|February 2018 Newsletter
High Sierra 10.13.3
We had really hoped to recommend the latest High Sierra update, macOS 10.13.3. Historically, it's the ".3" update where we've felt like Apple's achieved a level of stability and squashed enough bugs that we can tell average folks that it's okay to upgrade.
Well, not this time around. The ".3" upgrade this time did little more than keep text messages from getting out of order and fix a problem where your Mac might disconnect from a Windows server.
So we're still in wait and see mode, hoping that we can recommend the currently-in-beta High Sierra 10.13.4 whenever it appears.
That said, if you are not running a secure operating system (macOS 10.10 or earlier), you're better off upgrading to High Sierra anyway, just so your data is protected. Feel free to call us or email us if you need help or clarification.
Onsite late cancellation and no-show policies
MacAtoZ has updated its policy for onsite appointment cancellations and no-shows, and we wanted to explain the changes. Like everything we do, we want to be a transparent and clear as we can.
Onsite appointments cancelled less than 2 hours prior to the scheduled appointment time will be charged half of the 1 hour minimum for onsite services ($66). We understand that sometimes cancelling an appointment late is unavoidable and in the event of emergency, we're likely to make an exception to this policy. It's not like we're going to hand you a bill while you're gurneyed off to the hospital.
But late cancellations are definitely a hardship for us. We not only don't get to help you, we also can't quickly turn around and fill the appointment slot to go help somebody else. Hence the above policy.
No shows are similarly problematic. Clients who are no shows for scheduled onsite appointments will be charged in full for the 1 hour minimum for onsite services ($132). If we arrive for an onsite appointment and you are not there, we will attempt to reach you by phone and by email. If we receive no response within 15 minutes, we will charge your credit card on file the $132. Again, we reserve the right to make exceptions to this policy should there be an emergency.
Having said all the above, what's good for the goose is good for the gander: MacAtoZ’s policy for a late cancellation by us is as follows: If you have a scheduled onsite appointment and we have to cancel less than 2 hours prior to the appointment, the first hour of your rescheduled service will be charged at half price.
We hope that the above policies make sense and are equitable. The truth is that few people cancel with little notice and almost no one is ever a no show, but we thought it important to articulate these policies as we grow and continue to serve an increasing number of clients. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us.
Ransomware: Should you worry?
Let's start by saving you a whole lot of reading: No. That said, malware makes headlines regularly these days, so if you want to be informed about ransomware on the Mac, here you go.
What is ransomware? It's a serious type of malware so-called because once it infects your computer, it encrypts all your files and holds them for ransom.
Macs are targeted far less than Windows PCs. In fact, I can only think of a few pieces of ransomware that have been directed at Mac users:
- The first, called FileCoder, was discovered in 2014. When security researchers looked into its code, they discovered that it was incomplete, and posed no threat at the time.
- The first fully functional ransomware for the Mac appeared in 2016, a bit of nastiness called KeRanger. It hid inside an infected version of the open source Transmission BitTorrent client and was properly signed so it could circumvent Apple’s Gatekeeper protections. As many as 6500 people may have been infected by KeRanger before Apple revoked the relevant certificate and updated macOS’s XProtect anti-malware technology to block it.
- In 2017, researchers discovered another piece of ransomware, called Patcher, which purported to help users download pirated copies of Adobe Premiere and Microsoft Office 2016. According to its Bitcoin wallet, no one had paid the ransom, which was good, since it had no way of decrypting the files it had encrypted.
If you're not pirating software or using BitTorrent—do you even know what BitTorrent is?—ransomware isn't something to worry about. Sure, it’s likely that malware authors will unleash additional Mac ransomware packages in the future, but the probability of it hitting your Mac is incredibly small.
There are a few reasons for this. First, Apple’s Gatekeeper technology protects your Mac from malware by letting you launch only apps downloaded from the Mac App Store, or those that are signed by developers who have a Developer ID from Apple. Since malware won’t come from legitimate developers (and Apple can revoke stolen signatures), Gatekeeper protects you from most malware.
Second, Apple’s XProtect technology takes a more focused approach, checking every new app against a relatively short list of known malware and preventing apps on that list from launching. Make sure to leave the “Install system data files and security updates” checkbox selected in System Preferences > App Store. That ensures that you’ll get XProtect updates. Similarly, install macOS updates and security updates soon after they’re released to make sure you’re protected against newly discovered vulnerabilities that malware could exploit. If you're a Sentinel+ member, we do this for your Mac automatically.
(Remember: On the Mac, you must be running one of the last three operating systems (presently 10.13, 10.12, or 10.11) in order to receive Apple security updates.)
Although regular backups with Time Machine are usually helpful, KeRanger tried to encrypt Time Machine backup files to prevent users from recovering their data that way.
The best protection against ransomware is a versioned backup made to a destination that can be accessed only through the backup app, such as an Internet backup service like Backblaze. The beauty of such backups is that you can restore files from before the ransomware encrypted them. This is one reason we say that you should have your "data in three places, one of which is off-site."
If you ever are infected with ransomware, don’t panic, and don’t pay the ransom right away. Contact us so we can help you work through your options, which might entail restoring from a backup or bringing files back from older cloud storage versions. There are even decryptors for some Windows ransomware packages, and such utilities might appear for hypothetical Mac ransomware as well.
There are plenty of things to worry about in this world. Happily, ransomware on your Mac isn't one of them.
Picking a better face for people Photos recognizes
Apple’s Photos app is remarkably good at identifying people in your snapshots and collecting all the pictures that contain a particular person into a group in its People view.
At its top level, the People view shows a thumbnail photo for each person, picking one automatically from all the available photos.
Needless to say, it doesn’t always pick the photo you want, so if you dislike what’s there, you can change it easily on the Mac. In Photos, click People in the sidebar and double-click the thumbnail of the person you want to change. If necessary, click Show More to see all their photos, then Control-click the desired photo and choose Make Key Photo from the contextual menu.
Sentinel monitoring 6.6.2 update
As many of you know, we continue to improve our Sentinel monitoring and Sentinel+ maintenance & security systems. Frequently, these changes are behind the scenes, and as the end user you're simply the beneficiary of the improvements without ever knowing it.
In our most recent 6.6.2 update, we've improved the way that the Sentinel+ maintenance runs are reported into monitoring and we've added a raft of additional malware definitions so that we can continue to keep your Mac(s) safe.
The 6.6.2 update has automatically been installed for Sentinel and Sentinel+ folks—there's nothing you need to do except remain secure in the knowledge that we continue to make our best efforts to monitor, maintenance, and secure your Mac and its data.
If you're not yet in Sentinel and would like to know more about it, please call or email us or visit our Sentinel page at www.macatoz.com/sentinel
Referrals and recommendations
We are making progress on our 2018 goal of adding another Apple technician so that we can serve you faster.
We're trying to get the word out about our company and the services we offer, and we could use your help. If you know of anyone who's a Mac user or considering becoming a Mac user, we'd appreciate it if you'd pass along our name and contact info.
Another way to help us is to write us a testimonial. If you've enjoyed your experience with us, be it onsite, remote, or through Sentinel, we'd love to have a statement from you saying so (send to firstname.lastname@example.org). We'd love to feature your words on our web site or other outreach materials. Thank you!