological advances will reduce the need to build new conventional power stations in the UK.

An “internet of energy” will allow fridges, washers and dishwashers to help balance energy demand.

Some commentators say the UK needs more gas-fired power to prevent blackouts.

Ms Shaw agreed that more investment in gas-fired power was needed, but argued that between 30% and 50% of fluctuations on the electricity grid could be smoothed by households and businesses adjusting their demand at peak times.

“We are at a moment of real change in the energy industry. From an historic perspective we created energy in big generating organisations that sent power to houses and their businesses. Now we are producing energy in those places – mostly with solar power,” she told BBC News.

London-listed National Grid runs electricity and gas networks in the UK and the northeastern United States.

More and more people and companies were adjusting their energy consumption to use more when power was at its cheapest, Ms Shaw said.

Image copyright National Grid
Image caption National Grid UK executive director Nicola Shaw

“All of that is a real revolution a smart energy revolution that’s changing the way we think about energy across the country,” she said.

This change was being driven by people and firms generating energy, storing it and using it flexibly through new controls and online software.

The move toward flexible energy use is supported by the National Infrastructure Commission. And the advances in energy software are described by the World Energy Council as the biggest change in 21st Century energy – along with solar power.

Price signals to consumers will be key to the change, as the UK relies on increasing amounts of intermittent renewable energy.

Already some firms benefit from using extra power when it is cheaper off-peak. That trend is spreading to households: a firm in Cornwall is offering a “sunshine tariff” that aims to persuading households to use cheap solar power when the sun is out, for example.

Energy experts say that in future consumers will be able to ask for their appliances to be connected online to the grid.

Peak hour

A signal could then turn on, say, a washing machine, when there was plentiful energy from wind power, or turn off a freezer for a few minutes to smooth out a spike in demand at teatime.

Prof Phil Taylor, professor of energy systems at Newcastle University, said: “People are used to the idea that they pay more for using the trains at peak time, or they queue more if they use the roads at rush hour.

Image copyright Getty Images

“Technology has enabled us to bring this price flexibility to energy consumers. No-one will be forced to link their home to the energy internet, but if they do choose to use it, it will save them money, save pollution and save power stations needing to be built.”

The challenge for National Grid is to attract more companies to adopt what is known as “demand-side response”, or DSR. Some firms are nervous, others have not heard of it – and business models are changing at breakneck speed.

Turn me on (and off)

  • Marriott Hotels has a contract that temporarily turns off its water-chilled air conditioning system at times of peak demand. The water temperature drops so slightly that guests do not notice the difference.
  • Japanese electronics giant Sharp is devising controls and software to allow solar storage batteries in homes to sell energy back to the grid when the demand (and price) are high. The firm says it expects the system to pay its way without subsidy by 2018.
  • Aggregate Industries – which makes road materials – is helping to smooth spikes in the grid even though it generates no power at all. The bitumen in giant containers stored near Heathrow airport can be stored at temperatures of between 130 and 185C. If a rise in demand is predicted for later in the day, the company is advised by a computer to heat the bitumen to the maximum temperature, then turn off the power until the demand – and price – subsides. Aggregate is also rewarded for gobbling up extra energy when there is a glut of wind power on the grid. Head of sustainibility, Donna Hunt, said: “I think this is a no-brainer for us because we’re saving energy. We’re not generating carbon whilst the power is off, and we’re making an income for allowing our assets to be used flexibly.”

Ms Shaw acknowledged that some were anxious about the lights going out as the smart energy revolution progressed.

However, she said: “I don’t think people should fret. There’s an awareness of the issues. There’s lots of activity on the market that will solve this problem. Be enthusiastic – it’s a moment of change that should take us to a better place.”

Wiring up

The big questions are how far smart technology can ease the burden on the grid and how quickly it can make its mark.

Deepa Venkateswaran, from Bernstein energy analysts, said: “The smart grid revolution is going to be exciting. However, there’s a time frame – we need some time to get wired up and respond dynamically, but in the short term we need new gas stations to replace some of our ageing coal stations which are going to close.”

Ms Shaw agrees with the need for new gas power, but is wary of committing to new power stations while technology is producing unexpected improvements at a sharp pace.

