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Rev. Scott Yates, 615-653-3000
Computer Things You Should Know
Disclaimer: The advice contained herein may or may not help you. The writer, Scott Yates, bears no responsibility for anything that happens with or without his advice. The Computer and Network World is a dangerous place, populated with some real jerks, always suspect that software might be malicious, or not perform as advertised. Be careful, be informed, BEWARE.
Several items of interest....
1. If you don't use Google Searches, but instead use BING or DuckDuckGo (there are others as well), you will not have your browsing and online purchasing history tracked. When you've looked for Airplane Tickets, and suddenly luggage ads popup, you've been tracked.
I use DuckDuckGo, and find everything I need. Bing is Microsoft, but does not track.
2. Security - There are several browsers that don't keep a browsing history, like Firefox Focus. If you make purchases or banking on a work computer, be sure you delete your history. BEWARE of handy little browser add-ons (Extensions)...they frequently log your keystrokes and history, and slow down your machine.
By The Way,. I cringe every time I see the commercials about Voice Assistants in the home. It is not all automated, and one large vendor of these devices has literally thousands of people listening in, in each region...USE AT YOUR OWN RISK.
3. Testing....if you're curious about software, try installing it on a Virtual Machine. If something messes us, you just don't save the machine state, and it all goes back to the starting point. A Good One is Oracle Virtualbox, which I use extensively, with XP, Win 7, 8, and 10, and various flavors of Linux.
4. Don't use the same passwords on all the sites and programs you use. There are good password managers, I use LASTPASS, the Free Version, which is GREAT! Lastpass allows the generation of complex passwords which are virtually uncrackable. There are others, like Dashlane. My personal password list was exceeding 7 printed pages, and a good password manager makes life easier.
5. Encrypt your valuable data. If you keep banking, financials, Personal Protected Information (PPI) that is unique to you, etc., Please encrypt it. Bit-Locker is now a part of Windows 10 Pro. I personally Compress the Data using a file compressor, called 7ZIP, and password the compressed file. In that way, I never keep the uncompressed, unencrypted file on a PC. It is an old favorite saying, but truly, the only safe PC is one that is off and disconnected.
6. Windows 10 Upgrade. If you are running Windows 7, your support from Microsoft ended Jan. 15th, 2020. With a legal copy, you can still get an online upgrade from 7, 8, or 8.1. It takes a long time, and will install the WINDOWS 10 UPGRADE ASSISTANT. Have a good fast connection, it'll take a while, and can be rolled back if needed.
7. Using a VPN. The downside to VPNs is that all your traffic passes through a remote VPN Host, and may slow your connection. If you cannot hotspot your phone when traveling, a VPN is crucial to using open WiFi Safely.
Lastly, I have many tips on PC to Android interoperability if needed.
I hope these help. If you have questions or concerns, as time allows, I will answer them.
Friends of Columbia Presbytery,
We hear about computer fraud every day.
About 3 or 4 times a month I get an email from someone who represents themselves as ATT.NET, saying they’re about to close my account.
I also get them from the IRS, State and Federal Agencies…
PLEASE DISREGARD THESE. If they want to know your passwords, country, email acct., or other things, they are a FAKE! The companies involved already know all this….they don’t need to ask your email, etc., and all the other details.
No matter how good your Phishing, Spam, and other filters are, you will receive these emails…If you notice, the return addresses are never the actual company they say they are…the English syntax is normally terrible.
The REAL companies will normally respond to you via an actual postal mail notice…
Please be ever-skeptical when you see these. The best thing to do is to delete it immediately…in that way, it cannot plant a worm or a trojan on your system.
I’d recommend a program called Malwarebytes. It is at www.malwarebytes.org.
I’d also recommend Open DNS, at http://www.opendns.com/home-solutions/
Please be cautious. Never trust a handy-dandy Toolbar you can install in Internet Explorer. Use Firefox.
I hate to put it this way….but if you get warning emails, they’re probably lying.
Tips for your Home Computer Security – Installment # 2 – March 2012
I fear that Social Networking will be the greatest source of Identity Theft ever known. If you put info about yourself on Social Networking that is sufficiently detailed, it is possible to glean sufficient data to reconstruct your passwords and other data you don’t want known publically.
If you use Social Networking, and you publish the names of your children, list their birthdays, etc…Do you have any idea how many people use their kid’s names, birthdates, etc., as their passwords? Your passwords do not have to be extremely obscure, but your birthday is not a wise choice. Make it something you can remember, like a favorite dog’s name, backwards. A Dictionary attack will not normally get words spelled backwards. The attack that gets you may be something relatively harmless, like spamming your address book. On the other hand, it might involve full-fledged identity theft.
The World Wide Web
Is there info about you, your family, your job, etc., on the Web? There are software devices called “web-crawlers” and “web-scrapers” that will visit every single web site on the planet, and literally scrape every bit of data off every site they crawl, and send that data to search engines, like Goggle and Yahoo. Do you want to have an eye-opening experience? Try googling your name, or better yet, put in your phone number with area code. Look around, you’ll find reverse phone lookups, white pages, with your age, education, address….more than most of us want known across the world.
Phishing is a computer term for “casting the bait”. You’ve all heard about the Nigerian Scams asking you to help some former-government-officer’s poor Christian widow get money out of the country to feed orphans.
These have become more sophisticated over time. They’re tricky, and remember, nothing is free.
Toolbars are one of the most common security holes. They want to help, they say they’ll make your life easier, but in many cases they’re tracking the websites you visit, or suggesting their products. Some of them can actually be sending a constant stream of data, your preferences, your machine configurations, etc. back to their servers.
Best Practices. It is preferable to establish the best ways to do things in Wireless…
1. The SSID (the Wireless Network Name)
Make it something besides your name or address. Don’t tell them your name and address . Jones Family as an SSID on your street with the Jones name on
your mailbox is begging for trouble.
2. Radio Channel.
Most WiFi Routers default to channel 6 on the 2.4 GHz 802.11 b or g band. Only 3 channels can be used without causing co-channel interference, 1, 6, or 11. Therefore use 1 or 11. If your router and laptops/handhelds support it, use 802.11a, which is 5 GHz. You will not have neighbors who interfere with you, and if you do, you can move, because there are 14 channels to use, not just 3.
If you still suspect nearby interference, download InSSIDer. I endorse it whole-heartedly.
3. WiFi Security.
Always use the very highest you can support. When your wireless radio goes online, you are vulnerable. There is nothing that is unbreakable, security-wise… For home use, WPA2 is the best. NEVER Leave your wireless network open. You can always Hide the SSID (the Wireless Network Name).
Wireless is wonderful, it is convenient, it gives you tremendous flexibility, and properly configured, highly secure.
The only Safe and Secure Computer is one that is OFF
Installment 4 - Fixing Stuff
Disclaimer: Anything recommended herein is your responsibility. I am unable to support you. If you need help, find a quality service shop.
In the 80's and 90's, Harddisks lasted a year or 2, if you were lucky. In the second decade of the 21st century, harddisks last years. The MBTF (Mean Time Between Failures) is measured in many hundreds of thousands of hours for modern harddisks.
But in the “Old Days” storage required spinning disk platters and moving read-write heads…
I just saw a sale paper with a 16 Gigabyte “Thumb-Drive” for $10!!!! And Small external harddisks are reasonable, 500 GB for $89. You can also use Mozy or Carbonite if you have a fast enough internet connection.
Here are some tips…
1. Make your computer more resilient. Go into CONTROL-PANEL --> SYSTEM --> SYSTEM RESTORE
Be sure this is on. Once done, if your system messes up, System Restore allows you to turn back the clock and restore your computer to some previous date when things worked properly. THIS IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR MAKING GOOD BACKUPS.
2. If you use the default file locations built into Windows XP or Windows 7 / Vista, most of your files are saved in the My Documents folder. If you’ve saved a huge amount of pictures or music in there, move the pictures and music out and back them up separately. Then backup the My Documents completely. All your documents, etc., will be there, unless you’ve saved them on the desktop or some place else, etc.
3. Use a good quality Antivirus. AVG FREE ANTIVIRUS doesn’t cost a thing, and it is a great tool. Your computer may have come with one. Regardless, the virus definitions need to be updated frequently.
4. Use a good quality Firewall. The Firewall in XP is poor…the one in Vista and Windows 7 is much better. If you have a broadband or other router between you and the internet, be sure it’s firewall functions are on. Use good passwords, encrypt everything, and when you’re gone from home, unless you need remote access, TURN THE COMPUTER OFF. I personally run a software firewall (ZoneAlarm) and a hardware firewall, a Cisco PIX Commercial grade appliance.
5. Scan your system for Spyware, Trojans, and Root Kits. Some of my recommendations are Spybots Search and Destroy, AdAware, ZoneAlarm, and many others.
6. Cleaning a compromised system. For a regular use tool, I strongly recommend MALWAREBYTES. The Free version is great. For a really compromised system, go to www.bleepingcomputer.com and download that day’s newest version of COMBOFIX. Follow the instructions, it works great, it’s free. And don’t call me.
Things to remember:
Free software is usually the same as the version you pay for, just minus a few features.
The only safe computer is a computer that is off
When software vendors want to give you a free toolbar to make your (Fill in the blank) easier, JUST SAY NO.
When you don’t need software, UNINSTALL it. If its a "helpful" toolbar, don't install it in the first place. They don't really want to help you, they want to spy on you and track your buying and/or browsing history.
More info coming later this summer.
Copyright Scott Yates, 2005-2020