Category Archives: Uncategorized

Internet/Cell Phone Fraud – Vishing, Cyber Criminals New Scam

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. National White Collar Crime Center, Vishing attacks are on the increase.

Yes, you’ve heard of Phishing, but what’s this Vishing you ask?

The IC³ (Internet Crime Complaint Center) describes Vishing as an attempt to persuade consumers either by email, text message, or a telephone call, purportedly from their credit card/debit card company, to divulge their Personally Identifiable Information (PII), claiming their account was suspended, deactivated, or terminated.

In one scenario, recipients are asked to contact their bank by calling a telephone number provided in the e-mail, or alternatively, by an automated telephone recording. When the potential victim calls the telephone number, they’re greeted with “Welcome to the bank of …” and then requested to enter their card number in order to resolve a pending security issue.

In the email scam attempt, in order to persuade the recipient that it is not a scam, the fraudulent e-mail sets out all the caveats the potential victim should be aware of in dealing with this type of email. Who would consider that a scam artist would warn you that a bank would not contact customers to obtain their PII by e-mail, mail, and instant messenger?

To further convince the recipient of the validity of the email, it goes on to state that the recipients should not provide sensitive information when requested in an e-mail, and not to click on embedded links, claiming they could contain “malicious software aimed at capturing login credentials.”

Would this convince you that this email was genuine? It just might.

A new version of this scam recently reported to IC³ involves the sending of text messages to cell phones claiming the recipient’s on-line bank account has expired. The message instructs the recipient to renew their on-line bank account by using the link provided.

These types of attacks against financial institutions, and consumers, are occurring with such frequency that IC³ has called the situation “alarming”.

Minimum safety precautions you should take.

  • Consider every email, telephone call, or text message requesting your PII as a scam
  • Never click on embedded email or cell phone links
  • When contacting your bank; use a telephone number from your statement, a telephone book, or another independent source

You can read more on this issue at the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

3 Comments

Filed under Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, internet scams, Online Banking, Online Safety, Phishing, Privacy, Uncategorized, Windows Tips and Tools

Test Your Software for Vulnerabilities – Free Secunia Software Inspector

If you are a security conscious computer user you are, most likely, generally well armed when it comes to ensuring your system is not open to compromise, or exploitation, by malware in the wild.

It is probable you have protected your machine with an appropriate defense system including a firewall (either software or hardware), a sound and effective malware suite (including anti-virus and spyware), and an additional protection layer against zero-day threats with the installation of an application such as ThreatFire 3 developed by PC Tools.

You can relax and you can consider yourself relatively safe, or perhaps even invulnerable, right? Well, maybe not. Sure, most of use Microsoft’s Windows Update so that we are current with operating system critical updates, and security fixes. You can determine whether or not you are running the latest WUA by visiting Windows Update.

But, where many of us may still be vulnerable is in the lack of consideration we have given to the vulnerabilities that exist in our currently installed applications.

Some recent application vulnerabilities include, Mozilla Firefox, Apple iTunes, Quicktime, Skype internet phone, Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.02, 6.03, Sun Java Run-Time, Macromedia Flash 7, Winzip 8.1, AOL Instant Messenger 5.5, Windows/MSN Messenger, Yahoo Instant Messenger 6.0, BitDefender, RealPlayer.

So, wouldn’t it be great if there was an application that could do the job of ensuring that all installed applications were either patched or up-to-date? Well, there is; and it’s free.

The Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI) from Secunia constantly monitors your system for insecure software installations, notifies you when an insecure application is installed, and even provides you with detailed instructions for updating the application when available.

ZD Net, one of my favorite web sites has stated “Secunia Personal Software Inspector, quite possibly the most useful and important free application you can have running on your Windows machine”.

Installing this small free application will definitely assist you in identifying possible security leaks; give it a try.

