How many couples will have met online this Valentine's Day? More than ever before is the safe answer, as online dating continues to sweep the world.
But is data crunching the best way to find a partner?
In the future, a computer program could dictate who you date, and for how long. This was the premise of a December 2017 episode of Black Mirror, the dystopian sci-fi TV series.
But technology already has radically changed romance, with online dating growing massively in popularity ever since Match.com blazed a trail in the mid-90s.
Now apps, such as Tinder, with their speedy account set-ups and "swipe to like" approach, have taken dating to another level.
Tinder launched in 2012 on the back of the explosion in smartphone use. Just two years later it was registering more than a billion "swipes" a day.
In America's last presidential election, the Democratic campaign logo encouraged voters to "swipe right for Hillary".
Jordan Brown, a 24-year-old blogger, says she "had a bit of a swipe" in October 2016, and met her current boyfriend, who lived an hour-and-a-half away. She would not have met him otherwise, she says, adding that the two bonded over a shared love of Disney.
When 30-year-old Sara Scarlett moved to Dubai in 2015, she joined Tinder to meet new people. She met her last boyfriend after a month. But converting swipes to dates can be difficult, she says.
"You spend ages chatting to these guys and then they don't even want to go for a coffee," she says.
Swapping swiping for supper dates also proved a problem for Jordan.
"There are hundreds of timewasters, losers, and just general muppets on there who have nothing better to do than mess you around," she observes.
Despite such frustrations, dating apps have grown relentlessly. Worldwide spend was £234m in 2016, but nearly double that - £448m - in 2017, says app research firm App Annie.
Pew Research found that 59% of adults now think online dating is a good way to meet people. Even in 2005, 20% of same-sex couples were meeting online. That rocketed to 70% by 2010, say sociologists Michael Rosenfeld and Reuben Thomas.
Online dating has been particularly useful for gay men, as homosexuality is still punishable by death in five countries and parts of two others, says Grindr's Jack Harrison-Quintana.
"The fundamental reason dating apps were created in the gay community was to protect users and create a safe environment, no matter where they are located," he says.
Dating apps made up three of the top 10 apps by consumer spend last year in the UK, says Paul Barnes, a director at App Annie. In France, home of romance, they accounted for six of the top 10.
"There's a lot of money here and it's a lot more competitive now," says Mr Barnes, "so app makers really have to understand their users very well, and find ways to keep them engaged."
Traditionally, dating services required members fill in exhaustive questionnaires. Now machine learning is also being marshalled in the quest for better matches.
A small amount of text - 300 to 400 words from Twitter posts - is enough for their software to decide how much two people will have in common, claims Daigo Smith, co-founder of LoveFlutter.
LoveFlutter has paired up with Toronto-based natural language processing firm Receptiviti to create new approaches to matching people that they will start using this year.
These draw on research by James Pennebaker, a social psychology professor at the University of Austin, Texas. Prof Pennebaker studied 86 couples and found partners using similar frequencies of function words - articles, conjunctions, and pronouns - were most likely still to be together after three months.
Another data-based approach is to use your smartphone's location to find potential dates.
Paris-based app happn analyses where you have been during the day, then shows you people who passed within 250 metres of you. These people will be easiest to meet in real life, says Claire Certain, happn's head of trends.
"It's really just about meeting and giving it a try. If it's going to be a good match or not is very mysterious, chemistry is very surprising."
But if proximity solves the problem of endless swiping but no suppers, it can also mean we stay within our social silos, warns sociologist Josue Ortega. Whereas online dating has increased the incidence of interracial dating, he says.
Rachel Katz, an American who studied Tinder for her master's degree at Cambridge University and is now studying Grindr for her doctorate, agrees.
"Once, most people married people who lived within four miles of them. Then we had the internet, and all these infinite possibilities for soulmates across the world; it didn't matter where they were."
But in 2018, physical location is of primary importance again, says Ms Katz, "so you're going to meet someone who's conveniently close - but this also replicates boundaries of class."
The next tech wave in online dating will feature augmented and virtual reality, the experts believe.
