Is This Email from a Friend Safe to Open?

With all of the spam email being delivered, here are a few tips that will help you decide if the email you’ve just received are spam.

The To: field has email addresses in it that are obviously fake (you may be bcc’d on it)
The To: field has multiple email addresses in it that are in alphabetical order, many of which you have no clue who they belong to.
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Look at the time of day the email was sent. If it was sent at 2:00 in the morning and you know the person in the From: field most likely wasn’t up at that time, question it.
If the time sent on the email is several hours later than the time at your location, chances are it was sent from a server out of country. Question it.
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The attachments are either a .ZIP file or a .EXE file. There are legitimate reasons for someone to send a ZIP file but very few people do that any more. Always question it.
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There is a link in the body of the email and the text in the email is asking you to click that link to “verify” some information. TIP – Hover your mouse cursor over the link without clicking. Most of the time a text balloon opens showing the actual site the link will take you to. Compare it to what the link in the email is. If it’s different, even a little bit, don’t click. If you’re suspicious, don’t click.
If something needs to be verified, don’t do it by clicking on a link. Open your browser and go the website itself and login and verify information. Most companies won’t ask you to verify anything via email. They may notify you and then tell you to login to your account but won’t have you click a link.

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If you want to check to see if the email you received with an attachment is a virus, forward it to virustotal.

The sending process is as follows:

Create a new message, or forward the suspicious email to scan@virustotal.com as the destination address.
Attach the file to be scanned. Such file must not exceed 32MB in size. If the attached file is larger, the system will reject it automatically.

If you completed these steps correctly, you will receive an email with the file scan report. The response time will vary depending on the load of the system at the moment in which the file was sent.

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Don’t reply back to sender asking if it’s okay to open the email. Chances are it didn’t come from who is in the From: field. Don’t reply back asking the sender to stop sending you things. If there is an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the email, don’t. All of these things tell the spammer that they’ve reached a live email address and you’ll be put on more spam lists and receive more spam.
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Don’t EVER just click or open without questioning. Even if you’re expecting an email with an attachment, take your time to look at the email first for clues.

News Overload? Have You Heard of Flipboard?

By nature, I don’t watch the news. Often times it’s filled with nothing but bad news and then when I finally hear something I’m interested in, I never really get enough information since the newscasters are limited on length of talk. So, I just don’t watch the news.

With everything that’s going on in the world, from government, to business, to technology, to sports, how do I keep current on things? There are thousands of magazines, newspapers, web articles, but it would take me forever to read those. That’s not going to happen. What I do, is I open the Flipboard app my phone or tablet, and I flip through my personal magazines. (To install it, look for Flipboard in your devices app store. It’s compatible with Apple and Android devices)

Flipboard pulls together articles from magazines, blogs, social media sites and other places, categorizes them into sections such as: News, Business, Tech & Science, Arts & Culture, Food & Dining, Travel, Style and more. After downloading the app onto your device, you set up an account and then you choose the sections you want to keep up with. Flipboard populates the sections with articles. From there, you open the category and start flipping. Flipboard shows the first paragraph or so of the article and if you want to read the whole article, tap it and it opens on your device. Flip through the pages and when you’re done, back arrow and you are returned to main article lists. If it’s an article you want to share with others, there is a “share” icon where you can post it to social media, send it via email or save it. You can even search for individual people, hashtags, events, etc. and Flipboard will return articles related to that search.

Since you create an account, you can use that same account on all of your devices so it doesn’t matter what you have on hand, you have access to your selections. I find that I use Flipboard a lot on my phone while I’m standing in lines and then at home, I use it when I’m on my tablet.

The amount of news is overwhelming at times. With Flipboard, I feel I can keep it under control and still keep current on what’s happening around me.

End of Article….

Internet Explorer Compatibility with Chrome

If you use  Chrome as your primary browser, you may have run into an internet page that works best under Internet Explorer, or actually requires Internet Explorer. I ran into this the other day when I was helping someone with a problem they were having in Yahoo Mail, in which the right-click copy/paste function wouldn’t work in Chrome but worked fine in IE. In researching it, I found that this problem has existed for quite a while. A day or so later, I was logging onto a site and it wouldn’t load, only to find out that Chrome wasn’t a supported browser.

The answer to these problems is a  Chrome extension that works wonderfully – http://www.ietab.net/home (you’ll also see the link to the Firefox Add-In on this page). With this tool, you right-click on the page to have it rendered in Internet Explorer. When you right click, you’ll see a menu option for “IE Tab Options.  Under IE Tab Options, you can set which version of IE you want to emulate, from versions 7 to 9.

