Four Square Re-brands in Hopes of Surviving

There was a time where I was using FourSquare much more then Facebook. The cool thing about FourSquare is that it wants to be a truly social experience. No silly comments or posts about getting up on the wrong side of the bed or not being able to find a parking space.

FourSquare’s mission is to have a place where it’s members can post where they are, get reviews and find where their friends are hanging out. FourSquare does all of this better then Facebook but has struggled to get new users and to keep them. Obviously realizing something had to be done big changes were recently announced regarding FourSquare’s future.

FourSquare is preparing a major redesign of its original mobile app. Recently Foursquare stopped the traditional “check-in” and launched a new, standalone app called Swarm.  The company is giving its existing discovery and location-based recommendation app an entirely new look and feel.

To begin with, Foursquare is re-branding. The new typeface uses a darker shade of blue, while swapping out the iconic check-in logo for a pink ‘F’ emblem.

blog-foursquarelogo

Once opened  you will find a new navigation bar at the bottom, with the options Find a Place, Here, Tips and Profile. The first option has large, photo-centric segments recommending places nearby and businesses that cater to your specific tastes. A search bar is shown prominently at the top and there’s a horizontal carousel underneath for selecting specific destination types, such as Lunch, Brunch, Breakfast, Coffee and Dinner.

If you have the Swarm app installed, Foursquare is promising that the two will “work seamlessly together.” In the screenshots below, you can see the additional option on the right-hand image, just below the green numbered rating. This will only appear to people who have Swarm installed on their device.

If you have the Swarm app installed, Foursquare is promising that the two will “work seamlessly together.” In the screenshots below, you can see the additional option on the right-hand image, just below the green numbered rating. This will only appear to people who have Swarm installed on their device.

blog venuepage caption 730x617 Foursquare reveals a new logo and previews its overhauled discovery app

To that end, Foursquare is shifting all check-ins over to its Swarm app tomorrow. If you’ve managed to ignore Swarm and continue checking in with the Foursquare app up until now, that will no longer be an option.

Foursquare reports that the new app will be available “in a couple of weeks.” This may be the time to try our FourSquare I certainly will be giving it another shot.

Beware Careto

A new, extremely sophisticated malware of totally unknown origin has hit the web. It poses as your favorite news site and attempts you to click on intriguing links, then subsequently steals all of your sensitive information.

Recently malware tends to focus on one thing: it attempts to gain control of your personal information. Sadly, the days of 1995′s cyberpunk classic Hackers – where the whole point of malware was to be a nuisance and could be thwarted by typing the word “cookie” into a prompt — are over. For better or worse malware is no longer disguised as Cookie Monster’s face munching around a computer monitor, but are now disguised as your favorite sources of news.

Kaspersky Labs released an extensive report (PDF) regarding this new kind of malware. Dubbed Careto, the malware begins life as a phishing attempt, posing as an email from popular news websites. Once you click on the link, you’re brought to a website that scans your rig for vulnerabilities, then attempts to inject an infection through one of the newly discovered holes.

This time around, Mac users can’t deploy their infamous line regarding Macs not getting viruses, because there is a tailored Careto version for each major operating system — OS X, Windows, and Linux. Kaspersky also suspects that there are iOS and Android versions of Careto on the loose.

As I have said many time to protect yourself from these cyber attacks try sticking to these simple rules:

  • Only go to reputable websites.
  • Do not click on links on websites or email without making sure it is legitimate.
  • As far as email goes, only click on links or open attachments that you specifically asked for. If you are in doubt contact the sender directly and “ask before clicking”.
  • When you receive message prompts on your computer take the time to read what it is “saying it will do” before clicking “OK” or “next”.

Crypto Locker Warning

It seems like I write monthly about computer security but if you needed a reminder to be careful about the emails and attachments you open, it’s now. The Crypto Locker virus that is going around is said to be one of the worst ever and is infecting computers with the Windows OS all across the United States. The virus, also called “ransomware,” works by holding your files hostage until you pay a fee.

