Category Archives: Internet Safety for Seniors

Why Do Users Keep Falling for Scams?

This guest post is contributed by my Aussie mate, Jim Hillier. Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at Dave’s Computer Tips. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele… as well as writing for DCT, of course.


*Social engineering: refers to psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. A type of confidence trick for the purpose of information gathering, fraud, or system access — Wikipedia

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It’s unfathomable to me why so many people still get caught out by social engineering techniques, being tricked into clicking that link or opening that attachment.

Social engineering is one of the most prevalent methods used by cybercriminals to infect a system and/or gain a user’s sensitive information. Ransomware, phishing emails, scams, all generally involve an element of social engineering. Why? Because it’s simple, effective, and lucrative. It stands to reason then that the most potent method for eradicating these types of threats would be to make them less effective and less lucrative. The question is; how to achieve that?

You’ve no doubt come across the saying “education is key” – and, when it comes to social engineering, nothing could be truer. Because of the changing nature of socially engineered exploits, security software cannot always protect users from themselves. That’s why Tech blogs are repeatedly issuing the same advice/warnings – don’t click on links in emails from unknown senders, don’t open email attachments from unknown senders, etc., etc., etc. In fact, I recently published yet another list of do’s and don’ts  “10 Golden Rules to Defeat Scammers” . Yet, despite all this, so many people are still falling victim to social engineering.

A large part of the problem I suppose is that the users who need this type of advice the most are generally not the sort of people who tend to visit and read Tech blogs.

I was recently perusing a well-known freeware site and came across a comment from someone complaining that, despite being protected by a commercial grade antivirus, his company’s computers had been infected by ransomware… twice. On both occasions the infection was initiated by an employee clicking on something he or she shouldn’t have clicked on. I suggested to him that perhaps his company needed to review and strengthen its staff training program. Education is key.

My own clientele consists largely of elderly folk and, in my experience, many are highly susceptible to phishing and scams in general. I have a theory about this; I’m sure it’s because they were brought up in an era when trust was inherent; leaving the front door to the house open, leaving the car unlocked and keys in the ignition. Do you know what I mean? It’s not so much that they are gullible, more overly trusting.

These people also tend to be not so computer/security savvy, so rather than hit them with a long list of do’s and don’ts, which might be difficult to follow, I condense it all down to just three rules for them to remember:

1. Treat each and every unsolicited phone call and/or email as highly suspicious.

2. Always be very wary about giving out sensitive personal information over the internet.

3. If it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.

If the more savvy among us would only take the time to pass this type of advice around their own particular circles of family, friends, and acquaintances, I believe that we, collectively, might just make a difference.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Hacked, Education, Internet Safety for Seniors, Online Safety, Safe Surfing, System Security, trojans, Viruses, worms

Free AntiMalware Software – And More – For Senior Computer Users

Looking at recent Internet usage statisticsimage, it seems obvious to me that older adults are now realizing that they don’t have to understand the “nitty gritty” of computer technology to send email-mail to friends and family, shop online, play games, make greeting cards, read book and film reviews, look into family genealogy, or find valuable health information on the Internet.

Here’s just one personal example of how older adults have jumped on the Internet bandwagon, and use it to great advantage.

Not too long ago, I ran into some older friends (in their 60s), who had recently gotten home after wintering in Florida. Throughout their time away (5 months, or so), they stayed in touch with their children, and grandchildren – virtually on a daily basis, using the free audio/video communication application, Skype. What a great use of technology!

Like the rest of us, Senior users are susceptible to cybercrime, and like the rest of us, need to protect their computers against the ever increasing exposure we all face to Trojans, Spyware, Viruses, Phishing Scams, and Identity Theft, while connected to the Internet.

Just for the record thought – statistically, it’s the deceptively named“tech savvy” generation, with their often misplaced confidence in their own abilities, who are more predisposed to malware infections and cyber criminal manipulation. Older users it seems, do know what they don’t know. My personal experience with a broad range of users, echoes these statistics.

For those that are members of this newly liberated group of Senior computer users, (who are not aggressive surfers), I’ve compiled a list of free anti-malware, and additional recommended applications, with simplicity of operation in mind – no manuals to digest, no tricky configuration to undertake; just install, and the applications will essentially do the rest.

