Author: Paul

New System Detects & Warns Of Mobile Phone Use in Cars

Norfolk-based company Westcotec is piloting new technology that can detect whether a handheld mobile phone is in use in a passing vehicle, and then warn the occupants of the vehicle.

How?

In a UK first, the pilot scheme, which is taking place in four locations in Norfolk, uses a directional antenna, with a detector that picks up radio waves emitted from a mobile phone handset. The system measures the signal strength and length of activation of the signal, and if a signal is detected of a duration and signal strength sufficient to activate the system, the detector triggers a warning sign at the roadside.

Driver or Passenger?

Although the technology is advanced, one thing it can’t do yet is to tell the difference between the phone signal from a driver or a passenger in a vehicle. It also doesn’t record any video footage.

The system has also been designed to know whether a phone is being used hands-free or via a vehicle’s Bluetooth system (and if Bluetooth is being used it will not trigger the warning sign).

Why?

The system is designed to improve safety on UK roads by acting as a reminder to drivers. Driving while using a handheld mobile phone has been illegal in the UK since December 2003. The results of an RAC survey last year, however, show that 31% of motorists said that they had used a handheld mobile phone while driving. This was an increase on the 8% of those recorded in a survey 2 years previously as still using a handheld mobile phone while driving.

Unaware of Tougher Laws

Another RAC poll found that almost two-thirds of drivers are unaware of the punishment for using mobile phones at the wheel, even though it has been more than 12 months since the introduction of much tougher laws.

The poll showed that only 36% of the 2,000 UK motorists questioned knew that offenders face six penalty points and a £200 fine, and 41% believed more visible law enforcement is needed.

Drivers who receive a ban for offences now have to retake both the theory and practical parts of their driving test to get back on the road.

Prosecution Risk

Under the current UK law, picking up your phone while driving, even if stopped in traffic or at lights, will get you at least six points. If drivers are involved in a collision e.g. as a result of using a handheld device, they could be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention, which carries even greater penalties. If someone is killed in such a collision, the driver could be prosecuted for causing death by dangerous driving.

New Distractions

Many of the newer communication platforms and devices that could cause distractions in the car have made the news in recent years, such as iPhones (and Facetime), and the new Apple watch.

For example, back in January 2017, a family in Texas sued Apple because they believed that a driver who was allegedly distracted by a FaceTime call on his iPhone while at the wheel was the reason for a road accident which resulted in the death of their five-year-old daughter.

Also, in Canada in June this year, an Apple smartwatch was classified by a court as being the same kind of distraction as a mobile phone as a student was handed a fine for being observed looking at her Apple watch while waiting at traffic lights.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Considering the results of the RAC surveys some 15 years after the ban on handheld mobile phone use while driving, and a year after the doubling of penalties for being caught, it is clear that using technology to provide a friendly reminder to drivers can’t do any harm, and may even contribute to road safety.

If you and your employees drive to and from work and as part of your work it is essential that a hands-free device is used for any calls, or that calls are only made or received when your vehicle is safely parked. Even checking texts is constitutes a distraction.

The results of not heeding the law on this matter are not just the terrible human consequences, but also the potential damage to your business through driving penalties and reputational damage from the local publicity.

Now You Can Search eBay Via A Photo

Ebay has launched Image Search in the UK, an AI-based technology that means you can now enter a photo into the search box to help find the product you’re looking for.

Smart Phone Camera Search

With so many of us now using smart-phones, this innovative new feature means that users can take a photo on their phone of a product they’re inspired by and interested in, and use the machine learning technology that’s been added to eBay’s 1.1 billion item catalogue to quickly search for that product.

Technology Push at eBay

This latest addition to eBay’s search is part of a general push by eBay to bolt-on more technologies and forge alliances to increase the reach of its platform and to take the fight to competitors.

For example, eBay recently collaborated with worldwide media and entertainment company for culture and tech ‘Mashable’ so that an eBay widget could be introduced into Mashable. The widget allows Mashable’s audience to see and use a small eBay shop window overlaid on the page, and populated by products that are featured in Mashable articles, thereby allowing people to instantly buy what they they’re reading about. The benefit for eBay (according to eBay) is that eBay’s marketing team will be able to use it to better understand the factors that matter most to buyers making purchases off the eBay platform e.g. seller reputation and delivery time, and to use learned consumer insights from the pilot to deliver scalable solutions that accelerate eBay’s growth.

