Tag Archives: solutions

Consumer Statistics Survey – 50% Of Computer Users Lost Data In 2010

imageAccording to a survey conducted online by ConsumerStatistics, between December 1, 2010 and December 4, 2010 – most of us are concerned, to some extent, about the loss of family photos stored on our computers. It seems the “concern”, is more than justified.

Of the 6,149 people in 128 countries who participated in the ConsumerStatistics study, 67 per cent reported having experienced the loss of digital photos, and additional files, through a Hard Drive failure, accidental deletion, a malware attack, theft, or exposure to a natural disaster including fire, flood, and so on. I found it most surprising, that just under 52 percent reported the loss of  irreplaceable data within the last year.

Survey methodology:

Survey conducted online between 12-01-2010 and 12-04-2010.

Survey methods include: Email, focus groups, surveys, social media.

Here’s a sample question from the survey: How often do you backup your home PC?

backup frequency

Survey Highlights:

89.1% of home PC users do not perform regular backups.

67.1% of home PC users have lost pictures and files on their home PC. 51.4.% within the last year.

69.2% of home PC users are most worried about losing their digital pictures.

Survey Summary:

The survey conducted found that people do neglect doing proper backups for their home PCs, and put their valuable data at unnecessary risk.

Over 89% of the respondents do not perform regular backups, and of these people, 76.6% have suffered from data loss. Yet, 91.3% of respondents surveyed believe that backups are important.

As a technologist, the survey stats are not a all surprising – data loss is inevitable; and it happens much more frequently than an average computer user might suspect.

As regular readers of this site are aware, there is a cornucopia of free backup solutions, readily available for download on the Internet, which range from the uncomplicated and easy to use, to the more complex specialty solutions designed for power users.

A good example of a simple backup solution can be found in this article –

Free EASEUS Todo Backup – Easy Backup For The Rest Of Us, posted here January 7, 2010. Additionally, a site search here for “backup solutions”, will return 20+ articles on free desktop and online backup applications.

Failure to mitigate the risks associated with the lack of regular backup, defies common sense. Experience tells me that you will experience data loss. Recovery of that data, while not entirely painless, will be possible – if you have prepared for the inevitable.

The ConsumerStatistics study makes for interesting reading, and I encourage you to read the full results here.

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Filed under Backup Applications, downloads, Free Backup Applications, Freeware, Online Backup, Reports, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

BitDefender Releases Free Antispam for Linux Mail Servers

imageBitDefender styles itself as “an award-winning provider of innovative Internet security solutions”, and I must admit that I agree. Moreover, BitDefender has taken a leading role in providing free security solutions, including a host of specialty malware removal tools – particularly, in the past few months.

Yesterday, BitDefender released a Free Antispam application designed specifically for Linux Mail Servers. This new application is driven by BitDefender’s award winning anti-spam engine, and according to Alexandru Balan, BitDefender’s Innovation & Technology Product Manager, the application is aimed at “small businesses and individuals who run mail servers in environments other than Windows, but are dissatisfied with the lackluster performance of existing open-source or proprietary antispam solutions.”

image

Fast facts:

Antispam – Using constantly updated blacklists and whitelists of known Spam sites, Bayesian learning provides another layer of detection that adapts to the changes made by Spammers to bypass static Spam filters.

Antiphishing – While considered more of personal threat than a corporate threat; phishing sites can also harvesting information from your company’s employees. Using a combination of constantly updated blacklists and whitelists, BitDefender prevents users from known accessing phishing sites and preventing compromise.

Content Filtering – Content filtering allows for the detection of predefined information such as credit card or account information, report names, client databases, etc. from passing outside the company’s control.

High performance NeuNet technology (advanced adaptive neural network).

Easy installation and easy to use web-based and command line administration interface.

Highly compatible kits that are available for all major Linux distributions (available as RPM, DEB, IPK) and are Linux FHS compliant.

System requirements:

Linux – Linux Kernel 2.6.18 or newer, glibc 2.3.1 or newer, libstdc++ from gcc 4 or newer.

