What file did you click on?!?

When did you last download a file from the internet? A month ago? Last week? Today?

What was it? Are you sure it was EXACTLY what you wanted?

Honestly, if it came from the internet, for free, chances are 50/50 it may not have been entirely what you wanted or expected, depending on where it came from of course. Even then, data can be compromised.

But I have an ANTIVIRUS! That’s a great first step, however… an antivirus potentially only detects what it KNOWS exists! Idiots and geniuses alike are creating new code everyday! Your antivirus can’t possibly know about a program that was written after it was written. That’d involve some time travel or something.

How can you protect yourself from letting someone or something into your PC? To be honestly honest*, you can’t! [* It’s my blog, I can use these terms together if I want to!] However you can REDUCE your contact with problem files, if you know what they are.

The way Windows works is that almost every file on your computer ends with a DOT and some specific letters. Commonly 3 letters are used, but that’s if you stick with traditions. Any number of letters are possible in a file extension, that’s what the dot and letters are called. example “SomeCoolMusic.MP3” the .MP3 (see the dot in front of the M?) is the extension.

This type of file is well known, it’s a music file. When you open it, usually music (sound/noise) plays. This works because your PC running Windows, sees the file, ending in MP3 and knows to open your program to play the music. The MP3 file itself is not a program (usually) and cannot run by itself, it requires a program to use it. This makes MP3 files generally safe(ish) to download.

Now if you download or obtain another type of file, the results can be different. The program that Windows runs to play the MP3 is another type of file. These files, programs make the computer do things directly. Even things you didn’t intend for it to do. You should only download files from safe places on the internet.. that said, it’s the internet…. no sugar coating it, safe can be VERY much meaningless.

So here is a list of extensions for programs and scripts than can do anything with or to your PC. DANGEROUS files for a PC (Windows) are below:

  • EXE, COM – programs
  • PIF, LNK, INF – can be used like a program
  • MSI – install program
  • SCR – screensaver program
  • HTA – HTML program
  • CPL – control panel program
  • MSC – Managment program
  • JAR – requires JAVA, program
  • GADGET – program
  • APPLICATION – installer

Some more DANGEROUS file types:

  • BAT, CMD, SCF – List of programs to run
  • VB, VBS, VBE – visual basic script
  • JS, JSE – javascript (not related to java)
  • WS, WSF, WSC, WSH – windows script
  • PS1 PS1XML, PS2, PS2XML, PSC1, PSC2, MSH, MSH1, MSH2, MSHXML, MSH1XML, MSH2XML – power shell script
  • REG – registry changing
  • DOC, XLS, PPT, DOCM, DOTM, XLSM, XLTM, XLAM, PPTM, POTM, PPAM, PPSM, SLDM – potential Microsoft word scripts
  • PDF – potentially vulnerable too

Phew, that’s a long list… I will also point out that you should NOT go poking around on your hard drive all willy nilly deleting these! Windows requires many of the above file types (programs and script) to work! I will also say that this is not EVERY extension that can harm your PC, it’s just a list of common ones and some less common ones. if you don’t know what you are running, just don’t run it!

Stay safe!

Email scams part 1

Those emails we get are getting that try and trick us to giving away our money or passwords are trickier to spot the fakes from the scams. Just as someone writes code to try and block the bastards, they are on the hunt to get around it.

These idiots are spending so much time and effort, that could be actually used elsewhere, it’s embarrassing to call them coders or programmers. Which is why we don’t, we usually call them script kiddies. These rodents usually have an IQ slightly higher than the average lab mouse. Oh wow, everyone is so impressed you can cut and paste a program together!

Ok, I’m done with the rant, for now. On to the important stuff.

Do you know how to tell CRAP emails from real ones? Over 50% of you might say yes. However, over 50% of you might be wrong.

How does one figure out the difference from an idiot that wants your info and something real? I have a 3 step method for this.

#1. Never click on a link in an email, unless you are EXPECTING something from someone. Clicking a link from a kid with too much time on their hands usually subscribes you to more crap. Under most circumstances, visit the website directly and login through their HTTPS webpage.

#2 Rarely will your accounts be deleted, especially if it’s a paid account. Deleting your account means actual businesses no longer get your money. This is a last resort, most legitimate businesses will contact you first. You can always call them or use their contact form if you are unsure. Your account can very well be locked, but if you visit the site manually and you can login, clearly it’s a bluff.

#3 Check the email the message came from! This email address below does not have anything to do with Apple:

AppleID (8dd4b6cb6e1192bb0db94358654e954826@activitydepan.com

#4 Check the link, the ACTUAL link, not the text. On a phone, long tap links, touch the screen and keep your finger there until you see a menu. Careful not to actually tap it like you usually would. Long or hold tapping will show you where the link actually goes, with spam, the actual links will not be the same as the text in the email. On a PC, you can hover the mouse cursor over the link (without clicking), the status bar at the bottom of the window will show you where the link will lead.

