Encryption and android, putting on your digital armor.

How much personal information do you keep on your mobile device? Your phone, or tablet, the devices that follow you everywhere you go, chances are you probably keep a whole lot more than you think you do.

If you lost your phone, I bet it likely you’d feel naked, exposed and vulnerable. All your contacts, search history, GPS history, email, and a wealth of personal and private information would be available to anyone who happened to come across it. Most people only use the slide to unlock that leaves all your data open for any person with nefarious, dastardly intentions to steal or use against you.

Tonight I’m going to discuss one option that android offers to help protect you from just that scenario. Since the release of Honeycomb, it has been possible to fully encrypt your device. Once you choose to encrypt your device, you cannot undo it without a factory reset, meaning to remove the encryption, you will have to destroy all the data on your mobile device, so please, proceed with caution.

If like to take a moment to discuss encryption, and what it actually does, because many people are lead to a false sense of security thinking since their device is encrypted that their data is completely protected, and unreadable to anyone else. This is a false statement, and there is no such thing as a security silver bullet. There will ALWAYS be a way around your security, but leaving your door open just screams “rob me blind, I don’t even shut my door”. Digital security is often the same. If you leave your phone laying unattended with no protection, even a person who means no harm might be tempted to look at its contents.

An encrypted phone or tablet, will lock your data with a PIN or password. Without the password, the data on the device looks like garbage. It looks like garbage that is, when it’s locked. While you’re using it, your data is readable. So if you leave a delay timer to prevent the phone from locking, you are leaving the door open for a small amount of time.

I suggest setting the power button to automatically lock, and also to avoid any delay in screen lock after the screen powers off. This will help to ensure that while you are not using your device, nobody else is either.

If encryption sounds like something you are interested in, I will be more than happy to wall you through the setup.

Before you can start full device encryption you will need to take the following steps:
1) set either a PIN or password in the “security” section of the settings menu
2) plug in the device

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Once you have taken the previous two steps, click on the “encryption” section and click the button to start the encryption process. The encryption took almost a full hour on my nexus 7, so I would expect at least that, unless you only have a very small amount of internal storage.

Once you have encrypted your device, you will need your PIN or password for the following situations; powering on, rebooting, or waking the device from sleep, booting into recovery. To be honest, you will type it so often, it becomes second nature to you.

I encrypted my tablet a few weeks ago, and I have not noticed any performance difference, or had any negative experiences due to the device being encrypted. You can still use lock screen widgets, I use my tablet for alarms, and you don’t need to type a password to silence or shut off the alarm, only to gain access to the device.

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As usual, if you have questions or comments feel free to contact me on Twitter (@DarkLordZim) or via email (DarkLordZim@gmail.com)

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Do you know who’s using your WiFi? Or how to check?

This may sound like a stupid question, but in reality most people don’t. I work in IT support, the customers I support all work from home, or on the road. Many have no idea even what devices are connected to their network, let alone how to set encryption.

My goal for this post is to show you some easy ways to map your network, to ensure only devices you want are using your network. Rogue devices can negativity impact your network in a variety of ways. An attacker could steal your passwords or files, a poorly functioning device could cause internet speeds to drop to a crawl, or even disconnect your computers from the net.

That said, it is easy to monitor your network, and at a very minimum you should audit network usage twice a month (I do it almost daily, because it really only takes seconds to check).

The quickest way to get an idea of who or what is connected on your network is a ping scan, there is an app built specifically for network mapping and even some troubleshooting on android called ‘Fing’ it will report all live ip addresses, along with the manufacturer of the devices network card. Once you have the list of connected/live devices, Fing will let you troubleshoot each device. Some of the things I do with Fing are; port scanning, connecting to windows shared drives, ftp. here is a link to Fing in the play store.

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Here is a shot of Fing in action

Some of us that are hyper focused on the security of our networks, even go so far as building lightweight intrusion detection systems, but I would not expect that an average person would take the time to learn how to set one up, or even pay the huge prices charged by others to do it. Simply scanning your network is a great step in protecting your digital privacy, if you notice connected devices that shouldn’t be there, you can adjust settings within your routers configuration to block the device.

I will write a follow-up post, with some windows, and Linux tools that are user friendly, and give similar function to Fing on android. I would also like to note that Fing is also available on iOS, but it has been awhile since I used it as I avoid my iPad like the plague.

If you have concerns or questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @DarkLordZim or email DarkLordZim@gmail.com

Android app review: Swapps

Now that I’m using my nexus 7 significantly more than my laptop from day to day, I’m always looking for applications to make my life easier while adding functionality and usability to my tablet.

Enter “Swapps”. Swapps is an android application switcher that makes multitasking so much easier. The switcher runs in the background and is accessible via gesture by swiping from the side of the screen to access the drawer.

From the launcher drawer, you can set “starred” apps, that you use the most, it shows the most recent 5 apps, and still will give you access to all applications on the tablet. You can customize each section through the settings. You can set up to 15 starred apps. Turn recent apps on or off (recent only shows 5 apps), and you can turn all apps on or off.

You can also customize the swipe area, as wide or narrow, tall or short, right or left side of the screen. Out of all the productivity applications I’ve tried, this one so far is my favorite. It’s available for free in the play store, with a very small ad bar or you can donate through an in app purchase to remove the ads. (Though the ads don’t remotely subtract from the usefulness are functionality)

I’ve attached some screen shots of the switcher, and settings.

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Also, I would like to add that you can kill background processes by long pressing an app in the “recent” section.

Here is the Google play store link, this is one app I very much think you should try!

Nexus 7: first impression

So today is that horrible holiday where a fast jolly elf comes in and raids our homes km leaving us goodies in exchange for cookies and milk. Yes, today is Christmas. Amidst all the horrible joyful gnashing of children’s teeth over toys and candy and food, I opened my lone present, a gift of fairly small size, compared to the doll houses, Lego’s, and found in my hands a wonderful Nexus 7.
This blog post is being written with the tablet’s WordPress app, and will be a review of my first thoughts and impressions.
So I started reading about it back in July and knew the rooting process was easy, but that unlocking the bootloader would wipe the entire device so anything stored on it would be gone. so I decided to root it right out of the box. I had to let it charge for about two hours before the battery was full, but then routing took only about five minutes.

I have been very impressed with the features and speed of the device. The swipe keyboard input for jelly bean, is amazing. I’ve been using the sale this whole post and its only messed up three times. The app switching and multitasking is fast and responsive.

Overall, I have not played with a better tablet and couldn’t be happier with my choice of computing device, and this will for the most part take the place of my laptop.

Anticipation is Killing me

So, I have not been very active online lately, life has been taking its toll on my ability to open up the laptop and try to do anything, but as a cure to many of the things holding me back from my pure unleashed potential is my disorganization. Thanks to terrible ADHD and resistance to many of the common medications, I am very scatter brained. I try to use to-do lists, and devices to keep track of things i’m trying to accomplish, but many of my devices are clumsy and awkward, or just plain impossible to carry with me when i’m out running errands. Well for christmas i’m getting myself a Nexus 7 32GB tablet, and will be getting it set up as a main device.

I’ve used an iPad2 (issued through work) and attempted to use it for mobile organization, but the form factor is too large to make it useful. its hard to carry around with me, and use or pull out when i need to do anything. where as the 7 inch format is something that has been my target for a few years, and now the hardware has come up to compete directly with the laptops i would have purchased.

through google drive, dropbox, and the on device storage, i should have more than enough space for my usage. my only problem is that it doesn’t have a rear facing camera, which means i will still need to carry a phone with me for pictures of the kids and such, but for everything else, i should be able to live on a device that fits in my back pocket.