Internet Safety Tips for Everyone

Safety in information Highway – the Internet is critical for safe passage while you are there. The information you provide willingly or otherwise can and may be used against you. The following is part of the series on ‘Internet Safety Tips for Everyone’ articles in TargetWoman.

Privacy Issues: GDPR – the General Data Protection Regulation is a global data protection law passed by the European Union that shifts the ownership of customer data from the entities that use it to the individual customer.
What this means is any data that can be used to identify an individual – be it genetic, psychological, cultural, religious or socio – economic – they all now come under the GDPR umbrella. Every site will now need to set clearly in their privacy page – how the information is collected and how the data will be used – to how long this set of data will be stored. As per this regulation, the customer has the right to withdraw the consent whereupon within a reasonable time frame, the company has to remove all traces of the data collected from the particular customer from their records.

Internet Safety Tips for Everyone

Google as the single largest online entity tracks quite a bit of information about the sites you visited through their searches, places you visited and Videos you have seen over a long time frame. Google’s location History can pinpoint where you have been through your Android Mobile phone’s GPS receiver and cell tower triangulation. This is not all. Your Mobile Phone may run background location services can use wifi positioning in its quest to accurately locate your position.

Remember the cardinal rule in computers – unless you absolutely need it, don’t run it. This rule applies to all software, services and apps. Unless you absolutely need the location services, turn it off. If you need the location services occasionally, you can decide which app needs that. Many apps require GPS receiver to provide the location data or source it from Cell towers wifi Access Points. For example, your IPhone’s built in Compass will not work without the location services. In IPhones, go to Settings – > Privacy -> Location Services and scroll through the list of apps which require the location services. Find IPhone, Google Maps, Maps, Uber and Weather are some of the apps which require your location to work. You can allow them by selecting the option :’while using’.

In Android Phones – the drill is similar. Go to Settings – the gearwheel icon – > Scroll down to the Location Settings -> Location History On and toggle the switch off. Whilst at it you can purge all your history by selecting ‘Delete all Location History’ .

Remember many services in apps may require your location services to work properly. You can’t call Uber cab unless the app knows where you are. But at the same time, there is no need for the app to constantly ping your location to their servers. Most apps will happily work with location services made available when they are open. There may be exceptions like Zus Smart Car Locator which requires that the location services are enabled all the time for it. If you turn off the location services for most apps, your Phone battery will retain its charge for longer duration. GPS receivers are power hogs.

Privacy Settings:

We start with Google – probably the most dominant Online player in the World. Go to Google’s Privacy Page here:

Google Privacy Settings
You will find lots of options with slide buttons to enable/disable. At the moment they show the following:

Under Activity Controls:
Privacy Options

Web & App Activity – Slide Button : Saves your activity on Google sites and apps to give you faster searches, better recommendations, and more personalized experiences in Maps, Search, and other Google services.

Location History – Slide Button: Saves where you go with your devices to give you personalized maps, recommendations based on places you’ve visited, and more.

Device Information – Slide Button:
Stores info about your contacts, calendars, apps, and other device data to improve your experience across Google services.

Voice & Audio Activity – Slide Button: Records your voice and audio on Google services to improve speech recognition, like when you say “Ok Google” to do a voice search.

YouTube Search History – Slide Button: Saves your searches on YouTube to make your future searches faster and improve your recommendations.

YouTube Watch History – Slide Button:
Makes it easier to find YouTube videos you’ve watched and improve your recommendations in YouTube and other Google services.

Check all entries and delete entries you don’t want there. If you ask me, purge all of them and block them in the first place.

If you are one of those with high risk online behavior, your personal data can easily be compromised. What is worse, your computer can end up running backdoor processes that can ‘call home’ – sending sensitive information to any hacker. As part of my job of securing computers, I had to format the drives and install Operating System (OS) afresh in compromised computers. We managed to save time and effort by creating System images after installing all the software required for the staff and saving it elsewhere. Every month, we formatted the hard disk and restored the system from the saved system image.

If you have a high risk online behavior, you should try Sandboxie – a software that runs browsers like Firefox Portable version within its Sandboxed environment – thus protecting you from malicious software, some viruses, ramsomware and zero day threats. Purge the version of portable browsers often as a precaution.

