Leo's Answers #146 – September 30, 2008

Leo's Answers
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Leo Notenboom

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*** Contents

*** This Week's New Articles on Ask Leo!

How else can websites get my information?

In a series of three previous questions, What can a website I visit tell about me? and What are browser cookies and how are they used? and What are tracking cookies and should they concern me? I discussed some of the information that websites get automatically, or through legitimate means by virtue of using cookies, and then how cookies can be used "behind the scenes" by networks of websites to track your visits to sites in the network.

In this article I'm going to cover three loose ends that while unrelated to each other are other ways that websites can get information you probably didn't realize you were giving them.

Continue reading: "How else can websites get my information?"

* * *

What are tracking cookies and should they concern me?

In two previous questions, What can a website I visit tell about me? and What are browser cookies and how are they used? I discussed some of the information that websites get, and techniques that they can use to collect and remember more.

One particular part of the original question leads to today's article:

Can [a] site collect ... my browsing history

To be clear, a site cannot.

However, through clever use of cookies typically associated with advertising, it is possible for some services to track who in their network of advertisers you visit.

And thus we have "tracking" and "third party" cookies to talk about.

Continue reading: "What are tracking cookies and should they concern me?"

* * *

What are browser cookies and how are they used?

In a previous question What can a website I visit tell about me? I discussed the information that's made available to all websites no mater what they do. The original question included:

Can [a] site collect the following information:

- My computer name (the name I assigned to my computer)?

- Profile information???

- My browsing history (any/all sites I've visited and when) or can they just tell the number of items in my history?

- Email addresses associated with my computer?

The strict answer remains "no" to the question as posed, but in reality things aren't quite that simple.

For example, web sites can remember what you tell them, and we often tell them more than we think.

And the remembering? That's typically using something called a "browser cookie".

Continue reading: "What are browser cookies and how are they used?"

* * *

Why can't I just use one password everywhere?

Can you use the same password for everything you need one for? Having a lot of different ones is really hard to remember, to the point that I have had to write each one down.

Yes, you can use the same password everywhere, but I really don't recommend it. It simply increases the risk of your accounts being compromised.

There are several approaches to password management that don't require using one password everywhere, and also don't require that you remember dozens, if not hundreds, of different passwords.

Continue reading: "Why can't I just use one password everywhere?"

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*** Featured Comments

A sampling of some of the comments that have been posted recently on Ask Leo!

* * *

I found a USB thumbdrive, plugged it in and now my system won't work. What happened?

Scott Wright writes:

Great article, Leo. There are some good questions and responses here. I just wanted to add my two cents worth. It turns out that many people (about 40%) will put an unknown device into their computer, just to see what's on it. I have the evidence, which I have summarized at my site, The Honey Stick Project, at http://www.honeystickproject.com. The site was inspired by the penetration test you mentioned above, and is intended to raise awareness about the risks of using mobile devices, in general. The technique I use in the project can be useful for measuring the level of security awareness and safe computing habits in an organization. Please drop by and give me your comments. One other note: As indicated in one of the related article links above, it is possible for a device to be configured to trick a system into bypassing autorun, depending on your system. I have some notes about this on my site, also.


If I Had to Do It All Over Again...

Rondi writes:

Now that I have girls who want to be writers, and was told by my college comp. teacher that I should be a writer, I confess that good writing is work, work, work. It takes effort, brains, time, and sometimes, research. Those slave-driving language teachers in high school were right on. You have to learn grammar, language mechanics,and even literary techniques to be a good writer and communicator.

*** This Week's Most Popular

The ten most popular articles in the last 7 days on Ask Leo!

  1. How do I make a new MSN Hotmail account?
  2. How do I delete history items from my Google tool bar?
  3. How do I put a picture in a comment on myspace.com?
  4. My desktop Recycle Bin has disappeared - why, and how do I get it back?
  5. What are the POP3 and SMTP settings for Hotmail?
  6. How do I change my MSN Hotmail password?
  7. Can I send text messages between a computer and a cell phone?
  8. Why is my Task Manager disabled, and how do I fix it?
  9. What are MSN HotMail's POP3 and SMTP settings for Outlook Express?
  10. I accidentally deleted my Recycle Bin in Vista - how do I get it back?

*** Leo Recommends

Word Tips
Microsoft Word Tips, Tricks and Answers

I don't know everything. I know that's a shock to maybe one or two of you, but it's the truth. One of the techniques I use to make it look like I know more than I really do is to know where to look for information.

Allen Wyatt's Word Tips is one of these places. Yes, I've used Microsoft Word for many, many years and know it very well ... but Word Tips has more answers and more suggestions than I could ever hope to have.

Continue reading: "Word Tips - Microsoft Word Tips, Tricks and Answers"

I recommend it.

Each week I recommend a specific product or resource that I've found valuable and that I think you may as well. What does my recommendation mean?

*** Popular Articles from the Archives

It seems like everyone wants to know if the email they send is being read. The problem is that while there are settings and services that claim to be able to tell you, they can't do it reliably.

Can I tell if email I sent has been read by the recipient?

I sent an email to a friend and he claims never to have gotten it. I don't believe him; things he's said lead me to believe that he did get it, and that he did read it. Is there a way I can tell for sure?

I'm actually fairly amazed at the number of times that I get questions that boil down to people just not trusting each other. Not that there isn't cause, I suppose, with spam, phishing and viruses running all over the place. But this seems like the simplest case of all - was your email read or not?

Interestingly enough there is infrastructure in the mail system to get an answer to that question. The problem is that, for all practical purposes, it doesn't work.

Continue reading...
Can I tell if email I sent has been read by the recipient?

*** Thoughts and Comments

Last week's question What can a website I visit tell about me? actually blossomed into four articles, three of which appear this week. It's a big issue, and I could probably go on, but I wanted to cover the important and common issues that people face. There's a lot of concern about privacy and how your information might be collected and used. Personally, beyond following a couple of simple safety tips, I'm not terribly concerned. Regardless of how you feel, knowledge is the first step to staying safe.

Minor milestone last week: we crossed 40,000 subscribers just before last week's newsletter went out. Thank you all for being here! I sincerely appreciate it.

Otherwise, a busy week here, so I'll have to keep this short. Exciting stuff that I'll explain a little more next week, but there are some change's a-brewin. No, nothing Ask Leo! related, at least not directly. For now, I'll just have to keep you in suspense until next week. Smile

As always, thanks for subscribing, for reading, and for your feedback. If you appreciate this newsletter or the site, one of the best ways you can say "Thank You!" is to link to Ask Leo! or simply to tell a friend or colleague. Just send folks to askleo.net.

'till next time...

Leo A. Notenboom

* * *

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Newsletter contents Copyright © 2008, Leo A. Notenboom & Puget Sound Software, LLC.

Posted: September 30, 2008 in: 2008
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/3516
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I'm Leo Notenboom and I've been playing with computers since I took a required programming class in 1976. I spent over 18 years as a software engineer at Microsoft, and after "retiring" in 2001 I started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place to help you find answers and become more confident using this amazing technology at our fingertips. More about Leo.