Could Facial Scanning Be Apple’s Next Security Feature?

December 3rd, 2013

Facial scanning of man

Apple introduced Touch ID as a security feature that recognizes a user’s fingerprint to unlock the iPhone 5S. That feature has come under scrutiny after security experts and hackers uncovered flaws and ways to by-pass it. Some users have also complained that Touch ID doesn’t always recognize their finger, or it takes too long to scan. Soon, Apple users may not have to worry about scanning fingers at all.

Lance Whitney, of CNet, reports that Apple has been granted a patent on an idea that would allow facial scanning to replace the current Touch ID feature.

The facial scanning function, which was patented under “Personal computing device control using face detection and recognition”, is still in its infancy. It appears, however, that Apple plans to make it a security feature on future products.

In many ways, it works the same as Touch ID does for your fingers. A user would start by scanning their own face and the face of anyone else they want to have access to their smartphone or tablet. The scan would record the shape, texture, color and size of your features and store them. Then, to unlock the device, you would have to again scan your face. Only registered users would be able to unlock the device, while unauthorized users would be stuck at the lock screen.

Calls, emails, texts and other notifications would also be locked behind the facial scanner. So, if a call comes in, your smartphone would scan your face before allowing you to answer.

Many of the same security flaws and workarounds that existed with Touch ID after it was introduced are still possible with facial scanning. A password would likely still act as a back-up for situations where the facial scan didn’t work, which opens the door for hacking. But, this is another interesting step for improved security on mobile devices.

If you’d like to improve the security on any of your devices, or you’re having problems like broken hardware, slow performance, or malware, bring your device to Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.


Are Mobile Devices More Secure For Online Shopping?

December 2nd, 2013

Online shopping touchscreen

Cyber Monday marks the beginning of a busy online shopping season. Unfortunately, that’s well known information, which means criminals will be targeting shoppers hoping to cash in on the holiday season. To keep yourself, and your bank account, safe, Jennifer LeClaire of Lumension suggests doing your online shopping and banking on a mobile device.

Many users assume that a mobile device, like a tablet or smartphone, is less secure than their PC. This is usually only true because they’ve failed to take the same security precautions on their mobile device that they have on their laptop or desktop. With security apps in place, mobile devices can be much more secure because there are far fewer threats specifically targeting them.

There are certainly pieces of malware made specifically for Android, and to a lesser extent Apple’s iOS, but it pales in comparison to the threats being produced for PCs. Both Apple and Android provide security in their app store. As long as users don’t venture outside of the store to download unverified apps, they should have an entirely safe environment. PC users typically download more and take more risks online, which leaves their PC teeming with vulnerabilities and possible infections.

If your mobile device has an antivirus app installed, and is absent of any existing malware, you’ll have a great foundation for a secure online shopping season. You’ll still want to use smart surfing tactics, however. For example, don’t use public WiFi for any activity where you’re asked to log-in to an account, or provide payment information. Public WiFi provides no security for your data, which allows criminals to easily intercept any information you send over that network. So, while a mobile device may be more secure for online shopping than your PC, it shouldn’t be used just anywhere. Shop from home on your own, secured network.

Regardless of how you plan to do your online shopping this year, you need to take the proper precautions. To secure any of your devices, remove viruses and malware, or to create a more secure network at home or the office, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

Focus On Data To Truly Achieve Mobile Security

November 27th, 2013

Smartphone with padlock

There are a number of reasons to focus more on security for your mobile device, or the mobile device of your employees. For personal use, 7-percent of smartphone owners have been the victim of identity fraud, which is a substantially higher rate than the rest of the population. For businesses, about two-thirds use the bring your own device model, but only about 4-percent manage the company data their employees access with personal devices. In both of these examples, the issues stem from a lack of mobile security. Eyal Manor, of Information Week, writes that companies must focus on the data being accessed by employees, rather than the devices themselves, to improve security.

Many smartphone users don’t keep their apps and operating system updated, which opens security holes. Many don’t use a passcode either. There’s more and more mobile specific malware being introduced every day. These would be reasons to institute mobile device management, but when employees are using their personal devices, it’s difficult for more businesses to demand that type of access and control. Instead, here are three ways to improve security by focusing on the data being accessed, rather the individual device.

