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Saturday, 30 January 2016

Finding my 2-factor authentication backup/recovery codes

Although I'm not as paranoid as before, security is still very important in our lives. That include 2-factor authentication (2FA), which basically uses your phone to generate a second "password" code whenever you (or someone else) logs in with a new/unknown device. This code usually appears on an app that refreshes every 30 seconds (software key), or is sent to your phone via SMS.

Don't worry too much about inconvenience, you can always remember your device or app's access to Google, Facebook, or whatever. The main problem would be (legacy) apps that doesn't support 2FA, those require you to go into your account and setup an "app password" (which is just a longer auto-generated password that replaces your normal password).

Currently I have 8 accounts setup the first way (software key) using Authenticator Plus. They include Google, Microsoft, LastPass, Facebook, Amazon, Dropbox, Wilders Security Forums, and TurboTax. I chose that app specifically because it has the most features, which includs showing the codes on your Android Wear smartwatch! There are even more accounts setup via 2FA text message or separate apps, such as Apple, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Box, PayPal, and Steam.

So the story was that I had a text document of all my backup/recovery codes, which allows you to bypass 2FA when you lose your phone, encrypted in a 7z archive. After some time passed, I couldn't remember the password to that archive anymore! Of course I chose good security settings, so those "cracking" tools never worked. So here I am today, trying to get all the codes back.

From my experience, only around half the sites support a backup or recovery key. Fortunately there are other ways to recover your account, but I'd like to see this option just in case. The offenders are: Amazon, Box, PayPal, LastPass, LinkedIn, TurboTax, and Yahoo. As for the ones who do support it, sometimes you have to look deep into account settings or even Google search. I will list them anyhow, feel free to ask any questions if you're having trouble retrieving your own codes: Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Steam, and Wilders Security Forums.

Of course, there are exceptions to pretty much everything. I noticed that eBay claims to use a Security Key like PayPal, but it never prompted me for a code when I sign in from say incognito mode (private browsing). And it seems Launchpad and Norton supports it as well, but I haven't bothered enabling those due to low security risk and usage of their services.

In the end, two factor authentication is a worthwhile security feature that will definitely help prevent others from (maliciously) accessing your accounts. Unfortunately, it also means you can lose that account easier, but isn't that what this post is about (sort of)? Although I could provide more details about how to find those recovery codes, that'll make this article too long and tedious (once again feel free to ask!). So therefore, I'll just end it here and wish you guys an enjoyable day as always.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Another status update, this time regarding IT

I won't bother listing all my hardware this time, simply because that would take too long. I will let you know that I've sold and bought around the same number of things, and all the major updates will be covered here or in other posts. Neither will my security setup be listed here, that should actually be updated in Gizmos: http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/free-windows-desktop-software-security-list-my-choices.htm

What I will do is list my OS and hardware specs for all the main devices:

MSI GT70 0NC [17" 1920x1080]:
Intel Core i7-3610QM @ Quad-core 2.3 GHz
16 GB DDR3 1600
128 GB SSD + 750 GB HDD
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670M @ 3 GB
Windows 10 64-bit (Microsoft account linked) (VirtualBox: Ubuntu 15.10, Windows 7 64-bit, Windows XP [POSReady2009 updates])

MacBook (13-inch, Late 2009) [13" 1280x800]:
Intel Core 2 Duo P7550 @ Dual-core 2.26GHz
6 GB DDR3 1333
250 GB HDD
NVIDIA GeForce 9400M @ 256 MB VRAM
OS X 10.11 El Capitan (iCloud-linked)

Acer C710 [11.6" 1366x768]:
Intel Celeron 847 @ Dual-core 1.1 GHz
6 GB DDR3 1333
320 GB HDD
Chrome OS Beta (Google Chrome profile synced) (Developer Mode)

Chuwi Vi8 [8" 800x1200]:
Intel Atom Z3735F @ Quad-core 1.83 GHz
2 GB DDR3 1333
32 GB Internal Memory + 64 GB microSD card
Intel HD Graphics
Windows 8.1 & Android 4.4.4 (rooted) (Both synced)

Google Nexus 5 [4.95" 1080x1920]:
Quad-core 2.3 GHz Krait 400
16 GB Internal Memory
Adreno 330
Android 6.0.1 (rooted)

LG G Watch [1.65" 280x280]:
Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 @ 1.2 GHz
512 MB RAM
4 GB Internal Memory
Android Wear 1.3

If anyone has or knows where to get a free (or extremely cheap) iDevice, give it to me lol.

Revisiting Apple, now with OS X 10.11 El Capitan

Well, I've finally done it. Revisiting the Apple world that is. This Macbook was bought for $300 (Craigslist of course) in pretty good condition. The RAM was upgraded to 4 GB, but I decided to add more. That would become a problem... Feel free to skip the italics and just take note of the underline.

