On BBC Radio 4 Money Box Live today I spoke about the jaw-dropping rise of the video game industry – and the human and financial impact on those who play.
The numbers behind video gaming may come as a surprise to many: with a revenue of around $150 billion worldwide in 2019, video gaming dwarfs Hollywood ($43 billion) and the music industry ($19 billion) combined – as it has for the last decade.
Yet many of the industry’s leading video games are billed as “free”. 2019’s biggest title, Fortnite, earned publisher Epic Games $1.8 billion despite not charging to download or play.
How? Welcome to a colourful world of in-game purchases where virtual coins, currencies, power-ups and “loot boxes” make the digital worlds go round.
Altogether less welcome are the stories of addictive behaviour, debt and theft we heard from Money Box Live listeners today.
I’m not anti-video games – far from it, I play Fortnite on my iPad, was (once) a whizz on Pro Evo and enjoy fewer things more than a round of Mario Kart with my kids.
But what concerns me is an unregulated gaming industry that makes hundreds of billions of pounds yet frequently shirks its responsibilities around duty of care, refuses to acknowledge its game mechanics – yes, loot boxes, among others – are gambling in all but name, and misses opportunities to put controls in place to protect younger and vulnerable gamers.
Keen to make sure your family enjoys video games safely responsibly? Here are two excellent resources:
When I first spoke about Deliveroo scams for BBC Watchdog in 2016, I had hoped the fast food delivery service would have taken away some tips on how to keep its customers’ accounts safe from fraudsters.
Yet here we are in 2019 and once again I’m investigating – this time for The One Show – why Deliveroo can’t seem to be able to keep its customers’ accounts secure.
Three years on and it seems little has changed at Deliveroo HQ.
Desperate Deliveroo customers are still finding orders being placed without their consent and delivered to addresses they know nothing about. Victims are still discovering that their email address is being changed, passwords updated, payment details changed, refunds issued – and even their name changed – without any apparent verification or controls.
Deliveroo vehemently denies that its own systems have been hacked. Instead it deflects responsibility back to its customers, admonishing them for reusing passwords across multiple online services.
Deliveroo: You Get Stuffed
Deliveroo claims that criminals are using “credential stuffing” attacks to take over customer accounts. It says usernames and passwords leaked from other online services are used to try and log in to Deliveroo accounts. Because many of us use the same passwords for multiple services, this can be a fruitful method of attack for criminals looking to hijack others’ accounts.
In my opinion, this victim-blaming doesn’t let Deliveroo off the hook. Other online services also acknowledge that these kind of attacks take place – and take further sensible precautions to protect their users.
One method used by many online services to add an extra layer of security is two-factor authentication. With “2FA”, a text message containing a one-off security passcode is sent to the account owner’s smartphone. It works because even if a hacker has identified a potential victim’s username and password, it’s unlikely they will have access to their smartphone too.
Fixing Deliveroo’s Fraud Problem
At the time of writing, Deliveroo does not ask customers to validate updates made to their account. A change of email, new delivery address, payment details, even name – I mean, how often do you change your name? – go unchallenged by Deliveroo’s security systems. Yes, an email advising of a change is sent after the event, but by then it’s often too late for victims.
Adding an additional security step like this for significant or out-of-character account activities would, it seems to me, stem much of the fraud Deliveroo customers have been facing.
Deliveroo does say that it employs advanced machine learning technology to catch fraud. However, with its algorithms failing to identify seemingly bizarre patterns of behaviour, it appears that Deliveroo’s computer all too rarely says no.
During the investigation I discovered tutorials shared by hackers on how to break in to Deliveroo accounts – and other services such as Netflix, Spotify or Amazon Prime Video – many hidden online in plain sight. I saw the encrypted chat rooms where hijacked user accounts are bought, sold and requested in bulk.
I also found evidence of fraudulent Deliveroo shop-fronts that offer hefty discounts for ordering through them instead of directly with Deliveroo. These middle-men place orders on behalf of their clients using hijacked Deliveroo accounts, funded with victims’ details, stolen credit cards or refunded credit. They are paid a cut of the order value – typically 30 percent – using tough-to-trace cryptocurrencies.
On the surface, takeaway food crime may appear low-key – but there’s clearly more here than meets the eye.
My advice for Deliveroo customers is this:
- Use password manager software to create and store long, strong, unique passwords for your online accounts – including Deliveroo – that will be almost impossible for a hacker to guess. There is no such thing as infallible security, but in my opinion a password manager is the best choice you can make right now.
- For those accounts that support it – and there’s a long list of major online services do – enable two-factor authentication. Here’s hoping that, one day, Deliveroo joins that list.
Finally, and most important of all, if you don’t trust an online service to keep your account, your personal information or your payment details safe, then vote with your feet and use another service.
The new series of BBC Rip Off Britain kicks off this week and once again I’m helping to shine a light on the digital shams and scams that have been plaguing viewers across the country.
Such as this one, where Facebook fraudsters buy or cultivate pages with thousands of likes, then rename the page and clone their victim’s shopfront before defrauding their customers:
It can be difficult for shoppers to know which pages are real and which are fakes.