The issue is central to the UK’s laws on cutting greenhouse gases. Under Ms Venkateswaran’s scenario, the UK will be locked into generating gas-fired electricity until well into the 2030s. This would wreck the government’s target of ending gas-fired generation in the early years of that decade.

Ministers are working on a long-term climate strategy, which was promised for last November but is now not expected until sometime before the end of this year.

The pressure is on the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to devise policies that will both keep the lights on, bills affordable – as well as carbon emissions down.

Follow Roger on Twitter: @rharrabin

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Kim Dotcom wins right to live stream extradition court hearing

US authorities opposed the move, but New Zealand judge rules live broadcast can start on Wednesday, as internet entrepreneur battles online piracy charges

Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom has been granted his wish to live stream his bid to avoid extradition to the United States, where he is wanted on online piracy charges.

Attempts by the US to block the live streaming request were rejected by Judge Murray Gilbert in the Auckland high court on Tuesday.

Lawyers argued live streaming could pollute a potential jury pool if the founder of the Megaupload file-sharing service ended up on trial in the US.

But Gilbert ruled it could go ahead under strict conditions. The live stream must be delayed by 20 minutes, to allow the court time to prevent any restricted material from being published, and all footage must be removed from the internet as soon as the hearing is over.

This is breaking new ground. New Zealand at the forefront of transparent Justice! Leadership! Dotcom tweeted.

Live stream will start tomorrow [Wednesday]. The cameraman needs to set this up professionally and implement the judges live streaming rules.

Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) August 29, 2016

I will post the live streaming link here ASAP. This is breaking new ground. New Zealand at the forefront of transparent Justice! Leadership!

Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) August 29, 2016

Live stream will start tomorrow. The cameraman needs to set this up professionally and implement the Judges live streaming rules. #winning

The German national, who has permanent residency in New Zealand, faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted in the US of piracy, which authorities say cost copyright owners hundreds of millions of dollars.

His lawyer Ron Mansfield had argued when the case opened in the Auckland high court on Monday that it raised unprecedented issues of public and international interest and it would not be a fair hearing without live streaming.

This is a case of the internet age, Mansfield said.

It is nearly five years since Dotcom, a self-described internet freedom fighter, was arrested in a dramatic police raid on his mansion near Auckland after the FBI shut down Megauploads servers.

In December last year, after a nine-week hearing, a New Zealand court ruled there was overwhelming evidence to support extradition of the 41-year-old and three other Megaupload founders.

The prosecution has argued that Megaupload wilfully breached copyright by hosting illegally created movie, music and software files.

Dotcom claimed Megaupload was a genuine file-sharing site that did its best to police copyright infringement but had 50 million daily users and could not control every aspect of their activity.

Denying any wrongdoing, Dotcom has accused US authorities of pursuing a vendetta against him on behalf of politically influential Hollywood studios.

The FBI alleges Megaupload netted more than US$175m in criminal proceeds and cost copyright owners more than US$500m by offering pirated content.

Dotcom has vowed that if he loses this appeal, which is expected to last six to eight weeks, he will take further legal steps to avoid standing trial in the US.

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Sri Lankan teenager hacks president’s website to try and get exams delayed

Police accuse 17-year-old of crippling official home page and posting a demand that A-level tests be postponed

Sri Lankan police have arrested a 17-year-old teenager accused of hacking into President Maithripala Sirisenas official website and posting a message calling for the postponement of A-level examinations.

The boy was taken into custody on Monday under computer crimes laws and on conviction faces a fine of 300,000 rupees ($2,000) and up to three years in jail.

We traced the hack to his home in Kadugannawa, a police official said, referring to a town about 100km (62 miles) east of the capital, Colombo. The website was crippled over the weekend after the attack.

On Monday the presidents official site was up and running again.

The attacker had removed the home page and replaced it with a demand that the president postpone the ongoing GCE Advanced Level examinations or step down.

Sri Lankan websites had been hacked in the past but this is the first time a teenager has been arrested under 2007 laws against computer crimes.

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Can Team GB help northern England rise again? – BBC News

Image caption Melvyn Bragg’s The Matter of the North begins on 29 August

Broadcaster Melvyn Bragg has called for the government to follow the model of Team GB’s Olympic success and invest in the north of England. He believes the region, with its history of producing industrial and creative giants, has “a magic gene pool” which could put the UK “back on track”.

