How a homemade tool helped North Korea’s missile program

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SEOUL, (Reuters) – In 2009, a pop video from North Korea celebrated a new national hero – one that outside experts would later realize was at the heart of the secretive state’s banned nuclear and missile programs.

That hero, widely available in factories across the world, was the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine.

Big, grey and boxy, CNC machines use pre-programmed guides to produce intricate parts for everything from automobiles and mobile phones to furniture and clothes. They offer accuracy that human machine tool operators are unable to achieve.

In North Korea, thanks to a combination of homemade technology and reverse engineering, the machines now play a critical role in the weapons programs. They allow Kim Jong Un to build nuclear bombs and missiles without relying as heavily on outside technical aid or imports.

Nuclear weapons experts say this has helped him accelerate missile and nuclear testing despite international sanctions on the transfer of sensitive equipment. (Graphics on ‘Nuclear North Korea – here)

“North Korea’s centrifuges and new missiles all depend on components made with CNC machine tools,” said Jeffrey Lewis, head of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of Strategic Studies at Monterey, California.

“(They) are the essential underlying technology for producing missiles and nuclear weapons,” said Lewis.

Since 1996, CNC machines have been included in the Wassenaar Arrangement – an international arms control regime aimed at stopping the proliferation of equipment with both civilian and military uses. North Korea is not a signatory.

The country’s celebrations of its CNC technology have been fulsome. Hundreds of dancers in luminous orange and green performed the CNC pop song, titled “Break through the cutting edge,” at a Korean Workers’ Party celebration in 2010. In 2012, the year the South Korean hit “Gangnam Style” was released, the North’s CNC title was on karaoke machines nationwide, according to Choson Exchange, a Singapore-based company that trains North Koreans in business skills. The official video for the song opens with a long-range North Korean rocket soaring into a blue sky.

CUTTING EDGE

North Korea likely started to develop its own CNC machines in the early 1990s as part of a drive to build sophisticated missiles and nuclear weapons, nuclear experts say. It probably learned how to make them by taking apart machines it had imported from the Soviet Union.

Its first homemade CNC machine was introduced in 1995. Former leader Kim Jong Il gave the machine the “Ryonha” brand, according to a 2009 article in the country’s official newspaper, Rodong Sinmun. That was the first time state media mentioned the technology.

By 2009, the machines had become a mainstay of North Korean propaganda, as Pyongyang launched a nationwide campaign to boost domestic industry. Sanctions were mounting after its second nuclear test and a long-range missile launch that year.

North Koreans perform during mass games in Pyongyang, August 2011. Choson Exchange/via REUTERS

At the time, arms control experts raised concerns about a visit by former leader Kim Jong Il to a North Korean factory where homemade CNC machines appeared to be producing aluminum tubes. These could be used for nuclear centrifuges.

“By around 2010, it seemed they were capable of manufacturing various types of CNC machines,” said Kim Heung-gwang, a North Korean defector who taught at Pyongyang’s Hamhung Computer Technology University before defecting to South Korea.

But it wasn’t until 2013 that the Korea Ryonha Machinery Joint Venture Corporation, which produced the machines, was blacklisted by the U.N. Security Council for supporting the weapons programs.

And it was only in August this year that U.S. intelligence officials told Reuters North Korea likely has the ability to produce its own missile engines themselves. (Full Story)

Now, Kim Heung-gwang estimates, North Korea has about 15,000 CNC machines. He bases this on North Korean state media reports and photos as well as interviews with more than a dozen defectors who were scientists, professors or factory workers.

MASS PRODUCTION

Pyongyang hailed the homemade machines as a triumph for its governing ideology of “Juche”, which champions self-sufficiency. But that wasn’t strictly true.

In August 2016, state media released photos of Kim Jong Un visiting a factory using CNC machines with the logo of Swiss engineering firm ABB ABB.UL, one of the leading players in the global CNC machine market. It’s not clear when or how the machine reached North Korea.

