Show of 02-24-2018

Tech Talk

February 24, 2018

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Doug in Baton Rouge: Dear Dr. Shurtz (Hey, Jim), I searched and found on my computer (Microsoft Win-10) the internet folder for stored “cookie”. When I look at the named files, I see mumbo-jumbo letters and numbers ending with the extension “.cookie” (1TXSOP442.cookie).
  • When I open it in NOTEPAD there is an extremely long and continuous string of numbers and letters (BD901B2E226822E2F5787FA6E10F5DBDbing.com /5908481600631734SRCHHPGUSR).
  • Then, there is a second type of cookie file (cookie:JohnSmith@fedex.com/)
  • These files do not seem to have openable contents. What is the difference between the two types of cookies? Is there any way to read cookies to find out which website (company) dumped a cookie to my computer? I have around a thousand cookies and it would be nice to be able to delete unused, old or unwanted cookies. However, I need to retain the cookies from secure sites and registered sites. Your shows are so informative and just great! Thanks, Doug in Baton Rouge, LA
  • Tech Talk Responds: To read cookies, you can use a browser extension. There are several. I good one for Chrome is Encoder/Decoder by theemergency.com.
  • An HTTP cookie (web cookie, browser cookie) is a small piece of data that a server sends to the user’s web browser. The browser may store it and send it back with the next request to the same server. Typically, it’s used to tell if two requests came from the same browser — keeping a user logged-in, for example. It remembers stateful information for the stateless HTTP protocol. Cookies are mainly used for three purposes:
    • Session management: Logins, shopping carts, game scores, or anything else the server should remember; Personalization
    • User preferences, themes, and other settings
    • Tracking: Recording and analyzing user behavior
  • Cookies can be session cookies, permanent cookies (with expiration date). Cookies hace a scope (domain name, subdirectory, etc.). They can be same site only. They can force communication only over a secure channel (https). Cookies include: data pairs (User ID, xxxxxx), domain name, expiration date (or max age in second). Chrome is able to encrypt cookies to keep the data private on your computer.
  • Email from Ken Meyers: Love your show! I keep missing it, I know you have the podcasts, Thank You!!  Please put the time, day, and station call letters on your edu. website, it would make it easier for mostly everyone to find you live, I prefer live radio listening, of course I found it but for some reason I thought you were live on Sundays….Proving I need more education. Thanks again for a great show…Ken Meyers
  • Tech Talk Responds: The time is on the Tech Talk page: http://techtalk.stratford.edu/. It is, of course, on 1500 AM in Washington DC at 9 AM Saturdays. You can download the app, TuneIn Radio, to either or Android or iPhone. Search for Federal News Radio and you can listen anywhere in the world. Thanks for listening to the show. And, of course, the podcasts are always available on the Tech Talk webpage.
  • Email from Arnie in Crownsville, MD: Hi Dr. Shurtz, I saw this story on the BBC News.  Users of the “dark net” service Tor who visited hidden websites may have had their identities revealed by a five-month long cyber-attack. This TOR thing has sure showed a lot of interest lately (sent you two emails on TOR previously). Who usually uses TOR? Seems like governments have lots of interest. Any particular use by common email users? Arnie, Crownsville, MD
  • Tech Talk Responds: Tor was originally designed, implemented, and deployed as a third-generation onion routing project of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. It was originally developed with the U.S. Navy in mind, for the primary purpose of protecting government communications. TOR originally stood for The Onion Router, but that acronym is no longer by the developers.
  • Tor is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. It also enables software developers to create new communication tools with built-in privacy features. Tor provides the foundation for a range of applications that allow organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy.
  • Individuals use Tor to keep websites from tracking them and their family members, or to connect to news sites, instant messaging services, or the like when these are blocked by their local Internet providers.
  • Journalists use Tor to communicate more safely with whistleblowers and dissidents.
  • It was also used by Edward Snowden exclusively. He loved Tails, the companion OS that only accessed the web with TOR.
  • Email from Tracy in Fairfax: Dear Tech Talk. I have an iPhone and us iMessage for most of my communication. My boss communicates by iMessage with me on the weekend. I don’t like him to know that I have read the iMessage because sometimes I don’t want to respond. Can I turn off the “read message” notification for him, but leave it on for everyone else? That would make my life so much easier. Love the show. Tracy in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: Everyone knows that you can enable or disable read receipts across the board by opening the Settings app and toggling read receipts on or off from within the Messages menu. Most people want to leave them on, but there are always a few contacts who send you messages and you don’t want them to know if and when you’ve read them.
  • You can turn off notification for just one contact too. And it is so easy. Here’s all you need to do:
    • From within the Messages app, open a conversation with the contact in question
    • Tap the “i” in the top-right corner
    • On that screen, go to “Send Read Receipts” — toggle it to off
  • That’s it. This setting will override your global setting and this specific contact will no longer know when you open his or her messages.
  • Email from Alex in Reston: Dear Doc and Jim. I recently got a notification from Lifelock that they had found information regarding my accounts on the Dark Web.
    • Account Password: Exposed Online (may or may not be readable)
    • Type of Compromise: Potential breach
    • Where your data was found: web page
    • Potential Impacted Site: www.linkedin.com
    • Email Password: Exposed Online (may or may not be readable)
    • Where your data was found: dark web
  • What should I do other than change the password? Is this really a serious threat? Love the show. Alex in Reston.
  • Tech Talk Responds: This does not mean your accounts have actually been hacked. It could mean your account is at risk. Your initial response to change passwords was correct.
  • Naturally, make sure to change it to a secure password, particularly if you’ve been lazy about that in the past. You’re at much higher risk if you previously used a weak password – even if the hackers didn’t actually get the password itself in the data breach. Depending on the data included in the breach, there are techniques hackers can use to try millions, if not billions, of different passwords at high speed to see which ones work. The weaker your password was, the more likely they are to discover it.
  • Do you use that same password for other accounts? If so, go change the password at each of those other accounts. Make sure to give each a unique password so you’re never using the same password twice.
  • Use a password manager if you have trouble keeping track of all your passwords. LastPass is a good option.
  • If you suspect your account actually has been hacked and accessed by someone else, you need to do much more than just change a password. You need to change or verify every bit of your account profile that could be used to reset or recover your password (for instance, phone numbers, security questions, and more). Hackers have been known to use this to re-hack an account, if all you’ve done was change your password. They’ve also been known to change this information so they can get back in whenever they want.
  • This is also a good time to consider two-factor authentication if your account provider(s) support it. Two factor, or multi-factor, authentication is an added security layer that prevents hackers from signing in to your account even if they know the password.

