Archive for the Category ◊ privacy ◊

Another Creepy FaceBook Feature – Spy Cam
Monday, August 13th, 2012 | Author:

Facebook has developed a camera so it can detect users when they go into a store. All under the guise of providing targeted information.

Yeah, right….

Free at LastIt was not easy, in fact it took a lot of work to copy all of the information that I wanted from my blogs, Picasa photo account, and other places, and put them on my own website and domain.

After all that work, I finally hit the delete my account button, and I would love to say my information is gone. But I have a sneaking suspicion that Google will keep my information for a while. That is how they do business.

If you are reading this, you are reading my blog on the new site of Paul’s Computer Repair, controlled by us, not Google.

If you are not a believer and think this is all Google scare, just think about how much information, private information is in the hands of one company.

Here are the accounts I had information on:

Blogger (3 blogs, and the wife has 2), Google checkout (now wallet), YouTube, Google Adwords, Picasa Web Albums, Gmail, Google Analytics (website statistics), talk (Google chat), docs, igoogle home page, and every time I did a search on Google.

That is a lot of info, and that is not all of it. There are many other “products” that they collect information from. One of the latest is Google + which I have stayed away from, that is the FaceBook challenger, and of course, collecting lots of information ab0ut every user and their friends.

There have been a lot of articles and stories about the lack of fair privacy policies that users can understand. There have also been many incidents showing the power and amount of information that Google is amassing.

Here is a recent example article about the combining of data from CNN

So of course Google decides to help us out, and combine all of our accounts into one. Making the privacy so much easier for us. This combining of all of your Google related accounts will happen on March 1st, whether or not you like it.

Anyone with any brain knows when a company touts how it is going to help you, the first thing is, what is the company getting out of it?

Well, Google is a huge advertising company, they are not a search engine company, which is what everyone thinks of. They sell advertising and data on people’s habits. They have too much of it, and are becoming very scary.

Another thing that is scary, adding to their list of info they keep is the Android operating system they own. Every phone that has it is run by this company, who has every bit of information that goes through your phone. And if that is not enough, Google has been found to have recently bypassed security in Apple’s Safari and IE9 browsers.

I am done with Google. I really like their search engine and I have used it for years, but they have gone too far.

There is an alternative, using This site uses results from Google, but the info that goes to Google is from them, and your privacy is never breached. Pretty cool idea, check it out at

When I am cleaning up computers from the slowdown of malware and unwanted programs, there is one consistent thing I find in common.

There are usually several programs, toolbars, search assistants and more that are loaded onto the computer, without the user’s knowledge.

Most users never use the stuff, and don’t need it. Almost all of it is garbage and just slows things down on the computer and many track what you are doing.

Some of the common things that load uninvited are Google, Yahoo or MSN’s toolbars, Google desktop, Search helpers, disk defraggers, registry cleaners and more.

Google products are so intrusive, they can be hard to remove, including scheduled tasks, that most people don’t realize even exist, and it is another thing that will slow the system down.

One of the main ways these junk programs get on your systems is when you try to download a program that you need. Something such as Adobe Reader or Adobe Flash. Even big name software will try to include crud you don’t need.

When you download a file, you have to be a detective on the page and make sure you do not click on anything but the actual download link. They disguise other links that say DOWNLOAD NOW, and they download one of these other programs.

In the mean time, your program will download and you will have the program you wanted, and something else.

Here is an example of this, and what is crazy, it happens on more than one page, just to get one file. Let’s say you need to get the Mega Codec pack to make your videos work correctly.

You search on Google, and here is the top choice, below. Note all the Red X’s. Those are all links you do not want, and have nothing to do with your download. You need to look carefully when clicking.

In this case you have to click on a mirror or another site that actually has the file that you can download.

Ok, you made it through the first mine field, now you get a second page, the one that should have the file you want. Hmmmmm. Looks a bit familiar huh?

Now look at the above page, and how many Red X’s do we have here? There is only one link to actually download the file, and even it is not really obvious. The green circle is the download button.

As you can see, many things on a website look “legit” but they are just junk begging you to download them and slow down or infect your computer.

Now you need to have Adobe Flash if you are going to do anything on the Internet, including watching videos. Let’s go to the Adobe site and Download Adobe Flash:


Here we go again, and this is Adobe doing it as you are trying to download it. You need to UNCHECK any free software helper junk they are trying to push on you. Uncheck the “include in your download.”

Let’s say you got through both minefields of crud to download a file, and now you have the program saved on your computer. You double click the icon to install it. Let’s use good ol’ Ccleaner, a program I like, as an example.


This one is a bit sneakier. They try to put it on your computer after you download it, during the installation. Most of us just Click Install>NEXT>NEXT>OK>Done. We never really look at what it is asking us. I find myself doing this at times, and it can get you in trouble.

Ccleaner is a very good and reputable program, but Google and other companies make money each time someone installs it on their system or they pay a certain amount of money to have the software include the junk on their webpage or inside the software.

Why do they do this? Because they get free data from you, your surfing habits, demographics, and then they push out ads to you on the sides of web pages. Your free information makes people like Google Rich.