But first:

Patch your operating system:

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Download and install all available patches, and service packs – if applicable, by connecting to Windows Update. Security Gurus will tell you that 50% of unpatched, and unprotected systems, will be infected with malicious code within 12 minutes of being connected to the Internet. Believe it!

Recommended Security Solutions:

PC Tools Firewall Plus 7:

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I’ve been running with this application for more than a year, and I must admit – I’m impressed with its performance. It installs easily, sets up quickly, and has not caused any conflicts despite my sometimes esoteric running requirements. The default settings are well thought out, and provide excellent protection for all users but particularly, less experience users.

Microsoft Security Essentials

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Easy to set up and run, particularly for new users. The interface is positively simple – offering Quick Scan, Full Scan, or Custom Scan. Provides full real time protection against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. Additionally, Microsoft Security Essentials is free for small businesses with up to 10 PCs.

Immunet Free Antivirus

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Companion Antivirus: a superior community driven cloud based security application, which continues to gain increasing popularity – and rightfully so. In real time, Immunet keeps track of the state of security in the collective community (network), and should a member of the network (the community), encounter malware, you (as a member of the protected community), are instantly protected against the threat.

ThreatFire

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ThreatFire blocks mal-ware, including zero-day threats, by analyzing program behavior and it does a stellar job. This is one of the security applications that forms part of my own front line defenses.

SpyShelter Personal Free:

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SpyShelter is free anti-keylogging, anti-spyware program that protects your data from Keylogging and spy programs: known, unknown, and under-development. It detects and blocks dangerous and malicious programs, to help ensure that your data cannot be stolen by cyber criminals.

Firefox 4.0.1

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While Firefox is not technically an anti-malware application per se, with the most effective security add-ons, including NoScript, Adblock Plus and BetterPrivacy installed, it effectively acts as one.

Firefox 4.0.1 includes hundreds of improvements over previous versions.

WOT

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Web of Trust, a browser add-on which offers Internet users active preventive protection against Web-based attacks, online scams, identify theft, and unreliable shopping sites.

WinPatrol 20.5.2

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With WinPatrol, in your system tray, you can monitor system areas that are often changed by malicious programs. You can monitor your startup programs and services, cookies and current tasks. Should you need to, WinPatrol allows you to terminate processes and enable, or disable, startup programs. There are additional features that make WinPatrol a very powerful addition to your security applications.

Keep in mind, malware itself is only part of the problem. The method used to deliver the malware – social engineering – is the most significant problem currently, for an average user. Social engineering, is a sure winner for the bad guys.

Cyber-criminals are increasingly relying on social engineering to create an opportunity designed to drop malicious code, including rootkits, password stealers, Trojan horses, and spam bots on our computers.

Overcoming the instinctive human response to social engineering (and we all have it), to just “click” while surfing the Internet, will prove to be challenging . This instinctive response, will pose one of the biggest risks to your online safety and security.

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 Anti-Keyloggers, Anti-Malware Tools, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Free Firewalls, Freeware, Internet Safety for Seniors, Malware Protection, New Computer User Software Tools, PC Tools, Skype, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, Windows Tips and Tools

Using the Internet with Confidence: Tips for Seniors

Guest writer Maria Rainier has some super tips to for that newly liberated group of computer users – Seniors.

imageLike many young people, I have to say that there are many benefits to using the Internet. However, I’m not under the impression that a quick e-mail can replace a handwritten note or card that can be received in the mail.

Sometimes, the tangible is still better. But in terms of finding information, communicating quickly, and enjoying the benefits of networking and online communities, the Internet has a lot to offer. And it’s not difficult to navigate.

Don’t let the apparent complexity and ambiguous nature of the Web intimidate you or cause you to write it off as the next trend headed straight for anonymity. It’s here to stay, and it’s a valuable tool for anyone who knows how to use it efficiently.

For some tips on conquering this new frontier, read on, but first – give yourself a pat on the back for finding this blog online. You could probably give your friends some pointers already.

Deciding to Master Internet Use

If you’re going to learn more about using the Web efficiently and successfully, it will help to commit yourself to the cause. Learning to use the Internet will take some time and energy, so be prepared to invest these resources in exchange for the valuable skills you can obtain.

