Warning: BlackBerry Protect flaw uncovered

A few days ago I tweeted a recommendation to download and install BlackBerry Protect. In my view this is a brilliant application for two reasons. Firstly it allows you to remotely back-up all of your data (which can then be set to occur automatically), and secondly because it provides additional security features in the event that your BlackBerry is lost or stolen.

The security features allow you to locate your phone on a map and also instruct it to emit a loud noise, all of which is great if you’ve simply misplaced it somewhere nearby. Best of all you can remotely lock and / or completely wipe all the data from your handset, which is surely excellent peace of mind for any BlackBerry owner. However – and much to my frustration – I recently discovered a fatal flaw with this application.

In a nutshell if you lock your handset online with a password, the phone will indeed lock itself, but the password will then not work on the phone. In other words if you lost your phone and subsequently locked it online with the password “torch123”, should you be lucky enough to find your phone again, you would not be able to unlock it with the same password “torch123”.

Worst of all because there is then no way to unlock your phone and no passwords will work, you will be forced to enter an incorrect password ten times, after which point your BlackBerry handset will go into emergency shutdown and completely wipe all your data. The only remedy available to you at this stage would be to follow the entire process through, sit tight as your BlackBerry wipes and resets itself, and then do a back-up restore. Sadly if you didn’t do a back-up then you’re screwed.

I’ve written this up because this is exactly what recently happened to me – twice – firstly because I thought I’d lost my phone, and then I tried the whole thing again to double check, because I knew that I had not made a typo when I had initially set my password. Thankfully I had completed a back-up a few days beforehand so I only lost a small amount of data. However I did also lose all my BlackBerry messenger contacts and all the messages that I’d received between the date of my last back-up and the date of the restore.

My BlackBerry handset does not run off a BlackBerry Enterprise Server, so I’m not sure if that has something to do with it. I have now sent all of this information over to RIM BlackBerry headquarters, so hopefully I’ll soon get an answer to this anomaly. In the meantime if you are a BlackBerry owner and you have installed the BlackBerry Protect application – you have been warned! Having said that, I would recommend downloading the software and regularly backing-up your handset, but just avoid using the remote locking feature until the problem is fixed.

Brain’s Got Talent

The human brain is absolutely astounding. As far as I am aware, there isn’t anything else like it in nature, and science has yet to build a computer that even comes close.

Putting aside for a moment any deeper philosophical discussion on the differential between the brain and the mind, it strikes me that we are living in extraordinary times, evolving in a way that nobody had foreseen. For the first time in Earth’s 4.5 billion year history, all the component members of an entire species the world-over are able to communicate amongst themselves, with ease.

Admittedly perhaps this build-up over the preceding few sentences for the humble Internet was a tad dramatic, but when you sit and think about the fact that we now have a global infrastructure in place to potentially connect up and harness the energy of more than 6 billion human brains, well, it’s enough to blow your mind.

Humanity really is on the cusp of a new era of scientific discovery. Sequencing the human genome was a big step in the right direction, and within the next two decades I predict that our collaborative human effort will eradicate all diseases, and develop a way to treat other health problems at a sub-atomic level.

Far sooner than that however, I predict that social media will advance to such a level, that willing participants will be able to integrate themselves into a kind of hive-mind “Borg” collective. That is to say, voluntarily undergo medical procedures to connect organic brain tissue, with technological circuitry for the purpose of communication.

Human beings will eventually be able to communicate with not much more than the simple power of thought. Our collective human consciousness is about to be unveiled in a way that we could never have imagined. These are very exciting times in which to be alive.

The A to Z of BlackBerry: a beginner’s guide

Applications

Think of your BlackBerry as akin to Microsoft Windows, and think of “applications” as akin to different software packages. These applications can be downloaded (either for free or for a fee) from BlackBerry Apps World. There is an ever expanding variety of useful applications.

BlackBerry Messenger

This is a brilliant feature available on all BlackBerry handsets. This application allows you to create a permanent live connection with fellow BlackBerry users. You can then send and receive free instant messages, files and photographs to one another, anywhere in the world.

Calendar

The BlackBerry calendar feature is very user friendly and similar to your Microsoft Outlook calendar. It can also be synchronised with your Microsoft Outlook calendar at work. You can change the view settings and alert times, and you can run several simultaneous calendars.

Documents To Go™

Documents To Go is a suite of applications akin to Microsoft Office: Word To Go (Word), Sheet To Go (Excel) and Slideshow To Go (PowerPoint). The basic application allow you to view documents for free, but you have to upgrade and pay to be able to create and edit files.

Emails

You can set your handset to receive emails from virtually every email account that you hold. Emails are usually forwarded to your handset instantly. Your handset should also reconcile itself with your various email accounts, so that sent and deleted emails are synchronised.

Flashing LED

Although the flashing LED indicator can be switched off, it is probably best to keep it switched on. It flashes red when you have received an alert. It can also be set to flash green for when you do not have any alerts. When you are using Bluetooth it flashes blue.

GPS

Most handsets now come with GPS as standard. You can use BlackBerry maps and other applications to locate your position or plan a journey. Some applications rely on this feature to be able to give you relevant localised information, i.e. weather reports, cinema listings etc.

Handsfree / speakerphone

Like most phones you can plug in a handsfree kit or use a Bluetooth headset with your BlackBerry. Whilst on a call, press the key with a small red megaphone (above the $ key), to put your phone on loudspeaker. The volume controls are on the right of the handset.

Internet

Your BlackBerry needs the support of a server to function. It can either use a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (if your company has is set up), or more likely it will use your network provider’s server. You can access Internet sites on your phone by clicking on the globe icon.

Just for fun

Every BlackBerry comes with a number of basic games. These are contained within the folder with a small blue games controller icon. The media gallery contains all your music, videos, ring tones, pictures and voice notes. This folder has a small CD, photo and musical clef icon.

Keyboard

Numbers are in red on the left side of your keyboard. To type a number, press “alt” together with the relevant key. Press “symbol” to find less frequently used letters and symbols. When checking texts or emails, press “T” to scroll to the top and “B” to scroll to the bottom.

Locking handset

Press and hold key “A” to lock your handset. To unlock the handset you have to press the star key, followed by the green call button. For added security there is a new application which allows for “remote self-destruct” of all data, in the event your handset is lost or stolen.

Media Card

Most handsets come with an added media card as standard. They usually slot into the left side of the handset. A media card provides additional memory space on to which excess data can be stored. This is particularly useful if you have lots of music files on your BlackBerry.

Navigation

Most BlackBerry handsets come with either a trackball or trackpad to navigate your way around the handset. All individual icons can also be moved around, depending on your preference. It makes sense to have your 6 most commonly used icons on the top row.

Options

Options are located under the small spanner icon. Here you will find a variety of options to check / amend the settings on your handset. Clicking on Status for example, tells you the battery life on your phone, and Memory tells you how much free memory you have left.

Profiles

A BlackBerry comes with several standard profiles, i.e. Normal, Quiet, Vibrate etc.. You can also create your own profiles. You can programme your handset with different alert tones for different messages, and this helps to distinguish an email from a text message, for example.

Quick keys

When checking texts or emails, there are a number of quick keys you can use. Click “N” for next and “P” for previous, click “R” for reply and “F” for forward, and click “T” to scroll to the top and “B” to scroll to the bottom. Clicking “S” give you the option to perform a search.

Reboot

You can reboot your handset by briefly taking the battery out of it. This needs to be done after removing an application from your handset, although you do get prompted. It is also advisable to reboot at least once a week, to maintain the performance of your handset.

Speed dials

You can assign a speed dial to every key on your QWERTY keyboard. The easiest way to do this is to press and hold a particular key, and then assign the speed dial when prompted. Speed dial “Q” is usually assigned to change your profile to vibrate. “A” usually locks phone.

