Category: Safety

How To Make Your Technology Less Frustrating and More Fun This Year

“It’s that holiday time of year again, and that means it’s over the river and through the woods to…well, fix my family’s Wi-Fi and other tech problems.”  From: The Complete Guide to Giving Better Family Tech Support  by Jason Fitzpatrick
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Do you have someone in your family who takes care of your techie problems for you?

I was that person for my mother. In fact, she was the one who suggested that I start this tutoring business to help other retirement-age adults.

I often laugh and tell people, “I’m your person, when you don’t have access to any techie relatives or you don’t want to impose. ; )

I recently read a fun article by How to Geek. The Complete Guide to Giving Better Family Tech Support  and I realized that it’s time to remind you that, “a few times a year someone needs to make sure computers are up to date,photos are backed up, and the tech is humming along as it should, so you won’t be in a in a position to have people exploit your computers, lose your photos to a hard drive crash, or otherwise be miserable because you just didn’t know any better.  After all, you aren’t out there keeping up on all the tech news and reading how-to guides.”

image of computer with 2019 on the screenAnd, there’s another great article for the New Year… Lock Down Your Tech With These New Year’s Resolutions by Justin Pot.  It urges people to:

  • “Use a freaking password manager
  • Lock Down Important Accounts With Two-Factor Authentication
  • Backup Your Computer (Seriously)
  • Update (or Upgrade) Your Router
  • Clean Out Your Browser Extensions
  • Remove Unused Third-Party App Access From Google, Facebook, and Other Accounts
  • Encrypt Your Computers and Phone”

As I often say, “using technology is like driving cars, they need check ups from time to time, and you have to know the rules of the road for your safety and security.

sparkler-839831_1280No Worries…There Are Easy Ways To Get It All Done:

  • Read the two articles and follow their very clear instructions or
  • Send these tips to your “Family Tech Guru” so he or she can do it or
  • Hire me to teach you how to do it or
  • Hire me do it for you

Whatever you decide is fine, but  please make a decision and “get ‘er done” so you can have less frustration and more fun.

Wishing you a very happy new year and may your techie world be simple, easy and fun this year!

Enjoy!

Mardi

P. S. Please share this with your loved ones so they can get the help they need too.  Thanks!

Best Antivirus Programs

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I recently answered a question for a client that I think you will find very help and that you will want to share with people you care about.

Client:  Have you heard of scanguard?  It is a free download of a program that supposedly scans for viruses and speeds up your computer.  Would you recommend it?

Mardi:  No and I wouldn’t trust free.  My Techs recommend WebRoot in conjunction with Malwarebytes or BitDefender but BitDefender can slow things down.

Noah and Angel at NYPC Repair are in the business of removing viruses so they ought to know.  They also told me that they see machines using McAfee that come in with viruses.

There’s an old saying in publishing that says, “If you don’t pay to learn how to do things right the first time, you’ll pay three times that to fix your mistakes.”

You just learned how to do antivirus protection right and it didn’t cost you a penny!  You will need to pay for the most reliable protection however…unless you decide to use a Chromebook which doesn’t require antivirus programs.

Do you have a burning question that you want answered?  Feel free to ask.  There are probably many other folks that have the same question or concern.

Speaking of other folks, please share this with the people you care about so they can benefit too.  They can sign up to receive all my Techie Tips here.

Enjoy!

Mardi

Six Simple Maintenance Tips for Windows PCs

Most computer owners don’t know much about basic computer maintenance and their PCs are likely to slow down or crash as a result.

Of course, most of us don’t know much about cars either, but we know to give them gas, change the oil and keep an eye out for flat tires. It’s the same with PCs. You don’t need to be an expert to keep your PC in relatively good condition. You just need to perform a little basic PC maintenance and, more importantly, be observant.

Here are six simple steps you can take to keep your PC running quickly and reliably:

Windows Updates1. Keep the Window Operating System (OS) Updated with the Latest Patches

Windows Update scans your system and updates it with the latest security patches and service packs. You can schedule these updates to run automatically, so there is really no excuse for not having an up-to-date system.

To access Windows Update click on the Start button, All Programs and scroll through the list to find it.

