Trending December 2023 # Opinion: It’s Time To Consign Passwords To History, And Apple Should Take The Lead # Suggested January 2024 # Top 18 Popular

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Her argument is based on something I’ve not only seen myself, but done myself – when I worked for a large company which required monthly password changes. When you force people to change their passwords regularly, they will use a predictable pattern – often nothing more than incrementing a number (something001, something002 and so on). This not only makes it easier to crack existing passwords, but also to predict what a future password will be …

The researchers used the transformations they uncovered to develop algorithms that were able to predict changes with great accuracy. Then they simulated real-world cracking to see how well they performed. In online attacks, in which attackers try to make as many guesses as possible before the targeted network locks them out, the algorithm cracked 17 percent of the accounts in fewer than five attempts. In offline attacks performed on the recovered hashes using superfast computers, 41 percent of the changed passwords were cracked within three seconds.

So passwords are inherently insecure, and measures taken to try to make them less so can actually prove counterproductive.

Apple has of course gone some way toward reducing the dependence on passwords, introducing Touch ID with the iPhone 5s, and very belatedly offering Auto Unlock of Macs via the Apple Watch. I’m very much hoping this will be merely a halfway house to Touch ID on Macs also.

But as I argued before, Touch ID is only a partial solution to the problem. It doesn’t eliminate the need for passwords, and indeed one quiet iOS change earlier this year means we actually need to use our iOS passcodes more often.

Two-factor authentication improves the security of passwords, but far from perfectly. Flaws aside, the clunkiness of this approach, and lack of consumer education, means that many people simply don’t bother.

Passwords are a technology which date back to around 200BC, and first appeared in computers in 1961. It’s not like we can’t do better 55 years (or 22 centuries) later …

HSBC announced earlier this year that it is going all-in on biometric security, replacing both passwords and memorable questions with a combination of Touch ID and voice-recognition – with Apple tech key to the switch. Other financial institutions are also taking similar approaches.

Apple’s current form of Touch ID – the Secure Enclave requiring a passcode to enable Touch ID on device restart and regularly thereafter – means that it can never fully replace a password. But that’s not to say that a technical solution couldn’t be found in future devices that would allow passwords to be abandoned.

Fingerprints and voices aren’t the only forms of biometric security available, of course. We exclusively revealed back in 2014 that Apple was working on iris-scanning technology, and a recent report suggested Apple may be planning this for a 2023 iPhone. Samsung has already demonstrated the feasibility of including it in a mobile device, in the form of the new Galaxy Note 7.

Facial-recognition is another technology that has long been used to unlock Android devices, albeit not with the greatest of track records. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the approach itself – early fingerprint readers were just as unreliable until Apple came along with the first technology that was truly up to the task.

In short, we’re at a stage now where passwords are way past their sell-by date, and where there’s plenty of other technology available to replace them.

Why do I think Apple should take the lead in this? For three reasons. First, Apple is all about usability. While the Apple I may have been ground-breaking, Apple’s entire business model since than has been built on taking things that already existed, and making them work the way they ought to. Passwords fail any sensible usability test, and that alone would be reason enough for Apple to be working flat out on replacing them.

So Apple is uniquely placed to take the lead on something that is desperately overdue: turning passwords into something our kids will read about in history lessons. And now is the time to do it.

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Comment: It’s Time For Apple To Separate Apple Music From Itunes On The Mac

Since Apple Music first launched in 2023, one of the most common requests from Mac users has been for Apple to separate the streaming service from the rest of iTunes. Despite several macOS updates since then, however, Apple has not yet made such a move, with Apple Music still locked inside iTunes.

Last week, we saw the second third-party version of Apple Music created for the web. It’s this app that really showed me how great Apple Music could be if it weren’t buried in iTunes.

Right off the bat, let me say this: I don’t want Apple’s solution to breaking Apple Music out of iTunes to be a web app. Instead, I want a full, dedicated macOS app. Similar to how Books is its own app, Apple Music deserves to be a standalone macOS app.

If we look at the Musish web app, however, there are several good examples of the benefits that come from dedicating user interface space all to Apple Music. The app puts the “For You” interface right up front, making it easy to access your recently played content and other curated playlists.

Further, Playlists are also much easier to access, with your personal playlists and Apple Music-created playlists always available along the right-hand side.

iTunes on the Mac is messy, and it’s only set to get messier as Apple focuses more on Services and prepares its own streaming video service. iTunes hasn’t seen a major visual overhaul in years, despite the addition of such a major new platform in Apple Music.

