Tag Archives: Dave Brooks

Disable Hidden File Extensions, Or Not?

imageIn the world of technology, the accelerating rate of change is so fast, the environmental changes so rapid, that looking back just 3 years, for example, is akin to looking back into ancient history.

Even so, there are some characteristics of computing where the old truism “the more things change the more they stay the same”, are entirely relevant – and, the fundamentals of system security is a singular example.

One of the principals of system security – one which is rarely referred to is – the need to understand file extensions – and, more particularly – why it is file extensions should NOT be hidden.

Dave Brooks, a highly competent computer pro, and a popular guest writer here, addressed this issue in a guest post (ahem), 3 years ago. This article is every bit as important today, as it was when it was first posted. Perhaps, even more so.

Here’s what Dave had to say:

One of Bill’s security recommendations (among the many that he tries to pound into the heads of his readers), is to disable the hiding of file extensions for known file types.

I will explain why this is important and how it can protect you. This can get a bit complicated for the novice user, so I’ll try to make it easy to understand.

Firsts things first. What is a file extension? File extensions tell the operating system what type of file it is dealing with, which in turn determines what application is opened when you double click the file.

Adobe PDF documents have a PDF extension, MP3 audio files have the MP3 extension, video files use a number of extensions such as AVI, MPE, MPEG, WMV, and so on. Windows keeps track of what file extensions should be opened with which application, if you rename a file and delete its extension, Windows no longer knows what type of file it is and will not be able to open it.

When working with Windows, almost all files have an extension, this is the 3 or 4 characters after the LAST “.” (dot or period) in the file name. Why is the word LAST in upper case? Because file names can have more than one “.” in them, and this is where your ability to see these extensions can save you.

For example, consider this file named “Invoice.doc”. For many people they would immediately know this is a standard Microsoft Word document. If your PC is set to hide known file extensions then your computer would display the file in a Windows Explorer window, or email attachment, as “Invoice”, hiding the 3 digit extension.

The problem here is, a Trojan can come in as an email attachment as a compressed file, or an executable called Invoice.doc.exe. Remember, only the digits after the LAST “.” are important to the file type, so even though you see Invoice.doc, the file actually has an exe extension, making it an exe or program.

If you have your PC set to hide extension, you would see the file name as “Invoice.doc”, even though the actual extension (which is hidden by Windows) is exe. Another trick is to give the file an icon that makes it look like it’s a Word document to fool unsuspecting users even more.

So you can see, if you disable hidden extensions, you will be able to see the actual file extension, not the one the Trojan wants you to see, and you will be able to better determine if the file is in fact what it is claiming to be.

To unhide these hidden extensions;

1. Go to start>Control Panel

2. Click on >Folder Options

3. Now go to >View tab> Then uncheck the box “Hide extensions for known file types” >click Apply>then OK. That’s it done.

Now you can see the file extensions on all file types.

What's in a file name

 

Note: If you come across a file type (extension) that you don’t recognize, the website FILExt will tell you. Simply enter the “.abc” and FILExt will tell you the program that created it and, recommend how to open it.

Bio: Dave Brooks is a professional Computer Technician from New Hampshire, USA. Dave has now become a regular guest writer who’s last article “Let’s Talk About Backups” was a huge hit.

Drop by Dave’s site at Tech-N-Go, and checkout the Security Alerts.

12 Comments

Filed under Don't Get Hacked, File Management, Guest Writers, Windows Tips and Tools

One More New Year’s Resolution – I Will Learn To Backup My PC

imageTHIS is one resolution you MUST keep. And, to make it a snap to stick with this resolution – featured elsewhere in this post, you’ll find an updated review of arguably the best free (and dead easy to run), backup app around – EASEUS Todo Backup 4.

Here’s why I’d like to push you in that direction. Let’s start with a quote from my good buddy Dave Brooks, an A+ certified professional computer technician, and a popular guest writer here on Tech Thoughts:

“You don’t need to know how a PC works to use it, just like your car, if you have problems you visit a mechanic, you don’t need to know how it does what it does.

One thing you DO need to know is – you MUST back up your computer if you have anything of even remote value to you on it.”

Dave knows what he’s talking about. After fifteen years in the industry, Dave knows, that at some point, your computer will suffer system, or hardware failure.

What are you going to do then – if you don’t have a current (and tested) backup of your critical data, system/device drivers (something many of us forget), and user operating system settings?

