Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban gives his first international press conference after the parliamentary election, in the Delegation Hall of the parliament building in Budapest on April 7, 2014

Hungary’s Orban says will scrap draft internet tax law

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Friday said he was scrapping a draft Internet tax law that has sparked mass demonstrations in the central European country.

“The Internet tax cannot be introduced in its current form,” Orban said in a radio interview.

The proposed legislation was seen by critics as another attempt by the right-wing prime minister to silence dissent in the country and had led tens of thousands of demonstrators to take to the streets twice this week in protest.

Orban has said the tax law needed to be amended, and that a “national consultation” on the Internet and taxes would be organised in January.

“My problem is not that people oppose a tax. Here people question the rationale of the issue. Nothing can be introduced in these circumstances. This debate is derailed,” Orban said, adding that the government sees the tax as a technical issue.

The proposed tax — criticised by the European Union — would have been capped at 700 forints (2.30 euros, $3) a month.

Opponents of the Internet tax have called for a “celebratory” demonstration on Facebook for Friday evening.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks on the bill in Parliament on Thursday.

Game of Thrones downloaders need not fear data retention plans, says Malcom Turnbull

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has sought to hose down expectations police will use a new scheme requiring telecommunications companies to store customer records for two years to prosecute Australians who illicitly download programs such as Game of Thrones

The government introduced legislation on Thursday that would require telecommunications companies to store customer “metadata” for two years. Law enforcement agencies will be able to access the data without a warrant. 

At a press conference announcing the scheme, Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin said the scheme could “absolutely” also be used to tackle the illicit downloading of movies and music.

“Illegal downloads, piracy, cyber crimes, cyber security, all these matters – our ability to investigate them is absolutely pinned to our ability to retrieve and use metadata,” Mr Colvin said. 

But Mr Turnbull said on Friday that the scheme is aimed at serious crime – such as terrorism and child abuse – not illicit downloading.

“The government’s not going after people who infringe copyright online,” Mr Turnbull told the ABC.

“That is a matter for rights holders. Clearly we do not support infringing copyright anywhere [and] copyright should be protected.

“But … the AFP and ASIO and so forth frankly are not interested in whether you are illegally downloading a copy of Game of Thrones.

“That is a bad thing to do but I can tell you our national security agencies have got other things on their mind.

“ASIO and the Australian Federal Police have got other things to do rather than pursue people who are illegally downloading Anzac Girls or Game of Thrones or something.”

Mr Turnbull had said on Thursday that the scheme would not make a big difference to efforts to tackle copyright infringement because rights holders are most interested in real-time offences. 

Companies will be required to store data including names and addresses, the IP address allocated to an internet account, billing information, download and upload volumes, and the duration and locations of phone calls and internet sessions.

The bill does not cover the content of calls or emails, web browsing history or real-time location information.

John Stanton, chief executive of peak telecommunications industry body the Communications Alliance, said it would be “completely inappropriate” to use the data retention regime to target illegal downloaders.

“I’m not sure what point [Commissioner Colvin] was trying to make,” Mr Stanton said.

“Rights holders don’t want to prosecute infringers; they want ISPs to issue sanctions against them. The AFP will be very disappointed when they realise rights holders don’t want to sue.”

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EU holds largest-ever cyber-security exercise

EU holds largest-ever cyber-security exercise

ATHENS, Greece – The European Union on Thursday carried out its biggest exercise to prevent cyber-attacks on Europe’s public utilities and communications networks.

The director of the European Network and Information Security Agency, Udo Helmbrecht, told The Associated Press that Thursday’s one-day exercise involving 29 countries and 200 agencies dealt with attack scenarios against “critical infrastructure.”

Helmbrecht said European countries were working to improve their co-ordination between national security agencies and to further standardize protective software and methods.

Examples of serious past incidents, he said, include a wave of cyber-attacks against Estonia in 2007 that severely affected the country’s banks and government agencies, and the Stuxnet computer virus that was used to target energy and industrial sites in Iran.

“Now this malware is out in the world, so if you are a criminal you can re-engineer it and use it to attack a water supply, or a car manufacturing plant, or a government,” said Helmbrecht, speaking in a windowless office in an EU building where part of the exercise is being held.

The EU agency, based in Iraklio, on the Greek island of Crete, says web-based attacks increased globally by nearly a quarter in 2013 from a year earlier, directed from an increasing number of countries.

“The sophistication and volume of cyber-attacks are increasing every day,” Neelie Kroes, the EU Commission vice-president, said in a statement Thursday.

“They cannot be countered if individual states work alone or just a handful of them act together.”

The European cyber-security exercise is held every two years and the results of the current safety tests are due to be issued by the end of the year.

