GDPR privacy notifications — primrose path of default settings

 Computer, General, News  Comments Off on GDPR privacy notifications — primrose path of default settings
Jun 012018
 

I’ve been getting a lot of privacy policy update notifications in my email since last month. As part of terms and conditions for use of a product or service. All in response to the GDPR — General Data Protection Regulation, a European Union Regulation which was implemented on May 25, 2018. Many companies sell products and services globally; hence, the notices for those of us in the United States.

Wiki: According to the European Commission, “personal data is any information relating to an individual, whether it relates to his or her private, professional or public life. It can be anything from a name, a home address, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer’s IP address.”

The lead-up to the effective date of the GDPR led to many companies and websites changing their privacy policies and features worldwide in order to comply with its requirements, and providing email and on-site notification of the changes, … This has been criticized for eventually leading to a form of fatigue among end-users over the excessive numbers of messages.

I’ve read some of these notices in full. And supplied my consent when requested. Tedious. Once you read a few, others are similar. Generally, the GDPR has facilitated clarification of all the ways our personal data is collected and used and especially shared. So, at face value, such transparency is a good thing.

This Washington Post article (May 25, 2018) “Why you’re getting flooded with privacy notifications in your email” summarizes what’s happening.

European Union regulators have always been much tougher on tech companies than their U.S. counterparts, for instance forcing them to give users more control, imposing fines for noncompliance and requiring platforms to spot and delete illegal content.

But as this Washington Post article (June 1, 2018) “Hands off my data! 15 default privacy settings you should change right now” points out, compliance for the updated privacy policies has an insidious “buyer beware” side. In some cases, the GDPR changed nothing as far as your personal data. “The devil’s in the defaults.”

Say no to defaults. A clickable guide to fixing the complicated privacy settings from Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple.

You’re not reading all those updated data policies flooding your inbox. You probably haven’t even looked for your privacy settings. And that’s exactly what Facebook, Google and other tech giants are counting on.

They tout we’re “in control” of our personal data, but know most of us won’t change the settings that let them grab it like cash in a game show wind machine. Call it the Rule of Defaults: 95 percent of people are too busy, or too confused, to change a darn thing.

Give me 15 minutes, and I can help you join the 5 percent who are actually in control. I dug through the privacy settings for the five biggest consumer tech companies and picked a few of the most egregious defaults you should consider changing. These links will take you directly to what to tap, click and toggle for Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple.

Google has been saving a map of everywhere you go, if you turned on its Assistant when you set up an Android phone. Amazon makes your wish list public — and keeps recordings of all your conversations with Alexa. Facebook exposes to the public your friends list and all the pages you follow, and it lets marketers use your name in their Facebook ads. By default, Microsoft’s Cortana in Windows 10 gobbles up … pretty much your entire digital life.

I’ve increasingly noticed the tradeoff between convenience and personal privacy. For example, Google’s services can make finding things, navigating, and scheduling appointments rather seamless. A digital assistant, providing personalization (like having an amazing personal butler). But my digital footprint — comprehensive record of my contacts and times and places — is shopped and shared between apps and services in a somewhat spooky way.

Changing the defaults … mean you’ll get less personalization from some services, and might see some repeated ads. But these changes can curtail some of the creepy advertising fueled by your data, and, in some cases, stop these giant companies from collecting so much data about you in the first place. And that’s a good place to start.

Spectre and Meltdown — Intel patches progress

 Computer, Desktop, News  Comments Off on Spectre and Meltdown — Intel patches progress
Mar 022018
 

Yesterday, PC World posted some articles regarding progress in the continuing Spectre and Meltdown saga.

The fixed Spectre fixes are coming fast and furious now. Intel quietly pushed CPU firmware updates out for Haswell (4th-generation) and Broadwell (5th-generation) processors earlier this week, following in the footsteps of recent microcode patches for Skylake (6th-gen), Kaby Lake (7th-gen), and Coffee Lake (8th-gen) processors.

Don’t expect to see the updates immediately. They need to trickle down through hardware suppliers like Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Asus in the form of motherboard BIOS updates; you can’t grab it directly from Intel. If you own a laptop or prebuilt PC from a major manufacturer, keep an eye out for an available update.

The Spectre CPU firmware updates will affect your PC’s performance, though it varies wildly depending on your hardware, operating system, and tasks at hand.

