Over 10 Million Mobile Users hit by SIM fraud

Over 25 percent of Kenya’s 43 million mobile users have been victims of SIM swap fraud, either as targets or victims, according to a survey by Myriad Connect.

French startup Moodstocks has developed technology that helps smartphones recognize whatever they are aimed at

The survey also reveals that 90 percent of Kenyan banking leaders see SIM swap fraud as a serious threat in the sector in what is becoming one of the rising global crimes involving mobile phones.

The most recent high-profile case is where US entrepreneur Michael Terpin who is suing AT&T over an alleged SIM swap that resulted in millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency tokens being stolen from his account

While in South Africa, the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) reported recently that the incidence of SIM swap fraud has more than doubled in the past year.

“A SIM swap is when criminals manage to get a replacement SIM for a mobile number that does not belong to them, allowing the new SIM to supersede the existing one, and give criminals access to the legitimate user’s information and accounts,” says Willie Kanyeki, Myriad Connect Director Business Development – Africa.

Kanyeki adds that in addition to financial losses, SIM swap presents the risk of reputational damage and the exposure of sensitive data, and once fraudsters control a user’s accounts, “regaining control of them can be complex.”

In the past, the market’s response to the threat of digital transaction fraud has been to introduce authentication measures to protect transactions, often in the form of a one-time-password (OTP) over SMS.

Recent research among leading financial services CIOs in Kenya found that 87pc of financial services providers deploy OTP via SMS to protect transactions, and consumer research indicates that 71pc of consumers have used services that use OTP via SMS to authenticate financial service transactions.

“However, OTP via SMS has long been considered a vulnerable channel for authenticating financial services transactions, as it does not meet strict security standards,” says Kanyeki.

In 2016 the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the US identified that SMS is a risk and that OTP via SMS is not fit to secure financial services as it can be vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks such as SIM swap.

The American administration’s top diplomat for African affairs, Assistant Secretary of State Tibor P Nagy, Jr, will soon… Read more »


Kenyan court ‘declares phone tapping illegal’

A Kenyan court has declared that plans by the government to tap private phone conversations is illegal, the Daily Nation reports.

The court reportedly ruled that listening to private conversations was unconstitutional.

The court reportedly ruled that listening to private conversations was unconstitutional. Photo: Getty Images

The Communication Authority (CA) and the government wanted three telecommunications networks to “tap computers on their behalf by planting spy gadgets on all networks”.

But Justice John Mativo has declared the plan “illegal and violation of consumer rights”.

He ruled that the move was adopted in a manner “inconsistent with the constitution”, saying there was inadequate public participation prior to adoption and implementation of the system.

With new lithium batteries, ‘No fire risk’

The devices produced sufficient energy for use in household electronics, but did not ignite – even when punctured repeatedly with a nail.

With new lithium batteries, 'No fire risk'

The batteries produced sufficient energy for use in household electronics. PHOTO: JHI SCOTT, ARL

The batteries use a water-salt solution as their electrolyte, removing the risks carried by some non-aqueous commercial models.

The research is published in the journal Joule.

“In the past, if you wanted high energy, you would choose a non-aqueous lithium-ion battery, but you would have to compromise on safety. If you preferred safety, you could use an aqueous battery such as nickel/metal hydride, but you would have to settle for lower energy,” said co-author Kang Xu, from the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL).

“Now, we are showing that you can simultaneously have access to both high energy and high safety.”

The latest paper follows on from a 2015 publication in Science journal, in which the same team unveiled a similar 3.0 volt battery with an aqueous electrolyte.

However, at the time, the researchers were prevented from reaching higher voltages by something called “cathodic challenge”. This occurs when one end of the battery (the anode) – made from graphite, or lithium metal – is degraded by the water-based electrolyte.

The gel polymer decomposes on the battery’s first charge to form a stable layer called an “interphase”. This interphase protects the anode from chemical reactions that stop it from working properly and allows the most desirable anode materials to be used in the battery.

With new lithium batteries, 'No fire risk'

A gel polymer helps protect the electrode. PHOTO: JHI SCOTT, ARL

By coating the anode with the protective gel polymer, the scientists were able to push the battery voltage up to 4.0, making it useful for household electronic devices such as laptop computers.

The addition of the gel coating also boosts the safety advantages of the new battery when compared to standard non-aqueous lithium-ion batteries. It also boosts the energy density when compared to other proposed aqueous lithium-ion batteries.

Dr Xu said the interphase chemistry needs to be perfected before it can be commercialised.

But with enough funding, the four-volt chemistry could be ready for commercialisation in about five years, he said.

SOURCE: The Bloomgist Tech./BBC

Does ‘phone separation anxiety’ actually exist?

You know the feeling – you have left your phone at home and feel anxious, as if you have lost your connection to the world. “Nomophobia” (short for no-mobile phobia) affects teenagers and adults alike. You can even do an online test to see if you have it.

Does 'phone separation anxiety' actually exist?

