Mobile

5G Mobile Network is 450% Faster Than 4G in Tests

Tests by Ookla, the developer of Speedtest.net, are reported to have shown that the new 5G mobile network is 450% faster than 4G.

Speed

According to the Speedtest.net website, the results of the testing of 5G in 29 UK cities during Q3 of 2019 generally show download speeds as being 450-475% faster than those on all mobile technologies combined, and that the 5G download speed in Northern Ireland showed a 618.3% improvement due to the fact that mean mobile download speeds on all technologies are slower in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the U.K.

The tests also revealed that mean 5G download speeds are uniformly high across the U.K., with only 6 Mbps difference between the fastest country (England) and the slowest (Northern Ireland).

Availability

Speedtest.net says that mobile operators have embraced 5G across the UK this year.  For example, 5G is now commercially available in 22 English cities such as London, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester and Wolverhampton.

5G is also now available in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Paisley in Scotland, in Belfast in Northern Ireland, and in Cardiff, Llandudno and Penarth in Wales.

Rankings

In terms of ranking operators in terms of their 5G download speed in the UK during Q3 2019, Speedtest.net put EE in first place, O2 in second and Vodafone in third place.

No Three

The Speedtest.net results and analysis didn’t include Three because they currently only offer 5G broadband in certain districts of London and their 5G has not yet been launched.

Three announced earlier this year, however, that new and existing customers with compatible handsets will be able to get 5G at no extra cost(s) when its 5G service is launched.

Upload Speeds Not As Impressive

The test results showed, however, that 5G upload speeds, although good, were not quite as impressive as the download speeds with percentage increases ranging from 38.5% to 110% faster.

Safety Concerns

One issue not covered by the testing was the safety fears surrounding 5G. For example, 5G uses 3 Spectrum bands, low-band spectrum (LTE), mid-band spectrum, and what some believe to be the potentially dangerous mmWave high-frequency spectrum.

The mmWave spectrum, however, is still not close to the kind of ionising wavelengths that can cause damage to DNA and mmWave will mostly be deployed in a spectrum that suffers from high reflection rates – 24 to 29GHz.  This should mean that any absorption by the body will be confined to the surface layers of the skin rather than the deeper tissue that is reached by lower frequency radiation.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Ofcom is due to auction additional spectrum for 5G in the 700 MHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz bands in spring 2020 and this should help fuel the further expansion of the 5G networks.  This is likely to be good news for businesses who have been waiting for the speed benefits that 5G can bring, for example in improving file sharing and other communication capabilities.

Although the rollout is currently only confined to major UK cities, which will, of course, favour businesses in those areas, it is good news that 5G has been achieving consistent speeds in its deployments around the world, thereby improving on one of the challenges of 4G.

Different operators look set to take different approaches to their 5G rollouts and offerings, and greater 5G availability will provide a boost to the sales of new generation mobile handsets in the UK where many people and businesses have been holding back on purchasing the latest 5G models until they could reap the benefits of having a much more established 5G network in place.

Microsoft Announces New, Integrated ‘Office’ Suite App For Mobile Devices

Microsoft has announced that it is working towards the launch of its ‘Office’ mobile app (currently only available in public preview) which integrates Word, Excel, and PowerPoint mobile apps into a single app.

The ‘Office’ Vision

Microsoft says that the mobile app, called simply ‘Office’, represents their vision for what a productivity solution would look like if first built for mobile devices.

The idea is that users have all their Office documents together in one place, can reduce the need to switch between many different apps, and can reduce the amount of space that they use on their phone compared to multiple installed apps.

“Simple, Integrated Experience”

The ‘Office’ app is intended to provide users with what Microsoft describes as a “simple, integrated experience”.

The app combines Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, access to recent and recommended documents stored in the cloud or on a user’s device, the ability to search for documents across a user’s organisation if using a work account, and easy access to Sticky Notes e.g. for reminders and writing down ideas.

What Can You Do?

Microsoft’s Tech Community web pages say that users of ‘Office’ will be able to create content “in uniquely mobile ways” such as snapping a picture of a document and turning it into an editable Word file with just the press of a button or transforming a picture of a table into an Excel spreadsheet so that users can quickly work on the data. Also, a new Actions pane in the app will enable users to complete tasks such as creating PDFs with their camera and signing PDFs just by using their finger or scanning QR codes to open files and links.

Public Preview and Only On Phones

The Office app is currently available in public preview for Android and iOS, can be downloaded and used for free, and doesn’t require a sign-in to use it.  Those with work, school, or personal Microsoft Accounts can, however login and gain access to their files stored in the cloud via the app.

Microsoft has said that it will continue to support and invest in the existing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint mobile apps (‘Office’ isn’t replacing them), and that the new ‘Office’ app is currently only available for phones, although plans are afoot to extend this to tablets.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Back in February, Microsoft announced its new, free “Office” app for Windows 10 as an update to the former My Office app, and as a way for those who do have a 365 subscription and have Microsoft’s apps installed on their device to open Office from the Office app, and those who don’t have a subscription to be automatically directed to the online version.  This latest announcement of the preview stage, available to all, soon-to-be-launched ‘Office’ mobile app is a progression of Microsoft’s move to publicise, raise awareness about, and get more people using its (free) versions of Office.  This will also help Microsoft adapt and compete with rivals, such as Google, and appeal to business and other existing Microsoft Office users who are now used to being able to carry out most of their business on-the-go with mobile devices and apps.  Some of the features, such as taking a picture of a document and turning that into an editable file are likely to add value for many business users who are spending less time at the desktop.

The new app could mean time-savings (not switching between multiple apps), convenience and greater leverage of mobile capabilities for users, and for Microsoft, it offers them a way to keep existing users loyal to their OS and Office Suite, gain new users, and stay competitive in a rapidly evolving mobile working market.

“Stalkerware” Partner-Spying Software Use Rises By 35% In One Year

Kaspersky researchers have reported a 35 per cent rise in the number of people who have encountered the use of so-called ‘stalkerware’ or ‘spouseware’ software in the first 8 months of this year.

What is Stalkerware?

Stalkerware (or ‘spouseware’) is surveillance software that can be purchased online and loaded onto a person’s mobile device. From there, the software can record all of a person’s activity on that device, thereby allowing another person to read their messages, see screen activity, track the person through GPS location, access their social media, and even spy on the mobile user through the cameras on their device.

Covert, Without Knowledge or Consent

The difference between parental control apps and stalkerware is that stalkerware programs are promoted as software for spying on partners and they run covertly in the background without a person’s knowledge or consent.

Unlike legitimate parental control apps, such programs run hidden in the background, without a victim’s knowledge or consent. They are often promoted as software for spying on people’s partners.

Most Stalkerware needs to be installed manually on a victim’s phone which means that the person who intends to carry out the surveillance e.g. a partner, needs physical access to the mobile device.

Figures from Kaspersky show that there are now 380 variants of stalkerware ‘in the wild’ this year, which is 31% more than last year.

Most In Russia

Kaspersky’s figures show that this kind of surveillance software is most popular in Russia, with the UK in eighth place in Kaspersky’s study.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Unlike parental control apps which serve a practical purpose to help parents to protect their children from the many risks associated with Internet and mobile phone use, stalkerware appears to be more linked to abuse because of how it has been added to a device without a user’s consent to covertly and completely invade their privacy.  This kind of software could also be used for industrial espionage by a determined person who has access to a colleague’s mobile phone.

If you’d like to avoid being tracked by stalkerware or similar software, Kaspersky advises that you block the installation of programs from unknown sources in your smartphone’s settings, never disclose the passwords/passcode for your mobile device, and never store unfamiliar files or apps on your device.  Also, those leaving a relationship may wish to change the security settings on their mobile device.

