Google, RailTel Launch Free Wi-Fi Service at 9 More Railway Stations

Google, RailTel Launch Free Wi-Fi Service at 9 More Railway Stations

Google and RailTel on Friday announced that its free Wi-Fi service for Indian railway stations has been rolled out to nine new stations across the country. The search giant added the service will be formally inaugurated by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu soon.

To recall, Google had launched its free Wi-Fi service at Mumbai Central in January this year, and plans to roll out the facility to 100 stations by the end of 2016, and to 400 stations eventually.

With Friday’s announcement, Google has launched its free Wi-Fi service in 10 railway stations across India. These are Bhubaneswar, Bhopal, Ernakulum Jn (Kochi), Kacheguda (Hyderabad), Mumbai Central, Pune, Ranchi, Raipur, Vijayawada, and Vishakhapatnam.

Google in an emailed statement said the service, which is built over the fibre network of Raitel, is designed to offer a high-speed broadband experience to users. The company added it is committed to work with Indian Railways and RailTel to deliver high-speed Wi-Fi network that will be available to 10 million Indians a day by the end of the year.

“The network is now live in ten key stations across the country and we are scaling up our efforts to roll out the network quickly to cover some of smaller stations where connectivity is much more limited. As Internet adoption grows in India, easy and affordable access to high-speed networks is the real need of the hour. With 100 stations live, this project will be the largest publicly accessible high speed Wi-Fi network in the country, but our real hope is that this project will set new benchmarks in delivering a reliable and consistent network connectivity in the country,” said Gulzar Azad, Head of Access Project, Google India.

Commenting on the launch, Chairman and Managing Director of RailTel Shri R. K. Bahuguna said, “As outlined by the Hon’ble minister Shri Suresh Prabhu – modernising and improving the amenities available to passengers of Indian Railways is big part of our focus. And we are very proud to say that Indian Railways has taken the lead to offer the best Wi-Fi network experience available to passengers today in the country. And while the service will be free for a reasonable amount of time, our long-term goal is to make this project self-sustainable to allow for expansion to more stations and places, with RailTel and other partners, in the future.”

Cloud Leaders Failed to Capitalise on PaaS Growth in 2015

Cloud Leaders Failed to Capitalise on PaaS Growth in 2015: Gartner

Even though there was a rapid growth in the platform as a service (PaaS) segment globally, leading companies in the cloud business failed to capitalise on this, a report from global research firm Gartner said on Friday.

Worldwide application infrastructure and middleware (AIM) software revenue totalled $23.9 billion (roughly Rs. 1,59,184 crores) in 2015 a 0.1 percent increase from 2014, the report added.

“The PaaS segment showed the most impressive growth across the entire enterprise software market,” Fabrizio Biscotti, research director at Gartner, said in a statement.

“Integration PaaS (iPaaS) grew 55 percent in US dollars while application PaaS (aPaaS) grew 40 percent, despite headwinds from the appreciating US dollar,” Biscotti added.

2015 was the year that iPaaS became a serious alternative to traditional software-based integration approaches.

“Buyers are choosing iPaaS due to its lower entry costs, reduced operational demands and improved productivity. Vendor interest in this space is also growing rapidly, with the number of offerings doubling in the past 12 months,” said research director Keith Guttridge.

The cloud application infrastructure is now evolving and is now offering greater agility, scalability and efficiency than traditional on-premises technologies.

In 2015, market leader IBM suffered a revenue decline of nearly 13 percent, falling to 25 percent of the total AIM software market. Oracle’s revenue also dropped by nearly four percent, capturing 13 percent of the total market.

However, Microsoft’s five percent revenue growth meant it was the only one of the top three players to grow its revenue.

Salesforce retained the fourth spot, while Software AG dropped out of the top five – switching places with TIBCO Software.

Platform as a service (PaaS) is a cloud computing model that delivers applications over the Internet.

New Wi-Fi Technology Can Double Speeds With a Single Antenna

New Wi-Fi Technology Can Double Speeds With a Single Antenna: Study

Researchers have developed a novel technology that can double Wi-Fi speeds with a single antenna, a breakthrough that could revolutionise the field of telecommunications.

This is the first time researchers from Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science have integrated a non-reciprocal circulator and a full-duplex radio on a nanoscale silicon chip.

The team, led by Associate Professor Harish Krishnaswamy, developed the technology that needs only one antenna, thus enabling an even smaller overall system.

