One in six suffer mobile phone bill shock

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Ahead of the new EU roaming charge cap being introduced at midnight tonight, Which? reveals that one in six people have experienced a bill shock.

In a survey ahead of the new EU mobile phone pricing caps coming in to force, we found one in six people (17%) who have taken their mobile on holiday abroad in the past year have been shocked by a high mobile phone bill, of these one in four (25%) were charged more than £40 over their usual monthly usage.

Four in 10 (39%) said they didn’t know they had a right to challenge their mobile phone provider if they received an excessive bill after using their phone abroad. Which?’s consumer rights website has advice on how to challenge bill shock and how to complain if the mobile phone company doesn’t take any action.

The roaming charge cap will lower costs for consumers travelling within the EU and takes effect from 1st July. The maximum charge for outgoing calls, excluding VAT, will be 19 cents per minute, six cents for outgoing text messages and 20 cents for a MB download of data.

The new caps however only apply to mobile use within the nations of the European Union. Worryingly nearly half (45%) of mobile users who have been abroad in the last 12 months said they didn’t know that the price caps don’t apply to the whole of Europe, with 48% believing that they do.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “Capping EU mobile roaming charges is welcome news for millions of travellers, especially those who have faced expensive charges for data roaming when their mobile hasn’t even left their suitcase. Consumers travelling within the EU should now be much clearer on the charges they have to pay.”

 

 

 

Sensors help keep smartphone data secure

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Researchers are making a smarter “kill switch” for phones that knows when a gadget is in the hands of a thief.

Software on the phone watches how you use your phone to build a portrait of your “normal” behaviour.

The software logs which apps were used and when, where the phone goes as well as more subtle indicators such as how the phone is held.

The software quickly spots if a phone is not being used by its owner and shuts down to stop data being stolen.

“We’re leveraging the predictability in our everyday lives,” said Dr Gunes Kayacik who is heading the research project at the Interactive and Trustworthy Technologies Group of Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU).

The research was carried out by Dr Kayacik, Dr Mike Just, Prof Lynne Baillie and Nicholas Micallef from GCU and Dr David Aspinall from the University of Edinburgh.

Phone-owners use different apps at different times of the day and the patterns of use are usually linked to the same locations, said Dr Kayacik.

Using seven separate sources of data generated by a phone it becomes possible to quickly build up a profile of a smartphone owner’s typical behaviour, he said.

Profiling-software developed by the Glasgow team logs the apps being used, the base stations the phone talks to and which wi-fi networks are nearby as well as ambient data about noise, light, magnetic fields and the handset’s orientation and location.

Early versions of the behaviour-logging software currently take a few days to build up a profile of average use, said Dr Kayacik. The software gets better at spotting its real owner the longer it runs.

“We look at when the applications are being used and where,” he said. “If a phone is being used out of place and out of time we can detect it.”

In addition, he said, the behavioural cues the software picks up can also detect if a phone has fallen into the hands of an unauthorised user even if they are in a location where the phone is regularly used by its real owner.

Current versions of the logging software can spot if a phone has been stolen in a couple of minutes, he said.

As well as acting as an anti-theft device, the software can also be used as a guarantor of identity when people use their phones to shop online or send messages to friends and family.

Prof Baillie said the software could be used in place of the Pin and screen-swipe systems currently used to safeguard phones against unauthorised use.

Research suggests people have to swipe or tap in their Pin up to 100 times a day just to unlock their handset and use it, she said.

That system is so cumbersome many people do not bother with any security measures at all, said Prof Baillie.

By contrast, the behaviour modelling system would keep a phone unlocked as long as it was in the hands of its owner, she said.

“You may still have to use a Pin but only when it was really needed,” she said. The extra security measures could be triggered only in certain circumstances such as when someone was shopping or trying to log on to a corporate network, she added.

Mobile security expert Nigel Stanley of consultancy Open Sky said the Glasgow research looked “interesting”.

“Clearly something needs to be done to secure these devices in a smarter way,” said Mr Stanley.

“However,” he said, “we need to think about the privacy implications of putting into practice such monitoring – is it sent back to a central site for processing or is it simply used locally on the device?”

