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Is IRCTC Going To Sell User Data? Advocacy Groups Cry Foul Over Tender To Monitise Digital Data

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) website is one of the most ones in India and is ranked among the top 100 in the country.

It is used by millions to book trains, flights, buses, hotel rooms and more. It is also a treasure trove of personal data of users.

IRCTC Website
BCCL

But a new tender floated by the IRCTC has raised some serious concerns over data privacy.

The IRCTC has floated a tender to hire a consultant to monetise its passenger and freight customer data with the aim to generate revenue up to Rs 1,000 crore.

What the IRCTC tender says

According to the tender document, the data to be studied will include information captured by the transporter’s various public facing applications such as “name, age, mobile number, gender, address, e-mail ID, class of journey, payment mode, login or password” and other details.

Railway Station
BCCL

The IRCTC has more than 10 crore users, of which 7.5 crore are active users.

The document also stated that the consultant, once finalised, will be provided the details of applications and the data collected thereon for conducting the study for ‘Monetization of Digital Data of Indian Railways’.

The consultant shall study the data of passenger, freight and parcel businesses of the Indian Railways such as PRS, NGeT, NTES, UTS, Rail Madad, FOIS, TMS, e-CRM, and PMS, as well as vendor-related data from applications like IREPS, VMS and IPAS.

Railway Station
BCCL

The document titled ‘The Scope of Work for Project A: For study of Monetization of Digital Data of Indian Railways(IR)’ said the consultant would also be provided access to the digital data systems which generate behavioural data such as flow of passengers, class of journey, frequency of journey, travel time, booking time, age group and gender, payment mode, number of destinations and booking modes.

The objective of the exercise, it said, is for the IRCTC to leverage its data assets and market position to drive strong growth in revenues. This can be achieved by improving customer experience, expanding the portfolio of products being offered to the customers and/or developing new business lines and partnerships, the document stated.

new delhi railway station
BCCL

“IRCTC envisages a revenue generation potential of Rs 1,000 Cr through Monetization of its Digital Assets. IRCTC wishes to engage a consulting firm to help in identification, design, and development and roll-out of data monetization opportunities,” it said.

Allegations of selling user data

However, internet advocacy groups have alleged that the IRCTC is planning to sell user data, and also pointed out that this was not the first time such an idea was put forward by the Railway Ministry.

IRCTC’s clarifation

Following the controversy, A senior official of IRCTC clarifies that the company does not sell its data and there is no intention to do such things and media reports regarding this are totally fictitious.

The official also said that consultants are being hired to improve existing businesses. The consultant will also advise on new business lines which can be adopted by IRCTC and Indian Railways in near future.

A number of businesses like Rail Ticketing, Retiring room booking, Hotel booking, air ticketing, Bus booking, catering service etc. have been developed by IRCTC on its own platform. In the same way, a new business will also be developed by IRCTC on its own platform taking assistance or guidance from market leaders, and clarified by the higher authority of the company.

In addition to the clarification official says, IRCTC does not store any financial data of its customers on its system server, as at the time of online payment for its various services, control is passed on to the respective Payment Gateway or bank for the payment.

Train
BCCL

‘For new businesses’

The official also clarified that as a commercial entity, the company continuously explores opportunities in new business areas. To carry out these activities in a more professional manner and also to safeguard the commercial interests of its investors, a tender has been floated by IRCTC to appoint a consultant of international repute.

The idea behind this is to provide better assistance and guidance to IRCTC and Indian Railways for developing monetization strategies through data analysis. The consultant will guide the company on the monetization of activities, new businesses in line with the travel and associated needs of its customers and advise on monetization value of existing Digital Resources, using anonymous data and observing various Acts and laws including IT Act 2000 and its amendments, User data privacy laws including GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

For more on news, sports, and current affairs from around the world, please visit Indiatimes News.




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China’s Semiconductor Breakthrough – The Diplomat

Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), the largest chipmaker in China, has reportedly achieved a major breakthrough. TechInsight, a Canadian tech media outlet, revealed that SMIC had advanced its technology to a quasi-7-nanometer (nm) process, which might be a stepping stone for a true 7nm process. According to TechInsight, SMIC products made from the quasi-7nm process had been shipped for a year. Some media argued that the SMIC’s advancement showed that the U.S. blockade was too little, too late, and out of date.

SMIC’s most advanced chip process node successfully made in the past was 14nm, although it has always made strong attempts to move toward an advanced process node (below 10nm). However, due to SMIC’s inclusion on the Entity List by the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security in December 2020, which was designed to limit SMIC’s ability to reach advanced technology nodes of 10 nanometers or below, it has been blocked from obtaining the necessary Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography (EUV) machines from ASML of the Netherlands.

The use of an EUV machine is not necessary, in theory, to make the advanced process nodes. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the global leader in semiconductor manufacturing, used Deep Ultraviolet Lithography (DUV) machines in the early stage of its 7nm volume production. But using DUV machines requires more layers of masks, which means more times of exposure and more complexity. This will lead to a lower yield rate and a higher cost for each chip, making such a process commercially inviable nowadays.

But the semiconductor industry is of a strategic importance for China. Having the capacity to make advanced chips is more important than the prices of these chips. It appears that SMIC is indeed moving ahead to use this older technology to achieve technological breakthroughs. In October 2020, it was reported that SMIC had successfully developed “quasi-7nm” chips with the FinFET N+1 process using DUV machines.

