Show of 09-28-2019

Tech Talk

September 28, 2019

Email and Forum Questions

  • Email from Cheryl in Kansas: Dear Doc and Jim. Someone has taken over my Facebook account. I am having trouble getting it back. What should I do? Cheryl in Kansas
  • Tech Talk Responds: If a hacker breaks into your Facebook account and changes your login information or you forget your password and no longer have access to the email address or phone number you set the account up with, you can use Facebook’s automated “Account Recovery” tool. I hope that you will be lucky.
  • Unfortunately, Facebook’s automated “Account Recovery” tools are broken and useless in many common situations. There is no valid reason why a hacking victim should ever get caught in an endless loop of emails suggesting the use of account recovery tactics that have already failed several times before.
  • If a user is not able to successfully recover their account with the automated “Account Recovery” tool they should be able to contact a human being at Facebook for assistance. But they can’t.
  • There are several things you can do to prevent YOUR Facebook account from getting hacked in the first place:
    • Don’t click on any links in phishing emails.
    • Choose a password that’s easy to remember, but difficult to guess.
    • Enable Two-Factor Authentication on your account.
    • Set up ‘Trusted Contacts’ as an additional security option.
    • Periodically check for rogue apps that are enabled on your account and remove any that you find.
    • Don’t watch any videos that are sent to you in a chat session or via instant message unless you know for a fact that the video is legitimate. Hint: That means you should almost NEVER watch one of those videos.
    • 7 – Never log into a third party website with your Facebook credentials.
  • While there’s no guarantee that your Facebook account will never get hacked, the tips mentioned above can help reduce that risk to the bare minimum.
  • Email from Phillip in Missouri: Dear Tech Talk. I am building a cabin on my property for guests. The cabin will be powered by solar (augmented with a generator when needed) and heated with a gas heating system. The cabin is about 0.75 miles from the main house. I would like to get Internet access to cabin, but don’t want to run and expensive cable to the property and I don’t want to use an expensive satellite connection. Do you know of any way I can extend the Internet connection from my house to the cabin? I’d like the keep the cost of whatever solution I can come up with to about $1,000 or less. Phillip in Missouri
  • Tech Talk Responds: The Ubiquiti PowerBeam AC is a pair of dish antennae that will beam your Internet signal over the air directly from your home to your cabin. These devices can transmit up to 15 miles so they should work quite well over the relatively
  • You will have to install the two dish antennas and align them. Then you will have to connect to the Wi-Fi router at each end via Powered Ethernet. The Ubiquiti PowerBeam AC cost around $292 on Amazon.
  • Email from Allen in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. I do product research for a local company, and I often find myself having to scan long web pages for a certain word or phrase related to the task. Is there any way that I can just search for the word or phrase and have Firefox take me right to it? Thanks in advance for helping me! Allen in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: It is actually very easy to search for a word or phrase in any major web browser, including Firefox. All you have to do is press the Ctrl+F key combination to activate the browser’s search feature. Type the word or phrase you’re looking for into the search box and the first occurrence of your search term will be highlighted on the page. Click Next and it’ll skip to the next occurrence of the search term. Simply keep clicking Next until you either find what you’re looking for or reach the end of the page, whichever happens first. Ctrl+F works in lots of programs, not just your web browser!
  • By the way, there’s also an easy to way to enlarge the font size on a web page. Just hold down the Ctrl key and rotate the mouse wheel to increase or decrease the font size.
  • Email from Brian in LA: Dear Tech Talk. Do you know when Microsoft is planning to release Windows 11? If memory serves they have always released a new version of Windows every 3 years or so and it’s already been 4 years since Windows 10 was released. I really need to buy a new laptop but I’d rather wait to get one with Windows 11 if it’s going to be available pretty soon. Brian in Los Angeles
  • Tech Talk Responds: Microsoft won’t be releasing a Windows 11 at all. MS made the decision to move to a “rolling update” process for Windows 10 instead of periodically releasing a new version. Under their rolling update model they’re releasing a major feature update for Windows 10 every six months and regular “bug fix” and maintenance updates once a month (and occasionally more often when situations require it). The bi-annual major feature updates are not new versions of Windows. They are simply updates to Windows 10.
  • That means Microsoft will no longer have to spend money and resources maintaining multiple versions of the operating system. They will then be able to spend that saved money to enhance and better support Windows 10. If you truly need to buy a new laptop you can go ahead and buy one at any time because Windows 10 is going to be on it regardless of how long you wait.
  • Email from Ngoc in Ohio: Dear Tech Talk. I am afraid that someone has my Gmail password. I can’t figure out how to change my Gmail password. Please help. Thanks, Ngoc in Ohio
  • Tech Talk Responds: The steps are quite straight forward.
    • Login to your Gmail account.
    • Click on your email address in the upper right corner of the Gmail page.
    • On the dropdown menu, click on the word Account:
    • On that page click on the Security link
    • Click on Change password, and you’ll get a password change dialog:
    • Enter your old password (to once again confirm that you are you and not someone who just walked up to your logged-in computer), type in your new password twice, hit Change Password and you are done.
  • By the way, while you are in the security section, I would recommend that you enable two-factor authentication. Even if someone guesses your password, they can’t get into your account without your cell phone.
  • Email from Barbie in Reston: Dear Tech Talk. I just updated my iPhone to iOS13 and now my battery life has been cut in half. Is a way fix this? Barbie in Reston
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is a major complaint about iOS13. Since the original release they have done two updates. The second update addressed the battery life issue. Go to Setting/General/Software Update. You will want the latest update: iOS13.1.1.
  • You have probably noticed that many apps are suddenly asking for permission to use your Bluetooth hardware. These messages are new in iOS 13. Before this update, apps on your iPhone or iPad could use Bluetooth all they liked. As long as you had Bluetooth enabled, apps could use it without asking. Now there is a permission that controls whether apps can access it.
  • Apple made this change for privacy reasons. Bluetooth is not just for connecting to external devices like wireless headphones, keyboards, and mice. It’s become increasingly common for stores, shopping malls, and other public locations to set up Bluetooth “tracking beacons.” An app could communicate with these to determine your physical location—for example, identifying if you are in a retail store and where you are in that store.

Profiles in IT: Alexis Kerry Ohanian

  • Alexis Kerry Ohanian is best known as the co-founder and executive chairman of the social news website Reddit.
  • Ohanian was born April 24, 1983in Brooklyn, New York.
  • In 2001, Alexis graduated from Howard High School in Ellicott City, Maryland.
  • In 2005, he graduated from UVA with a BS in Commerce and History.
  • During spring break of his senior year at UVA, Alexis Ohanian had Steve Hoffman drove to Boston to attend a lecture delivered by Paul Graham.
  • Huffman and Ohanian talked with Graham after the lecture and he invited them to apply to his startup incubator Y Combinator.
  • After graduation, he and his roommate Huffman pitched to Y Combinator, with the goal of becoming the “front page of the Internet.”
  • Reddit joined Y-Combinator’s first batch of start-ups in the Summer of 2005 and were later acquired by Condé Nast in 2006 for between 10–20 million dollars.
  • Reddit is a website comprising user-generated content and discussions of this content in what is essentially a bulletin board system.
  • The name “Reddit” is a play-on-words “read it”, i.e., “I read it on Reddit.”
  • As of 2018, there are approximately 330 million Reddit users, called “redditors”.
  • In 2010, Ohanian announced the launch of his company Das Kapital Capital, which focuses on startup investing, advising and consulting.
  • In 2010, Ohanian helped launch travel search website Hipmunk (now an adviser).
  • Ohanian co-founded Initialized Capital in 2010 and made seed investments in startups including Instacart, Zenefits, Opendoor, and Cruise.
  • In response to his work advocating for the Open Internet, Forbes Magazine dubbed him “Mayor of the Internet.”
  • From 2015 to 2018, he returned to Reddit to lead the now-independent company.
  • He held the role of part-time partner and full-time partner at Y Combinator, before leaving in 2016 to help launch the third Initialized Capital fund with Garry Tan.
  • In May 2014, Ohanian began lobbying the FCC to support net neutrality, culminating with a day-long phone-a-thon into the FCC and Congress on January 15, 2015.
  • In 2017, he worked with teenager Rayouf Alhumedhi to campaign for a hijab emoji.
  • Following the birth of his daughter, Ohanian became an advocate of paternity leave.
  • On December 29, 2016, Ohanian became engaged to tennis player Serena Williams.
  • Their daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., was born on September 1, 2017.
  • In 2011 and 2012, Ohanian was named to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list as an important figure in the technology industry.
  • Forbes recently estimated his net-worth as $70M.
  • Personal website:

Researchers Breached Voting Machines for the 2020 Election

  • The voting machines that the US will use in the 2020 election are still vulnerable to hacks.
  • A group of ethical hackers tested a bunch of those voting machines and election systems (most of which they bought on eBay).
  • They were able to crack into every machine. Their tests took place this summer at a Def Con cybersecurity conference.
  • A number of flaws allowed the hackers to access the machines, including weak default passwords and shoddy encryption. The group says the machines could be hacked by anyone with physical access to them, and if poll workers make mistakes or take shortcuts, the machines could be infiltrated by remote hackers.
  • This summer we learned that key election systems may have been exposed online for months, and at least one voting machine maker sold states systems with remote access. With the 2020 election quickly approaching, states have little time to secure their systems.
  • We also know that Russian hackers accessed voter databases in two Florida counties before the 2016 election. There is reason to believe that hackers — and not just those from Russia — would attempt to access the vulnerable voting machines in 2020.

Google Built the Most Powerful Quantum Computer in the World.

