Archive for Apps

Tech Tip – Twobird

New email client app ‘Twobird’ allows you to put all your emails in one place and create notes and reminders on the fly (and attaches the notes on emails).

Twobird has been billed as “a new kind of email app” that offers email at the speed of live chat.  It includes all your everyday tools – writes emails, creates notes, set reminders and assign to-dos — all in your inbox. If, for example, if you’ve scheduled an appointment it will alert you at just the right time.

Features include:

– Remind: allowing you to schedule an email or note to appear in your inbox later.

– Low Priority: so you can set aside automated messages so you don’t get distracted.

– Pinned and Recent: this lets you keep important notes and conversations easily accessible.

– Tidy Up: archives any inactive conversations so your inbox stays fresh.

Twobird is available in the Google Play store.

Tech Tip – Telegram

Telegram describes itself as the fastest messaging app on the market, and uses a unique, distributed network of data centres around the globe so that’s it’s not only a simple, fast, secure messaging service that’s synced across all your devices, but also has added features and an ease of operation that many prefer to WhatsApp.

Everything on Telegram (chats, groups, media, etc.) is encrypted using a combination of 256-bit symmetric AES encryption.  Also, the app has a clean interface, there are no adverts, and Telegram offers powerful photo and video editing tools.

Telegram is available on the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.

Joker Malware Found In 24 Apps In Google Play Store

Security researcher Aleksejs Kuprins of CSIS cybersecurity services company has discovered 24 apps which have been available for download in the Google Play Store that contain ‘Joker’ malware.

What Is Joker Malware?

Joker malware is a spy and premium subscription bot that makes money by simulating clicks. If, for example, a Joker infected app is downloaded, the malware delivers a second-stage component which silently simulates the interaction with advertisement websites, and steals the victim’s SMS messages, their contact list and their device information.

One of the silent automated interactions with advertisement websites includes simulation of clicks and entering of the authorisation codes for premium service subscriptions.

One specific example of what Joker can do, given by Mr Kuprins on the CSIS tech blog is that in in Denmark, Joker can silently sign a victim up for a 50 DKK (6,71 EUR) per week service by automating interaction with a premium offer’s webpage, entering the offer code, waiting for a SMS message with a confirmation code and extracting it, and finally submitting the code to the offer’s webpage to authorise the premium subscription.

Which Apps?

The 24 apps harbouring the ‘Joker’ malware, which have been installed more than 472,000 times are: Advocate Wallpaper, Age Face, Altar Message, Antivirus Security – Security Scan, Beach Camera, Board picture editing, Certain Wallpaper, Climate SMS, Collate Face Scanner, Cute Camera, Dazzle Wallpaper, Declare Message, Display Camera, Great VPN, Humour Camera, Ignite Clean, Leaf Face Scanner, Mini Camera, Print Plant scan, Rapid Face Scanner, Reward Clean, Ruddy SMS, Soby Camera and Spark Wallpaper.

Only Targets Certain Countries

The good news is that ‘Joker’ malware only attacks targeted countries and that most of the infected apps contain a list of these targeted Mobile Country Codes (MCC) meaning that the victim has to be using a SIM card from one of these countries to receive the second stage payload.  The bad news is that the UK is one of those targeted countries.

Google On Top Of Things

Despite there being 24 apps identified so far, Mr Kuprins has reported that Google has stayed on top of things during his investigation and has been removing all the offending apps without the need for prompting.

Not The First Time

Back in January last year, Security researchers discovered 36 fake and malicious apps for Android that could harvest data and track a victim’s location, masquerading as security tools in the trusted Google Play Store.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Google Play is a trusted source for apps, and it’s worrying that hundreds of thousands of customers may have the affected apps from Google Play.  In this case, Google has responded relatively quickly and has deleted infected apps where they have been found.

The obvious advice to android phone users is to check the list of infected apps and delete any on your phone that match. If you think you may have been affected by Joker via an app it may be a good idea to check your Google Play account for any unauthorised subscriptions, check your credit card or bank statements as far back as June of this year, and let your contacts know that you may have been infected (because Joker steals your phone’s contact list).

To minimise the risk of falling victim to damage caused by fake apps, users should check the publisher of an app, check which permissions the app requests when you install it, delete apps from your phone that you no longer use, and contact your phone’s service provider or visit the high street store if you think you’ve downloaded a malicious/suspect app.

This latest discovery of infected apps on Google’s Play Store should prompt the company to make even greater efforts to police the apps that it offers there.

