man wearing VR headset in office

September 2021: Top tech news

Marking the end of school holidays and the start of autumnal evenings, September has brought a time of reflection. The 20th anniversary of 9/11 saw people around the world turn their focus inward toward communities, mental health, and the environment. For technology, this time has seen more creative minds come together to innovate and encourage productive change in these areas. Let’s dive into this month’s top tech news.

  1. A new study shows Virtual Reality boosts the mental health of cancer patients

This month, Project Vae finished a 6-week project using Virtual Reality headsets on cancer patients to see if VR can improve the mental health of people with cancer.  During the 6 weeks, patients virtually travelled around the world and experienced Germany, the Royal Albert Hall, Thailand, the Peak District, and more. The VR videos were created in the style of a vlog, so the patients experienced travelling with a companion.

Keele University analysed the results which showed the study was a success. Using VR improved low mood, anxiety, loneliness, and general wellbeing. One patient commented: “The endorphins that film has given me, you know, takes the pain away.”  

Watch the video of the response from the cancer patients.

A patient using Virtual Reality

2. Children in China are given a TikTok limit

TikTok, known in China as Douyin, has added a 40-minute daily limit for all users under the age of 14. They also can’t access the video-sharing app after 10 pm. The “youth mode” is part of China’s government’s focus on children’s and teenagers’ internet activity. They are analysing video game usage, the time children are spending on their devices, and the impact on their health.

Do you think this 40-minute limit should be a worldwide standard? Read the full story.

A child using TikTok surrounded by his homework

3. Beams of light deliver high-speed internet across the Congo River

A connectivity gap has been filled by a new experiment by Project Taara. The experiment has enabled the 17 million citizens in Brazzaville and Kinshasa to have access to cheaper and faster broadband. These cities, three miles apart, have faced connectivity problems due to the difficulty in routing a traditional cable around the Congo River, the world’s deepest and second fastest river.

The new system uses invisible beams of light to deliver high-speed internet. It doesn’t require any cable casing like traditional fibre. Installed terminals search for each other, detect a beam of light and lock in to create the connection.

Project Taara is implementing this innovation throughout other areas in the world, in places that fibre can’t reach helping to connect more communities. Find out more.

The Congo river with fibre-fast broadband

4. New research shows bitcoin mining produces 30,700 tons of annual waste

Research by Alex de Vries and Christian Stoll shows bitcoin mining produces 30,700 tons of electronic waste year after year. This is predicted to grow into a huge environmental problem. An average transaction contributes 272g. This is a huge consumption of electricity which consequently causes greenhouse pollution.

Bitcoin creates huge quantities of electronic waste because the mining is done with a specialised singular process. The required hardware only has a 1.5-year life before it needs to be replaced. As the popularity of bitcoin has risen in recent years, so has the huge amount of waste. In terms of electrical energy, one Bitcoin transaction is equivalent to the power consumption of an average household for 39.67 days. 

The research is published in the journal Resources, Conservation & Recycling. It calls for an efficient drive to find a new eco-friendly process to stop the annual 30,700 tons of electric waste. Read the full story.

Electrical waste caused by bitcoin mining

5. UK aims to rival U.S. and China in a 10-year plan to become ‘A.I. superpower’

The UK government has published the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy, in which businesses are encouraged to make full use of AI. This strategy is a ten-year plan with the goal to attract international investment to British AI companies as well as developing the next generation of British tech talent.

The 10-year plan hopes to support AI development outside London, the current AI hub of the UK. In 2019, £2.5 billion ($3.5 billion) was pumped into U.K. AI start-ups, but many of them are now at risk of being acquired by larger overseas rivals. By focusing more on building AI’s impact in the UK, it should help boost the post-Brexit economy.

Read about AI experts’ reactions to this new plan.

UK parliament in London

Want to keep up with the latest technological innovations? Follow our social media for regular updates.


A person practicing their email strategy

It’s time to rethink our e-mail security strategy

E-mail is an important part of your company’s IT strategy and external communications. When was the last time you reviewed your e-mail security? Are you aware of how e-mail is being used in your business?

