U.S. security officials on Wednesday ordered government agencies to get rid of products and services from Kaspersky Lab, a Moscow-based cybersecurity firm.

Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke issued the directive, giving agencies 90 days to comply.

“This action is based on the information security risks presented by the use of Kaspersky products on federal information systems,” according to a DHS statement.

The department said the key concerns were ties “between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies.”

‘Unacceptable risk’

“This is a risk-based decision we need to make,” said White House cybersecurity coordinator Robert Joyce, speaking at the Billington CyberSecurity Summit in Washington.

“The company must collaborate with the FSB [Russian intelligence], and so, for us in the government, that was an unacceptable risk,” Joyce said.

The U.S. said it would give Kaspersky an opportunity to address its concerns in writing.

Kaspersky has repeatedly denied it helps Russia with espionage efforts. On Tuesday, company founder Eugene Kaspersky took to Twitter to try to calm fears.

“Despite geopolitical turbulence we remain committed to American customers,” he said.

The DHS directive came hours after the top U.S. intelligence official warned that Russia has been ramping up the pace of its operations against the United States.

“Russia has clearly assumed an ever more aggressive cyberposture by increasing cyberespionage operations, leaking data stolen from those operations,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said at the cybersecurity summit.

‘Echo chamber’

Coats did not elaborate on the scope or target of Russia’s cyberoperations, but warned that a range of enemies were increasingly seeking to weaponize public opinion.

“Adversaries use the internet as an echo chamber in which information, ideas or beliefs get amplified or reinforced through repetition,” Coats said. “Their efforts seek to undermine our faith in our institutions or advance violence in the name of identity.”

The top U.S. intelligence official also said hackers were increasingly targeting the U.S. defense industry.

“Such intrusions, even if intended for theft and espionage, could inadvertently cause serious if not catastrophic damage, where an adversary looking for small-scale destructive cyberaction against the United Sates could miscalculate,” Coats said.

In an unclassified report released in January, top U.S. intelligence agencies concluded Russian President Vladimir Putin waged an unprecedented “influence campaign” in an effort to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election in favor of then-candidate Donald Trump.

As president, Trump has repeatedly questioned those assessments, suggesting at times it was unclear whether Russia was responsible.

Just last week, however, an internal Facebook investigation found 470 Russian-linked accounts paid for thousands of political ads to appear during last year’s presidential campaign.

Facebook said further investigation revealed another 2,200 ads “might have originated in Russia,” including ads purchased by accounts with IP addresses in the United States but set to Russian in the language preferences.

Other manipulation

Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told a security conference last week that the revelations might just be “the tip of the iceberg,” and that Russia also most likely had manipulated messages via other social media platforms, such as Twitter.

Despite the doubts raised by Trump and some of his supporters, former officials have remained steadfast that Russia was responsible for hacking into  Democratic National Committee computers in an effort to discredit Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton.

“We personally reviewed every single piece of intelligence that went into that ICA [intelligence community assessment] and spent hours and hours talking to the analysts,” said former National Security Agency Deputy Director Richard Ledgett.

“I am as certain of this as I’m as certain as gravity: that the Russian government directed this activity with the intent to influence the election,” he said.


Президент України Петро Порошенко обговорив із новопризначеним генеральним секретарем Організації з безпеки і співпраці в Європі Томасом Ґремінґером роботу місії ОБСЄ на Донбасі, а також плани щодо миротворчої місії ООН у регіоні, повідомила прес-служба голови держави.

Під час зустрічі в Києві співрозмовники обговорили діяльність Спеціальної моніторингової місії ОБСЄ в Україні і потреби зміцнення її оперативної роботи, Порошенко звернувся до Ґремінґера з проханням сприяти наданню СММ нового технічного оснащення, що підвищить якість повсякденної роботи спостерігачів місії. «Було наголошено на важливості повного та безперешкодного доступу СММ ОБСЄ до всієї тимчасово окупованої території Донбасу, включаючи неконтрольовану ділянку українсько-російського кордону», – мовиться в повідомленні.

Сторони скоординували також підходи щодо розміщення миротворчої місії ООН на всій території окупованого Донбасу, поінформували на Банковій. Петро Порошенко наголосив на важливості налагодження інтенсивного діалогу між ОБСЄ та ООН з даного питання.

Крім того, президент «закликав генерального секретаря залучити всі можливі механізми ОБСЄ, щоб звільнити українських політичних в’язнів у Росії та Криму, а також заручників, що утримуються російськими окупаційними військами на Донбасі», повідомили в Києві.

