Thursday, April 20, 2017

How to make cell phone batteries last all day!

MAKE YOUR CELL PHONE BATTERY LAST

 

look don't like warningWest Hollywood loves shallow things. Weho also loves its cell phones. Everyone is relying on them, addicted to them, all the time.  City hall even bought signs telling pedestrians to look up from their devices while crossing the street!  Seriously, multiple (often drunk) people have been hit at crosswalks in West Hollywood, often because they were glued to their phones.

With that kind of popularity keeping your gadget charged all day is now more important than ever. Here are some tips:

1. Vibration: turn it off if possible. It's a huge power eater.

2. GPS: Constantly monitoring your global position takes power and prevents the phone from "sleeping" to save juice. Turn it on to use Lyft or Uber, then turn it off again.

3. Opening and closing apps: let apps you use often keep running. Don't close and re-open them all day long. I'm looking at you, Grindr.

4. Constantly re-charging your phone is better for it than letting the battery go to 0% before re-charging. Topping off and constantly recharging is good.

5. The Facebook app is huge drain on batteries even when you turn it OFF. Uninstall it. cell phone battery

6. Instagram also gobbles up battery power and storage pre-loading images and videos. Uninstall it.

7. Screen brightness: the lower you go the more power you save.

8. Beat the heat: don't leave your phone in the hot sun or a locked car. High temperatures ruin the battery over time. Air vents should be dust free.

9. Basic Black Wallpaper: modern phones with OLED screens use power slower showing black. Up to 18% less. And it's easier on your eyes.

10. Ad-Blockers: an ad you block is one less ad for your processor to display. Fortunately this website does not show ads.

But I HATE AD BLOCKERS for my ad based websites. Don't kill our ad revenue with blockers!  I'm conflicted :(

For more consumer tech news go to http://www.wehocomputerrepair.com

iphone with dead battery


Friday, March 10, 2017

Windows 10 - Microsoft's pushiest product ever!

WINDOWS 10 THE PUSHIEST, MOST INVASIVE WINDOWS EVER!

windows 10 logoWindows 7 was Microsoft's last broadly popular version of its flagship product, the Windows operating system.  That is the version of Windows most folks here in Hollywood or Beverly Hills use.  Windows 8 was a mess, Windows 9 does not exist, and we are now on Windows 10. Don't get me started on how stupid these product names are.  Microsoft has a monopoly on the Windows brand, and it is a big brand indeed.  They can pressure their customers because there really isn't another choice for a program that runs a personal computer (sorry Apple fans your market share is puny.)

1984 george orwell book coverThe problem with Windows 10 is the staggering amount of spying and manipulation it does.  Not even the Church of Scientology does so much spying!  Some of this behavior can be turned off but you have to make that effort yourself.  By default Windows is set to be maximum intrusive. That is because Microsoft GAVE AWAY millions of free copies of Windows 10.  If you aren't paying for a product then you ARE the product.

SOME OF THE THINGS WINDOWS 10 DOES

•    FORCED UPGRADING:  During the period Win 10 was given away for free Win 8/7 owners were constantly pressured to upgrade using some tactics that could be considered malware hacks.  My lawyer went to bed one night, woke up, and found that his two Win 7 PCs had magically upgraded themselves in the middle of the night to Win 10.  If you know what you are doing this upgrade can be rolled back in minutes, but most people don't know how or even if they should.

•    LOGS EVERYTHING:  It logs its users time on Windows 10 but also their time using Microsoft Edge... and gaming... and streaming games... and counting your search queries... and every single time a user opens a photo. Read the Windows 10 EULA (contract), privacy blogs and Error guides and you'd have no idea your images were being tallied or your gaming sessions logged and this separates it from rivals. At least Google, Facebook and Apple admit when they are watching.   Even your browser history (where you go on the internet) and your keystrokes are being watched. Microsoft claims this is to serve you better and make error reporting more robust. Uh huh.

•    INSTALLS ANYTHING IT WANTS:  By forcing updates on you and deliberately not providing much info on what the update does it can pretty much put anything on your PC.  And, although updates can be delayed, you can't prevent them from happening.

