Gmail Bank Incident Highlights Email, Cloud Computing Risks

A recent incident involving Google’s Gmail service and a Wyoming bank highlights the risks of business email and cloud computing.

A Wyoming bank accidentally sent information about 1,300 of its customers to the wrong Gmail address. The bank later sued Google for information concerning this wrong recipient. Google, rightfully, refused, and that’s where it gets ugly, because Google also suspended the account in question (an act that was quickly recinded).

As pointed out by Jim Rapoza of eWeek, among others, this could happen to anybody. How many of us have gotten phishing emails claiming to be some bank or other? We delete them and go about our business, because most of them are spam. Apparently just the act of receiving an email not intended for us is enough to get our email accounts suspended without notice.

This is a good reason not to rely upon free email accounts like Gmail for business purposes. But even using a paid-for email host, such as the one offered by your Internet provider, is no guarantee this won’t happen to you. I recommend you set up a custom domain for yourself (like me at mybusiness dot com). Then, if you do lose access to your email host, be it outage or any other reason, you can quickly establish a new email account elsewhere and forward your custom address to it without having to inform all of your contacts of the new address. Otherwise you could wind up losing business and reputation.

This also highlights the risk of sending confidential data via email. No email is secure, and especially not business email being sent to a freebie account. Confidential data is best encrypted and either transmitted via secured connections, if you have that capability, or sent the old-fashioned way: on a disk. Less convenient, perhaps, but ask Rocky Mountain Bank of Wyoming if the negative publicity was worth saving a few hours of time.

Now, imagine you’re using cloud computing and ALL of your programs and data are on the Internet. Can you afford to lose access to them because of something beyond your control? Is it worth the tradeoff for convenience and a less expensive computer? I’m not sure it is.

Subscribe FREE to the email version of Tech Tips between now and October 14, 2009 and I’ll send your special gift: a tip sheet on Computer Housekeeping for PC and Mac.

No Click Required: Malware Via Infected Ads

As if scareware (fake antivirus software) via legitimate news sites wasn’t bad enough, now we’re getting a veritable swarm of malware (virus-like stuff you don’t want) via ad services sold to legitimate web sites by Google and Yahoo, among others.

The ad services, including DoubleClick, FastClick and ValueClick, offer infected ads that use malicious PDF files to inflict viruses via bugs in older versions of Acrobat Reader. You don’t even have to click on anything, merely visit a page with an infected ad. All you see is a window opening and closing as the PDF is launched. Remember, Google, Yahoo and the infected web sites are not going to protect you from this stuff. Your only option is to protect yourself.

Your best protections are using strong security measures and keeping your Adobe Reader (aka Acrobat) up to date. Meaning, if you’re not using the current version, 9.1.3 (and I know many of you are still on version 7 and earlier), you want to RUN not walk to Adobe’s site to download the latest version.

Installing Adobe Reader is similar to installing Flash. You’ll have to install Adobe’s Download Manager if you haven’t already, then download and install the Reader software. I’ve put the links for Acrobat Reader and Flash Player in the right-hand sidebar under Help For PC Users and Help For Mac Users.

Subscribe FREE to the email version of Tech Tips between now and October 14, 2009 and I’ll send your special gift: a tip sheet on Computer Housekeeping for PC and Mac.

Avoid The Risks Of Social Networking

Social networking sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, FaceBook, and MySpace have become wildly popular for both personal and business use. But whether you use Windows or Mac, there are some risks. Social networking sites do not guarantee your safety, so it’s up to you to protect yourself.

Fake profiles are often used to deliver viruses and scareware. They lure you in with a realistic-looking personal profile in order to get you to click links to malicious sites. Don’t accept “friend” invitations unless you actually know the person or can verify who he or she is, and restrict your profile so that only your friends can see it.

Scammers also break into social networking accounts to steal personal information and send spam to your contacts. Use strong passwords (see my PDF tip sheet), encourage your friends to do the same, and check your security protections to make sure they are current and working properly.