Smart Search Benefits

The sheer size of eBay’s catalogue means that it can sometimes take a long time for users to find the item they’re looking for, particularly if that item is very difficult to describe. Also, the watching and waiting aspect of eBay, its reputation as an auction site, and its lack of ability to actively engage have appeared to put it slightly at odds with a generation who simply want to quickly find what they’re looking for via their smart-phone, and purchase it. eBay also needed to find a way to get the most out of the vast number of user-generated images and item data that they’d accumulated through the years, and to capitalise on the instant product inspiration that people get e.g. from their social media feeds.

It is believed that the Image Search feature will be able to address all of these challenges, and will allow users to quickly find what they’re looking for while on the move. It may also encourage more seller to take to platform.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This is another illustration of how AI / machine learning is being put to practical and value-adding use as a medium for brand / company growth and user convenience. For businesses in retail such as for fashion and apparel, this new feature could bring increased sales and brand recognition, and could help new lines to generate sales rapidly.

For eBay, this innovative search feature could kill many birds with one stone towards the aim of delivering scalable solutions that can accelerate eBay’s growth.

Visual search is a growing trend, particularly in retail e.g. ASOS, Zalando and John Lewis have adopted visual search into their apps to save customers time, to make themselves more socially discoverable, to drive up-sell activity, and to ultimately increase app revenue. Visual search technology is likely to find its way onto many more platforms, retail websites and apps yet.

UK Slips To 35th Place In Global Broadband Speed Table

A recent comparison of 163 million broadband speed tests across 200 countries shows that the UK has slipped from 31st to 35th place in the global average broadband speed league tables.

Lagging In Europe

This latest result means that, even though average speeds in the UK have risen in the past year and, at 18.5Mbps, are above the global average, the UK is now lagging behind 25 other European countries.

Although the UK’s ranking is now actually above 165 other countries, it is still in the bottom third of EU member states.

Top Speeds

Globally, Singapore tops the average broadband speed table with 60 Mbps. In Europe, the Scandinavian countries are top of the league with Sweden at 46Mbps, Denmark at 43.9Mbps, and Norway at 40.1Mbps.

To give some idea of the gulf between broadband speeds at the top and bottom of the table, the lowest average broadband speeds can be found in Yemen (0.3Mbps), East Timor (0.49Mbps), and Turkmenistan (0.56Mbps).

Why The UK Fall In The Rankings?

It is widely believed that the UK is starting to drop further behind many of its European neighbours in average broadband speeds because it has been too late in embracing a full-fibre solution – FTTP (fibre to the premises). Many critics have pointed to UK infrastructure provider Openreach shying away from FTTP because of the perceived costs and level of difficulty of large-scale rollouts.

At present, many UK homes and businesses, therefore, have to rely on the slower FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) alternative, which uses copper wires to carry broadband from street cabinets to homes.

Openreach

Back in November 2016, partly because of its slowness to move to super-fast broadband but mainly because of a perceived monopoly, BT-owned Openreach was ordered by Ofcom to become a legally separate entity.

Hope

As well as Openreach’s competitors such as Hyperoptic moving forward with plans to offer FTTP to 2 million urban premises by 2022, the UK government has also recently updated its plans to bring FTTC to the UK. For example, the UK government’s National Infrastructure Commission (Nic) is now pushing for FTTC to be deployed around the UK by 2033, and hopefully, to be available to 15 million homes by 2025.

At the end of last year, the UK government announced that six regions of the UK would host trials of full fibre broadband for businesses, schools and hospitals as part of a £200m scheme by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). The regions are Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, West Sussex, Coventry and Warwickshire, Bristol and Bath & North East Somerset, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This latest drop down the table of average broadband speeds is bad news, but not a surprise for UK businesses. Broadband is now an essential service for business, and businesses know from their own experience that broadband services in the UK can sometimes be slow, patchy, and often expensive. A recent survey by watchdog ‘Which?’, for example, revealed that more than half of UK customers across 12 providers, are having problems with their broadband service or price.

At the moment, better broadband services, particularly for businesses in rural locations, still seem a very long way off as the reality is that the UK ranks only 35th in the world for average broadband speeds, and we may only actually have 7% full fibre coverage by 2020, with full coverage unlikely for another 15 years. This could affect the competitiveness of UK companies compared to their European neighbours and other global competitors for a long time to come.

£500,000 Fine For Facebook Data Breaches

Sixteen months after the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) began its investigation into the Facebook’s sharing the personal details of users with political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, the ICO has announced that Facebook will be fined £500,000 for data breaches.

