London houseboat mystery: who is leaving random ‘gifts’ for canal dwellers — and why?


single onion, still in its net bag for three. Two medium-sized tomatoes. An orange. Tamar Saphra was surprised to find these ingredients —all fresh, all within their sell-by date— left in a Sainsbury’s bag on the back of her canal boat, moored in Limehouse.

Still, she cooked the tomatoes and onion into a curry and ate the orange, assuming they had been left by neighbours going away.

Tamar and her partner Joe Warner had moved onto their wide beam together in November 2021. A member of the 20,000-strong London Boaters Facebook group, she began to notice other posts about gifted food: a spate of tuna cans left on boats in east London; a baguette in Victoria Park; a bag of mini chocolate croissants in Tottenham.

When, two months later, Tamar and Joe found a bag of fresh M&S kale and a handful of Twining’s teabags wrapped in tinfoil left loose on the bow of their boat, they were more unnerved. It was September, and they were now moored on Hertford Union Canal beside Victoria Park. They threw the kale away.

Food left on Laura Migales and Roger Berges’ boat

/ Laura Migales

“The first time, I thought it was quite a funny, normal thing. I was a bit creeped out the second time,” says Tamar. “The theory that people have is that it’s people who are going to break into your boat checking if you’re around. Are we the next boat?”

Tamar and Joe are two of a number of boaters who have received unwanted food —and other items— this year. More than 10 posts about “gifting” have been made on the London Boaters Facebook group, receiving hundreds of comments, with boaters sharing theories, explanations – and similar experiences.

Food is the main donation, but there have also been reports of a thesaurus, CDs, DVDs, coins, football boots, razors and a suitcase being left, amongst other items.

Helen Brice, who founded community watch scheme, Canal Watch London, first noticed reports of items being mysteriously left on boats in 2020. After petering out, the gifting returned this autumn, with Brice receiving private messages from eight different boaters.

As far as Brice is aware, the gifting has largely been concentrated around Hertford Union Canal and Regent’s Canal, particularly around Victoria Park. That said, there are accounts online from around London, including Enfield, Tottenham Marshes, Ladbroke Grove, Westbourne Park and Kensal Green. It is unclear whether they are connected.

“I’ve heard of strange things being left – I think a half-eaten sandwich was one of them,” says Brice. “In the private messages, I think there was a relief that they weren’t the only people on the receiving end of this.”

Loti Armstrong, who has lived alone on her boat for more than a year, was one of the people to contact Canal Watch after a small electric radiator and a brown Deliveroo bag —opened but food uneaten— were left on the stern of her boat on 25 September. It was early evening, and she was moored in Hackney Wick. They didn’t belong to her neighbour.

“We’d go out there in the morning and find things strategically placed,” says Amelia-Jane

/ Amelia-Jane

“The radiator was at a really odd angle – two feet were on the gunnel, a raised step which goes round the side of the boat. It was not stably balanced. And the bag of food was right by my door,” says Loti. “In order to have put it there, someone would have had to come onto my boat.”

Loti left the radiator and Deliveroo bag on the towpath, reported it to Canal Watch and called her father, unsettled. When she came out, under an hour later, the items were gone.

“Whoever was there probably came back and reclaimed the uneaten food,” she says. “It’s spooky. I’m a solo female boater and this was somewhere where I’d usually feel very safe…It really threw me off. Within a week, I’d put chains up and a bar on my door.”

The plot thickens

Thankfully, this was an isolated experience for Loti. For others, however, the gifting became more sinister.

For Amelia-Jane, who lives on a wide beam with her partner and two children, it started with a bag containing a weighed portion of pasta and cans of food, left in September. They assumed it had come from a food bank or had been left by another boater.

Amelia-Jane was heavily pregnant when the gifting began

/ Sam Friend @friendstudios

The next day, there was a new offering: a Sky box with a remote control. “The things started to get weirder and weirder,” says Amelia-Jane, who was heavily pregnant with the couple’s second child. “We’d go out there in the morning and find things strategically placed; larger and larger items, or placed farther and farther onto the boat, as if to prove that they’d been on there and we hadn’t noticed.”

The family received a tin of tuna with a razor placed on top, numerous bags of food, an open chicken pasta, a computer keyboard wrapped in a towel, an e-cigarette, a flannel, a glass lantern, sandwiches, half a bottle of Coke, an empty suitcase.

In total, Amelia-Jane says they received different items every day for two weeks in October, always between 8.30 and 11pm, while they were on the boat. Their lights were on, and it would have been clear to the gifter that they were in.

