Show of 07-26-2014

Tech Talk

July 26, 2014

Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Mary: Dear Doc and Jim. I work at a large Federal agency. I have spent weeks trying to get this resolved and their helpdesk tells me they don’t support Apple computers. The issue is I get a CISCO Secure Desktop error when I begin to connect. I sent the helpdesk a screenshot of the error messages and they replied with the instructions for a PC user, not a Mac. They say that the system will support the Safari Browser. Why won’t they support the Mac? It is my hope that you can work some magic here and tell me what I need to do to connect to the agency remotely from my home iMac. I am sorry this is so long but wasn’t sure what not to send. Thanks!! Mary
  • Tech Talk Responds: Support from Safari does not imply support for the Mac. I have all four browsers on my Windows PC, including Safari. Your IT department supports Safari on a windows PC. You need a VPN client for the Mac. Cisco has such clients for download, but you must have authorization to download them. Normally your IT department would have it available for download, if they chose to support OS X. However your IT department may have decided not to support Mac and have not made them available on their download site. The IT department must configure Cisco Secure Desktop to accept a OS X. If they have configured it not to accept it, you are out of luck. 
  • I might suggest that you install a virtual Windows machine on your Mac. I would suggest that you use Parallels 8 for the Mac. It costs $79. Visit the Apple store to get their suggestion for the best virtual software for this use. Parallels 8 has gotten outstanding reviews and it is reasonably priced. VMware Fusion for Mac is another excellent choice and it is only $59. Both of these virtual machines will support VPNs, but they must be configured properly. Check with your IT department whether they will support a virtual Windows machine. The key is how the virtual machine is linked to the VPN. Configuration can be tricky.
  • Email from Robert in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. I heard that my IT department was setting up a honeypot. What is a honeypot? I’m not a techie, so I am just curious. Thanks, Robert in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: Like a pot of honey left out to trap a bear, a honeypot is a unprotected or partially protected machine set up to allow malicious software or activity to compromise it. The idea is simple: by leaving a machine unprotected or vulnerable it is likely to be attacked in some way. The owners of the honeypot machine can then examine the specific attack, both source and technique, and build defenses against it.
  • The term is actually more general and can be applied to any machine left vulnerable to only specific treats, including other forms of malicious behavior such as hacking. A government agency might place a machine with falsified information on it in a situation such that while it looked important and confidential they could monitor who attempts to break in, and how.
  • Email from Jim in Michigan: Dear Tech Talk. I just got a new computer and configuring the hard drive. Should I install multiple partitions my hard disk? I am unsure about their value and purpose. Thanks, Jim in Michigan
  • Tech Talk Responds: A partition is nothing more than a way to organize the physical space on a hard drive. We typically think of a hard drive as a single disk, but partitioning allows you to split a hard drive into appearing as multiple, different drives. It’s still the same single disk in hardware, but the space on it is divided up and appears as two or more drives in Windows.
    • Single partition. Typically, your computer has a “C:” drive and all of your programs, data and operating system files are contained within it.
    • Two (or more) partitions. “C:” remains, and typically contains at least the operating system and often installed programs, but additional drives – perhaps “D:”, “E:” or others, also exist and are then used for data storage.
  • Some use partitions because it separates programs and data. Others use it to make backup easier.  Some use it for encryption because encrypting an entire drive is easier. Probably the most useful reason is to multi-boot. Multi-boot: if you want to have multiple operating systems installed on your computer that you select at boot time, each must reside in a separate partition. It’s also common to create an additional data partition that they all then use.
  • Unless you have a specific reason to partition, don’t bother. 
    • Use the NTFS file system which optimizes for speed.  
    • Defragment periodically. 
    • Backup everything regularly. 
    • Use folders to organize your data. 
Profiles in IT: Albert Gonzalez
  • Albert Gonzalez computer hacker and criminal was mastermind behind theft of more than 170 million card and ATM numbers, the biggest such fraud in history.
  • Albert Gonzalez was born in 1981 in Miami, Florida.
  • Gonzalez’s parents, who had immigrated to the United States from Cuba in the 1970s, bought him his first computer when he was 8.
  • He attended South Miami High School in Miami, Florida, where he was described as the “troubled” pack leader of computer nerds. 
  • In 2000 he moved to New York City and after three months moved to Kearny, NJ.
  • While in Kearny he was mastermind of a group of hackers called the Shadowcrew group, which trafficked in 1.5 million stolen credit and ATM card numbers. 
  • Once registered, members could buy stolen account numbers or counterfeit documents at auction or read hacking tutorials.
  • According to the indictment there were 4,000 people who registered with the website. Gonzalez, aka CumbaJohnny, was not indicted. 
  • The Secret Service continued the investigation as “Operation Firewall.” Gonzalez was charged with possession of 15 fake credit and debit cards, though he avoided jail time by providing evidence against his cohorts. 19 ShadowCrew members were indicted. 
  • He returned to Miami. While cooperating with authorities, he was said to have masterminded the hacking of TJX Companies in which 45.6 million card numbers in 2007, topping the 2005 breach of 40 million records at CardSystems Solutions.
