Dark Patterns

I came across this interesting video. It shows the devious ways we can be manipulated by advertisers and by those websites that need as many members as possible to give them heft with advertisers.

Well worth watching.

Stylish No Longer Stylish

It’s been reported that a popular browser extension, Stylish, was purchased last year by SimilarWeb, a company that specialises in website tracking. Stylish now collects a user’s complete browsing activity and sends it back to its servers.

If you have this extension, you might wish to uninstall it.

What is WOT?

WOT is Web of Trust, a free, popular browser add-on I’ve used for a long time. It acts as a website checker, notifying you about each site’s reputation. It uses a colour-coded icon alongside the site name, as here:

WOT site safety example
WOT site safety example

The codes are green, yellow, and red, while grey indicates no rating:

WOT Safety Rings
WOT Safety Rings

If you hover your cursor over the icon, you can see the rating:

WOT rating
WOT rating

You can view the full scorecard and add your own rating if you wish.

Sneaky Adware

Ever had an advert appear on your screen while browsing that you weren’t expecting? Chances are it’s adware.

These programs tend to insinuate themselves by grabbing a free ride on the back of software you download from within a browser. Those free downloads that look so enticing are the usual culprits. For example, I’ve downloaded a couple of free video downloaders, only to end up with PUPs (potentially unwanted programs). Those video downloaders work fine, but they were free because of their hidden payload.

Some anti-virus programs will detect them on a deep scan, but a faster way is to use a selective program like the free AdwCleaner (now owned by Malwarebytes).

AdwCleaner start screen
AdwCleaner start screen

It is very easy to use. Just press Scan Now and off it goes. When it’s finished, it presents you with a results screen:

AdwCleaner identifies unwanted programs
AdwCleaner identifies unwanted programs

Click Clean & Repair. You are prompted to save any work that’s open:

AdwCleaner warning message
AdwCleaner warning message

If you click Click and Restart Now, the system will close down, hence the warning.

When the system reboots, you see this:

AdwCleaner cleanup completed
AdwCleaner cleanup completed

As you can see, only two of the three threats were removed. Clicking View Log File revealed:

AdwCleaner results
AdwCleaner results

The one it didn’t delete is WOT (World of Trust), which is correct. Though it has the profile of a PUP, it’s a worthwhile security feature.

Copyright and Social Media

Did you know that when you post an image to Facebook, you are giving non-exclusive rights to Facebook to use the image as they please. Same applies to Twitter and Instagram. To understand what this means, we need to examine copyright.


When you create a work, as for example a painting, sculpture, novel, piece of software, etc, you automatically have copyright to it. That includes photos you have taken or images you have created. The only exceptions are where you are under a constraint such as that which may be applied by your employer or client.


Copyright gives you exclusive rights the moment it is acquired. You can assign these rights or some aspect of them to other parties. For example, you could give one publisher local territorial rights and another international rights. You could also place limits on how long those assigned rights will last.

The rights assigned can be exclusive or non-exclusive. If the latter, you can continue to exercise them for your own benefit.

Facebook requires you to give it non-exclusive rights to images and other IP content that you upload. This is what it says:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

So you get no royalties. Note that term sub-licensable. That means they can transfer the licence to another company, and without your permission. I find that a very one-sided deal, especially as, like most people, I don’t read all the small text. I just assume good faith. However…

Opting Out?

Not at the moment. Whether Facebook, given its current exposure to regulatory inquiry, will soften its stance on this and similar issues, remains to be seen. If you don’t want your photos being used elsewhere by Facebook, I’d suggest deleting them. However…

Image Protection

You could make your images unattractive, not only to Facebook but to all those who believe that anything on the web can be copied for their own purposes. One way is to apply a watermark, which is what I do for some of my own material. You can also lower the picture quality: keep the size small and drop the DPI (dots per inch). It will look grainy if used at a larger size, making it unsuitable for posters.


Where Can I Delete Passwords in Firefox?

If you have opted to save logins and passwords for the sites you visit, there may be times when you wish to delete that information for a particular site. Here’s how.

Begin by clicking on the hamburger menu icon at the far right of the toolbar and selecting Options.

In the screen that appears, select Privacy & Security.

Select Saved Logins…

Scroll to the site that you need to delete.

Click Remove, then Close.

Importing Passwords

Firefox also provides an option to import passwords from Google Chrome and Internet Explorer. In the screen above, click the Import… button and follow the instructions.

Where Do IE11 and Edge Keep Passwords

If IE11 or Edge asks if it can save your login id and password (assuming you have that option set) when you sign in to a site but you decide later that you don’t want them saved for that site, how do you change that? Here’s how:

Select the Tools icon (that cog icon on the far right of the toolbar) and choose Internet options. In the Content tab select Settings in the AutoComplete section.

In the AutoComplete Settings window, select Manage Passwords,

This brings up the Credentials Manager screen, with the web credentials.

Click the down arrow  for the website you no longer want login information to be saved.

Select Remove.

Click Yes.

Where Does Google Keep Passwords?

When you sign up to a new site using Google, if you’ve elected to use the feature, it’s likely you will be prompted to save your user id and password to avoid logging in the next time you use that site. This is a useful feature, but there may be times when you need to prevent it from doing that.

Recently, I discovered a plugin I use had deactivated my licence key and a shorter entry had been inserted. I re-entered the key, but as soon as I saved it, it reverted to the shorter entry, which I rightly guessed was my login password for that site. I needed therefore to tell Google to stop doing that. The problem was that I didn’t know where Google stored this information.

I eventually discovered the location and was able to exclude the site. If you have the same need,  here’s how you fix it.

Select the icon with the vertical three dots at the far right of the toolbar and click on Settings.

This displays the Settings page. Scroll to the bottom and select Advanced. Then scroll to Passwords and Forms. Choose Manage passwords.

