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Google launches New Tasks App (Mobile & Web)

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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In a blog post entitled "With new security and intelligent features, the new Gmail means business", David Thacker (Google VP Product Management, G Suite) announced, "We’re also introducing a new way to manage work on the go with Tasks."

The new refreshed Tasks system will be available on the web and have accompanying mobile apps (Android and IOS). The new updated Tasks system will allow you to create tasks & subtasks with due dates and notifications. 

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The current tasks was an anemic stand-alone product that barely worked. The new one will integrate into the G Suite and allow you to drag & drop emails from GMAIL, files from Google Drive and more. 

Now you can quickly reference, create or edit Calendar invites, capture ideas in Keep or manage to-dos in Tasks all from a side panel in your inbox.
— David Thacker

The announcement is happening in the G Suite (Enterprise blog), but this update will flow to the free consumer-friendly version as well. 

The Google help centre provides additional information about how all of this will work.

Download the new Android version here and the IOS one here

Install IOS Update 10.3.3

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

As mentioned in my various articles, keeping your operating system and applications updates is a critical component to good overall security. 


Apple released IOS 10.3.3 yesterday, and amongst all of the bugs it fixes, there is one nasty security vulnerability that justifies installing it now. Right now. Do it. I'll wait. Come on, we don't have all day. 

Put Apple's banal sounding description aside for a second ("A memory corruption issue was addressed with improved memory handling".) This vulnerability comes from the Broadcom BCM43xx wifi chipset (CVE-2017-9417) and allows an attacker to execute code on the targeted device with kernel privileges.

To be clear, millions of Android smartphones (e.g. HTC, LG, Nexus and most Samsung devices) are also vulnerable to the BroadPwn vulnerability. 

Google also issued the BroadPwn fix in its July patch bundle (you are receiving the security updates for your phone right?)

KeepSolid VPN Unlimited Review

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

VPN Unlimited is one of the most popular VPN services available and for good reason. It is fast, reliable and competitively priced (deal below).

VPN Unlimited is a USA based provider and offers termination in more than 30 countries (with multiple locations in most countries). VPN Unlimited has good platform support (Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android) and very well written clients.

Above is a screenshot of the protection menu option on their IOS client. When set to High security, they (in addition to VPN protection) automatically add anti-malware, tracking blocking and ad blocking.) All of this extra security is done at the network layer without the need to configure any additional applications or pay additional fees.

Like most VPN service providers, VPN Unlimited specifically mentions that they do not allow illegal torrenting via their service. They recognise that not all torrents are illegal and allow the use of the BitTorrent protocol on these VPN termination points: US-California 1, Canada-Ontario, Romania, Luxembourg, and France servers.

A question I get asked often is "Does VPN Unlimited support OpenVPN on iOS, iPhone or iPad?" The answer is Yes! As shown in the above screenshot. Additionally, they support a protocol they call KeepSolid Wise (similar to the Chameleon protocol on VyprVPN). KeepSolid Wise uses common ports (TCP 443/USP 33434) which help bypass firewall restrictions and packet shaping control for most environments. KeepSolid Wise is available on iOS, Android, MacOS, Linux and Windows clients.

I setup VPN Unlimited on a Windows machine configured for maximum privacy. I then ran a battery of tests to determine how well it protected my privacy.

  • does not leak DNS queries when in VPN mode (go here to test)
  • does hide your actual IP address (go here to test)
  • does not leak IP or DNS information via JAVA or Flash ( Go here to test)
  • protecting P2P traffic. Although I do not condone or encourage the use of P2P tools to steal protected media, there are dozens of legitimate uses for P2P technology. It is important to ensure your VPN product protects you while using P2P and VyprVPN did. You go to this site and the find the Torrent Address Detection. You download their magnet link into your P2P client of choice then activate the test. If it shows your real IP or DNS, you are not protected. You should only see your VPN address here.
  • VPN Unlimited is not subject to WebRTC leaks when in VPN mode (go here to test

VPN Unlimited seems well written and does offer good protection.

