Monday, 22 December 2008

Seasons Greetings and a Prosperous New Year!

On behalf of Plum Communications I wish you…

Seasons Greetings
A Prosperous New Year!!

Click on these links for some holiday fun
Track and countdown to Santa
Light up a Christmas Tree as fast as possible (click on the North Pole Clock Tower)

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Ofcom is 5 years old

On 29th December Ofcom will be five years old, after being established on 29th December 2003. Ofcom was set up as a single regulatory body, taking over the duties of the five previous bodies - the Broadcasting Standards Commission, the Independent Television Commission, the Office of Telecommunications (Oftel), the Radio Authority, and the Radiocommunications Agency. Originally solely located in one office in London, Ofcom now has offices throughout the UK. Communications has come a long way in those 5 years, for example: 9 out of 10 people in the UK now have at least 1 digital TV, 60% have broadband internet compared to 7% in 2002, and the number of mobile connections has also risen by almost 50 per cent to reach 74 million. A list of Ofcom’s milestones from 2003-2006 can be found here, and a list of Ofcom’s milestones from 2007-08 can be found here.

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Friday, 19 December 2008

Customers need to be alerted about 'Dial Through Fraud'

We would like to remind customers about the re-emerging danger of ‘Dial Through Fraud’ (also known as PBX Hacking). ‘Dial Through Fraud’ occurs when fraudsters crack the protection codes needed to get into a company’s switchboard, and then dial outside lines at a company’s expense. Many companies have phone exchanges that let company employees ring in to the switchboard, and then by keying certain dialing codes, get an outside line to anywhere in the world. The company then pays the bill for the outgoing call. Therefore, anyone who cracks the protection around those codes can make unlimited calls at the company's expense.

Examples of this has appeared in The Guardian newspaper. In one case, a fraudster hacked into the telephone exchange of a firm in Kent and made international calls to the Philippines, Dubai, US and Italy, which led to call charges of £1,000. In a further case in Manchester, fraudsters used Voice over IP technology to hack into the telephone exchange, which meant in reality that their calls could have been made from anywhere in the world, and made international calls to 19 countries (including Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Sudan, Serbia and the Republic of Yemen), which led to call charges of £2,100. Therefore, it is essential that companies try and protect themselves from such fraud.

We recommend these ‘15 Top Tips’ to help guard your business against the risks of ‘Dial Through Fraud’:

  1. Remove or de-activate all unnecessary system functionality including remote access ports. If you must have the latter, protect them with strong authentication techniques such as smartcards or tokens.
  2. Restrict the numbers that employees can dial: for example, bar calls to premium rate numbers, international numbers, operator numbers or Directory Enquiries.
  3. Review your PBX call logging/reporting records regularly to spot any increases in call volumes or calls to suspicious destinations.
  4. Bar voicemail ports for outgoing access to trunks if you can. Change your voicemail and DISA (Direct Inward System Access) passwords regularly and don't use the factory defaults or obvious combinations such as 1234 or the extension number.
  5. If access to trunks via voicemail is vital, then introduce suitable controls. Remove Auto Attendant options for accessing trunks too.
  6. Lock any surplus mailboxes until you have a user for them.
  7. Not using DISA? Then disable it completely.
  8. Restrict access to your core communications equipment, such as your communications room or master terminals.
  9. Only give individuals the appropriate and minimum level of system access they need to carry out a specific task.
  10. Change your security features - passwords, PINs etc - and re-set the password defaults whenever you install, upgrade, repair or maintain equipment.
  11. Treat all internal directories, call logging reports or audit logs as confidential. Destroy them securely when they're no longer needed.
  12. Avoid using tones to prompt for password/PIN entry: hackers find it easy to duplicate them.
  13. Implement formal processes to cover employee entry procedures, the issuing of pass cards, the vetting of new employees and when people change jobs or leave. For the latter, remember to revoke any access they might have had to your systems, mailboxes or buildings.
  14. Review your system security and configuration settings regularly. Follow up any vulnerabilities or irregularities promptly.
  15. Be vigilant against bogus callers: people who pose as a company employee and ask to be connected to a switchboard operator to get an outgoing line.

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Friday, 12 December 2008

Voters vote 'No' on Manchester congestion fare

At noon today at the Manchester Central conference centre, returning officer Sir Neil McIntosh announced that the majority of voters had voted against the introduction of the congestion charge. Across the 10 regions of Greater Manchester, 1.94 million ballot packs have been sent out over the last 2 weeks. By 10pm last night 1,030,000 residents (53.2% of the electorate) turned out to vote. The scheme needed at least 7 boroughs to vote in favour of the scheme for it go-ahead, but as the following breakdown suggests (see the Middleton Guardian), this didn’t happen:


Yes Vote

No Vote


Overall Outcome




































































The Times suggests that voters were not persuaded by the £1.5 billion Government funding for public transport, despite the fact that it would have created 10,000 extra jobs due to the construction of new tram lines and improved trains and buses. Many questioned the timing of the referendum, which would have seen drivers paying £5 a day (up to £1,200 a year) to get in and out of Manchester (here is a map of the proposed outer and inner rings), due to the current economic climate and the belief that building more roads is not financially possible or environmentally acceptable.

