Google to be anchor tenant at Toronto innovation hub – government source

TORONTO (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc, the owner of Google, will be the anchor tenant at a site being developed on Toronto’s waterfront by local and federal governments, and will move Google’s Canada headquarters to the facility, a source said on Tuesday.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will announce the agreement in Toronto on Tuesday with Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt and Dan Doctoroff, head of Alphabet’s Sidewalks Labs innovation unit, said the government source who was not authorized to discuss the plans ahead of a formal announcement.

Reporting by Andrea Hopkins in Ottawa; Editing by Jim Finkle and Paul Simao

Tech

Japan's MUFG to automate operations to free bankers for wealthy clients

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc (MUFG) plans to automate 30 percent of operations at its core banking unit by 2024, using software robots and artificial intelligence for paperwork that would otherwise take 9,500 employees to process.

Automation would free bankers to better serve Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd’s [MTFGTU.UL] wealthier clients, where there are opportunities such as estate management, said Kanetsugu Mike, the unit’s chief executive since June.

“Branch officials spend 50 to 60 percent of their time processing customer documents,” Mike said in an interview. “We can free up that time with robotics technology so more time can be spent with customers.”

The comments come as Japanese banks turn to automation under an efficiency drive aimed at blunting the impact of the central bank’s negative interest rates on profit margins, stricter capital requirements and a shrinking population.

Japanese banks have been slow to eliminate paper-based documentation compared with major global peers, partly because many forms require customers’ personal ink stamps – Japan’s official method of identification – rather than signatures.

Having fallen behind, they are now scrambling to reform processes – such as introducing stamp-free accounts – and employ new technology to fend off potential threats from their more tech-savvy competitors.

Mizuho Financial Group Inc, Japan’s second-biggest financial group after MUFG, last year set up joint venture J.Score Co with SoftBank Group Corp, using artificial intelligence to calculate individuals’ creditworthiness.

At MUFG, Mike said “robotics process automation” will handle half of branch operations by the end of the business year to March 2024, or 30 percent of the bank’s total. By the time of full installation, the automation would have handled the equivalent of 9,500 employee’s workload, he said.

Freeing up staff will allow for increased focus particularly on 1.2 million clients with assets over 100 million yen ($ 890,000), currently served by only 2,600 bankers, Mike said.

“We need more bankers, so we don’t have much of an excess workforce to begin with,” he said, dismissing any connection between automation and headcount.

Mike, who has spent nearly half of his 38-year MUFG career outside Japan, also said overseas business will continue to be a growth-driver, and that further acquisitions are likely in Asia and the United States.

He said the rate of expansion will not be as fast as in recent years given constraints such as higher capital requirements. MUFG’s assets grew nearly $ 1 trillion over the past decade to $ 2.7 trillion at the end of June.

“Our growth so far has been led by balance sheet expansion, especially after the global financial crisis,” he said. “We need to use our balance sheet more prudently now.”

Reporting by Taiga Uranaka; Editing by Clara Ferreira Marques and Christopher Cushing

Tech

Japan's MUFG to automate operations to free bankers for wealthy clients

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc (MUFG) plans to automate 30 percent of operations at its core banking unit by 2024, using software robots and artificial intelligence for paperwork that would otherwise take 9,500 employees to process.

Automation would free bankers to better serve Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd’s [MTFGTU.UL] wealthier clients, where there are opportunities such as estate management, said Kanetsugu Mike, the unit’s chief executive since June.

“Branch officials spend 50 to 60 percent of their time processing customer documents,” Mike said in an interview. “We can free up that time with robotics technology so more time can be spent with customers.”

The comments come as Japanese banks turn to automation under an efficiency drive aimed at blunting the impact of the central bank’s negative interest rates on profit margins, stricter capital requirements and a shrinking population.

Japanese banks have been slow to eliminate paper-based documentation compared with major global peers, partly because many forms require customers’ personal ink stamps – Japan’s official method of identification – rather than signatures.

Having fallen behind, they are now scrambling to reform processes – such as introducing stamp-free accounts – and employ new technology to fend off potential threats from their more tech-savvy competitors.

Mizuho Financial Group Inc, Japan’s second-biggest financial group after MUFG, last year set up joint venture J.Score Co with SoftBank Group Corp, using artificial intelligence to calculate individuals’ creditworthiness.

At MUFG, Mike said “robotics process automation” will handle half of branch operations by the end of the business year to March 2024, or 30 percent of the bank’s total. By the time of full installation, the automation would have handled the equivalent of 9,500 employee’s workload, he said.

Freeing up staff will allow for increased focus particularly on 1.2 million clients with assets over 100 million yen ($ 890,000), currently served by only 2,600 bankers, Mike said.

“We need more bankers, so we don’t have much of an excess workforce to begin with,” he said, dismissing any connection between automation and headcount.

Mike, who has spent nearly half of his 38-year MUFG career outside Japan, also said overseas business will continue to be a growth-driver, and that further acquisitions are likely in Asia and the United States.

