Your Latest IT News Update

Featured Article – AI, Supercomputers … and Storm Dennis

The disruption and damage caused by weather events affect businesses across the UK but having the benefit of early and detailed insights provided by a new supercomputer system could enable businesses, organisations, agencies, local authorities and the government to plan and minimise disruption where possible, thereby saving billions of pounds per year.

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Google In Talks About Paying Publishers For News Content

It has been reported that Google is in talks with publishers with a view to buying in premium news content for its own news services to improve its relationship with EU publishers, and to combat fake news.

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‘Runet’ Test – Russia Unplugs Itself From The Internet

A little later than its original planned date of April 1st 2019, a recent test-run has seen Russia successfully ‘unplug’ itself from the Internet and prove that it can create its own state-controlled Intranet.

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UK Job Candidates Favour Tech-Savvy Companies

New research conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Tableau Software has revealed that half of UK job candidates would reject a job offer from a company that offered no digital and data potential.

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Tech Tip – Weather App In Windows 10

For this week’s topical tech tip, with weather conditions causing so much disruption and damage in the UK, Windows 10 provides personalised weather content to you via a desktop app:

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Featured Article – AI, Supercomputers … and Storm Dennis

featured-article

The disruption and damage caused by weather events affect businesses across the UK but having the benefit of early and detailed insights provided by a new supercomputer system could enable businesses, organisations, agencies, local authorities and the government to plan and minimise disruption where possible, thereby saving billions of pounds per year.

Climate Change

The widely recognised effects of climate change are likely to be responsible for the seemingly more frequent and record-breaking extreme weather events such as storm Dennis here in the UK which brought a record number (594) of flood warnings across England and devastation to many town and businesses.

The increase of a whole degree in temperature since the Industrial Revolution has, for example, warming the atmosphere, making it able to hold more moisture and become unstable. This is likely to mean, at the very least, more storms and flooding in the coming years, and highlights the need for longer advance warnings (Dennis was forecasted 6 days in advance) and more targeted information.

Met Office

The current Met Office system for weather forecasting utilises 200 billion daily observations from satellites, weather stations and ocean buoys that are interpreted by Cray XC40 supercomputers which are due to reach the end of their life in late 2022.  Even though the Cray XC40 is in the top 50 of the world’s most powerful computers, and performs more than 2 million calculations per second for every man, woman and child on the planet, the need for faster, even more accurate, earlier and even more locally-focused weather forecasting requires an investment in new computers to replace the Cray systems for a 10-year period from 2022 to 2032.

New Investment

The new Met Office supercomputer system, announced against the backdrop of storm Dennis, will cost £1.2 billion (which include hardware and running costs too over a ten-year period) but could, according to the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) deliver £19 worth of economic benefits for every pound spent.

The new system will create a simulated picture of the weather, will divide the globe into grid smaller squares, and will have a massive increase in processing power (six times more powerful) at its disposal which will mean that:

– Four-day weather forecasts will be as accurate today as one-day forecasts were 30 years’ ago.

– With the grid that the simulated picture of the earth’s weather is divided into, the new system will be able to operate (and deliver accurate forecasts) for a resolution as sharp as 100m squares.

– Extreme weather conditions will be spotted earlier.

– Improved daily to seasonal forecasts and longer-term climate projections can be made.

– The effects of a hotter world in the future can be explored, and more detail can be added to projections taking account of factors such as the way nitrogen reacts with the carbon in the air.

– Scenarios such as how the country can make the best use of the land if/when the target of net zero emissions by 2050 is reached can be explored.

– Data from the supercomputer can be used to inform UK government policy as part of leading the global fight against climate change.

Artificial Intelligence

The Business and Energy Secretary, Alok Sharma, has highlighted how the new supercomputer looks likely to drive forward innovation and grow world-class skills across supercomputing, data science, as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence.  The Met Office’s new supercomputer will, for example, be able to use artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to carry out even more detailed climate model analysis.

Supercomputer Carbon Footprint?