  • Containerization

This tactic takes all of business-centric data stored on an employees device and locks it down in a special, encrypted area. Rather than putting controls on the entire device, companies are able to control only the encrypted area allowing them to ensure the safety of company data.

  • Authorization 

Users may not have strict security in place to restrict who can access their device, but for company information enhanced authorization can be installed so that data isn’t compromised in the case of theft or a lost device. Similar to containerization, only vital company data would be stored behind additional walls, which would require an employees log-in information to get through.

  • Encryption

Regardless of the other safety measures taken to protect data, if it’s not encrypted, it isn’t safe. Hackers are continually evolving their tactics to get past enhanced security, so data theft remains a possibility. If your data is encrypted, however, you take added precautions that stolen data can’t be accessed by a third party, and won’t come back to damage your company. Remember that encryption is important both for stored data, and for data being sent between two parties.

For help improving the security of your company’s data, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

The Nexus 5 Has A Wired Headset Problem

November 25th, 2013

Woman on headset

The Nexus 5, Google’s latest Android smartphone that many consider a major competitor to the iPhone, was released only a few days ago. Those early adopters that jumped on the phone are already reporting a major issue, however. As Kurt Marko writes for Information Week, the Nexus 5 doesn’t work with most wired headsets. Users say that they can’t be heard by those they call when using a wired headset, but there are some solutions.

The problem only affects those using wired headsets, which means the Nexus 5 works fine with bluetooth or when making a phone call and speaking directly into the phone. Some have reported that the Nexus 4 had the same problem, but the Nexus 10 tablet appears to have no issue.

Some testing suggests that this is a software problem. By using an app that allows recalibrating of the microphones, it was discovered that a wired headset works great for recording. However, there’s no way to recalibrate the microphone for making phone calls with the headset.

Others, however, have suggested that the problem lies in the way the wired headsets are designed. Most are built for iPhone users, but Apple uses different specifications than other manufacturers. What that means for Nexus 5 users is that a work-around is necessary if you want to be heard while making phone calls with a headset. With a headset is plugged into the Nexus 5, hold down the ‘pause/resume’ button. This will connect you to the proper input and allow your voice to be heard. It eliminates the ability to end calls or pause music, however.

Google has already publicly stated that they’re aware of the problem and are working on a fix. Until that fix comes, users are stuck being forced to hack their headset, or to go without one.

Regardless of what smartphone you use, Geek Rescue fixes whatever problems you encounter. Bring your phone in to one of our locations or call us at 918-369-4335.

Malware Threats For Android And PC Using Digital Signatures

November 22nd, 2013

Malware concept

Malware for both PCs and smartphones continues to be a growing problem worldwide. Adam Greenberg, of SC Magazine, reports that much of the new malware discovered in the past quarter uses techniques to falsely verify, or by-pass altogether, digital signatures used to validate legitimate applications and files.

Researchers with security company McAfee reported a 30-percent increase in malware for Android,m which equates to about 700-thousand new pieces of malware. Most of this mobile malware is known as “Exploit/MasterKey.A”, which allows for the avoidance of digital signature validation.

This method is also being used in the increasing threat of malware for PCs. Malware for PC users using falsified digital signatures is up 50-percent this quarter with more than 1.5-million new pieces identified.

These latest tactics are more intelligent ways of making users believe a file of application they’ve downloaded is safe for use. Antivirus software company, BitDefender, reported one malware scam that convinces users that they’re downloading an antivirus program called ‘Antivirus Security Pro’. It contains a stolen digital signature and when run, it identifies false examples of malware and demands money to fix the problem.

Examples like this are why it’s important for users to keep security software up to date. Antivirus applications struggle to keep up with the latest tricks of cyber criminals, and it’s impossible for them to catch the latest pieces of malware that attempt to infect your system if they’re out of date.

If your computer or smartphone falls victim to malware, or you’d like to improve your security before the next attack happens, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

Weapon Against Smartphone Theft Refused By US Carriers

November 20th, 2013

Stealing purse

Stolen smartphones are a big problem in the US. About one in three robberies involves a smartphone and lost or stolen phones total about $30-billion each year, according to the FTC. A possible solution, or at least a tool that could decrease the number of smartphone thefts, has been found, but as Daniel Johnson, of The Telegraph, reports, US carriers have refused to use it.

