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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hack Proofing Tips

The Naples Daily News ran an article recently that offered some tips to curb email hacking.   Having spent 25 years in the computer business I didn't hear anything new but it never hurts to be redundant.  

NEVER open an attachment from someone you don't know.  If you are expecting an attachment from a friend that is normally safe but.... keep in mind if it looks squirrely even from a friend, don't open it.   Email or call your friend to determine if  they have sent you an attachment.

ALWAYS use a good quality anti-virus software.   There are plenty of commercially available programs but there are also good free programs.   AVG, Trend Micro and Avast come to mind.  

The Steve Gibson website, www.grc.com has a link to his Shields Up program.  This is a free probing (stop snickering) of your computer for security faults.   Gibson has been around for ever and this is a well known, free tool.   If it tells you that you are at risk, do something about it.   This is NOT one of those bogus computer scans that finds 435,000 problems and for merely $29.98, you can download their fix for these issues.   Avoid those programs at all costs.   Some of  them will actually hijack your computer and demand a ransom to get your computer functioning again.

BE AWARE than not all official looking communications are actually from whom they claim to be.   A pretty computer savvy teen called me in a panic recently to tell me he got a bright red screen claiming that Homeland Security had found child porn on his computer and unless he immediately paid a $300.00 fine online, he would be arrested.  Not only that, it locked up his computer so he could not use it.   I explained to him that it was a scam and I found the fix online for him.  It took him two days but he finally got his computer  back from these scheming  creeps who troll the Internet.  His only crime was he assumed the site he was downloading music from was legitimate.  

Passwords should never be stuff you have put on social media, like your high school, your dog, your wife (no reason those are listed together, honest!) or names of your kids.   It is a major pain in the tush but keep your passwords random and long, use upper and lower case and when the site will allow, throw in a symbol.   None of this will deter the true hacker but the malicious malcontents who are not truly talented, just vandals, will be deterred.  

Consider encryption software such as AxCrypt   Take note, very carefully note of what you set up as your password for your encrypted data because once it is encrypted by a good software package, even the vendor can't get it open.

Lastly if you are  passwording or encrypting something that is important to your spouse or business partner, provide  them with the means of getting to the data.   A friend dropped dead at age 40 while mowing his lawn.  He had passworded his accounting software for his small business.   His wife did NOT have the password and could not pay the bills or determine who owed her money.   It took me a couple of hours to find a hack for the program online and then an hour or so to break the password.   I am in no way a computer savant,  the tools for destruction are readily available on the web and sometimes they can be used for benign purposes.

Wrapping it up, if you are targeted by one of the nefarious commercial hacking groups, you will probably be hacked.   These strategies will work for 90% of  us who really have very little important computer data to grab.   Very little being relative to a major corp with deep pockets, it is still an enormous  inconvenience and financial hit to anyone who is hacked.

The Internet is a jungle (why else the browser named Safari)  but  you can protect yourself with a few very easy precautions.   DO THEM TODAY!

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 Money Saving Tech Tips