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Online:

ENISA 2013 report on current and emerging cyber-threats: http://goo.gl/LtMSRw

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EU holds largest-ever cyber security exercise

EU holds largest-ever cyber security exercise

ATHENS, Greece – A European Union cyber-security agency was in Athens to conduct the largest exercise ever held on the continent to prevent attacks on Europe’s public utilities and communications networks.

The director of the European Network and Information Security Agency, Udo Helmbrecht, told The Associated Press that Thursday’s one-day exercise involving 29 countries and 200 agencies dealt with attack scenarios against “critical infrastructure.”

Helmbrecht said European countries were working to improve their co-ordination between national security agencies and to further standardize protective software and methods.

Examples of serious past incidents, he said, include a wave of cyber attacks against Estonia in 2007 that severely affected the country’s banks and government agencies, and the Stuxnet computer virus that was used to target energy and industrial sites in Iran.

Udo Helmbrecht

EU holds largest-ever cyber security exercise

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A European Union cyber-security agency was in Athens to conduct the largest exercise ever held on the continent to prevent attacks on Europe’s public utilities and communications networks.

The director of the European Network and Information Security Agency, Udo Helmbrecht, told The Associated Press that Thursday’s one-day exercise involving 29 countries and 200 agencies dealt with attack scenarios against “critical infrastructure.”

Helmbrecht said European countries were working to improve their coordination between national security agencies and to further standardize protective software and methods.

Examples of serious past incidents, he said, include a wave of cyber attacks against Estonia in 2007 that severely affected the country’s banks and government agencies, and the Stuxnet computer virus that was used to target energy and industrial sites in Iran.

Illustration file picture shows a man typing on a computer keyboard in Warsaw

China’s Internet chief accuses U.S. of hacking but says talks ‘unhindered’

BEIJING (Reuters) – Eighty percent of Chinese government websites have been attacked by hackers, with most of the assaults launched from the United States, a top Chinese Internet regulator said on Thursday.

Lu Wei, head of the State Internet Information Office, condemned the use of “superior technology to attack or steal secrets”. But he described U.S.-China dialogue on cybersecurity as “unhindered”, less than a week after the talks appeared to have stalled.

Chinese state councilor Yang Jiechi told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry this month that resuming cybersecurity cooperation between China and the United State would be difficult because of “mistaken U.S. practices”.

Speaking to reporters at a Beijing news conference on Thursday to publicize an Internet conference, Lu said the two countries had “differences but also commonalities”, and he hoped they could find common ground.

Cooperation between Washington and Beijing on fighting cyber crime ground to halt earlier this year after the U.S. Justice Department charged five Chinese military personnel with hacking U.S. companies to steal trade secrets.

Chinese officials have stepped up their counter-accusations of U.S. government hacking since former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden claimed the United States had broken into networks and servers in China and Hong Kong.

Lu also defended China’s ban on foreign Internet services such as Facebook Inc, saying they were meant to protect the national interest.

“I’ve never shut down a website outside of China,” Lu said. “China has always been very hospitable, but we can choose who enters our house.”

Lu disputed news reports in September that quoted him as saying Facebook would “never” be allowed to enter China. “I didn’t say Facebook could not enter China, but nor did I say that it could,” he said.

(Reporting by Gerry Shih; editing by Andrew Roche)

Israeli IPOs Continue to Impress in 2014

Israeli IPOs Continue to Impress in 2014

Fresh after celebration of the Jewish New Year, it looks like it could be a record year for investors in Israeli technology companies.

So far in 2014, according to Globes, 7 Israeli firms have raised $3.5 billion in US markets, lead by some very successful technology and biotech IPOs. The most recent company to float, CyberArk (NASDAQ:CYBR), was the first Israeli cybersecurity company to IPO since the boom years of 1999. Its shares rallied 87% on its first day of trading, in a show of demand for Israeli tech that’s becoming pretty indicative of the market for Israeli IPOs right now. Indeed, CYBR joins 2 other Israeli IPOs, ReWalk Robotics (NASDAQ: RWLK) and Mobileye (NASDAQ:MBLY), which saw their shares double or triple  by the end of the first day of trading after their IPOs.

3 Hot Israeli IPOs to Watch

With this year’s class of Israeli IPOs, there are a handful of companies that fall into the sweet spot of our angel activity, which tends to gravitate towards cybersecurity and medical technology.

