Sharp End Forward!

But Carefully!

Dear Customers & Friends


I thought I would update you all on how I'm going to offer my Repair & Tuition services from now because of the changing situation with coronavirus in terms of its ever changing presence in communities.

Clearly there has been no upgrade to the government's attitudes on public protection & health since I wrote last in February, otherwise we wouldn't be facing a summer surge in infections from yet another new variant!

Generally speaking, and as things appear to be today I am becoming more optimistic that the chances of a major UK cases explosion is slowly receding, particularly so in the local Stroud area, from careful behaviour by most people and vaccines reaching many people now x2 doses. I have now received my second vaccine jab, over 3 weeks ago.


But on the other side I am aware that the Delta variant is a fast spreading threat that must be of great concern, in particular to unvaccinated children & youth plus any older people who for a reason haven't been vaccinated.


Opening Up.

So I will now carefully 'open up' as the saying goes by offering my services as they are now, and also will add to this my visiting service where this is not practicable (but under carefully set  conditions).

I have updated my website with new details which you can read here


I look forward to helping you,


Kind regards


Greg

Opening Up Carefully

To write this blog post I need to take one big step back first, for the sake of perspective.

Our pre-pandemic world functioned in ways that essentially had no serious interest in engaging meaningfully in any discussion of approaching hazards. Consequently it lacked planning responses to an approaching threat horizon from ecological & as we now know to our cost, Zoonotic microbes.

To gain a sense of where my personal current place is I begin with what I see with reasonably good reliability about the covid-19 pandemic state at this time.

Simply, because the pandemic was completely avoidable, as is demonstrated by 9 or so nations who now operate their lives & economies as if it never existed, why did so few nations chose to prevent a lethally capable & highly transmissible Novel Virus?

And how did the other 187 nations on Earth ignore the obvious and lose so much, & so many people is the stuff of a thick volume written by tutting historians & not my blog, however because peoples normal behaviour may now take one of two forks in the road ahead I will write on because I believe that business will need a new novel normal.


Being a visiting computer services provider business in a pandemic has had its downside as you might imagine, but I have continued with adapted service provision methods which have, in the main, worked well under successive lock-downs!

Now that our lusterless government seems committed to opening up what it describes as ‘carefully’ and with ‘data’ as its new guiding mantra, I will also adopt a cautious opening up approach of my own. However because I am by definitely influenced by solid data & sound assessments from truly independent scientists & real medical experts, I may not necessarily move in step with a government machine that has other interests that appear to be heard by them more readily than those speaking for ‘the public good’. The pace of vaccines roll out that our NHS has achieved (despite the government) has proved it really ought to be running the UK instead of them!

As I see it today the trends of new infections, hospitalisations & deaths are reducing very well, but this is due almost entirely to the #3 lock-down & the good will of the majority of people who’s normal lives are accepted by them as being ‘on hold’.

The issue may come when on March 8th the schools reopen because as we already have seen, the incidences of primary school & nursery virus transmission are already rising in lock-down #3 and so this rise is happening during a limited pupil attendance level. This is concerning because no real resources have been committed by any authorities to make schools safer, so that full attendance at schools could cause infection rates to rise exponentially again as they did in December/January. Opening up schools presents a problem of wider & possibly faster transmission of the virus so in my decisions to visit sites for work, or not, I will have to take the presence of children & teenagers (who may be offered vaccinations later in the year), with a high degree of caution.

This lack of protection to prevent harm is as reckless as it should be unbelievable, and the trumpeted efficient roll out of vaccines (to those accepting them, but not yet to children) won’t as I understand it, change the nature of the threat. This is because the vaccines impressive pace of rollout is delayed by a 3 week efficacy lag, making the likelihood of another infections spike this Spring more possible.

Also the mutations we are seeing appear every week now are more dangerous due to higher infectiousness, and possibly higher virulence that may more seriously affect the young than did the original strain of covid-19. So a tolerated presence of the virus in our communities only adds further to the chances of more unknown strains to emerge, possibly some that bypass the protection of the vaccines and ……………!

Much of what I know has been very generously provided to the public by Independent SAGE who are world class experts and provide their time & efforts completely free.

