Featured Article – Securely Disposing of Old Equipment

When our PCs, laptops, phones, and other devices need to be replaced, disposing of them in a way that does not pose a data security risk is especially important. Here are some tips on how to dispose of devices securely.

Backup

Before you begin the disposal process of your device the first thing to do is to make sure that you have a backup of all your important files and data.

Backing Up Your PC

To back up your PC, you could use:

– An external hard drive e.g. WD MyBook Duo, Toshiba’s Canvio, LaCie Porsche Design (good for Macbooks). Many other options are, of course, available. If you have Mac, make sure your chosen external hard drive is Mac compatible.

– A cloud-based backup service, such as Dropbox, Google Drive or Box. These have large amounts of free storage plus, for a relatively small fee you can buy more storage space if needed. For example, Box gives you 10GB of file storage for free, Google Drive gives you 15GB of storage for free, OneDrive gives you 5GB of free storage space, and Apple iCloud gives you 5GB free.

Transfer Files To A New Computer

If you have already purchased a new computer, you may wish to transfer the files from the old straight to the new, although having an updated cloud backup of your work and critical files is good practice anyway.

Sign Out Of Online Accounts

With everything backed up safely, the next step is to make sure that you know login details for (and have signed out of) any online accounts on the old computer. For example, these services/apps could include Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple and Microsoft.

Wipe The Hard Drive

The next step is to wipe all traces of your data and activity from the hard drive. For those who are planning to wipe the hard drive of a computer that belongs to your employer/the company you work for you will need to first check what the company’s recommended policy or procedure is for doing so, and to check that your actions will be compliant with data protection laws e.g. GDPR.

Wiping the hard drive can involve a number of steps and options, including:

– Delete or overwrite files using software that meets guidelines for secure deletion e.g. File Shredder, Eraser or WipeFile. If you have an older Mac with a hard drive try Secure Empty (Trash option Finder > Secure Empty Trash) but for OS 10.11 and higher and Windows PCs with SSD drives, the drive will need to be encrypted. Although this type of software provides a relatively easy and simple solution, it may take some time to overwrite multiple times.

– Drive Encryption. For PCs, this can be found in Settings > About and Drive Encryption or Bitlocker Settings. For Macs, this can be done via System Preferences > Security & Privacy.

– Deauthorise the computer with relevant accounts. For example, some SaaS accounts (Microsoft 365) and entertainment accounts such as iTunes only allow you to use a certain number of authorised, named devices. If you are getting rid of your device you will need to de-authorise this device with those accounts, thereby enabling you to authorise another device/a new for use in its place with those accounts.

– Delete browser data. Since browsers save information about your browsing history and can store usernames, passwords, and other sensitive personal data, the next step is to delete your browser history, and to make sure that you are signed out of your browsers. For example, to clear your history in Microsoft Edge, go to the three dots (top right) open the browser menu and go to Settings > Privacy & security and select “choose what to clear”, making sure that all checkboxes are selected so everything gets removed. The same will need to be done for all other browsers e.g. Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

– Uninstall programs. Some programs contain personal data and, therefore, need to be uninstalled.

– Macs (macOS) restart, coupled with Option+Command+R. The process for of wiping the hard drive for Macs is to erase and reinstall the operating system. To do this, go to Apple menu > Restart and, just as it reboots, hold down Option+Command+R until the spinning globe appears. Then, release the keys, choose Reinstall macOS, choose Continue, and follow the instructions.

– Windows PC reset. For a Windows PC, go to Settings (app), click on Update & Security, click on Recovery, choose Get started under the Reset this PC option, and remove all personal files during the process.

– Chromebook factory reset. To wipe your Chromebook, sign in to the Chromebook with the owner account, from the taskbar, click on Settings > Advanced > Powerwash > Restart. When the Chromebook restarts, select Powerwash and click on Continue.

Destroy The Hard Drive

Before recycling a computer, some experts recommend destroying the hard drive in order to be absolutely sure that any sensitive data stored on it cannot be recovered. This can be achieved by removing the hard drive and e.g. hitting it with a hammer or drilling holes in it.

