You’ve probably used your Amazon Echo for a variety of tasks and skills, from listening to music and playing games to finding information and controlling smart home devices. But what if you could create your own Alexa skills? You can.
Thanks to a new feature known as Alexa Blueprints, you can conjure up templates for your own stories and games and concoct personalized answers to specific questions. No programming skills necessary.
The process is relatively simple, though it requires several steps. Let’s check it out.
To start, open the Alexa Skill Blueprints website. Sign in with your Amazon account. Click on the Watch Video link for a short video tutorial about the blueprints. Then, check out the different categories of blueprints, including Featured Blueprints, Fun & Games, Learning & Knowledge, At Home, and Storyteller. We’ll kick things off with a quiz, so click on the Quiz button.
At the Quiz page, click on the Play button to listen to a sample quiz. Then click Make Your Own.
Customize the Quiz
At the Customize the Quiz page, type each question you want Alexa to ask, followed by the correct response. You can also add a follow-up fact for each entry. At the bottom of the screen, click on the Add Q&A button if you want to add more questions. When you’re done, click on the “Next: Experience” button on the top right.
Customize the Experience
At the Customize the Experience page, type your own customized introduction to the quiz. Then select the sound you want Alexa to play when the quiz starts. Type three customized greetings that Alexa will choose from to welcome the players. Click on the Add Greeting button if you want to create more greetings.
Under Quiz Responses, you can customize the sound and message played for each correct answer. You can then do the same for each wrong answer.
And the Winner Is…
Next, choose a sound and create a message for Alexa to play when someone wins to end the quiz. If you have an Echo Show, select a visual theme to display during the quiz. Click on the Next button for Name.
Name Your Skill
At the Skill Name page, type the name you want to use to request the quiz. Keep the name simple and limit it to two or three words. Click on the Next button to Create Skill.
Update Your Account
The first time you create a skill, Amazon prompts you to update your account on its developer portal so you can publish your skill should you choose to so.
Creating Your Skill
Amazon creates your personalized skill.
Test it Out
You can then try it out by saying: “Alexa, open [name of skill].” Alexa revs up the quiz and asks your questions randomly.
Edit Your Skill
Create an Interactive Story
Now, let’s try a different skill. Return to the Skill Blueprints page. We’ll create an interactive story for Alexa to tell. The story works like a Mad Libs piece in which Alexa asks you to name certain items and then uses your responses in the story. In the Storyteller section, click on the button for Sci-Fi.
Hear a Sample Story
At the Sci-Fi screen, click on the Play button to hear a sample story. Then click on the button to Make Your Own.
The skill starts you off with a sample story that you can customize by modifying or rewriting the existing content and adding your own sound effects. You can also change the blanks such as “Name of Someone in Room” into phrases of your own choosing. When finished, click on the Next button for Name.
Name Your Skill
At the Name screen, cook up a name for your skill. Click on the Next button to Create Skill.
Play Your Story
Alexa creates your skill. When your story is ready, you can play it by saying: “Alexa, open [name of story].” Alexa first asks you to respond to the blank phrases, the same as you would do for a Mad Libs story. After you’ve given your responses, Alexa reads the story using your answers as well as the text and sounds you created and customized.
Create a Game
Next, let’s try a game. Return to the Skill Blueprints page. In the Fun & Games section, click on the button for Birthday Trivia. This game challenges people at a party to answer trivia questions about the birthday boy or girl.
Play the sample at the Birthday Trivia page and then click on the button to Make Your Own.
What’s Your Question?
At the screen to Customize the questions, modify or create the questions and the multiple-choice responses. Click on the Add Q&A button to add more entries. Click the Next button for Experience to move to the next screen.
At the screen to Customize the experience, type the name of the birthday person, customize or create an intro to the game, and choose a sound.
Next, customize the player greetings and random messages.
Fill out the rating responses, round responses, and winner responses. For an Echo Show, choose a visual theme. Click on the Next button for Name.
Name That Game
Name the game. Click on the Next button to Create Skill.
Alexa creates the skill. Say: “Alexa, open [name of game].” Alexa explains the game and then challenges party goers with the different questions. Two to four players can play. The birthday person confirms each answer by telling Alexa if it’s correct.
