Quick Bytes News – Autumnal Snippets

Here we go again with the Autumn release…

Back to school and an oncoming Christmas, but with Halloween & Guy Fawkes double spook shows in the way. I may try celebrating the Equinox this year for a change on some hilltop if the weather permits, (well, got to try it once!).

Talking of spook shows I see that GCC (our local retrograde County Cabal) are continuing with their mass burn monster incinerator at Quedgeley, where peaceful protestors are arrested for trying to keep our air breathable and our poll tax charges lower.

Caring is carrying a high price these days.

To attempt a brightening up the scenery now, I offer you this;


Android Mobiles Security

 

In today’s world most of us carry a smart phone or tablet, the majority of which are based on Google’s own Android operating system. Many of us began using these for web based functions like browsing and email. Then also along came thousands of Apps and games which often are free which according to their creators ‘enhance the online experience’ for us when using smart devices.

If  that is all there is too it then this post ends now, which it doesn’t.

With an historic headline like this …

“Android Was 2016’s Most Vulnerable Product”

Android needed a big review. >source<

 


So some clever and well intentioned people decided to run tests on how safe it might be to do your online banking or other sensitive personal data transfers from an Android smart device and they were concerned. Its so easy to say ‘yes’ to download an App and then grant it access to all centres of your device when it asks for permission. But what have you done?

Firstly the App may not behave as it appears to offer, remember ‘free’ has its price so beneficiaries will exist somewhere to it being on your device.

Did it come from Googles own Play Store? If not how sure of it can you be when it hasn’t been independently verified by them? Even then caution is advised. Do you really need the App anyway?

If you do need it and would like it tested before installing it you could upload it here for AV-C online analysis

Its creators, AV Comparatives have written of it as follows;

…. “malware analysis tool, which is available free to all users. It is a static analysis system for detecting suspected Android malware and adware and providing statistics about it. Users can upload APK files and see the results in various analysis mechanisms”…

AV – C’s regular bulletins are a very useful and detailed source of their testing of security and privacy vendors products, for example this came from their Aug 2017 report on Mobile Security.

a pic

In their own words ….

“The review mainly focuses on the security features – anti-malware, anti-theft, and privacy – and only mentions further functionalities briefly. The structure of each product report is identical, allowing readers to compare products easily.
The main purpose of a mobile security product is to protect users and their devices from potential harm inflicted by malicious apps, fraudulent mails, or phishing URLs.”


Google Play Protect

Is a new set of protective features that Google have bundled into their ‘Play Services’ feature as of July 2017, so its a good idea to check that it is running on your Android phone. From an article …

“Google Play Protect combines various Android security tools, like app scanning, previously known as Verify Apps, browser protection and an anti-theft feature in the form of Google’s Find My Device app.

Google Play Protect was first launched at the company’s I/O Conference in May and will roll out to all Android devices running Google Play Services 11 or higher” source

One thing though …
“Smartphones often contain a lot of personal data. Luckily Google continuously adds new security to Android. Unfortunately, only 7 percent run the latest Android version (Nougat)”

Manufacturers of smart devices are notorious for delaying for long periods the fixes to security that Android has proved needed to lock them down against malicious code on the web.


“Project Treble”

This may be fixed with Google’s “Project Treble” sometime ahead soonish says this article from Slashgear. So better times ahead but what about now?

If your manufacturer hasn’t got around to updating your phone to ‘Nougat’ yet your best off following the best practice principles of;

  • Remove all junk and unnecessary Apps on the device
  • Install a quality Anti Virus/Malware App (see above) and check it occasionally to be fully functioning
  • Don’t click on links sent to you in texts, Apps and emails that you don’t feel right about, listen to your instincts first.
  • Beware of using unsecured (no password or WEP encrypted) WiFi connections in public places especially for anything sensitive, they are not safe! Best to always do your important stuff at a trusted location like home or office if you can.

 

You might be wondering if having an Android at all is a good idea? I think my answer would be that it will be once new developments above are in place throughout the manufacturer supply chain.

