Electric cars are not the solution

A VW e-Golf electric car being charged in Dresden, Germany. Electric cars move pollution from our cities to distant power plants. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Will our streets be pollution free when the last petrol and diesel cars are sold in the UK in just over two decades time? Sadly not. This is for two main reasons. First, we will still have diesel lorries and buses. Second, electric cars still release particle pollution into the air from wearing tyres, brakes and road surfaces. Already more particle pollution comes from wear than from the exhausts of modern vehicles.

The trend towards open disc brakes rather than sealed drums looks to be making the situation worse and toxicologists say that these particles are not harmless. Despite regenerative braking, where electric motors are put into reverse to slow the car, one study found that the extra weight of the batteries means more particle pollution compared with the petrol or diesel vehicles that we buy today.

Electric cars move pollution from our cities to distant power plants. For big benefits we need carbon-free electricity. Most studies focus on average driving and average electricity generation. Instead, if we consider real urban driving and off-peak charging, electric cars are already a low pollution option for Belgium, where over half of electricity comes from nuclear power, and for Beijing, where more efficient gas-fired power stations are rapidly replacing old coal ones.

A quarter of England’s car trips are less than two miles. We can be more ambitious. Replacing petrol and diesel cars with electric would miss the opportunity to save the NHS around £17 billion over the next 20 years by swapping short car journeys for walking or cycling.


There’s no easy solution to Canada’s border problem

The latest spate of asylum seekers crossing the border over dirt paths in Quebec has once again sparked some, including Conservative politicians, to ask why Ottawa doesn’t press Washington to allow those people to be turned back to the United States.

There is, after all, a deal in place with the Americans that allows Canadian border guards to turn back asylum seekers who arrive at official border crossings from the United States – but not in between them. Many have called for the Canadian government to close that “loophole.”

But the Americans don’t want to close it. They don’t want to go through a lot of trouble to stop migrants from leaving the United States. It’s time to stop thinking there are easy, wave-of-the-pen solutions for Canada’s border problem.

Read more: False information sends asylum-seeking Haitians to Canada

Read more: Quebec’s resources wear thin as wave of asylum seekers swells

Read more: Fearing Trump, asylum seekers travel across U.S.-Canada border, regardless of risks

Donald Trump won’t jump in: His immigration crackdown is encouraging people to walk into Canada. And for a peek at his sentiments, just look at the recently leaked transcript of a phone call between President Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr. Trump used the call to berate the Australian leader about an Obama-era agreement that calls for the United States to resettle 1,250 asylum seekers detained while trying to get to Australia.

Mr. Trump didn’t grasp, and didn’t even care about, Mr. Turnbull’s case for why the Australian program would reduce the flow of asylum seekers on people smugglers’ boats. After all his campaign rhetoric about a Muslim ban and extreme vetting, he said accepting those people would make him “look like a dope.”

“I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Turnbull. The U.S. President won’t help other countries with migrant flows by taking people off their hands.

So those demanding that Canada strike a new deal with Washington to close the border “loophole” – as Conservatives did throughout the leadership race that ended in May – can save their breath.

Jason Kenney, who is running for the leadership of Alberta’s new United Conservative Party, told The Globe and Mail’s Laura Stone last week that the Liberal government should renegotiate the safe-third-country deal. But he also admitted that when he was the federal immigration minister, Obama administration officials refused.

Before 2003, asylum seekers often came through the United States to Canada. But after 9/11, the two countries signed several border-management agreements, including a “safe-third-country” agreement that stipulates if someone arrives at an official Canadian border post and claims refugee status, they can be turned back to make their claim in the United States. But the Americans didn’t want to agree to take back anyone who managed to sneak into Canada elsewhere.

That means anyone who crosses the border through a field or a across a dirt path can claim refugee status, and have their claim heard. That loophole has always been there. It’s just that more people are using it lately.

Mr. Trump’s immigration crackdown is one reason. That sparked a number of Somalis living in Minnesota to cross into Manitoba last winter. Now many Haitians who fear they will be sent home when a U.S. moratorium on deportations ends in January are coming to Quebec’s border, reportedly encouraged by false info on social media that suggests they will automatically be allowed to stay.

What to do? Conservative MP Michelle Rempel issued a press release calling for Mr. Trudeau to “take action” – but tellingly, she didn’t specify what kind.

