New number spoofing scam warning by fraudsters

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Thursday, October 30, 2014

A new smartphone scam – known as number spoofing – is getting millions of pounds for fraudsters consumers are being warned.
New number spoofing scam warning by fraudstersFinancial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK) said the scam has become increasingly common in recent weeks.

Typically criminals fool people into thinking they are talking to their bank, or the police, on the phone. To help gain the target’s trust, they display a fake number on the phone’s caller ID screen.

They then persuade the victim to hand over details of their bank account, or passwords, or suggest that they move money to keep it safe.

Using those personal details, they then steal money from that person’s account. Frequently it is businesses which are being targeted, as well as some well-off individuals.

“There’s a big surge in criminals using this,” said an FFA UK spokesman.

He said they had seen hundreds of such cases, with some companies losing as much as a million pounds.

When indulging in phone “spoofing”, criminals will often draw attention to the number that is showing on the recipient’s screen. Officials warn people to watch out for such odd behaviour, as it is a big clue that something is wrong.

“Remember that if a caller is trying to draw your attention to the number on your phone display, it’s very unlikely the call is genuine as there is no legitimate reason to point it out,” said Craig Jones of the FFA.

The technology being used has existed for a number of years, but fraudsters have only recently started using it.

“It’s not difficult for the criminals to fake a caller ID,” said Mr Jones.

Earlier this month some of Britain’s High Street banks launched a campaign to warn consumers about the dangers of “vishing” – otherwise known as voice phishing.

That is when fraudsters telephone victims, to try to get them to give out details of their accounts. The campaign listed eight things a bank will never ask its customers to do, including asking for details of PINs or passwords.

They list eight things a bank will never do:

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Bank of England probes payment system crash

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Monday, October 20, 2014

The Bank of England has launched an official probe after a key payment system that transfers billions of pounds between banks was suspended.
Bank of England probes payment system crashThe technical fault affected the CHAPS electronic payment system. The system is used to move large amounts around the financial system.

It is also used by solicitors at the end of the house-buying process, so some movers were stuck for hours because sales could not be completed.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney said he had launched “a thorough, independent review” into the problem. “The review will cover the causes of the incident, the effectiveness of the Bank’s response and the lessons learned for future contingency plans,” the Bank said in a statement.

An institution was added to the Bank’s Real-Time Gross Settlement system, which underpins CHAPS, at the weekend which created a problem when it was supposed to restart on Monday. It normally operates between 0600 and 1600 on weekdays.

The system was down until about 1600 but a statement suggested all payments should now be processed by the end of the day.

“To help customers and to ensure payments can be processed today CHAPS is extending its operating times until 1940 BST. Customers are advised to contact their own bank for any queries they may have on their specific payments,” said a CHAPS statement.

There are about 5,000 homes bought a day in the UK on average, although Friday is the most popular moving day. About 3,000 completions were expected during the day.

The CHAPS system moves billions of pounds every day between Britain’s main banks and building societies. The latest figures show that in 2013 it was used to process an average daily total of 138,000 payments with a combined value of £277 billion.

It is used to move money around the financial system, mainly for very high-value payments. It is used for short-term lending between financial institutions, foreign exchange and derivative-related payments. In 2012-13 the average payment was £2.1 million, but 78% of payments were below £100,000.

The highest ever settlement figure in one day was for £446 billion on 28 September, 2007, during the early part of the financial crisis.

Sometimes it is used by individuals who, for example, want to buy a high value car and need to make a same day, guaranteed payment. There is a charge of about £25 or £30 for an individual who wants to use the system, and the payment generally needs to be made by 1500.

Jonathan Smithers, vice president of the Law Society, said: “It is critical for solicitors to have access to this system for house sales and purchases and many other commercial transactions that rely on a payments scheme that processes and settles important and time-dependent payments in sterling.

“We are talking to the relevant bodies to see if we can obtain some understanding of why the system has failed and assurances that this will not occur again.”

Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Commons Treasury Committee, said: “A crucial part of the UK’s financial infrastructure failed for several hours. I will be writing to the Bank of England to find out why.

“The whole economy depends on a reliable payment system. We need to have confidence that the cause has been found and addressed.”

