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LaptopMD+ Blog

Trade in your old iPhone for credit toward your new one!

by LaptopMD Posted October 5, 2017 in News, Newsletter

If you’re looking forward to snagging one of the new iPhones (whether that be the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, or X) and have an older version, you can trade that in for some credit toward your new phone with most cell providers (or other places like Amazon and Best Buy) will just buy the phone off of you! However, they only accept working phones so if you’ve just been dealing with a cracked screen, make sure to get it fixed first!

Apple doesn’t mind anymore.

 

People are often hesitant to get their screen repaired through a 3rd party provider because Apple used to void the warranty on the phone then.  However, they changed their stance back in February and as long as the repair is done well (do your research and look at the reviews!) they won’t void your warranty.

It’s a small step, but it’s a nice gesture from Apple to notice that it’s unfair to consumers who might not live near an Apple store to get their phone fixed – and we’re all just replacing the screens anyway!


Apple and Samsung are competitors… Right?

by LaptopMD Posted in News, Newsletter, Water Cooler

Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy series are probably the most popular phones on the market, in a general sense.  I mean it’s really the iPhone by some margin, then the Galaxy is leading the pack left behind Apple’s top seller.  However, while Samsung probably wishes they were leading the market, or at least at a 50/50 split with Apple, don’t worry about them.

Samsung makes money from iPhone sales

In addition to being a massive manufacturer of their own phones, Samsung creates a lot of parts that get used in the iPhone.  This is extremely relevant right now because according to PC Mag, Samsung will get approximately $110 for every iPhone X sold.  So, the new iPhone that is going to keep Apple moving forward, is going to be paying Samsung’s bills too, keeping the iPhone’s closest competitor in the race.

In fact, there are projected to be approximately 50 million Samsung Galaxy S8 sales (which are thought to net Samsung $202) but 130 million iPhone X sales.  You can do the math, that means Samsung would legitimately make more money off of iPhones than their own Galaxies.

But whyiphone x screen

In the simplest of explanations, it’s really a result of supply-and-demand.  Apple wouldn’t be paying Samsung for their parts if they didn’t have to – they probably wish they could be manufacturing every part required for use in their iPhones, but they can’t.  And every recent iPhone uses parts from other manufacturers, the real problem is the iPhone X’s OLED screen.

The iPhone X’s screen is huge and Samsung may be the only potential manufacturer for it due to the enormous demand Apple is needing to fill.  If the iPhone X wasn’t expected to achieve such high sales numbers, they could probably go to a different manufacturer, or try to keep the entire process inside their company.

Samsung wins either way

Samsung stands to lose a lot if they stop providing parts for iPhones, and they can’t guarantee that their phones would then skyrocket in popularity (if the iPhone’s quality suffered as a result).  For the time being, it seems the two competitors are tied together.

Samsung wins either way. Either the iPhone outperforms the Galaxy by a huge margin like expected, and they still make a lot of money from both their own phone and the iPhone.  If the iPhone X doesn’t reach the high projections, the most likely candidate to replace the iPhone X in a consumer’s hand might be the Galaxy S8, which Samsung won’t be upset about either.

 


CBS’s Showtime and The Pirate Bay get Caught Mining Cryptocurrency… on their Consumers’ Computers

by LaptopMD Posted September 28, 2017 in News

Online advertising has become a really tricky game to get into.  Monetizing a popular website that generates a lot of online traffic used to be much, much easier than it is now.  The simple answer used to be advertising, but nowadays you would need to generate OVER A MILLION pageviews in a month just to generate $5,000.  Without those users having an Adblocker installed on their browser.

$5,000 a month is nothing to scoff at, but generating that much traffic is a very, very tall task.  So online streaming websites like CBS’s Showtime and the infamous Pirate Bay are doing something else in an attempt to monetize their considerable traffic: mining cryptocurrency on their viewers’ computers.

They’re Mining Cryptocurrency… What Does That Even Mean

 

We’ve written about cryptocurrencies before, but to keep it simple: mining cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum takes considerable amounts of processing power and electricity which is what makes it so hard to “mine” and it gets harder as time goes on.  That’s why people often say it’s a better to just invest into a cryptocurrency rather than mine it yourself if you’re late to the game.

