Archives for Uncategorized

Payfone and Enstream team up to eliminate passwords for good

Enstream (a Canadian telecom coalition) and Payfone  (the world’s “leading digital identity authentication company”) are partnering to “eliminate passwords, simplify login, and enhance online security and privacy,” according to Canada Newswire.

EnStream is a joint venture between Canada’s leading telecom companies, and it will be working with Payfone to create the future of mobile-based authentication services that aims to increase “convenience for consumers without sacrificing security and privacy.”

On June 18th, Payfone CEO Rodger Desai said in his announcement of the partnership that, “Consumers have too many passwords, or re-use the ones they have too many times, increasing the risk of identity theft and account takeovers by hackers. Two- factor authentication helps, but it’s clumsy and complicated, and doesn’t really deal with the underlying problem—passwords. Wouldn’t it be great if online identity worked like credit cards—ultra-convenient and trusted by everyone, everywhere?”

Payfone and EnStream’s new service will first be released in Canada, and will allow customers to log into accounts or verify transactions with participating services via a single mobile app.

As Canada Newswire explains, “the service will bring together EnStream’s consumer-friendly Mobile Connect solution with Payfone’s Trust Score identity and fraud analytics solution, which is currently used by Fortune 100 banks, retailers, health insurance companies, and others.”

Source: newswire.ca – Payfone and EnStream announce partnership to kill passwords with global federated digital identity platform
Published: June 18, 2018

 

Is the digital divide narrowing in the United States?

The United States government – via the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a division of the US Department of Commerce – has recently released a report making the claim that the digital divide within the country is narrowing. The NTIA came to this conclusion after surveying users across the United States.

The NTIA’s report found some interesting statistics, such as the fact that, of people surveyed, “more had a mobile data plan than wired broadband service in 2017.”  And, “for users living in households with family incomes below $25,000 per year, internet usage increased to 62% from 57% in the previous year.” At the same time as usage in lower-income families increased, usage in families earning $100,000 or more has stayed the same over the past year – at about 86 percent.

From these statistics, the improvement seems palpable and positive. Closing the digital divide is a step towards equality and lifting families out of poverty across the country. But…there’s still a huge difference between 62 percent and 86 percent, especially in a population as large as that of the United States. The divide may be narrowing – marginally – but it seems too soon for the NTIA to be claiming this triumphantly.

But that does not mean the divide won’t continue to narrow. Telecoms.com assesses this when it writes, “The price of data is tumbling, partly thanks to T-Mobile US reinvigorating the race to the bottom, while stagnation in device innovation means second-hand or older models can effectively deliver the same technological experience. Mobile is becoming cheaper and taking over, which will open doors to many who have been excluded from the digital bounties.”

And, as has been long claimed, the advent of 5G technology should make data more accessible to all different kinds of demographics.

There were some more unexpected results. Telecoms.com writes that, “for the first time since NTIA began tracking use of different types of computing devices, tablets were more popular than desktop computers.” Wearables also saw a heftier following in 2017, growing to eight percent from one percent in 2015.

Source: telecoms.com – US Government says the digital divide is narrowing
Published: June 8, 2018

Your Contacts Are Now Safe With Apple

According to a recent report from Bloomberg, Apple has changed the way its app developers gather, use, and share information about a user’s contacts.  If you have ever downloaded an app from the App Store, you might know that some developers will ask you to share your contacts. This information is typically used for information, marketing, or sold without the permission of the contact themselves.

According to CNET, “the new App Store Review Guidelines prohibit developers from making databases with information taken from iPhone owners’ contacts, and restrict them from sharing such a database with third parties, or selling it. In addition, apps can’t get access to someone’s contact list and say it’s being used for something, then use it for something else, unless the developer obtains consent.”

If a developer breaks any of these new restrictions, they can be banned from having their content available on the App Store.

This move from Apple comes after Facebook got in trouble for sharing users’ contacts via apps during the Cambridge Analytica scandal. At that time, as many as 87 million users had their information shared without their consent. Apple CEO Tim Cook called out Facebook for failing “to effectively regulate itself,” so it is only fitting that Apple would make the steps to prevent this on their own platform.

Source: cnet.com – Apple won’t let developers pull info about your contacts anymore
Published: June 12, 2018

 

 

Yahoo! Messenger is officially a thing of the past

As of July 17th, 2018, Yahoo! Messenger – a twenty year-old instant messaging service – will cease to exist. According to SlashGear, the company will be scrapping the service in favour of a new medium that “better fits consumer needs.”

If you were on the web in 1998, you might remember Yahoo Messenger as Yahoo! Pager. It offered an instant messaging, file transfer, and chat room platform to its users. But with services like Facebook Messenger, iMessage, Snapchat, Whatsapp, and countless others, Yahoo Messenger has become quite antiquated. This was obvious as early as 2016, when Yahoo dropped desktop support of its service, leaving it only for mobile and browser until July of this year.

“We know we have many loyal fans who have used Yahoo Messenger since its beginning as one of the first chat apps of its kind,” the company posted, announcing its decision “As the communications landscape continues to change over, we’re focusing on building and introducing new, exciting communications tools that better fit consumer needs.”

If you’re one of those loyal fans who still uses the application, here’s what will happen on July 17th. If you don’t remove the application before that date, and try to access it on or after the 17th, You will not be able to sign in. However, if you’d like to extract your chat history, that function will be available to you until January of 2019. To do that, sign into Yahoo’s downloader request site, verify your identity, and supply the email address on which you’d like to receive the data.

Source: slashgear.com – After 20 years, Yahoo Messenger is shutting down
Published: June 8, 2018

Online genealogy researchers may find their data has been exposed

Plenty of social media sites fall prey to data breaches. Recently, another victim has emerged. According to The Seattle Times, leading geneology and DNA-testing company, My Heritage, “disclosed that a researcher had found on a private server the email addresses and hashed passwords of every customer that had signed up for its service.”

MyHeritage broke the news on Monday in a blog post, where it stated that the leak included 92 million accounts. The breach occurred on October 26th, 2017 – an entire seven months ago – and all accounts created before then are presumably at risk.

“There has been no evidence that the data in the file was ever used by the perpetrators,” the blog post asserted. Even if it had been, MyHeritage has promised users that it does not store credit card information and “sensitive data such as DNA information and family trees are stored on systems that are separate from those that contain email addresses.” These systems, MyHeritage believes, has not been compromised.

MyHeritage has not disclosed why this breach went undetected for so long, but the company said it is taking “immediate steps” to hire an independent cybersecurity firm to investigate.

Source: seattletimes.com – Ancestry service MyHeritage says 92 million customer email addresses were exposed
Published: June 5, 2018

Manitobans get exclusively better phone deal than the rest of Canada

A new phone plan that has Manitobans celebrating is also splitting the opinions of other Canadians. While some are angry to be left out of the deal, others are hopeful that changes for Manitoba mean that everyone else will see such opportunities soon.

Manitoba, along with Saskatchewan and Quebec, has always been among the provinces with the cheapest mobile phone plans. This trend continued when, last week, Rogers Communications launched a Manitoba-wide “double-data phone deal” in which Rogers offered to quite literally double the data on its regular and family-share phone plans for no extra cost. According to CBC, Manitobans had until June 3rd to “get a plan with unlimited Canadawide calling and 20 GB of data for $70 a month, or 30 GB for $80 a month.”

Not wanting to be left out, Bell and Telus quickly followed suit. Meaning, people living in the province had plenty of options to double their service for no cost. Understandably, other Canadians are wondering why they cannot benefit the same way.

“It kind of ticked me off. The rest of the country gets shafted and we’re paying all these exorbitant prices,” Pete Jansen, from Richmond, British Columbia, told CBC. Jansen isn’t alone. Many Canadians took to Twitter, asking why this deal was not available in other parts of the country, especially those regions where service is the most expensive. Jansen, and others, have been reaching out to telecoms directly to ask why they are missing out.

In response to Jansen, who is a Rogers customer, the company said on Facebook that “the population, the demand and the market value all play a part in the type of plans offered in your area.”

What does this mean exactly? Well, a 2017 investigation done by the country’s Competition Bureau found that the three provinces where prices are “substantially lower” – Manitoba, Quebec, and Saskatchewan – are cheaper “due to the presence of a strong regional competitor. So essentially, big provincial names like Videotron in Quebec, Sasktel in Saskatchewan and Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS) in Manitoba have kept competition strong in these regions, whereas a province like Ontario might be lacking this variable.

But all hope is not lost for non-Manitoban Canadians. Telecom consultant Lawrence Surtees, from IDC Canada, says he believes deals like what we saw in Manitoba “may actually spread, as competition heats up across the country, and Canadians demand more data at an affordable price.”

“Maybe they’re testing the waters here first,” Surtees explained to CBC. “Why only do it in Manitoba if you’re going to do it?”

Source: cbc.ca – Amazing’ Manitoba double-data offers spark questions over why only some provinces get the best phone deals
Published: May 31, 2018

FBI warns owners of routers to reboot their devices

You know cyber-security threats are serious when the FBI gets involved. Following Cisco’s recent report that 500,000 infected routers could be destroyed via malware, the FBI has taken action to warn small businesses and households to immediately reboot their devices.

ZD Net explains that “the malware, dubbed VPNFilter, was developed by the Russian state-sponsored hacking group Sofacy.” The malware was discovered by Cisco’s Talos Intelligence researchers, and looks to have infected routers made by Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear, and TP-Link.