Supported Distributions:

Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 or newer, Fedora Core 1 or newer, Novell SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, Linux 8.2 or newer, Mandrake/Mandriva 9.1 or newer, RedHat Enterprise Linux 3, Linux 9 or newer

BitDefender Security for Mail Servers, is the only product to have won a VBSpam award in every single VBSpam test – and with one of the highest spam catch rates in this test, and no false positives, it outperforms all other products and achieved the highest final score in the September 2010 test.

Download Free AntiSpam for Mail Servers at: BitDefender – registration required.

A user guide, in PDF format, is available here.

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Filed under Alternatives to Windows, BitDefender, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Email, Enterprise Applications, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Linux, Phishing, Software, spam

Download Immunet Protect 2 – Free Cloud Based Antivirus Application

When I first reviewed Immunet Protect in May of this year ( while it was still in Beta), I was impressed with it’s light use of system resources and bandwidth. Now, with the official release of Version 2, (June 17, 2010), I’m even more impressed.

Immunet Protect is a lightweight cloud based, community driven, antivirus application, (available in both a free, and a fee version), designed to add a layer of protection while working in partnership with the most popular antimalware solutions.

On my principal home machine for example, Immunet Protect lines up with Microsoft Security Essentials and ThreatFire, to shore up any vulnerabilities my system might have to to zero-day threats.

Zero-day threats are those that are defined as malware that has been written and distributed to take advantage of system vulnerabilities, before security developers can create, and release, counter measures.

In real time, Immunet Protect 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.

A rather more impressive security solution than having to wait for a malware definition database update. An update that may take several days. Days in which you are effectively open to infection.

The Beta version had limited functionality since it did not provide complete scanning – it acted as a defender only. But, all that has changed with the addition of new features in the final release, which include:

Two active scanning engines

Custom Scan

Scheduled scan

Context menu scan

And more

Just like the Beta, the final release was equally straightforward to install, and ran without complication.

If you’ve used the Beta release you’ll find (as the following screen capture illustrates), a substantially improved user interface, with much more functionality.

Immunet new 2

Setting the operating parameters (the protection settings), is straightforward. In the following screen capture you’ll notice tooltip pop outs which explain the function of each setting. A very cool feature for less experienced users.

Immunet new 3

During my initial full scan, CPU usage ran at roughly 20% on a dual core machine. And, system memory usage was surprisingly low at only 36 MB, as the following screen capture shows.

Immunet new 1

I have a preference for antimalware solutions that include the ability to launch a specific file scan from the Windows Explorer context menu, and Immunet Protect has included this feature.

image

Should you consider installing, and running, a Cloud Antivirus as supplementary antimalware protection?

If you are uncertain, then consider this:

The Internet is an uncertain world at the best of times

Cybercriminals design specific malware to exploit vulnerable systems without user interaction being required.

No single security application is capable (nor should we expect a single application to be capable), of providing adequate computer system protection. Gaps exist, in protection capabilities, in even the most sophisticated security applications.

Layering (or stacking) security applications, offers the best chance of remaining infection free, by closing these gaps.

A cloud based protective solution, in this case Immunet Protect, is a major step in shoring up any weaknesses, or gaps, and significantly increase your overall ability to detect malware.

Keep in mind however, that even the best layered protection strategy will not make up for lack of experience, and intuitiveness, when surfing the Internet. So, I’ll repeat what I have said here, many times – “knowledge, awareness, and experience are critical ingredients in the escalating battle, against cybercriminals.”

Immunet Protect Fast facts:

Fast Antivirus: Immunet leverages the speed of cloud computing to deliver real-time protection to your PC

Light Antivirus: Immunet is up to 35 times lighter than traditional antivirus solutions

Real-time Antivirus: Immunet provides cloud-based protection that is always up-to-date against viruses, spyware, bots, worms, Trojans, and keyloggers without slowing down your PC. No need to download any virus signature files!

Companion Antivirus: Immunet is compatible with existing antivirus products to help protect you better. Add an extra, lightweight layer of protection for free

Community Antivirus: Immunet’s Collective Immunity technology protects all users the instant that a virus is detected on one PC

System requirements: Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or later, Vista (32-bit and 64 bit), Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit).