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Google v Amazon- rivalry grows

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Friday, October 17, 2014

Google chairman Eric Schmidt has said the firm’s biggest rival in online search is Amazon.
Google v Amazon- rivalry growsMr Schmidt fought back at claims that Google enjoyed unrivalled dominance of the online search market.

“Many people think our main competition is Bing or Yahoo. But, really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon,” he said in a speech in Berlin.

Google is in the middle of a European Union probe into its search engine after anti-trust complaints.

In February, it avoided paying what could have resulted in billions in fines when it agreed to give equal standing to rival services such as Microsoft in its search results.

But Mr Schmidt pointed out that competition in the online world “isn’t always like-for-like”.

“People don’t think of Amazon as search, but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon,” he said. “They are obviously more focused on the commerce side of the equation, but, at their roots, they are answering users’ questions and searches, just as we are.”

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has been in the news recently for moves beyond its core e-commerce business.

In August, it bought live-streaming gaming network Twitch Interactive for about £603 million, marking the biggest acquisition in its 20 year history. Google was earlier reported to be in talks to buy Twitch.

However, even though Google holds the dominant position – accounting for more than 90% of the online search market – Mr Schmidt said he was still wary of the “next Google”.

“Someone, somewhere in a garage is gunning for us. I know, because not long ago we were in that garage. Change comes from where you least expect it,” he added.

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Is oil price crash secret US war on Russia?

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lower oil prices- leading to falling petrol prices have been great for Western consumers but are they also a secret US weapon against Russia?

Is oil price crash secret US war on Russia?That’s the conclusion drawn by New York Times columnist Thomas L Friedman, who says the US and Saudi Arabia, whether by accident or design, could be pumping Russia and Iran to brink of economic collapse.

Despite turmoil in many of the world’s oil-producing countries – Libya, Iraq, Nigeria and Syria – prices are hitting lows not seen in years, Friedman writes.

Analysts identify a number of possible reasons for the steep drop – increased US production, slowing economies in Europe and China and steady production from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec).

Rather than look at the causes, however, Friedman says to look at the result – budget shortfalls in Russia and Iran – and what it means.

Who benefits? He asks. The US wants its Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia to have more bite. Both the Saudis and the US are fighting a proxy war against Iran in Syria.

“This is business, but it also has the feel of war by other means: oil,” he writes.

As for Iran, he writes, an oil price of anything less than $100 (£62.41) a barrel will create onerous budget deficits and undermine the nation’s position in ongoing nuclear negotiations with the West. The closing price on Wednesday was $81.40.

One can only hope that the oil sheikhs will come to their senses, curtail production and stabilize prices at least at $90 per barrel”In Russia, the media have taken notice.

“The Russian economy’s dependence on energy resources, gas and oil first and foremost, is often compared to drug addiction; people say that it is ‘on the oil needle’,” write the editors of Nezavisimaya Gazeta (translated by BBC Monitoring).

“In this case, dealings to decrease oil prices on the global market can justifiably be compared to triggering agonies that are no less painful than withdrawal from a drug. And this is being done with obvious geopolitical aims to undermine the country’s economy and its influence on the global arena.”

Nikolay Makeyev and Konstantin Smirnov write in Moskovskiy Komsomolets that they fear a more severe replay of the 2008-09 economic crisis: “One can only hope that the oil sheikhs will come to their senses, curtail production and stabilise prices at least at $90 per barrel.”

Friedman’s neo-Cold War theories aren’t the only speculation making the rounds at the moment, however. For some analysts, the oil drop has everything to do with increased US production threatening Saudi Arabia’s standing as the pre-eminent oil-producing nation.

That’s changed, however, with the 70% increase in US production over the last six years.

What’s clear is that the sharp drop in oil prices is creating very distinct winners and losers on the world stage. What’s not so clear is who, if anyone, is pulling the strings.

It’s human nature to speculate about the schemes of behind-the-scenes players when the stakes are so high. It can also be comforting – a much preferable alternative to a system where the health of nations is determined by the random permutations of fate and the chaotic fluctuations of an uncontrollable market.

