Show of 12-7-2013

Tech Talk

December 7, 2013

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Azra in Fredericksburg: Dear Tech  Talk. I recently returned from vacation and would like to see the dates on the pictures taken with my iPhone. I can’t display the dates at all. How can see the date and time stamp on my pictures. Love the show. Azra Khan in Fredericksburg
  • Tech Talk Responds: Exchangeable image file format (Exif, often incorrectly EXIF) is a standard that specifies the formats for images, sound, and ancillary tags used by digital cameras (including smartphones), scanners and other systems handling image and sound files recorded by digital cameras. This data is stored by your iPhone each time you take a picture. It includes a wide range of factors: camera, exposure, GPS locations, date and time stamp.
  • For some reason iPhone will not display Exif data natively. I use a free app call Phone Date to show the date and time stamp in a very convenient format. I use the free app Koredoko to display all the Exif data and locate the picture on a map using GPS coordintes.
  • You can also copy the pictures to a Windows PC or iMac. When displaying the picture in either of these computers, just right click on the picture and select properties. They will display the full Exif data file. This window should give you the option to strip all personal data from the picture, if you want.
  • The GPS data is dangerous to post to the web because anyone can locate exactly where the picture was taken. It is just like publishing your home address to the web. Beware of the GPS data in the selfie.
  • Email from Carl Tyler: Dear Dr. Shurtz: I don’t know if you have covered this topic in a past show but could you give me some information on the virus CryptoLocker, what it is, how a computer is infected by it, what you do if you do have it, and more importantly how to avoid it. Love those David Burd stop byes, especially when he gives you an “assignment” Carl Tyler
  • Tech Talk Responds: CryptoLocker is Trojan horse malware which surfaced in late 2013. A form of ransomware targeting computers running Windows, a CryptoLocker attack may come from various sources; one such is disguised as a legitimate email attachment. When activated, the malware encrypts certain types of files stored on local and mounted network drives using RSA public-key cryptography, with the private key stored only on the malware’s control servers. The malware then displays a message which offers to decrypt the data if a payment (through either Bitcoin or a pre-paid voucher) is made by a stated deadline, and says that the private key will be deleted and unavailable for recovery if the deadline passes. If the deadline is not met, the malware offers to decrypt data via an online service provided by the malware’s operators, for a significantly higher price in Bitcoin.
  • Although CryptoLocker itself is readily removed, files remain encrypted in a way which researchers have considered infeasible to break. Many say that the ransom should not be paid, but do not offer any way to recover files; others say that paying the ransom is the only way to recover files that had not been backed up.
  • CryptoLocker typically propagates as an attachment to a seemingly innocuous e-mail appearing to have been sent by legitimate company, or is uploaded to a computer already recruited to a botnet by a previous Trojan infection. A ZIP file attached to email contains an executable file with filename and icon disguised as a PDF file, taking advantage of Windows’ default behaviour of hiding the extension from file names to disguise the real .EXE extension. Some instances may actually contain the Zeus trojan instead, which in turn installs CryptoLocker. When first run, the payload installs itself in the Documents and Settings folder with a random name, and adds a key to the registry that causes it to run on startup. It then attempts to contact one of several designated command and control servers; once connected, the server then generates a 2048-bit RSA key pair, and sends the public key back to the infected computer. The server may be a local proxy and go through others, frequently relocated in different countries to make tracing difficult.
  • Due to the nature of CryptoLocker’s operation, some experts reluctantly suggested that paying the ransom was the only way to recover files from CryptoLocker in the absence of backups (in particular, offline backups that are inaccessible from the network. CryptoLocker attempts to delete Windows Shadow Copy backups before encrypting files.
  • In late October 2013 security vendor Kaspersky Labs reported that a DNS sinkhole had been created to block some of the domain names used by CryptoLocker.
  • Email from Alice in Herndon: Dear Tech Talk. My computer has Norton AV installed and it has expired. I plan to switch to Windows Security Essentials. My question: can I activate Windows Defender before Norton anti-virus expires or do I need to uninstall Norton first? Also, should I uninstall Norton after Windows Defender is installed? Finally, how do I activate Windows Security Essentials? I’m running Windows 7, X64, on an HP desktop. Thanks, Alice
  • Tech Talk Responds: The short answer is yes. You should uninstall the old anti-virus software before installing the new. Multiple anti-virus programs can, in fact, come into conflict with each other when they’re installed together. In addition, running two programs slows down the computer.
  • First, you have to have a firewall in place. Technically, without anti-virus for even a few minutes, you’re somewhat more vulnerable to attack or infection. It’s probably enough to be behind a router, which acts as a hardware firewall protecting you from the internet. However, if the other machines on your local network aren’t necessarily trustworthy, (i.e., they’re the kids’ machines, or someone you know has bad surfing habits) then you probably want to have your Windows firewall turned on, if it isn’t already, before you uninstall your old anti-virus.
  • As long as you make sure you do the uninstall followed pretty much immediately by the install while having a firewall in place, you should be okay. Microsoft Security Essentials does not need activated.  So you’re ready to go immediately.

