Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Your Attention Is Required - NOW!


Virtually ALL my customers use
   -  Microsoft Security Essentials on Windows 7 and
   -  Windows Defender on Windows 8.x and Windows 10.

A really BAD bug has been uncovered that warrants your immediate attention.

Please follow the instructions in this article or alternatively you can do the following:
  1. Open Windows Defender (MS Security Essentials on Windows 7)
  2. Click on the Update tab
  3. No matter what the program says click on the big button Update Definitions
If there is any update for Defender or Security Essentials it will be downloaded and installed.

Stay safe.


Friday, May 5, 2017

"Security" software breaks Windows


It gets fun again - my life I mean; the rest of this blog post is dead serious, please make no mistake.

For years I have recommended NOT TO USE products from Webroot. I remember too many bad experiences with and infections on computers that were presumably "protected by Webroot".

In NBC's words:
An antivirus service used by tens of thousands of businesses and millions of home users shut down an untold number of computers around the world Monday after it mistakenly identified core parts of Microsoft Windows as threats, the company confirmed.
Similar events have occurred in the past; sadly they are much more common that we would like and the public hardly knows about it. Some well known companies in the "computer security" or "anti virus" business have had similar snafus. Here is a quote from a blog post at Bleepingcomputer.com:
... Such mishaps have been reported for years to include major anti-virus/security vendors such as Panda, avast, AVG, BitDefender, Kaspersky, Malwarebytes, McAfee and Symantec. In most cases when these issues occur, the anti-virus vendors and security tool developers take quick action to correct the problem and provide support to those users who have been affected.
To call such blunders a "mishap" is not a euphemism, IMHO it is outright glossing over or covering up a major blunder.

Things like this should not happen and they don't need to happen, they are major avoidable blunders. In every case we can only speculate about the "why" and I don't like to speculate.

What does all the above tell us? IMHO very simple:

Do not trust a single word in high gloss, pretty brochures.
Do not believe the words in computer related advertisements on TV.

What you find in high gloss publications is mostly marketing hype and likely not really trustworthy. And when certain "security" software seemingly out-of-the-blue suddenly is being hyped over the moon in TV advertisements it IMHO is time to run for the hills. It tells me that very likely a marketing campaign has to cover up some so called "mishap".

-----

So far I have used the acronym IMHO three times in this blog post. Generally there are always at least two ways to look at something, as we say around computers YMMV. If you have a different opinion - or maybe simply think I am a dumba....s then I ask you to please leave a comment, state your case or blow off steam below. 

Thank you in advance.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Nothing New?


I got an email from a long time customer who asked me
... where have you been? Not on the Blog in three months...
Here is my reply to him:
Thanks for checking the blog.
There is nothing new -- and that means no bad news and that is good news, right?

It still is the "old" story"; ransomware is at the top of the list of nasty programs.

The only way to
avoid that junk fairly reliably - but not guaranteed - is NEVER to click on any attachment to any email! 

Save the attachment to your desktop, upload the attachment to VirusTotal.com and have it checked there.

Even only one negative result is enough for me to tell the sender to check his attachments himself and stop sending out potentially infected junk files.
And DO NOT click on links in emails! Check if the link goes to the correct web site! Rest your cursor on the link and look at the left bottom corner of the browser window; there you should see the text of the target URL ( = Internet address) that your browser will take you to if you click on that link. Learn to correctly read these URLs!
 
Stay safe!


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

WOT and the darned Purists at Mozilla


WOT vanished from many of my customers Firefox web browsers. I got some questions about that so here is my diatribe.

Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox web browser, is a European organization and over there they have a MUCH more narrow view of privacy issues. That is a double-edged sword.

WOT has a few month ago modified their end user license agreement to conform more closely to what the add-on all can do. No surprise to me that they collect some information on the things you search for and where you then click on. Google does that for years and nobody gives a hoot.

WOT finally made it public and Google and Mozilla went ballistic pulling the WOT extension (add-on) from their web sites. I am pretty livid but they don't listen to you or me.

WOT in the meantime has changed the wording of their end user license agreement and you again can get and run WOT in Goggle Chrome.

The Europeans don't seem to see the value of WOT for the normal non-geek end user and remain stubbornly on their negative stance towards WOT. 

And Mozilla even tricks people into disabling or removing WOT - despite the fact that there is no even remotely similar functionality available anywhere else.

It is a shame but I have to tell my customers that they have to use Google Chrome for their web searches if they want the advantages of WOT, naturally with WOT and a good Ad-Blocker installed. These get installed from within the web browser, they are extensions.


Currently IMHO only Adblock Plus from adblockplus.org and uBlock Origin qualify as "good" ad-blockers.


Supposedly WOT and Mozilla are working on a resolution but that already takes many months.

If you have an affected computer and on the desktop is a folder named "Old Firefox Data" I may be able to resurrect WOT; but that definitely would be a trial and error thing that I can not guarantee. But at least I can do it remotely. 

Stay safe.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Music Fans Take Note


Here is a quick tip for anyone who wants to build his/her own music library without over time paying a small fortune to Apple by using iTunes.

Please read this article on How-To Geek and get informed about alternatives to iTunes

Stay safe.

