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Author Archives: Alex Kidman

When will smartwatches prove themselves?

lgsmart

Google has recently announced the release of Android Wear 2.0, its updated operating system for wearable computing devices. You could put Android Wear 2.0 on just about any wearable technology, but the key market for Android Wear to date has been smartwatches.

The first Android Wear 2.0 watches that will launch with the new OS installed are made by LG with Google apparently having significant input into their design and specifications, although not quite so much that it wanted to brand them as “Google” devices, as it does with its Pixel phones, and previously its Nexus devices. LG has two new models, the LG Watch Sport and the LG Watch Style. There’s even a model that incorporates LTE mobile data connectivity, so if you wanted to go all Dick Tracy while out and about, you could do so just from the watch with no phone required.

Before you get too excited, however, sadly LG Australia has announced that it has no plans to bring the new watches to the Australian market. There are some Android Wear 1.0 devices that will see the update, but not all of them. If you’ve got an Android Wear 1.0 device, you should be prompted by it if the upgrade is going to appear, as happens with existing Android and iOS updates.

There’s a pattern here for wearables. We won’t see the LG Watches down under, and last year Motorola released its 2nd generation Moto 360 here many months after it was available elsewhere on the planet. This isn’t just a matter of ignoring Australia for its own sake, but much more the reality of smartwatch sales. Specifically, while manufacturers don’t release sales figures, all the available evidence suggests that the category that was meant to be “the next big thing” simply isn’t, or at least isn’t to the degree that most smartwatch manufacturers might have hoped it would be.

The issue from my perspective — and I’m someone who wears a smartwatch every day — is that the essential problem that smartwatches are best at solving was fixed from day one. That’s notifications, whether it’s of an incoming call, although not every watch can actually answer calls, or text messages or emails. If you’re busy and need quick notification, glancing at your watch makes a lot of sense.

Outside of that use case, however, things become murkier. Most smartwatches have integrated fitness tracking, but that’s something that’s rather easily available more affordably with a dedicated fitness band that doesn’t require charging every day. Manufacturers have tried to throw every other “app” style category at smartwatches that they can try, from social media to photos, but there are some real challenges when you’re dealing with a display that has a diameter of around 1 inch.

It’s not the same situation as we saw with smartphones, where once the app ecosystem developed you could add all sorts of functions to devices that otherwise were best used for calls and texts. Smartphones have given rise to social media in the mainstream, services like Uber or AirBnB and plenty of others.

Smartwatches, however are good for notifications, and maybe a few other niche cases. They tell the time, but if you’re fussed about wearing a watch (and I’m in that camp, being slightly OCD about the whole matter) you could already do that. Android Wear 2.0 brings with it some interesting side features, but we’re still really waiting for that so-called “killer app” use of the devices to make them a must-buy gadget.


Will inflight Internet be a boon or a bust?

inflightwifi1

If you’ve travelled internationally, and especially in the USA, you may have hit the opportunity to use internet services while flying. This is usually at a cost, sometimes a quite severe cost depending on your flight status and quantity of access required.

For many of us, stepping onto a plane is precisely when we step outside of the online world. That’s especially true for domestic flights in Australia. Or at least, it was true.

Qantas has announced that from late February, selected domestic flights will have free Wi-Fi internet access offered to all passengers. The airline has been testing inflight internet for domestic travel purposes for some time, and the intention is to gradually roll it out to its entire fleet of Boeing 737 and Airbus A330 aircraft by the end of the year.

This does mean that if you’re flying on the smaller, older Qantas branded flights (often branded as QantasLink) then you won’t get the service, at least for now. As per Qantas’ statements regarding the service, it will be free for passengers to use.

What’s interesting here is both Qantas’ confidence in the service, and the way that it plans to make it available. Qantas announced the plans specifically calling out streaming services from Netflix, Spotify and Foxtel as being able to be accessed from its inflight Wi-Fi service. Netflix and Spotify both offer 30 day trials if you’re not already a subscriber, and on the Foxtel front, passengers will enjoy a complimentary 3 day access pass with no ongoing subscription every time they fly.

Netflix and Foxtel’s services require a solid broadband connection, even just for standard definition video streaming, so Qantas clearly has some confidence in the quality of signals it’s going to be able to beam to planes. It’s going to use spare capacity from the NBN’s freshly launched SkyMuster satellites to provide inflight internet.

As an aside, SkyMuster NBN plans are now available if you’re part of the very small section of the population whose NBN compatibility is limited to satellite delivery. That means that the interim satellite service that previously provided your internet connection is set to be decommissioned from the 28th of February. If you haven’t yet made the move to switch over to SkyMuster services, do so now, as from the end of February it’s going to get awfully quiet if you try to connect to an interim service which is no longer there.

Providing such services for free is a canny move. I can envisage situations where, as happens so frequently with mobile broadband services over 4G networks, that the signal is so congested from every single passenger trying to stream video at once that nobody can get all that much done. If it’s free, and you’re really on the plane to get from point A to point B, whether that’s for business or pleasure, you’re not likely to complain too much.

Where it gets more interesting is in the social aspect of inflight Internet usage. It’s fair to assume that more, shall we say, socially unacceptable content would probably be filtered so that you’re not suddenly faced with an eyeful of something generally unacceptable, but it does raise the spectre of not being able to escape the online world while you travel.

That means that work email, and indeed work issues could chase you all the way from Perth to Cairns, and anywhere in-between. I’ve certainly been known to work on planes, where the reality of small seats allowed for it, but largely in an uninterrupted, focused way precisely because I can’t be contacted. Persistent online access rather puts an end to that.

Even if you’re travelling for pleasure rather than business, it raises some interesting challenges. Many flights have quite decent inflight entertainment, and adding Netflix, Spotify and Foxtel to the mix might not be a bad thing, except if it doesn’t work. I’d certainly suggest if you’re a Netflix subscriber that adding a few offline playback titles to your tablet or phone might not be a bad precautionary measure. If it works inflight, then great, you have an expanded choice. If not, your choice is constrained to those titles you’ve already downloaded, but at least that’s better than staring out the window for the whole flight.


New malware uses old tricks

macmalware

It can be a tricky business keeping an internet connected PC or Mac safe from viruses and malware. Yes, I said PC or Mac; the days when Mac users could happily promote the idea that Mac OS was free from any kind of rogue applications are long gone, although it is fair to say that the vast majority of exploits target the Windows environment. That’s largely a numbers game. While Apple has done well in recent years in terms of expanding its overall market share, it’s still simply dwarfed by the number of Windows PCs connected to the Internet. If you were a bad guy wanting to infect computers and there were a thousand of one type and ten million of the other type, you’d hit the ten million first, every time.

However, as I stated at the outset, not even Mac users are automatically secure any more. That’s why having a decent AV package is a very good idea, simply because they can save you from what’s so very often the actual weak link that allows viruses and malware to spread. It’s not always the case of so-called “zero-day” exploits (problems within code that aren’t known about) or for that matter known exploits that get hit because people don’t run security updates in a timely fashion.

After all, if you were writing dodgy software, you couldn’t be assured that a system hadn’t been patched, or that it was running the right version of the software for which a zero-day existed or worked reliably. No, the most reliable way to gain access to computers, whether you’re after malicious damage, encryption of systems for blackmail purposes or simple identity theft is to go for the weakest link in the security chain. All too often, that’s you or me.

As an example, a recent attack on Macs used, of all things, Word Macros to attack potentially vulnerable machines. Macros are simple chunks of code designed within the Microsoft Office environment to allow automation of tasks, and they can be very powerful productivity boosters. Equally, though, they can allow for some very bad things to happen, which is why on the PC side of the fence they’re almost an archaic form of attack.

A recent malware attempt was sent around via a Microsoft Word For Mac document entitled “U.S. Allies and Rivals Digest Trump’s Victory – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.” Which doesn’t sound that thrilling to me, but maybe your tastes vary.

If you opened it, and you had allowed Macros to run, it would run a check to see if a particular Mac firewall was running, and if it wasn’t, download and try to execute an encrypted file from the Internet. The file itself (thankfully) didn’t work, but the whole enterprise relied on the idea that you’d either allow Macros by default (terribly dangerous behaviour) or, more likely, that you’d blithely click through allowing Macros in order to read the document.

