Apple iCloud Hack of Celebrity Accounts

Here’s a question for you. What do Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and Kirsten Dunst have in common? They’ve all had nude photos of themselves stolen and then leaked on the Internet. Ooops!

Over a couple of days the list grew to 100 celebrity women — and one man — whose photos were supposedly downloaded and stolen by a hacker. Many of the personal images were nude or sexually explicit. The stolen photographs were posted onto 4Chan and then Reddit and from there went viral.

So what happened?

Speculation is that Apple’s Find My iPhone feature is the culprit. This feature doesn’t limit the number of password attempts. Hackers can make rapid-fire attempts until they correctly guess an account’s password. That is exactly what many are saying happened here.

Security experts suggest if Apple used a two-step verification process this breach never would have happened. With a two-step verification you need a password and a verification code (which is sent to your phone, email, or a secondary device) in order to log in. A hacker would need access to the secondary verification device, along with the password, in order to break into the iCloud camera roll. That’s not a very likely scenario.

What does Apple have to say about this tangled mess? They’re not taking the blame. After a 40-hour investigation, they concluded there was no breach of its data servers. They say celebrity accounts were compromised by targeted attacks, using common hacking techniques like phishing or answering security questions in order to get passwords.

What is Apple going to do?

Apple plans to strengthen security measures in two weeks to add alerts when they notice suspicious activity. They will send push notifications if someone tries to change the iCloud account password, upload backed-up account data to a new device or the first time they log into their accounts from an unknown device.

Apple is working with FBI’s Los Angeles office to determine who is behind the release of the celebrity photos. If found, the hacker is looking at jail time. In 2012, Christopher Chaney pled guilty to accessing protected computers without authorization, damaging protected computers, wiretapping and aggravated identity theft when he hacked into Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis and Christina Aguilera’s email accounts. He’s serving a 10-year federal prison sentence.

What can you do?

It seems pretty simple. Don’t take photos you don’t want the world to see. Twenty-one year old actress-singer Keke Palmer’s mother said her daughter was on the list, but never took or kept nude photos on her phone or elsewhere. She was taught early in her career about the dangers. Oh, Mom! , do you really believe that?

Or you could try Rihanna’s strategy. She was probably on the list, but shares revealing photos of herself so much on Twitter and Instagram that there’s no news there.

To be on the safe side whether you have naughty pictures or not – turn on the two-step verification for all your Apple devices. You pictures don’t have to be naked to be stolen.

New iPhone 6 Screen Will Repair Itself When Scratched

iPhone Screen RepairWhen it comes to innovative ideas and groundbreaking improvements to current technology, Apple doesn’t disappoint. Whoopee! – They have finally decided to do something about its devices being so fragile. They have filed a patent that uses a self-healing technology similar to LG’s G-Flex handset. This new patent, along with some of the other technology Apple plans on using, will impact our viewing experience in a big way on iPhones, iPads and Mac computers.

The patent describes a technology that would work as an added coat to “heal” imperfections created when the display panel lighting gets scratched.

Apple’s new coating can be spread anywhere on the device. This flowing material will stream into marks and scratches, and essentially make them disappear. This patent was published by United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) this year as “Systems and Methods for Preventing Light Guide Plate Scratching”.

According to the mobile and technology news source, BGR, they report that “Apple’s new technology could potentially offer a solution that completely eliminates the artifacts and imperfections in displays. These artifacts (which are much more pronounced on larger screens such as TVs) are often created when the lighting behind a display panel gets scratched, and Apple’s addition of a self-healing layer has the potential to eliminate these artifacts.”

The website, Patently Apple, reported that the iPhone 6 may have one of the most gorgeous display rendering ever seen in a mobile device. Now, that’s quite a statement. If true, this new feature will work along with the Quantum Dot display technology, which many believe will replace the Retina panel. The result? The iPhone 6 will perform with sharper color and brightness and a significantly smoother appearance.