•    DISPLAY ADS IN THE START MENU

•    ANALYZES YOUR PERSONAL DATA:  Signing in with your Microsoft email account means Windows is reading your emails, contacts and calendar data. The new Edge browser serves you personalized ads. Solitaire now comes with ads. Using Cortana – the voice-driven assistant that represents Redmond’s answer to Apple’s Siri – reportedly plays fast and loose with your data too.   “We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to.”

•    CONSTANTLY TALKS TO MICROSOFT:  Even with all the intrusive features turned off as possible one researcher found Win 10 constantly is talking on the internet.  Eight hours later, he found that a completely idle Windows 10 machine had tried over 5,500 connections to 93 different IP addresses. 4,000 of these were Windows connections and 51 of the IP’s belonged to Microsoft. After leaving the machine alone for 30 hours, Windows 10 attempted connections to an additional 113 non-private IP addresses, which is akin to placing a sign on your network saying “now open to main in the middle (MiTM) attacks.”

•    SPREADS ITS PRIVACY SETTINGS ACROSS 13 DIFFERENT SCREENS: Just try getting all your settings straight with THAT layout scheme.  Was this done on purpose to make it hard to turn off spying? Of course!

For detailed instructions on how to deal with this spying and turn most of it off read the "Paranoids Guide to Windows 10."

EXPERTS ONLY:  For those who are experts at computers (and being paranoid) use this utility to get even more control.
 
For more go to MY WEBSITE

Thursday, January 19, 2017

BEST BUY'S 'GEEK SQUAD' LETS FBI CONDUCT WARRANTLESS SEARCHES

BEST BUY'S 'GEEK SQUAD' LETS FBI CONDUCT WARRANTLESS SEARCHES

geek squad logo
JANUARY 2017:  Best Buy's computer repair department the "Geek Squad" (what an insulting name) has been in trouble over the years as I previously detailed here.  Now they are in a really big scandal.  It all started in May 2016 at a kiddie porn trial. First let me say KIDDIE PORN IS SICK, ILLEGAL AND WRONG! But that isn't the issue here.

The case in question involves Dr. Mark Rettenmaier, a gynecological oncologist in Orange County, California, who brought his desktop in to a Best Buy for repairs in November 2011.  For some reason his computer was shipped to Kentucky (first in marijuana farming last in in education spending). Why would anyone ship a computer from CA to KY to be fixed? Just give it to me right here in West Hollywood! A technician at Best Buy's repair facility in KY an image of a naked prepubescent girl on a bed in a choke collar, then informed his boss, who told the FBI. Both Best Buy employees received some payment from the FBI, as did at least six others over four years, court records show.

Rettenmaier's lawyer, James D. Riddet, argues that the relationship between the FBI and the Geek Squad is "so cozy" and extensive "it turns searches by Best Buy into government searches." Court records show the "FBI and Best Buy made sure that during the period from 2007 to the present, there was always at least one supervisor who was an active informant," Riddet told OC Weekly.  Riddet says agents conducted two additional searches of the computer without obtaining necessary warrants, lied to trick a federal magistrate judge into authorizing a search warrant, then tried to cover up their misdeeds by initially hiding records.

The defense in the child pornography trial alleged that the FBI used a member of electronics retailer Best Buy's tech support team, Geek Squad, to peer into the accused's computer on the hunt for evidence of child pornography. Since then, the defense's lawyers revealed that the FBI had cultivated at least eight of the company's IT "geeks" over a four-year period to serve as confidential informants, who all received some payment for turning over data. Obviously, this raises serious questions about whether sending devices into the repair shop forfeits a person's right to privacy or unreasonable search and seizure.

The eight Geek Squad members in question worked in the tech support branch's repair center in Brooks, Kentucky, servicing items sent in from all over the country. Technically, users sign consent to search over to Best Buy when they hand their devices over to get fixed. This includes fine print indicating that any evidence of child pornography would require the company to hand the device over to authorities.

hard diskBut if the FBI paid each of its informants to pass along evidence they'd acquired in the course of their normal job, and plan to keep doing so in future cases, wouldn't that make Best Buy's employees functional agents of the bureau? A federal judge is allowing the case's defense attorneys to explore that relationship between company and government which functionally allowed the FBI to bypass the need for a warrant or acquire specific consent to search. On the first day of the inquiry, an FBI agent's testimony cast doubt on whether the initial image found by the Geek Squad member and informant technically qualified as child pornography to warrant bureau action.

