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Facebook and Twitter Eye Iran in Latest Fake Account Crackdown

Wired 22 Aug 2018 03:08 ELIOT BLONDET/AP Following more than a year of unrelenting focus on Russian cyber attacks on Silicon Valley giants, Facebook and Twitter announced Tuesday night that they've now also thwarted a network of suspicious accounts that appear to originate in Iran. First, Facebook announced it had taken down 652 pages, groups, and accounts for "coordinated inauthentic behavior." Less than an hour after Facebook went public with the news, Twitter announced in a brief series of tweets that, working with "industry partners," it had shut down 284 accounts, many of which it said were from Iran. The news is a reminder of the broad scope of potential adversaries targeting American tech companies. But it simultaneously signals a strengthening alliance between those companies, which have begun proactively sharing the details of their investigations with other tech giants. On a call with reporters Tuesday night, Facebook executives including CEO Mark Zuckerberg described a multi-pronged investigation that unearthed several networks of bad actors. Some were associated with Russia, but others were affiliated with Iranian state media. "These were networks of accounts that were misleading people about who they were and what they were doing," Zuckerberg explained. "People need to be able to trust the connections they make on Facebook." The company credits the cybersecurity firm FireEye with detecting one group called Liberty Front Press, which was connected with several accounts and pages. They often posed as news organizations and civil society groups, but using publicly available website registration information and IP addresses, Facebook researchers found that the group was actually affiliated with Iranian state media. All in, more than 200,000 users followed at least one of these accounts or pages across Facebook and Instagram. Facebook didn't respond to WIRED's request for comment about whether any of these users had been notified. In its own blog post Tuesday, FireEye cautioned that identifying the origins of these groups can be difficult, due to the nature of their activities, but said they had "moderate confidence" in their assessment about Iranian involvement. The post included a labyrinthine illustration that maps out the web of different pages and their web of promotion. According to FireEye, the network promoted issues that aligned with Iranian interests. Among the striking details they discovered were "inauthentic social media personas, masquerading as American liberals supportive of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, heavily promoting Quds Day, a holiday established by Iran in 1979 to express support for Palestinians and opposition to Israel." In addition to the Liberty Front Press network, Facebook found another set of accounts and pages posing as news organizations that the company says had "links" to the Liberty Front Press group. But this network launched more traditional attacks, attempting to hack into other Facebook users' accounts and spread malware. Facebook says it's working with law enforcement on further investigating its findings. The cyberthreat posed by Iran has been the subject of concern in intelligence circles for years. But when the US reached a deal with the country in 2015, which lifted key sanctions, Iran's cyber attacks seemed to have subsided. Meanwhile, the threat Russia posed only grew in the public consciousness after the 2016 election, when Russian actors hacked into the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign chair's emails, while also carrying out an influence campaign across nearly every social media platform. And yet, lawmakers have recently cautioned against taking an overly myopic view of the scope of cyber threats facing the tech sector. During a hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, just hours before Facebook's announcement, Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal warned, forebodingly, "Until there’s real action, Vladimir Putin will operate with impunity, and he will continue to use a playbook which becomes the same playbook used by other countries, notably Iran. I believe there will be news about Iranian aggression in the cyber domain." Following Facebook's disclosure, Democratic senator Mark Warner said in a statement, “I’ve been saying for months that there’s no way the problem of social media manipulation is limited to a single troll farm in St. Petersburg, and that fact is now beyond a doubt." Facebook's discovery underscores the level of vigilance required to detect threats from multiple state actors at once, even as the company tries to find and memorize the fingerprints others have left behind. In addition to the two networks associated with Liberty Front Press, the company also detected a suspicious network that shared content about Middle East politics in Arabic and Farsi, and also shared content about the United States and United Kingdom in English. These 168 pages and 140 accounts racked up 823,000 followers across Facebook and Instagram. This group also ran $6,000 worth of ads, the oldest of which ran in 2012. Despite signals indicating these accounts and pages were connected, they "were not presenting a coordinated front in how they identified themselves," Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, said on the press call. Facebook noted that it also shut down additional accounts and pages associated with Russian military intelligence, but the company was light on details about what this group shared or how many Facebook users followed them. The company was also reluctant to blame Russia for another suspicious network it shut down at the end of July, saying that all of these investigations are still ongoing. In his remarks to reporters, Zuckerberg continually stressed the need for tech companies and government agencies to work together to investigate and prevent these threats. His sentiment echoed Microsoft CEO Brad Smith, who earlier Tuesday also called on the government to act when he announced that Microsoft had thwarted a series of Russian cyber attacks on political groups in the United States. "No one company can win this fight on its own," Zuckerberg said. More Great WIRED Stories Waiting for Group FaceTime? 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China Gets Another Crispr First With Embryo Base Editing