Typically, patching Spectre and Meltdown mitigations have followed a traditional pattern: Microsoft patches Windows via Windows Update, antivirus companies like AVG have patched their antivirus software, and so on. Intel, too, authors patches, as it recently did for Haswell and Broadwell CPUs. But unlike Microsoft, Intel doesn’t directly ship those patches to end users—it uses its network of PC makers and motherboard vendors to distribute them, after the appropriate testing by each vendor.

What isn’t clear is whether Microsoft will also push out Intel’s microcode via Windows Update, its usual distribution mechanism for supplying patches. … Though neither Microsoft nor Intel clarified exactly why Microsoft is providing Intel’s microcode, the likely reason is to support smaller PC makers, and especially motherboard makers … [So, for the typical PC user this does not apply, eh.]

Processor designations like Coffee Lake, Kaby Lake, Skylake, Broadwell, Haswell, etc., don’t mean anything to most of us; so, basically all this news tells us is that Intel and Microsoft (among others) are continuing to work on patches for relatively new and somewhat older PCs.

Update 3-9-2018: Intel issues Meltdown/Spectre fixes for Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge as patch effort winds down

Intel’s revised patches for its Ivy Bridge [3rd gen] and Sandy Bridge [2nd gen] processor families have begun rolling out to address Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities. With the release of the new code, just a few older processor families remain in the patch queue.

By now, Microsoft and many antivirus vendors have issued the appropriate patches, but if you’re concerned that your PC or motherboard vendor hasn’t delivered the appropriate patch, you can also check Microsoft’s site.

Update 4-6-2018: How to find your motherboard’s Spectre CPU fix – Such a crucial patch should be much simpler to find – by Brad Chacos, Senior Editor, PCWorld – April 5, 2018

Operating system patches alone can protect against the nasty Meltdown flaw affecting Intel processors, but fixing Spectre —Meltdown’s nasty sibling, which affects all CPUs — requires firmware updates for your hardware. Those firmware fixes are finally available for all Intel processors scheduled to receive a fix, dating back to the Sandy Bridge (2nd-gen) era of Core processors from 2011.

Installing Spectre fixes aren’t so easy, though, especially if you’re using a computer you’ve built yourself, or one from a boutique PC builder that uses off-the-shelf parts. You can’t download CPU firmware patches directly from Intel or AMD; instead, you need to download them from your motherboard’s provider, such as Asus, Gigabyte, or ASRock. You’ll need to know your motherboard’s model number to find the correct firmware for your device, too, and Windows doesn’t make that easy to find.

 

Ad blocking — Chrome enters the mix

 Computer, News  Comments Off on Ad blocking — Chrome enters the mix
Feb 142018
 

If you’re already using an ad blocker with your favorite Web browsers, you’re in good company. Eliminating the clutter and distraction is one thing (which some browsers’ Reader View can do). But ad clutter also slows down page loading, consumes more battery power, and poses some privacy and security risks.

Google and Facebook command the bulk of online ad revenue; so, when Google announces that the latest release of its Chrome browser will start blocking (some) ads, that’s news, eh. Today’s Cnet article “How Chrome ad blocking is already changing the web” provides a good summary of this move.

What was once unthinkable — that Chrome would block online ads, Google’s lifeblood — becomes reality on Thursday.

That’s when Chrome takes a significant step in the direction that  hundreds of millions of us already have gone by installing ad blockers. Chrome stops far short of those browser extensions, which typically ban all ads, but the move carries plenty of importance because Google’s browser dominates the web on both personal computers and phones. Chrome is used to view about 56 percent of web pages, according to analytics firm StatCounter.

Chrome’s ad-blocking move is designed to rid the web of sites stuffed to the gills with ads or degraded by obnoxious ads, said Ryan Schoen, Google’s product manager for web platform work at Chrome. There are signs it’s already had an effect: About 42 percent of sites that the company’s warned have dialed back on ads to pass Google’s standards, including the LA Times, Forbes and the Chicago Tribune.

A Web without lots of ads is unlikely. Perhaps there’ll be more “paywalls” on news sites. At least soon there’ll be another way to curtail the most obnoxious ads. The saga will continue.

And I do recommend Google’s browser. Windows PCs come with Microsoft’s Edge browser; and Apple’s devices come with Safari. Just add Chrome as a second browser.