“If it was an act of charity, then they didn’t need to be deadly quiet. I started feeling like it was a game,” she says. “In my opinion, this game was all about proving that they could violate your personal space, not be caught, not be noticed and keep repeating it.”

She adds: “It was still happening when we brought our baby home. It felt weird and horrible – we’ve got two vulnerable children on here and I’d just recovered from giving birth. I wasn’t in a good state, and I felt like it was escalating, to the point where I thought: when is this person going to stop? Are they secretly going to try and come in the boat at night?”

Worried, Amelia-Jane posted on the Facebook group, asking for advice. Her post drew 77 responses, some making jokes; some arguing that the donations were charitable; some sharing similar experiences and urging her to contact the police. She was put in touch with Laura Migales and Roger Berges, a couple who had also received repeated gifts along the same stretch of canal in Victoria Park.

For Laura and Roger, the gifting began with a paper bag containing a bottle of juice, soap, a tin of sweetcorn, pyjamas and underwear (both used, but not visibly soiled).

“We threw it away. We were freaked out,” says Roger. “The day after, it was the same. It was another bag with an umbrella, a DVD and a newspaper.”

When it happened a third time, the couple posted on the group. Following advice, they installed a security camera on their boat.

Shampoo, a smoothie and a tin of sweetcorn left on Laura and Roger’s boat

/ Laura Migales

That weekend, Roger was working late, and Laura was alone with their cat when she heard a noise on the boat. Roger called her. “I was watching the camera at that moment. I was like: where are you? You’re in the boat. I said: ‘OK, the guy is on the boat.’”

“For me it was so scary. My heart was beating so fast. I didn’t know what his intentions were,” says Laura. “Victoria Park is dark. There are no people there, and no lights. And suddenly this guy’s there.”

‘The only thing you can do is throw the stuff away. And pray that next time, it won’t be you’

Judging by their camera recording, the man remained on the boat for almost an hour, leaving a bag containing clothes and food. He was still close enough to be picked up on the camera by the time Roger entered the park on his way back from work. “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if this guy was dangerous or violent.”

When Roger came back to the boat, they called the police.

“The police can’t do anything,” says Roger. Because fresh food items had been left, it was interpreted as a charitable gesture.

“If something were to happen in a normal house, I’m sure that the police would stay there and take time to look around. As a boater living on the canals, you don’t have a postcode or an address, so you aren’t taken seriously…I called the police three or four times and nothing happened. They didn’t come round,” Laura adds.

Instead, the couple decided to move their boat to Haggerston, actually spotting the man from their camera footage in the process. Like in their video, he was riding a Santander bike and holding a bag. Again, they did not confront him themselves.

The gifts stopped after the move – until, two weeks later and moored in Angel, they received a Deliveroo bag full of food, a bike helmet and selection of lightbulbs.

“You can’t do anything – the only thing you can do is throw the stuff away. And pray that next time, it won’t be you,” says Roger, who also reported their experiences to Canal Watch and the Canal and River Trust (CRT), a charity which looks after the UK’s waterways.

A computer keyboard wrapped in a towel left on Amelia-Jane’s boat

/ Amelia-Jane

Amelia-Jane reported her experiences to the police twice. “They just told me to keep reporting it, but they didn’t do anything. I didn’t see any police down here…They might have done if we lived in a house, but they don’t seem to be that bothered about people living on the towpath.”

As for Laura and Roger, the situation only stopped when Amelia-Jane and her partner, Tyrone, took matters into their own hands. Having received the images from Laura and Roger’s camera, they were able to recognise the man—wearing the same outfit as in the photos— when they heard a noise outside and saw him looking into a nearby boat.

“My partner ran out and confronted him, but as soon as he saw my partner he started walking off in the opposite direction. He wouldn’t look him in the face and completely denied it,” Amelia-Jane says.

The items stopped for a few days, before returning in full force. Eventually, Tyrone spotted the man again, and approached him a second time. “He was like: ‘Look, can you please stop leaving stuff on the boat? We’ve asked you once – please stop.’ Since then, we haven’t had anything…In my opinion, it was all about being anonymous, so once he was confronted, he didn’t do it again.”

Amelia-Jane and Tyrone had been moored in Victoria Park since September, under a CRT exemption which allows boaters with newborns to stay in one place for up to two months. After the gifting, her partner suggested moving, but Amelia-Jane was determined to remain. “I’m staying here – I’m not letting this man win and push me away…If I move, it’s just going to happen to someone else.”

What should you do if it happens to you?

