Archive for March, 2020

Marriott Pwned Again… Over 5 Million Affected This Time

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 31, 2020 by itnerd

It seems that Marriott is unable to keep itself out of the news for all the wrong reasons. CNET among others is reporting that they’ve been hacked again. This hack affects at least 5 million guests. This follows a hack of Marriott property MGM Resorts back in February which leaked the details of 10.8 million guests. And that was on top of this absolutely epic hack from 2018. Here’s what happened this time around:

At the end of February, Marriott international said that it spotted an “unexpected amount” of guest information may have been accessed with the login credentials of two employees at a franchise property. The exposed information may include names, addresses, emails, phone numbers and birthdays.  Loyalty account details and information like room preferences may also have been breached. This is the second major incident to impact the hotel over a two year period. 

Clearly Marriott can’t get its act together when it comes to cybersecurity. It’s time that this hotel chain get slapped silly so that they get the point that they have to take cybersecurity seriously. Because they clearly don’t based on how often they get hacked.

Terranova Security Offers Tips And Resources To Protect Yourself From COVID-Related Scams

Posted in Commentary on March 31, 2020 by itnerd

Canadian-based Terranova Security, the global leader in cybersecurity awareness and education, is conducting a free live webinar on Thursday at 11:30am EST that is specifically focused on COVID-related scams.

With millions of Canadians suddenly thrusted from their comfortable office confines to hectic home environments, cyber criminals are taking full advantage of COVID-19 confusion to trick employees with online phishing e-mails and text messages.   

In fact, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has received 43 reports of pandemic-related scams in the past two weeks alone. According to the FBI new, cyber attackers are creating phishing scenarios around charitable contributions, financial relief, airline carrier refunds, and fake cures, vaccines, and testing kits. In January 2020, over 4,000 coronavirus-related web domains have been registered of which 3% are malicious and 5% are suspicious.

To help protect Canadians (and their employers) from phishing attacks, which account for more than 80% of reported security incidents and cost the nation’s businesses an average of $12.4 million a year, Terranova Security has also created a 100% free and downloadable Protect Yourself from COVID-19 Cyber Scams Kit that includes tips and insights.

Ten Ways To Protect Yourself While Working From Home

  1. If you don’t recognize the email sender, don’t open the email.
  2. If the email or text message sounds too good to be true – it is.
  3. Be aware of cyber scams about COVID-19 treatments, vaccines, quarantine measures, and information from government officials.
  4. Pay attention to the spelling of email addresses, subject lines, and email content.
  5. Be wary of emails using urgent language or that ask you to share your confidential information.
  6. No health agency or government department will email you asking for your health details or sell you a COVID-19 vaccine or test.
  7. Do not click on links in unsolicited emails or text messages.
  8. Never send confidential information in an email – The Red Cross, World Health Organization, and your government health department will never ask for your confidential information in an email. 
  9. Do not accept social media followers or friends from accounts you do not recognize. If an account that you do not trust follows or friends you, block the account.
  10. Do not trust social media posts promising COVID-19 cures, tests, vaccines, or selling masks and gloves.

Bottom line, when in doubt, do not click. This includes downloading attachments, clicking links, and filling out web forms. Contact your IT department whenever you have doubts about an email. And if you receive a phone call from a health official, colleague, or government employee about COVID-19 – do not interact with the caller – hang up immediately and if possible, block the number.

Gartner Says Growth Companies Are More Actively Collecting Customer Experience Data Than Nongrowth Companies

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 31, 2020 by itnerd

Companies that have seen a positive revenue growth collect more customer experience (CX) data than nongrowth companies, according to a recent survey by Gartner, Inc. The survey found that nearly 80% of growth organizations use customer surveys to collect CX data, compared with just 58% of nongrowth organizations.

A growth organization is defined as one that had positive revenue growth from 2018 to 2019 and is expected to have positive revenue growth from 2019 to 2020. A nongrowth organization had reportedly unchanged or declining revenue from 2018 to 2019, with the same expected for 2019 to 2020.

Customer Surveys Used by Majority of Growth Organizations

Customer surveys remain the most popular medium among both growth and nongrowth organizations for collecting CX data, according to the Gartner survey. While surveys can provide product managers with a baseline understanding of customer experiences and sentiment, they do have some limitations.

Consumers are increasingly experiencing “survey fatigue,” with research showing declining response rates for each subsequent survey that a customer receives. Further, survey responses are often written in haste or provide ambiguous information, lowering the quality of the data collected. Surveys are also unable to surface real-time information.

