Show of 07-21-2018

Tech Talk

July 21, 2018

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Arnie in Colorado Springs: Hi Dr Shurtz, A while back I asked you about Internet speed tests, and you recommended dslreports.com, which was an excellent recommendation that is not affiliated with any ISP. Then I asked you for suggestions on how to reduce BufferBloat, and one of your suggestions was to get a router that would help; IQrouter was what I bought. Boy, did that make a difference. Dslreports shows very little bufferbloat, and the speeds have improved significantly. Also, the IQrouter company says it will have firmware for WPA3 when it come out. Your recommendations are right on. Many thanks for them and all the information you provide listeners.
  • The Splinternet Here is to Stay article in your 7 June’s Tech Talk dovetails with what Klimburg Alexander mentioned in his book, “The Darkening Web: The War for Cyberspace” especially when Russia & China want and are pushing for internet sovereignty. Many thanks for a great show, Arnie in Colorado Springs, CO
  • Tech Talk Responds: Bufferbloat is a cause of high latency in packet-switched networks caused by excess buffering of packets. Bufferbloat can also cause packet delay variation (also known as jitter), as well as reduce the overall network throughput. When a router or switch is configured to use excessively large buffers, even very high-speed networks can become practically unusable for many interactive applications like voice over IP (VoIP), online gaming, and even ordinary web surfing. IQrouter dynamically adjusts the buffer to minimize bufferbloat. I’m glad this worked for you. Thanks for suggesting the book, The Darkening Web. I’ll check it out.
  • Email from June in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. I heard that Mark Zuckerberg tapes over his laptop webcam and microphone for security purposes. Should I do it too. I am very security conscious and now I am worried. Enjoy the podcast. June in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: There’s nothing wrong with covering your camera, but it’s probably not worth the effort. I have several cams on my laptops. There are two cameras in my mobile phone. They are all uncovered all the time. I’m not worried.
  • Since software that activates your webcam (or microphone, or anything else on your computer) is malware, take steps to prevent malware.
    • Use a firewall (automatically the default under Windows).
    • Scan for malware (automatically the default under Windows).
    • Stay up-to-date (automatically the default under Windows).
    • Secure your network.
    • Don’t forget physical security (particularly important for portable devices).
  • If you’re doing all that, the chances of malware making it to your equipment are low.
  • Much of this paranoia came from a picture of Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg that showed his camera and microphone both covered. Mr. Zuckerberg is what could be referred to as a “high value target”. Don’t take this the wrong way, June, you’re no Zuckerberg.
  • Email from Jason in Washington DC: Dear Doc and Jim. I need to boot my computer from a CD or DVD using and ISO image. Unfortunately, my computer does not have a CD or DVD. Can I create a bootable USB thumb drive instead? If so, how can I do it? Love the show. Jason in Washington DC.
  • Tech Talk Responds: ISO files are disk images often used to distribute software. In years past, we burned them to CDs. As the ISOs themselves became larger, we’d burn them to DVDs instead. In either case, we would then boot from the CD or DVD to run whatever the software provided. More and more machines are coming without optical drives.
  • There are actually several tools, but one that seems to do the job simply and well is called Rufus. It has great reviews. Rufus supports a variety of bootable .iso files, including various Linux distributions and Windows installation .iso files, as well as raw disk image files (including compressed ones).
  • Executable download link: https://rufus.akeo.ie/downloads/rufus-3.1.exe
  • Rufus comes as a very small executable with minimal options for tinkering, aside from partition scheme, file systems, cluster size, and the type of bootable you’ll be creating. Once you have selected the bootable disk type and the ISO image you will be burning, you can hit Start and wait for the process to finish. It is a fast process, taking less than a minute to finish most ISO files. Exactly how long this takes will vary depending on the size of the ISO you are writing, the speed of your hard disk, the speed of your flash drive, and whether you are using a USB 2 or 3 interface. Good luck.
  • Email from Carletta in Pittsburgh, PA: Dear Tech Talk. I just got a new laptop and discovered that it does not have a DVD player. I have many pictures stored on DVD and also like to watch DVD movies on my laptop. What are my options? Carletta in Pittsburgh, PA
  • Tech Talk Responds: Use can use an inexpensive USB Portable DVD writer/player. I have been using a Samsung DVD for years and it has worked perfectly. I have used the same device for multiple Windows laptops and it keeps on working. You can get the Samsung USB 2.0 Ultra-Portable DVD Writer on Amazon for $49. Not having the DVD in the laptop reduces it weight and size. Having an external one for use at home is the best option for most users.
  • Email from Valerie in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. I am planning a trip with long rides on the airplane. The entertainment available will be sketchy because I am using budget carriers. I watch both Netflix and Amazon Prime movies at home and would like to take some of my favorite series with me. Can I do that? How big are the dowloands? Love the show. Valerie in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: Taking your own entertainment is becoming a must as many carriers scale back their offerings. Netflix and Amazon have all made it possible for you to watch your favorite TV shows and movies offline. BTW, HBO and Showtime also permit downloads. The size of the movie depends on the movie and how well it compresses. For a 90 min movie you’d be looking at 1-1.5GB for SD, and 3-4GB for 720p HD, more for 1080p HD. So will will need extra memory space on your device prior to download.
  • Netflix Offline — Netflix made it possible to download content for offline use in November 2016. Unfortunately, only some movies and shows are available for download. The feature is available through the Netflix app on Apple devices with iOS 9 or later, Android devices running the 4.4.2 update or later, and computers and tablets running Windows 10.
  • On the Netflix app, open the menu on the home screen (the three lines on the top left) and select “Available for Download.” Here, you’ll find all the content you can watch offline. On the other hand, you can also simply search for what you want to watch, and content available for download will have a downwards arrow next to it.
  • Amazon Prime Offline – Amazon has offered offline streaming since 2015. Amazon was actually way ahead of Netflix — the site has offered offline streaming since 2015. Amazon Prime members need to download the Amazon Video app, which is available on iOS and Android phones and tablets. A downward arrow icon appears next to movies and TV episodes available for download. However, unlike Netflix, the app does not offer a way to only view those titles that can be watched offline. Amazon says on its site there is a “maximum amount of Prime titles” that can be downloaded across all devices on an account, but it doesn’t specify how many.

