Monday, May 26, 2008

Top 11 Security Threats

11 Spam Mail
While it's annoying, it's not a security threat unless it comes with a malicious payload. Your e-mail service may filter out spam automatically. If not, Thunderbird's built-in Junk filter is as effective as the spam protection in many suites.
The best spam filter in my opinion is always the user him/herself. No program "knows" what the user knows.

10 Phishing Mail
Phishing messages pretend to be from eBay, PayPal, your bank, or the like. If you log in to their fake sites, they steal your username and password and you're sunk. However, Firefox 2 has phishing detection built in.

9 Wireless Attack
If you're not careful, anybody in range can mooch bandwidth from your wireless network and rummage through your files because they are inside your network. Your router's WPA/WEP encryption can stop the mooching—but you have to use it.

8 Hacker Attack
Hackers don't care about your puny computer enough to attack it directly. They might broadcast a network virus or release a Trojan, but a personal attack is highly unlikely. Your security suite's firewall and malware protection should keep you safe.

7 Web Exploits
Some Web sites include malicious code to exploit vulnerabilities in your browser or operating system. Just visiting the site can infect or damage your system if the vulnerability hasn't been patched; keep Automatic Updates on and check manually on a regular schedule.

6 Adware
Simple adware pops up ads that get in your face. More sinister adware shadows your online activity, phones home, and tailors ads for you. Up-to-date anti-adware and anti-spyware programs are the solution.

5 Viruses
Viruses are insidious. They hide and use your computer to infect other computers. At some predefined point they strike. Modern antivirus programs are quite good, but add a non-signature anti-malware program to help with brand-new threats.

4 Spyware/Trojans
Spyware spies on everything you do and it steals private information. Trojan horse programs pretend to be useful but can turn your computer into a spam-spewing zombie. Anti-spyware plus non-signature anti-malware should keep out these threats.

3 Identity Theft
Is not just about your computer when they use your credit cards, divert your paycheck, and change your vehicle registration. A full-powered security suite should block all computer-related avenues for identity theft.

2 Social Engineering
The number one threat to your computer's security is you! Use common sense. Don't take programs from strangers, don't go to "iffy" Web sites, and if your security software pops up a warning, READ IT and HEED IT.

1 Scare ware
A quite ingenious mix of social engineering, virus behavior and behavior of Trojan horse programs. Most of these tell you that your computer is infected with xx number of viruses and claim they can remove the viruses after you pay x amount of $$.

Your computer does not have these viruses.
These programs remove nothing but eventually the scare and nag screen.
Some of them are VERY resistant and hard to remove.
Some are used to download the really bad stuff.

User beware!

Feel free to post any comment you may have.

Thank you in advance.

New-PC Gunk: Extras You Don't Want

New-PC Gunk Extras You Don't Want” is the titele of an interesting article PC World senior editor Yardena Arar wrote; it was published July 24, 2006. You can still read it here.

That article is about the plethora of software that comes pre-installed on most new brand name computers and about ways to get rid of it.

Among others the article contains instructions on how to rid a computer of pre-installed software by editing the Windows Registry. I strongly advise normal home users NOT to edit the registry, it is way too risky.

The article further mentions a utility program named De-Crapifier. This program still is available here and officially free for home and personal use.

What neither this program nor any other program does is giving you the information, background and knowledge to make an educated decision about why to remove what.

As the article clearly states “... you may still have some cleanup to do.” Trust me, there is more to be done, sometimes much more.

So why not right away delegate this important job to someone with the necessary experience and know-how?

Feel free to post any comment you may have.

Thank you in advance.

Why I am Opposed to Multifunction Ink-Jet Printers

My reasons are:

1. Ink cartridges are MUCH too expensive. You easily end up with cost per printed page of 5 to 11 cents for black & white and 13 to 23 cents per page in color.

2. Printing photos at Wal-Mart, Walgreen's or Sam's Club is MUCH cheaper - and the quality is much better to boot. All you need is a thumb drive for $10 and up.

