No Go: Reviewing Parental Control Software for Smartphones

Fair to say that these days – more than ever before – it’s necessary for parents to establish some boundaries as to where their children are able to go on the Internet. We imagine that’s fairly apparent, even for those who aren’t parents. Impressionable minds do need to be kept safe from bad influences, and accordingly more and more Moms and Dads are actively seeking ways to restrict their children’s use of their mobile devices and where they ‘go’ with them.

Many of us here at 4GoodHosting are similarly minded, and as a Canadian web hosting provider we know it’s safe to assume that this is a priority for a good many of our customers too. For this reason we’re choosing to make a review of the best parental internet browser controls our topic for the blog today. And considering most parents are extremely busy people who’d prefer to spend as little time as possible on any one task, we imagine this review will be well received.

The Pocket Problem

It’s easier to keep tabs on your children’s browsing habits when you’re at home, and parental controls for desktop and notebook computers are much more commonplace and understood. When it comes to putting constraints on what they can do with their smartphones, however, it’s much more of a grey area and more challenging as a result. It’s something of a pocket problem, because they can be accessing data or finding a Wi-Fi connection pretty much anywhere, and not only are you not around to oversee them, but you may have thought there’s nothing you can do to their device to put restrictions on it.

Fortunately, that’s not the case. There are good smartphone parental controls out there, and so let’s not waste any more time in getting to discussing which ones are best. The best parental control apps offer ways to limit time spent on devices, track usage and location, and block apps or games. There are some free parental controls built into most devices nowadays, so you may not need to pay for a third-party app at all. There’s Google’s Family Link, Amazon’s parental controls are excellent, and Apple offers some parental controls too.

Alright, here’s our list:

  1. FamilyTime (Android and iOS)

This parental control app does everything, allowing you to explicitly customize what content your young ones will have access to, set time limits, track location, and more. Tool let your incorporate homework and bedtime limits, or create overall time limits. You can also get geofencing support that sends alerts when that phone enters or leaves a specific area, plus location tracking that allows you to see where your child is. You can also block or control on an app-by-app basis, place internet filters, monitor calls and texts, and overviews contact lists on the device.

There is a free version of this one, but you only receive a small subset of features. Premium ones for FamilyTime come with different plans available. $27 per year will set you up in full for one device, and $69 per year will do the same for up to 5 devices.

  1. Qustodio (Android, iOS, Kindle, Nook)

Qustodio gets high marks for user-friendliness and efficiency, and is a very good choice for parents for whom time is a scarce commodity. Its dashboard is particularly impressive, showing you all recent mobile activity for any of the connected devices. Reports include time spent on specific services like Instagram or Twitter, and you can set time limits, track texts, filter out sites you deem inappropriate, as well as block games or apps.

Add a host of customization options and it’s a great parental control app to use when managing devices for kids of multiple ages. Lastly, it works on Kindle or Nook devices, and is one of the only ones that does.

Qustodio costs $55 annually for the five-device plan. However, there is a free version with limited controls that you can use on just 1 device.

  1. ESET Parental Control (Android)

ESET is quite a good parental control app, but it’s limitation is that it’s only for Android devices. The free version lets you engage in app blocking, time limits on games, and basic reporting. The premium version allows website blocking, tracking location, parental messaging, and more detailed reports about what the smartphone user is doing.

ESET does have one especially smart feature – the parental message feature. It allows you to send out a message that your child must respond, otherwise they will not be able to continue using the phone. There’s a free 30-day trial for premium features, but following that it costs $30 per year, per device.

  1. Web Watcher (Android and iOS)

Web Watcher may be the best choice for those of you who see keeping tabs on your child’s text messaging as a priority. You’ll see all of them, including deleted texts, as well as photos, web browsing, call log, and location. Web Watcher also lets you oversee their activity on certain apps, including Tinder, WhatsApp, Kik, and Viber. Setting time limits and even capturing screenshots of your kid’s phone screen are also possible.

