Tech round-up for December 1: Data breaches galore, security glitch on Apple computers, and mobile device gift guide

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This week, some mobile devices you might want to add to a wish list. But first, more bad news about some hacks of personal information from large corporations, and a rare software glitch has made some Apple computers vulnerable to hacking.

Another day, another data breach. Get your passwords under control

Earlier this week, Equifax Canada revealed that the number of Canadians exposed in its data breach was bigger than the company first reported. It wasn’t 8,000 who were impacted, but 19,000.

The breach actually took place sometime in the spring of 2017, but Equifax waited until September to share the news. At first, the company tried to charge people to check if they were affected by the hack, but then backed off and is now offering free monitoring and identity theft protection.

And last week, ride-sharing broker Uber disclosed that personal information from 57 million people was stolen by hackers. A year ago.

Uber reportedly paid $100,000 to the hackers for the deletion of the information.

As a consumer, you do have some control over this. Sometimes you can choose which companies to use – although with Equifax that’s largely beyond your influence – and you can also have a solid password plan where you have different passwords for all your different accounts, and you change them regularly.

And the best way to do this is not to use a pad of paper or a spreadsheet, but a password program. I use 1 password, which is made in Canada and is among the world’s best password program.

Until the end of the year, you can get six months free on an individual or family subscription.

Apple computer users running High Sierra, run your software update now

On Wednesday, Apple released an update for its High Sierra operating system, macOS 10.13.

The update was to fix a serious glitch in the software that made it possible for anyone to log into a computer as an administrator without needing a password. It’s a rare security mistake by the company, which has in the past prided itself on providing the highest level of security for customers.

Other operating systems for Apple computers are not similarly vulnerable.

If you’ve got your computer set to automatically install critical updates, this will have happened without you needing to do anything. Otherwise, you should open up the App Store on your computer, and go to the Updates section to look for “Security Update”.

Installing the update does not require you to restart your computer.

Serving to prove just how interconnected the components of an operating system are, in fixing the security error, Apple engineers actually broke file sharing for some users. If you’re comfortable working with the Terminals software, you can restart file sharing. Otherwise, expect Apple to have another fix in a day or so. Let’s just hope they don’t break something else when they do.

Mobile device gift guide

If price is not an object this holiday, then at the top of your list is the iPhone X. With it’s new design and all of the features that come in the phone courtesy of FaceID, it’s the most functional pocket computer in the world right now.

For those in the Apple ecosystem, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are also solid devices, with much of the same functionality (minus the form factor and animoji).

And the iPhone cases for discerning consumers this holiday are from Otterbox. There are five Star Wars case designs available featuring Darth Vader, Rey and R2-D2, BB-8, a storm trooper helmet, and a red case with a distressed Star Wars logo. They range in price from US$45 to $55.

The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL had some stutters when they were released, mostly fixed with software updates by the company, and these are the premium Android devices now available. With arguably the best cameras you can get on a mobile device, Google yesterday released a new Android app called Datally, that can help you monitor your data use.

The iPad Pro is still the best tablet on the market. The 10.5-inch model is easy to handle but the 12.9-inch version is the one preferred by artists and designers who are using the Apple Pencil to draw on the screen.

Amazon finally solved the final piece of the digital book puzzle with the new, waterproof Kindle Oasis. Now you can take that book with you to the bath or the beach and not have to worry. And the digital ink display means you can read easily even in bright sunlight. It’s also light and has a battery that can last for weeks.

And I’ve taken to using small, waterproof Bluetooth speakers that were designed for use outdoors when riding my bike around the neighbourhood. The Ultimate Ears Roll 2 was built with a bungie cord attached to it so it’s easy to strap onto a bike frame or backpack. The new Bose SoundLink Micro speaker is even smaller, has a silicon strap for attaching it, and has a built-in microphone so you can also use it for making and taking calls.

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