Complaints about Vodafone rocket in UK

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Customer complaints about Vodafone soared towards the end of last year, according to the latest report from UK telecoms watchdog Ofcom.
The regulator says it recorded 32 complaints for every 100,000 of the firm’s pay-monthly subscribers over the last three months of the year.
That is more than double the figure for the same period in 2014, at which point Vodafone was still the most complained about network.
The company blames an IT glitch.
The actual number of frustrated customers was probably higher as Ofcom only tracks the number of people who contacted it directly and not those who only complained to Vodafone itself.
“The points highlighted in this report largely relate to a major programme we undertook last year to transfer customers on to a new billing system, aimed at simplifying the operation of their accounts and opening up a range of better services, such as ‘click and collect’,” said a spokeswoman. “Unfortunately, there were some problems during the highly complex migration. Now that the migration exercise is essentially complete, we expect our £2bn investment in our network and services will start to deliver a step change in customer experience.”
Vodafone said it had about six million consumer pay-monthly subscribers out of a total base of 18 million UK customers.
Talk Mobile was the only other mobile operator to experience a rise in pay-monthly customer complaints over the three months – but at nine complaints per 100,000 subscribers, its rate was much lower. Tesco Mobile generated the lowest relative volume of complaints at just one recorded grievance per 100,000 customers.

Three continues to lead mobile operators on complaints handling

three store fascia sign peoples phone

Three has driven the fewest complaints about a mobile operator to Ofcom for the ninth quarter in a row.
Ofcom received only 3 complaints about Three per 100,000 customers in the last three months of 2015 – level with O2 and over three times lower than the industry average of 10 complaints per 100,000 customers.
This is the ninth quarter in a row in which Three has out-performed competitors and driven the fewest complaints to Ofcom of any mobile operator.
Dave Dyson, Chief Executive, said: “We are proud to be the joint leader on this important measure. Keeping our customers happy is important to me and when there are issues, our goal is to deal with them as quickly and effectively as possible.
“We will continue to work hard to ensure our customers get the best possible customer experience on Three.”

Samsung becomes latest firm to launch mobile wallet in China

samsung pay peoples phone

Samsung has officially launched its mobile wallet service in China, in co-operation with local vendor UnionPay.
Instead of using cards, the service allows shoppers to use their smartphones to pay for in-store purchases. Last month, Apple launched its own Apple Pay system in China, also in partnership with UnionPay.
China’s smartphone market, the largest in the world, presents a huge business opportunity for mobile-payment systems.
Samsung Pay and Apple Pay will now compete with Alibaba’s Alipay, which currently dominates China’s electronic payments market.
However analysts said that mobile payment services provided by Alipay and WeChat were so dominant in China that international newcomers such as Apple and Samsung would face “an uphill battle” to win market share. Tencent’s WeChat also has a payment system which is popular in China, and telecommunications giant Huawei launched its own service earlier this month.
The South Korean electronics giant said Samsung Pay was now available in China on a range of smartphones including the Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 edge, Galaxy S6 edge+ and Galaxy Note5.
The firm said it would have “the opportunity to support additional mid-range models in the future”.
In announcing its official launch, which has been expected since late last year, Samsung said that Samsung Pay currently supports select credit and debit cards of nine major banks in China including China CITIC Bank, China Construction Bank and China Everbright Bank. Samsung has previously said it has one critical fact that will work in its favour: its technology works with a much larger number of existing payment terminals.
There has been a rapid take-up of smartphones in China, with an estimated 68% of the population now owning one. And digital wallets are becoming a more popular way to pay for goods and services. Samsung said on Tuesday that its payment system was “simple, safe and easy to use” and that it worked “virtually anywhere you can swipe or tap your card in China”. Unlike Google Wallet and several other earlier payment apps, Samsung says there is no need to unlock its phones to launch a special app to get started.

Like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay will use near field communication technology (NFC), which needs a separate transaction device, but it will also support magnetic secure transmission technology which works on regular credit card machines.
However, Bryan Ma of IDC research firm said that Samsung would face the same challenges that Apple does in China. “The use of Alipay and WeChat are so dominant in China that it’s an uphill battle for both phone vendors, aside from some higher-end users in larger cities,” he said. “Making it worse for Samsung is it doesn’t have the cachet that Apple does. And Samsung was number six in China’s smartphone market in the fourth quarter of last year, with only 7% share, versus Apple at number two with 15% share,” he added.
Samsung Pay is currently available in South Korea and the US. It is expected to become available in the UK this year.

