Leo’s Answers #295 – August 2, 2011

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Leo Notenboom


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*** New Articles

How do I keep malware from reaching my machine in the first place?

Is there any way of keeping Adware from getting ON the computer in the first place? I already have several programs that take it OFF, but that still gives it the opportunity to clog up my connection (which it does!). How can I keep it from getting ON the PC in the first place?


I'm going to expand this from just "Adware" to all forms of malicious software or "malware" because the concepts and principles are the same. Even though many forms of adware (advertising software) are not strictly malicious, they can be annoying, as you're currently experiencing.

The answer depends on the specific malicious software or adware that you're having trouble with, but it typically falls into one of three categories.

Continue reading: How do I keep malware from reaching my machine in the first place?

* * *

How much of my search history could be recovered?

Hey Leo, Just wondering. The recent trial in Florida where the DA searched the plaintiff's computer and found an incriminating internet search for formaldehyde leads me to ask two questions. I mainly use CCleaner after using the net to clear cookies, but it also clears history and other stuff. Does CCleaner or even manually erasing history actually remove the history from the hard drive? Is every bloody key stroke permanently kept on the HD? And if so, where? Nothing to hide. Just curious.


Unless you have spyware installed on your computer, "every bloody keystroke" is not being recorded. I get that question often enough that it seems like many people are concerned about it - it's just not the case.

As for finding other things and seeing what CCleaner or other tools might or might not erase - well, things get complicated pretty quick.

Continue reading: How much of my search history could be recovered?

* * *

Why does Hotmail have such a bad reputation?

Why is Hotmail such a magnet for hackers, spammers, and...?


I cut off this question because it went on to be somewhat less than complimentary to Hotmail users.

And that's just not fair.

"Magnet" is a reasonable term and Hotmail is a magnet for hackers, spammers and others for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it's free and easy.

But I do believe that it's getting better.

Continue reading: Why does Hotmail have such a bad reputation?

* * *

What software should I install first?

You've written articles about selecting a new computer and the first eight things that you should do once you get one. For the casual, non-techie home user, what are the top six pieces of software that they should install and become familiar with to protect their new computer? I am talking about things like anti-virus/malware, backup, system monitoring, troubleshooting, and repair software.


I'm not sure that the number is six.

My take is that for maximum performance and stability, the less software that you install on your machine, the better.

However, there are definitely some things that you want to install when you set up your new computer or reformat/reinstall your old one. But some might not be what you expect.

Continue reading: What software should I install first?

* * *

Creating Good Passwords

One of the things that I did a couple of months ago was create an ebook for Hotmail users that focuses on account security. The very first topic that I tackled in the book is how to choose a good password.

Choosing a good password is the single most important thing that you can do to secure an account - any account.

In this video excerpt from an Ask Leo! webinar, I'll walk through some of the approaches that I recommend for generating strong passwords.

Continue reading: Creating Good Passwords

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*** Last Week's Articles

*** Comments

How do I get a 64-bit Flash Player?

Mary writes:

Adobe has a Beta version of 64-bit Flash codenamed "Square". More info available at this Adobe site as well as a download link.



Hotmail says my password is incorrect, but I know it's right. What do I do?

john neeting writes:

So, there is an engine that strings words together to make phrases? Oh, so that engine can churn through factorial 680,000 [plus spaces as a guess]? Even at a quadrillion times a second, it couldn't do it in 100,000 years. Get a computer to factorial 680,000 and see how far you get :) if YOU can get such a computer.

Actually, the engines that are around cycle through words and short combinations of words. And yes, they do so at an amazing rate these days (apparently botnets are occasionally used to bring the power of thousands of PCs to the problem). Regardless, password phrases are significantly more secure as you suggest. Basically, anything that is longer is better, regardless of how you form it - phrases are simply easier to remember.



What's the best way to bank online using a dedicated machine?

Snert writes:

My Grandpa always told me that if you want to get something done the quickest and easiest way, hire a truly lazy man do it.

STRONG PASSWORDS!!! They won't prevent anything those thiefin' bastards can do, but that's a damned good start. What's you farvorite line from "Alice in Wonderland"? What's you fave song lyric? Name three of what's on you middle shelf in your medicine cabinet? Describe what you wash first when you shower, in detail. But, most of the times, you're restricted by how many characters that you can use.


What's the best way to bank online using a dedicated machine?

jonh neeting writes:

This is perhaps the most secure form of online banking I have ever seen and now use - My bank issues a 'dongle' that you carry around [say on a keychain]. You get into banking site, log in, use a strong password, and then enter a number displayed on the dongle [you don't plug it in, just read it]. It works like this - the bank programs your dongle with an encrypted program that shows a number which changes every minute of the day [60 seconds] every number appears random but is displayed using the banks unique encryption for only your account. If you get it wrong or don't put the number in, you don't get in. The number on the dongle must correspond to the banks code at that minute of every day 7/365. If you lose the dongle, no worries because whoever has it must know your name AND password as well, plenty of time to notify the bank and halt transactions then get another dongle [ with a different encrypted code ]. Knowing your password and account is usless without entering that specific number at that exact minute of the day with your dongle. I am impressed as this is about as secure as you can possible get.

That's a form of "two-factor authentication", a topic that I covered in a recent webinar: Two-Factor Authentication.



Do I have to keep buying new computers?

anupam writes:

Interesting article. I had my first PC 13 years ago. What I prefer to do is keep upgrading the PC part by part. Like I used my old PC for seven years. After seven years, everything except the motherboard was changed. Then I got a new PC. A few months ago, I got a new motherboard and kept all of the other stuff same. What I want to say is replace the outdated part. Earlier, it was crt to lcd. Now it is dual core to i5.

*** 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


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

Sadly, if website designers don't use https properly, it's possible for what seems to be a secure site not to be.

How can an https web site still be nonsecure?

I have heard that going to an "https" web site isn't a guarantee of security, and that some data that I enter might still be unencrypted. How can that be? I thought https was encrypted and could not be sniffed?

You're right: https is encrypted, and cannot be sniffed.

However, everything can be foiled by bad web site design. In fact, I'd go so far as to even say easily foiled by bad website design and by the fact that we all tend to turn off one very annoying -but important - error message.

Continue reading...
How can an https web site still be nonsecure?

*** Thoughts and Comments

This'll be short.

Today's newsletter comes to you from the world headquarters of This is True, in Colorado. I'm visiting my friend Randy Cassingham for a few days and participated in his Mastermind Source insiders conference (which, for the record, was great).

Next week - Ask Leo!'s 8th anniversary. Who'd a thunk it?

'till then...

Leo A. Notenboom
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Posted: August 2, 2011 in: 2011
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/4892
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