Category Archives: Internet Security

The Gadget Man – Episode 162 – Working From Home During the Coronavirus / Covid-19 Crisis

Such are the strange times we live in, many of us now face working from home for the first time along with caring for our children.

I have worked from home extensively over the past 20 years and I thought I would try and share some tips on how I have been able to work effectively in a home environment.

This morning I spoke to James Hazell at BBC Radio Suffolk about the trials and tribulations about working from home. Listen in to the stream to hear what I had to say and especially the advice at the end.

Stay Safe and Healthy

If you have been given a laptop to use at home, then there is a danger that you may find yourself sitting in an armchair trying to work and you will soon find this isn’t going to work well.

  1. Set up a work environment in a spare room or even your bedroom where you can away from disturbances and distractions as best as possible.
  2. Find a comfortable chair and if possible sit near a window so you can get fresh air while you are working.
  3. Set up your computer, so that is a semi-permanent environment and will allow you to separate work from home and give you a place to ‘go to work’
  4. Get dressed, you don’t go to your place of work in your pyjamas, so again, getting dressed gets your prepared for work.
  5. Take plenty of breaks. If you have children at home, you will need to be able to give them attention. If you can set specific times during the day to stop work, get up and walk around and make yourself a drink.
  6. Try to begin and end your work-day as you would if you were going to your place of work. Let your employer know that these are your work times. Setting these boundaries will mean that you aren’t on-call 24/7.
  7. Most home-working requires an internet connection. Over the coming months, our communications links are going to be under a great deal of strain. The video streaming services are going to be used extensively and this will put a great deal of pressure on internet connection speeds. Home internet is very different to work internet due to what’s called ‘contention ratios’, so you should be prepared for slower than normal connection speeds.
  8. Ask your employer to provide you with a mobile device that can be used as a ‘tether’. This means that should traditional broadband experience issues, you can fall back onto connecting to the internet by connecting via a ‘personal mobile hotspot’.
  9. Make sure all of your internet-connected devices are up to date. This means ensuring anti-virus is updated where applicable and any operating systems updates on your computers, set-top boxes, TV’s, IpCams etc are updated
  10. Keep all of your battery-powered devices charged up, but don’t leave mobile phones plugged in all of the time as the batteries don’t work as effectively if they all continuously charged.
  11. Use a trusted VPN connection to secure your broadband connection further. I recommend Ivacy VPN. Using a VPN or Virtual Private Network secures your connection.

Finally, regardless of whether you are working at home or not, you WILL find the number of scam calls you receive will increase, mainly because you will find yourself at home so much more. NEVER give out any personal bank details over the phone including PIN numbers or passwords. Ignore all automated calls and just hang up. These people care little for the health or financial wellbeing of their victims. If in doubt, speak to a trusted friend or member of your family before taking any action that will cost you money.

Stay Well and see you soon!

Matt
www.thegadgetman.org.uk

Gadget Man – Episode 161 – Phantom Calls – Zombie Bots – Hair Straighteners – VAT Free eBooks

In this week’s Gadget Man, I talk to James Hazell about phantom phone calls when phones are set to silent, Zombie Bot Networks, Dyson Hair Straighteners and VAT is finally removed from eBooks!

You can listen to the stream (above) or play the video (below)

James Hazell: [00:00:00] It’s time. We looked at technology, several things to discuss, not least of which can scammers really make your phone ring when it’s set to silent cause mine just did that is find out more from the gadget guru Matt Porter of Matt thought a web designer. Hi Matt.

Matt Porter: [00:00:23] Hi,

James Hazell: [00:00:24] good to speak to you. As always, my friend.

Now I’ve just read this and I don’t know if it’s true or not, but my phone, Jeff definitely just rang in the middle of an interview and it is set to silent and this particular website says, Oh yes, banners can do that. They can make your phone ring even if it’s on silent. Is that true, Matt?

Matt Porter: [00:00:44] I’ve certainly heard of strange things occurring with phones and things like that.

there are. I think particular codes, which can override these kinds of silent system so that you are contacted if necessary, in an event of an emergency. What happens

James Hazell: [00:01:03] despite it said, yeah, emergency call. but it was just an ordinary number, some, you know, a one, three, three or something. So, you know,

Matt Porter: [00:01:12] interesting.

