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Sunburst: a moment of reckoning Towards the end of 2020, the National Security Agency (NSA) issued a warning, claiming that “Russian state-sponsored malicious cyber actors” had essentially hacked into a piece of network management software belonging to SolarWinds, which was installed on networks belonging to US government agencies and almost all Fortune 500 companies. Following discovery of this hack, dubbed Sunburst, the US department of Homeland Security promptly ordered all federal agencies to disconnect from the platform.  According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), the hack began in at least March 2020, and those responsible had “demonstrated patience,…
As lockdown slowly eases, hopefully for the final time, it remains unclear to what extent the changes to the world of work forced on us by the pandemic are here to stay. Although the Government wants to encourage people back into their workplaces, two thirds of employers are planning to retain a significant degree of remote working. Sectors such as banking, accountancy, legal services and tech seem likely to be at the forefront of the trend. If that is borne out, it will have significant implications for cybersecurity and data protection. Recent research by Doherty Associates suggests that 48 per…
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few years, it’s been hard to miss the rise of the so-called “influencer”. An influencer, is typically thought of as a person who has built up a sizable social media following, which lends them the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others. They have usually amassed their following as a result of carving a niche online, or by having knowledge or expertise on a specific topic; be it fitness and wellness, food or travel, and even their own physical appearance. By posting regularly on their preferred social media channels,…
We discussed in the first article in this series how our internet service provider (ISP) connects us to the internet. Here we look at how we connect to each other and our ISP and what other technologies are at work influencing our internet connectivity and experience. Modems and routers A modem (modulator-demodulator) converts data from a digital format, intended for communication directly between devices, into one suitable for a transmission medium. Most commonly, modems turn computer data into a modulated electrical signal for transmission over telephone lines. Alongside this, a router allows multiple computers to share one connection. ISPs now…
Australia announced its News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code in 2020. The aim of the code is to force specified digital platforms (currently Google and Facebook) to pay news media outlets (notably the Murdoch press) in respect of any links hosted on these platforms which point to news content. At first this may seem strange; why should news websites get compensation as a result of receiving more traffic from links? It seems the reason is down to the control which Google and Facebook wield over the overall digital advertising ecosystem. In short, the Silicon valley giants make the…
Uber drivers have by the company been treated as fully self employed contractors, as opposed to workers or employees. Uber has always argued that it merely provides a software platform rather than running a fully fledged taxi service – similar to the stance of social media companies that they are platforms rather than publishers. But the denial of responsibility by Big Tech is beginning to wear thin. The UK Supreme Court has now ruled, in the case of Uber BV & Ors v Aslam & Ors [2021] UKSC 5, that Uber drivers should be treated as workers for purposes…
The latest policy initiative to come out of the European Union towards the provision and regulation of digital services in the market place is the Digital Services Act (DSA) and its sister piece of legislation – the Digital Markets Act (DMA) – which seeks to build upon , expand and evolve the reach of the EU in the data world which was initially predicated upon the E–Commerce Directive 2000. The legislation The DSA specifically: addresses how organisations deal with illegal or potentially damaging, harmful and exploitative material online and proposes the basis of liability for online providers of material of…
Big changes here at infolaw Towers! The Internet Newsletter for Lawyers is now an online-only publication. The Newsletter has been published bi-monthly in print and pdf since the late 90s and online on the infolaw website since 2007. But the time has come for us to concentrate our efforts on our online services. We have the same commitment to the quality of our content and will continue publishing the range of quality articles that you’ve come to expect but in a continuous stream rather than as bi-monthly issues. We’ve taken the opportunity also to give the site a new lick…
URLs A Uniform Resource Locator (URL), colloquially termed a web address, is a reference to a web resource that specifies its location on a computer network and a mechanism for retrieving it. A URL is a specific type of Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), although many people use the two terms interchangeably. The most common URLs are those referencing web pages, primarily described here, but they are also used for many other applications. Most web browsers display the URL of a web page above the page in an address bar. A typical URL would be in the form http://www.example.com/index.html referencing a…
Facebook has announced that it will be moving all its users in the UK into user agreements with the corporate headquarters in California. Currently they have user agreements with the Irish subsidiary of Facebook, which are governed by EU law.  Facebook claims the reason for this change is due to Brexit: “Like other companies, Facebook has had to make changes to respond to Brexit and will be transferring legal responsibilities and obligations for UK users from Facebook Ireland to Facebook Inc.” But although Google previously announced a similar move, Twitter has stated that it plans to retain the existing…
We previously reported on the Online Harms White Paper in 2019, in which the government set out various proposals to reduce illegal and harmful online activity. The government has now published its full response to the consultation process. The government plans to take forward most of its original proposals, in the form of a forthcoming Online Safety Bill, which will “focus on the biggest, highest risk online companies where most illegal and harmful activity is taking place”. The new rules will apply to businesses which provide services that host user generated content and facilitate interaction between users, as well as…
On Christmas day, two speeches by the Queen aired on UK television. But only one was real. The real speech was delivered by the monarch herself and aired on the BBC, as is customary. The second was a parody performed by a “deepfake” of the Queen, and broadcast by Channel 4. Hundreds of viewers are reported to have complained against the digitalisation of the Queen to Ofcom, the UK’s communication regulator. Channel 4 viewers are not alone in their concern about deepfakes. They have been the preoccupation of law-makers around the world since their release for public consumption in…
How are new technologies changing the practice of law? With examples and explanations drawn from the UK, US, Canada, Australia and other common law countries, as well as from China and Europe, this book considers the opportunities and implications for lawyers as artificial intelligence systems become commonplace in legal service delivery. It examines what lawyers do in the practice of law and where AI will impact this work. It also explains the important continuing role of the lawyer in an AI world. This book is divided into three parts: Part A provides an accessible explanation of AI, including diagrams, and…
2021 is emerging as the year of hope. News of effective Covid vaccines, the promise of the US actively participating in the fight against climate change and the prospect of an overall less dramatic year than 2020 are all reasons to be optimistic. But 2021 will bring its own challenges and in the area of data protection, those challenges are not insubstantial. Much work lies ahead to resolve many of the complex issues that the current year has created, which will be the focus of the privacy, data protection and cybersecurity professionals’ efforts in 2021. Here is a select list…
The Domain Name System (DNS) is a hierarchical, decentralised naming system for computers, services and other resources connected to the internet. It translates domain names (like yourfirm.com) to the numerical IP addresses needed for locating and identifying computer services and devices with the underlying network protocols (like 95.232.149.44). The DNS provides a worldwide, distributed directory service and is essential to the functionality of the internet. Administration of namespaces The DNS address space is managed globally by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) which also administers IP addresses. IANA is a department of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers…
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. This glossary explains all the terms relevant to that practice and more generally to website development. There are many more useful articles on these topics on the Hallam Blog. 301 Redirect – A web server function where an old web page address or URL is redirected to a new one. A bit like redirecting mail when you move house but on a permanent basis. A 301 Redirect is a “permanent” redirection status indicating that the page…