Among the 7 Israeli IPOs in 2014, here are 3 recent Israeli IPOs especially worth drilling down on:

ReWalk Robotics: Enabling paraplegics to walk again

It may sound somewhat biblical, but one of this year’s IPOs is literally helping people confined to wheelchairs walk again. ReWalk Robotics (disclaimer: my firm, OurCrowd, and over 100 investors using our online investment platform invested in ReWalk before its IPO). The company develops FDA-approved robotic exoskeletons that look like they’re from straight out of a science-fiction movie. With a little training and the push of a button, users with spinal cord injuries can stand up out of a wheelchair and look their family and friends in the eyes again.The technology is so compelling that fellow Forbes contributor, Rob Russell, thinks that RWLK may be the next Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA), “due to investors’ hunger for real innovation and passionate leadership in a post Steve Jobs era”.

RWLK is up over 140% since it IPO’d on the Nasdaq in early September.

Mobileye: Using computer vision to improve road safety

Another Israeli IPO to leave its mark on the markets this year was Mobileye (NASDAQ:MBLY). It was a record IPO by Israeli standards (the company raised almost $900 million via its float) and the stock, like Rewalk, performed really impressively in its public debut. MBLY is up over 100% since its IPO, attracting investors hungry for game-changing technology that uses software to protect vehicles on the road. The Jerusalem-based Mobileye is changing the way we drive and its technology is showing up now in cars made by General Motors, Honda Motor, BMW Group and Nissan Motor. MBLY chalked up $81 million of revenues in 2013

CyberArk: Protecting the heart of the enterprise from hackers

The recent spate of news of various Fortune 500 companies getting exploited by hackers may have contributed to the popularity of the most recent Israeli IPO. CyberArk (NASDAQ: CYBR) protects the heart of large enterprises by monitoring the data use of holders of privileged accounts. Corporate spending on advanced security threats will grow at a 42 percent compound annual rate to $1.4 billion by 2018, adding to a $34 billion security market worldwide, according to Bloomberg Intelligence data. CYBR soared as much as 90% on its first day of trading and has continued to rise since its late September IPO.

The Israeli economy continues to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. As the capital markets continue to be receptive to Israeli companies breaking through on their way to become billion dollar enterprises, many individual entrepreneurs are cashing out and returning back to the startup world. As an early stage investor, your work should focus on finding startups that you think can turn into big companies. IPO is one way to realize a return on your money; mergers and acquisitions (M&A) is another. 2014 is turning out to be a big year for Israeli M&A, too.

Ian Lazar is arrested in North Sydney on Thursday by detectives from Strike Force McMaster.

Financier Ian Lazar arrested for allegedly defrauding woman of her home

Colourful financier Ian Lazar has been charged over allegations he defrauded an elderly woman of her home after first seeing her on an episode of A Current Affair.

MR Lazar, 43, was arrested outside his North Sydney home on Thursday morning. Detectives from the Fraud and Cybercrime Squad raided the home and his nearby office, with Mr Lazar taken to the local police station and charged with obtain financial advantage by deception.

Police will allege the lender of last resort first came across his victim while watching an episode of A Current Affair in July 2003 and a story on an elderly woman in Nambucca, on the NSW mid north coast, who was suffering financial hardship.

Police will allege that following the broadcast Mr Lazar contacted A Current Affair, claiming to be backed by community-minded investors who wanted to pay off the woman’s debts as an act of generosity.

After being put in touch with the woman it is alleged that Mr Lazar and an associate made arrangements to pay off the woman’s debts.

But when she went to sell her home in 2006 and move to the Southern Highlands to be closer to family she discovered the mortgage was no longer registered to her and instead had been transferred into the name of a company she did not know.

When she contacted Mr Lazar she was told there had been a mix-up and that it would be resolved. But it was not and in 2009 she was evicted from her home. 

The matter was then reported to police, culminating in the arrest of Mr Lazar on Thursday by detectives attached to Strike Force McMaster. The strike force was established to investigate alleged mortgage and equipment finance fraud whereby a number of dummy companies were set up by a number of different people and fake invoices were used to obtain finance.

It has so far charged 22 people with more than 380 offences for fraud with a combined total of more than $36 million.

The Commander of the Fraud and Cybercrime Squad, Detective Superintendent Arthur Katsogiannis, urged anyone who had fallen victim to fraud to contact police immediately.

“Some people feel too embarrassed or scared to report fraud matters to police, but it’s vital that we are made aware of what has happened,” he said.

“That way, we can make the necessary inquiries and minimise the chances of other people being targeted and ripped off.”

He said investigations by Strike Force McMaster were continuing.

Mr Lazar was refused bail by police and will appear before Sydney’s Central Local Court on Friday.

Illustration file picture shows a man typing on a computer keyboard in Warsaw

Wall Street watchdog to bolster reviews of brokerage cyber security

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s industry funded watchdog plans to intensify its scrutiny of cyber security practices at brokerage firms in 2015 and is hiring technology savvy examiners to help boost its efforts, an official said on Wednesday.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is in the midst of developing its so-called “examination priorities” for 2015, said Susan Axelrod, the organization’s executive vice president of regulatory operations at a conference. The regulator plans to publish its examination priorities in January.

