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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 16th Jan 2018


Woman kicking doughnutsImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionCan apps and fitness trackers helps us kick bad habits into touch?

January is a peak time for downloading health and fitness apps and putting those Christmas present fitness trackers to work. But do they actually help you stay motivated?

After the Christmas self-indulgence comes the inevitable New Year's resolution to get fit, lose weight, and eat more healthily.

But while 65% of us make resolutions, only 12% successfully keep to them, polling firm ComRes finds. Can tech help?

When Sarah, 34, a law professor from Australia, wanted to lose weight last year, she took the unusual approach of placing bets that she would achieve her exercise goals.

Breast cancer had stopped her exercise routine, and she'd gained weight during a year which included three operations, she says.

"I was returning to exercise by hiking and trying to lose some of the weight I'd put on while being sedentary," she says.

Sarah SteeleImage copyrightSARAH STEELE

Image captionSarah bet that she would reach her fitness goals after treatment for breast cancer

She began a new exercise routine eight weeks after finishing breast reconstruction surgery. With a wearable activity tracker, she monitored the steps she took each day and the calories she burned.

But she also motivated herself with an app, Step Bet, that let her wager whether she would achieve her exercise goals.

"I did three one-month bets and three six-month bets, and lost 7kg [15 lbs] - 10% of my body weight," says Sarah.

She also says she made £358 [$458; €403].

"I like losing fat. I don't like losing money. The effect? Motivation!" she explains.

For the data-minded, tracking your progress with reams of measurements is enough to stay motivated.

Arshia Gratiot, who is 40 and originally from Bangalore, has been using a fitness tracker for a year, "to measure biometrics such as my heart rate, associated with my level of fitness," she says.

In 2016, she founded a technology start-up with offices in Finland, India, and London.

Arshia GratiotImage copyrightARSHIA GRATIOT

Image captionEntrepreneur Arshia Gratiot says exercising was "the only way I could stay sane"

Frequently travelling across time zones made her decide to go running each evening - sometimes in the middle of the night - while listening to podcasts.

"It was either lie in bed like a zombie, totally jet-lagged, or hit the road. It was the only way I could stay sane," she says.

Tracking her heart rate and metabolism offered "a visual way to track progress over time" and encouraged her, says Ms Gratiot.

But it's how we use such data that matters, argues Anil Aswani, an assistant professor in industrial engineering and operations research at the University of California, Berkeley.

"Personalized goal setting is a very important aspect of these apps," he says

The better exercise apps learn from how you've done in the past to tailor your goals, he argues. And doing this builds a sense of achievement, which behavioural psychologists say is important in altering your habits.

"If you're effective at meeting goals today, it boosts your confidence and makes you more likely to meet your goals in the future," says Prof Aswani.

Joseph Laws in uniform sitting on a rockImage copyrightJOSEPH LAWS

Image captionJoseph Laws used his military and Google experience to create a fitness app that adapts

In his own research, one group of test subjects was given a changing number of steps as a goal each day, based on their previous progress. Another was assigned the same number of steps every day.

The group given adaptive goals averaged about 1,000m more each day, he says.

Joseph Laws, a former US army Ranger who served in Afghanistan and afterwards worked as a software engineer at Google, has developed his own way of setting adaptive goals.

Based on his army experience, he began developing fitness routines for friends and family. Later, he started developing machine learning algorithms to find out which exercises best built fitness, based on age, sex, height, and weight.

Mr Laws released the official version of his app, Optimize, six months ago.

The challenge was "developing a model of fitness, and mapping those equations to actual exercises," he says.

Once he had the model in place, his algorithms could learn and improve each time a person exercised. The workouts would then adapt to the person's past performance.

Around 90% of users who make it to their fourth workout continue to use it for the next two months, he says. Most of the data comes from people "20 to 50 years old", he says, so the next challenge is gathering more data from older exercisers, and other non-typical groups, such as people with injuries.

Other fitness start-ups are trying to apply machine learning to calorie counting.

Charles Teague's app, Lose It!, began by asking users to log everything they ate, then keeping track of their calories and nutrients, he says.

This, as everyone knows who's tried it, is a bit of a faff.

"So wouldn't it be great if you could just take a picture of your food, and it was just logged?" he asks.

A year ago, he introduced a feature called Snap It, which is learning how to identify food on a plate.

