Show of 01-11-2020

Tech Talk

January 11, 2020

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Bob in Maryland: Hi Guys! I am an avid Tech Talk Radio enthusiast and I have listened for many years. I encourage my friends and family to listen as well. And this is NOT just because I am another physicist interested in technology and a Canadian as well (but living down here in the DC area). I find the show a very valuable and fun way to learn about technology. I even like the “best of” shows that Jim works so hard on. I find I still even learn something from the repeats and I always take notes.
  • Anyway, I heard Dr. Shurtz complaining about the difficulty of finding people to feature on “Profiles in IT”. I have occasionally thought about making suggestions, since I know many people in technology personally and a lot of the “inside stories” that are sort of amusing. Here are a few people you might want to consider.
    • Milton E. Mohr – one of the technicians in the group that invented the transistor, who went on to become CEO of TRW.
    • Peter Shor – the father of Quantum Computer
    • Bastiaan Kleijn – software engineer who created much of the Skype code.
    • Claude Shannon – father of Information Theory
    • Kernighan and Pike and Ritchie – the UNIX guys
    • Cecil Green – founded Texas Instruments
    • Steve Wolfram – creator of Mathematica
    • Cleve Moler – creator of MATLAB
  • Good luck, and I really do enjoy listening to your program. A faithful listener. Bob in Maryland
  • Tech Talk Responds: I love your emails. Thanks for the great suggestions. We will use a few of these in future shows. Always great to get some help.
  • Email from Lynn in Cleveland, OH: Dear Tech Talk. I had a casual friend on Facebook who started leaving hateful comments on my posts after he found out that my politics are different than his. It got so bad that I eventually got mad enough to block him. But now I’m having second thoughts about blocking him. The reason I blocked him instead of just unfriending him was to make sure he wouldn’t be able to see my posts. My question is will he still be able to see my posts if I unblock him? If the answer is yes I’ll just leave him blocked because I don’t want him seeing my posts. Lynn in Cleveland, OH
  • Tech Talk Responds: It all depends on the privacy level you have selected for your posts. When you block someone that completely severs your friendship with that person on Facebook, but if you end up unblocking him he’ll still be able to see any of your “Public” posts even though he is no longer on your Friends List.
  • If you want to be absolutely certain that this person never sees your posts after you unblock him you’ll need to start posting everything with a privacy level of “Friends” and retroactively change the privacy of your existing posts to “Friends” as well.
  • If you use Facebook in a web browser on a laptop or desktop computer, log into your Facebook account.
    • Click the down arrow located on the right side of the blue bar at the top of the Facebook window.
    • Click Settings.
    • Click the Privacy link that’s located in the left-hand column.
    • Click Who can see your future posts? and change that setting to Friends.
    • Click Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or Public?
    • Click the Limit Past Posts button.
  • Email from Steve in Fairfax, VA: Dear Doc and Jim. I won a Bluetooth speaker in a contest. I would like to use it with my desktop computer but it doesn’t have Bluetooth. Is there an easy and cheap way to connect a Bluetooth speaker to my computer? For example, maybe by adding a Bluetooth adapter card to my PC? Steve in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: Rick’s answer: You might not have to use your speaker over a Bluetooth connection at all Cody. If it has an auxiliary input jack you can probably simply plug it into your computer’s audio output jack and use it just like you would use any other speaker.
  • If the speaker can only connect via Bluetooth you’ll indeed have to attach some type of Bluetooth adapter to your computer. Going the USB route is the simplest and fastest way to add Bluetooth to most any PC. Just plug the dongle into an open USB port and install the driver and you are done! You can choose from several different brands and models of USB Bluetooth adapters at your local electronics retailer, or you can buy one from Amazon. They range in price from $8 to $4.  Make certain to get Bluetooth 4.0.
  • Email from Travis in Louisville: Dear Tech Talk. I would like to create a new emoji to remind people of global warming. It would be an emoji of Earth with sweat coming from her forehead. Who approves emoji? Can the general public submit suggestion for future emoji? I would love to move forward with this idea. Travis in Louisville, Kentucky
  • Tech Talk Responds: Anyone can think up and submit an emoji. Emoji as an official and universal method of communication that started in 2010. This was when emoji were added to Unicode, the global standard for encoding and text in computing systems. The Unicode Consortium, the body responsible for maintaining Unicode, accepted a proposal from a team of engineers from Google and Apple to standardize these characters.
  • Every year, the Unicode Consortium hears out proposals for new emoji. After a comprehensive screening, the best proposals will then be approved, turned into emoji, and released to the public.
  • The consortium considers many factors: divides these into two: factors for inclusion
    • Compatibility: Is the emoji already widely in use on other social platforms? If it is, its chances of being in Unicode increase.
    • Expected Usage Level: How much will your proposed emoji actually be used?
    • Distinctiveness: The potential emoji should have a distinct visual that is recognizable in emoji format.
  • Once you find a great idea that covers the selection factors, it is time to make a proposal. Depending on when you submit your emoji, it can be a very long process.
  • Link: https://unicode.org/emoji/proposals.html#emoji_proposals_form.
  • Email from Lilly in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. Several old friends from my school days had trouble finding me on Facebook because they were searching for my maiden name. How do I add my maiden name to my Facebook profile but have it separate from my married name? In other words display my married name like it is now with my maiden name underneath it? I know this can be done because I see it like that on other people’s profiles, but I can’t figure out how to get it onto mine. Lilly in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: It is actually very easy to accomplish. Just follow the steps below for the device/app you use to access Facebook. If you use Facebook in a web browser on a laptop or desktop computer:
    • Log into your Facebook account.
    • Visit your Timeline page.
    • Click the About link that’s located on the menu bar just below your cover photo.
    • Click the Details About You link over in the left-hand column.
    • Click Add a nickname, a birth name…
    • Click the word Nickname in the box, then select Maiden Name from the drop-down menu.
    • Type your maiden name into the text box, then check the little box beside Show at top of profile.
    • Click Save Changes.
  • From now on your old friends should be able to find you on Facebook by searching for your maiden name.