2. Keep Your Applications and Utilities Patched  Java update message

This may surprise you, but all the applications and utilities on your system are prone to security risks and need to be updated regularly.

Programs that you use everyday like Adobe Acrobat Reader, QuickTime, Realplayer, Skype, WinZip and more require both maintenance and security updates from time to time. Even applications that run in the background like Flash and Java are at risk.

When update notifications pop up on your screen, allow them to install. Just read the screens as you go, to be sure they aren’t offering to install promotional software that you don’t want. You may need to uncheck some boxes.

If you have my business card, you have a list of safe updates on it. If you don’t have my care or aren’t sure if a pop up is a legitimate update, just give me a call.

Norton Expiration Notice3. Keep Your Spyware and AntiVirus Programs Updated

No matter how good your spyware and antivirus software, it won’t do you any good if it’s not updated or, worse, not running because it expired.

Most antivirus applications load an icon in the Windows tray, (lower right corner) which lets you verify its status at a glance. Always verify that the application is running after starting Windows.

In addition, these applications should be configured to perform definition updates everyday and complete system scans at least once a week.

4. Clean Off the Desktop  Cluttered Windows Desktop

Having a lot of files on the desktop will actually slow down your computer because each file and its icon preview take up RAM and resources. The less RAM you have the more you’ll notice the sluggishness resulting from a cluttered desktop.

It’s really more efficient to get in the habit of filing things in the appropriate folders instead of on the desktop; but if you can’t be bothered to do that, just grab all the files and move them into the appropriate folders from time to time.

If you can’t remember to do it yourself, there are apps that will automatically clean it for you by moving files and folders to a designated place at a regular interval.

IDrive Online Backup5. Regularly Backup Your Computer

Performing regular backups is essential for you to be able to quickly recover from potential disasters. I recommend iDrive or Carbonite. They are easy to set up and make it easy to restore your data when you have a disaster, or upgrade to a new computer. You can access your files from your mobile gadgets too! If paying the annual fee bothers you, just think of it as insurance, like your auto and home insurance.

6. Defragment and Check Your Hard Drive for Errors Regularly  Defragmenter Utility

In order to maintain the integrity of your data there are two hard drive tests that you should run at least once a month.

The first is to Defragment your hard drive. Over the course of regular use, your files get fragmented or spread out all over your hard drive. So while an MP3 or WMV file appears as a single file to you in Windows Explorer, small pieces of the file could literally be spread across the entire hard drive. Gathering all of these distant pieces back together into a single continuous order, makes files load faster. Defragmenting your drive can can make your system noticeably faster if you had lots of files fragmented.

The other test is Check Disk. This tool checks hard disk volumes for problems and attempts repairs. (It can repair problems related to bad sectors, lost clusters, cross-linked files and directory errors…but you don’t need to know all that.) Just remember that Disk errors are a common source of difficult-to-track problems, and running this test regularly can significantly reduce your risk of having problems.

Windows has a built-in defragmenter and check-disk utility. Just open Windows Explorer and right-click on the drive you want to examine. Select Properties and then click on the Tools tab. To defragment your hard drive, go to the Defragmentation section and press the Defragment now button. To perform a check disk, go to the Error-checking section and press the Check now button.

You don’t need to be a computer expert to keep your computer running well. Preventing problems doesn’t require much understanding about computers. You just need to pay attention and actually read those messages that popup on screen during an installation and use the tools that come with your computer.

Just follow these basic steps, and your computer will be safer and far more reliable.

To Sleep or Shut Down, That is the Question

When your computer is not in use, do you shut it down, put it to sleep, or just keep it turned on?

In working with clients, it’s come to my attention that many people don’t completely shut down their computers from time to time.  Letting your computer just go to sleep night after night can cause problems.  For the average user, I recommend shutting it down completely, at least once a week.  The same applies to mobile gadgets like tablets and phones.  (See below for more details.)

If any of your techie tools are acting a little weird and slowing down, they may just need a reboot (shutdown and restart).  Try rebooting and then call me if that doesn’t work.

I hope you have found this tip useful and that you will forward it to others so they too, can more fully enjoy the benefits of computer technology.

