Sonic Heads to Your Smartphone

Following in the tradition of Nintendo – Sega is making a comeback, thanks to your smartphone. The legendary video games company has launched Sega Forever, which is devoted to keeping the Sega name alive long into the future. And what better way to do that than to reach back into the past and bring classic Sega games to your smartphone.

Sonic I didn’t realize how much I missed you. Welcome to my iPhone!

There was a time, not so long ago, when Sega was the biggest games company on the face of the planet. In terms of consoles, the Genesis was a major success. And then there are the famous characters, such as Sonic the Hedgehog.

And then Sega released the Dreamcast, a woefully underrated console, and the whole thing went belly-up. Sega still exists, and still makes arcade machines and games for other consoles. And now, thanks to Sega Forever,the old Sega magic is back. Its a little bit smaller but more mobile then ever before.

Keeping Classic Sega Games Alive Forever

Sega Forever is the new banner under which dozens of classic Sega games will be released on Android and iOS. The games will be be available as free to play with supported by ads and ad-free for a one time payment of $1.99 (per title).

Sega has kicked things off with five Genesis titles: Sonic the HedgehogComix ZoneAltered BeastKid Chameleon, and Phantasy Star II. New games will be launched every two weeks, with titles from the Master System, the Game Gear, the Saturn, and the Dreamcast still to come.

All Sega Forever titles will be available to play offline, with online leaderboards available for those who like comparing their talents with others. The older Sega titles will be brought to smartphones thanks to emulation, while the more recent titles will require full ports to iOS and Android.

My biggest complaint here is that the free ad-supported version is truly annoying. The ads are everywhere and very intrusive. If you want to truly experience that old Sega magic spend the $1.99 on the ad-free version.

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App Spotlight – Outlook for iOS

Although I gave up on Microsoft’s Windows Phone a couple of years ago I still have plenty of good memories of me and my nifty Windows Phone. In fact if you are in a nostalgic mood you can browse my Windows Phone articles here.

All is not lost for Microsoft in the smartphone world. Even though I gave into Apple empire for both myself personally and my organization all is not lost. That’s because Microsoft has been publishing apps at an amazing rate during the past two years and many of them are simply top notch.

One of my favorite Microsoft Apps is “Outlook”. Why do I recommend trashing Apple’s default mail app and installing Outlook?

Phones with Outlook app.

Innovation and Consolidation 

The Microsoft Outlook app is a mobile productivity powerhouse, bringing your email, attachments, contacts and calendars into easy reach. Outlook’s built-in analytic engine automatically surfaces important email (across multiple accounts) based on your communications, and quick swipe controls allow you to easily triage your email. It’s a great mobile email app, and works with Exchange, Office 365, Outlook.com, Gmail, Yahoo Mail and iCloud email accounts.

Also included with Outlook is your calendar, files (OneDrive, Box, Dropbox & Google Drive) and contacts. If you are using Apple’s default apps you have separate programs for each of these. With Outlook – you have one app to control them all.

Of course if you rely on Microsoft Outlook on your desktop this is the perfect companion app on your smartphone or mobile device.

You can learn more about Microsoft’s Outlook app here.

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Our Adware Battle Continues

Over the past couple years, we have focused much attention on Ransomware, and that’s for good reason. However old threats are still here to make our digital lives miserable as well. One of the oldest surviving threats we continue to deal with is adware.

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Adware Today

There’s no denying that adware is a big problem. In fact 2016 saw a huge spike in Mac OS malware, mostly due to bundled adware. Google has tried tackling this problem by kicking known adware distributors out of the Play Store.

Google is perhaps the most aggressive trying to battle adware today because Android especially has seen a great deal of adware in recent years.

Earlier this year, a number of Android phones were discovered to have been infected with powerful adware. The “infection” took place somewhere between the factory, and the business that ordered them. That means some Android phones were purchased with adware pre-installed!