You’ve probably hit those warnings on PC or Mac about files or applications making changes to your computer, especially when installing any new app. Chances are decent you’ve blithely clicked through them, thinking of them as a mere annoyance. Next time you hit one, stop and think. Because if the weakest security link on your PC is you, the way you strengthen that link is by using your brain.


Telstra outage shows a weakness in two factor authentication

2fact

Telstra recently suffered an outage in its network thanks to an unexpected fire in one of its exchanges located in Chatswood, New South Wales. For a couple of hours, and mostly (but not exclusively) if you were in NSW and on Telstra’s network, you may have had limited access to calls, mobile data and texts.

That’s annoying, but to pour a little salt into the wound, the erratic status of the network also meant that some text messages, rather than sitting around waiting to be delivered to their intended recipients, went to the wrong numbers entirely. Social media comedy ensued, and Telstra halted texts across the network to sort matters out. Eventually, normality returned to its mobile network.

One of the odd side effects of the outage could have hit you, as it did me, if you were trying to log into any service that requires two factor authentication.

As a quick refresher, two factor authentication logins require two elements for verification for a given online service. The idea is that even if you’ve used a common password, or for that matter inadvertently given your password away, your accounts will still be secure because that second factor acts as an effective second lock for your data, whether that’s an online storage service for your private photos or the contents of your bank account.

Quite commonly, because access to them is near universal, services that require two factor authentication will do so by getting you to log into a service, and then verify your identity by way of a one-time code delivered as an SMS.

In my case, I was setting up a password manager whose vault was stored in an encrypted fashion on a cloud service. For that kind of data, which controls access to all sorts of services I use on a daily basis, the inclusion of two factor authentication is generally a big plus, because I’d rather have that secondary lock.

Except, of course, when the second lock doesn’t actually have a key. To my benefit, the way the SMS key was sent through gave no indication as to what service it was for or any of my own details, so if it was mis-sent to somebody else, it would be merely baffling rather than a way into my accounts. That should be standard for any decent two factor authentication service.

So what can you do in a circumstance where a second factor such as an SMS can’t be procured? It depends on the service. Some will allow other factors to be enrolled, such as biometric fingerprint or iris recognition services, or a message sent to a specific email address, but typically those services do have to be set up in advance.

Most will allow you to tell the service that you can’t access the preferred authentication factor — because, say, you’ve lost your phone or similar — but this typically involves a slower authentication verification process. Again, that’s actually sensible policy, because the last thing you’d want is a miscreant who had conned you out of a password being able to rapidly change the two factor authentication method in use to a method they could easily access. If that happens, the locks that are meant to keep them out could easily keep you out instead.

In my case, while it was less than vital, I made do with accessing my password manager on another device that was already authorised and just painstakingly copying passwords across character by character. Less than ideal, but after a couple of hours wait, with the network back up again, the relevant verification codes came flooding in, and I had access again. Sometimes a little patience can be the best solution.


Can an all-Aussie streaming service survive?

ozflix

Streaming video as a category has seen explosive growth in Australia in the past couple of years. The ACMA estimated back in 2015 that around 3.5 million Australians regularly used streaming media services, and that number will only have grown since then. While streaming media can chew up your broadband allowance, the allure of services such as Stan, ABC iView, SBS on Demand and most notably Netflix has seen increasing numbers of Australians adopt streaming media as a valid entertainment option, and for some, their primary source of new video content.

At the same time that Netflix has expanded, it’s not been quite as smooth sailing for other competitors. Foxtel’s low-cost streaming service Presto recently closed its doors in favour of a slightly cheaper general Foxtel Play package if you want video on demand via its services. Fairfax/Nine’s Stan continues to compete in the wider content space, but the generally available figures suggest that its subscription base is considerably smaller than that of Netflix. Whether that’s original content, pricing or simple brand identification is a tough thing to identify, but the perception (not necessarily the reality) that Netflix has more content probably plays into that.

In the middle of all of this, a little quietly on Australia day, a new streaming provider emerged. OzFlix very much does what it says on the tin, offering up films that are Australian produced, and largely those for Australian audiences. That’s a niche play, but then delivery over the Internet does allow for the survival of more niche services, as long as there’s demand. OzFlix is taking a more rental rather than subscription style approach to its content, however. Rather than pay a flat fee for access to a library of content, it’s offering individual Australian films for a set rental fee. If you’re after a more recent Aussie film you’ll pay $6.79 for a rental, while older more classic fare costs $3.79.

That puts OzFlix more up as a competitor to services such as Apple’s iTunes, Google Play or BigPond Movies, all of which offer rental services akin to the good old video store model. Here, though, OzFlix has a few conditions that might make them a less compelling option. They’ll happily rent you a flick for your PC or Mac, but external casting via an Apple TV or what OzFlix calls any “external display” isn’t supported from a PC or Mac. Although oddly Google’s Chromecast is supported for exactly that purpose. For Mac users, Safari isn’t supported at all, and the same is true if you’re a PC user running Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 11. Predictably you’ll need a broadband, not dialup connection, but that’s true for any streaming video service these days.

OzFlix promises adaptive streaming, which means if your broadband service is up to it, it’ll give you a full HD stream of your movies (if available for your chosen title), but if you’re on a more stuttery connection, as many of us are, you’ll get a lower quality stream but hopefully less delay due to buffering.

Will OzFlix survive in the local marketplace? Ultimately that comes down to content and audience. Australians have shown that we’re very interested in stories about ourselves, although at launch there’s not a huge range of absolutely exclusive content that only OzFlix can offer. If you’re an Australian film nut it’s probably nirvana, but for the rest of us, it’s more likely to be something that you might look up to chase down a classic film or two that doesn’t happen to be on Stan or Netflix.


Computers continue to shrink, but you’ve got to be keen to use them

tinker

It’s an oft-used adage that over time, technology devices shrink remarkably. The very first computers were the size of entire rooms and, while revolutionary for their time, wouldn’t even power a small child’s toy today, but over time we’ve managed to shrink down the core components of computing into the devices that we use today, whether they’re laptops, desktops, tablets or mobile phones. Admittedly, to be fair, back in the era of flip phones a la the Motorola RAZR line, it was expected that phones would get even smaller and that hasn’t happened, but that’s because of screen size, not internal componentry.

As the internal components have shrunk and hit true mass production, the actual cost of computing has also dropped remarkably. In a pure processing sense this means that the laptop you can buy for $2,000 today is an order of magnitude more powerful than the $2,000 machine you might have purchased at the turn of the century. Go back a decade or two and the comparison may as well have been with an abacus.

What’s also happened in the recent past has been the explosion of low power, low cost tinkering computers, headlined by the Raspberry Pi. It’s a tiny computer on a board that’s nearly always described as being credit card sized, and who am I to mess with tradition? Sold by itself, the Pi won’t do much until you add an SD card for storage, microUSB power and a screen, at least at first, although plenty of Pi projects eschew a permanent screen display.

The original Raspberry Pi and its later descendants were designed for low-cost educational computing, making resources available to those who couldn’t afford full-process PCs, as well as encouraging tinkerers. Raspberry Pi doesn’t have the field to itself however, with plenty of competitors, many of which you’ve probably never heard of all offering their own very small form factor systems.

It’s not just all no-name systems, however. Asus recently launched its own take on the Pi-style concept, dubbed the Tinker Board. It’s a slightly more powerful machine, capable of 4K output which sells in the UK for £45 (around $75). Just a few years ago, the concept of a 4K-capable PC for under $100 might have seemed like fantasy, and yet here we are.

Before you rush to the internet, credit card at the ready and figuring your old laptop or desktop can just rust, you do need to be aware that these types of systems represent absolute bare-bones computing, and that’s kind of the point. While there are resources out there, especially for educational computing, the idea is that you tinker with these systems to build not only new gadgets, but also your own computing knowledge. Command line coding will almost certainly be involved, so while you could build a simple Linux PC from one of them, they’re not always going to be smooth sailing. At the same time, if you’ve ever wondered what home computing was like in the late 70s, when simple build-it-yourself systems were still very much the geeky fashion, or you’ve wanted to tinker with a simple project that requires simple computing power, they’re a pretty small investment to get started with.


