Tag Archives: computer

Advanced System Care 6 – Newbie Friendly (With a Little Help)

imageSome months ago, IObit asked that I take a look at their latest Advanced System Care – Version 6 (free edition). Since I’ve reviewed IObit’s various applications as far back as 5 years ago (ancient history in Technology/Internet time) – and, since I’ve generally rated the company’s free offerings at the high end of the scale, it was easy to say “Yes”.

For this particular review though, it was time to do something a little different. Not only would I run with the application for several months (as opposed to my normal test period of two weeks, or so) – but, three of my “I’m only a regular user” friends would run with it as well.

The primary objective of structuring the test in this manner was to to isolate and compare the experiences of a techie, against the real life computing experiences of a “regular” user – one who has little or no understanding of the Registry, Junk Files, …………

There was no miracle transformation during the time that I worked with my small group. They did not magically turn into “super techs.” But, it’s fair to say, that each of them has a better understanding of the relationship between various parts of their OS, and the need to keep the OS neat and tidy.

Equally as important, at least for this review, was the unanimous agreement  (in this small friendly sample), that Advanced System Care, when run regularly, improved their computer experience.

But did it? Let’s find out.

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Installation:

Installation was fast and clean and did not lead to the expected (from the group) – “what’s this” or “what does this mean”, or……………..

User Interface:

As you’ll see in the following screen shots the GUI is relatively uncluttered and straightforward.

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The application is broken down into three modules – CareToolbox – and, Turbo Boost, as shown below.

Care:

Selecting specific settings to apply to a particular action/s can be accomplished by pointing to an item. If the item can be selected, a settings icon will appear as shown below at the arrow. Across the board, the group found this method awkward, easy to miss, and not instinctive.

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The settings menu allows for a considerable degree of choice. Participants in the test found that choosing which repairs to select was, in most instances, easy.  That’s not to say, that the occasional phone call wasn’t required. But, that’s a matter of user experience as opposed to a shortfall in the application.

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The results of a quick scan (less than a minute on a relatively clean system), are shown below.

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Users will have the option of selecting “automatic repair” prior to running the scan. Less experienced users should exercise caution.

Clicking on repair, in this example, completed the job in less than 30 seconds.

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Who makes mistakes? Me, you – we all do!

IObit, recognizing this, has built in a safeguard – the Rescue Center. Each time a cleaning operation is launched, the first process is the creation of a backup point so that Registry, and Internet changes, can be reversed if necessary.

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Bummer Time (or not?) -

From the Quick Settings menu, clicking on “Activate all functions” ……….

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pops up a teaser.

Keeping in mind that this is a FREE product, I must admit to being astonished by the negativity generated on many forums by this teaser. I wonder how these people respond to ads on TV, or in their newspaper – items that they’ve paid for.  

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Toolbox:

The Toolbox is chock full of goodies (lots of goodies) – some of which are in fact, built in OS system tools. Still, having access to a wide range of tools, all in one place, is a bonus.

More advanced users who like to carry around their “IT Toolbox” on their keychain (on a USB stick, of course   Smile) should find the portable tool creation applet worthwhile.

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Overall Rating:

My assessment: A-

On the whole, this application does what it says it will do – and, it’s fast. But, I will mark it down for a rather convoluted settings menu access.

The groups assessment: A+

Participating in an application test was, I think, a bit of a thrill for my guys – particularly one in which (HELP!) was just a call away. What surprised me was, just how quickly folks grasped the fundamentals with just a wee bit of help.

Overall, participants were pleasantly surprised at both the built-in functionality of the application, and the ease of use. And, in what may come as a surprise to more experienced users – participants were astonished at the availability of such a high quality application for FREE.

System requirements: Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, XP and 2000.

Languages: English, Arabic, Belarusian, Czech, ChineseSimp, ChineseTrad, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese(PT-BR), Romanian, Russian, Serbian (cyrillic), Serbian (latin), Slovenian, Spanish, Turkish, Vietnamese.

