Mac Users Hit by Rare Ransomware Attack, Spread via Transmission BitTorrent App

Mac owners who use the open source Transmission BitTorrent client are being warned that a version of the installer was distributed via the app’s official website, infected with a new family of ransomware.

It is believed that hackers managed to compromise the installer of Transmission version 2.90 on its download site on Saturday, March 4, in order to spread ransomware that researchers at Palo Alto Research have dubbed “KeRanger.”

The outcome is that if you were unfortunate enough to install Transmission 2.90 onto your Mac, your computer may now be the digital equivalent of ticking time bomb. Because KeRanger waits three days before awaking, encrypting your documents and data files, contacting its command-and-control servers, and demanding a one bitcoin (approximately $400) ransom be paid for your data’s safe return.

Ransomeware has plagued Windows users for years, but this is the first time it’s been seen in the wild and affected Macs. You’re only affected if you downloaded this specific version from the Transmission website, not if you used the in-app updater.

Source: Mac Users Hit by Rare Ransomware Attack, Spread via Transmission BitTorrent App | The Mac Security Blog

One screen or two: Why it’s better (or worse) to have multiple displays on your Mac

If you work with multiple applications on your Mac, you find yourself confronted with managing many windows. Most people use a single Mac and struggle to organize their windows, but some people use their Mac with a second (or even a third) display.

Macworld contributors Rob Griffiths and Kirk McElhearn have different approaches to wrangling all those windows. Rob uses two displays, and Kirk uses one, leveraging Spaces to keep his apps under control. Here’s how they each manage apps and windows.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

My 10 Essential Mac Utilities

Whenever I set up a new Mac, I install a number of utilities that make me more productive, that save me time, or that protect my data. I bought a new MacBook recently, and, as with every Mac, I installed some essential utilities. I’ve been using some of these apps for many years; others are recent additions to my roster of essential software. Here’s a look at my 10 essential Mac utilities.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

Google Employee Reviews USB-C Cables on Amazon to Warn about Faulty Cables

If you have a new MacBook, you have probably bought a USB-C cable. That’s the new connector that only the MacBook – at least for Apple’s products – uses. But Google’s Chromebook Pixel and Pixel C tablet also use this connector, and an engineer who works on these products has been reviewing cables on Amazon.com.

Benson Leung has so far reviewed 14 such cables, and he explains, for the bad ones, that:

This cable does not correctly follow the USB Type C specification Release 1.1. […]

Specifically, using this charging cable, the Chromebook Pixel and other USB Type-C devices will attempt to draw 3A of current over the cable, potentially damaging the USB hub or charger on the A side, which is not guaranteed to be rated at 3A.

He concludes his reviews of the bad cables by saying:

For consumers, I do not recommend buying this cable, as it may cause damage to your charger, hub, or PC USB ports.

Not all cables are bad. For example, a Belkin cable meets the requirements. Leung says:

Belkin’s USB Type-C to USB Type-A Charge and Data cable is excellent. This cable meets the USB Type C Specification, […]

This cable as as good as the ones that Apple and Google provide with and sell on their stores as accessories. The one downside is that the cable is $19.99, which is the same price as the Google one, for example. The advantage of Belkin, though, is that it is not perpetually sold out like the 1st party cables.

Buy this cable if you want a reliable cable that is practically the same as a 1st party cable from Google or Apple.

So if you do plan to buy a USB-C cable, check out these reviews first.

Why, Exactly, is Apple’s New Magic Trackpad So Expensive?

I got Apple’s new Magic Trackpad and Magic Keyboard yesterday, and I wrote my first impressions. I like the keyboard a lot, but I really don’t like the trackpad, and I’m planning to return it. It’s too wide, the Force Touch feature is useless, and it’s way too expensive. ($129 in the US; £109 here.) That’s 11% of the price of the base iMac ($1099).

But why, exactly, is it so expensive? What’s so special about it? Part of the cost is clearly the large rechargeable battery the device contains, but paying twice the price to avoid using my own replaceable batteries makes no sense. Yes, trackpads eat up batteries very quickly; I generally get 3-4 weeks of use with mine, compared to several months with the wireless keyboard.

Is it the Force Touch technology? If so, then it’s simply wasted. I quickly found that Force Touch gets invoked when I manipulate items in the Finder (Command-click one item, then the next, and drag them; Quick Look pops up). If I were to keep this trackpad, I’d have to turn that feature off, since I often click and drag items in the Finder.

So why is it expensive? I really don’t know. Some people will like the larger surface; I’ve found that even with the previous model, I only use about half of the surface. (I use the trackpad by manipulating with my first two fingers on the right side of the pad, so my third and fourth fingers can rest on my desk. Otherwise, those fingers cause confusion on the trackpad.)

I do appreciate the trackpad not being as deep; it matches the depth of the new keyboard, which is more than enough to perform almost any gesture on the device. But the width is just overkill.

Unless there’s some hidden feature in the new Magic Trackpad, it’s an overpriced device, poorly designed, which isn’t at all practical.

Note: As my friend Rob Griffiths has pointed out, the Magic Trackpad – as well as the new Magic Mouse and Magic Keyboard – comes with a lightning cable, which Apple sells for $19. (You can, of course, get third-party cables much cheaper). But this does explain part of the price difference between the original Magic Trackpad and the new model. The battery is also part of the price, but it’s still a big jump to go from $79 to $129.