Smartphone touchscreen

Last week, researchers from Hong Kong warned that nomophobia is infecting everyone. Their study found that people who use their phones to store, share and access personal memories suffer most. When users were asked to describe how they felt about their phones, words such as “hurt’” (neck pain was often reported) and “alone” predicted higher levels of nomophobia.


“The findings of our study suggest that users perceive smartphones as their extended selves and get attached to the devices,” said Dr Kim Ki Joon. “People experience feelings of anxiety and unpleasantness when separated from their phones.” Meanwhile, an American study shows that smartphone separation can lead to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.

So can being without your phone really give you separation anxiety? Professor Mark Griffiths, chartered psychologist and director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, says it is what is on the phone that counts – the social networking that creates Fomo (fear of missing out).

“People don’t use their phones to talk to other people – we are talking about an internet-connected device that allows people to deal with lots of aspects of their lives,” says Griffiths. “You would have to surgically remove a phone from a teenager because their whole life is ingrained in this device.”

Griffiths thinks attachment theory, where we develop emotional dependency on the phone because it holds details of our lives, is a small part of nomophobia. For “screenagers”, it is Fomo that creates the most separation anxiety. If they can’t see what’s happening on Snapchat or Instagram, they become panic-stricken about not knowing what’s going on socially. “But they adapt very quickly if you take them on holiday and there’s no internet,” says Griffiths.

Deliberately separating from your phone by turning it off or leaving it at home can reduce dependency and anxiety. Griffiths says the criteria for phone addiction include it being the most important thing in your life, building up the time you spend on it, withdrawal symptoms, using it to de-stress or to get excited. Your phone-use also needs to compromise relationships or work and provoke inner conflict – you know you should cut down, but can’t. Few people, Griffiths says, fulfill these criteria. But surely many of us experience some of them.

How turning your phone into grey scale can do wonders for your attention

As someone who finds giving anything my continuous attention difficult, I’m always on the look-out for tips and tricks that can improve my concentration and render my digital life marginally less scatterbrained than normal.


Could turning my phone grey save me from procrastination? Composite: imagebroker / Samuel Gibbs/Alamy Stock Photo

So when the Lifehacker website offered a seemingly perfect One Weird Trick For Saving My Concentration, I just had to try it. The site cites Tristan Harris, a former Google project manager, who has reinvented himself as an anti-distraction campaigner. Harris’s own phone is a paean to tranquility, with colourful icons hidden in folders, the folders hidden on a second page, and then apps launched through search rather than icons to boot.

But Lifehacker’s idea was simpler: rather than trying to hide the “colourful” icons, why not use your phone’s own accessibility features to drain the colour from everything at once? Both iOS and Android offer the option to set your phone to greyscale, something that can help those who are colourblind as well as let developers more easily work with an awareness of what their visually impaired users are seeing.

For people with full colour vision, though, it just makes your phone drab. Perfect! But does it work to hinder tech companies’ attempts to capture your attention? I spent a week with my phone in greyscale mode, to give it a go, and I can report that the answer is: sort of.

Some effects are immediately notable. The bright red notification badges on iOS become much less shouty when they’re a mute grey. It’s the best of both worlds: they’re still easily legible, performing their function as notifications, but because they’re not screamingly bright, the desire to go through your apps consistently clearing the notifications is diminished. Score one for greyscale.

How turning your phone into grey scale can do wonders for your attention

Alex Hern’s colourless iPhone. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

In other ways, however, there’s almost no effect. Once you’re actually in a social network, the slot machine effect continues to work just as well as it always has: pull to refresh, see if you’ve got more likes, look at the new posts that appear, rinse and repeat.

I still found myself spending long periods aimlessly trawling Twitter, or sending garbage Snapchats to my friends. But the whole thing was just suffused with an air of bleakness: images literally had the colour sucked out of them, I could never quite be sure what my own pictures would look like on others’ phones, and occasionally I’d have to switch the greyscale off altogether to interpret some badly-coloured chart or graph. (Yes, my social media accounts are full of graphs. Aren’t yours?). The whole thing served not to make me use social media less, but to ensure that I only ever put my phone down feeling worse than I had before.

Perhaps the biggest single change was that I simply stopped playing games on my phone. Some, like the otherwise fantastic Typeshift, were broadly unplayable (though that game does have the option to shift to colourblind-safe colour schemes); others, like the fun adventure game Love Me To Bits, lost so much of their charm that I didn’t want their impact to be lessened.

Eventually, I decided that losing those things weren’t worth the small boost to my attention that I gained. But switching my phone back to colour has, so far, had a different effect to what I was expecting. Everything seems incredibly garish; I find myself wishing that app designers would use a few more pastel shades, and a lot fewer striking reds and greens, in their icons. I’ve made changes to my phone to try and get some of the simplicity back: turning off badges on apps that don’t need them, setting my backgrounds to greyscale pictures, and even taking more photos in black and white.

I’m still a compulsive smartphone checker, though. Some people just can’t be saved.

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