Most important of all – how are you going to recover your irreplaceable data; documents, digital photos, email messages, personal and business related work, and important private data?

So backups are important – critically important. Despite the critical importance of Hard Drive backups, most computer technicians (including Dave), will tell you; typically, computer users’ do not backup their irreplaceable data.

If you should suffer catastrophic Hard Drive failure and you are one of the few, out of the ordinary, computer users who regularly and faithfully backup, you will have work ahead of you, but you will recover. But without a plan, your data becomes a hostage to fortune. Your Hard Drive might be damaged by malware – it might not. Your Hard Drive might fail – it might not. But why take the risk?

If you don’t yet have a backup plan, it’s time you thought seriously about developing one. Make developing and implementing a backup strategy, a New Years resolution you intend to keep.

The effort involved in learning how to protect your data, by developing and implementing a backup plan in today’s computing age, is minimal. Much easier than it was, even as little as two or three years ago.

The best backup strategy includes imaging your Hard Drives and partitions, since that allows you to restore your important data, your complete operating system, as well as your installed applications, user settings, etc.

There are loads of free applications out in the wild blue that, used properly and regularly, will speed to the rescue. One of the best free program, that I have no difficulty recommending, is EASEUS Todo Backup.

Free EASEUS Todo Backup 4 – Easy Backup For The Rest Of Us

This is a brilliant application that will allow you to backup, recover your backups, image your Hard Drives, clone your Hard Drives, and a host of additional features. All of this, in a “follow the bouncing ball” simple, user interface. If there’s an easier way to backup critical data, I have yet to find it.

The user interface has been designed so that a user with minimum computing experience, should have no difficulty.

image

The following screen captures illustrate the simple process of backing up a particular folder.

image

In this case, I choose the task name, selected the folder to be backed up, selected the backup media/location, and …..

image

Done!

image

Recovery, is point and click simple.

image

Additional functions and features are available under the “Tools” menu.

image

For example – you’ll have the option of creating a system boot disk. You should do so.

image

Fast facts:

System Backup and Recovery – One-click system backup. Backs up entire system state including the operating system and installed applications on-the-fly without interrupting your work to get the system up in time after crash.

Restore System to Dissimilar Hardware – The feature of “recover to dissimilar hardware” can simplify system migration with restoring system to dissimilar hardware configuration for hardware replacement under WinPE recovery environment.

File and Folder Backup – Backs up specified files, network shared files, files in use, folders or file types in case of virus attack, hard disk failure, or deletion by accident, etc.

Disk & partition Backup – Full backup disk(s)/partition(s), dynamic volume(s), or GPT disk(s)/volume(s) to image. It ensures PC security and instant data recovery in case of any data loss.

Incremental/Differential Backup – Provide alternatives to perform full backups each time by offering incremental backup and differential backup. To capture changes with saving time & disk space.

Backup Schedule – To run backup automatically at a predefined time. By scheduling a backup task, your system and important data can be backed up now, daily, weekly, monthly.

Network Data Protection – Easy way to full backup network data, including network shared files on NAS and Windows, with full backup, incremental backup, differential backup and schedule backup, etc.

Disk Clone Tool – Clone or transfer all the data on a hard disk to another. Clone disk is especially useful to upgrade your hard drive to a new one without reinstalling operating systems and applications.

Full list of features here.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and Win 7 (32 and 64 bit).

Download at: EASEUS

If you’re looking for a free application to handle all of your backup needs, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in EASEUS Todo Backup. Give it a try.

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.

10 Comments

Filed under Backup Tools, downloads, Freeware, Hard Drive Cloning, Hard Drive Imaging, Windows Tips and Tools

Free EASEUS Todo Backup – Easy Backup For The Rest Of Us

imageHere’s a quote from Dave Brooks, an A+ certified professional computer technician, and a popular guest writer here on Tech Thoughts:

“You don’t need to know how a PC works to use it, just like your car, if you have problems you visit a mechanic, you don’t need to know how it does what it does.

One thing you DO need to know is – you MUST back up your computer if you have anything of even remote value to you on it.”

Dave Brooks knows what he’s talking about. After fifteen years in the industry, Dave knows, that at some point, your computer will suffer system, or hardware failure.

What are you going to do then – if you don’t have a current backup of your critical data, system/device drivers (something many of us forget), and user operating system settings?