Another problem is that, in this case, the child pornography found was on the drive's unallocated space, i.e. space that the file system is able to use for new data, not capacity containing the files the customer wanted preserved. Accessing files in unallocated space requires going above and beyond the job the customer contracted for, as well as extra software to recover deleted data. A Federal appeals court has ruled that data in unallocated space is insufficient to prove that the user knew of its existence.  Finding files in unallocated space is HARD and takes time and expertise. Apparently the Best Buy employees were motivated by payouts from the FBI to snoop around.

"The government concedes it presented no evidence that Flyer knew of the presence of the files on the unallocated space of his Gateway computer's hard drive," declared judges at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit before overturning that conviction. "The government also concedes it presented no evidence that Flyer had the forensic software required to see or access the files. . . . Deletion of an image alone does not support a conviction for knowing possession of child pornography on or about a certain date within the meaning of [federal law]. No evidence indicated that Flyer could recover or view any of the charged images in unallocated space or that he even knew of their presence there."

I don't know how information can even be STORED on "unallocated space" and I'm a PC expert!  It's possible the image was saved in a strange place by malware or a virus used to blackmail people.

But the biggest issue remains whether Geek Squad technicians acted as secret law-enforcement agents and, thus, violated Fourth Amendment prohibitions against warrantless government searches. Riddet claims records show "FBI and Best Buy made sure that during the period from 2007 to the present, there was always at least one supervisor who was an active informant." He also said, "The FBI appears to be able to access data at [Best Buy's main repair facility in Brooks, Kentucky] whenever they want." Calling the relationship between the agency and the Geek Squad relevant to pretrial motions, Carney approved Riddet's request to question agents under oath.

best buy fbi scandal

bEST BUY RESPONDS

best buy logo
Best Buy and Geek Squad have no relationship with the FBI. From time to time, our repair agents discover material that may be child pornography, and we have a legal and moral obligation to turn that material over to law enforcement. We are proud of our policy and share it with our customers before we begin any repair.

Any circumstances in which an employee received payment from the FBI is the result of extremely poor individual judgment is not something we tolerate and is certainly not a part of our normal business behavior.

To be clear, our agents unintentionally find child pornography as they try to make the repairs the customer is paying for. They are not looking for it. Our policies prohibit agents from doing anything other than what is necessary to solve the customer's problem so that we can maintain their privacy and keep up with the volume of repairs.

For more on this story go here: Weho Computer Repair

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Why are Apple Computer devices so HARD to open?


WHY APPLE PRODUCTS ARE HARD TO OPEN


For more go to my website.
proprietary apple screws
Apple products are like a gated community while Windows computers are so open they can be rambunctious and insecure. One is not better than the other they are just different.  Before the invention of the Apple Store Apple's hardware was designed to be easy to open.  But once they controlled their own repair facilities they began designing computers to deliberately look great but be hard to open.  This also stabbed long time mom and pop Apple authorized repair centers in the back.  Now you need to take it to the Apple store for service. Just check the bottom of one of their beautiful laptops.  It is great looking smooth aluminum.  No ugly screws to make it easy to open!  Apple invented something called a "pentalobe" screwdriver to make their products tamper resistant.  Yes, they invented their own screwing system to screw the consumer. For a year Apple had a monopoly on a screwdriver!

Pentalobe screws have been used by Apple since 2009, when they were first implemented in the 15-inch MacBook Pro. They have since been used on other MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and iPhone models. Apple attracted criticism upon the introduction of the pentalobe screw; it was seen as an attempt to lock individuals out of their devices. If brought in to an Apple Store for repair, iPhone 4 models with #00 Phillips screws, if any, are replaced with 0.8 mm pentalobe screws. Third-party manufacturers rushed to produce screwdrivers that would remove 0.8 mm pentalobe screws after the iPhone 4's release in June 2010.  Trying to remove a pentalobe screw with the wrong screwdriver will strip the screw making it unremoveable. 

apple computer logoAnd when you take your laptop or phone in to be repaired at the Apple Store I guarantee there is some poor slob in back surrounded by crazy screws and lots of them. Apple deliberately uses glue instead of screws too often. Or their products have too many screws, tiny screws, weird non-standard screws, require special suction cups to open, or have customized internal organs that are Apple-only.  It makes it hard for me to repair them which is just what Apple wants.  All too often I have had to tell laptop owners "Just take it to the Mac store and pay though the nose."  This also makes their products hard to recycle.

