Test your computer knowledge!

Repurpose an old phone or tablet

A friend had her vehicle stolen from the front of her house last week which started me thinking about different things we could do with our binary buddies to either prevent or solve problems like these.

Photo by Tracy Le Blanc on Pexels.com

Many folks have in a drawer, previously used cell phones or even an old tablet. Just because they do not have a cell phone plan doesn’t mean they don’t work. Charge them up, turn on the phone and connect to our secured home Wi-Fi connection and the phone can surf the web, call out on Skype, Facetime or other video chat service. More importantly it will have a working camera.

The working camera can be configured to be a security camera, a baby monitor or even a spy camera. What do we need to set up our own monitoring service?

Power cord and outlet for the phone if we want the phone to monitor 24/7. Some way to mount the camera such as a tripod or duct tape. Finally we need software to run the camera on the phone (server) and software on our in use smart phone. (viewer) Windows computers, iPhones and Android phones have the ability to set up and run these apps so use the appropriate ones for your equipment. There are “free” programs with limited functions and possibly some advertising that pops up or there are some apps that can be purchased that have many functions such as real time viewing, two way communications, motion detection, night vision, or the ability to record and review events that took place while we were away.

I grabbed Wardencam (http://www.wardencam360.com/) from the Android Play Store that had a free trial version with 48 hrs of recording and good ratings and reviews. It took only a few minutes to download and install on an old tablet from the junk drawer and the same for my smart phone. The app opens for the first time and asks that we log in with a Dropbox or Google Account. Wardencam records video and stores it in our Dropbox or Google Drive cloud storage and not on Wardencam servers. The app then asks if the device is to be the camera or the viewer. I checked the tablet as the camera and my smart phone as the viewer. Within a few seconds the video from the tablet appeared on the smart phone which means I can be anywhere in the world and view what the camera is seeing. I then surfed over to my Google Drive and sure enough, there were the video captures from the tablet.

Other features are available such as motion detection, night vision, email alerts, share video and more and the Pro version of the app is $6.99 with no monthly fee.

Almost all the apps available have trial periods so find one that works best for the tasks at hand. There are also products such as Nestcam from Google and many others that work as full fledged security systems but if looking for something just to fill a gap these apps might do the trick.

Twas the Night before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house,

Lights flashed on the tower, tablets and mouse.

The Webcams were ready, installed with great care.
In hopes that grandkids would be virtually there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of computer games danced in their heads;
Mamma in her rocker, a tablet on her lap.

To check Santa’s route on Norads’ tracking map.
Last minute shopping, I knew it would matter,

Receipts from the printer were spit with a clatter.

The e-mails and texts began to beep and flash,
Away to the laptop I flew in a dash,
An e-mail from Santa, I pulled from the cache.

The sleigh was loaded, the springs sitting low
Boxes of computer games, only kids know.

RollerCoaster Tycoon for Tommy, and Yooka-Laylee for Sue,

Xbox, Wii, Playstation and Nintendo too.

Neither Mamma nor I had Santa forgot,

A 4G smartphone and Alexa in the lot.

From a dronecam flying some far away place

An image so small, across the screen it did race.

What could it be I wondered, what would appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
I toggled the volume and turned it up loud

As his digital facade flew over the clouds

At the speed of Moore’s law his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Dell! Now, Gates! Now, Jobs and Wosniak!
On, Bezos! On Ellison! On, Hewlett and Packard!
To the top of the toolbar! The top of the screen!

Now pixels are changing, amazed by it all!

The picture expanded as closer he drew

His exact location surely only he knew.

But Google Street view offered a hopeful clue.

Just a click of the mouse, our house was in view.

With the sleigh full of downloads, upgrades and such

St. Nicholas too, might it be just too much?
The broadband was humming the router secure

A shiny new computer I’m sure will allure

Firewalls open for the jolly red elf.

Presents are coming, surely some for myself.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

A mystery for sure I pondered aloud.

Could Santa be real an answer I vowed.

An Internet search for the jolly St. Nick

“Santa Claus: could he be real” should turn the trick

Pages and pages of results did appear

To read them all might take ‘til Christmas next year.

My eyelids grew heavy then started to droop,

A short nap was needed so I could regroup.

Foggy and confused from my slumber I stirred,

“You’ve got mail,” from the speakers I heard.

