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  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 15, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , sim jacking, sim swapping, smart phones   

    SIM Swapping can cost you thousands if you’re not careful 

    SIM Swapping can cost you thousands if you're not careful

    Freelance British food writer Jack Monroe recently made news when she found out that someone stole the phone number to her smartphone. They were then able to transfer the number to another phone where they had access to some of her financial information and were able to steal £5,000 from her personal account. That amount equates to close to $6,300 in the U.S. This is a trick known as SIM_Swapping or SIM-Jacking named after the SIM cards in most smartphones that contain your calling information including your phone number. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do to protect yourself against the attack.

    SIM Swapping works when the victim is targeted by someone with knowledge of how the attack works. First, they get your name, address, and date of birth, then they contact your cell phone carrier to try and convince them that they are you. If the attacker is successful, he can get the carrier to switch your number to their phone. The attacker can then receive all your calls, texts, emails and the like. That way they can receive the two-factor authentication texts that would allow them to access any of your sensitive online accounts including banking.

    While most victims of SIM Swapping don’t notice the attack until it’s too late, there are some steps you can take to try to protect yourself although nothing is a guarantee of preventing such an attack. You can instruct your cell phone carrier to require a PIN number if anyone calls to try and have any portion of your service changed. As with most PINs, don’t make it something obvious that an attacker can guess like your birthdate. You can also sign up for a Google Voice number which is much more secure and tougher to attack than a traditional cell phone number but work just like a traditional phone number and they are also free to get.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , eavesdropping, , smart phones,   

    Is your phone really eavesdropping on you? 

    Is your phone really eavesdropping on you?

    Has this ever happened to you? You’re just innocently talking with your friends or family about something you normally don’t talk about. Then you see an ad on your phone for the very thing you were talking about. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence out there to suggest that companies like Facebook and Google are eavesdropping on your private conversations so they can serve you more targeted ads. It’s compounded by the fact that companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon have admitted that human contractors listen in on conversations heard by digital assistants. However, at least one study says that the eavesdropping phone is largely a myth.

    A mobile security company called Wandera has said that they’ve conducted research which they say shows that tech companies are not listening to your conversations. They placed an iPhone and an Android phone in a chamber where pet food advertisements continuously played. Both phones were running Facebook, Instagram, Chrome, SnapChat, YouTube, and Amazon in the background. However, the researchers did not witness any related ads on the devices in question. The researchers also say that the data used by both devices indicate that conversations are not being sent to the major tech companies. That’s not to say that tech companies aren’t tracking us in other ways.

    Other things like location data and browsing histories are said to be more effective in serving us targeted ads. Also, if you use a loyalty card at any store, advertising companies buy that information from the store and can match it with your social media accounts. Supposedly, there are sett9ngs on your phone where you can limit such targeting, however, we’ve either not been able to find these settings or they’re buried so deep in the app’s settings that it makes it difficult to escape targeting.

     
  • Geebo 8:10 am on August 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , smart phones   

    Should schools take students’ phones? 

    Should schools take students' phones?

    It seems that kids are getting their own phones at younger and younger ages. While smartphones can be a very useful tool for school-age children, they can also be a large distraction while in class. School faculties have struggled with the debate over whether or not their students should have access to their phones while school is in session. While one may think that students without their phones would be less distracted, there’s no conclusive evidence to show that taking away their phones improves grades. However, one school in California is taking an unusual approach to the students and phones problem.

    San Mateo High School in Northern California has required students to keep their phones in a magnetically sealed bag. The students keep the bags on them during school hours but they do not have access to their phones until school is over. At that point, the school opens the bags for students with a device that looks similar to an anti-shoplifting device you might see at a store checkout. Some students have complained that the school does not unlock their phones during lunch but that sounds more like a logistical issue than one of admonishment. San Mateo High is not the first school to use these devices.

    There appears to be at least one drawback to this program and that is one of student safety. Sadly, our schools have become targets of violence and threats. While the odds of a violent attack happening at any particular school is low, it is, unfortunately, a real possibility these days. If an attack were to happen and students would need to contact law enforcement or family would there be a way to release the bags during an emergency? While this is a worst-case scenario, it seems like this is a concern that needs to be addressed by schools using the device.

     
  • Geebo 10:40 am on January 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , smart phones   

    Many Android users can’t delete Facebook even if they wanted to 

    Many Android users can't delete Facebook even if they wanted to

    Nothing is more frustrating to an android user than when you have limited storage space and there are bloatware apps on your device that can’t be deleted. A number of phone companies include these indestructible apps in order to make money through various partnerships by nudging their customers into using these apps. However, unlike a computer where you can delete just about anything, many Android users are locked into these apps for the life of their device. Now, it’s being reported that a company not known for its security or privacy is allegedly paying at least one major phone manufacturer into making its app irremovable.

