Anti-virus expired? Replace it for free!

Some time ago I bought a new PC which came pre-installed with the usual bloatware and McAfee Anti-virus.  The subscription provided was for whole year, so I left it in place.

Yesterday I received this message from them.

renewal

Knowing that there are perfectly good free versions of AV out there here’s what I did about that.

Screenshot 2014-11-30 08.52.29

Control Panel – Uninstall a Program. Remove McAfee.

Restart your PC after uninstalling.

Restart your PC after uninstalling.

Enable Windows Defender (included with Windows 8) Then choose update and scan to finish the job.

Enable Windows Defender (included with Windows 8)
Then choose update and scan to finish the job.

 After that…no more subscriptions to worry about – you are protected forever!

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What do marketing companies know about you?

Acxoim logo

Ever wonder what kind of information determines the ads you see or the offers you receive?

About The Data is a website launched by a leading marketing technology firm called the Acxiom Corporation that “…brings you answers to questions about the data that fuels marketing and helps ensure you see offers on things that mean the most to you and your family.

In a nutshell this website allows you to see and correct the data they hold about you.  More importantly they offer an option to ‘opt out’.

Whoever thought of the concept for this website was a genius, and here’s why.  

Acxoim sell your data and the more accurate that data is the more value it has.  What better way to improve the data than to give the product (that is you) the ability to improve the data directly in the name of “transparency”.  They improve their product for free while appearing to be the good guys.  Genius! 

For now I have decided to let them have wrong information – although it would be interesting to see what they say about my sex life based on some of the spam I receive.

Ultimately the only reason I would sign up (you have to give a lot of personal information to get in) would be to opt out.

 

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How to avoid the tiles in Windows 8.1

Moving to Windows 8 can be a frustrating experience.  People that grew up on earlier versions of Windows are confused by the Metro screen (the tiles that show up when you boot).  Fortunately there’s a 2 minute fix for that which came with Windows 8.1.

  1. Screenshot 2014-08-03 12.07.00From the Windows 8.1 desktop, right-click on the taskbar and choose Properties.
  2. In the Taskbar and Navigation Properties box that opens, click the Navigation tab.
  3. In the options in the “Start screen” area, check the box next to “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start.”

 

From now on you’ll boot directly to the desktop, making the experience feel much more “normal”.

You still won’t have a proper start button.  If you want that you will have to install a free 3rd party program like Classic Shell.  Do that and you can almost forget that you ever upgraded.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Filed under Computers, Education

Don’t fall for the Microsoft ‘tech support’ scam!

phonescamMy wife received an interesting call today from someone claiming to be from Microsoft technical support.  According to them our computers had contacted because we needed technical support.

Of course it’s a scam, but one that people (particularly older people) get taken in with all the time.

For the uninitiated, the scam involves someone (usually from India) calling and saying that they are representatives from Microsoft technical support. They then tell the victim that their computer is running slowly because of viruses or because they need an additional piece of software — at a cost, of course. It’s been floating around for almost as many years as the Nigerian money transfer scam and is still going strong.

Once a person buys into the scam they take them through a number of steps showing them files and error messages on their computer (every computer has error messages if you know where to look) and then they sell the victim “technical support” or an “extended warranty”.   This will involve several steps:

  • Taking control of your PC
  • Watching as you enter your bank account and credit card details into an online payment (the online payment – usually around $299 – is real)
  • Trashing your PC or, in some cases, installing malicious software on your PC so that they can continue to exploit you after the call is over

If you want to see what happens you can watch the video on the Malwarebytes website – via What happens if you play along with a Microsoft ‘tech support’ scam?  Spoiler alert – they end by calling him names and trashing his PC.

Unfortunately it is often the elderly that fall for this the most, so do yourselves a favor and tell your older relatives to contact you before they make online payments or install software from cold callers.  A little time spent on the phone with them could save everyone from an enormous amount of hassle in the future.

Any legitimate company will happily give a call back number and wait while you check with people.  And if you’re really not sure then post a comment below letting me know what is going on and I’ll get back to you.

