Beijing to Officials: Please, No Smartphones During Session
Today in international tech news: Beijing kindly asks officials not to mess around on phones during China's National People's Congress. Also: A global network of home routers apparently has been hijacked; NSA Director says Snowden's leaks harm national security; BlackBerry's new chief says his plan has a 50 percent chance of working; and Japan plans to clarify its stance on bitcoins in wake of Mt. Gox fiasco.
Officials partaking in China's National People's Congress, which began Wednesday, have been asked to please not mess around on their mobile devices during the session.
A state-owned newspaper, Beijing Youth Daily, published a list of rules for attendees, including this one: "Do not use your phones to send text messages or make phone calls during meeting; do not use your computer or phone to play games."
Reps also were warned against using social media and SMS platforms such as Weibo and WeChat to "live broadcast" the proceedings.
Numerous officials in China have been caught red-handed messing around on their phones during such meetings. Of course, Chinese officials aren't the only ones succumbing to those tantalizing devices. In 2013, two French Members of Parliament were seen playing Scrabble during a debate, and in 2012, a trio of Indian politicians were caught viewing porn during a parliamentary session.
Other nuggets of advice for this year's National People's Congress: Don't seek autographs with high-ranking government officials; and finish the complimentary bottles of mineral water.
Global Network of Hijacked Home Routers Exposed
A worldwide network of hijacked home routers reportedly was discovered by researchers at Team Cymru, an Internet security outfit.
The network includes more than 300,000 routers in homes and small businesses, and is believed to be the biggest network involving such compromised devices. The first victims were in Eastern Europe, but the epidemic reportedly has spread throughout Europe and in places as far-flung as Vietnam.
The routers' internal instructions were tampered with so they would no longer ask servers at the owners' ISP for help looking up the locations of regularly visited websites. That allowed the attackers to, say, redirect people anywhere they wanted and tamper with search results or insert their own advertisements.
That said, Team Cymru apparently has found no evidence of out-and-out malicious activity; the reason for the hijacking therefore remains "mysterious."
NSA Director: Snowden Leaks Harm National Security
Well, what was he going to say?
National Security Agency Director General Keith B. Alexander said that Edward Snowden's leaks have crippled efforts to protect the U.S. against cyberattacks carried out on civilian targets.
Speaking at a conference at Georgetown University -- one of his final public addresses before leaving the agency this spring -- Alexander specifically named Wall Street as a potential target of an attack.
[Source: The New York Times]
BlackBerry Chief: '50/50 Chance' Strategy Works
John Chen, who was named BlackBerry's new chief executive in November, said -- or is it admitted? -- that his strategy for resurrecting the company had a "50/50 chance" of succeeding.
Now, Chen wasn't all dour. He hoped BlackBerry could one day again be a "dominant player" in the smartphone world.
However, changing a company's corporate culture can be a struggle, he said, adding that he hoped the business could be profitable in 24 months.
The Canadian phone-maker recently announced plans for a sub-US$200 smartphone targeted at Southeast Asia.
Japan to Clarify Bitcoin Stance
Following the collapse of Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, Japan plans to clarify the country's stance on the digital currency.
The nation's cabinet on Friday will decide how to treat bitcoins under existing law, according to sources cited by Reuters.
Banks and securities firms will be prohibited from handling bitcoin as part of their core businesses, according to the sources, which suggests bitcoin will be treated like a commodity, a la gold.