Kaspersky also suggests that you should check the list of applications on your device to find out if suspicious programs have been installed without your consent.

If, for example, you find out that someone e.g. a partner/ex-partner has installed surveillance software on your devices, and/or does appear to be stalking you, the advice is, of course, to contact the police and any other relevant organisation.

Banking App Fraud On The Rise

A recent report from cyber-security company RSA has highlighted a significant rise in fraud via fake banking apps.

Number of Attacks Has Trebled

The Fraud and Risk Intelligence (FRI) team at RSA have noted a tripling of the number of fraud attacks via fake mobile banking apps in the first six months of this year with rogue mobile app fraud generally up by a staggering 191 per cent.

Fake Mobile Apps Exploit Digital Finance Trust

Not only did the 40,344 fraud attacks represent a 63 per cent rise, but 29 per cent of those attacks were recorded as coming from fake mobile apps.

In fact, the report identified an 80 per cent rise in the use of financial malware in the first half of this year, highlighting how cyber-criminals are using the transformation of finance to the digital world and the increasing trust of users in financial apps and digital financial transactions as a way in.

Changing

Tech and finance commentators have noted that as companies offer more convenient digitised financial initiatives to customers e.g. open banking, and as this has necessitated customers engaging in more digital touchpoints, it has led to a widening of the potential ‘attack surface’ that criminals can take advantage of.

Could Banks Do More?

An Immuniweb report from August this year noted that a massive 98 per cent of the world’s100 leading financial technology (fintech) startup companies are vulnerable to web and mobile app attacks, and that 97 of the 100 largest banks are also vulnerable to web and mobile attacks which could facilitate a breach of sensitive data.

The Immuniweb report also highlighted mobile financial apps as being a problem area with all mobile apps tested showing at least one ‘medium risk’ security vulnerability, and 97 per cent having at least two medium/high-risk vulnerabilities. The tests also showed that over 50 per cent of mobile app backends have serious SSL/TLS misconfigurations or privacy issues which could be traced to not having robust-enough web server security.

This has led to some speculation that banks and other financial organisations could be doing more to help close potential security loopholes in their apps, thereby offering better protection to customers.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Mobile apps offer banks and other financial organisations a way to offer convenience and added value to their customers who want to be able to manage their finances on the go. However, legitimate app security problems, a proliferation of fake/rogue financial apps and a widening of the potential attack plane that this brings to consumers who increasingly trust their finances to mobile digital transactions have increased the attack plane and the risks that businesses and consumers face.

As users of banking and other financial apps, we can help protect ourselves by sticking to some basic security procedures such as not clicking on links in unfamiliar messages or texts (to avoid loading malware), keeping a close eye on our bank transactions, and by being very cautious when downloading apps of any kind. For example, to minimise the risk of falling victim rogue/fake apps, you should check the publisher of an app, check which permissions the app requests when you install it, delete any apps from your phone that you no longer use, and contact your phone’s service provider or visit the high street store if you think you’ve downloaded a malicious/suspect app.

Any Thumbprint Unlocks a Galaxy A10

Samsung’s so-called “revolutionary” fingerprint authentication system for the Galaxy A10 phone appears to be offering less than satisfactory results as it is discovered that any thumbprint can unlock one.

Biometric ‘Fail’

South Korean phone giant Samsung has received some unwanted bad publicity for its new Galaxy A10 phone after an article appeared in the Sun newspaper highlighting how a British couple discovered that, after putting a low-priced screen protector (purchased from eBay) on the phone, each other’s thumb print could unlock the phone.

The thumbprint scanner, which uses ultrasound to detect 3D ridges in fingerprints and only is supposed to recognise the thumbprint that has been registered by the user is reported to have recognised both of the thumbprints of user Lisa Neilson and both of her husband.

Patch

Samsung is reported to have acknowledged the fault and to be in the process of preparing a software patch to fix it.

Google Pixel ‘Face Unlock’ Issue

It seems that Samsung isn’t the only company struggling to produce a biometric phone security system that works properly.