Screengrab of avocado on phoneImage copyrightLOSEIT!

Image captionThe LoseIt! app aims to count your calories by recognising snaps of your food

"The data we've accumulated today would do things like recognise that's pasta, that's an apple, that's a banana," says Mr Teague.

But more data is needed if the app is to discern spaghetti bolognese from fettuccine alfredo, for example.

At the moment, users train the algorithm as they use it, by selecting the precise type of food in front of them from options the algorithm identifies. So it will take time before the app becomes sufficiently clever to recognise most food variants.

With the World Health Organisation saying obesity is now more common than under-nutrition, researchers agree apps based on health and psychological research have the potential to transform how we eat and exercise.

But of 29,000 apps relating to weight loss and fitness, only 17 were based on verifiable scientific research, a 2016 study at the Catholic University of Louvain found.

Despite this, the global mobile fitness app market grew from $1.8bn in 2016 to $2.2bn, says research firm Statista, while the fitness wearables market was worth $6.1bn in 2017, a figure expected to reach $7.5bn by 2022.

So as well as thinking about what you eat and how far you run, it's worth checking out the credentials of the fitness app or tracker first before committing your hard-earned cash.

What works for you will depend largely on your personality and what pushes your motivational buttons.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 16th Jan 2018

Panicking couple in officeImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionMany firms are panicking as cyber-attacks and regulatory fines threaten profits

With cyber-attacks increasing in frequency and severity, many companies are turning to insurance to cover their mounting losses. But can insurers quantify the risk accurately and could insurance lead to corporate complacency?

Many firms feel like they're under siege.

Cyber-attacks are coming thick and fast and the tools at the hackers' disposal seem to be getting more, not less, powerful.

Estimated annual losses from cyber crime now top $400bn (£291bn), according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And the cost in lost productivity of last year's WannaCry ransomware attack alone was estimated at $4bn.

So many businesses are buying cyber insurance "in a mad panic", warns Char van der Walt of SecureData, a cyber-security company.

"Unfortunately this will mean that businesses of all sizes will seek out the minimum cyber-security investment laid out by insurers, government, and regulators, rather than going above and beyond to protect their own, and their customers', data."

Ransomware attacks, whereby criminals break in to your network, encrypt all your data, then demand money in return for the decryption key, are particularly virulent. Firms have even been stocking up on Bitcoins - the hackers' cryptocurrency payment of choice - to pay the ransoms.


Media captionTechnology explained: what is ransomware?

And it's not just the immediate ransom costs they have to worry about. There are the costs of investigating and closing the breach, legal and public relations costs, the damage to your share price as consumers and clients lose confidence, and the loss of business resulting from a damaged reputation.

There are also potential regulatory fines to pay - particularly when the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in May. Under the new rules your firm could be fined up to 4% of turnover or €20m, whichever is the greater, if regulators think you haven't protected customers' personal data adequately.

The average cost of a cyber breach was $349,000 in 2017, according to NetDiligence, whose data is based on actual cyber insurance claims. For a big company the average cost was $5.9m.

But US retailer Target, which had more than 40 million customer credit card details stolen in 2013, had to fork out $279m in total as a result of the breach, says specialist insurance market Lloyd's of London in a report compiled with consultancy KPMG and international law firm DCA Beachcroft.

Around $100m of that was on lawsuits.

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionIf this is your firm's attitude to the rising cyber threat, you may be in trouble

Telecoms company TalkTalk suffered losses of nearly $100m after its breach in 2015, says Lloyd's, and this included a £400,000 fine from the UK Information Commissioner's Office.

So it's perhaps little surprise that interest in cyber insurance has spiked recently.

The number of insurers offering cyber insurance via Lloyd's of London has leapt to more than 70, nearly double the number a few years ago. And insurance giant Allianz predicts that global cyber insurance premiums will grow to $20bn by 2025, up from around $3-4bn now.

One insurer, Hiscox, says it has been enjoying robust growth in its cyber insurance business, particularly following the TalkTalk breach and as GDPR approaches.

"We're seeing annual growth of around 40% in cyber," says Gareth Wharton, chief executive of cyber at the insurer. "We expect to have taken around $100m in premiums in 2017."

Gareth WhartonImage copyrightSUKI DHANDA

Image captionGareth Wharton from insurer Hiscox admits that it's difficult to assess the value of lost data

But how do insurers know how to assess cyber risk accurately and set the right premium levels?