This new technology is certainly something that many will welcome on larger displays, like the iMac and iPad. But with Apple’s interest in the technology along with the many rumors that are circulating about the iPhone 6 having a bigger screen, it looks like all their products will benefit.

As if that wasn’t enough, even more Apple rumors are floating around. Word around the Internet is that they plan on using sapphire glass to make the future screens and give them strength that would be unparalleled in the market.

Things to Consider When Your Phone Contracts Ends

This article appeared recently in the Associated Press on August 17, 2014 and since my phone contract ends in September the information was timely. I too, have an unlimited plan, and will have to rethink my options.

Here’s what AP had to say:

If you accept any of the new offers presented for phone contracts, you’d have to give up Verizon’s or AT&T’s unlimited data plan, which lets you use the phone’s cellular data connection as much as you want without overage fees.

The author of the article said, “I am paying more to keep my unlimited plan, so I’ll have to explain my reasoning. Whether or not you’re still on an unlimited plan, you’ll have similar things to consider when your phone contract expires.”

Things to consider when your contract ends:

  • AT&T stopped offering unlimited plans to new customers in 2010, and Verizon stopped in 2012. If you are an existing customer and decide to keep or renew your current plan, you are allowed to maintain an unlimited data plan. But once you leave, there’s no going back.
  • Verizon has also stopped giving subsidies on new phones. Customers will have to pay full retail price for the phone when the contract is up. That can be pretty pricey. If you are an AT&T unlimited-plan customers you’ll be able to get subsidized phones only if you extend your contract for two years.
  • New customers are allocated about 2 gigabytes for a single phone line each month. That’s a lot for most people, but having an unlimited amount provides customers with a peace of mind. There’s no worrying about connecting to different Wi-Fi services or using your phone for Web surfing.
  • Some of that cost can be recouped when traveling if the hotel charges for Internet access.
  • The author also pointed out that, “I also consider the extra cost to be insurance. I have no idea what high-data apps and services might come along. I wasn’t streaming video much when the two largest carriers stopped offering unlimited plans. Now, that’s my primary way of watching television.”
  • Both Verizon and AT&T will slow down service for its heaviest users — the top 5 percent or users who reach 3 gigabytes or 5 gigabytes depending on the type of phone.

Should I switch carriers?

T-Mobile and Sprint continue to offer unlimited plans but are more likely to be guilty of slow or, non-existent service.

The author of the article says, “For me, Verizon has been dependable, and there’s no reason to fix what isn’t broken.”

I’m not sure if I agree. I have to put it all on paper and figure it out. With an unlimited data plan, I haven’t bothered keeping track of how many gigabytes I’m guilty of using. How about you? What are you going to do when your plan is up?

10 Tips You Should Know When Using Voice Commands on Your Computer

Would you like to be able to tell your computer “Answer Skype” when Skype rings and you’re in the middle of typing a report in Word without interrupting your typing AND still be able to talk on Skype? If the answer is yes, read on.

More people use voice commands on their mobile phones than ever before and the use of voice commands on the computer are rising as well.

The biggest complaint in the past has been that voice recognition software simply doesn’t work well and it’s more frustrating than helpful.  But according to Vlad Sejnoha, chief technical officer at Nuance, maker of the Dragon speech-to-text software for Windows, Macs, iPhones and iPads “You need not talk like a robot to be understood by one.”

Things have come a long way and if you follow these then ten tips when using voice recognition software the results may just amaze you.

TIP 1: Train the Program to Recognize YOUR voice

This is the very first step you should do. Windows 7 Speech Recognition and most Speech Recognition software includes a training module so the computer learns to understand the nuance of your diction, articulation and pronunciation as well as your voice patterns.

TIP 2: Speak Naturally

Vlad Sejnoha says, “Dragon’s software learns speech styles and tics over time, and you want to aim for a natural speaking flow. And it helps to think out what you’re going to say before you say it.”  Keep in mind at the beginning it’s not going to be perfect but the more you use it, the more accurate it gets.

