2017’s Worst Passwords

It’s probably safe to say that everyone on the internet knows by now that using easy-to-guess, insecure passwords like “123456” or “password” is a bad idea. But as it turns out, many still don’t care.

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Password management application provider SplashData on Tuesday released a list of the 100 Worst Passwords of 2017, compiled from more than 5 million passwords leaked during the year. For a fourth consecutive year, “123456” and “password” took the top two spots on the list.

The list included plenty of other usual suspects like “qwerty” (No. 4), “football” (No. 9), “iloveyou” (No. 10) and “admin” (No. 11), along with some new additions, including “starwars,” which ranked as the 16th worst password of 2017.

Unfortunately, while the newest episode may be a fantastic addition to the Star Wars franchise, ‘starwars’ is a dangerous password to use. Hackers are using common terms from pop culture and sports to break into accounts online because they know many people are using those easy-to-remember words.”

Other new additions to the list this year included “letmein” (No. 7), “monkey” (No. 13), “123123” (No. 17), “hello” (No. 21), “freedom” (No. 22), “whatever” (No. 23) and “trustno1” (No. 25). It should be clear that using any of the passwords on the top 100 list will place you in grave risk of identity theft.

We reccomend using passphrases instead of simple passwords. Passphrases should include at least 12 characters and a mix of characters, including upper and lower cases. Unique passwords should be used for each website and manged through a password manager, like LastPass.

Without further ado, here’s SplashData’s list of the top 25 worst passwords of 2017. To see the full 100, click here.

1 – 123456
2 – password
3 – 12345678
4 – qwerty
5 – 12345
6 – 123456789
7 – letmein
8 – 1234567
9 – football
10 – iloveyou
11 – admin
12 – welcome
13 – monkey
14 – login
15 – abc123
16 – starwars
17 – 123123
18 – dragon
19 – passw0rd
20 – master
21 – hello
22 – freedom
23 – whatever
24 – qazwsx
25 – trustno1

Apple’s “Slowdown Gate” Emerges

Apple has confirmed what many people have suspected for a while… that it slows down old iPhones on purpose. However, Apple insists this isn’t an attempt to force you to buy a new iPhone. Instead, it’s to help old iPhone batteries carry on working properly despite their advancing years.

Lately, people have been complaining that their old iPhones were slowing down. Which led to this Reddit post. Which led to this benchmark comparison by John Poole. This shows that Apple has indeed introduced something designed to artificially limit the performance of old iPhones.

The Smoking Gun for Planned Obsolescence?

There has been a common belief for years that Apple employs planned obsolescence, which means limiting the life of a product in order to sell newer versions. However, Apple has never admitted as much, and it’s difficult to find hard evidence. Is this the smoking gun we needed?

In a word, no. Yes, older iPhones will slow down over time, but no, this isn’t a ploy to make you go out and buy a new one. Instead, this was a fix to stop old iPhones unexpectedly shutting down when the demands being placed on the battery were too great. At least that’s Apple’s explanation.

This does actually make sense. What would you prefer? An iPhone that plods along at a slower pace or an iPhone that crashes every time you try to play a game? Apple obviously does want you to upgrade every two years, but it’s unlikely that this feature was a way of encouraging that.

Additional Questions Apple Needs to Answer

I can’t be alone in thinking Apple needs to answer some additional questions here.

  1. Shouldn’t you have informed users of this feature?
  2. Shouldn’t this be optional for each individual user with an old iPhone?
  3. Shouldn’t it be easier to change iPhone batteries? We doubt we’ll get answers, which means this will annoy owners of old iPhones. Even if it is for their own good.

It will be interesting to see how Apple continues to respond to this growing problem as their credibility struggles to rebound.

Snoozing Friends on Facebook

We all have that one Facebook friend. You know the one I mean — they post oodles of updates on one particular topic, usually one which doesn’t interest you, or might if they weren’t saturating your entire Newsfeed with the stuff. (I plead the fifth when it comes to my own friends.)