Is your display screen hurting your vision?

face

If you’ve used technology for any period of time, you’ve probably had one of those days where you step away from the screen and realise just how sore your eyes are. Computer eye strain is definitely a problem for anyone who has to stare at a bright screen for any length of time.

Typically speaking, it’s the way that your eyes tell you that enough is enough, but the effects can go further than that, because the same blue light that makes up a lot of the output of computer screens is also part of how we as humans moderate our sleep cycles. In other words, a lot of blue light might not only leave you with tired eyes, but also with a brain that won’t make it easy to actually get to sleep.

Often, however, the needs of the day mean that you have to keep staring at that screen into the wee hours of the night. Exposure to bright computer screens, and more specifically the blue light that makes up much of the white background of most computer and phone displays can leave you extremely uncomfortable, although there’s no hard and fast rule for how much is too much, because individual tolerances can vary. The research is far from settled on this issue, but if you’re concerned there are steps you can take to reduce your overall eye strain.

The most obvious step is to simply step away from the screen for as long as feasible, but that’s often not something that’s easy to do. Thankfully there are options if you’re worried about excessive eye strain.

Apple introduced a night shift mode in iOS 9.3, covering the iPad Air and newer devices that works off a nighttime schedule to subtly change the colour output of your iPad’s display screen. That reduces the blue light that the iPad puts out, reducing probable eye strain and making it easier to doze off at night.

Microsoft has announced that as part of its upcoming Microsoft Creator Update for Windows 10, it will introduce a similar blue light reduction feature that ties into local sunrise and sunset schedules, making it more comfortable to view your screens for longer.

However, you don’t have to wait for the Creator Update if you’re concerned about eye strain you could consider a free utility such as f.lux (https://justgetflux.com/), a utility available for PC, Mac and Linux that manages the same sunset and sunrise schedules to adjust screen colour and intensity over time.

Again, this isn’t a matter of settled science, but certainly something that both Microsoft and Apple have taken seriously enough to incorporate into their products. You may find that a screen dimming utility does nothing to improve your eye strain issues, but you’ve got little to lose by testing it out to see if it makes a difference for you.


CES 2017 shows off the future of laptops

ced

The key focus of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas each year is typically large flat panel TVs above all else, and while they were present for its 2017 incarnation, you could have been forgiven for thinking that laptops were the new cool thing. Most major vendors launched new lines, with many differing viewpoints of where the future of laptop computing lies.

Laptops are a very mature section of the IT world, so you might think that all vendors can do is throw ever more powerful processors into them, but the reality is that many manufacturers are testing the waters in sub-niches of the laptop buying market in order to generate sales.

Both Samsung and Lenovo launched gaming laptop lines, although Samsung Australia won’t release its Odyssey laptop in Australia any time soon. That’s a pity, because aside from being a good high-end laptop, it’s also built to allow for both memory and storage upgrades, something that few modern laptops particularly allow for. Samsung also demonstrated two new Chromebook models, but, like the Odyssey, there’s no plans for them to see light of day in Australia. Lenovo’s big reveal was for an even thinner version of its X1 Carbon that weighs in at a scant 1.12kgs but somehow manages to eke out a claimed 15.5 hour battery life. I had the chance for a little hands-on time with the X1 Carbon and I walked away impressed. As with any thin and light laptop model, don’t expect the X1 Carbon to be exactly inexpensive, however.

For its part, Dell refreshed many of its core lines with updated 7th generation Intel Core processors and updated Nvidia GPUs, as well as launching a range of Inspiron Gaming laptops. It’s an interesting move for Dell given it already owns boutique gaming brand Alienware, but according to Dell representatives the idea for Inspiron gaming is that they’re mid-range priced laptops as distinct from Alienware’s more premium priced high powered laptop models. It wasn’t a laptop, but Dell also launched Canvas, a digital display and workspace device similar to Microsoft’s Surface Studio (or in some ways Wacom’s higher-end graphics tablets) for those wanting very fine control over features such as video or photo editing.

