Category Archives: Computer Bytes

Encrypting, Erasing, Blocking

by Bill Scobie

Hands off my History

With all the recent concern about ISPs (internet service providers) being allowed to sell their customer’s data, it is good to see what you can do and understand what ISPs are currently saying. Some major ISPs, such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast, have already come out saying they will not sell their own customer’s data (I suspect it is more valuable to them that way, and they can always change those terms). So you should just test your safety level at https://www.letsgetsafe.org/ part of the https://www.fightforthefuture.org/ project.

Also, use Electronic Frontier Foundation’s HTTPS Everywhere plugin https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere to try to make sure you are using an SSL (Secure Socket Layer encryption) website version, if they are available. It is much harder for an ISP to know what you are doing at a site that is using SSL; all they will know is that you went there.

Finally, although not a perfect solution, more people are exploring VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to carry their Internet traffic beyond the data-gathering eyes of their ISP. Besides, a VPN should always be used when using public Wi-Fi hotspots, especially at airports, hotels, and convention centers.

If you want to set up email encryption in Apple’s Mail application, take a look at this helpful article: https://www.macobserver.com/tips/quick-tip/macos-using-email-encryption-apples-mail/

Dumping the Data

Safe disposal of data on solid-state drives (SSDs) is a little different than with conventional drives. With conventional drives, you could reformat it with software that wrote zeros across all the platters or physically destroy it by drilling holes. For reasons I don’t quite understand, erasing an SSD doesn’t work, but you can encrypt it and then throw away that encryption key; then nothing is readable. You might need to use a Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA)-to-USB cable to handle a drive that you have pulled from a computer.

In Windows, if you don’t have a Pro version, you can download Veracrypt at https://veracrypt.codeplex.com/ (note that it is hosted with codeplex, which will be shutting down by the end of this year) On a Mac, you would use the Apple-provided FileVault. The important trick is to make sure you encrypt the correct drive — not that it would be bad to encrypt your regular drive anyway.

Deaf and Blind

Taping over the camera on a computer still leaves the microphone open. In Windows, you can use the Device Manager to disable that internal microphone, located under the section called “audio inputs and outputs.” This works fine unless you already have some kind of Remote Administration Software (RAT) maliciously installed.

Laptops Hate Saunas

Laptops don’t belong near steam sources, like dishwashers. A tale of caution — many people use their laptops in the kitchen, likely placing them on the counter above the dishwasher. While the dishwasher is running, especially during the drying cycle, it will exhaust out a lot of vapor. If a laptop is anywhere near that moisture and its fan(s) are running, that vapor will get pulled in and over time corrode the internals. You might not notice anything wrong until you gently bump that laptop and a several little internal connections all fall apart.

Workflow is Now Free

iOS Workflow is a great productivity tool that is now free after Apple acquired it earlier this year. It can help you automate tasks on an iPhone or iPad and is available through the App Store. With a little bit of work, you could take an image from Photos, convert it, then upload it. More information is at https://workflow.is/

Warnings and Reminders

Windows Vista is no longer supported by Microsoft, and the same is true for nearly all other software makers. Microsoft ended their support on April 11, so for safety’s sake you should figure out how to upgrade on the Internet.

Bill Scobie fixes computers and networks for small businesses and home. 628-2354 or bill@scobie.net