If waiting for that seems like a worrying idea then an iPhone iPad may well be better for now and there are many available in second use markets if a new one is prohibitively expensive. Though again, always use Apps you download only from the Apple Store.

That is all for now.

 

Greg

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Quick Bytes News – Spring 2017

Welcome to the Spring edition of QBN.

In this edition I cover a recent tightening of motoring law which affects how we use our mobile devices while driving. The accident statistics prove that  the changes needed doing because so many drivers are seemingly addicted to using their devices, any time, anywhere and regardless of hazards.

Also PCT has a ‘partnership’ with the Phone Coop for broadband and other services.

Office 365 or Office 2016? What’s the difference?

Mozilla have published their Survey of their Community Members views on Online Privacy.

And to end I add a touch of humour, courtesy of a cluster of late night mirth masters!

I hope you enjoy this edition.


Movable Beasts

My first article is about the recent change in UK law (1st March) that concerns every driver of any vehicle using a portable device whilst driving, though I do go a little further …

Naturally a device such as a Mobile Phone, Sat-Nav, Bluetooth Toys, or Pod Player is a technical device and so you may see my reason in mentioning them, but also because I am also a road user as are those I love, and accidents are increasingly being caused by self distracted zombie lemmings who use devices while they drive.

I now brand this category of hardware as Plod Magnets!

The gist of the new situation (as I understand it) is that anything that we take our hands off the wheel to use while the vehicles engine is running, (whether or not it its wheels are turning), is putting us at risk of infringing the Law defined as ‘Careless Driving’.

Naturally most of us carry smart phones these days which easily grab our attention in many ways according to how many App driven social media services you connect to, or simply by using text services or just the phones calling function!

Can we resist its little beeps, vibrations, or other notifications as we drive? We have to.

To see more details of this law’s definitions and how our doing quite ordinary things like tweaking your lover’s hair or your Sat-Nav or merely eating at the wheel can put you in the wrong, you might take a look at Automobile Association “Careless Driving”

Is there a safe way to use a phone & Drive?

No. According to the article this could also rule out Hands Free phoning or we take the risk that if an accident happened when doing so it might be argued that lack of full attention had contributed to the accident.

Employers also beware because if you expect your staff on the road to be in communication as they drive then you might become liable also.

So what can we do?

Phones

It seems that using the ‘Airplane Mode’ when ever the cars engine is running is a minimum safe guard to use and don’t be caught even touching a device while moving. There are cameras out there now aiming to snare you and these are fitted into specially set up lorries and elsewhere. Many reasons are given in this Automobile Association “Mobile Phones” article for any of you not so far persuaded of this.

Sat-Nav’s

Best to set it before you start the engine and don’t touch it unless you’re parked with the engine off.

Other Toys ….

The same goes for Hair Driers, Shavers, Sandwiches, Road Rage Gestures, Petting Animals, Stargazing, Rubber Necking, Reading Billboards, Hunting for Pokemon or Crop Circles, Applying Makeup or other Facial Enhancements, Eyeing up Scantily Clad Pedestrians, Re-securing Escaped Pets or Children, Smoking, Hot Political Discussion or shouting at Politicians on the Jeremy Vine Show, Any Passionate Activities, FGA – Fuel Gauge Anxiety (were flying on vapours Capt’n), Watching TV or Gaming on Smart Toys, Fiddling with your Home Hive Devices (or anything else) ……  any more?

Btw Please don’t fall asleep while driving because you have much less to occupy your mind!

Happy travels!


Phone Coop Offer 

PC Techniques has formed a partnership with The Phone Co-op to offer you a great deal on phone calls, line rental and broadband. You can now get our ‘Half price broadband offer for 6 months’ or get a £10 credit when you switch to one of our mobile bundles including Fairphone.

Quote PC Techniquesand the code ‘AF0485’ to receive a £10 credit on your first bill when you switch to one of our mobile bundles.

You can call them on 01608 434 000

Office 2016 vs. Office 365 – What is the difference?