To remove the hard drive, disconnect the PC from its power source, open the casing and locate the hard drive, which generally connected to a SATA data and power cable (or to a flat, wide IDE cable in much older computers), and remove the hard drive from its housing by undoing the screws.

If the device is on the premises of your business at the time, you will need to ensure that care is taken in order to comply with health and safety regulations if trying to physically destroy the hard drive.

Laptop

As with a PC, make sure all important files are backed up, accounts are signed-out of, de-authorisation is completed, and browser data is removed. With laptops, use software to erase the data e.g. File Shredder or Eraser, and remove the hard drive, while taking care to avoid and damage to the inside of the laptop. There are many online guides and videos to help with the removal of laptop hard drives.

Tablet

After backing up your important files and data, the best method for preparing to dispose of a tablet in a way that maintains data security is to use a full factory reset. To do this, tap the app drawer and find the Settings icon, select Backup and reset (left-hand side), uncheck the Back up my data and Automatic restore checkboxes (right-hand side), select the Factory Reset option and follow the instructions. As a ‘belt and braces’ option, select the app drawer, select Settings, select Storage (left-hand side), select Miscellaneous files (right-hand side), select the checkboxes for folders and select dustbin.

Phones

Our phones contain vast amounts of personal data and potentially sensitive company data. It is, therefore, extremely important to dispose of them in a way that does not compromise the security and privacy of yourself, your business/your employer, or any stakeholders and contacts.

Back-Up

Firstly, ensure that you have backed up your phone contacts. After backing up your important data the process is:

For Android

Most up-to-date android phones have a microSD card where the phone’s data is stored. Remove the back of the phone, remove the battery, and remove the microSD card. This can be used in your replacement phone. You will also need to remove your SIM card.

If you need to wipe a microSD card, you can attach it to a laptop (with a USB cable), open ‘My Computer’, locate the microSD card, select all files stored on it and click delete.

For iPhones

An iPhone has an in-built way to return it to its factory default settings, thereby removing your personal data. To do this, go to General, Settings, Reset, and Erase All Content and Settings. This will require you to enter your username and password, and you will be given the chance to update your iCloud backup before you go ahead with the erasing as part of this process.

Data Wiping Company/Charity

Another option is to simply use a trusted third-party data wiping company or charity to professionally clean all data from your devices, hard drives, network routers, switches, and servers. Examples include WeeeCharity, PC4 Recycling, Secure IT Services and Medecon although there are many other similar services.  Your IT Support Company may also be able to provide these services or recommend a company in your area. Contact your IT Support Company for details.

Afterwards

After you have wiped your device, and depending on whether the device belongs to you or the business/organisation/your employer, your options may be:

– Recycle the device. Many recycling centres, for example, take old PCs.

– Sell the device. You could choose to sell the device privately online e.g. eBay, Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace, or to a private company that buys devices e.g. Mazuma, Music Magpie, WeBuyAnyPhone or others.

– Donate your device to a charity e.g. Computer Aid International, Turing Trust or IT For Charities.

– Donate your device to a local school, centre, or Freecycle network.

In any case, if the hard drive has been removed, you will need to inform the person, or organisation that you are selling or donating the device to.

N.B. You may wish to consult your IT support company first as they may be able to provide data wiping and IT equipment recycling services or put you in touch with a good service near you.

Important

It is surprising how much personal and sensitive data we store on our devices, so following proven procedures to make sure personal and company data is removed from devices before selling them, recycling them or donating them is a very important consideration for businesses and individuals. As person’s and businesses circumstances are different, please get in touch before disposing of any IT equipment for a detailed and appropriate course of action, specific to your requirements.

Laptops For Online Lessons at Home

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has announced that the UK’s Department for Education will be providing disadvantaged children across England with a supply of laptops and tablets to help them study at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

Those In The Most Vital Stages of Education

The government says that the devices are intended for children in the most vital stages of their education (15-year-olds), for those who receive support from a social worker, and for care leavers.

