Show of 01-30-2016

Tech Talk

January 30, 2016

Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Ngoc in Ohio: Dear Doc and Jim. My iPhone is not acting properly. My LinkedIn app is very slow and has trouble displaying my contacts. When I look at my Mail, it has to download the emails each time that I open the application. It does ot save them between uses. Sometimes the mail application and LinkedIn just close without warning. I need help. What are my options? Love the podcast here in Ohio. Ngoc in Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is common behavior when an iPhone runs out of memory. Applications stop working and storage functions are minimized. I would recommend that you start deleting items you don’t need (iMessages with pictures, large applications). To identify large applications go to Settings/General/Storage & Cloud Usage/Manage Storage. The memory hogs will be at the top of the list. Then I would look at hour pictures. They can take a lot memory. You can transfer them to your laptop and then delete them or you can store only thumbnails on your iPhone with the high resolution photos stored on the cloud. Go to Settings/iCloud/Photos. Click on Optimize iPhone Storage.
  • Email from Karen in West Virginia: Dear Doc and Jim. I have so many pictures on my digital camera and would like to make an album. What are my options? I would like to have a system that is simple to use so my daughter can help me. Love the show. Karen in West Virginia.
  • Tech Talk Responds: The website that his very high ratings for ease of use is Shutterfly ( I have use it and like it. They support a wide range of album formats, as well as, cards, calendars, mugs, etc. You simply upload your pictures to the site and select which ones you want in the album. You then simply drag each photo from the tray to the album. They even have an option to automatically populate an album for you, if you are in a hurry. There are many album out set, but this one is easy to use and not too expensive. A 20 page hard cover album is $30 to print with each additional page 90 cents. Shutterfly has an easy to navigate website and has apps for both iPhone and Android. Using these apps you can upload pictures directly to the sight from our phone.
  • Email from Arnie in Colorado: Hi Dr. Shurtz, Have you heard about this flashlight intrusion? Apparently it was on a Fox News program also. What next? As you know, I moved to Colorado Springs last May. I thought Verizon FIOS was a challenge at times. Have Comcast Xfinity now. At times have to reboot it often. Have Ooma now also as you’ve mentioned on Tech Talk many times. So far it works great. Good luck with the blizzard this weekend. Payback for the 70° you had Christmas.  Arnie in Colorado Springs, CO.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Free flashlight apps tend to make money by collecting information and selling it to advertisers. I don’t think there is real hacking here. I got rid of all my flashlight apps when the iPhone iOS could turn on the LED directly. Glad Ooma is working for you. I love my Ooma. Actually Arnie, I was in California during the snow and only suffered from some rain and overcast. But coming home was a trip.
  • Email from Alice in Alexandria: Dear Tech Talk. I received password reset requests for my account. Since I have two email addresses associated with my Facebook account, I had the same series of request in both inboxes. The problem is that I didn’t request a reset. Is my Facebook account being hacked?” Enjoy the podcast because I sleep in on Saturday. Alice in Alexandria.
  • Tech Talk Responds:  A series of Facebook password-reset notifications may or may not indicate that someone was actively attempting to hack my Facebook account. Probably someone attempted to log in to Facebook with the wrong email address. Not realizing they’ve typed in their own email address incorrectly, or not understanding that the email address they’re typing in isn’t theirs, they then assume it’s the password that’s at fault, and they start the password-reset process. The real owner of the email address then gets the password-reset confirmation emails.
  • But hacking, or rather an attempted hack, is certainly a possibility. In order for the password-reset approach to work, the hacker needs access to the email account associated with the Facebook account. In other words, they somehow need to intercept the password-reset confirmation email message Facebook sends, and act on it. Once they do, they can reset the Facebook account password.
  • Typically that means the email account or accounts associated with the Facebook account have themselves already been hacked. All the hacker really needs is access to the email messages sent to those email accounts. 
  • To protect your account, I would recommend two-factor authentication. In Facebook’s Security Settings, you can turn on two : Login Approvals and Code Generator. Login Approvals is two-factor authentication.
  • The technique is very simple: when you log in to Facebook from a device you’ve never logged in from before3, Facebook requires you to enter a code (which is sent as a text to your phone) before it allows the login to succeed.  The “Get codes” option allows you to plan ahead for when you have no phone or text coverage by procuring a set of 10 single-use codes to keep with you to use if needed. 
  • If you don’t have the phone, or the codes, then you can’t log in, even if you have the correct password.
  • Email from Mimi in Orlando: Dear Doc and Jim. I use MAC address filtering and don’t use WPA. I realize that means I must physically enter the MAC address of each device that wants to connect to my network, but I believe that MAC address filtering is also a viable security solution (with or without WPA or WEP). What are your thoughts? Love the show. Mimi in Orlando.
  • Tech Talk Responds: The short answer is that is not very secure. A MAC, or “Media Access Control” address, is a theoretically unique identifier assigned to every network interface card. It is the hardware network address. The Ethernet port on my desktop machine has a different MAC address than the Ethernet port on my laptop, which is different than the Ethernet port of Mary Ann’s laptop.
  • The MAC address itself is never encrypted. Even if you specify WPA2 encryption on your wireless connection, the MAC address itself is not encrypted. It can’t be, as it’s required to tell the computers involved which computer is supposed to receive the packet. Your data is encrypted, of course, but the MAC address is not.
  • So, let’s say a somewhat knowledgeable hacker is interested in accessing your WiFi hotspot, on which you have MAC address filtering turned on. He needs only needs to sniff the network and look at the MAC addresses which are allowed access to the WiFi and then configure his network interface to use one of those MAC addresses. This is called MAC address cloning. It takes minutes to do this.
  • Therefore, use WPA2 for more effective security and forget MAC address filtering.
Profiles in IT: Richard Mathew Stallman
  • Richard Matthew Stallman is a computer programmer who launched the GNU Project and founded the Free Software Foundation.
  • Richard Mathew Stallman was born March 16, 1953, in New York City.
  • Stallman was a pre-teen; he read manuals for the IBM 7094 at summer camp.
  • Following his senior year in high school, he was hired for the summer by the IBM New York Scientific Center to write a numerical analysis program in FORTRAN. 
  • In 1970, as a Harvard freshman, Stallman was known for his performance in Math 55.
  • In 1971, he became a programmer (hacker) at MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
  • Stallman graduated from Harvard magna cum laude earning a BS in Physics and enrolled in the MIT PhD program. He dropped out to program (hack) at the AI Lab.
  • In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the hacker culture began to fragment. Most manufacturers stopped distributing source code and began using copyright and restrictive software licenses, a shift was triggered by the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976.
  • Stallman argued that software users should have the freedom to share with their neighbors and be able to study and make changes to the software that they use. 
  • Stallman announced the GNU operating system in 1983. He quit MIT in 1984 to work the GNU project. GNU is a recursive acronym for “GNU’s Not Unix.”
  • He then started a nonprofit corporation, called the Free Software Foundation, to provide a legal infrastructure for the free software movement. 
  • Stallman popularized the concept of copyleft, a legal mechanism to protect the modification and redistribution rights for free software.
  • By 1989, much of the GNU system had been completed, except for the kernel.
  • In 1991, Linus Torvalds, used the GNU’s development tools to produce the free monolithic Linux kernel. The existing programs from the GNU project were ported to run on the resultant platform. Stallman and the FSF call it GNU/Linux. 
  • Stallman has written many essays on software freedom, and has been an outspoken political campaigner for the free software movement since the early 1990s.
  • Torvalds has criticized Stallman for what he considers “black-and-white thinking.”
  • Stallman has protested software patents, DRM, and proprietary software.
  • Stallman’s computer is a refurbished ThinkPad X60 with Libreboot, a free BIOS replacement, and the GNU/Linux distribution Trisquel.
  • Stallman does not use of DVD or Blu-ray video discs because they are encrypted. 
  • Stallman uses the word free software and rejects the term, open source software.
  • Until 1998, his office at MIT’s AI Lab was also his residence. He was registered to vote from there. His position as a research affiliate at MIT is unpaid.
  • Stallman does not owning a mobile phone because he doesn’t like tracking.
  • He avoids use of key cards for the same reason. He never married, but advertises.
FCC Proposes New Cable Box Standards
  • FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed new rules that would force cable companies to give third parties access to TV content, letting hardware makers build better set-top boxes. 
  • Customers would be able to watch all the TV channels they’re already paying cable companies for, but on a device that they don’t have to rent from them. The rules could also bring TV to tablets and other devices without need for a rented set-top box. 
  • The system would essentially replace Cable Card with a software-based equivalent.
  • Cable companies are fighting back. They contend that there are already apps that bring TV networks to various devices, so the new mandate is “unnecessary and backwards looking.
  • The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) claimed that the plan will “force programmers and TV providers to dismantle their shows and services for companies to repackage, reuse, and exploit as they see fit and without paying for the content” and force customers to buy additional hardware. 
  • FCC officials dispute these arguments, saying that customers who are happy with the status quo can keep using their current set-top boxes without buying anything else. About 99 percent of customers still rent set-top boxes and pay an average of $231.82 a year in rental fees, for a total of $19.5 billion a year. The FCC wants to end this cash cow and help the consumers.