Monday, January 9, 2017

How to stay safe in 2017 - Short List



Here is a short list of in my experience the most important steps you can take to keep your computer and your data safe. have I have added e few remarks for clarification.
  1. Update your software.
    Not only Windows but all other regularly used programs as well;
    for a Windows PC this includes (but is not limited to)
    -   Adobe Flash (beware of fake download sites!)
    -   Adobe Shockwave
    -   Web browser(s)
    -   Email client
    -   Java (if installed; mostly Java is not needed at all!)
    -   Office programs
    We always have to keep in mind that some programs still don't update automatically and quietly in the background! Checking manually hardly ever has hurt anything.
     
  2. Back-up to an external hard drive.
    Done regularly and correctly this currently is the only protection against ransomware viruses!
     
  3. Use a password manager.
    For single machines see Keepass, for more than one machine see LastPass and include all cell phones and tablets in the count!
       
  4. Use a unique password for every account.
    Everybody has many, many accounts; you need a password manager!
     
  5. Use random passwords
    Easily done only with a password manager!
     
  6. Turn on two-step verification everywhere you can.
    If you have a cell phone that you really use, otherwise this is pretty useless.
     
  7. Read and think(!) before you click.
    "My" first commandment for safe computing.
     
  8. Enable full-disk encryption
    On a single home computer? Only protects your data when the machine gets stolen.
     
  9. Put a six-digit PIN on your phone and set the phone to wipe it's contents if the PIN is guessed wrongly too many times.
Do you have questions to any of that? Please feel free to ask them in the comments, I will reply. Maybe not immediately but I will.

Stay safe.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Welcome 2017


A Happy, successful and healthy

NEW YEAR 

to all my customers 

and everybody else who might happen to read this!


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

How I Transfer Files From An Old To A New Computer


As long as the "old" computer is basically still working transferring all your user files (documents, pictures, music and videos) is no issue at all as long as they are stored in Windows' standard locations.

After the new computer is up and running I take the disk drive physically out of the old machine, attach it externally to the new machine and copy the files directly across to the new computer.

This way there is only one copy process which saves time compared to copying via an external drive which requires copying the same data twice.

After copying the files to the new machine I will urge you to safely keep the disk drive from the old computer for at least a year as an insurance against data loss.

Imagine you need a certain file after several months, you know the name of the file but it just is not where you thought it should be. It is on the old disk drive because that is the only place files could have gotten stored on the old machine; so that is where we have to search for it.

I hope that clears eventual confusion.

Stay safe.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Still on Yahoo? Time to RUN!


Are you still using Yahoo! ® ?

It is high time you run, fast, far and NOW!

Just read this article by Rob Schifren. He is the driving force and creator of TechSupportAlert.com, a very long running and very reliable source of information about free software and many more things about and around computers; computers used here in the widest sense of the word, that is including Apple Mac, Android devices and much more.

From the many contacts with my customers I have an idea about how many people re-use the same password on several (or all) web sites.

PLEASE heed the warning and AT LEAST establish a new STRONG password for your Yahoo account.

IMHO it would be better if you switched to a different service altogether. If you have and use a Yahoo email account I recommend to switch to Gmail.

Gmail can automatically import emails from Yahoo if you want to give your email contacts time to adapt to your new email address.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Stay safe.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

About Scams - Beware!


It saddens mw but it has to be said again and again:
Microsoft WILL NOT CALL you because your computer "has been reported" or anything similar.
Please take the few minutes to read this article from the How-To-Geek on common scamming tricks and what to do about them. This article talks about some other commonly encountered scams as well, not only the Microsoft or Tech Support based scams.

It always is good to be well informed. The time to read the HTG article is time well spent; it can help you to avoid the most common traps.

Stay safe.

Monday, November 21, 2016

NO to Google Chrome - Here is Why

Here is a quote from this article on The Register:
Chrome leads the browser pack with 504 reported vulnerabilities followed by Internet Explorer with 289 and Firefox with 171. Some 1035 flaws were reported across all browsers including Opera and Safari, up from 728 in 2013.
"Reported vulnerabilities" are in layman's terms known weaknesses in the program code of the web browser that have been or could eventually be used to hack through a given web browser into computers.

Why would a person want to willingly live with more risks than less?

This seems to me to be a good time to talk about the most common argument for Google Chrome, at least as far as I hear from my customers. The argument is "Yeah, but Chrome is faster". Mostly I get that from younger people or grandparents who quote family members or friends thereof.

That argument is "true" only to a laughably small effect that IMHO is totally irrelevant.

Every web page is made up of often numerous files; these files have to be transferred from the server computer of that web page into our computer. The time this transfer takes is solely dictated by the real life speed and performance of our Internet connection. Our computer and the web browser have next to no influence on that transfer.

Only after all the files that comprise the web page are on our computer the web browser can begin to build the visible web page on the screen. Yes, in doing this Google Chrome is faster than other browsers but this is maybe 10% of the total time it takes from us clicking on a link to the web page appearing on our screen.

Let me do the math for an extremely slow example: Assumed it takes 10 seconds from click to visible page (which is quite long!). 90% of this time is waiting for the transfer of the file(s), that is 9 out of 10 seconds; only 10% (equals 1 second) is what the browser takes to actually do it's job of giving us something to look at. Even if Google Chrome were 20% faster than another browser that would amount to being 0.2 seconds faster over all. That difference is well below what humans can perceive!

My point is: "Faster" is by no means "better"!