Download at: Softpedia

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Filed under Cleaning Your Computer, Computer Maintenance, Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, IObit

Crashed Hard Drive? Progressive Data Recovery Steps

This guest post is contributed by Grady Winston. Grady is an avid writer and Internet entrepreneur from Indianapolis. He has worked in the fields of technology, business, marketing, and advertising – implementing multiple creative projects and solutions for a range of clients.

imageTake a deep breath, your computer crashing isn’t the end.

When a computer freezes up, or worse yet crashes, it can send even the most seasoned computer user into a hair-pulling maniacal panic. For many beginner or inexperienced users, a crashed hard drive often means the loss of gigabytes upon gigabytes of music, pictures, movies, videos, documents, and just about any other type of important digital file imaginable.

While the temptation to throw your laptop across the room in frustration is understandable, it may be a tad melodramatic. Why? Because you’d be surprised just how easy it is to recover seemingly lost data yourself. Refrain from catapulting your computer across the room, take a nice deep breath, and let’s take a deeper look into the world of hard drive data recovery.

Recovering Hard Drive Data in Four Steps

1. Purchase a New Hard Drive – Just like when you total your car, when a hard drive crashes, it’s pretty much deemed useless in that it can’t be used again. But, just like you can usually still fish out your CD collection and glove box contents, you can recover the useful parts or data from the drive.

The first step in the “recovery” process requires understanding that you need a new hard drive. Take another deep breath, head to a local computer or electronics store, and pick up a compatible hard drive.

2. Configure a Master and a Slave Drive – Before you even think about recovering your crashed hard drive’s data you must configure both drives for data recovery. This involves installing your new hard drive as the primary (or “master”) hard drive, and the crashed hard drive as the secondary (or “slave”) drive. In a nutshell, setting up your new drive as the master drive tells your computer’s operating system to recognize it as the primary system drive. Keep in mind that this process can vary widely from OS to OS.

3. Recover Your Data – Now that you have correctly configured each hard drive you can recover data from the old drive. Since the crashed drive is the secondary drive, this is pretty much a drag and drop situation. Simply locate the files you want to recover and drag them over to the new hard drive and place them in the appropriate folder.

There are certain files that you may not be able to locate easily. Take Microsoft Outlook tools for example. If you’re looking to recover lots of email conversations you’ll probably need to use an Outlook recovery and repair tool. There are plenty of affordable tools that scan your Outlook files and recover lost or hidden files for you.

4. Hire a Data Recovery Specialist – Finally, if your data recovery efforts leave a lot to be desired, it may be time to call in the big guns. While hiring a data recovery specialist isn’t the cheapest solutions, it may be the fastest way to recover lost data.

Conclusion: A Final Word of Caution

Every time you try to recover data from a crashed hard drive, you run the risk of losing some data completely and forever. This isn’t a great feeling, but it happens to the best of us. This is where safe email and web surfing practices will go a long way to protect your data from being corrupted.

Protecting your data may also mean backing it up. Fortunately, affordable online backup and recovery tools are just a click away. The bottom line is that hard drives are fickle, mechanical devices that can go bad without a moment’s notice. Keep a tight grasp on your data and you can avoid data recovery nightmares like this one.

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Filed under Guest Writers, Hard Drive Problems

Think BEFORE You Click! – How Hard Is That?

imageHARD, apparently.

I recently repeated a small experiment (for the third year in a row), with a group of “average computer user” friends, (12 this time around), and I was disappointed to see (once again), that the conditioned response issue to “just click” while surfing the web, was still there.

Still, I’m always hopeful that reinforcing the point that clicking haphazardly, without considering the consequences – the installation of malicious code that can cause identity theft and the theft of passwords, bank account numbers, and other personal information – would have had some impact. Apparently not.

But, I haven’t given up. I’m prepared to hammer them repeatedly until such time as I can make some progress. In the meantime, I expect that curiously browsing the web blissfully unaware of the considerable malware dangers, will continue to be the modus operandi for my friends.