I’m not a fan of the menu interface for switching between different media types like podcasts, movies, and music. If we’re being honest, these features – especially podcasts, should be broken out into their own individual apps as well, but that’s an argument for another time.

Accessing various parts of Apple Music through iTunes is clunky at best. For instance, going to the “For You” tab along the top completely takes over the interface. This makes it difficult to access things like the full album of what’s currently playing, your playlists, and more.

Of course, one possibility is that Apple plans to use its ‘Marzipan’ initiative that brought apps like Home and News to the Mac from iOS. I truly hope this isn’t the case, though, as those apps aren’t especially great on macOS. The iOS version of Music also isn’t perfect, so the solution isn’t to simply bring that interface to the Mac. Apple Music interfaces all around need some attention.

Finally, giving Apple Music its own dedicated macOS would also – hopefully – mean things would load significantly faster. Because of all of the features crammed inside, iTunes is infamously bogged down and prone to slow performance, crashing, and more. Apple Music could be dedicated to one thing, and be far more lightweight.

Wrap up

Nearly four years after launch, it’s time for Apple Music to become its own dedicated app on macOS. This would bring performance enhancements, a far more accessible interface, and various other improvements. iTunes on the Mac wasn’t designed with Apple Music in mind, and that is really starting to show. Features are hard to access, performance is bogged down, and even the simplest of tasks are cumbersome.

Ideally, a standalone Music app on macOS would integrate Apple Music, as well as all of the content from your iTunes library, much like on iOS.

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It’s Time To Upgrade Your Webcam

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The COVID-19 pandemic and many industries’ subsequent transition to remote work meant many of us quickly became familiar with our webcams. Now, after hours spent staring into those little camera lenses, it’s time to upgrade.

It might not be the first part of your computer setup that you think about upgrading—a webcam generally just… works—but you might be missing out on the extra quality and flexibility that a new webcam brings.

And not every computer has a webcam right out of the box anyway. If you’re running a desktop PC or Mac that doesn’t have one, you’ll need to make yourself aware of what you’re looking for and why you need it.

Upgrades with benefits

If you do have a built-in webcam, paying for another one may seem like a frivolous expense, but there’s more than one reason to invest in better hardware. The first is better quality video—identify how many pixels your current webcam is pushing. This is usually referred to by the number of horizontal lines in each frame, so either 720p or 1080p on most devices.

Making the jump up to 1080p or 4K means a clearer, more detailed picture, with the main beneficiaries being the people who are watching you—from family members who get to see you in a higher resolution, to potential employers who come away with the impression that you know what you’re doing when it comes to technology.

[Related: Improve your remote meetings with this high-quality webcam and microphone]

Let’s talk about angles, too. A webcam built into your laptop or all-in-one computer is fixed—it can’t move unless the whole device does. Plug in an upgraded webcam over USB, and you can choose any angle you like (and any backdrop you like, too, perfect for showing off your carefully curated bookshelves).

At the more expensive end of the scale, you can get webcams with wide-angle lenses for fitting more in the frame, and with their own lights for keeping your face well-illuminated during your video chats. Some also come with bundled software for adjusting the color, contrast, and other attributes of your video feed.

Not every webcam has all of these features, but this should give you an idea of the sort of upgrades that are available. Look out for specific privacy features as well, such as physical covers that slide across your webcam and block the lens while you’re not using it—this is easier than sticking tape over your webcam, anyway.

Choosing and installing a webcam

We’ve mentioned most of the key features to look out for in a new webcam, so pick the ones you like the sound of and shop accordingly. Video and audio quality should perhaps be your main considerations, and the price of each model will naturally play a part in your choice. You should also check out the kind of mounting options on each webcam, and the length of its USB cable—this will determine where you can and can’t place it.

[Related: It just got a lot easier to convert your DSLR or mirrorless camera into a webcam for free]

Make sure you double-check that the device and setup you’re planning works with your operating system, whether it’s Windows or macOS. Most webcams are compatible with both, but some aren’t, so check the specs and reviews carefully before purchasing. 

You don’t actually have to buy a webcam to get an upgrade, either, because numerous digital camera manufacturers have released software that lets you turn their devices into webcams. Canon, Sony, and Fujifilm are three of the big names that have this kind of software. If you own a DSLR, check with the manufacturer to see if this webcam functionality is available.

