Security Resolutions to Make in 2013

Posted by admin on Mar 19, 2013

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution this year?  Have you been able to keep it?  Here is a suggestion from your friendly computer guys… consider pledging to upgrade the security of your digital life.  Here are a few suggestions to get you on the right track.

Do you have a smart phone, tablet or mini computer? Enable the screen lock.  It may be a pain to have to enter the code every time you want to use the device, but if they get lost or stolen, others could access your email, your files, or even your social network sites.  While you are at it, turn on the anti theft feature.  Most carriers offer the service free of charge, and if they don’t look for a free app that can do the same thing.  The feature can help you find the phone when it is lost, or even disable the phone so that it cannot be accessed.

I am sure you have an antivirus program installed, but when was the last time you checked to make sure it was updated and run a full scan?  All good programs will do that stuff automatically, but it never hurts to make sure that it is doing its job. If you are unsure if you have enough protection, check with your IT guy.

You can also encrypt your usb thumb drives.  I don’t know about you, but I have some pretty important information on my usb stick. If you have encrypted the drive, and used a difficult to crack password, your data will be safe.  Just don’t forget the password you used, because it will cost you a lot of money to get the password removed.  Windows 8 will encrypt usb drives, but there are also a number of free programs for Windows 7 and XP users.

If you use social network sites such as Facebook, you can make sure they are secure as well. Take a minute to review your social network security and privacy settings.  Maybe change your password to something more difficult to crack.

Do you have a backup plan?  Do you actually follow through with the plan?  If you are like me, you usually forget to backup your important data.  Sign up for online backup, and you don’t have to worry!  We here at ICS offer a great online backup solution, but there are numerous others to choose from.

Update your router and wireless password.  If your existing router is more than 3 years old, it probably does not have the best security and firewall settings available.  Since a new router will cost you around $50, and will give you much better performance and security, it is worth the upgrade.  That is also the perfect time to choose a more complex password for your wireless connection.

For power users, you can use OpenDNS to filter the internet.  It is designed to block not only inappropriate sites, but also sites that spread viruses and other malicious threats.  Best of all, the basic service is free, and you can use it on a single computer or an entire network.

Of course, these are just a few suggestions, and they may not apply to your situation.  The point is, to take a quick look at all aspects of your digital life and make sure you are secure.  So for the next month, every time you use a digital device, or use a password protected site or service, double check the security settings and consider changing your password.  Some day you may thank me for it.  If you decide not to follow my suggestions… we are open Monday to Friday, and would be happy to fix whatever problems may arise.

The Windows Family Tree

Posted by admin on Mar 15, 2013

Well, Windows 8 has been out for a few months, and people seem to be torn between loving it or hating it.  Many of our customers ask us “why did Microsoft have to change Windows?”  In actuality, Windows has gone through some really drastic changes in the almost 30 years since its first launch.  Here is a brief history…

1985 – Windows 1.0 ships (no one predicted big things for this somewhat clunky visual file-management utility)

1987 – Windows 2.0 (not only graphical, but you could now overlap open windows)

1990 – Windows 3.0 ships (this version transformed the way that users interacted with their PCs)

1992 – Windows 3.1 (revamped to include networking and better memory management)

1994 – Windows 95 launches (the first complete operating system, essentially killed off DOS)

1998 – Windows 98 (this was the staple operating system for many computers, for many years)

2000 – Windows 2000 (a business-class operating system, equipped with networking and file sharing)

2000 – Windows ME (basically a “repackaged” Windows 98, that did not get high praises)

2001 – Windows XP arrives (merged 2000 and ME into Microsoft’s most successful operating system to date)

2007 – Windows Vista (as with ME, this version did not go over well with technicians and users alike)

2009 – Windows 7 released (proved to be the comeback OS that Microsoft needed)

2012 – Windows 8 debuts (completely changing the way we interact with our computers)

Looking at this extensive list, you may notice a few things.  Firstly, Microsoft released a new operating system about every 2-3 years… except for Windows XP which did not get replaced for almost 6 years.  That is one reason why many expected greater things from Vista.  They had an extra 3 years to get it right.  Many believe that they were actually working on Windows 7, but since it wasn’t ready yet, they decided to launch Vista to keep the revenue flowing in.

