Consumers Still Unaware of Current Account Switching Service

Recent research has shown that despite spending £750m on an IT system that has simplified and sped up the process of changing bank account providers, only 28% of us know that the Current Account Switching Service (CASS) exists.

What Is CASS And What Does It Do?

CASS was introduced by the Banking Commission in 2013 as a result of concerns from consumers and because of a widely recognised lack of competition in the banking industry. The service simplifies and speeds up the process of changing banks. Before CASS, this process typically took 30 days, but using CASS it now only takes a week to switch bank accounts. CASS also makes sure all payments made to the old account are redirected to the new account, thereby ensuring that payments are not lost if the old account details are erroneously used.

Less Than One-Third Aware

Recent research by the TSB has shown that, 4 years after its introduction, less than one-third of consumers are aware of CASS and its benefits.

Why?

The research revealed that CASS is underused because there has been a lack of communication to consumers about the service.

What is also revealing in the TSB’s research findings is the fact that in the past 12 months, the number of consumers using the CASS service to switch bank accounts has fallen by 14%.

Challenger Banks

The TSB research has shown that, even though are new players in the banking industry, and an increase in the visibility of so-called ‘challenger banks’ in the UK, 68% of consumers still think that there is less competition in the market compared to last year.

The TSB appears to see itself as a challenger bank, and its research does not bode well for other challengers in the banking sector.

No Informed Choice

The results of the research appear to justify the TSB’s conclusions. It found that 41% of consumers believe it’s hard to make an informed choice when switching, 38% do not see the benefits of switching, and 28% think that all products are essentially the same.

The reporting of the TSB’s research may therefore have gone some way towards making more people aware of their right to switch banks.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The results of the TSB research shows that, even after a 3-year long investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) into competition in retail banking, the big banks still have a stronghold on the market, and consumers are missing out. It is of course advantageous to the big banks that this lack of awareness about CASS exists, and it appears to be getting worse. Indeed, some have accused the big banks of taking their customers for granted, trapping them on poor deals, and then making it impossible to switch.

It has been estimated that the average person could be £70 better off by switching, and that equates to a collective £10 million in savings that consumers are missing out on because of the lack of awareness about CASS.

The solution may be, therefore, to force banks to promote CASS and to explain its benefits to their customers. Many think that the CMA also needs to make more of an effort to promote the CSS and to encourage consumers to shop around for a bank account.

Li-Fi Could Boost Wi-Fi

Upcoming wireless protocol Light Fidelity or Li-Fi could be used to complement and boost Wi-Fi by turning special LED light bulbs into network access points, and by co-existing in mobile devices to improve performance.

What Is Li-Fi?

Light Fidelity or Li-Fi is a wireless protocol that uses the visible light spectrum to provide wireless networking access. It essentially a way of using light to transfer data.

Li-Fi was first introduced in 2011 at a TEDGlobal conference by Professor Harald Haas. Professor Haas is reported to have created Li-Fi because he believed that the RF spectrum wasn’t enough for things like multimedia, and he was inspired by the spectrum crunch i.e. the lack of available wireless frequencies needed to support a growing number of consumer devices.

How Could It Work?

Professor Harald Haas demonstrated at the Mobile World Congress how a Li-Fi dongle, an integrated Li-Fi luminaire (light bulb), and a bi-directional link with special photo detector at both ends (in each) could be used to send and receive data. The dongle (plugged into a mobile device) can thereby send infrared LED data to the ceiling light. The light(s) can be hooked up to a network for example. As a person moves around with the device, multiple Li-Fi lights in the room could mean that the device is able to automatically detect where the strongest signal is coming from, and can shift to that light source so the signal always stays connected and at full strength. In this way Wi-Fi could be boosted and improved with the help of Li-Fi.

Faster Than Wi-Fi

With Li-Fi, a Li-Fi transmitter uses LED lights to control light intensity. This data can then be read by a photosensitive receiver. The advantage here is speed. This is because LEDs use chips to control light output and thereby achieve millions of modulations per second, thus enabling LEDs to transmit data up to 100 times faster than Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi’s Impact

Many of us now rely upon Wi-Fi as we increasingly need and use mobile computing and communications for our work and social lives. Employees use Wi-Fi to access corporate networks, and independent workers turn coffee shops into offices using Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi’s Shortcomings

Although Wi-Fi is now used widely, it has several known shortcomings. For example, distance is often an issue, walls are literal barriers for connection, and Wi-Fi connections can be insecure and easily hacked. Also, despite the increase in bandwidth over time, an access point becomes a bottleneck when many users access it all at the same time, and there are real issues with security and scalability.