Швейцарський дипломат Томас Ґремінґер став генеральним секретарем ОБСЄ 18 липня. Генеральний секретар ОБСЄ є керівником адміністративного апарату, очолює секретаріат і діє як представник голови організації.


Apple Inc’s highly anticipated iPhone X features a slew of innovations but delayed availability could hurt holiday-quarter sales.

The much-hyped event on Tuesday unveiled three new phones, an advanced watch that can take calls and a new Apple TV, but die-hard fans will not be able to get their hands on the iPhone X until Nov. 3 – much later than iPhone 8’s shipping date of Sept. 22.

The delay in shipping of the iPhone X could hurt Apple’s seasonally-strong fiscal first quarter as orders get pushed to the following quarter. The phone will start at $999 for the 64 GB version.

Apple’s shares were down 1 percent at $159.35 in early trading on Wednesday.

Although decked out with facial recognition technology, front and back glass, a 5.8-inch edge to edge display, wireless charging and animated emojis, some analysts said the delay tempers near-term sales and a few adjusted their estimates.

“Given one month less sales for the iPhone X during the December quarter, we have reduced our December quarter iPhone sales estimates from 84 million to 79 million units,” Canaccord Genuity analysts wrote in a client note.

The company’s iPhone 8 and 8 Plus did not veer far away from previous models, sporting modest new features such as a glass body, wireless charging, better camera and a faster processor.

This could lead consumers to wait for the iPhone X.

“None of the features in the version 8 product will likely accelerate demand,” Mizuho analysts wrote in a note.

Apple typically launches new iPhones in September and a big jump in sales usually follows in the holiday quarter, as users tend to upgrade devices when new phones sport significant design changes.

Apple last saw a significant uptick in sales with the introduction of iPhone 6 in 2015.

While the delay of the iPhone X could hurt near-term sales, analysts still think Apple’s loyal and hungry fans would lap up the new phone, boosting sales for fiscal 2018.

Brokerage UBS said it continues to estimate 246 million phones in fiscal 2018 will be up 15 percent.

Apple, which is trying to energize sales in China, could hit a wall selling the pricey new phones there. The 8 and 8 plus start at $699 and the iPhone X is Apple’s most expensive phone.

The high price of the iPhone X may not affect sales in the United States, where telecom carriers subsidize phone ownership, but it might dent sales in China and India.

But even with the lack of major surprises, Apple’s phones are still expected to sell well.

“It will still sell in enormous volumes because Apple has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to persuade consumers to shift their overall spending to place a greater share of their disposable income towards a smartphone purchase,” IHS Markit analyst wrote in a note.

 


Self-driving cars may not hit the road in earnest for many years – but autonomous boats could be just around the pier.

Spurred in part by the car industry’s race to build driverless vehicles, marine innovators are building automated ferry boats for Amsterdam canals, cargo ships that can steer themselves through Norwegian fjords and remote-controlled ships to carry containers across the Atlantic and Pacific. The first such autonomous ships could be in operation within three years.

One experimental workboat spent this summer dodging tall ships and tankers in Boston Harbor, outfitted with sensors and self-navigating software and emblazoned with the words “UNMANNED VESSEL” across its aluminum hull.

“We’re in full autonomy now,” said Jeff Gawrys, a marine technician for Boston startup Sea Machines Robotics, sitting at the helm as the boat floated through a harbor channel.

“Roger that,” said computer scientist Mohamed Saad Ibn Seddik, as he helped to guide the ship from his laptop on a nearby dock.

The boat still needs human oversight. But some of the world’s biggest maritime firms have committed to designing ships that won’t need any captains or crews — at least not on board.

Distracted seafaring

The ocean is “a wide open space,” said Sea Machines CEO Michael Johnson.

Based out of an East Boston shipyard once used to build powerful wooden clippers, the cutting-edge sailing vessels of the 19th century, his company is hoping to spark a new era of commercial marine innovation that could surpass the development of self-driving cars and trucks.

The startup has signed a deal with an undisclosed company to install the “world’s first autonomy system on a commercial containership,” Johnson said this week. It will be remotely-controlled from land as it travels the North Atlantic. He also plans to sell the technology to companies doing oil spill cleanups and other difficult work on the water, aiming to assist maritime crews, not replace them.

Johnson, a marine engineer whose previous job took him to the Italian coast to help salvage the sunken cruise ship Costa Concordia, said that deadly 2012 capsizing and other marine disasters have convinced him that “we’re relying too much on old-world technology.”

“Humans get distracted, humans get tired,” he said.

