Surviving a Crippled Smartphone

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While on vacation this week, my iPhone X developed a perplexing and crippling fix-iphone-x-unresponsive-screen-498x800problem.  My wife and I were walking down the beach, taking pictures from time to time with my phone.  I had it in the back pocket of my swimsuit and I was not wet, nor was the phone.  I would take it out of my pocket, tap the camera widget on the lock screen, take a picture and put it back.

One time doing this, the widget was greyed out, as if the camera didn’t exist.  At the same time, I noticed that the touchscreen was completely unresponsive.  I was unable to unlock the phone using Face ID, nor was I able to tap in the passcode to manually unlock it.  Not thinking much more that the phone was acting up, I used the camera app on my Apple Watch to take pictures of things we wanted to capture as we walked.  Sure enough, that worked and the photo’s uploaded to iCloud as I could see them on my iPad and PC.

But the touchscreen would not work.  Multiple soft resets would not resolve the issue.  I was unable to hard reset the phone as I could not connect to iTunes on my PC because I was not able to acknowledge the prompts on the screen.  The iPhone X was unresponsive, except it was working.  I just couldn’t control it at all.

The next morning, I went to local Verizon store, hoping they would be able to hard reset it and perhaps bring it back to full functionality.  Unfortunately, they could not and my only option was a warranty replacement.  If I had been close to an Apple Store, I would have been able to go there and get it replaced the same day.  Unfortuantely, I was not and was heading home the next day, so opted to have Verizon overnight me the warranty replacement.

Fortunately, becuase I have an Apple Watch and an iPad, I was able to limp along while I waited for a new phone to be overnighted to me under warranty.  I could take calls and send and receive texts on either device.  Takeing calls on the Apple Watch is still a little humorous and definitely gets interesting looks, but it works.  I was also lucky, because the iPhone still paired to my car and I was able to operate it using the steering wheel controls to make and take calls on the drive home, to meet my new iPhone, which is now easily up and running thanks to iCloud backup restoring nearly all of my apps and settings.

About the only thing I was not able to do was receive pictures and videos via text on the Apple Watch.  When those would come in, it would tell me I needed to view the message on my iPhone.  That wasn’t happening, so I had to wait to get back to my iPad on WiFi, but all in all, for a pretty crippling event, I was able to stay in touch and functional and was back to full operation in under two days.  Not bad.

It’s Internet Safety Month #CyberAware

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Happy June!  Did you know that June is Internet Safety Month?  Well now you do.

The National Cyber Security Alliance, NCSA, has declared June Internet Safety Month and this year, the focus is on mobility.  I recommend reading the NCSA press release “Stay #CyberAware on Mobile Devices during Internet Safety Month and All Year Round” for a wealth of informational resources.

This years theme centers around kids getting out of school and families taking summer trips.  It’s all about mobility and your online presence.  Major topic areas cover “Be Smart About Socializing”, “Stay in the Game Safely”, “Getting Ready to Go”, and “While on the Go.”  There are also links to virtual events that you may be interested in participating in.

Enjoy the month of June and the entire summer.  And do so safely.

NCSA

It’s a Hands Free World, Almost…

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UPDATE: I originally wrote this post yesterday, but had to share a few things from my ride home after having posted this.  While in traffic just south of Providence, RI, I snapped a quick picture of the very clear signage that is displayed on the highway about the new law.  Yes, I was stopped in traffic at the time.

RIDOT

What I found so ironic was the driver in front of.  A professional looking guy in a dress shirt who was continually looking down at his phone while in this traffic.  When cars would begin to move, he would leave a large gap, so he could keep looking at his phone and when he finally looked up, he would speed ahead until he had to stop or slow down again.  Repeat, over and over and over.  Any wonder why these laws are necessary?  He almost caused a rear ender at least twice and then zipped across two lanes to make his exit that he almost missed.  Unreal.

Even more unreal was the woman just south of Boston.  Again, bumper to bumper keep-calm-baby-on-board-1traffic.  This lady had a sticker on her rear window that read, “Keep Calm, Baby on Board.”  That’s nice, expect she was on her phone texting the entire time we were in traffic.  She had her phone in her hand, about level with her steering wheel.  I wish I was kidding.  Her window was down and were it not for my wife’s voice in my head imploring me not to do it, for fear of freaking her out, I would have rolled down my window and yelled to her that she was being incredibly foolish.  So yes, we clearly need these laws and we need them enforced.

Below is the original post:

Hands-free-law

I am working in our Rhode Island office today and while driving in this morning, the highway signs were all aglow announcing the implementation of Rhode Island’s new hands free law, which goes into effect tomorrow, June 1, 2018.

One of the things I like about the Rhode Island law is that if you are cited for a violation, you may receive a waiver of the $100 fine if you show proof of purchase for a hands free device.  This only applies to your first citation, but I like that it encourages you to comply by incenting you to do the right thing.

I also like the fact that car manufacturers are embedding ever improving technology in their vehicles so that you can truly be hands free while you drive.  I recently purchased a new car and I can be 100% hands free thanks to various technologies, including Siri Eyes Free, which allows me to send text messages or call people without ever taking my eyes off the road.

My home state of New Hampshire, has had a pretty strict hands free law on the books for several years now.  Obviously, the intent of these laws is to prevent distracted driving from drivers making calls, using apps and texting while driving.  Unfortunately, even with these laws in place, I still see a lot of people holding their phones and using them while driving.

You know what I’m talking about.  You see the cars just sitting at a green light, because they were stopped and picked up their phone to text or check social media, etc. and then the light turns green and they are staring at their phone instead of the road and the traffic light they are at.  Or, you see a car drifting between lanes on the highway, often you will see the driver looking at their phone.

As of tomorrow, 16 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving.  When it comes to text messaging, 47 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers.  These are referred to as primary laws, meaning you can be pulled over and issued a ticket just for this.  It does not have to be in conjunction with another reason for being stopped by the police.

I wish it were all 50 states and territories and a complete ban, not just texting, but at least we are getting closer.  According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, only Montana has no laws regarding cell phone use or texting.  The GHSA has a great overview of laws, state by state, which you may review at this link.  Just click the + sign next to any state to see the specifics.

Yes! We did it! But there’s more to be done.

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Yes!I am thrilled to report that U.S. Senate has voted to overturn the FCC repeal of net neutrality rules.  Thank you to everyone who read my posts and took action to make your voice hear.  While this is a great victory, sadly it only gets us to first base, using a baseball analogy.  To get to second base, the measure will now go to the U.S. House, where it faces more opposition.  Three Republican Senators voted based on the desire of their constituents to protect net neutrality.  Thank you Senators Collins, Murkowski and Kennedy for representing your voters over your party.  It’s sad more Senators did not do the same, but that is the state of hostile politics in our nation today.

Now we need to flood the House, especially the Repulican Representatives, to encourage them to vote in support of the repeal.  Only then will the measure move to the President’s desk for signature.  That’s the rounding of third base we need to ensure net neutrality does not go away on June 11.  That’s the home run we need, so if you have a Republican representative, please contact them, repeatedly, and remind them 86% of American’s support overturning this repeal.  The will of the people is clear and is has nothing to do with any political party.  It has to do with what is right for this country, our citizens and our economy.

Thank you for what you’ve done to date.  Please keep the pressure on!  The voice of the people is able to be heard.  Today’s vote proves it.

Go to www.battleforthenet.com to contact your Representative about the upcoming vote in the House.

Cell Phone Spying is Here

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As if we didn’t have enough privacy worries, confirmation came this week that cell phone spying is actively taking place in the United States and specifically in Washington, DC.

Now this should really not come as a huge surprise, but the ease with which it can beStingRayII done is a cause for concern.  In DC, the Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that it has identified several “StingRay” devices in the city.  These are devices that trick mobile phones into connecting to them instead of a legitimate cell tower.  In so doing, they are able to intercept voice conversations and text messaging.  Some experts suggest malware could also be installed onto connected devices, without the user knowing.  These immitation cell towers are also able to track the location of a given device, making them an excellent tracking tool.  What’s more is that these devices are not physically large.  We are not talking about a fake cell tower that rises high into the skyline.  Some say they can be as small as a cell phone, or like a moderately sized piece of audio equipment.  There is even some thought that they are able to be deployed in low flying aircraft to not only lock on to a mobile device but to follow it almost without limit.

These devices are known to be in use by some police departments and the intelligence services.  This partly explains a battle between the FCC and the wireless carriers around who is responsible for securing the wireless networks from these types of threats.  Fully securing the wireless infrastucture could prevent police and intelligence services from carrying on surveillance that may be critical to national and local security.

This will not be an easy issue to address.  If you’ve been thinking that your cell phone is immune to being intercepted, think again.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

OK Waze!

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As you may know, I’m a big fan of Waze.  I use it every day and use it instead of my OKWazevehicles built in navigation as it’s more up to date and reliable, not to mention offers a wealth of additional features that I value.

Recently, the Google team updated Waze to respond to voice commands.  If you go into “Settings” and then click on “Sound & voice” and then “Talk to Waze” and enable “Say “OK Waze”” you can speak to Waze in a completely hands free experience.

When this was first released, it was flawed.  When your smartphone is connected to your in-car Bluetooth and this feature is enabled, the first time you say “OK Waze,” Waze took over your in-car audio system.  Once you issued that verbal command, your in-car microphone remained engaged so that you were no longer able to use any of your in-car entertainment options.  This was not good.

I’m pleased to see that Waze has released an update so that this no longer takes place.  Waze now uses the smartphone microphone to listen for your “OK Waze” command and then allows you to speak to Waze through your in-car Bluetooth, as if you are on a phone call.  Once you are done, control is passed back to your in-car entertainment system and Waze returns to listening via your smartphone microphone.  This is perfect!

Here is how this works.  I’m driving with Waze up on my smartphone and the radio on.  I see a car stopped on the side of the road.  I say “OK Waze” and the radio goes silent and Waze goes into listening mode.  I say “Report vehicle stopped on shoulder” and Waze repeats my request and asks me to approve.  I say “yes” and Waze notes my report on the map at the point I first said “OK Waze.”  This contrasts with no less than 5 taps on the screen to accomplish the same thing, which is not at all safe and a violation of many states hands free laws.

To be fair, there is also a setting you can enable so that when you tap with three fingers on the screen Waze would listen for voice commands.  However, not having to touch or look at the smartphone at all is the best and safest method.

Well done Waze!  Keep up the innovation with a constant focus on user safety.

Another Successful CompTIA DC Fly-In

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DC FlyIn

The picture above is from my attendance at last years DC Fly-In. A few weeks ago, CompTIA hosted the 2018 CompTIA DC Fly-In – the 7th annual event! In conjunction with the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA), CompTIA welcomed nearly 150 technology executives and business owners representing 27 states to Washington, D.C. for the two-day event on February 13 and 14.

Unfortunately, I had to cancel my attendance at this years event, but wanted to share this comprehensive update, which I received yesterday.  The work done at this event is impressive and it does have an impact.  Participatory government does work and this event is a critical part of that process.

The following two posts are from last years event:

CompTIA’s Fly-In Sees Positive Future for IT in DC

Mr. Shoer Goes to Washington

Every year, CompTIA members and partners attend the DC Fly-In to participate in the Tech Policy Summit, where subject matter experts and thought leaders on a variety of topics shared their insight; the Tech Champion Awards Dinner, where Congressional and industry leaders are recognized for their dedication to innovative tech policies; the Capitol Hill Speakers Series, where members of Congress and the Executive Branch speak to the tech agenda; and the all-important Capitol Hill visits, where members met face-to-fact with their elected representatives and staff to discuss matters of importance to the industry.

Watch the Recap Video:

Following are the initiatives that were discussed during this years Fly-In:

CHANCE in Tech Act Builds Momentum

During a working lunch we discussed the CHANCE in Tech Act (H.R. 3174 and S. 1518) – legislation that CompTIA worked with allies on Capitol Hill to get introduced in 2017. The legislation was built from meetings and feedback from last year’s DC Fly-In and presents an important opportunity to create a stronger pathway for apprenticeships within the technology sector. In 2018 we would like to get CHANCE in Tech passed into law! Read more.

