Week Ending: 6th August - A Roundup in I.T. & Tech News

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Can you believe it’s August already? With Tokyo 2020 in full swing and Team GB bringing home medal after medal, time has flown by! Luckily, we have something else for you to get excited about, our Weekly Roundup.

This week’s round-up covers everything from the changes made to the NHS Covid-19 app, WhatsApp’s latest development of ‘view once’ disappearing photos and security vulnerabilities discovered in Wallbox and Project EV home electric car chargers.

Let’s get you up to speed.

NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales tweaked to notify fewer contacts

It has been announced this week that the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales will be modified so that fewer contacts will be advised to self-isolate following close contact with someone who has tested positive.

The announcement comes after a staggering 700,000 alerts were sent to users in England and Wales at the end of July, a record number since the app was launched.

Now, instead of contacting people who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive five days prior, the app will contact those who have been in contact two days prior, in turn reducing the number required to self-isolate.

In recent weeks there has been widespread criticism that the app has been sending out so many alerts that hundreds of thousands of people are self-isolating and missing work, causing major disruption to many businesses.

Discussing the changes, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said:

"We want to reduce the disruption that self-isolation can cause for people and businesses, while ensuring we're protecting those most at risk from this virus. This update to the app will help ensure that we are striking the right balance."

As of 16th August, all fully-vaccinated people will not need to self-isolate if pinged by the app, although measures are still in place to get tested and the government is still strongly advising people to keep using the app.

Dr Jenny Harries, of the UK Health Security Agency, commented

“The app is the simplest, easiest and fastest way to find out whether you have been exposed to the virus. I would strongly encourage everyone, even those fully vaccinated to continue using the app.”

The ‘pingdemic’ has caused up to 1,000 pubs being forced to close temporarily due to staff being pinged by the app, which on average means £9,500 in lost trade per week. The latest update of the app should help reduce the amount of people needing to self-isolate and allow businesses to regain traction following lockdowns.

Read more here.

WhatsApp 'view once' brings disappearing photos and videos

Popular messaging app, WhatsApp, has rolled out its latest feature this week that allows users to have photos or videos disappear after they are seen.

WhatsApp said the feature is aimed at giving users even more control over their privacy.

The ‘View Once’ feature is only available on the latest version of WhatsApp, which is enabled by tapping an icon in the text bar before sending the message. This feature has been widely used across many social media platforms, most commonly within Snapchat.

Users have been warned to only send photos or videos with view once media enabled to trusted individuals as it is still possible to take a screenshot or screen recording before it disappears, unlike Snapchat where users are notified if this happens.

WhatsApp have commented

“While taking photos or videos on our phones has become such a big part of our lives, not everything we share needs to become a permanent digital record. On many phones, simply taking a photo means it will take up space in your camera roll forever. That’s why we’re rolling out our new View Once photos and videos that disappear from the chat after they’ve been opened, giving users even more control over their privacy.”

However, not everyone is happy about the new feature. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has already voiced their concerns around the use of encrypted messaging via WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook as this type of encryption means police cannot see the messages ‘in transit’ only the sender and receiver can. Unfortunately, auto-deleting messages could mean that devices seized in police raids won’t contain evidence either.

WhatsApp has announced that the view once feature could be used for throwaway yet personal photos such as trying on clothes in a shop or sending someone a password. However, with this type of privacy it can be abused, making sure you trust the recipients could help prevent any malicious behaviour.

Find out more here.

Home car charger owners urged to install updates

Software experts have discovered numerous security flaws with a range of smart electric vehicle (EV) chargers. Devices from Wallbox and Project EV, both approved for sale in the UK by the Department for Transport, were found to be lacking adequate security.

Cyber security researcher, Vangelis Stykas at Pen Test Partners found that on Wallbox chargers you could take full control of the charger, you could gain full access and remove the usual owner’s access on the charger. This could prevent the owner from being able to charge their own vehicle and ultimately allow free charging to an attacker’s vehicle.

The research found on Project EV showed the implementation on their back end was flawed, with the authentication that existed being somewhat primitive. This means that an attacker could easily escalate themselves to becoming an administrator and change the firmware of all the chargers.

Shockingly, if the chargers were connected by Wi-Fi, hackers could also infiltrate a home network causing more issues for the owners. The major reason behind this weak security of IoT devices is the Raspberry Pi computing module, a low-cost computer often used by programmers, these companies have used it to reduce the cost.

Ken Munro, founder of Pen Test Partners commented

“The Pi is a great hobbyist and educational computing platform, but in our opinion, it’s not suitable for commercial applications as it doesn’t have what’s known as a ‘secure bootloader’. This means anyone with physical access to your charger could easily steal your Wi-Fi credentials.”

The systems accessed by these chargers have been updated to address the software problems found.

Discover more here.

Those were some of this week’s biggest stories in I.T. and tech, but if you want more content, follow us across our four social media channels.