TIP 3:  Correct Mistakes

Review content for all typos and bad punctuation and fix any mistakes.  That’s how the software learns.

TIP 4: Invest in a Good Microphone

One of the most important elements of speech recognition is the quality and position of the microphone. If your voice commands can’t be heard clearly your computer will never learn to understand your commands.

TIP 5:  Speak Your Punctuation

Remember to speak your punctuation. For example, you’ll need to say, period at the end of every sentence and question mark at the end of each question. At the beginning of each sentence you’ll say, “Capital” (and then the letter).

TIP 6: Show Numbers

This is a great little tip.  If you have a screen full of links and buttons you don’t have to always say the words.  Try using this command, “Show numbers.”  WSR Macros will superimpose numbers over every control in the window. Then you can just pick the one you want by saying the number and OK to confirm. It’s much quicker.

TIP 7: What Can I Say?

Not sure what you can say?  This friendly command will help you out.  When you ask your computer, “What can I say?” a list of available commands is displayed. Some important commands to remember are: -Start listening,-Stop listening, Open (and then the program name), Scroll up, and Scroll Down.  Memorize or write down the commands you use most frequently.

TIP 8: Update Dictionary

Add any frequently used words that the voice recognition program doesn’t understand, especially proper names or departments, to the speech dictionary.

TIP 9: Spell it

If the computer is having trouble recognizing a word you are saying, try this. Say “Spell it.” The Spelling screen opens up and you spell the word and then confirm with an “OK.”

TIP 10: Give it a Whirl for Free

Basic VR is built into Windows 7 and 8, so you can try it on a new PC for free. And Mac OS X Mavericks has pretty reasonable VR built in. So give it a shot.  When it’s free, there’s little risk.

Regardless of whether you use the built-in tools in Windows 7 or a third-party program like Dragon NaturallySpeaking, voice recognition lets you work with your PC intuitively and efficiently. Sure, there’s a bit of a learning curve–for you and the software –but in the end, it’s worth the effort.

Do You Love or HATE Your Cell Phone’s Voice Recognition Option?

The use of cell phone speech-recognition technology is a growing field and has come a long way and is improving all the time. Still, it has a way to go before we can talk and be heard without mistakes.

When you think about it it’s a wonder this feature works at all. You’re expecting your phone to understand different accents at varying distances from its microphone.  You’re asking it to understand your voice with all types of noise competing in the background.

What if you had a couple of cocktails and have started to slur your words?  Do you think Siri or other voice recognition software would understand Midwesterns’ use of the word “Druthers?” Such as, if I had my druthers. Or, would it know “Tough tomatoes!” means tough luck?

It’s a lot to ask from a little piece of software tucked inside your phone and it’s no wonder people become frustrated and have been known to yell and scream at automated voices coming from their cell phones.

Here are some funny examples, of voice recognition gone terribly wrong:

What I actually said to my computer: Frappuccino.
How my voice software translated it: Fred Pacino.

Siri even has a sense of humor!

New York Times reporter, David Pogue, wrote a recent article in which he reviewed Google’s Moto X phone. He’s a funny guy! I had to laugh when he wrote about the voice recognition’s personality.

“And then there’s the issue of personality: Siri has it, Android doesn’t.”

“We’re talking about wisecracks, jokes, attitude, addressing you by name. If you ask Siri, “Who’s your daddy?” she replies: “You are. Can we get back to work now?” Say, “Beam me up, Siri,” and she says: “Please remove your belt, shoes and jacket, and empty your pockets.” Say, “Talk dirty to me,” and she replies, “Humus. Compost. Pumice. Silt. Gravel.”

My ten year old son does this all the time with my phone when we’re driving and he gets bored.  He asks my phone questions and then berates it for the replies.  It keeps him occupied for a good ten minutes at a time.

