Apple Will Release a Special iPhone for Security Research Purposes

Apple will release a special modified iPhone for research purposes only. With new software installed within its operating system, this modified iPhone is set to be a part of Apple’s bug-bounty program. While Apple’s bug-bounty program was initially introduced in 2016, this is the first time such iPhones will be used for this service.  

These new iPhones will be included in Apple’s iOS Security Research Device Program and will only available to the security research team. The program supplies security researchers with this uniquely modified iPhone to which these analysts will use to help with making security-related improvements. This would make it easier for ‘experienced bug hunters’ to work on Apple products. 

These modified iPhones will have “advanced debugging capabilities and a root shell, among other modifications designed to make the software more open and accessible for researchers,” says Lisa Eadicicco of Business Insider

In August, Apple announced that the new Research Device Program is one of many updates in their bug-bounty program. They have yet to announce how many applications they will accept into this program. Apple will pay a $1 million reward to researchers who find flaws and to whoever could take control of a device with no user interaction involved. The company will expand their bug-bounty program, so it will include most of Apple’s products, such as the Apple Watch, Mac computers, and their Apple TV, in addition to the current iOS.

Google Study Reveals Many People Are Still Using Breached Passwords

Recently, a Google study showed that about 316,000 passwords have already been breached and are still in use. These used password credentials also include financial and governmental accounts. The information used to create this study was from Google Chrome’s Password Checkup extension. Google recently stated on their blog, “The study illustrates how secure, democratized access to password breach alerting can help mitigate one dimension of account hijacking.”

The Password Checkup Extension activates when someone signs into a site, which uses one out of 4 billion username/passwords that Google finds unsafe due to a third-party breach. Google found out that out of 21 million passwords and usernames, 1.5% of these sign-ins were risky. They also stated that many people like to reuse passwords that tend to be vulnerable, which puts them at risk. People use vulnerable passwords when it comes to entertainment and news websites, and sometimes on shopping sites where there could be credit card information stored. About 26 percent of unsafe passwords were reset by users. In addition to that, 60 percent of those new passwords are secured, leaving out the possibility of guessing attacks, which would take a hacker over a hundred million guesses before figuring out the user’s new password. 

Not changing used passwords can lead to cybercriminals gaining unauthorized account access. There have been “credential-stuffing incidents”, which affected companies like Dunkin Donuts and State Farm. Hackers would use lists of breached usernames and passwords to log in to web application accounts through automated requests. When the right username and password combination are found, cybercriminals can gain access to the targeted account. 

Google recommends using their Password Checkup Extension as a precautionary measure to alert users of whether their password has been breached. It is good practice to use different passwords for all your accounts and store them in a secure password manager application. As always, avoid using simple-to-guess passwords and instead use phrases with numbers and symbols. 

New Trojan Malware Spreads via Word Document

There’s a new trojan malware spreading through malicious Word documents, and cybercriminals are using this virus to steal personal information and sensitive banking details. The malware, Ursnif trojan, attacks Windows operating systems and is popular with hackers since its main source code was leaked, becoming a more widely available option for cybercriminals to take advantage of. This type of trojan has existed in different forms over the years, starting in 2007 when the code first surfaced in the Gozi banking trojan. 

Since the code was leaked, hackers have customized it to their liking, stealing banking account information and other valuable account details. Cybersecurity firm Fortinet has identified a new version of the trojan that spreads through Word documents, it’s file format name: “info_[date].doc.” The hacker attaches a malicious macro script to launch once the document’s macros (a series of operations done through a single command) have been enabled.  

The macros can be enabled by clicking “Enable Content” which releases a VBA code that drops a version of the Ursnif malware onto the victim’s computer. This malware then runs “iexplorer.exe” processes to connect to a command and control server on the hacker’s end. In an effort to sway user suspicion, the host list for the server refers to security companies as well as Microsoft. 

Researchers have stated that the campaign is still operating. Even though these techniques might seem a little basic, an easy phishing email attack could give these cybercriminals a chance to invade networks and initiate an extensive cyberattack. 

As always, be mindful of the emails you receive, especially those with unsolicited document attachments, and check the sender email address to verify if the email is spam. When in doubt, directly contact the company referenced in the email using a phone number provided on the actual website.

iPhone Settings Changes That Will Help Your Battery Life Last Longer

Our iPhone batteries never last long enough because we rely on it for nearly everything. From searching up places to eat, to ordering an Uber, to relying on our device for hours of scrolling through social media – we never have enough battery life that lasts for an entire day. To combat quick battery drainage, there are small adjustments you can make to your phone just from a few Settings adjustments! Switching to Low Power Mode, turning off your location services, turning off automatic downloads, lowering your screen brightness and disabling push notifications all help you save more power to get the most use out of your phone. 