Mr Williamson says “By providing young people with these laptops and tablets and enabling schools to access high-quality support, we will enable all children to continue learning now and in the years to come. We hope this support will take some of the pressure off both parents and schools by providing more materials for them to use.”

Also 4G Routers

The government has also announced that it will be providing 4G routers to disadvantaged secondary school pupils and care leavers where their families do not already have mobile or broadband internet in the household.

Oak National Academy Too

The UK government has also announced that it will be backing the funding of the Oak National Academy, a new enterprise created by 40 teachers from some of the leading schools across England. The new online Academy will be providing 180 video lessons each week, across a range of subjects, for every year group from Reception through to Year 10.

Other Tech Resources and Online Lessons

At the end of March, the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) announced that it would be spending £2 million on 9,000 Chromebook laptops to help pupils in receipt of free school meals or with an education health and care plan (EHCP) to access its programme of digital learning.

Also, the BBC has announced that it will be launching a range of educational resources online and on TV.

UK non-profit ‘Brilliant Club’, which works with 800 schools and colleges across the UK to increase the number of pupils from underrepresented backgrounds progressing to highly selective universities, has also released a series of online resources, free of charge, which are suitable for pupils aged 10-18.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Education directly benefits business and the economy so, at a time when it is unclear when children will be able to return to school, having the resources, help, funding and infrastructure to enable online, remote learning is important for the future of young people and for the UK.  It should be recognised, however, that challenges such as wealth gaps in education and exclusions like a lack of devices, the affordability of internet contracts and how a young person’s broadband status could affect their ability to keep up with learning do exist.  It is, therefore, good news that the government has recognised this and is providing some practical help at a time that is particularly important in educational terms.

Google Blocks 18 Million Coronavirus Scam Emails Per Day

Google is reported to have been blocking 100 million phishing emails per day and 18 million email scams relating specifically to coronavirus.

Millions of Scams and Spam Messages Daily

On its Cloud blog on 16th April, Google reported that Gmail blocks more than 100 million phishing emails each day and over the previous week, it had blocked 8 million daily malware and phishing emails related to COVID-19. Google reports that this was in addition to more than 240 million COVID-related daily spam messages.

Types of Scams

Google reports that the types of scam and phishing emails that it had seen and blocked have been using fear and financial incentives to create urgency in order to prompt users to respond. Examples include:

– Impersonating authoritative government organisations e.g. the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to solicit fraudulent donations or distribute malware. In order to achieve this, scammers were reported to be using downloadable files that can install backdoors.

– Phishing attempts targeted at employees operating in a work-from-home setting asking them to complete a form needed for payroll.

– Phishing attempts, imitating government institutions and targeted at small businesses asking them to click on links related to receiving government stimulus packages.

Proactive Monitoring

Google reports that it has put proactive monitoring in place for COVID-19-related malware and phishing across its systems and workflows and that when threats are identified, they are added to its Safe Browsing API to protect users in Chrome, Gmail, and other integrated Google products.

Not New

As Google acknowledges, many of the current threats are not new but are existing malware campaigns that have just been updated to exploit the heightened attention on COVID-19. Last month, for example, reports of phishing emails included:

– An email purporting (as reported by Proofpoint) to be from a doctor offering details of a vaccine cure that’s been kept secret by the Chinese and UK governments.  Clicking on the link promises access to the vaccine cure details.

– Workplace policy emails that target employees in a specific company/organisation and encourage them to click on a link that will take them to their company’s Disease Management Policy.  Clicking on the link will, in fact, download malicious software that can provide a way into the company network.

– As reported by Mimecast, using the promise of a tax refund for coronavirus, directing the target to click on a link to input all their financial and tax information and with the lure of gaining access to (bogus) funds.

– Asking for donations for a fake campaign to fund the fast development of a COVID-19 vaccine.  In this scam, the victim is directed to a bitcoin payment page.

– An email purporting (again, as reported by Proofpoint) to be from the World Health Organization (WHO) that offers a fake document with information about preventing the spread of coronavirus, where clicking on the link actually leads to the downloading of keylogging software (criminals can track your keystrokes to uncover passwords).