Best smartphone case — CES 2018 drop test

 News, Phone, Site, Video  Comments Off on Best smartphone case — CES 2018 drop test
Jan 292018
 

Get a new smartphone and you’re probably going to get a case. I got one because my bare phone was slippery. I had no particular brand loyalty. So, if you’re not loyal to a previous brand, there are lots of choices. If drop protection is vital, then this Cnet video article “We broke $9,000 worth of phones to find the toughest iPhone X case” may be of interest.

We challenged 12 case makers to a live drop test at CES and dropped their cases from 20 feet. These were the last ones standing.

We invited the top case makers in the market to participate in a live drop test at CES to find out which one could survive the highest drop.

And 12 of them took us up on the offer: Caseology, Rokform, Thanotech, BodyGuardz, Tech21, Pelican, PureGear, Zizo, Spigen, RhinoShield, Supcase and OWC showed up at the CNET live stage at the Las Vegas Convention Center at CES 2018. Each brought their own brand-new iPhone Xs (still in the box) and their toughest case so we could drop them onto concrete slabs. Things escalated pretty quickly after that.

 

Best video streamer — Roku?

 News, Research, Video  Comments Off on Best video streamer — Roku?
Jan 292018
 

Some of my clients are using streaming devices (or sticks) for viewing movies and TV shows on their TVs over the Internet. Quite popular — these over-the-top (OTT) services versus over-the-air (OTA) or cable TV channels. Personally I’ve used a Fire TV Stick since 2015. And if all you’re interested in is getting to Netflix, that’s available on all these devices; so, compare other features, as this Cnet article “Which streamer should you buy?” on January 18, 2018, discussed.

Plenty of options exist for streaming Netflix, YouTube, Amazon and the rest. We’ve reviewed almost all of them. Here are our picks.

Here’s a sample:

Why it’s great: Roku [the Roku Streaming Stick Plus] is my favorite streaming system, with the most apps, the simplest interface, the best search and a content-agnostic platform that doesn’t push any one provider, like Amazon video or iTunes over another. The Plus is the company’s cheapest streamer with 4K HDR, and even if your current TV doesn’t support those formats, your next one probably will. Its accent on practical features, like a remote that can control your TV’s volume and power, seals the deal.

The list of choices includes:

  • Roku Streaming Stick Plus
  • Roku Streaming Stick
  • Roku Express
  • Apple TV 4K
  • Nvidia Shield TV
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Chromecast

macOS High Sierra — to upgrade or not

 Computer, Desktop, News, Notebook  Comments Off on macOS High Sierra — to upgrade or not
Sep 252017
 

Starting today, the latest upgrade for macOS — High Sierra — is available. As always, the question is whether to upgrade or not; or, when to upgrade. This CNET article “7 things to know before upgrading to MacOS High Sierra 10.13” discusses this question:

“Yes, if you answer any of these affirmatively:

  • You’re paranoid about security. Some say that the update is essential in order to get a complete set of security fixes, but it’s not like Apple is going to keep Sierra unpatched. Enterprises are running even older versions and they’ll continue to be patched. But if you think the potential security advantages outweigh the possibility of running into application issues, then update.
  • Your system has an SSD, not a Fusion Drive or HDD.
  • You’ve updated your iPhone or iPad to iOS 11 and shoot photos and videos with the new file formats.
  • You’re a big Photos user.
  • You have a complicated family to manage with iCloud.
  • You’ve been screaming for the specific capabilities added in those particular applications.”

Best practice usually is to wait awhile — a week to a month — before upgrading. If your Mac is not running Sierra (10.12) and is compatible, then upgrading definitely makes sense. If you decide to upgrade, first backup your Mac’s internal hard drive (or at least all your personal files); and do so when you don’t need to use your computer for a few hours.

This CNET YouTube video (below) reviews the changes.

App Store > Featured > Info
macOS High Sierra
Size: 4.80 GB

New technologies at the heart of the system make your Mac more reliable, capable, and responsive — and lay the foundation for future innovations. macOS High Sierra also refines the features and apps you use every day. It’s macOS at its highest level yet.