In fact, if you’re an owner of one of these specific devices, the FBI wants you to immediately reboot it:

  • Linksys E1200
  • Linksys E2500
  • Linksys WRVS4400N
  • MikroTik RouterOS for Cloud Core Routers: Versions 1016, 1036, and 1072
  • Netgear DGN2200
  • Netgear R6400
  • Netgear R7000
  • Netgear R8000
  • Netgear WNR1000
  • Netgear WNR2000
  • QNAP TS251
  • QNAP TS439 Pro
  • Other QNAP NAS devices running QTS software
  • TP-Link R600VPN

Why is this malware such a potential threat? Well, ZD Net explains that its “most worrying capability is that [the] malware allows its controllers to wipe a portion of an infected device’s firmware, rendering it useless. The attackers can selectively destroy a single device or wipe all infected devices at once.”

Unfortunately, the reboot will not completely save your router if you have been infected with this malware. After rebooting, Stage 2 and Stage 3 of the components of VPNFilter – the most dangerous components – will be removed. However, Stage 1 will linger, meaning there is the potential for hackers to reinfect your router in the future. The FBI is currently working on ways of preventing this.

Source: zdnet.com – FBI to all router users: Reboot now to neuter Russia’s VPNFilter malware
Published: May 29, 2018

Echo device shares one family’s data without consent

“Unplug your Alexa devices right now. You’re being hacked.”

These were the frightening and urgent words a Portland, Oregon family received over the phone two weeks ago, after what the Toronto Star calls an “unlikely string of events” caused their Amazon Echo to record their private conversations and send them to an acquaintance in Seattle, all without consent.

The receiver of these recordings was an employee of the husband, and was also the person to alert them of the situation. This person was listed in the device’s contacts.

“My husband and I would joke and say, ‘I’d bet these devices are listening to what we’re saying,” said family-member, Danielle, to Washington news station, KIRO 7. Danielle and her husband were reasonably in disbelief when they found out about the incident. “At first, my husband was, like, ‘No, you didn’t!’ And the [recipient of the message] said, ‘You sat there talking about hardwood floors.’ And we said, ‘Oh, gosh, you really did hear us.”

Lots of people are nervous about AI and especially anything with recording capability. Danielle and her family are now among that group. She described her feeling of violation to KIRO 7, saying “I’m never plugging that device in again. I can’t trust it.”

So how did this happen?

Amazon said in a statement to The Post last on May 24th that the Echo  woke up upon hearing a word that sounded like Alexa. “The subsequent conversation was heard as a ‘send message’ request. At which point, Alexa said out loud ‘To whom?’ At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list.”

So there was no hack, but it certainly felt that way to the family. Amazon says it is “evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”

Source: thestar.com – Amazon Echo recorded, sent Oregon family’s conversation without consent
Published: May 24, 2018

Senators ask FCC to investigate their own identity fraud

FCC Schooley MitchellYou might remember that towards the end of 2017, millions of “fake net neutrality” comments were posted on the FCC’s website, with identical messages, that allegedly showed support of the FCC’s decision to overturn the Obama-era laws. Although the comments were pretty obviously made by bots, they used the identities of real people, including Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). Now, according to Engadget, Merkley and Toomey have penned a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, asking him to investigate the identity fraud.

In their letter, Merkley and Toomey said they were “among those whose identities were misused to express viewpoints [they] do not hold,” on the FCC’s previous proposals. These two senators would like the commission to identify who or what was behind the fake comment, as well as to “adopt safeguards to prevent the same incident from happening in the future,” says Engadget. They would also like the FCC to disclose the total number of fake comments, and to explain how it is working with the Department of Justice to determine if laws have been broken. They are also asking the FCC to answer how many of the posts were made by bots, and if the commission could implement a CAPTCHA feature in the future. Perhaps most seriously, they want to know if any foreign government was involved in the incident.

Merkley and Toomey should not be alone in their concern. When the FCC originally worked with the New York Attorney General’s Office in investigating the comments, it was revealed that as many as 2 million American identities were used in this fraud.

Merkley and Toomey have described the necessity of their bipartisan team-up; they believe that the comment process of legislation is “an essential part of [American] democracy” and therefore they have a duty to prevent “the deliberate misuse of Americans’ personal information.”

Source: engadget.com – Senators ask the FCC to investigate fake net neutrality comments
Published: May 22, 2018

Canadians pay the most in the world for telecom services

According to a new study by Rewheel, a specialist in mobile-data and marketing competition, Canadians face “some of the least competitive pricing… for their wireless plans.”

Rewheel’s study looked at how much data 30 Euros – or $46.13 CAD – buys in mobile broadband and smartphone plans in over 41 countries. Canada came last for mobile broadband, and 37th for smartphone plans, ahead of Greece, Korea, Hungary, and Malta.

This isn’t just a Canadian problem. North America in general is lagging behind Europe in a few ways. The study suggests that “Countries like Bulgaria and Lithuania are outperforming the United States and Canada by offering unlimited data.”

How can this change? In January of 2018, the CRTC was urged to hold a public inquiry into the telecom industry’s sales tactics. But can we ever reach a point where competition in Canada is as diverse as in the EU?

Source: news1130.com – Canadians paying most for data in developed world: report
Published: May 7, 2018