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Posts Tagged ‘canoo’

When Your Computer or Phone Can’t Connect to a Public Wi-Fi Network What to Do?

Monday, June 19th, 2017

Most public networks use what’s called a Captive Portal. it’s the authorization page where you accept the place’s terms and click “Connect” to access their free Wi-Fi. The problem is, many modern browsers have issues redirecting to these captive portals because of new security protocols.

Without getting overly-technical, this issue happens because of the wide adoption of HTTPS on all websites, not just ones that transmit private data. A protocol called HSTS (HTTP Strict Transport Security) forces browsers to use HTTPS on all sites even ones that just use HTTP.

So, when you connect to public Wi-Fi, the request for access is intercepted and redirected to the captive portal. Oftentimes this works just fine and you can go on about your business. But sometimes this redirect is blocked by the browser because it attempts to redirect the request to HTTPS before it tries to connect to the server—this is a security measure. In short, it sees this redirect as potentially harmful and blocks it without any interaction from the user.

The solution is to essentially “force” a redirect by using a site that doesn’t use any security protocols—basically doing things the way they used to be in the dark days of the internet. Just a pure, unencrypted, unsecured connection that will simply allow a redirect.

It just so happens that there’s a site just for such an occasion: Never SSL. So, if you’re connected to a public network but you’re not getting the captive portal redirection, simply open a browser window and type the following: neverssl.com

That’s literally it you should automatically be redirected to the captive portal where you can accept the terms and go on with your business.

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Why You Shouldn’t Use SMS for Two-Factor Authentication

Monday, June 12th, 2017

Security experts recommend using two-factor authentication to secure your online accounts wherever possible. Many services default to SMS verification, sending codes via text message to your phone when you try to sign in. But SMS messages have a lot of security problems, and are the least secure option for two-factor authentication.

While we’re going to lay out the case against SMS here, it’s important we first make one thing clear: Using SMS is better than not using two-factor authentication at all. When you don’t use two-factor authentication, someone only needs your password to sign into your account. When you use two-factor authentication with SMS, someone will need to both acquire your password and gain access to your text messages to gain access to your account. SMS is much more secure than nothing at all. If SMS is your only option, please do use SMS. However, if you’d like to learn why security experts recommend avoiding SMS and what we recommend instead, read on.

Here’s how SMS verification works: When you try to sign in, the service sends a text message to the mobile phone number you’ve previously provided them with. You get that code on your phone and enter it to sign in. That code is only good for a single use. It sounds reasonably secure. After all, only you have your phone number and someone has to have your phone to see the code—right? Unfortunately, no. If someone knows your phone number and can get access to personal information like the last four digits of your social security number—unfortunately, this be easy to find thanks to the many corporations and government agencies that have leaked customer data—they can contact your phone company and move your phone number to a new phone. This is known as a “SIM swap“, and is the same process you perform when you purchase a new device and move your phone number to it. The person says they’re you, provides the personal data, and your cell phone company sets up their phone with your phone number. They’ll get the SMS message codes sent to your phone number on their phone. We’ve seen reports of this happening in the UK, where attackers stole a victim’s phone number and used it to gain access to the victim’s bank account. New York State has also warned about this scam. At its core, this is a social engineering attack that relies on tricking your cell phone company. But your cell phone company shouldn’t be able to provide someone with access to your security codes in the first place.

It’s also possible to snoop on SMS messages. Political dissidents and journalists in repressive countries will want to be careful, as the government could hijack SMS messages as they’re sent through the phone network. This has already happened in Iran, where Iranian hackers reportedly compromised a number of Telegram messenger accounts by intercepting the SMS messages that provided access to those accounts. Attackers have also abused problems in SS7, the connection system used for roaming, to intercept SMS messages on the network and route them elsewhere. There are many other ways messages can be intercepted, including through the use of fake cell phone towers. SMS messages weren’t designed for security, and shouldn’t be used for it. In other words, a sophisticated attacker with a bit of personal information could hijack your phone number to gain access to your online accounts and then use those accounts to attempt to drain your bank accounts, for example. That’s why the National Institute of Standards and Technology is no longer recommending the use of SMS messages for two-factor authentication.

The Alternative: Generate Codes on Your Device

A two-factor authentication scheme that doesn’t rely on SMS is superior, because the cell phone company won’t be able to give someone else access to your codes. The most popular option for this is an app like Google Authenticator. However, we recommend Authy, since it does everything Google Authenticator does and more. Apps like this generate codes on your device. Even if an attacker tricked your cell phone company into moving your phone number to their phone, they wouldn’t be able to get your security codes. The data needed to generate those codes would remain securely on your phone.

You don’t have to use codes, either. Services like Twitter, Google, and Microsoft are testing app-based two factor authentication that allows you to sign in on another device by authorizing the sign-in in their app on your phone. There are also physical hardware tokens you can use. Big companies like Google and Dropbox have already implemented a new standard for hardware-based two-factor authentication tokens named U2F. These are all more secure than relying on your cell phone company and the outdated telephone network. If possible, avoid SMS for two-factor authentication. It’s better than nothing and seems convenient, but it’s usually the least secure two-factor authentication scheme you can choose.

Unfortunately, some services force you to use SMS. If you’re worried about this, you could create a Google Voice phone number and give it to services that require SMS authentication. You could then sign into your Google account which you can protect with a more secure two-factor authentication method—and see the secure messages in the Google Voice website or app. Just don’t forward messages from Google Voice to your actual cell phone number.

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APPLE HomePod

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Apple has a product that promises to “rock the house.” But what if that house is already rockin’?

That’s the situation that Apple finds itself as it showed off its HomePod, a speaker that looks and acts a lot like competing products from Amazon and Google. The only hitch is Amazon has been at this since late 2014 with its family of Echo speakers, and Google introduced its Home speaker last year.

Apple presents the HomePod as a high-end speaker with surround sound, the ability to recognize where it is spatially and a DJ able to provide you with the best tunes. It will also tap into Siri’s voice-recognition abilities to answer questions and control the smart home, but much of the time was spent talking about audio quality.

“Apple is smart to position it as music centric rather than yet another smart speaker or just a home for a digital assistant,” said Jan Dawson, an analyst at Jackdaw Research. “That both plays to Apple’s strength and history in music and avoids the direct comparison in terms of price because this really does a lot more.”

The company will need to show why the speaker is markedly better than the competition due to the price gap. At $349, it is far more expensive than the Echo ($180) and Home ($129). Amazon’s most popular speaker, the Echo Dot, is only $50.

Apple has some time to make its case — the HomePod won’t come out until December.

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“ALEXA” vs “OK GOOGLE”

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Amazon blew the industry wide open with its release of the Echo back in 2014, and has since become the company’s most popular hardware product. However, Google has since gotten in on the fun with the Google Home, a direct Echo competitor that aims to reign supreme. But which one should you buy if you’re in the market for a virtual home assistant? Here are some key points to know about both devices to see which one might be best suited for you.

Google Home Is Much More Knowledgeable

This should come as no surprise, but when it comes to asking random questions about all sorts of facts, Google Home comes out on top. That’s not to say the Amazon Echo is completely stupid, but in our testing, there were a handful of questions that the Google Home was able to provide an answer, while Alexa simply just replied with “Sorry, I don’t know the answer to your question.”

However, Alexa was able to do a better job in some areas, like when I asked both devices “How many movies has Tom Hanks been in?” Alexa was able to come up with the answer (83 films), while Google Home simply just named off a few movies that Hanks directed. Google Home is also able to remember the previous question, which is useful. So if you asked “Who played Woody in Toy Story?”, Google Home would say Tom Hanks, and then you could follow up with “How old is he?” and Google Home would say his age, even though you didn’t directly say “Tom Hanks”. Alexa isn’t able to do this. Overall, Alexa knows some stuff, but Google knows more.

Both Have Great Tastes In Music

By default, the Echo uses Amazon’s Prime Music service and Google Home uses Google Play Music, both of which are great sources for streaming tunes. The biggest difference is how many songs each service has in their catalog. Amazon Prime Music only has around two million songs available, whereas Google Play Music has an astounding 35 million songs. You’ll find most popular songs on both services, though.

However, Amazon Music Unlimited is a newer service from the company that boasts “tens of millions of songs”. Even if you’re a Prime member, though, you still have to shell out a monthly payment for it. Furthermore, both Prime Music and Google Play Music require a monthly payment, with the smaller Prime Music library included in Amazon’s Prime service. Besides the defaults, though, both the Echo and Home can link to your Spotify or Pandora accounts, so if you’re committed to one of those music providers instead, it’s no problem.

Google Home Can Recognize Individual Voices

More than likely there are multiple people living in your house, which means multiple people using the Amazon Echo or Google Home. Both devices have multiple-account support, but only the Google Home knows who exactly it’s talking to. This makes it way easier to get information that’s pertinent only to you. So instead of saying something like “Hey Google, what’s on Craig’s calendar for today?” (which would be weird to say my own name), you can instead just say “What’s on my calendar for today?”. The Google Home will recognize your distinct voice and name off upcoming events that are on your calendar and no one else’s.

Both Have Decent Speakers

The full-size Echo and the Google Home come with surprisingly robust speakers that sound pretty good—certainly not as good as a dedicated speaker system, but good enough to keep at a respectable volume while you putz around the house.

