Hardening your Android Device, Part-2

Part-2: Take Control of your Google Account
We’ve all heard the old axiom that building a good house requires a good foundation.  I prefer the Engineer’s version of that saying: “To build a stable house requires a square, true, and level foundation.  Well, ensuring your sole control over your account is the equivalent first step in our endeavor. Actually, you can have any kind of account as your primary account for your Android phone, but we’re presuming for the purposes of this article that you have a Google Account.  If you have a Microsoft or Yahoo account, you’ll need to do some of your own research to find these kind of equivalent settings. 

And while it might sound counter-intuitive to securing your device, we actually need to take control of your Google account before we can harden your device.  This is to ensure that you are the only person with access to your Google Account.  Even if you are certain that you never shared your account password with a good friend, or significant other, your account could still have been compromised.  This is the perfect opportunity to confirm that your account is still entirely yours.

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Why you need a Password Manager

My biggest and best argument for using ANY Password Manager is this: passwords are by definition a security measure meant to ensure that your accounts are kept as secure as possible by being as complex as reasonably possible.  However, making a password as easy to remember actually runs counter to the entire idea of security.  So why bother challenging yourself to remember any password at all when a Password Manager could do this part of the job for you.  And if a Password Manager performs the “manage” portion of the job correctly, then they can actually make your life a whole lot easier by automatically inputting the username and password at the appropriate times.

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Hardening your Android Device, Part-1

There are many steps that should be taken in following the general strategy of hardening one’s mobile device.  For the purposes of this article, I’ll be hardening a Samsung Galaxy S7.  This process will be divided into three parts: Preparation Work will be Part-1,  Take Control of your Google Account Part-2, and finally Part-3 will be the actual Hardening of the Android Phone.

Part-1: Prep Work
Let’s get some housekeeping chores done first, prior to attempting to harden your Android Device. We’ll begin by actually doing some updates on your PC if you have one.  If you don’t have a PC that you use any of your current phone services from, then you’re find to move on to Part-2.

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Yet another Delay on “No Man’s Sky”

I was in the local GameStop with my son earlier today and was told the bad news that “No Man’s Sky” was delayed yet again by the developer, Hello Games.  This is by far the worst gaming news I’d heard in years.

Pre-Orders are a great mechanism, in that they help the Developer determine ahead of time what the popularity of the game is (“do I need to hire another 10 programmers to ensure we complete this game on-time?”), and provide a good estimate of exactly how many game boxes they’ll need to publish to serve current demand on the actual release date.  GameStop offers Pre-Orders for $5.00, which thankfully goes towards the total price of the game.  While this type of purchase is not backed by a written and legally binding contract, I don’t think anyone would dispute that a pre-order is a type of contract agreement.   If someone pays the total Pre-Order amount, then they get first shot at picking-up a copy of the game the night before the set general release date. When I bought this Pre-Order (and paid the entirety of the amount owed), the General Release Date was scheduled for June 21st. 

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When the Win10 Start Menu stops working

I’ve had this problem on most of my Win10 computers at home, and on almost every one of my client’s machines at one point or another.  So I thought I would post my solution matrix that I’ve been using to remedy this problem for the last year.   I have seen the odd mention of one of these solutions online, but I’ve never seen all four of them (not including the sub-solutions) in one matrix, so I decided to create my own.  We’ll start with an elevated Command prompt and go from there:

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Beware the loss of Player skill-tree on Ubisoft Games

My son was playing Watch_Dogs on our PS4 Tuesday, and had just completed a takedown of a Gang Hideout, and went to spend his freshly minted skill point only to discover that ALL of his skills, money, outfits, etc had just disappeared from his gamer profile.  He still had actual access to some of his skills (blowing a steam main, but not focus), so his actual gameplay is now critically impacted.  And he can’t use his new skill points to backfill some of those critical skills because primary skills like Profiling are blank (although this is another skill he can actually use), and not selectable.

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We couldn’t install Windows 10; 0x8007002C–0x4000D

I was seeing the same damned error (“We couldn’t install Windows 10”; 0x8007002C–0x4000D The Installation failed in the SECOND_BOOT phase with an error during MIGRATE_DATA operation) on all four of my systems that I was trying to upgrade.

Microsoft may be changing a lot and trying to do better, but they’re NEVER going to succeed as long as they continue to maintain the mentality that error codes are a good thing.  I wouldn’t actually mind them if they provided a widely published and constantly updated database of what each and every Error code means.   But they don’t publish these codes widely, instead they only publish the one that a million people are complaining about.  And each new Error Code is as cryptic as the last.