You don’t want to unfriend them, or even unfollow them. You just, you know … need a break. Facebook today introduced Snooze with exactly that idea in mind. If you hit Snooze on a friend’s profile, you won’t see any of their updates in your Newsfeed for 30 days.

The feature has been in testing for a few months. There are certain social media features I look at and think, “Who could possibly use that?” But this one I’m pretty sure could see widespread use.

The feature rolls out to everyone today.

What The Net Neutraility Vote Means To You

What Was Net Neutraility?

Net neutrality is a term used to describe a set of regulations that ensure all information flowing over the internet is treated equally. It means companies cannot block websites or offer certain companies faster loading speeds for money.

For example, internet services providers like Verizon and Comcast are currently prohibited from charging you more money to visit sites such as Netflix and Youtube. Verizon and Comcast are also prohibited from charging Netflix and YouTube to prioritize their traffic over other websites or services.

Until now, the internet mostly evolved under net neutrality principles. This meant that the internet was something of a meritocracy. The best idea would conceivably win out, even something like two guys starting a search engine out of a garage.

Without net neutrality, this could change, opening up the door to corporate domination of the internet.

What Happened Yesterday

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on a party line vote today to rescind the net neutrality rules passed by the agency under President Obama. Two Republican-appointed commissioners joined agency Chairman Ajit Pai in a 3-2 vote to rescind the order and return to a standard that closely resembles the way the internet has been regulated for most of its existence. The vote was briefly delayed after security cleared the hearing room in the middle of Pai’s remarks in order to conduct a search.

The Obama era rules reclassified internet service from a Title I information service to a more heavily regulated Title II telecommunications service, essentially treating it as an early 20th century utility, like the phone system.

The Problem Deifined

The rules generally required internet service providers to treat most pieces of information that flowed over the internet equally, effectively setting up a non-discrimination standard for network management, content, and pricing. These requirements will no longer be in force. 

Instead, the FCC will require ISPs to be transparent about their services, meaning that bandwidth throttling or other network management practices, which have sometimes been opaque to consumers, would have to be clearly labeled. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), meanwhile, would be empowered to regulate anti-competitive or anti-consumer behavior, stepping in when internet companies make promises to provide a service that they do not keep.

As a result the federal government will stop managing the Internet leaving consumers at the mercy of their internet providers.

The regulatory rollback has been the subject of intense criticism from Democrats and activists, and even a small number of Republican lawmakers.

The shift in strategy is telling: Netflix favored net neutrality rules as a way to preserve a business advantage. As it has grown, it no longer needs that advantage. The debate over net neutrality was always, in part, a tug-of-war over regulatory advantage between tech industry giants. Today, the FCC took steps to stay out of the fight — and remain a neutral regulator over the net.

How This Can Effect Everyone Who Uses the Internet

Imagine having to pay an extra $10 per month so that Netflix streams fast enough to watch movies. Or that an app creator needs to pay AT&T millions of dollars so that new customers can actually access it on the company’s wireless network.

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These accessibility issues are the kinds of things that net neutrality proponents theorize could happen without regulations. Once major companies are able to start negotiating with each other over how data flows across the internet, there’s no shortage of ways to pass higher costs on to consumers while scuttling innovation.

There is Hope

The FCC will face a volley of lawsuits as a result of their vdecesion yesterday. These lawsuits will argue that the FCC did not make this change on the merit of the facts and that the move itself is a violation of what the FCC is mandated to do.

Those legal challenges bear a decent chance of overturning the FCC’s actions, though it’s far from a sure thing.

Previous court rulings have essentially laid out why the FCC could and should regulate internet providers as done under the Obama administration. And courts have generally upheld those rules since then.

It’s a silver lining on an otherwise very dark cloud.

