Tag Archives: iCloud

How Not to Buy Stolen Stuff

Everyone wants a good deal. Nothing feels better than getting a nice phone, tablet or laptop at a nicely reduced price. But on the other hand there are millions of these devices lost or stolen each year. Last year alone over 3 million smartphones were reported stolen. Would thieves continue to steal these devices if they were not easy to re-sell? I don’t think so.

So how can you avoid buying a stolen phone or other device? First let me tell you why you don’t want to buy a phone, tablet or computer from a dubious source. First of all you could be buying junk. If a smartphone is reported stolen you may be unable to activate it. Your service provider may have information that the phone is stolen and could report you as having it. Other times the service provider will simply refuse to activate the phone. You got a good deal on a useless product. Second, the device could be tracked and when the owner and the police catch up to it you get caught holding stolen property and could be charged. How do they know you aren’t the thief? Now you’re out the money and you need a lawyer.

A good deal is nice but let’s make sure you’re getting what you paid for and not a lot of regrets.

1) Be careful who you buy from. Make sure you are buying from an authorized re-seller. Cellphone service providers offer used and refurbished phones on their websites. These are nicely conditioned trade ins. You can also find good deals on Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist. But I would suggest being a little more careful on Craigslist since this is often the first stop for thieves to advertise their loot. Amazon and eBay offer profiles and seller reviews that make them more trustworthy than Craigslist. But even that is no guarantee so you have to do your homework. Check Swappa and Glyde for buying used phones as they have policies and safeguards in place for buyers.

2)Investigate. Regardless of the site investigate the device thoroughly. The ad should have basic information about the phone and its condition such as color, correct model number, and storage capacity. Also check the overall quality of the device. eBay will have conditions listed and you can see them here.   They are an excellent standard to go by. If possible make sure the picture is of the actual smartphone rather than an official photo taken from the Internet of that phone model. If you can contact the owner directly and they are not too far away ask to come by and see the phone. If they are too far away then ask for additional photos of the phone to make sure it matches the description. Ask for things like the original box it came in, manuals, the re-charger etc. If the seller does not have these things there is a problem; move on. Also ask for the original carrier if the phone is advertised as unlocked and  IMEI (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity) or the serial number of the device. Sometimes these numbers are altered. You can run a check on that number at the IMEI.info website. If the seller is unwilling to share this info then again; move on.

For buyers of Apple devices Apple offers  a new service on iCloud.com called Check Activation Lock Status. This lets the potential buyer quickly see if a device was reported stolen or missing. Just enter the IMEI or serial number of the device you’re thinking of buying. You will immediately know if someone used the Find My iPhone app to implement the Activation Lock. Activation Lock was first introduced in iOS 7 and it completely locks down the device rendering it useless until the proper Apple ID and password have been entered. So if you make the mistake of buying an Apple device that was stolen, you won’t be able to use it. And don’t even dream of getting your money back. You can also check the remaining warranty on the device using the serial number.

3) Can you return it?  Ok, you’ve done the homework and believe that the device is legit. Don’t hand over the money just yet. If you’re buying the phone off Craigslist ask the seller to meet in a public location like, say, the carrier store so you can activate it following your purchase, with the seller there. This the best final step. If the phone does not activate keep your cash. Another thing; if they already gave you an IMEI or ESN, you’ll want to double check that it matches up before handing over any cash. And if they didn’t give you that information before, you can check the serial number with one of the sites we mentioned above once you have it in hand. With Amazon and eBay they have strict requirements for the seller on their sites and the seller must provide a return policy or state all sales are final. If you see that then just go with another seller. Always make sure you have a safety net. Remember;  Caveat Emptor, let the buyer beware.

Now you now.

Ok, so now what do you do with the old phone?

Improve Your iPhone Security

Stolen cell phones are a big problem. Every year millions of cell and smartphones are stolen and most are never recovered. According to Business Insider 44% of smartphones were stolen simply because owners forgot them in public places like Starbucks. Fourteen percent were stolen from a car or house that was burglarized. Only 11% of victims had a smartphone stolen off their person. And the most common place a smartphone is stolen?  Restaurants 16% and nightclubs 11%. Only 5% are stolen as a result of street crime such as having it snatched from your hand while using public transportation.

