John in Lansing, Michigan listens on AM800 CKLW and asked: “I have a Chromebook and a Lenovo laptop with Windows 10. I’ve heard that if you wanna do banking from home, you should get a Chromebook and use it for nothing else. Now, I’ve seen a product for about $30, called Xtra-PC and it uses Linux and it plugs into the port of your laptop. I’m wondering if I did that, and used it only for my bank, would I be safe from malware or anything else that could be on the device I’m plugging the Xtra-PC on?”
John, Xtra-PC seems to just be a Linux live USB.
That means its just a bootable version of Linux that you can run by plugging it into a USB port and having it boot and read from its own storage.
In terms of it being safe from malware, it probably would be relatively safe due to the very, very small user base making it unappealing to most of the people who would target a system. Having said that, 99% of attacks these days dont target computers, they target you.
The weak point that most attackers try to exploit is your potential gullibility if they manage to send you to a page that looks like a login or password reset or recovery page and make you type in your current credentials. That can happen under any system. Browser vulnerabilities can make it onto Linux too, and unlike Chromebooks Linux machines wont necessarily be set up to update in the background automatically.
What we can say about Xtra-PC is that its makers market it with some pretty inflated claims mostly centered around how it will speed up your PC significantly. All of it reads as material that is itself meant to target less technical people, and a lot of is probably very untrue.
If youre interested in trying a live USB Linux distribution, you can find plenty of free ones online that you can install into any USB flash drive you may already have.
In terms of banking itself, if you want a safe option that you already own, you may be better served by a phone. Smartphones mostly have some sort of biometric recognition system, youd likely use an app which is harder to spoof than a website, and a non-rooted, non-jailbroken phone will sandbox apps which makes them better isolated from malware.
Matthew in Hartsdale, New York listens Online and asked: “Wanted to ask about the in-car entertainment systems that are out in the new 2020 cars, such as the Ford Sync 3 system, the GM IntelliLink and the Chevrolet MyLink system. If you could tell us the differences between these systems.”
Matthew, the IntelliLink and MyLink systems are the same except for each using a different theme. GMs and Chevys are the same cars with different badges so I guess we should know to expect no better from their infotainment systems.
They both support WiFi, though at a monthly cost so you may be better off using your phones hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Newer models support Alexa and have a GM Marketplace that allow you to do things like order food or pay or gas from the dashboard. All of those probably sound better on paper than in the real world since you probably have to pull over to do those things and phones are way easier and quicker to use.
Fords Ford Sync 3 also supports WiFi, CarPlay and Android Auto, and it has been an improvement since the previous version was regarded as notoriously bad and hard to use, having said that, its about to be replaced by Ford Sync 4.
That is the main thing you should know about these systems, they are second class citizens as far as car manufacturers are concerned and you shouldnt expect them to be properly maintained. You shouldnt even expect the updates to be free if they exist at all.
The reason we bring that up is that whatever you get will probably be good for a year or two, but will eventually feel like the touchscreen version of an 8-track tape and the manufacturer will probably not care and leave it as is.
You should probably focus on the mechanics of the car more than the smarts if you plan to keep it for more than 3 or 4 years. Whatever infotainment system the car has may or may not continue to be compatible with future version of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and will definitely lag behind phone software, so dont let it be the deciding factor unless you plan to keep your car for the short term.
Allyson in Baton Rouge, Louisiana listens on Talk 107.3WBRP and asked: “What information is on the computer chips in our credit cards, besides credit in formation?”
Allyson, the chips in credit cards, EMV chips, contain the information required to authorize the transaction.
What that information is, varies depending on whether its a debit or a credit account, but its basically an account information (account number, maybe a routing number, that kind of data) and a dynamic security token.
That extra token aside, the information is what you would find in the magnetic strip and it doesnt include information about the owner.
If youre interested in the low level details of how the chips work the standard they follow is ISO-8583 and you can find details about how that standard manages authentication.
EMV chips just add some level of encryption over the magnetic strip, but keep in mind that the US is pretty far behind most of the world in these technologies and this is relatively old technology that is quickly losing ground to more heavily encrypted contactless technology.
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