For this film I created an almost identical clone of the BBC Rip Off Britain Facebook page within a matter of minutes. It’s also a challenge for owners of Facebook pages who feel can powerless to stop scammers ripping off both their business and their customers
My advice for Facebook page owners – and for visitors to those pages – is to look out for Facebook verification badges. These grey or blue ticks alongside the profile name indicate that the page has been vetted by Facebook, with official documentation provided in some cases, and can reasonably be expected to be the real deal. Page owners can request a grey tick by following Facebook’s verification process.
To find out more about this – and other digital rip offs – tune in to BBC1, weekdays 9.15 to 10.00am or watch on-demand on BBC iPlayer.
The weekly podcast takes a lighter look at the serious business of cyber security, and I appear to have been pigeon-holed as the show’s resident cyber-sex reporter. Oh well.
In last week’s episode I reported on AgeID, the latest attempt by a leading adult-content outlet to adhere to the UK’s upcoming age verification legislation which seeks to protect under-18s from accessing explicit online material.
We’ve never had so many people download an episode of the “Smashing Security” podcast as quickly as our latest one:
“Hijacked homes, porn passports, and ransomware regret”
— Graham Cluley (@gcluley) March 19, 2019
Clearly, there are a lot of challenges with this piece of law – practically, technically and morally – which is why the UK government has struggled with guidance and deadlines. At the time of writing, we’re still no clearer when the go-live date will be or how effective any block may prove.
Also in the episode we ask when it makes sense to pay off that ransomware fee, and uncover the ‘$150 million mansion hijack’.
Tap here to catch the full episode, or find it in your favourite podcast player.
What a super time at The Photography Show in Birmingham this week.
Tens of thousands of visitors, hundreds of cracking cameras and dozens of the world’s most inspirational photographers.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked on The Photography Show since it began in 2014. This year, as well as hosting the show’s pop-up TV channel, I was thrilled to be asked to deliver some workshops on mobile journalism and mobile content creation – an area I’ve also been involved in for a long time.
In one workshop I covered the basic principles of mobile journalism apps and workflow; in another I set up a mobile-only multi-camera studio, perfect to live stream blogs, podcasts, radio shows, panel discussions and more.
Yet my favourite parts of the show are the fireside chats with photographers; it’s a privilege to be able to speak with industry legends such as David Bailey, Martin Parr, Sebastiao Salgado and – above – leading fashion and beauty photographer and all-round inspiring person, Lindsay Adler.
Watch Photography Show TV on demand here.
Mobile World Congress (MWC) is where the world’s mobile industry meets.
An enormous event attracting over 100,000 visitors, MWC sets the agenda for the technology that impacts our lives the most.
This year, working with the show’s official broadcast outlet, we were challenged to produce a daily hour-long TV show that captured the energy, creativity and invention of MWC’s startup-focused event, 4YFN.
The result – The 4 Years from Now Show – achieved all that and more, with top quality broadcast output that surfaced the scale and spirit of the show.
We spoke with startups applying robotics, AI and blockchain to solve real-world challenges; we chatted biohacking, transhumanism and brainwave modulation with experts and practitioners; we even tried a sleep robot, a connected cat litter tray and a post-workout training shoe drying and sterilising device.
Individual packages from the show are now available on demand over at Mobile World Live TV.
Last weekend I was in Cannes at the iconic InterContinental Carlton Hotel to host the TV industry’s Content Innovation Awards 2018.
The awards fall on the eve of MIPCOM TV, the annual television industry marketplace in which networks from around the world buy and sell the shows we watch.
Categories at this year’s awards included best entertainment format, best use of social media, best VR project as well as recognition for outstanding contribution in the industry.
Here’s a taste of the evening:
It was my first time in Cannes, and I had a terrific time at the awards helping the industry to celebrate its successes. I’m very grateful to the team at Informa, Television Business International and Digital TV Europe for asking me to host this year’s prestigious event.
Earlier this year on BBC Rip Off Britain I reported on how Martin ‘Money Saving Expert’ Lewis had found himself the unwitting face of adverts for bitcoin and cryptocurrency get-rich-quick schemes.
Understandably angry, Martin embarked upon a public campaign – and legal proceedings against Facebook – to make it clear that he in no way endorses any of these schemes.
Then, last week, I began receiving messages asking about a bitcoin scheme that I was apparently supporting. A quick web search and scan of social media revealed that it was my turn to be the face of dodgy cryptocurrency money-making schemes:
To be absolutely clear: these adverts are fake. In no way do I endorse any bitcoin or cryptocurrency money-making schemes. And as for me making ‘millions of pounds every month’? I’m still working on it.
The photos are genuine, though not the captions. The irony is that the scammers now using my face in those fake ads had the cheek to come to my website to steal the images.
There’s also an entire website now dedicated to my endorsement of the so-called trading platform. It goes so far as to provide a fabricated transcript of a conversation between me and Susanna in which I explain how the scheme works.
When I perform a web search on some phrases on the site, I find it’s identical to another site on the web in which Martin Lewis is the proponent.
It’s desperately frustrating that my face may now be helping to rip people off, and that there’s little I can do to stop it from happening.
However, what I can do is to help spread the word that these adverts should not be taken at face value. Also, steer well clear of any get-rich-quick schemes like these – whoever appears to be endorsing it. And be very cautious of any screenshot of a new story – they’re very easy to fake.
Recently, I shared some tips on how to spot fake adverts.