Complementary

Although Li-Fi cannot penetrate a wall, it could be used to complement and help reduce some of the shortcomings of Wi-Fi. Both technologies could co-exist in devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

A Long Way Off

Many technical commentators have pointed out that the use of Li-Fi e.g. in mobile devices, is still likely to be at least 5 years off. Challenges to its wide scale introduction, for example, include the fact that special receivers and transmitters will need to be incorporated in mobile devices, and specially designed chips will be needed to encode and decode to convert light signals into data.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

As more of us rely on an increasing number of smart and mobile devices, and with the challenges of a limited number of frequencies we can use, coupled with the obvious shortcomings of Wi-Fi, something needs to be done. Li-Fi provides a workable way to overcome many of the challenges we face with Wi-Fi and to give it a much needed boost. It’s also an innovative way of linking existing technologies together that could provide new opportunities for businesses as suppliers e.g. marketing Li-Fi light bulbs, and as users.

It is important to realise, however, that, for all its promise, Li-Fi is still a work in progress, and the predictions are that it could be very costly and politically difficult to introduce any time soon on a large scale.

Encoded DNA Used To Carry Computer Malware

Researchers in the US have used digitised human DNA loaded with malware to infect a computer as part of an experiment to demonstrate that open-source programs used by laboratories worldwide are vulnerable to hackers.

What?

It has been reported that researchers at the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering have successfully infected a computer system by using a strand of encoded human DNA (not actual human DNA), loaded with malware.

As well as causing some alarm, the experiment, conducted by biologists and cyber security researchers, brings to the fore concerns about the vulnerabilities to hackers of open-source software being used in laboratories around the world.

Laboratories Vulnerable

The reason for the experiment was to explore the possibility that future attacks may come from the source material being handled for analysis, in this case DNA that can be transcribed and digitised.

Laboratories world-wide use computers to handle the large amount of processing that is necessary to filter through billions of DNA cases from one sample alone. The processing of data to store the basic units that make up DNA uses multiple open-source programs. The experiment has, therefore, shown that these open-source programs have vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers.

What Kind of Programs?

The programs highlighted by the researchers on their blog are C and C++ languages. These are commonly used to create laboratory bioinformatics tools. These programs are known to have security vulnerabilities, and may not have followed best security processes, and could have a number of insecure functions.

What Could Happen?

The full and precise implications would depend on the type and purpose of the malware, but hackers could embed malware into the base of an artificial (digitised) DNA strand so that, once this strand undergoes transcription, malware may be transferred onto the computer system.

Typically, this could give cyber criminals remote access to (and a way to) take control of an important laboratory computer system. Since the motivation for hackers is often money, ransomware could be used, or malware could be used to gather sensitive personal data or valuable industrial / commercial secrets, and payment details. Data could also be used to launch wider attacks across the organisation e.g. phishing and other social engineering attacks.

Just Raising Awareness

Although the focus of this particular experiment i.e. using digitised human DNA as a Trojan horse for hackers, seems a little leftfield, the researchers said that security around DNA sequencing is not under attack, and that the research was just conducted to raise awareness of the possibility.

The research team are due to present their full findings next week at the USENIX Security Symposium in Vancouver.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Although this research had a niche industry focus, it does highlight the fact that no industry, segment or niche wordwide is safe from the risk of hackers.

Also, as the WannaCry malware attack demonstrated, malware makes no distinction between industries and organisations (the NHS was badly affected), but simply exploits the weaknesses that it has been written to exploit in order to spread and achieve the aim of its writers / users.

Another important point raised by this research that is not industry specific is the potential vulnerabilities of business programs written in open-source languages to cyber criminals.

Companies and organisations of all kinds should, along with their other security measures, conduct a security audit and risk assessment of purpose-written, open-source programs. This could allow potential vulnerabilities to be fixed / patched / protected.

Blockchain Links Students To Employers

A new Sony Global Education (SGE) service uses Blockchain to enable students to more easily share their qualifications with employers.

Building on IBM’s Blockchain

SGE, the international education services development subsidiary of Sony, will use IBM’s Blockchain to develop a platform that will allow educational institutions to host the entire educational history of a student. The aim is to thereby give companies and educational authorities a means to access and verify accurate information about a person’s credentials.

What Is Blockchain?

Blockchain technology operates using the IBM cloud and is powered by Hyperledger Fabric 1.0 of Linux Foundation. Blockchain is an incorruptible peer-to-peer network (a kind of ledger) that allows multiple parties to transfer value in a secure and transparent way. Blockchain’s Co-Founder Nic Carey describes Blockchain as being like “a big spreadsheet in the cloud that anyone can use, but no one can erase or modify”.

