Ask Rick 284 23/11/13
Dark Side Of The Force
One of my neighbours has been boasting about a
program that sends millions of password permutations to wireless routers, with
the intention of using their Internet connection and hacking into local
computers, without the owner’s permission.
If such software exists, changing passwords does no good and nothing can
be safe. Is there anything we can do to stop this menace?
H.G, by email
Hacking software that can crack the WPA2
encryption system, used by default on most wireless routers, relies heavily on
the victim not changing default security settings and using a weak or easily
guessable passkey. It is made even easier if the hacker knows their victim’s
nickname, children or pets names, hobbies etc. Most of these programs rely on
Brute Force or Dictionary attack techniques, however, this method becomes
increasingly ineffective if the user creates a longer, randomly generated
passkey and changes or hides the SSID (Service Side Identifier -- the name a
router broadcasts and which appears on a list of available wireless networks)
and disables a feature called WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup). WPA2 passkeys of 25
or more characters, whilst not completely uncrackable, require more time and
computing power than most neighbourhood hackers would be prepared to devote to
the task. Setting up a long passkey sounds like a daunting task but it only has
to be entered once on most devices. An easy way to create one, up to 64
characters long, is to go to http://goo.gl/TQrs.
To set the new passkey, change or stop the router broadcasting the SSID, and to
disable WPS you have to open its setup menu by logging on to it through your
browser; instructions on how to do this will be in the instruction manual.
Incidentally, many recent password-protected
systems are now resistant to brute force methods as they only allow a limited
number of failed attempts before access is denied. This includes PC logons,
secure websites, some wireless routers, and so on, which generally have low
Falling Into The Dust Trap
My faithful Dell PC is five years old and lives
on the floor under my desk. It has two hard disc drives, one for Windows, the
other for my data. My system mechanic software has started to report errors on
both drives on a daily basis. Recently I tried to restart my computer when it
stalled at the BIOS screen. I decided to open the casing to see if there were
any obvious problems. Inside was a mass of dust, sucked in over the years by
the cooling fans. A session with the vacuum cleaner removed most of the debris,
whereupon it started normally. Now I
have a dilemma, do I carry on as normal, or should I replace either or both
hard drives, or the whole machine?
W R Carver, by email
Recent PC hardware is reasonably well protected
against overheating and shuts down quickly, before really serious damage
occurs. However, electronic components and hard drives can have their lives
shortened if exposed for excessive heat for prolonged periods, and the fact
that your PC is getting on a bit, means the chances of a catastrophic failure
have increased somewhat. It may not happen for another five years but there is
no sense taking chances. Backup your irreplaceable data straight away on an
external hard drive, or cloud service, start thinking about replacing your
present PC, and remember to muck out your new machine at least once a year.
Lines Down on iPhone
My husband bought me a second hand iPhone 4.
Last week he installed iOS 7 and the phone now has flickering horizontal lines
across the screen, rather like interference on old televisions. He reset the
phone back to factory settings and re-installed the iOS7, but still no luck. He
contacted Apple who advised they were having problems with the new operating
system. This was a new one to them, though, and they will not replace the phone
as it is not under their guarantee. So I now have a dud phone, any ideas?
Wendy Mantle, by email
For most users the iOS 7 upgrade was relatively
painless and the few display issues that arose were mostly due to app
compatibility problems. The flickering screen sounds more like a hardware
fault. It could be something as simple as a loose connecting cable, but it is
more likely to be a faulty LCD screen. Persuading Apple to honour warranties on
phones not supplied by them can be a struggle, and it is usually quicker,
simpler and sometimes cheaper to have it looked at by your local high-street
phone mender. Replacing the LCD is not an especially difficult job; you can
even do it yourself using a kit from ebay costing under £20. These come with
the necessary tools but it can be quite fiddly and best avoided if you are all
fingers and thumbs. Having it done by an expert shouldn’t cost you more than
£30 - £40, say, and many of them will do it for you while you wait.
I have hundreds of family photos on my XP
desktop computer in folders in Picasa 3. I recently purchased a Windows 8
laptop and would like to transfer them in the same format. Windows 8 doesn't
allow me to access them because there is no ‘pathway’. Can you help?
John Davies, Chester
Setting up a network connection is the best
solution (see this tutorial http://goo.gl/E9on42)
but if, for some reason, this isn’t possible the simplest alternative is to
plug an external drive into the old PC and in Picasa go to Tools > Backup
Pictures > New Set, select ‘Disc to Disc backup’… then the external drive
letter and click Create. When prompted check Select All and it displays the
size of the transfer, so you can check that the drive has sufficient capacity.
Alternatively you can use CDs or DVDs, but you may need rather a lot of them.
When it has completed plug the drive or load the first CD into the new PC and
Picasa should automatically run the backup program. When prompted select
Restore Files in Original Location then Next and the copying process
© R. Maybury 2013 0411