Wired 21 Aug 2018 08:34 Hotlittlepotato Scientists in the US may be out in front developing the next generation of Crispr-based genetic tools, but it’s China that’s pushing those techniques toward human therapies the fastest. Chinese researchers were the first to Crispr monkeys, and non-viable embryos, and to stick Crispr’d cells into a real live human. And now, a team of scientists in China have used a cutting-edge Crispr technique, known as base editing, to repair a disease-causing mutation in viable human embryos. Published last week in the journal Molecular Therapy, and reported first by Stat, the study represents significant progress over previous attempts to remodel the DNA of human embryos. That’s in part because the editing worked so well, and in part because that editing took place in embryos created by a standard in-vitro fertilization technique. So-called “germline editing,” the contentious technology that can permanently change the code in every cell in the human body, has been gaining acceptance in the last few years as research has pushed forward, illuminating the possibilities of Crispr. Immediately following those first reports of embryonic gene-editing in China in 2015, an international summit convened by the US National Academy of Sciences concluded that actually trying to produce a human pregnancy from such modified germlines was “irresponsible,” given ongoing safety concerns and lack of societal consensus. Two years later, a report from the NAS and the National Academy of Medicine stated that clinical trials for editing out heritable diseases could be permitted in the future, but only for serious conditions under stringent oversight. LEARN MORE The WIRED Guide to Crispr Attitudes may be slowly changing: Last month, the United Kingdom’s Nuffield Council on Bioethics went so far as to say that heritable genome editing could be “ethically acceptable in some circumstances.” A Pew Research Council study released at the end of July found that 72 percent of Americans think changing an unborn baby’s DNA to treat a serious disease would be an appropriate use of gene-editing technology. In the study published in Molecular Therapy, the Chinese scientists corrected a mutation that causes Marfan syndrome, an incurable connective tissue disorder that affects about 1 in 5,000 people. A single letter mistake in the gene for FBN1, which codes for the fibrillin protein, can cause a ripple effect of problems—from loose joints to weak vision to life-threatening tears in the heart’s walls. Starting with healthy eggs and sperm donated by a Marfan syndrome patient, the team of researchers from Shanghai Tech University and Guangzhou Medical University used an IVF technique to make viable human embryos. Then they injected the embryos with a Crispr construct known as a base editor, which swaps out a single DNA nucleotide for another—in this case, removing an “A” and replacing it with a “G”. They kept the embryos alive for another two days in the lab, long enough to run tests to see how well the editing worked. Sequencing revealed that all 18 embryos had been edited, with 16 of the embryos bearing only the corrected version of the FBN1 gene. In two of the embryos, additional unwanted edits had also taken place. Previously, the most successful demonstration of gene editing in the human germline was the correction of a mutation that causes a hereditary heart condition in 42 out of 58 embryos. That study, which was published last year, used standard Crispr cut-and-paste technology. “It’s a nice demonstration of the use of base editors to correct a well-known point mutation that causes a human genetic disease in a setting that may become therapeutically relevant,” says David Liu, whose lab at Harvard developed the base editor used to correct the Marfan mutation, though he was not involved in the study. Rather than breaking the double-stranded DNA molecule and allowing the cell to repair itself with a healthy gene template, these newer versions of Crispr change just a single letter. If Crispr is a pair of molecular scissors, Liu’s base editors are more like a pencil with a squeaky new eraser. While the hope is that such precise gene-writing implements won’t cause the kind of sloppy chaos that Crispr 1.0 is capable of, Liu says it’s too early to make any general statements about their relative risks as a therapeutic. “Despite more than 50 publications using base editors from laboratories around the world, the entire field of base editing is only about two years old, and additional studies are needed to assess as many possible consequences of base editing as can be reasonably detected.” Some of those studies are being conducted at Beam Therapeutics, the startup that Liu co-founded earlier this year with fellow Crispr pioneer Feng Zhang. Beam’s first license agreement with Harvard covers Liu’s C base editor, which makes programmable C-to-T or G-to-A edits. The second is the A base editor, which can do T-to-C as well as A-to-G edits, like the one used to correct the Marfan mutation. But don’t expect Beam to be erasing genetic diseases from the germline any time soon. The company is focused on using base editing to treat serious diseases in children and adults only, not on embryo editing, says CEO John Evans. “More consideration would be needed before society is ready to consider embryo editing, and we look forward to participating in the discussion.” In the meantime, Beam will be just one of many US companies looking at an increasingly streamlined path for genetic medicines. In July, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced a new regulatory framework for gene therapies to treat rare diseases. The agency issued a suite of six guidance documents updating the approval process. And on August 17, the FDA along with the National Institutes of Health proposed changes in the way the agencies together assess the safety of gene-therapy human trials. Specifically, the proposals will eliminate review by the NIH’s Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee, which was established in 1974 to advise on emerging genetic technologies. In a New England Journal of Medicine editorial describing the changes, Gottlieb and NIH Director Francis Collins wrote it was their view that “there is no longer sufficient evidence to claim that the risks of gene therapy are entirely unique and unpredictable—or that the field still requires special oversight that falls outside our existing framework for ensuring safety.” A more streamlined approval process may help the US move faster in the long-run, though probably not enough to catch China’s head start. But when it comes to gene editing's most controversial applications, there’s nothing wrong with being slow. More Great WIRED Stories Say hello to the most audacious flying machine ever The man at Sonos building the audio internet Crazy Rich Asians changes nothing—but also everything Programming languages may finally be near a status quo The future of television is ... more television Looking for more? Sign up for our daily newsletter and never miss our latest and greatest stories
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How Microsoft Tackles Russia's Fancy Bear Hackers—And Why It's Never Enough

Wired 21 Aug 2018 08:11 Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images Early Tuesday, Microsoft announced that last week it seized control of six domains owned by the Russian hacking group Fancy Bear, also known as APT28. The hackers had used the sites to mount midterm election-related phishing campaigns, similar to those Fancy Bear launched during the 2016 United States election season. It's the most prominent, publicly known effort to proactively identify and thwart Russian election hacking efforts—and Microsoft's in a unique position to pull it off. The newly announced takedowns were just the latest from Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit, which had previously disclosed that it blocked phishing attempts against three congressional campaigns. While Russia's political hacking in the US has mostly appeared to target Democrats, Microsoft pointed out that this time many of the phishing sites—which impersonated think tanks and some Senate pages—targeted Republican groups that have criticized President Donald Trump's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. With the midterms just three months