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WHAT IS RANSOMWARE AND HOW TO PROTECT YOUR COMPUTER


I am sure many of you are aware of the typical virus that corrupts your files, steals your information or slows your computer down to a crawl. There is a different type of virus (malware) that will hold your computer hostage. It is called Ransomware. Ransomware viruses are not new, but they are increasing.

HOW RANSOMWARE WORKS

Your computer can become infected with ransomware just like with any other virus by:

  • Opening infected files.
  • Going to infected websites.
  • Clicking on infected links, files or pictures in emails.

Ransomware typically encrypts your files making them unusable or it will lock up your computer. The only way to get the use of your files or computer back is to send money to the person that infected your computer. Your computer is basically held hostage until you pay the ransom. How do you pay? Often there will be a message on your screen that lists a toll number to call to begin the process to restore your computer, at a cost of around $100-$400.

You can hire someone to try and remove the virus, but lately the ransomware criminals are trying to stop you from doing that. How you ask? There are times when the virus will change the background image (wallpaper) on your computer to a pornographic image. The hope is that you will be too embarrassed to call in professional help.

Other ransomware is just smoke and mirrors – a fake. Fake ransomware often can be removed just by updating your antivirus software and running a complete scan of your hard drive.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF

Practice Safe Computing:  Be suspicious. Go to trusted websites. Be very careful when clicking on links and files in emails. Do not use illegal file sharing sites or services. Only download trusted software. Do a Google search if you are not sure about something.

Update your Operating System: Use Windows Update. Microsoft is always trying to make their products more secure. Keep your Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 operating system up to date.

Update your Browser: It does not matter which browser (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox or Opera) you use, keep it current. Also, take advantage of your browser’s ability to block pop-ups and control downloads.

Antivirus Software: There are some people that buy antivirus software, install it and that’s it. The software never gets updated. New viruses are created every single day. You must keep your antivirus software updated.

Firewall: You must have control over what information comes in and out of your computer. A firewall will give you that control.

John L. Jones

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Using Google’s Built-In Dictionary

Did you know that you can use Google for more than just searching for websites? Google can also help you look up the meaning of words. Originally, Google had a separate page set up where you could look up the meanings of words. Google has made it much easier now. All you have to remember is the word “define.”

Let’s say you want to define the word ohana. In the Google search box simply type define ohana and click the search button to get the result you see below.

 

 

What if the first definition that Google finds does not make sense to you? Not a problem. You can click More info that is located right under the first definition and get more definitions of the word. See the example below.

 

 

I hope you find this tip helpful.

John L. Jones

WHAT ARE COOKIES AND WHY SUPER COOKIES SHOULD CONCERN YOU



Cookies are small text files that get stored on your computer by websites that you visit.  A cookie can also be known as an HTTP cookie, web cookie or browser cookie.

WHAT’S THE POINT?

Cookies are mainly used to track website activity. Most websites will tell you that they use cookies to personalize your experience when visiting their website…true.  For example, when I signed up for my Gmail account at Google.com, the site used a cookie to store  into a file my name, email address and password. Now when I go to gmail.com, I do not have to type in that information again. My Internet browser recognizes that I am at gmail.com, looks for and finds the gmail cookie file on my computer and automatically provides my login information.

COOKIES GONE BAD

Anything that can be used for good can also be used for bad. There are some people that do not want to be tracked at all. Many of these people are familiar with how to use their web browser and delete cookies from their computer or only accept cookies from a few websites that they trust. However, there is a type of cookie called super cookie that cannot be deleted by typical means. You can clear your cache, web history and delete cookies all you want, and the super cookie will still be on your computer, tracking what you do.

A super cookie has the ability to re-create your web activity from the remnants of a regular cookie that has been deleted. Also, super cookies are never stored where regular cookies are, thus they are harder to find and subsequently harder to remove. Popular websites hulu.com and msn.com have been known to use super cookies.

WHAT CAN YOU DO

There is a free browser add-on from hotcleaner.com called Click & Clean. It helps the basic cookie deletion function of your browser do a better job of finding and deleting super cookies. As with any software, read and learn as much as you can about it before installing it on your computer.

Safe Computing,

John L. Jones

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SHOULD YOU REALLY GO TO THAT WEBSITE? KNOW BEFORE YOU CLICK

There was a time when you actually had to do some work to infect your computer with a virus, such as open an infected file that you had on a diskette, CD, USB drive or that you received in an email. Now all you have to do is visit an infected website (Drive-by Download) and your PC could be in trouble.

I am willing to bet that you use Google when searching for information on the Internet. Of the many websites that Google finds with any typical search, how do you know which of those sites are safe to click on? Do you just guess? There is a better way.

Web of Trust (WOT) is a free add-on that works with Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. WOT uses a simple traffic light style rating system to give you a heads up about the reputation of a site BEFORE you go to it. The reputation of a site is based on:

  • Trustworthiness
  • Vendor Reliability
  • Privacy
  • Child Safety

WOT will also warn you about viruses and spyware.

For example, take a look at my Google search below. Notice the little circles out to the right side of my search results.

The red circle indicates this site has a poor reputation (don’t go there). The green circle means you should have no problems with the site and the yellow circle means that the site reputation is okay.

WOT is not perfect. I have seen some perfectly fine sites with a yellow rating. However, using WOT is much better than playing Russian roulette when clicking on websites. You can learn more about Web of Trust (WOT) by visiting their website.

http://www.mywot.com/en/support/tour

 

Happy Computing,

John L. Jones

HOW TO DONATE AN OLD COMPUTER

Congratulations, you have a new computer. Don’t want to keep your old computer. Not sure what to do with it? I may be able to help.

