• A Twitter employee groomed by the Saudi government prompted 2015 state-sponsored hacking warning

    An explosive report in The New York Times this weekend sheds new light on the apparent targeting of Twitter accounts by “state-sponsored actors” three years ago. It comes in the wake of the confirmed death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Friday, two weeks after he disappeared in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi had long been a target of a Saudi troll army, according to the report, which employed hundreds of people to stifle the speech of government critics, like Khashoggi, who left the kingdom to live and work in the United States. But the troll farm is said to be one part of a wider scheme by the Saudi leadership to surveil critics and dissidents. According to the report, Western intelligence officials told Twitter that one of its employees, a Saudi national, was asked by the Saudi government to spy on the accounts of dissidents. The employee — an engineer — had access to account data on Twitter users, including phone numbers and IP addresses. Saudi officials are said to have convinced him to snoop on several accounts. Twitter fired the employee, despite finding no evidence that he handed data over to the Saudi government. The employee later returned to the kingdom and now works for its government. After the dismissal, the Times reports, Twitter sent out warnings a few dozen users that their accounts “may have been targeted by state-sponsored actors.” “As a precaution, we are alerting you that your Twitter account is one of a small group of accounts that may have been targeted by state-sponsored actors,” said Twitter in the email to affected users. “We believe that these actors (possibly associated with a government) may have been trying to obtain information such as email addresses, IP addresses, and/or phone numbers.” Twitter didn’t say at the time what was the cause of the email warning, leading some to question what linked the affected accounts. Around 20 users were affected, including privacy and security researcher Runa Sandvik, human rights activist Michael Carbone, and Austrian communications expert Marco Schreuder. Several of the affected users also worked for the Tor Project, a non-profit that allows activists and researchers to browse the web anonymously — often to bypass state-level censorship and surveillance. Facebook and Google also have similar alerts in place in the event of suspected state-sponsored attacks or hacking, though often the companies send out alerts out of an abundance of caution — rather than a solid indicator that an account has been breached. When reached, a Twitter spokesperson declined to comment.

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  • Japanese Consortium to Research Direct Trading of Electricity with Blockchain

    A Japanese consortium is to research the use of blockchain technology to determine the price of surplus electricity generated by photovoltaic power generation, and a new system capable of direct trading. Japan Unisys to Build Blockchain Platform to Facilitate Trading of Electricity A partnership between the University of Tokyo, IT company Japan Unisys, electric utility Kansai Electric Power, and Mitsubishi UFJ Bank, the largest in Japan, will study the viability of a dedicated platform powered by blockchain that manages direct trading of electricity. The research addresses the widespread use of renewable energy such as solar power generation, which is leading to a change of the current power supply system from a conventional large-scale intensive type to a self-sustained distributed type. Researchers estimate that in the future electricity will be directly traded through a dedicated platform. As distributed ledger technology spreads in the financial sector and other industries, including energy management, the Japanese consortium will test a blockchain powered platform to test how well it determines the purchase price between electric consumers and consumers. For instance, a production consumer who uses the electricity generated by himself and sells the surplus. The study will use the surplus electricity generated with solar power equipment at consumers’ houses to determine prices, conduct simulated transactions with blockchain technology, and send power to multiple consumers, according to the announcement. “Through this empirical research, we will acquire knowledge on power direct transactions using blockchain technology, and will continue to provide more practical empirical research, such as verification at home and collaboration with financial institutions. We will contribute to the realization of a society to utilize in a sustainable manner.” The distributed system will be developed by Japan Unisys with Mitsubishi UFJ Bank (MUFG) advising on the use of blockchain on settlement and transactions. The utility company will create the demonstration system at the same experiment center, and the University of Tokyo is in charge of the research and findings. MUFG is highly involved with the technology. In May, the bank announced it will commence the commercialization of blockchain payments by early 2020. Its blockchain, developed by U.S. firm Akamai, will focus on a high throughput of up to one million transactions per second. The use of blockchain for electricity trading is not new. Matchmaking platform Bittwatt has recently launched its decentralized service of energy supply, billing, and balancing. The platform integrates regulatory information and data shared between energy suppliers, grid operators and smart consumers. Featured image from Shutterstock. The post Japanese Consortium to Research Direct Trading of Electricity with Blockchain appeared first on NewsBTC.

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