Global race

Militaries have been working on unmanned vessels for decades. But a lot of commercial experimentation is happening in the centuries-old seaports of Scandinavia, where Rolls-Royce demonstrated a remote-controlled tugboat in Copenhagen this year. Government-sanctioned testing areas have been established in Norway’s Trondheim Fjord and along Finland’s western coast.

In Norway, fertilizer company Yara International is working with engineering firm Kongsberg Maritime on a project to replace big-rig trucks with an electric-powered ship connecting three nearby ports. The pilot ship is scheduled to launch next year, shift to remote control in 2019 and go fully autonomous by 2020.

“It would remove a lot of trucks from the roads in these small communities,” said Kongsberg CEO Geir Haoy.

Japanese shipping firm Nippon Yusen K.K. — operator of the cargo ship that slammed into a U.S. Navy destroyer in a deadly June collision — plans to test its first remote-controlled vessel in 2019, part of a wider Japanese effort to deploy hundreds of autonomous container ships by 2025. A Chinese alliance has set a goal of launching its first self-navigating cargo ship in 2021.

Cars vs. Boats

The key principles of self-driving cars and boats are similar. Both scan their surroundings using a variety of sensors, feed the information into an artificial intelligence system and output driving instructions to the vehicle.

But boat navigation could be much easier than car navigation, said Carlo Ratti, an MIT professor working with Dutch universities to launch self-navigating vessels in Amsterdam next year. The city’s canals, for instance, have no pedestrians or bikers cluttering the way, and are subject to strict speed limits.

Ratti’s project is also looking at ways small vessels could coordinate with each other in “swarms.” They could, for instance, start as a fleet of passenger or delivery boats, then transform into an on-demand floating bridge to accommodate a surge of pedestrians.

Since many boats already have electronic controls, “it would be easy to make them self-navigating by simply adding a small suite of sensors and AI,” Ratti said.

Armchair captains

Researchers have already begun to design merchant ships that will be made more efficient because they don’t need room for seamen to sleep and eat. But in the near future, most of these ships will be only partly autonomous.

Armchair captains in a remote operation center could be monitoring several ships at a time, sitting in a room with 360-degree virtual reality views. When the vessels are on the open seas, they might not need humans to make decisions. It’s just the latest step in what has been a gradual automation of maritime tasks.

“If you go back 150 years, you had more than 200 people on a cargo vessel. Now you have between 10 and 20,” said Oskar Levander, vice president of innovation for Rolls-Royce’s marine business.

Changing rules of the sea

There are still some major challenges ahead. Uncrewed vessels might be more vulnerable to piracy or even outright theft via remote hacking of a ship’s control systems. Some autonomous vessels might win public trust faster than others; unmanned container ships filled with bananas might not raise the same concerns as oil tankers plying the waters near big cities or protected wilderness.

A decades-old international maritime safety treaty also requires that “all ships shall be sufficiently and efficiently manned.” But The International Maritime Organization, which regulates shipping, has begun a 2-year review of the safety, security and environmental implications of autonomous ships.

 

 


The U.S. Department of Justice will not bring charges against Baltimore police officers over the fatal injury of a black man in custody in an incident that stoked tensions between African-Americans and law enforcement, federal officials said Tuesday.

The department said its criminal civil rights investigation into the death of Freddie Gray, 25, had found “that the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Caesar Goodson, Officer William Porter, Officer Garrett Miller, Officer Edward Nero, Lieutenant Brian Rice or Sergeant Alicia White willfully violated Gray’s civil rights. Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed without prosecution.”

Gray was arrested in April 2015 and suffered a fatal spinal injury while being transported in a police van. The largely African-American city erupted in rioting on the day of his funeral, leading to a curfew and deployment of National Guard troops.

His death was one of several incidents in recent years in U.S. cities, such as Ferguson, Missouri, that sparked a nationwide debate about the use of excessive force by police, especially against black men.

Disciplinary trials

Baltimore prosecutors charged six police officers in Gray’s death, but none was convicted. Public disciplinary trials are scheduled for five of the officers.

The Baltimore Sun, citing unnamed sources, reported the Department of Justice’s decision earlier Tuesday.

Loretta Lynch, the attorney general under former President Barack Obama, announced the federal civil rights investigation on the day of the rioting.

The police union welcomed the decision not to file federal charges, Michael Davey, a lawyer for the Baltimore police union, said in a statement.

An attorney for Gray’s family could not immediately be reached for comment.

“We have no additional comment on the Department of Justice decision today in regards to the six officers,” Nicole Monroe, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Police Department, said in a statement.

A sweeping Justice Department review released last year found Baltimore police regularly violated African-Americans’ civil rights through strip searches, unlawful stops and excessive force.

A federal judge in April approved an agreement, reached in the waning days of the Obama administration, with the Department of Justice to overhaul the police department that included changes in training and the use of force.

Approval came despite a request from the Trump administration to delay implementation. Attorney General Jeff Sessions contended the agreement could hinder crime-fighting efforts.


U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday cast doubt on President Donald Trump’s goal of cutting the corporate tax rate to 15 percent, even as the president moved to inject new urgency into a sluggish effort in Congress to lower taxes.

“Ideally, he’d like to get it down to 15 percent. I don’t know if we’ll be able to achieve that given the budget issues, but we’re going to get this down to a very competitive level,” Mnuchin told a conference in New York hosted by CNBC.

The administration is cranking up a publicity campaign to build public support for the Republican president’s tax goals, and Trump was due to meet with three Democratic senators Tuesday to discuss taxes.

But neither the administration nor the Republicans who control Congress have agreed on a detailed plan for overhauling the tax code, which was one of Trump’s main campaign promises in 2016, despite months of discussions.

A major concern is not adding to the federal budget deficit.

It would balloon if tax rates were cut too deeply without providing offsetting federal spending reductions and closure of tax loopholes, both politically difficult tasks.

Mnuchin declined to say what business tax rate is achievable. He said he was “incredibly hopeful” a tax plan can be enacted this year, adding it could be retroactive to January.

Asked whether Trump would hold out for a 15 percent corporate tax rate, compared to the current 35 percent, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “The president is prepared to push for as low of a rate as we can get. We’re going to continue to push for that and work for Congress to make sure we get the best deal possible.”

Republican Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives, said last week that “the numbers are hard” to make Trump’s 15 percent corporate tax rate target work. Ryan set his own goal at around 22.5 percent.

Trump’s legislative affairs director, Marc Short, said at a Christian Science Monitor event that “there’s probably compromise” necessary to get a deal, but “we think that what’s best for the American people is a 15 percent corporate rate right now.”

‘No new debt’

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of the three Democrats due to dine with Trump on Tuesday, said he is prepared to work with the president on taxes so long as it does not add new debt to the national balance sheet.

“No new debt, anything that shows me it’s going to add debt to our nation. I’ve got 10 grandchildren. I’m not going to do that to them,” Manchin said.

Financial markets rallied after Trump’s election victory last November in anticipation of rapid tax cuts, especially for corporations, but those expectations have faded.

“The likelihood of passing sweeping corporate reform has diminished,” Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Wealth Management, said in a research note.

Republican lawmakers have said that Trump’s legislative deal with Democrats last week to help hurricane victims and keep the government running for another three months could complicate the tax effort, especially in terms of a corporate tax cut.

Democrats, who generally oppose tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, will have negotiating clout in Congress in early December to resist tax changes they oppose, also potentially including a corporate rate cut.

Trump may visit as many as 13 states to sell his planned tax cuts to voters in the coming weeks, the White House said. He plans to visit more states he won in last November’s election that also have a Democratic senator, similar to recent trips to Missouri and North Dakota, as well as states with strong Republican support, an aide said.

The White House said the six senators who will meet with Trump over dinner include Democrats Manchin, Joe Donnelly and Heidi Heitkamp, along with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and fellow panel Republicans Patrick Toomey and John Thune.

The U.S. Senate begins tax overhaul hearings this week.

Mnuchin and White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn were set to meet on Tuesday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and members of the Senate Budget Committee on Capitol Hill to discuss tax plans.

Republican Senator John Kennedy, a budget committee member, told Reuters he wants tax plans “with specificity” and expressed frustration at the slow pace of the tax debate.

“No more platitudes. Let’s see some meat on the bone,” Kennedy said. “You don’t always get what you want. I think there’s a song that says that. But you need to get what you need and that’s where we are. And I’m tired of screwing around. … The American people are tired of screwing around.”


Some of the ads Russians bought on Facebook last year promoted events during the U.S. presidential campaign, Facebook said Tuesday, indicating that alleged meddling ahead of the 2016 election went beyond social media.

Facebook said in a statement that its takedown of what the company last week called Russian-affiliated pages included shutting down “several promoted events.”

Facebook declined to provide details of the promoted events.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network, said last week that an operation most likely based in Russia had placed thousands of U.S. ads with polarizing views on topics such as immigration, race and gay rights on the site during a two-year period through May 2017.

‘More evidence’

U.S. Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, said Tuesday that he was “disappointed” in Facebook for failing to present the latest information during a briefing last week with staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating allegations of election interference.

