Show of 02-15-2020

Tech Talk

February 15, 2020

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Doug in Baton Rouge: Shurtz and Jim. Can you explain the following occurrence? I had a problem with one of my computer programs. The producer of the program requested me to do a trace and make a log of the incident. Then this log was to be forward to them for inspection and analysis for finding the “bug”. Their instructions said to open Microsoft’s FILE EXPLORER and in the ADDRESS BAR enter their FTP address – User Name — Password and press ENTER. To my surprise it connected to the INTERNET and opened a portal to the companies FTP FILE SERVER for uploading the captured log file. I was, until now, under the impression that INTERNET EXPLORER or any other of the web browsers were the only ones connecting to the internet. Can you explain how the FILE EXPLORER is able to do this internet connection? To what extent can the File EXPLORER be used in lieu of a web browser? What other connection “tricks” can the FILE EXPLORER do in this fashion (safely). Thanks, Doug in Baton Rouge, LA
  • Tech Talk Responds: That is a clever way to connect to a remote FTP site. You simply have to map a external location as a local drive. Simply open my computer. Click on Map Network Drive. Place the web address of the network drive (and then user name and password, if protected). A drive letter will be assigned to that remote location and you can then simply open Windows Explorer and go that that location or copy local files to the remote location. We map drive all the time at Stratford to set up shared document repositories.
  • Here are a few more tricks
    • Open a File Explorer windows fast using Windows +E.
    • Use the Send To menu. You can right-click a file or folder (or multiple items, for that matter) and use the Send To menu to do a few interesting things, like move or copy the selection to your Documents folder, create a compressed file (in .zip format), or send the selection as an email attachment.
    • Master advanced search. Advanced search syntax, complete with Boolean operators, parameters, and operators. My favorite is the datemodified: operator, which accepts actual dates but also understands relative dates, like today, this week, last week, this month, and last month.
    • Pin saved searches to Start. Then you don’t have to create the search conditions again.
    • Use filters to find files faster.
    • Group files to make them easier to see.
  • Email from Charlie in Kansas: Dear Doc and Jim. I read an article last night about using two hard drives or SSDs in a RAID 0 configuration to speed up disk access speeds on my PC. It said RAID 0 can speed up disk read and write speeds by as much as 50% but that it’s risky to use it. The article didn’t explain why RAID 0 is risky. Can you explain it to me? Charlie in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: RAID 0 is risky (in relative terms) because if one drive goes out all the data stored on the drives in the array is lost. The reason RAID 0 is so risky is because saved data is split into blocks and spread among all the drives in the array. No single drive receives all the data, so if one drive fails the data that is stored on the other drives becomes useless. The acronym RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks, but that’s sort of a misnomer with RAID 0 because there is actually no redundancy at all.
  • With two drives of equal size, you should always use RAID 1. RAID 1 mirrors the two drives. They each have the same data. If one fails, simply swap it out and it will recover all data from the remaining drive. This redundancy provides much better reliability. There are other RAID modes for multiple drives, which include data stripping with redundancy in the event a drive fails.
  • Email from David in New York: Dear Doc and Jim. I just got a new iPhone 11 with Face ID. I travel a lot and don’t always want this option available, particularly at a border crossing. Is there a way to disable it quickly? David in New York
  • Tech Talk Responds: If you are somewhere (like a border check or party) where you think your face or thumbprint could be used against your will to unlock your iPhone, this quick shortcut will disable biometric authentication. You can even do this if your iPhone’s in your pocket.
  • On your iPhone, simply press and hold the Volume Up (left side) and Right Side buttons for a second or two. When you see the “Slide to Power Off” menu or feel a vibration, this means biometric authentication has been disabled. The “Slide to Power Off” screen on an iPhone. You don’t have to turn off your iPhone; just press the Side/Power button again to lock it. Now, your iPhone won’t unlock without your passcode. If you are relying on your passcode for security, make it a strong one with both letters and numbers.
  • Email from Allen in Missouri: Dear Doc and Jim. I am shocked at how much information about me is on the web. Is there anyway I can remove this information easily? Allen in Missouri
  • Tech Talk Responds: People-finder sites have lots of information about you. They often have your address, phone number, email, and age. They even include data from court documents and other public or government records. Common people finders included: Whitepages, Spokeo, BeenVerified, and other similar sites.
  • These sites get some data about you from social media sites. However, most of it comes from public records, like court documents and real estate transactions, or other online data, like search histories. Many companies are more than willing to sell your information to these data brokers—like warranty and sweepstakes registrations.
  • You can still opt out of many people-finders, it’s just a more “manual” process. While some sites might have a link for removing personal information, the actual process is complicated. Spokeo is the simplest. You just find your profile page on the site, go to spokeo.com/optout, and then type (or paste) the link along with your email address so you can confirm.
    • At Whitepages, you have to paste the URL to your profile at whitepages.com/suppression_requests, and then type the reason you want to opt-out. After that, you have to provide your phone number—yes, you have to give a data broker your phone number. You then receive a call from a robot, which gives you a verification code you have to type on the website to complete the process.
    • info actually charges a fee if you want it to remove your info.
  • Delete Me offers detailed instructions for a handful of the most common sites. In addition DeleteMe has a paid service that removes you from 38 common sites for $129 per year, with other plans that go up from there. Or you can do one month for $10.79 and just periodically do it again. Link: https://joindeleteme.com/
  • Email from Rajive in New Delhi: Dear Doc and Jim. I need to transfer some very large files that are around a Gigabyte. What are my options? Enjoy the podcast in India. Rajive.
  • Tech Talk Responds: We use a couple of options at Stratford. There are others, but we find these very convenient. These sites offer free and paid services. I will restrict my review to the free services they provide.
  • Dropbox is a cloud service that allows you to store and share files. The files are stored in the cloud which means you can access them through an internet connection from anywhere. However, you do need an account with Dropbox to use the service. If you don’t have one you can register here. You can also share files and folders in your Dropbox account. The best way to share files is by using a folder, especially if you are sharing multiple files. The major drawback of Dropbox account is the storage limit which is set at 2GB. Use Dropbox (free) when you have smaller files (less than 1 GB), need to share and store multiple files, and want greater control over your files.
  • WeTransfer is primarily a file sharing site. You can store files using WeTransfer but they limit the storage period to two weeks. WeTransfer does not require that you have an account with them. All you need is an email address and the file you want to share. You also need email addresses of all the people you want to share the file with.
  • Use WeTransfer, if you’re looking to share multiple large files (more than 1GB, but less than 2 GB) and when you’re not looking for online file storage. Never use WeTransfer while working with confidential documents.

Profiles in IT: Cecil Howard Green

  • Cecil Howard Green was a geophysicist who was co-founder of Texas Instruments.
  • Cecil Howard Green was born August 6, 1900 in Whitefield, England.
  • Green and his family migrated to Nova Scotia, Toronto, Canada and San Francisco, where he witnessed his first earthquake in 1906.
  • The family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, where Green attended UBC for two years before transferring to MIT, earning a BSEE in 1923 and an MSEE in 1924.
  • For six years, Green worked as an engineer for various electronics companies, including GE, Raytheon, Wireless Specialty, and Federal Telegraph.
  • He got his big break in 1930. He accepted a accepted a job in Oklahoma from Eugene McDermott as chief of a seismographic field crew for Geophysical Service Inc.
  • Founded in May 1930 in Dallas, Texas, GSI was one of the first prospecting companies established to perform reflection seismic exploration for petroleum.
  • In 1941, Green and three partners ( Erik Jonsson, Eugene McDermott and H.B. Peacock) bought GSI when they heard that the owners planned to sell.
  • Green borrowed money, took out a mortgage, committed his and Ida’s insurance policies as collateral and scraped together everything they owned to pay his share.
  • The deal closed on December 6, 1941, the day before Pearl Harbor was bombed.
  • GSI had developed a towed magnetometer for oil exploration. It was not particularly useful for finding oil but very useful indeed for finding enemy submarines.
  • GSI became a geophysical exploration service leader. However, it was the electronics work begun during World War II that was to make important technology history.
  • In 1951, the company’s name was changed to Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI), and GSI became a wholly owned subsidiary of TI.
  • Eventually, Green served as VP, President, and Chairman of GSI.
  • In 1952, TI purchased the license to manufacture transistors from Western Electric.
  • TI created a Semiconductor Products Division in 18 months.
  • In 1954, TI designed and manufactured the first transistor radio. The Regency TR-1 used germanium transistors, as silicon transistors were much more expensive.
  • TI researcher, Jack Kilby, invented the first integrated circuit, or transistorized logic circuit, on September 12, 1958.
  • Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, TI in 2004 had $12.6 billion in revenues ($10.9B Semiconductor) with more than 34,000 employees worldwide.
  • Green was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1970.
  • The growth of TI made Green a wealthy man, and he and Ida quickly set about giving his wealth away, contributed more than $200 million to education and medicine.
  • Cecil Howard Green died in 2003 at the age of 102.
  • He was given an honorary knighthood in 1991 (at age 91) by Queen Elizabeth II.