One of the things about Web Watcher is that because it’s essentially spyware, with a stealth mode, it has to be installed outside of the official app store. Be aware that serious security permissions are required, and it’s very invasive. However, it’s true that that is what some parents are after. It’s also far from cheap – it starts at $130 per year per device.

  1. Norton Family Premier (Android and iOS)

Norton is the premier name in antivirus software, and Norton Family Premier is a smartly designed program for restricting and monitoring what children do online. Family Premier offers parents a variety of features that are easily managed with the clean interface. Number 1 among its useful features is its robust web supervision; you can block sites entirely, or keep a general log of sites visited. You can make it so that warnings will be issued for sites that you choose not to ban outright, but where you would prefer your kids to proceed with caution.

You’re also able to set time limits, prevent device operation during specific hours of the day or night, and of course block apps too. The cost is $50 per year, but there’s no limits to the amount of devices you can use it with.

  1. Net Nanny (Android and iOS)

This feature-packed parental control allows you to track location, block apps, set time limits, and get a real-time feed of your child’s activity. You also have powerful web filtering controls for cutting out pornography, weapons, drugs and other content that is indisputably inappropriate for young people. Net Nanny does not allow for call or text snooping or monitoring of messenger apps, but you can see when they’re using them plus review their web searches.

Net Nanny costs $55 per year for up to five device pass, and can be used for non-mobile internet browsing devices too. There’s also a 20-device pass for $90 per year.

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We’ll conclude here today with some helpful tips – When picking a parental control app, writing down your password or login information isn’t advisable, no matter how well you think you can hide it. Creating a news alert for the software you choose to help keep an eye out for any new vulnerabilities or workarounds is also wise. Keep in mind that some software can be bypassed with phone resets, customer service requests, and other tricks. There’s plenty of information online regarding this.

Microsoft Bug Bounty Program: How Does 30K Sound to You?

Most people have claimed a reward of some type at some point in their lives. Return someone’s smartphone to them, for example, and they’ll probably think your honesty in returning it is worth $50 at least. Or maybe you return someone’s precious pet to them and get a whole lot more than that for your effort or, more likely, good fortune in having it cross your path or end up in your backyard. But what if there was up 30K in reward money to be had?

Well, up to that amount is what software development mega-giant Microsoft is offering anyone who can find flaws in their newest Chromium-based Edge browser. Now the likelihood of most people – myself included – even having the ability to do that is pretty slim, but for those who are web development savvy it’s definitely something worth taking note of.

Now to be sure, just as it would be for any Canadian web hosting provider we’ve got some talented people on staff who do have the wherewithal required for something like this. They’re aware, and now you are too so let’s get into discussing what exactly all this is about and whether or not this would be not just easy money, but a LOT of easy money.

Beta Stage Bonuses

Microsoft recently released the beta version of its Chromium-based Edge and then introduced the Insider Bounty Program along with it. As mentioned, there’s apparently up to $30,000 to be had for those who find out unique vulnerabilities in this beta version of their new browser.

Yes, that’s what you can do when you have deep pockets to this extent. You’d have to find a thousand+ lost phones and pets to come even close!

To clarify though, 30K is only available if you find a flaw that is a vulnerability that leads to escape from the WDAG container. The majority of would-be rewards included in the Microsoft Edge Insider Bounty Program are in the range of $1,000 to $3,000, depending upon the bug’s severity and – take note – the quality of the submission (see thoroughness – less work for them = more $ for you).

Quality Control & Then Some

Microsoft has stated that the goal of the Microsoft Edge (Chromium-based) Insider Bounty Program is to dig up vulnerabilities that are unique to the next Microsoft Edge and have the potential for a direct and demonstrable impact on the security of their customers. Quite admirable, and not out of the ordinary for software developers in as far as the aim itself is concerned.

Attaching big money $ to that, however, is out of the ordinary.

It is true that Microsoft has a lot riding on the success and widespread adoption of it’s new Edge browser, particularly given the success of Google Chrome that the current Edge is very much playing second fiddle to.