Never – Ever use public Wifi to log on to sensitive sites – your bank accounts, official emails and your social Networking sites. The man-in-the-middle attack is lesser with most sites opting for the HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure from the common HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol). The communication between your browser and the target Server is encrypted using TLS (Transport Layer Security) or the earlier SSL ( Secure Sockets Layer). Check the Green Lock icon in the address bar of your browser. If you want to be doubly sure that your site is what it really claims – click on the Green lock and the digital certificate authority will have identified the domain name of the site. Banks and sites collecting financial information will have extended SSL certificates – identifying the site in the address bar itself next to the Green Lock. Always check for the Green Lock before you type any sensitive information.

Remember the adage of the Latin Poet Phaedrus – ‘Things are not always what they seem‘ in all things online. Do Not click on links from mails and messages from any one. Type the site address directly on the browser. It is just too easy to cook up a link purportedly targeted at a genuine site but in reality pointing to a nefarious site.

 

 

Random Shut down in Windows 10

Random Shut down in Windows 10 is nothing abnormal due to many causes. Most of them probably can be traced to software issues. With Windows 10, the OS takes the initiative to update itself without waiting for the end user to give the go ahead. It appears as if it is in a constant state of flux. When we faced random shut down in one of our computers, we assumed at first that it is a case of Windows’ exuberance.

One of our main computers is getting long in the tooth. It runs Intel Quad Core i5-760 Processor @ 3.33 GHz mated to Intel Tom Cove DH55TC Mother board. It runs quietly sitting in one corner and its OS is Windows 10 Pro version 1709.

After the system updated to the Fall Creators update, the system crashed at random. We know for sure, it was not due to any new found love for any virus or Malware as the system was locked down with multiple check points. It turned out that the CPU was inching dangerously close to the 90 degree C whenever a runaway Windows process forced itself to run.
Earlier it used to run Windows 7 and it never gave any complaint until it was updated to Windows 10.

Intel CPU cooler issues

Random Shut down in Windows 10

The Intel CPU cooler depended on the push pins to keep the cooler – the aluminum heatsink fitted with a fan, in close contact with the CPU. If you don’t over load the CPU and make conscious effort to keep the CPU usage to less than 50 %, you may not realize that something is amiss. It is possible that you may encounter an occasional shut down but then it is not anything unusual in Windows. Once Windows decided that it will install updates on its own, the occasional unexplained shut downs became frequent until it landed in my desk.

Intel CPU

We attended to the usual suspects – dust inside the tower case, checked the fans in and around the case and of course the CPU fan. The routing of the cables in the near vicinity of the CPU was reworked. All these produced zero results. The temperature continued to rise in direct proportion to the CPU usage. In normal computers, the temperature will reach its working temperature and maintain a range not exceeding 80 Degree C (176 degree F) even under severe load. In this case, it continued to edge past 90 degree C.

Intel CPU Cooler

It was earlier thought that the Heatsink compound between the CPU and the CPU cooler must have dried and rendered useless over a period of time. So we ordered Cooler Master MasterGel Pro high stability thermal compound. When the small package arrived, it is time to open the rig and get down to work.

 

Out came the CPU cooler. The copper mating surface was scrubbed, cleaned and allowed to dry. We used Isopropyl Alcohol for cleaning the Cooler. And then a liberal coat of MasterGel was applied and the cooler refitted. The trusty infra red thermometer was used to check the CPU Cooler assembly temperature. Baseline temperature was about 85.5 degree F (29.7 degree C). Within a couple of minutes of starting the Computer, the CPU cooler temperature rose to 181.4 degree F (83 degree C). The monitor showed almost 95% CPU usage. Apparently the cause of excessive heat was not resolved yet by the application of the MasterGel thermal compound.

 

CPU Heat Sink
CPU Heat Sink compound

On closer inspection, it turned out that the CPU cooler Push pins had failed to grasp. A new CPU cooler could rectify this issue albeit temporarily until the time came to clean the cooler by removing it. The original Push pins probably were not designed for multiple usage. They would appear as if they grasp well. But the constant fluctuation in the temperature may make them brittle and fail.

