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In this issue: FileVault encryption compromised under rare circumstances • PDF issues galore in macOS 10.12 Sierra; an ill omen? • Sentinel Monitoring 6.5.8 update • Apple's Vintage and Obsolete products
January 2017 Newsletter

FileVault encryption compromised under rare circumstances

Under rare circumstances, it's now possible for FileVault encrypted drives/Macs to be unlocked by bad guys. The circumstances are rare enough that you shouldn't lose sleep over it—or go ahead, who am I to tell you what to do?—but we want you to be aware when something that seems 100% secure is only 99% secure.

Here's the scenario: The bad guys have to have physical access to your Mac while it's turned on, has been logged in at least once (to decrypt the FileVault-protected drive), and the targeted Mac has to have a FireWire port.

This means new, non-FireWire port possessing Macs are immune. The bad guys also need to have a $795 gizmo that will read the contents of the RAM memory through the FireWire capable. It's pretty unlikely that all these things would be true, but since FileVault is otherwise secure, we think it's important to know of situations where it's not. 

We don't recommend upgrading yet, but macOS 10.12.2 Sierra also fixes this vulnerability, so for most Macs this is a temporary issue.
 

PDF issues galore in macOS 10.12 Sierra; an ill omen?

One of the reasons we're not yet recommending 10.12.2 Sierra is that there are some things that continue not to work well. One of those is editing PDF files. You can read the gory details on the Tidbits site which includes this quote, "It pains me to say this, speaking as the co-author of “Take Control of Preview,” but I have to recommend that Sierra users avoid using Preview to edit PDF documents until Apple fixes these bugs."

Although one of the PDF issues—OCR text layer editing—appears to be fixed in the Sierra 10.12.3 beta, the larger concern is why Apple rewrote the underlying technology, called PDFKit, in the first place. It appears that Apple rewrote the already-working-fine PDFKit, losing features, introducing bugs, and otherwise dumbing it down in order to provide better compatibility with iOS.

To say this is a distressing to long-time Mac fans is an understatement. Apple continues to outsell the PC market (which is shrinking), so it's not like Macs are dying. Heck, Apple sells 3x the number of Macs they did 10 years ago. They're just outshined by the iPhone, the greatest consumer product in history. Add to this the iPad, which is now about comparable to the Mac in terms of revenue but which outsells the Mac roughly 2:1 and which uses the same iOS as the iPhone, and it's not hard to understand Apple's motivation. 

A lot of people, however, wish that Apple would re-focus on the Mac and at least let macOS be the best it can be without being hobbled. 
 

Sentinel Monitoring 6.5.8 update

We've updated Sentinel Monitoring to version 6.5.8 which adds to the ever-growing list of malware that we can detect and which also improves our Crashplan and Carbon Copy Cloner reporting. 

If you're a Sentinel or Sentinel+ member, there's nothing you need to do to receive this update. It will be automatically installed by the time you read this, because that's how we roll. 

If you're not yet a Sentinel member, you can learn why you probably should be at www.macatoz.com/sentinel. There, you'll see that for a low monthly fee you can get 24/7 monitoring of the health of your Mac so that when there's a problem we can work together to solve that problem as proactively as possible. If you'd like to speak to someone about Sentinel call us at 503-507-0410, and Brittany Stenger, our client relations specialist, will be thrilled to talk with you.

Apple's Vintage and Obsolete products

Macs have a long life-span—even a 10 year-old Mac can be secure and productive—but Apple doesn't offer hardware support for Mac models beyond 7 years past their discontinuance date. That means if the sale of a particular Mac model ceased on January 1, 2010 then Apple offers limited support in the 5-6 years range (2015-2016) and discontinues hardware coverage altogether on January 1, 2017.

Some notes from Apple's Vintage and Obsolete Products page

  • Vintage products are those that have not been manufactured for more than 5 and less than 7 years ago.
  •  With limited exceptions—like you live in California, Turkey, or France—Vintage products are not eligible for hardware support from Apple
  • Obsolete products are those that were discontinued more than 7 years ago. 
  • Apple has discontinued all hardware service for obsolete products with no exceptions. Service providers cannot order parts for obsolete products.

Generally speaking, MacAtoZ supports both Vintage and Obsolete models, but frequently our advice is to not spend money on such old technology. A 2006 iMac, for example, is a perfectly good Mac but it isn't capable of running a modern operating system (meaning a secure operating system) so we would advise an owner to buy a new Mac rather than upgrade or fix that particular model. 

Once you find your Mac on the Vintage list, you should start budgeting for a replacement. We tell clients that Macs come with a one year warranty, you can extend that to three years by buying AppleCare, and you can have every reasonable expectation that your new Mac will last five years. After 5 years—what Apple considers "Vintage"—we start to see an increase in component failures in the Mac. The hard drive crashes, the screen backlight goes out, etc. It's not a wave of failure by any means, but we do notice an increase. By Year 7, "Obsolete" in Apple terms, a lot of Macs either can't run a secure operating system or, even more likely, are so slow that owners desperately want a new Mac anyway. 

Is your Mac on the Vintage or Obsolete list? MacAtoZ can help advise you on the options you have both in terms of upgrading what you have (if appropriate) or buying something new. Call us at 503-507-0410 or email info@macatoz.com.

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Apple Consultants Network
MacAtoZ LLC provides technical support, upgrade, installation, networking, training and tutoring, web design and hosting, and remote support services for Apple products like Macintosh computers, iPhones, iPods, and iPads.

Ty Davison and Dyneé Medlock, our Apple technicians, are the only Apple-certified, Apple Consultants Network members serving both residential and small business clients in Oregon's mid-Willamette Valley.

MacAtoZ has been providing computer services for clients in the Salem area since 2006 (and since 1999 as SiteRev.com). Our technicians are certified by Apple and carry $1 million in business liability insurance. We frequently present and are well-known at the Salem Macintosh Users Group (SMUG). You can count on us.

Our Sentinel and Sentinel+ services offer home users 24/7 Macintosh monitoring, maintenance, and security. Join today!

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