Archive for August 2017 – Page 2

Tougher Sentences For Online Abusers

The UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, has said that the Crown Prosecution Service will treat online hate crime as seriously as offences carried out face to face, and will seek tougher penalties and sentences for online abuse on social media platforms.

Crackdown On Online Hate Speech

Online hate speech has proliferated on (and been enabled by) social media in recent years, and trolling has resulted in misery for victims, and even suicides. With online hate speech and hate crime on the rise, the CPS has announced that it plans to erase the line between real-world , face to face offences and online abuse, and take into account the effects on the victim and on the community.

The reason for this new move by the CPS is the now widely accepted belief that, left unchallenged, low-level abuse (offending) can fuel dangerous and hostile hate crimes e.g. like those seen recently in Charlottesville in the US.

Different Experiences And Needs

In its new policy documents, the CPS covers many different types of hate crimes e.g. racist, religious, disability. The CPS has also now acknowledges that different victim types have different needs and experiences e.g. differences in the experiences of victims of biphobic crime (aimed at bi-sexuals) and victims of homophobic and transphobic offences.

As such, the CPS now intends to remove obstacles to justice for all kinds of victims in all kinds of hate crimes, and wants to ensure that (for example) disabled victims and witnesses get the right support they need to allow them to give their best evidence.

Hate Crimes Defined And Contextualised

According to the CPS, hate crimes are committed by a person motivated by hostility towards the victim’s disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity. The CPS has now prioritized hate crime because it recognises the corrosive and lasting impact that such crime can have on communities and citizens, and how it can drive people to change the way they live and to live in fear.

The new policy also takes into consideration the current breadth and context of the offence, giving the prosecutors the best probable chance of getting justice for the victims. It also lets the victims and witnesses know what they can expect from the CPS.

Public Encouraged To Report Hate Crime

The CPS is encouraging the public to report hate crime with confidence, knowing that the CPS will take them seriously and give them the needed support. Its campaign, #hatecrimematters, aims to educate and inform the public about the new policy by the CPS.

ORG Warning

Although the Open Rights Group (ORG) broadly supports the idea of holding perpetrators of online hate speech / hate crime to account, it has warned internet companies against a blanket policing of online free speech.

For The Record

Currently, CPS has a record of 83.2% conviction rate in its completed 15,442 hate crime prosecutions, the highest figure thus far.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The business world works best when customers, investors, and other stakeholders have confidence in companies, brands, products and services. Those businesses that supply platforms for, or enable the sharing / distribution free speech of any kind e.g. social media and web companies, are now supported in UK law by their common duty to provide a safe online environment for their users e.g. by removing hate speech promptly, and by making their part of the online environment particularly safe for children, young people, and the vulnerable.

Businesses and organisations of all kinds can help the common purpose of minimising online hate crime through education of their staff / pupils / customers / users / stakeholders about their own policies for the treatment of those discovered to be using hate speech e.g. at work online.

We can all play our own individual part in making the online environment safe for all by reporting hate speech where we find it, and, although the stance of open rights / free speech organisations such as the ORG is important, so is ensuring that the Internet is a safe place for all.

68% of UK Firms Not Trained Against Cyber Attacks

The annual Cyber Governance Health Check has shown that 68% of the UK’s top business board members have received no training in how to respond to a cyber attack.

No Plan For One In Ten FTSE Companies

Also, according to the report from The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), even though 54% acknowledge that cyber attack is a top threat to their business, 10% of the FTSE 350 companies don’t have a plan in place for what to do in the event of an attack.

Board-Level Awareness

The report shows that although board-level awareness on the importance of cyber security has risen by almost 10% over the year (up from 21% to 31%), two-thirds of UK Board members are not up-to-date with cyber security risk information.

Customer Data Safety

On a slightly more promising note, however, 50% of board members said that they review and challenge reports on the security of customer’s data.

