Phone-addicted teens arent as happy as those who play sports and hang out IRL, new study suggests

To no parent’s surprise, too much smartphone use makes teens unhappy.

So says a new study from San Diego State University, which pulled data from over one million 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders in the U.S. showing teens who spent more time on social media, gaming, texting and video-chatting on their phones were not as happy as those who played sports, went outside and interacted with real human beings.

But is it the screen time bringing them down or are sadder teens more likely to insulate themselves in a virtual world? Lead author of the study and professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge believes it’s the phone that contributes to making them unhappy, not the other way around.

“Although this study can’t show causation, several other studies have shown that more social media use leads to unhappiness, but unhappiness does not lead to more social media use,” Twenge said.

Though abstinence doesn’t seem to fix the problem, either, as noted in the study, there’s something to Twenge’s theory. Another recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and also lead by Twenge, found a spike in depression and suicide among teen girls increased the more time they spent on their phones.

That’s alarming, especially considering the age in which kids get smartphones has continued to climb lower — dropping from 12 in 2012 to 10.3 years in 2016.

Twenge has been studying teen behavior since the early 90’s and has been on the forefront of research suggesting an abrupt change in behavior and emotional states of teenagers due to smartphone use. She says there’s been a dramatic shift starting in 2012 when younger and younger kids starting getting more screen time.

Researchers found more of the same while sifting through the data for this study. Teenagers’ life satisfaction, self-esteem and happiness plummeted after 2012.

To back up that work, Twenge’s previous studies suggest kids who spend at least four or five hours on their phone increase their risk factor for suicide by a whopping 71 percent, regardless of whether it was cat videos or something else. It was the time spent on the device, not the content, that mattered most.

“By far the largest change in teens’ lives between 2012 and 2016 was the increase in the amount of time they spent on digital media, and the subsequent decline in in-person social activities and sleep,” Twenge said. “The key to digital media use and happiness is limited use.”

She suggests teens aim to spend no more than two hours a day on digital media, exercise more and try to hang out with friends face-to-face to increase happiness — all things adults could probably use more of as well.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/01/23/phone-addicted-teens-arent-as-happy-as-those-who-play-sports-and-hang-out-irl-new-study-suggests/

Spinal-Cord Implants to Numb Pain Emerge as Alternative to Pills

For millions of Americans suffering from debilitating nerve pain, a once-overlooked option has emerged as an alternative to high doses of opioids: implanted medical devices using electricity to counteract pain signals the same way noise-canceling headphones work against sound. 

The approach, called neuromodulation, has been a godsend for Linda Landy, who was a 42-year-old runner when a foot surgery went awry in 2008. She was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, a condition dubbed the suicide disease by doctors: The pain is so unrelenting that many people take their own lives.

Linda Landy and family

Last November, Landy underwent surgery to get an Abbott Laboratories device that stimulates the dorsal root ganglion, a spot in the spine that was the pain conduit for her damaged nerves. A year after getting her implant, called DRG, she’s cut back drastically on pain pills.

“The DRG doesn’t take the pain completely away, but it changes it into something I can live with,” said Landy, a mother of three in Fort Worth, Texas. She’s now now able to walk again and travel by plane without using a wheelchair. “It sounds minor, but it’s really huge.”

Crackdown on Opioids

Recent innovations from global device makers like Abbott to smaller specialists such as Nevro Corp. made the implants more powerful and effective. Combined with a national crackdown on narcotics and wanton pain pill prescriptions, they are spurring demand for implants.

The market may double to $4 billion in 10 years, up from about $1.8 billion in the U.S. and $500 million in Europe today, according to health-care research firm Decisions Resources Group.

“There was a big stigma around this when it first came out,” said Paul Desormeaux, a Decisions Resources analyst in Toronto. “The idea of sending an electrical signal through your nervous system was a little daunting, but as clinical data has come out and physicians have been able to prove its safety, there has been a big change in the general attitude.”

Read More: Millions Face Pain, Withdrawal as Opioid Prescriptions Plummet

At least 50 million adults in the U.S. suffer from chronic pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only a fraction of them would benefit from spinal-cord stimulation — about 3.6 million, according to Decisions Resources — but those are patients who are often given the highest doses of narcotics. They include people with nerve damage stemming from conditions like diabetic neuropathy and shingles, as well as surgeries.

“There is no question we are reducing the risk of opioid dependence by implanting these devices,” said Timothy Deer, president of the Spine and Nerve Centers of the Virginias in Charleston, West Virginia, a hotbed of the opioid epidemic. “If we get someone before they are placed on opioids, 95 percent of the time we can reduce their need to ever go on them.”

Studies show spinal-cord stimulators can reduce use of powerful pain drugs by 60 percent or more, said Deer, a clinical professor of anesthesiology.

Read More: Tangled Incentives Push Drugmakers Away From an Opioid Solution

Technology breakthroughs that are just now reaching patients came from a better understanding of how pain signals are transmitted within the spinal cord, the main thoroughfare between the command center in the brain and the body.

For some chronic pain patients, the spinal cord runs too efficiently, speeding signs of distress. Stimulators send their own pulses of electrical activity to offset or interrupt the pain zinging along the nerve fibers. They have been available for more than three decades, but until recently their invasive nature, potential safety risks and cost limited demand.

Market Leader Abbott

Illinois-based Abbott, with its $29 billion acquisition of St. Jude Medical this year, took the market lead with advances that allow it to target specific nerves and tailor the treatment. Nevro, of Redwood City, California, has rolled out improvement to its Senza system, a best-in-class approach that is safe while getting an MRI and operates without the tingling that often accompanies spinal-cord stimulation.

In the latest devices, which cost $30,000 or more, codes that are running the electrical pulses are more sophisticated. The frequency, rate and amplitude can be adjusted, often by the patients, which allows personalized therapy. 

The new implants are also smaller: The surgery is generally an outpatient procedure with minimal post-operative pain and a short recovery. They have longer battery life, reducing the need for replacement. And patients can try out a non-invasive version of the equipment before getting a permanent implant.

“This is really a defining moment in what we can do to impact the lives of people who suffer from chronic pain,” said Allen Burton, Abbott’s medical director of neuromodulation. “We can dampen the chronic pain signal and give patients their lives back.”

Medtronic Plc, which pioneered the technique but ceded the lead in recent years, is now working on next-generation devices. The company recently gained approval for the smallest pain-management implant, Intellis. In development are devices that can detect pain waves and adjust automatically, said Geoff Martha, executive vice president of Medtronic’s restorative therapies group.

