Archive for March 2017

Your Latest IT News Update

Home Secretary Calls For Government Access To WhatsApp Messages

The discovery that last week’s London terror attacker Khalid Masood used WhatsApp’s encrypted message service minutes before the killings have led for calls, not least by Home Secretary Amber Rudd, to give the government access to the un-encrypted content of messages on the platform.

<More>

Laptop Bans on Aircraft

The UK and US governments have introduced a ban on taking laptops and tablets on planes as cabin baggage on flights from selected Middle East and North African Countries.

<More>

UK Launch For Twitter-Backed Small Business Card Payment Service

A new card and contactless payment service called ‘Square’, created by the boss of Twitter and aimed at small businesses, has launched in the UK this week.

<More>

New Government Cyber Security Unit Encourages Business Co-Operation

After the opening of new National Cyber Security Centre in London in February (to act as part of GCHQ in Cheltenham), businesses are being encouraged to report serious data breaches to the NCSC in confidence.

<More>

Scammers Exploit Rise In Bitcoin Value

Scammers have been quick to exploit a rise in the value of web-based, crypto-currency Bitcoin by launching bogus online schemes with the lure of false money-making offers.

<More>

One-Third of Jobs At Risk From Automation

A new report by PwC claims that over 30% of UK jobs could be lost to automation by the year 2030.

<More>

Tech Tip: Share Your Windows Internet Connection By Making A Wireless Hotspot

If you’re looking for an easy and fast way to share your internet connection with your other devices, with Windows 10 you can do so by turning your computer into a wireless hotspot without extra software or advanced commands. Here’s how:

<More>

Tech Tip: Share Your Windows Internet Connection By Making A Wireless Hotspot

If you’re looking for an easy and fast way to share your internet connection with your other devices, with Windows 10 you can do so by turning your computer into a wireless hotspot without extra software or advanced commands. Here’s how:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Network & Internet.
  3. Click on Mobile hotspot.
  4. Under “Share my Internet connection from” drop-down menu, select the network adapter connected to the internet that you want to share.
  5. Click Edit.
  6. Type an identifying name for the shared connection that others will use to find the network.
  7. Type a new password that others can use to connect to the hotspot.
  8. Click Save.
  9. Turn on the Share my Internet connection with other devices toggle switch.
  10. Up to 8 devices should then be able to connect using your new wireless hotspot 🙂

One Third of Jobs At Risk From Automation

A new report by PwC claims that over 30% of UK jobs could be lost to automation by the year 2030.

Robot Replacements

Advances in AI, robotics, and technology could mean that many jobs that need humans today may be carried out by robots in the next 15 years.

Which Jobs?

According to the report, 44% jobs in manufacturing (where there are already many robots e.g. car manufacturing), especially those involving manual work, look likely to go to AI led software or robots.

Transportation jobs are also in the high-risk category for robot replacements, and according to the report, 56% of jobs could be lost to autonomous vehicles.

Jobs in the UK’s largest sectors, wholesale retail jobs, also look vulnerable to automation.

For some jobs which are highly varied, require specific human interaction, where people are required to have high levels of education, and where automation may be less acceptable e.g. education, less than 10% of jobs likely to be at risk to robots.

Worse In Other Countries

Both the US and Germany, however, are countries that have even higher forecasts of between 35% and 40% of jobs likely to be lost to automated alternatives in the next decade and a half.

Share The Gains

Technical commentators have noted that, even though some types of jobs and industries may be more at risk than others, the situation could be improved for all by making sure that the benefits of automation are shared across society.

Employment commentators have made the point that one factor that may be making the figures in the report look more menacing than they should is the fact that current UK employment levels (75%) are at their highest since modern records began in 1971.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Most businesses are likely to be affected by some aspect of automation e.g. software or mechanical, in the near future, either themselves of through suppliers and stakeholders. There is an inevitability that AI and robotics will alter what jobs look like in the future, but it is also important to remember that they could provide huge advantages and opportunities for businesses. Workers can try to insulate themselves from the worst effects of automation by seeking more education / lifelong learning, and by trying to remain positive towards and adapting to changes. How much automation and what kind of automation individual businesses adopt will, of course, depend upon a cost / benefit analysis compared to human workers, and whether automation is appropriate and is acceptable to their customers.

Scammers Exploit Rise In Bitcoin Value

Scammers have been quick to exploit a rise in the value of web-based, crypto-currency Bitcoin by launching bogus online schemes with the lure of false money-making offers.

What Happened to Bitcoin?

At the beginning of March, the value of a unit of Bitcoin exceeded the value of an ounce of gold for the first time. The markets recorded the value of a unit of Bitcoin at $1,268, compared to a troy ounce of gold at $1,233.