Email: Spam, Virus or Clean?

Not sure if you’ve noticed, but there are a lot of emails being received that have a few lines of gibberish followed by a hyperlink, and often times a nice motivational quote. Many times, these emails are coming from someone you know. How are these emails getting past the spam and virus filters you have in place? Why isn’t your antivirus program stopping them?

Well, first, most of these emails are coming through as plain text, with no formatting like HTML emails have. Spam filters usually are looking for key words, phrases, or graphics. With these emails, often times there aren’t any “key” words that will trigger the filter. As for the virus, there usually aren’t any attachments, just a hyperlink, again, nothing that will trigger the filter.

The following is a sample of a text based email with normal words and a hyperlink. Also note that it’s not addressed to me but I received it anyway so it must have gone out to a group. Click on the examples that follow to see them full screen. They will open in a new window so when you’re ready to move back to the article, just close the image window.

It’s a lot more difficult getting an HTML formatted email through spam filters but some do get through. The following is an example for comparison sake between an HTML format and Text Only format:

And then there is the email trying to convince you that it’s okay to open the attachment to print or verify the information they’re telling you about in the email. In this case, the email is stating that I paid property tax on property in King County, where ever that is. Since I don’t remember doing that, maybe I should print the document to see what they’re talking about. Well, wouldn’t you? Except for the fact that none of the reference numbers match up, from the payment confirmation to the reference number to the number on the attachment, none match. Notice also that the attachment is zipped. This is a common method of hiding a virus to get it past the filters.

 

Well, I didn’t open it. It forwarded it on to scan@virustotal.com and in less than 5 minutes, I received the following report. Note that virustotal scanned the file against 40 some antivirus engines and most came back with no virus found…but 4 of them did find something. That was good enough for me. I deleted the email.

Image

I hope this helps clarify those emails you’ve been getting.

Oh, and by-the-way, if you get an email similar to the ones above from a friend, have them change their email program’s password as it’s possible that their email program has been hijacked.

Maybe My Password Isn’t As Strong As I Thought It Was

For years, we in the computer industry, have been telling people to create cryptic passwords that include upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. We’ve been saying that if you replace certain characters with others, such as @ instead of “a”, or 3 instead of “E”, or ! instead of l, that chances of getting your password stolen are remote. Well, it would be remote, but with today’s technology, someone trying to break that password would have it figured out in 3 days with 1000 guesses/second, which is probably faster than you trying to remember what the password actually is.

A far better and safer way to create passwords is to string words together. Four random words, such as dogsbakewoodseat, would take 550 years with 1000 guesses/second to break, and would be much easier to remember if you use words that have meaning to you. The reason isn’t so much in the letters you use but is a combination of length as well as content. Most cryptic passwords are shorter than 8 characters because they’re hard enough to remember as is without them being longer. By using the word combination, you can make your passwords long and still be easy to remember.

I still recommend you using a different password for every site so with all of those passwords to try to remember you may want to use a password manager. I recommend RoboForm which allows you to save your passwords to your computer, or to the internet where they’re available just by clicking, when you need to log-in to a site.

If you want to see how safe some of your passwords are, or passwords similar to what you use, try them here, and see how long it would take someone to hack your password.

Ah, Cookies

Tracking cookies

The other day I noticed that I was running out of space on the hard disk of my computer. I went through and removed some programs and moved some data to an external drive to free up some space, but the next day, the space was low again.

I ran my normal cleanup software, CCleaner, SuperAntiSpyware and Malwarebytes and found that I had a huge number of tracking cookies on my computer.

If you don’t know, most every website you visit downloads a small file to your computer, called a cookie. Cookies are set to stay on your computer for a period of time and contain information about the site you’re on. Often times, they will hold your login information to the site so that the next time you visit that site, you’ll automatically be logged in, or your preferences will be recorded and remembered so that you won’t have to reset everything time and again.

Tracking cookies, on the other hand, aren’t good. Websites sometimes allow third parties, such as advertisers and marketers, to also install what’s known tracking cookies on your computer. These cookies send information back to the marketing companies where your preferences are put in a database for future use. They don’t record personal information, such as credit card numbers or passwords but general information about your surfing habits and preferences. What they hope to do is to have the advertisements that you see on a page become advertisements that relate more specifically to you so that you’ll click and buy. The danger comes when that information, which is connected to you, becomes available to others.

So, what to do? You really need the main cookies a site saves because a lot of sites won’t work well unless you accept the cookies. Third party cookies, however, aren’t needed and should be blocked.