“A self-correcting central nervous system — that’s the panacea. That’s the ultimate goal,” Martha said. “It could take a huge bite out of the opioid problem.”

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-26/spinal-cord-implants-to-numb-pain-emerge-as-alternative-to-pills

    As Bitcoin Sinks, Crypto Bros Party Hard on a Blockchain Cruise

    When 600 cryptocurrency enthusiasts set sail from Singapore on Monday night for their second annual Blockchain Cruise, the price of Bitcoin was hovering comfortably above $13,500.

    By the time their 1,020-foot-long ship pulled into Thailand on Wednesday, for an afternoon of bottomless drinks and crypto-focused talks on a sun-soaked private beach, Bitcoin had cratered to $10,000.

    The group of mostly young men, many of whom became wildly rich — at least on paper — as Bitcoin and other digital tokens skyrocketed last year, had in all likelihood just lost millions.

    But if anyone was fazed, they didn’t show it. The party rolled on as the sangria and Red Bull flowed, Bitcoin-themed rap music blared and drones filmed it all from above.

    “Nothing goes up in a straight line,” explained Ronnie Moas, the founder of Miami Beach-based Standpoint Research, who was one of the event’s speakers on Wednesday. In a best-case scenario, he said, Bitcoin could jump to $300,000 in as little as seven years.

    For skeptics of the crypto craze, it’s hard not to see all this as another sign of runaway exuberance — a repeat of the boosterish Las Vegas securitization conference, immortalized in The Big Short, that preceded the subprime mortgage meltdown of 2007. But the steadfast optimism on display at this week’s Blockchain Cruise also carries a warning for anyone betting on a cryptocurrency crash: It’s going to take more than a 50 percent drop in Bitcoin from its Dec. 18 high to drive out the diehards.

    “This is something that you either believe in or not,” said Moas, who has become a crypto-celebrity after issuing stratospheric price forecasts for Bitcoin.

    The cruise’s eclectic list of speakers included Jose Gomez, a former aide to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez; Kaspar Korjus, the head of Estonia’s e-residency program (which may issue its own cryptocurrency); and Jorg Molt, an early digital currency backer whose claim to hold 250,000 Bitcoins (worth $2.8 billion at the current price) couldn’t be verified.

    But perhaps the biggest draw was John McAfee, the anti-virus software pioneer with a checkered past. In 2012, while living in Belize, McAfee had run-ins with local police for alleged unlicensed drug manufacturing and weapons possession, but was released without charge. At one point, Belize police started a search for him as a person of interest in connection with the murder of his neighbor. McAfee said he was innocent and that he fled Belize because of persecution by corrupt officials.

    He now helps run MGT Capital Investments Inc., a small-cap tech company with a Bitcoin mining business. He has become a cryptocurrency evangelist on Twitter, touting the technology and various tokens to his more than 700,000 followers. Coinsbank, the digital currency exchange and wallet operator that organized the cruise, made him a headline speaker.

    On Wednesday, McAfee blamed the recent market slump on unfounded fear of government intervention. He urged cryptocurrency holders — one of whom sported a “Buy The Dip” t-shirt — to stick with their bets.

    Read more: Bitcoin Fall Extends to 25% as Fears of Crypto Crackdown Linger

    “You cannot force a ban on a distributed system,” McAfee said in an interview after his speech. “It’s like how do you ban smoking weed? You can’t ban it. People will come back.”

    Not every conversation on the Blockchain Cruise revolved around cryptocurrencies. Attendees, unsurprisingly, had plenty to say about blockchain — the distributed ledger technology that underpins Bitcoin — and its potential to improve industries from finance to health care.

    Charity was also a topic raised by speakers including Moas, who urged the audience to donate some of their newfound wealth and help reduce global inequality.

    Many attendees have far more than they need.

    Rowan Hill, a former coal miner in Australia, said he retired by 26 after getting in on the crypto boom early. After the cruise, he’s heading to Japan for a four-week snowboarding trip.

    “A lot of people can’t stand the price swings” in digital currencies, Hill said, donning a fedora and sunglasses as he lounged on the beach. “The average person just sells, and they lose out.”

    Joe Stone, an Australian who invests in digital assets, said market declines are easier to bear in the company of fellow enthusiasts. For many on the cruise, the next stop is another cryptocurrency conference in Bangkok.

    “There’s nowhere I’d rather be,” said Stone, after a late night of mingling at the ship’s cigar bar over whiskeys. “Otherwise I’d just be at my computer.”

    For more on cryptocurrencies, check out the   podcast:

      Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-19/as-bitcoin-sinks-crypto-bros-party-hard-on-a-blockchain-cruise

      Heres How the 20 Contenders for Amazon HQ2 Stack Up

      Now that Amazon.com Inc. has whittled down the list of cities it’s considering for its second North American headquarters, it’s time for a new round of everyone’s favorite parlor game: arguing about which city would suit the technology giant best.

      After the e-commerce company said it was seeking a second HQ to relieve pressure on its Seattle home base, it received proposals from 238 locations, full of rich economic incentives and goofy marketing gimmicks.

      Now it has narrowed the field to 20 places, including three bids from the Washington D.C., area, where Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has put down roots, as well as proposals from smaller Midwestern cities (Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis) and major population centers (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto and Dallas).

      Economic incentives aside — and there are plenty — here are some pros and cons of the places on Amazon’s very long shortlist.

      Atlanta

      Pros: A major airline hub and home to big corporations, such as UPS, Coca-Cola and Delta. A recent focus on redevelopment projects like the BeltLine — a series of parks built on an old railroad spur that runs through the city — may add to the city’s appeal.

      Cons: It’s still not that cool. Amazon prides itself on its urban Seattle locations being walkable and bikable, and a more suburban city like Atlanta may contradict that spirit. Terrible traffic, too.

      Austin

      Pros: Close to the distribution and business hub of Dallas but much hipper. No Texas income tax, an established tech industry and home to Whole Foods, which Amazon recently acquired.

      Cons: Small airport. Despite surging population, still doesn’t feel like a major U.S. city. 

      Boston

      Pros: Proximity to Harvard, MIT and a wealth of other colleges and universities, an airport with nonstop flights to Seattle and Washington, D.C., and a track record for providing rich relocation benefits, like the incentives the city offered GE in 2015.

      Cons: Has some of the same drawbacks as New York—high cost of living, tight residential and commercial real estate markets—without the same cultural amenities and depth of talent. 