REFURBISH

Many people are tempted to donate their old equipment to a local school or charity. That’s great if you know for sure that the school or charity will take your equipment.  Some organizations have very specific technology needs. Your computer may not be a good fit for their needs even at the great price of free. A refurbisher will make sure that the equipment runs well and has legal software installed. They will pass on the computer to those who need it, often at little or no cost to the recipient. You should be able to find refurbishers in your area by using the Microsoft Registered Refurbishers directory.

Refurbishers typically work with newer equipment that can run current software programs. Therefore, if your computer is more than five years old, it’s probably better to give it to a recycler.

 

RECYCLE

Any equipment that does not work or is more than five years old should go to a recycler. A computer recycler will salvage any useful parts before breaking down what’s left, and safely remove hazardous materials in the process. I know this does not make sense (especially when you are giving away equipment), but some recyclers will charge a fee to accept old computer equipment, especially monitors.

Check out Earth911 or Dell-Goodwill Reconnect for a list of recycling drop-off locations in your area.

 

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

Before you load up the car and head down to the refurbisher or recycler, give them a call or check their website. You do not want to find out AFTER you get there that they do not take the type of equipment you have.

 

DON’T FORGET ALL OF THE EXTRAS

If you can, include with your computer the mouse, keyboard, printer, software and any other accessories that came with it that you no longer want.

 

NEVER DONATE A COMPUTER BEFORE WIPING THE HARD DRIVE.

The staff at the recycling or refurbishing place may be very nice people, but you don’t know them or know where your computer may end up. If a stranger came to your house, knocked on your door and asked for your personal information, would you give it to him? Handing over your computer without wiping the hard drive is basically the same thing. The best way to protect against any unauthorized use of personal information is to use a disk-cleaning tool that COMPLETELY erases all data on the hard drive.

Below are examples of disk-cleaning utilities that should get the job done.

Active@ Kill Disk Hard Drive Eraser

Darik’s Boot and Nuke

 

KEEP A LIST OF WHAT YOU DONATED

Who knows, you may be eligible for a tax deduction for the equipment you donated. Your tax preparer and the IRS will want proof. Go to Section 170 of the Federal Income Tax Code for more information on tax laws related to computer donation.

 

Enjoy Your New Computer,

 

John L. Jones

SAVE TIME WITH THESE COMPUTER SHORTCUTS


I grew up with a Marine Drill Instructor for a father.  I have heard a few times in my life, “You and hard work have never been friends.” Hey, I can work just as hard as the next guy. If I can get the same amount done with less effort, why not? I say work smarter and not necessarily harder. Here are a few keyboard shortcuts that may save you some time. 

FIND A PARTICULAR WORD IN A DOCUMENT OR WEB PAGE

Press the Control (CTRL) key and the letter F. Release the keys.

Now type the word you are looking for.  The word will be highlighted for you.

 

ZOOM IN AND OUT

Having trouble seeing the letters in a Web page?

Press and hold down the CTRL key on your keyboard and tap the + (plus) key to make the letters larger.

If you get carried away and make the letters TOO large, press CTRL and tap the (minus) key to shrink things back down to size.

 

QUICKLY SELECT THE ADDRESS FIELD OF YOUR WEB BROWSER

I know you can take your mouse and click in the address field. However, what if you forgot to bring your mouse and you hate using the touchpad or the little pointing device in the middle of your keyboard. Here is another keyboard shortcut to the rescue.

Press the CTRL key and the letter L.

 

RESTORE A TAB YOU ACCIDENTALLY CLOSED

I often have too many tabs open when I am looking for things on the Internet. In trying to close a bunch of tabs quickly, I’ll accidentally close one that I did not mean to close. Here is how to easily reopen the last tab you closed.

In Internet Explorer, Firefox or Google Chrome, press Ctrl-Shift-T.

 

CYCLE THROUGH MULTIPLE OPEN PROGRAMS

If you are like me, you may have 4 or more applications (Word, Internet browser, Excel, etc.) open at any given time.

To cycle through all of the programs you have open, press and hold down the ALT key and tap the Tab key. When you reach the program you want to view, just release both keys.

 

QUICKLY GET BACK TO YOUR WINDOWS DESKTOP

Press the Windows  key + D.

 

QUICKLY LOCK YOUR COMPUTER

Do you want to lock your computer when at work before you walk away from it?

Press the Windows key + L to lock your computer.

Type in your password to unlock your computer.

 

Happy Computing,

John L. Jones

DON’T GET RAMMED BY RAMNIT

WHAT IS IT

Ramnit is an old computer worm (first surfaced in April 2010) that has resurfaced in the past week. So far it has stolen the username and passwords of 45,000 Facebook users.

HOW DOES IT SPREAD

The attackers that created the worm use the stolen username\password of compromised Facebook users to login to their accounts and then send infected links to their friends. Their friends click on the infected links and the worm spreads to other Facebook friends.

The worm also takes advantage of the fact that many people use the same username and password for various web-based services. For some people, their Facebook username and password is the same for their email, corporate network and bank account…not good at all. In a previous article, I talked about how to deal with password overload which will cut down on using the same simple passwords over and over.

http://tinyurl.com/passwordoverload 

WHAT HARM CAN IT CAUSE

The worm does not damage or delete any files on your computer and it does not slow your computer down. Worse, it steals your username and password which gives some stranger access to your Facebook account and possibly other online accounts and web services.

HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF

  • Think twice about clicking on links from your Facebook friends. Be especially skeptical if someone you hardly ever communicate with sends you a link.
  • Do not use the same username and password for more than one account or online service.
  • Use a firewall on your computer.
  • Keep ALL of your installed software updated, especially your antivirus software.
  • Limit user privileges on the computer.
  • Use caution when opening attachments.
  • Use caution when clicking on links to web pages.
  • Use strong passwords.

 

Watch your step,

John L. Jones