Up to 91% of cyber-attacks start with email. It’s the weakest link in the cyber security chain and the one that’s the most open to exploitation through targeted and sophisticated methods.

What is phishing?

Phishing is socially engineered to trick a human victim into paying money, revealing private information (that could lead to a very costly data breach), or launching malware with the intent of bribing the victim (ransomware).

The focal part of the dictionary definition of phishing should be the word “human”. Humans are emotional, we can override our best judgement, we can be manipulated by convincing tactics or a bit of creative graphic design. It’s called human error for a reason. The soft-bodied bit of our IT estate accounted for a whopping 90% of cyber data breaches in 2019.

A man checking his emails after work

The susceptibility of human nature

E-mail security software is amazing, but it can’t catch every maliciously intended e-mail. The few that make it through firewalls depend on a human decision-making process. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning processes are ever-evolving to the e-mail security threat landscape.  

However, there’s not an algorithm on the planet that can replicate the emotional reasoning process that goes on inside Melanie in Account’s brain when she’s baited into clicking that button. This is why e-mail security processes can never fully depend on a piece of software or an algorithm. They must extend into HR processes and a highly adopted company-wide culture and awareness of security.

It’s no surprise that most phishing attacks are conducted via e-mail. More than half of UK businesses have been targeted by ransomware cyber-attacks in the last twelve months. It’s easy to see why criminals favour e-mail as the best way to exploit people. Worldwide, there are over 3 billion spoofed e-mails (from fake e-mail accounts) sent every day.

The rise of phishing attacks in 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic gave cybercriminals all the time and incentive they needed to redouble their efforts to launch more sophisticated phishing attacks. Quarter four of 2020 saw a 100% increase in e-mail attacks vs 2019.

E-mail-based cyber security threats are rife. Despite this, most businesses have not changed the way they use e-mail or reviewed their e-mail security policies. As IT experts, we keep our finger on the pulse of some alarming e-mail statistics within the technology industry.

At ITVET, we recently conducted a robust review of our e-mail usage and policies. The strategy and process that went into this exercise tell us unequivocally that we should do everything we can to combat this serious threat to all businesses.

Some of the things e-mail users can be tricked into

  • Sharing business or personal data  
  • Wiring money or making other fraudulent monetary transactions  
  • Visiting corrupt websites
  • Downloading or clicking links containing malware-laden attachments

The outcomes above could be so serious as to put a company out of business. It all starts with just one simple click. So, let’s explore the options open to your company to mitigate your risk and make e-mail more secure.

Email usage in the workplace

End-user training

A vast number of successful e-mail attacks rely on your people simply clicking links in e-mails. Given the risks, it seems unbelievable that most businesses don’t provide employees with any e-mail training on security policies.

Providing end-users with e-mail security training should be an essential part of your business’ IT and cyber security policy. Remember that no matter how good the e-mail security systems you have in place, there are always compromised e-mails that can evade them to land in a user’s inbox. Given the complexity, ingenuity, and technical capabilities of these highly skilled criminals, compromised e-mails are very hard to detect. Fines from a data breach can run to the millions. Losing all your company data to a ransomware attack could destroy your reputation and force you to cease trading.

The use case of e-mail

All companies and end-users use e-mail differently, and sometimes quite inappropriately, which can cause issues with security. It’s important to clarify the who, how, what, and why of e-mail use in your business.

Who?

You may think that all employees need to use e-mail, but these days that’s often not the case. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Teams usage doubled worldwide. With the adoption of Teams and similar internal messaging systems, there’s been a significant reduction in the use of e-mail internally. There are many articles in the tech community heralding the “death of e-mail” as a platform. Statistics certainly back this up as workplace behaviours shift to faster, more collaborative ways of working. Reducing email usage is an instant security improvement. On reviewing your team’s usage of e-mail, you may find that one central e-mail account is sufficient to capture inbound e-mail and overcomes the challenge of what happens to e-mails when people are on holiday. Your team members will most likely still need an e-mail account but without the ability to send externally. Reducing access to e-mail is the first line of defence to mitigating your risks.

