What about all this talk about Spying and Credit Card Hacks????

By John Schroeder June 2014
Snowden, NSA, PRISM, Target, Neiman Marcus…

Everywhere we look our “privacy” is being compromised.

However, the crucial question is how much privacy do we really have?

Now granted, when you cough up a credit/debit card for a POS sale at any store, you have done nothing to invite having that data compromised. You’re simply trying to transact a transaction so the retailer can be paid and you can pay the bill. It’s business as usual. It’s all very fair straight forward. Moreover, you never clicked on an “agreement” which said your data might not be secure and could be stolen by third parties.

That said, these credit card information breeches are inexcusable. They should never have happened. It’s simply a total breech of your trust.

And, you are quite justified in asking why such data was ever stored in the first place.

Eventually, there will be a lot of excuses made about getting marketing data so they can send you custom advertisements or it will slow things down at the check stands (not that people applying for a store credit card in the checkout line doesn’t already slow things down…and heaven forbid, they’d open more check stands)…

You get the idea.

Make no mistake the problem is a reluctance to spend money on security.

The scapegoating will be high (a high level person will be fired or will resign – – the CEO of Target has already resigned) but ultimately it will never reach the folks who wanted to have that data in the first place or question their motivation much less their successes in having such data. Those people will never be blamed or called to really account for their successfulness in having such data.

Now, we get to talking about those places where you have “specifically waived” your privacy rights.

Most Internet and/or Email, Service Providers, DO require you to “click to agree” to their various agreements. To be sure, they will provide you with a “privacy policy” statement which is subject to change (without notice) and of course, we all don’t bother to read it and simply click on the agreement.

The bottom line is that you could be waiving whatever privacy you might have.

And, if that’s the case, why should you complain?

However, sometimes when you read those agreements you might be giving up more than you ever could have intended much less imaged. Sadly some of these “agreements” have included statements that the CONTENT of your data is transferred to them. That would mean if you wrote a novel using one of their document applications, you may have granted them ownership of the content of your documents and therefore ownership your novel.

Now, let’s turn our attention to phone calls records.

The people that provide our phone service are recording our call to destinations for billing purposes. This has been going on since phones were invented. And that means this data exists whether we like it or not. And, therefore, it can be discovered or otherwise revealed.

Bottom line is that you make a phone call, information about that call is going to be recorded and at some point that information might be revealed. Now, that’s the easy side of things. It’s simply record-keeping by your provider and it’s subject to being divulged, hacked, or discovered by others.

However, the unanswered question is whether anyone is “listening” on the broadcasting CONTENT of our cell phone calls and whether that information can be intercepted and recorded.

This IS the REAL difficult question.

Accusation have been leveled at US surveillance in Europe and accusing them of intercepting business messages (in the air) and then turning that information over to US competitors.


I guess we need to stay tuned for the determination/revelation that surveillance technology exists that can “sniff data out of the air” while it’s in transit; meaning that your conversations could be “recorded” simply because they are “in the air.” And of course, the same could be said of your email or banking transactions.

My strong guess is that such technology exists and is probably being used.

And, there’s a larger question about whether such transmissions “in the air” are privacy protected?

I do realize that anyone intercepting such calls (or data transmissions) of mine would be a complete waste of time and anyone listening or intercepting such calls or transmissions would be totally bored listening to me talk about my trip to Alaska much less enjoying any fuzzy and out of focus pictures I might send to a loved one so they’d appreciate and be jealous of my boring time.

In other words … YAWN to any spy who is spying on me.

Nevertheless, when the Patriot Act was first proposed (and that Act is the source of all the current controversy), I flashed back on the Church Hearings from the 1970’s. These were the post-Watergate revelations about abuses by the US Intelligence agencies. These agencies, under the guise of “looking for subversives,” simply did anything they wanted. And the scope of their snooping and the extremes of some of their plans were frightening and ultimately viewed as historically unnecessary.

I figured the same thing about the Patriot Act; it was simply a license to snoop and snoopy people would take advantage of it and run it to extremes.

That means I’m not surprised about any excess taking place.

Although we learned a lot from the Church Hearings, there was a glaring lack of accountability after the fact. Nobody was ever punished.

I had hoped that the Patriot Act would have at least addressed accountability in advance but it didn’t. That means that as we uncover excess after excess; no “heads are going to roll.”

Still, it would have been very simple: “Snoop outside the law and YOU go to jail.”

So what are we going to do? Go back to “land lines” which still (BTW) also transmit our phone conversations “through the air?”

Are we going to go back to paying bills by check rather than online?

Are we going to go back to making banks physically handle every check rather than let merchants scan, send, and destroy our checks?

Are we going to go back to the “green stuff” with no ATM machines?

Probably not.

We’ve all become too addicted to the technology which makes everyone’s life easier and, at least to listen to the supporters of that technology, do reduce costs.

However, we have to move along with “eyes wide open.” This means we recognize our use of technology is risky. We recognize a herd mentality to realize that there is safety in numbers. We recognize that we will deal with compromises as they occur and/or happen.

In short, we continue to do business as usual.

End of Life for Xp

By John Schroeder June 2014.

Microsoft has discontinued support for its Xp Operating System.

What this means:

  1. There will be no more updates being sent down to patch the Operating System.
  2. Microsoft will not provide phone or Internet support for the Operating System.
  3. As Xp shrinks in an install base, third party support and products will also vanish. (Third party could include programs such as iTunes, Adobe products like the Adobe Reader and Flash Player, and various third party anti-virus software).
  4. The danger will be in an unknown exploit emerging that will not be fixed or patched.

What this doesn’t mean:

  1. Support and downloads for other Microsoft products will continue. This does include Internet Explorer 8 and various Microsoft Office Products—based on their own respective end of life dates, Microsoft Security Essentials with promises of definition file updates until mid-2015 although several of our customers are experiencing this program not functioning any longer.
  2. Your computer will continue to operate but various products and applications to help keep you operating will decline.

What to do:

  1. Plan a migration to a new system. In all likelihood, your computer is too old to be upgraded to a new Operating System in which case you’re going to need to get a new computer with a new Operating System and transfer your data and application needs.

About those new Operating Systems on your new computer:

  1. The newest marketed Operating System is Windows 8.x
  2. There are third party compatibility problems with Windows 8.x. These should be reviewed.
    a. For Example: Windows 8.x comes with IE Explorer 11 which cannot be rolled back to an earlier version and not all websites are ready to work with Explorer 11.
    i. Check with your web-based application support group.
    b. For Example: Third party applications will not run properly with Windows 8.x.
    i. Quickbooks 2013 and higher seems to have no problem Windows 8x. but earlier versions have been noted to have anywhere from minor problems to major problems. Plan to upgrade your Quickbooks if you move to Windows 8.x.
  3. Where you worry about compatibility problems, consider buying a Windows 7 computer which currently involves making a special order although a few have been spotted in the open, off the shelf market.

Should You Shut Down Your Computer at Night?

Should you shut your PC or Mac down every night? If your computer does absolutely nothing while you sleep (downloading, converting, backing up, etc), then there really is no reason to keep it on. Many people say turning it off and on will damage your computer, but this is a myth. There is no harm in turning your computer on and off unless you do it 10 times a day.

Shutting down a computer will increase the life of the computer because your components will get less wear and tear. When the computer is on, everything is getting power and the temperature of the memory chips, graphics card, and other parts are higher than if the computer were off. Also, if your computer has a traditional spinning hard drive, shutting down will reduce the total overall spinning of the drive and extend its life. However, since it takes some time for a drive to get up to normal spinning speed, forcing it to stop and then start again and again can also cause more wear on the drive. If you turn off your computer once a day or a few times in a week, you’ll be just fine. However, if you turn it on and off several times a day, it could cause your hard drive’s life to be shortened instead of extended. For an SSD (solid state drive), this is not as much of an issue. You can turn off and on as much as you like.

Shutting down and rebooting either every day or once or twice a week can also help reset the operating system and make it run smoother. Windows and Mac OS X both start to have issues after a few days either with memory or something else and restarting always helps improve the responsiveness of the system.

5 Smartphone Security Tips

Because it’s not like a traditional hard drive where you store all your documents, many people forget about protecting their smartphones from hackers. Smartphone security is gaining traction and there are quite a few things you can do to help prevent your smartphone from being hacked. Many of the same measures you take to protect your computer can be used to protect your smartphone too.

1. Use Passcodes Everywhere

Whether you have an Android phone or an iPhone, you can prevent access to your device by adding a passcode or a lock pattern on Android. This simple security measure can prevent sensitive information from being viewed by others. This is especially important if you have apps installed where personal data is stored.

2. Protect Your iCloud & Google Account

Your Apple ID controls access to every single Apple service that currently exists from iTunes to iCloud to FaceTime to iMessage. If someone can access your Apple ID, they can wreak havoc on your Apple life including erasing your iPhone, iPad and computer remotely. It’s pretty much the same issue with Google. You should enable 2-step verification on both of these accounts.

3. Be Careful With the Apps You Install

This is especially important on Android devices. Google recently removed 50,000 apps that were suspected of being malware. There won’t be any shortage of apps that contain malware, viruses or other sneaky software to steal your data or damage your phone. The Apple app store also has this problem, but to a much lesser extent. Apple vets each app before it gets listed in the store and routinely goes about removing apps from the store that are deemed to be violating store policies.

4. Use an App Instead of the Browser

If you’re doing banking on your phone or stock trading or anything else that passes sensitive information between your phone and the Internet, it’s best to use an official app for that site or company rather than opening using the browser on your phone.

5. Keep Your Data Backed Up

It’s not only a good idea to keep your smartphone backed up in case you drop it in the toilet, but also if it gets stolen and you have to remotely wipe it clean. Apple users can install the Find My iPhone app, which will let you remotely lock a phone and remotely wipe it if you know it’s been stolen.