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Online music videos to have age ratings

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Prime Minister has announced a scheme to put age ratings on online music videos.

Online music videos to have age ratings

David Cameron mentioned it during a speech about families and admits he has banned his own children from watching certain content online.

Only three of the major UK record labels- Sony, Warner and Universal have signed up to the scheme, alongside YouTube and Vevo and will begin in October with the British Board of Classification.

Parents and celebrities have often spoken out about music videos, calling many overtly sexual and lyrics too explicit. In 2011 Gary Barlow, a father to three children, criticised “sexual” imagery in many videos.

Singer Katy B who is signed to Columbia Records told Newsbeat she thinks the ratings move is a good idea.

“I think that’s amazing. I think it’s good. I don’t know why they haven’t done that sooner,” she said. “I think that people should be able to express themselves the way that they want to.”

Because artists like Rihanna, Beyonce and Miley Cyrus are signed to the American arm of the big labels, they will not be included in the new age classifications.

The body which represents the UK’s biggest record labels- the BPI, says it agrees with the government that “content is made available to the public in a responsible way”.

“The BPI and its members are therefore working with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), Digital Service Providers (DSPs) and with the support of government on a pilot scheme that will trial age ratings for music videos released online through the UK”.

How it will work is still being developed, but the scheme will see UK record labels voluntarily provide content which will then be rated suitable for 12 or above.

The classification age categories will be 12, 15 or 18.

The BPI goes on: “Labels will then include this data with a ‘parental advisory’ style alert in its feed to the Digital Service Providers so that users, including parents, can make a more informed viewing decision.”

Vevo have signed up to the pilot but in March 2012 but doubted that such a system could work as  many American artists- known for being racier will not be certified.

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The dangers of the Connected Home

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Monday, August 18, 2014

The Internet of Things (IoT)  lets us communicate and connect via a myriad of different technologies.

The dangers of the Connected HomeThe IoT promises to  let stuff, devices and gadgets connect in the same way that humans do via the internet.

Already it is possible to get smart thermostats, fridges, ovens, washing machines, air conditioners, lights, plugs, music players, baby monitors and many more gadgets.

With a net connected oven, it will be possible to ensure your casserole is cooked to perfection as you arrive home hours late rather than dried up and cold because there was no way to communicate with the oven and adjust its timer.

However security- or rather the lack of it is the serious problem.

One of the big issues is that if one wi-fi video camera for example makes itself available to the internet regardless of your firewall, anyone who knows your IP address would be greeted with the login screen for the camera.

With one camera recently tested, entering a default login name and password granted access to the images and sounds the device was capturing. There was no prompt to change these credentials to protect privacy.

Statistics gathered via the Shodan search engine, which catalogues devices and industrial equipment attached to the net, suggests there are more than 120,000 of just this one poorly protected gadget online already.

It was hard to know how many were giving strangers a look into homes up and down the country, they said, as there was no legal and ethical way to probe them.

The vulnerabilities in the devices emerge from the very basic web server software it uses to post images online. That insecure software is currently being used by more than five million gadgets that are also already online.

Researchers from NCC Group managed to take control of several different devices including smart plugs that can be controlled via wi-fi, a wireless music system and a blu-ray DVD player.

The NCC Group said vulnerabilities in a widely used networking system called UPnP helped his team take control of these devices.

UPnP was known to be vulnerable and kits already exist, one of which was written by an NCC Group researcher, that look for devices that use the networking protocol and try different vulnerabilities against them.

Many of the devices used UPnP to reach servers out on the wider net potentially exposing them to attackers.

Built-in passwords that could not be changed made these ripe for exploitation.

Gaining control of these devices was likely to annoy people more than anything else but other work by the company had exposed a more worrying aspect.

“The one that people really get concerned about is the microphone on a smart TV,” he said. “We were able to bug a living room through it. That’s when the internet of things starts to spook people out,” he said. “when your stuff does more than you think it does or ever wanted it to.”

The work that Microsoft and other PC software vendors were doing to harden their code was already making dedicated cyber criminals look elsewhere for targets.

The “ridiculously easy” way it was possible to subvert many smart gadgets was likely to make them a candidate for attack in the near future. There had already been examples of attackers looking to subvert domestic hardware in a bid to grab online banking data.

