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Selfie 'sexters' in child sex warning

Written By andika jamanta on Rabu, 23 Juli 2014 | 23.58

22 July 2014 Last updated at 20:53

Young couples who send explicit pictures of each other are being threatened with prosecution under child sex laws.

Anyone under 18 "sexting" (texting sexually explicit pictures) could be committing an offence, despite 16 and 17-year-olds being legally old enough to have sex, police said.

One girl and her boyfriend were quizzed after she sent a photo of her breasts.

They were deemed to have distributed an indecent image of a child.

It came to the attention of police when the couple fell out and he sent the photo to his friends.

'Grave concerns'

Det Sgt Jan Rusdale, from Nottinghamshire Police's sexual exploitation investigation unit, said: "I've got children and I didn't know this was an offence until I joined this unit recently.

"If they are under 18 it is illegal, and over the age of 10 they can face prosecution.

"If there is a prosecution this can lead to a conviction which will then make that person eligible to register on the sex offenders register for at least two years."

However, she said the force tries not to criminalise children, and if the young people involved were similar ages they would try to offer them support, instead of arresting them.

The force has sent a warning letter to all schools in the county ahead of the school holidays.

In the letter, Det Insp Martin Hillier writes that he has "grave concerns over the amount of referrals Nottinghamshire Police are receiving on a daily basis".

He said naked images are being sent between teenagers via social networking sites, as well as by text and mobile phone apps.

In a ChildLine survey of 13-18 year olds, 60% said they had been asked for a sexual image or video of themselves.

Some 40% said they had created a sexual image or video of themselves, with about a quarter of all those questioned saying they had sent the image or video to someone else.

Over half of the young people surveyed by ChildLine said they had received a sexual photo or video.

Most received them from a partner but a third received them from a stranger.


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Cyber-theft hits eBay's Stubhub

23 July 2014 Last updated at 13:15

The online ticket resale service Stubhub has revealed that fraudsters broke into the accounts of more than 1,000 of its customers and made purchases without their permission.

It is the second breach to have been disclosed by the business's parent company, eBay, this year.

However, in this latest case the firm said its servers had not been hacked.

Instead, it indicated, the thieves had used IDs obtained from other attacks.

Stubhub spokesman Glenn Lehrman said that the company had worked with law enforcement officers across the globe after being alerted to the problem.

"To be clear, there have been no intrusions into Stubhub system," he said.

"The arrests today relate to fraudulent transactions that were detected on existing Stubhub customer accounts in 2013.

"These legitimate customer accounts were accessed by cybercriminals who had obtained the customers' login and password either through data breaches of other websites and retailers, or through the use of key-loggers and/or other malware on the customer's own PC.

"Once fraudulent transactions were detected on a given account, customers were immediately contacted by Stubhub's trust and safety team, who refunded any unauthorized transactions, and assisted the customer with changing their password to secure their account from further activity."

However, he did not disclose how much money was involved.

The Manhattan district attorney's office is expected to hold a news conference later in the day to provide more detail.

The Associated Press news agency reported that officials from City of London Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the US Secret Service would attend to provide information about arrests.

EBay made users change their passwords to its main online marketplace in May after revealing hackers had accessed a database containing names, encrypted passwords, email addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth.

It said at the time that it had no evidence of that attack resulting in unauthorised activity on its members' accounts.


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Windows systems set to be 'unified'

23 July 2014 Last updated at 14:16 By Leo Kelion Technology desk editor

Microsoft has said work is under way to "unify" parts of its different Windows operating systems.

Chief executive Satya Nadella discussed the effort while briefing analysts following Tuesday's earnings update.

"We will streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system for screens of all sizes," he said.

The firm also confirmed it had recently scrapped a new type of tablet.

"During the quarter, we reassessed our product roadmap and decided not to ship a new form factor that was under development," said Amy Hood, the company's chief financial officer.

