EU set to end roaming charges from June 2017

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IT may just get a little cheaper to use your mobile phone across Europe, as an agreement has been reached to put an end to roaming charges.

Under the deal announced in the European Parliament no roaming charges, on top of what users pay at home, will be allowed after 15 June 2017.

However, to protect the industry against abuses such as permanent roaming, that is someone who uses a deal from one EU country for long periods of time in another EU country, the deal provides for a 'fair use' clause which is yet to be defined.

Prices for using a mobile phone while abroad in another EU country will in fact be reduced substantially as soon as 30 April 2016.

From that date, the maximum surcharge for voice calls made abroad will be 5 euro cents per minute (down from current 19 euro cents retail cap), whereas text messages (SMS) will cost only an additional 2 euro cents (down from 6 euro cents retail cap today) and 5 euro cents per megabyte (20 eurocents retail cap today).

These are ceilings, so operators are free to offer cheaper rates.

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So how does an experiment at the Large Hadron Collider work?


Gavin Hesketh, UCL

It’s not every day my Twitter feed is full of people talking about flat-tops, squeezing and injections, but then Wednesday 3 June was not an average day for the Large Hadron Collider.

The LHC is the world’s largest particle accelerator and lies in a tunnel below CERN, the European physics lab just outside Geneva. And on Wednesday it was restarted after two year break for repairs and upgrades, ready to push our understanding of the universe to new limits.

As my fellow physicists crowded into the control rooms and waited for things to get underway, I was at a workshop in France. But I was able to follow the switch-on online. Here’s how things went down.

8.09am. Injection: Billions of protons are loaded into the LHC.

The LHC is a ring roughly 28km around that accelerates protons almost to the speed of light before colliding them head on. Protons are particles found in the atomic nucleus, roughly one thousand-million-millionth of a metre in size.

They are easiest to get from hydrogen, the simplest atom with just one electron orbiting one proton. The LHC starts with a bottle of hydrogen gas, which is sent through an electric field to strip away the electrons, leaving just the protons. Electric and magnetic fields are the key to a particle accelerator: because protons are positively charged, they accelerate when in an electric field and bend in a circle in a magnetic field.

Big data M.Brice/CERN

9.45am. Ramp: Once the LHC is fully loaded, its two proton beams are slowly accelerated up to collision energy, now a world-record 6.5TeV per beam.

Accelerating billions of protons to close to the speed of light, directing them all the way around the LHC, and then colliding them head-on, is a delicate balancing act performed by high voltage equipment and giant magnets. This is an amazing technical achievement. Indeed one of the main applications of particle physics research is in the industrial applications of the technology it develops along the way, from proton therapy cancer treatment to the world wide web.

But for me, the excitement is in the science: the LHC is exploring the universe at the smallest scales. Everything we have learned so far is formulated in the Standard Model, a theory which describes the universe made of tiny particles, and gives the rules for how these particles behave. By smashing some of these particles together at high energy, we are able to test these rules and make new discoveries.

The LHC “Run 1” (2010-2013) provided enough data to test the Standard Model to new levels of precision and discover the Higgs boson. This particle was predicted in the 1960s and plays a central role in the Standard Model. But it was almost 50 years before we had a machine powerful enough to discover it. As well as high energy, it needed lots of data: the Higgs boson is a rare thing, and fewer than one in a billion collisions at the LHC produce one.

Tense moments Laurent Egli/CERN

10.12am. Flat top: Beam energy levels off after reaching the target.

These were tense moments for the CERN team on Wednesday. The LHC was operating at the highest energy ever achieved in a particle accelerator. “Run 2” will collide protons at 60% higher energies than Run 1 by pushing the magnets and accelerators to the limit. We hope this extra reach will allow us to tackle some of the big questions in particle physics.

One of the main topics is dark matter. This seems to be a new type of particle spread through the entire universe. And with the LHC Run 2 we hope to make it in the lab for the first time. But if the Higgs boson is rare, dark matter is even rarer, and we will need to sort through a lot of collisions before having a hope of finding it.

Worlds collide CMS/CERN

10.17am. Squeeze: The beams are fine-tuned, and focused at the four points around the LHC where they cross, and the experiments will record the collisions

Almost there. The experiments now need to wait for the all-clear before they can start recording, and we begin studying things that have never been seen before. Still, many of the collisions will not be interesting, as the protons just smash apart without doing anything exciting.

To make matters worse, the rare new particles we are looking for also tend to be very unstable, and decay too quickly to be seen directly. So the job of the experiments is to measure whatever particles do come out of a collision and try to reconstruct what happened, looking for evidence of something unusual.

As well as dark matter, there are many other ideas to test, such as supersymmetry, new gauge bosons, quantum black holes and heavy neutrinos, all of which we could reconstruct from the LHC collisions. Part of the joy and pain of science is that a new discovery could come in a matter of days, or a matter of years.

Champagne flowing Mike Struik/CERN

10.43am. Stable beams: The LHC is now running smoothly, the beams are behaving as expected, and the experiments can start recording data.

Run 2 has begun! Champagne is flowing at CERN. Now the attention moves to analysing the new data, and it’s time for the rest of us to get back to work.

The Conversation

Gavin Hesketh is Lecturer in Particle Physics at UCL.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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France passes new surveillance law in wake of Charlie Hebdo attack

Email_imgThe French parliament has overwhelmingly approved sweeping new surveillance powers in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris in January that killed 17 people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery in Paris.

The new bill, which allows intelligence agencies to tap phones and emails without seeking permission from a judge, sparked protests from rights groups who claimed it would legalise highly intrusive surveillance methods without guarantees for individual freedom and privacy.

The new Big Brother: Five shocking facts about France’s attempt to monitor your communications - Amnesty International

Here are some of the things the French authorities will be able to do without first obtaining authorization from a judge.

Possibly intercept all your online communications
French authorities could be able to secretly look at the emails people send, the information they store in the cloud, their confidential online records, including medical appointments and the searches they do on engines such as Google.

See who you are in contact with
The French authorities will be able to secretly hack computers and mobile devices and spy on emails and texts of anyone they “suspect” of being in contact with someone involved in suspicious activity, even if the person isn’t aware or does not intend to participate in this suspicious activity.

Capture everything an individual types
They will be able to secretly fit monitors in keyboards and see everything a person types on their computer or mobile devise, including private messages.

Force telecoms companies and internet service providers to reveal information about users
The French authorities will have the power to force companies to reveal information about the dates, originators and recipients of any messages individuals send online.

Use technology to know where a person is, at any time
They will be able to use “proximity sensors” in field surveillance in order to ascertain the location and identification of particular people and even place bugs in cars and apartments. No place will be off limits.

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TV5 Monde take-down reveals key weakness of broadcasters in digital age


Laurence Murphy, University of Salford

In what was one of the most severe outages of its kind, French national television broadcaster TV5 Monde was recently the target of a well-planned and staged cyberattack that took down its 11 television channels, website, and social media streams.

The hacker group responsible claimed to support the Islamic State, and proceeded to broadcast pro-IS material on the hijacked channels, while also exposing sensitive internal company information, and active military soldiers details.

It took TV5 three hours to regain control of its channels. The scale and completeness of the attack, and that it involved hijacking live television broadcast channels, has shocked the industry and prompted heated discussion on what steps might prevent or at least limit the likelihood of this reoccurring.

The shift from analogue

The fact that a major European public service broadcaster could be taken down so efficiently flags up an underlying weaknesses in modern broadcasting.

For years the industry has been moving away from traditional, analogue audio-visual broadcasting technology towards digital-only, network-based infrastructures. This is a logical and necessary process for broadcast companies to keep pace with technological development, and to benefit from the efficiencies of digital media network distribution. But any system based on delivering digital media over the internet is potentially vulnerable to cyberattack from outside.

These sorts of events often prompt moves that seem to be a case of bolting the stable door after horse has left. For example, when planning a new building or station installation, it’s common for there to be an argument over the value of a robust uninterruptable power supply system, or UPS. They are expensive and often seen as unnecessary – until the power fails, at which point a UPS redundant battery backup is worth, quite literally, its weight in gold (and batteries are heavy).

Similarly the reaction to the assault on TV5 has been a call for immediate and widespread cybersecurity improvements, including new collaborations between European security and law enforcement agencies in order to react faster and more effectively when such attacks occur.

The question must remain as to how the many, almost daily examples of hacking and cybercriminal attacks on firms hadn’t prompted broadcasters to take the threat seriously before now.

Old idea, new tech

There have been television broadcast signal hijacks before these modern, internet-enabled times. In 1977, the evening programming from broadcaster Television South in the UK was cut across by a hoax signal overriding the programme’s audio, claiming to be from an alien civilisation and demanding world disarmament. In 1986, HBO’s east coast satellite feed was interrupted by a hacker calling himself Captain Midnight, actually satellite engineer John R. MacDougall, protesting at cable television fees.

The Max Headroom hijacker – still on the loose. Youtube

In 1987, a Chicago television broadcast was interrupted by a man wearing a Max Headroom mask. He has never been identified. In these instances hijacking the signals involved physical access to or tampering with the transmitters uplink sites, or broadcast feeds. For example, MacDougall worked at firm that uplinked programmes onto satellite feeds and so had access to all the equipment needed.