It is reported to have features unique to Chromium Edge like Internet Explorer mode, PlayReady DRM, Sign in with Microsoft Account (MSA) or Azure Active Directory (AAD), Application Guard and a few others.

Growth of the Bug-Finder Business

Turns out discovering unique bugs on the latest version of Edge can be a big business. As mentioned, Microsoft will issue rewards in various tiers, and these are the ones:

  • Spoofing and tampering related security impact – between $1,000 to $6,000, depending on the quality of the report
  • Information Disclosure and Remote Code Execution (RCE) can get you between $1,000 to $10,000 depending upon the severity of the report
  • Vulnerability resulting from Elevation of Privilege (EoP) will get you between $5,000 to $15,000
  • And again, the biggie – 30K for vulnerability resulting in escape from the WDAG container to the host

As you’d expect, there are Terms and Conditions for participating in the Microsoft Bug Bounty Program. The report submission must also include tangible proof, and have sufficiently demonstrated the vulnerability exploitation and the potential impact it might have on users.

Know your stuff? Scour over the Beta of Microsoft’s newest edge and see if you can earn the largest reward you’re likely to ever receive in your life!

Overcoming Issues with Most Recent Windows 10 Update

A while back we had discussed some of the particulars with of the latest revisions available to people running desktop and notebook running Windows 10. Needless to say that encompasses a great many of them purring away at any given time all around the world, and it’s for that reason that some frequent undesirable occurrences seen with the most recent Windows 10 update are sufficiently noteworthy to the point that it makes sense for us to write about them in this week’s blog.

Here at 4GoodHosting, a part of what makes us a leading Canadian web hosting provider is the way in which we’re proactive in sharing information that’s easily identified as having value to our customer base. Given how ubiquitous the Windows OS is for personal computer users and the reality that’s unlikely to change, we’re going to discuss more than a few problematic issues that users are encountering quite frequently with the most recent Windows 10 update.

Reason enough to have less faith in the OS? That’s for you to decide.

The Issues

Where there’s smoke there is fire. While there had been rumblings about shortcomings with the latest Windows 10 update for a while, the way it is in the biz is that you don’t really take heed of these sorts of things until these sort of expressions of dissatisfaction become a little more numerous than just a few people here and there.

That’s the case now, and the consensus is that the latest update for Windows 10 is causing a string of issues for users. The update comes with patches against two critical vulnerabilities, but it seems they’re leading to problems. Among them are random reboots and inexplainable installation failures.

The update was made available on Tuesday of last week, and was created as a defense against a pair of remote code execution vulnerabilities which were deemed ‘wormable,’ – which means they are able to jump from one infected computer to another. Microsoft owned up to these vulnerabilities and informed users about the patches in a blog post, with users being encouraged to update their operating systems without delay.

Primary Problem 1, with Fix

Some users, however, have encountered difficulties when trying to apply the latest update,. To their credit, Microsoft has acknowledged that there ‘known issues’ with the update do exist.

Most notable among them:

A small number of devices may deliver a black screen on start up during the first logon after installing updates, and that this would be disconcerting for users.

The good news is there is a very simple fix for this;

  • Using Ctrl + Alt + Delete on the black screen and then using the Power button in the bottom right of the screen to select Restart. This should prompt the PC to boot normally.

Primary Problem 2, and NO Fix (Yet?)

The other significant problem with the update is the way it seems to be able to break some Visual Basic applications. More than a few users have reported that after installing this update, applications that were made using Visual Basic 6 (VB6), macros using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), and scripts or apps using Visual Basic Scripting Edition (VBScript) are seemingly no longer responding to basic requests and coming with them is a ‘invalid procedure call error.’ As the header there suggests, at this point at least there is no fix for this problem.

Similar feedback shared via a number of online discussion spots have also talked about repeated instances where the update causes random reboots to their systems. Others still are having problems downloading and installing the update itself. Microsoft reports that it is working on a solution for these issues, and those solutions should be rolled out in a future update.

