Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bluetooth Security Presentation

As I mentioned yesterday I’ll be speaking at a conference about wireless security and along with WiFi or 802.11 wireless, the topic will cover Bluetooth technology which is widely used today in cell phones. I’m including an outline of my talk and welcome your comments, suggestions and stories.

One important thing to remember is your cell phone is a computer. It stores your personal data and can communicate easily with the world. Proper use includes keeping your data backed up regularly and keeping it secure. One of the common ways your cell phone or PDA communicates is using technology called Bluetooth. Just like your computer, you should know about the following.

  • Discovery Mode
    This is a special mode that allows you to sync or pair up two devices that provide Bluetooth communications. In discovery mode information about your cell phone is readily available to Bluetooth scanners. In most new phones, when you turn on Discovery mode it will only be available for a short time frame. While this sometimes makes it a pain to pair up devices it’s a great safety feature. Your phone should never remain in Discovery Mode.
  • Keep your Phone to yourself
    Don’t let others mess around with your phone. Every phone has a physical Bluetooth network address which can’t be changed. Someone checking out your phone can find this numeric address and use it to communicate with your phone even when it’s not in discovery mode. This unique number can not be changed and will look something like 11:1A:D9:EB:11:C7
  • Passwords
    Just like on your computer your password should not be 1234 or your birthday. It should not be your address, pets name or the same as your ATM pin.
  • Unsoliticated Connection Requests
    Don’t be shocked if you receive a request to connect for an update or what looks like a news story or free ringtone. It’s very possible this could be an illegitimate attempt at a pairing. If you do get an unsolicited request reply No. If it appears to come from your phone company, you can always call them directly to confirm.
  • Update your firmware
    Again, just like on your computer, you should regularly connect to your phone vendor and see if any “firmware” updates are available. It’s possible that some kind of security hole was found in your phone’s software and a firmware update could be needed to repair it.

  • Encryption
    When syncing up your address book or or other data with your computer check to see if encryption is available. This may require you to remember another password but it’s a good idea. While Bluetooth data is designed to only be available in short distances there are antenna’s out there which increase the ability to read Bluetooth data.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

WiFi Security Presentation

Next month, I’m speaking at a conference of trainers for the National Network to End Domestic Violence. One of my sessions will be about WiFi wireless security geared towards protecting someone’s privacy from potential abusers. I’ve included an outline below which I hope will educational to all but I’m also open to comments about what else I could include.

Frequently a Wireless(WiFi) Router comes as part of the package from Comcast, Time Warner or Verizon FIOS even If you don’t specifically request it. The Wireless router is your connection to the internet and needs to be secure.

· Default Password
The default password for your router is publically available and should be changed to something only you know. This year we’re discovering more malware trying to gain control of your router by trying default passwords. How to access the wireless router control panel should be in your documentation. Typically, it will be as easy as typing in an address like

· WEP/WP2 Encryption
The data that goes over the air from your laptop to the router is accessible to anyone else with a software. This data can be jumbled up with encryption so it’s not easy to understand. Typically, this encryption will be called WEP or WP2 and is standard on most wireless routers and the card in your laptop. Your Wireless control panel will allow you to create a simple key that is required by any laptop using your wireless network.

· Extended Range of Wireless devices
Simple WiFi network typically has a range around 100 feet so you might think someone needs to be close to your computer to access your wireless data. New high powered antenna’s and even home grown hacks can be used to extend the range of a wifi network.

· Beware of Free WiFi Networks
It’s often tempting to use what looks like a free WiFi network. You might be in the airport, Starbucks or local book store which has free networking. Make sure you know the name of the network you’re connecting to. Someone with another laptop could configure their machine to appear as if it’s a free network when instead you’d be communicating through their computer while they capture your name and passwords.

