Your Next Computer Might Be a Phone

Do you find yourself using your phone or tablet more and more instead of the computer on your desk? You’re not alone! If you know anything about me, you know that I like to take frequent road trips. It doesn’t matter if I’m in Denver or Manhattan; as long as I have my iPhone with me, I can continue to make appointments for Chris, follow up with our awesome clients, or internet research. With my new tablet, I can do still more, like updating spreadsheets and even write our blog. Our son recently purchased the new iPhone 6 which reviewers are calling a phablet – a phone AND a tablet. He has no need for a “real” computer and can do any necessary technology on his new phone.

Wired Magazine has come to the same conclusion in this article, although they do think it may take another few years.

“But thanks to increased processing power, better battery life, vastly improved networking speeds, and larger screen sizes on mobile devices, the shift away from the desktop is accelerating.

“Will we always need a desktop? No, not all of us will,” says consumer trends industry expert and Kantar Worldwide’s chief researcher, Carolina Milanesi. “Some of us already don’t.” “

The article concludes with this thought:

“But paired with a monitor and a Bluetooth keyboard at work, or streaming over Wi-Fi to a TV set at home, in a few years, there’s no real reason why, for the vast majority of us, a smartphone couldn’t handle all our daily computing needs.”

There are a few downsides to not having a “real” computer. A full sized keyboard that actually plugs in is one that comes to mind. Geek For Hire has seen so many issues with wireless keyboards & mice, from connection problems to bad batteries, I have a hard time recommending their use.

Another downside is no CD/DVD player. For someone who gets all of their music and entertainment online, that’s not a killer issue. I still buy CD’s, so that is an issue for me!

Finally, please remember that your SmartPhone is a computer. It doesn’t matter what the size is or what you’re using it for. Just like your PC or Mac, please install an anti-virus and keep the anti-virus up-to-date.  Just because you have an iPhone made by Apple doesn’t mean you’re immune to malware and viruses.  Ransomware is one of the biggest new threats facing your technology of every size as this little girl from Tennessee found out.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years.  He is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service to the Denver/ Boulder/ Front Range area.  They can provide remote service throughout North America.

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Car-Hacking…

I read an interesting report released by Senator Markey last month.  His office was concerned that appropriate measures were not being taken to secure cars and trucks on American highways.  With most modern cars having built in WiFi, Bluetooth and other technology, they wondered what happened to the collected data, and how vulnerable the cars were to outside influence.  Turns out they were right to be concerned.

Here are their key findings:

  1. “Nearly 100% of cars on the market include wireless technologies that could pose vulnerabilities to hacking or privacy intrusions.
  2. Most automobile manufacturers were unaware of or unable to report on past hacking incidents.
  3. Security measures to prevent remote access to vehicle electronics are inconsistent and haphazard across all automobile manufacturers, and many manufacturers did not seem to understand the questions posed by Senator Markey.
  4. Only two automobile manufacturers were able to describe any capabilities to diagnose or meaningfully respond to an infiltration in real-time, and most say they rely on technologies that cannot be used for this purpose at all.
  5. Automobile manufacturers collect large amounts of data on driving history and vehicle performance.
  6. A majority of automakers offer technologies that collect and wirelessly transmit driving history data to data centers, including third-party data centers, and most do not describe effective means to secure the data.
  7. Manufacturers use personal vehicle data in various ways, often vaguely to “improve the customer experience” and usually involving third parties, and retention policies – how long they store information about drivers – vary considerably among manufacturers.
  8. Customers are often not explicitly made aware of data collection and, when they are, they often cannot opt out without disabling valuable features, such as navigation.”

Most striking to me was this sentence:

“The diversity of responses received by Senator Markey shows that each manufacturer is handling the introduction of new technology in very different ways, and for the most part these actions are insufficient to ensure security and privacy for vehicle consumers.”

While it’s unlikely that a particular car will be targeted for hacking, the privacy issue is concerning to me. Read your manual or check with your dealer to see if there is a way to turn off data collection. It may be as simple as turning off your GPS feature, but check with your dealer to be sure.  If you have an older car without GPS, OnStar, Bluetooth, etc., you likely do not have to worry about this.

Here is the Press Release from Senator Markey’s office along with a link to the original report: http://www.markey.senate.gov/news/press-releases/markey-report-reveals-automobile-security-and-privacy-vulnerabilities

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years.  He is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service to the Denver/ Boulder/ Front Range area.  They can provide remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet, but I’m tempted!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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Gone Phishing

No matter how tightly your computer is locked down, phishing continues to be an issue. Your anti-virus and/or email program will identify some of the culprits, but, because the phishers are always evolving, they can’t identify all of them. That’s why it’s important for you to be able to identify phishing attacks yourself!

What is “Phishing”?:

Phishing is defined very well by this Wikipedia article:

“Phishing is the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Communications purporting to be from popular social web sites, auction sites, banks, online payment processors or IT administrators are commonly used to lure unsuspecting public. Phishing emails may contain links to websites that are infected with malware. Phishing is typically carried out by email spoofing or instant messaging, and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one.”

Phone Calls:

  • Your “bank” calls you to tell you about some unusual activity on your account and asks you to confirm your birthday.
  • “Microsoft” calls you to tell you that your machine is out of date or has a virus and asks if they can access your machine to “fix” it.

Emails:

  • Your bank sends you an email stating that someone has tried to access your online account. They’d like you to click on a link to prove that you’re you.
  • The IRS sends you an email saying you have a refund coming.
  • Yellow Pages needs to update your ad, when you’re not advertising with them.
  • You get an email from yourself. (This is common. I get a lot of emails *from myself* asking if I want to purchase a product!
  • Your insurance company asks you to click on a link for a new free service.
  • Here’s an example of a phishing email I got the other day. It’s from a person I don’t know who wants me to open a Google document. The email program I use, Thunderbird, shows me where the link included in the document will take me. Notice that it is NOT a Google website! (Google docs always start with https://docs.google.com/…and.then.the.document.file.name ) Even if you don’t use Thunderbird, you can still hover your mouse over the link and most email programs will show you the full link.20150206 example of phishing email

Listen to your spider sense!

Even if everything looks okay, but you get a tingling sensation that it might not be, pay close attention. If you get *any* indication that the email is not from who it says it’s from, do some investigation. Is it supposedly from a friend? Call or text them and ask if they sent it? Is it from your bank? Call the number you have for your bank and ask!

Recent Phishing Scams:

IRS Warns of Phishing Tax Scams, Fake Emails

Anthem Warns Customers About “Phishing” Email Scam

Phishing Scam Spoofs BBB questionnaire; Businesses Warned Not to Click

Email Scam Alert from UC-Santa Cruz

What to Look For:

Every email & text that you receive should receive the once-over by you. Are you expecting that text / email / phone call? Are there misspellings? Are the links directed to where they say they are going? Is the grammar correct? Every unexpected phone call from an “authority” should be treated with suspicion, until you’ve determined their authenticity.

Be Safe out there Folks!

Make sure your anti-virus is always up to date and be careful of what information you provide to third parties. (If you do happen to inadvertently download a malware program, run your anti-virus right away.)

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years.  He is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service to the Denver/ Boulder/ Front Range area.  They can provide remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet, but I’m tempted!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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