Major Security Hack Means It’s Time to Update or Re-Install WhatsApp

WhatsApp is one of the most ubiquitous and popular instant messenger apps these days, and it’s fair to say that there’s likely hundreds of thousands of people who have it installed on their smartphone and make frequent use of it. Well, no one’s about to tell you should stop doing so if you’re one of them, but it turns out that you may want to update it manually now – or perhaps even better delete and re-install it – due to recent developments that have just now gotten out into the media.

Part of being a good Canadian web hosting provider is giving clients a heads up on such developments, and that describes 4GoodHosting to a tee if we may say so ourselves. Often times these sorts of things aren’t quite ‘newsworthy’ in that sense, but again considering how common WhatsApp is these days we decided to make it our topic for the week.

Right then. So, despite encrypting every conversation and following best security practices, WhatsApp (which is owned by Facebook for those of you who care about those things) it seems has been the victim of a cyber attack.

It recently announced that it found a vulnerability that was allowing shady types to infect WhatsApp users with spyware when they made – or even attempted to make – a call using the app.

No Answer – No Problem

Now most people aren’t ones to take notes of character and number chains, but it would seem this this WhatsApp vulnerability is going by CVE-2019-3568. What makes it especially noteworthy is that it allows attackers to infect the device, and have success doing so even if the user at the other end receiving the call didn’t answer it.

The means by which these nefarious individuals did this was by exploiting a buffer overflow weakness in the app, one that enables them to hack into WhatsApp before doing the same on the device running the app.

When asked about it, the security team at WhatsApp chose to refer to it as an ‘advanced cyber actor’ – a rare but very dangerous type of cyberattack. It is different from other malware attacks that are done with the more standard ‘phishing’ approaches. If it were of a more ordinary version of this type, the phishing nature of it would mean that the individual on the other end would need to answer the call in order for the infection to be complete.

As mentioned, however, attackers can use spyware to exploit the devices – even if the users don’t receive the call.

Right, onto the potential repercussions of any such attack. They can result in cybercriminals gaining access to personal data stored on the phone. Further, it could allow them to modify things or lock the mobile before demanding a ransom from the users.

If you’re reading this and you’ve yet to receive any ransom notes for a unexplainably locked device or any other similar red flag, you’re likely okay but you should go ahead and delete and reinstall WhatsApp. Interestingly enough, I just got a new Android phone the other day and so I was installing WhatsApp quite literally at the same time I was reading this news. So unless you’re in a similar scenario, you should definitely be looking for an available update at the very least (and make sure it’s a very recent one)

These WhatsApp versions were vulnerable to the spyware attack:

  • WhatsApp for Android prior to v2.19.134
  • WhatsApp Business for Android prior to v2.19.44
  • WhatsApp for Windows Phone prior to v2.18.348
  • WhatsApp for iOS prior to v2.19.51
  • WhatsApp Business for iOS prior to v2.19.51
  • WhatsApp for Tizen prior to v2.18.15

Go Get ‘Em

It’s been reported that WhatsApp responded to the attack without delay and said the only became aware of the vulnerability some time earlier this month. Within 10 days of realizing the breach, WhatsApp released a server-side fix to mitigate the attack. It’s understood, however, that many WhatsApp users were already potentially exposed to the attack before the fix was issued.

In addition, WhatsApp is also releasing an update to the mobile app as of today (Monday, May 20th) that should help squash similar cyber attacks for the foreseeable future. Along with the patch they have asked all users to update the app to the latest version while also ensuring their operating system is equally as updated.

Off you go and update your WhatsApp if it’s part of the indispensable array of apps you use on your device day in and out.

5 Ways to Speed Up Your PC Running Windows 10

One of the unfortunate realities for human beings is that as we get older, it’s not as easy for us to perform athletically like we once did. When we’re on the right side of 30 it’s not too challenging to run fast, jump high, and turn on a dime. The 30s are a bit of a transition, and once the 40s arrive it’s pretty clear we’re past our prime. Computers slow down as they age too, but that’s a situation that is remedied a lot more easily.

You can take your OS back to it’s virtual 20s quite straightforwardly if you know what to do. That’ll be the topic of discussion here today, and for the world’s most common OS specifically – Windows 10. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a good Canadian web hosting provider like any other in that we can relate to how it’s frustrating to have to deal with a device – desktop, tablet, smartphone – that’s more putt-putt than vroom-vroom. What we’ve put together here today is 5 ways to speed up your PC running Windows 10, and they’re all fairly easy to implement.

  1. Change your power settings

Those of you using Windows 10’s Power saver plan should be aware that you’re actually slowing down your PC. It reduces your PC’s performance in order to save energy (most desktop PCs will usually have a Power saver plan of some sort). Switching your power plan from Power Saver to High Performance or Balanced will provide you with an instant performance boost.

Here’s how to do it in Windows 10;

  • Launch Control Panel, then select Hardware and Sound > Power Options

You’ll then see two options: Balanced (recommended) and Power Saver. (Certain makes and models will have other plans here as well, including manufacturer-branded ones with some.) Clicking the down arrow will show any additional plans that are options to the High Power setting.

To change your power setting, simply choose the one you want, then leave then the Control Panel. High performance will provide the most oomph, but as you’d expect it uses the most power; Balanced finds a nice medium between power use and better performance; Power saver scales everything back for as much battery life as possible. Desktop users will of course have no reason to choose Power saver. The balanced option is a good choice for Laptop users when unplugged, and then moving to high performance when enjoying a power source.

