A Small Victory For Common Sense! People don't want Facebook cameras in their homes.

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For some reason, it always makes me smile a little to be able to write something disparaging about Facebook. Today is no exception, as it turns out the idea of a Facebook manufactured camera in peoples' homes doesn't seem to be very popular after all.

Fast Company has reported that, according to sources at companies which supply parts for Portal cameras, only a "very low" number of the devices are shipping. And thank the heavens for that!

Of course Facebook is constantly wrapped up in one privacy scandal after another, but should that really stop consumers from paying out their hard-earned money to purchase a Facebook camera that also listens in on conversations?? Hmmm.

Facebook initially launched two versions of the Portal, a creepy... I mean dedicated device for video calls, in 2018 for $199 and $349. Updated versions of the device, and a TV-mounted camera, are now available for the blissfully ignorant, from $129 to $179.

Curiously enough, Facebook has declined to disclosed specific sales numbers for its line of camera-enabled, privacy invading, eaves-dropping smart devices for the not so smart. However, Andrew Bosworth, vice president of AR and VR at Facebook, has asserted that sales are "very good."

A good question to ask, though, is what precisely does "very low" mean? Fast Company cites Rakuten, which monitors online sales, as putting the number at approximately "0.6% of units sold in the overall smart-speaker category."

Despite Bosworth's refusal to provide honest answers about sales, the human data trafficking... I mean social network company pushed ahead and unveil an entire second generation of the cameras.

Maybe Bosworth and his people misconstrued the demand after spending a lot time reading positive Portal reviews on Amazon written by people that, coincidentally, have the same names as Facebook employees. Of course, that's just pure speculation.

I'm pretty sure, though, that Facebook will push on ahead to realize its vision of a Facebook-controlled camera in every home, and the subsequent potential privacy disasters that go along with that.

Unfortunately for Facebook that its human products, aka "customer" base appears to feel otherwise.

A Fake iOS jailbreak is putting iPhone users at risk

image credit;  gadgethacks.com

image credit; gadgethacks.com

As Michelle and Nathan and I have discussed previously, there is a vulnerability that exists on older iOS hardware that can be used to jailbreak those devices. However, Cisco Talos has recently discovered that cybercriminals have set up a fake website aiming to take advantage of users wanting to jailbreak their iPhones.

Instead of jailbreaking a user's device, the site actually just prompts users to download a malicious profile that the attackers then use for click fraud.

Checkm8 is a bootrom vulnerability that impacts all older models of the iPhone from the 4S through the X. The campaign discovered by Cisco Talos attempts to capitalize on a project called checkrain which uses the checkm8 vulnerability to modify an iPhone's bootrom and load a jailbroken image onto the device.

The attackers being tracked by Cisco Talos run a malicious website called checkrain.com that preys on users searching for the legitimate checkrain project.

The fake checkrain site attempts to appear to be legitimate by claiming to work with popular jailbreaking researchers such as “CoolStar” and Google Project Zero's Ian Beer. The page prompts users to download an application to jailbreak their phone but there actually is no application, as the attackers are trying to install a malicious profile onto the end-user device.

When a user first visits the fake website, they are presented with a download button. Cisco Talos noticed several things about the site, including the mention of A13 devices which aren't vulnerable to Checkm8, which indicate that the website is not legitimate.

The website further claims that users can install the checkrain jailbreak without using a PC, however the real Checkm8 exploit requires that the iOS device be in DFU mode and is exploitable using an Apple USB cable. Another clue was the fact that the fake checkrain site uses an SSL certificate from LetsEncrypt while the actual site doesn't even have an SSL certificate.

Once the download button is clicked, an app with a checkrain icon is downloaded and installed onto a user's iPhone. But while the icon may appear like a regular app, it is actually a bookmark to connect to a URL.

Instead of providing users with an authentic jailbreak, the attackers are instead using the effected devices to commit click fraud.