Scroll to the site you want to remove.

Click the vertical three-dot icon. Select Remove.

And that’s it.

A Backup Strategy

A repair shop manager I spoke to the other day told me that many machines they repair are infected. And not with just one virus. One PC had so many that the owner thought he must have a hardware problem because of the erratic performance. At least it still worked. He could so easily have fallen prey to a ransomware attack, in which case his entire system would have been locked down until the ransom was paid.


I have a four-step process for backing up.

  1. Make sure all software updates have been applied, especially anti-virus programs.
  2. Empty the Recycle Bin.
  3. Run an anti-virus deep scan (I don’t want to back up malware).
  4. Back up an image of the system disk.

Steps 2 and 3 aren’t needed for daily scheduled backups.


The first requirement is to select a good backup program or service. My preference is True Image 2018 by Acronis. I’ve used it for years and the latest version is stable and fast. I’ve had problems with previous versions, but the latest is holding up well so far. That said, I’ve heard of an issue with recovery times, but other factors could have been at play.

Though I have no experience of it, StorageCraft ShadowProtect is also highly regarded. I believe it is limited to disk image backups only. True Image, on the other hand, provides disk image, file, and folder backups. (A disk in this context is a partition, e.g. C:/.)

There are other programs, some free, but what you most need in a backup program is certainty of execution. It’s one thing to back up your sensitive data, quite another to find it won’t restore when you most need it.

Scheduled Backups

The starting point for a good backup practice is to identify what data and programs you can ill afford to lose. These should be backed up on a regular basis. In my case, I run a number of overnight backups because I work with clients’ data, and daren’t risk losing it. Same applies to work-in-progress and to personal information. In fact, anything that changes regularly and is needed.

Disk Images

As frequently as needed, take a complete disk image of your system drive. I work on the basis that if nothing much has happened in the meantime, I’ll do this every two or three weeks. However, if I’m about to make significant changes to my system, I’ll take a full backup first.

Backup Storage

Once you have backed up your system, you need to ensure the backup is available when needed. Because malware like ransomware can encrypt all attached devices, you should disconnect backup media. I have separate portable hard disks and USBs on which I store cloned disks.

Restore to Different Media

Acronis provides a feature that enables your cloned disk to be restored to another physical drive. It’s called Acronis Universal Restore. Download and run it to install the software on a portable medium (e.g. a USB). This is your key to ensuring you can restore a cloned disk should the original disk image ever be compromised.

Protect Word Documents

When you send out Word documents to a limited number of trusted recipients, it’s unlikely you’ll feel the need to apply protection. If you’re asking for it to be reviewed, you’ll probably have set Track Changes on. Sometimes, though, you can’t be sure in whose hands the document might fall, and then you’ll need to prevent it from being changed.

Here’s how to achieve that. Open the File menu and select the button to Protect Document.

Word document protection info
Word document protection info

There are four levels of protection that Word allows.

Mark as Final

This is the first option. Select it and a message tells you:

Word document protection confirmation
Word document protection confirmation

Click OK. Another message pops up:

“This document has been marked as final to indicate that editing is complete and that this is the final version of the document. When a document is marked as final, the status property is set to ‘Final’ and typing, editing commands, and proofing marks are turned off. You can recognize that a document is marked as final when the Mark as Final icon displays in the status bar.”

This won’t prevent you from updating your copy when you need to.

When the recipient opens the document, they’ll see this message:

 “MARKED AS FINAL. An author has marked this document as final to discourage editing.”

(Note the word “discourage”. The recipient actually sees a button saying Edit Anyway. If they go ahead and make a change, they can also set the document as final if they choose to do so.)

Encrypt with Password

Word document encryption
Word document encryption

This is a more secure option than marking as final. The process is straightforward. Enter a password, re-enter it to confirm, close the document. Now open it with the password to check that it’s worked.

Save the password in a safe place. If you use this method for a number of documents, you may find it advantageous to keep a record of each document and its password in a spreadsheet.

You can remove the password by selecting Protect Document and Encrypt with Password again and deleting whatever is in the Password field. Re-save the document.

Restrict Editing

When you choose this option, the document is shown with a panel on the right:

Word document restrict editing
Word document restrict editing

As can be seen, you can restrict either or both formatting and content.


If you elect to restrict formatting, select Settings…

Word document format constraints
Word document format constraints

By default, all styles may be changed. You can select None or allow only the Recommended Minimum. I prefer None, as style changes can have unintended consequences. It’s also a good idea not to allow theme or scheme changes or Quick Style Set switching.


If you check Allow only this type of editing in the document, additional options are shown:

Word document editing constraints
Word document editing constraints

The default is No changes (Read only). Tracked changes, Comments, Filling in forms can all prove useful if you’re looking for detailed review of the contents, but they’re mutually exclusive. If you need them all, then you don’t need to restrict editing.

The Exceptions (optional) section applies only if No changes (Read only) is chosen. Select More users… to identify the users who may make changes. Otherwise the document is read-only.

Start enforcement

Select Yes, Start Enforcement Protection to complete the protection settings. You will prompted for a password:

Word document start protection
Word document start protection

Save the document and re-open it to see the effects. To cancel Enforcement Protection, click the Stop Protection button at the bottom of the right pane, enter the password, and click OK.

Add a Digital Signature

Word document digital signature
Word document digital signature

NOTE: You need a digital signature to take advantage of this one. You can get one from a Microsoft partner.

Choose your commitment type and purpose and click Sign. You have now applied a digital signature to your document. The recipient will be informed of this when they open the document, which will be in read-only mode.

To remove a digital signature, select Info > Protect Document. Click View Signatures. In the Signatures pane, select the arrow next to the signature and click Remove Signature followed by Yes.