Some suggest suspending the safe-third-country agreement, because people will at least cross the border at official entry points if they can make a refugee claim there. But history suggests that will lead to a major increase in people travelling through the United States to seek refugee status in Canada – especially with Mr. Trump cracking down on migrants from Mexico.

There’s really two ways to discourage the flow. You can make the lives of border crossers rougher, by locking them up. But that means locking up desperate families.

Or you can speed the processing of refugee claims, either through reform or extra funding, so that people without valid claims are returned home quickly – in theory, that might discourage those who aren’t bona fide refugees. Right now, Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals are hoping this latest flow of asylum seekers will subside. After Mr. Trudeau’s words about refugees being welcome, they don’t want to act tough. And there just aren’t simple solutions: Certainly, Canada can’t expect Mr. Trump’s help.


A Solution to Hackers? More Hackers

In the most talked-about session at Def Con, hackers were let loose on a series of computerized voting machines. CreditMark Ovaska for The New York Times

If there’s a single lesson Americans have learned from the events of the past year, it might be this: Hackers are dangerous people. They interfere in our elections, bring giant corporations to their knees, and steal passwords and credit card numbers by the truckload. They ignore boundaries. They delight in creating chaos.

But what if that’s the wrong narrative? What if we’re ignoring a different group of hackers who aren’t lawless renegades, who are in fact patriotic, public-spirited Americans who want to use their technical skills to protect our country from cyberattacks, but are being held back by outdated rules and overly protective institutions?

In other words: What if the problem we face is not too many bad hackers, but too few good ones?

The topic of ethical hacking was on everyone’s mind at Def Con, the hacker convention last week in Las Vegas. It’s the security community’s annual gathering, where thousands of hackers gathered to show their latest exploits, discuss new security research and swap cyberwar stories. Many of the hackers I spoke to were gravely concerned about Russia’s wide-ranging interference in last year’s election. They wanted to know: How can we stop attacks like these in the future?

The problem, they told me, is that the government doesn’t make it easy for well-meaning hackers to pitch in on defense. Laws like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act make poking around inside many government systems, even for innocent research purposes, a criminal offense. More than 209,000 cybersecurity jobs in the United States currently sit unfilled, according to a 2015 analysis of labor data by Peninsula Press, and the former head of the National Security Agency said last year that the agency’s cybersecurity experts “are increasingly leaving in large numbers” for jobs in the private sector.

Continue reading the main story

Partly, that’s because private sector jobs tend to pay more. But it’s also because the government can be an inhospitable place for a hacker. Talented hackers can be disqualified for government jobs by strict background checks, and dissuaded by hiring processes that favor candidates with more formal credentials. At Def Con, I heard stories about hackers who had interviewed for government security jobs only to be turned away because they’d smoked pot as a teenager, or violated copyright law by jail-breaking their video game console.


An exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act gave researchers a temporary pass to experiment on voting machines. Without that, the hackers at Def Con would not have been able to test the machines’ security.CreditMark Ovaska for The New York Times

These rules may keep a few bad apples away from critical government systems, but they also prevent many talented hackers from contributing. At Def Con, I spoke with Sean Kanuck, a former C.I.A. intelligence analyst who served as the federal government’s national intelligence officer for cyberissues from 2011 to 2016. He said that hackers could be enormously valuable, if they were properly enlisted in the fight against attacks.

“These people may be all hackers, and they may occasionally break the law, but they all still want the banking system to work,” Mr. Kanuck said. “All of them, if they end up in a hospital room, they want the infusion pump working. There’s common ground. And the knowledge here is incredible.”

The private sector has already discovered the benefits of hackers. Most major tech companies — including Facebook, Apple and Microsoft — offer “bug bounty” programs, in which they offer financial rewards to hackers who find holes in their security measures. These companies know that paying hackers up front for their expertise is significantly cheaper than cleaning up after a breach, and they understand that the risk of a hacker going rogue inside their systems is outweighed by the benefits of having well-trained experts catch bugs and vulnerabilities before the bad guys do.

Government agencies are beginning to experiment with a similar approach. The Defense Department offered the first-ever federal bug bounty program last year, called Hack the Pentagon. The agency allowed more than 1,400 hackers to take aim at its public-facing websites without fear of punishment, and the effort resulted in 138 legitimate vulnerabilities being reported. A similar program involving the Department of Homeland Security has been proposed in the Senate.