away, Microsoft aggressively detected and and disabled Fancy Bear phishing sites to deflate the group's efforts. "We have now used this approach 12 times in two years to shut down 84 fake websites associated with this group," wrote Microsoft president Brad Smith. "Despite last week’s steps, we are concerned by the continued activity targeting these and other sites and directed toward elected officials, politicians, political groups and think tanks across the political spectrum in the United States." Send It To the Sinkhole Microsoft's ability to pull off these preemptive strikes stems less from technological innovation than from a lawsuit the company brought against Fancy Bear in 2016, first reported by The Daily Beast. Because Fancy Bear phishing efforts mimic and blend into Microsoft services, the court granted the company standing to take legal action, which not only allowed for its 2016 suit, but also laid the groundwork for Microsoft to seek court approvals as needed to take down malicious sites. Specifically, Microsoft has used a technique known as sinkholing, a way to divert network traffic from its planned destination to a different server. Microsoft combines its broad visibility into its billions of users, and the chops of its internal Digital Crimes Unit, to get a jump on phishing sites like the ones Fancy Bear established, get legal permission to take over those domains, and then send any traffic that heads their way to oblivion instead. "It’s not a gimmick, but it’s also not an innovation," says David Kennedy, CEO of the threat tracking firm Binary Defense Systems, who formerly worked at the NSA and with the Marine Corps' signal intelligence unit. "Sinkholes are used to seize malicious domains in order to protect. It's a very common practice and used all around the security industry." In this case, it's an especially useful technique. The Fancy Bear sites Microsoft hunts down are designed to look like familiar, legitimate political portals for campaigns, lobbying groups, think tanks, and more. A phishing attack lures people who work for or with those organizations into entering the login credentials and other information they would normally use on the legitimate versions of those sites. When Microsoft observes this type of activity—through tracking Fancy Bear's movements across the web, or flagging indicators like telltale patterns in user data—the company investigates, and begins considering a takedown. Once it makes that call, Microsoft would have a range of options. The company hasn't shared specifics, and did not respond to a request by press time, but many sinkholes route traffic by altering the Domain Name System registry—basically the internet's phone book lookup—so the domain you want to sinkhole redirects to your own server instead. Microsoft could either take Fancy Bear sites down in one fell swoop, or gain domain control quietly, and conduct some reconnaissance before delivering the final blow. Standing Out Other tech companies like Level 3, now owned by CenturyLink, and Palo Alto Networks have used sinkholes to take down botnets, mostly related to digital crime syndicates. But many mainstream tech firms that would be well-positioned to do similar work, like Google, have been quieter about these types of initiatives. Google does send warnings to Gmail users when it sees evidence that state-sponsored hackers may be trying to phish certain accounts. The company said on Monday that it just sent a new batch of thousands of warnings, though not timed to any specific attack. Microsoft, meanwhile, has focused on takedowns for years. "Microsoft Security has a history of working sinkhole operations," says Jake Williams, a former NSA analyst and the founder of Rendition Infosec. "They do a ton of threat research." Collaborating with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, the company has used sinkholing to neuter botnets and more. As with Fancy Bear, the company has experimented before with laying legal groundwork first. "Microsoft has an entire specialized team whose job it has been to do this for many years, working closely with US law enforcement," says Dave Aitel, a former NSA researcher who is now chief security technology officer at the secure infrastructure firm Cyxtera. "The interesting thing in the recent reports has been the direct attribution to Russia. It may be that we are witnessing a norm being changed with regards to how far private companies will go against nation states." Threat intelligence firms typically shy away from saying with certainty that they know who perpetrated a particular digital attack, or what their motives are. It often takes months or years for attribution to emerge publicly. But Microsoft has been definitive so far in pinning the phishing sites on Fancy Bear. "Microsoft coming out publicly and saying who it is—that's not what we typically see from them," Binary Defense Systems's Kennedy says. "Attribution isn’t an easy thing, it requires a lot of time and investment in tracing the actors. But there’s a concerted effort across public and private groups in finding out what Russia is doing and outing them, because they are our most active adversary." Though sinkholing is a popular and reliable defense tool that can neuter malicious sites, it can't stop adversaries from endlessly launching new ones and attempting to better conceal them. As a result, motivated and well-resourced attackers who are beyond law enforcement's reach will forge ahead, evolving and innovating to continue their attacks in new ways. Microsoft's takedown efforts alone can't resolve the threat of Russian election meddling. But it can certainly slow hackers, down and potentially make their attacks less effective. "We don't have a lot of arrows in the quiver in terms of cyberpolicy, so Microsoft is filling a gap here," Cyxtera's Aitel says. "It would be great if we could deter this behavior in another way, but for now this is what we have." More Great WIRED Stories Saving lives with tech amid Syria’s endless civil war Meet the man with a radical plan for blockchain voting Why these spiders are wearing face paint and fake lashes Everything about every hero in Avengers: Infinity War How 3-D printing exposes the fallacy of federal gun laws Looking for more? Sign up for our daily newsletter and never miss our latest and greatest stories
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How to Share an Instagram Account With Your Significant Other