Deal

VPN Unlimited is currently running a couple of specials that are worth considering (I bought the unlimited plan):

  • KeepSolid VPN Unlimited lifetime subscription for only $49.99 (for 5 devices)
  • KeepSolid VPN Unlimited 3-year subscription for only $29.99 (for 5 devices)
  • Add their Infinity Plan (aka 5 additional device licenses) for $14.99  but you must own one of the above subscriptions

Conclusion

The best summary I can give you is that VPN Unlimited has a permanent stop on the first page of my iPhone and I use it regularly. 

VPN Unlimited has decent privacy policies but isn't the super secret spy-proof identity protection service. If you want to protect your connection while out and about, VPN Unlimited is cheap, fast and reliable. If you want a super secret identity protecting connection then create your own VPN service on AWS or Azure using one of the pre-made scripts.

Questions

Does KeepSolid Wise work in China?

China severely controls encryption and in some cases slows down encrypted connections making them barely usable. A friend recently travelled to mainland China and reported that VPN Unlimited (with KeepSolid Wise UDP) worked flawlessly.

Does KeepSolid VPN Unlimited support video streaming?

Some of the cheaper VPN providers limit the quality of video from streaming sites because these stress the technical infrastructure of the provider. VPN Unlimited supports streaming video on all termination points but also makes available streaming optimized termination points which are specifically designed to work "better" with sites like Youtube, Dailymotion, Vimeo and more.

Does KeepSolid VPN limit connection speed?

There are dozens of factors that contribute to your overall internet speed but VPN Unlimited does not have tiered pricing based on speed and does not limit connection speed in any way. On most clients, they even show the workload on each termination point which means you can choose one with the least amount of current load (which should lead to better performance).

Does VPN Unlimited support Chromebooks?

VPN Unlimited has a Google Chrome plugin (which works on Chromebooks) and allows you to protect your web browsing only. Obviously as a proxy, it is less secure and missing many of the additional features you expect from VPN Unlimited but it is a great way to browse quickly (securely) and a great option on a Chromebook that doesn't require Jedi level knowledge to implement. 

VyprVPN Review

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

VyprVPN owns and manages its own networks and servers. During my recent VPN testing shoot-out, VyprVPN consistently ranked as one of the fastest VPN providers out there. 

In addition to raw speed, they have an incredible list of supported clients from traditional PCs (Mac, Windows, Linux), to routers (DDWRT, OpenWRT, AsusWRT), smartphones (iPhone, Android, Blackphone, Network Attached Storage (QNAP, Synology), TVs and the Anonabox

Contrast this to other popular VPN solutions like UnlimitedVPN, which only supports a small number of custom made clients.

It's VPN clients are well designed with easy to use interfaces and useful features (kill switch, auto-connect, etc). A cool and useful feature is called Chameleon. They explain Chameleon as:

Our Chameleon technology uses the unmodified OpenVPN 256-bit protocol and scrambles the metadata to prevent DPI, VPN blocking and throttling.

The first important note is that the Chameleon protocol is not available for IOS due to Apple restrictions on the VPN function. I had the opportunity to test the Chameleon protocol on a Windows laptop from a corporate network with strong VPN restrictions, an ISP that throttles VPN traffic and from a country that severely slows (painfully) down VPN traffic. In all three of these situations, the Chameleon protocol delivered that it promised.

  • It punched through the heavily controlled corporate network
  • When used with the ISP that throttles "normal" VPN traffic, it managed to trick the provider and I was able to use a full speed connection
  • A friend travelling to a highly restrictive country compared VyprVPN to 3 other VPN providers and VyprVPN with the Chameleon protocol was the only one that seemed to operate at normal speed (aka didn't seem to be artificially slowed down)

With more and more internet traffic being encrypted, many companies, organisations and governments have turned to DNS based control tools. DNS is still an unencrypted means to determine web destinations. DNS be used to prevent a user from accessing certain types of sites (religious, political, pornography, etc) and to log web browsing habits. It can also be used to redirect your traffic (quickly without you even realizing it), to inject your session with malicious code and c compromise your device. VyprVPN offers their own self-managed private "no log" DNS solution to protect their customers from DNS snooping and control.

VyprVPN offers a clear and well-written privacy policy. Obviously you aren't anonymous but in summary, they retain " Each time a user connects to VyprVPN, we retain the following data for 30 days: the user's source IP address, the VyprVPN IP address used by the user, connection start and stop time and the total number of bytes used."

And they offer a wide range to termination locations.

VyprVPN and leaktests

I setup VyprVPN on a Windows machine configured for maximum privacy. I then ran a battery of tests to determine how well it protected my privacy.

  • does not leak DNS queries when in VPN mode (go here to test)
  • does hide your actual IP address (go here to test)
  • does not leak IP or DNS information via JAVA or Flash ( Go here to test)
  • protecting P2P traffic. Although I do not condone or encourage the use of P2P tools to steal protected media, there are dozens of legitimate uses for P2P technology. It is important to ensure your VPN product protects you while using P2P and VyprVPN did. You go to this site and the find the Torrent Address Detection. You download their magnet link into your P2P client of choice then activate the test. If it shows your real IP or DNS, you are not protected. You should only see your VPN address here.
  • VyprVPN is not subject to WebRTC leaks when in VPN mode (go here to test

VyprVPN seems well written and does offer good protection.

Beware of the unknown

The only information that we have about the service comes from VyprVPN themselves. Remember that none of the statements about privacy and logging have been reviewed by an independent third party.

They are a US company and therefore they are subject to US data collection laws including the infamous National Security Letter (NSL). 

The above caution statement isn't unique to VyprVPN. I am not aware of any consumer VPN services that have been independently audited but it is still an important factor to consider. 

Some users may want to use a non-US based VPN provider to ensure the company is beyond the legal reach of US laws. The one I am looking into right now is ProtonVPN (which I will be reviewing shortly).

Other users may choose to roll their own VPN solution (lifehacker instructions using the Algo script or you can use anyone of the other scripts that almost automate the creation of a private dedicated VPN instance you control like OpenVPN Road Warrior, streisand, etc.) 

Conclusion

VyprVPN is a fast service with a broad selection of clients and a decent privacy policy. If you are performing illegal activities or are a human rights activist in a questionable region, this probably isn't for you. If you are a "regular" user looking for a decent level or privacy when using the internet, then this is definitely something you should consider. 

For the casual user that only connects to a VPN when using public WIFI, you may want to look elsewhere because VyprVPN isn't cheap. A prepaid annual subscription costs $6,67 a month (or $12.95 paid monthly).A casual user can buy a lifetime subscription to UnlimitedVPN for $49.99 here or a 3-year subscription for $29.99 here.). 

I started testing ProtonVPN recently and will write a review shortly but their offering (plus level) is $8 a month prepaid for 1 year). VyprVPN offers the Chameleon protocol, more servers and their own DNS service (which ProtonVPN does not yet). 

So the price is on the higher end but is in no way the most expensive. For the very casual user, you could be better served by another provider, but for the more security conscious user or traveler, this is definitely a service to evaluate. 

The Workflow IOS Automation app is now free

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

Automation can be help with simple tasks like converting a webpage to PDF or can become a complex monster saving you hundreds of hours a year. Until the Workflow app came to IOS, true automation was an Android only benefit.

The $5 app is now permanently free because Apple acquired them

The Workflow app has been around for a couple of years and is a distant cousin (functionally) to IFTTT. It allows users to string together a series of actions, tasks, conditions and inputs and perform all kinds of useful tasks.

It can:

  • Encode media
  • Record Audio
  • Post on social media
  • Automate app functionality where a URL scheme is exposed
  • Send emails
  • Pull RSS feeds
  • much much more

What we don't know yet is what Apple will do with the team and the app. It was made free but there is always the risk Apple will kill the app and move some of the functionality to:

  • a new Apple branded app
  • into a new version of IOS
  • into a new service running on iCloud