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As unrest grows, Iran restricts access to Instagram, WhatsApp

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IRAN:

Iran curbed access on Wednesday to Meta Platforms’ (META.O) Instagram and WhatsApp, two of the last remaining social networks in the country, amid protests over the death of a woman in police custody, residents and internet watchdog NetBlocks said.

Last week’s death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by morality police in Tehran for “unsuitable attire”, has unleashed anger over issues including freedom in the Islamic Republic and an economy reeling from sanctions.

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NetBlocks also reported a “nation-scale loss of connectivity” on Iran’s mail mobile telephone provider and another company’s network.

WhatsApp’s servers have been disrupted on multiple internet providers, hours after Instagram’s services were blocked, London-based NetBlocks said.

The group’s data shows a near-total disruption to internet service in parts of Kurdistan province in west Iran since Monday, while the capital city of Tehran and other parts of the country have also faced disruptions since Friday when protests first broke out.

Two residents in Tehran and southern Iran said they could only send text and not pictures on WhatsApp and that Instagram appeared to be completely blocked.

Iran has often curbed internet access to make it difficult for protesters to post videos on social media to generate support and also to obtain reliable reports on the extent of the unrest.

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In 2019, the government shut down the internet for about a week to help stifle fuel protests which turned political, sparking the bloodiest crackdown in the 40-year history of the Islamic Republic.

Protests have been particularly intense in Kurdistan where Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has a history of suppressing unrest.

Iran’s minister of communications said earlier on Wednesday he had been misquoted after news outlets cited him as saying the authorities might disrupt internet services for security reasons.

Social media websites such as TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are routinely blocked in parts of the Islamic Republic, which has some of the strictest internet controls in the world. But tech-savvy residents bypass curbs using virtual private networks (VPNs).

Meta and Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Ericsson says only software support exported to Russia

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STOCKHOLM:

Ericsson said on Friday it is only providing software and technical support to Russian clients and has not sold any telecommunications equipment to mobile operators there since the Ukraine war started, after Swedish media reported the company had continued its exports.

Shares of the company fell 4% in morning trading.

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Ericsson suspended its business in Russia in April and said in August that it would exit the country in the coming months. It recorded a charge of 900 million Swedish crowns ($81 million) and made 400 employees redundant in the country as it winds down operations.

“Compliant with the sanctions we provide the software and technical assistance for those products that we have shipped prior to the invasion making it possible to withdraw while fulfilling contractual obligations,” a spokesperson said.

“When the sanctions were announced we stopped shipments to customers in Russia,” he said.

Rival Nokia, which has also announced plans to exit Russia before the end of the year, had said it does limited maintenance of critical networks to fulfill its contractual and humanitarian obligations. 

Sveriges Radio Ekot reported that Ericsson had applied for 12 permits for exemptions from sanctions from Sweden’s Inspectorate of Strategic Products and was granted seven.

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The sanctions list by the Swedish authority include software and technology linked to telecommunications.

The media outlet also said the products which Ericsson received permission to export to Russia could be used for the military.

Ericsson said its products are designed for civilian use, not military.

The Swedish authority issued a statement saying exemptions were related to civilian use and civilian end-users.

Two analysts said the Russia report is not going to look good for Ericsson which faced a scandal in February about payments to the Islamic State militant group in Iraq, triggering investigations by different U.S. agencies and eroding more than a third of its market value.

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“Ericsson hasn’t breached any sanctions as it has obtained approval … but it still stands in pretty clear contrast to the statement in their Q2-report where they announce suspension of ‘all deliveries to customers in Russia’,” said Jyske Bank analyst Anders Haulund Vollesen.

“Even though mobile telephony is for civil use an export licence is required mainly because of the advanced encryption technology that is embedded in our products, and this is to applicable for all countries,” the Ericsson spokesperson said.

($1 = 11.1164 Swedish crowns)



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World Cup players to get FIFA data analysis app

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MANCHESTER:

When the World Cup kicks off in Qatar on Nov. 20 fans can expect a flurry of stats and match footage on social media and FIFA is hoping that includes data and content from a new player app.

FIFA said on Friday that all players at the finals will be able to browse their performance data on a purpose-built app developed by the governing body which allow footballers of all 32 teams access to analysis and information.

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The app has been created after feedback from players, through the players union FIFPRO, and the data will be synched with video of the action to allow quick assessment of key moments.

While such data and metrics are widely available to players with the top clubs and national sides, who employ teams of analysts, the app will ensure squads with fewer resources also have access.

The app will make use of input from FIFA’s performance analysts, tracking data and physical performance metrics such as distance covered, sprints and positional heat maps.

Players will also be provided with photographs from the matches which they can share on social media along with stats and data.

“This player-centric development is based on direct feedback from the players and is another great example of how FIFA is using technology to the best of its potential by improving the football experience for the key actors on the pitch,” said Johannes Holzmueller, FIFA Director of Football Technology & Innovation.

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Simon Colosimo, FIFPRO Deputy General Secretary, said players had asked for better access to their performance data.

“The FIFA Player App is a positive outcome that will activate personal data rights and provide a new resource for players at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar,” he said.



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Updated Windows 11 now better at defending against attacks

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Microsoft’s popular operating system, Windows 11, is now better at defending against brute force attacks after the last update. 

The SMB authentication rate limiter is now enabled by default in the new update.

While explaining the new update, the Principal Program Manager at Microsoft said, “SMB server service now defaults to a 2-second default between each failed inbound NTLM authentication. This means if an attacker previously sent 300 brute force attempts per second from a client for 5 minutes (90,000 passwords), the same number of attempts would now take 50 hours at a minimum”.

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Microsoft has been working on the new update for the last few months. Through the latest update, the goal is to make the system an unattractive target for the attacker.

 



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