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Stay safe.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The newest Scam - Beware


The newest telephone scam I heard of is the Microsoft Licensing Scam. You may get a phone call or a voice mail saying something like this (phone numbers deliberately obscured):
“This is to notify you that your Microsoft Windows license key has been expired in your computer so Microsoft Corporation has stopped the services in your computer. To renew the Windows license key, please call 866 XXX XXXX. Let me repeat. This is to notify you that your Microsoft Windows license key has been expired in your computer so Microsoft Corporation has stopped the services in your computer. To renew the Windows license key, please call 866 XXX XXXX. I will repeat 866 XXX XXXX.”
The message obviously was from a computer generated, sort of "mechanical" voice and the stilted English suggest a non-native English speaker behind the whole thing.

Any messages about licensing issues truly from Microsoft would pop up on your computer's screen only during installation or activation. And we all know, if only from experience, that a Microsoft license for the Operating System comes with the computer when you buy it and it is good for the lifetime of the machine.

In Windows services are programs running in the background; they are required for even basic functions of the computer. A computer would not work at all without the required services running in the background.

In the case I read about the recipient happened to be a very, very experienced Windows user; the gentleman called back the 866 number from the message; he said about that call:
"Because the number was toll free, I called it just to see what would happen. An answering machine invited me to leave a message and my number for a callback — I declined.
Please remember: Any and all phone calls claiming to come from Microsoft or any company associated with Microsoft are scams. Don't even talk to these people! Do not give them your phone number or ANY OTHER information.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Stay safe.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ransomware IS on the Loose, NO JOKING!


Today I met with a customer who recently I had pointed to my blog posts about ransomware. He sort of poo-pooed my words and pointed me to his safe habits.

With his permission I looked in his (very big) Inbox with about 1,000 emails. I looked only for mails with attachments and found quite a few.

I grabbed randomly one of the attachments, a ZIP file by the way, and saved that file to the computer.

Then I went to Virustotal.com, uploaded the file and had it tested. The results speak for them selves, here they are:


Clearly this file contains a downloader and a variant of the encrypting ransomware Locky. And who knows what the downloader would do to the machine if it ever gets to run.

Currently DO NOT directly open ANY attachment from an email, no matter how "good" you think you know the sender or what ever excuses your brain comes up with.

Always save the attachment to a place on your computer you can easily access like the desktop.

Then in your web browser go to virustotal.com, browse to the file - in this example on the desktop, upload the file and if virustotal.com comes up with anything then delete the file AND the email it came from!

Better safe than sorry!

And before you ask, some of my previous articles about ransomware are here, here, here, here and here.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Stay safe.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Norton Internet Security - Final Words?


Again I ran into a customer who almost insisted on keeping "his" Norton Internet Security package against my recommendation. I decided to write yet another diatribe against NIS and the reasons behind my stance.

This morning I got the current edition of a computer related newsletter that covers this very issue more concisely and better than I ever could. The text about NIS is buried in the article under the sub-heading "Why doesn’t Fred ever mention Norton/Symantec?". I want to save you the trouble of having to read (or skim) through the quite technical and lengthy discussion of file name length limitations that is the first part of the article; later in my article (what you are reading) I will quote the complete part about NIS as Fred Langa wrote it.

Who is Fred Langa? Here is the "About Fred Langa" copied directly from Windows Secrets:
Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.
In short and simple words: Fred Langa is a veteran in the field of PCs and IMHO one of the most trustworthy authors about PCs out there!

Now to above mentioned quote about Norton Internet Security products. The only alteration: I shortened the name of the original questioner for obvious privacy reasons to just the initials.

Why doesn’t Fred ever mention Norton/Symantec?

P F wonders about a long-standing omission in this column.


“Is there a reason we never hear about Symantec/Norton Internet Security from Fred Langa?”


Yes, there’s a reason, Paul. The omission is quite deliberate.


I absolutely loved Norton software way back when Peter Norton was running the company. But after Symantec bought him out in the 1990’s (keeping the “Norton” name, but little else) Symantec/Norton products gained a reputation as bloated and slow; and periodically they contained extremely serious flaws.

Symantec has addressed some of the bloat problems in recent years, but shockingly severe problems still crop up.
For example, as recently as this past summer, researchers found truly frightening, flagrant flaws in all Symantec/Norton antivirus software. Some security researchers said those flaws were “as bad as it gets.”
I agree with that assessment: Due to these flaws, even an unopened email or an unclicked link could compromise your PC at its deepest level!
For more specifics, see the U.S. Government warning, “Symantec and Norton security products contain critical vulnerabilities,” the Fortune Magazine article, “Google found disastrous Symantec and Norton vulnerabilities,” and the Ghacks.net article, “Google shames Symantec for security issues.” A web search will turn up lots of other coverage, too.
Those egregious vulnerabilities were patched, but they never should have happened in the first place — especially in a nominal “security” product.
And note: That’s just one recent problem. There have been numerous other problems extending back for years. For example, I just did a general web search on ‘norton security’ problems, and found over 13 million hits!
The above are objective facts you can check for yourself. But what follows is my personal opinion:
I think running Symantec products is worse than running no security software at all. With no security software, at least you know you’re not protected. But millions of Symantec/Norton customers think the software is keeping them safe, when there’s strong evidence that it might actually be creating new vulnerabilities and system problems that wouldn’t otherwise exist. To me, that’s unconscionable in security software.
I haven’t had any Symantec products on my PCs since the early 1990s, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I’ve seen too many problems with Symantec/Norton’s software.
Your experience might be different, and you’re certainly free to use what you like.
But now you know why you don’t see any coverage of Symantec products from me.
Personally I fully and wholeheartedly agree with Fred Langa!