Download at: Developer’s site

A final note: I recommend that you approach installation cautiously, since you will be offered the opportunity to install the Ask.com toolbar. There are reports that some users had the toolbar installed despite their refusal. If, this is the case, Immunet Protect needs to address this issue immediately.

In March of this year, I wrote a piece “We Don’t Want No Stinkin’ Toolbar!”, which drew a large number of outraged comments from readers, aimed at software developers.

So, I’ll repeat, for the benefit of developers, a statement I made in that article –

“Stop with the crapware already. If you’re pissing me off, just consider what you’re doing to an average user. Like it or not, there’s a lesson here. In the long run, your behavior will cost you – big time.”

Update – June 21,2010: Immunet Protect is a highly responsible company which listens to its community of users. And, based on feedback received, the company has chosen to remove the Ask toolbar from the application installer as a recent posting (shown below), on the community site clearly indicates.

“Now that our release is out, we’ve had a moment to sit back and reflect on the feedback we’ve gotten from our community. Some of the feedback we received was clear that our implementation of a build with the ASK toolbar gave some people a degree of discomfort.

As a result we’ve released a new build – Version 2.0.11.4. This new build fixes some outstanding UI issues and completely removes the ASK toolbar. In the next couple of weeks we’ll discuss this issue with our Community to review our next steps.”

Kudos to Immunet Protect, for taking this responsible position that other companies should learn from, and emulate.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Cloud Computing Applications, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Free Internet Protection, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Software, System Security, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Download Immunet Protect – A Free Community Based Cloud Antimalware Application

image I have a number of computers; not all of which face the Internet, but those that do, are protected from compromise by a layered (or stacked), security approach.

Here’s an example of a layered security approach – one that I use on my principal home machine. The following applications are stacked on this machine, in order to cover any potential gaps in security coverage:

I should add, I use two additional free security applications, SuperAntiSpyware and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, as secondary scanners on a weekly basis, as an added precaution.

Nothing is static though, when it comes to ensuring that my machines continue to be protected in the “real” Internet world. A world which is generally a much more demanding world, than that experienced by an average computer user.

Since I operate in this real world – not a test tube environment, I expect my antimalware applications to pass “real world” testing – not “test tube” testing, before relying on them for protection.

For this reason, when I test anti-malware applications, it often takes considerable time in order to get to the heart of the matter – does an application work in “my real Internet world?”

Arguable, the majority of available antimalware applications continue to rely on well established technologies. You could, if you like, replace “well established”, with “old”, or, some might say – “outdated”.

Since most viruses, worms, Trojans and other types of Internet threats only last 24 hours, how do security applications that rely on a definition database to identify malware files (most anti-malware applications), keep up with this onslaught? The simple answer is; they don’t.

Contrast this, with new and emerging security technologies, particularly Cloud based antimalware applications.

I was recently introduced to a new Cloud based antimalware solution,  Immunet Protect, which I have since come to rely on, and have now added to my layered security approach.

Immunet Protect, despite the fact it is Beta (a new enhanced final version is scheduled for release at the end of May which will include active scanning), is a community based antimalware solution which makes it just a little bit different – but in a highly positive way. If you’re familiar with the Browser protection application WOT (Web of Trust), then you have a sense of “community based” applications.

In real time, Immunet Protect 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.

Or, as the developer puts it  –  “Every time someone in this collective community encounters a threat, everyone else in the community gains protection from that same threat – in real time.”

A rather more impressive security solution than you having to wait for a malware definition database update. An update that may take several days. Days in which you are effectively open to infection.

Nevertheless, Immunet Protect has been developed to work in conjunction with the most popular antimalware solutions, for added protection. A list of compatible antimalware solutions follows, later in this article.

Installation was straightforward and ran without complication, as the following screen capture indicates.

Immediately following installation you may choose to run a “Flash Scan”, which probes running process, and load point process, for contamination.

Having the ability to share Immunet Protect with your Facebook and Twitter contacts, I though, was a very cool feature. After all, there is strength in increasing numbers.

Immunet 1

Setting the operating parameters (the protection settings), is, again, straightforward.Immunet 3

The following screen capture illustrates the results of my first Flash Scan. Notice that Immunet Protect tracks programs installed over a selectable time frame, and indicates the safety of the installs. As well, the total number of current threats for which protection is offered, is indicated. In this case, 12 Million, plus.

Immunet 4

The History function provides you with a database of scans completed and the results of those scan.

Immunet 5

When active, an Immunet Protect icon (far left), sits in the Taskbar as the following screen capture shows. In this screen capture you can also see my primary security solutions are active and responsive.

Immunet 6

I must admit, I feel an added sense of security when following boot up, Immunet Protect runs an automatic Flash Scan.

Finally, there is virtually no draw against system resources while running Immunet Protect, on a dual core Windows 7 test platform.

Should you consider installing, and running, a Cloud Antivirus as supplementary antimalware protection?

If you are uncertain, then consider this:

The Internet is an uncertain world at the best of times

Cybercriminals design specific malware to exploit vulnerable systems without user interaction being required.

No single security application is capable (nor should we expect a single application to be capable), of providing adequate computer system protection. Gaps exist, in protection capabilities, in even the most sophisticated security applications.

Layering (or stacking) security applications, offers the best chance of remaining infection free, by closing these gaps.

A cloud based protective solution, in this case Immunet Protect, is a major step in shoring up any weaknesses, or gaps, and significantly increase your overall ability to detect malware.

Keep in mind however, that even the best layered protection strategy will not make up for lack of experience, and intuitiveness, when surfing the Internet. So, I’ll repeat what I have said here, many times – “knowledge, awareness, and experience are critical ingredients in the escalating battle, against cybercriminals.”

The following Anti-Virus packages have been tested to work alongside the Immunet Protect beta. Immunet Protect should be able to install alongside these packages and significantly increase your overall ability to detect viruses.

AVG 8.5 (Free) (Windows XP SP2 / Vista)

AVG 9 Free (Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

Avast! Free & Premium 4.8/5.0 (Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

Avira 2009 Personal Free (Windows XP SP3)

Norton Anti-Virus 2008 (Windows XP SP2)

Norton Anti-Virus 2009 (Windows XP SP2 / Vista)

Norton Internet Security 2008 (Windows XP SP2)

Norton Internet Security 2009 (Windows XP SP2 / Vista)

Norton Internet Security 2010 (Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

Norton 360 2009 (Windows XP SP2 / Vista)

Norton 360 2010 (Windows XP SP2 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

Mcafee Security Center 9.3 (Windows XP SP3 / Vista)

Mcafee Security Center 2009 (Windows XP SP2)

Microsoft Security Essentials (Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

Trend AntiVirus 2010 (Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

Trend AntiVirus + AntiSpyware 2010 (Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

Trend Virus Buster 2010 Vista (Japanese Marketplace) (Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

K7 Total Security 2010 (Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7)

System requirements: Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or later, Vista (32-bit and 64 bit), Seven (32-bit and 64-bit).

Download at: Developer’s site (IMMUNET)

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Beta Software, Cloud Computing Applications, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Internet Safety Tools, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP, WOT (Web of Trust)

Geeks and Techies – Get Off Your High Horse!

geek2 It has been my experience (shared by most average computer users I know), that Geeks, Techies and computer industry pundits have a tendency to be arrogant and contemptuous of others who do not posses the level of technical understanding that they suppose themselves to have.

This trait of course is not restricted to those involved in computer technology. I’ve met more than a few auto mechanics that were as arrogant as any arrogant computer Techie I’ve come into contact with.

It seems to me however, that in the computer industry it is epidemic; from low level consumer oriented technical support at some of the popular retail chains, to software developers who choose to forget that the Computer World/Internet is populated by average users who generally lack sophisticated skills.

I never fail to be amazed when I read the barrage of techno language and techno babble speak aimed at that mythical computer user who, in reality, doesn’t exist. The computer industry needs to come to an understanding that there is a substantial knowledge gap that exists in the real world of computing.

Recently, I read an article by Larry Dignan, Editor in Chief of ZDNet, in which he described the continuing debate surrounding the viability of the anti-malware industry. It seems, at some senior levels of the industry, it is a commonly held belief that anti-malware software is virtually worthless since it cannot keep up with rapidly evolving threats. The proposed solution then is the elimination of anti-virus software.

