How Much Information Is Your Smartphone Sharing?

There has been a lot of discussion recently of privacy-focused smartphones that offers encryption for all your calls and texts. Until these devices become commonplace, if they do, how much information are you currently showing off to the world? Your phone holds your life… from your contacts, to your emails & pictures, to places you’ve been, and so much more. It’s really scary to think of how much information can be collected and stored about you and kept for a long time.

We’ll start with the very basics. This day and age many of you are using Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You take picture with your phone and post them online. You also take video capturing the moments wherever you are. More than likely you are home, or near home when you take these shots, right? So how much information are you sharing with the world that you had no idea?

Facebook Messenger Location Services

Recently I was talking to a new friend on Facebook Messenger in which I had never met before. Unbeknownst to her, she had her location settings on and displaying where she was. I could simply click to see her location to pinpoint exactly… and I do mean exactly… where she was. I could literally pick which corner of the house she was in. At first I thought how funny it would be to just play a joke and ask her where she lived and then explain how I live nearby, then give her a street name and act like I was a neighbor. Instead I just was like “FYI… your location setting is on”. Now if your entire Facebook friend list is comprised of close friends and family that you would like for them to know where you are anytime you’re chatting away… then yeah, leave that on. Otherwise I suggest turning it off. Facebook collects this data and uses it as a filter in their Facebook Ads settings where advertisers can select to target you while you’re away from home, on vacation, or just returning from vacation.

Action Step: Go to Facebook settings and turn off Messenger Location Services. Alternatively, you may disable this per message in the messenger box.

Twitter Tweets Location

This one is pretty obvious that you can share your location. Turning it off is pretty plain and simple, as you just click the location icon  when you’re about to post to turn it off. The website pleaserobme.com demonstrates this through their efforts in raising awareness about over-sharing online.

Instagram Photo Map

instagram photo map

There was a recent news segment on Instagram I think that talked about geotagged photos. We’ll get into that in a second. Ok, so Instagram has the same sort of thing going on with putting on a map where you took the photo (and maybe just where you uploaded it). If your phone is geotagging photos then one could simply find you on instagram and see where you live. Many of you openly display your username to strangers on apps like Tinder and other public sites. This allows anyone to simply click on your image to bring up Google Maps and show where it was taken… most likely your house. Now they know where you live. Using Google street view they can now even take a peek around neighborhood.

Action Step: Don’t geo-tag photos and remove any that you have from your map… unless of course you want them there.

Geo-Tagged Photos

This is where a lot of information can be getting out whenever you post a photo, email a photo, or text a photo to someone. I’m not saying you have to turn off location settings on your photos. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to group pictures by location. Sometimes you may just want to remember where you were when the picture was taken. However, when you post the image somewhere in it’s raw form… all the metadata about the picture will also be available. Here’s a picture I took today with the details next to it. This is just some of the information that is being attached to each photo. You could pop in those coordinates into Google Maps and it would bring up the location. If it weren’t for the spoon in the picture, I would have you do it and guess where I went.

20140306_123740Screenshot_2014-03-06-18-32-47

Apps

The privacy and security of apps always leaves me a little skeptical. Especially when it lists everything it has access to… text, sd card, emails, accounts, camera, etc. Now I know what apps are supposed to have access to, just like what computer software is supposed to have access to. Yet, somehow… these barriers are crossed from time to time where access to sensitive information is attainable. To understand how much of a privacy concern you should have, one must understand an app is just that… an app. It’s software written in a way to show you what it wants you to see while performing any action it can get access to. Technically, and not to bring upon fear, an app could access your camera at any moment and broadcast what it sees. It could access all your images and upload them to a remote location. If an app can do this for altruistic purposes, it has the capacity to do it for other purposes too or if imposed on by the Government.

I think the issue of privacy is becoming more prevalent today because of the lack of it. There are many conversations I have with people about what information they share or that is available online that they find haunting. With a minimal amount of information, and I do mean minimal… one could find out more information about someone than most of their close friends and family are aware of.

On a bigger scale… there is quite a large collection of data that is being collected about you, your life, who you interact with, all your credit card transactions tied in with your shopping patterns, where you frequent, and much much more. Most of the time this data is put together to create information to better market you products and services, but not all the time.

A few good related reads…

http://mashable.com/2013/06/28/encryption-apps/
http://mashable.com/2014/02/26/boeing-black-phone/
http://mashable.com/2014/02/24/what-is-blackphone/
http://mashable.com/2014/03/05/snowden-phone/

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I’m Back in Action!

Well I’m back in action after about a 10 day hiatus away from my laptop because the hard drive failed… and by “failed” I mean it failed to continue to work after I dropped it… and by “dropped it” I mean I dropped my fist on the keyboard because it was being so slow and I have zero patience for slow computers and slow internet.  Have I caught your attention yet? Then keep reading…

I was at my computer as normal, working away… or at least trying to… when it was becoming unresponsive. So naturally (and without performing a recent backup) I decided to to bang the keyboard with my fist because that’s what most people do when they want something to work. Unfortunately, Dell places the hard drive right beneath the touch pad, which is right where the impact took place.

