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Can Humankind challenge titans of strategy genre with green gameplay?

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Humankind is a new strategy game from Sega, which will aim to rival the industry’s popular and long-running Civilization series.

For years, Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise has dominated the turn-based strategy game market, but could it finally have met its match in Sega’s new release Humankind?

Humankind brings new aspects to an already tried and tested genre, and climate change is among challenges that players will have to face.

You begin your journey to the space-age in the Neolithic era, and progress through the technology research tree with every turn.

At first glance, it looks very familiar: a beautifully designed map is split up into tiles, which can be traversed and improved by various units.

But as you begin to choose “cultures” (ideologies that will affect your income, influence, or productivity), it begins to diverge from Meier’s Civilization.

Humankind game footage
Image:Similar to the Civilisation franchise, the map is split into tiles

Your culture choice can change, offering different advantages and disadvantages as the game progresses. No one world ruler has dedicated pros and cons to their play-style, making each game a much more unique playthrough.

Scientific and technological progression will result in new natural resources being discovered, including coal.

Using your newfound fossil fuels, you’re able to build bigger and better buildings within your cities – and advance militarily. However, it does come with some disadvantages.

As your civilisation becomes an industrial powerhouse, pollution levels within your lands can rise, leading to handicaps.

But during Sky News’ playthrough, the penalties did not appear to be crippling.

There was no sign of rising sea levels, or heat-related drawbacks. Most, if not all, problems caused by pollution resulted in arbitrary reductions of monetary income, or productivity.

So can Humankind dethrone the don of the civilisation strategy game family?

The maps and artwork are stunning, and the music superb, even occasionally moving. The developers, Amplitude Studios, spent years designing it, and music scores were recorded by a fully-fledged orchestra.

Humankind game footage
Image:Amplitude Studios spent years designing the game

Combat is intuitive, allowing free time before each encounter to position one’s units in the optimal position for the upcoming battle.

Diplomacy, much like in Civilization, plays a big part in how your enemies perceive, trade, and interact with you, with a user interface that allows for intricate negotiations.

But whether a predominantly theoretical climate change mechanic, and various tweaks and quality-of-life improvements, are enough to topple Sid Meier’s strategy empire remains to be seen.

It is clearly a game with room for expansion and options for post-release content updates. Even Civilization V only hit its stride with the release of its Brave New World DLC.

One thing is clear, though: the theme of climate change is permeating more and more genres, and is sure to play a big part in game development to come.

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Egypt: Researchers identify prehistoric killer whale that walked on land from 43-million-year-old fossil

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“It could kill any creature it crossed paths with,” say Egyptian scientists who have discovered a new killer whale fossil from the African nation’s Whale Valley.

Egyptian scientists have identified a new species of prehistoric killer whale from a 43-million-year-old fossil that was found in Eqypt’s “Whale Valley”.

The ancient fossil, which was unearthed in Egypt’s Western Desert in 2008, has been named as Phiomicetus Anubis, after the god of death in ancient Egypt.

The four-legged whale which is from the family of Protecetids, are extinct semi-aquatic whales that lived from 34 to 59 million years ago.

Egyptian researcher at Mansoura University Abdullah Gohar, shows the fossil of a 43 million-year-old four-legged prehistoric whale known as the "Phiomicetus Anubis," in an evolution of whales from land to sea, which was unearthed over a decade ago in Fayoum in the Western Desert of Egypt,
PIC:AP
Image:Researchers said it was approximately 2.7m (9ft) long and weighed around 600kg

Professor Hesham Sallam, of Mansoura University in Egypt, the leading palaeontologist who examined the fossil, said the creature was unique in its versatility in the way its features were adapted to hunt on land and in the sea – characteristics that made it stand out among other whale fossils.

“We chose the name Anubis because it had a strong and deadly bite,” said Professor Sallam.

“It could kill any creature it crossed paths with.”

The creature’s killer features included an elongated skull and snout. Its sharp hearing and acute sense of smell meant it was an efficient carnivore capable of hunting down, before grasping and chewing prey, researchers said. It was approximately 2.7m (9ft) long and weighed around 600kg.

The fossils of a 43 million-year-old four-legged prehistoric whale known as the "Phiomicetus Anubis," in an evolution of whales from land to sea, which was unearthed over a decade ago in Fayoum in the Western Desert of Egypt
PIC:AP
Image:Professor Sallam said it ‘could kill any creature it crossed paths with’. Pic: AP

Professor Sallam said his team did not start examining the fossil until 2017 because he wanted to assemble the best and the most talented Egyptian palaeontologists for the study.

The fossil sheds light on the evolution of whales from herbivore land mammals into a carnivorous species that today live exclusively in water.

The oldest fossil whales are approximately 50 million years old and are believed to have originated in modern-day Pakistan and India.

Scientists have not been able to reach a conclusive answer as to when whales moved from land to sea.

The location of the discovery of the fossil will give a clue as to how and when this happened.

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Former US intelligence officers admit to mercenary hacking for United Arab Emirates

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The charges against them are published amid growing concerns that foreign states may be compromising US security by recruiting intelligence personnel to bolster their own capabilities.

Three former US intelligence and military officers have admitted working as mercenaries for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and carrying out sophisticated hacking operations targeting victims in America.