Public theft of smartphones, especially iPhones has become a huge problem in places Like New York where 18% of all grand larcenies last year involved Apple products. As a result Democratic Rep. José E. Serrano has introduced a bill that would require all phones sold in the United States to feature a “kill switch” technology.  That technology allows consumers to wipe their data and shut down a phone completely when it’s reported stolen making it useless and of no re-sale value.

The state of Minnesota and California have already passed a law requiring all smart phones be equipped with a kill switch in case of theft. The law applies to smartphones made on or after July 1, 2015 and sold in California after that date.

According to Consumer Reports, more than 3 million smartphones were stolen in 2013 and the biggest cities had the most thefts.  Theft of smartphones rose by 26% in Los Angeles since 2011. Smartphone theft was up by 23% in San Francisco in 2013.

iPhones are extremely popular and the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are in heavy demand. If you own any iPhone you need to make sure its secure against theft. Even if you lose it you need to know the data is safe until you can locate it using an app such as Find My iPhone. So lets look at ways to secure your iPhone in case, just in case, something happens.

1) Get a real pass code. First things first; change that four digit access code on your phone to something more secure like a pass phrase. And not one anyone can guess. Mix those numbers, letters and characters up. Now another super security option that’s available to you is the “erase data” feature. This option will wipe everything from the iPhone’s memory after 10 failed pass code attempts. But remember this is permanent. Once the data is gone its gone…forever!  So if you forget your password often you might not want to use this option.

Here’s how you do it. Go to “Settings” –> “Passcode” (or “Touch ID and passcode”) –> “Require passcode: immediately”; “Simple passcode: off”.

Settings1

2) Don’t let your lock screen dime you out. It really doesn’t matter if you have a powerful pass code if someone looking over your shoulder can see it.  Yeah, its nice and quick to glance at your screen to see what text messages, emails and other information that hits your phone. But these messages can also contain sensitive data like confirmation codes, private appointments, financial data or some other intimate communication. So keep that lock screen from broadcasting your business.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “Passcode” (or “Touch ID and passcode”) –> “Allow access when locked” section.

3) Use two step verification for iPhone and iCloud. Quick question; do you have pictures that you only want that special someone to see? Well as you know some celebrities have had those images compromised. Don’t let that happen to you. I strongly recommend you add this layer of security for your Apple ID and iCloud. You can set up two-step verification on one or more of your devices. Two step verification means you will receive a 4-digit verification code using either SMS or the Find My iPhone service. Using the second verification means any time you sign in to manage your Apple ID, iCloud, iTunes, iBooks, or App Store purchase from any device you’ll need to verify your identity by entering both your password and a 4-digit verification code.

How? Go to https://appleid.apple.com –> “Manage your Apple ID” –> “Password and Security” –> “Two-Step Verification”.

4) Siri talks too much. Even if your phone is locked she can talk and who knows what she might say and to whom.  You don’t have to shut her up completely. But securing your phone means preventing Siri from speaking from behind a locked screen. Siri will talk with anybody so you have to teach her not to talk to strangers.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “Passcode” (or “Touch ID and passcode”) –> “Allow access when locked” section –> “Siri: off” and “Settings” –> “General” –> “Siri” –> “Allow “Hey Siri”: off”.

5) Don’t automatically sync to the iCloud.  Keep in mind that Internet rule # 6 says nothing is ever deleted. And as some celebrities discovered this is very true. Those nude images, though deleted from their phone were floating blissfully in the cloud waiting to be stolen. Not just the pictures but all the data on your phone, contacts, messages, notes, documents, pretty much anything stored on your phone. Automatic back up to the cloud is set on default in iPhones and happens the minute you plug in the charger. So the smart thing to do is to not automatically sync if you have one or more Apple devices and don’t really need to sync them daily.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “iCloud”.

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You can turn off auto sync to the iCloud.

