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Control Location Tracking

The New York Times recently published a bombshell article revealing just how completely our every movement is tracked by companies in the business of selling our locations to advertisers, marketers, and others. Anonymous sources provided the Times with a dataset from a single location-data company that contained 50 billion pings from the phones of more than 12 million Americans over several months in 2016 and 2017.

This data enabled the Times reporters to track numerous people in positions of power, including military officials, law-enforcement officers, and high-powered lawyers. They were able to watch as people visited the Playboy Mansion, some overnight, and they could see visitors to celebrity estates. Once they identified any particular phone, they could track it wherever it went. Imagine what that data could be used for in the wrong hands.

No one intends to let unknown companies track their locations constantly. But code built into smartphone apps does just that, often without our knowledge. Many of the apps that request access to location services have an entirely legitimate reason for doing so—for example, Google Maps can’t provide navigation directions unless it knows where you are. But others want location access for less practical reasons—do you really want to let a coffeeshop app know your location at every moment in exchange for the occasional free latte? And some apps—notably weather apps—may have a legitimate need for location information but use that data for far more than users expect.

Even if you’re not too perturbed about companies you’ve never heard of knowing your exact whereabouts at all times, there’s no guarantee this data couldn’t fall into the hands of foreign governments, organized crime, or hackers willing to sell your movement patterns to an aggrieved employee, corporate spy, or jealous ex-lover.

Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Location Privacy

Luckily, Apple provides controls in iOS that let you limit your exposure. For most people, going completely dark isn’t realistic. Too many iPhone capabilities require location services, ranging from turn-by-turn directions, to geotagging photos, to using Find My to see if your kid has left the soccer tournament yet.

Here’s what we recommend.

  1. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services and scroll down to see a list of every app on your iPhone that would like to know your location. (The same is true on the iPad, but fewer people use their iPads as much while out and about.)
  2. For each app in the list, tap the app’s name to bring up the Allow Location Access screen, which has up to four options:
    • Never: Prevent this app from ever determining your location.
    • Ask Next Time: The next time the app wants permission to track you, make it ask again.
    • While Using the App: Allow the app to track your location as long as you’re actually using it.
    • Always: Let the app track your location at all times, even when you’re not using it.
  3. Tap one of the options to select it, and then tap Back to return to the list.

We can’t tell you exactly how to configure each app since everyone has a different set and different levels of privacy worry.

Go with your instincts. If thinking about a particular app or company recording your location gives you the creeps, turn it off and either find an alternative or do without.

Apple Business Manager

Apple Business Manager ensures that every Apple device you purchase is associated with your corporate account before it’s shipped to you. That enables zero-touch configuration and eliminates much or even all of the manual set up. Here’s how we make this happen.

We’ll work with someone at your company to set you up with two Apple programs: Apple Custom Store and Apple Business Manager. You will merely need to respond to some email messages from Apple and a call with Apple to verify that they agree to Apple’s Terms & Conditions on behalf of your company.

Apple Custom Store provides a customized corporate store for purchasing Apple devices for your company. All devices purchased through your Apple Custom Store are automatically tied to your company until you intentionally release them, such as while decommissioning. This can help protect against theft or employees keeping devices they shouldn’t.

Apple Business Manager, is what enables us (or you) to enroll and manage devices purchased through your Apple Custom Store. When we say “manage” we’re talking about mobile device management, or MDM. MDM systems allow IT administrators to define “profiles” that specify your company’s settings and policies. Those might be email login credentials or security policies such as requiring each Mac to turn on their screensaver after 5 minutes of inactivity and require a passcode to unlock. An MDM system lets your company control when to install operating system updates, ensuring that nothing happens before you’re ready.

13-inch MB Pro Drive Program

Apple is servicing 13 inch non Touchbar MacBook Pros sold between June 2017 and June 2018 that contain a 128GB or 256GB solid state drive, which have an issue causing data loss. To see if your Mac is affected, visit this page and enter your serial number. If you take your computer in to be serviced, back up your entire computer first with Time Machine to an external drive. Alternatively, have a professional such as MacLab do this for you. Apple will replace the drive and return the computer to you with system software only. Your data will not be present. You (or a professional) will need to restore the data.

Best Practices to Secure Your Mac Office

10 Best Security Practices

  1. Malware monitoring and removal
  2. Strong passwords for Macs, iPhones and iPads
  3. Cloud backup in order to recover from data loss or ransomware
  4. Patch management (system updates, security updates)
  5. Device monitoring (computer performance and behavior)
  6. Data encryption for confidential information
  7. Firewall protection on the network and/or individual devices
  8. Documentation of security policies (what are the rules?)
  9. Secure password manager rather than paper, text file or spreadsheet
  10. Smart computing and education

High Sierra Update Issues

MacLab has had a number of customers come to us after applying a High Sierra update and the computer would not boot up. These updates are set to download automatically in many cases, so simply restarting the computer causes the update to proceed. In the past, this was usually safe. Unfortunately there’s an issue with these updates that can cause them to fail, leaving the Mac in an unusable state. You might see a message such as “The path /System/Installation/Packages/OSInstall.mpkg appears to be missing or damaged.”

Even if this has not happened to you, you may want to open up the System Preferences, go to the App Store setting, and uncheck “Install MacOS Updates.” We recommend having MacLab run these updates for you under managed services or maintenance.