CNET to the Rescue: Darren tackles network dilemmas

Special guest Darren Kitchen from Hak5 joins us to talk through secure Wi-Fi networking, VPNs, SSL, and protecting yourself from the dreaded Firesheep.

No fooling around today. Just your geeky networking and Wi-Fi questions with special guest nerd, Darren Kitchen of Hak5. Let's get to it.

Got a tech question? E-mail rescue@cnet.com or leave it at our new toll-free number: 877-438-6688

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Episode 23: Darren tackles network dilemmas

Listener Questions
VOICEMAIL: Jeff in Miami heading to S. America, will have laptop w/ Wi-Fi, wants a way to do financial transactions securely. Ironkey? Or what?

Darren educates us on Wi-Fi networks and end-to-end security.

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VOICEMAIL: Mark in Chicago wants to know if Scroogle adds to security when searching.

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Anthony: You guys brought up the Fire Sheep extension being used to sidejack people's Facebook logins on public and unencrypted Wi-Fi networks. I have definitely become more aware of this and have started using alerts in Firefox browser for when I am using encrypted and unencrypted pages while I am on my school's Wi-Fi network. Obviously the release of this extension would allow for students at colleges to use this to easily steal other students login sessions on such things as Facebook while logging in on the college's network because they are unencrypted. Are all un-passworded networks not encrypted, even if they are using WEP security? Also, is there a way to force SSL certificates while using Firefox browser so that when students are on public networks at school we don't have to worry about our login sessions being highjacked whether it be from Facebook, Twitter, or other unencrypted websites?

Darren: Try the EFF's HTTPS Everywhere.

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Ben Smith: I am writing to see if y'all had any insight into what a Skype Supernode is? I use Skype extensively at work but my employer is adopting a policy of not allowing Skype. A security audit recommended blocking Skype because of the possibility of one of our computers becoming a Supernode. Could you explain what a Supernode is and if there is a way to prevent becoming a supernode on both Macs and Windows machines.

We explain supernodes. Also, see Skype's site regarding disabling supernode mode.

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Raymond in Athens, GA: This goes under the "no-question-is-too-basic" category. Can people who aren't "on" Facebook see updates on Facebook?

My parents have started a winery and need to be able to post pics of the vineyard, the log cabin they're building next to the winery, etc. They created a Facebook account for the business, thinking that would be an easy way to put pictures and updates on the web without having to call their son (me) for tech support all the time (yea!).

However, not knowing much about Facebook, I'm worried that only people who have Facebook accounts will be able to see the information they are posting. Is this true? If so, is there another "Web 2.0" solution that will allow them to easily maintain a web presence that the whole world can see?

Rafe: Yes, fan pages can be seen by people who are not logged in. In years past I would recommend a blog instead. But today, Facebook is probably a better option today thanks to the whole "like" thing and the possibility for a fan page to go "viral."

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William Allen: I downloaded Microsoft Security Essentials on my Windows XP desktop and when windows starts up M.S.E. takes 100% CPU usage and doesn't let it go. I've tried waiting it out (even went to krogers and came back) but it doesn't let it go and nothing runs right if it runs at all. Is there a way to see if something else is trying to run at the same time? I opened the task manager and checked the processes but I don't see anything.

Rafe: I don't know what's going on exactly with your system but there's a far better way to see what your computer is doing than Task Manager. Get Process Explorer from Microsoft. It shows everything that's running.

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Mike the Diplomat, Kampala, Uganda: Your review of Prey sounded so great, I rushed out to put it on my Mac laptop, but came across a problem: I'm in Uganda for the next few years, where landline (and thus wifi) connectivity is rare. Everyone works off of 3g USB dongles. If my laptop gets stolen, I don't see it as a viable solution unless it can do geolocation via the 3g network. Any idea if there's any functionality to do this?

Carlos, representing Prey, told me, "Since 3g usb dongles need to be connected through a cellular antenna, maybe it's possible to triangulate location based on antenna's cellid information, just as non GPS mobile phones do, but unfortunately Prey doesn't provide that feature to the computer version. I'm not sure if it is technically possible to get cellid information from 3g usb dongles, though."

Rafe: I know some USB 3G dongles provide GPS info, but not sure they do it in Uganda. Also, it's easy to turn off, which defeats the stealth concept of Prey and products like it.

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Brent: I have a question that has perplexed me for years. I have noticed this on every computer system with an "OS" (computers, smartphones, etc), and never on an "embedded system" (old cell phones, car computers, stereos, etc).

Why does a computer give you an occasional "blank stare" for a simple request when the system appears to be idle? With the computer idle (task manager 99% system idle, the HDD light isn't flashing) you right click the desktop. 99/100 times the menu is displayed within miliseconds, but this time it takes 3 to 10 sec for a menu to appear. Why? What is happening there?

Rafe: If your system is indeed idle, it's possible the drive is spun down. That's the case on my system. You can hear it spinning back up. It takes a few seconds.

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Mark from Toronto: Hey guys just wondering what your opinion is on whether there is a need to Defrag a Raid 0 array or not?

Darren: It's not supposed to be necessary on NTFS in Windows, but I think it's ok to do it anyway.

Rafe: But don't defrag a solid-state drive.

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Ted the Teacher: With all the silly apps that add functionality to twitter, I'm amazed I haven't been able to find one that'll comb back through my tweets and scrape all the URLs I've shared. Do you know of a graceful way to do this?

Rafe: In the future, post links via a logged-in Bit.ly account. It keeps a record.

Darren: Or use Backupify.

Rafe: For past posts, there's a "contains links" option on search.twitter.com, but Twitter's own archive length is very limited.

Listener challenge: How could you search for tweets with links using Google or another service?

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Comments

Derek in Omaha: Chandra was looking for a solution to prevent her from getting logged out of her ebook site. The LastPass solution mentioned seemed like a problem if you need to navigate to a specific page after you login. My recommendation is the ReloadEvery plug-in for Firefox. This will simply refresh a tab every X minutes (X being configurable). This is no more of a security risk than having LastPass auto-login and keeps you on the page you were looking at.

Paired with the Portable Edition of FireFox on a USB drive should handle some of the public computer access problems from both a security and usability standpoint.

Wrap-up
Next time, a Special Geek Thanksgiving episode with Jeff Potter, author of Cooking for Geeks. Do not miss this show! Send your geek cooking (and other tech) rescue@cnet.com. Or call 877-438-6688.

 

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