Text messages

Like most phones, sending and receiving SMS (texts) and MMS (picture messages) is relatively straightforward. This feature has a small mobile handset and envelope icon. You can also save text messages and emails, which are then stored in your saved messages folder.

USB Port

All handsets come with a USB port and data cable. Installing the BlackBerry desktop software onto your computer is essential. This allows you to perform backups and restorations when required. The file structure on your BlackBerry is very similar to that of Microsoft Windows.

Video / Camera

All handsets come with a built-in camera and most have a video recorder as well. The video camera feature has a camcorder icon, and the camera feature has a camera icon. Video clips and photos are stored in the media gallery, along with music, ring tones and voice notes.

Wi-Fi

Although most handsets now use the 3G network to browse the Internet and download data, utilising Wi-Fi is by far the quickest method. Your handset can connect to the web on the back of any unsecured Wi-Fi signal, although setting up your own secured Wi-Fi is the best option.

Xtras

There are a number of other useful features on your handset, including: alarm, calculator, stopwatch, maps, task scheduler (a to-do list with alarm), and voice recorder (for dictation / voice notes). Helpful features include: manage connections, search, help, and standby.

Your PIN

Your PIN is unique to your handset. It is particularly helpful when trying to connect with someone on BlackBerry Messenger. It is also far more secure to give out your PIN to somebody, than your mobile number. To find your PIN click Options, and then click Status.

Zzz…

In the unlikely event that you want to switch your phone off, simply press the standby button and wait for about 30 seconds. You can also set your handset to switch off / switch on automatically. This feature can be found under Options, and then under Auto On/Off.

Welcome to my world

A BlackBerry is not just a mobile phone. To think of it as such is akin to labelling Leonardo Da Vinci a good painter and decorator, or the Great Wall of China a sturdy fence. No, a BlackBerry is a “life organiser”. A modern day Triquarter that can neatly press, fold and deliver the sum of all human knowledge to ones fingertips with all the sophistication of a Mercedes Benz. If sliced bread could talk, it would use the invention of the BlackBerry as a benchmark.

This extraordinary device has, if you’ll pardon the pun, taken the legal profession by Storm. A cacophony of legal applications are now being rolled out, with hybrid software that can already record dictation, edit and view Office and PDF documents, and capture billable units from calls and emails, to name but a few examples.

However the biggest appeal for lawyers surely has to be the way in which a BlackBerry simply gets on with the job, without faffing about. The language is clear, the features are straightforward and the integrated technology is effortless. Indeed the whole BlackBerry resin d’etre could probably be defined in three words – simplicity, efficiency and ingenuity – and this is something that more and more law firms are beginning to clock on to.

And when it comes to keeping up with business trends, we all know that any lawyer worth their salt needs to have a decent online presence, in order to build relationships with fellow professionals and potential clients. Thankfully a BlackBerry can easily integrate a multitude of social networks with the robust functionality of a Swiss army knife (although the Facebook application is admittedly rather poor).

So why do I have a BlackBerry? Well for a start I want clear, concise and accurate information without delay so that I can make quick informed decisions. I also want to be able to plan my next hour, day or week in seconds, not minutes, and spend as little time as possible entering details into my phone, learning how to operate some new fangled software or going back and having to correct a dozen mistakes, courtesy of a grimy unreliable touchscreen.

The truth is a BlackBerry has your best interests at heart. It understands how you work and it’s on your side. It’s not going to try and sell you applications you don’t need or games you’ll never play. It’s not going to make you feel out of touch if you don’t happen to have the latest version. And it’s not going to suck money from your wallet like some kind of vibrating leech should you happen to drop it.

What it will do however, is give you what you want, when you want it. A functional, professional and reliable personal assistant, ready to synchronise your world, maximise your productivity, and free up some much needed time. Case in point, I’ve just written this on my BlackBerry sitting on a packed Piccadilly Line train, somewhere under West London. Welcome to my world.