WWF to launch mobile network



‘Wildlife Mobile’ will operate a sim-only, pay-as-you-go service under the mantra ‘every conversation helps conservation.’

The network, which goes live on Thursday, offers customers the choice between four call, text and data bundles – Aardvark, Hippo, Rhino and Penguin.

“Most people use a mobile phone, so this is an innovative and easy way for people to do their bit for conservation,” said the charity’s communications and fundraising director Tobin Aldrich.
“If you’re passionate about the environment and wildlife, it won’t cost you anything, to raise vital funds for WWF whilst you use your phone.”

WWF said two weeks of regular use on the network, which will use Vodafone UK’s infrastructure, could fund a three-person anti-poaching patrol for a day, protecting tigers and rhinos in Nepal.

It hopes to attract customers with its charge structure, which it says is lower-than-average due to a low profit margin business model.




Smartphone sensors reveal security secrets


Data captured by smartphone sensors could help criminals guess codes used to lock the gadgets, say security researchers. By analysing data gathered by accelerometers they were able to get a good idea of the Pin or pattern used to protect a phone.

The data was useable because sensors can gather information with more freedom than apps loaded on the device.

Researchers said several different smartphone sensors could be subverted.

Dr Adam J Aviv, a visiting professor at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, carried out the attacks by using data gathered by an accelerometer on a smartphone. Typically this sensor logs phone movements in three dimensions: side-to-side, forward-and-back and up-and-down.

The data gathered as the phone is moved is often used in games to steer or guide an onscreen entity such as a car or a ball.

Working with Matt Blaze, Benjamin Sapp and Jonathan Smith from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr Aviv realised that the data gathered by the accelerometer could also be used to work out where someone tapped on a screen when unlocking a gadget with a Pin or pattern.

In controlled tests, data from accelerometers was captured, exported and analysed to see if it matched a bigger “dictionary” of taps and swipes that had been previously gathered.

“It worked surprisingly well,” said Dr Aviv of the attack. In tests, the software developed by the team got more accurate the more guesses it was allowed.

After five guesses it could spot Pins about 43% of the time and patterns about 73% of the time. However, said Dr Aviv, these results were produced when Pins and patterns were picked from a 50-strong set of numbers and shapes.

The pin and pattern spotting system did less well when it was applied to data gathered when users were walking around with gadgets. Using a phone while on the move introduced lots more “noise”, said Dr Aviv which made it harder to pick out the unlock patterns.

However, he said, many security researchers were getting interested in the sensors that came as standard in smartphones largely because the data they gathered was not subject to the same controls that governs other phone functions.

“More sensors on smartphones equals a lot more data flowing through these devices, which means protecting them is even more critical,” said Kevin Mahaffey, chief technology officer at mobile security firm Lookout.

“One kink or hole in the system could lead to data being exposed and utilised,” he said. “As the physical and digital worlds merge, and we become more reliant on the interconnections forged, we need to collaborate across them to ensure the integrity of data.”

Dr Aviv said that typically users did not have to give permission for a sensor to gather data even if the information it grabbed had nothing to do with the application they were using.

Other researchers had looked into ways to subvert data gathered by gyroscopes, accelerometers and other orientation sensors to work out passwords, said Dr Aviv. One group even analysed smears on touchscreens to get clues about Pins and patterns.

“We are starting to realise that the way we interact with these devices affects the security of these devices,” he said. “The fact that we hold them in our hands is different to the way we use traditional computers and that actually can leak information to sensors in the device.”



4G mobile broadband auction to lower prices



Mobile phone operators have begun bidding for 4G mobile broadband licences, in a process expected to introduce competition to the airwaves by summer.

Currently only EE offers superfast mobile broadband services commercially. Yesterday it announced a 20GB data plan that costs £46 per month on a SIM-only basis and £61 with a 4G handset on a 24-month contract.

Prices are expected to fall once rivals O2, Vodafone and 3 are able to introduce their new networks.