There are two ways you can buy Microsoft Office. You can buy the traditional Microsoft Office 2016 product, or get it as part of an Office 365 software subscription. Here’s the difference. (via HowtoGeek)


Privacy Survey Results by Mozilla

Last month, some 30,000 Mozilla community members responded to our privacy survey.

Here’s what we learned from those respondents —  they are everyday Internet users from countries like France, Australia, Germany, Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.

A supporting story is below …

 

 

 

 


Alpha Fail – Humour!    

Who wants to be Second?

Strangely, some other nations are seeking to smooch with ‘Him’ for ‘second’ place!

This website offers a cocktail of humorous national contentions for second place as they vie for the favour from the infamous incumbent of The White House.

“Its Huge”


 For local low carbon IT Services with a smile!

 

 

 

Quick Bytes News – Spring 2016

 

Welcome to the spring edition of QBN!

Some of you may be wondering where the March & April editions went, and the simple truth is that for several reasons I have been just too busy to get them written! So sorry about those absences but I hope this edition will make up for the missed postings!

 

In this edition I will draw together some of the news from the IT arena in a form which is not overly detailed so that I get more into a single edition.

If any of you wish to know more on one topic or more do let me know and I may then make it an article or feature in a later edition if enough interest is there for this. Otherwise of course you can ring me for a chat!

So here we go …


Obsolescence – the inevitable process.

Obsolescence is one of the inevitable processes when something is evolving and as you all know I.T. epitomises this.

So the first story I have of this is that if you are still using Windows XP or Vista and your chosen browser is Google Chrome then you need to be aware that Google have discontinued updates support for it.  So because Microsoft themselves discontinued updates 2 years ago also for XP and soon will do likewise for Vista, a move on to Windows 7 is really the best one for you to make (unless you don’t mind the very unfamiliar desktop of the more recent Windows 8.x & 10 operating systems).

Windows 7 updates are good for another 4 years or so and despite Microsofts best persuasive coercions many of us will hang on to this OS until a need drives us on.

 

End of Sales Microsoft Windows 7 & 8.x

End of sales refers to the date when a particular version of Windows is no longer shipped to retailers or Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). Examples of OEMS are Dell and Toshiba—PC manufacturers who often preinstall Windows software.

This table gives end of sales dates for specific Windows operating systems.

Client operating systems and updates

End of sales for Windows preinstalled

 

Windows 7 Professional October 31, 2016
Windows 8 June 30, 2016
Windows 8.1 October 31, 2016

 

* Note that when the retail software product reaches its end of sales date, it can still be purchased through OEMs (the company that made your PC) until it reaches the end of sales date for PCs with Windows preinstalled.

Source:- http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/lifecycle#section_2

Security support for Windows 7 and 8, will end in 2020 and 2023 respectively.

 

Apple Quicktime Player

Its best to remove Apple’s Quicktime media player from your systems because its no longer supported and lets face it, its not necessary either.

“Computers running QuickTime for Windows will continue to work after support ends. However, using unsupported software may increase the risks from viruses and other security threats,” US-CERT said. “The only mitigation currently available is to uninstall QuickTime for Windows.” Public disclosure of the two bugs hastens the urgency for users to distance themselves from QuickTime for Windows. Both vulnerabilities expose Windows machines to remote code execution”.

See more at: Apple Deprecates QuickTime For Windows, Won’t Patch New Flaws https://wp.me/p3AjUX-uxZ

Privacy not Piracy

The piracy I refer to is when a web server uses various methods to steal your privacy for targeted advertising.

PC Techniques will be releasing a new service soon to help with keeping out the invaders, but until then here are some reasons to take notice of the question of ‘why’!

 

Twitter’s global operations and data transfer

Twitter Trouble.jpg

In the small print has crept in this …

“Our services are a window to the world. They are primarily designed to help people share information around the world instantly.

To bring you these services, we operate globally. Twitter, Inc., based in the United States, and Twitter International Company, based in Ireland, (collectively, “we”) provide the services, as explained in theTwitter Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. We have offices, partners, and service providers around the world that help to deliver the services.

