Ask Leo! #508 – BadUSB, Random Crashes, Online Harassment and the Quickest Way to Lose Your Account Forever


Is USB safe?

My dad just sent a link about a USB security flaw. I searched via google and there are other sites talking about this also, but perhaps just feeding off each other. Would you address this so we know what we need to do or not do?

As I understand this problem is actually a pretty serious issue – or at least it could become one.

The real problem is that there's no work-around other than not using USB for one of the things that it was intended to be used for: easy portability between machines.

Right now I'm honestly not quite certain how concerned we need to be, but I'm not panicking.

Continue Reading: Is USB safe?

Why does my computer crash at random times?

My PC is not quite a year old yet but it recently started to crash, even while just running Word. Antivirus (both) check everything in order. What could possibly be the matter here?

A "crash", for the purposes of this discussion, includes things like random blue screens, random reboots, freezing up and just randomly shutting down or going to a completely black screen without warning.

I actually have several articles on crashing randomly, but because this is such a common scenario I want to update my approach a little.

In particular, I find one cause to be the most common.

I'll look at that, and then review what else might be going on.

Continue Reading: Why does my computer crash at random times?

What do I do if I'm being harassed, bullied or stalked online?

Normally, this is where I'd quote the original question.

This topic appears in so many different guises and in so many different ways that quoting a single question would represent only a slice of a much larger issue.

Call it what you will, cyber-bullying or online harassment is a frighteningly common occurrence. Those most at risk appear to be children and individuals who've been in abusive domestic relationships.

The questions I get most often are:

  • Isn't it illegal?
  • How do I find out who's responsible?
  • How do I make them stop?
  • How can I get back at them?

I'll tackle each one of those, and a couple more.

Continue Reading: What do I do if I'm being harassed, bullied or stalked online?


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Glossary Term


Named after the Trojan horse of Greek mythology, a trojan is a program that claims to be one thing but is, in fact, another. A trojan horse is not a virus per se, but it may carry them. For example, many people consider Kazaa, the music sharing software, to be a trojan horse because it often carries with it a bunch of spyware. There are trojans that claim to be patches for a problem, often arriving in email, that are in fact spyware and virus installers.

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Featured Comments

Are we at risk of losing our digital information over time?

Robert Rosen writes:

Leo, the Library of Congress and National Archives face this problem in spades. For example, when a new president comes in, all the PC disks in the White House are yanked and sent to the Archives. How will they be read 100 years from now? They are actively researching this problem.

Lewis Hilleary writes:

I work on audio recorders and have had some bad things happen with DVD-Ram disks besides the drives being outdated the media becomes unreadable and have had to spend over $1500.00 to have a disk recovered. I am recomending to my Customers to convert everything to hard drives

How do I prevent Hotmail from locking me out when I travel overseas?

Kim writes:

Just home from France where my email was blocked... Didn't even know why it wasn't working until I got back because obviously I couldn't access the email telling me why it had been blocked and how to unlock. Seriously Microsoft, emailing someone to tell them their email is blocked? Surely you have more sense than that?

A One Step Way to Lose Your Account ... Forever

Mark Jacobs writes:

There's one way to lose your account even if you do those things. If a hacker changes all of this recovery information. Some services protect against this by using 2 step verification and not changing your password or alternate address or phone numbers until you've entered the code they send you.

One mechanism I've thought of which I think would work would be for the web sites to have an "I believe my account was hacked, please send recovery information to a previous email address or phone number" link to be able to recover the account even if hackers have changed the recovery information.

Facebook has a good mechanism for protection against account loss info by allowing you to designate friends who can vouch for you. I highly recommend people to enable that feature.

There's also one thing to watch out for in providing an alternate email account. If you plan to travel abroad, make sure your alternate email addresses don't require 2 step verification if you try to access your account from abroad. I have an account with as a last resort for that purpose. They are a little known provider and don't implement 2 step authentication.

Leo's Blog

A One Step Way to Lose Your Account ... Forever

Not a day goes by that I don't hear from someone who's in the middle of some kind of account recovery process that isn't working.

And, while I try to help out to the degree that I can – usually with instructions that are often no more than the service provider's instructions translated into clearer English – it's also not at all uncommon for those accounts to never be recovered.


And, to be super blunt about it, most of the time it's the account owner's own fault.

Continue Reading: A One Step Way to Lose Your Account ... Forever

Additional Comments

And a Happy Anniversary to ... Ask Leo!.

It was eleven years ago on Sunday that the first Ask Leo! answer was published. Hard to believe.

As I do each year, I've published a few of the oddball questions that have come in over the last year. You'll find it as a post over on my personal blog: Lucky Eleven.

Leo A. Notenboom

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