ABB said the firm respects all applicable trade sanctions against North Korea, and undertakes not to deliver ABB equipment to the country. “That said, we cannot rule out that some of our equipment may have been resold to DPR of Korea without our knowledge or permission,” the company said in response to a Reuters inquiry, using North Korea’s official title.

A United Nations panel monitoring sanctions on North Korea said in a report this year that Tengzhou Keyongda CNC Machine Tools Co of China had been a supplier of Pyongyang’s new CNC machines. A sales representative for Tengzhou Keyongda told Reuters the company stopped selling CNC machines to North Korea four years ago, and no longer maintains trade relations with the country.

Despite sanctions, CNC machines are commonplace across North Korean manufacturing and can be brought in through China and Russia, said Lee Choon-geun, a senior fellow at the Science and Technology Policy Institute in South Korea.

The biggest loophole has been that while some CNC machines are banned because they can have both military and civilian functions, most serve civilian industry. “Given their dual-use capability, you could even import the machines for other purposes, take them to pieces and use them however you want,” said Lee.

The CNC song highlights this in its opening line: “Whatever it is, once we put our mind to it, there’s a program to make it,” it says.

By James Pearson and Hyonhee Shin in SEOUL; Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom in WASHINGTON, Lusha Zhang in BEIJING; Editing by Soyoung Kim, Lincoln Feast and Sara Ledwith

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Alibaba Group will invest $15B into a new global research and development program

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Alibaba Group announced today that it plans to invest more than $15 billion over the next three years into a global research and development initiative called Alibaba DAMO Academy. The Chinese tech giant said the program, which is currently recruiting 100 researchers, will help it reach its goal of serving two billion customers and creating 100 million jobs by 2036, while also “increasing technological collaboration worldwide.”

DAMO Academy (the initials stand for “discovery, adventure, momentum and outlook”) will be led by Alibaba Group chief technology officer Jeff Zhang and start by opening labs in seven cities around the world: Beijing and Hangzhou in China; San Mateo and Bellevue in the U.S.; Moscow, Russia; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Singapore.

Alibaba’s researchers will collaborate closely with university programs such as U.C. Berkeley’s RISE Lab, which is developing technologies that enable computers to make secure decisions based on real-time data. DAMO Academy’s current advisory board also includes professors from Princeton, Harvard, MIT, the University of Washington, Columbia University, Beijing Institute of Technology, Peking University and Zhejiang University.

Research will focus on a wide array of areas, including data intelligence, the Internet of Things, financial tech, quantum computing and human-machine interaction. More specifically, Alibaba Group said researchers will look at machine learning, network security, visual computing and natural language processing.

Alibaba joins other major Chinese tech firms in setting up labs and working closely with technology researchers and universities in the U.S. and other countries. These programs give companies the benefit of dipping into new talent pools without having to convince potential hires to move to China (and also potentially luring them away from rivals like Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple).

For example, Baidu’s research lab in Silicon Valley, which works on big data, deep learning and artificial intelligence, is recruiting from top American research universities, while Tencent (the maker of WeChat) announced plans in May to set up an AI research lab in Seattle. Huawei also set up an AI research partnership with U.C. Berkeley last year with initial funding of $1 million.

Featured Image: Bloomberg/Getty Images

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Jumia expands its lending program for small businesses across Africa

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Jumia, the dominant e-commerce company in sub-Saharan Africa, is expanding the small business loan program it launched earlier this year into every country where the company operates.

Working with the San Francisco-based lender Branch, Jumia began offering start-up loan for small businesses in May. The loans were pegged to vendors sales history with Jumia and projections for the future performance of the businesses.

In Kenya, sellers received loans of up to 30,000 Kenyan shillings (roughly $290), with a six-month term on the loan to finance their businesses. Interest rates on the loans are 1.2% per month.

The loans are made available in seconds on the Branch app and are disbursed through M-Pesa.

So far, 200 vendors have applied for, and received, loans from a beta version of the new program, ahead of the rush associated with Black Friday sales, according to the company.

For Jumia’s co-chief executive, Sacha Poignonnec, the expansion of the program is a matter of simplifying the lending processes for small and medium sized businesses in Africa.