How are you going to recover your irreplaceable data; documents, digital photos, email messages, personal and business related work, and important private data?

So backups are important – critically important. Despite the critical importance of Hard Drive backups, most computer technicians (including Dave), will tell you; typically, computer users’ do not backup their irreplaceable data.

If you should suffer catastrophic Hard Drive failure and you are one of the few, out of the ordinary, computer users who regularly and faithfully backup, you will have work ahead of you, but you will recover. But without a plan, your data becomes a hostage to fortune. Your Hard Drive might be damaged by malware – it might not. Your Hard Drive might fail – it might not. But why take the risk?

If you don’t yet have a backup plan, it’s time you thought seriously about developing one. Make developing and implementing a backup strategy, a New Years resolution you intend to keep.

The effort involved in learning how to protect your data, by developing and implementing a backup plan in today’s computing age, is minimal. Much easier than it was, even as little as two or three years ago.

The best backup strategy includes imaging your Hard Drives and partitions, since that allows you to restore your important data, your complete operating system, as well as your installed applications, user settings, etc.

There are loads of free applications out in the wild blue that, used properly and regularly, will speed to the rescue. One of the best free program, that I have no difficulty recommending, is EASEUS Todo Backup.

This is a brilliant application that will allow you to backup, recover your backups, image your Hard Drives, clone your Hard Drives, and a host of additional features. All of this, in a “follow the bouncing ball” simple, user interface. If there’s an easier way to backup critical data, I have yet to find it.

The application requires installation of driver software so just say “yes”. Following installation, a restart is required.

image

The user interface has been designed so that a user with minimum computing experience, should have no difficulty.

image

The following screen captures illustrate the simple process of backing up a particular folder.

image

In this case, I choose the task name, selected the folder to be backed up, selected the backup media/location, and ….. Done!

image

Recovery, is point and click simple.

image

Additional functions and features are available under the “Tools” menu.

image

Fast facts:

Backup Management – By Managing backup tasks and plans, you can change a backup task or plan and execute the changes immediately, delete image files, and even convert a disk image.

Mount and Unmount – Mount a disk and partition image to a virtual partition (working as ordinary, logical drives) to explore or copy files in it.

Image Splitting – Split an image file into several files of specified size to fit different storage devices. This feature is helpful to burn the backup file to CD/DVD.

Image Compression – Compress a backup image to save disk space. The higher compression level, the smaller image is.

Check Image – Check the integrate of backup image. You can validate whether you will be able to recover from the backup image.

Disaster Recovery – Restore important files from backed up image and perform disaster recovery just by simple clicks. It ensures quick recovery from system crash, a personal error, hardware or software failure, virus attack or hacker’s intrusive destruction, etc.

Disk and Partition Clone – Migrate or copy all the data on a hard disk or partition to another.

Wipe Data – With this feature, you can erase all the sensitive data on a disk or partition to protect your privacy.

Bootable Media – Run EASEUS Todo Backup from an emergency disk to perform recovery in case of system crash, etc. USB drive, CD or DVD Bootable media can be created.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, and Win 7 (32 and 64 bit).

Download at: EASEUS

If you’re looking for a free application to handle all of your backup needs, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in EASEUS Todo Backup. Give it a try.

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.

11 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Backup Applications, Backup Tools, Computer Tools, downloads, Freeware, Hard Drive Cloning, Hard Drive Imaging, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

A Computer Technician’s Advice – Backup Your Files Now!

Dave Brooks a professional computer technician from New Hampshire, has written this article to emphasize, once again, and it can’t be repeated too often – the importance of data back up on a regular and consistent basis.

Let’s Talk About Backups

backup My Name is Dave Brooks, I’m an A+ certified technician currently employed in a small shop in New Hampshire. I’ve been in the computer industry for about 15 years, playing with computers even longer. Other than a brief introductory class many years ago, I am completely self taught.

Bill has generously donated space for wanna be novelists (I’m not a writer by any stretch) to share their thoughts, so I figured I’d take him up on the offer.

Much of the operation of a computer seems to amaze the average user; that they can do what they do even amazes me sometimes. You don’t need to know how a PC works to use it, just like your car, if you have problems you visit a mechanic, you don’t need to know how it does what it does.

One thing you DO need to know is that you MUST back up your computer if you have anything of even remote value to you on it. Hard drives (the device that actually stores your data) are amazing things, their capacity is growing by leaps and bounds and the price per Mega Byte is dropping about as fast.