3. Ink jet printed photos last for only two to five years then they fade away!

4. Most people don’t need to print color once they realize above points 1 through 3.

5. In new computers you should have "Media Slots" directly in the computer for most commonly found formats of camera storage cards. You really don't need additional ones in a printer! If your computer doesn’t have media slots: An external multi-format USB reader costs under $20.

6. I have yet to see any usefulness in what Hewlett Packard calls PictBridge. This is software to print photos from your camera directly to the printer. Other manufacturers may use different names. In my experience I always want to transfer pictures to the computer FIRST, then review them on the computer and eventually edit and/or print them.

7. I know from many customers’ computers that all printer manufacturers install way too much software. Much of it is supposed to be permanently resident, thus impacting performance whether you use it or not. All this software stuff is definitely NOT needed! By the way: The worst of the bunch seems to be Lexmark which is the company that is behind Dell printers)!

8. Most so called “photo printers” come with some sort of “free” photo editing software. These tend to be older versions of programs that mostly are far from “best of breed”.

9. Independent of software coming with a printer I see three options for photo editing software:

1. If you want a decent photo editing software buy Microsoft Picture It!, Microsoft's photo editing program.

2. Or, if you want to go semi-pro buy Adobe Photoshop Elements for around $40. Caution: This one has a steep learning curve compared to Picture It! but it’s worth it!

3. Picasa from Google is a free album and image editing program. Some stuff to learn but relatively easy to use

4. If you want quality download "The Gimp" from here. The Gimp is a free Open Source program of professional quality - with an according learning curve.

10. Multifunction units tend to be somewhat like Swiss Army knives. Yes, they do what they are supposed to do, but generally any one of their functions will be done better by a dedicated unit. Let’s look at their functions:

1. Color photo printing see numbers 1 through 3 above.

2. Ink jet printing in general: Way too expensive per sheet!
Quality not as good as with a laser printer.

3. “Media Slots” or similar: See number 5 above.

4. Copier: A free little utility named Photo Copier can do that if you have a scanner.

5. Scanner: Dedicated scanners mostly offer better scan quality and that often for less money.

6. Faxing: Sending and receiving faxes is standard functionality in Windows XP; you really don’t want/need anything else.

11. EXCELLENT fast black & white laser printers can be bought from around $90 up. Their printing cost is around 1 to 3 cents per page! Compare that to no. 1 above.

12. A dedicated scanner can be bought from $30 up; really decent ones $60 and up.

13. If you own a multifunction unit and one part fails you have to throw away the whole thing. If you have dedicated equipment only what failed needs to be replaced!

Special tools for special jobs!

Need more arguments? I could find some more, preferably if you treat me to a Frappuccino or Cappuccino at a local Starbucks.
Thanks a Latte ;-)

Switching to avast! anti virus

Instructions on how to switch from any anti virus to Avast!:

1. Go to this web page and click on the text "Download Latest Version" to download Avast!. Write down the location where this download will get stored! In Firefox you see this in the bottom frame of the small download window. If there is no location listed the download will likely end up on your desktop. It looks like this (I am not much of a painter…):

2. Go to Start, Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs. Find your current anti virus program in the list and click on Remove. If asked confirm removal of files in the virus vault (or quarantine), log files and so on.

3. Restart your computer! Ignore the security center warning that you have no virus protection; that is permissible since now you don’t do any other things.

4. Find program setupeng.exe, the one downloaded in #1. If you forgot the location of the download (or did not write it down) go back to step #1.

5. Double click setupeng.exe; this starts the installation of avast! Accept all defaults and allow the system restart at the end of the installation.

6. You should see this window; please read what it tells you (not here, when it is on the screen!).

7. Click on the marked link “avast! Home Registration page”. Do not yet click on OK.

8. Your web browser will show a page where you will find “I'm a new user and I need a registration key for avast! Home Edition”; click on this text.