Their current update on the so called road map from lock-down is here

My Approach to Site Visits

Basically I am cautiously opening up as of 8th March but will need to ensure that a customers site is as safe for me and for them first. ie sufficiently ventilated and not crowded.

What will I do?

I intend to gradually and under closely watched conditions, open up to my visiting repairing & installing of systems, but this has to be done with careful safeguards in place for both customers and for myself.

Where a work space at a customers site is small, crowded &/or lacks open ventilation I will have to avoid working within it unless I am assured that (post vaccination + a 3 week period) any persons I come into contact with are also protected by vaccines.

I am sorry if this causes upset feelings to those not choosing to have, or are ineligible to have vaccines, but I feel that I must protect as best as I can myself, my partner and other customers to the best standards.

I will wear a N99 face mask even if those above conditions are met as a precaution.

I update the knowledge that I have on a weekly & daily basis,  so my approach will change accordingly, so please do feel that you can discuss your needs of my work before it commences.


Please keep safe & well & remember that a vaccine is no protection to you unless 3 weeks have passed after the jab!

Greg

STOP Sign Year

This post is a second version because for some strange reason my original version suddenly lost some of its paragraphs! I’m watching you WordPress!

Greetings to you all!  (I won’t bother with the usual Happy New Year stuff simply because it couldn’t have been, and isn’t likely to be).

That nasty virus isn’t content with invading our lives, causing mayhem and then refusing to leave which gives it much in common with a soon to be ejected white supremacist thug! The difference is that the virus is only doing its job, whereas the other only plays at it through golf and spitting nocturnal tweets at opponents.

But more is in the real news and its looking a bit better for privacy & democracy!


In The News – WhatsApp & Facebook.

But first I will backtrack. You may have seen that I wrote in our ‘Covid Spring’ that Google expatriated all of your UK data on its platforms in Ireland  (our then GDPR protected zone, inside the EU) to the Wild West (USA). So I deleted my Google account before this and implored others to do the same.

Before that event, WhatsApp failed to find a massive security hole that others discovered in its phone App. That backdoor was wide open to state level spyware that opened up smartphones data with no user intervention! So I also got rid of that App after closing my account!

Here it comes! Zuckerberg’s Facebook, who we all know to make zillions from flogging your privacy details to its ‘affiliates’ have announced two more encircling moves.

Move#1 is that your phone data that WhatsApp accesses on your smartphone including contacts, and transactions you do through the App (plus who knows what else) will become accessible to Facebook and its ‘affiliates’ from February 8th 2021! The ‘choice’ they give you is ‘do it our way or stop using the app’.

Move#2 Another announcement made under news coverage of #pandemic outta control is that your private data they hold on Facebook which. lets face it is huge, will be shifted to the wild west during this year.

Yes, I know, following a rush to other apps by the tens of millions, WhatsApp have tried giving ‘assurances’ on privacy protection, and those might be as they claim for now. But when we remember through past experience the tendencies of corporations and politicians who carefully manage the release of disturbing changes that often appear silently during public holidays, or under cover of disasters, do we ‘really’ trust them? We remember Zuckerberg’s refusal to explain his part in the Cambridge Analytical data scandal to Parliament! Both he and other owners of huge platforms behave like Bond film villains now and there is no real James Bond to stop them (sorry if I just busted a myth).

Assuming you feel as I do about being treated like a piece of farm livestock, then here are some ideas I have, they are not advice, but are based on experience.

WhatsApp (WA) – Best to message all of your friends through it to tell them you’ve had enough and then open an account on another platform, I use Signal because it has a long good reputation. Edward Snowden also says its better than Telegram security wise.

 

 

 


Suggested Method –

Open a new account on your chosen replacement platform, install its app onto your devices, TIP – Signal lets you video & audio call from a laptop/PC/Mac, unlike WA.
Send messages of joy to your friends from Signal (or other) and invite them to also escape!
If you want to retain any messages on WA then copy/backup them! Then use WA’s app to delete your messages and account, then uninstall the horrible thing from all of your devices.

Facebook (FB) doesn’t yet present you with such a rush to action as its data move deadline isn’t yet announced, though it will be this year. If you are also minded to get away from the risks it poses with your privacy (and possibly your sanity by its content controlling algorithms), then next I would take a look at other social media offerings. Again I won’t endorse any here, its up to you! But I can point you to some I’ve looked at.

WT.Social is fairly new and is still developing, so its in its growing phase. That said its fairly easy to use and lets you post like FB does and without the word number constraint of twitter posting. And you can join groups that it calls ‘SubWiki’s’. Also you can befriend and have followers just as you have before. These are its proud claims;

WT.Social

You can view WT’s Privacy Policy here

 

Mastodon has been around, I think, for a few years and has a following that is less easy to gauge because you have to sign up to which ever of its many ‘servers’ you feel attracted to, according to your tastes. So maybe not as easy to get to know but if you are particularly into a niche social media experience, then it may be worth a look. It also offers a mobile device App. I didn’t take to it myself so cannot guide further.

Maybe 2020 may be seen one day as the ‘demo version’ and 2021 will be the full release version that has yet to prove itself, who can predict?

 

Keep well and Safe!

 

Greg

Quick Bytes News – July Covid-19 Update

Despite the extended lock down, the months have rolled by and a worrying spring has become a very confusing summer. Our behaviour has been advised and advised again in a constant stream of conflicting updates from No10 and others with seemingly no improvement in its quality or reliability.

Consequently I only act upon advice from genuine experts such as Independent SAGE and The Academy of Medical Sciences who offer regular online updates of real data analysis of the pandemic and offer opinions that I value.

This has been the basis of my web page on covid-19 that I updated this morning, and this describes my working practices while the pandemic persists. Sadly due to some rising infection rates in the UK it seems unlikely that we will be free from this virus until next year at the earliest. I will keep this all under constant review. Keep safe!

And next is Microsoft!

Oh boy, have they had a summer! Not content with coping with a pandemic the big M have been creating a mess of their own with ‘updates’ that have in some cases slowed machines to a crawl, in others rendered them paper weights or door stops!

The devils details are that Big ‘M’ chose to not allow a buggy update to their Edge browser to be uninstalled, and for users to not be allowed to stop it booting open the door and installing itself ! As one website put it…

Having fixed it, and to prevent it reoccurring Big ‘M’ have had to produce a tool to stop it from kicking its way back in! Do contact me if you need assistance with getting this intruder fixed!

June 2020 Update

Big ‘M’s next big mess is their June 2020 Update which also may, or may not affect your Windows 10 depending on its configuration, or perhaps its mood, who knows?

Some users have seen it cause a lot of forced restarts that are preceded by this annoyingly pretty blue box.

Big’M’ say that a fix for this “should be available in July”, but the good news is that for some users this update can be prevented because of the version of Windows 10 they have. If your version allows you to ignore the update by not manually installing it I expect you can guess my advice!

Unlike the horrible Edge update, this trouble maker can be uninstalled, its name is either KB4560960 or KB4557957, your Windows will howl that you are downgrading its defences, but hey, a working machine has to be better and anyway Big ‘M’ will fix its subsequent update … one day!

Linux – Ah, that’s Better!

I have installed Linux Mint onto a many PC’s now and in all cases it not only Works Reliably but it also has updates that in mine and others experiences, don’t break it!

The Minty folk have just produced the new ‘Ulyana’ (version 20) release which I haven’t tried out yet, but as always with Linux the new version is better and more capable that its predecessor, so I am encouraged!

You might be too, why not contact me and give it a try?

I can set it up either in ‘Dual Boot’ method so you can combine your boot up options with Windows as the other choice, or I could give it its own hard drive installation (perhaps on a new super fast SSD drive which I can install?) .

Lets talk – 07579001747 or pct@phonecoop.coop

My Website is Here.

Covid Days – New Ways

This new post after 2 years of silence has been spurred by the massive and unpredictable scale of changes that were forced into our world by SARS-Covid-2.

The drive to immediately isolate our bodies from all others except those in our living spaces has brought with it the massive utilisation of technologies that we might have used or at least known of, but never could we en masse imagine ourselves in the home & work places that many of us are now in.

My business was designed & constructed by me in January 2011 with a specific set of operating modes which I saw as fairly unique,at that time. I set out to close the gaps between the knowledge & systems used by technologists, and the general public / small/medium businesses understanding of them. My bridging the gap by ‘being there’ with them at their premises, shoulder to shoulder as we jointly worked through their worries, hopes, aspirations and technological breakdowns was effective!

