Wonga, was a British payday loan provider of short-term, high-cost credit that was founded in 2006 and had operations in the UK, Spain, Poland and South Africa.

The interest charged by Wonga reached the equivalent of 5,853% APR at times and was widely criticised.

Following restrictions on its interest charges, rollover loans and customer compensation claims, Wonga went into administration in August 2018.  

History

Wonga was co-founded by Errol Damelin and Jonty Hurwitz in October 2006.

Damelin has said that the goal was to disrupt the short-term credit industry by providing transparency, exact control of amount and payment date, immediate access to funds, and no faxing or emailing of documents.

Wonga had a lot of problems initially, such as the banks saying they would not accept proof of identity without physical documents.  However, within five minutes of launch, the first loan application was processed and demand grew rapidly.  

The full launch of Wonga.com was July 2008 and in July 2009 Wonga raised a further £13.9m of funding, then a third round of £73 million of funding in 2011.

New Financial Rules

From July 2014, all payday loan companies had to conform to new rules, which limit roll-overs of loans and force them to increase affordability checks. From January 2015, they also had their charges capped.

On 30 September 2014, Wonga announced that its profits for the year to the end of December 2013 had fallen by 53% to £39.7 million. The company blamed the cost of compensation paid to customers – which in total cost the company £18.8m.

Wonga also said it expects to be "smaller and less profitable" in future, in part due to new controls set by the regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Wonga saw losses more than double in 2015 as tougher regulation of the payday loan sector led to a sharp fall in the number of loans taken out by UK consumers; the business reported a pre-tax loss of £80.2m for the year – up from £38.1m the year before.

The drop in revenues was driven primarily by a new price cap and stricter criteria set by UK regulators.

 Data Breach

In April 2017, Wonga suffered a data breach which affected up to 245,000 customers in the UK. The information stolen included the last four digits of customers' bank cards – information used by some banks as part of the login sequence for online accounts.

Ownership and corporate structure

The company was mostly owned by venture capital funds.

Damelin resigned as Chief Executive in November 2013 to become part-time chairman and non-executive director, then finally left the company in June 2014. He cashed in his shares for a very sizeable amount of money.

Unfair Practices

In May 2012, the company was required by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to improve its debt collection practices, after it was found that it had sent letters to customers in 2010 accusing them of committing fraud and saying that the police might be informed.

In June 2014, the FCA found that Wonga's debt collection practices were unfair and ordered that they compensate affected customers. The FCA found that between October 2008 and November 2010, Wonga had sent their customers letters claiming to be from non-existent law firms "Chainey, D'Amato & Shannon" and "Barker and Lowe Legal Recoveries", to force customer to repay debts.  

In some cases, customers were charged for the supposed lawyers' fees for these letters. This practice had been uncovered by the OFT in 2011, after Wonga was asked to disclose information about its debt collection practices.

Consequent to discussions with the FCA, on 2 October 2014 Wonga agreed to write off the debts – thought to total £220 million – of 330,000 customers who were in arrears of thirty days or more.

Advertising

In October 2014, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned Wonga from using a TV advert that  breached its code because of a claim that customers would save money. The authority said this was likely to be interpreted as a statement that Wonga’s loans were cheaper than those of other lenders and was therefore a price comparison.

It ruled that Wonga should consequently have informed consumers of its 5,853% annual interest rate.

It was the third Wonga advert to be banned by the ASA in 2014.

The Collapse of Wonga

The collapse leaves an estimated 200,000 customers still owing more than £400m in short-term loans. But borrowers were told to continue making payments and administrators are expected to sell Wonga’s loan book to another lending firm.

The collapse means about 500 people lose their jobs, mostly in the London area where the company has its head office.

Labour MP Stella Creasy (@stellacreasy)

As Wonga fell into administration, the Labour MP Stella Creasy, a prominent payday loan campaigner, tweeted that Wonga’s customers need to be protected, but warned that the vulnerable were still being targeted.

Stella has been a keen supporter for people victimised by payday loan companies such as Wonga and has fought for their rights.

“Wonga’s customers need to be first in queue for protection for the administrators - and believe me amigoloans, Vanquis, Oakum et al...you are all in my sightline to hunt down… “

Where did it all go wrong for Wonga?

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert, said the firm’s collapse was a cause for celebration. “Normally when firms go bust, the fear is diminished competition. Not here. Wonga’s payday loans were the crack cocaine of debt – unneeded, unwanted, unhelpful, destructive and addictive. Its behaviour was immoral, from using pretend lawyers to threaten the vulnerable, to pumping its ads out on children’s TV.

Good riddance to a company that has soaked people in need and caused a lot of grief, but it is sad for the employees that lost their jobs.

If you have any bad experiences with Wonga or other payday lenders, do let me know – go to the About page then Contact Us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WordPress is enormously popular – 20 million websites and blogs have been built using it.

WordPress has a wide ranging functionality and feature set and is ideal for beginners to the world of creating blogs and websites. But, that popularity means that hackers put a lot of time and attention into trying to crack WordPress installations.

So, users of WordPress need to install a range of security measures to keep the intruders at bay.

 

What Do Hackers Want From WordPress Installations?

There are the expected targets – financial institutions, retailers and others that may have payment card details etc. – anything that the hackers can sell to scammers, spammers and identity thieves. 

But there are also other reasons why hackers try to break into so many peoples WordPress sites, including:-

·         Use WordPress to secretly send out huge volumes of spam emails

·         Steal any personal information – from employees, customers, partners – email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses etc.