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Stay safe.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Yahoo Users, it's Time to Run for the Hills

For years I have told my clients to stay away from Yahoo as far as possible. Those with Yahoo email accounts I have told to to switch their email provider.

Yes, it is a BIG hassle to do that but now it seems to be imperative to do it - finally.

Yahoo has been majorly hacked!

In 2014 already and they have kept it a secret until recently!

Reported numbers of compromised accounts vary from 500 thousand to one billion affected users but that is irrelevant; relevant is that practically all sensitive information got copied off by miscreants. User names, passwords, date-of-birth, SSNs, security questions and the answers, phone numbers, "real names", address information and the list goes on...

In California the first class action lawsuit against Yahoo has been filed and many more are expected to follow all over the nation.

What to do?

First change your Yahoo password, make the new one at least 12 characters long. Read this article from 2011(!) and this one from 2013(!) on my blog for more information.

More info on Passwords is in these articles:
Passwords that are NOT a password
Passwords the Latest

You have a Yahoo email account or use other Yahoo services (like Yahoo Financials!) and you still are "on the fence"? I can't help you, actually nobody can help you but yourself.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Stay safe.

Monday, July 25, 2016

AVG and McAfee - Not Safe


Again, please give up on so-called "security" products from AVG and McAfee.

As reported here they are not safe!

Should you not know what to replace them with then give me a call at four.one.four-seven.one.nine-two.nine.seven.seven. I look forward to hearing from you.

Stay safe!


Saturday, July 23, 2016

What browser?


I got an email from a customer and believe my reply might be of interest to many people. The customer quoted an article from another blog(?) that recommended to search directly out of the URL field. Here is my reply verbatim as I sent it:
The crux with all these "easy" tips is that they all play right into the industry's game.

The more searches any given search engine gets to perform the more money they can ask for their aggregated info on what we search for. The search engine companies may not directly advertise to us but the companies that buy this aggregated search information can then advertise better and more directly to us.
  • It's a fact that Bing and Yahoo (they use Bing) do NOT show us what in the search results are paid advertisements.
  • It's a fact that way too many advertisements get abused to get malicious programs on our computers.
  • It's a fact that some web browsers (like IE and Edge, both from Microsoft!) make it very difficult or don't allow us at all to suppress advertisements.
  • It's a fact that Google does not allow us to suppress certain advertisements in Google's own Chrome browser.
All the before said and more is behind my STRONG recommendation to use only Firefox as I set it up for my customers.

And I urge my customers to search ONLY out of the little browser specific Search window:
because when you search from there you get a Google search result
MINUS any advertisement(s),
PLUS the red, yellow and green Web of Trust ratings right by every search result.
AND your search with Google has happened anonymously!

Update Jan. 10th 2017:
Sadly around November 5th 2016 Mozilla, the organization that supplies Firefox and Google have removed that piece of code from their download pages; some details are here.
If you remove the WOT extension or add-on from your Firefox browser it currently can not be re-installed!
Google recently made the WOT extension available again.
If that is not reason enough for any of my customers it's their decision and their money if I have to clean up their machine again.
 Stay safe!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Norton "Security" Software - REALLY INSECURE


It is a shame that "the media" ignore these facts and thus allow millions of computer users to live with unsafe computers.

A few quotes from The Register's recent article
  • Scores (or thousands, or millions) of enterprise and home Symantec users are open to remote compromise through multiple now-patched (where possible) wormable remote code execution holes described by Google as 'as bad as it gets'.
  • They [the security flaws] don’t require any user interaction, they affect the default configuration...
  • Victims would not even need to open the malicious files to be compromised.
  • Some of those [affected] platforms cannot be upgraded. 
Towards the end of the article The Register seems to quote six actions users should take to secure their systems. Four of those six are impossible to even think of for normal home users; they require corporate installations and corporate management structures that just are non-existent in home installations.

The other two require a level of know-how and technical expertise that is equally non-existent in the average home user environment.

The only consequent reaction for home user is what I preach to my customers for years:
Ditch any and all Norton products.
If you have allowed that Norton automatically charges your credit card you have to revoke that permission. You can get their phone number(s) through this web page.

Normally uninstalling them from Programs and Features in the Control Panel is not enough. I recommend to additionally run the Norton Removal Tool downloaded from this page; click on either of the links "Download@MajorGeeks".

Stay safe.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Using a Computer with a Visual Impairment


My recent personal experience with AMD and a close relative being cured from almost blindness due to massive cataracts have left me with greater awareness of the problems around vision loss.

And surprisingly just very recently a blind customer of mine sent me an email regarding using computers with a vision impairment; thank you Li Su. I believe this information may be very important so I will quote the relevant text of the email here.

Disclaimer: I can in no way guarantee the accuracy and/or the contents of the following information; I rely on the qualification of it's source.

Stay safe.