Quick Facts:

  • Allows you to secure your PC – Patch your applications – Be proactive
  • Scans for Insecure and End-of-Life applications
  • Tracks your patch-performance week by week
  • Direct and easy access to security patches.
  • Detects more than 300,000 unique application versions
  • Provides a detailed report of missing security related updates
  • Provides a tabbed report which indicates programs that are no longer supported – programs with all known patches – insecure programs, etc.
  • Provides a Toolbox offering a set of links which helps you assess a problem and how you can resolve it.

System Requirements: Windows 2000/XP/2003 Server/Vista

The Secunia PSI is free for private use.

Download at: Download.com

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Freeware, Malware Advisories, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Uncategorized, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Free Serif WebPlus SE Web Design Software – New User Friendly

If you’re looking to create that first web site using a WYSIWYG visual web page creator and you want to do it for free, then this free application from SerifSoftware will fill the bill admirably.

With this free package you can turn out an attractive and effective web site without the need for any complex HTML or other programming skills.

Despite the slightly dated appearance of Serif’s WebPlus SE, this is not an ‘old’ program that’s been revived just for give-away. WebPlus SE is still a very functional and easy-to-use tool that will allow you to output a unique custom designed website.

This application doesn’t profess to match Microsoft’s FrontPage or Adobe’s Dreamweaver in functionality; or for that matter, the price you would have to pay to purchase either of these top of the line web development tools. After all Serif WebPlus SE is FREE!

Serif’s objective in releasing older versions of their current programs at no cost is to hopefully convince at least some users to upgrade to current versions of their popular software. An interesting twist on the usual “try it for free for 30 days” we are all pretty familiar with.

Sure, the applications may be older than the current versions, but in terms of functionality and features, generally you are not missing much. In these older free versions there are not as many tools as one might find with more recent versions of Serif’s products, but those that are there, tend to be the ones that are most used by typical users.

So what can you expect from an application that’s an older version of a current application? Well surprisingly, for novice users, Serif WebPlus SE’s easy controls, simple step-by-step wizards and colorful templates are a quick and easy way to create a fun and attractive website.

With its easy to use Desktop Publishing style interface, automated Web Site templates, visual web page creator, wizards, drag ‘n drop functionality, WYSIWYG editing, and comprehensive help, you can create your own home page on the web in minutes. Best of all, you can do this without having to have had previous experience.

One caveat: If you’re an advanced user, this application is not for you since you’ll find its limitations too restrictive for your needs.

Quick facts:

Website Templates – Choose from professionally-designed site schemes, provide some basic information, and then customize to suit your needs. The Layout Checker helps you fine-tune your design for most efficient web use. Then preview your site in your own web browser and publish it to the web.

Easy Editing and Special Effects – With WebPlus, it’s easy to import your own text and graphics to replace the samples in the web site templates. You’ll find integrated word processing tools, plus tools for creating text hyperlinks and hotspot graphics. The Snapping feature and Dot Grid help you achieve a crisp layout. Everything’s wrapped into a friendly desktop publishing environment with onscreen tool tips, hint line, and context-sensitive help!

Logo/Graphic Module – Produce attention-grabbing headlines, unique text effects, and powerful logos instantly using LogoPlus.

Animated Marquee Wizard – Custom-design your own varied and colorful multi-line text messages that scroll across the screen.

Spell-Checking and Thesaurus – Enhance your proofreading potential and ensure your site’s readability with these built-in support tools.

Direct Import of Digital Images – Now you can include images from your digital camera or photos and art work from your scanner, adding sophistication to your pages.

Color Schemes – by using the convenient pre-sets or by customizing your own intelligent colors, add continuity or dramatically change the appearance of your Web publication with a single mouse click.

Studio Bar – Help your design break out of boring box formats. For a suave designer or fun and funky look take advantage of dozens of new graphic shapes.

Multiple Document Interface – Work on more than one web page at a time, even drag & drop items between them as you work.