Profiles in IT: Nathaniel S. Borenstein

  • Nathaniel S. Borenstein is a computer scientist best known as creator of the MIME protocol for e-mail attachments. MIME (for Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions).
  • Nathaniel S. Borenstein was born September 23, 1957 in Ohio
  • He was a child prodigy, reading adult books at the age of 2 and doing college work in the 3rd grade, before being restricted to studies at his own grade level in 4th
  • He started classical guitar lessons in 4th grade, the only new study permitted. This was the first time that he felt inferior (as a prodigy) at something he cared about.
  • In 1973, with the help of the ACLU, he became the first US student to be awarded damages for violating his freedom of speech by sending him home from school in 1972 for wearing a black armband on the anniversary of the Kent State shootings.
  • Borenstein received a B.A. in Mathematics and Religious Studies from Grinnell College in 1980. Grinnell was actually the fourth college he attended.
  • He received a PhD in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University in 1985.
  • While at CMU, he co-developed the email component of the Andrew Project, the first multi-media electronic mail system to be used outside of a laboratory.
  • In 1989 he became a member of technical staff at Bell Communications Research.
  • While at Bell, he developed a series of standards so the various electronic mail systems could exchange multimedia messages in a common way.
  • He wrote five Requests for Comment (RFC), all related to MIME email attachments.
  • He sent the first email attachment on March 11, 1992. The first attachment was a song, Let Me Send You Email, sung by the Telephone Chords barbershop quartet.
  • Link http://www.guppylake.com/nsb/audio/LetMeSendYouEmail.wav
  • In 1994, Borenstein founded First Virtual Holdings, called “the first cyberbank” by the Smithsonian. It was later acquired by DoubleClick.
  • In 2000, he found NetPOS, a web-based point of sale system.
  • In 2002, he was hired as a distinguished scientist by IBM, in Cambridge, MA.
  • In 2010, he became chief scientist at the email company, Mimecast, in London.
  • Color blind from birth, he developed a device that allows the color blind to see color. He calls is Amplifeye Vision. He is currently raising money through crowd sources to produce the device. Amplifeye Vision Website: http://www.amplifeye.vision/site/
  • He is author of Programming As If People Mattered: Friendly Programs, Software Engineering, and Other Noble Delusions (Princeton University Press, 1994)
  • Borenstein lives with his wife, Trina, in Ann Arbor and Greenbush, Michigan; they have four grown daughters, and three grandchildren.
  • He is a pacifist, named his web server and wireless network “ahimsa”, which means nonviolence toward all living things in the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions.
  • His official blog: http://blog.mimecast.com/author/nborenstein/
  • His personal blog; http://theviewfromguppylake.blogspot.com/

