I have previously written about the dangers of ransomeware, where your computer is encrypted and you have to pay to unlock it, and other forms of hacking. RadioLab recently broadcast a Podcast on this topic. It is very interesting and informative, and if it weren’t real, a good suspenseful story. I encourage you to listen. The episode is titled Darkode.
There are ways to protect yourself. First, this is mostly a Windows issue so make sure your anti-virus software is up to date and install all the updates to your OS.
Second, most likely, these attacks do not affect external drives, though they could. At a minimum make sure you are setup for regular backups. An additional precaution would be to have a cloud-based backup like Mozy or Crashplan, and/or have an external backup that you unplug from your computer. By taking these precautions, if you are attacked, you can wipe your computer clean and reinstall the backup thus avoiding the payment of the ransom.
If you own a Mac you are not entirely immune. There is fake ransomware that attacks Macs. This is malware that displays a ransom message but does not encrypt your files, all your data is still there. There are tricks to deleting the malware.
If something like this should happen to you, don’t panic, call me or another professional to explore your options.
I give the award for best new feature, particularly on the iPad, to multi-tasking (I know if you are an Android user you can brag that you had this feature first!). On the iPad you open one app, then using your finger, gently slide it from the right hand side toward the center of the screen. You will see a ribbon of other apps that you can open. Tap one of them and it will open on top of the first app. For example, you could be reading the New York Times which gets you thinking about sending a message to a friend. You no longer have to exit the Times app and launch Messages or Mail. Now you simply swipe in from the right, tap Mail, type your email and send, all without exiting the Times app. It really streamlines using the iPad. Please note, however, that not all apps have built-in support for this. I’ve noticed that I can’t swipe from the right when I’m in the Kindle app, which directly relates to my on-the-other-hand.
On the other hand, it makes it too easy to distract yourself from reading by checking email and messages. It’s hard enough staying focused these days.
Here is Apple’s complete description of multi-tasking on iPhones and iPads.
Apple released a quick update, iOS 9.0.1, that seems to solve the major problem of iOS 9 — freezing your iPhone and iPad upon install. They also fixed a few minor bugs. It’s safe to update your devices. However, I have found some apps a bit flaky, sometimes becoming non-responsive. If you want to wait for a more stable update, I have read that 9.1 is being tested and will be available in a few weeks. If you do decide to update now, please make sure that you backup your device to your computer with iTunes or to iCloud before proceeding.
Bottom line: It’s safe to install but there may be some minor annoyances. It’s not perfect.
A quick note because this is important.
iOS 9, the latest update to Apple’s mobile operating system, is not a sterling release. There are many reports of the upgrade process freezing iPhones and iPads. My update went smoothly but afterwards I noticed many problems. The most annoying being inconsistent data connections resulting in email and text not sending and apps not updating content. Also many apps are crashing and shutting down unexpectedly.
It you had not upgraded already I strongly suggest you wait for the next release, iOS 9.1. I’m sure it will be released soon.
If you have upgraded and are experiencing some problems here is a link that may help with some of the problems.
Most importantly, make sure you backup your iPhone or iPad before updating. When the update fails the only fix may be to reset your device and restore from a backup.
Alternately, if you’ve noticed some new feature that you don’t like here is a link that might help.
Apple just announced it’s latest upgrades for the iPad, iPhone, Apple TV and Apple Watch. Here is a summary of all their announcements.
Briefly, there is a new bigger iPad called the iPad Pro. It comes with a 12.9 inch screen, optional keyboard (like the Microsoft Surface) and an optional stylus. It also sports a new screen technology that they call 3D Touch. This technology is showing up in all their products. Essentially you can move you finger or stylus up and down, sideways and press the screen. It gives under the pressure of your finger and does different actions depending on the pressure of your finger. I think of the iPad Pro as a light-weight laptop replacement. Even Microsoft is making a big deal about running it’s office apps on the iPad Pro. You can read more about it here.
The new iPhones, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, also come with the 3D Touch screen, a new improved camera that takes 12 megapixel pictures and 4K video. The 3D Touch will change the way you navigate between apps and view content. You can read more about it here. And here is an in depth review of 3D Touch.
The Apple TV is more of a long game for Apple. the new version comes with a complete App Store, like the App Store for the iPhone and iPad, it includes Siri so you can talk to it and ask it to do stuff, and it has built in motion sensors. The Apple TV is moving towards being two things: a game console to compete with Xbox and Playstation, and in the not too distant future, an alternative to cable. Read more about it here and here.
Finally, the Apple Watch. Not a whole lot new. There are new bands and colors. More importantly, as the Watch develops, there is now support for native Watch apps. In other words, the Watch will have stand alone apps that do not require an iPhone to be nearby.
Last month I wrote about the release of Windows 10 and noted some of the privacy concerns and how to fix them. It has also been revealed that Windows 10, by default, spies on your kids. If you set up family accounts, emails will be sent to you weekly detailing your child’s activity. You might find this useful but I find it a little strange that it is the default option. You can read about it here. To me, it further raises the issue of what else is being done with this data.
As a reminder, here’s an article on all the other privacy settings in Windows 10.
If you have little kids and they have access to an iPad, you may (you should) be somewhat concerned about what they can get access to while you’re not looking. It’s not that they will go looking for trouble it’s that trouble may find them. Here’s a good article about some simple step to take to safeguard them online. One big takeaway that you may not be aware of is that there is a kid friendly version of YouTube.
I’ve installed an app in my Chrome browser called Clearly. It was developed by Evernote – though it does not require Evernote to run. It simplifies web pages for easy reading. It’s simple, useful and amazing. It does away with all the busyness and ads on a page. Give it a try.
It’s been a long time since Microsoft updated Office for Mac. The new version is out and Walt Mossberg gives it a good review. Depending on your view of these things, one downside is that you can only get this version with a yearly subscription.
It is getting increasingly confusing signing up for a cell phone plan. You can buy your phone or lease your phone. Have a contract or not have a contract. Have a family plan or not. It is a mess. Here is an article that attempts to guide you through the process. I’m still really confused. Good luck.