Imagine scanning people with your phone in a nightclub and seeing how many have made their dating profiles available, says happn's Claire Certain.
And LoveFlutter's Daigo Smith says: "Rather than going to a bar, you'll spend your evening going into virtual bars buying other avatars virtual drinks with your cryptocurrency."
But one enduring complaint against dating apps is that they're not very female friendly.
The percentage of women on dating apps "never goes above 35%", says Jean Meyer, founder and chief executive of Once Dating. Men, it seems, often don't behave like gentlemen.
On Mr Meyer's app, women leave feedback about the men they've dated. And maybe men will learn from this feedback, he says.
Austin-based Whitney Wolfe Herd, a former Tinder vice-president, launched an app called Bumble which relies on women to make the first contact with men. The firm - where 85% of staff are women - is now valued at over $1bn, according to Forbes magazine.
So online dating is here to stay - and will embrace new technologies as they emerge - but when it comes to love, there are no guarantees.
All year round, here at Discus, we collect our postage stamps, especially on the run up to Christmas. We then send them to RSPB who convert them to cash, and together we can save albatrosses.
How it works
It’s really easy to do and here’s how:
Send RSPB your used stamps
They use stamp dealers and auction houses to get the best price
The money helps save albatrosses out at sea.
Each year, your stamps help raise thousands of pounds for albatross conservation. Not bad for some little bits of paper that would end up in the bin!
Save the stamps from your Christmas cards and help save albatrosses.
Help us stamp out albatross deaths
15 out of 22 albatross species are threatened with extinction. The main threat to albatrosses is death on a hook at the end of a fishing long-line.
The Albatross Task Force is helping to save albatrosses from extinction both at sea and on land. They show fishing crews how to stop albatrosses from being killed and share the best techniques and tools.
With BirdLife International partners and other organisations, we're working to stop the needless slaughter of these amazing birds and bring them back from the brink of extinction.
Working with stamp dealers and specialist auction houses, we can raise money for this vital work. Each stamp has a very small value, but in large quantities they're still valuable. When you send in your stamps, you're helping give albatrosses a brighter future.
How to send your stamps
RSPB accept any used stamps – whether common, rare, from the UK or abroad. Please cut the stamp from the envelope, leaving about a quarter of an inch (6mm) border of paper.
Send your loose stamps to: RSPB Stamps, PO Box 6198, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire LU7 9XT.
(This is the address of our stamp warehouse, not an RSPB office, so please do not send any non-stamp-related correspondence or donations to this address.)
If you have first day covers, stamp albums or rare stamps, please send them to: Save the Albatross Stamp Appeal (Special Stamps and Albums), RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy, Beds, SG19 2DL. Please do not send loose stamps here.
If you have a large number of stamps, you can drop them off at one of our nature reserves and stay for a visit. Most of our reserves will accept your stamps but please contact them in advance to confirm (find your nearest reserve). You are also welcome to drop them off at one of our offices.
We’re sorry, but we are unable to collect stamps from you.
Be a stamp saving super hero
If you would like to collect used stamps at your workplace, school or organisation, we can supply you with a collection box and stickers to create your own collection point.
Maybe your phone is scratched up, the battery won’t hold a charge anymore, or you’re just plain sick of it. Whatever the reason, you start to shop around for a new phone, but all your budget will allow is a bland, mid-range device. So you hop online to see what kind of bargain you can pick up second hand. Someone is selling last year’s flagship iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, barely used, at a drastically lower price. You pounce and secure yourself a shiny new smartphone at a steal.
The phone arrives in a couple of days, as described, and you pat yourself on the back for your bargain-hunting skills. But you can’t activate it. Or maybe you use it for a month or so, and then it gets blocked. Upon further investigation, you realize your new phone has been reported lost or stolen. The seller won’t respond to your messages. To make matters worse, no one wants to help you – not your carrier, not the website you bought on, not even the police.
The used phone scam is frighteningly simple.