·         Use the website to launch distributed denial of service attacks on other target website

·         Redirects —hackers will redirect visitors from your site to other websites that generate affiliate income for them

·         Host criminal web pages on the website in hidden areas e.g. phishing pages

·         Deface The Site – this is only likely if the hackers are dumb teenagers with nothing better to do or people who distrust/dislike your business for whatever reason. It is sometimes doe for political reasons.

·         SEO – The hackers can host their own pages on your site and that will give them the benefit of your clean reputation and possibly significant Domain Authority. They can also simply add links into your pages to their own sites thus boosting their backlinks.

·         Distribute Malware - hackers can install malware on your site that will infect any readers of your site.  If that happens – your site may be blocked by the search engines and anti-malware companies as they will believe you are a scammer.  

A lot of times, hackers aren’t searching online for anything more specific than WordPress websites.

So, it’s a matter of luck whose website is attacked, but that means we must all take preventive measure even if our website appears to be of little interest to a hacker.

Automated Attacks

Manually trying to break into WordPress websites would be very time intensive so hackers use automated programmes to search out and test WordPress installations – looking for known weaknesses.  These programmes are similar to the ‘bots’ that the search engines use to track all pages in your website.

If weaknesses are found – that is reported to the hacker.

Survey of WordPress Site Owners

Research in 2016 by Dan Moen showed that most website makers do not know how the attack was made.  

Of the 1,032 survey respondents who answered this question, 61.5% didn’t know how the attacker compromised their website.

This is of concern as if you don’t know how the attack was made it is difficult to be sure you have blocked a repeat.

For the site owners who did figure out how the attackers entered, here is what the breakdown tells us:

1.       1. Plugins are the biggest risk

 2. Brute force attacks are a significant problem

Tips on How to Protect Your WordPess Site

1.       Change the admin login to an unexpected name.

2.       Add Security Plugins e.g. Wordfence or Jetpack or Bulletproof or iThemes

3.       Keep Plugins updated. They cannot keep your site protected if you miss updates.

4.       Only download plugins from reputable sites

If you are going to download plugins somewhere other than the official WordPress repository, you need to make sure the website is reputable.

 

It is simple for hackers to create fake plugins, fake reviews of those plugins and then make them available.

Conclusion

WordPress security is a constant battle – do not let down your guard and do not believe that hackers would not bother with your site – because they might.

Stay safe!

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-wasters do let me know – go to the About page then Contact Us. Also let me know if you have a website that has been attacked. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, a form of electronic cash. It is a digital currency without a government or central bank behind it. Bitcoins can be sent from user to user directly, without the need for intermediaries. Transactions are verified by network nodes through cryptography and recorded in a public distributed ledger called a blockchain.

Bitcoin was invented by an unknown person using the name Satoshi Nakamoto and released as open-source software in 2009. Central banks decide how much of a currency to print but with Bitcoin no-one can just decide to make Bitcoins – they are created as a reward for a complex process known as “mining”.

There are millions of bitcoins in circulation and millions of users of Bitcoin.

Bitcoin has a bad reputation as the currency of criminals and a major use of Bitcoin is in buying and selling on the Dark web

The Origin of Bitcoin

In November 2008, a link to a paper authored by Satoshi Nakamoto titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System was posted to a cryptography mailing list. Nakamoto implemented the Bitcoin software as open source code and released it in January 2009. The identity of Nakamoto is unknown.

Nakamoto mined the first block of the chain, known as the genesis block to crate the first bitcoins.

The receiver of the first bitcoin transaction was Hal Finney. Finney downloaded the bitcoin software on its release date, and received 10 bitcoins from Nakamoto.

Nakamoto is estimated to have mined (i.e. created) 1 million bitcoins before disappearing in 2010, when he handed the network alert key and control of the code repository over to Gavin Andresen who later became lead developer at the Bitcoin Foundation.

The Early Years

The first major users of bitcoin were black markets, such as Silk Road which exclusively accepted bitcoins as payment, transacting 9.9 million in bitcoins, worth about $214 million before it was shutdown by the FBI.

Bitcoins have no intrinsic value, are not linked to the value of any other currency or commodity and the price has been highly volatile since its inception.

In 2012 bitcoin prices started at $5.27 and the price rose to $7.38, but then crashed $3.80 within days. The roller-coaster ride for the price continued and it ended that year at $13.30

The Bitcoin Foundation was founded in September 2012 to promote its development and uptake.

Recent Years

In 2013 prices started at $13.30 rising to $770 by 1 January 2014, but by January 2015 was back down to $152.

In December 2013, the People's Bank of China prohibited Chinese financial institutions from using bitcoins and that caused the price of Bitcoin to drop.

In February 2014 the Mt. Gox exchange, the largest bitcoin exchange at the time, said that 850,000 bitcoins had been stolen from its customers, amounting to almost $500 million. Bitcoin's price fell by almost half, from $867 to $439. Prices remained low until late 2016.

In 2017 the price of Bitcoin went crazy, rising from $998 in January to $13,412.44 on 1 January 2018.

A Bitcoin mining operation Nicehash was broken into and $64 million in Bitcoins stolen. This is one of many significant thefts and some were large enough to drag down the value of Bitcoin.  In 2018 Coinrail, Bithumb and Bancor were broken into and Bitcoin stolen – hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin. It might seem strange that a virtual currency can be stolen but the anonymity of Bitcoin means that anyone acquiring the private keys can take Bitcoin and the original  owner can do nothing about it.