Download at: FreeSerifSoftware

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Filed under Free Full Versions, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Multimedia Tools, Productivity Software, Software, Uncategorized, Web Development, Windows Tips and Tools

Free Collection of System Tools and Utilities – Get Glary Utilities

Glary Utilities, a free all-in-one utility, is a terrific collection of system tools and utilities to fix, speed up, maintain and protect your PC. Personal experience with this application for the last 8 months has convinced me that a typical user can really benefit by having this application on their system.

With this free program you can tweak, repair, optimize and improve your system’s performance; and its ease of operation makes it ideal for less experienced users.

You can quickly find the tool you’re looking for: disk cleaner, uninstall manager, secure file deletion, memory optimizer, registry cleaner, duplicate file finder, tracks eraser, empty folder finder; a very convenient feature for those of us who like to test drive new software. Prior to making important changes to your system, Glary Utilities creates a backup copy first, a very important feature.

As well, you can manage and delete browser add-ons, analyze disk space usage and find, fix, or remove broken Windows shortcuts, and manage startup programs.

Key Facts:

  • Disk Cleaner Removes junk data from your disks and recovers disk space
  • Registry Cleaner scans and cleans your registry to improve your system’s performance
  • Shortcuts Fixer eliminates the errors in your start menu & desktop shortcuts
  • Startup Manager manages programs which run automatically on startup
  • Memory Optimizer monitors and optimizes free memory in the background
  • Tracks Eraser erases all traces, evidence, cookies, internet history and more
  • File Shredder erases files permanently
  • Internet Explorer Assistant manages Internet Explorer Add-ons
  • Disk Analysis provides detailed information files and folders
  • Duplicate Files Finder searches for space-wasting duplicate files
  • Empty Folders Finder removes empty folders (I love this feature)
  • Uninstall Manager completely uninstall programs

System Requirements: Windows 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP, 2003 and Vista.

Download at: Download.com

11 Comments

Filed under Freeware, Hard Drive Maintenance, Registry Cleaners, Slow Computer, Software, System Utilities, Uncategorized, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Speedup Your Slow Computer – Free Solutions to System Slowdown

In computing, I find that there is nothing that aggravates me quite as much as a slow boot time, or a machine that continuously responds in a sluggish manner.

Unfortunately, it seems with a Windows machine it is inevitable that it will slow down over time. There are a ton of reasons for this, but the following causes are the most common.

In most cases, since a slow computer is generally suffering from more than one problem, you will probably find that you will have to resolve the issue using more than a single solution.

A Messy Registry

The longer you use Windows, the more disordered your registry can become, especially if you regularly install and uninstall software. Many applications, on being uninstalled, leave behind “orphan” registry entries. They don’t remove all traces of themselves; causing problems such as sluggish performance, system lockups, or a bloated registry that takes longer to load on startup.

The easiest way to clean your registry is to use a free registry cleaner, such as RegSeeker. With the click of a button, RegSeeker will scan your registry for these fragmented files, and safely remove them. As with all Registry cleaners, use caution and be sure to backup using the backup feature of the application.

Download at: Hoverdesk

Full Hard Drive

A full hard drive will not function efficiently. You require at least 2 – 3MB of free space for programs to run smoothly. If you lack this much free space, you should uninstall unused programs on your primary drive. A superior program to uninstall programs from your computer is Revo Uninstaller. This free program with its advanced and fast algorithm scans before, and after you uninstall an application.

After the program’s regular uninstaller runs, you can remove additional unnecessary files, folders and registry keys that are usually left over (those “orphaned” registry entries we talked about earlier), on your computer. This feature is a definite plus.

Download at: Revo Group

Not Enough Memory

It’s important to have enough memory on your computer to keep programs running smoothly. Current recommendations are that you have at least 512MB on your PC, although at this point, 1GB/2GB seems to be a safer bet. If you need to upgrade your RAM, check your local retail ads for sales. You can usually get a RAM upgrade at a great price.