– Emails that exploit feelings of panic, such as an email that claims that COVID-19 has become airborne and asks the target to click on a link to a fake Microsoft login page.

Protecting Yourself Against Phishing Attacks

You can protect yourself and your business from phishing emails and others scams by doing the following:

– Keeping your anti-virus software up to date as well as your patching and other software updates e.g. your OS updates.

– Making sure that all staff and employees are given training and/or are made aware of phishing email threats and that they know the procedure for dealing with emails that appear to be suspicious and/or relate to releasing funds/payments, even if they appear to be from someone in the same company.

– Being on the lookout for online requests for personal and financial information e.g. from government agencies, are very unlikely to be sent by email from legitimate sources.

– Looking out for emails with generic greetings, mistakes in spelling and grammar, and/or heavy emotional appeals that urge you to act immediately, as these are all signs of scam and phishing emails.

– Checking the email address by hovering your mouse (without clicking) over the link in the email. This can quickly reveal if the email is genuine.

Google also recommends that its users could benefit from completing a Google ‘Security Check-up’, and that is G Suite Enterprise and G Suite Enterprise for Education users choose to enable Google’s security sandbox.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent need for businesses and organisations to have their employees work from home, cybercriminals have seen the whole situation as a big opportunity to exploit the uncertainty, heightened emotions, and physical division of workforces.

Now more than ever, therefore, we should all exercise caution when we receive emails from unknown or unusual sources and remember that government agencies and financial institutions don’t send out emails asking for personal and financial information and that any requests for funds or other even slightly unusual requests that appear to come from within the company need to be checked for authenticity.

Companies need to alert employees, many of whom may soon be working from home (if not already) and may have a reduced ability to quickly ask the boss or manager about certain emails, to the threat of phishing emails with a COVID-19 theme and to the threat of social engineering attacks that could take advantage of a physically divided and reduced workforce.

Amazon Can Own Deliveroo Because of Pandemic

After the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) worries last May, the CMA has now announced that Amazon can invest in food distribution company Deliveroo.

Last May

Last May, Amazon was a leading investor in a funding round of $575 million for UK-based food delivery company Deliveroo. At the time (17th May), Deliveroo’s founder and CEO, Will Shu, said of the $575M Series G preferred shares funding from Amazon and existing investors T. Rowe Price, Fidelity Management and Research Company, and Greenoaks, “This new investment will help Deliveroo to grow and to offer customers even more choice, tailored to their personal tastes, offer restaurants greater opportunities to grow and expand their businesses, and to create more flexible, well-paid work for riders.”

Amazon Restaurants

Amazon had previously operated its own ‘Amazon Restaurants’ food delivery service in London, but this was closed in December 2018 following strong competition from Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Just Eat, among and others. It was also reported that Amazon had previously tried two times to buy Deliveroo outright.

CMA Concerns

The Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA), however, had concerns that the investment by Amazon in Deliveroo would be bad for competition and had launched its own investigation. The two main concerns expressed by the CMA were that:

– There were only a small number of companies that acted as the middleman between restaurants and customers and the Amazon/Deliveroo deal could have damaged competition in online restaurant food delivery by discouraging Amazon from re-entering the market in the UK i.e. re-entry by Amazon would have significantly increased competition in online restaurant food delivery in the UK.

– The CMA was concerned that the deal could have damaged competition in the emerging market for online convenience grocery delivery, where the 2 companies already had established market-leading positions.

COVID-19 Change

In the light of what the CMA says has been “a deterioration in Deliveroo’s financial position as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19)”, the CMA has now put aside its original concerns and provisionally cleared Amazon’s investment in Deliveroo. There will, however, be a three-week consultation period and a final decision will not be made until 11th June after all relevant feedback about the investment has been gathered (all submissions will need to be made by Monday 11th May 2020).

The CMA appears to have concluded that only Amazon would be able to provide the kind of funding that Deliveroo needs to meet its financial commitments in the extraordinary global circumstances caused by the pandemic.

