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Issue #539: November 19–25, 2017

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Q: I enjoy your articles and save many of them in a notebook file. I have two questions. Many times as I am shutting down my computer it displays a pop-up box telling me that I should leave the computer on for several updates. Who is monitoring my computer to know that I need an update and how do they do it?

Second, I was trying to log into a financial program. I put in my user name, then my password, then hit login. This is a site I use daily. The next screen said I needed a better password or user name. Then a username that is modified pops up in the space. It’s my user name with a letter entered in the middle of it.  My user name of “glennh7” (Geek Note: Not Glenn’s actual username!) was modified to be glenwnh7. Clicking login did not work. Has someone tried to change my username?

– Glenn H.
Shalimar, Florida

A:  Both excellent questions, Glenn!  Although I’m pleased to hear that you think so highly of my column that you clip and save issues, I’d like to remind you that all of the past issues of It’s Geek To Me (539 of them as of this writing) are always available on my website at ItsGeekToMe.co.  They are keyword searchable, or browsable by date.

On to your questions.  When your computer is doing updates, it is basically replacing certain operating system files with new, updated ones.  This cannot always be done while Windows is in use, because some files get locked by the system and can’t be deleted or overwritten.  In these cases, Windows must wait until it is being shut down or booted, and perform the file operations at that time.

When you see Windows asking you to wait while it installs updates, it means that it downloaded one or more updates behind-the-scenes, either overnight (if you leave your system up overnight) or while you are working, and at least one of them needs to update files that are locked by the system.  The only thing monitoring you is Windows doing its regular, periodic check to see if updates are available in order to keep your system running smoothly and as secure as possible.

Regarding your second question, many online sites and apps that secure personal data are implementing stricter policies for usernames and passwords, because despite all the data thievery in the news, and despite people like me constantly telling people like you to choose hard-to-guess names and passwords, people continue to use easy to guess user names (like your name plus a number) and passwords like “qwerty”, “123456”, or “password”. 

I would guess that your financial institution recently changed its security rules to say that usernames are not allows to contain your last name.  They apparently offered you an alternative name by sticking a letter in the middle of it.  Of course, I’m only guessing at this here.  Although I could see them wanting you to change your username if it contains your name, it seems a little strange that they would try to do it during the sign-in process.  The normal order for such a process would be to verify your identity first by having you sign-in with your current username and password.  Then, after you’ve been verified, they would take you through the process of forcing the username update.  They might even sign you out afterwards to make you sign-in with the new credentials.

I seriously doubt someone tried to change your password.  The typical response of a financial site when that happens is to send you an e-mail at the address on file, informing you of the change or attempted change.  I presume you’d have mentioned it if you had gotten such an e-mail. 

So, it seems to me at this point that a call to the customer service line of this financial service is in order.  Ask them the exact question you asked me.  They have the advantage over me of knowing whether their rules have recently changed, and also being able to provide direct, on-the-spot assistance with your account credentials.  Good luck!

 

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