The most talked-about session at this year’s Def Con was when hackers were let loose on a series of computerized voting machines. These machines had been used in recent American elections, and most ran on comically outdated software. Hackers eventually broke into every machine and were able to manipulate the software to register fake ballots and change vote totals. (One enterprising hacker even rigged a voting machine to play the music video for Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”)


One hacker rigged a voting machine to play the music video for Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”CreditMark Ovaska for The New York Times

There is, of course, the problem of outdated software. But some of the world’s best security researchers have also been prohibited from poking and prodding at these machines by a thicket of copyright and anti-tampering laws. (The reason Def Con was able to test them at all is a 2015 exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that gave researchers a temporary pass to experiment on voting machines.) Now that white-hat hackers have found flaws in these machines, they can pass that knowledge on to the manufacturers and election officials, who can secure the machines ahead of the next election cycle.

Hackers, it turns out, respond to incentives. But current laws don’t allow hackers to test critical government systems outside of official agency-sponsored programs. As a result, we’re missing out on important advice.

Take it from me. Several years ago, as part of an article on ethical hacking, I invited a pair of world-class hackers to hack me, using all of the tools at their disposal. The results were shocking. Within days, the hackers had gained access to nearly every piece of my digital life: my cellphone, my bank account, all of my email inboxes and social media profiles. The hackers showed me how, with a few more clicks, they could have stolen all of my data and used it to ruin my life. Then, they helped me protect myself against a future attack by strengthening my passwords, fortifying my devices and teaching me what suspicious activities to look out for.

Not all hackers are so helpful. But many are, and we should take advantage of their willingness to help secure our national infrastructure. Maybe federal workers should be subjected to a simulated hack before being allowed to access sensitive information. Or perhaps the government could create a white list of approved security researchers with a track record of ethical hacking, who would be given legal immunity for their work. Private sector companies have figured out how to bring in outside security expertise carefully, without creating a hacker free-for-all, and the government can, too.

Spending a weekend at Def Con is a good way to learn how many dangers lurk in the digital world. (It wasn’t just voting machines, hackers also demonstrated hacks on cars, kitchen appliances and all manner of other connected devices.) It’s also a way to appreciate how necessary ethical hackers are to a modern democracy, especially one that is under siege from foreign online attackers.

To paraphrase an organization with close ties to the government: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a hack is a good guy with a hack.


Yogi Adityanath calls for solution to Ayodhya issue through talks

Image result for Yogi Adityanath calls for solution to Ayodhya issue through talksHe said the Ramayana circuit will connect all cultural and traditional centres mentioned in the epic, adding that the circuit would be extended to Rameshwaram.

AYODHYA: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath today stressed that a peaceful solution to the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid issue should be found through bilateral talks.

Both parties must abide by the Supreme Court’s advice regarding negotiations, said Adityanath who was on a visit here. He added that the government would take care of the sentiments of both Hindus as well as Muslims.

In his speech, the chief minister referred to Indonesia and said it was the biggest Muslim country where Ramayana was celebrated.

Indonesians have accepted Islam as a way to worship God, but they are still very much attached to their old tradition of Ramayana, he said.

Adityanath also said that the Union government is thinking seriously to construct a Ram Sethu (Adam Bridge) connecting India to Lanka to give a full and final shape to Ramayana circuit.

He said the Ramayana circuit will connect all cultural and traditional centres mentioned in the epic, adding that the circuit would be extended to Rameshwaram.

The Centre as well as the state government are developing all spots which are traditionally and culturally connected with the Hindu religion, he said.

Development of ghaats along the rivers and cultural activities such as ‘Ram Leela’ and ‘Krishna Leela’ were also priorities, he said.

Adityanath was in Ayodhya to pay tributes to Ram Mandir movement leader Ram Chandra Das Paramhans whose death anniversary falls today. Paramhans, one of the accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, had died fourteen years ago.

This was Adityanath’s second visit to Ayodhya in less than two months.

After becoming chief minister he had visited Ayodhya on 31 May to take part in the birthday celebration of VHP leader Nritya Gopal Das, president of the Ram Janambhoomi trust.

Yogi, had during his last visit to the temple town also offered prayers at the makeshift Ram temple here.

About a thousand people including sadhus and BJP leaders attended the chief minister’s public meeting in a small place adjacent to Digambar Akahara.

Some persons including some sadhus expressed displeasure saying they were forcefully removed by the police as the chief minister was to arrive.

Faizabad district magistrate S K Rai however said “no one was removed forcefully but we requested some sadhus to go before the arrival of CM for security reasons”.


U.N. warns of escalation if no Jerusalem mosque solution by Friday

Image result for U.N. warns of escalation if no Jerusalem mosque solution by FridayPalestinian men take part in evening prayers inside Jerusalem’s Old City, next to the Lion’s Gate, July 24, 2017.

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – United Nations Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned on Monday that a solution was needed by Friday to the Jerusalem mosque crisis, which he said threatens to have “potential catastrophic costs well beyond the walls of the Old City.”

Israel installed metal detectors at entry points to Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem after two police guards were shot dead on July 14, triggering the bloodiest clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in years.

Incensed at what they perceive as a violation of delicate decades-old access arrangements at Islam’s third-holiest site, many Palestinians have refused to go through the metal detectors, holding street prayers and often violent protests.

“It is extremely important that a solution to the current crisis be found by Friday,” Mladenov told reporters after briefing the U.N. Security Council behind closed doors. “The dangers on the ground will escalate if we go through another cycle of Friday prayer without a resolution.”

He also warned that the crisis was not a localized event.

“(It has) the potential to have catastrophic costs well beyond the walls of the Old City, well beyond Israel and Palestine, well beyond the Middle East itself,” Mladenov said.

 Image result for U.N. warns of escalation if no Jerusalem mosque solution by Friday

Israeli police officers stand guard next to recently installed metal detectors at an entrance to the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City July 23, 2017.Ammar Awad

The 15-member Security Council met on the crisis at the request of Sweden, France and Egypt.

Sweden’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Carl Skau posted on Twitter after the meeting that Security Council members “agree on need for de-escalation, condemnation of violence and urgent dialogue to calm tensions in Jerusalem.”

Non-Muslim visitors wait to enter the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City July 24, 2017.Ronen Zvulun

The Security Council is due to hold its quarterly Middle East briefing on Tuesday. Mladenov appealed to member states to “avoid further inflaming the situation” when they address the public meeting.

The violence began on Friday, when Israeli security forces shot three demonstrators dead, Palestinian medics said. Israeli police said they were investigating the charge.

On the same day, a Palestinian stabbed three Israelis in the occupied West Bank after vowing on Facebook to take up his knife and heed “Al-Aqsa’s call.”

“We will enable everybody to come and pray on the Temple Mount, but at the same time we will do whatever is necessary to maintain security of this important site,” Israeli U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon said ahead of the meeting.

Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour told reporters: “We are against violence … and we want the Security Council to have the political will to protect the Palestinian people against such violence from the Israeli occupying authority.”

Additional reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Tom Brown and Lisa Shumaker


Nintendo’s solution for online voice chat feels half-baked

From the moment you pick up a Nintendo Switch, it feels like a magical device. The company nailed the hybrid TV / portable concept and created a genuinely fun console that seemed to shed the awkwardness of the Wii U. Indeed, Nintendo has a habit for making fun consoles — but for the last three generations, it’s failed to build online communication options on par with Xbox Live or PlayStation Network.

Rather than baking voice chat into the Switch itself, Nintendo’s new console relegates the feature to a companion smartphone app. We just tried it out and it works, but it’s messy, confusing and completely unintuitive.

The idea behind the Nintendo Switch Online app isn’t a bad one — it’s designed so players can access game data, communicate with other players and organize online matches with friends even when they are away from their consoles. Each game will have its own in-app hub with a bevy of options. You can use the app to access SplatNet 2, for instance, to view your match history in Splatoon 2, check which multiplayer maps are in rotation, and even use in-game currency to buy new gear for your character.

Most of those features work perfectly well — seeing how much ink I’ve spilled in Splatoon 2 is neat, as is the ability to see how I performed in the last 50 matches — but the communication aspect is where the experience falls apart. Using the Nintendo Switch Online app to join a voice chat in Splatoon 2 is both physically and logistically complicated.

