IT Support and Hardware for Clinics
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IT Support and Hardware for Clinics
News, Information and Updates on Hardware and IT Tools to help improve your Medical practice
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Smartphone thefts drop as kill switch usage grows

Smartphone thefts drop as kill switch usage grows | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Phone theft used to be a growth industry. The snatch-and-run stealing of iPhones even had its own clever moniker: Apple picking. But such thefts might be in decline. Last year, 2.1 million Americans had phones stolen, according to a nationally representative survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. (Another 3.1 million smartphones were lost.) In 2013, about 3.1 million phones were stolen, according to our previous survey.

The two Consumer Reports surveys employed slightly different methodology, which could account for some of the drop, but there is other evidence of a decline—and the trend might accelerate now that Android devices seem poised to embrace kill switches, which allow you to deactivate your stolen or lost phone. 

Smartphones have allowed users to remotely wipe their data for years. But in 2013 prosecutors across the country started calling for technologies that disable, or “brick,” stolen phones to deter thieves from stealing them for resale overseas. Minnesota and California both passed laws requiring manufacturers to make progress on installing anti-theft features by July 1, 2015.

Apple is well ahead of the deadline. After the company added a kill switch to its Find My iPhone app in 2013, police departments around the country reported that iPhone thefts dropped. Then, Activation Lock became a default feature last fall with the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Samsung also added a kill switch—called Reactivation Lock—to a few phone models in 2013. But, in general, Android phones haven’t had the technology. To protect their devices, consumers had to download aftermarket security apps.

Many expected Android Lollipop 5.0 to resolve that problem in late 2014, but manufacturers didn’t implement the kill switch, presumably because of performance issues. Now, all eyes are trained on Lollipop 5.1, due to roll out this summer. Given the helter-skelter, one-off approach phone companies take to their mobile operating systems, however, it will be a long time before a kill switch comes to all Android models.

The technology could eventually save U.S. consumers $3.4 billion,according to calculations by William Duckworth, a statistics and data science professor at Creighton University. (His 2014 study included the costs of replacing handsets and a portion of the money consumers spend on phone insurance.)

Kill switches aside, many phone owners do an abysmal job of protecting their mobile devices, the new Consumer Reports survey found. Among survey respondents, only 46 percent set a screen lock using a four-digit PIN or a stronger method such as a lengthy password or fingerprint. Just 33 percent backed up their data, including photos and contacts, to a computer or online service. Built-in security technology can only get a consumer so far—to reap the benefits, you actually have to use it.

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More than 1,200 popular Android apps still vulnerable to FREAK

More than 1,200 popular Android apps still vulnerable to FREAK | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

A total of 1,228 Android apps that have been downloaded 6.3 billion times from the Google Play store are still vulnerable to the FREAK bug, according to network security company FireEye.

Research published Tuesday by the company shows just how vulnerable both Android and iOS apps still are to a FREAK attack.

FREAK is a cryptographic weakness that permits attackers to force data traveling between a vulnerable website or operating system to servers to use weak encryption protocols. If combined with a so-called man-in-the-middle attack, the data could theoretically be intercepted and cracked as the user is unwittingly using a lower level of encryption than believed.

According to FireEye, as of March 4, both of the latest Android and iOS platforms are vulnerable to the security issue. As FREAK is both a platform vulnerability and an app vulnerability, even after Google and Apple issued patches, apps may still be vulnerable when connecting to servers that accept RSA_EXPORT cipher suites.

FireEye says this is why some iOS apps are vulnerable even after Apple patched the FREAK vulnerability in iOS earlier this month.

Researchers Yulong Zhang, Hui Xue, Tao Wei and Zhaofeng Chen crawled through the Google Play app store to determine how severe the FREAK vulnerability still could be. The team scanned a total of 10,985 popular apps with over one million downloads each -- and discovered that 11.2 percent of them, 1,228 apps in total, are still vulnerable to the bug because they "use a vulnerable OpenSSL library to connect to vulnerable HTTPS servers."

In total, 664 of these apps use Android's bundled OpenSSL library and 554 rely on custom libraries.

When it comes to iOS apps, the security researchers claim that 771 out of 14,079 -- 5.5 percent -- of popular iOS apps connect to vulnerable services and, therefore, are vulnerable to FREAK attacks on iOS versions below 8.2, which has been patched. In addition, seven of these 771 apps have their own vulnerable versions of OpenSSL and they remain vulnerable on iOS 8.2.

"Without necessarily breaking the encryption in real time, the attacker can record weakly encrypted network traffic, decrypt it and access the sensitive information inside," FireEye said.

For example, a FREAK attack on a shopping app could be used to steal login credentials and credit card information. In addition, "medical apps, productivity apps and finance apps" may also be vulnerable.

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Wireless Charging May Not Be Doomed To Irrelevance

Wireless Charging May Not Be Doomed To Irrelevance | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Wireless charging is a decent idea that’s been held back for years by double and sometimes triple or quadruple vision: Instead of picking one standard that works well enough, the industry has fragmented itself among competing, incompatible implementations that may each flop and leave buyers stuck with useless hardware.

Yes, you’ve seen this format-war movie before… on Beta, Laserdisc, and HD-DVD.

But this year’s Mobile World Congress provided a little more room for optimism than before.

First off, Samsung’s debut of the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge—each of which support both Qi and Powermat wireless charging, the two most widely deployed versions—means devices capable of wireless charging will soon occupy millions of pockets and purses.

