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Posts Tagged ‘Apple’


Android and IOS: Is the Device Just Old, or Is It Obsolete?

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

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When trying to determine if a piece of technology is simply old or completely obsolete, keep in mind that there are different criteria for Android and iOS devices than for desktop and laptop computers. An employee stuck using an obsolete device is likely, after all, to argue that replacing it would increase their productivity.

On the flip side, replacing functional devices too often can spiral out of control into unnecessary expenses.

An IT consulting firm can help your business understand how long a device should remain in use, a safe time range for buying older models, and how to plan upgrade cycles.

How Long Before It’s Over?

The general rule is that a device becomes obsolete about four years after its release. This means that trying to save money by purchasing older devices on the cheap may not work out well, as they are unlikely to receive updates as long as a newer device. Usually you can buy only the most recent and second most recent smartphone devices new, but older refurbished devices are readily available.

The Issues with Old Devices

Determining if a device is aging vs. obsolete is pretty straightforward: If the employee can still complete all necessary work with the device, it is not yet obsolete.

However, older devices often have performance issues; notably, they may operate slower than the latest models. Older devices using Android often receive updates late, too, so users won’t receive security and interface improvement patches as soon as they’re available.

Obsolete Device Issues

Forbes paints a pretty grim picture of aging devices, declaring that smartphones have about two years before they’re obsolete. Still, users can typically continue on without any major problems for an additional year or two.

Once obsolete, however, many devices are prone to disruptive conditions:

  • Security updates are no longer provided.
  • Vital applications are no longer compatible with the operating system.
  • The web browser ceases to display web pages correctly.

The Apple Situation

Officially, Apple considers any product more than five years old obsolete, meaning the company tends to support their devices for a little longer than Android distributors. Apple usually supports iOS devices with the latest operating system for about four years. At this point the device will not receive updates, but it will still likely work for a while longer.

The device typically hits the obsolete category when it no longer runs the most recent version of iOS. If you buy an iOS device that’s already been on the market for two years, you’ll have to plan to replace it in another two years. A one-year-old device will be good for at least three years.

The Android Situation

Android devices have a two-tier obsolescence system in which system updates stop coming and applications stop working. Android is a much more difficult case to gauge because updates need to come through Google, go to the manufacturer, and then reach the phone provider.

Android users can expect operating upgrades for two years after the phone is released, and a few additional months of security updates; both are soft obsolescence moments. What finally ends an Android device’s life (or, at least, its usefulness) is application incompatibility after about four years, which is dependent on the developer. Most try to support the oldest version possible, but this is not always the case.

If you want to make sure your employees are using up-to-date devices that increase productivity, MPA Networks can provide an IT and productivity assessment. Contact us today.

URGENT: Uninstall QuickTime for Windows NOW

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

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Today we’d like to pass along a critical security advisory to all our customers:

If any of your company’s Windows systems still retain Apple’s QuickTime for Windows software, uninstall it immediately—as soon as you finish reading this post (if not before!).

QuickTime was Apple’s original media viewer, which was necessary to play many video file formats before most video became cloud-hosted on YouTube. It was also bundled with early versions of iTunes, either part of PC manufacturers’ pre-installed “bloatware” or downloaded later. As QuickTime is now all but obsolete, Apple has (quietly, as discussed below) decided to officially “deprecate” the Windows version, meaning that it will issue no further updates or security patches (QuickTime for Macs is still okay).

QuickTime for Windows joins Java 7 and Windows XP as widely distributed software left unprotected soon after their declared “end of life.” And hackers around the world are waiting to pounce on any exploitable flaw—not unlike how jackals stalk a lame antelope. In the case of QuickTime for Windows, those vulnerabilities are already there.

“Not Our Problem Anymore”

On April 14, security software maker Trend Micro posted an ominous warning of two uncovered vulnerabilities (classified ZDI-16-241 and ZDI-16-242) in QuickTime for Windows. But as Apple has chosen to abandon QuickTime support, those vulnerabilities will likely remain unpatched forever.

How serious is this potential threat? The Department of Homeland Security has also issued a public alert. Tech media from CNET to PCWorld to Wired are all urging Windows users to drop QuickTime like a bad habit. Meanwhile, what has Apple’s role been during this public outcry to uninstall their own (unsafe) product? Apparently, not much.

Has Apple Dropped the Ball?

For days following Trend Micro’s report, Apple’s website made no mention of QuickTime’s critical end of support. Perhaps more shockingly, Apple’s download page for QuickTime 7 for Windows is still online!

Remember those Apple commercials where “Mac” was portrayed as a cool young hipster while “PC” was an awkward nerd? Which company is looking a little sloppy today?

How to Uninstall QuickTime for Windows

Apple does offer uninstall instructions for Windows users here. QuickTime can also be uninstalled manually, as with any other software program:

Windows 7 and Vista: From the Start Menu button, choose Control Panel > Programs > Programs and Features, then double-click on QuickTime and click Uninstall.

Windows 8.1 or 10: Right-click Start and choose Control Panel, then follow the procedure above.

Is this the first you’ve heard of the warnings about QuickTime for Windows? Let us know in the Comments section below. In the meantime, we’ll continue to share emerging security threats with our MPA customers whenever we hear about them. For more information, contact us.

Are Macs “Ransomware-Proof”? Not Anymore

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

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Since Apple famously introduced the Macintosh over three decades ago, Mac users have been confident that their computers are virtually immune to ransomware and other malware threats which plague their Windows counterparts. But those days are over.

On March 4, researchers at security firm Palo Alto Networks detected what they believe is the first “fully functional” ransomware attack aimed exclusively at Apple’s OS X operating platform.

Dubbed KeRanger, the ransomware code was discreetly piggy-backed onto a routine update of Transmission, a popular BitTorrent client (a free Mac utility enabling rapid download/sharing of large files). After lurking on an infected Mac for three days, KeRanger encrypts all or part of a Mac hard drive before demanding an untraceable payment of one Bitcoin (currently the equivalent of about $400) to restore access to the scrambled files.

Hack a Mac? Just Fool the Gatekeeper

Macs are generally less susceptible to viruses and malware thanks to Gatekeeper, a built-in OS X defense feature that rejects software downloads which don’t include an Apple Developer IDessentially Apple’s digital certification for a third-party app they declare legitimate and harmless. In the case of KeRanger, it was fraudulently coded with a Developer ID (Z7276PX673) that had been previously assigned to a software developer in Turkey, enabling it to bypass Gatekeeper and infect the Mac’s hard drive. (How the Turkish company’s Apple certificate apparently fell into the wrong hands is still under investigation.)

After isolating the bogus Developer ID on the morning of March 4, Palo Alto Networks immediately notified Apple, who quickly revoked KeRanger’s certification. The Transmission homepage has also replaced the tainted version of the app with a “clean” update. It was determined that KeRanger was only “in the wild” (at-large and uncontained) within a relatively small window between 11 a.m. March 4 and 7 p.m. March 5.

It Could Have Been Worse

In their haste to begin extorting victims as soon as possible, KeRanger’s developers didn’t complete an additional section of code that would have disabled Time Machine, an OS X feature that restores users’ backup files stored on an external drive—similar to the automated System Restore function in Windows. If they’d spent a little more time refining their “launch version” of ransomware, even backup files would have been hopelessly encrypted without that $400 payoff.

If you’re a Mac user who doesn’t use the Transmission app, you dodged a bullet. But the KeRanger incident is a serious blow to OS X’s reputation as the “hack-proof” operating system. As we’ve discussed, ransomware schemes are the fastest-growing form of cybercrime today, and it was only a matter of time before Macs became a target.

For more information on ransomware and more of the latest emerging cyberthreats, contact us today.

iPhone “Backdoor”? It Already Exists! Why Your Company Needs It

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

iphone-926235_640February’s big story in the tech world was the conflict between Apple and the FBI over the creation of a “backdoor” to retrieve encrypted data on iPhones. The government is looking for any clue as to what—or, more specifically, who—motivated Syed Farook, along with his wife, to gun down his San Bernardino co-workers at an office party. Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook, along with other high-profile tech leaders, warn that the existence of such an “anti-encryption key” could become a slippery slope—ultimately threatening individual privacy as well as the security of all virtually-protected data, personal or business.

Apple steadfastly refuses to comply with the FBI’s court order, and the battle is likely to reach the Supreme Court. And if the Court’s pivotal ninth seat remains unfilled due to political gridlock, the whole issue could remain undecided for quite awhile.

Finding the Facts

In the midst of this landmark security vs. privacy brouhaha, one key fact of the case is being underreported: The iPhone 5c the FBI wants to unlock was Farook’s business phone, issued to him by the San Bernardino County Health Department. He destroyed his personal phone—which he most likely used to actually discuss the terror plot—before the couple’s fatal shootout with police.

How could this highly-vocal Apple-FBI standoff have been averted in the first place? By using an encryption backdoor that already exists—completely legal, and, for businesses, absolutely necessary: mobile device management (MDM) software.

MDM allows users to enjoy the same mobile productivity—apps, email, documents, file-sharing—that they’d expect from an onsite network, while enabling IT administrators to ensure every device remains compliant with company security standards (configuration settings, updated security patches, and limiting unauthorized use of the device).

More importantly in this case, MDM can, if necessary, bypass a security passcode to regain access to the company-issued device. Ironically, San Bernardino County had already contracted with an MDM vendor, but simply hadn’t gotten around to installing the software on mobile equipment in Farook’s department, due mainly to the lack of a formal MDM implementation policy.

Your MDM Solution? Choose Wisely

As mobile computing and BYOD become increasingly common in the modern workplace, MDM is essential for every company. You’ll find products from a slew of vendors, large and small, at competitive prices, but here are some key points to look for:

  • Ease-of-use (look for free trials of MDM products)
  • Full compatibility with both iOS and Android platforms
  • Functionality across multiple devices and wireless carriers
  • Seamless integration of all company-used apps (email, data, SaaS)
  • Pricing structure (per device or flat rate)

Choosing the right MDM solution—and effectively implementing it across your organization—is another IT challenge facing your company today. We can help.