Ofcom gets tough on Broadband speed

Internet broadband speeds offered by ISPs (Internet service providers) can be a bit misleading.  Packages on offer sometimes look better than they are as well as having hidden contractual tie-ins where customers end up paying penalties when ending a contract early.
 
The good news is that Ofcom, the UK communications regulator have again started to get tough on the ISPs by imposing some new rules.  To protect customer from being misled on what broadband speed they actually receive. Up to 50mbps (megabits per second) sounds great but it doesn't always mean that's the speed you get.  'Up to' being the key phrase.
 
To briefly explain about megabits per second, this is how data transfer is measured in communications and data technology.  A bit (binary digit) is the smallest unit of data in computer terms.  A megabit is just over 1 million bits, a gigabit is equal to 124 megabits.  Oh, and to make it more complicated, there are 8 bits in a byte.  Yes it's giving me a headache too.
1024 bytes = 1 KB
KB = Kilobyte
1024 KB = 1 MB
MB = Megabyte
1024 MB = 1 GB
GB = Gigabyte
1024 GB = 1 TB
TB = Tera byte
1024 TB = PB
PB = Peta byte
To make Internet broadband contracts more straight forward, Ofcom have updated their current codes of practice with ISPs who have signed up to their voluntary rules.
The rules state that ISP have to provide the customer with the  true range of estimated speeds they are likely to receive plus the option to end the contract without paying penalties.  At the moment the ISP has a set amount of time to fix any issues with speed before the customer has the right to end the contract.  The changes mean this provision would be extended and may also soon apply to mobile phone contracts and TV streaming services.
The ISP is also going to have to publish stats on peak time speeds which is when most people's internet speed is likely to be slower.  The classic peak times being between 8pm and 10pm during the week and 7pm on a Sunday evening.
 
Us residential customers will no doubt benefit from these changes announced in October.  The other change is that customers will have the option to end the contract if the speed drops below a certain threshold.  The ability to change contracts without paying penalties means the ISPs will have to pull their socks up and make sure they are telling the truth to customers about broadband. 

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Sources:

http://www.silicon.co.uk

Web user magazine

 

 

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Are we being overcharged by mobile phone companies?

The big mobile phone operators (EE, Vodafone and Three) have been outed by consumer rights group, Citizens Advice for over-charging their customers in contracts for handsets once they have finished paying for them.

 

Citizens Advice (formerly the Citizens Advice Bureau) is a network of over 300 charities in the UK designed to help and protect the everyday consumer.

 

Where a lot of customers stay with the same mobile phone handset by default once the fixed deal period is up, their contract charges aren't being reduced or at least reviewed so it seems.  The mobile operators claim that contract end dates are made clear to customers from the outset.

 

On average this means people are paying an extra £22 a month after the cost of the handset has been paid over the life of the contract (generally 18 or 24 months for handset inclusive contracts).  For high spec mobile phones such as iPhone X or the Samsung Galaxy S8 this extra cost can be up to £38 a month!  Cheeky buggers!

 

The mobile phone operator quietly carries on charging at the same rate if you don't change your contract at the end of the period.

 

Citizens Advice group also found that 23% of over 65-year olds had fallen into this trap and have called for Ofcom to also step in to protect consumers especially those in vulnerable groups or elderly.

 

This is all bit naughty on the part of those mobile phone operators.  The contracts are expensive as it is, and this just takes advantage of those who either don't understand their rights or don't read the small print (not many of us do).  

 

What to do?

The thing to do here is keep a close eye on your mobile phone bills and contract terms.  Be aware of the date your contract ends so you know when to contact the operator to either move to a new contract or review the ongoing terms and charges.

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Source:

www.telepgraph.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s the KRACK? It’s a Wi-fi security vulnerability, since you ask

A design flaw has recently been found in a widely used wireless network security protocol which makes it possible for cyber criminals/hackers to access password protected Wi-fi networks and potentially access the data.  KRACK (or Key Reinstallation Attack) targets Wi-fi Protected Access Protocol (WPA2, also known as WPA2-PSK (Pre-shared Key).