They’re not alone in their “clicking haphazardly” bad habits. Many of us have learned to satisfy our curiosity simply by a mouse click here, and a mouse click there. Arguable, we have developed a conditioned response (without involving conscious thought), to – “just click”.

It can be argued, that our “just click” mindset poses the biggest risk to our online safety and security. In fact, security experts argue, that a significant number of malware infections could be avoided if users stopped “just clicking haphazardly”, or opening the types of files that are clearly dangerous. However, this type of dangerous behavior continues despite the warnings.

Most visitors to this site are above average users (I’m assuming that you are too), so, I have a challenge for you.

Take every appropriate opportunity to inform your friends, your relatives, and associates, that “just clicking haphazardly” without considering the consequences, can lead to the installation of malicious code that can cause identity theft and the theft of passwords, bank account numbers, and other personal information.

Help them realize that “just clicking”, can expose them to:

  • Trojan horse programs
  • Back door and remote administration programs
  • Denial of service attacks
  • Being an intermediary for another attack
  • Mobile code (Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX)
  • Cross-site scripting
  • Email spoofing
  • Email-borne viruses
  • Packet sniffing

They’ll be glad that you took an interest in their online safety. And, best of all, by doing this, you will have helped raise the level of security for all of us.

A point to ponder:

Since it’s proven to be difficult to get “buy-in” on this – “think before you click safety strategy” – I generally ask the question – do you buy lottery tickets? Not surprisingly, the answer is often – yes. The obvious next question is – why?

The answers generally run along these lines – I could win; somebody has to win;……. It doesn’t take much effort to point out that the odds of a malware infection caused by poor Internet surfing habits are ENORMOUSLY higher than winning the lottery and, that there’s a virtual certainty that poor habits will lead to a malware infection.

The last question I ask before I walk away shaking my head is – if you believe you have a chance of winning the lottery – despite the odds – why do you have a problem believing that you’re in danger on the Internet because of your behavior, despite the available stats that prove otherwise?

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Online Safety, Spyware - Adware Protection

Way To Go WOT! – Now Protecting 30 Million Users

imageThe Internet is one kickass place – survey after survey continue to show that cybercriminals are picking off unaware/undereducated users, as if they were shooting fish in a barrel.

It’s hardly surprising then, that an enormous industry (no, not big, not large – but, enormous) has developed, based on the principal that technology can act as a counterfoil  to the most nefarious cyber criminal schemes. Criminal schemes which are, after all, technology driven.

I’ll leave it to you to decide if this has been an effective solution.

No matter the side you come down on regarding this complex issue, dancing around naked (so to speak ) on the Internet – that is, without adequate Browser protection, is akin to fumbling and stumbling through the toughest neighborhood in your area – after dark.

Internet security starts with the Web Browser (it does not end there – but, one step at a time), and WOT (Web of Trust, which passed the 30 million user mark yesterday – January 9, 2011), substantially reduces the risk exposure that comes with wandering through the increasingly risky neighborhood that the Internet has become.

Based on the way that I surf the Web, there’s no contest as to which of the 17 add-ons I have installed on Firefox, is most important to my piece of mind. The hands down winner – the single most important add-on for my style of surfing is WOT (Web of Trust).

Sure, that’s a pretty bold statement – but, since I frequently hear from readers who, after installing WOT on their computer systems, feel reassured that they are safer than ever before, and who express a renewed sense of confidence, and  a new level of enthusiasm, while surfing the Internet, I’ll go with it.

If you’re not yet a WOT user, read the following in-depth review – you may reconsider.

What is WOT?

WOT, one of the most downloaded Firefox Add-ons at the Mozilla add-on site, (also compatible with Internet Explorer and Chrome), is a free Internet Browser resource which  investigates web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams – helping you avoid unsafe web sites.

For example, here’s a Google search in which WOT indicates which sites are safe. Notice the unsafe (red) sites, in the Google ads!

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Take a look at what happens if, in fact, you do end up on an unsafe web site. WOT’s dropdown warning curtain blocks access to the site until you determine otherwise.

WOT - new

WOT operates in a unique fashion in order to offer active protection to the Internet user community. It stands out from the crowd of similar applications, by soliciting the opinions of users/members whose views on web site safety are incorporated into the overall site safety rating. According to WOT, the user community now has reputation data on over 35 million sites worldwide.

The shared information on a site’s reputation includes trustworthiness, vendor reliability, privacy, and child safety. As well, in order to achieve maximum security coverage, WOT uses thousands of trusted sources including phishing site listings, to keep users protected against rapidly spreading threats.

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WOT integrates seamlessly with search engine results from popular search engines including Google, Yahoo, MSN and other popular sites, and provides impressive protection against Internet predators.

WOT recently added the top three web-based email services – Google Gmail, Windows Live Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail, to its free security protection. You can now feel more confident and secure, since WOT checks links embedded in your email, and warns you of dangerous web sites so that you can avoid spyware, spam, phishing, identity theft and other Internet scams; before you click on dangerous embedded links.

How WOT works:

The Browser add-on icon, displays a color rating for each site you visit, indicating whether a site is safe to use, should be used with caution, or avoided entirely.

Using traffic light colors, (green, yellow, and red), WOT leaves you in no doubt as to the safety rating of a web site. An impressive feature of WOT is the dropdown transparent warning curtain, shown earlier, triggered on visiting a dangerous site.

Recognizing that up to ten percent of Internet users are at a disadvantage however, due to colorblindness, and cannot rely on an Internet safety system based on color coding, the Web of Trust development team recently released an adaptive version of WOT. This version incorporates equivalent alternative information, through assistive or adaptive technology, for colorblind users.

This colorblind accessible application provides the same critical benefits to those individuals who have to contend with visual impairments, as it has to those of us who have come to rely on WOT as a major defense against the pervasive hazards we encounter on the Internet.

Quick facts – WOT checks the following on each web site visited:

Trustworthiness

Vendor reliability

Privacy

Child Safety

More quick facts:

Ratings for over 30 million websites

The WOT browser add-on is light and updates automatically

WOT rating icons appear beside search results in Google, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Gmail, etc.

Settings can be customized to better protect your family

WOT Security Scorecard shows rating details and user comments

Works with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome

Interface supports English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish and Finnish.

System requirements: Windows (all), Mac OS X, Linux

Download at: MyWot

Surf more securely by installing this browser add-on which will provide you with an in-depth site analysis based on real world results. Keep in mind however, that you are your own best protection. Stop · Think · Click.

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Filed under Browser add-ons, Browser Plug-ins, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Internet Safety Tools

The Tech Savvy Generation Myth Hurts All Of Us

imageTime to beat that dead horse again. Out of habit mainly, since statistically, it’s a total waste of time for me (and others, of course) to continue to advance the position that “education” should offer significant benefits in the fight against cybercrime. Users, it seems, remain unconvinced.

Unfortunately, there’s a huge imbalance in the fight against cybercrime. On the one side we have highly motivated, and technically astute, albeit despicable human beings – intent on causing harm. On the other side – you, me, and the rest – many of whom can be classed as stupidly arrogant in assessing their own technical capabilities. Tough talk? Not nearly tough enough from where I sit.

The Ponemon Institute and PC Tools, in a recent study/survey, marked this real gap between perceptions users have in their own abilities to stay safe on the Net, versus the reality. In a few words (my words, not theirs), too many computer users are dead stupid in assessing their own capabilities.

Hardly news though, is it? We’ve discussed this issue here, over and over. Which is why, I had a bit of a chuckle when I read Richard Clooke’s  (Richard is a highly competent online security expert at PC Tools, whom I’ve corresponded with occasionally) comment imbedded in the report -

“The longer term concern is that while many of us think that we are too savvy for online scams, the research demonstrates otherwise,” said Richard Clooke, online security expert at PC Tools. “Unless consumer behavior is addressed through education, the incidence of cyber criminals seeking to cash in on consumer trust and naivety online is likely to increase exponentially.”