Your information, which we receive when you use the services, may be transferred to and stored in the United States, Ireland, and other countries where we operate, including through our offices, partners, and service providers. In some of these countries, the privacy and data protection laws and rules on when data may be accessed may differ from those in the country where you live.

 

How cyber criminals use social engineering

This article from Malwarebytes is useful to give you an idea of how they try to get past your defences by pretending legitimacy based on information they have acquired from elsewhere about you.

 

More Google

An interesting article here from Techcrunch on how Google are at last cleaning up their act ahead of legislation to protect consumers

“Google is cleaning up its Chrome Web Store – the marketplace where you can browse for extensions and apps for its Chrome web browser. The company says it’s making changes to browser’s User Data Policy, which will now require developers to be more transparent about how they handle customer data, and which will require user consent when data is collected, among other things.

The changes come at a time when the Chrome Web Store has been targeted by malware makers, who have posted rogue extensions that do terrible things like spy on web users and collect their personal data”

 

Journalist Gets Hacked While Writing Apple-FBI Story

“That’s why this story is so important to everyone,” says hacker, who was a fellow passenger on his flight.

The article on the dangers of using an open WiFi (no password needed) is here

 


Finally, for now..

I do hope you are not put off by these articles from realising the potential for good that technologies offer to us.

To me its like being in a strange land as a tourist, you keep your senses tuned in to your enviroinment, wear appropriate protections  and don’t get hooked into a story that just looks toooo super real! (aka clickbait stories in ads posted on websites which are overly sensationalised or otherwise appear unreal.

 

A story of the future of I.T which may prove to offer us happier outcomes

“Imagine walking on Mars and being able to examine rock formations from all angles, or collaborating on the same 3D hologram design with someone thousands of miles away.

Or imagine being able to diagnose and treat the diseases of people half way around the world while you remain in your clinic, or walking around a gallery and having your own holographic guide pointing things out to you on your smart glasses.

These are just some of the exciting examples of what “augmented reality” (AR) technology is beginning to offer us.”

source:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35629715?

 


Do call me if you want a chat!

Greg  07579001747

 

 

 

Quick Bytes News – February 2016

Hello and welcome to my February QBN newsletter!

At last the sun has fought its way through the thick dark-grey cloud base and the incredibly powerful winds have abated, I was wondering if it was time to put a sign outside my home saying ‘No Apocalyptic Horsemen Callers Please’!

 

Windows 10 – When, (no longer, if)

On the topic of unwanted apocalypses, I expect many of you have been increasingly pestered by the Microsoft Windows 10 pusher applications which are now beyond persuasive, and live in the land of heavily coercive! For those of you who wanted and like that operating system then fine, but I add that it tells a lot of stories about you through its telemetry functions which makes you a target for its associated ‘boot in the door’ marketing buddies.

For those of you who, like me, do not want to risk the ‘upgrade’ because of concerns of compatibility with your hardware or your existing software, your privacy from marketing or spying pests and familiarity with the desktop and start menus, you may want to read on.

On the 8th February I saw these 3 updates being offered for me to install.

Updates for W10 Warning

I do not leave my PC set to allow automatic Updates any more, its simply too risky these days because if we leave the back door unlocked, Windows 10 will move in and declare squatters rights. So I investigated these and surely there are accounts on the Microsoft forums that were posted by other watchful Windows users of these and their findings are that these are again likely to be another set of changes to take away your choice of upgrading or not.

 

GWX Tool

There is  a handy prevention tool which you might want to download and run (it doesn’t need to install) called GWX Control Panel. It looks like this when run and as you can see I have already used it on my PC;

GWX - JAN 2016 VERSION

It is simple to use and will remove the installation files that Microsoft have already placed on your PC without your knowledge and prevent your PC from being hijacked by Microsoft and forced to take the free-fall plunge to Windows 10. You can get it here  As always with running programmes these days I urge you to not ‘google’ it and follow links set by the responding sites, always download software from the vendors own sites.

