March 12th, 2014
In September, Apple released iOS 7. Since then, users have been waiting for the next update that would fix bugs and introduce new features. There have been plenty of stories predicting what the update would contain, but no one could know for certain. This week, iOS 7.1 was officially released and in just a couple of days, adoption is already close to 10-percent for eligible devices. Eric Zeman of Information Week reports on the iOS update and what’s new for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users.
Many users complained that their device reset unexpectedly after updating to iOS 7. This soft reset wouldn’t delete any apps or saved data, but would interrupt whatever activity the user was currently engaged in. One of the primary goals of the update to 7.1 was to fix this annoying bug. So far, users are reporting that the reset problem has been solved.
Apple’s virtual personal assistant received an upgrade in iOS 7.1. While Siri will still actively listen for voice commands, there’s an added option of manually control when Siri needs to pay attention. Users can hold the Home button down while they give a command and release it when they finish directing Siri. There are also a number of new voice options for Siri in a variety of languages.
Apple is still excited about the possibilities of iTunes Radio and continues to roll out new features for it. In iOS 7.1, users are able to make purchases easier from their mobile devices. Previously, users can now purchase music directly from the “Now Playing” screen in iTunes Radio and even buy entire albums. Users are also able to subscribe to iTunes Match directly from their iPhone or iPad. The search function for iTunes Radio was also tweaked to make it easier for users to access it quickly.
Perhaps the most anticipated addition included in iOS 7.1 allows iPhone and iPad users to integrate their devices with their cars. Before you get too excited, know that cars that support CarPlay aren’t even on the market yet. Some upcoming 2015 models are expected to include that feature. In the meantime, Apple’s devices are already ready to go. Users with CarPlay will be able to use Siri, navigation, messaging and access their music.
As always, it’s recommended that you back-up your device before installing a significant update like this one. Downloading and installing iOS 7.1 reportedly takes about 10-minutes over a WiFi connection.
If your device has issues that an update won’t fix, bring it to Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.
March 10th, 2014
A common piece of security advice is to regularly update your antivirus program to protect against the latest threats. New malware is formed every day and it’s difficult for security applications to keep up, but it’s impossible if they aren’t updated daily. Alastair Stevenson illustrates the need for up to date definitions with his report at V3 that three new threats emerge every second of every day.
That statistic comes from security company McAfee’s Threat Report from the fourth quarter of 2013. Part of that report reveals that McAfee learned of 200 new attacks every minute, which likely means that the number of new attacks being launched is actually even higher.
Overall, in just the fourth quarter in 2013, 200-million malware variants were found by McAfee. That’s 90-million more than was found during the same time span in 2012. Experts believe one reason for this significant increase in malware production is the increase in “Point of Sale” malware, which refers to variants that are available to be purchased online by anyone and used without a need for expertise. This allows nearly anyone to launch an attack.
Malware isn’t targeting PC users alone, however. The report states that nearly 2.5-million new forms of malware targeting Android mobile devices was collected. That’s significantly lower than the amount of malware targeting PC users, but it’s nearly double the output of mobile malware from just a year prior.
Ransomware, the malware that encrypts or locks down files on your PC and demands payment to give you access to them, also saw a large jump in number of attacks in 2013. After 1-million observed forms of ransomware attacks in 2012, 2013 saw about 2-million.
The clear lesson here is that security on your personal devices and your company’s network is becoming even more important as more attacks are being produced and those attacks are becoming more intelligent.
For help improving security or help recovering from an infection or attack, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
February 25th, 2014
Any time a new iPhone debuts, it makes worldwide news, but there is a sizable audience that’s equally interested in new Android smartphones. Samsung’s Galaxy line recently debuted its newest member, the S5, at an event in Barcelona. Al Sacco of CIO reported on the new specifications and features.
The Galaxy S5 is bigger than its predecessors, which was expected. It outweighs the GS4 by 15 grams. It’s also slightly taller, wider and deeper. The additional size and weight is partly attributed to a larger battery, which is 2800 mAh compared to 2600 mAh for the GS4.
The display on the S5 is also bigger, but not by much. At 5.1-inches, it has only gained 1-tenth of an inch on the previous Galaxy smartphone. Otherwise, not much has changed. There’s still a full HD Super AMOLED display at 1920×1080. The display on the new S5 is regarded as brighter at the highest setting, however.
Other manufacturers have made a 64-GB storage option for their newest, top of the line smartphones. The Galaxy S5, however, only has a 16-GB and 32-GB model. It does support external memory cards up to 64-GB.