-----

Using a Computer with a Visual Impairment: A Beginner's Guide to Computer Accessibility
Computer Access for People Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision
Findings from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Preliminary Report established that an estimated 20.6 million adult Americans (or nearly 10% of all adult Americans) reported they either "have trouble" seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, or that they are blind or unable to see at all.
Of course if you (or a loved one) have recently experienced profound vision loss, these numbers are little more than mere statistics. We mention them here for one reason: to assure you that you are not alone. Vast resources—human, technical, medical, and rehabilitative—stand ready to assist you in regaining your independence, resuming your career or starting a new one, and, most importantly, increasing your enjoyment of life, friends, and family.
In this section we will focus on the technical resources that are available to those with visual impairments. We’ll begin by describing one of the most profound technological achievements to have benefited sight-impaired individuals: the accessible personal computer.
This guide is organized into two main sections. The first section is for those with new visual impairments who are brand new to computers. There, we talk about all of the ways in which computers are helpful and useful, along with what to consider when purchasing a computer.
The second section is for those with recent visual impairment who already own, and have some experience using, a personal computer . There we discuss the main components of accessibility and lay the groundwork for a productive and happy computing experience.
Related Links
·Helpful Products and Technology for Living with Vision Loss

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

"Force Feeding" Windows 10


"Force Feeding" are the only words adequate to describe what Microsoft is doing right now! My email inbox is overflowing with complaints and cries for help. Microsoft seems to be really desperate, it must not be going as well as they had hoped.

After the upgrade to Windows 10 (not update) you have 4 weeks to revert to your previous system. This process has so far worked without a hitch for those of my customers who reverted.
  1. Click the Start button
  2. Click on Settings (on a few systems it is PC Settings)
  3. Click on Update & security
  4. In the left side bar click on Recovery
  5. Find the entry Go back to Windows x (x is 7 or 8 depending on what your previous system was) and click on it
Depending on the speed of your computer it will work for anything between 30 and 90 minutes. After you have reverted to your previous version of Windows Microsoft will again begin to permanently nag you to upgrade to Win 10. This nagging can be reliably turned off!
Microsoft has since about November 2015 been busy to put some of the telemetry of Windows 10 into Windows 7 and Windows 8 systems; this happens in addition to forcing upgrades to Windows 10. That means that Win 7 and 8 systems now contain some of what I call Windows 10 spying on me/us and IMHO that should to be turned off!!

My recommendation is to turn all this junk off and luckily since about February 2016 I know of a dependable piece of free software that allows everybody to do just that on their systems whether it is a Windows 7, 8 or 10 computer!. See this article for more details.


If after the upgrade any icons or programs are missing or if you rather have me install SD Anti Beacon I can do all that via remote support. For remote support please call one of the coming Monday through Thursday evenings between 6PM and 8PM. If I am already at home I want to connect remotely to your computer. If I can not answer on your first attempt please assume that I am already helping somebody else and keep trying every 10 or 15 minutes.

If I have set up or worked on your computer during the last three years you should be set for remote support; if you have an icon labeled either "Teamviewer ..."  or "EJH Remote Support" then all is prepared. If you do not find either of these icons please call anyway, I can walk you on the phone thru the steps to get the remote support program going. Alternatively you can prepare for remote support as described here.

Please have your computer up and running; if your computer is a notebook (or laptop) computer then please have the power supply connected and plugged into a working power outlet.
Stay safe!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Windows 10 and Microsoft's Attitude to Security and Prvacy


On Slate I found this very revealing article about Windows 10 and it's implications for privacy and security. I highly recommend you read it BEFORE you jump on the Windows 10 band wagon.

No, I take back my "... highly recommend you read ...". If you are seriously thinking about Windows 10 and/or want to be fully informed before you take the plunge (or not) THE ARTICLE IS A MUST READ!

As I said in an earlier article by now we can do something about all that, reliably and free of charge. Well, maybe not totally free if you want me to set it up and demonstrate it's correct usage to you.

Stay safe!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Uninstall Anything with Quick Time (or Quicktime) in the Name

Please just do it!

There is a good and free alternative player out there by the name of VLC who will happily and safely play your old .mov files - if you have any.

Stay safe!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

2016-04-07 WBKV Talking Points


This is the first time ever in 12 years of regular radio shows that I do not have a set agenda for the 15 minutes ahead of us.

Listeners, please call in with ANY kind of question you may have around your PC and MS Windows.

Other than that only the standards;

    - Use common sense!
    - Read and think(!) before you click.

    - Update ALL programs you use.

   - Ransomware.

    - Backup your data and your system!

And stay safe.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Avoid or Mitigate Ransomware Risks


A big THANK YOU to the Emerging Threats Team at SophosLabs and their blog Naked Security for their excellent recommendations on this nasty but important topic.

I have taken the liberty to add some remarks just to help you remember important little details that are easy to forget in cursive.
  • Backup regularly and keep a recent backup copy off-site. There are dozens of ways other than ransomware that files can suddenly vanish, such as fire, flood, theft, a dropped laptop or even an accidental delete. Encrypt your backup and you won’t have to worry about the backup device falling into the wrong hands.

    But do not, I repeat, do not leave your backup device connected to the computer. Always unplug the backup device after the backup is complete!

     
  • Don’t enable macros in document attachments received via email. Microsoft deliberately turned off auto-execution of macros by default many years ago as a security measure. A lot of malware infections rely on persuading you to turn macros back on, so don’t do it!