Hard Drive Diag One of the biggest problems with them is, they can fail at pretty much any time with no notice at all, one minute your working away, the next the drive has developed a catastrophic problem and your years of work and photos have gone to that great recycle bin in the sky.

Depending on the problem the drive has developed it can be relatively inexpensive to recovery your data or it can cost thousands of dollars to send it off to a company specializing in data recovery.

Planning ahead, you can reduce this cost to a mere hundred or two dollars and a minimal amount of downtime. How you ask? An external hard drive and some imaging software. Acronis True Image is a great application and one I recommend to all my home clients.

It is really as simple as installing the software, connecting your external drive, and going through a wizard which will perform a full backup of your hard drive and help schedule recurring backups. When your hard drive fails, it’s a simple matter of installing a replacement, and restoring your recent backup back to the new drive, and you’re up and running with minimal downtime and aggravation.

I’ve had many a customer lose many a file because they had no backup, they usually implement a routine after they experience data loss, but the loss could have been prevented, it’s not a matter of if your hard drive will fail, but when.

In closing I’ll leave you with this thought; BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP!!!

Driveimage XML

(Click pic for larger)

Checkout the review of DriveImage XML, a free, easy to use, and reliable data back up program, from Runtime Software, on this site.

Dave is a very popular guest writer here, and his articles are always a huge hit – but he’s far too modest. Earlier this year, Microsoft’s TechNet Security Blog, linked back Dave’s  guest article, here on Tech Thoughts, “Think You’re Immune from Online Fraud? Maybe Not!”. Now that’s recognition for a job well done!

Pay a visit to Dave’s site at Tech-N-Go, and checkout the Security Alerts.

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.

9 Comments

Filed under Backup Applications, Backup Tools, downloads, Freeware, Guest Writers, Hard Drive Imaging, Software, Technicians Advise, Windows Tips and Tools

Dave Brooks – You’re the Best!

All writers look for recognition that they have contributed to the greater good, in one way, or another. I’ve always gotten that special feeling, in knowing that many of the top security software developers, subscribe to Tech Thoughts.

But today, that special feeling was really enhanced, when I became aware that Microsoft’s TechNet Security Blog has linked back to guest writer Dave Brooks’ recent article, here on Tech Thoughts, “Think You’re Immune from Online Fraud? Maybe Not!”

Dave is the finest professional computer Technician that I know, and it delights me that his writing skills, and his story telling abilities, have been recognized in this way.

So, just a short note to tell you Dave – you’re the best!

10 Comments

Filed under Guest Writers, Internet Security Alerts, Microsoft, Personal Perspective

Think You’re Immune From Online Fraud? Maybe Not!

Guest writer Dave Brooks, a vastly experienced computer Tech from New Hampshire, who is an expert at online safety, shares this chilling story on why even exercising proper security measures won’t guarantee your online financial safety.

image Bill is constantly trying to pound security into his reader’s heads, and with good reason, but unfortunately, no matter how careful you are, there are things that are beyond your control when buying stuff online.

Case in point: at Bill’s request I’m going to relay a recent unnerving personal experience, if only to show that even the most security conscious are still at risk.

I’m very online safety/security conscious and I buy online only from reputable, well known stores. My online bank account password looks like an alien language, my ATM pin is 8 digits long (compared to 4 or so many people use), and I monitor my account closely.

Even so my ATM card number was recently used, in the middle of the night, in Georgia, while I was sound asleep in New Hampshire. Luckily Bank of America has decent monitoring, and I have a ton of alerts set up to email me when certain things happen with my account.

I woke up in the morning to find an alert that my card was used while I was asleep, and an email from Bank of America that they had detected suspicious activity on my account, had frozen the transaction, and placed a lock on my account to prevent further activity.

image

The charge was for the amount of $1.22; it’s apparently common practice by those that use stolen card numbers to make a small charge such as this to confirm that the number is good before using it to make larger purchases.

Thanks in part to my diligent monitoring, and Bank of America’s account monitoring system, the thieves were never able to get to step two and spend my hard earned cash on god knows what.