It’s,

James Hazell: [00:01:13] yeah.

Matt Porter: [00:01:14] It’s similar to the traffic. the traffic alert system on cars that even if you have them switched off, there are certain, instances where they will switch on even if you don’t want them to. So then you can, the idea of being, you can be alerted to something that’s very urgent.

James Hazell: [00:01:30] Well, I guess what we can learn from this is that if your phone rings.

And it’s set to silent and you don’t recognize the number. Then as every Bob possibility could be spat, but then if I go say that people won’t answer the emergency calls, so ignore that advice.

Matt Porter: [00:01:44] Well, this is the problem yet.

James Hazell: [00:01:46] Yeah. Okay. anyway, look, yesterday the budget and that map included a VAT scrap.

On eBooks and newspapers. It’s quite specific that,

Matt Porter: [00:02:00] yeah, this has been something that’s been going on for quite a while where, the, the, I mean there’s, it’s very contentious, the sale of eBooks and things like that, or eat publications. But the fact that we. don’t have to pay VAT. If we buy newspapers, books, journals, magazines, et cetera.

It’s VAT exempt, I believe, but eBooks and eat papers and all of those other things aren’t. This has been, now overturned or, or abolished so that from the 1st of December, we won’t have to pay VAT on our eBooks, magazines, et cetera, which is. A great thing. What it doesn’t cover, unfortunately, is audiobooks.

So you still pay VAT on audiobooks, the nib set. That was disappointing.

James Hazell: [00:02:40] Yeah. They, have, issued a statement to say that they find that very disappointing. Is this, do you think an oversight? Because I, I can’t imagine any politician is going to want to deliberately upset a group of people such as the IB.

Matt Porter: [00:02:55] It, it surely must be an oversight, I guess. and I, I, I listened to audio books all the time. I’m not disabled. However, I’m still having to pay a 20% premium on my audio book that I wouldn’t be if I bought the book from a store. So I think that maybe it needs to be looked at. we’ve got a bit of time before this comes into effect of the 1st of December, so hopefully it will be.

but yeah, I don’t see there’s any difference between, reading something online or reading in a book form. In fact, it’s probably. Less, environmentally damaging to read it online, hopefully.

James Hazell: [00:03:27] Yeah, absolutely. And that’s the basis behind this a VAT Carson environment thing, right? Yeah.

Matt Porter: [00:03:34] Hopefully. Yeah.

Gotcha. Alright.

James Hazell: [00:03:35] from

Matt Porter: [00:03:36] the bedroom

James Hazell: [00:03:37] to the bathroom and specifically hair straighteners and something new from Dyson.

Matt Porter: [00:03:43] Yes. Dyson, wanting to be the forefront of all things, domestic with their vacuum cleaners and all kinds of other things. Hand dryers, they’ve now, announced a cordless hair straightener, which apparently, requires less heat, so it’s less damaging on, on the person’s hair.

And it also. apparently the straighteners are 65 microns thick, which is the width of a human hair. And thus, can effectively, from what I understand, it almost straighten each individual follicule or each individual hair individually so you don’t have to keep going over and over and over and over the hair repeatedly and thus damaging it.

so it’s made from. Ah, goodness me. I did write it. And McEleney manganese, copper alloy. It’s slightly flexible as well, guys. Yeah,

James Hazell: [00:04:32] they, I had no idea how important has straighteners were until quite recently. Actually. I failed to

Matt Porter: [00:04:40] pack them

James Hazell: [00:04:41] and then I said, why or what do you need those for? Put them in the bag now won’t go anywhere without the hair.

Straighteners

Matt Porter: [00:04:48] wow. We live in a, we live in a world where looks and appearance are very important to people. And you know, some people, it helps them with their self confidence. So you can’t really argue against these things. If it makes people feel better, I’m sure they feel delighted to know that this is around 400 pounds less hair straightener but 400 pounds.