  • Rather than confronting gifters directly, Brice says that boaters should report intrusive gifting as “suspicious behaviour” to the police, or contact Canal Watch London (canalwatchlondon@gmail.com), who can report it on their behalf or organise a patrol. Include your WhatThreeWords location in any report.
  • According to Jamal Thompson, a Mooring Ranger at CRT, the more reports filed, the more likely boaters are to get a response from authorities. Thompson advises reporting incidents to CRT too.
  • Share information with others and use the boating community for support, says Brice. Female boaters can join the London Boat Women Facebook group, where there is an “unspoken camaraderie”, understanding and mutual respect.
  • Consider additional security features, like a security camera, bars or a chain. Brice recommends an airhorn, which can be useful if you hear someone on your boat.

So who is the gifter? And why are they doing it?

Amelia-Jane, Laura and Roger are confident that they identified their gifter, a white man in his 30s or 40s, seen on a Santander bike. Broadly speaking, the spate of repeated gifting has now stopped, although there are still some reports of food and miscellaneous items being left on boats around London, following the same pattern.

There is still some debate about whether the items have been left charitably. In some cases, this is possible too. Notably, however, many of the boats affected were wide beams – larger, more expensive boats, and not the obvious target for charity.

No notes were left in any of these cases, and care was taken in being quiet. As Amelia-Jane points out, many of the items left on her boat were not suitable for consumption and unsafe for children.

To Brice, the repeat gifting around Hertford Union Canal is likely the work of one person – possibly the man captured in Laura and Roger’s images. It is unclear whether one individual is responsible for all the reports of unwanted gifts, which are spread around London, or whether this is the same gifter as in 2020.

“It’s very esoteric behaviour, to put it politely, so I wouldn’t put it past the same person,” says Brice, who works as a psychotherapist. “My assumption is that it’s mental health…In my experience of working with people that can do harmful or strange actions, there’s often some little myth that they’re telling themselves that they have to do.

“I think some people, quite rightly, were suspicious that they were scoping out the possibility of breaking in. There could be some sexual intrigue or deviancy. We don’t know. It’s all speculation. But if someone in authority could come and take us seriously, we’d be able to find out.”

‘The laws are more grey on the canal’

For all the boaters I speak to, the response —or lack of it— from police is symptomatic of a wider problem, where boaters’ concerns are not taken as seriously as those living in conventional residential properties.

Despite making multiple reports to the police, none of these boaters have received a response. Nor have their reports resulted in any kind of intervention.

The Metropolitan Police and Safer Neighbourhoods teams, who cover the canals, say that they have no knowledge of the incidents reported.

A spokesperson for the police said: “We would encourage anyone who believes they have been a victim of crime to report this to police via 101 or online; in an emergency dial 999. Any information reported to police can be factored in to the relevant Safer Neighbourhoods Team and used to develop local policing plans.”

The protections against trespass for boaters and people living in residential properties differ too, with different legal vocabulary to describe the intrusion. Loti says: “If it was on land —if it was someone’s house— there would be a name for it, like flytipping or trespassing.”

According to the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA), trespass, a civil tort, applies to land, and boaters would be protected against it under harassment or the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, which states that “unauthorised presence on board ship” can be liable to a fine.

“It is an invasion of your private property,” says Brice, who has lived on a boat for more than 13 years. “People assume we’re public property because the waterways and towpath are public. It reminds you how vulnerable the homes are when someone can just come on and leave stuff on your boat, and maybe try a door.”

Certainly, Loti says that these kinds of situations, where she might need to seek help, are a reminder of her vulnerability on the canals – physically and legally.

In August, she says she struggled to call an ambulance without a fixed address, despite being able to provide a location with WhatThreeWords. “That’s another example where, if you just had a little bit more lenience, recognition, legislation, it might be taken a bit more seriously…I don’t feel vulnerable, but I notice it at times where I don’t know how to say where I am or to explain what’s happening.”

Hertford Union Canal

/ Jim Linwood/Flickr

Likewise, Tamar and Joe’s boat was burgled in August 2021 as they were in the process of furnishing it. Despite almost £9,000 worth of belongings and equipment being stolen —including power tools, a washing machine, fireplace, chimney and new engine— and having a known perpetrator and proof, she feels like it was not taken seriously by police.

“Because boats move around a canal, it’s kind of a weird, lawless in-between space. Domestic problems in general are very difficult to get police support on. I think there’s a lack of knowledge – they don’t really understand the way we function, so they shrug their shoulders.”