What You Can Do

If you’ve gone with this recent Windows 10 update and are encountering one or all of these issues then the advice from the source is to update your operating system, and do so even if you’re worried about update issues with the security vulnerability being patched in the way it has been. It’s good advice, but be forewarned that you might see some issues with the update process.

If avoiding the update issues altogether is preferable for you – and you haven’t taken the update yet -, plus you’re okay with some risk, then there’s also this option; pause Windows updates until Microsoft announces a fix to this one.

Domain Names, and What Makes Them SEO-Friendly – 9 Factors

It’s not as easy as saying that it’s only those looking to make money who will put a major premium on having good search engine rankings. Being high up on SERPs – or search engine results pages if you’re not familiar with that acronym – will be important for anyone who needs to have reliable visibility for their interests in being online, whatever those interests may be. If you’re one of them then you’re likely putting the bulk of your focus into keyword optimization. That’s the way it should be, and that should continue to be one of your priorities.

Many people aren’t aware of the fact that their domain name also plays a role in how well their website ranks in SERPs. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re like every quality Canadian web hosting provider in that we know that the success of people with their online ventures is directly beneficial to us as well. It’s for this reason that sharing information on SEO-bosting domains is something we know might well be good for the both of us.

So that’s what we’ll look at here today, and hopefully the information is ideal for anyone who’s about to register a domain name or for others who might want to reconsider their current one based on what they learn here.

Factors Determining a Domain Name’s SEO Value

Everyone’s familiar with Google’s authority when it comes to anything related to the World Wide Web. They’ve stated that there are some 200 different factors that come into play for SEO, and it turns out that domain name is one of the important of them. Choosing the right SEO-Friendly domain name should be one of the crucial decision for your business.

So, without anything more in the way of fluff talk, let’s get right to them.

  1. Make it a Brandable Domain Name if Possible

This one will apply more to companies operating an ecommerce website or one that promotes your business more generally. If you can incorporate your company brand into your domain name, it’s definitely beneficial.

That needs to be mentioned, because some businesses avoid using their company name in the domain name of their website. Considering Google values branding more than keywords, they’re missing the mark if so.

  1. Make it a Unique Domain Name

The best product or brand names are generally going to be unique, and this correlates directly to a more likely availability of the domain name. Not only that, but it will be better received by the users as well, and in a very short period of time this will start boosting your SEO rankings too

  1. Target Keyword

Choose a domain name that contains keywords about your business, products/services, etc. However, if your domain name has natural keywords then it is also beneficial and advisable. And if this is overly challenging, here’s a suggestion that may catch you by surprise, but is actually really effective! Ask your kids to tell you what word they’d most naturally associate with your chosen industry.

  1. Exact Match Domains (EMDs)

Exact Match Domains all target keywords you’d like your website to rank for. If this something you can do, then it’s very helpful and really fast tracks you towards better SEO. Do keep in mind, however, that branding is not included in this method.

  1. Aim for Domain Name ‘Fluency’

Having the domain name of your website communicate the right message is important. People will have a better perception of what your business is all about, and what you’re offering, when you making your domain name have some relevance to the product, service, or overarching industry. Domain name fluency is the name given to this.

  1. Be Conscious of the Length of Your Domain Name

Industry insiders have never really come to a definitive answer to how short or too long a domain name has to be in order to have the length be detrimental to SEO. That said, we’ve spoken to a good many very knowledgeable people about this and the consensus is that you should never have more than 2 separate words in your domain name.

Which leads us to our next point very nicely..

  1. Avoid Hyphens in a Domain Name

Using hyphens in a domain isn’t uncommon, but the plain fact is that you shouldn’t do it. Why? Hyphens are associated with spammy websites. There are plenty of filters out there to banish spam URLs from SERPs, and if your domain name has a hyphen then your website may suffer a similar fate.