“The Jumia lending program was launched with the aim of making it easier for SMEs to grow their businesses,” Poignonnec said in a statement. “We know that [small and medium-sized enterprises] on our platforms struggle to secure affordable credit from financial institutions, thereby limiting their potential to invest in their businesses and themselves.”

The company said that Jumia sellers across the continent will be able to access credit at terms that only go as high as 12% per year.

All it takes to apply for the program is for sellers to fill out an online application form. Credit decisions will be made within two days.

 

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Land Rover Experience Center Heritage Program will let you drive Defenders off road

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If you didn’t try the Land Rover Defender back when it was on sale in the 1990s and now don’t wish to part with your two-bedroom home to afford that same 1990s Defender, you’re not completely out of luck. Land Rover has just launched a driving experience program at three sites in the U.S. that will let participants act out their fantasies of being a tweed-capped, Wellington-wearing farmer somewhere in Scotland who has a bunch of scuffed Defenders around the estate that he daily-drives with two Shelties.

The half-day and full-day Land Rover Experience Center Heritage Programs will be offered in Mount Equinox, Vermont; Asheville, North Carolina; and Carmel, California, and will allow participants to drive the Defender off-road alongside modern Land Rover and Range Rover vehicles. Participants will be able to more than just drive the Defender through some boggy puddles — they will take this legendary workhorse through mud, water crossings, ruts and grassland — the kind of terrain that a lot of Defenders sold in the U.S. have yet to see (because a lot of them are owned by wealthy urbanites who take them to Whole Foods). Participants in the program will get personal coaching from experienced Land Rover instructors at these specially prepared sites.

Having just taken a modern Td6 Discovery up and down the trails of Mount Equinox, we can tell you that these off-road courses are not kidding around, and that you won’t be able to tackle these trails with a cup of caramel macchiato in one hand. When the Land Rovers that we drove weren’t going through WWII bomb crater-sized ruts, balancing on three wheels, they were scrambling through the forest up some hairy trails, navigating around big boulders and downed trees.
 



Land Rover Defender

Land Rover will offer half-day and full-day programs at three U.S. sites.


Drive Review East Coast Defenders Land Rover Defenders 90 and 110East Coast Defenders



“Recognized as one of our most iconic vehicles, the Defender has conquered some of the world’s most demanding terrain and we are thrilled to be bringing that experience to consumers through the Land Rover Experience Center Heritage Program,” said Kim McCullough, vice president of marketing, Jaguar Land Rover North America. “Brand loyalists and new fans alike now have the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a piece of history and continue to celebrate this historic Land Rover icon.”

The programs kick off this month at all three sites; half a day’s worth of driving is priced at $1,200, and a full day follows closely at $1,500. It’s not cheap, but it’s a better idea than selling all of your family’s cars and your in-laws’ cars (while they’re on that cruise in the Mediterranean for two weeks) to afford a 1990s Defender. Start practicing a Midlands accent now to get into the spirit of it if you plan on joining Land Rover on this program, and bring a pair of Wellies.
 


Range Rover Classic

Get your Range in order with Land Rover Heritage

Land Rover plans to launch its Heritage division at the upcoming Techno Classica in Essen, Germany, April 15-19. The Heritage division will become part of the Special Operations outfit and will …






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Uber catches a break in lawsuit involving alleged ‘Hell’ program

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Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley has dismissed a lawsuit involving Uber’s alleged use of a program called “Hell.” The lawsuit was originally filed in April by Michael Gonzales, who drove for Lyft during the time Uber allegedly used the software. He sought $5 million in a class action lawsuit.

Today, Judge Corley granted Uber’s motion to dismiss the claim with leave to amend, meaning Gonzales can file another lawsuit with an amended complaint. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleged Uber broadly invaded the privacy of the Lyft drivers, specifically violated the California Invasion of Privacy Act and Federal Wiretap Act and engaged in unfair competition.

In June, Uber filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying Gonzales made his allegations based on an article, rather than on claims that Uber intercepted any communications or eavesdropped on those communications.