He said the rate of expansion will not be as fast as in recent years given constraints such as higher capital requirements. MUFG’s assets grew nearly $ 1 trillion over the past decade to $ 2.7 trillion at the end of June.

“Our growth so far has been led by balance sheet expansion, especially after the global financial crisis,” he said. “We need to use our balance sheet more prudently now.”

Reporting by Taiga Uranaka; Editing by Clara Ferreira Marques and Christopher Cushing

Tech

Meet The X-Ray Visionary Looking for Signs of Life on Mars

Abigail Allwood is a translator. But instead of reading ancient texts, she reads ancient rocks, and for the past decade, the Australian astrobiologist has been exploring the most remote wilderness on earth in search of microscopic fingerprints of life.

She uses a tool called the PIXL, which she invented as a postdoc: It fires a hair’s-width x-ray beam at a rock. That energy stirs up the atoms on the surface, which then shoot back their own distinct x-rays. Combined, those x-rays create finely detailed maps of the rock, potentially revealing the past presence of microbes. She previously used the method to study rocks in Australia’s Pilbara region. “I stood barefoot on a seashore that was formed 3.45 billion years ago,” she says.

Now she’s gearing up to repeat her study—on Mars. Allwood is a principal investigator on NASA’s 2020 rover mission, the first woman to oversee a scientific instrument on a Red Planet expedition. “About bloody time!” she says. The PIXL will be one of just seven instruments aboard. “This isn’t going to be a shiny-object hunt,” she says. “It’s not like uncovering a dinosaur bone.” Her spectral science is far more subtle—but just as exciting.


Who: Abigail Allwood, astrobiologist

Idol: Naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough

Productivity hack: Oil painting. “It engages the other half of my brain, which is therapeutic.”

Unlikely hobby: “My husband and I are growing a rain forest on a 101-acre farm in Queensland.”

Last book read: The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert


Abigail Allwood’s work

FURR

2006: Rock Star Allwood identifies the oldest evidence of life on earth in Australia. The discovery lands her on the cover of Nature

Furr

2007: Beta Testing As a postdoc at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Allwood looks for traces of past life.

Furr

2008: Mars Calling NASA’s Mars program recruits Allwood to join its team of scientists.

Furr

2014: Breakout Role The astrobiologist is tapped to be a principal investigator on the Mars 2020 rover mission.

Furr

2021: The PIXL Allwood’s invention will scan Martian rocks for microbial biosignatures.


This article appears in the October issue. Subscribe now.

Hair and makeup by Amy Hanlin for The Rex Agency; prop styling by Amy Taylor

Tech

Google uncovered Russia-backed ads on YouTube, Gmail: WashPost

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Google has discovered that Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on YouTube, Gmail, Google search and other products, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

The ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated entity that bought ads on Facebook Inc, which may indicate a broader Russian online disinformation effort, the paper reported. Google runs the world’s largest online advertising business and YouTube is the world’s largest online video site.

Google, owned by Alphabet Inc, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the story.

Google has downplayed the possibility of Russian influence on its platforms, but launched a probe into the matter, according to the Post. Both Twitter Inc and Facebook have said that Russia bought ads and had accounts on their platforms.

A source who was briefed on Google’s review but who did not work for the internet and search group said Google had uncovered less than $ 100,000 in ad spending that had potentially been linked to Russian actors.

Facebook, on the other hand, unearthed $ 100,000 in spending from just one Russia-affiliated entity, the Internet Research Agency, the source said.

Meanwhile, Congress has started multiple investigations into the Russian interference in the 2016 election, with lawmakers on both political sides saying Russia intended to sow discord in the United States, spread propaganda and sway the election to elect President Donald Trump.

Google officials are expected to testify publicly before both the House and Senate intelligence committees on Nov. 1 alongside Facebook and Twitter about Russian attempts to use their platforms to influence the election.

Reporting by Dustin Volz; Additional reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Jeffrey Benkoe

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Hack of U.S. securities regulator rattles investors, stirs doubts

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street’s top regulator faced questions on Thursday about its defenses against cyber criminals after admitting hackers breached its electronic database of corporate announcements and may have used it for insider trading.

The incursion at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) struck at the heart of the U.S. financial system. The SEC’s EDGAR filing system is the central repository for market-moving information on corporate America with millions of filings ranging from quarterly earnings to statements on acquisitions.

Accessing documents before they are released publicly would offer hackers a lucrative opportunity to trade on that information.

The SEC said late on Wednesday that a hack occurred in 2016 but it had only discovered last month that the cyber criminals may have used the information to make illicit trades.

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton gave members of Congress a “courtesy call” about the hack late on Wednesday afternoon, said Rep. Bill Huizenga, chairman of the House subcommittee on Capital Markets, Securities, and Investment, which oversees the SEC.

”I’m glad that Jay Clayton has decided to acknowledge this and release it, warts and all,” Huizenga said.