In my view, this is an arrogant and condescending approach to a real world problem, a real world inhabited by real people, and not just by Techies who are familiar with all of the issues surrounding system security. This is the type of pseudo advice that could lead to chaotic consequences for a typical user.

Fact: Typical users simply don’t know how to protect themselves adequately against the ever evolving threats on the Internet.

The reality is, the majority of computer users are undereducated when it comes to the dangers and threats that the Internet poses to their machines, and to their personal privacy.

Anti-malware applications are designed to help average users; not the technically sophisticated. So, of course there is a need for them.

I have a computer sophisticated Internet friend, one who teaches University level Computer Sciences, who frequently reminds me “Too much security is still not enough”. Sadly, he is right.

I find most tech people (remember I am one), can’t see past the end of their nose when it becomes necessary to look at the broader picture. For example, it would be helpful to develop a view that encompasses the various degrees of computer competency that exists.

The following comment, from one of the forums I participate in, sums it up nicely, “Until folks stop trying to exploit/cripple/destroy others, we will need anti-malware software as part of the mix of security solutions. To those who think not … try a virus … you’ll change your mind.”

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Filed under Interconnectivity, Living Life, Personal Perspective, Windows Tips and Tools

McDonalds Email Christmas Offer is Scroogy Malware

mcdonalds-fries Who’s going to turn down an email savings coupon from that great American institution – McDonalds? The cyber-criminals behind this spam/scam email are counting on the fact that not many of us will turn it down.

Let’s face it – we’re all pretty used to McDonalds wishing us a “Merry Christmas” so getting an email with that heading is likely to entice many of us to “Simply print the coupon from this Email and head to your local McDonald’s for FREE giveaways and AWESOME savings” as the email instructs.

mcdonalds-email

(Pic courtesy of Panda)

According to PandaLabs, Panda Security’s laboratory for detecting and analyzing malware however, you won’t get a coupon, you won’t get “FREE giveaways and AWESOME savings”, but you will get infected by the P2PShared.U worm.

“Once on the computer”, according to Panda, “the worm sends out emails with the same subject and appearance to other users. Finally, it copies itself to folders of various P2P file-sharing programs (eMule, LimeWire, Morpheus, etc.) with names relating to security software, image editing programs, program cracks, etc. This way, any user that tries to download any of these applications will be actually letting a copy of the worm into their computer”.

At this time of the year, we can expect to be bombarded by socially engineered email spam/scam with a Christmas or Holiday Season theme, so be more vigilant than you normally would be.

Don’t open unknown email attachments

Don’t run programs of unknown origin

Disable scripting features in email programs

Ensure your anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments

If you are interested in staying on top of the latest in Internet security news, consider adding Panda Security news to your feed reader by adding the following URL – http://feeds.feedburner.com/PandaSecurity.

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Filed under Don't Get Hacked, Email, Interconnectivity, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Safe Surfing, System Security, worms

IRS Tax Notification Refund Scam – Don’t be Victimized!

After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $939.40. – Fraudulent IRS email

Now who wouldn’t be thrilled to receive an email informing them that U.S. Internal Revenue Service is going to play Santa Clause and give them $939.40? Well I wouldn’t object, and I suspect you wouldn’t either. Like you, I can think of a few places where this unexpected windfall could be put to good use.

Despite the fact that I am a Canadian, and I reside in Canada, it seems the U.S. Government is eager, and determined, to give me money for the third time in just a few months. Yes, this is the third such scam email I have received in just the last few months.

Since I am a Canadian I do not file U.S. income tax returns and I do not qualify for a refund from the IRS. Despite this, the cyber-criminals responsible for this fraudulent email were optimistic that I would click on the enclosed email link.

Clicking on the link would have redirected me to a spoof IRS page, comparable to the original site, and I would then have begun a process in which the scammers would have stripped me of all the confidential information I was willing to provide.

Information requested on the spoof IRS page includes; social security number, credit card and debit card numbers, postal address, and date of birth. The financial and personal details entered into this fraudulent web site are harvested by cyber-crooks who would have used this information to commit identity and financial theft.

The reality is of course, the IRS doesn’t send out unsolicited emails asking for personal or financial information. Credit card numbers, ATM PIN numbers and additional financial information would never be required to enable you to discover the current status of your tax return, or your tax refund.

According to the IRS there are over 1600 IRS phishing sites operating, or online, at any given time in search of potential victims willing to hand over sensitive financial data. It’s easy to see that the emails I received are not isolated incidents. The IRS confirms that by their estimates, 1% of all spam email is an IRS phishing scam.

What makes this particular type of scam so potent is, the average person on receiving an email from an authoritative source, generally lowers their defenses. As well, giving the time of year, the timing is right. Be warned, IRS scam emails always ramp up before tax day and continue for some time afterwards.

You know what to do right? Follow the tips below to protect yourself against these threats:

  • Your bank, the IRS, or any other legitimate organization will never ask you to divulge account information or passwords via email. Never give out this information, especially via email.
  • Don’t open emails that come from un-trusted sources.
  • Don’t run files that you receive via email without making sure of their origin.
  • 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 un-trusted source, simply ignore them.
  • Keep your computer protected. Install a security solution and keep it up-to-date. Also, before carrying out any kind of financial transaction on the Web, I recommend that you scan your computer with a second-opinion security solution, such as NanoScan.

Be kind to your friends, relatives, and associates and let them know that these types of scams are now epidemic on the Internet. In that way, it raises the level of protection for all of us.

To help you fight back, the following information has been taken from the official IRS web site and provides instructions on how to assist the IRS in shutting down these schemes.

The good news is that you can help shut down these schemes and prevent others from being victimized. If you receive a suspicious e-mail that claims to come from the IRS, you can relay that e-mail to a new IRS mailbox, phishing@irs.gov.

Follow instructions in the link below for sending the bogus e-mail to ensure that it retains critical elements found in the original e-mail. The IRS can use the information, URLs and links in the suspicious e-mails you send to trace the hosting Web site and alert authorities to help shut down the fraudulent sites. Unfortunately, due to the expected volume, the IRS will not be able to acknowledge receipt or respond to you.

IRS reporting site

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Filed under Email, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Online Banking, Online Safety, Phishing, Windows Tips and Tools

FREE Online Backup – Mozy on Over!

Just like death and taxes are a certainty, the fact that your computer’s Hard Drive will crash one day and refuse to respond, is every bit as certain.

Computer industry statistics seem to indicate that the real-world annualized failure rate (average percentage of disks failing per year), was much higher than the manufacturer’s estimate – an average of 3% vs. the estimated 0.5 – 0.9%. The cost of recovering data from a failed hard drive can exceed $7,500, and success is never guaranteed.

So when that inevitable day arrives, what will you do?

If you are one of the few, out of the ordinary, computer users who regularly and faithfully backup, you will have a lot of work ahead of you but you will recover.

However, if you haven’t backed up, you have lost everything including:

  1. operating system
  2. applications
  3. correspondence
  4. pictures
  5. music
  6. customized settings
  7. email accounts, rules/filters, folders and messages
  8. data including, letters, graphics, music, databases/other projects

The operating system and applications can be replaced, if you have the original install media. But not all computers with preinstalled operating systems have the original operating system installation media supplied with the computer.

The message here then is: everything that can not be replaced needs to be backed up.

It’s now easier than ever to backup giving the large choice of relatively inexpensive media, including CDs, DVDs, USB sticks, external Hard Drives, and increasingly gaining popularity, Online Backup Services.

Perhaps the most popular of these free Online Backup Services is Mozy: Free Online Backup.

Mozy, which requires a broadband connection, is a free and easy to use, software service that gives you 2GB of space allowing you to backup your data over the Internet. When needed, the backed up files can be restored over the Internet.

Mozy includes a Windows Explorer context menu which makes restoring files very easy. Right click on the file you want to restore, and Mozy gives you a list of all previous versions of the file. As well, Mozy incorporates a virtual drive explorer in Windows that allows you to view the files you’ve backed up without having to access the Internet.

