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  • September 12, 2019

    How to check if you’ve been hacked

    Getting hacked can make you feel really small. (www_slon_pics via Pixabay/) If you think someone might have gained access to one of your online accounts, the earlier you take action, the better. Every minute you don’t is an extra minute the hacker has to do more damage and potentially unlock other connected accounts. Unwelcome visitors usually leave tracks behind, so if you’re vigilant, you can spot any unauthorized login early on and do something about it promptly. Make sure you’ve been hacked Nobody likes to get pwned, so check out Have I Been Pwned? to see if your accounts were involved in any recent data breaches. (David Nield/) Nowadays there are so many data hacks reported in the press that it’s all too easy to zone out and become numb to the threat. But these reports are an important early sign that one of your accounts may have been compromised and you may need to do something about it. Make sure there’s at least one reputable tech outlet (like this one!) in your feeds, whether you get your news through Twitter, RSS, or some other platform. You can even set up a Google Alert for stories related to hacks on your most important accounts, which will deliver related news articles right to your inbox. If you hear about a hack or attack that could involve one of your accounts, you can check the Have I Been Pwned? website (“pwned” being a play on “owned,” or hacked). It pulls together a huge collection of records from reported data breaches and leaked credentials that have been dumped on the web, with some 8 million compromised accounts listed at the time of writing. Just type in your email address and the site will tell you whether your information has been linked to any...
  • Wow, look at all those USB drives. Are they safe? Who knows! (Esa Riutta via Pixabay/) Companies like to hand out USB drives like candy. At media functions, for example, these flash storage devices contain product photos, press information, and details about businesses that hope the journalists who receive them will cover their latest offering. While convenient, there’s a lot that could go wrong. A public relations team member, for example, could have unknowingly transferred malware to the device when uploading its content. Or, perhaps a more unscrupulous employee or contractor actively sought to turn the drive into a spy device—a Trojan horse of sorts—that carries tiny bits of executable code. Once inserted into one of your PC’s ports, it could automatically download an app, prompt you to download one, or run malware that could steal or destroy data on your computer. And then there’s the USB drive itself. Each uses firmware, which could be modified to serve as a keylogger—a device that records each keystroke on your machine once it’s installed. Other exploits capture or modify files as they leave the device, acting as a man-in-the-middle and leaving you vulnerable even when sending encrypted files. Needless to say, each time I’m handed one of these devices, I cringe at the thought of actually having to open it. But, there are a number of ways you can open them safely. Use an air-gapped PC You don’t have to bring your laptop into the wilderness to make sure there’s no internet connection, but if you want to, well, you do you. (Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash/) In days past, malware existed solely to make your life miserable, a sort of “Achievement Unlocked” badge of honor for hackers looking to create chaos. Now, these malicious applications act more like parasites that snoop on...
  • Bees mating (Wikimedia Commons/) A queen bee stashes all the sperm she’ll need to make a lifetime’s worth of babies in a few days. Let’s just start there. This virgin queen flies out from her nest to mate with as many as 90 male drones mid-flight (though usually more like a dozen), then returns to her hive with a stash of up to 100 million sperm cells in her oviducts. Later she’ll pare that down to just five or six million to store in her spermatheca. The drones, meanwhile, die—their abdomens have literally been ripped open by the mating process, and they’ve served their only purpose to their species. Lots of social insects follow basically the same routine, but honeybees are unique in that their queens can go on multiple mating flights. The goal: increasing genetic diversity. The queen bee will mother every worker in her hive until a daughter takes her place, so the more variation she can add to their pool of potential fathers before settling down, the better. A broad selection of sperm from diverse sources means more genes in the hive, which means a better chance of surviving should disease or environmental disaster knock some of them out. Some research suggests a hive is less likely to reject a young queen if she’s been inseminated by a bigger group of drones, and there’s some evidence that a queen will determine whether or not to expend energy on more flights before she starts laying eggs based on how successful her previous nuptial spree was. But if you’re a drone who’s already mated with the flighty queen in question, you don’t want her to go out finding other dudes to add to her sperm collection. You want your sperm to get passed along. Every other male who mates...
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