Similarly, phishing scams may use information from your social networking profile to send you spam emails. By targeting you with specific information, such emails are harder to detect. Again, use good security practices and practice your anti-phishing skills with tests like this one from SonicWall.

Fake advertising, or malvertizing, uses realistic-looking ads to get you to click on sites that will infect you with viruses. These ads are often served by third parties and not necessarily by the social networking site. We’ve seen this before where news sites are infected with bad ads. Be wary of any advertisement offered to you, even if it’s on a legitimate site.

Real-life criminals are also using social networking sites to their advantage. Burglars are using them to find out more about who you are and where you live, and even when you’ll be on vacation. Be cautious about sharing pictures or information about yourself and your family online.

Another way to avoid problems is to expand short addresses before clicking. Twitter users often abbreviate using services like tinyurl.com or bit.ly, but such abbreviations can hide malicious sites. Use a program like ExpandMyURL or UnTiny to expand those abbreviations, plus McAfee SiteAdvisor or LinkExtend for Firefox to check out the expanded sites before you click on them.

Subscribe FREE to the email version of Tech Tips between now and October 14, 2009 and I’ll send your special gift: a tip sheet on Computer Housekeeping for PC and Mac.

Social Networking Seminar On September 24, 2009

There’s still time to sign up for my seminar, Social Networking: Marketing Your Business Online, sponsored by the Cary Grove Chamber Of Commerce. It will be held Thursday, September 24th, 2009, from 11:30am-1pm (registration includes box lunch) at the Fox River Grove, Illinois, Village Hall, 305 Illinois St. Click here for downloadable flyer (PDF).

Have you been asked to get LinkedIn? Can you make business contacts through Facebook or MySpace? Should you Twitter your business? Join us for this computer series workshop on using social networking to market your business. Registration is required. To register, contact the Cary Grove Chamber at (847) 639-2800.

For a full list of my computer classes for PC and Mac, please see my events calendar.

Subscribe FREE to the email version of Tech Tips between now and October 14, 2009 and I’ll send your special gift: a tip sheet on Computer Housekeeping for PC and Mac.

Firefox Checks For Unsafe Versions Of Flash

The latest version of Mozilla Firefox 3.5 (3.5.3) includes an important new feature. It checks to see if you have old, unsafe versions of Flash, a plug-in used to view multimedia content.

Old versions of Flash are problematic because they can be used to infect your computer with viruses and other malware. It’s not always easy to tell which version you’re running, and Flash often goes under the radar screen because it’s a plug-in, not a program you run directly by clicking an icon.

Mozilla reports that 99% of Firefox users have Flash. Of the six million users who upgraded Firefox after last week’s upgrade, half of them had unsafe versions of Flash.

Firefox can’t run the Flash upgflash_update_messagerade for you; you have to do it yourself by clicking the link to visit the Adobe site. When I visited, Adobe tried to lump some free McAfee antivirus software with the Flash upgrade; you can de-select that. You may need to approve the Adobe Download Manager (look for the yellow bar at the top of your Firefox window). Once Download Manager completes, Firefox needs to restart. A new window will appear, downloading the latest version of Flash. Finally, close Adobe Download Manager by clicking the orange button. (With all these steps, is it any wonder people don’t upgrade Flash more often?)

While the new version of Firefox 3.0 (3.0.14) also includes this Flash check, I encourage you to upgrade to 3.5.3 for greatest security.

Subscribe FREE to the email version of Tech Tips between now and October 14, 2009 and I’ll send your special gift: a tip sheet on Computer Housekeeping for PC and Mac.

Welcome To The New Tech Tips!

Welcome to my brand new, redesigned Tech Tips blog!

Please note that the address for this site is http://www.guidryconsulting.com/techtips. If you’ve bookmarked the direct link to the old version on Blogger (blogspot), be sure to note the correct address. I’ve been linking to the Guidry Consulting version all along in my newsletters and posts, so for the most part there should be no change. However, some article links may be different. If you are looking for something but can’t find it, please contact me or check the Archives and Categories in the right-hand sidebar.