Tech Tip – Canva

If you’d like a free, graphic design app that can help you to improve your business and social media communications then Canva may be the app for you.

Canva is a versatile graphic design app: full editor, Instagram story maker, video maker, video editor, logo maker and poster maker, enabling you to easily stay on brand and create some very professional logo and poster designs with your photos and videos.

Canva also provides a great way to design your Instagram Highlight cover and create a logo and banner for social networks (Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter).

You can get Canva on the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.

Microsoft’s Phone App Challenge to iMessage and FaceTime

Reports from online tech commentators indicate that Microsoft will soon be enhancing its Your Phone app with the ability to make phone calls from a desktop PC, thereby making the app a serious challenger to Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime.

The Your Phone App

Microsoft’s Your Phone desktop App connects your phone to your PC thereby giving you access to your phone’s notifications, photos and texts while working on your PC. Giving the desktop Phone App the details of your phone (Android or Apple, phone number) means that you receive a download link to the ‘Phone Companion’ via SMS text.

Installing the Phone Companion on your mobile enables you to sync your phone with your PC e.g. an Android phone with Windows 10 PC.  This gives instant access to your phone on your PC so that you can reply to texts at your PC and instantly receive photos on your PC that have been taken on the phone.

Making Calls – Challenging Apple’s iCloud Integrations

The addition of being able to dial a number, search your phone contacts and make a call directly from your PC is an important enhancement that could make Microsoft’s Your Phone desktop App a serious challenger to Apple’s iCloud integrations on macOS.

Apple Mac users can currently use these to send messages from their desktop using iMessage and can also make voice and video calls using FaceTime.

‘Use Phone’ Button

The enhanced Your Phone App from Microsoft will include a ‘Use Phone’ button that can send a call back from the PC (microphone and speakers) to the handset,  thereby enabling more privacy and/or shutting out any distracting background noise e.g. keyboard noises and noises from home working.

Who?

A full-feature Your Phone App would most likely be of maximum value to those workers who need to be in front of the desktop for long periods of time with minimal distractions although, arguably, messages and notifications popping up on the screen could be less easy to ignore than if they’d been quietly arriving on the phone in corner.

The Your Phone app could also be of use to workers in a situation where too much obvious interaction with their handset in the workplace is frowned upon and where visual monitoring and supervision is particularly intense.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For Microsoft, this improvement to the Your Phone desktop App, which has been around for some time, gives it much greater potential value to users and gives Microsoft another way to seriously compete with its rival Apple.

For any business users who are typically tied to the PC for most of the time the ability to handle all phone matters on the desktop adds value in terms of convenience, possible time savings, and fewer distractions.

Tech Tip – WiFiAnalyzer

If you’d like to optimise your Wi-Fi signal by being able to quickly analyse Wi-Fi networks directly from your Android device, measure signal strength and identify crowded channels, Wi-Fi Analyzer may be the app for you.

This open-source, free app, which has no-adverts and claims not to collect any personal information, uses as few permissions as possible to perform the analysis and does not require access to the Internet.

WiFiAnalyzer is available from the Google Play store.

Tesla Owners Locked Out

Some Tesla Model 3 car owners found themselves decidedly locked out in the cold due to a vital Phone Key app being down for maintenance.

Labor Day Dismay

On US Labor Day, some owners of Tesla Model 3 cars who tried to use their Phone Key app, the smartphone app that will open a Model 3 without the owner having to take the phone out of their pocket, found themselves locked out when the app didn’t work, and they hadn’t brought a physical key fob/card with them.

Net Fret

Some of the immobilized owners took to social media platforms to highlight their plight, voice their frustration and seek information.  For example, some Tesla owners on Twitter claimed to have been locked out of their cars for up to four hours whereas others reported being stranded at Supercharger stations and plugged in longer than was necessary.

No App Trapped

The reasons why some owners of Tesla Model 3 cars were locked out appears to be the fact that they had logged out of their app, may not have been able to get a phone signal, and that the app was undergoing maintenance at the other end.

Under normal circumstances, the Phone Key should be able to operate on Bluetooth Low Energy frequencies rather than a network connection in order to communicate with the Model 3 vehicle.

Pain Again

This is not the first time that Tesla owners have experienced a lack of mobility due to being locked out by apps.  Back in 2018, after media control unit replacements and a problem with digital certificate transferral, some owners found themselves in the same frustrating situation of being temporarily refused entry to their own cars.