  1. Disable Programs Running on Startup

Another cause for your Windows 10 PC being slow and sluggish is that you’ve got too many programs running in the background. Often these are programs that most people never use, or only very rarely. Prevent them from launching and running on start-up can free up your PC’s engine quite effectively. Here’s how to get at them:

  • Launch Task Manager / Press Ctrl-Shift-Esc or right-click the lower right corner of your screen and select Task Manager

A different scenario may be that Task Manager launches as a compact app with no tabs, and if so you can then click “More details” at the bottom of the screen. The Task Manager should then be made accessible.

Now click the Startup tab. You’ll be provided with a list of the programs and services that launch when you Windows starts. Each program’s name as well as its publisher will be listed, and it will indicate whether the program or services is enabled to run on start-up. More importantly, you’ll also be shown its ‘start-up impact’ – how much it slows down your OS. Very valuable info here and really lets you be judicious about what stays and what goes.

So to stop a program or service from launching at start-up, you simply right-click it and select ‘Disable’. This doesn’t disable the program entirely, rather it only will prevent it from launching at start-up. You’re still able to manually run the application after launch anytime you like. Further, you can follow the same steps and reenable it any time you like.

  1. Shut Down Windows Tips and Tricks

While you’re using your Windows 10 PC normally, Windows tracks what you’re doing and offers tips about steps you might want to take with the operating system based on your usage patterns. Most people don’t find these tips helpful, and research has indicated that the vast majority of users ignore them. So it’s pretty safe to say they’re likely not going to be helpful for you either.

Fortunately, you can tell Windows to stop giving you advice. Here’s how:

  • Click Start button / Select the Settings icon / Go to System > Notifications & Actions / Scroll down to the Notifications section and turn off ‘Get tips, tricks, and suggestions as you use Windows’

Simple as that, and more resources dedicated to where you want them to be.

  1. Stop OneDrive from Synching

Microsoft’s cloud-based OneDrive file storage is built into Windows 10, and it serves to keep files synched and up-to-date on all of your PCs. It’s also a useful backup tool that will keep files intact if your PC or its hard disk fails. You’ll still have to restore those files, but you can know they’ll be there. If that’s not something that’s a priority for you, then you likely can really speed up your OS by turning off this function. You’ll want to be certain of that before you disable it, and this is how you can do that:

  • Right-click the OneDrive icon in the notification area on the right side of the taskbar / Choose ‘pause syncing’ from the popup screen that appears and select either 2 hours, 8 hours or 24 hours

You’ll now have a chance to evaluate whether you’re seeing a noticeable boost in your computer’s operating speeds. If that’s the case, and you decide you do wish to turn off synching, this is the next step

  • Right-click the OneDrive icon / select Setting > Account / Click ‘Unlink this PC’ / From the screen that appears, click ‘Unlink account’

You’ll now still be able to save your files to your local OneDrive folder, but it won’t synch with the cloud.

  1. Turn Off Search Indexing

Windows 10 indexes your hard disk in the background, and this lets you search your PC more speedily than you’d be able to if no indexing were being done. Slower PCs that use indexing inevitably experience a decline in performance. It’s possible to give them a speed boost by turning off indexing. This is true even if you have an SSD disk, and turning off indexing can improve speeds in these instances as well. The constant writing to disk that indexing does will even slow down SSDs over time.

To gain maximum benefit in Windows 10, turning off indexing off entirely is highly recommended. Doing it is fairly simple:

  • Type index in the Start Menu search box / Click the Indexing Options result that appears / Once Indexing Options page of Control Panel appears, click the Modify button / From the list of locations being indexed, you can now uncheck the boxes next to any location to make it so that it will no longer be indexed.

Searches may be slightly slower after this, but for most users the difference will be negligible. You should get a nice overall performance boost once you put a stop to search indexing.

These are just a few of the many ways to increase the overall speed of your Windows 10 PC, and a quick Google search should be all that’s necessary for you to find much more information on this subject.

Google Soon to Enable Auto-Deletion of Location and Web History

There’s been plenty of buzz and more than a little furor lately about how Google is apparently tracking users and collecting all sorts of data related to what you – and people like you – choose to do within the realms of the World Wide Web. As the old saying goes, where there’s smoke you can assume there’s fire pretty much every time and so it’s fair for Internet users to have concerns and be second-guessing their steps online.

As to be expected, the world’s leading digital superpower company says there’s no such cause for concern, or at least concern to the extent that’s being seen amongst the common populace – the vast majority who still choose to use Chrome as their web browser of choice, and the many still who do their web surfing and more on a Chromebook or with a Pixel smartphone.

Like any good Canadian web hosting provider, those of us here at 4GoodHosting will suggest that the truth to all of this is somewhere in the middle. It’s entirely logical to believe that actions undertaken on 4G – and soon to be 5G – networks are tracked and monitored, but often times it’s going to be based on much the same principles that Cookies are. That is, to define user behaviour patterns to offer a better and more straight-line A-to-B experience that users WILL want.

Of course, there will still be those who’ll believe that the Internet giants are up to nefarious aims with all of this, and so with this in mind it’s interesting to note news from Google this past week that it’s going to enable to auto-deletion of location and web history with its browsers.

