Archive for November, 2018

Indian Police Take Down Call Centers Tied To Fake Tech Support Scams

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 30, 2018 by itnerd

The fake tech support scams that seems to be centered in India is something that I’ve been tracking for a while now. And I am overjoyed that Indian Police at the prompting of Microsoft have finally done something about the scumbags related to this scam:

New Delhi police have arrested 63 suspects in the last two months working and operating 26 call centers that were engaging in tech support scams, posing as tech support staff at Microsoft, Google, Apple, and other major tech companies. The raids on Delhi-based call centers have taken place over the last two months, Microsoft said. Police first raided 10 call centers and arrested 24 people in October, and then raided 16 other call centers and made 39 more arrests this week.

Microsoft said its staff received over 7,000 victim reports associated with the 16 call centers raided this week, from over 15 countries. Users reported paying between $100 and $500 for unnecessary tech support services and products. The raids resulted in the seizure of substantial evidence including call scripts, live chats, voice call recordings and customer records from tech support fraud operations, Microsoft said. The Delhi police’s crackdown on tech support call centers came after Microsoft filed legal complaints earlier this year. Microsoft has been collecting customer complaints about tech support scams since 2014, via its “Report a technical support scam” portal.

Hopefully this is a sign of things to come as if I were the Indian government, I would be embarrassed that scams like these were operating within the country.

Now if the Indian authorities will do something about the Canada Revenue Agency scams where the scumbags are completely unrepentant.

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#PSA: If You Want To Replace Your iPhone’s Battery Because Of #BatteryGate Cheaply, You Have Until The End Of The Year

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 30, 2018 by itnerd

For those of you who wanted to get the battery replaced on your iPhone 6 or newer because it was affected by #BatteryGate related issues, you should hurry. The program that allows you to replace the battery for $35 CDN runs out at the end of the year. After that, you will have to pay between $99 to $105 CAD to replace their smartphone’s battery at an Apple Store. By doing so you’ll not only be able to stretch out the life of your phone, but you may see a speed increase as batteries that are in really bad shape will cause the phone’s processor to throttle itself.

To take advantage of this program, you should either take your phone to a Genius Bar appointment in an Apple Store or send it in to Apple for repair. And here’s a top tip, based on the experience that my wife had when she did this, you may have to be persistent about getting the battery replace as the Apple Genius Bar employees may try to talk you out of doing so.

Review: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate AWD – Part 5

Posted in Products with tags on November 30, 2018 by itnerd

So I’ve come to the end of my week long review of the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe and I think Hyundai has a serious competitor in this space that stands out in more ways than just looks. It drives well, has a very good interior and a fair amount of tech in it.

It’s main competitors are going to be the Ford Edge, Nissan Murano, maybe the Kia Sorrento as that comes in five and seven passenger versions, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the upcoming Honda Passport. But I think that the Santa Fe which is already one of the leaders in this segment is going to keep the status quo, if not increase their share of this segment.

My final fuel economy was 11.7 L/100KM’s which is pretty good considering that I drove in a mix of city roads and highways in rush hour. The majority of that driving was city driving in rush hour or stop and go traffic. Given those conditions, I’m fine with this number.

The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe starts at $28,999 CDN before freight, taxes, etc. The 2.0T Ultimate AWD trim level that I drove this week goes for $44,999 CDN with a number of trim levels in between. Hyundai really has a vehicle in this mid size SUV space where if you look around you will see a lot of Santa Fe’s on the road. I expect that continue based on my week with this 2019 model.

BREAKING: Marriott Pwned…. 500 Million Guests Affected

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 30, 2018 by itnerd

The news is breaking that hotel chain Marriott has been pwned by hackers. Specifically what has been pwned is the Starwood reservation database which they got when the bought a bunch of hotels in India and Germany a couple of years ago. Now this is a hack that affects me personally as I’ve stayed in Marriott properties over the last two years which makes me one of the 500 million people who have been affected. What’s really scary about this is that hackers have had access since 2014 but the hotel chain only figured that out last week.

