Security and Privacy

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

Is it necessary to have a VPN?

Tom from St Louis, MO

Episode 1306

Tom is wondering if it's necessary for him to have a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Leo says if he uses Wi-Fi in public, or he uses networks while traveling, he's somewhat vulnerable because he's on a public network that bad guys can get into. They can't necessarily spy on him, but they could trick him by putting up fake access points. A VPN sets up a connection between his computer on a public access network and a computer somewhere else run by a trusted party. All the data transferred over a VPN is encrypted so it isn't visible by anyone else on that network.

Why is my brand new computer slowing down to a crawl?

Hal from Thousand Oaks, CA

Episode 1305

Hal bought a new HP and recently it's been running very slow. Leo says that if Hal is running third party security software, then it's likely that his antivirus is causing the slow down. Leo advises getting rid of it. Windows' own Microsoft Defender security software is good enough. He'll also find that he may have to download their uninstaller to do it.

Putin Signs New Law in Russia That Increases Surveillance of Citizens

Episode 1303

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed anti-terrorism legislation, including increased electronic surveillance of Russian citizens. This effectively removes all privacy as telephone companies and internet providers will save and store private communications of its customers and make it available to the government upon request. Phone calls, text messages, and emails will be kept for 6 months, and all metadata will be kept for up to 3 years. This also will outlaw encryption.

How can I protect a PDF file?

Episode 1300

Eric from Los Angeles, CA
Adobe Acrobat icon

Eric wants to be able to lock a PDF file so that nobody can modify it. Leo says that every PDF creator, including Adobe Acrobat, can protect it so it can't be modified. He can also also set the PDF so that the document cannot be forwarded to anyone else. If he trusts the person that he's sending it to, he can encrypt the PDF so it requires a password to open it. But understand that if they can open it, they can make an image of it and share it outside of that. So he'll need to trust the person he sends it to.

Apple Announces iOS 10 and 'Differential Privacy' at WWDC

Episode 1297

Apple had its WorldWide Developers Conference this week in San Francisco, and announced iOS 10, watchOS 3, and macOS Sierra. Among those announcements was the new Music app which has been slightly redesigned and a new iMessages app with many new features.

Apple also announced "Differential Privacy," which aims to gather data from users without sacrificing the privacy of each individual user. Apple also stated that it would be bringing more "deep learning" to iOS, but that it would only use data on the local device and not from the cloud.

Is there a third party option to Dell's Click to Fix?

Brett from Woodbridge, NJ

Episode 1296

Brett has a Dell computer and wants to know if there's an open source program that can speed up his computer like Dell does with Click to Fix? Leo says that Dell doesn't share their secrets and Leo doesn't think that it's safe to use a third party open source option for this. Dell's Click to Fix knows its own hardware and as such, can do a targeted fix. Open source stuff can't do that and can be overly aggressive and cause more problems than it fixes.

How can I make sure open source software is safe?

Dave from Concord, CA

Episode 1296

Tony wants to know how to check to be sure the ISO of open source software is legit. Leo says that an ISO is found to be legit by signing. A hash has to be generated in order to provide proof of a legitimate ISO. If the ISO has changed, then the hash would be modified. There's also a signing key, which is based on GPG encryption. It has to be authenticated by the developers of the software.

Would Apple prompt me to change my Apple ID Password?

Dan from Fresno, CA

Episode 1295

Dan was using his iPhone 5s and he got a message that someone is trying to sign into a device using his Apple ID. Apple says that they don't send out messages like that. Leo says that isn't really accurate as he's gotten those as well. Any time you sign into a new device, you get that message. If it comes with a suggestion to change the password, however, then that could be a ploy to steal his Apple ID from a browser. He should never do that.