Well then the whole thing just froze up completely so I attempted a hard boot. This is where I was like “Oh Sh*t, not again” as Windows failed to load. Yes, I say not again because my last laptop met its demise by a similar blunt force trauma episode. Having previously worked for a backup software company you’d think that I’d have a bulletproof backup plan in place. Nope! I used to… but somewhere along the way my files in the desktop folder were no longer being synced with a cloud storage drive. I do have one setup… but nearly 93.6% of the time I store what I’m currently working on to my desktop.

There I was hoping I didn’t just kill my drive and would be able to recover what was on the desktop, since that’s pretty much the only location on the computer I have data that isn’t backed up (that I remember at least). After removing the drive I had a buddy of mine try to mount it via USB to his computer to see if we could get some data off. We quickly realized I had just parted ways with all that data.

So the moral of the story… as much as it seems like it’s a good idea to take a baseball bat to your computer and destroy it, just do a full backup first and then swing away.

Why you should keep your Verizon Unlimited Data Plan

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So back in the day when smartphones weren’t as common and the data usage was pretty minimal for text messaging and picture messaging. Even getting online wasn’t that big of a deal because for one, most people weren’t getting online with their phone because websites didn’t play well with mobile devices. With the birth of apps and the growing number of mobile websites the demand for data has grown far beyond anticipation. There’s no sign of it slowing down, at least not anytime soon.

So what companies like Verizon has done is come up with some attractive data plans however they are limited. They’ll sell you on the fact that you don’t use as much data as you think you do (yet!), and that you can share your data across multiple devices, and so on. The reality is that in the near future mobile will continue to grow and be bigger than ever. So the demand for data will grow exponentially. So that amount of data that you currently use, let’s say for the sake of argument it’s 1GB per month… will soon be 3GB, then 6GB, then 10GB! Think of how much you’ll have to pay for a plan like this when apps and mobile website require more data. Just think when computers were fine running off of 512mb of RAM… now if you have anything less than 3GB you might as well just pull out a pen and paper.

I like convenience and I don’t want to worry about if I’m going to go over my plan or not. So I’m going to stick with unlimited data and I suggest that you should as well. Yeah, you can save a little money by upgrading and extending your contract to get a new phone for a little cheaper… but the amortized cost of what your really saving only comes out to like $18/month.

The Difference Between iPhone 4s and iPhone 5

So you’re looking into getting the new iPhone 5?  Before you do, be sure to take a look at these key differences between the iPhone 4s and iPhone 5

First off is the new iPhone 5 comes with the A6 Chip. Which has been claimed by Apple as being twice as fast as A5. The A6 chip also offers graphics performance that’s up to twice as fast as the A5 chip.

The Apple iPhone 5 is now taller, but slimmer than its predecessor at a Height of 4.87 inches (123.8 mm), Width: 2.31 inches (58.6 mm), a Thickness of 0.30 inch (7.6 mm) and Weighs only 3.95 ounces (112 grams)… nearly one ounce less than the iPhone 4s.

With the additional height also comes the 4-inch (diagonal) Retina display, 1136 x 640 resolution, 326 ppi.

 

If you’re worried about compatibility with any accessories you have, well you should be… the new iPhone 5 features the Nano-SIM and not the Micro-SIM that was previously being used. In addition to this change, the phone now uses the Lightning connector and instead of it’s 30Pin connector used for the previous versions of the iPhone as well as the iPad. This means you’ll have to buy new docks.

As for FaceTime camera, the iPhone 5 has an increased resolution. Now 1.2MP photos can be taken, along with 720p HD video in addition the a backside illumination sensor. One nice little feature that the iPhone 5 is capable of is the ability to take still photos while recording video. There is now also the ability to enable face detection when taking pictures.

All this comes packaged up with a storage and travel case. So if you’re looking to enter into to iPhone market and buy your first iPhone this may be a good time. If you’re not concerned with the latest and greatest and perfectly content with your current iPhone then there’s no rush to get the iPhone 5. The iPhone 6 will probably be out in a couple months… kidding.

Follow me on twitter @rayholt or leave some comments below.

How To Fix JBL Creature II Speaker

JBL Creature II Speakers

I noticed when playing music through my JBL Creature II Speakers that the left speaker was hardly making any sound. I made sure the connectors were properly plugged in, as each speaker wire has a unique pattern on the connector that corresponds to its input in the subwoofer. My left one has a triangle pattern, while the right speaker has a square. Just to reiterate – the speaker does function, the green light is on, I hear faint music coming out, but it’s just not as loud as the other one.

Causes: Most likely caused by dropping the speaker. However, country music is also known to damage audio equipment – therefore it’s best to only play country music with acoustic instruments out in the country and away from society.

Shape Sorter

If you weren’t too good at putting the correct shape patterns into correct corresponding holes as a child you may be able to easily fix your speaker by simply making sure they are plugged in correctly and pushed all the way in (pushing in while turning the connector will ensure it falls into place). Just sayin’.