Finally, you can create custom responses to specific questions to Alexa. Go back to the Skill Blueprints page. In the At Home section, click on the button for Custom Q&A. Play the sample and then click on the button to Make Your Own.
Question and Answer
At the screen to Customize your questions and answers, type the questions and answers that you want Alexa to handle for this skill. Click on the Next button to Create Skill.
After Alexa creates the skill, you can start asking Alexa the questions you posed. But of course, wait until other members of the household are there so Alexa can surprise or shock them with the answers.
I’ve long been a fan of Apple’s AirDrop feature, which lets you send a photo, file, or website address to anyone nearby, even if you’re not connected to the internet. Now Windows users can enjoy the same convenience, with the April 2018 update’s Nearby sharing capability.
The feature uses Bluetooth and peer-to-peer Wi-Fi, meaning you don’t even need to be connected to a Wi-Fi router, let alone to the internet, to transfer files. As you’ll see below, Nearby sharing isn’t a separate feature but an option on the share panel, just like Apple.
Setup is easy, so if you have some files you want to share to a nearby PC, do yourself a favor and give Nearby sharing a try. Here’s how.
1 Start the Process
The simplest way to get started with Nearby sharing is to tap on the Share icon in a Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app like Microsoft Photos or the Edge browser. If you’ve updated to the Windows 10 April 2018 Update and are logged into a Microsoft account, you’ll see a “Tap to turn on nearby sharing” option. Tap it and meet me at the next slide.
2 Looking for Nearby Devices
After you’ve enabled the feature, its spot in the share dialog will say “Looking for nearby devices,” along with “Make sure the other device has nearby sharing turned on in Action Center.”
3 Nearby Desktop Found
Here you can see that the “Looking for…” message has been replaced with the device name of a nearby PC. When another device with nearby sharing enabled is found, you’ll see its computer name in the share dialog. This could be a weird name like “LAPTOP-DG435GF” generated by your computer manufacturer.
You can find your PC’s name in Settings > System > About in the Device name section. That Settings page includes a button at the bottom for renaming the PC to something that better identifies the machine, such as Tom-Den-Desktop. (Note that you can’t have spaces in the name.)
4 Sending Nearby
When you send something, you’ll see this notification in the lower-right corner of the screen. Send by accident? You can cancel the operation if you do so before the recipient accepts the share.
5 Receiving PC
The receiving PC sees this notification in the lower-right corner of the screen. It can either Decline, Save, or Save and Open the shared file. Note that if you share OneDrive-stored photos from the Photos app, your recipient gets a share link to the online version, rather than the actual photo file. If it’s a webpage that’s shared, it opens in the recipient’s default browser, which needn’t be Edge.
6 Shared Settings
For the true Nearby Sharing mavens out there, you can tinker with settings for the feature, in the Settings > System > Shared experiences page. Here, you can decide whether you want to receive items only from your own devices or from anyone nearby. For me, the feature only worked best when I allowed everyone to share; not really a problem since you have to approve what’s sent. Finally, you can choose which folder files land in when you accept them.
How often do you open your smartphone and suddenly find yourself having lost 30 minutes or perhaps hours of your day?
It’s all too easy to get lost in our screens as we tap from app to app and scroll through social feeds. In our hyper-connected world, cutting out tech altogether is unrealistic unless you’re ready to drop off the grid and move to a log cabin in the wilderness. What you can do is try consuming tech mindfully.
Whether you think you’re spending too much time on social media, feel like you’re becoming too attached to your smartphone, or you’re suffering from a more serious tech addiction, we could all stand to be a little less wired. Here are some tips to wean yourself off compulsive smartphone and social media habits, and how to regain control over how you consume technology.
1 Change Notification Settings
Are your push notifications still set to defaults? Are you getting a deluge of emails, messages, and alerts from Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Slack, and dozens of other apps? Cut out the noise.
Go into notification settings on all your devices—smartphones, tablets, desktops and laptops—and turn everything off that’s not essential. Notifications appearing as red dots next to your app icons are visual cues begging you to check them. One good rule is to turn off all notifications except for direct messages and mentions, meaning the ones coming from real people.