      Chicago

      Pros: A heavy concentration of operations, marketing, finance and sales employees to poach from other industries. Good public transit, walkable neighborhoods and a variety of housing choices, from downtown apartments to traditional suburbs. 

      Cons: Shootings in the city have become national news, and the state is still emerging from dire financial straits. Digging its government out of debt could require tax hikes and cuts to public services. 

      Columbus

      Pros: A major research university in Ohio State, a fast-growing economy and cheap housing.

      Cons: The housing is cheap for a reason.

      Dallas

      Pros: Has been a magnet for corporate relocations in the last two decades, offering high quality of life and access to a deep pool of workers. There’s no state income tax, and unlike Austin, it’s a major city and an airline hub.

      Cons: Dallas suburbs may seem pretty stodgy to Amazon employees used to the cultural amenities in downtown Seattle. 

      Denver

      Pros: Denver is already popular with tech companies. Colorado boasts strong engineering schools and trounces the other finalists when it comes to close proximity to fresh powder. Fresh, and legal, pot, too, for those who partake.

      Cons: The exodus of workers to Denver’s burgeoning tech hub has already stretched the local housing market. Doesn’t offer a lot of geographic diversity from Seattle.

      Indianapolis

      Pros: Tech company salaries would go far in the heartland, and choosing Indianapolis would make Amazon arguably the most important employer in middle America.

      Cons: The sheer of size of the Amazon HQ could swamp the city’s residential and commercial real estate markets. As in Columbus, the cheap housing here isn’t a mystery. 

      Los Angeles

      Pros: The tech giant’s Amazon Studios division—quickly becoming a force in Hollywood, with original streaming TV series such as “Transparent” and “Man in the High Castle”—is based in Santa Monica.

      Cons: It’s an expensive place to live, a hard place to build in and, like Denver, it doesn’t offer a lot of geographic diversity from Seattle.

      Miami

      Pros: The Seattle workforce could use a little sun. Bezos, currently the richest man in the world, attended Miami Palmetto Senior High School.

      Cons: Lacks an existing tech ecosystem, has high housing costs and might be under water at some point.

      Montgomery County

      Pros: This Maryland county is one of three bids in or near the District of Columbia to land on the shortlist. Bezos has put down roots in the area with his acquisitions of the Washington Post and the city’s largest private home.

      Cons: Commercial real estate is probably more available here than in the U.S. capital, but the trade-off is asking the company’s workforce to work in the ’burbs.

      Nashville

      Pros: Good universities, no Tennessee income tax and fame as the country music capital of the world have already made the city popular with major employers.

      Cons: Like Austin and Denver, the city has already succeeded in convincing companies to relocate, and the local housing market has struggled to keep up with the flood of new workers.

      Newark

      Pros: Proximity to New York without the Big Apple’s staggering home prices. In October, then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pledged to back the city’s bid to lure Amazon with as much as $7 billion in tax breaks. 

      Cons: The city might be a tough sell for workers over San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York.

      New York

      Pros: Locating in New York would give Amazon access to the world’s top pool of finance and media talent and a growing tech scene.

      Cons: Housing prices are already high, one of the reasons locals in Seattle are pushing back against the company’s expansion there. There’s also limited space for new office construction.

      Northern Virginia

      Pros: Like Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Northern Virginia offers an educated workforce and proximity to both the federal government and the Washington Post. Commercial real estate is easier to come by than in the District of Columbia.

      Cons: The area isn’t as strong on urban appeal as some of the other contenders.

      Philadelphia

      Pros: Good transit, large population, and it’s close to New York and Washington, with much lower housing costs.

      Cons: Amazon would have to convince workers in those two cities that giving up cultural amenities for cheaper housing is a trade worth making.

      Pittsburgh

      Pros: Home to top AI and robotics university Carnegie Mellon, which have already drawn top tech companies like Google and Uber. Close to major distribution hubs in the middle of the country.

      Cons: It’s far from other major cities and tech hubs.

      Raleigh

      Pros: Part of an existing tech hub; offers cheap housing, good quality of life and the chance for Amazon to put its stamp on a city in a way that it couldn’t in more established metros.

      Cons: Clashes over gender identity and other hot political issues suggest North Carolina is still struggling over its own identity.

      Toronto

      Pros: A major financial and technology hub and a population that would put it among the top 10 U.S. metropolitan areas. Potentially easier to hire people from abroad because of a more open tone on immigration from the government than in the U.S.

      Cons: Housing prices are high compared to cities like Atlanta. The city also doesn’t have much space for housing and commercial development required for HQ2 in the downtown core. Moving integral operations north of the border holds political risks in dealing with the Trump administration.

      Washington, D.C.

      Pros: A strong technology workforce and proximity to lawmakers and regulators. Bezos put down roots in the area with his 2013 acquisition of the Washington Post.

      Cons: Lack of space and zoning restrictions could make it hard to find enough office space. Sticking the headquarters in the ’burbs would make it easier to find land but harder to appeal to workers. And you don’t get a U.S. senator to fight for you on the Hill.

        Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-18/amazon-ignites-fight-for-hq2-here-s-how-20-contenders-stack-up

        The White House and Equifax Agree: Social Security Numbers Should Go

        The Trump administration is exploring ways to replace the use of Social Security numbers as the main method of assuring people’s identities in the wake of consumer credit agency Equifax Inc.’s massive data breach.

        The administration has called on federal departments and agencies to look into the vulnerabilities of employing the identifier tied to retirement benefits, as well as how to replace the existing system, according to Rob Joyce, special assistant to the president and White House cybersecurity coordinator.

        “I feel very strongly that the Social Security number has outlived its usefulness,” Joyce said Tuesday at a cyber conference in Washington organized by the Washington Post. “Every time we use the Social Security number, you put it at risk.”

        Joyce’s comments came as former Equifax CEO Richard Smith testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the first of four hearings this week on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers from both parties expressed outrage over the size of the breach as well as the company’s response and grilled Smith on the timeline of the incident, including when top executives learned about it.

        Smith said the rising number of hacks involving Social Security numbers have eroded its security value.

        “The concept of a Social Security number in this environment being private and secure — I think it’s time as a country to think beyond that,” Smith said. “What is a better way to identify consumers in our country in a very secure way? I think that way is something different than an SSN, a date of birth and a name.”

        Joyce said officials are looking into “what would be a better system” that utilizes the latest technologies, including a “modern cryptographic identifier,” such as public and private keys.