Another modification you can make to your iPhone is limiting the Background Refresh feature. With this feature you have the option to turn it off or only use Wi-Fi. To do this you would first go into your Settings, and then tap on General, and click on Background App Refresh. You could also pick and choose which apps you want to refresh instead of having all of them refresh automatically. To do this, just follow the same steps as above, but instead of clicking the Background App Refresh, start scrolling down to see the apps that are on your iPhone and turn off/on the ones you want!

To check which apps take up most of your battery life, you would go to your Settings app, then click on Battery, and then scroll down to the subsection where it states Battery usage by app. This shows you the percentage of the apps you use and how much of your battery life each app is eating up.

A few other small tips to help with your phone’s battery are: 

  • Enabling airplane mode in areas with poor reception
  • Using Wi-Fi instead of cellular internet when you have access to it (However, be wary of Unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Avoid conducting online business that involves inputting personal or sensitive information when on public Wi-Fi).
  • Turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when you are not using it 
  • Turning off your Location Services

Zoom Conference App Vulnerability Allowed Unauthorized Access to Mac Users’ Video Cameras

 

A researcher, Jonathan Leitschuh, claimed that Zoom users that use Apple’s Mac computers were left unprotected and could have had their computer camera hacked. This application glitch allowed any user to force other users into joining Zoom calls, turning on their camera without permission. Leitschuh, the one who discovered this flaw, stated in his blog, “This vulnerability leverages the amazingly simple Zoom feature where you can just send anyone a meeting link… and when they open that link in their browser their Zoom client is magically opened on their local machine.”

Leitschuh discovered how to expose the flaw by switching the Participants option from “Off” to “On.” When he notified the public about this vulnerability, users on social media put it to the test – and it was a frightening success. In addition, even if a user deletes Zoom from their Mac, a hacker could reinstall it. As a quick and temporary fix to this issue, users can go into their Zoom settings and click on “Turn off my video when joining a meeting.” 

Leitschuh gave Zoom a 90 day window to repair this issue. Over 40 million people who use Zoom are exposed to potential invasion of privacy. He was not convinced with the quick fix Zoom came up with. The company commented that the issue is still ongoing, however, on Tuesday, they stated that had begun to fix this matter. 

Apple recently released a silent update to patch the vulnerability on users’ Zoom apps. The update is deployed without the need for user interaction and effectively stops the possibility of web servers activating a user’s video camera without permission.

Walmart’s New AI-Camera Technology Can Prevent Theft at Checkout

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Computer vision technology has been implemented in over 1,000 Walmart stores. This type of technology is called the Missed Scan Detection which helps checkout registers recognize if items have passed by the scanner without being scanned and immediately notifies the attendant. Walmart’s surveillance system is being upgraded by applying this new technology at their kiosk stations and their registers. 

AI is surely becoming a part of our everyday lives as large retailers like Walmart begin to rely on these systems for daily operations. The ultimate goal of computer vision technology is to prevent revenue loss and theft, which, in 2017, turned out to be a big problem for many U.S. retailers who lost up to $47 billion. Since the system was installed, Walmart stated that they have had decreased theft, losses, and errors.

Walmart hasn’t been the only large retailer to use AI. Amazon has been investing in Artificial Intelligence as well, however, the approach is a little different. They have produced a smooth and cashier-less experience for their customers in their own Go stores. 

Aside from it’s anti-theft technology, Walmart also recently opened an AI-powered store to supervise their large inventory. This makes it easier for employees to keep track of when stocks are running low and order items on time before supply runs out.

Overnight Phone Charges Could Be Harmful for Your Device’s Longevity

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Charging our phones overnight is a lot more harmful than we thought. It could actually shorten the lifespan of your phone instead of extending it or helping it. Most phones nowadays have a system in place that stops your phone from overcharging. Many smartphones do not stay at one hundred percent for too long.

Leaving your phone charging after it has hit 100% could impact your phone negatively. Business Insider’s Antonio Villas-Boas stated, “As a lithium-ion battery ages, the chemistry within changes and becomes less efficient at storing and delivering power to your device.” As batteries age and since we use our phones daily, their batteries begin to decay due to these reasons.

Phone companies don’t see overcharging your phone as an issue. Apple talks about their lithium-ion batteries in their iPhones, but has never really mentioned overcharging effects on its devices. Google claimed that overcharging is a dated issue. Since technologies are constantly updated, overcharging should not be an issue since their phone’s battery stops charging when it hits 100%.