Leaks had indicated that the firm had originally planned to launch the Surface Mini in May - a small tablet running the Windows RT system, a version of the OS designed for ARM-based chips.

Mr Nadella did not mention Windows RT during the conference call, instead referring to the three existing versions of Windows that would be merged as "one for phone, one for tablets and PCs, [and] one for Xbox".

However, as the tech news site Zdnet noted, that did not necessarily mean the firm was about to release a single variant of its operating system.

Rather, a single team is now working to deepen the links between Windows for PCs, Windows Phone and the Xbox OS, which are all based on the single Windows NT software core.

Universal apps

Mr Nadella said one target was for developers to be able to write a single app that would adapt its layout and controls to suit whether it was being used on a phone, tablet, PC or games console.

"One of beauties of universal Windows app is it aggregates for the first time for us all of our Windows volume," Mr Nadella said.

"An app that runs with a mouse and keyboard on the desktop can be in the store, and you can have the same app run in the touch-first [mobile devices].

"[It] gives developers the entire volume of Windows, which is 300 plus million units as opposed to just our 4% share of mobile in the US or 10% in some countries."

The move to "unify" the various Windows stores and developer platforms puts Microsoft at odds with Apple and Google, which are both pursuing separate strategies for app development on laptop/desktop computers and mobile devices - Apple with Mac OS X and iOS, Google with Chrome and Android.

But it does bring Microsoft closer to another OS developer, Canonical, which has promoted the idea of its Ubuntu system powering both phones and desktops. Canonical previously highlighted that one benefit of this strategy was that a handset could double up as a low-power desktop PC if it was plugged into a monitor and connected to a mouse.

It also paves the way for Microsoft to introduce its voice-controlled personal assistant, Cortana, to PCs. Mr Nadella mentioned the app several times during the call.

Cortana from Halo

Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play.

WATCH: BBC's Richard Taylor meets Microsoft's Cortana

Microsoft has yet to discuss what new functions the successor to Windows 8 - codenamed Threshold - will offer, but one expert suggested the firm would at least find it easier to sell a more joined-up set of operating systems.

"Microsoft has had a real problem trying to educate the market about the differences between the different platforms its been running," said Chris Green, principal technology analyst at the Davies Murphy Group consultancy.

"So, given the issues it's had on that front, going down the one-size-fits-all approach is something it sees as much easier for the user base to comprehend."


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Xiaomi shows off phone and wristband

22 July 2014 Last updated at 12:36 By Leo Kelion Technology desk editor

China's fast-growing electronics firm Xiaomi has unveiled a new flagship smartphone and companion wristband.

The firm is marketing the steel handset's 5in (12.7cm) screen as offering 17% greater resolution than Apple's higher priced iPhone 5S.

It adds that the wristband acts as an ID authenticator, allowing the phone to be unlocked without a password.

One expert described the Mi 4 phone as "another winner" from a firm that seemed to have "unstoppable momentum".

Xiaomi (pronounced shiow-me, and meaning little rice) showed off the new kit at a launch event in Beijing.

It also revealed that it had sold 57.4 million phones since going into the smartphone business three years ago.

In addition, the firm disclosed that its first batch of mobiles to go on sale in India had sold out in 38 minutes earlier in the day. However, it did not say how many were bought.

Earlier this month, Samsung Electronics forecast a drop in profits due, in part, to "increased competition" from Xiaomi and other rivals in China. The South Korean firm cut the pay of its top executives as a result.

Market research firm Canalys recently ranked it as the world's sixth-largest smartphone vendor and China's third-biggest, after Samsung and Lenovo.

Low cost, high spec

While Xiaomi is little known in the West, where it does not yet sell devices, BusinessWeek magazine recently described it as a "brand that consumers truly lust after" in China and other emerging economies.

The private-owned company was formed in 2010, and initially only offered its MIUI user interface as add-on software for Android devices.

