July 19, 2021
A U.K. initiative to encourage the country's top financial institutions to put more women on their boards has seen some success, with the percentage of female board members rising to 32% from 23% since 2016, Reuters reports (paywall). The U.K. government launched the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter five years ago with the goal of improving gender balance in the financial sector. The percentage of women on executive committees also has increased, from 14% to 22% over the same period. "While female representation is moving in the right direction, there is still a long way to go," said Yasmine Chinwala, partner at New Financial, the think tank that reported on the progress of the initiative.
On Monday, The U.S., European Union, U.K., Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and Canada formally accused China's Ministry of State Security of launching a global cyber hacking campaign. The countries allege the campaign is responsible for exploiting vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange, a common email software used by companies around the world. According to an AP News report, the Ministry has been using criminal contract hackers to engage in cyber extortion schemes and theft for their own profit and the profit of Chinese businesses for several years. "The United States and countries around the world are holding the People's Republic of China accountable for its pattern of irresponsible, disruptive, and destabilizing behavior in cyberspace, which poses a major threat to our economic and national security," said U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in a statement. Additionally, the U.S. Justice Department announced that four Chinese nationals have been charged for a global hacking campaign aimed at dozens of companies, universities, and government agencies between 2011 and 2018.
An investigation by a global media consortium found evidence that military-grade malware from Israel-based NSO Group, a hacker-for-hire outfit, is being used to spy on more than 1,000 journalists, human rights activists, and political dissidents throughout 50 countries, according to AP News. The journalists work for organizations including The Associated Press, CNN, Reuters, The Financial Times, and The Wall Street Journal. The Guardian, a consortium member, reported that Amnesty International had found traces of Pegasus infections on the mobile phones of several targeted individuals. "The number of journalists identified as targets vividly illustrates how Pegasus is used as a tool to intimidate critical media. It is about controlling public narrative, resisting scrutiny, and suppressing any dissenting voice," Amnesty International quoted its secretary-general, Agnes Callamard, as saying.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's "freedom day" ending over a year of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in England got off to a chaotic start, marred by surging infections and warnings of supermarket shortages, Reuters reports. Johnson is betting that England's high vaccination rate will reduce the number of severe illnesses and deaths from COVID-19, even as the number of cases soars, allowing the economy to jumpstart. Meanwhile, Johnson reversed an earlier decision and said he will self-isolate after being exposed to COVID-19, Yahoo News reports.