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Why the feature-light iOS 9.2.1 security update matters

Captive-Network Example

Three days ago Apple released an iOS 9.2.1 update with seemingly arbitrary ‘security updates and bug fixes’ listed in the release notes. As we’ve seen time and time again with these type of software updates, most often these small updates seem to go ignored by the general public. We stress how important it is to keep your device up to date, even with small security updates like this.

As is customary after Apple releases a security update version of iOS, the firms and people that discovered the vulnerabilities are coming out explaining how and why these security updates matter. Apple has already included a breakdown of what security issues were resolved in iOS 9.2.1, but it’s still nice to get a further detailed look into what made the vulnerabilities possible in the first place.

SkyCure, a company helping in threat defense in EMM and MDM solutions, released a blog post this week detailing their discovery while noting that Apple had finally resolved it.

The security issue (CVE-2016-1730) was reported back in June of 2013, but SkyCure notes that it was a more complicated issue to fix than one would imagine. SkyCure’s discovery relates to the way iOS handles cookies when connecting to a malicious captive-enabled Wi-Fi network. You may have seen these types of networks if you’ve ever connected to a hotel, airport or Starbucks network.

On Thursday, security researchers at Zimperium zLabs had also released a report analyzing how their vulnerability (CVE-2016-1722) was discovered. This vulnerability appears to have taken less than two months to resolve. Zimperium’s discovery revolved around a heap buffer overflow in syslogd that would allow an attacker to have elevated privileges or even perform remote code execution (although this would require the device to be on an already trusted Wi-Fi network).

Starbucks_CaptiveNetwork

As the desire for better security, privacy, and encryption increases, I welcome the security researchers’ work and Apple’s “minor” update. Even if they don’t include any exciting new features, like new emoji.


Filed under: Developers, iOS Tagged: EMM, iOS, iOS 9.2.1, MDM, privacy, Security, SkyCure, Updates, Zimperium

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Greg Barbosa

January 22nd

Apple

Mac

Apple updates Logic Pro X & MainStage 3 Mac apps with performance improvements, new features

logic-pro-x-mixer-03

Following its onslaught of music updates this morning, Apple this evening has rolled out updates to two more of its Mac audio apps. First is Logic Pro X, which has been bumped to version 10.2.1 with this evening’s update. Next is MainStage 3, which is now at version 3.2.3 thanks to its most recent update. Both apps have received a handful of new features, under-the-hood changes, and performance improvements with their respective updates.

Logic Pro X now supports a new multithreading threading feature that significantly improves performance when processing multiple live channels. Previewing Apple Loops and performing region edits is also much quicker. 30 plug-ins have also been updated and redesigned to support Retina displays and improve usability. There are a variety of other performance and usability enhancements, as well, which can all be seen in the changelog below:

What’s New in Version 10.2.1

This update contains numerous fixes and enhancements including:

• New multi-threading feature improves performance when processing multiple live channels • Faster playback responsiveness when previewing Apple Loops and performing region edits • Flex Pitch editing can be performed within the Tracks area using a Piano Roll interface • A collection of 30 plug-ins have been redesigned to add Retina support and improve usability • Numerous improvements to Alchemy including Apple Loops support and 11 new spectral effects • Improved reliability when downloading additional content • Additional content can be downloaded directly from the Sound Library and Apple Loops browsers • Drum Machine Designer supports drag and drop of multiple audio files • The Step Editor can automatically create lanes to display all MIDI events in a region • New export option allows you to create stems from multiple selected tracks • Improved VoiceOver support

Next, MainStage 3 has been updated with its own share of enhancements. Like Logic Pro, 27 plugins have been enhanced with Retina display support and improved usability. Alchemy has also been significantly enhanced with 11 new spectral effects and Apple Loops support. Again, a handful of other performances and usability improvements have also been made with version 3.2.3 of MainStage. You can view them all in the changelog below:

What’s New in Version 3.2.3

This update contains numerous fixes and enhancements including:

• A collection of 27 plug-ins have been redesigned to add Retina support and improve usability • Numerous improvements to Alchemy including Apple Loops support and 11 new spectral effects • Alchemy supports 3rd party Expressive MIDI Controllers including products from Roli and Roger Linn Design • Allows faster changing of your I/O device with large concert files • Clicking on an instrument layer in the workspace now selects the corresponding channel strip • Improved VoiceOver support

Logic Pro X and MainStage 3 are both available on the Mac App Store. Earlier today, Apple released a GarageBand iOS updat with iPad Pro optimization, as well as new Music Memos app for songwriters and an update to Logic Remote with iPad Pro enhancements and iPhone support.

