I.T Services Support Engineer for PC's, Mac's & Linux OS
I have worked in I.T since 1998, in the NHS, Education and commercial settings which included Hospitals, GP Clinics, Secondary and Primary schools, Manufacturing, local businesses and charities.
I live near Stroud and operate mostly in the local area so response times are faster and are managed personally.
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.
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,
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!
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;
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?
If you have a Windows PC with Teamviewer installed, or An Android smartphone, or a curiosity of how easy it is to create a fake version of a well known website can be created and used for stealing users credentials for fraud, then this edition is for you!
Or should I call this edition the very early Autumn edition?
Autumn usually begins at equinox (September 21st), and this marks the beginning of the times of named storms such as Francis’s that might gallop through our back yards kicking garden furniture about to remind us that wooden & plastic things that aren’t bolted down can actually fly! But Francis arrived at least 3 weeks early to give us a fore taste of climate chaos, just in case our awareness had drifted from other news stand headlines. Ironically many news stands also flew about during Francis’s visit.
In this edition I bring you what I hope is useful information so that you can do prevent the threats, kinda like building good storm fencing! 🙂
Teamviewer – Gathering Clouds!
Storms could begin with Teamviewer (Windows Version Only)
Sadly, the widespread success of Teamviewer means its widespread adoption during the pandemic to remote fix PC’s, has meant that a flaw within its software code could affect the security of millions of users who have it installed.
Luckily some experts who test for exploits in software have got there before the scammers and issued a ‘Severe’ warning to alert people to update their Teamviewer Apps immediately to a patched version. See here for details.
My view is that unless you are using it constantly for say, remote controlling your office or another remote PC so you don’t have to go there in person, than its better to remove Teamviewer or any other software of the type, so that should a new exploit be discovered you are safe from the risk of it not being update patched because you might not have known it needed patching.
If you need help from me to update yours, to remove it from your system and/or do a security review or clean up of your system, then do call me on, 07579001747, (I don’t use Teamviewer!)
Snapdragon’s Fire Storm?
Snapdragon (not the pretty garden version) is a processor chip that’s probably inside your Android smartphone in common with millions of other peoples smartphones. And if so its problem is one that only Qualcomm (the manufacturers of the processor chip) can fix. Hopefully they will do this quickly, so I suggest you keep a keen eye on your smartphone manufacturers security updates for this, especially if you have a Samsung, LG or Xiaomi.
“Dubbed “Achilles”, this flaw could be present on millions of Android devices around the world, mentioned specialists in the exploit development training. Check Point researchers, in charge of the find, did not reveal too many details of the flaw, although they claim that the consequences of exploitation are severe, as threat actors could record user calls, install malware remotely, and even completely disable an affected device.”
So patching it as soon as possible could save you a lot of troubles! Do call me if you need 07579001747
Phishing Frights! – The perils of Clicking Hyperlinks in texts & emails.
I’ve read of how easy it is for some common or garden sleaze bag to set up a faked website that looks exactly like Google, Instagram, Netflix, PayPal and many other popular platforms with great ease.
Nasty little tools exist (Zphisher is one) and these can be used to do this and to send its intended victim an email within which is the nasty hyperlink that directs their browser to their own faked website. Consequently a users logon credentials are captured that way with the greatest of ease.
I won’t provide details of web pages that show how to do this for obvious reasons, but be aware that the old style user name and password logon is past its sell by date! The convenience of only using those to log in could be a very expensive luxury!
a) Avoiding emails and texts with hyperlinks in them unless you are very sure of the authenticity of the sender. Banks & reputable institutions won’t send hyperlinks in their communications with you.
Try to always go to any vitally important website directly yourself by either typing in the web address into your browsers address bar, or by using a Bookmark (Favourite) that you have already saved to go to the web page. I try to encourage people to lose the habit of always using a search engine to find important websites because there are dodgy web search sites out there who might send you anywhere!
b) Always use a 2 Factor Authentication (2FA) method for logging into vital sites so that you have to enter a code that is sent to your phone by text. Better still, use a secure 2FA authenticator App such as Sophos Authenticator or Google Verify (Many others exist and are in your App Store or Google Play store). These generate a code on your smartphone for that purpose and don’t rely on a text to arrive which may not come if you are in a weak signal area or could be intercepted .
If you want to read a long but very well written web page on the pro’s and con’s of using 2FA secure log in so that you can choose the best method for you then this page by Sophos is a very good one.
Sophos also offer this audio podcast you can listen to for free in which 2 people discuss this which might make it easier to understand.
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.
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?) .
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!
For more regular updates and newsy snippets, see my facebook feed – @pctechniquesstroud
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 ifyou 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 completestory line on the undermining of our democracies can be found here, and to me makes political thriller fiction look needing by comparison!
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 Toolto 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.
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.
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”.
“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.
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.
Download – You can download the speedy young fox here
GDPR – General Data Protection Regulations
Effective 25th May 2018
“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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I hope you all have coped with the constant media pre electoral spin season, dizzying wasn’t it!
Can we try to forgive & forget the unacceptable conduct of those so called ‘leaders’ whom we are supposed to respect enough to represent us nationally, when they behave worse than feral teens on a sugar high?
And as for the TV & written media please don’t get me started … do I really need a TV any more I wonder.
One particularly glaring point about the election result is that it brought to the fore the newly arrived insignificance of the mainstream TV and printed media platforms.
Our youth mostly don’t bother with those platforms so their views were formed without being tainted by politically biased media proprietors or influenced by a need to kowtow to murmurings of privatisation. Refreshing!
Anyway on to I.T topics and these are on Social Media.