However, it only took it a year to announce its first handset, which included high-end components at a relatively low price - something it achieved by keeping advertising to a minimum and mainly selling its devices online, a strategy it has continued ever since.

In 2013, it caused a further stir when it announced that Hugo Barra - one of Google's top Android executives - was leaving the search giant to become Xiaomi's global vice president.

"It seems to have woven together a killer combination of great product at a great price, with an audience that spreads the word for the firm via social media very effectively," said Ben Wood, lead researcher at telecoms consultancy CCS Insight.

"Its software offers a very clean and colourful user interface that is constantly being updated, sometimes on a weekly basis.

"The company incorporates changes that have been suggested by customers, and one of the nice touches is that it lets customers know if their ideas are implemented.

"So, it is being incredibly inclusive in terms of getting its users to define the direction of not only the software but also the hardware in some respects."

Activity tracker

Unlike most handset makers, Xiaomi's online marketing for the Mi 4 plays up the source of its parts, boasting a "high colour saturation" screen from Sharp and the "fastest" 13 megapixel rear camera from Sony.

The design is reminiscent of Apple's iPhone 5 and marks the Chinese firm's first metal-framed build.

It is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.5Ghz processor - the same as used by the UK edition of Samsung's Galaxy S5.

However, Xiaomi offers 3 gigabytes of RAM memory, 50% more than Samsung's device.

It is also significantly cheaper, costing 1,999 yuan ($322; £189) for the version with 16GB of storage and 2,499 yuan ($402; £235) for the 64GB edition.

The wristband is also keenly priced at 79 yuan ($13; £7.50) - less than a tenth of cost of Fitbit's rival Flex bracelet in China.

In addition to unlocking the phone via Bluetooth, the water resistant Mi Band can track activity and sleep, and act as an alarm clock, but lacks a screen. Xiaomi says it lasts up to 30 days between charges.

In addition to China and India, the company currently sells its devices in Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan and Malaysia.

It has also announced plans to expand into Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey, Russia and Mexico this year.

However, it recently told the Wall Street Journal that an ambition to add Brazil to the list was taking longer than hoped because the South American country's laws meant it would have to assemble devices locally.

Mobile's rise

The Mi 4 announcement coincides with official figures that indicate more people in China now access the net using a mobile device than via a PC.

The China Internet Network Information Center said on Monday that the country had 632 million net users at the end of June - a 2.3% rise on last year's figure.

Of that number, 83% used a mobile device and 81% a PC.

According to a forecast by research firm IDC, China is now on course to account for about one third of all smartphone shipments by 2018.


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YouTube star sued in copyright case

22 July 2014 Last updated at 13:58 By Kevin Rawlinson BBC News

A leading YouTube entrepreneur is facing legal action for alleged copyright infringement in her videos.

Ultra Records, which has musicians Kaskade, deadmau5 and Calvin Harris on its books, is suing Michelle Phan.

The label and its publishing arm claim she has used about 50 of their songs without permission in her YouTube videos and on her own website.

But one of the artists whose work she is alleged to have used has said he supports Ms Phan.

Continue reading the main story

Copyright law is a dinosaur, ill-suited for the landscape of today's media."

End Quote Kaskade DJ on the Ultra label

Kaskade, whose work features most prominently in the record label's complaint, said: "Copyright law is a dinosaur, ill-suited for the landscape of today's media."

He expressed his disbelief on Twitter that his own record label was suing Ms Phan for copyright infringement. "And the kicker... they're citing her using my songs for the suit. Come. On," he wrote on the site.

But Kaskade, who was nominated for a Grammy award last year, said there was little he could do to stop the label pursuing the case.

In response, Ms Phan thanked him and wrote: "Your music inspired not just myself, but millions of my followers to dance and dream on."

Michelle Phan found success posting make-up tutorial videos, attracting more than six million subscribers to her channel since she started it in 2007. She is a member of a group of YouTube stars whose popularity rivals that of many mainstream pop stars.

