November 20th, 2014 | Edited by Zoran Stosic | software
Apple has acted quickly to address a malware threat to iOS and Mac OSX computers, saying on November 6th it has blocked apps from running that are infected with the WireLurker malicious code.
A day earlier, security vendor Palo Alto Networks revealed a campaign in which hackers were transferring malware to Apple devices through infected desktop applications downloaded from a Chinese marketplace.
The attack was a novel one in that it compromised iOS devices that had not been jailbroken, or altered to remove the restrictions that prevent people from downloading apps outside of the thoroughly-vetted App store.
About 467 Mac desktop applications were found to be infected with WireLurker at an app store for Chinese users called Maiyadi. The malware waits until an iOS device is connected to the desktop via USB, then uses one of a two methods to infect the mobile device. WireLurker can then steal data from the device, such as phone logs.
Apple didn’t say exactly what steps it has taken to stop the attack, but said “we are aware of malicious software available from a download site aimed at users in China, and weve blocked the identified apps to prevent them from launching.”
The company reiterated its longstanding advice to download software only from trusted sources.
Dave Jevans, founder and CTO for mobile security company Marble Security, said Apple had a few different options for thwarting WireLurker.
One way it infects devices is by using an enterprise provisioning certificate, which is used by developers building apps for in-house that don’t appear on the App Store. The certificates are what allows those apps to run on iOS, and in the hands of a malicious hacker could be used to spread infected applications. Apple revoked the certificate used by WireLurker’s creators, Jevans said.
That would help protect phones that aren’t jailbroken from running infected apps, but it might not help those whose devices have already been infected, he said.
Apple could also update Safari to prevent people from navigating to the Maiyadi website, but users would still be able to get there using Chrome or other browsers. The company could also update its XProtect antivirus engine with a signature to block WireLurker installations, Jevans said.
November 15th, 2014 | Edited by Zoran Stosic | software
The cries for help from frazzled Mac owners whose Wi-Fi connections went haywire after upgrading to OS X Yosemite are being met by Apple with stone-faced silence.
Affected users have been filing a steady stream of complaints about the problem in discussion forums, blogs, and social media sites since Apple released the latest version of the operating system a week ago.
Attempts by users to isolate the cause of the issue have been fruitless so far. The problem affects a variety of Macs with dissimilar configurations and linked to many different routers. What’s clear is that the problem hit these users after installing Yosemite. In most cases, Wi-Fi becomes unstable, with connections dropping every few minutes, irritatingly slow or simply unusable.
The lucky few people who have managed to get their Wi-Fi working properly again have done so with one of at least 20 unique and unofficial “fixes” scattered among thousands of discussion forum postings. None of them seems to be a universal fix for the problem.
On Friday morning, a user identified as “Hevelius” in a Mac Rumors forum vented his frustration with the situation. “There must be about two dozen so-called fixes now on this forum. I’ve tried every single one of them and none of them work,” this person wrote, adding that until there is a fix that works for everyone, the best option is to revert to Mavericks, the previous version of the OS.
Some of the most active forum threads about this topic are in the official Apple Support site, including the ones titled “OSX Yosemite Wifi issues” with almost 400 comments and close to 34,000 views; “Yosemite (OS X 10.10) killed my WiFi :(“ with almost 150 comments and 18,000 views; and “wifi keeps dropping since Yosemite upgrade”, which is approaching 100 comments and 6,000 views.
Even technologists are among the affected, including Eugene Wei, Flipboard’s head of product, who tweeted on Friday: “After upgrade to Yosemite, my MBP [MacBook Pro] drops my wifi network at home seemingly every 20 seconds.”
Sophos’ security expert Paul Ducklin took to the company’s Naked Security blog on Wednesday to request help from its readers in troubleshooting the problem and figuring out workarounds.
In his post, which has generated 84 comments, Ducklin refrains from convicting Apple, saying that while the cause could be a Yosemite bug, it could also be due to latent flaws in third-party hardware and software exposed by the upgrade. However, he does acknowledge that, whatever the cause, the common trigger is a Yosemite installation.
“No one seems to know what’s wrong, and without a scientific explanation it’s hard to know where to lay the blame,” wrote Ducklin, whose Wi-Fi connection works fine for no longer than 10 minutes at a time, and then starts to melt down. He wrote a script that automates the manual process of turning his Wi-Fi off and then on after a connection disruption is detected.
Apple hasn’t responded to multiple requests for comment from the IDG News Service.
November 1st, 2014 | Edited by Zoran Stosic | hardware
Anyone who’s tried to take a decent photo with an iPhone knows the drill: tap the app and wait longer than usual for it to open, fiddle around with the settings to make sure the flash is activated, awkwardly hold the phone (along with your breath) and finally, repeatedly tap the screen to take the shot. If luck is on your side, you’ll have a photo that doesn’t look like a typical Bigfoot sighting.
The Snappgrip is a device that aims to take all that fuss out of shooting iPhone pics. It’s a phone case that gives users an added benefit of physical buttons so there’s no need to struggle with the on-screen functions. Taking a photo, shooting video, zooming, toggling the flash and switching between landscape and portrait modes are all handled by the Snappgrip.
The button layout on the Snappgrip is just like any other camera. There’s a dial to switch modes and a shutter button for zooming and taking shots. The device is super light and curved perfectly for comfort. What’s even cooler is that the button and dial section detaches, leaving you with a phone case. That’s a sure plus for those who hate having to take their phone out of the case just to put on an accessory.
The Snappgrip is available now at the bitemyapple.co website for $70. You also get a tripod mount (for the truly obsessed iPhone photographer), wrist strap, charging cable and carrying case (that you’d probably never use anyway). As far as colors, your choice is only between the obligatory black or white, but who cares? It makes creating the next Instagram buzz a lot easier.
