Ask Leo! #540 – Safety Versus the News, Drivers, Drivers, Network Activity and more…

Leo's Blog

How Can It Be Safe to Give My Information To Anyone?

With all the recent data breaches out there, how safe is it to give my information to all the various services that seem to need it? When it comes to the government I figure I am not giving them any information it doesn't already have. But when it comes to school applications, jobs, banks and so many others, they ask for social security numbers, birthdates, taxes, and account information for everyone in the household! And of course all of this presumably ends up in "the cloud" and transmitted over the internet. Some talk about encryption, but then in their terms of service they'll say something like "we accept no responsibility for the security of information transmitted over the internet." How can that work, since the internet is the only way to get the information in?! I mean, really, how can it be safe to share any data online at all?

I know that the news has many people left wondering that as well. It's hard not to, when it seems like every other day there's a report of some new compromise somewhere.

As you might expect, I have a slightly different perspective.

1) I don't believe things are as dire as they seem.

2) I don't believe avoiding the internet will help.

Continue Reading: How Can It Be Safe to Give My Information To Anyone?


How, and when, should I update drivers?

I have been reading about the importance of updating, if required, the various device drivers within in a system. As I understand it, I can update drivers by identifying the driver that may require updating and then, by accessing the manufacturers web site, and determining if there are any updates. If so, I believe that the update can be downloaded. Does the download overwrite the existing data within the device in question? I must confess to being a bit nervous regarding this approach and because of this I have looked at driver update services.

Drivers are another one of those "computer things" that are just so much confusing magic to the average computer user.

I'll touch a little on what they are, and then my philosophy about when and how to update them.

Continue Reading: How, and when, should I update drivers?

How do I monitor network activity on my Windows machine?

When my laptop is turned on, it starts downloading from the Internet – BUT – nothing is supposed to be downloading! How do I figure out what's happening?

My normal response for this type of problem is to turn to Process Monitor, a free SysInternals utility from Microsoft. The problem is that it's a pretty geeky tool, and requires a little patience and understanding to get useful results.

Of late, I've found myself firing up a completely different utility included in Windows 7 and 8 to monitor network activity. It's a utility that quickly displays a lot of information about what's going on. It actually can monitor several areas of your computer's activity, but I'll focus here on networking.

Continue Reading: How do I monitor network activity on my Windows machine?

How do I force Windows to reinstall a driver?

My machine is an emachines T2792 and has six USB ports. No matter which port I plug into or what type of hardware that I try to use, my computer tells me that the "hardware has malfunctioned" or "hardware not recognized". My OS is XP-Home edition. I've tried no fewer than a half-dozen driver repair and PC rejuvenators – all to no avail. What do you think is the most likely culprit?

My knee-jerk reaction is to say that the half-dozen driver repair and PC rejuvenators are at fault. Many are no better than snake oil; they either add problems where there previously had been none, or make existing problems worse. I recommend avoiding them completely.

However, there was a problem before you tried them, so they can't be completely at fault.

We do need to seriously consider that the hardware here has a problem, and no amount of driver fiddling is going to fix that. But before we throw in the towel on a software solution, there is one thing worth trying.

Continue Reading: How do I force Windows to reinstall a driver?


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Glossary Term


"Man-in-the-middle" is a phrase used to describe a type of communications vulnerability or attack that can cause sensitive data to be stolen or leaked.

If normal communications are directly between two parties, a man-in-the-middle attack inserts a malicious third party in between that intercepts, potentially modifies, and then forwards on all communications, without detection.

For example a man-in-the-middle might intercept communications between a computer user and his bank. Rather than communicating directly between user and bank, the user would actually be communicating to the malicious man-in-the-middle without realizing it. That man-in-the-middle would relay the communications on to the bank. Similarly returned information that would normally be transmitted from the bank to the user would instead first go to the man-in-the-middle, which would then transparently relay it on to the user.

To the user all would appear normal; a successful man-in-the-middle attack would not typically be easily detectable.

What distinguishes a man-in-the-middle from simply eavesdropping is that as a side effect of having been inserted into the communications, the man-in-the-middle could potentially modify the information being transmitted.

The validation step of https connections, ensuring that you are connected to the site you believe you are, is one approach to preventing man-in-the-middle attacks.

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

Featured Comments

Why are there duplicate files on my computer?

Lawrence Brandon writes:

My Windows 8.1 PC keeps giving me a message that I need to update my files. When I try to update my files I am sent to a program I have to buy. I have been told that these programs usually cause more problems than they fix. Should I use a program I have buy to update my windows files?Windows update says my files are up to date.

Mark Jacobs writes:

Windows isn't sending you those messages. Those pop-up are ads. If you are lucky, you will only lose the money you spent on the program. In many cases those programs contain malware.

Should I Disconnect My Backup Drive When I'm Not Backing Up?

Mark Jacobs writes:

For those business watching pennies, I'd tell them that a second backup is much cheaper in the long run than paying for recovery. It's an insurance policy with a one time layout of around $100.

Mark Jacobs writes:

We are currently evaluating EaseUS here at Ask Leo! as a free alternative to Macrium as it allows incremental backups in the free version. Any comments you (including anyone who uses it) have (pros and cons) on the EaseUS backup would be greatly appreciated,

Raymond writes:

If you were hit with ransomware that encrypted your MS Office files (for example) kept in your Dropbox folder, the online version will then become encrypted also right? If your other backup on an external HDD wasn't available for whatever reason then are the Dropbox versions toast also or will version history save the day there? Thinking it's time for the periodic offline backup stored elsewhere unattached to main PC.

Leo writes:

Dropbox keeps older versions of your files for up to 30 days. So you could recover the unencrypted versions that way.

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