Monday, January 29, 2018

ChromeBooks offer sandboxing, which some experts say make them safer

I don’t know if there is some partnership between Vox and Google behind this story. But Vox Creative has a story on how the Google Chromebook runs every application in its own Sandbox.  That means malware from a website can’t infect anything else on the machine. 

This could mean that the Chromebook is a good choice for travel, especially long air trips, maybe overseas.

I don’t know how this compares to up-to-date security on modern Windows 10 or Macbook laptops.  There are opposing viewpoints on YouTube.  
I don’t know if the current concerns about chip security matter here. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

How many email addresses should you use? What about the proliferation of unused ones?

Since I do have domains on several platforms but need only two email accounts (AOL and gmail), I have no need for the email addresses that often come with web hosting providers, who assume that clients will run entire businesses off their platforms.

I have wondered if unused capabilities (meaning they are never looked at) could present a hidden security vulnerability. But the same capability could occur for non-existing social media accounts.  When I opened Instagram, I found an account already existed but it had no content.

Nevertheless, most pundits recommend that webmasters use different providers for email than for their sites, which is especially likely because of the popularity of Google’s gmail.

Here are a couple of typical advisory links:  carrier, and “nuts and bolts”.

There is some justification for multiple emails, however.  Many sources advise using separate emails for credit card charge verifications, orders, and travel itineraries, for example.  When I was “working” in a regular job, I always had a work email that was employer business use only. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Trend Micro website safety ratings -- some questions (controversial news site rated "Dangerous")

I am noticing some confusion in Trend Micro’s website safety ratings.

The Site Safety Centeuses the color Blue for untested and gray for Dangerous.  (I know, quoting Milo.)  But in actual practice, if a site gives a gray circle with a question mark it means untested.
I find that Trend slips between green and gray on my two newer Wordpress sites (“billsmediacommentary” and “billsnewscommentary”).  I think that this is because Blue Host treats these as “addons” and Trend’s scripts have trouble navigating addons.  If I convert to subdomains (which I would have to do for https anyway) these problems go away, but that is a complicated and difficult and potentially disruptive conversion effort.  (The "Is it safe?" comes from the dentist scene of "Marathon Man".)

There is a discussion site yabberz which Trend rates as red (“Dangerous”, like Milo's book) and will not let me open. I haven’t tried it on the Mac.  Norton rates Yabberz as safe.   I have sent a Twitter message to Trend to ask them why this rating, A Facebook friend is writing on it. Does controversial content matter?  I hope not.  There could be issues with the site is navigated.
Website safety ratings could become more critical for publishers to remain connected after the rolling back of network neutrality.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

"Typosquatting" scams

Here’s a risk I’ve mentioned before, “typosquatting”, as NBC News explained last night. 

The most common result is “scareware” where a site takes over your browser and freezes a Windows machine, and demands you call and pay them. This happened one time with “”.  The cure is to power off the machine, power it back on and bring it up, and then when you go to the browser, click “No” on restoring it. 

“Https” doesn’t seem to stop the scam. 
Most major sites register common and deliberate misspellings of their names.  Legally, these are trademark infringements, but it would be impractical for companies to go after overseas (often Russian) offenders.  North Korea might even be trying this now. 

Monday, January 08, 2018

More on "https everywhere" (for me, at least; what I have found out so far)

Following up on my earlier post on doing https everywhere on all my blogs, I did a chat session with BlueHost today.

What I have found so far can be summarized in these two links:

With addons, you can have only one SSL certificate per hosting account, as I was told in early 2016.  

That is still true now

This one explains the differences between addons, parked domains, and subdomains. The information on this link is very critical.

The addon concept does not seem to keep the internal structure of the addon as a subdomain of the primary. A “WHOIS” at domaintools on one of my addons (like “”) does not mention that the site has an “owner” (“”) so apparently this does not fit the meaning of a subdomain in the normal sense of SSL.

It would seem desirable to be able to equate a parked domain to a subdomain (so that the user doesn’t have to go to it) but I don’t see any statement that this is possible.
Another Bluehost link indicates that you can purchase a Postive Wildcard SSL for subdomains. 

Here is a discussion of how the subdomain concept applies at Godaddy.  