  • Gonzalez and 10 others sought targets while war driving along U.S. Route 1 in Miami. They compromised cards at BJ’s Wholesale Club, DSW, Office Max, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority and T.J. Maxx.
  • Gonzalez and his accomplices used SQL injection to deploy backdoors on several corporate systems in order to launch packet sniffing attacks.
  • He disabled system logs, used ARP spoofing for man-in-the-middle attacks, stored data on multiple hacking platforms, and hid their IP address using proxy servers.
  • The indictment said the hackers tested their program against 20 anti virus programs.
  • He was said to have thrown himself a $75,000 birthday party and complained about having to count $340,000 by hand after his currency-counting machine broke. 
  • He used several screen names, including “cumbajohny”, “soupnazi” and “kingchilli.” 
  • Gonzalez along with his crew were featured on the 5th season episode of the CNBC series American Greed titled: Episode 40: Hackers: Operation Get Rich or Die Tryin.
  • Gonzalez was arrested on May 7, 2008 (at age 27) on charges stemming from hacking into the Dave & Buster’s network. Authorities became suspicious after the conspirators kept returning to the restaurant to reintroduce their hack.
  • Gonzalez is currently serving his 20-year sentence at a low-security facility in Michigan. He is scheduled for release in 2025.
David Burd Surprise Visit
  • Drones sold in 7 Eleven
  • Drone privacy talk and potential legal issues
  • Drone operator nearly arrested after buzzing Seattle’s Space Needle.
Digital Archiving: An Interesting Experience
  • My task was to find a financial worksheet that I had created in the late 1990s.
  • I checked my email archives for evidence of the worksheet back to 2002.
  • I could not find it on my work computer or my laptop.
  • I was forced to look at a stack of bare hard drives on the shelf at home. They hard drives were unmarked, but they must contain something of value.
  • They were old 3.5” IDE drives. The largest was 100GB. The smallest was 40GB.
  • I got an Ez-Connect USI-2535 adaptor. This could connect these drives to the USB port on my laptop. It would support 2.5” IDE, 3.5” IDE, and SATA.
  • I found a treasure trove of pictures which I recovered with some difficulty because of bad segments corrupted a few pictures.
  • Finally I found the file. It was an old Lotus file with a WK4 extension. Nothing we are currently using could read it. I had to fire up one of the old drives with Office XP on it. Office XP could still read Lotus files. I converted it to an Excel XP file and then to Excel 2010.
  • I found the old database program that I had written for our first student information system. It used dBaseIV and was really old. I didn’t have time to try this out. But I would need to have an installed copy of dBaseIV.
  • None of these programs would run on my current PCs because they are all 64-bit machines.
  • Lessons learned. Spend time to archive important files. Keep old OS intact to read the old file formats or keep updating the formats. Important documents should be on more than one hard drive. Bad sectors are a real drag.
  • Cloud storage of photos is looking better each day.
Net Neutrality Update
  • In just a few months, the FCC is expected to enact new rules that would allow (or, perhaps more accurately, fail to disallow) ISPs to provide “fast lanes” for companies who could afford to pay.
  • When ISPs are able to decide which site’s data moves the fastest, competition becomes a matter of who is willing to spend the most. 
  • Big companies like Netflix, ESPN, and Disney lose. Startups lose. The consumer loses. Everyone loses, except the ISPs.
  • The open Internet is in danger. The good news is that hundreds of thousands have commented on the proposed ruling.  This ruling is important. Send in your comments.
  • Link to FCC comment page:
Wireless Net Neutrality Update
  • The debate around net neutrality largely ignores the wireless industry. 
  • Two recent moves by AT&T and T-Mobile have net neutrality advocates concerned.
  • In January, AT&T announced its Sponsored Data program, which lets content providers pay AT&T so usage of their apps and services don’t count against a customer’s data plan. 
  • In June, T-Mobile announced a plan that will let customers stream all the music they want from select services like Spotify without it counting against data plans.
  • With AT&T’s Sponsored data, the fear is that it will allow rich companies that can afford to pay gain an unfair advantage over startups.
  • T-Mobile’s case is inadvertently giving customers an incentive to choose one of its preferred music apps over competitors. 
Device of the Week: The GoTenna
  • GoTenna lets users create their own closed network on which they can communicate. 
  • GoTenna transmitters work in pairs. They can communicate up to 50 miles if you are high enough (500 ft.). At normal walking height, you can communicate up to 3 miles.
  • Let’s say you’re out in the woods camping with a big group. You keep one GoTenna in your bag and it connects to your phone via BluetoothLE.  You give hand the second GoTenna to someone else in the group, who also pairs it with their own smartphone. It is a walkie talkie for cell phones.
  • The group splits into two, and one is running late. Without ever connecting to a telephone network or Wifi, the GoTennas actually create their own closed network using low-frequency radio waves. It uses a 151-154 MHz 2 watt radio. Users can send text messages and communicate locations to each other.
  • GoTenna’s app that offers entirely offline maps and full messaging capabilities.
  • GoTenna users have the option to send private messages to a particular user or group of users, but there’s also a system in place for emergency situations.
  • Cofounders Daniela and Jorge Perdomo came up with the idea Superstorm Sandy, when cell connections were dropped. 
  • In an emergency, you can send a “shout” to all GoTennas within range that will alert all GoTenna users that you needs help.
  • They might work great at a festival or concert where there’s too much volume or on a remote ski slope.
  • According to the company, the GoTenna will last around 72 hours with intermittent use, and around 30 hours if it’s on 24/7. 
  • The GoTenna is now available for pre-order in pairs for $149 ($75/each). The price will double after the $50K goal is reached.
  • Website: