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Archive for the ‘Email’

Tablets ‘eroding’ children’s digital skills

April 09, 2016 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Computers, Customer Service, data security, Dr Search, Email, internet, Personal Security, Search Clinic, smart phones, Tablets, Uncategorized

Children are learning very different skills via tablets and smartphones, suggests a report.

Children are learning very different skills via tablets and smartphones, suggests a report.

Children’s growing use of mobile devices may hamper their learning of key technology skills, says a report.

An Australian educational body noted a “significant decline” in IT literacy among some students since 2011.

Its report said children learned very different skills on tablets and smartphones to the basic technology skills required for the workplace.

Changes to the way that ICT was being taught in Australian schools could explain some of the decline, it said.

The report added that significant alterations in the types of devices people use could also be behind some of the changes.
Poor performance

The report by Australia’s National Assessment Programme looked at technology literacy among two groups of children – one just leaving primary school and another in its fourth year of secondary school. More than 10,500 students took part.

It compared digital literacy scores from 2011 with those from a survey carried out in late 2014.

“This report shows a significant decline in their ICT literacy performance when compared to previous cycles,” it said.

Both age groups saw a decline in IT proficiencies, it added. Statistics revealed that the average performance of 16-year-olds in the 2014 group was lower than the average in any other year.

In addition it found that the number of children meeting basic ICT literacy standards in these age groups had dropped.

Pupils now made “increased” and “extensive” use of mobile technology and it was possible that this meant they were “practising fewer of the skills that have been associated with ICT literacy,” it said.

Tablets and smartphones were making children competent at using many forms of online communication, it said, at the expense of those other skills emphasised by the curriculum.

It warned against assuming that children who use tablets and other portable devices were more widely competent with technology.

“We cannot expect students to become proficient on important employability and life skills, just by using computing devices for games and social interaction,” it said. “They also need to be taught the relevant knowledge, understanding and skills.”

Eben Upton, who came up with the idea for the bare-bones Raspberry Pi computer, said the Australian research presented some “interesting” conclusions.

“It’s always been my belief that ‘appliance-like’ hardware platforms don’t encourage real computer literacy because there are missing rungs on the ladder between being a consumer and being a producer,” he told the BBC.

“There’s a place for tablets in education, but we need to get away from the idea that knowing how to pinch-zoom makes your toddler the next Bill Gates,” he said.

Paris attacks: Silicon Valley in crosshairs over encryption

February 18, 2016 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Apps, Computers, Customer Service, data security, Email, Hackers, internet, Personal Security, Search Clinic, Uncategorized

Grief over the Paris attacks will soon make way to demands for action.

Grief over the Paris attacks will soon make way to demands for action.

As well as increased military activity, and the controversial suggestions to close the door on refugees, the next battle in the “surely something can be done” arena will be aimed squarely, and angrily, at Silicon Valley.

Tech companies were already under pressure to make it easier for governments to access “private” communication apps and services. Those calls have intensified greatly since the attacks in Paris.

The “problem” is to do with encryption.

Without encryption, all of the things we do online would be insecure, be it emailing, or shopping, or banking. They all rely on the principle that if you encrypt data using complex mathematics it is nigh-on impossible to crack.

If you’re using communication apps such as WhatsApp, Apple’s iMessage, WeChat and so on, your messages are encrypted by default.

It means that even if those companies wanted to hand over your messages to law enforcement, they couldn’t.

“There are a lot of technological capabilities that are available right now that make it exceptionally difficult, both technically as well as legally, for intelligence and security services to have the insight they need to uncover it,” said CIA director John Brennan at a security forum on Monday.

“And I do think this is a time for particularly Europe, as well as here in the United States, for us to take a look and see whether or not there have been some inadvertent or intentional gaps that have been created in the ability of intelligence and security services to protect the people that they are asked to serve.”

An opinion column in the New York Times, authored by Manhattan’s district attorney, and the City of London Police commissioner, said “encryption blocks justice”.

In the piece, published back in August, they wrote about a murder near Chicago in which a father of six had been shot. At the scene, officers found two mobile phones. But they were passcode locked. Neither Google or Apple (the phones ran their software) could unlock the phones, and therefore the data was inaccessible.

“On behalf of crime victims the world over,” the opinion piece read, “we are asking whether this encryption is truly worth the cost.”

It’s an argument that can be made with more vigour than ever after the Paris attacks.

With access to communications, the anti-encryption advocates say, we could perhaps stop these tragic events from occurring. That’s a claim worth scrutinising.