The key to safe downloading is to be careful, and watch what you download and make sure you uncheck any extra programs they try to install.

Hopefully these tips and examples will help you keep you computer a little cleaner!

Cookies, Flash Cookies, Removing them – Part II
Wednesday, September 01st, 2010 | Author:

In my last Blog, we I talked about what the cookies are, and some of the dangers they can be.

Today I am going to talk about how to manage and get rid of cookies from the computer.

First, I will start with regular old cookies. In my opinion, the best tool to manage cookies on your computer is CCleaner. If your computer has been on my bench for repair, you will have it on your desktop.

Crap Cleaner (Ccleaner) is one of the best free cleaner utilities around. I like the Ccleaner SLIM, that is a smaller version without the option of it installing a useless toolbar.

Ccleaner will clean out your temp files where a lot of the crud like malware and viruses like to hide out, and it will clean out Windows and other program temp files that you do not need and just take up disk space.

A really cool feature of Ccleaner is that you can tell it if you want it to keep some cookies. For example, if you go to a weather site every day, it is nice for it to remember you are in 97355 zip code, so you don’t have to enter it every day for the weather report. The cookie keeps that info for you, and it is safe. So you can tell Ccleaner to NOT delete that cookie.

In Ccleaner you click on the Options button, then Cookies. The left window shows cookies that are on the computer, and the right shows the ones you want to keep.


Just click on a cookie to highlight it, then click on the arrow pointing to the right and that will save that cookie. If you don’t want a particular one, just leave it alone, it will be deleted.

The other really nice thing about CCleaner is that it cleans out the dreaded Flash Cookies that I mentioned in the previous blog.

Older versions do not have this feature, so you should update CCleaner if you can.

To see if your version will clean out the Adobe Flash Cookies, click on the cleaner Brush Icon, then Applications. Scroll down and look at the Multimedia section, and make sure Adobe Flash is there, and checked off. I leave all the items here checked off.

There is another way to “manage” the adobe flash cookies, but I don’t like it and think it is cumbersome. You go to the adobe website, and from their website, you run a program that allows you to manage the cookies on your computer, that Adobe allowed on there in the first place.

I just don’t like it at all. To me it is really slimy that Adobe does not put something in the software that you load on the computer to remove those cookies.

But you get what you pay for, and for free, that is what we get, advertising junk. If you are interested in that process, here is a link on how to do it that way.

Warning, as soon as you click on this site, it is looking at your cookies, and displaying them for you to manage.

There are some good things to set in here, including disabling flash cookies completely.

I went into mine and disabled any access, and made sure all disk storage space says NONE. Click on do not allow on the other choices.

Make sure you click on each tab above, and change the settings in each section if you want to turn off those cookies.

Adobe Web Cookie Management Tool

If you use FireFox you can use the Better Privacy add-on to help manage the Flash cookies and other privacy settings.

Better Privacy for FireFox

Here is a very good Video that covers pretty much all of the solutions I have mentioned. It is only 5 minutes, but very informative and easy to follow. It does cover the Adobe Website and some of the privacy settings.

I had a hard time coming up with a title for this blog entry, but I wanted to focus on the latest threats from cookies and also a basic rundown on what cookies are and what they do.

What is a Cookie

A Cookie is a small piece of text that a website will “drop” onto your computer and it is stored on your hard drive.

The text includes a small bit of information basically to remember you the next time you go back to that website.

For example, I like Weather Underground as I have a weather station there and I like the website. I go there often.

When I go there, a cookie is put on my computer so the next time I go back, it remembers me so I don’t have to log back in every time. It always remembers the location that I have in for weather.

The same thing with eBay or Amazon or any site you like to go to. It seems pretty harmless and can be helpful for most people.

All Cookies not Created Equal

But there are different kinds of cookies, and even the basic cookies can be “read” by other websites and information gleaned.

For example they can see some of your browsing habits and focus ads specifically targeted to you from what you have been doing on the Internet.

The interesting thing is, this is done by many Internet providers also. I know that Comcast does this. When I go looking at B&H Camera at some cool new camera stuff, tomorrow, when I go looking at a website I suddenly see B&H Camera ads, and possibly even of the product I was looking at today. No kidding.

Some of this is done with cookies, and some is just done because they know where you have been as your Internet provider.

Back to Cookies, so there are good and bad ones, and some really bad ones. Some that are put on the computer by a company, and it is not even their cookie. Tracking cookies can actually be an invasion of your privacy.

New Cookies, so Yummy – Maybe not so much

Recently there is a new type of cookie called a Flash Cookie, and another called Beacons. Some of these can actually tell that you are a Female, 26, from Oregon who likes the movie Sleepless in Seattle.

Basically this is demographics, just like your cable or satellite TV does, and you probably don’t even know it.

Did you know in your contract for TV service that part of it allows them to gather your viewing habits and use the statistics and share that info with other companies?

So basically it is up to you what cookies you keep or delete, or do not even allow on your computer.

If you would like to read some more about what cookies are, here is a FAQ to explain more.