Real-Time Analytics Accelerate and Deepen CX Insights

The use of near- and real-time analytics to collect CX data is a rising trend among growth companies, with 43% of product managers at growth companies using analytics to collect and analyze customer perception and sentiment data. This is compared with just 22% of product managers at nongrowth companies.

Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies can help organizations gather real-time data about customers’ current issues and experiences. This data can then be used to predict the customer’s next move, proactively recommending features, solutions or actions that improve the customer journey.

The Gartner Changing Approaches to Product Development survey was conducted online between July and September 2019, among participants with the title of manager or equivalent and above at organizations in high-tech industries with anticipated 2019 revenue of more than US$100 million. In total, 214 respondents were interviewed across the U.S., China, India, Canada, the U.K., France and Germany.

Gartner clients can read more in the report “Growing Companies Are More Actively Collecting CX Data Than Nongrowth Companies.”

Roku Announces Roku OS 9.3

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 31, 2020 by itnerd

Roku today announced Roku® OS 9.3 will start rolling out to Roku devices in Canada in the coming weeks. The free, automatic software update focuses on helping consumers get to content quickly and improving overall performance.

What’s new in Roku OS 9.3:

  • Increased Performance – A reduction in device boot times, faster launch times for a select number of channels (with more supported channels coming soon) and a more responsive Home Screen. 
  • Roku Voice – Roku Voice™ is enhanced to give users the ability to speak more natural phrases like “Show me …” or “I want to watch …” and also allows users to find movies using a selection of popular movie quotes. Roku Voice now also supports a greater variety of voice commands including media playback controls such as “Fast forward” or “Pause,” device control such as “Turn on closed captions,”.. Roku Voice is available on the remote of the Roku Streaming Stick™+ and through the Roku Mobile App for all Roku streaming devices.
  • Works with Amazon Alexa and Works with Google Assistant – Control Roku players and Roku TV models by speaking commands to Amazon Alexa and/or Google Assistant devices. Through Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant devices users can now control media playback and search for entertainment. Roku TV™ users additionally can tune into channels or inputs, control volume and switch their TV on/off.
  • Redesigned Roku Mobile App – The free mobile app features a new navigation bar at the top of the mobile screen providing access to Roku Search, the ability to switch between Roku devices and a shortcut to the remote control screen. The redesign includes quick access icons so users can launch useful mobile app features without the need to exit the remote control screen including the ability to browse and/or launch their recently viewed channels directly from the remote screen and more.

Availability

Roku OS 9.3 will begin rolling out to select Roku players in April and is expected to roll out to all supported streaming players in the coming weeks. Roku TV models are expected to receive the update in phases over the coming months.

Martello Enables Remote Workers To Know How Video & Voice Calls Will Perform

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 31, 2020 by itnerd

Martello has announced today that its UCScore web-based site qualification tool for unified communications (UC) deployments has become a key differentiator for channel partners and managed service providers that sell UC solutions. 

UCScore is a web-based site qualification tool that is designed to test voice call quality. It gives customers a clear, accurate assessment of the impact a planned UC deployment will have on their network. It requires no software installation, and unlike other bandwidth tests, it tests what matters to voice performance, to prevent jitter, latency and packet loss. UCScore works by sending packets (representing voice calls) between a customer site and the UCScore server, delivering an easy to understand summary of results online. The scores represent the R-Factor results of these simulated voice calls, which is a measure of call quality.

Related Resources:
UCScore Site Qualification

Mitel Performance Analytics

Martello Technologies Group Inc. (TSXV: MTLO) is a technology company that provides clarity and control of complex IT infrastructures. The company develops products and solutions that monitor, manage and optimize the performance of real-time applications on networks, while giving IT teams and service providers control and visibility of their entire IT infrastructure. Martello’s products include SD-WAN technology, network performance management software, and IT analytics software. Martello Technologies Group is a public company headquartered in Ottawa, Canada with offices in Montreal, Amsterdam, Paris, Dallas and New York. Learn more at http://www.martellotech.com

