Tools Toys and Technology

About the Tools You Use and the Toys That Make Life Interesting

Watch Out for Emails with These Subject Lines

Email “phishing” scams are down in number but apparently up in effectiveness, according to this article.

Phishing emails, posing as a message from a reputable company or organization, attempt to lure you to click through to a legitimate looking Website. Once on the site, you may be asked to complete a form requesting personal and financial information. In addition, serious malware may be downloaded to your computer by the mere act of going to the malicious Website. Just the act of clicking on the link in the email may set you up for all kinds of troubles.

It’s a little bit long, but if you’re concerned about your privacy and security, this article is worth a read.

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Serious Malware Alert – Ransomware Locks Your Files

CryptoLocker … SERIOUS BAD NEWS!

One of the nastiest pieces of malware in a long time is striking computers all over the world. You could be next.

CryptoLocker belongs to a family of malware known as “ransomware.” But unlike other forms of ransomware, which lock up your computer and prevent you from using it until you pay the criminal’s ransom demand, CryptoLocker leaves your computer functional. Instead in locks up all your files with military-grade encryption. The only way you can recover you files is to pay the ransom (reportedly $300.00) within 72 hours. If you don’t pay within that time period, the encryption key is destroyed and your files are gone for good.

CryptoLocker locks up everything: your word processor files, spreadsheets, financial records, music files, all your treasured pictures. Everything … it’s all gone, lost forever, unless you pay up.

This one is really scary. No computer repairman is going to be able to solve this for you. An antivirus program should be able to remove CryptoLocker from your computer, but it cannot recover your files. Once your files are encrypted, you have no recourse but to pay off the cyber criminals and then HOPE they respond to release your files. At least one victim reports that once the ransom was paid, the files did begin to decrypt.

How You Get Infected

The only good news, if you can call it that, is that the malware is delivered in kind of an old-fashioned way, as an attachment to email. The attachment usually looks like a common zip file or pdf document. If you click the attachment, an executable file is launched, and you are toast!

In my computer security class I preach, “Never open an email attachment unless you have personal knowledge of what is being sent.” YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

 How to Protect Yourself

The only way to recover your valuable files if you become infected with CryptoLocker (other than by paying the ransom) is to have a current backup. First you must remove the CryptoLocker malware with a good anti-virus program; then restore your files from a recent backup. Your backup must be a stand-alone snapshot of your entire computer system. Backup systems that constantly make synchronized copies of your files won’t work, because the synchronized backup will have overwritten your good files with the encrypted ones before you know you have a problem. Also, to prevent access to your backup files by CryptoLocker, backup drives should be disconnected form your computer and your network when not in use.

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For more information on CryptoLocker, see the online article: Nasty new malware locks your files forever, unless you pay ransom.

20 Most Common (HORRIBLE) Passwords

Last month (October, 2013), the “bad guys” hacked into Adobe and gained access to millions of accounts, compromising customer information including credit card details (numbers and expiration dates), usernames and passwords.

With the passwords revealed, we now know the most common passwords used by Adobe customers, and it verifies that the average computer user is still totally naive (nice word for STUPID) when it comes to protecting their account access.

Here they are…

Adobe’s 20 Most Common Passwords: SO SAD

  1. 123456
  2. 123456789
  3. password
  4. adobe123
  5. 12345678
  6. qwerty
  7. 1234567
  8. 111111
  9. photoshop
  10. 123123
  11. 1234567890
  12. 000000
  13. abc123
  14. 1234
  15. adobe1
  16. macromedia
  17. azerty
  18. iloveyou
  19. aaaaaa
  20. 654321

New: Netflix “Profiles”

Segment Your Netflix Account for Multiple Users with “Profiles”

If you have multiple family members using a single Netflix account, you know the problem. The suggestions you receive from Netflix on shows you might like are affected by what other family members watch. This pretty much nullifies the usefulness of this and other features of Netflix that are based on your viewing history. The solution is at hand.

In August, Netflix introduced what they are calling “Profiles.” By using the Profiles feature, you can separate viewing history and preferences for up to 5 individual users in a single Netflix account. Each profile will have its own personalized movie and TV show suggestions, Recently Watched list, Ratings & Reviews, taste preferences, and My List.

Whether or not this feature is available depends on the device you use to stream Netflix. To my chagrin, Roku does not currently support Netflix Profiles. If you’ve followed my streaming articles in the past, you know that I consider Roku the king of all streaming devices. But the absence of the very useful Netflix Profiles capability is disappointing. Hopefully, Roku will take care of this omission in the future.

Here’s a short video that explains Netflix Profiles …

The New Face of On-The-Go Computing

In my last article, The New Face of Computers,” I discussed the emergence of the All-In-One desktop style. This article is dedicated to the portable side of computing, an area that has been dominated by the laptop/notebook design for many years.

For the last couple of years, the “Ultrabook” has been taking over the high end of this market. Ultrabooks, in general, are notebooks that are sleeker, lighter and have longer battery life. ( See “Ultrabooks and Windows 8 Tablets” June, 2012).

The Ultrabook/Tablet Hybrid

The latest thing are notebooks/ultrabooks that can be used with a keyboard in the traditional clam shell fashion or converted to a tablet form factor with screens that can be removed, hinged, swiveled, rotated, folded, or otherwise maneuvered to deliver a tablet experience.  It’s these hybrid variations I want to review today.

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The New Face of Computers

Once Upon a Time…

There used to be two types of PCs: desktops and laptops.

Desktops consisted of a hefty case that housed the electronic brains of the machine. To that you added a monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers, and possibly other things. This collection of hardware took up a major portion of your desk, and the thing wasn’t particularly stylish.

Laptops combined all the components into one clam shell-like package, in the name of portability. But even that was a pretty utilitarian and kind of clunky device.

Those were the good old days when computer buying decisions were relatively easy to make. You just decided on a desktop or laptop, picked your favorite components and brand, and pulled out your credit card.

That was Then … This is Now …

Now you have:

  1. Classical desktops
  2. All-in-one desktops
  3. All-in-one/tablet hybrids
  4. Laptops
  5. Ultrabooks
  6. Ultrabook/tablet hybrids that swivel, slide, fold, dock, whatever…

And I’m not sure I covered everything. The evaluation process has become far more complicated.

In this and a followup article, I’m going to try to clarify the increasingly confusing PC landscape. I’ll have more to say about the portable computing options later. Today, I’m concentrating on the latest desktop developments.

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Tech Shortcuts You Should Know… but Probably Don’t

  • So, you know you can page down a Web page by just pressing the space bar, right? Go ahead, try it now. Hold down shift and hit the space bar to page back up.
  • A special tip for SaddleBrookers… Text too small on a Web page? Just press CTRL + as many times as you need to make the text readable. To make it smaller … you guessed it … CTRL -
  • Need to look up the spelling or the definition of a word? Go to Google and type: define anyword

These tips (and many more) all came from a TED talk by David Pogue. Watch 10 tech tips on TED now.

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By the way, if you’re not familiar with TED, it’s one of my favorite places on the Web. TED features short talks of almost every genre: educational, humor, technology, business, politics, you name it. Check out TED here.