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Fixing your phone: here is the hidden risk

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A mobile phone is a very private device and when we take it in for repair we have no idea what happens to our personal information. ASHARAF ROGERS, Technical Manager at weFix, gives some tips to make sure our private data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

Nearly one in five South Africans don’t have a password on their smartphone. With almost 9 million South Africans reportedly victims of cyber crime in the last year, according to a 2016 study by internet security company Norton, the need for heightened security measures for tech devices becomes abundantly clear.

As the consumer’s desire for convenience continues to grow, devices such as mobile phones become increasingly indispensable. Most people can barely recall a time when the functioning of a mobile phone was limited to making and receiving calls and text messages. Today, mobile phones are our bank teller, our PA, our work and personal email accounts and our family photo album. As a result, they are also our entire life laid open to unscrupulous individuals looking to steal our identity or commit fraud.

One of the most common ways that people render themselves vulnerable to such crime is when taking their mobile device in for repair. While you might think that the phone’s lock screen pin is secure enough to be in the repair shop for a few days, there are in fact data recovery applications that can be used to extract your phone data even when the screen is locked.

Asharaf Rogers, Technical Manager at weFix explains, “Mobile phones, as with most tech devices nowadays, are incredibly private in terms of the volume of personal information they contain. In fact what most people fail to remember is that regardless of how new their mobile phone is, the information stored in their smartphone is way more valuable than the actual device.”

Rogers warns that customers need to be very careful about who they hand their phone to for repair. Many new repair kiosks are popping up in South Africa and customers need to ensure that the technician is both adequately qualified to do necessary repairs and also trustworthy in terms of the data they can access on the device. Rogers suggests these four key steps to consider before handing a phone over:

·       Are you using a reputable technician? An expert will be certified, will fully understand ESD safety requirements and know how to handle dangerous situations such as a swollen or exploding battery. On the other hand, use someone without the requisite skills and you run the risk of a completely different problem appearing on the device, as well as misaligned screens or frames, or a device that was working before (think cracked screen but still functioning) that is now completely unusable.

·       Even though a surprising 30% of people have never backed up (according to Cloudwards), ensure you back up your device to iCloud, Google Sync or to a harddrive. This not only minimizes the risk of complete data loss as a result of an unsuccessful repair or intermittent problem on the device, but it means your private and prized data – including family photos – can be removed from the device for the duration of the repair and then uploaded once you have your device back.

·       Research conducted by Protect Your Bubble shows that 57% of men are responsible for dropping their smartphones down a toilet! A device going in for a camera or battery repair could get substantially worse if information, such as liquid damage, is withheld. So ensure you give accurate and true details to the technician about what’s happened to the device to avoid the exact faults or worse, returning after the repair.

·       Be prepared to surrender your passcode. If needed, you might have to turn off security features to ensure comprehensive diagnosis or repair of your device. This allows a technician to test all functions before and after repair. For example, disabling ‘find your phone’ assists in accurate testing so be comfortable with the technician with whom you’re leaving it.

67% of South Africans surveyed by Norton said they felt it was easier to control personal information before smartphones and the internet. Now more than ever, trust is everything when it comes to getting devices repaired so take the necessary precautions before giving your phone to anyone and avoid becoming a victim of crime.

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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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