“Even if those allegations were true, they would not describe anything other than the collection and use of location information that Plaintiff knew was being broadcast by Lyft, something to which he had expressly consented,” Uber’s motion to dismiss stated. “For all of the foregoing reasons, this Court should dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint.”

As the story goes, Uber allegedly tracked Lyft drivers using a secret software program internally referred to as “Hell.” It allegedly let Uber see how many Lyft drivers were available to give rides, and what their prices were. Hell could allegedly also determine if people were driving for both Uber and Lyft.

I’ve reached out to Uber and will update this story if I hear back.

Featured Image: Artur Debat/Moment/Getty Images

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Taylor Swift defends controversial ticket game: Program ‘rewards fans’

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Taylor Swift is speaking out after backlash over the singer’s “Taylor Swift Tix” promotion, saying she believes the sales plan is necessary to ensure tickets to her tour end up in the hands of her fans and not scalpers.

Some criticized Swift’s ticketing game, which is run by Ticketmaster, where fans can increase their chance of getting a coveted ticket to the singer’s show by buying Swift’s new album and merchandise, engaging on social media and watching her latest music video. Each effort boosts a fan’s chance to purchase a concert ticket for her upcoming tour.

Swift is defending the game after some called it “greedy,” saying the promotion method is the only way to make sure tickets got into the right hands.

“If these same tickets were offered on the open market, scalpers would snatch them up and fans would be paying thousands of dollars for them,” a rep for the pop star told Fox News. “Scalpers and bots will not take the time to engage in legitimate fan activity. Taylor rewarding her fans for posting selfies, watching youtube videos and downloading her albums, things her fans are already doing, is a great thing. This is a program that rewards fans for being fans and makes sure they get great tickets at face value.”

TAYLOR SWIFT’S ‘LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO’ VIDEO BREAKS 24 HOUR VIEWERSHIP RECORD ONLINE

Ticketmaster also stood by their Verified Fan program telling us it has been “very successful in proving its ability to keep bots and scalpers out of the ticket buying process.”

“This new program extension rewards her fans for the support they have always shown, by engaging in everyday behaviors that are a core part of their experience with Taylor, including fun and free activities like posting on social media and watching a lyric video, and more free activities will continue to be added,” David Marcus, EVP, Head of Music for Ticketmaster North America told Fox News.

Some fans sided with Swift praising her on social media for the ticket game.

Swift has not announced a tour date yet but the “Red” singer released her new single “Look What You Made Me Do” last week following a hiatus. On Sunday, the singer released her video for the song during MTV’s Video Music Awards. 

You can find Sasha Savitsky on Twitter @SashaFB.

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Taylor Swift defends controversial ticket game: Program ‘rewards fans’

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Taylor Swift is speaking out after backlash over the singer’s “Taylor Swift Tix” promotion, saying she believes the sales plan is necessary to ensure tickets to her tour end up in the hands of her fans and not scalpers.

Some criticized Swift’s ticketing game, which is run by Ticketmaster, where fans can increase their chance of getting a coveted ticket to the singer’s show by buying Swift’s new album and merchandise, engaging on social media and watching her latest music video. Each effort boosts a fan’s chance to purchase a concert ticket for her upcoming tour.

Swift is defending the game after some called it “greedy,” saying the promotion method is the only way to make sure tickets got into the right hands.

“If these same tickets were offered on the open market, scalpers would snatch them up and fans would be paying thousands of dollars for them,” a rep for the pop star told Fox News. “Scalpers and bots will not take the time to engage in legitimate fan activity. Taylor rewarding her fans for posting selfies, watching youtube videos and downloading her albums, things her fans are already doing, is a great thing. This is a program that rewards fans for being fans and makes sure they get great tickets at face value.”

TAYLOR SWIFT’S ‘LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO’ VIDEO BREAKS 24 HOUR VIEWERSHIP RECORD ONLINE

Ticketmaster also stood by their Verified Fan program telling us it has been “very successful in proving its ability to keep bots and scalpers out of the ticket buying process.”