The developers of the Blockchain system say that the trust between participants is not necessary because trust is embedded in the system itself, and that access to all relevant information is available to participants.

Blockchain is the same technology behind cryptocurrencies e.g. Bitcoin, and it is now being applied to new industries and sectors, like education.

Digital Hub For Education Records…And More

The new Sony system will be a hub for all education records, including a variety of documents, such as informal records of achievements, and credentials gained during training or seminars. This hub will be securely accessible to organisations that need to verify education information about individuals from the educational institution.

Anytime, Anywhere Access

Users who want to move to other areas or work in other parts of the world will benefit from Sony’s Blockchain-based system because it will be accessible anytime, anywhere, and will standardise and prove the authenticity of scholastic records easily. This means that users with access to the Blockchain-based service will be able to effectively carry their education history with them wherever they are, in a system that any organisation can gain access to.

SGE has said that it has developed this system to prevent fraud while giving access to third parties who will need information for job interviews and assessments.

Ready Next Year

It has been reported that SGE is working with selected educational institutions to have something ready by 2018.

Huge Potential For Blockchain

As well as working with the education sector, SGE is also reported to be exploring how Blockchain-based technology could be used to benefit other industries like logistics and supply chains.

The potential for Blockchain-based systems is huge, and examples of how they have been used in other industries include:

  • Using the data on a Blockchain ledger to record the temperature of sensitive medicines being transported from manufacturer to hospital in hot climates. The ‘incorruptible’ aspect of the Blockchain data gives a clear record of care and responsibility along the whole supply chain.
  • Using a Blockchain ledger to record data about wine certification, ownership and storage history. This has helped to combat fraud in the industry and has provided provenance and re-assurance to buyers.
  • Shipping Company Maersk using a Blockchain-based system for tracking consignments that addresses visibility and efficiency i.e. digitising a formerly paper-based process that involved multiple interactions.
  • Start-up company ‘Electron’ building a Blockchain-based system for sharing information between those involved in supplying energy which could speed up and simplify the supplier switching process. It may also be used for smart grid processes, such as local load-balancing of supply and demand.
  • Australian start-up Zimrii developing a Blockchain-based service that allows independent musicians to sell downloads to fans, distribute the proceeds between collaborators, and allow interaction with managers.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

A system like Sony’s could make life much easier for employers worldwide to accurately check the educational credentials of job applicants. If this kind of system was searchable (through consent) by employers and / or offered through employment agencies, it could be a great way for employers to source individuals with the qualifications they’re looking for. This kind of system would, however, have several challenges to overcome first e.g. consent, privacy, security and rights, differences in international laws, and the potential for existing employees to be poached.

Blockchain clearly has huge untapped potential for all kinds of businesses and organisations, and could represent a major opportunity to improve services, and effectively tackle visibility, transparency and efficiency issues.

Blockchain has proven itself to be particularly well suited to processes where there are a lot of steps e.g. supply chains, and where there’s a lack of trust in a business / business relationship, and the need for accurate authentication / verification.

The significant commitment that countries like Dubai have made to the technology and the success of the crypto-currency Bitcoin (which have used Blockchain) are indicators that this new technology has real value in today’s business world, and its potential has not yet been realised.

Cryptocurrency Scam Foiled By London Police

A scam which involved duping investors out of £160,000 by selling fake cyber cash has been foiled by London police and has resulted in the arrest of one man.

What Is A Cryptocurrency?

A cryptocurrency is a digital (virtual) currency which uses encryption techniques to regulate the generation of units of currency, and to verify the transfer of funds. The most famous cryptocurrency is Bitcoin, which reached a record high value this month of £2,651 per coin.

Cryptocurrencies don’t conform to the normal economic fundamentals because their value is mainly based on speculation and betting.

What Happened?

A fraudulent cryptocurrency boiler room scam call centre in the City of London was reportedly shut down by the City of London Police last week, after it was allegedly discovered to be the centre of an operation to dupe investors by selling fake cyber cash. The call centre workers were allegedly cold-calling UK consumers, trying to convince them to invest in a fake cryptocurrency.

The alleged fraudsters were discovered to have set up the boiler room in London’s square mile, specifically on Old Broad Street near the Bank of England, to try to legitimise their activity.

The police swoop came after 9 alleged victims reported the company to Action Fraud. Although the name of the fake cryptocurrency has not been confirmed, some online commentators have suggested that it was ‘OneCoin’.

