Just Don’t Click!

FraudThis post was originally posted 2 years ago. However, it is as important as ever to pay attention to this advice – JUST DON’T CLICK!

Many recent data breeches and ransomware have been caused not by some sophisticated hacker plan, but by sending an employee an email that entices them to click on a link – DON’T DO IT!

Scammers know how to get you to react – that is act without thinking! You have an undelivered package from DHL, notification from a funeral home of the death of a dear friend, your bank account is about to be closed unless you act NOW, we have detected malware on your computer, the IRS has an important message for you, your friend is over seas and needs money, and on and on! Most of these emails contain a link for you to click on – DON’T DO IT!

These links most likely are malicious programs that will infect your computer, destroy files, hold your computer for ransom, and or steal your important information.

The IRS will NEVER email you! If your bank has an issue – they will CALL you! In the case of an email from a funeral home, friend or other business – pick up the phone and call!

In addition to the email scams are the phone call scams that say they have received a message that your computer is acting sluggish – duh, gee how did they know! They want you to give them access so that they can speed it up! Instead, they plant malware or other malicious programs on your computer that will compromise your security! If you did not initiate the call do not give them access or go to any website they give you!

Avoid falling for these scams. Make sure your computers virus protection is up to date and always think before your react! JUST DON’T CLICK!

 

Know your ISP

ISP Choices

ISP Choices

Who is your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and what choices do you have? Unfortunately, most of us have only 1 or 2 choices.

ISP Types

Dial-up – Yes, Dial-up still exists and maybe you are still paying for it and do not know it. If you have an AOL account that you PAY for, then you are paying for dial-up. This is the slowest form of Internet connection. It uses the telephone line to transmit your connection to websites. You do NOT need to pay for AOL if you are using cable or DSL for your Internet. You can retain your AOL address for FREE!

Satellite –This is slower than DSL, but is sometimes the only option if you are in a very rural area. You do need a satellite dish for this connection.

DSL – Digital Subscriber Line. This is a connection that is usually provided by a telephone company, as it uses a telephone line to provide the connection. The pro to this is that it is usually cheaper than other Internet options. The con is that your speed relies on how close to the main connection you happen to be. The farther away, the slower your connection.

Cable –also know as broadband, can only be provided by a cable company, so you are limited to the one that serves your area – i.e. Comcast or Charter for example. A coaxial cable provide the service to your house. Cable is typically faster than the previously mentioned services, but can vary based on how many in your neighborhood are online. If everyone is streaming a movie at the same time, you might be experiencing a slowdown!

Fiber Optics – is the fastest, but most expensive of all the options and is only available in limited areas. Fiber optic lines are made of pure glass as thin as human hair.

Faster Internet connections cost more. But, sometimes it is well worth the price!

3 ways to boost your Internet Speed

Internet Speed

Internet Speed

Do you feel like your Internet is not working up to speed? How do you know if you are getting the speed that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) is promising? There are ways that you can check and improve your home network and Internet performance.

There are several components involved in getting your devices online, an ISP, modem and router. It is important to understand what speed you should be getting from your ISP. Check your bill to see what service you are paying for, then check the website for your provider and see what speed they are promising.

Depending on you ISP, the method connecting you to the Internet will influence your top Internet speed. There are several ways that companies supply an Internet connection to your house:

  • Dial Up
  • Satellite
  • DSL
  • Cable
  • Fiber Optics (FiOS)

Read my other blog to learn about these different types. Depending on where you live, your Internet options are limited. Both providers and types are only in limited areas, which is very frustrating!

Your Internet connects your devices to the Internet using a modem and possibly a router. The modem usually connects one device using a network cable. Many homes have a wireless network – this relies on a router to be connected to the modem. Lean more about these here…

So you are supposed to have fast Internet and webpages are loading slowly, what do you do?

First – restart your modem, router and computer. Pull the power cord from the modem and router. Wait at least 30 seconds. Reconnect the modem. When all of the lights are showing on the modem, reconnect your router and then restart your computer.

All technology from time to time need rebooting – including your phones, handhelds etc. Many times this clears any issues you may be having.

Second – If it is still slow, try plugging a computer directly into the modem. Go to http://www.speedtest.net/and run the speed test. If this speed is significantly slower than your ISP is advertising, then contact the ISP directly. Your modem might need upgrading. If a fast speed is showing, try it again with the router plugged in and using your network. This test will probably be slower, but should be fast. If not, then your router might be the issue. If your router is several years old, an upgrade may be necessary.