Sadly, I’ll take issue with Richard’s last statement – good luck with the education thing. I have yet to see any improvement in “Internet Street Smarts” where education played a role – nor do I expect to. Why would there be, when the harmful myth of the “Tech Savvy Generation” continues to be taken at face value by so many.

Some time back, I wrote an article on this issue which has proven to be very popular with educational institutions, when used as a resource. If you missed this article, you’ll find it below:

Part Of The Tech Savvy Generation? How Tech Savvy Are You Really?

You’re part of a computer literate and technically competent generation – you know, the “tech savvy generation” we hear so much about.

So, when it comes to wandering through the risky Internet neighborhood that’s arguably full of predators, you tend not to worry.

You’re convinced, that since you’re a member of this tech savvy generation, when you surf the Internet, you can handle the dangers and pitfalls that wait for the typical unsuspecting user, (the user who’s not part of your tech savvy generation).

This unsophisticated non-tech savvy group are much more likely than you, to be pounced on by the multitude of scam artists, schemers and cyber crooks lurking in the shadows, just waiting for victims. Right?

It’s entirely possible of course, that you are computer literate, and technically competent. On the other hand, simply because you are a member of that generation who have grown up with computers, does not make you tech savvy. I hate to burst your bubble, but the concept of a “tech savvy generation” is a myth.

I understand why you may have bought into this myth. People love myths. It seems that we will buy into any myth provided it agrees with, or reinforces, our already held misconceptions.

Myths of course, get their status precisely because they do reinforce our beliefs, properly held or not. This myth (masterfully propagated by the media), continues to pose serious security risks for those who believe it.

Since I’m involved in Internet and system security, I have many opportunities to deal with the “tech savvy generation”, and overall, I find them no more competent than average/typical computer users.

Unfortunately, I find that not only does the tech savvy generation not know “what they don’t know”, they don’t want to hear about it because developing knowledge is hard, and it requires time and effort. Better to just hang on to the myth.

I’ll admit, that anecdotal evidence, while interesting, does not always tell the tale. On the other hand, gather enough anecdotal evidence and one may have enough data to propose a theory, that can withstand probing and prodding.

As a tech/geek/writer, I am in touch with loads of other techs/geeks/writers from around the world, on a fairly consistent basis. One undisputed reality that we all agree on is, the lack of knowledge exhibited by typical computer users, and that members of the tech savvy generation, are no more than typical computer users.

So, if you’re a member of the so called tech savvy generation, you need to consider these realities:

Cyber criminals count on your believing the myth. It makes their job just that much easier.

There’s a major lack of knowledge and skill relating to computers/connected devices, and security, in the tech savvy generation. You really are, just an average computer user.

Common sense tips:

Stop believing the myth.

Start being proactive when it comes to your computer and connected device’s security; part of that is making sure you have adequate software based protection to reduce the chances you will fall victim to cyber crime.

Recommended reading: Principles of Security: Keeping it Simple – by guest writer Mark Schneider, and – An Anti-malware Test – Common Sense Wins.

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Filed under Bill's Rants, Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, Opinion, PC Tools, Safe Surfing

The Fundamental Principle Of Safe Surfing – Think “Common Sense”

imageSo what can you add to your computer’s Firewall, Security Applications, and Browser security add-ons to ensure you have the best protection available while you’re surfing the web? Well, how about something that’s free, and readily available? Something called “Common Sense”.

Common sense: sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.

-   Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary

Common Sense Tip #1 – Given the virtual epidemic of malware currently circulating on the Internet, don’t run, or install programs, of unknown origin.

Internet users’ continue to be bombarded with rogue security software which has reached epidemic proportions. There seems to be no end to the release of new rogue security software threats. Rogue software will often install and use a Trojan horse to download a trial version, or it will perform other actions on a machine that are detrimental such as slowing down the computer drastically.