I’m sure there’s more I can say so feel free to comment. I’ll also be speaking about Bluetooth security so I’ll be looking for tips on Bluetooth security as well.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Windows Update Swaps Dual Monitors

Yes, I’ve been critical of auto updates in the past. I’ve documented numerous problems. While I have always considered them evil, yesterday was the first time I’ve been personally burnt by a simple Microsoft system update.( KB951748: Security Update for DNS Server)

The trouble appeared immediately when I rebooted my dual monitor XP desktop following the Windows update. For some reason my Start button and all the desktop icons were on my 2nd monitor on the right. How this relates to a DNS Server is still a mystery to me. Software is so complex these days you just never know.

Normally the dialog below is be used to specify your primary monitor and the order of any extended monitors. Try as I might, I still wasn’t allowed to change things back so my left hand monitor was primary.

Display Properties for multiple monitors

So, today my only solution short of a system restore was to physically re-arrange the monitors on my desk. No big deal but obviously, something is wrong with this picture.

A side note for other old guys like me. I actually used to have three monitors. While it impressed everyone who entered my office I found it was also responsible for some of my chronic neck and shoulder pain. Two monitors seem to work fine as long as I can keep my primary monitor on the left.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Friends Around the World

I’ve writen before about how important it was for companies to be global and with the US dollar so low it’s more important than ever. I’ve been lucky to have friends in other countries who have helped me localize WinPatrol. Their work has made it even more possible for WinPatrol to gain popularity all over the world.

Below is one page of stats so far in July at Only our biggest fans actually upgrade to PLUS these days so don’t go thinking I’m ready to retire yet. I can tell you that folks in other countries are more apt to upgrade and I appreciate it. The numbers include requests for PLUS Information.

WinPatrol stats for July 2008

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hidden Files in Firefox 3

My mail bag has had a few concerned WinPatrol users letting me know they were alerted to new hidden files created by Firefox 3. While this is a change from older Firefox versions it certainly isn’t unusual for applications to create their own hidden files.

New Firefox 3 hidden file

One of the many features of WinPatrol is to let users see what hidden files exist in specific system locations. While not a default setting, we’ll alert users to any new hidden files which are created. 

Monitoring for new hidden system files isn’t a default setting because it’s not uncommon for applications to create temporary hidden files and then remove them.  Having this monitoring always-on could needless scare folks but it’s available for anyone who wants it.  The most valuable aspect of this feature is being able to use WinPatrol to review or remove hidden files when cleaning up some kind of malware infiltration.

Hidden files in WinPatrol 15
Hidden Files as seen by WinPatrol


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Friday, July 18, 2008

Steve Jobs Delivers Baby in Taxi

It seems that the newest trick used by malware spammers is to create outlandish headlines trying to entice uses to open up the Emails and click on links. I’m still seeing Emails on how to enlarge my penis and buy a watch but the headlines seem to be a new trend.
Just today I received the following complete with misspellings…

  • Afghan bombing kills President Bush

  • Al Pacino investigated by police for mob funding

  • Angelina Jolie dies in miscarriage

  • Bill Gates and family held and robbed in family home

  • Facebook hacked into, millions of accounts lost

  • Freak accident causes Tom cruise to be paralysed

  • Nicole Kidman loses baby in miscarriage

  • Norton Firm admits to releasing viruses

  • Obama caught with pants down

  • Pope killed by assasin in Vatican City

  • Stray javelin kills promising US sprinter

  • YouTube shut down by lawsuit

Don’t be fooled! Most of these headlines are so crazy you don’t need to go to to verify them. Some headlines may actually be true but unless you know the sender just hit the delete button.

Speaking of YouTube, I was thrilled this week to see that I can now watch YouTube videos, like my newest creation on my Series 3 TiVo.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

What is AppleSyncNotifier?

When the iPhone was first released a new file suddenly appeared to everyone who used iTunes. It was called “Apple Mobile Device Service”. You really didn’t need it unless you had an iPhone or an iTouch iPod but that didn’t stop Apple from including it as an Service for all iTunes users.

Now that the iPhone 2.0 is available iTunes is adding a new “MobileMe” file called Apple Sync Notifier. The number one request for PLUS Information from WinPatrol users starting on July 10th has been for AppleSyncNotifier.exe with the title MobleMe.

We’ve added the following tips to the WinPatrol PLUS database.