Catering to Pressure from Privacy Advocates?

Like Facebook, Google’s been dogged by privacy advocates to be more receptive to concerns related to its data collection policies, and has been the target of particular criticism for indefinitely holding on to users’ geo-location information on its servers.

It seems they haven’t been able to remain entirely impervious to these pressures, and so Google has been making incremental changes to its data collection protocols, allowing users to have more power over the private information the company stores. That’s why this news is noteworthy, because moving forward users will now have the option of having their online history automatically deleted after a certain period of time.

Apparently users will be able to choose how long location or web history is automatically saved to Google’s servers – either letting Google store your information from anywhere between three to 18 months, with any data older than being deleted automatically on a rolling basis.

This new feature is going to be rolled out over the coming weeks, so if don’t see it yet don’t be quick to jump to the conclusion that all of this is hot air. However, you can check your Google account Activity Controls page to see if it’s become available. If so, you’ll note the new automatic deletion option under the Web & App Activity and Location History sections.

A Good – and Legitimate – Browser Alternative

To get back to our metaphorical analogy from earlier, for those of you who are certain that smoke IS coming from a fire and it’s a much bigger deal than Google, Facebook, and the like would prefer you to believe there are some good Browser alternatives. One of them that I myself use on my mobile is the DuckDuckGo browser, which is advertised as being a privacy-assured browsers that – most notably – avoids the filter bubble of personalized search results.

It’s actually a legitimately capable browsers for mobile (can’t speak for desktop) and if you’re one who has these sorts of Internet privacy concerns then it’s one you might want to download onto your mobile and start using exclusively.

The auto-delete option, according to Google, will allow users to choose an expiration time of either three months or 18 months for the data collected by the search giant, including past searches, online activity on Google-owned sites, Android app installation and usage, and information collected via the Location History feature on Google Search and Google Maps.

The controls will be available in the account settings panel under the Web & App Activity and Location History sections.

Google’s announcement says that the auto-delete feature will be rolled out in the next few weeks and is “coming first” to the web- and location-history sections, implying we may see it applied to other Google services in the future as well.

7 Most Common Web Design Shortcomings

The interesting thing with websites is that the vast majority of us take them entirely at face value, meaning that we don’t read into anything more than what’s in front of us and our experience when interacting with that website. Truth is nothing more should be expected from a visitor. It’s for this reason that web designers have to pay particular attention to how they design a website, and how they prompt those visitors to interact with it. There are likely a few specific websites you could name if you were to be asked for a few that you like. But if you were then asked to explain why you liked them, you’d probably struggle to define that exactly.

Here at 4GoodHosting, being a quality Canadian web hosting provider obviously means we’re somewhat more attuned to these sorts of things than the average Joe. That’s not to say we experts by any means, but we do have some degree of wherewithal about what makes for good web design. This isn’t the first time we’ve touched on this subject with our blog, but it’s always good to come back to it for the sake of any of you who are starting to dabble in web design.

It’s a vast frontier to be sure. Today we’ll look at the consensus 7 most common shortcomings found with web design, and hopefully armed with the information you’ll make sure you get yours right the first time around.

  1. Non-Responsiveness

In today’s day and age it is simply inconceivable to imagine a web developer neglecting to make a responsive site. For going on 4 years now internet traffic flowing through mobile devices has been higher than the traffic coming from desktops and laptops. Current rates are roughly 53% smartphones and tablets versus 47% for desktops, laptops, smart TVs and the like.

Not developing responsive websites can result in alienating more than half of your prospective visitors. The significance of that needs no explanation.

  1. Excess Jargon

If all website developers had a good sense of what constitutes readability, we wouldn’t have this on the list.This is something that frequently shows up when completed projects result in products that visitors struggle to comprehend when reading about them on a website.

The term for this is jargon. There’s a lot of it online, but that doesn’t make it a positive by any means. No matter how jargon creeps onto your website, you need to do everything you can to get rid of it. The best way to handle jargon is to avoid it wherever possible, unless the business developer has good reasons to include it.

  1. Noticeable Lack of Content

A lack of content means a message that’s lacking the same way, and it’s for this reason that some 46% of visitors who land on B2B websites end up splitting right quick without further exploration or interaction. There’s no getting around the fact that quality content that is relevant to the intention of a website is crucial in terms of establishing credibility.

Content must be intrinsically valuable for the visitor as well, and not just a collection of text that serves SEO purposes. If you struggle to generate good quality content, pay someone who’s capable with it to do it for you. It’s well worth it and then some. And a CMS – content management system – comes highly recommended as well.

  1. Hiding Essential Information

It used to be that the issue of misguided website development was thought to have been remedied through the judicious application of recommended practices. That was until mobile apps came around. Look no further than the situation with Google in 2016, where they fell victim to this with their release of Material Design. It introduced bottom navigation bars intended to offer a more clarifying alternative to hamburger menus. Long story short, it failed decidedly.

Unless there is a specific and enhanced purpose for prompting visitors to click or tap on a button, link or page element without explaining next steps, this ‘mystery’ type of navigation should be avoided, particularly when it comes to essential information.

  1. Excessively Slow Page Loads

For a website to be one that is considered to load sufficiently fast, a web design rule of thumb is to simplify and this responsibility lies squarely with the developer. Understand that the more ‘stuff’ you have on a page (images, forms, videos, widgets, etc.), the longer the server takes to send over the site files. Plus it then takes longer for the browser to render them. Here are a few design best practices to follow :

  • Make the site light – get rid of non-essential elements, especially if they are bandwidth-gobblers.
  • Compress your pages – Gzip is an easy means of doing so.
  • Split long pages into a few shorter ones
  • Write clean code that doesn’t rely on external sources
  • Optimize images

After doing so and still experiencing slow loads, turn your focus over to your web host. It’s a fact that cheap, entry-level shared packages are notoriously slow and unpredictable, especially as your traffic increases. A recent published test checked load times across the leading providers and found variances from a barely acceptable 2,850 ms all the way down to speedy 226 ms.

  1. Outdated Information

Not much will really need to be said here. Ensure all information presented on your site is up to date and accurate. Periodic audits of the site to keep up with this is also recommended.

  1. Clear Call to Action is Missing

Every website should push visitors to do something. Even if the purpose is to provide information, the call-to-action – CTA as it’s abbreviated – should encourage visitors to remember it and return for updates. The CTA should be just as clear as the navigation elements, and most often when it’s not then the purpose of bringing that visitor onto the website is lost

Enticements are acceptable, but the CTA message should be spelled out clearly – and even if you think that it’s too ‘pushy’ in doing so.

High-End Smartphones Not Selling Like They Used To

There’s few purchases if any that are as big a deal for most people as a smartphone. Some people are iPhone devotees, while others will only go Android. There’s other players in the game too, but they’re lesser ones. Up until recently it seemed that there was no price people wouldn’t pay to get their hands on the newest smartphone that had become the Apple of their eye. Needless to say, all those people we saw lined up hours in advance to buy the newest iPhones over the last decade plus had plenty of cash to drop on them.

Here at 4GoodHosting, our staff is just like the one you’d find at any Canadian web hosting provider office anywhere in the country – the majority here are fairly opinionated when it comes to what we like or don’t like about certain mobile devices. One thing that’s universally disfavoured though? The way many of them are ridiculously expensive if you’re buying them outright and not through a mobile service provider’s contract.

Seems we’re not alone there, as the numbers of high-end smartphones being sold has dropped quite considerably over the last year. While demand for entry-level and mid-price smartphones has remained strong, global sales of the best quality smartphones like the iPhone XS and XS Max have dropped steadily over the past year.

Lack of New Wrinkles + $$$ = Remaining Inventories

The consensus seems to be that a lack of innovation with the new top-of-the-line smartphones, and then having steep prices attached to them, are making it so that consumers have much less of the compulsion to ‘buy now’ like they did previously – over all of last year (2018) global sales of smartphones grew just 1.2% compared to the year before -1.6 billion units sold.

The largest sales declines occurred in North America (-6.8%), Asia / Pacific (-3.4%) and Greater China (3%). The way these markets rely more on flagship smartphone sales than any others makes it so that the sales drop affected manufacturers AND retailers more emphatically.

As for the manufacturers specifically, the final quarter of 2018 had Apple experiencing the biggest decline – down 11.8% – among the world’s top five smartphone vendors. This worked out to selling 64.5 million handsets; equalling Apple’s worst quarterly decline in smartphone sales since the first quarter of 2016.

Holding on to 15.8% of market share lessens the sting of this for Apple. In the same quarter, Samsung had 17.3% of the market, and Huawei third with 14.8%. Huawei experienced the most growth, however, with sales rising 37.6% to more than 60 million smartphones being purchased.

Huawei Muscling In

Huawei’s growth in 2018 helped it close the gap with Apple, and it added more market share from Asia / Pacific, Latin America, and the Middle East to its already strong presence in China and Europe. They’ve become the biggest player in emerging markets, to the tune of 13% more market share overall. As to why this is, look no further than the Honor 10 series smartphone retailing for about $468, compared with the iPhone XR going for $749.

Samsung is feeling the heat from Huawei most prominently. While Samsung is strengthening its smartphone offering at the mid-tier, it continues to face growing competition from Chinese brands that are expanding into larger numbers of markets. Huawei is mainly competing with Samsung in in terms of product breadth. The Chinese handset maker’s industry-leading growth is reinforced by a strong Chinese home market, selling 10 times as many phones as Samsung there.

Again, price points are integral in this trend – in the majority of markets, Huawei is selling from 1% to 50% less that comparable Samsung models.

What About Apple?

Apple faces something of a more unique challenge in that it only offers high-end smartphones, and those devices aren’t offering the same compelling new features they once did. Further, some users are discovering they don’t use all of the features high-end smartphones have.

When this is paired with price points that they (Apple) continue to push up, many consumers are finding the value proposition just isn’t there like it used to be.

While North America and in Asia/Pacific nations remained strong for them, Apple saw iPhone demand weaken in most areas, including in greater China. There its market share dropped from 14.6% in the final quarter of 2017 to 8.8% this past quarter. For 2018 as a whole, iPhone sales dropped 2.7%, to just over 209 million units.

Buyers delaying upgrades while waiting for more innovative smartphones along with attractively priced smartphone alternatives from Chinese vendors is now limiting Apple’s unit sales growth prospects.

Industry consensus seems to be that Apple is certainly not out of the game, even if they are not going to move away from their premium branding and don’t have a lot of room for pricing elasticity. Expanded trade-in programs and financing options will likely be their plan of attack to bring their premium price to a manageable level for consumers.

.Inc Domains Now Available for Business Websites

For the longest time the .com domain extension was the one and only in the world of domains. In the early days of the Internet that wasn’t an issue, but as ever-greater numbers of sites – literally thousands of them – came onboard there became a need for alternative domain extensions. With a quick nod of acknowledgement to the .org and .net domains of the world, the most noteworthy development was the creation of country-specific domain name extensions. For example, if you’re here in Canada you’ll know that .ca domains are pretty much as numerous as .com ones.

All of this is why news like this is going to be of interest to any leading Canadian web hosting provider, whether their way out west like us here at 4GoodHosting or anywhere between here and St. John’s. And to get right to it, that news is that a new top-level domain is now available for registration.

Introducing .inc domains!

Most will be aware that inc. is short for incorporated, and without going into great detail that means that a business acts and exists independently of its owners.

Back to relevant information, however – the appeal of these new .inc domains is obviously that they’ll be an immediate indicator of a website being a business one. It’s likely that many decision makers will also perceive a greater sense of authority to having a .inc domain. This new option joins Google making the .dev domain name available for developers.

Specifically for Businesses

The new .inc TLD will be operated by Intercap Registry Inc., and their belief is that any business that ends its title with ‘Incorporated’ will be quite keen to have a domain that allows to have the website address end the same way. And it’s not just a select few who’ll be able to go this route if they’d like to. The .inc domain name will be available to register in the official language of more than 190 countries and used by any business—from start-ups to established major players in many different industries.

It’s safe to say that having a .inc at the end of a web address can help businesses gain credibility and, as mentioned, add a certain level of inherent authority to their website.

Bonuses

If that’s not incentive enough for incorporated businesses all over the globe, there’s some perks available for those ready to make the switch – free member benefits worth $2500 from leading brands. Among others, they are:

  • $1,000 in free transaction fee credits from Square
  • Free press release on GlobeNewsWire to announce the new .inc website
  • Free $100 credit for sponsored job listings on Indeed
  • $150 ad spending match for Google Ads

Converts are also encouraged to know that website migration to the .inc domain will not include downtime or a negative impacting of search engine optimization (SEO).

Harder to Cybersquat

Now here’s a term that should be much more foreign to many of you. Cybersquatting is registering, selling, or using a domain name with intent of profiting on the goodwill of another person or organization’s trademark. It’s generally done by buying up domain names that use the name of existing businesses with the intent of selling them for a profit later on.

It is also hoped that these .inc TLDs will prevent cybersquatting, allowing businesses to avoid having to deal with pre-registered domains related to their business name being held for ransom. The .inc TLDs are now available for priority trademark registration till April 30, and can be registered here.

After April 30 and until May 7 they will be available for priority public registration, and then after that for global public registration. Priority trademark registration is expected to set businesses back around $3,500. Definitely not cheap for the average individual, but not doubt a good many businesses will see that as money reasonably well spent all things considered.

If you’d like to know more about these domains, or have any questions about domain names and domain name extensions in general, we’d be happy to answer them for you. Contact us anytime.

What to Expect From Next Month’s Windows 10 Update from Microsoft

Windows continues to be the most popular and ubiquitous of operating systems for desktops and notebooks around the world, and while there are those who will have nothing to do with it (see Mac devotees) that fact is a testament to the enduring popularity of what is ‘old faithful’ for the most part when it comes to computer operating systems.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re a Canadian web hosting provider that’s in the position to see the value of both Mac and PC operating systems, and it’s true that both have their strengths and weaknesses – which is of course true of pretty much everything. One thing that Microsoft has benefited from for decades now is that it was first to the party, and that’s meant that many people will always choose a Windows OS device because it’s especially familiar for them.

And so it is that the next version of Windows 10 — scheduled for a May 2019 update release— is now just around the corner. This is not going to be a massive overhaul of the OS by any means, but there are as it approaches its 4-year anniversary there are some nice tweaks to make it fresher and more well-suited to determined user preferences. Foremost among these are a new light theme and changes to the search experience, Cortana, and more.

Let’s have a look at the most recent update to Windows 10 here today.

On the House

We’ll start by stating for anyone who might be unaware that Windows 10 updates are always free. The May 2019 Update via Windows Update will be provided at no charge for existing Windows 10 users on any device deemed compatible with the update. The noteworthy difference here, however, is with the rollout method – it is no longer automatically downloaded to your PC.

What you’ll get instead is a notification in Windows Update that the May 2019 update is available. From there you’ll have the option of downloading or installing it. However, only those running a version of Windows 10 that is close to end of support will receive the update automatically. Just as with prior releases, rollouts of major Windows 10 updates are gradual to ensure the best quality experience. For this reason you might not see the May 2019 update right away.

Further as regards the timing of this, let’s not forget Microsoft’s troubles with releasing previous Windows 10 versions. Don’t count on this update arriving exactly when it’s expected.

Improvements

Let’s shift to the meat of all of this, and detail all of the improvements to be seen in the new Windows 10.

  • Light Theme & Improved Start Menu

Microsoft debuted a dark mode for Windows 10 in 2018, and a new light theme is being introduced with this update to augment overall contrast with the operating system. Users will see that both the taskbar, start menu and Action Center are a brighter and lighter white color. Some icons in the system tray and taskbar are now also tailored to match the new theme — including both OneDrive and File Explorer.

