Once you have a wireless electronic gadget, you definitely need a wireless router. It lets your devices communicate with each other and connects your home network (a local area network or LAN) to the internet (a wide area network or WAN). In brief, it is the control center for your home network. Beginners initially rank setting up and configuring a wireless router as somewhere between a necessary evil and an arcane, mysterious exercise. With a little practice, it is possible to be successfully up and running in just a half hour.
Apple computer fans have become accustomed to frequent free revisions of the operating systems for their electronic companions. In fact, OS X El Capitan is expected to arrive this October. Android, Chromebook and Linux variations periodically produce free continuing revisions. The free upgrade to Windows 10 for current home users of Windows 7 and 8.1 has come as a welcome but puzzling surprise.
If you have recently become the proud possessor of a new computer, sooner or later you’ll have to figure out something to do with your old computer. You did remember to copy all the useful information from that old computer, didn’t you? Did you also remember to withdraw that same computer from limited installation programs or online services – like Adobe Photoshop Elements, iTunes, Office 365 and others?
By this time, we’ve all learned that older doesn’t mean useless. If the aging computer is less than 5 years old, it may make sense to repurpose rather than recycle it. If you are one of the owners of the remaining 650,000,000 Windows XP computers, please note that your PC is at least 6 years old! XP was first sold in 2001. Refurbishers will usually reject computers more than 5 years old.
Microsoft has finally officially announced that the release date for Windows 10 will be July 29th. This is a few months earlier than the previous vaguely stated “before the end of summer” announcement, but months later than a flurry of rumors had wistfully predicted. Over a billion Windows 7 and 8.1 owners will soon be able to claim their free upgrade. For those not eligible for the free upgrade, new retail copies of Windows 10 and new computers with Windows 10 will also be available on July 29th.
Continuing my summer theme on Computer Security, today I want to address the issue of companies that contact you, alerting you to problems with your computer and offering to fix them. Sometimes these offers come up on your computer. Other times you get unsolicited phone calls warning you of problems with your computer. Either way, they are bad news.
One of the most notorious and seemingly never-ending swindles is the Windows Support scam.
Many people I know have received calls from someone purporting to be from “Windows Support.” Personally, I’ve received these calls countless times. When you answer, they start out by telling you that they are from Microsoft or sometimes just “Windows Support.” They’ve called to warn you that they have detected problems with your computer, and they can fix them online. They may have you run a program that lists a whole host of things that are supposed to be malicious. In fact, the things displayed, while they may look strange to you, may be completely benign. To “fix” these issues, they ask for your credit card and remote access to your computer. Not only can this cost you money, but when you open up your entire computer to a complete stranger, you have done the virtual equivalent of opening the front door of your house to a thief and inviting him in. They may install malware on your computer; they may download sensitive files. Whatever they do, they are definitely up to no good.
Another approach is a popup that may appear on your computer, warning you of a problem and instructing you to call a number to get help.
When you get someone on the line, they may claim to be a Microsoft contractor who has been authorized to take care of issues with Windows computers. At this point, the scenario becomes quite similar to the Windows Support scam. They request remote access to your computer, and then proceed to install virus and malware protection (programs that are actually available to you for free). You will not only be charged for these services at the time they are provided, but they may enroll you in a monthly recurring charge (sometimes without your knowledge) to supposedly monitor your computer and keep you free of problems.
Microsoft will never contact you about a problem with your computer. And any kind of pop-up warning that instructs you to call someone else for help is not on the up-and-up.
“We are focused on making Windows 10 the most loved version of Windows ever,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has repeatedly stated over the past year. “Within two to three years of Windows 10’s release, there will be 1 billion devices running Windows 10,” Microsoft VP Terry Myerson said on April 29, 2015 during the Microsoft Build conference keynote address.
These are ambitious goals for a product expected to launch this summer, especially following the painfully disappointing introduction of Windows 8 in 2012. Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for current individual users of Windows 7, Windows 8 and 8.1 for the first 12 months of availability. Microsoft will support upgraded computers with security and system updates for the lifetime of those devices. Corporate computer systems and older versions of Windows are not eligible for this offer.
Lest you get too excited about possible implications of the title, I’m only addressing the batteries in your latest portable electronic toys. Since many devices no longer have user replaceable batteries, a failed battery is no longer a trivial expense. Replacement may mean bringing or mailing the failed unit to the manufacturer’s repair depot, which replaces the entire device with a factory refurbished litter mate – at costs ranging from $99 (iPad) to $470 (Surface Pro) and delays of up to 6 weeks. Many dejected owners opt to discard the entire unit and replace it with a newer model.
Protecting Your Personal Privacy Online
Today’s topic may seem rather mundane, compared to some of the malicious things that go on out there in the wild, wild Internet. But if you value your privacy, you need to be aware that every time you use a search engine and every time you visit a Website, your actions are being recorded. You may not think you have anything to hide. But the results of what Internet companies know about you could easily result in revealing something you would prefer to keep private.
Why Are You Being Tracked?
Lenovo, the largest PC vendor in the world, found itself melting under a spotlight recently. In September 2014, Lenovo accepted approximately $250,000 to bundle Superfish Inc VisualDiscovery on its computers. The software inserts advertisements into Google search results that will “add to the user experience”.
Unfortunately, Superfish used inadequately protected encryption certificates constructed by Kommodia; this enables cyberattacks to readily intercept passwords and sensitive data. On February 20, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security advised uninstalling Superfish and any of its associated root certificates from about 16 million Lenovo computers built between September 2014 and January 2015. Go to https://filippo.io/Badfish/ to see if you are infected. Search for “remove Superfish” in your browser for useful cleanup software.
Multiple news agencies reported the theft of nearly two million user names and passwords for accounts at Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, ADP and others in November 2013. Sadly, most reports entirely missed the real story – 2 million compromised accounts are but a drop in the bucket. At least 154,000,000 user accounts have been compromised in the last few years. Thousands of these have been published on the internet for all to see. Will yours be next?