"Cyber isn't like car or house insurance where the risks are known and the products haven't changed that much," says Mr Wharton. "The types of risk are changing all the time and there's no easy way of quantifying the cost of stolen data."

So it's up to the insurer to make sure the client is an acceptable risk, he says.

"Firstly we need to understand how seriously the board takes cyber-security," says Mr Wharton. "Does it have a disaster recovery plan and how often does it test it?"

The firm checks obvious security measures, too, such as the presence of antivirus and firewall protection, the frequency of software updates and data back-ups, and whether critical data is encrypted, he says.

"We're trying to be a partner with our clients, not just a seller of insurance, so we offer free cyber security training as well. We have a responsibility to drive up standards and encourage better practice."

While there are several recognised ISO [International Organisation for Standardisation] standards covering various aspects of information security, there isn't one catch-all standard that global businesses can adopt to help insurers assess their cyber risk.

The UK government insists that any company it does business with has to conform to the Cyber Essentials standards set by the National Cyber Security Centre. That's a start at least.

"One of the biggest issues in cyber insurance is how to price it effectively and cover indirect as well as direct costs a company suffers following a cyber-attack," says Nik Whitfield, chief executive of Panaseer, a cyber risk assessor.

He anticipates companies like his offering cyber risk assessment services to insurers. Firms seeking insurance would be happy to be assessed in the hope of securing lower premiums, he argues.

"Such a service would be the equivalent of a telematics box in your car which tells the insurance company how well you're driving," says Mr Whitfield.

But if firms see cyber insurance merely as an excuse to skimp on their cyber-security defences, they could find themselves in trouble, he warns.

"Businesses must understand that cyber insurance is not a silver bullet - you don't get car insurance and drive like a maniac," he says.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 15th Jan 2018

Facebook is vetting local publishers that appear in this section.

Chris Hyde / Getty

Facebook wants to make it easier for people to find local news from vetted sources.

The social network is testing a new section inside its app called “Today In,” a feed made up entirely of local news, events and announcements.

The test is running in just six cities for now: New Orleans, La.; Little Rock, Ark.; Billings, Mont.; Peoria, Ill.; Olympia, Wash.; and Binghamton, N.Y. Facebook users who self-identify as living in those areas will be able to visit the new section to see local information, like stories from local publishers or emergency updates from local authorities.

Facebook is using machine-learning software to surface content in this new section. Local news publishers who appear there will all be approved and vetted by the company’s News Partnerships team, which is overseen by former NBC news anchor Campbell Brown, according to a company spokesperson.

Facebook has anew local section of its app for news and events. Facebook

The company says this is all part of Facebook’s Journalism Project initiative, which Facebook launched shortly after last year’s U.S. presidential election in which so-called fake news spread on the service, leading many to point to Facebook as part of the reason for Donald Trump’s surprising victory.

The company has tested and launched a handful of other news-related features this year as part of the effort, including a breaking news label for publishers and a label identifying stories disputed by outside fact-checkers. (It stopped using the “disputed” tags in December.)

All of this plays into the company’s broader efforts to cleanse the service of false information; hand-selecting local publishers to appear inside this new section of the app should (theoretically) help keep fake news to a minimum.

The question is whether or not the section will benefit local publishers. It’s possible that being part of a separate, local section of the app will help drive more traffic back to publishers’ stories and websites where they can make money through advertising, but there is no way for publishers to make money off the new local section at launch.

Even generating that extra traffic will depend on whether or not Facebook users frequent the new section. Facebook plans to alert people in the six test cities that the new feature exists, but after that, “Today In” will appear in the menu (☰) where Facebook has dozens of other lesser-used sections of the app that you might easily forget about.

Eventually, Facebook wants to roll this out to more cities. And users will eventually be able to follow local cities that they don’t currently live in (a childhood hometown, for example), according to a company spokesperson.

“Local” has been a bit of a theme for Facebook over the past 18 months. It started surfacing more posts from local politicians last fall and is expanding Marketplace, its Craigslist-style platform for people to sell used goods to their neighbors.

In November, Facebook also rebranded its standalone events app, calling it “Facebook Local,” which shows users where to find restaurants and nearby events. That app is completely separate from this new local news section, according to a company spokesperson.



