Apple To Release New iPhones

Apple expert Jason Snell offers his take on what the next iPhones’ rumored features and changes could mean for business users.

Apple is set to introduce new iPhone models on Tuesday at a special event on its new campus in Cupertino, CA. Leaks suggest that the new iPhones will include a high-end model that’s dramatically different from any previous model. But what does that mean for the professionals who rely on the iPhone as a key part of their business life?

Let’s start with the most obvious features of any iPhone upgrade: All the new iPhones will presumably offer new versions of the Apple-designed A series chips, with faster processing and graphics power, as well as improved cameras.

That’s always true to some degree, but this year that added power and improved camera feeds into a larger story: In June at its annual developer conference, Apple announced that the new version of iOS, which should arrive in the next few weeks, will feature an augmented-reality framework known as ARKit. With the release of iOS 11, Apple will become the world’s largest augmented-reality platform, and every iOS developer will have access to Apple’s state-of-the-art frameworks.

Augmented reality may sound frivolous, but it has tons of real-word uses. Microsoft has spent several of its recent media events showing off its HoloLens augmented-reality system not just as a way to play Minecraft in your living room but as a tool for businesses. The new iPhones will undoubtedly be optimized to run ARKit at a high level; imagine interior designers and contractors instantly previewing changes to someone’s home or office space, live, via an AR app. Preview that IKEA desk in your office before you order it.

That top-of-the-line iPhone is rumored to carry a large price tag—$999 or more, just to start. That’s a big expense for any businessperson to bear, though Apple has never been the low-price leader on smartphones, and it continues to sell phones and reap the profits. My guess is that with two-year contracts becoming less common in the US as carriers shift to other methods of financing phones, the buying cycle of the average smartphone will lengthen. Perhaps there’s a nice space for a high-end phone that costs a bit more, but lasts for three years. An ultra cutting-edge iPhone might take longer to feel outdated.

Another interesting thing about this rumor is that it suggests Apple is broadening its product line even more than before, from the small and low-cost iPhone SE all the way up to this rumored high-end model. More models at more price points gives businesses purchasing flexibility and gives users more options, and that’s all good.

A major concern about this new high-end iPhone is the rumor that it will do away with the Touch ID sensor found on recent models and instead use a camera system to verify users via their faces. Obviously your corporate IT director is going to be concerned about the security of that system, but biometric security is such a core part of Apple’s strategy—including being the foundation of its Apple Pay system—that it’s hard to believe Apple would ship facial ID technology in its flagship device if it weren’t just as solid and reliable as Touch ID has been.

My guess is that the new face scanner will prove to be the most secure and accurate ever shipped in a smartphone, if only because Apple has the most to lose if it fails. But if the introduction of Touch ID creeped out some people in your company, you might want to expect the same reception for Face ID (or whatever it’s called).

Finally, there’s the rumor that the new high-end model will do away with the home button that’s been on the face of every iPhone since the first one was released 10 years ago. If that’s the case, Apple will certainly replace that button’s functionality with some combination of gestures and haptic feedback. I suspect that this is a direction Apple will go with all of its iOS products in the future—if there’s anything Apple’s designers love, it’s being able to remove a button or port—and some of the interface changes we’ve already seen in prerelease versions of iOS 11 suggest that Apple is beginning to redefine how it handles launching apps and multitasking.

In the long run I don’t think such a change will be a big deal—in fact, you can always argue that reducing the number of moving parts on a device increases product reliability—but any change can lead to short-term productivity drops as people get up to speed. I’d imagine that it won’t take long for the user of a new iPhone to adjust to the lack of a proper home button on the front of the screen, but some adaptation will still be necessary.

In any event, we’ll know more about where Apple’s taking the iPhone product line on Tuesday.

You Are Creating Password The Wrong Way

Was it m@nk3yP@$$w01rd or m0nk3yp@ssw0!rd?

For 20 years, the standard advice for creating a “strong” password that is hard to crack has been to use a mix of letters, numbers and symbols.

It’s so ingrained that when you go to create a new email account you’ll frequently get praising or finger-wagging feedback from the computer on how well your secret code adheres to these guidelines.

And you’re supposed to change it every 90 days.

Now, the man who laid down these widely followed rules says he got it all wrong.

“Much of what I did I now regret,” Bill Burr, a 72-year-old retired former manager at the National Institute of Standards and Technology told the Wall Street Journal.

In 2003, the then-mid-level NIST manager was tasked with the job of setting rules for effective passwords. Without much to go on he sourced a whitepaper written in the 1980s. The rules his agency published ended up becoming the go-to guides for major institutions and large companies.

The result is that people create odd-looking passwords and then have to write them down, which is of course less secure than something you can memorize. Users also lean on common substitutions, like “zeroes” for the letter O, which a smart hacker could program their password cracker to look for. Or they pick one “base” password that they can memorize and only change a single number. That’s also not as safe.

“It just drives people bananas and they don’t pick good passwords no matter what you do,” Burr said.

The new password guidelines are both easier to remember, and harder to guess. The NIST’s revised tips say users should pick a string of simple English words — and only be forced to change them if there’s been evidence of a security break-in.

Image: File picture illustration of the word 'password' pictured on a computer screen taken in Berlin© File picture illustration of the word ‘password’ pictured on a computer screen. Image: File picture illustration of the word ‘password’ pictured on a computer screen taken in Berlin

Not only did the old password format frustrate users, it wasn’t even the best way to keep hackers at bay.

For instance, “Tr0ub4dor&3” could take just three days to crack, according to one viral comic whose assertions have been verified by security researchers, while “CorrectHorseBatteryStaple” could take 550 years.

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Do Macs Need Malware Protection

On the popular Discovery Channel program “Mythbusters,” hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman take a legend and deconstruct it to see whether its long-held beliefs are legitimate. They’ve busted all kinds of myths, from Jimmy Hoffa being buried under Giants Stadium (not true) to the ability to kill someone without a trace using an ice bullet (the bullet vaporizes as soon as the trigger’s pulled).

One tall tale they haven’t tackled is that Macs are impervious to malware, so you needn’t worry about cybersecurity solutions. Antivirus and anti-malware protection is for the PCs.

We’re here to bust that myth.

Growing trend

Out the gate we can tell you that it’s true, Macs don’t have the same problem with malware as PCs do. One of the main reasons: sheer numbers. Cybercriminals look at the market and see that the vast majority of folks are on PCs, so they concentrate their efforts on creating malware that will result in the largest return on investment.

But the tide is turning. Macs are now responsible for 7.5 percent of global personal computer sales. In the U.S., Apple is one of the top three PC vendors, just behind HP and Dell. And as creative departments grow in corporate environments (from design and content to programming and testing), more and more businesses are adding larger numbers of Macs to their environments.

The popularity of Macs leads to more cybercriminals wanting to write malicious code for OS X. Although still much lower than PCs, the number of threats targeting Apple operating systems has grown steadily, with a spike in Mac infections observed over the last 18 months. A recent study by Bit9 + Carbon Black found that the number of Mac OS X malware samples detected in 2015 was five times greater than in the previous five years combined.

Forms of malware on Macs

Apple security is fairly tight—OS X has a basic built-in anti-malware feature, and if the machine detects a malicious program, it gets added to the signature database. From that point on, that piece of malware can’t be opened on any Mac, unless the user has explicitly disabled security updates. But clearly some malware is getting through. Which forms?

The worst offender is adware. “There are many different adware programs infecting the Mac right now, and they’re in a constant state of flux,” says Thomas Reed, Director of Mac Offerings at Malwarebytes. “Adware-riddled installers are everywhere, and it’s becoming harder and harder to tell where a safe place is to download software.”

Other forms of malware have given Apple the slip, including Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs), Info stealers, Trojans, and even ransomware (KeRanger). While these forms of malware are less prevalent, they can still be quite dangerous. KeRanger was downloaded by around 6,500 people within the 12-hour period that it was available. Some of those users had their data completely destroyed.

How are they getting through?

The main way that adware and malware is getting through on Macs these days is through codesigned apps, using a certificate obtained from Apple. The certificate is either stolen or bought and simply treated as disposable, since it costs only $99. Apple can revoke these certificates if they see them being abused, and they do so quickly when they find a new signed malware. However, Apple doesn’t take a particularly hard stand against most adware, which can persist for a long time with the same certificate.

In addition, video and audio streaming sites and piracy sites often dole out adware. Software download sites distribute installers containing adware that has been added without the permission of the developers. Worse, even some developers’ own sites are guilty of bundling adware. For example, the popular Filezilla FTP client installs adware even when downloaded directly from the official site, and the free version of Avast had (and may still have) an ad-injecting feature in its browser extension.

What happens to your Mac after an infection?

Adware is a serious hassle. Injected ads are intrusive and can contain offensive content. They can also slow down your computer’s performance and result in browser destabilization. Malicious ads can even direct you to tech support scams where you can be scammed out of your money or into installing other harmful software.

But that’s not all, Bob! What else have you won? Info stealers can, obviously, steal your info. And in the case of ransomware, data can be totally destroyed with no shot of getting it back.

Final verdict

Myth: Macs are impervious to malware.

Fact: Macs, while less vulnerable than PCs, are assailable. Their security can be penetrated, especially by cybercriminals looking to deliver adware.

So do you really need a security solution for your Mac? “Although the primary threat right now is adware, it’s still a problem of epidemic proportions,” says Reed. “Even knowledgeable Mac users have been known to fall victim to some kind of adware, so it’s no longer true that you can avoid threats by simply being careful what you download.”

With increases in Mac popularity making OS X more appealing for crooks, plus the already considerable onslaught of adware, it makes sense to install an anti-malware program for your Mac. It should catch what OS X misses and restore your Mac’s performance to the high caliber you expect.

Now what other myths can we bust? Can tooth fillings really receive radio waves?