📷 Who’s Watching You, AMD Ryzen Above Intel, Night Mode Bad

Policy Update

First, we’ve updated a few of our non-retainer service terms. Don’t worry, we’ve taken the time to make them easy to understand. Click here!

Security Camera
Screen capture of surveillance image.
Actual photo. Image Credit: Dio-V

That’s Not My House!

Chinese electronics company Xiaomi (pronounced: shao-mi) recently found itself in hot water over a recent ‘mix up’ which caused an undetermined number of users’ security camera feeds to be streamed to the wrong accounts. The first account of this behavior was reported by Reddit user “Dio-V” who wrote that by checking the camera feed on his Google Nest Hub device, he observed stills from office spaces, living rooms, and even children’s bedrooms. The issue appears limited to the Mijia brand of surveillance cameras, specifically the very affordable Mijia 1080P model which integrates with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

In response, Google has disabled Xiaomi’s connection to Assistant, no changes to Alexa have been reported at this time. But just in case, it might be worthwhile to disconnect or disable these cameras until a fix is announced.

AMD “Ryzen” Above Intel

If you’ve noticed notebooks and PCs priced $100-$200 lower than usual, chances are they contain a chip from AMD known as Ryzen (rye-zen). For almost two decades, the ubiquitous “Intel Inside” or “i5”, or “i7” stickers could be found on nearly all OEM machines. But as of late 2019, some eagle-eyed shoppers noticed a different sticker in place of the aforementioned. In fact, we receive several calls every day regarding the reputation of this apparent newcomer “Ryzen”. We are happy to report the latest range of CPUs from AMD are the real deal.

Our Intel based editing machine from 2008 stickered for ~$5k, shod with a Xeon W3680 CPU. The processor had six processing cores (12 threads) and kept pace with modern variants for a decade. The Xeon was replaced with a Ryzen 3900X, which has 12 processing cores (24 threads) for less than $500, reliably doubling our output for far less money.

Competition is a good thing. It boosts innovation while driving down cost. In all cases the consumer wins. Intel has not successfully supplanted AMD’s recent success. Since Q3 of 2019, Intel brought several refreshes of existing hardware, coupled with price-cutting to preserve market share. These efforts have been in vain. Of course we don’t want AMD to become the Julius Caesar of PCs, so here’s hoping Intel can right the ship (and keep prices low) in 2020.

AMD Ryzen 3D Graphic
AMD Ryzen logo.
Image of female shot in blue light.

Blue Light Bad

Coffee is good, no wait, it’s bad, now it’s good, again… And now, blue light filters are bad? -Sorta.

A recent study released by Dr. Tim Brown of Manchester University suggests that earlier testing may not have accounted for the intensity of the light which reaches the eye. Put differently, previous studies inadvertently dimmed the amount of blue light reaching the eye when changing colors. This caused an uncorrelated effect on circadian rhythm. Dr. Brown’s study found that by carefully metering the intensity of the blue light to match that of white and yellow, the foremost had the least effect on the internal clock of mice used in the testing.

This is interesting stuff, though there’s no telling when a competing study will reverse the course once again.

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Ransomware: Protect Yourself


By now, you’ve heard the name. Ransomware is in the news, on the web, and could be attached to your next e-mail.

What is it?

In the simplest terms, ransomware is a computer virus that changes your files into unreadable garbage, and then demands money from you to change them back. Efforts to recover just a handful of files on the cheap are subverted by recent versions of this awful software; it can now change the name of your files prohibiting cherry-picking important ones.

And if you think that’s bad, they’ll even offer to let you off the hook for infecting two of your “friends”.

Ransomware is often delivered via e-mail, as common file attachments. The suspect e-mail messages are very difficult to pick apart from legitimate ones. These messages are well-written, appear as being sent from known senders (Aunt Dottie, USPS, even the FBI) and compel the reader to open the attachment.

The virus can also be delivered by way of website infection. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to actually click “download” on a website to become infected.

You can’t always follow the money.

It’s a bit complex but the bad guys are almost exclusively accepting BitCoin as payment. This screen grab from Swordfish (2001 Warner Bros. Pictures) illustrates a method hackers use to cover their tracks.

Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures

Money hopping accounts across the globe.

The hackers utilize numerous digital wallets (many of which have been stolen) to filter the funds, and distribute them in very small pieces. Though this isn’t the only method used, it is one which is very challenging to uncover.

Protect yourself against ransomware!

Disconnecting from the Internet isn’t always a viable choice. The easiest and most effective ways to safeguard your files are:

  1. Develop a Healthy Sense of Paranoia for Internet Exchanges

    Whether you’re surfing sites, installing software, or reading e-mails, take the time to read through, before allowing a download. Call or send a new (don’t forward the original) e-mail to the colleague(s) asking if they’ve sent attachments to you. Lastly, consult a trusted IT adviser if ever in doubt.

  2. Anti-Virus Alone is NOT Good Enough

    No anti-virus is 100% effective. Ransomware is a relatively new threat, and there’s no clear champion of protection, yet. You can start by downloading these add-ons:
    CryptoPrevent: Note that this software may not be effective against all existing and emerging threats.
    MalwareBytes: This software can be an invaluable companion to your existing anti-virus software. Year after year, we have yet to test a more effective, comprehensive anti-virus title. Interested? Contact Us.

  3. Employ a Backup Solution, Immediately

There are an infinite number of backup services available. Here are guidelines for selecting a vendor:

-Ensure the backup utilizes off-site facilities (more than an external drive connected to your computer).
-Be sure the solution has a private or commercial “Cloud Storage” technology built-in.
-Ask your candidate if they throttle your uploads/downloads.

Tekswift offers all of this, and more with our DataGuard Cloud Backup solution. Get in touch with us for a quote.

Stay safe!

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