6) Stop automatically connecting to known WiFi networks. iPhones are set to connect automatically to known WiFi hotspots without your permission. While this may seem like a really cool feature because you don’t have to do anything to switch from mobile Internet to local WiFi. But wait! Cyber criminals set up their own fake wireless hotspots in coffee shops, restaurants and hotels all the time.  You might not even know your iPhone is connected to the malicious WiFi network. The cyber criminal can steal all of your data while you sip coffee and read the paper. So you need to be aware of this or turn off this option.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “Wi-Fi” –> “Ask to join networks: on”.

7) Start using VPN.  Virtual Private Networks is almost a requirement if you want extra security on your iPhone in different wireless networks, including unknown ones. Some VPN services are free but not all. But the few extra dollars spent here is fairly cheap for keeping your data protected.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “General” –> “VPN” –> “Add VPN Configuration…”. All the information you need from here will be provided by your VPN provider.

8) No more cookies. Cookies are small files that are deposited on your phone or device by all websites. These treats may record information about you, your computer,  your smartphone, and your preferences. They allow websites to keep you logged in or display targeted ads. Unfortunately they may be very helpful to cyber criminals since they can hold credentials and other sensitive data. Cookies can be very helpful  but turning off cookies might become a bother. But think of how much more secure your data will be. 

How?  For Safari: Go to “Settings” –> “Safari” –> “Privacy & Security” section –> “Do Not Track: on”, “Block Cookies: Always Block”; For third party browsers: see similar browser settings.

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9) AutoFill, another snitch.  If somebody steals your iPhone they may be able to log in as you on a number of sites. How? Because the AutoFill option will fill in the missing user name and password. Told you AutoFill was another snitch.  Switch it off! Yeah; its inconvenient but well worth the hassle.

How?  For Safari: Go to “Settings” –> “Safari” –> “General” section –> “Passwords & AutoFill”; For third party browsers: see similar browser settings.

10)  Apps; yet another snitch. If you really want ot be shocked take a minute to read the permissions on some of the apps you download.  These apps are collecting a mountain of data. Some game apps collect information such as your location, your contacts, your pictures, your phone service provider, etc? Why? What does this app need with all your data? Remember this is a game app?   You probably have Facebook or a Google app as well. These are some of the biggest information collectors. I am convinced that a lot of apps are designed to keep you busy while they spy on you. This tip may be extreme, but if you have followed all the other recommendations offered why not go ahead with this last one. Apple’s iOS 8 offers a significant number of features and data types that just about any app can access. You need to block this. Stop these app providers from knowing everything you do and everywhere you go.

How? Go to “Settings” –> “Privacy”. Turn off all location services. Keep them off until you want ot use an app that needs the service. Go through Privacy settings one by one and turn off everything you don’t need or apps that are using this feature that you want to stop. It takes some time but it will keep some of your data secure.

This article is more about protecting you and your personal information than what you paid for that smartphone. Any device can be replaced. Try to replace your credit or money in your bank account. Or try to explain to your credit card company why you should not have to pay for those charges on your credit card. Or worse try to convince your bank you are really you after your identity is stolen. You have enough information on your iPhone that, if lost, any of these things can happen to you. Don’t let it.

Now you know

 

Gabrielle Union Victimized by Hackers

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Gabrielle Union

Here we go again. Another bunch of nude images posted on the Internet of female celebrities. According to reports actress Gabrielle Union had nude images stolen and posted on the the Internet for all to see. According to Union the images were shared with her husband NBA star Dwayne Wade then deleted. Union has vowed to contact the FBI over the leaked pictures.  Union and Wade released a strongly worded joint statement saying, “It has come to our attention that our private moments, that were shared and deleted solely between my husband and myself, have been leaked by some vultures.”

The obvious question has to be where the images are coming from. Apple continues to deny  its iCloud service was been hacked. Instead Apple claims the images were stolen as a result of brute force password attacks against individual accounts.  

“After more than 40 hours of investigation, we have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the internet,” Apple said in a statement at the time.

“None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud or Find My iPhone.” But Apple has admitted that there was a flaw in its system that allowed an unlimited number of password attempts on its iCloud servers. Apple immediately repaired the flaw after the last batch of nude photos were released.

