Control What Information Apps Can Access on Your Children’s iPhone or iPad

I recently explained how to enable and set up Restrictions on an iOS device, to ensure that your children don’t have free reign on their iPhone or iPad. If you don’t turn on Restrictions, however, you might still want to help your children ensure that their privacy is respected. You can control what information and features certain apps can access on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. You might want to do it for your kids’ devices, and you also might want to do it for your own.

When you launch a new app that wants to access any personal information or hardware features (such as location services, the camera, and the microphone), you’ll see a dialog asking you to allow the app to access these. You can refuse or grant access, and you can always change these settings later. Here’s how to check and adjust these settings.

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

DiskWarrior 5 Review: The Essential Tool for Maintaining and Repairing Disk Problems

I’ve said it countless times: it’s not a question of if you will lose data, but when. Media, such as hard drives, eventually fails. Or you can make the kind of mistake that results in deleted folders or erased disks. And files can simply get corrupted. There are two things you need to do to ensure you don’t lose data: back up your files regularly, and use software to diagnose and correct problems before they become serious.

Since 1998, Alsoft’s DiskWarrior has been the go-to tool for fixing disk corruption on Macs. It’s been eight years since the last update to DiskWarrior. At the time, I reviewed DiskWarrior 4 and gave it the highest rating, five mice. It has saved my data, and fixed hard drive issues, many times over the years.

DiskWarrior does one thing, and does it well: it optimizes and repairs disk directories, which contain the information that tells your Mac where files are stored on the disks attached to it. If directories become corrupted, you can lose files. While your data may still be on a disk, the Mac is no longer capable of finding it. DiskWarrior works both as preventive medicine–to fix errors before they become serious–and to correct more serious errors and help recover files when things get really bad.

Read the rest of my review on Macworld.

iWant: Time Machine for iOS

I wrote yesterday how I lost data stored in iCloud, and had to get geeky to retrieve it. This shouldn’t happen. Ever. With Dropbox, for example, if you have two files with the same name, Dropbox saves both of them, showing, in the file names, that there is a conflict. And back in the days of pre-iCloud syncing, Apple showed you when there were conflicts and let you resolve them. But now, iCloud, in an attempt to be as transparent as possible, has eliminated such features.

Data is important; data integrity is essential. There is simply no situation where losing data is acceptable. Yet, for many people who use iCloud, this is the case.

The data loss I described is not uncommon. I’ve heard from lots of people who’ve had similar problems with Apple’s app and with third-party apps. The best Apple can do is tell you how to find missing information in iCloud after restoring an iOS device; they talk about apps, media, messages, but not data that has been lost. About two years ago, a number of app developers spoke out about this, and some app developers have given up on iCloud because of its lack of reliability.

iOS can back up to iCloud automatically. But this isn’t a real backup; it only stores some settings, but not most data. It stores pointers to apps and purchased content, but not content that you’ve synced to the device that Apple doesn’t sell. It’s not a backup, it’s not even a clone; it’s a selective backup of what Apple is concerned about. Apple’s logic is probably that iCloud will still have your app data: your contacts, calendars, notes and more. But as I, and many others have seen, iCloud can lose data. Also, you may have apps that store data locally; that don’t sync to the cloud, that don’t store files on Dropbox. In that case, it’s very hard to recover lost data.

Apple created Time Machine for the Mac so users would be protected. It’s still users’ responsibility to turn it on, and to purchase an external hard drive for the backups, but it’s not Apple’s fault any more if users don’t back up their data.

Apple needs to create Time Machine for iOS. This would back up what is backed up now, but also all the data that Apple’s apps and third-party apps store. You should be able to go back and see previous versions of this data and restore it, as you can with Time Machine.

There is no excuse for iCloud losing data. Apple needs to create a safety net so this never happens.

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.

Keep Flash Out of Your Face, and Protect Your Computer from Malware, with ClickToPlugin

I’ve long used the ClickToPlugin extension in Safari to prevent plug-ins from loading on web pages. This blocks Flash and other media plug-ins from running, and shows you a placeholder when you load a page with an element that is blocked.

It’s especially useful to block those annoying, moving Flash ads that serve no purpose other than to distract you from reading a web page.

Clicktoflash placeholder

If you do want to load the Flash animation, just click it. (Well, don’t click the one above; it’s just a screenshot.)

As Graham Cluley points out in his security blog, this plug-in can also protect you from Flash zero-day vulnerabilities that can infect your computer; since Flash can’t run, the vulnerability can’t be exploited. Sometimes, the Flash animations that serve malware are tiny, and you don’t even see them.

