If you are familiar with Microsoft office products but need a little help adjusting to the 2013 versions, Microsoft has produced these free Quick Start Guides to help you make the transition (or see if you might want to). There is a separate guide for the following products: Word, Excel, Publisher, Outlook, Access, PowerPoint, Visio, One Note, and Project. Each is a multi-page .pdf file that you can download and save for future reference.
In the article, Java Is The Biggest Vulnerability for US Computers at CSOOnline.com, Maria Korolov shares how the threat isn’t necessarily due to the browser add-in application itself, but that users are not keeping add-ins like Java up-to-date. Browser add-ins like Java, Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Reader are necessary for many of the functions users want when using the internet. These applications can make users vulnerable to cyber threats in a couple of ways. First, if the application itself has a security flaw that criminals can use to gain access to their computer. The second threat isn’t directly from the application itself but from fake update prompts that lead the user to malware infection.
In order to protect yourself you need to keep these and other similar applications up-to-date. But, you should be cautious when clicking on a pop-up that claims to be an update. The best way to avoid a fake update is by going directly to the application’s website. Searching for the product using Google (or another search engine) can still lead you in the wrong direction if you do not read the link web address carefully. I just did a search for “Java update” and at the top of the search were two ads: one was linked to dwnload.org where I could download Java but by doing so I would have been susceptible to allowing other programs to be installed as well, one of which was Conduit, a known malware I have had to remove for users many times. There is a disclaimer on the page: “The download manager might recommend you to install the InternetHelper Toolbar (powered by Conduit/Bing). You can decline to install it.” But why download it on that site and run the risk failing to decline malware. The second choice was downloadzone.org which offered an old version of Java and an “additional software” disclaimer that was at the bottom of the page in fine print. Find out more about PUP’s (Potentially Unwanted Programs) in a blog post from Emsisoft called Top 10 Ways PUPs Sneak Onto Your Computer. And How To Avoid Them.
To help you avoid these kinds of scams the links below will take you to legitimate websites for these add-in products. To save time for future updates, add them to your bookmarks/favorites list (How to: in Chrome or Internet Explorer) or add a shortcut to your desktop. Doing so will make updating a lot easier which will help you stay safer and up-to-date because you will be more likely to do it more often. Remember the companies that offer these add-ins for free will often package other software or toolbars with their products in exchange for advertising revenue. While these items are not considered malware, many users do not want them so read carefully and uncheck the box if you do not want the tool bar or other product they are offering.
Kim Komando gives a breakdown of the various scams out there:
If you have money, valuables or even just good credit, you can bet that lots of crooks would love nothing more than to steal it right out of your hands. Thieves and scammers have been around since the beginning of time, but these days, their tools are more sophisticated than ever. The scammers literally have hundreds of ways to trick you online and offline, but there are three scams that scammers love the most.
Think twice before buying those shiny — yet extremely cheap — Ray Ban glasses advertised on Facebook. There’s a good chance they’re fake.
At least, that’s the conclusion of a new study by two cybersecurity researchers who studied more than a thousand Facebook ads and found that almost a quarter of them are for counterfeit items such as Ray Bay sunglasses, Louis Vuitton bags, and Ralph Lauren polo shirts.
There are times when a malware infection needs extensive work to remove it. Then there are other times when the fix can be pretty easy and a user can save themselves the hassle and money of taking their computer to The Computer Monkey or another technician for removal. As of now an infection of the ICE Cyber Crime Center ransomware is one of those times. A very intimidating screen comes up trying to scare you into thinking you are suspected of some sort of cyber crime and need to pay a fine to “unlock” your computer and avoid prosecution — and it claims you only have 48 hours to do it before the prosecution begins. Here is a detailed article from Malwaretips.com demostrating 3 different ways to remove this infection. It is from a June 2013 post, but a friend of mine had a computer with it yesterday, so it is obviously still out there.
In the article “4 Questions to Ask Before You Give a New App Access to Your Data“, Rob Pegoraro reminds readers how easy it can be to turn over personal information about you or your friends if you are not careful. The questions are not really tech-related, but logical questions when you consider these app developers are in business to make a profit and they make that profit from us buying and using their apps.
My rule of thumb when answering an app’s privacy-related questions is to say no and set things up as tight as possible unless I am unable to use a feature that I want to use. At that point, you have to consider the information that must be given up, how it may be used and whether you are willing to give it up for that feature. Just remember, you cannot “unring” a bell. If you allow an app to have access to your contacts it will probably access them immediately and use the information before you have a chance to disallow. It is better to start off with very tight controls that you can loosen if you choose to later. As long as the app doesn’t force you to allow something in order to use the app, you can go into the apps privacy settings area of the device later and loosen the control. These settings may be in the app itself or under settings on the device. Since we are on the topic of privacy, location services is certainly another area to be considered. Here is an apple knowledge base article that explains how locations services works and shows how to make changes to the settings.
The following is a list of apps that parents might not want their kids using. Information links are included so they can read about them and decided for themselves. Click on the app name below to read more information about it. Most of these links are from Thirdparent.com.
Some of these apps are worse than others. Just because the app is on the list doesn’t necessarily mean that kids shouldn’t use it. It could be that there are simply features that parents need to be aware of so that they can modify settings or consider if it is age- appropriate. Ultimately, it is up to the parent but parents need to know.
If you still run Windows XP, and according to this article from PC World 30 percent of you do, you might have received ominous messages about the impending death of Windows XP support on April 8th, 2014. They may come in an email vendor or in a pop-up message from a product you are running on your computer. The messages sound very grave and can cause undue concern for users. One of the messages a customer received from their software vendor almost made it sound like their software would cease to function properly.
Like the above referenced article states: “When Microsoft says it’s ending support for Windows XP, that means it will no longer produce security patches for critical vulnerabilities in the operating system.” So, basically it is a security issue. Your machine and software will continue to function. Your actual risk to the security vulnerabilities will depend on your specific situation — how the computer is used and the other security software it runs. Is it used primarily for email and internet browsing, word processing and printing documents or a point of sale machine? Is the computer even connected to the internet? These factors should all be considered when deciding your actual level of risk and if concern is warranted.
If the computer is used for internet browsing, it would be wise to avoid using Internet Explorer, but many users have already switched to Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox for security or performance reasons. I often avoid security suite products (anti-virus & firewall) and instead favor a good anti-virus product coupled with the Windows firewall for performance reasons, especially on older machines. However, I would definitely recommend a full-featured anti-virus & firewall product for computers running Windows XP that are constantly accessing the internet. Here is another article about securing your Windows XP computer that recommends the same. The article also reminds users how important it is to back up your data. As an authorized reseller of Carbonite online back up, The Computer Monkey can help you purchase and install Carbonite on your computer.
Last week we had a very thankful business customer who had a hard drive crash but because they had purchased Carbonite in January we were able to get all of their data back on their server and have them up and running again quickly.