Maximum

The amount of the fine is the maximum that can be imposed under GDPR. Although it sounds like a lot, for a corporation valued at around $500 billion, and with $11.97 billion in advertising revenue and $4.98 billion in profit for the past quarter (mostly from mobile advertising), it remains to be seen how much of an effect it will have on Facebook.

Time Before Responding

Facebook has now been given time to respond to the ICO’s verdict before a final decision is made by the ICO.

Facebook have said, however, that it acknowledges that it should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and taken action back in 2015.

Reminder of What Happened

The fine relates to the harvesting of the personal details of 87 million Facebook users without their explicit consent, and the sharing of that personal data with London-based political Consulting Firm Cambridge Analytica, which is alleged to have used that data to target political messages and advertising in the last US presidential election campaign.

Also, harvested Facebook user data was shared with Aggregate IQ, a Data Company which worked with the ‘Vote Leave’ campaign in the run-up to the Brexit Referendum.

The sharing of personal user data with those companies was exposed by former Cambridge Analytica employee and whistleblower Christopher Wylie. The resulting publicity caused public outrage, saw big falls in Facebook’s share value, brought apologies from its founder / owner, and saw insolvency proceedings (back in May) for Cambridge Analytica and its parent SCL Elections.

What About Cambridge Analytica?

Although Facebook has been given a £500,000 fine, Cambridge Analytica no longer exists as a company. The ICO has indicated, however, that it is still considering taking legal action against the company’s directors. If successful, a prosecution of this kind could result in convictions and an unlimited fine.

AggregateIQ

As for Canadian data analytics firm AggregateIQ, the ICO is reported to still be investigating whether UK voters’ personal data provided by the Brexit referendum’s Vote Leave campaign had been transferred and accessed outside the UK and whether this amounted to a breach of the Data Protection Act. Also, the ICO is reported to be investigating to what degree AIQ and SCL Elections had shared UK personal data, and the ICO is reported to have served an enforcement notice forbidding AIQ from continuing to make use of a list of UK citizens’ email addresses and names that it still holds.

Worries About 11 Main Political Parties

The ICO is also reported to have written to the UK’s 11 main political parties, asking them to have their data protection practices audited because it is concerned that the parties may have purchased certain information about members of the public from data brokers, who might not have obtained consent.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

When this story originally broke, it was a wake-up call about what can happen to the personal data that we trust companies / corporations with, and it undoubtedly damaged trust between Facebook and its users to a degree. It’s a good job that the ICO is there to follow things up on our behalf because, for example, a Reuters/Ipsos survey conducted back in April found that, even after all the publicity surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, most users remained loyal to the social media giant.

Also, the case has raised questions about how our data is shared and used for political purposes, and how the using and sharing of our data to target messages can influence the outcome of elections, and, therefore, can influence the whole economic and business landscape. This has meant that there has now been a call for the UK government to step-in and introduce a code of practice which should limit how personal information can be used by political campaigns before the next general election.
Facebook has recently been waging a campaign, including heavy television advertising, to convince us that it has changed and is now more focused on protecting our privacy. Unfortunately, this idea has been challenged by the recent ‘Deceived By Design’ report by the government-funded Norwegian Consumer Council, which accused tech giants Microsoft, Facebook and Google of being unethical by leading users into selecting settings that do not actually benefit their privacy.

$13.5 Million In Customer Tokens Lost To Bancor Hackers

Hackers are reported to have stolen $13.5 million of user crypto-currency tokens from the Israeli start-up and decentralized crypto-currency trading platform Bancor.

What Happened?

It has been reported that on Monday, hackers were able to access and compromise a wallet on the Bancor platform that is used to upgrade smart contracts. These smart contracts have been likened to digital vending machines which manage crypto-currency transactions so there is no need for a middle-man.

This compromised wallet was then used by the hackers to steal different types of crypto-currency tokens from Bancor’s customers. The stolen tokens are reported to comprise 24,984 ($12.5 million) in Ethereum tokens, and 229, 356, 645 NPXS (approx. $1 million).

The total loss in the hack would have included an extra 3,200,00 of Bancor’s own token BNT (approx. $10 million), had Bancor not frozen the $10 million of its own Bancor tokens (BNT) as soon as it found out about the hack.
Bancor, which raised over $150 million in an ICO last year, is reported to have taken its exchange offline while it conducts an investigation of the incident.

