Coronavirus Contact Tracing

So now we are in the middle of this pandemic. In the face of this, Google and Apple has joined forces to supply contact tracing. They will be releasing software to automatically and autonomously log all the people you have been in contact with. It uses Bluetooth to collect (encrypted) codes but it doesn’t know the identity of the person. The codes stay on your phone while you remain anonymous.

Apps can be built on the API they make that can do what needs to be done with the codes but you will have to give permissions. Contact tracing is used to try to keep coronavirus at bay. This will help find those who are positive stay quarantined during their contagious period and find those they have contacted before they were symptomatic.

Having Apple and Google on this, will ensure their respective OS systems can be ready for this. They have only built a way to collect and make alerts. It is up to healthcare/governments to build the app to handle the information.

May the Force (4th) Be With You!

Today is May 4th and many promos may say “May the 4th be with you” as play on words of a popular line from Star Wars. So where did this punny way of saying it come from?

An early use comes from an ad in the London Evening News on May 4th in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher was first elected as British Prime Minister. The ad read “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations.”

It was used a second time in 1994 when Harry Cohen of the parliament made a joke in the House of Commons. In 2008, groups celebrated “Luke Skywalker Day” with the same phrase. It has been more popular since 2011 when the Star Wars Day event at the Toronto Underground Cinema.

May 4th is considered “Star Wars Day”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars_Day

Why Are People Still Using Zoom?

Since the last time we mentioned Zoom, it seems there have been alerts put out there asking people to stop using it. There are numerous problems with it. Sure, it is probably the easiest meeting software for non-technical people to use but the security is what has people up in arms.

So what is the problem? There are a few. Even last summer they found there was software used to bypass security to be able to launch it in a few clicks. This also makes it easy for hackers to start webcams and watch users without them knowing. The other bad thing is this bug remained even after the user uninstalls Zoom. Apple has removed this component by issuing a force-deployed update to every Mac in the world.

There are other things. Zoom can use your private video calls and sell ads. What if you are using Zoom to speak with your therapist? What kind of ads will they be marketing?

Another thing that was “fixed” was the fact that Zoom was sending user info to Facebook. That has since been fixed in an update.

To see more about this:
OneZero.medium.com
Tidbits.com

Here is a light-hearted parody of the Zoom security issues:

Some Ways Covid-19 has Changed the World

There are too many ways to count how this pandemic has changed the world. Here in America, it is like life has come to a stand-still. Many establishments are closed including schools, churches, libraries, dine-in restaurants, to name a few. Sometimes while we wallow in our own self-pity, we forget how it is affecting others, especially children, teenagers, and college students who are missing once in a lifetime milestones. We want to talk about how tech can be used to help.

First, the high school seniors are missing out on prom. Some have taken the initiative to try to have a virtual prom on Instagram or TikTok.

One college in Japan is holding their graduation via robots. The robots, dressed in cap and gown, have the students faces via Zoom showing their faces where the robot faces would be.

Our church has been able to bring services weekly during this crisis by keeping band members at least 6 feet apart. We were streaming every week anyway so we had everything in place for this to begin with. Our small groups have all moved to using online virtual meetings using software such as Webex or Zoom.

There are also new cautions about using Zoom. You need to make sure your settings are set up correctly as it could be hacked. Meetings are being “Zoombombed” and intruders putting in awful posts and images.

Zoom vs Skype vs Webex

We need to follow our government orders and stay at home. Many of us are fortunate enough be able to work from home, some already having been working remotely. Some of us already have some favorite tools to use. I only need a chat program but a lot of them have gone by the wayside: AIM, Googletalk, Yahoo messenger, Windows Live messenger, to name a few. ICQ is still around but who can stand “UH OH” every time a message comes in? Some messengers come with many more tools such as Slack.

Some groups or workforces need to have meetings where everyone can be in on the call. With the Covid-19 pandemic people are looking for ways to meet. Most people these days are using Zoom. ZDNet saw the trend of people using Zoom and did an informal survey to find out why people were Zooming and not Skyping.

Here is what they found out:

It seems that Zoom is easier to use, especially for non-technical people.

Next, they found people found Skype buggy, especially the apps.

