Monthly Archives May 2017

Sprint commits to 5G service by 2019

Sprint logo5G networks are a bright spot in the future of wireless communication; a lot of carriers are in on it, and a lot of customers are excited about it. T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T already have plans in place to implement a 5G network. So it makes sense that Sprint has caught up and designed one too.

According to CNET, Sprint said it will be working with its parent company SoftBank and chip maker Qualcomm to develop 5G technologies for its 2.5 gigahertz band of spectrum. Sprint promises that its 5G services will deploy by late 2019.

Whether or not 2019 is a realistic promise is hard to say. According to CRTC, “analysts warn that [5G technology] is still years away due to the lack of access to sufficient higher frequency radio waves necessary to offer super-high speeds.”

Parents — Meet Comcast XFinity xFi

comcast complaintsThis week, Comcast released a new digital dashboard called Xfinity xFi, which enables its customers to monitor and control the WiFi usage of specific devices or users in their home. According to GeekWire, XFinity xFi also allows customers to see which devices are connected to their network, monitor data usage, set parental controls, change WiFi passwords, troubleshoot issues, and more.

The individual profiles XFinity xFi allows are quite interesting. Say you’re a parent making a profile for a younger child: You can assign specific devices to their profile, and pause the connectivity for all those devices when needed. This saves you from having to resort to turning off your internet altogether to manage your child’s devices. You could also opt to turn on a time-based curfew, where all these devices will automatically pause at specified times.

“Today, in most of our customer’s homes, our equipment is a black box to them,” said Patti Loyack, vice president of Comcast’s IP services. “We want to make sure we increase visibility to that box in their homes, as well as give them control.”

If you’re a Comcast user and you want to take advantage of XFinity xFi, you can download the mobile app for iOS or Android, access it via your web browser, or use TV with Comcast’s X1 voice remote. The service is free for Comcast customers who rent a compatible Xfinity WiFi device, which include the xFi Wireless Gateway and the xFi Advanced Wireless Gateway. These devices are already in ten million homes across the United States.

Phone scam targeting the elderly in New York State

phone-449836_640On Friday, May 5, the New York State Police issued a warning to state residents about a recent surge in phone scams targeting seniors in the region.

According to the Wyoming County Free Press, the scam includes two main scenarios. In the first, the caller is “claiming to be a family member in trouble or arrested in another state or country. This caller will put urgency on helping them and not to contact other family.” In the second scenario, the caller “claims to be a law enforcement official with a family member under arrest demanding bail or funds for them.” Police remind citizens that they will never contact families for bail money.

In either scenario, the caller will ask the victim to put specific amounts of money on store gift cards, such as Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, Target and other big retail stores. Then, the victim is instructed to call a number and read off the gift card identification number. If the victim complies, those gift cards will be used to buy and resell items.

The New York State Police are asking residents to make seniors in their life aware of this scam in attempts to prevent its future success.

Seattle writes its own broadband privacy rules, ignores FCC regulations

internetThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently repealed broadband privacy regulation, a decision that upset many across the country, and allowed internet service providers (ISPs) to collect and sell user browsing data. According to TechCrunch, the city of Seattle, Washington decided to rewrite the rules and protect citizens living in its territory.

The FCC repealed a law that would have increased requirements for transparency and security practices, as well as protected browsing history, meaning that ISPs would have had to get permission from their consumers to track and sell it. However, this law never reached fruition.

Seattle’s CTO, Michael Mattmiller, said that when the rule was repealed, “the mayor directed us to look for authority the city had to restore – or perhaps not restore, but make a rule like it.”

They found the authority they needed in municipal code, which governs cable franchises. This is mostly directed towards TV services, but Mattmiller said that setting “privacy standards for subscribers of cable service and other services provided over the cable system” fit the bill.

Seattle’s ruling was passed on May 3rd, requiring cable internet providers to garner opt-in consent before using browsing history or any other kind of internet usage data for its own purposes. In addition, ISPs are required to provide their privacy statement to city authorities, which will then undergo yearly inspection.  ISPs have to comply with the rule by May 24th. Seattle residents might expect to receive an update from their ISP asking you to opt in to a data collection practice.