Criticism

Following reports of the incident, some commentators have criticised Bancor for advertising itself as decentralized, and yet responding to the hack with strategies like those of a centralised system.

Centralised exchanges have received criticism for demanding large fees up front to list tokens, while not appearing to use those fees to help security, judging by the number and frequency of hacks.

User of MyEtherWallet Crypto-currency Also Hit By Hack

In the same week as customers of Bancor took a hit form a hack, so did one of the internet’s most popular services for managing crypto-currencies, MyEtherWallet. MyEtherWallet (MEW) is used to access crypto wallets and also to send and receive tokens to and from other wallets.

For the MEW hack, it has been reported that the hackers compromised ‘Hola’ for about 5 hours. Hola is a free VPN that plugs into browsers, and claims to have nearly 50 million users. Compromising Hola meant that any users who navigated to MEW and accessed their wallet with the VPN switched on are likely to be those who fell victim to the hackers.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Many businesses and individuals have been deterred from investing in and using crypto-currencies after the bad press surrounding the Bitcoin bubble and the associated crypto-jacking schemes, media reports of multiple hacks to different exchanges / platforms and crypto-currencies, and a general lack of knowledge and confidence about crypto-currencies. The Bancor and a MyEtherWallet hacks are just two more indications of the many existing security issues (particularly with centralised systems), and may be two more reasons why businesses may shy away from all things crypto-currecncy.

The fact is, however, that crypto-currencies could have many advantages for some businesses, such as the speed and ease with which transactions can take place due to the lack of central banking and traditional currency control. Some crypto-currencies e.g. Ripple, are actually products of banks. Crypto-currencies generally mean easier, faster and more convenient cross-border and global trading, but traditional currencies tend to have the backing of assets or promises of assets of some kind. Crypto-currencies, therefore, tend to be less trusted and more volatile in the markets and governments and banks don’t like the fact that they have no real control over them.

In the case of the MEW hack, this is also an example of why it is better to pay for a VPN service rather than use a free one.

Tech Tip – Create Instant Shortcuts

If you need to access certain files or folders quickly in Windows, you can help yourself by being able to easily create instant shortcuts to them. Here’s how:

– Go to the folder or file that you’ll need fast access to.

– Hold down Alt then drag it from a File Explorer window to the desktop (or anywhere else on disk).

– Right-click on it.

– Choose Properties to make changes to the new shortcut, e.g. the program it opens up with by default.

NHS Booking App and Doc Bot

In the NHS’s 70th year, and as part of the push for digitisation, the introduction of an appointment-booking app has been praised, while a GP chatbot has been given the thumbs-down by The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).

Book Appointments With A Free NHS App

A free app, due to be launched at the end of this year, will enable NHS patients to make GP appointments, order repeat prescriptions, and access the 111 helpline for urgent medical needs.

The app, which is being jointly developed by NHS Digital and NHS England, and is part of NHS England’s wider strategy to digitise the health service, will be made available through the App Store or Google.

Other Options

As well as booking appointments and ordering prescriptions, the app will also give patients other options such as allowing them to opt-out of sharing their personal information for research and planning purposes across the health service, mark their preferences on organ donation, and register their choices for end-of-life care.

Helpful

Many commentators have praised the idea of the app as something that could provide extra convenience to patients e.g. reducing the 8am scramble for GP appointments, and take some of the increasing load off some areas of the NHS.

Security Caution

Some commentators have stressed the need to ensure that the security, reliability, and the identity verification processes of the app are of the highest international security standards in order to protect the personal details and medical history of patients.

Big No for Doc App

While the NHS appointment-booking app has been receiving cautious praise, the new Babylon AI chatbot that can diagnose medical conditions (and offer health advice based on what users tell it) got the thumbs-down at an event held by The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).

Accuracy?

One of the main aspects of the bot that upset physicians were claims by Babylon that the bot has achieved medical exam scores of the same level as or higher than a human doctor. The company says that according to its robust testing program, which includes relevant sections of the MRCGP exam, which is the final test for a trainee GP, Babylon’s AI bot’s average pass mark was 81%. This mark is higher than the 72% average pass mark achieved by real doctors over the past five years.

These claims have been disputed by RCGP, which has stressed the point that no app or algorithm is able to do what a GP does.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Apps are being used in useful and value-adding ways in so many other sectors, it is no surprise that they are being developed for healthcare, and with the purpose of taking some of the burden off the NHS. For most people, the NHS is s trusted organisation anyway, and an app that can essentially perform administrative functions, such as booking appointments, sounds as though it could be very useful. The trust that many have in the NHS may also be enough to minimise security concerns. One criticism may be, however, that it may exclude the older members of society, many of whom are regular users of NHS services.