It’s early days in the investigation, and no evidence has yet been offered to show that encrypted communications were used to organise the atrocity.

But technology industry is, on the whole, against the suggestion that law enforcement should have “backdoors” into popular services – the term given to a hidden way of circumventing the app’s security.

A backdoor, in the infosec world, is the term given to a method in which a supposedly secure system can be accessed. It could be a quirk in some code, or a vulnerability in how a system communicates. Whatever the weakness, typically, once backdoors are made public, they are fixed.

Hackers make serious money by discovering backdoors and selling them on – often to government security services.

Many in law enforcement and government feel there should be a backdoor made just for those in authority to investigate and stop criminals and terrorists.

But some of tech’s most influential figures say that the notion of a secure, secret backdoor is dangerously misguided.

If any backdoor exists, hackers will find it eventually. It would mean data security for all of us, not just criminals, would evaporate.

 

Swiss email firm pays web attack ransom

December 06, 2015 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Browser, Computers, Customer Service, Email, Hackers, internet, Search Clinic, Uncategorized

A secure email firm, based in Switzerland, has paid a ransom of more than £3,600 after web attacks crippled its website.

A secure email firm, based in Switzerland, has paid a ransom of more than £3,600 after web attacks crippled its website.

The anonymous network behind Bitcoins has made the virtual cash popular with cyber thieves.

The hi-tech criminals behind the web attacks said the payment would stop the deluge of data hitting the site. But despite paying up, the web attacks continued, leaving Protonmail struggling to operate.

It has now launched a fund-raising drive to raise cash to tackle any future attacks.

In a blogpost, Protonmail said it received an email on 3 December that contained a threat to attack its website unless it paid a ransom of 15 bitcoins (£3,640).

Protonmail did not respond to the message and, soon afterwards, was hit by what is known as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. This tries to knock a server offline by bombarding it with more data than it can handle.

Protonmail is a free, web-based, encrypted email service that needs its site up and running to serve customers.

The first attack knocked out Protonmail for about 15 minutes and then stopped. A second attack the next day was much bigger and overwhelmed efforts by the email firm and its ISP to stop it.

“This co-ordinated assault on key infrastructure eventually managed to bring down both the datacenter and the ISP, which impacted hundreds of other companies, not just Protonmail,” it said on the blog.

In a bid to halt the attack, Protonmail said it “grudgingly” paid the 15 bitcoin ransom.

However, it said, this did not stop the attacks which continued to cause problems for many other firms.

Eventually, Protonmail’s ISP took action to remove the company’s site from the net to stem the flow of data.

Post-attack analysis suggests Protonmail was targeted in two phases, the company said. The first aided the ransom demand but the second was “not afraid of causing massive collateral damage in order to get at us”.

Switzerland’s national Computer Emergency Response Team (Cert), which helped Protonmail cope, said the attack was carried out by a cybercrime group known as the Armada Collective. This group has also targeted many other Swiss web companies over the last few weeks, the team said.

It said anyone who received ransom email should not pay up. Instead, they should talk to their ISPs about the best way to defend themselves against attacks.

Protonmail said that despite its work to harden itself against attack, it was still vulnerable to DDoS data deluges. It said it planned to sign up with a commercial service that can defend against the attacks but this would be likely to cost it more than £66,000 a year. It has started a fund-raising drive to gather the cash to pay this fee.

Sky email system customer complaints rocket

April 16, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Customer Service, Email, Google, Search Clinic, Technology Companies, Telecommunications Companies, Uncategorized, Yahoo

Many of Sky’s email customers are being deluged with thousands of old and deleted messages as the company switches email providers.Sky email system customer complaints rocketIn recent weeks Sky has stopped using Google to provide email services in favour of Yahoo.

But the change has caused trouble as many customers are reporting that formerly deleted messages have been delivered again and again.

Some have spent hours clearing the messages out of overflowing inboxes.

Discussion forums on Sky’s support site have been filling up with messages from disgruntled customers complaining about the switch. The company, which has more than four million UK broadband customers recently changed from Google to Yahoo.

The switch has seemingly resurrected many messages users formerly deleted with some reporting that they had to go through thousands of messages before deleting them for a second time. Some unlucky customers had to suffer thousands of deleted messages being re-delivered several times.

Many others said the switch had wiped out email settings, deleted aliases and re-set filters. Customers called on Sky to do a better job of responding to complaints and explaining why old messages were turning up.

On its support site, Sky acknowledged the problems the changeover had caused.

It said it was aware of the issue and had “an ongoing investigation and are working to resolve it”. It pledged to provide an update about its efforts to fix the problem.

It said the problem emerged during migration as it was copying all customer emails to Yahoo’s mail servers. The issue should recede as mail services were synchronised, it said.

Twitter- targetted by hackers

February 08, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Cyber Security, data security, Dr Search, Email, internet, Personal Security, Search Clinic, Technology Companies, Twitter, Uncategorized

250,000 Twitter users have had their accounts hacked in the latest of a string of high profile internet security breaches.Twitter- targetted by hackersTwitter’s information security director Bob Lord said about 250,000 users’ passwords had been stolen, as well as usernames, emails and other data.

Affected users have had passwords invalidated and have been sent emails informing them.

Mr Lord said the attack “was not the work of amateurs”.

He said it appeared similar to recent attacks on the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal as the US newspapers reported that their computer systems had been breached by China based hackers.

Mr Lord said in a blog post Twitter had discovered unauthorised attempts to access data held by the website, including one attack that was identified and stopped moments after it was detected.

“This attack was not the work of amateurs, and we do not believe it was an isolated incident,” he wrote.

Mr Lord did not say who had carried out the attack, but added: “The attackers were extremely sophisticated, and we believe other companies and organisations have also been recently similarly attacked.”

“For that reason we felt that it was important to publicise this attack while we still gather information, and we are helping government and federal law enforcement in their effort to find and prosecute these attackers to make the internet safer for all users.”

The biggest worry for most of Twitter’s 200 million active users is not this attack per se, but the additional new “phishing” scams the attack has already inspired.

Since Twitter users now know to be on the lookout for emails asking them to change their passwords, criminals are sending out very similar messages.

If users click on the links in those they risk – once again – having their account hacked.

Dr Search warns you- don’t click on links in any emails asking you to change your password- instead go directly to the web site, log in normally, and change it using the instructions without clicking on email links.

“You have to be careful if you get hold of one of these emails because, of course, it could equally be a phishing attack – it could be someone pretending to be Twitter.

“So, log into the Twitter site as normal and try and log in to your account and, if there’s a problem, that’s when you actually have to try and reset your password.”

Blackberry 10 smartphone launched to positive reviews

February 04, 2013 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: BlackBerry, Computers, Customer Service, data security, Email, Messaging, Personal Security, Search Clinic, smart phones, Technology Companies, Telecommunications Companies, Uncategorized

Blackberry have launched two new smartphones- which have been greeted with positive reviews.Blackberry 10 smartphone launched to positive reviewsThe Z10 is controlled via a 4.2 inch touchscreen while the Q10 has a smaller 3.1 inch screen and physical keyboard.

The new operating system had originally been due for release last year.

“Two years ago we had to make a very serious decision,” chief executive Thorsten Heins told a press conference in New York.  “Adopt someone else’s platform or build a whole new one from ground up for Blackberry. And we made the tough call to go it alone.”

“Bringing an entirely new platform to the market and ushering this company through a really difficult transition took careful planning and we absolutely knew it was risky.”

According to data from IDC, Blackberry devices used to account for just over 19% of global smartphone shipments at the start of 2010 – but it suggests that figure had dropped to less than 4% by the end of last year.

The new user interface allows up to eight apps to run simultaneously, four of which can appear in small windows on the same screen – something the firm describes as “true multitasking”.

During a demonstration executives said the intention was to let users “flow” through applications using swipes and other gestures rather than copy the “in and out” nature experienced when navigating rivals’ devices.

For example BB10’s Hub – which brings together emails, texts and other notifications – can be accessed by swiping up and then to the right from any app. The user then needs to reverse the gesture to return to where they were.

The BBM messaging app can now make audio and video calls as well as being able to share what is on one person’s screen with the other user’s device.

The Z10 is not RIM’s first to feature a touchscreen keyboard, but it has adopted new features to attract users more used to physical buttons.

These include a feature which learns the words and phrases the owner most often types and then uses this to suggest words which float above the keyboard and can be flicked into place.

It will also learn to anticipate and correct frequently made mistakes – such as if the user often hits the letter C when they mean to tap space.

“This is not a new Blackberry device, this is a completely new Blackberry experience. For the first time the traditional keyboard Blackberry users will it find easier to type on a touchscreen.”

The handsets also include a mix of features designed to make them appeal as a crossover business-personal machine.

Blackberry Balance sets up a “work perimeter” on the phones so that data belonging to the user’s employer can be limited to approved apps, while photos and other personal information can be used across a wider range of software.