Similar To Other Fraud

It has been reported that police shut down a similar fraud earlier this month. That scam involved attempting to sell wine investments in the same way.

Leading Fraud

Back in February this year, OneCoin was identified as the number one currency fraud doing the worldwide rounds, with the selling of S-Coin and EarthCoin coming second and third.

A lack of knowledge about cryptocurrencies, reports of the high value of Bitcoin, greed, and the need to find profitable investments in difficult global economic times, are all factors fuelling the success of cryptocurrency investment scams.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Potential investors in new currencies should really do their homework and find and choose a reputable company to help them invest, rather than simply responding to cold callers.

If you are / have been targeted by cold callers about cryptocurrency investment, you should report the incident to Action Fraud (the UK’s consumer fraud and cyber crime watchdog) and alert the police.

You can also report cold callers that you are unhappy about, and the details of the call to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). It can also help others to avoid being scammed by checking on and reporting the number that you were called on (if you were unavailable for that call) to websites such as who-called.co.uk (or similar).

Many people also find that registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) offers a basic level of protection against unwanted calls in the first place, although this service may be ignored by determined fraudsters.

This story illustrates how fraud is still a very popular crime in the UK, both on and offline, and how fraudsters can use aggressive, cunning tactics, and how they can be well informed about technology and how to use it as part their crime.

With much of the focus now switching to online protection against fraud, many people forget that telephone fraud is a tried and tested way for bold and persuasive fraudsters to reach their victims.

Introducing Facebook’s New ‘Watch’ Video Service

Facebook might just give YouTube and some TV networks a run for their money with the introduction of new video service called ‘Watch’ that also offers all of Facebook’s basic functions.

Watch Tab

The current Facebook service will soon be equipped with a ‘Watch’ tab, offering users an array of shows and some even sponsored by the social network itself. What gives this feature an edge is its seemingly personalised content for the user, based on what their friends are watching.

Basic Facebook Functionalities

According to comments by Mark Zuckerberg, the idea is to leverage Facebook’s power at bringing people who like the same things together, and to make watching TV shows more of an experience.

Monetizing

To fund the service Facebook, like YouTube, will need to run adverts on the video service, and a small group of approved publishers will be featured in the ad breaks at the beginning of the service.

One challenge for Facebook will be how it develops the advertising in the service going forward i.e. whether it wants to follow YouTube’s model of breaking up the video-watching experience by showing adverts for a set period of time before the user’s chosen video runs. Many media commentators believe that that it will be difficult for Facbook’s video service not to follow the idea of showing ads before and during videos, both of which can be annoying for users.

From Amateur Clips To Original Content

In terms of content, Facebook’s video service will feature amateur clips, news clips, and possibly some clips that are linked to YouTube. Facebook is reported to have hinted that it may soon produce original content (like Netflix does). This well-timed hint just happens to come in the week that Disney has announced its split with Netflix in order to create its own direct-to-consumer streaming-video services.

Niche and Broad

Facebook appears to be aiming to cover a wide base of consumer interest by picking shows that address both niche and broad topics, and Facebook looks likely to focus on shows that are ‘easy’ watch, and shows that play well on smartphones, such as cookery, fitness, health, and travel shows.

Competition

The video channel market (and its TV counterpart) is now a crowded one, and Facebook will be in broad competition with players like YouTube, Netflix, Disney, and various TV networks. It is, therefore, important that each player chooses the right content for its target customer.

Facebook is reported to have partnered with other organisations to help produce content and shows that will be of interest to its target market. These partners include Vox Media, BuzzFeed, ATTN, and Group Nine Media. Other measures taken by Facebook to ensure the success of its new service are the setting up an ESPN streaming service for next year (like Disney is doing), and the selection of some shows known to have popular appeal (particularly in the US) e.g. Major League Baseball and a safari programme from National Geographic.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For consumers, getting access to another quality channel of easy to watch, factual entertainment shows that is designed with smartphone viewing in mind is good news. Similarly, for programme makers, this will provide another channel to promote their output and to gain loyalty for their shows in the wider marketplace. It is also good news for programme makers of all sizes that Facebook plans to allow anyone to be able to make shows for Watch in future.

From an advertising point of view however, Facebook has only chosen a small number of publishers for the trial period of the service, and this means that content-makers and advertisers are likely to stay with YouTube for the time-being. It is also likely that Google’s video streaming site will offer an easier way for vloggers and those outside the mainstream media industry to make money in the short term until Facebook’s Watch gains momentum, and until it becomes clearer what the advertising situation is on the service. For now it’s a case of waiting until its roll-out out beyond the US, which looks unlikely to happen before the end of the year.

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