Leo’s Answers #296 – August 16, 2011

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Leo Notenboom


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*** New Articles

Just how easy is it to sniff network traffic?

I have read many articles on strangers/others sniffing on our network traffic or whatever we call it; in fact, it often appears in your newsletters. But what does it take to sniff on others network usage? How do people really do it? Do we need hacker tools or should we be a network geek or is it so simple that any Tom, Dick and Harry can do it? Somehow, I'm not able to understand how can others see what we are browsing on the internet right now. What does it mean when you say the 'unprotected data' is available for others to read it? I am not going to do anything illegal, I am just very curious!


It's very easy.

There's at least one tool that makes it easy to take over someone's social media connection if they happen to be logged in unprotected in an open WiFi hotspot.

Did I mention that it's easy? It's a Firefox browser add-on. If you can add an add-on, you can do this.

Other tools are typically fairly geeky, but they are well known and typically also free.

So with your laptop and free software, you too can start sniffing network traffic.

Continue reading: Just how easy is it to sniff network traffic?

* * *

How should I connect while traveling within the US?

I live in Germany and assume that I have a German IP address. I shall shortly visit California on holiday. Can you tell me what I must do to stay in contact via my laptop while in the USA?


There are actually several alternatives these days, some of which are even free.

I'll review a couple of the most common solutions, including the one I use as I travel around myself.

Given that your laptop probably has WiFi, that puts you in a good position to take advantage of many options.

Continue reading: How should I connect while traveling within the US?

* * *

How do I safely attach a wireless device that doesn't support encryption?

I have a small network (five computers, router/switch, wireless access point, and a printer). Recently, I set up two wireless security cameras. They don't operate with WPA, WEP, or TKIP turned on, so I set the security authentication on the access point to “open access” and “No Data Encryption”. I have implemented MAC Authentication for all wireless devices connecting to the wireless access point. I know that this is not the best security. I run Norton Security on all computers. What are your thoughts on my chances for security problems?


You're correct; this is not the best security.

I can't tell you what the chances of security problems are because that depends on a bunch of non-technical things, like whether someone is actually interested in breaking into your network for some reason and how close you are to other computers and WiFi networks.

What I can tell you is why your network can very easily be breached.

And then, I'll outline what I would do instead that would provide you as much security as your situation would allow.

Continue reading: How do I safely attach a wireless device that doesn't support encryption?

* * *

Why can I suddenly not rename, move or delete particular types of files?

Suddenly, I can't rename, move, or delete raw files (photographs). I am constantly loading photos from my camera to my computer. In order to keep track of them and make them conveniently accessible for processing and after processing, I rename them and move them to folders. Usually, I make copies during processing and then delete them. I have been doing this on this computer for a year and a half. I have never before had anything unusual happen when renaming, moving, or deleting raw files. These files are in the My Documents folder. I view the thumbnails when renaming, moving, or deleting. Suddenly, raw photo files on my desktop computer or folders containing raw files cannot be renamed, moved, or deleted. A box opens saying, “The action can't be completed because the file is open in Windows Explorer”. But the file is not open and no photo applications are open. ...


Actually, the file is open. In Windows Explorer.

But because this has been working for you for some time, it's also clear that something has changed.

First, we need to understand just a little bit of how Windows Explorer works, make some guesses as to what may have changed, and suggest a couple of possible approaches to fixing - or at least working around - this problem.

Continue reading: Why can I suddenly not rename, move or delete particular types of files?

* * *

Why doesn't my click in a search result go directly to the destination?

I notice that when I click a search result in Google UK, I don't get taken straight to the target page, such as targetpage.com. Instead, I get taken to http://www.google.co.uk/url?url=http://www.targetpage.com and thence, auto-redirected to the target page. The most irritating thing about this is that the browser Back button doesn't work as expected. You have to click it twice to jump to the intermediate page and get back to the search results. I noticed this in IE9. I did a quick check in Firefox or with google.com (as opposed to google.co.uk) - and perhaps I should say that I don't _see_ it in those cases. What's happening and can I stop it?


I'm pretty sure that you're simply not noticing it on the other domain or in the other browser, or that the technique being used there is different.

There are actually several different approaches to what's happening here, but ultimately, there's a legitimate reason why Google does this and I'm not aware of a way to disable it.

I'll review some of the techniques and the reasons why they exist.

Continue reading: Why doesn't my click in a search result go directly to the destination?

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*** Last Week's Articles

*** Comments

How do I recover my data after a computer crash?

Duane Ferguson writes:

Back up, back up, back up. Back up regularly. Make back ups part of your regular computer maintenance schedule. Store your back ups on an external drive. Keep multiple back ups. make sure you keep your back ups current. Have I made my point?