An e-mail from Santa’s own smartphone it said,

A tight schedule barred his waking me he pled.

Presents for all under the tree he had spread.

Click here for a live video feed of the sled.

The digital image danced and sparkled bright.

Santa driving his sleigh on its magical flight.

But he posted to Facebook, ere he drove out of sight,
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”

Read the whole thing before you get mad.

The Computer Industry Almanac projects there will be 1.07 billion Internet users in 2005. They project the number to grow to 1.21 billion in 2006 and 1.35 billion in 2007. The one common element shared by all these users is called bandwidth. Think of the oil industry and how they move oil via pipelines. The number of pipelines available and the size of the pipe determine the amount of oil that can be moved. The Internet is similar. How many users there can be is limited by the amount of bandwidth available. The number and type of distribution channels such as, phone, copper and fiber optic determine bandwidth. With the explosive growth of the Internet for commerce, information transfer and scientific research, the available bandwidth is rapidly falling behind demand.  I have my Internet homepage set up to collect news articles about topics that intrigue me. Here are some that came across, that by themselves are probably innocuous, but if viewed looking for commonality….well, you decide.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2005 (PRIMEZONE) — AdZone Research, Inc. (OTC BB:ADZR.OB – News) today announced that it has received notice from a Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Government laboratory that it’s pioneering Internet tracking technology has been officially validated. The approval represents a major milestone in the company’s ability to pursue government contracts. AdZone Research specializes in automated retrieval, classification, analysis and delivery of worldwide Internet data for global defense as well as media metrics. Through surveillance of more than one half million Web sites worldwide, AdZone provides tracking and monitoring of targeted information on the Internet, with an expanded focus on global Internet analysis of security-related data transmissions.

Newswire, 2005-01-31 – At issue is PATRIOT Section 216, which expanded the government’s authority to conduct surveillance in criminal investigations using pen registers or trap and trace devices (“pen-traps”). The Department Of Justice has said openly that the new definitions allow pen-traps to collect email and IP addresses. However, the DOJ has not been so forthcoming about web surveillance. It won’t reveal whether it believes URLs can be collected using pen-traps, despite the fact that URLs clearly reveal content by identifying the web pages being read. Access to documents that might reveal whether the DOJ is using pen-traps to monitor web browsing have been requested.

Trabue Tribune Daily Post Gazette, April 1, 2005: The government announced today that beginning with the new model year for computers this September, all new computers will be required to contain a “P” chip. This new technology, akin to the “V” chip in televisions, will allow monitoring and tracking of all Internet and personal usage by owners of personal home computers. A government spokesman, demanding anonymity before speaking, stated that unlike spyware programs currently monitoring and directing the marketing habits of computer users which can be removed by the user if desired, the “P” chip is a hardware device integrated into the system board of the computer. Any attempt to remove it will disable the computer. Further, this spokesman stated that the government has no plans at this time to collect personal information. Data collected will be used to measure and distribute available bandwidth. An example would be if a “P” chip detected a spike in bandwidth from a particular computer user, it would automatically shut down the computer to prevent excess demand on the Internet. Acting much like a governor on an engine. Data collected from computers nationwide could be used to establish an Internet rationing system, or even a secondary market for usable bandwidth.

A new department under the auspices of the FTC would be charged with the responsibility of developing rules and regulations surrounding the “P” chip. This group, the Agency for Private Reporting of Internet Limitations, would turn over enforcement of the rules and regulations to the Federal Order of Operational Latency.

Internet Advocacy groups claim any monitoring of personal computers would violate privacy rules and laws pertaining to search and seizure. They also state that it is small step from monitoring and measuring to taxing users of the Internet. Speaking on the record, these groups have threatened to file Freedom of Information suits to force the release of all documents pertaining to the formation and goals of the two groups, A.P.R.I.L. and F.O.O.L.

I will keep you posted.


The terminology isn’t important. What is important is how does a thief, a crook, a con man, yes even a low life useless piece of trash get control of our computers, bank accounts, credit cards etc? Simple answer. We willingly, trustingly, non verifiably give it to them.

