Brits fail to take a ‘tech’ break this summer

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We find it hard to switch off on holiday according to research by BT, which shows a third (33 per cent) of working Brits plan to check work emails or voicemails while away. Furthermore, two in five (41 per cent) Brits admit to logging onto social networking sites when holidaying with friends and family.

Failing to take a technology time out while on holiday could cause families and friends to fall out. One in four (25 per cent) of those who check work communications on holiday admit that checking work emails or calls annoys family and friends, so they either do it when they are not looking or try to finish as quickly as possible. Almost a further third (28 per cent) know that they can only get away with urgent business, as any unnecessary work chat would spell trouble in paradise.

More than a third (39 per cent) of those who check work communications on holiday do not switch off from work because they feel a responsibility to check in, while 28 per cent say they worry that they are missing important information. Men on holiday find it more difficult to switch off from work completely, with 37 per cent checking work emails compared to 28 per cent of women.

Aside from work, we also love our social networking sites, with two in five (41 per cent) Brits “checking in” at least once or twice while on holiday. This goes up to 66 per cent amongst 18 – 34 year olds. While one in ten (10 per cent) of them admit that using social networks is their favourite way to relax, one in five (20 per cent) say they just do it out of habit.

Corinne Sweet, celebrity psychologist, said: “Technology has improved our ability to keep in touch constantly, which is obviously a great thing. However, if you can’t stop yourself logging on or texting and it’s affecting your personal relationships, then you need to think twice. Holidays should give you a chance to turn off and become aware of your behaviour. Try to spend a day offline and more time just hanging out with family and friends, or simply being alone. Holidays should be about recharging your own batteries, not just those of your laptop or smartphone.”

The BT Balanced Communications Diet was developed in response to an international study, led by the University of Cambridge and sponsored by BT, which found that one in three people have felt overwhelmed by communications technology, including texting, email and social networking, to the point that they felt a need to escape it.

To help adults and children maintain a ‘Balanced Communications Diet’, BT identified a “five a day” set of recommendations:

 

The BT Balanced Communications Diet

Be aware

Before you can make any changes, you need to understand how you and your family are using technology.
Many families who took part in the research were surprised and at times dismayed by their technology habits. Keeping a log of your family’s use of technology will help you identify good and bad habits and also changes you may want to make.

Location, location, location

Think about where technology is located in the home.

Parents often complained that their children abandoned family time to go on the computer or video game console in their room. Similarly, children reported feeling that they lost out on parents’ attention when they were ‘quickly’ checking up on work in the home office. Keeping computers and consoles in a central location will allow your family to share what they are doing online, or at least all be in the same place while using technology.

Have rules

Set some boundaries about how, when and where technology is used.

The research showed that rules around technology usage reduced anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed. The rules are up to you: try removing technology from the dinner table, organise a family games evening either with or without technology, use parental controls to manage use of social networks or the time spent on the family computer, or agree limits on the number of text messages sent in a day. Just remember, whatever rules are introduced, it’s important to talk them through and agree them as a family – and parents sometimes need just as many rules as children!

Education

Be a good example: teach and demonstrate the importance of balance and safety in the way technology is used.

It’s important for parents to set good examples, so think about your own behaviour. For example, avoid checking your smart phone unnecessarily when with your family. It’s easy for children to pick up bad habits from you. In addition, children are using technology at an increasingly early age and teaching safe and responsible use is vital from the outset, it’s important to make sure your children are taking the right steps to keep themselves safe.

Find your Balance

Don’t be concerned by overly positive or negative hype about communications technology. Every family and individual uses technology differently. We hope that this advice helps you find a healthy balance for you so that you have control of technology and are making the most of all forms of communication whether it’s by phone, email, social media or face-to-face.

A copy of BT’s a Balanced Communications Diet can be downloaded at: www.bt.com/balance.

 

iPhone Text Message Security Flaw Uncovered

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It has emerged over the weekend that the iPhone is vulnerable to a certain kind of SMS spoofing attack. This security flaw would allow malicious individuals to send fake SMS messages which appear as though they are from someone else, simply by editing data contained within the SMS message.

The flaw was uncovered by French mobile security researcher pod2g. The vulnerability is found in all versions of iOS, including the latest beta version of iOS 6.

 
When an SMS message is sent from a phone it includes reply-to information within its User Data Header, and it is this information which iOS uses to determine the source of the message. By editing this data when a message is sent an iPhone can be tricked into thinking the message has originated elsewhere.
 
Although it is not known if anyone has ever exploited this vulnerability, it could potentially allow people to conduct phishing attacks on individuals through SMS by posing as someone else.
 
Apple has since issued a statement in which it said that address spoofing is a limitation of SMS technology, and that users should instead use iMessage, which does not suffer from the same vulnerability.
 
Needless to say, you should always be cautious when receiving strange text messages, even from people you know.

 

  

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Premier League shuts down 30,000 illegal streams

The Premier League says it shut down more than 30,000 illegal internet streams of its television matches last season.
  
The Premier League says it shut down more than 30,000 illegal internet streams of its television matches last season.
 
That works out at more than 75 for every game in the 2011/12 campaign. The league says streaming is a significant problem and will look to use new anti-piracy laws against the worst offenders. A report in June warned illegal live TV websites had seen a “rapid rise” over the last year. Most live sport websites link to pirate streams hosted elsewhere.
 
They are mainly taken from foreign broadcasters’ TV coverage. Dan Johnson, a spokesman for the Premier League, said: “If you want top quality football, it costs money. “It’s not just about star performers getting paid well, it’s about investment in facilities and youth development.”

 
The enforcement company NetResult is able to automatically detect the ‘fingerprint’ of online videos, flagging up those which appear to be the same as live matches.
 
A spokesperson for the firm says they aim to shut down 80% of Premier League streams during a match. He said: “It is a case of ‘whack-a-mole’. One disappears and another one comes back online. I’m sure people who’ve tried to view Premier League content have found that it’s not the best experience. Streams can lag, they can be shut down, you have to find another one.”
 

Adam, an Arsenal fan from East Sussex, said he streamed matches only when there was no way of watching them legally. The 21-year-old says he’d be willing to pay to watch Arsenal games online, and doesn’t agree with the rule that Saturday 3pm kick-off matches can’t be broadcast. “Clearly there’s a lot of money in football,” he said. “There aren’t players out on the streets busking. Everyone is still getting paid. I haven’t seen any proper evidence that showing three o’clock games on TV would do that much damage.”

 
A law has been passed meaning illegal downloaders could be sent warning letters and even have their broadband cut off. Ofcom says it’s not yet clear how that applies to streaming, and that no letters will be sent out until 2014.
 
Earlier this week Anton Vickerman from Gateshead was jailed for running Surfthechannel.com, a site which linked to pirated material. He defended his site in an email comparing it to a search engine. He wrote: “If a person walked up to me in the street and asked directions to Barclays Bank and then went there and robbed it, would that make me a co-conspirator in a bank robbery? In reality the person who is doing the streaming is the person who authorities should be chasing.”
 
 

Phone shop staff misleading customers over ‘fixed’ mobile phone contracts

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Mystery shopping carried out by Which? shows sales staff giving inaccurate information about the possibility of price increases.

New undercover research carried out by Which? revealed that the vast majority (82 %) of staff in mobile phone shops they visited gave incorrect information about potential price rises on ‘fixed’ phone contracts at the point of sale.

Astonishingly, 82% of shop assistants maintained that the price was fixed even when asked if it would stay the same throughout the length of the contract. All shop assistants, when prompted, claimed that the features will stay the same throughout the contract.

Which? recently launched the ‘Fixed Means Fixed’ campaign, which has already received almost 20,000 pledges of support from consumers, calling on phone companies to ensure that the price, and all aspects of fixed deals, remain the same for the full length of mobile phone contracts.

In the past year, four out of the five main phone operators have taken advantage of a hidden clause that allows them to increase prices on contracts that appear to be ‘fixed’, a practice potentially netting the industry up to £90m in a year.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, says: “It’s totally unacceptable that people aren’t being told the full story about potential price rises when signing up to contracts in mobile phone shops. Shockingly, even when we asked directly about price increases, the vast majority of staff denied this could happen.

“There should be no nasty surprises after signing a mobile contract. People must be confident that fixed really does mean fixed.”

Recent Which? research found that 70% of people on fixed contracts did not know that mobile phone companies could increase prices during the length of their contract.

The Which? Fixed Means Fixed campaign is calling on operators to advertise upfront the possibility of price rises and, if prices do increase, to allow people to switch contracts without penalty. Which? has also complained to the regulator, Ofcom.

 

The net keeps getting cheaper while prices soar on the High Street

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Displaying goods in a showroom can almost double their price according to a new study published today by TalkTalk. The research tracks the price disparity between products bought online and on the high street, found that toys and white goods such as cookers and washing machines are the categories that command the biggest retail mark up with one Hotpoint Double Electric cooker costing £500 in store but just £364 online.