Units

The unit of account of the bitcoin system is a bitcoin and two smaller amounts of bitcoin are defined.

The millibitcoin (mBTC) 0.001 bitcoins i.e. one thousandth of a bitcoin

The satoshi (sat) which was named in homage to bitcoin's creator, is the smallest amount within bitcoin representing 0.00000001 bitcoins, i.e. one hundred millionth of a bitcoin. 

Recent Years

In 2013 prices started at $13.30 rising to $770 by 1 January 2014, but by January 2015 was back down to $152.

In December 2013, the People's Bank of China prohibited Chinese financial institutions from using bitcoins and that caused the price of Bitcoin to drop.

In February 2014 the Mt. Gox exchange, the largest bitcoin exchange at the time, said that 850,000 bitcoins had been stolen from its customers, amounting to almost $500 million. Bitcoin's price fell by almost half, from $867 to $439. Prices remained low until late 2016.

In 2017 the price of Bitcoin went crazy, rising from $998 in January to $13,412.44 on 1 January 2018.

A Bitcoin mining operation Nicehash was broken into and $64 million in Bitcoins stolen. This is one of many significant thefts and some were large enough to drag down the value of Bitcoin.  In 2018 Coinrail, Bithumb and Bancor were broken into and Bitcoin stolen – hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin. It might seem strange that a virtual currency can be stolen but the anonymity of Bitcoin means that anyone acquiring the private keys can take Bitcoin and the original  owner can do nothing about it.

Units

The unit of account of the bitcoin system is a bitcoin and two smaller amounts of bitcoin are defined.

The millibitcoin (mBTC) 0.001 bitcoins i.e. one thousandth of a bitcoin

The satoshi (sat) which was named in homage to bitcoin's creator, is the smallest amount within bitcoin representing 0.00000001 bitcoins, i.e. one hundred millionth of a bitcoin.

Mining

Mining is the process by which new Bitcoins can be created. It requires huge amounts of computer processing power and is not explained here. It is designed so that the more coins are in existence, the more difficult it becomes to create any more, so as to limit the number of Bitcoins that can be created and hence create a scarcity value for them.   

Total Bitcoins in Circulation.

Bitcoin's inventor Nakamoto set a monetary policy based on artificial scarcity at bitcoin's inception that there would only ever be 21 million bitcoins in total. Their numbers are being released roughly every ten minutes and the rate at which they are generated would drop by half every four years until all were in circulation.

If a private key is lost then the Bitcoins are effectively lost.  It is estimated that 20% of all Bitcoins created have been “lost”.

Approximately 1 million bitcoins have been stolen, which would have a value of about $7 billion at July 2018 prices.

Shopping with Bitcoin or Investing in Bitcoin

Few major retailers will accept Bitcoin as the price is too volatile.  However there are some companies that claim to accept Bitcoin although you may have problems actually trying to buy with Bitcoin. These companies include Subway, Virgin Atlantic, Expedia, Microsoft and others plus some individual retailers including coffee shops, pizza places etc. say they can accept Bitcoin.  

Investing in Bitcoin is highly speculative although it has made many millionaires.

Legal Status

Cyber currency is still fairly new and law makers are struggling to cope with the circumstances of Bitcoin and other cyber currencies.  Its decentralised nature makes regulation difficult.

The legal status of bitcoin varies substantially from country to country and is still undefined or changing in many of them. While some countries have explicitly allowed its use and trade, others have banned or restricted it.

Regulatory Warnings

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission  and The European Banking Authority amongst others, have issued various warnings  to people about Bitcoin investments, trading in Bitcoin or having any dealings in Bitcoin.  Concerns include:-

l  the exchanges are not regulated or supervised by a government agency

l  the exchanges may lack system safeguards and customer protections

l  large price swings and "flash crashes"

l  market manipulation

l  theft and hacking

l  self-dealing by the exchanges

Advertising Bans

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency advertisements are banned on Facebook, Google, Twitter, Bing, Snapchat, LinkedIn and MailChimp. Chinese internet platforms Baidu, Tencent, and Weibo have also prohibited bitcoin advertisements. The Japanese platform Line and the Russian platform Yandex have similar prohibitions.

Bitcoin Scams

There are numerous scams involving Bitcoin such as The Bitcoin Code scam – see https://fightback.ninja/the-bitcoin-code-scam/

For further information on Bitcoin refer to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitcoin

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A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the creation of a secure connection over an unsecure network.  Secure in this case means encrypted and authenticated using passwords or similar identification means.

VPNs were created to allow satellite offices of a corporation to access their main systems safely across the Internet, but is more commonly used nowadays to allow people to hide their IP address and location.

When you use a VPN service, your data is encrypted and effe3ctively travels as if in a secure tunnel across the Internet.

Benefits of Using a VPN

A VPN provides privacy and security:

·         The destination site sees the VPN server as the traffic origin, not you.

·         No one can (easily) identify you or your computer as the source of the data, nor which websites you’re visiting, what data you’re transferring, etc.  The website owners can still track numbers but not identify your IP address.

·         Your data is encrypted, so even if someone does look at what you’re sending, they only see encrypted data not the content.

·         Only authorised users can access the VPN.

 

How Does a VPN Work?

You connect using the VPN client software to VPN servers and then browse or use whatever software you wish. The website sees your connection as being from the VPN location not your own location.

The VPN client software encrypts your data, even before your Internet Service Provider or the coffee shop WiFi provider sees it. The data then goes to the VPN, and from the VPN server to your online destination.

When you connect to the web without a VPN, here’s how your connection looks:

VPN Protocols

There are various VPN protocols and the level of security provided can vary from one to another, depending on how the technology has been implemented and the most common are PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, IKEV2, and OpenVPN.

They each have their own advantages, but all can do the job well and many VPNs allow you to select the protocol to use.

However, not all devices will allow you to use all of these protocols. Most of them were built by Microsoft and you’ll be able to use them on all Windows PCs but e.g. for APPLE devices, the range is more limited.  

Legal Constraints

VPN companies are subject to the law in the jurisdiction of the country where they are based and this can affect the service they can provide.

Some websites do not like people accessing their sites using a VPN and may take steps to block such access but that is difficult to do and the vast majority of websites make no attempt to block VPN.s

In some countries, people may use VPNs to circumvent geo-restrictions or censorship, or to protect personal identity and location to stay anonymous on the Internet.

Conclusion

Use of a VPN can make accessing systems and services more secure.

There is a comparison of the most popular VPN software at https://thebestvpn.com/

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Some easy to understand explanations of typical online security jargon.

Phishing

Phishing is the fraudulent attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, payment card details etc. by pretending to be a trusted person or organisation.

This usually starts with an email that looks as though it has been sent by a legitimate organization (often a bank or government department). The email may ask you to confirm personal details but is more likely to contain a link to a fake website created by the fraudster that looks like the real organisation’s website.

The person enters their details and now the scammers have that and can sell it to other scammers or use it to create accounts in your name – they get the goods and you pay the bills.

Vishing

Similar to Phishing but by means of a telephone call or voice message..

Smishing

Similar to Phishing but using text messages instead of email, website page or voice calls.

Malware

The name Malware means any software that is designed to cause damage or disable a computer, server or computer network or to carry out actions against the wishes of the computer’s user. This includes viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware, and scareware etc. Badly behaves legitimate software is not included in this definition.

Ransomware

Ransomware is malicious software which gets into your computer or network and either encrypts all of the files or completely locks you out. The perpetrators then demand a ransom to give you a decryption key to unlock your files or a key to allow you back into your own computer.

The ransom usually has to be paid in Bitcoins to make it difficult for the Police to track.

A variant on this is simple extortion where the criminal threatens to release your secrets unless you pay a ransom.

Scareware

Scareware is not software, but where the perpetrator tries to convince you to pay a ransom under threat of exposure of your confidential information or release of secrets.  In this case the threat is not real.

Virus and Anti-Virus

A computer virus is a type of malicious software that, when executed, replicates itself by modifying other computer programs and inserting its own code. When this replication succeeds, the affected areas are then said to be "infected" with a computer virus. Viruses can inflict untold damage on a computer system,

Anti-virus is the software that detects and neutralises viruses.

Firewall

A firewall is software or hardware that monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic. It determines what to allow through and what to block based upon pre-determined rules.  

 A firewall is essentially a barrier to keep out hackers and other unwanted traffic.

There are network firewalls to control access to a network, Internet firewalls to control access to the Internet and personal firewalls to control access to a single computer.

Encryption

Encrypting data turns it into a code so that only a person with the unlock code (decryption key) can read it.

Hacker

Someone who violates computer security for malicious reasons, kudos or personal gain. The word is sometimes used to mean anyone with good computer skills in getting into protected systems.  A White Hat hacker (also called ethical hacker) is someone who uses hacking skills but works for government or an anti-malware organisation to protect people rather than cause damage.

Intrusion Detection System

Program or device used to detect that an attacker is or has attempted unauthorised access to computer resources.

Intrusion Prevention System

Intrusion detection system that also blocks unauthorised access when detected.

Key Logger

Software or a physical device that logs keystrokes (i.e. anything typed on a computer keyboard) to secretly capture private information such as passwords or credit card details.

Macro Virus

This is a virus hidden in a document that contains macros. This is usually a spreadsheet and word processing document but can include PDF documents and anything capable of running macros. 

Spyware

Malware that gets into your system and passes information back about the computer user’s activities, to an external party. This is commonly used for tracking which websites someone visits or any purchases they make etc.

Two-Factor Authentication

This is a method for adding an extra layer of security for access to protected systems.

As well as a password (or similar) the user will need to identify themselves using a second method. The most common is to use a password and a PIN number provided by text message when you try to login.

Virtual Private Network

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a technology that provides privacy on the internet by making an encrypted link between the user’s computer and the target server. VPNs are used to provide anonymous access to the Internet, hide the country location and provide a higher level of security.

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You are likely to see increasingly numbers of adverts targeting people who have taken out interest only mortgages since 2004.

The practice of offering interest only mortgages became popular in the eighties as stock markets were rising and for some people taking an endowment policy with the mortgage meant that the endowment (usually invested in the stock market) could pay off the mortgage at the end of the term and leave them with a capital sum as well. Everybody wins.

They became very popular with millions of people, avoiding the standard repayment mortgages and opting for interest only mortgages instead.

However, with repayment mortgages you will have completely paid off the mortgage when you reach the end of the 10 years, 25 years or whatever term was agreed. But, the same is not true for interest only mortgages with endowment policies and many people found that at the end of the mortgage the endowment had not grown enough and there was a considerable sum to repay in order to complete their mortgage.

Claims Management Companies

Claims management firms that have previously concentrated their efforts on the PPI market may well look to mortgages to expand their business.