Let's start by stating all the laptop RAM I have: 2x4GB pair from dismantled laptop (became Chromebook's RAM); 2x2GB pair originally from Chromebook (was actually an upgrade itself, they said it was from their Macbook); 1x4GB "made for Mac" RAM (was in my gaming laptop cause BestBuy nearby only sold that kind); 3x4GB triplet originally from my gaming laptop (2 hard to access so I never touched them); and 2x2GB originally in the Macbook. Note that I use a space between the number and GB when declaring overall RAM of a machine.

I first tried the 2x4GB pair from the dismantled laptop. Macbook gave me 3 beeps and wouldn't shut up until I force shutdown. Then the 4GB "made for Mac" RAM, along with one of the triplets. Same result. How would I upgrade from the 4 GB now? I decided to compromise and ended up with 6 GB in both the Macbook and Chromebook, along with 16 GB still in gaming laptop. I basically put the "made for Mac" 4GB and one of the 2GB Chromebook RAM in the Macbook. That somehow worked! The 4GB triplet was separated from its family and put in the Chromebook, along with the other 2GB. The 2x4GB pair was put in my gaming laptop. And finally, the 2x2GB Macbook RAM was left in a bag (mainly because it was the slowest type).

Moving on, here is how I setup my Macbook. First, I had to integrate my iCloud account for Find my Mac, the App Store, iTunes, etc. That means creating a new account and setting that up on first login. Then I upgraded from OS X 10.9 to 10.11, and noticed very little speed decrease. Office 2011 was installed by the seller already, and he doesn't have the license. That means Time Machine must be setup (too bad I had to sacrifice a spare drive for HFS+ requirement, although I could use SuperDuper!). Adobe Flash is unfortunately still useful... After a bit more customization (like rearranging the dock), it was time to install the programs. Here they are, separated by type:

Internet and Safari extensions:
qBittorent, Skype
Clean Links for Google, LastPass, uBlock, WOT

Avidemux, MediaHuman Lyrics Finder, MP3Gain Express, MusicBrainz Picard, SmartConverter, VLC Media Player.

Utilities and Preference Panes:
ClipMenu, DetectX, Disk Drill, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, OnyX, The Unarchiver
AppTrap, MenuMeters

Armagetron Advanced, Battle Bears, Frozen Free Fall, Full Deck Solitaire, Music Racer, SuperTux

I was going to install Google Chrome, but decided against it because I thought it would contain too much personal information after I signed in (which was the whole point), because I thought my family knows the iCloud password... Turns out they forgot, and I have signed into Google on Safari anyhow! Guess the reason not to now is for more disk space, less RAM usage, better battery life, and no more Chrome apps cluttering my Launchpad. Fully uninstalling it was more work than I thought:

That was surprisingly anti-Google... Anyhow, I've also tried Sophos Antivirus Home and found it a completely unnecessary waste of resources. Everything was slower, especially opening the Guest account (which creates temporary files every time and doesn't save your settings). Although there are more Mac malware than ever, the same principles apply: Don't download and install anything outside of the App Store or another trustworthy source without at least double-checking using VirusTotal. And always custom install, make sure to uncheck any offered adware. That will prevent 99.9% of malware that an average person will ever experience, minus the rare exploit or mistake.

Lastly, I was surprised by how many programs OS X already comes bundled with. Not only am I talking about the usual iOS-related apps, but things like Disk Utility and Terminal (which are both more powerful by default than their Windows counterpart at least IMO). I can even create encrypted volumes and erase files without installing anything!

Overall I found OS X 10.11 to be a pleasant surprise, but it wouldn't replace my gaming laptop simply due to the factor of hardware and software incompatibility. But otherwise it works surprisingly well, and I won't have many problems living off of it with only essential tasks and casual entertainment. If anyone has any questions, including why I've installed the above software and games, I can clarify that for you. Have a good one and peace out!

*The black thing is my new Logitech Ultrathin Touch Mouse T630. Not only is it really thin and portable, but it supports pairing with up to 2 devices! That means I can switch between my Macbook and Chuwi dual-boot tablet easily without forgetting and re-pairing it.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Sorry for the inactivity, my new job and other stuff got in the way

If you haven't noticed already, I am officially a Software Quality Analyst for Focus Professional Services. I work in a startup company that is currently contracted with Vancity. This means I'm busy during the weekdays, and usually catch up on other stuff like gaming during the weekends.

Of course, that is not the only news. Another tip would be to try out MP3Gain. This software adjusts the audio volume of your MP3 music to around the same level. There is no distortion, and the metadata is directly written on the MP3 file. Plus, it's completely reversible.

Otherwise, I've basically been updating what I already have. I should make a new list of hardware I own lol. The newest addition is a Macbook I got for $300! Granted, it's from 2009, but there isn't really any problems with it and I will try upgrading the RAM from 4 GB to 8 GB. The main purpose for it will be bloody iTunes and family (mostly little sister) use. You should see an article soon about that once I'm done.