Sunday, March 5, 2017

Zero hour contracts reach record; The rise of ransomware; North Korea fires missiles towards Sea of Japan

1 Zero hour contracts reach record (Kamal Ahmed on BBC) The number of people on controversial zero hours contracts in the UK has reached a record high of 910,000. New figures based on an analysis of Office for National Statistics data reveal that 105,000 more people were on contracts that do not guarantee work in 2016 compared with the same period in 2015.

That's an increase of nearly 14%, and 30% higher than 2014. In 2005, there were just 100,000 people on zero hours contracts (ZHCs). But although the new figures are a record, they also reveal a sharp slowing in the rate of increase in the last six months of 2016.

That decline in the rate of increase for such contracts - which have been criticised for being forced on lower paid workers - could be down to three reasons. First, as the levels of employment reach record highs, people looking for work can be more demanding about the type on contracts they sign.

Second, as the UK approaches full employment, the number of new jobs being created - whether full time or zero hours - is slowing. The third reason appears to be business reputation. After controversies over zero hours contracts at companies such as Sports Direct, a number of businesses have either stopped using them or reduced their use.

Although zero hours contracts have been controversial, many say they provide flexibility to people such as students, parents and those with other caring responsibilities. The employee - who still receives employment rights such as annual leave - does not have to accept work offered.

2 The rise of ransomware (Ed Clowes in Gulf News) Japanese anti-virus developer Trend Micro’s annual cybersecurity report reveals a 752 per cent increase in ransomware, the software used by hackers to block data and then demand money to return it.

The company’s 2016 Security Roundup also noted that cyber threats reached an all-time high in 2016, with ransomware scams gaining increased popularity among cybercriminals looking to extort enterprises.

In a recent interview, Microsoft’s Cyril Voisin, Executive Security Advisor for the company’s Enterprise Cybersecurity Group in the Middle East and Africa, spoke about the growing threat from ransomware, and what could be done to combat it.

Whilst ransomware isn’t the most popular malware in the region yet, “it is still a source of concern, because the idea that someone can infect your machine, encrypt all your data so you can’t read it, and then ask you for money to unlock it — that is scary,” Voisin said.

There was an attack against the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Centre’s systems in February 2016. The hospital eventually paid 40 bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that was worth about $17,000 at the time, to recover its patients’ records.

3 North Korea fires missiles towards Sea of Japan (Straits Times) North Korea fired four ballistic missiles early on Monday (March 6), three of which landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, the latest in a series of provocative tests by the reclusive state.

“Multiple ballistic missiles” were launched from the Tongchang-ri region near the North’s border with China and flew about 1,000 km, South Korean military officials said, without providing the number of missiles. Acting president Hwang Kyo Ahn convened a national security meeting on Monday, South Korea’s presidential office said.

Japanese officials described the launches as a grave threat and said they lodged “strong protests” with nuclear-armed North Korea. No reports of damage to shipping or aircraft had been received since the launches, Japanese officials said.

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