9. Read the information on this page! Fill in the easy registration form and please use your correct email address! Click on the button Register.

10. Now you can click OK in the window from #6. Avast! will start.

11. Check your email for your avast! registration key. Highlight the registration key completely and copy it (Ctrl-C).

12. Double click the new avast! Antivirus icon on your desktop; you should see this: 13. Enter your avast! license code (Paste, Ctrl-V) into the highlighted field and click OK.

You can close the avast! user interface.

You can read FAQs about avast! on this web
page. Alwil has also a web forum for user support where you can learn a lot; it is well worth to register there.

As of May 2008 I am as new to this program as you are. If you ask me about it please ask with comprehensive and precise information in your email, preferably including screenshots.

If you don’t know how to make screenshots try MWSnap from here.

Feel free to post any comment you may have.

Thank you in advance.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Top Ways To Get Infected

Humor, maybe?

Humor .... but the best humor is usually also true .... unfortunately.

Assuming you really do have an updated Anti-Virus program and your OS and browser are up to date with critical security updates, here is what I encounter most often. A Baker's dozen or more of the top ten ways I see customer's computers getting infected.

  • Look for cracks, subdivided in illegal software and ..... well .... the other kind.
  • Browse the web for free porn or "nude pix of celebrity-x"!
  • Look for software that adds smilies to your posts, mail etc.
  • Look for cool or cute screen savers, song lyrics, etc.
  • Look for spy-ware or virus removers, concentrate on the kind that makes you pay before it removes anything.
  • Install a P2P program (yes, Limewire is a P2P program!) and repeat all of the above.
  • Look for poker games, slot machines and other gambling outfits, especially those with a sign-on bonus or the like.
  • Look for free ring tones and other stuff to spiffy up your cell phone.
  • Do NOT pay for anything, the Internet is a place where you can steal anything from everyone without even saying as much as thank you.
  • Click on those unexpected links and attachments in emails because you're the curious type...
  • Do loan your laptop to the next door teenager (or babysitter, etc.) for the weekend. Give him your Administrator account login so he can get his special project done with no hassles
  • Let your school age kid or his best friend use your computer, signed in with your regular (administrative) account, for “just 5 minutes to look up something for school'. Encourage them to click on the banner ads to see what they won!
  • Exchanging files in chat rooms and clicking on links in Instant Messages
  • Don't forget to open the greeting card that doesn't address you by name, and is from somebody you don't know and links to sweethartgreeting.gif.exe
  • Set up a wireless network and leave it unsecured.
  • Just do it when some irresponsible (or lazy?) support tech advises you to disable your firewall as the router "will keep the bad guys out", especially if you don't have a router installed.
  • Use the FREE virus scan from those folks who just did that 4am cable TV advertisement ... "is your computer running slow? Not yet? Well then! Pass our spam!"
  • Downloads from websites that promise something like: "Everything on our site is FREE and quite SAFE. We check manually every single gallery link before we add them. We are totally against pop ups, trojans, viruses, spy-ware, toolbars, automatic dialers and so on. Please visit our Help Page to learn more about these problems and how to get rid of them".
  • Let that outside guy with the (infected?) laptop use your network. You know that a router and or firewall are plenty of security because they protect you from the nasty old Internet and mal-ware never distributes from within a local network.
  • Allow anyone and their friend to use your perfectly secured PC. They will only disable your firewall and your anti-virus and they will find IE instead of the default Mozilla browser so they can look at or download their c**p.
  • Be sure to answer the unsolicited security warning from Paypal or your credit card company and update your account information right away.
  • Save big on OEM software; order Photoshop CE for only $70.
  • Goto that site that your friend told you about, disregard all the pop-ups that your anti-virus is throwing at you and simply just disable or un-install it so you can enjoy the ride, then call me a week later after your computer is slow as molasses, and see about getting a refund for that "pop up stopper" you were forced to pay $30 for that doesn't seem to be working.
  • Downloading and installing anything that is supposed to "speed" up your computer. Let it be a FREE INTERNET ACCELERATOR or SPEED UP WINDOWS.
  • "Error detected! Download xxxx ap to fix your computer" or "Critical errors found; download xxx to fix it."
  • "Your computer is infected with 'vb script that opens cd tray'. If your CD tray has just opened your computer is vulnerable to attack. Download XXXmalware to secure your computer today."