For truly “out there” ideas, though, gaming brand Razer had the most unusual take on where laptops are headed. It showed off a concept device it dubbed “Project Valerie” that features three 4K capable laptop displays, with one central primary display flanked by side displays that concertina out from the back of the laptop body when needed. Altogether that gives Valerie truly ludicrous resolution across all three screens, although specifications were subject to change with only prototypes on display at CES.

While Razer’s take for Valerie was centred around gamers, the design could also well suit creative professionals who would otherwise use multiple external displays. Razer didn’t reveal pricing for Project Valerie, however, because it primarily revealed the concept in order to gauge reaction from gamers as to whether they’d buy them were they to go into production. Given the specific tooling that Valerie would require, not to mention the cost of three 4K displays alone, and it’s safe to bet that it wouldn’t be inexpensive.


What’s your new year’s tech resolution?

gadgets

2016 is now a matter of history, and with a new year, many of us make resolutions to keep in the new year; a promise of some matter we’ll attend to, whether it’s losing weight, learning a new language or giving up a bad habit.

While the passage of the new year is ultimately a somewhat arbitrary measure, if you’re in the space where you’re considering what changes you should make in your life, I’d like to suggest that you consider some new year’s technology resolutions.

2016 was an unusual year for technology, with plenty of data breaches, massive growth in the usage and popularity of online streaming video services despite the generally woeful state of Australian broadband services. In the mobile space, Telstra shuttered its 2G service while Samsung went through the debacle of exploding Note7 handsets and Apple got rid of the headphone jack on its popular iPhone line. 2016 was the year that VR was meant to hit it big, but instead, the going was rather slow.

Against all of that, 2017 could well be an even more interesting year. We should see the first glimmerings of the technology industry’s promises via the CES show, set to kick off in Las Vegas on the 5th of January. The reality there is that while CES will probably have a few interesting surprises in store, your resolutions should probably revolve around the technology you currently have with you. With that in mind, if you want to maximise the value of your IT gear, may I suggest the following resolutions as worth picking up?

Backup, backup, BACKUP!
Yes, I know. Backing up is time consuming and boring in the extreme. It’s just that until you’ve been hit with the prospect of losing all your business files, or for that matter your personal photos or locally stored emails because you put off setting up a backup plan in place, you don’t know what real panic is. Sadly for too many people it’s a lesson that’s only learned through loss, so why not make your resolution to put a proper backup schedule in place for 2017?

Print those photos!
There’s no absolute number, but it’s estimated that in 2017, human beings will take more than 1.7 trillion digital photos. Guess where many of those precious moments in time will end up living their lives? Purely on phones, that’s where. The quality of cameras on phones has come forward in leaps and bounds, but leaving your images purely on your phone not only risks them if they’re not backed up, but also means you’re much less likely to look at them. By no means should you print all 1.7 trillion, but picking out your best photos to print makes them more of a reminder of good times, or in some cases a work of art than leaving them within the confines of a 5 inch phone screen.

Clean up your security policies!
Security policies sounds like something that only businesses of a certain size need to worry about, but the reality in the online age is that everyone should have at least a small inkling of security. Is your antivirus software up to date? If not, why not? Are you using the same password on multiple services? You should stop that, and investigate using a password management app to control your password usage. If you’re keen on social media, how sure are you that the posts you make or the pictures you share aren’t being shared more widely than you might like? We can’t control the way some breaches happen for large scale attacks as happened to Yahoo! in 2016, but that’s no reason to let the bad guys in the front door in 2017.

Tech needs or tech wants?
Entropy gets to everything, and that includes your tech gear. It makes sound financial and environmental sense to use a tool, including a tech-based one until it’s no longer fit for purpose, but with advances in technology, it may be that holding onto that nearly-clapped out laptop is costing your business more than investing in something even mid-range might afford you. Equally on the consumer side, there’s no doubt that 2017 will see you bombarded with hype for everything from HDR Televisions to VR to wearables and every other kind of gadget. Be sure to discern the difference between technology you need, and the shiny stuff that you might just want. In either case, when the time comes to retire that old printer, desktop or laptop, please remember to recycle in an environmentally friendly way.