Postings – Occasionally we see a post on our Facebook news feed which might contain a request that instead of using its ‘share’ link, we copy/paste the content instead and make a new post of it ourselves. I assume that would also apply to the memes that are all over Facebook every time some kind of vote is looming. For images you might have to make a copy of the image and create a post with it. Why do this and what happens if we do?
There appear to be 2 main outcomes, so depending on the nature of the post material some care is advised.
Algorithms – These days algorithms are being built into social media platforms as a norm so you might want to consider what making this choice will do for your own posts.
Algorithms are said to have the effect of influencing the readers behaviour when using the platform, i.e how we react to posts we see. More so now than before we are becoming aware that what we are given is probably only a part of the whole pool of available information on the topic. This is down to algorithms working on the website and the logic is that because we don’t have time to read everything we get what they think is most likely to be interesting.
Background – In effect what appears in our ‘news feeds’ has been shaped to suit any bias or preferences that the platform has detected in our responses previously, what we liked and to which posts we responded. In the main we can suspect this is done for marketing purposes, after all its a ‘free service’ and by them using us as a target audience for marketing purposes its a easy guess their motive. Though more darkly, political agendas are now identified as being heavily involved and are said to have been effective in recent controversial electoral outcomes such as Brexit & Trump.
For more on this you might like to read the section titled ‘Controversy surrounding the use of algorithms’ on this Wikipedia – Algorithms, and I refer in particular to the sub title ‘Legal Concerns’
So what is the main difference?
If you re-post using the ‘share’ link, your post is subject to the restrictions placed on its circulation by the person who posted it before you, so according to their privacy settings it may only reach friends that you share with them. So this could restrict the reach of the post, in some cases its not safe to share some types of personal or other information too widely.
Also if the post is identified as one which needs removal i.e. its faked news or a scam the removing it from all feeds down stream is easy the originating account post is removed. So control is better.
The downside of this is that because the posts incoming to you carry a restriction you may wish to use the Public Post option in which case it would be accessible to a much wider audience (though again I expect some algorithmic re-shaping might apply.
If you copy/paste a post into a new one of your own you can remodel it say by adding a picture or rewording or spell correcting it.
But if the post is one of the more ‘challenging’ types it is harder to stop and so scammers and news fakirs have a freer run and can use a search function in the platform to identify you personally as someone they might like to close up to, user beware! this would also happen to all others who used copy/paste, you in effect own it the same as any post you originate yourself.
Two Stage Log In
I am reading now that some experts say that the use of ‘strong’ passwords alone is being seen as falling off the back of the secure practices wagon. Do I hear a sigh or two? ……
Many of you will have already used a version of this with your online banking where your debit card is used with your PIN to generate a code to enter as a second stage to the log in process into your account.
So a second stage login authentication for other vital websites is now also a good idea.
This applies to social media, email and other more important online sites such as for editing your own website because if you were to lose access to it because a hacker had locked you out and was using it to rob your friends or misrepresent you how would you feel?
There are 2 particular methods and one involves a mobile signal connected smart phone or pad, the second method uses a small App that generates the code without a mobile signal.
Note:- because the use of texts by the first method means an insecure text is used to send you a login code, it is advised to use the second (App) method instead. Also I have experienced some annoying delays in receiving texts recently for some reason which have delayed my use of a website.
If you use the first method you would log into the website first using your user name & password, then on receipt of the text you enter the code in the text. Done.
This is offered by most sites you log into these days and is often set up by finding your way into the “Settings” – Security area of the websites menus. You add your mobile phone number and its done.
A text is sent each time you then log into that website.
The second (I think better) method is the App generated method.
This involves you downloading a free small Authenticator App such as Sophos Authenticator or Google or Microsoft Authenticator onto your smart phone or pad … there are several around just find them through the usual preferred App repository on your particular type of smartphone. Do make sure you allow the App to access your smartphones camera for it to work. note:- if you choose Google Authenticator App then see this article on ‘Authy’ which might be also useful.
Once you have installed the App on the smart device you go to the website you wish to set up 2 stage login on a another device such as a PC or laptop. Navigate to the Settings or Options page associated with 2 stage login, the App setup method bit.
This will offer you a QR code in the form of a strange looking square on your laptop/PC screen, use the Authenticator Apps ‘scan QR code’ option to run the camera through the App and point it at the laptop/PC screen to capture the QR code.
The App will record the QR code and add it to a list in the App. Done!
Save the settings on the website to use the 2 stage login in future and logout.
The next time you log into that website it will prompt you for a code which your smartphone will generate there and then, this code changes every minute or so so you will need to open the App each time you log in.
Should you lose access to your smartphone for any reason you can prevent a lockout by downloading and keeping safe some access codes the website will let you have, but grab these NOW so you have them already, just in case…..
Lastly there is a new and very secure method in development using ‘Security Keys’ but as this snippet from Facebook’s website shows its far from universally usable now so better left until its more developed.
“Security keys for Facebook logins currently only work with certain web browsers and mobile devices, so we’ll ask you to also register an additional login approval method, such as your mobile phone or Code Generator.To add a security key from your computer, you’ll need to be using the latest version of Chrome or Opera. At this time we don’t support security key logins for our mobile Facebook app, but if you have an NFC-capable Android device with the latest version of Chrome and Google Authenticator installed, you can use an NFC-capable key to log in from our mobile website.” source Facebook
That’s all for this edition, I hope you found it useful and not too heavy going.
As always do call me for a chat if you would like to reflect on IT matters, or life in general, ….
though not politics …. PLEASE, NO MORE POLITICS!! 🙂