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Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Monday, October 06, 2014

Your Email Password is a Target

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Interested in hacking into the Email account of Charlie Sheen, Rob Lowe, Sean Penn or Carson Daly?  You’ll want to know they attended Santa Monica High School. Want access to the CEO of a large retail corporation?  Keep reading.

 

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Simple question used by Yahoo to verify your identity.


Truth is we’re all screwed but having good password habits will keep out the amateurs. It may save you from emailing people on your contact list to say, “I’ve been hacked, if you received email from me don’t click on the link.”

My security expert friends will advise you to use…

1) Strong Passwords
2) Unique passwords for each of your password protected websites
3) Two-step verification

Important Advice to Share From BillP
My most important tip to family and friends is “Use fake information when asked for answers to security questions.”


Example of Fake Security Answer
Example of making up your own unique answers to security questions.


I had plenty of time this summer to research malware and identify the first step in the infection process.  The most common way to get hacked is someone using the small amount of public information needed too reset your email password. Once they have one of your email addresses it’s not hard to receive a new password on other services.

I recommend creating easy to remember jokes to use when asked for answers to security questions.  Some examples may be “What high school did you attend?” Pick something like Jefferson High School (Happy Days) or Rydell High(Grease). I won’t tell you what it is but people often laugh out loud when they see what I use for my mothers maiden name. Yes, some company’s still use it.

maidenname

Target’s Easy Target

Using real data is dangerous. In less than 15 minutes I was able to find information about “former” Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel. His mother’s maiden name was Schreindl. He graduated from Homestead High School.
His first job was at Steinhafel's Furniture and he attends Wayzata Community Church. Born in Milwaukee, Steinhafel graduated from Carroll University in 1977 and earned an MBA from Northwestern University two years later. I could say more but for the safety of his wife and three children I’ll stop here.

When a high school kid gained access to Sarah Palin’s email he wasn’t a computer genius. He just looked up the answers to the security questions used by Yahoo. Even though that was way back in 2008 this method has continued to grow as the number one way to steal personal data.

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I’ve also noticed a set of quizzes common on Facebook specifically designed to collect personal data used in security questions.  I am currently investigating the background of the companies who spread these quizzes. Most created their domain within the last 30 days. I will share any information in the future.


Some Security Advice May Be Outdated
Complicated passwords:

Some may recommend a complicated password like “hfY4df$dhEW_!cvrh3H7D&d.” It’s safer than 123456 but isn’t very easy to remember. A complicated password may be useful to beat programs which try every possible combination but most systems will lock you out after a handful of incorrect attempts.

Unique passwords:
Using different passwords on different services is good advice but unless you’re using a program that remembers your passwords it’s too easy to forget unique passwords. If you’re like me you’ll just end up resetting your password using security questions.

Two-Step Verification

The two step verification process is a step in the right direction For banking or any service where real harm could be done it’s worth the extra step. If someone gains access to your cell phone or one of your email accounts the benefit is lost. Unfortunately, you’re trusting that the company is not going to take advantage of having more of your personal data like your cell phone number or alternate email address.

Some Advice Will Never Change

As far as recent failures by Home Depot, Lowes and other large companies the advice hasn’t changed much in 20 years. When your bill comes, check all your charges and make sure they’re legitimate. Most likely you can access your credit card online and see charges as they come in. If you haven’t already, register an account connected to your credit card and review charges regularly.

Reviewing your bills doesn’t just apply to credit or bank cards. Keep an eye on any charges like your cable or phone bill. Legitimate companies have been known to add bogus charges. Verizon wireless added a monthly charge for ring tones on Cindi’s phone. They claimed she agreed to the monthly charge by not responding to a text message. They removed the charge when I explained her cell phone at the time didn’t support test messaging.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Task Catcher Universal

The recent sale of my WinPatrol™ program has generated many questions from a large, loyal user base. One common query has been about the future of WinPatrol’s sister program Task Catcher.  This program has a smaller fan base because the popularity and needs of WinPatrol has required my full attention. 

lady_7_128Task Catcher is a completely separate program with  different goals. While it currently has  familiar interface, WinPatrol is now a product of Ruiware LLC and Task Catcher is still owned by BillP Studios.  Some shared feature may continue while others will be phased out.

Watch List
Task Catcher currently has two main functions. You can create a "Watch List" of programs that you want to remain active at all times. For instance, I've added WinPatrol.exe to my watch list. If for some reason WinPatrol.exe crashes or is shut down by malware, Task Catcher will automatically restart it. I can tell Task Catcher to automatically restart it or to let me know it has stopped so I have the option of restarting it. 

addwatchui 
One of our customers runs a radio station. They have a number of sources from pre-recorded commercials and content from live streams. They use Task Catcher to make sure a program doesn't crash during the night causing dead air.

Black List
The other function is "Black List".  This function allows you to create a list of programs you never want to run on your computer. The most common use may be with parents of teenagers but it's also used by companies to prevent employees from using restricted programs. 