Easily organize, edit and view your photos in Photos.
Make short videos from your Live Photos using new Loop and Bounce effects.
Easily locate and organize your content with the new sidebar.
Conveniently access all of your editing tools in the redesigned Edit View.
Fine-tune color and contrast in your photos with new Curves and Selective Color tools.
Access third-party apps directly from Photos and save the edited images back to your Photos library.
Rediscover images from your library with new Memories themes including pets, weddings, outdoor activities, and more.
Create printed photo products and more using new third-party project extensions.

Improve your browsing experience with Safari.
Stop web video with audio from playing automatically.
Prevent websites and ad networks from tracking your browsing with Intelligent Tracking Prevention.
Customize your browsing experience with new per-site settings for Reader, page zoom, content blockers, and more.

Enjoy refinements in Mail.
Instantly find the messages most relevant to your search using Top Hits.
Use Split View when composing new email in full screen.
Save space on your Mac with compressed messages.

Look up flight information in Spotlight.
Check the status of a flight by typing the airline and flight number in the Spotlight search field.

Collect your thoughts with Notes.
Organize your information using configurable tables.
Pin your favorite notes so they’re always at the top of the list.

Capture a moment in FaceTime.
Take a Live Photo during a video call to any supported Mac, iPhone, or iPad.

Get music suggestions from a more natural-sounding Siri.
Hear more variations in intonation, emphasis, and tempo when Siri responds to you.
Enjoy personalized music recommendations from Siri when you listen to Apple Music.

Copy and paste files from one Mac to another with Universal Clipboard.
Copy and paste files between your Macs using standard copy and paste commands.

Safely store your family data in iCloud.
Share a single iCloud storage plan with your family and keep everyone’s data backed up and safely stored.
Set up your family with a few clicks and add capabilities when needed.

Work together with iCloud Drive.
Share and work on any file in iCloud Drive with other people so it is always be up to date with the latest edits.

Upgrade the performance, reliability, and security of your Mac with the new Apple File System.
Update to a new file system architecture designed for all-flash Macs.
Experience greater responsiveness when performing common tasks like duplicating a file and finding the size of a folder.
Enjoy faster and more reliable backups.
Protect your entire drive with built-in native encryption for greater security.

Step up to the new standard for 4K video: HEVC.
Create and watch high-resolution video with High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), which uses up to 40 percent less space without sacrificing quality.

Enjoy next-generation graphics and computation with Metal 2.
Get the most out of the graphics capabilities of your Mac with the new and improved version of Metal.
Discover immersive tools for content creation with support for virtual reality.
Build state-of-the-art apps with features that accelerate common machine learning functions.

Some features may not be available in all regions or all languages. Some features require an iCloud storage plan. Some features have hardware requirements. Apple File System requires all-flash internal storage.

iPhone 8 or 8 Plus — first things to do

 Computer, News, Phone, Video  Comments Off on iPhone 8 or 8 Plus — first things to do
Sep 222017
 

As for previous models of Apple’s iPhone, MacWorld today published an article on things to do first after getting a new one: Got an iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus? Do these 10 things first.

Well, you did it. You pulled the trigger on a shiny new iPhone 8 or 8 Plus. Nice! Before you head out to take a squillion photos or plop it down on your new wireless charging pad, there are a few housekeeping details you should tend to first.

  1. Backup and restore
  2. Finish the setup
  3. Set up Touch ID and Apple Pay
  4. Choose the Home button’s feel
  5. Update your apps
  6. (Pair your Apple Watch)
  7. Try the new camera
  8. Edit a Live Photo
  9. Customize your Control Center
  10. Charge it up
  11. (Call your mom)

And this CNET video “Favorite features in iOS 11 in 60 seconds (Tech Minute)” (below) highlights new features in iOS, if you got a new iPhone 8 or upgraded your older iPhone or iPad.

 

iOS 11 Upgrade — new features for iPhone and iPad

 Computer, News, Phone, Tablet  Comments Off on iOS 11 Upgrade — new features for iPhone and iPad
Sep 192017
 

Starting today (September 19, 2017), the iOS 11 upgrade for iPhone and iPad will be available on your Apple devices. There’s lots of coverage of this release. Here’s one (Macworld) article reviewing the changes and new features: “iOS 11 review: Apple’s most ambitious and impressive upgrade in years.”

If you’re an iPad user, download iOS 11 immediately. It’s a huge update that makes major improvements to the two-year-old multitasking features, and drag-and-drop and Files have the potential to transform iPad productivity.

