Tag Archives: users

WARNING! You Are Now Connected To The Internet!

imageAny organization which provides services that expose the end user to risks – physical risks, financial risks, health risks………. expects that the user will assume the reasonable risks associated with the consumption of the service.

You can be sure, if you go on an African safari you will be required to assume the risk of being eaten by a Lion – ouch! If you venture on a mountain climbing vacation – you will have to assume all the risks associated with this type of activity – including the risk of personal injury, and even death.

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In both of these extreme examples, you will be required to demonstrate that you are aware of the risks, and accept and fully assume those risks, and hazards, associated with the activity.

In order to protect its interests, the service provider will demand that you sign a liability waiver designed to mitigate its responsibility in all but the most egregious of circumstances.

This is a two-fold practical warning solution .

It ensures that the consumer has considered the risks, and found those risks tolerable.

It offers protection to the service provider in the event, the consumer behaves outside common sense boundaries.

Why then, I wonder – given the constantly deteriorating state of Internet security, and the privacy, financial, and assorted other risks that a typical users is expected to assume (users who are largely unaware of the assumed risks) – Internet service providers have not considered the appropriateness of providing a “WARNING! You Are Now Connected To The Internet!” notice to consumers on Browser launch. No waiver of liability required – just a constructive warning.

Such a notice, might offer practical advice such as the following – but certainly not necessarily limited to these innocuous tidbits.

Users should be aware that the Internet is not a secure medium and that third parties may be able to obtain information regarding users’ activities.

The validity or accuracy of information found on the Internet should be considered with caution.

Some resources and destinations may contain material that you might find offensive, or inappropriate.

Software downloaded from the Internet may contain malware.

I have no doubt that Internet service providers could make a persuasive argument as to why they don’t have an obligation to educate consumers on the very real risks associated with the use of their service. But, in my view, there are fundamental considerations over and above a – “they don’t have an obligation” mindset.

Just one consideration –

Lack of consumer security awareness has led to the creation of a cyber crime industry – and, there’s little doubt that it is an industry – which is responsible for the theft of $388 billion globally (Norton Cybercrime Report 2011), in the past year, alone.

Additional information from the Norton Cybercrime Report:

Every day of the past year, over 1 million online adults in 24 countries experienced cybercrime.    This can also be broken down to 50,000  victims per hour, 820  victims per minute, or 14 victims every second.  In just the last 12 months 44% of people have been a victim of cybercrime while only 15% have been a victim of physical crime in the same period.

Norton emphasizes the point (made here many, many times), that cyber crime can be largely prevented if – good security practices (which includes patched operating systems and applications), are followed.

All well and good – provided, consumers are regularly reminded of the Internet risks they face. It’s my view, that Internet service providers can do much more to raise an awareness of these risks.

It may be a pipedream when I think that ISPs should consider their moral obligation in this matter – still, I can’t help but think out loud.

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Filed under Opinion, Point of View

Support Your Friends Tech Needs The Right Way

imageLet’s assume for a moment, that you just got a call from ———– (fill in the blank), who wants you to walk him through transferring files from one computer to another. Not so difficult for you, but often difficult for typical users.

A “help me out” call such as this, is not at all an uncommon occurrence if you’re a high level user. But you know that – which is why you’re going to change your telephone number to “unlisted”, or move out of the country.   Smile

From a personal perspective, I’ve learned, over the years, that a verbal “solve my computer problem” walkthrough is a non-starter – in most instances. Here’s why.

It’s a virtual certainty that some/most/all of your instructions, will have to be repeated – any number of times. If you’re the type of “helpful friend” who has extraordinary patience, you’ll probably buy into this awkward arrangement. But, you will need prodigious patience – and, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to test it.

It would be more appropriate (but far from perfect), to take the time (lots of time!), to set out the needed instructions in an email. But, there’s not much point in reinventing the wheel when a Google search string (continuing with this illustration) – how to transfer a file from one computer to another – will pop up more than 8 Million references.

For example, the most complete article I could find using a Google search string – how to transfer a file from one computer to another – contained just under 500 words. It’s possible of course, that you might be able to transfer the same set of instructions verbally using fewer words – but, I doubt it. And, even if that was possible – you’re back to some/most/all of the instructions needing to be repeated.

