Adobe Flash, smartphone spies, tech tutorials
Bob's Tech Talk
September 1, 2018
Q. I like to look at weather radar online but when I click on the radar site I get a message saying that Adobe Flash Player is blocked. What do I do?
A. There are several possibilities behind why an application is blocked. Adobe is a reputable company, and Flash is a useful product. However, there are counterfeit versions of Flash online that Windows Defender might recognize and consequently block. Perhaps the version of Flash you have installed is not the latest version, which could trigger the block. Also note that some ad blockers will block Flash.
The first step I would suggest is to download the latest version of Flash Player directly from https://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/ and install it. Next, make sure that Windows itself is up to date. If these solutions fail, I do not recommend changing the settings in Windows Defender. Unless you are an expert, the wrong settings will leave your PC vulnerable.
Sometimes the best solution is to try a different path. I stopped using Flash a few years ago. Adobe has said that Flash support will end in 2020, and the number of sites that require it grows smaller every day. Today if a site uses Flash, there is a good chance an alternate is available. For weather, check out wunderground.com.
Flash is one of those technologies that was once indispensable, is now in decline and soon will disappear altogether.
Q. Someone gave me a new iPhone thanks to a buy-one-get-one-free deal. About a week later, I got this weird feeling. Can someone spy on me from a phone they gave me, and if so, how far can they go?
A. There are so many levels to this question. A focus on the technical aspects reveals how much information a smartphone can collect. I’m using an iPhone as an example because of your original question, but the basics apply to any smartphone.
Yes, a person with physical access to your smartphone can use it to invade your privacy. The degree of what is possible comes down to expertise, both yours and the would-be snooper.
If an acquaintance sets up your phone, you should assume that your phone is an open book. If they know your user ID and password, you should assume they have access to all of your personal data.
iPhones use a fingerprint sensor or facial recognition alongside an unlock code as their first line of defense. These lock-screen security measures are on by default, but they can be disabled during set up.
If they are disabled, anyone can pick up your iPhone and read your email, see your text messages, check your call logs, and review your browser history with a glance. With a little more time, they might view your photos or a list of the real-world locations you frequently visit. If the unlock code is disabled, job one is to turn it back on.
The second line of defense is an account password. If someone else knows your AppleID password, they do not need physical access to the phone to view most of this data. Much of it can be viewed remotely. However, with some exceptions, remote viewing is not invisible. There are screens on your phone that show other authorized devices and warnings that advise you when another device accesses your information.
The bottom line is that our smartphone knows more about us than we can remember ourselves, and keeping that information private requires expertise.
To keep yourself safe, follow the manufacturer’s security guidelines. Use the lock-screen security features, change your passwords regularly, and never reveal your password to someone you do not trust.
Q. What are some good sources of information to learn more about how I can get the most from my computer, smartphone, or tablet?
A. The first place I usually search is YouTube.com. It has thousands of videos to explain everything from how to use email to editing your own movie.
If I need more help, or if time is short, my next stop is http://www.lynda.com. This subscription service has a wide variety of video tutorials on just about every computer-related topic imaginable.
Wander the Web
Alternative to Google
Google has been the most popular search engine for over a decade, but privacy concerns have allowed competitors to emerge. One of the most popular is DuckDuckGo.
Video Games as a Spectator Sport
Would you believe that people all over the world broadcast themselves playing video games, and millions of others watch? Twitch has become one of the busiest sites on the Internet as a result.
An Art Museum in Your Browser
Turn your browser into an art show with this site that presents a non-stop flow of paintings, each with a link that reveals more about the work.
A tech enthusiast his entire life, Bob can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.