Yeah. But conveniently just to lessen that blow. It’s available apparently in dark nickel and fuchsia, or purple and black. So that should make people fill out all the holes. It better make one purchase

James Hazell: [00:05:20] a difference. Vic, would you spend 400 pounds on air? Straighteners.

Matt Porter: [00:05:24] Well, Joe.

James Hazell: [00:05:25] Oh my goodness. She’s thinking about an

Matt Porter: [00:05:28] eight.

James Hazell: [00:05:28] I do have a

Matt Porter: [00:05:30] inexpensive pair of straighteners

James Hazell: [00:05:31] and they’ve lasted me

Matt Porter: [00:05:32] years and they are brilliant.

James Hazell: [00:05:33] So I would consider that what? Consider yes hundred pounds on her splints.

Matt Porter: [00:05:39] Yes, but then I would on my own a flight if that much,

James Hazell: [00:05:42] here’s what’s going to be the problem though, Matt. People are going to be straightening their hair like on the bus and on the tube and things like that.

Only now if they are going to be cordless.

Matt Porter: [00:05:50] Maybe, who knows?

James Hazell: [00:05:52] if they do, I’ll start saving. I’ll start shaving. That’s what I’ll do.

Matt Porter: [00:05:55] Yeah. I may be going to have people having, instead of having the expensive headphones stolen on the tube, they’ll be having their hair straighteners stolen

James Hazell: [00:06:02] out. That’ll be the next crime wave.

Yeah,

Matt Porter: [00:06:04] that’s right. You will not, in no way, even in fact, because the  crime straight

James Hazell: [00:06:13] on a crime, which I’m finally in Microsoft have said they are part all they are responsible. for dismantling a large international network of zombie bots that were causing 9 million computers, problems accessing or facilitating crime.

And goodness knows what is this story man.

Matt Porter: [00:06:37] Yeah. This is a, this is something that’s been apparently eight years in the planning with 35 countries, partners in 35 countries around the world. Basically, there were these, automated systems. A botnet is an automated system that does generally unpleasant things.

In this case, it was finding and registering domain names automatically building websites and then uploading. Infected software onto those websites. The emails would then be sent out to people unsuspected saying, please connect to your X, Y, Zed, and reset your password. They would unwittingly click on those, which would send them to these.

Malicious websites, which would then do things such as steel, identity, gain, access to your bank accounts, and all of those kinds of unpleasant things as stinging passwords, sell you pharmaceuticals and all of that kind of unpleasant stuff. what Microsoft managed to do here was they used an algorithm, which I assume was some kind of artificial intelligence, which could.

In advance, predict the domain names that were going to be registered next and block them before in advance so that people actually couldn’t access them at all, which is really, really good use of technology where you’re blocking stuff before even becomes a problem. And apparently this has resulted in the dismantling of this, this zombie botnet.

So they’ve

James Hazell: [00:08:06] obviously had some success. I do worry though, and Microsoft, I’m by no means alone in this, but their product outlook will frequently put emails from my producer Vick into the spam folder. And you know, there’s, there is a, a balance to be drawn. If we’re too strict with all of this stuff, we end up missing stuff.

Matt Porter: [00:08:27] Yeah. Listen, I, I manage, email delivery for, for dozens and dozens and dozens of customers and many, many times I’m having to contact different providers and not pleading with them, but trying to sort of explain to them that this email shouldn’t be put into spam. That’s billions of emails are sent.

Spam emails are sent on a daily basis, and the fact that these systems are in place that can, you know, we would have, our mailbox is absolutely full with rubbish. Yeah. Well more rubbish to the normal. if the systems weren’t in place and he’s just, you know, you’re chasing your tail because you get these folks positives all the time.

And I get them, I get people, I’m fat. I had a company ring up and berating me saying, why did you delete our email when you asked? You told us we were interested, and I go look in my spam and it’s sitting in there.  absolutely. Yeah.

James Hazell: [00:09:21] That’s right. So

Matt Porter: [00:09:22] that is great news that they’re working against these things.

James Hazell: [00:09:24] The advice, never click on a link unless you are absolutely certain it is a genuinely, right.

Matt Porter: [00:09:30] Yeah. These malicious, you know, there’s popups that come up on websites, anything like that, saying, your computer’s infected, all of those things, please, please, please don’t ever click on any of those links. Don’t ring any of those numbers.

They are not there to help you. They’re there to steal your money and they don’t care a jot about what situation you might be in financially or in health. They just want your money. So don’t click on anything like that. Don’t ring any numbers. Just go to go to the, you know, go to your nearest supplier or something and speak to somebody you trust.

James Hazell: [00:10:02] Matt bought it of Matt bought at web design with the tech update for this week. Might have a great week. Thank you my friend.

Matt Porter: [00:10:08] You too. Thanks.

Gadget Man – Episode 160 – Apple Settles for $500m – SSL Issues – Boston Dynamics

This week’s Podcast / Vlog-cast comes from the second floor of Gadget Towers! In this episode, I talk to James Hazell at BBC Radio Suffolk about Apple’s class action settlement regarding the perceived slowing down of older iPhone models.

Running a website with an SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt? Check that you don’t need to request a new one as there has been issues with a large number over the past couple of days.

Boston Dynamics are at it again, this time they have their ever advance automation working in warehouses. Watch the videos after the Vlog to find out more.

Gadget Man – Episode 138 – Universal Music and the Importance of Backing up Your Data

Keeping backup copies of your data has never been so important and only this week it has been revealed that a fire at Universal Music has resulted in the loss of the original master tapes of some of the worlds most famous artists.

To compound the issue, the backups were kept in the same vaults and seemingly perished resulting in the total loss of the original recordings of the likes of Buddy Holly, Eminem, Sheryl Crow, Tupac and Tom Petty (to same but a few!).

With digital photography now the primary method of capturing images, it is now more important than ever that these sometimes precious images are also kept safe. Hardware failure or loss of devices is more common than ever before, so multiple backups are extremely important!

Hardware failure is a real and present issue
Hardware failure is a real and present issue

Today I spoke to James Hazell on BBC Radio Suffolk about backups and my experience of how to keep your data safe.

To find out more, listen into the stream above. Don’t forget to Like, Subscribe and Comment with your experiences of backup successes and failures.

See you in the next episode!!

Matt

Gadget Man – Episode 126 – Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were DOWN!!!

For the last 24 hours, there has been collective panic across the digital world! Was this panic caused by the continued disaster that is the Brexit negotiations and repeated House of Commons votes?

No, it was because the worlds largest Social Networks were failing all around us. Literally MILLIONS of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp users were panicking at the loss or at least interruption of their services.

There are many reasons for these failures, Facebook has denied DDoS attacks, but there is a myriad of other reasons, software corruption, network failure or hardware issues. There has even been the discussion of AI being involved in the problems!

** UPDATE – 14/03/19 21:59 ***

Facebook has now officially explained the reasons for the issues suffered over the past 24 hours as follows:-

Facebook Datacenter - Image Credit: Facebook Inc.
Facebook Datacenter – Image Credit: Facebook Inc.

Currently, we haven’t had an explanation and as soon as we do (see above), I will post it on this blog, until then, you can listen in to me talking to James Hazell at BBC Radio Suffolk about the problem.

Before I go, make sure you watch The Truman Show, in particular watch the very end, as the show draws to an end, everyone goes back to their normal lives. Maybe, we should too.

Don’t forget to Like, Subscribe and Share using the appropriate buttons.

Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3z USB Drive – Move over James Bond and Ethan Hunt, this data really can self destruct in 5 seconds!

Mission Impossible : Rogue Nation - USB Memory Stick deletion scene - image credit: Paramount Pictures
Mission Impossible : Rogue Nation – USB Memory Stick deletion scene – image credit: Paramount Pictures

If you watch Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, you will find a scene near the end of the movie where Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) hands a USB drive to her ‘handler’ Atlee (Simon McBurney), he then proceeds to surreptitiously erase the contents of the USB stick using an combination of distraction, slight of hand, a Nokia 930 smartphone and a copy of the Financial Times. Thus Faust is oblivious to the smoke and mirrors that has just taken place and continues on with her mission (should she choose to accept it!).

All of the above just seemed completely unnecessary and it was with this still in mind that I began testing and reviewing the Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3z, a storage device which not only hardware encrypts your data but also includes a self destruct option for those most inconvenient moments when your only option is to completely destroy the data!

The majority of disk encryption is at software level which means that you can access the information, but it is in effect ‘scrambled’ using a password or code. Try enough times using either brute force or dictionary attempts and you may just crack the key and thus give yourself access to the information.

Gadget Man Reviews the Aegis Secure Key 3z
Additional technology is simply not required to secure your data with the Aegis Secure Key 3z

The Secure Key 3z uses a hardware based encryption, namely 256-bit AES XTS. AES is an acronym for “Advanced Encryption Standard”, originally invented in 2001 as the “Rijndael Cypher” after it’s creators Daemen and Rijmen. AES is a widely used encryption standard able to be resilient against attacks. It is in fact so highly respected, it has become to ‘go to’ encryption method for security agencies, banks and governments to trust it with their highly sensitive information and state secrets. The 3z uses 256 bit encryption, which gives a hundred thousand billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion combinations of keys. With the further addition of the XTS cypher, it renders data stored on the device effectively impossible to access or decrypt.

Gadget Man Reviews the Aegis Secure Key 3zOut of the box, the Secure Key measures in at 81mm x 18.4mm x 9.5mm and weight 22 grams and has an internal rechargeable battery. Once unpacked, you will need to set up your Admin pin number straightaway as there is no pre-programmed key. This must be between 7 and 16 digits, you cannot set consecutive numbers or numbers which are all the same, this pin is users to set up the Secure Key allows to to manage other features, but more of that later.

As soon a you’ve added your admin user, you can then (if you like) add a standard user. You would use this feature if you were going to manage the Secure Key and were going to issue it to another person to use. Again, this is a fairly straightforward and covered in the ‘quick start guide’.

Gadget Man Reviews the Aegis Secure Key 3z
In its locked state, the Secure Key is is not recognised when plugged into a PC, Mac or mobile device

Whilst locked, the USB is effectively useless, plug it into a computer’s USB port and you will find the computer won’t even recognise the device as it is hardware disabled, in other words it’s switched off. This is indicated by a ‘red’ led illuminating on the device. To unlock the device, you press the green padlock key and then enter either the user or admin pin number and press the green padlock again. The red LED will switch off and the green LED starts flashing, this indicates that device is unlocked and ready for use, it is simply a matter of plugging it in to a spare USB port.

The Aegis Secure Key’s FIPS 140-2 validation covers 11 areas of its cryptographic security system, including physical security, cryptographic key management and design integrity.
The Aegis Secure Key’s FIPS 140-2 validation covers 11 areas of its cryptographic security system, including physical security, cryptographic key management and design integrity.

The key itself is USB3.1 but is backwardly compatible to v3, v2 and v1.1. This gives it a surprising turn of speed of  to 190MB/s read and 80MB/s write.

OK, so the key performs really nicely and had government grade encryption, what happens if I lose the key and it gets into the hands of an enemy?

Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3z
Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3z

First off, the key is encased in a IP58 Dust and Water Resistant tough metal shell with polymer coated wear resistant keys. Inside the electronic components are protected by a filling of hard epoxy resin, making a physical attempt to access the electronics virtually impossible without causing catastrophic damage.

PIN entry ‘brute force’ protection means that if you enter the code number incorrectly more than 3 times, the space between entry of subsequent pins slows down, if the incorrect entry of keys hits 10, the red light on the key will start flashing rapidly, at this point you have 10 more attempts left, if you fail to enter a correct pin within these last attempts, the key will consider itself as under attack and will delete it’s data as a precaution.

Apricorn Aegis Secure Key 3zShould you be left in the position of Faust and Atlee in Mission Impossible : Rogue Nation, there is in fact a better option for destroying the data on the card (or in fact having a third party do it for you). Yes, the Secure Key supports the entry of a self destruct key, a key which is designed to delete all data on the key and reformat the device, this key is then assumed as the standard key for the device and it will behave as a brand new drive.

It was quite fiddly to set up, but I was successful in testing the ‘Self Destruct’ mode, it worked as documented and didn’t give me any indication that it was taking place.

Apricorn have made a very solid product with the Secure Key 3z, it looks and feels the part, it worked very well and the security features were exceptional.

I loved the fact that a company is working SO hard to make the theft of data so difficult. In times of cross border data theft, the counter-measures employed by the Secure Key 3z are both impressive and comforting.

Matt Porter
The Gadget Man

Starting at £74 for the 8GB to £228 for 128GB models, the USB Storage Key is reassuringly priced for the corporate market.

[amazon_link asins=’B01N175FSF’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’uk=1′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’68297abd-fef9-11e7-82c3-85a91e804c5f’]

 

The Gadget Man – Episode 104 – Defeating Vehicle Security

Following a report by the RAC that vehicle thefts in the United Kingdom have risen by 30% in the last three years, I spoke to Mark Murphy on his BBC Radio Suffolk Breakfast show about how thieves are trying to defeat the security measures that car manufacturers are putting in place.

You can listen into the stream, but clicking the ‘play’ button above.

If you are interested in the technology that is regularly being used to defeat vehicle security, Andy Greenburg has written a very interesting article on Wired which can be found here.

Matt Porter
The Gadget Man

 

The Gadget Man – Episode 101 – WannaCry – WannaCrypt – Eternal Blue – What Happened and What to Do?

Following my previous post which can be found here, I talked this morning to Mark Murphy on BBC Radio Suffolk about WannaCry and the effect it has had on the NHS, what needs to be done to stop it happening again and what we can do to protect ourselves.

To read and in depth article on how to protect your computers from such attacks, click here

PLEASE ensure your computers have all their updates installed and make sure you have Anti-Virus software installed.

 

 

The Gadget Man – Episode 82.5 – Attempted Telephone Extortion by a ‘Help Desk’

The Gadget Man - Episode 82.5 - Attempted Telephone Extortion by a 'Help Desk'
The Gadget Man – Episode 82.5 – Attempted Telephone Extortion by a ‘Help Desk’

We’re now firmed established in the New Year now and 2016 is looking to be a memorable one for technology. What hasn’t changed however is computer crime. Criminals have now settled in to established methods of computer crime using either hacking or persuasion on the telephone or email.

Attached is a recording of a telephone conversation I had with a ‘cold caller’ who goes on to tell me that I possibly have issues with my computer and with their help, they are suggesting they can fix them.

I have had countless telephone calls very similar to this one, what is different is that I specifically request the caller to go home and think about who they are working for, when they immediately hang up on me.

To be clear, NO COMPANY is able to tie your telephone number to your computer in this context. It would be incredibly time consuming to go about such an act and would therefore be reserved for government or police forces to do. If anybody calls you out of the blue and suggests your computer is faulty, hang up and consider reporting the call to the police and telephone provider. Do NOT follow any instructions by the caller to run software of ANY kind, they are simply attempting to extort money from you which could run into thousands of pounds.

If you know ANYONE who might be vulnerable to this kind of scam then please send them the link to this page.

Happy New Year

Matt

Photo Credit : Christiaan Colen via Flickr

The Gadget Man – Episode 71.5 – The state of Internet security with Danvers Baillieu from Hide My Ass

Danvers Baillieu from Hide My Ass
Danvers Baillieu from Hide My Ass

We’re half way through Cyber Security Month and you can’t open a paper or turn on the TV without hearing about the latest high profile data leak. Security Issues are certainly something that we have covered in the past, so today I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Danvers Baillieu, Chief Operating Officer of Hide My Ass!

Hide My Ass! or HMA are one of the leading firms of companies providing secure VPN connections to the internet and it was great to speak to Danvers to hear his view on current Internet security issues that are seemingly constantly in the news.

In the interview we covered internet security from both a company and personal point of view, how the governments should or shouldn’t involve themselves and what we should be looking out for in the future.

Listen in the stream and let me know what you think of the topics covered.

Thanks to Danvers for taking time out of his day and for Jocelyn from Cow PR for setting up the interview.