Stuart McIntosh, Chair of the CMA’s independent inquiry group, said of that “some customers are cut off from online food delivery altogether, with others facing higher prices or a reduction in service quality. Faced with that stark outcome, we feel the best course of action is to provisionally clear Amazon’s investment in Deliveroo.”

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For Deliveroo this is, of course, a great outcome at a crucial moment. The outcome also shows how the pandemic has had a dramatic effect on all aspects of business, including the decisions made regulators against a changed backdrop. The decision may also, as the CMA pointed out, be good news for customers, particularly those who are more “cut off” from their normal food supplies.

This decision is unlikely to be welcomed, however, by competitors such as Uber and Just Eat who saw-off Amazon’s move into the food delivery market in London last time.

Tech Tip – How To Speed Up Your Internet Connection

With most of us working from home and with a much bigger demand than normal being placed on our broadband connections, here are a few simple ways to try and speed your connection up:

– Move your home router away from other devices e.g. TVs, Bluetooth speakers, baby monitors, cordless phones, and consider placing the router on a table or raised position rather than on the floor.

– Try to stagger the number of family members using the internet at one time.

– Don’t use your microwave while online as this can interfere with your Wi-Fi signal.

– Consider using a homemade DIY ‘parabolic’ antenna e.g. shielding the back of the router in a beer can that’s had the top and bottom cut off, been flattened, and stood up in curved shape. Please note: be incredibly careful to avoid injury if attempting to make this.

– Get a signal booster.

– Set your router to reboot regularly to keep your Wi-Fi speed high.

Featured Article – 5G and COVID-19

Last week it was David Icke and this week it’s TV presenter Eamonn Holmes who’s given media momentum to the conspiracy theory that suggests a link between the emergence of COVID-19 and the use of 5G.  What’s going on, why, and how?

The Conspiracy Theory

This particular theory, which has led to attacks on 5G masts, Google’s YouTube banning any videos relating to it, self-styled truth-sayer (and former Coventry goalkeeper and TV presenter) David Icke and TV presenter Eamonn Holmes being slammed in the media for their comments focuses on a suggested link between new phone technology and the emergence and spread of a real-life virus.

The theory quite simply suggests that the roll-out of 5G has, in some way, triggered the emergence of (and helped the spread of) a brand-new type of coronavirus, COVID-19.  Also, some allege that 5G phone signals may be suppressing human immune systems, thereby helping the virus to get a wider grip. 

To those who are most taken with (and most willing to act in relation to) this theory, attacking and destroying/disrupting 5G infrastructure appears to be a way to try and stop the spread of the virus. This has led to 5G masts being damaged.

What Did David Icke Say?

David Icke recently took part in a live-streamed interview, watched by a reported 65,000 people. In the interview, Mr Icke alleged a possible link between 5G and the COVID-19 health crisis, appeared to say that a continuation of 5G would lead to the end of human life, and alleged that when a vaccine is developed, it will somehow contain small microchips that will allow those who have been injected with it to be controlled.

This led to YouTube banning all videos promoting this theory from its platform.

What Did Eamonn Holmes Say?

In a recent daytime ITV programme, Eammon Holmes appeared to have said that no one knows whether the conspiracy theory that 5G masts help spread the novel coronavirus was true or not.

This led to Ofcom receiving 419 complaints and Mr Holmes being widely criticised in the media. Mr Holmes later said that there is no connection between the NHS crisis and 5G and that it is wrong and possibly dangerous to make the suggestion.

Equipment Attacked

Some believers in the theory are thought to have been behind arson attacks on 22 EE (BT) mobile network sites and 20 Vodafone sites over the Easter holiday.

“Complete Rubbish,” Says Expert

In a recent press release from Reading University, Dr Simon Clarke, Associate Professor in Cellular Microbiology said that “The idea that COVID-19 is caused by 5G mobile phone signals is complete rubbish” and went on to say, in relation to the electromagnetic waves that make up 5G radio signals,  “Electromagnetic waves are one thing, viruses are another, and you can’t get a virus off a phone mast.  Similarly, sensible studies have failed to corroborate the claim that the signals emitted by 5G masts are able to suppress our immune systems.”