Profiles in IT: Peter Thomas Kirstein

  • Peter Thomas Kirstein was a British computer scientist who played a role in the creation of the Internet, often recognized as the father of the European Internet.
  • Kirstein was born June 20, 1933, in Berlin, Germany. His family was Jewish, and moved to England because of the Nazis.
  • He was educated at Highgate School in North London.
  • He received a BA from Cambridge University in 1954.
  • He received an MSc (1955) and PhD (1957) in EE from Stanford University.
  • He received DSc in engineering from the University of London in 1970.
  • In 1958, he joined the staff of Stanford as a lecturer in microwave engineering.
  • A year later, Kirstein joined the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland, as an accelerator physicist.
  • In 1963, Kirstein left CERN to join the European office of the General Electric (GE) Corporate Research Center, where he evaluated European scientific research.
  • He left GE in 1967 to take a post with the University of London Institute of Computer Science. He served as a professor of computer communications systems.
  • In 1973, he transferred to the University College London (UCL). At UCL, he helped set up the computer science department, and served as its head from 1980 to 1994.
  • Kirstein’s research group at University College London was one of the first international connections on the ARPANET in 1973, alongside Norwegian Seismic Array (NORSAR) and Sweden’s Tanum Earth Station.
  • This later grew into the trans-Atlantic SATNET. He co-authored (with Vint Cerf) one of the most significant early technical papers on the internetworking concept.
  • His research group at UCL adopted TCP/IP in 1982, a year ahead of ARPANET, and played a significant role in the very earliest experimental Internet work.
  • Professor Kirstein fashioned his pivotal role in computer networking the old-fashioned way: through human connections. His ties to American scientists working in the field of computer networks led him to adopt their standards (TCP/IP).
  • Professor Kirstein embraced TCP/IP despite competing protocols being put forward at the time by international standards groups.
  • Professor Kirstein gave Queen Elizabeth II her own email address, HME2. In 1976, the queen became one of the first heads of state to send an email.
  • He led the Silk Project, which developed ways to provide satellite-based Internet access to Newly Independent States in the Southern Caucasus and Central Asia.
  • He received the SIGCOMM Award in 1999 for contributions to the practical understanding of large-scale networks using international testbeds.
  • In 2012, Kirstein was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame by the Internet Society. In 2015, he was awarded the prestigious Marconi Prize.
  • On 8 January 2020, Kirstein died from a brain tumour at age 86.

