Tag Archives: Computers

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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Silence of the Fans

Image from Fanshare.com

My wife’s PC used to drive me mad!  Every time I sat in the office I could hear the fan running at full tilt, especially after she had played Facebook games and left them running.

Something had to be done!

A quick check showed high CPU use and the temperature (checked using Speccy) well above normal.

My first reaction was that she needs a new PC but my frugal (cheap) side kicked in and forced me to dig a little deeper so I removed the PC cover and discovered that the heat sink above the CPU was entirely buried in fluff!

30 seconds with a vacuum cleaner and the office is back to its former library like state.   Ahhh!

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How to Steal Passwords Saved in Google Chrome in 5 Simple Steps

passwordIf you use Chrome as your browser you should know that it’s surprisingly simple to access all of a person’s passwords saved in Google Chrome. Another surprise: Google’s well aware of this fact, and the company is not planning to do anything about it.

For the full story read : How to Steal Passwords Saved in Google Chrome in 5 Simple Steps | CIO Blogs.

This should be especially worrying considering how many people use the same password for almost all accounts, so even if you don’t use Chrome to store your bank account password you might still be showing more than you bargained for.

After reading the full article you might find yourself wanting to delete the passwords stored in Chrome or make sure that your PC is always locked when you leave it  (Windows key – L is a nice shortcut for that).  If you decided on the former then may I suggest using Lastpass as a more secure alternative to writing your passwords on post it notes.

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Filed under Computers, Free Software, Online Security, Technology

Can’t afford an iPad mini? The Nook HD is now just $129!

nookWhen Barnes & Nobel opened the Nook HD to 700,000 apps in the Google play store this tablet became a serious contender.  Now the price has dropped to only $129 can you afford not to buy one of these?

In May, Barnes & Noble rolled out a software update that allows Nook HD and HD+ users to use Google’s standard Android apps and buy new software and content from the Google Play store, opening the door to over 700,000 apps.  This turned a great piece of hardware that had been needlessly hobbled into a potential iPad killer.

But now B&N have decided to get out of the tablet market and are selling off their inventory at prices that are ridiculously cheap even for cheap tablets.  The 7-inch Nook HD, previously $199, is now just $129; the 9-inch Nook HD+ has plummeted from $269 to $149.

These are great tablets that, according to CNET, beat out the Kindle Fire tablet even before the price drop.  Now, at almost 1/3rd the cost of the similarly sized iPad mini, it’s practically giving them away.

Let’s look at the main points:

  • Higher resolution screen than both the iPad mini and the Kindle Fire – by a considerable margin
  • Access to over 700,000 apps in the Google Play store (the Kindle accesses the store but limits the choice)
  • The only tablet with an expansion slot, allowing you to expand the memory by up to 32gb for just a few dollars
  • Excellent hardware at knock off prices
  • The option to install the latest version of Android  by simply plugging in a micro SD card (such as one from N2Acards) without invalidating your warranty

Unless you like being locked into the Apple walled garden, or are an Amazon Prime member, then I can’t see any reason not to head over to the B&N store and pick up one of these things.

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iPhones can auto-connect to rogue Wi-Fi networks, researchers warn

iphone_pwSecurity researchers say they’ve uncovered a weakness in  iPhones that force users to connect to Wi-Fi networks that can then steal passwords or other sensitive information.

AT&T iPhones instruct the devices to automatically connect to a Wi-Fi network called attwifi when the signal becomes available, a service designed to speed up browsing.  But attackers can set up their own rogue Wi-Fi networks with the same name and collect sensitive data as it passes through.  AT&T are not the only company that are doing this, so don’t be smug if you have another carrier.

Researchers tested their hypothesis by setting up several Wi-Fi networks in public areas that used the same SSIDs as official carrier networks. During a presentation on Wednesday at the International Cyber Security Conference, the Skycure researchers set up a network that 448 people connected to during a two-and-a-half-hour period. 

The most effective way to prevent iPhones from connecting to networks without the user’s knowledge is to turn off Wi-Fi whenever it’s not needed. Apps are also available that give users control over what SSIDs an iPhone will and won’t connect to.

via iPhones can auto-connect to rogue Wi-Fi networks, researchers warn | Ars Technica.