Profiles in IT: Christopher Latham Sholes

  • Christopher Lathan Sholes is best known as father of the typewriter and inventor of the QWERTY keyboard.
  • Christopher Sholes was born on February 14, 1819 in Mooresburg, PA.
  • Sholes moved to nearby Danville and worked there as an apprentice to a printer.
  • After completing his apprenticeship, Sholes moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1837 to publish a local newspaper, The Kenosha Telegraph.
  • He served in the Wisconsin State Senate from 1848 to 1857, first as a Democrat, then as a Free Soiler, and finally as a Republican.
  • Following a strike by compositors at his printing press, he tried building a machine for typesetting, but this was a failure and he quickly abandoned the idea.
  • He arrived at the typewriter through a different route. His initial goal was to create a machine to number pages of a book, tickets, and so on. He began work on this with a fellow printer Samuel W. Soule. They patented a numbering machine in 1966.
  • In July 1867, Sholes came across a short note in Scientific American describing a prototype typewriter, called the Pterotype, invented by John Pratt.
  • Sholes decided that it was too complex and set out to make his own machine. He called it the typewriting machine or typewriter, a name inspired by the article.
  • Soule enlisted Carlos Glidden as a third partner to provide the funds.
  • The first model that the trio built had a keyboard literally resembling a piano.
  • It had black keys and white keys, laid out in two rows. It did not contain keys for the numerals 0 or 1 because the letters O and I were deemed sufficient. For the first time, an inked ribbon to transfer the letter image to the paper. It was patented in 1868.
  • James Densmore foresaw that the typewriter would be highly profitable. The trio sold him one-fourth share in return for his paying all their expenses so far.
  • When Densmore used the machine, he declared that it was good for nothing and urged immediate improvement. Soule and Glidden left the project in frustration.
  • They enlisted James O. Clephane, a stenographer, to test the machine mercilessly. His judgments were caustic. This candid fault-finding is just what they needed.
  • Sholes took this advice and set to improve the machine at every iteration. By end of testing, they had manufactured 50 machines at an average cost of $250.
  • In early 1873, they approached Remington and Sons, who offered to buy the patents.
  • Sholes sold his half for $12,000, while Densmore insisted on a royalty, which would eventually earn him $1.5 million.
  • Sholes continued to work on new improvements for the typewriter in the 1870s.
  • Densmore had suggested splitting up commonly used letter combinations in order to solve a jamming problem caused by slow keystroke recovery. This concept was refined by Sholes, resulting in QWERTY layout (1873) still used today.
  • Sholes died on February 17, 1890 after battling tuberculosis for nine years.