Avoid Download Portals

Desktops also continue to be targeted. One of the popular ways of infecting desktop PCs are through download portals. Many people continue to unwittingly use download portals that bundle adware and other unwanted programs with legitimate apps that people are looking for.

Unfortunately, these download portals show up at the top of search results and trick searchers into thinking they’re getting the best version of the app. When you are looking for a specific app take the time to go directly to the software provider’s website. If you do not – and you simply click on the first link in the search results you may be using a download portal which usually will give you a boatload of unwanted apps, in addition to the one you actually wanted.

* Yes – I know I used the words “download portals” five times in this section. That’s because I want you to remember what they are – so you can avoid them.

Keeping Alert for Adware

As with any other type of malware, the best way to deal with adware is to be aware if them – and what they are. Here are four things to watch out for.

If Ads Abound on Your PC – Don’t Panic But You Do Need to Act

If you’ve been infected with adware, you’re going to be seeing a lot of ads. Pop-ups, in-app ads, browser takeovers, and all sorts of other annoying behaviors might happen.

Different types of adware behave differently.

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Image Credit: Fireofheart via Shutterstock

However one thing that they all have in common is that they will show you a huge number of ads. You’ll notice more ads, more insistent and pervasive ads, and ads outside of the locations where you usually see them. If you’ve been seeing any of this stuff, download anti-adware software right away.

Just don’t get it from…

Third-Party App Stores

If you stick to Apple’s App Store, the Google Play Store, the Chrome Store, and other first-party, controlled app stores, you will be much safer than if you use third-party options.

The same rule for desktop and laptop software applies. Unless the app isn’t available from the Windows or Mac app stores — and you can’t find it on the developer’s website — avoid third party software download sites.

Watch for the Warnings

Believe it or not, you will often be warned right before you download adware. It’s those small print terms and conditions that often go ignored. Take the time to read them if you really – really want that free app. There’s a good chance that they contain something useful. They’ll often tell you that you’ll be getting something else in addition to the software you’re looking for.

No matter where you’re getting an app, make sure to at least browse the terms and conditions first. You just might save yourself the hassle of trying to deal with the problem later.

Avoid Free Versions of Software

If you found a place to download Microsoft Office for free, run the other way. You’re not going to get high-end, fully featured apps without paying. Someone might be offering it, but they’re probably offering a few other things that they aren’t telling you about, very likely adware – or worse.

Even apps that are normally free often carry some sort of adware. Ironically a number of illegitimate anti-virus apps have been discovered to come bundled with malware.

Always be very careful about where you get your software.

What to Do If You’ve Been Infected

Here are some warning signs to watch out for.

Have you noticed a lot more pop-ups than usual lately? Or advertisements that you can’t close? If you see a new toolbar (these are very popular), a new default search engine (also a common symptom), new programs that you don’t remember installing, or new bookmarks in your browser, you are then more likely infected with adware.

Do your best not to interact with any of these ads, as that may make the problem worse. Close — force close, if you need to — those apps and download an anti-adware application as soon as possible. Here are three choices that will help you rid your computer of adware for free.

Malwarebytes AdwCleaner (Windows)

With one of the best reputations in the game, Malwarebytes is a company you can trust to clean up your computer. Its AdwCleaner software specifically targets adware and browser hijackers, as well as “potentially unwanted programs,” which could include toolbars and other questionable downloads.

AdwCleaner is free, and all you have to do is download it and run it. It doesn’t get much easier.

BitDefender Antivirus Free Edition (Windows)

Another company with a great reputation, BitDefender is at the forefront of anti-malware tech. This lightweight antivirus app protects you from all sorts of mayhem, including adware and spyware. It also packs anti-phishing and anti-fraud features for additional protection.

While you get more features out of the paid version of this app, the free option is still a great way to go.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (Mac)

While some of anti-adware software out there only works on Windows computer, Malwarebytes’ anti-malware software will protect your Mac from attacks. This extremely lightweight client is great even if your Mac is starting to get old and slow down.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Macs don’t get adware. They do. So download this now.