It’s called ‘Kill Switch’ and it allows phones to be disabled remotely in the event they’re stolen. The thinking is that criminals would be less likely to steal phones if they were immediately disabled and made worthless except for spare parts. Samsung liked the idea so much they began making smartphones with Kill Switch pre-installed. Those phones won’t be available in the US, however.

AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and US Cellular have rejected Kill Switch and forced Samsung to remove it from all phones set for distribution in the US. Their official stance is that Kill Switch could be used by hackers to disable phones that haven’t been stolen.

According to some industry insiders, however, the rejection of Kill Switch has more to do with the potential loss of insurance revenue. It’s believed that theft insurance would be less in demand if Kill Switch became standard on all devices. This thinking ignores the fact that insurance would still be useful for lost and broken phones, however.

The problem remains implementing a kill switch in a more secure manner. The possibility of hackers remotely disabling smartphones poses a serious problem, which won’t be easily solved given that Kill Switch is software and software is inherently hackable.

At Geek Rescue, we can’t stop your smartphone from being stolen. But, we can fix nearly any other problem you’re having with your device. For broken or unresponsive screens, slow performance, malware, or any other issue, call us at 918-369-4335 or bring your phone in to one of our locations.

5 Tips For More Battery Life For Your Smartphone

November 18th, 2013

Smartphone with low battery

At this point, your phone is probably your most prized possession. You probably even feel strange if it isn’t with you. You can use your smartphone for almost anything, which means that the battery doesn’t last as long as you’d like. Jennifer Jolly, of USA Today, has some tips for how to get the most battery life out of your smartphone. These tips don’t even require you to sacrifice performance.

  • Get Rid Of The Unwanted Features

Many of us don’t use our phone with bluetooth. You might not be in range of WiFi or in need of GPS services. There are features on your phone that you either never use, or only use in certain situations. If you need to get more life out of your smartphone’s battery, turn these services off until you want to use them.

  • Turn Down Brightness

Your smartphone’s display drains more battery than anything else. Turning down your brightness settings can have a significant impact on your battery. In most settings, even the lowest brightness setting is easy to see and you’ll get a much longer battery life out of it.

  • Turn Off Vibrate

Many users leave their smartphones on vibrate all of the time. That saves you from being the annoying person whose ringtone goes off in a meeting, but it drains your battery. Yes, it takes more battery to vibrate than it does to ring. If you’re desperate for more battery life, you’ll have to live with your ringtone.

  • Pay For Your Apps

Free apps are riddled with advertisements. It takes battery power to download and display those advertisements. So, pay the money for the full version that’s ad free and you’ll get a slight uptick in battery life. This is only helpful for apps you use often. Otherwise, you probably won’t see enough extra battery life to warrant the payment.

  • Don’t Auto-Update

Keeping apps updated is also helpful for lowering battery life because many updates make apps more efficient. But, allowing your phone to auto-update is wasteful to the battery. This is because your phone is constantly checking to see if an update is available. Instead, just try to remember to check for updates on your own when it’s convenient.

With these tips, you can keep your phone from dying in the middle of the day.

If you have problems more severe than a dying battery, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. We fix all brands of smartphones.


Why Would You Want A Curved Smartphone Screen?

November 12th, 2013

Car mirror

You may have heard the latest smartphone rumors of a curved screen. Samsung will have the first curved glass offering, the Galaxy Round announced a month ago. Jason D. O’Grady, of ZDNet, reports that the curved screen isn’t just a gimmick. It also offers an enhanced user experience.

First, the curve isn’t dramatic. The Galaxy Round features a screen only .10 inches away from flat, which is about equal to the curve of most handheld mirrors. This slight curve greatly reduces the negative effects of ambient light on the screen, however. This makes it easier to read, makes colors more true, improves contrast and more. The curved screen is also much easier to use outside in sunlight.

A screen that’s naturally easier to read has some additional benefits, as well. Most notably, battery life could be much better because screen brightness can be turned down without losing readability.