But for now this has to change, and I believe that no matter what changes to the threat from bio-organisms both now and in the future arise, a wariness in people of personal risk has or will become a factor that I have to think about. We may have to face that previous ways of working may begin to recede as new ways of working emerge.

So how will I adapt to this without losing too much of my working style?

I can and already have, worked on customer systems (PC/Laptops/Mobile Phones/Pads using remote control software in concert with a phone call. This works well and because it saves me travelling to the customer I have given it a lower hourly rate. Where this has not been possible because of a malfunctioning device or broadband/WiFi connection, I have asked the customer to thoroughly clean the device of finger grease deposits and then to bio-clean it with a 10% hypochlorite (bleach) solution or 66% alcohol solution before I collect it. Before I return it it is again bio-cleaned. This has worked well so far.

But the personal bit where I sit beside them is missing … this is for the purposes of tuition and/or for where I fix a problem while showing them how I do it, and so prevent it reoccurring through a lack of awareness of the cause(s). For this I offer the use of the video or audio messaging feature that is built into the remote control software. Viola!

The only missing service was where I visited to investigate faults to telephone internal extension cabling and the BT master terminal. Though I am happy to advise you on the steps to take through video link and, if you wish will speak to your ISP Support Desk engineers on your behalf to help to speed up the resolution time the fault takes.

Looking ahead what more might I do?

One idea I am exploring is to offer online mentoring for small groups of people where I demonstrate how to understand what concepts and technologies are by definition from some of the frequently asked questions I get. This way a low cost per person could be achieved and I would be paid a fair rate for all the time and effort to produce the materials. This is a work in development so if you have ideas you would like included in it then please do email them to me.

Well that’s it for now,

Please stay safe and well!

Greg Dance

For more regular updates and newsy snippets, see my facebook feed – @pctechniquesstroud 

Quick Bytes – News Breakings

Welcome to the Spring edition of QBN.

Our weather (a dull and cold) continues to give reasons to scan the sky and ponder if it ever was like this when we were kids! I say not.

This edition has a lot in it and in several cases this came to us as features in recent news. Concerns about the fragility of personal privacy and democracy are very real now.

On a brighter note I have been spending more time with Mac’s and have diversified my services to include them, you’ll soon see why …


Mac’s and Malware

Recently and in the space of only 10 days I found ‘MacKeeper’ malware on 3 Mac PC’s. Yes its time to protect your Mac!

One in particular case had an awkward outcome after its malware infection was cleared using Malwarebytes, it no longer booted! This caused me to seek guidance from Apple Support and from this I learned that their preferred anti-malware app at this time is MalwareBytes for Mac. Since then I have also heard that BitDefender can be very effective. So if your Mac needs a matching umbrella …

Mac’s, unlike Windows 10 have no annoying personalised adverts that menace the eyes from flashing tiles every time you view the desktop. But I’m not impressed with the way they heavily price new devices that then have less, or even no USB ports!

Clearly their hardware design division needs a good flushing out, down the drain into the Microsoft Windows 10 design bin!


Recycling – Binned!

Q. When is your data that you deleted to the Recycle Bin gone for ever?

A. When you empty the Recycle Bin? – Nope! It could be recovered using one of many utilities that scan the disk for the files and if they are still recoverable, it can restore them, OK so far but not if you are using a new type Solid State Drive instead of an old style spinning platten disk.

SSD’s are brilliant in the main. They are much faster than old style hard drives so everything from booting up to scanning is done in a comparatively short snap! They don’t break if you bump them when they are on because they dont have any moving parts to crash together.They use less power so batteries last longer in portables.

But – when you delete a file from the Recycle Bin – its gone and I mean irretrievably due to a feature known as ‘trim’ which you cannot switch off. Geeks go here

Imaging a scenario where you have deleted a folder or files and in the back of your mind they are not out of reach yet because they are recycled. Then you discover that for some reason you want to clear some junk off your disk, maybe to make space for the next bloated Windows 10 ‘Creators Update’ (which is 8Gb in size and can be too big for some notebooks so they get left behind!)