Source: recode.net
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 15th Jan 2018


  • Sen. John Thune, who chairs the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, asked for answers from Apple in a letter released Wednesday.
  • Apple is supposed to respond by Jan. 23.
  • Thune said he isn't "ruling anything out" should the tech giant fail to adequately answer his questions.


Published 12:01 PM ET Wed, 10 Jan 2018  Updated 12:51 PM ET Wed, 10 Jan 2018CNBC.com


Sen. John Thune (R-SD)

Sen. John Thune: We want more transparency from Apple  12:42 PM ET Wed, 10 Jan 2018 | 03:30

Republican Sen. John Thune said Wednesday on CNBC that he wants to know why Apple hasn't been more "transparent" about why the company chose to deliberately slow the performance of batteries in some older iPhones.

Thune, who chairs the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, requested answers from the company in a letter released Wednesday. Apple is supposed to respond by Jan. 23.

The South Dakota Republican said he isn't "ruling anything out" should Apple fail to adequately answer his questions.

"We could have a hearing at some point and elevate this further," Thune told CNBC's "Squawk Alley" on Wednesday.

Apple disclosed in December that it had been slowing down batteries in older iPhones to save components from overuse without notifying users. It apologized to customers and dropped the price of a battery replacement to $29.

Source: cnbc.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 15th Jan 2018

Millions of people trust WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption. But security researchers say a flaw could put some group chats at risk of infiltration.


When WhatsApp added end-to-end encryption to every conversation for its billion users two years ago, the mobile messaging giant significantly raised the bar for the privacy of digital communications worldwide. But one of the tricky elements of encryption—and even trickier in a group chat setting—has always been ensuring that a secure conversation reaches only the intended audience, rather than some impostor or infiltrator. And according to new research from one team of German cryptographers, flaws in WhatsApp make infiltrating the app's group chats much easier than ought to be possible.

At the Real World Crypto security conference Wednesday in Zurich, Switzerland, a group of researchers from the Ruhr University Bochum in Germany plan to describe a series of flaws in encrypted messaging apps including WhatsApp, Signal, and Threema. The team argues their findings undermine each app's security claims for multi-person group conversations to varying degrees.

But while the Signal and Threema flaws they found were relatively harmless, the researchers unearthed far more significant gaps in WhatsApp's security: They say that anyone who controls WhatsApp's servers could effortlessly insert new people into an otherwise private group, even without the permission of the administrator who ostensibly controls access to that conversation.

'It's just a total screwup. There's no excuse.'


"The confidentiality of the group is broken as soon as the uninvited member can obtain all the new messages and read them," says Paul Rösler, one of the Ruhr University researchers who co-authored a paper on the group messaging vulnerabilities. "If I hear there's end-to-end encryption for both groups and two-party communications, that means adding of new members should be protected against. And if not, the value of encryption is very little."

That any would-be eavesdropper would have to control the WhatsApp server limits the spying method to sophisticated hackers who could compromise those servers, WhatsApp staffers, or governments who legally coerce WhatsApp to give them access. But the premise of so-called end-to-end encryption has always been that even a compromised server shouldn't expose secrets. Only people in a conversation should be able to read WhatsApp's messages, not the servers themselves.

"If you build a system where everything comes down to trusting the server, you might as well dispense with all the complexity and forget about end-to-end encryption," says Matthew Green, a cryptography professor at Johns Hopkins University who reviewed the Ruhr University researchers' work. "It's just a total screwup. There's no excuse."

Group Threat

The German researchers say their WhatsApp attack takes advantage of a simple bug. Only an administrator of a WhatsApp group can invite new members, but WhatsApp doesn't use any authentication mechanism for that invitation that its own servers can't spoof. So the server can simply add a new member to a group with no interaction on the part of the administrator, and the phone of every participant in the group then automatically shares secret keys with that new member, giving him or her full access to any future messages. (Messages sent prior to an illicit invitation, fortunately, still can't be decrypted.)

Everyone in the group would see a message that a new member had joined, seemingly at the invitation of the unwitting administrator. If the administrator is watching closely, he or she could warn the group's intended members about the interloper and the spoofed invitation message.


But the Ruhr University researchers and Johns Hopkins' Green point out several tricks that could be used to delay detection. Once an attacker with control of the WhatsApp server had access to the conversation, he or she could also use the server to selectively block any messages in the group, including those that ask questions, or provide warnings about the new entrant.

