Russia, upping pressure on Telegram app, says it was used to plot bombing

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s FSB security service said on Monday that terrorists had used the Telegram messaging app to carry out a deadly suicide bombing on Russian soil, increasing pressure on the app days after the authorities accused it of breaking data laws.

Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor said on Friday it would block Telegram soon unless it handed over information needed to put the app on an official government list of information distributors.

Telegram has so far refused to comply because it fears complying would undermine the privacy of its more than 6 million Russian users.

Once on the list, it would have to store information about its users on Russian servers and hand over user information to the authorities on request.

The FSB, the successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB, weighed into the standoff on Monday, releasing a statement which said Telegram provided “terrorists with the opportunity to create secret chat rooms with a high degree of encryption.”

It said a suicide bomber who blew himself up on the St Petersburg metro on April 3, killing 15 people, had used Telegram to plan the attack with his accomplices, and that Telegram had become the most widely used app of its kind by terrorists operating inside Russia.

The intervention suggests the authorities are serious about blocking Telegram on national security grounds unless its meets their demands.

Pavel Durov, Telegram’s founder, said the app had blocked thousands of terrorism-related channels and that if Russia banned it, terrorists would just switch to a competing service.

“The appearance of information saying that Telegram was allegedly used to prepare an act of terrorism three months ago raises questions,” Durov wrote on social media on Monday.

“It’s sad if Russia’s intelligence services are exploiting such a tragedy as a pretext to strengthen their influence and control over the population.”

Alexander Zharov, head of the communications regulator, told state-backed NTV on Sunday that Telegram had just days to comply and accused Durov of being an anarchist with no interest in respecting the law.

“As far as I know, Mr Durov’s unwillingness to hand over the keys to the information to the world’s intelligence services allows terrorists to kill people with impunity using this channel of communications,” said Zharov.

‘Anti-Constitutional?’

Durov, 32, has clashed with the authorities before, refusing to comply with various data requests related to the VKontakte social media site which he set up after leaving university. That row ended with him selling up and leaving the country.

The Kremlin said the latest dispute was purely a matter for the communications regulator. If Telegram was banned, Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman and an avid Telegram user, said he and other officials would switch to another service.

Durov said the communications regulator’s demands violated Russians’ constitutional right to keep their correspondence secret and were also technically impossible to comply with.

He said Telegram was doing its best to help fight terrorism and that blocking it would not help because other encrypted services were available.

“If you want to defeat terrorism by blocking stuff, you’ll have to block the Internet,” wrote Durov.

Additional reporting by Maria Kiselyova and Denis Dyomkin; Editing by Christian Lowe

Talking Online Dating with eHarmony’s New CEO

Fast forward to 2017: not only is online dating alive and well, it is thriving and growing. Driven by increasingly busy schedules, a decrease in social stigma associated with online dating, and greater connectivity as a result of mobile technology, more and more people are turning towards online dating services to facilitate romantic interactions. Currently, nearly 50 million Americans use online dating, while globally nearly 290 million people are using online dating services to find a mate. Such use is increasing rapidly, since 2013 the use of online dating services among 18-24 year-olds has tripled, while usage rates among those in the 55 – 65 age group have doubled. Not surprisingly, the market for online dating services is also growing; in 2005, the online dating market generated $516 million in revenues, while recent estimates value the current online dating market at $2.5 billion. Consistent with its popularity, online dating services are yielding results for users. It has been reported that 20 percent of all committed relationships began online with 17 percent of couples married last year having met on a dating site.

Sniper Elite 4’s newest update offers more free stuff, wraps up DLC

Sniper Elite 4‘s latest update arrives today, adding a new difficulty option and some new weapons while closing out its premium DLC schedule with the third chapter of the Deathstorm campaign.

The free stuff: A “Lock and Load” weapons group offers the M30 Drilling, Mauser M712 and trusty old SVT rifles. There’s also a new map for the multiplayer survival mode, “Facility,” which is based on the Magazzeno Facility mission from the campaign. And there’s “Bunker,” a map for the adversarial multiplayer mode based on the Allegra Fortress mission from the campaign.