Here’s how it works right now: Players who want to voice chat with friends need to visit the Online Lounge menu of Splatoon 2’s multiplayer lobby and create a room. This opens a private match and sends a notification to the player’s smartphone — where they can then invite friends to join them through their friends list, a shortlist of other players they’ve encountered in other voice chat sessions who aren’t on their friends list or via a link sent out over social media.

Players invited to that voice chat room will see a notification on their Nintendo Switch — but they won’t be able to simply join it by opening the smartphone app alone. Instead, they have to open the app and join the private match through the Splatoon 2 Online Lounge menu. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting or joining voice chat through the Nintendo Switch Online app, you’re going to be juggling your smartphone and your console.

To make the cumbersome experience worse, hosting voice through the smartphone app separates the game’s audio from the chat audio — which potentially creates a situation where a player is wearing multiple pairs of headphones or choosing between hearing the game and hearing their teammates in voice chat. Nintendo and manufacturers like HORI are creating headset accessories that merge the two audio sources together, but that adds yet a third device into the Nintendo Switch-voice juggling act.

There are limitations, too. If users switch to a different smartphone app, they’ll be temporarily removed from voice chat — making it impossible to check text messages without removing yourself from the conversation. The app also requires the screen to stay on at all times, which takes a significant toll on the phone’s battery life. Finally, the chat ends as soon as your multiplayer sessions is over. If you want to use the Nintendo Online app for cross game chat with friends playing other Switch games, you’re out of luck.

At least once everything’s set up the experience works pretty well. While in the lobby in between rounds of Splatoon 2, all players can chat amongst themselves — but when a match starts, each team is automatically sorted into private chat rooms. The voice quality isn’t bad either and seems on par with Skype or other VOIP programs on a smartphone. Unfortunately, it offers few advantages over just using one of those services instead.

It’s early for Nintendo’s voice chat solution — the only game that supports it isn’t even out yet, and the service itself has only been live for a few hours — but at first blush, it’s not off to a great start. The act of juggling menus between two different devices is cumbersome and frustrating, and the entire process isn’t intuitive to new users at all.

Relegating the chat functions to a separate device is a strange decision, too. Competing services like Xbox Live and PlayStation solved the puzzle of online multiplayer voice chat years ago. Nintendo seems to be reinventing the wheel for no reason.

It’s worth noting, however, that the Nintendo’s Switch Online services are technically in beta and won’t have a full feature launch until early 2018. With any luck, the company will iron out the kinks by then. For now, however, Nintendo’s solution for online voice chat is cumbersome, unintuitive and weird. Unfortunately, that’s classic Nintendo.

In this article: av, editorial, games, gaming, multiplayer, nintendo, splatnet, splatnet2,splatoon2, voicechat

Trump May Seek Solution on Climate Change, Macron Tells JDD

Image result for Trump May Seek Solution on Climate Change, Macron Tells JDDFrench President Emmanuel Macron, who welcomed Donald Trump to Paris two days ago to participate in Bastille Day celebrations, said the U.S. president may seek a solution over the next months for the fight against global warming.

“We’ve spoken in detail on what may allow him to return into the Paris accord,” Macron said in comments published Sunday in the newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche. “It’s important to maintain a dialogue” with the U.S. about its potential comeback in multilateral actions for climate, he said.

In June, Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the 2015 Paris deal and earlier this month Washington was the only member of the Group of 20 nations that didn’t agree that the accord on cutting harmful emissions was “irreversible.” Trump softened his position at a press conference on Thursday with Macron, saying, “something could happen with respect to the Paris accord. We’ll see what happens. We’ll talk about that over the coming period of time. If it happens, that’ll be wonderful, and if it doesn’t, that’ll be OK too.”

Macron and Trump will speak soon about the fight against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the newspaper reported. Mentioning his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Macron told the outlet that removing Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad wasn’t a “prerequisite” any longer but use of chemical weapons and restricting humanitarian access to civilians were “red lines.” Macron added that France and Russia were making progress on these two topics.

France and Russia are also working on a “protocol” to avoid a repeat of hacking of computer systems, Macron said. Macron met Putin in Versailles on May 29.


A political solution in Syria? How the latest ceasefire deal suits Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad and Iran

Image result for A political solution in Syria? How the latest ceasefire deal suits Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad and IranRussia hopes the “breakthrough” Syrian ceasefire it brokered this week will align the US with President Vladimir Putin’s plans for the war-torn country.