Even though an AI app may be able to pass theoretical exams (such as the Babylon AI app) getting people to trust it to make a diagnosis and then health suggestions, particularly when it has been criticised by real doctors, may be a step too far at the current time. That particular app company, however, has faced criticism in the past over its ‘GP at Hand’ app for the NHS, which allows patients at five London clinics to consult with their GP via a video call. The RCGP criticised it for cherry-picking patients, and leaving GPs to deal with the most complex patients without sufficient resources.

Either way, the NHS is committed to digitising some aspects of its services, and in introducing technology, a balance needs to be struck between adding real value in a fair way to all, while not being to the detriment of any NHS users and practitioners.

Tech Giant GDPR Privacy Settings ‘Unethical’ Says Council

The ‘Deceived By Design’ report by the government-funded Norwegian Consumer Council has accused tech giants Microsoft, Facebook and Google of being unethical by leading users into selecting settings that do not benefit their privacy.

Illusion of Control

The report alleges that, far from actually giving users more control over their personal data (as laid out by GDPR), the tech giants may simply be giving users the illusion that this is happening. The report points to the possible presence of practices such as:

– Facebook and Google making users who want the privacy-friendly option go through a significantly longer process (privacy intrusive defaults).

– Facebook, Google and Windows 10 using pop-ups that direct users away from the privacy-friendly choices.

– Google presenting users with a hard-to-use dashboard with a maze of options for their privacy and security settings. For example, on Facebook it takes 13 clicks to opt out of authorising data collection (opting in can take just one).
– Making it difficult to delete data that’s already been collected. For example, deleting data about location history requires clicking through 30 to 40 pages.

– Google not warning users about the downside of personalisation e.g. telling users they would simply see less useful ads, rather than mentioning the potential to be opted in to receive unbalanced political ad messages.

– Facebook and Google pushing consumers to accept data collection e.g. with Facebook stating how, if users keep face recognition turned off, Facebook won’t be able to stop a stranger from using the user’s photo to impersonate them, while not stating how Facebook will use the information collected.

Dark Patterns

In general, the reports criticised how the use of “dark patterns” such as misleading wording and default settings that are intrusive to privacy, settings that give users an illusion of control, hiding privacy-friendly options, and presenting “take-it-or-leave-it choices”, could be leading users to make choices that actually stop them from exercising all of their privacy rights..

Big Accept Button

The report, by Norway’s consumer protection watchdog, also notes how the GDPR-related notifications have a large button for consumers to accept the company’s current practices, which could appear to many users to be far more convenient than searching for the detail to read through.

Response

Google, Facebook and Microsoft are all reported to have responded to the report’s findings by issuing statements focusing on the progress and improvements they’ve made towards meeting the requirements of the GDPR to date.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

GDPR was supposed to give EU citizens much more control over their data, and the perhaps naive expectation was that companies with a lot to lose (in fines for non-compliance and reputation), such as the big tech giant and social media companies would simply fall into line and afford us all of those new rights straight away.

The report by the Norwegian consumer watchdog appears to be more of a reality check that shows how our personal data is a valuable commodity to the big tech companies, and that, according to the report, the big tech companies are willing to manipulate users and give the illusion that they are following the rules without actually doing so. The report appears to indicate that these large corporations are willing to force consumers to try to fight for rights that have already been granted to them in GDPR.

New, Improved Wi-Fi Security Standard WPA3 Starts Rollout

The non-profit, global trade group, the Wi-Fi Alliance, has announced the commencement of the rollout of the new Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) protocol WPA3 which should bring improvements in authentication and data protection.

What’s Been The Problem?

There are estimated to be around 9 billion Wi-Fi devices in use in the world, but the current security protocol, WPA2, dates back to 2004. The rapidly changing security landscape has, therefore, left many Wi-Fi devices vulnerable to new methods of attack, fuelling the calls for the fast introduction of a new, more secure standard.

WPA2 Vulnerabilities

For example, WPA2 which is mandatory for Wi-Fi Certified devices, is known to be vulnerable to offline dictionary attacks to guess passwords. This is where an attacker can have as many attempts as they like at guessing Wi-Fi credentials without being on the same network. Offline attacks allow the perpetrator to either passively stand and capture an exchange, or even interact with a user once before finding-out the password. Using Wi-Fi on public networks with the current protocol has also left people vulnerable to ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks or ‘traffic sniffing’.

