The Himsworths Legal bimonthly – May 2015Posted on

Revenge porn now criminal

Much has been made of the rise and (we hope) fall of so-called “revenge porn” (the placing of intimate photographs and/or videos online without the consent of the subject). In February this year the government enacted the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 which made it an offence punishable by up to 2 years in jail to disclose private sexual photographs or films without consent.

The Act gives victims a powerful tool but what should you do if you, or a friend or family member, falls foul of this type of crime?

1. Go to the police. The new Act gives this right but there is more that can be done both in the short and long term ……

2. Issue “takedowns”. Where images or videos are appearing on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr the sites’ own Terms and Conditions will allow users to report, and have removed, such content. An added, and strong, tool is copyright. Where the victim took the photograph him/herself then he/she is the copyright owner and is entitled to issue copyright takedown notices which will be taken seriously by websites across the world. We were recently able to remove all copies of stolen SnapChat photographs on behalf of a client using copyright takedowns.

3. Seek redress. Anyone posting this type of content without consent is committing a criminal wrong but also a breach of civil rights. Taking legal action may allow the victim to take back control of the situation. Obtain compensation, have the copyright in the images transferred to him/her and have the full co-operation of the aggressor in remedying the damage caused.

Our colleague Lorna Caddy (who recently joined us) has written more on the subject here.

Do you have a Social Media Policy?

LinkedInA great deal of employers still view their employees’ use of social media  as a minefield and as a result tend to stick their heads in the sand.

However, this is no longer an option when the vast majority of employees are using social media in some form or another – it is vital employers are aware and prepared for potential issues that may arise.

So, what are the dangers and what can employers do to prepare and guard against them? Our Jessica Lovell takes a look here.


Hello – You have just received a Flash SMS

When a concerned client of ours received a message across the entirety of his iPhone screen which simply said “I’m watching you” he was highly concerned. When similar messages followed he naturally asked us what one earth they were.

They were a Flash SMS, also known as a Class 0 SMS, which is a message that displays automatically on a phone screen, covering it completely, when it arrives on the recipient’s phone, meaning that it cannot be ignored. You cannot necessarily see who the sender is and it does not save to your phone. 

The intention of a Flash SMS is to allow companies to grab the recipient’s attention with offers and deals. That is problematic enough, but allowing ordinary users to send messages anonymously in order to menace individuals, suggests a gap in the security of smartphones.

Such messages can be even more concerning if the recipient does not understand what a Flash SMS is. In the example we gave the sender tried to lead our client to believe that his phone had been hacked. It hadn’t and we were able to reassure him swiftly.

Such menacing or annoying messages are not the only problems with Flash SMS.

Researchers have found that Flash SMS can cause some phones to freeze, reboot or lose connectivity until the age-old fix of turning them off and turning them on again was applied and, on the iPhone, they can cause the slider on the lock screen to stop working. This meant that the phone could not be unlocked until either a call was made to it or it was rebooted.

The researcher (Bogdan Alecu) suggested that this could be taken advantage of by cyber-criminals who could try and hold the phone to ransom by asking for money or telling the recipient to call a premium rate number to regain access to their phone.

More recently a Swedish programmer called Roman Digerberg found a flaw whereby he could use a Flash SMS to restart a recipients’ iPhone, change the number of voicemails they had or put a red dot on the phone icon which the recipient could not remove.

Whilst both Google and Apple have addressed these particular issues in their respective OS updates, this does not stop phone users being subject to spam or worries that they have been hacked.

On older models of the iPhone, it was possible to deactivate these messages. You just had to find SIM Applications in the phone’s settings, select the “FLASH!” option then change the activation settings. However, this does not seem to appear on later models – or if it does then we can’t find it!

So, if you do get a sinister-reading, unusual-looking message appear on your phone with no name or number, just remember, you haven’t been hacked. You’ve just been flashed.



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