You’ll find updated resources for PC and Mac in the right-hand sidebar, plus new functionality in a beautiful new format based upon feedback from my readers. All of my original articles plus comments remain available for your convenience.

So come on over and post your comments and questions!

And don’t forget about your FREE email subscription to Tech Tips. Email subscribers receive my monthly newsletter, plus notice of new Tech Tips blog posts, bonus tips, product reviews and more. You can sign up here.

Let me know what you think! I hope you continue to find Tech Tips a valuable resource for your home or business.

Web 2.0 For Job Search

help wantedFinding a job can be difficult. Fortunately the Internet offers excellent tools to help you in your job search or career transition.

It’s important to think of the Internet as one of many tools in your job search arsenal. To that end, you’ll want to think of yourself as a brand, like Coca-Cola or CNN. What are your strengths? What are your skills? What sets you apart from other applicants? Write your mission statement on an index card (“I am a computer expert specializing in tech support, web design and training”) and tape it to the top of your monitor. This will help you stay focused as you visit various job sites.

Next, decide which technologies you want to incorporate into your search. Web 2.0 refers to collaborative web sites, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed if you try to be on LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, and FaceBook all at once. Some people choose to forgo a web site in favor of a blog, for example, or elect to participate in only one or two social networking sites.

Speaking of networking, it’s hard to succeed by computer alone. Meeting people face-to-face remains the best way to find employment. Create a business card for yourself with links to your online profiles. When you meet people, get their cards and send a follow-up email asking them to network with you online. And be sure to put your newly-honed Web 2.0 skills on your resume!

If you’re interested, I’ll be teaching a class on Web 2.0 For Job Search for the Cary (Illinois) Park District on Wednesday, November 18, 2009 from 9:30am-11:30am and again from 6pm-8pm. You can find registration details on my web site. I hope to see you there!

Don’t forget to subscribe to Tech Tips for the latest computer news. Next month, just in time for Hallowe’en, I’ll frighten you with Bride Of The Computer Zombies. If you have any computer questions, let me know.

Computer Housekeeping

Your computer, like your house, needs to be cleaned regularly. These tips will help you get better performance out of your PC or Mac.

The number-one rule of tech support is: When in doubt, reboot! Turning your computer off and back on will give better results than simply restarting. I also recommend you shut down your computer overnight, unless you need to leave it on for backups. This gives your computer a cool-down period and less opportunity to confuse itself.

Keeping your desktop clean will help maximize memory. The more files you store on the desktop, the more memory they will consume. Maintaining your computer’s security protections and junking spam are other ways you can reduce the possibility of computer problems.

SPECIAL GIFT: If you subscribe to the Tech Tips email list between now and October 14th, 2009, I’ll send you a free tip sheet (PDF) offering more details on how to keep your computer in shape.

And if you’re interested, I’ll be teaching a class on Computer Housekeeping for the Cary (Illinois) Park District on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 from 9:30am-11:30am. You can find registration details on my web site. I hope to see you there!

In October we’ll talk about What To Do If You Get A Computer Virus. If you have any computer questions, let me know.

More Scareware On Major News Sites

More reports are coming in of scareware coming from major news sites including The New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

As I mentioned in my previous alert about scareware via Newsweek, it’s important to note that these scams can happen anywhere, anytime, even on the most reliable of sites. Please be careful, and bear in mind my recommendations on how to protect yourself from scareware.

First Snow Leopard Update Plus Other Mac Security Updates

Apple has released the first update for Snow Leopard, Mac OS X 10.6.1, due to erroneously including an old and vulnerable version of Flash in the original release. This update also includes a few additional fixes.

Even if you’re not running Snow Leopard yet, you’ll want to use Software Updates under the Apple menu to get your copy of the latest Security Updates for Mac OS X 10.4.11 and 10.5.8.