Another thing you may notice is that only every third operating system was a hit.  Is it just that Microsoft’s software developers are really crappy at developing new software? Or is it that they push the boundaries so much that it takes us users a bit to get used to it.  For example, when Windows 1.0 launched, we were all using DOS.  Comfortable DOS.  Why change?  By the time we got used to the graphical interface, Windows 3.0 was out.  Windows was finally a big hit! Then we got comfortable again… until Windows 98 launched, and we were again pushed out of our comfort zone.  This time, however, the users embraced the changes.  Same thing happened with Windows XP, and Windows 7.  Windows 8 is really that “in-between” operating system that is pushing us to rethink how we use the computer.  Are we ready for it yet?  Probably not, but give us time – we will learn to love it.

Online Shopping: Tips to Avoid Getting Burned

Posted by admin on Mar 12, 2013

Taken from PCWorld Magazine, March 2013

Buying products online speeds up shopping and reduces hassle, but it also comes with risks. Here are some easy ways to lock down your online security and still get all your shopping done quickly.

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The Woes of Unsubscribing

Posted by admin on Mar 8, 2013

Unsubscribing is a pain. It takes several clicks, and doesn’t always work. Unfortunately, with the amount of spam everyone gets on a daily basis it’s become a necessary part of our lives.  What’s worse, some not-so-nice senders will realize you’re a real person and that you actually check your email – and they will put you on more spammy mailing lists. It happens way more often than you think!

Some scary spam statistics…

You may be asking yourself what’s one to do? Well, there are several options. The first is to simply be very careful about handing out your email address, which means limiting the news letters and promotions you sign up for, and the services and membership sites you join. Limiting your email’s exposure is the first step in reducing the amount of spam you receive.

You can also create a free email account from Gmail or Hotmail, and use that address when signing up for something.  If that address gets on some spammers lists, you can just open up another one, and change your subscriptions that you want to keep.

Editors note: If you sign up for the ICS News Bytes newsletter, we will never use that email address for anything else, and we will never sell or lend those addresses to another company.  And unsubscribing is quick and easy.

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How The Internet Works

Posted by admin on Mar 5, 2013

This is a great little video explaining how the internet works.  Of course, they have left out a lot of the technical stuff, but it gives you a great overview of what happens millions of times per day.

5 Ways to Help You Stay Protected Online

Posted by admin on Mar 1, 2013

What is Phishing?
Phishing is when someone tries to trick you into revealing your personal information like user names, passwords, or PIN by pretending to be someone they’re not. It usually happens through email, but can also happen through instant messaging or by telephone when someone asks you to provide or confirm your personal information.

Avoiding Phishers
It’s a good idea to open up a browser window and type the URL directly into the address bar of the browser instead of copying and pasting (or clicking on) links from emails. A link in an email may take you to a site that looks legitimate, but isn’t. Banks and credit card companies, usually do not ask you to click on links in their email communications for your protection. Another option is to bookmark the site in your Favorites list so you are always taken to the proper website.

Don’t forget about DoubleSafe
When you’re logging in, many sites will ask you additional questions to confirm your identity. If you don’t see those questions, or something looks a bit fishy, then immediately close your browser and call the company instead.

Change your PIN or Password sometimes
You should change your PIN or Password at least once a year – more often if you think your account may have been compromised.  In fact, if your computer has been infected with a virus or malware, change your passwords again (after the computer is cleaned of course).  It is possible that the malware has captured the password, and will use it to wipe out your account.

It’s okay to blow the whistle
If you ever receive a suspicious email or call, simply don’t provide any personal or sensitive information and get in touch with the company directly to follow up on the inquiry.  In fact, when my credit card was compromised, the credit card company called me to tell me what had happened.  They also told me to hang up, and call the number on the back of the card, to verify that I was speaking with the correct people, and that it was not a scam.  I thought that was a great idea, and it did put my mind at ease.

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