First Integrated Circuit – The Back Story

  • As with many inventions, two people had the idea for an integrated circuit at almost the same time.
  • One day in late July, Jack Kilby was sitting alone at Texas Instruments. He had been hired only a couple of months earlier and so he was not able to take vacation time when practically everyone else did.
  • The halls were deserted, and he had lots of time to think. It suddenly occurred to him that all parts of a circuit, not just the transistor, could be made out of silicon.
  • At the time, nobody was making capacitors or resistors out of semiconductors.
  • If it could be done then the entire circuit could be built out of a single crystal — making it smaller and much easier to produce.
  • Kilby’s boss liked the idea, and told him to get to work. By September 12, Kilby had built a working model, and on February 6, Texas Instruments filed a patent. Their first “Solid Circuit” the size of a pencil point, was shown off for the first time in March.
  • But over in California, another man had similar ideas.
  • In January of 1959, Robert Noyce was working at the small Fairchild Semiconductor startup company. He also realized a whole circuit could be made on a single chip.
  • While Kilby had hammered out the details of making individual components, Noyce thought of a much better way to connect the parts.
  • That spring, Fairchild began a push to build what they called “unitary circuits” and they also applied for a patent on the idea.
  • Knowing that TI had already filed a patent on something similar, Fairchild wrote out a highly detailed application, hoping that it wouldn’t infringe on TI ‘s similar device.
  • All that detail paid off. On April 25, 1961, the patent office awarded the first patent for an integrated circuit to Robert Noyce while Kilby’s application was still being analyzed.
  • Today, both men are acknowledged as having independently conceived of the idea.

Huawei Charged with Racketeering Conspiracy to Steal Trade Secrets

  • A federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charged Huawei Technologies, and two U.S. subsidiaries with conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
  • The 16-count indictment also adds a charge of conspiracy to steal trade secrets stemming from the China-based company’s alleged long-running practice of using fraud and deception to misappropriate sophisticated technology from U.S. counterparts.
  • The indicted defendants include Huawei and four official and unofficial subsidiaries, as well as Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wanzhou Meng (Meng).
  • The new charges in this case relate to the alleged decades-long efforts by Huawei, and several of its subsidiaries, both in the U.S. and in the People’s Republic of China, to misappropriate intellectual property, including from six U.S. technology companies, in an effort to grow and operate Huawei’s business.
  • The misappropriated intellectual property included trade secret information and copyrighted works, such as source code and user manuals for internet routers, antenna technology and robot testing technology.
  • The means and methods of the alleged misappropriation included:
    • entering into confidentiality agreements with the owners of the intellectual property and then violating the terms of the agreements by misappropriating the intellectual property for the defendants’ own commercial use,
    • recruiting employees of other companies and directing them to misappropriate their former employers’ intellectual property, and
    • using proxies such as professors working at research institutions to obtain and provide the technology to the defendants.
  • Huawei’s efforts to steal trade secrets and other sophisticated U.S. technology were successful. Through the methods of deception described above, the defendants obtained nonpublic intellectual property relating to internet router source code, cellular antenna technology and robotics.