Download applications, particularly free programs, only from verifiably safe sites (sites that guarantee malware free downloads), such as Download.com, MajorGeeks, Softpedia, and the like.

There are many more safe download sites available, but be sure you investigate the site thoroughly before you download anything. Googling the site, while not always entirely reliable, is a good place to start. A recommendation from friends as to a site’s safety is often a more appropriate choice.

Common Sense Tip #2 – Don’t open emails that come from untrusted sources. It’s been estimated that 96% of emails are spam. While not all spam is unsafe, common sense dictates that you treat it as if it is.

Common Sense Tip #3 – Don’t run files that you receive via email without making sure of their origin. If the link has been sent to you in a forwarded email from a friend, be particularly cautious. Forwarded emails are notorious for containing dangerous elements, and links.

Common Sense Tip #4 – Don’t click links in emails. If they come from a known source, type them in the browser’s address bar. If they come from an untrusted source, simply ignore them, as they could take you to a web designed to download malware onto your computer.

Common Sense Tip #5 – If you do not use a web based email service then be sure your anti-virus software scans all incoming e-mail and attachments.

Common Sense Tip #6 – Be proactive when it comes to your computer’s security; make sure you have adequate software based protection to reduce the chances that your machine will become infected.

Be proactive when it comes to your computer’s security; make sure you have adequate software based protection to reduce the chances that your machine will become infected.

Most of all, understand that you are your own best protection.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Cyber Criminals, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Interconnectivity, Safe Surfing, Windows Tips and Tools

The Best “Stay Safe On The Internet” App? – Your BRAIN!

image Yes, it’s true! There’s an application designed to help keep you safe on the Internet. And here’s the best part – you don’t have to buy, or download and install this application.

Most Internet users, in my experience, already have this app (some don’t – more about that later), and it works surprisingly well with a computer’s Firewall, Security Applications, and Browser security add-ons.

The Brain is a very efficient Internet safety device, and using it will provide a user with the best protection available while surfing the Internet. There’s a small problem with the Brain though – which might explain its frequent unreliability.

Just as a Firewall needs to be “trained”, to reach the best state of efficiency and protection capabilities, similarly, the Brain app requires “training’”; so that it too, can perform to its maximum potential as an Internet safety device.

Failure to train a software Firewall application, for example, can lead, in many cases, to an erratic and uncertain experience. The untrained Brain app as well, can exhibit parallel behavior.

Sadly, a significant number of Brain apps lack this training and as a result, many computer users fail to recognize the dangers, and threats, the Internet poses to their computers, and to their personal privacy.

The following is a current example of the dangers an untrained Brain can be exposed to:

Last week Naked Security warned of a Facebook worm that was spreading on the social network, tricking users into believing that they were clicking on a link to an image.

Although an unsuspecting user may believe that they are clicking on a link to a JPG image, the truth is that they are downloading an executable file that attempts to download further code (another piece of malware) from the net and drops a .BAT batch file onto infected computers.

The ultimate aim of all this malicious activity is to install the Dorkbot malware onto your Windows computer.

Clearly it’s time, if you haven’t already learnt the lesson, to realize that you should always be wary of links shared by friends on social networks – after all, how can you tell it was a friend who sent it or a piece of malware on their computer?

Times have changed; cybercriminals are increasingly more knowledgeable, quicker to respond to opportunities, and more relentless than ever in their attempts to separate surfers from their money.

Train that Brain – so that you are aware of the shape of the Internet landscape, and the changes that are occurring, or may occur in that landscape. Now, more than ever, Brain training is a necessity – a prerequisite to protecting yourself, and your computer, from cybercriminal attack.

Shameless self promotion: Subscribe to Tech Thoughts Daily Net News and stay in the loop. We’ll keep you on top of changing security conditions so that you’re better prepared to make proactive adjustments to your Internet security strategy. Just click on “Follow” – bottom right hand on this page – and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, Internet Safety, Malware Protection, Online Safety, Opinion