THE REAL FIX (Approx. 5min if that)

So, how to really fix this thing… you’ll need a small phillips (crosshead) screwdriver and some superglue. Unless your speaker is just completely blown out or damaged, what has happened is that the magnet has dislodged itself from where it is supposed to be which it now preventing the speaker from functioning correctly. Without getting into the complexities of how a speaker works, you need to set the magnet back into place.

Image

So… turn the satellite speaker that is no longer functioning correctly upside down so that you see the 4 screws. Remove them and then remove the base of the speaker.

Image

You should see remnants of the glue from where it should be. Now push the magnet all the way to the rear of the assembly so it looks like the picture above. To help prevent it from happening again you may want to superglue it. After you’re all done just reassemble it and start blasting some Skrillex.

Did you save any money from this fix? If so feel free to Buy Me a Drink. Don’t forget to Follow me on Twitter @rayholt

Google Plus Project

I just started using Google Plus and it’s been pretty intuitive. I’m not a huge fan of Facebook so I’m really hoping Google Plus gains some leverage in the social networking world. I’m sure there are concerns with them having a prominent role in nearly everything online and even with mobile devices. I can’t even begin to comprehend the amount of data that Google is collecting and I’m sure many of us have our concerns that the information is personally identifiable. I do use Google Apps for my business and have my Android phone hooked up with that Gmail account. There’s an app for Google Plus I’ll be using once I get it configured. All in all, the impact that Google Plus will have I am not sure of at the moment. As it gains momentum I’ll have a better understanding.

If you currently have Google Plus feel free to add me. Those of you who don’t follow me on twitter and simply post “@rayholt invite me to Google Plus!”

A New Competitor in the Search Engine Market

We all know Google is the de facto when it comes to online search. Sure AOL & Yahoo have joined forces to get a larger part of the pie, but they are still no where near close to Google’s market share.  This doesn’t seem like something that will be changing in the near future, but time will tell.

A new competitor in the search engine market is Blekko. Just like Google, it’s dead simple. The homepage isn’t clutter and the results are relevant, really relevant. In fact they took the effort to block over a million websites that it had determined to be content farms to spam people.

The two main features I’ve noticed that sets them apart are the easy to use slashtags and the integration with the Facebook social network. Slashtag’s are an easy way to filter results. You can use /date to see the newest information first, /relevance for the most relevant content, /reviews to see only reviews and much more. Check it out and remember you heard it here first!

http://blekko.com

Greplin Search for Social Media and More

Have you heard of Greplin? Probably not, and if you have then you are surely an early adopter. What is it? It’s similar to Google – except that it’s not searching and indexing the entire web, just your social networks, emails, and everything else you have out there on the cloud.  It allows you to search through your Gmail accounts, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Evernote, Dropbox, and more. Of course people are saying that this is going to be some fierce competition for Google in the future, which it may be. Time will tell. Check it out and remember you heard it hear first!

http://www.greplin.com

Stay updated by following me on twitter.com/rayholt

Motorola Xoom – May Want to Hold off on Purchasing that iPad

So you’re thinking about purchasing the iPad? If you’re an Apple fanatic then Motorola’s new tablet XOOM™ will probably not influence your decision. As for the many Android users out there, they may hold off on purchasing the iPad.  I may retire my Lenovo Netbook and get the dock for the Motorola XOOM and wireless keyboard and use that as a replacement.

The Motorola XOOM is the first tablet with a dual-core processor and is running Android 3.0 (Honeycomb).

Motorola XOOM

XSS (Cross Site Scripting) Attack on Facebook

Facebook Hacked and Redirects to Myspace.com

One of my most recent interest has been web security with the continued of web 2.0 and the internet as a platform for web applications such as Facebook. Whenever you choose to accept input from users visiting your website you must address the security issues associated with this.

Today it appears there has been some sort of a persistent XSS attack on the highly popular Facebook site. I first came to discover this when I went to one of my websites, CycleSteals.com, and viewed a page that I had put the Facebook “like” button on. This is simply an iframe hosted by Facebook. The problem was that upon viewing my page it would redirect to Myspace.com. At first I thought it may have been an isolated incident of maybe one of the deals having some code that was copied from another site that was vulnerable to an attack. After further investigation I noticed that it happened on ALL pages that had the like button.

Let me explain the magnitude of this. EVERY website on the internet that uses the Facebook like button will automatically be forwarded to Myspace.com. Everyone trying to navigate to Facebook.com through the internet will be forwarded to Myspace.com.

The repercussions are unimaginable. Not only does Facebook lose it’s daily traffic that they depend on to advertise to, Myspace’s servers are getting hit HARD! They are getting their normal traffic, plus all the traffic coming from Facebook, plus all the traffic from every other webpage on the internet that has the like button embeded using the iframe method.

It’s a beautiful day here in Southern California and I’d hate to be on the development team of Facebook and get the call that says get home and get to work to fix this!!!