Some commentators have pointed out that the new supercomputers will require a massive amount of electricity to operate them (as the existing ones do), thereby meaning that ironically, they could be contributing to the global warming that is producing the changing weather conditions that they have been introduced to predict.

The Met Office has, therefore, invited potential providers to come up with low-carbon options and it is likely that much of the processing work could be located in countries with easy and abundant sources of clean energy within the European Economic Area e.g. Iceland (geothermal energy) or Norway (hydropower).

Other Weather Forecasting Options For Business

Weather Source and its Snowflake, cloud-based (AWS) data exchange is an example of another accurate forecasting service for businesses that helps them to quantify and manage climate risks. In addition to being fast and providing forecasts projected over 15 days, the service requires only a few hundred gigabytes of new data to be processed per day, therefore, making it a very efficient option.

Benefits

Looking forward, the socio-economic benefits of the new Met Office system are likely to be many.  These will include better forecasting at airports to help the aviation and travel industries,  more sophisticated modelling of flooding to help businesses with premises in flood areas with continuity and contingency planning, providing more detailed information to the energy sector which will have knock-on benefits to many businesses, and providing insights and early warnings that are vital for the UK’s transport infrastructure and for business transportation, delivery and distribution services.

In a world where the climate is capable of causing massive damage and disruption on a more regular basis, the investment in even more powerful supercomputer technology and AI by the Met Office could actually bring considerable savings for businesses of all kinds and provide a better basis for government decisions.

Google In Talks About Paying Publishers For News Content

google-in-talks

It has been reported that Google is in talks with publishers with a view to buying in premium news content for its own news services to improve its relationship with EU publishers, and to combat fake news.

Expanding The Google News Initiative

Reports from the U.S. Wall Street Journal indicate that Google is in preliminary talks with publishers outside the U.S. in order expand its News Initiative (https://newsinitiative.withgoogle.com/), the program where Google works with journalists, news organisations, non-profits and entrepreneurs to ensure that fake news is effectively filtered out of current stories in the ‘digital age’.  Examples of big-name ‘partners’ that Google has worked with as part of the initiative include the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian and fact-checking organisations like the International Fact-Checking Network and CrossCheck (to fact-check the French Election).

As well as partnerships, the Google News Initiative provides a number of products for news publishing e.g. Subscribe With Google, News on Google, Fact Check tags and AMP stories (tap-operated, full-screen content).

This Could Please Publishers

The move by Google to pay for content should please publishers, some of whom have been critical of Google and other big tech players for hosting articles on their platforms that attract readers and advertising money, but not paying to display them. Google has faced particular criticism in France at the end of last year after the country introduced a European directive that should have made tech giants pay for news content but in practice simply led to Google removing the snippet below links to French news sites, and removing the thumbnail images that often appear next to news results.

Back in 2014 for example, Google closed its Spanish news site after it was required to pay “link tax” licensing fees to Spanish news sites and back in November 2018 Google would not rule out shutting down Google News in other EU countries if a “link tax” was adopted by them.

Competitors

Google is also in competition with other tech giants who now provide their own fact-checked and moderated news services.  For example, back in October 2019, Facebook launched its own ‘News’ tab on its mobile app which directs users to unbiased, curated articles from credible sources.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For European countries and European publishers, it is likely to be good news that Google is possibly coming to the table to offer some money for the news content that it displays on its platform, and that it may be looking for a way to talk about and work through some of the areas of contention.

For Google, this is an opportunity for some good PR in an area where it has faced criticism in Europe, an opportunity to improve its relationship with publishers in Europe, plus a chance to add value to its news service and to help Google to compete with other tech giants that also offer news services with the fake news weeded out.

‘Runet’ Test – Russia Unplugs Itself From The Internet

runet-test

A little later than its original planned date of April 1st 2019, a recent test-run has seen Russia successfully ‘unplug’ itself from the Internet and prove that it can create its own state-controlled Intranet.

Successfully Creating The ‘Runet’

The test, which was first announced back in February last year, is reported to have gone ahead without users noticing much difference and created what is effectively a giant, fully isolatable domestic intranet which has been dubbed the ‘Runet’.