If you are not familiar with backup software, or you’re not comfortable with XP’s version, then Mozy might well be the ideal tool for you. Check it out.

Mozy Quick Facts:

Open/locked file support

448-bit Blowfish encryption

128-bit SSL encryption

Automatic or scheduled backups

New and changed file detection

Block level incremental backups

Bandwidth throttling

File versioning

Public or private key encryption

Download at: Mozy

Additional Free Online Backup Sites:

XDrive – XDrive supplies you with 5 GB of space. The backup software runs on Windows, and provides automatic backups of your data.

IDrive Basic – 2 GB of backup space Free Online Backup, Encrypted, Secure and Automated.

Humyo – Humyo allows you to store up to 25 GB of media files (photos, videos, music) and 5 GB for non-media files.

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Filed under Backup Applications, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Online Backup, Software, System File Protection, Windows Tips and Tools

Bogus IRS Tax Notification Email – Don’t Be a Victim!

Despite the fact that I am a Canadian it seems the U.S. Government, by way of the Internal Revenue Service, wants to give me money for the second time in just a few months.

Back in February of this year, I received an email indicating I could expect a tax refund of $873.20, and just in the last few days I received an IRS Tax Notification email informing me that an additional $184.80 was mine if I just clicked on the enclosed email link.

Unfortunately, since I am a Canadian I will not be getting a refund from the IRS, but the cyber-criminals responsible for this email were hopeful that I would click on the enclosed link.

Clicking on the link would have redirected me to a spoof IRS page, comparable to the original site, and I would then have begun the process whereby the scammers would have stripped me of all the confidential information I was willing to provide. Information requested on the spoof IRS page includes; social security number, credit card and debit card numbers, postal address, and date of birth.

The financial and personal details entered are harvested by cyber-crooks who would then have used this information to commit identity and financial theft.

The reality is of course, the IRS doesn’t send out unsolicited emails asking for personal or financial information. Credit card numbers, ATM PIN numbers and additional financial information would never be required to enable you to find out the current status of your tax return, or your tax refund.

According to the IRS there are over 1600 IRS phishing sites operating, or online, at any given time in search of potential victims willing to hand over sensitive financial data. It’s easy to see that the emails I received are not isolated incidents. The IRS goes on to say that by their estimates, 1% of all spam email is an IRS phishing scam.

What makes this particular type of scam so potent is, the average person on receiving an email from an authoritative source, generally lowers their defenses. As well, giving the time of year, the timing is right. Be warned, IRS scam emails always ramp up before tax day and continue for some time afterwards.

You know what to do right? Follow the tips below to protect yourself against these threats:

  • Your bank, the IRS, or any other legitimate organization will never ask you to divulge account information or passwords via email. Never give out this information, especially via email.
  • Don’t open emails that come from un-trusted sources.
  • Don’t run files that you receive via email without making sure of their origin.
  • 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 un-trusted source, simply ignore them.
  • Keep your computer protected. Install a security solution and keep it up-to-date. Also, before carrying out any kind of financial transaction on the Web, I recommend that you scan your computer with a second-opinion security solution, such as NanoScan at www.nanoscan.com.

Be kind to your friends, relatives and associates and let them know that these types of scams are now epidemic on the Internet. In that way, it raises the level of protection for all of us.

To help you fight back, the following information has been taken from the official IRS web site and provides instructions on how to assist the IRS in shutting down these schemes.

The good news is that you can help shut down these schemes and prevent others from being victimized. If you receive a suspicious e-mail that claims to come from the IRS, you can relay that e-mail to a new IRS mailbox, phishing@irs.gov.

Follow instructions in the link below for sending the bogus e-mail to ensure that it retains critical elements found in the original e-mail. The IRS can use the information, URLs and links in the suspicious e-mails you send to trace the hosting Web site and alert authorities to help shut down the fraudulent sites. Unfortunately, due to the expected volume, the IRS will not be able to acknowledge receipt or respond to you.

IRS reporting site: phishing@irs.gov

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Filed under Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Phishing, Privacy, Safe Surfing, 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