Miscalibrated Internet Receptor Stalks

Wednesday Android Update: Uh, with the ransomware Edition

This one I had brought to my attention near the end of last week and I honestly thought about posting about it then, but the likelihood of it affecting anyone was so low in my opinion that I figured it could wait. It’s a good thing I waited because I learned about two other things, one good and one bad, that are also worth posting about today.

Rather than beat around the bush I’m just going to get to it with the bad news first and then we’ll go from there.

New ransomware locks you out of phone, wants $500 to let you back in

I wish I was joking about this, but it figures someone would make something like this. What’s worse is that to the non-discerning user’s eye this ransomware’s installer makes it look like something being pushed out by Google. So it’s very easy to fall victim to.

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Clicking Continue screws you so hard. I am not even remotely joking about that. The moment you do that the app, which is a trojan, gains admin rights and can then lock the device. Made all the worse because it sets a new PIN for the lockscreen. Shortly thereafter a message will pop up demanding $500 to remove it.

So how can you avoid this? Don’t install apps from outside the Play Store unless you absolutely know what you’re doing and can verify that the app is legit and not in any way nefarious.

The one first written about started off as a porn viewing app available exclusively outside the Play Store.

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There is of course one possible means of removing such malware apps from your device without having to do a full factory reset. You can reboot into Safe Mode.

To reboot into Safe Mode you would press the power button as you normally would until you see the prompt which you press to “power off” your device. Don’t tap that! Instead long press on the power button again and you’ll see a new prompt asking if you want to reboot into Safe Mode. Go ahead and do that.

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I’ve personally used this before to try and fix an issue I experienced after a significant Android update to my first Moto X, it didn’t work but I can confirm it’s possible to fix things via this method at least.

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So once you’re in Safe Mode you’ll know it because you’ll see it on the bottom left corner. Also all third party apps appear grayed out on your device.

At that point just uninstall any “bad” apps and then turn off your device and start it up again like normal. Things should at that point be fixed obviously.

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If they aren’t then I hate to say it but you just learned a hard lesson in why you should be careful with what you install on your device.

Of course it’s worth pointing out that not all bad apps come from outside the Play Store. My mom downloaded something from the Play Store on her S4 ages ago to “watch 50 Shades of Grey for free” and within minutes popups galore were appearing on her screen telling her her antivirus was out of date. Rather than just start tapping things, thank fucking goodness, she promptly called me to tell me what was up and I fixed things for her.

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And then there was the lockscreen bypass

This one was found by a security analyst from the University of Texas’s information security office. (OP’s note: Longhorns suck! Aggies all the way!)

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Basically while screwing around due to boredom and lack of cell signal he discovered this one on his phone and alerted Google to it.

Entering a long stream of numbers into the emergency dialer and repeatedly pressing the camera button does wonders.

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Of course a patch has already been issued by Google and according to quite a few redditors the other OEMs use their own dialers which don’t allow for this type of bypass, they’d know because they personally tried it on various Samsung and HTC devices.

The best way to beat this “moderate severity” (according to Google) threat is perhaps one of the easiest to implement for even average users, use a PIN or pattern unlock to protect your device.

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XDA has a great piece on Motorola and what’s currently transpiring with the company

If you’re at all interested in Motorola’s line of devices I highly suggest you give it a read.

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The short of it is that Motorola as of three years ago did something new and seemingly insane and did so for reasons that were twofold. They decided to make a smaller device (original Moto X was 4.7”), keep it to near stock Android while adding a few useful software features and tweaks to it (Active Display, Touchless Control, Moto Assist, all of which have gone on to be incorporated into stock Android as a whole), and keeping aspects of the hardware “low specced” where possible (using a 720p display over a 1080p one because at that size few people could truly discern the difference). All of this allowed them to keep their devices quickly and easily updated which in turn allowed them to reduce costs on their part which in turn allowed them to keep costs low for the consumers.

They kept things mostly the same with the second iteration of the Moto X.

However, with the Nexus 6 on things have seemingly taken a turn for the “that doesn’t seem like something Motorola was originally set out to do”. The devices have gotten much bigger, despite Motorola originally shooting for that 4.7” form factor because it was what most people found convenient and easy to hold in hand. Prices saw a shocking increase, to the point that people (erroneously) claimed no Nexus had ever passed the $600+ price point until the Nexus 6.

