Security and Privacy

Malware, viruses, hacks, and anything else that may compromise your identity online, computer, or digital device.

Should I install the Spectre bug fix?

Irwin from The Bronx

Episode 1454

Irwin is concerned that the Spectre bug fix will slow down his computer. Leo says it's possible, but it's unlikely to have a noticeable impact on a modern machine. Experts say the bug fix will greatly affect slower, older machines. A newer machine will get the least performance hit. He should just make sure to update his AVS and all of his drivers.

VMware or really heavy applications are where the performance hit will most likely be affected.

What is a reliable Virtual Private Network?

Manny from Mt. Carmel, CA

Episode 1453

Manny wants to know how he can find a reliable VPN product to keep his surfing private. Leo says that what you're looking for is a strong privacy policy that's very clear what it can and cannot do, particularly logging access. Leo likes Tunnel Bear, they have it in their privacy policy that they won't log your access and activity. He also uses a hardware firewall like Tiny Hardware Firewall which will do it.

Has my Bitcoin Wallet been hacked?

Mike from Bakersfield, CA

Episode 1453

Mike's Coinbase Bitcoin Wallet has a corrupted IP address to it and he's worried his wallet has been hacked. Leo says you can't have two IP addresses on an account. Leo says that the ISP may be at fault here and what Mike should do is to log onto his Coinbase wallet and then make a screen shot of the error messages. Then contact your ISP and show them the evidence. They need to fix it. Leo also says to change your Coinbase password. Just in case. But it's possible something nefarious is afoot.

Why can't I download the Meltdown Fix for Windows?

Travis from Oklahoma

Episode 1453

Travis is having trouble getting the Windows update that will fix the Meltdown/Spectre exploit. Leo says to make sure you update your antivirus first, because the fix will break the AVS and crash the machine, forcing a reinstall of the OS. You may also need to do a BIOS update. In fact, the entire machine may need to be updated to prevent the Windows OS update from breaking the machine.

Is using your Facebook login for another website safe?

Episode 1450

Joseph from New Jersey
Facebook

Ivan wants to know what he's giving away when he logs into a site using his Facebook ID. Leo says that's called Single Sign-on, which makes it easier to sign in. Many services, including Google and Twitter also offer it as a convenience. It's a user verification system that doesn't require him to create an account, nor does it give them access to his account. But it gives Facebook, Google, and Twitter access to more information about where he visits. It's safe to use it, but if he's concerned, he can create a dummy account that he'll only use for that purpose.

Why is my browser typing strange text?

Episode 1450

Jeff from Apple Valley, CA
Laptop keyboard

Jeff is getting strange random key strokes appearing in his browser bar. Leo says to try a different browser. Windows comes with both Edge and Internet Explorer. If it happens in both browsers, it could be a failing keyboard. Jeff should unplug his keyboard and try a new one. If he still has the issue, then it's a Windows problem, which could be malware or a browser hijack. He could try resetting his browser first. If that solves the problem, then he's fine. If not, then it may be that he'll need to reinstall Windows from a known good source.

Does antivirus software keep PCs safe?

Episode 1450

Alan from West LA, CA
Antivirus symbol

Alan wants to know if an antivirus utility is any good anymore for malware. How about on a mobile device? Leo says that all too often, an antivirus leaves people more vulnerable because most malware is a zero day exploit. Antivirus can't stop users from themselves, either. All antivirus utilities have to hook themselves into the OS at a very low level and the virus can actually use that as a door to more exploits. So at the end of the day, an antivirus really is only of limited benefit.

Processor Flaws Give Hackers Access to Your Data

Episode 1452

Processor

2018 brought about the news that every processor built in the last ten years have a flaw in them that could give hackers access to sensitive data. Initially believed to affect just Intel processors, the latest is that this affects every single processor made, regardless of platform.

The flaws utilizes a technique called "processor speculation," which enables the processor to speculate what the user will do next in order to accelerate performance. But the feature also gives hackers access to sensitive L2 cache data like passwords. It's especially true for networks.

Processor Hack Affects All Computers Made in Last Ten Years

Episode 1451

Processor

The latest exploit "Spectre" affects every single chip made in the last ten years. At first, security researchers thought that the exploit only affected Intel processors, but it turns out this hack also effects ARM, AMD, and any other processor that uses speculative prediction. The white hat hackers who found the flaw discovered that you can use it to access valuable data including passwords and other information. Leo says that Microsoft has already pushed out a fix, and Apple's High Sierra has patched the vulnerability with a recent fix. Apple has also patched the iPhone and iPad.