But Apple haters (yup, they’re out there) practically spit up a fur ball when you mention Siri’s personality.  Pogue reports the anti-Apple group says, “It’s not useful! It’s a parlor trick! It strains me to avoid profanity in describing how stupid you sound!”

According to Lifehacker.com, the best way to get voice assistants to work is to keep your sentences short and to the point. So, don’t stop mid-sentence, don’t ask more than one question at a time, and forget about niceties, like please and thank you.

Lifehacker also says, “You also want to speak quickly. It’s a natural tendency to speak to your voice recognition apps in the same way you would a puppy: slow and methodically. But, it’s actually best to speak quickly. Speak naturally and clearly, but don’t strain to enunciate your words or speak incredibly slowly.

This much is true: Cellphone speech recognition technology is getting more reliable, quickly. Pretty soon, we’ll be talking more to our phones than our friends!

What do you think?  Do you have a crush on your voice assistant or would rather crush your voice assistant?  Tell us your thoughts.

 

Do You Miss The Keyboard On Your Cell Phone?

With all the crazy texts and autocorrects, don’t you sometimes miss the keyboard on your cell phone?  The virtual keyboard drives me nuts sometimes and apparently I’m not alone.

Ryan Seacrest is a man who knows what he wants, at least when it comes to his technology. He wants a keyboard on an iPhone.  The average person would figure out which was more important, a hardwire keyboard (Blackberry) or an iPhone (but no keyboard) and settle for one or the other. But not Ryan. He’s decided he wants it all and dumped $1 million to build one.

His keyboard, called the Typo, attaches to the iPhone without covering up the screen and without adding much bulk and weight, two adjectives you definitely don’t want to use when describing your cell phone. The Typo is a two-part case made from soft-touch rubberized plastic designed to slip over your iPhone. Installation is fast, simple and easy and once installed it feels similar to a BlackBerry-style keyboard.

In fact, it may feel a little too similar to a BlackBerry-style keyboard. In a recent article in PC Magazine, they say:

“The Typo Keyboard is the sort of product that makes you wonder, ‘Why did it take this long?’ Even as demand for keyboarded phones wanes, nearly every one that has come out in the past several years has been a bulky, horizontal slider. Very few have had the traditional slab BlackBerry-style form factor.

“Well, there’s one good reason: lawsuits. BlackBerry has already sued Typo for copying its keyboard design. The uncertainty surrounding the Typo’s ultimate legality has caused a run on supply: The first batch of pre-orders sold out according to a Bloomberg report. “

According to The Boy Genius Report, he likes the keyboard. “Typo is absolutely incredibly amazing. It perfectly mimics the hardware keyboards we were used to over the last 5 to 10 years, and when you think of the engineering that went on to get this entire package working, it’s equally amazing. Typo’s keys offer a satisfying clickity clackity sound, they are well placed, number keys are in a number pad configuration, and there is also a backlight. I can just fly using this keyboard.”

If you are a die-hard BlackBerry fan, you’ll find lots to like in the Ryan Seacrest-backed, Typo ($99 direct).  It looks and feels almost identical to the real thing.

What do you think? Will keyboards get better or will we go back to hard keyboards? Sound off in the comments!

 

Beats Electronics Gets a Sliver of the Apple Pie

Regaining the ‘cool factor’ is going to cost Apple $2.6 billion in cash and $400 million in equity as it acquires Beats Electronics, bringing Beats high-end headphones, music streaming service, and music industry connections into the company. Apple’s purchase of Beats is a big payday for Beats co-founders, music mogul Jimmy Lovine and rap star Dr. Dre. But what’s in it for Apple iPhone and Ipad fans?

The tech giant said it is buying Beats Electronics LLC for $3 billion to bolster a music business that has lost some of its mojo, as streaming-music services encroached on the downloads dominated by Apple’s iTunes service.

Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks wears Beats headphones before a preseason football game last August. - John Froschauer/AP

Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks wears Beats headphones before a preseason football game last August.
- John Froschauer/AP

According to a recent article written by Sam Sanders for NPR, he reports, “Beats by Dre headphones are flashy, cool, a fashion statement. One critic called them the Air Jordans of headwear. Most reviewers, however, say Beats headphones aren’t actually that good.”

Why would Apple spend $3 billion for this technology, if the audio quality is not great?

Because Apple is more interested in the technology than the sound. Apple wants to make smart headphones with sensors to monitor your temperature, pulse, perspiration; sensors for athletic tracking applications; position sensing to detect when your head is moving; and the ability to give you cues to where things are. It’s sort of like ‘Wii for everyday use.’

It’s much easier for Apple to integrate that new technology with a company like Beats — which already has a big headphone infrastructure — than for the company to build it up from scratch, says Dan Frakes, senior editor of MacWorld.

“They just sort of accelerated the process from the logistical standpoint,” Frakes says, “because now they’ve got the resources to design and produce something.”

The Wall Street Journal adds this,

“Apple will continue to use the Beats brand, a rare move for a company that has almost always focused on its Apple brand. It became one of the world’s largest technology companies by creating huge, new consumer electronics categories with the iPhone and iPad. But it hasn’t introduced a breakthrough product since co-founder Steve Jobs died in 2011. Apple CEO Tim Cook said the acquisition will help Apple bridge divides between Silicon Valley and Hollywood.”

A small European company called, Bragi, raised over $3 million in their Kickstarter campaign to make smart wireless earbuds called The Dash. Jim Ninesling, head of U.S. operations for Bragi, explains that smart headphones won’t just monitor things like heart rate — they’ll actually be able to tell what the wearer is doing.  You don’t have to tell it that you’re biking or swimming. It knows by your body movements.

Ninesling says, “People realize smart headphones and other wearable technology — like bracelets that monitor sleep patterns — are going to be big. Speculation is that the wearables industry will exceed $30 billion, Ninesling says. “I’ve heard estimates as high as $50 billion in sales revenues by 2018.”

Cell Phones Are Keeping Us Up At Night

A new research paper written by three business school professors says checking and responding to your phone late at night can seriously disrupt sleep patterns and weaken your performance at work the following day.

The study concludes light released by smartphones contributes to sleep disruption. Light inhibits the release of melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone, and using your cell phone late at night has the same effect as using other backlit devices like TVs and tablets – it keeps you awake when you’re ready to go to sleep. They theorize that smartphones make it impossible to detach from work “owing to their invasive, always-on nature.

They ran two studies:

  • In the first study, 82 upper-level managers enrolled in weekend M.B.A. programs, filled out two surveys a day for ten consecutive workdays.
  • In the second study, 161 employees were surveyed twice a day for ten days from a variety of occupations, from paralegals to retail clerks. The second study compared smartphone use to other electronic devices like desktops, tablets and televisions.

Both studies reported when people used their smartphones at night to do business, it cut into their sleep time and sapped their energy the next day in the office. In the second study, they found that smartphones were a bigger drain than more passive electronic devices like tablets or television.

The study is due to appear online in the research journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

According to the study employees should switch off their devices by 9:00 p.m. for a fresh mind the next day. What if your boss insists on emailing and texting you late out night? You could refer him or her to this study to explain checking smartphones after 9:00 pm stresses people out, saps energy, and makes it tough to fall asleep.

If you don’t think that will fly, be prepared with some creative answers why you didn’t pick up your phone:

  • I was at the movies and had to turn off my phone.
  • The whole NSA thing scares the heebie-jeebies out of me.
  • My kids changed my ringtone.
  • I lost my phone and never loaded the “Find My Phone” app.
  • I live on a mountain and we don’t get good reception.
  • I have a bad case of pink eye and couldn’t see the text message.
  • I was driving. You don’t want me to break the law, do you?
  • I was busy in the bathroom.

Of course, if you want to keep your job using your smartphone may be well worth the negative effects on of no sleep. You’ll probably be up all night finishing the report for tomorrow any way.

