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Issue #523: July 30 – August 5, 2017

Q: My WiFi works perfectly. When I have visitors, they often ask to use it. I don’t mind them doing that, but I don’t remember the WiFi password. My computer obviously “knows” it because it connects automatically whenever I power it (the computer up). Is there some way to find where the password is stored in my computer and see it? I’m using a PC with Windows 10.

– James Y.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A: PC security is an issue that I take very seriously, especially in the position I’m in – wearing the moniker of “The Geek” and handing out advice as if I’m some kind of expert or something. The issue of passwords is an especially sensitive subject, since they are the personalized keys that open the locks that are supposed to keep our PCs safe from marauding Internet bad guys and information thieves. As such, I usually make it a practice to not hand out advice on situations that have the potential to teach people how to defeat built-in security. After all, if you can break into your own device, you can break into devices that belong to others, and I’m not in the business of teaching that kind of hacking. This question however, is different. More accurately, it is the answer to the question that’s different. In the case of WiFi passwords, Windows is happy to provide you with the password that you used to gain access, you just have to know how to ask. Therefore, since this is nothing more than a Windows feature, I am happy to show you how to recover your forgotten WiFi password.

Start by clicking the Windows 10 Start Menu and select the gear icon, which brings up the “Settings” dialog. Click on “Network & Internet”, then “Change Adapter Settings”. Find your WiFi adapter, and right-click on it. In the menu that comes up, choose “Status”. Click the button that says “Wireless Properties”. In the tabs across the top of the dialog, select “Security”. You’ll find the password here, labeled “Network security key”. If the password is hidden, just click to check the “Show characters” box and it will be revealed. Phew! That’s a lot of steps, but personally, I’m rather glad that it’s not too easy to pick-off passwords from a PC.

• • •

While we’re on the subject of security, I want to warn you about two scams that made a run at me this week. Both failed because: A) I know what to look for when it comes to scamming, B) I’m always on the lookout for this kind of thing, and C) I just don’t trust odd-feeling situations. The first one was a hybrid Craigslist scam. If you’ve never used Craigslist, you should know that they offer a free service that allows you to contact the seller of an item without revealing your e-mail address to them. This is for your protection. So, I got interested in an item I saw for sale, and I contacted the supposed-seller through the closed e-mail system. I received a reply back that seemed to completely ignore my inquiry, instead telling me that the seller’s mom has a low-mileage Nissan Rogue for only $2900, and giving me an e-mail address through which I can contact her. Rather than revealing my e-mail address, I Googled the address that was provided, and sure enough, up came scam reports from all over the country associated with that address. Geek:1, Cyber Creeps: 0. The next one came from, of all places, a voicemail on my cell phone. I missed the actual call, but received a message from a computerized voice that proceeded to tell me that “[my] Microsoft Windows license key has been expired in [my] computer, so Microsoft Corporation has stopped the Windows services in [my] computer” and that it was urgent that I call this toll-free number immediately. I laughed at this before it had even played all the way through. First of all, I run multiple PCs at home, and all are working just fine. Second, Microsoft doesn’t have my cell phone number, and even if they did, they are not in the habit of remotely monitoring computers and reaching out to people when there are problems – it just doesn’t happen. Interestingly enough, I tried calling the number, and there was no answer. Perhaps it was the middle of the night in Nigeria? Oh well. Geek:2, Cyber Creeps: 0.

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