We’re sorry to say, you’ve fallen victim to a horrifyingly common used phone scam. A quick Google search reveals countless threads on forums across the world going back years, where victims appeal for help because they bought a phone that turned out to be blacklisted and unusable. Read through them and you’ll see the vast majority don’t have a happy ending. The victim typically has to eat the loss, with no prospect of getting their money back.
The used phone scam is particularly pernicious, because it doesn’t rely on a victim’s gullibility, and it’s not as well-known as something like the white van speaker scam. Everything appears to be perfectly legitimate right up to the point your new phone gets blocked. If it has happened to you, sadly there’s nothing we can do to help you, but read on if you want to learn more about the scam and how to avoid it in future.
How it works
The used phone scam is frighteningly simple. Perpetrators range from criminal gangs to insurance scammers to the morally dubious down on their luck. In some cases, the phone you’ve bought will actually be stolen. The thieves who snatched $370,000 worth of new iPhone X handsets, for example, likely tried to sell them as quickly as possible, before the phones were blocked.
Sometimes the scammer will be selling a new phone they legitimately got, probably as a contract upgrade, but then claim for it on insurance. That way they can sell the phone for cash and double their money when they claim it has been lost or stolen.
Another possible scenario is the seller got the handset legitimately as a contract upgrade or as part of a new contract, sold the handset to you, and then defaulted on the monthly payments. They got the cash from you, for a phone they didn’t yet own, and then stopped paying for it, leaving you with a blocked device.
The phone can be reported lost or stolen within a few days or it could be three months later. The result is the same – you end up with a blocked phone.
The nightmare part of this scenario for victims of the scam is that there’s no way for you to get the phone unblocked. Only the person who reported the phone lost or stolen can get it unblocked, and even then, it usually takes a few days, weeks, or even months.
How to avoid the used phone scam
There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there about best practices for selling and buying smartphones, so it can be a real minefield. While you can take steps to reduce your risks, it’s difficult to ensure you’re completely protected when you buy a phone from a private individual you don’t know.
“Before you buy a phone, you want to get as much information as possible,” David Dillard, managing director at Recipero (part of the Callcredit Information Group), told Digital Trends. “Do more homework upfront, and don’t take unnecessary risks.”
“Before you buy a phone, you want to get as much information as possible”
Recipero runs a service called CheckMEND where you can pay $1 to find out about the history of a phone. This is currently the most comprehensive service around to check on a phone’s history. It will tell you if a phone has been blacklisted or blocked with a carrier, but it also draws on data from law enforcement, the insurance industry, various retailers, and other sources.
“We aggregate multiple data sets and let the consumer make their own decision,” Dillard said.
You can find out if a phone has been reported lost or stolen for free using the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) stolen phone checker, but it relies on the Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association (GSMA) for data, which comes from participating operators worldwide. It doesn’t factor in some of the sources CheckMEND can access.
“There’s a danger of false positives,” Dillard said. “You could use the CTIA phone checker and find it’s green, then the phone gets reported stolen three days later, and now you have a blacklisted phone that’s stolen property.”
CheckMEND also tracks things like inventory in transit and enterprise devices out on lease. If thieves steal from an existing inventory, there’s a delay between the device being stolen, people noticing that it’s gone, and then reporting it stolen. That delay is often long enough to sell a device. Or if someone sells you a device that has outstanding finance on it, you can’t tell that from the CTIA blacklist check.
But for all its sophistication, sadly, the CheckMEND system isn’t a cast iron guarantee of safety either.
To run a CTIA stolen phone check, or get a CheckMEND report, you need to have the IMEI number of the device. The idea is that a prospective buyer can ask the seller for the IMEI number and then run a check on it, allowing them to buy with confidence. But then criminals started using IMEI numbers to clone phones and run new kinds of scams.
“If you buy second-hand from a retailer, make sure they have a good return policy.”
It used to be quite common to post IMEI numbers on sales listings. But if you look online today, in countless forums, you’ll see people asking if it’s okay to post an IMEI number, usually followed by numerous comments warning about the risk of cloning. It all sounds a bit paranoid.