TSMC’s chairman, Dr. Mark Liu, said that the 7nm process was a full node stride and a watershed in semiconductor manufacturing. The biggest difference between the 7nm and 14nm processes is that the number of transistors per unit area of the 7nm process increases greatly, and its energy consumption is reduced substantially. These makes 7nm chips far more powerful than 14nm one, yet also more economical. For example, in 2020, the cost of a 7nm chip was $233, which was not only lower than the $331 cost of a 16nm chip, but also lower than the $238 cost of a 5nm chip. In addition, the performance of NVIDIA’s A100 Tensor Core data-center processor, which uses TSMC’s 7nm process, increased by 20 times, so that the data center, which originally required 25 racks, can be reduced to a single rack.

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In other words, 7nm chips not only lower the cost of ownership, but also deliver high computing performance, which makes AI, cloud computing, and 5G economically viable both in business and military applications.

China’s Semiconductor Industry Sprints to Improve Self-Sufficiency

There is a big gap between chip consumption and chip manufacturing in China, meaning its chip self-sufficiency rate is low. In 2021, the size of China’s semiconductor market was about $186.5 billion, of which only $31.2 billion worth of chips were manufactured in China, both by foreign and domestic companies – a self-sufficiency rate of 16.7 percent. Furthermore, only $12.3 billion worth of chips were manufactured by China-headquartered companies, accounting for merely 6.6 percent of domestic consumption.

To reach the goal outlined by the “Made in China 2025” initiative, a self-sufficiency rate of 75 percent needs to be achieved by 2030. Under such pressure, it is not difficult to understand why China has subsidized semiconductor companies to build factories through various policy incentives. While there are notorious “unfinished fabs” cases in the development of the semiconductor industry, the failure has not caused China to retreat from its policy to fully support semiconductor factories.

The experience of developing the electronics industry in the past has made Chinese policy planners understand that, even though China’s semiconductor industry lags behind foreign manufacturers in terms of its production scale and technology, there are two effects that will urge China to support a large number of semiconductor companies through policies. First, a large number of Chinese manufacturers can “eat up” the market and compress the space for second- and third-tier wafer foundries. According to one report, by the end of 2024, China will be leading the world by building new 31 chip factories, surpassing 19 in Taiwan and 12 in the United States. Since most of the 31 new factories in China will be making mature processes nodes, there is little impact on the leading manufacturers, such as TSMC, Intel, and Samsung, all of which use advanced processes. However, China’s “fab sea” tactic may exert huge pressure on other mature process manufacturers.

Given that excess inventory has emerged in some areas of the electronics industry, and the market expects that there will be excess production capacity in chip manufacturing after 2023, price competition is inevitable. Foundries using mature processes will not be able to compete with Chinese semiconductor factories that enjoy major policy subsidies. Some second- and third-tier foundries may have to withdraw from the market, which will allow Chinese foundries to dominate the mature process market.

Second, if one or two Chinese companies can stand out among the large number of policy-supported foundries, there is a hope that this “national champion” can compete or even dominate the advanced process market. Lenovo in the PC/laptop sector and Huawei and ZTE in communications were all developed using such a model. And SMIC may be the leading Chinese company that can compete in the international advanced semiconductor arena and break technology strangleholds set by the United States. The 7nm advancement discovered by TechInsight is the best proof.

In the past, Chinese chip design companies were sanctioned by the United States and could not use TSMC’s advanced process to launch new products. If SMIC can extend the 7nm process to be used on other Chinese manufacturers’ products, it will allow China to accelerate its advancement in AI, high-speed computing, and 5G etc. The acceleration will enable China to achieve its goal of moving from a “manufacturing giant” to a “world manufacturing power.”

The Effectiveness of Entity List Needs to be Reassessed

We currently know very little about SMIC’s 7nm shipments, yield rates, and prices; it is not even clear whether there are other applications. However, the advancement of the 7nm process is expected to allow China to make breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and high-speed computing. In turn, that will also increase China’s economic and military threats to not only Taiwan, but all of East Asia.

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China has set goals to achieve “complete modernization” based on “informatization,” “intelligence,” and “mechanization” by the People’s Liberation Army’s 100th anniversary in 2027. Breakthroughs in AI, quantum computing, and hypersonics all require the assistance of advanced chips. Only blocking China from acquiring EUV machines will not prevent China from advancing in advanced process chips, which will eventually help its military buildup. More efforts are needed.

The United States is now trying to exert diplomatic pressure on Japan and the Netherlands to extend the current EUV embargo to include DUV machines. Some may argue that isolating China will only accelerate its march to self-sufficiency. From the past history of China’s industrialization, China’s ambition will not stop until the country dominates the entire market. Therefore, only limiting China from obtaining EUV machines will not suit the original purpose of keeping China from making advanced technology nodes of 10nm or below.


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Hackers to seize control of iPhones, Apple products

Apple regularly issues updates to the software powering the iPhone, and sometimes it’s OK to dawdle when it comes to installing them. But that’s not the case with its latest — an upgrade that Apple released Wednesday to close a security hole that could allow hackers to seize control of iPhones and several other popular Apple products.

Security experts are warning that everyone with an iPhone should install the update as soon as possible to protect all the personal information many people store on a device that’s become like another appendage for many.

Without the latest update, a hacker could wrest total control of Apple devices, allowing the intruder to impersonate the true owner and run any software in their name.

The company also issued fixes to block the security threat on iPads and Macs. The flaw may already have been “actively exploited,” according to the company, which has had to fix other security problems with the earlier this year.

HOW DO I FIX THIS?

The good news? There’s an easy fix: you should be able to find easily. Start with the Settings app, the one with an icon featuring what looks like gears in an old watch. Go into the “General” section, then “Software Update.” The page you see will offer simple instructions or, if your device has already updated, a message to that effect.

