Fall Seminars: Social Networking, Mac Computers, PC Troubleshooting

Don’t miss my upcoming fall seminars:

Advanced Social Networking
Cary Grove Chamber Of Commerce

Thursday, October 7, 2010, 12pm-1:30pm
Fox River Grove Village Hall, 305 Illinois Street in Fox River Grove

You may submit your questions ahead of time to info@guidryconsulting.com.

Discover real tips for using Facebook, LinkedIn and more. Learn advanced techniques for staying on top of today’s social media, and bring your questions and issues for our expanded Q&A session. To register, contact the Cary Grove Chamber at (847) 639-2800.

Maximize Your Membership Benefits
Cary Grove Chamber Of Commerce

Wednesday, October 13, 2010, 12pm-1pm
The L.O.F.T. at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 2107 Three Oaks Rd. in Cary

Join our panel of Chamber experts over lunch to learn how to maximize your Cary Grove Chamber membership benefits. I’ll be participating in the panel, talking about how to use Social Networking with the Chamber. To register, contact the Cary Grove Chamber at (847) 639-2800.

Getting The Most Out Of Your Mac Computer
Crystal Lake Chamber Of Commerce Business Builder Breakfast

Friday, November 5, 2010, 8:30am-10:00am
Crystal Lake Chamber, 427 W. Virginia St, Crystal Lake, Illinois

Discover how to get the most out of your Mac computer. We’ll review the basics, discuss the similarities and differences between Macs and PCs, then delve into some of the Mac’s advanced features. We’ll also talk about Mac security and troubleshooting. To register, contact the Crystal Lake Chamber at (815) 459-1300.

PC Troubleshooting
Crystal Lake Chamber Of Commerce Business Builder Lunch

Wednesday, November 10, 2010, 11:30am-1:00pm
Home State Bank, 611 S. Main St., Crystal Lake, Illinois

Learn how to fix your own computer with the same techniques used by the experts. We will discuss troubleshooting, preventative maintenance and security tips for PC (Windows). To register, contact the Crystal Lake Chamber at (815) 459-1300.

What To Do If Your Email Account Is Hijacked

My column in today’s Northwest Herald talks about the recent uptick in hijacked email accounts. Hackers hijack your account in order to prey on your contacts by sending spam, malicious links, and outright requests for money in your name. And not just your email account… Facebook, LinkedIn, and other accounts can also be hijacked.

Here are some things you can do to protect yourself, not just from hijacked accounts but also from viruses, spyware and other Internet threats:

• Use strong passwords that are unique on every system, and change them every few months. Earlier this week I posted an article about how to create secure passwords. This is the number-one thing you can do to prevent your accounts from being hijacked.

• Use a high-quality security software suite. I used to recommend free solutions for Windows like AVG combined with Spybot or AdAware, but these days I’m finding the freebies aren’t enough to protect you. Norton and McAfee will do the job, but Norton in particular tends to take up a lot of memory which may make older machines run more slowly. I prefer AVG’s paid Internet Security Suite or Trend Micro’s Titanium Internet Security or Titanium Maximum Security. If you’re using free AVG, you can get a discount on the full AVG suite if you buy through the “upgrade from free version” option.

Whatever solution you choose, be sure it is a full suite—containing antivirus, anti-spyware, and firewall—and not just antivirus. And be sure it’s real software and not one of the many rogue security programs that are actually viruses in disguise.

Mac users, you need security software too. My personal favorite is Intego VirusBarrier or Internet Security Barrier. If you run Windows on your Mac through Apple’s Boot Camp or a program like VMWare or Parallels, try Intego’s Dual Protection options: VirusBarrier DP or Internet Security Barrier DP. These include BitDefender for Windows to protect the Windows half of your computer.

• Make sure ALL of the software on your computer is regularly updated. In one of my previous Northwest Herald columns, I talked about the dangers of old software. Here on my blog I’ve also talked specifically about the risks posed by old versions of Adobe (Acrobat) Reader and Flash.

• If you’re on Windows, use a browser other than Internet Explorer. Using Firefox or Opera instead of Internet Explorer offers you that much more protection. If you must use Internet Explorer, find out why older versions of Internet Explorer pose a greater risk of virus infection.

