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About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Tools Toys and Technology - About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

9 Steps to a Safer, More Secure Windows Computer


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Let’s face it. Bad guys are out there; they are lurking on the Internet; and they are looking for YOU!

To protect yourself from muggers, pickpockets and thieves, you take certain steps. You keep your hands on your wallet or purse in a crowd, and you lock your door when you leave home and at night.

Similarly, you have to take certain steps to protect your cyber life. And these are a bit more complicated and involved that locking your door. But they are equally important if you intend to keep your computer, data, and even your identity safe. Here are 9 steps to a safer, more secure Windows computer…

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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?

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These PUPs Are Not Cute!

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.

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Purloined Password Problems

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?

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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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“Malvertising” – Be Careful What You Click On Even on Reputable Sites

Malicious advertisements on reputable and popular Websites like Facebook, Disney, and even The Guardian newspaper have been detected to redirect clicks to sites that will infect your computer with Ransomware. Many other reputable Websites are undoubtedly also involved. This is what makes this kind of malware so sacary, since you expect Websites like those mentioned above to be trustworthy. The Website owners may not even know their site is making their users vulnerable, but you are vulnerable none-the-less.

If you click on one of the malicious advertisements, you may be led to malware that encrypts a computer’s files and demands a ransom before you can recover your files.

There’s no sure fire way to detect such advertisements on a Website. Just don’t click ANYTHING out of curiosity alone. Be darn sure your interested in what you’re clicking on. And backup – backup – backup just in case you become a victim.

 

Popular Encryption Software TrueCrypt Unexpectedly Shuts Down

TrueCrypt Is No More??? A shocker!

I have relied on TrueCrypt for at least a couple of years now, as have so many others, to encrypt sensitive files on my computer. It’s been a highly regarded standard for keeping private and sensitive information away from potential prying eyes.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, those behind the TrueCrypt software have shut down their download page, truecrypt.org, and redirected it to truecrypt.sourceforge.net with this message…

WARNING: Using TrueCrypt is not secure as it may contain unfixed security issues

This page exists only to help migrate existing data encrypted by TrueCrypt.

The development of TrueCrypt was ended in 5/2014 after Microsoft terminated support of Windows XP. Windows 8/7/Vista and later offer integrated support for encrypted disks and virtual disk images. … You should migrate any data encrypted by TrueCrypt to encrypted disks or virtual disk images supported on your platform.

The page goes on to give step-by-step instructions on how to migrate from TrueCrypt to Microsoft’s BitLocker.

This mysterious action caught everyone off guard, especially since the open source TrueCrypt recently passed an independent security audit. The developers of TrueCrypt have not responded to queries about their sudden abandonment of the project.

See this article for alternatives to TrueCrypt.