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UK security services foiled 19 major terror attacks over past two years, says Sajid Javid

20 May

UK security services have foiled 19 major terror attacks over the past two years, Home Secretary Sajid Javid has revealed.

During a speech in which he confirmed plans to look at designating parts of Syria and possibly West Africa as terror no-go zones for British citizens, Mr Javid described how "the tempo of terror activity is increasing".
He said: "Each and every day our security services fight against terror, from large international terrorist groups to radicalised individuals.
"And in the past two years they have foiled 19 major terrorist attacks - 14 of them Islamist and five of them motivated by extreme right-wing ideologies.
"But those are just the headline figures. For each attack prevented, there are dozens more that never have the chance to begin in the first place.
"And, despite this impressive work, the tempo of terror activity is increasing."
The home secretary also unveiled proposals for fresh legislation, to be presented by the government in a new espionage bill, to combat the threat of hostile states following the Salisbury chemical weapons attack.
More follows...


Google deals Huawei major blow by cutting Android licence

20 May

Google is set to revoke Huawei's access to its Android mobile operating system, dealing the Chinese company a major blow in accordance with US sanctions.

Other than Apple devices which run on iOS, smartphones makers including Samsung and LG are almost all dependent on the Google-developed Android operating system to power their devices.
According to reports by Reuters and The Verge, Google has suspended business with Huawei and in doing so hugely undermined its lineup of smartphones and tablets which run on Android.
Google has confirmed it is complying with sanctions issued by the White House last week, although it is unclear what that will involve.
The company said it was "reviewing the implications" of complying with the sanctions, but added that the Android app store Google Play and the security protections provided by Google Play Protect would continue to function on existing Huawei devices.
According to Reuters, Google's move means Huawei devices will immediately lose access to updates from Android, meaning security updates for the operating system will no longer protect those devices.
Reuters added that new Huawei devices will also lose access to the Google Play Store and Gmail and YouTube apps, likely because they won't be based on either Android or iOS - the only mobile operating systems those services are available on.
In a statement, the company said: "Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold or are still in stock globally."
Huawei's enormous sales figures in China and impressive growth in parts of Europe have seen the company overtake iPhone maker Apple in terms of market share.
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Figures released earlier this month suggested that Huawei was now only behind Samsung when it comes to global smartphone sales, with 59.1 million shipments in the first quarter of 2019.
At the beginning of this year, the company grew its sales where those of rivals including Apple and Samsung shrank.
But the impact of the White House sanctions could cripple the company's hopes of further expansion.
While a custom Huawei-built operating system would cause little issue in its home market, where most Google apps are banned anyway, it would likely be rejected by Western customers.
Google apps and services are a critical part of Android devices, and Huawei owners in Europe and the UK may now be forced to seek alternatives to what the Chinese company has to offer.
Huawei stated it has made "substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world".
It added: "As one of Android's key global partners, we have worked closely with their open-source platform to develop an ecosystem that has benefited both users and the industry.
"We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally."
Last week, Huawei's UK executive vice president Jeremy Thompson told Sky News the company was willing to go the "extra mile" to reassure countries its technology is safe - specifically regarding its telecommunications equipment rather than its consumer devices.
His comments came after Prime Minister Theresa May came in for criticism over a National Security Council decision to back the use of Huawei technology in "non-core" 5G network infrastructure in the UK.
That was despite a warning from the National Cyber Security Centre and the US government that the company could not be trusted.
Donald Trump has declared a "national emergency" over the perceived threat posed by Chinese companies and imposed severe sanctions on Huawei, with US companies barred from using telecommunications equipment made by firms deemed to pose a national security risk.
The US commerce department has also added Huawei and 70 affiliated companies to a blacklist banning it from acquiring components and technology from US firms without government approval.
Google stated: "We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications. For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices."
Meanwhile, a US warship has sailed near the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, which will likely anger Beijing further at a time of ever-increasing tension between the two powers.


What happens to my Huawei smartphones and tablets now?

20 May

Huawei smartphone and tablet owners are being left in a difficult position following US sanctions banning American companies from providing any technologies to the company.

All of Huawei's smartphone devices run on the Android operating system, which is principally developed by Google, and its tablets are based on Windows 10.
A decision by the White House to place Huawei on an export blacklist means that Google needs the US government's permission before licensing Android to the company. Microsoft has not yet issued a statement.
:: What happens to my Huawei device now?
Immediately, all Huawei devices will continue to function as normal - but there are dangers they could miss out on security updates in the future.
Google has confirmed its Google Play store and the security protections provided by Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices.
While these protections will ensure that apps can continue to be updated, they will not see any updates to the operating system itself.
The big impact is going to be on the company's newest phones and tablets.