• Watch out for poisoned search engine results and learn how to spot bad web links.

• Never click on links or open attachments in email. Always visit the site directly. For example, if you get an email saying you have a new Facebook message, go directly to facebook.com from your Web browser instead of clicking the link in the email.

• Learn about social engineering and how hackers will do anything and everything to trick you into letting them in.

• And, finally, subscribe to the free email version of Triona’s Tech Tips for easy-to-understand tips you can use to protect yourself from the latest Internet threats.

How To Create Secure Passwords

Many people say to me, “I don’t need a secure password. I don’t have anything sensitive on my computer, so I don’t care if a hacker gets in.” You, my friends, are a hacker’s dream. Because it’s not necessarily your personal information they want, although they’ll happily steal your credit card info if they can. No, what they really want is control of your computer, your email address, your Facebook page… anything and everything that will let them do their dirty work from behind a smokescreen.

Let me teach you how to be a hacker’s worst nightmare by using strong passwords that are:

  • At least 6-12 characters in length
  • A mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols if allowed
  • Not common words or proper nouns found in a dictionary
  • Not in use on any other system
  • Changed regularly (at least once every few months)

The most common password mistakes I see are:

  • Using no password at all (e.g. hitting Enter)
  • Using common passwords like “password,” “123456,” spouse’s name, or pet’s name
  • Using a common dictionary word with an exclamation point at the end
  • Using the same password for everything
  • Rotating through the same two or three passwords for everything
  • Sharing passwords with others
  • Sending passwords via email
  • Sticking passwords on Post-It notes on monitors or under keyboards

Why not take this opportunity to change your passwords? It’s the best thing you can do to protect yourself against identity theft and cybercrime.

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Solve Problems By Replacing Your Old Router

routerIf your Internet connection is slow or unreliable, it may be due to an old router.

Routers that are more than a few years old predate current network technologies. While these old routers may still work, they often don’t work at peak efficiency, and may even make your connection so intermittent as to be unusable. Replacing them can be an inexpensive way to improve your Internet performance.

I have also seen this problem with old cable and DSL modems. If you contact your Internet provider they will tell you if your modem is still supported. The trick is, you have to ask; they will not be proactive in contacting you to let you know your modem is out of date, and they may not recognize the cause if you call to report problems.

A new router can also improve your network security, as the latest consumer devices now include firewall technologies previously available only on more expensive business-class models. If you have an older wireless router (wireless B or G), upgrading to a wireless N device can boost your speed. While you’re at it, you should check your network cables to make sure they’re still good quality.

Subscribe free to Tech Tips and receive bonus tips, tricks and product reviews. Click here to subscribe or send email to techtips-request-at-guidryconsulting-dot-com, subject “subscribe”.

“Here You Have” Virus: Hype Versus Risk

The mainstream media is swooning over the recently discovered “Here You Have” virus, which spreads via malicious links in email messages. The virus, also called Imsolk, has infected some high-profile companies including Disney, Proctor & Gamble and Wells Fargo, according to reports.

It’s typical that the viruses that get the most attention are those that happen to infect big-name organizations. (Note that ABC News reports that ABC/Disney itself was infected by the virus.) In this case, the virus itself is not that scary. Sure, it’ll infect your computer, disable your security protections, spread through removable drives and network shares, and send itself to everyone in your contacts list. But a lot of viruses do that. And yes, it’ll overwhelm your network if you allow it to run rampant, which is what appears to have happened at some of these large companies. But, the thing about Here You Have is that it’s avoidable if you follow some simple precautions:

  • Never click on email links.
  • Run a good-quality security suite that includes antivirus and anti-spyware protections. The major security programs have already been updated with protections against Here You Have.

And, if you’re in a corporate setting:

  • Filter spam at your network perimeter.
  • Block unnecessary attachment types, like the .SCR file type used by Here You Have.

Want to know the viruses that scare me? The ones no one hears about because they are too sneaky. The ones that work silently, slipping into your computer without any interaction from you. The ones that can’t be removed with standard security tools. The ones that secretly record your keystrokes and quietly commandeer your computer. The ones that only infect a few computers at a time so as not to be detected.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be wary of Here You Have, especially since it appears new variants of the virus are arising. But remember, the viruses that do the most damage don’t always make the headlines.