    Naturally they don't tell you that the click they ask you to do will turn macros back on. They rather trick you into believing that clicking is the thing to do to be able to read what they sent you...

     
  • Be cautious about unsolicited attachments. The crooks are relying on the dilemma that you shouldn’t open a document until you are sure it’s the one you want, but you can’t tell if it’s the one you want until you open it. If in doubt, leave it out.

    Currently I do not open ANY attachments; I call the sender and have them explain what and why they sent the attachment and even if all that checks out I additionally check the attachment on
    Virus Total
     
  • Don’t give yourself more login power than you need. Most importantly, don’t stay logged in as an administrator any longer than is strictly necessary, and avoid browsing, opening documents or other “regular work” activities while you have administrator rights.

    Quite a lofty ideal as I am currently experiencing first hand.

     
  • Consider installing the Microsoft Office viewers. These viewer applications let you see what documents look like without opening them in Word or Excel itself. In particular, the viewer software doesn’t support macros at all, so you can’t enable macros by mistake!

    Now is a good suggestion, I will have to do that!

     
  • Patch early, patch often. Malware that doesn’t come in via document macros often relies on security bugs in popular applications, including Office, your browser, Flash and more. The sooner you patch, the fewer open holes remain for the crooks to exploit.

    As I always preach: Update, update, update.
That is it; certainly to a large part common sense but here it is, nicely packaged and in one place.

Stay safe!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Ransomware - A Current Example


Please take a close look at this cut out grabbed diectly off my screen:

From the top the red frames are around:
  1. The virus infected scam email in the message list
  2. The totally unprofessionally empty subject line.
    [Bulk] is from my ISP telling me that this email was sent  from a server that is known to send out spam
    FW: tells me that the email was forwarded
  3. Addressing me with "ejheinze" shows that the sender does not even know my first name;
    ejheinze is the part of my email address before the @ character
  4. A totally unprofessional signature
  5. .zip is one of the potentially dangerous file types 
Do I really need to comment? Yes? Okay, here we go:
  1. Hm, no subject and I don't know a Jodie M and Comcast in her email address? I have no business at all with Comcast.
  2. Unprofessional and bordering on rude.
  3. Totally unprofessional and in a primitive way impolite.
  4. From Comcast I would at least expect some sort of company logo or an avatar.
  5. I wonder what might be in there...
    but with all the above I DO NOT CLICK on the attachment!
Instead I save the attached file and submit it to Virus Total (Wikipedia). And the "success" confirms my suspicion. 17 out of  58 anti virus programs flag the file as infected. See for yourself:
The rest was simple:
Delete the email which deletes the attachment as well.
Delete the file from the computer and
Empty Recycle Bin, just to be sure.

Remember: NEVER, EVER click on an email attachment unless you have verified it's legitimacy with the sender.

Stay safe.



Sunday, March 27, 2016

Spybot Anti Beacon - A Must Have?


If privacy of your data and files is to you as important as it is for me than the answer to the title question on Windows 7 and above is YES, clear and loud.

Let me explain: SpyBot Anti Beacon is a relatively new utility that can reliably turn off most of Windows 10's unwelcome behavior. Many others besides myself think of as being spied at. Whether Micro$oft calls this telemetry or whatever, I feel spied at.

If you want to know why I call Windows 10 a masterpiece of data collection and judge it's telemetry as for me unwanted spying please read this article originally written in October 2012 after Windows 8 was available. And I repeated the IMHO main reason in the context of Windows 10 quite recently.

If you want to try SB Anti Beacon (SBAB) please keep in mind this is professionally made but it is a FREE program; free as in free beer, that is you do not have to pay for it. This has consequences; not everything is as automatic as you might have come to expect from good programs. The main program window has four tabs for four different functions or info screens. I recommend to read the Frequently Asked Questions in tab #4 but will shortly describe what I do in tabs #1 and #2 (usage instructions).

In tab #1 I want ALL the entries to be green, that is all the spying turned off. So I just click the Immunize button at the bottom of the page.

In tab #2 I want as well all entries to be turned off but the page is differently organized. For every entry I have to click on the Apply button immediately above the entry. And especially on laptops and other (mainly smaller) wide screens I have to realize that in tab #2 the program windows has a scroll bar! I need to use it to uncover the last entry or entries on that tab's page.

Here are some visual examples from the only Windows 10 system I currently have available which happens to be a laptop:
Tab #1 BEFORE and AFTER "Immunize"
Tab #2 BEFORE and AFTER "Apply"
Please see that the scroll bar in the pictures of tab #2 is in a different positions.

Just an hour ago I made an interesting observation: After installing updates from Windows Update I checked the Win 7 system I write this on and there was one new telemetry entry in each of the tabs. That shows that Micro$oft at least for now will keep bringing telemetry from Windows 10 back to Windows 7 and 8!

That is why I say to you:  If you are willing to use SpyBot's Anti Beacon and to take on this additional check after EVERY update from Micro$oft (whether the updates were automatically applied or you checked and installed them manually) then you can rest fairly assured that Micro$oft will not collect data from your computer and about your computing habits.