Third issue was spam. Unless you have your settings locked down, you will be contacted by a lot of people you don’t know, or people trying to sell or get you to do something.

Webex, by Cisco, is a little trickier for some to use. They recently enhanced their free tier to allow up to 100 participants in each meeting instead of 50; they have allowed the meetings to be as long as you want up from 40 minute limit.

Some organizations that have regular meetings, like Bible studies or other meetings have had to find alternate ways to meet. Personally, we have tried Skype but as mentioned above, there were too many issues. We have moved to Webex ourselves.

I have not personally used Zoom but have signed up on their site and it does look very easy to use for small meetings. Zoom has up to 100 participants in a meeting, 40 minute limits but unlimited number of meetings. There are plans that cost money for each of the video conferencing software programs with added features like cloud storage, recording transcriptions, numbers of users, ways to connect, for example.

Charges are usually per host. So if you have one lead person hosting each meeting, that will be the only charge. Webex charges go from $13.50/month to $26.95/month. Zoom paid plans start at $14.99/month to $19.99/month/host minimum 10 hosts or 50 hosts for the business plan. Skype is free up to 50 people for video calls.

ZDNET article

To Track or Not to Track

Zachary McCoy, a restaurant worker in Florida, received a surprising email from Google. Google’s legal support team was letting him know that the local police department demanded some of his Google account data. Unless he tried to block it in court, they would release the data in seven days.

Not knowing what he had done, but noticing a case number, he began to search for the information. He found there was a burglary of a woman’s home within a mile of his and his roommates’ house. Knowing he had nothing to do with this, he contacted his parents who in turn hired a lawyer for him.

Their lawyer found out that they were looking for a “geofence warrant,” which just sweeps up all Google data from all GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi connections nearby.

It turns out that McCoy uses an app on his phone called RunKeeper to record his bike rides. He found he passed by the victim’s home a few times within one hour, which is actually part of his normal frequent loops he makes all the time.

Even if you are innocently using your apps with GPS that keep track of your activities, you may be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Read the full article

Passwords…Again!

Yes, they are a pain. All the requirements to have minimum characters, numbers, symbols, lower case, upper case, where does it all end? Well for now it doesn’t. The Portland, Oregon division of the FBI has recommendations for passwords and security.

Some people seem not to care about passwords and just make a simple one to get them into a site. They reuse passwords for multiple sites without changing them. Sometimes there are a couple favorites they just use over and over again. If they are asked to change them out, they just rotate the same ones around.

So back to the recommendations of the FBI. They recommend using passphrases. This would be three or four totally unrelated words strung together. You still may need to add special characters or numbers or capitals with some sites like banks, but you can slip in between words if that makes it easier for you. If you need help, try out this passphrase generator.

Read the full FBI article

Malwarebytes 2020 Report

We talked about Malwarebytes a few years ago. Back then, it was mostly PC users that worried about malware and exploits. Well, in their latest reports–surprise, surprise–Malwarebytes reports that in 2019, they saw a 400% rise in MAC exploits! That is a significant change from previous years.

Many of the malware items are called PUPs-Potentially Unwanted Programs. Many of them need to be quarantined. Malwarebytes scans for those as well as PUMs-Potentially Unwanted Modifications. For a PC, PUMs could be found either in the registry or in a browser setting.

Read the report (PDF)

Source

Avast Caveats

Do you use Avast antivirus programs? It has come to light that they harvested user data and sold the information collected to a firm called Jumpshot who in turn sold to other companies: Google, Microsoft, Intuit, to name a few. This pertains to both PCs and Macs. This includes both free and premium services. So while you are trying to protect your privacy and data, Avast is going behind your back and selling your data and privacy.

To be fair, you have the option to opt-in to allow some user data to be collected, but you are not really told how or what is being used. The data collected includes location lookups, searches, YouTube video listings, Google Maps, LinkedIn, and various others.

Think twice before you download a free or even paid software. Don’t allow them to collect information.

Source

Do You Really Own What You Think You Own?

Wow – that sounds confusing. And it is. You purchase something you think is good tech only to find out it is no longer usable. The Victor crew came across this article and it is true. Many things no longer work because it is no longer supported.

