Tools Toys and Technology

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Tools Toys and Technology - Just another WordPress site

Beware of Scammers Offering to “Fix” Your Computer

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.

Know this…

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.

WARNING: Your Internet Activity is Being Tracked

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?

Companies make big bucks by selling your activities and interests to sales and marketing firms. Universally, the companies that engage in this kind of tracking (a.k.a. “snooping”) say it is to provide a better “user experience.” What they mean by this is, once they know your interests, they can put relevant advertisements in front of you on everything from your webmail account to Facebook to Amazon to … you get the idea. And for a fee, they send that information to third parties, who in turn target you with what they consider relevant advertising. This has nothing to do with making money, of course. It’s done only to improve your “user experience.” :-) Pfffft.

Sometimes these ads can be benign. Other times they constitute a real invasion of personal privacy. For instance, if you are searching for information about certain medical conditions, you may not want this appearing on your Facebook page.

How to Avoid Being Tracked

If you want your Internet browsing to be anonymous, there is a way. You must avoid the use of all the top name brand search tools (Google, Bing, etc), and instead use a search engine that doesn’t track your searches, followed by the use of a proxy server to keep your Website visits private.

My favorite private search engine is ixquick.com. When you use ixquick to search, neither your IP address (your Internet location) nor your search topic are recorded. You search in complete privacy.

But that’s not the end of the story. Once you get a listing of Websites matching your search, if you just click to go to a site, that site now takes over and you are likely being tracked. Even the trusted WebMD site contains tracking software that records everything you look at. This, in turn, provides valuable marketing information for drug companies, who may end up marketing to you.

Ixquick has the answer to this, too. It’s their ixquick proxy server. A proxy server allows you to make indirect network connections. Your Website requests are routed first to the proxy server and then passed on to the desired Web destination from the proxy. The Website you visit sees only the proxy, thereby providing you with anonymity.

Here’s How It Works

Let’s say you want to learn more about thyroid disease, but you don’t want your research to be tracked.

  1. First launch your favorite browser. Then direct that browser to ixquick.com
  2. In the ixquick search box, type: thyroid disease … then click GO. Your search will be executed anonymously.
  3. Now like any search engine, you will see a selection of Websites that match your search. DO NOT just click the blue Website link. If you do, your privacy will be vulnerable to snooping, depending on the tracking properties of the Website you go to.
  4. DO look for a search result that shows the “Proxy” option under the Website name (see figure below). Click on Proxy, not the Website name.
IXQUICK search result ... Click on Proxy

Click on Proxy

Some Things to Note about Using a Proxy Server

  • Not all search result sites will offer the proxy option. If you want true anonymity, don’t click on these. Use only the sites that offer the Proxy option.
  • When you use a proxy, you will note that your Internet performance is slowed, sometimes significantly. This is because your request for information must first be transferred to the proxy server before it is relayed on to the final source of the information you are seeking. The reduction in speed is well worth it if you want to preserve your privacy.

Ixquick is not the only no-track search engine out there. But ixquick is my choice because of the proxy option. It does no good to conduct a private search, and then be transferred to a Website that tracks your every move.

Check out: ixquick.com

ABC Opens Its Eyes: Streaming is the Future

ABC News is the latest channel addition the the Roku lineup of channels. This is more evidence that the major networks are recognizing that the future of TV is in streaming.

On-demand content available on this new channel includes top stories of the day, this week in history, technology, lifestyle, weather, and segments from popular shows like Good Morning America and Nightline. Some local news affiliates have also signed on, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Fresno, and Raleigh.

Sling TV Update: New Channels

Last month, I reported on the new live streaming TV service from Dish called Sling TV. Since that report, a number of major channels have been added, including the History Channel, A&E, H2, and Lifetime. This brings the total number of channels in their basic programming lineup to 20. Yes, this is still small, but Sling TV is clearly on its way to becoming a serious challenger to live TV as we have known it. And, at $20 per month with no contract, it’s an attractive addition to the online lineup for cord-cutters, those who have already or are considering cancelling the traditional and expensive cable or satellite TV service.

Witness, they acquired 100,000 subscribers in their first month of operation. That’s still a small number of TV overall watchers, but if they keep adding channels at the rate they have, they will also be acquiring a lot more subscribers. I may become one of them. I’m watching this development closely.

Want to give it a try. They’ll give you 7 days for free. Go to Sling.com for more information.

Does Sling TV Spell Doom for Traditional Satellite and Cable Services?

Last month, Dish Network pre-announced a service it calls “Sling TV.” Sling TV is essentially a live streaming alternative to traditional, expensive satellite and cable servies, but … it’s in its infancy and programming is severely limited. But as the service expands, this could fill the gap between live TV as we’ve known it and streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and others.

Sling TV is a $20 per month subscription with no contract. That’s right … NO CONTRACT. You can cancel at any time. Compare that to your current cable or satellite bill that may be upwards of $100 per month and locks you into their service for a year or two.

Sling TV currently offers only about 15 channels, including ESPN, ESPN 2, Disney Channel, TBS, TNT, and Food Network, with AMC coming soon. There are also some add-on packages for kids, sports and news channels for $5 per month. This is still a long shot from becoming a head-to-head equivalent to traditional satellite and cable programming. But it’s a start, and it may be pointing the way to the future.

While it may not be a full live TV substitute yet, Sling TV puts one more nail in the coffin of TV as we have known it. When Sling TV or someone else offers a full complement of live streaming programming,  the paid TV service landscape will be forever changed.

Want to know more? See the review of Sling TV.

 

Windows 10 – Free to Windows 7 and 8 Users

Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade to current users of Windows 7 and 8.1. This offer will be extended for one year after Windows 10 launches. Once you’ve taken advantage of this free upgrade, you will continue to get free upgrades for the lifetime of the device on which Windows 10 is installed.

So, if you are one of those XP holdouts, this may be the greatest incentive yet to upgrade to Windows 8.1, guaranteeing you’ll get Windows 10 when it comes out. There is no free upgrade for Windows XP users.

Windows WHAT!!!

What’s in a Name?

The name of the eagerly awaited followup to Windows 8.1, code named Windows Threshold, has caught everyone off guard.

It’s been widely assumed and referred to as “Windows 9.” That would make sense. Another report from a Microsoft representative said it might just be called “Windows.” Are you kidding me?

Well the official announcement is out and it caught everyone off guard. It’s moniker will be … and this is official …

“Windows 10”

So the last major versions of Windows are: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10. Bazaar!

I didn’t know whether to post this under the category of “Software” or “Humor.” So I posted it in both.

CryptoLocker Decrypted

In November 2013, I reported on the new and devastating ransomware called CryptoLocker. This nasty malware locks up all your files with military-grade encryption. The only way you can recover you files is to pay the ransom (reportedly $300.00) within 72 hours. If you don’t pay within that time period, the encryption key is destroyed and your files are gone for good.

Now the GOOD NEWS

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