Better Training Needed

The survey results have prompted industry experts to rally senior executives and their staff to get proper training in managing cyber attacks in order to ensure that companies can minimise damage to their systems and reputation, and avoid possible lawsuits.

Adopting Best Practice

Digital Minister Matt Hancock has publicly acknowledged that there is a need to adopt best practice in cyber security to avoid the devastating effects of a cyber attack in the first place. Mr Hancock has highlighted how the UK’s world-leading businesses and charities are naturally going to be targets for hackers. It is therefore vital that senior executives work with the National Cyber Security Centre and heed Government’s advice and training.

UK charities can also take advantage of a tailored programme of support that has been developed alongside the Charity Commission and the National Cyber Security Centre.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Cyber crime is a major threat to all UK businesses and organisations, and knowledge about it is no longer something that can be left to the IT Department. Given the level of risk that cyber crime poses to the very life of the business, board members and senior executives should be among those most well informed, should be prioritizing and championing the promotion of cyber security best practice throughout the company.

If businesses have not done so already, now is the time to prioritise the issue and make sure that basic cyber security steps are taken at the very least – see https://www.cyberstreetwise.com/cyberessentials/
Now may also be a good time therefore for businesses to seek other professional advice about measures that could be taken to ensure cyber resilience in the first place, such as quality cyber security training for all staff (including Board members), health checks, risk assessments / audits, cyber security policies, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans.

Less Than 10% Completing Computing A-levels Are Female

According to statistics on A-level results released recently, only 9.8% of those completing A-level computing courses are female.

Shortfall

While almost 7,600 UK students took A-level computing in the UK, less than 10% completing those courses were females. These figures also highlight a huge shortfall from the UK’s aim and expectation of 40,000 students taking A-level computing.

Why Such Low Numbers?

Many industry commentators have given possible causes and reasons for the low numbers of females ending up with computing A-levels. These include:

  • The failure of the UK education system to attract girls to the subject from primary school level and beyond.
  • Negative stereotyping of females, including an unconscious bias and gender stereotyping which assigns females to particular tech jobs. This was partly reflected recently, for example, in an incident where a Google engineer was sacked for authoring a controversial 10-page memo arguing for less emphasis on gender diversity in the workplace, and criticizing Google for its diversity and inclusion initiatives.
  • The expectation that females will be paid less than their male counterparts. For example, research from April this year by Korn Ferry Hay Group found that the Technology sector has the largest ‘like-for-like’ gender pay gap In UK, with women being paid an average of 16% less than men in the same job.
  • The effects of teachers, parents, and other opinion leaders cautioning young girls, when they entertain the idea of working in the tech industry (because of some the reasons shown above).
  • According to the Stemettes charity foundation (one that encourages girls to pursue careers in the sciences, technology engineering, and maths), girls are unlikely to pick a subject to study if they believe that they will be all alone in taking that subject.

Not All Bad News

Data from Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has revealed a little bit of good news. There was an increase of 34% in the number of females taking up computer science exams, from 609 in 2016 to 816 this year.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The UK not only has a major challenge with a skills gap in IT, but it is also facing the possibility of almost entirely missing out on the contribution that women could be making to the sector. Not only are there proven, more obvious barriers (gender pay gaps and stereotyping), but there is a more difficult to pin down combination of circumstances earlier in girls’ lives that is steering them away from, and giving them a negative attitude towards tech careers.

Technology and employment commentators have suggested that the next generation needs to be shown early on (at home, at school, and in wider society influences) that gender is not a part of the equation if a person is seeking a career in the tech industry. Young women need to be encouraged and equipped with the digital skills they need to get work or to pursue further studies in the tech area, and women who have achieved success in the technology IT world could be championed as examples, role models and mentors.

Work also needs to be done within the tech industry and tech companies themselves to challenge the kinds of mistaken beliefs, attitudes, and cultures that lead to extra challenges for women who want to get on, and receive equal opportunities, equal pay, and recognition.