August 23rd, 2014 | Edited by Zoran Stosic | hardware
The iWatch won’t be an official product until it’s announced on the stage of an Apple press event, but a Thursday report lends more credibility to rumors that Apple’s smartwatch is imminent. Referencing various anonymous supply-chain sources, Reuters has reported that Taiwan’s Quanta Computer will begin production of Apple’s mythical wearable in July.
Details are scant, but the Reuters report says Apple’s smartwatch will feature a 2.5-inch, slightly rectangular, arched touch display, and will be juiced by wireless charging. The gadget will have a heart rate sensor, and connect only to Apple devices running iOS.
The watch would go on sale in October, and Apple expects to sell 50 million units within one year of the wearable’s release. LG will make the watch’s display, and Quanta—a company that already makes Macbooks and iPods—will account for at least 70 percent of total iWatch production.
Or at least that’s the news from a trio of sources that Reuters quotes off the record.
Should Apple release the iWatch (or whatever the gadget is to be called), Microsoft will be the last remaining consumer-tech giant left standing on the sidelines of the wearables space. Hardware manufacturers see wearables as the next step in mobility beyond smartphones and tablets, but an Apple wearable is far from a sure consumer hit.
The wearables market is expected to grow by 500 percent by 2018, but currently not a single smartwatch has successfully made the transition from nerd-oriented curiosity to mainstream success. The Pebble watch is just an idie cult favorite. Sony’s two smartwatches have near-imperceptible public mindshare. And Samsung’s four smartwatches, while the recipients of generous marketing support, have yet to fulfill Samsung’s own promise of being the “next big thing.”
Still, if any smartwatch stands a chance of success, it’s the iWatch. Apple enjoys the benefits of an extremely unified, consistent, user-friendly hardware-software ecosystem. So if the company can position the iWatch as the perfect wrist-worn complement to the iPhone, the Apple wearable truly could become “the next big thing.”
The keys to any iWatch success will be simple elegance and execution. How easy will it be to use apps on the extremely limited screen real estate of a 2.5-inch display? How will Apple surmount perennial wearable bugaboos like Bluetooth dropouts and short battery life? And what whiz-bang features will convince fence-sitters to put a completely new gadget type on their wrists?
If any company can figure out the smartwatch conundrum, it’s Apple. But the company will need to move quickly—and keep an eye trained on the competition. At next week’s Google I/O conference, Google is expected to demo LG’s G Watch, which runs the Android Wear OS. It essentially puts the highly acclaimed Google Now digital assistant on the user’s wrist.
Android Wear smartwatches won’t be anything like what Apple is poised to deliver in the iWatch. But they could put serious pressure on the iWatch, four months before Apple’s wearable is even released.
August 21st, 2014 | Edited by Zoran Stosic | hardware
This may be anathema for someone in the business of writing about tech to say, but I’m not all that interested in iPhone rumors. Shipping products are what grab my attention, not unicorns and phantasms. The minute Tim Cook holds up the new device is the minute it’s worthwhile to start examining features and specs, and all the speculation ahead of time is usually just the noise separating one Apple press event from the next.
So why did I take notice of this week’s report in the Wall Street Journal that Apple is going to use sapphire on the screens for at least one of its rumored iPhones—the larger, more expensive one—as well as that smartwatch everyone seems to think the company will announce next month?
Probably because I expect it to happen.
Or to put it another way, I’ve been waiting for a smartphone maker to replace the glass screens on its devices with the more durable sapphire since January 2013. I was sitting in a meeting room at that year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and a couple nice gentlemen from GT Advanced Technologies were hipping me to the merits of sapphire as a component in handheld devices.
I was working on an article about how device makers were looking to bolster your phone’s durability—particularly when it came to screens that had a nasty habit of breaking when coming into unexpected contact with concrete. It was a subject that Paul Beaulieu, vice president of the sapphire materials group for materials and equipment provider GT Advanced Technologies, was happy to talk to me about. “Certainly one of the trends in mobile devices is that they’re thinner, lighter, and more widespread,” he said back in 2013. “All of those things contribute to higher breakage rates, given current materials.”
The solution, Beaulieu contended, was to use sapphire—perhaps an unsurprising answer, given that industrial sapphire is what GT Advanced Technologies manufactures. But sapphire is attractive as a possible glass replacement for other reasons, as my colleague Marco Tabini noted earlier this year. Chiefly, it’s the hardest natural substance after diamond, and GT Advanced Technologies had developed a way to produce it on a scale that wasn’t cost prohibitive.
GT’s Beaulieu told me something else back in 2013 that I didn’t quote in that article: He believed sapphire would be put to use in mobile devices by 2014. That was months before GT wound up inking a $578 million deal to supply Apple with sapphire. And it was more than a year before Apple opened a GT-run plant in Mesa, Arizona, to start churning out sapphire crystal.
There are, of course, hurdles to reaching our sapphire-encased future, which that Journal article is more than happy to outline. Apple faces risks from everything from demands on its supply chain to the cost of the material. (The Journal quotes an analyst who estimates that sapphire screen costs about five times as much as one made from Corning’s Gorilla Glass, which Apple reportedly uses on current iPhones, and that could either mean a higher price tag on new phones or slimmer profit margins for a company that likes profit an awful lot.)
Still, for Apple, these are risks worth taking if it means producing a phone that can stand out from the smartphone crowd. “A lot of [device makers] are looking for differentiation,” Beaulieu told me 20 months ago. If the Journal’s report is true, Apple may have found a way to do that.