Bragg, whose new Radio 4 series The Matter of the North explores the region’s history, says its most important resource is “the people”.

“We gave the British athletes the money and the training and the equipment and we beat a big country like China,” he says. “If we gave the same resources to the North, just think what we could achieve.

“The North is different to the rest of the country. Different in the head and the heart.”

It was also where the heart of the Industrial Revolution beat its strongest, which in Bragg’s words, was “the greatest revolution in the world”.

Mills clattered in Lancashire, Yorkshire ground out textiles and shipyards in the North-East sparked and clanged round the clock. The black gold of the coal mines brought prosperity to pit villages.

Image copyright Norman Cornish
Image caption Norman Cornish was one of the “Pitmen Painters”

But by the 1960s and 70s, mills were closing across Lancashire at a rate of almost one a week.

Shipbuilding has largely moved to Asia and the last deep mine in the UK – Kellingley Colliery in Selby – closed in 2015.

Could taking a similar approach to the Olympics return the North to its former glory?

Over four years, 350m was invested in various sports, which netted the country 67 medals in Rio. But Team GB’s success wasn’t just all down to the money. There was a deliberate honing in on sports in which GB would do well, such as rowing and cycling. Sports where the UK wouldn’t win had their funding taken away and the resources were ploughed into more fruitful areas.

Cheaper production costs overseas have largely ensured there’s no way back for manufacturing in the UK. So if the north of England can no longer succeed in that, what are the strengths it can focus on?

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Lake District attracts thousands of tourists every year

Tourism would seem to be a good place to start. The region’s greatest gift is perhaps its landscape – the long line of hills and dales that bisects the region and is known as the Backbone of England. Sometimes rolling, often wild, occasionally majestic, the countryside draws tourists from all over the world.

Indeed, enjoying the countryside is something that the North can lay claim to having invented, according to Bragg.

“People used to fear nature until the genius of certain people brokered a new relationship with the natural world,” he says.

“The Romantic movement, people like [the Cumbrian born] Wordsworth, led to us realising nature is not the enemy. Now people go there and they just want to wander around.”

It’s an aspect Welcome to Yorkshire is keen to exploit. Chief Executive Gary Verity says he’s keen to persuade new visitors “from around the UK and beyond” to make Yorkshire their destination of choice.

Image caption Cathy from Wuthering Heights roams the moor

The coast, as well as the moors, remains a big draw, with Scarborough attracting record numbers of visitors.

Major port cities such as Grimsby, Hull and Newcastle are interspersed with rocky cliffs, windswept beaches, quaint fishing villages and bustling, family-friendly resort towns.

It is a landscape that has seeped into the North’s cultural output – a culture that Bragg believes is as strong and distinctive as any nation’s.

Think Cathy and Heathcliff on the Yorkshire Moors, Wordsworths’ wandering clouds and Mrs Tiggywinkle in the Lake District. The Calder Valley’s sweeping moors, dramatic hills and winding canals were home to Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, inspiring some of his earliest poems, including The Thought Fox.

Phillip Larkin was a librarian in Hull, Whitby inspired Dracula, and it’s easy to imagine John, Susan, Titty and Roger, from Swallows and Amazons, still pottering about on Derwentwater.

Image copyright Dan Kitwood
Image caption David Hockney, from Barnsley, is regarded as one of the country’s greatest artists

In the arts, the Pitmen Painters – a celebrated group of miners-turned-artists who rose to prominence in the 1930s – chronicled life in the coal-mining town of Ashington, Northumberland. Their near cousin LS Lowry has a permanent display of his work in a specially-built gallery in Salford Quays.

David Hockney, arguably the UK’s most important living artist, is from Bradford and remains staunchly northern.

Musically, the North has given us more bands than you can mention; The Smiths, Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen to name but a few. Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall houses the UK’s longest-established symphony orchestra, the 158-year-old Hall.

And Hull has been named the UK’s next City of Culture in 2017, beating Leicester, Dundee and Swansea Bay along the way.

It’s an achievement people have high hopes for.

Brian Lavery, a writer and lecturer at the University of Hull, says: “This is going to filter down to the next [playwright] John Godber, who’s now sitting in a primary school classroom somewhere, to some kid playing air guitar in front of his bedroom mirror, to somebody writing poetry in their attic.”

However, while it’s all very well having art and music, nowhere can prosper without the infrastructure – and that costs money.