For instance, in 2011, Lenovo came out with an Android tablet IdeaPad K1. So that Christmas, I treated myself to one. I went all out and bought the keyboard, a nice leather case, and carrier. I was set. About 6 months later, I find out it will no longer get updates of Android and they left us with and Android 4.0 update to flash on it which would wipe out any customizations ore even any apps on it. I did flash it but the hardware now is old enough it probably won’t run much anymore.

Another example is HP Printers. For some printers to print, you HAVE to be enrolled in their InstantInk program or they can remotely disable your printer.

Back to the article. It is about Sonos. Sonos announced they will stop sending security and software updates to their legacy systems. Products introduced between 2005 and 2011 are considered legacy. People are being offered a 30% discount to trade in their old systems, however, they put the item into a 21 day countdown before goint to “recycle mode”. Once in this mode, it cannot be used or repurposed without their permission.

It would be nice to know the expiration dates of our devices, whether it is security updates, general software updates, or when they think the hardware will no longer work.

Source

Amazon Sidewalk

The Victor crew recently heard of Amazon Sidewalk and wonder what this is about. Let’s find out.

Most homes have devices using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. It may be to steam music, use a home camera system, maybe your appliances hook up to an app. Depending on your home systems, you might be maxing out or using all your available connections.

Amazon sidewalk wants to extend the range of low-bandwidth, low-power devices. Their new protocol hopes to increase the connection range. This will enable you to use smart devices anywhere on your property where Wi-Fi and Bluetooth usually can’t reach. They are utilizing a 900 MHz spectrum to help devices communicate. The 900 Hz spectrum has been around for a long time. It is the same used for cordless telephones which some of you may still have at home.

More practical applications would include getting notified when the mail is delivered, when to water your lawn through sensors, or even extending Amazon Fetch – a small device you can put on your pet’s collar and limit your pet to your yard using Ring.

Learn more

Contract for the Web

Do you realize there are many people who still cannot connect to the Internet? For most of us, all we need to do is pull out our cell phone and we are online. For those who cannot, there is a plan of action globally to try to ensure everyone a chance to connect.

This objective, spurred by Sir Tim Berners-Lee who implemented HTTP and is the founder of the World Wide Web Foundation and director of the World Wide Web Consortium, is to join governments, companies, organizations, and individuals in an effort to allow all people to be able to go online free from the fear, abuse, privacy violations we are seeing now.

Some of the principles:
Ensure everyone can connect to the Internet
Keep the Internet available all the time
Respect and protect online privacy and personal data
Make the internet affordable and accessible to all
Develop technologies that support the best in humanity while challenging the worst.
Create and collaborate on the Internet

You can also join in the contract by sharing your email to be updated.

Find out more

Account Safety/Ring Camera

The Ring Camera system has recently been in the news because it can be hacked easily and one person hacked has filed a lawsuit against the owner, Amazon.

It seems that in plain terms, the authentication used by the family was not robust enough. Ring does offer two-factor authentication that can help prevent this from happening.

Many people fail to use two-factor authentication to begin with because they don’t really understand what it is. Once again we are urging people to get a password manager and use two-factor authentication where possible.

What two-factor authentication does is alert you to the fact a new device is trying to log into your account. If you don’t have two-factor enabled and have a weak password for ANYTHING, you are just asking to be hacked. Be safe and make it priority in 2020 to up your security game.

Kids these days…

This year’s top earning YouTuber with $26 million is 8-year-old Ryan Kaji. This young man has made his money as an “influencer” with his unboxing of toys. His channel was originally called “Ryan Toy Review” and was expanded to more than just unboxing. He uploads a new video every day. His channel is now called “Ryan’s World” and has 23 million subscribers.

Ryan has his own Wikipedia page: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryan%27s_World

This is his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/

Here is his latest video:

Check this out before buying a new Smart TV

New Smart TV on your Christmas list? Be careful of what features you get on your TV. Specifically the ones with cameras or microphones built in. They could be used to spy on you according to the FBI.

Smart TVs connect to the Internet in order to update, download apps, connect through the apps. Some of the newer ones have built-in cameras for facial recognition so they can suggest your favorite programming. Microphones are generally used for voice control for the remotes to change channels.