It’s even possible to use your smartphone as a webcam, if you have the right third-party app. DroidCam for Android and iOS is one of the best options we’ve come across, and it’s free, though it only works with Windows. We also like Camo for iOS, which isn’t available on Android but does cover Windows and macOS. (If you want video quality higher than 720p, you’ll also need to pay $5 a month for Camo Pro.)  Install one of these apps on your phone, and the equivalent desktop program on your PC, and they’ll take care of the necessary communications required between the devices.

Once you’ve purchased your webcam, the hard part is done. Installing the device simply involves plugging it into your computer: After a few seconds, Windows or macOS should recognize it, and it will then be available in your apps (Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and all the others will let you choose your webcam if several are available).

[Related: Look better on video calls using pro photography techniques]

You can use the Camera app on Windows or FaceTime on macOS to get the position and framing right for your new webcam, but to actually adjust key settings—such as the quality of the video feed and any available enhancements—you’ll need to delve into the software that came with the webcam or the configuration settings inside the application you’re using to make video calls.

Pov: It’s Time To Eradicate White Nationalists From The Military

POV: It’s Time to Eradicate White Nationalists from the Military

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Voices & Opinion

POV: It’s Time to Eradicate White Nationalists from the Military Congress must direct an independent investigation now to determine the pervasiveness of the problem

After days of protests, retired senior officials, military service chiefs, and enlisted leaders have begun to speak out about racism in this country and in the US military. In a rare bipartisanship effort, Congress is now supportive of renaming military bases honoring Confederate generals. When President Truman took the bold step of abolishing racial discrimination in the Armed Forces in July 1948, racism didn’t immediately end, but it was the beginning of treating everyone in uniform with respect and dignity. When President Obama repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” reversing a 17-year-old policy that banned openly gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals from military service, discrimination didn’t end on that day either, but it was a much-needed step to remove another archaic law. It is now time for the US military to take one more step and eradicate white nationalists from serving in our Armed Forces. 

White nationalists, the military, and protests have a history together. For white nationalists that have infiltrated the military, protests are the perfect opportunity to incite a race war. Many groups view a race war as a way to destabilize and overthrow the US government and establish a white ethnostate. White nationalist groups encourage their members to join the military for weapons expertise and recruit military members for their access to weaponry.

During the 2023 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Va., a Marine assaulted multiple people, bragged about it online, and returned to duty. ProPublica made the Marine Corps aware of the video evidence, at which point the Marine faced the equivalent of a misdemeanor trial.

Even though military leaders do not see white nationalism as a problem, a 2023 Military Times poll found that 36 percent of troops who responded had seen evidence of white supremacist and racist ideologies in the military, a significant rise from the year before, when only 22 percent—about 1 in 5—reported the same in the 2023 poll. The 2023 poll offers a troubling snapshot of military members’ exposure to extremist views while serving, despite efforts from military leaders to promote diversity and respect for all races.

In the last three years, every military service publicly dealt with an active duty member with an extremist affiliation. Most cases are discovered, not by the military itself, but from media outlets, volunteer internet sleuths, and the FBI. 

In September 2023, the FBI arrested an Army soldier for sharing IED bomb-making instructions with undercover agents over Facebook. The soldier originally spoke with an Army veteran and far-right militia recruiter in Ukraine about joining the far-right Right Sector. When joining that far-right militia took too long, he joined the US military, spoke of targeting former US Representative Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.), and still planned to bring his newly acquired knowledge to other far-right extremists fighting in Ukraine. This Army soldier is not the first or last far-right violent extremist to join the military.

And this past March, the design, technology, science, and science fiction website Gizmodo used a neo-Nazi website data dump to expose a Navy sailor as a “prolific” recruiter for a US-based neo-Nazi group. The sailor began his neo-Nazi career when he was 15 years old and recruited individuals that are now cell leaders for the group. It wasn’t the military that found this individual, but journalists, who linked the neo-Nazi activity to an identity this year. 

While these are only some of the most recent public cases of white nationalism within the ranks of the US military, what is even more concerning is how little we know about the white nationalists operating within, or on the periphery of, the ranks. Heidi Beirich, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, testified before a congressional subcommittee that the best data on white nationalism within the ranks that exists is the imperfect, self-selecting Military Times poll. Therefore, it is imperative that Congress direct an independent investigation immediately to determine the pervasiveness of this problem. With the president removing inspector generals left and right, the House Armed Services Committee is the only avenue remaining that won’t be bullied by the executive branch.

