Tech Talk July 10, 2021
Email and Forum Questions
- Email from Tom Shum: Dear Tech Talk. What happens after all 21 million of the bitcoins are mined? Does bitcoin mining stop? Will there be a continuing demand for vast amounts of energy to support bitcoin exchanges and their blockchain consequences (such as when someone pays for an airplane flight)? Tom Schum
- Tech Talk Responds: That is right. Once all of the Bitcoin have been mined, all Bitcoin mining will stop. However, that cutoff will take a long time to reach, since the number of bitcoins generated is periodically halved. So we will never quite reach the limit. It will be approached asymptotically.
- Email from Bob in Maryland: Dear Doc, Jim, and the imponderable Mr. BigVoice. I am hearing a lot of rumors about containerization and virtual machines. And it appears that this might have something to do with this rumored new OS from Microsoft, called Windows 1. Doc, what is this stuff all about anyway? Can we have containerization without that special chip? I think there is some kind of “containerization” going on with Chromebooks and maybe some other products, already, isn’t there. BTW, John MacAfee would be a good Profiles in IT candidate. All the best, your faithful listener, Bob in Maryland
- Tech Talk Responds: With the required hardware-enforced containerization and virtualization tech, Windows 11 will isolate applications and processes much more easily. It will be much more difficult for malware in an errantly running application to access resources it isn’t supposed to. It will only access the resources in that specific application task that it infects, such as a particular browser tab.
- By the way, if you already have these features built into your Intel and AMD chips, Windows 10 already has this enabled, by default, assuming you are at current patch levels.
- Windows 11 will require TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chips on existing and new devices. The Trusted Platform Modules (TPM) is a chip that is either integrated into your PCâ€™s motherboard or added separately into the CPU. Its purpose is to protect encryption keys, user credentials, and other sensitive data behind a hardware barrier so that malware and attackers canâ€™t access or tamper with that data.
- TPMs work by offering hardware-level protection instead of software only. It can be used to encrypt disks using Windows features like BitLocker, or to prevent dictionary attacks against passwords. TPM 1.2 chips have existed since 2011, but theyâ€™ve typically only been used widely in IT-managed business laptops and desktops.
- We already have software isolation or sandboxes in Chromebooks. This new development is hardware-enforced containers. We have software containers and virtualization. The need is prompted by the rise in firmware attacks.
- John MacAfee is a great suggestion. He led a full, but very sad, life in tech.
- Email from Lilly: Dear Tech Talk. Do I need to install an antivirus app on my iPhone? One friend says I do and another friend says I donâ€™t. Iâ€™d really like to know for sure so I can make sure my phone is protected. I just donâ€™t want to install another app if I donâ€™t need it. Thanks for your help. Lilly in Fairfax
- Tech Talk Responds: The short answer is no, you donâ€™t need to install an antivirus app on your iPhone. It is because iOS (your iPhoneâ€™s operating system) forces the apps running on the device to run in a way that isolates them from the operating system itself. That makes it extremely difficult for a malicious app to take control of your phone. Iâ€™m not saying that itâ€™s impossible for your iPhone (or any other iOS device for that matter) to catch a virus. After all, any computer can potentially be attacked by malicious code, and an iPhone is simply a very small computer at its core. However, the risk of an iPhone catching a virus is so small that it makes little sense to run an antivirus app on one.
- Please not that if you ever decide to â€œjailbreakâ€ your iPhone, iPad or other iOS-based Apple device the built-in protections that lock down your device and protect it from viruses will be rendered ineffective. This is one of the many reasons why I NEVER recommend jailbreaking an iOS device.
- Email from Robert in Dallas: Dear Tech Talk. We rented out a spare bedroom to a college student a couple of years ago, and once while we were on vacation our wireless went out. Not wanting to have to do without Wi-Fi until we got back, our renter purchased a replacement router and installed it. When we got back from our trip he gave us the password he had put on the new routerâ€™s wireless network and we used it to log on to the network. When our renter left he told us we could keep the router, and we were very grateful. The problem is we never wrote down the Wi-Fi password and we have long since forgotten it. I can log onto the router with my Windows 10 computer, but we annot log my wifeâ€™s new computer on without the password. Do you know of any way to retrieve the Wi-Fi password from the router? Robert in Dallas
- Tech Talk Responds: There is no way to retrieve the Wi-Fi password from your router. But you do have a couple of excellent options that donâ€™t require the purchase of a new router.
- First, you could always reset your router back to its factory default settings and then create a new Wi-Fi network with a new password. This post explains how to do that.