The Center for Humane Technology says the “colorful icons give our brains shiny rewards every time we unlock.” Setting your phone to grayscale is a way to train your mind to check your phone less. On iOS devices, go to Settings > General > Accessibility and scroll down to Accessibility Shortcut. If you check the Color Filters option, it unlocks a feature allowing you to triple-tap the home button to turn grayscale on and off. On Android, the process may vary, but check under Settings > About phone.
3 Stop Using Your Phone As An Alarm Clock
Don’t keep your smartphone within reach at night. Rather than charging it on your nightstand, your phone should charge further away from your bed or ideally be left in another room entirely so you’re not tempted to pick it up if you wake up in the middle of the night. The best way to do that is to get a separate alarm clock so your wake-up isn’t tied to your device.
Other good tips include not using smartphones for the last hour before bed and using apps like f.lux or Night Shift on iOS devices to reduce blue light stimulating your mind before sleep. But the best remedy for tech-related sleep issues is to keep your smartphone as far away at night as possible.
4 Set Social Boundaries
One key thing missing from the way many of us use technology is etiquette. When is it appropriate to have your smartphone out and when is it considered rude? If you’re having a face-to-face conversation with someone, resisting the urge to pull out a device is the first step toward cutting out an unhealthy or rude behavior. One good rule is not to have devices on the table during meals, whether that’s in a restaurant or at home. Especially if there are kids at the table who don’t have their own devices yet, it’s a bad precedent to set if you’re scrolling through Instagram in one hand, eating with the other, and barely pretending to listen to the conversation.
5 Switch to a Utility-First Layout
What are the first apps on your home screen? Do Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or Reddit come up in your first few rows of apps? First off, put all your social apps in a folder and banish it to the furthest reaches of your smartphone; the last of the home screens. If you want to check them, your mind will have to work for it.
Instead, turn your smartphone back into a tool. Put the utility apps on your home screen: the camera, calendar, maps, notes, ride-hailing apps, weather, etc. For everything else—games, social apps, and even messaging apps if they’re not essential—your mind should have to put in a conscious effort to open them.
6 Launch Apps By Typing
Modern smartphone interfaces are designed as intuitively as possible so you can use them without having to think about it. It’s easy to tap into an app and start scrolling without even considering whether you opened it for a reason. Even that small change in behavioral architecture lets you pause for a moment and think about whether you’re opening the app for a reason.
On iOS, swipe down from the home screen to open the search bar and type for the app you want. Another good tip is to turn off Siri Suggestions by going to Siri & Search from the Settings menu and toggling off the two options. On Android you can use the Search Box on your home screen.
7 Cut Out Distractions
There are a number of apps out there designed to help you focus and cut out digital distractions. Thrive puts a user into Thrive Mode to block all apps, notifications, calls, and texts except for “VIPs” you’ve designated. Meditation apps like Calm and Headspace are designed to help you de-stress and focus your mind. Freedom temporarily blocks apps and websites for set periods of time. You can motivate yourself with gamification, too. Forest plants virtual seeds that grow into trees the longer you stay off your phone.
Extensions can also help you use sites like Facebook and YouTube in more targeted ways. Distraction Free YouTube removes recommended videos from sidebars to keep you from getting sucked in. News Feed Eradicator blurs out Facebook posts for users who want to use the app only as a utility for things like events and groups. The Facebook Demetricator extension hides like, comment, and share numbers to keep you from fixating on feedback and rewards cycles.
8 Monitor Your App Usage
Tech and social media use can often create a sense of dissociation in how much time you’ve spent looking at a screen. Monitoring your usage from app to app is a great way to identify behaviors you want to change. Apps like Moment for iOS and RescueTime for Mac and Windows help you break down exactly how much time you’re spending on apps and devices. Thrive also has an app control panel to monitor your usage and set goals for how much you use specific apps.
9 Create Your Own Stopping Cues
One of the reasons modern app and social media experiences suck you in is because there aren’t built-in mechanisms that tell you to stop, like the end of a book chapter. We live in a digital world of endlessly scrolling feeds. In the streaming era, even the end of a TV episode doesn’t mean much anymore when Netflix starts the next one five seconds later.