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Unlike WinPatrol there isn't a FREE and PLUS version of Task Catcher. You can download the version available online to see what it looks like but none of the features work in real-time until an activation code is applied.

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What you download today may look a little different than the screen shots above.

The sample screens you see are only the first step towards a new user interface. If you’ve used a newest Windows Phone you’ll be familiar with the interface.  If not, you’ll find an easy to understand interface with plenty of room for as much data as possible.  Stay tuned for more surprises ahead.

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Great 50% Educational Discount

Most years I’ve offered some kind of discount for students or a back to school time sale but this year our schools really need help. Bill and Melinda Gates aren’t the old tech professionals who have a sincere interest in our nations educational system. I can’t change our education system but nobody can object to having WinPatrol PLUS available for half its regular price.

schoolsale

Most of you have probably heard of changes to our school known as “Common Core”. Unless you’re an educational professional you probably won’t have an accurate understanding of how common core will affect your school and children.  You may not understand how teachers are now evaluated or how refusing to take a test could raise your taxes.

I’ve started my fourth year on the Scotia-Glenville School Board and learn something new every month. I don’t claim to be an expert on education but I have experience at hiring the best people for a job.

In our school district, the school board is an elected position with no salary or benefits. I have the added role of serving on the Audit Committee and I’m our Legislative Liaison. I have chosen the most challenging years to serve but thankfully we have built an excellent team of administrators, teachers and other staff.

Tartan3by4colorWe also have a community that considers education as critical and they’ve supported the hard decisions we’ve had to make. While billions of dollars are being spent to demonize Common Core no one is paying attention to state lawmakers balancing their budgets by taking money away from funds previously allocated for traditional education programs.

Given my interest in education I’m very happy  to offer WinPatrol PLUS for just $14.98 USD. A Family Pack license is even half price for $24.98 USD. The sale will continue until the end of August but the sooner you upgrade the quicker you’ll have more protection.

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If you’ve ever been infected you know the horrible feeling of being violated and the cost of repairing your computer. Even if you can recover critical programs and data the time you spend is lost forever.  For the $14.98 you spend today upgrading to WinPatrol PLUS you’ll have valuable protection that won’t slow you down. WinPatrol’s squeaky clean reputation means you won’t end up with unwanted toolbars or page hijackers.

Take advantage of this special offer and upgrade to WinPatrol PLUS today. It’s a one time payment good for all future versions.

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Saturday, August 02, 2014

WinPatrol’s Future Remains Bright

billpthankyou3
I recently announced a new trainer for Scotty the Windows Watch Dog. I knew the decision would be scrutinized but the former lead developer with Sunbelt Software, Bret Lowrey received a warm welcome. I promised long time WinPatrol fans I would do everything possible to keep our software something they could still recommend. Bret is proving to be just the guy to make it happen.

billpthankyou5

The proof came with the introduction of the newest WinPatrol version 32.  Bret’s ability to understand bug reports and feature requests provided the kind of communication we’ve needed. His intervention has helped find solutions to problems which never seemed to go away but have now been fixed.

winpatrolstart

I’ve been pleased and honored by many of the comments from WinPatrol fans. I’ve included some of the comments in this post. The announcement has generated more comments than any post since I began Bits From Bill in 2005.  I haven’t experience this much WinPatrol luvin’ since it was distributed as Birthdayware.

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I never expected WinPatrol to become my life but the exponential growth of mystery startup programs made it a must have program. Over the last couple years I’ve had some personal challenges but I’ve still worked hard to keep WinPatrol alive. 

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The role of designer, developer, and customer support rep while maintaining our web services was mission I accepted but it was obviously time for someone with fresh ideas and energy to take over.

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Bret and I will continue working closely together for a few months to make sure the transition is smooth. His ability to understand WinPatrol and make sense of many years of my changes  is a good sign for friends of Scotty. He has taken on the tough jobs allowing me time to prepare for my future.

billpthankyou1
I’ve had time to learn more of the secrets behind Windows 8.x, Windows 9 and have started to master some of the new development tools from Microsoft like the popular C# language. I’ve been told I should develop for Android but I believe if I can create an app that *I* want, it could be just as popular with others.

droidpatrol

I’ve become a fan of Windows Phone but like the Windows RT operating system I see a need for some killer universal apps. WinPatrol was originally created because I wanted it for my own use. I’ve been using my Windows Surface RT and Nokia Icon phone since they were released and have plenty of ideas for unique ways to improve the Windows 8+ experience.

lady128Some have asked me about the future of my Task Catcher program. BillP Studios  will continue to support the current version online but I have noticed some features are missing that I’d like myself.

I expect a new Task Catcher in the future.ladyreal128 It may not look like the current program and could be a complete rewrite using some of the newer tools from Microsoft.



Download WinPatrol 32.0.2014.5


Note: Yes, the DroidPatrol screen above represents a first pass at a Droid security program. Unfortunately, trying to keep up with vulnerabilities in Android did not meet the quality that our WinPatrol users have come to expect. This product is on hold at this time.

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