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Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cell Phone Security Part 1

Last summer I spoke at a conference of trainers for the National Network to End Domestic Violence. One of topics of interest was cell phone security. After reading so many news stories lately about cell phone hacking I thought it was important to renew this topic. Most of the tips still apply today.


One important thing to remember is your cell phone or Blackberry is a computer. It stores your personal data and is designed to communicate easily with the world. Proper use includes keeping your data backed up regularly and keeping it secure. One of the common ways your cell phone or smart phone communicate is using technology called Bluetooth. Just like your computer, you should know about the following.


· Discovery Mode
This is a special mode that allows you to sync or pair up two devices that provide Bluetooth communications. In discovery mode information about your cell phone is readily available to Bluetooth scanners. In most new phones, when you turn on Discovery mode it will only be available for a short time frame. While this sometimes makes it a pain to pair up devices it’s a great safety feature. Your phone should never remain in Discovery Mode.


· Keep your Phone to yourself
Don’t let others mess around with your phone. Every phone has a physical Bluetooth network address which can’t be changed. Someone checking out your phone can find this numeric address and use it to communicate with your phone even when it’s not in discovery mode. This unique number can not be changed and will look something like 11:1A:D9:EB:11:C7


· Passwords
Just like on your computer your password should not be 1234 or your birthday. It should not be your address, pets name or the same as your ATM pin.


· Unsoliticated Connection Requests
Don’t be shocked if you receive a request to connect for an update or what looks like a news story or free ringtone. It’s very possible this could be an illegitimate attempt at a pairing. If you do get an unsolicited request reply No. If it appears to come from your phone company, you can always call them directly to confirm.


· Update your firmware
Again, just like on your computer, you should regularly connect to your phone vendor and see if any “firmware” updates are available. It’s possible that some kind of security hole was found in your phone’s software and a firmware update could be needed to repair it.


· Encryption
When syncing up your address book or or other data with your computer check to see if encryption is available. This may require you to remember another password but it’s a good idea. While Bluetooth data is designed to only be available in short distances there are long range antenna’s out there which have the ability to read Bluetooth data from a distance.


In part two I’ll review some of the most recent hacker techniques and what products are available that might be able to protect you.


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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Apple's Future is still the MacIntosh

Overall it's been a good week for Apple although sales of the iPhone didn't meet expectations. Apple (AAPL) reported quarterly revenue of $5.41 billion dollars which is its 2nd highest in its history. The sale of 1.7 million Macs accounted for 55% as opposed to last years 29.7% piece of the Apple Pie. Apple is now in a tie for 3rd place with Gateway for sales of computers in the US.

Like its revenue, Apple's image is the best it has been in many years. People love the iPod and its polished company image is one of the reasons for an increase in Macintosh sales. It also hasn't hurt that nobody has been standing in lines to get Windows Vista. It appears that 8–9% of my readers are using Vista but that number hasn’t changed much.

The iPhone sales may have been a national event 2nd only to Paris Hilton going to jail, but only half of the expected half million units were sold. AT&T reported Tuesday that 146,000 phone have been activated as of June 30th. That’s not bad, but doesn’t match up with Apples claim of 270,000 phones sold through their stores. Perhaps, a lot of them were purchased to sell on eBay.

I predict that iPod, Mac and MacBook sales are going to continue to grow and will provide a healthy fiscal orchard for Apple. Now that the hype for iPhone has subsided I doubt Apple will meet their goal for 1 million iPhone sales this quarter and 10 million by the end of 2008. It will be interesting to see if the iPhone has the same impact on Apple as the Xbox has had on Microsoft.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Do I need Apple Mobile Device Service?

As often as possible, I like to review the list of programs that our WinPatrol members are asking for PLUS Info on. This gives me a good idea of what programs have suddenly been appearing on a users system often without their knowledge.


Most of this year the number one PLUS Info request has been about “GoogleToolbarNotifier.exe”. This little program pops up now and then especially since so many new machines are coming with the Google Toolbar pre-installed. Click here for our PLUS Info


This week a new Windows “service” has suddenly appeared in our top ten. When users upgrade to iTunes 7.3, it comes with a new Automatic Service just in case you’re the proud owner of an iPhone. The file is named “AppleMobileDeviceService.exe” and can be found in your list of Services either using WinPatrol or Services.msc which comes with Windows. Apple says, it “Provides the interface to Apple mobile devices.

It only takes up 3,640K of memory when at rest but if you don’t have an iPhone you really don’t need it. You can stop it with WinPatrol and set it to Manual startup. You’ll also find it under the list of programs in the Add/Remove Control Panel applet so it can be removed completely from there.

To add insult to injury, Apple also just tried to change my default MP3 player to iTunes

Give me a break Apple. This is yet another example of companies who think they can just take over your whole machine. I’m obviously biased but you can protect yourself by downloading WinPatrol for free. If you’re not sure a program can be removed, upgrade to WinPatrol PLUS.


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Friday, June 29, 2007

When Will I Get My iPhone?

I know you’re all saturated with iPhone buzz and most of you don’t really care but being an early adopter type, everyone seems to be asking me when I’ll be getting my iPhone.

The answer is probably never. Personally, I don’t have need for an iPhone. The only reason for me to get one is to look cool, and that’s not an issue. If I did plan on getting an iPhone it wouldn’t be today. Most likely the only reason I’d pick up an iPhone is to create some kind of protection software. It won’t be long before someone finds the first iPhone security flaw. I did check and sure enough someone has parked the domain name of iPatrol.com. Smile and the whole world smiles with you

There’s more iPhone news online than anyone can handle but my favorite is still a video from my friend David Pogue. He’s a funny guy and while he’s been accused of being a little too Apple friendly, he’s quick to point out the biggest iPhone flaw.

Click here for Pogue Video

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