Summertime Security

Summer Tip #6

Well I just returned from my annual trip to the shore and boy was it hot. Other then the time my MyFi took a dip in the pool with me I know I was summertime safe. Here are more tips for those of your about to embark on a summer vacation.

Don’t Tell People When Your House is EmptyYes, I know. Everyone does it, including me. Just before people leave, they check in from the airport, post about how they are on their way to “four days on the beach!” or a similar message. Avoid doing this unless you are very confident that only your friends read your posts…. and that your home is secure.

If you must post updates of all the fun you are having every day on Facebook, then please, make sure you are using the privacy controls. Make sure only your real friends and trusted contacts can see your posts. We will be discussing this specifically during our next technology training class!

Be Alert for Rogue WirelessDon’t just hop on and off free public wireless networks without thinking. You may think the wireless network belongs to the hotel or the airport but it may easily be a rogue network. If you need to get online while you are out and about, invest in a 3G dongle for mobile broadband, or use your smartphone’s tethering capabilities. This is what I had, that took a swim with me!

3G and 4G is not perfect, but it’s much more secure than wireless.

Backup Your DeviceIf you are taking a laptop or mobile device on your vacation, back it up first. You don’t want to lose all your contacts, photos, and files just because you accidentally lost it or left it on the plane. It’s also a good idea to have your photos automatically uploaded to the cloud through services such as iCloud & Skydrive.

Don’t Let Your Device Out of SightTry to keep your device with you. If you have your laptop with you, consider using the room safe instead of leaving it on the desk while you are out. You don’t want to take the chance of it being stolen or have someone use it without your knowledge. Also make sure to at least lock the screen and have a strong password if your computer/mobile device is not going to be in the hotel safe.

Install Device Protection
For smartphones and tablets, install anti-theft and mobile device management before you leave for your trip. Find My iPhone and its Android counterparts help you find the device if you lose it. And if you don’t think you will get it back, then you can send the command to remotely wipe the data.
You can also install similar software on laptops.

Update EverythingUpdate your software, operating system, and security tools before you leave. You don’t want to be hit with a malware attack while you are on the road.

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Staying Tech Safe On Vacation

Summertime 2013 tech Tip #4

My summer series of tech tips continues with help on staying safe, digitally (at least) while on vacation.

The reality is many 21st century families want or need to text, check email and update social media accounts, even when the goal of taking a vacation is to take a break from our everyday lives. I struggle with this as well. Every summer vacation at the shore I try to disconnect – but I usually fail to do so. However, would should all be aware that our online activity while on the road can put us at a higher risk of having our identity stolen.

Identity theft is a serious crime that can have a lasting negative impact. Just one important piece of information, like a Social Security card, a driver’s license or a bank account statement, can provide a criminal what he needs to steal someone’s identity. What’s worse is victims may not realize their identities have been stolen for weeks, months or years after the fact, allowing the crime to perpetuate and destroy their credit. The good news is there are actions you can take to help protect your identity while on vacation — and anywhere else you may be mobile and online.

Mobile Routers or Cellular Hotspots
Consider a portable router to create your own Wi-Fi hotspot for your own or your family’s devices. You’ll need a local SIM data card, which is available at most electronic stores or even airport kiosks. This will help you avoid using public Wi-Fi spots.  All cellular companies sell mobile hotspot devices.

Avoid Contact with Hackers
If you use public Wi-Fi, be very cautious of using unsecured networks. Make sure you are logging into a secured or private network when you use Wi-Fi. If you aren’t sure, don’t visit sites that contain sensitive information, like bank accounts.

Be Careful Being Social
Using social media while you travel can be a great way to share your family’s trip but remember — checking in or posting pictures can alert someone that your home is vacant! Make sure to set your home alarm, hire a house-sitter or maybe the best option is to delay posts until you are back home. If you do really want to share these photos while you are on vacation, make sure to set your privacy settings to “friends” only. This will help limit the number of people who actually see these pictures.

Make Sure It’s Legit
Before logging onto a website from your mobile device, make sure the URL is legit. There are plenty of URL spoof sites out there, created in order to steal your information. Unfortunately many mobile browsers do not show the URL, so it is best to bookmark your favorite sites after you type in the address.

Lock Down Your Social Networks
If you have a blog or social accounts — such as Facebook and Twitter — use the highest security settings possible to ensure your information, posts and photos aren’t being leaked onto the internet.

Strong Passwords
Use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols and punctuation marks to make your passwords harder to crack.

Secure Your Mobile Devices
Losing your mobile phone, tablet or laptop can be just as bad as losing your wallet. Be sure to protect your mobile devices with strong passwords and encryption. Consider installing wiping software on your mobile device so that you can remove your information remotely if your phone is lost.