Wi-fi protocols all form part of a set of Wi-fi standards and specifications known as IEEE.802.11.  The flaw in WPA2 means the hackers don’t need to know the password to access the Wi-fi network.

Usually changing your Wi-Fi network security password would be the first step but won't do a lot of good in this case eventhough KRACK doesn’t expose the password to the hacker.  The good news is that the risk can be avoided by applying an update or patch to your device(s) by making sure it’s up-to-date.  This includes all PC’s, laptops, smartphones, tablets and anything else that connects on a Wi-fi network.

Home user’s Wi-fi networks aren’t as likely to be targeted as large businesses and corporations but it’s worth noting that public Wi-fi areas are also risk areas when connected with mobile devices.

WPA2 is usually considered a trustworthy protocol when securing your Wi-fi network using a passphrase or password to stop other people from just connecting if in range.

To understand a bit more about Wi-fi security, below is a brief summary of the most widely used modern protocols.

WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) was the first encryption method for protecting data on a Wi-fi network.  Now considered the weakest of the bunch and most or less phased out

WPA (Wi-fi Protected Access) developed in 2005 replacing WEP as a more secure protocol with use of pass phrases.  This method uses TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol) which mixes the encryption us to make it hard to crack

WPA2 is an enhancement of WPA and offers stronger encryption method than its predecessors called AES (Advanced encryption Method) as well as the facility to create a unique passphrase or password

Protection against KRACK

So, in summary, Krack is widespread since it can affect any type of wireless connection using WPA2.  That is not to say WPA2 can no longer be used because it is still the best and current security protocol to use once updated against KRACK. 

We all need to be mindful when using public or private wireless networks.  There's no need to panic, it's a case of using common sense and follow some basic security guidelines. 

Here are a few good methods for protection against KRACK.

  • Update all your devices.  If you are not sure how to do this, Google it or seek professional advice

(PC, laptop, smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, smart home devices and your Wi-fi router)

  • Use HTTPS instead of HTTP when browsing to websites with a web browser
    (see full explanations of these terms in the TECHNICAL GLOSSARY page of this blog)

When it comes to dealing with anything secure online such as internet banking, email accounts or anything to do with card payment details then it's advisable to use HTTPS in the browser in favour of HTTP

  • Wi-fi Router default settings

Wi-fi routers generally come out of the box with basic ‘admin’ usernames and passwords.  It’s always a good idea to change the credentials to your own secure login details as soon as it’s up and running.  Also making sure the latest WPA2 with AES encryption are enabled.

  • Run anti-virus software and anti-malware on your PC/laptop

It’s good practice to do this anyway.  There are some good free products out there as well as the paid for versions which can get a bit pricy.

I’ve paid for Norton Antivirus in the past but it is a bit expensive.  Here’s a link to some of the best free anti-virus products currently available.

Did you find this post useful? 

Have you experienced issues relating to Wi-Fi security?  

If so, let me know by posting a comment, reply by email or via the Contact page.

 

Source

https://www.bbc.co.uk

https://en.wikipedia.org

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Bad Rabbit Ransomware

They're at it again.  This time another strain of Ransomware has struck Russia and the Ukraine.

The BBC reported on 25th October this new type of malware has affected websites, an airport and an underground station in Russia.  Known as 'Bad Rabbit' and similar to the WannaCry and Petya attacks, parts of Turkey and Germany are also said to be hit.

It manifests itself and is distributed through an Adobe Flash update.  Apparently, it generates tasks in Windows with names associated to them - Drogon and Rhaegal from Game of Thrones!

At least we know these cyber criminals watch quality TV.

Cyber criminals are out there so we all need to be vigilant and stay safe online.  Malicious attacks are on the increase and big corporations and business are the primary targets.  As home users, we also still need to make sure we're protected.

As a reminder, below are the steps to take to stay safe online.

