Archive for 'Security'

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!

 

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!

Backup your Computer!

Most people today take digital pictures, create documents and store information on their personal computer. What would you do if: your hard drive crashed?; If a burglar stole your computer? ; or, if your home caught fire? If you are like many people, you would have lost valuable information.

All computers today come with a program to create regular backups of your documents. In addition, there are several online companies that will remotely backup your hard drive.

Some people use a CD or USB to save important files. While relatively convenient, they require you to remember to put in the disk and save. In addition both forms of media can fail. If a disk gets scratched it will be rendered unreadable. USB drives are easily lost or misplaced.

Better solutions are to have an external hard drive connected to your computer, or better yet, use a “cloud” storage system. Both can be setup to perform regular backups of your files.

Pros and Cons to hard drive backup:

Pros:

  • Inexpensive and easy to setup
  • Both Windows Backup and Mac’s Time Machine allow easy access to recover documents
  • Multiple versions of your documents can be saved for retrieval
  • A complete backup of your hard drive is possible – programs and documents.
  • Backups retrievals are made quickly. A complete system restore of you programs and files can take 2 hours. A restore of documents, seconds.

Cons:

  • Hard drives can fail – including those used for backups!
  • Could be lost or damaged in a fire or other catastrophe.

Pros and Cons to online backup:

Pros:

  • Easy to set up
  • Will backup every time a document in changed
  • Both Macs and PC are supported
  • Easy to retrieve documents – even if you are in a location other than your computer.
  • Storage is in a different location than your computer, adding extra security that your files will not be lost in case of a break-in or fire.

Cons:

  • Yearly fee charged
  • Takes approximately 2 weeks to fully backup or restore your computer files
  • Only documents are backed up. You need to make sure that you have the disks for the programs if you ever needed to reinstall them.
  • Only the most recent version of your documents will be saved.
  • Internet connection is necessary.

 

That being said, below is a list both hard drive and online backup systems. In addition, you might want to checkout your ISP. Many Internet Service Providers like Charter Communications, Comcast and the like, offer free online backups for customers. The pros to these are they are included in your Internet bill. The cons are that they usually offer limited storage.

Hard drives – It makes no difference what OS you are using, Mac or Windows, any of these can be used. Compare the prices with online places like PC Mall, Mac Mall and Amazon against the big box stores like Best Buy, Office Max and Staples. Brands that are comparable are Seagate and LaCie . I would recommend a terabyte or larger. That should store plenty of photos and music!

Online servces – Check out the terms of service, some allow for multiple computer backups. Carbonite and Mozy will probably give you the most storage for the money. iDrive and Norton Online Backup are others, but are a bit pricier for less storage!

What do I do? Both! I like the quick access that the hard drive affords. If I get a new computer or hard drive I can have it fully loaded with my programs and files in about 2 hours. At the same time, I have peace of mind that my documents are also safe guarded at an offsite location. If you decide to go for Carboniteuse this link and you will get a $25 Amazon gift card.

Understanding Location Services on iPhone

I’m sure you have gotten the message from an app – “Google Maps wants to use your current location”  – but you are not sure what that means. Your smart phone has GPS built in and many apps are able to take advantage of this.  This can be good when you are lost and need directions to your destination, or to locate the closest Starbucks. This is also good when you have lost your phone and wish to locate it. However, this location service will also “geo tag” your photo with the location a picture was taken. You post this picture to Facebook and this information is embedded with the photo. If you think your secret vacation spot is still a secret after posting, you’re wrong! Many a celebrity has inadvertently given away the location of their homes this way. In addition, you might be putting children at risk by identifying their location to pedophiles.

If you have a smart phone, chances are you have activated a location app such as, Find My iPhone, or Where’s My Droid. These apps can locate your device as long as it is turned on and accessing a cellular or wifi network. However, thieves know about this and would probably disable the GSP as soon as they steal your phone.

How can you take control of your location services on your iPhone?

Go to the Settings and Select GENERAL General Settings

 

 

 

 

 

Restrictions

Scroll down and select RESTRICTIONS.
When you do this you will need to put in a 4 digit passcode. It is recommended that it NOT be the same 4 digits you use if you lock your phone.

 

 

 

Now you can see all of the apps that have access to the GPS.

Location On

You can toggle the on/off switch for the individual apps.

SCROLL down to the PRIVACY section and touch Location Services.

Again, you will see a list of Apps that are using your location. You may turn these on or off as well.

 

 

Location Services

Before you leave this screen, select DON’T ALLOW CHANGES.

Now, if your phone is lost or stolen, your Location Services cannot be easily turned off.

They will have to enter your passcode to access it.

 

Amazon.com has tutorials for other devices, like Kindles, Android and Windows phones.

Public WiFi – Great in a pinch – but far from secure!

For the third time in fourteen months my family, as well as many others in the northeast, found themselves without power for a week or more. Unlike last time, we were prepared with an automatic generator that worked beautifully! We made sure that the cable devices coming into the house were also on the generator lines, incase it was only electricity that was out. Unfortunately several large trees came down on our street wiping out power, cable, and unfortunately part of a house. We had no way of leaving since we live on a dead end street.

What does this have to do with technology? Actually a lot! I manage the websites and social media for several businesses, including a school system. I needed to post school closures and other emergency information on the web and Twitter.

Since I had the electricity to power my electronics, I only needed to get connected. Fortunately, I was able to turn my phone into a “hotspot”, that is a WiFi connection using my cellular plan. While not ideal, it served the purpose! You can check these sites out for your Android or iPhone.

One day while checking on a neighbor, she indicated that she was headed over to the library to use their WiFi as she had some bills to pay. My safe surfing tentacles immediately sent out a code red! Public WiFi + Banking = Potential disaster!

By now, most of you know to look for the https when logging onto password-protected sites. The “s” at the end of the http assures you that any information entered will be encrypted. However, you need to input a password to get to the https! It is that password that anyone with access to the public WiFi can steal. In addition, when you log onto the public WiFi, you might actually be logging onto a “hotspot” that someone else has created and made to look like the library, donut shop or other free WiFi. Once they have your password, they can log into your accounts!

There are a few solutions that should protect you.

  1. If you have the ability to use your cell phone data service (not WiFi) use that. It is more difficult for hackers to gather your information from the cell network.
  2. If your bank offers a “Pass Key” use it. A Pass Key is a onetime use code that is transmitted to either a tag or your phone. Unfortunately, many small area banks do not offer this. I do not recommend switching to a mega-bank just for this feature!
  3. Use a VPN. VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”. From your computer, you are logging onto another computer that you know is secure. Many people already have this through work, but you can set up your own.

One final word – A good rule of thumb when using free WiFi – do not do anything or post anything that you would not put on a postcard for all to see!

By the way, my friend decided to pay her bills the old fashion way – snail mail!

Is your Windows machine running slow?

Windows

OK, I will avoid any comments that show my preference for Macs! I actually have both Macs and a PC at home. When I turn on my PC after it has been off for several days, it runs excruciatingly slow!

Window based machines automatically go out periodically and look for updates. Virus Protection (please don’t tell me you don’t have any!), system updates and others are usually done when the computer is idle. However, if you are always shutting it off it never has a chance to do these.

In addition, there is an internal battery that helps to keep the date and time among other important computer information. Should your computer be off for an extended period of time, that battery can get run down, as it recharges itself when it is on.

If you are using your computer and it suddenly begins to slow, you can always restart the computer. That will stop anything that is in process. You might see a prompt that it wants to install updates first!

From personal experience, I would leave my PC on at least once a week, restarting it in the morning.

« Previous posts Back to top