The BBC has recently reported that after testing Google’s Pixel 4 phone’s Face Unlock system, it was discovered that with normal default settings on, the phone could be unlocked even if the user’s eyes were closed. The problem with this is that the phone could potentially be unlocked by another unauthorised person while the user is asleep simply by holding the phone in front of the user’s face.

The phone does, however, offer a ‘lockdown’ mode which users can switch to in order to deactivate the facial recognition system altogether.

Biometrics – The Way Forward?

Even though multi-factor authentication is more secure than relying on just a password for authentication, a continued reliance on weak passwords and password sharing by users, coupled with more sophisticated cyber and phone crime techniques mean that there is a strong argument for biometric methods of authentication, and a move towards what Microsoft has recently described as a “passwordless future”.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Even though biometrics has been shown to make things much more difficult for cyber-criminals to crack, as the A10 and the Pixel 4 security systems illustrate, biometrics have not been 100% successful to date and is still needs some work.  In fact, this is not the first time that a Samsung Galaxy has been in the news for a biometric issue. For example, a Reddit user recently claimed to have used a 3D printer to clone a fingerprint and then use that fake fingerprint to beat the in-display fingerprint reader on the Galaxy S10. Also, there was the report of the Twitter user who claimed to have fooled Nokia 9 PureView’s fingerprint scanner by using somebody else’s finger, and then just a packet of chewing gum, and of the incident back in May 2017 where a BBC reporter said that he’d been able to fool HSBC’s biometric voice recognition system by passing his brother’s voice off as his own.

There is no doubt that the move away from passwords to biometrics is now underway, but we are still in the relatively early stages.

Food Writer Loses £5,000 in Phone ‘Simjacking’

Well known food writer, Jack Monroe, has reported falling victim to criminals who were able to steal £5,000 from her bank and payment accounts in a “Simjacking” attack.

What Is Simjacking?

Simjacking, simswapping or ‘phone hijacking’ involves criminals being able to port a person’s mobile phone number over onto on another SIM card. This is often carried out by criminals who, armed with the necessary personal data of an intended victim, go to a phone shop and pose as a customer who wants to switch to a different mobile provider but keep their existing phone number.

In some cases it may involve mobile operator or phone shop staff members being paid to carry out the crime.  One of the first clues that you may be a victim of Sjmjacking is when your phone suddenly stops working.

£5,000 Taken

In Jack Monroe’s case, the food writer said in a Tweet that her card details and PayPal information were taken from an online transaction which meant that when her phone number was ported onto a new SIM, the criminals were able to “access/bypass authentication” and therefore authorise payments from her account.  In another Tweet, Jack Monroe appears to imply that her date of birth may have been found by the criminals on Wikipedia.

With £5,000 being taken, Jack Monroe Tweeted that, despite being “absolutely absurdly paranoid about security”, not using publicly available email addresses on any financial accounts, using “gobbledegook” letter/number/special character passwords and having two-step authentication on all accounts, the criminals were still able to make purchases and withdraw cash using her account.

Jack Monroe Tweeted the amount taken, saying that the criminals had “HELPED THEMSELVES to around five thousand of them” (pounds). “Total figure not in yet. I’m so white-hot angry”.

Problem Not Addressed

The fact that the crime was committed against a celebrity and has been widely reported appears to have ignited discussion about an area that some feel the mobile industry may not have been addressing.

Mobile Connect – Alternative

The reports have also highlighted possible alternative mobile authentication systems that are available. One example is Mobile Connect, the GSMA’s secure universal log-in solution that matches a user to their mobile phone and is believed to represent a new standard in security.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The fact that simjacking is still quite a common crime, and not just in the UK, could highlight the fact that the mobile industry is not putting in enough effort and resources to eradicate the problem. In the UK, some commentators have called for an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to see if mobile operators are meeting their obligations to safeguard services and data under telecom privacy rules and GDPR.