”It’s hugely problematic and we’ve got to be serious about how we protect that information as a regulator. I’m hoping that this leads to some vast improvements and an uptick in the vigilance that all the regulators are going to have with information that’s coming to them.”

The disclosure has rattled investors’ faith in the security of their data. It comes two weeks after credit-reporting company Equifax (EFX.N) said hackers had stolen data on more than 143 million U.S. customers, and in the wake of last year’s cyber attack on SWIFT, the global bank messaging system.

It is particularly embarrassing for the SEC and its new boss Clayton, who has made tackling cyber crime one of the top enforcement issues during his tenure.

“The Chairman obviously recognizes the irony of the SEC potentially serving as the unwitting tipper in an insider trading scheme,” said John Reed Stark, a former SEC staff member and cyber expert.

The SEC has said it was investigating the source of the hack but it did not say when exactly it happened or what sort of non-public data was retrieved. The agency said the attackers had exploited a weakness in part of the EDGAR system and it had “promptly” fixed it.

CYBER SLEUTHS NEEDED

Clayton will be grilled on the incident and its aftermath at a hearing by the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday. In particular, questions are likely about how prepared the SEC was against such an attack and why it waited until now to disclose it.

Securities industry rules require companies to disclose cyber breaches to investors and the SEC has investigated firms over whether they should have reported incidents sooner.

In July, months after the breach was detected, a congressional watchdog office warned that the Wall Street regulator was “at unnecessary risk of compromise” because of deficiencies in its information systems.

The 27-page report by the Government Accountability Office found the SEC did not always fully encrypt sensitive information, used unsupported software, failed to fully implement an intrusion detection system and made missteps in how it configured its firewalls, among other things.

It also shut down a specialized unit on cyber crimes as part of a reorganization in 2010 despite former SEC chair Mary Jo White, in office when the hack occurred, telling Reuters in 2016 that cyber security posed the biggest risk to the U.S. financial system.

“Cyber crimes have continued to spread, thrive and become more innovative. Now, more than ever, the SEC needs a dedicated and specialized corps of cyber sleuths to track down and deter hackers,” said Stark, currently president of a cyber consulting firm.

The SEC has scored some victories in tackling cyber criminals. In 2015, the commission unmasked a ring of stock traders and hackers who had accessed company press releases from distributors Marketwire, PR Newswire and Business Wire before the information was made public to make $ 100 million in illegal profits.

Writing by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Nick Zieminski

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tech

Azure Stack’s third technical preview arrives

Azure Stack, Microsoft’s hybrid cloud system, is getting close to release. On Wednesday, the tech giant unveiled the third major public beta for customers that want to test it out.

The new release brings a handful of additional capabilities for users to test, like support for Azure D-Series virtual machine sizes and deployment with ADFS (Active Directory Federation Services) to support systems that don’t have constant connections to Azure. Technical Preview 3, as this release is known in Microsoft parlance, will get a handful of other features over the coming months, including support for Azure Functions and Active Directory multi-tenancy.

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February 2017: The month in hacks and breaches

On February 5, an anonymous hacker kicked off February’s breaches, taking down a dark web hosting service that the hacker claimed was hosting child pornography sites. In the process, the hacker showed just how easily the dark web can be compromised.

Then, on February 10, as many as 20 hackers (or groups of hackers) exploited a recently patched REST API vulnerability to deface over 1.5 million web pages across about 40,000 WordPress websites. “The flaw was fixed in WordPress 4.7.2, released on Jan. 26, but the WordPress team did not publicly disclose the vulnerability’s existence until a week later,” Lucian Constantin reported.

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(Insider Story)
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Amazon’s AWS S3 outage impacted Apple’s services

Yesterday afternoon, Amazon Web Services (AWS) experienced a significant and prolonged outage that brought a number of popular websites and services down. While Amazon is more readily known for its online retail business, the company’s cloud services division has quickly become a huge money maker for the Jeff Bezos-led company. What’s more, AWS provides the backbone for many well-known sites, including Netflix and Quora.

“We are investigating increased error rates for Amazon S3 requests in the US-EAST-1 Region,” Amazon said yesterday amidst a flurry of confusion and frustration.

The problem was eventually resolved, but not before a number of services from Apple were affected. For a brief while yesterday, iOS users experienced difficulties accessing the App Store, Apple Music, iCloud backups, iWork and other cloud-based services.

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U.S. surveillance law may see no new protections for foreign targets

Any reform of a controversial U.S. law allowing the National Security Agency to spy on people overseas will likely focus on its impact on U.S. residents, without curbing its use elsewhere.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) expires on Dec. 31, and some digital rights groups are calling on Congress to overhaul the law to protect the privacy of residents of both the U.S. and other countries. Congress will almost certainly extend the provision in some form. 

But a congressional hearing on Wednesday focused largely on the NSA’s “inadvertent” collection of U.S. residents’ data, with little time given to the privacy concerns of people overseas.

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