Apr 15

Create a secure PDF file

I have said it many times… a PDF is the way to send a document via email. It can be read by any device, on any platform and the look, the formatting, you intended is never lost.

Fortunately for us Mac users the ability to create a PDF from any document has been part of the operating system since 2001 and the feature was introduced into Windows 10 last year.

I just wish you could see me rolling my eyes.

However, email is not very secure or private. So sending an email with a scanned copy of your birth certificate enclosed would be like putting your bank login details on a postcard and mailing it to the Russian mafia.

Of course there is a better way and that is to password protect your PDF before sending it on its way.

I am going to be using Pages in this example but it works in any and every application.

 

  1. Open Pages.
  2. Write the great Australian novel.
  3. Click on the File menu and choose Print.

4 .Click on the PDF menu and choose Save as PDF. (you’ll notice that there are lots of other PDF related actions as well, like saving directly to iCloud, or sending it straight to Mail… it’s all very cool)

5. From here you can click on the Security Options button and nominate a password and these passwords can even prevent printing or copying the text to another file.

 

6. Then you save it to the desktop and attach it to your email.

In my view if you are sending any document it should be in PDF and now, if you want it to remain private, you can add a password as well.

But please don’t get me wrong. This isn’t full proof and there are applications out there that reckon they can  remove passwords from a PDF. But just like the lock on your front door, this will protect you against honest people or just opportunist. If the ASIO want to read your novel there isn’t a lot you can do to stop them.

Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/create-a-secure-pdf-file/

Mar 28

Macro virus that can affect your Mac

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No, it is still true… your Mac is still more secure than a Windows PC. Whether it be because the MacOS is more secure or that there aren’t enough Macs out there for the criminals to bother with, the net result is you are still better protected. However Microsoft uses a technology in their Office suite that is easily hacked and can be used to undo all that security (or obscurity) in one swift stroke.

Visual Basic is a technology that Microsoft has used since Bill Gates was in short pants to deliver automated tasks in Word or Excel.  Open one of these loaded documents and it can perform automated tasks and throw up dialog boxes to help you enter information, etc. A very sexy technology indeed – turning a Word document into a kind of application – but it comes with a sting in the tail.

Essentially how this virus works is; someone sends you a Word or Excel document and when you open that file the Visual Basic script fires up and runs a malicious script. In this particular case, the malicious script figures out what operating system you are running and then downloads files from a special URL in order to turn your Mac into a spam bot or God knows what else.

The best way to avoid this is to a) be very wary of Word or Excel documents that come from untrusted or unexpected sources and b) disable Automatic Macros in Word.

  1. Open Word
  2. Click on the Word Menu and choose Preferences

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3. Go to Security

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4. Ensure that Macro Security is checked

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Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/macro-virus-that-can-effect-your-mac/

Mar 27

Installing Sierra? You might want to avoid this step.

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Don’t get me wrong, I think Sierra is a great operating system and have installed it on absolutely anything that will take it.

I love Siri on the desktop, I love Apple Pay in the browser and all the other 160+ improvements that came with it.

I would encourage you to install it but I would warn you to be wary of one feature that can be turned off at install.

The feature I am referring to is “Desktop and Documents in iCloud.” and while the idea is a fine one, the reality – at least in Australia – is something else entirely.

But first, what is this “Desktop and Documents in iCloud” thing anyway?

Put simply it is Apple’s way of ensuring that all your files are kept in sync across all your devices. So, while sitting at your iMac you create a folder on your desktop, it will appear on your MacBook. Write the great Australian novel while  on the train and save it to your Documents folder, it will be on your iMac when you get home.

Great stuff. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that this technology assumes that we have a fast, cheap and reliable internet. And nothing I just wrote is true in this country. When installing Sierra you could inadvertently send 30-40GB of data into the cloud and almost all ISPs in this country will laugh themselves all the way to the bank and take great delight in throttling your speed down to something last experienced in the mid 90’s. And since this step is often overlooked you’ll have no idea why it now takes 12 days to open an email.

By all means, if you are a new Mac user or have a very small documents folder, turn it on an enjoy the convenience – your slow trickle to 30-40GB will not be noticed… but for us old salts who have a Documents folder that started in 2001, the sudden shock would be too much.

During the install you’ll see this dialog box saying “All your files in iCloud” and you’ll be warned how much space this will take up. You should avoid (or allow) depending on your circumstances but I recommend caution before allowing the box to remain checked and clicking Continue.