“I heard about the paranoia, so I did a test,” says Dillard. “I placed a phone up for sale in an online marketplace, published the IMEI in the listing, and within 72 hours it was used in a commission fraud.”
A wireless employee took the IMEI and activated the device for the commission money and it took David approximately three months to have it restored once it was blacklisted.
“Never publish your IMEI on the web,” he said. “If you’re going through a trusted network and the buyer calls or messages privately and wants to check the IMEI; that’s probably okay; use your intuition. But never put it on the web, like in an eBay or Craigslist listing.”
Another scam that’s proving very tough to combat is “credit muling”. A criminal persuades someone to activate multiple lines with a carrier and take several phones. They pay the “mule” a tempting sum for their time and trouble and tell them to cancel the contracts in a month. Meanwhile the criminal sells the phones, all with clean IMEIs, through eBay, Craigslist or wherever and makes a tidy profit.
When the mule tries to cancel the contract, they find out that they can’t without returning the phones or paying a hefty cancellation fee and they’re on the hook for the full amount. The buyer only finds out 45 to 60 days later when the payment is defaulted, and their new phone gets blocked.
In this kind of scenario, even if you got a CheckMEND report beforehand, you’re still going to be out of pocket with little recourse. You have a certified report that the phone wasn’t stolen when you took ownership, so you’ve done your due diligence, but it’s not going to be much use unless the cops subsequently catch the criminal, and that’s a lot easier said than done.
While some sellers, perhaps understandably, won’t share IMEI numbers, you can always ask them to get a CheckMEND report to prove the device they’re selling is legitimate.
What else can you do?
“You’ve got to know who you’re buying from, so you have recourse if something goes wrong” Dillard said. “If you buy second-hand from a retailer, make sure they have a good return policy.”
Most places offer a 30-day returns policy. With PayPal, you have 45 days to dispute. We recommend making purchases with a credit card, as you can dispute charges if the phone ends up being blocked. If you buy in cash from a stranger you met through Craigslist, then there’s really nothing much you can do. It’s a gamble.
GameStop, Gazelle, and Sprint all use the CheckMEND system, so at the time of purchase, you can be sure that the phone you’re buying isn’t blocked. However, as we’ve discussed, that’s no guarantee it won’t be blocked down the line.
The top three carriers in the U.S., AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile all rely upon the GSMA system. We contacted all three, but they either didn’t reply or declined to be interviewed for this piece. We also reached out to the CTIA, as well as Gazelle and Swappa, but have yet to hear back.
It appears this is a major problem, and no one wants to be held accountable. An industry-wide effort to pool resources and share data on phone status in real time would undoubtedly reduce the risk for the phone-buying public. It’s something CheckMEND is trying to work towards, but unless everyone buys in, it’s never going to give people purchasing used phones 100 percent confidence, and the scams will continue.
Internet giant takes on UPS and FedEx as it seeks full control over package delivery
Amazon delivery lorries could become a more common sight
Amazon is reported to be testing a service to ship its sellers' goods directly, putting it into competition with delivery firms such as UPS and FedEx.
According to an unnamed source quoted by Reuters, Amazon has just started running its "Shipping with Amazon" service in Los Angeles amid reports that trials are already under way in London.
The new scheme is thought to be due for a full launch later this year.
Under "Shipping with Amazon", the company will send a lorry to pick up sellers' packages, and take them either directly to an Amazon fulfilment centre, or to postal services or couriers depending on what's most cost-effective, according to the Reuters source.
Considering Amazon's size, scale and reach, such a delivery service could encroach on the businesses of established courier companies. Indeed, the rumours about "Shipping with Amazon" sent shares in UPS and FedEx tumbling on Friday.
However, if Amazon believes it can take a large chunk of their business it is mistaken, said FedEx spokesman Patrick Fitzgerald. Amazon's plan "demonstrates a lack of basic understanding of the full scale of the global transportation industry," he said.
"There is tremendous opportunity in the business-to-customer market and more growth coming to the sector and UPS, irrespective of how other companies shift strategies," said Glenn Zaccara, a spokesman for UPS.