There are settings in each of the browsers that allow you to allow the main cookies and block the third party cookies. Here are the instructions to do so for the four main browsers:

Internet Explorer –

  • Open Tools, Internet Options | Privacy, click on the Advanced button.
    • Place a check in “Override automatic cookie handling”.
      Uncheck “Always allow session cookies
    • Set “First Party Cookies” to Accept, set “Third Party Cookies” to Block.

Firefox –

  • At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Firefox button (Tools menu in Windows XP) and then click Options. On the menu bar, click on the Firefox menu and select Preferences…At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Edit menu and select PreferencesAt the top of the Firefox window, click on the Tools menu and select Options…On the menu bar, click on the Firefox menu and select Preferences…At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Edit menu and select Preferences…
  • Select the Privacy panel.
  • Set Firefox will: to Use custom settings for history.
  • Uncheck Accept third-party cookies.

Chrome –

  • Click the wrench icon on the browser toolbar.
    • Select Options (Preferences on Mac and Linux; Settings on Chrome OS).
    • Click the Under the Hood tab.
    • Click Content settings in the “Privacy” section.
    • Click the Cookies tab in the Content Settings dialog that appears:

o   Block only third-party cookies: Select the “Ignore exceptions and block third-party cookies from being set” checkbox. Even if you’ve added a site to the Exceptions list and have chosen to allow its cookies, the site’s third-party cookies won’t be accepted if this checkbox is selected.

Safari –

  • From Safari, select “Safari” in the menu bar, and then select “Preferences”
  • In the Preferences Dialog Box, select the “Security” tab
  • Make sure the “Accept cookies:” setting is set to “Only from sites you navigate to”. You can also set this option to “Never”, but this will prevent many web sites that rely on cookies from working.

Once I removed the tracking cookies from my computer, I actually recovered almost 200 GB of disk space. I then went through each of my browsers and blocked third party cookies from being installed.

OMG! LOL: Internet Slang Added to Oxford English Dictionary

By Daniel Ionescu, PCWorld    Mar 26, 2011 5:59 AM

Time-saving online abbreviations like LOL, OMG, and IMHO are now part of the official English language. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) announced the addition of several acronyms to its dictionary, adding some interesting trivia behind the origins of these Internet-associated expressions.

OED explained that although “initialisms” like OMG (Oh My God), LOL (Laughing Out Loud) and IMHO (In My Humble/Honest Opinion) are strongly associated with the language of electronic communications, their origins are surprisingly predating the Internet era.

For example, OED found a quotation for OMG in a personal letter from 1917, and FYI (For Your Information) originated in the language of memoranda in 1941. Also, apparently the LOL expression had a previous life, starting in 1960, denoting an elderly woman (Little Old Lady).

OED notes that some expressions like OMG and LOL are used outside electronic communication contexts as well, including print and spoken use, in the form of more than a simple abbreviation:

“The intention is usually to signal an informal, gossipy mode of expression, and perhaps parody the level of unreflective enthusiasm or overstatement that can sometimes appear in online discourse, while at the same time marking oneself as an ‘insider’ au fait with the forms of expression associated with the latest technology.”

If you’re not familiar with the online slang, you can always check out this Internet slang dictionary and translator. Just enter the text slang you want to translate and you’re done. TTYL

Latest News | T-Mobile | Q&A: More Information About AT&T Acquisition of T-Mobile USA

An agreement was announced under which AT&T will acquire T-Mobile USA. The agreement is the first step in a process that, including regulatory approvals, is expected to be completed in approximately 12 months. Until then, we remain a separate company and continue to operate independently.

We know our customers, business partners and others may have many questions.

Here is some more information:

Will my service change?

  • There is no change in your service and we remain committed to ensuring you have the best experience possible experience using your T-Mobile USA products and services.

Will I now be billed by AT&T?

  • No, your billing remains exactly the same. T-Mobile USA continues to operate as an independent company. As always, you would receive advance notice to any changes to your services.

Why is T-Mobile USA doing this?

  • Bringing together these two world-class businesses will create significant benefits for customers. The merger will ensure the deployment of a robust 4G LTE network to 95% of the U.S. population, something neither company would achieve on its own. Also, because of our compatible networks and spectrum, the customers of T-Mobile USA and AT&T will experience improved voice and data service almost immediately after the networks are integrated.

Will T-Mobile USA’s quality be reduced?

  • No. In fact, the combination of AT&T and T-Mobile USA will offer an even stronger service to customers. Until the acquisition is closed, we will work hard to maintain our position as the value leader with America’s largest 4G network.

If the acquisition closes, will I still be able to use my T-Mobile USA phone?

  • Yes. Your T-Mobile USA device will operate the same in the future as it does today.