Alternatively, you can run a free memory manager such as FreeRam XP Pro to free and optimize your computer’s RAM (Random Access Memory). The result should be an increase in system performance and productivity. The application automatically configures itself for ease of use, and also features advanced options and customizability. FreeRAM XP Pro has been designed to be easy to use yet highly customizable by computer novices and experts alike. I have been using this application for several years, and I am delighted with its performance.

Download at:  MajorGeeks

Too Many Start-Up Programs

When you boot your computer, there may be a large number of programs that start automatically. These programs impact your computer’s available processing capacity and memory usage, and can slow it down dramatically. In all probability, you don’t need all of these programs to automatically start when you boot your computer.

Autoruns is a free utility, which has the most comprehensive knowledge of auto-starting locations of any startup monitor, in my view, and shows you what programs are configured to run during system boot up or login, and the order Windows processes them.

These programs will include ones in your startup folder, Run, RunOnce, and other Registry keys. You can configure Autoruns to show additional locations, including Explorer shell extensions, toolbars, browser helper objects, Winlogon notifications, auto-start services, and more. Autoruns goes considerably beyond the MSConfig utility bundled with Windows.

Download at: Softonic

Turn off unnecessary services

If you are a typical computer user, then the fewer services your system runs the better. This issue is too comprehensive to discuss in this article but you can read my article on this Blog which will assist you in determining which services you can turn off in Windows XP Pro/Home, to improve performance and boot time.

Spyware and Malicious Programs

A common spyware complaint is; it slows down the operating system. As spyware accumulates on a computer, performance can grind to a dismal halt. Combating spyware starts with learning to recognize its presence and understanding its impact on system resources.

Recognizing when spyware is installed on a computer system and removing it promptly is the best method of protecting computers from catastrophic problems caused by spyware. There are many free applications available to help you recognize, control and remove spyware, adware, Trojans, and other malicious malware/programs that can infect and slowdown your system.

Here are some free applications that are reliable and I feel confident in recommending.

SpyBot Search and Destroy

AdAware

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition

ThreatFire 3

Comodo Firewall Pro

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Filed under Diagnostic Software, Disk Cleaners, Do you need a new computer, Freeware, Memory Optimizers, Registry Cleaners, Slow Computer, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System File Protection, System Security, Uncategorized, Uninstall Managers, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Free Graphic and Drawing Software – Serif DrawPlus 4

If you’re looking for a free drawing and graphic application to test your creative skills, then DrawPlus 4 will fill the bill admirably.

With this free drawing and graphic package from Serif Software, you can turn out vector graphics, high-impact graphics, and even web animations with tools usually only available in high end applications.

DrawPlus 4 is a vector drawing program, much like the very expensive CorelDraw, which means the drawing is in editable layers. On top of that, DrawPlus is also a graphics design program that allows you to create logos, high quality print graphics, artwork, drawings, animations, labels and more.

The straightforward and intuitive interface is powerful yet simple, so that first time users, (like me – with no graphic skills), will get the professional quality results they want – fast! I’m told by friends that are users, that this program is great for making avatars; although I haven’t tried this myself.

If you like special effects, DrawPlus 4 is loaded with them, so it’s easy to create high impact text for headlines, logos, banners, Web pages, or wherever your imagination takes you. You can add bitmap, conical, ellipse, plasma, radial and linear fills to your creations to produce spectacular results.

DrawPlus supports industry standard bitmap and vector formats including: JPEG, BMP, EMF, WMF and PNG for the Web.

Serif’s objective in releasing older versions of their current programs at no cost is to hopefully convince at least some users to upgrade to current versions of their software. An interesting twist on the usual “try it for free for 30 days” we are all pretty familiar with.

I have used, and tested, Serif’s free editions for 10+ years now, and I have found that even their older software is more than up to the tasks I set.