Just in case you have your doubts about above recommendations, trust me, they are proven methods to get me more business. Okay, in clear text, it's all "tongue-in-cheek".

Feel free to post any comment you may have.

Thank you in advance.

Firewalls and Free Security Software

“Unprotected PCs Fall To Hacker Bots In Just Four Minutes” was the title of a blog entry by Gregg Keizer on the techweb network on Nov. 30,2004. You can still find it here. The same article appeared one day later on the Australian web site PC Authority and after that on many other blogs and web sites.

In my opinion a few technical facts are noteworthy:

1. All computers without any firewall where nothing but sitting ducks.

2. Even the 'minimal' firewall in Windows XP Service Pack 2 does a good job at a firewalls primary job, that is to protect a computer from incoming attacks.

3. When the front line defenses against malicious software getting into your computer are working as intended you'll likely never need what third-party firewall companies tout as their products added advantage, so called “outgoing protection”.

By now (2008) the frequency of these attacks has certainly increased. But in my experience it takes only a few things to be safe without having to hassle with third party firewall programs:

1. Keep MS Windows up-to-date. The Windows function Automatic Updates just does NOT do it dependably, it is always advisable to regularly check manually via Microsoft Update.

2. Keep your anti virus program and it's definition files up-to-date.

3. Have good adware and spyware removal programs on your computer, update and run them regularly.

The best protective measures will not help when the human using the computer becomes the weakest link.

Be VERY prudent when you surf the Internet. McAfee Siteadvisor is an excellent tool to warn you even before you end up on a malicious web site or with an infected screen saver download.

Be even more prudent and careful before you open any email attachment, unexpected email greeting cards or the like.

And be most prudent when whoever on the Internet promises free software, especially so called free security software. We all like something for free, I know.

I look at it this way: All the free software offers on the Internet are like a big gravel pit full of rocks. Each rock represents one of these free programs. If you look closely at these rocks you will realize they are bone hard dried chunks of manure. In other words, the whole gravel pit is full of s**t. Hidden in his pile of s**t are are a few gems, true nuggets, really valuable pearls. But you have to know where to find these really useful free programs.

My customers have some of these pearls on their computers.

Feel free to post any comment you may have.

Thank you in advance.

Free Tools come with a Big Cost

From the newsletter 9/20/2006
By …. a network administrator for a non-profit organization.

There are a multitude of free programs available on the Internet, ranging from toolbars to full fledged and quite useful applications. Some of these applications are just fine and are given away free of charge for many altruistic and promotional reasons. You usually have to look kind of hard to get the best freebies.

I am referring instead to the ones that jump out at you regularly in the form of pop-ups, spam advertisements and banner ads. These 'freebies' come at a hidden cost that is not realized right away, sometimes not until it is too late.

Some of these applications offer to 'help' you out by giving you access to weather alerts, stock tips and other seemingly useful information. They often help themselves instead to your personal data and habits. There are valid and safe applications that will provide these services, many of them free as well.

The best way to check is to go to an Internet search site, such as Google, and type in the name of the application you are thinking about getting and the word spyware, for example "weatherbug spyware". Preceding link assumes you are using Firefox.

One of the more prevalent types of 'helpers' are toolbars. I don't mean toolbars that are a critical part of most programs; I am referring to the multitude of 'free' toolbars that are offered by many sites and pop-ups. There are a lot of toolbars out there claiming to help you search for all your favorite things. Some even claim to help protect you from bad things on the Internet.