Pros and Cons

Putting It To Sleep   Computer in sleep mode

The advantage to putting it to sleep is that it provides the easiest and fastest way to resume work while minimizing wear and tear on the hardware. The computer goes to sleep instantly and when it wakes up, all of your open apps, documents, window arrangements, and web pages, are exactly where you left off with almost no delay. For average users who want to quickly get back to what they were doing, sleeping is perfect.

  • Pros: Quickly resume exactly where you left off; sleep and wake can be scheduled or even done remotely
  • Cons: Minor power consumption; system temp fluctuations, swap, and cache files don’t get cleared out during as during a reboot process; system updates requiring reboots don’t install automatically and need a manual reboot; performance is best for computers with 4GB RAM or more

If you use your computer every day, simply putting it to sleep when it’s not in use or overnight is probably the best choice. Just be sure to reboot every once in awhile to allow system software updates to install. Waiting for an operating system Update or Security Update is generally a sufficient time between reboots.

shutting down computer for updatesShutting It Down

Shutting it down isn’t necessary unless it’s going into a longer term state of inactivity or storage. Shutting down is slower because all the open applications and documents have to quit; and when you turn the machine back on, everything has to re-open again to get back to where you were prior to shutdown.

  • Pros: Saves power, doesn’t strain hardware; system temp, memory, swap, and cache files get cleared out during boot; allows for major system updates to install
  • Cons: Takes a while to boot up and resume previous activity

For the power conscious or for those trying to squeeze the absolute longest lifespan out of hardware and hard disks, shutting down when not in use is the best choice. This is also necessary if you’re going to put your computer in long term storage, won’t be using it for a longer than a few days, or you’re going to be traveling and not using it during the travel period.

Computer as a serverKeeping It Always Turned On

Leaving a computer constantly turned on is best reserved for computers that function as servers. On the plus side, you don’t have to bother resuming anything since it’s already on, you can schedule all maintenance and backup tasks to occur in the wee hours of system inactivity, and it allows for a server or media center to be running on the machine. The downside is the constant power consumption and the constantly active hardware, which can limit overall lifespans of the computer components.

  • Pros: No waiting for use; instantly resume all apps and tasks exactly where you left off; allows for servers to run with constant accessibility; backup and system maintenance tasks can be scheduled for off hours
  • Cons: Constant power consumption; more wear and tear on hard drives, fans, and physical hardware due to possible heat

For the casual user, it’s best to put it to sleep when it’s not in use.  It gives hard drives and fans a rest, and will generally lead to a longer lifespan of the computer.

Are you wondering if you should upgrade your OS?

There are major changes happening with computer and mobile gadget operating systems and it’s my mission to make it easy for you to keep up and enjoy the many benefits.

One of my clients received an email from Microsoft offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 and she wanted to know if I thought it would be better or worse than her Windows 8.1.
windows 10

I told her, that it’s too soon to tell.  I recommend that people wait until it has been on the market for at least a year to give them a chance to correct any problems.  There are always bugs and fixes that need to be done with any new software.

There are many improvements and some neat new features, but we’ll shall see….

If you are interested in knowing about the new features of Windows 10, Click here.

 Yosemite

Apple also has a new operating system for it’s computers. It’s been available for quite some time and Apple has issued several important updates.  It’s called OS X Yosemite and it has a lot of cool new features.  If you want to learn more about it click here.

Chromebook

I’m still really enjoying my Chromebook.  A Chromebook is a laptop of a different breed. Instead of Windows or Mac OS, Chromebooks run Google’s Chrome OS. These machines are designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet, with most applications and documents living in the cloud and they are much less expensive than other computers.

If you are thinking about buying a new computer, smart phone or tablet, you might want to consult with me first. In my tutoring, I have the opportunity to play with many kinds of devices so I can give you some good information about their advantages and disadvantages.  I’m proud to say that many of my clients have saved a lot of money and avoided a lot of frustration by consulting with me before they purchased.
If you buy a new device, have me give you an orientation so you can get up and running quickly and easily. I read the owners manuals and take online classes so you don’t have to.  (“It’s a tough job but somebody has to do it.”  LOL)

If you found this information helpful, please share it.  

 

Enjoy!