Autocorrect Fails!

Anyone who has ever texted knows what we are talking about, here – the embarrassment of autocorrect fails.

We have all had them happen, there are even sites dedicated to the fails of autocorrect on our cell phones. Our SEM specialist told us about a Facebook conversation she had with another parent to plan a picnic for the kids.  She didn’t know her friend was using her cell phone to write the message on Facebook. Here is how the conversation went:

facebook message

 

 

You can imagine her surprise.  Thankfully she had a full grasp on the English language and understood her friend was bringing fried chicken and not planning on deep-frying five kids in Crisco. Could you imagine if this message had been intercepted on a celebrity’s phone?  Boy, how the press would have a field day with this one. – Brangelina threatens to fry their children for upcoming family picnic.

Here’s another funny chicken autocorrect fail:

 gluten

 

There are so many times these message have come across in texts that a simple Google search gives you lots of topics to pick from.  From The 50 funniest, 12 Best, 21 Epic, 15 Painfully Awkward Texts from Mom, Cringeworthy Autocorrects, 20 Most Concerning, and 25 Insanely Funny the list goes on and on.

Bad spellers celebrate the auto-correct feature, but without proper supervision, it can cause some real chaos or at least stir things up in your life. For a complete list of autocorrect fails, check out Damn You Auto Correct — the popular blog dedicated to blasting your texting mistakes – the good, the bad and the ugly across the Internet.

Do you like your autocorrect feature on your phone?  Have you ever gotten embarrassed by it?  Let us know your experiences. Share with us!

To turn off autocorrect on your android phone, follow the steps here, from Wiki.

 

 

Watch Out for Cell Phone Snoops!

Lots of people don’t grasp just how much information their phones share about them every minute. Latanya Sweeney, the new chief technology of the Federal Trade Commission, explains how smart phones interface with Wi-Fi in her first article in a planned series of posts. She says:

“Anyone can setup wireless sensors to record the appearance of your phone’s probes to track where you are and where you have been – say, where you are when you’re ambling through the store or mall, or when you’re walking or driving down a street.”

According to a recent article in Forbes written by Adam Tanner, he says this in regard to her post, “The paper discussed how every smart phone contains a unique identifier known as a MAC address that in effect shouts out “I am here” to anyone who has set up the right Wi-Fi receiver technology. Your phone’s MAC address remains the same regardless of the network and transmits even without actually connecting to the Internet.”

What’s the pros for sharing your whereabouts through your phone?

This technology could help loyalty programs and eliminate the need to carry a wallet full of loyalty cards and numbers for your favorite stores, hotels, airlines and more. It can also help stores better lay out their displays based on patterns of customer movement they follow.
Personally, I don’t feel the need to help stores with their marketing. If they want me to help them with their marketing, then hire me. Don’t follow me around lurking in the shadows, recording my every move. What do you do if you feel like me, and the thought makes you uncomfortable?

You have some options.

  • You can turn off your phone or shut off its Wi-Fi capabilities before you get to the store. Once Wi-Fi is off or the phone’s power is off, you won’t be able to use your phone and will need to restore the settings after you leave the store. Sort of defeats the purpose of buying a phone and paying for its service in the first place.
  • AVG Technologies offers a free smartphone app that turns off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to thwart Wi-Fi tracking.
  • Mac Address Ghost is an app that replaces your MAC address with a made-up alternative. This allows you to leave your phone settings untouched while shopping. Your phone still sends Wi-Fi probes, but the MAC address used in the probes is not the one installed on the phone.
  • The Blackphone, advertises itself as “the world’s first smartphone to put privacy and control ahead of everything else.” Its makers plan to unveil it at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Feb 24.

All of these apps and emerging technologies indicate users are concerned about others snooping on cell phone use and no doubt, more apps and devices will be developed to help take pro-active steps to boost communications security. Bottom line – nobody likes a snoop!