The free update also adds a new difficulty level, Authentic Plus, which promises “relentless enemies and even fewer display aids.” Two new trophies/achievements are offered along with the mode. Also the multiplayer level cap is raised from 50 to 250, and users can choose a scope reticule for their weapon.

For the premium DLC out today, the hawkeyed, Nazi-smashing Karl Fairburne reaches Bavaria, the heart of Germany, and the town Steigerloch, where the German atomic project is being researched. The town sits atop a bunker complex teeming with enemy soldiers. Fairburne is tasked with infiltrating the facility, wiping out the research and anyone guarding it, and bringing the threat to an end. All by himself, naturally.

Sniper Elite 4 launched on Feb. 14 for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One. Polygon scored the game a 6.5, praising its tension and the tactical demands of the user, but lamenting “an inconsequential story and addiction to inane splatter kills.”

Sniper Elite 4: Deathstorm Part 3 is now available to download

 

From the stealthy adventures through Nazi Germanyback in Sniper Elite V2, through the rough terrain of Africa and, all the way to the coastal towns of the Italian countryside, there aren’t many places we haven’t trekked in the shoes ofOSSveteran sniper KarlFairburne. But his latest adventure hasn’t quite come to its end. At least not quite yet!

Those who have dived into the Sniper Elite 4 mini campaign DLC knownas OperationDeathstorm, will have certainly been anticipating what is set to be an exciting finale to the three-part mini-series. After a lengthy break since part 2 arrived on our consoles, today finally sees the epic mini adventure given its conclusion as Sniper Elite 4DeathstormPart 3: Obliteration is now available to download.

Priced at £5.59, the final chapter of theDeathstormcampaign will see players once more return to the battered German borders with a trip back to the Bavarian town ofSteigerloch. Set in the heartland of Germany,Steigerlochis believed to be where the abominable nuclear project known asDeathstormis undergoing research. In one last attempt to absolve the nation of nuclear threat, players must once more don the shoes of coveted hero KarlFairburneand infiltrate a heavily guarded underground complex that’srumouredto be hidden beneath the sleepy town’s hilltop church. Suspicious vehicle activity in the area suggests the Nazis are planning something big – and soon, so it’s up to you to put a stop to it.

Asan added bonusfor any players who purchase the third and final story expansion for Sniper Elite 4, there will also be six entirely new Axis characters for use in the games multiplayer mode, and a selection of new weapons – via the Lock and Load Weapons Pack – to kit them out with, including the SVT, M30 Drilling and the Mauser M712. This comes in at just £3.19.

Of course, with such a big finale arriving for our favourite sniper, the content doesn’t end there. As part of a free update available to all players, Sniper Elite 4 will receive the free new Authentic Plus difficulty mode, set to bring even more of a Herculean challenge with its relentless enemies and even fewer display aids. Those up for the task can earn themselves two all new achievements. As for players who maxed out their level long ago, the Elite ranks are also being increased, from the rather respectable 50, to a resounding 250 to keep you sniping for many months to come.

If that’s not enough, players can also find an all new maps to get involve with, including the new survival map ‘Facility’ which is heavily inspired by the “MagazzenoFacility” campaign mission and the “Bunker” multiplayer map, which comes with inspiration from the “Allegra Fortress” campaign mission. Finally, by popular demand, the ability to choose your rifles scope reticule has also made its way to Sniper Elite 4 courtesy of today’s free update, given players even more customisation choice when it comes to kitting up your weaponry.

Sniper Elite 4DeathstormPart 3: Obliteration is available to download now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC for the price of £5.59.Season Pass holders will find the latest content available for no extra cost. The Xbox Games Store will sort you out.

Will you be taking to Nazi Germany on Karl’s latest adventure? Let us know in the comments below or via our usual social channels.