The whole process typically only takes a few minutes, according to security experts.

WHY IS UPDATING YOUR APPLE DEVICE SO URGENT?

Commercial spyware companies such as Israel’s NSO Group are known for identifying and taking advantage of such flaws, exploiting them in malware that surreptitiously infects targets’ smartphones, siphons their contents and surveils the targets in real time. It’s a risk that’s best to avoid.

WHY DOESN’T MY APPLE DEVICE DO THIS FOR ME?

Apple devices are set to automatic updates by default, but it can take some time before they get around to it. Updates also don’t usually trigger unless can be done and it usually won’t happen unless the iPhone is plugged into a power outlet at the time. It’s quicker just to check for the latest updates and do it manually.

DOES THIS MEAN APPLE ISN’T DOING A GOOD JOB PROTECTING ITS USERS?

No. The reality is that hackers are constantly looking for ways to gain unauthorized access to phones, tablets, computers, and other internet-connected devices for a wide range of malicious and illegal purposes. Apple’s products tend to be a prime target because they’re popular, making them an attractive target.

“Apple is no different to any technology company in that they’re constantly dealing with vulnerabilities,” said Jamie Collier, senior threat intelligence advisor for the cybersecurity firm Mandiant and an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies. “This is really a function of the fact that they’re innovating. They’re constantly developing, they’re constantly improving services, improving their technology, improving their software. That means they’re constantly rolling out new things.”

WHAT APPLE DEVICES ARE AFFECTED?

The affected devices include the iPhone6S and later models; several models of the iPad, including the 5th generation and later, all iPad Pro models and the iPad Air 2; and Mac computers running MacOS Monterey. The flaw also affects some iPod models.




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ROSEN, A TOP RANKED LAW FIRM, Encourages Unity Software Inc. Investors to Secure Counsel Before Important Deadline in Securities Class Action – U – IT Industry Today


ROSEN, A TOP RANKED LAW FIRM, Encourages Unity Software Inc. Investors to Secure Counsel Before Important Deadline in Securities Class Action – U – IT Industry Today – EIN Presswire

















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Olenivka: Inside the Russian prison camp where Ukrainians vanish

In a field whipped hard by frost, separatist soldiers handed their three Ukrainian captives a shovel each and ordered them to dig their own graves.

The three men – all civilian humanitarian volunteers – had been stopped at a checkpoint while trying to rescue family members from the besieged city of Mariupol. The soldiers, from the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic, took them blindfolded to a patch of fresh soil beside two neat crosses.

“They told us the guys buried there had also said they were volunteers but, when their mobiles were checked, they were ‘military’,” says Arkady, a 31-year-old professional climber, describing the start of his ordeal in March.

It would lead to him being disappeared for more than 100 days in what was then a little-known prison called Olenivka.

“They wouldn’t say what happened to the people buried there,” Arkady continues shakily. “They just kept repeating, ‘Now those two men are sleeping. Keep digging.’”


Coming soon to Independent TV – Bel Trew’s exclusive documentary

The Missing: The Ukrainians abducted in Putin’s war | On The Ground


This was just a few weeks into Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Arkady, from Mariupol, says he and two friends had been attempting their second trip into the strategic coastal city to rescue relatives.

Stopped by soldiers, they were taken to an abandoned house where they were beaten, forced to sleep in a pit outside in sub-zero temperatures, starved, and for two days made to dig their own graves.

“They kept threatening to kill us; we didn’t know if they were going to go through with it. We just kept digging,” he says.

Finally, the men were spared execution and instead were hooded, handcuffed, beaten, and shuttled between several overcrowded, squalid detention centres.

Eventually they were interned in Olenivka, just south of the occupied city of Donetsk.

Among the thousands of male and female inmates held in the detention centre over the course of the conflict so far were the Ukrainian soldiers who in May surrendered to Russia after a stand-off at Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant – including, say witnesses, British citizen John Harding.

The dilapidated, sprawling facility was unknown internationally until the morning of 29 July, when an explosion killed at least 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war; Russia and Ukraine have blamed the attack on each other.

The damaged Olenivka prison after the 29 July explosion

(Reuters)

Civilian internees say that, once they were captured, they had no direct communication with the outside world.

“My mother didn’t know anything for nearly a month,” Arkady, who was released a few weeks ago, tells The Independent. She found out only through someone else who had been released.

Oleksiy, head of an IT company before the war, was also arrested, separately, while trying to rescue civilians from Mariupol. He says he lost contact with his family “from day one”. “We were never charged with anything official,” he says. “We just vanished.”

‘Extremely disturbing allegations’

Russia has vehemently and repeatedly denied that its forces, or the separatist troops it backs, have violated international law in Ukraine. It has instead accused Kyiv of deliberately staging apparent war crimes to besmirch Moscow’s reputation and win Western support.

But a month-long investigation by The Independent has revealed evidence of possible violations of international law and potential war crimes, including torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and forced labour.

The Independent conducted more than a dozen interviews with recently released civilian detainees and with family members of those still believed to be held in Olenivka, as well as with activists held and tortured in detention centres in other southern cities, Ukrainian officials, and international and local rights groups that are monitoring the missing.

The testimonies also cast doubt on Moscow’s version of the events of 29 July: that Ukraine had rocketed its own PoWs in Olenivka to silence them about crimes Kyiv had committed.

Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs, said the testimonies contained “extremely disturbing allegations” of acts that, if proved to have taken place, would be likely to constitute war crimes.