You're my new hero. :-)



How do I recover my data after a computer crash?

Cindy Gioffredi writes:

Make TWO backups & keep one off site. A backup won't help you at all if it burns to ashes in a fire along with your PC/Server(s). I tell clients the question to ask when deciding how/when to backup is not IF a backup will be needed, but WHEN ti will be needed. It's inevitable. Such a simple thing to do yet most people don't "get it" until they've experienced data loss. :-)


How do I get Windows Explorer to display details by default in Windows 7?

Black Dahlia writes:

Unfortunately, sometimes a genuine .doc file isn't a document but a Word macro that can infect your PC just as easily as a .exe. Not that Leo implied otherwise, I just wouldn't want anyone to make the assumption.

Also, even if you show extension for known file types and widen the file name column watch out for ellipses (...) in the rightmost side of the column, for they indicate the file name is continued - someone could have named the file something like FLUFFYKITTIES.JPG (lots of spaces) .exe. (In case that doesn't display correctly there's a couple hundred spaces after the .JPG but before the .exe)

So, follow Leo's guidelines for PC security and remain ever vigilant, for the person poses the biggest threat to your computer, even if you're pretty durn good with the things, is you.


How do I recover my data after a computer crash?

steve writes:

In the old days a favoured last resort was to place the HD in your freezer overnight ,wrapped in polythrene, then reconnect it and move quick as hell to recover what you could. The thermal shrinkage involved could render the drive serviceable for a brief period....


How much of my search history could be recovered?

Ari writes:

Leo I like your informative article. I learned a lot. What if we use Private Browsing will it still leave traces on our computer? If web server record our IP address we can use Hide Ip software. Do you think it will be useful or not?

Theoretically Private Browsing doesn't leave traces on your computer. I say theoretically because I don't believe that's an absolute - perhaps traces could be found in files that are deleted by Private Browsing but still recoverable, or traces could be left in the virtual memory swap file on some computers. If it's critical that nothing be found I would personally not rely on Private Browsing features and opt instead for a bootable Live CD that never even touches the hard drive.
I'm not that familiar with IP hiding software. Whether you can be traced depends on the specific approaches used by that software and how good a job it does. In most cases IP hiding tools do not make it impossible to be traced, just harder. The quality of the tool defines just how much harder it makes it.


*** Leo Recommends

7-zip file archiving utility

Most of you are probably familiar with "ZIP" files, which are compressed archives that pack one or more files into a single file. ZIP files are often a convenient way to distribute large numbers of files and folder structures in a single container.

You're probably also familiar with Windows somewhat cumbersome built-in support for ZIP files, as well as WinZIP, the shareware file compression utility that lets you create and extract files from ZIP formatted archives.

7-zip is a free, open-source utility roughly equivalent to WinZIP, that includes support for multiple file formats as well as a command-line interface.

I highly recommend 7-zip.

Continue reading: 7-zip file archiving utility


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 newsletter requires "double opt-in". Don't know what that means? You're probably not alone. Here's what it is, and why it's an important step in the war against spam.

What do terms like "opt-in", "opt-out" and "double opt-in" mean?

I keep hearing terms like "opt-in", "opt-out" and "double opt-in" but I don't get what they mean. What do they mean?

In short, they indicate whether or not you were given a choice, and in the case of "double opt-in", whether or not it was really you that accepted that choice.

The terms are actually fairly generic, but we'll look at it from the perspective of email, and spam.

Continue reading...
What do terms like "opt-in", "opt-out" and "double opt-in" mean?

*** Thoughts and Comments

Thanks everyone for the anniversary wishes on Ask Leo!'s 8th last week.

In case you missed it, here's this year's collection of goofy questions. All are real. Seriously.

In case you skipped over the ad above, I've placed both Maintaining Windows XP - A Practical Guide and Secure Your Account! Windows Live Hotmail edition on sale for back-to-school. 30% off for everyone, and then newsletter subscribers can use the code listed below for 20% more off. Great time to pick 'em up if you've been on the fence. Sale ends at the end of the month.

This month's webinar is "in the can", so to speak. Kind of. As the live attendees will have seen I had a slight problem with one of the demos (darned Windows Installer - and yes, it happens to me too) so the eventual video for that will need to be re-done. If anything was proof that the webinars really are live, that's it right there.

(To be completely honest, it's possible that I might have been slightly distracted by some of the visitors that had just left. Smile)

I'm always looking for ideas on what you would like to see demoed on video - just send me your comments & ideas here: http://ask-leo.com/feedback.

'till next week...

Leo A. Notenboom
Twitter - Facebook

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Posted: August 16, 2011 in: 2011
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/4903
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