SoundByte 347 – January 2024


Happy New Year! Welcome to the first SoundByte of 2024! In this security focused issue:

January Meeting

Join LMUG on Monday, January 8 at 7:00pm (GMT), for our January meeting. This month we will discuss photos: cataloguing and editing in a world without the long-gone Apple Aperture. We will start as usual with NewsByte; then reviewing our Christmas presents; wish lists/resolutions for 2024 and our Photo Walk photos from last year

Check the email this newsletter came in for the Zoom link. We will also post the link in our Slack General Channel. 

Follow the London Mac User Group on…Mastodon🐘! If you are not familiar with Mastodon, have a look at TidBit’s explainer here.

From February we plan to re-start in-person meetings at a new venue. Join us south of the river at the St James of Bermondsey Pub, in Bermondsey. The pub is just 5 minutes walk from Bermondsey Undergound Station on the Jubilee Line. We will stream the meeting online as usual. 

How secure is your iPhone really?

Apple's Paris Labs

Apple makes a big play about privacy and how secure the iPhone is, but how do they achieve this? Back in November the Independent visited Apple’s security labs in Paris to see how their internal hackers test the iPhone for security flaws ahead of potential attackers. At least that is the aim. One of the key innovations from the lab is the Lockdown Mode is iOS 17. This is intended for high profile or targeted/vulnerable individuals at higher risk of having their phone and data stolen. This feature locks down many of the functions of the phone which reduces the ways malicious actors can break into your phone. It also significantly reduces the functionality of the phone as a consequence. Read more from Apple here.

Why are draconian measures like Lockdown Mode needed? Well it is surprisingly easy to break into your phone if you know how. Do you know how? A large reason is human nature. We are easily sweet-talked into giving up the goods it seems. Watch the below testimony from an infamous expert via the WSJ.

British Library attacked!

British Library via Getty images

The British Library is still suffering from the on-going consequences of a massive cyber-attack last year. The BBC reported that ransom-ware attackers stole employee data. This attack also knocked out their key IT services including email, their website, WiFI in reading rooms and their card payment system in the shop. In December, the British Library reported that data had been released onto the Dark web. The Library posted a link to guidance for those who think they have been impacted by the data breach, you can see it here from the National Cyber Security Council.

What is an info stealer?

Back to the Mac, the illusion of the Mac as an island in calm waters, while cyber crime wars are fought in the open seas around insecure PCs and Windows, has completely gone now. Too many important people are using Macs, to not make it a highly lucrative target for criminals. Resultantly, the threat landscape has changed, and if you have a cup of coffee ready and are ready for some technical buzzwords, you can read about it in this summary from F-secure.

F-Secure, in their article includes appropriate mitigations such as keeping your Mac software up-to-date. They also include this important advice “Caution should be exercised when handling files or instructions to install software, even from what looks like credible origins; Always stop and think: why is this installation guide telling me to install the app this specific way?” – Additionally – if you didn’t ask for it or set it in train yourself – treat it with high suspicion. These are some of the main ways attackers get in.

A more comprehensive guide of mitigations [that your editor needs to adopt too…ED] has been written by our colleagues in the Washington PI Mac user group. Despite being nearly 15-years old, the basics still apply. Finally, pending the wide adoption of Passkeys, we need to ensure we have a good grip on our passwords. This includes changing them if our phones (Settings > Passwords) give us a Security Recommendation about passwords appearing in data leaks or being weak. Tech Radar has gone over the main tools in this article (password managers and biometrics) and note there is a 25% discount on the 1Password manager for members (see Offers for Members below).

Gaps and bridges in Google land

Reports emerged last year of files going missing(!) in Google Drive. If you are affected, Google has issued a help article to help recover your files. In brighter news Apple has announced that it will be supporting the latest GSMA standard for text messaging, RCS. This is the successor to SMS/MMS messages, and it includes many features we’re familiar with in iMessage like thumbs up, emoji’s, high quality photos and stickers. Up-to-now, RCS has only been available on Android phones, which meant SMS texts and iMessages were incompatible if you tried to share a sticker, a send a 🤕 or ☠️ for example. When RCS comes to iPhone, the new features will work but RCS messages from your Android contacts will still appear as green bubbles rather than matching the iMessage blue bubbles. Perhaps these messages staying green is a good warning because RCS unfortunately does not include end-to-end encryption to fully protect you messages. Read more on Capacity Media’s rundown.

Wrapping Word in Pages

If you work professionally on the Mac, you may either need to buy Microsoft Word or find a way to work with it. On the Mac you might naturally prefer to use Apple Pages instead of Word. What then? Have a look at William Gallagher’s video below on how this could work:

The sad scam of colour blind glasses

Some viral videos in the past few years have been those showing reactions to medical wonders. One type has been the emotional surprise of deaf people, hearing something for the first time when their cochlear implant is activated. Another is colour blind men crying when they are gifted special glasses by loved ones, which filter and shift the light, so they can see full colours for the first time. Except, it turns out, no such technology for colour blindness exists. Despite this, it is big business. See what’s going on in the video below (note the link to part 2 in the video description):

Stealing a march on the Vision Pro?

Apple revealed their vision for a VR/AR headset last year (and it’s coming soon in 2024, US-only). So shortly, all our questions will be answered.

But with Apple’s tech revealed, competitors have been able to refocus and release their responses early. We have seen the newly AR focused Metaquest 3 headset at a cheaper price and now Xreal have issued a new version of their Air smart glasses focusing on a key feature of the Vision Pro – multiple large virtual desktops. It’s not quite a Vision Pro, but it might be attractive from some angles… Have a look at this review below:

You can expect to see many more slightly-ugly; jump-ahead-of-Apple’s googles; uncanny-valley spatial-computing; copy-cat competitors like the below to come out in 2024:

How they make computer brAIns

And finally, many of these new technologies are under-pinned by artificial intelligence. Expect to hear more about this from many places and directions in 2024 after the AI break-throughs last year. But AI requires highly specialised and powerful compute power. Apple does this with the Neural Engine in all of their main Apple Silicon chips. How how are these AI chips made? WSJ had as look and you can see what they found in this video below:

Offers for Members

Find below the special offers available to paying members. Access these great discounts from the discounts page in the member’s section of the LMUG website. 

  • AgileBits 1Password 7: 25% Discount
  • Eve Products: 25% Discount
  • EverWeb by RAGE Software: 50% Discount 
  • Opus ][ Complete Collection: 25% Discount
  • Que Publishing Products: 35-45% Discount
  • Take Control Books: 30% Discount on All eBooks
  • Teams ID, a Password Manager for Teams: 33% Discount
  • TechTool Pro: 50% Discount
  • TidBITS Content Network for Apple professionals: Get a free month of tips and articles!