So, these two websites were caught using their viewers’ computers to mine the cryptocurrencies for them, putting the burden onto customer’s (and pirates) computers to avoid racking up their own significant electricity costs and using their own processers.

How They Can Do It

 

If you don’t have an adblocker, it’s pretty simple for them to be able to run a script from your browser that would just mine cryptocurrency in the background.  However, using the viewer’s processing power in the background is also a really easy way to hurt the quality of your product.  The stream isn’t going to buffer and load as quickly, and the quality is very likely to suffer because of that – not to mention that it could overheat computers if they’re not too careful.

It’s easy to see why they would want to find an alternative to advertisements to turn their considerable online traffic into money, but it’s pretty shady to be using the consumers that are ALSO being shown endless advertisements like that.

I’m Not Mad, I’m Just Disappointed

 

The Pirate Bay doing something like this isn’t that surprising, because they are an illegal streaming site.  People aren’t likely to complain to the authorities about something like this because you really shouldn’t be using their service anyway.  They also owned up to it already, and getting ahead of the bad publicity is pretty ironic given who they are.

It is very concerning that Showtime is the other big-name website that just got caught doing it, because not only do customers PAY for Showtime, they are also given small advertisements while on the site.  They’re not double-dipping, they’re TRIPLE-dipping.

That’s like Hulu on steroids (disclaimer – I don’t mind that Hulu charges customers and still gives advertisements because for just $4 more a month you are able to avoid those ads altogether, but that’s beside the point).

It’s… an Interesting Development

 

At the end of the day, this is an intriguing situation to watch unfold.  Pirate Bay said it was a test, basically saying that mining on consumers’ computers could potentially be used as an alternative to advertising altogether – which has been met with mixed reviews. It’s actually a pretty good idea.

If I had a transparent choice between ads and dedicating some of my processing power to them (for a very limited time) I might consider the latter. The biggest question now though, is just how many of these websites are doing this?  Doing something like this is debatable even when completely transparent, but the fact that such large websites didn’t let their customers know (okay, so maybe I’m just talking about Showtime here) is very concerning.


by LaptopMD Posted September 21, 2017 in Knowledge Base, News, Newsletter

The Basics: What is Phishing?

Phishing is just the term for people trying to lure others to give up their secure information through emails.   People hopefully aren’t falling for the Nigerian Prince bit anymore, but it’s a good representation of the basic idea.

Nowadays, people don’t typically ask for you to directly send them money – instead they try to get sensitive information (often CC info, or your login information for your bank/PayPal) or they might just want you to click their link to download malware onto your computer.  In general, it’s all bad and you could lose valuable information and money.  Or your time and patience while you try to get it back.

An Example of Phishing

I’ve attached an email below that we got that isn’t quite as obvious.  It has many errors in it, but they aren’t too noticeable, and on first glance it seems like it might be a legitimate email from PayPal.  I have to respond/handle legitimate emails like this pretty regularly, so it’s not hard to believe that someone could get tricked.  Catch someone before their first cup of coffee and they might just fall for it completely!  Here is the unedited email in question:

As you can see, this email is impersonating PayPal, saying you need to click the link to verify your account because some illegal activity has been going on in your account.  At first glance, this looks fine, like something PayPal might send out.  However, there are several mistakes/signs that this email isn’t correct.

The Errors

There are actually many small errors throughout the email that should tip you off that something is wrong, on top of the fact that the URL the link will take you isn’t PayPal.  Let’s go through them.

  • The logo is wrong.
    • PayPal uses mainly two versions of their logo, one of which looks a lot like this, but it is slightly different. I didn’t notice this at first, so if you didn’t, don’t feel bad.
  • Broken English
    • “…from different country followed by some illegals buys . we think that you’re not who do that, so we have suspended your account.”
      • When you look closely, it becomes pretty obvious that this is written in broken English. Notice that the last bit “so we have suspended your account” is perfect though, so if you just skimmed the email you could totally miss that.
  • “We will give you 1 Day to update your informations or we will suspend your account forever.”
    • More broken English. But suspend my account FOREVER? Okay well Paypal wouldn’t do that… that just doesn’t make sense.  But if you don’t pause to think about it, you could get spurred to action.
  • Lastly, the link doesn’t go to PayPal.
    • You can highlight the link they want you to click and see where it’s going to take you. It’s not Paypal, so wrap it up and call it a day.  The email is fake.  I don’t know if they wanted you to just click the link and it would download malware, or if they wanted you to input your Paypal information so they could get access. It doesn’t matter, don’t click the link.

