Sunday, August 16, 2020

Can you do a Time Machine backup to a USB flash drive (thumb drive)?

 I'd wondered if it was possible to do a Time Machine backup to a cheap Flash Drive. My daughter is going to college and probably doesn't have a great need for backup (iCloud Document/Desktop, iCloud Photo, Google Docs, etc) but I'd still like to do something.

So I wondered about a compact Flash Drive. In the twilight of the web Google couldn't find me an answer, so I ran my own test. I used an old San Disk Ultra Fit 128GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive in an old USB 2 MacBook Air running High Sierra. I formatted the Flash Drive as encrypted HPFS and let Time Machine run the backup.

It took about 4-5 hours to do the initial 80GB backup but it seemed to work fine.

I doubt these Flash Drives are super reliable, but I think this is an option. I can see taking advantage of it while traveling for example. Unfortunately her 2020 Air doesn't have an open USB slot where an Ultra Fit could live, but it could be a part of her Anker 7-1 USB-C docking station. A modern San Disk Ultra Fit USB 3.1 is $33.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Chrome malware: Managed by your organization

I think my son installed a "managed by your organization" chrome malware extension when he was trying to find Flash. This one showed in Chrome as ""

The obsolete Federal government website required for his US census enumerator job probably directed him to get Flash. I wouldn't be shocked if he got the malware directly from the Federal site. US government web sites are notoriously insecure. [1]

This class of malware now works by installing an unsigned profile on the user's Mac that activates Chrome's "managed by your organization" mode. It locks the home page and search page so traffic is routed through the malware's server and it prevents a Chrome reset. (It may do other things as well of course.)  For some reason it locked him into Bing, which was a dead giveaway. Smarter malware wouldn't have changed the default search engine.

Once upon a time a quick Google search would have explained how to remove the malware. This is 2020 though, so Google's search results on this topic are mostly garbage. I found one result on a garbage site, however, that must have been partly based on a real site. That clued me to the profile. Once I deleted it then I could do a full Chrome reset. Once I knew the fix I found this guide, which covered the territory. (I can't tell who manages the site, I hope they make money by malware app referrals rather than anything more ominous.)

Before I did this I followed advice from a trusted source and installed the free (but suspiciously marketed) Malwarebyte antiviral. It found nothing. I'll try running one or two more antivirals (AVG, Sophos). Malwarebyte is an easy uninstall, so points for them.

[1] I am the solo family geek, my digital-age children seem to prefer the 18th century. My theory is the latest generation has the same take on computers that, at the same age, I had on automobile engines. It should just work, and if it doesn't work an old person might understand it.