And if you’re looking for mobile anti-adware apps, check out Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware. It’s free on the Play Store.

Be Proactive Against Adware

As with any type of malware, the best way to deal with adware is to not get infected in the first place. Make sure you have an up-do-date antivirus solution running on your computer, watch out for suspicious-looking sites, and remember that the best things in life aren’t free. Especially when it comes to software.

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Streaming Superbowl 51

It’s Superbowl Sunday and you are in a pickle. You either cancelled your cable (cord cutter) or you on the road. If you are in one of the situations… don’t panic. Their are options to catch the game. I do realize that my mighty Broncos are not in this year’s affair – and that’s OK because they can’t be in every year. I am sure the Broncos will be back in full force next season. This year we have the Patriots & the Falcons.

Here are some tips for catching the game if you don’t have cable or if you are on the road.

Over-the-air

If you have a digital antenna, you can (probably) catch the game, in HD, over-the-air. The channel varies with your local area, but it’ll be broadcast on your local Fox affiliate in some 170 local viewing areas.

Web, Phone, and Tablet

FoxSportsGo.com will host a free livestream of the event, complete with commercials. (Almost) any device with a web browser — smart TVs, laptops, and set-top boxes — can watch the game on the Fox Sports website with no need to log in, or to enter details about your cable package.

The one caveat here is that you can’t watch it on a smartphone, although who really wants to watch the game that way anyway? If you really want to tune in to the action on your smartphone, you’ll need to be a Verizon wireless subscriber. If that’s you, you can grab the app for either Android or iOS devices and stream via the NFL Mobile app.

If you’re on an iOS, Windows, or Android tablet (or Kindle), you can stream the game from the Fox Sports Go app for iOS, Windows, Android, or Amazon.

Set top boxes and video game consoles

SlingTV and PlayStation users are out due to licensing restrictions with the Fox network in Denver, but Xbox, AppleTV, Roku, Chromecast, AndroidTV, and FireTV users are in luck. You’ll have to download the Fox Sports Go app on your respective device, but you’ll be able to see all the action from your device.

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Outlook Mobile Gets 2 Year Anniversary Improvements

Outlook on my iPhone is awesome and may be my most used mobile app, and it just got better. That’s because today Microsoft today announced their two-year anniversary of Outlook Mobile for Android and iOS.

Starting today, the iOS version is gaining extensibility thanks to a new add-ins capability.

Outlook Mobile Hits Two Year Anniversary, Gets Extensible

Android will pick up this feature soon, Microsoft adds.

“Two years ago, we launched Outlook mobile with the goal of helping you accomplish more while on the go,” Microsoft’s Javier Soltero writes in a new post to the Office Blogs. “More means an inbox that helps you focus on the emails that matter most. More means a calendar that can manage your entire day, not just show you your schedule. And today, we are excited to continue that mission by bringing apps to your inbox with add-ins for Outlook on iOS.”

For this initial launch, Outlook for iOS will support several add-ins, including:

Dynamics 365. This add-in provides “real time insights about your business contacts and their organization, right in your inbox, so you can focus on the selling and have more meaningful interactions,” Microsoft says.

Translator. Helps you read messages in your preferred language, across devices, with support for 60 languages.

Nimble. Helps you get prepared for meetings and engage effectively with business intelligence about your email contacts and their organizations, right in email.

Trello. Turns your email into actionable items, keep track of projects, and make sure emails don’t go unseen.

Evernote. Capture what’s on your mind and stay organized by clipping emails from Outlook to a project notebook in Evernote.

Smartsheet. Helps you manage and automate work so you can get work assigned, updated, and completed more quickly.

GIPHY. This one helps you add GIFs to your emails. Why? Why ask why?

Microsoft is also providing developers with the information they need to write their own add-ins, so we should see these capabilities improve nicely over time.

Currently, add-ins are only available when reading email. But Microsoft says it will be adding more add-in actions for composing or replying to email in the future too.