One of her YouTube videos, Barbie Transformation Tutorial, has been viewed more than 50 million times. Her tutorial on how to reproduce Lady Gaga's look has been watched more than 45 million times.

British YouTube tutorial stars such as Sprinkle of Glitter have signed deals with major brands. Others include Tanya Burr, Lily Pebbles and Pixiwoo.

According to court documents filed in California, the label and its associated publisher, Ultra International Music Publishing LLC, claim Ms Phan makes money from advertising attached to her YouTube channel and website.

The label also said she "has been featured in a high-profile and multi-platform advertising campaign for YouTube, which features some of YouTube's most popular personalities".

"[Ms] Phan has also been featured in national advertising for Dr Pepper," it said.

The label said that, while its complaint "includes nearly 50 examples of blatant copyright infringement, plaintiffs' analysis is still preliminary, and the full extent of [Ms] Phan's infringement has not yet been determined".

'Substantial and irreparable injury'

The parties have asked for $150,000 (£88,000) for each proven copyright infringement.

The publishing arm has also demanded an injunction, claiming that it has "sustained and will continue to sustain substantial, immediate and irreparable injury" as a result of Ms Phan's use of its copyrighted material.

Ms Phan's videos have become increasingly sophisticated, showing her in different locales, with some even resembling music videos themselves.

They continue to offer make-up advice, and are often accompanied by music.

The record label and music publisher claimed Ms Phan had profited from the use of their artists' tracks and compilations.

Her Night Life Favorites video, advising what to carry for a night on the town, used Kaskade's song 4AM, they alleged.

Her internet fame has also led to a book deal and the design of a make-up line, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs said Ms Phan had been informed she did not possess a licence "and yet continues to wilfully infringe in blatant disregard of plaintiffs' rights of ownership".

The publisher said it believed Ms Phan would continue the alleged infringement unless ordered to stop by the court.

A spokesman for Ms Phan said the lawsuit "lacks any merit". She said: "Ultra agreed to allow Michelle to use the music and Michelle intends to fight this lawsuit and bring her own claims against Ultra.

"Michelle's intention has always been to promote other artists, creating a platform for their work to be showcased to an international audience. Kaskade, whose music has been featured in Michelle's videos, has publicly defended Michelle against Ultra's claims and acknowledges the success he's gained from her support."

The BBC was unable to verify the claim that Ultra granted Ms Phan permission to use the music. A lawyer for the label and publisher did not respond to a request for comment.


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Nvidia unveils Shield gaming tablet

22 July 2014 Last updated at 16:09 By Leo Kelion Technology desk editor

Nvidia has unveiled a gaming-focused tablet that works with a new separate controller.

The 8in (20.3cm) Android-powered Shield Tablet - which can also stream games from a PC - is the firm's second handheld device, but the first to be sold outside the US.

Many of the details of the machine were first revealed by the BBC earlier this month.

One expert said the price was "well pitched" but questioned its appeal.

"One major weakness of the Shield ecosystem is the lack of desirable games exclusives," said Piers Harding-Rolls, head of games at the IHS Global consultancy.

"Android games playable on the TV or ports of old PC games are not enough to sell this device to the dedicated gamer.

"The ability to stream games from a [Nvidia graphics card] GeForce GTX-equipped PC over home wi-fi via the device to the TV is attractive, but only to a small sub-segment of PC gamers."

Nvidia suggests the tablet offers "near-console" graphics quality when it is connected to a TV and used to stream PC titles.

But it explained the reason it could not outperform an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 was that the PC's graphics had to be compressed to be sent over wi-fi.

As a result, hardcore gamers wishing to play PC titles on their living room TVs might still prefer to wait until Valve's Steam Machines platform is launched next year.

Nvidia is charging $299/£229 for a version of the tablet with 16 gigabytes of storage, and $399/£299 for a 32GB version with an added 4G chip.