"He can cache all the message and then decide which get sent to whom and which not," says Rösler. And in groups with multiple administrators, the hijacked server could spoof different messages to each administrator, making it appear that another one had invited the eavesdropper, so that none raises an alarm. It could even prevent any administrator's attempt to remove the eavesdropper from the group if discovered.

Some Limits

In a phone call with WIRED, a WhatsApp spokesperson confirmed the researchers' findings, but emphasized that no one can secretly add a new member to a group—a notification does go through that a new, unknown member has joined the group. The staffer added that if an administrator spots a fishy new addition to a group, they can always tell other users via another group, or in one-to-one messages. And the WhatsApp spokesperson also noted that preventing the Ruhr University researchers' attack would likely break a popular WhatsApp feature known as a "group invite link" that allows anyone to join a group simply by clicking on a URL.

“We've looked at this issue carefully," a WhatsApp spokesperson wrote in an email. "Existing members are notified when new people are added to a WhatsApp group. We built WhatsApp so group messages cannot be sent to a hidden user. The privacy and security of our users is incredibly important to WhatsApp. It's why we collect very little information and all messages sent on WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted.”

To be fair, this technique wouldn't be a very stealthy strategy in the long run for government spying. Sooner or later, users would likely notice that unexpected strangers were showing up in their chats. But that possibility of detection isn't an adequate solution to WhatsApp's underlying problem, argues John Hopkins' Green. "That's like leaving the front door of a bank unlocked and then saying no one will rob it because there’s a security camera," Green says. "It's dumb."

The Ruhr University researchers say they alerted WhatsApp to the problem with group messaging security last July. In response to their report, WhatsApp's staff say they fixed one problem with a feature of their encryption that made it harder to crack future messages even after an attacker obtained one decryption key. But they told the researchers the group invitation bug they'd found was merely "theoretical" and didn't even qualify for the so-called bug bounty program run by Facebook, WhatsApp's corporate owner, in which security researchers are paid for reporting hackable flaws in the company's software.

'If I hear there's end-to-end encryption for both groups and two-party communications, that means adding of new members should be protected against.'


For some of WhatsApp's users, the stakes of the app's security could be high. WhatsApp's convenient group messaging system, in combination with its encryption promises, have made it a popular tool for "whisper networks" of grassroots organizing around sensitive or dangerous topics. Victims of sexual abuse and harassment have used it to organize the campaign against abusers, for instance. So have political insiders and Syria's embattled White Helmets, volunteer rescue brigades in Syria who are often targeted by the ruling regime.

But the shoddy security around WhatsApp's group chats should make its most sensitive users wary of interlopers, Rösler argues. If WhatsApp were to comply with a government request—in the US or abroad—agents could join any private group and listen along.

Smaller Problems

The researchers dug up less serious flaws in the more specialized secure messaging apps Signal and Threema, too. They warn that Signal allows the same group chat attack as WhatsApp, letting uninvited eavesdroppers join groups. But in Signal's case, that eavesdropper would have to not only control the Signal server, but also know a virtually unguessable number called the Group ID. That essentially blocks the attack, unless the Group ID can be obtained from one of the group member's phones—in which case the group is likely already compromised. The researchers say that Open Whisper Systems, the non-profit that runs and maintains Signal, nonetheless responded to their work, saying that it's currently redesigning how Signal handles group messaging. Open Whisper Systems declined to comment on the record to WIRED about the Ruhr researchers' findings.

For Threema, the researchers found even smaller bugs: An attacker who controls the server can replay messages or add users back into a group who have been removed. The researchers say Threema responded to their findings with a fix in an earlier version of its software.

As for WhatsApp, the researchers write that the company could fix its more egregious group chat flaw by adding an authentication mechanism for new group invitations. Using a secret key only the administrator possesses to sign those invitations could let the admin prove his or her identity and prevent the spoofed invites, locking out uninvited guests. WhatsApp has yet to take their advice.

Until they do, WhatsApp's most sensitive users should consider sticking with one-to-one conversations, or switching to a more secure group messaging app like Signal. Otherwise, they'd be wise to keep a vigilant eye out for any new entrants sliding into their private conversations. Until an administrator actively vouches for that newcomer, there's a small chance he or she might just be something other than a new friend.

Updated 10:00 pm EST with more information from WhatsApp.