RAM, the memory computers use for temporary storage, is often soldiered directly to the motherboard by Apple. This means you can't increase your laptop's memory once it leaves the factory.  And the laptop's display may be fused into a solid piece.  This means that if ANYTHING goes wrong with the screen the whole upper half of the laptop must be replaced as a unit.  Iphone and Ipad screens are similarly fused making their replacement complex.  This was done to make the phone slimmer and harder for outsiders to open.

removing iphone batteryEven worse, Apple goes out of its way to make SURE replacing their batteries is a hassle.  FACT: batteries wear out after a few years and MUST be removed and replaced.  Unlike my Android phone from Samsung, Apple phones cannot be opened by consumers. Apple wants to be the ones to swap out the battery.  Its an attempt to get you to just buy a whole new phone when the old one's battery dies.  And not only are Macbook laptops hard to open, once you get inside you may find that the battery you are trying to replace is glued to the system or soldered in place!

And taking that laptop to the Apple store for a new battery will set you back $400!  It turns out, in modern Mac laptops the battery isn’t just a battery. In a quest to make machines thinner, Apple made the batteries unserviceable by the user (as well as removed much of the protective covering). The battery is glued to the bottom of the keyboard which means they have to replace both at the same time (even if your keyboard works just fine).  It could also take three days to get the computer repaired.

Yes, three days to swap a battery. Three days to repair something on a Mac laptop that every Mac laptop is supposed to need done before the machine fails. The battery is rated to last less than the machine for most users. Nearly everyone who buys a Mac laptop should need to replace the battery (unless they are programmed to constantly upgrade). Why? Well it turns out that battery is not just attached to the keyboard, but also the logic board which controls a lot of the computer. A very difficult repair I'm told. So in Apple's insane quest to get laptops a few millimeters thinner, a standard repair like a battery swap takes 3 days. Now it turns out that it doesn’t actually take 3 days, its just the line is really long and it does apparently take several hours per machine.

Don't believe me? For more info read "Apple's Diabolical Plan to Screw Your Iphone."

pentalobe screws in cell phone

How Apple Computer punishes it's religiously loyal fans


HOW APPLE COMPUTER PUNISHES IT'S RELIGIOUSLY LOYAL FANS

For more go to: my website

bad apple logoThe Apple brand, like the Disney brand, or even Scientology, is not just a product.  These brands are regarded as a religion by their fans. In a previous blog post I commented on how Microsoft ignores it's own customers and tries to tell them what they will like.  Apple does something different.  It gives the customer what they want, as evidenced by all the excitement every time a new Iphone comes out.  But then it totally uses it's customers once they are inside Apple's "gated community."  If Microsoft's Windows platform might be too rambunctious and open then Apple products are the opposite. And, like an abused girlfriend, Apple customers keep on coming back for more.

mac computers cost too muchHIGH MARKUP ON MACS
Apple phones are a bit pricey but, thanks to mass production, they are still competitive.  Mac computers, however, are pointlessly expensive.  Just look at the comparison at right.  A Windows machine is $3,400 and the similar mac is a whopping $9,500!  And they have the same capabilities because there is no "must have" program that only runs on Macs.  Some of my clients have been burned because they bought Mac laptops when they had more money and the economy had not yet collapsed. Now eight years later the thing is breaking down and they can't afford the many thousands of dollars it would take to replace them.  I got a cheap Windows laptop for $400 once but Mac users have an investment in software and accessories that makes it hard for them to switch brands.