Review: Apple Watch Series 5 GPS+Cellular

Posted in Products with tags on March 30, 2020 by itnerd

About a year and a half ago I got an Apple Watch Series 4 GPS+Cellular and it was running fine until last week. That’s when it started to go haywire. By that I mean that the side button would randomly act like it was being pressed and held. For example it would try to dial 911 until I disabled that functionality. Or if I turned it off, it would turn itself back on without being touched. And worse, it would try to erase itself without any user interaction. Something was clearly wrong so I called Apple as the watch had AppleCare (Pro Tip: Always buy AppleCare when you buy Apple hardware). But prior to that, I did all the things that they suggest, like rebooting, doing an erase and restore from a back up, and erase and set up the watch as new. None of that worked. After telling the AppleCare rep what I had done, he quickly concluded that it must be a hardware problem and made arrangements to have me go into an Apple reseller to have the watch returned to Apple. That was going to take 4 to 6 weeks, so I needed to get myself a replacement Apple Watch as it has become a key piece of my fitness journey. Long story short, I made a trip to Best Buy, which was an interesting experience due to the times that we currently find ourselves in, I ended up with this:

4D492C8C-6402-4407-B075-7D10A4F2BB4E

Meet the Apple Watch Series 5. This one is the space grey aluminum (recycled aluminum for the record) 44mm GPS+Cellular model which is the same size as my Series 4. The band is a Nike Band that a client of mine gave me a few months back. If the looks of the Series 5 seem familiar, it’s because Apple didn’t change the looks at all. And to be frank, they didn’t change all that much else. But I will highlight the main changes that Apple did make. Starting with the S5 system on a chip, which is the same speed as the S4 system on a chip that was on the Series 4. Meaning that if you’re thinking that the Series 4 is going to faster than the Series 4, you’ll be disappointed. But it does bring 32GB of storage to the table which is something that you’ll want if you want to do a run with your Apple Watch and you want to listen to music while leaving your phone at home. But to be fair, it does bring some new features to the table:

  • It brings a compass to the table. Now those of you on Team iPhone have had a compass on your iPhone since the iPhone 4s. But this is the first time a compass on the Apple Watch. I have to admit that it makes it much easier to navigate using Apple Maps on the Apple Watch. The reason why it that it now behaves just like Apple Maps on the iPhone. Meaning that it’s easy to tell what direction that you’re facing thanks to a cone on the dot that represents you that indicates the direction that you are facing. Plus it narrows as it becomes more confident that the direction that you are facing is accurate. Now you also get a compass app as part of the deal, but take it from me. You will use it once, and never use it again.
  • It now has the ability to call for help in about 150 countries. So for example if you have fall detection turned on, and you actually fall hard and can’t get up, the Apple Watch can phone for help without needing to be connected to your iPhone as long as you are in one of those 150 countries. However, the Apple Watch still doesn’t roam internationally.

But the big news is the always on display. Just like the name suggests, the display is always turned on. Which means that it is more like a regular watch rather than the Apple Watch Series 0-4 where you had to either tap the display (or more annoyingly, someone else tapping the display) to tell the time. Or you having to flick your wrist to tell the time. Which if you are in a meeting when you do that, you will look like a jerk.

Here’s how this feature works:

  • The screen in the Series 5 is basically the same screen as the Series 4. Which is a LTPO (Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Oxid) OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) screen which gives you a bright screen while giving you a 5% to 15% power savings versus other types of OLED screens.
  • This screen is powered by a display driver that is part of the S5 system on a chip that allows the display to go from 60 Hz to 1 Hz which means that you can keep the screen on while sucking very little power as it is redrawing the screen 1 time a second as opposed to 60 times a second.

Since this is hardware that makes this always on display work, there’s never going to be a software update that will bring this functionality to older Apple Watches. So if you want an always on display, you need to get your credit card out.

Now Apple has added one more trick to this functionality. Certain Apple Watch watch faces take advantage of this to have distinct and different looks. Let me give you an example:

IMG_1623

When the display is fully powered on this watch face, this is what you see. But when it throttles down the power, you see this:

IMG_1622

Basically, you see an outline of the numbers which means that very little power is being consumed. That’s because OLED screens that have a majority of black on the screen consume little power. On other watch faces you might not see the second hand move. Or you might not see complications being constantly updated. The bottom line is that from the first time your Apple Watch won’t look like a black square on your wrist when it is trying to save power. That brings it in line with Android Wear smart watches where always on displays have been a thing for years.