Despite each military service publicly denouncing discrimination and racism in its ranks, membership in a white supremacist or neo-Nazi group does not guarantee separation from the military. That should outrage and appall all of us. Membership in any of these groups must immediately disqualify anyone from military service and result in immediate removal from military service once they’re exposed. In a system that gives so much discretion to commanders, minority troops cannot afford to have white nationalists exist freely in the military system.

Jack Weinstein is a Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies professor of the practice of international security and a retired US Air Force lieutenant general; he can be reached at [email protected]. Lauren LaBrique (Pardee’22) can be reached at [email protected]

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Comment: It’s Time For Governments To Learn How End

The latest example of this, reported in the Guardian, was the head of Britain’s domestic counterintelligence and security agency, MI5, calling on tech companies like Apple and Facebook to continue to offer end-to-end encryption, but to provide MI5 access “on an exceptional basis”… 

MI5, short for Military Intelligence, Section 5, is responsible for detecting planned terrorist attacks and preventing them before they can be carried out. It also assists other law enforcement agencies in the investigation of other serious crimes.

The Guardian quotes from an interview broadcast on British television channel ITV.

Parker called on the tech firms to ‘use the brilliant technologists you’ve got’ to answer a question: ‘Can you provide end-to-end encryption but on an exceptional basis — exceptional basis — where there is a legal warrant and a compelling case to do it, provide access to stop the most serious forms of harm happening?’

The entire point of end-to-end encryption is that only an intended recipient of a message is able to decrypt it. When I send you an iMessage, nobody else is able to read it — not even Apple — because only a device authenticated by your Apple ID and password has the decryption key.

Technically, you can argue that Parker’s question isn’t quite as dumb as it sounds, as there is one potential workaround that would work with some end-to-end encrypted chat services known as “the ghost proposal.”

‘It’s relatively easy for a service provider to silently add a law enforcement participant to a group chat or call. The service provider usually controls the identity system and so really decides who’s who and which devices are involved — they’re usually involved in introducing the parties to a chat or call…. In a solution like this, we’re normally talking about suppressing a notification on a target’s device… and possibly those they communicate with.’

In short, Apple — or any other company that allows people to privately chat — would be forced to allow the government to join those chats as a silent, invisible eavesdropper.

However, that would only be possible because it would break authentication of participants in the chat, which is a key component of end-to-end encrypted messaging. If you take an end-to-end encrypted messaging service and compromise the authentication process, you no longer have an end-to-end encrypted messaging service. The whole point of end-to-end encryption is that only authorized participants can decrypt it.

So, here’s my open letter to governments:

Dear governments,

If you want to ban end-to-end encryption, as some of you have said, please understand what this means. Like the end of e-banking and online shopping.

If you instead want to ban the use of end-to-end encryption in messaging, you might first want to check whether many military, government, and law enforcement agency messaging services use it.

You now want to ban only the civilian use of end-to-end encrypted messaging, you say? Think about the impact on journalism. Think about the massive criminal opportunities you would be creating for identity theft and other forms of fraud. Above all, please think about the fact that you are telling your citizens they are no longer entitled to have private conversations using any electronic means, nor to privately share their photos with their partner, friends, or family. Think about what kind of regime wants that.

If you then decide, as MI5 apparently has, that you want to allow end-to-end encryption in messaging, but create a backdoor for governments, what you need to know is this: You can’t. Because compromised end-to-end encryption isn’t end-to-end encryption.

I hope that helps.

Love, Ben

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It’s Already Time To Get Your Flu Shot (Yes, Really)

It almost certainly doesn’t feel like flu season to you yet. The weather is still unseasonably summery in many parts of the world, and this year’s dominant flu strains have yet to start obliterating us en masse. But here’s an unfortunate scientific fact: by the time you notice the first absences among your coworkers and start to hear frequent sniffles and coughs on your commute, it’s already too late.

Okay, okay, “too late” is a bit of an exagerration—it’s never really too late to get a flu shot (unless you’re getting it in the week before the new vaccine comes out). If you’re reading this in March as you try to decide whether or not to finally carve out the time to get to your doctor, please know that it is not too late to get your flu shot. But by the time you start noticing flu activity, you’ve already put yourself in harm’s way. We’ve technically already had the first fatality of this flu season, and you never know when you’ll encounter the virus. Just because flu activity has yet to peak for the season doesn’t mean it’s not already barreling toward your kid’s daycare center.