The worst part of this is that it doesn’t involve a virus or some other behind the scenes intrusion into our binary buddy. Once again, we, the computer user simply hand over the information these pieces of garbage need to rip us off. I receive at least a couple of calls from clients each week that have been scammed out of money. Sometimes it is 3 or 4 hundred dollars, last week a client was taken for $2500. I’ve attached a video of a woman that was scammed out of $30000, then the scammers offered to refund her money but she had to accept checks, cash them and then wire the money to the scammers from which they would issue her refund. Not once, but over and over for two years she cashed checks and wired the money elsewhere. In other words the crooks not only ripped her off, never issued a refund, but then turned her into a money mule and convinced her to launder the money for them so they couldn’t be caught.

One of the more popular scams being run today is the Refund Scam. You receive an email that says someone, somewhere purchased a big ticket item on your account and if it wasn’t you then call this phone number immediately. Below is a scam email I received recently.

The problem here is that folks see the bogus charge and immediately want it removed from their credit card so they call the number listed. From there a Refund Department scammer will kindly offer to help remove the charge but needs to have control of your computer to help you process the forms to get the refund. Scammers then have you download a remote control program that allows them to take over your computer. From here, the scammer uses a script to have you log into your bank and by blanking the screen can transfer or appear to transfer a sum larger than your refund is supposed to be. Now the scammer says that you need to send him the overage, by gift card, wire transfer etc. Scammers usually will not accept any form of payment that can be reversed hence their reliance on gift cards.

But let’s go back to the bogus email I received. Lots of red flags here that should have stopped you in your tracks. First if you read the email carefully, there is no reference to a store or company that might have sold this product. Second, the return email address isn’t a company email such as orders@walmart.com etc. Third, look at the payment terms of Net 500. In the business world that means that the client has 500 days after the invoice to pay it. Very unlikely. And finally, Windows Defender is free to download from Microsoft. The biggest flag is that you cannot go to the website of the company that supposedly sold this item and check your order history to see if it really was used by someone.

Here are two YouTube videos that show the actual scam in process. Strongly recommend that you watch them and share them with your friends and family. for warned is forearmed.

It’s time to use two-step authentication for your email.

Received a call this week from a client. The issues they were having were as follows.

1: Not receiving any email.

2: Calls from friends and aquaintances that they were receiving strange emails from my client requesting help obtaining a $200 gift card for their nephew and if my client would purchase the gift card they would gladly pay them back when they got back to town.

3: Believing that their email account had been compromised, they attempted to reset the password but were unable to get a reset code from the their email provider.

So where do we go from here. I opened their email program and sent a test message to my account and it went through with no problem. I then clicked on Reply and saw immediately that the reply to email address was not theirs. It was close but no cigar. This was the secret sauce that allowed me to determine the issues.

How a hacker got their credentials to the email account may never be known. Most likely they received an official looking request purportedly from their email provider asking them to verify their account by logging in and providing a very pretty button to click that took them to a spoofed page that looked like their email providers login page. Once they entered their username and password the hacker had it.

Next the hacker logged into their email account, went to settings and made some changes. First the piece of scum changed the default “Reply to Address” from my client’s email to his spoofed email account so that any one that received a strange email from my client, if they clicked on reply to respond to the email, that response went to the hacker and not to my client.

Next he set up “Forwarding” so that all emails that came to my client were automatically forwarded to the cyberpunk. This way he could over time determine who my client banked with, utility bills, friends, family etc.

Then this garbage crook turned on Vacation Response so that anyone emailing my client would receive a response that my client was out of town and couldn’t reply at this time.

Finally, this waste of life, created an Email Rule that automatically archived all incoming emails. Consequently my client believed that he was not receiving any emails because they didn’t go to the inbox but went to the archive folder.

After correcting all the false settings, we were able to reset the password for the account. Next we turned on two-factor authentication. What this does in my client’s case, is that when anyone logs into the email from anywhere other than his main computer or his phone, the email provider sends a code via text message to my client’s phone which has to entered into the login screen within a short period of time.

This way, even if a hacker were to get hold of the username and password of the account, and then tried to log in from, oh let’s say, Pakistan, the hacker would be required to enter the authentication code which appeared on my client’s phone and not in Pakistan. Without the code, the email account would stay locked and the hacker denied access.

Click on the blue button and give your account away!

Be extremely vary of official looking emails requesting that you login or your account is or will be locked, suspended, deleted etc. Your email provider already has this information and certainly doesn’t need it from you. If you really think it is a legitimate request, surf to your actual providers page and log in there. DO NOT press the button in the email that says Verify, or Log in.

And please consider setting up two-factor authentication. It’s for your safety!