Archive for 'Education'

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!

 

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!

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!

To Blog or not to Blog…

BloggingDo you Blog? Should you Blog? What is a Blog?

OK, you are reading this blog, so there’s a good chance you know what a Blog is!  But in case you don’t – simply put, it is a web log, or a type of online diary. Many of you probably think that you have nothing to blog about, but there are many useful reasons to Blog.

First, students are encouraged to blog as a way to develop writing skills. Many teachers utilize this tool in a closed network situation, meaning these blogs are not made available to the general public.

Many people have an expertise in some area – horticulture, camping, cooking, decorating, music etc. Why not share your expertise with others? In addition, if you sell a service, this could help to build your customer base!

Recently, our family was able to keep in touch with a cousin undergoing a serious medical treatment. The hospital had a blogging program that my family members used to disseminate information and allow for messages of encouragement to be shared. This eliminated the family being bombarded with many calls and emails during this stressful time!

There are many places that you can start a blog – Google has a free site called “Blogger”. There is also software called WordPress, which you can use on your site, or you can start a blog through WordPress.com. Then there is the “Patch” which offers a spot for you to blog and share ideas with your neighbors!

Are your parents susceptible to scams?

Sad, but true, scammers target senior citizens. With the digital age, these scams can be in emails made to look legitimate. But more often than not with the older generation, scammers resort to the older technology of the telephone.

The most common and successful scam is the “Grandparent Scam” because it tugs at the heart. A caller pretends to be the person’s grandchild. They deviously get the grandparent to offer up the child’s name: “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” Once they have established a grandchild’s name, they will tell a sad story about them needing money and “please don’t tell Mom & Dad”. Without thinking the Grandmother does just that!

A good rule for all phone solicitations is – if they called you – do not give money or credit card information! If you think it is a legitimate organization, get their phone number; check it out on the web before you call them back.

If you get an email requesting money, credit card information etc, NEVER give that in an email! If it’s a friend – call that friend on the phone and verify the need!

Be careful of emails that appear to be from your bank. They will NEVER ask for personal information in an email. Also the IRS will NEVER email you at all!

Just as when we were kids, our parents talked to us about dangerous situations, it’s not a bad idea to now talk to your parents about these scams! Check out the National Council on Aging website .

Recently, Microsoft opened a store in the Danbury Fair mall, in close proximity to the Apple store (I guess that is marketing 101 as fast food, furniture stores and auto dealers all seem to do the same thing!) A dear friend of mine was in the market to replace her 10-year-old Windows machine, so this was the perfect opportunity to check out both the new Macs and PC’s!

We started at the Apple store. As usual it was buzzing with people. We started by looking at the Macbook Pro’s. Interestingly enough, they are starting to phase out the CD/DVD drive. I guess this makes sense, as more and more we are moving to the cloud, and many programs are Internet downloads. The sales associate, was knowledgeable and gave my friend several options, including buying a desktop and iPad. We briefly looked at the new retina display Macs, I’m not sure it is worth several hundred more in price.

With her head spinning, we went to the Microsoft store. There were significantly fewer people, but the store was also larger. There were ample number of laptops, desktops and tablets. They had stools at the display machines – so you didn’t have to stand! I was surprised that they did not have any machines demoing Windows 8, since there has been a beta version available for a while now.

The sales associate did inform us that all machines sold at the store have already been “decrapified.” Yes, that is a real term! Most PC’s come bloated with trial programs and other nonsense that there is actually a program called “Decrapify” that techs use to streamline the running of PC’s.

The baseline price for the PC’s was lower, but you have to make sure you are getting all the features you need, including camera, usb ports etc.

After trying both, my friend was leaning toward the Mac because of the receptiveness of the track pad, ease of use and built in features. As an aside – both have new operating systems being released – if you buy a Mac, you can upgrade for free, if you buy a PC, you need to pay $14.99.

If you are in the market for a new computer – I would be interested to know which way you are leaning!

Question for you, do you know this language?

Young boy using computer at home

DYK Y UR children use acronyms L KPC, HOAS, P911 CTN and CyaL8r? OMG, EMFBI, BTW GL understanding them! OK, enough already!  (translation is at the end!)

Last month, Facebook announced that it is considering opening up it’s social website for those under 13. The bottom line is, there are children under 13 with accounts already! In a recent survey of sixth graders, half of those surveyed admitted to having a Facebook account. Unfortunately, there are too many parents who have abdicated their rights as parents when it comes to the digital world. Many do this out of ignorance – they do not understand it, so they don’t bother. Others believe that “their child would never do anything inappropriate!” Others are just not involved at all!

You are the parent! You “baby proofed” your house when they were toddlers, you held their hand when they crossed the street. If you do not know how to make your home environment safe for your adolescent children, you need to seek out the information! Below are a few suggestions

  1. Talk to your children about appropriate behavior on the Internet – no bullying, posting pictures, giving out personal information. Once something is on the web – it is there FOREVER!
  2. Know their passwords – monitor their accounts – e-mail, Twitter, Facebook etc.
  3. Use the parental controls that came with your computer. Limit their time on the computer.
  4. Make sure the computer is in a central location where you can easily see what they are doing. Under no circumstances should children be alone in their bedroom with a computer that is connected to the Internet. (Would you allow a stranger to be alone with them?)
  5. Use products like OpendnsSafeeyes and others to track and block web usage. More products can be found here…

Remember – your child may not be the one doing anything wrong – but they could end up being a victim! During these nice summer days – it is OK to actually go outside and swim, ride a bike or get involved with sports!

For a comprehensive list of acronyms go to netlingo.com.

 

Translation: Do you know why children use acronymns like “keeping parents clueless”, “hold on a second”, “Parent Alert”, “can’t talk now”, and “see you later?” Oh my gosh, excuse me for butting in, by the way good luck understanding them!

Plagiarism and the Web

Educators who have been teaching for any length of time could probably share a story or two of student plagiarism. Like the student who copied another student’s paper word for word, including the other student’s name! College professors and high ranking officials have been forced to resign their positions after being caught plagiarizing.

According to Plagiarism.org, plagiarism is “an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else’s work and lying about it afterward.” It ascertains that the dictionary meaning of “copying” and “borrowing” disguise the seriousness of the offence.

Many people feel that information, music, graphics, and content found on the “web” is free for the taking. I was appalled recently to find out that a web designer creating a site for a pediatric office used graphics found on the web without permission. They are now facing an expensive lawsuit!

Recently, while I was researching information, I came upon an article on About.com. In reading the article, I realized that the suggestions in the article were very familiar – they had copied word for word from a website that I designed and managed! After I contacted them they removed their page. All I wanted was a website credit as the source!

If you are a student, or teacher using content for educational use, there is more leeway, but sources still need to be cited. Easybib and the Citation Machine are two sites that will help you to cite your sources. You plug in the information from the source and the site will generate the citation for you. Both support MLA and APA formats.

Turnitin.com is a source that many schools use to scan for originality. The site has a huge database of books, websites and student works to compare information submitted. Every time a paper is submitted, it then adds to this database.

If you need graphics to use for your website or publication, iStock Photos has a large volume of graphics that can be purchased at reasonable rates. In addition there are many royalty free graphic sources.

The Purdue Online Writing Lab has an extensive site for research and citation. In addition, the University of Maryland has information on the “fair use” of material as it pertains to the copyright laws.

The bottom line is, just because information is on the web, it is not a license to steal!

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