The Northern Powerhouse – an attempt to corral the North’s population of 15 million into a collective force to rival that of London and the South East – is the government’s latest attempt to boost the region and reduce the economic gap between it and England’s wealthy south.

The distance is physical, as well as cultural, so one of the Northern Powerhouse’s main aims is an improvement in transport links which will bring the region together and allow its towns and cities to compete as one major economy, rather than against one another.

Travelling the 60 miles between Carlisle near the west coast and Newcastle, near the east, takes 1 hour 37 minutes on a dilapidated train service.

Bragg believes the money earmarked for the HS2 line from London to Birmingham would be better spent on the North.

“I mean, going from Cumberland to Newcastle – it’s a Roman road,” he adds. “It makes you weep.

Image copyright Getty Images

“This Northern Powerhouse – it’s about time something was actually done. But so far the government’s not shown any heart for it.”

But the Northern Powerhouse is a concept, rather than any actual, physical thing at the moment,” explains Ed Cox, of think tank IPPR North, who lives and works in Manchester.

“There is a task now for the government to be absolutely clear that the Northern Powerhouse does extend to all parts of the north and it isn’t just a Manchester thing.”

While the region’s role as an industrial powerhouse may be in the past, the North is still at the forefront of technology.

The first human embryo to be cloned was at the International Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne. About 600 people from 35 different countries work there, including researchers, doctors and nurses in the fields of genetic medicine and rare diseases.

Some of the UK’s biggest tech businesses, such as Sage, the software group, and The Hut, the online retailer, are also in the region.

Image copyright Frank Franklin II

Tech North, a government agency set up to promote the sector, says there are nearly 300,000 digital jobs in the region, with companies accounting for almost 10bn in economic value.

The North’s fourth major strength is sport – and it’s not just the footballing giants of Manchester and Merseyside.

Famously, Yorkshire won so many medals in the 2012 Olympics it would have finished 12th in the medals table were it an actual country.

In Rio 2016, Nicola Adams from Leeds retained her Olympic boxing title, while the Brownlee brothers from Dewsbury took gold and silver in the triathlon.

Jack Laugher from Harrogate took gold in the synchronised springboard diving – along with his City of Leeds Swimming Club-mate Chris Mears.

The first two stages of the 2014 Tour de France were also raced in Yorkshire and were backed so fervently that nearly five million people turned out to watch at the roadside.

We can also thank the north for the Grand National, rugby league, whippet racing, pigeon fancying, ferret legging and Geoffrey Boycott.

Image copyright Appletons Butchers
Image caption Local butchers Appletons created a “pie-cycle” out of pork products to celebrate the Tour de France passing through

The North has a lot to overcome before it can rise again; the decline in industry, decades of underinvestment, rickety infrastructure.

But Bragg is adamant it can and it will – and will do so without losing any of its quintessential character.

“It’s a wonderful part of the world and like most people who’ve been born and brought up in the North I feel this is as much a country as any more neatly geographically defined place on the planet,” he says.

“The future of the North depends on investment and training. The most important thing about the North is the people.

“They’re sure of themselves, they know their own worth and it’s not being realised.”

The Matter of the North will broadcast on weekdays on BBC Radio 4 at 09:00 BST from 29 August – 9 September

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Colorful 1960s Advertisements Prove Just How Much Times Have Changed

If you think about the 1960s, whether you experienced that decade firsthand or not, the first thing that probably comes to mind iscolor. Lots of bold, bright colors, eye-catching graphic designs, and big, loud patterns.

Maybe they seem a little over the top now, but those bold graphic prints and blazing colorswere the daring jolt that so defined the youth of those years.

They were looking for something new, and the new look, aptly called the “mod” look, was just what they needed to express a new era with new ideas and new trends.

The fashion of the times reflected a lot that was going on in the world. The bold and graphic prints reflected modern art being created by Warhol and Lichtenstein.

Short hemlines and pants reflected the evolving and growing roles of women outside of the home. And use of materials like plastics reflected technological advances.

And of course, under it all, there was a spirit of freedom and individualism, exemplified by a laid-back, beachy vibe that looks like a Beach Boys song come to life.

Check out some of the great, colorful ads that came out during this tumultuous decade. If you were around for it, did you have any clothes like this? And if you weren’t, would you wear this style?