WARRANTY WOES
Apple has already been criticized even by fans as having inadequate warranties.  Decades ago they  boasted that their Apple ][ and Mac computers were well made yet they gave only a three month warranty.  Magazines at the time like MacWorld and MacUser railed for years over these bad warranties.  A magazine is a thing made of paper and you turn pages in it.  It's like a tablet that gives you paper cuts and ink stains.  In 2012 Apple had to stop selling Applecare in parts of Europe due to warranty problems.

And if you buy your Apple product at a non-Apple store the warranty is not activated by default.  If you buy the same thing at the Apple store the activate your warranty at the time of purchase.  Some also suspect that their phones are built only to last slightly beyond the warranty period.  After that something is likely to wear out or break.

THE APPLE STORE
Where I live in the Hollywood/Beverly Hills area there are several Apple stores and they are almost always vibrant, busy places where customers obviously enjoy going or the would not be seen there in such numbers.  Sony and Microsoft both tried retail stores like this and flopped terribly.  They just didn't get retail like Apple does.  Unfortunately some of the crowds waiting there are in line to pick up repaired equipment.  Often waits can be long at the "Genius Bar" or even to talk to an employee.  There are just so many people there asking questions or using computers for free.  And just because you have made an appointment does not mean they will be able to see you at the scheduled time.  Best thing to do is go early the first hour that the store opens.

Another reason for the crowds is that Apple makes it's computers in such a way that only the Apple Store can repair them properly.  See below "Why Apple products are hard to open."  Apple store workers are religiously devoted and put up with the difficulties because they adore the company.  Competition is great for jobs at the stores which means Apple does not have to pay them that much and there is very little opportunity for advancement. Some of my Apple clients enjoy going to the Apple store while others consider it a fate worse than death.

PASSWORD INSANITY
The Mac OS is known for constantly bombarding it's users with password requests. While that might be better security it is not very hard to bypass the passwords. They mostly keep the cleaning lady or the kids out of your computer.  But even if someone just wants to download an update to Mac OS (as is their legal right as a purchaser) they still have to log onto the Itunes Store, type in their name and password and make sure they have a credit card on file even if the software they want is free. It makes it difficult to spend money on their offerings and I've seen it leave my clients furious that they can't get something done because they don't remember passwords and logon names.

PRODUCTS A CLOSED SYSTEMIn conclusion there are both benefits and drawbacks to Apple's closed system.  Some people like to live in gated communities and some don't. There is no right answer, but remember that once you chose Apple you are under their control.  If you live in a rural area the nearest Apple store could be hours away by car.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Beware Best Buy Geek Squad

UNETHICAL  BEHAVIOR  OF  BEST  BUY'S  'GEEK  SQUAD'

geek squad logo
At my PC repair website WehoComputerRepair.com I warn my clients about Best Buy. Beware Best Buy's "Geek Squad." They fix your computer! They come to your house! They spy on you!  These folks are a division of Best Buy and they have been giving their corporate parent quite a legal workout.  I also find the name insulting.  Why do computer repair places have to refer to their employees as "geeks" "nerds" or worse!  Apparently anyone smart enough to fix a computer must be some kind of Autistic mess.  About all they are good for is dumping old equipment that needs recycling.

Think twice before you hand your computer over to them so that Senior Stickyfingers can check you out.  People put their entire lives on their computers now. When you let a stranger fix yours you are probably exposing passwords, financial information, personal data and more. 

So what are the Geek Squads crimes?

i hate geek squad t shirtVIOLATING PRIVACY OF LOS ANGELES CUSTOMERS

Geek Squad employees have allegedly engaged in peeping tom activities on female customers during in-house service visits. A 2007 case alleges that a Los Angeles Geek Squad employee used his cell phone to record a 22-year-old female customer while she showered without her knowledge or permission. The employee was arrested and Best Buy was sued over the incident. In another case, a Geek Squad employee allegedly stole nude photographs of a 27-year-old female customer from her computer while it was being serviced. The employee then allegedly shared the photos on the internet.

