Internet security experts are scrambling to assess the extent of the breach caused by a massive bug called Heartbleed in the OpenSSL technology that runs encryption for two-thirds of the web and went unnoticed for two years until last week
A newly discovered bug in software supposed to provide extra protection for thousands of the world’s most popular websites has exposedhighly sensitive information such as credit card numbers, usernames, and passwords, security researchers said.
The discovery of the bug, known as Heartbleed, has caused several websites to advise their users to change their passwords.
“This might be a good day to call in sick and take some time to change your passwords everywhere — especially your high-security services like email, file storage, and banking, which may have been compromised by this bug,” Tumblr wrote in a note to its many users.
“The little lock icon (HTTPS) we all trusted to keep our passwords, personal emails, and credit cards safe, was actually making all that private information accessible to anyone who knew about the exploit.”
Yahoo, the owner of Tumblr, confirms that its users’ passwords have been compromised.
The bug was discovered late last week in the OpenSSL technology that runs encryption for two-thirds of the Internet. The researchers who discovered it said that most Internet users “are likely to be affected either directly or indirectly.”
It was found simultaneously by a Google security researcher and a small security firm named Codenomicon and disclosed Monday night.
Experts are now scrambling to asses the extent of the security breach, because the bug remained undiscovered for two years. Hackers may have exploited it without leaving footprints.
“We have tested some of our own services from attacker’s perspective. We attacked ourselves from outside, without leaving a trace,” Codenomicon wrote on their newly created website about the bug.
According to several security experts, it is one of the most serious security flaws uncovered in many years.
“Heartbleed is like finding a faulty car part used in nearly every make and model, but you can’t recall the Internet and all the data you put out on it,” Jonathan Sander, vice president of research and technology for Stealthbits Technologies, a cybersecurity firm, told the Los Angeles Times.
Driverless cars are set to hit British roads at the start of next year as the Government announced it will allow the first trials of vehicles that owners can sit in as passive passengers.
Business Secretary Vince Cable this morning said he was keen for Britain to become a pioneer in the technology. It comes after the Government pledged in the Autumn Statement last year to ensure Britain’s ‘legislative and regulatory framework supports the world’s car companies to develop and test driverless cars in the UK.’
But despite the major boost for driverless technology, Britons it seems are not enamoured by the prospect. According to a new study from Churchill Car Insurance, 56 per cent of respondents said they would not purchase a computerised car while a quarter believe they will not be safe.
Driverless cars: The technology will be tested on British roads from next year
Malfunction is the biggest fear, with three in five of people fearing the computer may be unreliable in their autonomous vehicle.
More than half fear the lack of human control over the vehicle and a third fear cyber security problems such as hacking.
Nearly a third believe commuting times will increase, with only 17 per cent believing there will be a decrease.
Steve Barrett, head of Churchill Car Insurance, said: ‘Driverless cars have a long way to go before they win people’s confidence.
‘Education on issues such as safety standards, including computer ethics is needed, as well as a re-think on existing road rules and amendments to insurance regulation.
‘It is still early days however, so a certain amount of scepticism around such a significant development is to be expected. It is also still too early to be able to assess the implications a fully driverless car will have on insurance.’
AA president Edmund King said that a recent survey of more than 23,000 AA members showed 43 per cent did not agree that UK legislation should be amended to even allow trials of the technology.
Vince Cable: The Business Secretary wants Britain to be at the forefront of driverless technology
Ministers have previously admitted the current Highway Code and rules of the road are inadequate for the new generation of vehicles which pilot themselves.
In the U.S. driverless cars are only allowed on roads in certain states if someone sits in the driver’s seat.
The vehicles work by using GPS technology to locate the vehicle’s position on an electronic map.
In June, Google – who have been at the forefront of driverless technology – unveiled its computerised ‘hands-free’ self-driving bubble car, which has no steering wheel, brake or accelerator pedals.
Google plans to have prototypes ready to test later this summer and says the goal is for the car to ‘shoulder the entire burden of driving’.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: ‘The excellence of our scientists and engineers has established the UK as pioneers in the development of driverless vehicles through pilot projects.
‘Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society.’
He also announced that UK cities can now bid for a share of a £10million competition to host a driverless cars trial and up to three cities will be selected to host the trials from next year, as revealed in the Autumn Statement in December 2013.
Each project is expected to last between 18 and 36 months and start in January 2015.
Is security a threat to driverless cars?
Wil Rockall, director in KPMG’s cyber security team, said: ‘There is no doubt that self-drive cars are going to become a reality. The technology is already available and, with test drives showing early signs of success, an unstoppable journey has started on what will become a well-travelled road.
‘For all the positives, the industry will need to be very alert to the risk of cyber manipulation and attack.
