Time Machine slows down the MacMac won’t accept your password?Old modems are more easily ‘hijacked’

Time Machine slows down the Mac

Although its understandable that Time Machine may slow the Mac in some way because the Mac is more busy backing up, the performance 'hit' is usually negligible.

However, if your Mac is working at a crawling pace and it often only speeds up with Time Machine turned off, it's possible that the destination drive for the Time Machine backup has become unavailable, or can't be written to for whatever other reason, and the Mac is backing up to a local (internal) drive to transfer the backup later once the backup destination drive is available again. If the destination drive is already available, then Time Machine may be experiencing a temporary glitch.

In any case, this situation can be confirmed by opening the Activity Monitor app (resident in the Utilities folder) and viewing which processes are using the most memory.

TM Slowing Mac

If lots of memory is used up and the process called backupd is near or at the top, then this probably confirms the issue. Activity Monitor will likely show more memory used up than your Mac has as RAM. This is because the Mac will have used the local drive as RAM. Using storage as RAM slows the Mac considerably.

Assuming getting the Mac working at a tolerable speed is more important than saving all the cached backups on your local drive since when it worked last, the instant fix is to choose Skip this backup from the Time Machine menu. Gradually, memory will then be freed up and the Mac will return to full speed again.

Skip backup

If it is only a temporary glitch, immediately choosing Back Up Now from the Time Machine menu, ought not make the issue reoccur.

backup now

Mac won’t accept your password?

A call to the eSage helpdesk from one frustrated user was quickly resolved. The user couldn't log in to their computer. Preliminary questions ruled out they were punching the wrong keys for the password, so I was a bit mystified and hoped it wasn't going to be a a difficult task involving booting into recovery mode etc.

Fortunately, I had direct access to their Mac remotely so could see their login screen.

I could then see the caps lock key was turned on. Once I explained the on-screen symbol for this and what the key does, problem solved!

Caps Lock key on

Caps Lock key on

Old modems are more easily ‘hijacked’

[Originally published 2014-05-31]

Recently, one of my customers had an issue whereby their modem-router was 'hijacked'.

The symptoms were that if they used the Google search engine, then the search engine wouldn't work, but on-screen would display something to the the effect that their Adobe Flash Player (The software responsible for generating animated and interactive web content) was out of date. (See image from link below)
 Attempts to update it automatically would fail with an error message. If directly downloaded from Adobe's website, Flash would not update as it was already up-to-date on the afflicted Mac.
At first, only one late model Mac had this issue which couldn't be solved by the standard troubleshooting procedures. When another late model Mac got it, too, this suggested something nefarious. Online research for the issue revealed that the Macs were mostly fine. The cause and fix of the problem was at the modem-router which was hacked and potentially could have resulted in any of the Macs exhibiting similar symptoms.
Other, later symptoms, included the Mac reporting that Internet Explorer needed updating. Since Internet Explorer only runs on Windows, which wasn't installed on any of the Macs, I suspect that Macs were immune from the worst intents of the hackers, whose basic efforts meant the victim's web browser was being redirected to the hackers' version of the most popular websites to intercept passwords and install malicious code onto Windows PCs. But, if Facebook, iCloud, and other Internet based services were also targeted, then it could be serious for any user saving confidential data there.
Hit the image below for a link to one of many news reports on the issue, or simply Google "300,000 modems hacked".

hijacked Modems

Hijacked Modems

 If I understand the news reports, it sounds like a Serbian web host registered the UK, but physically in the Netherlands, is responsible for the hijacking of cheap routers with known vulnerabilities.  The weakness in the routers was known for over a year and some manufacturers had issued firmware (A type of software programming for the device) updates to prevent reoccurrences of the problem. So, if you have a cheap router that hasn't had a recent firmware update, it may be at risk.
Although the above news report makes it sound like all Macs would be equally affected on the network, this isn't the case if the Macs have their DNS manually set, instead of being configured to use the router's settings.
Putting your own password on the router's admin interface isn't enough to prevent it being hacked in the first place, but, for affected routers, a temporary fix may be to simply do a factory-reset, or at least change the DNS settings on the router to those recommended by the ISP. Note that afflicted Macs may also need to have their DNS settings reset, and the web browser cache flushed, too.
In the case of my customer, the modem-router was manufactured in 2010 and the latest and last firmware was issued in 2012 – being a couple of years too late to likely prevent any of this 'hijacking' – so a new modem-router, one recommended by their ISP, was installed.
Installing a modem-router recommended by the ISP means, not only is the modem likely optimised for their network and support, but the ISP's reputation is also at stake, so they should be offering a good device not likely to be hacked.
In any case, do change the default password on your modem-router and there are other things that can be done to minimise such attacks, too.
If you need any further advice, you can contact eSage for support on this for both home and office.