Leo's Answers #223 – March 23, 2010

A Weekly Newsletter From
Ask Leo!
Leo Notenboom


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

Will not using the keyboard fool key loggers?

Will this work to fool key loggers? On the desktop, create a notepad (or similar) text file that contains your login names and passwords. Then use ONLY the mouse’s “right-click” to copy-paste your entry data from notepad to your internet login. The keyboard is never used since nothing is ever typed real-time. And never save password or form data in IE’s, FireFox, … options. Could this fool key loggers?



I know it sounds completely counter-intuitive or backwards, but … no, avoiding the keyboard will not necessarily keep you safe from keyloggers.

And that’s a reflection of just how sophisticated these forms of malware have become.

As one hint, don’t let the term “keystroke logger” fool you.

Continue reading: Will not using the keyboard fool key loggers?

* * *

Does getting porn spam mean that you’ve been surfing porn sites?

Why does my sisters email get hit with xxx rated “chat ads”? mine doesn’t ever…would you have had to visit a site of that type or signed up etc. to be getting those kind of ads?


To the relief of those whose partners have asked (or accused) something along the same lines the answer is an unequivocal no.

Getting porn spam doesn’t mean you’ve been visiting porn.

The reverse is also true: not getting porn spam doesn’t imply you haven’t been out surfing porn either. Smile

They’re unrelated, and I’ll explain why. And I’ll also explain how they can be.

Continue reading: Does getting porn spam mean that you’ve been surfing porn sites?

* * *

So just how sneaky can spyware be?

Suppose someone had an MSN instant message conversation on a computer that had spyware on it (unbeknownst to them). Could a hacker access these messages, without access to the computer that had the spyware on it, where the messages were sent from? In other words, from an unrelated computer source?


The scenario you outline is a little unclear, but the short answer is probably … Yes

Spyware can be extremely invasive and, for lack of a better term, “sneaky”.

There are some very frightening scenarios.

Continue reading: So just how sneaky can spyware be?

* * *

Can a recovery partition be infected?

Many of the new computers make a “D” partition that holds the equivalent of a Restore Disk, that used to be common practice to come with a new machine. My question is: if a machine is contaminated with viruses and/or malware, is the “Rebuild Partition” also infected?


Is it affected? Maybe, maybe not. It varies.

Can a recovery partition be infected? Absolutely.

Add that to my long list of why I dislike recovery partitions, and typically get rid of them – after doing a couple of things first.

Continue reading: Can a recovery partition be infected?

* * *

Is it safe to leave a flash drive plugged in all the time?

Some time ago I think I read on your site that flash drives can wear out. Now, I keep my flash drive in all the time because I’m a writer and am always backing things upon the computer and the flash drive, but I dislike having to close the flash drive down, take it out, only to reinsert it again after I take a break or run an errand. And I always leave it in when I run a full system scan because the flash drive will get scanned also.

1. Is it harmful to the flash drive to just leave it plugged in 24/7, even when I put the computer on standby for the night?

2. Why is it necessary to shut the flash drive down before removing it from the computer? Why can I just pull it out when done?

3. And if I am correct about flash drives wearing out, what wears out? As far as I can tell they have no moving parts. And at what point should I consider replacing the flash drives I have?


These are very legitimate questions, but unfortunately very tough questions to answer.

Flash drives do wear out, absolutely.

But exactly when a flash drive will wear out can vary based on so many things it’s almost impossible to give a specific answer.

I’ll give you my best guess answers, and then also throw out some guidelines that I’d follow on using a flash drive were I in your shoes.

Continue reading: Is it safe to leave a flash drive plugged in all the time?

* * *

How do I keep my laptop safe at the airport?

How can I protect my laptop at airport security, and really what is the problem with the measures the laptop goes through?


I’m not sure what problems you might be referring to. Airport security, while it certainly has its annoyances and issues, rarely causes problems related to laptops.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared, though.

Having just gone through this with my recent international travel I’ve put some thought into it.

Continue reading: How do I keep my laptop safe at the airport?

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*** Comments

How do you ask a question when you don’t even know the right words to use?

Allen Woodside writes:

Dear Leo, I’m so glad your archive includes the topic: “How do you ask a question when you don’t even know the right words to use?” I’ve had several computers and operating systems since the mid eighties and I’m still learning something new every day and especially with every up graded system. Sometimes I’m asked for help by friends or family. As eager as I am to lend some help, I’m often hampered by the person’s lack of understanding of fundamental computer related terms necessary to either describe the problem or ask a question. (Whatchamacallit, dojigger, thingamjig, etc., just doesn’t cut it!) I’m sending everyone I know a link to this article that is so well written. I’m also going to mention an important lesson I learned both professionally and as a computer owner. It’s quite simple…

Posted: March 23, 2010 in: 2010
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/4228
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