If your Smart TV is unsecured, hackers can listen and watch you as well, or take control of the TV. If you can’t turn off the camera, consider using black tape over the lens. Make sure to keep the software updated.

If you are victimized by any fraud on the Internet, contact the IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center).

Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday is here and there sure are a lot of deals out there. From Oculus Go to Instant Pot, the deals were phenomenal.

On amazon.com, Oculus Go went pretty quickly for a low price of $119.00 for the 32GB version with a timed lightning deal. Regular price they are selling for now on amazon.com is $149.00. It was a little more for the 65GB version.

Once again Instant Pot made a big splash with the 8-qt version selling for about $64. There are many other deals to be had.

Kohls.com was offering $15 Kohl’s Cash for every $50 spent + $10 off + 20% off. Alaska Airlines had fares starting at $39 one way. Even some museums and zoos had membership deals. Whatever the deal is you are looking for be sure to check for deals first!

PayPal to Buy Honey

Hopefully by now you’ve heard of Honey. It is a browser extension you add to your browser. When you are on a shopping site, such as Amazon.com or Kohls.com, it will appear near the price and tell you if the price is a good deal. If not, it will show you other places where there are better prices.

When you put things in a shopping cart, it will run through a bunch of store codes and try to find a deal for you.

I have used it a few times. Here’s a caveat: on one site, I had gotten there through a special link that added a discount to my full order. During checkout, it went ahead and ran through the codes and couldn’t find any. In the process, the 25% discount I started with disappeared and I was left with a higher price. In this case, I closed my browser and came back to the site through that link. Seeing the discount back in the cart, I was able to check out with my discount.

What has people perplexed is the price PayPal is paying to acquire Honey: $4 billion dollars. They plan to accelerate Honey’s growth by driving adoption among Paypal and Venmo users.

Find out more about this acquisition: https://investor.paypal-corp.com/news-releases/news-release-details/paypal-acquire-honey

Let “My People” Go

It was recently reported that Microsoft was going to stop development and in the future remove the My People app from Windows version 1909. Some other changes are the Driver model for Remote Desktop.

Full list of Windows 10 features no longer being developed: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/deployment/planning/windows-10-deprecated-features

Full list of features that have been removed: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/deployment/planning/windows-10-removed-features

It kind of reminds me of the old song, “Let My People Go”. This phrase was first spoken by Moses in Exodus when he was trying to get Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt.

CNET Suggestions…

Don’t buy Amazon devices before November 22. Echo, Kindle, and Fire devices/tvs go on sale. This is one week before the actual Black Friday.

Here are some of the prices you can expect:
Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet: starting at $50 – savings of $30. Add $15 if you do not want offers on the lock screen.
Amazon Fire 8 Kids Edition tablet: $80 – savings of $50.
All-new Amazon Fire 7 tablet: starting at $30 – savings of $20.
Amazon Fire 7 Kids Edition tablet: $60 – savings of $40.
Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet: starting at $100 – savings $50.
Kindle Paperwhite: starting at $85 – savings of $45.
Fire TV stick 4k with Alexa voice remote: $25 – save $25
Fire TV stick with Alexa voice remote: $20 – save $20
Amazon Fire TV Cube: $90 – savings of $30.

November 27 will have some more savings
Ring Indoor Camera 2-pack: $100 – save $40.
Blink XT2 3-cam system (weatherproof security camera): $185 – save $65.
Amazon Smart Plug: will be offered bundled with many products for just $5 – a savings of $20!

November 28 you can get Echo speakers and smart displays
Amazon Echo Dot (third-gen): $22 for a savings of $28
Echo Dot with clock: $35 – save $25
Amazon Echo (second-gen): $60 – save $40.
Amazon Echo Show 5: $50 – savings of $40.
Amazon Echo Show (2nd-gen): $150 – save $80
Echo Auto: $25 – save $25.

Find out more about these amazing deals on CNet

Fitbit is Being Sold

So apparently Fitbit will belong to Google. Google was looking to expand their wearables division. Google has already been in this space with Google Wear OS and Google Fit. This will help bring together Fitbit’s technology with Google’s. The deal will cost Google about $2.1 billion. The deal is expected to be finished in 2020.

