Leo's Answers #219 – February 23, 2010

A Weekly Newsletter From
Ask Leo!
Leo Notenboom

Hello!

Do you have a question for me? Don't hit reply! Head instead for the Ask Leo! home page and search the site first - seriously, around half the questions people ask are already answered there. You can also browse the archives, past newsletters and more. (The "ask a question" form is temporarily disabled while I'm on vacation. More on that below.)

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*** New Articles

So do I need the Windows Firewall or not?

I'm really confused. With the new Windows XP SP2 Security Alert System, do we still need a firewall to stop outbound traffic? If we get a router, (LINKSYS), does that take care of everything, which means we need to disable Windows Firewall to avoid false alarms?

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There's a lot of misunderstanding about firewalls, routers, and other security software. When Windows XP service pack two was released it definitely put security and particularly the firewall, "in your face". Subsequent releases of Windows now also include the firewall and turn it on by default.

It's a great opportunity to find out what you need ... and what you don't.

Continue reading: So do I need the Windows Firewall or not?
http://ask-leo.com/C2186

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Where do Facebook friend suggestions come from?

I have occasionally received 'invitations' from people most of whom I know only vaguely, to join them on Facebook. I've no wish to join Facebook, so just ignore these. Yesterday, however, I received yet another invitation, from someone who runs art classes I once enquired about. Underneath, Facebook lists three other people who have invited me in the past. And, below that, there is a list of nine other people 'whom you may know' - none of whom have ever invited me, and three of whom I have had only very basic contact with - eg a single enquiry made to an archivist.

This really worries me - how do Facebook know that I have ever had any contact with these people? Can Facebook access their emails, see where they are all going to, and cross-reference them with people who have received an invitation from elsewhere? Or can they, having once been given my email address, somehow gain access to my sent messages, see where they are being sent to, and cross-reference them against their existing Facebook membership??

This really worries me - it just seems such an invasion of my privacy, and concerns me that they may be able to access all sorts of personal information and conversations.

Can you explain how this can be happening, and suggest any way to block it, please??

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I'm not privy to all the details of how Facebook actually works. That being said, I can hazard a guess as to how Facebook (or any social network with similar capabilities) might be making these recommendations.

No, Facebook's not looking at anyone's email, outside of whatever messages might be getting sent on Facebook itself.

They're making what I'd best characterize as "an educated guess".

Continue reading: Where to Facebook friend suggestions come from?
http://ask-leo.com/C4168

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Is my ISP calling me to clear up my problems with Windows?

Perhaps you might be interested in this little anecdote.

Yesterday about noon, the telephone rang.

It was an Indian woman - the conversation is as I recall it ...

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What follows is one of the most brazen scam attempts I've seen in a while. Fortunately the person reporting it had the right instincts and was able to avoid getting taken.

Let's look at the transcript provided, and I'll identify all of the warning signs with [notes] as we go.

Continue reading: Is my ISP calling me to clear up my problems with Windows?
http://ask-leo.com/C4164

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What does "Notification of Limited Account Access" mean?

The phrase "Limited Account Access" is something we all see pretty regularly - unless our spam filter is really, really good. Spoofing a "Limited Account Access" notification is an extremely common approach used by scammers to trick you into giving them access to your PayPal account, or perhaps information that could be used for purposes of identity theft.

So, naturally, when I received that message for the hundredth time, I gave it very little notice.

Until, that is, I logged into my PayPal account.

Continue reading: What does "Notification of Limited Account Access" mean?
http://ask-leo.com/C4151

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How do I know what to believe on the internet?

A very good friend - a mentor and inspiration for Ask Leo!, in fact - has fallen victim to a particularly nasty form of fraud. It turns into an important lesson for all of us in understanding what we can, and cannot believe on the internet.

Here's the scenario...

There's a web site that, for lack of a better term, promotes a "get rich quick" scheme. I'm not going to name names, because I don't want to give them any press or links or page views. In fact, the specifics aren't important here - the situation, however, is.

On this web site, near the bottom is a glowing testimonial. From my friend.

A testimonial that he never provided.

Continue reading: How do I know what to believe on the internet?
http://ask-leo.com/C4150

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How did you backup while on your trip?

My wife and I recently returned (or rather are returning - I'm writing this at 31,000 feet somewhere over the Pacific Ocean) from a 3 week trip to Australia and New Zealand. Being who I am, and doing what I do, both for fun and for business, you can imagine that some technology accompanied me: my laptop and my digital camera.

Prior to leaving I put some serious thought into exactly how best to ensure that I was prepared for various misfortunes that can happen while on the road. Given how often I cajole, preach and harp on "backup, backup, backup!" I also needed to set a good example as well - nothing would be more embarrassing in my position than suffering catastrophic data loss that could have been prevented by some form of backup.

Understanding what I needed began with a simple assessment of what data I would have, what might go wrong, and understanding the relative priorities of it all.

Continue reading: How did you backup while on your trip?
http://ask-leo.com/C4139

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*** Comments

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

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Can my ISP monitor my internet usage?