FBI breaks into dead gunman’s iPhone

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The FBI has managed to unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino gunman without Apple’s help, ending a court case, the US justice department says.
Apple had been resisting a court order issued last month requiring the firm to write new software to allow officials to access Syed Rizwan Farook’s phone. But officials on Monday said that it had been accessed independently and asked for the order to be withdrawn.
Farook and his wife killed 14 in San Bernardino, California, in December. They were later shot dead by police. The FBI said it needed access to the phone’s data to determine if the attackers worked with others, were targeting others and were supported by others.
US officials said Farook’s wife, Tashfeen Malik, had pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State on social media on the day of the shooting. 

Last week, prosecutors said “an outside party” had demonstrated a possible way of unlocking the iPhone without the need to seek Apple’s help.

A court hearing with Apple was postponed at the request of the justice department, while it investigated new ways of accessing the phone.
At the time, Apple said it did not know how to gain access, and said it hoped that the government would share with them any vulnerabilities of the iPhone that might come to light.

On Monday a statement by Eileen Decker, the top federal prosecutor in California, said investigators had received the help of “a third party”, but did not specify who that was. Investigators had “a solemn commitment to the victims of the San Bernardino shooting”, she said.
“It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with co-operation from relevant parties, or through the court system when co-operation fails,” the statement added.
Responding to the move, Apple said: “From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent. As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought.”
The company said it would “continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated”.

An Israeli newspaper last week reported that data forensics experts at cybersecurity firm Cellebrite, which has its headquarters in Israel, are involved in the case. Cellebrite said that it works with the FBI but would not say more.
Its website, however, states that one of its tools can extract and decode data from the iPhone 5C, the model in question, among other locked handsets. The court order had led to a vigorous debate over privacy, with Apple receiving support from other tech giants including Google, Microsoft, and Facebook.
FBI director James Comey said it was the “hardest question” he had tackled in his job. However, he said, law enforcement saved lives, rescued children and prevented terror attacks using search warrants that gave it access to information on mobile phones.


Warning over ‘nasty’ ransomware strain

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The FBI is seeking help from US firms as it investigates a nasty strain of ransomware, Reuters reports. Ransomware encrypts data on infected machines and then asks for money before restoring access to information.
The FBI is analysing a strain of ransomware called MSIL/Samas that tries to encrypt data across entire networks rather than single computers.
The plea comes as security firms warn about other novel strains of the fast-growing, data-scrambling cyber-threats.
The FBI sent out the request for help after discovering that the group behind MSIL/Samas had stepped up its efforts to find victims.
In the confidential advisory obtained by Reuters, the FBI said the group used a publicly available security program called Jexboss to scan networks looking for vulnerable versions of the widely used JBoss software.
When a vulnerable system is found, the malware launches an attack that seeks to scramble data on servers. It also finds and deletes the back-up files firms could use to restore data scrambled by ransomware.
Cisco said it had seen a “widespread campaign” using Samas targeting firms involved in healthcare. Early versions of the malware charged a ransom of one bitcoin (£300) for every machine hit but later versions upped this to 1.5 bitcoins. “It is likely the malware author is trying to see how much people will pay for their files,” wrote Cisco security analyst Nick Biasini in an advisory. “They even added an option for bulk decryption of 22 bitcoin (£6,600) to decrypt all infected systems.”

The FBI’s request for aid comes as security firms warn about recently created ransomware variants that use different methods to lock up systems and force victims to pay. The Petya malware targets a key Windows system file called the Master Boot Record that helps a PC get started. By overwriting this file, people are prevented from getting at any data on their PC unless they pay up.
Trend Micro said it had seen Petya distributed in email messages crafted to look like they are from someone looking for work. The CV attached to the message is a booby-trapped program that launches Petya, said Trend security engineer Jasen Sumalapao in a blogpost. Petya charges a ransom of 0.9 bitcoins (£265) to unlock infected machines.
Security firm Carbon Black has found another novel strain that goes after many firms that use Windows PowerShell – a scripting program widely used to administer machines running Windows.
Dubbed PowerWare, this strain hides malicious code in Word documents and calls on PowerShell to execute the attack code when the booby-trapped files are opened.
“Deceptively simple in code, ‘PowerWare’ is a novel approach to ransomware, reflecting a growing trend of malware authors thinking outside the box in delivering ransomware,” said Rico Valdez from Carbon Black.

Using mobile phone while driving doubles the risk of having an accident

smartphone car driving peoples phone

A driver’s risk of having an accident almost doubles when they use a mobile phone while at the wheel, new data suggests.
Wunelli, a provider of vehicle telematics for insurance companies, and insurance broker Drivology, gathered data on more than 4,000 drivers over a period of 18 months.
It included data on journeys made with hands-free and illegal hand-held mobile phone use, and the results suggest that driver performance is affected in both scenarios.
Hard braking events – G-force sufficient to propel a handbag on to the floor – occur approximately once every 50 miles with an average driver.
But Wunelli established that for drivers using a hand-held mobile, these events increase by 75%, and 20% for those using hands-free.
The data also revealed that men are almost twice as likely to use their phone illegally at the wheel, while drivers of either sex between the ages of 25 and 35 most frequently commit this offence.
A majority of illegal phone calls are made on roads with a speed limit of 40mph or less, where accidents are 11 times more likely to occur, compared to motorways.
The data also showed that drivers using a phone illegally tend to drop their speed by a third on average, suggesting a high level of distraction.
Paul Stacy, founding director of Wunelli, said: “Driving a car is the most dangerous activity most people will ever do. The fact we all started to use phones in our cars 10 years before the Government in the UK banned use while driving means we need re-think our attitude to mobile phone use, and mute the mobile when we make a journey.”


