Archive for Apple

When It Comes To Privacy For In Car Infotainment Systems, It’s An Open Question As To What Data Google And Apple Collects From You

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , on April 20, 2018 by itnerd

The issue of privacy when it comes to in car infotainment systems like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay flared up again yesterday when it came to light that Toyota took a pass on Android Auto because of privacy concerns. They joined Porsche who famously did the same thing a few years ago.

That made me wonder if it is spelled out clearly what data either of these systems collects and how it is used. Why does that matter? I’d like to know if Google or Apple is motioning how aggressively I drive. And what they do with that information and who gets to see it.  Thus I spent a day looking around the Internet to see if such documentation exists. The net result of my research is that neither company does a great job of spelling out what data they collect via their infotainment systems and how it is used. To illustrate this, I want to use Tesla as an example of what I am looking for. Their privacy policy makes it very clear what they collect in terms of data. And they go into a great amount of detail about how it is used. That way, you know exactly what Tesla is doing. As far as I am concerned, this is the gold standard when it comes to this sort of thing as it removes any questions from my mind about what Tesla may or may not be doing.

Now let’s go over to Apple. They have a privacy microsite that is better than most and specifically mentions Apple CarPlay here where it says this:

All the rigorous privacy measures built into your iPhone and apps carry over to CarPlay. Only essential information that enhances the CarPlay experience will be used from your car. For example, data such as your car’s GPS location can be used to help iPhone produce more accurate results in Maps.

That’s something I suppose, but beyond that there’s no specific mention in their privacy policy or anywhere else on their microsite about what CarPlay collects and what is done with that information.

In the case of Google and Android Auto, I was unable to find anything that specifically mentions Android Auto, and I looked at the Android Auto site and their privacy and terms microsite which if you dig for bit lists pretty much every product that they make except Android Auto. Which means that I have no idea what info Google collects. And that’s a step behind Apple who at least gives me some minimal information on this front.

So in either case, both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay fall well short of telling their users about what data they collect and how it is used when compared to Tesla. That’s a problem given how privacy and the security of data is now a top of mind issue. As a result, we’re left with rumor rather than fact. And that’s a huge problem for both companies if they want their infotainment systems to be adopted widely.

My challenge to both companies would be for them to make their data collection and usage policies for their infotainment systems as clear as Tesla does. At least when Tesla spells it out, I know what I am getting myself into up front assuming that I read the document. I believe that Google and Apple owe us the same.

So how about it Apple and Google? Will you do what’s right for users of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, or will you continue to keep them in the dark about what data you collect and how it is used in terms of those products? Inquiring minds want to know.



If You Run A DisplayLink Monitor, DO NOT UPGRADE To macOS 10.13.4!

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 4, 2018 by itnerd

If you run a DisplayLink monitor on your Mac, DisplayLink is advising that you DO NOT UPGRADE to the macOS 10.13.4. The update turns external monitors connected to MacBook Pros via DisplayLink into expensive paperweights. Now DisplayLink has promised an update to their driver, but it’s not going to give users the functionality that they expect. If that’s not bad enough, it seems that this might be a deliberate decision on the part of Apple:

If this product is being used with a Mac, we have important news about macOS 10.13.4. This new macOS release only supports displays which are directly provided by a GPU or via AirPlay.

For this dock, this means versions of Apple macOS after 10.13.3 will only support the single 4K HDMI port on the dock which uses DisplayPort Over USB-C technology (which is directly GPU connected). The second and third displays on the dock — the DVI and 2K HDMI ports using DisplayLink technology — will no longer function. Windows and Chromebook computers are not affected, and will continue to work as usual.

If this is true, Apple didn’t warn anyone that this change was coming. Not that they would as Apple is the type of company who just expects blind loyalty and implicit trust. With this latest fiasco, Apple is not going to get a whole lot of either from affected users. That’s going to drive their buying decisions going forward to avoid Apple. That’s not going to help them to become a trillion dollar company.


Apple Aims To Not Be Facebook With New Privacy Features In iOS 11.3

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

Apple has had iOS 11.3 in beta for a while now, but the timing couldn’t be better as it’s release today brings a ton of privacy related changes that were likely prompted by the enormous new European data protection regulation GDPR. From the press release that Apple put out today:

iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4 introduce updated data and privacy information that makes it easier than ever for users to understand how their personal data may be used. A new privacy icon and detailed privacy information will appear whenever Apple asks for access to personal information to enable features, secure Apple services or personalize an iOS experience.

