RoSPA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, is urging road users to leave their mobile phone alone if they are in control of a moving vehicle at 3pm this Sunday, April 23.
The Government is testing its Emergency Alerts System on Sunday afternoon, when mobile phones across the country are expected to sound a siren, and RoSPA is one of a number of organisations who have issued advice ahead of the event to ensure that the safety test is not… well, unsafe.
Refuge, the charity for those who suffer domestic abuse, are recommending that anyone who has a second mobile phone so that they might use it for calls or messages that their abuser doesn’t see or hear should turn the device off for an hour either side of 3pm on Sunday, to ensure its presence goes undetected. The advice is backed by the Government.
The Government set up the Emergency Alert System for when there’s a danger to life, health or property in the area they are located. When the alert runs, people will hear a loud siren-like sound for up to 10 seconds and a message will appear on the screen until the alert is acknowledged.
Rebecca Guy, the road safety manager at RoSPA, said: “If the Emergency Alert System sounds when you are in control of a moving vehicle, resist the urge to look at or pick up your phone. Continue driving as normal. If you do feel the need to look at your phone, find a safe and legal place to pull over first.
“While technology is an enabling and helpful tool for road users, we do need to be aware of the distraction risks it can pose. We know that in 2021, around 600 people in the UK were injured in road traffic collisions where the driver was using a mobile phone, with the potential for many more being unreported.
“The message here is simple – be aware the alert is coming, and if you are in control of a vehicle when it does, do not pick up your phone.”
The public has also been advised to keep the alert in mind when doing potentially risky activities around the home. “It may be a good idea to avoid certain activities around the time the alert is scheduled to go off,” RoSPA say. “For instance, people may wish to avoid any household DIY tasks involving power tools, climbing a ladder or anything that requires uninterrupted concentration and could lead to injury if startled.”
There are also fears the test could give away the location of “secret” devices, placing their owners in peril.
The alarm will not sound if the phone is switched off or put on airplane mode. Domestic abuse charities have warned of the “very real risk” to those in danger of domestic abuse – many of whom keep second phones as a lifeline that could help them flee their abuser.
The Government advises that people should follow the Refuge charity’s advice.
“The Government plans to send a test alert to all devices including tablets, as well as phones. These alerts will come through as a loud siren even if devices are on silent, and could alert an abuser to a concealed device,” said Emma Pickering, the senior operations tech abuse manager at Refuge.
“We are pleased that the government is now issuing proactive communications which highlight the very real risk of these alerts to survivors of domestic abuse, who may have hidden or secret phones.
“Refuge’s technology-facilitated abuse and economic empowerment team have put together two videos on how to turn these alerts off, both on Android phones and on iPhones for anyone that is concerned that these alerts will put their safety at risk. We want to ensure as many survivors as possible know how to ensure these alerts are turned off on their hidden devices.”
For more information on securing your devices – for example your location settings or privacy settings – visit refugetechsafety.org.
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Would you really trust this government or someone else to not use this as an opportunity to infect your phone with spyware?
Pegasus, devised by the Israeli company NSO, can be and has been covertly installed on mobile phones. It is capable of reading your text messages, tracking your calls, collecting your passwords, tracking your location, accessing your microphone and camera, and harvesting information from your apps.
It doesn’t even need you to do anything, apart from receive a message. It uses zero-click coding, which means it’ll work whether or not your press any keys upon receiving it.
Pegasus has been deployed in countries ranging from Armenia to Yemen. Politicians and political activists have been targeted using Pegasus, in some cases being murdered.
Viktor Orbán, the far-right Prime Minister of Hungary, authorised the use of Pegasus by Hungarian intelligence and law enforcement services to target his political opponents.
In Mexico, drug gangs and their political friends have used Pegasus to intimidate journalists, with Cecilio Pineda Birto’s location being tracked using Pegasus before his assassination in 2017.
Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist killed by the Saudi Arabian government, was tracked by the spyware in the run up to his death in 2018.
In 2022, the then Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was told that his Downing Street office staff had been targeted by overseas agents using Pegasus.
I’ve disabled the emergency alert system on my phone and will be turning it off before 3pm on Sunday.