The wireless controller costs $59.99/£49.99, which is cheaper than rival premium smart device controllers from Moga, Logitech and Samsung. The firm says it uses a wi-fi connection, rather than Bluetooth, to minimise latency - the delay between a button press and a game's response.

'Niche appeal'

Several controllers can be paired with the tablet at one time, allowing multiplayer gaming, however at present they do not work with other devices.

"This is the ultimate tablet for gamers," Chris Daniel, a senior product manager at Nvidia, told the BBC at a launch event in London.

"It will do everything you expect a tablet to do, and on top of that we've brought our Shield ecosystem for an amazing gaming experience."

The Shield Tablet's processor features a 192-core GPU (graphics processing unit) allowing it to run graphics-intensive Android titles natively. It can also make use of a PC's graphics card - if it is a compatible Nvidia model - to supplement the tablet's power.

This, Mr Daniel explained, offered a level of future-proofing to ensure the machine would run later Android games that would require even more power.

In addition, the tablet can stream titles run on a PC and sent to the tablet via wi-fi or 4G, assuming the data connection is fast enough.

The company suggested a two megabit per second upload and download speed was the minimum required.

Users based in California can also access the firm's Grid cloud gaming service - an experiment in which the firm offers games streamed from its own servers. This is similar to Sony's new PlayStation Now facility, which is also limited to the US at this time.

"If Nvidia can extend its cloud gaming proposition beyond a select beta test in California, then this would widen the desirability significantly," commented Mr Harding-Rolls.

The tablet does, however, include built-in support for Twitch at launch - a third-party service that allows gamers to broadcast their progress within Android games to others. Owners can include a video chat window, filmed via the tablet's five megapixel front camera and superimposed over the gameplay, allowing them to provide commentary.

Keza MacDonald, UK editor of the gaming site Kotaku, was impressed by the machine.

"It will remain niche, but Nvidia has always sold to a niche - very tech-savvy people who want the shiniest thing," she said.

"For gamers who want a tablet this will be attractive. I can imagine having this tablet next to my TV more than I can owning a Steam Machine if the streaming works as well as promised."

Despite good reviews, the original Shield Portable, which features a built-in controller, is thought to have had only very limited sales. Nvidia declined to provide any official sales figures.

That has led some analysts to speculate that the platform is, in effect, a tech demo, designed to entice other manufacturers to include Nvidia's chips and software in their devices.

But Mr Daniel said there were no plans to provide the innovations to others at this time.

"I'm not ruling it out," he said, "But the focus is on our own Shield devices for now."


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Electronic Arts earnings surge 51%

23 July 2014 Last updated at 02:31

US video game publisher Electronic Arts (EA) has reported a 51% jump in profit for the April-to-June quarter, boosted by strong sales of titles like Titanfall and FIFA 2014.

Net profit rose to $335m (£196m) for the period, up from $222m a year ago,

EA has also benefitted from the launch of gaming consoles, which has driven up demand for its video game titles.

However, the firm said it was delaying the launch of its title Battlefield Hardline from October to early 2015.

It said it was looking to make improvements to the game based on user suggestions and feedback on the test version.

Continue reading the main story

We continue to view mobile as a business with tremendous opportunity as the market is experiencing significant global growth in smartphones and tablets"

End Quote Blake Jorgensen Electronic Arts

Andrew Wilson, chief executive of the firm, said in a statement the firm was "testing and implementing several new features that will help to make Battlefield Hardline a game that players can enjoy for many years to come".

Mobile growth

The firm also reported that its revenue from gaming on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, rose 18% to $120m during the period.

A large part of that growth was driven by the so-called "freemium" model - which offers free content but then charges users for additional digital goods.

EA said $105m of its mobile revenue during the period "comprised of digital extra content and advertising revenue, reflecting the shift to the freemium business model".

That was up 39% from a year ago.