The GSMA’s Mobile Connect secure login solution, if adopted and championed by mobile operators and banks, could be one way that the challenges of a lack of collaboration and standardisation have posed to security (such as the security problems and breaches that are at the heart of crimes like Simjacking/phone number hijacking) can begin to be tackled.

Tech Tip – Any.do

Any.do is an award-winning to-do list, calendar, planner and reminders app that can help you to increase your productivity and stay on top of things.

The app allows you to add tasks and manage shared projects, and to create a prioritised to-do list that you can actually stick to.

The app also gives you classic, location-based, recurring, missed call, and follow-up meeting reminders, while providing a calendar that can be turned into a powerful productivity tool.  You can also use hands-free to add tasks and voice commands to manage your to-do lists.

The Any.do app is available on the Google Play Store and on Apple’s App Store.

Tech Tip – Telegram

Telegram describes itself as the fastest messaging app on the market, and uses a unique, distributed network of data centres around the globe so that’s it’s not only a simple, fast, secure messaging service that’s synced across all your devices, but also has added features and an ease of operation that many prefer to WhatsApp.

Everything on Telegram (chats, groups, media, etc.) is encrypted using a combination of 256-bit symmetric AES encryption.  Also, the app has a clean interface, there are no adverts, and Telegram offers powerful photo and video editing tools.

Telegram is available on the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.

Tech Tip – Canva

If you’d like a free, graphic design app that can help you to improve your business and social media communications then Canva may be the app for you.

Canva is a versatile graphic design app: full editor, Instagram story maker, video maker, video editor, logo maker and poster maker, enabling you to easily stay on brand and create some very professional logo and poster designs with your photos and videos.

Canva also provides a great way to design your Instagram Highlight cover and create a logo and banner for social networks (Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter).

You can get Canva on the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.

Microsoft’s Phone App Challenge to iMessage and FaceTime

Reports from online tech commentators indicate that Microsoft will soon be enhancing its Your Phone app with the ability to make phone calls from a desktop PC, thereby making the app a serious challenger to Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime.

The Your Phone App

Microsoft’s Your Phone desktop App connects your phone to your PC thereby giving you access to your phone’s notifications, photos and texts while working on your PC. Giving the desktop Phone App the details of your phone (Android or Apple, phone number) means that you receive a download link to the ‘Phone Companion’ via SMS text.

Installing the Phone Companion on your mobile enables you to sync your phone with your PC e.g. an Android phone with Windows 10 PC.  This gives instant access to your phone on your PC so that you can reply to texts at your PC and instantly receive photos on your PC that have been taken on the phone.

Making Calls – Challenging Apple’s iCloud Integrations

The addition of being able to dial a number, search your phone contacts and make a call directly from your PC is an important enhancement that could make Microsoft’s Your Phone desktop App a serious challenger to Apple’s iCloud integrations on macOS.

Apple Mac users can currently use these to send messages from their desktop using iMessage and can also make voice and video calls using FaceTime.

‘Use Phone’ Button

The enhanced Your Phone App from Microsoft will include a ‘Use Phone’ button that can send a call back from the PC (microphone and speakers) to the handset,  thereby enabling more privacy and/or shutting out any distracting background noise e.g. keyboard noises and noises from home working.

Who?

A full-feature Your Phone App would most likely be of maximum value to those workers who need to be in front of the desktop for long periods of time with minimal distractions although, arguably, messages and notifications popping up on the screen could be less easy to ignore than if they’d been quietly arriving on the phone in corner.

The Your Phone app could also be of use to workers in a situation where too much obvious interaction with their handset in the workplace is frowned upon and where visual monitoring and supervision is particularly intense.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For Microsoft, this improvement to the Your Phone desktop App, which has been around for some time, gives it much greater potential value to users and gives Microsoft another way to seriously compete with its rival Apple.

For any business users who are typically tied to the PC for most of the time the ability to handle all phone matters on the desktop adds value in terms of convenience, possible time savings, and fewer distractions.