#5 Look at the links in the email:

https://t.co/nwta8l7lNp?idtrack=ho8Yygdl

This link has a ?idtrack= in it. This is a dead give away that it’s sending something the server. Scammers (and legitimate businesses) use links that look like this to send information back to themselves. That ID, while it does not contain your email address, will refer back to program that stored that ID and your email address when it sent you the email. This will verify your email exists and boom you are subscribed to more junk.

#6 That unsubscribe button.. might not be what you think either. It’s just another link with a label. Essentially, you could be verifying that you check your email, more free junk mail! Yay!

#7 Attachments. Generally, no, avoid them, unless you KNOW what the file actually is! Pay ATTENTION to the NAME! “SomeCoolMusic.MP3.bat” is not music! It’s a batch file or in simple terms, a program (or a list of programs to run) that can do things to your device.

Those last three letters in the file name can mean the difference in you having a bad day or not. It might not even happen the same day! Some scripts or programs set themselves up and wait for the right moment, keypress, holiday, anything. Basically, think of it like this, if someone sends you a file, would you give them the keys to your house when you are away?

That’s it for now, I’ll add more on this on another post. Cheers!

Colours and waves!

The brightest colour of light is green (a green-yellow variation being the best, to be exact)! This can be seen easily with lasers, the green ones are usually bright enough to see the beam all the way down to the <5mw versions. I’m sure a yellow laser, provided the yellow light was yellow enough to see would also show a beam. The yellow lasers do exist, but because of the rarity, the cost is higher.

In paint, yellow is the most showy colour, as it stands out the most. It’s so in your face it is also known as the most irritating colour. One of the reasons it’s used for road signs is that you can’t help but notice it.

Back to light, red is the color that can be seen the farthest. Red light has the highest wavelength (of visible light) thus is blocked by the least obstructions, for example; dust or atmosphere. This also explains why a sunset has a red appearance.

Light is composed of waves, like sound waves, microwaves and x-rays. A wave can be best and most simply visualized as a line that alternate between up and down in a smooth curve. The wave is usually described in a length, the length is determined by measuring the distance between the peaks (the space between the highest point in the wave). We just found out that red light is the most penetrating of the visible light, what about some other examples?

Radio waves, being even further apart at the peaks, are blocked by far less, including walls. This lets you listen to your favorite tunes inside, even through concrete walls. X-rays waves however, are tightly packed and do not easily travel through materials. To take an x-ray, it takes lots of energy to get them to travel through our flesh, but they are easily blocked by our solid bones. Microwaves lie somewhere between x-rays and radio waves. With enough power/energy, they can penetrate soft masses, the efforts are enough to excite water molecules and heat your food, but not the dish. The dish can get hot by being next to the hot food though.

So, why don’t x-rays or radio waves harm you like microwaves can? The answer to this is that the really high frequencies of radio waves and really low frequencies of x-rays don’t react with the water in our bodies. Unlike microwaves are tuned to specifically excite water molecules on just the right frequency.

Ok sure, you say, that explains why the sunset is red, but why is the sky blue or black the rest of the time it’s not red? Well, to start, we know black is the absence of light, when the sun creates a shadow from lighting the other side of the earth, it goes dark. As for blue, you know that red is on the higher end of the wavelengths, well, blue is on the lower end. When all the other wavelengths of light have been scattered in our atmosphere, all that’s left are the slower ones, blue is the most prominent to remain. Now violet is the lowest visible colour, being just before the invisible UV (Ultra Violet), but it’s harder to see than blue, so our eyes just see the blue.

Sure, that sounds reasonable.. so why isn’t the sky green before it goes from blue to red, green is in the middle right? I blame the aliens. The actual reason is colour temperature. Next time you get an LED lightbulb, look for a ‘temperature’ scale on the box, it should start at blue, daylight should be on that end at around 6500k. The other end of this scale is reddish, with incandescent or candle at 2000k. Finally pure white light is in the middle at around 4500k. We aren’t cycling through all the frequencies of light, the sun only emits white light, we are just getting a varied brightness of white light and that’s how our eyes see it.

Who invented spandex?

After many years of research, Joseph C. Shivers, a scientist working at DuPont, created Lycra or what we know as spandex. Since it’s birth in 1959, the fiber has been added to a variety of clothing, most especially performance/gym wear.

Needless to say, he has easily been more popular in my books than the dude that invented the alarm clock, whom we shall leave unnamed.