There are two versions of the plug-in: ClickToFlash, that only blocks Flash, and ClickToPlugin, that blocks other media player plug-ins, and that also tries to force the plug-in to switch to Safari’s built-in HTML5 media player.

This saves time, battery power and bandwidth, and keeps your annoyance level low. And it protects you from annoying Flash animations.

You may simply want to uninstall Flash; you can do that, but you may find that you actually need it from time to time. I find this to be the best solution: I can load the Flash animations if I want to, but, if not, I’m not bothered.

If you use a browser other than Safari, see Graham Cluley’s article for links to plug-ins that work in other browsers.

iOS 8 Restrictions: Parental Controls Overview for Parents

You know that the internet is a source of knowledge and information, and, if you have children, you are probably torn between allowing them the freedom to explore and the desire to protect them from inappropriate content. On OS X, you can set Parental Controls, and you can adjust settings so your children can’t download just anything from the iTunes Store or App Store. You can apply settings to social media accounts to protect your kids’ privacy. And, on iOS, you can adjust a full range of settings to control what your children see on the internet, and which apps they can use.

In this article, I’m going to look at Restrictions, the iOS version of parental controls. Apple’s iOS 8 Restrictions let you lock down your kids’ iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

There are a lot of settings, so be prepared to take a few minutes to go through them and adjust them so they are appropriate for your child’s age. Be aware that if you simply enable restrictions, without tweaking individual settings, most of them are set, by default, to be appropriate for the youngest of children. But you should still go through all the settings when you have time to make sure you agree with all of them.

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

How to Protect Children’s Privacy on Social Media

If your kids use social media, as all kids do, you may be worried about protecting their privacy. Teenagers may be a bit unconcerned about such things, and not care who reads their Facebook posts, their Twitter feeds, or sees their photos on Instagram. As a parent, you know how important it is to keep your kids’ online life out of the public domain, as much as possible.

You can explain to your children why this is important, and help them choose the right settings to protect their privacy. They can always go back and change the settings, of course; you can’t lock their Facebook or SnapChat settings. But if you have a serious conversation about privacy, you can work together with your children to apply the appropriate settings.

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

How To: Block Spammers in OS X’s Messages App

Every now and then, I get spam in Messages on OS X. I assume that the spammers just try addresses at random; or they may have harvested a bunch of,, and addresses and target them. Lately, I’ve been getting one or more a day.

Messages spam

As you can see above, the spammers send links, hoping you’ll click them. You’ll either end up on pages asking you to log into something, or the web pages could serve malware directly to your Mac.

These are annoying, but it’s easy to block these people to ensure that you don’t get any more messages from them. Right-click on an avatar in the sidebar, and choose Block [username]. This tells Messages to no longer accept messages from that user. You can block users who contact you by sending iMessages, or who send you messages over AIM.

How To Turn On Apple’s Two-Step Authentication

You’ve heard the stories about iCloud accounts getting hacked; the ones that make the news are celebrities’ accounts, but there may be people wanting to get into yours too. In addition to your Apple ID–the email address you use to identify your account–your password is the key that lets you into that account.

But anyone can pretend to be you, and attempt to get into your account, saying they’ve forgotten the password, and then attempting to answer the security questions that you chose when setting up the Apple ID. If they get through them, because they know the name of your first pet, your favorite sports team, and whatever else, they can access your account. Unless you add an additional layer of security.

Read the article on the Intego Mac Security blog.

Beware Tech Support Scams

The phone rang the other day. It was “Philip” from Microsoft calling because there was “a problem with my computer.” I told him “No there isn’t.” He said, “What?” I said “There’s no problem with my computer.” He hung up.

This is an increasingly common scam where phishers try and convince you that they’re going to fix some problem with your computer. They ask for remote access, then do some stuff that makes it look like they’re fixing something, but they also copy files, trying to get information about your identity to then access your bank accounts.

This is, of course, mostly targeted at Windows users, but similar scams, on infected websites, are also targeting Mac users. On the Malwarebytes blog, Jérôme Segura has an excellent article on this threat to Mac users. He shows examples of alerts that web pages may display, even on an iPhone.

Iphone 576x1024

Some of these give you a toll-free number to call, where someone will probably ask for your iCloud login credentials or other information to access some of your accounts.

Obviously, you need to steer clear of these things. But the Malwarebytes article is good to read, because it points out that you may not be able to dismiss the alerts, and may need to force quit apps that display them.

As the article concludes:

“The fight against tech support scammers continues more than ever. They are getting more and more aggressive and using techniques that slowly but surely resemble those used by malware authors.

This is a serious development that should make all of us aware of how dangerous it is to deal with unsolicited calls or calls initiated after seeing such scare pages.”