    Bloomberg has reported that Facebook is not only coming pre-installed on many of Samsung’s flagship phones but that the Facebook app can’t be deleted as well. While the app can be put in a disabled app that hasn’t stopped Samsung customers from being concerned about what personal data may have been sent to Facebook. Considering Facebook’s less than stellar year when it came to privacy and security, this seems to be a valid concern. Facebook claims that when their app is in disabled mode that it’s the same as if the app had been deleted. That’s not reassuring to many users who want the app off of their phone for good which puts Samsung in an anti-consumer light even though Samsung has said they’re trying to give consumers the best out of the box experience.

    Unfortunately, Samsung isn’t the only manufacturer that includes permanent apps and Facebook isn’t the only company pushing them. Most cellular carriers include apps for their various services that can’t be deleted as does Google who created and maintains the Android operating system. While Facebook may be taking the brunt of criticism right now it’s just a symptom of a larger problem where consumers do not have the freedom to do what they want with the phones that they’ve paid for. Considering how expensive some of these devices are shouldn’t the choice of whether or not the customer wants to have Facebook on their phone be left up to them?

     
  • Geebo 10:00 am on December 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , smart phones,   

    Is the FCC cracking down on text spam or are they opening the door to censorship? 

    Is the FCC cracking down on text spam or are they opening the door to censorship?

    Text messaging may just be one of the greatest inventions of mankind. It allows us to send quick messages to our friends and family without having to involve ourselves in lengthy and often times inconvenient phone calls. That’s not even taking into account how many services we can use just through text messaging alone. By some estimates, SMS and MMS messaging is used by roughly 4 billion people worldwide. In today’s world of splintered technical ecosystems, it’s rare for a communication technology to be almost universally used. However, that universal acceptance may start to waver depending on how the FCC’s latest ruling is taken.

    Last Friday, the FCC ruled that cellular carriers can block unwanted texts. The FCC and the telecoms say that this is necessary in order to fight spam texts. Opponents of the ruling say that, much like the repeal of net neutrality, gives too much power to the telecoms. Tech blog Gizmodo has even gone as far as to say that we should stop using SMS and MMS texts as the telecoms may start reading and censoring text messages. The problem with using an encrypted messaging system as Gizmodo recommends is that there is no universal app that everyone will switch to since there are competing encrypted messaging services out there.

    Gizmodo seems to be missing a major point in their argument. If you look at the FCC’s rulings since the current administration took over, their moves seem to have been motivated by one factor, money. The blog post’s author seems to have taken a fringe case of allegedly blocked messages by Verizon and turned it into a national conspiracy. If anything, we’re more likely to see a return to limited text messaging. It wasn’t even a decade ago when many cell phone plans were limited to a certain amount of text messaging. If you went over your allotment of texts for the month you’d be charged for each text that exceeded your plan’s monthly amount.

    While we’ve been very critical of the FCC in the past we don’t believe that the FCC is allowing the telecoms to block text to subvert free speech but to further line their already massive pockets.

     
  • Geebo 9:02 am on May 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , smart phones,   

    Netflix to stop working on certain Android devices 

    Netflix to stop working on certain Android devices

    Video streaming service Netflix is available on just about every modern electronic device known to man. It’s available on laptops, Blu-ray players, video game consoles, smart phones and tablets. Nowadays, you might even be able to stream Netflix on a 1985 Betamax that you found at a thrift store. Netflix recently announced they will no longer support a certain select group of Android devices, and those would be devices that have been rooted by their owners.

    Rooting an Android phone means that you can perform a small hack on the phone in order to be able to have more control over the apps on your phone. Most Android phones come with pre-loaded bloatware that can’t be removed from the device by normal means. When you have an Android phone where storage space is at a premium, sometimes you have to root a phone in order to make space for crucial apps that you may need in your everyday life. This is usually due to the phone manufacturers loading their phones with proprietary apps that many users don’t need or use.

    While not coming right out and saying it, Netflix is giving the impression they’re blocking these devices in order to fight piracy. While that’s well within their right, it feels like their trying to kill flies with a shotgun. The number of people who root their Android devices are a minuscule amount compared to the number of Android users and the majority of them are only rooting their phones and tablets out of convenience, not for piracy.

