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Algerians cast votes in presidential poll

Algerians are casting their votes in presidential elections that are likely to lead to Abdelaziz Bouteflika's fourth mandate, despite wide expections of a low turnout and amid calls for a boycott with the opposition warning of rigged results. More than 260,000 police have been deployed to protect the 50,000 polling booths opening on Thursday across Africa's largest country, where 23 million Algerians are eligible to vote in a contest between six candidates. Bouteflika, 77, who is seeking to extend his 15-year rule despite chronic health problems, is the firm favourite. He has appeared only rarely on television in recent months, looking frail, after suffering a mini-stroke last year which confined him to hospital in France for three months. But with oppositon parties and youth activists loudly calling on Algerians to snub the poll, and many questioning his ability to rule, Bouteflika faces the risk of a damaging low turnout. Local media have doubted Bouteflika's ability to cast his vote himself, which was then denied by a team of loyalists he had tasked to take charge of his electoral campaign, on his behalf. His intention to seek re-election was announced in February, prompting derision from his critics.

Samsung Galaxy S5′s fingerprint scanner can be easily hacked

Researchers at Germany’s Security Research Labs have demonstrated that the Samsung Galaxy S5′s fingerprint scanner is not really all that secure the researchers showed how the fingerprint scanner on the smartphone could be bypassed by using a “wood glue spoof”. This was easily made from a mould of a fingerprint smudge left on a smartphone screen. What is even more disturbing is that this same hack was used on the iPhone 5s last year as well. According to the researchers, the spoof allowed them to easily bypass the S5 security. Where the spoof is made from nothing “but a camera phone photo of an unprocessed latent print on a smartphone screen.” The video showcases how Samsung’s integration of the fingerprint security into apps like PayPal is worrying, especially since the phone allows users multiple attempts to log in. The researchers say that this gives hackers even more incentive to learn how to spoof the fingerprint scanner. “We expected we’d be able to spoof the S5′s Finger Scanner, but I hoped it would at least be a challenge. The S5 Finger Scanner feature offers nothing new except—because of the way it is implemented in this Android device—slightly higher risk than that already posed by previous devices,” Ben Schlabs, a researcher at SRLabs, wrote in an e-mail to Ars Technica. According to the researchers Samsung has executed the fingerprint authentication quite poorly and has not learnt much from other Android device manufacturers. Cnet reports that PayPal has already issued a statement on the same, saying, “While we take the findings from Security Research Labs very seriously, we are still confident that fingerprint authentication offers an easier and more secure way to pay on mobile devices than passwords or credit cards.” “PayPal never stores or even has access to your actual fingerprint with authentication on the Galaxy S5. The scan unlocks a secure cryptographic key that serves as a password replacement for the phone. We can simply deactivate the key from a lost or stolen device, and you can create a new one. PayPal also uses sophisticated fraud and risk management tools to try to prevent fraud before it happens. However, in the rare instances that it does, you are covered by our purchase protection policy.”

New Ebola Strain Causing West Africa Outbreak

The strain of Ebola virus that has killed 121 people in West Africa may have been circulating there undetected for some time, according to a new study. This is the first reported outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. But the new study in the New England Journal of Medicine said this strain of the virus may not be new to the area. Researchers from Africa and Europe compared viral DNA from this outbreak to previous episodes. They confirmed that it is a member of the Zaire species, which kills most of its victims. Strains of that virus have caused outbreaks previously in Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo. But this virus is a new strain, a previously unknown sister in the Zaire family. Virologist Jens Kuhn at the National Institutes of Health said there may be more.

Female students kidnapped in Nigeria set free

More than 100 female students kidnapped by suspected Islamic militants from a school in the north-east of Nigeria have been set free, the country's military said. Only eight of more than 100 students are unaccounted for, major general Chris Olukolade said. The government had reported that security forces were hunting for militants who abducted more than 100 women from a high school early on Tuesday, the Guardian reports. According to the report, the Borno state governor, Kashim Shettima, said 129 students were kidnapped and at least 14 freed themselves. The girls were abducted hours after an explosion blamed on extremists killed 75 people in Nigeria's capital, Abuja.

Sudan's president bans political party meetings

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has issued a decree banning political parties from holding meetings without permission from the authorities, the official SUNA news agency reported. The decree comes just a week after Bashir assured a meeting of party leaders they had freedom to operate in the run-up to a "national dialogue" he has promised to hold to address urgent demands for change in his 25-year regime. "No political party has the right to hold meetings and conferences inside their areas without first obtaining permission from the relevant authorities," SUNA late on Monday reported the decree as reading. At the April 6 meeting in Khartoum, Bashir assured party leaders they were free to conduct activities inside or outside their offices, "according to law". A day later, however, the Reform Now party said security agents had prevented it from holding a discussion forum and had detained the leader of its student wing, Emad Al-Dien Hashim. Reform Now was formed in December by Bashir's ex-adviser Ghazi Salahuddin Atabani after the ruling National Congress Party ousted him. Critics have said Bashir's political dialogue is just a way for the elite to hang on to power without properly addressing the country's problems. An alliance of small opposition parties has refused to join the dialogue, which Bashir announced in January, unless the government meets several conditions. These include declaring a ceasefire with the country's armed rebels, and abolishing all laws that restrict freedoms.

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