Mardi

AOL Phishing Scam

AOL Phishing Scam

One of my clients sent this to me yesterday. It’s a Phishing scam, just as she suspected. Good job Harriett!

AOL HELP.

Your two incoming mails were placed on pending status due to the recent upgrade to our database,In order to receive the messages Click Here

 to Login and wait for response from  AOL Mail

.We apologies for any inconveniences 

Best Regards,

The AOL! Mail Team
I was suspicious because of the reference to holding back only two emails.  A big company like AOL doesn’t have time to notify people of small stuff like this.  (Most of the time, companies don’t even notify us of big changes!  LOL )  Mail held up by a “data base upgrade” would most likely just come through later, after the upgrade was completed.

Of course, being the intrepid, curious researcher that I am, I just had to click on the link to see what would happen.  This is what showed up…

URL Terminated  

The TinyURL (p95eoub) you visited was used by its creator in violation of our terms of use. TinyURL has a strict no abuse policy and we apologize for the intrusion this user has caused you. Such violations of our terms of use include:

  • Spam – Unsolicited Bulk E-mail
  • Fraud or Money Making scams
  • Malware
  • or any other use that is illegal.

If you received spam, please note that TinyURL did not send this spam and we do not operate any email lists. We can not remove you from spammer’s database as we have no association with spammers, but instead we recommend you use spam filtering software.

This confirmed my suspicions.  I let Harriet know and thanked her for letting me know.

You are always welcome to email me when you have a concern like this. My mission is to make your computing experience more enjoyable and to help others as well.

Please forward this to everyone you know so they can be safe and feel relaxed, happy and confident with their computers and techie gadgets.

Thoughts or comments about this topic?
Please comment below.

Thanks!

Phishing Alert: Watch Out For This!

I thought you should know about this right away.

After seeing my Techie Tip about phishing on Saturday, my daughter sent the following email about a phishing problem with Anthem Insurance.  Even if you don’t have Anthem Insurance, this will reinforce what I said about “phishing. ”

Heh Mom, Did you know about this?

Last week, Anthem announced that data might have been accessed about Anthem Healthcare clients.  Apparently, hackers are taking advantage and sending emails and making phone calls asking to verify information.

Here is the email from the Human Resources Department where she works.

“Anthem notified us today that members who may have been impacted by the cyber attack should be aware of scam email campaigns targeting current and former Anthem members.  These scams, designed to capture personal information (known as “phishing”) are designed to appear as if they are from Anthem and the emails include a “click here” link for credit monitoring.  Anthem DID NOT send these emails.  If you receive one of these scam emails like the one attached:

  • DO NOT click on any links in email.
  • DO NOT reply to the email or reach out to the senders in any way.
  • DO NOT supply any information on the website that may open, if you clicked on a link in email.
  • DO NOT open any attachments that arrive with email.

Further, Anthem is not calling members regarding the cyber attack and Anthem representatives are not asking for credit card information or social security numbers over the phone.

This outreach is from scam artists who are trying to trick consumers into sharing personal data. There is no indication that the scam email campaigns are being conducted by those that committed the cyber attack, or that the information accessed in the attack is being used by the scammers.

Anthem will contact current and former members via mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service about the cyber attack with specific information on how to enroll in credit monitoring. Affected members will receive free credit monitoring and ID protection services.

For more guidance on recognizing scam email, please visit the FTC Website:http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0003-phishing.

Anthem has created a website (www.anthemfacts.com), and a hotline, 1-877-263-7995, for its members to call for more information.”

Please forward this to everyone you know so they can be safe too.
Thanks,
Mardi

Looking for Work On Craigslist – Safety Tips

CRAIGSLIST-large570

Hi Mardi,

I am still in Brazil.

I am trying to put an add for a new job on craigslist and I can’t do it.

I open the craigslist page but I can’t find the right place.

Could you help me doing that?

I will try to call you.

I recently received this message from a client and it reminded me to let you know about a couple of hazards to avoid when you, or someone you know, is looking for work online.

When I first moved to the Desert, I was looking for work on Craigslist and encountered two potentially dangerous scams.

The first and most obvious scam, was an email from a company offering me an interview and requiring that I get a credit report to bring to the interview.  They said I needed to get it from the company they recommended and the link to the website was included in the email.

