New Apple update against Intel CPU attacks imposes 40% performance penalty

Intel processor

As mentioned in this article, Apple has posted a new article on its website that details how a user can implement Full Mitigation for a “theoretical” speculative attack that targets Intel CPUs (central processing units). Full Mitigation is mostly for users that are at heightened risk for an attack, such as government workers or high-ranking business executives.

Enabling this mitigation results in an approximate 40% drop in performance. However, as previously mentioned, most users won’t need to enable this level of mitigation, as the attack is theoretical at this point and there are no known attacks in the wild for this.

macOS 10.14.5 includes the most relevant patches for users, although there have been reported issues from Mac users with some methods of file sharing over macOS. As always, it is the best practice to only download trusted software from the Apple App Store.

If you have further questions or would like to discuss, let us know!

New WiFi to offer security, speed improvements

Girl holding WiFi indicator

Individuals that rely heavily on WiFi may want to hold off on new equipment purchases until they are WiFi 6 (aka 802.11ax) equipped and/or upgradable to WiFi 6. As detailed in this article, the new upgrade will make WiFi faster, while also approving its efficiency in other areas. The speed is almost tripled from WiFi 5 (aka 802.11ac), meaning that it can deliver more speed to more devices. And with its efficiency improvements, the advantages are more apparent through improving the network when lots of devices are connected.

WiFi 6 puts forth new technologies to help mitigate the issues that come with putting dozens of Wi-Fi devices on a single network. It allows routers to communicate with more devices at once, send data to multiple devices in the same broadcast, and lets Wi-Fi devices schedule check-ins with the router. When all is said and done, the result should be that the devices are more likely to maintain top speeds even in busier environments.

In addition to speed improvements, WiFi 6 should provide greater security, as WiFi 6 will need to support WPA3 to receive certification from the Wi-Fi Alliance. WPA3 is the most recent security protocol and the biggest upgrade to the security level of WiFi in a decade. This will make it harder for hackers to crack passwords by guessing multiple times, and make some data less useful even if hackers are able to gain access. Therefore, most devices will include this greater level of security to receive certification.

In order to use WiFi 6, you’ll need a router that supports it. Those that will see the biggest improvements in WiFi performance are those that have WiFi 6 enabled devices and have lots of devices attempting to connect to one WiFi 6 router. At this point, the routers remain relatively expensive, but should become more affordable as time goes on.

If you’d like to discuss WiFi topics like this further, please let us know!

Mar-a-Lago intruder sneaks surveillance Hardware into Club

Thumb Drive

An intruder into Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago private club had, amongst several other pieces of technology such as cell phones, a thumb drive that could apparently immediately begin installing files onto a computer when plugged in, per the U.S. Secret Service. They indicated that this is very out of the ordinary, as detailed in this story.

A few interesting aspects of this story, in relation to thumb drives as well as other hardware and security. The first is that thumb drives (aka flash drives) are very popular, primarily because of their ease of use: they are an easy way to get programs and files from one computer to another. Because of this, they’re also easy to use to get malicious software onto a computer. This leads to the second and most important point: it is wise to not plug-in thumb drives without positively knowing their source and potential side effects. On this point, it’s a bit alarming that the Secret Service agent didn’t follow this point when they plugged it into their work computer.

The lesson to be gained from the linked article is that employers should not allow their employees to plug-in items such as thumb drives into their computers, or at the very least have security software which prevents the mounting of this type of hardware when it is plugged in.

In addition to being wary of thumb drives, other insecure types of hardware purchased off of sites such as eBay should give a user pause, whether the hardware has been previously used or not. Used hardware always has the potential of having been tampered with, from both a hardware and installed software perspective. For example, users could be spied on through a laptop’s camera, or their keystrokes captured through a hidden keylogger program.

In the realm of “new” hardware, what one person may think is new may actually not be. New hardware should always come in a factory sealed box with a security sticker. Of course, it is possible that this could be faked, but it is much less likely, especially when purchased direct from the Manufacturer.

Adobe fixes Premiere issue that blew MacBook speakers

MacBook with Adobe products

Earlier in February, it was reported by multiple sites that some MacBook Pro owners had an issue with Adobe Premiere Pro CC “blowing” the speakers due to a software bug. Adobe has confirmed this issue and introduced an update to address it. The below link explains the problem and resolution.

Issues like this show the positive results of making sure software is kept up to date. For users with slower connections that prohibit quickly downloading updates and other files, ask us how we can assist with getting the most out of what you already have.

https://www.theverge.com/2019/2/23/18237501/adobe-premiere-pro-cc-macbook-pro-speakers-blown-patched

Wrongful death lawsuit brought after fire allegedly caused by iPad

Firefighters putting water on fire.

“A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against Apple in New Jersey after a man died in an apartment fire which allegedly began when his iPad burst into flames.” As has been seen in the past, especially in the recall of Samsung phones due to higher propensity for them to catch fire, it is important to understand the risks (while fairly rare) that a Lithium Ion battery could catch fire.

Here are a few user tips to practice when charging your mobile device:

  • When charging your device, do so in an area away from flammable materials. Best to charge on a fireproof tray or other fireproof item.
  • Don’t charge your device in bed while sleeping, and don’t put it under the bed covers or pillows.
  • It is wise to not leave a device charging when you’re not near it. In the event of any issues, you want to be able to address what’s occurring as soon as possible.
  • Be aware of how hot your phone gets while in use or especially when charging. Refrain from charging for long periods of time in areas of direct sunlight or other hot places, such as on the dashboard of a car on a hot day.

Doing the above things will assist in keeping you safe. Below is the link to the article on the lawsuit for further review.

8 Tips to keep your Cell Phone charged when the power goes out

iPhone charging

Whether you’re going to be away from a typical power source for a while, or suddenly fall victim to a long-lasting power outage, there are several things you can do to make sure your cell phone continues to be available. Cell phone power can be ironic: always charged when you don’t need it but when you need it most, the battery dies!

Here are a few tips…

  • Always ensure your phone is charged, especially if it has an older battery (and consider getting a new battery installed if possible, if you don’t plan on getting a new phone in the near future).
  • Make sure that a device such as a laptop, which has an internal battery, is fully charged. In an emergency, you can use the laptop to charge the phone.
  • A separate fully-powered USB storage bank can provide peace of mind. In the event of long-lasting power outages, there are also chargers with solar and hand crank capabilities to keep phones available for emergency calls.
  • Another inexpensive piece of hardware is an adapter for the power port (“cigarette lighter”) in most automobiles, for those older vehicles that don’t have built-in USB ports.
  • Enabling Low Power Mode on an iPhone, by going through the Settings App and selecting the Battery setting, will help conserve power. Further, turning on “Auto Lock” in the Settings can also help with power consumption, locking the screen automatically after a user-defined time.
  • Of course, not excessively using the phone, especially with watching videos or surfing the Internet, is a wise choice.
  • Double-clicking the Home button on the iPhone, and swiping up on any applications currently open in the background that you are no longer using, will prevent them from causing further battery drain.
  • Finally, if you have the ability, you can visit a local coffee shop, restaurant or grocery store for power charging and WIFI use. If using WIFI, it is wise to put your phone on a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to beef up the security, as most public places do not have adequate computer network security to protect the data that you are sending and receiving (we’ll save that discussion for another blog post). Just expect that wherever you may visit, seating (and power outlets) may be at a premium!

Protect Your Gear From the Effects of the Cold

Image of snowflake

On cold days like this, give your electronics time to warm up before turning them on. And turn them off before transporting.

Condensation can build up inside cold electronics when brought into a warm environment. Additionally, extreme and rapid temperature changes can damage gear. This is more likely to happen when using devices that are cold because they heat up well beyond room temperature very quickly. Causing expansion at rates beyond design specs.

Heed this advice and your equipment may last longer and give you less trouble.