“There is a kind of grey area with canal incidents,” says CRT’s Jamal Thompson. “Things get lost.” Incidents can be passed on to other jurisdictions, and, unless an instance is particularly serious, police are unlikely to attend – leaving safeguarding to charities and community-run organisations like CRT and Canal Watch London, who invariably lack the resources to cover everything.

“Because lot of the towpath is dark and there’s no cameras or CCTV, it does feel unsafe sometimes,” says Amelia-Jane. “The only reason it feels safe is because of the boats that are on it. That’s to do with ourselves, not with law enforcement. Boaters have made it a safer space.”

Certainly, this is the belief of Canal Watch and the NBTA, who argue that the presence of boaters on canals has helped to reduce crime and brought new life to previous “no-go” areas, like the Hertford Union Canal.

“Now, [Hertford Union Canal] is double-moored all the way. It’s much safer for the general public,” says Brice. “But we do elicit curiosity from people – invasive questions, invasive actions. Because we’re moored on public property and we move around, we just slip through the net.”

The food items left on boats —an onion here, a baguette there— started as an ostensibly benign mystery. As Tamar says, it was almost funny at first.

But this is not a whodunnit. What’s important here is not necessarily who is behind the gifting, but why it can happen at all.

It raises questions about the limits of privacy and property ownership, and about how incidents on the fringes of the law are handled.

Can an act which might be mistaken for charity constitute trespass? What is public property, and what is private? And, crucially, why don’t the same protections seem to apply to those living on land, and those living on water, mere metres away?

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Oracle will invest $1.5 bln in Saudi Arabia, open data center in Riyadh: Official

Oracle Corp plans to invest $1.5 billion in Saudi Arabia in the coming years as it builds up its cloud footprint in the kingdom and opens its third public cloud region in Riyadh, a company official said.

Increased demand for cloud computing has pushed technology companies such as Oracle, Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet’s Google to set up data centers across the world to speed up data transfer.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Saudi officials have pressed international companies to invest in the kingdom and move their regional headquarters to Riyadh in order to benefit from government contracts.

“We are finalizing the plans for opening the Riyadh region. We are still working with our suppliers before we can announce the actual date,” Nick Redshaw, a senior vice president at Oracle, said in an interview from Dubai.

Redshaw said the investment will be made over several years without providing detail. He added that Oracle would also expand the capacity of its cloud region in Jeddah, which the company first opened in 2020.

The company made the announcement as global tech companies gathered for a major tech conference in the Saudi capital.

Though Oracle lags its bigger rivals in the race to corner the cloud computing market, it was among the first large tech companies to open a data center in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom has been devoted hundreds of billions of dollars to an economic transformation, known as Vision 2030, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

While Oracle has been working with the government, Saudi Arabia has been trying to encourage foreign firms to set up headquarters in the country or risk losing out on government contracts and has given them until the end of 2023 to comply.

“We are working closely with the Saudi government to finalize plans for that regional headquarter requirement and we will announce them as we finalize that with them,” Redshaw said.

Oracle has also won contracts from the crown prince’s $500 billion flagship NEOM project, a futuristic mega city and economic zone which the crown prince is building on the Red Sea coast.

NEOM is one of our largest consumers of cloud capability in Saudi Arabia, Redshaw said.

Read more:

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Cinema chain AMC exits Saudi market

Saudi Arabia’s PIF signs deal with AeroFarms to establish ‘indoor vertical farms’

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Italy Reports Thousands of Exposed Computer Servers in a Ransomware Attack

The Italian government reported thousands of exposed computer systems worldwide due to a ransomware attack on VMware ESXi servers, just days after a United Kingdom derivates trading operator experienced a similar hack.

Florida Attorney General Opens New CyberCrime Unit Office

(Photo : Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – MARCH 07: Lt. Mike Baute from Florida’s Child Predator CyberCrime Unit talks with a man on instant messenger during the unveiling of a new CyberCrimes office March 7, 2008 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The person on the other side of the chat told Lt. Baute, who is saying he is a 14-year-old girl, that he is a 31-year-old male and sent him a photograph of himself. 

Ransomware Attack

Italy’s National Cybersecurity Agency (ACN) revealed thousands of computer servers were exposed to a ransomware attack, after targeting VMware servers. This affected countries like Italy, France, Finland, Canada, and the United States. 

As per Bloomberg‘s report, the agency will have a meeting with top officials on Monday to assess the attack and what will they do next to prevent this situation. Italian authorities then warned organizations to take action to protect their systems, as they were likely to have been affected by this situation.