A team of colleagues working together

How?

Many e-mail users click links inadvertently, which is a huge risk. The majority of phishing e-mails are sent from spoofed e-mail addresses, so they may look completely genuine to an innocent recipient. The field name may be a known contact, but upon closer inspection, the actual e-mail address is slightly different. Could your employees spot the difference? Training employees on how to use e-mail safely and securely is an essential part of reducing the risk of a targeted attack via your company’s e-mail.

What?

Understand what your business needs from your e-mail system and determine what is appropriate to send or receive.

  • Employees distributing and sharing files or links internally should be avoided if there is an internal messaging system like Teams.
  • Sending or receiving e-mails with content that isn’t relevant or appropriate is more common than you might think.
  • It’s possible to control and regulate e-mail content using an e-mail security system such as Trend Micro’s e-mail Security System. However, the e-mail security system must be tailored to your company’s requirements
A woman checking a long list of emails

Why?

The number of e-mails sent globally is increasing, this is mainly due to the vast amount of spam and fraudulent e-mails being sent. In contrast, e-mail usage for businesses has declined steadily. Many companies have also come to understand that e-mail is an insecure form of communication. So, as well as adopting Teams and similar platforms, many companies have also adopted secure cloud-based platforms to share files and data like SharePoint.

Although e-mail security systems can greatly reduce the amount of unwanted or dangerous e-mails, large amounts of spam are still accepted. This is often caused by employees not opting out correctly when registering for a service. Why accept these e-mails into your company’s e-mail system?

Want to find out how you can improve your email security? Get in touch with our expert team at ITVET and transform your email security strategy.


A person making a homemade card for Cards for Bravery

Stortford Heroes: Introducing our first nominated hero, Katie Callaghan

On Saturday 23rd of July 2022, Bishop’s Stortford will gather on Sworders Field for a ‘Party in the Park.’ There will be live music, local food vendors, and community stalls. This community event celebrates the people who go above and beyond for our local area, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can nominate a hero; someone who serves our community, someone who cares for others, or someone who has overcome a personal hurdle. In this article, we will focus on our first nominated hero: Katie Callaghan, Founder of Cards for Bravery.  

Katie, the Founder of Cards for Bravery

About Katie Callaghan

Katie is 19 years old and has grown up in Bishop’s Stortford. She has a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and a number of other chronic illnesses. What impacts her most day-to-day is having Chronic Intestinal Pseudo Obstruction, which is caused by EDS. She relies on a central line into her heart to receive nutrition via her bloodstream. Chatting to Katie, it was apparent these circumstances do not dictate her perspective on life. She has a positive outlook, and her charity work is evidence of this.  

Throughout Katie’s life, she has spent a lot of time in hospital. It was during a four-month-long hospital stay when she was 13 years old that a new idea sparked.

The formation of Cards for Bravery

Katie understands what life in hospital is like for a child. She’s been there. She described how it can often feel like the world is going by without you, and it’s very isolating. At the age of 13, during a hospital stay, Katie’s friend sent her a card. It was signed by everyone in her class at school. This card had a profound impact on her mood and outlook. She knew her friends were thinking of her, the messages in the card encouraged her to stay strong. It made her feel emotionally a lot better.

Katie when she was younger

Setting up the charity

Katie had the idea of making and distributing cards to children and teenagers in hospital. It would be an opportunity to put a smile on a child’s face and make their day whilst they were in hospital receiving treatment. It was 2015, she set up a Facebook and Instagram page and began to organise cards.

The work of the charity

  • They make homemade cards to send to children and teenagers in hospital and for children being cared for at home.
  • They have a huge Christmas card campaign for the children and teenagers who spend Christmas in hospital.
  • They send personalised Bravery Packages – A Bravery Package is essentially a care package for a selected individual between the ages of 2-21 with a long-term illness.  The charity research to see what the individual’s interests and passions are and fill a box of gifts for them. Even the box is covered with encouraging messages.
  • They are currently in the process of creating activity packs for different age groups. They are full of age-appropriate puzzles, challenges, and fun activities. These are designed to keep the individual entertained during their time in hospital.
  • During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cards for Bravery created cards for the doctors and nurses on the front line of the hospital wards.

The charity: then vs now

The charity began with Katie. Her hospital stays and school commitments meant she often had to take breaks from charity work. In recent years, more people have got involved and the charity has grown.

Since the beginning of Cards for Bravery, the charity has distributed over 11,000 cards. 1500 of them have been in the last year alone. There is a much bigger volunteer team that is currently involved. Their job roles vary from card makers, social media marketers, to administration. They distribute cards to 12 hospitals currently. Moving forward, Katie hopes to increase the number of hospitals the cards get sent to.

Cards for Bravery highlights

Katie described how running Cards for Bravery has thoroughly enriched her life. It’s a rewarding feeling knowing she’s helping thousands of people through her charity mission. Katie explained how it has given her a purpose, even on days when she is physically struggling, she can achieve a task from bed that pushes forward the charity’s progress. Her work hasn’t gone unnoticed:

  • In 2021, the English Stamp Company released a line of stamps inspired by Cards for Bravery.
  • In 2019, Katie won the Child of Courage Award in the Bishop’s Stortford Indies Awards

 

  • In 2017, Katie was one of the 10 finalists for the BBC Radio 1 Teen Hero Awards. She went to Kensington Palace to meet Prince William, Prince Harry, and many other famous faces.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Cards for Bravery

The pandemic unfortunately halted some of the great efforts of the charity. Hospitals couldn’t accept packages due to hygiene safety concerns. Katie described how difficult it was knowing how many children were in the paediatric wards with limited visitors. Playrooms were shut and toys couldn’t be shared around.

The Cards for Bravery team kept making cards waiting for when it was safe to distribute them to hospitals. This situation encouraged them to make the laminated activity packs as they can easily be wiped down and used again.

 

How can you get involved to help?

If you want to assist the great work Cards for Bravery, you can do so in five ways:

  • Donate
  • Buy some card-making supplies of Card for Bravery’s wish list.
  • Make some cards and send them to the charity’s postal address. Take a look at the card guidelines.
  • Share the great work Cards for Bravery does. If you know someone who loves to make cards, direct them to Cards for Bravery .
  • Become a regular volunteer.  

The community will come together for a ‘Party in The Park’ on the 23rd July to celebrate the great work of local heroes like Katie.

Do you have someone in mind who does great work for our community? Nominate them for a Stortford Heroes award.

Follow Stortford Heroes’ social media to keep up to date with the latest announcements.


Press Release: ITVET clean up Bishop’s Stortford

On Saturday the 4th September, ITVET hosted a litter pick event around the Bishop’s Stortford area.

Bishop’s Stortford based technology solutions provider, ITVET Ltd, hosted a local litter pick on Saturday 4th September, as part of their commitment to the environment and giving back to the community.

The team filled up 12 bags of rubbish from the streets of Bishop’s Stortford. Starting from their head office on London Road, they targeted the train station, bus interchange, main high street, and Sworder’s Field.

ITVET litter pick around Bishop's Stortford

Managing Director of ITVET Ltd, Richard Fountain, said: “I’m grateful to all our employees who gave up their Saturday morning to pick up litter in our town. After positive feedback from the local community, we are looking forward to holding regular litter picks.”

This event is part of ITVET’s corporate social responsibility to the local community. As well as the litter pick, the company also supports local charities, provides the town’s free public Wi-Fi, and they are organising Stortford Heroes – Party in the Park on 23rd July 2022 at Sworder’s Field.

ITVET will be welcoming community members to future litter picks. If you would like to get involved contact [email protected] or reach out to Tidy Up Bishop’s Stortford.