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Zoom Briefly Shuts Account Over Tiananmen, Raising Free Speech Fears

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Zoom said on Wednesday that it had temporarily closed a US account of activists who met to mark the anniversary of China’s crackdown in Tiananmen Square, raising alarm over free speech on the fast-growing video-meeting service. US-based rights campaigners turned to Zoom, which has become a way of life for many people during the coronavirus lockdown, to connect more than 250 people to remember Beijing’s crushing of the pro-democracy uprising on June 4, 1989. The group Humanitarian China said it had brought in numerous participants from inside China, which has tried to erase memories of the bloodshed — and that its paid Zoom account was shut down without explanation one week later.

The shutdown was first reported by news site Axios.

Zhou Fengsuo, a co-founder of the group who was number one on Beijing’s most-wanted list after the Tiananmen crackdown, told AFP that the Zoom account was reactivated on Wednesday.

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Zoom acknowledged that it had shut down and restored the account after the attention.

“Just like any global company, we must comply with applicable laws in the jurisdictions where we operate,” a Zoom spokesperson said.

“When a meeting is held across different countries, the participants within those countries are required to comply with their respective local laws.

“We aim to limit the actions we take to those necessary to comply with local law and continuously review and improve our process on these matters.”

The activists voiced outrage, charging that the company may have been under direct pressure from China’s communist leaders.

“If so, Zoom is complicit in erasing the memories of the Tiananmen Massacre in collaboration with an authoritarian government,” Humanitarian China said in a statement.

It called Zoom an “essential” resource in reaching audiences inside China, which rigorously enforces censorship.

Long dilemma for US tech
Zoom reported Tuesday that its earnings had soared in the quarter ending April 30 as both companies and friends, cooped up inside due to COVID-19 lockdowns, embrace the platform to meet virtually.

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Its rapid growth has not been without previous problems, with the company forced to confront a rash of racists and other unwelcome gatecrashers who hack into Zoom sessions.

Beijing has developed a sophisticated “Great Firewall” that aims to keep out news that is damaging to the leadership.

Authorities go to extraordinary lengths each year to ban commemorations of the Tiananmen crackdown, in which the military killed hundreds of unarmed protesters — by some estimates, more than 1,000 — who had packed the capital to seek reform.

PEN America, the literary group that defends free speech, denounced Zoom’s move.

“We wouldn’t tolerate it if a phone company cut off service for someone expressing their views in a conference call; we shouldn’t tolerate it in the digital space either,” said the group’s CEO, Suzanne Nossel.

“Zoom portends to be the platform of choice for companies, school systems and a wide range of organisations that need a virtual way to communicate, especially amid global lockdown. But it can’t serve that role and act as the long arm of the Chinese government,” she said.

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With its alluring market, China has long been problematic for US tech giants that generally boast of allowing unfettered free speech at home.

Apple in 2017 acknowledged that it bowed to Chinese law by removing apps for VPNs, or virtual private networks, that let its users evade local controls.

A decade earlier, Yahoo faced intense criticism and conceded wrongdoing after helping Chinese officials identify pro-democracy advocates who posted on online message boards.

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Paytm Shares Jump to Six-Month High on Increased Monthly Users, More Payment Devices, Surge in Revenue

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Shares of Indian digital payments firm Paytm jumped more than 6 percent on Monday to their highest levels in nearly six months, after the company’s parent firm One 97 Communications Ltd posted an 89 percent surge in its quarterly revenue.

Higher number of monthly users, additional payment devices, and more disbursal of loans lifted the company’s revenue to Rs 1,680 crore, from Rs. 891 crore last year.

Investors appeared to show scant response to the company’s wider loss of Rs. 644 crore posted in its quarterly update after market close on Friday.

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Paytm, which competes with Google‘s payment app and Walmart’s PhonePe in India’s digital payments market, said it is on track to achieve operational profitability by September 2023.

“The notable print in the results was a sharply increased gross margin print in payments business resulting in expansion in contribution margins to 13bps,” JP Morgan analysts said in a note on Monday.

Processing charges of the company, backed by China’s Ant Group and Japan’s SoftBank Group, fell 10.4 percent to Rs. 694 crore sequentially.

“The management clarified that it could negotiate better deals with their bank partners, and rationalised certain low margin online merchant accounts that resulted in lower payment processing charges,” Macquarie analysts said in a note.

Shares of the company were up 6 percent at Rs. 830, as of 06:48am GMT (12:18pm IST).

