How safe is my computer from hackers?

On Monday, March 13 at approximately 10:30 AM CST, I will be appearing on KFUO Radio’s Faith and Family program to discuss home computer security with host Andy Bates. One of the questions he’s planning to ask: How can I know how secure my home computer is? Or, to put his question another way, how safe is my computer from hackers?

I’m going to use this space to elaborate ahead of time on some of the things we are going to talk about. We could talk for an hour on any of the questions he’s going to ask, and he gave me three questions and 25 minutes. This is my workaround.

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Double-check your security with Qualys Browser Check

Double-check your security with Qualys Browser Check

In the past, I’ve recommended Secunia PSI as a way to keep your systems up to date. I know from my own experience that it helps, but I also know it doesn’t work 100 percent of the time.

When it comes to security, nothing is more critical than making sure your updates are applying correctly. That’s where my employer comes in, with Qualys Browser Check.

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HP Compaq 6910p upgrades

HP Compaq 6910p upgrades

I spent some time exploring HP Compaq 6910p upgrades because used HP Compaq 6910p laptops are dirt cheap these days. I picked one up for $75 as an alternative to a Black Friday cheapie.

If you look for one yourself, either look for one with a valid Windows 7 or Windows 10 license on it, or get one at a deep enough discount to make it worth your while.

Here’s what I did to turn an outmoded laptop from 2008 into something better than what I could have bought on Black Friday.

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Cleaning a PC when fdisk-format-reinstall isn’t an option

There are any number of pie-in-the-sky pundits who will tell you when a computer starts to get slow, to format the hard drive, reinstall Windows, and go on your merry way.

Unfortunately it’s not always realistic. I don’t clean up PCs all that often anymore, but here’s what I do when I need to.

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Advantages of Windows 10

Advantages of Windows 10

Now that Windows 10 is out, the questions I see most frequently are why someone should upgrade, or what benefits they get if they upgrade, or if there indeed is such thing as advantages to Windows 10.

While I understand the skepticism, and I think most people probably should wait a few months before upgrading a Windows 7 machine that’s working well, there are a number of compelling things Windows 10 has to offer.

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Why shouldn’t corporations just let software auto update?

I’ve been hearing the same new idea at work for about 10 years. The idea is pretty straightforward: Since my home PC updates itself whenever it wants and I don’t have problems, why don’t we do the same thing at work so we won’t need expensive update deployment tools?

There are generally two problems with that.

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Network printers with mismatched Windows versions

Jim, one of the longest-running of my longtime readers, wrote in last week about his experiences getting a venerable HP Laserjet 1100 working between two dissimilar Windows machines. Network printers with mismatched Windows versions always present a challenge.

Not only that, as time wears on, new challenges rise up to replace any old ones that don’t exist anymore. I’ll let Jim share, then add my own experience.

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FTDI needs to be charged under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

FTDI is a company that makes computer chips for USB peripherals. Their chips are frequently cloned, which is an issue they have a right to deal with. But they have to be careful.

Breaking suspected cloned chips that consumers bought in good faith is the wrong answer. If I did that, it would be called hacking, and I would be sitting in jail right now, and probably would be facing a quarter-century in prison. Read more

Windows XP rises from the dead… accidentally

I’ve been hearing predictions for a year that after Windows XP went out of support, it would only be a matter of time before people started backporting patches to it.

As it turns out, they don’t have to. Windows XP has a close relative, Windows Embedded, that doesn’t go out of support until 2019. The people who are fretting over XP-based ATMs and cash registers don’t realize many of those devices–those built in 2009 or later–are running Windows Embedded. It looks just like XP, works just like XP, and installs a lot like XP, but it’s still supported. The bigger question is whether the people running it are patching it, but that problem has existed ever since Microsoft released Windows Update.

Well, with a simple registry hack, it’s possible to make Windows XP look like Windows Embedded and keep getting updates. Microsoft quickly issued a statement, and some people are predicting Microsoft will quickly close that loophole.

I’m not so sure about that. Read more

How to slipstream updates into Windows 8.1

I need a Windows box, so I figured I’d experiment with Windows 8.1. I know it’s terrible, but I want to see just how much less terrible I can make it.

The first thing I wanted to do was figure out how to slipstream updates into it. I recommend slipstreaming because you get a faster performing system, you get the system up and running a lot sooner, and you save a lot of unnecessary writes to your SSD. It’s very similar to slipstreaming Windows 7, but not quite identical.

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