Tech News : Old Router Risks Could Affect Millions

An investigation by consumer watchdog ‘Which?’ has highlighted how millions of people around the UK are using old routers with security flaws.

The Investigation

The Which? investigation surveyed 6,000 UK adults and, with the help of Red Maple Technologies, looked at the security aspects of 13 models of (commonly used) old routers from companies such as Virgin, Sky, TalkTalk, EE, and Vodafone.

Could Affect Millions

It was discovered that 6 million users may have router models that have not been updated since 2018 at the latest, with some not being updated since as far back as 2016! The investigation discovered issues with more than half of all routers (of those surveyed).  This suggests that as many as 7.5 million users could using routers that have security risks.

Vulnerabilities and Risks

Which? reports that the security vulnerabilities and risks to the old (and not updated) routers include:

– Weak default passwords that can be easily guessed by hackers, meaning that the router could be accessed remotely, from anywhere in the world.

– Local network vulnerabilities which could allow a cybercriminal to take control of a user’s device, see what a person is browsing, or even direct a user to malicious websites.

– Lack of updates to the Firmware which could negatively affect a device’s performance and leave outstanding security issues.

What To Do

There are a number of measures that can be taken to ensure that a router is as secure as possible.  These measures include:

– Changing the username and password(s).  Changing the username and password of the router from the default one (printed on a label on the device) to something much more secure makes it much less vulnerable to common attacks. Using WPA2 security requires each new device to submit a password to connect anyway, but if it is not active it can be switched on through your router settings. Changing the network password (via the router settings) can also improve security.

– Keeping the router’s firmware up to date. The router control panel should enable the updating of the firmware, thereby ensuring that the router has the latest fixes and patches installed. In some cases, users may have to download new firmware from the manufacturer’s site to make the router as secure as possible.

– Changing the network name/SSID. Changing this from the default name will give would-be attackers less of an idea of the type/name of the router manufacturer, thereby making it more difficult for them.

– Stopping the Wi-Fi network name/SSID from being broadcast.  This can be achieved via the router settings, but it will mean that the user will need to manually type in the network name when connecting new devices (because it will not be visible).

– Disabling Remote Access, UPnP, and WPS. Using the router settings to turn off features like remote access, Universal Plug and Play (usually for easy games console and smart TV access) and Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS – for easy connection of new devices) may sacrifice some convenience but will also make the router more secure.

– Using a guest network. This enables you to give access to a Wi-Fi connection without giving access to the rest of the network.

– Enabling the router’s firewall. This will filter data and block unauthorised access.

– Plugging other ways in through your devices and programs. This involves keeping security on devices and their programs/apps up to date and patched : use strong passwords, use security software, and disable any devices that do not need access to Wi-Fi.

– Asking your service provider for a router upgrade. Which? recommends that users with certain routers ask their provider for an upgrade as soon possible. Some providers offer free upgrades (Virgin Media), others may require a one-off payment to cover a new router or, as with Sky, an extra £5 monthly payment (Broadband Boost) ensures the latest router upgrades.

– Considering the cost/benefit of moving to a new provider. Switching, in some cases, could be a way to get a new, up-to-date, and more secure router, and improve the broadband speed and service.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

If you have an old router with old firmware, you could have a weak link in your cyber-security.  If that old router links to IoT devices, these could also be at risk because of the router.  Taking a close look at your router, its settings and getting to grips with firmware updates, the firewall, and what information about your router may be visible to would-be attackers could be important steps in improving router security.

Also, router manufacturers could take more responsibility for reducing the risks to business and home router users by taking steps such as disabling the internet until a user goes through a set up on the device which could include changing the password to a unique one. 

Vendors and ISPs could also contribute to improved router security for all by having an active upgrade policy for out-of-date, vulnerable firmware, and by making sure that patches and upgrades are sent out quickly.

ISPs could do more to educate and to provide guidance on firmware updates (e.g. with email bulletins).  Some tech commentators have also suggested using a tiered system where advanced users who want more control of their set-up can have the option, but everyone else gets updates rolled out automatically.