[H/T: Vintage Everyday]

The 1960s saw a whole new aesthetic take flight, full of eye-popping patterns and contrasting colors.

It was a departure from the more demure looks of the 1950s and reflected the bold changes in society that the younger generations were pushing for.

Besides reflecting the look of the day, which included a lot of big, black mascara and bright or very pale lips, the ads also reflected new innovations in technology, like this clear vinyl visor the model is wearing in an ad for color-changing lipstick.

And it wasn’t just clothing and makeup. Interior decor like bedding, upholstery, and wallpaper got a dose of the bright and graphic, too.

And as this ad suggests, you could even get a bath robe to match your linens. Pretty sweet!

Not only were there tons of new colors everywhere, but women’s clothing was coming out in new shapes, too.

As more and more women started working outside of the home and more young women pushed for different types of careers, skirts and dresses became shorter, simpler, and less fussy.

The fashions even made their way into ads you might not associate with fashion, like this one for a Honda motorcycle.

And sometimes, ads also incorporated these fantastic cartoon images, full of sweeping lines and curves, and of course, plenty of color. Even though they were still images, they seem to move with a life of their own.

Other ads referenced world events and even made fun of them a bit. With the Cold War underpinning almost everything, this ad for Smirnoff references space exploration as well as the concerns about the Soviet Union.

And of course, it’s all topped off with a fabulous beehive.

This ad from the earlier part of the decade is all about the usefulness and versatility of polyester, which was a huge hit due to the fact that it didn’t have to be ironed and was lightweight and inexpensive.

And check out that pattern. There’s some pretty amazing hair happening, too.

In fact, all kinds of synthetic fabrics were coming out, like these classically mod, bell-shaped dresses from Mary Quant in something called “terylene.”

And of course, you couldn’t forget your matching tights!

Another Honda ad from 1967 shows off a pink-and-yellow checkered dress, which doesn’t seem like great motorcycle wear, but it sure is cute.

Up at the top shows a little bit of the psychedelia that would become so prevalent over the next few years.

The swirling patterns even found their way onto other things, like the containers for this Avon makeup collection.

Aptly called “Patterns,” the spirit behind this collection was all about moving forward and progressing, which reflected the values of the time.

Something you don’t see very much any more, at least outside of the lap lane, are swimming caps, and especially not the thick, rubber, rip-your-hair-out kind.

However, if you wanted to look like a pineapple at the beach, this was your time.

Of course, times were changing, even at the beach. Bathing suits were also evolving to be more streamlined and sporty, although these would still be considered bulky by today’s standards.

But you can see the beginnings of the modern bikini, which was just beginning to become popular.

The poses of the models started to change, too. Female models havelong been used to sell all kinds of items, but these gals are a little less pretty and docile, and a little more confident and independent, a stance more and more women were finding appealing.

But there was still a long way to go on the sexism front, and companies like airlines would routinely use the promise of cute female flight attendants to appeal to men, who they still assumed would be purchasing most of their tickets.

Of course, with uniforms in these colors, you’d always know where a flight attendant was.

But clothing didn’t need to be colorful to be striking. These black-and-white dresses are certainly eye-catching andvery short!

The good thing about them? They go with everything!

And if you didn’t want a short skirt, shorts and pants were becoming more and more popular for women, too, as were relaxed-fit, looser-cut clothing.

What’s your favorite look from this decade? Did we miss it? Are these fashionssomething you wish would come back, or something you’d prefer to stay in the past? Let us know in the comments!

And don’t forget toSHARE with anyone who remembers the ’60s fondly, or just loves some vintage fashion!

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Guptagate: family sells South Africa holdings after Jacob Zuma influence claims

Guptas, whose businesses range from media to mining, deny accusations of influencing cabinet appointments

South Africas wealthy Gupta family, which has been accused of holding undue political sway over President Jacob Zuma in a scandal that became known as Guptagate, said on Saturday it planned to dispose of all stakes it holds in South African businesses before the end of the year.

The Guptas have denied accusations that they have used their friendship with Zuma to influence his decisions or advance their business interests. But South Africas anti-corruption watchdog said in July it would get more funds to investigate whether Zuma allowed the family to make government appointments.

In a statement, the Gupta family said we now believe the time is right for us to exit our shareholding of the South African businesses and it believed the move would benefit current employees.