If you’re an iPhone user—well, who are we kidding, you’re almost certainly going to upgrade to iOS 11, too. And you’ll be right to do so. This is a great collection of new features, Apple’s best iOS upgrade in years. The new, customizable Control Center is a winner. Do Not Disturb While Driving will make the roads safer. And ARKit threatens to kick off a revolution in augmented-reality applications. This is all great stuff.

 

Caller ID spoofing — electric company warning

 Computer, General, News  Comments Off on Caller ID spoofing — electric company warning
May 072017
 

I’ve written about this before: whether it’s at your front door or on your phone or on your computer, scammers use the same tricks. In this case, spoofing their identity. Southern California Edison send out this email notice last week.

***

Subject: Important message from SCE: Beware of caller ID spoofing

That ‘Southern California Edison’ phone call may not be legitimate.

For your security, never give out your personal information, such as your SCE account number, Social Security number, credit card information or PIN number.

We have recently experienced an increase in reports of caller ID spoofing, a practice in which special phone equipment falsifies information on your caller ID display. Calls may appear to be from SCE, when in reality the caller has no association with SCE and may try to sell you products, collect personal information or say your electric bill is past due when it’s not.

Common red flag warnings related to spoofed phone calls:

  • Calls were made multiple times per day
  • Callers asked about customer’s usage, meter or other personal information
  • Customers were provided recommendations for purchasing alternative energy products

Tips to help protect yourself from caller ID spoofing scammers:

  • SCE will not send solar representatives to your home, nor do we have solar companies contact anyone by phone.
  • SCE will never ask for credit card information, a prepaid card such as Green Dot or electric usage information over the phone.
  • Do not use a call back number provided until you confirm it is an SCE number listed on your bill or the Contact Us page on sce.com.

Please know that we take your privacy seriously and make every effort to protect your information. For additional red flag warnings and tips to protect yourself, please visit sce.com/scamalert.

If you believe you are the recipient of a spoofing call, contact SCE Information Governance at csinfogov@sce.com.

Sincerely,

Marc Ulrich
Vice President of Customer Programs & Services
Southern California Edison

***

We all need to be careful. The fact that these scams continue to occur is a sign that they work. Caller ID is not perfect but still can be useful.

Mar 302017
 

So, congrats if your PC is running Windows 10. Whether you are interested or not in Windows 10 releases, ready or not, here comes the next edition: Windows 10 Creators Update, which will start rolling out (over a period of weeks or months) to the general public on April 11. Most of us will see this release as part of the normal Windows Update process, just like the monthly updates. Is it a good idea to stay up-to-date? Yes. Will you benefit from new features? Maybe not. Will there be fixes to glitches and bugs and security updates? Probably, but the main news out this week’s about what’s changed. Here’re some links to PC World articles and videos.

Windows 10 Creators Update FAQ: Everything you need to know

More than five months after its grand unveiling last October, the Windows 10 Creators Update is finally here—and the wait was worth it.

Following in the footsteps of last August’s sweeping Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the Creators Update tweaks and tunes the core Windows 10 experience while heaping on a pile of handy all-new features. While PCWorld’s comprehensive Windows 10 Creators Update review contains detailed impressions of Microsoft’s refreshed operating system, here’s a higher-level look at what you need to know about the Creators Update.

The Windows 10 Creators Update’s best new features: Privacy tweaks, Paint 3D, and more

  • Privacy dashboard
  • Gaming boosts
  • Paint 3D
  • Windows VR
  • Much-needed Windows Update improvements
  • Dynamic Lock
  • Cortana monthly reminders
  • E-books!
  • Edge tab preview bar (and other Edge improvements)
  • Windows Defender overhaul

Missing pieces: What Microsoft failed to deliver in the Windows 10 Creators Update

If the Windows 10 Creators Update had worked out as Microsoft had promised, we all would be taking 3D selfies, importing them to Windows, and then sharing them among our closest friends and coworkers via Office presentations and mixed-reality headsets.

Windows 10 Creators Update: The 5 biggest changes

Microsoft just announced that the Windows 10 Creators Update will start rolling out on April 11, building upon the foundation laid by vanilla Windows 10 and its subsequent “November” and “Anniversary” updates. While not every feature that Microsoft promised at the Creators Update’s reveal last fall actually made the final cut, it’s still overflowing with helpful new extras that polish rough edges and just plain make things more fun.

