Cyber Attack update

Following events of the cyber attack on the NHS it has come to light this was on a global scale, and the effects to some degree could have been minimised. What wasn’t know on the previous post a couple of days back was the extent or the nature of the attack.

The attack was global, not just on the UK with at least 100 countries being affected, in the UK it was NHS systems, in Spain the utility companies, so no  real theme.

The nature of the attack is known as ransomware. This is where a virus attacks the computer and encrypts files. They will only be unlocked again after a payment. This particular code was already known to exist, a security update – or patch – was released by Microsoft in March to protect against the virus, but it appears many NHS organisations had not applied it or were using an older version of the operating system no longer supported – namely Windows XP. ( support for Windows XP finally ended in 2014.

Why was the NHS in particular a target? The size of the NHS can make it difficult to keep track that all patches have been correctly applied. Next, the NHS still use outdated operating system, Windows XP. The implications fro staying with the are clearly laid out on the webpage.

Every 2nd Tuesday of every month (known as Patch Tuesday) Microsoft puts out a series of patches which may be inconvenient, but important and should not be ignored. I have already written here before about the importance of keeping updates running and installing these when they become available. The particular cause of this attack already had a security patch deployed to many computers, almost 2 months previous to the attack.

This attack may be the first of many, so it is time now to get prepared.

Loyal Customers penalised on broadband costs

Does your broadband costs suddenly jump after an introductory deal ends? Citizens Advice has said that the cheapest broadband prices increase by an average of 43% or £113 a year.

Many customers were unaware of the price increases. The rises amount to a “loyalty penalty” for customers who stay with the same provider, Citizens Advice said. The £113 figure represents a five-fold rise on what customers were paying on average in 2011 to stay on the same broadband deal.

Four of the five biggest internet service providers had these “loyalty penalties”:

  • BT 12 month contract: £198 (67% increase)
  • Sky 12 months: £120 (53% increase)
  • EE 18 months: £90 (36% increase)
  • TalkTalk 24 months: £66 (28% increase)

Virgin Media’s 12 month plan was the only one that didn’t impose a loyalty penalty when the initial term of the contract ended.

Add into this how broadband suppliers have increased their prices:

BT ,Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk have all put up their prices in the past 12 months.


WhatsApp to be free


Internet communication application WhatsApp is now free to use. For the last few years, you’ve had to pay a subscription after 12 months. But the company says that fee is being scrapped immediately.

It costs around 69p-a-year, but if you’ve just paid it, you won’t get a refund.

WhatsApp  is owned by Facebook, already has one billion users and the company hopes this move will bring in even more people.


Friend Reunited to Close

Launched in 2000 one of UKs first social networking sites, Friends Reunited is closing. After being sold in 2005 the site went into decline, and despite being taken over again by its originators it could not recover it’s previous usage against the giant Facebook.

Although Friends Reunited is closing, the founder, Steve Parkhurst is opening a completely new service called Liife. Liife is all about capturing key moments in life – both the past and the present. And then sharing them with just the important people who actually took part in those moments, perhaps incorporating some of Friends Reunited features?



BT gets go-ahead to takeover EE

After weeks of speculation the Competition and Markets Authority has given the all clear to BT to take over Britain’s largest mobile phone network EE. The Competition and Markets Authority saying the deal will not hurt mobile phone or broadband customers.

EE was previously formed from the mobile operators T-Mobile and Orange, and currently operates within the mobile phone and broadband markets. The takeover will give BT the “quad” of products – landline, mobile phone, broadband, TV.

BT said it would issue a formal prospectus for the deal in the last week of January, with the takeover scheduled to close on 29 January. Deutsche Telekom and Orange will own 12% and 4% of BT respectively once the deal has been completed.



Netflix cracks down on Proxies

Video streaming has become a huge part of our lives, whether it’s catch up or watch movies on demand this is here to stay. There are a number of suppliers from the terrestrial TV companies, to the dedicated streaming services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix.

Today the BBC has reported that Netflix is goings stop subscribers using internet proxies to view content not available in their own countries.

A proxy server is a computer system that acts as in intermediate node between computer users (clients) and other servers. These servers can provide anonymity for users, including making the user appear in a different location (the location of the proxy server). By using a mechanism like this users (for example ex-pats) can still appear to be in the UK whilst in reality they are overseas, thus allowing them to access internet resources as if they were in the UK.