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World’s first smartphone is 20 years old

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Friday, August 15, 2014

IBM’s Simon Personal Communicator was the forerunner of the modern smartphone.

World's first smartphone is 20 years oldThe IBM Simon went on sale to the public on 16 August 1994 and combined mobile phone technology with a wide range of computing features.

To mark the 20th anniversary, London’s Science Museum is putting it on display in its new Information Age gallery.

“The Simon wasn’t called a smartphone back then,” said curator Charlotte Connelly. “But it had a lot of the features we see today. It had a calendar, it could take notes and send emails and messages and combined all of this with a cell phone.”

Weighing 1.1lb, the Simon was not exactly pocket-sized. However, Ms Connelly insisted the design was ahead of its time.  “It looks like a grey block but it’s not as big as you’d imagine,” she said. “It had a stylus and a green LCD screen, which is similar in size to the iPhone 4. In fact, it’s not a bad looking thing.”

IBM’s pioneering product was also the first mobile phone to feature software apps and could be linked up to a fax machine.

It was only available to customers in the United States, operating within a 15 state network and sold around 50,000 models.

The device was particularly popular with members of the business community, who craved a transportable phone that doubled up as a mini-computer.

However, a hefty price tag and limited battery life contributed to its eventual disappearance from the market around two years after its launch.

“It only had an hour’s battery, it was $899 and there was no mobile internet at the time. So it wasn’t very successful,” said Ms Connelly.

The Simon will go on display this October as part of the Information Age exhibition – the first permanent gallery in the UK dedicated to the history of communication and information technology.

More than 800 objects will be on display, illustrating how far communication has come over the past 200 years.

Ms Connelly said the exhibition also acts as a reminder of a different era, free from constant connectivity.

“It does remind us of that time. I definitely enjoy getting away from things and deliberately disconnecting myself,” she said. “There’s something quite nice about that.”

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UK online spending up by 16% according to Ofcom

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Monday, December 23, 2013

UK shoppers’ online spending increased on average by 16% per person in 2012 compared to 2011- according to the latest data from Ofcom.UK online spending up by 16% according to OfcomThe figures show that the average spend was £1,175 compared to £1,017 the year before. The figure is more than double the average spend per head of other countries in the survey.

According to Ofcom’s research, shoppers in the UK trust online retailers more than shoppers in other countries. The research also suggested that UK online shoppers have greater confidence in the security of the sites they buy from.

Ofcom’s research for online shopping was based on data from IMRG, the industry association for online retail sites.

Ofcom’s annual International Communications Market Report indicates that UK consumers benefit from cheaper access to mobile phones, landline and broadband deals than customers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the US.

The proportion of household income spent on communications deals in the UK was 2.3%, compared to 2.5% in the US and 3.4% in Germany, the report said.

“Consumers in the UK are benefiting from one of the world’s most price competitive marketplaces for communication services,” said Ofcom’s director of research, James Thickett.

“Telecoms bills have been falling in real terms in the UK for the past ten years. However, consumers are not just benefiting from cheaper deals – they are also getting much more for less, as the quality and range of telecoms services has expanded hugely in that time,” he added.

Additionally, researchers asked survey respondents if they were aware of 4G mobile services.  The UK had the highest proportion of people who knew about faster mobile speeds, it found. This was unsurprising, given the high level of advertising around this service at the current time, said Ofcom.

If your website needs help with maximising it’s online mobile sales, then please contact us now:
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GCHQ and NSA tracking billions of mobile phones

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Almost five billion mobile phone location records are logged by GCHQ and NSA every day according to reports the Washington Post.GCHQ and NSA tracking billions of mobile phonesThe data is said to help the NSA track individuals, and map who they know, to aid the agency’s anti-terror work.

The “dragnet surveillance” was condemned by digital rights groups who called for the NSA’s snooping efforts to be reined in.

The huge database built up by the “Five Eyes”- the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand keeps an eye on “hundreds of millions” of mobile phones, said the Post, adding that it let the agency map movements and relationships in ways that were “previously unimaginable”.