However, the speakers on the Google Home tend to go south the louder you turn them up, so I wouldn’t want to crank the volume if I want to keep the quality decent. Of course, if you have an Echo Dot, you can connect external speakers to it as long as the stereo system you’re plugging in has an auxilary jack. The full-size Echo and the Google Home don’t have audio out ports, so you’re stuck using the built-in speakers on those.

There are other small things, of course. For example, “OK Google” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue the way “Alexa” does, which makes a bigger difference than you’d think. Conversely, Google Home comes with a customizable base, which is nice if you want it to fit in better with your home.

In the end, both are really good options, and it depends on what you’ll be using it for as far as which one you should go with. The Echo is better for smarthome integration and has slightly better speakers, and it integrates with a lot of different services through third-party Alexa Skills, but the Google Home’s vast search knowledge is likely something that Amazon will never touch, and the Chromecast support is pretty neat if you’re invested in that area.

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iPhone 8 Design

Friday, May 26th, 2017

The iPhone 8 has an impossible design. According to multiple sources, Apple will create an almost bezel-less design yet it will also integrate both the fingerprint sensor and front facing cameras under the screen. The former is plausible but the latter didn’t make sense, until now.

The explanation comes from two independent leaks which dovetail perfectly. What both illustrate is the iPhone 8 will indeed have a near bezel-less design, but the front camera (or cameras) will not be under the display. Instead a cutout will be made which still leaves space for permanent information like the time, date and signal strength. This is a move Sharp is also anticipated to make with its upcoming Aquos R Compact.

Of course the obvious counterpoint to this is to ask: Where will notifications reside if the cutout takes away a lot of this space?

But this is likely already answered by the new ‘function area’. A MacBook Pro-style touch bar will replace the home button with contextual controls and it would allow for more detailed information. It would also be easier to reach than stretching to the top of the phone, especially with the iPhone 8 expected to sport an enlarged 5.8-inch display.

Needless to say, while all this appears to add-up (and leaks have correctly revealed all major iPhone details ahead of launch for many years), the definitive word will only come when Tim Cook takes to the stage in September.

That said, with a disappointing ‘Plan B’ backup design apparently off the table, expectations for Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone launch are understandably skyrocketing…

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Emerson Sensi Touch works with Siri

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Thermostat maker Emerson today announced the Sensi Touch. Available starting in June. The new Sensi Touch Wi-Fi thermostat shares a lot of similarities with the previous Sensi which came out in 2016, but not everything.

As its name suggests, the Sensi Touch ditches the bland, plasticky hardware for a more modern touchscreen look. It’s a significant improvement at a glance, but the Sensi Touch is still lagging behind design-forward models like the Nest Learning Thermostat. The Sensi Touch actually reminds me of Honeywell’s Wi-Fi Smart thermostat somewhat, back in 2013. While that model is still sold today, Honeywell has since introduced the Lyric and the Lyric T5, both of which are more attractive than the original Wi-Fi Smart (and the Sensi Touch).

In addition to the touchscreen upgrade, this model is also equipped with an Apple MFi chip. The MFi chip is a required hardware component if you want your product to work with Apple’s HomeKit smart home platform.

And on a related topic, Emerson is replacing the original Sensi with Sensi 2.0. The second-gen Sensi will still cost approximately $160, and it will still have the same utilitarian design, the only change is the addition of an MFi chip. Like the new Sensi Touch, Sensi 2.0 is also slated to hit stores in June.

FYI: The Sensi Touch will only be available in the US at launch. Pricing converts to roughly £150 and AU$265 at the current exchange rate.

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Apple iOS 10.3.2 Is Now Available

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Today Apple has launched iOS 10.3.2 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Apple released five betas of iOS 10.3.2 to developers and the public before rolling out the final version. This update comes a bit over a month since iOS 10.3.1 was released on April 3rd. iOS 10.3.2 is considered a minor point release update containing bug fixes and security improvements for iOS 10.3, which added major features like Find My AirPods, Wi-Fi Calling on iCloud devices with Verizon, a Podcasts app widget, new app animations, an Apple ID Settings menu, weather forecasts in the Maps app, an iCloud storage meter and a complete under-the-hood revamp of the file system.

The download size of the iOS 10.3.2 update varies based on the device you have. On the iPhone SE, it appears to be between 160-170MB. And it is between 190-200MB on the iPhone 6S Plus and iPhone 7 Plus. You can update the Apple Watch on a connected iPhone while the smartwatch is on the charger with over 50% battery remaining. macOS 10.12.5 is available as a download on the Mac App Store. And you can update the Apple TV through the System menu and tapping on the Software Update.

If you value your security, you’ll want to seriously consider downloading the iOS 10.3.2 update on your iPhone or iPad. iOS 10.3.2 brings (by our count) 23 security patches for a potential exploits. That’s a ton for a small maintenance update and a great reason to install iOS 10.3.2 in the near future. Your iOS 10.3.2 update will bring even more security features if you failed to download previous versions of iOS. If you skipped iOS 10.3.1, your iOS 10.3.2 update will bring its security patch. If you skipped iOS 10.3, iOS 10.3.2 will also bring its monster list of patches as well.  The iOS 10.3 update delivered over 60 known patches for potential exploits. That’s substantial, even for a milestone upgrade. The previous version of iOS 10, iOS 10.2.1, brought 14 known patches.

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Wireless charging for BMW 5 Series hybrid in 2018

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Wireless charging is, for the most part, still something that requires an aftermarket solution. But BMW will offer its own setup starting with the 5 Series in 2018.

The 2018 BMW 530e plug-in hybrid will be able to wirelessly charge its battery using a BMW-branded induction pad. It can be installed in the open or under cover. Once it’s connected to power, the 530e will position itself over the pad such that a current can transmit wirelessly from pad to vehicle. You can thank electromagnetic induction for this trick little setup. An induction coil in the pad creates an alternating electromagnetic field. The car parks atop that first coil and that field then creates an electric current in a second coil in the car, which is used to charge the battery.

The wireless charging pad will permit a charge rate of up to 3.2 kW. That’s only slightly less powerful than BMW’s i Wallbox, which provides 3.7 kW charging. It should take about 3.5 hours to wirelessly charge the 530e’s 9.2-kWh battery, as opposed to 3 hours flat using BMW’s hardwired solution.

It’s a clever system, no doubt, but there are still some questions. It’s not due to hit the market until 2018, and BMW wasn’t willing to confirm whether or not it will be available in the US, or just in Europe. Furthermore, nobody’s really sure how much this will cost, and whether the charging pad must be purchased independently of any vehicle option that enables wireless charging.

BMW’s wireless charging system couldn’t come at a better time. Its primary competitor, Mercedes-Benz, intends to unveil its own wireless charging solution for a plug-in hybrid variant of the S-Class flagship sedan. That should happen in 2018, as well.

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Who drinks & Smokes more? Landline vs Wireless Users

Monday, May 8th, 2017

As the popularity and usage of mobile phones increase steadily, landlines are slowly going to the days of yesterday. A study released Friday from the US Health Department confirmed that 50.8 percent of adults live in households with only wireless phones, with 39.4 percent owning both a landline and wireless connection, and a mere 6.5 percent of homes using only a landline.

While this overall takeaway may be to no surprise, the demographics within wireless-only and landlines households are pretty interesting, as well as some self-reported health habits.

For instance, over 70 percent of adults aged 25 through 34 live in a wireless-only household. And the majority of wireless-only households (83.7 percent) are unrelated adults living together with no children.

Because the study was conducted by the USHD, health-related behaviors and status were also surveyed. A larger percentage of wireless-only users reported that they had at least one heavy drinking day in the past year (compared to 18.8 percent of landline users), and 18.4 percent of cell phone users currently smoke compared to 12.1 percent of landline users. Despite these health behaviors, however, 41.5 percent of cell phone users met the 2008 federal physical activity guidelines (in contrast, 36.9 percent of landliners met the guidelines).

The study did note the possibility of coverage bias, stating that most major survey research organizations include more wireless telephone numbers than landline, which could skew results.

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Voice recognition by Google Home

Monday, May 1st, 2017

Google announced that its Home smart hub device can now recognize and identify up to six different users by the sound of their voice. It’s an inevitable but crucial step in the development of smart home virtual assistants. The new skill means that different people in a household will be able to ask the Google Assistant questions about what’s on their calendar, or what their commute looks like, and the Home device will know who is speaking to it and give tailored responses. It’ll make it a more streamlined experience for families sharing a smart home speaker hub.

The setup process involves adding additional users through the Home app, who then train the device to recognize them by repeating a few key phrases. Google uses a neural network that’s actually located on the device itself to differentiate the distinct voices in the household.

The system will still respond to requests from random people, like a guest in your home, but it also means that your Home device should only read your more personal information like what’s on your schedule for the day to you.

Amazon Echo devices already work with multiple user accounts, but they have to be switched manually by explicitly asking Alexa to do it, which adds at least one step. Amazon does let you do voice training so that Alexa can get to know your voice (as does Siri when you set up an iPhone) but it can’t recognize who is speaking and switch accounts on the fly. An Amazon representative declined to comment on when or if Alexa would gain that skill.

If you live in the United States, you should be able to set up this feature by opening the opening the Google Home app and checking for a card that reads “multi-user is available.”

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