If you’ve taken to heart any of the security advice or practices that I or many other technology professionals have been dispensing for the past few years, you’ve probably developed a healthy skepticism for any emails that land in your box that are unexpected and contain unfamiliar links. Even more so if your email provider marks the email as spam or a possible phishing attempt.
For example, I recently received an email with the subject “iPhone iPod touch Class Action Settlement” that was immediately marked as spam by Gmail. This email purportedly offered me a part of a class action settlement with Apple. Seeing how many people own iPhones and iPods, it seemed like good phishing bait so I assumed this was yet another scam. It had all the trappings of a well-made con:
- broad target demographic
- based on a recent, actual event
- contained lots of official-sounding text that didn’t read like a 4th grader wrote it
- no overt clues that the sender was an obvious bad agent (non-US domains, inappropriate reply-to addresses, spoofed mail headers, etc.)
It would probably lure people into clicking a link that would either load up their machines with malware, or entice them into giving up some personal information that would later be used in an identity theft attempt. I opened it up with the intent of warning my audience and clients about the potentially well-crafted fraud.
As it turns out, this is a legitimate email that Gmail incorrectly identified as spam, probably because the sender was flagged as a spammer by justifiably suspicious readers like you and me. A little research online reveals this is part of the original case that made headlines back in May of this year. Emboldened by this information, I used Chrome (bolstered by a variety of anti-scripting extensions) to visit the included link, and, lo and behold, it’s a legitimate website. Because of the relative newness of this initiative, there isn’t a lot out on the web about this yet, so unless you are an experienced internet researcher, your searches might have come up with little evidence that this was a legitimate email.
What this means for you:
Most cautious internet citizens might have trusted their email provider’s guidance on this and just deleted this email, potentially missing out on as much as $200 as a settlement award. False positives are an unfortunate side-effect of a proper security protocol, and in this case, even Google didn’t provide enough information to immediately assuage my suspicions, and a few search results actually led to conversations where people immediately labeled it as a scam. Sometimes the internet does not provide instantaneous answers, nor is it always right, and as always, you should always take your search results with a grain of salt, especially if there is money at stake. If your search results turns up a dearth of information, your best course of action is to wait a few days for the internet to catch up (it always does!) and research again, or to contact a tech expert like C2 Technology to get a second opinion.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
If Forbes is writing about it, then it must be entering the mainstream, right? According to their calculations, the latest jailbreak for the iPhone’s iOS 6 has been installed over 7 million times since its release last week, which is roughly equivalent to about 2% of the overall iPhone population, and that number is likely to grow over time to 10% according to Jay Freeman, the administrator of the “unofficial” jailbroken iPhone app store, Cydia.
“Jailbreaking” (similar to “rooting” in the Android world) is basically a process that removes the restriction of installing apps from a third-party app store not controlled by Apple. Apps found at Cydia commonly enable iPhones to do things that normally wouldn’t be possible under Apple’s strict programming and content guidelines, such as (before iOS 6) multitasking or something as simple as setting Google’s Map app as the default mapping application when you click on addresses on your iPhone.
What this means for you:
The explosion in popularity of smartphones and tablets has infused cultures everywhere with elements of hacking and tinkering as people become more comfortable with customizing the phone rather than just using “as directed”, right up to the point where they hit the limitations of the device, and in the case of the iPhone, the (sometimes arbitrary) limits set by Apple. Over the years, jailbreaking, once considered arcane and only for the most foolhardy hacker, has now become something simple enough that you could walk your grandmother through the process.
Let’s be real – jailbreaking your grandmother’s iPad is probably not necessary, but if she could do it, then surely you can do it. And if it means being able to finally get rid of Apple’s miserable Maps application and return to trusty Google Maps once and for all, jailbreaking starts to look a lot more inviting. In the end, jailbreaking is about deciding whether Apple’s vision for how you should use your phone or tablet meets your needs (which it does for the majority of Apple customers) or whether you are really ready to “think different.”