Friday, 28 September 2012

Patent Wars: Guess Who’s joining the Party

Make room Samsung and Apple, HTC and Nokia have decided to join the patent war bandwagon. This time around it’s Nokia that’s trying to hold HTC by its ears for creating a phone that looks like a close relative of their Lumia 920. This is problematic since the phone hasn’t even hit the market yet, it can’t have other phones that look exactly the same walking around the market. HTC’s new phone wouldn’t have been such a problem, except that it runs on the Windows 8 platform, as does the Lumia 920 – what consumers see basically is a yellow phone on the outside, and the same interface on the inside.

That’s not to say that both the phones are the same, obviously the HTC phone can’t match the supposed prowess of the camera that’s the Lumia 920 comes embellished with – the trouble is that some consumers follow the “if it walks like a duck and talk like a duck…” philosophy while shopping for phones, which was the main reason that patent wards sprung up to begin. The sad part is that this would be the first Windows 8 Phone from the HTC franchise, leaving some wondering why they couldn’t come up with something a little more innovative in terms of its design. Not only that, the phone has nothing of the HTC taste that users are used to. HTC, like any other manufacturer, has its own design philosophy and the new Windows 8 Phone is nothing but the oddball out in the crowd.

The current situation is made worse by the fact that Nokia is actually supporting certain apps on the Windows 8 platform i.e. maps and the Nokia Drive – making the identity crisis between the two phones all the more messed up. Could consumers actually get confused between two phones? Do people really buy a phone without doing proper research? I mean I personally go through painstaking details of the phone that I’m putting my money into so the idea that I’ll buy an HTC instead of Lumia 920 by mistake seems ludicrous… but evidently both Apple and now Nokia think it’s a big enough deal.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Are You Easy to Spy On?

As a security analyst a lot of my work has revolved around finding the perfect tools and gadgets that people use  to an eye on someone or something that they have a vested interest in. There are no two ways about it, if you’ve got a smart phone and a computer system (be it a desktop or a laptop) you can both spy on people, and be spied on. We continuously place ourselves  on an invisible grid leaving behind a trail of breadcrumbs for a multitude of people who might want to track us, hack us and steal our data. The answer to whether your easy to spy on is quite simple to answer. Take your cell phone for instance. What are you putting on it? Your apps are important, oh so very important – it takes one malicious app to infiltrate your data and potentially steal all the data that other apps are collecting. Are you thorough in your research before you actually download an app? Do you double check the permissions that you’re handing over once you’re decided on the app that you want in your phone? Just the apps in your phone can cause chaos which you haven’t even dreamed of, and that’s something you voluntarily partake in. Coincidently, you don’t need a hacker to make your life miserable. You could simply leave your phone lying around unprotected and a slew of people which includes your own close friends, parents, significant others and even your employers could place a stealth app into your device. If you don’t have a proper security protocol in place for your phone you’re pretty much making sure that you’re going to get yourself spied on.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

What Good is the Do-Not-Track Button?

Essentially there already exist measures within your popular browsers that can help you surf the internet free of cookie hassle (by cookie hassle I mean the stuff that helps websites track your online presence and movement). So why is this button gaining so much traction? Some people have gone as far as to say that the button is just an idiots way out of getting tracked. Tracking for Dummies, if it were ever written would probably have a chapter on this button. But there’s a catch – the button isn’t the ultimate solution to the tracking problem. In fact a site that wants to track you will do it anyway regardless of how icky  you feel about it. Cookies can be used to trace out even the tiniest details about the things you like – see that Victoria’s Secret advert following you around? Guess how it knows you like lingerie…. Yup, your cookies are doing all the kissing and telling for you. At the end of the day all this hoopla about how the button is going to be a revolution seems like a big joke. The button can only forward a request for the user to not be tracked, this is no way implies that the website is going to turn around and say “Yes, sir!” and back off. It just means that a formal request was sent forward, that’s it. So what should one really do to stay safe online? Opt for encryption and encrypted sessions on the internet. Don’t save your data in your WebPages i.e. get rid of auto fills and other such conveniences that save you a few seconds online and potentially help unwanted people access your data, and in general just be smart about your online presence.