Breaking it down

Internet Rule #6,  Nothing is ever completely deleted.  If Gabrielle Union reads this I want her to understand this rule and all the others. If you know her and she has an iPhone then tell her that each time she places that phone on the charger it is communicating with the iCloud and every other app she has on her phone. Information is being transmitted. Please keep this in mind. 

Like the Jill Scott incident this was an unforgivable invasion into a black woman’s personal privacy. But lets get this straight; its not all about black women. It’s about the over objectification of all women. We will always objectify women. Its a natural part of our openly sexual culture and the rampant use of sex in our advertising imagery. We see sex everywhere. But we have to exercise some personal and societal limitations. If you want female nudity then indulge in all the porn you want online. Leave these women alone!

This act only reveals the efforts of the lowest in our society to be hurtful and cowardly. They will never stand up and admit to this because they know it was a sleazy thing to do. They fear the wrath of those with decency and respect for other’s privacy. To Gabrielle; you did nothing wrong. Even as a celebrity you are still entitled to your private moments. We as a society have wronged you and other women by tolerating these events. This is simply not acceptable. Lets hope the FBI tracks these assholes down. 

Jill Scott Gets Caught Up

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Jill Scott

Jill Scott is not the first celebrity to have nude pictures exposed to the world. Not even the first black celebrity. But now it  happened to her. And I know this black woman is mad as hell!

Two images appeared on Twitter that were supposed to be of Jill. One appeared to be a selfie of her in front of a bathroom mirror. Another showed a woman with her breasts exposed. Of course this was the topic of many Tweets. Jill confirmed that it was her in only one of the photos and not the naked one.

Its bad enough that her privacy was violated but some people actually criticized her body. Her fans wasted no effort or time to defend her.

Jill Tweeted about the images saying, ““I def took the 1st pic w/ a robe; weight loss chronicle but the 2nd, sorry freaks, is not me. I wish I had that space between my thighs.”You can see all of Jill’s tweets here.

Breaking it Down

Some people think this is about nude celebrities and hacking. They are wrong. Some people think this is about Internet security. Wrong again! This is about our society and the lost respect for privacy. It reaches from the corporations that follow our every move and turn even children into information gathering tools.

Its about government and the lack of leadership and will to provide laws to protect the citizens from the prying eyes of these corporations and other people.

Its about a society that seems to enjoy tagging and tweeting and texting about everything we do and everywhere we go. 

We have lost respect for ourselves and one another by exposing what we do in the privacy of our lives. Our private thoughts and actions are being exposed. We are guilty of exposing ourselves and tolerating those who expose us against our wishes.

Jill did nothing wrong. None of the celebrities did anything wrong. They are simply the victims of a society that has forgotten what it is to respect one another. Civil respectful human beings don’t do these things. What did these creeps get for doing this? A little over $100 dollars and the attention of the FBI. They did it because they revel in trying to shame and embarrass other people simply because they are well known. Its the sign of a sick and immature mind immersed in an open and lost society.

We have to regain some self respect. We have to stop sexting and revealing things about ourselves just because we can and have the tools. In order to be angered by people who pry open the lives of others we need to respect our own lives and how we live it. We need to keep what we do behind closed doors private. We need to re-discover privacy.

Jill if you read this keep your head up. You did nothing wrong. Its those others (I won’t call them human beings) that broke into your life like thieves and stole your privacy and dignity that should be ashamed. But they probably are not because to feel shame you have to have dignity and pride and self-respect. But instead they have shown everybody how pathetic their lives really are. Haven’t they?

Celebrity Photo Hack Creates Confusion

icloud-loginAs many of you have no doubt heard a hacker has stolen and posted sensitive photos of female celebrities on the Internet. The photos originally appeared on a site called 4Chan. Jennifer Lawrence and Victoria Justice are two of the female actors who’s intimate pictures were stolen and posted for the world to see. How were the pictures stolen and why? Well that is just a few of the questions that are creating so much confusion as the investigation begins. First of all there were actually about 100 celebrities who’s pictures were released. The other actors included Ariana Grande, Kate Upton and singer Jill Scott. All had naked and intimate pictures published online after having their iCloud accounts  hacked.

