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How the U.S. could block access to TikTok, WeChat



President Donald Trump has threatened to ban the short-video app TikTok and messaging service WeChat by late September on grounds that the Chinese-owned apps pose a national security threat. It would mark the first time the United States has attempted to shut down widely used mobile internet apps.

How would the U.S. go about blocking access to TikTok and WeChat?

The administration could order smartphone software giants Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google to remove WeChat and TikTok from their app stores.

When the Indian government in June banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok and WeChat, it asked Google and Apple to remove the apps from their app stores, two sources told Reuters. Both companies complied.


It would be a rare and possibly unprecedented step for the United States: Apple has not disclosed any app takedown requests from the U.S. government since it started publishing information on such requests in the second half of 2018.

The government could also order the apps to stop offering access to U.S. users by threatening them with legal repercussions. In India, some banned apps pulled themselves from app stores.

If I already have TikTok and WeChat on my phone, will I still be able to use them?

The apps would probably work, but government orders may bar updates, blocking access to new features and bug fixes.

Jay Kaplan, CEO of cybersecurity firm Synack and a former National Security Agency cybersecurity analyst, said it is “highly probable” Apple and Google can remotely disable installed apps, though experts were not aware of any instance in which they have done that recently. Apple and Google declined to comment.

Could users download the apps somewhere else?

Users with phones running Google’s Android can install apps from alternatives to Google’s official app store. Theoretically, they could download WeChat or TikTok from the companies’ websites.

Using alternatives to Apple’s App Store to install apps is more difficult, though not impossible. Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, which has done extensive technical and censorship analysis of WeChat, said using unofficial stores carries the risk of installing versions of popular apps altered with viruses or scams.

Would U.S. users be able to access Web versions of the app?

U.S.-based hosting services such as Inc’s AWS and content delivery providers such as Akamai Technologies Inc could be banned from doing business with targeted apps, said Angelique Medina, director of product marketing at network intelligence firm ThousandEyes. Hosting sites outside the United States could still service Americans, but likely at slower speeds.

Could internet service providers block users from accessing these services?

The government could order ISPs to block users from accessing WeChat’s and TikTok’s servers, as China does to enforce its Great Firewall. But it would not be an easy task for the U.S. government because the United States has thousands more ISPs than China, said Chester Wisniewski, a researcher at cybersecurity provider Sophos. A U.S. order to ISPs also could be challenged in court, legal experts say.


In India, the government did order telecom companies and other internet providers to block the Chinese-origin apps, according to notices seen by Reuters. Experts say there are no known cases of the U.S. ordering ISPs to ban access to sites.

What about VPNs?

Americans could use virtual private networks, or VPNs, to circumvent ISP blocks and browse the internet as if they were overseas. This is how internet users in China are able to reach services, such as Facebook, banned by the Great Firewall. Network experts said the same loophole would exist in the United States.


Source:- Global News

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WATCH: 'Virtual' Rotaryfest 2020 at 7 pm – SooToday



Despite an unprecedented year of obstacles, one of Sault Ste. Marie’s longest-running traditions returns in a brand new format. The Rotary Club of Sault Ste. Marie is present Virtual Rotaryfest, streaming on SooToday.

“Our Rotary Club has been celebrating Rotaryfest for almost 100 years – so when it became clear it couldn’t happen in the way it always has, we knew we had to find a creative way to still bring some of the fun of the festival to Sault Ste. Marie,” shared Rotary Club of Sault Ste. Marie President, Megan Wigmore. “With the virtual format this year, not only do we get to see some of our favourite local bands and performers that have become festival fixtures; we get to bring in some former Saultites to join the party as well!”

One of those former Saultites is Crystal Shawanda. The JUNO Award winning Canadian songstress will headline the virtual event with a Rotaryfest-exclusive performance. The online celebration of music will also include performances from crowd favourites Jay Case and Frank Deresti, Jackson Reed, Mustang Heart, Kelly MacGillivray, Kt Antler & Kyle McKey, Bone Yard, and Tyson Hanes.

This year’s Virtual Rotaryfest has been made possible through the generous support of OLG, SooToday, and Canadian Heritage.

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Fourth patient dies as Foothills hospital outbreaks continue to grow – Calgary Herald



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A fourth patient has died as a result of COVID-19 outbreaks in three units of Foothills Medical Centre.

Alberta Health Services confirmed the death of the patient at the northwest Calgary hospital Saturday, the latest development in Alberta’s largest active outbreak.

The outbreaks continued to grow Saturday, as two more patients and one more health-care worker tested positive for the novel coronavirus. In total, 20 patients and 18 hospital staff have been infected amid the outbreaks.

COVID-19 cases have been confirmed at three units of Foothills: one in the general medicine ward as well as two cardiac units.

As well, AHS confirmed to Postmedia Friday three additional units had been placed on “outbreak watch,” meaning they were being monitored for potential COVID-19 cases. Those units on watch include one cardiac unit and two in the general medicine ward.

AHS did not provide an update Saturday on the number of staff members forced to isolate as a result of the outbreaks. On Friday, they said 136 staff members had been asked to quarantine.

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COVID-19 causing stress, depression and obsessive behaviour: survey – CTV News



An online survey of Albertans who have reached out for help during the COVID-19 crisis suggests the pandemic is taking a toll on mental health, with increased signs of obsessive behaviour, stress and depression.

“We did not expect people to be experiencing this level of anxiety, depression or stress,” said Vincent Agyapong, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Alberta and co-author of a newly published paper.

Agyapong’s research has focused on the lingering mental-health effects of public traumas such as the Fort McMurray wildfire. He and his colleagues have been asked by provincial and private agencies to help design a public mental-health response to COVID-19.

The paper, published in Environmental Research and Public Health, is an attempt to assess those needs.

“We thought it would be useful to collect baseline data,” Agyapong said.

In late March, the researchers contacted about 33,000 Albertans who subscribed to Text4Hope — a government initiative that sends out a daily supportive text message written by mental health professionals. They asked subscribers to complete a survey that contained standard measures of anxiety, depression and obsessive behaviour.

About 6,000 people responded.

The survey, funded by a group of Alberta charitable health foundations, found that about 60 per cent of respondents had become worried about dirt, germs and viruses since the COVID-19 outbreak. About 54 per cent had begun washing their hands “very often or in a special way” that could be considered a symptom of obsessive compulsive disorder.

Nearly 50 per cent were considered probable candidates for anxiety disorders and more than 40 per cent were likely to be clinically depressed. Almost 85 per cent of respondents reported moderate to high stress.

The results were consistent between men and women. Symptoms and anxiety levels tended to increase with age and education levels.

Agyapong is cautious about the results. The survey sample isn’t representative of the Alberta population. And some level of stress and unusual behaviour is understandable when people are losing their jobs and seeing society shut down around them.

But something is going on, he said.

“It’s not diagnostic, but it is indicative,” said Agyapong. “It doesn’t necessarily mean (the results) aren’t representative of what’s going on.”

Although research suggests about one-quarter of the general population will show some obsessive compulsive symptoms at some point in life, the incidence of the actual condition is only about two per cent — much lower than the figure in Agyapong’s survey.

Agyapong points out his findings are consistent with studies done in other countries such as China.

He said simple measures can help — even the daily reassurance provided by Text4Hope. Preliminary results suggest that in six weeks, anxiety levels in subscribers fell by 20 per cent.

“It may not work for everybody, but if you can get it to work for even half of those who are struggling, then it means that you don’t need more (expensive) resources at a population level,” Agyapong said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2020

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