Achieving a Skilled America

Current policies inhibit our nation’s ability to find and retain top talent and cultivate a sustainable talent pipeline to achieve a strong 21st century workforce. The “Taking a Holistic Approach to Achieving a Skilled America” panel examined high-skilled immigration reform, improvement to STEM education curriculums, and job training as means to remain competitive and innovative in today’s global economy. Read more.

Spectrum: The Fuel for 5G and IoT

The demand for wireless data continues to grow due to both new users and new IoT devices connecting every day. This increase in demand will put pressure on regulators and industry alike to find new bands and new technologies to accommodate our connected future. The “Spectrum: Fuel for 5G and IoT” panel delved into spectrum, 5G, the rural/urban divide and how to best support the Internet of Things. Read more.

Blockchain: What Does the Future Hold?

Blockchains have emerged as possibly one of the next big transformational technologies for government and private industry sectors to use in an effort to provide citizens with easy, online access to services and transactions. The “Blockchain: What Does the Future Hold” panel discussed security, transparency, and the multipurpose usage aspects of this emerging technology. Read more.

2018 CompTIA Tech Champions Recognized

Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), Representative Seth Moulton (D-MA-06) and Steve Zylstra, President and CEO, Arizona Technology Council were honored as the 2018 CompTIA Tech Champions. These three individuals have exemplified leadership in the tech sector and have championed policies that advance the country’s IT industry. Read more.

Capitol Hill Speakers Share Informative Overview of Government Priorities

High-ranking officials from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Homeland Security provided Fly-In attendees with an informative overview of government priorities for the coming year around the tech agenda. Topics included the cybersecurity executive order, the Connect America Fund II to distribute broadband, open internet, and innovation and investment. Read more.

Olympic Technology is Going for Gold

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This post was originally published in today’s Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

The Olympics taking place in PyeongChang is a spectacle of technology that is giving us a glimpse into our future. With technological powerhouses like Samsung being one of South Korea’s most well known exports, it’s no wonder technology is taking center stage.

Intel Olympics Drone TechnologyThis awesome display of technology is not without its pitfalls. On the first day of this year’s Olympics, hackers took center stage, breaking into some Olympic technology and causing the office website of the 2018 Winter Games to be taken down overnight. As of now, there does not appear to have been any serious breach, but investigators are still at work and we may not know what has really happened during the Olympic Games until well after the Olympic torch has been extinguished in PyeongChang.

One of the massive challenges for technology at an event like the Olympics is security. It’s even more of a challenge due to the nature of the event. A temporary sporting event that brings the attention of the world on a small part of the host country for a short window of time. Talk about a target of opportunity.

Olympic Games are put on by local organizing committees under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee, the IOC. Technology contracts are awarded to multiple companies by the local organizing committee and are often decentralized, meaning each vendor chosen must secure their own networks. This brings multiple players to the table and multiple vulnerabilities. Intel, Samsung, Visa, Atos, Korea Telecom, Comcast, NBC and more all have extensive technology infrastructures in place at the Olympics. Even clothier Ralph Lauren has introduced technology to Team USA’s uniforms for this year’s Winter Olympics. The jackets Team USA will be wearing include active heating technology to keep the athlete’s warm.

Multiple organizations and government agencies have warned attendees to steer clear of public WiFi and be on alert for all manner of cyber scams. Some have gone so far as to recommend turning off WiFi and Bluetooth while at the Games, to avoid what are known as drive-by attacks, where a hacker may theoretically access your device to steal information and use it as part of a larger attack.

There will be plenty of technological marvels on display, from Intel’s amazing drone light shows to Samsung’s robots. A robot even carried the Olympic Torch for part of the relay leading up to the lighting of the Olympic Flame during the opening ceremonies one week ago. Technology will also be available to the athletes to help them tune their performance and maximize their experience. Suits with smart sensors will provide a level of athletic performance feedback not previously seen. It will be interesting to see if any competitors make changes based on this new information that will be available.

Another first for these Olympics is that all of the technology systems running and broadcasting the games will be Cloud based. You won’t find the temporary data centers that powered past games. This year, critical systems will all be physically away from the games in Cloud data centers. There are some fifty critical applications behind this year’s Olympic experience, all out in the Cloud.

Even with this reliance on the Cloud, there will still be well over three thousand IT workers on the ground in PyeongChang supporting the games. Whether things are based in the Cloud or not, you still need an on-site IT infrastructure to enable everything from accurately capturing race times to broadcasting the events live online and to television viewers worldwide.

For spectators who are in PyeongChang, Intel is providing virtual reality experiences from the athlete’s point of view. Imagine putting on a virtual reality headset and finding yourself hurtling down a slalom course at 70 to 80 mph. You can if you want to.

I mentioned Visa earlier as one of the technology companies on display at the Olympics. Yes, Visa is a financial services company, mostly known for issuing debit and credit cards. In PyeongChang, Visa is showcasing payment technologies of the future. There are contactless payment terminals throughout the venues. Visa provided special rings to the athletes that have embedded payment technology, allowing an athlete to simply wave their hand over a payment terminal to pay for something. Visa even has smart gloves in use so that when you are outside, you won’t have to take your gloves off to pay for something. Just place your hand near a payment terminal and make your payment.

The Olympics are always a great event, showcases known and unknown athletes and great stories of triumph and defeat. Technology is giving us a glimpse into the future as well this year, except the future is now.

Happy Birthday Surface Pro

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The Microsoft Surface Pro turned five years old this year.  In a short five years, Microsoft has penetrated the mobile computer device market with stunning success.

As you know from my recent blog post Kudos to Microsoft Surface Support, I’m a fan.  While my system is a Surface Book, it is a descendant of the Surface Pro.  According to Microsoft, the idea behind the Surface Pro was the following:

“We wanted to challenge the concept that people should have to choose between the portability and convenience of a tablet and the power and productivity of a PC.”

Here’s a nice graphic of Surface Pro’s first five years and a video that Microsoft has put out to celebrate.  Speaking of celebrating, if you’ve been thinking about getting a Surface Pro, now’s the time.  Microsoft is offering a $200 discount this weekend to celebrate.

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Meltdown & Spectre, What You Should Know

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Over the last few days, mainstream media has been sounding the alarm over two security vulnerabilities named Meltdown and Spectre.  What is unique about this latest security threat is that the flaws are within the design architecture of the processors that run virtually every computer and mobile device on the planet.  Yes, you read that right, you are almost certainly impacted by these flaws.

So, now that you are concerned, what should you do?  In a nutshell, watch for operating system and software updates and apply them as soon as you can.  Not your anti-virus or anti-malware software.  These won’t help.  Watch for operating system and firmware updates, as well as application updates and apply them.

If your company works with an MSP, like the company I work for, you can likely breathe a little easier.  Companies like Onepath were aware of these threats before the news hit and have been actively monitoring for patches from the hardware and software manufacturers, testing them and pushing them out to managed computers and mobile devices to patch them against the threat.  We sent out an advisory to all of our managed clients on Thursday, which may review at this link.  There is some good information in this advisory, including links to more detailed articles on the matter.

As of now, it is unclear if any malicious actors have actually used these threats to steal information.  It is thought not to be the case, but this is a rapidly developing story.  The good news is that to exploit these threats on a computer or mobile device, a hacker would need to get their malicious software installed on your computer or mobile device in order to take advantage of the exploits.  If you are practicing safe computing, you are likely safe for now, just as you should be against any malicious threat.

Cloud server infrastructures are thought to possibly be at greater risk.  Cloud providers are working diligently to patch their infrastructures to protect their customers, but most of us have less control over those resources as they are managed by the Cloud providers. We have to rely on them to tell us what they are doing to safeguard their systems.

For those that are interested in the technical side of this issue, Meltdown allows access to information running in memory on the affected computer or mobile device.  By allowing a hacker to gain access to what’s in memory, a bad actor could potentially steal passwords and other sensitive information, including what’s stored in password managers and browser sessions.  Spectre, on the other hand, allows a hacker to jump between applications, penetrating a security isolation long thought to be impenetrable.

As I stated earlier, the real risk to the average business and consumer is really not yet known.  The best defense is a strong offense, so making sure your computers and mobile devices are updated when manufacturers release their updates is the best thing you can do.  Some updates have already been released.  Others are thought to take days, weeks or even months to get to users.  I will continue to monitor developments related to these threats and posts updates as new and actionable information becomes available.  In the meantime, stay safe online and keep your defenses up.

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