To do this you run a utility like CCleaner or the Windows Disk Cleanup or similar which clears a lot of junk out, which is great except it usually clears the Recycling Bin also by default, in which were those files or folders that you then want to retrieve. Gone!

I could mention that you could use Stroud Cloud for your backups from where they could be retrieved, but I’m sure you already knew that 🙂 www.stroud-cloud.co.uk


GDPR – Here it comes, we have until May 25th to be ready!

Previously I have written of this approaching change in my December 2107 edition which is fast approaching and will become enforceable on 25th May (1 month from now)

So looking at this introduction document now would give you a good idea of your part in this play. My impression so far is that for most of us small biz folk this is a mostly procedural tax on your time and effort so that if you are ever asked, you could prove that you have documented your responses to requests for conformity & assured your customers that you have done it.

You will need to have proceduralised how you would deal with requests concerning your holding of data on them. OK so job done if you have done that?

Not quite! You will also need to be securely storing personal data to prevent breaches of your systems which might allow a ‘slitherin’ low-life to steal it! Otherwise you will have to report the breach and then answer a blizzard of enquiries and maybe pay a heafty fine!

So preparation is essential!

No more exclamation marks now as I move on to …………………


Microsoft Windows 7 – The Redmond gang are still not wishing to become popular, so are proving how well they can avoid that accolade by withholding new security updates from Windows 7 machines if you don’t have an antivirus installed.

Windows 7 will continue receiving updates until at least January 14th 2020 so its not caused by deprecation.  So if your Windows 7 has stopped updating you would need to either use the built in Anti Virus (Defender) or install an one that’s approved by them. If you need to explore this more an HTG account of it is here


(Not so) Smart TV’s

A good article here from HTG on why buying a ‘smart TV’ is not a smart thing at all and how it can make you a victim in several ways.


Do we still mention Facebook in polite conversations any more?

 

A reputation, once proud and sleek has hit an inevitable pride-berg and sunk!

And a shadowy cohort of suited assasins of democracy have emerged from London and an unknown outback town of Canada (Canadian data firm Aggregate IQ (AIQ) ). This bunch of slithering fly by nights boasted of their exploits of breaking the UK out of the EU Channel 4 News story here, and in Cambridge Analytica’s case, getting Trump elected!

The complete story line on the undermining of our democracies can be found here, and to me makes political thriller fiction look needing by comparison!

I expect that by now you will have either deleted your Facebook accounts or at least tightened down your privacy settings and deleted all those nonsensical spying apps lurking in your profile. How to Remove Third-Party Facebook Apps From Your Account

Do be cautious of other social media platforms privacy settings also, and of course the biggest and longest established privacy vacuum of them all, Google and its colourful Chrome browser and indiscrete Android smart-ware!

Google is feverishly trying to get its GDPR act together before 25th May and lets face it it has a very long way to go after a decade of doing exactly the opposite. An email I received from them describes a new User Deletion Tool to be rolled out by them soon, which I hope doesn’t act like its poorly worded title!

Its no longer thinkable to wander through the web and expect it to be a stroll in Finnsbury Park on a sunny Sunday in summer. Better to prepare for a winter expedition into Narnia when the witch has a hangover!

How to Check If Cambridge Analytica Has Your Facebook Info

Just head to this page and you’ll see a box labeled “Was My Information Shared?”

Finally for now, Zuckerberg has admitted that a ‘handful’ of other companies like Cambridge Analytica have also been ‘harvesting’ data from his platform, so we can only wonder which will be the most shocking news story as time rolls on … Facebook’s data or Trumps war!


Mozilla to the rescue again! – a new Firefox extension can be isolate Facebook from other sites inside your browser, it certainly needs locking in somewhere (so might Zuckerberg).

And these are other free Firefox extensions that can help you keep privacy safe across the wider web outside of Facebook and Google.

Untitled

Boost your digital fitness with a data cleanse

Mozilla and friends have put up this website so that you be taken on a journey of discovering where all your data went and how you can get it back. A Data Detox is the first important step closely followed by greater awareness.


Well, I think that is quite enough from me for now so I will sign off and wish you all a better summer than some of our so called ‘Leaders’ might wish for us.

Keep safe!

Greg

Quick Bytes News – The Low Fat Digest

To the festive edition of QBN, welcome!

I am writing QBN two counties away from my home abode at a friends home where I have enjoyed a welcome change of scenery in Devon!

I feel glad to be unshackled from my previous work world by not being tied to an office five days a week because of phone and computer constraints as we all were before this new work place portability became possible.

Along this line, some new generation domestic SMART devices have appeared in recent times and have attracted concerns.


Internet of Things (IOT) – Unwrapped

For these things you need to be aware that in common with pets, the joy of having IOT’s comes with a need to be responsible for having them, or trouble is guaranteed.

I have mentioned these networked WiFi connected IOT’s before from the viewpoint that they can be a bit concerning if not carefully set up by users. Changing the default administrative password is an absolute must to secure them from miscreants as is checking occasionally if a new firmware upgrade is needed for device(s) to plug security holes in them.

Its no good if your toaster becomes a traitor or your light bulbs a liability, is it?

Worse still is that WiFi capabilities extend to the playrooms of the innocent as well, even children’s toys can be ‘Smart’ and so the risk to privacy can be more worrying.

I won’t dwell at this time on another concerning risk posed by a growing body of concerned scientists and health practitioners on WiFi emissions from devices like IOT, and in particular those from toys and baby monitors. I will only say that when Lloyds of London no longer exclude claims for harm associated with WiFi emissions from many types of device to human health then I will no longer mention it.


Though the gift buying season is largely over (unless you are buying now for next Christmas), I also offer you this …


Mozilla to the Rescue!

“This gift-giving season, Mozilla is helping you choose gadgets that respect your online privacy and security” How do you know if that gift comes with privacy included?

We did the research to help you decide. Because Santa should be the only one watching you this holiday season”.

source:- http://advocacy.mozilla.org/privacynotincluded

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If you have got these devices already in your home there is a repository of good advice here 


Firefox Quantum

A new and much better Firefox ‘broke cover’ in November and is giving its competitors a real run for their money and is a ‘country mile’ ahead of them!

In fact according to this Slant browser comparative website page, ‘Young Foxey’ out performs Google Chrome and leaves other browser donkeys gasping!

Source:- https://www.slant.co/versus/5226/5225/~mozilla-firefox_vs_google-chrome

According to Mozilla:

“It’s fast. Really fast. It’s over twice as fast as Firefox from 6 months ago, built on a completely overhauled core engine with brand new technology from our advanced research group, and graced with a clean, modern interface. Today is the first of several releases we’re calling Firefox Quantum”

Naturally Mozilla have taken a lot of care to ensure compatibility with plug-ins in their new browser and so some old and not yet updated versions won’t work with the new one. The new Firefox will automatically disable any non compatibles it finds when installing for you.

Before updating you could visit this Mozilla webpage where the status of your plugins is reported to you and updated versions offered.

Screen Readers

Mozilla are busy working to get full compatibility with screen readers for visually impaired users, and to help you have offered an Extended Support Release (ESR) version to keep compatibility.

You can read all about it here

Download – You can download the speedy young fox here


GDPR – General Data Protection Regulations

Effective 25th May 2018

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“The aim of the GDPR is to protect all EU citizens from privacy and data breaches in an increasingly data-driven world that is vastly different from the time in which the 1995 directive was established.

Although the key principles of data privacy still hold true to the previous directive, many changes have been proposed to the regulatory policies; the key points of the GDPR as well as information on the impacts it will have on business can be found here.

An introductory short video is here and I suggest we all take note of what it will mean to our businesses! More videos are here

My own view at this pre regulation stage is that as it is intended that USA and other non EU states businesses holding data on EU citizens will also be subject to GDPR, the UK exit from the EU might not be a route of escape from its reach. Article

I like its ‘Privacy by Design’ concept and that we become controllers of our own data!

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This checklist from the Information Commissioners Office is a good starting place on how to approach GDPR. https://ico.org.uk/media/1624219/preparing-for-the-gdpr-12-steps.pdf

Well that’s it for now, have a Happy New Year!

Greg

For more regular updates and newsy snippets see my facebook & twitter feeds ….

facebook – @pctechniquesstroud             twitter – @PcTechniques

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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.

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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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