“This technology could revolutionise the field of telecommunications,” said Krishnaswamy, director of the Columbia High-Speed and Mm-wave IC (CoSMIC) Lab.

“Our circulator is the first to be put on a silicon chip, and we get literally orders of magnitude better performance than prior work,” said Krishnaswamy.

“Full-duplex communications, where the transmitter and the receiver operate at the same time and at the same frequency, has become a critical research area and now we have shown that Wi-Fi capacity can be doubled on a nanoscale silicon chip with a single antenna. This has enormous implications for devices like smartphones and tablets,” he said.

Krishnaswamy’s group has been working on silicon radio chips for full duplex communications for several years and became particularly interested in the role of the circulator, a component that enables full-duplex communications where the transmitter and the receiver share the same antenna.

In order to do this, the circulator has to “break” Lorentz Reciprocity, a fundamental physical characteristic of most electronic structures that requires electromagnetic waves travel in the same manner in forward and reverse directions.

“We wanted to create a simple and efficient way, using conventional materials, to break Lorentz Reciprocity and build a low-cost nanoscale circulator that would fit on a chip,” said PhD student Negar Reiskarimian, who developed the circulator.

The traditional way of breaking Lorentz Reciprocity and building radio-frequency circulators has been to use magnetic materials such as ferrites, which lose reciprocity when an external magnetic field is applied.

But these materials are not compatible with silicon chip technology, and ferrite circulators are bulky and expensive.

Krishnaswamy and his team were able to design a highly miniaturised circulator that uses switches to rotate the signal across a set of capacitors to emulate the non-reciprocal “twist” of the signal that is seen in ferrite materials.

Aside from the circulator, they also built a prototype of their full-duplex system – a silicon IC that included both their circulator and an echo-cancelling receiver.

The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Shortened URLs Can Let Hackers Spy on You

Shortened URLs Can Let Hackers Spy on You: Study

According to two researchers at Cornell Tech, while URL shortening tools may be useful, the short length makes it simple for hackers to brute force them, potentially exposing private information or even infecting cloud storage accounts with malware.

According to the researchers Martin Georgiev and Vitaly Shmatikov, it is possible to brute force shortened links from tech companies such as Google, Microsoft, and bit.ly that generate a Web address with only six seemingly random characters. The two researchers were able to use the trial and error method to discover Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive files shared by short URLs. They also claim that out of their scanned accounts, around 7 percent of the OneDrive and Google Drive accounts were vulnerable in such way.

It was also possible to break inside a shortened Google Maps URLs that often contained routes between two private addresses, potentially leading to huge privacy issues. Some Maps links even contained details about users’ medical facilities and places of worship.

The duo explained that Microsoft used Bit.ly service to generate short URLs for OneDrive files and folders. The researchers randomly generated 71 million OneDrive short URLs, out of which 24,000 were legitimate and let them access private files and folders. They even said that by opening the full length URL from the shortened ones, they could then tweak the Web address to access different folders by the same user.

“If someone wanted to inject a lot of malicious content into people’s computers, it’s a pretty interesting way of doing it,” Wired quoted Shmatikov. “By scanning you can find these folders, you put whatever you want in them, and it gets automatically copied to people’s hard drives.”

For the search giant Google, the researchers said its Maps service like OneDrive used Bit.ly-generated shortened URLs that included shared locations and directions. They randomly generated 23 million shortened Google Maps URLs only to find that a massive almost 10 percent of them directly opened actual directions. The researchers said they could find directions requested by users to clinic for specific diseases, addiction treatment centres, abortion providers and more. Over 16,000 directions showed one end as the residence of the user.

They could even illustrate the level of threat caused by shortened Google Maps URL by pin pointing one of the users, identifying it as a young woman who shared directions to a Planned Parenthood facility, confirming her residence address, full name, and age as well.

Georgiev and Shmatikov started this research almost a year ago and notified Google about it in September last year. The company then responded by increasing the length of the URLs to 11 or 12 randomised characters, making them much harder to crack by brute force. The search giant even took measures to identify and block automated scanning of shortened URLs.

When the researchers approached Microsoft in May last year, the Redmond-based tech giant initially ignored the concerns but by last month removed the URL shortening feature from OneDrive. However, the researchers still say they could still successfully access all the identified vulnerable links. The detailed research study can be found here.