The mortgage industry is preparing for even more activity from such companies following the recent release of a report by the Financial Conduct Authority. In it, the City regulator said almost half of all people with interest-only mortgages – about 1.3 million homeowners – may not have enough money to pay off their home loan when it matures, and face an average shortfall of more than £71,000.

The FCA has asked lenders to contact their most at-risk customers – those whose loans are due to be repaid before the end of 2020 – within the next 12 months to help them find ways to address the shortfall.

However, the head of the FCA, Martin Wheatley, said the regulator had not found mass evidence of miss-selling. "This is not one of those complex products. It is what it says on the tin".

The FCA review concluded that the vast majority of people were fully aware of the conditions of the mortgage they took out". Even if you weren't aware of the terms of the loan it doesn't mean you weren't told about them.

He added: "If you do think you have got a valid complaint there is no need to use a claims management company. You can make that complaint yourself directly to the Financial Ombudsman service, which is free.

Some companies offering to help with mis-selling claims charge an upfront fee, often hundreds of pounds, while most take at least 25% in commission from any successful payout.

Which Advice

The Which consumer website has a lot of information about various problems to do with mortgages

https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/i-think-ive-been-mis-sold-my-mortgage-what-can-i-do

This covers:-

·         Endowment policies

·         Interest Only Mortgages

·         Remortgaging to clear your debts

·         Household budget analysis

·         Self-Certification mortgages

·         Mortgages running past retirement

·         High broker fees

Which has a lot of advice about endowment plans and what to do if you feel you may have been subject to mis-selling.

But, just because your endowment hasn’t grown as much as hoped for, doesn’t mean there has been mis-selling.

https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/i-think-ive-been-mis-sold-my-mortgage-what-can-i-do

Do you have an opinion on this matter? Please comment in the box below.

https://www.nominettrust.org.uk

The Nominet Trust is an unusual organisation.

They say ”The internet has revolutionised our world. We exist to ensure that the ongoing tech revolution delivers positive and equitable social impact: that when our lives are transformed by tech, they are transformed for the better. Our vision is for a world where social transformation is the driving force behind tech.”

They believe that tech can open up opportunities previously out of reach, creating inspirational change and when social transformation is the driving force behind tech, it has the greatest potential to improve lives.

They intend to achieve that vision by leading, enabling and investing.

They are guided by the following values:-

·         Purposeful

Our core purpose is at the heart of what we do – we transform lives with tech. Whether we’re leading the conversation about transformative tech, enabling socially motivated tech ventures to grow, or directly investing in change, we work hard to achieve our vision – and deliver with pride.

·         Open

We believe in an inclusive society and collaborate with others who share our vision. We encourage transparency of communication, and consolidate and share the knowledge we create.

·         Entrepreneurial

Our agile approach explores new ways to address persistent social challenges, evaluating their potential. We seek out and support creative solutions that use tech to overcome barriers. We celebrate success and learn fast from failure.

·         We lead the conversation

Some of our most persistent social challenges transcend geographic borders – much like tech. That’s why we’re leading a global conversation through initiatives such as NT100, in pursuit of a greater understanding of the relationship between tech and society. By collaborating with others, we can more swiftly realise our vision of social transformation as the driving force behind tech.

·         We enable growth

We actively nurture a support network, providing the resources that enable socially motivated organisations to thrive and grow. Working with others, we encourage innovation, promote diversity and provide growth funding, sharing our insights along the way.

·         We invest in change

As the UK’s leading dedicated funder of socially motivated tech, we focus on tackling specific social challenges to deliver significant and measurable impact. Investing in organisations that demonstrate what tech can make possible, we create and share transferable models that others can adopt and scale.

The Trust does seem to do what it says.

Here Are Some Success Stories

1.       Big white Wall

In 2013, we offered social entrepreneur Jen Hyatt grant funding to help take Big White Wall to market. It’s an integrated digital care system supporting people with mental health challenges.

2.       Troo Life Coach

In 2016, we provided grant funding and support for Jen’s latest venture, Troo Life Coach. This mobile phone app – co-designed with young people – brings together neuroscience, behavioural economics, psychology and augmented intelligence to offer personalised support to help teenagers make healthier life choices.

3.       Code Club

Recognising the transformative power of digital skills to improve the life chances of young people, in 2014 we provided Code Club with grant funding and support to extend their network of volunteer-led after-school coding clubs. Now part of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, there are now almost 6,000 Code Clubs in the UK and 5,000 others globally, all working to support the digital economy of the future.

4.       OpenUp Music

In 2015, we invested in OpenUp Music to develop an innovative, accessible digital instrument, the Clarion, enabling young disabled musicians to play and create music with any part of their body. Following the team’s success in building the UK’s first disabled-led regional youth orchestra, in 2016 we supported the organisation’s growth with further investment to help them extend their service into more UK schools, and to achieve their vision of creating a National Open Youth Orchestra.

5.       Patient’s Virtual Guide

In early 2017, we funded Corporation Pop in developing Patient’s Virtual Guide – an interactive mobile app for children that explores and demystifies exactly what happens during a hospital visit through a fun game. The app is designed to give children a well-informed and positive hospital experience which can boost outcomes and reduce recovery time.

Long live the Nominet Trust.

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Cyber bullying is any form of bullying which takes place online or through smartphones and other computing devices. This will social networking sites, messaging apps, gaming sites, chat rooms and more.  It can happen to anyone at any time but it is perhaps children and teenagers who suffer the most from online bullying and may find it very difficult to deal with. 