The biggest price disparity found was for toys, where the average mark up for shopping on the high street compared to online was around 97 per cent. A Lego City Big Truck toy costs £33.99 from one high street store, but is only £13.99 online, a saving of £20. A Vtech Kidizoom Twist Digital Camera will set you back £49.99 from a bricks-and-mortar toy retailer or just £35.99 online.

The revelations coincide with the publication of TalkTalk’s quarterly Digital Retail Price Index (DRPI), compiled by researchers at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, which tracks the rate of inflation of goods purchased online against a comparable basket of goods bought in-store.
 
The research found that DRPI inflation has fallen to -0.7%, its lowest level for almost five years. In contrast, the in-store price comparator index – a measurement of the price changes faced by a consumer if they replicated their online purchasing habits in a store – stands at +1.6%, meaning that consumers can make a considerable saving on goods purchased online.

Tristia Clarke, Commercial Director at TalkTalk said: “Whilst it’s no secret that there are great financial and time benefits to shopping online, it is surprising quite how much money can be saved.
 
 
“The price gap between shopping online and on the High Street has actually widened significantly in the past 12 months, reflected in the huge price differences we are seeing for buying the same item on the High Street and online. With many families still struggling to manage high household costs and debt, there’s never been a better time to get online to find the best value deals to save you time and money.

“We know just how much our customers love getting great value, especially during these tough economic times. We are proud to be the UK’s best value phone and broadband provider, offering better services at a fantastic price, and now we are doing the same for TV as part of our commitment to help make Britain better off.”

TalkTalk’s research also reveals where additional savings can be made. In furniture and homeware; – a Brabantia Pedal Bin costs £120 at a well-known department store but only £84.30 online; in clothing, a Nike Golf Tech Swoosh cap can set you back £11.99 at one high street retailer but is a snip at just £5.30 online, and in beauty and cosmetics – a pack of Garnier Skin Naturals Simply Essential Facial Cleansing Wipes costs £2.99 at one well-known pharmacy but just £1.80 online.

Shehan Mohamed, economist at Cebr added: “We’ve found that whilst online shoppers have seen a fall in prices over the past year on the DRPI measure, those purchasing similar goods on the High Street have actually seen prices go up. Annual inflation might be steadily decreasing but it continues to remain higher than wage growth at 1.8% year-on-year – less than half the pre-financial crisis average of 4.0% – which means that in reality, household budgets will continue to be squeezed going into the second half of this year. With online prices lower than a year ago, switching to internet retail offers one way for households to get round this squeeze on spending power.”

 

 

Check the latest TalkTalk broadband deals here.

 

 

 

Mobile customer uncovers premium rate ‘bug’

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An unexplained charge on a phone bill has led a mobile user to uncover a loophole in the sign-up system for some premium rate services.

Consultant Mark Hole found he could sign up anyone for some premium rate services from content maker Buongiorno.

All he needed to know was a potential victim’s mobile number and whether they used the Orange network.

Buongiorno said it quickly closed the loophole once it was discovered and had no evidence it had been exploited.

Mr Hole’s suspicions were aroused when charges for a premium rate fortune-telling service turned up on the bill for the mobile phones linked to his computer consultancy business.

“I went online, got the bill up and there were weekly charges coming up on it,” he said.

He complained to operator Orange about the charge but it said he must have signed up for it despite his insistence that he was “scrupulous” about keeping the numbers private and that they were only used for business calls.

Continue reading the main story

Mr Hole also contacted mobile content firm Buongiorno which ran the iFortune service he was being billed for. It asked him to send details of the disputed charge.

At the same time Mr Hole looked for ways that the phantom charge could have applied. He discovered that it was possible to convince the iFortune site it was being visited by an iPhone. Using add-ons for the Firefox web browser this let him sign up any Orange customer for the service.

All he needed to do this was their mobile phone number. Mr Hole demonstrated the loophole by signing up a BBC correspondent’s phone for a weekly fortune reading.

Gareth Maclachlan, head of mobile security firm Adaptive Mobile, said the loophole arose because Buongiorno was not doing a good enough job of checking which net addresses were making sign-up requests.

“There’s a potentially criminal opportunity here,” he said. If the loophole became widely known, he said, hi-tech thieves could set up a fake premium rate service, sign people up and then sit back and wait for cash to roll in.

Information about Mr Hole’s findings have been circulated to the GSMA security working group to ensure other operators are aware of the loophole.

“There was a bug in the system,” said a spokesman for Buongiorno. “When that was found out, we very quickly moved to pin it down, find out what happened and stop it from happening again.”