As such, we announce today our intention to sell all of our shareholding in South Africa by the end of the year. We are already in discussions with several international prospective buyers, the statement said.

The prominent business family is accused of being behind Zumas abrupt sacking of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December, a move that rattled investor confidence and triggered calls for the presidents resignation.

The scandal surrounding the Guptas took a dramatic turn earlier this year after deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas said the family had offered him his bosss job.

Zuma has said that the Guptas are his friends but denied doing anything improper. The Guptas have also denied making job offers to anyone in government.

The three Gupta brothers moved to South Africa from India at the end of apartheid rule in the mid-1990s and went on to build a business empire that stretches from technology to media and mining.

A family spokesman told the Gupta-owned ANN7 news channel the decision to divest from South Africa had been on the cards since April, when the brothers had resigned from the directorships of their companies.

He also said the family planned to stay in South Africa.

In a statement, the family said it had been a victim of a political campaign … A narrative has been constructed against us, which has been perpetuated by many media titles, and that flawed perception has become the truth in the eyes of some.

We have no interest in politics, only business.
The Gupta familys assets in South Africa include its holding company Oakbay Investments, which controls Johannesburg-listed Oakbay Resources. They also own the New Age newspaper.

Oakbay Investments chief executive Nazeem Howa said the company would remain rooted in South Africa. Oakbay Investments will continue in South Africa, they [the Guptas] are just selling their shareholding, he told the eNCA news channel.

All four of South Africas major banks have severed links with the company. Analysts have said the banks were probably prompted by concerns about reputational risk and if the Guptas are no longer part of Oakbay, that risk may diminish.

South African markets were rattled again this week by news that current finance minister Pravin Gordhan, had been summoned by an elite police unit known as the Hawks over an investigation into a suspected rogue spy unit in the tax service.

Political pundits have said Gordhan is being undermined by a faction allied to Zuma. On Friday, South African police denied being part of a conspiracy targeting Gordhan, City Press newspaper reported, after the opposition described the investigation into him as a witch-hunt.

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Why everyone should update their iPhone immediately

Image: getty images, mashable composite

If you haven’t done so already, go and update your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to iOS 9.3.5 right now. To update, go to Settings > General > Software Update.

It may not seem urgent because it’s only a “point release,” but the update is crucial or you risk having all of your data secretly stolen by invisible malware that can install itself on your device and even uninstall itself without leaving any traces behind.

Two reports from the New York Times and Motherboard published on Thursday detail how three major security holes, patched via the update, could be exploited by hackers to track and steal practically all of the private data on your iOS device.

According to both reports, Ahmed Mansoor, a human rights activist from the United Arab Emirates, discovered the vulnerabilities when he received a suspicious text message with a link that would have provided “new secrets about torture of Emiratis in state prisons.”

Had Mansoor clicked on the link, he would have been directed to a website that would have exploited all three security holes and installed malware onto his iPhone, giving remote hackers full access to his device.

Thankfully, Mansoor didn’t click the link. Instead, he alerted Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary lab based at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto that focuses its research on the intersection of human rights and security.

The malware kicks in immediately as soon as it’s activated and starts snoop on all your iPhone’s data.

Citizen Lab identified the link as belonging to NSO Group, an Israel-based “cyberwar” company reportedly owned by American venture capital firm Francisco Partners Management, which sells spyware solutions to government agencies.

Along with additional research from cybersecurity firm Lookout, it has been revealed the three exploits (dubbed “Trident”) are “zero-day” level, meaning the malware kicks in immediately as soon as it’s activated (in this case, once the link is opened, the malware automatically installs itself and starts tracking everything).

“Once infected, Mansoors phone would have become a digital spy in his pocket, capable of employing his iPhones camera and microphone to snoop on activity in the vicinity of the device, recording his WhatsApp and Viber calls, logging messages sent in mobile chat apps, and tracking his movements,” writes Bill Marczak and John Scott-Railton, two Citizen Lab senior researchers.

According to Lookout, the software is highly flexible and can be configured in a number of ways to target different countries and apps:

The spyware capabilities include accessing messages, calls, emails, logs, and more from apps including Gmail, Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, FaceTime, Calendar, Line, Mail.Ru, WeChat, SS, Tango, and others. The kit appears to persist even when the device software is updated and can update itself to easily replace exploits if they become obsolete.