  1. No Numbers Either

Numbers are also inadvisable. This is primarily because if someone hears about your domain name and then remembers it later with their phone in hand or in front of the desktop or notebook they may well find themselves thinking if they are enter the digit or spell it out when entering the URL. Try it once and be unsuccessful and they may just decide to give up on it.

  1. Domain Extension

A domain name with an extensions that qualifies as a Top Level Domain (TLD) is very advantageous when it comes to SEO. A .com domain is still the industry standard for TLDs, so if your domain name of choice has that extension available it’s worthy whatever cost there is to acquire it.

It absolutely boost the credibility of your domain as well.

Apple’s iPhone as a Crypto Wallet? Maybe So

Even the most tuned-out of us will be aware of how Bitcoin seemingly went out with a whimper after arriving on the digital cryptocurrency scene with a bang a few years back. The same could be said for the hype about cryptocurrency as a whole, but of course now it’s made something of resurgence. Now it seems the acceptance of a global currency that’s not bound by the constraints of the world bank and international currency norms is an actual large-scale possibility, and no doubt we’re going to see a rush on bitcoin mining flare up again too.

Whether or not you believe in the validity of cryptocurrencies and if they’ll ever gain a foothold in the world of e-commerce and beyond is one thing, but it would seem that Apple is forecasting it’s going to do that to at least some extent. To cut right to it, it seems that they’re preparing to let iPhone users turn their devices into hardware wallets that will allow them to store and use bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for mobile purchases of pretty much everything.

The bulk of us here at 4GoodHosting are like the staff you’d find at any leading Canadian web hosting provider in that we take a keen interest in any major shift in the web world landscape, and if cryptocurrency is now to gain traction like it was predicted to then that definitely qualifies. That and the fact that iPhone users likely make a good half of the majority of those of you, and so let’s look at what can we read into the possibility of iPhones becoming crypto wallets.

iOS 13 – WITH CryptoKit

At the recent Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) a few weeks back, Apple’s new CryptoKit for iOS 13 was on display. What it will do is allow developers to easily create hashes for digital signatures and public and private keys that can be stored and managed by Apple’s Secure Enclave. The keys will represent cryptocurrencies, which iPhone owners can then exchange as a form of payment through an app.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Apple is going down the cryptocurrency path, but if it is it would be following HTC and Samsung. Both these competitors have already announced their intention to create native cold storage wallets available with their smartphones. HTC’s Exodus 1 smartphone is supposedly going to be able to natively store bitcoin or Ether cryptocurrencies, and Samsung’s Galaxy 10 – expected in February – is likely going to do the same.

Demand Will be There

Seems the number of people using digital wallets for all types of currencies is expected to jump from 2.3 billion this year to nearly 4 billion next year, and it’s estimated that half of the world’s population will be paying with cryptocurrencies at least some of the time by the year 2024. Along with this wallet transaction values should go up by more than 80% to more than $9 trillion a year.

Needless to say, that’s a significant chunk of change.

The real issue here is the challenge that already-existing NFC-based contactless wallets, like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, will face when wallets based on QR codes become more of the norm. QR codes are already being used by merchants to access cryptocurrency wallets for payment.

Further, as of now, Apple’s CryptoKit doesn’t include all of the cryptography algorithms needed to complete Bitcoin transactions. That’s likely to change, and sooner rather than later.

Unique Hardware Opportunity

Apple’s CryptoKit means users are just a few steps away from turning their iPhones into a hardware wallet, and what it also does is put Apple’s developers in the driver’s seat when it comes to blockchain or crypto-based apps and the hardware required for them. The belief is that they’ll be able to provide a more secure crypto wallet than anything else out there right now from a mobile phone standpoint, and that’s because they’re able to build on the existing biometrics capabilities of iPhones and iPads.

Which is good, as big-time outlets like Starbucks and Whole Foods have all already announced programs to accept bitcoin other cryptocurrency for payments. You’ll be able to wave a QR code on your smartphone in front of a register scanner to pay. That QR code, enabled by an app, will represent how much currency you have at your disposal in your crypto wallet.