It appears that the vote was decided by whether you drove into Manchester, or took public transport into Manchester. Those who take public transport are more likely to vote in favour of additional public transport, as it would be more beneficial to them and across a year they wouldn’t pay as much as drivers. However, those who drive into Manchester would vote against it, as they would inevitably have to pay up to £5 a day just to go to work, a possible £1,200 a year, which for someone with a basic salary could be quite a financial burden. Similarly, those travelling from the most furthest out boroughs in Greater Manchester would prefer to drive over public transport, as it is a lot quicker.

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Review of Ofcom Telecoms Report Q2 2008

Ofcom have released their telecoms report for the second 3 months (April - June) in 2008. The report aims to highlight emerging trends in the UK telecoms sector, in order to generate a greater understanding of the sector amongst consumers and businesses alike. As stated on the Ofcom website, the main trends in fixed lines and calls, internet, and mobile phones, were as follows:<


  • BT’s market share of fixed calls and access revenues stayed at 59.7% in Q2 2008.
  • Total call volumes declined by 3% down to 37 billion minutes during the period, some 9% lower that at the same stage in 2007.
  • Total number of fixed lines and ISDN channels fell by 63,000 in Q2 2008.


  • The total number of residential and SME broadband connections increased by almost 400,000 to 16.6 million in Q1 2008, with LLU connections account for most of this increase and BT’s retail market share being unchanged at 26.5%


  • Total mobile revenue across the four mobile operators declined by 1.6% during the quarter, driven by a fall in revenue from calls and other charges.
  • Total volume of SMS and MMS messages increased by 4.8% during the quarter; but revenue in this area fell by 1.7% over this same period.
  • Contract subscribers grew by 545,000 in Q2 2008 and there was also an increase of 65,000 in prepay subscribers.
  • At 506 million minutes, international roaming call volumes in Q2 2008, some 7.7% higher than the 470 million minutes in Q2 2007.

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Thursday, 4 December 2008

Granada Congestion-Charge Advert Pulled

Ofcom has announced that a congestion-charge advert, shown in the ITV Granada region between November 6 and 13, was biased towards the introduction of the congestion charge in Manchester, and has consequently been pulled off the air. Ofcom states that the advert publicised a website which was pro-congestion charge, and that the advert itself showed partiality toward the congestion charge. A Greater Manchester transport spokesman said that Ofcom’s ruling was unjustified, as the advert, which cost £230,000 to produce, had been previously approved by an independent body of broadcasters. The full Ofcom review can be seen here.

Just a reminder, you have until 11th December to vote in the congestion charge referendum. Please visit our previous blog entry ‘Manchester Congestion Charge - Yes or No?’ for more information on this.

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Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

Residents of Greater Manchester today woke up to picturesque views of roads, houses, cars and fields blanketed by up to 6 inches of snow. Last night’s snow falls were supposedly the heaviest since November 1996. However, this ‘winter wonderland’ has caused major disruptions to people travelling to school and work, with traffic and public transport being affected, in particular in Middleton and Oldham.

Throughout the region drivers were forced to reduce their speeds to 15 – 20mph in fear of skidding on the roads, which in addition to the traffic caused mass delays on the roads, with cars being abandoned on the traffic gridlocked A62, A635 and A627M. Snow ploughs were in put into use on the M62 eastbound out of Greater Manchester, in order to re-open a lane. Junctions 19 (Middleton/Heywood) and 20 (Rochdale) of the M62 was closed due to 2 HGVs colliding at 19, and a vehicle careering up the embankment at 20. In one incident, a car crashed into a house in Grimshaw Lane, Middleton, but thankfully no-one was injured. Consequently, many workers had to find alternative ways of travelling into work, as buses alike also struggled to cope with the poor weather conditions.

Due to teachers struggling to get into work, many schools in the area have been closed for the day or opened later in the day. Schools which have closed down today include: Royton and Crompton Secondary School, Crompton House, St. Mary’s, Buckstones Primary School, Saddleworth Prep, South Failsworth Primary, Counthill and North Chadderton.

The weather conditions also affected trains in the area, with trains breaking down and numerous services being heavily delayed or cancelled; Manchester Airport to Edinburgh, Manchester Victoria to Leeds, to name but a few. However, these disruptions look set to be cleared up this afternoon.

Is this the last of the snow? Possibly. Oldham Chronicle’s weatherman Damien Rogers said, “There may be more snow on Thursday and it is possibly going to stay cold until the weekend”. The BBC Weather pages show that for Oldham; there may be more snow today, tomorrow will be foggy, Thursday will be very wet, and Friday will have some sunny intervals. Is it me or is the weather just too unpredictable at the moment? Is this our snow for the year? Will there still be a White Christmas?

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