Politecnico di Milano Cybersecurity Full Professor Stefano Zanero stated that this vulnerability is being targeted for the past two years, which is very surprising as other servers are still unsecured even now.

According to ACN, this was already resolved in the past. However, the agency found out that the server was still not fully fixed, causing the attackers to access the server.

Meanwhile, US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency stated that they were assessing the impact of the reported incidents. CISA is currently working with public and private authorities as they evaluate this matter to provide needed aid in order to prevent the same situation in the future. 

Politico reported that France was the first country to detect the attack. The cybersecurity agency of the country ANSSI released an alert on Friday to warn organizations to patch the vulnerability.

Also Read: Medibank Warns its Clients of Hackers Who Started Leaking Stolen Confidential Data

VMware’s Response

A spokesperson from VMware stated the company is aware of these incidents and already issued patches for the vulnerability that has been active for the past two years. South China Morning Post reported that customers who run ESXi versions that are impacted by CVE-2021-21975, and customers who are still not applying the patch should do it as soon as they can 

VMware stated that applying patches is security hygiene and is the key to preventing future potential attacks. 

UK’s Recent Attacks

A ransomware attack is a malware type that locks up files, following the hackers’ demand of payment to provide an encryption key. Just last week, Lockbit attacked ION Trading United Kingdom, which overturned derivatives trading. 

While ION declined to comment on whether a ransom was paid, LockBit stated that they received a ransom and unlocked those files immediately. According to the United States Justice Department, Lockbit has been active since January 2020, with a total of $100 million in extorted ransom demands.

Related Article: LockBit Ransomware Gang Offers Decryptor to SickKids Hospital, Apologizes After Wrongful Attack

Written by Inno Flores

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Google ‘Blink Engine’ Experimental Browser to Potentially Break Apple’s iOS Rules

Google is taking another step towards making the internet more accessible and widely adopted with a new experimental web browser for iOS. The browser, made with Google’s Chromium engine, has the potential to change the way web browsing for Apple devices works. 

Google Chrome App For iOS: Accessing the Powerful Chromium Engine 

The powerful Chromium engine, already used on Windows and MacOS operating systems, will make finding and accessing web content easier and faster on iOS. The Chrome browser is already one of the most widely used worldwide and is easy to install on any device. 

According to the story by Giz China, the only option available to those who want to use it on an iOS device is to install the Google Chrome app, which uses Apple’s WebKit engine. Although similar in principle, the experience is slightly different.

New Browser with Chromium Engine Could be Coming to Apple Devices 

A browser, called Blink Engine by the article, made with Google’s Chromium engine, and therefore with a similar experience as on other operating systems, would be a welcome addition for iOS users who are accustomed to the Chrome interface. More details were explained in an article by The Register.

Rumors have it that the new browser will most likely be rejected due to Apple’s strict guidelines for the App Store, which currently only allow browsers using the WebKit engine; however, this has yet to be confirmed, as explained further in an article by Mac Rumors

Google’s New Experiments with iOS: A Sign of Coming Changes? 

Google’s effort towards making the internet globally available and widely adopted is admirable, and this new experimental browser for iOS is proof of that. Although some of its features might not fit Apple’s current policies, it might be a sign of what’s to come for the Apple ecosystem.

It looks like Google is quietly preparing for potential changes coming to iOS in the near future. The search giant recently started working on an alternative browser for the iPhone and iPad, even though it will never reach users due to Apple’s App Store rules. 

Rumors of Possible Changes to iOS 17 App Store Rules 

Despite this, the project could be foundational if Apple decides to open its platform to third-party browsers with their own engines and app stores. The Google project is still in its early stages, described by the company as “an experimental prototype.” 

This could be due to the uncertain future of Apple’s App Store rules, thanks to the pressure from the Biden administration and other governments. This has sparked rumors that iOS 17 could come with some deep changes in this regard. 

Read Also: Google Chrome on Android Update Likely to Add ‘Quick Delete’ Feature: Here’s How it Works

Google Preparing for Market Changes in Anticipation of iOS Changes 

The search giant could be preparing for such changes, ready their product in case iOS allows third-party browsers and their own app stores. This could give Apple device users more browsing options, opening new possibilities for developers and users. 

Despite Google’s exploration of the iOS browser market, its usage is unlikely ever to become available to end users as the search giant will abide by Apple’s rules. 