Even if you get frustrated, decide now that you’ll keep asking questions, continuing to learn how best to use the comprehensive resource that is the Internet.

Getting General Instruction from a Credible Source

First, ask a family member to help you. It will enable you to spend time together and let a younger member of the family know that he or she is needed. One of the best advantages to this method is, you’ll be able to ask questions as they arise without worrying about interrupting a class or flipping through a book’s index to try to locate the answer. It won’t take much time to learn the basics, and from there, you’ll be able to pick up some books at your local library that will cover more in-depth subjects. A working knowledge of the Internet can open up other resources for you, so take advantage of your family members’ knowledge if you can.

Another option is – sign up for a free class at your library or senior center. Simply check the scheduled events next time you go to these places or, if you’re feeling frisky, look them up online and try to find the schedules there. You can always go the route of calling to ask about these classes if there’s no schedule posted online. The advantage to this method is that the instructors are often experienced and won’t steer you in the wrong direction, and you can always ask questions once the class is over.

Protecting Your Computer and Yourself

Before you start experimenting with the Internet, try to learn about installing a good firewall. You might choose to purchase protection or try free versions, but it’s important to make sure that your information is safe and that you’ll be notified if you land on dangerous Web pages so that you can navigate away quickly.

You can also help protect your Internet experience by being aware of phishing scams such as false “official” e-mails that demand immediate attention. Anything with links or demands for personal information that comes from someone you don’t know should be deleted. By paying close attention to instruction on Internet safety and asking questions on this topic, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying your new surfing skills.

Taking Advantage of Online Resources

The following websites contain more information that can help you if you’re interested in learning more.

Washington State Office of the Attorney General’s Internet Safety for Seniors

Australia’s Seniors.gov Internet Tools and Tips

Microsoft’s Your Digital Life for Seniors

Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, performing research surrounding online universities and their various program offerings. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

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Filed under Guest Writers, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety for Seniors, Older Adult Computer Users, social networking, Windows Tips and Tools

Free and Easy Anti-Malware Solutions for Senior Computer Users

image According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 40% of of people 65 and older, have a computer at home. Of this total, approximately  25% of these individuals are connected to the Internet.

I’m sure these numbers are now even higher, since these statistics were taken from the census of 2005. In Canada, where I live, recent statistics indicate older adults are the fastest growing group of computer buyers and internet users. Who knew!

It seems obvious that older adults are now realizing that they don’t have to understand computer technology to send email-mail to friends and family, for example, or shop online, play games, make greeting cards, read book and film reviews, look into family genealogy, or find valuable health information on the Internet.

Here’s a great example of how older adults have jumped on the Internet bandwagon, and use it to great advantage.

imageI just ran into some older friends (in their 70s), who had recently gotten home after wintering in Florida – in Canada, we call these people Snowbirds.

Throughout their time away (5 months, or so), they stayed in touch with their children, and grandchildren, virtually on a daily basis, using the free audio/video communication application, Skype. What a great use of technology!

Just like the rest of us though, Senior users are susceptible to cybercrime, and like the rest of us, need to protect their computers against the ever increasing exposure we all face to Trojans, Spyware, Viruses, Phishing Scams, and Identity Theft, while connected to the Internet.

For those that are members of this newly liberated group of Senior computer users, (who are not aggressive surfers), I’ve compiled a list of free anti-malware applications with simplicity of operation in mind – no manuals to digest, no tricky configuration to undertake; just install, and the applications will essentially do the rest.

Recommended Security Solutions:

ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 2010

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– The default settings are well thought out, and provide excellent protection for less experience users particularly. This application is as close to “plug and play”, as it gets, and will not get in your face as some other Firewalls tend to do .

Microsoft Security Essentials

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– Easy to set up and run, particularly for new users. The interface is positively simple – offering Quick Scan, Full Scan, or Custom Scan. Provides full real time protection against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.

Firefox

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– While Firefox is not technically an anti-malware application per se, with the most effective security add-ons, including NoScript, KeyScrambler, Adblock Plus and BetterPrivacy installed, it effectively acts as one.

