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Saturday, July 7th, 2012
There’s all kinds of buzz about the potential loss of internet access come Monday. What’s all the fuss about and is there really cause for concern?
There is if your computer is affected with a virus called DNSChanger.
What is DNSChanger?
It’s the name of a virus unleashed by cybercriminals living in Estonia over 5 years ago. DNSChanger infected over 4 million computers in over 100 countries. The hackers hijacked searches and routed them to fake websites with illegal ads that allowed them to make over $14 million.
The FBI investigation called Operation Ghost Click took two years and while those responsible were arrested in 2011 and their servers became property of the FBI, the government is getting the word out to warn those still affected to check their computers for the malware. Over 500,000 U.S. computers belonging to individuals, businesses, and government agencies were originally affected.
If you’re concerned that you could be affected, check your machine with a single click by clicking on http://www.dns-ok.us/. You’ll either get a green light signaling that your machine is ok or be warned that additional steps need to be taken to rid your computer of the DNSChanger virus.
Whether or not you’re affected, it’s always a good idea to protect your machine on a regular basis. Ensure that your virus protection is current. Free antivirus software is available from companies like AVG. If you purchase virus protection, be aware that the license is often only good for a year and will need to be renewed.
Also be sure to back up your files. Use automated software that will run the backup for you so you won’t have to remember to do it. Have a copy of your computer’s data on an external hard drive or cloud backup in the event of a malware attack.
For more information about Malware, read my previous post called Malware 101 that provides a quick rundown on the 4 most common forms of malware: Trojan Horses, spyware, worms, and viruses.
Grunge access denied rubber stamp via Shutterstock
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Monday, March 19th, 2012
Just as a cluttered home makes it hard to find what you need, a disaster of a desktop on your computer can also hamper productivity. Over time, extra files and information about your computer’s programs and activities can slow your machine to a crawl. This spring clean up your PC by taking these easy steps:
Scan for viruses. BitDefender QuickScan is a free online virus scanner that looks for malware such as Trojan horses, viruses, worms, and spyware that installs itself with the intent of damaging your computer while you use it. Running QuickScan helps determine what viruses your computer has and will fix them for free.
Install a program to declutter and remove and errors to keep your PC running at its optimal speed. Programs like ChicaLogic’s Chica-PC Fix offer a free scan through their website.
Secure your computer against viruses and hackers. AVG offers free trials of their Anti-Virus program to protect your computer against viruses and spyware while you’re browsing online or on social networking sites. While you’re on the AVG site, get a 30 day trial of their Internet Security to keep your personal information safe from hackers and spammers.
Back up your computer. Now that you’ve cleaned up your computer to speed up performance and armed it with software to keep it operational, back up your data. Often times we don’t think about our data until it’s too late. By backing up your data, you won’t have to worry about your files when your malware-infested computer is on the verge of the blue screen of death. Having a backup allows peace of mind. You never have to worry about a potential system crash or losing your files and photos in the case of theft. Carbonite offers secure automatic online backup that you can try for your home or business for free for 15 days. Automatic backup is wonderful because it allows you to set a time for your computer to backup so you never have to remember to do so. I often run mine in the middle of the night or at a time where I know I won’t be working on my computer to ensure that I always have a backup of all the files on my computer.
Miniature maids or cleaning women on a laptop computer via Shutterstock
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Friday, March 2nd, 2012
With the prevalence of online accounts that provide convenience and connectivity comes a responsibility to safeguard our accounts to ensure that important personal information stays safe. However, it can be quite a challenge to remember login credentials for the multitudes of online accounts. It may be easier to have a single login and password combination but doing makes your account an easy target for hackers looking to harvest data.
How do you safeguard online accounts so personal information stays private?
Having the same password for multiple accounts, or easy to remember passwords, are often the least secure because smart software programs can figure them out. A recent headline article on Yahoo revealed that the most common password is Password1. A study by antivirus security company, BitDefender, found that more than 250,000 email addresses, usernames and passwords can easily be found online. Randomly checking a sample list consisting of email addresses also revealed that 75% of social networking username and password samples are identical to those used for email accounts.
Unique login credentials for accounts decrease the possibility of hackers infiltrating accounts and stealing important information. Spammers and those who want to infect your computer with malware love it when we use the same password for multiple accounts. It opens the door to numerous security implications such as personal data theft and hijacking of email and social network accounts.
In order to safeguard your information, here are some tips you can use to create stronger hack-proof passwords:
- Go beyond the required password length. The more characters, the less likely is that someone will be able to crack it.
- When in doubt of your password, click on the retrieve password button on the site you visit to access your account and use the link sent through email to reset it. Bank accounts will often lock you out with too many failed attempts to log in with an incorrect password.
- Don’t store your many logins and passwords as a document on your computer in case of theft. If computer is stolen, a thief has access to a treasure trove of information if you keep your password in a Word Document called “passwords.” If you must write down your passwords, do so in a plain looking address book that won’t draw attention to itself on your desk or in a drawer. The Internet Password Organizer and ___ can be a convenient place to keep passwords.
- Set an automatic calendar reminder to change your passwords monthly, or at the very least, every 3 months.
- Use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. For example, use your pet’s name (Spot) and an important date such as an anniversary (February 26). Ordinarily the password would be Spot226 but instead, use a combination of capital letters combined with symbols, letters, and numbers to make it much harder to guess.
If you must use the same password, use a different variation of it. Here are some different ways you could modify Spot226:
- spottwotwosix (spell out all the numbers)
- sp0ttw0tw0six (substitute zeros for o)
- $pot2two$ix (use $ instead of the s)
- sPottWotWosIx (insert capital letters where they are less likely to appear- in this case, the second letter in each word)
What other tips do you have for protecting your accounts to preserve your online identity? Do you have a good way to remember your many passwords? Please share!
Laptop with steel security lock via Shutterstock
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