"We continue to view mobile as a business with tremendous opportunity as the market is experiencing significant global growth in smartphones and tablets," Blake Jorgensen, chief financial officer of the firm said.

Meanwhile, its full game PC and console downloads were up 90% from a year ago to $71m.


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Porn filter shunned by UK net users

23 July 2014 Last updated at 11:30 By Joe Miller Technology Reporter

The vast majority of new broadband customers in the UK are opting out of "child friendly" filters when prompted to install them by service providers.

The industry watchdog Ofcom found fewer than one in seven households installed the feature, which is offered by BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media.

The filters block pornographic websites, as well as pages promoting self-harm or drug taking.

The default option was implemented at the behest of the UK government.

In July 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron announced the major UK internet service providers (ISPs) had agreed to offer "unavoidable choice" parental control filters, which block legal pornography and other adult subjects "by default".

New subscribers are offered the filter at the point of sign-up, and must actively choose to disable the parental control service.

However, the Ofcom report found users had overwhelmingly opted-out of the filter.

Of the four main ISPs, all of whom now offer a filter at the point of sign-up, TalkTalk was the only company to persuade more than 10% of people to subscribe.

The percentage of customers taking up the option for each service provider are as follows:

  • Virgin Media - 4%
  • BT - 5%
  • Sky - 8%
  • TalkTalk - 36%

All new subscribers to the ISPs were offered the "unavoidable choice" option, with the exception of Virgin Media, which only presented the feature to 35% of customers.

While BT and Sky launched filter services towards the end of 2013, TalkTalk's HomeSafe option has been in place since May 2011.

Virgin Media launched its filter, Web Safe, in February 2014, past the deadline set by the UK government.

Virgin shortfall

The report also found that around 65% of new Virgin Media customers were not being offered the choice of family-friendly network level filtering, "primarily as a result of actions taken by installation engineers".

"The majority of new Virgin Media installations involve an engineer visit. Virgin Media believes that in many cases the engineer runs the broadband activation process and bypasses or ignores the filtering choice," Ofcom said.

"It has recognised that this is a failure in process and indicated it is taking steps to address this gap."

Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media's chief executive, said: "Ofcom's report clearly highlighted where Virgin Media has fallen short in meeting our original commitments.

"We take our responsibility to help families stay safe online very seriously and have taken immediate action to improve how we meet our commitments to government."


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BBC trials high-frame-rate TV

23 July 2014 Last updated at 13:41

The BBC is using the Commonwealth Games to experiment with new ways of delivering TV coverage of live events.

High-frame-rate (HFR) and ultra-high-definition (UHD) streams of the tournament will be publicly tested in London and Glasgow, alongside regular broadcasts.

Other innovations include a "venue explorer", which allows users to pan around an area on their tablet.

Immersive viewing using virtual-reality technology is also being trialled.

In a blog post, the BBC's research and development (R&D) team explained that while the "technical infrastructure doesn't exist yet" to deliver these new formats to the average viewer, the public would "be able to come and get a taste of it at our public showcases in Glasgow and London".

The department will document the experiments' progress throughout the games, via its blog.

UHD streams, which have a native resolution of 4K or higher, (roughly four times the resolution of standard 1080p high definition) were already tested during the World Cup, earlier this year.

For the Commonwealth Games, BBC R&D is testing a higher frame rate - the speed at which images refresh on the screen - to reduce flickering.

"The high-frame-rate TV demonstration in the Glasgow Science Centre will show that this is even advantageous at 'regular' HDTV display resolutions, let alone for UHDTV," the blog states.

"A frame rate of 100 frames per second enables the human eye to fuse motion in a realistic way and is also high enough to avoid visible flicker."

The BBC is also experimenting with delivering live TV streams over internet connections, rather than via traditional satellites.

Virtual reality

Innovations in the way audiences experience live events will also be unveiled, with an "augmented video player", which can overlay interesting data about the athlete or sport directly on screen.