Who Believes In Conspiracy Theories and Why?

According to many scholars and experts, the reasons why people choose to believe in conspiracy theories include:

– Some people in societies where there is a large gap between the governing and the governed classes and where there’s an oppositional culture create their own popular theories and don’t share those of the experts who are perceived to out of touch with ‘the people’.

– The need for easy answers and to see the world as simpler and more predictable than perhaps it is.

– Attempts by non-experts to make sense of information that doesn’t fit with their personal values, experience, and their own trusted beliefs, and evidence and the opinions of people they trust.

– Wanting to quickly make sense (and feel safe and in control) of your environment, and to maintain a positive image of ‘self’ and of the social group.

– Social proof – the fact that others who are perceived as important or influential appear willing to at least consider or even accept a theory.

– A preferred belief in things like intuition and truths of the heart rather than a simple acceptance of scientific facts.

– A gap between science and belief systems like religion which may go back hundreds of years and a rift between those who understand mathematics and science and those who don’t.

– Perceptions of a lack of convincing evidence to the contrary.  For example, back in 2013, more than one-third of Americans believed that global warming was a hoax (Swift), whereas 69% of Americans now believe it is happening.

Why Should Anyone Fear 5G?

Just as when mobile phones first became widely used, there were many popular theories linking serious health issues such cancer and brain tumours to prolonged exposure to low-energy, non-ionising electromagnetic radiation radio waves, like those in mobile phone signals.  It is interesting to note that this may not have been helped by, back in 2011, the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifying mobile phone radiation as a “possible” human carcinogen.

With 5G using 3 different Spectrum bands, including what some believe to be the potentially dangerous mmWave high-frequency spectrum, similar fears have been expressed, and some say that 5G signals could damage human cell DNA.

Not Enough Energy

In reality, this type of radiofrequency (RF) radiation does not have enough energy to ionise an atom or molecule, and therefore, is unlikely to have enough energy to damage cell DNA in a way that would harm it, for example by causing cancer. 

In fact, mmWave high-frequency spectrum technology appears to be quite some way from the maximum human RF absorption frequency of about 70MHz. Also, mmWave will mostly be deployed in a spectrum that suffers from high reflection rates – 24 to 29GHz.  This should mean that any absorption by the body will be confined to the surface layers of the skin rather than the deeper tissue that is reached by lower frequency radiation.

The science of radiation, and current evidence and limits relating to mobile phone use means that there’s nothing to directly suggest 5G mmWave poses any significant health risk.  That said, 5G is not in popular use yet, so more research will need to be done on the subject in future, and some critics still say that 5G technology appears to be getting introduced without enough pre-market safety testing.

Looking Ahead

The 5G and COVID-19 conspiracy theory has been frustrating and expensive for mobile operators and may be potentially dangerous for those who believe it, for those who come into contact with them, and for those people who need to communicate with loved ones at a time when they must be physically apart but may not be able to reach them due to damaged mobile phone infrastructure.

5G appears to represent a good opportunity for business.  Its increased speed and lower latency allows the downloading of films and games in seconds and watching them without any buffering, something which many people may at least have valued more in lockdown.  Also, many different types of businesses could benefit from improved connectivity with remote workers or with salespeople in remote areas.

O2 has also forecast that 5G could deliver time savings that could bring £6 billion a year in productivity savings in the UK and that 5G-enabled tools and smart items could save UK householders £450 a year in food, council and fuel bills. These things could be very important in supporting and strengthening recovering economies in future.

Amazon Sacks Employees Who Questioned Pandemic Safety Measures

Amazon is reported to have sacked three employees, two of whom had recently made public statements questioning Amazon’s pandemic safety measures and one who had tried to organise better working conditions.