        Read more: Five Data-Security Ideas Brought Up During the Equifax Hearing

        ‘Flawed System’

        “It’s a flawed system that we can’t roll back that risk after we know we’ve had a compromise,” he said. “I personally know my Social Security number has been compromised at least four times in my lifetime. That’s just untenable.”

        Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, said one possibility could be giving individuals a private key, essentially a long cryptographic number that’s embedded in a “physical token” that then requires users to verify that the number belongs to them. It could work like the chip in a credit card that requires the owner to enter a pin allowing use. He pointed to Estonia where they have deployed such cards that people use to validate their identity.

        “Your pin unlocks your ability to use that big number,” he said. The challenge is how to create the identifiers and how to distribute the keys. “It’s very promising” and “it’s possible to technically design something like this” but it could be expensive to design and disseminate such material to each American, he said. “This is a pretty big endeavor.”

        The administration is also participating in discussions Congress is having about the requirements of protecting personal data and breach notifications for companies.

        Avoiding Balkanization

        “It’s really clear, there needs to be a change, but we’ll have to look at the details of what’s being proposed,” Joyce said. In the response to the Equifax hack, though, he said, “we need to be careful of Balkanizing the regulations. It’s really hard on companies today” facing local, state and federal regulators as well as international rules, he added.

        The U.S. government began issuing Social Security numbers in 1936. Nearly 454 million different numbers have been issued, according to the Social Security Administration. Supplanting such an ingrained apparatus would not happen over night. The original intent was to track U.S. workers’ earning to determine their Social Security benefits. But the rise of computers, government agencies and companies found new uses for the number, which gradually grew into a national identifier.

        Over the decades, the Social Security number became valuable for what could be gained by stealing it, said Bruce Schneier, a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. It was the only number available to identify a person and became the standard used for everything from confirming someone at the doctor’s office to school.

        Akin to Infrastructure

        “They appeared at an age when we didn’t have other numbers,” Schneier said in an interview. “Think of this as part of our aging infrastructure” from roads and bridges to communications. “Sooner or later we as a society need to fix our aging infrastructure.” 

        He pointed to India’s wide-scale rollout of the Aadhaar card, a unique number provided to citizens after collecting their biometric information — fingerprints and an iris scan — along with demographic details, to almost 1.2 billion people. In the U.S., a more secure system could be designed, “but magic math costs money,” he said.

        Making any changes to the current system, including replacing numbers entirely or restricting who can use them, would likely require an act of Congress, according to Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, which advocates for limiting the use of Social Security numbers. 

        Rewriting Laws

        “You’d need to change a lot of existing public law," Rotenberg said. “There would need to be extensive hearings and study about the consequences. It’s a complicated issue." 

        The government’s own record of protecting Social Security numbers has its blemishes. Medicare, the federal health-care program for senior citizens, has long used the numbers on identification cards recipients must carry. After years of criticism by the agency’s inspector general for the risks that creates, new cards with different numbers are currently being rolled out.

        The failure of the Social Security number is that there’s only one for each person, “once it’s compromised one time, you’re done,” Bob Stasio, a fellow at the Truman National Security Project and former chief of operations at the National Security Agency’s Cyber Operations Center.

        Public and private keys — long strings of code — could help validate identities. For instance, the government could issue each person a public key and private key. If people were to open a bank account, for instance, they could provide their public key — instead of a Social Security number — and the bank would send a message that could only be decrypted using their private key. If the private key gets compromised, the government could easily issue another one.

        Saved by Math

        Stasio also cited emerging blockchain technology as another potential tool. It could create a kind of digital DNA fingerprint that’s “mathematically impossible” to duplicate. In place of a Social Security number, each person could receive a blockchain hash — a kind of algorithm unique to an individual — that is stamped on every digital transaction or action.

        That type of technology “could be used as a much more efficient and mathematically sound method of transaction, identification and validation,” Stasio said.

        While lawmakers were unanimous in criticizing Equifax’s response to a breach that compromised information on 145.5 million U.S. consumers, they were divided on how to fix the underlying issue. Democrats on the panel have reintroduced legislation imposing requirements for when companies have to report data breaches, while Oregon Republican Greg Walden noted the company’s human errors, saying “you can’t fix stupid.”

        Smith said the Equifax employee responsible for communicating that the vulnerable software needed to be patched didn’t do so. That failure was compounded when a scan of the company’s systems didn’t find that the vulnerability still existed, the former CEO said.

        Joyce’s comments helped take some of the focus off Equifax’s blunders, analysts at Cowen Inc. said in a note Tuesday.

        The “White House may be indirectly coming to Equifax’s rescue,” they wrote. “This reduces the risk of business-model-busting legislation such as a requirement that consumers opt-in to a credit bureau collecting their data.”

          Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-03/white-house-and-equifax-agree-social-security-numbers-should-go

          Bill Gates and Richard Branson Back Startup That Grows Clean Meat

          Cargill Inc., one of the largest global agricultural companies, has joined Bill Gates and other business giants to invest in a nascent technology to make meat from self-producing animal cells amid rising consumer demand for protein that’s less reliant on feed, land and water.

          Memphis Meats, which produces beef, chicken and duck directly from animal cells without raising and slaughtering livestock or poultry, raised $17 million from investors including Cargill, Gates and billionaire Richard Branson, according to a statement Tuesday on the San Francisco-based startup’s website. The fundraising round was led by venture-capital firm DFJ, which has previously backed several social-minded retail startups.

          "I’m thrilled to have invested in Memphis Meats,” Branson said in an email in response to questions from Bloomberg News. “I believe that in 30 years or so we will no longer need to kill any animals and that all meat will either be clean or plant-based, taste the same and also be much healthier for everyone.”

          This is the latest move by an agricultural giant to respond to consumers, especially Millennials, who are rapidly leaving their mark on the U.S. food world. That’s happening through surging demand for organic products, increasing focus on food that’s considered sustainable and greater attention on animal treatment. Big poultry and livestock processors have started to take up alternatives to traditional meat.

          “The world loves to eat meat, and it is core to many of our cultures and traditions,” Uma Valeti, co-founder and chief executive officer of Memphis Meats, said in the statement. “The way conventional meat is produced today creates challenges for the environment, animal welfare and human health. These are problems that everyone wants to solve.”

          ‘Clean Meat’

          To date, Memphis Meats has raised $22 million, signaling a commitment to the “clean-meat movement,” the company said.