Closing Time For Lovefilm’s Postal DVD Service

Lovefilm has announced that it will be ceasing its postal DVD rental service on 31st October this year, as the format is being superseded by streaming services.

Streaming Kills DVD Demand

A decrease in demand for DVD and Blu-ray rentals, caused by the huge increase in demand for streaming movies and TV series are cited for the reasons why the Amazon-owned DVD rental service will be closing down Lovefilm in the UK and Germany.

Founded in 2002, Lovefilm rented out DVD and Blu-ray discs via the post for a monthly subscription fee. Amazon acquired the service in 2011, and at its peak, Lovefilm had more than 1.4 million subscribers.

From Rental to Streaming

Back in 2010, Lovefilm started to offer some content for online streaming, earning the tag (in 2011) “the Netflix of Europe” before Netflix was actually rolled out there in 2012. The streaming service was then rebranded as Amazon Prime Instant Video.

Discs Donated To Charities

Lovefilm’s film catalogue is vast, comprising of more than 80,000 titles. It has been reported that Amazon now intends to donate all of the DVD and Blu-ray discs to charity partners.

Some Disappointed

The Lovefilm service still has many fans, some of whom have expressed their disappointment at the closing of the service because:

  • Many more film titles appear to be available on DVD and Blu-ray compared to streaming services.
  • DVDs and Blu-ray don’t suffer from the buffering that streaming can suffer from.
  • Some film buffs prefer the ritual and the experience (and the excitement) of receiving a physical film through the post and putting it in a player.
  • Committed DVD and Blue-ray watchers may not have video shops nearby.

Dead Formats?

Streaming has now become common, with high-quality 4K and HDR being offered by streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon Video, and Google Play Movies. Sales of DVDs and Blu-rays in the US, for example, have gone down 7% year-on-year, while subscriptions for streaming services grew 23% last year.

Here in the UK, streaming services have overtaken DVD and Blu-ray sales and rentals for the first time, with revenues surging to almost £1.3bn in the UK last year. Sales of physical video discs fell 17% to £894m, with the physical rental market down 21% to just £49m.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This story illustrates how physical (disc-based) formats have become less popular with consumers, who now prefer digital and streamed film and TV content. The benefits to customers are that it is immediate, convenient, can be watched on mobile devices, doesn’t require storage space in the home (eliminates DVD clutter), it is available on-demand any time, and it eliminates local / regional variations in available titles (you’re not limited by what the local shop stocks).

For businesses offering these services, there are many benefits including the elimination of costs associated with the storage and distribution of social media, fewer piracy worries, greater knowledge about customers and their viewing habits / preferences, and better billing and price / plan segmentation opportunities. It also offers more advertising revenue opportunities.

Tech Tip: Two Handy Right-Clicks

There are two handy right mouse click tips on Windows 10 that can help you save time and personalize your desktop.

Right-Click To Personalize Tiles

  • To personalise your tiles, simply right-click on them to prompt a pop-up menu. This will enable you to un-pin them from the Start menu, resize the windows, or to turn that live tile off.

Right-Click on the Taskbar

  • A right-click on the taskbar reveals a menu that enables you to quickly access many of the presets for the toolbars, Cortana, and window schemes.

Your Latest IT News Update

Introducing Facebook’s New ‘Watch’ Video Service

Facebook might just give YouTube and some TV networks a run for their money with the introduction of new video service called ‘Watch’ that also offers all of Facebook’s basic functions.

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Cryptocurrency Scam Foiled By London Police

A scam which involved duping investors out of £160,000 by selling fake cyber cash has been foiled by London police and has resulted in the arrest of one man.

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Blockchain Links Students To Employers

A new Sony Global Education (SGE) service uses Blockchain to enable students to more easily share their qualifications with employers.

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Encoded DNA Used To Carry Computer Malware

Researchers in the US have used digitised human DNA loaded with malware to infect a computer as part of an experiment to demonstrate that open-source programs used by laboratories worldwide are vulnerable to hackers.