Related Article: Google TV Android Gets Material You Design Upgrade: 4×5 Preview Size

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Bailiwick’s New IT Integration Center and Warehouse Helps Clients Navigate Supply Chain Challenges – IT Industry Today

Bailiwick’s New IT Integration Center and Warehouse Helps Clients Navigate Supply Chain Challenges – IT Industry Today – EIN Presswire

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More On-The-Move Internet For Rail Passengers

An Israeli company has been awarded a multi-million dollar contract to expand satellite-enabled internet access on trains.

It means passengers will have reliable and continuous internet during their journeys.

Israeli company Gilat Satellite Networks installs small, lightweight antennae to connect to satellite networks to provide high-performance video, voice, and data transfer. 

They’re designed to withstand harsh weather conditions and can operate in temperatures ranging from -40ºF to +131ºF (-40ºC to +55ºC). 

The company said it has signed a deal to install its antennae on trains in Asia-Pacific, but did not specify where. It described the deal as “multimillion dollar” but gave no further details.

Its antennae have been deployed throughout the world to enable satellite communications while vehicles are moving (SATCOM On-The-Move).

Gilat has been providing satellite-based communications for over 30 years for applications including mobility, military, government, and business.

​​”For many applications, SATCOM on-the-move is the only choice for reliable, continuous, and quickly deployable broadband connectivity,” said Amir Yafe, VP of Mobility & Global Accounts at Gilat.

“This project is an excellent example of how Gilat antenna systems can be used to provide better management of complex transportation networks, as well as reliable internet coverage for passengers.

“We are excited with the prospect of working on more projects like these to be deployed in the future.”

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Follow These Tips to Keep Your Money and Data Safe Online

Online shopping, banking, and bill pay are fast and convenient. With a few clicks on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer, you can buy things you want and need, pay your car payment, and deposit checks into your bank account, 24/7, without leaving home.

However, doing digital financial transactions also carries risks for hackers to gain illegal access to your accounts, steal your identity, and more. Credit card companies and banks can also experience widespread data breaches in which personal customer information falls into malicious hands.

In fact, “during the third quarter of 2022, approximately 15 million data records were exposed worldwide through data breaches,” according to Statista.

So, how can you protect your financial accounts and personal information on the internet? Follow these tips to help keep your money safe online.

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50 Indian government websites hacked in 2022: IT Ministry

A total of 50 websites belonging to India’s central government and state governments were hacked in 2022 and there were 8 data breach incidents connected to government organisations in the same year, IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnav said in response to a parliamentary question posed by MP Binoy Viswam on February 3. “There have been attempts from time to time to launch cyber-attacks on Indian cyberspace from both outside and within the country. It has been observed that such attacks compromised computer systems located in different parts of the world and use masquerading techniques and hidden servers to hide the identity of actual systems from which the attacks are launched,” the Minister added. No update on National Cybersecurity Policy: Indian government institutions are vulnerable to cyberattacks because there is no dedicated cybersecurity policy targeted at protecting them. The National Cyber Security Policy has been in the making for years now with the government not giving any timelines for the same. Interestingly, the IT Ministry on February 3 also responded to a question about the policy, merely stating that “the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) has formulated a draft National Cyber Security Strategy, which holistically looks at addressing the issues of security of national cyberspace.” The response, once again, doesn’t discuss the current status of the policy or any timelines. Why does this matter: Government institutions serve as the backbone for many critical functions and they contain the data of hundreds of millions of citizens. A cyberattack can not only bring these critical…

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Japan’s Murata forecasts 28% profit drop on smartphone slump

Japanese electronic components supplier Murata Manufacturing on Thursday cut its group net profit forecast for fiscal 2022 to JPY 226 billion (USD 1.76 billion), down 28% on the year, citing a sharp decline in demand for smartphones and computers.

The JPY 71 billion (USD 538.5 million) downgrade was its second for the fiscal year ending March 31. Sales are now expected to fall 7% to JPY 1.68 trillion (USD 12.7 billion), and operating profit to drop 30% to JPY 295 billion (USD 2.2 billion), both down from its last estimates in October.

“Demand for high-end smartphones slumped in China and elsewhere,” Chairman Tsuneo Murata said in a news conference.

With the Chinese economic slowdown, the company estimates global demand for smartphones at 1.07 billion units for fiscal 2022—a roughly 20% drop from fiscal 2021 and marking a downgrade from its initial prediction last April of 1.37 billion.

For the nine months that ended December, Murata reported a net profit of JPY 211.8 billion (USD 1.6 billion)—equivalent to 94% of its full-year forecast—indicating that its expectations for the current quarter are quite low.

Sluggish demand has led to plants running further below capacity, which the company estimates will contribute JPY 207 billion (USD 1.56 billion) to the reduction in operating profit from the previous fiscal year—a larger drop than in its October forecast.