:: What happens to Huawei devices in the future?
As Google is banned from letting Huawei use a licensed version of Android, the company would be limited to the open-source version of the operating system.
While this stripped-down OS won't cost the company any money, it also lacks access to Google's security protections as received by other large smartphone manufacturers including Samsung and LG.
This could leave the company at a competitive disadvantage to its competitors, although it had been gaining ground over recent years.
In a statement, Huawei said it will "continue to provide security updates and after sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those have been sold or still in stock globally" however it did not say what it will do about future products.
:: What's Huawei going to do this about this?
The company has a number of options. It could commit to developing new services to replace those provided by Google under license for the open-source version of Android.
Huawei's chief executive of the consumer division claimed the company had been preparing for a potential blacklisting in the US.
In an interview with German newspaper Die Welt, Richard Yu said that Huawei preferred to work with Google and Microsoft rather than go to their "plan b" move.
It could develop its own mobile operating system, but this would not enable it to access Google apps including Gmail and YouTube - something which could push consumers towards its rivals.
Charlie Dai, principal analyst at Forrester's, said that Google's move would have a "critical impact toward Huawei's business around smart phones".
"Huawei has its own mobile OS as a backup, but it's not fully ready yet and it's very difficult to build up the ecosystem as what Huawei has been doing on Android," Mr Dai added.
"Eventually it's no good toward consumers around the world, and it's a pity that customer value facilitated by open-source spirit is now ruined by the politics."
:: Is this because Huawei phones are a security concern?
Huawei's close ties to the Chinese government and army have prompted a lot of concerns about whether the company could be used by Beijing for spying purposes, but these concerns have mostly focused on its employees and its networking equipment - not its consumer devices.
Network switches, gateways, routers, and bridges - the kit that controls how and where data is sent - is what Huawei really does.
These core infrastructure devices touch everything traversing the internet and are critical to it functioning properly - and this equipment is what is being considered a security concern.
Other than in the US, where federal employees are not allowed to own Huawei smartphones, there have not been any unusual concerns about Huawei's consumer devices.


Patients at Hertfordshire dental practice told they need HIV tests due to unclean equipment

20 May

Hundreds of patients at a dental surgery have been told to take HIV tests over fears unclean equipment was used on them.

Public Health England (PHE) has been investigating "potential breaches of infection control procedures" by a hygienist who used to work at Dentality @ Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire.
Some 563 patients who had "dental scaling treatment" at the practice have received letters explaining that they could have been exposed to blood-borne viruses such as Hepatitis B or C and HIV.
A PHE spokeswoman said equipment used by the hygienist "was potentially not cleaned adequately" but the risk to patients was "extremely low".
Meanwhile, the General Dental Council (GDC) confirmed that a "concern was raised in relation to dental professional Ekta Parikh and this is being investigated".
A GDC spokesman said: "Due to the nature of the concern, an interim orders committee placed restrictions on the individual's practice to manage risk to the public whilst the investigation continues."
PHE said it was contacted by the dental practice "expressing its concerns around potential infection control breaches".
A dedicated telephone line has been set up for patients to get more information and book a blood test if they wish to do so, it added.
Dr Jorg Hoffmann, deputy director for health protection at PHE East, said: "I would like to emphasise that the risk of contracting Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or HIV is extremely low and that testing is being offered as a precautionary measure.
"We know patients will be anxious about this situation and they will be supported by the NHS and PHE throughout.
"Effective treatments are available for all blood-borne viruses, which is why it was important to identify anyone who may have been put at risk of infection so testing and treatment can be offered."
According to The Sun, the blunder came to light in January when other staff at the practice realised an ultrasonic scaler was not being put in the steriliser as often as it should.
The scaler was cleaned only twice a day, when it should have been sterilised after each use, the newspaper said.
One patient told The Sun it was "terrifying" to receive a letter telling them they needed to take a HIV test.
"They can say the risk is small all they want - but the truth is that they don't actually know," the patient said.
"The fact it took them three months to warn everyone is disgusting. How many more people could have been infected in that time?"
Responding to the criticism, a PHE spokeswoman said: "It would have been wrong of us to contact people before we had fully assessed the level of risk and determined who needed to be contacted and what we needed to tell them."
Dr Vishaal Shah, from Dentality @ Hoddesdon, said: "We put our patients first. In November we became aware of behaviour from a hygienist that did not meet the rigorous standards we expect from our team.
"We immediately launched a full investigation, and have escalated the matter to all key authorities. We have continued working closely with them to ensure that patients are protected.
"We understand anyone receiving these letters will have real concerns. While there is an extremely low risk of exposure, all these patients are being offered detailed information, and a dedicated number to call to book an appointment for blood testing and get further advice."


Warning - spoilers! Game Of Thrones review: The final episode

20 May

Cometh the hour, cometh the… well, cometh the Three-Eyed Raven, apparently.

