Apple Products Released at Far Out Event

On September 7, 2022, Apple hosted its annual product release event at one pm Eastern Time (ET). Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, took the stage at the Far Out event held at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, to unveil a slew of brand-new and significantly enhanced devices. The iPhone 14 and several new smartwatches and AirPods are among the latest products.

The company released three new smartwatches to add to its expanding collection.

The new Apple watch series 8 was released at the event. Apple’s newest smartwatch has a
redesigned watch face, a large display, and several safety features, including collision detection.

The standard model begins at $399, but enthusiasts may upgrade to the deluxe model for
cellular data connectivity. The Apple Watch SE’s new design is identical to its predecessor’s. The only physical difference is that the base casing is composed of a nylon composite material, making it somewhat lighter. Beginning at $249, the SE is less expensive than previous models.

The Apple Watch Ultra has a case built from a titanium composition, making it more robust than other Apple Watch models. In addition, the display brightness of the smartwatch is 2000 nits, making it the brightest among all Apple watches. Along with sophisticated algorithms for reducing wind noise, the three built-in microphones considerably enhance the overall sound quality of the device. Another notable feature of the Apple Watch Ultra is the dual-frequency GPS, which provides more precise GPS data. The Apple Watch Ultra is priced at $799.

The H2 audio chip, swipe-based volume controls, improved noise cancellation, and extended battery life are just a few of the improvements included in Apple’s AirPods Pro 2.
Despite the new features, Apple decided not to change the price from $249.

The most interesting new product unveiled by Apple is the iPhone 14, which will be available in four distinct models: iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max.

Apple made several hardware and software improvements to the iPhone 14 and iPhone14 Plus, including enhanced thermal performance, a new photogenic engine to boost the camera performance, and satellite communication in the event of an emergency.

The “dynamic island” feature can only be found on the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max. According to Apple, “the dynamic island enables new ways to interact with iPhone, featuring a design that blends the line between hardware and software, adapting in real-time to show important alerts, notifications, and activities.”

With the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, consumers will have access to updated
features, including improved cameras, adaptive flash, enhanced safety features, and the new A16 chip to improve efficiency.

Customers may place orders for any of Apple’s newly released items; however, the iPhone 14 Plus is not scheduled to ship until October 7, 2022.

The “Far Out” event Apple hosted was undoubtedly exciting for those passionate about the company’s products. It will be intriguing to watch how Apple continues to develop innovative approaches to continue servicing its customers.

Technology Advances With Speech-Recognition Via AI Technology

If you haven’t heard of the UK startup Speechmatics, it may come as a surprise to learn that the company may be on its way to becoming a globally recognized brand.

The company’s ambitious goal is to leapfrog over the progress made by America’s tech giants in speech recognition by using AI and machine learning.

If you own a Google Home device or have ever worked with Siri or Alexa, you are already familiar with the challenges associated with speech recognition.  The technology only works well for a tiny slice of the consuming public, with the tech giants focused firmly on their most valuable customers, naturally.

For everyone else, using speech recognition devices is a lesson in frustration. It can even be a problem  for some of the speakers for whom the tech has been optimized around, and it can still be frustrating.  If you doubt that, try sending a text message using just your voice.  It’s an uphill battle, even under ideal conditions.

Speechmatics raised eyebrows worldwide when they released a report which contained the following bit of information:

“Based on datasets used in Stanford’s ‘Racial Disparities in Speech Recognition’ study, Speechmatics recorded an overall accuracy of 82.8 percent for African American voices compared to Google (68.6 percent) and Amazon (68.6 percent). This level of accuracy equates to a 45 percent reduction in speech recognition errors – the equivalent of three words in an average sentence.”

That’s huge and game changing. That fact was one of the keys that enabled the tiny start up to secure more than sixty million USD in Series B funding.

So far, Speechmatic’s AI engine only understands 34 languages, which is a tiny slice of the more than 7,000 languages in use around the world. The company is absolutely determined though, and they’re aiming for the moon.

Their goal is functional speech recognition for everyone who speaks, planet wide, regardless of the language they’re using.  It’s a lofty goal, and we can hardly wait to chart their progress.

New Version Releases For iOS Devices

Apple has recently announced a new string of updates for their OS family including iOS, iPadOS 15.6, macOS 12.5, watchOS 8.7 and tvOS 15.6.

Bear in mind that the next version of all of these will be out in just a few months, so these updates are a bit light on features as compared to others we’ve seen from the tech giant.

Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll find in the operating systems in question:

  • For macOS, you’ll get an update to the TV app that allows you to pause, rewind, restart, and fast forward a live sports game. It also includes a bug fix for your Safari browser.
  • For iOS and iPad OS 15.6, you’ll get the same TV app upgrade described above and a handful of bug fixes for Settings, Safari, and Mail.
  • The watchOS 8.7 includes a raft of minor bug fixes and a couple of important security updates you won’t want to miss.
  • And the tvOS gets a slate of general performance and stability improvements.

All of this is in addition to the usual security updates that accompany updates like these. Of interest, Apple specifically did not specify which of the bug fixes they released were actively being exploited in the wild.

Note that if you have an Apple TV or an iWatch, those are almost certain to be set to automatically update.  If you’re using an iPad and your device doesn’t update automatically, just head to Settings, General, and Software Update to get the latest.

Finally, if you’re using a mac and it isn’t set up to get updates automatically, you can get the latest by heading to Apple Menu, System Preferences, and Software Update.

By the time you read this piece, all of the updates should be available for everyone, so install at your convenience.

Android And iOS Network Protection Added With Microsoft Defender

Recently, Microsoft added a new feature for Microsoft Defender for Endpoint (MDE) which has fans of the product cheering.

Once the new “Mobile Network Protection” feature is enabled on the iOS and Android devices you want to monitor, the security platform will provide the same robust protections and notifications that your other network devices currently enjoy.

The company had this to say about the recent addition:

“As the world continues to make sense of the digital transformation, networks are becoming increasingly complex and provide a unique avenue for nefarious activity if left unattended.

To combat this, Microsoft offers a mobile network protection feature in Defender for Endpoint that helps organizations identify, assess, and remediate endpoint weaknesses with the help of robust threat intelligence.”

This new feature is part of a larger, ongoing effort by Microsoft to expand Defender for Endpoint’s capabilities and provide an umbrella of protection that extends across multiple platforms.

Given the complexities of today’s network security environment, we’re thrilled to see tech giants like Microsoft taking bold steps to help simplify, and a cross platform security solution is seen by many as being the Holy Grail of the industry.  While it’s certainly true that Defender for Endpoint isn’t that yet, it’s clear that Microsoft is interested in seeing it become that.

Again, from Microsoft:

“With this new cross-platform coverage, threat and vulnerability management capabilities now support all major device platforms across the organization – spanning workstations, servers, and mobile devices.”

In addition to this new capability, the Redmond giant has also added a feature to MDE that allows admins to “contain” unmanaged Windows devices on their network if they are compromised, or even if there’s a suspicion that they might be.  This is in a bid to keep hackers from abusing those devices and moving laterally through corporate networks.

All of this is great news indeed and if you’re not yet taking advantage of Defender for Endpoint, we recommend giving it serious consideration.

Voicemail Phishing Attacks Called Vishing Are On The Rise

While “vishing” is by no means a new threat, it’s not something that has ever happened with sufficient frequency to get most people’s attention. So, if you haven’t heard the term before, you’re not alone.

“Vishing” is short for voicemail phishing, and it is apparently on the rise based on data collected by the security firm Zscaler. Attackers are specifically targeting tech firms and US military installations.

No actual voice mails are involved, which is interesting.  What the attackers do is send emails with links that supposedly point the way to voicemail messages stored on LinkedIn, WhatsApp, or other services. The idea behind the attacks are is to trick an unsuspecting recipient into disclosing his or her Outlook or Office 365 credentials.

To make their credential capture page more convincing, the attackers have even taken to deploying a CAPTCHA system, which makes the page look just annoying enough to be legitimate.

A spokesman for Zscaler had this to say about the company’s recent discovery of the surge in vishing attacks:

“Voicemail-themed phishing campaigns continue to be a successful social engineering technique for attackers since they are able to lure the victims to open the email attachments. This combined with the usage of evasion tactics to bypass automated URL analysis solutions helps the threat actor achieve better success in stealing the users’ credentials.”

The folks at Zscaler have a point. If your employees haven’t been made aware that this kind of attack is not only possible but growing in popularity in certain sectors, make sure they know what to be on the lookout for. Kudos to the sharp-eyed folks at Zscaler for spotting the trend.

We may not be able to keep hackers from making the attempt. However, if we can warn enough people about the tricks they’re using, we can frustrate their efforts and that’s a good start.