Tech Talk #36 – October 15, 2016

In case you missed it, late last month Yahoo! reported that in 2014 thieves broke into their servers and stole information on 500,000 Yahoo! email users. The information stolen included names, email addresses, phone numbers, birth dates and some security questions and answers.

 

If you haven’t changed your yahoo.com, sbcglobal.net, or att.net password since 2014 you should put down this paper and change it right now. Really.

 

While we’re changing passwords, go ahead and change your password on the accounts that mean the most to you (financial, shopping, social media, etc.) The people who steal passwords know that most people use the same password on multiple sites, so you should change those, too.

 

Here’s a site that keeps track of which email addresses have been affected by these crooks: https://haveibeenpwned.com/

 

For the curious, “pwned” comes from the video game industry and is a slang term for “owned.” In gaming, getting “pwned” means somebody has just dominated or humiliated you in the game.

 

Quick online privacy and security tune-up

Here are some things you can do to increase your security when you’re online:

  • Use a disposable email address. Instead of using your real email address to sign up for a site, use https://10minutemail.com. You’ll get a disposable email address that can receive a validation e-mail from the site you’re signing up with. Now your real e-mail address won’t end up on a bunch of spam lists.
  • Use a password manager to keep track of your passwords. Password managers can generate secure passwords for you, Keep track of everything, and help you log into the sites it manages. There are many free managers out there like LastPass, Dashlane, KeePass, and 1Password. Many password managers have paid options that let you do things like sync your passwords across multiple devices like phones, tablets, and laptops.
  • Turn on automatic software updates. Most software updates are security-related, especially the updates for Adobe Reader and Java. (Unless you need Java on your computer, you should uninstall it completely.)
  • Lock your screen. If you’re in a public place or at work, lock your screen when you’re going to be away from your computer for a while. Pressing the Windows key + L locks your screen. Ctrl + Shift + Eject or Power puts a Mac to sleep, but you have to do some fiddling in the settings section to get it to require a password on waking, which is the whole point here.
  • Use the HTTPS Everywhere browser extension which is available for the Chrome, Firefox, Firefox for Android, and Opera browsers. This extension helps you use an encrypted https connection whenever possible.
  • Cover your laptop camera. Use a small piece of electrical tape or a cute band-aid or sticker to cover the camera on your laptop. There are ways for people to turn on your camera remotely without your knowing about it. So let them look at your cute sticker instead of your face. You can uncover your camera when you’re using it.
  • Make your phone’s lock code more secure. The default 4-digit PIN for phone lock screens isn’t very secure. Both Android and iOS phone are much more secure with a six-digit lock code. And keep your screen clean, or somebody could guess your lock code by checking out your finger smudges on the screen.

 

Quotable

“On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament!]: ‘Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?’ I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.”

Charles Babbage (26 December 1791 – 18 October 1871); English mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer, Babbage is best remembered for originating the concept of a programmable computer.

 

Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at greg@tech-hachapi.com.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

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