Yes, 'tis Bran Stark (Your Grace, Bran The Broken now, FYI) who the people of Westeros have bent the knee for, because all that malarkey about Jon Snow being the rightful heir - you know, the point that this story had been building up to for years?
Yeah, that never really mattered. No biggie.
After 73 episodes, hundreds of awards and hundreds of thousands of bloody deaths, the Game Of Thrones has been won, sort of, ending in bittersweet style with a finale that, like the rest of the season before it, will no doubt divide fans.
We all knew the end was never going to be easy. It was never going to satisfy everyone. So many threads to tie up, so many beloved characters to serve, so much that fans really, really cared about.
This final series has split opinion like no other; more than a million people had signed a petition calling for it to be remade before the last episode aired. This ending likely won't have kept numbers at a plateau.
It started promisingly, with stunning shots of Tyrion walking through the smouldering ashes of King's Landing, charred body upon charred body surrounding him.
We then saw Queen Daenerys, walking out to her people as Drogon's wings unfolded in beautiful symmetry behind her.
"Blood of my blood! You have given me the Seven Kingdoms!" she shouted in a speech that once would have been rousing but after last week's antics was chilling to the bone.
At that point, it felt like anything could happen.
Then - spoiler klaxon - we had the shock death that wasn't a shock death, because if there's one thing that you can predict with Game Of Thrones, it's a shock death.
But still: Jon killed Daenerys, as many had predicted, but the timing and execution really did come out of the blue.
Just when you thought our bumbling hero was still going to stand by his queen, despite her human fireworks, he only went and stabbed her as he snogged her.
No fanfare, no stand-off, no apologies, no goodbyes. Done, and all in the first half an hour. Sorry for ever doubting you, Jon Snow.
So Dany is dead, Bran is King. As we prepare to leave Westeros behind and return to the real world, here are the main talking points from the last ever episode of Game Of Thrones.

All hail Bran The Broken

After Dany's death, it all got very democratic and her successor was chosen by all the important people left standing.
All the important people apart from Jon, that is, as he had been imprisoned for murdering Dany.
This is where things felt a bit odd. It wasn't so much the choice of Bran as King that felt slightly out of step - those Three-Eyed Raven powers might come in handy, after all - but the way it happened, the fact that Jon's true lineage never even came up.
What happened to Varys' letters revealing the secret? Why didn't Sansa or Arya say anything? Or Tyrion, or Sam Tarly for that matter?
This was no secret anymore, half the people there knew. Jon had always made it clear he didn't want the throne, but it always felt like it would be his to give away.
Jon is well-meaning but would have made a rubbish king, any fool could see that, but it feels strange that Bran was chosen so quickly and the matter wasn't even discussed. Ah well.

Bye, Drogon; bye, Iron Throne

In the end, the Iron Throne was gone, melted by dragon fire as Drogon mourned the death of the woman who raised him.
Interestingly, the dragon didn't try to burn Jon, keeping his fury solely for the throne, as if acknowledging the fact that it was the hunger for power that killed her. And was that a bow to Jon, who is of course also Targaryen, we saw?
He then took off, flying away with Dany's lifeless body. It was the perfect way for the Mother Of Dragons to bow out.

Jon returned to the Night's Watch

So Jon was sent way up North, saying goodbye to his Stark sisters/cousins Arya and Sansa and reuniting with Tormund and Ghost. Ghost! That was a nice touch.
Not sure what the Night's Watch will actually be doing, seeing as the White Walkers are no more, but at least he's got something to take his mind off the fact he killed his lover/aunt.

Sansa, Queen Of The North, and the Starks are split

The North remains independent, which means Sansa gets to be Queen of it. Hurrah!
I can't pretend I'm not slightly sad not to see the elder Stark sister taking over the business of the entire Seven Kingdoms.
She would have been great, especially with Arya by her side... hang on, Arya isn't hanging around.
She's off to explore what's west of Westeros, and this is goodbye. After letting go of her need for vengeance in The Bells, it's a new non-murdering start for our favourite assassin.
Thank you for everything, Stark sisters. You were the best of them.

Jaime and Cersei are definitely dead

We watched them clinging to each other as the Red Keep fell in the penultimate episode, but with no sign of bodies there were many who believed they might have survived (especially those who wanted a gorier ending for Cersei).
But here, we saw them, their bodies curled around each other, leaving the world together as they entered it. It was an emotional scene, Tyrion in tears as he found the bodies of his brother and sister in the rubble.

It ends with a book

The story has been committed to paper in a book called, you've guessed it, A Song Of Ice And Fire. And Tyrion isn't even mentioned! The cheek of it!
But we've done it, we've made it to the end. The finale had some great moments, some not so great. It wasn't perfect, but how could it be?
One thing we can hope for. With Arya the explorer heading off to uncharted lands, there's surely a spin-off series waiting with her name on it.