Third – Remember the farther you are from your router, the slower your connection. Ideally, routers should be in the center of the house. Many are not. You can also purchase devices to expand the range of your Internet. These are usually called repeaters or extenders. They plug into an outlet and extend the range of your network.

Remember to make sure your Internet is PASSWORD PROTECTED. Others stealing your Internet can slow down your connection!

Networking

Networking

To go along with creating the fastest Internet network possible, 3 key components are the Internet Service Provider, modem and router. I discuss the ISP component in another blog. Read below about Modems and Routers

Modems and Routers 

All Internet connections require a modem where both the Internet line and your computer are connected. You might have a router connected to the modem, so that you can have many devices accessing the Internet – thus creating a home network.

A modem is a small boxlike device that connects to the Internet line or cable that comes into your house. There is usually 1 port to connect a network cable to a device, usually a computer. This device is the lifeline to the Internet. A modem is usually supplied by your ISP.

A router is another boxlike device that allows your Internet connection to be shared with other devices such as printers, scanners, handhelds and other computers. Today this router usually has a wireless component to it, allowing for devices to connect without being plugged into the router. The Modem, however, is usually plugged into the router. You can purchase a router from any major big box store or any online computer store. Linksys, Apple Airport, Netgear, Asus are among the major brands.

Standards for both Modems and Routers have changed over the years. If either of these 2 boxes are 5 years or older, you might want to get a new one that can handle the faster speeds. The modem is usually supplied by your ISP and usually can be swapped out for a new one. Routers can be purchased for a couple of hundred dollars. You should look for the 802.11 number. The newest technology uses 802.11ac. Most routers being used today are 802.11n. The slower, older versions are 802.11g and 802.11b. Check the number on your router – if it ends in g or b, an upgrade is needed!

Lastly – make sure your modem is PASSWORD PROTECTED! You do not to allow unauthorized use of your network!

One Ring Phone Scam

Modern mobile bankIf you are like most people, when you miss a call, you are curious as to who called you. There is a scam that preys on that curiosity! They randomly call your cell phone, after one ring they disconnect. When you call them back you can rack up big charges!

These calls originate from outside the country. The international dialing fee costs you $19.95 initially, then $9.95 per minute! Some of the area codes used are 268, 809, 876, 284 and 473.

If you receive a call from an unidentified number, rather than calling it back, do a Google search of the number. Many of these numbers will pop up as being scams!

In addition, on many phones you can block numbers by tapping on the “info” button, scroll down and tap “Block this caller.”

When in doubt – do not answer. If the call is legitimate, they will leave a message!

If you think that you have fallen for this scam, contact your cell phone carrier.

For more information, check out the Better Business Bureau website.

Incognito No More!

It used to be that if you wanted to be anonymous, all you needed to do was to sport a pair of glasses. Today our life and essence is stored on numerous databases. Scan your rewards card and your entire purchase history is known. From that information, data experts can assess many things about our family and habits.

Fun fake mask lisolated on white backgroundFacial recognition software is now beginning to infiltrate our lives as well, tracing our every move! This technology has been a part of law enforcement for a while, but now it is becoming part of the social media and marketing worlds as well!

With iPhoto, you can upload photos to your computer and tag faces by adding the person’s name. After a while the program “learns” that face and automatically tags people for you.

I recently uploaded a family photo to Facebook and was surprised that Facebook not only tagged the other Facebook users in that photo, but also included them in my post!

Companies like Wal-Mart, Apple, Facebook and Google are looking now to use this facial recognition technology to personalize marketing strategies. This June the U.S. Department of Commerce will be working with these companies to draft laws governing use of this potentially invasive technology. The Civil Liberties Union wants laws preventing this technology from being used without our knowledge.

This is worth paying attention to, as surveillance cameras are able to take clearer pictures. The benefit from this technology can be great – but so can the potential risk!

Ransomware


virus

You may be aware of computer viruses, malware, adware and worms. This past year a new one – ransomware like the Cryptolocker virus, reared its ugly head!

When your computer is infected with ransomware it either encrypts your files or locks your computer until you pay a ransom.

Until now ransomware has only been able to infect your computer through email attachments. The virus comes disguised as a pdf or other attachment in a legitimate looking email. But once you click on the link, it goes to work encrypting the files on your computer and holding them ransom until you pay their demand!

