PC World’s annual advice on setting up a new PC.
• PC World > “How to set up your new computer” by Brad Chacos, Senior Editor (Dec 25, 2020)
… a new PC isn’t like a new car; you can’t just turn a key and put the pedal to the metal. Okay, maybe you can—but you shouldn’t. Performing just a few simple activities when you first fire it up can help it be safer, faster, and better poised for the future. Here’s how to set up a new laptop or desktop computer the right way, step by step.
- Run Windows Update on your new PC
- Install your favorite browser
- Set up your new PC’s security
- Clean your computer’s bloatware
- Fill your new computer with software
- Back up your new computer
- Optional: Update your new PC’s drivers
- Optional: Learn about your new computer
If you recently got a new iPhone 12, or are planning to get one, this MacWorld article has tips on making a smooth transition from your old phone. If you typically get a new one every few years, then these tips are a helpful review.
• MacWorld > “Did you just get your iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro? Do these things first!” by Jason Cross (Oct 23, 2020) – Before you even peel the plastic off your new iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro, read this setup guide.
What with stay-at-home and work-from-home, I found this PC World article interesting. I talked with a friend over the weekend about using an external monitor with his notebook PC. He’d brought a 27″ monitor home from his employer’s office, and wanted to place multiple Office documents on separate screens.
Note that the article considers 2K monitors (2560×1440), which also are inexpensive, as a compromise; but recommends 1920×1080 ones as the best choice for these reasons:
• “bang for your buck”
• “more monitors are better than more resolution.”
Screen space at native resolution for hi-res monitors allows displaying more stuff; but the offset often, as noted, is tiny text and images, thereby requiring increasing text size for legibility anyway.
And actually, both Mark Hachman (the writer) and I prefer adding at least a 27″ monitor. There are several ways to use such a monitor in its native (highest) resolution mode and boost text size. Some tweaks are global – no matter what applications and windows; and in some applications, like Web browsers, you can just increase/decrease text size on the fly.
The article has photos of some different layouts.
PC World > “1080p vs 4K: Which is better for your work-from-home setup?” by Mark Hachman, Senior Editor (May 4, 2020) – You can get more done with more screen space across multiple monitors, rather than a single high-resolution display.
Should you buy a 1080p or 4K monitor for your home office? This is a question you’ll inevitably face, especially if you’ve been trying to work off of a single monitor or a cramped laptop display at home. If you have the budget and space to add a second or third monitor, you then have the choice between buying the ubiquitous 1080p resolution (1920×1080 pixels), [or 2K (2560×1440)] or 4K (3840×2160 pixels), the higher resolution that’s already common on TVs and some high-end laptops.
PCWorld’s editors have been through exactly the same debate with our own home offices. The strategy we’ve landed on is this: Buy a 1080p monitor (or two!) now, to create your own dual-monitor or insane multi-monitor setup. Then save your pennies and upgrade to a far more expensive 4K display later. Because everyone’s situation is different, we’ll help you decide your best path forward.
Holy electron beams, Batman! Chips on a reel, eh.
Ever wonder about how computer chips (microprocessors) that power your personal computer are made? Well, if you’re curious for a high level overview, this PC World article includes a YouTube video by Intel (below) and some additional manufacturing videos for other products.
PC World > “This insightful Intel video explains how CPUs are made, in words you can actually understand” – From the concept stages all the way to store shelves – by Brad Chacos, Senior Editor (February 19, 2020).
Here’s an update to a topic discussed in my January 31, 2019, post “Best PC anti-virus — free or not” and whether Microsoft Windows 10’s built-in Windows Defender is adequate for many PC users.
PC World > “Windows Security review: There are better options, but not for the ‘price’” – Windows Security (nee Windows Defender) has come a long way by Ian Paul (Dec 12, 2019).
For years, the attitude towards Windows 10’s built-in security was that it’s a nice idea, but you really shouldn’t rely on it. That stared changing in 2019, with the major testing houses giving Windows Security top marks.
Could it be true? Can you really ditch your $100 annual antivirus subscription and rely on Microsoft’s native solution instead? Here’s our opinion.
The current version allows you to run four different kinds of scans, all of which are pretty standard for antivirus.
For anyone who uses free, third-party antivirus, the new Windows Security offers pretty much all you need. Windows Security also has the added benefit of not harrassing you with notifications to upgrade to a paid product every few days.
In addition, there’s an option for controlled folder access to keep malicious programs away from sensitive folders. If Windows Security misidentifies an app as unfriendly you can also whitelist it. This section is also where you can set up OneDrive for ransomware data recovery.
Going back to the settings for Virus & threat protection, you can set up specific folders so they won’t be scanned, and adjust your notification settings.
Then the App & browser control is where you manage Windows SmartScreen for apps and file downloads, browsing on Microsoft Edge, and the Microsoft Store.
This section exposes one downside of Windows Security: It doesn’t really do as much as other third-party suites can do for third-party browsers.
See the full article for commentary on how Windows Defender did in evaluations by testing labs: AV-Test, AV-Comparatives, SE Labs.
From these results we can gather that Windows Security is highly cloud dependent for malware detection, and probably isn’t up to the job if your PC spends a good amount of time disconnected from the internet. It also means there are still far better choices for protection despite Windows Defender’s top ranking.
Windows Security offers good protection, but if you look at the testing comparisons to other suites, there are still better options. Nevertheless, Windows Security has come a long way and should continue to improve its basic protection and detection capabilities.
Forbes > How To Secure Your iPhone: 12 Experts Reveal 26 Essential Security Tips by Davey Winder, Senior Contributor, Cybersecurity (Nov 1, 2019)
Just because you’ve invested in a smartphone that isn’t exposed to quite the same degree of malware and exploit issues as an Android device, that doesn’t mean you can safely ignore good practice when it comes to iPhone security. This is why I’ve asked 12 security experts to share their knowledge as far as keeping your iPhone secure is concerned. Here are their 26 tips to help you do just that.
I’ve marked with an asterisk (*) those tips in the article which are more technical and so may not be practical for the general user.
- Go truly random with your PIN
- One iPhone, different passwords
- Watch for fake apps
- Use a Password Manager *
- Enable two-factor authentication (2FA)
- Don’t use SMS for two-factor authentication (2FA) *
- Protect your SIM *
- Don’t get juice-jacked
- Be wary of permissions *
- Don’t auto-join Wi-Fi networks
- Wipe clean before selling
- Don’t jailbreak your iPhone or sideload apps *
- Check for unknown configuration profiles *
- Use fewer apps
- Use airplane mode
- Use biometric authentication
- Read app reviews
- Go stealthy *
- Roll your sleeves up *
- Businesses should look to their MAM for help *
- Prevent losing your iPhone turning into a security disaster
- Keep your apps updated
- Patch, patch and patch again
- Disable “Load Remote Images” in email settings *
- Enable USB restricted mode *
- Learn to spot the warning signs of phishing
MacWorld > Best antivirus for Mac: Protect yourself from malicious software by Glenn Fleishman, Senior Contributor, Macworld (Nov 12, 2019)
If you’re concerned about protection against malware on your Apple Mac computer, here’re some notes from MacWorld’s latest reviews.
- Best overall antivirus software – Sophos Home Premium for Mac
- Best free antivirus software – Avast Free Mac Security
In addition to visiting malicious websites, downloading known malicious software, and even running said malware, we also reference the most recent reports from two labs that regularly cover macOS malware: AV Comparatives and AV-TEST. These laboratories test AV software against sets of known malware as well as products that are grouped as potentially unwanted applications (like adware).
Finally, while we gave props for a lot of different features and behaviors, we marked products down if they lacked any or all of the following:
A nearly perfect score on macOS malware detection
Native browser plug-in or system-level Web proxy
A high score on Windows malware detection
If you have specific requirements or just wish to see other options, below is a list of all the antivirus software we’ve reviewed. We’ll keep evaluating new and refreshed software on a regular basis, so be sure to come back to see what else we’ve put through the ringer.
- Avast Security Pro for Mac
- Sophos Home Premium for Mac
- Kaspersky Internet Security for Mac 2020
- Avast Free Mac Security
- Avira Free Antivirus for Mac
- Norton Security Deluxe (Mac)
- Trend Micro Antivirus for Mac
- Malwarebytes Premium
- ESET Cyber Security Pro
- Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac (version 6.2)
- McAfee Total Protection for Mac
- Intego Mac Internet Security X9
- ProtectWorks Antivirus for Mac
UPDATE OCTOBER 19, 2019: “The best antivirus protection of 2019 for Windows 10 – Your PC needs protection against malware, and free antivirus software may be enough. Here’s the best antivirus protection to get for Windows 10, and what’s worth paying extra for” by Clifford Colby (October 19, 2019). CNET’s “best” recommendations stand from last August (below).
I’ve previously noted PC World’s annual recommendations for PC anti-virus protection. Yesterday (August 3, 2019), Cnet posted their recommendations for Windows 10 PCs: “The best antivirus protection of 2019 for Windows 10 — Your PC needs protection against malware, and free antivirus software may be enough. Here’s the best antivirus protection to get for Windows 10, and what’s worth paying extra for.”
- Best free antivirus: Microsoft Defender.
- Best subscription antivirus: Norton 360 Deluxe.
- Best on-demand malware removal: Malwarebytes (free version) – paid version permits automatic scheduled scans as well as other features.
The Cnet article includes other tips for protecting your privacy and keeping your PC secure, as well as a summary of other PC anti-virus products (and discusses the situation regarding Kaspersky Lab’s product).
I’ve written previously about PC anti-virus / PC security programs. Annual PC World reports. Both free and paid (subscription) products. The best? Well, this recent PC World article “Recent antivirus tests are bad news for paid security suites” (January 30, 2019) has an interesting take on the question and the status of free options.
Paid security suites offer a variety of services, but their basic AV capabilities are being equaled by free apps.
Traditionally, Microsoft’s Windows Defender was considered the “baseline” product, one which the paid suites would have to surpass to prove themselves worthy. And Windows Defender still retains a “Certified” ranking, and not the “Top Product” award that the others have.
But if you rank each suite by its “protection” ranking, Windows Defender comes in sixth out of the 20 suites AV-Test evaluated. … Avast’s free antivirus suite blocked everything, both zero-day and prevalent malware.
Independent German research house AV-test ranked 12 products.
Ever mistype a Web page address? Mistype the URL? Like typing “Gogle” instead of “Google.” Ever click a result from a Google search that looked like the site you wanted but took you to something else? With maybe some scary ads?
Well, these two articles (links below) are a reminder about this common way criminals seek to trick and exploit us. Much like spoofed phone caller IDs, eh.
It’s pretty common for malicious actors to lock down common misspellings of popular sites in attempts to catch people off guard when they make a mistake typing in a URL. Those sites often look like the real thing but are designed to steal a person’s credentials and other information. While Google Chrome’s experimental feature, the browser will present a dropdown panel under the URL bar. The notification draws attention to the fact that the user may be visiting a site they don’t intend to and offers to redirect them to the correct domain. That combined with Chrome’s existing warnings about unsecure sites should hopefully be enough to keep people from falling for scams.
Currently, the endless haze of complicated URLs gives attackers cover for effective scams. They can create a malicious link that seems to lead to a legitimate site, but actually automatically redirects victims to a phishing page. Or they can design malicious pages with URLs that look similar to real ones, hoping victims won’t notice that they’re on G00gle rather than Google. With so many URL shenanigans to combat, the Chrome team is already at work on two projects aimed at bringing users some clarity.
While enabling these new feature is somewhat technical, it’s good to know that Google (among others) is working on ways of making us safer on the Web. These features probably will become standard for general use this year.
Today Apple officially released a new version of its macOS. The name of the new system — “Mojave” — celebrates the desert rather than the mountains of the High Sierra, and updates to version 10.14 from 10.13.6. Available on your Mac from the Apple Menu > App Store > Featured > Mac App Store, Apple touts Mojave as “simply powerful” with these highlights:
MacOS Mojave delivers new features inspired by its most powerful users, but designed for everyone. Stay focused on your work using Dark Mode. Organize your desktop using Stacks. Experience four new built-in apps. And discover new apps in the reimagined Mac App Store.
• Experience a dramatic new look for your Mac that puts your content front and center while controls recede into the background.
• Enjoy new app designs that are easier on your eyes in dark environments.
• View an ever-changing desktop picture with Dynamic Desktop.
• Automatically organize your desktop files by kind, date, or tag using Stacks.
• Capture stills and video of your screen using the new Screenshot utility.
• Find your files visually using large previews in Gallery View.
• See full metadata for all file types in the Preview pane.
• Rotate an image, create a PDF, and more — right in the Finder using Quick Actions.
• Mark up and sign PDFs, crop images, and trim audio and video files using Quick Look.
• Photograph an object or scan a document nearby using your iPhone, and it automatically appears on your Mac.
Mac App Store
• Browse handpicked apps in the new Discover, Create, Work, and Play tabs.
• Discover the perfect app and make the most of those you have with stories, curated collections, and videos.
• Search with lyrics to find a song using a few of the words you remember.
• Start a personalized station of any artist’s music from the enhanced artist pages.
• Enjoy the new Friends Mix, a playlist of songs your friends are listening to.
• Block Share and Like buttons, comment widgets, and embedded content from tracking you without your permission with enhanced Intelligent Tracking Prevention.
• Prevent websites from tracking your Mac using a simplified system profile that makes you more anonymous online.
• Read Top Stories selected by Apple News editors, trending stories popular with readers, and a customized feed created just for you.
• Keep your favorite topics, channels, and saved stories up to date on your Mac and iOS devices.
• Create a customized watchlist and view interactive charts that sync across your Mac and iOS devices.
• Browse business news driving the markets curated by Apple News editors.
• Make audio recordings, listen to them as you work with other apps, or use them in a podcast, song, or video.
• Access audio clips from your iPhone on your Mac using iCloud.
• Organize and control all of your HomeKit accessories from your desktop.
• Receive real-time notifications from your home devices while you work.
To install macOS Mojave, your Mac needs at least 2GB of memory and 12.5GB of available storage space to upgrade—or up to 18.5GB of storage space when upgrading from OS X Yosemite or earlier.
There are many articles online about Mojave. Here’re 3 articles by MacWorld:
- How to upgrade to macOS Mojave: Step-by-step instructions on upgrading to the latest Macintosh operating system
- MacOS Mojave: Apple releases the latest version of its Macintosh operating system: Everything you need to know about the new Macintosh operating system
- Mojave has three new apps that were originally iOS apps: Apple News, Stocks, and Voice Memos. There’s also a new Home app for managing internet-of-things devices.
- Apple names macOS after California locations, a method adopted in 2014 with OS X Yosemite. In case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced “Mo-HA-vey.” Mojave is a national preserve in the area between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Nevada.
- 5 reasons why you should upgrade to macOS Mojave right now
- It’s not a major revamp of the operating system (it’s been a while since the Mac has had one of those), but it does add new features that can help you be more productive with your Mac.
- An OverSight-like feature is now built into Mojave that can alert you when an app wants to access the camera and mic, as well as iTunes device backups, Time Machine backups, your Mail database, your Message history, your Safari data, and other data.
- Mojave makes Quick Look most robust, providing simple editing tools so you don’t even need to open an app. Now when you preview an image (select it and then press the space bar), you can click on the Quick Actions icon between the Rotate icon and the Open in Preview button, and a set of editing tools appears.
As with any macOS upgrade, best practices are to backup your current Mac’s hard drive (using Time Machine and/or SuperDuper) and do the installation when you’re not stressed and when you do not need to use your Mac for an hour or two. Then give yourself some time afterwards to acclimate to the new look of some things.
It’s that time of year again. New Apple devices. New iPhones and watches, and new versions of the stuff that makes them work. MacWorld highlights the best new features in iOS 12 in this article: “How to use the coolest new features in iOS 12” (September 17, 2018).
At last, iOS 12 is here, bringing a batch of new features to tinker with. Most (if not all) of these features aren’t exactly earth-shaking, in part because Apple spent much of its development process cleaning up the relatively buggy mess of iOS 11 and turning its sequel into something worthy of the Apple name. In fact, many already exist on competing operating systemsin some form or another.
But that doesn’t mean that they’re not fun or useful, nor does it mean that they’re not welcome. We here at Macworld have spent the last several months tinkering with all of these new options in the iOS 12 beta, and over that time a few have emerged as our favorites. Once you get used to them, iOS 11 feels ancient and inefficient by comparison.
Read the full article to determine if there are any features which may appeal to you.
Another go at this topic, this time by PC World.
The Google ecosytem is impressive, with devices and services which we use on a daily basis. Lots of services: search, contacts, calendar, web browsing, etc. Google Assistant, the digital personal assistant (butler). Lots of Google apps on our Android-powered smartphones. Google programs on our notebook and desktop computers. Even Chromebooks. And smart speakers.
Paying for a smartphone which runs Android is one thing, but all those Google services generally are part of the “freemium” marketplace. So, is there a price to pay for all that convenience?
Well, of course. The price is that we give away information (data) about ourselves: personal data, what we do and how often, where we go, what we read and search for, what we buy, … So, “eyes wide open,” is there any way to check on how we’re being tracked and to limit that? Sort of.
This PC World article covers that “sort of” question regarding Google’s tracking: “Google Privacy Checkup FAQ: How to limit tracking and still use the apps you love” (August 22, 2018).
In response to an AP report that showed Android phones still tracked location even with Location History turned off, Google changed some of the verbiage on its privacy page to be clearer, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to change its tactics.
You might not know it, but you have a surprising amount of control over your Google account, as long as you know where to find all the switches. Here’s everything you need to know about Google’s privacy settings: where to find them, what you can turn off, and how it all affects your phone.
Recently when visiting the Google home page in a browser, there always was a nag to check my privacy settings. So, at least Google is encouraging more awareness about the settings.
[The Privacy Checkup] page is accessible on any device or the web, and it’s pretty easy to navigate. Near the top you’ll see a box called Review your privacy settings, which leads to the Privacy Checkup guide. Tap Get started to get an overview of your current settings. By default, everything will be turned on, but there are several layers that can be switched off (or paused, as Google labels it).
Read the full article, which discusses the different categories of settings, in each case answering these questions: What is it? How do I turn it off? Can I limit it (instead of turning it completely off)? How does it affect my phone? How do I get rid of old data?
- Web & app activity
- Location history
- Device information
- Voice & audio activity
The situation is just like having a close family member, best friend, or trusted butler — someone you find really helpful and rely on for personal assistance. The more that person knows about you — your preferences, tastes and habits and interests — the more fluid your interactions. In other words, you gain convenience by saving time (not needing to detail your requests each time) and energy (hey, you know what I like).
Just note that while there are ways of eliminating traces of your activity in a web browser (history, bookmarks, caches), other data is collected regardless.
An annual review by PC World: “Best antivirus: Keep your Windows PC safe from spyware, Trojans, malware, and more” (updated August 27, 2018):
Antivirus software is nearly as crucial as a PC’s operating system. Even if you’re well aware of potential threats and practice extreme caution, some threats just can’t be prevented without the extra help of an AV program—or a full antivirus suite.
You could, for example, visit a website that unintentionally displays malicious ads. Or accidentally click on a phishing email (it happens!). Or get stung by a zero-day threat, where an undisclosed bug in Windows, your browser, or an installed program gives hackers entry to your system.
Read the entire article for a list of all products which were reviewed (with links), but here’s their short list:
ANTIVIRUS SUITE CHEAT SHEET
Our quick-hit recommendations:
- Best overall antivirus suite: Norton Security Premium[symantec.com]
- Best budget antivirus suite: AVG Internet Security[avg.com]
- Best antivirus suite for newcomers: Trend Micro Maximum Security[trendmicro.com]
Paid versions are subscriptions, annually debiting your credit card (unless you disable that setting in your account). And if you only have a single PC, look for a product edition for an appropriate number of devices (rather than a more costly “premium” edition which may cover 5 or 10 devices).
And remember that best practice is to use one of these highly rated security programs and at least the free version of Malwarebytes.
Note that many of these products have mobile editions.
Mac (Apple): Here’s MacWorld’s review for Mac, “Best antivirus for Mac: Protect yourself from malicious software” (September 4, 2018).
Macs may be a far less tempting target for malware and viruses, but they’re not immune from attack. Even if you don’t care about adware or being used as a means to infect users on other platforms, it’s still possible to fall victim to ransomware, password theft, or stolen iPhone backups.
Our quick-hit recommendations:
Note that Malwarebytes also is available for the Mac.
I’ve followed this topic for years: When and how often to charge your smartphone’s battery. What to do and not — in order to prolong the usable life of that battery (and so not worry about replacing the battery before you’re ready to get a new smartphone, eh).
For many of us, charging the battery on our smartphones is a daily ritual. Sometimes more than once a day, as we do more and more on our smartphones that we used to do on desktop/notebook computers. One basic question is whether to use your smartphone until the battery charge level is so low that your device shuts off automatically (or at least until you get a warning).
While there remains some debate about charging practices (versus battery chemistry per se), I found this recent Lifehacker.com article a good summary: “Stop Letting Your Smartphone’s Battery Die Before You Charge It” (August 17, 2018).
You can charge your smartphone whenever you want. Your device’s lithium-ion battery doesn’t care if it’s at 10% or 80% capacity; it will charge just fine without destroying your device’s longevity.
It’s true that a lithium-ion battery will diminish over time, … the capacity of a lithium-ion battery “diminishes slightly with each complete charge cycle.”So, if you’ve overusing your smartphone because you think you’re better-maintaining its battery by doing so, you’re actually doing yourself a disservice. Stop adding unnecessary charge cycles by draining the battery. Just charge it.
In particular, the article references a YouTube video from the American Chemical Society with tips on making your smartphone battery last longer.
As for all the other battery myths out there, everyone seems to have a different take on what you should do with your device—when to charge it, when not to charge it, what battery level to charge to, et cetera. … the general recommendation is that you keep your smartphone’s battery around 50 percent if you aren’t using it for a long time (as in, months) …
- Avoid heat
- Avoid fully discharging the battery — to the point that your device shuts off
- Store at 50% charge
There appears to be one area of some contention:
But what about the dreaded “trickle-charging” issue you’ve probably heard of? That’s the one where you’re not supposed to keep your smartphone plugged in at night because it will constantly “charge” whenever it drops to 99 percent. That’s not exactly a myth, according to multiple sources, but there’s still a lot of contention over what you should actually do …
Personally, whenever I can (and it’s convenient), if I notice that my smartphone is 100% charged, I disconnect the charger.
Be more conscious about when your smartphone is plugged in, and you’ll likely reap what little benefits you can—assuming your efforts aren’t overshadowed by the fact that your smartphone’s battery will simply get worse with age, period.
Note that because many other devices use lithium-ion batteries, these tips may apply to them as well. And remember to follow your device manufacturer’s guidelines and use their provided chargers in most cases, since quality matters regarding the interplay of device and charger.
Safari > Preferences > Websites > Auto-Play and audio for web site videos
The other day a client thought that her built-in (internal) Apple computer’s speakers weren’t working. Well, more specifically, on her favorite news site, posted videos were playing without sound — muted. Her iMac recently had been upgraded to the latest macOS version. She’d noticed a new feature.
So, this is a new feature in the latest versions of Safari and other web browsers (like Chrome) which was introduced to reduce the annoyance and distraction of video ads and other video spots on web pages which autoplay on visiting those web pages. You have control over this setting in Safari.
You may override the default setting on a case by case basis by clicking on the audio icon for the particular video (using the playback control section in that video window) — to mute or un-mute and adjust volume.
Here’s more detail on how the feature works. When visiting a web site, the factory default setting in Safari is to “Stop Media with Sound” unless you change it. See the attached two screenshots.
In screenshot 1, with the desired web page (site) open, in Safari Preferences the web site setting for Auto-Play will be set to the default (Stop Media with Sound) as a “Currently Open Website.” If you elect to change the setting to Allow All Auto-Play, and close the settings window …
In screenshot 2, when you visit that site later, you’ll notice the Auto-Play setting for that site is now a “Configured Website” with your changed setting. That new behavior stays in place unless removed.
Wiki: According to the European Commission, “personal data is any information relating to an individual, whether it relates to his or her private, professional or public life. It can be anything from a name, a home address, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer’s IP address.”
The lead-up to the effective date of the GDPR led to many companies and websites changing their privacy policies and features worldwide in order to comply with its requirements, and providing email and on-site notification of the changes, … This has been criticized for eventually leading to a form of fatigue among end-users over the excessive numbers of messages.
I’ve read some of these notices in full. And supplied my consent when requested. Tedious. Once you read a few, others are similar. Generally, the GDPR has facilitated clarification of all the ways our personal data is collected and used and especially shared. So, at face value, such transparency is a good thing.
This Washington Post article (May 25, 2018) “Why you’re getting flooded with privacy notifications in your email” summarizes what’s happening.
European Union regulators have always been much tougher on tech companies than their U.S. counterparts, for instance forcing them to give users more control, imposing fines for noncompliance and requiring platforms to spot and delete illegal content.
But as this Washington Post article (June 1, 2018) “Hands off my data! 15 default privacy settings you should change right now” points out, compliance for the updated privacy policies has an insidious “buyer beware” side. In some cases, the GDPR changed nothing as far as your personal data. “The devil’s in the defaults.”
Say no to defaults. A clickable guide to fixing the complicated privacy settings from Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple.
You’re not reading all those updated data policies flooding your inbox. You probably haven’t even looked for your privacy settings. And that’s exactly what Facebook, Google and other tech giants are counting on.
They tout we’re “in control” of our personal data, but know most of us won’t change the settings that let them grab it like cash in a game show wind machine. Call it the Rule of Defaults: 95 percent of people are too busy, or too confused, to change a darn thing.
Give me 15 minutes, and I can help you join the 5 percent who are actually in control. I dug through the privacy settings for the five biggest consumer tech companies and picked a few of the most egregious defaults you should consider changing. These links will take you directly to what to tap, click and toggle for Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple.
Google has been saving a map of everywhere you go, if you turned on its Assistant when you set up an Android phone. Amazon makes your wish list public — and keeps recordings of all your conversations with Alexa. Facebook exposes to the public your friends list and all the pages you follow, and it lets marketers use your name in their Facebook ads. By default, Microsoft’s Cortana in Windows 10 gobbles up … pretty much your entire digital life.
I’ve increasingly noticed the tradeoff between convenience and personal privacy. For example, Google’s services can make finding things, navigating, and scheduling appointments rather seamless. A digital assistant, providing personalization (like having an amazing personal butler). But my digital footprint — comprehensive record of my contacts and times and places — is shopped and shared between apps and services in a somewhat spooky way.
Changing the defaults … mean you’ll get less personalization from some services, and might see some repeated ads. But these changes can curtail some of the creepy advertising fueled by your data, and, in some cases, stop these giant companies from collecting so much data about you in the first place. And that’s a good place to start.
I’ve noticed these types of scams for awhile: email messages (supposedly) from Apple purportedly about a payment or Apple ID or login from another device (which in fact you may not own). More and more email apps (especially on mobile devices) do not permit examination of the raw message text, which often permits detection of the fraud. So, what to do?
This Vipre Security News blog post (March 16, 2018) is a good summary of the situation: “Apple Phishing Attacks Prompt Advice From Tech Giant.”
Apple customers don’t get phished quite as much as Microsoft ones, but they do face a fairly annoying variety and frequency of fake emails. The problem stems from the fact that Apple sends emails to its customers quite regularly, thereby making the millions of Apple customers juicy targets for the bad guys.
There are three basic fake emails going around. The first appears as an email invoice for your “recent Apple purchase.” Another is a “Reminder” notifying you of an account login from an iPad in Monaco. The third, and possibly most alarming, is a text message informing you that your Apple ID is expiring today.
If you’re not sure whether an email about an App Store, iTunes Store, iBooks Store, or Apple Music purchase is legitimate, these tips from Apple may help.
As in all phishing scams, these fake messages want you to click on a link or open an attachment (which may include further fake links) and then trick you into providing personal or account information — which (genuine) “App Store, iTunes Store, iBooks Store, or Apple Music purchases will never ask you to provide.”
Checking or updating any account or payment information should only be done in the Settings on your Apple device.
Yesterday, PC World posted some articles regarding progress in the continuing Spectre and Meltdown saga.
The fixed Spectre fixes are coming fast and furious now. Intel quietly pushed CPU firmware updates out for Haswell (4th-generation) and Broadwell (5th-generation) processors earlier this week, following in the footsteps of recent microcode patches for Skylake (6th-gen), Kaby Lake (7th-gen), and Coffee Lake (8th-gen) processors.
Don’t expect to see the updates immediately. They need to trickle down through hardware suppliers like Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Asus in the form of motherboard BIOS updates; you can’t grab it directly from Intel. If you own a laptop or prebuilt PC from a major manufacturer, keep an eye out for an available update.
The Spectre CPU firmware updates will affect your PC’s performance, though it varies wildly depending on your hardware, operating system, and tasks at hand.
Typically, patching Spectre and Meltdown mitigations have followed a traditional pattern: Microsoft patches Windows via Windows Update, antivirus companies like AVG have patched their antivirus software, and so on. Intel, too, authors patches, as it recently did for Haswell and Broadwell CPUs. But unlike Microsoft, Intel doesn’t directly ship those patches to end users—it uses its network of PC makers and motherboard vendors to distribute them, after the appropriate testing by each vendor.
What isn’t clear is whether Microsoft will also push out Intel’s microcode via Windows Update, its usual distribution mechanism for supplying patches. … Though neither Microsoft nor Intel clarified exactly why Microsoft is providing Intel’s microcode, the likely reason is to support smaller PC makers, and especially motherboard makers … [So, for the typical PC user this does not apply, eh.]
Processor designations like Coffee Lake, Kaby Lake, Skylake, Broadwell, Haswell, etc., don’t mean anything to most of us; so, basically all this news tells us is that Intel and Microsoft (among others) are continuing to work on patches for relatively new and somewhat older PCs.
Intel’s revised patches for its Ivy Bridge [3rd gen] and Sandy Bridge [2nd gen] processor families have begun rolling out to address Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities. With the release of the new code, just a few older processor families remain in the patch queue.
By now, Microsoft and many antivirus vendors have issued the appropriate patches, but if you’re concerned that your PC or motherboard vendor hasn’t delivered the appropriate patch, you can also check Microsoft’s site.
Update 4-6-2018: How to find your motherboard’s Spectre CPU fix – Such a crucial patch should be much simpler to find – by Brad Chacos, Senior Editor, PCWorld – April 5, 2018
Operating system patches alone can protect against the nasty Meltdown flaw affecting Intel processors, but fixing Spectre —Meltdown’s nasty sibling, which affects all CPUs — requires firmware updates for your hardware. Those firmware fixes are finally available for all Intel processors scheduled to receive a fix, dating back to the Sandy Bridge (2nd-gen) era of Core processors from 2011.
Installing Spectre fixes aren’t so easy, though, especially if you’re using a computer you’ve built yourself, or one from a boutique PC builder that uses off-the-shelf parts. You can’t download CPU firmware patches directly from Intel or AMD; instead, you need to download them from your motherboard’s provider, such as Asus, Gigabyte, or ASRock. You’ll need to know your motherboard’s model number to find the correct firmware for your device, too, and Windows doesn’t make that easy to find.