The latest news and insight on how the technology sector is reacting to Covid-19.
NCSC launches public tool to report Covid-19 scams
The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has launched a tool for members of the public to report suspicious emails, in a bid to shield people from a surge in coronavirus email scams and cyberattacks. The scam email reporting tool is part of the government agency’s wider ‘Cyber Aware’ campaign, which will see members of the public given advice on areas such as protecting passwords, devices and accounts.
Those that have suspicions about an email can forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org, where the NCSC’s automated program will verify its legitimacy and remove sites found to be phishing scams. So far, the NCSC, a division of GCHQ, has taken down more than 2,000 coronavirus-themed online scams. This includes phishing sites aimed at stealing personal information, fake online shops selling fraudulent coronavirus products and malware distribution sites.
Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, cybersecurity firms have observed a surge in attacks that take advantage of people’s fears, as well as the rise in people working remotely and spending more time online during lockdown. Some 80% of all scams, hacks and cyberattacks observed by security firm Proofpoint are now coronavirus-themed.
UK startups lead tech revolution in GP practices
Two years ago, UK-based startup AccuRx started to run a deliberately low-tech service allowing GP practices to communicate with patients via SMS. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the startup has developed new video consultation services for GPs to deal with patients remotely. The business has also created a tool to send documents to and from patients.
Having created the tool over one weekend at the beginning of March, AccuRx now runs 35,000 video consultations per day. More than 90% of GPs across England are using the services, which AccuRx are currently running for free.
Another small business, Intelligent Ultrasound, has released a simulation tool to teach healthcare workers how to spot signs of respiratory disease. It is also currently free for customers to use, and is being used at the 4,000-bed NHS Nightingale hospital in London.
European Commission launches big data hub for Covid-19 research
The European Commission (EC) has launched a new Big Data hub for Covid-19 data, where researchers can share and store data from DNA sequences and protein structures through to data from pre-clinical research. The EC also said it would be running a pan-European Hackathon in the end of April to “mobilise European innovators and the civil society” — 49 public and private organisations have signed up to support those efforts.
The new open platform aims to build bridges between national public health data infrastructures and The European Commission and the European Molecular Biology Lab’s (EMBL) European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), together with EU Member States and research partners such as ELIXIR. EMBL-EBI and partners have has set up the Covid-19 Data Portal, which will bring together relevant datasets submitted to EMBL-EBI and other major centres for biomedical data. The aim is to facilitate data sharing and analysis, and to accelerate coronavirus research.
UK offers free laptops to disadvantaged young people
The UK’s Department for Education will provide free laptops and tablets to vulnerable and disadvantaged young people across the country to support online learning amid the prevailing Covid-19 outbreak, and enable access to remote education for students staying at home during the pandemic.
It said that the government will order devices for children in the most important stages of their education, those who are supported by a social worker and care leavers. It will also provide 4G routers to ensure that disadvantaged secondary school pupils and care leavers can make use of the internet, in households that do not already have broadband access.
The UK’s main telecommunications providers will make it easier for families to access certain educational resources by exempting those sites temporarily from data charges.