          Cargill has “taken an equity position in Memphis Meats’ first series of funding,” Sonya Roberts, the president of growth ventures at Cargill Protein, said in an email, without disclosing the investment amount.

          “Our equity position with Memphis Meats gives Cargill entry into the cultured protein market and allows us to work together to further innovate and commercialize,” Roberts said. “We believe that consumers will continue to crave meat, and we aim to bring it to the table, as sustainably and cost-effectively as we can. Cultured meats and conventionally produced meats will both play a role in meeting that demand.”

          The investment is just the most recent by traditional meat companies. Tyson Foods Inc., the largest U.S. meat producer, has created a venture capital fund focused on investing in companies “to sustainably feed” the world’s growing population and in December announced a stake in plant-based protein producer Beyond Meat, which counts Gates among its early funders.

            Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-23/cargill-bill-gates-bet-on-startup-making-meat-without-slaughter

            Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

            A lecture explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens

            Its important for people to tell you what side they are on and why, and whether they might be biased. A declaration of members interests, of a sort. So, I am going to be talking to you about reading. Im going to tell you that libraries are important. Im going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. Im going to make an impassioned plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things.

            And I am biased, obviously and enormously: Im an author, often an author of fiction. I write for children and for adults. For about 30 years I have been earning my living through my words, mostly by making things up and writing them down. It is obviously in my interest for people to read, for them to read fiction, for libraries and librarians to exist and help foster a love of reading and places in which reading can occur.

            So Im biased as a writer. But I am much, much more biased as a reader. And I am even more biased as a British citizen.

            And Im here giving this talk tonight, under the auspices of the Reading Agency: a charity whose mission is to give everyone an equal chance in life by helping people become confident and enthusiastic readers. Which supports literacy programs, and libraries and individuals and nakedly and wantonly encourages the act of reading. Because, they tell us, everything changes when we read.

            And its that change, and that act of reading that Im here to talk about tonight. I want to talk about what reading does. What its good for.

            I was once in New York, and I listened to a talk about the building of private prisons a huge growth industry in America. The prison industry needs to plan its future growth how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldnt read. And certainly couldnt read for pleasure.

            Its not one to one: you cant say that a literate society has no criminality. But there are very real correlations.

            And I think some of those correlations, the simplest, come from something very simple. Literate people read fiction.

            Fiction has two uses. Firstly, its a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if its hard, because someones in trouble and you have to know how its all going to end thats a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, youre on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading. People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far.

            The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.

            I dont think there is such a thing as a bad book for children. Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of childrens books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading. Ive seen it happen over and over; Enid Blyton was declared a bad author, so was RL Stine, so were dozens of others. Comics have been decried as fostering illiteracy.

            Enid
            No such thing as a bad writer… Enid Blytons Famous Five. Photograph: Greg Balfour Evans/Alamy

            Its tosh. Its snobbery and its foolishness. There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isnt hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.

            Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a childs love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian improving literature. Youll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant.

            We need our children to get onto the reading ladder: anything that they enjoy reading will move them up, rung by rung, into literacy. (Also, do not do what this author did when his 11-year-old daughter was into RL Stine, which is to go and get a copy of Stephen Kings Carrie, saying if you liked those youll love this! Holly read nothing but safe stories of settlers on prairies for the rest of her teenage years, and still glares at me when Stephen Kings name is mentioned.)

            And the second thing fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. Youre being someone else, and when you return to your own world, youre going to be slightly changed.

            Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.

            Youre also finding out something as you read vitally important for making your way in the world. And its this:

            The world doesnt have to be like this. Things can be different.

            I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?

            Its simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.

            Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere youve never been. Once youve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.

            And while were on the subject, Id like to say a few words about escapism. I hear the term bandied about as if its a bad thing. As if escapist fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or for children, is mimetic fiction, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds herself in.

            If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldnt you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with(and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.

            As JRR Tolkien reminded us, the only people who inveigh against escape are jailers.

            Tolkien's
            Tolkiens illustration of Bilbos home, Bag End. Photograph: HarperCollins

            Another way to destroy a childs love of reading, of course, is to make sure there are no books of any kind around. And to give them nowhere to read those books. I was lucky. I had an excellent local library growing up. I had the kind of parents who could be persuaded to drop me off in the library on their way to work in summer holidays, and the kind of librarians who did not mind a small, unaccompanied boy heading back into the childrens library every morning and working his way through the card catalogue, looking for books with ghosts or magic or rockets in them, looking for vampires or detectives or witches or wonders. And when I had finished reading the childrens library I began on the adult books.

            They were good librarians. They liked books and they liked the books being read. They taught me how to order books from other libraries on inter-library loans. They had no snobbery about anything I read. They just seemed to like that there was this wide-eyed little boy who loved to read, and would talk to me about the books I was reading, they would find me other books in a series, they would help. They treated me as another reader nothing less or more which meant they treated me with respect. I was not used to being treated with respect as an eight-year-old.

            But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.

            I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.

            I think it has to do with nature of information. Information has value, and the right information has enormous value. For all of human history, we have lived in a time of information scarcity, and having the needed information was always important, and always worth something: when to plant crops, where to find things, maps and histories and stories they were always good for a meal and company. Information was a valuable thing, and those who had it or could obtain it could charge for that service.

            In the last few years, weve moved from an information-scarce economy to one driven by an information glut. According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003. Thats about five exobytes of data a day, for those of you keeping score. The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need.

            A
            Photograph: Alamy

            Libraries are places that people go to for information. Books are only the tip of the information iceberg: they are there, and libraries can provide you freely and legally with books. More children are borrowing books from libraries than ever before books of all kinds: paper and digital and audio. But libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internet connections, can go online without paying anything: hugely important when the way you find out about jobs, apply for jobs or apply for benefits is increasingly migrating exclusively online. Librarians can help these people navigate that world.

            I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them. They belong in libraries, just as libraries have already become places you can go to get access to ebooks, and audiobooks and DVDs and web content.

            A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it. That includes health information. And mental health information. Its a community space. Its a place of safety, a haven from the world. Its a place with librarians in it. What the libraries of the future will be like is something we should be imagining now.

            Literacy is more important than ever it was, in this world of text and email, a world of written information. We need to read and write, we need global citizens who can read comfortably, comprehend what they are reading, understand nuance, and make themselves understood.

            Libraries really are the gates to the future. So it is unfortunate that, round the world, we observe local authorities seizing the opportunity to close libraries as an easy way to save money, without realising that they are stealing from the future to pay for today. They are closing the gates that should be open.