User Experience Designers

The two ‘user experience designers’ who were sacked by Amazon this week, Maren Costa and Emily Cunningham, had already been the subject of news coverage, back at the end of 2019, as alleged leading members of a group known as ‘Amazon Employees for Climate Justice’ which expressed concerns about Amazon’s carbon footprint.  In January, both employees were reported to have been told that they had violated Amazon’s external communications policy, and Amazon’s reason for finally sacking them is reported to be repeated violations of internal policies.

Warehouse Worker Sacked

The other employee recently sacked is (former) warehouse worker Bashir Mohamed, who Amazon is reported to have dismissed for “inappropriate language, behaviour, and violating social distancing guidelines.”  Mr Mohammed (in Minnesota) is reported to have been pushing for better site cleaning and protective measures for Amazon employees during the pandemic.

Earlier

Back in March, Christian Smalls, a worker who organised a strike over safety conditions and joined a demonstration at Amazon’s New York fulfilment centre was also sacked. Those involved in the strike were pushing for Amazon to offer sick pay to all warehouse workers and to temporarily close and give a deep clean to all warehouses where there had been COVID-19 cases.  Amazon allegedly claims that it sacked Mr Small because he had close contact with an associate who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and that Mr Small didn’t comply with a request to say at home (with pay) for 14 days.

Blog

Some would say coincidentally, as of 14 April, Amazon’s blog (‘about Amazon’), is running daily updates about how it is supporting employees, helping its customers and community relief, and contributing to research during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A previous post (2nd April) focuses on how Amazon is working to protect its employees with measures such as temperature checks, providing disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers and PPE, plus daily audits of its new health and safety measures.

Update – 15 April

Amazon has closed its warehouses in France for all but essential deliveries, until at least 20 April, following a court order. The company was taken to court by French trade unions who claimed that workers were being made to work in close proximity to one another and, therefore, were being put at risk. The court appears to have agreed and has stated that the company “failed to recognise its obligations regarding the security and health of its workers”.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Amazon appears to have made the news many times now over employees who publicly criticise safety and/or working conditions in company premises, and who end up being sacked for violations of one of many internal policies. Large companies with well-known billionaire owners are often the subject of news stories, not all of which are good, but the theme of how worker relations is handled appears to be a common one for Amazon recently and has drawn questions and concerns from several U.S. senators. The pandemic has put many companies in the spotlight over how well employees are being protected, and sackings now could lead to lawsuits and more bad publicity further down the line.

Google’s Drone-Deliveries Boosted By Pandemic

The value of drone delivery services appears to have been realised now that the world’s population centres are in lockdown, with Alphabet’s (Google’s) drone deliveries doubling in test areas in the U.S. and Australia.

What Drone Delivery Service?

Alphabet Inc.’s Wing service offers parcel delivery by special drone aircraft.  In the U.S. the service was approved by the federal government last October but is being operated in a limited test area around Christiansburg, Virginia.  It is operating using partnerships with FedEx Corp., the Walgreens store chain (for medicine, toilet roll and similar deliveries), and with a local bakery and a coffee shop. Wing is also working as part of an approved program with Virginia Tech.

Alphabet’s Wing also has a drone delivery service in the Vuosaari district of Helsinki in Finland and in Canberra, Australia where it delivers goods from a variety of vendors including Mitchell Supermarket, Krofne Donuts and even Drummond Golf (golf balls, tees and gloves).

It is the drone deliveries in the Christiansburg, Virginia area of the U.S. and in Canberra, Australia that are reported to have doubled their deliveries in response to demand from customers who are staying at home.

Other Drone Delivery Services

Wing is, of course, not the only drone delivery service.  Amazon’s Prime Air delivery service, which made test deliveries as far back as 2016 and 2017 still exists but is described by Amazon as “a future delivery system” which has “great potential”, but does seem to have gone somewhat quiet since the much-publicised tests.

In The UK

Drone services are already in operation in the UK, offering a variety of services and performing a number of duties.  In addition to drones used in the promotions and film industries, UK agencies also use drones.  For example, back in 2017, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service and multi-agency partners (Fire and Rescue, Constabulary, County Council and others) launched a shared drone service to provide a range of aerial surveillance options in support of emergency services and voluntary organisations.