Applesyncnotifier.exe will be found in your c:\Program Files\Common Files\Apple\Mobile Device Support\bin\ folder. This file installs with iTunes and is used when syncing your iPhone, iTouch, iPod, etc.

There may be problems installing Apple Mobile Device Support with iTunes 7.7 under Windows Vista. Error messages in 'AppleMobileDeviceHelper' when trying to sync your phone could result.

Several possible solutions are discussed at We will update WinPatrol PLUS information as it becomes available.

I now realize how Apple plans to sell more Macs. They keep adding more autostart crapware to anyone using iTunes so Windows continues to slow down and look bad. Apple has already been criticized for trying to sneak their Safari browser download into any new iTunes updates. (Yes, they make it an option but when the option is checked by default, I consider it sneaky). They do the same thing with QuickTime.

Anytime you view a QuickTime movie Apple puts a Quicktime Task helper back in your list of Startup programs. WinPatrol users can mark QTTask.exe as “Disabled” and Scotty will automatically remove it from your Startup list anytime it’s added. Just like the iTunesHelper startup program, you can run it manually when needed instead of it running all the time.

You’ll also find iTunes 7.7 adds an updated service called “Bonjour” or nDNSResponder.exe which is set to run automatically. Apple says the following about the Bonjour Service…

“Enables hardware devices and software services to automatically configure themselves on the network and advertise their presence, so that users can discover and use those services without any unnecessary manual setup or administration.”

Top Ten Reasons to Try WinPatrol Again

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Windows Update and Zone Alarm

I’ve had a number of people share reports of problems between the most recent Windows Auto Update and Zone Alarm. Due to the sudden death of our nephew Adam I haven’t posted sooner and may not be posting again for a little while.

Here’s an example of one of the Emails I’ve received from Andrew.

I've spent the better part of today trying to help my 72-year-old mother with her total inability to access the Internet. Tried everything known to man (AV scans, system restore, etc.) to no avail. AT&T tech support is useless. AT&T's answer is to refer you to Microsith, whose VM directs you to their webpage (how the &%$# you get there if you have no *&%$ Internet access) to "sell" you their services.

Finally figured it is a conflict with ZA, went to their page & followed suggestions. Personally, I use Sunbelt Personal Firewall (formerly, Kerio) as I have had MS/ZA conflicts in the past.

Could you pass on this info re: MS/ZA in your blog and elsewhere? Thanks!

Both Microsoft and Zone Alarm are aware of the problem. Unfortunately, the only solution at this time is to change the Zone Alarm settings to “Medium”. At least that way you can connect to the internet.

I haven’t had an opportunity to evaluate if it would be better to reduce the settings in ZA or just Uninstall the update. Perhaps Andrew’s got the right idea. Might be good time to check out other firewall programs so you know you’re protected.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

WinPatrol x64; Update Not Required by All

I’ve been working on a new version of WinPatrol and it’s finally ready for release. The new build is version 15.5.2008. This new version has some enhanced functionality but for most of you, there’s really no need to rush out and get this new version.

You’ll only “need” to download the newest version if…

  • You’re using an x64 version of Windows

  • You’re a corporate WinPatrol Enterprise user.

WinPatrol runs fine under x64 systems but we did have a bug in detecting some of the new registry locations found under the Wow6432 registry path. This has been corrected so more than the default auto run locations are detected.

For our corporate customers we’ve had a long time request to hide alert messages and to handle changes with a default action. At the same time, we’re now testing the ability to send a notification of the alert to servers so administrators can review what changes have occured. This stealth feature is disabled except for Enterprise customers and beta testers. The WinPatrol stealth functionality is expected to be available to PLUS members in versions 16.

(Not available to everyone at this time)

It may sound crazy but I don’t recommend our regular WinPatrol users upgrade to this version immediately. Just like I always say about Microsoft Windows and other auto-updates I advise waiting a couple weeks before updating. While I’m confident in the stability of the new version, you just never know how changes in software can affect your system.

International versions will be available the holiday weekend. If you already have a language pack installed you can however just download the english build. If you have to ask if you’re an Enterprise customer you’re not. Smile

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