WOT

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– Web of Trust, a browser add-on which offers Internet users active preventive protection against Web-based attacks, online scams, identify theft, and unreliable shopping sites.

Winpatrol

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– This program uses a simple yet effective method of fighting all kinds of malicious programs.

ThreatFire

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ThreatFire blocks mal-ware, including zero-day threats, by analyzing program behavior and it does a stellar job. This is one of the security applications that forms part of my own front line defenses.

Keep in mind, malware itself is only part of the problem. The method used to deliver the malware – social engineering – is the most significant problem currently, for an average user. Social engineering, is a sure winner for the bad guys.

Cyber-criminals are increasingly relying on social engineering to create an opportunity designed to drop malicious code, including rootkits, password stealers, Trojan horses, and spam bots on our computers.

Overcoming the instinctive human response to social engineering (and we all have it), to just “click” while surfing the Internet, will prove to be challenging . This instinctive response, will pose one of the biggest risks to your online safety and security.

Well known software developer Comodo Group, has developed a new Internet video series, Really Simple Security, published on a dedicated YouTube channel, that makes it easier than ever for an average user to become much more proactive in their own protection. You’ll find this Internet video series enormously helpful.

Safe surfing!

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 Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Browser add-ons, Comodo, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Free Anti-malware Software, Free Firewalls, Freeware, Internet Safety for Seniors, Microsoft, Older Adult Computer Users, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Internet Security Tips for Seniors

image According to the U.S. Census Bureau 40% of of people 65 and older have a computer at home. Of this total, approximately  25% of these individuals are connected to the Internet.

If anything, I’m sure these numbers are now even higher, since these numbers were taken from the census of 2005. In Canada, where I live, recent statistics indicate older adults are the fastest growing group of computer buyers and internet users.

Many of the older people that I have met feel, to some extent, that they have been left behind by technology and the computer age, or as I like to term it “the age of the interconnectedness of all things electronic”.

Part of this disconnection, in my view, is caused by the mistaken notion that the “younger” generation is tech savvy in the extreme. While it may be true, that in developed countries, those in their teens to 40’s are comfortable texting via cell phones, using social apps like FaceBook, Twitter and so on, its sheer media generated hype to extrapolate this level of skill into “a tech savvy” generation.

My personal experience with older adults has shown me that the perception, sometimes held by older adults themselves,  that the older generation has a  limited interest ,or limited skills in using computers, does a disservice to this varied group.

Many older adults are now realizing they don’t have to understand computer technology to send e-mail to friends and family, shop online, play games, make greeting cards, read book and film reviews, look into family genealogy or find valuable health information on the Internet.

So, if you fall into this newly liberated group and have recently acquired a computer, or you just need a refresher course on the fundamental precautions you need to take to secure your computer against the ever increasing exposure we all face to Trojans, Spyware, Viruses, Phishing Scams, and Identity Theft, while connected to the Internet, this article is for you.

Fundamental security precautions:

Patch your operating system. Download and install all available patches and service packs by connecting to Windows Update. It is now beyond dispute that 50% of unpatched and unprotected systems will be infected with malicious code within 12 minutes of being connected to the Internet.

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Install a firewall. Windows XP comes with a basic firewall, and if you are running Windows Vista, it comes with a more robust firewall (Windows Firewall) than XP, as well as anti-spyware utilities (Windows Defender). However, the consensus is; third party applications are usually more effective. Keep in mind that the XP firewall offers only minimal protection.

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Choosing a firewall. There are a number of free firewalls that are worth considering. The following are two that do the job particularly well.

Comodo Firewall Pro:

The definitive free firewall, Comodo Firewall protects your system by defeating hackers and restricting unauthorized programs from accessing the Internet. I have been using this application for 14 months and I continue to feel very secure. It resists being forcibly terminated and it works as well, or better, than any firewall I’ve paid for. This is one I highly recommend. Amazing that it’s free!

PC Tools Firewall:

I’ve been running with PC Tools Firewall for a few months, first on Win 7 Beta, and now on Windows 7 RC, and in this short time period I have been impressed with its performance. It installed easily, set up quickly, and has not caused any conflicts with my machine despite my sometimes esoteric running requirements.