A recent national bullying survey showed 56% of young people said they have witnessed online bullying and 42% have felt unsafe online.

This is a major problem and is very difficult to stop.

Methods of Cyberbullying

The most common methods are :-

·         Harassment - sending offensive, rude, or insulting messages and being abusive.

·         Humiliation – someone may send information about another person that is fake, damaging and untrue. Sharing photos of someone for the purpose to ridicule, spreading fake rumours and gossip.

·         Flaming – someone is purposely using extreme and offensive language and getting into online arguments and fights.

·         Impersonation – someone may hack into a person’s email or social networking account and use the person's online identity to send or post vicious or embarrassing material to/about others.  They may instead create fake accounts pretending to be the person.

·         Revealing Secrets – someone may share personal information about another or trick someone into revealing secrets and forward it to others.

·         Cyber Stalking – the act of repeatedly sending messages that include threats of harm, harassment, intimidating messages, or engaging in other online activities that make a person afraid for his or her safety. The actions may be illegal too depending on what they are doing.

·         Exclusion – others intentionally leave someone out of a group such as group messages, online apps, gaming sites and other online engagement. This is also a form of social bullying and a very common.

·         Threatening behaviour. Anyone who makes threats against you on the internet could be committing a criminal offence.

·         Blackmail and Grooming. There is an offence called "grooming" in the UK and people who have been found guilty of "grooming" have been jailed.

·         Abusive Comments. It can be tempting to reply to unpleasant comments by returning equally unpleasant comments, but that’s a trap as it makes the situation worse.

·         Inappropriate images. It's easy to save any pictures of anyone on any site and upload them to the internet. Make sure that you have the person's permission to take a picture and that they're happy for thousands of people to see it on the internet.

The Effects of Cyber Bullying

Cyber bullying can have devastating effects on anyone but especially on children who may feel totally alone and may blame themselves. If you are cyber bullied you must confide in someone – a parent, a teacher or the Police.  

Cyber bullying affects people from any age or walk of life, including children, teens and adults who all feel very distressed and alone when being bullied online. 

Recent statistics show that

·         20% of children and young people indicate fear of cyber bullies made them reluctant to go to school

·         5% reported self-harm

·         3% reported an attempt of suicide as a direct result of cyber bullying

·         Young people are found to be twice as likely to be bullied on FB as any other social networking site.

·         28% of young people have reported incidents of cyber bullying on Twitter

·         26% of young people have reported incidents of cyber bullying on Ask.fm

Ref: Beat Bullying Virtual Violence II report commissioned by Nominet Trust in association with NAHT

The Law

All countries have laws which should prevent bullying and punish those who perpetrate bullying in any form, but these do vary widely.

See the website https://www.bullying.co.uk/cyberbullying/ for in-depth information on cyber bullying and buying in general and details on who to contact for help.

Do you have an opinion on this matter? Please comment in the box below.

The stakes continue to get higher and higher as more people use the internet for business and commerce. Over time newer and more dangerous forms of virus software continues to put your data at risk.

 Since 2005 the world has seen a rise in Ransomware cases which is a virus that extracts files from your computer system and locks them up in a password-protected folder. The only way to retrieve your data is by paying a ransom, and with the growth of cryptocurrency, it is easier for these hackers to request money anonymously.

 In this article, I’m covering how ransomware can put your privacy at risk, how to prevent this from happening, and what to do if you find yourself at the mercy of a ransomware attack.

 

What is Ransomware?

At the most basic level, ransomware is a software that blocks access to essential data on your computer systems or mobile devices. When you go to access these files you most likely find a ransom letter that explains what you have to do to get the information back - this most often results in you having to pay in bitcoin or some form of anonymous currency to have your files returned.

Operating system companies are always on high alert for these types of viruses and issue regular updates when a discovery gets made. The problem is, most people ignore or postpone the upgrades and this leaves your computer system vulnerable to a ransomware attack.

A computer can become infected in a variety of ways, but this often happens as a result of opening something that had the ransomware attached to it. This virus comes in the form of email attachments, hidden installations on apps and software, extra pages and scripts, and much more.

(https://medium.com/@ReputationDefender/how-to-protect-yourself-from-ransomware-in-10-steps-5946e36923b3)

How To Protect Yourself From Ransomware

 

You do not have to be afraid of ransomware attacks as long as you follow the necessary precautions shown above by Reputationdefender. People are thrifty and continually looking for a new way to extort you, so you need to protect yourself consistently.

Be Careful Where You Search

The best and most efficient way to keep yourself safe from ransomware is to stay out of the places where it hides. If you have emails you cannot identify - don’t open files attached to it, don’t click any links in the email. Delete the email and forget about it.

It’s always great to download free movies and music online, but I’m sure this has happened to you. You click the play button the video, and it takes you somewhere completely different - this is an example of how your computer can become infected.

After clicking that link, it is often challenging to get back to the original page because you are faced with pop-up after pop-up, and it forces you to stay there. While this is happening, the software could be searching your computer for files or data it can lock up. Be very careful with these types of websites.

Never download an app or software that does not have an easily identified source. If you want to download a game or program on your phone - do some research on the creator before you download it. If you see they have a bunch of other applications and are a legitimate business, then proceed. If not, think twice before installing that app.

 Avoid using public Wi-Fi wherever possible. If you must, then consider investing in a cheap VPN for added protection. Public Wi-Fi is often unsecured and easily exploited by hackers for spreading nefarious software.