  • Don't install suspect software or other unknown programmes from the internet or from unsolicited emails
  • Check that websites are secure, e.g. a URL begins with https
  • Use varied passwords or a password manager for different online accounts – if one is compromised at least your others are still protected
  • Never provide personal or financial information through a website unless you typed in the web address yourself
  • Change passwords regularly and if you suspect your password has been compromised change it immediately
  • Don’t give out your password to anyone or leave it written down on display
  • If an email looks dodgy, do not click on any links
  • Take care with links in web-based email
  • In this situation, open a new browser session and go to the actual website
  • Note, reputable businesses do not send unsolicited emails asking you to provide sensitive information

Also see my previous post Ransomware Explained for more information.

 

Source

https://www.bbc.co.uk

https://en.wikipedia.org

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MICROSOFT WINDOWS 10 MOBILE GETS THE CHOP

Microsoft announced today on Twitter that development of new features for their mobile phone operating system Windows 10 Mobile will no longer continue. 

Designed for smartphones, Windows 10 Mobile replaced its successors, Windows Phone and Windows Phone 8.1 back in 2015.  The Microsoft Lumia brand also came about in 2015.  Lumia first appeared in 2011, previously marketed and owned by Nokia and designed to run the Windows Phone operating system before Microsoft bought out Nokia in 2013.  The Lumia series (535, 550, 950, 950 XL) were the first smartphones to run the Windows operating system.

The intention was to marry the mobile phone applications with the mainstream PC/laptop operating system so that apps could be used across both.  Trouble is, it never really caught on.  Probably down to the growing popularity of Android, the fact the Windows apps can be a bit limited in variety (I should know, I’ve got one!) and that not many smartphone brands offer the Windows operating system in their range.  The other nail in the coffin back in September this year was that Microsoft founder, Bill Gates announced he has also moved over to Android. 

So much for supporting the team, eh Bill?

However, Microsoft have said they will support other companies who adopt the Windows 10 Mobile platform and some are still releasing new models of smartphone with the operating system onboard, so it’s not dead just yet.   Microsoft admit they have struggled to incentivise companies to develop and produce universal apps for their troubled mobile phone brand unlike their competitors, the big hitters – Android and iOS. 

So what does this mean if you’ve got a Windows Phone (like me)?

Don’t panic, Microsoft will continue to support the current mobile operating system, it just means they won’t be bringing out new features or upgrades.  Support for bug fixes and security upgrades will continue.

Personally, I’ve always found the Windows Phone and its operating system just ‘ok’.   It's not exactly a bad phone and does handle it's itself well when it comes to heavy app usage although it’s a bit frustrating at times when popular apps are readily available on iOS and Android but nowhere to be seen for the Windows phone. 

But have to agree with Bill.  My next smartphone will be an Android.  

Source:

www.bbc.co.uk/news

wikipedia.org

 

 

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UBER TO INCLUDE WAITING CHARGES AND TIPS

Uber users in the UK will soon be able to add a tip to the taxi bill for the driver and be subject to waiting charges if they take too long about it.

The american car transportation (taxi) and food delivery service was founded in 2009 and now operates in 633 cities around the world.  The app software allows the passenger to book and pay for the journey via the mobile app linked to the driver’s smartphone and sat nav.  An upfront price/quote is given and debited from the customer’s bank account once the journey is complete.

As well as having some long running dispute issues over driver’s labour rights, Uber have grown massively in popularity while having their fair share of setbacks. 

 The proposed changes include:

·       Waiting charges of 20p per minute if passengers keep the driver hanging around for more than two minutes

·       Cancellation charges applicable from two minutes instead of the current five-minute grace period

·       Driver to have ability to control the trips booked

·       The option to tip the driver added to the app

·       Performance/rating of the driver to be fairer if passenger’s give a low score because the app has failed

These changes aren’t major advantages for the passenger but I guess they show Uber are managing their business more closely on the road to improving.  As a user myself the service is great when it works and can be very efficient.   When it doesn’t work it can be frustrating.  The app can be unreliable at times resulting in delays with bookings or cancelled trips.  For me it’s been about a 50/50 success rate of being able or not able to get a cab with Uber depending on my location or available drivers.