Software Utility of the Week: Notepad++

  • The Windows Notepad utility is one of the handiest little programs there is., but it comes with a number of frustrating limitations.
  • I long ago switched to a free Notepad replacement app called Notepad++. Notepad++ does everything the standard Windows Notepad does, only better. I won’t list all the great features here, but there are three features that really made it worth the switch for me:
    • Unlimited Undo – My biggest frustration with Notepad is how you can only “Undo” the last action. Notepad++ has an unlimited Undo capacity which allows you to undo as many actions as you wish.
    • Tabbed Documents – Notepad++ allows you to open and edit multiple documents at once and switch between them with the click of a mouse. You can also copy/cut and paste from one document to another.
    • Spell Checker – Notepad++ includes a great spell check feature, a glaring omission in the standard Notepad utility.
    • Line Numbering is useful for writing code, but not documents.
    • Color coding for Hypertext Markup Language (XML and HTML)
  • I’ve been using Notepad++ for many years now to create the XML podcast file for Tech Talk and I love it!
  • Download link: https://notepad-plus-plus.org/

Ransomware attack Causes Worldwide Disruption for Travelex

  • The money exchange Travelex is facing worldwide disruption after its IT systems were attacked by malware in the early morning of New Year’s Eve.
  • The attack, attributed by company insiders to ransomware, disrupted communications across the company, leaving outlets in the UK and other countries unable to take payments for foreign currency using credit or debit cards.
  • The incident has caused chaos for customers, many of whom have complained on social media that they are unable to top up their Travelex currency cards, confirm transactions have taken place or check their balances.
  • On 2 January, Travelex websites in Europe, including the UK, Belgian and Holland, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East, and China either did not respond or showed error messages. The US and Canada were unaffected.
  • Travelex said in a statement that it discovered a software virus had compromised its services on New Year’s Eve and as a precautionary measure to protect data and prevent the spread of the virus it had taken all of its systems offline.
  • One person familiar with the incident said the company’s IT systems had been infected by malware known as ransomware, which is used by cyber criminals to maliciously encrypt data on computer systems unless companies agree to pay a ransom to decrypt it.
  • The company has provided staff at Travelex outlets with cash receipt books to manually fill in until its computer systems are up and running.
  • Communications between Travelex outlets and other parts of the business, which are normally conducted through email, had been disrupted and employees were receiving limited information by phone.
  • Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays and HSBC are among more than a dozen major banks having problems after the New Year’s Eve ransomware attack.
  • While customers are still being offered services in branches for buying euros, dollars, and other foreign cash, banks are saying that orders cannot be processed online.

Critical Security Warning For Firefox Users

  • The United States Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued a notification that “encourages” users and administrators to update the Mozilla Firefox web browser.
  • The Mozilla Foundation that makes the Firefox web browser published a security advisory January 8. That advisory addressed a critical zero-day vulnerability in Firefox that has been exploited in targeted attacks in the wild.
  • A zero-day, which can also be referred to as an 0day, is simply a security vulnerability that is not known to the product vendor or security researchers but, crucially, is known to threat actors who can then exploit it without anything preventing them.
  • The Mozilla Foundation describes the 0day vulnerability as being due to “incorrect alias information in IonMonkey JIT (Just in Time) compiler for setting array elements could lead to a type confusion.”
  • A type confusion occurs when a program accesses a resource using an “incompatible type” which can then “trigger logical errors because the resource does not have expected properties.” This, in turn, can lead to out-of-bounds memory access, and that opens the door to remote code execution.
  • The Mozilla Foundation advisory states that it is “aware of targeted attacks in the wild abusing this flaw.
  • The vulnerability (indexed as CVE-2019-17026) has been patched with the Firefox 72.0.1 update. This should be installed automatically next time you restart the browser.