Dropbox to go public 10 years after launch

  • A decade after it was founded, Dropbox has filed to go public.
  • Dropbox had documents unsealed at the SEC today revealing plans for an initial public offering, where Dropbox is looking to raise up to $500 million.
  • The company will trade on Nasdaq under the symbol “DBX.”
  • The company’s revenue has been increasing for the past three years, growing from $603 million in 2015 to $1.1 in 2017.
  • Dropbox lost money overall all of those years, $326 million loss in 2015 and $111.7 million in 2017.
  • In 2016, it had 6.5 million paying users. It doubled that in two years, to 11 million.
  • Dropbox says that 90 percent of its revenue comes from users who purchase a subscription on their own.
  • Dropbox was founded in 2007 and launched to the public in 2008, when it pretty immediately became a hit, thanks to just how simple it made file syncing.
  • While it’s still hard to beat Dropbox’s simplicity, the company hasn’t done much to expand on that in the past 10 years.
  • Dropbox also faces major competition in the business world, against, among others, the similarly named Box, which is already popular with large companies.

Manafort Couldn’t Convert PDFs to Word Files (Left Papertrail)

  • A grand jury indictment charged Manafort and his business associate Rick Gates with a variety of crimes, including conspiring “to defraud the United States.”
  • On Thursday, special counsel Robert Mueller filed a new indictment against the pair, substantially expanding the charges.
  • To create the false 2016 P&L, on or about October 21, 2016, Manafort emailed Gates a .pdf version of the real 2016 DMI P&L, which showed a loss of $600,000.
  • Gates converted that .pdf into a “Word” document so that it could be edited, which Gates sent back to Manafort.
  • Manafort altered that “Word” document by adding more than $3.5 million in income.
  • He then sent this falsified P&L to Gates and asked that the “Word” document be converted back to a .pdf, which Gates did and returned to Manafort.
  • Manafort then sent the falsified 2016 DMI P&L .pdf to Lender D.
  • So here’s the essence of what went wrong for Manafort and Gates, according to Mueller’s investigation: Manafort allegedly wanted to falsify his company’s income, but he couldn’t figure out how to edit the PDF.
  • Word will allow you to edit a PDF directly. It automatically converts it to a Word format. After editing, you can save it as a pdf. Manafort needed some IT training.

FBI, CIA, and NSA Fear Use of Chinese Phones

  • The heads of six major US intelligence agencies have warned that American citizens should not use products and services made by Chinese tech giants Huawei and ZTE.
  • The intel chiefs made the recommendation during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday. The group included the heads of the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, and the director of national intelligence.
  • The US intelligence community has long been wary of Huawei, which was founded by a former engineer in China’s People’s Liberation Army and has been described by US politicians as “effectively an arm of the Chinese government.”
  • This caution led to a ban on Huawei bidding for US government contracts in 2014, and it is now causing problems for the company’s push into consumer electronics.
  • Although Huawei started life as a telecoms firm, creating hardware for communications infrastructure, the company’s smartphones have proved incredibly successful in recent years.
  • Last September, Huawei surpassed Apple as the world’s second biggest smartphone maker, behind Samsung.
  • Both AT&T and Verizon have yielding to pressure from the US government and do offer either phones.
  • US lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would ban government employees from using Huawei and ZTE phones altogether.
  • Both Huawei and ZTE deny any connection with the Chinese government.

The IRS Isn’t Calling You

  • Tax season means scammers are scamming.
  • You may be contacted by phone or email or even social media by someone claiming to be from the IRS, threatening to get the sheriff involved if you don’t pay up.
  • The IRS has warned that “sophisticated”phone call scams are becoming more prevalent. For example, you might get a call like this:
  • The callers claim to be IRS employees, and use fake names and IRS identification badge numbers, and may be able to make the caller ID look like the agency is calling.
  • As the agency explains on its website, “the IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information.”
  • The fake calls of several types
    • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
    • Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. You should also be advised of your rights as a taxpayer.
    • Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver’s license, business licenses, or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into buying into their schemes.
  • If you get a call like that, you can report it to the IRS or ignore it.

SpaceX gets FCC Backing for Internet Plan

  • FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed the approval of an application by SpaceX to provide broadband services using satellites in the United States and worldwide.
  • SpaceX launched a pair of experimental satellites on one of its Falcon 9 rockets.
  • The approval would be the first approval given to an American-based company to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies.”
  • Both Dem and Republicans liked the program. Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said satellite internet service shows great promise.
  • Musk said in a speech in 2015 in Seattle that SpaceX planned to launch a satellite-internet business that would help fund a future city on Mars. He said the company wanted to create a “global communications system” that he compared to “rebuilding the internet in space.”
  • Over the past year, the FCC has approved requests by OneWeb, Space Norway, and Telesat to access the U.S. market to provide broadband services using satellite technology.
  • The U.S. government is working to try to bring high-speed internet access to rural areas that lack service. About 14 million rural Americans and 1.2 million Americans on tribal lands lack mobile broadband even at relatively slow speeds.

