Jose is concerned about being snooped on when using public Wi-Fi. What can he do to protect himself? Leo says the first thing to do is turn on hard drive encryption. That will keep his data safe should his laptop get stolen. But for just being on a public Wi-Fi, VPNs can be beneficial. VPN stands for "Virtual Private Network," and all of the traffic that goes through it is encrypted. It's like a secure tunnel through the internet. Most web pages are encrypted now, though, so no one could see his activity on those sites anyway.
Bonnie bought a new computer and plugged in her external hard drive. She can see the data on her old computer, but she can't read it on her new computer. Leo has a hunch that her WD Passport runs a proprietary utility that encrypts her data to protect it. She probably will need to install that same software on the new computer in order to see the data.
Twitter sent an email to its 330 million users recommending that they change their passwords. This is because of an error that caused user passwords to be stored unencrypted and in plain text. While this was a big flaw, Twitter is being praised for disclosing the information immediately so users can take action to protect their accounts.
Jim called in to talk about how the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring not only the free press, but also bloggers, podcasters, and vloggers. Jim wonders if he should use a VPN as a hedge against that. Leo says that while anonymizing his content is a natural reaction, and while a VPN could be a useful tool, but it's not a privacy tool. In fact, encrypting his traffic shines a light on him more than just being a part of the "background noise." Also, a VPN only encrypts the traffic along the way.
Dan's computer was damaged and Acer is going to replace it, but he's worried about the data on it. How can he wipe the data? Leo says that there's a program called DBAN - Darik's Boot and Nuke that can wipe the drive pretty thoroughly. But Dan should understand that an SSD doesn't format the way a spinning hard drive does, and there can and will be some data leak, where someone could grab the data if they're really motivated.
Gary is an attorney and has heard of a business product called LockBin that promises to encrypt his data. Is it legit? Leo says that there are limits of privacy with an encryption service. If the service can give him his password, then it has access to all his data and it's not really reliable. If they can't give him the password because only he knows it, then he's in good shape. The downside, though, is that if he forgets it, he's out of luck.
Brian wants to know how safe online encryption is. Leo says that as long as he has the only encryption key, he's safe. But if he doesn't even trust that, then Leo suggests using his own Network Attached Storage. Leo uses Synology, and he syncs it to all his computers using the web.
Mike is wondering how good the encryption is in Microsoft Word and Excel documents. Leo says it's actually pretty good and that it's adequate, but not uncrackable. Leo says it's hard to crack stuff on the web when a service can slow the attacker down. But if someone can get a document that's locked and own it, there's nothing to stop them from trying a million passwords a second, and brute-force that document. Having said that, Microsoft has started using strong encryption on documents. The weak link will be the password.
Mike wants to wipe a hybrid SSD using Darik's Boot and Nuke (DBAN). Is that a good idea? Leo says that SSDs are written to differently than spinning drives, and it also uses a technique called "wear leveling," which writes sectors randomly. This makes it difficult to fully and securely wipe a drive to prevent it from being recovered. He can do it to erase a drive, but it won't really remove the data. That's why Leo recommends encryption. Using BitLocker on Windows, or some other technique to secure data with encryption.
Christian is installing new computers at his accounting company. He's going to be transferring the data from one computer to another and wants to know if Google Drive will work. Leo says absolutely not. There are serious privacy issues handling a client's financial information and personal details. Carbonite is a better option that is encrypted. He'll want to be sure that the data is not only encrypted at the destination but also in transit and that the keys are well controlled, ideally only by him.