If you’re concerned with how much time you’re spending on your smartphone, social media, streaming video, or using your devices in general, sometimes it takes more than willpower to stop. If you only want to spend half an hour on Instagram or want to cap yourself at two Netflix episodes, schedule that time. Allot specific windows of your life for the online activities you care about. When that window is up, put the devices down. Another way to create stopping cues is to set an alarm for when it’s time to stop, and put your clock or phone across the room so you have to get up to turn it off.
10 Delete the Apps
If all else fails, you can always take the nuclear option and delete some social apps from your phone. Especially for social networks like Facebook, you can still log in from the web if there’s something you really need to check without having the urge to tap open the app at a moment’s notice and get lost in your News Feed. You control your tech. Don’t let it control you.
Pandora is a great way to stream and listen to your favorite music, whether you like the soothing sounds of classical, the fast rhythm of hip-hop, or the mellow tones of cool jazz. You can even choose between a free subscription with basic features or a paid one with additional options.
At this point, maybe you have a free Pandora account but want more and would like to try a paid subscription. Or perhaps you no longer tune into Pandora at all and just want to delete your subscription. Whatever the reason, you can take specific steps to modify or remove your account. Let’s go through them now.
To start, what are the differences between a free and paid Pandora account?
The streaming music service offers three types of subscriptions: Pandora (free), Pandora Plus, and Pandora Premium. The free account offers the familiar online radio service but with limited ability to skip songs, lower-quality audio, advertisements, and no offline listening.
For $ 4.99 a month, Pandora Plus throws in unlimited skips, high-quality audio, no commercials, and the option to listen to up to three stations offline on your mobile device. To the tune of $ 9.99 a month, Pandora Premium adds no timeouts on devices when it thinks you’re not listening, unlimited offline listening on mobile devices, and customizable playlists. Pandora Plus offers a free 7-day trial, while Pandora Premium doles out the first 60 days for free. You can pay for either plan monthly or annually.
1 Upgrade From Free to Paid
Okay, so let’s say you have a free account but want to upgrade it to one of the paid plans. Sign into Pandora. Click on the Upgrade button in the upper-right corner (or click on your account image > Settings > Upgrade).
2 Pandora Plus
A page pops up offering you the option to upgrade to Pandora Premium or Pandora Plus. Click on the “Start Free Trial” button for Pandora Plus.
3 Credit Card Info
Enter your credit card or PayPal payment information and then click Submit.
Your Pandora Plus subscription goes into effect.
5 Pandora Premium
To jump directly to Pandora Premium instead, browse to the Premium Plan Sign Up Page. Fill out the payment information and then click on the button to “Start Trial.”
6 Listen Away
Your Pandora Premium account kicks off.
7 Cancel Free Account
Okay, now let’s say you have either a free Pandora account that you wish to delete or a paid account that you want to revert back to a freebie. With a free plan, click on your account image at the top-right of your Pandora page and click on “Settings.” At the Settings page, make sure the “Account” category is selected on the left, scroll to the bottom, and click on the link to “Delete Pandora Account.”
8 No Turning Back
Pandora asks: “Are you sure?” If you are, click on the link to “Delete Account.”
9 Password, Please
At the next window, type your Pandora password and then click on “Submit.” And poof, your account is gone.
10 From Paid to Free
To revert your paid account back to a free one, click on your account image on your Pandora page and select “Settings.” At the Settings page, click on the category for “Subscription.” Click on the link to “Switch plans” next to your current subscription.
Then click on the link to “Cancel Subscription.”
12 Are You Sure?
At the “Are you sure?” screen, type your password and click on the link for “Yes, cancel my subscription.” Your paid subscription goes kaput, returning you back to your free account.
Do you want to sell items online and accept payment through PayPal? One option is to set up a PayPal Business account.
For many years, PayPal was synonymous with eBay, but the two companies have been separate companies since 2015, and eBay is cutting ties with PayPal in the coming years. PayPal, however, will remain a payment option on eBay until July 2023. And PayPal can be helpful for any merchants with a full-fledged online business, eBay or not.
How do you set up a PayPal Business account and what benefits does it offer? Let’s go through the steps.