“We’re seeing more evidence of additional ads and how they are used to manipulate individuals,” Warner, the committee’s vice chairman, told reporters.

Facebook said it would continue working with U.S. authorities as necessary.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied that his government interfered with the U.S. election, in which Republican Donald Trump prevailed over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The Daily Beast, the news website that first reported on the promoted events posted on Facebook, said one advertisement promoted an anti-immigrant rally in Idaho in August 2016.

The rally was hosted by a Facebook group called “Secured Borders,” which was a Russian front and is now suspended, according to The Daily Beast.

Four attendees

Forty-eight people on Facebook expressed an interest in the Idaho event, and four said they went, according to a copy of the event page archived by Google’s search engine.

The Campaign Legal Center, a Washington nonprofit that advocates for more transparency in elections, on Tuesday sent a letter to Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg asking that the company publicly release the content of the alleged Russia-linked political ads.

“Releasing those advertisements could allow the country to better understand the nature and extent of foreign interference with our democracy,” the center’s president, Trevor Potter, wrote.

Facebook had no immediate response. The company has given the ads to Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged Russian interference, a source has said.


The Trump administration is updating safety guidelines for self-driving cars in an attempt to clear barriers for automakers and tech companies who want to get test vehicles on the road.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the new voluntary guidelines Tuesday during a visit to an autonomous vehicle testing facility at the University of Michigan.

The new guidelines update policies issued last fall by the Obama administration, which were also largely voluntary. Under Obama, automakers were asked to follow a 15-point safety assessment before putting test vehicles on the road. The new guidelines reduce that to a 12-point voluntary assessment and no longer require automakers to consider ethical or privacy issues.

The guidelines also make clear that the federal government, not states, determines whether autonomous vehicles are safe. That is the same guidance the Obama administration gave.

Chao emphasized that the guidelines aren’t meant to force automakers to use certain technology or meet stringent requirements; instead, they’re designed to clarify what autonomous vehicle developers should be considering before they put test cars on the road.

“This is a guidance document,” Chao said. “We want to make sure those who are involved understand how important safety is. We also want to ensure that the innovation and the creativity of our country remain.”

Not a ‘vision for safety’

But critics say the voluntary nature of the guidelines gives the government no authority to prevent dangerous experimental vehicles.

“This isn’t a vision for safety,” said John M. Simpson, head of privacy for a nonprofit progressive group called Consumer Watchdog. “It’s a road map that allows manufacturers to do whatever they want, wherever and whenever they want, turning our roads into private laboratories for robot cars with no regard for our safety.”

Regulators and lawmakers have been struggling to keep up with the pace of self-driving technology. They are wary of burdening automakers and tech companies with regulations that would slow innovation, but they need to ensure that the vehicles are safely deployed. There are no fully self-driving vehicles for sale, but autonomous cars with backup drivers are being tested in numerous states, including California, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

Autonomous vehicle developers, including automakers and tech companies like Google and Uber, say autonomous vehicles could dramatically reduce crashes but complain that the patchwork of state laws passed in recent years could hamper their deployment. Early estimates indicate there were more than 40,000 traffic fatalities in the U.S. last year; the government says 94 percent of crashes involve human error.

But safety advocates say that experimental cars could get on public roads too soon, and accidents could undermine public acceptance of the technology.

Broad safety goals

The new guidelines encourage companies to have processes in place for broad safety goals, such as making sure drivers are paying attention while using advanced assist systems. The systems are expected to detect and respond to people and objects both in and out of its travel path, “including pedestrians, bicyclists, animals and objects that could affect safe operation of the vehicle,” the guidelines say.

Chao said the guidelines will be updated again next year.

“The technology in this field is accelerating at a much faster pace than I think many people expected,” she said. “We want to make sure stakeholders who are developing this have the best information.”

Chao’s appearance came at a time of increased government focus on highly automated cars.

 

Earlier Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board was debating whether Tesla Inc.’s partially self-driving Autopilot system shared the blame for the 2016 death of a driver in Florida. The board ultimately said the driver’s inattention and a truck driver who made a left-hand turn in front of the Tesla were at fault for the crash, but it said automakers should incorporate safeguards that limit the use of automated vehicle control systems so drivers don’t rely on them too much.

Last week, the U.S. House voted to give the federal government the authority to exempt automakers from safety standards that don’t apply to the technology. If a company can prove it can make a safe vehicle with no steering wheel, for example, the federal government could approve that. The bill permits the deployment of up to 25,000 vehicles in its first year and 100,000 annually after that.

The Senate is now considering a similar bill.