Yahoo gets hacked again, but what can you do?

login and password

Online security is a tricky business, and one that’s dominated by a single factor. That single factor is money, because while the history of malware started with mostly prank-based or destructive software, for some years now it’s been a matter of cold, hard cash. The ways that the money is generated varies depending on the value of your online data; it’s not just a matter of access to, say, bank accounts or credit cards.

It recently emerged that online services owned by Yahoo! were seriously compromised to the extent that potentially every single Yahoo! account may have been compromised in a significant way. Yahoo! isn’t quite the online powerhouse that it was ten or more years ago, but the chances are decent that you may have had a Yahoo! account, whether for free online email, or any of its subsidiary brands.

The breach itself appears to have happened back in August 2013, and is distinct from a seperate breach that the company disclosed back in September (Yahoo’s data breach may be good for overall security standards) which allegedly saw some 500 million email accounts compromised. What that means is that Yahoo! has been the site of effectively two of the worst security breaches in online history. That’s not an award anyone in business wants to win.

For its part, the company has said that it doesn’t think that personal credit card information was included in the breach, but it does appear that other personal information may have been compromised. That still has value on the darker parts of the web, whether to try to then scam you further down the line, or simply for identity theft purposes.

You could always take the step of deleting your Yahoo! account, but the realistic picture here for a breach that happened three years ago is that whatever damage was going to be done is, in one sense, old news. Any leaked information has probably been sold, possibly multiple times.

It really does highlight a serious issue with breach reporting, simply because a breach of one day is an issue, but a three year breach means that information online may have changed hands multiple times. It’s hardly a ringing endorsement of Yahoo!’s security practices, and certainly if you’re unhappy with the company then you could delete your accounts, but it’s not going to markedly change what’s already happened.

So what can you sensibly do? It should go without saying that if you do have a Yahoo! account, you should at the very least change your password, especially if it’s remained unchanged for the past couple of years.

You should also take the opportunity to audit your other online services, both for passwords and for features such as two factor authentication, in order to lock them down as well as possible. As always, a major breach like this always brings out the chancers as well, so be wary of any automated email that offers to reset your password for you. The odds are just as good that they’re going to try to get access even if you have changed your login details to remain secure.

While Yahoo! maintains that it doesn’t think financial details were compromised, it’s equally a wise step to keep an eye on your accounts for any kind of unusual activity. That won’t always be someone trying to buy a Lamborghini somewhere in the middle of Russia straight away, but could instead be a smaller, hard to notice charge for just a dollar or two to test against it. See something like that on your account, and it’s time to contact your bank to check that your money is still secure.

It’s frustrating that a lot of online security lies beyond our own individual control, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do for your part to keep your own individual information secure. Governments are still struggling working out how breach reporting in cases like this should work, and we should see some emerging standards for this kind of matter in the coming years.


Recent News

lgsmart

Google has recently announced the release of Android Wear 2.0, its updated operating system for wearable computing devices. You could put Android Wear 2.0 on just about any wearable technology, but the key market for Android Wear to date has been smartwatches. The first Android Wear 2.0 watches that will launch with the new OS… More 

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Sharing apps with your loved ones makes sense in a busy household, but make sure you understand what you’re signing up for. Apple’s iPhone and iPad kicked off the modern gadget revolution but, unlike a traditional PC, they were never designed for sharing. There’s no such thing as a user profile or fast user switching… More 

inflightwifi1

If you’ve travelled internationally, and especially in the USA, you may have hit the opportunity to use internet services while flying. This is usually at a cost, sometimes a quite severe cost depending on your flight status and quantity of access required. For many of us, stepping onto a plane is precisely when we step… More 

mobilevpn

It’s best to play it safe when you’re out of the office using someone else’s Wi-Fi network. Mobile data has traditionally been rather expensive in Australia so we’re in the habit of jumping onto free Wi-Fi networks wherever we find them—from cafes and shopping centres to sporting stadiums and airport lounges. These days mobile data… More