New iPhone/Mac Vulnerabilities That Can Impact Your Business

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Recently Apple was hit with two big issues in the same month. These gave rise to concerns that Apple products might not be as secure as most think. The first of the two came in the form of a text message that can be sent to Apple iPhones.

The text, which is entirely in Arabic, can be sent to anyone with an iPhone, and it will immediately shut down the phone. While this is more of an annoying bug than a security concern (although it definitely can be viewed as a security concern, depending on the owner of the phone and his/her need for uptime), it doesn’t seem to be harmful to the devices. Users in the  Reddit.com forums found the bug, and it appears they did so by accident.

Credit: parts of this image are reproduced with permission from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Unibody_Macbook.JPG.

Credit: parts of this image are reproduced with permission from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Unibody_Macbook.JPG.

If your phone receives the dreaded text message, you will need to turn on your phone and delete that message. One workaround to the text issue is to go into the settings,and turn off text message previews that appear on the home screen. Apple is aware of the bug and will resolve the issue in its latest update, which should be coming very soon.

The second security concern, and one that is very critical to businesses is the latest exploit which allows someone to put a permanent backdoor onto your Mac by rewriting the firmware for the BIOS to allow remote connection to the device. This affects all Macs older than mid-2014.

The reason this security concern is so troubling is, unlike other types of exploits, where if you were to be hacked you could wipe your hard drive and start clean with the appropriate updates, this targets the BIOS, meaning no matter how often you wipe your hard drive, hackers can exploit the vulnerability over and over again.

The vulnerability can be enacted as soon as a machine is woken from Sleep Mode. The security researcher who found the exploit, Pedro Vilaca, stated you can stop your machine from going into Sleep Mode to bypass the exploit. However, Apple is aware of the exploit and should patch it soon. Vilaca also stated that this is very similar to last year’s “Thunderstrike Proof-of-Concept” exploit.

While nothing will protect against this current exploit (i.e. antivirus, anti-malware), it does show that as Macs become more popular, holes are being found in the OS and, in this case, in the hardware itself. Business owners must be aware of both where their employees go on the Internet and how to protect their assets from hacking attempts.

Everon offers antivirus for Macs, as well as PCs, with a product called Webroot Secure Anywhere. We can assist in setting up hardware proxies that will prevent unauthorized access to the Internet. If you have any questions about what we can do for your Apple environment, feel free to call our techs at 1-888-244-1748 (or email at info@everonit.com). We’re here for you. Twenty-four/seven, 365.

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Microsoft to Stop Making Windows OS: How this will impact your business

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windows 10 - last osIn a recent conference speech, Jerry Nixon, a Microsoft exec, announced that Windows 10 will be the software giant’s last operating system. Instead of creating an entirely new OS after Windows 10 is released (widely rumored to happen in July), Microsoft will continue to make improvements to Windows 10 through regular updates.

This type of OS-updating is already seen to some extent with the Apple OSX architecture. Nixon stated that a big reason behind the move was due to how the development team would lock themselves away for three years to create the next operating system… but their end-result would be a product the world wanted three years ago. Given how quickly technology changes, this new process will be a welcome departure.

Microsoft has not yet determined what it will call its iterations, post-Windows 10. However, we will not see the continued numerical names to its OS. Microsoft also mentioned that this will help sales, as the idea of selling end users on entirely new operating systems has become increasingly difficult. This way of thinking can be somewhat attributed to the failures of Vista and Windows 8.

Windows 10 will have some version of the Start Menu, which is what seemed to be a stopping point for many businesses. You can download a free preview of the operating system here. (For information on how to create a virtual Windows 10 preview, see my previous blog post, found here.)

Of special note, if you are a small-medium business: you can rejoice in the fact that you will no longer have to have a test machine in your network, to test all of your applications and specialized network setup, every time Microsoft releases a brand new OS. Once your company moves to Windows 10, you should not need to worry about having a new operating system, preventing your company from moving to the latest version. (Although you will want to ensure you are getting the appropriate updates, as they will be critical for keeping your computers protected, and allowing Microsoft to patch security flaws.)

Microsoft’s updates to Windows 10 will likely be free, similar to the way Apple handles its updates to OSX. In fact, if you own Windows 7 or later, and you update within the first year of Windows 10′s release, you will get Windows 10 for free. (Details for that can be found here.) The Windows 10 free upgrade is also free for users who have pirated software as well. (Details for that can be found here.) Microsoft is allowing this to happen to help combat piracy and ensure their OS is patched and in the hands of as many end users as possible.

Microsoft’s idea of giving away their OS for free is a departure from their old way of thinking. It is a strategic move, as Microsoft continues to battle Apple for the OS user base.

Microsoft has made some other bold changes lately, including a decision to discontinue its popular web browser Internet Explorer for its new product, Spartan. Spartan will reportedly be lightweight and very similar to other popular lightweight browsers on the market, such as Chrome and Firefox. The new browser will appear on Windows 10.

Our engineers at Everon are constantly staying on top of the tech-trends that affect small to medium businesses. If you have any questions about Microsoft or Windows 10, feel free to call 1-888-244-1748.

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Mac Tips for Techs: Activity Monitor -the Task Manager for a Mac

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Before my Mac completely ticked me off, and I broke up with Apple, I was dealt a blow had been frustrating and ongoing (more on that in later blog posts). I had not been able to get my machine to turn off the digital optical out; my speakers were unusable on my MacBook Pro.

Because of this, and after a ton of Google research, I had been trying various troubleshooting techniques. One of them was to stop the CoreAudio service.

On a PC this is simple: you open Task Manager, you browse the running processes, and you kill them. However, how do you stop processes from running on a Mac? You can use a great utility called Activity Monitor, which is a built-in tool on the Mac that can be found by typing Activity Monitor into your spotlight.

ActivityMonitorFrom here, this should look pretty similar to Task Manager. You have your processes listed, and you can sort the list in a variety of ways. You can also select individual processes and click the X in the upper left-hand corner to kill the process.

You can also search the processes via how they affect memory, energy, disk, or the network, in addition to the default of CPU. This is crucial if you are troubleshooting certain issues with your Mac — such as whether you are low on RAM, or maybe the Mac’s battery life is dying too quickly (check the energy tab).

This is a great tool for troubleshooting a Mac, and should be included in any technician’s toolkit.

 

What You Might Want to Think About Before Installing Yosemite

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Apples-OS-X-Yosemite

Yosemite, the new Mac OS that replaced Mavericks this year, was released to much fanfare. And for the most part it has been a very solid operating system. You can install this OS for free from Apple’s AppStore (for anyone running Snow Leopard or later), so what’s not to love?

For me, I was very excited about Yosemite, and even wrote a blog post about its release. However, after a few months, I have decided not to install Yosemite for a few reasons (and by the way, these reasons should be taken into consideration, even if you have a Windows PC and are thinking about upgrading your OS).

  1. The biggest reason for me is the functionality of applications. Many applications I use have not been written to work for Yosemite at the moment — and if you have critical applications, you should NOT go to a new OS until you have tested all of your applications.
  2. Bugs. Every OS starts off with a few bugs, and while they quickly figure out the kinks, I am not interested in going through the motions until these are worked out. I would prefer to give the OS a few months to let others work through those until I am on-board.

There are a few other reasons, such as you own an old Mac that might not be able to handle Yosemite, or you don’t know your Apple ID username or password, but the two reasons above are the biggest reasons I have chosen not to move to Yosemite… yet.

I suppose a third reason could be that I am lazy. Because there are options, so I could move forward…, but I have yet to act on them.

When you decide to move to a new OS, you MUST make a backup of your machine. There are many instances where the OS installation will go bad, leaving you with a corrupt OS. If you don’t have a backup of your system, you are stuck. I also ensure I have a backup to which I can restore my old OS, in case something goes wrong (such as Yosemite not being able to open my apps).