I couldn’t imagine why someone would need a credit report before an interview or expect me to divulge financial information to a company I didn’t know, so I knew it was a scam.

facebook login

The second scam almost got me!  A company said they were interested in me and I could learn more about them at their Facebook page.  At first, I thought it was strange that they didn’t send me to their company website, but then I thought they might be trying to be hip and leading-edge by having a company Facebook page.

I clicked on the link and it took me to a page that looked exactly like the Facebook sign-in page.  I signed in, but had a weird feeling that something was off.  I looked up at the address bar to see exactly where I was and it said “fakebook.com/….”  I thought oh my gosh, they just captured my Facebook login and password!

I immediately opened a new window and went to my Facebook page and changed my password.  Luckily I got there, before they were able to changed my password and lock me out.  Whew!

craigslist banner

There are good jobs available on Craigslist and I actually found one at that time.

You just need to be careful and let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Please forward this to everyone you know who is looking for work so they can be safe and feel relaxed, happy and confident while using Craigslist.

Thoughts or comments about this topic?  Please share in comments below.

Passwords Can Be Simple and Safe

Passwords Can Be Simple and Safe

I know you hate having to use so many passwords.  It’s a big pain to keep track of them.  You might even be using the same password for multiple sites and allowing your web browser to save them so you don’t have to login every time.

A recent article by Kim Komando, inspired me to encourage you to take the bull by the horns, do some house cleaning and start using a password manager. This will make your online life so much simpler and safer.
Here are some great tips based on her article, One secret about online accounts every computer user needs to know

You may have created dozens of accounts that have only been used once. Just think of how many times you’ve created a username and password just to read an article, play a game or download something.  This can be dangerous because your information is floating around on dozens or hundreds of websites that may or may not be secure.  Even worse, if you have used the same username and password for every site, every account you have is in danger.  A hacker who gets your account information from one site can use it to get access to your other accounts as well.

The solution is to hunt down and close any accounts you are not using and then change the passwords to your existing accounts so that each one is unique.

A simple browser trick

1) When you create a new online account or log in to an old one, your browser stores the username and password. This makes it easy to log back in later.  It also means you can go now and see what accounts you’ve created.

2) After you locate your accounts, you can close down the accounts you are not using and create unique passwords for the sites you are keeping.

3) Then turn off “password storing” and erase the existing passwords in your browser. The option to erase the passwords is in the same place you view the saved passwords.  (The Instructions are below.)

Use A Password Manager

LastPass, The last password you will ever need

 

 

 

 

 

I know this seems like a lot of work but you only have to do it once.  Then, If you start using a password manager like LastPass all your unique passwords will be stored in a vault and you will only need to remember one master password.  The password manager will even generate secure passwords for you so you don’t have to think them up. You will love it!

If you need help to clean things up or to learn how to use a password manager like LastPass, I’m always here for you. Just call for an appointment.

Invite some friends to a Play Shop in your home, community room or office.  A play shop is a really fun way to learn and only costs $25 hr. per person.

Forward this tip to your friends so they will be safe and happier too.
Thoughts or comments about this topic? Please share in the comment section below.

Instructions for web browser applications:

FIREFOX

To see your login information in Firefox, go to the Firefox menu – it’s the icon on the right with three horizontal lines – and click Options.

Under the Security tab, click the “Saved Passwords” button.

Then click the “Show Passwords” button and click “Yes.”

CHROME

In Chrome, click the icon with three horizontal lines in the upper right and choose “Settings.”

Choose “Settings” on the left, and then click the “Show advanced settings” link at the bottom of the screen.

Scroll down to “Passwords and forms” and click the “Manage saved passwords” link.

If you want to log back into your old account, but don’t remember the password, then you can click on a password and click the Show button next to it.

To see the password, you will have to enter your Windows account password, which does make it harder for casual snoops to get in.

INTERNET EXPLORER

You can’t view saved usernames and passwords directly in IE. You would need a third-party program like IE PassView.  However, I recommend that you don’t use Internet Explorer anyway.  It is easily invaded by spyware. I use Google Chrome but Firefox is good also.