A new and improved start menu is part of this too. Installing the May 2019 update will give users a single column, and fewer preinstalled apps and live tiles. Plus, they can also now remove more of the stock Windows 10 apps that aren’t used much, including 3D Viewer, Calculator, Calendar, Mail, and Movies & TV, Paint 3D, Snip & Sketch, Sticky Notes, and Voice Recorder.

  • Cortana & Search

The separation of Cortana and Search in the Windows 10 taskbar is one of the most notable changes coming with next month’s update. With previous releases they were integrated with each other, but now the search box in the taskbar will only launch searches for files and documents, and the circular Cortana icon will summon the digital assistant when clicked. Some people have already surmised that this may mean the end of Cortana before long, but it’s likely that a bit presumptive at this point.

Search experience will also be changing, and now Windows will index and search all folders and drives, rather than just limiting it to the default documents, pictures, and videos folders. Along with a new search interface featuring landing pages for Apps, Documents, Email, Web, users can now expect accurate and faster searches when aiming to dig up important files.

  • Reserved Space for Windows Update

It’s true that Windows Updates can cause bugs, data loss, and failures, and there’s been no shortage of people eager to point that out every chance they get. This May 2019 update, however, is going to enable all Windows 10 users to pause updates for up 35 days – something that was for Windows 10 Enterprise and Professional users only up until now.

Having more time to read up and decide on when to install Microsoft’s monthly updates is going to be a nice freedom for many users

The fact that the May 2019 update will also reserve 7GB of disk space for installing general updates promises to be a more contentious point. The move has been made to keep your PC secure, and there reasons this new space cannot be removed from Windows 10 is so that it makes future OS updates more efficient.

The space is also intended for apps, temporary files, and system caches undertaken as your PC sees fit. The size of the reserve will depend on your system, so removing unnecessary files on your hard drive in advance of the update might be a good idea.

  • Sandbox Integrated Feature

Last but not least regarding the Windows update for 2019, we have Windows Sandbox. This integrated feature for Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise lets users create a secure desktop environment that is able to isolate and run untrusted and sketchy apps while keeping them separate from the rest of your system. Thus the term ‘sandbox’ – when a Windows Sandbox is closed, all the software with all its files and state are permanently deleted along with that move.

In our opinion, this is the best and most well-thought out feature added to this Windows 10 2019 update. Especially considering all the different well-disguised threats out there these days. It might not be the most exciting feature for your average, but you can be sure developers are going to be plenty impressed with it.

Will be interesting to see how well received this update is, and it appears we won’t have to wait long to find out.

Protecting a VPN From Data Leaks

One thing that certainly hasn’t changed from previous years as we move towards the quarter pole for 2019 is that hackers are keeping IT security teams on their toes as much as ever. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the cat and mouse game that’s been going on in cyberspace between the two sides for a long time now. Cyber threats are as sophisticated as ever now, and for everyday individuals they biggest concern is always that the privacy of sensitive data will be compromised.

One of the most common responses to enhanced and more enabled threats is to go with a Virtual Private Network and all the enhanced security features that come with them. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’ve been promoting them for our customers very actively in likely what same way every other Canadian web hosting provider has. There’s merit to the suggestion, as VPN connections protect online privacy by creating a secure tunnel between the client – who is typically uses a personal computing device to connect to the internet – and the Internet.

Nowadays, however, VPN networks aren’t as automatic as they were when it comes to trusting in secure connections and understanding that there won’t be data leaks. The good news is that even people with the most average levels of digital understanding can be proactive in protecting their VPN from data leaks. Let’s look at how that’d done here today.

Workings of VPN

A reliable VPN connection disguises the user’s geographical location by giving it a different IP address. There is also architecture in place to encrypt data transmitted during sessions and provide a form of anonymous browsing. As it is with almost all internet tools, however, VPN connections can also face certain vulnerabilities that weaken their reliability. Data leaks are a concern amongst information security researchers who focus on VPN technology, and it’s these issues that are most commonly front and centre among them:

  1. WebRTC Leaks

Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) is an evolution of the VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) for online communications. VoIP is the technology behind popular mobile apps such as Skype and WhatsAppp, and it’s been the leading force behind making legacy PBX telephone systems at many businesses entirely obsolete now.

WebRTC is also extremely valuable with the way that it allows companies to hire the best personnel. Applicants can be directed to a website for online job interviews with no need for Skype or anything similar installed.

Everything would be perfect, except for the fact that the IP addresses of users can be leaked, and even through a VPN connection.

  1. DNS Hijacking

It’s fair to say that hijacking domain name system (DNS) servers is one of the most tried-and-true hacking strategies, and interestingly a large portion of that has been made possible by well-intentioned efforts to enact internet censorship. The biggest DNS hijacking operation on the planet is conducted by Chinese telecom regulators through the Great Firewall, put in place with the aim of restricting access to certain websites and internet services.

DNS hijacking encompasses a series of attacks on DNS servers, but arguably the most common one involves taking over a router, server or even an internet connection with the aim of redirecting traffic. By doing so hackers are able to impersonate websites; your intention was to check CBC News, but instead you’ll be directed to a page that may resemble it but actual uses code to steal passwords, compromise your identity, or leave you with malware on your device.