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Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/installing-seirra-you-might-want-avoid-this-now-step/

Mar 27

Apple Pay

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UPDATE: 2nd April 2017. The banks lost their bid against Apple. 

If you bank with Bendigo, Westpac, NAB or CommBank then I am sorry but you are out of luck.
At least for now.

But for those that have switched to ANZ (plus AMEX and a few smaller building societies) then Apple Pay is here and it is fantastic.

Before I start raving about how cool Apple Pay is, lets look at what it is, why it is so good and why the Big Four banks are acting like spoilt brats.

Basically Apple Pay is a ultra secure method of using PayWave technology without physically using your card. You lodge your card details with Apple and those details are then converted into a unique token that is used to pass your purchase, via Apple, to the merchant in less time than it takes to say “wow!”

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Now at this point it is very important to acknowledge that Apple knows nothing about your card or your transactions beyond this point. All your data is secured with an encrypted chip on your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch that, as it turns out, is at the heart of the dispute with the Big Four. But more on that later.

What happens if someone steals your phone? Well they will need your pin or thumb print in order to use your card and before they have figured out how to do that there is a good chance the phone has been wiped and/or the card cancelled.

So why don’t all the banks use this system? Basically because they are dicks! Now I know that is not very helpful so let me go further with a little more tact. The banks I mentioned above banned together in an attempt to force Apple to open up their technology (that secure chip I mentioned earlier) to allow these banks to create their own software, thus giving customers “choice”

Humbug! (hows that for an old fashioned word?) Apple have, quite rightly, fired back saying that this would make the system less secure and something of a muddle for the client… and they have history on their side to prove the point.

Back in the 90’s Java was being hailed as the wonder code of the age. It was postulated that all applications would be written in Java and would be platform agnostic, meaning that if you bought a copy of Word written in Java it would run on any device capable of running java. But Microsoft had other ideas and decided to write their own version of Java and in doing so prevented the ‘real’ Java from running on Windows. To put it mildly, Microsoft’s Java was absolute pants and what resulted were court cases, sanctions and confidence in Java wilted.

ANZ were once part this consortium against Apple but in April 2016  they opted out of the huff-fest and instead embraced Apple Pay wholeheartedly. What followed has been a slow trickle of building societies and smaller banks following suit and customers practically breaking their necks to switch banks. Me being one of them.

So what, I know you are dying to know, is the reality of using Apple Pay.

I have my card on both my iPhone and my Apple Watch and I use the watch almost exclusively. Now I can walk to the shops with nothing more than my watch and headphones. I listen to music on my Apple Watch on the way and once there I use the Reminders app as my shopping list. When it comes time to pay I simply double tap on the watch and hold the screen up to the reader and I am off. Leaving a bewildered looking checkout attendant in my wake. All the while my credit card (that all of a sudden seems soooo 2015!) is safe and sound in my wallet at home.

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For a list of banks, building societies and others that have embraced Apple Pay, have a look at this list.

For a helpful “How To” have a look here.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/apple-pay/

Feb 14

Flash in Safari

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Flash has never been good.
 Almost from Day one hackers around the world discovered it was harder to open a packet of salt and vinegar chips than it was to compromise the Flash Plug in.
Not that they needed to compromise it very much because its own code was rubbish leading Steve Jobs to famously refuse to allow it on his iPhone OS.

Too slow, too inefficient and too insecure was basically what he said.

For this reason I have removed it from my Mac and major industries like YouTube and Microsoft have followed suit. Or was is vise versa?

Anyway, most agree it is something to avoid. Sadly though there are still major news and web outlets that still use it so people continue to download and install Flash on their macs to this day.
Lately however this has become a little harder because Safari – in a bid to save you from yourself – has implemented a feature that automatically turns off Flash (and Java) even after you have downloaded and installed it.
The net result is 30-40 flash installers in your Downloads folder and a great deal of hair pulling and hand wringing.

Fortunately it is an easy thing to remedy.

After you’ve updated Flash (and your favourite website still insists that it is not installed)…

1. Open Safari.
2. Go to the Safari menu and choose Preferences.

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3. Click on Security

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4. Click on Plug-in settings
5. Ensure that Flash is check boxed and that it is always ON.

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6. Click Done

Permanent link to this article: http://macservicesact.com.au/flash-in-safari/

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