First, let’s assume you don’t yet have a PayPal account. Browse to the PayPal page and click on the “Sign Up” link.
At the window asking if you want to set up a personal or business account, click on the option for “Business Account.” Click Next.
Payments Standard Account
At the page to “Sign up for a business account to get paid,” PayPal offers you three types of business accounts: Payments Pro for $ 30 a month, Payments Standard for free, and Express Checkout for free. You can see the basic features offered by each type of account and click on the link to “Show additional features” to get the full scoop. You can always start with one of the free accounts and then upgrade to the Payments Pro option if you need more features. So, let’s pick the Payments Standard account. Click on the “Select Standard” button.
Enter your email address at the “Sign up for a Business account” page. Click Continue.
Then enter a password for your account. Click Continue.
At the “Tell us about your business” page, enter your name, business name, and contact information. Click Continue.
At the next “Tell us about your business” page, enter the various details about your business. Click Continue.
At the “Personal Information” page, enter the details requested. Click Continue.
PayPal then asks how you want to start getting paid. The selections differ based on the type of account you chose. Let’s assume you selected the Payments Standard account. If you have or are setting up a dedicated e-commerce website, you can choose to accept payments on your website. If you sell items in person, you can opt to take credit cards with a card reader. If you send invoices, you can select the option for online invoices. And if you want to open an eBay store, you can choose the eBay option. You can select any or all of the options.
Let’s say you want to have both your own e-commerce site and an eBay store. Click on the options for “On your website” and “On eBay.” Click Continue.
Hang on though. Before we set up the payment options, we’re first going to set up the actual account. Click on the link for “Account setup.”
Follow the steps on your Account setup page. First, click on the link to confirm your email.
Link to Bank Account
Open your email and click on the confirmation link sent by PayPal. Then return to the Account setup page and click on the link to “Link your bank account.” Follow the pages and steps to link your bank account to your PayPal account.
Make Your Business Name Clear
When done, return to the Account setup page and click on the link to “Make your business name clear for customers.”
Confirm your business name. Then if you wish to have a PayPal MasterCard debit card, click on the link to “Get the PayPal Business Debit MasterCard” and follow the steps to obtain the card.
When done, click on the link for “Payment setup” to return to that page.
Payment Processing Options
PayPal asks how you want to process card payments on your website. You can choose the first option for PayPal and all the major credit cards or the second option for just PayPal. Choose the option most appropriate for your business.
PayPal then asks how you want to set up PayPal on your website, offering two options. Option A lets you work with an e-commerce solution that’s already integrated with PayPal. Option B requires you to add HTML buttons to your website. Click on the link to “Compare options.”
Option A or Option B?
A window displays the differences between the two options.
Make a Choice
Close the window and then select the option most suitable for you. Then follow the steps to implement the option you chose.
After you’ve set up your website with the PayPal payment method, you can return to your Payment setup page to set up your eBay option. Click on the link to “Go to eBay setup.”
At eBay, you can click on the button to “Start Selling” if you wish to test the waters by selling an item.
Alternatively, you can choose this opportunity to create an eBay store by following the steps on this eBay help page.
After you’ve set up your PayPal payment and account options, you can officially open for business using your new PayPal payment service. To learn more using PayPal for business and in general, check out PayPal’s Help Page.
Chances are you have a Wi-Fi network at home, or live close to one (or more) that tantalizingly pops up in a list whenever you boot up the laptop.
The problem is, if there’s a lock next to the network name (AKA the SSID, or service set identifier), that indicates security is activated. Without the password or passphrase, you’re not going to get access to that network, or the sweet, sweet internet that goes with it.
Perhaps you forgot the password on your own network, or don’t have neighbors willing to share the Wi-Fi goodness. You could just go to a café, buy a latte, and use the “free” Wi-Fi there. Download an app for your phone like WiFi-Map (available for iOS and Android), and you’ll have a list of over 2 million hotspots with free Wi-Fi for the taking (including some passwords for locked Wi-Fi connections, if they’re shared by any of the app’s 7 million users).
However, there are other ways to get back on the wireless. Some require such extreme patience and waiting that the café idea is going to look pretty good. Read on if you can’t wait.
Windows Commands to Get the Key
This trick works to recover a Wi-Fi network password (aka network security key) only if you’ve previously attached to the Wi-Fi in question using that very password. In other words, it only works if you’ve forgotten a previously used password.
It works because Windows 8 and 10 create a profile of every Wi-Fi network to which you attach. If you tell Windows to forget the network, then it also forgets the password, so this won’t work. But most people never explicitly do that.
It requires that you go into a Windows Command Prompt with administrative privileges. To do so, use Cortana to search for “cmd” and the menu will show Command Prompt; right-click that entry and select “Run as administrator.” That’ll open the black box full of white text with the prompt inside—it’s the line with a > at the end, probably something like C:WINDOWSsystem32>. A blinking cursor will indicate where you type. Start with this:
netsh wlan show profile
The results will bring up a section called User Profiles—those are all the Wi-Fi networks (aka WLANs, or wireless local area networks) you’ve accessed and saved. Pick the one you want to get the password for, highlight it, and copy it. At the prompt below, type the following, but replace the Xs with the network name you copied; you only need the quotation marks if the network name has spaces in it.
netsh wlan show profile name="XXXXXXXX" key=clear
In the new data that comes up, look under Security Settings for the line “Key Content.” The word displayed is the Wi-Fi password/key you are missing.
On macOS, open up the Spotlight search (Cmd+Space) and type terminal to get the Mac equivalent of a command prompt. Type the following, replacing the Xs with the network name.
security find-generic-password -wa XXXXX
Reset the Router
Before you do a full router reset just to get on the wireless, try to log into the router first. From there, you can easily reset your Wi-Fi password/key if you’ve forgotten it.
That’s not possible if you don’t know the password for the router, either. (They’re not the same thing unless you set it up that way). Resetting the router only works if you have access. That access could be over Wi-Fi (which we’ve just established you don’t have) or physically utilizing an Ethernet cable.
Or that access can simply be that you are in the same room as the router. Almost every router in existence has a recessed reset button. Push it with a pen or unfolded paperclip, hold it for about 10 seconds, and the router will reset to the factory settings.
If you’ve got a router that came from your internet service provider (ISP), check the stickers on the unit before a reset—the ISP might have printed the router and Wi-Fi key right on the hardware.
Once a router is reset, you need another password (plus a username) to access the router itself. Again, you can do this via a PC attached to the router via Ethernet—you’ll need that since the reset probably killed any potential Wi-Fi connection you had going in. The actual access is typically done with a web browser.
The URL to type is either 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1, or some variation. Try them randomly; that generally works. To figure out which one, on the PC connected to the router, open a command prompt and type “ipconfig” without the quotes. Look among the gobbledygook for an “IPv4 Address,” which will start with 192.168. The other two spaces, called octets, are going to be different numbers between 0 and 255. Note the third octet (probably a 1 or 0). The fourth is specific to the PC you’re using to log into the router.
In the browser, type 192.168.x.1, replacing the X with the number you found in the ipconfig search. The 1 in the last octet should point at the router—it’s the number one device on the network.
At this point, the router should then ask for a username and password. You can check your manual, but you probably lost it or threw it away. So instead, go to RouterPasswords.com, which exists for one reason: to tell people the default username/password on every router ever created.
You’ll need the router’s model number, but that’s easy enough to find on the back or bottom. You’ll quickly see a pattern among router makers of having the username of admin and a password of password. Since most people are lazy and don’t change an assigned password, you could try those options before hitting the reset button. (But c’mon, you’re better than that—change the password when you access the router’s settings via your web browser.)
Once you’ve accessed the router interface, go to the Wi-Fi settings, turn on the wireless networks, and assign strong but easy-to-recall passwords. After all, you don’t want to share with neighbors without your permission.
Make that Wi-Fi password easy to type on a mobile device, too. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to get a smartphone on Wi-Fi with some cryptic, impossible to key-in-via-thumbs nonsense, even if it is the most secure.
Crack the Code
You didn’t come here because the headline said “reset the router,” though. You want to know how to crack the password on a Wi-Fi network.