            According to a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, England is the only country where the oldest age group has higher proficiency in both literacy and numeracy than the youngest group, after other factors, such as gender, socio-economic backgrounds and type of occupations are taken into account.

            Or to put it another way, our children and our grandchildren are less literate and less numerate than we are. They are less able to navigate the world, to understand it to solve problems. They can be more easily lied to and misled, will be less able to change the world in which they find themselves, be less employable. All of these things. And as a country, England will fall behind other developed nations because it will lack a skilled workforce.

            Books are the way that we communicate with the dead. The way that we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, that humanity has built on itself, progressed, made knowledge incremental rather than something that has to be relearned, over and over. There are tales that are older than most countries, tales that have long outlasted the cultures and the buildings in which they were first told.

            I think we have responsibilities to the future. Responsibilities and obligations to children, to the adults those children will become, to the world they will find themselves inhabiting. All of us as readers, as writers, as citizens have obligations. I thought Id try and spell out some of these obligations here.

            I believe we have an obligation to read for pleasure, in private and in public places. If we read for pleasure, if others see us reading, then we learn, we exercise our imaginations. We show others that reading is a good thing.

            We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.

            We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves. Use reading-aloud time as bonding time, as time when no phones are being checked, when the distractions of the world are put aside.

            We have an obligation to use the language. To push ourselves: to find out what words mean and how to deploy them, to communicate clearly, to say what we mean. We must not to attempt to freeze language, or to pretend it is a dead thing that must be revered, but we should use it as a living thing, that flows, that borrows words, that allows meanings and pronunciations to change with time.

            We writers and especially writers for children, but all writers have an obligation to our readers: its the obligation to write true things, especially important when we are creating tales of people who do not exist in places that never were to understand that truth is not in what happens but what it tells us about who we are. Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all. We have an obligation not to bore our readers, but to make them need to turn the pages. One of the best cures for a reluctant reader, after all, is a tale they cannot stop themselves from reading. And while we must tell our readers true things and give them weapons and give them armour and pass on whatever wisdom we have gleaned from our short stay on this green world, we have an obligation not to preach, not to lecture, not to force predigested morals and messages down our readers throats like adult birds feeding their babies pre-masticated maggots; and we have an obligation never, ever, under any circumstances, to write anything for children that we would not want to read ourselves.

            We have an obligation to understand and to acknowledge that as writers for children we are doing important work, because if we mess it up and write dull books that turn children away from reading and from books, we ve lessened our own future and diminished theirs.

            We all adults and children, writers and readers have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.

            Look around you: I mean it. Pause, for a moment and look around the room that you are in. Im going to point out something so obvious that it tends to be forgotten. Its this: that everything you can see, including the walls, was, at some point, imagined. Someone decided it was easier to sit on a chair than on the ground and imagined the chair. Someone had to imagine a way that I could talk to you in London right now without us all getting rained on.This room and the things in it, and all the other things in this building, this city, exist because, over and over and over, people imagined things.

            We have an obligation to make things beautiful. Not to leave the world uglier than we found it, not to empty the oceans, not to leave our problems for the next generation. We have an obligation to clean up after ourselves, and not leave our children with a world weve shortsightedly messed up, shortchanged, and crippled.

            We have an obligation to tell our politicians what we want, to vote against politicians of whatever party who do not understand the value of reading in creating worthwhile citizens, who do not want to act to preserve and protect knowledge and encourage literacy. This is not a matter of party politics. This is a matter of common humanity.

            Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. If you want your children to be intelligent, he said, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. I hope we can give our children a world in which they will read, and be read to, and imagine, and understand.

            This is an edited version of Neil Gaimans lecture for the Reading Agency, delivered on Monday October 14 at the Barbican in London. The Reading Agencys annual lecture series was initiated in 2012 as a platform for leading writers and thinkers to share original, challenging ideas about reading and libraries.

            Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming

            Challenges to Silicon Valley wont just come from Brussels

            Fine of 2.4bn levied on Google is a sign of the continued erosion of US tech firms domination of the internet

            The whopping 2.4bn fine levied by the European commission on Google for abusing its dominance as a search engine has taken Silicon Valley aback. It has also reignited American paranoia about the motives of European regulators, whom many Valley types seem to regard as stooges of Mathias Dpfner, the chief executive of German media group Axel Springer, president of the Federation of German Newspaper Publishers and a fierce critic of Google.

            US paranoia is expressed in various registers. They range from President Obamas observation in 2015 that all the Silicon Valley companies that are doing business there [Europe] find themselves challenged, in some cases not completely sincerely. Because some of those countries have their own companies who want to displace ours, to the furious off-the-record outbursts from senior tech executives after some EU agency or other has dared to challenge the supremacy of a US-based tech giant.

            The overall tenor of these rants (based on personal experience of being on the receiving end) runs as follows. First, you Europeans dont get tech; second, you dont like or understand innovation; and third, youre maddened by envy because none of you schmucks has been able to come up with a world-beating tech company.

            The charge sheet underpinning American paranoia says that the EU has always had it in for US companies. Microsoft, for example, has been done over no fewer than three times for various infringements of competition rules: 500m in 2004, 600m in 2008 and 561m in 2013. Intel was fined 1.6bn in 2009. Now Google has been socked for 2.4bn; and Facebook has already been fined 110m for providing the European commission with misleading information about its acquisition of WhatsApp. And then of course there is the commissions insistence that Apple should repay the 13bn in back taxes that it owes the Irish government because of overgenerous tax breaks provided to the company. (Ireland is vigorously contesting that ruling, making it the first government in history to turn down a windfall that would fund its health service for an entire year.)

            This allegedly biased record needs to be seen in a wider context, however. Its hardly surprising that the tech companies in the frame are American given that all the global tech giants are US-based. But in fact the European commission has also come down hard on local infringers of competition rules. In July 2016, for example, European truck manufacturers were fined 2.93bn for colluding on prices for 14 years. In 2008 several European car glass manufacturers were fined 1.35bn for illegal market sharing and exchanging commercially sensitive information. In 2007 the Spanish telco Telefnica was fined 151m for setting unfair prices in its domestic broadband market. And so on, so that if you include all years since 1990, the total amount of fines imposed by the European commissions competition regulator comes to 26.75bn.

            Given that record, you could say that the commission is actually a rather good regulator. But its also clear that there are significant differences between the European and American approach to competition law and antitrust. Some years ago, for example, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US investigated Google for the same behaviour that has landed it with the current huge fine. But in the end the FTC decided not to press charges. The European commission, provided with much the same evidence, reached the opposite conclusion.

