UK could be Europe’s ‘Largest’ Economy by 2030

 UK could be Europe’s ‘Largest’ Economy by 2030
The UK will be in a position to overtake Germany as Europe’s largest economy, according to the think tank the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR).

The CEBR predicts that Germany will lose its current top spot in Europe by 2030.

It cites the UK’s population growth as an aid to economic acceleration.

The report echoes the recent confidence of other business groups such as the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

Earlier this month the BCC said that the UK economy will surpass its pre-recession peak in 2014.

In its annual World Economic League Table, where it ranks the ups and downs of global economies, and forecasts their future position, the CEBR said in addition that China will overtake the US in 2028, which is later than some analysts have suggested.

The UK will overall perform second best of all advanced economies, the CEBR said.

Yet, this performance will still lag behind growth in emerging countries such India and Brazil.

The CEBR in its report added that in addition to the UK’s population growth boosting economic expansion, that “lesser dependence on other European economies” would also aid progress, as well as “relatively low taxes by European standards.”

However, as far as Germany, the group said that should the euro “break up”, that “Germany’s outlook would be much better.”

As for France, The CEBR said it will be one of the “worst performing” of the Western economies, and will be overtaken by the UK by 2018. This is because of slow growth due to “high taxation” in addition to the general issues of eurozone economies.

Ransomware has ‘infected about 250,000 PCs’

Cryptolocker Ransomware has ‘infected about 250,000 PCs’    

   

Infected victims are given a time limit to release their data before they lose it forever

A virulent form of ransomware has now infected about quarter of a million Windows computers, according to a report by security researchers. Cryptolocker scrambles users’ data and then demands a fee to unencrypt it alongside a countdown clock.

Dell Secureworks said that the US and UK had been worst affected. It added that the cyber-criminals responsible were now targeting home internet users after initially focusing on professionals. The firm has provided a list of net domains that it suspects have been used to spread the code, but warned that more are being generated every day.

Ransomware has existed since at least 1989, but this latest example is particularly problematic because of the way it makes files inaccessible.

“Instead of using a custom cryptographic implementation like many other malware families, Cryptolocker uses strong third-party certified cryptography offered by Microsoft’s CryptoAPI,”

“By using a sound implementation and following best practices, the malware authors have created a robust program that is difficult to circumvent.”

The first versions of Crytpolocker appear to have been posted to the net on 5 September.

Early examples were spread via spam emails that asked the user to click on a Zip-archived extension identified as being a customer complaint about the recipient’s organisation.

Later it was distributed via malware attached to emails claiming there had been a problem clearing a cheque. Clicking the associated link downloaded a Trojan horse called Gameover Zeus, which in turn installed Cryptolocker onto the victim’s PC.

By mid-December, Dell Secureworks said between 200,000 to 250,000 computers had been infected.

It said of those affected, “a minimum of 0.4%, and very likely many times that” had agreed to the ransom demand, which can currently only be paid in the virtual currencies Bitcoin and MoneyPak.

Top 10    infected countries Number of    infected systems identified using test “sinkhole” servers between    9-16 December Percentage    of total
Source: Dell SecureWorks
US 1,540 23.8%
Great   Britain 1,228 19.0%
Australia 836 12.9%
France 372 5.8%
Brazil 309 4.8%
Italy 204 3.2%
Turkey 182 2.8%
Spain 145 2.2%
China 138 2.1%
Canada 135 2.1%

“Anecdotal reports from victims who elected to pay the ransom indicate that the Cryptolocker threat actors honour payments by instructing infected computers to decrypt files and uninstall the malware,” added the security firm.

“According to reports from victims, payments may be accepted within minutes or may take several weeks to process.”

However, Trend Micro, another security firm, has warned that giving into the blackmail request only encouraged the further spread of Cryptolocker and other copycat schemes, and said that there was no guarantee of getting the data back.

Safety steps

Dell suggested PCs be blocked from communicating with the hundreds of domains names it had flagged as being linked to the spread of Cryptolocker, and it suggested five further steps the public and businesses could take to protect themselves:

  • Install software that blocks executable      fields and compressed archives before they reach email inboxes
  • Check permissions assigned to shared      network drives to limit the number of people who can make modifications
  • Regularly back-up data to offline      storage such as Blu-ray and DVD-Rom disks. Network-attached drives and      cloud storage does not count as Cryptolocker can access and encrypt files      stored there
  • Set each PC’s software management tools to prevent Cryptolocker and      other suspect programs from accessing certain critical directories
  • Set the computer’s Group Policy Objects to restrict      registry keys – databases containing settings – used by Cryptolocker so      that the malware is unable to begin the encryption process

Digital rights risk inconsistency, say MPs

Digital rights risk inconsistency, say MPs
A proposed new law designed to improve consumer protection for purchasers of digital music risks being inconsistent, a committee of MPs has said.

The government has proposed a Consumer Bill of Rights, to update some laws that have been unchanged for decades. Rights for those buying digital content are also included in the plan.
But the Business Select Committee said it would mean a refund for someone who bought a faulty CD but not a faulty download of the same music. “This is a clear inconsistency in the draft Bill that should be sorted out,” said Adrian Bailey, who chairs the committee.  “The consumer’s concern is getting a refund for their faulty product, not whether it counts as tangible or intangible content under consumer legislation.”