 

 

 

 

Brit workers spend 131 million hours a week working flexibly

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The high street coffee shop is becoming an increasingly attractive place to work despite a widespread lack of awareness of forthcoming changes to flexible working legislation, according to a new study by O2 Business.

Research has found that two fifths of UK workers are now spending over four hours (half a day) a week working flexibly from the ‘coffice’, as opposed to sitting at their office desks.

The study into changing working behaviour found that over a quarter (26%) of workers across the country would choose to work from their local coffee shop if their employers encouraged flexible working. 46% of those polled said they are more productive in this setting, while 47% stated they choose to work from a café as they enjoy the change in environment.

This trend of remote working from the ‘coffice’ compared to the more traditional office is set to continue, despite 54% of UK workers being unaware of the Government’s legislative changes to the right to request flexible working, taking effect on 30th June. A third (30%) of the younger generation (18-24) prefers to work whilst enjoying a hot drink, compared to just 14% of over 55s.

The research also revealed that the number of those working flexibly from coffee shops decreases as the employer gets bigger, with 22% of small business employees working from this space against only 15% working for a company of over 250+ people. Unsurprisingly, those who are self-employed are more likely to work from a local café with a third adopting for this way of working.

Alison Heeks, Marketing Director, Costa UK Retail commented: “As the UK’s favourite coffee shop brand, Costa is proud to offer an exceptional experience each time our customers visit one of our stores. We have noticed an increase in the number of customers using our stores to work or hold a client meeting, and as you would expect, we’re happy to provide a relaxing and welcoming environment whether that be for work or pleasure.”

O2 Business is encouraging workers across the country to work smarter and be more flexible by making use of the latest digital technology on offer. Cloud based software such as Microsoft Office 365 and tools such as Pop Up Office, a portable 4G mobile hotspot, mean that a mobile office can be set up in minutes.

Paul Lawton Head of Small Business for O2 said: “It’s great to see an increasing number of people working away from the office and this is something I think we will continue to see in the future. I hope more people will be encouraged to work flexibly in light of the Government’s changes to the legislation.”

He continued “At O2 we’re continuously helping our business customers meet the needs of both the company and their employees in an increasingly digital Britain. Equipping workers with the latest technology, underpinned by superfast 4G or WiFi connectivity will undoubtedly help them to become more productive.”


For those who are coffee shop working fanatics, O2 Business has the following Dos and Don’ts for working whilst getting your caffeine fix:

1) DON’T make loud calls on your mobile – stick to email or go outside

2) If you’re connecting your power source DO keep the long wires out of the way. You don’t want someone tripping up with a very hot coffee in their hand!

3) If you need to pop away from your table DON’T assume someone will look after your belongings – ask a nearby person politely!

4) DO respect others around you and don’t treat the place like it’s your own personal space. Your coffee shop neighbours may not appreciate having to unwillingly participate in your weekly team meetings!

5) DON’T discuss confidential information in a public place. Whether it’s sensitive information about your clients, or a fellow worker’s appraisal, these kind of meetings should be kept in a private place!

6) If you’re planning on some long haul coffee shop working DO make sure you keep buying a drink. There’s nothing worse than a table hogger nursing the same mug for hours on end!

7) Looking for Wi-Fi? Coffee chains such as Costa offer Wi-Fi free for all customers. No Wi-Fi? No problem! 4G service now mean you can check your emails from your phone, laptop or tablet just as quickly!

 

  

 

Check the latest 02 mobile broadband deals here.

 

BT apologises for broadband outage

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BT has apologised after “many” users in the UK experienced problems recently connecting to the internet, but says the issue has now been resolved.

Users complained they were unable to connect to some websites – including social media, banking and shopping sites – as a result of the problems.

BT said it was unable to say how many customers had been hit, but issues were reported in various parts of the UK.

“We’re sorry for any trouble this may have caused,” a BT spokesman said.

The firm, which has about seven million broadband subscribers in the UK, said it was still investigating the incident.

A message posted on Twitter by BTCare said: “Sorry about the issues many of you had accessing the Internet this morning. Problem is now fixed- sorry for any trouble caused.”

Customers complained of problems in parts of Cornwall, as well as in Eastbourne, Preston, Tunbridge Wells and several other areas.

 

 

 

Check the latest broadband deals from BT here.

