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 – Autumnal Snippets

Here we go again with the Autumn release…

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

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

Caring is carrying a high price these days.

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


Android Mobiles Security

 

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

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

With an historic headline like this …

“Android Was 2016’s Most Vulnerable Product”

Android needed a big review. >source<

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a pic

In their own words ….

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


Google Play Protect

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

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

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

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

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


“Project Treble”

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

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

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

 

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

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

That is all for now.

 

Greg

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Quick Bytes News – Spring 2017

Welcome to the Spring edition of QBN.

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you enjoy this edition.


Movable Beasts

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

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

I now brand this category of hardware as Plod Magnets!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what can we do?

Phones

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

Sat-Nav’s

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

Other Toys ….

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

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

Happy travels!


Phone Coop Offer 

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

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

You can call them on 01608 434 000

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

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


Privacy Survey Results by Mozilla

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

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

A supporting story is below …

 

 

 

 


Alpha Fail – Humour!    

Who wants to be Second?

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

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

“Its Huge”


 For local low carbon IT Services with a smile!