Details of the agreement between Putin and US President Donald Trump Friday to create a de-escalation zone in southwestern Syria remain under negotiation. But scepticism abounds on whether the plan to end a war that in which an estimated 470,000 people have died can succeed where others failed.

Yet something has changed, as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in his comments on the deal, which starts on Sunday with a preliminary ceasefire in areas along the Jordanian border.

Describing the deal with the US as a breakthrough, Putin said at a news conference in Hamburg Saturday that it should become a prototype for a series of zones across Syria that would be administered in coordination with the government in Damascus.

“If we succeed in doing this, we will create an undoubtedly good base and the prerequisites for a political solution in Syria in general,” he said.

Assad is going to retake most of Syria, and there is nothing the US can do about it

Although Putin and all sides are committed to Syria’s territorial unity, the plan would temporarily lead to something like Germany after the second world war, when the allied powers divided the country into four administrative zones, according to Fyodor Lukyanov, who leads Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defence Policy.

“This is the beginning of the soft partition of Syria,” he said. “De-escalation is a euphemism for zones of responsibility, where the different sides will agree which power is responsible for which part of the country.”

The outlines of the Russian proposal approved in Friday’s meeting between Trump and Putin were borrowed from talks between Iran, Russia and Turkey to create de-escalation areas in other parts of the country, Lukyanov said.

Taken together, the two plans represent the Russian military’s strategy for exiting the conflict, Lukyanov said.

They also show how the situation on the ground has transformed over the last year. Syria’s second city, Aleppo, fell back under regime control and the US-led campaign to drive Islamic State (IS) from its self-declared caliphate advanced significantly.

That has left the US with a decision to make on what to do once IS is defeated.

It can wrestle with Iran, Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for control of recaptured areas of Syria.

Or it can declare mission accomplished, agree to oversee the security of zones near the borders with its core allies, Israel and Jordan, and leave most of Syria to Assad, said Joshua Landis, director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Both Russian and US Syria analysts believe Friday’s decision indicates the latter.

There is a new security architecture being imposed in the Middle East and Iran is the beneficiary

“Assad is going to retake most of Syria, and there is nothing the US can do about it,” Landis said. “There is a new security architecture being imposed in the Middle East and Iran is the beneficiary.”

Tillerson said clearly in his remarks after the Trump-Putin meeting that the Syria deal was a starting point for a wider cooperation with Russia after IS’s defeat. The issue then, he said, would be to pacify other areas of the country.

“By and large, our objectives are exactly the same. How we get there, we each have a view,” Tillerson said. “Maybe they’ve got the right approach and we’ve got the wrong approach.”

The agreement could fall apart quickly. The forces who are not party to the deal – including Assad’s forces, Iranian-led militias and al-Qaeda-linked rebels – exist on the ground in southern Syria as well in the North, where a ceasefire crafted by the Russians and the Americans last year collapsed within two weeks.

In addition, so far the only monitors on offer to police the de-escalation zone are Russian. How others might become involved and in what capacity is under negotiation, the State Department official said. The Russian view of how the zones will work is also minimalist and favourable to the Assad regime.


Tasty solution to the signal crayfish problem

An American signal crayfish. Photograph: Adrian Sherratt/Alamy

The word “earn” has become meaningless in today’s society, the word “get” being far more appropriate. In the same spirit, please could I urge you to refrain from repeating the misleading use of “worth” when referring to individuals and their personal wealth (Front page, 4 July). Mike Ashley is apparently “worth” £2.2bn – not to me he’s not.
Deirdre Burrell
Mortimer, Berkshire

 Carey Davies’s Country Diary (3 July) about the American signal crayfish in our rivers was interesting, but omitted to include one way of reducing their population: eating them. Fortunately George Monbiot has already provided information on how to do this (Monbiot cooks up revenge on invasive signal crayfish, 30 September 2009). Just make sure it’s not our (now very rare) native species.
Copland Smith

I have read the article on string theory (Gravitational waves could offer proof of other dimensions, 5 July) three times and am still no nearer to understanding a word of it, but at least I finished Rufus’s crossword on Monday (Letters passim) so all is not lost.
Ruth Eversley
Paulton, Somerset