“The Russian military authorities must urgently investigate them. Under the Geneva Conventions, captured combatants and other protected persons should be treated humanely at all times,” Mr Hogarth said.

“Enforced disappearance, the denial of food and water, forced labour and, of course, any kind of physical mistreatment are all serious breaches of international humanitarian law and would likely constitute war crimes.

“We’re deeply concerned about these appalling reports and the possibility that Russia and its proxies in the Donetsk People’s Republic are committing widespread war crimes against hundreds – and possibly more – [of] prisoners being held in terrible conditions.”

(PA)

Human Rights Watch did not comment directly on the findings, but has documented dozens of cases of torture, unlawful detention and forcible disappearance of civilians in the occupied south of the country.

Rachel Denber, deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia division, said that while the laws of war do allow warring parties to intern civilians in non-criminal detention if they pose a serious threat to security, this does not give them a “carte blanche” for abuse.

Little is known about Olenivka – information is tightly concealed – but it is understood that, on average, about 2,500 Ukrainians are held at the facility at any one time. According to officials and detainees, the prison was built to hold just half that number.

Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukraine’s former ombudsman for human rights, claims that at some point there may even have been as many as 5,000 citizens detained there. Among them were about 1,500 defenders of Mariupol who surrendered in May, according to Arkady Zhorin, the former commander of the Azov Regiment.

Experts say the lack of shrapnel damage is not consistent with a missile strike

(AP)

The Independent understands there are currently around 100 interned civilians, including a pregnant woman, almost all of whom were arrested at checkpoints or during what is called the “filtration process” in and around Mariupol.

Three former detainees we interviewed said that, in May, they had briefly met and talked to British citizen John Harding, originally from Sunderland, who had been fighting with the Azov Regiment when he was captured by Russian proxies.

They said he appeared confused and that he was suffering from memory loss due to an explosion shortly before capture.

All four former prisoners we spoke to were subjected to multiple beatings and interrogations on arrival, denied access to sufficient food and water, and made to live in overflowing squalid cells without electricity or running water in the depths of winter.

They said they were also forced to renovate several wings of the facility without compensation, which could amount to forced labour, another potential crime.

They described witnessing military PoWs being beaten with metal rods, wooden sticks and the barrels of guns. One of the civilians was put in “disciplinary” solitary confinement for three days after he questioned why he was being held.

Olenivka was thrown into the spotlight because of the 29 July explosion which, according to Russia, killed 53 soldiers – most of whom had surrendered in May after an 80-day siege at the sprawling Azovstal iron and steel works.

Russia has blamed the deaths on Ukraine, claiming Kyiv used a US-supplied HIMARS (high-mobility artillery rocket system) in a bid to stop its troops revealing the alleged crimes they had committed.

Investigators examine bodies of Ukrainian military prisoners at Olenivka

(AP)

But the Ukrainians have said it was a deliberate “false flag” attack to besmirch Kyiv and cover up abuses committed by Russia and its proxies against Ukrainian citizens being held in prison.

American officials agree, telling media outlets that intelligence shows Moscow putting together fabricated evidence to implicate Ukraine. United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has announced a fact-finding mission into the incident, but there is little hope of the truth emerging.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said last week it had still not been granted access to the PoWs affected by the attack on Olenivka. Staff were allowed to visit the location twice in May, but the ICRC said that at that point they were not permitted direct access to PoWs individually, something enshrined in the third Geneva Convention.

“I remember the Red Cross visiting once, but they were only allowed to visit the areas we had done up and rebuilt,” says Philip, another former civilian prisoner of Olenivka.

Arkady says they were made to clean the prison whenever there were “special” visitors. “When journalists or the Red Cross came, we were finally given decent food for once. Everything had to be spotless.”

‘They take you to this place and crush you’

The prisoners of Olenivka nicknamed it the “welcome party”. Eyes taped, black bin bags over their heads, they were dragged into a basement in Starobesheve, a town about 18 miles southeast of Olenivka.

There, at the height of winter, on freezing concrete, they were forced to their knees in the stress position for an hour and a half. Three civilians interviewed by The Independent say they were beaten almost unconscious as the Russian soldiers screamed questions and insults at them.

Occasionally the soldiers pressed the cold barrels of rifles to their heads, threatening to shoot. According to ex-detainees, most of those held by Russian and separatist forces at checkpoints around Mariupol were subjected to this routine before they were eventually delivered to Olenivka, where they were again forced to endure another “welcome party”.

“They are like receptions for us,” says Oleksiy, who was first picked up on 28 March at a checkpoint near Nikolski, a northwestern entrance to Mariupol. “We could hear the sounds of gunfire, they were threatening us with guns.”

“‘At points we could hear the screams of others being tortured,” adds Vitaliy, a truck driver who had teamed up with Oleksiy just the day before they set off for their ill-fated trip. “They told us, ‘The desire to be volunteers will be beaten out of you.’”

Olenivka prison as described by former detainees

(AP/The Independent)

Philip, an entrepreneur before the war, was arrested separately on the same day as Vitaliy and Oleksiy while trying to leave Mariupol with rescued civilians. He describes the same treatment.

He says that a month into his detention at Olenivka, he was held in solitary confinement for three days on the ground floor of “DIZO” – a two-storey “disciplinary” block in a southeastern corner of the facility.

There, Philip says, he was beaten and starved. “They take you to this place to humiliate and crush you,” he adds. “I kept asking the guards, what had I done? I don’t know why I was there. I am a civilian, I was never charged with anything or accused of anything.”