FINRA’s growing focus on cyber security practices also marks the first time the regulator is hiring examiners with technology expertise to assist in reviewing firms’ practices, a FINRA spokeswoman told Reuters. The watchdog routinely examines brokerages to check up on whether they are complying with securities industry rules.

FINRA is beefing up its efforts as Wall Street grows increasingly concerned about hacking, which could compromise their clients’ personal information and other data.

Last week, The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), Wall Street’s top trade group, called for the creation of a new inter-agency working group of regulators and the White House that would be charged with developing consistent cyber security rules for the financial industry.

It was one of several cyber security regulatory suggestions that SIFMA unveiled in a white paper a few weeks after JPMorgan Chase & Co revealed that hackers had compromised the names, addresses, phone numbers and emails of about 83 million households and small business accounts.

FINRA expects to hire a “handful” of examiners with technology expertise, Axelrod said. The role includes examining measures that firms have in place for securing clients’ data and testing the integrity of firms’ technology, according to a FINRA job description posted on LinkedIn.

Other 2015 examination priorities will include FINRA’s ongoing focus on firms’ practices related to sales of complex securities to investors, Axelrod said. Among the regulator’s concerns: promises of discounted sales charges that firms promise to customers who meet minimum threshold requirements for certain securities.

So-called “breakpoint discounts,” for example, are typically a feature of unit investment trusts, a type of investment company that holds a fixed portfolio of securities and offers “redeemable units” of that portfolio to investors for a specified period of time.

Unit investment trust sponsors typically provide discounts for large purchases of the units. The discounts increase as investors buy more of the securities.

FINRA wants to ensure that investors have actually received the discounts promised and, if not, that firms are giving the money back to them, Axelrod said.

(Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn; editing by Andrew Hay)

Internet gambling is on a roll in the US market after years lurking in the shadows

‘Major’ hacking attack in US looms: expert survey

Cyber attacks might be taking a toll now, but just wait: a survey of experts says things are likely to get even worse in the US over the next decade.

A majority of cybersecurity experts surveyed in a poll see a likelihood of major damage from a cyber attack in the coming years, according to a Pew Research Center report.

From the 1,600 experts polled, 61 percent answered “yes” to the question: “By 2025, will a major cyber attack have caused widespread harm to a nation’s security and capacity to defend itself and its people?”

“Widespread harm,” the survey explained, would mean significant loss of life or property losses, damage, theft in the tens of billions of dollars.

“There was considerable agreement among these experts that individuals could be more vulnerable and businesses could persistently be under attack,” said Lee Rainie, a co-author of the report and director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project.

“They said essential utilities are a vulnerable target and theft and economic disruptions could be substantial.”

The remaining 39 percent surveyed said major damage from a cyber attack could be avoided.

“Some confidently pointed out that the threat of counterattack might deter the worst,” said Janna Anderson of Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, which conducted the study with Pew.

“And many used the Cold War as a metaphor, saying severe harm is unlikely due to the threat of mutually assured disruption. Some said cyber threats are being exaggerated by people who might profit most from creating an atmosphere of fear.”

- Already here? -

Some of the experts said the cyber threats are already here, or on the horizon.

“A bellicose China might ‘cyber invade’ the military capabilities of Japan and South Korea as part of the conflict around the China sea, leading to the need to reconfigure their electronics, at huge cost,” said Stowe Boyd, lead researcher for Gigaom Research.

“Israel and the United States have already created the Stuxnet computer worm to damage Iran’s nuclear refinement centrifuges.”

Those threats have already harmed the US as well, an expert pointed out.

“People have died from faulty equipment producing gas pipeline explosions and from drone bombings of civilians. US companies have lost billions worth of business as foreign customers no longer trust their products and services,” said Judith Perrolle, a professor at Northeastern University.

The report comes a day after the top US cyber official said the country’s military is looking to flex its muscles in cyberspace as a “deterrence” to hackers eying American targets.

Also this week, US security researchers said in two separate reports that the Russian and Chinese governments are likely behind widespread cyber-espionage that has hit targets in the United States and elsewhere.

One team of researchers led by the security firm Novetta Solutions said it identified a hacker group believed to act “on behalf of a Chinese government intelligence apparatus.”

A separate report by the security firm FireEye said a long-running effort to hack into US defense contractors, Eastern European governments and European security organizations is “likely sponsored by the Russian government.”

The Pew survey is part of a series of reports tied to the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. The survey was not a based on a random sample but a selected group of 1,642 experts and scholars.