Searching on “wi-fi password hack,” or other variations, nets you a lot of links—mostly for software on sites where the adware and bots and scams are pouring like snake oil. Download them at your own risk, for Windows PCs especially. It’s best to have a PC that you can afford to get effed up a bit if you go that route. I had multiple attempts with tools I found just get outright deleted by my antivirus before I could even try to run the EXE installation file.
You could create a system just for this kind of thing, maybe dual-boot into a separate operating system that can do what’s called “penetration testing”—a form of offensive approach security, where you examine a network for any and all possible paths of a breach. Kali Linux is a Linux distribution built for just that purpose. You can run Kali Linux off a CD or USB key without even installing it to your PC’s hard drive. It’s free and comes with all the tools you’d need to crack a network. It even now comes as an app for Windows 10 in the Windows App Store! If you’re only after a Wi-Fi network, the Wifislax distro is a Live CD targets them directly.
If you don’t want to install a whole OS, then try the tried-and-true tools of Wi-Fi hackers.
Aircrack has been around for years, going back to when Wi-Fi security was only based on WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy). WEP was weak even back in the day and was supplanted in 2004 by WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access).
Aircrack-ng—labeled as a “set of tools for auditing wireless networks,” so it should be part of any network admin’s toolkit—will take on cracking WEP and WPA-PSK keys. It comes with full documentation, but it’s not simple. To crack a network you need to have the right kind of Wi-Fi adapter in your computer, one that supports packet injection. You need to be comfortable with the command line and have a lot of patience. Your Wi-Fi adapter and Aircrack have to gather a lot of data to get anywhere close to decrypting the passkey on the network you’re targeting. It could take a while. Here’s a how-to on doing it using Aircrack installed on Kali Linux. Another option on the PC using the command line is Airgeddon.
If you prefer a graphical user interface (GUI), there is KisMAC for macOS. It’s mainly known as a “sniffer” for seeking out Wi-Fi networks. It’s the kind of thing we don’t need much of these days since our phones and tablets do a pretty good job of showing us every Wi-Fi signal in the air around us. But, it can crack some keys with the right adapter installed. Also on the Mac: Wi-Fi Crack. To use those, or Aircrack-ng on the Mac, you need to install them using MacPorts, a tool for installing command-line products on the Mac.
Cracking the much stronger WPA/WPA2 passwords and passphrases is the real trick.
Reaver-wpsis the one tool that appears to be up to the task. You’ll need that command-line comfort again to work with it. After two to 10 hours of brute force attacks, Reaver should be able to reveal a password… but it’s only going to work if the router you’re going after has both a strong signal and WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) turned on. WPS is the feature where you can push a button on the router, another button on a Wi-Fi device, and they find each other and link auto-magically, with a fully encrypted connection. It’s also the “hole” through which Reaver crawls.
(Even if you turn off WPS, sometimes it’s not completely off, but turning it off is your only recourse if you’re worried about hacks on your own router via Reaver. Or, get a router that doesn’t support WPS.)
Security audits are an annoying but necessary part of online life. Hacks big and small have compromised the data of countless internet users, so it’s up to you to make sure social networks and apps aren’t scraping more data than they should.
Facebook’s latest data scandal isn’t a hack in the traditional sense. User data was gathered in 2014 by a man posing as a researcher, which was allowed at the time under Facebook’s rules. That man then gave the data—and information on people’s friends—to analytics firm Cambridge Analytica. That ran afoul of Facebook’s rules, and Facebook ordered Cambridge to destroy the data. Cambridge says the data has been deleted, whistleblowers say it still exists, and round and round we go. (Here’s how to see if Cambridge has your data.)
Facebook was shocked (shocked!) that this all happened. But major tech companies make a lot of money off your info, either by mining it to sell you stuff or by selling it outright to others. The social network isn’t going to change how it does business exactly.
Facebook does allow you to put some rather robust account restrictions in place. However, its tools can be hard to decipher, even if they’re getting easier to find (see below). Implementing some of them may limit what you can do with Facebook; short of deleting your Facebook account, it should provide you with some peace of mind.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on April 19 with details about Facebook’s updated settings.