A call to the number provided in the alert email I got from the bank (after confirming it was in fact their number by matching it up on the Bank of America website; phishing emails are pretty convincing nowadays!), confirmed the illegal activity. Bank of America cancelled my ATM card, and cancelled the charge, and a trip to my local bank branch netted me a new ATM card.

image My number was likely stolen from a hacked online database of a company that I had made an online purchase from in the past, but there’s no way to confirm this – it could have just as easily been a dishonest employee from a local store where I used my card.

I have since opened a second account with an ATM card, and use only that account for online purchases, (I had been contemplating doing this for a year or more or more, but never did),

I keep a balance of about 5 bucks in it, and when I want to buy something online, I transfer the purchase amount from my main account to the “internet” account to cover it. At least that way, my main account is less exposed, and if it happens again I’ll be able to determine if it was the “internet” or “local purchase” that led to the compromise.

Bottom line here is, even though you think you’re safe, if you purchase stuff online, your bank or credit card info is out there for the taking. The best you can do is keep a close eye on your accounts for suspicious activity, and try to minimize possible damage that might be done if your card number is stolen.

Guest Writer: This is a guest post by Dave Brooks a professional computer technician from New Hampshire, USA. Dave has become a regular guest writer, who’s articles are always a huge hit.

Pay a visit to Dave’s site at Tech-N-Go, and checkout the Security Alerts.

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.

7 Comments

Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Guest Writers, internet scams, Online Banking, Windows Tips and Tools

Online Dangers – Even a Tech Can Get Taken

Think you’re immune from online fraud? Do you believe – “It could never happen to me”? Read what guest writer Dave Brooks, a vastly experienced computer tech from New Hampshire, has to say about what happened to him.

image Bill is constantly trying to pound security into his reader’s heads, and with good reason, but unfortunately no matter how careful you are, there are things that are beyond your control when buying stuff online.

Case in point: at Bill’s request I’m going to relay a recent unnerving personal experience, if only to show that even the most security conscious are still at risk.

I’m very online safety/security conscious and I buy online only from reputable, well known stores. My online bank account password looks like an alien language, my ATM pin is 8 digits long (compared to 4 or so many people use), and I monitor my account closely.

Even so my ATM card number was recently used, in the middle of the night, in Georgia, while I was sound asleep in New Hampshire. Luckily Bank of America has decent monitoring, and I have a ton of alerts set up to email me when certain things happen with my account.

I woke up in the morning to find an alert that my card was used while I was asleep, and an email from Bank of America that they had detected suspicious activity on my account, had frozen the transaction, and placed a lock on my account to prevent further activity.

The charge was for the amount of $1.22; it’s apparently common practice by those that use stolen card numbers to make a small charge such as this to confirm that the number is good before using it to make larger purchases.

Thanks in part to my diligent monitoring, and Bank of America’s account monitoring system, the thieves were never able to get to step two and spend my hard earned cash on god knows what.

A call to the number provided in the alert email I got from the bank (after confirming it was in fact their number by matching it up on the Bank of America website; phishing emails are pretty convincing nowadays!), confirmed the illegal activity. Bank of America cancelled my ATM card, and cancelled the charge, and a trip to my local bank branch netted me a new ATM card.

My number was likely stolen from a hacked online database of a company that I had made an online purchase from in the past, but there’s no way to confirm this – it could have just as easily been a dishonest employee from a local store where I used my card.

I have since opened a second account with an ATM card, and use only that account for online purchases, (I had been contemplating doing this for a year or more or more, but never did),

I keep a balance of about 5 bucks in it, and when I want to buy something online, I transfer the purchase amount from my main account to the “internet” account to cover it. At least that way, my main account is less exposed, and if it happens again I’ll be able to determine if it was the “internet” or “local purchase” that led to the compromise.

Bottom line here is, even though you think you’re safe, if you purchase stuff online, your bank or credit card info is out there for the taking. The best you can do is keep a close eye on your accounts for suspicious activity, and try to minimize possible damage that might be done if your card number is stolen.

Guest Writer: This is a guest post by Dave Brooks a professional computer technician from New Hampshire, USA. Dave has become a regular guest writer, who’s articles are always a huge hit.

This article is Dave’s response to today’s article “How to Conduct Online Banking Safely”.

Thank you Dave for such a quick response – a great article, crafted quickly.

Pay a visit to Dave’s site at Tech-N-Go, and checkout the Security Alerts.

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.

4 Comments

Filed under Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Internet Security Alerts, Online Banking, Online Safety, Tech Net News, Windows Tips and Tools