Women’s safety: Smartphone tips shared online

People in the UK have been sharing personal safety tips on social media following the death of Sarah Everard who disappeared as she walked home from a friend’s house in south London last week.

Police have confirmed that a body found in woodland near Ashford in Kent is that of the 33-year-old marketing executive.

Metropolitan police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has said it is “thankfully incredibly rare” for women to be abducted on the streets of London, but women around the country have shared experiences of facing fear or intimidation.

Useful phone features shared include those already built into many smartphones and popular apps, such as shortcuts to emergency call access and temporary location-tracking services.

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Mathias Cormann set to head OECD despite climate record

Mathias Cormann, Australia’s longtime former finance minister, is set to take over as chief of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Mr Cormann, a centre-right politician, had faced opposition stemming from his record on climate change.

He tried to abolish Australia’s renewable energy targets and has called carbon pricing a “very expensive hoax”.

Sweden’s Cecilia Malmström was also vying to lead the group, which includes 37 of the world’s biggest economies.

The Paris-based OECD, which helps develop and coordinate policies among its members, is expected to finalise Mr Cormann’s selection next week. He would serve a five-year term starting in June.

Greenpeace International, which helped spearhead outside opposition to Mr Cormann’s candidacy, called his selection a “missed opportunity” for the group, which includes the US, UK, Germany and Japan among others.

“We have little confidence in Mr Cormann’s ability to ensure the OECD is a leader in tackling the climate crisis when he himself has an atrocious record on the issue, including opposition to carbon pricing,” executive director Jennifer Morgan said.

“This was a missed opportunity for the OECD member states to draw a line in the sand and disqualify anyone with a history of blocking climate action from senior international appointments.”

Mr Cormann has responded to the criticism, saying he was “absolutely committed to ambitious and effective action on climate change”, but that there were different ways to achieve it.

Who is Mathias Cormann?
As the next leader of the Paris-based OECD, Mr Cormann is facing an agenda that includes tackling the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, addressing climate change and reaching a global deal on how to tax technology companies.

A native German speaker who was born in Belgium, Mr Cormann moved to Australia in his mid-20s, working in health insurance and politics.

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He holds the record as the country’s longest-serving finance minister, serving from 2013 to 2020. He also represented western Australia as a Liberal Party senator from 2007 to 2020.

Known to favour lower taxes, he pledged during his campaign for the OECD job to deploy “every policy and analytical capability available through the OECD to help economies around the world achieve global net-zero emissions by 2050”.

The group should help identify “market-based … solutions which maximise reduction outcomes in a way that preserves energy affordability and is economically responsible” he added.

Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed the selection as a win for his country, calling it “the most senior appointment of an Australian candidate to an international body for decades,” in a statement to the Sydney Morning Herald.

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Microsoft hack: 3,000 UK email servers remain unsecured

More than 3,000 UK email servers remain at risk from the global Microsoft Exchange email flaw, officials believe.

The National Cyber Security Centre said it estimated 7,000 servers had been affected by the flaw in the UK and only half had been secured.

It said malicious software had been detected on 2,300 machines but it had helped businesses remove it.

The agency said it was “vital” that all affected businesses took action to secure their email servers.

The announcement reveals the scale of the problem among UK companies for the first time since the global security flaw emerged last week.

Ransomware groups have begun using the flaw to install their malicious programs, the NCSC warned – though there was no evidence of widespread ransomware attacks on UK companies so far.

Once installed, ransomware locks away a user’s data behind strong encryption, making the computer system unusable. The group then demands payment to unlock it – and if demands are not met, will steal or delete the data.

The security flaw affects Microsoft’s widely-used Exchange email system, which powers the email of major corporations, small businesses and public bodies worldwide.

The NCSC is particularly concerned about small and medium-sized businesses that may not have heard about the issue.

Initially, the flaw was being exploited by a hacking group to gain remote access to email servers, from which it could steal sensitive data.

But after Microsoft warned the world it had identified the problem, and urged all its users to download the latest security updates, other hacking groups quickly became familiar with the flaw.

The result is a widespread free-for-all as multiple hacking groups all try to find unpatched email servers to attack.

“We are working closely with industry and international partners to understand the scale and impact of UK exposure, but it is vital that all organisations take immediate steps to protect their networks,” NCSC’s director for operations Paul Chichester warned.

“While this work is ongoing, the most important action is to install the latest Microsoft updates.”

He also urged all organisations to “familiarise” themselves with the guidance surrounding ransomware attacks – and to search for any signs of their systems already being compromised.

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