Windows 10 Creators Update will take months to roll out, Microsoft confirms

Users waiting for Windows 10’s Creators Update, which is expected to release soon, may need to be patient. Data released Wednesday by AdDuplex suggests that Microsoft’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update took months to roll out to users after it was released last August, and the same pace could apply to the Creators Update.

May 15, 2017 update: Screenshots.

W10 Screenshot

When you’re ready for Creators Update

W10 Screenshot

Then wait for notification

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 17, 2017 update: Screenshot

Page screenshot

If you don’t want to wait, and use the Update Assistant to install the Creators Update

Apr 222014
 

A client called me about her computer being hacked. Turns out that only her AOL account probably was hacked. People in her address book were getting odd email messages supposedly from her. Her PC was okay otherwise.

She’s one of many experiencing the problem. PC World noted the situation in their article “You’ve got spam mail: Slew of AOL email accounts fall prey to spoofing attack.” There’s a hash tag #aolhacked tracking reports of the problem.

It’s unclear whether in all cases AOL accounts were hacked or somehow address books were compromised and used to spoof email addresses.

AOL recommends changing your password. That may help if your account was hacked. But if your account is being spoofed, that’s another matter, with no ready solution. AOL has a page describing the difference here.

PC World also recommended reviewing these computer safety tips: How to protect your PC against devious security traps.

The classic case of spoofing is where you receive a message purportedly from yourself to yourself — something that you did not do.

Remember that email is modeled after the United States Postal Service (USPS). So, it’s easy for anyone to put whatever “to” address they want on an envelope as well as any “from” address.

You just have to be careful, especially with email messages with subjects like “Hi” or “How are you” or something else that’s really general or vague (or even blank). And beware of phishing scams that have subjects regarding undeliverable packages.

In general I recommend that everyone have at least two email addresses with different service providers. So, if you have an AOL account, then also have a Google account with a Gmail address as a secondary address.

AARP Fraud Watch Network

 Computer, News  Comments Off on AARP Fraud Watch Network
Apr 102014
 

As noted in the latest VIPRE Security News, AARP created a Fraud Watch Network site:

an interactive, national campaign to fight fraud and identity theft and give Americans access to information about how to protect themselves and their families.

The new site’s mission is:

Fight Back Against Scams in Your State

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network links you with experts, law enforcement and people like you who are on the lookout for scams. Check out the latest alerts from state Attorneys General and other local officials, read what people are reporting in your state, and let us know about any suspicious emails, phone calls or other scams you’ve seen in your area. We’ll add your experience to the map so others know what to watch out for!

Also, see their report, “Caught In The Scammer’s Net: Risk Factors That May Lead to Becoming an Internet Fraud Victim, AARP Survey of American Adults Age 18 and Older.”

Firefox Web Browser Gets Another Update

 Computer, News  Comments Off on Firefox Web Browser Gets Another Update
Dec 152013
 

A recent PC World article noted that once again a new version of Firefox was released last week.

Mozilla last week released Firefox 26, which kicked off a limited form of click-to-play function and patched 15 security vulnerabilities, six of which were marked “critical.”

I recommend Firefox to my clients. Firefox has some features which I prefer over Microsoft Internet Explorer. But at the very least, I recommend having at least two Web browsers in case there’s a problem with either one (like having two means of transportation, if your car breaks down).

For most people, updates are automatic (as set in the application’s options or preferences). Otherwise, it’s easy to check using the “About Firefox” menu.

Windows XP Retirement April 2014

 Computer, News  Comments Off on Windows XP Retirement April 2014
Dec 152013
 

A recent PC Word article reminded those with old PCs still running Windows XP that “Windows XP retirement nears.” All this year, I’ve been noting this event to any clients still using that old Microsoft system.

… in April of next year, 2014, Microsoft will execute on its long published maintenance plan and stop commercial support for Windows XP. Starting in May, Windows XP will stop receiving security updates, even for highly critical security flaws …

For most people, the risks aren’t worth hanging on to an old PC, especially when a new, better PC can be purchased for around $400 or less. Yes, a new PC comes with Windows 8, which requires dealing with “look and feel” changes. But I’ve helped a few clients this year with that transition, customizing the experience and coaching them. They’re doing okay.