Profiles in IT: Evan Spiegel

  • Evan Spiegel, co-founder and CEO of SnapChat, the disappearing photo app.
  • Spiegel was born in 1990, the oldest child of two lawyers. He led a privileged life.
  • His was a securities lawyer, earning than $3 million in 2006. The family lived in a $2M house in Pacific Palisades. They had five luxury cars and the right memberships.
  • Evan and his two younger sisters attended Crossroads, a private prep school.
  • In sixth grade, he built a computer from scratch. Spiegel started developing simulators and video game emulators in high school, then into web design.
  • Evan led a charmed existence until April 2007, when his parents filed for divorce.
  • His senior year at Crossroads, Evan decided to move in with his father full-time.
  • Evan began to rack up significant expenses around that time, often incurring overdraft fees. In February 2008, his father finally insisted that Evan come up with a budget.
  • The conflict escalated and Evan moved in with his mother.
  • John Spiegel helped his son get in Stanford. Evan majored in product design.
  • Scott Cook, the CEO of Intuit. Cook took an interest in Spiegel, giving  him an opportunity to work on a platform that Intuit was developing for use in India.
  • The idea for SnapChat came out of a discussion about sexting between Evan Spiegel Reggie Brown, a friend of Spiegel’s since freshman year. They were living in Kimball Hall in spring 2011 when the idea for was hatched.
  • Spiegel had already been working with an older fraternity brother, Bobby Murphy, on several failed startup ideas.  Spiegel was the designer, while Murphy wrote the code.
  • Spiegel and Brown agreed to bring Murphy in to write code for the disappearing-picture app, initially called Picaboo. They celebrated the launch in July 2011.
  • Brown returned home to South Carolina and Spiegel and Murphy cut him out.
  • Brown wanted 30% of the company and threatened litigation. Soon thereafter, Spiegel and Murphy changed the passwords on the accounts and the servers.
  • Spiegel and Murphy changed the name of the company from Picaboo to Snapchat.
  • The company’s infrastructure and unopened Snaps are stored on Google’s cloud computing service, App Engine, until they are viewed and then deleted.
  • Downloads started to spike in January 2012. Spiegel has theorized that it began to take off after teenagers received iPhones with front-facing cameras for Christmas.
  • By February 2012, Spiegel and Murphy had 40,000 users and were maxing out their credit cards. They go $485K from Lightspeed Venture Partners in May 2012.
  • In June 2013, he closed a $60 million funding round, with valuation of $800M.
  • In December 2013, he raised $55M on a $2B valuation, just after turning down offers to buy SnapChat for $3B from Facebook and $4B from Google.
  • Spiegel likes to call his app “ephemeral messaging” which offers greater freedom.
  • Spiegel initially moved in with his father when he left school to pursue SnapChat full-time just shy of graduating. The company is in Venice Beach, California.

Christmas Gift to Techies

  • FitBit Force, a lifestyle tracker. Cost: $129.95. A fitness and sleep tracker all in one, the FitBit Force tracks every step you make, the distance you’ve traveled and how many calories you burn during the day. The Force monitors your sleeping patterns, updates you on your sleep quality and gently wakes you with a vibrating alarm.
  • If you have specific fitness or sleep quality goals — for instance, running four miles a day or getting at least eight hours of sleep — FitBit Force shares your targets with your social network who can hold you socially accountable.
  • Pocket Projector Mobile, a digital device screen projector small enough to take on travel. Cost: $299.99 from Brookstone. The LED lamp projects 85 lumens, which will last up to two hours on a single charge— and comes with an AC adapter. The projector also features dual built-in speakers and a focus control. Weight: 5 pounds.
  • Digits, Fingertip-sized pins that can be added to your gloves for touchscreen usability. Cost: $11.99. With Digits, no longer do you need to remove your gloves and expose your hands to use your touchscreen devices, nor do you need to buy a new pair of gloves. Instead, simply attach Digits, a conductive, fingertip-sized pin, to the gloves you already have — because no text message or tweet is worth getting frostbite. Four Digits come in each pack, two for each hand, and were invented by David Shy, a student in Chicago who began sewing conductive thread into his gloves during the winter, creating the first Digits prototype.
  • Epic Virtual Keyboard, A laser-projected, Bluetooth-connected keyboard. Cost: $149.99 from Brookstone. An alternative and futuristic QWERTY keyboard option to the actual tablet keyboards out there, the Virtual Keyboard is exactly what it sounds like: a laser projected, Bluetooth-connected keyboard for your tablets and smartphones. The projection also doubles as a multi-touch mouse for added functionality. The device weighs 7 ounces, uses a red laser light to create the keyboard.
  • Smart Watch Options. If I had to buy one only one, I would got with the most developed Pebble. Martian would be a close second.
    • Pebble ($150), simplest and elegant. Great battery life
    • Martian ($300), integrated with Google Plus and Siri
    • Samsung Galaxy Gear ($300) Too many features.
    • Sony SmartWatch 2 ($200) Too many features.
    • Qualcomm Toq ($350) Too many features.
  • iPad or iPad mini. Wi-fi only $299. Wi-Fi plus celluar$429. Both 16GB models.
  • Lego Mindstorms: The Lego Mindstorms series of kits contain software and hardware to create small, customizable and programmable robots. They include a programmable brick computer that controls the system, a set of modular sensors and motors, and Lego parts from the Technics line to create the mechanical systems. The latest system, called the Lego Mindstorms EV3, was released on September 1, 2013 and retails for $349.

Underware for your smartphone

Dumb Idea of the Week: Underwear for your smartphone

  • For just 200 yen you can buy an underwear-shaped rubber band (‘Smartpants’) designed to fit over the bottom of your device. And yes, they’re sold from vending machines.
  • The strange idea was picked up recently by the blog Japan Smart Culture.
  • Many designs are available, including ‘male’ versions (complete with a bulge placed over your iPhone’s home button) and ‘female’ versions.
  • “The purpose of the smart pants is partly to protect the home button of your smart phone from being accidentally pushed.
  •  People wear pants to protect their most sensitive spot. Well, on the Android phones, that’s the home button and the same with the iPhone. It just feels right to cover it up