One key contributor to the vulnerability of using Wi-Fi with the WPA2 standard is the home / business using obvious / simple passwords.

What’s So Good About The New Standard?

The new WPA3 standard has several advantages. These include:

  • The fact that it has been designed for the security challenges of businesses, although it has two modes of operation: Personal and Enterprise.
  • The equivalent of 192-bit cryptographic strength, thereby offering a higher level of security than WPA2.
  • The addition of Easy Connect, which allows a user to add any device to a Wi-Fi network using a secondary device already on the network via a QR code. This makes the connection more secure and helps simplify IoT device protection.
  • WPA3-Personal mode offers enhanced protection against offline dictionary attacks and password guessing attempts through the introduction of a feature called Simultaneous Authentication of Equals (SAE). Some commentators have suggested that it ‘saves users from themselves’ by offering improved security even if a user chooses a more simple password. It also offers ‘forward secrecy’ to protect communications even if a password has been compromised.

In Tandem For The Time Being

The current standard WPA2 will be run in tandem with the new WPA3 standard until the standard becomes more widely used.

Protection Against Passive Evesdropping

In June, the Wi-Fi Alliance also announced the rollout of the Wi-Fi Enhanced Open, a certification program. This provides protection for unauthenticated networks e.g. coffee shops, hotels and airports, and protects connections against passive eavesdropping without needing a password by providing each user with a unique individual encryption that secures traffic between their device and the Wi-Fi network.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Wi-Fi security and the security of a growing number of IoT devices has long been a source of worry to individuals and businesses, particularly as the nature and variety of attack methods have evolved while the current security standard is 14 years old.

The introduction of a new, up-to-date standard / protocol which offers greater security, has been designed with businesses in mind, offers more features, and protects the user from their own slack approach to security is very welcome. WPA3 will be particularly welcomed by those who use networks to send and receive very sensitive data, such as the public sector or financial industry.

Samsung Phones Sending Photos Without Permission

The Samsung Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9+ and Note 8 are all reported to have been recently affected by a bug in the Samsung Messages app that sends out photos from the user’s gallery without their permission … to random contacts.

What Happens?

According to Samsung phone users on social media and the company’s forum, some users have been affected by a bug in the default texting app on Galaxy, Samsung Messages. Reports indicate that the bug causes Samsung Messages to text photos stored in a user’s gallery to a random person listed as contact. The user is not informed that the pictures have been sent, or to whom, and there has even been one reported complaint that a person’s whole gallery was sent to a contact in the middle of the night!

Why?

Although there is no conclusive evidence concerning the cause, online speculation has centred on the bug being related to the interaction between Samsung Messages and recent RCS (Rich Communication Services) profile updates that have rolled out on carriers including T-Mobile. These updates have been rolled out to add updated and new features to the outdated SMS protocol e.g. better media sharing and typing indicators.

Acknowledged

Samsung is reported to have acknowledged the reports of problems, and is said to be looking into them. Samsung is also reported to have urged concerned customers to contact them directly on 1-800-SAMSUNG, and the company supposedly have been in contact with T-Mobile about the issue. T-Mobile is recorded as saying that it is not their issue.

What Can You Do?

As well contacting Samsung, and in the absence of any definitive news of a fix as yet, there are two main possible fixes that Samsung owners can pursue. These are:

  1. To go into the phone’s app settings and revoke Samsung Messages’ ability to access storage. This should stop Messages from sending photos or anything else stored on the device.
  2. Switch to a different texting app e.g. Android Messages or Textra. There are no (known) reports of these being affected by the same bug.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

People pay a lot of money to get the latest phones and to get the right contracts to allow for the high volume of communications associated with business use. It is (at the very least) annoying, but more generally scary and potentially damaging that personal, private image files can be randomly sent. These photos could, for example, contain commercially sensitive information that could put a company’s competitive advantage at risk if sent to the wrong person. Also, some photos could cause embarrassment for the user and / or the subject of the photo, and could damage business and personal relationships if they fell into the wrong hands. Some photos sent to the wrong person, as well as compromising privacy, could pose serious security risks.

At a time when we acknowledge that photos of ourselves / our faces stored by e.g. CCTV cameras are our personal data, Samsung could find itself on the wrong end of GDPR-related and other lawsuits if found to be directly responsible for the bug and its results.