- Second, you could retrieve the password from your own Windows 10 laptop.
- If it isnâ€™t connected already, connect your laptop to your Wi-Fi Network.
- Open the Control Panel.
- Click Network and Internet.
- Click View network status and tasks.
- Click the name of your Wi-Fi network over on the right, then click Wireless Properties in the window that pops up.
- Select the Security tab. You should now see a box containing the â€œNetwork Security Keyâ€ displayed as a series of dots. The dots represent your Wi-Fi password in hidden form.
- Check the box beside Show characters to display the password for your Wi-Fi connection.
- Email from Alice in Alexandria: Dear Doc and Jim. I have heard that Google has a time travel feature. Where is it and what does it do? I am fascinated. Alice in Alexandria.
- Tech Talk Responds: Google Street View is a great way to see a map from a first-person perspective. Google will refresh its Street View data every few years in many areas, and you can see older Street View imagery using the desktop version of Google Maps. To do this, go to maps.google.com in a web browser on a computer.
- Bring up Street View by clicking and dragging the Street View icon and then releasing it while hovering over a street or road. You can also click on a location and then click again on the Street View thumbnail that appears at the bottom of the screen. To view historic Street View imagery, look at the top-right corner of Google Maps.
- If older Street View imagery is available, youâ€™ll see a clock icon with a downward arrow in this box. Click on the arrow to see images taken by Street View teams in the past. You can click and drag the slider to move backward and forward through time. You can move around and change perspective and the view will update in real-time. Click on a captured image to see it in full-screen. To get back to present-day Street View, drag the slider all the way to the right and click on the image again.
- If you donâ€™t see the clock icon with a drop-down arrow while in Street View, it means that youâ€™re looking at the only pass that the Street View team has made.
- Email from Doug in Baltimore: Dear Tech Talk I upgraded my Windows 7 computer to Windows 10 shortly after it was released. I didnâ€™t write down the license key for it. The hard drive in this machine went bad and I replaced it with a 1TB SSD. I now need the license key to activate Windows 10 after I install it, but I donâ€™t have it. Is there any way to retrieve the Windows license key from a hard drive when Windows wonâ€™t even recognize the drive when its plugged into a different computer?
- Tech Talk Responds: Luckily, Windows 10 handles the Windows activation process much differently than Windows 7 and earlier versions. When you install Windows 10 on a PC (or on a tablet for that matter) that Windows installation is assigned a license thatâ€™s digitally tied to that specific device. As long as itâ€™s the same version of Windows 10 (Home, Pro, etc.) youâ€™ll be able to download the Windows ISO file from Microsoft (which you have already done) and reinstall it on that same machine as many times as you want without ever having to enter a license key.
- As you can see, Windows 10 provides for a much easier and smoother re-installation and activation procedure than Windows 7.
Profiles in IT: John David McAfee
- John David McAfee was a British-American computer programmer, businessman, best known as creator of McAfee Anti-Virus software.
- McAfee was born in the United Kingdom on 18 September 1945 on a U.S. Army base to an American father and a British mother.
- He had spent his childhood living in fear that a beating from his father could happen at any time, and struggled to make sense of why this was happening to him.
- McAfee received a BS degree in mathematics in 1967 from Roanoke College, which later awarded him an honorary Doctor of Science degree in 2008.
- After receiving his bachelor’s degree, McAfee began working towards a doctorate in mathematics at Northeast Louisiana State College but was expelled, in about 1968, because of a relationship with an undergraduate student, who became his first wife.
- McAfee was employed as a programmer by NASA’s Institute for Space Studies in New York City from 1968 to 1970 working on the Apollo program.
- From there, he went to Univac as a software designer, and later to Xerox as an operating system architect.
- In 1978, he joined Computer Sciences Corporation as a software consultant.
- He worked for consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton from 1980 to 1982.
- In 1986, while employed by Lockheed, he read about Brain in the Mercury News.
- Brain was the creation of Basit and Amjad Farooq Alvi, a pair of programmers from Pakistan, who wrote it to prevent people from pirating their software. The design was flawed; the anti-copy software could duplicate itself â€“ and did.â€
- Some estimates suggest that between 1986 and 1989, the Brain virus hit more than 100,000 computers.
- John McAfee was impressed. Nobody had ever thought about using software to act like bacteria and viruses. Thatâ€™s a genius idea.
- McAfee studied Brain and wrote a program to counter it. He posted it on his electronic bulletin board and two weeks later I had a million users.
