Ten Steps to Having a Safer Online Profile

March 19th, 2013
  1. Create a secondary email account to use when you are not sure of how your information will be handled.
  2. Consider using only one credit card.
  3. Think about opening a PayPal account and tie it to a debit card with limited monies in the account, or a credit card with a small limit.
  4. Consider everything you post in social media, no matter what your settings, to be public information.
  5. Think before pressing the Enter key.
  6. Check your credit report at least annually, this can be done for free.
  7. Don’t fall victim to email solicitations.
  8. If you wouldn’t open a door to strangers, don’t click on the link in strange emails.
  9. Use Firefox or Chrome as your default browser.
  10. Keep your anti-virus software and operating system up-to-date.

Making sure you have access to the “ER”

March 6th, 2013

This month’s new technology is not so much about “new” technology, rather it’s about making sure everyone has this technology available to them.

The piece of technology being referred to is an emergency radio. Almost everyone has experienced some type of environmental issue which has caused either power, cable service, or both to fail. Knowing what is going on can help alleviate concerns and fears, and provide you with information on how to proceed.

There are many emergency radios on the market.  Below are some features which your emergency radio should have.

  • AM/FM radio
  • NOAA weather radio with alert ability
  • Multiple power source: AC, battery, solar, hand crank

Additional nice features include:

  • Built-in flashlight
  • USB ports to charge cell phones
  • Two-way radio

The radio should take standard batteries and keeping a few extra sets handy is always a good idea. Check the radio every 3 or 4 months to ensure proper operation and also look inside the battery compartment to make sure there is no battery corrosion.

How can I keep the pictures I take on my phone

February 27th, 2013

If what is meant by safe is away from prying eyes, the best method is to make sure the phone has a lock code or pin; adding encryption adds another layer of security.  On the other hand, if what is understood as security is making sure the pictures don’t get deleted or lost, there are two services which work very well.  These are ones offered from Amazon and Dropbox.

Amazon offers their Amazon Cloud Drive.  It is storage in cloud and provides 5 GB for free. Amazon has an app which gets installed on the smartphone and will automatically upload the pictures you take.  Amazon also has a desktop app which makes it easy to upload photos from your notebook or desktop.

Dropbox has a very similar app which automatically uploads pictures taken from your phone to the cloud.  Dropbox starts off with 2 GB of free storage and offers the ability to increase that by getting others to join Dropbox and they also offer paid subscriptions which have substantially more space.

Phishing, Spear-Phishing, and Whaling

February 20th, 2013

A tremendous amount of viruses and malware get spread through email. While the motive years ago was to cause mayhem, today the goal is to get your money. Below are some of the ways they accomplish their goals.

The first attack is called phishing.  This is a generic email which can apply to almost anyone.  For example it could be an email from Amazon stating the new notebook you ordered has been shipped, with a tracking number and link attached.  Many people who received similar messages click the link to get more information. Their problems start when the link is clicked as they are directed to a website which attempts to install malware on the computer.

The second attack is called spear-phishing. In this attack, certain types of people are being targeted. An example is a business owner receiving an email from the Better Business Bureau, indicating a complaint has been lodged against the business. Again in this scenario the business owner clicks on the link and the bad things start to happen.

The third attack is called whaling. This is a very targeted attack. The perpetrators here are going after people who have a lot of money, access to a lot of money, or are in a power position. There have been specific viruses written just for this type of attack targeted to taking over bank accounts.

One of the best ways to protect yourself from these attacks, is to not click on links in emails. If there is a link which you would like to click, simply copy the link and paste it into a browser. After pasting, and before hitting enter, look at the link. Does it actually point to the site you expect it to, or somewhere else. If you still have questions about it’s safety, go directly to the website of the company or organization and use their contact information to verify if they actually sent it and the information is real.

3D Printers

February 12th, 2013

What is 3D printing? You may think it is some future science fiction device, but actually it has been in the pipeline for a while. While it isn’t the Star Trek Replicator, it is a very promising device.

With a 3D printer, physical items can be created as the printer creates three dimensional solid objects. The printer applies one layer at a time, building up as it goes.

For a while 3D printers were in the $10,000 or more category. However new printers coming to the market are selling for under $3,000 with companies striving to continue to bring down the costs, enabling everyone to have them.

So what can be made with 3D printers? Artwork, parts, phone cases, furniture, gears, and games.

Are You Sure You’re Safe?

February 5th, 2013

Many people take little care in online security.  After all they live in a nice home in a safe neighborhood, what could possibly go wrong?  At least that is what they think.

This past year we have seen lots of computers brought into our offices due to viruses which were a result of browsing the Internet, clicking on something they shouldn’t have, or downloading the wrong file.  Even very smart and diligent people get caught in the trap.

The people who write the malware are not stupid by any means.  These are very smart men and women who see an easy way to make lots of money, with a low probability of getting caught.  Where years ago mayhem may have been the motivating factor, today it is money.

Not a day goes by when an alert doesn’t come across my desk about a large company or organization being hacked.  Most are entities one would think would not be caught up in these events.