Intel CPU Cooler Push pins

We decided to remove the puny plastic CPU cooler Push Pins and replace it with something that will outlast the CPU. Finally we hit upon the idea of fixing the CPU cooler with 4 long stem screws and nuts.

Intel CPU Cooler fixing

Only problem is to dismantle the mother board to gain access to the back side. It is a small price to pay for the long time reliability and better cooling of the CPU. We completed the setup with a Cooler Master 12 V fan on the tower cabinet to throw extra air for a better overall lowered cabinet temperature.

Intel CPU Cooler fitted with Screws and nuts

Before closing the lid finally, the Infra red thermometer was used to check the result of our labor. Sure enough it showed 85.5 degree F for a long time. Inside sensors in the Motherboard seemed to agree with the external thermometer that at 100 % CPU usage, the core temperature didn’t rise beyond 60 degree C (140 degree F).

No more random shut down – ever now.

Browser Comparison 2017

Browsers are probably the single most often used application we use in our computers and hand held devices. Internet Explorer from Microsoft, Apples’ Safari, Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox have been the mainstay for a long time.
We reviewed browsers a long time ago here .

Then we reviewed the then new Edge Browser in 2016 here.

We have been using Firefox for most of our work despite its inherent limitations – its propensity to crash when multiple windows were opened and its outrageous use of memory. We found that in its portable avatar, it was easy to move the work from one machine to another without breaking into a sweat. When they introduced a completely revamped version – Firefox Quantum, a couple of days ago, we had to take the plunge.

Firefox Quantum has really come a long way from the earlier version – at the first glance. It loaded pages faster and gave a smaller memory footprint. Nearly 33 % of users have 4 GB in their computers, 22 % of users have 8 GB, according to the statistics culled from Mozilla’s hardware metrics here.

The above statistics confirmed our suspicion that the vast majority of users haven’t drastically upgraded their memory. This implies that browsers need to reduce the usage of memory for a better user experience. This is all the more important as many sites tend to open additional resources in a new tab/window – thus increasing the overall memory consumption.

Browsers Comparison : Safari Vs Chrome Vs Firefox Vs Internet Edge:

Anecdotal evidences are not enough to judge what makes a Browser fast or how much memory it occupied. We needed some sort of reliable benchmarking system to compare the browsers we want to test. So we used the browserbench.org to benchmark the browsers. We used Speedometer which measures the responsiveness of web applications.

Browser memory usage Comparison Chart

This is what Browserbench says about the speedometer : ‘
Speedometer measures simulated user interactions in web applications.
The current benchmark uses TodoMVC to simulate user actions for adding, completing, and removing to-do items. Speedometer repeats the same actions using DOM APIs — a core set of web platform APIs used extensively in web applications — as well as six popular JavaScript frameworks: Ember.js, Backbone.js, jQuery, AngularJS, React, and Flight. Many of these frameworks are used on the most popular websites in the world, such as Facebook and Twitter. The performance of these types of operations depends on the speed of the DOM APIs, the JavaScript engine, CSS style resolution, layout, and other technologies.’

 

When the tests were running, we also noted down their memory usage and prepared the charts as shown here.

 

Internet Edge Browser result
Chrome Browser result
Firefox Quantum Browser result
Safari Browser result
You will find that Edge browser has the edge over other browsers here when it comes to having the lowest memory foot print – it just took 15 MB. Chrome continues to impress us as it came next with 67 MB of memory and despite its low usage of memory, Chrome performed better in terms of speed, only second to Safari browser in this line up. The new Firefox Quantum slurped the highest in this line up – 124 MB – still a lot lower than the earlier version 55.0.3 which gulps down a massive 724 MB. Apple’s Safari browser which comes with the High Sierra performed the best in this lot – 88.

 

Browser Speed Comparison Chart
For actual real life usage, Safari outperformed every other browser. We find the FF Quantum and Chrome fast and stable with at least 10 windows open – something we couldn’t even try in the FF version 55.0. It is interesting to see that things haven’t much changed in terms of memory usage from the time we reviewed the browsers about 9 years ago.
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