Some Third Party iPhone Repairs Being Bricked By Apple Update

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 5, 2016 by itnerd

Let’s say you break your iPhone. You have two choices. You can take it to Apple to get it fixed. But that could cost you a fair amount of money. Or you do what most people do which is to use a third party service to fix their iDevice. That’s great. But now it seems that some people who fall into the latter category have a problem. A recent software update from Apple is bricking, or making their device non-functional:

Relatively few people outside the tech world are aware of the so-called “error 53” problem, but if it happens to you you’ll know about it. And according to one specialist journalist, it “will kill your iPhone”.

The issue appears to affect handsets where the home button, which has touch ID fingerprint recognition built-in, has been repaired by a “non-official” company or individual. It has also reportedly affected customers whose phone has been damaged but who have been able to carry on using it without the need for a repair.

But the problem only comes to light when the latest version of Apple’s iPhone software, iOS 9, is installed. Indeed, the phone may have been working perfectly for weeks or months since a repair or being damaged.

After installation a growing number of people have watched in horror as their phone, which may well have cost them £500-plus, is rendered useless. Any photos or other data held on the handset is lost – and irretrievable.

Tech experts claim Apple knows all about the problem but has done nothing to warn users that their phone will be “bricked” (ie, rendered as technologically useful as a brick) if they install the iOS upgrade.

Lovely. Here’s what Apple had to say:

A spokeswoman for Apple told Money (get ready for a jargon overload): “We protect fingerprint data using a secure enclave, which is uniquely paired to the touch ID sensor. When iPhone is serviced by an authorised Apple service provider or Apple retail store for changes that affect the touch ID sensor, the pairing is re-validated. This check ensures the device and the iOS features related to touch ID remain secure. Without this unique pairing, a malicious touch ID sensor could be substituted, thereby gaining access to the secure enclave. When iOS detects that the pairing fails, touch ID, including Apple Pay, is disabled so the device remains secure.”

She adds: “When an iPhone is serviced by an unauthorised repair provider, faulty screens or other invalid components that affect the touch ID sensor could cause the check to fail if the pairing cannot be validated. With a subsequent update or restore, additional security checks result in an ‘error 53’ being displayed … If a customer encounters an unrecoverable error 53, we recommend contacting Apple support.”

One thing that really makes me suspicious about this whole thing is the fact that as of the last day or two, Apple will now allow you to upgrade your broken iPhone in their stores. That seems like too much of a coincidence to me. But I am the cynical type.

Samsung Ad Blocker Pulled From Play Store

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 4, 2016 by itnerd

You might remember that I spoke about Samsung putting ad blocking technology the latest updates to their Android OS devices. At the time, I said this:

The big loser out of this? Google. They make a ton of cash off of ads. And though they make the Android OS, Samsung is basically the top Android vendor. So this has the potential to hurt Google.

It seems that Google has now struck back. Google has yanked an app called Ablock Fast which was made by Samsung from the Play Store. Now ad blockers get yanked all the time because of Google’s reliance of ad money. But yanking one from the company who has done more for the Android platform than any other Android OEM is pretty ballsy. I’m not going to be shocked is Samsung decides to retaliate.

Welcome Lights, AWD In Snow And Other Oddities Of Life

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 3, 2016 by itnerd

The only issue, if you want to call it that, that my wife and I have had with the 2016 Hyundai Tucson Limited were non functioning “welcome lights.” These are are LEDs in the door handles that come on when you approach the vehicle when you have the key fob in your possession. It seems that Hyundai forgot to enable this feature for Tucsons made up to roughly September 2016. There’s a very lengthy discussion about this topic on a third party forum called the Hyundai Forms and apparently Hyundai had a fix for it that is rolling out to US customers as I type this. The fix involves installing a wiring harness in the vehicle which allows the lights to work. But this fix was not available to Canadians until very recently. Within the last two weeks, Hyundai Canada has started rolling out the fix to Canadian customers. That might have something to do with the fact that Canadians were not happy that Americans got the fix way faster than they did.

In our case, we got the fix today after receiving a couple of calls from Hyundai Canada and our local dealer. The first one was to say that the parts were on order and our dealer would call us. The second call was from the dealer to make the appointment to get parts installed. I must admit that they were very flexible in terms of setting up the appointment which is handy as my schedule is highly fluid. The interesting thing was that while I was checking in with the service department at my Hyundai dealer, the service advisor asked a colleague “Does Hyundai want us to code this as campaign or should it be coded in a different way?” Then they remembered that I was in the room and hurriedly checked me in and directed me to the lounge so that I could set up and use their WiFi to work. I’m guessing that I wasn’t supposed to hear that. It makes me wonder if Hyundai is trying to deal with this quietly. I suppose that I’ll never find out the answer to that. The installation of the parts needed to fix this issue was supposed to take about two hours. They were done in just over one.

I’ve created a video to show the “welcome lights” in action. Look closely inside the door handle as I walk up to the Tucson:

Now, you’re likely wondering why my wife and I made such an effort to get this issue resolved. Simple. First, we paid for the feature, thus we should get it. Second, it’s a small touch that adds to the luxury feel of the Tucson. I am glad this is over.