Tech News : Robot Police Dog Sent Back With Tail Between Its Legs

It has been reported that NYPD has cancelled its contract with the company that supplied its ‘robot dog’ after the robot’s militarised appearance increased tensions with civilians at a difficult time for police relations.

What Robot Dog?

The robot ‘dog’ nicknamed ‘Digidog’ was ordered last year by the NYPD from specialist robot company Boston Dynamics and was intended mainly for use in barricade and hostage situations, and as part of the Technical Assistance Response Unit, which is used for land-based (remote) surveillance.  It has been reported that although 500 Boston Dynamics robot dogs have been deployed worldwide, the NYPD ‘dog’/robot is one of only four used by police departments.  The others are used (e.g. by utility companies) on construction sites or in other (potentially dangerous) commercial settings.  The four-legged, metal robot dogs can run, jump, climb stairs, balance, and are difficult to push over.  They can also carry cameras, lights, and transmitters, and therefore, can be used for mobile surveillance. The robot dogs are guided by AI.

Old-Style Police Robots

Robots being used by police in situations that are too dangerous for humans are not unusual. For example, since the 1970s the NYPD has used robots in hostage situations, for bomb disposal, and for other hazardous tasks and challenges.  The Boston Dynamics robot, however, is more sophisticated, capable, and dextrous than those early robots.

What Went Wrong With ‘Digidog’?

Digidog’s deployment to an incident in the Bronx, the footage of which was published online in February, appears to have caused alarm and criticism among members of the public. This alarm has been heightened by the recent high-profile incidents of police killings of black citizens, and the resulting protests.  The footage of the robot following officers back, after the incident, has led to comparisons with fictional characters like the Terminator and Robocop, and has led to comments that the robot was ‘creepy’ and like something from a Dystopian future.  Other criticisms have focused on worries that the deployment of such technology is too far ahead of regulation, whether it was wise or right to spend the money on a robot when the pandemic had squeezed finances. Some have also asked questions about whether spending on a robot should have been prioritised over the need for investment in the area of the city where it was filmed.  A (Fox) news report of the Digidog deployment in the Bronx, which also highlights its potential benefits, can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24jufNhuUSI.

2016 in Dallas

The last time there was a serious outcry over a crime-fighting robot was back in 2016 when a gunman suspected of murdering five police officers was blown-up using a robot.

Cancelled

The public concern over Digidog is now reported to have led to NYPD cancelling its ($94,000) contract with Boston Dynamics which was not due to expire until August 2021.

‘Spot’ in Singapore

Boston Dynamics made the news back in May 2020 when a similar robot, dubbed ‘Spot’, was given a trial in Singapore’s Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park warning visitors to observe safe social distancing measures.  Spot was allowed to roam the park, using its AI guidance system to avoid bumping into people and objects, and broadcasted a pre-recorded message about social distancing. A video of ‘Spot’ in action can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz7A8Umw5zY .

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Robots are nothing new in business (e.g. the car industry, warehouses, and factories, even parcel delivery) and some robots even made the news for been used as mobile food distribution services on U.S. university campuses for students isolating during the first lockdown.  Robots have also proven extremely useful in law enforcement and situations where the risk to humans is too great, e.g. bomb disposal, hostage incidents and more.  This ‘Digidog’ robot, however, proved to be an example of deploying the wrong piece of machinery at the wrong time in the wrong place. The combination of a general deterioration in trust of the police (due to high profile killings of black citizens), deploying the ‘dog’ in a city area such as the Bronx, and the potentially threatening/creepy appearance of a four-legged metal (surveillance) robot proved to be too much. This, in turn, prompted uncomfortable questions and raised tensions to the point where the damage exceeded the benefits of the deployment of the robot.  Public surveillance is a contentious issue on its own, and overt law enforcement tools and methods are also a matter of public interest, and the deployment of this robot brought the two together with the added fear of dystopian imagery.  It begs the question of whether, if the robot has a ‘friendlier’ looking form (and didn’t walk on legs) it would have created so much interest and tension?