Take the error code I mentioned previously:

WP_20150731_11_49_02_Pro“We couldn’t install Windows 10”
The Installation failed in the SECOND_BOOT phase with an error during MIGRATE_DATA operation.

The error was noted while Upgrading Windows 7 Ultimate to Windows 10 Pro.  The upgrade process would get to somewhere in the 83% to 85% range and would then go to a blank screen, no warnings or errors.  It would sit there for approximately 50 minutes until the system would just spontaneously reboot, with subsequent boot screen messages indicating that Windows was reverting to the previous Operating System, or something to that extent.

It turns out that what they really mean is to do the following prior to beginning the process:

1.) Uninstall any third party Firewall/Security and AntiVirus/AntiMalware software you might be using.
2.) After removing software, reboot your computer to ensure a fresh start.

After removing AVAST Business Antivirus (it’s really a great A/V solution, can’t beat that it’s free!). AVAST had some additional cleanup that required a reboot, so I elected to “do the reboot later” and then I also removed Malwarebyte’s AntiMalware (also a really great A/M solution, and is also free!). 

I then restarted each computer and then restarted the Upgrade Process, and then went back to playing a game to kill time while it re-downloaded everything all over again. 


Two other aspects that I should probably mention, as they could have some impact on your results:

1.) I was using the Microsoft Media Creation Tool to launch my upgrade process. 
2.) I started it by right-clicking on the file and selecting “Run as Administrator” just to be safe.

This time, each of the four systems ran to completion, and successfully installed Windows 10, so I can call this a success.  The fact that the error message never once spoke of this particular issue in all of my research proves that Microsoft really needs to start working on those error messages, for everyone’s sake (and sanity).

Best of luck in your Upgrading efforts!

The topic of Net Neutrality revisited…

I wanted to take the time to communicate to you the single most important action that you need to take to retain your existing rights to free speech, but may not even have know about until you read this article.

Currently in front of the FCC is a proposal for changing of the current definition of Net Neutrality.  The FCC has issued a 120 Day Comment period, which has been extended recently due to the incredible influx of community comments so far.  The new deadline is September 15th.

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When you can’t Connect HP Version Control Agent (VCA) to the Version Control Repository Manager (VCRM).

As a self-taught Systems Administrator, I tend to learn by the process of trial and error.  And boy have I erred a lot recently.  I’ve been banging my head against this particular brick wall (not being able to connect the HP VCA to the HP VCRM) in earnest the last couple of weeks:

HP VCA Connect

It seemed that no matter how I input the info on the screen above, the two would never see each other.  Credentials were confirmed, permissions vetted, yet every time I filled out this screen and clicked “next”, I would inevitably get the message “The specified repository, servername.domainname.com, is invalid or not reachable.”. I was just going around and around, in a downward spiral that didn’t bode well for my sanity.

I was therefore EXTREMELY happy when I found this gem in the HP Systems Insight Manager Support forums in a post talking about an upgrade from version to

I’ve got answer form HP TS regarding HP VCA working with HP VCRM

I did not got full answer of root cause of this issue but form provided command I suspect that it is is realted with SSL Cipher configuration.

For me these commands solved th issue.

Please try run follwing commands on server with HP VCRM


C:\HP\hpsmh\bin>smhconfig.exe -r

For me these commands solved the issue.


Sadly, I wasn’t sure this would resolve my problems, since I had never been able to get VCA and VCRM to talk initially, therefore my problems obviously were not due to an upgrade like everyone else’s.  However, some of the connectivity issues mirrored those I was experiencing, so I applied the fix as a batch-file (copy/paste commands to text file to avoid fat-fingering any characters, saved as .BAT file, issued command line “run as administrator”), and voila!  Suddenly I can connect the two together!   

Sadly, I have no breakdown of the intimate details involved with what the commands do exactly, or how they accomplish the resolution, but it was made clear that the problem was due to an SSL Cipher configuration.  My take is that it appears that HP had actually removed some expected ciphers from 7.3.x.x of VCRM, which then prevented the communication from VCA Agents.

But, all good now!

How to recover your Hacked WordPress Site (Part-3)


Have you read How to recover your Hacked WordPress Site (Part-2) yet?

Stage 6: Getting back to (almost) business as usual.

The new Mindset: As mentioned above, before you are done with this clean-up process you will need to look at security in a whole new light.   Or at the very least, you had best respect the fact that your ability to keep hackers at bay rests on your ability to maintain a proper pro-security mindset.  So along those lines, let’s discuss a few quick topics pertaining to Security that you can mull over now that the immediate emergency is over.

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