01 June 2016 ~ 0 Comments

WhatsApp adds secure message encryption

WhatsApp recently announced that it has added end-to-end encryption to all its messages. We previously looked at how governments spy on your mobile but what is the implication of this change for the over one billion people who use the application? And what does encryption actually mean?

Seen in the light of the recent battle between Apple and the FBI to give the security agency access to private messages and information, this is a significant move by the Facebook-owned company. It means that WhatsApp are physically unable to give third parties access to messages, images, and even voice recordings since the messages are encrypted and the company has no access to the content of these messages. The company is one of first communication platforms to offer full end-to-end encryption, which is on by default. It is likely that other companies will offer a similar service soon.

“The desire to protect people’s private communication is one of the core beliefs we have at WhatsApp, and for me, it’s personal”, said Jan Koum, one of the app’s founders who was raised in Ukraine under Soviet rule. “The fact that people couldn’t speak freely is one of the reasons my family moved to the United States,” he said on WhatsApp’s official blog page.

End-to-end encryption is the jumbling of information using a “key” to then decrypt it. What happens is that each party has a couple of keys, one which is public and one which is private. Only the sender and recipient of the message are able to see the contents of the message. True end-to-end encryption is known as “zero knowledge” which means the platform responsible for hosting the message (WhatsApp) has no knowledge whatsoever of the information contained within the message.

Users do not need to activate encryption. It happens automatically and also applies to WhatsApp calls. You can check if encryption is working by tapping on the message which comes up after you have sent your message. It should read as follows: “Messages that you send to this chat and calls are now secured with end-to-end encryption.” You can then view a QR code and a 60-digit number. You can also scan your QR code or compare the 60-digit number with the person you are chatting with. We’d also recommend updating your security settings so all security messages are displayed – this might help you avoid man in the middle attacks that could compromise your communications.

The decision to enable end-to-end encryption on all WhatsApp communication has not met universal approval. Many governments are unhappy that there is no way to access private messages and in the UK politicians have proposed banning the technology or forcing companies to install backdoors that would weaken the security so that messages can be read by spies.

Of course, this shows an alarming level of technical illiteracy and failure to think through consequences by politicians. Not only will intentionally weakening encryption technology have severe and troubling repercussions for the functioning of the internet as a whole, it is trivial for anyone with nefarious intentions to simply switch to other, mathematically-proven, encryption algorithms and it will only weaken the security of normal people.

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22 May 2016 ~ 4 Comments

Free mobile roaming in the EU

Tesco Mobile and Vodafone have both announced free-roaming options in the light of the EU anti-roaming plans which have resulted in all roaming charges being reduced to €0.05 per minute, €0.02 SMS and €0.05 per MB. Roaming charges will be completely removed in June 2017.

Customers of Tesco Mobile who travel to Europe have been offered zero roaming fees for the summer. This means that both Pay as You Go and contract customers will be able to use their existing mobile tariffs for calls, texting and data usage. The scheme called ‘Home From Home’ applies to subscribers visiting any EU countries as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The offer will be available between 23rd of May and the 3rd of September.

Vodafone is offering its customers on their RED plan free EU roaming in 40 countries. The plan is similar to Tesco Mobile’s offering, except Vodafone also offers a monthly data allowance of up to 4GB while roaming. Customers will not be able to use all the data in their bundles when abroad since the EU data is capped and there are restrictions depending on the data plan a customer has. An 8GB RED Value bundle will give 2GB of inclusive data while a 12GB Red Value plan will give you 4GB of data. The downside of Vodafone’s offering is that it will only apply to new and upgrading customers signed up from the 6th of May. Existing customers will be disappointed to know that they will be excluded from this offer.

The announcements of free roaming will be welcomed by UK mobile users planning a summer holiday in EU countries.

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13 January 2016 ~ 3 Comments

Are TPO’s new plans the best yet?

sim only tpo

Charitable virtual mobile network, The People’s Operator, have launched a stunning new range of SIM-only plans for 2016. Available as a range of bundles we’ve compared them to some of the alternatives and it’s pretty clear they are some of the best deals currently available and maybe ever in the UK market.

So far this year, TPO have been signing up new customers at a ridiculous rate. And they’re not planning on slowing down – not content with offering such cheap deals, they’re also pulling out all the stops with an exclusive 50% off special offer for your first month. Here’s the current options available:

tpo plans

As you can see, these bundles are shockingly good value. For example, if you pay just £7.50, you will get a mighty 1000 inclusive minutes as well as 3GB of mobile data and completely unlimited text messages.

If you’ve only got £5 to spend, you still get a hell of a lot. TPO’s cheapest bundle includes unlimited SMS, 300 minutes of voice calls and a whole 1GB of mobile internet.

Ordering a SIM is completely free and you can get started in moments. You even get to keep your existing phone number very simply.

Here are some of the benefits TPO advertise for their SIM-only offerings:

tpo benefits

Are these the best offers currently available? Do you know of any superior SIM-only plans currently available? And would you consider joining TPO for these deals?

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