Not Hard If You Bring Your Card

The Tesla Manual states that the Model 3 comes with two physical key cards for entry and operation that can be used when a phone is not accessible, out of battery, or if someone else needs temporary access to the Model 3 e.g. a valet. Those owners who were temporarily stranded by the app failure appear not to have brought either of their key cards with them.

Electric Blues

All this comes at a time when Tesla is facing competition from the likes of Harley-Davidson which has just announced that it’s taking pre-orders for its first all-electric motorcycle, the LiveWire.  The LiveWire can cover 110 miles on a single charge and can go from zero to 60 in just 3.5 seconds.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This is clearly an embarrassing incident for a company that has a technological focus for its vehicles, and where the price reflects the early-curve electronic vehicle development – Model 3s starting at around £37,000.

This story is also an example of the potential dangers of relying too much on technology and apps to run every aspect of our lives going forward.  Even though Tesla does provide physical key cards that could have helped those stranded drivers, human error (not reading the manual and / or forgetting to bring one) played a part, as it often does, in errors involving the human and technology combination.  Also, the use of interconnected technologies i.e. the reliance upon some kind of Internet/Bluetooth connection to enable the app to work correctly shows how today’s newest smart services still have a heavy reliance upon the existing communications infrastructure.

Tech Tip – Office Lens

If you would like a handy way to make copies of work documents for future reference, the Office Lens app lets you turn your smartphone into a whiteboard and document scanner.

The Office Lens app means that you never need to lose a receipt or important document or lose any of the ideas sketched onto a whiteboard at meetings or courses.  Snap a picture of your chosen document with the app and Office Lens allows you to save the output as images, PDFs or Word documents, and save to OneNote, OneDrive, or to your local device.

Office Lens is available from the Google Play store.

Tech Tip – Split

If you’d like to be even more productive and be able to multi-task while using your iPhone or iPad, the ‘Split’ web browser app allows you to run two browser tabs side by side.

The app works in portrait and landscape views, and for each website that’s split in the browser you have a back button, you can bookmark a page, and you can open one of the websites into full-screen mode and simply tap to go back to the split-screen.

The Split app is free from Apple’s App Store, and similar split browser apps are also available for Android.

Robot Tuck Shops About To Hit U.S. College Campuses

San Francisco-based start-up, Starship Technologies, has announced that it will be putting food delivery robots that respond to phone app orders on 100 U.S. university campuses in the next 24 months.

The Bots

It has been reported that 25 to 50 of the (23Kg battery-powered, six-wheeled) Starship bots will be let loose on each campus, with the ability to roam around seven days a week, from 8 am to 2 am. The self-driving bots drive at 4 mph and use 10 cameras, radar, ultrasound sensors, GPS, computer vision and neural networks to process what they see in order to negotiate their way safely around a 4 km radius.

The bot’s cargo bay is mechanically locked during the journey and can only be opened by the customer with their smartphone app. The location of the robots is tracked, so that customer knows the exact location of their order and receives a notification at the time of arrival.

Food

The college campus robots will be delivering breakfast, snacks, and a variety of other food to students on campus.  Also, the app can take orders from local restaurants which the Starship bots will deliver to students on the campus for $1.99 per shipment, with Starship getting paid by the restaurant for making each delivery.

Benefits

The obvious benefits of the food delivery robots are that they can work whatever hours they are required all year round with no pay, no holiday and no need for breaks. Also, the Starship bots have an advantage over other local delivery services because the bots are small, manoeuvrable, know their way around the expansive campuses (thanks to pre-loaded, 3D maps), there are several bots working on one site, and they won’t need to be subject to any authorisation checks for being there.

Bigger Goals

Starship has bigger plans for the bots and is reported to have the goal of getting the bots onto college campuses across the US serving 1 million students.

Starship has also started a package delivery service in neighbourhoods and parts deliveries on business and industrial campuses using the bots.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Amazon has been making the news over the past couple of years with its delivery drones and ‘Scout’ delivery robots, and the well-funded start-up Starship ($40 million in new funding) has shown how it has been able to move quickly into a niche and join the growing delivery robot/drone industry.  For the robot and drone operating companies (Amazon, UPS, Google, Starship) these bots offer a way to reduce costs, avoid road congestion problems, avoid labour problems, and potentially deliver 24 hours a day all year round.  Users of bot and drone services can expect convenience, greater control over orders, and the novelty and fun of the delivery experience.

The benefits of drones and robots, however, may come at the expense of jobs, more of which are being taken away by the advance of technology-fuelled automation across many industries.