Wired 21 Aug 2018 07:14 The idea of the joint Instagram account for a couple is admittedly obnoxious. It’s social media PDA. But it also comes with some benefits. hotlittlepotato Most Saturdays, my husband Seth and I spend approximately the whole day with our phones aimed at our son, taking pictures of him from slightly different angles. There’s a diptych of him dancing in the bagel shop. There’s one of him scooting in the park. Until a few weeks ago, we'd spend our Saturday night bickering over beers about who got to post which photo to our separate Instagram accounts. It’s a glamorous life. Mutual friends who follow us both on Instagram often wound up seeing our days play out there in mirror images of each other: pictures of me and our son on Seth’s Story; photos of Seth and our son two minutes later doing the exact same activity on mine. That might feel a bit repetitive for them, but it gets weirder for everyone else. Seth’s friends who don’t know or follow me only ever see pictures of me, and my friends who don’t know or follow Seth only see pictures of him. “My friends from high school see you on Instagram all the time but probably have no idea what I look like now,” he observed a few weeks ago. This is a common problem for couples. Now, we have a lot of real things going on—we’re about to move across the country, so we need to find a new place to live, and a new school for our son, and all the other hard tasks that come with uprooting a life. So, naturally, instead of doing any of those things, we decided now was the right time to solve this thorny Instagram problem once and for all. And we wouldn’t stop until we landed on a perfect solution. Maybe we should post more selfies? No, too much vanity. Maybe we should just swap the photos we take of each other and post them to our own accounts? Too much work. Hmm. We poured some wine. That’s when we get our really good ideas. What if, Seth posited, we just had one account? I scrunched up my face. I worried. Wouldn’t that entail a loss of self-identity? Then again, what bearing does Instagram have on our real identity, anyway? As individuals Seth and I are very different, yet our Instagrams are always almost identical—proof in itself that these curated windows on existence are not real insight into a person’s soul. They are merely a record of our weekends. So Seth and I did it. Two weeks ago, we each put a photo of our faces on our personal Instagram accounts, overlayed with the message: “Follow our new family account at [REDACTED]. This account is over.” In the caption, we explained this was an open-ended experiment and that we would no longer be checking or posting to our personal accounts. Then we uploaded a very cheesy family photo to our new account, argued one last time over the name, each logged in on our respective phones, and sat on the couch clicking to “follow” all the people we had followed separately. Immediately, things went wrong. Instagram flagged our account as suspicious because we were following people too quickly. After managing to add around 200 friends, we got locked out for 24 hours. This was the first indication that Instagram is not set up for this kind of shared experience. To Instagram, a couple wanting to use the service together is a bot. Emily Dreyfuss We’d wondered whether people would actually follow the new account, and we quickly got our answer: Some would! But not necessarily the ones we expected. Instagram is weird like that—sometimes your most avid “fans,” who watch every Story and send you emoji DMs, are people you barely interact with in real life. All our superlurkers and hypercommenters followed the new account immediately. As did our college friends and former colleagues. It was our family members who hesitated—knowing us well enough, perhaps, to suspect we’d quickly tire of the experiment and close the new account, thus making a fool of them. Well, joke’s on you, fam. After 10 days of using our new shared account, and despite near daily vexations, we’ve decided we like it. One of my brothers finally relented and followed us. Now he can see the video of his nephew singing “London Calling” into an unplugged microphone while wearing banana pajamas. High-quality content! The other brother is not yet convinced. That’s because the idea of the joint account for a couple is admittedly obnoxious. It’s social media PDA, like when people enter a new relationship and the oxytocin makes them temporarily insane so they refer to themselves as “we” all the time. It’s gross. I understand not wanting to support it! I hate when people make Instagram accounts for their babies or dogs for the same reason—it’s saccharine. But I also always follow those accounts because I love pictures of babies and dogs. (The only thing I don’t love about those accounts is when people pretend their children or pets are writing the captions. Even I have a cheese threshold.) It’s kind of mortifying to me to be such a “we” on social media, but it’s also truer to our lived experience. As our very best friend put it, “The idea of it is annoying, but the reality is that it’s better!” Now she has us all in one place. Our feed approximates the experience of hanging out with us IRL all the more accurately. Not everyone agrees with her. An old colleague of mine, who followed the new account, told me that though he will remain a loyal follower because he’s a mensch, he finds the whole thing annoying because he’s never met Seth and therefore doesn’t care much about Seth’s perspective, which is fair. But for the most part, when polled, our followers said they liked the new account, and judged it to be only mildly irritating. Hell, only mildly irritating? I’ll take it. Emily Dreyfuss The things Seth and I find aggravating about the new account are not what I anticipated. I thought it would be confusing to DM with our friends and comment on their photos because they wouldn’t know which of us they were talking to. Turns out, they know it’s always me because Seth has never in his life commented or sent a DM. I thought it would be weird because we have such different Insta habits—I hit the heart button on basically every photo I see on Insta, and Seth never has—but it turns out that doesn’t matter at all. Sure, there are probably people he’s always followed who are surprised that our account is now liking their photos at a rapid clip, but as it turns out, I don’t care! Also, you’re welcome. No, the actual annoyances of sharing an account have nothing to do with us and everything to do with Instagram and its blasted algorithm. Because Instagram is not chronological, when I scroll through our account idly waiting in line at the pharmacy, it marks those posts as seen and buries them for Seth. If he watches a Story, that story cycles to the end of our feed and I never see it. In this way, Instagram thwarts our attempt at having a joint experience. Other than that, though, there are real benefits. For one, we’re both looking at Instagram less. That’s partially because making the conscious decision to merge accounts made us more aware that the pressure to cultivate some kind of “personal brand” on Instagram is absurd. And it’s partially that my feed is now filled with some people who I don’t really care about, so the whole thing is a little less appealing to me. The experience also expanded both of our horizons a little bit. I’m exposed to way more tattoo artists from Europe, and he’s seeing a lot more women journalists from around the world. Plus, we seem to have thoroughly confused Instagram’s ad mechanism, which is now serving me equal parts Jack Ryan movie promos along with my customary (and unwanted) bra suggestions. We’re ad disruptors! The part I like the best is checking our own Story and seeing something Seth has posted. I used to always rewatch my own Stories anyway, but it was a guilty act of navel gazing. I’d live my day, upload my day, then rewatch it. Why? I don’t know. I was just compelled to. Now that same compulsion lets me find unexpected images—photos or videos of Seth’s day. It’s nice. And we’re not the only ones doing this, though it’s far from a trend. Journalist Taylor Lorenz, who covers internet culture for The Atlantic, has two shared accounts with her boyfriend. They have kept their separate accounts, and use the two joint accounts to focus on specific interests. Teenagers commonly use the platform in a similar way, she