Lookout – protecting your phone from more than viruses

From friends, co-workers, clients, and acquaintances alike all want to know the same thing: “how do I know if my phone is being hacked?” or “does my phone have a virus?” or “can my phone get a virus?” The short answer is: while it’s possible, it most likely hasn’t happened to you. There have been “proof of conept” attacks, but not much has been seen “in the wild” so to speak, at least not in North America. The likelihood that you, some random person of no interest to anyone, have fallen victim to an attack on your mobile device is extremely unlikely. If you really think you have, your safest bet isn’t worrying about your phone, but changing passwords of your email accounts, facebok account, etc… But for the added level of comfort, I advise people to install an application called Lookout.

Lookout is like AntiVirus for your phone. While there are other brands out there, they’re so busy trying to get you to buy the full version that they forget that there is a free competitor already out there. And Lookout isn’t just some wannabe trying to scare people about mobile security, they’re looking out for you. They helped Google identify some programs on the Chinese Android Market that were actually packing some nasty bugs (luckily, this doesn’t appear to have happened in the United States, so far). They’ve also been around the block – Lookout mobile once fully supported Windows Mobile. And even though some people still want to say that these guys are just fear mongering – what have they got to gain from it? Their base-product is FREE!

Lookout has around 15 million users, and take their role as a leader in mobile security very seriously. It looks for those occasional rare mobile-phone viruses, but the basic membership also allows you to log in to their website and track your lost or stolen phone! You can even backup your data, such as contacts, photos, and even call history. Lost your phone and unable to find it with the “Find my Phone” feature? Your replacement phone can have your most important data reimported to it.

Premium upgrades are available, too, allowing users to get a more indepth analysis of what programs are on your phone. Really figure out which apps can read your email, listen to your phone calls, transmit your personal data back to their developers, or even track your location. Take your security back in to your own hands for as little as $29.99 a year, or $2.99 per month. You can even try a 2-week free trial of these features. Other features may vary depending on your platform, but they do have safe browsing to protect you on the web, and even protection while you’re using WiFi hotspots to make sure nobody else is browsing your phone’s files.

The free product is incredible, and I have zero hesitation in suggesting that people install the app to their phone immediately. It can be downloaded from iTunes or Android Market.

How to Fix 0xc0000218 Registry Hive Error, or Boot.ini Missing Or Corrupt

Today is a Tech Tip Two-for-one. 0xc0000218, or a missing Boot.ini file. If 0xc0000218 doesn’t apply to you, scroll past it to see how to fix a missing boot.ini or HAL.dll file. This advice from Help Desk is a little more on the advanced side, it’s not the kind of problem you’ll see every day. However, the errors you’ll see here are errors anybody can recover from. You know you’re in for a bad day when your computer won’t boot, but these tips out, they may get you back up and running. Since this article is for slightly more advanced users, I’m going to leave out some of the basics – when I say “Boot to the Recovery Console” I’m going to assume you know what that means. While these are errors that are easy to overcome, one misstep in this part of the computer can cause a world of trouble, so you still may want to rely on an experienced friend for assistance.

0xc0000218

I had a user who was getting a Blue Screen error on their Windows XP machine, right after or during bootup. It read:

Stop: 0xc0000218 {Registry File Failure}
The registry cannot load the hive (file):
\SystemRoot\System32\Config\SYSTEM or its log or alternate.
It is corrupt, absent, or not writable.

To resolve this wasn’t too painful. If you perform a true Repair from a Windows XP disc, a lot of customization can be wiped out. Here’s what I did to just get back up and running, and not worry about my user profiles and everything else:

NOTE: In the case of my example, the corrupted file was SYSTEM, but yours may indicate a problem with the SOFTWARE hive. If that’s the case, replace SYSTEM at the end of any line below with SOFTWARE. If you can do it from the Windows Advanced Startup Options even better, but you may have to boot from a Windows XP CD – but either way you want to get to the Recovery Console.

I always type the following just to make sure I get back to the root of the C: drive, then in to the Windows directory. If you’ve installed Windows elsewhere, of course navigate to the proper directory, like WINNT.

  1. cd
  2. cd windows
  3. cd system32
  4. cd config
  5. rename system system.bak
  6. copy C:\windows\repair\system c:\windows\system32\config\system
  7. exit

Let the computer reboot and see if your problem is resolved!

If your computer reports that the Boot.ini file is missing or corrupt:

  1. Boot an XP CD
  2. select the recovery console
  3. Attrib -h -r -s C:\boot.ini
  4. del C:\boot.ini
  5. bootcfg /rebuild
  6. fixboot
  7. exit
  8. After the reboot, you should be able to get back in to Windows!

I’ve been told that this works for the HAL.dll boot error as well, but I’m not certain, I’ve only ever used it for a boot.ini problem. It’s important to note that whether your have a problem with your registry hive or your boot.ini or whatever – you shouldn’t rely on these as “Fixes” to your problem. You certainly have a corrupt Windows installation and could even have a failing hard drive – you should back your data up immediately if either of these presented solutions lets you back in to your system.

2009 – Abraham Inc – Tweet-Tweet


A limited release in 2009, and I believe a wider release in 2010, Abraham Inc. is the kind of band that you probably thought didn’t exist any more. More likely, maybe you thought something quite like this never existed. Blending jazz and funk musical stylings, traditional Jewish Klezmer, and even rap vocals brought down hard by Canadian rapper Socalled. Abraham Inc.’s Tweet-Tweet is a musical experience unlike any other, a side project of some of the best in their field collaborating on a sound uniquely their own. There’s no real market for a band like this, but that didn’t stop them from creating one. The album has something for everyone. Head over to their website, and give them a listen.

Securing your Xbox Live Account

After the recent Xbox Live Account Hackings, you may be growing slightly more concerned with the way these accounts are being done. Microsoft has stayed steadfast that “social engineering” is the root cause, but let’s go over a few things you can do to harden your security against your account being compromised.

To do this write up, I wanted to walk myself through some of these processes. If I were trying to get in to an account, I would most likely start with trying to reset the password. I came accross a fun tidbt when doing my research for this post: when I went to reset my password, I had the option to email myself a password reset link. Pretty standard stuff. When I chose that option, it said it would send the password reset to TWO email addresses – the first being my current Live ID, and the second being an address that I had first used to create my gamertag, and actually have only rarely logged in to over the last couple of years.

I searched my account settings on Xbox Live, Hotmail, and Live.com and couldn’t find where this account was associated with my current LiveID. I went so far as to call Xbox Support (1-800-4My-Xbox), who suggested just shutting down the other Live ID / Hotmail address. No thank you, I didn’t want to delete NuAngel@hotmail.com – an account I had first registered with Hotmail on February 8th, 1999! When I worked with support, I was also told, while on hold, I might need to know the answer to my secret question. I don’t remembr setting up a secret question! If my old, forgotten email address had been compromised, and someone sent a password reset to that address, I would be out of luck. If I had to then call Xbox Live Support and answer my security question, what would it be, and would I know the answer!? I knew this could be chaos. I know that there are literally millions of others like me out there, and this write up is for all of you!

You set up your Xbox Live account 2, 3, 5, 7 years ago – and haven’t changed much since? Well then it’s time to make sure that, whatever happens to your account, you know you can at least get it back. Most of the work is going to be done from one website, http://account.live.com – open your browser to that page, now.

Once you’re on http://account.live.com, you may notice what I noticed. Email addresses on the bottom and Linked ID’s – neither of these was showing the OTHER email address that my password reset would go to.

Your personal information is at the top of the page, and the large block of links draws your eyes to the bottom. The middle looks like it’s just trying to get you to sign up for “Hotmail Plus.” If you scan over the page, like I did (about a hundred times), you’ll miss the two links which I have highlighted in red for you in the picture above. Two small links. Reset Password (I think we know what that does), and a link that says “Manage” after a small title that says “Security Info.” If you want to reset your password (perhaps for the first time in five years?), that might be a good idea. But once you click the manage button, that’s where all of the magic happens.

From that page you can ensure your account is locked down with all of the information you have for acquiring support or resetting your account. First, you’ll notice an option to Add a Mobile Phone. I, personally, haven’t done this. I haven’t read all of the legalese, but I don’t like the prospect of getting any spam text messages. However, in the event you forget or need to reset your password, you can have them send you a text message with a code in it that will get you in to your account.

The next option is Alternate Email Addresses. Contrary to Crystal at Xbox Support’s statements, when you do a password reset you cannot choose which email address the reset email goes to. It will go to ALL of the email addresses listed in this section. Make absolutely certain that these are addresses that you actively still use and have access to. Update it with new addresses for redundancy and security, and remove old expired accounts.

Third, we have the Trusted PC feature. While I have never used it, this sounds like an amazing new development in system security. I don’t know precisely how it works, and perhaps if you’re the kind of person who reformats your computer every two months, this may not be the option for you. I’m not precisely certain how it works, if a person can just name their machine the same as yours and it will work, or if the SID must match or some other technical requirements exist, Microsoft is fairly vague on it – but if you have a system that you mostly leave alone (say, a laptop that doesn’t get wiped out as often as your main gaming rig), then you might want to look in to using Microsoft’s Trusted PC feature.

Finally, the security question. This is the question that Microsoft employees may have to ask you in order to work with you when you call support. It doesn’t appear to be used during the password reset process at any point, and may never come in to play for you – but you should know what it is. What is handy on this screen is the simple fact that you don’t need to know the answer to change it. You’re already logged in to your account, even if you THINK you know what the answer to your question is, you can clear it and set it to that – because who knows how your mind and memories have changed since you first registered for Xbox Live.

So there you have it. It’s not as exhaustive as I first thought – it’s really all simple to manage from ONE page. Finding that page and not glazing right over it was the hard part! Update your question, make sure you still have access to email addresses, update your SMS phone number, create a Trusted PC, if you want. Just do everything you possibly can to protect yourself – because, until more solid news comes from Microsoft, we’re all juicy targets for some nasty folks out there, just like Susan Taylor was.