Meet Helm, the startup taking on Gmail with a server that runs in your home

$500 service couples the security of a private server with the reliability of the cloud.

Meet Helm, the startup taking on Gmail with a server that runs in your home

Enlarge (credit: Helm)

There’s no doubt that Gmail has changed the way we consume email. It’s free, it gives most of us all the storage we’ll ever need, and it does a better job than most in weeding out spam and malware. But there’s a cost to all of this. The advertising model that makes this cost-free service possible means some of our most sensitive messages are being scanned for clues about who we are, what we care about, and what we do both online and offline. There’s also the possibility of Google either being hacked or legally compelled to turn over contents.

On Wednesday, a Seattle-based startup called Helm is launching a service designed to make it easy for people to securely take control of their email and other personal data. The company provides a small custom-built server that connects to a user's home or small-office network and sends, receives, and manages email, contacts, and calendars. Helm plans to offer photo storage and other services later.

With a 120GB solid-state drive, a three-minute setup, and the ability to store encrypted disk images that can only be decrypted by customers, Helm says its service provides the ease and reliability of Gmail and its tightly coupled contacts and calendar services. The startup is betting that people will be willing to pay $500 per year to be able to host some of their most precious assets in their own home.

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Google backtracks—a bit—on controversial Chrome sign-in feature

Privacy-conscious users were unhappy at being signed in to browser without consent.

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Enlarge (credit: Google Chrome)

Google will partially revert a controversial change made in Chrome 69 that unified signing in to Google's online properties and Chrome itself and which further preserved Google's cookies even when users chose to clear all cookies. Chrome 70, due in mid-October, will retain the unified signing in by default, but it will allow those who want to opt out to do so.

Chrome has long had the ability to sign in with a Google account. Doing this offers a number of useful features; most significantly, signed-in users can enable syncing of their browser data between devices, so tabs open on one machine can be listed and opened on another, passwords saved in the browser can be retrieved online, and so on. This signing in uses a regular Google account, the same as would be used to sign in to Gmail or the Google search engine.

Prior to Chrome 69, signing in to the browser was independent of signing in to a Google online property. You could be signed in to Gmail, for example, but signed out of the browser to ensure that your browsing data never gets synced and stored in the cloud. Chrome 69 unified the two: signing in to Google on the Web would automatically sign you in to the browser, using the same account. Similarly, signing out of a Google property on the Web would sign you out of the browser.

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A host of new security enhancements is coming to iOS and macOS

(credit: Nathan Mattise)
Apple on Monday previewed a variety of security and privacy features it plans to add to macOS and iOS operating systems, including encrypted Facetime group calls, password-management tools, and camera and microphone protecti…

(credit: Nathan Mattise)

Apple on Monday previewed a variety of security and privacy features it plans to add to macOS and iOS operating systems, including encrypted Facetime group calls, password-management tools, and camera and microphone protections. The company also released a beta version of the upcoming iOS 12 that, according to Motherboard, all but kills off two iPhone unlocking tools used by police forces around the world.

The feature, known as USB Restricted Mode, requires that users unlock their iPhone with a password when connecting to it a USB device. Motherboard said the beta requires a password each time a phone that hasn’t been unlocked in the past hour tries to connect to a device using a Lightning connection. The password requirement largely neutralizes iPhone unlocking tools provided by companies called Cellebrite and GrayShift, which reportedly use USB connectivity to bypass iOS restrictions on the number of incorrect PIN guesses can be entered into an unlocked iPhone. With those limitations removed, police can make an unlimited number of PIN guesses when attempting to unlock a confiscated iPhone.

Previous iOS betas had USB restrictions that required the entering of a password when it hadn’t been unlocked for seven days. Those USB Restricted Modes were later removed before Apple issued final versions of iOS. The restrictions this time around are much more stringent, because police would have no more than 60 minutes between the time they obtain an iPhone and connect it to an unlocking tool. Readers should remember that Apple has previously removed USB Restricted Mode before releasing final versions and may do so again with iOS 12.

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A host of new security enhancements is coming to iOS and macOS

(credit: Nathan Mattise)
Apple on Monday previewed a variety of security and privacy features it plans to add to macOS and iOS operating systems, including encrypted Facetime group calls, password-management tools, and camera and microphone protecti…

(credit: Nathan Mattise)

Apple on Monday previewed a variety of security and privacy features it plans to add to macOS and iOS operating systems, including encrypted Facetime group calls, password-management tools, and camera and microphone protections. The company also released a beta version of the upcoming iOS 12 that, according to Motherboard, all but kills off two iPhone unlocking tools used by police forces around the world.

The feature, known as USB Restricted Mode, requires that users unlock their iPhone with a password when connecting to it a USB device. Motherboard said the beta requires a password each time a phone that hasn’t been unlocked in the past hour tries to connect to a device using a Lightning connection. The password requirement largely neutralizes iPhone unlocking tools provided by companies called Cellebrite and GrayShift, which reportedly use USB connectivity to bypass iOS restrictions on the number of incorrect PIN guesses can be entered into an unlocked iPhone. With those limitations removed, police can make an unlimited number of PIN guesses when attempting to unlock a confiscated iPhone.

Previous iOS betas had USB restrictions that required the entering of a password when it hadn’t been unlocked for seven days. Those USB Restricted Modes were later removed before Apple issued final versions of iOS. The restrictions this time around are much more stringent, because police would have no more than 60 minutes between the time they obtain an iPhone and connect it to an unlocking tool. Readers should remember that Apple has previously removed USB Restricted Mode before releasing final versions and may do so again with iOS 12.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments