Posts tagged Consumer Champion
The new series of Rip Off Britain – series nine! – began on BBC1 this month and once I am on-hand as its resident technology expert.
Earlier this week, I spoke with Angela about how high-tech car criminals are able to hack their way past current keyless security systems. I also shared a few tips that may help concerned viewers prevent their cars being stolen. Here’s a quick taster:
Car crime has largely moved on from the coat hanger and hot-wire days of old, with crime rates decreasing by 80 percent since 1993 according to the Office for National Statistics. However, a new wave of tech-savvy car criminals is now making easy work of making off with many makes of car.
I’ve been following the high-tech car crime trend closely, trying to understand the ways in which criminals are able to bypass or subvert car keyless security systems – whether through signal amplification, wireless jamming or keyless code capture. Criminals often steal to order, targeting high-value vehicles that are driven to so-called ‘chop-shops’ and sold on for parts.
Next week I travel to Glasgow for BBC Rip Off Britain Live. I find the live shows particularly enjoyable because we are able to be responsive to news stories as they break. As such, I can’t say yet exactly which stories I’ll be covering, but I believe we’ll be discussing how the Internet of Things has made our homes vulnerable to hackers.
David McClelland joins the BBC X-Ray team for a photography summer special.
As regular visitors here may know, I’m a photography nut. Naturally, I was very excited to be asked to be part of the BBC One Wales X-Ray Summer Special on how to make the most of your camera. I was pleased too that a primetime TV show had dedicated its slot to talk about photos – after all, with smartphones in almost every pocket now, snapping photos is something that many of us do all the time.
On a blustery afternoon in late-spring, I arrived by train into the picturesque Welsh coastal town of Aberystwyth. Heading first for the seafront, and then to the Arts Centre, I spoke with presenter Lucy Owen about all manner of issues that might arise when taking pictures and sharing them online — even how to back them up:
The show also looks at how to take better pictures with your smartphone, how to get great footage while safely flying a drone, and how the National Library of Wales preserves its priceless collection of photos.
UK licence fee payers can watch the whole BBC One Wales X-Ray episode on BBC iPlayer.
I turned the internet’s air blue as I guested on this week’s Smashing Security podcast.
I’ve been listening to and enjoying the Smashing Security podcast since it began late last year.
So, I had no hesitation when Graham asked if I might appear as a guest on the show. I suspect he may hesitate before asking me again though…
Tasked with covering some of the week’s news, I quickly rounded on three sex stories:
- how the UK government plans to enforce age verification for sites serving adult content by April 2018
- how the owner of the Ashley Madison website has set aside $11 million to settle with disgruntled users following the 2015 data leak
- how one online adult service has introduced biometric authentication for male members
Needless to say, we covered the news with a professionalism befitting the material. Well, mostly. Hear for yourself:
To check out further episodes of the show, and to subscribe, visit the Smashing Security website.
This week I appeared on BBC1’s The One Show sharing advice on how parents can help their children to develop healthy habits when using smartphones and tablets.
I’m a dad, and like most parents, I feel as if I’m making it up as I go along – which, of course, I am. How I introduce my children to technology is no exception.
Understanding a little about how children develop, what their needs are at different ages, and how easily influenced they are by adults around them, can all help make sure that children – and their parents – have a happy relationship with gadgets.
Technology offers amazing opportunities but, for me, the old adage that ‘too much of a good thing is a bad thing’ stands as true with smartphones and tablets as it does with anything else.
The One Show is on BBC1 at 7pm most evenings, viewers in the UK with a television licence can watch here.
My feature on how to secure your Amazon Echo was published in TechRadar last week. Here is my take on why securing these intelligent home hubs is of vital importance.
Buttons are obsolete. Simply by conversing with my Alexa I can control my central heating and the lighting around my house and garden; I can buy products with my voice, check my personal calendar, set alarms or reminders, update my things to do list, read my favourite book or play any song, album or playlist on Spotify. With my voice.
Hear no Evil
The convenience this offers is staggering and, in a little over three months since I plugged it in and powered it on, my Amazon Echo has already changed many behaviours in our household. For the better? I think so. However…
With convenience comes compromise, especially when it comes to security. We should never be blinded by the utility of any new piece of technology.
I made one mistake in extolling the virtues of our Amazon Echo above. You see, all of these amazing things and more can be commanded not only with my voice, they can be asked by anybody’s voice.
Voice Recognition versus Speech Recognition
While Alexa has enviable speech recognition – the ability to understand and interpret natural language input by speech – she has yet to learn the skill of voice recognition. Often confused, voice recognition is the ability to uniquely distinguish between different people’s voices by analysing physical and behavioural characteristics.
With voice recognition Alexa would know whether it was me (ie authorised) ordering that Nintendo Switch console from Amazon Prime, or if it was my Mario Kart-loving daughter trying her luck (sorry, denied). Did I just ask Alexa for a 2am alarm call or was somebody outside my living room window attempting to play a prank?
Amazon has no plans to introduce voice recognition into the Amazon Echo just yet. Nevertheless, there are steps that Echo owners can take to make sure they enjoy the convenience of a virtual assistant without the worry of being woken up by a 2am prank alarm call.
Pop over to TechRadar to read my 8 top tips to lock down your Alexa.