points out. They’ll sometimes share group accounts with friends to post about something they’re all into, or more commonly to have a place to debate hot-button issues. Brands, of course, also have joint accounts. WIRED’s Instagram has multiple administrators. A few people on Twitter told me they have family members or friends with couples or family accounts. Given that, it would be nice if Instagram would create a proper group accounts option to support our kind. Instagram declined to comment on any plans to introduce group accounts. “I feel like running a joint account helps relieve pressure,” Lorenz says. Like me, she’s an active liker and commenter, but in joint accounts she doesn’t worry about engaging with everyone as much. “I think overall they're a good thing,” she told me in DM. “Since you can sort of both delude yourselves into thinking the other person is doing all the mundane work of keeping up with likes, engaging with all your friends' latest content etc, so then you check it less, which leads to a better life.” Yes, I still feel a twinge of embarrassment about sharing an account with Seth sometimes. But so far, my tiny hang-up is the only real downside to our new joint-account life. If you’re considering it and you’re sensitive to the judgment of others, you should know that when I asked on Twitter whether anyone knew people who did this, the common response was “ew” and “I assume anybody who replies to this in the affirmative gets arrested.” But you know what? Lock me up, folks, because I love love and I love our joint Instagram account. More Great WIRED Stories Waiting for Group FaceTime? There are plenty of options This wild avalanche animation could save your life How to actually stop Google from tracking your location A guide to finding your ideal movie ticket subscription The super-secret sand that makes your phone possible Looking for more? Sign up for our daily newsletter and never miss our latest and greatest stories
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Best Amazon Device Deals (2018): Echo, Fire TV, Fire Tablets

Wired 21 Aug 2018 03:00 Fire tablets and Echo speakers are rarely expensive. They're built to be affordable, and some of them are especially cheap at the moment. We've compiled every decent deal on Amazon-branded devices going on right now. Amazon has a Device Deals page with many of the deals, but we have them all organized below. Updated on Aug. 21, 2018: Amazon has a bunch of deals going on for Echos and Fire TVs. We've updated the entire article below to spotlight the latest deals. The deals will run through at least Aug. 25, and some will last through Sept. 3. Echo Speaker Deals Amazon Echo Show Amazon Read our WIRED Best Echo & Alexa Speakers guide for recommendations on which Amazon Echos we think are worth your hard-earned money. Our Best Smart Speakers guide has even more options if you're still deciding which to buy. Echo Show for $130 (Was $230) - Our Top Pick Echo Dot for $40 (Was $50) - The quintessential basic Alexa speaker. Echo Plus for $100 (Was $150) - The best-sounding Echo Amazon makes. Echo 2 for $85 (Was $100) 2-Pack Echo 2 Speakers for $140 (Was $200) Echo Dot Kids Edition for $70 (Was $80) - This Echo bored our reviewer's daughter, but it is discounted if you want an Echo a kid can use. Ring Doorbell Pro + Echo Spot for $278 (Was $380) - We liked both of these devices. Read our Echo Spot review. Fire HD Tablet Deals Amazon Fire HD 8 Tablet Amazon We're fans of some of Amazon's Fire Tablets. The Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 10 are our two favorites, along with the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition if you're buying for a little one. Read more about all of Amazon's tablets in our Which is the Best Fire Tablet? guide. Fire HD 8 Kids Edition for $100 (Was $130) Best for Kids Fire HD 10 Kids Edition for $160 (Was $200) Fire HD 7 Kids Edition for $80 (Was $100) - Read our review before buying this weaker Fire Tablet. Fire HD Show Mode Case & Charging Dock for $40 - Amazon's Show Mode dock is brand new. It wirelessly charges the 8-inch or 10-inch Fire HD tablets and turns them into Echo Show speakers of sorts, bringing Alexa to the forefront. The Dock stands the tablet up at a good angle for the kitchen or coffee table use. Kindle Deals Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Amazon You can read about every Kindle in our guide to Our Favorite Kindles. If you buy one from Amazon, check out Kindle Unlimited. It lets you read unlimited books (and listen to Audible books) for that price. If you're an avid reader, it's an excellent way to get a ton of new books. Kindle for Kids Bundle $100 (Was $125) - Comes with 2-year warranty, no ads, a cover, and some other software bonuses just for kids. Fire TV Deals Amazon Fire TV 4K Amazon Amazon's latest Fire TV supports hands-free Alexa and some advanced features like 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos sound. The other Fire TVs are now just compact dongles for your TV, and easily tuck away without much hassle. The Fire TV 4K is one of our picks for the Best TV Streaming Devices. Fire TV 4K with Alexa Voice Remote for $40 (Was $70) - WIRED Best Streaming Device Pick. Choose this version if you own a 4K TV, or if you want Alexa voice control via remote. Fire TV Cube for $90 (Was $120) - 6/10, WIRED Review. A Good Fire TV, but hands-free Alexa isn't very useful yet. Fire TV Cube + Cloud Cam Bundle for $200 (Was $240) - Stream from the Cam to your TV Fire TV HD + Echo Dot Bundle for $75 (Was $90) Fire TV 4K + Echo Dot Bundle for $80 (Was $120) - Recommended Bundle Dash Buttons on Discount Amazon Dash Buttons Amazon All Dash Buttons are on sale for $1 instead of $5. They're Amazon's small little Wi-Fi enabled clickable buttons that you can stick around your house to easily re-order items. Each button is tied to a particular company. If you have, say, a particular type of laundry detergent you always buy, you could stick a Tide Dash Button on your laundry machine and tap it whenever you're running low to add Tide to your cart. Other good uses might be for re-ordering diapers or Keurig K Cups. Just do us a favor and please don't buy the Funyuns button if you hope to live a full, healthy life. Amazon Prime Subscription Deals These are deals above and beyond what Amazon normally offers for its various services. 1 Free Month of Kids FreeTime Unlimited (Was $3/mo) - This service offers more than 10,000 vetted games, movies, TV shows, and apps for a child. Expect stuff like Nickelodeon, Disney, and PBS content. It works best if you own a Fire Tablet. Free Overwatch Item if You Subscribe to Twitch Prime - Amazon is offering exclusive pieces of in-game gear for those who sign up for Twitch Prime on a regular basis. The service gives you ad-free game watching, free channel subscriptions, and other perks. Amazon Prime for $6 Per Month (Was $10) - If you have a government assistance EBT card or Medicaid card, Amazon will give you a discount on Prime. 1 Free Month of Prime Pantry - Prime Pantry is Amazon's way of letting Prime members shop for common household items. You save more by bundling items together. More Back to School Must-Haves and Deals 24 Essential Pieces of Gear for College Students Our Favorite Back-to-School Deals 17 Recent Tech Deals, From Apple to Xbox When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Read more about how this works.