At this point, it would appear that if had been set up with addons, you would need to do a “conversion” of the addons to subdomains, which would require setting them up and copying the content from the addons after installs of Wordpress to each subdomain.  I haven’t had a phone call with tech yet on this (just chat), but putting this all together and “connecting the dots” this is how it looks.  You would have to write script (or have a tech write one or supply one) to do the copies.  I don’t know what that would cost.   There may be tools on the cpanel that enable this.

In the past, the need for SSL did not seem acute for sites that did not require user logon, and people could use Paypal or other platforms without requiring storing of consumer PII to process payments. The addon idea that only one domain needed https sounded reasonable. Today, the politics seems to be changing.  Https is seen as a sign of professionalism and that you “belong” online and can be taken seriously, and that you respect the vulnerabilities of some of your readers (especially overseas).  Telecom companies could eventually insist on this as net neutrality goes away, as could website safety ratings.  Yet, the concern seems somewhat political.
Most major newspaper sites have gone to https for all content.  Broadcast media is mixed. NBC and CBS news sites have gone to it, but CNN, Fox, and ABC have not yet.  But the “climate change” on this issue seems real. 

Update: Jan. 9

Here's a start on how you copy a Wordpress blog from a root site to a new subdomain.  You need to be comfortable with the plugins and have some knowledge of Wordpress internals, it seems.

Update: Jan. 23

Bluehost now indicates you can convert add-ons to separate cPanel accounts, and each one can have https.  To do every one of them (in my case, up to five of them) with Sitelock could be expensive, and take some work.  Here's the link.  I'll follow up on this.

Update: April 3

I'm told now that you can put free SSL's on multiple Wordpress domains, apparently on one cpanel.  In Bluehost you apply it from the Cpanel, and then go to Settings-General on your dashboard to change to https.  Expect some downtime (< 1 hour usually).  I may try this soon and will try to do a little more fact finding myself on the Cpanel issue. Bluehost reference.   This will allow "Let's encrypt" to work but is probably not as good as separate panels.  This sounds like a "Crypto Party" topic.

Update: April 8

Blogger now iinforms us that https is available on custom domains.  I will test this very soon. 

Friday, January 05, 2018

Anti-virus vendors, PC manufacturers have to cooperate with Microsoft to fix Meltdown, Spectre; users confused; mainstream media coverage is shallow and misleading

Trend Micro has provided instructions to its customers on how to receive the Microsoft “Project Zero” (Meltdown and Spectre) patches, at this link. 
But Microsoft Knowledge Base KB4072699 advises customers that the automatic update is offered only to consumers whose security products that have a particular registry key patch.
Judging from these two posts, it appears that Trend is releasing updates that will set this key, and after that the Microsoft automated update will be offered.
Users of computers other than Microsoft Surface will need to get firmware updates from their hardware vendors, also.  Generally these can be installed in any order.

Users can attempt to do the patch manually on their own, but the posts above don’t show enough information for users who don’t already know how to code Windows 10 Internals. 

Users should check the status of their Internet Security product.  The very act of checking when connected to the Internet for sufficient time may cause the registry key to be updated properly within the anti-virus product automatically (may require one extra restart before doing the Microsoft update).

Zdnet has a comprehensive explanation here.

Peter Bright has an explanation here on Ars Technica. 
Google’s own Blogspot discussion.

Update:  Jan. 16

Here's a master story on both Meltdown and Spectre from the source.

Here's a story on how Daniel Gruss hacked his own computer in finding the defect. Like Magnus Carlsen, he rather looks like a model. 

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

"Project Zero" security vulnerability in Intel chip may (or may not) require software fixes that slow things down

Milo Yiannopoulos is including security news on his “Dangerous” newsletter.  Today he has a story about a security vulnerability ("Project Zero") in the Intel chip which requires an extensive software fix.  Microsoft is supposed to issue it the week of January 9.

The story by Ian Miles Cheong is here.

However Intel responds as follows.Maybe we don’t need the update yet.
Google Project Zero has a complicated reply which suggests that the exposure to home users would be insignificant.

US Cert in Pittsburgh has this description. (Meltdown and Spectre Side-Channel Vulnerability) 

AMD has a story here.
But I first got this news from “Dangerous” Milo!