    By taking this step, Netflix is risking a minor backlash from rooted Android users, but in the long run, Netflix’s numbers are so large they can afford to alienate a number of niche Android users.

     
  • Geebo 11:17 am on March 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , smart phones   

    Samsung to start reselling the explosive Note 7 

    Samsung to start reselling the explosive Note 7

    You remember the Smasung Galaxy Note 7 don’t you? It was the infamous phone that you couldn’t take aboard any US flight since a fault in the phone’s design would cause some of the phones’ batteries to overheat and burst into flames. Millions of the devices were recalled due to safety risks. Now Samsung says that they have fixed the problem and plan on selling refurbished Note 7s.

    The reason they’re doing this is because it would be an ecological nightmare just to dispose of the phones outright. Instead, Samsung is looking for locales where the government will allow them to see the now supposedly safe devices. Due to the bad press that the phones have gotten, don’t expect those locales to be anywhere in the US or Europe. Reports say that the intended markets for these phones will be Vietnam and India.

    If a refurbished version of the Note 7 were to be re-released in the US would you trust it enough to buy one, or has the press been so bad that the phone would be doomed to fail no matter how much Samsung guarantees it’s safe?

     
  • Geebo 11:00 am on February 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: charging, smart phones, usb   

    Be wary of public charging stations 

    Be wary of public charging stations

    A lot of us have been there. In the midst of traveling we find ourselves with almost no charge on our phones but we’re nowhere near our destination. Maybe you have a layover or your waiting for a connecting train and you find a public USB charger. You plug your phone in, charge up, then you’re on way without a second thought about it. Well, according to security experts you may want to take that second thought.

    Since most USB cables were not only designed to transfer power but data as well there is a chance that the USB port you just plugged into in public may have just hijacked your phone. This kind of attack can range from stealing your information to seeing everything that you view on your phone.

    That’s not to say there aren’t defenses against these kind of attacks. For example many airports and train stations have battery packs you can rent to charge your phone. You can also buy a USB cable that only transfers power. However, most experts suggest buying a spare battery or battery pack for your phone in advance in order to not run out of juice in the first place.

    Or we could just not be on our devices for every minute of our travels. You’ll never know what you’re missing if we’re all nose down in our screens.

     
  • Geebo 10:59 am on February 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: back ups, locked out, smart phones   

    What to do when locked out of your phone 

    What to do when locked out of your phone

    Do you have a PIN code or pattern passcode on your smart phone? That’s great. That means you practice good phone security. But what happens if your forget your pin or passcode? Can you get back into your phone? The short answer is no, the long answer is noooooooooooooooooo.

    That doesn’t mean that there isn’t hope. According to Popular Mechanics there are a few things you can do to retrieve some of your data. For example, if you use an SD card on your phone, some of your info may be saved on the card, or if you back up to the cloud regularly you’ll still be ok. However, the bottom line is that more than likely you’ll have to wipe your phone and start over.

    One thing you can’t do is call your carrier to unlock your phone. Due to privacy concerns the only person who has your pin or passcode is you. Your phone carrier does not have a magic button at their offices that they can push to magically unlock your phone, not even if you talk to a manager.

    The best practice to avoid data loss after being locked out of your phone is to make regular backups of your data because once you’re locked out you’ll have to restore your phone to factory settings.

     
  • Geebo 10:58 am on December 21, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , smart phones,   

    Keeping your kids safe on their new devices 

    Keeping your kids safe on their new devices

    With Christmas fast approaching many children will be receiving new devices this year, whether they’re tablets or smart phones. With these new toys come new responsibilities, not only for the children but for parents as well. In the age we live in you can’t just hand your children one of these devices and send them on their merry way and expect no problems. Unfortunately, in our society not only are there the predators that we’re all concerned about but there are financial predators as well who want to take advantage of your kids disguised as apps and data caps.

    Many games for children on these devices have what they call ‘in app purchases’ which means that the players of the game can buy in-game items with real world money. Not only that, but many of these games use data from your cellular providers data plan and can either run up quite the data bill or burn through your allotted data rather quickly.

    To help you and your children avoid these pitfalls we’ve found two good resources on how to protect your children and your wallet while using these new devices. iOS devices, which are the ones made by Apple, are relatively simple to enable safety and financial restrictions. Android devices on the other hand, the ones made by companies like Samsung and various other manufacturers, are a little more difficult to restrict, but can be done.

    Just look at setting up your child’s new device as the modern equivalent of having to assemble the toys that our parents did on Christmas Eve for years, except now not only are you keeping your children engaged but you’re keeping them safe as well.

     
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