Further, because CryptoKit enables a second layer of security through encryption for iOS applications with private and public keys, it can repel other issues related to hardware hacking like SIM jacking , which is a malicious attack where the hackers assume control of a person’s digital finances.

It’s certainly an interesting time to be following these developments in the world of cryptocurrencies, but one has to wonder if it’s for real this time and not a whole lot of flash and little substance as was the case a few years ago when Bitcoin was ‘the next big thing.’ In fairness though, this is bigger than one type of cryptocurrency in particular, and it’s more about having the systems and hardware in place to enable its proliferation should it become a viable payment method.

Domain Registrations So Far for 2019 Indicating Explosion of Online Businesses

When Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web nearly 20 years, it’s very likely that he had at least some envisioning of exactly how pivotal it would be in revolutionizing the world of information dissemination. Whether or not he foresaw just how integral it would be become to the worlds of business and commerce might not be so easy to assume, but of course here we are today in the middle of 2019 and it’s as clear as ever that businesses – any business – that doesn’t have a strong online presence is going to be at a MAJOR disadvantage.

While we’re obviously in the business of being a reputable Canadian web hosting provider, here at 4GoodHosting just because we’re in ‘the biz’ doesn’t mean that we’re any less sensitive to the demands of what it takes to have good, strong Internet marketing. After all, nowadays well over half of all business is generated – either directly (online purchasing) or indirectly (direct referral) – via the web.

That of course won’t come as a surprise to anyone, or it shouldn’t. It’s summertime now, so let’s say you’re in the market to buy an air conditioner for your often-too-hot condo. Do you start comparing products and prices with visits to retailers in person? Of course not, you may end up buying that product in person, but you’re going to do your researching and comparison online. We could go on further about all of this, but likely enough said.

However, as if we didn’t need any more convincing of this – it appears that the first half of 2019 has seen more domain registrations overall worldwide than during the entire year 2018. Talk about an explosion!

351M+ & Counting

That’s right, the number of domain name registrations for the first quarter of 2019 reached 351.8 million across all top-level domains (TLDs). All in comparison to the 4th quarter of 2018 which closed with a total of 348.7 million domain registrations for the entire year. For those not as swift with numbers in their head as others (myself included), that’s an increase of 3.1 million, and just so far this year. With the trend being that domain name registrations have grown by 5.4 per cent year over year, they’re on pace to pretty much obliterate that standard pace.

Popular Choices

Not surprisingly, it’s been the .com and .net domain extensions that are being snapped up most enthusiastically. Between the two there was 154.8 million domain name registrations over the first quarter of 2019, an increase of 1.8 million domain name registrations (1.2%) for the same period of 2018. This also works out to a combined increase of 6.5 million domain name registrations (4.4%) year over year.

As March 31, 2019 came to an end, no less than 141 million something .com domain names were registered, while .net domain names totalled 13.8 million domain name. Between both of them there were only 153 million new domain registrations through the end of 2018.

Country-Specifics Domain

Now China may identify itself as a Communist country (and indeed the way it represses digital communications via the Internet is regime-ish, but that’s a topic for another day), but there’s not debate that the inner workings of it are decidedly capitalist / commerce-oriented. 5 billion people makes for one heck of an expensive labour force AND consumer base. As such it’s no surprise that the largest number of country-code TLDs registered for 2019 so far have been for .cn domains.

The exact number of them? A whopping 156.8 million!

The ccTLD that comes in second, however, is almost certainly going to come as a surprise. The Tokelau Islands are found in the South Pacific, and have a population of about 1,500 people. It has to come as a shock that 22.5 million .tk domains have been registered so far in 2019! I’ll be inclined to look into why this is, and perhaps I’ll share what I’ve dug up in a future blog post here.

