Security and Privacy

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

Does my Mac have ransomware?

MacBook Pro

Episode 1505

Justin from San Diego, CA

Justin's mother-in-law has a MacBook Pro that has ransomware on it. She just gets a blue screen. Leo says that Macs don't get blue screens, they kernel panic. It's likely an exploit in Javascript that is locking up her cursor to make her think the computer is frozen. She can press ALT + TAB to get out of the browser and she'll probably be fine. Then, she should turn off Javascript. Leo says it will not happen after that.

Is my computer safe?

Virus image on monitor

Episode 1501

John from Temecula, CA

John's friend got bit by the popup that said she had a virus and then when she called "Microsoft support" they wanted $300 to fix it. Leo says it's a phishing scam. And once you give someone access to your computer, not only will they not fix anything, but they make the infection even worse by installing other malware. The only way forward now is to backup the data, format the hard drive, and then reinstall Windows.

How safe is the password protection on my computer?

Windows 10

Episode 1501

Robert from Southern California

Robert is concerned with password security. How secure is his Windows login? Does it have to be really crazy difficult? Leo says that it's safe enough for his own use. Networks are protected by the router, which has a separate password. The more unique, the better. But his Windows password is fine unless someone gets physical access to the computer. Leo prefers to use a password manager, though. It's secure everywhere. What about a browser password vault? Leo says that all browsers now use encryption, so they're safe. But he should have 2 factor authentication setup just in case.

We Now Know How the FBI Cracked the iPhone

Apple iPhone X

Episode 1499

Researchers have figured out that if you connect your iPhone to a computer, you can keep doing a brute force password attack to unlock it and that it should take about a day to open it. Leo says that this is with a four digit passcode, and a six digit passcode is a lot harder to crack.

The Supreme Court has also ruled that law enforcement cannot get cell phone location data without a warrant. The decision said that day to day movement data on a mobile device provides an intimate look at someone's activities, even to the point of violating privacy without a warrant.

Do I need antivirus software?

Windows Defender

Episode 1498

Al from Vista, CA

Al's antivirus software is up for renewal. Does he really have to pay for another year? Leo says no. Windows has its own antivirus called Windows Defender, and it's free. It does a really good job. There's also a possibility that third party antivirus software could make him more vulnerable to hackers, not less. Al will need to download their standalone uninstaller to get rid of that third party app. Then enable Windows Defender and keep it up to date. But he should remember, no antivirus can protect him from himself.

Am I safe from the VPN Filter hack?

Asus AC3200 Router

Episode 1497

Neil from Phoenix, AZ

Neil is worried that the VPN Filter hack will affect his Asus router because his model isn't protected. Should he be worried? Leo says first thing he can do is update his firmware. Asus keeps their firmware up to date regularly and uses open source DD-WRT firmware. So if there isn't one, he can patch it himself. But Asus routers are great because they update them constantly. Neil should reload the most current firmware, even if he has already updated it. That will wipe out any additional problems.

How can I be secure on public Wi-Fi?

Tiny Hardware Firewall

Episode 1496

Jose from Ontario, CA

Jose is concerned about being snooped on when using public Wi-Fi. What can he do to protect himself? Leo says the first thing to do is turn on hard drive encryption. That will keep his data safe should his laptop get stolen. But for just being on a public Wi-Fi, VPNs can be beneficial. VPN stands for "Virtual Private Network," and all of the traffic that goes through it is encrypted. It's like a secure tunnel through the internet. Most web pages are encrypted now, though, so no one could see his activity on those sites anyway.

Why can't I see images in Outlook?

Outlook Email

Episode 1495

Ron from Charlotte, NC

Ron has messed up his Outlook. Now he can't see any images in the body of the email, and it won't download any graphics. Leo says that's a good thing! Outlook disables downloading jpgs by default because they can be hacked to include malware. That's called HTML email and it's a bad idea. So he'd have to opt-in to enable it, but Leo wouldn't. Plain text emails are always best. But if he really wants to, he can go into the Trust Center and change the settings.