Over the past week we have been exposed to the frightening reality that awaits us with the unprecedented and explosive growth in mobile usage. With two massive incidents that are very hard to ignore, the O2 outage and the Huawei fiasco, its hard not to start contemplating just how fraught with potential perils the mobile world actually is.
What has happened?
Oh Oh - O2
Last week, over 30 million mobile phone users in the UK, and a few Japanese and Chinese operators, had zero access to their data service. The data blackout across the O2 network carried on for an agonizing 24 hours.
Mobile Analyst Marta Pinto described it as a digital catastrophe and O2 have ended up paying out to their customers who were denied access to their social media, banks, photos, workout apps and of course from phone calls, now only one of the hundreds of functions our cell phones perform.
Ten years ago locals would have shrugged off, but in late 2018, the outage was felt hard and deep in the pockets of many businesses. In the UK, mobile data usage has exploded and increased 20 times since 2011- from ordering takeout to flight tickets to streaming films, mobile apps have taken over.
The outage itself was caused by a failure to authenticate licenses, a standard procedure and far less important than the fallout which, as we move into 2019 becomes a growing crisis.
Not Just the Users
Uber and local courier workers from “Deliveroo’ got hit hard, if they were 02 users, as it forced them to stop working completely. The outage has cost them a fortune.
Then there was the chaos called in local transport. The information system at London bus stops were out of action. We can look at this disaster as just another multi-national corporate screw up , or we can accept when and where this could have happened if this wasn’t a mistake and which threat -actors may use this type of strategy in the future to create havoc.
What happened at Huawei?
China's Huawei, a huge telecoms conglomerate has been under immense pressure from the Chinese government and now is being treated with suspicion by the US and allies. This all comes within a rather uncomfortable detention of the Huawei top exec Meng Wanzhou in Canada, she is currently facing an extradition to America, accused of ignoring sanctions with Iran.
Paranoia? We don’t think so. Companies that reside in companies with very different worldviews is not an issue to be sniffed at, companies with dictatorial powers over their citizens that affect our security over personal data.
EU Commissioner Ansip suggested that Huawei, along with other firms are very likely forced to co-operate with Chinese intelligence, through installing back doors in their equipment and producing chips that could be used "to get our secrets".
Huawei denied these accusations completely, although Governments that use various digital techniques to gain access to information in other nations, is hardly a new concept and one used to cyber-tage US activities both inside and outside the nation’s borders.