The Crypto Locker virus is passed around in emails that have innocent enough looking senders, such as UPS or FedEx, but they’re not really from these corporations, of course. Instead, when you open the attachment, your computer becomes infected and the virus locks all your files until you pay a ransom. Check out a picture of what the Crypto Locker demand screen looks like:

Ransomware causes your computer files to be non-accessible and when that happens you have two choices. You can recover if you have a backup which I hope you do or pay the ransom within 100 hours. If you do not pay the ransom you will lose all of your data.

The Crypto Locker email pretends often pretends to be from a financial institution like a bank or Pay Pal and reports that it has dire news for you and that the attachment is important. readers of these emails often panic and open the attachment and then it’s too late. The PC is infected and the files are encrypted which means you cannot open your own files. The attachment will often disguise itself as JPEG images, as PDF files, as Microsoft Office files and many other file types.  After the computer becomes infected, users are usually given 100 hours to pay a fee between $100 and $700 to get the files decrypted.

This Is Important – Follow These Rules

1.  If you get an email from somebody you do not know, especially if it has attachments, do not open anything with it, just delete the email.

2.  If you did not specifically ask for an attachment do not open it. If you are curious reach out to the send by phone before opening anything. If you cannot contact the send do not open it!

Backing Up Your Files is More Important Then Ever

Make sure you have all of your files backed up both on a local disconnected USB hard drive and in the cloud. There are many free and affordable cloud services available so there is really no excuse not to do this. If your PC gets infected with the Crypto Locker virus you backup may be your digital salvation.

Spyware 101

This week I had to “clean up” another work mate’s personal PC because of spyware (and a troublesome Trojan horse). This threat obviously is not taken seriously by many computer users and I am not sure why. This got me thinking that a little education was in order. I have covered this before, but I decided to take a little time to talk “Spyware 101”.

Basically, What is Spyware?
Spyware is software that’s installed without your consent, whether it be a traditional computer, an application in your web-browser, or a mobile application residing on your device. In short, spyware communicates personal, confidential information about you to an attacker. The information might be reports about your online browsing habits or purchases, but it can also be modified to record things like keystrokes on the keyboard, credit card information, passwords, or login credentials.

This software normally gets onto a computer by attaching itself to some other program that the user intentionally downloads and installs. Sometimes this is done completely discreetly, but other times the desired software will include information in the license agreement actually describing the spyware — without using the term “spyware” — and forcing the user to agree to install it in order to install the desired program. Alternatively, spyware can get into a computer through all the avenues that other malware takes, such as when the user visits a compromised website or opens a malicious attachment in an email.

What is the Harm Anyway?
Spyware can cause you two main problems. First, and perhaps most importantly, it can steal personal information that can be used for identity theft. If the malicious software has access to every piece of information on your computer, including browsing history, email accounts, saved passwords used for online banking and shopping in addition to social networks, it can harvest more than enough information to create a profile imitating your identity. In addition, if you’ve visited online banking sites, spyware can siphon your bank account information or credit card accounts and sell it to third-parties or use them directly.

The second, and more common, problem is the damage spyware can do to your computer. This is where I usually get the phone call. Spyware can take up an enormous amount of your computer’s resources, making it run slowly, lag in between applications or while online, frequent system crashes or freezes and even overheat your computer causing permanent damage. It can also manipulate search engine results and deliver unwanted websites in your browser, which can lead to potentially harmful websites or fraudulent ones. It can also cause your home page to change and can even alter some of your computer’s settings.

Controlling Spyware
The best way to control spyware is by preventing it from getting on your computer in the first place. However not downloading programs and never clicking on email attachments isn’t always an option. Sometimes, even a trusted website can become compromised and infect your computer — even if you’ve done nothing wrong.

Many people are turning to internet security solutions with reliable antivirus detection capabilities and proactive protection. If your computer is already infected, many security providers offer spyware removal utilities to assist in identifying and removing spyware. There are a number of free antivirus solutions available, such as Microsoft’s Security Essentials which promises unlimited protection at no cost. There are also excellent paid options as well to protect your PC, and yourself which I have covered many times in the past.

Spyware, and its associated malicious programs like malware and viruses, will always be a danger as long as you use an Internet connected device. As a result everyone who uses computing devices from PCs to tablets and even smartphones needs to take a little time and become aware of the real dangers of spyware.