STEALING PORNOGRAPHY & PERSONAL DATA

Geek Squad technicians have been caught on numerous occasions searching for and copying pornographic content stored on their customers' computers without permission. When asked about the incident at an unrelated conference, Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens refused to discuss the topic, instead focused on whether bloggers should be considered true journalists and whether bloggers follow the same ethical standards as journalists.  At least one former Geek Squad employee had come forward with allegations that the practice of surreptitiously searching for pornography on their customers' computers is not restricted to isolated employees, but is often shared with management at the location where the one employee worked. In 2013, Geek Squad was sued for invasion of privacy and several other civil infractions for allegedly releasing nude images found on a customer's computer. The suit is ongoing as of 2015.

USING PIRATED SOFTWARE

In 2006 Geek Squad was sued for allegedly using pirated copies of Winternals' Emergency Repair Disk Commander. The lawsuit filed by Austin-based Winternals claims that employees of Geek Squad have continued using the pirated versions of the software after the commercial licensing agreement broke off. Best Buy and Geek Squad were accused of copyright infringement, circumvention of copyright infringement systems, and misappropriation of trade secrets. A settlement was eventually reached, and Winternals created a three-year agreement in place with Best Buy, allowing Geek Squad employees to lawfully use their licensed programs.

SUING PEOPLE OVER BULLSHIT

In 2002 during a spate of legal threats and challenges to competitors with "geek" in their names Geek Squad attempted to block the trademark registration of New England area competitor Geek Housecalls claiming that it violated their trademarks. When Geek Housecalls refused to budge, Geek Squad filed civil suit. After two years of wrangling, Geek Squad and Geek Housecalls arrived at an out-of-court settlement, the details of which cannot be disclosed according to the terms of the settlement except to state that Geek Housecalls retained its name.  In 2010, Best Buy issued a trademark infringement cease and desist letter against a priest in Wisconsin for painting "God Squad" on his car.


You can see more info like this at WehoComputerRepair.com. For more on Geek Squad just click here.
DON'T  BELIEVE  ME?  READ   THE  WIKIPEDIA  SOURCE

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Biggest hack attacks of 2015

BIGGEST COMPUTER BREAK-INS OF 2015
cia director hacked by studentAt WehoComputerRepair.com I protect my clients from security threats. But I can't stand over them 24 hours a day and say "Don't click that link it is not really naked photos of tennis start Anna Kournikova!" If the FBI and the CIA can't keep their computers from being hacked what are the rest of us supposed to do?  Well, not trusting the government with our secrets is one good idea.  No wonder Hillary Clinton didn't want her emails on a government server.  Was she right? Time will tell.  Below are the biggest cases of cyber-theft of 2015 listed in least awful to most awful order.  2016 will almost certainly be worse.  Fortunately most individuals won't be breached this way unless they  are working on secrete the Chinese really want to steal. But everyone suffers as consumers when our data is stolen from huge companies and insurance companies are forced to pay for the mess.

VTECH
The toymaker suffered a major breach in late November, with hackers taking 4.8 million records, as well as a database of first names, genders and birthdays of more than 200,000 kids. The attack on VTech, which reportedly used poor password security among other issues, ranks as one of the largest breaches of the year .

SECURUS
The big scandal when an anonymous hacker stole about 70 million phone calls from inmates in US prisons wasn't the hack itself, it was the suggestion that attorney-client privilege may have been violated on a regular basis. Millions of call logs and thousands of call recordings were taken in the breach. Securus provides landline phones and equipments to prisons, and generates high profits by charging the inmates themselves -- so much so, the FCC has taken action against the firm.

FBI
The same hackers who were able to get access to CIA director John Brennan's private email account also got access to a law enforcement portal used by police and federal agents to share intelligence, and book arrested suspects. It's not clear how many records were in the system -- the FBI declined to comment -- but hundreds of thousands of users are cleared to use the portal. Many of those names were also leaked in the hack. The attack was thought to be one of the widest external breaches of law enforcement this year.

DONALD TRUMP HOTELS
A hack that targeted seven of Donald Trump's hotels, and lasted the whole year: even the presidential candidates aren't immune to hacks. Hackers snuck malware onto Trump systems, stealing credit card data (including security codes and card numbers) in the firm's hotels across the US. No final figure of how many people were affected was ever reported, but it's thought to be in the many thousands.