One other thing that I’d like to update is the performance of the AWD system in snow. When I last updated you, I spoke about how the AWD system worked and the fact that we were going to swap the stock tires out for Nokia WRG3. But my wife and I made the decision to tough out the winter with the stock tires. That makes things interesting in slippery conditions. For example, when we were returning from a day trip to Arrowhead Provincial Park to skate on their skating trail, we took an on-ramp that was snow covered at 30 KM/h. The Tucson started to slide a bit sideways, but then it snapped back to its intended path without needing me to do anything. We were impressed. To further experiment with this, I went out after a snow storm and experimented with what the AWD and the other electronic overseers would do. I found that they acted very quickly to keep me shiny side up every time they interviewed. A good set of winter tires and the Tucson is going to be a great winter vehicle.

We’ve had no issues with the Tucson which is a very good thing. I’ll be back soon after our next oil change which should be within the next 30 to 45 days with another update. Stay tuned!

iOS Application Security From No Starch Press Now Available

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 3, 2016 by itnerd

More than half a billion people trust iOS apps with their personal information every day, but security flaws in some applications have allowed for the exposure of sensitive data, circumvention of authentication mechanics, and abuse of user privacy.

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A new book from No Starch Press, iOS Application Security ($49.95, 296 pp., Feb. 2016), aims to address these issues by educating developers and security specialists about the common ways iOS applications sometimes fail to protect users and how to identify, fix, and avoid security flaws.

iOS Application Security teaches developers how to build secure applications from the ground up by covering the structure and limitations of the iOS security model, the ways local storage mechanisms can leak sensitive information, and how to successfully encrypt data with the Keychain, the Data Protection API, and CommonCrypto. Following a primer on Objective-C and various mobile security threats, readers learn how to avoid programming flaws and implement protective measures as well as how to use white-box and black-box security testing methods to test their own applications and analyze for vulnerabilities. They’ll also learn how to build a test platform and debug their applications using lldb, Instruments, Hopper, and other third-party analysis tools.

No developer wants their app’s security flaw or information leak to become an embarrassing headline. iOS Application Security is an invaluable resource for those looking to build secure apps or to expose security threats before they become a problem.

iOS Application Security is available now online and in fine bookstores everywhere.

Samsung Adds Adblocker Support To Their Phones

Posted in Commentary on February 2, 2016 by itnerd

If you have a Samsung phone that runs Android 5.0 and you just got an OTA update in the last few days, you have a new feature added to your phone. Adblocker support. Samsung’s internet browser now supports third-party ad-blockers. This basically makes phones such as the Galaxy S6 on the same level as iOS devices which have had these capabilities for some time. The big loser out of this? Google. They make a ton of cash off of ads. And though they make the Android OS, Samsung is basically the top Android vendor. So this has the potential to hurt Google.

See the details here via the BBC.

Fitness Tracking Apps Overestimate Activity

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 2, 2016 by itnerd

I have to admit that when I’m out on my bike, cross country skiing, or hiking, I’m likely using a fitness app to track how far and how fast I go. I may rethink that seeing as a study by the University of Toronto shows these fitness apps may not be nearly as accurate as I thought. Here’s what the Toronto Star had to say:

The pedometer applications were measured against a Yamax SW-200 pedometer (which sells for about $33 on Amazon.) In three of the four tests, they fared worse than the pedometer and were off by a significant margin: plus or minus 5 per cent.

In the most basic of the tests, the researchers asked people to walk 20 steps at a normal pace. Moves underestimated the number of steps by about 30 per cent, Accupedo by roughly 25 per cent. Runtastic over-reported the steps by more than 10 per cent. The pedometer was almost spot-on.

The only test where one of the apps bested the pedometer was in the 40-step stair climb, where Runtastic registered a negative 3.41 per cent to the pedometer’s plus 10 per cent.

In a free-living trial, in which participants were told to live as usual while running the apps and wearing the pedometer for at least 10 hours per day for three days, the applications were significantly wrong again.

“Overall, the applications were neither valid nor consistent in the sample population under both controlled lab test and free-living conditions,” the authors say.

While this is a wee bit disconcerting, I want to see how the makers of these apps respond to this study. Perhaps they’ll up their game to make them more accurate. Hopefully they won’t dismiss this study out of hand as that does nobody any good.

BlackBerry To Ditch BB10 OS?

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 2, 2016 by itnerd

BlackBerry fans, I have some terrible news for you. BlackBerry senior director Damian Tay has a word with India’s Economic Times and he had something to say that might cause you to break out into tears:

“The PRIV device is essentially our transition to Android ecosystem. As we secure Android, over a period of time, we would not have two platforms, and may have only Android as a platform [for smartphones],” Damian Tay, senior director, APAC product management at BlackBerry, told ET. “But for now, we have BB10 and Android platforms for our smartphones.”

In other words, BB10’s days may be numbered. Now he’s not the first to say this as his boss John Chen has dropped hints along this line for some time now. But dumping BB10 is a risk as it could really tick off die-hard fans, governments, banks, and other places where BlackBerry products are still used. But on the other hand, they may have nothing to lose as BlackBerry only makes up less than 1% of the global smartphone market. Thus they may feel that now is the time to make a bold move in hopes of hitting a home run.

Good luck with that.

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