Hackers target iPhone with Malware

  • A sophisticated mobile malware campaign is gaining access to iPhones by tricking users to download an open-source mobile device management (MDM) software.
  • Thirteen users, all in India, have been compromised in the attacks, which have been detailed by Cisco Talos. Infected iPhone models are running iOS versions ranging from 10.2.1 to 11.2.6. The campaign has been active since August 2015.
  • The attackers take control by using the MDM package, which can give attackers complete control of the device and the ability to install fake versions of real apps.
  • The MDM enrollment process involves multiple steps and allowing the installation of additional certificates onto the device. Thus hackers obtain multiple permissions.
  • Telegram and WhatsApp being pushed to compromised device via fake updates.
  • The apps look legitimate to the user, but malicious code sends information, including messages, photos and contacts, to a central command and control server.
  • Analysis of the campaign suggests that in one instance, the attackers used their own personal phone to test the MDM as names of devices include “Test” and “mdmdev”.
  • Both of these devices share the same phone number and are registered on Vodafone India, leading researchers to assess that the author of the campaign is in India.

How to Make Your Phone’s Fingerprint Reader More Accurate

  • Fingerprint readers on phones have made devices more secure and faster to unlock, at least when they work on the first try. If you have trouble unlocking your phone quickly, there are things you can do to improve your device’s fingerprint reader.
  • Biometric identification on phones has come a long way over the last few years, with both Apple and Google building APIs to bring fingerprint scanning to the masses.
  • There are certain situations where fingerprint readers simply aren’t as accurate, but there are a handful of things you can do to fix this. You’ll need to access your phone’s fingerprint settings for all of these.
    • iOS: Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Fingerprints
    • Android: Settings > Security > Device/Phone Security
    • On Pixel phones, it’s called Pixel Imprint. On Samsung Galaxy devices, it’s just labeled as “Fingerprint Scanner.”
  • Tip 1: Register the Same Finger More Than Once for Improved Accuracy — While the system sees it as a “new” fingerprint, it will simply improve accuracy from that one finger. The odds are you won’t have to add it more than once, and the accuracy will be dramatically improved.
  • Tip 2: Register Both Hands for Unlocking in Any Situation — This way, if the hand you generally unlock your phone with is tied up, you can still unlock your phone easily with the other one. Register multiple fingers on each hand.
  • Tip 3: Add A Fingerprint Right Out of the Shower — One of the main situations in every day life that you may need to unlock your phone and find that the fingerprint reader isn’t working is when your hands are wet.
  • Tip 4: Name the Fingerprints — If you ever forget whether you’ve registered a particular finger, you’ll be able to tell pretty quickly.

Latest Threat: SIM Hijacking

  • T-Mobile sent a mass text warning customers of an industry-wide SIM hijacking threat.
  • Criminals are increasingly utilizing a technique called “port out scam” to target and steal people’s phone numbers. The scam, also known as SIM swapping or SIM hijacking, is simple but tremendously effective.
  • First, criminals call a cell phone carrier’s tech support number pretending to be their target. They explain to the company’s employee that they “lost” their SIM card, requesting their phone number be transferred, or ported, to a new SIM card that the hackers themselves already own.
  • With a bit of social engineering—perhaps by providing the victim’s Social Security Number or home address (which is often available from one of the many data breaches that have happened in the last few years)—the criminals convince the employee that they really are who they claim to be, at which point the employee ports the phone number to the new SIM card.
  • With someone’s phone number, a hacker can get into every account they own within minutes and they can’t do anything about it.

WPA3 Will Make WiFi More Secure

  • Network devices with better security will be hitting the market this year.
  • The devices will support WPA3, a more secure protocol for WiFi communication designed to replace the 14-year-old WPA2.
  • The new protocol adds features to simplify WiFi security, enable more robust authentication, and deliver increased cryptographic strength for highly sensitive data markets.
  • While WPA2 has been used for more than a decade, a serious flaw was discovered in it last year. A new attack that targeted the four-way handshake of the WPA2 protocol and tricked the victim’s device into reusing an already-in-use key.
  • WPA3 also replaces WPA2’s flawed Wi-Fi Protected Setup with the Wi-Fi Device Provisioning Protocol.
  • How long it will take WPA3 devices to supplant the WPA2 installed base remains to be seen. Qualcomm expects to incorporate WPA3 security features into chipsets this summer, starting with its Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform and continuing to all its WiFi networking infrastructure products.
  • It could be years before WPA3 becomes a dominant router protocol. Most routers will need a hardware upgrade due to WPA3’s encryption requirements.
  • Despite the security improvements in WPA3, there is no reason for consumers to rush to buy a new router that supports it.