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Li-Fi Could Boost Wi-Fi

Upcoming wireless protocol Light Fidelity or Li-Fi could be used to complement and boost Wi-Fi by turning special LED light bulbs into network access points, and by co-existing in mobile devices to improve performance.

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Consumers Still Unaware of Current Account Switching Service

Recent research has shown that despite spending £750m on an IT system that has simplified and sped up the process of changing bank account providers, only 28% of us know that the Current Account Switching Service (CASS) exists.

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Tech Tip: Setting A Picture Or PIN As Your Password

As traditional passwords have become less secure options, Windows 10 offers you the chance to sign-in by using a picture (annotated by you), or a PIN as your password. Here’s how:

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Tech Tip: Setting A Picture Or PIN As Your Password

As traditional passwords have become less secure options, Windows 10 offers you the chance to sign-in by using a picture (annotated by you), or a PIN as your password. Here’s how:

  • Click the Start button and select Settings from the menu.
  • Choose Accounts.
  • On the left, select Sign-in Options.
  • Choose – Logging in with a PIN or Logging in with a picture password.

For picture password login:

  • Click the Add button under Picture Password and type in your current password.
  • Click OK.
  • Follow the onscreen steps to set up your picture password. These will include choosing a personal photo from your PC’s hard drive, drawing a series of three gestures on the photo, and confirming the gestures.
  • You can now sign in by performing these gestures over the photo to get into your PC or tablet.

For PIN login:

  • Click on the ‘Add’ link in the PIN section.
  • You will then be given a login PIN.

Li-Fi Could Boost Wi-Fi

Upcoming wireless protocol Light Fidelity or Li-Fi could be used to complement and boost Wi-Fi by turning special LED light bulbs into network access points, and by co-existing in mobile devices to improve performance.

What Is Li-Fi?

Light Fidelity or Li-Fi is a wireless protocol that uses the visible light spectrum to provide wireless networking access. It essentially a way of using light to transfer data.

Li-Fi was first introduced in 2011 at a TEDGlobal conference by Professor Harald Haas. Professor Haas is reported to have created Li-Fi because he believed that the RF spectrum wasn’t enough for things like multimedia, and he was inspired by the spectrum crunch i.e. the lack of available wireless frequencies needed to support a growing number of consumer devices.

How Could It Work?

Professor Harald Haas demonstrated at the Mobile World Congress how a Li-Fi dongle, an integrated Li-Fi luminaire (light bulb), and a bi-directional link with special photo detector at both ends (in each) could be used to send and receive data. The dongle (plugged into a mobile device) can thereby send infrared LED data to the ceiling light. The light(s) can be hooked up to a network for example. As a person moves around with the device, multiple Li-Fi lights in the room could mean that the device is able to automatically detect where the strongest signal is coming from, and can shift to that light source so the signal always stays connected and at full strength. In this way Wi-Fi could be boosted and improved with the help of Li-Fi.

Faster Than Wi-Fi

With Li-Fi, a Li-Fi transmitter uses LED lights to control light intensity. This data can then be read by a photosensitive receiver. The advantage here is speed. This is because LEDs use chips to control light output and thereby achieve millions of modulations per second, thus enabling LEDs to transmit data up to 100 times faster than Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi’s Impact

Many of us now rely upon Wi-Fi as we increasingly need and use mobile computing and communications for our work and social lives. Employees use Wi-Fi to access corporate networks, and independent workers turn coffee shops into offices using Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi’s Shortcomings

Although Wi-Fi is now used widely, it has several known shortcomings. For example, distance is often an issue, walls are literal barriers for connection, and Wi-Fi connections can be insecure and easily hacked. Also, despite the increase in bandwidth over time, an access point becomes a bottleneck when many users access it all at the same time, and there are real issues with security and scalability.