 

 

 

New performance standards for Openreach ‘good news for consumers’

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From next week, Openreach will be required to carry out faster line repairs and installations for telephone and broadband customers.

Ofcom has confirmed that new performance standards will apply to the firm – which installs and maintains connections to BT’s network – from Tuesday July 1st.

Under the changes, 70 per cent of phone and broadband faults will have to be repaired within two working days, rising to around 80 per cent by 2018.

And 55 per cent of customers requiring a new line must receive an appointment within 12 working days, rising to 80 per cent by 2016. Ofcom said. Up to 30 per cent of new line orders typically require an engineer on site.

If Openreach fails to meet the new targets, which it was warned about last December, it will face sanctions including fines from Ofcom

By 2016, around 80 per cent of visits requested from rival ISPs such as BSkyB and TalkTalk, which rely on Openreach to provide a decent service, will need to fulfil that criterion.

The company will also be required, under the measures, to make clear to customers the timeframe in which it is currently completing any remaining repairs or installations.

Ofcom added that BT will be expected, from October this year, to publish quarterly reports online about Openreach’s repair performance.

Poor weather conditions that prevent engineers meeting the service standard will be taken into account under some circumstances, Ofcom said.

‘The targets allow that up to three per cent of repairs and 1 per cent of installations in a typical year might be delayed due to such factors.’ said the regulator.

BT said: ‘Openreach has already stated its commitment to meet and exceed these service targets. Current performance data shows that Openreach is well on track to meet the targets outlined for this financial year. The recruitment of a further 1600 engineers will help us to achieve and exceed the standards set for subsequent years.’

BT’s fibre service will not be subjected to such rules as Ofcom said that the one-time state monopoly had “met or exceeded its service level agreements” with such repairs and installations.

September 19th iPhone 6 Release Date Resurfaces

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Evidence is mounting for a September 19th reveal for the iPhone 6, as the tech world’s attention becomes more and more focused on leaks emanating from Apple.

The date was named by insider sources cited by Chinese site Tencent, before being published by GforGames. It would mean the handset would lauch on a Friday, which is entirely in keeping with Apple’s past form.

A putative Sept 19th launch was corroborated by a separate report in which German network Deutche Telekom is reputed to have told would-be iPhone 6 owners to expect the phone on that day.

GforGames also posits that this year will also be the first that Apple doesn’t offer a 16GB edition of its new handset. Instead it will come in 32GB and 64GB variants. That’s at launch anyway, apparently. They certainly don’t  rule out a cheaper, entry-level 16GB model coming to market at a later date, in much the same way that Apple has done with the 8GB iPhone 4 and 4S.

Interestingly, though, is that it seems both the 5.5-inch and 4.7-inch editions of the iPhone 6 are dropping on the same day. That contradicts previous suggestions that Apple could opt to stagger the handsets’ due dates, as it struggles with challenges replicating the iPhone’s eyeball-stroking Retina Display on the substantially larger 5.5-inch display.

Both phones will be powered by the latest iOS 8 version of Apple’s software and feature a more curved design that tips its hat towards our old favourite the iPhone 3GS. Other mooted spec sheet fixtures and fittings include an A8 processor, an upgraded camera and improved biometric, fingeprint security.

In addition to the aforementioned release date, the report also claims that the iPhone 6 packing 32 GB of storage will be available for purchase in China at the price of 5,288 yuan (about $850), which is the same price as the 16 GB iPhone 5S’. A 64 GB iPhone 6 would supposedly go for 6,288 yuan (or $1008), and chances are that these price tags correspond with the 4.7-inch model.

 

 

 

Compare all deals on Apple here.

 

Golden phones go on sale for Putin supporters

An iPhone covered in gold and bearing an image of President Vladimir Putin is going on sale in Russia, it is reported.
  
An iPhone covered in gold and bearing an image of President Vladimir Putin is going on sale in Russia, it is reported.
 
It is marketed under the brand name Caviar, but the company that makes the gadget also calls it simply “Putin phone”, TJournal news website reports.
 
The back of the phone is made of 18-carat gold, and below an engraved portrait of President Putin there is also a quote from the Russian anthem. The limited-edition phone is on sale for 147,000 roubles (£2,500; $4,300). It is made by Perla Penna, an Italian company which is now Russian-owned and headquartered, but still employs Italian designers and jewellers.
 