Filed under: Mac Tagged: Apple, Apps, Logic Pro X, Mac, MainStage 3, Music, Updates

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Chance Miller

January 21st

Apple

Mac

WhatsApp is now free for all users forever, dropping subscription fees entirely in favor of other revenue models

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 10.48.03

Today, WhatsApp has announced a pretty major shift in its business model. The popular chat client is going completely free. Facebook-owned WhatsApp used to run on a trial model: users could use the app for free for a year. Subsequent years would cost $0.99 cents each. The paid model notably made WhatsApp stand out from the crowd, as almost every other social networking is free to use from the customer perspective. Although WhatsApp will stop charging customers from today, it will take a few weeks for the payment UI in apps to go away as app updates roll out to the store.

WhatsApp says although a 0.99 cent charge is not onerous, it prevented growth as a lot of customers do not have access to credit cards. This is its major motivation for taking out the annual revenue model. Naturally, users of WhatsApp will wonder how the application plans to monetize going forward ….

Via Recode, WhatsApp says it plans to move to a model where businesses pay to target relevant communications with customers. For example, airlines would be able to contact users through WhatsApp to discuss flight cancellations or delayed schedules. Similarly, a bank could use WhatsApp to communicate important fraud warnings to customers. WhatsApp says the company does not want to include third-party traditional advertising like intrusive banner and interstitials, which can annoy people.

In summary, as is common nowadays, if you are not paying for it, you are the product with the new WhatsApp model. Some privacy-conscious individuals may fear data sharing with parent company Facebook, naturally. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming months.

Naturally, people might wonder how we plan to keep WhatsApp running without subscription fees and if today’s announcement means we’re introducing third-party ads. The answer is no. Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight. We all get these messages elsewhere today – through text messages and phone calls – so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam.

WhatsApp has over 900m active users, across its platforms, making it one of the largest chat apps on the Internet. No doubt its meteoric growth will only continue now that it is free. Download WhatsApp from the App Store here.


Filed under: AAPL Company, Apps, iOS, iOS Devices, Tech Industry Tagged: app, free, Updates, WhatsApp

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Benjamin Mayo

January 18th

Apple

Mac

One Important Thing To Do Before Gifting A Game Console On Christmas

If you’re thinking of giving someone an Xbox, PlayStation, Wii U, 3DS, Vita, or iPad this Christmas, there’s something you can do to sweeten the deal even more for the recipient: download every update for the console first.

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December 24th

Uncategorized

Google Maps for iOS gains up-to-date gas prices, popular business hours

google-maps-lead

Google’s Maps app for iPhone and iPad got a small but useful update on the App Store today. The latest version of the Google Maps iOS app now includes a couple of handy features.

First up, and undoubtedly the most useful for drivers is the up-to-date gas prices in the US and Canada. The feature was included in the Android version of Google’s app a couple of months ago and lets users check nearby gas stations to see which has the most affordable prices. You can find prices simply be searching for ‘gas’ or ‘gas stations’ in the search field and Google Maps will automatically bring up the nearest options and list pricing for those locations.

gmaps-gas-prices google-maps-gas-lead google-maps-gas-2

Business hours have been included in the app for some time, but today’s update also lets you check when is best to avoid/visit particular businesses. Like its online search and maps tools, the updated iPhone app brings the ability check popular visiting hours for local stores and outlets. Now you can see what you always knew about any business or retail location: It starts getting busy after lunch.

verizon-google-maps-popular-times

Google Maps version 4.13.0 is available to download from the App Store for free and requires users to be running iOS 7.0 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.


Filed under: Apps, iOS Devices Tagged: Apps, Google Maps, iOS, iPad, iPhone, Updates

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Cam Bunton

December 14th

Apple

Mac

Google Maps for iOS gains up-to-date gas prices, popular business hours

google-maps-lead

Google’s Maps app for iPhone and iPad got a small but useful update on the App Store today. The latest version of the Google Maps iOS app now includes a couple of handy features.

First up, and undoubtedly the most useful for drivers is the up-to-date gas prices in the US and Canada. The feature was included in the Android version of Google’s app a couple of months ago and lets users check nearby gas stations to see which has the most affordable prices. You can find prices simply be searching for ‘gas’ or ‘gas stations’ in the search field and Google Maps will automatically bring up the nearest options and list pricing for those locations.

gmaps-gas-prices google-maps-gas-lead google-maps-gas-2

Business hours have been included in the app for some time, but today’s update also lets you check when is best to avoid/visit particular businesses. Like its online search and maps tools, the updated iPhone app brings the ability check popular visiting hours for local stores and outlets. Now you can see what you always knew about any business or retail location: It starts getting busy after lunch.

verizon-google-maps-popular-times

Google Maps version 4.13.0 is available to download from the App Store for free and requires users to be running iOS 7.0 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.


Filed under: Apps, iOS Devices Tagged: Apps, Google Maps, iOS, iPad, iPhone, Updates

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Cam Bunton

December 14th

Apple

Mac

Google Wallet for iOS can now send money to any contact using just a phone number

google wallet ios

With the rise of contactless payment systems like Apple Pay and Android Pay, the Google Wallet app has needed to reinvent itself somewhat as a peer-to-peer payment system. With the latest update, it’s become a whole lot easier to send money to your friends, family and contacts.

From today, the updated app on both iOS and Android will let you send money to anyone on your contact list, even if you don’t have their email address. You can send money to them using their phone number, and it’s secure and fast.

When you send money to a phone number, the recipient gets a text message containing a secure link. Once they click on the link, they input their debit card details to claim the money and the funds are available in their bank account within a few minutes.

Before today, you could send money to contacts, but you could only do so by using an email address.

This is just one of several new features added to Google Wallet in recent weeks. It’s clear then that the company is working hard to make it a useful app, and one that isn’t made redundant by the arrival of Android Pay, or competitor payment systems like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or *coughs* Walmart Pay. Those improvements include:

  • Improved contact suggestions, so you see the people you send money to most often first
  • A security feature that lets you lock the Google Wallet app with the tap of a button
  • The ability to link a second bank account

You can download the latest update for iPhone from the App Store for free. Apple is rumored to be developing its own peer-to-peer payment feature for Apple Pay in 2016.


Filed under: Apps Tagged: Apple pay, Apps, Google Wallet, iOS, Updates

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Cam Bunton

December 10th

Apple

Mac

Faulty Security Certificates Are Screwing Up Some Mac App Store Updates

If your Mac’s app updates are acting a little weird, you’re not alone. A security management slip-up means that some software updates might actually require a delete and reinstall to work properly.

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Jamie Condliffe

November 13th

Mac

Inbox by Gmail app for iPhone will use AI-powered Smart Reply feature to respond to messages for you

inbox-logo

Google’s Inbox by Gmail app for iPhone is one of the best things to happen to personal email management since email was invented (at least, it is for Gmail users). Using Google Now’s power, it can automatically create calendar events, sort out your junk and priority emails and suggest reminders. Now it’s about to get a whole lot smarter.

Making use of the company’s deep neural network tech (commonly known as AI) Inbox by Gmail will soon start giving suggested responses whenever you receive an email. That means that, instead of typing out entire sentences, it’ll offer three suggestions it thinks you’re most likely to use based on the email you received. The update will hit the app later this week and joins a whole host of other AI-powered moves made by Google recently, including YouTube thumbnails, better voice search and nightmarish picture editing, among others.

smartreply1

In its blog post about the update, Google explains how the technology works, stating that as the email comes in, one network encodes the email by consuming the words one at a time and then produces a vector, or list of numbers. This vector essentially captures the message of what the email means. A second network then uses this ‘thought vector’ and creates a grammatically correct reply one word at a time. To the user, it should feel fast, intuitive and natural. But the process of building this capability wasn’t without its challenges:

One challenge of working with emails is that the inputs and outputs of the model can be hundreds of words long. This is where the particular choice of recurrent neural network type really matters. We used a variant of a “long short-term-memory” network (or LSTM for short), which is particularly good at preserving long-term dependencies, and can home in on the part of the incoming email that is most useful in predicting a response, without being distracted by less relevant sentences before and after.

Of course, there’s another very important factor in working with email, which is privacy. In developing Smart Reply we adhered to the same rigorous user privacy standards we’ve always held — in other words, no humans reading your email. This means researchers have to get machine learning to work on a data set that they themselves cannot read, which is a little like trying to solve a puzzle while blindfolded — but a challenge makes it more interesting!

Since testing, Google’s engineers have been surprised by how good the neural network-powered Smart Reply system is at getting it right. If you have the Inbox app installed on your iPhone, you’ll be able to download the AI-infused update from next week. If you haven’t used it yet, you can grab it from the App Store for free.


Filed under: Apps Tagged: AI, Apps, deep neural networks, email, Gmail, Google, Inbox by Gmail, neural networks, Updates

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Cam Bunton

November 3rd

Apple

Mac

Update Your Facebook iOS App To Save Your Phone’s Battery

iOS users have been complaining about the Facebook app’s big battery drain. Today Facebook admitted it had a problem–and pushed an update that should help.

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Kaila Hale-Stern

October 23rd

Uncategorized
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