Tech Talk #66 – Dec. 9, 2017

Keeping your accounts and devices safe

During this busy Christmas season, it can be more important than ever to protect your personal information. Whether you’re shopping online, making travel arrangements, Uber-ing (is that a word?) around a different city visiting family, your data can be attacked from different angles. While you can’t control the security practices of major corporations (cough, Equifax, cough), you can minimize the chances of the bad guys getting your data. Here are some things you can, and should, check.



Check for updates

Getting security patches and updates are so important on Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS devices that manufacturers make it hard to avoid them. Also, check for and apply updates and patches for the programs and apps you rely on.


Don’t forget to check for firmware updates for your printers, streaming devices, and routers, too. These can be harder to find, but checking the manufacturer’s website is a good place to start.


Not doing updates and security patches on your devices will leave them open to malware that targets these easily fixed older vulnerabilities.



Check what’s running on your computer

I know you’re careful about what you download and install on your computer, but sometimes ‘stuff’ slips through. In addition to whatever security software you’re using, it’s a good idea to see what’s running in the background on your computer.


Task Manager (search for it in the taskbar on Windows) and Activity Monitor (search for it in Spotlight on macOS) will give you a list of everything running in memory on your system. Ninety-nine percent of all that stuff is necessary for your computer to function, but do a quick web search on anything you think is suspicious.


It’s also a good idea to check your browsers for extensions you don’t remember installing or might not need anymore. Do a web search for how to check browser extensions for your particular browser.



Check your passwords

Use this site to see if your email address was exposed in any data breaches. Don’t panic if it was. Check the date of the exposure, and hopefully you’ve changed your password since then. If not, you know what to do. Using a password manager like LastPass or Dashlane can make changing your passwords easier and more secure. Plus, password managers remember your new, secure, password for you.


Remember to check each of your email addresses if you have more than one.



Check your account and device activity

Almost all online services have a way to check recent activity. Doing a web search for ‘Facebook recent activity’ for example shows you how to get a list of recent logins and devices where your account has been authorized.


Depending on the service, you may also have options to block devices or get an alert whenever a new device connects to your account.


Online services you can check recent activity on include Google, Facebook, Twitter, and AppleID.



Check who’s connected to your WiFi

You don’t want to be sharing your WiFi with your neighbors or anyone else. In the Apple App Store, look for “Who Is On My WiFi” or in the Google Play store, look for “Who Use My WiFi? Network Tool”. These tools scan your WiFi network and let you know which devices are connected to it. Printers, TVs, streaming devices, phones, routers, security cameras, smart thermostats, and more will show up. If you see something you know isn’t yours, log in to your router and change your WiFi password.  Then reconnect your trusted devices using the new password.




Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers of the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh 1½ tons.”    — Popular Mechanics, March 1949.



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

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