DLC Description:

With the true nature of ‘Deathstorm’ unveiled, Karl is assigned to the town of Steigerloch in Germany, to put the project out of action. If Karl fails, the implications for the Allies – and for the free world – are unthinkable. In Deathstorm: Obliteration, the conclusion of the thrilling three-part DLC campaign trilogy, the Sniper Elite will need all his cunning and guile to defeat the enemy’s scheme… For 1-2 players.

Elite Dangerous PS4 Review – IGN

As I drop out of hyperspace flight, the whine of my engines resonating throughout the cockpit of my Cobra Mk III spacecraft as they screech to a halt, a Methane Dwarf star stares back at me. The purplish light of the star bounces off the dashboard of my spacecraft, filling the area with a melancholy glow. This peaceful moment leaves me awestruck as I take it in, making me hesitant to move on to the next leg of my journey. Elite Dangerous is a game full of drastic swings between peaceful, poetic moments like this, others that are full of danger and action, and some of the most boring stretches of empty space I’ve ever navigated.

Though this deep and vast space fighter sim has been out (first on PC and then on Xbox One) for a few years now, Elite Dangerous has finally brought its 1:1 scale model recreation of our Milky Way Galaxy to the PlayStation 4. At least in this version of the 3rd millennium, this is a place rife with political intrigue, trading empires, space fighter combat – all separated by  tracts of empty light years.

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Elite Dangerous can be played fully solo with just the stars to keep you company, or it can be played  online in its Open Play mode. The latter is a persistent online universe where you’re constantly bumping into other players, known as Commanders, but interacting with other players is pretty limited. You can group up and run missions, trade routes, or simply explore together, but the vast majority of human interaction boils down to piracy and bounty hunting.

It’s up to you, Commander, to decide how to start.

What’s not easy, however, is learning how to play Elite Dangerous. The learning curve is tough, especially when it comes to piloting your craft or simply trying to figure out what the heck to do next. Sure, you start off with tutorials teaching everything from basic flight, combat situations, and even landing procedures (the bane of many commanders’ experiences), though those can only go so far. Once you jump into the shared online universe for real, however, you’re thrown into the cockpit of a basic Sidewinder spacecraft, in a space station, orbiting a planet in a random star system with no direction as to how to proceed. It’s up to you, Commander, to decide how to start. I suggest searching YouTube for some starter guides, because otherwise Elite Dangerous risks blowing its precious first impression on its deep trading system, or even to learn more about the political struggles which hang over every corner of civilized space.

This level of freedom is often teased in open-world games, but with Elite Dangerous it’s fully realized. You can become a prolific trader, capitalizing on trade routes between stations and amassing millions of credits with each trip you take. If piracy is more your thing, more power to you: you can hunt down unsuspecting pilots, steal their cargo, and sell it to some shady dealer in a fringe system, risking bounty hunters in every flight. If you enjoy the solitude and simplicity of traveling light years beyond the borders of civilized space you can explore the unknown, bringing back cartography data of a far-off star no one has heard of before. Some will be content to simply stick to one role the whole time, but I realized early on that I was going to bounce between play styles depending on my mood. I found myself mostly specializing in trade with the occasional bounty hunting when the constant travel started to wear on me. Wisely, Elite Dangerous doesn’t put any barriers in your way when you want to change things up.

Elite Dangerous becomes increasingly satisfying.

There is no overarching campaign to complete, though there are political intrigues and storylines to be found in every starport. It’s up to you how to shape these stories, good or bad. It’s daunting, especially to those accustomed to a more focused space adventure like No Man’s Sky – which is open world but had a defined goal to work towards at the end – or Wing Commander. But as each layer is peeled back, the gameplay of Elite Dangerous becomes increasingly satisfying, leaving me with the feeling that even the time spent traveling from one dot on my heads-up display (HUD) to another isn’t entirely time wasted. I find it fulfilling to pore over trade data I’ve logged, maximizing the route to take in order to make the most money off a trading haul. I also love to study the Galaxy Map – a dizzying display of systems, trade routes, and power struggles – in order to find potential conflict zones I can take part in.

Some of these moments can be a challenge to enjoy, though, since the PlayStation 4 version suffers from some pretty crippling performance issues, even after the patch that cleaned up the frequent screen tearing. Most severely, framerates plummet when blasting into a busy star system or arriving at a large, complex space station. The latter causes further annoyance since these issues mess with the responsiveness of the controls, making landing safely (which is difficult under the best conditions) a struggle not against game mechanics, but input lag.

Learning how your ship handles in stressful situations can go a long way to surviving.

It helps that Elite Dangerous is one of the most beautiful space games I’ve played. The inside of each ship’s cockpit is intricately detailed, with a level of care usually reserved for racing sims. Effects – such as the lessening of light pollution as you move away from a nearby star, making nebulae, stars and more become more visible as you continue to fly away – are subtle, but help to reinforce this convincing sense of place. Each spacecraft handles distinctly, from the quick and speedy Eagle to the slow and lumbering Hauler, and learning how your ship handles in stressful situations can go a long way to surviving in the long run.

The biggest part of that is combat, which also feels great. Combat in Elite Dangerous isn’t just a “point and shoot” affair. Each instance is different, bringing with it a bevy of on-the-fly decisions that can make the difference between winning and ejecting into cold space. One time I dropped into the system of Eravate and immediately headed to the Nav Beacon, and was greeted immediately with the sight of a group of players and AI ships alike engaged in a space battle with a poor soul sporting a pretty large bounty (which you build up through acts of piracy). I’d upgraded my ship a few times since starting out, so I sent my Cobra Mk III into high gear to engage and collect a portion of the spoils. Soon I was staring down a large Anaconda-class ship and settled in for a bumpy fight.

My Cobra’s hardpoints lashed out, sending beams across the enemy ship. His did, too, and my shields were gone in what felt like an instant. Shields gone, I had to figure out how to survive against this massive ship while staying in the fight. I kicked my throttle into gear and performed a quick-axis turn by turning flight assist off, keeping my eyes on the enemy while moving out of range of its weapons. Thankfully, a ship upgrade I made in the previous station meant my shields recharged faster, which allowed me to get right back into the fray. Throttle still fully engaged, I turned back on flight assist to stabilize my fighter as I set my ship’s power to focus on its weapons, and gave it everything my beam weapons could. Its shields were now down, and with the Anaconda weakened I used my cannons and multi-guns to tear apart its hull ‘till it met its demise. A bounty of 201K credits flashed across my heads-up display, ready to collect at the nearest starport.

Even with all these moments in mind, though, it is hard to shake the fact that for much of your time spent in Elite Dangerous will be spent traveling in essentially a straight line – whether from port to port, system to system (or even planet to planet with the $30 Horizons DLC). It’s easy to fall into a routine, but that routine largely becomes dull and uninviting.

Thankfully, Elite Dangerous on PS4 launches with the Arena mode, giving a reprieve from the mundane moments of interstellar travel. The game modes in the CQC (or Close Quarters Combat) Arena are nothing to call home about when it comes to objectives: you can take part in either team or free-for-all deathmatch, or a capture the flag mode. But the constant action keeps me engaged. Within the Arena, there is a separate progression system: you’re not bringing in your incredibly outfitted ships from the main game, but ranking up and unlocking new ships, weapons, and items to take into combat. Ranking up doesn’t take too long either – within about five or six deathmatch rounds I found myself with a few unlocked ships and loadouts to rival some of the better fighters in the Milky Way, which left everything else to a test of pilot skill.


Space is big and empty, dotted with small points of brilliant light. Elite Dangerous is much the same way: it can at times be boring or mundane, as much of it is spent flying from point A to point B. Thankfully, whether you’re soaking in the cosmos around you, banking large sums of credits from a well-planned trading haul, or surviving a harrowing encounter with space pirates in dazzling ship-to-ship combat, Elite Dangerous has plenty to keep me excited to come back. And when those long-haul sessions become too much, Arena mode is there to inject some much-needed action at a moment’s notice.