Ignoring the fact that they’ve pretty much confirmed that macOS 10.13.4 is due any day now, they’re likely un-intentionally trolling Facebook when users upgrade to iOS 11.3. I say that because after the upgrade, you’ll see this screen:


In a backhanded way they’re saying that Apple is not Facebook. And you will know every time an app asks to use your personal info, unlike Facebook. I guess it also in a backhanded way ties into an interview that Apple CEO Tim Cook had yesterday when he said this:

If that’s not a mic drop moment, I don’t know what is.

#PSA: iOS 11.3 Brings The Ability To Monitor Battery Health In iPhones…. Here’s How You Use It

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

One of the things that Apple committed to when #BatteryGate broke out was to give users move visibility into the health of the battery on their iPhone via a software update. Today Apple released iOS 11.3 and that functionality is here. Before I explain how you access it, let me take a moment to explain the purpose behind this functionality.

What this functionality does is:

  • It offers details on maximum battery capacity relative to when it was new.
  • Information on if and when a device is being throttled with performance management features to prevent unexpected shutdowns. And the ability to disable that if you so desire. I wouldn’t. But that’s just me.
  • What apps are using your battery the most.

To utilize this functionality, go to Settings and Battery. You will then see this:


Note the section called Battery Health (Beta). I find it interesting that this is classified as a beta. But in any case, click that and you’ll see this:


In my case, my year old iPhone 7 Plus has lost only 4% of its maximum charge since I got it which is pretty impressive. If your battery is 80% or lower in terms of its maximum capacity, you might want to consider replacing it.

Now if you’ve had an “unexpected shutdown” as Apple calls it, the Peak Performance Capability section will look different. It will tell you that you’ve experienced an “unexpected shutdown” and that the phone is in a performance management mode (aka: it is being throttled) to extend battery life. You’ll also be able to disable it here if you so choose to get maximum performance.

Now to be clear, this functionality is specific to the iPhone. Apple has introduced a new iPad charge management for tablets that are plugged in for long periods of time. In other words, you won’t see any of this if you have an iPad. Regardless, this is a top shelf reason to update your iPhone to iOS 11.3 today.


Apple Has Education Focused Event To Unveil New iPad And Other Education Focused Items

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 27, 2018 by itnerd

Apple held its first 2018 product launch event at Lane Tech College Prep School in Chicago. The location isn’t an accident as the event focused on education. Something that has traditionally been a focus for Apple in the past, but not so much in the last few years. Now there was no livestream of the event, though a video was promised after the event. But via some live blogging and tweeting, I was able to find out what Apple announced in almost real time:

  • A new 9.7-inch iPad with Touch ID was announced. And interestingly enough, it supports the Apple Pencil which is clearly aimed at the education market. Specs include 8-megapixel rear camera, FaceTime HD front camera, A10 Fusion chip, up to 10 hours of battery life, Touch ID, up to 300 Mbps LTE, GPS and Compass, Apple Pencil support, stereo speakers, accelerometer, and gyroscope. Oh yeah it weighs 1 pound. It’s priced at $329 USD for consumers, $299 USD for schools. So you get more power at the same price point as the previous iPad. The new 9.7-inch iPad is available today and ships later this week.
  • Apple is updating its iWork suite with new versions of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote that support Apple Pencil. For example, you can use Apple Pencil to add drawings to reports in Pages or Keynote. This update is coming “soon.” And it will be preloaded on iPads free of charge.
  • GarageBand for iOS also getting updated with new sound packs for students. And there will be a new version of Clips as well.
  • Pages will also integrate a facility to make digital books for classrooms. Previously, teachers required a Mac with iBooks Author to do this. Now, it’ll be built into the Pages app. Book authors can include photos, videos, graphics from Apple Pencil and more. Book authoring can be created collaboratively as a group project. Teachers can annotate sent in documents to mark work.
  • Apple will now offer students 200GB of iCloud storage for free, up from 5GB previously.
  • To assist teachers in terms of better leveraging Apple tech, Apple debuted its Classroom app for Mac which will be available in beta this June. Apple also introduces Schoolwork, a new, free cloud-based app designed for assigning handouts and tracking student progress. Schoolwork will also be available in June. Apps integrate with it via Apple’s new ClassKit framework. Oh yeah, Apple also announced ClassKit which is part of iOS 11.3.
  • Swift Playgrounds is getting a new augmented reality module. Likely to fit in with Apple’s larger push into AR via ARKit.
  • Apple is putting together a brand new curriculum called “Everyone Can Create.” Everyone Can Create will be focused on four areas: music, video, photography, and drawing. Everyone Can Create is available for preview starting today. More content will be added to the curriculum this summer.