Overall, the committee said that the proposed law had the potential to “consolidate, simplify and modernise” consumer law if various “issues and inconsistencies” were resolved.
The Department for Business said it welcomed the report and would respond in due course.

Police Crackdown on Pirate Site Ads

Police Crackdown on Pirate Site Ads
Websites illegally hosting copyrighted content have been targeted by City of London Police.

In an operation run by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), 61 websites were identified as displaying unauthorised material.  They were asked to “correct their behaviour” and “operate legitimately”.

Details of those that did not were passed to brands with a request to stop advertising on the sites in an attempt to reduce their revenue.

Forty websites have now been suspended.

A partnership known as Operation Creative, involving City of London Police, advertising bodies and representatives of the music and publishing industries, is designed to tackle internet-enabled crime.

In a pilot lasting three months, websites that had copyrighted material on them without consent were contacted by the police and asked to remove the content and operate within the law.

Brands whose adverts were found on the sites were asked to stop any advertising to reduce funding to the sites. If the websites continued to ignore warnings, their details were passed by police to domain name registrars explaining that they were “facilitating copyright infringement under UK law”.

This pilot approach lasted three months and during that time PIPCU said the presence of adverts from well-known brands decreased by 12%. However, there was a significant increase in adverts that led users to explicit content or exposed users to malware as websites tried to replace advertising from those well-known brands, PIPCU said.

“Operation Creative is being run… to really get to grips with a criminal industry that is making substantial profits by providing and actively promoting access to illegally obtained and copyrighted material,” said Supt Bob Wishart.

The scheme encourages offenders to change their behaviour so that they are operating within the law, he added. “However, if they refuse to comply we now have the means to persuade businesses to move their advertising to different platforms and, if offending continues, for registrars to suspend the websites,” he said. Geoff Taylor, chief executive of BPI, said that it was important to disrupt funding to illegal websites.

“These sites expose consumers to scams and malware, deny creators their living, and harm brands by associating them with illegal and unsafe content,” he said.

It is hoped that the pilot will lead to a full operation starting in 2014.

Broadband Pledge as Firms mark Small Business Saturday

Broadband Pledge as Firms mark Small Business Saturday
Help for local retailers, such as faster broadband, has been announced by the government as the UK marks Small Business Saturday.  Ministers pledged to spend £100m on internet connections to mark the UK’s first celebration of small firms.  It aims to encourage spending in local shops, which provide almost two thirds of private sector employment.

David Cameron, shopping in Buckinghamshire, said high streets were the “lifeblood of our country”.

The government has pledged to remove some of the barriers faced by small businesses, such as accessing faster and better broadband and making it easier to switch energy suppliers. Business Secretary Vince Cable said it was committed to freeing small businesses from “unnecessary burdens” – with help to include providing more finance and improving access to advice and support. He added: “In particular we are tackling the issue of late payment, which can threaten the survival of otherwise healthy businesses. “We are enforcing prompt payment through the entire public sector and asking what more we can do to get credit flowing in the private sector.”

Meanwhile, a bus has been touring the country promoting the idea of getting people to shop on their local high streets. Based on a model which started in the US and spearheaded by shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, Small Business Saturday aims to support smaller retailers as they struggle against larger chains.

David Cameron marked the day by visiting family butcher A Cobb in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire – near his official country residence Chequers – where he bought 10 lamb cutlets in advance of his mother joining him for dinner. He said: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our country – essential for building a resilient, sustainable economy and a central part of my long-term economic plan for Britain. They account for 99 in every 100 businesses and keep more than 11 million people in work – so this isn’t about sentimentality, it’s about the future of Britain, creating jobs and turning our economy around.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband was due to visit south London on Saturday, where he was expected to pledge to help small firms by cutting cut business rates for 1.5 million small business properties, freezing energy bills and getting tough on late payers if his party were to win the next general election. He was expected to say: “Labour is changing so that we can go into the next election as the

Retail guru Mary Portas conducted a review of the high street two years ago – resulting in the creation of 12 government-funded “Portas Pilot” towns. She told the BBC that independent shops were a vital part of the “social infrastructure” of local communities. “It’s the small things that matter,” she said. “The chance of bumping into somebody you know, getting to know local shopkeepers, using local cafes, restaurants and libraries. It’s important we recognise how important they are.” She also said that it was “not more expensive” to buy from local retailers. “I’ve done surveys of local fruit and veg and local butchers compared to supermarkets and it’s not more expensive,” she said. “If we can get local councils to look at parking and get retailers behind that too – there’s a real joy in shopping in your local community.”

Enterprise and skills minister Matthew Hancock said independent firms were the “lifeblood” of the British economy and responsible for “nearly half the job creation in the UK”. “That’s why we are removing barriers to growth and supporting them, so that they can create jobs and compete in the global race,” he added.

Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said that the government needed to focus on helping small firms to expand. “The government is right to say that Britain is a great place to start a business,” he said. “Now it needs to become a great place to grow a business too.”

John Cridland, director general of business lobbying organisation the CBI, added: “Small and medium-sized businesses are at the heart of communities across the UK and are the job-creating dynamos of the recovery. “Small Business Saturday is a great way for people up and down the country to back their local high street in the run-up to Christmas and I would encourage everyone to get involved.”