Even the seemingly innocuous toolbars offered by some of the bigger websites (e.g., MSN, Yahoo, and Google) will interfere with functions that do not originate from the issuer's site. As for claiming to block pop-ups, if you are using a recent and updated version of one of the popular Internet browsers this function is redundant.

The other 99.9 per cent of toolbars generally deliver something not advertised. Usually that something is spyware and/or viruses. While some spyware is fairly harmless, some are quite dangerous to your data safety. They can range from recording what sites you visit to recording your every keystroke, including passwords, and opening up your computer to malicious attacks by viruses or hackers.

The most common indication that you may be infected with spyware is an increase in the number of pop-up ads that come up when connected to the Internet and a general slowdown of your computer.

Some common spyware-laden applications to watch out for are WeatherBug, CoolWebSearch, Gator, Bonzai Buddy, KaZaa, Limewire and other Peer2Peer applications, and most toolbar applications. No links here!

Be aware that some applications that purport to rid your computer of spyware are in fact spyware themselves. The two best anti-spyware applications out there are Ad-Aware and Spybot Search & Destroy. I prefer the latter myself, mainly because there are spoofed copies of Ad-Aware out there that are actually malicious applications. A good place to download these is, a long time reputable site run by CNet.

Still, be on the lookout anywhere you download programs, because even a reputable site can have stuff from less than honorable sources.

Feel free to post any comment you may have.

Thank you in advance.

Buying at

I direct quite a few of my customers who need to buy a new computer to This company not only most of the time has a good selection of new and manufacturer refurbished computers with rock-bottom pricing, they also have very competitive prices for hardware like displays and printers.
Because Tigerdirect sells computer hardware at rock-bottom prices they need to make a buck someplace else. My personal experience shows that one practically never gets a mail-in-rebate from Tigerdirect. Manufacturer rebates are another story though.
Tigerdirect sometimes adds so-called "free" stuff to Internet orders and on the phone they try hard to sell additional stuff. Beware!
Here a few basic rules:
1. If your computer is clean of viruses you can order on the Internet; otherwise order by phone (800-800-8300 24/7).
2. NEVER order anything with a Tigerdirect mail-in-rebate unless you are okay with the full price.
3. On the phone do NOT get involved in polite conversations; they all too often get used to put additional stuff on the order.
4. Order by item number and let the sales rep read back to you what actual thing the number resolves to on her/his screen. Compare that against your information and resolve discrepancies immediately.
5. Make it abundantly clear that you don't want ANY extras or add-ons, just what you ordered, nothing else or additional, not even so called "free" stuff. Let the sales rep confirm or repeat that she/he understood that.
6. If you order on the Internet check your shopping cart. Remove any additional items that may show up in the shopping cart.
Please understand that I do not sell hardware (computers or accessories) or software. I do not get ANY kickbacks or other “favors” of any kind, no matter what and where you buy. My interest is in you getting a good deal on a reasonable computer and me getting the (required) initial cleanup, update and setup jobs.
For all potential warranty issues you have to deal with the respective manufacturer. Keep your documents in a safe place but accessible AND KEEP ALL of the original packaging materials at least for one year!
Feel free to post any comment you may have.

Thank you in advance.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Know where your download goes

If you download a file you should see a win
dow similar to this:

The marked areas show you the name of the file to be downloaded and what is to be done with the file.

If Save Disk is selected you will get a window like this:

You can navigate to where you want the file to be stored. (Your window will have different content though!).

It is totally IN YOUR HANDS where the file gets stored; write the location down!

If you download with Firefox in standard configuration you will see this window:

Again, you can clearly see what file name is being downloaded and where the download will be stored; write this location down!

If you download a program it is almost always a program to install (or setup) the program you actually want to use. After you have run this installer successfully AND when the new program works you should delete the installer program, especially if it was on your desktop..

Feel free to post any comment you may have.

Thank you in advance.