You actually have a built in tool for handling backups, called Time Machine. Taking a backup with Time Machine is easy. Launch Time Machine from Spotlight in the upper right hand corner, and point to the backup disk you would like to take the backup to. I do this manually and connect an external drive to my Mac in order to take a proper backup.

tm_sys_prefs Once you have a successful backup, you can actually restore your OS, using that backup. To do that, you need to boot into the OS X Recovery system. When booting your Mac, hold down command+R until the Apple logo appears.

One of the options should be ‘Restore from Time Machine Backup. You can then choose that, and the location of the backup you just took, and restore your system. It is as simple as that.

Doing this should give you the peace of mind that if you need to go back to Mavericks, you have the ability to do so. You also have some other options out there for creating backups and restores, and I discussed one of these options in another blog recently as well. Carbon Copy Cloner gives you a great user interface and easy-to-use tools for doing the exact same thing as Apple’s Time Machine.

With options such as these, you don’t have an excuse not to try out Yosemite (unless you are lazy, like me). :) I will get around to it eventually, and when I do, I promise to write a full review! In the meantime, remember: if you need help either backing up or restoring your systems for your business, we are always here for you, 24/7, at Everon: 888-244-1748.

Mac Tips for Techs: Onyx for Mac — your #1 cleaning tool

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OnyXOnyx for the Mac. If you are not a Mac Genius, but you know a bit about IT, you may have wondered how to clean a Mac like you can a PC. This is the tool that can take you where you need to be!

Onyx has been likened to Piriform’s C-Cleaner tool, however, this tool has many more functions than the Piriform tool you are used to using on a PC. First off, you can get the Onyx download from here. (Take note of your OS, as you must download and install the Onyx version that works with your OS. You can also use that link to get some older versions of Onyx for the older Mac OSes as well.)

When you launch Onyx for the first time, you are immediately requested to check the SMART status of the hard disk installed in your Mac. This is highly recommended and only takes around 30 seconds, so let that scan. It will let you know if there is anything it finds that needs to be resolved. From there you can use the Disk Utility application to resolve SMART errors on the disk. Regardless of whether you have SMART errors, you can still proceed to work within Onyx for other items.

The latest version of Onyx has many tabs: Verifying, Maintenance, Cleaning, Utilities, Automation, Parameters, Info, and Log. Onyx is well known for its Cleaning tab, in which you can choose to clean your System cache, User cache, Internet cache and cookies, Fonts cache, Logs, Mics items, and Trash. (In the trash tab, you also have a chance for securely deleting the trash, which means the files deleted are securely overwritten with jumbled data.)

In addition to the Cleaning tab, you can also do so much with the other tabs:

The Maintenance tab allows you to repair permissions, build and run scripts and rebuild aspects of the OS.

The Verifying tab runs the same SMART and structure checks of the hard disks and partitions that run on start-up of Onyx, so if you need to re-run those commands, you can run them from there.

The Utilities tab has many sub-tabs with a wealth of functions. I would suggest you go through this and see for yourself what you can do, as there are too many to name here. You will need to understand IT quite a bit more than normal, however, as some of the commands in the Utilities tab can be a bit daunting.

The Automation tab allow you to do several of the Onyx options all in one. It is very helpful if you want to set up a bunch of tasks to run off of one push of the button.

The Parameters tab is one of my favorites. This tab is really good for customizing your Mac, as you can set up animated desktop backgrounds, customize Finder and Dock options, and even edit options for some of Apple’s most-used applications (Safari, iTunes, Quicktime). You also have the ability to edit and display messages on login, and customize the spotlight, mission control, and others.

The last two tabs are self-explanatory: Info and Log. Both display exactly what you expect them to. The Info tab shows model information, processor, RAM, disk info, OS, profile, antivirus protection information, and whole host of other info. Basically, anything and everything you might be looking for to learn about the Mac will be stored in here. The Log tab shows the logs that are written based on the functions of Onyx, in case you need to review why a function did or did not work.

This is an extremely powerful tool that should be a part of any Mac IT engineer’s repertoire. It is even a great tool for anyone with basic information on Macs, as it can help keep your mac clean and healthy for years to come.

If you would like to review Onyx on a Mac, feel free to call in to our Mac engineers at Everon IT: 888-244-1748.