The iPhone 5S, Apple’s latest smartphone release, has been knocked repeatedly for poor battery life. There are already many rumors suggesting that a future iPhone will go the curved screen route.

Part of that speculation comes from Apple’s recent purchase of synthetic, manufactured sapphire and its construction of a plant in Arizona. Sapphire crystal is already used on the Touch-ID home button on the iPhone 5S. It’s regarded as tougher and more scratch resistant than Gorilla Glass, which is currently being used to make iPhone screens.

No matter what shape your smartphone’s screen is, Geek Rescue fixes it when it breaks. Call us at 918-369-4335 or come by one of our locations to get your devices working like new again.

Pre-Installed Apps On Android Smartphones Present Security Issues

November 6th, 2013

Android smartphone

If you have an Android smartphone, you’ve probably noticed that there are a number of apps that came pre-loaded on it that you don’t need and don’t use. These apps come from the phone’s manufacturer, but as Liam Tung of ZDNet writes, they may be creating  vulnerabilities in your smartphone’s security.

Researchers at North Carolina State University examined pre-installed apps on smartphones made by Google, Samsung, HTC, LG and Sony. Of the 10 devices studied, 86-percent of pre-loaded apps requested more permissions than they actually used. This gives the apps access to data they don’t need, but that data becomes accessible when the app is compromised.

In terms of sheer number of vulnerable, pre-installed apps, the HTC Wildfire S and the Samsung Galaxy S2 had the most of the pre-2012 devices. For post 2012, the Samsung Galaxy S3 contained a stunning 40 vulnerabilities. In contrast, Google’s Nexus 4 only had three vulnerabilities.

Google itself has a good track record for releasing security patches to fix vulnerabilities found on their hardware. However, for individual manufacturers like Samsung, Sony and HTC, these patches take time to roll out to customers. For the devices studied, an average of 6-months is how long it took for an officially released security patch to finally make it to all affected customers. That amount of time leaves a large window for hackers to exploit those vulnerabilities.

Some of these native apps are able to be removed by users, but many others cannot be. This means users stay at risk until an appropriate security patch is released to fix the problem. So, next time you’re in the market for a new Android smartphone, be sure to consider how many pre-installed apps it comes with.

At Geek Rescue, we remove malware, fix broken hardware and improve security on all kinds of devices, including smartphones. Whatever your issue, call us at 918-369-4335 or stop by one of our locations.

Dispelling The Most Common Cloud Computing Myths

November 1st, 2013

Laptop in clouds

Cloud computing is rapidly growing in popularity. It’s easy to see why. The cloud allows businesses to have a scalable IT infrastructure with files and applications available from virtually anywhere. As Zuahair Siddiqui writes for Techopedia, however, there are a number of myths that have cast doubt over the cloud’s effectiveness. Here’s a list of some of those myths dispelled.

  • Insecurity

Security is naturally a concern for cloud users given that their sensitive data is accessible remotely. For public cloud services, like Dropbox or Google Drive, security has been an issue in the past. There have been multiple cases of data being stolen from public clouds, which is why many security experts advise against storing your most important data there. Private clouds managed by a third party provider are much more secure, however. While complete safety is unattainable, a private cloud will often offer more security than  even on-site data storage can.

  • Limited Customization

Cloud services are certainly not one size fits all. There are seemingly limitless options of ways to customize your cloud services to fit your needs. Choose from a public, private or hybrid cloud. Then choose operating modules like Platform as a Service, Software as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service. None of these are dependent on each other, so you choose only what you need in any combination.

  • Public versus Private Costs

Many public cloud services offer a pay as you use model, which can seem like a money saver. It can be for short-term needs, but for applications that are vital to your organization and consume a large amount of resources, a private cloud with a monthly fee is a better choice. When it comes to budgeting for cloud computing, be sure to choose the most efficient cloud model on a project to project basis.

  • Productivity

One of the selling points of cloud services is that they increase productivity. This is because they make collaboration easier between multiple employees and offer access from virtually anywhere. Processes that previously took a long amount of time are much faster when operating through the cloud.

Cloud computing affords IT options that were never available before. It also allows smaller businesses the opportunity to use similar resources as larger competitors.

To explore all of the ways cloud computing helps your business, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.