Drones In The Pandemic and Beyond

Reports of other uses of drones in the pandemic and beyond include:

– Reports from Jerusalem that Israeli police have been using drones outside apartment buildings to check whether people who have been ordered to self-isolate are doing so.

– Spanish police and the French police using drones with speakers around public places to warn people to go home.

– The University of South Australia (UniSA) and Canada-based drone technology specialist ‘Draganfly’ teaming up to create a drone that can use sensors and computer vision to spot people with infectious respiratory diseases.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Clearly, drone delivery options are still a long way off for most of us, but the pandemic has highlighted more elements of value in them that are being applied in the test areas for local shop deliveries during the pandemic, and for use in disease control on the post-pandemic modern world that we now find ourselves entering.  Drones have also been used for medical purposes (live organ delivery) and could prove valuable again for moving medical and other help into closed-off areas where there is disease in future.

For now, and in the near future, we are still waiting for the tech giants in conjunction with business partners to expand the scale and scope of drone delivery so that it can begin to add value and provide a competitive edge for all kinds of businesses and organisations.

Make Your Own Adverts With YouTube’s Free Video Builder Tool

YouTube has launched YouTube Video Builder, a free tool that enables businesses to easily make short video adverts.

Easy To Use

The new free (beta) Video Builder tool enables users to create video animations from static elements such as images, text and logos, and to enhance those videos with music from YouTube’s (Google’s) library. Users can choose from a variety of layouts, depending on the message and goals, and can customise colours and fonts to quickly generate a short YouTube video of 6 seconds or 15 seconds duration. 

Why?

YouTube says that the new tool will be of particular value because businesses of all sizes have limited time and resources and that in-person video shoots “are no longer practical in many countries”.  The YouTube Video Builder may also be of use to brands or agencies who may want to experiment and create supplemental, lightweight videos, and to smaller businesses and businesses with less creative experience, who need an efficient, low-resource way to create videos.

YouTube suggests that the completed videos can be used for advertising campaigns, on websites or in emails.

How It Works & How To Sign Up

You can see how Video Builder works by watching this video or by reading this guide.  YouTube says that you can sign up for access to Video Builder here, but you may have to wait for your application to be processed and to be granted access.

Banning Conspiracy Videos

This is the second positive news announcement in a week from YouTube (Google) after it announced that it is banning all conspiracy videos that promote the idea of a link between 5G and the emergence of the COVID-19 virus.

Good News From Microsoft Too

Microsoft is also promoting some of its own good news this week as it has announced help for UK school students who are working at home in the form of helping the UK’s 27,000 schools run lessons remotely using Microsoft Teams, Office 365, and other software like Minecraft: Education Edition, Flip grid, Skype in the Classroom and InTune.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Even though it’s still in the beta stage, a free, easy-to-use video ad-making tool could be a useful, value-adding addition to the promotional tools used by mainly smaller businesses.  Many of these businesses are likely to be under considerable strain with the COVID-19 lockdown and its effects, and there may be many ways in which short, professional-looking video announcements and adverts could come in useful to those businesses in the coming months.  For YouTube (Google), this is another way that they can remind users of the value of its suite of business services at a time when businesses may be spending a lot of time on other competing platforms.

Tech Tip – How To Delete Your Twitter History

If you use Twitter for business and networking and you’d like to take precautions around your tweet history, here’s how you can delete your Twitter history:

– Firstly, archive your Tweets – click on the “Your Twitter Data” tab (left-hand column) and scroll down to “Twitter Archive”, and request your archive be sent to the email address associated with your Twitter account.

– When you receive the .zip file containing a folder with an index.html file, click on it to see a webpage in your browser showing your entire Twitter history.

– Next, use a free service e.g. TweetDelete or TwitWipe, or a paid (monthly) service such as TweetDeleter or TweetErase to help you delete your tweets.

– You could, however, decide to simply delete your account without a backup.