Qi, pronounced “chee,” has been around for a while. A handout from the Wireless Power Consortium, the trade group behind the specification, cites 79 phones that are compatible. But none of these 79 phones has been a flagship model you could expect to find sold by all four major U.S. wireless carriers, or bought by millions of shoppers. Note that while the S6 and S6 Edge will be able to draw current from both Qi and Powermat chargers, Samsung told me its own wireless-charging accessory will be a Qi surface.

It’s also getting slightly easier to find Qi charging surfaces. Last October, Marriott began putting Qi hardware in the lobbies of some of its hotels, and at MWC Ikea announced that it would soon sell furniture with Qi chargers built in.

A new smartphone app by the Qi developer Aircharge aims to show off all the places that its wireless charging surfaces are available; in Manhattan, it only found three publicly accessible Qi locations, all Marriott properties. So much for progress in the Big Apple.

And as the S6’s ambidextrous wireless charging capability illustrates, there are two sides to this story. Powermat’s longstanding technology is being folded into a developing rival to Qi called Rezence, a name that alludes to its use of magnetic resonance instead of Qi’s inductive charging.

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The Apple Store will give you credit for old Android phones

The Apple Store will give you credit for old Android phones | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

If you’re ready to defect to the iPhone from Android or BlackBerry, the Apple Store will welcome you with open arms—and some store credit.

Apple retail stores are expanding their trade-in programs beyond the iPhone and iPad to include “select” smartphones from other manufacturers. Word of the new program first appeared on individual store websites, as spotted by 9to5Mac.

Apple has been offering credit for old iPhones and iPads at its retail stores since 2013. The company also accepts old Apple products and Windows PCs through its Reuse and Recycle website. This is the first time Apple will be offering store credit for Android and BlackBerry phones.

It’s unclear how much you’ll get for these devices compared to other tech buyback services such as Gazelle, NextWorth, and EcoATM. Apple hasn’t posted any trade-in details for its U.S. stores, and Engadget reports that employees some locations aren’t even aware that the program has begun. We’ve reached out to Apple for clarification.

Why this matters: It’s extremely convenient to be able to dump your old phone while getting a discount on a new one, which might explain why all four major U.S. carriers now have their own trade-in programs. Apple is just making sure that its own stores have the same option—especially for users who can’t wait to switch platforms.

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Samsung chip could bring 128GB storage to cheaper phones

Samsung chip could bring 128GB storage to cheaper phones | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Samsung Electronics has developed flash memory storage that could help bring 128GB capacity to smartphones and tablets in the middle and low end of the price spectrum.

The new 3-bit NAND-based Embedded MultiMediaCard (eMMC) 5.0 storage is the industry’s highest-density architecture of its kind and will put larger storage capacities into mass market mobile devices, the company said Thursday.

The development adds to the allure of budget smartphones, which have recently improved in features and capabilities to such an extent that they may make it hard to decide whether buying higher-end models is worthwhile.

The most expensive versions of smartphones and tablets such as the iPhone 6 or iPad Air have 128GB storage, and are currently available for about US$200 more than the 16GB editions. Samsung would not say how much the 128GB eMMC 5.0 would cost and how that might affect device pricing.

The eMMC storage is already found in less expensive mobile devices. The new Samsung technology has some nifty features such as 260 megabytes per second of sequential data reading and it can support HD video processing. The storage is already in mass production and available to device manufacturers, Samsung said.

An embedded non-volatile memory system, eMMC consists of integrated flash memory and a flash memory controller. It’s designed for use in phones, tablets, car navigation systems and other devices.

“We expect to see that mid-to-low-end smartphones will increasingly adopt 128GB of memory storage in the near future,” a Samsung spokesman said via email.

The JEDEC Solid State Technology Association recently approved eMMC version 5.1, which will allow flash drives to handle 4K streaming and other data-intensive tasks.

Tom Bryon's curator insight, March 25, 2015 11:29 PM

With smartphones now being able to store so much in so little space, imagine the possibility in the future. Especially if the chips become less expensive to produce, the market will absolutely see small technology with big storage capacity.!

Apple Exploring iPhone Waterproofing Method

Apple Exploring iPhone Waterproofing Method | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Apple has a patent application in with the USPTO (via AppleInsider) that describes a few different methods for waterproofing electronic devices like the iPhone. The patent describes coating certain internal components like the main circuit board with a hydrophobic coating, presumably not unlike the process used by Liquipel and other similar companies. The process for applying the waterproof layer would only result in a coating ranging between one and ten microns thick, Apple says in the filing, meaning it wouldn’t take up any additional space inside the device shell.

The patent by Apple includes a provision for leaving the EMI shield included in all of its iPhones, iPads, MacBooks able to perform its job while also allowing for the components protected therein to be fully water sealed by the process. Special processes are needed because the coating is applied to the assembled circuit board, meaning the EMI shielding could obscure key internal components from receiving the benefits of the sealing.

To keep the exposed soldered ends of connectors protected against water, the patent also talks about using silicone seals at the point where they connect to boards and the flex cables that often run between the internal circuits of devices.

Apple hasn’t yet shown much interest in waterproofing its smartphones and tablets, though other smartphone makers like Sony have made it a core component of their hardware. Samsung made the Galaxy S5 water-resistant last year, but has gotten rid of that kind of environmental protection with this year’s Galaxy S6, and given the relative performance of both the GS5 and Sony’s devices, it remains unclear how much value consumers actually put in waterproofing in terms of impacting their buying decision.

There’s no doubt that Apple being able to list ‘waterproof’ as one of the marquee features on a future smartphone or tablet would cause a splash, however. This patent was filed in March of last year, so it’s a relatively recent invention, meaning it’s too soon to say that Apple is just locking down the IP without any strong intent to necessarily bring this to future products.

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