Microsoft’s OneDrive Makes Searching Photos Easier

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced the automatic detection of images that are uploaded to SharePoint and OneDrive. OneDrive can detect whether an image is a whiteboard, a receipt, outdoors, a business card, etc. When an user searches for ‘whiteboard’, he or she will get the whiteboard images stored in OneDrive.

This week Microsoft reported that it is improving the intelligent feature to extract texts inside the images automatically and make them searchable.

While at a restaurant, snap a photo of the receipt. You can do this directly from the OneDrive mobile app, Office Lens mobile app, or just upload a photo you’ve taken with your device. Later on, when you go to file your expenses, you don’t have to remember where you stored it, but instead can search for something that you remember about the expense, for example ‘sushi’ or a location.

Images stored in 21 different file formats including “bmp”, “png”, “jpeg”, “jpg”, “gif”, “tif”, “tiff”, “raw” will be supported for this feature. For now, only English language detection is supported.

Text in image search is currently rolling out to Office 365 commercial subscribers and will be available worldwide by the end of 2017.

Hundreds of HP Laptops & Tablets Found with Pre-Installed Keylogger

If you have recently purchased a HP laptop or tablet pay close attention to this article.

A security researcher has recently found that hundreds of different models of HP notebooks, tablets and other devices include a keylogger that could track and record every keystroke a user makes. Linked to touchpad drivers made by Synaptics, the keylogger is disabled by default and can be fixed with security patches released by HP last month.

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The keylogger was discovered by security researcher Michael Myng, who publicly disclosed his findings in a blog post Thursday. In his post, Myng said that he messaged HP about his discovery and the company responded quickly by confirming the issue and releasing a software update to resolve the problem.

HP said neither it nor Synaptics “has access to customer data as a result of this issue.” However, after a registry change, the keylogger could enable a malicious actor to monitor a user’s keyboard activity.

More than 450 Affected Devices

In a November 7 security update, HP provided links to software patches for more than 450 products, including multiple models of the HP Notebook, HP EliteBook, HP Mobile Thin Client, HP ProBook, HP Spectre Pro and HP ZBook Mobile Workstation. The company said that affected users should install the appropriate update for their devices as soon as possible.

This isn’t the first time such an issue has affected HP devices. In May, researchers with Switzerland-based security company Modzero reported finding a keylogging vulnerability in the Conexant audio drivers in HP laptops.

In a statement acknowledging the May keylogger discovery, HP said it had “no access to customer data as a result of this issue. Our supplier partner developed software to test audio functionality prior to product launch and it should not have been included in the final shipped version.”

Microsoft Patch Tuesday Arrives

Microsoft has released security updates as part of its monthly Patch Tuesday release. The company has patched 34 issues.

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These include cumulative updates for Windows 10 (first version shipped in 2015), Windows 10 version 1511 (November update), Windows 10 version 1607 (Anniversary Update), Windows 10 version 1703 (Creators Update), as well as Windows 10 version 1709 (Fall Creators Update).

All the aforementioned updates are expected to go live this month, which should arrive with a Flash update to fix recent vulnerabilities in the application. Besides, the main focus of all these Patch Tuesday updates would be to address security issues in Windows 10, alongside minor bugs and performance improvements.

Readers are advised to install these new batch of cumulative updates as soon as they are available for download. As installing them ensures that your PC is fully up-to-date with the latest security patches and system improvements.

Just like past cumulative updates, this week’s patch Tuesday updates will need system reboots, hence users are advised to save their work before installing them. To check the availability of these updates, just head over to Settings> Windows Update, and check for updates. After which you are required to perform a system reboot to ensure the new update is properly installed on your PC.

That being said, it remains to be seen whether these updates install without any hassles on all PCs. As users in the past have reported issues while installing cumulative updates, or after rebooting their systems. Just make sure you backup all your important data before going ahead with update process. We’ll keep you updated if we come across such issues.


Tech Tip! Freezing Columns & Rows in Excel

You can fit a lot of data into an Excel sheet. With thousands upon thousands of rows and columns, it can get pretty unwieldy.

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One small feature that makes it easier to manage all of that data is the ability to freeze rows and columns so that no matter where you scroll in the spreadsheet, those rows or columns always stay visible.

How to Freeze the First Column or Top Row in Excel

With this method, you’re going to have to choose to freeze either the row or column. Unfortunately, you can’t do both.

  1. Open your Excel spreadsheet and go to the View tab.
  2. Click the Freeze Panes button.
  3. To freeze the top row, click Freeze Top Row in the dropdown menu. To freeze the first column, click Freeze First Column in the dropdown menu.

How to Freeze a Selection of Columns and Rows in Excel

If you would prefer to freeze a combination of rows and columns, it’s possible but it’s only just slightly more tricky:

Image result for excel tip freeze column

  1. Open your Excel spreadsheet and go to the View tab.
  2. Select the cell directly below the row you want to freeze and the cell to the right of the column you want to freeze. If you want to freeze rows 1 to 4 and columns 1 to 3, then you’ll select cell D5. If you want to freeze the top row and the first column, you’ll select cell B2.
  3. Click the Freeze Panes button and again, click the Freeze Panes option in the drop down menu.

How to Unfreeze Columns or Rows in Excel

  1. Open your Excel spreadsheet and go to the View tab.
  2. Click the Freeze Panes button.
  3. Click Unfreeze Panes in the drop down menu.

New Ransomware Threat Emerges

A massive botnet is sending emails containing ransomware that could destroy your computer.

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You probably know from prior articles that ransomware is the # 1 digital threat in the world. The FBI estimates that nearly $1 billion was paid by victims of these attacks in 2016 alone. Now, millions of computers are at risk of being infected with a new ransomware strain. The threat is being spread in a super clever way that is easy to fall victim to.  That is why you need to know what to look for to prevent this threat.

It starts with a phishing email

The latest ransomware attack, dubbed Scarab, is being distributed by the Necurs botnet through phishing emails. Scarab first appeared this summer but was recently updated to block users from using third-party recovery tools. This attack is spreading extremely fast. Within the first six hours of being launched, over 12.5 million malicious emails were sent to unsuspecting victims.

The phishing emails supposedly contain a scanned document that the recipient will want to look at. The “document” is actually a zip attachment that contains a VBScript downloader. If the attachment is clicked, it will infect your computer, phone or tablet with ransomware.

People from all over the world started receiving these malicious emails on Novevmber 23rd. The email subject line says the document was scanned from trusted printer companies like:

• Scanned from Lexmark

• Scanned from Epson

• Scanned from HP

• Scanned from Canon

Once your computer is infected, a ransom note appears. It begins with, “If you want to get all your files back, please read this.” The note goes on to demand payment. In a strange twist, the scammers do not have a set ransom. Instead, the note says, “the price depends on how fast you write to us.”

The best way to avoid this ransomware attack is knowing how to spot a phishing email and not click this malicious link.

Windows 10 Adoption Grows

Back in May, more than 500 million active devices were being powered by Windows 10. Last week at Micrsoft’s annual shareholders meeting it was announced that a new milestone had been achieved for Windows 10. It’s now powering 600 million active devices.

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Windows 10 growth slowed down ever since the end of the free upgrade offer for Windows 7/8 users. Microsoft’s operating system continued to pick up market share, albeit at a much slower rate, as more and more businesses started moving away from Windows 7, but the majority of users are still running older versions of the OS to this day. Extended support for Windows 7 is set to end in 2020, and by that time Windows 10 should be well over the 1 billion target Microsoft set during the initial launch of the OS.

Going forward, it’s clear that Microsoft won’t have too much trouble getting users to upgrade to newer versions of Windows. The company’s Windows as a Service strategy has performed surprisingly well so far, with more than 20% of all Windows 10 users already using the latest feature update for the OS which only came out in October.

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