            An
            An Amazon warehouse in Germany. Photograph: Christoph Schmidt/EPA

            How come? Basically there is a different regulatory culture in the US. There, the prevailing concern is with consumer welfare which, in the end, is about prices. As long as industrial power doesnt lead to increased prices, then its deemed OK which is why Amazon has thrived despite becoming a colossus. The European commission, in contrast, is focused on competition: monopolistic behaviour is considered illegal if it restricts competitors.

            As the commissions statement explains: Market dominance is, as such, not illegal under EU antitrust rules. However, dominant companies have a special responsibility not to abuse their powerful market position by restricting competition, either in the market where they are dominant or in separate markets. Otherwise, there would be a risk that a company once dominant in one market (even if this resulted from competition on the merits) would be able to use this market power to cement/further expand its dominance, or leverage it into separate markets.

            Google was found to have abused its dominance as a search engine by giving illegal advantage to its own comparison shopping service. Way back in 2002, the company had launched a price-comparison service called Froogle, later renamed Google Shopping. In 2008 it changed how it worked by systematically giving prominence to its own shopping-comparison results (for which it received payment from advertisers) and thereby in effect downgrading other shopping-comparison sites that might otherwise have figured highly in search results. This the commission deemed illegal.

            And so it is. But to lay observers theres something quaint about the actual nub of the dispute shopping-comparison sites. I mean to say, theyre soooo yesterday. Nowadays, half of all shopping-related queries begin not on Google, but on Amazon. So the complaints about anti-competitive behaviour that resulted in last weeks ruling started in 2008 nine years (about 63 internet years) ago. What this episode highlights is the growing time lag between the detection of illegal behaviour on the part of tech companies and its eventual punishment a lag determined by the inevitably slow pace of detailed legal investigation (often slowed further by intensive political lobbying) and the pace of tech-industry change. If societies are to be able to bring companies such as Google under effective democratic control, then we have to speed up this regulatory process. Otherwise we will continually be locking the door long after the horse has bolted.

            Which of course is exactly the way Silicon Valley likes it. This is a culture, remember, whose motto is move fast and break things (the Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerbergs original exhortation to his developers, withdrawn only when he discovered that one of the things that might get broken is democracy). In the tech industry, corporate leaders are hooked on the virtues of disruption, creative destruction and the belief that it is easier to beg forgiveness than to ask for permission. Most of them subscribe to the famous dictum of Scott McNealy, made when he was chief executive of Sun Microsystems: You have zero privacy get over it.

            Given that mindset, its not surprising that the industry is not just irritated but baffled by European scepticism and regulatory pushback. Although most Silicon Valley moguls see themselves as progressives they dont seem to understand cultural differences. (They dont understand politics, either.) Witness the Facebook bosss touching belief that the worlds problems could be solved if everyone were part of the Facebook community. Or the view of Googles former executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, that the presence of communication technologies will chip away at most autocratic governments, since the odds against a restrictive, information-shy regime dealing with an empowered citizenry armed with personal fact-checking devices get progressively worse with each embarrassing incident. When he tried that on Cambridge students a few years ago, some of them wondered what he had been smoking.

            Eric
            Eric Schmidt, Googles former executive chairman. Photograph: Getty

            Silicon Valley is a reality distortion field whose inhabitants think of it as the Florence of Renaissance 2.0. (Rapidly acquired wealth has powerful hallucinatory effects on people.) In a strange way, they share the former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfelds view of our continent as old Europe, a civilisation whose time has come and gone. So when German citizens object vigorously to having their homes photographed by Google Street View, or the Bundestag considers a law that would impose swingeing fines on social media companies that do not promptly remove hate speech from their services, or the European commission imposes a fine equivalent to 3% of Googles global revenue, they fume into their almond-coconut Frappuccinos and vow revenge.

            If thats how they see things, then its time they recalibrated. They are all children of a hegemony thats begun to erode. The era when Europeans and their governments quailed before American corporate power may be ending. The French were always a bit resistant to it (but then, being French, they would be, wouldnt they?) but now even the Germans have concluded that Europe can no longer rely on the US (or the UK) and must fight for its own destiny. In a way, the US-based digital giants should thank their lucky stars that Europe, for the most part, still consists of societies where the rule of law counts for something. Even when the companies dont like the outcome of our legal processes, they should be grateful that at least we follow them.

            The same cannot be said for other parts of the world that Google & co hope to dominate. China and Russia do things their own way, for example, and are entirely untroubled by legal niceties. As far as China is concerned, in 2010 Google was given the choice of obeying government demands or shutting down its Chinese search engine; it chose the latter option and is having to agree to government controls if it is to be allowed back. In Russia, Google reached a settlement with the local regulator to loosen restrictions on search engines built into its Android mobile operating system, to allow Russian competitors a share of the pie. Similar concessions will be required to operate in Iran and other Middle Eastern states. These regimes are the real enemies that US paranoids should fear. So while the 2.4bn fine may be unpalatable (though easily affordable) for Google, it should thank its lucky stars. At least it got a hearing.

            John Naughton is professor of the public understanding of technology at the Open University. He writes a weekly column in The New Review.

            Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jul/01/google-fine-challenges-to-silicon-valley

            What is the Petya ransomware attack, and how can it be stopped?

            Companies have been crippled by an attack dubbed Petya, the second major ransomware crime in two months. Olivia Solon answers the key questions

            Many organizations in Europe and the US have been crippled by a ransomware attack dubbed Petya. The malicious software has spread through large firms including the advertiser WPP, food company Mondelez, legal firm DLA Piper and Danish shipping and transport firm Maersk, leading to PCs and data being locked up and held for ransom.

            Its the second major global ransomware attack in the last two months. In early May, Britains National Health Service (NHS) was among the organizations infected by WannaCry, which used a vulnerability first revealed to the public as part of a leaked stash of NSA-related documents released online in April by a hacker group calling itself the Shadow Brokers.

            The WannaCry or WannaCrypt ransomware attack affected more than 230,000 computers in over 150 countries, with the UKs national health service, Spanish phone company Telefnica and German state railways among those hardest hit.

            Like WannaCry, Petya spreads rapidly through networks that use Microsoft Windows, but what is it, why is it happening and how can it be stopped?

            What is ransomware?

            Ransomware is a type of malware that blocks access to a computer or its data and demands money to release it.

            How does it work?