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And then you have their newer devices, the Moto X Play and Moto X Style, both of which are substantially larger than previous generation’s Moto X devices and which have taken one of the selling points for it (AMOLED displays that were a huge part of what made Active eventually called Moto Display great, their minimal battery usage power requirements) and replaced it entirely (TFT display, so the entire display actually lights up to show you a tiny notification and thus uses more power than it would have otherwise).

To make matters truly worse though is the one thing we worried about originally, with Lenovo having bought Motorola from Google what’s going to happen to all those software tweaks and innovations that we’ve come to know and love?

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That’s been answered. From the piece, “…the software and services team, the folks who are largely responsible for all the Moto-bred features we love today. Moto Voice. Moto Display. Moto Assist. Etc — the people responsible for those are gone, and will be replaced by Lenovo engineers.”

Personally, I was looking forward to the new Moto X solely because I’ve been a fan of the line since its debut. With the Lenovo purchase I became very hesitant and concerned for things going forward. At present it’s likely I’ll be picking up the new Moto X Pure Edition at best before the end of the month and at worst before the end of October. I doubt I’ll be going the Moto Maker route this time though, I’ll just pick one up at my local Best Buy. That said I think it might be the last Motorola purchase I make. Lenovo has definitely shaken things up from the company I couldn’t recommend enough over the previous two years to the point that I honestly just don’t see them making the products I’ve grown to love and highly recommend going forward. And everyone knows how much I love(d) Motorola phones.

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Amazon is rumored to be making a $50 tablet

This one is a few weeks old but I kind of forgot to write about it before, but Amazon is purported to be making a $50 tablet ready for release in time for the upcoming holidays. Although I should add that the $50 tablet is going to be for a 6” model, there are plans for both 8” and 10” devices as well.

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And earlier today we saw a rather interesting leak from Evan Blass that shows a rather interesting looking device (from a software perspective at least).

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That almost looks like near stock Android on there. It isn’t, obviously. But damn if it isn’t close.

Not gonna lie, if they release a $50 tablet I’ll pick one up. That’s serious impulse buy territory. Well, for me at least.

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Two icon packs and one wallpaper app worth checking out: Fresh, Cornie, and Plastexo

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Seen above is a mixture of the two. Fresh provided the wallpaper, Cornie the bottom icons used. Min was used for the circles that are apps and popup widgets.

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Fresh ($0.99) seen entirely in the screenshot above is the latest icon pack by Stealthychief. The point of Fresh is to create familiar yet entirely new icons from scratch for various apps. An additional aim is to provide fresh icons for the most popular apps in use, with a focus on quality over quantity and thus at present there is no way to request additional icons be created. I fell in love with Fresh the moment it was released, it is both bright and original.

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Cornie ($0.99) which can be seen in the above screenshot is one I like but I can’t quite place my finger on why. Maybe it’s the slightly subtle colors used. Maybe it’s that the icons also are familiar and yet for the most part original. I honestly don’t know. Something about it just appealed to me. Much like Fresh it’s currently rather limited in the number of icons present in the pack, but it’ll be receiving updates regularly and the number of icons properly themed is going to grow.

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Plastexo (free) is a wallpaper app I picked up at the same time as I did the Fresh icon pack and it looks great! The app itself and the wallpapers included that is. It’s free, so just check it out if you’ve been feeling like you need a new wallpaper. It’s currently got 100 wallpapers (with a minimal and flat style) and features Muzei support.

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And beyond that there hasn’t been much going on that I can think of

So barring any breaking or worthwhile news that’s all you get for today. On that note, I’m gonna go finish the last episode of the second season of The 100. I am so hooked on this damn show. I never gave it a chance mostly cause it was on The CW but someone on reddit talked me into checking it out and I’ve been slowly going through the first two seasons and goddamn is it good. It’s like the closer you get to the season finale for each season the more intense the show gets. Gah! Now I’ll have to wait for the third season to start. Oh well, at least I have Narcos on Netflix to start this afternoon once I finish The 100.

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