 

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Google Gives Real Time Analytics to iPhone Users

In case you missed it, Google released Google Analytics for iPhone last week. It comes a year after it was originally released for Android devices. The Real Time analytics is the best feature for website owners who can now get-a-glance of their information right from their pocket.

For the full story click here:  Google Gives Real Time Analytics to iPhone Users | LevelTen Dallas, TX.

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Filed under Free Software, Web Design

Domain Registry Services of America – SCAM!

Today I received a very official looking letter from a company called Domain Registry Services informing me that the domain of one of my customers is due to expire “in the next few months”.  If you have received one of these don’t be fooled – it’s a scam!

Here’s how it works: Domain Registry Services sends website owners an official-looking “expiration notice” (see below), urging them to “act today” to prevent “loss of your online identity making it difficult for your customers and friends to locate you.”

They are hoping that you won’t look too closely at it, fill in the form and send it back.  If you do you will have inadvertently transferred the domain registration from the company you originally registered with (GoDaddy, BlueHost, etc.) and signed that over to DRS.

I have no idea what their registration services are like but I can say that they are at least twice as expensive as any reputable domain registrar ($35 for one year when most charge between $10 and $15).  I can only assume a company that stoops to such underhanded tactics to win clients would be an absolute nightmare to deal with and any chance of getting a refund has to be slim at best.

If you receive one of these notices do yourself a huge favor and file it in the round filing cabinet.

scam

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Filed under Computers, Online Security

Who’s attacking your website?

ImageWith the explosion in web creation tools owning a website is no longer the domain of a select few.  Whether you have an online store, a “business card” site or a fan site for your passion setting up a website can be done by almost anyone with a need and a little patience.

What many people fail to realize is that, just like your home PC, a little care is needed if you are to avoid having your website taken over and either vandalized or used as a springboard for spreading viruses.  After all which of your friends wouldn’t download something from a website they knew you created?

Think people aren’t attacking your site?  A quick look at the sites I have set up showed, without exception, every one of them had logged attempts to log in using brute force password cracking.  I know this because I have software installed on these sites that tracks failed attempts to log in and, if they occur often enough (10 tries in my case) then my site will automatically  block access from those IP addresses with increasingly long lockouts and sends me a note to let me know about it.  Here’s a sample from one of the sites I take care of:

IP Tried to log in as

 

As you can usernames like admin, administrator, root, and variants of the URL (starred out for privacy reasons) have all been tried.  It’s one of the reasons I NEVER use those as either a user id or a password.

Attacks mostly seem to come from the Czech Republic, the Republic of Korea, Ukraine and so on.

Why those places and what are they doing?  Who cares?  The important thing to realize is that even the website you put together as a memorial to your beloved dog can, and will, be attacked.

The site i pulled the lockout information from is only special to the people that use it.  It doesn’t get millions of views, isn’t a political or controversial group, and doesn’t contain any secret information.  In fact everything on the site is public.  So if they are being attacked then it’s a very good bet that your website is too.

So what can you do about it?

Well you can’t stop people attacking you, but you can make life difficult for them by taking some simple steps.

  1. The most obvious, and easiest, thing to do is to make sure that you don’t use any common user names  or passwords.  If your website providers sets up a default user such as Admin when your site is built, change it!  Passwords don’t have to be long and hard to remember – two random words like BlueDriver or NotedMarketer will keep people guessing long enough to make them bored.  If you use Admin and password because they are easy to remember then you deserve what you get.
  2. Install software that can lock out repeated login attempts.  There are many of these around and they are often free.  Install them for some peace of mind and sleep easily knowing that someone isn’t bombarding your website with thousands of login attempts.
  3. Make sure that you keep your website software up to date.  As the HeartBleed bug showed us, no website is foolproof, so make sure that vulnerability are patched regularly.

Those three simple steps alone should keep the vast majority of people at bay.  Sure there are are few highly skilled people out there that could get in if they wanted to, but with so many juicy targets for their talents why would they waste their time on your cooking blog?  Nope…it’s the equivalent of the thug with a brick that we want to stop and the steps above are the equivalent of a spray can full of mace to those guys.

 

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Filed under Computers, Online Security, Web Design