Sure, the applications may be older than the current versions, but in terms of functionality and features, generally you are not missing much. In these older free versions there are not as many tools as one might find with more recent versions of Serif’s products, but those that are there, tend to be the ones that are most used by typical users.

Serif describes the features of DrawPlus 4 as follows:

Drawing & Sketching – Say goodbye to complicated tools and ‘shaky hand’ drawings. DrawPlus makes drawing simple with easy to use QuickShapes, Natural Curve Editing and Curve Smoothing.

    Backdrop Wizard – Easily add abstract or themed backgrounds to your designs. From dazzling presentation backgrounds to outer-space style backdrops, start your drawings on a ready-made designer canvas.

      Studio Resources – Choose from hundreds of pre-set lines, fills, transparencies, fonts and Wizard elements from the Studio tabs to save you time and still achieve amazing results.

        Color Selection – Apply color fills to backgrounds, shapes and your own drawings from the simple on-screen studio palette.

          Animation Mode – Bring your designs to life with the fun animation tools, which include easy-to-use, yet advanced features like onion skinning, backgrounds, overlays and frame management.

            Blends – Use the blend tool to automatically ‘morph’ two images into one another. You choose the number of steps and let DrawPlus do the rest – easy!

              Transparency – Easily create sparkling photo-like realism and quality in seconds with no experience required.

                Watermark Wizard – A notoriously difficult effect to create is now a total breeze, with a wide range of customizable watermark designs on hand.

                  Border Wizard – Choose borders from the extensive library for your objects and pages or let the Border Wizard help you.

                    Color Schemes – Define new color sets as shades of a base color, and then simply apply your color scheme to your design instantly by editing the original base color.

                      Editable Envelopes – Stretch and squeeze objects or text into whatever shape you choose. Select from the range of special outline shapes or customize your own!

                        Text – Create high-impact text for headlines, logos, banners, web pages and more. Convert your text to curves to bring fonts to life.

                          File Size: 19 MB

                          License: Free

                          System Requirements: Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP

                          Download DrawPlus 4 for Free at: FreeSerifSoftware

                          16 Comments

                          Filed under DeskTop Publishing, Drawing Software, Free Full Versions, Freeware, Graphic Software, Multimedia Tools, Productivity Software, Software, Uncategorized, Web Development, Windows Tips and Tools

                          Free Windows Dictionary and Thesaurus! – WordWeb Free Version

                          Looking for a powerful, but free, English Thesaurus and Dictionary that can instantly find definitions, synonyms, sets of related words, and pronunciations for words in virtually any Windows program?

                          Then checkout WordWeb, a one-click English Thesaurus and Dictionary for Windows that includes a data base of over 150,000 root words and 120,000 synonym sets that can be used to instantly find definitions, synonyms, and pronunciations for words in virtually any Windows program. What’s more, it can connect to the Internet enabling you to look up words in web reference encyclopedias and dictionaries including Wikipedia, Chambers Reference Online, Encarta, and OneLook.

                          The straightforward interface has the look and feel of your word processing program’s dictionary tool, so there’s no learning curve involved here. Simply launch the application and you’re good to go. A great feature is the hot key function which allows you to find definitions from within virtually any application, with a single keystroke.

                          I have been using this neat little application for ages and I find it invaluable. If you’re a student, a writer, a Blogger, or you just want to choose a better word in your correspondence, then download and install this neat little freeware utility.

                          Features of the free version include:

                          • Definitions and synonyms
                          • Antonyms
                          • Proper nouns
                          • Related words
                          • Word types and parts
                          • Spoken pronunciations (love this feature!)
                          • Translation support – French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish
                          • Hot key support
                          • USB compatible

                          Note: The author is a concerned environmentalist, so this free version of WordWeb comes with some ecological restrictions; read the license agreement for details.

                          Download at: Download.com

                          14 Comments

                          Filed under Free Word Processors, Freeware, MS Word Alternatives, Portable Applications, Productivity Software, Software, Uncategorized, USB, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools, Writing Aids