The spokesman added that exploiting the loophole required a “certain amount of technical knowledge”. As far as Buongiorno could tell, he said, there had only been one “billed event” that had arisen as a result of the loophole.

The money wrongly taken for this event had now been refunded, he said.

What is not clear yet is how many people were at risk of being signed up for premium rate services. Buongiorno said it closed down the bug quickly but Mr Hole’s investigations suggest it was open for perhaps as long as 14 days.

Mobile customer uncovers premium rate ‘bug’

An unexplained charge on a phone bill has led a mobile user to uncover a loophole in the sign-up system for some premium rate services. Consultant Mark Hole found he could sign up anyone for some premium rate services from content maker Buongiorno.

 
All he needed to know was a potential victim’s mobile number and whether they used the Orange network. Buongiorno said it quickly closed the loophole once it was discovered and had no evidence it had been exploited.
 
Mr Hole’s suspicions were aroused when charges for a premium rate fortune-telling service turned up on the bill for the mobile phones linked to his computer consultancy business. 

“I went online, got the bill up and there were weekly charges coming up on it,” he said.
 

He complained to operator Orange about the charge but it said he must have signed up for it despite his insistence that he was “scrupulous” about keeping the numbers private and that they were only used for business calls. Mr Hole also contacted mobile content firm Buongiorno which ran the iFortune service he was being billed for. It asked him to send details of the disputed charge.
 

At the same time Mr Hole looked for ways that the phantom charge could have applied. He discovered that it was possible to convince the iFortune site it was being visited by an iPhone. Using add-ons for the Firefox web browser this let him sign up any Orange customer for the service. All he needed to do this was their mobile phone number. Mr Hole demonstrated the loophole by signing up a BBC correspondent’s phone for a weekly fortune reading.
 
Gareth Maclachlan, head of mobile security firm Adaptive Mobile, said the loophole arose because Buongiorno was not doing a good enough job of checking which net addresses were making sign-up requests.
 
“There’s a potentially criminal opportunity here,” he said. If the loophole became widely known, he said, hi-tech thieves could set up a fake premium rate service, sign people up and then sit back and wait for cash to roll in.
Information about Mr Hole’s findings have been circulated to the GSMA security working group to ensure other operators are aware of the loophole. There was a bug in the system,” said a spokesman for Buongiorno. “When that was found out, we very quickly moved to pin it down, find out what happened and stop it from happening again.”
 
The spokesman added that exploiting the loophole required a “certain amount of technical knowledge”. As far as Buongiorno could tell, he said, there had only been one “billed event” that had arisen as a result of the loophole.
The money wrongly taken for this event had now been refunded, he said.
 
What is not clear yet is how many people were at risk of being signed up for premium rate services. Buongiorno said it closed down the bug quickly but Mr Hole’s investigations suggest it was open for perhaps as long as 14 days.
 

Google’s Android racks up its 10 billionth app download

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More than 10 billion apps have been downloaded from Google’s Android Market.
 
To mark the moment Google said that for the next 10 days it would cut the price of some top apps to 10p each. The search giantannounced the milestoneon its blog adding that the store’s apps were being downloaded at a rate of one billion a month.
 
However, some industry analysts played down the figure saying Google should do more to address poor-quality programs.
Google said the pace at which apps were being downloaded was starting to accelerate. Its figures show Android took 22 months to reach one billion downloads but only one month to go from nine billion to 10 billion. By contrast, Apple hit one billion downloads after nine months. Although the iPhone maker still maintains a lead, some experts believe it will be short-lived.
 
“Apple announced the 15 billion download mark in July so it’s clear that Android’s momentum in device activations is translating to application downloads and usage,” said Geoff Blaber from analysts CCS Insight. “We’d expect Android to overtake Apple in application downloads in the first half of 2012.”
 
However, added Mr Blaber, such swift growth posed a challenge of how to help customers discover useful software from all the other code on offer. “It’s an issue for developers and consumers alike but a significant opportunity for whoever solves the problem first,” he said.
Google’s Android smartphone platform became the world’s most popular in early 2011 when it overtook Nokia’s Symbian. 

Sales are believed to have been helped by the appearance of Android tablets such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire. 

The celebration of the 10 billionth download will last for 10 days during which Google will pick a series of top programs and drop their prices. 

Among the first titles to be discounted are Asphalt 6 HD, Minecraft, Endomondo Sports Tracker Pro and Swiftkey X.
 

Carolina Milanesi, from analysts Gartner, said download numbers were a poor measure of success. “The number game matters to industry watchers and helps advertising but it is not changing the bottom line,” she said. “Quality of the apps and the store in general and curation in particular should be the focus for Google,” she said. “This is where I still see a difference between the Apple App Store and Android Market. This might not impact downloads but it will eventually impact the revenue opportunity for developers,” she added.
 

The £5-a-month smartphone revolution

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The company which revolutionised the phone and broadband market is set to do it again, this time with smartphones. TalkTalk Mobile launches today and it promises Britain’s very best smartphone deals.

Available exclusively to TalkTalk customers, TalkTalk Mobile will offer simplicity, range and great value plans – all handsets will be completely free with plans starting from £5 a month.

TalkTalk has partnered with Vodafone to bring mobile services to customers including a range of SIM only plans and now handsets. Tristia Clarke, Commercial Director of TalkTalk said, “If you look at phone and broadband packages, they’re cheaper now than they were five years ago. TalkTalk led the way in bringing better value to the market and we’re doing it again with our mobile offers, saving customers even more.”

TalkTalk Mobile has stripped out all the unnecessary costs, which are passed on to consumers in their monthly bills, in order to offer the best value to its customers. Three plans are available – Small, Medium and Large with different prices depending on the choice of handset.

Customers can buy online or over the phone with those buying online getting double the data allowance.

This simplicity coupled with low running costs means that TalkTalk can now offer the most popular handsets at hugely competitive prices ranging from basic feature phones to high end smartphones.

“We want to do in mobile what we did in broadband,” said Tristia Clarke “and that’s to bring greater competition and choice and offer the best value to our customers.”
TalkTalk families are already £154 a year better off than they were with BT. Now, with TalkTalk Mobile they’ll be better off still. Not only will their monthly bills be lower, they’re less likely to eat up their call allowance because calls between all TalkTalk mobiles in the household and from TalkTalk mobiles to the TalkTalk home phone landline are free.

TalkTalk Mobile will also help customers stay in control by sending text alerts when 80 per cent of their monthly allowances have been reached and customers who buy online will get even better value as they get double the data allowance.

 

 

Check the latest TalkTalk broadband deals here.

 

 

 

Google tackles rogue Android app problem with new rules

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Google is attempting to crack down on rogue mobile apps on its Android platform with stricter guidelines for developers.

The measures include a ban on using icons that are “confusingly similar” to that of existing products.

The search giant also issued rules on how advertising should appear in apps.

Since its launch, the Google Play store has featured a significant number of malicious apps, or counterfeit versions of popular games such as Angry Birds.

The new guidelines were announced in an email to developers who have 30 days to make sure their apps comply.

Developers who do not comply with the measures could see their products removed from the store.

The letter, published in full by the Android Central blog, said Google was “constantly striving” to make improvements.

“This requires us to update our policies when we launch new features, like subscription billing, and also when we see unhealthy behaviour, like deceptive app names and spammy notifications.”

Unlike Apple’s App Store, Google’s staff do not vet submissions to its catalogue, instead using an automated anti-malware system called Bouncer to identify known malware and then letting users flag up bad apps if they make it online.

Past examples of apps engaging in “unhealthy” behaviour include programs capable of sending sensitive user data to a remote server.

As well as dangerous apps, knock-off versions of popular paid products – often games – have frustrated developers.

Mobile developer Madfinger Games said piracy issues in the Android store had forced it to make its title, Dead Trigger, free to download.

“At first we intend to make this game available for as many people as possible – that’s why it was for as little as buck,” the company wrote. “Even for one buck, the piracy rate is soooo giant, that we finally decided to provide Dead Trigger for free.”

In an attempt to combat this, Google has said it was “restricting the use of names or icons confusingly similar to existing system apps in order to reduce user confusion”.

It added: “We are providing more detail on the kinds of dangerous products that are not allowed on Google Play. For example, apps that disclose personal information without authorization are not allowed.”

Google said the new guidelines also gave clearer rules on what constituted a violation of its spam policy. A further problem highlighted by users is the proliferation of intrusive and frustrating advertisements within free apps.

Google said that it would add a new section to address advertising behaviour within apps. “First, we make it clear that ads in your app must follow the same rules as the app itself. Also, it is important to us that ads don’t negatively affect the experience by deceiving consumers or using disruptive behaviour such as obstructing access to apps and interfering with other ads.”

The guidelines have been welcomed by many Android developers.

“I think it’s one of many steps, but it’s a good first step to see them taking this sort of thing seriously,” said Matthew Kennard, a mobile developer for UK-based One Result. “Now they’ve released the Google Nexus phone, and the Nexus tablet, Google are thinking now’s the time to get serious.”