Plain English Cyber in 3 articles, 2 numbers and 1 action.
This week: ComReg has a plan to tackle volume of scam calls to Irish mobile users. Google’s trackers are being investigated in the US, while the Austrian Courts have ruled that Google Analytics contravenes GDPR. And the US Federal Reserve starts a discussion about digital currencies.
This week’s action: Don’t answer that call.
If you’d prefer to listen to Cyber 3-2-1: This week’s episode is accessible from https://www.buzzsprout.com/1914497/9967892
1: Telecoms regulator launches major plan to tackle volume of scam calls to Irish mobile users
The Journal reports that ComReg, Ireland’s telecoms regulator, “has established a taskforce to tackle the increase in scam calls and texts being sent to members of the public seeking their personal details .. amid fears about the perceived trustworthiness and integrity of electronic communications in Ireland”
I find it interesting that they describe it as fears about the perceived trustworthiness of electronic communications. This is not a perception problem. This is a reality problem. We can no longer trust that the calls we are receiving are coming from the numbers displayed.
The taskforce will meet monthly, with their first report due in six months. We all hope that the report will not be added to a file in a filing cabinet.
Read more: https://www.thejournal.ie/ireland-scam-calls-taskforce-establish-comreg-5664923-Jan2022/
2: Cookies are trackers. And Google’s trackers are being challenged.
The Irish Independent reports that “A group of American state attorneys general, including Texas, Indiana and Washington DC, announced [this week] they were suing Alphabet Inc.’s Google over what they allege are deceptive tactics designed to trick consumers into disclosing location data to more accurately target advertising. [..] Even when consumers turn off location tracking on their phones, Google continues to track their movements [..] The lawsuits say the tactics lasted from 2014 to at least 2019, and occurred through devices using Google’s Android operating system as well as Google apps and web-based services such as search and maps.” [..] A similar case was filed against Google by the state of Arizona in 2020, which alleged “Google makes it impractical if not impossible for users to meaningfully opt-out of Google’s collection of location information”.
This announcement was made shortly after Google found itself on the wrong side of an Austrian court ruling that the use of Google Analytics on an Austrian website violates GDPR. The case was brought by NOYB (None of Your Business). NOYB describes itself as a pan-European team of lawyers and experts. NOYB’s Honorary Chairman is Max Schrems, someone who is well known to people working in the data protection world.
There’s a 10 minute rant that I could go on about the value of analytics on most websites. But for now, if you use Google Analytics on your website, it may be time to consider alternatives that don’t feed the Google data monster machine. Personally, I use Fathom Analytics on my website, mainly because I know, like and trust Paul Jarvis, one of the co-founders. [And just to flag a potential conflict of interest: I helped Paul understand European data protection regulations during the early development of
the product a number of years ago.]
Read more: https://www.independent.ie/business/world/american-states-sue-google-over-deceptive-web-tracking-41274142.html
3: US Federal Reserve seeks comment on the future of the US Dollar in the Age of Digital Transformation
The Federal Reserve System is the central bank of the United States. It has recently issued a paper described as the “first step in a public discussion between the Federal Reserve and stakeholders about central bank digital currencies (CBDCs)”. In layman’s terms, it describes a CBDC as a “digital form of paper money”, back by a central bank.
It recognises the potential for digital money to provide a more convenient, faster, and cheaper mechanism for payments (including cross-border payments) and to expand consumer access to the financial system. It also notes the potential risks, including how it might affect the current market structure of the financial sector and the stability of the current financial system.
Its current view is that CBDCs should “complement, rather than replace, current forms of money and methods for providing financial services.” I know this is likely to be music to the ears of current financial services providers, and offensive to the more extreme participants in the cryptocurrency world.
To me, how the new world of cryptocurrencies will meet the current world of regulation is very interesting. Depending on your perspective and experience, regulation is red tape that makes it expensive or impossible for new companies to challenge the incumbent global financial services firms. Or you may see regulation as necessary to protect consumers from shady selling practices in a world where the financial services firms will always know more than the consumer, and to make it more difficult for criminals and terrorists to finance their operations.
I am also interested in how the challenges of verifying identity while protecting privacy are going to be addressed, whether by a central authority like a central bank or by technical advances within the blockchain ecosystem.
Read more: https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/money-and-payments-discussion-paper.htm via https://www.ben-evans.com/newsletter
According to the survey by The Journal in July 2021, 75% of Irish people had received at least one scam call from what looked like an Irish number in the previous month.
In the same survey, 11% said they had never received a scam call from an Irish number. Given how rampant these scam calls are, I assume this 11% of the population have lost their mobile phone down the back of the sofa.
Read more: https://www.thejournal.ie/scam-calls-irish-numbers-poll-5490391-Jul2021/
Following on from their victory in the Austrian courts, NOYB has stated that it has 100 similar complaints filled across EU countries, and all are awaiting their day in court.
Read more: https://noyb.eu/en/austrian-dsb-eu-us-data-transfers-google-analytics-illegal
1: Don’t answer.
There is currently only one effective defence against the scourge of scam calls. Do not answer calls from unrecognised numbers.
Your voicemail greeting probably already tells the caller to ‘please leave a message’. If they don’t, they’re not worth calling back.
And the bonus action? Do not respond to SMS text messages from any organisation and do not click any links within these messages, especially those that tell you there’s suspicious activity or transactions on your account. To see if the message is genuine, go to the main website of the company in question, log in to your account and see if it alerts you to any suspicious activity. Alternatively, call the company on a number that you already have on file for them. If it’s a bank, it’s probably printed on the back of your physical card or shown on a recent statement.
This was my response when I received SMS messages from my Irish bank last month telling me that there were suspicious transactions on my credit card, and that the card was blocked until I phoned them on a number included within the SMS message text! When I called them on the number printed on the back of my card, it turned out to be a genuine alert.
Hopefully, someone in that bank will soon have a ‘Homer Simpson’ moment when they realise that including a phone number within the text of their messages means:
- Vigilant people will ignore their message (as it looks just like a scam), and
- Vulnerable people will be more likely to fall for scam messages in the future (as they will look just like a genuine message from their bank).