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Russian hackers targeting conservative US thinktanks, Microsoft says

Guardian Technology 21 Aug 2018 01:59 The hacking attempts mirror those carried out before the 2016 presidential election. Photograph: Danita Delimont/Getty Images/Gallo Images The Russian group linked to the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s presidential election campaign has been launching fresh attacks in the US, including against two conservative thinktanks, in the run-up to the midterm elections, according to Microsoft. The technology company, which uncovered the new attempts, said the hackers created fake websites that appeared to mimic the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute, two rightwing thinktanks broadly allied against Donald Trump. Three other fake domains were designed to look as if they belonged to the US Senate. Microsoft attributed the hacking attacks to a group that it calls Strontium, which is known to other security firms as Fancy Bear and APT28. The group was previously linked to the email hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. According to the US special counsel Robert Mueller, Fancy Bear has ties to the Russian intelligence agency, the GRU. Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, said: “We’re concerned that these and other attempts pose security threats to a broadening array of groups connected with both American political parties in the run-up to the 2018 elections.” He said the company had shut down 84 fake websites associated with Fancy Bear over the past two years by obtaining court orders to transfer control of the domains. As to where responsibility for the hacking attacks lay, Smith said: “We have no doubt in our minds.” According to the information shared by Microsoft, the fake websites were intended to mimic the company’s login pages for tools such as email, calendar and document sharing, with web addresses such as “hudsonorg-my-sharepoint.com” and “adfs-senate.email”. An inattentive user who was tricked by such a site may have entered their username and password, allowing an attacker to access their personal data remotely. The Kremlin rejected Microsoft’s allegations and said there was no evidence to support them. “We don’t know what hackers they are talking about,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “Who exactly are they talking about? We don’t understand what the proof and the basis is for them drawing these kind of conclusions. Such information (proof) is lacking.” Moscow has repeatedly dismissed allegations that it has used hackers to influence US elections and political opinion. The revelation of the new attacks came just weeks after a similar Microsoft discovery led the senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who is running for re-election, to reveal that Russian hackers tried unsuccessfully to infiltrate her Senate computer network. The hacking attempts mirror similar Russian attacks before the 2016 presidential election, which US intelligence officials have said were focused on helping to get the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, into office by hurting Clinton, his Democratic opponent. The most recent activity, rather than helping one political party over another, was “most fundamentally focused on disrupting democracy”, Smith said in an interview this week. He said there was no sign the hackers were successful in persuading anyone to click on the fake websites, which could have exposed a target victim to computer infiltration, hidden surveillance and data theft. Both conservative thinktanks said they had tried to be vigilant about “spear-phishing” email attacks because their pro-democracy work had frequently drawn the ire of authoritarian governments. “We’re glad that our work is attracting the attention of bad actors,” the Hudson Institute spokesman David Tell said. “It means we’re having an effect, presumably.” The International Republican Institute is led by a board that includes six Republican senators and the prominent Russia critic and Senate hopeful Mitt Romney, who is running for a Utah seat. The Associated Press contributed to this report
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The undertakers of Silicon Valley: how failure became big business

Guardian Technology 21 Aug 2018 09:00 In Silicon Valley, losing money by the billions is a sign of revolutionary and bold ideas. Photograph: Getty Images I am on the phone with the one-time owner of Kozmo.com. Back in 2001, Kozmo.com was going to deliver your Starbucks coffee in less than an hour. Its former owner is … not what you’d expect. Martin Pichinson is about 70, a former music manager who came to Silicon Valley in the mid-1980s. His business partner is Michael Maidy, another septuagenarian who, judging from a Google search, favors dark suits that look about a half-size too big for him. Maidy was recently the CEO of another failed tech company: Pebble Tech LLC, maker of smartwatches. Pichinson and Maidy look about as far from our image of the Silicon Valley CEO as you can imagine. But they are nevertheless an important, if rarely glimpsed, part of its ecosystem. Their actual company is Sherwood Partners, and unlike Kozmo.com, Pebble, and about a thousand other companies they have wound down over the years, ita), still exists and, b), its business is always booming. The company is Silicon Valley’s premier specialist in “assignment for the benefit of creditors” (ABC) – a process by which insolvent companies assign their assets, titles and property to a trustee. ABC was how Pebble Tech came into existence: it was, for its brief life, simply a collection of Pebble’s remaining assets, to be distributed among various creditors, employees and shareholders. This was also how Maidy briefly became the figurehead of a zombie version of the once-hip startup. When you’re dealing with Sherwood, things are going badly. “People don’t like to talk to us, because they think, ‘If I’m talking to Sherwood, it’s a sign I’m in trouble,’” Pichinson says. Maidy’s and Pichinson’s names are all over public filings. While many of the lawyers and VCs I spoke to for this story try to stay out of the headlines, Sherwood doesn’t have that option. TechCrunch once called Pichinson “the Terminator of startups”, and many journalists on the Silicon Valley beat seem to check in with him periodically to see how business is going – if he’s upbeat, it’s time for another culling of a herd. They’re not undertakers, Pichinson insists, though he too can refer to ABCs as “a private funeral”. Silicon Valley’s failure industry runs on discretion and convenient amnesia. Sherwood Partners is a place of memory and a place of failure. “I am the guy who closed down a lot of the high-flying dotcoms,” Pichinson notes, not without a note of pride. Receiverships, bankruptcy, ABC – Sherwood is like a one-stop shop for whatever the opposite of the image Silicon Valley likes to project is. And it has been for almost 30 years. ‘They didn’t fail, they just didn’t come in first’ Silicon Valley thinks it has failure figured out. Even beyond the cliched embrace of “failing better”, a tolerance for things not going quite right is baked into the tech industry. People take jobs and lose them, and go on to a new job. People create products that no one likes, and go on to create another product. People back companies that get investigated by the SEC, and go on to back other companies. They can even lie on behalf of a company like Theranos without any taint whatsoever. In Silicon Valley, it seems, there is no such thing as negative experience. Martin Pichinson of Sherwood Partners. Photograph: Dennis Trantham/Sherwood Partners The attorneys and consultants who have grown old with the industry’s failures, from Pets.com to Pebble, are anything but harsh in assessing their “clients”. “They are not bad,” one old hand insists. Instead, “the question really becomes: how many new ideas can society handle?” Even Sherwood Partners doesn’t see themselves as a repository of Silicon Valley’s screw-ups. To them it’s about luck, bad timing, the wrong blend of personalities. “They didn’t fail, they just didn’t come in first.” That can be deeply charming: rather than make failure, messiness and growth something to hide, the ethos of the tech industry puts fallibility and vulnerability at the center of life. The guys at Sherwood have some of that relaxed California vibe, plus a dose of paternalism – they wind down companies started by people less than half their age. They try to make it a teachable moment and move on. At the same time, Silicon Valley’s tolerance for failure has long sustained an obsession with youth. If a founder fails, tech discourse interprets it as a sign of young vigor. In a country in which 25-year-old white rapists are “still boys” and