ONLINE FRAUDS AND OLD ROUTERS
The consumer watchdog Which? has called for new obligations for online platforms to “identify, remove and prevent fake and fraudulent content from being hosted on their sites” as part of the proposed Online Safety Bill. An open letter to the Home Secretary and Secretary of State points out the scale of online frauds and scams (3.7 million UK incidents in the year 2019/20) and the devastating impact it has on victims, both financially and emotionally.
Which? advises that the need to tackle these issues is urgent and that online platforms are best placed to address them, in conjunction with the telecoms, banking and finance sectors.
Also from Which? this week is a warning about the risks of old, insecure routers. It relates to routers which are over 5 years old and are no longer receiving firmware updates which address security issues. It predicts that millions of people in the UK could be affected. Other risks identified were weak default passwords and local network vulnerabilities. The article names the devices in question and offers advice on how to improve security.
Proposed new cyber security laws should reduce the risk of problems like this in future by imposing an obligation on manufacturers of smart devices to avoid easy to guess default passwords such as ‘admin’ or ‘password’. The laws would oblige them to advise customers at the time of purchase when they will stop receiving security updates on devices and make it easier to report security flaws.
SCAMS TAKEN DOWN
The National Cyber Security Centre, (part of GCHQ), reported on its efforts to protect the UK public and its critical services such as the NHS during the pandemic. The number of fraudulent campaigns taken down by NCSC in 2020 was 15 times higher than in 2019 due to investment in a wider set of takedown measures (over 700,000 campaigns using 1.4 million URL’s compared with 45,000 campaigns and 190,000 URLs). Some of this success was due to a new Suspicious Email Reporting Service which was introduced in April 2020 and which received almost 4 million reports from the public.
More than 11,000 UK-government themed phishing campaigns were taken down (twice as many as in 2019). HMRC was the most phished Government department.
NCSC efforts aim to reduce the type of attacks that affect large numbers of people in the UK and which can be prevented at scale. They aim to deter attackers by increasing the costs of running their scams to an unsustainable level.
TECHNOLOGY AND MENTAL HEALTH
A recent research article explores the links between increased adolescent technology use and mental health and whether they change over time. Despite using large data sets about young people in the UK and USA, the article recognised a number of limitations in the data available, including the need to rely on “self-reported” measures of mental health and technology use, which can be unreliable. It also acknowledged the difficulties of establishing a causal relationship between, for example, high technology use and poorer mental health.
The research, reported by Sage publishing, found “little evidence suggesting that technology is becoming more harmful over time”, but called for more research into the possibility. To enable this to take place, the authors highlight the need for social media and other online platforms to collaborate with scientific researchers by sharing the data that they hold.
NEW TWITTER PROMPT
The social media platform, Twitter, has announced steps to improve the behaviour of users on its site. Using an algorithm to identify potentially offensive tweets before they are posted, people will be prompted to reconsider their tweet and be given the option to edit it, delete it or send it.
Between January and June 2020 Twitter removed 1.9 million pieces of content and suspended over 925,000 accounts for a range of content which broke its rules. Hateful content was the largest of all types removed, totalling over 600,000 pieces. Abuse and harassment accounted for almost 400,000 pieces.
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