All together now: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Here are more specifics:

For 327 million people, Marriott says the guests’ exposed information includes their names, phone numbers, email addresses, passport numbers, date of birth and arrival and departure information. For millions others, their credit card numbers and card expiration dates were potentially compromised.

Marriott warns that it can’t confirm if the hackers were able to decrypt the credit card numbers.

A website has been set up and affected guests will be contacted. But this is really bad and those affected by this like yours truly should take action ASAP to protect themselves.

UPDATE: One of those affected by this hack was well known hacker Kevin Mitnick who said this:

He’s right. Companies need to seriously step up their game in order to stop stuff like this from happening. Marriott needs to slapped silly by the relevant authorities in order to send a message that this isn’t acceptable.

McAfee 2019 Predictions: Attackers Will Use Artificial Intelligence To Avoid Detection

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 29, 2018 by itnerd

McAfee’s cyber threats predictions for 2019 are pretty scary. Bots will soon target companies instead of political figures. Cybercriminals groups will attempt to extort organizations and undermine their brands with this tactic.

There will be a period of consolidation in cybercrime, with malware-as-a-service families that are fewer in number but stronger, and designed to work together. The use of affiliate structures in ransomware will continue.

Artificial intelligence will play a larger role in cyber attacks, and be used to avoid detection, automate target selection, or to check infected environments before deploying later stages of attacks.

Cybercrime will become more sophisticated, with different kinds of threats used in tandem (such as crypto jacking, random ware, phishing). These synergistic threats are hard to classify, and harder to mitigate.

New mobile malware will target Internet of Things devices in the home. Smartphones, tablets and routers will be used to gain access to digital assistants and the IoT devices they control. This “picklock” approach will give criminals access to consumers’ homes while supplying botnets.

The full predictions are discussed in further detail in this blog post:
https://securingtomorrow.mcafee.com/mcafee-labs/mcafee-labs-2019-threats-predictions/

Review: 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate AWD – Part 4

Posted in Products with tags on November 29, 2018 by itnerd

The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is a SUV packed with healthy amount of technology in it. Let’s start with the safety aspects of the vehicle:

  • You get autonomous emergency braking which will bring the Santa Fe to a stop if it detects an object in front of it, and you take no action to avoid said object.
  • Blind spot monitoring is included. Not only does it warn you when you are about to do an ill advised lane change, but it also alerts you based on distance and relative speed.
  • Rear cross traffic alerts as well as rear parking sensors present to make either parking or reversing out of a parking space easier.
  • One real highlight is that lane departure warning and assist functionality is included. It is one of the better systems that I have tested lately and I say that because any steering corrections that it makes are gentle and don’t freak you out. Plus if it has to make an audible warning, it does so in a way that doesn’t freak out you or your passengers.
  • There’s an attention assist feature which monitors your driving and will suggest that you should take a break if it thinks you are getting tired.
  • You get automatic headlights so that you never forget to turn the headlights on or off. You also get automatic windshield wipers as well.

Now, the cool tech starts with this:

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You get a heads up display that is in color and displays speed, speed limits, blind spots info, and a host of other info that allows you to better focus on driving.

Another piece of cool tech is the cruise control. It’s radar based which allows the car to slow down and speed up based on what the car in front of you is doing. On top of that, it has the ability to deal with stop and go traffic by itself. I will note that in stop and go conditions if the car comes to a complete stop for a few seconds, you have to get it going  again by tapping the accelerator.

Next up is this:

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There’s a top view 360 degree camera that is very very good. Everything from the various cameras that feed images into this system is very well stitched together and it made me easy to park in any situation. The only catch is that cameras are exposed which means that dirt or water can obscure the view as I discovered when it rained late in my test of the Santa Fe. For bonus points, there’s a button on the center console that allows you to activate this view at any time.