Security conscious companies are also given the option of being able to remotely wipe sensitive files.

Facebook tests charging $1 to send messages to strangers

December 28, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Email, Facebook, Messaging, Pay Per Click Advertising, Search Clinic, Social Media, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

Facebook has begun a trial which allows users to pay $1 to send messages direct to people who are not their friends.Facebook tests charging $1 to send messages to strangersThe fee will mean messages go straight to a recipient’s inbox rather than the Other folder which contains all unsolicited correspondence.

The trial is only for a “small number of people” and is initially being tested just in the US.

Users will be able to receive a maximum of one paid for message per week, and no more than three each month.

“Several commentators and researchers have noted that imposing a financial cost on the sender may be the most effective way to discourage unwanted messages and facilitate delivery of messages that are relevant and useful,” the site said in a statement.

“For example, if you want to send a message to someone you heard speak at an event but are not friends with, or if you want to message someone about a job opportunity, you can use this feature to reach their inbox.”

The system is similar to one adopted by professional social networking service LinkedIn.  Although their InMail feature allows users to get in touch with people they are not connected to for a set monthly premium fee.

On Facebook, users can already send messages to anyone else on the network. However, depending on a user’s privacy settings, messages from users who are not friends mostly end up in the Other folder.

This folder, which is separate from the user’s main inbox, often goes unchecked.

The $1 charge will mean messages will go straight to a user’s inbox. Facebook said the level of cost is likely to prevent spam or irrelevant messages.

There are no immediate plans to launch the trial for users in Europe, but it could happen in the future, Facebook said.

The changes are the latest evolution of Facebook’s messaging service – an area of its site it is looking to expand.

The site’s founder Mark Zuckerberg has previously said he wants people to use Facebook messages instead of email – and the network rolled out @facebook.com email addresses to all users in June.

Indian spam texts must stop warns advertising watchdog

December 19, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: data security, Dr Search, Email, Messaging, Search Clinic, Technology Companies, Uncategorized

A company based in India has been ordered to stop sending spam text messages about PPI and accident compensation to UK consumers.Indian spam texts must stop warns advertising watchdogThe Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld complaints about the texts sent by Mumbai-based claims management company, Data Supplier.

It said it had not seen any evidence that the recipients had agreed to be included on the company’s database.

Many consumers have expressed their general frustration at receiving unsolicited text messages about payment protection insurance (PPI) mis-selling claims.

A huge industry in PPI claims has built up after providers started paying millions of pounds in compensation for policies sold to people who did not want or need them.

The particular complaint dealt with by the ASA surrounded a text message that said: “We have been trying to contact you regarding your PPI Claim, we now have details of how much you are due, just reply CONFIRM and we will call you back.”

A second text said: “Our records indicate you may be entitled to £3750 for the accident you had. To claim for free just reply CLAIM to this msg. To stop text STOP.”

Three complainants, two of whom received the first text and one who received the second, challenged whether they were misleading and could be substantiated.

These people said they had not recently had an accident or did not believe that they were eligible to reclaim PPI payments, and suggested that the texts breached the advertising code because they were unsolicited.

The ASA ruling said: “We noted that we had not seen any evidence to show that the recipients of the texts had given their explicit consent to be included on the Data Supplier’s database.

“We also understood that none of the recipients had recently had accidents or considered themselves to be eligible to make a PPI claim, and that the texts did not identify who the message had been sent from.

“For those reasons, we concluded that the texts were unsolicited and misleading and were therefore in breach of the code. The texts must not be sent again in their current form.”

The UK’s ASA advertising rules are simply:

  •     Companies must not send “persistent and unwanted” communications by telephone, fax, mail or email
  •     The messages must include the company’s name and details of how to opt out
  •     Companies must make it simple for people to opt out.

Controversial Communications Data Bill to be redrafted admits Cameron

December 17, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: Computers, Cyber Security, data security, Ecommerce, Email, internet, Search Clinic, Technology Companies, Telecommunications Companies, Uncategorized

The prime minister David Cameron has accepted the criticism from the public and businesses of the draft Communications Data Bill and agreed to re-write the controversial legislation.Controversial Communications Data Bill to be redrafted admits CameronCivil liberties campaigners have described the proposals as a “snoopers’ charter”, but Home Secretary Theresa May insists they are vital for countering paedophiles, extremists and fraudsters.

The Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaderships agree on the need for new measures, but they disagree over their scope.