  • The Financial Times reported last week that it reviewed a paper by researchers from Google that indicates the company has built a 53 Qbit computer that has achieved quantum supremacy.
  • That paper was briefly posted on the NASA website but has since been removed as it hasn’t yet undergone the peer review process to verify its findings.
  • The report says that Google has claimed “their processor was able to perform a calculation in three minutes and 20 seconds that would take today’s most advanced classical computer, known as Summit, approximately 10,000 years.”
  • Of course, it’s only able to perform that one specific calculation, meaning we’re still a few years from quantum computing taking over the world.
  • For example, complex modeling that could lead to medical breakthroughs including new treatments for currently incurable diseases. It also has implications for artificial intelligence and machine learning that could contribute to analyzing enormous sets of data that simply take too much time with normal computers.
  • Encryption is another application that is ripe for quantum computers. Encryption, for example, is not secure because it’s impossible to crack. In theory, all encryption can be cracked given enough time. The reason we consider encryption secure is that it takes far too long for traditional computers to crack it. But what if they had a computer that enabled them to crack encryption in a matter of minutes?
  • Which is why cryptocurrency experts get a little nervous about what happens when a computer is able to potentially undermine the series of encrypted transactions that keep the blockchain secure. The current algorithms are likely safe from the 53-qubit processor demonstrated by Google.
  • Cryptographers are also working on creating quantum-resistant technology that goes beyond even the virtually-impenetrable SHA-256 cryptographic hash.

Stop using Internet Explorer Immediately

  • Microsoft warned users of its once beloved Internet Explorer that a critical vulnerability in the browser allows malicious actors to hijack the computers of those running the outdated program.
  • All a victim has to do is visit a specifically crafted website and its game over.
  • An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights.
  • In other words, if you still use Internet Explorer, you should really stop.
  • The vulnerability could corrupt memory in such a way that an attacker could execute arbitrary code in the context of the current user.
  • If the current user is logged on with administrative user rights, an attacker who successfully exploited the vulnerability could take control of an affected system.
  • Microsoft notes that this vulnerability has been exploited.
  • In February of this year, a security researcher with the company urged that people stop using IE as a default browser.

Best YouTube to MP3 converters

  • YouTube has never been more friendly to those searching for new music. If you love browsing YouTube for the latest music and putting together YouTube playlists of songs that you love, there are a number of online converters that will let you convert them to MP3s. It should be noted that ripping audio from YouTube is a breach of YouTube’s terms of use, which could potentially get you in trouble. Here are a couple of options:
  • YTMPS — This is one of the simplest web tools for YouTube conversion. Simply paste your YouTube link into the box, choose MP3 or MP4, and hit Convert. The app will then automatically choose the highest conversion quality that is possible and get to work. After a couple minutes at the most, your file should be ready to download. Link:
  • GenYouTube — If you download a lot of YouTube videos over time, you may not want to visit a site or pull up an app every time you convert. GenYouTube offers an extension available in Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, a basic video downloader that makes it easy to immediately download an MP3 or MP4 (or other file formats) when you find a video that you want to save. You can also choose between HD and SD video quality, if necessary. Link:

Battery Breakthrough for Tesla and Research Partner

  • With the publishing of a ground-breaking paper in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society (JES), Dahn announced to the world that Tesla may soon have a battery that makes their robot taxis and long-haul electric trucks viable.
  • Dahn and his research group are Tesla’s battery research partner.
  • Dahn said: “Cells of this type should be able to power an electric vehicle for over one million miles and last at least two decades in grid energy storage.”
  • Dahn and his research team provide full details of the new cell to create a benchmark for further research.
  • The cathode material chosen, NCM 523 (50 percent Nickel, 20 percent Cobalt, 30 percent Manganese), is stable and an excellent reference and starting point for further developments.
  • It has a specific capacity which is 20 percent higher than that of the cathodes used in Li-ion batteries that power today’s mobile electronic devices.

People are Overconfident about Identifying Phishing Emails

  • People may not be as cyber-savvy as they believe they are when it comes to identifying email phishing scams, according to Missouri S&T researcher, Dr. Casey Canfield.
  • But employers may benefit from teaching employees how to spot phishing by regularly sending them fake phishing emails.
  • Phishing is a method of gathering personal information, banking and credit card details, and passwords through links in messages, that on the surface, appear to be legitimate.
  • Canfield’s latest study, published with open access this month in the journal Metacognition and Learning, examined individual understanding of their ability to detect phishing emails.
  • Study participants viewed a series of legitimate and phishing emails and answered questions to determine if they could identify the two types.
  • Researchers then asked how confident they were about their answer, and how negative the consequences would be if they missed a phishing email.
  • The researchers found that when people were 90-99% confident they had correctly identified an email as either phishing or legitimate, they only identified phishing emails correctly about 56% of the time.
  • Canfield suggests that artificially increasing the number of phishing emails people received could potentially improve their ability to distinguish scams from legitimate messages. And then giving feedback.
  • Canfield suggests that a training program where employers send fake phishing emails could be beneficial.

US uses Google Translate to Vet Refugees

  • The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have been criticized for using online translation tools to vet immigrants’ social media posts.
  • A staff manual said pasting text into tools such as Google Translate and Bing was “the most efficient approach”.
  • The United States now requires nearly all applicants for US visas to submit details of their social media accounts.
  • The staff manual explains procedures to be used when vetting people whose spouse or parents have already been granted refugee status in the US.
  • It acknowledges that “occasionally” the online translation services may not fully understand “dialect” or colloquial language.
  • It says individual officers can decide whether to request expert translation services.