Why?

Officially, the test to be able to pull up the drawbridge on the wider global internet is to ensure compliance with Russia’s new law called the Digital Economy National Program which came into force in November 2019.  This will require Russia’s ISPs to show that they can operate in the event of any foreign powers acting to isolate the country online with a “targeted large-scale external influence” i.e. a cyber-attack. For (state-owned) ISP’s, this will mean having to install deep packet inspection (DPI) network equipment which will allow Russia’s telecoms watchdog ‘Roskomnadzor’ to be able to identify traffic sources, filter content, and block certain sites. It has also been reported that, as part of the project to create and run the Runet, Russia is working on creating its own Internet address books.

Another official explanation for the value of the test to create the Runet is that it helped to show any vulnerabilities in the growing ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT).

Control

Although this is the official explanation, some western commentators see this as a move towards tighter control and authoritarian rule in a way that is similar to some other countries.  For example, China, which operates its own Great Firewall of China (GFW) for Internet censorship to block access to many foreign websites and to slow down and monitor cross-border internet traffic. Also, Iran operates its own National Information Network, run by the state-owned Telecommunication Company of Iran, which controls access to the web and polices content.

Difficult To Circumvent

Those thinking of circumventing the Runet and other censorship are likely to find it difficult as virtual private networks (VPNs) will not work with the Runet in place and many commentators think that it is likely that the Kremlin will try to stop access to end-to-end encrypted apps e.g. Telegram or WhatsApp.

Interfering

It is likely that one good reason for Russia to be able to cut itself off from the wider Internet is to protect itself from cyber threats in what now appears to be an ongoing war of interference, misinformation, and cyber-attacks between many states.  For example, Russia was shown to have interfered with the last U.S. presidential election and has itself been the subject of large-scale cyber-attacks. That said, the Chinese recently accused the U.S. of conducting “large-scale, organised and indiscriminate cyber theft” after it was revealed that since the 1970s, America’s CIA has been monitoring hundreds of countries via the Swiss cryptography firm Crypto AG.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For the Russian government, being able to exert tight control and conduct censorship on this scale, and to operate through a small number of state-owned suppliers not only guards against misinformation and cyber threats but also gives the government the opportunity to wield immense political power over its people. The move is, obviously, being greeted with suspicion and criticism from the west, with concern about the rights of Russian citizens.

Also, for non-Russian companies hoping to do business there, an inward-looking, state-controlled Intranet that favours Russian companies, particularly with tech and communications products and services would make trade there very difficult. Many western commentators are now worried that Russia may be going the same way as China in terms of censorship and access to the world by digital means.

UK Job Candidates Favour Tech-Savvy Companies

uk-job-candidates

New research conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Tableau Software has revealed that half of UK job candidates would reject a job offer from a company that offered no digital and data potential.

Training

The research results, which were obtained from 1,100 office workers and C-suite executives from across the UK, showed that a vacancy that offered digital and analytics training (important for 80 per cent) and where a commitment to encouraging new skills was just a perk of the job (90 per cent) would make most candidates more likely to accept a job offer with a specific company or organisation.

Interested In The Company

The research results showed that as well as being interested in the opportunity to gain skills to make themselves more data fluent, most candidates (80 per cent) also recognised the value that training or learning and development programmes could bring to an organisation’s digital and data analytics strategy and competitiveness, thereby making it a more attractive organisation to work in.

40 per cent of candidates, for example, think that companies that invest in training and learning and development programmes are likely to get the benefit of employee engagement and retention as a result.

SHRM Report

A 2019 Society for Human Resource Management report showed that the U.S. is facing similar tech skills shortage challenges with the workforce not having enough workers and skilled candidates to fill an ever-increasing number of high-skilled jobs. The report highlighted candidates not having the right technical skills as the reason why 35 per cent of organisations are struggling to hire suitable candidates and suggests that training is one of the most effective ways to bridge the skills gap for both retention and recruitment.