If you have a backup of your computer, you can reformat the hard drive and reinstall your programs and files. If you do not, the only way to unencrypt your files is to pay the ransom. They have their own money transfer system called Bitcoin. Some even have their own “help desk” should you encounter a problem trying to unencrypt your files – but they do charge for their help!

The best way to avoid having to pay, is to not get infected. Do NOT click on any attachment. If it sort of looks legitimate, take a close look – some come in mail from FedEx or UPS, or from nationally known banks.  If you hover your mouse over a link, it usually reveals that the link is a fraud.

Keep your virus protection up to date and make sure you back up your computer! For more information go to the Microsoft website.

As I said earlier – up until now it could only infect your computer by clicking on spam email attachments. It has developed and morphed into programs that can be on your usb drive, remote drive like DropBox, or on file sharing drives. They appear to be activation keys for Adobe or Microsoft. It is activated when clicked.

By the way, this virus only attacks Windows based machines, but Macs should also have virus protection and users should practice safe computing as well!

Email 101

emailOK, you think you’ve got email mastered. Even if you cannot do much else with a computer you can at least send and reply to email. But did you know that a few of the habits you have are putting other people’s email address at risk?

First, stop and think before you pass along the Money Bags email (or similar) –

It reads something like this – This August has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays all in one month. It happens only once in 823 years. – Stop and think. Every month that has 31 days has 5 occurrences of 3 days. If the month starts on a Friday, then it will be Friday, Saturday & Sunday!

If you are not sure if it is true, go to Snopes, a website that will verify or clarify many of these urban legends and hoaxes!

Second – resist hitting the FORWARD button! When you do this, you are not only sending the received email, but the email addresses of everyone else! If you were forwarded the email, form someone else, that email list gets quite long.  This is the main way email addresses get in wrong hands and risk getting hacked! Instead, copy ONLY the portion of the email that you deemed amusing, helpful and worth sharing. Paste this info into a new email.

Third – Rather than putting all of your contacts in the To: or Cc: field, put the emails in Bcc: Field! Blind carbon copy (although emails do not use carbon paper!) hides all email address placed there. That way if one of those recipients decides to forward the email or reply to all, only your address is there – not your friends!

Technology New Year’s Resolutions

The new year is a time many of us make resolutions – to exercise more, eat healthy, focus on family etc. Now is also a good time to make some technology resolutions. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Resolve to use strong passwords. Your dog’s name, birthday or the word “password” are not only a poor idea, but they leave you open for identity theft. Use random letters & numbers and insert special characters and upper case letters!
  2. Resolve to BACKUP! Cloud backups are probably best, but external drives that will automatically back up your files is also good. Or, if you are like me – I do both! It only takes one hard drive failure to lose those photos and documents to make my point!
  3. Resolve to organize your files – “I know I saved it here somewhere!” Create folders for your documents.
  4. Resolve to not let your smart phone interfere with your dinner out or your driving or your family! Whatever is on that text or email can wait!
  5. Use BCC when sending that funny story or cute picture. Also, if the email contains other people’s email DELETE these before sending. Your recipients will be grateful! Don’t know how to use BCC? The new year is a great time to learn!

New life for old gadgets

miniWere you one of the millions of people who received a new iPad, iPod, tablet or smart phone for Christmas? Now that you have a new one, what do you do with your old one?

First – do NOT throw it in the garbage. Parts in that gadget are harmful to the environment!

Sell your phone – Many places offer a rebates or will buy your device – Glyde.com  and gazelle.com are a few. You can also try selling it on eBay or Amazon. If you are doing any of these – be sure to set the phone back to the factory settings!

Donate your phonePhones for Soldiers is one place. They use donated phones to give to soldiers, sailors and airmen to call home. My son was able to use one of these on Thanksgiving Day. He was still in boot camp and had no electronics with him. Verizon provided these phones for the day so all the recruits could call home! The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is another worthy place. They accept many electronic gadgets. Some are given to women who need them, others are refurbished and sold to help support this group’s mission.

Repurpose your Gadget – If you have an older iPad, tablet or smart phone, there are many apps that young children can use on them. It’s amazing how adept they are to this technology!

iPads and Tablets can also be used an electronic picture frames – load you favorite photos and run a slide show from it.

Use your device as a dedicated mp3 player or alarm clock!

Recycle your device – If none of these seem feasible – then take your device to be recycled. Many towns have programs for this. In addition places like Best Buy, Staples, Apple and your phone carrier have recycling programs. You can also research places at the epa website.

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