Fitbit, a pioneer in the fitness tracking industry, had already devised wearable smartwatches with their fitness tracker built in. The Versa2 Smartwatch has Alexa built in, as well as Spotify, a sleep tracker, heart-rate tracker, Fitbit pay, and various other apps. We can only speculate whether or not that will change in the future, especially about Alexa vs the Google assistant. It starts at $199.95.

The Fitbit Versa Lite Edition Smartwatch has heart-rate tracking, sleep tracking, apps and notifications and starts at $159.95. The Fitbit Ionic Smartwatch has personal coaching, built-in GPS, can store music, track heart-rate. It runs $249.95.

Other products are trackers: Charge 3 costs $149.95; Inspire starts at $69.95; Ace 2 for kids starts at $69.95 and is for ages 6+. In addition they also have Aria scales (Aria Air and Aria 2). Aria 2 will costs $129.95 while Aria Air is $49.95. They connect through apps to the fitness trackers as well. You can also accessorize your trackers and watches with a variety of different bands.

Source: Google
Source: Fitbit

Saved by a Watch

So recently there was a news article about how an Apple watch saved a biker. The biker was on a ride in Washington when he flipped his bike. He landed head-first on the pavement and was rendered unconscious. His Apple watch sensed the impact and called 911.

His son was waiting for him and received a text from the watch to notify him it detected a hard fall and sent a map with his location. By the time he got there, his dad was already gone and on his way to the hospital. His son received the message because he was listed as an emergency contact on the phone.

Apple iPhone 11

You probably already know from the Apple announcement event last week that they have already announced the upcoming iPhone series 11. There is the 11 and the 11 Pro.

So what makes the new phone different? Let’s delve into the new features.

iPhone 11: The iPhone 11 has a new dual-camera system – this gives you the option of wide or ultra-wide shots. The iPhone 11 will handle up to 17 hours of video playback. The iPhone 11 has the same 6.1″ Liquid Retina HD display as previous models. It is made from aerospace-grade aluminum. It comes in light purple, yellow, mint green, black, white, and (PRODUCT)RED.

iPhone 11 Pro: The iPhone 11 Pro will have a third camera for telephoto shots in addition to the wide and ultra-wide cameras. The Pro version will handle up to 20 hours of video playback. The iPhone 11 Pro comes in two sizes featuring 5.8″ or 6.5″ Super Retina XDR display. It is made from stainless steel. The colors are midnight green, silver, space gray, or gold.

Find out more here: https://www.apple.com/iphone/

Here is a video from The Verge highlighting the event:

For Your Entertainment – Microsoft the Musical

Here is a video of a walk through the years of Microsoft. In Microsoft the Musical, where they say “It’s all happening here!,” 150 interns spent their free time outside work hours (mornings, evenings, weekends) making this video in eight weeks from start to finish.

It brings you on a journey of Bill Gates and what he achieved. They acknowledge the problem with Vista, as well as the Windows Phone. Their mission is to empower every person to achieve more.

Deepfakes

We’ve been seeing this word a lot lately. Let’s delve into what it is and what it means.

According to whatis.techtarget.com, it is an AI-based technology. It is used to alter videos to show something that didn’t happen. It comes from a Reddit user who changed clips of celebrities and used regular people in these clips.

So this is not just pasting your face over a celebrity image but rather using AI technology to create the clips making it even more polished.

This article from CNN has a lot of information that shows how this technology is made. It also sounds the warning of what may happen regarding the political atmosphere in our country concerning deepfakes.

Many celebrities are concerned about deepfakes because people have swapped their image onto porn films, thus invading their privacy and making something that didn’t happen go on social or other media.

Here is a video from Nova/PBS

Here is a TedTalk by Supasorn Suwajanakorn

Scamming a Scammer

Canadian bitcoin expert Ben Perrin was recently approached by a bitcoin scammer. He promised he could double his money every 24 hours. They didn’t know they were dealing with a YouTuber that actually teaches about bitcoin and cryptocurrency.

He decided to play along and see what they were claiming. In a turnaround, Perrin got the scammer to deposit $50 dollars into his wallet as he was pretending not to know what to do. Bitcoin deposits are irreversible so he was surprised the scammer sent the money. Perrin then donated the money to charity.

See the full video along with CBC’s interview with Perrin.