Creating a Community Facebook Page

  • Facebook pages enable public figures, businesses and organisations to create a public presence on Facebook. While profiles are for real people, and groups are for communities who share common interests, pages are for official representative of public figures, businesses or organisations.
  • You will need a personal Facebook account and Internet access.
  • Once you’re logged in to your personal account on Facebook, go to Pages to create your new page.
  • You will be given a few options, including ‘Company, Organization or Institution’ and ‘Cause or community’.
  • Make sure you enter the name correctly as you cannot always change it later.
  • Facebook will ask you to add a Page description, a link to your website and a unique url for your Facebook Page, i.e. facebook.com/yourorganisation
  • It will then ask you to add a profile picture (the recommended size is 180 x 180 pixels), which should be your organisation’s logo.
  • Finally, you can define a specific audience, or you can skip through this step.
  • Once you have the basics set up, you should then add a cover photo (851 x 315 pixels) which should be a branded image that demonstrates what your organisation does. Engaging cover photos can be really effective in encouraging people to like your page. You’ll also need to add some information about your organisation to the Info section.
  • The basic skeleton of your Page is now live. Facebook will ask if you’d like to ‘Like’ your Page. If you do so, all activity will appear in News Feeds of those you’re connected to personally to on Facebook. Without any content on the Page, we want to save that organic Timeline story for when you’re really ready for people to view the Page, so skip this for now.
  • Before you start sharing your page, it’s advisable to get some great content on there. Ask questions, use images, videos and infographics to engage your audiences, and don’t forget to keep posts really short – most people will be visiting your page through their mobile phone. It’s helpful to think of who your audience(s) will be, and what will interest them about your organisation. Think of the posts as telling stories, and not as marketing messages.
  • A good place to start is by inviting your colleagues to like the Page and ask them to share it with their friends. You can also use your website, newsletter, blog and e-mail updates to promote your page and create a core base of supporters. If your updates are engaging you will soon see that your supporters will do most of the recruiting for you.
  • Use Facebook insights to measure how well you’re doing and what can improve on. Insights give you information on your audience, how they interact with your page and the performance of your posts.

Website of the Week: FCC Broadband Deployment Data

  • Link: https://broadbandmap.fcc.gov/#/
  • The FCC on Thursday launched an updated National Broadband Map that provides more detailed information on fixed broadband deployments across the country.
  • The map, which is a revamped version of one launched seven years ago by the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, lists data as of December 2016 and boasts new interactive features. The FCC took over the map in 2015, but the previous data set hadn’t been updated since 2014. Going forward deployment data will be updated twice a year.
  • Data on mobile services is available on separate maps.

Elon Musk’s Tesla Launched into Space

  • The Tesla car that Elon Musk launched into space is likely to stay there for tens of millions of years before crashing into the Earth or Venus.
  • Czech and Canadian researchers calculated that the roadster has a 6% chance of colliding with Earth and a 2.5% probability of hitting Venus over the next million years.
  • The computer simulations suggest there is a very slim chance of the vehicle colliding with the Sun, but little to no chance of the car hitting Mars.
  • Elon Musk launched the car into space on 6 February using the Falcon Heavy rocket.
  • Musk thought the Falcon Heavy might explode on its maiden voyage, so he selected his old cherry-red Tesla sports car for the payload.
  • A space-suited mannequin was strapped in the driver’s seat, and the radio set to play a David Bowie soundtrack on a loop.
  • The car was placed into an elliptical orbit around the Sun that extends as far out as the Planet Mars. The Tesla will make relatively close passes of the Earth every 30 years
  • If it does return to Earth, it is likely to burn up completely, although there is a possibility that a small chunk could hit the ground.

American Communities Are Launching Internet Networks

  • More communities than ever are building their own broadband networks as an alternative to the telecoms.
  • More than 750 communities across the United States are operating their own broadband network, are served by local rural electric cooperatives, or have made at least some portion of a local fiber network publicly available.
  • The data was provided by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit that advocates for local economies.
  • These networks have sprung up across the nation as a direct reflection of the country’s growing frustration with sub-par broadband speeds, high prices, and poor customer service.
  • They’ve also emerged despite the fact that ISP lobbyists have convinced more than 20 states to pass protectionist laws hampering local efforts to build such regional networks.
  • Many of these laws even bar communities from striking public/private partnerships with companies like Google Fiber, even in instances where no private ISP is willing to provide service.
  • As we recently saw in Fort Collins, Colorado, ISPs are frequently willing to spend plenty of money in attempts to malign and denigrate community broadband at every opportunity.
  • ISPs eager to nip these efforts in the bud could offer better, cheaper broadband.