security and privacy

We Now Know How the FBI Cracked the iPhone

Apple iPhone X

Episode 1499

Researchers have figured out that if you connect your iPhone to a computer, you can keep doing a brute force password attack to unlock it and that it should take about a day to open it. Leo says that this is with a four digit passcode, and a six digit passcode is a lot harder to crack.

The Supreme Court has also ruled that law enforcement cannot get cell phone location data without a warrant. The decision said that day to day movement data on a mobile device provides an intimate look at someone's activities, even to the point of violating privacy without a warrant.

Why can't I see images in Outlook?

Outlook Email

Episode 1495

Ron from Charlotte, NC

Ron has messed up his Outlook. Now he can't see any images in the body of the email, and it won't download any graphics. Leo says that's a good thing! Outlook disables downloading jpgs by default because they can be hacked to include malware. That's called HTML email and it's a bad idea. So he'd have to opt-in to enable it, but Leo wouldn't. Plain text emails are always best. But if he really wants to, he can go into the Trust Center and change the settings.

How does 2-factor authentication work?

LastPass

Episode 1472

Taylor from Cincinnati, OH

Taylor is talking about using LastPass and its 2-factor authentication. How does that work? Leo says that 2-factor can be a biometric thing, like his thumbprint, or it can be an authenticator which will text him a code to his phone that he would input into the prompt. It's secret and only good for about 30 seconds before he would have to input a new code. It's a great way to protect online data.

Is Amazon Echo always listening?

Amazon Echo

Episode 1457

Charmaine from Costa Mesa, CA

Charmaine wants to know if she can plug Amazon Echo into a surge protector. Leo says of course! Charmaine also worries that it's always listening. Leo says it is, but it doesn't actively listen unless she says one of four words: Amazon, Echo, Alexa, or Computer. It's only listening for those words. Once it hears the wake word, then it turns on the microphone and sends her request.

Why is my browser typing strange text?

Laptop keyboard

Episode 1450

Jeff from Apple Valley, CA

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?

Antivirus symbol

Episode 1450

Alan from West LA, CA

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.

How can I be safe using a Wi-Fi hotspot?

Tiny Hardware Firewall

Episode 1430

Joe from New Jersey

Joe wants to know about the Tiny Hardware Firewall. Leo says it's a clever solution for those who want to use open Wi-Fi hotspots safely. Tiny Hardware Firewall will give him an additional layer of protection by encrypting all of his Wi-Fi traffic with a virtual private network. Leo adds that it also adds another layer called the Black Hole Cloud service which gives users their own cloud server. This makes it lightning fast. The Tiny Hardware Firewall is about $35, plus a fee for their VPN, which could be about $100 a year.

How can I be private on the internet?

Google Search Page on a MacBook Pro

Episode 1408

Sherry from Canyon Lake, CA

Sherry is concerned because her personal information from public records show up in Google search results. Leo says that if it's public information, the only thing she can do is go to each site and demand they make her information private. But these days, it's easy to harvest that information from government sources online. And new sites pop up all the time. Privacy is really an illusion now. That's why celebrities usually create holding companies and make all their asset purchase through them, so that the paper trail is minimal.