While it has not yet commented on the reports this would not be the first time Amazon has tried to change the way goods are delivered. Ongoing plans include the use of drones and self-driving cars. Drones have already been tested in the skies of the UK and have the potential to be much faster and cleaner than the current use of trucks, especially in cities, according to Amazon.
It has now been confirmed that the 2018 Winter Olympics was the subject of a cyberattack. On Sunday, game organizers verified rumors that the Olympics were hacked during Friday’s opening ceremony. However, the source of the attack has yet to be revealed. While systems including the internet and television services were affected on Friday evening, organizers assured media that the breach “had not compromised any critical part of their operations,” according to a Reuters report.
Cybersecurity experts noted in January that there were early suggestions that Russia-backed attackers may have been planning a hack as a retaliation against the nation’s ban from the Pyeongchang Games. The Russian federation has not been allowed to compete as a result of anti-doping regulations (though Russian athletes have been taking part of the games as the Olympic Athletes from Russia, or OAR).
That said, Russia has fervently denied any suggestion of hacking. A few days before the Olympics began, the government noted that any claims linking Russian operatives to hacks on Pyeongchang were “unfounded.”
North Korea may also serve as a prime suspect, given the games’ proximity to the long-isolated nation. However, the North Korean team marched alongside the South Korean delegation for the first time at an Olympics opening ceremony since 2006, perhaps as a symbolic olive branch.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), for its part, is staying mum on the issue. “Maintaining secure operations is our purpose,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams. “We are not going to comment on the issue. It is one we are dealing with. We are making sure our systems are secure and they are secure.”
Adams added that while he did not know who was behind the attack, “… best international practice says that you don’t talk about an attack.”
Luckily, it would appear that the hack was short-lived and quickly addressed. “All issues were resolved and recovered yesterday morning,” Pyeongchang organizing committee spokesman Sung Baik-you told press. “We know the cause of the problem but that kind of issues occurs frequently during the Games. We decided with the IOC we are not going to reveal the source (of the attack),” he added.
Still, news of the attack makes a number of sponsors even warier, having already been concerned about the possibility of such an event at the Olympics. A number of sponsors have insured themselves against hacks, and now, it would seem as though that was a very necessary precaution.
The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act is due to be considered by the US Senate this month. The proposed legislation won't be one-way traffic, though, and would also enable authorities in the UK to more easily access information held in the US.
"With it, law enforcement officials in the US and the UK will be empowered to investigate their citizens suspected of terrorism and serious crimes like murder, human trafficking, and the sexual abuse of children regardless of where the suspect's email or messages happen to be stored," the spokesperson said.
The result of the talks ended in the Prime Minister and President Trump agreed the passage of the act through the US legislative system was vital for our collective security.
US Senator Orrin Hatch called the CLOUD Act "landmark legislation" that addresses an "increasingly pressing problem".
In a statement issued by Hatch on Tuesday, he said: "In today's world of email and cloud computing, where data is stored across the globe, law enforcement and tech companies find themselves encumbered by conflicting data disclosure and privacy laws.
"We need a common sense framework to help law enforcement obtain critical information to solve crimes while at the same time enabling email and cloud computing providers to comply with countries' differing privacy regimes.
"The CLOUD Act creates such a framework and will also help set a precedent for our allies as they deal with this problem too."
Katie Price has told MPs of the "horrific" social media abuse targeted at her son Harvey, and how she wants to protect him from it.
The model and reality TV star is campaigning for online abuse to be made a criminal offence.
MPs launched an inquiry into online abuse after a petition started by Ms Price was backed by 200,000 people.
Harvey, who is 15-years-old, is partially blind, autistic and has Prader-Willi syndrome.
Ms Price, who has four other children, told the Commons petitions committee only Harvey had been singled out for cruel mockery including "a lot of racial abuse".
"They know he hasn't got a voice back and they mock him more... I just think they find him an easy target - just to pick on.
"But I'm his voice. I'm here and I am going to protect him."
he said she had complained to the police but they had been unable to take action because there were no specific laws in place to deal with online abuse.
"The most horrific things.... have been said about my son," she told the MPs, and she had realised through her petition that others face similar harassment.
Her mother, Amy Price, suggested "the law is out of date - it's got to be policed more".
Katie "has always been in the limelight" and she has "got used to it," she added, but the abuse of Harvey "does upset you and you do feel emotional - it's hard".
In response to the suggestion that she invited the insults by posting pictures of her son, Katie Price said "I'm proud of Harvey" and it was important for disabled children to have visibility.
She said the criminalisation of online abuse shouldn't just be restricted to the targeting of disabled people.
"I know I'm here because it started off because Harvey and his disabilities but this isn't just for people with disabilities as well, it will help everybody."
She added: "Like me or hate me, I'm here to protect others."
'I'll be back'
She said it was important to protect freedom of speech and there needed to be a discussion about how bad abuse could get before it was considered criminal.
She also argued for a register of people found guilty of online abuse, saying: "If they are big enough to go behind their computers and say these things then I want them named and shamed."
After 40 minutes facing MPs' questions, she said: "I know you lot sitting there agree with me, really.
"We know we all agree but we just have to get the government to do it."
If nothing happened, she joked, she would be "like Arnold Schwarzenegger - I'll be back."
The Petitions Committee is looking at the impact of online abuse - particularly on people with disabilities - responsibility for protection, whether technology companies are doing enough.
It is also examining whether the law needs to be changed, how to define online abuse and what support is given to victims.
The government's minister for women, Victoria Atkins, said she had become disillusioned with social media.
"I've come off Twitter because I was so fed up of it. I was fed up with the death threats and the nastiness, from people who often live many, many miles away from my constituency," she told BBC Radio 5 live's told Emma Barnett.
It comes as Prime Minister Theresa May also announced proposed new laws to stop people being intimidated in public life.
In a speech marking the centenary of women getting the vote, she made an appeal for "tolerance and respect" and said it was unacceptable for anyone to face threats over their political views.
The PM added that she was considering a new offence to protect politicians and their families.
Image captionFlorin and Mariuca Talpes own and run one of Romania's most successful companies
As bullets whistled down the streets and tear gas swirled through the air like a toxic fog, Florin and Mariuca Talpes knew that their lives would never be the same again.
Little did the couple know then that they'd go on to become two of their country's most successful business leaders.
It was back in December 1989 that Florin and Mariuca were caught up in the Romanian revolution.
"We were on the streets while bullets and tear gas were around us," says Mariuca, who was 26 at the time.
"We had two twin boys, they were three then... I said to Florin I have to go home and take care of them."
Thankfully, they their sons were unharmed in the violent overthrow of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his communist administration.
But suddenly Mariuca and Florin, then 32, faced an uncertain economic future.
As the state apparatus disintegrated, they were unsure if they would keep their jobs in the government's computer research institute; or if they did, whether they would be paid.
So they both quit in January 1990 to set up their own company.
Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionUp to 1,200 people are estimated to have been killed during Romania's 1989 revolution
In a country where private enterprise had been banned under the communists, neither of them had any experience of running a business, but they thought it was a risk worth taking despite some opposition within their families.
Today their business, Bitdefender, is one of the world's most popular providers of cyber-security and anti-virus software. With annual revenues of more than $120m (£85m) the firm is valued at $600m.
It was Mariuca's mother who opposed their decision to set up their own business 28 years ago in the immediate aftermath of the revolution.
"My mother was shouting 'are you crazy!'," remembers Mariuca, 54.
However, her father, a Romanian actor, gave the couple $300 to help get their venture off the ground.
Image captionThe couple started their business from the front room of their apartment
The early version of the business was called Softwin, and the idea was that it would offer software support services to companies in the West.
Their first client came from France, and Florin admits that he and Mariuca had to learn the hard way that in the free market the customer had to be completely happy because he or she could simply go elsewhere - something that wasn't the case under communism because there wasn't any competition.