“This new program extension rewards her fans for the support they have always shown, by engaging in everyday behaviors that are a core part of their experience with Taylor, including fun and free activities like posting on social media and watching a lyric video, and more free activities will continue to be added,” David Marcus, EVP, Head of Music for Ticketmaster North America told Fox News.

Some fans sided with Swift praising her on social media for the ticket game.

Swift has not announced a tour date yet but the “Red” singer released her new single “Look What You Made Me Do” last week following a hiatus. On Sunday, the singer released her video for the song during MTV’s Video Music Awards. 

You can find Sasha Savitsky on Twitter @SashaFB.

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Taylor Swift defends controversial ticket game: Program ‘rewards fans’

[ad_1]

Taylor Swift is speaking out after backlash over the singer’s “Taylor Swift Tix” promotion, saying she believes the sales plan is necessary to ensure tickets to her tour end up in the hands of her fans and not scalpers.

Some criticized Swift’s ticketing game, which is run by Ticketmaster, where fans can increase their chance of getting a coveted ticket to the singer’s show by buying Swift’s new album and merchandise, engaging on social media and watching her latest music video. Each effort boosts a fan’s chance to purchase a concert ticket for her upcoming tour.

Swift is defending the game after some called it “greedy,” saying the promotion method is the only way to make sure tickets got into the right hands.

“If these same tickets were offered on the open market, scalpers would snatch them up and fans would be paying thousands of dollars for them,” a rep for the pop star told Fox News. “Scalpers and bots will not take the time to engage in legitimate fan activity. Taylor rewarding her fans for posting selfies, watching youtube videos and downloading her albums, things her fans are already doing, is a great thing. This is a program that rewards fans for being fans and makes sure they get great tickets at face value.”

TAYLOR SWIFT’S ‘LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO’ VIDEO BREAKS 24 HOUR VIEWERSHIP RECORD ONLINE

Ticketmaster also stood by their Verified Fan program telling us it has been “very successful in proving its ability to keep bots and scalpers out of the ticket buying process.”

“This new program extension rewards her fans for the support they have always shown, by engaging in everyday behaviors that are a core part of their experience with Taylor, including fun and free activities like posting on social media and watching a lyric video, and more free activities will continue to be added,” David Marcus, EVP, Head of Music for Ticketmaster North America told Fox News.

Some fans sided with Swift praising her on social media for the ticket game.

Swift has not announced a tour date yet but the “Red” singer released her new single “Look What You Made Me Do” last week following a hiatus. On Sunday, the singer released her video for the song during MTV’s Video Music Awards. 

You can find Sasha Savitsky on Twitter @SashaFB.

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DJI launches bug bounty program for its software and drones

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DJI wants security researchers to turn their attention to its software and drones and will pay for discovered bugs or exploits. Called The DJI Threat Identification Reward Program, the program aims to create a formal line of communication between researchers and hackers to the drone maker. The company will pay between $100 and $30,000 for qualifying bugs, “depending on the potential impact of the threat.”

This program comes after a high-profile ban by the U.S. Army grounded the company’s drones after unspecified “cyber vulnerabilities” were discovered. Immediately following that ban, DJI added an offline mode that prevents any data from being sent to or received from the internet. But clearly there’s a need for a deeper inspection of the company’s wares.

DJI says this program was created to identify threats to users’ private data, videos, and logs. But it doesn’t stop there. DJI is also looking at issues that could result in flight safety concerns, such as DJI’s geofencing restrictions, flight altitude limits and power warnings.

“We want to engage with the research community and respond to their reasonable concerns with a common goal of cooperation and improvement,” DJI Director of Technical Standards Walter Stockwell said in a released statement. “We value input from researchers into our products who believe in our mission to enable customers to use DJI products that are stable, reliable and trustworthy.”

Discovered bugs can be emailed to bugbounty@dji.com.

Drones need to be safe if they’re becoming a mass-market hit that reaches deep into the consumer and commercial world. This is a long-overdue step that will hopefully result in drones that are harder to hit with malicious attacks.

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