Ask Leo! #511 – Excel 2003 as a Security Threat, Tracing a IP Address, Network Activity, the (yawn) XPocalypse, and more…


Finding the Owner of an IP Address

How do I figure out who owns an IP address?

At the risk of coming off as rude: you don't. There's a certain amount of information you can get, and I'll show you shortly, but the level of detail most people want is simply not something that you can get on your own.

Over the years, I've received this question repeatedly and for various reasons. Most commonly, it's from someone who's being harassed online, and they believe that they have the IP address of the person responsible and now want to track them down.

It's critically important that you realize that you will not, on your own, be able to get the information you want. The name, location, phone number, email address or any other specific information are simply not available to just any given IP address. Not only can an IP address change or be shared among many computers (and hence people), but the information that you're seeking is considered private and is protected by the ISP who owns that IP address.

To get that information, you'll need a legal reason to require it and that typically means a court order of some sort.

However, let's look at what you can determine from an IP address on your own and a few tools that will help you determine at least the ISP that owns it.

Continue Reading: Finding the Owner of an IP Address

How to monitor network activity and speed up your machine's connection

Leo, my wife and I share a laptop, using Windows and connected to a satellite. The ISP limits our bandwidth. Recently, we received a message that we were using too much: about 150 MB during one recent hour. We do not run any videos, such as YouTube. We just browse some and use email.

Leo, my download speed is abysmal. I should be getting more than enough speed from my internet connection to watch videos non-stop, and yet stop and start and stop and start is exactly what they do. I suspect something else is downloading or something, but I can't figure out what.

Is there any program which could monitor Internet activity and let me know what's running?

Yes, there is.

Both of these problems are quite common, and it's quite frustrating when they arise. With the amount of information now being stored and/or delivered over the internet, our connections are being stressed more than ever.

The technique I'll describe uses a free tool called Process Monitor. I suspect it'll be perfect for this problem. While it's a little geeky, this extremely powerful tool can be used to diagnose many issues, and runs in all versions of Windows from XP to the most recent.

I'll walk you through how to set it up for this scenario.

Continue Reading: How to monitor network activity and speed up your machine's connection

Is Excel 2003 a Security Threat?

If I am using appropriate anti-malware software how can using Excel 2003 be a threat? I have heard that opening that program can allow threats to come into the computer if you are connected to the internet since support is over for MS Office 2003. Yet, it would seem to me that good anti-malware tools would catch and remove any threats ….. if indeed there are any.

Why do I ask? It is because I love Excel 2003. There are things I love about Excel 2003 and especially when building initial spreadsheets, I would prefer to use that version.

Just wondering if the threats are real and wondering if it really hurts to have MS Office 2003 installed on the computer and if it really hurts anything to use Excel 2003.

There are two very important issues raised by your question:

  1. Is Microsoft Excel 2003, or any Office 2003 application, a security risk simply because support for it has ended?
  2. Wouldn't anti-malware tools catch anything anyway?

The answers might surprise you.

Continue Reading: Is Excel 2003 a Security Threat?


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Glossary Term


DLL is an acronym for dynamic link library.

A library, in computer terms, is a collection of software that can be re-used by other software. An example might be a small bit of software that converts text from upper to lower case. By providing that in library form then any program that wishes to can use that software, rather than having to re-invent and provide its own solution. (Practical examples are significantly more complex than simple text case conversion.)

Dynamic linking refers to the fact that the needs of the program are resolved at the time it is run, and potentially only when actually needed. The alternative is to bundle the shared library statically which typically implies that the program must include and load the library when it's run. Dynamic libraries can be loaded when, and possibly only if, they are actually needed.

DLLs typically perform two important functions in Windows: they serve as a way to organize software into logical components, and they allow programs to re-use, rather than re-invent, large amounts of functionality. Windows itself is made up primarily of DLLs that are used not only by Windows itself, but by all the programs running within it.

Glossary Terms are featured selections from The Ask Leo! Glossary.
Have a term you'd like defined? Submit it here.

Featured Comments

How do I backup my computer?

bill writes:

How long would it take you to back up a terrabyte of data on CDs and dvds?

Leo writes:

A very long time, which is one reason I strongly recommend against CDs and DVDs as backup destinations these days.

Tom R. writes:

Not to mention the overhead of having a 20 feet tall stack of DVDs when you were finally finished.

KAHSR writes:

Leo has been warning us for years to Back Up, Back Up, and Back Up. About a year ago I finally decided I really didn't trust Win 7's BU/Image program and purchased Macrium Reflect and do full Image BUs daily and Incrementally BU my Docs and other internal Drive.

Yesterday proved Leo's point. Saturday my machine did a 3 patch update when logging off. When I got up Sunday morning it was still running! I tried everything but ended up doing a Hard Shutdown. WRONG ANSWER! Doing so messed up so many things it was a nightmare. It even somehow wiped clean my other internal HDD! How, why? I still don't know maybe Leo can explain it?

Anyway by yesterday when I so how badly my machine really was I used MR to do a complete Image Restore and went to bed. I got up in the AM and my Log On Screen was there waiting for me. I signed on and all was right with the world again. Backing up in different ways. Windows 0 MR 1+! Thanks Leo for being so insistent about using more than one BU option and recommending Macrium Reflect.


Get Better, Faster Answers by Reading What's in Front of You

Mike writes:

Oh this is so true. My sister very often rings for help and I will say ... what does it say on the screen, and invariably its telling her how to fix her problem. I think it's because some people think they are not qualified enough to fix IT problems and the moment they see an error message they panic and miss the obvious. But I must confess she has had a computer 20 years.

Is a periodic password change a good thing?

Randy Cassingham writes:

I've "always" thought that requiring periodic password changes was silly. Glad you came around to my way of thinking. :-)

As long as there's no likelihood of a breech, I've left my passwords alone. I HATE systems that require a change every X period, as if that actually increases security. If they're "concerned" about security (as opposed to just doing security theater), then that's not the way to increase it. They can require more info (like 2nd factor, or "security questions") if your IP address is different from the last login, for instance.

But the real bottom line is, what would be better than passwords, and when will they switch to it?

Leo's Blog

Hey! The World Didn't End!

As I was writing this week's article about whether or not unsupported software presents a security risk, something dawned on me.

Windows XP's end-of-support date came and went. (It was back in April).

And nothing happened.

Imagine that!

Continue Reading: Hey! The World Didn't End!

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Leo's Books

Saved! - Backing Up with Macrium Reflect Saved! - Backing Up with Windows 7 Backup Saved! - Backing Up with Windows 8 Backup
The Ask Leo! Guide to Routine Maintenance Backing Up 101 Maintaining Windows XP - A Practical Guide


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