Often times WebRTC and DNS hijacking are working in conjunction with each other: a malware attack known as DNS changer that can be injected into a system by means of JavaScript execution followed by a WebRTC call that you’re unaware of. Done successfully, it can gain your IP address.

Other lesser-known vulnerabilities associated with VPN networks are Public IP address, torrents, and geolocation

How to Test for Leaks

It might be best to cut right to chase here sort of – The easiest way to determine if you’ve got a leak is to visit IPLeak.net, and do it with your VPN turned off. This site is a very nice resource. Once you’ve visited, then leave seat and turn your VPN back on before repeating the test.

Then, you compare results.

The torrents and geolocation tests available are fairly worthwhile themselves, but probably not as much of a factor indicator as the DNS. Navigating the internet is done by your device communicating with DNS servers that translate web URLs into numeric IP addresses. In the bulk of those instances, you’ll have defaulted through your ISP servers, and unfortunately these servers tend to be very leaky on their own to begin with.

Leakage through your local servers can serve up your physical location to those with bad intentions, even with a VPN set up and utilized. VPN services route their customers through servers separate from their ISP in an effort to counter these actions.

Once you determine your data is leaking, what is there you can do to stop it? Read on.

Preventing Leaks and Choosing the Right VPN

A good suggestion is to disable WebRTC in your browser, and doing so even before installing a VPN solution. Some developers have set this to be a default configuration, while most better ones will have this is an enabled option.

Search ‘WebRTC’ in the help file of your browser and you may be able to find instructions on how to modify the flags or .config file. Do so with caution, however, and don’t take actions until you’re 100% certain they’re the correct ones or you may risk creating quite a mess for yourself.

Other good preventative measures include:

  • Going with the servers suggested when configuring your VPN – typically not those of your Internet service provider (ISP) but ones maintained by the VPN provider. Not all of them have them, though
  • Aiming to have a VPN that has upgraded protocols making it compatible with the new IPv6 address naming system. Without one, you’ll have a much greater risk of leaks. If you’re about to move to a VPN, this should be one of your primary determinations
  • Making sure your VPN uses the newest version of the OpenVPN protocol, and especially if you’re on a Windows 10 OS device (it has a very problematic default setting where the fastest DNS servers is chosen automatically. OpenVPN prevents this)

Overall, the security of tunneled connections is going to be compromised big time by a leaky VPN. If the security of your data is a priority for you, then you should be evaluating VPN products, reading their guides and learning about best ways to secure your system against accidental leaks.

Keep in mind as well this isn’t a ‘set it and forget it’ scenario either. You need to check for leakage from time to time to ensure nothing has changed with your system. Last but not least, make sure the VPN you use has a kill-switch feature that will cut off your connection immediately if a data leak is detected.

New Epic Quickly Becoming Browser Of-Choice for Those Big on Privacy

Things change quickly in the digital world, and what was barely even on the radar can become a front and centre issue overnight in some cases. Go back 10 years and the issue of privacy in web browsing wasn’t something the vast majority of people paid even the slightest bit of attention to. Nowadays, however, it’s definitely a hot-button topic given all the news that’s come out about web browsing histories and the like being tracked, monitored, and then made available to whoever doesn’t mind paying for information about what people like YOU search for online.

Some people don’t have a problem with that. Other people have quite a significant problem with that. If you’re part of the second group there then you may have already switched over to using a web browser like DuckDuckGo or something similar. It’s a fine privacy-promoting web browser in itself, but it’s a bit of a generalist in that it works suitably well across the board but not especially well for any one framework.

And that’s where and why Epic coming onto the scene is as noteworthy as it is. It is a Chromium-based browser designed to ensure privacy without giving up anything i speed or functionality. It blocks ads as well as prevents user tracking, and also includes built-in protection against a wide range of surveillance methods cryptocurrency mining scripts among them.

It promises to be just what the Doctor ordered for those who think these types of overwatch activities are unacceptable, and here at 4GoodHosting we’re like any other quality Canadian web hosting provider in that we agree with you wholeheartedly. Let’s take a look at what makes this new no-tracking web browser such a good fit and why it promises to be especially well received.

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It’s fair to say that it’s really a shame that the innocence and carefreeness of using the world wide web to gain information is gone now, and that government agencies, corporations, and malicious hackers lurking in the shadows and taking notes is entirely unacceptable. Even those who aren’t overly incensed at having their privacy violated will almost certainly choose to stay ‘incognito’ if the opportunity to do so exists.

Epic’s creator, Alok Bhardwaj, attributes much of his need to build such a resource on coming to understand that on average, there are some 10 or so trackers on pretty much every website you visit. For some still, there’s up to 30 or 40 companies that are logging your visit.

Fortunately, his new Epic browser includes built-in protection against a wide range of surveillance tactics, and without any of the BS like what was seen in 2015 in the States with AT&T’s policy where subscribers had to pay up to 50% more to secure a reasonable level of privacy.

The original version of Epic has been around since August of 2018, but the Chromium-based version of it is still new to the scene. It allows users to enjoy private browsing without sacrificing speed or functionality, and also blocks ultrasound signal tracking and cryptocurrency mining scripts. Plus, with a new mobile browser on the way, Epic continues to take actions that support the company’s belief in a free internet.

 

Sight for Sore Eyes: Privacy-Focused Web Browser

U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2017 decision to cann internet privacy rules as passed by the Federal Communications Commission in the previous year put an effective end to internet users having more rights concerning what service providers can do with their data. Here in Canada we certainly haven’t been immune to the increasingly grey areas of what can and can’t be done as far as monitoring a web browser user’s history.

Likely no one needs convincing that relying on governmental agencies to solve data privacy issues will likely result in little if anything being done. So we’re left to take matters into our hands as much as we can. Good news on that front, as Epic is an exceptionally private browsing experience that’s also fast and intuitive and based on Google’s open-source Chromium project for long-term practicality in the bigger picture of things.

That perspective was very important in the development of this new browser, according to Bhardwaj. Microsoft announced that the company would build their next browser on Chromium, and so the decision was made to build a browsing experience that’s very private, but just as fast as using Google Chrome.

Mission Accomplished

We’d say it is – Epic is one of the most simple, private, and fast browsers on the market today, and it’s really raised the bar that was set by the original private browser, Tor. (which is still a great browser FWIW, still doing very well and also offers an extremely anonymous service)

One area where Epic meets a need that Tor can’t, however, is with malicious cryptocurrency activities. Hackers have used Tor to steal cryptocurrency from users, and fairly recently too.

Long story short, Epic is the only private browser out there that just works out of the box with a high level of privacy and speed, and it doesn’t have any of the issues where advanced security protocols render certain website undeliverable. In the event that one won’t, Epic lets you turn off the proxy and ad blocking feature for a particular website if needed.

Other appealing features:

  • Free VPN
  • 1-click encrypted proxy
  • Blocks fingerprinting and ultrasound signaling
  • Locally stored database of the top 10,000 websites in the world

Coming to Mobile Soon

Epic is expected to launch the company’s mobile browser before long. They expect their mobile browsers to be even more significant than the desktop browsers, given the scale that mobile’s going to operate on. With the extent to which most of us use our smartphones for internet search queries, there’s no doubt that this mobile browser release will put Epic even more in the spotlight in the near future.

Windows 7 End Time Reminders On Their Way for PCs Starting Next Month

It would appear that a good many personal computers out there are still running Windows 7. If they weren’t then we can assume that there wouldn’t be the need for Microsoft to take the action they’ll be taking soon – sending out reminders to PC users still running this admittedly archaic OS that the end is nigh. Microsoft is calling them ‘courtesy reminders’ and while the message doesn’t go so far as to say what’s really the message – update your operating system or your device will become by and large inoperative – it certainly implies as much

Now admittedly as a leading Canadian web hosting provider we’re the type to be updating our OS systems just as soon as the opportunity presents itself each time, but we’re also able to go ahead and imagine that many of our clients will have friends or family members who don’t have the need to be equipped with the latest and greatest in computing technology. As such this might be a prompting to tell those people not to ignore anything that pops on their screen talking about the end of Windows 7.

So what’s all this going to involve? Not a whole lot really, but it’s worthwhile to take something of longer glance at why this is necessary and what PC users can expect if they’re still rocking Windows 7.

Friendly, yet Persistent Reminders

Microsoft has stated that starting in April if you are a Windows 7 user you can expect to see a notification appear on your Windows 7 PC a number of times over the next month. The hope is that one or more of them will be all it takes to make you aware that Windows 7 will officially be unsupported as of January 14, 2020.

As you might expect, users will be able to reject future notifications by selecting a ‘do not notify me again’ option, or if they’d prefer to know a little bit more about why their favourite OS (we have to assume there’s a reason they’ve resisted updating for so many years) is going the way of the Dodo Bird then there’ll also a be a ‘learn more’ button.

FWIW, the same thing happened with Windows XP a few years back. That OS went extinct fairly smoothly, so the expectation is that the same thing will happen here. Just in case that’s not the way it goes, however, Microsoft is trying to be proactive. The Windows 7 notices will appear eight months earlier than those XP warnings.

One big difference will be in that it was only in March of 2014, just a month before XP’s expiration, that Microsoft began placing on-screen reminders of the impending date. After that, they came monthly. Should Microsoft follow the same schedule and cadence, it should begin pushing notices to Windows 7 on April 14 before repeating them on the 14th of each month following.

Accelerated Schedule

The issue behind this sped-up schedule regarding the whole thing is that – believe it or not – Windows 7 is still surprisingly relevant. Check out this stat from Computerworld; it’s estimated that Windows 7 will still be powering more than 40% of all Windows personal computers at the end of January 2020.

If that’s correct, that number is quite a bit higher – about 35% – than the one attached to Windows XP when it was coming to the end of its working life. It would seem that Microsoft’s logic in starting to send out this reminders earlier is that it will reduce the larger fraction of Windows 7 systems before support ends.

As recently as 5 years ago Microsoft pushed on-screen alerts only to systems maintained using Windows Update, working with the knowledge that most small businesses and the like would be utilizing that resource. Windows 7 PCs managed by enterprise IT staff using Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) had no such reminder delivered. Administrators were also able to remove and / or prevent the warning by modifying the Windows registry, or by setting a group policy.

We can likely expect that similar options will exist for the Windows 7 notices. As the saying goes, all good things come to an end. We’ll try to pacify anyone who’ll be sad to see Windows 7 go by saying that by putting these OS out to pasture the developers are able to put more of their energies towards improving existing and future ones, and that’s better in the big picture of things.

We’ll conclude here today by leaving you with a Windows 7 to Windows 10 migration guide.