Journalist Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison for Aiding Anonymous

Journalist Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison for Aiding Anonymous

A US judge sentenced journalist Matthew Keys to two years in prison for helping members of theAnonymous hacking collective gain access to a former employer’s computers, a spokeswoman for the US Department of Justice said on Wednesday.

Keys was indicted in 2013 for conspiracy to cause damage to a protected computer and two other counts, after being accused of giving hackers access to Tribune computer systems in December 2010. He was found guilty by a California jury last October.

The Justice Department had requested a five-year sentence, while Keys sought probation.

Jay Leiderman, an attorney for Keys, said they will ask that Keys remain free while they challenge US computer fraud laws in the appeals courts.

“Ultimately we just hope Matthew is OK,” Leiderman said.

In 2010, shortly after Keys left a job at a Tribune-owned television station in Sacramento, Calif., following a dispute with a supervisor, a story on Tribune’s Los Angeles Times website was altered by Anonymous hackers, the indictment said.

Prosecutors contended that Keys urged on the hackers after supplying a password. Keys’s lawyer argued he was operating as a professional reporter trying to gather information about members of Anonymous, an amorphous group that often conducts multiple hacking campaigns at once.

Tribune Media Co said in a statement on Wednesday: “We’re pleased that the government considered this an important case, and we respect the court’s sentence.”

The alleged events in the indictment occurred before Keys joined Thomson Reuters as an editor for Reuters.com in 2012. A month after Keys was charged, he said Reuters dismissed him. A Thomson Reuters representative had declined to comment on the case.

Amazon Launches Subscribe and Save Store in India

Amazon Launches Subscribe and Save Store in India

Amazon is taking on both kiranas and grocery delivery services with the launch of its subscription feature, recently launched on its app and website. The Subscribe and Save store covers daily household essentials in a subscription program with monthly automatic delivery, free standard shipping, and savings of up to 10 percent.

The Subscribe and Save page currently lists around 2,500 products in categories like baby, household supplies, grocery, beauty, diet and nutrition, personal care, pets, automotive, stationery, printer accessories, health care, sports, and fitness. As of now, it seems like the service has been launched across the country. Earlier this year, Amazon had launched Amazon Now, which delivered household items in a two-hour delivery window in Bengaluru.

Amazon India says in the FAQs that users can select from between one to six month intervals for orders. Users must choose three or more subscriptions on a monthly basis to avail a 10 percent discount. Presently, COD (Cash on Delivery) is the only form of payment accepted for orders delivered as part of the Subscribe & Save subscriptions. Users can also choose to skip or cancel the next subscription at the Subscribe and Save store.

Upon creating the first subscription, Amazon says the items ordered will ship immediately with free standard shipping, and set the delivery date as default for future deliveries, unless manually changed by the user. Users can also choose to order an item sooner than scheduled delivery day, on one-time delivery basis.

EU Privacy Watchdogs Raise Concerns Over US Data Pact

EU Privacy Watchdogs Raise Concerns Over US Data Pact

European privacy regulators said on Wednesday a new commercial data transfer pact between the European Union and the United States needed to provide more reassurance over US surveillance practices and the independence of a new US privacy ombudsman.

The EU-US Privacy Shield, agreed in February after two years of talks, is designed to help firms on both sides of the Atlantic to move Europeans’ data to the United States without falling foul of strict EU data transfer rules.

It will replace Safe Harbour, struck down last year by the top EU court following a challenge spurred by revelations of mass US government surveillance programmes.

European data protection authorities on Wednesday urged the European Commission – which negotiated the framework – to address their concerns in order for them to be able to establish that data transferred to the United States is afforded the same standard of protection as in Europe.

Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, chair of the group of 28 data protection authorities, said

She also said the regulators had doubts about the effective powers and independence of the US ombudsman who will deal with EU complaints about US surveillance practices.

“We don’t have enough security guarantees in the status of the ombudsperson,” Falque-Pierrotin said.

While non-binding, the opinion from the regulators is important because they enforce data protection law across the EU and can suspend specific data transfers.

However, companies can still transfer data to the United States using contracts establishing privacy protections between groups, so-called standard contractual clauses and binding corporate rules.

EU data protection law bars companies from transferring personal data to countries deemed to have insufficient privacy safeguards, of which the United States is one, unless they set up such contracts or use a framework like the Privacy Shield.