The default settings are well thought out, and provide excellent protection for less experience users – and despite the hype put out by the IT industry, most computer user can be classified as having limited system experience.

Install anti-virus software: There is no doubt that an unprotected computer will become infected by viruses and malware within minutes of first being connected to the Internet. There are many free versions of anti-virus software available and the programs that have a well justified reputation are listed below.

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Avira AntiVir Personal:

This anti-virus program offers comprehensive protection with an easy to use interface. In the time that I have been testing Avira I have been impressed with its performance, and I have come to rely on it as my primary anti-virus program on an XP Pro system. I highly recommend this one.

PC Tools Free Antivirus:

Having tested virtually all of the major antivirus applications, and updates, over the last several years, I’m comfortable recommending the free version of this application as a front line antivirus defender. In the time I have been testing PC Tools Free AntiVirus on my Windows 7 systems, I have been more than satisfied with its performance.

This free antivirus program offers it’s comprehensive protection within an easy to use interface, and it should meet all of your requirements.

Install Anti-spyware and Adware Software: It’s not only a virus that can put your computer down for the count, but a multitude of nasties freely floating on the Internet. Listed below are a number of free programs that offer very good protection against malware.

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Spyware Terminator:

Having tested virtually all of the major anti-spyware applications over the past year or more, I’ve settled, for now, on Spyware Terminator primarily due to its strong real-time protection against spyware, adware, Trojans, key-loggers, home page hijackers and other malware threats.

Spyware Terminator excels in strong active protection against know and unknown threats. If anything, I find it perhaps a little overly aggressive. On the other hand, better this than the alternative.

Microsoft Security Essentials:

I’ve been running Security Essentials as a tester for months on my Win 7 machine, backed up by my usual, on demand, security applications and I’ll state, without any hesitation, I’m impressed. I highly recommend this free application.

Ad-Aware:

Many software reviewers consider Ad-Aware Free as the best free adware remover available. It does a relatively good job of protecting against known data-mining, Trojans, dialers, malware, browser hijackers and tracking components.

The only downside with the free version is real-time protection is not included.

ThreatFire:

ThreatFire blocks mal-ware, including zero-day threats, by analyzing program behavior and it does a stellar job. Again, this is one of the security applications that forms part of my front line defenses. I have found it to have high success rate at blocking mal-ware based on analysis of behavior. I highly recommend this one!

Internet Browser Protection:

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Web of Trust (WOT):

WOT is a free Internet Browser add-on (my personal favorite), that has established an impressive 4.5/5.0 star user rating on CNET. WOT tests web sites you are visiting for spyware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, unreliable online shops, phishing, and online scams, helping you avoid unsafe web sites.

SpywareBlaster:

SpywareBlaster prevents ActiveX-based spyware, adware, dialers, and browser hijackers from installing on your system by disabling the CLSIDs (a system used by software applications to identify a file or other item), of spyware ActiveX controls.

A secondary but equally important function offered by SpywareBlaster, is its ability to block spyware/tracking cookies and restrict the actions of spyware/adware/tracking sites in Internet Explorer, Mozilla FireFox, Netscape, Seamonkey, Flock and other browsers.

If you have not yet taking the precautions as outlined above, you are extremely vulnerable and it is critical that you take the following precautions:

Stop surfing the Web and patch your operating system. Only then download your choice of the protective software as noted above, or software that you are familiar with that will do an appropriate job of protecting your computer.

Do not visit any other websites until you have done this!

Additional security precautions:

Establish a password for the administrator account. Only you should have access to the administrator settings on your PC. Unfortunately, XP installs with open access to the administrator’s account. Be sure to change this.

Create a new password protected user account. Using this account for your general day-to-day activities adds another layer of protection to your computer. A user account does not have the same all-access permissions as your administrator account, and in many cases this extra layer of protection will restrict malware from gaining a foothold on your PC.

My apologies for using the word”Senior” in the title of this article – it is not a word I’m personally comfortable with.

If you enjoyed this article, 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 Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Free Anti-malware Software, Free Firewalls, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Internet Safety for Seniors, New Computer User Software Tools, Older Adult Computer Users, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP, WOT (Web of Trust)