The report says that an increase in worker training and education, and companies collaborating closely with educational institutions in order to improve graduate employability and supplementing the existing workforce with foreign-born talent could be a good way to meet the needs of companies and job candidates.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

With the effective use of data playing an important role in the success of businesses and with job applicants realising the value that could be created for themselves in the tech job market and for the companies they join through tech training and development, there is pressure on companies to offer this as a way to attract good staff.

UK businesses have been faced with a tech skills shortage for several years now, which was exacerbated by forces (such as Brexit fears) deterring overseas talent. Also, a recent Open University report, ‘Leading in a Digital Age’, highlighted how business leaders themselves still need to be equipped, through technology training, to manage digital change in order to improve the performance of their businesses.

Considering the number of factors involved in creating the skills shortage in the first place among workers and business leaders, many feel that the burden to reverse the situation and create a more tech-skilled workforce shouldn’t be down to companies alone financing training for their staff.  Many businesses feel that a wider strategy involving the government, the education system and businesses working together is the way forward to developing a base of digital skills in the UK population and to ensure that the whole tech ecosystem finds effective ways to address the skills gap and keep the UK’s tech industries and business attractive and competitive.

Tech Tip – Weather App In Windows 10

techtippic

For this week’s topical tech tip, with weather conditions causing so much disruption and damage in the UK, Windows 10 provides personalised weather content to you via a desktop app:

– Type ‘weather’ in the search box (bottom left) and select ‘MSN Weather’.

– Select whether you want the temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit and allow the app to find your exact location.

– Click ‘Start’ to see a 10-day forecast for your area or use the search box for a forecast in other areas.

Your Latest IT News Update

Featured Article – Combatting Fake News

The spread of misinformation/disinformation/fake news by a variety of media including digital and printed stories and deepfake videos is a growing threat in what has been described as out ‘post-truth era’, and many people, organisations and governments are looking for effective ways to weed out fake news, and to help people to make informed judgements about what they hear and see.

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Apple Fined £21M For Slowing Old iPhone

The French competition and fraud watchdog DGCCRF has fined tech giant Apple €25 million (£21 million) for slowing down some old iPhones and not telling people how to fix the problem.

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Growth in Threats To Apple Compared To Windows Machines

In a trend that appears contrary to popular perceptions, the latest Malwarebytes (annual) State of malware report has revealed that the growth in attacks on Apple endpoints is outpacing the threats targeting Windows machines.

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Amazon Offering Custom ‘Brand Voice’ to Replace Default Alexa Voice

Amazon’s AWS is offering a new ‘Brand Voice’ capability to companies which enables them to create their own custom voice for Alexa that replaces the default voice with one that reflects their “persona”, such as the voice of Colonel Sanders for KFC.

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Tech Tip – Deleting Your Personal Metadata From Microsoft Documents

If you really want to make sure that you fully protect your data and identity, one thing you may not know is that Microsoft Office documents store metadata which (although largely useful) could be linked back to you.  There is an easy way to stop this from happening – here’s how:

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Featured Article – Combatting Fake News

featuredarticle

The spread of misinformation/disinformation/fake news by a variety of media including digital and printed stories and deepfake videos is a growing threat in what has been described as out ‘post-truth era’, and many people, organisations and governments are looking for effective ways to weed out fake news, and to help people to make informed judgements about what they hear and see.

The exposure of fake news and its part in recent election scandals, the common and frequent use of the term by prominent figures and publishers, and the need for the use of fact-checking services have all contributed to an erosion of public trust in the news they consume. For example, YouGov research used to produce annual Digital News Report (2019) from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford showed that public concern about misinformation remains extremely high, reaching a 55 per cent average across 38 countries with less than half (49 per cent) of people trusting the news media they use themselves.

The spread of fake news online, particularly at election times, is of real concern and with the UK election just passed, the UK Brexit referendum, the 2017 UK general election, and the last U.S. presidential election all being found to have suffered interference in the form of so-called ‘fake news’ (and with the 59th US presidential election scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2020) the subject is high on the world agenda.