Crime and Bitcoin

The fact that Bitcoin allows payments to be transferred easily, quickly and anonymously (because it is outside of central banks and government control), across borders, continents and time-zones, and that there is no person / body / organisation to complain to if money is taken from a Bitcoin wallet, are factors that are often reported as being attractive to criminal elements of society e.g. money launderers and organised crime gangs. These features have also made Bitcoin a popular means for ransomware distributors to seek payments from their victims.

Recent Scams

The recent rise in Bitcoin’s value and a general lack of knowledge about the currency have made it ideal ‘bait’ for those looking to make the mythical ‘easy money’. This has led to a number of news scams being operated such as:

  • Scams that take users to phishing sites e.g. using real brand names as cover. These can also install malware on employee computers, which can then lead to the same companies being hit again.
  • Bogus Bitcoin search services.
  • Fake surveys about Bitcoin.
  • Exaggerated and misleading offers about Bitcoin.
  • Bogus old-style pyramid scams, dressed up with Bitcoins.
  • Social media scams.

What Can You Do To Protect Yourself / Your Company?

Firstly, it is important to be aware that Bitcoin scams are highly prevalent now and to inform / educate staff that they need to be vigilant and that a system / procedure needs to be in place to encourage checking and reporting. Companies who already deal with Bitcoins in any capacity will need to be particularly careful as this could be used by scammers as a point of leverage.

Businesses can also make sure that malicious sites are identified and blocked, and that any scams noticed on social media platforms are reported immediately to those platforms.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Clearly, extra vigilance is needed at the present time for any Bitcoin-related offers and / or communications, and it is important to make sure that staff members are made aware of this through education. Having good cyber security systems and procedures in place anyway, however, can provide protection from multiple, popular forms of scams, and popular data / cyber security risks. It is important also to make sure that your business has adequate and up-to-date Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plans in place should e.g. human error lead to your business falling victim to such a scam.

New Government Cyber Security Unit Encourages Business Co-Operation

After the opening of new National Cyber Security Centre in London in February (to act as part of GCHQ in Cheltenham), businesses are being encouraged to report serious data breaches to the NCSC in confidence.

Confidential

Peter Yapp, the deputy director for the incident management directorate has been reported as telling an audience of journalists in a recent meeting that such confidential disclosures would not be passed on to the ICO, the UK’s independent body set up to uphold information rights.

More Outward-Facing

The idea that business CEOs can get a better outcome for the results of a serious data breach by contacting the NCSC first, rather than waiting to be called by them, is part of a new, more open, and outward-facing approach by the UK’s cyber security protection vanguard.

Businesses Encouraged To Visit

The new NCSC building in Victoria in London, opened by the Queen, is a very public part of this new initiative and is a way for GCHQ in Cheltenham to reach out and have an ear-to-the-ground presence in the hub of the UK’s business and financial centre. Business representatives are encouraged to visit to share information about cyber threats and breaches.

Announced Back In October

Back in October 2016, for example, the government announced that as part of its multi-billion pound plans, it would be seeking greater engagement with CEOs and board level executives on cyber security. This was intended to be enabled by making connections with business via the new National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in London.

Many Directorates

The NCSC’s CEO will be former GCHQ cyber security head Ciaran Martin, and it is reported that the NCSC will grow to house many vital cyber defence directorates and sub-directorates, including Incident Management and Research.

Now More Diverse Too

At the recent CYBERUK 2017 conference, the NCSC announced that as well as being more outward-facing to business, they will also soon be more diverse. New initiatives will mean that as well as having a one-third female workforce, the NCSC will work with the private sector to provide first-job placements for female graduates in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Up until now, businesses have faced the prospect of attempting to protect their data as best they could with the threat of instant reputational damage, loss of customers and the threat of huge fines if any breaches were known about. Some businesses are therefore likely to have buried or delayed data breach announcements as long as possible. The opportunity of a more open, less threatening option should the worst happen has to be good news, and only by really working together, without fear, and sharing information can the UK gain better protection for its businesses and other institutions from the constantly evolving menace of cyber attacks.

UK Launch For Twitter-Backed Small Business Card Payment Service

A new card and contactless payment service called ‘Square’, created by the boss of Twitter and aimed at small businesses, has launched in the UK this week.

Why?

Square has been launched in the UK because 5.4 million small businesses don’t / can’t yet accept card payments, and statistics show that 70% of people now prefer to use their debit / credit card for payments to shops and other businesses.

Started in the US

The ‘Square’ card / contactless payment system launched some time ago in the US, and the UK is a promising market for its expansion.

There has also been a UK trial of Square among a handful of small merchants in London, such as the Piano Bar in Soho.

Twitter Link

The Square system comes from Twitter creator Jack Dorsey, and it was made with the aim of enabling a largely untapped market of small businesses owners to take advantage of the kind of better payment technology that he is able to provide through Twitter’s position in the IT world and its resources.

How Does Square Work?

To use Square, businesses need to purchase a Square reader for £39 from Square’s online shop: https://squareup.com/gb. A free P-o-S app download then enables a business to connect the reader to a device e.g. a phone or a tablet, via Bluetooth. Businesses using the Square system do not need to set up a separate processing account, and Square accepts cards, contactless payments and cash.

The costs to business for using Square are the purchase price of the reader plus a 1.75% fee for in-person payments, and a 2.5% fee for other transaction types such as online or phone.

Businesses using Square receive the money the day after the transactions take place, thus getting money relatively quickly into the business cashflow.

Features

Some of the many useful features of the Square system include the ability to manage employee permissions, digital and printed receipts, invoices and recurring payments, sales reporting and analytics + real-time inventory management, refunds, tipping and discounts.

Benefits

Some of the benefits of Square are reported to include minimum costs and hassle to the business (no training required, drag and drop customising, low set-up costs) and convenience for customers.

What Does This Mean For Your Businesses?

If you are one of the millions of SME businesses that does not currently take card payments, Square is an opportunity for you to set up a low-cost, relatively low-hassle and effective system that has the backing and expertise of a tech giant. This could, of course, translate into an increased ability to compete (or even gain competitive advantage), gain / attract more customers, and hopefully increase profits. It also means that there is now another effective competitor in the market, whose offering may put pressure on other providers to review and change their offerings, and may even lead to more ‘me-too’ card services for small businesses in the near future.

Laptop Bans on Aircraft

The UK and US governments have introduced a ban on taking laptops and tablets on planes as cabin baggage on flights from selected Middle East and North African Countries.

Which Countries?

For the UK, the ban covers all flights from 6 countries: Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Lebanon. This means that 14 airlines, including British Airways and Easyjet, will be affected by the ban.

For the US, the ban covers all flights from 8 countries: Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. This will affect 9 airlines that, between them, operate around 50 flights to the US per day. Among the airports affected by the US ban is the world’s busiest international airport, Dubai International.

Why?

The ban is being introduced as a security measure to prevent terrorists from targeting commercial aviation using innovative means, such as hiding explosives inside popular electronic devices.

As far as the US is concerned, the timing for (and the nature of) the ban is based upon was has been referred to as “evaluated intelligence”. Although this is unlikely to mean specific threats, the ban enables the two governments to provide a clear, very public, and re-assuring move to protect citizens from more obvious potential risks, and a counter to terrorist propaganda.

Examples of commercial aviation attacks that have been widely reported in support of the ban include the downing of a Russian airliner Sinai in 2015 killing all 224 people, the attempt at downing an airliner in Somalia in 2016, and the attacks on Brussels and Istanbul airports.

Why A Cabin Luggage Ban?

Many have argued that it would make little difference whether an automatic explosive device was in the hold or in the cabin area. The logic of banning potential concealed explosive devices from the cabin appears to be to separate the ‘bomber from the bomb’ e.g. in the case of manually operated devices, and to prevent explosions near the fuselage. Explosions in the cabin area are believed to be more likely to breach the fuselage, and cause the kind of massive de-pressurisation that brings down aircraft.

Which Devices Are Banned?

For example, for US-bound passengers, the non-exhaustive list of devices includes laptops and tablets, cameras and portable DVD players, e-reading devices, electronic game units larger than a smartphone, travel printers and scanners. The UK banned list is similar and will essentially apply to almost any electronic device that is not a phone.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For airline businesses, the ban could hit profits by affecting passenger numbers, could increase baggage scanning and security costs, and could negatively affect customer satisfaction levels. For business travellers, the ban could mean lost time where work could be done e.g. on the laptop during flights. The ban could also mean the hassle of having to find other means of entertainment on long flights, and perhaps having to suffer more distractions from other passengers who cannot use their electronic devices e.g. children. The ban could also mean greater disruption (particularly in the early stages of the ban) as a result of increased waiting times at security. Some commentators have also pointed out that there is the potential for electronic devices stored in the baggage hold to be damaged or lost, and this could have insurance implications.

Home Secretary Calls For Government Access To WhatsApp Messages

The discovery that last week’s London terror attacker Khalid Masood used WhatsApp’s encrypted message service minutes before the killings have led for calls, not least by Home Secretary Amber Rudd, to give the government access to the un-encrypted content of messages on the platform.