The processor is where the S5 received the biggest upgrade. Inside, you’ll find a blazing fast 2.5 GHz quad-core processor as opposed to the 1.6 GHz chip found in the S4.
The camera on smartphones has become just as important as any conventional phone features. The Galaxy S5 features one of the best camera you’ll find with a front facing 2.1 MP camera and a 16 MP rear camera. As with any Samsung smartphone, there are also new camera features to play with. In the S5, there’s reportedly the fastest auto-focus in any smartphone and a tool to focus on one specific part of a photo and blur the rest.
The Galaxy S5 follows in the footsteps of the latest iPhones to offer biometric security. A fingerprint scanner is included in the home button to help secure your phone, but you’ll have to actually swipe your finger, rather than just holding it to the sensor.
Samsung is also making an effort to include features on their phones that are typically found in increasingly popular fitness bands. As part of their included S Health app, a heart rate monitor is built in to the smartphone.
There’s also a power saving function that everyone needs from time to time. Ultra Power Saving Mode disables non-essential functions in situations when you can’t afford for your phone to die, but the battery is critically low.
Finally, Samsung introduced Download Booster, which claims to allow WiFi and your LTE connection to work together to produce better download speeds.
There are sure to be plenty of additional testing and features revealed ahead of the Galaxy S5’s official release on April 11th.
In the meantime, whether you have the latest smartphone or an older model, Geek Rescue has you covered when something breaks. For hardware damage, malware infections and more, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
February 25th, 2014
There’s a security flaw in Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS. No, it’s not the same flaw that we reported yesterday. That widely publicized flaw allows attackers to intercept data being sent between your phone and web servers and an update that fixes it is already available for most affected users. This new flaw, as Lance Whitney of CNet reports, allows for the remote capture of “every character the victim inputs” on an iPhone or iPad.
The vulnerability was uncovered by security firm FireEye. A keylogging app is able to run in the background of any iOS 7 device because of a flaw in the Background App Refresh setting.
You may be wondering what the danger of a hacker being able to monitor every press of your touchscreen, or home button, or volume controls is. Attackers aren’t just able to monitor when you touch your screen, but precisely where on the X and Y axis. That means that passwords and log-in credentials could be stolen. Your phone’s lock screen could also be compromised. Think of everything you use your phone or tablet for and then consider how dangerous it would be to have a stranger looking over your shoulder the entire time.
Unlike the SSL vulnerability that was revealed recently, this iOS vulnerability requires a malicious app to be installed on the device first. Of course, there are a number of ways an app can make it’s way to your iPhone. Apps downloaded directly from the official App Store are usually legitimate, however. So, these malicious apps would likely come from 3rd party app stores or email attachments.
Apple has publicly stated that they’re working with FireEye to create a patch to fix the problem. In the meantime, users can close any apps running in the background by double-tapping their Home button. Close any apps you aren’t currently using. If there’s an app running that you don’t recognize, there’s a good chance that it’s malware.
If you have a device that’s been infected with malware, bring it to Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.
February 24th, 2014
Over the weekend, Apple released an update to its mobile operating system, iOS. Version 7.0.6 for iOS 7 devices and 6.1.6 for iOS 6 devices were seemingly rushed out to fix a bug that put users’ data at a significant risk. At Gizmodo, Brian Barrett explains why iOS users should update their devices as soon as possible.
The bug, or security vulnerability, that Apple is now attempting to fix involves a flaw in the operation of SSL, which stands for Secure Sockets Layer. Using SSL allows for private and secure communications between your web browser and the servers it need to communicate with to access different websites. When you see the small lock icon appear in your browser’s address bar, that means that SSL is functioning and securing your connection to the site you’re currently on.
Without SSL, everything you send to a server and receive back is up for grabs. SSL verifies that your browser is contacting the correct server for the website it’s displaying, but the Apple bug prevents that from happening. This opens the door for what’s called “man in the middle attacks”, which refers to a third party intercepting data intended for someone else. So, your log-in credentials for any online account you have, payment information for an online purchase, emails and a number of other potentially costly possibilities can all be stolen and monitored by criminals.
The vulnerability affects not only browser Safari, but also Calendar, Facetime, Keynote, Twitter, Mail, iBooks and more. Any time you’ve used one of these apps on an unsecured network, which could be anything from free WiFi in a coffee shop to the network at your job that doesn’t require a password, all the data you’ve accessed and submitted could have been intercepted.