Now this is what was announced. There’s likely going to be other stuff that “pops up” today. Watch this post for updates. Particularly after 1PM EST today which is when Apple likes to release software updates. I’ll also update this post when the video becomes available for you to see.

UPDATE: The opening video that was used in today’s event is now posted:

UPDATE #2: Apple’s online store was down as usual during today’s event. But it’s come back up now.

UPDATE #3: A new video for the new iPad and Apple Pencil support has been posted:

UPDATE #4: The update to Garageband for iOS that was mentioned in the event is now available. The new GarageBand seems to have ARKit support if you have an iPhone X along with new sounds and effects.

UPDATE #5: Another new video has been posted. This time it’s about how Apple envisions homework.

UPDATE #6: It appears that Clips for iOS has been updated too with new fonts, colors, layouts, animated labels and stickers etc.

UPDATE #7: It seems that Apple will release updates to iWork on both macOS and iOS today based on this press release.

UPDATE #8: Updates to iWork on both macOS and iOS are now available.

UPDATE #9: The full video has now been posted on Apple’s website.

#PSA: Apple Watch Apps Need To Be Native Staring Sunday April 1st

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 26, 2018 by itnerd

If you’re an Apple Watch owner, you can expect a slew of updates for the apps on your Apple Watch this week and next week. That’s because Apple a while ago gave those who develop apps for the Apple Watch a deadline of Sunday April 1st to have make their apps to be native apps. What does that mean for you? It means the following:

  • The apps can work with as little as a Internet connection to the Apple Watch and without a phone being present.
  • The apps will perform better.
  • The apps will get access to new background modes for navigation and audio recording, built-in altimeter capabilities, direct connections to accessories with Core Bluetooth among other things. That will make the apps way more functional than they are now.

Thus when you get requests to update the apps on your phone over the next couple of weeks, and you know that it installs an accompanying app on your Apple Watch, you should install it as you’ll likely get a bit of an improvement in terms of how it works and performs.

GrayKey, The Device That Unlocks ANY iPhone Is Spotted In The Wild

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 16, 2018 by itnerd

In an interesting scoop, MalwareBytes managed somehow to get pictures of GrayKey. This is the device that I told you about that unlocks any iPhone. How it does it work? Here’s a rundown:

Two iPhones can be connected at one time, and are connected for about two minutes. After that, they are disconnected from the device, but are not yet cracked. Some time later, the phones will display a black screen with the passcode, among other information. The exact length of time varies, taking about two hours in the observations of our source. It can take up to three days or longer for six-digit passcodes, according to Grayshift documents, and the time needed for longer passphrases is not mentioned. Even disabled phones can be unlocked, according to Grayshift.

After the device is unlocked, the full contents of the filesystem are downloaded to the GrayKey device. From there, they can be accessed through a web-based interface on a connected computer, and downloaded for analysis. The full, unencrypted contents of the keychain are also available for download.

MalwareBytes saw this in action with an iOS 11.2.5 device which is slightly behind the current release of iOS which is 11.2.6. MalwareBytes assumes it is using some sort of jailbreaking process which seems like a reasonable assumption. That means that this is something that Apple can potentially address in a software update, once they somehow acquire this box so that they can see how it works. Which you know will happen one way or another. That begs the question, if Apple develops countermeasures to this, how long would it take for the GrayShift to adapt and be able to crack iPhones again?

Now there’s two flavors of this device:

The GrayKey device itself comes in two “flavors.” The first, a $15,000 option, requires Internet connectivity to work. It is strictly geofenced, meaning that once it is set up, it cannot be used on any other network.

However, there is also a $30,000 option. At this price, the device requires no Internet connection whatsoever and has no limit to the number of unlocks. It will work for as long as it works; presumably, until Apple fixes whatever vulnerabilities the device relies on, at which time updated phones would no longer be unlockable.

The offline model does require token-based two-factor authentication as a replacement for geofencing for ensuring security. However, as people often write passwords on stickies and put them on their monitors, it’s probably too much to hope that the token will be kept in a separate location when the GrayKey is not being used. Most likely, it will be stored nearby for easy access.

And that’s the one thing that is a concern. If the more upscale model got into the wrong hands, it could become a huge problem as no iPhone would be safe. Also, it’s assumed that this is being sold to law enforcement as the price points are more than affordable. But rogue nations who oppress their citizens could also be buyers as well. That’s kind of concerning. But I don’t see GrayShift, the company behind this telling the world who the buyers of this product happen to be.

I’m going to sit back and watch the fireworks that this box creates. The fact that it even exists and seems to work is going to get a whole lot of attention from a lot of interested parties. And that will create ripple effects for all to feel.