"We had to learn quickly what it means to have an unsatisfied client, and what to do in order to satisfy it," says Florin, now 60.
"Because we had come from the communist system which didn't necessarily put an accent on quality... it was like a cold shower."
Mariuca adds: "It was a culture shock."
Image captionBitdefender's website is available in 20 different languages
Thankfully for Florin and Mariuca and their team they were quick learners, and rather good at computing programming.
Soon another Western firm got in touch to see if Softwin could fix a computer tennis game they were making. They were struggling to make the ball move fluidly.
Florin says: "We solved it the next night, and in two days we went to them with the solution."
Softwin continued to grow until 2001 when it morphed into the even more popular Bitdefender, with growth led by positive reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations as internet use proliferated around the world.
Image captionBitdefender's workforce has grown to 1,400 people today from less than 50 in 2001, here
Today, Bitdefender has 500 million customers (59% members of the public and 41% companies), who pay to download its software from its website.
Mariuca admits that sometimes being Romanian has been a hindrance, because of the negative opinion some in the Western world have of the country.
"I think many Westerners thought we were coming out from the trees, being a poor country... uneducated."
But she adds that within the IT industry Romanians have an excellent reputation because there are a large number of Romanian computer specialists who have left the country to work abroad.
Image captionThe couple, pictured here with their sons, are national champion ballroom dancers
Regarding Bitdefender's products, Florin says that it always has to work hard to make sure it stays ahead of the cyber-criminals.
"When we started, the attackers were activists or kids who wanted revenge. Nowadays it is organised crime. It is an industry; cyber-crime.
"People have all their devices connected to the internet, and all are like doors and windows for thieves."
Rik Turner, senior analyst at consultancy firm Ovum, says that Bitdefender has played a "canny game" by being in both consumer and business markets, and by "doing licensing with other security vendors so that they can use its tech in their broader product portfolios".
On a day-to-day basis Florin, who holds the chief executive title, leads Bitdefender while Mariuca now looks after an educational software company called Intuitex.
The couple also make time for a hobby that they are passionate about - ballroom dancing. They are in fact national Romanian champions in their category.
"The dance lessons are us recharging," says Florin.
Bitdefender now has 1,400 employs across offices in 11 countries and its headquarters in Bucharest. Some 40% of its business is in North America.
While the business has a number of outside investors, Florin and Mariuca maintain a majority share.
He says: "In life and in business you are constantly experiencing, and you have to adapt quickly, you have to learn as quickly as possible, and be as agile as possible."
2017 saw more and more businesses realising they are one step (or more) behind, and deciding to undertake new Digital Transformation Projects – a trend which is only most certainly going to grow throughout 2018.
Today, a majority of knowledge workers believe they are only as productive as they were three years ago, mainly because they haven’t had the most up-to-date tools or solutions needed. When we think how quickly the digital revolution is pumping out wave after wave of updated products, that’s a long time!
A few items that should be high on your Digital Transformation agenda:
The move towards fully integrating Collaboration tools into the workforce
2018 brings us closer to a time where working from home will just be work, conference/meeting rooms will become the living rooms of the office, and shared communication/instant messaging platforms will be the go to for staff, instead of email or phones to talk within the building. These methods of communication, be it Spark, Skype for Business, WebEx, or any of the numerous other platforms.
These platforms make teamwork easier, communicating quicker and, well, collaborating much more straightforward (the clue’s in the name!). However, one oversight many businesses make when implementing collaboration tools is measuring their success. Measuring their uptake means you can spot potential roadblocks to your new digital business transformation – whether that’s staff knowledge gaps, certain departments pushing back, or some areas of the organisation not needing the tools at all.
When most collaboration platforms charge you per user licence and only hold/store a few months’ worth of historic data, having a tool in place to give you data, analytics and reports will enable and aid in a transformation rollout. It also means you can carry out the new changes in the most cost-effective manner, having visibility of where the ROI is held and where you can cut extra costs – particularly if you use a tool that can report on and analyse your overall Unified Communications channels, as well as the disruption to O365 email usage too.