It is likely that more robots and drones will become commonplace and will fulfil productive, resource-saving, and day-to-day roles in ways that meet with public approval, but the sight of four-legged police robots, like a feared character from a sci-fi film, is something that the public may not yet be ready for and will not quietly accept.  It is back to the drawing board for both the design of such robots and for those involved in ensuring that regulation, particularly of the use of AI (as is happening at the EC at the moment) keeps pace with its deployment.

Tech Insight : What Is An MSP?

In this article, we take a brief look at what an MSP is, what services they provide, and what benefits businesses get from using an MSP.

MSPs

A Managed Service Provider (MSP) is a company that delivers outsourced IT services and support to businesses and organisations.  The MSP remotely and proactively, manages, monitors, updates, reports on (and has responsibility for) the customer’s IT infrastructure and/or end-user systems for a subscription fee. Typically, these managed services are network, application, infrastructure, and security, and are delivered by providing support and administration on customers’ premises, in their MSP’s data centre/hosting, or in a third-party’s data centre. MSPs may also provide hardware, software, mobile device management, training, and many other IT and communications-related services to their customers.

Evolution

Many traditional IT Support companies evolved into what are now known as MSPs when application service providers (ASPs) helped make it possible for remote support for IT infrastructure.

In the late 90s/early 2000s, ASPs delivered apps (sometimes their own) and related services over the internet or via a private network for subscription, thereby giving rise to the remote provision of services. Some ASPs became MSPs, although ASPs are now generally referred to a software as a service (SaaS) providers.

Services

MSPs can now provide a broad range of services including networking, application and infrastructure services, cybersecurity, email and help desk, data storage and backup (and restore), cloud integration, software migration (e.g., to 365), patching, communications and more.

Benefits of Using and MSP

Typically, the benefits that companies and organisations get from using an MSP include:

– Savings from not having in-house IT staff/departments, saving on maintaining/replacing software and hardware, and from better advice and deals offered by MSPs (hardware, software, networks, communications).

– Fast resolution of IT problems due to on-demand availability of IT expertise.

– Becoming more up-to-date, efficient, and competitive, and future-proofing as MSPs reduce technology adoption barriers and help manage the changes and processes needed to enable a company to quickly, adopt new technologies, and take advantage of new opportunities and ways of working.

– Less disruption and increased service levels due to proactive, ongoing expert monitoring, maintenance, upkeep and upgrading of infrastructure, networks, hardware, and other services due to expert MSP help and advice.

– Better security and reduced risk due to patching, updating of anti-virus, threat monitoring and IT security education and advice, and upgrading of network security by the MSP.

– Peace of mind from knowing that effective, secure, and regular backup and restore procedures, and services are in place, and disaster recovery plans exist and are up to date.

– Easier management of IT for the business due to centralisation.

– Flexibility, scope, and scalability, thereby allowing businesses to adapt and change quickly, allowing for growth, changes, and other business realities.

– Time, money, and hassle saved from having on-demand expertise available.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Outsourcing to MSPs allows businesses not just to save money and become more efficient, but it also provides the kind of security, scope, flexibility, and future-proofing that enable businesses to be competitive and make the most of opportunities in the changing business environment. The services of MSPs can be particularly beneficial to smaller businesses because having the expertise-on demand (i.e. not having to try and do everything in house) means cost savings and the kind of up-to-date systems that can enable them to behave like a much bigger company, thereby providing greater value to more customers while being much more flexible and competitive.

Tech News : Liquid Cooling To Maintain Microsoft’s Data Centres

Huge demands on Microsoft’s data centre servers, partly driven by a surge in Microsoft Teams user numbers has led to the tech giant opting for liquid-immersion cooling.

The Challenge

Microsoft has recognised that it has now come up against the slowdown of Moore’s Law as transistor widths have shrunk to atomic scales and are reaching a physical limit, whilst the demand for faster computer processors for high performance applications such as AI has accelerated. This has meant that more electric power is now being put through the small processors used in Microsoft’s data centres, thereby increasing the heat they produce.  According to Microsoft, this means that air cooling is no longer enough to prevent the chips from malfunctioning. The demands of a huge increase in the numbers of Teams users during lockdown and the need to maintain sustainable and energy efficient data centres have also contributed to Microsoft’s decision to try liquid cooling.