- In 1987, McAfee founded McAfee Associates Inc., which sold his program, the first anti-virus software to market.
- Initially he was not expecting users to pay much for this, but rather wanted to make people aware of the need to be protected from computer viruses.
- By making people fear such malware, he managed to generate millions of sales, and by 1990 he was making five million dollars a year.
- The company was incorporated in Delaware in 1992, and had its initial public offering the same year. In August 1993, McAfee stepped down as chief executive and remained with the company as the chief technical officer.
- In 1994, he sold his remaining stake in the company. He had no further involvement in its operations.
- After various mergers and ownership changes, Intel acquired McAfee in 2010.
- Other business ventures that were founded by McAfee include Tribal Voice, which developed one of the first instant messaging programs, PowWow.
- In 2000, he invested in and joined the board of directors of Zone Labs, makers of firewall software, prior to its acquisition by Check Point Software in 2003.
- In August 2009 The New York Times reported that McAfee’s personal fortune had declined to $4 million from a peak of $100 million due to the effect of the financial crisis of 2007â€“2008 on his investments.
- In 2013, McAfee founded Future Tense Central, which aimed to produce a secure computer network device called the D-Central.By 2016, it was also an incubator.
- In February 2014, McAfee announced Cognizant, an application for smartphones, which displays information about the permissions of other installed applications.
- In May 2016, McAfee was appointed chairman and CEO of MGT Capital Investments, a technology holding company. It initially said it would rename itself John McAfee Global Technologies, although this plan was abandoned due to a dispute with Intel over rights to the “McAfee” name.
- McAfee moved MGT into the mining of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, both to make money for the company, and to increase MGT’s expertise in dealing with blockchains, which he thought was important for cybersecurity.
- In August 2017, McAfee stepped down as CEO, instead serving as MGT’s “chief cybersecurity visionary”. He wanted to spend all of his time on cryptocurrencies.
- On 13 August 2018, McAfee took a position of CEO with Luxcore, a cryptocurrency company focused on enterprise solutions.
- McAfee was a libertarian, advocating the decriminalization of cannabis, an end to the war on drugs, non-interventionism in foreign policy, a free market economy which does not redistribute wealth, and upholding free trade.
- On 5 October 2020, McAfee was arrested in Spain at the request of the United States Department of Justice for tax evasion.
- On 6 October, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint further alleging McAfee and his bodyguard promoted certain initial coin offerings (ICOs) in a fraudulent cryptocurrency pump and dump scheme.
- McAfee was jailed in Spain, pending extradition to the United States. On 23 June 2021, the Spanish National Court authorized his extradition to face charges in Tennessee. McAfee committed suicide several hours after the authorization.
Observations from the Bunker
- Evolution of Silicon Valley.
- It started out as innovative hardware. Hardware would eat the world.
- It shifted to scalable software empowered by the Internet. Software would eat the world.
- I think we have lost some our sparkle. Too much of Silicon Valley looks like warmed over social media.
- We still have innovators like Elon Musk (SpaceX and Tesla), but he moved out of the Valley. Our startup ecosystem is evolving.
- Impact of immigration policy on work force. Not a good look.
Microsoft Is Rolling Out an Emergency Windows Patch
- Thereâ€™s a new vulnerability in Windows 10 called â€œPrintNightmare.â€ It was revealed in early July 2021, and Microsoft is already rolling out an emergency security update to fix the problem. You should update as soon as you can.
- According to researchers Matthew Hickey and Will Dorman, the fix that Microsoft is rolling out for PrintNightmare is not a complete solution. It only fixes the remote code execution part of the vulnerability. That means exploits can still bypass the patch and do some nasty things. We still urge you to update Windows and be ready for any new updates that come after this.
- The vulnerability is a critical flaw in the Windows Print Spooler service. Itâ€™s similar to another vulnerability that was patched in June 2021. The worse thing about PrintNightmare is that its exploit has been shared publically, making it easier for hackers to employ.
- Researchers Find New Windows Exploit, Accidentally Tell Hackers How to Use It
- Windows runs the Print Spooler service by default, which means itâ€™s basically running on every Windows PC going all the way back to Windows 7. Microsoft has issued patches for certain builds of Windows 10, Windows Server 2019, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2008, Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1, and Windows 7.
- The security updates started rolling out on July 6, 2021, and Microsoft urges everyone to â€œinstall these updates immediately.â€ To check for the update on your Windows PC, go to Settings > Update & Security > Check for Updates.