Girl Scouts unveils 30 new STEM-related badges

  • Girl Scouts of the USA announced today that it will introduce new STEM (Science Technology Electronics Mathematics) badges.
  • The 30 badges will be available exclusively for girls between the ages of five and 18 for efforts and advocacy in cybersecurity, robotics, computer science, space exploration, and the environment.
  • The badges will be earned when girls learn how to code or design robots, take action to protect the environment, or learn how to spot crimes being committed online.
  • The new offerings are among a number of badges the organization has introduced over the past years to boost interest and participation in fields where women are traditionally underrepresented.
  • In October last year, the Boy Scouts of America announced it would begin accepting girls into the program.
  • This new program should help the GS compete with BS for membership.

Scent of Coffee Boosts Math Performance

  • Research at Stevens Institute of Technology reveals that the scent of coffee may help people perform better on the analytical portion of the Graduate Management Aptitude Test, or GMAT.
  • Adriana Madzharov, with colleagues at Temple University and Baruch College, recently published their findings in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.
  • Smelling a coffee-like scent, which has no caffeine in it, has an effect similar to that of drinking coffee, suggesting a placebo effect of coffee scent.
  • In their work, Madzharov and her team administered a 10-question GMAT algebra test in a computer lab to about 100 undergraduate business students, divided into two groups.
  • One group took the test in the presence of an ambient coffee-like scent, while a control group took the same test—but in an unscented room.
  • They found that the group in the coffee-smelling room scored significantly higher on the test.

Google’s Loon brings internet to Kenya

  • A network of giant balloons will soon bring internet access to remote regions of rural Kenya.
  • Google’s Loon has announced its first commercial deal: partnering with Telkom Kenya.
  • Originally known as Project Loon, the technology behind the internet balloons was developed under parent company Alphabet’s experimental division, X.
  • Earlier this month, the business “graduated” to become a full-fledged subsidiary.
  • Loon’s balloons float high in the stratosphere, around 20km (12.4 miles) above sea level; a height the company says is out of range of air traffic, storms and wildlife.
  • The tennis-court-sized balloon is made from polyethylene, filled with helium and powered by a solar panel.
  • The balloons are designed to stay aloft for months at a time, and move by surfing wind channels, predicting speeds and directions so that they can navigate in any direction.
  • Each balloon carries an antenna, which relays internet signals transmitted from the ground, extending coverage over an area of 5,000sq km.
  • In the case of this new partnership, Telkom Kenya will be providing the internet signals, and Loon will spread it over remote areas of Kenya.
  • Attempts to install a physical infrastructure in the region have been plagued with problems. The vast distances of the region mean that laying fibre cables or building an array of mobile masts is impractical.
  • Much of Kenya’s population of around 49 million people is catered for by mobile coverage, but enormous sections of the country are disconnected from internet providers.

Gigabytes, Terabytes, and Petabytes?

  • Kilobyte (KB) – A kilobyte (KB) is equivalent to 1,024 bytes of data. It takes around 10 KB to store a single page of plain text. BTW, 1,024 is equal to 2 to the 10th
  • Megabytes (MB) — There are 1,024 KB in one megabyte (MB).
    • 1 MB = A 400 page book
    • 5 MB = A average 4 minute mp3 song
    • 650 MB = 1 CD-ROM with 70 minutes of audio
  • Gigabytes (GB) — There are 1,024 MB in one gigabyte (GB).
    • 1 GB = around 10 yards of books on a shelf
    • 7 GB = Capacity of one DVD-ROM disc
    • 7 GB = How much data per hour when streaming Netflix Ultra HD video
  • Terabytes (TB) — There are 1,024 GB in one terabyte (TB).
    • 1 TB = 200,000 5-minute songs; 310,000 pictures; or 500 hours of movies
    • 10 TB = Amount of data produced by the Hubble Space Telescope per year
    • 24 TB = Amount of video data uploaded to YouTube per day in 2016
  • Petabytes (PB) — There are 1,024 TB in one petabyte (PB).
    • 1 PB = 500 billion pages of standard typed text (or 745 million floppy disks)
    • 5 PB = 10 billion photos on Facebook
    • 20 PB = The amount of data processed by Google daily in 2008
  • Exabytes (EB) — There are 1,024 PB in one exabytes (EB
    • 1 EB = 11 million 4K videos
    • 5 EB = All the words ever spoken by humankind
    • 15 EB = Total estimated data held by Google
  • The next three capacities on the list are zettabyte, yottabyte, and brontobyte.