Ed Richards, the chief executive of the communications regulator Ofcom, which is running the auction over the next few weeks, said the start of the process today was a “very significant milestone”.

“It will release the essential raw material for the next wave of mobile digital services,” he said.
“This will change the way we consume digital media in both our personal and working lives and deliver significant benefits to millions of consumers and businesses across the country.”

The winners are expected to be announced by early March.

The bidding firms, which as well as the consumer mobile operators include firms who want to use 4G technology for transmitting data within communications networks, will compete for 28 chunks of spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6Ghz bands.

The auction will be conducted in secrecy online. Bidders will first tell regulators what combination of chunks of spectrum they are interested in owning and how much they would be willing to pay for it. Through a series of rounds, the price will rise in increments of at least five per cent. The winner will pay the lowest price that is greater than any other bid, in similar style to an eBay auction.

A second process will then give them the chance to bid on other lots in the hope they can still win a useful combination of spectrum chunks. To run a national 4G mobile broadband network, operators will ideally want licences for both 800MHz, which is best for covering wide areas, and 2.6GHz which is useful in densely populated areas as it offers more capacity.

Mr Richards said last month he was concerned the auction had become a “political football,” as the parties argue over how to spend the multibillion-pound windfall it is expected to generate for the Exchequer.



Older people with sight loss face major disadvantages not being online


Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and BT tackle barriers preventing older people with disabilities benefiting from internet

Almost nine out of ten (87 per cent) blind and partially sighted older people in the UK have never used the internet, according to research carried out by RNIB in partnership
with BT.

The report – Tackling Digital Exclusion – older blind and partially sighted people and the internet – reveals people over 65 with sight loss are increasingly at risk from technological alienation. The majority are not taking full advantage of the many benefits of being online, such as staying in touch with friends and family, managing finances and online shopping. Of those that said they had used the internet – more than half of them had not used it at all or had only used it once in the last six months.

The report reveals that the primary reason given for not being online was eyesight (82 per cent); suggesting that the majority of blind and partially sighted older people mistakenly believe sight loss precludes the use of the internet.

Other significant reasons given included, not knowing much about the internet (60 per cent), too difficult to use (52 per cent), not having the right skills (34 per cent) and not having the accessibility software required (32 per cent).

The findings were revealed at a joint RNIB and BT event, bringing together key organisations committed to helping older people access the internet. The discussion-led event will look at how these practical and psychological barriers can be tackled, with possible solutions, including local personalised and group training sessions, focused training on access technology, and specialised advice materials.

Richard Orme, head of Accessibility at RNIB, said: “Technology has long been used by blind and partially sighted people, often adopting new possibilities before sighted people. Yet despite the huge benefits the internet can offer, most older people with sight loss are simply not using it. The internet is now an integral part of modern life and there are many ways in which it can improve the lives of people with sight loss. It is therefore vital that we take action now so we can break down these barriers as soon as possible”.

Liz Williams, general manager, Sustainable Business at BT, said: “Older people with disabilities such as sight loss stand to gain so much from using the internet, yet this research tells us that, for the majority, getting online is a major challenge. BT has a long standing commitment to helping people to get online, and I am confident that by working with RNIB and other organisations, we can make important inroads into helping older people use and benefit from the internet.”




Checkout the latest deals on BT broadband here.

Sony fined £250,000 after millions of UK gamers’ details compromised


The entertainment company Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Limited has received a monetary penalty of £250,000 from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) following a serious breach of the Data Protection Act.

The penalty comes after the Sony PlayStation Network Platform was hacked in April 2011, compromising the personal information of millions of customers, including their names, addresses, email addresses, dates of birth and account passwords. Customers’ payment card details were also at risk.

An ICO investigation found that the attack could have been prevented if the software had been up-to-date, while technical developments also meant passwords were not secure.