Challenges

Those trying to combat the spread of fake news face a common set of challenges, such as those identified by CEO of OurNews, Richard Zack, which include:

– There are people (and state-sponsored actors) worldwide who are making it harder for people to know what to believe e.g. through spreading fake news and misinformation, and distorting stories).

– Many people don’t trust the media or don’t trust fact-checkers.

– Simply presenting facts doesn’t change peoples’ minds.

– People prefer/find it easier to accept stories that reinforce their existing beliefs.

Also, some research (Stanford’s Graduate School of Education) has shown that young people may be more susceptible to seeing and believing fake news.

Combatting Fake News

So, who’s doing what online to meet these challenges and combat the fake news problem?  Here are some examples of those organisations and services leading the fightback, and what methods they are using.

Browser-Based Tools

Recent YouGov research showed that 26% per cent of people say they have started relying on more ‘reputable’ sources of news, but as well as simply choosing what they regard to be trustworthy sources, people can now choose to use services which give them shorthand information on which to make judgements about the reliability of news and its sources.

Since people consume online news via a browser, browser extensions (and app-based services) have become more popular.  These include:

– Our.News.  This service uses a combination of objective facts (about an article) with subjective views that incorporate user ratings to create labels (like nutrition labels on food) next to new articles that a reader can use to make a judgement.  Our.News labels use publisher descriptions from Freedom Forum, bias ratings from AllSides, information about an article’s sources author and editor.  It also uses fact-checking information from sources including PolitiFact, Snopes and FactCheck.org, and labels such as “clickbait” or “satire” along with and user ratings and reviews.  The Our.News browser extension is available for Firefox and Chrome, and there is an iOS app. For more information go to https://our.news/.

– NewsGuard. This service, for personal use or for NewsGuard’s library and school system partners, offers a reliability rating score of 0-100 for each site based on its performance on nine key criteria, ratings icons (green-red ratings) next to links on all of the top search engines, social media platforms, and news aggregation websites.  Also, NewsGuard gives summaries showing who owns each site, its political leaning (if any), as well as warnings about hoaxes, political propaganda, conspiracy theories, advertising influences and more.  For more information, go to https://www.newsguardtech.com/.

Platforms

Another approach to combatting fake news is to create a news platform that collects and publishes news that has been checked and is given a clear visual rating for users of that platform.

One such example is Credder, a news review platform which allows journalists and the public to review articles, and to create credibility ratings for every article, author, and outlet.  Credder focuses on credibility, not clicks, and uses a Gold Cheese (yellow) symbol next to articles, authors, and outlets with a rating of 60% or higher, and a Mouldy Cheese (green) symbol next to articles, authors, and outlets with a rating of 59% or less. Readers can, therefore, make a quick choice about what they choose to read based on these symbols and the trust-value that they create.

Credder also displays a ‘Leaderboard’ which is based on rankings determined by the credibility and quantity of reviewed articles. Currently, Credder ranks nationalgeographic.com, gizmodo.com and cjr.org as top sources with 100% ratings.  For more information see https://credder.com/.

Automation and AI

Many people now consider automation and AI to be an approach and a technology that is ‘intelligent’, fast, and scalable enough to start to tackle the vast amount of fake news that is being produced and circulated.  For example, Google and Microsoft have been using AI to automatically assess the truth of articles.  Also, initiatives like the Fake News Challenge (http://www.fakenewschallenge.org/) seeks to explore how AI technologies, particularly machine learning and natural language processing, can be employed to combat fake news and supports the idea that AI technologies hold promise for significantly automating parts of the procedure human fact-checkers use to determine if a story is real or a hoax.

However, the human-written rules underpinning AI, and how AI is ‘trained’ can also lead to bias.

Government

Governments clearly have an important role to play in the combatting of fake news, especially since fake news/misinformation has been shown to have been spread via different channels e.g. social media to influence aspects of democracy and electoral decision making.