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Fun in the Sun With Your Smartphone

Summertime 2013 Tech Tip #3

A trip to the shore for some sunshine and water may sound like the perfect getaway and in many ways it can be. However your smartphone probably will not agree. There is little doubt that many of us are addicted to our smartphones so here are some tips for keeping them safe this summer.

Seek some shade. Direct sunlight can cause overheating, so be sure to stash your devices somewhere shady. If you do trigger an “overheated” alert, be sure to turn off the device and move it to a cooler location. Do not place it inside a freezer!

Invest in a quality case. In the summertime, the living is easy – but not for your gadgets. Sticky fingers from ice cream, blowing sand and condensation are just a few of the perils the season brings for your devices. There are a ton of options on the market, including rugged cases to help protect from drops and waterproof options to help keep things safe poolside – or tabletop during meals.

Limit the glare. Sunlight can make your screen hard to read. You can tackle this in a few ways:

Adjust your brightness settings. Navigate to your device’s “Settings” menu, then select the “Display Settings.” You can modify both “Brightness” and “Backlight” options on most devices: the higher the brightness settings, the easier it is to read your screen in sunlight. Some devices also offer an “Auto Brightness” option that automatically adjusts your screen for optimal viewing.

Purchase an anti-glare cover which will help make your screen more legible in bright light.

Find some shade. Relax under an umbrella or a tree for some temporary relief.

Low-Fi Stereo Fun!  Summer means impromptu gatherings, which just beg for a great music. But if you do not have portable speakers handy, you can try this simple trick to pump up the volume.  Place your music player in a bowl or glass to amplify your device’s speakers. It really works!

Stay tuned for more fun-in-the sun technology tips.

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How To Tell If Your PC Has a Virus

Summertime 2013 Tech Tip #1

One of the questions I am asked very often is “how do I know if my computer has a virus”?

Is your computer running very slowly? A common symptom of a virus is much slower than normal computer performance. However, there can be other reasons for slow performance, including a hard disk that needs defragmenting, a computer that needs more memory (RAM), or the existence of spyware or adware. For more information about spyware, see How to tell if your computer is infected with spyware.

Are you getting unexpected messages, or are programs starting automatically? Some viruses can cause damage to Windows or some of your programs. The results of this damage might include messages appearing unexpectedly, programs starting or closing automatically, or Windows shutting down suddenly.
Is your modem or hard disk working overtime? An e‑mail virus works by sending many copies of itself by e‑mail. One indicator of this is that the activity light on your broadband or external modem is constantly lit; another is the sound of your computer’s hard disk continually working. These are not always symptoms of a computer virus, but when combined with other problems, can indicate a virus infection.
To check for viruses, scan your computer with an antivirus program. New viruses appear every day, so keeping your antivirus program updated is important.

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What is Spyware?

Summertime 2013 Tech Tip #2

One of the most common problems computer users deal with is Spyware. The threat of Spyware infecting your PC is becoming more real everyday. It is easier then ever for your PC to become a victim of Spyware. What is Spyware anyway?

Spyware is a type of software that is installed on your computer to watch and record your activity. Some types of spyware record your keystrokes and information that you type into websites or other programs and then use that information for targeted advertising or identity theft. These programs can be installed on your computer in many ways, but often they are hidden inside of software such as free games, screen savers, or animated cursors.
Here are some signs that your computer might be infected with spyware:
  • You notice new toolbars, links, or favorites that you didn’t intentionally add to your web browser.
  • Your home page, mouse pointer, or search program changes unexpectedly.
  • You type the address of a specific website into your web browser, but you’re taken to a completely unrelated website.
  • You see pop-up ads, even if your computer isn’t connected to the Internet.
  • Your computer suddenly starts running slowly. Not all computer performance problems are caused by spyware, but spyware can cause a noticeable change.
Sometimes, your computer will show no symptoms, even if a spyware program is running. To help protect your privacy and your computer, I recommend that you run Windows Defender or another antispyware program at all times.
What if Spyware is on your PC?
If you have spyware or other potentially unwanted software on your computer, you should use an antispyware scanner and removal tool to try to remove it. You can also try to remove spyware manually. You might need to use both of these methods more than once to completely remove the spyware or other potentially unwanted software.
Spyware can sometimes be hard to remove. If an antispyware program notifies you that it can’t remove spyware, follow the instructions provided by the antispyware program. If that doesn’t work, try these options:
  • Try installing an antivirus or another antispyware program. Many antivirus programs also come with antispyware protection.
Sadly sometimes even the most trained and well informed computer experts cannot remove a well entrenched and hidden piece of spyware. Some spyware can hide itself so well that it can’t be removed. If you still see evidence of spyware after trying to remove it with an antispyware program or after trying to uninstall it using Control Panel, you might need to reinstall Windows and your programs.

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