Chinese New Year Inspires Line-Cutting Apps
Today in international tech news: China's Lunar New Year celebration, which doubles as the largest annual migration on the planet, has inspired millions of people to use "line-cutting" apps to skirt crowds on the nation's railroad website. Also: The U.S. charges a trio with creating and spreading a nasty -- and costly -- computer virus, and the U.S. State Department is using social media to counter terrorist propaganda.
It is known, rightfully so, as the largest annual migration on Earth -- and the ticket lines, even on the Web, are accordingly long.
But there's an app for that -- a few of them, actually.
The Lunar New Year, also called the "Spring Festival," has inspired apps that allow people to cut in line, so to speak, on China's rail ministry website, according to Bloomberg.
The "ticket-grabber" apps allow people to bypass the clutter -- more than 200 million people are believed to travel by rail during the Spring Festival -- and snatch tickets without mind-numbing waits.
Thirty-eight-year-old Li Juan, who is one of an estimated 6 million-plus people who have used such apps, told Bloomberg she had spent five futile hours trying to purchase tickets on the rail ministry website. Then, with the aid of an app, she booked reservations in two minutes.
The apps, which come from Internet companies such as Qihoo 360 and Kingsoft, highlight a digital divide in China, according to Bloomberg. Tech-savvy people are snatching up tickets while "low-wage workers living thousands of miles from their families" -- people who travel once a year, for Spring Festival -- are getting edged out.
A 33-year-old textile-factory worker whose children live five hours away told Bloomberg that she and her husband work 11 hours a day. "How can we learn to use new things like this software?" she wondered.
China's rail ministry launched the website last year to thwart black-market transactions and ease ticket lines, according to Bloomberg.
US Charges Trio With Creating, Spreading Virus
U.S. prosecutors have charged three men -- a Russian, a Latvian and a Romanian -- with creating and distributing a particularly vicious computer virus, according to the BBC.
The Gozi virus, which is believed to have infected more than 1 million computers around the globe -- including 190 belonging to NASA -- was used to access bank info and steal millions of dollars from 2005 to 2011. It was, in the words of U.S. prosecutors, a "modern-day bank robbery ring."
The three men have already been arrested. One of them, a 25-year-old Russian, is in U.S. custody. Extradition hearings for the other two -- a 28-year-old Romanian and a 27-year-old Latvian -- have begun.
US Using Social Media to Counter Terrorists
Though it was overshadowed by her brief tiff with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., during her recent testimony before Congress, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the U.S. State Department is posting online content to counter jihadist propaganda from terrorist groups like al-Qaeda
Clinton's comments came as she was answering questions about the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, according to Mashable.
Clinton said "social media is a great tool," adding that the State Department was trying to better utilize social media to communicate with citizens aboard.
Production Begins on (1st) Wikileaks Movie
The Fifth Estate, a film that chronicles the life of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, has begun principal photography, according to The Guardian.
While the movie is still in its infancy, the fact that production has begun -- with Benedict Cumberbatch taking the lead role -- is noteworthy. No fewer than three Assange-based movies are in the offing, The Guardian reported.
Daniel Brühl, best known for his role in Goodbye Lenin, is slated to play Assange's confidant Daniel Domsheit-Berg.
The Fifth Estate, whose script comes from Josh Singer, a writer for The West Wing, focuses on the early days of WikiLeaks. It is based on Domsheit-Berg's book WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website, as well as the book WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy.