Dr. Bob Spencer Twenty Seconds In the Future

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November 2015

Serious Security Issues in Android

Two recent articles sent to me by my friend Mac McClelland, www.k2e.com, really caught my eye. Google's security researchers, in an experiment to determine how vulnerable the code added by manufacturers to the Android OS is, hunted for bugs in Samsung's Galaxy S6 Edge phone. Bottom-line, the researchers found 11 vulnerabilities in Samsung's code that could be exploited to create files with system privileges, steal the user's emails, execute code in the kernel and escalate the privilege of unprivileged applications. To those not familiar, Google owns the Android OS and licenses its use to manufacturers such as Samsung, Amazon and many others. Microsoft has been doing this for years, and like Google have shouldered the blame for security bugs that were largely caused by the vendors modifications to the OS code. If you use Android based devices, this article might be worth reading, at the least it is a great example of how the bad guys are hacking us and why.

The next issue the security team at K2 Enterprises have been tracking and lecturing on for some time is malware embedded apps. Black Hat Hackers have been creating rogue versions of popular Android applications that compromise the security of devices for some time, and they are extremely hard to remove once installed. Researchers from mobile security firm Lookout have found more than 20,000 samples of such trojanized apps. They're typically fully functional copies of top Android applications like Candy Crush, Facebook, Google Now, NYTimes, Okta, SnapChat, Twitter or WhatsApp, but with malicious code added to them. By the way, if you are not running the Lookout security on your Android device, I highly recommend you look into it.  The report shows that many of the trojanized applications analyzed were mostly distributed through third-party app stores, so they pose no direct threat to users who only download apps from Google Play. Google has gotten better at securing apps offered through their store play.google.com, but that does still not mean you are completely protected. For more on trojanized Android apps, read this article.


Cisco Forecasts Huge Increase In Cloud Traffic

Cisco, a leading provider of high-end business networking hardware, is predicting business will be good for the next several years. By 2019, North America will have the highest volume of cloud traffic, at 3.6ZB (that's Zetta bytes), followed by the Asia-Pacific region (2.3ZB) and Western Europe (1.5ZB). The same holds true in data center traffic: North America will lead with 4.5ZB, with the Asia-Pacific next, at 3.7ZB, and Western Europe, at 1.8ZB. What that translates into is that data center workloads will more than double between 2014 to 2019, while cloud workloads will more than triple. In addition, workload density, workloads per physical server in traditional data centers, will increase from 2 in 2014 to 3.2 in 2019, while in cloud data centers, it will jump from 5.1 last year to 8.4 by 2019. For more detail, review this slide show from e-week.

Cyber Criminal's Are Usually Ahead of Our Defenses

Relatively new cyber hacking threats of the black hat kind (meaning the bad guys) are smarter than ever in avoiding detection. New entrants are using embedded JavaScript that may be inside a document or a picture file to attack your systems. They do this by first enticing you to open an infected file, this releases a JavaScript file that loads in memory and downloads multiple small program, or script, files that combine together into an intelligent program that can then download more programs and further embed themselves into you system. Most anti-malware will miss the initial file as it does not look like a threat. These small files simply do not look like malicious software we have seen in the past. So, what do you do to protect yourself and your business?

First, train everyone who uses email to be suspicious of all attachments, no matter how benign they might appear. What appears to be an amusing video actually may contain dangerous malware. I have seen significant traffic containing supposed attachments of invoices, shipping confirmations, faxes, or pictures that are all malware. Some will appear to be from popular sites such as Amazon and Apple. Resist the urge to "check it out!"

Next, set up your mail system to block potentially harmful attachments. One problem with this is that many email systems (including Microsoft Outlook) will not block compressed files, and many won't block text files. Set your mail system to block all attachments so they can only be viewed on-line. If you receive an email with an unknown attachment, such as an invoice, go to that vendor site and check you account on-line, or call customer support.

Finally, a good dose of cynicism is a good thing. If you have employees who do not need a company email account, don't give them one, or delete the account if you have already issued one in the past.  There are a number of places they can open a free email account. Just do not allow them to use such accounts on your office computers.


October 2015

Finally, a great way to remember your passwords!

I spoke last week to a local Rotary Club.  Other than trying to keep everyone awake after lunch while I spoke on Cyber Crime and how to protect your small business, it was a great time.  One of the things I mentioned was the importance of passwords and some of the dos and don'ts.  An article in the Washington Post recently discusses a great solution to creating solid passwords that are easy for you to remember but difficult to crack. I suggest you check it out.


How is your Windows 10 going for you?

So far Microsoft seems to have created a hit with Windows 10. And why not, it is really Windows 8 3.0, if you count Windows 8, 8.1 and now 10.  However, you may not be getting as much out of the new system as you could. Check out this article by Lincoln Spector at Windows Secrets and fine tune your Windows 10.

Hello Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book

Microsoft has announced the company's new Windows 10 hardware this month. Microsoft showed off its new new high-end Windows 10 mobile phones Lumia 950 and 950 XL Smartphone's and an update to its productivity-focused tablet, the Surface Pro 4. The company also shared Windows 10 latest adoption figures. HoloLens made an appearance during a splashy real-time demo, but the augmented reality headset is still a ways off from general availability. New Xbox One bundles are hitting shelves just in time for the holiday weekend and an update that upgrades the video game and video streaming console to Windows 10 is coming next month. Band, the company's fitness-themed wearable, got a major upgrade on both the hardware and software side. There wasn't much in the way of surprises, that is until Panos Panay, Microsoft's Surface hardware lead, announced Microsoft's first-ever laptop, the Surface Book two-in-one. Featuring a 13.5-inch screen with touch and pen input, a Surface Pro-like 3:2 aspect ratio and a performance-enhancing discrete GPU option, the Surface Book has the MacBook Pro in its sights. Here are some highlights from Microsoft's Windows 10 Device Event.

