Today, for the first time since the outbreak, all UK mobile networks are sending a broadcast to the masses with details of the new lockdown measures announced by Boris Johnson. Mobile companies were informed by the government last night of the impending initiative.
UK mobile operators – including O2, EE, Three and Vodafone – are adhering to the call from Ministers to send a mass broadcast that will reach as many as 60 million people in the UK. According to the communications regulator, Ofcom, only 4% of households in the UK are without a mobile phone, which means the message will be intercepted by a large majority of the population.
The government has also begun talks with mobile operators to discuss the prospect of using mobile phone location and usage data to assess overall effectiveness of measures such as staying home – to determine whether this can mitigate the rapid spread of the virus. The decision represents an important development when evaluating state-response to a health crisis of this scale. Data gathered, will help drive more informed decisions and highlight key areas to focus on when health services are prompted to take recommended action to improve public health and safety.
In light of the broadcasts and the increasing levels of fear and anxiety triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, security firms have warned of the threat of SMS spam messages, and have urged people to remain alert.
“These SMS spam attacks attempt to use the fear around the coronavirus worldwide emergency to try to push their targets to respond to the SMS spam, and so monetise (make money from) the attack,” wrote AdaptiveMobile Security on its blog.
The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has warned of more bogus email campaigns that aim to mislead users into clicking links that may infect their computers with a virus or seek to deceive the recipients into sharing personal information.
According to an earlier report from Reuters, mobile operators in the European Union are already sharing data with health authorities in Italy, Germany, and Austria to help monitor whether people are complying by the instructions given to maintain social distances and to stay home, during this period. The UK is clearly following suit as the numbers of COVID-19 cases increase.
Whilst mobile operators continue to facilitate the distribution of valuable information to the general public, now is the time to demonstrate elevated levels of caution when reading messages to ascertain whether the content presented is valid or bogus.