Now this sounds great, but it’s not perfect. Third party apps like Strava don’t quite work with this always on display. When you use that app and the screen goes into low power mode, this is what you see:

IMG_1628

However if you use the first party Workout app, you see this:

IMG_1626

It cuts back on how often the display gets updated. For example it won’t show tenths and hundredths of a second. But at least you can see the stats while you work out. Which means that Apple needs to help third party app makers to make their apps behave like first party apps. And the sooner the better because this dichotomy between first and third party apps is pretty stark. But on the positive side, you have the option to hide sensitive complications like your health stats, or hide notifications so that there’s nothing embarrassing on your screen when it was in low power mode.

There’s one other side effect of the always on display which is battery life. My Series 4 would regularly deliver battery life that would leave me with about 50% or slightly more by the end of the day. The Series 5 gets me to about 35% by the end of the day if I do a workout with GPS and I was away from my phone. Maybe 45% if I don’t do a workout. And I know it’s the always on display that’s responsible for this because if I turn off this functionality, I get to 50% with ease at the end of the day. So while the always on display still fits with Apple’s promise of 18 hours of battery life, it will infuriate users of older Apple Watches who are used to much better battery life from an Apple Watch.

As for the rest of the feature set of the Apple Watch Series 5, if you read my review of the Apple Watch Series 4, you will cover what else is in the Series 5. So let me get to my criticisms of the Series 5:

  • It still doesn’t work with Android phones. Not that I am shocked by that. This is an Apple product after all.
  • While Apple in its stores and online allows you to customize the bands to get the look that you want, you can’t buy the Apple Watch without a band which would appeal to someone who is upgrading from another Apple Watch.

So, who should buy the Apple Watch Series 5. Well, I covered that in another story that I wrote some months ago. But it can be summed up like this:

  • Series 4 owners should skip upgrading. There’s not enough here for you to bother. Unless you really want the always on display.
  • Series 3/2/1/0 owners should upgrade as this is totally worth the upgrade.

One other thing to consider is that if you don’t want all the bells and whistles of the Series 5, the Series 3 is still available from Apple at a steep discount that puts it in the price range of Fitbits. Which I am sure that scares Fitbit’s new owner, Google.

In Canada the Apple Watch Series 5 starts at $529 CDN. My GPS+Cellular model that is made of aluminum is $699 CDN. If you want stainless steel, titanium, or ceramic, you should make sure that your credit card balance is in order as you can get into four digit country very quickly. If you want what is regarded by many to be the best smart watch on the market, and you’re on Team iPhone, this is the smart watch for you. If you’re already an Apple Watch owner, the decision may be a bit murky as some may see that there isn’t enough reason for an upgrade. But it may be worth a look and you’ll have to make the call if you want to put your credit card down to get one.

Oh, for those who are wondering, the Series 4 that I am sending back to Apple will go up on Craigslist the second it comes back from Apple after they repair or replace it.

Stay-at-Home Data Breaches / Remote Monthly Billing Fiasco Now Unfolding?: IAITAM

Posted in Commentary on March 27, 2020 by itnerd

Now that major parts of the United States are under stay-at-home orders, unprepared corporations face a huge data control problem as they go into their first major billing cycle carried out by employees working at home, according to the   International Association of IT Asset Managers (IAITAM).

Thousands of U.S. companies are relying on employees untrained in doing their jobs from home and using untracked equipment on insecure Wi-Fi connections.  Not only are these companies putting their own data at risk, but they are also exposing sensitive data about their clients.    Less than two weeks ago, The International Association of IT Asset Managers (IAITAM) issued a warning to organizations and government agencies, urging them to consider “nightmare data risks” before moving to work-from-home arrangements.

IAITAM is concerned that many employees will be ill-equipped on home computers and other BYOD (bring your own device) equipment to handle sensitive data such as credit card numbers, foreshadowing imminent breaches of personally identifiable information (PII). Ensuring that policies and procedures are in place and enforced (including on a remote basis) is imperative to protecting data and the integrity of an organization.Billing information always contains PPI, which is subject to data privacy regulations. It is important to ensure that assets used at home are abiding by internal policies and external regulations that govern billing information. For instance, Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard compliance dictates that companies cannot track credit card numbers or duplicate them without appropriate masking. Under these terms, printing an invoice or taking a credit card payment over the phone, and writing it down without redacting full account numbers, could be considered a data breach.

Industry regulations for sectors such as education, finance or healthcare have separate considerations. Additionally, all businesses that handle data from European citizens are subject to GDPR enforcement and hefty non-compliance fines. It is advisable to consult with an experienced IT Asset Management professional, who can appropriately determine which data regulatory guidelines are at work and how to apply them properly.