Google is getting into the router business.

Google is joining Amazon and Microsoft in the highly contested networking component world. Google's efforts in the smart home business, headlined by the company's Nest smart thermostat, just expanded with the announcement of its OnHub wireless router. The WiFi router comes with a host of "smart" features, including the ability to prioritize certain types of traffic or devices connected to it. Google also contends that OnHub is simpler to use than other wireless routers and is a suitable option for consumers and even small businesses. Still, the OnHub will find itself in a crowded market, filled with devices like Apple's Time Capsule and products from Linksys, Asus, Belkin and others. Google believes that its device strikes the proper balance between speed and usability and has a shot at becoming a major player in a part of the technology industry—networking—that fails to get the attention it deserves. This slide show will take a look at the OnHub router to see if it deserves the attention of consumers and small-business operators. Read on to learn more about Google's new smart wireless router.

A lifetime battery? So says Samsung and MIT.

Imagine never having to change a battery again. MIT scientists along researchers from Samsungs Advanced Institute of Technology have developed a new material for a basic battery component that they say will enable almost indefinite power storage. The new material, a solid electrolytem, will not only increase battery life, but also storage and capacity.  Lithium-ion batteries, that we use now, contain a liquid electrolyte, which has been responsible for overheating and causing fires in cars, commercial airliners and cell phones. With a solid electrolyte, there's no such safety problem. Also, with a solid-state electrolyte, there's almost no degradation, meaning such batteries could last through hundreds of thousands of charging cycles.

September 2015

Is QuickBooks EMV Compatible?

That is Europay, MasterCard, and Visa (EMV) chip credit cards https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EMV. Many of you have already received one or more EMV chip cards which have a small computer chip in the card that stores information digitally rather than relying upon the magnetic strip that we are used in the  in the past.  This change is to enhance security and reduce credit card fraud, more information on implementing these changes can be found at http://usa.visa.com/download/merchants/visa-merchant-chip-acceptance-readiness-guide.pdf & http://quickbooks.intuit.com/r/emv-migration/what-is-emv-and-why-do-i-need-it

A great blog, recently posted by my friend Ilene Eisen, CPA, CITP, gives a quick explanation for QuickBooks users on QuickBooks compatibility to the new EMV chip based credit cards that are going viral this week.  Even if you are not a QuickBooks users, this post gives you a good understanding of the new card and what is expected of merchants and their responsibilities. Read her blog at http://ie-solutions.biz/blog/category/blog/


Refresh of Apple Watch and Watch OS2 happened almost behind the scenes.

Not much was said, in fact almost nothing, about the Apple Watch during Apple's September release meeting, so I was rather surprised to a not only a few new Apple Watch offerings, including a Brushed Gold Sport versions in the $399 range (so much better than the $15,000.00 range), but also what appears to be some improvements on the inside as well.  With the new releases I decided to take the plunge and buy one, and I have to say, no buyers remorse. I made sure I got the Apple Care insurance for $49.00 to cover any breakage or damage for a couple of years. I found the setup a breeze and I like the compatibility to my  iPhone 6 Plus. To my surprise, I am actually using Siri more now that she is on my wrist. 

Also, surprisingly, Apple did not say much about the release of Watch OS2, but it is out. It is a long update from the iPhone to the Watch, so make sure the iPhone is plugged in, and the Watch is fully charged.  You will see a few new watch faces, but he real magic is what you don't see. The update provides better battery life, some serious independence from the iPhone, and access to some of the sensors what was previously not there. Do the update and keep an eye out for new apps.

One last note. I am not a fan of paying several hundred dollars for a watch band. Well good news, there are now several manufacturers who have released bands for the Apple Watch. Ranging from $20 to $50 and a few in the under $99 these are much more reasonably priced to suit my taste. Buy careful and read the reviews to make sure they are what you want but overall I found some pretty good options at Amazon.

Apple Announcements - New iPad Pro is the talk of the town, but not much else exciting.

It is true, many of the manufacturers and resellers and been complaining that the tablet market has been dead. A serious decline in sales. Of course several studies show a decline across most electronics such as laptops, tablets, and smart phones. While there is no shortage of pundits explaining the drop, it may not be a general dissatisfaction as market saturation. Most of the early adaptors and mainliners are on board and have made purchases in the past two years. With computers and laptops there was a jump in sales as the market came back in 2013 and those folks are not ready to buy again. The life an a quality computer today is five to six years, and no one is upgrading for the fun of it.

While Apple has done a nice refresh on the iPhone and iPad Mini and iPad Air, with a new iPad Pro. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus is really a mid-cycle refresh for those who are ready to upgrade or move to iPhone from something else. Or, those who just have to have a new phone every year. To satisfy those who need a new iPhone every year Apple introduced a purchase plan that is a pay-as-you-go and works out to a little over a dollar a day. For those who are fine with keeping their phone longer than a year, this may not be the best solution for you as the total cost does work out to more than the plans offered by most carriers. Do the math before you buy.  For the iPad Air 3 and the new iPad Mini 4 (both available with OS 9 in October 2015) these are also refreshes with faster processors and higher resolutions. The big news, of course, is the iPad Pro. Finally, a really big tablet!  Tablet? Really? This thing is huge. If you considered the Microsoft Surface Pro a tablet, then yes it is a tablet too, but if you are talking truly mobile use devices - not so much. With that said, for those who are primarily email, browsing, and chatting with family then this is a great device for you. Leave it in the living room and enjoy its awesomeness. The Apple Pencil however seemed to get short changed to me. It only works on the Pro for what I can tell, but is expected to work with Microsoft Office for iPad products, Adobe, and several other products and truly extends the power of touch with an instrument we are all familiar with. Wow a $100 pencil - we have certainly come a long way from the good ole #2 Pencil!

So we shall see how it goes. I think the iPad Pro will be a huge success and will integrate into offices and board rooms nicely.  The Air 3 will continue to be the business users and casual tablet user go to device and the mini will stay for personal use as a reader and light services where the Fire and Android devices are missing Apps many of use depend on.

When the Lion Lays Down with the Lamb, we shall see the end of days.

OK, maybe not that severe, but the news of joint project between VMware and Microsoft  was pretty Earth shattering considering the rivalry between these to powerhouses in the Virtual Machine world. Project A2 will establish a set of technologies and protocols allowing IT admins to shift endpoint management away from the machine and toward applications. In other words, combining cloud features found in Windows 10 with technology provided by VMware, IT admins will be able to create virtualized Windows 10 desktops controlled at the enterprise IT level. The desktop hardware at the endpoint will merely be the shell running the virtual environment.

Refresh your systems and eliminate many old problems with a clean-install of Windows 10

The idea behind the free upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or 8 is that it must be done as an upgrade. This is fine for most, but when you change operating systems is a great time to get a clean start on life and begin a new. Here is a nice article from CNET on how to do a clean-install of the free Windows 10. Fred Langa of Windows Secrets also had a great article this month on the process as well.

Google Releases Major Update for Google Docs

Good news for Google fans, voice dictation is just one of the major new features to come out of the new release of Google Docs announced on Sept. 2. Google also announced a new Research function and a new Explore function. Research is designed to integrate the process of search with the ability to cut and paste, so that you can, for example, add details from an online encyclopedia to a paper you're writing on a tablet—along with photos—and do it all quickly and easily with a minimum of touch actions. Explore is designed to make sense of data that you've stored in the Google Sheets spreadsheet app and to display it in a way that makes sense. Of course, that data still has to get into the spreadsheet somehow and you still have to tell Explore what data you want to look at, but according to the details released by Google today, the rest is automatic. Google Docs fans read more...


August 2015

DefCon Security Conference Session was an eye opener!

"I'm Going to Kill You" was more than just a catchy tile for a  presentation at this years DefCon Security Conference. Aussie security researcher Chris Rock, gave his presentation to a packed audience showing how easy it was to kill someone off (create a death certificate that is, not actually physically kill them!) Or, how easy it is to birth someone, create an entirely false, but potentially legal looking birth certificate that is.  If you are already scared to turn your computer on, cheer up, now you can be hacked without doing so, and why Internet thieves are making use of technology to get your money now. This is a great read...

Installing Windows 10 – Should I Go, Or Should I Stay?

Who can resist free? Apparently few can. Aside from the 5 million persons who participated in the Windows 10 Insider Preview (yes, I jumped on board last September,) another 10 million have downloaded the free upgrade and the number is growing quickly. As of August 5th Microsoft had a cumulative upgrade, by one estimate 300MB, and continues to fine tune the release. I have also noticed a number of hardware driver updates, including nVidia, so make sure you check your hardware providers to see if updated drivers are available. I have heard of a couple of AMD processor and board issues, but those seem to be getting resolved. I have had one hiccup this week converting an old desktop that had gone from XP to Vista to Windows 7 to Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 Preview, and between updates the registry became corrupt. I am thinking however this may have been and I/O (Idiot Operator) error. The system hung and rebooted during an update due to a bad video driver error (hence the current knowledge that I should have downloaded new nVidia drivers) and after the reboot I had lost my Start Button functions. No restart point, therefore a long night ahead to restore back to original system specs (at least back as far as Windows 7 and then upgrade to Windows 10.)

There have been a few good articles circulating on upgrading, and this one from eWeek is no exception, How to Successfully Install Windows 10 Free Upgrade. Much better than the article “How to Seriously Corrupt Your Computer” by yours truly.

Does Windows 10 Violate Your Privacy?

Is there anyway this could be a good starting point? A recent article from TechRepublic reveals that upon install Windows 10 defaults to settings that could be seen as a serious privacy invasion (again, have you seen any funny privacy invasions? Sorry about that, I have been texting with my kids and that always brings out my satirical side.) The first issue is that Windows 10 automatically assigns an advertising ID to each user on a device tied to the email address that's on file. Using that ID, the company can tailor ads for web-browsing and using certain applications. Great, my professional business computer is now tracking me with an advertising ID. The next concern is that much of users' personal data is synced with Microsoft's servers. Some of this information, like your Wi-Fi password, can then be encrypted and shared with your contacts, using a feature called Wi-Fi sense. Again, Microsoft, there are a LOT of business users who do not want you meddling in our business - that includes Wi-Fi passwords. There is more, but I can’t keep going, it is just to frustrating. See article for suggestions as to how to change default settings to medicate some of your risk.

Wait, we’re not done. According to a recent article in IT News, Windows 10 commandeers some users’ upload bandwidth. Microsoft will use its customers' upload bandwidth to deliver Windows 10's updates and apps with a P2P technology resembling BitTorrent, a fact that has caught a few technology security pundits by surprise. Baked into Windows 10 is a new technology Microsoft dubbed "Windows Update Delivery Optimization" (WUDO) that is turned on by default for all editions of Windows 10. However, only some versions, notably, Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro, are set to provide updates and apps to other devices when connected to the public Internet.

To disable WUDO (that just sounds wrong somehow); from "Settings," click the "Update & security" icon, then the "Advanced options" link under "Windows Update." In the next window, click on "Choose how updates are delivered" to turn off WUDO by moving the slider to Off. To leave it on, but restrict sending locally cached updates and apps only to devices on the same local network, select "PCs on my local network" near the bottom. Yes, you really have to look for the right settings! In fact, I recommend you check all your settings in Windows carefully.

Office Mobile Apps Released with Windows 10

Microsoft has released Office Mobile Apps on Windows 10. Office Mobile (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote) kicks off a series of productivity software releases that will take place this year. In September Microsoft is expected to release Office 2016 for Windows desktops and then follow up with Office Mobile for Windows Phones.

Again, according to Microsoft, tablet-friendly Office Mobile apps are built from the ground up for touch and offer the same familiar experience that Office customers expect. Across each of the apps, viewing of Office documents allow edits and changes made on any device to render perfectly across all the users devices. Actually, this is pretty cool. Read more of upcoming releases.

The End Is Near!

For all previous versions of IE (10 and earlier) that is. There are a few exceptions for users of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 and 2012 R2 users, so you need to review this. All other users should be on IE 11 (which may not work correctly on older versions of Windows such as XP – so yes, you will have to upgrade or buy new computers. Read more to see if your systems are affected, and have a talk with your IT people very soon. You have until January 12, 2016 before the end of all we know and love dear – in our old browser that is!

Amazon Announces Limits to Prime Sharing

You may have seen this already, but I want to make sure you do.  I am a big (and I mean BIG) Amazon Prime user and Amazon has updated its policy that limits how many people can legally share the benefits of each user’s Prime subscription. Originally, Amazon Prime members were allowed to share shipping benefits with up to four family members. The new policy reads "Free trial or paid Amazon Prime members can share certain Amazon Prime benefits with one other adult by forming an Amazon Household," Link to USA Today Article for more information.

Google and Apple Making Moves to Become Wireless Carriers

Watch out AT&T, Sprint, and the rest of the gang, it seems that Google and Apple are moving to cut out the middleman and offer MNOVs, Mobile Virtual Network Operator services. Google is already testing its MVNO service, called Project Fi, that’s exclusively for Nexus 6 users at the moment. There were rumors that Apple has planned to offer MNOV services since the beginning of the iPhone, but just now beginning to move forward. Even so, experts claim the move could take as much as five years. So for now, business as usual, sorry I got you all excited.

July 2015

Windows 10 is here, how to prepare.

As I have mentioned before, I have been running Windows 10 since last September, and have ran on a production machine since April 2015. Issues have been minor, and the issues reported to me have been more along the line of driver issues. As third-party manufacturers begin rolling out Windows 10 drivers, compatibility issues should go away, unless you have a really old computer or peripheal. I have found that most Windows 8 drivers have worked for me, but there have been a few exceptions. Before you upgrade, let Microsoft run a compatibility test to insure your machine is ready. Generally, if you are a Windows 7 or 8 user ,you get a free upgrade to the same level of Windows 10 OS, that is Home vs. Pro. Enterprise users, talk with your IT folks, as they will manage the upgrade company wide. Have a plan before you get started and upgrade only one or two systems at a time. Be sure to test each system for hardware and software compatibility before moving on to the next computer.  For hold outs with Windows XP and Vista, many of these machines can be upgraded to Windows 10, but do not expect a performance boost, and in some cases performance will be worse. There is an upgrade fee from these older operating systems, so with the price of new computers today, you may be better off replacing the older devices in the work place.  It is worth reading upgrade recommendation information from Microsoft on what to do to upgrade - before you start.

New Malware Uses Rootkit to Survive OS Reinstalls!

Surveillance software maker Hacking Team developed a tool that can be used to modify a computer's UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) so that it silently reinstalls its surveillance tool even if the hard drive is wiped clean or replaced. UEFI is a replacement for the traditional BIOS (Basic Input/output System) and is meant to standardize modern computer firmware through a reference specification. But there are multiple companies that develop UEFI firmware, and there can be significant differences between the implementations used by PC manufactures.

Hacking Team developed a method for infecting the UEFI firmware developed by Insyde Software, a Taiwanese company that counts Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo, Acer and Toshiba among its customers, according to security researchers from antivirus vendor Trend Micro. We also believe the code can be modified to work on the AMI BIOS as well. While there were the best of intentions, Hacking Team sells its software to companies that want to monitor their employees activities, the worse of aggressive attacks could come from reversed engineered code.

To prevent infections, Trend Micro advises users to enable the UEFI SecureFlash option, to set up a BIOS/UEFI password and to update the firmware to its latest version so that it has the latest security patches. UEFI/BIOS updates are usually distributed by computer manufacturers through their support websites and some of them fix issues identified by security researchers. For more detail read...

This tip sent to me by my good friend Mac McCelland, K2 Enterprises, thanks Mac, safe travels.

Windows 10 Release later this month has garnered some excitement by business IT professionals.

Windows 10 is due to launch in just a few weeks, which has put the spotlight directly on Microsoft's in the hopes it can overcome the challenges of persuading business users to adopt its latest operating system version. Many businesses are still using Windows 7, and even Windows XP, and few have been willing to move to Windows 8. Network management software company Spiceworks recently released a survey of 500 IT professionals across the world to determine their interest in Windows 10 and to see whether the operating system will succeed where Windows 8 has failed. The findings suggest that IT professionals are not only excited about the promise of Windows 10, but most importantly for Microsoft, they are looking forward to adopting the OS at some point in the future. Spiceworks' data suggests that Windows 10 won't meet the same fate as Windows 8. And in an odd twist, one of the main reasons Windows 10 will succeed where Windows 8 has failed is because it brings back many features the company had canned in Windows 8 such as the Start button. Read to learn more about how IT pros feel about Windows 10.

New Wireless Stick Removes need for USB Port!

SanDisk has announced the newest addition to its wireless storage line - the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick. The Connect Wireless Stick ranges in capacity from 16GB to 128GB and in price from $30 to $100. This is a pretty cool device considering it can connect to virtually any wifi device to store and retrieve data.  Still pretty expensive at the high-end compared to the low cost mobile disk devices, but the size makes it a great tool for the active mobile worker. Read more...

Blackhat Hackers (this is the bad type of hacker) and Terrorist Hacking Is On the Rise.

Computerworld reported this week that the hackers that targeted Twitter, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft developers two years ago have escalated their economic espionage efforts as they seek confidential business information and intellectual property they can use for financial gain. The group, which security researchers from Kaspersky Lab and Symantec call Wild Neutron or Morpho, has broken into the networks of more than 45 large companies since 2012. After the 2013 attacks against Twitter, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft were highly publicized, the group went underground and temporarily halted its activity. However, its attacks resumed in 2014 and have since intensified, according to separate reports released Wednesday by Kaspersky Lab and Symantec. These attacks are targeted to large companies, governments, financial institutions and the like. However, similar attacks are launched against Small to Medium Businesses (SMB) as well so no one could consider themselves secure.  How do you protect yourself?  Make sure all ports on your firewall (internet router) are closed or in stealth mode, if possible turn off Ping response so your firewall and servers can not be detected easily by outside attacks.  Limit employee access to authorized applications only and eliminate personal mail, message, and browser use throughout. While these steps will not guarrentee your safety, they will greatly help mitigate your overall risks.

iTunes Music Steaming Has Arrived!

The new Apple Music streaming music service launched June 30. By joining the iTunes store music lovers have a new way to find a tons music in one place. Apple Music subscription will be $9.99 per month, after a free 90-day trial, or a family of  up to six can share a membership for $14.99 per month. The service will initially be available to Mac, iPhone, iPad and iPod users once they upgrade to the latest iOS 8.4 operating system (which includes Apple Music integration, and is available now), as well as to Windows users of iTunes. The new Apple streaming service will be available to Apple TV and Android users in the fall. To sign up for the free trials, users must update their iOS devices to the latest OS and launch Music, while Mac and Windows users must update to the latest versions of iTunes. Apple Watch users must get updates from a paired iPhone to use Apple Music. Users of Apple's existing Beats music service can move their Beats subscription over to Apple Music and save their existing playlists. Here's what you need to know about Apple Music.

June 2015

Windows 10 Due Soon, How Do You Get it for Free?

Microsoft has stated that Windows 10 is due to be released at the end of July 2015. If you are a Windows 7 or 8 users, you get it for free. However, what version you get free depends on what version of 7 or 8 you are running, Home or Professional, and the office network server versions are different as well. To read what to expect and how we think the update will roll out, read this...

LassPass Gets Hacked!

Yet another vendor succumbs to a hack attack. LassPass, a popular password vault solution which I have used and recommended for some time, announced that their servers were hacked. But, LassPass data security methods are pretty sound, so if you a strong master password you should be safe. Read more on the hack and how to protect you secret stuff.

Microsoft Releases 2015 Product Roadmap

I apologize for so much time on Windows OS information, but this will be a pretty big deal this year I believe. Office for Windows 10 will be important for some, but I really see it as a final big installment of Cloud functionality with few really exciting features for the average user. Again, wither you like it or not, most SMB users will be headed to subscription services, with large businesses to follow shortly due to new license rules Microsoft will be rolling out. So we are all pretty much going to rent our software in the future.  As I noted in the title, Microsoft released their roadmap for upcoming 2015 releases at the end of May, and you can read the detail here. If this is not of interest to you, and your IT person does not follow my blog, send them this link to review.  Would not hurt for them to visit my blog every now and then either...

May 2015

What Is Your Networking Doing?

If you have ever sit and watched your disk lights, or network indicator light blinking while you were completely idol, you may have wondered "what the heck is going on?"  A recent article on Packet Sniffing by Susan Bradley at Windows Secrets is really worth the read. Susan is an accountant who has gone completely over to the dark side and is a highly respected technology consultant, specializing in Microsoft server products.  Nice job Susan, we always appreciate your work.

Apple Releases Upgraded iMac and MacBook Pro

Apple has announced updates to its 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display lineup and a new $1,999 configuration of the 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K Display, confirming a recent rumor that said new models of the computers would be released as early as Wednesday. The refreshed MacBook Pro and iMac models are available through the Apple Store, Apple Online Store and authorized resellers now.  An improved processor and graphics processor is included in the iMac with a new Intel i5 in the MacBook Pro. I would view this is more of a nice refresh for those needed to purchase, but, unfortunately, nothing really earth shattering.  We should also see a new X OS with the June developers conference but as of yet, mostly speculation.

Microsoft 10 Release 10122 is available

On May 19, 2015 Microsoft released its latest Insider Preview of Windows 10. There are a number of new features such as improved Edge, Start and Continuum improvements. For more detail read this...

Microsoft 10 Editions Update

Hopefully you have downloaded an Insider copy of Windows 10 and been playing with it. One of the benefits, as of this moment at least, is that Microsoft has stated that whoever get in on the Insider evaluations will be able to continue to use the software after its release at no charge and will continue to get early updates as they become available - so awesome for IT folks and those testing products before they go live.

Microsoft has just release information on how and what versions of Windows 10 will be available. Ed Bott's Blog at ZDnet article on this subject is a much better read than trying to tunnel through the Microsoft "legalized" version. For production use, IT professionals need to know the new licensing Network and Server license requirements for Windows 10. No more trying to use Home Edition at work to save a few bucks!!!

Microsoft Windows 10 Insider Preview

Microsoft has released Music Preview and Video Preview apps for Windows 10, which you can download here. Another highlight released in April, according to Gabe Aul's blog mail, is Microsoft Edge, aka Project Spartan, which is also available in the latest build of Windows 10 Preview, I am on Build 10074, and you should be too, as the older 9xxx builds expired mid-April. Be sure to check out exciting new features like built-in Cortana, ink capabilities, Reading List and Reading View. Microsoft is absolutely making the most of preview users comments and has accordingly renamed "Windows 10 Technical Preview" to "Windows 10 Insider Preview" to emphasize that fact.  The new name shows Microsoft's plan to  continue to offer Insider builds of Windows even after the release Windows 10 to the general public. Which is great, because tech support will get new code before the users and can better determine if there is application conflicts or network issues.

Those wanting to participate in the Windows 10 Preview (uh, Insider Preview) you can download the ISO from here. Remember this code is not for production yet, so use on systems that are less operations critical. I am running in a VM, as I do all my production systems as well, and it works great. In fact it is running under VMware Fusion on my MacBook Pro beautifully at the moment!

April 2015

Apple Watch Defect Slows Production

A defective key component of the Apple Watch prompted Apple to limit availability of the watch, the WSJ.com reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The part, made by one of two key suppliers, involved the Watch's taptic engine. That's the part that jolts the user's wrist, say when he or she has been sitting too long, or another notification comes in.

Apple relies on haptic feedback or touch in lieu of noisy rings to provide users with notifications that are less intrusive. According to the Wall Street Journal, some taptic engines supplied by AAC Technologies Holdings Inc., of Shenzhen, China, started to break down over time. That prompted Apple to scrap some finished watches. The report offers one possible explanation why some people must wait until the summer to get the watches they ordered, even though Apple began shipping the high tech timepieces on April 24.

Don't freak out to much, as this is not the first time we have had either hardware issues, remember the infamous iPhone "Antennagate" of 2010,or software issues, most users will not forget, or forgive, the Map diabolical of 2012.

With Steve gone, there is some support to a recent article that Apple was becoming more like Microsoft in that most Microsoft users joke about not buying version 1.0 of anything but waiting for at least version 3.0 for the product bugs to be worked out. Sad but true, it is a new age at Apple.

Spartan now in Windows 10 Pro Technical Preview

Windows 10 Pro Technical Preview Evaluation Copy. Build 10049 is out and ready for you to try. Not only is Cortana included,  but so is the new Spartan Browser is ready to preview at last. If you have not download the software yet, you can find it here https://insider.windows.com/. Note that Microsoft is distributing this as a preview copy only, warns about using in production mode, and when the final product is released you will have to update to that. The good news for nearly all Windows 8, and perhaps Windows 7 users, is that we expect Windows 10 to be free.

So far I am very impressed with Windows 10 and look forward to the final release. Perhaps less impressive is the Microsoft 2016 release. A few new goodies, but mostly tighter integration to the Cloud, Microsoft's Cloud, of course. And, I am currently previewing the Office for the Mac upcoming release and not at all happy with the responsiveness - hopefully that will get fixed before release. Office for the Mac is still not on par with the Windows Version - come on guys this is not rocket science, make them feature compatible!

March 2015

WeChat is all the rage in China!


My son-in-law Shane Howard, CEO, http://www.customcollegerecruiting.com/, just got back from Shanghai China, where he is working on recruiting young talent to play college ball in the U.S. It was a great trip and good things are ahead for CCR. But, as we were discussing the trip, he demonstrated the hottest App in China to me, called WeChat.  You can download from your favorite app store and then share your contact list to get contacts who use We Chat already. If you have none, which you may not in the States, find a friend to try it and and then share with others. I think you will like it as a real time chat and talk app. I have been using the Zello app, but it is pretty dated compared to WeChat, so I am giving the new app a spin. You can also download WeChat for your PC too, http://www.wechat.com/en/, Let me know how you like it, let me know if there is anything you don't like. Again, this app is pretty new to the US, so I am checking it out...


Android for Work and Samsung's Knox Attempt to Push Apple iOS from the Workplace


Apple displaced the much loved Blackberry as the mobile device of choice for business users. Now Google is attempting to push iOS devices aside with new features and functions targeting security and safety in the workplace. Announced this month, Android for Work adds new security and management capabilities, plus the ability to do corporate deployments of Android apps from the Play Store. Android for Work containers; which run business apps in a separately managed workspace on your device, are part of the Android 5 Lollipop OS and support any Google Play store apps. But Android 3.0 Ice Cream Sandwich through 4.4 KitKat requires users to install the Android for Work app, which can run only apps that have the Android for Work APIs implemented. Either way, you will need a compatible mobile management server to handle the policies applied to apps running in the container, such as enforced VPN use or copy-and-paste restrictions.

Samsung has been developing its own version of an Android security suite called Knox for more than a year and hope the take a strong portion of the business market. In both cases Apple is well entrenched and liked by the masses. Can't beat the Apps, and that is what the war is all about.


Bye Bye Internet Explorer


Microsoft has officially announced that it will discontinue Internet Explorer with the release of Windows 10. IE, as it is generally referred to was one of the most widely used Internet Browsers simply because it came free with the Windows OS, but it has never been a rich environment to work in was always considered a "me too" product. Now Microsoft has created a newer Browser to be more competitive in the new mobile device market.


Apple OS X is Susceptible to DLL Attack

As Apple computer market share increases, they are becoming more of a target for would be attackers. A new threat has been reported. The actual DLL hijacking vulnerability is an attack vector that has been used against Microsoft Windows operating systems since 2010. Now there is a similar attack that works against OS X by bypassing personal security products and even Apple's Gatekeeper. Gatekeeper is the built-in anti-malware technology that Apple has integrated into OS X since the 10.7.5 Mountain Lion release in 2012. According to the discoverer of the vulnerability, for DLL hijacking to work against OS X, all it takes is for an attacker to place a malicious DLL in a specific location on a system. He added that the attack is very stealthy and is able to abuse legitimate functionality in the operating system, making it difficult to patch against. Because Apple equipment seems to be the preference of higher-level, more affluant, users hackers are seeing this as a rich area to harvest.

Apple Declares Death to Ports - But How Will You Respond?

Apple just announced its latest MacBook, and it makes the MacBook Air look huge!. But if your one of those people who need lots of ports, this MacBook may be a shock for you. There is  only a single USB-C port and it does everything from charging, to sending video out and transporting data. Yes it is the only port on the computer meaning owners cannot charge the computer and an iPhone at the same time. It’s not possible to output video to a monitor and input data from an external drive. So plan on a hub and even those I found have limitations, especially if you are traveling.

I was glad they kept the MacBook Pro intact. This is my choice as I simply need more power. I use my laptop as a full powerful desktop workstation with external monitor and a 15-port USB connected to a Belkin Apple Dock.


How Fast Is Your Internet Connection?


The Internet will never be as fast as I want it. At least not until I can get my answer before I actually ask the question, but we are getting pretty good access across the country. But, maybe not actually what we are paying for or being told we are getting. Before you blame you computer, or your router for slow access - test your connection yourself. A recent article from www.windowssecrets.com tells you just how to do this.  I suggest you regularly test you speeds from your wireless and wired devices and if the speed is consistently slower than you expect try turning off your cable router, wait three minutes and then reconnect. Be sure to turn off all other routers and devices and then turn them back on after your cable router reboots so as to refresh all IP addresses. If speed continues to be less than the advertised rate you are paying for, give them a call.


Microsoft Releases Preview for Mac Office 2016

Microsoft, at long last, has at released a preview of the next iteration of its office software designed for Mac users, Mac Office 2016. Office 2016 for Mac is the company's first major Mac release since Office 2011, and it brings new versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, as well as Outlook and OneNote with redesigned Retina-optimized interfaces, new features, and a heavy focus on collaboration and cloud integration. This release is free to use by all Mac users who download the software until mid-2015 when the product will be officially released. It appears that Office 2016 for Mac will only be released as an Office subscription product, meaning you have to renew each year to continue to use the product. So, those of you who want a one time only pay solution - keep your Mac Office 2011 disc handy.

February 2015

IF This Then That, Is One of My Favorite Tools.

I first talked about ifttt a few years ago when it first debut. At that time it was somewhat of a hackers tool meant for geeks to bridge between mobile and other applications. Today IF from www.ifttt.com is a very sophisticated app that is a free website and service that lets you automate simple tasks in your digital life, such as "if there is an upcoming event on my Google Calendar, then send me a text message reminder with the event name, time, and address," or "If someone tags a photo of me on Facebook, then save a copy of that photo to Dropbox." I strongly recommend you download IF from your favorite app store, or visit the website from your computer and get started. There are a number of canned "recipes", as IF calls them, or you can learn to quickly create a few of your own.  IF can be used by management or IT departments to create canned recipes that can bridge applications or create automated events. Amazing, wonderful tool, check it out. Click for review... 

How Can I Protect My Business From Cyber Attacks?


I am an avid viewer of Scorpion and waiting on CSI Cybercrime to begin in March. Not a surprise I know. It is not uncommon for my wife to lean over and ask me "Is that real? Can a hacker really do that?" More often than not, the answer is "yes, they can." As TV show writers become more tech savvy, and the news reports the "how" of current cyber crime events, hacking (meaning the bad use of this term) has become a much more accepted occurrence. You can purchase expensive anti-virus and anti-malware software, but I hope you understand that these tools alone will not protect you 100%. They are simply necessary evils that you must avail yourself of, because the courts might hold you liable for negligence if you choose to not install these applications, and thereby put individuals financial information at risk.  Just as Target and others have found out, having great security software installed - will not protect you. 


There is nothing I can suggest to keep you 100% protected. I do suggest that if you are a person with political connections - use them to get your representatives more active and stopping cyber crime by enforcing terrible punishments for committing the crimes to begin with. By the way, these are not high school geeks, hacker geeks, or even the cyber mafia. White collar cyber criminals are the most vicious and financially dangerous criminals out there. Just saying. Until law enforcement realizes that locking up cyber criminals is more important to society that petty drug arrests, we will get close to solving the real problems.


Now that the rant is over, what are some simple things you as a business owner can do to mitigate risk?  First, start with removing email services to anyone in the company who does not need it to represent your company and do their job. Anyone and everyone else can check mail on their phones, tablets, or wait until they get home. Heaven forbid! Those who do need to access email for business purposes should be held under very tight restraints. Start with an Internal Control Policy that office email and associated servers WILL NOT be used for any other purpose than business. If you do not take this first step - well you deserve what you get. What can I say. More that 90% of all mail attacks come from personal email. No one loves you, you have not inherited an fortune from that distant recently deceased relative, and no good deed goes unpunished, so you cannot help, for a small share, the Nigerian Prince who wants to smuggle millions out of his country.


Studies have shown that the millions (yes millions) of people who have been defrauded or generally ripped off via email were first of all victims of their own greed.  Anyone who expects something for nothing, will become a victim. The Internet just lets it happen faster and more often. You cannot stop what they do at home, but you can stop them from opening malicious mail at work and causing your systems to become infected.


Once you curb email, do the same for social networking at work.  Want to make more money? Get more work done during the day. People are as addicted to the likes of Facebook and Instant Messaging as Tobacco users of a generation ago. The problem is you are loosing more productivity to unwarranted Internet use during a work shift that you were to those frequent cigarette breaks.  In stopping the personal use of social media coming into your office servers and systems you also reduce potential attacks and malicious threats.


Finally, if it is not yours - don't connect it to your property. Businesses that are allowing employees and other users to connect their personal devices to company owned networks are wasting perfectly good money on security software, because you have opened the backdoor and every window you have in the office and hung out a sign that said "Come on in and steal our stuff!"


The times have changed! Employees have computers at home, they have personal devices that access the Internet, they do not need to connect via your network. They do however, because they know that the Internet is a dangerous place and it is safer for them to connect via your network, than use their own computer at home.

Yes, you need security applications and firewalls. That's a given. But your real threat is how you police how your people use your resources, and you can fix most of that yourself, for nearly free, and sleep a lot better. You need to create, and enforce viable Internal Control Policies and Procedures for doing so. The key word here is enforce.

At the end of the day, it is your business, your assets, your recourses, your future, your decision...

January 2015

Microsoft Gets Windows Right!!!

I know, I use too many exclamation points! But, I am flat out excited about Windows 10. I have been on the Preview for Windows 10 pilot program, with most of our K2 presentation team, since they rolled it out, and I have been working exclusively with Windows 10 since December when the beta release seemed to be pretty stable. I can tell you, I had to sit behind one of my older Windows 8.1 systems today, and it felt absolutely archaic. Microsoft hosted a review webinar of the next release of Windows 10, due in a couple of weeks, which should be the last update before it is rolled out to a much larger audience and for final distribution.


Besides talking about the new Cortana desktop interface, Microsoft's PDA Assistant that competes very well against Siri, they also rolled out lots of other new offerings. Least of all the news that Windows 10 may be last OS update you will ever need. They announced that Windows 10 will be free to nearly all legit owners of Windows 7, 8, and 8.1. Sorry Windows XP users - I told you to upgrade, didn't I? 

The new Microsoft Surface Hub, a dynamic tool for creating and sharing information of many types, was a great release as well, and I have to tell you, watching all those potential business applications running on Windows Surface Pro devices was also amazing. Actually running Xbox and gaming apps from the Steam Community, on a Windows 10 PC, was pretty outstanding as well. I am not a gamer - but I could be. Then, I considered a firm full of young CPAs playing Xbox all day and night and realized that IT had a whole new set of headaches. Assuming the IT folks aren't huddled in back playing themselves.

Besides being free, future updates of Windows 10 may be free as well. What seems to be Microsoft taking a move from Apple's playbook, this could radically change the way the OS is updated. Of course the other option is that Microsoft charges annually to use the OS, and if you don't pay, you don't play,  This could be a pretty radical move as well of being an example of a vendor taking subscription based software a little too far.

Microsoft's HoloLens - The Future Has Arrived.

Only a few days after Google quietly announced it was dropping its ill received Google Glass, Microsoft Announces HoloLens. A headset and API tool that allows you to create and place 3D images right into your world. This I predict will first revolutionize Xbox and other game enthusiast. But the potential for business and industry are mind numbing. From Holo-Malls, to Holo-Designs (wow, all these new words I can trademark!) This should be revolutionary. O.K., I have been in love with the idea of programming a 3D world since Star Trek's Holo Deck. Any when Microsoft announced HoloLens this week, I was so happy. While I liked the Holo Deck better, I can see wearing these goofy lens for a few years until the Holo Emitters are rolled out.

Lots of new stuff coming from Microsoft, it was obvious that the presenters were focused and that management finally had a direction. So far it looks like the right direction. Please, please - don't screw this up!

16 Things You Didn't Know Your New iPhone Could Do

Many of you now have iPhone 6 or 6Plus with iOS 8. Even if you have an iPhone 5s with iOS 8, you may be able to take advantage of a few of the new tricks.
BuzzFeed has a great list of some of the new features at your fingertips. Enjoy.


Laptop with Dual Monitors

One of my favorite attendee questions at my conferences (www.k2e.com), here is how one CPA solved the problem, check it out.

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