Another new product is the "venue explorer", which, as the R&D team explains, "allows you watch live video feeds on your tablet and then zoom into the images and pan around".

"A fixed, wide-angle camera supplies UHD video from venues, which means there is no loss of resolution as you manipulate the image.

"The audio is automatically remixed to correspond to the area being looked at, and graphical overlays provide data about what you see."

Virtual-reality technology will also be employed, with the Oculus Rift headset (acquired by Facebook for $2bn, or £1.2bn), used to view 360-degree videos and three-dimensional audio.


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Tor creator works to debug dark web

23 July 2014 Last updated at 17:47

The co-creator of a system designed to make internet users unidentifiable says he is tackling a "bug" that threatened to undermine the facility.

The Tor (the onion router) network was built to allow people to visit webpages without being tracked and to publish sites whose contents would not show up in search engines.

Earlier this month two researchers announced plans to reveal a way to de-anonymise users of this "dark web".

They were later prevented from talking.

Alexander Volynkin and Michael McCord - two security experts from Carnegie Mellon University's computer emergency response team (Cert) - had been scheduled to reveal their findings at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas in August.

However, a notice published on the event's website now states that the organisers had been contacted by the university's lawyers to say the talk had been called off.

"Unfortunately, Mr Volynkin will not be able to speak at the conference since the materials that he would be speaking about have not yet [been] approved by Carnegie Mellon University/Software Engineering Institute for public release," the message said.

Roger Dingledine, one of Tor's creators, subsequently posted a message to a mailing list confirming that he and his colleagues had "no idea the talk would be pulled".

But he added that the Tor Project - the organisation that provides free software to make use of Tor - had been "informally" shown some of the materials that would have been presented.

"I think I have a handle on what they did, and how to fix it," he added in a follow-up post.

"We've been trying to find delicate ways to explain that we think we know what they did, but also it sure would have been smoother if they'd opted to tell us everything.

"Based on our current plans, we'll be putting out a fix that relays can apply that should close the particular bug they found. The bug is a nice bug, but it isn't the end of the world."

Illegal activity link

Tor was originally developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory and was later funded by the Electronic Frontier Foundation digital rights group, Google and the US National Science Foundation, among others.

It attempts to hide a person's location and identity by sending data across the internet via a very circuitous route. Encryption applied at each hop along this route makes it very hard to connect a person to any particular activity.

Its users include the military, law enforcement officers and journalists - who use it as a way of communicating with whistle-blowers - as well as members of the public who wish to keep their browser activity secret.

But it has also been associated with illegal activity.

The description given for the pulled talk itself noted that Tor "has also been used for the distribution of child pornography, illegal drugs, and malware".

The researchers had promised to reveal how a piece of kit worth $3,000 (£1,760) could be used to "exploit fundamental flaws in Tor design and implementation" to reveal the internet address of its users and the computer servers used to host their hidden services.

"We know because we tested it in the wild," they added.

Christopher Soghoian, a tech expert at the American Civil Liberties Union, has speculated that the university might have feared the risk of a criminal prosecution or being sued by Tor users who felt their privacy had been violated.

"Monitoring Tor exit traffic is potentially a violation of several federal criminal statutes," he tweeted.

However, a spokeswoman for the university told the BBC: "We don't have anything further to add to the statement that was already released by the Black Hat conference."

Tackling Tor

While the details of the alleged flaw have yet to be disclosed, there have been several reports of other efforts by authorities to overcome its protections.

German broadcaster ARD reported earlier this month that cyberspies at the US National Security Agency (NSA) were actively monitoring two Tor directory servers in Germany to scoop up the net addresses of people using them.

An alleged leaked list of GCHQ's hacking tools indicated that the agency had developed its own Tor browser.

And in 2013, the FBI acknowledged making use of a flaw in the Firefox browser help it identify Tor users as part of an effort to tackle child abuse images posted to hidden sites. That exploit has since been fixed.


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