The Internet is akin to going into gang territory, it can be harmful to your financial health.  Nobody can eliminate all possibilities.  The best firewall or anti-virus program won’t help if one is lackadaisical with passwords, the sites they visit, or the email links they open.

If you are interested in increasing your Internet and computer safety, we are here to help.

The Boss is an IT professional with HITman Services, a computer services company based in Clifton Park, NY.

I’m thinking about getting a tablet, what do you recommend?

February 1st, 2013

The first thing you need to think about is what size you want. Basically the sizes are 7″ and 10″.  The 7″ tables are great for portability as they fit in almost everything and are very light. The 10″ tablets provide a better viewing experience as they offer a larger screen.

If you have an Amazon Prime membership, the Kindle Fire HD is a nice option.  The Kindle Fire HD allows access to the Prime Instant Video library.  Wi-Fi is very fast on the Kindle HD, but there is no 3G, 4G, or other type of cellular connectivity. Kindle does offer a 4G LTE version but it is only available in the 8.9″ size tablet.  The Kindle Fire HD 7″ with 32 GB sells for $249.00.

Asus makes the Google Nexus both 7″ and 10″. The Nexus 7 is a very nice tablet.  It is fast and has a very intuitive interface. Being that it is a pure Android device, there should be no problems keeping it updated with the latest version of the OS (Operating System). A very nice feature of the Nexus devices is that they are free from the ecosystem restrictions of both Amazon for the Kindle, and Apple for the iPad. The Nexus 7 also comes in a 32 GB version with Wi-Fi and HSPA+ for cellular connection through either AT&T or Sprint. Pricing for the Nexus 7 with HSPA+ and 32 GB is $299.00.

SaaS – What??

January 29th, 2013

The IT industry probably more than any other seems to love acronyms.  Well maybe the federal government has more.

For this article we will focus on a cloud service called SaaS which stands for Software as an online service.  If you’ve used Gmail, Hotmail, or some other email service, you’ve used SaaS.

Our new technology this month is on a new Software as a Service called Cubby.  Cubby is a service which allows you to store, sync, and share files between computers, friends, colleagues, and co-workers.  Some of you may be familiar with Dropbox, which is similar to Cubby.

While Cubby is a relative newcomer to the field, their parent company, LogMeIn has been around for quite a while and offers superb products.  The current beta version is available for free.  Earlier in the week I had a meeting with the Cubby development team and they are very open to suggestions to make their product the best it can be.

Cubby also allows for a second layer of security.  By choosing to lock a folder, the system requires a password to access the folder.  The password is the same as used when logging into Cubby (LogMeIn).

To share a file in Cubby, the person you wish to share the folder with does not need a Cubby account.  All that is required is a valid email address.  Cubby can create a link which can share the folder with the public.  While this may be a feature, it is one we strongly recommend against using.

Cubby can sync folders among many computers.  While a mobile version is available, at this time our recommendation is to just use it to look at documents and not edit them.

To get your version of Cubby, simply visit; www.Cubby.com.

Why Java (not the drink) is Dangerous

January 22nd, 2013

Java is a program which almost all web browsers use and is on many computers. Even mobile devices use Java.

The middle of last week we were alerted to a new zero-day exploit which was a very serious threat.  Two days later Homeland Security sent out an alert that everyone should stop using Java if possible.

Below are some steps you can take to disable Java in your browsers. If you need further instruction or help, please call one of the professionals in our office.

We have not included Internet Explorer in this list as the instructions to disable Java require editing the registry, which is a procedure we do not recommend.

Microsoft Windows

  1. Control Panel
  2. Programs or Add/Remove Programs (depending on which version of Windows you’re running)
  3. Locate Java
  4. Uninstall

Chrome

  1. Open Chrome
  2. In address bar type chrome://plugins
  3. Locate Java plugin and click disable

Firefox

  1. Open Firefox
  2. Click Firefox button
  3. Click Add-ons
  4. In Plugins tab
  5. Choose Java
  6. Click disable

Opera

  1. Open Opera
  2. In location bar type plugins
  3. Click disable

Safari

  1. Open Safari
  2. Click Menu
  3. Click Preferences
  4. Un-check Enable Java

If you’d like to find out more about securing your correspondence, give us a call at (518)383-5668 or send us an email at TheDon@HITmanServices.com.

Android App Security by The Boss

December 12th, 2012

So, you’ve bought a new Android and have been downloading apps.  If you’re like the majority of people, you pretty much ignore the permissions screen, but should you?

In preparing for this article I took a look at many of the flashlight apps in the Google Play store.  Many of them want way too many permissions for my comfort, let’s take a look at just one.

The majority of flashlight apps want the permission to access your phone calls.  From Google: This allows the app to access the phone features of the device.  This permission allows the app to determine the phone number and device IDs, whether a call is active, and the remote number connected by a call.

What relevance does a phone number or your device’s ID have with a flashlight?  None; so why does the app require it?  What will they do with this information?  With whom will they share this information?  Will this app expose the device to other vulnerabilities because it was written poorly?

Just because an app has made it through Google’s screening process, doesn’t mean it is completely safe.  Before downloading and installing that new app, make sure it will not be exposing you to more security risks.

The Boss is an IT professional with HITman Services, a computer services company based in Clifton Park, NY.