 Keep Updated

 The other most effective way to keep yourself safe is to do what your computer and phone tell you to do. When it wants to update something that is for a good reason. The operating system company might have caught a whiff of a new virus or ransomware and is trying to protect you from it.

 Do not postpone updates for longer than an hour. It does not take long for someone to get into your system and lock up your files. Stay updated and stay safe.

Back Up Files

 Lastly, always backup your system as often as you can. Get in the habit of doing this on a regular basis. If you are backing up your files frequently, you won’t be as worried about losing things if you fall victim to a ransomware attack.

 PixelPrivacy.com is all about making the world of online security accessible to everyone. We pride ourselves in writing guides that we’re certain even our own mothers could understand! Be sure to head over to our blog if you’re interested in keeping your private information just that: Private!

 Do Share this post on social media –click on the icons at the bottom of the article. 

Google collects a lot of your personal data in order to target adverts and “improve your experience”. They also do so as input for their various research programmes including A.I.

Google may know a lot more about you than you realise.

If you use its products, such as Gmail, Google Search or even an Android phone, the company is collecting more data on you with every use.  

Google is very open about the data it stores about you -- but it might surprise you just how much it knows.

e.g. Google may know the following about you:-

·         Name, gender and birthdate

·         Mobile phone numbers

·         Device IDs for Android devices

·         Recent Google searches

·         The websites you've visited

·         Places you’ve been to over the last few years

·         Your favourite sports, drinks, restaurants etc.

·         Where you work

·         Where you live

·         The YouTube videos you’ve watched and your YouTube searches

·         Every time you’ve used your voice to interact with Google Assistant (including recordings of your voice.)

Google has this sort of information on all of its users and it says it is securely held and that it doesn't give governments   access to it.

Google also promises (unlike Facebook and others) that it doesn't sell your data and doesn’t give access to the data to advertisers. It does say the data is used to personalise the adverts i.e. to make adverts more ‘relevant’ to users. 

Check Google’s Information on You

Log in to your Google Account and then tap the link to Manage adverts Settings, this shows what topics Google thinks you like. Scroll down the page and you'll see your gender, age and any adverts you've blocked.

Google's Location History page shows a guide to everywhere you've been as tracked by Google, in addition to your home and work, if you have saved them in Google Maps.

 Google Assistant - Google stores data on the voice actions you've requested from Google Assistant, whether on a smartphone or Google Home, as well as the sites you visited.

Monthly Security Report

Google offers an Account activity page that tells you about all the Google services you are using. You can even enable a monthly report that will be sent to your email:

https://www.google.com/settings/dashboard

 Get a Copy of All of Your Google data

Google lets you export all your data: bookmarks, emails, contacts, drive files, profile info, your YouTube videos, photos and more here:

https://www.google.com/takeout

You can choose exactly which data to download, from the list of:-

G+1

Google Play Movies

Location History

Bookmarks

Google Play Music

Maps

Calendar

Google+ Circles

My Activity

Classroom

Google+ Communities

News

Contacts

Google+ Stream

Posts on Google

Drive

Groups

Profile

Fit

Hans Free

Saved

G Suite marketplace

Hangouts

Search Contributions

Google My Business

Hangouts on Air

Street View

Google Play

Home APP

Youtube

Google Photos

Input Tools

 

Google Playbooks

Keep

 

 

Do you have an opinion on this matter? Please comment in the box below. 

 

 

In most countries, higher education bodies are regulated and accredited by the state. The USA is different in that such accreditation is carried out by non-profit associations.

Scammers like to give themselves fake qualifications and accreditations to make them appear more trustworthy.

Some go to the lengths of creating their own accreditation bodies, then giving accreditations to themselves and other scammers and some fake universities will happily give out degrees to anyone willing to pay. This is all disguised to look both legal and respected.

 To try to counter this misinformation, there are several national and international organisations that publish lists of accreditation bodies and accredited educational institutions and some also list organisations that claim to be accredited but are not recognised.

Essay Mills, Diploma Mills, Fake Universities, Fake Accreditation Bodies etc. all come from the same strand of enabling people to ‘cheat’.

Essay Mills

Organisations that offer an essay writing service are known as essay mills. This service is supposedly for research purposes but the reality is that a lot of students use these services to submit essays for assessment as part of their course.

Some essay mills display fake accreditation – either made-up or from fake accreditation bodies.

It’s easy for people to be deceived, for example, when the essay mill claims to be accredited by The UNESCO  Accreditation Body, although some people would realise that while UNESCO works in the field of education they don’t accreditations education organisations in developed countries..

Diploma Mills

These are organisations that offer diplomas, degrees, PhDs etc. to anyone willing to pay the price. The cover they use is that awards are based on ‘life experience’ but this means there is little or no studying involved and generally no exams, just a payment.

Accreditation Mills

An accreditation mill is an organization that purports to award educational accreditation to higher education institutions without having government authority or recognition from mainstream academia to operate as an accreditor.

Accreditation mills are much like diploma mills, and in many cases are closely associated with diploma mills. The "accreditation" they supply has no legal or academic value, but is used in diploma mill marketing to help attract students.

Some scammers create these supposed accreditation bodies to get themselves accreditations  but some make this their full time role, offering accreditations to anyone ready to pay.

Some institutions obtain accreditation from an independent group with low standards. In other cases, the institution sets up its own seemingly independent accreditation board and then accredits itself. This gives the appearance that an outside group has approved the education that is offered at the school.

