How to bypass the iPhone passcode (15 Feb 2013)

iPhone users, I hope you’re listening.

This is not a complete unlocking of the phone – instead, some sort of bug/race condition that tricks the phone into giving you access to the contacts and phone application. People have reported this working with an iPhone 5 with iOS 6.01, 6.02 and 6.1.

I can confirm this is working on an iPhone 4S with iOS 6.1.1

Update 21 Feb 2013: Confirmed still working with iOS v6.1.2 (10B146).

Update 19 Mar 2013: Fixed with iOS v6.1.3 (10B329) – After a month of publication Apple has finally fixed the issue.

What this means is that anyone with physical access to your locked phone can

  • Make phone calls from your phone
  • Manipulate the call history to hide their calls
  • See who you have been calling and who has been calling you
  • View/modify your contacts
  • Listen to your voicemail messages
  • Potentially change your voicemail greeting and other settings.

There is nothing you can do right now, other than be extra vigilant about leaving your phone lying about. The takeaway message here is that your iPhone’s passcode does not protect it as much as you would expect.

Source: videosdebarraquito on YouTube

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All the tools you’ll need for Windows – all 100% free

Non-savvy computer users (i.e. people who have a real life) get confused with the many options available to them. Especially Microsoft Windows users – they get bombarded with so many freebies, offers, trials, toolbars, optimizers that only end up harming their computer – the more programs you install, the slower your computer becomes!

Do you really need the Google/Ask/Bing/Yahoo! toolbar? Get rid of them! Control Panel -> Programs)

You only need the following applications on your computer – and they’re all free. Note how we will only be getting software “from the horse’s mouth” – the original publisher of the software. Not from a generic “software downloads” site. You never know what you’re getting with those.

Antivirus protection

Product: Microsoft Security Essentials (download from Microsoft)

Do I need it? You don’t need it if (a) you already have an antivirus application you are paying for, or (b) if your bank is giving you a license for an antivirus application. In all other cases, uninstall freebies like McAffee Security Scan Plus, ESET Online Scanner etc, uninstall any antivirus software you may have that has expired and is not receiving the latest updates, and go with Microsoft’s free solution.

Bottom line: It’s hassle-free, never expires, install-and-forget and it’s much better than an out-of-date antivirus.

Media Player

Product: VideoLAN Client (VLC) (download from videolan.org)

Do I need it? If you receive funny videos of cats over email, or watch movies or listen to music on your computer, yes, you do. The reason I recommend VLC is that it’s the only multimedia player you will need – it can handle the vast majority of media formats. You can then get rid of all other media players in your system – just uninstall them! It’s easy to keep VLC updated (it notifies you whenever a new version is out and makes the upgrade process easy), so you can open the latest lolcatz video with (relative) confidence that you are protected from viruses that attach themselves to media files and attempt to gain control of your computer.

Bottom line: Antivirus alone can not protect you from content you receive from the Internet. Use VLC to ensure your media player is as robust as possible.

CD/DVD Burning Software

Product: Ashampoo Burning Studio 6 Free (download from Ashampoo)

Do I need it? Yes, if your computer has a CD/DVD writer. Again, there’s too many freebies/trial editions out there that fill your computer with crap you don’t need. This is a simple, powerful and clean product.

Bottom line: Get it, install it, forget it until you need it. Keeps you safe from all the dodgy “free” alternatives out there.

Internet Browser

Product: Mozilla Firefox (download from the Mozilla foundation)

Do I need it? Yes. Never mind the dangerous Internet Explorer or Google Chrome – which doesn’t protect your privacy while surfing the web. Firefox auto-updates and has a host of privacy-enhancing measures that you can enable from its settings.

Bottom line: Get Firefox, use it exclusively to browse the web and keep yourself safer from online threats. (Only exception might be some backwards banking websites that only work with Internet Explorer – unacceptable behaviour really, as the websites of most respectable financial institutions work fine with Firefox)

Windows Optimization

Product(s): Piriform Ccleaner (download from Piriform) and WinDirStat (download from sourceforge project page)

Do I need them? If you’ve had your computer for more than 6 months, you might be surprised how much junk (unnecessary files) Ccleaner can remove. If you’re running out of disk space, WinDirStat is great at showing you exactly where all your disk space has gone! These are the standard tools I use to clean old computers and it’s surprising how much disk space you can reclaim. This makes defragmentation (with the standard Windows tools) easier, which makes your computer faster!

Bottom line: Free, very useful tools. You don’t need any other “Registry optimizer” or “Windows optimiser” software – they’re usually dangerous, stay away from such tools!