“We’re lowering factory utilization rates to 80% in the January-March quarter in keeping with demand,” Chairman Murata said. Its plants had been operating at around 85% to 90% of capacity.

Inventory buildup has contributed to the production slowdown. In addition to components piling up at Murata itself on weak demand, the chairman noted customers holding larger-than-expected inventories amid factors including supply chain turmoil.

The yen’s recent strength has also been bad news for Murata. The company makes 65% of its products in Japan in sales terms, while earning 90% of its sales overseas, and had anticipated a boost from the Japanese currency’s plunge last year.

Currency factors are now expected to add JPY 109 billion (USD 826.6 million) to net profit compared with fiscal 2021, down from JPY 123 billion (USD 932.7 million) in the October forecast.

Murata is still calculating global smartphone demand for the fiscal year ending March 2024 but currently sees single-digit percentage growth, President Norio Nakajima said. A full-fledged recovery remains a long way off, he said.

This article first appeared on Nikkei Asia. It has been republished here as part of 36Kr’s ongoing partnership with Nikkei.

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Samantha Power’s upcoming Nepal visit: Let there be some big announcements

Samantha Power, first as a journalist and then as a senior official with the American government, visited many tragic places, especially the countries torn by civil wars, international conflicts, famine and natural disasters and the collapse of the economy. She will find Nepal, the country she is visiting, as a sort of respite from her busy international touring of catastrophic places.

It is true that Nepal is facing some serious structural issues including the concerning fact that the federal government is proving itself unable to collect enough revenues to meet all the needs. Linked to this, we are finally coming to grasp the reality that the economy, mostly controlled by an oligopoly of trading families, despite seeing some indicators that many EU countries would envy, is too dependent on imports. Yet it is undeniable that the country has been a success story for the way it has emerged and transitioned from the civil conflict.

At the same time Nepal is a symbolic case of what I call the “good governance conundrum”, a nation that could perform much better than what it does because of a still weak policy and accountability practices and standards.

The USAID, the agency Samantha Power leads, is the biggest bilateral partner to Nepal. Aid, , the three-letter word, always carries too many expectations and a number of disappointments in its execution. Still while it is almost inevitable it creates some sort of dependency on the recipient country, aid has been useful to Nepal.

With the visit of Power to Nepal, there will be a lot of expectations about new commitments from the United States of America, especially when just a few days ago visiting American Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland announced that the US will invest over $1 billion in Nepal over the next five years.

Probably Samantha Power will bring more clarifications about this commitment especially in terms of understanding if this amount will top the already very considerable portfolio of grants administered by USAID through its latest country strategy for Nepal.

Expectations in Nepal

So in this piece I will offer some ideas on what to expect from the administrator of USAID, the first, let’s not forget, to be granted a cabinet rank in the administration.  

At the same time, I do hope that Samantha Power will also focus on good governance and the implementation of a type of rule of law that is as effective and transparent as just and driven by democratic values.

Let’s start with the announcements she might make once here.

First about possible new visits to Nepal by the highest echelon of the Biden administration. In this regard, it should not be surprising if Power will announce a visit of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken but she could go even beyond that. In December some national media had hinted at the possibility that even Vice President Kamala Harris could make it to Nepal on a possible but not announced yet tour of South Asia.

Yet the real big deal, (yes a big deal) would only come if Power will announce a visit of President Joe Biden, a possibility that, as per now, is extremely remote but not entirely impossible considering that the US president is expected to visit India in September for the G20 Summit hosted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Going beyond this type of announcements, let’s now delve on what more concrete “presents” the USAID administrator might bring to Nepal.

Let me first tell you a story.

Some years ago, well before the pandemic, I had seen by chance the then head of the public affairs department being driven out from the Jawalakhel zoo. He was accompanied by a senior Department of State official that at the time was visiting, something that had been publicly announced by the American Embassy.

Considering that the zoo is supposed to move sooner or later to Bhaktapur, at the time I immediately thought that a location so central and so pretty could be the perfect venue for a future American University of Kathmandu. Perhaps, the same, for tactical and geopolitical reasons, could also be branded as the American University of South Asia or, even better, the American University in the Himalayas.

What is your take on this?

The officials at the Chinese Embassy in Baluwatar, and probably also thousands of education consultancies, might be extremely disappointed from this hypothetical development. But the truth is that many of them have already lost a considerable share of their business since the time many colleges started getting affiliated with a number of international universities—all of these of modest ranking but still able to offer an international degree.