Complementary

Although Li-Fi cannot penetrate a wall, it could be used to complement and help reduce some of the shortcomings of Wi-Fi. Both technologies could co-exist in devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

A Long Way Off

Many technical commentators have pointed out that the use of Li-Fi e.g. in mobile devices, is still likely to be at least 5 years off. Challenges to its wide scale introduction, for example, include the fact that special receivers and transmitters will need to be incorporated in mobile devices, and specially designed chips will be needed to encode and decode to convert light signals into data.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

As more of us rely on an increasing number of smart and mobile devices, and with the challenges of a limited number of frequencies we can use, coupled with the obvious shortcomings of Wi-Fi, something needs to be done. Li-Fi provides a workable way to overcome many of the challenges we face with Wi-Fi and to give it a much needed boost. It’s also an innovative way of linking existing technologies together that could provide new opportunities for businesses as suppliers e.g. marketing Li-Fi light bulbs, and as users.

It is important to realise, however, that, for all its promise, Li-Fi is still a work in progress, and the predictions are that it could be very costly and politically difficult to introduce any time soon on a large scale.

Cryptocurrency Scam Foiled By London Police

A scam which involved duping investors out of £160,000 by selling fake cyber cash has been foiled by London police and has resulted in the arrest of one man.

What Is A Cryptocurrency?

A cryptocurrency is a digital (virtual) currency which uses encryption techniques to regulate the generation of units of currency, and to verify the transfer of funds. The most famous cryptocurrency is Bitcoin, which reached a record high value this month of £2,651 per coin.

Cryptocurrencies don’t conform to the normal economic fundamentals because their value is mainly based on speculation and betting.

What Happened?

A fraudulent cryptocurrency boiler room scam call centre in the City of London was reportedly shut down by the City of London Police last week, after it was allegedly discovered to be the centre of an operation to dupe investors by selling fake cyber cash. The call centre workers were allegedly cold-calling UK consumers, trying to convince them to invest in a fake cryptocurrency.

The alleged fraudsters were discovered to have set up the boiler room in London’s square mile, specifically on Old Broad Street near the Bank of England, to try to legitimise their activity.

The police swoop came after 9 alleged victims reported the company to Action Fraud. Although the name of the fake cryptocurrency has not been confirmed, some online commentators have suggested that it was ‘OneCoin’.

Similar To Other Fraud

It has been reported that police shut down a similar fraud earlier this month. That scam involved attempting to sell wine investments in the same way.

Leading Fraud

Back in February this year, OneCoin was identified as the number one currency fraud doing the worldwide rounds, with the selling of S-Coin and EarthCoin coming second and third.

A lack of knowledge about cryptocurrencies, reports of the high value of Bitcoin, greed, and the need to find profitable investments in difficult global economic times, are all factors fuelling the success of cryptocurrency investment scams.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Potential investors in new currencies should really do their homework and find and choose a reputable company to help them invest, rather than simply responding to cold callers.

If you are / have been targeted by cold callers about cryptocurrency investment, you should report the incident to Action Fraud (the UK’s consumer fraud and cyber crime watchdog) and alert the police.

You can also report cold callers that you are unhappy about, and the details of the call to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). It can also help others to avoid being scammed by checking on and reporting the number that you were called on (if you were unavailable for that call) to websites such as who-called.co.uk (or similar).

Many people also find that registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) offers a basic level of protection against unwanted calls in the first place, although this service may be ignored by determined fraudsters.

This story illustrates how fraud is still a very popular crime in the UK, both on and offline, and how fraudsters can use aggressive, cunning tactics, and how they can be well informed about technology and how to use it as part their crime.

With much of the focus now switching to online protection against fraud, many people forget that telephone fraud is a tried and tested way for bold and persuasive fraudsters to reach their victims.

Blockchain Links Students To Employers

A new Sony Global Education (SGE) service uses Blockchain to enable students to more easily share their qualifications with employers.