All four men say that, despite the abuse, they were treated far better than the Ukrainian soldiers.

“Before the Azov Brigade arrived in May, the beatings of the PoWs would take place in front of our eyes. We saw how bad it was,” Oleksiy says, describing ferocious attacks in which PoWs would collapse.

After hundreds of Azov fighters arrived, they shifted the torture rooms to DIZO. “We were told they would beat them using guns, their legs, wooden sticks and metal rods. Whatever they had to hand,” Oleksiy adds.

‘At least I knew he was alive’

They slept at night crushed with 20, even sometimes as many as 50 people to a cell intended for no more than six inmates. The detainees say they would sit crouched on the concrete floor, taking turns to rest.

In the corner of the room, where the lights were never switched off, was a prison toilet. But since at that point Olenivka had no running water, it was just a spewing vat of sewage.

At first they would be given only two litres of drinking water and a piece of bread a day to share between them, says Oleksiy. And so they had to improvise.

Vitaly and Oleksiy after they were released from prison

(Bel Trew)

“We managed to secure another plastic bottle of water. Whenever we had the chance, when we were sent out to work, we filled it with water we stole,” he says.

All four former inmates say Olenivka was an abandoned wreck when they arrived. “When we got to Olenivka there were no beds, no utensils for cooking. Few of the buildings had windows, the walls were broken, there was no electricity. It was a nightmare in the cold,” explains Philip.

“The guards put us to work painting the walls and windows of the barracks, cleaning and scrubbing the cells, and laying cement on the walls and the floor,” he adds.

The first project they were set on, Philip says, was repairing a section of the prison known as “the barracks”. This would later house members of the Azov Regiment and was where Oleksiy, Vitaliy and Philip would talk to John Harding.

The “barracks” are five two-floored structures on the western flank of the prison, each of which has a small, caged exercise yard and can hold several hundred people.

They were reserved for PoWs, but civilians who worked on them were permitted to stay there as conditions were mildly better than the cells in DIZO or in a neighbouring maximum-security two-storey building called “UUK”, where they had been intermittently held.

Oleksiy says moving to the barracks weeks into his detention was the first time he saw the sky. As an IT professional, he was singled out for specific work. One month into his detention, he was called in to help the prison’s administrative staff deal with a computer virus in the system, where he learned how cash-strapped the jail was.

He managed to strike a deal with guards in which he secured the purchase of a printer and a laptop in exchange for a single phone call to relatives.

“It was mid-April. The only number I remembered off by heart was my ex-wife’s: it would be the first time my family knew for sure I was alive,” he says.

Vitaliy’s 39-year-old wife Tetiana, meanwhile, says she received the last text message from her husband on 24 March as he drove towards Mariupol. It was not until 30 April that a woman recently released from Olenivka called her out of the blue.

“She said my husband’s ‘filtration’ detention term had been prolonged for two weeks, and hoped he would soon be released. But that turned out not to be true,” Tetiana says from Poland where she now lives. “But at least I knew he was alive.”

‘It’s hard to explain how terrible I feel, we don’t know what to do’

The first question the former detainees asked after the attack was: why on earth were inmates in that section of Olenivka? All of the men, who watched videos posted on Russian and Ukrainian Telegram channels of the explosion’s aftermath, say that it was an empty industrial area north of the prison cells, where no one lived. This is consistent with The Independent’s own examination of videos posted online and of satellite imagery.

“They made prisoners work in this area, but no one slept there, it wasn’t kitted out like that,” Arkady says. Oleksiy also says that it wasn’t set up for living. “I think the Russians specifically transferred them to this part to kill them there,” adds Oleksiy.

Ukrainian intelligence, military and security officials claim the site of the blast was fitted out to house prisoners only two days before the attack. After that, detainees from Azovstal were hastily moved in – a point they say is evidence that this was a staged, deliberate attack.

It is impossible to verify that claim, but experts have questioned the narrative of a Ukrainian rocket attack being responsible for the mass killing.

Six specialists who examined available images told The Washington Post that the impact appeared inconsistent with an attack launched by a high-mobility artillery rocket system, because of the lack of shrapnel marks or craters and the minimal damage to internal walls.

They also said that visible signs of an intense fire were at odds with damage caused by the most common HIMARS warhead.

Open-source intelligence analysts, including Bellingcat’s Eliot Higgins and independent Danish analyst Oliver Alexander, have also raised concerns about ground disturbances that appear on satellite imagery around 10 days before the explosion. Alexander said they could be pre-dug graves.

These disturbances to the earth are located in an area the inmates call “the garden”, just south of the main part of the prison. They appear to be opened just before the explosion, then covered up a day after the attack.

The former detainees confirmed to The Independent that the garden had been empty, except for rubbish dumps, from when they were incarcerated until 4 July, though this could not be verified.

The destroyed remains of the building in Olenivka

(Associated Press)

Families of Azovstal detainees inside Olenivka are desperately searching for information and have held demonstrations in Lviv demanding intervention from the UN and the ICRC. They worry that, even if their relatives survived the blast, if this was a staged false flag attack it might happen again.

“It’s hard to explain how terrible I feel. We don’t know what to do, we don’t have any information, we don’t know who to call,” says Karina, whose brother is a 31-year-old military medic who was posted to Azovstal during the last stand.

She asked for his identity to be withheld, fearing the worst: his name has not appeared on the list of the dead, but she worries he could be next. She found out her brother was in Olenivka in June, and he later appeared for a split second in a video, posted to Russian Telegram groups, taken by a Russian media outlet that appeared to have been given a tour of the barracks.