Have you had good/bad experiences with Uber? 

Let me know by leaving a reply below.

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WINDOWS 10 update coming soon

World dominating James-Bond-Villain-Like organisation/technology corporation, Microsoft are planning to release the next major update to Windows 10 in October 2017.  Known as the Fall Creators Update and codenamed Redstone 3, it's rumoured to include a new app called Story Remix for editing and adding images and video clips together to produce tailored ‘stories’.  Also included is the functionality to synchronise photographs and videos across multiple devices.   Facebook fans will have no end fund with that one. 

Other new features include Eye Control – an integrated function for controlling the mouse and keyboard entries with eye movement!  Yes I said eye movement!

The Microsoft Edge browser is also being modernised with minor changes to improve copy/paste and tab arrangements.

The Story app is also said to be compatible with iOS and Android (as well as Windows itself of course).

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Facebook are loaded! Quarterly profits reported at $3.89 Billion

Having just reported their quarterly profit numbers - 71% up from last year, Facebook's profit for the second quarter of this year is around $3.9 Billion (£3 Billion).   The increase is said to be based mainly on mobile video advertisements.

Facebook shares have also reached an all-time high with revenue reported at $9.32 Billion up 44% from last year.

Around 2 Billion of us use Facebook and that’s a lot considering there are 7.5 Billion people in total on the planet!

The money Facebook has made from mobile advertising has accounted for 87% of their total advertising revenues in the last financial quarter.

Mobile video adverts appear on phones and tablets in Google search results, usually first in the queue at the top or on the right hand side of the page.  Businesses pay a lot of money for video advertising in this space because it is so powerful and Google is so heavily used in the consumer world.  The money is made from targeted ads that relate to the search.  Since Facebook include these ads in their news feeds, they have cashed in massively by getting paid for the advertising.

My hope is that one-day Digital Speak will become so popular, I’ll be able to use Google mobile ads to become so rich and be able to run naked through a purposely built warehouse filled with fifty pound notes.  Oh well...

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Apple iOS Update Coming Soon

Apple Inc have announced the release of their updated iOS software for the iPhone and iPad. 

iOS 11 was recently unveiled along with new models of the iPad and their offering in the smart speaker market – HOMEPOD.

The software update has lots of new features including photo editing enhancements, more functionality in file and document management and an update to the camera software reducing storage space taken up by photos and videos on devices.

The update’s final version is due out September 2017.  The beta/test version is available now for the privileged few enrolled on Apple's developer programme and who like to test Apple products ahead of everyone else because they just can’t wait (whoopee-do!). 

iOS 11 should mostly benefit iPad users as it provides some similar functionality to that of a standard PC or laptop including drag and drop for moving files.

Although iOS 11 is free, it will only be available on 5th generation or later iPad models, iPad mini 2 or later and all iPad Pro models.  For iPhone users, it will only be available for iPhone 5 or later.  Users with older Apple devices will still be fine but they obviously won’t benefit from the new features.

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Mobile Roaming Charges Ceased in the EU

Roaming charges for member countries of the EU have finally been scrapped. 

Under a new law, EU citizens travelling in Europe no longer have to pay massive mobile phone data roaming charges or extra for making calls and sending texts.

Previously you could go abroad and innocently leave mobile data active on your mobile phone only to be hit with a huge bill from the mobile phone operator because the device continued to download updates or content but at premium overseas rates. 

Eventhough the EU have banned the roaming charges, care still needs to be taken because some sneaky mobile operators can still add extra fees for data usage so it's always worth checking your tariff or mobile phone contract to be absolutely sure.

What about BREXIT?  When the UK does finally leave the EU, free roaming regulations won’t automatically apply to UK law which means the British government will have to pass a law to meet the same criteria and avoid national uproar.  Let’s watch that one with interest shall we?

This is a good thing for UK citizens travelling in Europe even if most of the big operators had already put a cap on roaming charges.   It’s only fair since being slapped with a massive phone bill because of data roaming is no joke whatever country you’re in.

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