Ransomware Every 11 Seconds in 2021 with a Cost of $20 Billion

  • Cybersecurity Ventures has predicted that, globally, businesses in 2021 will fall victim to a ransomware attack every 11 seconds, down from every 14 seconds in 2019.
  • It is estimated that the cost of ransomware to businesses will top $20 billion in 2021 and that global damages related to cybercrime will reach $6 trillion.
  • The estimate includes the cost to restore and mitigate following a ransomware attack, and is not limited to actual ransom payments.
  • The recovery cost from a ransomware attack is substantial, and companies would do well to consider these costs when budgeting over the next few years.
  • It is reported that 91 percent of cyber-attacks begin with a spear-phishing email, which is instructive to businesses regarding the importance of educating employees to not rely on email and to be highly vigilant about all email traffic, links and attachments.

Mobile Voting App Used in Four States Has Security Flaws

  • A mobile voting app being used in West Virginia and other states has elementary security flaws that would allow someone to see and intercept votes.
  • An attacker would also be able to alter the user’s vote and trick the user into believing their vote was transmitted accurately.
  • The app, called Voatz, also has problems with how it handles authentication between the voter’s mobile phone and the backend server, allowing an attacker to impersonate a user’s phone.
  • Even more surprising, although the makers of Voatz have touted its use of blockchain technology to secure the transmission and storage of votes, the MIT researchers found that the blockchain isn’t actually used in the way Voatz claims it is, thereby supplying no additional security to the system.
  • The research was conducted by Michael Specter and James Koppel, two graduate students in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, and Daniel Weitzner, principal research scientist with the lab.
  • Election security experts praised the research and said it shows that long-held concerns about mobile voting are well founded.
  • Voatz has been surrounded by controversy ever since West Virginia used it in a pilot program to allow military and overseas voters to cast ballots via their phone.
  • The software has also been used in pilot projects in elections in Denver and parts of Oregon, Utah and Washington State. West Virginia recently announced plans to expand its use of Voatz to disabled voters in this year’s presidential elections.
  • Voatz has touted its system as highly secure and claimed to have had its code independently reviewed by security experts. But the company has long refused to release the findings of those security experts or answer detailed questions about how its system works.
  • The MIT researchers downloaded the version of the app that’s available in the Google Play store for Android phones and reverse-engineered it to determine how it works and examine it for flaws. They were not able to examine the Voatz backend server directly, as this would have violated computer crime laws. But they were able to construct a simulated server that operates like the Voatz server, based on their understanding of how the server works from reverse engineering the app.
  • From their examination, they found problems with the application that runs on mobile phones, with the communication between those devices and the Voatz backend server, and with the server setup itself.

Homeland Security Using Phone Location at Border

  • The Department of Homeland Security has been purchasing cellphone location data and using it to track activity near the US-Mexico border.
  • The data has reportedly led to arrests after law enforcement saw where people were crossing the border and traced the data back to specific people.
  • The location data comes from a commercial database composed of information compiled on users by marketing companies.
  • All of this data collection can lead to an incredibly revealing portrait of an individual’s behavior being created, even though they might have little idea that they, theoretically, consented to the information being shared.
  • It also means that the government can obtain very revealing data on a broad swath of people without going through the courts or relying on questionable legal precedents. It can just buy the information outright, like anyone else can.
  • The Department of Homeland Security confirmed that it had purchased the data.

FCC Reaches deal with Satellite Industry for more 5G Spectrum

  • The Federal Communications Commission has struck a deal worth billions of dollars with a group of satellite companies to free up spectrum that can be used for 5G service.
  • The plan calls for the FCC to pay satellite companies $3 billion to $5 billion in compensation for abandoning the so-called C-band spectrum and moving to another frequency so the airwaves can be auctioned. The money to pay for this move would come from the auction, which will divvy up the spectrum licenses for 5G use.
  • The C band is a designation by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) for a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum in the microwave range of frequencies ranging from 4.0 to 8.0 gigahertz.
  • The C-Band spectrum, which is in the 3.7-4.2GHz range of frequencies, is considered midband spectrum, which many say is crucial to the deployment of 5G. Wireless carriers need a mix of wireless spectrum that consists of very high-frequency spectrum, low-band spectrum and mid-band spectrum to deliver the coverage and speeds necessary to make 5G a reality.
  • The C-Band spectrum is also very important because it is the spectrum that’s commonly available around the globe and is already earmarked for 5G service in several countries.