security and privacy

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.

Does Antivirus Software keep PCs safe?

Episode 1389

Alan from Los Angeles, CA
Antivirus symbol

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.

Has my computer been hacked?

Episode 1385

Melinda from Sherman Oaks, CA
Hacker

Melinda says that after she turns on her computer and goes into her browser, it takes a really long time to get to Gmail, and it goes to her eBay and other accounts. She wonders if she got hacked. Leo says perhaps. That kind of behavior points to being hacked. Maybe someone has gotten physical access to the computer. Did she make an enemy?

Is it safe to sign tax forms over email?

Larry from Petaluma, CA

Episode 1373

Larry has been asked to submit his tax returns electronically, which has a clickable link to electronically sign. He's hesitant, especially since a similar attempt was a phishing scam a few years back. Leo says that Right Signature, Docu Sign, and others give you a secure link to digitally sign. The problem is, how do they verify it's him that clicks on the link and digitally signs? They should be requiring a PIN code, or second factor authentication.

Police Department Gets Search Warrant for Entire Community's Google Searches

Episode 1372

Google logo

The police department in Edina, MN has secured the right to look at people's Google Search history to look for information about a fraud case they were investigating. The legal brief is to cover anyone who searched for the name of the suspect and case, and it could be the entire community.

Leo says it's crazy and that Google should fight this tooth and nail. It's classic government overreach. Leo says he doesn't mind Google's algorithm putting custom ads on his search results, but for a government to ask who searched for something and to get a list is frightening.

Vault 7 Showing How CIA Hacks for Spying

Episode 1370

CIA

Wikileaks has announced Vault 7, a massive collection of documents that show how the CIA uses malware and other hacking techniques to spy online. Some of the techniques includes using smartTVs as a spying device since they use cameras and microphones built into the TVs. Samsung warned of this in their terms of service for their TVs last year. But Leo says that the CIA doesn't really have a switch to turn on all TVs, and if they did, the data they'd receive would be so massive and 99.9% of it would be useless. It could be used for targeted eavesdropping, though.

How can I get out of ransomeware?

Scott from Los Angeles, CA

Episode 1368

Scott got bit by ransomware on all his work computers. Since the data is backed up, the course of action is to wipe the drives, reinstall the OS, and restore from the backup. Always keep yourself backed up and updated to prevent things like this from happening.

Here's what you can do to protect yourself:

1. Keep all software and OS updated on your machine.
2. Run as a limited user. NEVER an Admin.
3. Do not click on links from strangers. Do not accept unexpected attachments.

Can the Fix Me Stick remove viruses?

Jimmy from Los Angeles, CA

Episode 1368

Jimmy wants to know if the Fix Me Stick can remove viruses from his computer. Leo says don't get since it won't provide you with anything additional that you can already download from the internet. The most important thing to look for in antivirus software is the frequency of updates. You can also make your own "fix me stick". Antivirus software gives you a false sense of security. Windows existing security software is adequate and updated often. It's best to practice safe computing. Don't click on links and don't take candy from strangers. Be smart online.

How can I protect a Windows XP computer?

Bernie from Claremont, CA

Episode 1368

Bernie has a laptop running Windows XP and use it to run software needed for his shop. He is worried because Microsoft has stopped supporting Windows XP and its respecting software. Leo says that XP isn't being updated either and if you have to be online, not having Windows Defender and Security Essentials is the least of your problems. There currently no new malware for Windows XP but the safest course of action would be to stay off line on that machine completely. The best option is to run Windows XP in Virtual Machine on a more recent laptop running newer versions of Windows.