black 12-year-olds on the playground “look like adults”, the question of who gets to be a kid and who counts as a grownup is clearly charged with privilege. In 2017, a chastened Travis Kalanick admitted: “I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.” Even in a place as chock-a-block with balding skateboarders and middle-aged trick-or-treaters as San Francisco, a 40-year-old CEO of a $15bn company casting himself as an overenthusiastic kid who just needs to get his shit together is a bit much. Failing in Silicon Valley is often a prerogative of the young – or, in Kalanick’s case, the adolescent-acting. And people don’t talk about how much less sustainable it has become to be young in the Valley. One VC who back in the early aughts grew a tiny startup into an $80m company with more than 250 employees reminisced to me about the early days when “we just lived with our parents in Toronto”. “Our labor force was ourselves and we paid for the servers by credit card,” he continued. Then he reflected a moment. “That’s no longer possible, which I guess is what makes us necessary.” But the thing about failing is that it seems to carry opposite meanings depending on who does it. If a traditional brick-and-mortar business hemorrhages money as unregulated digital competition moves in, then that’s just a sign that brick-and-mortar deserves to die. By contrast, if a disruptive new economy startup loses money by the billions, it’s a sign of how revolutionary and bold they are. Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos. Photograph: Courtesy of Theranos There is an entire cottage industry in Silicon Valley devoted to making this distinction. The fawning court press, the hype machine, the angel investors are always ready to explain why a venture that has all the hallmarks of a total failure is actually a genius idea. And those aren’t the only businesses built on the reality behind “fail better”. There’s also the handyman at an incubator who lets all the denizens pick over the carcass of any startup in the building that has gone belly-up: swivel chairs, ping-pong tables, swag and lots of Soylent. There are lawyers busy disentangling the Gordian knot tied by youthful idealism. And there are companies like Sherwood, which step in and take over your company when all hope of success has faded. The clean-up crew stays deliberately out of sight. “It’s in bad times that they hear about us,” Pichinson says, and he sounds regretful about it. The careers being made in Silicon Valley have something magical about them, and perhaps for that reason all of the professionals working behind the scenes get the sense that their clients think consulting them will constitute a capitulation. An admission that what they’re running is a business, that their career is in the end just a career, that gravity has some kind of purchase on their meteoric trajectories. Although most of Sherwood’s work is with investors, employees and vendors, they also hold a massive database of patents amassed from their assignees. “We probably monetize more patents than anyone else in the world,” Pichinson says. And he’s not wrong: Agency IP, Sherwood’s sister company, is nominally a consultancy, but in fact spends most of its time actively exploring the applicability of patents left behind by the companies Sherwood has buried. Like what William Morris agency does for screenplays, says Pichinson, who now operates from LA’s “Silicon Beach”. He makes it sound glamorous. You can’t get rid of wealth The guardian angels of better failure in Silicon Valley are the investors. When men like Pichinson are pretty Zen about failure, it makes sense – after all, it’s their business. When lawyers who charge by the hour seem OK with failure, then sure, why not, they get paid one way or the other. But what about the investors who sink money in ventures and either get some of it back or none of it back? It’s easy to assume that the shrug with which they treat every flop is a facade. It’s unnerving to realize that it’s absolutely not – and for good reason. The reason is what one VC calls “the repeat business effect”. Sure, a 24-year-old can run his company into the ground – but he’s still a 24-year-old, with time and energy for another startup, and then another. And any one of those could pan out and make everybody fantastically rich. It is, as one founder told me, “the luxury of having a lot of runway left”. Why would you upset a person like that and potentially miss out on a future payday? The tolerance for failure has long sustained an obsession with youth. If a founder fails, it is a sign of vigor There is a lot of money sloshing around Silicon Valley in search of that payday. It laps up Sand Hill Road, all the way to the famous Rosewood Hotel with its Tesla-filled parking lot and tech divorcees on the prowl. There’s the old Chris Rock joke about the distinction between being rich and being wealthy: “You can’t get rid of wealth,” Rock says. Watching the well-preserved faces at the Rosewood bar, you believe it. The money that pours in – from pension funds, hedge funds, private investors – has to go somewhere. It is agnostic about individual failure or success; its mantra is the law of averages. By the time one venture crashes and burns, everyone is already on to their next one. But failure comes encased in bubble wrap – at least among those who have a reasonable expectation of running into each other again. What about those who don’t? Many of the employees who have foregone sleep, pay, healthcare and a social life for the benefit of now-worthless shares will not be instrumental in making the next spin of the wheel the winning one. There are many ways to close up shop in Silicon Valley: get acquired or acqui-hired, wind the company down, buy out your investors and start anew as a small business. Depending on how a company dies, however, most or all of the employees will not be part of these transactions. Google won’t acqui-hire the receptionist, or even the publicity person. They won’t take on those who were only contractors, or those who mysteriously got the boot right before a desperate final funding round. Tech workers in Silicon Valley – where the power to fail is inextricable from privilege. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP And even among those with titles, salary, and equity, the acqui-hiring party gets to pick and choose: in an acqui-hire truly deserving of the name, the company’s product and assets matter little. It’s really a way of hiring a very small group of people – and it falls to that group to stand up for those members of the company that the hiring party is not interested in. “They know what they’re prepared to spend,” one person whose company got absorbed into Google told me. “How equitably that gets spread around is basically one big prisoner’s dilemma.” Given the gender dynamics of Silicon Valley, that means that men usually fail better. Given that many of the founders meet in college, it means that having gone to university with the top team is a plus. Those excluded are people who are treated as contractors and received only equity, people who vested and then left, people who have been thrown out before they reach a vesting cliff after a mysterious performance review. And for them, the law of repeat business reveals its ugly side. “None of this litigation happens in this industry, because nobody wants to be blackballed,” one anonymous lawyer says. Or, as an angel investor puts it, it’s important that even a failed venture “facilitates the founder’s story”. Something similar seems to be true for employees: “I learned a lot” is a story that whoever is hiring, seeding, funding, or advising you on your next undertaking is going to want to hear. “The bastards screwed me out of a bunch of money” isn’t. That’s the funny part of the tech industry’s narrative about itself. For tech, failure is always assumed to be temporary; for everyone else, it’s terminal. Taxicab companies are going out of business because they’re losing money? Creative destruction, my friend – sink or swim. Uber hemorrhages cash? Well, that’s just a sign of how visionary the company is. This double standard justifies the exploitation of workers outside of the tech industry – and, in certain cases, the exploitation of workers within it. A longer version of this piece appears in the “Failure” issue of Logic, a magazine about technology. Visit logicmag.io to learn more. Adrian Daub is an academic and writer living in San Francisco
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Investors betting against Tesla made $1.09bn since Elon Musk's tweet

