A Geek With Guns

Views from a geek gun nut

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

iOS 5 Supports S/MIME Encrypted Email

Here is an interesting iOS 5 feature that Apple doesn’t seem to be advertising very much (since most people probably don’t care), the ability to use S/MIME to sign and/or encrypt e-mails sent from you iOS device. This is actually a pretty killer feature for me as I like to sign e-mails I send (of course I used a self-signed certificate so it shows up as invalid unless I send my public key to recipients).

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Written by Christopher Burg

June 15, 2011 at 11:00 am

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iOS 5 Beta

So I loaded iOS 5 Beta 1 onto my iPod Touch and took a look around. I haven’t had much time to fiddle with it but I’ve decided that Apple did a great job of ripping off Android’s notification system and that’s a good thing. With that said Apple did add two things that I greatly appreciate; widgets on the notification pull-down and the ability to make notifications appear on the lock screen.

I’m not sure if Apple is going to allow third parties to write widgets for the pull-down menu but they have included one for stocks and another for weather. When you pull down the notification page the weather widget will give you the current temperature which is nice. Hopefully third parties are allowed to write widgets for the notification page as I could name a few things I’d like to see there.

The other change to the notification system that Apple made was making notifications appear on the lock screen if you want them to. When you turn the phone on any notifications set to appear on the lock screen will be there and swiping across a notification will open the app that sent out the notification. Thus swiping across an e-mail notification will open Mail and take you right to the message you swiped across. Overall I really like the new notification system and feel it makes iOS a far better OS to work with.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 8, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Apple Announcements

Yesterday was Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC). This is generally where Apple announces their new iOS and OS X related stuff and this year I must say they didn’t disappoint. I’ll just link to Engadget’s liveblog coverage as it gives the entire WWDC keynote.

First let me say I’m glad that Apple has finally decided to improve the way notifications are handled in iOS. Instead of those damned popup boxes that interrupt whatever you’re doing Apple is going to use the notification system they ripped off from Android. Basically when a notification comes in a little message will appear at the top of your screen and swiping your finger down from the top of the screen will bring down a full list of notifications. The one improvement Apple has added to Google’s system is the fact notifications will also appear on the lock screen so there is no need to unlock the phone to see what messages you have waiting for you. Overall I think this will fix the primary usability complain I’ve had with iOS for ages now.

Apple also announced iCloud, their new revision of .mac MobileMe. First Apple has finally done away with the stupid annual $99.00 fee which means I will actually try and possibly use this service (I could never justify spending money on something Google offered for free). iCloud also looks to expand greatly on MobileMe’s feature set by adding the ability for your iOS apps to store data on Apple’s servers allowing for back ups and syncing.

Speaking of things that no longer require tethering to iTunes for, Apple has also finally started work on freeing iOS devices from iTunes. Starting with iOS 5 devices will be able to sync and backup via WiFi instead of requiring you to physically plug your device into a computer running iTunes. I’m a huge fan of this as it may allow me to backup my device via WiFi remotely by using a VPN connection. Currently if you’re away from the system you use to backup your iOS device you’re kind of fucked should you need to do a backup and restore. It seems Apple is taking the best features from their competitors and integrating them into iOS and honestly it’s about damned time some of the features were added.

The last announcement that really got my attention was OS X Lion (10.7). Lion is being released next month via the Mac App Store (I’m assuming disk versions will be available as well) for $29.99 for the standard client version and $49.99 for the server version. This is big news as the server version previously costs a fuck ton of money (about ten times what Apple is now asking) and now will be affordable to most people. With a price like that I will actually upgrade my little Mac Mini server instead of letting it sit at 10.6 for the entirety of its life.

Overall I’m actually exciting about the announcements at this year’s WWDC and look forward to the release of iOS 5 and OS X Lion.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 7, 2011 at 10:30 am

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iPhone Encryption “Cracked”

One of the features I really like about the iPhone that Android appears to lack is the ability to encrypt the data on the device. Well news has been floating around that a company has found a means of cracking the iPhone’s encryption but from everything I’ve read it appears as through they are just brute forcing the password of the backups.

From the feature list it seems the program attempts to brute force the encrypted iPhone backups on your computer using the Graphics Processor Unit (GPU) to speed up the process. What I find funny is one of the listed features is “Decrypt iPhone/IPad/iPod backup (with known password).” Oh look at that if the application knows the password to decrypt the backup is can… decrypt the backup. No fucking shit. You know how I decrypt encrypted information? By using my password.

Two solutions exist to prevent this application from working on your phone; use a strong pass phrase to encrypt your backup and encrypt the hard drive of your computer for additional security. I’m not sure if the software is able to brute force the passkey on the phone but as my phone wipes all it’s data after 10 failed attempts to unlock it I feel as through I don’t have to worry about this particular problem.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 26, 2011 at 11:30 am

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Spammers Utilizing Their Own URL Shortening Services

I’ve explained my hatred for URL shortening services in the past and it seems that hatred continues to be justified. I feel that URL shortening services are a security threat as they prevent a user from knowing where a link will actually take them. This is why I have a policy on this website to delete any and all comments that continue a link to a URL shortening service. Well it appears as through spammers are now using their own shortening services:

Under this scheme, shortened links created on these fake URL-shortening sites are not included directly in spam messages. Instead, the spam emails contain shortened URLs created on legitimate URL-shortening sites.

These shortened URLs lead to a shortened-URL on the spammer’s fake URL-shortening Web site, which in turn redirects to the spammer’s own Web site.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. The obvious danger here is a link that appears legitimate (a known URL shortening service link) could redirect you to a spammer controlled shortening service link which could redirect you to a site that attempts to compromise your computer.

Before anybody brings this up I do realize that my Twitter feed uses a URL shortening service. I can’t do anything about that and if you don’t like it then subscribe to the RSS feed instead like normal people.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 25, 2011 at 12:00 pm

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E-Books Outsell Their Dead Tree Counterparts

You know what I haven’t done in a while? I haven’t proclaims my fanboy-like love for the Kindle in a while. Let me change that by pointing out the fact that Amazon just announced that Kindle books have outsold traditional books on their website. As Amazon is one of the largest booksellers in the world this is pretty big news.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 20, 2011 at 11:30 am

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Hacking the United State’s Government Could Get You Bombed

Here is another example of a completely reasonable reaction by the United States government. In their recently released International Strategy for Cyberspace [PDF] the United States made a few statement one of which was a threat to bomb the shit out of anybody who hacks their computers:

States have an inherent right to self-defense that may be triggered by certain aggressive acts in cyberspace,” says the policy. Indeed, such aggressive acts might compel a country like the US to act even when the hacking is targeted at an allied country.

Certain hostile acts conducted through cyberspace could compel actions under the commitments we have with our military treaty partners,” says the document. “When warranted, the United States will respond to hostile acts in cyberspace as we would any other threat to our country.”

Personally I feel that may be a bit of an overreaction, especially threatening to bomb countries that hack into computers owned by allied countries. I certainly feel this is an overreaction as the paper says the United States will take these actions “when warranted” which translates roughly into “if you country has any natural resources we desire.” Yeah I’m cynical.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 19, 2011 at 11:00 am

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