Posts categorized “Security and Privacy”


October 4, 2011
  Your Mother's Maiden Name Is Useless

…well, at least as a security question.

This is not a new thing, and is the reason that most places allow you to define security questions other than that. With the prevalence of information available online, it really is not much of a stretch for a would-be attacker to determine; if you are connected to your mother via a social network like Facebook, where having a public maiden name is encouraged to help you be found, it becomes trivial.

If you still have “mother’s maiden name” as a security question somewhere, there’s no need to panic. There are two simple options. You can see if there is another question you can use in its place, and just use that one. If you can’t (or don’t want to) do that, lie make something up; there is no requirement that the answer is accurate, only that you can match the answer when challenged. What you should not do is demand that your mother remove that information from her profile. This is unnecessary, as the information has already been released; plus, “security through obscurity” is of limited benefit.

Just a quick tip to help keep you secure online…

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May 7, 2011
  Spring Clean Your Windows Machine

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz; do you know where your HD space is? If you’re running Windows Vista or Windows 7, you may have some unclaimed disk space waiting for you. (Disclaimer: I am not telling you to do anything to your computer, and I maintain no liability for the effects of the commands you enter. I’m sharing what worked for me.)

Windows Vista was a rewrite of Windows; as part of this, they developed Windows Side by Side (WinSxS) to deal with the conflicting/removed DLL issue that plagued Windows in the past. SxS maintains components, and programs continue to use their components unless they specifically ask to use a new one. This keeps upgrades from breaking older programs, and makes all upgrades reversible. With Vista currently at SP2, you probably have lots of versions of several of these components, and if you have a smaller drive, they can be pinching your disk space. If you’re content with the way your computer is running, SP2 includes a utility called COMPCLN.EXE which will make these upgrades permanent by removing unused components. WinSxS knows which components are referenced by current software, so you can run this without worrying that you’ll break an older program.

To run it, click the Windows icon on the bottom left of the task bar, type “cmd”, then press Enter. When the command prompt window opens, type “compcln” and press Enter. It will give you a y/n prompt, then clean the old components off your computer. Windows also makes restore points, which is a saved group of files and settings that exist before installing updates. If you’re cleaning the components, you can also delete these as well. To run this, open the control panel and search for “disk cleanup”. Choose your C: drive, then click the “More Files” tab. The restore point button is in the middle of that page.

Finally, Microsoft has released Microsoft Security Essentials, an anti-virus/anti-malware program for Windows XP through 7. If you’re tired of “buy the real version” nags or renewing subscriptions, this is the tool for you. It’s a tool that many feel should have been included in Windows for a long time (though the reasons why it hasn’t been are outside the scope of this how-to), it works well, and it’s free.

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October 27, 2008
  Killing _utma _utmb _utmc _utmz Cookies

For those of us who are cookie-conscious as we surf the web, you’re aware that a lot of sites give cookies with names like _utma, _utmb, _utmc, and _utmz. It turns out that these cookies come from Google Analytics.

However, using AdBlock Plus, there is an easy way to kill it. To put in a filter for it, click the “ABP” stop sign icon, and click the “New Filter…” button. Enter “http://www.google-analytics.com/\*“ and press Enter. That’s it! Those _utm* cookies are now a thing of the past.

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