Protecting Your Information
At your first login to Facebook sometime on or after April 19, 2018, you’ll see this new greeting. It’s Facebook’s way of saying “yeah, we got in trouble, now we’re going to pointedly tell you that you can make adjustments to your privacy settings so we don’t get in trouble again.”
This is all about getting you to opt-out of using Facebook logins and sharing with other apps and websites; it’s not about Facebook taking care of the problem, then letting you opt back in to share only what you want. But you can force that issue with some of the steps below.
Visit Apps and Websites Settings: Active Tab
The link on your News Feed takes you to the Apps and Websites section of Facebook’s settings, which used to be called only Apps. You can also get there directly by clicking App Settings, or navigate to Settings > Apps andWebsites. On a smartphone, go to the hamburger menu () and under Settings, select Apps > Logged in with Facebook.
The initial tab on the Apps and Websites page is called Active, because it shows all the “most recent” (ahem) sites and apps you’ve logged into using Facebook. (Recent is a misnomer—I saw listings on my page for sites and apps that have been dead for a few months.) Click the checkbox next to any entry you don’t actively recognize, then hit the Remove button to nix them.
What Were You Sharing?
If you’re curious about what you’re sharing with a specific app or website, click the View and edit link for each entry.
A pop-up window will display the information each app is accessing; here, you can change those settings if you’d like to keep it installed but restrict the information to which it has access—tell apps you don’t want to share your Friends list, timeline posts, status updates, events, etc.
Facebook has removed the option to just prevent sharing those things across the board—they have to be done app by app and site by site.
What Happens When You Remove Apps Sites
When you do remove an app or website you’d logged into via Facebook, you’ll get this warning. Doing so may delete your account at the third-party site, and/or any and all activity on the site, even if the account stays intact. You can click an extra box to also kill off any posts, videos, or photos the apps/site posted on Facebook for you.
Once you’ve finished, you’ll get this weasel-y confirmation screen that makes it look like it may take a while for all the info and connections to be destroyed. (You know, how like it takes a while to get a refund to your credit card, even though it’s always instantaneous when you spend money.)
Check the Expired Tab
This is for apps and websites you logged into once upon a time with Facebook, but the login has since expired. Each shows the last date and time they were accessed using Facebook credentials. Like in the Active tab, you can click the View and Edit link for each to see what was shared.
Facebook annoyingly does not have a “check all” option, so you have to click on each one individually if you want to remove them all or at least a majority. My page had well over 99 entries on it, some dating back to 2014. You’ll get the same pop-up showing what happens, and same confirmation if you go through with the removal.
Check the Removed Tab
This last tab shows all the apps and websites you’ve removed in the past from your account. Facebook indicates on the page that you may still have access to previously shared info on those apps/sites (but you can’t make privacy changes now), and that hey, “this list may not include all apps and websites you’ve removed”! Uh… that doesn’t seem helpful.
Nuke It: Enter the Editor
If you want to go semi-nuclear and prevent Facebook from doing much sharing at all, here’s how: On the desktop, while on the Apps and Websites page of settings, scroll down to the box that says Apps, Websites, and Games. If it says “Turned On,” click the Edit button. A pop-up will appear…
Disable the Platform
… where you can click the Turn Off button. By doing so, Facebook will no longer connect to any third-party sites with your Facebook data. You won’t be able to log into websites or games using Facebook (including sites that use Facebook for commenting), share with friends between apps, or do any kind of instant personalization. You’ll also get kicked out of any apps you’ve logged into using Facebook.
If you turn it off, then turn it back on, you’ll find you’ve been logged out of all the apps and websites you’d used. This is a good way to re-start with connecting to just the apps/sites you trust. (After I did so, I had 168 entries in the Removed tab!)
On mobile, tap the hamburger menu () and navigate to Settings and select Apps > Apps, Websites and Games and click Edit to Turn Off.
Game and App Notifications
While you’re on the Apps and Websites page, look at the Game and App Notifications section. Click it to turn them off, and you’ll never see another request from friends to join their annoying games, ever. It doesn’t really spare you any shared info, but may save some friendships.
Read the Full Data Policy
Want to see all of Facebook’s plans for your data? Well, you can’t look inside Mark Zuckerberg’s head—yet—but you can read the full Facebook Data Policy, which was also updated today.