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Microsoft Outlook’s Big iOS Update

Outlook is one of the bright spots for Microsoft in mobile and one of my most used apps. This week Microsoft issued a fairly major update on iOS that makes this already great app even better.

So, what issues does the latest version of Outlook address? Here’s the list.

Create and edit recurring events. You can now create and edit recurring events straight from the Calendar module in the app. (This feature requires an Office 365 subscription.)

Reading improvements. This is one that’s bothered me, but Microsoft has finally improved the way that emails with very small font are displayed. “They should now be much more readable,” Microsoft notes.

Search improvements. Outlook now displays search results by conversation rather than as individual results. “This means that if you search for ‘holidays’, [the app will] show you that very long family thread about what to have for dinner as just one result,” Microsoft notes. Previously, this might have displayed 23 (or whatever) different results.

Passbook support. Outlook now supports Passbook, the iOS wallet app, which is also used to store coupons, boarding passes, event tickets, store cards, and loyalty cards. Meaning you can now do things like see your flight details right from the inbox.

On Android, Outlook picked up that first change—the ability to create and edit recurring events—back in late December. But I’m not sure if the other improvements are available yet on Android.

And of course, as any Android-weilding user of Outlook will tell you, Microsoft has yet to address the single biggest—and most inexcusable—problem with Outlook, its inability to edit or manage contacts in any meaningful way. The software giant says it’s working on that.

Download Outlook for iOS

Download Outlook for Android

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Samsung to Send Death Beam to It’s Troubled Note 7

If you are still using Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 – listen up.

Here is some unprecedented news. Samsung is literately putting a dagger in it’s troubled Galaxy Note 7.

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Samsung reported that it is executing its final solution to bring the saga of the Galaxy Note 7 to an end. The plan is to kill all of the Galaxy Note 7 devices remaining in use on December 19th, and all that’s required to make that happen is a simple software update.

The Galaxy Note 7 was released on August 19. By September, Samsung had recalled the first batch of handsets after dozens overheated. The Galaxy Note 7 handsets that had been handed out as replacements to the first batch were then found to have the exact same problem. So Samsung recalled the Galaxy Note 7, and requested that owners return their handsets for a refund or a replacement.

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A burned & damaged Galaxy Note 7

The problem here is that not everyone has turned their devices in. According to Samsung, 93 percent of Galaxy Note 7 owners in the U.S. complied with the recall. However, while 93 percent is an impressive figure, it means there are still over 100,000 devices unaccounted for. And Samsung cannot simply sit back and wait for them to explode in people’s faces.

So, to bring this whole sorry saga to an end once and for all, Samsung is bricking the Galaxy Note 7 devices still in use in the United States. It will accomplish this by issuing a software update on December 19. This update will “prevent Galaxy Note 7 devices from charging and will eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices”. Death by software update.

Verizon is refusing to issue the update over the holidays. Therefore anyone still using a Verizon Galaxy Note 7 has at least secured a stay of execution until after the new year. Everyone else should prepare for the end.

So there you go. The Galaxy Note 7 will almost certainly win “worst tech of 2016” on most lists and Samsung needs to move on from this disaster.

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Galaxy Note 7 Recalled

Samsung has recalled their flagship phone, the Samsung Galaxy Note7. The battery on this device has several times caught fire. The problem has become so dire that airlines are requiring that these phones must be powered off – on flights. I am not sure how airlines are checking to see if passengers have these phones but the fact that airlines are going to this length demonstrates the importance of taking this recall very seriously.

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The U.S. Department of Transportation has ordered that Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphones can only be carried by crew and passengers on planes if the phones are switched off and are not connected to charging equipment.

The order follows an official recall announced Thursday of 1 million Note7 smartphones by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, following concerns about faulty batteries in the devices which could overheat and even explode.