PATREON
Crowdfunding service Patreon got the "Ashley Madison" treatment when it found its entire cache of data published online in a massive data breach in early October. Names, email addresses, and posts were leaked, though credit card data and Social Security was not compromised. The scope of the breach may take time to become fully clear, but at 15GB in size, and millions of accounts already found, the number of potential victims is only set to get larger.

EXPERIAN/T-MOBILE
T-Mobile may have taken over Sprint to become third place in US cellular rankings, but it's seventh place in our list of breaches, thanks to its misplaced trust in Experian. The credit agency suffered a breach in September, affecting as many as 15 million T-Mobile customers who underwent credit checks. Data, such as names, addresses, social security numbers, birth dates, and even passport numbers, may have been taken. Encrypted Social Security numbers may also have been swiped, but the company warned that encryption may have been compromised.

SCOTTTRADE
The retail brokerage firm said it detected "illegal activity involving our network" two years prior. Hackers reportedly took millions of customer contact details, which cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs suggested it was to facilitate stock scams through spam campaigns. It was revealed in November after a case was unsealed that a total of four men had been charged with hacking into JPMorgan Chase and a number of other financial institutions, Scottrade included.

ASHLEY MADISON
Around 37 million people were caught up in the Ashley Madison affair (for want of a better term). The site encourages its users to cheat on their partners. Aside from the many millions affected and the impact on relationships, should that information get into the hands of the enemy -- think, Russia or China -- it could lead to a considerable blackmail and espionage effort against US, UK, and allied countries.

EXCELLUS BLUE CROSS/BLUE SHIELD
Excellus BlueCross BlueShield suffered a major hit on its networks that ended up leaking more than 10 million records. The attack happened two years earlier in late December 2013. Names, birth dates, Social Security numbers and mailing addresses -- some of the most personal data going -- was taken, including financial account and claims information. The source of the hack remains unknown.

CARPHONE WAREHOUSE
The UK's biggest data breach of the year can go to Carphone Warehouse, a phone retail store. As many as 2.4 million customers (roughly 4 percent of the country's population) had their personal information taken in the breach. About 90,000 customers had their encrypted credit card data stolen. The UK data privacy watchdog is now investigating the breach.

CVS/WALLGREENS/OTHERS
Pharmacy chain CVS was forced to pull its popular online photo print ordering site offline as it investigated a suspected hack. Credit card data, email and postal addresses, phone numbers, and passwords were taken, but it's not clear how many millions were affected by the breach. No other linked data was taken in the breach, but Costco and Rite Aid, among others, were also hit.

UCLA HEALTH
Data breaches and hacks happen all the time. But poor security and a lack of encryption can put the blame entirely on the body that was charged with protecting it. UCLA Health was at least partially to blame when it was hit by a massive hack on 4.5 million records earlier this year, because its customer data -- including Social Security numbers, and even medical data, such as conditions, medications, procedures, and test results -- was not encrypted.

HACKING TEAM
An unknown group of hackers brought Italian surveillance firm Hacking Team to its knees when its entire network was breached -- and subsequently published online. Who were the real victims? The ordinary public, after hackers took working Flash exploits from the cache of leaked files. It's not known how many internet users were hit by the subsequent attacks. There may be more to come.

IRS
The IRS data breach, reported in May, affected around 100,000 taxpayers. That may seem like a paltry number compared to the Anthem or UCLA breaches, but the impact on affected taxpayers could be staggering. A flaw in the IRS' system allowed hackers to access past filed tax returns, including sensitive financial information and Social Security data. It's said that the breach cost taxpayers $50 million in fraudulent claims.

UNITED STATES OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT
The big finale is the OPM breach, which affected 22.1 million (and counting). It could be the single most damaging breach to US national security of all time. Those who have access to some of the most sensitive data in the world had their entire backgrounds checks -- conducted by the OPM -- stolen by an unknown assailant. Imagine if the enemy knew exactly which buttons to push in order to blackmail someone into turning over vast swathes of sensitive or classified data. We have yet to see the repercussions of the breach, but it could harm the US' domestic and foreign diplomatic and intelligence work.
You can find more good consumer advice for folks in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills at WehoComputerRepair.com. More on security issues just click right here.