In a press release, the firm says that the gadget is aimed at “patriotic senior government officials and top executives”. 
 
As many of them are known to enjoy holidaying abroad and even own property there, one particular feature of the Putin phone will come in handy. “Place a phone with a picture of Putin on it on a bar counter somewhere in Nice or Monte Carlo, and you can expect to get priority service,” the Perla Penna press release goes on. Why? Because “the worried international community sees the Russian president as an embodiment of power, robustness and strength, an uncompromising and aggressive figure ready to take drastic steps”.
 
There has been a surge in support for Vladimir Putin in Russia following the country’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea earlier in 2014. It is reflected in rocketing sales of merchandise such as T-shirts with his portraits, but relations with the West have soured.
 
Over the past months, the Russian media has been giving the impression that Italy is among the more Russia-friendly nations of the West, and Vladimir Putin is known to be friends with Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister.
 
 

Alert: fraudsters sending sick text messages targeting parents

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Fraudsters are targeting parents with distressing text messages posing as their children in order to obtain mobile phone top-up codes.

Moneywise has uncovered a distressing text scam targeting parents. The scam begins with a text message from a scammer posing as the intended victims’ child.

The scammer texts that the child has been injured in a car accident and has been forced to use someone else’s phone. The purpose of the scam is to get the recipient to send the fraudster a mobile phone top-up code.

When you buy a mobile top-up, you are given an activation code, which is what the fraudsters are targeting. Once they have the code, they can get the cash credited to their own mobile phone account.

One of Moneywise’s readers, who wished to remain anonymous, initially received this message:

5.00pm: “Mum thers been a accident I’m in the hospital I’m okay but my friend ain’t he’s in the ICU ward. Mum it was a seriouse car crash. I don’t think he’s goin to make it he went threw the window screen of the car. Mum my phone is switched off and not comin on. I’m on this number. The doctor said know phones in the ICU ward so text mum cause this phone has only got texes. I need you to do me a favour. All the hospital phone lines are down. I’m in shock that this has happened. Iv got to see the doctor. Iv just got a minor head injurie. Mum, please hurry and text back to this number. I need you to do me a favour. Xx”

After replying here is what the scammers sent in full:

5.08pm: “Mum Iv got to phone freinds family this phone only has texes. Can you please get to the shop and get a Orange top up voucher and text it threw. I’m going to get seen by doctor then go outside and phone hes family. Mum Iv got to sort this. Please dnt worrie enyone just yet and please get me enuf credit. I wil explain evrything soon. Mum, please get me enuf, £40 top-up im going to be on the phone for ages.”

5.11pm: “Please hurry mum. im just goin to see the doctor. Send it as soon as u get it. I wil phone when I go ouside. Please dnt worrie enyone yet until I no what’s goin on with my friend.”

At this point, she again texted back to ask why her “son” needed an Orange top-up when he was a Vodafone customer – to which came the following replies:

5.13pm: “Know, this ain’t my phone mum. It’s switched off. This is Orange.”
5.14pm: “Mum please hurry. The doctors are movin my friend again.”
5.20pm: “U need to text it. I’m stil in the ICU ward.”

Scams like this are designed to play on your emotions and get you to react quickly without thinking. Cyber crime expert Simon Freeman from Freshskies.com said the the scam could easily become more believable by incorporating some personal details that are freely available online.

“If leakage of our personal data continues at the current pace then such scams may eventually become indistinguishable from reality. For instance, imagine this scam if personal details were used such as real names, real locations, real car details.”

If you receive one of these text messages, don’t send any codes or money, delete it and report it.

 

 

Come and have a go if you think you’re fast enough!

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Virgin Media, Proud Partner of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, is inviting the nation to race the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, this summer. Race Bolt is a unique, interactive experience created to bring the thrill of the race to the public – boasting a huge 40 metre long and 3 metre tall LED screen.

Open daily at Glasgow Green from 24th July until 3rd August, Race Bolt offers sports fans the opportunity to taste greatness by racing against a larger than life Usain Bolt on a professional quality 30 metre athletics track, as the icon himself features on the LED screen.