The Independent was able to give her more news about her brother as he had briefly met and talked to Vitaliy and Oleksiy in jail. They also confirmed that the location of the video appeared to be in the barracks.

The last time she spoke to him was a few weeks before 29 July, in a short phone call, possibly organised by the Red Cross.

“He was speaking quietly, like someone nearby was trying to listen in. He kept saying the prison is full of people, like pregnant women, injured people and medical staff from Mariupol,” Karina says, quietly.

“He kept asking, ‘How is it okay in the 21st century for pregnant civilians, for medics to be treated like prisoners of war in jail?’”

‘I am all alone in the world’

For the families of the Olenivka detainees, their loved ones one day just left and vanished.

On 30 March, Ludmilla’s son Dima sent her a single-line text message asking her to pray for him and his girlfriend as they approached Mariupol, from where he hoped to rescue their grandparents.

The 54-year-old told him she loved him and that he was “the most precious thing” to her. He replied that he was sure everything would be OK, and that if they were stopped at a checkpoint they would not try to continue to Mariupol.

But he never messaged again. His phone never switched back on. To this day, she has not heard a single word from him.

Ludmilla says she spends every day trying to find her missing son Dima

(Bel Trew)

Like so many parents, Ludmilla has spent the past few months frantically trying to work out if her only child is still alive.

“For two weeks I didn’t know anything. Then I got a phone call from a person I didn’t know, telling me that they were all stopped in Mangush [outside Maripuol] and they were held captive in the town of Dokuchaevsk.”

The unknown caller had apparently been freed, but was too frightened to say more and hung up. Later, Dima’s girlfriend was released with more information: that they were later taken to the city of Donetsk for 10 days.

“It is very difficult to get any information. That is why the relatives who have captured children get together and swap information online. It’s through this that I understand he had been taken to Olenivka,” Ludmilla says.

Unlike Vitaliy, Oleksiy, Philip and Arkady, Dima has never been released; he has never reappeared. So far, none of his cellmates have been freed to bring further news. Ludmilla assumes Dima remains behind bars in Olenivka, but no one knows what state he is in.

Dima tells his mother to pray for him as he enters Maripuol

(Bel Trew)

“We understand he, and other people with him, were accused of terrorism and were notified they were going to be sentenced for 20 years in prison,” she says. “We don’t know what that means and I am so frightened.”

Her testimony highlights that Oleksiy, Philip, Vitaliy and Arkady are among the lucky few. The four detainees were among around 20 who were suddenly freed on 4 and 5 July.

“I don’t know why I was released,” Arkady says. “They said, after 100 days of being there, ‘You are not terrorists and you are free.’” 

There are hundreds if not thousands of detainees still left behind, many of whom may still have had no contact with relatives.

Yuri Belousov, a Ukrainian prosecutor who is investigating alleged war crimes committed against Ukrainians, says there have been at least 12,500 cases of missing people reported to the national police hotline. “The true number is much higher because not everyone files a case, so they won’t be logged in the database.”

Philip says civilians in Olenivka who were ex-military or worked in the police force were particularly worried about never making it out.

“We made a group in prison that supported each other, but there were people who isolated themselves, sunk into a deep depression,” he says. “One former border guard I know had a total breakdown, and kept repeating over and over again, ‘I will spend 25 years in here. My life is over. My life is over.’”

Oleksiy and Vitaliy say they are still dealing with the physical and emotional scars of their time behind bars.



One former border guard had a total breakdown and kept repeating, ‘I will spend 25 years in here. My life is over’

Oleksiy says his teeth are damaged from beatings, poor medical treatment and bad food. “I also have problems with my blood pressure. It’s hard to move long distances,” he adds.

Vitaliy, meanwhile, says he suffers from punishing headaches, and using phones and computers for long periods of time is difficult. “We are very tired all the time,” he adds.

But part of the healing process is in a determination to keep volunteering. “Before I was taken, I was a coordinator at a reception centre welcoming refugees from Mariupol. I still want to do this,” says Oleksiy, speaking from Poland, where he is now recovering. “This would be one way to put my experience, what I went through, to good use.”

Meanwhile the families still waiting for news are stuck in a kind of hell – scrolling through social media for any glimpse of their missing loved ones.

“I am all alone in the world and I don’t know what to do,” says Ludmilla, crumbling into tears. She now lives alone in a quiet cabin north of Kyiv. All day, every day she scours social media for any word of her son.

“One day my only child left to rescue his grandmother and never came back. Please help me find my son.”

Names have been changed to protect identities

Coming soon to Independent TV – On The Ground | The Missing: The Ukrainians abducted in Putin’s war




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Chinese Canadian Tycoon Xiao Jianhua Sentenced to 13 Years in Prison

A Shanghai court on Aug. 19 sentenced Chinese Canadian billionaire Xiao Jianhua, who hasn’t been seen in public since 2017 and is known to have financial ties with some Chinese Communist Party (CCP) elites, to 13 years in jail and a fine of 55.03 billion yuan ($8.1 billion).

Xiao and his Tomorrow Holdings conglomerate were convicted of illegally absorbing public deposits, betraying the use of entrusted property, and the illegal use of funds and bribery, the Shanghai First Intermediate Court said in a statement published on social media.

“The criminal acts of Tomorrow Holdings and Xiao Jianhua seriously damaged the financial management order, seriously jeopardized the country’s financial security, and seriously infringed on the integrity of the state staff,” the court said.

But their punishment was reduced because they have “turned themselves in, admitted their crimes, and cooperated in recovering illegal gains and in restoring losses,” according to the document.

Xiao Jianhua

Xiao made headlines in January 2017 when he suddenly went missing from an apartment at the Hong Kong Four Seasons Hotel, where he resided at that time.

Hong Kong and overseas media reported that Xiao was taken by Beijing’s plainclothes security agents, who were not permitted to operate in the former British colony at that time. Asked about Xiao, the city’s police confirmed at that time he had crossed the border into mainland China.

There had since been no official word about the business tycoon until this July, when the Canadian Embassy in Beijing said Xiao would face trials. The 50-year-old is a Canadian citizen with a diplomatic passport from Antigua and Barbuda, though he was born in China.

Epoch Times Photo
The Four Seasons Hotel building in Hong Kong on Feb. 1, 2017. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)

His trials began on July 4. The court noted in Friday’s statement his trials were attended by top Chinese officials, including members of the National People’s Congress, the regime’s rubber-stamp legislature, and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, its advisory body.

Analysts suggested that Xiao’s sentence was intended to send a strong message to the political opponents of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who is seeking an unprecedented third term in office this fall.

A source within the CCP’s headquarters previously told The Epoch Times that Xiao has close ties with former Party vice-chairman Zeng Qinghong, a key member of a political faction—known as the “Jiang faction” for its loyalty to former CCP leader Jiang Zemin—that opposes Xi’s leadership. Xiao served as a key money launderer of the Jiang faction, according to the source.

Yet, there are many other CCP elites also involved in Xiao’s business, according to Yuan Hongbing, a China expert. Yuan said the probe into the billionaire allowed Xi to obtain evidence of shady dealings between Xiao and other top Party officials and use it to take down his rivals.

“The sentence of Xiao could be viewed as a warning to every clique, especially the Jiang faction, ahead of the 20th National Congress,” Chinese commentator Li Linyi told The Epoch Times on Friday. “It’s the result of political infighting.”

Tomorrow Holdings

Founded in 1999, Tomorrow Holdings has a wide range of investments, ranging from banking, insurance, and property, to rare-earth metals.

Before Xiao’s disappearance, his corporate empire was estimated to be worth about $5.8 billion, making him the country’s 32nd richest person in 2016, according to the Hurun report, a magazine that tracks China’s wealthiest.

Epoch Times Photo
People walk past the building with the listed address of Tomorrow Holdings’ Beijing office in Beijing on Feb. 3, 2017. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

From 2001 to 2021, Xiao and Tomorrow Holdings gave officials a total of 680 million yuan ($99.7 million), including in shares, real estate, cash, and other assets, aiming to evade financial supervision and seek illegitimate benefits, the court said on Friday.

In July 2020, nine of the group’s related institutions were seized by Chinese regulators.

Among the nine firms were four insurers—Tianan Property Insurance Co. of China, Huaxia Life Insurance Co., Tianan Life Insurance Co., and Yi’an P&C Insurance Co.—as well as New Times Trust Co. and New China Trust Co. The other three were Chengtong Securities, Guosheng Securities, and Guosheng Futures.

The court said that from 2004, Xiao and Tomorrow controlled multiple financial institutions and internet financial platforms, including the failed Baoshang Bank, via multiple layers of indirect shareholders and anonymous ownership.

Xu Jian and Reuters contributed to the report.

Dorothy Li

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Dorothy Li is a reporter for The Epoch Times based in Europe.


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HNB-Thinkcube partnership offers novel ‘ezBiz’ ERP solution to SMEs

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HNB-Thinkcube partnership offers novel ‘ezBiz’ ERP solution to SMEs


Sat, Aug 20, 2022, 09:45 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.



Aug 20, Colombo: Sri Lanka’s premier private sector retail bank HNB PLC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with next-gen collaborative cloud computing product developer Thinkcube Systems (Pvt) Ltd., to introduce the latter’s renowned ‘ezBiz’ enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).


HNB entered into this partnership with the objective of fulfilling the market gap of ERP solutions for the Bank’s lower level SME clientele, at an affordable rate.


“Businesses of all scales can operate seamlessly and focus more on growth over focusing on the day-to-day operations, when they are equipped with the right technology. This is very evident with SMEs that are at the very early stages of the business, or if they are manually operating at full capacity. This is what we aim to disrupt through this partnership, and Thinkcube System’s ‘ezBiz’ ERP solution is the perfect tool, which our potential and existing SME customers can utilize at special/concessionary rates,” commented HNB Mr. Niluka Amarasinghe (Head of SME Products and Partnerships).


The ‘ezBiz’ solution is an integrated cloud business application which caters the vital requirements of businesses, while ensuring a user-friendly experience with ease of access to their business data anytime, from anywhere.


Aspiring SME customers may see this as the perfect opportunity to take their business to the next level, being enabled with cloud-based capabilities including Purchasing, Point of Sale (POS), Accounting, Inventory, Jobs, Sales and Customer Relationship Management (CRM).


“Our ERP solution can be seen as a very successful tool used by a magnitude of SMEs, including mobile shops, pharmacies, hardware stores, bookshops, cosmetic shops, restaurants, clothing stores and mini marts. We envision our home-grown ‘ezBiz’ solution becoming a household name, and found a great opportunity to accommodate a much larger scope of SME customers through this partnership with HNB,” said Thinkcube Systems (Pvt) Ltd Mr. Damitha Kariyawasam (Director- ThinkCube Solutions (Pvt) Ltd).


HNB will be working together with Thinkcube Systems, sharing internal human resources to make initial introductions and facilitate potential customers with the fully-fledged ERP solution. The Solution enables the SMEs to extract vital MIS on their business in a convenient manner which would help them to use them effectively when they seek credit facilities from Financial institutions.


Under the MoU, HNB will play a key role in sourcing potential SMEs to uplift their operating standards, while Thinkcube Systems (Pvt) Ltd will ensure the proper functioning of the ERP platform, services and aftersales services.




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Sar Kheng requests additional support from UK in the fight against cybercrime

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng met with outgoing British ambassador to Cambodia Tina Redshaw on August 18. INTERIOR MINISTRY

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng requested that the United Kingdom provide additional support to Cambodia in the fight against cybercrime, because Cambodian law enforcement efforts in this area remain limited due to a lack of human resources.

The request came on August 18 when Sar Kheng met with outgoing British ambassador to Cambodia Tina Redshaw.

Following the meeting, the Ministry of Interior said in a social media post that she thanked Sar Kheng for always being supportive of British citizens who had encountered difficulties in Cambodia, especially regarding immigration issues and arranging for the consular officers at the British embassy to meet with people detained in Cambodian law enforcement custody.

The Facebook post noted that Redshaw told Sar Kheng about an inter-party forum as well as some other programmes which gave support to the development of Cambodia’s human resources, especially for the National Police.

Sar Kheng thanked the outgoing ambassador for her support as well as her cooperation with the interior ministry, especially for training of the National Police force.

He said he considered this an important task because the ministry was working hard to enhance the quality and efficiency of the National Police in order to maintain security and public order.

“I would like to encourage more support from the UK, especially for the work against cybercrime. This assistance is important as human resources in this area of our police force remained limited,” the Facebook post said.

Sar Kheng added that enhancing the quality of human resources within the National Police was an important contribution to the fight against all types of transnational crime and this work is important and cannot be done by any country alone because it requires cooperation with countries in the region and around the world.

He said that relations between the two countries have continued to improve and that he is committed to furthering the efforts to contribute to the expansion of their relations.

Sar Kheng said that Cambodia will continue to work with the new British ambassador who will take over Redshaw’s post.




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Virtualization in Industrial Automation Market 2022 Strategies, Growth Factors by Industry Projections – Oracle, VMware, Citrix Systems, IBM and Microsoft

While uncertainties from COVID-19 Omicron variant persist in the global Virtualization in Industrial Automation market, its impact may vary across countries. As a result, there are significant differences in consumer sentiments, behavior towards products and services, consumer responses, and effect on the Virtualization in Industrial Automation industry. This global Virtualization in Industrial Automation market report provides data extracting accurate figures, strategies that could enable the market participants like investors and all the market players to survive the current situation or help them stay ahead of the competitors in post-pandemic. The bottom-up approach methodology used in the report evaluates the accurate market size and market volume of the global Virtualization in Industrial Automation market by extracting data from various reliable sources.

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Leading competitors in the Virtualization in Industrial Automation market:

Oracle, Microsoft, Citrix Systems, VMware and IBM

Different product categories include:

Virtualization Management Software
Cloud Management Software

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Process Industry
Discrete Industry

The market value of different sectors or industries involved in the Virtualization in Industrial Automation market is sourced from different end user segments, industry professionals, officers, business managers. The consumer behavior towards the offered products is analyzed by gathering historical data of the product types and product portfolios. This data analysis has helped to identify the actual size of the market or outline the growth prospects of a particular product or service in the Virtualization in Industrial Automation industry.

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Here’s How ‘Porn’ Led To Historic Crash Of This Token

A while ago, the $MSI token launched by Martin Shkreli also known as ‘Pharma bro’ on Ethereum, tanked by over 90% in a suspicious rugpull which sold over 160 billion (MSI) tokens. Shkreli recently ‘confessed’ that the hack happened because he downloaded a hacker’s file which he supposed was pornography.

Trojan Virus embedded in the supposed porn file

The eponymous Martin Shkreli Inu tied to Shkreli’s Web3 project ‘Druglike’ recently got ‘hacked’ which resulted in a $450,000 loss after a wallet associated with Shkreli dumped 162 billion MSI tokens on the market.

Shkreli said he got hacked when someone asked on Druglike’s discord channel. YouTuber Muta Anas posted a video calling out Shkreli for his ‘i got hacked’ comment, Shkreli then reached out to Anas to explain what transpired.

He explained that the suspicious token dump was as a result of a malware he fell for while he tried to download some pornography. According to Shkreli, the file which was named after typical porn titles was not an .mp4, but a .zip file containing a 700-megabyte screensaver.

Shkreli who is just fresh out of jail after he got sentenced in 2018 for hiking the price of a life-saving drug by almost 5000% forayed into web3/cryptocurrencies immediately he got out.

Shkreli dishes out investment advice on social media

Per Bloomberg, Shkreli has been all over social media seeking an audience for his investment tips. The former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, center, has gone from investing in crypto while in prison which he said himself, to dishing out investment takes to people.

The former pharma executive has reportedly been hosting investment question-and-answer sessions with his Reddit retail traders followers, which includes AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. and cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Shkreli is generally disliked in the U.S after gaining a reputation off of his case in 2018. It’s surprising he still delved back into investment tips almost as soon as he got out when he didn’t even complete his time.

Abigal .V. is a cryptocurrency writer with over 4-years of writing experience. She focuses on news writing, and is skilled in sourcing hot topics. She’s a fan of cryptocurrencies and NFTs.

The presented content may include the personal opinion of the author and is subject to market condition. Do your market research before investing in cryptocurrencies. The author or the publication does not hold any responsibility for your personal financial loss.


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