A ground breaking piece of tech is that the Santa Fe has the ability to detect cyclists who are rolling up to you when you are parked and are about to exit the car. In short, the Santa Fe will alert you if you try to open a door and a cyclist is approaching. This is a feature that really matters to me because about 20 years ago I was hit by a door that was opened from a parked car while I was riding my bike, which resulted in a trip to the hospital and three weeks to recover from the accident. I tested this in downtown Toronto and it worked flawlessly. Actually it worked better than I expected as it also detected a jogger that decided to run up on the drivers side of the Santa Fe for reasons that I don’t fully understand. Quite simply, this is tech that should be in every single car.

One final piece of tech that I want to speak to:

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You get an alert if someone is in the back seat of the Santa Fe. That will hopefully keep you from leaving a child in the back seat on a hot day. That’s very cool. But it doesn’t stop there. If you have Hyundai BlueLink, which this vehicle has, it will generate an alert on your smartphone as well as honk the horns if it continues to detect something in the back seats. That’s pretty clever.

Other tech includes:

  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included. It gets served up on an 8″ screen which is extremely sharp, has great contrast and is viewable in all lighting conditions. The infotainment system user interface was easy to navigate and didn’t display any lag whatsoever. That was completely in line with other Hyundai products that I’ve tried recently.
  • There’s a 12 speaker Infinity audio system that sounds good as I had no complaints when I was listening to radio or tunes from my iPhone. You can serve up AM,FM, audio from your phone via USB (which will also charge your phone) or Bluetooth, or SirusXM Radio. It was very good at playing my current audio torture playlist which needs updating.

The final part of this review will tie up some loose ends and I’ll give you my closing thoughts on the Hyundai Santa Fe. Stay tuned for that tomorrow.

Review: [Fuse]Chicken Gravity Lift Charging Stand

Posted in Products with tags on November 28, 2018 by itnerd

With phones like the iPhone XS and the Samsung Galaxy S9 which support wireless charging, having a good quality wireless charger is important. What does “good quality” mean when it comes to a wireless charger? To me it means the following:

  • Wireless charging that is either QI compatible or QI certified.
  • Multiple charging coils.
  • Excellent build quality.

Well, the folks at [Fuse]Chicken , which is one of the more interesting company names that I have come across lately, sent me this which they claim ticks all the boxes.

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Meet the [Fuse]Chicken Gravity Stand. It’s made of high strength aluminum which feels very solid. The black pad is made of leather that according to the company is from a sustainable source. It feels very classy. The charger has a USB connection which means that if you want to plug it into a wall, you’ll need to supply your own USB to AC charger as one doesn’t come in the box. I tested this with my iPhone XS and it worked flawlessly in any orientation. Meaning that you won’t place your phone in the charger and it will charge 100% of the time. Now while I am a member of Team iPhone, I sought out a friend who as a member of Team Android and owns a Samsung Galaxy S8 and found no issues charging that phone as well.

I also noted this:

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I noted this blue light when you have your phone in the charger. It turns off when the phone is fully charged. The light is something that may annoy you if you have this in your bedroom if you are sensitive to light. For me it was a non-issue as I’m not sensitive to light. For my wife who is sensitive to any light whatsoever, it was a big deal while the light was on. Thus your mileage may vary on that front.

So let’s check the list that I posted earlier:

  • Wireless charging that is either QI compatible or QI certified. – It worked with my iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy S8. While it doesn’t say that it is QI certified, it’s certainly compatible.
  • Multiple charging coils. – I can charge a phone in any orientation. So this is true.
  • Excellent build quality. – It’s not only built well it looks classy.

So this charging stand is a total win. Expect to pony up $59.95 USD for one.

UPDATE: I got this Tweet shortly after I posted the review:

It does not seem to support fast charging. I tested it by charging my iPhone XS for an hour and got a 40% battery life increase. So that doesn’t seem like fast charging to me. To confirm this I gave my friend with the Galaxy S8 a quick call and he noted it didn’t charge at a rate that would be consistent with fast charging but didn’t have any hard and fast figures to share with me.

UPDATE #2: [Fuse]Chicken reached out to me and told me that the coils are 10W which do support fast charge, but they’ve noticed there can be circumstances that can affect that with different device combinations.