Nick Clegg: ”We need a fundamental rethink, go back to the drawing board”

The plans in the draft bill included:

  •     Internet service providers having to store for a year all details of online communication in the UK – such as the time, duration, originator and recipient of a communication and the location of the device from which it was made.
  •     They would also be having to store for the first time all Britons’ web browsing history and details of messages sent on social media, webmail, voice calls over the internet and gaming, in addition to emails and phone calls
  •     Police not having to seek permission to access details of these communications, if investigating a crime
  •     Police having to get a warrant from the home secretary to be able to see the actual content of any messages
  •     Four bodies having access to data: the police, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the intelligence agencies and HM Revenue and Customs

A report from the Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Bill, made up of MPs and peers, accepted a new law was needed to help police fight crime and tackle security threats organised online.

But it warned ministers would be able to demand “potentially limitless categories of data” unless the draft bill was amended.

It called for “safeguards” over the new powers to prevent abuse and accused the government of producing estimates of the cost of implementing the plans which were not “robust” enough. The “net benefit figure” was “fanciful and misleading”, it said.

The MPs and peers added that the draft bill paid “insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy” and went “much further than it need or should for the purpose of providing necessary and justifiable official access to communications data”.

Mr Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, said the committee had raised “a number of serious criticisms – not least on scope, proportionality, cost, checks and balances, and the need for much wider consultation”.

“It is for those reasons that I believe the coalition government needs to have a fundamental rethink about this legislation. We cannot proceed with this bill and we have to go back to the drawing board.”

But he added: “The committee did not, however, suggest that nothing needs to be done. They were very clear that there is a problem that must be addressed to give law enforcement agencies the powers they need to fight crime. I agree.

In its report, the committee said the home secretary would be given “sweeping powers to issue secret notices to communications service providers, requiring them to retain and disclose potentially limitless categories of data”.

But it added: “We have been told that she has no intention of using the powers in this way. Our main recommendation is therefore that her powers should be limited to those categories of data for which a case can now be made.”

Spam text message senders are fined £440,000

December 05, 2012 By: Dr Search Principal Consultant at the Search Clinic Category: data security, Email, smart phones, Technology Companies, Telecommunications Companies, Uncategorized

Two people who sent millions of spam text messages have been fined £440,000 as the authorities crack down against the spammers.Spam text message senders are fined £440,000Christopher Niebel and Gary McNeish were part of a growing industry that sends texts to promote compensation claims for personal injury or payment protection mis-selling.

The information commissioner is trying to stop spammers and blaggers. It is the first time the watchdog has used its powers to levy fines for this sort of case.

The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said: “The public have told us that they are distressed and annoyed by the constant bombardment of illegal texts and calls and we are currently cracking down on the companies responsible, using the full force of the law.

“The two individuals we have served penalties made a substantial profit from the sale of personal information. They knew they were breaking the law and the trail of evidence uncovered by my office highlights the scale of their operations.”

The case centres on Tetrus Telecoms, based in Greater Manchester, which offered to send out more than 800,000 texts a day on behalf of its clients, who are claims management companies looking for compensation cases to pass on to lawyers.

The messages, or variations of them, will be familiar to mobile phone users across Britain: “CLAIM TODAY, you may be entitled to £3500 for the accident you had. To CLAIM free reply CLAIM to this message. To opt out text STOP”.

The information commissioner’s office (ICO) says handwritten notes found in one of the company’s offices suggested Tetrus had been using 70 mobile phone sim cards a day.

These would be inserted in a card reader connected to a computer, and SMS messages would be sent until each card’s text message limit had been reached.

The company’s directors, Mr Niebel and Mr Neish, have been fined £440,000 between them for breaching the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.

These require that marketing companies sending SMS messages must identify themselves and offer a way for recipients to opt out.

Records seized by the ICO suggest the company was making sales of more than £7,000 a day and its directors were earning tens of thousands of pounds.

The case has thrown a rare spotlight on the trade in potential clients for compensation claims, and the private data that enables them to be contacted.

Spammers sometimes send out messages to random numbers in the hope that they link to active mobile phones. They also buy black market lists of numbers on the internet.

For those receiving unwanted messages, replying can lead to the number being marked as active, making it more valuable to so-called ‘list brokers’. Each proven number can be worth £5. The ICO recommends the messages are deleted.

However should a phone-user respond positively to a message offering compensation for a road accident or mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) they will be passed to a claims management company which can then sell their case to a solicitor for a commission of around £500.

Mr Graham said: “Our message to the public is, if you don’t know who sent you a text message then do not respond, otherwise your details may be used to generate profits for these unscrupulous individuals.”