There are other means of interrupting broadcasts, such as intentional jamming of signals by using one transmission of a higher power to block out another. During the Cold War it was common for the Soviet Union and Eastern European governments to use high-powered antenna to cancel out Western media such as Radio Free Europe east of the Iron Curtain.

More recently, the BBC World Service coverage of the contested Iranian election of 2009 was quashed by stronger signals causing interference throughout Iran and surrounding countries.

There are relatively few examples of incidents like these because it’s difficult to interrupt a television or radio broadcast chain – not so in our new, all-digital, internet-connected media infrastructure. The scale of this intrusion into a major European public service television station is unprecedented, and a worrying escalation of the scope and capability for politically-motivated attacks on the media and freedom of speech.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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France looking to tighten cyber-security legislation


In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, France's intelligence agencies are pushing for greater powers.

France to strengthen spies' powers in new anti-terror law
The French government intends to keep information on people charged with acts of terrorism on file for 40 years. The proposal is a late addition to a bill on intelligence and terrorism that the parliament will start debating on Monday.

The government is to move an amendment to its own bill, drawn up in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, which gives sweeping new powers to intelligence agencies and gives more control over whether to start operations to the prime minister's office.

If passed, it will mean that the details of anyone charged with terror-related offences may be placed on file if an investigating judge so decides.

Tech firms threaten exodus over French mass surveillance plans
A number of prominent French tech companies are threatening to pull out of the country in the wake of the introduction of a bill that they argue will put the entire French population "under surveillance."

Seven companies, including web hosting and technology companies OVH, IDS, and Gandi, have said in a letter to the French prime minister Manuel Valls that they will be pushed into de facto "exile" if the French government goes ahead with the "real-time capture of data" by its intelligence agencies.

The companies argued that being required by the law to install "black boxes" on their networks will "destroy a major segment of the economy," and if passed it will force them to "move our infrastructure, investments, and employees where our customers will want to work with us."

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France seeks Silicon Valley allies in war on terror

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve met Friday with Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter to discuss ways to thwart terrorists from using the platforms as stages for propaganda.

"We had frank, rich, deep discussion," Cazeneuve said during a press conference at the French consulate in San Francisco.

He said his mission was to foster closer relationships with the Silicon Valley titans so online terrorist propaganda could be more swiftly removed or countered with opposing viewpoints.

"We don't want to have to go through the usual government channels that can take so long; it is important to have direct communication," Cazeneuve said.

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French law blocking terrorist and child abuse sites comes into effect

France has introduced a new law that allows government agencies to order the blocking of websites that advocate acts of terrorism or contain images of child abuse.

The legislation was brought in by revisions to 2011’s Loppsi Act, and an anti-terror bill passed by the French senate in October, but can now be used by the general directorate of the police’s cybercrime unit to force French internet service providers to block sites within 24 hours, without a court order.

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App version of Charlie Hebdo now available

HebdoA DIGITAL version of the 'survivors' version of Charlie Hebdo has been made available for people to download.

Costing 2.99 euros the app is available on Android and iOS plus Windows, currently in French, with planned versions offered in English, Spanish and Arabic.

A single issue can be bought, or an annual subscription is available priced at 89.99 euros.

The app has been produced with the support of Le Monde, as well as the Courier International and Reporters sans Frontières.

Despite printing five million copies of the first issue since the Paris shootings last week, the magazine sold out in a few hours.

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Google Translate offers real-time voice and sign translations

image from
AN update by Google Translate to its Android and iOS apps has introduced real-time voice and sign translation.

The sign translation works from within the phone camera app and you can simply point the camera at the sign, and if captured properly the app will translate it.

The voice translation is even more 'Star Trek' and works from a tap of the in-app mic that looks to recognise the foreign voice first.

Then tap the microphone again and both people can talk with a text translation of both sides of the conversation happening in real-time.

This instant translation currently works for translation from English to and from French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

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French space agency gives helping hand to Google's Project Loon balloons

KEEP your eye on the skies as Google is to link up with the French space agency, CNES, to work on the development of internet-carrying balloons that could spread the web across the globe.

Google's Project Loon is an experiment in using large balloons equipped with solar panels to beam internet services to areas of the plant that have little opportunity to access the web.

And in a statement, CNES, said it will work with Google to bring its more than 50 years of experience in the use of balloon technology to look at how to get four billion people online.

The balloons used in Project Loon, which was started in 2011, are powered by the sun and are blown around the Earth by the wind while sitting in the stratosphere, with one recently kept aloft for 134 days.

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