Source: wired.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 15th Jan 2018

If you have received the error "Can not create folder C:/Users/Username/AppData/Local/RoboForm/_mirrors_/rf-home-root: Access is denied. (error 5)'

This is related to the Windows Fall Creator update.

Follow the steps below to fix the issue............

1. Restart in Safe Mode with Networking on the Windows account in question. If you are not familiar with starting your pc in Safe Mode please use this link for the steps. https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/12376/windows-10-start-your-pc-in-safe-mode
2. Navigate to C:/Users/Your Windows Username/AppData/Local/RoboForm/ then from here delete the mirrors folder.
3. Launch the Taskbar Icon from the Start Menu
4. Login to RoboForm with the Master Password
5. Select the RoboForm icon>>Sync>>Sync Now
(RoboForm will sync successfully and recreate the folder with the appropriate permissions.)
6. Restart in normal/standard Windows mode
7. Select RoboForm>>Sync>>Sync Now.
This should resolve the Windows Error 5 issue.


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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 9th Jan 2018

Last act of outgoing Chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin?

Conservatives forget to renew website security certificate -

The Conservative Party doesn't have the best of reputations on matters of IT security...

While Prime Minister Theresa May spends Monday reshuffling her cabinet, her party has embarrassed itself after failing to renew the security certificate of the Conservative Party website. 

People took to the internet to report the issue after being greeted with warnings when they tried to visit the Conservatives.com website. 

The problem has now been resolved, but at one point, visitors were warned by their browsers: "Your connection is not private. Attackers might be trying to steal your information from www.conservatives.com (for example, passwords, messages or credit cards)."


Many users thought that the incident was ironic considering that the government is currently undergoing a cabinet reshuffle. One user wrote: "Conservative website is down because they forgot to do an IT update. Because they didn't update, the Conservative Party can't communicate."

Your connection is not private. Attackers might be trying to steal your information from www.conservatives.com

Another also found the situation funny, saying: "In the most appropriate possible metaphor for the party's failure to grasp 21st-century campaigning, the Conservative website is down, apparently because they've failed to upgrade to HTTPS."

One user pointed out several things that have gone wrong for the government, writing: "So far on #cabinetreshuffle day the Conservative Party website has gone down and the official Tory Twitter feed has announced the wrong person as new Party Chairman. Not the best of starts.

As part of the reshuffle, Conservative Party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin has stepped down.

McLoughlin has been widely criticised for being ineffective and will be replaced by Brandon Lewis, Conservative MP for Great Yarmouth, who'll be joined by Twitter user and MP for Braintree, Essex James Cleverly

Hopefully, Lewis or Cleverly will do something about that auto-playing video on the party website home page. 

Source: v3.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 9th Jan 2018

People don't want to appear stupid in front of so-called smart assistants, suggest researchers

People don't want to appear stupid in front of so-called smart assistants, suggest researchers


Smart device users will avoid using human-like virtual assistants for fear of looking "dumb" for asking stupid questions, according to research by psychologists. 

In recent years, virtual assistants such as Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa have boomed in popularity with the tools pre-loaded onto smartphones and other devices.

But pyschologists have suggested that some people may be intimidated, rather than helped, by them. They suggest that the more human they are made, the less likely people will use them to ask questions. 


The technologies are intended to improve the simplicity of apps and help users with everyday tasks. However, Daeun Park of Chungbuk National University claims that the more human assistants may deter people from using them.

They may end up asking themselves questions such as "Will I look dumb?" for asking this, according to the researcher. People, according to Park, are conscious about apps that measure achievement. These findings were published in the journal Psychological Science.

"We demonstrate that anthropomorphic features may not prove beneficial in online learning settings, especially among individuals who believe their abilities are fixed and who thus worry about presenting themselves as incompetent to others," said Park.

"Our results reveal that participants who saw intelligence as fixed were less likely to seek help, even at the cost of lower performance."

In the past, research has suggested that people view virtual assistants as "social beings", and this can make them "seem less intimidating and more user-friendly". 

But Park and co-authors Sara Kim and Ke Zhang disagree with this claim, believing that people may feel like systems are trying to compete with their knowledge. This is particularly true when performance is concerned, they suggested.

"Online learning is an increasingly popular tool across most levels of education and most computer-based learning environments offer various forms of help, such as a tutoring system that provides context-specific help," said the researcher.

"Often, these help systems adopt human-like features. However, the effects of these kinds of help systems have never been tested."

It may, though, also be related to the knowledge or fear that the virtual assistants are slurping up data every time they are used, while the research might also only be exposing the embarrassment of looking ignorant in front of the research team. 

The test involved exposing 187 people to a task that supposedly measured their intelligence. They were given three words and had to come up with a fourth one related to them all.

If they ended up running into difficulty, they could use an on-screen computer icon or a so-called helper. The research indicated that participants were "embarrassed" if they had to use the AI rather than the icon.

"Educators and program designers should pay special attention to unintended meanings that arise from humanlike features embedded online learning features," concluded Park.

"Furthermore, when purchasing educational software, we recommend parents review not only the contents but also the way the content is delivered."

Source: v3.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 8th Jan 2018

Boy trying iPhone XImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionMany parents are worried about the amount of time their children spend on their phones

Big investors have called on Apple to develop software that limits how long children can use its smartphones.

The call came from two investment groups that hold $2bn (£1.48bn) of Apple stock between them.

A letter calling for the digital locks, signed by Jana Partners and a California teachers' pension fund, was sent to the iPhone maker this weekend.

The call for better controls was welcomed by academics studying youngsters' use of technology.

Design conflict

Jana Partners and the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) called on Apple to consider the impact excessive use of smartphones had on the mental health of young people.

The two are worried that if Apple does not address growing concerns about smartphone use, its stock market value and general reputation could be damaged.

According to a Reuters report, half of US teenagers believe they are addicted to their mobile phones and feel the need to respond immediately to messages.

Sonia Livingstone, professor of social psychology at the London School of Economics, said it was good to hear the call from the investors.

She added there needed to be one voice between device manufacturers, social media companies and internet service providers (ISPs) on the issue of smartphone use.

"For a long time the concern has been to not do anything that would impact a friction-free experience," Prof Livingstone told the BBC.

"Everyone would like to have a well balanced life, but the way that devices are designed currently causes a lot of conflict with parents."

She called on Apple and other device manufacturers to have all notifications on smartphones switched off by default and for the creation of occasional reminders that urged youngsters to take a break from their phone after long periods of use.

Prof Livingstone, who also runs a parenting blog, did question the use of the term "addiction" for those who spend a long time using a smartphone, however.

"Everyone will agree that there is excessive use and even obsession with smartphones, but I don't believe it's addiction," she said.

Apple has not yet responded to requests for comment.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 8th Jan 2018

Police warning over phishing emails that convincingly mimic Debenhams' email receipts

Consumers warned about "convincing" Debenhams phishing emails

Debenhams experienced a poor Christmas trading period, according to reports

Police have warned consumers over what they describe as a wave of convincing phishing emails that mimic e-receipts from retail chain Debenhams in order to compromise people's PCs. 

The phishing emails are intended to persuade people to click on a link to check the details and status of their order, which then downloads the malicious payload. 

The emails have been circulating since before Christmas. The company is aware of the scam after recipients contacted the company, while 55 people have contacted Action Fraud after receiving the scam emails. 

While the emails copy a typical Debenhams email receipt - one sent to customers after they have purchased or ordered something in-store - they are easily given away by the fact that they come from a clearly non-Debenhams address. 

Action Fraud described the phishing e-receipt email as "the most convincing phishing email we've seen"

It continued: "More than 55 information reports have been sent to our National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB). We would advise people to not click on any links, delete it and report it to us.

"Debenhams is aware it's a fake and have had customers contact them directly about it. Their e-receipts are issued to people when they make a purchase in store and this is a carbon copy.

"So these are not only unusual, but could catch some people off guard. The giveaway is the fact they were sent from personal email addresses."

Debenhams confirmed the scam to the Daily Mail: "We are aware of this and we continually take steps to protect customers and support the work that organisations such as Action Fraud and Cyber Aware conduct to encourage customers to be vigilant and aware of the steps they can take to stay cyber secure."

Phishing has continued to grow in recent years as the most effective way for cyber attackers to penetrate both organisations, and to compromise computer users' personal details. 

Indeed, organisations rather than individuals are probably most at risk given the sums involved. 

According to the FBI, spear-phishers have netted some $2.3bn since 2013 in a variety of semi-sophisticated, global email frauds - snaring a number of senior executives in the process, costing their companies millions

Source: v3.co.uk
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