- Vulnerabilities and patches like this are why itâ€™s so important to keep your operating system is up-to-date. Make sure youâ€™re checking for and installing updates on a regular basis to keep your Windows PC secure.
Ransomware Avoids Computers That Use Russian
- The computer code behind the massive ransomware attack by the Russian-speaking hacking ring REvil was written so that the malware avoids systems that primarily use Russian or related languages.
- They don’t want to annoy the local authorities, and they know they will be able to run their business much longer if they do it this way.
- The ransomware “avoids systems that have default languages from what was the USSR region. This includes Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Tajik, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Turkmen, Uzbek, Tatar, Romanian, Russian Moldova, Syriac, and Syriac Arabic.
- In May, cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs noted that ransomware by DarkSide, the Russia-based group that attacked Colonial Pipeline in May, “has a hard-coded do-not-install list of countries,” including Russia and former Soviet satellites that mostly have favorable relations with the Kremlin.
- In general, criminal ransomware groups are allowed to operate with impunity inside Russia and other former Soviet states as long as they focus their attacks on the United States and the West.
- Krebs noted that in some cases, the mere installation of a Russian language virtual keyboard on a computer running Microsoft Windows will cause malware to bypass that machine.
GPS at risk: Signals are Vulnerable
- GPS is all susceptible to jamming and spoofing. The signals used by aircraft, ships, farm tractors and your smartphone originate from satellites 12,000 miles out in space.
- By the time they reach Earth, they’re weak and easily overwhelmed.
- In the US, GPS has about $1 billion a day in economic impact. It’s also vital to the
- Washington spends about $1.8 billion a year to keep GPS up and running. The US Space Force manages the satellites and the ground stations that track them.
- The GPS constellation consists of 31 satellites located in medium Earth orbit. Those satellites carry atomic clocks, and onboard radios send precise timing signals from them to receivers on the ground, including the GPS chip in your phone.
- GPS signals reach more than 4 billion military and civilian users worldwide.
- All satellites are vulnerable to threats out in orbit over which we have little control.
- They’re also vulnerable to anti-satellite weapons and cyber intrusions by potential adversaries who know how much our economy and our military depend on satellites. The more satellites you knock out or confuse, the worse off we are.
- But the more immediate dangers are more down to Earth: jamming (broadcasting a signal that’s stronger than the weak one coming from space) and spoofing (broadcasting a signal that looks like GPS and feeding false information). It’s cheap and easy to get away with.
- The Russians have jammed or spoofed GPS signals in Scandinavia, Ukraine and Syria. North Korea has targeted them in South Korea. And then there are those flight disruptions in the US, which may, ironically, have resulted from the US military’s efforts to figure out how to deal with that problem.
El Salvador Beach Town Rides Crypto Wave
- The beach town of El Zonte on El Salvador’s Pacific coast is a laid back surfer’s haven with white beaches, palm trees, and a small population of 3,000 people.
- The low-income community has no banks and only one cash machine, but a trailblazing local economy based in large part on bitcoin.
- The town boasts a bitcoin teller machine, the country’s only one, where people deposit cash US dollarsâ€”El Salvador’s official currencyâ€”into a personal bitcoin “wallet”.
- They then use a smartphone app to pay bills, buy groceries or have their hair cut with bitcoin, making a direct online transfer to the vendor.
- El Zonte set a trend that culminated Tuesday in El Salvador’s parliament approving a bill to allow bitcoin to be used to pay for goods and services.
- It became the first country to approve the digital currency as legal tender, but the move sparked concern from the International Monetary Fund.
- Two years ago, an anonymous Bitcoin donor started a project dubbed “Bitcoin Beach” to “bank the unbanked” of El Zonte.
- The town had only one cash machineâ€”in a hotel complex with access reserved for guests. Few El Zonte residents have bank accounts or cards.
- Bitcoin Beach started by introducing cryptocurrency to the economy and getting local businesses to accept it as payment.
- Thousands of millions of satoshi, the smallest unit of bitcoin, have been issued through paid youth work programs, educational stipends, transfers to the elderly and poor, and community construction projects, according to the Bitcoin Beach website.
- Locals were assisted to create cyber wallets, and shown how they can receive funds in bitcoin from relatives in the United States rather than using expensive and cumbersome cash transfer services.
- Hundreds of businesses and individuals in El Zonte now use bitcoin.
- People use a smartphone app to pay bills, buy groceries or have their hair cut with bitcoin, making a direct online transfer to the vendor.