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‘Bad buzz’: Gaming industry reels from ‘Grand Theft Auto’ hack

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The video game industry is coming to terms with one of the biggest hacks in its history, after footage was leaked online of “Grand Theft Auto 6” — the next instalment of one of the world’s most popular franchises.

The game had not even been formally announced by publisher Rockstar Games and the footage that surfaced on social media on Monday was far from finished.

On the same day, early footage from “Diablo 4”, a game set for release next year, was also shared online.

And Rockstar is just the latest in a long line of video game firms to have suffered from such leaks — Activision-Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Capcom have all been in the same situation.

The most severe case came last year, when hackers made off with the source code — the fundamental architecture — of the games “Cyberpunk 2077” and “The Witcher 3” from Polish publisher CD Projekt RED.

Analysts and experts told AFP that Rockstar might face problems with the marketing and release of the game, but the wider industry was only lightly affected by the steady stream of hacks and leaks.

– ‘Keep pushing’ –

The company issued a defiant statement earlier in the week, confirming the breach but denying it would cause any difficulties.

“Our work on Grand Theft Auto will continue as planned,” Rockstar said in a statement on Twitter that was liked more than one million times.

The firm added that it did not envisage any long-term effects for any of its projects.

Grand Theft Auto 5, the last iteration of the game that revolves around heists and street violence, was released in 2013 and has since sold 170 million copies and generated some seven billion dollars in revenue.

The next release, which has been teased, is among the most anticipated games ever.

Industry figures were quick to offer support to developers whose unfinished work was being widely critiqued online.

“To my fellow devs out there affected by the latest leak, know that while it feels overwhelming right now, it’ll pass,” wrote Neil Druckmann of Naughty Dog studio. 

“One day we’ll be playing your game, appreciating your craft, and the leaks will be relegated to a footnote on a Wikipedia page. Keep pushing. Keep making art.”

The sentiment was shared around the video game world, with developers sharing footage of their own prototype artwork for hugely successful video games.

– ‘May even help them’ –

Rockstar, like all games studios, is incredibly protective of the games it is developing — partly because it helps with marketing, and partly because games do not come together until the final phase of development.

Julien Pillot, a French economist, said the leak was a “bad buzz” and was likely to hamper the game’s launch strategy.

Loic Gezo, a cybersecurity expert, said the company would need to reassure customers that it could handle the fallout.

Brendan Sinclair of trade website GamesIndustry.biz said he did not expect huge fallout for the company, but suggested there might be longer-term costs in terms of securing their systems.

“Developers have a hard enough time thwarting hackers even when they don’t get a peek under the hood like this,” he said. 

But ultimately, he suggested such leaks were not always bad for business.

“I don’t know if it ultimately hurts game sales that much,” he said. “In some cases, it may even help them.”

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UK eyes big TikTok fine over child privacy lapse

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A UK regulator said TikTok ay have processed the data of children under the age of 13 without appropriate parental consent
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Britain on Monday warned it could fine TikTok £27 million ($29 million) over a potential failure to protect children’s privacy on the Chinese-owned video app.

The Information Commissioner’s Office said the social media company “may have processed the data of children under the age of 13 without appropriate parental consent”.

The ICO also found that the short-form video platform may have “failed to provide proper information to its users in a concise, transparent and easily understood way”.

The watchdog has served the group with a notice of intent — which is a legal document that precedes a possible fine — over the possible breach of UK data protection law.

“We all want children to be able to learn and experience the digital world, but with proper data privacy protections,” said Information Commissioner John Edwards.

“Companies providing digital services have a legal duty to put those protections in place, but our provisional view is that TikTok fell short of meeting that requirement.”

In response, TikTok said it disagreed with the ICO’s provisional views and stressed that no final conclusions had been reached.

“While we respect the ICO’s role in safeguarding privacy in the UK, we disagree with the preliminary views expressed and intend to formally respond to the ICO in due course,” TikTok said in a statement.

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Apple to make iPhone 14 in India in shift away from China

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The Apple logo at a store in New York
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Apple will manufacture its new flagship smartphone in India, the US tech giant said Monday, as it seeks to diversify production away from a dependence on China.

The iPhone supply chain is based mainly in China but the country’s zero-Covid policies and tensions with the United States have hurt production, analysts say.

“We’re excited to be manufacturing iPhone 14 in India,” Apple said in a brief statement.

The California-based firm already makes older iPhone models in India via Taiwanese manufacturers such as Foxconn, which has a factory in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

The latest announcement comes just weeks after Apple launched new smartphones. The tech behemoth is commencing production of the iPhone 14 in India much earlier than it did for previous models, Canalys analyst Sanyam Chaurasia said.

“Over the last couple of years, it has been increasingly diversifying its supply chain to India,” Chaurasia told AFP.

About 7.5 million iPhones — around three percent of Apple’s global production — were made in India last year, the analyst added.

“We expect that the local production of iPhones could reach more than 11 million this year,” he said.

Apple’s announcement will be a boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” strategy under which he has urged foreign businesses to manufacture goods in the South Asian nation.

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US charges Boeing with misleading investors on 737 MAX safety, fined $200 mn

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US regulators say Boeing and its former CEO 'put profits over people,' misleading the public about the safety of the 737 MAX aircraft
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US securities officials fined Boeing $200 million over the aviation giant’s misleading assurances about the safety of the 737 MAX airplane following two deadly crashes, regulators announced Thursday.

Boeing agreed to the penalty to settle charges it “negligently violated the antifraud provisions” of US securities laws, the Securities and Exchange Commission said in a statement, saying the company and its leader “put profits over people.”

Boeing’s former chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg, also agreed to pay $1 million to settle the same charges in the civil case.

The settlement marks the latest hit to Boeing over the MAX following the Lion Air Crash in Indonesia in October 2018 and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in Ethiopia in March 2019, which together claimed nearly 350 lives. 

One month after the first crash, a Boeing press release approved by Muilenburg “selectively highlighted certain facts,” implying pilot error and poor aircraft maintenance contributed to the crash.

The press release also attested to the aircraft’s safety, not disclosing that Boeing knew a key flight handling system, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), posed safety issues and was being redesigned.

After the second crash, Boeing and Muilenburg assured the public that there was “no surprise or gap” in the federal certification of the MAX despite being aware of contrary information, the SEC said.

– Boeing ‘failed’ –

“In times of crisis and tragedy, it is especially important that public companies and executives provide full, fair, and truthful disclosures to the markets,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler in a press release. 

“The Boeing Company and its former CEO, Dennis Muilenburg, failed in this most basic obligation. They misled investors by providing assurances about the safety of the 737 MAX, despite knowing about serious safety concerns.”

The SEC said both Boeing and Muilenburg, in agreeing to pay the penalties, did not admit or deny the agency’s findings.

Boeing said the agreement “fully resolves” the SEC’s inquiry and is part of the company’s “broader effort to responsibly resolve outstanding legal matters related to the 737 MAX accidents in a manner that serves the best interests of our shareholders, employees, and other stakeholders,” a company spokesman said.

“We will never forget those lost on Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, and we have made broad and deep changes across our company in response to those accidents.”

US air safety authorities cleared Boeing’s 737 MAX to resume service in November 2020 following a 20-month grounding after the crashes.

A principal cause of the two crashes was identified as the MCAS, which was supposed to keep the plane from stalling as it ascended but instead forced the nose of the plane downward. The Federal Aviation Administration required Boeing to upgrade this system to address the flaw.

In January 2021, Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion to settle a US criminal charge over claims the company defrauded regulators overseeing the 737 MAX.

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