 Hadley Freeman’s piece on 3 July made me wonder if there is an iron law among Guardian subeditors that an article about Ed Miliband cannot be passed for publication unless the words “bacon” and “sandwich” each appear at least four times. And quite rightly, as no serious appraisal of the man can be carried out without scrutiny of this massively important aspect of his career.
Robert Hammond
Billericay, Essex

On the subject of coloured undergarments at Wimbledon (Report, 4 July), I seem to remember that in the glory days of BOAC there was a cabin crew dress code notice which stated: “Underwear, if worn, shall be white”. Covered all tastes.
Mike Lodge (ex-BA)
Hailsham, East Sussex

 A colleague in the West End orchestra pit where I work was playing “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn” on his violin the other day – in octaves too, most impressive (Letters, 5 July).
Bill Hawkes 
Canterbury, Kent


Security researcher creates ‘vaccine’ against ransomware attack

Petya ransomware

Avaccination for the global cyber attack that infected thousands of machines in dozens of countries has been discovered by an American security researcher.

The simple antidote to the Petya ransomware, which stops computers from being able to launch and demands a $300 (£234) payment, uses an empty folder to block the virus from working.

It could prevent further companies from falling victim to the attack that hit the Ukrainian National Bank, advertising giant WPP and US law firm DLA Piper. In total the incident affected 12,500 machines in 64 countries, according to Microsoft.

The fix is reminiscent of the “kill switch” for the WannaCry attack earlier this year that stopped the rapidly spreading virus after it had already infected more than 200,000 machines. But it can’t stop the Petya ransomware from spreading to more computers.

About | Ransomware

What is ransomware?Malicious software that locks a device, such as a computer, tablet or smartphone and then demands a ransom to unlock it

Where did ransomware originate?The first documented case appeared in 2005 in the United States, but quickly spread around the world

How does it affect a computer?The software is normally contained within an attachment to an email that masquerades as something innocent. Once opened it encrypts the hard drive, making it impossible to access or retrieve anything stored on there – such as photographs, documents or music

How can you protect yourself?Anti-virus software can protect your machine, although cybercriminals are constantly working on new ways to override such protection

How much are victims expected to pay?The ransom demanded varies. Victims of a 2014 attack in the UK were charged £500. However, there’s no guarantee that paying will get your data back

Unlike the WannaCry kill switch, discovered by 22-year-old self-taught Marcus Hutchins, the Petya antidote must be manually downloaded onto computers ahead of their being affected.

Amit Serper, the security researcher from Boston who discovered the solution, warned that it is probably a “temporary fix” rather than a tool to stop the problem completely.

Serper found the solution to the problem working with a UK-based cyber expert who goes by the name of Hacker Fantastic. Serper was on holiday with his family in Israel when the problem started.

When the Petya ransomware infects a machine it searches for a folder called “perfc.dll”. If it can’t find the folder it takes hold of the computer, locking files and part of the hard drive. In the event that it finds the file the ransomware is not able to work.

Following his discovery, Serper was inundated with messages of praise and some job offers. He eventually turned off notifications for people he doesn’t follow on Twitter and said he didn’t want a new job.

“I’m very happy with working for Cyber Reason, please stop emailing me. Also, appreciate the praises but let’s not go crazy. I’m not that good,” said Serper.

In a follow-up tweet he added: “Thanks for all the kind words. This is a temporary fix, let’s focus on patching, less on thanking me. Thanks again, I’m humbled.”

A kill switch for Petya appeared to be less pressing than it was for WannaCry as the former doesn’t spread in the same rapid way.

“There is low risk of new infections more than one hour after the attack,” Hutchins said.

Petya cyber attack: Ransomware spreads across Europe


The attack could have infected computers in the first instance through a flaw in accounting software, according to Cisco.

It is not clear who is behind the attack, which appeared to inflict most damage in Ukraine, but research indicates it could have been a nation state assault.

“Based on initial analysis by CyberArk Labs, what we know now is that NotPetya is different from WannaCry in that it appears to be sparing endpoints that use a US English-only keyboard. This seemingly self-imposed restriction has been seen in nation state attacks,” said

Companies in more than a dozen countries were affected by the ransomware, including the UK, US, Ukraine, Russia, Italy, Germany, France, Japan and China.

The first incident appeared in Kiev before spreading across Ukraine and Russia. At the time of writing there hadn’t been any new instances of the infection but computer systems remained crippled.