Air Travel Restrictions
People can now travel with the Note7 on aircraft only if they disable all applications like alarm clocks that could accidentally activate the phone, protect the power switch to prevent the phone from being inadvertently activated or turned on, and store the device in carry-on baggage or on their person, and not in checked baggage.
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A destroyed Note7 caused by the defective battery.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has reported that it has received 92 reports of the batteries overheating in the U.S., including 26 reports of burns and 55 reports of property damages.

If you have a Galaxy Note 7 you should contact your wireless carrier as soon as possible and get it replaced as soon as possible.

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Finding & Killing HummingBad

Yesterday I reported that over 80 million Android devices could eventually be infected with the malware known as “HummingBad”. If you have an Android you are probably asking yourself, “How do I know if my phone is infected?”

HummingBad has reportedly infected an astounding 10 million devices already, with over 280,000 of those infections estimated to have taken place in the US. Unfortunately, chances are that even if you’ve been hit, you won’t know about it.

So how can you find out if your Android device has HummingBad?

Although the existence of mobile malware is frustrating, mobile app developers and security groups have had time to respond, which means that there are many apps on Google Play that can detect the bad software. As CNET suggests, if you haven’t installed anything yet, look to apps like Avast, Bitdefender, AVG and Zone Alarm to keep your phone safe from unwanted intruders. Of these options AVG is my favorite for Android devices.

If your chosen app happens to detect HummingBad on your phone sadly there’s really only one way to deal with it: a factory reset. Yes, it’s a pain, but it’s almost certainly preferable to putting your data at risk.

Once you’ve removed the malware, it might be time to reexamine your downloading practices. If you’ve downloaded an app from an untrusted source in recent weeks, there’s a high probability that that’s where you installed HummingBad. In the future, try to limit your downloads to the Google Play store.

But whether or not you were unlucky enough to catch HummingBad, this issue is likely only going to get worse in the future. In Check Point’s report, they claim that a “dangerous trend will escalate as other groups learn from Yingmob [the creators] and find new ways to achieve the independence they need to launch larger and more sophisticated attack campaigns in the future.”

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Over 80 Million Androids Affected With HummingBad

A malware program created by a Chinese hacking collective has gained control of 85 million Android devices, which the group is reportedly exploiting to the tune of $300,000 a month. The group, which researchers say is responsible for developing the HummingBad malware campaign, represents a dramatic increase in the organization and capabilities of hacking groups.

Dubbed Yingmob, the hacking group is also believed to be the brains behind the iOS malware campaign known as Yispecter, which I reported on back in October 2015. The group is highly organized and unbelievably works in tandem with a legitimate Chinese advertising analytics company.

Understanding Hummingbad

The malware consists of a persistent rootkit, which the hackers install on Android devices. The group then uses that rootkit to generate fraudulent ad revenue and install additional fraudulent apps. Yingmob has 25 employees organized into four different groups who are responsible for developing HummingBad’s malicious components, according to Check Point researchers.

Yingmob’s efforts have paid off. The group has been able to achieve self-sufficiency, proving that hacking groups can now generate enough income from their illegal activities to sustain themselves indefinitely. But financial gain is only the tip of the iceberg, according to the researchers.

The hackers try to root thousands of devices every day, and are able to successfully get its malware installed on devices hundreds of times each day. Yingmob can then use those devices to create a botnet, enabling the group to launch more targeted attacks against businesses and government agencies, or even sell the access it has gained on the black market.

Avoiding Hummingbad & Other Nasty Infections

Mobile devices today are becoming more and more suspectable to malware and other security exploits. As mobile devices continue to become, for many, their primary way of communicating with the world, these devices are also going to gain in popularity as targets for cybercrime. The best way to avoid these very real security problems is to only install apps on your mobile devices from the official app store and to take a few minutes to read the reviews. If there are no reviews or bad reviews simply move on to another app.

Also just like on your PC do not visit questionable websites and so not – never ever – click on hyperlinks or attachments in your email – unless you are 100% certain that it is legitimate.

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