Phone makers claim that phone’s battery should not be at 100% when you plan on not using them and store them away. If you plan on not using your phone for a while, it is recommended to store your phone away at 30% to 50% because that is when it ages the slowest. Samsung and Apple both stated to keep your phone around 50% for such purposes.

If you’ve been noticing your phone’s battery life deteriorating much quicker than its aging, it’s a good idea to set aside those overnight charges. Accumulated damage from such charges may cause shorter battery life span on a phone you plan to keep for a while. However, it does not matter how careful you are with your phone charger, it will deteriorate overtime regardless. Many phone makers now give you the option to replace your battery for a small price.

5 Ways to Help Improve Your Mac’s Performance

 

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Overtime, the chances your Apple Mac computer is running slow is very high. This tends to happen overtime with Mac computers due to multiple reasons, one of which could be information overload. Here are five possible reasons and ways you can improve your computer’s speed.

  • Not updating often

If you don’t update your computer for a long period of time, then your computer might get slower. By clicking on the App Store application and checking for updates once or twice a week, you can help improve your computer’s speed.

  • Full hard-drive

Another reason your computer could be running slow is if your hard-drive is nearly full. Using too much storage slows down a Mac computer and could also cause other issues as well. To help prevent this, you could click on the About the Mac that is an option when clicking on the Apple icon on the top left corner. Then, click on Storage. If you notice your hard-drive is nearly full, then click on Manage and it will help you clear out space by giving you the tools and information on you which applications take up the most room on your disk. Another solution would be using an external hard drive.

  • Mac has not been restarted in a while

We tend to leave our Macs on with multiple tabs open and we don’t turn them off for a long time. Restarting your computer will help with this, but don’t forget to save everything. You can give your computer restart by clicking the Restart under the Apple icon on the top left corner.

  • Multiple apps open at once

Having too many apps open and using them all at once could be one of the reasons your computer is slowing down. To close unnecessary apps, just right click on the icon on the bottom of the screen and click Quit. You could also use your Mac’s Activity Monitor, which will let you know what’s using the most memory. However, if you are unsure of what some of the tools/applications in there are, then you should probably leave it alone.

  • Overloaded cache

Having your cache pile up could also slow down your Mac. Even if it gives you faster internet, it begins to gather files and slows down your computer completely. To help clear your cache, here is an article on it.

If none of these work for you, then you might need to take it to Apple’s Genius Bar or have a professional look at it. There are many reasons as to why your Mac will slow down. It could even be just from age.

Google has Come Out with a New Site Feature that Makes Traveling Easier

Google has come out with a new landing page called “Trips”, which has all of the necessities to help you plan your next getaway. It consists of the app, Google Trips, as well as Google Flights, Google Hotels, and a few more. This makes it easier for the user to plan one trip using all of Google’s provided travel-related products starting from finding a destination to vacation packages and travel guides.

Even if you don’t use the tools Google provides, you can still sketch out your itinerary, see the weather reports, confirmation codes, and so much more for your trip on the “Trips” site. “Trips” has been spread out within Google’s products (i.e. Maps, Flights, Hotels, etc.). For instance, when you make reservations, the reservation will pop up on Google Maps, showing your reservation confirmation on the page.

When planning your vacation using the “Trips” site, you also get access to Google Maps’ Explore tool, allowing you to track flight prices by using Google search. According to Google, this will soon apply to hotels as well.

Google stated that the “Trips” site will be available to use through Google Maps soon. “Trips” is now live, but Google has not stated how it will impact the mobile app and their TripIt competitor for showing itineraries.  

Amazon’s New Drone Delivery Service is Currently in Progress

Amazon’s dream of having a “high-speed drone delivery” is finally happening thanks to the UK government aviation administration, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The CAA announced they will launch an “Innovation Sandbox”, which is where a number of companies will talk amongst themselves to test out concepts, and Amazon just happens to be a participant.

The testing will soon be done in a physical space. However, they will first start in a virtual space. The CAA is taking leadership of this project in testing the products to make sure the drones are safe. This delivery service would give customers their packages in at least 30 minutes.

Back in 2013, Jeff Bezos – Amazon’s CEO – stated in an interview conducted by “60 Minutes” that by 2018, there will be fully functional drones. While late in the expected release time, the drone delivery testing is currently in progress.

Mary Hanbury from Business Insider stated how, “It has been discreetly testing in UK sites since 2016, and in July 2017, it filed a patent that showed it was working on a way for drones to capture data by scanning people’s homes. Meanwhile, one Amazon’s main tech rivals, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), recently secured approval to roll out one of the world’s first drone delivery services in Australia.