Walking while texting could mean jail time

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Measure could lead to fines of up to $50 or 15 days’ imprisonment as state lawmaker warns of the dangers of ‘distracted walking’
Jared Schumacher is one of hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans who routinely use electronic devices to text, listen to music or do other tasks as they walk outdoors. If a “distracted walking” measure recently proposed by a state assemblywoman becomes law, the Trenton man and others like him could face fines or even jail time.
“I admit that I’m usually listening to music, talking on my phone or texting while I’m walking around,” Schumacher, 20, said while responding to a text as he walked along a street in the state capital last weekend. I’ve never hurt myself, but I’ve seen people walk into poles or trip over a big crack in the sidewalk.”
Experts say distracted walking is a growing problem, as people of all ages become more dependent on electronic devices for personal and professional matters. They also note pedestrian deaths have been rising in recent years. In 2005, 11% of all US fatalities involved pedestrians, but that number rose to 15% in 2014.
The rise in deaths coincides with states introducing bills that target pedestrians and/or bicyclists. For instance, a bill pending in Hawaii would fine someone $250 if he or she were to cross the street while operating an electronic device. Similar bills have failed in states including Arkansas, Illinois, Nevada and New York.
“Thus far, no states have enacted a law specifically targeting distracted bicyclists or pedestrians,” said Douglas Shinkle, transportation program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures. But he added that “a few states continue to introduce legislation every year”.
The measure recently introduced by New Jersey assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt would ban walking while texting and bar pedestrians on public roads from using electronic communication devices unless they are hands-free.
Violators would face fines of up to $50, 15 days imprisonment or both, which is the same penalty as jaywalking. Half of the fine would be allocated to safety education about the dangers of walking and texting, said Lampitt, a Democrat. Some see the proposal as an unnecessary government overreach, while others say they understand Lampitt’s reasoning. But most agree that people need to be made aware of the issue.

“Distracted pedestrians, like distracted drivers, present a potential danger to themselves and drivers on the road,” Lampitt said. “An individual crossing the road distracted by their smartphone presents just as much danger to motorists as someone jaywalking and should be held, at minimum, to the same penalty.”
The main question raised about the measure, though, is whether it can be enforced consistently by police officers who usually have more pressing matters to deal with. Schumacher is among those who feel that rather than imposing a new law, the state should focus on distracted-walking education.
Lampitt said the measure was needed to dissuade and penalize “risky behavior”. She cited a National Safety Council report that showed distracted walking incidents involving cellphones accounted for an estimated 11,101 injuries from 2000 to 2011.
The study found a majority of those injured were female and most were 40 or younger. Talking on the phone was the most prevalent activity at the time of injury, while texting accounted for 12%. Nearly 80% of the injuries occurred as the result of a fall, while 9% occurred from the pedestrian striking a motionless object. The most common injury types included dislocations or fractures, sprains or strains and concussions or contusions.
The proposed New Jersey measure has not yet been given a scheduled hearing.