            When a computer is infected, the ransomware encrypts important documents and files and then demands a ransom, typically in Bitcoin, for a digital key needed to unlock the files. If victims dont have a recent back-up of the files they must either pay the ransom or face losing all of their files.

            How does the Petya ransomware work?

            The Petya ransomware takes over computers and demands $300, paid in Bitcoin. The malicious software spreads rapidly across an organization once a computer is infected using the EternalBlue vulnerability in Microsoft Windows (Microsoft has released a patch, but not everyone will have installed it) or through two Windows administrative tools. The malware tries one option and if it doesnt work, it tries the next one. It has a better mechanism for spreading itself than WannaCry, said Ryan Kalember from cybersecurity company Proofpoint.

            Where did it start?

            The attack appears to have been seeded through a software update mechanism built into an accounting program that companies working with the Ukrainian government need to use, according to the Ukrainian Cyber Police. This explains why so many Ukrainian organizations were affected, including government, banks, state power utilities and Kievs airport and metro system. The radiation monitoring system at Chernobyl was also taken offline, forcing employees to use hand-held counters to measure levels at the former nuclear plants exclusion zone.

            How far has it spread?

            The Petya ransomware has caused serious disruption at large firms in Europe and the US, including the advertising firm WPP, French construction materials company Saint-Gobain and Russian steel and oil firms Evraz and Rosneft. The food company Mondelez, legal firm DLA Piper, Danish shipping and transport firm AP Moller-Maersk and Heritage Valley Health System, which runs hospitals and care facilities in Pittsburgh, also said their systems had been hit by the malware.

            Shipping
            Shipping company Maersks IT system was impacted by the cyber-attack. Photograph: Mauritz Antin/EPA

            So is this just another opportunistic cybercrimnal?

            It initially looked like Petya was just another cybercriminal taking advantage of cyberweapons leaked online. However, security experts say that the payment mechanism of the attack seems too amateurish to have been carried out by serious criminals. Firstly, the ransom note includes the same Bitcoin payment address for every victim most ransomware creates a custom address for every victim. Secondly, Petya asks victims to communicate with the attackers via a single email address which has been suspended by the email provider after they discovered what it was being used for. This means that even if someone pays the ransom, they have no way to communicate with the attacker to request the decryption key to unlock their files.

            OK, so then who is behind the attack?

            Its not clear, but it seems likely it is someone who wants the malware to masquerade as ransomware, while actually just being destructive, particularly to the Ukrainian government. Security researcher Nicholas Weaver told cybersecurity blog Krebs on Security that Petya was a deliberate, malicious, destructive attack or perhaps a test disguised as ransomware.

            Ukraine has blamed Russia for previous cyber-attacks, including one on its power grid at the end of 2015 that left part of western Ukraine temporarily without electricity. Russia has denied carrying out cyber-attacks on Ukraine.

            What should you do if you are affected by the ransomware?

            The ransomware infects computers and then waits for about an hour before rebooting the machine. While the machine is rebooting, you can switch the computer off to prevent the files from being encrypted and try and rescue the files from the machine, as flagged by @HackerFantastic on Twitter.

            Hacker Fantastic (@hackerfantastic)

            If machine reboots and you see this message, power off immediately! This is the encryption process. If you do not power on, files are fine. pic.twitter.com/IqwzWdlrX6

            June 27, 2017

            If the system reboots with the ransom note, dont pay the ransom the customer service email address has been shut down so theres no way to get the decryption key to unlock your files anyway. Disconnect your PC from the internet, reformat the hard drive and reinstall your files from a backup. Back up your files regularly and keep your anti-virus software up to date.

            Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jun/27/petya-ransomware-cyber-attack-who-what-why-how

            Popular social media sites ‘harm young people’s mental health’

            Poll of 14- to 24-year-olds shows Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter increased feelings of inadequacy and anxiety

            Four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young peoples mental health, with Instagram the most damaging, according to research by two health organisations.

            Instagram has the most negative impact on young peoples mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young peoples feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

            The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact.

            The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate childrens and young peoples body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.

            The findings follow growing concern among politicians, health bodies, doctors, charities and parents about young people suffering harm as a result of sexting, cyberbullying and social media reinforcing feelings of self-loathing and even the risk of them committing suicide.

            Its interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing. Both platforms are very image-focused and it appears that they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people, said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, which undertook the survey with the Young Health Movement.

            She demanded tough measures to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young peoples mental health and wellbeing. Social media firms should bring in a pop-up image to warn young people that they have been using it a lot, while Instagram and similar platforms should alert users when photographs of people have been digitally manipulated, Cramer said.

            The 1,479 young people surveyed were asked to rate the impact of the five forms of social media on 14 different criteria of health and wellbeing, including their effect on sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-identity, bullying, body image and the fear of missing out.

            Instagram emerged with the most negative score. It rated badly for seven of the 14 measures, particularly its impact on sleep, body image and fear of missing out and also for bullying and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. However, young people cited its upsides too, including self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.

            YouTube scored very badly for its impact on sleep but positively in nine of the 14 categories, notably awareness and understanding of other peoples health experience, self-expression, loneliness, depression and emotional support.

            However, the leader of the UKs psychiatrists said the findings were too simplistic and unfairly blamed social media for the complex reasons why the mental health of so many young people is suffering.

            Prof Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.. We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media good and bad to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.

            Young Minds, the charity which Theresa May visited last week on a campaign stop, backed the call for Instagram and other platforms to take further steps to protect young users.

            Tom Madders, its director of campaigns and communications, said: Prompting young people about heavy usage and signposting to support they may need, on a platform that they identify with, could help many young people.

            However, he also urged caution in how content accessed by young people on social media is perceived. Its also important to recognise that simply protecting young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution. We need to support young people so they understand the risks of how they behave online, and are empowered to make sense of and know how to respond to harmful content that slips through filters.

            Parents and mental health experts fear that platforms such as Instagram can make young users feel worried and inadequate by facilitating hostile comments about their appearance or reminding them that they have not been invited to, for example, a party many of their peers are attending.

            May, who has made childrens mental health one of her priorities, highlighted social medias damaging effects in her shared society speech in January, saying: We know that the use of social media brings additional concerns and challenges. In 2014, just over one in 10 young people said that they had experienced cyberbullying by phone or over the internet.

            In February, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, warned social media and technology firms that they could face sanctions, including through legislation, unless they did more to tackle sexting, cyberbullying and the trolling of young users.

            Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/19/popular-social-media-sites-harm-young-peoples-mental-health