Jack S. writes:

Hi Leo: I noticed you mentioned that with services like Anonymizer and Tor, your ISP will know (or can know, if they look) that you are using those services but will not know where you are surfing. A few questions for the fully paranoid:

1) What would that look like to the ISP while you are surfing? Would some specific data that says "Anonymizer" or "Tor" show up as the site you are currently visiting?
2) If so, would the very fact that they now know you are using such a service cause suspicion? "Hmmm. This guy's using Tor. He must be up to something. Let's look a little closer."
3) Is it possible that some ISPs prohibit the use of such services, and could therefore cancel your service for violation of terms? I have read my ISPs terms of service, and it says nothing about it that I can find. My colleagues have done the same and found nothing in their agreements either.

Thank you for this great site! I just found it today and as a student studying cyber laws I am very interested in these topics.

1) Exactly - they'll be able to see that you've connected to an anonymization service.
2) No idea. Most people aren't interesting enough to even be looking at, so they may never notice. Most folks have an over-developed sense of paranoia, I've found. Not that *some* people aren't being watched, but most people are not.
3) Depends entirely on the ISP, the agreements and who knows what else. Is it possible? Sure. Will they? Unlikely, I would think.

-Leo

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How do I fix this problem uninstalling Microsoft Office 2010 (Beta)?

Bob writes:

Some of the software I have used (and updated) for some years now, is still "Beta".

By keeping their software as a Beta release, companies avoid having to be responsible for their own code screw-ups - this effectively removes ANY rights you may think you have regarding damage caused to your PC, and even if their software is fit for purpose.

It is a legal loop-hole that companies have exploited for far too long.

I'm sure that's true for many companies. Microsoft appears to do it right, though, by ending and putting time limits on Beta versions of their software. I think the appeal is that Beta software like this is often distributed without monetary cost - the only cost is in the carnage it can create on your machine.

-Leo

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How do I remove the sender's address before forwarding an email?

Richard writes:

I usually remove the entire Header block when forwarding an e-mail for bulk distribution, rather than just deleting the "From" field.

After pressing Forward, I Select and Copy just the part of the body that I want recipients to actually get (leaving out the header block and (for example) the Incredimail rubbish at the bottom) then Select All, Delete (to delete the entire body of the e-mail) and Paste back (into the now blank e-mail) just the useful part of the original e-mail.

A very useful approach - I'm sure that those receiving your emails appreciate it. Smile

-Leo

*** Leo Recommends

Thunderbird - A Free, Open Source, and Powerful Email Client

Mozilla's Thunderbird is my choice for email. I use it all day every day, and I can heartily recommend it as an often more powerful and capable replacement for mail programs like Outlook Express, Windows Live Mail and many other desktop email applications.

The feature list is long, but I want to call out some of my favorite features and some of the things that personally draw me to Thunderbird and cause me to make it my recommendation for almost anyone using a desktop email program.

Continue reading...

Thunderbird - A Free, Open Source, and Powerful Email Client
http://ask-leo.com/C3451

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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

This is actually a podcast from three years ago (there's a transcript), but even as I was preparing my newsletter there was a report of a new botnet targeted at specifically what this podcast was all about.

Change Your Password - No, not that one...

You probably need to change a password, but not the one you think.

News reports surfaced this week telling of a newly discovered vulnerability. Well, it's certainly not a new vulnerability, and whether or not it's really been "newly discovered" is arguable too. But it's definitely making the news.

As well it should.

Continue reading...
Change Your Password - No, not that one...
http://ask-leo.com/C2937

*** Thoughts and Comments

Heee's Baaack!

My wife Kathy and I had a wonderful time in Australia and New Zealand. As you might expect there were a few minor hiccups, but the emphasis is on the minor (if you can call a cyclone "minor", that is Smile). 6 hotels, 10 airplanes and ~2,300 pictures later, though, it's great to be home.

TravelsWithLeo.com includes updates I posted while on the trip along with comments from a few folks who kept tabs on us while we were traveling. In addition Kathy's been writing up more a detailed travelogue there in installments as well.

My thanks also to readers Bruce, Bruce, Lynn and Dean who met with me in Sydney, and John, Dave and Jerry who met with me in Auckland. The meetups were fun, and I'll probably do more of them on my less exotic trips.

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I'd like your help.

Ask Leo! has a fan page on Facebook. I encourage you to head out there and become a fan for a couple of reasons: it's one-stop-shopping for new articles as they're posted, my Twitter postings and the occasional posting that's Facebook-only. I'm planning to use that fan page to post some things that don't quite fit into the normal "Q&A" format, or things that just don't quite make sense as articles on Ask Leo!, but are things I want to talk about anyway. For example, I recently made a post there on Tech-related security issues during my recent travels.

There's also a discussion board out there where I'll be asking for your opinions from time to time.

In fact, I've already started.

On the discussion board you'll find my first request for your thoughts: I Need Your Ideas. And as some incentive, you'll find that I'm giving away at least one, perhaps more, Seagate FreeAgent Go 500GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Disks for the best ideas.

So, go be my fan on Facebook, enter the discussion and share your ideas.

They'll be very much appreciated.

Leo
Leo A. Notenboom

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