Making Water from Air Device Get Top Hones at CES

  • Created by the tech company Watergen, Genny is a water-from-air system that taps into atmospheric water using patented heat-exchange technology.
  • The unit can produce up to 30 liters of potable water for a home or office every day.
  • Watergen’s built-in blower draws air into the system’s atmospheric water generator.
  • After passing through an air filter, the air is directed through the GENius heat exchange and cooling process, and condensed into water.
  • The water is then filtered again to remove impurities and add minerals, resulting in fresh, drinking-quality water.
  • The company recently set its sights on expanding its renewable and energy-efficient clean water solution to the 2.1 billion people worldwide who lack access to safe water at home – and wherever else it might be needed.
  • Last year, the company’s large-scale system was donated to authorities in Brazil, Vietnam and India.
  • The large-scale version, called Gen-L, can produce up to 5,000 liters of clean water a day, requiring no infrastructure other than a standard electricity supply. According to the company’s website, it is “perfect for villages, off-grid settlements and factories.”
  • It also assisted rescue and recovery efforts during the 2018 California wildfires and provided clean water to the residents of Texas and Florida in the aftermath of the devastation caused by hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Ring Fired Employees for Watching Customer Videos

  • Amazon-owned home security camera company Ring has fired employees for improperly accessing Ring users’ video data.
  • The news highlights a risk across many different tech companies: employees may abuse access granted as part of their jobs to look at customer data or information.
  • Ring explains that although each of these people were authorized to view video data, their attempted access went beyond what they needed to access for their job.
  • As well as firing workers, Ring has also taken steps to limit such data access to a smaller number of people. It says three employees can currently access stored customer videos.
  • In response to a wave of incidents where hackers broke into Ring users’ accounts and then harassed customers through their devices, Ring has implemented a number of new security features, such as requiring new signups to use two-factor authentication.
  • Ring has also introduced warning messages when someone logs in from a new location.

DuckDuckGo and Info.com as Default Choices on Android in Europe

  • Back in 2018, Google was fined approximately $5 billion by the EU for anti-trust law violations in Android related to the operating system and its default search engine and default browser all being Google products.
  • Following that ruling, Google unveiled a plan to bring Android back into compliance by explicitly offering alternative search engines.
  • Google held a first-price sealed-bid auction for each individual country in the European Economic Area.
  • Companies would submit their bid for how much they are willing to pay per each user that selects their search engine instead of Google.
  • Three highest bidders would be featured prominently in Android.
  • The winners of the Android search engine auction are DuckDuckGo and Info.com.
  • DuckDuckGo prides itself on the privacy their search engine offers by not tracking your searches or building a profile of you in the way that Google does.
  • com is a “metasearch engine,” meaning it takes the results from other search engines and attempts to provide a better overall picture from those results.
  • The third option varies by country and is frequently language specific.
  • Each of the alternative search engines will appear when setting up a European Android device that has the Google Search app built-in.

SIM Swappers Are Using Remote Desktop at Telecoms

  • Hackers are now getting telecom employees to run software that lets the hackers directly reach into the internal systems of U.S. telecom companies to take over customer cell phone numbers.
  • Multiple sources in and familiar with the SIM swapping community suggest at least AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint have been impacted.
  • The technique uses Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) software, which lets a user control a computer over the internet rather than being physically in front of it.
  • In an age-old scam, a fraudster will phone an ordinary consumer and tell them their computer is infected with malware.
  • To fix the issue, the victim needs to enable RDP and let the fake customer support representative into their machine.
  • From here, the scammer could do all sorts of things, such as logging into online bank accounts and stealing funds.
  • SIM swappers are tricking telecom employees to install or activate RDP software, and then remotely reaching into the company’s systems to SIM swap individuals.
  • The process starts with convincing an employee in a telecom company’s customer support center to run or install RDP software.
  • Once RDP is enabled, they RDP into the store or call and mess around on the employees’ computers including using tools for SIM assignment.