“Earlier this year, we had shared that we would achieve operating profitability by September 2023, driven by better monetisation, as well as moderating growth in costs. The first quarter of the financial year 2023 results exhibit our strategy is well-in-place, with focused improvement on unit economics, better expense management and an increasing mix of higher margin businesses (such as financial services and commerce) steering us on the path to profitability,” the firm stated on Friday.


What should you make of Realme’s three new offerings? We discuss them on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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Hackers Plant Chinese Flag on Taiwan Government Websites Over Nancy Pelosi Visit

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In response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, Chinese hackers planted the flag of China on the websites of several local government agencies across Taiwan. While China’s live-fire drills encircling Taiwan were taking place from Thursday, Chinese hackers covered a Kaohsiung government website with a China flag picture for over 10 hours from late Friday to Saturday morning, reported Taiwan News.

On Friday morning, it was admitted that the website of Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs crashed for a few hours on Aug 2, 4, and 5.

The ministry explained there was a brute force attempt to crash the server, with up to 17 million times per minute access attempts from numerous Chinese and Russian IP addresses, reported Taiwan News.

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As a result, central government agencies were told to stay on high alert for malicious internet activities.

People familiar with the matter told Taiwan News that central government agencies have been ordered to keep tabs on websites and report problems up the chain of command to the Cabinet, every hour from Friday to noon on Monday (August 8).

Emergency response guidelines issued by the Cabinet on Friday say a website has to be taken down immediately if it has been hacked.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Education informed schools nationwide of its own emergency response guidelines to ensure cybersecurity, in which 24-hour security monitoring of each school website and an hourly update is required until next Monday, reported Taiwan News.

As the tensions in the Taiwan strait heightened soon with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China has been increasing its military activities.

Multiple Chinese planes and ships were detected around Taiwan Strait, simulating an attack on its main island, the Defence Ministry said on Saturday adding that some of them have crossed the median line.

According to the Ministry of National Defense, the armed forces responded to such a situation accordingly with surveillance systems, CAP aircraft, naval vessels and missile systems.

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“Multiple PLA craft were detected around Taiwan Strait, some have crossed the median line. Possible simulated attack against HVA. #ROCArmedForces have utilized alert broadcast, aircraft in CAP, patrolling naval vessels, and land-based missile systems in response to this situation,” Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence tweeted today.

Yesterday, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said that 68 Chinese military planes and 13 warships crossed over the median line to participate in drills.

Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang blasted what he called “the evil neighbour” after China encircled the self-ruled island with a series of huge military drills that were condemned by the United States and other Western allies.

China is holding threatening military exercises in six zones off Taiwan’s coasts that it says will run through Sunday. Missiles have also been fired over Taiwan, defence officials told state media. The speaker is the highest-ranking US politician to visit Taiwan in 25 years.

China opposes the self-governing island having its own contacts with foreign governments, but its response to the Pelosi visit has been unusually vociferous.

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What should you make of Realme’s three new offerings? We discuss them on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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Provident Fund Data of 28 Crore Indians Leaked By Hackers, Claims Ukraine Based Researcher

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Provident Fund (PF) data of about 28 crore Indians was found to have been leaked by hackers earlier this month. A cybersecurity researcher from Ukraine, Bob Diachenko, made the discovery on August 1 and found that details such as Universal Account Number (UANs), names, marital status, Aadhaar details, gender, and bank account details were exposed online. According to Diachenko, he found two different internet protocol (IP) addresses hosting two clusters of leaked data. Both of these IPs were hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud storage service.

Cybersecurity researcher Bob Diachenko detailed the leak in a post on LinkedIn. On August 2, Diachenko discovered two separate IP clusters of data that contained indices called UAN. Upon reviewing the clusters, he found that the first cluster contained 280,472,941 records, whereas the second IP contained 8,390,524 records.

“After quick review of the samples (using a simple browser), I was sure that I am looking at something big and important”, Diachenko said in his post. However, he was not able to find who owned the data. Both the IP addresses were hosted on Microsoft’s Azure platform and were India-based. He wasn’t able to obtain other information via a reverse DNS analysis.

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The Shodan and Censys search engines from Diachenko’s SecurityDiscovery firm found these clusters on August 1. However, it is not clear how long the information was available online. The data could’ve been misused by hackers to gain access to the PF account. Data such as name, gender, Aadhaar details, could also be used to create fake identities and documents.

The researcher tagged the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) in a tweet informing them about the leak. The CERT-In replied to his tweet asking him to provide a report of the hack in an email. Both IP addresses were taken down within 12 hours after his tweet. Diachenko says that since August 3, no company or agency has come forward to take responsibility for the hack

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