Upon discovery, the two organizations immediately notified Apple and the iPhone maker immediately got to work on iOS 9.3.5, which was released on Thursday.

Though Trident and the type of malware NSO sells (called “Pegasus”) is mainly used by governments to target dissidents, activists and journalists in volatile countries like United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Kenya, Mozambique, Yemen and Turkey, it can be used to target any iOS device.

The very idea of having all your data stolen without any real effort should scare everyone into updating their iOS devices.

As we’ve entrusted our smartphones and tablets with more and more of our personal data, it’s more important than ever to always be running the latest software with the most up-to-date security patches to prevent digital spying and theft.

Quicker to protect iOS than Android

It took 10 days for Apple to release an update to close the holes after Citizen Lab and Lookout alerted the company.

Ten days may seem like a long time, but when you compare it to how long it would take for Android devices to get updated for such a critical patch, it’s like hyper speed.

One of the benefits of iOS is its tightly-integrated software and hardware. Because there are fewer devices and they all run the same core software, Apple can test and deploy security updates quickly and easily with fewer chances of something going wrong.

Android, on the hand, is fragmented into tens of thousands of distinct devices, and customized in too many versions for even the most diehard Android fan to remember. This makes it extremely challenging for phone makers to test and release updates to plug up dangerous security holes quickly.

Google’s Nexus devices are quicker to get software updates because they all run stock Android and Google can push them out in a similar way to Apple. Same goes for Samsung and its Galaxy phones.

But there’s often little incentive for Android phone makers to update their devices. Software maintenance is costly and that’s why you’ll see many Android devices from lesser-known brands either update their phones months or years later or never at all.

No platforms are ever truly secure

The publishing of the security flaws and how serious it could be if you were to fall victim invites another conversation: media portrayal.

Android bears the brunt when it comes to being portrayed as the less secure platform, but as this revelation has revealed, no matter which platform is really more secure, all platforms are susceptible to hackers.

Security is an ongoing and never-ending battle between phone makers like Apple and Google and hackers. It’s a constant cat-and-mouse game where each side is always one step ahead or behind the other.

Had Mansoor not alerted Citizen Lab, the Trident exploit would have continued to exist without anyone knowing. Lookout believes the malware has existed since iOS 7. NSO Group’s Pegasus malware can also be used to target Android and BlackBerry devices, too.

While no platform will ever be be truly secure, updating to the latest version of your phone’s software is the best way to remain safe.

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Kanye fans are ahead when it comes to mobile payments

Kanye West performs onstage at the Power 106 Powerhouse show at Honda Center on June 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.
Image: scott dudelson/FilmMagic

Want to know what’s coming up in mobile payments? Look no further than Yeezy.

Last week, Kanye West opened 21 pop-up shops for his Life of Pablo merchandise. The pop-ups, spread throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, Singapore, South Africa and Europe, followed an earlier New Yorkshop that West said raked in $1 million.

Now Square, which handled sales at the stores worldwide, says Kanye fans are ahead of the pack when it comes to mobile payments.

Seven percent of transactions at the Pablo shops were through contactless payments, a statistic seven times the industry average. The U.S. industry rate for contactless payments is less than 1 percent, Square says.

The cities that saw the most contactless payments were all in the United States. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the San Francisco store processed 28 percent of its purchases through contactless payments. But following San Francisco were Dallas and Houston, with 14 percent each, and Miami, with just over 8 percent.

The contactless chip reader accepts Apple Pay and other forms of mobile payments, as well as EMV chip cards.

Pablo customers are leading the way in using new technology like Apple and Android Pay to purchase their unique merch and they are helping to increase the tap rate across the country,” Square said of the data.

The Life of Pablo pop-up shop in Boston.

Image: suzanne kreiter/the Boston Globe via Getty Images

So are Pablo fans taking their cue from Kanye himself?

He’s had his issues with Apple in the past, but that doesn’t seem to extend to Apple Pay.

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Apple issues iPhone security update after spyware discovery | Fox News

Human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor shows Associated Press journalists a screenshot of a spoof text message he received in Ajman, United Arab Emirates, on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

The suspicious text message that appeared on Ahmed Mansoor’s iPhone promised to reveal details about torture in the United Arab Emirates’ prisons. All Mansoor had to do was click the link.