Two-Phase Immersion Cooling

Since heat transfer in liquids is more efficient than air, Microsoft’s new system of two-phase immersion cooling involves immersing servers in tanks filled with an engineered fluid (from 3M) which has dielectric properties (i.e. it is an effective insulator), thereby allowing the servers to operate normally while fully immersed in the fluid. The liquid boils at 122 degrees Fahrenheit (90 degrees lower than the boiling point of water) and this boiling effect, generated by the work the servers are doing, takes the heat away from the computer processors whilst the low-temperature boil enables the servers to operate continuously at full power without risk of failure due to overheating.

The second phase of this two-phase process refers to the vapour rising from the tanks making contact with a cooled condenser in the tank lid, thereby changing it back to liquid that rains back onto the immersed servers, creating a closed-loop cooling system.

The Result

Microsoft says that the result of it becoming the “first cloud provider that is running two-phase immersion cooling in a production environment” at its datacentre in Quincy should be the ability of the company to:

– Continue the Moore’s Law trend at the datacentre level.

– Reduce power consumption.  For example, Microsoft’s trial of using liquid two-phase immersion for cooling AI showed reduced power consumption for any given server by 5 to 15 per cent.

– Increased flexibility for the efficient management of cloud resources.

– Improved efficiency and sustainability.

– The fact that the system uses a specially developed cooling fluid, and not water, gives Microsoft the ability to meet its commitment to replenish more water than it consumes by the end of the decade.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

If your business uses Microsoft’s cloud-based services, and particularly those which involve AI and/or Teams, this switch to a new cooling technology at datacentre level should mean smooth running services with less risk of potentially costly outages and disruption going forward. For Microsoft, this may give it an advantage over cloud company competitors in terms of capacity, reliability, and sustainability credentials.

Featured Article : Risks or Benefits of Charging Devices Overnight?

Many of us charge phones and laptops overnight but is this good for the battery and is it potentially dangerous, and how can we safely get the most from our device batteries?

Batteries

Smartphone and laptop batteries are Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion). These batteries have high energy density so they can be made small, while their rate of self-discharge is much lower than alternatives (like Ni-Cad for example) which means less charging, they have a high cell voltage, they don’t require priming (for a first charge), and there’s little or no maintenance required.  All these characteristics make them ideal as the power component in our essential, portable electric items.

That said, lithium batteries contain a flammable electrolyte which could be risky in some circumstances (remember the famous Samsung Galaxy Note 7 fires back in 2017?), they need protection (circuitry and special chips) to prevent them from being over-charged and discharged too far, they age (whether in use or not) so require replacing, and they are relatively expensive.

Likes and Dislikes

Knowing how to protect and get the best from the battery in your phone or laptop requires knowing a few basic conditions that batteries like and dislike.  For example:

Your battery generally likes:

– Partial charges that keep the battery between 20 and 80 percent.  This is because a battery degrades at its fastest rate if it is regularly charged past 80 per cent or when it drops below 20 percent. Devices seem to operate best when batteries are around the 50 per cent charge mark.

Your battery generally dislikes:

– Extremes.  This can be extremes of temperature below 32 Fahrenheit (0 Celsius) and above 158 Fahrenheit (70 Celsius) which can degrade the battery, let alone having an adverse effect on the device that the battery may be inside at the time.  This means avoiding leaving phones in warm sunlight (e.g. while sunbathing or sitting outdoors, or leaving the phone in a hot or cold car, perhaps overnight). Avoid the practice of putting phone batteries in fridges or freezers to ‘revive’ them.  Although there are positive accounts of this, it can result in degrading the battery. Charging devices in extreme temperature environments should also be avoided – room temperature is best.

– Being kept at 100 percent charge for long periods of time e.g., if charging at night.  This is when a battery can degrade the fastest.

– Apps being used while your device is charging. Using apps on your phone, for example, while the phone is still connected to the charger can heat and damage the battery and damage the device.

Overnight Charging

Overnight charging of phones and laptops frequently raises questions about efficiency, and safety.

Efficiency

Overnight is often a very convenient time to charge a phone or laptop but, since it only takes around an hour to charge a device, leaving it connected for 6 or 7 hours is not efficient. This is because phone or laptop batteries degrade fastest if left at 100 per cent for long periods of time (i.e. overnight), and a small ‘trickle charge’ is produced to compensate for any energy lost by the device.  This means that the battery is being unnecessarily used/over-used and switching to the mains power via the cable (when the battery is fully charged), could mean unnecessarily using electricity.

Safety

Although there are plenty of horror stories of phones catching fire while charging overnight, many of these appear to be where a phone has been left in a situation where there has been a lack of airflow and where it has been overheated (e.g. by being left under pillows or clothes). Generally, although not good for devices, overnight charging is relatively safe. Tips for making overnight charging as safe as possible include:

– Placing the device on protective/non-flammable surface, e.g. on a plate/saucer rather than on or under books, clothes, or on sofas.

– If possible and practical, take a phone out of the case when charging overnight.

– If you wake up in the night, unplug the devices to prevent constant trickle-charging or use a smart plug that’s on a schedule to turn off at a certain time when you’re sure the battery will have been charged.

Cables

Using high quality (preferably genuine and device compatible) chargers and cables which have correct safety marks (CE safety mark and output voltage that’s compatible with the device) can reduce the risk of fire and/or damage to the device and battery.

Replacement Batteries

Having a replacement battery fitted by a professional, as is often necessary with many new device models, is another way to avoid operational and safety problems.

Other Ways To Treat Device Batteries Well

– Other ways to maximise battery life, device efficiency and maintain safety include:

– Turn off unnecessary services on the device and use battery savers (often suggested by an on-screen prompt) to make the most of each charge.

– If a laptop must be left on overnight, remove the battery and use the adapter to power the laptop. This will put less of a burden on the battery by sending power directly to the laptop.

– Fully charge laptop batteries at least once a month to help the laptop to calibrate its estimator, i.e. to help it to accurately know how long the battery will last.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Mobile devices such as smartphones and laptops are now essential business tools. Although they tend to be regularly replaced, some knowledge of how batteries (and devices) perform best and getting into good habits as regards battery care can prevent batteries failing at important times, can improve safety, reduce costs (replacement batteries and electricity), and extend their life. Mobile and remote working has become essential for many businesses over the last year and with a surge in demand for laptops and phones fuelled by the pandemic, it is more important than ever that knowledge of how to maintain the batteries and devices is made available to improve efficiency and to keep remote workers safe as well as productive.

Tech Insight – The Global Microchip Shortage

With the world facing a considerable semiconductor microchip shortage, we take a look at the causes and effects of the shortage plus some potential solutions.

Why Is This Important?

Microchips are now included in virtually everything from watches to white goods and crucially in larger, high demand, big industry items such as cars.  Many products have more than one chip and as the IoT market expands, so does demand for more microchips.

Why The Global Shortage?

The global shortage of semiconductor microchips has been caused by a ‘perfect storm’ of many factors.  These include:

– Car companies slimming down manufacturing following a 50 percent slum in car sales, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

– Microchip producers switching to smartphone, laptop, and tablet chips in response to a surge in demand due to remote working because of the pandemic, thereby disrupting chip markets.

– Manufacturers of semiconductor microchips, which require huge investment in plants over many years, tend to operate with low stock levels to minimise costs. The surge in demand for chips (particularly for cars) following the first lockdowns therefore meant there were no backup supplies, chip manufacturers would need time to adapt to switch back to car chips, and manufacturers could not meet demand.

– With most chips being manufactured in Taiwan, the US trade war with China during the Trump administration caused supply problems due to sanctions (e.g. US chip firm Xilinx having to stop supplying to China, and Huawei being put on a trade blacklist).

– Under-investment in 8-inch chip manufacturing plants owned by Asian companies. Also, most of the production in Asia is concentrated into mainly the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) and Samsung, who manufacture on behalf of hundreds of other different chip companies.

– Weather and other events disrupting supply and worsening the global shortage of semiconductor microchip (e.g. droughts in Taiwan as water is needed in chip production), winter storms in February shutting-down the NXP semiconductor plant in Texas, and a fire at the AKM semiconductor plant in Nobeoka, Miyazaki, Japan last October 20. The AKM factory (owned by Renesas Electronics Corp), for example, accounts for a massive 30 per cent of the global market for the microcontroller units used in cars.

The Impact

Examples of some of the main impacts caused by the global shortage are:

– Massive disruption, damage to profits, and potential job losses in the car industry and in car supply chain businesses.  For example, Ford, Toyota, and VW are partially mothballing factories. Car manufacturers are also producing fewer of their less profitable vehicles.

– Phone manufacturers delaying model releases (e.g. Samsung considering delaying the launch of the latest Galaxy Note).  This, of course, will affect the phone company’s profits and competitiveness and will have a knock-on effect towards phone retail businesses.

– Games console shortages (also compounded by an increase in demand over lockdown).  For example, Microsoft has been facing production challenges with Xbox Series X/S. This may have knock-on effects for games console retailers.

– Knock-on effects into the development of 5G networks (e.g. in the UK and US).

Possible Solutions

The main solution to tackling the global shortage has been for countries implementing the costly and time-consuming measures of setting up their own semiconductor microchip factories to try and guarantee at least some increased level of supply, and to reduce reliance upon countries between whom there may be a difficult relationship. For example, U.S. President Joe Biden is looking for $37 billion for legislation to boost chip manufacturing in the U.S. with a view to setting up four new factories in Arizona and Texas. Also, US sanctions have forced China to start investing heavily in its local tech companies such as Zhaoxin, Huawei, and SMIC to help deal with the shortage.

These developments will take time, and with the majority of 2021’s output already sold, it is anticipated that the shortage and many of its effects may carry on for another year.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For any businesses that require semiconductor microchips for manufacturing, or for business that supply and sell goods and devices that include these chips, the near future may hold uncertainty and potentially damaging disruption and shortages which could impact upon operational decision-making, hit profits, and have a negative impact across supply chains.

Android Stack Scanner Can Organise Your Documents

Google is launching its ‘Stack’ app for Android, an AI-based scanner that also names and categorises the documents it scans.

The Technology

The Stack app is a result of collaborative work between Area 120, Google’s in-house incubator and the DocAI team in Google Cloud, and the technologies from Google’s acquisition of the education start up ‘Socratic’.

How It Works

When users take a photo of a document, the Stack app scans it, automatically names it, and suggests the right category or “stack,” to store it in.

Stack is also able to identify important information in documents (e.g. the “due date” or “total amount due”) and pull that out to make the document easier to find and access, plus users can search through the full text of documents (not just the title) to quickly find what is needed.

When it comes to (secure) storage, Stack uses advanced security and sign-in technology to protect the documents in the app and a face or fingerprint scan can be added as an extra layer to unlock the app.  Copies of documents can also be automatically saved to Google Drive which means that they are still accessible should a user decide to stop using Stack.

Benefits

The benefits of using Stack are that it provides a fast, easy, handy, intelligent, and searchable way to organise all important work documents such as invoices and receipts. The fact that important details in the document (e.g. due date) can be recognised by the app can make it easier to pay bills on time and can provide different (fast) ways to search for documents.  Also, the app’s ability to categorise and store a document accordingly in effect provides an instant time and space-saving filing system that is also secure and always available from anywhere using a smartphone.

Just The U.S. For Now

Unfortunately, Stack is only currently available in the U.S. via Google Play Store.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

When Stack does become available in the UK, this could be a very useful digital filing system for businesses which is fully portable (a phone app), searchable, secure, and provides a backup on Google Drive if the user decides to stop using Stack at any point.  This app sounds like a handy way to finally organise any piles of paper and any disparate pdfs into one central, easily accessible system.  For Google, this has been a productive way to use technology that it gained through an acquisition to add value to its services, and it is another good example of how AI can be put to practical use to tackle real-life daily challenges. There are many other mobile scanner apps available (Adobe Scan, Clear Scanner, Office Lens, Tiny Scanner), but the advantages of this one are the recognising/categorising and searching elements provided by AI plus the fact that it’s from Google and backs up to Google Drive for futureproofing.

Tech Tip – How To Speed Up Your Phone Charging

If you are finding that your phone is getting slow at charging, here are some of the possible causes and solutions:

– Incompatible or faulty accessories, such as power brick, USB cable, or charging pad/mat (for wireless charging). Choosing a charger or brick with higher amperage e.g., a power brick with 2 to 3 amps could help speed up charging, as could making sure that you are using an authentic charging (USB) cable that is in good condition. Using a different USB cable and power adapter could be a good first try at solving the problem.

– Wireless charging slowing things down. Wireless charging tends to be slower than cable charging, so consider switching back to traditional adapter & USB cable charging (bearing in mind the point made above).

– Damage to or dirt in the charger port on the phone (where the cable plugs in). If there’s dirt, use a wooden toothpick or a soft brush to clean it out. If it is broken, a technician, perhaps recommended by your local phone shop can fix it for you.

– Background apps using power. To stop this happening (Android), use Settings > Battery> Battery Usage to find the apps and disable their background battery usage. Select the app and tap Background restriction. For iPhones or iPads, go to Settings > Battery and tap Show Activity.

– An old or defective battery. To check an iPhone or iPad’s battery capacity, use Settings > Battery > Battery Health and if the Maximum Capacity is 80 per cent or lower, this may be a sign that the battery needs replacing.

– Using the phone while charging. This should be avoided because it causes the phone to charge more slowly, raises battery temperature, and increases the chances of fraying the charging cable.

Tech Tip – How To Wipe Your Phone Or Laptop Before Selling It

If you would like to sell a phone, laptop, tablet, or other device, but would like to know how to completely wipe it first, here’s how:

Firstly, make sure you’ve backed up things like your photos, other important files, and WhatsApp chats. Next:

Windows Laptops

– Type “Reset” into the Start search box and select “Reset this PC”. If this option doesn’t show, look in “Settings” under the “Recovery” tab.

– To wipe all storage drives, on the next page, click “Change Settings” and change the Data Erasure slider to “On”.

MacBooks and Macs

– Reset the system and press the Command + R keys together to load the recovery menu.

– Select “Disk Utility” (the system drives will be displayed).

– Right-click and select Delete on each applicable drive apart from the MacOS install partition.

– Return to the Recovery menu or reset and use the Command+R shortcut from a fresh start-up, and select Install MacOS.

Google Chromebooks

– Press Ctrl, Alt, Shift, and “R” together from the login screen to bring up the “Powerwash” box, or, from “Settings”, select “Advanced” and scroll down to “Powerwash”.

iPhones and iPads

– Go to the “Settings” menu, then the General sub-menu.

– Use the Reset option, and the “Erase All Content and Settings” control. To do this, you will need to use your Apple ID password.
Android Phones and Tablets

– Go to the “System” part of “Settings” and find ‘Reset Options’.

– Choose “Erase All Data” (Factory Reset), or similar and follow the prompts. You will need your unlock PIN.

Tech Insight: Are Macs Really More Secure Than PCs?

Apple Macs have long had a reputation for being more secure than PCs but where does this idea come from and is it really the case?

How Did It Start?

Apple itself supported the idea that Macs didn’t get computer viruses until (in 2012) it was noted that the claim was removed from its “Why You’ll Love a Mac” web page. 

Mac Users

There are also successions of fan-like owners who, judging by their online comments and based on their own experiences, would support the idea that their machines have never had a virus. Historically, more ‘user-friendly’ and more aesthetically pleasing, Macs were also the domain of those in design professions and/or ‘non-techie’ people rather than those using banks of much lower priced PCs as daily office workhorses and business tools that required them to be online more often, getting more exposure to viruses and threats.

Although less technical users may find the macOS platform easier to navigate and to keep safe, this can lead to perception that few safety precautions need to be taken, thereby weakening safe user behaviour.

Fewer Macs

There are far fewer Macs in use than PCs.  For example, looking at the OS market, although macOS’s share grew from a tiny 2.26 per cent in 2003 to more respectable 10.18 per cent July 2019.  This could mean that:

– If Windows accounts for 90 per cent of the market, it makes sense for cyber criminals to target the majority, and that this could mean that there are fewer Mac-focused cyber threats.

– If there are fewer Macs, owners may simply be enjoying a degree of ‘security through minority’.

Operating System

Apple’s macOS is based on Unix.  This is generally accepted as being more difficult to exploit than Windows. That said, the level of security for Apple’s macOS may depend on which version it is.

Macs Under Attack

There is (what appears to be) a mistaken perception that Mac’s don’t get viruses. In fact, contrary to popular belief, now that Macs are becoming more popular, they have become more of a target for cyber criminals. Examples of Mac threats include the Flashfake botnet, the Koobface worm, and Mac Defender malware, Silver Sparrow malware, Pirri/GoSearch22 adware,ThiefQuest/EvilQuest ransomware and LoudMiner/Bird Miner crypto-mining software.

Larger Threat Growth For Macs

As highlighted in the Malwarebytes (annual) State of malware report (February 2020), the growth in attacks on Apple endpoints is outpacing the threats targeting Windows machines.  Kaspersky figures also show increasing dangers for Mac users. Early last year, Kaspersky reported that two years on from its detection, Shlayer Trojan malware attacks one in ten macOS users, and it accounts for almost 30 per cent of all detections for the macOS.

System Vulnerabilities?

In comparison to Windows users, Mac users seem to suffer less from threats that exploit system vulnerabilities without the need for downloads.

Speed of Security Fixes

In the past, there have been reports of Apple being slow with security fixes (e.g. its patch for 2012’s Flashback exploit taking almost 50 days to be ready for distribution) to macOS users and even then, only being made available for those running macOS Snow Leopard and macOS Lion. If there has been any lack of urgency in the release of security patches and updates for the macOS it may simply have been down to a historically lower threat presence compared to PCs.

Browser Security

In the light of the increasing rate in attacks on Macs, Apple’s Safari browser has been updated to block ads and (unwanted) pop ups. However, third-party browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox may be considered to be more secure, especially against the newest threats, because Safari appears to have a slower update cycle.

Threats To Both

It should be remembered that both Mac and PC users also share common threats which aren’t linked to which flavour of computer an OS they have.  These threats include phishing scams and other social engineering attacks, spam, human error of the Mac or PC user, and the threats of theft or loss of the Mac or PC.

Whether a Mac or PC user, clicking on a link or downloading an attachment in a suspicious email can mean an equal risk of falling victim to malware.

Taking Precautions

Mac and PC users should always take precautions to reduce the risk of viruses and attacks.  These include:

– Keeping anti-virus software up to date and making sure that all the latest patches and updates have been installed.

– Not clicking on suspicious links or downloads in emails.

– Making sure that (staff) users are aware, educated and trained in spotting and dealing with cyber threats, scams, social engineering attack behaviour (on and offline) and more.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Macs and PCs are both vulnerable to attacks and threats and the increasing popularity of Macs means that threats towards them are growing. Users of both Windows and Mac operating systems should always stay up to date with measures that ensure that their systems are protected and should make sure that staff are educated, trained, and motivated to spot and deal with threats in the right way. 

Mac users may can check the advice on Apple’s website about features (found in System Preferences) that help protect Macs and the personal information of users from malicious software/malware, such as that embedded in harmless-looking apps.  See: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/guide/mac-help/mh40596/mac