SAFARI

In Safari, go to Safari>>Preferences>>Auto-fill. Click the Edit button to view the saved passwords.

Need Help?

If you need help to clean things up or to learn how to use a password manager like LastPass,  I’m always here for you. Just call for an appointment.

Invite some friends to a Play Shop in your home, community room or office.  A play shop is a really fun way to learn and only costs $25 hr. per person.

Forward this tip to your friends so they will be safe and happier too.

Simple Fixes for Webcam Spying

Are you scared by all the news stories suggesting that hackers can spy on you through your computer and gadget cameras?

My mother has been really concerned about it and I understand how scary it can be.  It is almost overwhelming and really annoying when all these “advances” in technology bring new challenges and require more education!

You don’t need to worry though, I’m dedicated to calming your fears and giving you the information and help you need so you can relax and enjoy your toys again.

Despite the potential dangers, webcams are great tools for chatting long-distance with friends and family, and conducting  business.

When you understand how they work and how to secure them, you will feel much better and have more fun.  Enjoy!

Please help others by forwarding this to all your friends and relatives and encourage them to subscribe to my techie tips so they can be protected and have peace of mind also.  They can click right here to subscribe.  If you are into social media, you can use the sharing buttons provided. That will be a big help also. Thanks!

INTERNET-ENABLED CAMERAS  Internet Cameras

Internet-enabled security cameras and baby monitors are becoming more and more common because they are inexpensive and easy to set up.  These gadgets connect to your Wi-Fi network and they are a great way to keep an eye on kids, aging parents and your possessions.

However, many people don’t follow the directions when setting them up and leave the default username and password in place. Hackers have made it their business to know all the default login information for every gadget on the market.  If you don’t change the factory settings they could find your camera online, log in, and watch you or put you on a website with thousands of other cameras for curious snoops to browse.

Good News!
The solution is easy: just remember to change the default password when you set up any type of new gadget. If you buy a camera that doesn’t have a password, exchange it for a different model.

COMPUTER WEBCAMS  lamptop cam

Once hackers get on your computer, they can use programs to turn on your webcam without triggering alerts like the webcam light. Thus, covering or unplugging the camera when not in use is a good idea.

However, hackers could still have full access to your computer. They could rummage through your email, browser history, passwords, documents and anything else they want.

And, of course, when you do use the webcam, they can eavesdrop.

To get on your computer, hackers use a remote access tool, or RAT. That’s what tech support agents use to get on your computer remotely to change settings or fix a problem. Fortunately, remote access tools require your permission, so a person can’t just take control without your permission.

However, hackers have many ways to trick you into letting them on to your computer — fake email attachments, malicious links, Trojan viruses, and phony tech support calls.  Once you’re tricked into running a file, clicking a link, or inviting them on to your system, they can take control and do whatever they want.

More Good News!

The solution is pretty simple. Just avoid unsolicited email attachments and links, run up-to-date security software and don’t believe anyone who contacts you claiming to be tech support for a major company.

Operating systems on your computer may have a remote access tool (RAT) built in. This makes it easier for real tech support to get on your system, but it also makes it easier for a hacker to trick your system into letting them on.

To turn off Remote Assistance in Windows, go to Start>>Control Panel. In the Search box in the upper right corner, type “remote” and then click the “Allow remote access to your computer” link.

Uncheck the “Allow Remote Assistance connections to this computer” option and click OK.

For Macs, go to the Apple icon and select System Preferences. Click the Sharing icon and uncheck Remote Login, Remote Management.

If you use a company laptop, it could have similar software on it. Companies are supposed to disclose the presence of that kind of software but they don’t always do it, so if it doesn’t belong to you, be mindful of what you do on it.

smartphone cameraTABLET AND SMARTPHONE CAMERAS

Tablets and smartphones also have cameras but I haven’t heard of any malicious apps or spying apps that can trigger the camera.  That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, or won’t exist in the future but I will let you know if that changes.

A word to the wise….if there is something you really don’t want the world to see, don’t put it on your smartphone or tablet.

If you have any questions or comments about this or if you have any suggestions for future tips, please post a comment below and let me know. I always love to know what you think and how I can help you. Thanks!

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