Check Which of Your Apple Devices Are Set Up to Use ApplePay, and Remove Credit Cards Remotely

If you’ve set up ApplePay on any compatible devices, you may want to check them at some point. You may also want to turn off ApplePay on your devices, if they get lost or stolen.

To do this, go to iCloud.com and click Settings. On the Settings page, the My Devices section shows all the devices that you’ve signed into iCloud with.

Apple pay

Each device displays an ApplePay icon if you’ve set that device up for ApplePay.

If you want to turn off ApplePay on a device, click it, and then click Remove just below ApplePay.

Remove apple pay

Even though ApplePay is quite secure, if one of your devices is lost or stolen, it’s a good idea to remove your credit card(s) from the device.

How to encrypt your Mac with FileVault 2, and why you absolutely should | Macworld

FileVault 2 can make nations quake, apparently, but it’s just a bit of good information hygiene, letting you make choices about the degree of vulnerability you want to tolerate for your locally stored data and any software or stored passwords for services in your accounts. With it off, you’re not risking everything, but with it on, you have a high degree of assurance about who can access what.

My son’s MacBook Air got stolen last year when his apartment was burglarized. We spent a lot of time together changing passwords. With File Vault, we wouldn’t have had to do that. I strongly recommend using File Vault.

How to encrypt your Mac with FileVault 2, and why you absolutely should | Macworld.

Setting Up a New Mac: Should You Migrate or Do a Clean Installation?

If you’ve just bought a new Mac, and you’re upgrading from an older computer, you want all of your files and data to be accessible on the new machine. But when setting up a new Mac, should you migrate or do a clean installation?

When you buy a new Mac, it might be a good idea to do a clean installation; starting from scratch, with a brand-new operating system, and adding the files that you need manually. Here’s how to migrate your files to your new Mac, or do a clean installation, and the pros and cons of both methods.

Read the rest of the article on the Intego Mac Security Blog.

Help a Good Samaritan Return Your Lost iPhone, iPad or Mac

You know it could happen some day: you might lose your iPhone, iPad or laptop. If you’ve activated Find My iPhone (or the similarly named feature for other devices), you’ll get an approximate location for the device, but if it’s in an apartment building or office building, or if there’s no Wi-Fi or cellular access, you might not be able to track it down precisely.

If someone finds your device, it would be good to make it easy for them to get in touch and return the device to you. There are plenty of Good Samaritans out there, and it’s worth preparing your device so if one does find it, they can contact you.

Essentially, you want to add contact information to your device, in a way that anyone who turns it on can find your name, email address and phone number (obviously not your iPhone’s number), and get in touch. An easy way would be to paste a sticker on your device, but that might be ugly and it could wear out. Why not add contact information to the lock screens of your Macs and iOS devices? It’s easy.

Read the rest of the article on Macworld.

Apple’s Obsession with Thinness; How Much Thinner Can Things Get?

Apple is obsessed with thinness. With an obsession that rivals that of the CPU clock speed days, Apple touts thinness for many of its devices.

Look at the new (poorly named) iPad Air 2; the first text you see on Apple’s website is:

“So capable, you won’t want to put it down.
So thin and light, you won’t have to.”

For the iPhone 6, it’s a bit different. They start with bigness, then go to thinness:

“iPhone at its largest.
And thinnest.”

Ember

And the MacBook Air:

“Thin. Light. Powerful.
And ready for anything.”

And then there’s the iMac:

“Creating such a stunningly thin design took equally stunning feats of technological innovation.”

Apple marketed the current iMac models as being thinner, even though the thinness of a desktop computer is not a valid selling point.

Since Apple no longer touts the clock speeds of its devices – at least not as the leading argument in their marketing pitches – thin is the new fast. The problem is that this thinness is getting less and less important; with each iteration of a device such as an iPad or iPhone, the company shaves a few millimeters off the thickness, making very little difference, but giving them a marketing message that, in the end, means little.

The difference between the current iPad Air and last year’s model is so slight as to not make a difference. The newer model is 1.4 mm thinner than the previous one; the difference in weight is a mere 34 g, or just over an ounce. The iPhone 6 is only 0.7 mm thinner than the iPhone 5s, yet it’s still thicker than the iPod touch. But it doesn’t matter; the difference in thickness and weight are inconsequential.

Metric such as size are valid at certain times. When the MacBook Air was released – nearly five years ago – the difference in thickness and weight, compared to other Apple laptops, was tremendous. At 3 lbs, it was 2/3 the weight of the first aluminum MacBook with the same display size: the aluminum MacBook, released later that year, weighed in at 4.5 lbs. And the plastic MacBook, released shortly after the MacBook Air, weight 5 lbs. Those are big differences.

Yet Apple hasn’t changed the MacBook Air much in five years; it’s still just under 3 lbs (2.96 to be exact), and it’s only a few hairs thinner. The MacBook Air has hit the thinness wall. The same thing will happen to other Apple products.

Apple has nearly reached the limit of thinness. Compare the original iPad and iPhone to the current models; the differences are noticeable. But as each generation shaves a couple of millimeters off the thickness, there’s not much point any more. It’s getting harder to make devices any thinner. Already, the iPhone’s camera has to stick out because the body of the device is too thin. (This was already the case with the iPod touch, whose camera also protrudes.) Apple soon won’t be able to shave even a half a millimeter off its devices, and they’ll have to find a new marketing message.

Thin is near the end of its life as a marketing argument. Maybe it’s time to switch to something else: something that has a lot more value to users, such as battery life.