Compression/Archiving

Product: 7-zip (download from 7-zip.org)

Do I need it? Yes. Allows you to disregard all other freebies/trial/freeware/adware compression/zip utilities out there. 7-zip is excellent & safe software.

Bottom line: Get 7-zip and get rid of all other rar/zip/etc utilities. This one does it all!

Well, that’s it for now. These are my standard tools. They do what they say on the tin and don’t try to make you pay for “premium versions”, install other “freeware”, display ads, steal your information or make your computer slower.

Store files on Dropbox with privacy

Dropbox is a great and simple tool for storing a little bit of data “in the cloud” for free.

But you should have no expectation of privacy when doing this – we know that government and law enforcement authorities can read your files and are actively doing so. You may choose to make the personal choice that you have nothing to hide, therefore you don’t mind others snooping around your stuff. But if you handle other people’s information in any way (e.g. you work with client data, pupil data, patient data, research data etc), exposing this data to (foreign) government authorities is not really an option you’re authorised to use. You have a duty to protect other people’s data you handle, particularly when you have been trusted to be a safe keeper of their data.

Therefore, if you want to use something like Dropbox while protecting your data, you should:

  1. Install the free TrueCrypt encryption software on your computer
  2. Create a TrueCrypt file container. This will be the file that will contain all sensitive files you need to protect. Let’s call it “private.tc”.
  3. When you open (“mount”) “private.tc” in TrueCrypt it will appear similar to a USB drive on your computer. Anything you save there, will be protected by the TrueCrypt container and will not be readable to others.
  4. Save & close (an operation called “unmount”) your new “private.tc” container.
  5. Now move “private.tc” in your Dropbox folder and wait for it to be uploaded to dropbox.
  6. Congratulations! Now your private data is “in the cloud”, but readable only by you, with the passphrase you setup for your private file container.

Help! My computer just fell in the bath.

Oh my. Unless you were trying to hit someone with it, chances are that your (one would hope) laptop was powered on at the time. This is unfortunate, as electronics don’t like water, but powered-on electronics, with electrical current running through them, are plain dangerous when submerged into water.

First of all drain the bath tub and fish out your laptop in a safe way – assume that it will give you an electrical shock if you touch water or your laptop with bare hands.

In the unlikely case the laptop has not turned itself off already, TURN IT OFF NOW! Disconnect any cables, external drives etc you may have connected and remove the hard drive as quickly as possible to potentially save your data.

Now you need to leave it out to dry naturally – DO NOT use a blow dryer or anything of the sort. This will take time.

If you would like help recovering your data into a (probably) new computer, let me know.

SMS spam in the UK

Received any spammy text (SMS) messages recently? Resident of the UK? You should forward the spam messages to 7726 to help mobile operators stop spam.

If you consider these a harmless nuisance, consider how text spammers make money:
ICO_how_SMS_spam_makes_money

References:
ICO: http://www.ico.gov.uk/news/latest_news/2012/spam-texters-fined-nearly-half-a-million-pounds-28112012.aspx
TheRegister: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/11/29/text_spam_megafine/

Opting out of personalised ads: iOS6

If you have an iPhone or iPad and have upgraded to iOS6, you will have clicked through the Terms and Conditions that come with the latest release of Apple’s mobile operating system.
Somewhere along the middle of the impressively long Terms and Conditions document that all of us read and understand before clicking the obligatory “Agree”, I noticed this little gem:

Internet-Based Advertising: Apple may provide mobile, interest-based advertising to you. If you do not want to receive relevant ads on your iOS Device, you can opt out by going to this link on your iOS Device: http://oo.apple.com . If you opt out, you will continue to receive the same number of mobile ads, but they may be less relevant because they will not be based on your interests. You may still see ads related to the content on a web page or in an application or based on other non-personal information. This opt-out applies only to Apple advertising services and does not affect interest-based advertising from other advertising networks.

Visiting http://oo.apple.com from my iPhone pops up this message:

Never realised my phone had such an application. “Open” takes me to the following page, where I can turn “Interest Based iAds” ON or OFF.

I went for OFF, and then insisted by clicking the big scary red button that says “Opt Out”:

(Surprisingly, when you opt-in, there is no confirmation dialog)

If you haven’t already, now is a good time to limit Apple’s use of your device’s unique Advertising Identifier.

Go to Settings -> General -> About -> Advertising and there turn “Limit Ad Tracking” to ON:

The above are touched upon in the following Apple Knowledge Base article: https://support.apple.com/kb/HT4228

Now tell your friends about this easy way to give Apple the message that you don’t particularly like being tracked by your own device and used for behavioural advertising. Do not track us!