Harbour seals in Orkney to receive smartphones

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Vodafone, which has been connecting people for more than 30 years, will from next month use its technology to help connect seals to the ‘Internet of Things’ – the first time this has been done anywhere in the world.
Under a three-year, major Government-backed initiative, the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at the University of St Andrews will begin a study into the sharp decline in Harbour seal populations off Orkney, Scotland.
Marine scientists at SMRU will attach their next generation of marine telemetry tags harmlessly to the fur at the back of the heads of a number of seals. The marine tags are small and lightweight, and simply drop off when the seal moults.
The marine tags, which work much in the same way as smartphones, will use Vodafone’s latest machine-to-machine (M2M) technology to send vital information from the seal when it surfaces or beaches directly back to SMRU for analysis. M2M technology is now a standard feature in new cars, heart monitors and smart meters, but never before has it been used to help monitor the well-being of marine mammals.
Vodafone’s M2M dedicated network significantly improves data gathering on a seals’ location, dive behaviour and its oceanic environment since it works across multiple mobile technologies. Among other benefits, it allows marine scientists to control directly the active state of every SIM card in each marine tag from a single PC.
The study by SMRU is being carried out at the request of the Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage which have great concerns for the future survival of Harbour seals in areas of Scotland. Harbour seals – one of two seal species in the UK – have declined in numbers by up to 90% in some areas in and around the North and East coast of Scotland, including Orkney, since 2000.
The data collected and analysed by SMRU is vital in being able to provide advice to Scottish Ministers across a range of key marine policy areas. These include the impact of marine renewables such as offshore wind and wave turbines, unexplained seal deaths and interactions with salmon fisheries.
Professor John Baxter, Principal Adviser, Marine, Scottish Natural Heritage said: “This exciting, collaborative study is vital to help us to better understand the drivers of population change in Scottish harbour seals, and to evaluate the potential conservation and management options open to us.”
SMRU’s Deputy Director Dr Bernie McConnell said: “Over the last 15 years, many of the harbour seal populations in the Northern Isles and on the north and east coasts of Scotland have been declining.  Marine data collected during this project on Orkney will help to assess the causes, management and mitigation options in relation to the harbour seals decline and to prioritise future research directions.”
Vodafone UK’s Corporate and External Affairs Director Helen Lamprell added: “The first mobile call was made on our network more than thirty years ago. We will now be the first company to help transmit valuable information from seals.
“This project is proof that collaborations between government, science and the private sector can work to improve better informed policy decisions on the environment. We are delighted to be able to provide Bernie and his team with access to our technology and consultancy.”

Netflix throttles data to some mobile networks

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Netflix has acknowledged that it restricts the quality of its video streams when it sends them over some mobile data networks.
The firm blogged that it did this “globally”. A spokesman confirmed that this included streams sent via UK mobile operators. However, some firms – including T-Mobile and Sprint in the US – are not affected by the cap.
Netflix said its intention was to stop its members facing excess charges. But one of the US’s biggest networks has reacted with anger.
“We’re outraged to learn that Netflix is apparently throttling video for their AT&T customers without their knowledge or consent,” AT&T told the Wall Street Journal.
AT&T and Verizon, another US operator, had been accused of imposing the restrictions themselves as a result of confusion caused by a recent T-Mobile ad campaign.
“Here’s a little factoid for you,” said T-Mobile’s chief executive John Legere in a video posted on 17 March. “Did you know that when you watch Netflix on T-Mobile you get it at 480p [resolution]? The duopoly is actually delivering your Netflix content at 360p. I’ll bet you didn’t know that. Go check. it’s true.”
Netflix indicated the discrepancy was due to the fact that T-Mobile and Sprint slowed down customers’ data speeds, rather than charging them more money, when they went over their usage limit. 

Netflix’s chief executive has previously described himself as being a defender of “strong net neutrality”.

“The essence of net neutrality is that ISPs [internet service providers] don’t restrict, influence or otherwise meddle with the choices consumers make,” Reed Hastings wrote in 2014. The firm has now said it recognises that subscribers might also want to have greater control over the speeds that Netflix itself provides to mobile ISPs in the first place.
The 600 kilobits per second cap cap it currently enforces is a fraction of the 30 megabits per second download speeds that are now possible over 4G in parts of the UK. “We will soon introduce a data-saver feature designed for mobile apps,” said Netflix spokeswoman Anne Marie Squeo. “[Users will be able to] either stream more video under a smaller data plan, or increase their video quality if they have a higher data plan.”
She added that the feature should become available in May.

Apple tackles iOS 9.3 update glitch

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iPhone and iPad owners locked out of their devices because of a problem with Apple’s latest mobile operating system have been provided with a solution.
The iOS 9.3 update caused some older versions of the phones and tablets to require the IDs and passwords previously used to set them up. Many people complained that their machines had become unusable because they had forgotten or did not know the details.
Apple has detailed a workaround. It has also stopped vulnerable devices being able to download the software and begun issuing new versions of the operating system – which ditch the ID check – for affected machines.
“In some cases, if customers do not recall their password, their device will remain in an inactivated state until they can recover or reset their password,” Apple said in a statement. “For these older devices, we have temporarily pulled back the update and will release an updated version of iOS 9.3 in the next few days that does not require this step.”
Dozens of users complained about the problem on Apple’s community forum saying their handsets and tablets had been “bricked” after installing the update. 

The tech firm has since acknowledged that the issue affected its iPhone 5S and earlier smartphones as well as its iPad Air and earlier tablets.

As a solution, Apple suggested that users remove the activation lock by signing into their iCloud account’s Find My Phone function or by connecting their device to a computer and entering their current Apple ID details into iTunes.
But some users will still face problems if their current account had not been linked to the device and they still want to keep data stored on it.
One iPhone owner who inherited an iPhone from a deceased partner has reported still being unable to bypass the lock, as has someone who bought the device from a seller that they were no longer in contact with. Under such circumstances, Apple says people need to contact its support team for further aid.