Building on IBM’s Blockchain

SGE, the international education services development subsidiary of Sony, will use IBM’s Blockchain to develop a platform that will allow educational institutions to host the entire educational history of a student. The aim is to thereby give companies and educational authorities a means to access and verify accurate information about a person’s credentials.

What Is Blockchain?

Blockchain technology operates using the IBM cloud and is powered by Hyperledger Fabric 1.0 of Linux Foundation. Blockchain is an incorruptible peer-to-peer network (a kind of ledger) that allows multiple parties to transfer value in a secure and transparent way. Blockchain’s Co-Founder Nic Carey describes Blockchain as being like “a big spreadsheet in the cloud that anyone can use, but no one can erase or modify”.

The developers of the Blockchain system say that the trust between participants is not necessary because trust is embedded in the system itself, and that access to all relevant information is available to participants.

Blockchain is the same technology behind cryptocurrencies e.g. Bitcoin, and it is now being applied to new industries and sectors, like education.

Digital Hub For Education Records…And More

The new Sony system will be a hub for all education records, including a variety of documents, such as informal records of achievements, and credentials gained during training or seminars. This hub will be securely accessible to organisations that need to verify education information about individuals from the educational institution.

Anytime, Anywhere Access

Users who want to move to other areas or work in other parts of the world will benefit from Sony’s Blockchain-based system because it will be accessible anytime, anywhere, and will standardise and prove the authenticity of scholastic records easily. This means that users with access to the Blockchain-based service will be able to effectively carry their education history with them wherever they are, in a system that any organisation can gain access to.

SGE has said that it has developed this system to prevent fraud while giving access to third parties who will need information for job interviews and assessments.

Ready Next Year

It has been reported that SGE is working with selected educational institutions to have something ready by 2018.

Huge Potential For Blockchain

As well as working with the education sector, SGE is also reported to be exploring how Blockchain-based technology could be used to benefit other industries like logistics and supply chains.

The potential for Blockchain-based systems is huge, and examples of how they have been used in other industries include:

  • Using the data on a Blockchain ledger to record the temperature of sensitive medicines being transported from manufacturer to hospital in hot climates. The ‘incorruptible’ aspect of the Blockchain data gives a clear record of care and responsibility along the whole supply chain.
  • Using a Blockchain ledger to record data about wine certification, ownership and storage history. This has helped to combat fraud in the industry and has provided provenance and re-assurance to buyers.
  • Shipping Company Maersk using a Blockchain-based system for tracking consignments that addresses visibility and efficiency i.e. digitising a formerly paper-based process that involved multiple interactions.
  • Start-up company ‘Electron’ building a Blockchain-based system for sharing information between those involved in supplying energy which could speed up and simplify the supplier switching process. It may also be used for smart grid processes, such as local load-balancing of supply and demand.
  • Australian start-up Zimrii developing a Blockchain-based service that allows independent musicians to sell downloads to fans, distribute the proceeds between collaborators, and allow interaction with managers.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

A system like Sony’s could make life much easier for employers worldwide to accurately check the educational credentials of job applicants. If this kind of system was searchable (through consent) by employers and / or offered through employment agencies, it could be a great way for employers to source individuals with the qualifications they’re looking for. This kind of system would, however, have several challenges to overcome first e.g. consent, privacy, security and rights, differences in international laws, and the potential for existing employees to be poached.

Blockchain clearly has huge untapped potential for all kinds of businesses and organisations, and could represent a major opportunity to improve services, and effectively tackle visibility, transparency and efficiency issues.

Blockchain has proven itself to be particularly well suited to processes where there are a lot of steps e.g. supply chains, and where there’s a lack of trust in a business / business relationship, and the need for accurate authentication / verification.

The significant commitment that countries like Dubai have made to the technology and the success of the crypto-currency Bitcoin (which have used Blockchain) are indicators that this new technology has real value in today’s business world, and its potential has not yet been realised.