Google Docs becomes latest medium for phishing scams

screen-shot-2017-05-04-at-2-17-40-pmRecently, Google Docs fell prey to a rather sophisticated phishing scam which tricked people into giving up access to their Google accounts. According to CNET, Google responded quickly to fix the situation.

According to reports, the ruse appears to have mainly targeted journalists and educators. Users received an email linking them to a rogue app – which looked like Google Docs – and were asked to grant the app permission to use their Gmail account. If the user granted access, they had been effectively phished without even having revealed their password. Even worse, if a user fell for the email and granted access, the scam would then send an identical email to everyone in their contact list, hoping to repeat the success.

At 5:15pm on May 3rd, Google Docs tweeted, “Official Google Statement on Phishing Email: We have taken action to protect users against an email impersonating Google Docs & have disabled offending accounts. We’ve removed the fake pages, pushed updates through Safe Browsing, and our abuse team is working to prevent this kind of spoofing from happening again. We encourage users to report phishing emails in Gmail.”

Wiping your smartphone before selling may not protect your data

androidA lot of people sell their old, unused smartphones. But if you’re selling an Android in particular, you might want to be aware that simply reformatting the device may not be enough to prevent the buyer from accessing your personal data.

According to an investigation by CTV Vancouver, free data recovery apps can be used to recall photos, videos, passwords, and other documents on Android phones, even after you think you’ve deleted them. The problem allegedly stems from Android’s old OS versions 4 and 5, which do not include encryption for users’ sensitive information.

CTV’s investigation included security experts from Fortinet Global, who attempted to recover data from over a dozen old cell phones. Their investigation used both Android and iPhones, acquired from a variety of resellers, donations, and Craigslist. From the Android phones, the security experts were able to recover “vast quantities” of data, despite the phones having been repeatedly wiped through the settings menu.

“When you do a reset, the issue is that the operating system just unlinks the data. It’s not physically wiping out all of the data,” Derek Manky, a Fortinet security strategist, told CTV in regards to the investigation.

Manky explained that the only way to secure your Android is to make sure it’s encrypted before wiping and selling it. This can be done through the device’s security settings. The good news for iOS device owners and owners of newer Android devices is that data is encrypted automatically.

Bad news for online daters – Tinder falls prey to facial data scrape

tinderIf you’re on Tinder, or know someone who is, it might be time to check if your information has been posted without your consent. According to Hot Hardware, a machine learning platform recently uploaded facial data from around 40,000 Tinder profiles under the title “People of Tinder,” to GitHub. The attack mainly targeted users in the Bay Area of Northern California.

The data was released in six downloadable zip files, four of which contained around 10,000 images, while the other two contained about 500 each.

The dataset from which these photos were taken belonged to Tinder. Stuart Colianni, who developed and released the dataset, said he released “a simple script to scrape Tinder profile photos for the purpose of creating a facial dataset.” Many people, users and otherwise, argue this is an invasion of privacy. However, it’s not the first time hackers have used Tinder’s inner workings to their benefit.

In response to the data breach, Tinder has issued the following statement: “We are always working to improve the Tinder experience and continue to implement measures against the automated use of our API, which includes steps to deter and prevent scraping. This person has violated our terms of service (Sec. 11) and we are taking appropriate action and investigating further.”

If you’re in Wisconsin, watch out for this phone scam

phone-449836_640It’s tax season in Wisconsin and residents have been reporting fraudulent, threatening phone calls from the IRS. Imposter phone calls from tax collectors is nothing new – but keep on high alert this season just in case.

According to Superior Telegram, the scam makes it look like the call is coming from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue office in Milwaukee. Jerad Albracht, a spokesperson from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, says that the spammers use a method called “caller ID spoofing” and that “there has been technology out there for a while that allows scammers to make the caller ID say whatever they want it to say, both the words and the numbers in it.”

“These scammers know that people will take a call from a government agency seriously,” Albracht said. “And even if they question it a bit when they receive it, they’ll at least pick up the phone and go with it.”

If you’re living in Wisconsin, and you’ve received one of these phone calls, it might have gone something like this: the alleged IRS agents will claim that you owe back taxes and must pay immediately using iTunes or Amazon gift cards, wire transfers, or PayPal.

According to Albracht, and important for everyone to know, neither United States or Wisconsin would contact taxpayers by phone for federal tax collection. Likewise, you will never be asked to pay immediately via iTunes or PayPal.