Most of the year you’ll have to read about how the best time to get your flu shot was yesterday, and even though the second-best time is today, you’re not doing yourself (or the rest of the world) any favors by sheepishly showing up to ask for your flu shot in January. The more people we’ve vaccinated, the more difficult it is for a bad strain of the flu to circulate from place to place. Even if the same percentage of people get vaccinated, having the bulk of them get jabbed in October means preventing more flu outbreaks.

Let this flu season be better. Be that person with a zero-minute wait time at the drugstore clinic because it’s the first week of October and you’re so gosh-darn ahead of the game. Show up at your office with a cartoon character bandaid to show off to your coworkers. Sanctimoniously inform them that the CDC recommends you get your flu shot by the end of October.

Is it nice? No. Would we rather you do this than not get your flu shot at all? Yes. Hijack your worst human impulses to work for you, not against you. Last year only 45.3 percent of adults got the vaccine, and though that’s actually pretty high for the U.S. it’s a gaping chasm away from the 70 percent target, so maybe a little peer pressure at the water cooler is overdue.

Everyone six months or older should get a flu shot, unless they have a compromised immune system or have explicitly been told by their doctor not to get the vaccine.

Still have questions? We made this easy for you:

Which flu shot should I get?

Any of them! The Centers for Disease Control recommends every available type this year. Most of them are injections, but there is a nasal spray as well if you truly hate needles.

If you want to really get into the nitty gritty, the best flu shot you could get is probably either the cell-based (Flucelvax in the U.S.) or the recombinant (Flublok) vaccine. The viruses used in those injections aren’t grown in eggs, which can change the virus’s proteins in ways that make the resulting vaccine less effective. There’s not yet enough data to prove whether or not cell-based and recombinant vaccines actually offer more protection, but in theory they should be better. That being said, you definitely should not put off getting vaccinated just because only another version of the vaccine is available to you. They are all effective. If you’re reading this later in the flu season and have heard that this year’s shot is “only” some percent effective, know that even 2023’s 36% effectiveness did a fantastic job of preventing serious illness and death. It’s still worth it to get the shot.

Where can I get a flu shot?

You should be able to find a vaccine at your doctor’s office and at pretty much any pharmacy. The CDC has a vaccine finder tool, where you can search for places with the shot and even find out which specific types they’re stocking. At this stage in the season they’re unlikely to have run dry, but you can always call them ahead of time to be sure you don’t waste a trip.

Do I really need to get another shot this year?

The influenza virus is a tricky fella. It changes constantly, which is why World Health Organization experts have to meet up every single year to decide which strains of flu to recommend for inclusion in the vaccine. We’re now up to four viruses per shot for most of the vaccines (a few still only have three)—two for the less severe B strains and two for the more harmful A lines.

H3N2, which is the A strain that sends the most people to the hospital, has changed so much so recently that the WHO postponed its recommendation for a month just to get more data on how the virus was evolving. Thank goodness for that: In the end the data showed a new subgroup of H3N2 has been growing in number, and that the strain used in last year’s vaccine didn’t protect against those viruses at all.

That means this year’s flu shot has a strain of H3N2 that we’ve never gotten before, on top of a new H1N1 line—that’s 50% of the vaccine. Get it for that reason alone.

Is it going to be a bad flu season?

The short answer is that we don’t know yet, and it doesn’t matter—you should get your flu shot anyway. The long answer is that as far as public health experts can tell, it probably won’t be a particularly terrible season, but that it’s too soon to know and doesn’t matter—you should get your flu shot anyway.

Everyone wants to be able to predict the flu season, but no one has really figured out how. We can look at the Southern Hemisphere for some clues—Australia’s recent flu season was nasty, but the rest of the countries in that part of the globe fared quite well—but mostly we have to wait to see the data as it comes in. Last year, for example, the number of cases started shooting up early, leading experts to (correctly) predict a bad year. But even the head of the CDC Influenza Division’s domestic surveillance team says the virus can always surprise you.

And while companies and government agencies are interested in predicting flu outbreaks so they can be more prepared, it’s a bit beside the point for you, an individual, to care much at all for one simple reason: it shouldn’t change your behavior. You should be getting the flu shot every year. Period. We don’t need fancy algorithms to tell us that tens of thousands of people die of the flu every year, and hundreds of thousands more get hospitalized.

We already know that if you’re not vaccinated, you’re much more likely to carry around the virus and pass it to others. Even if you personally don’t get very sick, you can give the bug to someone who’s old or young or immunocompromised or pregnant—and those people suffer the most during flu season. Today is the perfect day to get your flu shot.

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