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Courtesy dilbert.com

And that brings me to that dreaded question which, it seems to me, many high level users – the default neighborhood tech support gurus – are too shy to ask the “you’ve just gotta help me” friend – have you Googled the problem? The most common answer is of course – no.

If you’re still of a mind to go into rescue mode, then you must be the person to find an article you feel should solve the problem. Then, after working together through this article with the not so tech savvy “friend”, hopefully the problem can be resolved.

Make it clear that you expect active participation. In fact, insist on it. Unless you do, I can assure you that you will be the one doing all the heavy lifting. And, it’s this heavy lifting that, over time, sours many tech savvy users on staying in the “I’m a helpful tech savvy kind of guy” game.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

There are many ways to provide tech support to family and friends – hard experience though, has taught me to rely on this one.

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Filed under computer repair, Help, Interconnectivity, Point of View, Windows Tips and Tools

Free AntiMalware Software – And More – For Senior Computer Users

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

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

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

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

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

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

But first:

Patch your operating system:

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

Recommended Security Solutions:

PC Tools Firewall Plus 7:

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

Microsoft Security Essentials

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

Immunet Free Antivirus

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

ThreatFire

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

SpyShelter Personal Free:

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

Firefox 4.0.1

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

Firefox 4.0.1 includes hundreds of improvements over previous versions.

WOT

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

WinPatrol 20.5.2

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

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

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

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

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

Fake URL Shortening Services –Spammers Latest Weapon

imageAccording to Symantec’s May 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report, released several days ago, spammers are now employing their own fake URL shortening services to redirect users to the spammer’s Web site. It’s hardly surprising that this new technique has directly contributed to rising spam rates.

MessageLabs Intelligence reports that “shortened links created on these fake URL-shortening sites are not included directly in spam messages. Instead, the spam emails contain shortened URLs created on legitimate URL-shortening sites. These shortened URLs lead to a shortened-URL on the spammer’s fake URL-shortening Web site, which in turn redirects to the spammer’s own Web site.”

Key findings from the May 2011 report include:

Spam: In May 2011, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources increased by 2.9 percentage points since April 2011 to 75.8% (1 in 1.32 emails).

In the US 76.4 percent of email was spam, 75.3 percent in Canada, 75.4 percent in the UK, and 73.9 percent in Australia.

Viruses: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 222.3 emails (0.450 percent) in May, a decrease of 0.143 percentage points since April.

Endpoint Threats: The most frequently blocked malware targeting endpoint devices for the last month was the W32.Ramnit!html, a worm that spreads through removable drives and by infecting executable files.

Phishing: In May, phishing activity was 1 in 286.7 emails (0.349 percent), a decrease of 0.06 percentage points since April.

Web security: Analysis of Web security activity shows that approximately 3,142 Web sites each day were harboring malware and other potentially unwanted programs including spyware and adware, an increase of 30.4 percent since April 2011. 36.8 percent of malicious domains blocked were new in May, an increase of 3.8 percentage points since April. Additionally, 24.6 percent of all web-based malware blocked was new in May, an increase of 2.1 percentage points since last month.

The May 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report provides greater detail on all of the trends and figures noted above, as well as more detailed geographical and vertical trends. The full report is available here.

Reading this type of report (or at least the highlights), can be a major step in expanding the sense of threat awareness that active Internet users’ require.

Symantec’s MessageLabs Intelligence is a respected source of data and analysis for messaging security issues, trends and statistics. MessageLabs Intelligence provides a range of information on global security threats based on live data feeds from control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world. Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available at www.symantec.com.

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Filed under Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Email, email scams, Internet Security Alerts, MessageLabs, Online Safety, spam, Symantec, Windows Tips and Tools

And, You’re Surprised You Got Screwed On Facebook?

imageIt’s a holiday weekend here in Canada, and in honor of Queen Victoria’s birthday, I’m taking the sun, drinking some beer, and ogling the passing scenery. All of that hard work has drained me of the energy I need to write a fresh article.    Winking smile

So, given the circumstance, you’ll allow me (I’m sure), to take the easy way out and repost an article (through the magic of connected devices), originally published on August 28, 2010.    

Not a day goes by, it seems, when Facebook and the opportunities it presents for cyber criminal activity, isn’t in the News. Not mainstream News, of course, since cyber crime rarely involves sex, or violence.

