Security and Privacy

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

Why is my browser typing strange text?

Episode 1398

Jeff from Apple Valley, CA
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.

Are Java updates safe?

George from California

Episode 1397

George wants to know if he should update his Java? Is it OK to update? Jason says that it's often OK to ignore them, but if it's an important security update, or if it's required for him to use a website, then it's a good idea to stay updated. It's definitely safer security wise to do so. But Jason also recommends getting rid of Java altogether. When in doubt, though, always go directly to Oracle to get updates. That way he'll know it's always official.

Will I be able to bring my laptop to Europe?

Episode 1395

Sara from Studio City, CA
Microsoft Excel on iOS

Sara is a painter and is traveling to Florence, Italy to showcase some of her art. She's worried she may not be able to bring her laptop back when she returns, though. Leo says that policy hasn't been decided yet on airlines from Europe. But it could, and if so, she'll have to check her laptop in her bag. Or she could ship it back. She will be able to return with it, just not in the main cabin.

Leo says if she has a tablet or iPhone, she could use that instead, and Excel runs quite well on iOS.

Phones Can Legally be Seized at the Border

Episode 1394

TSA

When a story came out recently that a JPL Engineer was detained and his work phone seized, it caused Leo to do some research about your legal rights coming back into the country. Turns out that the 4th amendment's protection against unlawful search and seizure has been suspended when you're in "international waters," and that's what an airport technically is. So the Border Patrol and the TSA have the legal right to take your phone, computer and tablets and demand the password to access all your data.

Can I protect my Windows XP computer from WannaCry?

Episode 1393

Lynn from Thousand Oaks, CA
WannaCry

Image: SecureList / AO Kaspersky Lab

Mary has an old XP computer and she's worried about getting the WannaCry virus. Can she get a patch to protect herself? Leo says that Microsoft has ended life for Windows XP, but did make a patch for it and she can go into Updates and get it. But according to Leo, 98% of infected computers with WannaCry are Windows 7 computers. So XP isn't even on the radar. It doesn't hurt to be safe, though.

Should I use a VPN while on a cruise?

Episode 1391

Charles from Sugarland, TX
Tiny Hardware Firewall

Charles and his family are going on a cruise and want to know if his devices need to run through a VPN. Leo says there are some risks, but not as much on an iPad. Google has been pushing for https everywhere, meaning that his search activity is encrypted. But that's not stopping someone from using a Wi-Fi sniffer called a Pineapple or Wireshark to figure out what his access point name is. A wise thing to do would be to forget his home network before he goes. Another option is the Tiny Hardware Firewall.

WannaCry Ransomware Has a Possible Solution

Episode 1391

Encryption

WannaCry is ransomware that can lock up your data unless you pay the hacker who created it. WannaKiwi, however, finds the crypto key in your PCs RAM to undo the damage. It only seems to work about a third of the time, however. That's why Leo says to make sure you don't get it by altering your behavior, and by making sure you have current backups of your data should it happen. One thing you should never do is pay up, because you don't know if you'll get your data back, or if there's something even worse getting installed.