Runners are invited to take to the track for the race of their lives – after replicating the famous ‘lightning bolt’ pose of course – while infrared sensors ensure that the runner’s height, size and technique are all captured, giving each challenger an overall run time. Participants’ names and times will be added to an overall leader board, which will be updated daily to showcase the fastest times.

Usain Bolt said: “Everyday people come up to me and say let’s race…We’ve answered the call and my fans now have a great opportunity to race me even if it’s against the big screen.. Let’s see how fast you guys really are. I know I’m fast. How fast are you?”

Luke Southern, programme director for Glasgow 2014 at Virgin Media, said: “Race Bolt is the embodiment of Virgin Media – championing speed and excellence. We’re thrilled to be supercharging the Games through this event at Glasgow Green during what we are sure will be a hugely exciting Commonwealth Games. Usain is known for pacing himself at the start of his race before picking up speed after the 30 metre mark so there will definitely be a few contenders for that winning place on the podium!”

Race Bolt will be positioned at the heart of Glasgow Green Live Zone, which will see this well-loved city park transformed into a ‘home’ hosting a free house party, with a traditional warm Glasgow welcome. It will host Opening and Closing Ceremony Parties, performers and artists from across Scotland and throughout the Commonwealth, great music, family activities and live sport. Glasgow Green Live Zone is one of three iconic outdoor locations where celebrations will be taking place from morning to night every day as part of Festival 2014, which will bring together over 1,000 performances across 100 venues, transforming the city alongside the sporting action.

 

Android and Windows to get ‘kill switch’

peoples-phone-kill-switch-android-windowsGoogle and Microsoft will add a “kill-switch” feature to their Android and Windows phone operating systems.

The feature is a method of making a handset completely useless if it is stolen, rendering a theft pointless.

Authorities have been urging tech firms to take steps to help curb phone theft and argued that a kill-switch feature can help resolve the problem.

Apple and Samsung, two of the biggest phone makers, offer a similar feature on some of their devices.

The move by Google and Microsoft means that kill switches will now be a part of the three most popular phone operating systems in the world.

Smartphone theft has become a big problem across the world. According to a report by US authorities:

Some 3.1 million mobile devices were stolen in the US in 2013, nearly double the number of devices stolen in 2012. One in three Europeans experienced the theft or loss of a mobile device in 2013.

In South Korea mobile device theft increased five-fold between 2009 and 2012. In Colombia criminals stole over one million devices in 2013.

In an attempt to tackle the issue, policymakers have launched an initiative called Secure our Smartphones.

As part of it, they have urged technology firms to take steps to make it less attractive for robbers to steal mobile devices.

“An activated kill switch converts an easy-to-sell, high-value multimedia device into a jumble of plastic and glass, drastically reducing its street value,” the report by New York Attorney General said.

According to a report by the New York State Attorney General, in the first five months of 2014 the theft of Apple devices fell by 17% in New York City. Meanwhile iPhone robberies fell 24% in London and 38% in San Francisco in the six months after Apple introduced the feature, compared to the previous six months.

“During the same period, thefts of other popular mobile devices increased,” the report says.

Manoj Menon, managing director of consulting firm Frost & Sullivan said the move was a step in the right direction. “This is a fantastic move and will go a long way in helping authorities come one step closer to realising a vision of zero theft of mobile phone,” he said. But he added that it was “not a foolproof system” as thieves “will find a way to monetise the accessories and parts of a phone”. However, he said the market for parts and accessories was relatively small and the kill switch “does substantially reduce the financial incentive of stealing a device”.

Authorities claim that Apple’s feature – dubbed Activation Lock – which it introduced on all iPhones running the iOS 7 operating system in September last year, has helped reduce theft substantially.

 

 


 

Explainer: How a kill switch works

 

A “hard” kill switch would render a stolen device permanently unusable and is favoured by legislators who want to give stolen devices the “value of a paperweight”

A “soft” kill switch only make a phone unusable to “an unauthorised user”

Some argue that the only way to permanently disable a phone is to physically damage it

Experts worry that hackers could find a way to hijack a kill signal and turn off phones

If a phone is turned off or put into aeroplane mode, it might not receive the kill signal at all, warn experts