It added that the vast programme potentially surpassed any other NSA project in terms of its impact on privacy. Information about the programme was in papers released to the Post by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The spying agency is said to have accumulated so much data, about 27 terabytes according to leaked papers seen by the Post, that it was “outpacing” the NSA’s ability to analyse the information in a timely fashion.

The analysis, via a computer system called Co-Traveler, was necessary as only a tiny fraction of 1% of the data gathered was actually useful in its anti-terror work, said the paper. The analysis is so detailed that it can be used to thwart attempts to hide from scrutiny by people who use disposable phones or only use a handset briefly before switching it off.

The vast majority of the information gathered is said to come from taps installed on mobile phone networks and used the basic location-information that networks log as people move around. Analysing this data helps the NSA work out which devices are regularly in close proximity and, by implication, exposes a potential connection between the owners of those handsets.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it was “staggering” that the NSA could mount such a vast location-logging system without any public debate. The “dragnet surveillance” broke US obligations that require it to respect the privacy of foreigners and Americans.

“The government should be targeting its surveillance at those suspected of wrong-doing, not assembling massive associational databases that, by their very nature, record the movements of a huge number of innocent people,” it added.

Dyenamic Solutions cautions that it isn’t just governments that are snooping on you- don’t forget that Facebook, Google and Apple are watching your every post as well.

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Ethics of blocking ads debated

By Simon Dye - Last updated: Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Is it ethical to block adverts online- or are the ads intrusive?
Ethics of blocking ads debatedAccording to one count, 84% of the top 100 websites in the world rely on advertising to generate revenue, utilising the now long-established trade-off: use our website for free, but you need to look at some ads while you do it.

On traditional mediums such as TV and radio, advertising has over time developed into a form of entertainment itself.

But online, evidence suggests we’re far less forgiving. Adblock Plus, the most popular adblocking program on the market, has been downloaded 250 million times, and has around 60 million active users.

Adblock Plus sees its “mission” as being to encourage advertisers, and the websites that carry their material, to rethink how those ads work – minimising discomfort for internet users.

Yet an increasing number of people are questioning whether Adblock Plus’s software is unfairly using its powerful position not just to encourage better ads, but also to build a quite considerable revenue stream of its own.

It’s no understatement to say that most online publishers or advertisers have little time for Adblock Plus – and recently that annoyance has stepped up a notch. Descriptions like “extortion”, “protection racket” and “like the mafia” are all terms being voiced to describe the operation.

Where initially Adblock Plus would block all advertising, it now operates using a whitelist – a collection of, so far, around 150 sites and services whose ads are allowed through the filter.

To get on this whitelist, the advertising has to meet several fairly strict criteria: no animations, don’t get in the way of reading text, and don’t take up more than a third of a page’s width, plus various other things.

Sensible parameters on the face of it, but here’s the rub: for “big” companies that want to be on the whitelist, Adblock Plus demands they pay a fee.

If that fee isn’t paid, advertising is blocked, even if it fits the “acceptable” criteria.  Pay up, in other words, or Adblock Plus will knock-out some of your revenue.

The principles of “acceptable” advertising, as defined by Adblock Plus and its volunteer community:

Around 10% of the companies on the whitelist pay for the privilege and they list Google, Amazon, Yahoo and Reddit as some of the company’s “strategic partners”.

They would not not be drawn on how much they charge, nor do they give up any details on which companies had refused to play ball.

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), a UK-based trade association for online and mobile advertisers, released a report earlier this year that hypothesised what it thought an advertising-free internet might look like.

The report argued that if some of the web’s most popular services – excluding shopping – did not carry advertising, users would each need to pay around £44 a month, on top of existing fees, to make up the revenue needed to keep those sites alive.

While the trade association has an obvious motivation behind stressing the importance of advertising, the report does at least highlight how integral that revenue stream is.

Although often descending into a bitter war of words, both sides of the adblocking debate at least agree on one core issue: they want the advertising to be relevant.

The more relevant it is to the consumer the more attractive it is to the advertiser, and it’s more valuable to the web publisher. But targeted advertising requires sophisticated techniques to track users and their browsing habits – a highly-contentious issue, to put it mildly.

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