Mansoor, a human rights activist, didn’t take the bait. Instead, he reported it to Citizen Lab, an internet watchdog, setting off a chain reaction that in two weeks exposed a secretive Israeli cyberespionage firm, defanged a powerful new piece of eavesdropping software and gave millions of iPhone users across the world an extra boost to their digital security.

“It feels really good,” Mansoor said in an interview from his sand-colored apartment block in downtown Ajman, a small city-state in the United Arab Emirates. Cradling his iPhone to show The Associated Press screenshots of the rogue text, Mansoor said he hoped the developments “could save hundreds of people from being targets.”

Hidden behind the link in the text message was a highly targeted form of spyware crafted to take advantage of three previously undisclosed weaknesses in Apple’s mobile operating system.

Two reports issued Thursday, one by Lookout, a San Francisco mobile security company, and another by Citizen Lab, based at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, outlined how the program could completely compromise a device at the tap of a finger. If Mansoor had touched the link, he would have given his hackers free reign to eavesdrop on calls, harvest messages, activate his camera and drain the phone’s trove of personal data.

Apple Inc. issued a fix for the vulnerabilities Thursday, just ahead of the reports’ release, working at a blistering pace for which the Cupertino, California-based company was widely praised.

Arie van Deursen, a professor of software engineering at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, said the reports were disturbing. Forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski described the malicious program targeting Mansoor as a “serious piece of spyware.”

A soft-spoken man who dresses in traditional white robes, Mansoor has repeatedly drawn the ire of authorities in the United Arab Emirates, calling for a free press and democratic freedoms. He is one of the country’s few human rights defenders with an international profile, close links to foreign media and a network of sources. Mansoor’s work has, at various times, cost him his job, his passport and even his liberty.

Online, Mansoor repeatedly found himself in the crosshairs of electronic eavesdropping operations. Even before the first rogue text message pinged across his phone on Aug. 10, Mansoor already had weathered attacks from two separate brands of commercial spyware.

When he shared the suspicious text with Citizen Lab researcher Bill Marczak, they realized he’d been targeted by a third.

Citizen Lab and Lookout both fingered a secretive Israeli firm, NSO Group, as the author of the spyware. Citizen Lab said that past targeting of Mansoor by the United Arab Emirates’ government suggested that it was likely behind the latest hacking attempt as well.

Executives at the company declined to comment, and a visit to NSO’s address in Herzliya showed that the firm had recently vacated its old headquarters a move recent enough that the building still bore its logo.

In a statement released Thursday which stopped short of acknowledging that the spyware was its own, the NSO Group said its mission was to provide “authorized governments with technology that helps them combat terror and crime.”

The company said it couldn’t comment on specific cases.

Marczak said he and fellow-researcher John Scott-Railton turned to Lookout for help to pick apart the malicious program, a process which Murray compared to “defusing a bomb.”

“It is amazing the level they’ve gone through to avoid detection,” Murray said of the software’s makers. “They have a hair-trigger self-destruct.”

Working over a two-week period, the researchers found that Mansoor had been targeted by an unusually sophisticated piece of software which some have valued at $1 million. He told AP he was amused by the idea that so much money was being poured into watching him.

“If you would give me probably 10 percent of that I would write the report about myself for you!”

The apparent discovery of Israeli-made spyware being used to target a dissident in the United Arab Emirates raises awkward questions for both countries. The use of Israeli technology to police its own citizens is an uncomfortable strategy for an Arab country with no formal diplomatic ties to the Jewish state. And Israeli complicity in a cyberattack on an Arab dissident would seem to run counter to the country’s self-description as a bastion of democracy in the Middle East.

There are awkward questions, too, for Francisco Partners, the private equity firm which owns the NSO Group. Francisco is only an hour’s drive from the headquarters of Apple, whose products the cybersecurity firm is accused of hacking.

Messages left with Francisco partners’ offices in London and San Francisco went unreturned. Israeli and Emirati authorities did not return calls seeking comment.

Attorney Eitay Mack, who advocates for more transparency in Israeli arms exports, said his country’s sales of surveillance software are not closely policed.

He also noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cultivated warmer ties with Arab Gulf states.

“Israel is looking for allies,” Mack said. “And when Israel finds allies, it does not ask too many questions.”

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