Finally do enable ‘Monitor Mode’ when running this; it looks like this

Monitor Mode

If you wish to know more of why doing this is so important to so many people you can try reading some of these posts.

 

Post 1

Post 2

Post 3

Enough said?

 

Telemetry – the new spy on the block from Microsoft

Luckily for us all people like Safer-Networking (known for the long running Spybot Search & Destroy anti malware) are not only on the ball, they also produce freeware tools such as ‘Anti Beacon‘ to help protect us. They describe this as;
“Spybot Anti-Beacon for Windows 10 is a small utility designed to block and stop the various tracking (aka telemetry) issues that come with Windows 10. Seeing the bunch of incomplete or broken scripts to disable tracking in Windows 10, and the tools that install adware or worse in exchange for their function, we wrapped disabling tracking up in a small tool that’s free and clean. With the upcoming news about telemetry in Windows 7 and 8.1, Spybot Anti-Beacon has added support for those as well”.

Its for Windows 7 and 8.x as well so may I suggest you use it if you have one of those systems?

 

Good News (for a change) about Advertising – You DO have a choice!

I found this website which offers us a chance to opt out from ads from members who are in the European Self-Regulatory Programme and so it becomes easier for us to control the blizzard of unwanted rubbish they spit at us when we browse the web. But do keep in mind that you need to add their add-on to all browsers that you use.

Their website is very comprehensive and gives much detail on how to alter settings in your browser(s) so I advise reading it a couple of times before diving in and do remember that some websites do not function fully if you have disabled cookies or other advertising related functions, so be prepared to back track if this becomes a problem on those websites.

For your perusal here is some of the material from the YourOnlineChoices Website;

“How the beta extension works

The YourOnlineChoices beta browser extension works to preserve your choices expressed on youronlinechoices.eu. This applies specifically for Online Behavioural Advertising (OBA) from participating companies. The websites you visit may still be collecting information for other purposes than OBA. Also, the participating companies may continue to deliver ads to you – but these will not be based on your interests or browsing habits.
 As more companies join the European Self-Regulatory Programme on OBA, they will be added to the Ad Choices page. There is no intervention required from you as a consumer to update the plugin; however, you should note that if new companies are joining the Programme your options will not be automatically set-up, and therefore we encourage you to visit the Ad Choices page from time to time.
Also, you should note that the extension and your respective choices work only in the browser you are using, therefore you should set your choices and preserve them in each browser and computer you may use. This extension is currently in beta and will be updated from while to while.”

http://www.youronlinechoices.com/uk/browser-extension

Hopefully this may help you to keep the pests off your online experience, wishing you good outcomes!

And talking of choices being removed, has the Apple gone rotten?

Here is a worrying story from Apple about their iPhone 6 and how having it repaired anywhere but in their own stores (and at their prices) might render it dead useless. 

 …..”We believe Apple may be intentionally forcing users to use their repair services, which cost much more than most third-party repair shops. There is incentive for Apple to keep end users from finding alternative methods to fix their products. Think of it this way: let’s say you bought a car, and had your alternator replaced by a local mechanic. Under Apple’s strategy, your car would no longer start because you didn’t bring it to an official dealership. They intentionally disable your car because you tried to fix it yourself. That is wrong,” PCVA notes on its website.

A London-based lawyer, Richard Colbey of Lamb Chambers told Guardian, Apple’s reckless policy of killing iPhones following a software upgrade breached basic consumer laws in the UK. It could be viewed as an offence under the Criminal Damage Act 1971.”

source:- International Business Times

 

If I can help you with anything in my news letters do give me a call on 01757 900 1747, or email

That’s all for now!

Greg

PCT Door Magnet

Quick Byte News January 2016

Welcome to the January edition of QBN!

I bet some of you wondered if it would appear in time!

Its been a busy month for me (as I am sure it has for many of you also), though our reasons for this will vary, the outcome is much the same. No time to get those little but necessary things done! So here is a quick throw together (but I hope useful) news letter  to satiate your curiosity.