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Staying Secure on Facebook

asset.f.logo.lgIf you have any concerns about security of the computer you’re using while accessing Facebook you can have them text you a one-time password to use instead of your regular password.  

Simply text “otp” to 32665 on your mobile phone (U.S. only), and you’ll immediately receive a password that can be used only once and expires in 20 minutes. In order to use this feature, you’ll need a mobile phone number in your account.

k4023952This is a great way to make sure you enjoy a relaxing cup of joe at the airport without the need to hunch over your keyboard.  And since many other sites allow you to log in using your Facebook credentials this can help keep you safe on other sites too!

Of course if someone steals your phone and knows your email address (it’s in your phone address book right?) then this might be a simple way for them to get in – so hold on to that phone for dear life!

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Google Cloud Connect : The Free and Easy Alternative to SharePoint

Houldsworth's Random Ramblings

Unfortunately Google Cloud Connect has been shut down as of Aprils 30th 2013.  For more information and steps that should be taken if you already have this installed please visit this link:  http://googleappsupdates.blogspot.com/2013/05/cloud-connect-shut-down.html


MicrosoftSharePoint is a great collaboration tool but is far too complex for most small businesses and home users.   Fortunately the folks at Google have provided an answer that is both simple to use and totally FREE!   Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office .

Recognizing that 95% of the time Microsoft SharePoint is nothing more than a place to store and share documents Google has provided a way to merge that functionality very neatly into Google Docs .

Google Cloud Connect not only backs up your work to the cloud but also adds true collaboration to Microsoft Office, allowing others to simultaneously edit your documents while changes are automatically synchronized across computers. Finally everyone…

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Virus Protect your PC with Linux (Dual-boot)

Houldsworth's Random Ramblings


Summary

Difficulty Rating

Time to complete

Install Linux alongside Windows to provide additional virus protection  and access your data if Windows becomes inoperable

 

Less than 1 Hour


InstallingLinux alongside Windows provides a number of benefits, even to novice users. Benefits to installing Linux alongside Windows (a practice known as dual-boot) include:

  1. The ability to run virus scanning software from outside of Windows – more on that later.
  2. Should the Windows system become unusable for any reason you can still boot into Linux to access and backup your files before any drastic action is taken with the Windows partition.
  3. If all you are doing is browsing the web then Linux will boot faster and be significantly more secure that Windows.

Note: The instructions below enable you to set up your machine as a dual boot device.  However if the unthinkable has already happened and your Windows PC is already…

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Filed under Computers, Free Software, Linux, Online Security, Technology, Uncategorized, Virus

Before Disaster Strikes – Simple Backup Strategies

Houldsworth's Random Ramblings

If you don’t have a backup then your PC is a ticking time-bomb.  

When I get called because a PC has died the first question I always ask is “Do you have a backup?”

In most cases the is no, which often means that years of accumulated family photos, videos, financial records and music downloads are gone forever.
Remember – photos aren’t kept in shoe boxes anymore!
So, before you pick up the phone in a panic let’s get your PC backed up.

Creating a backup – which type!
For IT professionals failure to create a backup is grounds for dismissal – and with good reason.  Creating a backup is the #1 thing you can do to protect yourself.
Creating a backup is easy and cheap to do, but you need to decide which method of backup is best for you.  There are two main options – an…

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Free Anti-Virus – The Best Way to Protect Your PC

Houldsworth's Random Ramblings

SummaryDifficulty RatingTime to complete
Replacing your existing Anti-virus with a free alternative. 20-30 minutes

As I mentioned in my last post, the first question I ask is whether people have a backup.   The second question ask is whether they have up-to-date anti-virus software installed.

A shocking number of people fall into the group of having anti-virus software that hasn’t been updated since their trial period ended, and yet still believe they are protected.

Let me make this clear – if your subscription has expired then you are NOT protected.

But who can blame them?  Anti-virus software is expensive, isn’t it?

If you go with what arrived on your PC then, yes, it is expensive.  PC manufacturers make extra money by including software (known collectively as Bloatware) because vendors pay them.  Norton and McAfee fully expect you to sign up when the trial period runs out…

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Filed under Computers, Free Software, Linux, Online Security, Technology, Virus