Cross-border data transfers are used in many industries for sharing employee information, and consumer data is shared to complete credit card, travel or e-commerce transactions, or to target advertising based on customer preferences.

Falque-Pierrotin welcomed improvements in the Privacy Shield compared with Safe Harbour, such as a clearer explanation of EU citizens’ rights and means for redress.

The data protection authorities urged the European Commission to review the Shield in two years when a stricter European data protection law comes into force.

Member state representatives have to approve the framework before it is formally adopted, something the Commission hopes to do by June.

Pakistan Approves Controversial Cybercrime Bill

Pakistan Approves Controversial Cybercrime Bill

The controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 has been approved by Pakistan’s National Assembly (NA).

The bill approved on Wednesday, must also be approved by Senate before it can be signed into law, Dawn online reported.

The draconian bill – which has been criticised by the information technology (IT) industry as well as civil society for curbing human rights – was submitted to the NA for voting in January 2015 by the IT ministry.

A draft of the cybercrime bill was then forcefully cleared by the standing committee in September before being forwarded to the NA for final approval without showing committee members the copy of the bill.

According to critics, the proposed bill criminalises activities such as sending text messages without the receiver’s consent or criticising government actions on social media with fines and long-term imprisonment. Industry representatives have argued that the bill would harm business as well.

Online criticism of religion, the country, its courts, and the armed forces are among subjects which could invoke official intervention under the bill.

Alibaba to Invest $1.25 Billion in China Food Delivery Firm

Alibaba to Invest $1.25 Billion in China Food Delivery Firm

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and an affiliate part-owned by its founder Jack Ma will invest a total of $1.25 billion in an online food delivery firm, the companies said, as Alibaba diversifies its activities.

Alibaba will invest $900 million and Ant Financial will add another $350 million (roughly Rs. 2,330 crores) in the Chinese online-to-offline food delivery firm Ele.me, Alibaba said in a statement on Thursday, without giving a size for the stake.

Chinese business magazine Caixin reported in December that a $1.25 billion (roughly Rs. 8,323 crores) investment would make Alibaba the biggest shareholder in the food firm with a 27.7 percent stake, valuing the startup at $4.5 billion (roughly Rs. 29,965 crores).

“We are confident the cooperation will benefit merchants and consumers alike through better services and logistical support,” Alibaba said.

Shanghai-based Ele.me claims to be China’s biggest online food delivery platform, with more than CNY 100 million (roughly Rs. 99 crores) in daily transactions and a user base of more than 50 million people, it said in a separate statement.

Alibaba’s Taobao platform is estimated to have more than 90 percent of the consumer-to-consumer market in China, while Alipay, a Paypal-like service under Ant, handles around 80 percent of online payments in China.

Alibaba has been keen to expand outside its core e-commerce business. It bought mobile shopping and dining information app Koubei for $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,659 crores) in June and snapped up video streaming service Youku Tudou in another multi-billion dollar deal in November.

Alibaba also just announced a $1 billion investment in a leading online shopping platform in Southeast Asia, Lazada.

Nasscom Opposes States’ Entry Tax on E-Commerce Sales

Nasscom Opposes States' Entry Tax on E-Commerce Sales

IT industry body Nasscom Thursday came out against a Bill introduced by the Gujarat government to levy entry tax on consumers for inter-state e-commerce and similar practices of some other states, saying it poses a significant challenge.

“Nasscom believes this levy of entry tax poses significant commercial challenges for e-commerce and logistics companies and to retailers from outside of Gujarat, selling goods to customers in the state,” the industry body said in a statement.

A similar levy is being enforced in Assam, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Mizoram and Himachal Pradesh and is proposed to be levied in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, it added.

“Providing unrestricted cross border access to sellers as well as buyers is the prerogative of the government and is an important driver towards creating ease of doing business,” President of Nasscom R Chandrashekhar said.

“Such tax structure will lead to additional burden on SME traders, enhanced litigation,” he said.

Beside reducing business efficiencies, it will also restrict choice of the customer, he added.

The entry tax, payable by the consumers, will be collected and deposited by entities that bring specified goods to the state from any other part of the country for consumption and sale.

Gujarat government in March passed a bill to levy entry tax on goods purchased through e-commerce portals.

The Gujarat Tax on Entry of Specified Goods into Local Areas (Amendment) Bill, 2016, was passed to amend the present Act of 2001 that did not cover e-commerce transactions.