David Smith, Deputy Commissioner and Director of Data Protection, said: “If you are responsible for so many payment card details and log-in details then keeping that personal data secure has to be your priority. In this case that just didn’t happen, and when the database was targeted – albeit in a determined criminal attack – the security measures in place were simply not good enough.

“There’s no disguising that this is a business that should have known better. It is a company that trades on its technical expertise, and there’s no doubt in my mind that they had access to both the technical knowledge and the resources to keep this information safe.

“The penalty we’ve issued today is clearly substantial, but we make no apologies for that. The case is one of the most serious ever reported to us. It directly affected a huge number of consumers, and at the very least put them at risk of identity theft.

“If there’s any bright side to this it’s that a PR Week poll shortly after the breach found the case had left 77 per cent of consumers more cautious about giving their personal details to other websites. Companies certainly need to get their act together but we all need to be careful about who we disclose our personal information to.”

Following the breach, Sony has rebuilt its Network Platform to ensure that the personal information it processes is kept secure.






Phones 4U to launch 4G mobile network


Phones 4u today announces that it is launching LIFE Mobile, a mobile virtual network that will run on EE’s 3G network, with plans to roll out 4G services later in 2013.

In development for over 12 months, LIFE Mobile will launch in March 2013 and has been designed to address the evolving needs of Phones 4u’s customers, who see their mobile devices as an integral part of their daily lives and look for as much choice and flexibility as possible when deciding what devices and plans are best suited to their individual requirements.

Life Mobile, will offer a wide range of great value tariffs and services that include data packages as standard, reflecting the changing nature of customer usage.

Tim Whiting, Group Chief Executive said: “The launch of LIFE Mobile is a very significant step for the Phones 4u business. Our strategic vision is based upon an unrelenting focus on building ever-stronger relationships with our customers, which we believe is fundamental to our on-going business success. This focus delivered record revenue growth in 2012, a year in which we opened more than 100 stores across the UK. We are delighted to be extending our longstanding partnership with EE in order to add LIFE Mobile to the extensive range of products and services available at Phones 4u.”

“Our customers see their mobile devices as an integral part of their daily lives. LIFE Mobile will enable us flexibility and creativity in designing propositions to give our customers even further choice. We will sell both 3G, and later in 2013, 4G LIFE Mobile tariffs alongside our existing network propositions and are confident the new network will play a key role in driving further growth for our business.”

Marc Overton, Vice President of Wholesale and M2M at EE, said: “We’re delighted that EE has been selected as Phones 4u’s MVNO partner, giving us the opportunity to further build on our longstanding and successful relationship. By choosing the EE network, Phones 4u will guarantee its LIFE Mobile customers access to the UK’s widest 3G coverage, as well as the UK’s only 4G network later in 2013. Our ambition is to provide 4G to key industry players by the end of 2013, and we feel this will open up a world of opportunities for both new and existing partners alike.”


Phones 4u launches mobile phone network ‘Life Mobile’



Phones 4u has confirmed plans to augment its core retail business with a mobile phone network dubbed Life Mobile.

The smartphone retail giant’s offering will piggyback on EE’s infrastructure to provide a 2G and 3G service from March.

EE’s 4G network is also expected to provide the platform for a faster Life Mobile service using the super fast technology later this year.

How the virtual network will position itself in the crowded UK market isn’t yet known. However, the company’s prominent pledge to offer “great value tariffs” and “services that include data packages as standard” suggests they’ll be aiming at lower-spending consumers.



O2 to abandon mobile chargers

peoples-phone-o2-chargersIn a trial conducted last year, consumers were given the option to use their existing phone charger rather than get one with a new HTC phone. In what the companies called the “first ever trial of charger-free phones” 82 per cent of consumers “took the greener option”.

The mobile network confirmed that the results pave the way for it to sell all phones charger free by 2015, as it outlined in its environmental impact plans in 2012.

 It is estimated that there are currently 100 million unused chargers across the UK, and all major mobile phones, with the exception of Apple, now use the same micro-USB charging connector because of European-led industry initiatives. Chargers themselves offer a standard USB jack which is compatible with all charging cables, including Apple versions.

The wasted chargers are taking up the equivalent volume of four Olympic swimming pools in consumers’ drawers and lofts. The “Charger out of the Box” pilot was launched in October using the HTC One X+ handset. The 82 per cent uptake exceeded O2’s target of 70 per cent. Customers who did want a charger with their new handset were offered one at cost price.

Approximately 30 million new phones are sold in the UK each year. If the results of the trial were reflected nationally that would be cut to just 6million. Ronan Dunne, chief executive of O2, said “The results of the trial demonstrate a clear willingness among consumers to consider and respond to the environmental argument for taking a phone charger-free. I now hope that as a result of this study the rest of the industry will now consider joining us in our campaign to take chargers out of the box for good.”

Phil Roberson, Regional Director of the UK at HTC, said “This pilot demonstrates that, if we inform our customers about the environmental impact of wasted phone chargers and the benefits of using the chargers and mains adapters that they already own, they respond positively to the message.”


Korean researchers develop flexible battery

peoples-phone-flexible-batteryResearchers in South Korea have developed a flexible battery that could be a step towards the development of flexible smartphones.

The team, from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, say they have developed a “fluid-like” polymer electrolyte that is more flexible than a traditional battery. The new system is, according to the researchers, more stable than conventional batteries.

A spokesman for the Korean science ministry told the Korean Joongang Daily: “Conventional lithium-ion batteries that use liquefied electrolytes had safety problems as the film that separates the electrolytes may melt under heat, in which case the positive and negative elements may come in contact, causing an explosion.”

Last week, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Samsung showed off a prototype for a flexible smartphone, which it calls Youm. On stage at CES the prototype phone was shown being flexed and bent without any conspicuous colour distortion, with other pre-recorded demonstrations shown on film.

Corning, the maker of Gorilla Glass, which is widely used across mobile phones, is also working on a flexible glass product called Willow.

It is likely to be available in time for use on devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the forthcoming iPhone, but will not offer the flexibility of plastic. Subsequent mobile phone releases, therefore, may not use as much glass and may instead move to flexible displays.

314 mobile phones ‘stolen in London every day’

Some 314 mobile phones are stolen on London’s streets every day, according to the Metropolitan Police.
Some 314 mobile phones are stolen on London’s streets every day, according to the Metropolitan Police.
IPhones account for about half of all stolen handsets and can be sold on for up to £250, according to the Met’s gangs taskforce in Lambeth. The unit, which aims to tackle street robbery within minutes of it taking place, said offenders were traced three or four times out of 10.
On Tuesday the Met launched a campaign to cut street robbery in the capital. It urges people to take steps to protect their valuables at a time of year when, according to the Met, there is historically a rise in this type of crime.
Latest figures show the number of robberies and thefts in London increased overall last year, rising from 16,084 in December 2011 to 17,583 last month. Met statistics showed 56,680 mobiles – 28,800 of those iPhones – were reported stolen in London between April and September last year.
This equates to 314 phones, including 158 iPhones, being stolen every day and accounts for about 70% of items taken in personal robberies. Last month 9,751 mobile phones were stolen in London.
Det Ch Supt Simon Letchford said: “Having your personal possessions on show gives robbers a chance to make easy money. Just being conscious of where you are and being careful about when you display your valuables can help you avoid being targeted.”
The gangs taskforce in Lambeth said using stop-and-search tactics they would track down the offender in about three or four cases in 10 – although the phone was not always recovered. The Met also revealed that the number of cases of people being robbed for jewellery in London rose from 2,440 in 2009-10 to 2,761 in 2010-11 and 3,589 in 2011-12.
Police said young professionals out and about in the capital at entertainment spots or other public places were most likely to be victims of street robbery.