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April 2013 - Ask the Geek Ask the Geek

Archive for April, 2013

Smartphones Outnumber “Dumb” Phones for the First Time Ever

The sales numbers of the first quarter of 2013 show that of all mobile phones shipped out by manufacturers, 51.6% were smartphones. For the first time in history more smartphones were shipped than feature phones, reports IDC.

This shows an obvious trend in mobile phone usage. People no longer want a phone just to call and send text messages, they want a computer in their pocket.

The report also shows that Samsung is the leader among all (smart and feature) mobile phone manufacturers having a 27.5% market share, which is more then the next four competitors combined (Nokia with 14.8% and Apples with 8.9%, followed by LG and ZTE).

It’s important to note, though, that Nokia holds this market share primarily in the “dumb” phone market, as their smartphone market share is below 4%. So while they have lost the smartphone battle, they’re very well competing in the feature phone market mainly by focusing on emerging markets in developing countries.

Filed in: Mobile Devices
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Bad News for Android (Malware)

A new malware was discovered by a security firm Lookout which has already infected millions of user phones via compromosed apps.

The malware called BadNews has spread through apps by pretending to be an ad platform to unsuspecting developers. As much as 32 apps from 4 developers have been affected and have since been removed from the Play store. It targets mostly Russian users.

BadNews is bad news because it fakes alerts in user’s phone and entice them to download more infected apps, subscribes them to premium sms services and sends the IMEI code to the malware creators.

The list of affected apps is available so you can check your installed apps against it to make sure your phone is not infected.

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Microsoft’s Two-step Authentication

Microsoft has been rolling out a two step authentication process for their products starting April 17th. A two step authentication process already employed by companies like PayPal, Facbook, Google, Apple, is a process that besides the user password requires a one time verification code that could be sent to user’s phone via app or text message.

Microsoft is rolling out this option to such products as Office, Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox, and others. It improves the security against account hijacking and identity theft.

Filed in: Microsoft, Security
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Oracle Released 128 Security Patches

Oracle has released 128 security patches to a number of their products, including Java for web browsers. Most of the fixes relate to remote exploitation.

A few months ago Java web browser plugin has been exposed to have a zero-day vulnerability, and many end users were affected, including corporate networks.

It’s a good idea to keep the plugin up to date, however my tip would be to remove it from your computer entirely. Few websites use Java functionality and it’s not necessary to most users. Install it only if you really must use it.

Filed in: Security
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Windows 8.1 Will Have a Boot to Desktop Option

Microsoft has been under the pressure of criticism regarding the Start Screen in Windows 8. The Start Screen has proved to be quite an annoyance to desktop users who have been pestering Microsoft to bring the Start menu back, in fact, third party options to do that have been quite popular.

In Windows 8.1 (codename Windows Blue) there will be an option to boot to the desktop by avoiding the Start Screen, albeit there will still be no Start menu.

That’s a good option considering the “Metro” style is really only useful with touchscreen devices.

Filed in: Windows
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Massive Botnet Attack on WordPress Websites

There’s been a massive attack originating from a botnet of about 90,000 IPs that targets WordPress installations all over the internet, regardless of the host being used. The attack brute forces the admin password of a WordPress installation and installs a backdoor, presumably for a later attack. CloudFlare says it has blocked 60 million requests against this attack. And that’s just one hosting provider, so you can imagine the extent of the attack.

Attack such as this uses infected PCs but once the botnet has a huge number of hacked websites it could do a lot more damage.

It’s difficult to protect a website from brute force attacks such as this, but for starters you can use a more complicated password for your WordPress site.

Filed in: Security
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Skype Malware Mines Bitcoin

There’s been an outbreak in malware that once infected a computer uses its resources to mine bitcoin.

Bitcoin is a digital currency based on a P2P network that uses user machines to solve transactions and reward the user with some of the currency. The malware creators can abuse a big number of computers to generate this currency much faster. There’s an obvious monetary incentive.

The virus infects the computer via Skype messages by sending a link and enticing the victim to click it. The messages usually say something like “here’s a picture of you”. Once on the computer it launches the bitcoin mining process which uses the CPU and slows down your machine significantly.

You can read more about this virus on the Kaspersky Lab blog.

Be careful and never click suspicious links!

Filed in: Security
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Will Microsoft Compete with Google Glass in 2014?

While the bars and restaurants begin banning Google Glass before it’s even released, rumor has it Microsoft is going to compete with a similar project in next year. Named “Fortaleza” Microsoft’s augmented reality eye wear device has been revealed even earlier than Glass was announced.

If the rumor is true we are going to see a competitor for Google’s device which is a logical step for Microsoft as Samsung and Apple are also getting into the wearable computing. Samsung is about to release a smartwatch and Apple has the iWatch project. So obviously Microsoft wants to be relevant in this space too and offer something to the market. Granted it’s just a rumor, seeing as other companies already have similar devices in development, it’s natural to expect Microsoft to do so as well.

Filed in: Mobile Devices
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