For example, in February 2019, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee published a report on disinformation and ‘fake news’ highlighting how “Democracy is at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalised ‘dark adverts’ from unidentifiable sources, delivered through the major social media platforms”.  The UK government called for a shift in the balance of power between “platforms and people” and for tech companies to adhere to a code of conduct written into law by Parliament and overseen by an independent regulator.

Also, in the US, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has been made to appear before the U.S. Congress to discuss how Facebook tackles false reports.

Finland – Tackling Fake News Early

One example of a government taking a different approach to tackling fake news is that of Finland, a country that has recently been rated Europe’s most resistant nation to fake news.  In Finland, evaluation of news and fact-checking behaviour in the school curriculum was introduced in a government strategy after 2014, when Finland was targeted with fake news stories from its Russian neighbour.  The changes to the school curriculum across core areas in all subjects are, therefore, designed to make Finnish people, from a very young age, able to detect and do their part to fight false information.

Social Media

The use of Facebook to spread fake news that is likely to have influenced voters in the UK Brexit referendum, the 2017 UK general election and the last U.S. presidential election put social media and its responsibilities very much in the spotlight.  Also, the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the illegal harvesting of 50 million Facebook profiles in early 2014 for apparent electoral profiling purposes damaged trust in the social media giant.

Since then, Facebook has tried to be seen to be actively tackling the spread of fake news via its platform.  Its efforts include:

– Hiring the London-based, registered charity ‘Full Fact’, who review stories, images and videos, in an attempt to tackle misinformation that could “damage people’s health or safety or undermine democratic processes”.  Facebook is also reported to be working with fact-checkers in more than 20 countries, and to have had a working relationship with Full Fact since 2016.

– In October 2018, Facebook also announced that a new rule for the UK now means that anyone who wishes to place an advert relating to a live political issue or promoting a UK political candidate, referencing political figures, political parties, elections, legislation before Parliament and past referenda that are the subject of national debate, will need to prove their identity, and prove that they are based in the UK. The adverts they post will also have to carry a “Paid for by” disclaimer to enable Facebook users to see who they are engaging with when viewing the ad.

– In October 2019, Facebook launched its own ‘News’ tab on its mobile app which directs users to unbiased, curated articles from credible sources in a bid to publicly combat fake news and help restore trust in its own brand.

– In January this year, Monika Bickert, Vice President of Facebook’s Global Policy Management announced that Facebook is banning deepfakes and “all types of manipulated media”.

Other Platforms & Political Adverts

Political advertising has become mixed up with the spread of misinformation in the public perception in recent times.  With this in mind, some of the big tech and social media players have been very public about making new rules for political advertising.

For example, in November 2019, Twitter Inc banned political ads, including ads referencing a political candidate, party, election or legislation.  Also, at the end of 2019, Google took a stand against political advertising by saying that it would limit audience targeting for election adverts to age, gender and the general location at a postal code level.

Going Forward

With a U.S. election this year, and with the sheer number of sources, and with the scale and resources that some (state-sponsored) actors have, the spread of fake news is something that is likely to remain a serious problem for some time yet.  From the Finnish example of creating citizens who have a better chance than most of spotting fake news to browser-based extensions, moderated news platforms, the use of AI, government and other scrutiny and interventions, we are all now aware of the problem, the fight-back is underway, and we are getting more access to ways in which we can make our own more informed decisions about what we read and watch and how credible and genuine it is.

Apple Fined £21M For Slowing Old iPhone

apple-fined

The French competition and fraud watchdog DGCCRF has fined tech giant Apple €25 million (£21 million) for slowing down some old iPhones and not telling people how to fix the problem.

What Happened?

Back in 2017, some iPhone users were sharing concerns online that their iPhone’s performance had slowed with age but had sped up after a battery replacement. This led to a customer sharing comparative performance tests of different models of the iPhone 6S on Reddit, which appeared to support the customer suspicions.

Technology website Geeknebench also shared the results of its own tests of several iPhones running different versions of the iOS operating system where some showed slower performance than others.