Better utilisation of valuable business data
In 2018 we’ll see businesses making more of their data, exploring its business value, and making it available to those internally who need it – and when they need it. A holistic view of the business, with data at the centre of that. With SaaS, cloud storage and data analytics platforms/software, cost and storage are no longer a large concern for IT departments, and the focus has become the value of the data instead. These systems can also deliver data more quickly and in a user-friendly format – meaning businesses can work faster and smarter.
As businesses keep up with the times, and undertake Digital Transformation Projects, they realise the role of data is becoming more vital in achieving success, both in the long-term as well as the short-term. The predominant focus will become analysing the data in ways that are most valuable to a business, and this will be where successful businesses will evolve. The analytics and reporting tools will play a big part in this field, and choosing the right one(s) will be key.
Exploiting SaaS and Managed Service solutions
Businesses will realise that where they lack the time, skills and resources inhouse for certain processes, they will benefit from using SaaS and Managed Services. This also gives them the opportunity to benefit from the industry’s constant evolution – allowing them to stay current in a digital world without forking out the cashflow to get there. Using SaaS or a Managed Service will allow businesses more time, energy and resource to direct where its more needed.
Luckily, Tiger Communications can help you with any of the above, find out more here.
Author: Teila Hurlock, Business Intelligence at Tiger Communications.
Openreach CEO Clive Selley describes programme as "one of the fastest broadband deployments in the world"
Superfast broadband is now available to 95 per cent of residential and business premises across the UK, the government has claimed today, which it suggests is up from 29.4 per cent in 2010. Wales has reach the 94 per cent mark, it added.
Most households and businesses can now access broadband connections of more than 24Mbps, the government claims. "We need to get this caveat in very quickly, the 95% target is not a consistent 95% across all communities in the UK," it said.
Areas such as Epsom, Tamworth, Worthing and Watford are pushing into the 99 per cent coverage zone, while the City of London (50.3 per cent), Orkney Islands (66.8 per cent), Western Isles (71 per cent) and Kingston upon Hull (71.7 per cent) all lag behind.
However, the government was keen to push its £1.7 billion in funding for the roll-out of superfast broadband to areas deemed "not commercially viable", which it claims has helped reach more than 4.5 million UK premises that would otherwise still be without half-decent broadband.
"Providing access to reliable, high speed broadband is probably the single most important thing we can do to ensure the sustainability of our rural communities and businesses and as such it is fantastic to hear that Wales has reached 94% for superfast broadband coverage," said Wales minister Stuart Andrew.
He added: "Wales had a much bigger gap to close than England and so it's really positive news that they've made such giant steps in closing the digital divide, particularly given the very challenging topography in Wales."
Clive Selley, CEO of BT's independent infrastructure arm Openreach - which has benefited the most from government funding for broadband roll-outs - described it as "one of the fastest broadband deployments in the world".
He added that Openreach was "determined to get Britain - the whole of Britain - hooked up to decent broadband speeds", adding that the organisation would "be continuing to expand our network to address the remaining ‘not-spots' through a combination of our own commercial programmes and our partnerships with local authorities and communities".
Commenting on the news, Thinkbroadband explained that the rollout consists of a "mixture of commercial and gap-funded solutions". And many projects are beginning to focus on G.fast and fibre to the premises [FTTP] in commercial areas.
The organisation said superfast roll-outs will continue to improve, potentially reaching 100 per cent within the next few years.
"The hope is that roll-outs will eventually deliver superfast to 97 per cent to 98 per cent of premises before 2020, and the focus of a lot of the work in terms of tracking coverage now from ourselves, Ofcom and DCMS will be looking into how likely that looks and how many premises fall into the USO [universal service obligation] category."
However, people in many rural areas will still be disappointed, it added, such as in "places like Hatherden and Wildhern in Hampshire [that] still have no superfast broadband coverage".
It continued: "The biggest concern people have with the coverage statistics is that they know they cannot get superfast broadband due to the distance from the VDSL2 cabinet, but still presume that Openreach has been paid to deliver it to them and thus feel the projects have been wasting money. "