Guardian Technology 21 Aug 2018 08:00 Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Investors who have been willing to lose around $5bn since 2016 on their strong belief that Tesla cannot deliver on it promises. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images Investors betting on a fall in Tesla’s share price have made $1.09bn since 7 August, when Tesla founder Elon Musk tweeted he had “secured” funding to take the troubled company private. The electric car company’s shares soared 11% to $379 after Musk’s so-called “Tesla tweet” that he had “funding secured” to buy out investors at $420 share. But that tweet – now the subject of legal action and a regulatory inquiry – so far has not led to an offer and Tesla’s stock has fallen 19% to $308 share. Musk has frequently clashed with Tesla’s short sellers – investors who bet on a company’s share price collapsing. The battle between Musk and short sellers has become increasing vituperative and personal. He has accused them of being saboteurs who “want the company to die”. As recently as mid-June, Musk predicted via Twitter that investors “have about three weeks before their short position explodes”. Arrayed against him are investors who have been willing to lose around $5bn since 2016 on their strong belief that Tesla cannot deliver on it promises. “What bothers me is not so much the personal stuff and the personal attacks. I’m used to that. It’s the willingness to say things that I think he knows are a stretch, to be polite,” investor Jim Chanos, founder of Kynikos Associates, who has been betting against Tesla for years, said in July. “I don’t think you get to tell people you’re going to make 20,000 Model 3s a week when you know that’s not going to be the case,” Chanos added, referring to the problems hampering production of the mass-market Model 3. According to S3, a financial technology and analytics firm, 33.4m Tesla shares worth $11.2bn worth, or more than a quarter of the company’s free float, are out on loan to investors betting that its share price will fall. To those investors, Tesla’s market capitalization, projected revenues and production capacity just don’t add up. “This has been one of the largest shorts in the US for several years,” says Ihor Dusaniwsky, managing director of predictive analytics as S3 Partners. “It’s become a battle of wills. The big players on the short side have a conviction that the stock is going to tumble to bankruptcy.” During the markets’ initial acceptance that Musk would be able to raise around $70bn to take Tesla private, the rise in stock added $6.4bn to Tesla’s market cap. That cost short sellers like Chanos around $1.3bn and triggered lawsuits. But stock in the company has fallen on reports that Securities and Exchange Commission officials are intensifying a probe into Tesla’s public statements and Tesla’s board made it clear it had scant knowledge of a Saudi Arabian pledge investment that Musk claimed to have received in a blog post last week and which he claimed “was just a matter of getting the process moving”. On Friday, after the New York Times published an interview with Musk that sparked concerns over his health, Tesla’s stock dropped 9%, bringing Tesla down 19% from their pre-tweet level. On Monday, JP Morgan cut its December price target for Tesla back down to $195 per share. Analyst Ryan Brinkman explained to clients in a Monday note that their interpretation of events “leads us to believe that funding was not secured for a going private transaction, nor was there any formal proposal”. Needham analyst Rajvindra Gill said the real valuation of Tesla shares is “closer to $200”, or 30% lower than the $292 share price at the market’s opening on Monday, and 40% lower than on 6 August, the day before Musk’s now-infamous tweet. According to S3, that would bring short sellers up $3bn for the year but still down historically. “The big short sellers are strong and they’re not looking at their quarter-to-quarter returns. They have the pedigree to keep a position and not be forced out of it,” said Dusaniwsky. “They’re sure they’re right and don’t want to be proven wrong so they’re going to stay in as long as it takes.” In a letter to investors last week, UK hedge fund manager Crispin Odey, compared Musk’s recent behaviour to that of Donald Crowhurst, an amateur sailor who in 1968 set off on a solo voyage around the world but never returned. “Shorts like Tesla have been difficult to hold on to,” Odey wrote in the investors letter, according to Bloomberg. “However, Tesla feels like it is entering the final stage of its life.”
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Use of 'killer robots' in wars would breach law, say campaigners

Guardian Technology 21 Aug 2018 05:01 Israel’s Iron Dome is partly autonomous. Military officials say fully autonomous weapons could soon be widespread. Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters The use of fully autonomous weapons in a theatre of war would breach international law, campaigners and experts say, as longstanding calls for a ban on “killer robots” intensify. These AI-powered guns, planes, ships and tanks could fight future wars without being subject to any human control, as high-tech nations step up investment in the weapons and inch towards full autonomy. Twenty-six countries explicitly support a prohibition on fully autonomous weapons, with Austria, Belgium and China recently joining thousands of scientists and artificial intelligence experts and more than 20 Nobel peace prize laureates in declaring their support. In a new report published jointly by Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, the organisations have stated that fully autonomous weapons would violate the Martens Clause – a well established provision of international humanitarian law. It requires emerging technologies to be judged by the “principles of humanity” and the “dictates of public conscience” when they are not already covered by other treaty provisions. “Permitting the development and use of killer robots would undermine established moral and legal standards,” said Bonnie Docherty, senior arms researcher at Human Rights Watch, which coordinates the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. “Countries should work together to preemptively ban these weapons systems before they proliferate around the world. “The groundswell of opposition among scientists, faith leaders, tech companies, nongovernmental groups, and ordinary citizens shows that the public understands that killer robots cross a moral threshold. Their concerns, shared by many governments, deserve an immediate response.” More than 70 governments are meeting at the UN in Geneva on 27 August for the sixth time to discuss the challenges raised by fully autonomous weapons. The talks were formalised under a major disarmament treaty in 2017 but they are not yet directed toward a specific goal and there has been widespread frustration among campaigners with the glacial pace of the process. However, if states recommend negotiations should begin in 2019, it will help pave the way for their formal approval in November, after almost every country agreed that some form of human control should be maintained over the use of force at the last meeting in April. “The idea of delegating life and death decisions to cold compassionless machines without empathy or understanding cannot comply with the Martens clause and it makes my blood run cold,” said Noel Sharkey, a roboticist who wrote about the reality of robot war as far back as 2007 and has acted as a spokesperson for the Campaign to Ban Killer Robots. “We expect more European countries will step up and that the clamour will get us that key word ‘negotiation’ into the mandate for next year. There is already a growing consensus that human control of weapons systems is crucial in conflict. “Some states would prefer to shift from a prohibition protocol to one that requires a positive obligation to ensure meaningful human control, and both amount to the same humanitarian law,” he added. Fully autonomous weapons do not yet exist but high-ranking military officials have said that the use of the devices – which would select and engage targets without meaningful human control – will be widespread in warfare in a matter of years. At least 381 partly autonomous weapon and military robotics systems have been deployed or are under development in 12 states, including France, Israel, Russia, the UK and the US. It has been reported that Russia opposes the ban of fully autonomous weapon systems, joining various others – including the US – who could seek to block any future negotiations. Automatic systems, such as mechanised sentries in the Korean demilitarised zone and Israel’s Iron Dome, have already been deployed but cannot act fully autonomously. Research by the International Data Corporation has suggested that global spending on robotics will double from $91.5bn (£71.8bn) in 2016 to $188bn in 2020 and bring full autonomy closer to realisation.
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