Wednesday, August 28, 2013

5 Hidden features of Samsung Galaxy S4

Samsung Galaxy S4 is a powerhouse when it comes to hardware virility. Everything about this phone is over the top, the display, the processor and of course the TouchWiz software interface. But many of S IV features are hidden deep inside various settings and for this reason only the average user won't even be aware that this features exist. Let's bring some of them out of the dark and on to your phone!

1. Two fingers Swipe down for quick access tray



You probably familiar with the fact that you can swipe down one finger on the screen and get to one of the best feature of an Android smartphone, notification tray. But did you try to swipe down two fingers on the screen? Did you? Well, if you didn't then do it. You will be presented with the Quick Access Tray from where you can quickly get to your favourite settings. Don't like the default layout? Tap&hold the tiles and rearrange or add new ones to Quick Access Tray!

2. Custom Sound Quality

Buried deep inside audio settings you will find Adapt Sound option. This little feature will personalized your audio experience on Samsung Galaxy S4. For this to work you will need your Galaxy's headphones, exceptionally good i may add, and when using this headphones you will hear the most noticeable difference. During the audio setup, the Galaxy S IV will calibrate the sound for each ear and will compensate any shortcomings. It will adapt and personalize low, medium and high sounds for you auditory system. You will immediately notice a difference in audio calls, music and other sounds from your phone.

3. Check Notifications without touching the Galaxy S4 


For this feature to work you will have to turn it on here: Settings-My Device-Motion and Gestures-Air Gesture. Now you will be able to check for missed calls, emails and notification by simply waving your hand in front of the phone when Samsung's Galaxy S IV display is turned off. This particular Air Gesture is called Quick Glance.
There are other useful air gestures like Air-Browse, Air-Move or Air-Jump which are designed to offer access to various settings and perform different action without you having to even touch the phone.

4. Blocking Mode for call and notification filtering

This blocking features of the Samsung Galaxy S4 can easily replace any paid application from Google Play Store and will save you a couple of bucks.  But more important, this options will give you peace of mind because they can filter out any insistent phone marketeers, ex-girlfriends/boyfriends or annoying notifications. And i choose the word filter because  once this mode is activated it will block all the above and will let in only calls and notifications that you consider important. You will find this option under Settings-My device-Blocking Mode.

5. Built-In Data Traffic Monitor


Samsung Galaxy S4 Built-In Data Traffic Monitor

Even in this day and age, the day of WI-FI everywhere, the big telecom company’s insist in holding a firm grip on their inflated revenues generated by data transfers. I will not even go in the roaming tariffs. So, back to the topic. You can find this very useful option, especially if you travel a lot, and in the mean time save again a few bucks by not having to purchase an app for this task. You can be sure that you are staying in the limits of your plan by simply setting alerts accordingly to your data plan. You can even spot which app on your smartphone is a data-hog.

Of course there are many other settings, tools and option but some of the fun of having a new phone is to discover them by yourself. ( or maybe just my excuse for not making a top 10 list ;o ). Many other windows will open for you if you root your Samsung Galaxy S4.

If you know about more semi-hidden, not-so-obvious settings in Samsung Galaxy S4 please feel free to drop them in the comments below.

By Aleman Adrian

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Can hackers spy on you using your Android smartphone?

Of course they can. All they have to do is to make you install an .apk file on your Android smartphone or to download an application from Google Play store. Is that easy!

At a Black Hat conference held recently, a software security firm director, demonstrated in front of  a live audience how easily one inexperienced hacker can breach your Android security firewalls and then proceed to install malicious software on your phone that can spy on your every move, breath and blink from dawn till dusk.

Android gone bad
Using only genuine tools offered by Google, the so called Android API's, this particular mobile security firm made an experiment. In two weeks they were able to code malicious and mean lines of code that could be easily copied and paste in any single .apk file out there (.apk acronym comes from  application package file and its used to distribute and install android application on your smartphone).

So, for example, let's take Instagram, an application downloaded by millions from Google Play store. A pimpled teenager, with moderate hacking skills, can in theory and in practice, take Instagram's harmless .apk, decompile it and place inside it a malevolent software and then repackage all off this back in to a normal Instagram .apk.

Once the user has installed this tempered Instagram .apk and the celestial alignment is right, one bad tempered teen from Iowa (or NSA, FBI and CIA all together) will be able to track all your smartphone's whereabouts. He can now easily read your sms and emails, remotely turn on your phone's camera and start taking incognito pictures and even record video clips, access all your call logs and, in general, he will be able to monitor everything you do on your phone. Or shall we say, his phone now. And all this without you noticing a thing!

The dangers of having your Android Phone hacked
A hacked Android. Your worst nightmare!

Before we get all paranoid and start smashing our beloved Samsung Galaxy's and HTC One's, there are a few fact that we must take in consideration.
First of all, the ruthless hacker has to trick you in to installing his stained application. This can be done in two ways: he manages to get this malware infested Instagram on Google Play store, bypassing Google's security Cerberus ( a not that unimaginable endeavour in the not so distant past, but hardly possible nowadays) and the other method is to have you install applications .apk files from untrusted sources, outside the circle of trust and garden of Eden that has become Google Play store. The vast majority of users that have their phones malware infested did it by installing pirated applications from shady online harbours like Piratebay.
A plausible scenario is that right now we have legions of auto-spy android phone owners walking the streets, crowding the malls or coffee shops and unknowingly and innocently spying on everything that moves, not only them. 

So, what can the average user do to reduce the risk of getting infested with this kind of malware? In order to avoid to transform your smartphone in to a 007 spyphone from hell, users must resist the temptation to download "free" (read pirated applications) from untrusted sources. The second best thing to do is to read the permissions that application asks. For example, if a game like Temple Run 2 will ask for permission to access your camera and phone logs, something isn't quite right, isn't it?

As for all our hackers wanna be, amateur code manipulators and software brewers out there... get out of the grey zone and put your talent to great use. Make a living. Find a job, put on a white hat and get paid for your insane skills!

By Aleman Adrian