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August news — Carla’s best bits:

Posted by Carla Gutierrez on 8th September 2017

This month’s blog comes a little later than usual, but I have a very good excuse. It was August, and I spent a good part of it on holiday in my home town. While I was there, I had a conversation with some friends about how scary technology is. None of them work in tech, but they are all engineers and millennials so it is safe to say they are very aware of technological developments.

This morning, as I sat down ready to scan through ALL THE NEWS that was published in August to find the articles I wanted to include in my blog, I kept thinking of that conversation. Even during a ‘quiet’ month, the amount of cyberattacks, product recalls due to hacking risks and ‘this is how much X company knows about you’ news was too high. Way too high.

But, tech is also good and is helping people in many ways. Plus, I believe that good news stories are more worthy of being shared than bad ones.

Below is my take on the best of August’s news:

  1. Our passwords are not safe, and they have never been

Fourteen years ago, Bill Burr became the guru of secure passwords. I think that absolutely everyone who had at least an email account, if not more of an online presence back then, knew his ‘tips’ by heart. The more complicated your password was, the safer you’d be. This is still very much true. So, why has he apologised and said he’s made people more vulnerable?

Because he didn’t realise that people are… people. We are all human, we have limitations, we are busy, we have a million things to think about. This meant that remembering 35 different combinations of ‘SiWkfItnAo02N4l7’ passwords was just never going to happen. Instead, we came up with one semi-complicated combination and used it for all, or at least most, of our online accounts.

Simpler passwords might be a better option, if it means you have unique passwords for each site. That way, if a hacker breaches one company they will still be unable to access any other account!

  1. Banks are joining forces to tackle fraud and it’s fantastic. I can’t believe it took them this long…

Banking fraud, identity fraud and scams are a constant worry for most people. We all know someone who was conned out of some money, or someone whose card was copied and fraudulently used to buy something in a far-away country. There are cases of identities being stolen and people finding out they can’t get a mortgage because their credit score is terrible thanks to 19 credit cards they don’t really have.

The financial services industry has been working hard since the ’90s to tackle fraud. The first wave of attacks was credit card fraud and, luckily, chip and pin technology pretty much eradicated that. And then criminals got smarter and found other ways to steal. The industry responded with better technology and more security, and fraudsters learnt and evolved again.

So, it is very big and very good news that competing banks are (finally) working together to stop fraudsters. Well done to the eight banks who are part of the Cyber Defence Alliance!

  1. Exercise while working? Yes, please

You may or may not be familiar with the ‘lazy butt syndrome’. While it sounds a bit silly, it is actually very true. You probably suffer from it. The majority of the population suffers from it. It is, as the name correctly suggests, a weakening of the gluteus muscles due to too much sitting down time.

I have a 9 to 5 job. An office 9 to 5 job. Despite all the hours I spend at the gym, running up hills and cycling to and from work, I probably have lazy butt syndrome too. We simply were not made to sit down for 7-8 hours a day. That’s just not what our bodies were built for.

So, I hope you forgive my excitement, but when I saw that someone had created a ‘spin desk’ I was quite happy. I know that treadmills with desks on them are a thing (somewhere), but it is not the same. It is not realistic to expect someone to be able to type fast enough while walking. Spinning is a different thing. You’re still sitting down, but you’re moving. Your legs are working.

Now, because you are still essentially sitting down, this would not solve the ‘lazy butt syndrome’, but it would make people fitter and healthier overall. We can’t all quit our jobs (nor do we want to), but we can try to minimise the damage that all the screen time and sitting down does to our health.

Spin to win!

  1. Digital transformation causes economics headaches

The little economics geek in me loved this article, so I had to share it. We already know that technology has brought change to pretty much every industry. We have embraced it in our personal lives, at work and in our relationships with the businesses we buy products and services from.

However, I had never stopped to think that the ‘digital world’, that void where the biggest companies of the world nowadays operate, is a completely new scenario where most, if not all, the economics theories I studied do not apply.

It will be very interesting to see if and how economists will start to provide evidence that some things need to change to protect healthy levels of competition in the digital space too.

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