Clinton Emails Top Secret
  • The Obama administration confirmed for the first time Friday that Hillary Clinton’s home server contained closely guarded government secrets, censoring 22 emails that contained material requiring one of the highest levels of classification. 
  • State Department officials also said the agency’s Diplomatic Security and Intelligence and Research bureaus are investigating if any of the information was classified at the time of transmission.
  • Seven email chains would be withheld in full for containing “top secret” information. The 37 pages include messages a key intelligence official recently said concerned “special access programs” —highly restricted, classified material that could point to confidential sources or clandestine programs like drone strikes.
  • No emails released so far were marked classified, but reviewers previously designated more than 1,000 messages at lower classification levels. 
  • The FBI also is looking into Clinton’s email setup, but has said nothing about the nature of its probe. 
  • Independent experts say it’s unlikely Clinton will be charged with wrongdoing.
Presidential Social Media
  • Social media is driving the 2016 presidential race, as candidates of both parties increasingly view Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as key battlegrounds in the fight for the White House.
  • Campaigns have used social media in past elections. But in recent months, it has threatened to overtake traditional news outlets, paid advertising and the campaign stump as the top venue for candidates to rally voters, hit their rivals.
  • The Bernie Sanders campaign has parlayed the liberal senator’s formidable social media presence and a #feeltheBern hashtag into record attendance at rallies around the country.
  • When Donald Trump fires off a late-night Twitter tirade, it shows up in the feeds of more than 3.7 million followers.
  • In recent days, social media has even doubled as a virtual debate stage, with candidates sparring in a manner inconceivable just a few election cycles ago. They have twitter wars during the speeches.Strategists say that candidates are most successful when they customize their message to each individual platform and can respond swiftly.
The IRS Agent Who Found Dread Pirate Roberts
  • Gary L. Alford had spent much of the weekend in the living room of his New Jersey townhouse, scrolling through arcane chat rooms and old blog posts.
  • The work had given Mr. Alford what he believed was the answer to a mystery: the identity of the mastermind behind the online drug bazaar known as Silk Road — a criminal known only by his screen name, Dread Pirate Roberts.
  • When Alford showed up for work that Monday, he had a real name and a location. Instead, he got the brushoff.
  • Previous examinations of the Silk Road investigation have generally focused on the role played by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security, who infiltrated the website, arrested important deputies and gathered reams of crucial information, but not enough to find Mr. Ulbricht — until Mr. Alford came along.
  • Mr. Alford’s preferred tool was Google. He used the advanced search option to look for material posted within specific date ranges. That brought him, during the last weekend of May 2013, to a chat room posting made just before Silk Road had gone online, in early 2011, by someone with the screen name “altoid.”
  • “Has anyone seen Silk Road yet?” altoid asked. “It’s kind of like an anonymous”
  • The early date of the posting suggested that altoid might have inside knowledge about Silk Road.
  • During the first weekend of June 2013, Mr. Alford went through everything altoid had written, the online equivalent of sifting through trash cans near the scene of a crime. Mr. Alford eventually turned up a message that altoid had apparently deleted — but that had been preserved in the response of another user.
  • In that post, altoid asked for some programming help and gave his email address: Doing a Google search for Ross Ulbricht, Mr. Alford found a young man from Texas who, just like Dread Pirate Roberts, admired the free-market economist Ludwig von Mises and the libertarian politician Ron Paul — the first of many striking parallels Mr. Alford discovered that weekend.
  • But he continued accumulating evidence, which emboldened Mr. Alford to put Mr. Ulbricht’s name on the D.E.A. database of potential suspects, next to the aliases altoid and Dread Pirate Roberts.
  • But he still could not get the DEA to pay attention to him. They held the IRS in low esteem. 
  • Mr. Alford decided to review his findings again. In early September, he asked a colleague to run another background check on Mr. Ulbricht, in case he had missed something.
  • Mr. Ulbricht’s home address, it turned out, was a few hundred feet from an address that the F.B.I. had turned up in its investigation: a cafe from which Dread Pirate Roberts had signed in to Silk Road.
  • Ulbricht’s interactions on message boards for programmers used the screen name “Frosty.” Frosty was the name of the computer from which Dread Pirate Roberts had been logging in to the Silk Road.
  • He now had DEA’s attention. Ulbricht under full surveillance. Within days, the agents had established that Dread Pirate Roberts was logging into the Silk Road just moments after Mr. Ulbricht was going online in his apartment.
  • After the arrest, though, his role in the case was recognized with a plaque from his superiors featuring a quotation from Sherlock Holmes: “The world is full of obvious things which nobody by chance ever observes.”