Monthly Archives: April 2016

Smart Doorbells

RING Video doorbell. An internet-connected doorbell isn’t a new idea. The Doorbot of a few years ago was clunky and ugly, but the concept was good: someone rings your doorbell, your smartphone beeps and buzzes, and with a tap, you can initiate a videochat with the visitor. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the kitchen, at the office, or on vacation in the mountains. You can talk to them and see them. They can hear you, but they can’t see you. If it’s a delivery, you can give the guy permission to leave a package and instructions on where to stash it.

The Ring Video Doorbell offers a more refined and comprehensive approach. It adds motion sensing, so it can alert you via your phone when somebody walks through your yard or onto your porch. It also records video and audio of each event (a ringing of the bell or a motion detection) and stores it in the cloud for later review.

The Ring unit costs $199, and you can easily install it yourself. Below the 180 degree camera eye is a circular button surrounded by an LED ring. At the bottom is a speaker allowing you to chat with your friendly FedEx or UPS driver. The companion app is a free downlaod, as is the user account that lets you access the Ring’s features. The cloud storage runs $3 per month or $30 per year.

The Ring Video Doorbell doesn’t offer a live video feed or the ability to constantly record footage, but Ring does say it will allow remote camera access at some point in the future, so you can take a peek out your doorbell even when nothing triggers the camera.

Knock, Knock, Who’s There?
All the tools necessary for installation are included—even caulk and a miniature level. Before you mount the Ring, you charge it using USB (you’ll probably have to take it down and recharge it once per year) and connect it to your Wi-Fi network, which happens through the smartphone app. (Ring is set to release their next generation doorbell that would in place of your current wired bell.)

When someone presses the button on Ring, your smartphone begins to, well, ring. The same goes for the unit itself—it rings to let the person at your door know something is happening. Opening the notification brings up a live video feed, where you can Reject or Accept the invitation to interact.

Bodies in Motion
Using motion sensors built into the camera, Ring can alert you when someone is at your door before they even press the doorbell. This is especially useful when the UPS or FedEx driver leaves a package and refuses to ring your doorbell. Also, before the button is even pressed, Ring detects motion at your door and begins recording video. This makes it possible to view what happened at your door before the bell was pressed. This video recording feature can provide you with the peace of mind in knowing any activity at your door is being recorded – well worth the minimal monthly fee. Not to mention, you can download any of the videos to your mobile device for easy sharing with family members, or in the hopefully unlikely case where it’s necessary, the authorities.

Video of how the Ring Video Doorbell works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9TRo7JDxFg

Check out their product line: https://ring.com/products

Critical Apple Quicktime Vulnerability

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning to remove Apple’s QuickTime for Windows. The alert came in response to Trend Micro’s report of two security flaws in the software, which will never be patched because Apple has ended support for QuickTime for Windows.

Computers running QuickTime are open to increased risk of malicious attack or data loss, US-CERT warned, and remote attackers could take control of a victim’s computer system. US-CERT is part of DHS’ National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center.

“We alerted DHS because we felt the situation was broad enough that people having unpatched vulnerabilities on their system needed to be made aware,” said Christopher Budd, global threat communication manager at Trend Micro. The only mitigation available is to uninstall QuickTime for Windows,” US-CERT’s alert said.

Instructions from Apple can be found here: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT205771Apple has not discontinued security updates for QuickTime on Apple computer systems – just Windows based systems. It is not clear why Apple made the decision to end Windows support.

Zero Day Warning
Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative learned about the vulnerabilities from researcher Steven Seeley of Source Incite, who is named in the warning. ZDI then issued advisories detailing the critical vulnerabilities:

• The Apple QuickTime moov Atom Heap Corruption Remote Code Execution vulnerability allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code on vulnerable installations of QuickTime. The problem first came to ZDI’s attention late last year. The number of users at risk is unknown at this time.

• The QuickTime Atom Processing Heap Corruption Remote Code Execution Vulnerability allows an attacker to write data outside of an allocated heap buffer by providing an invalid index.

Software makers regularly retire applications, so it’s not unusual that QuickTime would be vulnerable. However, it was odd that Apple did not issue a public statement about ending its support for QuickTime for Windows and that the software was still available for download.

Increasing Software Vulnerability
QuickTime joins a growing list of software that is not supported any longer. That list includes Microsoft Windows XP and Oracle Java 6, which means users of those operating systems increasingly will be vulnerable to attack.

DHS didn’t have any comment to add to its alert, said spokesperson Scott McConnell, who referred questions to Apple. Apple did not respond to requests to comment for this story.

The warnings come amid recent reports about computer system vulnerabilities, including one issued just a few days ago about a vulnerability in Adobe’s Flash Player that could leave computers open to ransomware, which can lock up entire systems until an attacker is paid to release control.

 

Microsoft reveals upcoming Windows 10 features

Microsoft has published a Windows 10 roadmap for Business and Enterprise customers that reveals upcoming features of the operating system as well as a planned release month for the operating system’s Anniversary Update. Microsoft plans to release the Anniversary Update in July 2016.

While things may change depending on how development progresses, it is very likely that Microsoft will push out the free Anniversary Update to all Windows 10 devices around July 2016.

Upcoming Windows 10 Features

The list of features is probably what’s most interesting from a user’s and administrator’s point of view. While many are designed for Business or Enterprise use, some are available in all editions of the operating system.

Microsoft divides the feature listing into the categories “recently available”, “in public preview”, “in development” and canceled. The “recently available” and “canceled” categories are mysteriously empty from the official roadmap.

In Public Preview

These features are already part of Windows Insider builds or other preview builds of the operating system

Enterprise Data Protection: Designed to help prevent Enterprise data leaks, even on employee-devices. The feature ships with three protective modes: block, which analyzes activity and blocks employees from completing actions that would lead to inappropriate data sharing, override, which warning employees only, and silent, which logs but does not block or warn.
Multifactor authentication for apps and websites: Use Windows Hello or Microsoft Passport to authenticate to an application or website.
Microsoft Edge – Extensions: Extensions support for Microsoft Edge.
Microsoft Edge – Pinning Tabs: Options to pin tabs in the Microsoft web browser.


In Development

These features are currently in development and not available for public preview at this point in time.
Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection: A new service to help Enterprises respond to “advanced attacks” on their networks.
Enhancements to Microsoft Passport: Unclear at this point how these enhancements will look like.
Use your phone to unlock your Windows PC: Use a Windows or Android phone to unlock Windows 10 PCs, and authenticate with apps and services uses Windows Hello and Microsoft Passport.
Use Companion Device to unlock your Windows PC: Use devices like the Microsoft Band 2 for Microsoft Passport basic authentication. Can also become a second authentication factor to unlock Windows 10 PCs.
Touch screen support: Support for touch input when a phone that is compatible with Continuum is connected to a device connected to a touch monitor.
Laptop-like accessory support: Support for a new accessory that looks like a laptop but does not ship with CPU or operating system. Designed for use with Continuum-compatible phones to use the phone with a laptop-like experience.
Projecting on PCs: Continuum-supporting phones can not only be connected to standalone monitors or screens, but also to Windows 10 PCs.
Microsoft Edge – Web Notifications: Adds support for Web Notifications to Microsoft Edge.
PC to PC casting: Cast from one PC to another.
Windows Ink: New and improved support for pen and touch-enabled devices.
Cortana and Action Center Integration: Moves proactive Cortana notifications to the Action Center.
Remote Display Experience: Windows 10 IoT feature that provides you with options to connect devices without displays remotely to devices with displays.
Start Menu updates: Improvements to the start menu that make it easier to access all apps, and improve touch input support.
Picture in Picture: Windows Apps will get a new picture in picture mode.


Why this matters

Software makers tend not to talk about features that they’re still developing and could end up cancelling, but with Windows 10, Microsoft has tried to be more transparent and open to feedback.
Providing a glimpse at far-out features could help businesses plan their updates, and could also help Microsoft prioritize which of those features should come first.


What features would you like added to Windows 10?

 

Somebody’s Watching You

When you’re on Facebook, do you ever get the feeling that you’re being watched? An ad pops up that’s right up your alley, or three new articles show up in your feed that are similar to something you’ve just recently clicked on.

Sometimes it seems like Facebook knows you personally, and that’s because it does. It has algorithms that track what you like, watch and click on. Facebook uses this information to target ads to users on behalf of its paid advertisers.

Facebook itself isn’t the only culprit. Tons of companies use Facebook’s platform as a way to track you. In fact, right now there a probably dozens of companies that are watching your posts, storing your profile information and more, without you even realizing it.

How did this happen in the first place? When Facebook first started out, people rushed to join because of the many perks that it offered. One of those perks, and probably the most appealing, was the fact that Facebook was entirely ad-free. You could use the service to connect with family and friends without being bothered by someone trying to sell you something.

Well, like they say, “All good things must come to an end.” Eventually, Facebook began selling ads like everyone else. And that’s when everything changed.

People realized that Facebook provided a treasure trove of information for advertisers. By clicking “like” users were telling companies exactly what they wanted — more of this, less of that. This led to the big data tracking we now see.

Three sneaky ways companies are tracking you: Most people understand that Facebook is tracking their preferences whenever they use the app. But, few realize they’re being tracked in other ways too. And, that’s what these third-party companies are banking on. If you don’t know you’re being tracked, then you won’t ask them to stop.

Here’s three things to watch out for.

1: Facebook apps: This is when you receive a request to play a Facebook game your friends are obsessed with, and you decide to sign up. If you’ve ever done this before, then you’ve allowed that app developer to track you. These third-party apps integrate with your Facebook profile and can ask Facebook for permission to pull various personal data, from your work history to timeline posts. And although you can edit what information they can access, very few people do.

2: Facebook logins: This is when you visit a site and it says “Log in with Facebook,” and you do, then you’re letting that company track you.

3: Friends’ apps monitoring you: Even if you didn’t download an app, your Facebook settings may allow apps your friends have installed to also see YOU. It’s pretty scary.

You might be wondering why this even matters, and how it really impacts you personally. The easiest way to answer those questions is to point out all of those big data breaches you hear about almost daily. Hackers rarely waste time on individuals these days. They’ve got much bigger fish to fry. Large retailers, for example – or the databases where these third-party companies store the information they’ve gathered. That’s why everyone should take these steps to protect their private information.

Some Options To Help Stop The Tracking Madness:

Review and edit installed apps:
To see what apps you’ve installed over the years, open Facebook in your browser, click the down arrow in the upper right corner and select “Settings.” Then click on the “Apps” header in the left column.

To see what information an app is accessing, click the pencil icon next to any of the apps to see and edit the settings. The first setting lets you set who can see that you use the app. It defaults to “Only Me,” so it isn’t a big deal. Below it, however, is another story.

In the case of Skype, for example, it pulls your public profile information along with your list of friends, email address, birthday and hometown.

Remember that this information is being stored on a third-party server. Not every app developer is going to have Microsoft-level security, and hackers are good at turning tiny pieces of stolen information into big gains.

If you want to keep using the app, you can deselect certain items, such as your email address. Be aware that won’t remove the information from the app developer’s servers, however. If you change your email address in the future, however, the developer won’t get the new one.

Remove apps you don’t use: If you don’t want to use the app anymore, you can click the “Remove app” link at the bottom of the page. Just remember that this won’t automatically remove your information from the app developer’s servers. For that you’ll need to contact the app developer directly. Facebook has a link for more information on this under the “Remove info collected by the app” section in the app’s settings.

Turn off apps completely: If you’ve deleted all the apps, and you’re not keen on accidentally installing more in the future, you can turn off the app platform completely. Just note you won’t be able to install apps or log in to third-party sites using Facebook until you turn this back on.

To turn off the app platform, go back to the App Settings page. Under “Apps, Websites and Plugins,” click the “Edit” button. At first, this just looks like a way to disable app notifications and invites from other people, which is a big help on its own. However, you’ll want to click the “Disable Platform” link in the bottom left corner.

Facebook gives you their standard warning about what disabling the platform does. If you’re OK with it, click the “Disable Platform” button. Unfortunately, this won’t remove information that app developers might have collected about you already.

Stop logging into sites using Facebook: In the future, when you’re adding an app or logging into a website try to avoid logging in with your Facebook account. But, if you must use Facebook to log in, then look for the “Log in Anonymously” or “Guest” option so it won’t share your information.

Stop friends’ apps from seeing your info: Apps can still get your information through your friends. As your friends install apps, those apps can request permission to get info about you.

To put a stop to this, go back to the App Settings page. Then under “Apps Others Use” click the “Edit” button. You’ll see everything that your friends’ apps can see about you. Go through and uncheck every option listed on the page, and then click “Save.” Now companies can’t track new information about you.

It’s up to each of us to monitor and maintain what information we want shared with others. I’m sure you’ll be very surprised when you log in and check your Facebook app settings.

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