The charges against them are published amid growing concerns that foreign states may be compromising US security by recruiting intelligence personnel to bolster their own capabilities.

The men, named as Marc Baier, Ryan Adams, and Daniel Gericke in an unsealed court document, were accused of breaking computer crime laws and export controls and have agreed to pay more than $1.6m (£1.1m) as part of a deferred prosecution agreement.

According to the court document, after leaving US government employment, the three men worked for an American company that provided licensed services to the UAE.

But in January 2016, “after receiving an offer for higher compensation and an expanded budget”, the men left this company and joined a new one called Dark Matter based in the gulf state.

The clandestine unit helped the UAE spy on human rights activists, journalists, and rival governments, according to Reuters, which reported on the clandestine unit called Project Maven before these charges were made public.

While working for the UAE business, which did not have an export licence to receive hacking technology from the US, the men developed “two similar ‘zero-click’ computer hacking and intelligence gathering systems” that were used to target victims in America.

“Today’s announcement shines a light on the unlawful activity of three former members of the US intelligence community and military,” said Steven D’Antuono of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

“These individuals chose to ignore warnings and to leverage their years of experience to support and enhance a foreign government’s offensive cyber operations.

“These charges and the associated penalties make clear that the FBI will continue to investigate such violations.”

Bryan Vorndran, of the FBI’s cyber division, added: “This is a clear message to anybody, including former US government employees, who had considered using cyberspace to leverage export-controlled information for the benefit of a foreign government or a foreign commercial company – there is risk, and there will be consequences.”

As part of the deferred prosecution, Baier, Adams, and Gericke must cooperate with the Department of Justice’s investigation.

They have agreed to pay $750,000 (£542,000), $600,000 (£430,000), and $335,000 (£242,000) respectively over the next three years – funds which they are prohibited from being reimbursed for by the UAE.

They have also received a lifetime ban on receiving any security clearances, as well as from being employed as hackers or by “certain UAE organisations”.

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Apple issues emergency software update after discovery of ‘zero click’ malware

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The spyware has been attributed “with high confidence” to Israel’s NSO Group.

Apple has issued an emergency software update after a flaw was found that allowed spyware attributed to Israel’s NSO Group to infect an iPhone, Apple Watch, or Mac computer without the user having to click on anything.

The malware was found on the phone of an unidentified Saudi activist by Canadian internet security watchdog Citizen Lab.

It is the first time that a “zero-click” exploit – an exploit that allows an attacker to hack into the device without requiring the victim to click on anything, meaning they have no chance to catch the attack – has been caught and analysed.

The phone is thought to have been infected in February, although the researchers discovered the malicious code on 7 September and immediately alerted Apple.

The logo of Israeli cyber firm NSO Group is seen at one of its branches in the Arava Desert, southern Israel July 22, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Image:NSO Group is an Israeli cyber surveillance firm

Ivan Krstic, head of Apple security engineering and architecture, said: “After identifying the vulnerability used by this exploit for iMessage, Apple rapidly developed and deployed a fix in iOS 14.8 to protect our users.Advertisement

“Attacks like the ones described are highly sophisticated, cost millions of dollars to develop, often have a short shelf life, and are used to target specific individuals.”

“While that means they are not a threat to the overwhelming majority of our users, we continue to work tirelessly to defend all our customers, and we are constantly adding new protections for their devices and data,” he added.

Citizen Lab researcher Bill Marczak said there was high confidence that Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group was behind the attack, although it was “not necessarily” being attributed to the Saudi government.

In a statement to Reuters, NSO did not confirm or deny that it was behind the technique, saying only that it would “continue to provide intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world with life-saving technologies to fight terror and crime”.

Citizen Lab has previously found evidence of zero-click malware being used to hack the phones of some journalists and other targets but Mr Marczak said this was the first time one had been captured “so we can find out how it works”.

A man reads at a stand of the NSO Group Technologies, an Israeli technology firm known for its Pegasus spyware enabling the remote surveillance of smartphones, at the annual European Police Congress in Berlin, Germany, February 4, 2020
Image:Experts say the average user does not need to be too concerned, as such attacks tend to be highly targeted

Security experts have said that the average user does not need to be too concerned, as such attacks tend to be highly targeted, but the exploit was still alarming.

Mr Marczak said that malicious files were put on the Saudi activist’s phone via the iMessage app before the phone was hacked with NSO’s Pegasus spyware.

This meant the phone was able to spy on its user, without them even knowing.

Citizen Lab researcher John Scott-Railton said: “Popular chat apps are at risk of becoming the soft underbelly of device security. Securing them should be top priority.”

In July it was reported that NSO Group’s spyware had been used to target journalists, political dissidents and human rights activists.

NSO Group says that its spyware is only used by governments to hack the mobile phones of terrorists and serious criminals, but a leaked list featuring more than 50,000 phone numbers of interest to the company’s clients suggested that it is being used much more broadly.

More than 1,000 individuals in 50 countries were allegedly selected for potential surveillance – including 189 journalists and more than 600 politicians and government officials, according to Paris-based journalism non-profit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, as well as their media partners.

Mr Marczak said on Monday: “If Pegasus was only being used against criminals and terrorists, we never would have found this stuff.”

It has also been reported that the FBI is investigating NSO Group, and Israel has set up a senior inter-ministerial team to examine the allegations surrounding how the spyware is being used.

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