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Don’t root that phone!

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Although rooting or jailbreaking smartphones gives a user more control, ALEX MANEA, Director of BlackBerry Security warns that doing so can also leave the device open to additional security and privacy issues.

One of the most controversial topics when it comes to mobile devices is the idea of rooting and jailbreaking. Although rooting and jailbreaking are technically different processes on different platforms, the end-goal is the same: to gain higher-level privileges and access to sensitive functionality that isn’t normally available (for simplicity, we’ll use the word “rooting” to refer to both). Let’s look at the pros and cons of rooting and examine how and why we need to protect against it.

Rooting is a technical process driven by practical and philosophical desires. The practical aspect is that rooting lets you install apps that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to use, either because the platform is locked to a single app store (iOS) or because the app requires access to sensitive internal functionality (Android and iOS). Philosophically, some technically-minded people (including most white hat hackers) want the ability to access everything on their smartphones, which is why many Android smartphones come with unlocked bootloaders. But rooting is also complex for most people and can cause issues with system stability, software updates, warranties, and most of all security.

The Root of the Problem

The main advantage of rooting is also its biggest drawback: the fact that it unlocks access to sensitive areas of the device. Rooting is a huge risk to the privacy and security of the platform; a rooted device makes you more susceptible to malware and many enterprises refuse to allow rooted devices on their networks. Some types of malware specifically exploit jailbroken phones, while others attempt to directly root the phone themselves. These apps are extremely dangerous because they can hide from anti-virus programs and become nearly impossible to remove.

Preventing and detecting rooting is one of the most difficult games of cat-and-mouse in all of security. Hackers are constantly looking for new vulnerabilities and many devices are rooted before they’re even released. A well-designed piece of malware with super user permissions

can easily hide itself from a simple root-detection app that’s just looking for flags typically associated with rooting. The most effective way to detect rooting is to use a hardware root of trust to integrate the solution across the hardware, OS and app layers.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Business

The simplest way to protect yourself is to not root your device, but many devices can also rooted without your knowledge, either by malware installed on the device or in some cases even remotely. Whether you’re an individual consumer or an IT administrator tasked with protecting thousands of devices, there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your business:

·         When possible, use devices with built-in rooting protections; look for features like hardware root of trust and integrity detection. If all else fails, Google “how to root/jailbreak <insert device name>”. If you find lots of websites with simple instructions on how to root the latest OS, that’s usually not a good sign.

·         Download apps from trusted sources. Native app stores like Google Play and BlackBerry World have built-in app vetting systems that protect against malicious apps. Third-party app stores are hit-or-miss, with many lacking the resources to implement robust malware detection.

·         Be careful with free apps that request unnecessary sets of permissions. If a flashlight app needs access to your system settings, it’s probably be doing more than enabling the flash on your camera.

·         As an IT administrator, deploy Enterprise Mobility Management solutions that detect and protect against rooted devices. Make sure you’re able to remotely track those devices and quarantine them from your enterprise network.

Mobile Security Tips

Here are some other simple ways to keep your information safe and make sure you don’t become a victim of cybercrime:

·         Use a device password and that’s hard to guess. We often think of “strong” passwords as being long and having lots of strange numbers and symbols, but some smartphones automatically wipe after 10 incorrect attempts, so even a short simple password like “exoq” is often enough. Here’s a simple rule of thumb: if your partner or closest friend can’t guess it in 10 tries, you’re probably pretty safe.

·         If you use your smartphone for work, use “containers” or other partitioning technologies to separate work and personal content. This keeps your personal data private and lets you download apps and play games. Meanwhile, your company knows that the apps that you download can’t access their corporate data or network, which protects them as well.

·         When you’re on an insecure network (e.g. public Wi-Fi at Starbucks), make sure the data that you send and receive is encrypted. You can do this by looking for the lock icon on your browser or “https://” at the start of the URL and by using secure email services like Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook.com.

·         Be careful when you let someone else use your phone. An experienced hacker can install spyware in a matter of seconds and start tracking all of your emails, texts and even phone calls. Try to keep an eye on the screen and never let the phone out of your sight.

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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