Should I wait to sign-up with T-Mobile USA or upgrade my phone?

  • No, T-Mobile USA offers the latest wireless devices that are affordable on America’s Largest 4G Network and the combination of AT&T and T-Mobile USA will mean even stronger service for our customers. Now is a great time to be a T-Mobile customer.

Is T-Mobile USA getting the iPhone?

  • T-Mobile USA remains an independent company. The acquisition is expected to be completed in approximately 12 months. We do not offer the iPhone. We offer cutting edge devices like the Samsung Galaxy S 4G and coming soon our new Sidekick 4G.

Will my rate plan change because of the acquisition?

  • We will honor all contracted plans that are entered into before the change of ownership.

Where can I express my opinion on this?

  • T-Mobile customers can utilize the company’s online Forums.

via Latest News | T-Mobile | Q&A: More Information About AT&T Acquisition of T-Mobile USA.

Shopping Online Safely

With the upcoming holidays, there will be many of you who will be doing your shopping online. It’s convenient, often times cheaper, and you can have items wrapped and delivered directly to the recipient. In fact, it’s estimated that 25% of holiday shopping this year will be online.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind when you’re shopping.

  • Start by making sure that your anti-virus program is up-to-date. If you do web searches and click on the results, you may find yourself at a site that doesn’t have your best interest at heart. Along those lines, make sure the site you are visiting is trustworthy by using WebOfTrust (WOT). Now when you perform a search, the results will have a green, yellow or red symbol letting you know if the website is safe or not.
  • Once you’re done selecting what you want to purchase, you’ll be taken to your shopping cart where you will be entering personal information: name, address, e-mail address, credit card information. It’s critcally important that before you enter any of that information that you are on a secured page. How can you tell? To begin with, check the web address in the address bar. It should start with “https:” instead of the normal “http:”. The s shows that you’re on a secured site. The other thing to look for is the golden lock.
    There is a de facto standard among web browsers to display a “lock” icon somewhere in the window of the browser (NOT in the web page display area!)  For example, Microsoft Internet Explorer displays the lock icon in the lower-right of the browser window.
    The Lock Icon is not just a picture! Click, or double-click, on it to see the details for the site’s security. This is important to know because some bad sites are designed with a bar at the bottom of the web page to imitate the lock icon of your browser.
  • Unless you’re planning on doing a lot of shopping at a particular site, if the site offers to save your information for future shopping, don’t let them. It may be convenient, but the fewer places that have your personal information, the better.
  • When paying for the items in your shopping cart, many people feel good about using their Debit Card as opposed to racking up charges on their credit cards. However, when it comes to fraud, debit cards fall far behind credit cards. That’s because your liability limit under federal law increases the longer you wait to report any unauthorized activity. Be sure to check with your financial institution for their policies on fraud protection.
  • Credit Cards – many credit card companies have $0 liability policies. This means you won’t be held accountable for any fraudulent purchases. You can dispute purchases that were either made without your consent or where the goods don’t match the descriptions. You’ll need to check with your credit card company for the specific steps to dispute a purchase and their policy on fraudulent purchases.
  • Single-Use Credit cards. Many credit card companies and banks will allow you to use single-use or virtual cards. You get a unique account number that can be used once, or for a short period of time. That way, if someone were to steal the account number, when they go to use it, it will no longer be valid.
  • Print out your receipt. You’ll have a record of the purchase to compare with the charge in case the vendor adds additional charges or charges you twice for something.
  • When giving your e-mail address out, check the page and read the privacy policy of the site. Many times there is text stating that they will or will not share your e-mail address with others. If you have the option to opt out of allowing them to share, do so. It will eliminate spam. Additonally, you may want to set up a free or additional e-mail address that you use strictly for online registrations so that any spam gets sent to that address and not to your main e-mail address.

Read the rest of my monthly newsletter for information on ways to comparison shop and links to Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials. AskBillFirst November Newsletter

 

Computer Security for Teens and Their Parents Too.

Ran across a nice, free, security e-book from Microsoft that is written for teens, to keep them safe while on the internet but it is a great e-book for parents to read as well. You can download it here.

“Help teens ‘own their space’ online. Whether you are a parent, caregiver, or educator, you can keep up with the latest computer and online safety issues and help kids learn to avoid them. In partnership with security expert and author, Linda McCarthy, we offer a free downloadable version of her new book, “Own Your Space – Keep Yourself and Your Stuff Safe Online.” Written for computer and Internet savvy “tweens” and teens specifically, this book is also a useful resource for the adults they rely on.”

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=87583728-ef14-4703-a649-0fd34bd19d13&displayLang=en

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