After customers concerns mounted and received more press, Apple publicly admitted that it had made changes one year earlier in the iOS 10.2.1 software update that is likely to have been responsible for the slowdown that customers may have experienced in iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE.

Apple issued an apology to customers in January 2018.

Why?

According to Apple, the slowing down of the phones was due to the lithium-ion batteries becoming less capable of supplying peak current demands over time, so in order to prevent the phones from shutting down (and to protect their components), Apple released a software update to smooth-out the battery performance.

What The Watchdog Says

The DGCCRF has ruled, however, that Apple needs to pay €25 million fine and to display a statement on its website for a month because the iOS software update negatively affected the performance of ageing devices, customers were not told that the 10.2.1 and 11.2 iOS updates would cause a slowing down of their devices and that customers were also not told that replacing the battery rather than replacing the whole phone would solve the problem.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

When this story first made the headlines, it was a serious embarrassment for Apple and a blot on the copybook of a brand that had managed to maintain an image of trust and reliability. This story illustrates how managing customer relationships in an age where information is shared quickly and widely by customers via the Internet involves making smart decisions about transparency and being seen to be up-front with loyal customers.

It is very likely that Apple regrets the entire incident and that even though the French regulator, in this case, has decided to impose a big fine, it is likely to be of more annoyance to Apple that customers have to be reminded of the incident again several years later and that the company will now have to display a notice on its website for a month as a further reminder.

Growth in Threats To Apple Compared To Windows Machines

growth-in-threats

In a trend that appears contrary to popular perceptions, the latest Malwarebytes (annual) State of malware report has revealed that the growth in attacks on Apple endpoints is outpacing the threats targeting Windows machines.

11 Threats Per Mac Endpoint

The report shows Mac threats were up (2019) four-fold year on year with 11 threats per Mac endpoint on average for Apple compared with only 5.8 threats per Windows endpoint.  An ‘endpoint’ refers to an Internet-capable computer hardware device on a TCP/IP network e.g. desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, printers etc.

Why?

It is likely that the growth in the average number of threats to Apple machines isn’t just down to the fact that there are now more Apple users, but also because Apple may not be taking enough measures that are tough enough to tackle adware and pups (potentially unwanted programmes) compared to efforts made to tackle more traditional malware.

Kaspersky Figures

Figures from Kaspersky this month also show increasing dangers for Mac users as it reports that two years on from its detection, Shlayer Trojan malware attacks one in ten macOS users, and it accounts for almost 30% of all detections for the macOS.

Criminals More Creative and Persistent

As well as the increasing danger for Mac users, in the report, Malwarebytes CEO Marcin Kleczynski highlights how adware, pre-installed malware and multi-vector attacks all show how cybercriminals appear to be heading in a direction where they are “more creative and increasingly persistent with their campaigns”.

Even though threats to Apple endpoints are growing at a faster rate, it is still Windows and Android devices that face the most threats from annoying and hard to uninstall adware and malware (including ransomware).

Business-Focused

The report highlighted the 13 per cent rise in global business threats last year, and how Trojan-turned-botnets Emotet and TrickBot have been targeting businesses and organisations with ransomware new families, like Ryuk, Sodinokibi and Phobos. Also, businesses are facing new risks from hack tools and registry key disablers.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

As pointed out in the report, those in the online security industry are having to work hard to protect users and businesses from programs that violate user privacy, infect devices, or turn their own infrastructure against them. Businesses and organisations, whether they use Apple or Microsoft Operating Systems need to be acutely aware of (and make sure they are protected against) the threats outlined in the report (malware, ransomware, adware, credit card skimmers and skimmer scripts), as well as phishing and the increasing use of social engineering in attacks.

Mac users may want to check the advice on Apple’s website about features (found in System Preferences) that help protect Macs and the personal information of users from malicious software/malware e.g. protection from malware embedded in harmless-looking apps.  See: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/guide/mac-help/mh40596/mac

Also, Apple advises that MacOS users should exercise caution when accessing scripts, web archives and Java archives, which all pose potential threats.