In the US Black Friday follows Thanksgiving Thursday and, along with so-called Cyber Monday, has become one of the biggest days in the online shopping calendar. Inevitably it has become a big deal in the UK now too.
On Friday’s ITV Good Morning Britain I was in the studio sharing some tips on how to bag the best online Black Friday bargains.
Many Black Friday shopping tips apply equally to buying online around the rest of the year, but some peculiarities have emerged:
- Keep checking throughout the day. A large element of surprise and secrecy exists around Black Friday that retailers are keen to persist. Prices change, new deals get added and stocks are limited: it’s all part of a clever strategy to keep us interested throughout the day and coming back to their online stores. But that does mean that a good price at 8am might be even better by midday, but sold out by six. That’s the risk you take.
- Black Friday Pop-Up Portals: Comparison sites and aggregation tools are useful all year round, but on Black Friday dozens of pop-up sales portals appear on reputable websites. Which to choose? If you’re shopping for gadgets and technology (always a big deal over this weekend) then take a look at the website of popular gadget magazines or online titles – referrals and traffic mean Black Friday is great business for them too, and many have journalists locked in a room all day hunting down the best deals so you don’t have to.
- Is it really a bargain? It’s worth pointing out that some retailers don’t play fair – research by Which? found many so-called Black Friday bargains were anything but, with prices cheaper both before and after the shopping bonanza weekend. Websites like camelcamelcamel.com (I’ve no idea…) keep track of prices over a period of time to let you see how the price you on offer today compares with the price over, say, the last twelve months.
It goes without saying to watch out for scams though phishing, smishing and malvertising, be aware of your rights and consider paying by credit card for the best consumer protection.
A final thought:
- Don’t let Black Friday Frenzy take over. Remember this is essentially a bit of fun – the worst that can happen is that we pay full price for something or don’t buy it at all. Part of the fun of the whole experience is the thrill of chasing a bargain but your life absolutely does not depend on it. Keep it in perspective and if the fun stops then switch off your computer, switch on the kettle and make a cup of Black Friday tea.
On BBC Watchdog tonight I appear in an item highlighting gaping holes in home food delivery service Deliveroo’s security and fraud prevention systems.
Victims of so-called ‘Deliveroo fraud’ report having their credit and debit cards emptied of many hundreds of pounds on food and drink orders they never placed, to addresses many hundreds of miles from where they live.
Deliveroo’s standard response to claims of a security breach has left those affected with a bitter taste in their mouths, suggesting victims look to their own security failings instead.
The first a victim knows of the fraud is when they receive an email from Deliveroo confirming an order has been placed.
Deliveroo insists that its own systems have not been the subject of a hack or data breach; instead, the firm advises that customers should not reuse passwords and usernames across multiple online accounts.
Sound advice on its own, but a critical mass of Deliveroo victims all suffering the same fraud might suggest that Deliveroo should look again at its own security measures.
- Smart fraud prevention mechanisms, if present at all, appear to be ineffectual here. Purchases that are so out of character – such as those highlighted in the show – should easily be picked up by automated systems and subjected to additional verification.
- Similarly, a change of delivery address should also trigger additional verification – a PIN sent to the account holder’s smartphone, for example.
- Deliveroo chooses not to authenticate customer card payments with a CVV2 code.
The Card Verification Value is one of the names given for the additional security numbers printed on the signature strip or front of the card. Deliveroo is far from the only retailer to forego ‘card not present’ security – Amazon, with its 1-click purchase, is another. However, this lack of verification allows fraudsters to place orders on credit cards that are not theirs with no challenge at all.
Deliveroo’s light touch on security can be put down to one thing: sales. Here’s how skimping on security benefits Deliveroo’s bottom line:
- When we buy something, the more hoops we have to jump through to make that purchase, the more likely we’ll drop out and go somewhere else.
- Understandably Deliveroo wants to make placing an order with them as simple a process as possible by cutting out as many hoops as it can.
- However, some of those hoops are there for reasons of security; in removing those, Deliveroo is not only making it easier for its customers to place an order, it’s making it easier for them to be defrauded.
Among the topics I cover in this series of Rip Off Britain: Live on BBC1 is speech recognition. In Tuesday’s show I went to Liverpool to investigate how viewers are talking to their tech to help make their everyday lives easier.
According to researchers at Stanford University we can talk three times faster – and with 20% more accuracy – than we can type or swipe on a mobile phone.
Proof that it’s good to talk, right?
It was no surprise, however, to find that many I spoke with were initially sceptical about the effectiveness of speech recognition. But I had a hunch that their lack of confidence was misplaced, with judgements on poor comprehension based on older generations of the technology.
Our day of filming in and around Liverpool proved my point: I found that Apple’s intelligent personal assistant Siri was better than even I was at comprehending commands, irrespective of accent or background noise.
Speech recognition technology – and Siri is far from the only or even the best example at present – has now reached a level of useful maturity. What is needed next to help more to benefit from it is further accessibility and behavioural change.
In the main Rip Off Britain series in September I also took a look at how voice biometrics are being used by major service providers as an authentication factor to make logins to our online accounts safer, simpler and more secure.
Check out further clips from this series of Rip Off Britain here on the BBC website.