This flaw has an update for devices dating back to the iPhone 3GS and fourth generation iPod Touch. Any devices older than that likely won’t have an update available to fix the problem. This is also an issue for Mac users with the OS X operating system. While there’s a known vulnerability for Macs, there isn’t currently a patch or update to fix it.
While exploits of this vulnerability only recently began being spotted, the SSL flaw has been in both iOS and OS X since September of 2012. For the past year and a half, data has been available through a fairly simple exploit on one of the most popular mobile devices. If you haven’t already updated, do so now. If there isn’t an update available for your device yet, avoid using the affected apps on any unsecured networks.
Security vulnerabilities are a serious concern for any device. If you’ve experienced an attack and have a device infected with malware, or want to explore additional security options, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
February 20th, 2014
Nearly every day, news stories are written about security vulnerabilities being patched or exploited. Most users believe that if they keep their applications updated, they’ll be safe from attacks. While it’s true that regular updates do eliminate some vulnerabilities in applications, they don’t take the possibility of a successful attack away completely. As Mark Wilson reports for Beta News, security firm Cenzic recently published its Application Vulnerability Trends Report and found that 96-percent of all applications contain security issues.
Not only does nearly every application being used have security flaws, but also the media number of flaws per application is 14. So, it’s likely that even up to date, well-patched applications still have vulnerabilities that would allow for successful attacks.
The good news is that this grim news is actually an improvement over last year’s report. In 2012, 99-percent of tested apps displayed security flaws. However, the media number of flaws per application was 13.
Mobile users specifically also have the concerns of what downloaded apps are allowed to access. Cenzic found that 80-percent of mobile apps had excessive privileges, which means they’re able to access data they shouldn’t need or are capable of controlling features they shouldn’t be able to.
The takeaway for users is that even a well-secured network, computer or mobile device can be undone by an insecure application. For example, many of the attacks on Apple devices stem from apps with vulnerabilities that have been added to an otherwise secure environment. These vulnerabilities open the door for attackers to access data and remotely control devices.
For businesses, this means that a renewed investment in security is likely needed. If applications your company regularly relies on are likely to contain security vulnerabilities, data needs to be protected in other ways, like encryption.
This also introduces concerns about employees bringing their own devices into the workplace. Apps on those devices that aren’t even used for business could contain flaws that allow attackers onto your network.
To find out how to better protect your data, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
February 18th, 2014
A broken screen on your smartphone is frustrating and can be a costly fix. Unlike other damage to your phone, a broken screen often means your phone is completely inoperable. As Shawn Knight reports for TechSpot, HTC smartphone owners will soon be protected when their screens shatter.
HTC that they will replace broken smartphone screens at no additional cost to their users. There are some catches, however.
Most notably, this insurance policy only lasts for 6-months from the time you purchase your phone. With many users keeping their smartphones for about 2-years, this leaves a lot of time uncovered.
Also, this is not a retroactive policy. Anyone who bought an HTC smartphone before today won’t be able to get a free fix for their broken screen. In fact, at the moment the offer is only good for HTC One, One Mini and One Max smartphone purchased today or later.
In addition to the coverage for broken screens, HTC’s new program, called HTC Advantage, also outlines how long users will receive support for their chosen smartphones. For example, those with an HTC One will receive updates and patches until 2016. There’s also more cloud storage available.
If you’re planning to buy a new smartphone soon, this news may sway your decision. Unfortunately, there have been no reports that similar programs are in the works for other major providers.
If your smartphone sustains any type of damage that isn’t covered by insurance, Geek Rescue has you covered. Bring your broken devices in to one of our locations or call us at 918-369-4335.
February 17th, 2014
It’s become well-known that more threats exist for Android users than exist for users of Apple devices. One of the reasons that malware often targets the Android operating system is because of the relative insecurity of the app store, Google Play. Malicious apps have repeatedly infiltrated Google Play and infected users. According to a post at GMA News, a number of malicious apps are currently available through the app store and they’ve already infected more than 300-thousand users.
Though the names of specific apps aren’t named, there are believed to be a number of apps responsible for malware infections. These apps typically pose as legitimate versions of other apps, or as different versions of popular, or trendy, apps. Most recently, the game Flappy Bird, which was taken out of app stores, has spawned a number of malicious copycats.
When a user mistakenly downloads one of these malicious apps, it steals the users phone number and uses it to sign up for a premium SMS service. This ends with additional fees being included on a user’s monthly bill. The attacker likely receives some sort of commission for bringing additional users to the service.
Part of this process involves the malware intercepting messages sent to a user’s smartphone and sending messages without the user’s knowledge. Because the premium service needs confirmation before it can begin to charge you, the malware must intercept the confirmation message containing a PIN, then send a message back with that PIN.