Why do Phishing emails have errors?  Are they not trying hard enough?

The assumption is that for most scammers, English is not their first language so there’s a greater chance of typos and improper grammar. However, there is speculation that emails like this are typed a little poorly on purpose to get specifically the uneducated/lazy/tired individuals that are less likely to make a big fuss if they give up their information.

This is why we all laugh at the old “Nigerian Prince” scam, but it was/is moderately successful! We all think “who falls for this stuff…” but it’s because they want to get the gullible and uneducated to work with them.  They don’t want everyone to respond to the emails, because that would be a waste of time for them.  They only want people who are likely to actually fall for their tricks – thus poor grammar and spelling are very common. People who will overlook the obvious issues in the email are more likely to just give their information without questioning it.

Now I know everything about Phishing and will never get got by it!

Well, no.  Unfortunately, being cautious is pretty much the best advice we can give you on how to protect yourself, but it’s impossible for us to guarantee that that will keep you completely protected.  However, as long as you are careful, potential hackers/scammers won’t want to waste their time with you.


How To Write A Good Password

by LaptopMD Posted August 10, 2017 in Newsletter, Tips for Devices

15 years later, the leading authority on password advice changes his mind

Earlier this week Bill Burr told the Wall Street Journal that he regretted much of the password advice he gave almost 15 years ago. Who’s Bill Burr? He’s the reason you’re required to come up with a new password every 90 days on some sites. And the one who suggested things like this: p@$$w0rD123!

Turns out, changing your password every 90 days makes passwords less secure. And replacing a=@ o=0 s=$ may not be as clever as you think. See, hackers and hacking algorithms are very aware of this trick and it’s very easy for them to bust these passwords.

So what should we do???

Making a complex (but easy to remember) password

Whenever a customer drops off their computer or phone at one of our stores, we ask for the password. We do this for testing purposes, to ensure device functionality both before and after the repair. However, collecting passwords from tens of thousands of different people has led me to notice something.

Almost everyone uses a weak password.

It’s understandable. Complex passwords are hard to remember and who has enough energy to commit a random number/letter combination to memory? Instead, almost every password I see is some version of a word, often with a number or two, and maybe an exclamation mark. Bunny21 or Timothy1986! – something like that. These passwords are fairly simple and easy to crack and we all know that.

We also know what a complex password looks like. It’s something like sO#tO32bEgO or LiTi7An&Be. These passwords avoid full words and look like keyboard gibberish so the common perception is they are difficult to memorize. But they don’t have to be.

Here’s the trick. Start with a phrase that means something to you. Now choose a number (one or multiple digits) and your favorite special character. Something like below:

Soon to be Gone – 32 – #

or

Lions Tigers and Bears – 7 – &

Now, take the first two letters from each word and combine them to make a single 8 character “word”. Then put the number and the special character in-between any of the two letter segments. So…

Soon to be Gone becomes sotobego and then so#to32bego

Lions Tigers and Bears becomes litianbe and then liti7an&be

Lastly, capitalize one letter from every two-letter segment. You can choose to capitalize either the first or last letter each time, or make it a bit more random which letters you capitalize. In my case, I chose to capitalize the second letter each time for the first password, and the first letter each time in the second password. The end result is:

sO#tO32bEgO and LiTi7An&Be

Both of these seem entirely random but are actually fairly easy to remember since they are based on a phrase with personal meaning. It can be a bit tricky to type at first, but you’ll remember this password more easily than you’d expect since you’ll remember how you created it. And you’ll also be surprised how quickly your fingers will develop muscle memory and learn to type the new password.

Another method

If you can use a longer password, another common technique is to create a phrase password. Something like:

Agavehorsecloudpooltoasterdrive

As it turns out, creating a long password adds hacking difficulty even if it’s made up of common English words (which typically makes a password less secure). Because the password is adequately long and the hackers can’t predict the length of any individual word, it’s pretty hard to crack.

The key is just to not use a phrase that means anything to you this time. Nothing from literature especially. Try this method to create your password using only a dice and a cheat sheet. The random roll of a dice will make your password nearly impenetrable!

Give it a try. Did this method work for you? We’d love to hear your feedback!