Rochville University  (according to Wikipedia)

One early such accreditation mill was Rochville University, which is still online selling degrees at http://www.rochvilleuniversity.net/

This describes itself as a leading online university, catering to the educational needs of over 38,000 working adults and individuals.  Rochville University is an online diploma mill offering a "Life Experience Degree, and Certificate Program" without coursework or prior transcript evaluation.

The phrase from their website “We are able to help those students who wish to get accredited degrees on the basis of their life/work experience” is the give-away that it’s not about studying or examinations.. 

Its operation is believed to be centered in Pakistan, and its diplomas and degree certificates have been mailed from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Along with many similar enterprises, it is owned by the Karachi based company, Axact, whose main business, according to a New York Times investigation, is "to take the centuries-old scam of selling fake academic degrees and turn it into an Internet-era scheme on a global scale".

Because Rochville University is not accredited by any recognized accreditation bodies in the United States, its degrees and credits are unlikely to be acceptable to employers or academic institutions. Jurisdictions that have restricted or made illegal the use of credentials from unaccredited schools include

Pug Dog Earns Online MBA in Rochville University Scam

The website www.geteducated.com reports the following story about Rochville University.

Chester Ludlow, a pug dog from Vermont, has been awarded an online MBA degree (master's in business administration) by Rochville University—an online college that offers life and work experience degrees. 

 Chester is believed to be the first dog to be awarded an online master's degree based on work and life experience credentials.

But did he earn it—or did he buy it?

“The difference between earning a college degree online or buying one is key,” says Vicky Phillips, founder of GetEducated.com.

Chester is the GetEducated.com mascot. He submitted his resume—along with $499—to Rochville University online. A week later, an express packet arrived from a post office box in Dubai.

Rochville University kept its word. The dog had an instant, fast degree. Also, a cheap online MBA degree considering he paid only $499 whereas the average cost of a real distance MBA degree in the U.S. is close to $25,000.

The instant degree package contained Chester’s distance MBA diploma, two sets of college transcripts, a certificate of distinction in finance, and a certificate of membership in the student council.

The paperwork says the pup “earned” a GPA of 3.19 (for an additional $100, he could have graduated with honours).

All documents were issued in the dog’s AKC pedigree name: Chester Ludlow. Chester also received a Rochville University window decal for his car (though reportedly the canine does not drive).

The Open International University for Complementary Medicines in Sri Lanka

http://www.oiucmed.net/

They say their aims are to:-

·         To advance the scientific study and professional practice of Medicines, by encouraging its development by promoting research, living high standards of professional ethics, competence, conduct, education, qualification and achievement among practitioners.

·         To carry out the promotion and the dissemination of knowledge and philosophy of Medicines through local and International Meeting, lectures, seminars, workshops, reports, papers, discussions, publications and professional contacts.

·         To encourage a wide interest among the public and Medicines and all ancillary areas of knowledge and practice

Some people do believe in the university and have attended courses organised by the University but many others believe it is the biggest diploma mill in the world having given/sold over 1 million diplomas.

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-wasters do let me know – go to the About page then Contact Us.

 

A lot of people like to see what’s being said or posted about them on social media, blogs and anywhere else on the Internet. This can be just vanity but it is also useful to know what information about you is present on the Internet for people to see.  

If anyone can find out about you online – then that includes criminals who may plan to cheat you, steal your digital identity or otherwise cause you harm.

What you post today could back to bite you in the future e.g. a party picture might be seen by a prospective employer.

For many people, there is a surprising amount of information online that really should be kept confidential – away from the eyes of scammers e.g. email address,  job title, date of birth,  telephone number, date of holidays, password clues etc.]

Search Engines


We’ll concentrate on Google as it’s by far the most popular search engine, but you can use any search engines you wish to find your digital footprint.

  1. Search for your name e.g. try John Smith but also use quotation marks to ensure the search is for your complete name and use initials or middle names - try as “John Smith”, “John R. Smith”, “John Reginald Smith” etc. Try any combination that might have been used to identify you.
  2.  Search for yourself using phone number, home address, post code or any other identifiers
  3. Search for the combination of your company name and your own name or the combination of any organisation you are involved with plus your own name.
  4. Search on family and friends and see if your name pops up anywhere.

These results are your basic digital footprint and it can be viewed by anyone. If you find incorrect information then you may want to contact the relevant person or organisation to have it corrected.

Social Media

For any of the social media platforms that you have ever used, try searching for your name, nickname etc. friends and family and so on.  You may be careful with what information you make publicly available on social media, but you may find your friends and colleagues aren’t so careful about you. 

Social media sites contain a wealth of information on their users. For Facebook and some other sites you can download a copy of all information they have about you and you might find it surprising.

Directories and Specialist Sites

There are many ‘people finder’ services, that can find out everything online about someone – such as yourself, but they do charge for the service and will not be further considered in this article.  

There are numerous specialist sites where you could find information about yourself. Which ones to check depends on your activities, situation, location etc. E.g.  maybe you’re a member of a golf club or any other club – try their website, or maybe you’re a member of a professional body, or a donor to charity  etc.  

 Common directories such as Yell may only have information already found by Google but are worth checking. If you have a business. Also, local government and central government websites – if you’ve made a planning application for instance then there will be records about you. 

 

So, your Digital Footprint is all of the information on the Internet about you, including social media posts, websites, blogs, organisations you work for or belong to, family photographs and more.

Keep an eye on your Digital Footprint, correct anything that is incorrect and be aware of how much criminals can see about you. 

 

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