UK Government Considering Fining ISPs For Unclear T&Cs

Purchasing any service-based contract including mobile phones, electricity or internet access can be very confusing. This is down to the complex small print which many people simply disregard. It’s not surprising though given the baffling terms which sometimes have a number of contradictions. Plus, many customers don’t have the time to read sit and read through a wall of text using a tiny font. Companies know this and exploit the notion that hardly anyone reads the terms and conditions of a contract. For example, internet service providers usually outline their traffic management system and bandwidth restrictions during peak times. This means with some ISPs, you might have “unlimited downloads” but the speed is capped to a ridiculously slow rate after so much data has been downloaded within a 24 hour period. As such, it’s so important to read the fine print or ask an independent expert about a service’s restrictions.

The UK government has launched a new consultation to make companies adopt an easier-to-understand small print and anyone who doesn’t comply could face hefty fines. According to the Terms and Conditions and Consumer Protection Fining Powers paper, ISPs should clearly outline “the average monthly cost as well as the total charge”. Additionally, the government may require companies to list their terms in a “bolt and upfront” manner. Online retailers would have to reformat the small print to make it legible on smartphones and consumers could receive a cheaper tariff for reading a contract’s terms and conditions. The government is clearly trying to encourage customers to read the small print but this is easier said than done.

We live in a very fast modern world where people work long hours and have limited spare time. However, you should always adopt a cynical approach and make time to read a contract’s small print to ensure the service provided is what you expect.

WhatsApp’s Promise of True Encryption Proven False

Last year, the Facebook-owned messaging app Whatsapp, in a move applauded by privacy advocates, announced that it would be introducing end-to-end encryption to protect user data from being intercepted in transit, viewable only by sender and receiver. While, strictly speaking, WhatsApp did as it promised – using a system designed by Open Whisper Systems, creator of the Edward Snowden-endorsed messaging app Signal – it turns out that a fatal flaw in the encryption method has left a security hole that can be exploited, researchers from Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic have discovered [PDF].

The Brno University researchers were able to reverse-engineer WhatsApp’s security protocol, which could give them access to supposedly encrypted messages sent via the app. How did it manage this if end-to-end encryption is really being implemented? While WhatsApp is using what is known as Public Key Encryption, it is using the same public key for every person, meaning that anyone who can decipher the key can access messages sent by any user, and that WhatsApp itself can access sent messages, something it claimed its end-to-end encryption would prevent.

An oversight like using the same public key for every user appears too specific to be accidental. Was WhatsApp presenting the illusion of end-to-end encryption to hide a secret backdoor from its customers? It’s a move that would certainly have the approval of the UK Government.

Statistics Show a Rise of Online Piracy in the UK

We’ve heard that the UK government is increasing the penalty for using online content illegally, with potential pirates now facing up to 10 years in jail. But now, let us show you why they came to this conclusion.

According to the Intellectual Property Office, online piracy has risen from 17% to 18% since their 2013 statistic. Breaking down the numbers, we see that 9% of Brits download music illegally, 6% have pirated at least a movie and 7% watched TV series online from illegal sources. But the latter numbers come from people who downloaded or streamed at least one item of pirated content over the span of three months.

The overall numbers show that 26% of music consumers are getting or streaming their music from pirated sources. A sizeable drop has been noticed for people who download or stream pirated movies, going down from 33% to 25%, but an increase of 3% has been noticed in TV series consumers, going up to 21%. The use of legal services doesn’t look too promising either.

A decrease from 40% to 39% of internet users can be seen in those who prefer to use legal sources, while those who mix legal and illegal sources seem to have maintained a 12% ratio. The overall download and streaming of legal content shows signs of slight decrease too, dropping from 70% to 69%, with a mix of legal and pirated content use remaining at the same 22% compared to the 2013 statistic.

In addition to the above, the research shows that there has been an increase of 6% in online media consumption, meaning that the more people consume online content, the more likely they are to either mix legal and illegal sources, or go ‘full-on-pirate’ and use illegal sources. But will the UK government change this by applying harsh penalties for online pirates? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Thank you Endgadget for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Nick Falkner

UK Government Moves from Microsoft

Microsoft has dominated the business market for some time now. This is the case here in the UK, where most if not all government departments use Microsoft’s products in favour of everything else, but that’s about to change according to recent statements from officials.

Her Majesty’s Revenue or Customs, or more commonly known as HMRC, decided to switch from Microsoft products to what Google now has to offer. The change will take place due to the fact that Google has more power over cloud service and it looks like that’s what HMRC needs. This also marks a turning point in business solutions, having HMRC be the first major UK government department to break away from Microsoft services in favour of another competitor.

It is said that the switch will affect over 70,000 employees, who will join another 2,500 Cabinet Office users already on Gmail accounts. Still, there are over 450,000 government employees using Microsoft products, so we won’t see the majority of departments dropping Microsoft’s products overnight. But this does prove that Microsoft is declining in strength over corporate business solutions.

In terms of security, UK government officials seem to trust Google’s own security and ability to keep sensitive information safe on its data centres, but is this a good thing? They seem to think so. However, they should also take into account that mixing cloud storage with sensitive information may not seem a good mix, especially when your tax information is in the middle of it. What are your thoughts on the matter?

Thank you Engadget for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Robson Scott Associates

UK Intelligence Confirms They Can Break into Any System, Anywhere, For ANY Reason

There have been talks that the FBI will soon have permission to break into computers anywhere on the planet. However, it comes to no surprise that the UK is following the same approach, having granted similar authority to its Intelligence Services. However, the biggest surprise is that the UK Government openly admitted it has the power and liberty to do so.

The British Government has admitted its intelligence services have the broad power to hack into personal phones, computers, and communications networks, and claims they are legally justified to hack anyone, anywhere in the world, even if the target is not a threat to national security nor suspected of any crime.

This comes as a response to its ‘Open Response’ followed the court cases filed against GCHQ last year. This is what the Intelligence Services revealed, according to Privacy International:

Buried deep within the document, Government lawyers claim that while the intelligence services require authorisation to hack into the computer and mobile phones of “intelligence targets”, GCHQ is equally permitted to break into computers anywhere in the world even if they are not connected to a crime or a threat to national security.

In addition to the latter, the GCHQ openly admits and tells how it was able to hack into Gemalto’s SIM network, a story which was deemed as controversial last year.

The intelligence services assert the right to exploit communications networks in covert manoeuvres that severely undermine the security of the entire internet. The deployment of such powers is confirmed by recent news stories detailing how GCHQ hacked into Belgacom using the malware Regin, and targeted Gemalto, the world’s largest maker of SIM cards used in countries around the world.

The important part about this is not the actual information, but the fact that bringing court cases against the GCHQ has revealed more details which were previously kept as a secret. This apparently shows how effective this strategy is and how it could reveal even more secrets in the future, should it be used again.

Thank you TechDirt for providing us with this information