Unacceptable?

In a weekend TV interview, Home Secretary Rudd described the current situation whereby terrorists can secretly talk to each other on a formal social media messaging platform as ‘unacceptable’. Home Secretary Rudd and the government’s frustration have meant that a meeting has been set for this week with Facebook and other technology companies to try and broker a work-around.

Shift From End-To-End Encryption

The government’s likely position at the meeting will be to seek a shift by social media platforms e.g. Facebook, WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage, away from the complete end-to-end encryption model that denies everyone (including government’s) access to message content, towards allowing specific unscrambled messages to be handed to the government on warranted request.

Issues & Objections

The government’s wish to have greater access on request and surveillance powers have, however, been met with several counter-arguments and objections from technical and security commentators, tech companies, and even a former Ministry of Defence’s cyber-security chief. The arguments and objections against granting the government yet more powers include:

  • There is already a wide-ranging Investigatory Powers Act (“Snooper’s Charter”) in place. As well as potentially enabling secret backdoors to be created in apps and thereby undermining public trust in their software, the Act is regarded by many as granting enough powers for now.
  • Doubts exist as to whether the WhatsApp activity by the London terror-attacker was even related to the atrocity anyway.
  • If encryption was banned or weaknesses / backdoors were built-in to popular platforms, determined criminals would simply obtain encryption products from other sources.
  • Banning encryption e.g. as a knee-jerk reaction to specific attacks and / or to gain access to communications of a few people could pose much wide security risks to all of us. For example, we could all face greater privacy and security risks from authoritarian governments, foreign spies, hackers and other criminals.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Security and privacy is important in business communications, whether by phone app, social platform, or by email system. Businesses could argue that a more immediate and more likely risk comes from cyber criminals, many of whom have already shown themselves to be capable of exploiting situations where there are back-doors in software / platforms / systems, or where there is a lack of adequate encryption. Relaxing security protection for all for the sake of a few may, therefore, may not be a response that will benefit businesses right now. The debate, however, looks likely to continue for some time.

Your Latest IT News Update

Car Costs Could Skyrocket

If car manufacturers are given sole access your modern car’s digital data records (and not third party repair businesses), this could mean that manufacturers will recommend their own repair centres and spare parts, which would very likely mean higher bills and less choice for you.

<More>

Criminal Charge For Sending Flashing Tweet To Epileptic

A man has been arrested after he alleged tweeted a flashing animated strobe-style picture, which triggered an epileptic seizure in the recipient.

<More>

Timely Content … Or A Sneaky Advert?

Google recently removed an unprompted audio advert from its Google Home smart speaker / digital assistant system after accusations that the piece was simply an unrequested advert.

<More>

Robots Helping The Elderly

In an age when people are living longer, healthcare systems and resources are being strained, with elderly people facing challenges like loneliness, more research is being carried out into how robots could bridge the care gap.

<More>

Facebook Social Data-Sharing & Surveillance Bans

Facebook and Instagram privacy policies are reported to have been updated with the intention of stopping developers and businesses from using the data they find there to provide surveillance tools.

<More>

£8M Funding For ‘Sell In 90 Days’ London Estate Agent

The innovative London-based start-up Nested, which guarantees to sell your house within 90 days, has raised a further £8 million in funding from investors.

<More>

Tech Tip – Customise or Disable the Windows 10 Mail Signature

If you don’t like the fact that you have “Sent from Mail for Windows 10” at the end of your emails, and / or if you’d like to personalise / customise your signature, or simply turn the signature function off, here’s how.

<More>

Tech Tip – Customise or Disable the Windows 10 Mail Signature

If you don’t like the fact that you have “Sent from Mail for Windows 10” at the end of your emails, and / or if you’d like to personalise / customise your signature, or simply turn the signature function off, here’s how.

Change / Customise the Signature:

  • Launch your Widows 10 mail app.
  • From the list of options, click Signature.
  • Customize your Windows 10 Mail signature.
  • If you have more than one email account configured, select the account you’d like to change from the drop-down list.
  • To apply the same custom email signature to all accounts, check the box labeled ‘Apply to all accounts’.
  • At the foot of the Signature Settings window, click inside the signature box.
  • Delete the default “Sent from Mail for Windows 10” signature.
  • Type in what you would like instead (you can add multiple lines by pressing the Enter key to create a new line).
  • Hit the back arrow at the top of the Settings window to close it.

Disable the Windows 10 Mail Signature:

  • Go to Mail > Settings > Signature.
  • Set the option Use an email signature to Off.
  • If you’ve created a custom signature, this will be restored if you later switch the signature back on.