It’s the mo-o-o-ost dangerous time of the year

 Computer, News  Comments Off on It’s the mo-o-o-ost dangerous time of the year
Dec 152013
 

A recent PC World article reminded us that “Tech threats abound beyond spam, malware during holidays.”

Cyber criminals are all over social media sites, trying to get you to click on links from your “friends,” or to open up fake e-cards. Or, they’re trying to scam you into purchasing fraudulent gift cards for unbelievably low prices.

But there’re also things to watch out for at point-of-purchase devices.

Holiday Cyber Risks

 Computer, News  Comments Off on Holiday Cyber Risks
Dec 152013
 

IDG’s CSO* recently posted an article titled “5 risks to avoid for the holidays” summarizing scams and risks to beware of for the holidays. In particular, watch out for spoofed emails purportedly from shippers and payment processing agents. Also fake e-cards.

Fake messages frequently include instructions to open an attachment or click on a link. Ignore the message completely, don’t open anything or follow any links. Head to the company’s website directly, or call them if needed.

* CSO provides news, analysis and research on a broad range of security and risk management topics.

Prof’s Hack Challenge Revealing

 Computer, News  Comments Off on Prof’s Hack Challenge Revealing
Dec 092013
 

PC World summarized the results of a New York University Professor’s challenge to conduct a personal “pen test” on him.

And the answer, at least in his case, is that knowing that they were out to get him didn’t stop them. He got hacked. As he wrote, in an account of the project last month, while conducting a class at NYU, “without warning, my computer freezes. …”

This article may be viewed at: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2070671/anatomy-of-a-hack-team-meets-a-professors-challenge.html.

Of particular note was that social engineering was key to the attack, “hacking someone’s head” versus clever tech. A phish email was used. As has been recommended many times, beware of emails with links to view something, although prima facie the message appears authentic, from someone you know. Check that link first!

The article concluded with some general advice.

Phishing Attacks August 2013

 Computer, News  Comments Off on Phishing Attacks August 2013
Sep 242013
 

PC World summarized a Kaspersky Lab’s study that noted:

Spam volumes took a usual seasonal drop in August, but phishing spiked, including a noticeable interest in hijacking Apple accounts.

This article may be viewed at: www.pcworld.com/article/2049287/apple-is-a-tempting-phishing-target-for-scammers.html#tk.rss_all

Of particular note was the resurgence of some old malware which infects your email contact list. Phishing attacks continued as well — email scams purportedly from a company which you have an account with, claiming that your account requires action by clicking on a link.

Jan 282013
 

So, what’s the best Internet Security product for your PC? There’s no “one size fits all” answer. Perhaps your new PC included a bundled anti-virus program and you’re wondering whether to activate and use it or get another one (after uninstalling the current program). Perhaps the subscription for your current anti-virus product expired and you’re wondering whether to renew. Perhaps you know people who are using other products or free versions.

Whatever the reason, each new year brings new releases of anti-virus and Internet Security programs. There are many choices. PC World reviewed 9 Internet Security suites: F-Secure Internet Security 2013, Norton Internet Security 2013, Trend Micro Titanium Internet Security 2013, Bitdefender Internet Security 2013, Kaspersky Internet Security 2013, McAfee Internet Security 2013, G Data InternetSecurity 2013, AVG Internet Security 2013, Avira Internet Security 2013.

Notably absent in PC World’s list were Microsoft’s Windows Defender, GFI’s Vipre, Panda’s, etc.

Key factors in choosing a product are: ease of use, detection, removal, scan speed, and impact on computer performance. Prices range from $35 – $70 per year. Some licenses cover multiple computers.

Apr 102012
 

This MacWorld article “What you need to know about the Flashback trojan” provides an overview of this malware and the associated risk.

Flashback is the name for a malicious software program discovered in September 2011 that tried to trick users into installing it by masquerading as an installer for Adobe Flash.

Cnet’s MacFixIt followed up with several articles on this malware, discussing how to check your computer and what to do next:

Web tool checks if your Mac is Flashback-free

How to reinstall OS X after malware infection

How to remove the Flashback malware from OS X

Mac Flashback malware: What it is and how to get rid of it (FAQ)