As tempting as a jailbroken device may seem, for whatever reason or another, by trying to exploit the Checkm8 vulnerability, you could be opening your device and your data to hackers.

My recommendation is, if you're not sure what it is you should be looking for, leave it along and let your device run as intended.

Windows 7 Pro Users Get End Of Support Notifications

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Microsoft has begun pushing notifications to Windows 7 Home users that support for the operating system was about to run out. Starting this week, the notifications will also be shown to users running devices with Windows 7 Pro.

Microsoft won't release any updates for Windows 7 Home after the January 2020 Patch Day, Enterprise and business customers have the option to extend the end of support by up to three years by paying Microsoft for extended support.

Business and Enterprise customers may pay $50, $100 and $200 US Dollars respectively per user per year, half the price for Pro editions but not per user but per device. It's worth mentioning that the fees will double each year.

The end of support notifications are pushed to the user by an update: KB4493132, Windows 7 SP1 support notification, enables the notifications on devices running Windows 7.

The update will be downloaded and installed automatically on devices with Windows Update enabled.

It displays a window on the screen that users need to interact with that states:

"After 10 years, support for Windows 7 is nearing the end.

January 14, 2020 is the last day Microsoft will offer security updates and technical support for computers running Windows 7. We know change can be difficult, that's why we're reaching out early to help you back up your files and prepare for what's next."

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The notification has a big "learn more" prompt that brings users to this page on the Microsoft website. As if it were a big surprise, the page advertises the company's Windows 10 operating system and And Windows 10 devices, including new Surface devices and devices made by third-party manufacturers such as Samsung, Acer, or Lenovo.

Windows 7 users have the option to check the "do not remind me again" box to avoid being notified multiple times about the impending support end.

Microsoft has promised that it won't bombard customers with notifications and the checkbox to block future notifications ensures that customer's can block future notifications using it.

Not to mention there is, of course, the option to block the end of support update entirely to block it from entering the PC to begin with. There is a guide to remove it and block it if it has already been installed on the machine.

Wrongfully Locked Out, Yet Another Reason To Permanently #DeleteFacebook

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Interestingly enough, #deletefacebook was the number two trend on Twitter over the past week. Many of those tweets give some excellent and compelling reasons to finally abandon the data stealing, manipulative, privacy selling social media monstrosity known as Facebook.

Maybe some of those reasons aren't compelling enough for you, well there's something else going on with the platform that may make you look a little more critically at it.

Let's say, hypothetically, that If you just received a rather suspicious Facebook message from a relative you know full well to be dead looking to tell you about a great new financial opportunity. More than likely, you’d report the fraudulent account to Facebook.

And that’s exactly what many Facebook users have said they did right before the company locked them out for for doing so.

#FacebookLockout is gaining ground on Twitter with users who are finding themselves locked out of their Facebook account for doing the right thing and reporting scammers and imposter accounts on the platform.

Affected users have tried to reach Facebook through contact forms for assistance, but their calls for help have, of course, been ignored. Or Facebook would demand something like a photo ID, to which a user might comply, but still find themselves locked out of their account even though they abided by Facebook's own terms.

So perhaps it may be time to finally take a critical look at how the platform operates and decide for ourselves whether or not the shady service is worth continuing.

“Made By Google”; An Underwhelming Product Launch Event

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This morning in New York City, at 10:00AM ET, the folks at Google went live with their anticipated “Made By Google” Pixel 4 Launch Event.  

If I were to sum up the event in a word, that word would have to be “Underwhelming”.

At one point during the presentation, I had to look over at my wife for confirmation that they were actually talking about a new product.  

The sequence of events we saw this morning were;

Rick Osterloh, head of Google’s Device and services, took the stage to kick off the event with a couple of key takeaways. Google Stadia, Googles game streaming service will launch on 19 November.  The cool thing about the Stadia is, if I understand it correctly, is supposed to be a library of games, complete with a controller, that will be available on multiple devices.  Stadia is available now. 

Mr. Osterloh went on to introduce the world to the Google Pixel Buds.  These are Google’s competitors to the Apple AirPods and Microsoft Surface Earbuds.  For me anyway, this was probably the most interesting launch in the entire presentation.  The key takeaways from the Pixelbuds are the range of Bluetooth capability.  Mr. Osterloh stated that you could potentially leave your phone in a locker while working out in a gym listening to music.  They sport 5 hours of continuous battery life, and 24 hours using the charging case.  They are available for preorder now and will be available Spring of 2020 for $179.00.  That price point is going to be incredibly compelling considering what both Apple and Microsoft are asking for their versions of true wireless earbuds.  

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Mr. Osterloh finished his segment of the presentation with announcing that Google is investing another $150 Million dollars in renewable energy efforts, at which time he relinquished the stage to Ivy Ross, Vice President of Google Hardware Design.  

Ivy Ross opened up her segment talking about how all of Google’s Nest products in 2019 were built with recycled plastics, which segued into Stadia’s controller design and finally mentioning, almost as quickly as she could, the Pixelbook Go. a new Chromebook laptop with a 13.3-inch touchscreen that starts at $649. Google said you can preorder the laptop now in “just black” and soon in a “not pink” color. All I was able to retain from this product announcement was that the Pixelbook Go will come in several new colors, is available now for preorder at $649 dollars, and will be available… soon….I guess. 

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Rishi Chandra, Vice President of Product and General Manager of Google Nest, then took the stage to talk a little about Google Nes, and announced the Nest Mini, which is available for preorder now for $49.00 and will be available October 22nd. 

The Nest Mini is an upgrade to 2017’s Google Home Mini. The Nest Mini looks nearly identical to the Google Home Mini, except it comes with improved speakers and an included wall mount. It’ll come in four colors: black, light gray, coral, and light blue.

Mr. Chandra went on to talk about the affordable rates of Nest Aware.   Beginning early next year, it will introduce whole-home subscriptions.

For a monthly fee, you'll be able to get Nest Aware support for your whole home, whether you have two cameras or ten. Google will offer two plan options: 30 days of event video history for $6 per month, or 60 days of event video history and 10 days of 24/7 video history for $12 per month. The company promises it will be easy to switch over from existing subscriptions.

Sabrina Ellis, Vice President of Product Management, then finally took the stage to talk about the “main event’, the long awaited and often talked about Google Pixel 4.

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The Pixel 4 comes in three new colors: white, black, and a limited-edition orange option. It goes up for preorder today, and it will ship on October 24th. The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL will be sold by every major US carrier. The regular Pixel 4 starts at $799, and the Pixel 4 XL starts at $899.

What was most fascinating to me about the Pixel 4 was the use of no touch gestures, the ability to control your phone and what it’s doing with a series of waves.  To me, that was the most fascinating part of the event.  Almost equally cool was the phone’s voice recorder, which records, transcribes and organizes your recordings in ways we haven’t seen yet on any other device.  

Mark Levoy  from Google Research took the stage to talk about the phones camera, and it’s four key improvements;  Live HDR+, White Balancing in all modes, improvements to Portrait Mode, and Night Sight with Astrophotography.  

The event ended with Annie Leibovitz,  an American portrait photographer, best known for her engaging portraits—particularly of celebrities—which often feature subjects in intimate settings and poses, talking about her experiences and usage of the camera built in to the Pixel 4.  

Again, all in all, it was what I thought to be an underwhelming launch event, perhaps dulled down by the fact that maybe Google is well aware of how many leaks there have been leading up to this launch.  Many are, no doubt, pretty excited for the release of the Pixel 4, and rightfully so, it’s an incredibly solid phone.  Tonight at 8:30PM CT, I’ll be expounding my thoughts and reactions live on YouTube on the Braehawk Tech YouTube Channel. Feel free to view that live stream here;