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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Why Apple believes smarter services and devices won't compromise your privacy

Why Apple believes smarter services and devices won't compromise your privacy | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

Apple's message today was abundantly clear: We value your privacy more than anyone else.

Amid a flurry of announcements ranging from a new music service to a smarter, more proactive version of Siri, Apple executives hammered the point home on Monday during the company's Worldwide Developers Conference that it takes your personal information seriously.

"If we do look up something on your behalf, such as traffic, it's anonymous," said Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software for Apple, at the event in San Francisco. "You are in control."

Apple's mission to maintain your privacy, a theme that was set up by CEO Tim Cook last week when he said "morality demanded" that people have the right to keep their affairs to themselves, is a key advantage in the escalating battle over a slate of services that are designed to manage your connected life, which can range from your smartphone to your car. It's also a less-than-subtle shot at Google, a company that similarly wants to be everything in your life -- but is keen to use your information to enable more relevant ads.

"Apple is drawing the line as to what belongs to customers and Apple vs. everyone else," said Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC. "It's a sense of trust that Apple is evangelizing, perhaps as a way to set itself apart from other platforms."

At the same time, Apple wants its services and programs to be more effective at helping you. Another theme of the conference keynote speech was heightened intelligence, whether it's the ability to ask a question in natural language to either its Siri digital assistant or Spotlight app, to even the curated playlist and song recommendations delivered to you via Apple Music. It's part of a broader trend of smarter, more proactive assistants, which include Google Now and its Now On Tap service, and Microsoft's Cortana.

Unlike the other services, Apple was clear that many of the actions taken by its smarter assistants occur within the device, or traveling through the cloud without its knowledge. It's a function of its core business model: generating revenue and profits off its devices, with software and services driving demand for those products.

That stands in contrast with Google, which typically generates advertising off its many free services, or Microsoft, which makes money off the services that you use.

"There's a difference between the device knowing you vs. the company behind the device," said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Kantar WorldPanel. "That is very subtle."

Siri, Spotlight get smarter

A highlight of Apple's announcements was the ability to ask questions in a natural language to Siri, the company's virtual assistant. The new functions include the ability to set reminders or pull up photos from a specific location. It can also offer suggestions on contacts for meetings or apps you should be using.

The new features come as Google and Microsoft tout the expanded capabilities of their own assistants. Microsoft, for instance, said its Cortana assistant will live on both smartphones and other Windows 10-powered devices.

For Apple, it's also part of a broader push to make iOS 9 anticipate your needs.

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Apple is making it harder to steal the Apple Watch

t didn't make it into today's WWDC keynote address, but Apple is adding an important security feature to watchOS 2. The new version of the wearable OS will bring Activation Lock — a feature that has been on iPhones since 2013 — to the Apple Watch.

Activation Lock is an anti-theft measure that makes stolen devices less attractive to potential thieves. If someone were to steal your device and wipe it (something that can be done on a Watch in just a few taps), Activation Lock won't let the device be reactivated without first inputting the Apple ID and password that was originally used to set it up. It may not stop someone from stealing and selling your Watch for parts, and there's still no comparable feature to "Find my iPhone," but Activation Lock is a start.


Just last month, users grew worried after9to5Mac pointed out how easy it is to wipe the settings, data, and passcode from an Apple Watch. From there, someone could pair a Watch to any new iPhone. In the user guide, Apple frames this as a way to restore your Watch's functionality should you forget your passcode, which is convenient. But for many people the function made it far too easy for someone else to wind up using your Watch as their own.

Users will have the choice to enable Activation Lock on their Watch or not, so it's ultimately up to them. The watchOS 2 developer beta is available today, and the final version will be released this fall.

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Researchers find another terrifying iOS flaw

Researchers find another terrifying iOS flaw | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics |

It can't have escaped your attention that security experts have declared open season on Apple products over the last few weeks. At San Francisco's RSA conference, an even more terrifying exploit has been revealed that has the power to send your iPhone or iPad into a perpetual restart loop. Mobile security firm Skycure has discovered that iOS 8 has an innate vulnerability to SSL certificates that, when combined with another WiFi exploit, gives malicious types the ability to create "no iOS zones" that can render your smartphones and tablets unusable. Before you read on, grab a roll of tinfoil and start making a new case for your iPhone.

Broadly speaking, any app that uses SSL certificates - which is almost all of them - can be fed a dummy certificate that causes it to crash. If, however, you can feed that same dodgy data into the operating system itself, then the hardware will be thrown into a perpetual loop of failed restarts. That can be easily achieved if you can set up a WiFi network to behave like one of the trusted setups that iOS automatically tries to connect to. So, as Gizmodo says, all it takes is for someone to build a nefarious network, name it "attwifi" and they've got a honeytrap.

Skycure has already reported its findings to Apple and won't give away any more details should it give hackers free reign to brick thousands of devices. Until the problem is fixed, users are advised not to trust free WiFi networks, keep iOS updated and, should they wander into a "no iOS zone," get out, quickly.

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