As usual, stay safe.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

2016-03-24 WBKV Talking Points


Today nothing but viruses, malware and currently acute dangers.
  • Ransomware (so far mainly from infectious MS-Office documents)
    Record ransom paid; 17 million US$ 
     -  -
  • now infectious advertisements on BIG company web sites with 100s of millions of visitors every day:
    - -
    New York Times (nyt.com)
    AOL.com
    ESPN.com
    MSN.com (MicroSoft Network)
    NFL.com (yes, National Football League)
    TheWeatherNetwork.com
    TheHill.com
    Yahoo.com  and many more.
I feel like a prayer wheel:
   If you see advertisements in your web browser your computer is at risk!

Firefox web browser with Adblock Plus and WOT are the browser protections you should use!

No, not Goggle Chrome, Safari or Edge or Internet Explorer!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Norton Software IS RISKY!


For years I recommend to my customers and on my radio shows to stay away from so called "security products" from the big names like Norton, McAfee, Trend Micro and many others.

The makers of the Norton branded software is a company called Symantec.

Here is revealing and interesting article about Symantec and some of the major security problems in some of their software.

If you want to entrust the security of your computer to Norton software be my guest. I don't mind at all to clean up the mess.

Stay safe!

Credit cards ARE a risk factor...


.., especially if last year you used them at Target or Home Depot.

Home Depot so far shelled out $19.5 million and they are still counting.

More details are here.

Personally I always cringe when I see someone paying everyday smaller mounts with a credit card, be it at Starbucks, McDonald or anywhere else.

Disclaimer: I am hardly ever at McDonald and if at all I pay with cash!

Stay safe!

New Dangers And Bad News


You may already have heard of ransomware, the newest trick of the bad guys to get at your money.

If you have not here is a VERY SHORT explanation: A ransomware virus encrypts all your data files, that is in effect makes them unusable and unreadable. After the encryption is done you have to pay money to the crooks do get instructions and a "decryption key"; if the instructions and the decryption key work correctly as they should you get your data back but sometimes it does not work. Your data is held for ransom, hence the name.

So far the highest amount reportedly paid by a large California based medical organization was 17 million dollars.

Very recently the web sites of a whole lot of well known and big organizations got abused to show advertisements infected with ransomware. Some of the affected web sites were:
  • msn.com
  • nytimes.com
  • aol.com
  • nfl.com
  • theweathernetwork.com
  • thehill.com
  • zerohedge.com 
and many more. These sites have millions of daily visitors! If you are interested you can read more details here.

I can not say it often and loud enough:
If you see advertisements on the Internet your web browser and thus your computer are NOT SAFE at all! Fire your current technician and call me or send me an email!
When I leave a customer's house they ALL have a safely set up web browser that should not show ANY of these commercially distributed advertisements.

Stay safe.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Skype Users Be Warned



If you use Skype PLEASE read through this article about two conversations triggered by Skype friend requests. I will let that speak for itself.

For the less geeky of my readers, a spam bot is program or robot programmed to "have a conversation".

You are warned.

Stay safe.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

2016-03-10 WBKV Talking Points


Part 2: Stay Safe on the Internet

Be aware that trustworthy companies, especially Microsoft and it’s affiliates, will never contact you because of a supposed technical problem of any kind.
The following will definitely be scams:
  • Phone calls
  • Advertisements for technical support for any software product on search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing
  • Pop-ups for tech support from social web sites (Facebook! or LinkedIn)
  • Pop-ups for tech support that promote phone based tech; these usually require a previous malware infection or an unsafe web browser.
Scam avoidance 101:
  1. Never completely trust someone you don’t know who called you.
    Listen to them, if you like.
  2. Ask questions, if you feel like it, but NEVER EVER give them access to your PC
  3. NEVER EVER give them any payment information.
  4. Tell them that you will let your local tech look into it (even if you don’t have one).
  5. If the caller hangs up – good for you.
  6. If he/she gets impolite or abusive it’s your time to hang up!
Afraid of a real problem? Do the research yourself or contact a trusted tech support person.

Chances are there’s nothing to see at all.

If you have handed over payment information, you’ve just given that information to a complete stranger. Immediately put your credit card or payment provider on fraud alert. If you allowed the scammer to access your computer things can get ugly. Do NOT use the computer; you usually have no idea what they did. You need a trusted technician to check out your machine.
This IS a common scam right now and the best defense is to not fall for it in the first place.

Another currently growing threat: MS-Word, Excel or Powerpoint files sent as attachments! When these files are opened you mostly see the request “... to turn protection on ...” or similar tricks. Don’t do it, don't believe it, it's a trick!  Many very nasty ransomware viruses use this trick! If you do not have a current backup YOU PAY! You either pay the crooks to get your files back and/or a trusted technician to re-build all the software on your computer.  And if you don't have install disks for Windows  - b.t.w. they do NOT come with computers any longer - you have even more problems.

Stay safe.

Wrong, Every Step She Took Wrong


Original text of email I got from a long ago customer:
Recently our Microsoft Essentials "little house"  has been erratic in its stability.  We have done full scans and quick scans with it staying green for a short period of time changing to orange and then eventually to red.

I googled this question and received an answer that Microsoft is not updating this since last year - so the definitions are not really up to date.  Is this true?
It was suggested that I get AVG Anti Virus which is Free.  I did do this and it  appears to be doing the job with the green circles, etc. 

On that same page there is a area where I can check to "fix performance".  It is a PC Analyzer - After doing this, the report was: many errors in various areas and they said it could be fixed for fee/one time and/or I could get a program for 1 year.  I would not need one for one year but I would like take advantage of the free analyzing of this performance.  Do you think I should do this and is AVG a good solution if indeed Microsoft has stopped updating?

... [I] realize we will have to update to windows 10 when they force us to do so.  If we do not do this will they charge us?
 And here is the original text of my reply, please judge for yourself:
Thanks for asking. If you remember I do not express myself politically correct so please brace yourself for some rough truths:
  • The "little house" you refer to represents Microsoft Security Essentials which was your anti virus program until you installed AVG.
  • ANY anomaly with your anti virus should have rang a LOUD alarm bell.
  • If it has not updated since last year your computer potentially was not protected against common viruses.
  • AVG is a program that I urge my customers to stay away from!
  • It installs really crappy programs, that is how AVG (the company) makes money nowadays.
  • PC Analyzer IMHO is known malware.
  • I bet you that almost ALL the errors that you get shown are false messages meant to scare you into installing even more useless programs.
  • Keep going with these silly suggestions and soon your computer will likely not be usable any longer.
  • No, DO NOT take "advantage" of the "free" solution that you mention, it will make it only worse.
I believe I still could fix the situation and hopefully repair your computer. I guarantee that the free solution will not work to your satisfaction. 
The question about "they" ( I assume you mean Microsoft?) charging you only Microsoft can answer and they, MS, has been asked the same thing thousands of times; so far MS has only replied with marketing blah-blah; we just do not know. My personal suspicion is yes, no later than January 2020 when in MS's view Windows 7 comes to the end of it's supported lifetime.
In case my replies offended you I apologize, that was and is not my intention at all.
For my readers here: No further comment from my side; please come to your own conclusion and PLEASE, don't make similar or the same mistakes.

Stay safe.
 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

2016-02-25 WBKV Talking Points

Stay Safe on the Internet
  1. Always install Operating System updates
     
  2. Keep your installed applications up-to-date
     
  3. Do not use the same password at every site
     
  4. Install and be sure to update your anti-virus software

  5. Additionally install a free anti-malware scanner and use it(!) regularly
     
  6. Use a firewall (the FW built-in to Windows is good enough!)
     
  7. Backup your data!
     
  8. Enable the display of file extensions
     
  9. Do not open attachments from people you do not know (especially Word files, Locky ransomware travels in Word files! Use MS's Word and Powerpoint viewers to check files)
     
  10. Delete emails that say you won a contest or a stranger asking for assistance with their inheritance or money transfer
     
  11. Watch out for online and phone support scams
     
  12. Ignore and close web pop ups saying your computer is infected or has a problem (use ALT+F4)
     
  13. Ignore and close web pop ups that pretend to be a Windows alert (use ALT+F4)
     
  14. Some types of web sites are more dangerous than others
     
  15. Be extra vigilant when using Peer-To-Peer Software (torrents!)
     
  16. When installing software, watch for "bundled" tool bars and programs you don't want
     
  17. Read the End User License Agreement (EULA) Lol, I know!  

     

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Windows 10 and why I change my recommendation


On 1/17/2014 I wrote on this blog a rant titled: Microsoft Accounts and Windows 8 – A Rant

For Windows 10 this article is just as valid today. I want to quote the main point (emphasis added):
Apple has made an incredible fortune "having access" to all this information about their customers and as I see it Microsoft wants to bake themselves a similar pie, not only get a slice [of this pie of advertisement money]. Once I realized this my reaction was "Big Brother. . . ".
IMHO Windows 10 is a masterpiece of a copy of that pie, even with some improvements; it's main objective is to gather information about and from the user; why else would Microsoft assign a unique "advertising ID" to  every email address that unsuspecting users give them?

As often in this life where there is light there is shadow and vice versa. And besides the "shadow" that I call outright spying there is light:

Technically Windows 10 is a really good operating system.

The main complaints can by now be alleviated with third party programs.
  • The data reporting can reliably be turned off (no more spying!) while the helpful reporting about the inner workings of the system (or failures to do so) remains active.
     
  • The main menu can look and feel just like your old version of Windows; it can look and
    work just like you were used to from Windows Vista or Windows 7.  
If you want to upgrade to Windows 10, go ahead!
 
But be warned: When you upgrade to Windows 10 IMHO you have to install and correctly configure the program that turns Windows 10's reporting features OFF! And do NOT give Microsoft your email address, it will be treated as a Microsoft account!

Again, if privacy is of any concern to you then DO NOT give Microsoft your email address! That includes that you should NOT use Skype! We have a free alternatives to Skype that does not require to give your email address to Microsoft.

Remember what I wrote in Windows 10 Settings - What I Recommend (August 8th. 2015):
If you gave the system on first start your email address Microsoft has created on their servers the storage for an immense wealth of information about you that Win10 and it's programs will collect from and about you; and that besides the fact that every email address will have it's unique "advertisement ID" assigned. Guess what that will be used for!

Should you feel asked a bit too much with all this please contact me by email, I can help. An email address to contact me is in non-computer readable format at the end of the Welcome paragraph in the left side bar of my blog.

And if you upgraded and don't like what you see you have four weeks to 30 days (conflicting info from MS!) to revert back to what you had before.

Stay safe.