Back on topic though, the rest of the ccTLDs came in as follows:

  • .de (Germany) 16.2 million
  • .uk (Great Britain) 12.0 million
  • .tw (Taiwan) 5.9 million
  • .nl (Netherlands) 5.9 million
  • .ru (Russia) 5.8 million
  • .br (Brazil) 4.0 million
  • .eu (European union) 3.7 million
  • .fr (France) 3.3 million

Seriously though, what’s the deal with Tokelau? I’ve spend the last 5 minutes scouring the web and nothing to explain why 22.5 million domains have been registered for an island nation of 1,500 people.

Decline in gTLD Domain Registrations

A gTLD is a generic top-level domain and, in contrast to the explosion of the types of domain registrations pointed out above, registrations of these types of domains have actually decreased their pace so far this years as compared to the same period of 2018.

Total domain registrations for new gTLDs were 23 million in the first quarter of 2019. Registrations for these types of domains have decreased by 3.4%, compared to last quarter of 2018, where they numbered approximately 23.8 million.

Anyways, the long and short of this is that more and more businesses, ventures, and individuals are getting onboard given the proven-effective nature of making you, your business, you art – whatever it may be – explicitly visible to the entire world.

As the expression goes – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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.

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.

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.

Distractions Begone: Introducing Google Chrome’s Focus Mode

It’s been said that here and now in the 21st century we’ve never had more distractions pulling at our attention day in and out like we do now. This is especially true when we’re in front a screen, and we imagine not many of you need any convincing of that. Distractions aren’t particularly problematic when you’re only web surfing or the like, and more often than not they’re what you might call an irresistible nuisance in those situations.

When you’re on your computer for productive purposes, however, all those distractions can add up to a considerable amount of lost time. That’s where people might wish there was something to be done about them… and it appears as if now there is.

Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re like any industrious Canadian web hosting provider in the way we have our eyes and ears peeled for developments in the computing world. Most of them aren’t worthy of discussing at large here, but considering that nearly everyone has had difficulty staying on task when making use of the Internet then this one definitely is.

Google Introduces Focus Mode for Chrome Browser

As if the Chrome browser needed any more assistance in being the nearly ubiquitous web-browser of choice these days. Google is set to announce focus mode, and while they haven’t actually announced this new feature as of yet, tech insiders have found there’s a new flag to be seen that indicates whether or not ‘focus mode’ is on.

It should be mentioned that they’re not broaching uncharted territory here. Different applications have attempted to take on the problem of getting people to focus while working on a computer, and there have been software solutions available for both Mac and PC that have arrived with little or no fanfare. It goes without saying, however, that no power players commands the attention that Google does these days.

At this time little is known about the Focus Mode feature, asides fro the fact it will soon be implemented with the world’s most popular web browser. The seen flag is reportedly indicating that if ‘#focus-mode’ is enabled, it allows a user to switch to Focus Mode.

What, and How?

We bet nearly all of you will be saying right, right – but how exactly is Focus Mode going to work? At the moment, we can only speculate on the features the new option might offer to users. We think it’s safe to assume that Focus Mode will restrict specific websites or applications from being accessed. For example, Focus Mode may stop a user from browsing sites such as YouTube, Reddit, and Facebook (likely the most necessary for most people!). Other industry insiders have suggested that the mode may integrate with Windows 10‘s Focus Assist when working in conjunction with a PC’s operating system.

That last part there is important, as it appears that – at least initially – Focus Mode will be available on PCs running Windows 10, and it’s believed that it will allow users to silence notifications and other distracting pop-ups. We’re prone to wonder if Focus Mode will also work with Windows 10 to stop websites from screaming out for your attention, or restricting those pop-up announcements that are way too common and explicitly designed to take your attention elsewhere.

Patience, Grasshopper

As mentioned, Focus Mode isn’t quite here yet, but for those who are distracted way too easily (and you can certainly count us among them) when time is a valuable commodity to get needed tasks done then this really has a lot of potential.

We can most likely expect to see Focus Mode in a test build such as Chrome Canary before it becomes a mainstream feature available to one and all with Google Chrome. We’ll be following these developments keenly, and we imagine that now a good many of you will be too.