Certainly, an announcement of this type would also create huge political turbulence, perhaps even bigger than those of the Millennium Challenge Corporation and yet a first-class higher education institution would benefit thousands of students.

A less controversial idea, certainly less ambitious but still significant from the symbolic point of view, could be the one to equip the Fulbright Commission with the capacity to act as a funding facility to support cutting edge research in the country.

Through competitive application processes, colleges and universities they are affiliated with could set up consortia and bid for funding. For example, even Tribhuvan University, that certainly can be defined as a “complex” institution, has its outliers and people capable of and willing to do well.

Likewise, public colleges can count on a number of committed teachers and they could be put in a position to work together with private colleges in order to get precious funding for research and new high standards teaching programs. If the Commission could not do the job due to limitations in its mandate, then, well, USAID could do it. This type of bilateral aid could be a game changer for the higher education system and probably, despite some ruckus at the beginning, something that everyone would be happy with.

Another idea could be the establishment of an Institute of American Studies like many already existing around the world, including, for example the one at the University of Sydney, formally the United States Study Center. Many will end up considering it as a sort of Trojan Horse of American diplomacy but actually the center could promote, in addition to international relations, a discourse on democracy and human rights.

Even if its research staff would act independently and would be free to promote more critical and dissident views (after all free speech is big in the US), still, such a proposal would hardly pass and would be welcome. Less controversially, another proposition would see the creation of a research center focused on American contemporary culture, from literature to movies to paintings and other forms of art. While a center focused on geopolitics from an American perspective would get a lot of pushbacks, a cultural institute would be simply fine and be a huge success. After all, China already has its Confucius Institute at TU and a big cultural center in Maharajgunj that, almost ironically, is very close to the premises of the American Embassy.

Now setting aside such types of very symbolically but still politically important undertakings, the health sector, an area where USAID certainly has expertise, needs a lot of support. This is where Power could make some big announcements. After all, both India and China have been very active on this domain and the citizens of the capital are grateful for that.

Moreover, many more are looking forward to the end of the expansion works of the Civil Service Hospital in New Baneshwor that remains a great present to Nepal by the people of China.

I almost bet that the announcement will come in the area of new support to startups in the economy. After all, the federal government just announced some new policies to boost the sector and an incubator or accelerator supported by American dollars could be actually very helpful for the myriad of frustrated budding entrepreneurs. Another area, something I would actually dream of, would be the establishment of a Martin Luther King Institute, a center focused on promoting the legacy of Dr King.

Imagine a center supporting human rights, democracy and “national service”, a term used in the US for volunteerism. Such an institution should not be seen negatively. It won’t get into the mess of geopolitics and international relations and would “only” advance a national discourse on values that are already enshrined in the Nepali Constitution, principles that are well accepted by all the political forces.

Less ambitious, but it would still make my day, would be a new line of funding by USAID on civic engagement that, through volunteerism, becomes a turbo charger of personal leadership and social inclusion.

Now enough with such daydreaming!

Promoting good governance

Let me now turn to the issues of good governance. Whatever new program or initiative will be announced by Samantha Power, I really hope that, while she will engage the political leaders and also the youths of the nation, she will really highlight the importance of effective and just governance, a governance that relies on and gets its strengths from the citizen’s agency and power.

The visit of Samantha Power might bring some new opportunities for Nepal. But she should highlight the centrality of good governance in building a prosperous Nepal.

Accountability and personal responsibility are the cornerstones of any successful and thriving democracies and Nepal aspires to be one. Any major announcements that will come with Power’s visit should be doubled down by a commitment of the United States to help the democratic institutions of the country and not just through more money because aid alone won’t work. Democracy, as many have said, is a messy system and Americans know it better than others.

Yet Power can bring a genuine commitment to support indigenous solutions and ways to help democratic institutions at all levels to take root and deliver for the people of this nation. Controversies will arise, no doubt, especially those driven by the fear of a new attempt by the Americans to exert their hegemonic influence in the region.

But let’s be pragmatic. While it is true that American foreign policy often only paid lip service to the values it proclaims to uphold so vigorously, the Biden administration should be fairly assessed in its intentions for the country and be seen for what it is, a very friendly and reliable partner of Nepal.

Let’s not forget that there is no one in the whole American administration better than Samantha Power that can convey the message that the prosperity and development of Nepal are truly at the heart of American foreign policy. And considering her understanding of and her personal experiences of the world, she might be the one able to offer some good advice on solving the “good governance conundrum” in very candid but effective ways.

Views expressed are personal.

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