‘Self-drive cars will probably work through internet connectivity and, just as large volumes of electronic traffic can be routed to overwhelm websites, the opportunity for self-drive traffic being routed to create ‘spam jams’ or disruption is a very real prospect.
‘Yet the industry takes safety and security incredibly seriously. Doubtless, overrides could be built in so that drivers could shut down many of the car’s capabilities if hacked. That way, humans will still be able to ensure their cars don’t route them on the road to nowhere.’
Yo is an app that has recently been launched upon the World of smartphone users, another app in the many thousands that are already on offer.
So what does the Yo app do? All it does is send a message to someone else saying Yo?
Pretty pointless you may think but Yo has managed to raise over $1M in its initial finding round.
It seems that Venture Capitalists will invest in any Tech Start Up these days no matter how pointless their product offering appears.
Is it any wonder then that VCs seems to be falling over themselves to invest in Taxi Industry Tech Start Ups!
The Taxi industry is unique in the way in which our customers use our services, we pick them up from work, their home, a restaurant, the gym, basically anywhere that they might go in their daily life.
So what does this mean for the Tech start up? Well a lot of these Tech start ups are data harvesting, they are building up a picture of users lifestyles, from their usage of taxis they can determine what the passenger does, what they like, where they go, where they work, the can build up a customer profile of any user of these apps quite easily.
The thing that I find quite amazing but quite sad is that these VCs can obviously see the potential in both the taxi trade around the World and the data that they can harvest from the trade, they can see that there is a potential for substantial returns from investing in Taxi Tech start ups and hope to see their investment returned within quite a short period of time plus a healthy profit, the sad thing is that Taxi drivers do not realise the potential within their own trade and are happy to sit back and let these VCs basically rape their own trade and reap the benefits.
Hailo in London alone managed to register 14,500 drivers, now whether all of these drivers actively used the app for extended periods or just for a short time, they have all used it to some extent. Now if those 14,500 drivers had put £125 each in a bucket they would have raised a similar sum to hail’s initial funding round from which they launched.
If drivers in London had raised enough money to build and launch their own app then Hailo would never have been the success that it achieved, in fact Hailo’s whole business around the World rested on their success in London, so the whole makeup of he Taxi trades around the World might have been slightly different with the Taxi trade taking control of its own future and destiny, rather the an allowing these VCs to enter the market band take control.
London’s black cab drivers have made a reputation for themselves as cheeky-chappies full of tongue-in-cheek humour which impresses tourists, but even by Londoners’ standards, this was a particularly rude rant.
“Our beef with Uber is that these drivers have come straight into London, and have been licensed straight away by Transport for London,” Lloyd Baldwin, a black cab driver, told the BBC. “We’re regulated to within an inch of our lives.”
His distain was aimed at Uber, the smartphone start-up that has generated eye-watering valuations while kicking-up a political storm at the same time.
Uber’s app allows users to hail a taxi from any location with the swipe of a finger across a screen. The four-year-old firm is already valued at $18 billion.
The San Francisco-based company has expanded its operation into more than 100 cities across 30 countries.
The founders’ success is shrouded in controversy. Earlier this month, thousands of taxi drivers across Europe staged protests against their technological rival. Cabbies complain that Uber’s drivers use the software as a meter, which under current law is illegal for private hire vehicles, and that anyone with a Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) licence can sign up with them.
The confrontation highlights a decisive shift in the power base of the driving industry. Upstarts are clearly making their mark. Other start-ups including Lyft, Hallo and Sidecar have secured millions in funding for their fledgling taxi apps.
MBA students are also using taxi tech to stage their assault on the driving sector. Graduates from Europe’s INSEAD, and Harvard Business School, are entering the cab-hire craze.
GrabTaxi, hailed as Southeast Asia’s answer to Uber, was co-founded by a Harvard MBA graduate. GrabTaxi supporters argue that drivers no longer have to navigate through traffic-clogged streets that are common in Asian cities. This popularity allows the company to charge a commission with every booking.
“Our ultimate vision is to pioneer public transportation mobility for all,” the company said. “By combining top talent, disruptive technologies and innovation, a local start-up like us can surpass even the most developed countries.”
The disruptive start-up has joined a growing roster of tech companies looking to offer cheap taxi bookings to lure in customers who need a ride.
Anthony Tan, GrabTaxi’s Malaysian chief executive and co-founder, stumbled onto the idea while in business school. A Harvard colleague suggested he follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, who helped launch the Japanese automotive industry in Malaysia.
Anthony, along with Tan Hooi Ling, an MBA classmate, entered Harvard Business School’s 2011 Business Plan Contest, and finished as runners-up. With funding from Harvard and personal coffers, they launched their app in June 2012.
In the two years since, GrabTaxi has expanded into five more countries in 14 cities. The app has been downloaded more than 1.2 million times, and more than 250,000 people use it on a monthly basis.