Mainstream media, where salacious and violent news reports rule the airwaves, determined, it seems to me, it had nothing to gain by advising you of the following, very unsexy, non violent, Facebook threats – all from this week incidentally.

‘LOL is this you?’ spam spreading via Facebook chat

Facebook scam: “I may never text again after reading this”

How to Spot Facebook Scams Like ‘Dislike’

Facebook Fires Back at ACLU’s Criticism of ‘Places’

Facebook Warns of Clickjacking Scam

But, throw Facebook and sex into the equation, and mainstream media are out of the gate as if shot from a cannon.

The discovery, that a pedophile ring which used Facebook as their communication channel had been broken up, and the perpetrators arrested, made headlines around the world, just yesterday.

And why not? This is the kind of news event that allows the media to exhibit their moral outrage and indignation. But, when it comes to occurrences that can effect you, if you are a Facebook subscriber, for example – no outrage; no moral indignation. Curious, no?

Maybe I’m missing something here. It’s unlikely, but still I wonder if there’s consensus in the mainstream media community, that Facebook users who become victims of cyber criminals are getting exactly what they deserve?

At one time, I gave the benefit of the doubt to victimized Facebook users, since most typical computer users (I believed), made assumptions that sites like Facebook, and other social networking sites, were essentially safe, and harmless – that Facebook, and others, were looking out for their users interests.

I’ve long since given up on this rather naive view of Facebook users lack of culpability in any harm they were exposed to though. I find it difficult to be supportive of people who throw common sense out the window, and behave irrationally on the Internet.

Given the state of the current, and increasing cyber criminal activity on the Internet, it’s almost certain that exposure to cybercrime on Facebook will continue to escalate, and with it, the dangers that this presents.

Note: As of today’s date – May 22, 2011 – the incidence of cyber criminal activity on Facebook continues to escalate dramatically.

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Filed under Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, FaceBook, Internet Safety, Online Safety, Point of View, Windows Tips and Tools

Web of Trust (WOT) And Facebook Collaborate To Protect Users From Malicious Links

imageIf you’re a Facebook user and you haven’t met a cybercriminal yet; hang in there – you will. Survey after survey continue to show that cybercriminals are picking off Facebook users as if they were shooting fish in a barrel.

Most cybercriminal schemes on Facebook are outrageous. But the bad guys know, that even the most outrageous schemes stand a better than average chance of being successful when targeted at Facebook’s largely unaware, and unsophisticated, user base.

With the collaborative effort announced today by Facebook and Web of Trust, WOT will now provide protection against dubious and malicious web links, that Facebook users continue to be exposed to. When a Facebook user clicks a link that leads to a page with a poor reputation rating as defined by the WOT community, Facebook will show a clear warning message.

Click on graphic to expand to original.

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The plan is to roll out to US users 100% on May 12, and then the following week, after the translators have time to finish their work, roll out globally.

A quick reminder:

WOT’s Browser add-on users see reputation icons on Web sites, Google search results, email links, Twitter, as well as shortened URLs. WOT ratings are recalculated every 30 minutes to ensure users have the freshest and most reliable information. The free WOT add-on works in all web browsers and can be downloaded here.

You can read a full review on the benefits of adding WOT to your Browser here on this site – WOT (Web of Trust) – Is It The Most Important Browser Security Add-on You Need To Install?

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Browser Plug-ins, Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, FaceBook, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Malware Protection, Online Safety, social networking, Social Networks, Software, Windows Tips and Tools, WOT (Web of Trust)

WOT Beta for Social Media – Facebook, Twitter Protection And More

imageWOT (Web of Trust), has just raised the Internet security bar a notch by releasing a Beta version of their award winning Browser add-on which will provide protection against cybercriminals in a number of their favorite hunting grounds – Facebook and Twitter.

Hopefully, WOT’s reputation icons on links in Facebook, Twitter and additionally for shortened URLs by most popular services, such as bit.ly and t.co, will help thwart some of the most outrageous criminal schemes perpetrated on unaware social networking site users.

At the moment, the beta of WOT for social media is available for Firefox only. But, be quick – there are only 1000 preview downloads available!

Download the beta version of WOT for Social Media here.

According to WOT – “The new WOT version will be released in a few weeks for general WOT users, and newcomers.”

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Browser add-ons, cybercrime, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Internet Safety Tools, Online Safety, Safe Surfing, social networking, Software, WOT (Web of Trust)