To gain access to a user’s phone number, the malware uses a vulnerability in the popular messaging app, WhatsApp. Even though users without WhatsApp could become download a malicious app and be infected, it’s not clear if the malware would have the same capabilities.
To avoid downloading an app that will infect your smartphone, be sure to carefully read the permissions the app requires. These malicious apps clearly state in their permissions that they read text messages and need a connection to the internet. While some apps needs those permissions legitimately, most do not. If an app asks for permissions they shouldn’t need, it’s best to avoid downloading.
If your smartphone is infected by malware, bring it to Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.
February 14th, 2014
There are a number of advantages to becoming a more mobile business. Employees are able to access data from virtually anywhere, which can make them more productive and give them access to vital information when meeting with clients. It’s also much easier for them to collaborate with others. There’s also the bring your own device trend that allows employees to integrate their own mobile devices into their work. All of these allow for more productivity and connectivity, but they also all introduce new security concerns. At Network World, Ed Tittel lists some best practices all business owners should be familiar with for dealing with mobile security.
With more smartphones being used worldwide and more valuable data being accessed with them, it stands to reason that they’re becoming a more valuable target for criminals. Attacks have been observed on both iOS and Android devices. For devices that are used to access company data, you can’t afford to let them connect to your network without proper security apps in place.
Typically, mobile communications are relatively easy for hackers to intercept. That’s why most experts recommend the use of a VPN, or virtual private network, to encrypt all communications between mobile devices and company servers. Cloud storage and an employee’s smartphone may both be properly protected, but when data is transferred between them there exists a vulnerability. Using a VPN eliminates that threat.
If a device is used to access company data, it should be secured with multiple forms of authentication. It goes without saying that smartphones should require a password to unlock, but newer devices also allow for fingerprint scanning or even facial or vocal recognition. In addition, companies need to plan ahead for cases when devices are lost or stolen. The ability to remotely lock and wipe lost devices is vital to security.
Once an employee begins using their mobile device for work, they lose the ability to use whatever software they choose. There must be some consideration to the security of the device and the company’s data. Completely blocking the downloading and using of third party software is one way. Another is to allow exceptions once IT or management is informed that an individual wants to download a third party application and it’s been cleared.
If you feel that you’ve put all the necessary precautions into place, you need to test to make sure there are no penetration points you’ve missed. How else will you be sure that your company’s data is protected from threats? Regular testing allows you to find vulnerabilities before the criminals do.
For help with the security at your business, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
February 10th, 2014
Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 7, was released in September and since then, more than 80-percent of users with supported devices have adopted it. After a few rounds of beta updates, Apple seems poised to release the first significant update to iOS 7. As JC Torres of Slash Gear reports, iOS 7.1 is rumored to be released in March.
Don’t expect 7.1 to break any new ground, however. For the most part, the update is being released to fix common bugs and functionality issues users have reported, not to improve existing features or introduce many new features.
You can expect a few visual tweaks. The slide to unlock, dialer, keyboard and music functions are all expected to look a little different in iOS 7.1. When sliding to turn off your iPhone, you’ll rounded slider at the top of your screen and a white cancel button at the bottom. Slight adjustments to the slide to unlock screen and animation are also being made.
When answering calls, you’ll have the option to accept or decline in green and red circles, instead of rectangles. You’ll also have actual icons above those options for ‘Remind Me’ or ‘Message’.
The dialer has become visually more attractive with color gradients and accents. The large green ‘Call’ rectangle has also been replaced with a smaller, circular phone icon.
In the music app, users may notice more prominent buttons for repeat and shuffle options. Those are now ‘Repeat Song’ and ‘Shuffle All’ and have a pink background behind them.
Another minor change comes in the keyboard, where the shift and delete buttons are now more prominent and easier to discern.
There are also new options in Calendar and animation tweaks to the Control Center and Messages.
Perhaps the most exciting change coming wrapped in iOS 7.1 is iOS in the Car. This new features allows you to connect your iPhone to compatible cars and display iOS content like maps, directions and messages on the navigation screen.
The other exciting news surrounding the coming iOS update is a promised fix for the infamous ‘white screen of death’. This glitch has been causing many users to suffer unexpected reboots and crashes. Users of the iPhone 5S, iPad mini with Retina and iPad Air have all reported this problem.
If your Apple device’s problems can’t be fixed by an iOS update, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335 or come see us. We fix hardware and software problems, as well as malware infections and more.