 

Web browsing – is it Becoming a Hazardous Past Time?

The answer to this question is yes. To help avoid the traps one can slow down a bit and check before going there. You might see it as the equivalent of looking down an unfamiliar dark alley way before running down it. Not an easy new habit to adopt when rushing in a click-happy manner as we have been used to, but it may save you  a lot of hassle if you can master it!

For instance …

You could load a secure browser such as Comodo Dragon or Comodo Ice Dragon. These fire breathers will beef up the Google Chrome engines defences and also I found in Comodo Dragon, offer you a useful add on ‘Comodo Web Inspector’ which sits on the right side of the browsers address bar. According to the Comodo website the features are described as

  • “Has privacy enhancements that surpass those in Chromium’s technology

  • Has Domain Validation technology that identifies and segregates superior SSL certificates from inferior ones

  • Stops cookies and other Web spies

  • Prevents all Browser download tracking to ensure your privacy”

So maybe a review of your current browser is needed?

 

 

If you adopt one of the Comodo Browsers you will also get this built in extension which I think is useful – Web Inspector. Curiosity got the better of me so I tried it on my own website and got this result …

PC Techniques Webinspector assessment

 

… so you can visit my site without any worries!

If you are unsure of a web link that was sent to you through any media it would be a good idea to test it with this first if at all you are uncertain.

For those of you not wanting to use the Comodo browsers you could use the subscription version which looks like this …

Online Webinspector Site Checker

Their website states:-

Web Inspector is a cloud based service that inspects your website for malware, detects any vulnerabilities to being attacked and protects your website from thousands of security threats, daily! It also embeds PCI compliance scanning for E-commerce websites that accept credit card payments, to keep them compliant with the payment card industry’s mandatory standards“.

 

Mal-vertising – a new vector for attacking your browser.

Some advertisements are deliberately set to be served to you from malware infected servers and even for those not so nasty the experience of not being able to get to the materials you wanted to see because they block your views is annoying.

These days persistent, nagging online ads can become overwhelming if you don’t have your defences up. I have mentioned measures to keep them in check in previous postings and so won’t revisit this now. But if you wanted to know more of the blizzard of channels they come from when you visit many well known media websites you could look here and if you wished, opt out (note:- from members sites only).

 

DNS Proxy – A way to divert your website requests through a safe and manageable channel.

Domain Naming System is the clever way the web signposts your website and other requests to get the request to the right server. Normally DNS is sent through your Internet Service Providers own DNS servers and the quality of those can vary. Happily there are some which allow you to send your traffic through them instead which allows you to specify filtering and other controls which can stop some of the web-rubbish from affecting your computer.

Open DNS is just one of these which you may want to consider using.

OpenDNS

Their website states:-

OpenDNS settings apply to every device — laptops, smartphones, tablets, DVRs, game consoles, TVs, literally anything that connects to the internet. We’re the world’s leading DNS service, meaning you’ll see noticeably faster internet speeds as well.”

 

Now for the one that I WAS surprised to read:-

Anti Virus Browser Toolbars (extensions) are BAD for your browser!

According to a new article “whatever antivirus program you use, don’t install the browser extension. If you already installed it or weren’t given a choice (many install their extensions by default), visit the Extensions, Add-ons, or Plug-ins page in your web browser and disable any extensions associated with your security suite“.

Intrigued, I read that even with well reputed AV products such as AVG, Avast and Norton you could be opening your browers to potential attacks  unnecessarily because they use code from another source (Ask) which isn’t properly secured and in use may also prove themselves to be traitors because they set out to serve you adverts you don’t need or want. So the best advice is to remove any toolbars that your AV vendor has packaged in and let the browsers own security measures handle the necessary security tasks. Naturally I assume you have the newest version of your browser installed if not you know what to do. So enough said I myself will now take the appropriate actions!

As always I am very happy to take your enquiries for how I may help you with any of these tasks, all you have to do is contact me.

 

More in February, and bye bye for now.

 

Greg

PCT Door Magnet