Next Time

In part II I will cover how to clean up your cookies and combat this new Flash Cookie that even the Whitehouse Website is using!


I am sure I will offend someone with this post, but here goes. CRAP CLEANER is one of my favorite cleanup and maintenance programs. Well, the name is a bit crazy, but it calls that junk what it is, crap on the computer.

CCleaner is a tool that cleans out temporary Internet files, temporary Windows files, cookies, history and numerous other items from the hard drive, increasing performance, security and privacy.

The Temporary Internet files area is one of the big areas that viruses and malware like to hang out (along with anywhere they can find!) and cleaning out these areas with this tool really helps keep things running faster, smoother and helps protect your privacy and security.

I frequently work on customer computers that have 2 or more GIGABYTES of crud in the temporary Internet files. That can slow down your Internet browser to a crawl.

The program is straight forward and easy to use. Just download and install it, accepting all the defaults unless you know there is something you would like to change.

When you run the program, you will see the above window, and all those check boxes, I normally leave them all checked off. That way it gets a good deep cleaning.
You do not need to run any of the other little features if you do not feel comfortable, especially be careful with the Registry cleanup tool. It works great, but it can also cause problems if you are not careful. Always say yes to the backup of the registry if you dare use this feature. Be warned.
One problem I had when I first started using it, is that I like some cookies on my computer. I visited several websites daily, and I like them remembering my location, etc. So for those, they have a solution.
ccleaner cookies
Click on the Options button on the left, and then click on cookies. All the cookies you have had on your computer (and there can be a lot) will show up in alpha/numeric order and you can choose cookies to keep, or just leave them in the left column to remove. Very easy and nice feature.
Those are the only things you really need to mess with, and this will really help keep things running smoother. I would suggest running this once a month, or once a week, depending on how much surfing you do.
If you have anything over 1 GB, then you should do it more often. If you only have 300k, then you probably don’t need to run it as often.
This program is easy to use, and it is Free. If you do use it and like it, they do ask that you donate to show your appreciation.
I recommend the slim version, which does not have the added bloat of toolbar junk that you do not need. This link will take you to Major Geeks website and you just click on the yellow bar on the top to download, you do not need to click on any other link on the page.

Recent reports of a phishing scam where users are asked to put in their passwords were tricked, and the passwords were put up on the Internet for everyone to see.

This was originally thought it was only Microsoft’s Hotmail, but it seems to have stretched to Yahoo mail, Google Mail, Comcast, Earthlink and others.

The hackers tricked users into putting passwords into a bogus site, and stole the passwords, then published them on a website.

Here is the full article

If you think you have been scammed, I highly suggest you go in and change your passwords, especially if they are the same for other things that someone might be able to hack into.

In a scene right out of George Orwell’s book 1984, Amazon secretly took books back from customers it sold electronically. has a product called the Kindle which is an electronic book. You go online, buy a book, and download it. The cool thing is you can take it with you and read anywhere, but it is small, and kinda geeky.

The other day Amazon went onto their customer’s personal Kindles and removed the books they bought without their knowledge. They then let them know what they had done, and that they had been credited for the book.

Apparently Amazon did not have the rights to sell a few books including 1984 and Animal Farm, so they had to do something. Well, they did. They went onto each person’s computer, removed the books, and then let them know.

It has been called an “Orwellian moment” by many. If you are not familiar with 1984 it is a book about how Big Brother takes over, and how they control everything. The book was written in 1948, and the author transposed the numbers to come up with the future, 1984. It is amazing how many things have come to pass from that book.

There is now a lawsuit by a student who was using the book to write a report on 1984, and the Kindle lets you keep notes attached to a book. When the deleted the book from his Kindle, guess what? Yup, the notes went by-by also. The cool thing is he is suing Amazon, and he and the attorney are not doing it for money but to get them to stop this practice.

I think the question here is, what rights does a company have to get into a device such as a computer or electronic book reader, and actually access your information or remove anything. It is like Amazon breaking into my house and taking back a book I bought, and leaving a note on the table. Sure seems like an invasion of privacy.

I am sure this is going to be debated much in the future.

Category: Kindle, privacy  | Leave a Comment

Chris Paget is an “Ethical Hacker” who is exposing a huge weakness in the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Chips. These chips are the ones that have been feared for a while by privacy advocates and others.
The chips are so small they can be implanted in humans easily, and have been done in the military, and many people fear that religious implications by being something related to the mark of the beast.
Paget has a YouTube video showing how with a couple of hundred bucks on eBay, he can get the equipment to read other people’s passport numbers in public. See the video here. It took him 20 minutes to find information on someone while driving in San Francisco.
The scary thing is that RFID is not secure and anyone can intercept the information with the right equipment and it is not too hard. Credit cards, Drivers License, Homeland Security and other agencies are looking at using the technology.
The “Pay Pass” swipe and go is a good example of an RFID chip in use along with the pet identification.
I just don’t see any good in using this type of technology from a privacy or security standpoint. It just seems like a big brother type of device and our individual privacy is not being considered. This is another place the government needs to back off and not push technology for technology sake.

Category: hacker, privacy, RFID, security  | One Comment