Before we go any further we need to define exactly what the ‘cloud’ is. The cloud is a network of servers, and each server has a different function. Some servers use computing power to run applications or deliver services online.  Other servers store information such as music, video, documents and in this case still images. Other information you may find on storage servers include emails, email contacts, telephone numbers and full address books, chat logs, home movies, and all sorts of data from all sorts of devices that people want to back up. Its all in the cloud.

Apple’s version of the cloud is known as the iCloudThe hacker(s) who stole and then posted the images online claimed to have stolen the images from the celebrities iCloud accounts. The miscreant(s) demanded  “donations” via PayPal and Bitcoin in exchange for posting them. He, or they, received only 0.2545 BTC in donations. In dollars this amounts to $121.15.

Now here is the first point of confusion. Apple Claims that it’s servers and automatic backup systems were not hacked and are secure.  But when it came to details Apple was not talking except to say that the hack was a ” carefully targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions.” Apple provided no details as to how the attackers obtained this information from the celebrities. 

But Apple took quick action to repair a vulnerability in the Find My iPhone app that permitted unlimited password attempts. Researchers revealed the flaw. There are hacking tools that can be programmed to perform a brute force attack on passwords until the right password is found. Is this what happened?

Apple did confirm it was investigating along with the FBI to identify the hackers responsible for breaking into the iCloud accounts.

Do you own an iPhone? Are you aware of what it is doing without your knowledge? Let me explain this to you. Your iPhone constantly communicates with Apple and others who have created the apps you have on your phone. The information may include everything from where you are at the moment to who you call, text or email, your device settings, what games you play, coupons you download, your web searches, photos, videos and pretty much everything you do with your phone is recorded somewhere.  All this information goes floating off to the cloud.  All you need for the iCloud to automatically do its thing is a Wi-Fi connnection and a power source. iCloud backs up while it’s turned on and locked. If you plug your phone into charger at bedtime this is whats happening while you sleep.

Now we have the question of whether to shut off the automatic back up for the iPhone. More confusion. Some experts recommend that you do if you want to secure your privacy. Other say it not an issue since it is unlikely that Apple’s servers were hacked.

After this incident why would you not just shut it off? The answer is what is your risk? What is the risk of your cloud account getting hacked or losing your phone?  Let’s face it, hackers are probably not that interested in you.  The chances are much better that you will lose or damage your phone. If that happens, you would probably kiss your pictures, your contact info, calendar and even some e-mail goodbye without a back up. Some of you know how devastating that can be.

If you do lose your phone or someone relieves you of it there is probably a good chance they will get into your pictures and other data anyway. You can wipe the device clean remotely on both Apple devices and Androids. Both use cloud services. Yes, you could turn off the photo backup and use the phone anyway, but wouldn’t it be easier to just secure your cloud account instead? So there is your choice; either use better security for your cloud account including complex pass phrases and two factor authentication or take a chance and turn the back up off. Its really your choice.

Confusion reigns about who actually owns the images. The question sounds simple but is not. Many celebrities are looking to use copyright law to force websites to remove the images. Unfortunately the cat is out of the bag. AACR rule #6 ; Images on the Internet are no longer yours.

In 1998 Congress passed the Digitally Millennium Copyright Act to  govern the online distribution of photos, video and text. The law was intended to preserve the open access and use of the Internet.

Part of this law includes what is known as ‘safe harbor.’ Safe harbor protects websites from legal liability for virtually all content posted on their services. The law requires websites and Internet service providers to remove any content they believe infringes on a copyright after being notified by the copyright owner. Now here is the problem; who owns the images of these celebrities? Is it the celebrity, or the person who owns the device that took the picture? Either way the copyright was violated. 

Some of the stolen photos were not selfies. As such the female celebrities pictured may not technically own the copyright. This creates loopholes that preserve the intimate photos from being completely erased from Internet. Here is another problem for celebrities who have their picture taken thousands of times a day. These images now are on the fan’s and paparazzi’s cameras. Do the images belong to the fan or photographer? Maybe. Can they sell the images? Maybe. Can the celebrity sue for copyright infringement? Maybe. More confusion.