The business is backed by GGV Capital, a Silicon Valley and Shanghai-based venture capital fund, which led a recent investment round that banked the founders more than $15 million in capital, on top of an earlier round of more than $10 million. The app is also backed by Brent Hurley and Steve Chen, the co-founders of YouTube.
GrabTaxi said it wants to “help bring Southeast Asians to the forefront of the technological development wave”. “We hope to one day become a successful example to others who wish to pursue this daunting road of technopreneurship,” the company said.
Uber has written the instruction manual on how to launch a successful tech start-up. But other entrepreneurs have plans to rival their disruption. A Berlin-based start-up firm has joined the flock.
Talixo, which has 30 taxi companies operating under its banner, is headed by three INSEAD MBA graduates. The founders claimed a slice of a €50,000 pot from the business school’s twice-yearly Venture Competition.
Founders Yvonne Gruendler, Sebastian Kleinau and Dominik Etzweiler used their €25,000 winnings to set-up the business, similar to GrabTaxi, last summer.
But Yvonne, who comes from the healthcare sector, says Talixo’s unique 50-50 split of taxis and limousines, and the ability to pre-book is what separates them from competitors.
“Most taxi companies have one type of vehicle, private hire pre-booking or standard taxis,” she says. “There’s a legal distinction between taxis and private hire vehicles, so with limousines there’s no regulation on pricing,” she added.
The fledgling firm focuses on B2B sales and corporate clients. Talixo has three separate categories for their limousine service: economy, business and first-class, and each has different perks, standards and prices.
All three MBAs worked on the project during business school. Sebastian and Dominik founded the company and Yvonne joined them soon after graduating.
Much like Uber did, the team plan to expand. Yvonne says they were attracted to Germany because of the ease with which they can expand across the country.
“We are looking at expansion right now and hope to be able to get fleets into other cities. The plan is to roll out across Germany and into the main cities,” she adds.
Black cab drivers may be in uproar, but Yvonne recognizes their expert knowledge, which she says isn’t guaranteed with standard mini-cab drivers.
“For most people, it’s a commodity: there’s no difference from one [taxi company] to another. But we have a difference in quality,” she adds.
A new start up app has been released which offers not only a minicab ride, it also offers to “Match” you up with some one with similar interests.
Drivers will not be licensed by TfL, or have CRB checks. The company says drivers will be covered by ordinary insurance as they are just covering their expenses and not making a profit.
How can this be allowed? This is a recipe for disaster.
The Tech City start-up is advertising fares that are 70 per cent cheaper than black cabs to attract customers.
Funryde is a mobile phone app which matches drivers with those looking for cheap travel in the city. But what is the true price of passenger safety?
The Funryde app, which launched in February, charges an average of less than £1 a mile, but its founders say taking on black cab drivers is simply business.
Wonder what Leon Daniels has to say about unlicensed drivers, uninsured for private hire work, with no police record checks, using a smart phone for electronic hails.
Surely TfL haven’t licensed this company?
Leon will probably have to ask some one smarter than himself (seems to be his stock answer).
“Personally I don’t know why the black cab drivers are so angry,” said Bassem Barake, co-founder of Funryde. But then he would say that.
“The people who work for Uber are licensed minicab drivers, you already have a lot of big minicab companies in London, Uber have just taken control.
“I think our app will make taxi drivers angry but it’s a totally different experience.
“You might be picked up by a doctor or an engineer and you can meet new people and talk about your interests.
You could even be picked up by a serial rapist predator, looking for his next victim.
“We’re even looking at using Facebook to match people with similar interests or mutual friends.”
The app, which is free to download, sees drivers thoroughly vetted (he doesn’t say who by) with serious or persistent road offenders unable to act as chauffeurs. So the drivers are not minicab drivers, he calls them Chauffeurs. I believe legitimate Chauffeurs might have something to say about this.
Drivers are still covered by their insurance policy, as they’re are only subsidising the cost of petrol, rather than making profit.
There is a limit I believe on how much a person can claim on milage and I do believe it’s nowhere near £1 a mile.
“At the moment the drivers are not allowed to make any money, which is what makes it so cheap,” said Mr Barake.
“Our end goal is to make a deal with an insurance company so that the drivers are able to make a profit margin, so that we can attract more drivers.
“You can have 100,000 passengers but if you don’t have enough drivers it doesn’t work.”
Funryde only has about 15 drivers so far, despite the app reaching more than 1,000 downloads.
Former Mayor of Islington, Cllr Rupert Perry, has been a black cab driver for nine years. He said apps like Uber and Funryde may be cheaper than black cabs at certain points of the day but could not compete at peak times.
“There will be a market for these sort of companies with people wanting to save a bit of money and founders wanting to become the next online billionaire,” he said.
“Good luck to them. But black cabs are still the safest and most trusted option. You have a licensed driver who knows London like the back of their hand.”