Opinion: Android Hacks and the Stagefright from Hell

Stagefright, Creative Commons, Gresham College via VimeoYou may have read about the multiple-hack affecting Stagefright, the code in Android that plays back media in MMS (multimedia messages). An enterprising hacker (allegedly) needs only send an MMS containing the exploit to the phone number of an Android 2.2 or later device and Stagefright will write code to any part of that device for which it has permissions – with the potential to affect 950 million, yes million, Android phones.

Whilst it is in theory quite easy to upgrade your phone to the latest Android (off-brand Chinese phones excepted), the question is how many users of those 950 million (that are still in use) are actually capable of doing so? Even if you go to the right website to get the latest phone software, there are many obstacles to making those phones secure again.

Find the right site, identify your phone, download the software, read, study, backup your data (yes, you!) then cross your fingers as you flash the firmware and wait for the rising smoke from your handset. But don’t even attempt it until you’re absolutely certain you understand the instructions and follow them to the letter.

Easy. Read more of this post

How-to Stop Skype starting automatically

Skype start screenEver since Microsoft took over Skype, it installs automatically with Internet Explorer, starts itself at boot time and is impossible to stop from the Skype client as there is no longer an option in the settings to do so. Nor does it sit in your Start Up Programmes folder. In fact, alongside the in-stream advertising and the removal of the log of calls made, duration, destination and cost, Skype now behaves like the worst kind of malware.

Unfortunately the Malicious Software Removal Tool won’t get rid of it. And it is occasionally useful for messaging and video conferencing. I just don’t want it hogging resources all the bloody time. Note to Microsoft; don’t annoy us Northerners. You wouldn’t like us when we’re angry. Read more of this post

Opinion: Goodbye Google Plus

Google Plus: image Creative Commons by West McGowanIt’s true: Google is breaking it’s heavily embedded but failed social networking product Google Plus into separate products – Streams and Photos, new head of Social Bradley Horowitz announced on Google+ earlier this month.

It was telling that Horowitz didn’t specifically mention Google Plus, which pretty well signals the end of Google’s foray. Google Plus was supposed to be a one-stop shop for interactiing across all products and all users. Clearly the vision has changed. Read more of this post

News: Numbers Prove Nobody Uses Google Plus

Tumbleweed Rolling By Jez Arnold [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia CommonsAs we all thought, nobody uses Google Plus. The unwanted and unloved social network foisted on us by the advertising machine masquerading as a search engine has been revealed as Tumbleweed Central.

Of course, ‘nobody’ is a relative term. Google made Plus accounts a mandatory add-on to all it’s Google sign-ons from Gmail to YouTube to Picassa and Drive, which means there’s around 2.2 BILLION Plus accounts belonging to users around the world.

But as researcher Edward Morbius has shown, only around 4-6 million people interact and post publicly on Google Plus. Read more of this post

How-to: Understand GSM and CDMA (phones) II

Image credit: Smartphone Collection, http://www.iconshock.com, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0Last time, we started looking at the various phone standards, trying to avoide ending up in acronym hell. We got as far as GSM, CDMA, Edo, HSPA+ and roaming. This time we move on to 4G, LTE and into the future.

While GSM and CDMA work using radio waves in a ‘traditional’ fashion; 4G works by means of an Internet Protocol (IP) network. The radio signals have to be translated into data packets for use on the network. This includes voice calls which use voice-over-IP. The fail-over for 4G is to switch back to a 2G or 3G network to make voice calls. Read more of this post

How-to: Understand GSM and CDMA (phones)

Vector - Smartphone collection - iconshock.com CC 3.0You would think, by now, we’d have one global standard for mobile telecoms. But no. Depending on your country of residence, you may have a bewildering choice of cellphone standards. You want to buy a piece of technology to make your life better and easier: instead you end up in acronym hell.

In the UAE, for example, you can buy a phone to run on any network on the planet, using any protocol available. In the United States, AT&T and T-Mobile are GSM networks; Sprint and Verizon are CDMA and don’t use SIM cards. So what should you get? And what’s the difference anyway? Read more of this post

How-to: Help! My IP address has been hacked! [Guest Post]

Tool - Hacksaw - Evan Amos, Public DomainThat was a genuine call for help recently, a friend-of-a-friend thing where I happened to be the closest thing to an IT expert they knew.

Rather than contemptuously asking “what do you mean your IP address has been hacked” my first question was – what are the symptoms, how do they know they’ve been ‘hacked’? This covers a multitude of sins, very few of which have to do with a discoverable fixed IP address.

And at risk of boring everybody with another Security-101, I’m going to outline my first thoughts.

Read more of this post


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