Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Skype phishing installs spyware*

Folks, after a quiet period, cyber-criminals are once again using Skype to send phishing “chats” in an attempt to defraud you. So, I am reposting this article…
Yesterday a “chat” window (Skype) opened on my machine, and presented me with a dire warning from someone named “Software Update”. It said that “WINDOWS REQUIRES IMMEDIATE ATTENTION” and, it provided me with a solution.
(Click on image to see large version)

Please, folks, tell me you have spotted this for what it is.

Please tell me that you knew –instantly– that this is a cybercrime attempt.. that it is Phraud-ulent.

Please tell me that you know what will happen if the link provided in this message is clicked; and, please, please, please tell me you would never click the link.

Just in case you aren’t sure…
* “Software Update” doesn’t exist.
* “” is not registered in ARIN (the registry of Internet addresses)
* clicking the link will allow scripts to run and/or take you to a poisoned Website which will install malware on your machine.. or/and, it may take you to a site that will sell you a rogue antispyware program (please read my article, Is that antispyware program really spyware).. all of this so that the hacker can take control of your machine.
* Microsoft DOES NOT alert you via Instant Messaging. No legitimate company does.

This is a classic example of a hacker’s attempt to get you to click their link. Please point your less-savvy friends and family to this article and educate them to the dangers of spam (unsolicited) messages and tell them–
[Note: while this article directly referrence the VoIP client Skype, you may see this type of thing in other Instant Messaging/Chat programs.]

[addenda: Peter Parkes (Skype Blogger) wrote and asked me to remind my readers to, quote, “Please report users who send these messages to – that will help us to block them where appropriate.”]

Today’s free link(s): I have assembled on my Website a collection of links to the best free anti-malware programs to help you prevent infection.. and clean up if you’ve been infected. To see them, click here. Also, Bill Mullins has posted a very complete tutorial, Think You Have A Virus?– Some Solutions, which is quite probably the best one-stop lesson on malware I have ever run across. (I also recommend his How Fake/Rogue Software Affects Real People.)

Copyright 2007-8 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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July 31, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, cyber crime, Internet scam, PC, Phishing, phraud, security, tech, VoIP | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Remove Service Pack 1’s uninstall files– save almost a Gig

Folks, today I’m passing along a quick tip that I picked up from Bill Detwiler over at TechRepublic. This is for folks who are running Vista and who have installed Service Pack 1.

As I wrote about in my article Running with Vista Service Pack 1, If you are running a Vista machine, you really want to install the package of Updates and bug fixes called “SP1”. (Microsoft installed SP1 via Windows Updates a few months ago, and so you may not even be aware that you were upgraded.)

If you are happy with SP1 and are sure you are not going to want uninstall it — and I cannot think of one good reason why you would uninstall it — you can delete SP1’s uninstall files, and recover at least 800 MB’s* of space on your hard drive in about a minute’s time (that’s about 250 MP3’s worth).

Tip of the day: remove the unnecessary pre-SP1 files from your Vista machine.
1) Open a command prompt with Administrator privileges. (Start> Programs> Accessories, right-click on “Command Prompt” and select “Run as Administrator”)
2) Type in “vsp1cln” (no quotes) and hit Enter.

The file cleaning tool will take a couple of minutes to run, depending on your machine, and when it’s done, you will have almost a Gigabyte more storage on your hard drive– it cleaned 925 MB’s from my hard-drive.
I know, on today’s giant drives that’s not a big deal.. but who wants useless files taking up space for no reason?

Today’s free link: SpywareBlaster from Javasoft. “SpywareBlaster doesn’t scan for and clean spyware–it prevents it from being installed in the first place. SpywareBlaster prevents the installation of ActiveX-based spyware, adware, dialers, browser hijackers, and other potentially unwanted programs. It can also block spyware/tracking cookies in IE, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape, and many other browsers, and restrict the actions of spyware/ad/tracking sites.[note: this very useful tool requires that you manually check for updates.]

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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July 30, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, performance, storage, tech, tweaks, Vista, Windows | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New search engine respects your privacy

There’s a new player in the search engine game. It’s named Cuil (and yes, it’s pronounced “cool”) and it claims to have indexed three times as many webpages as Google.
We all have our favorite search engine, and whether yours is Google, or Yahoo, or MSN, or Ask, or.. whichever, I think you should at least give Cuil a look-see. Why? (You ask) Well, Cuil does things a little differently than those others do them.
* results are not “ranked” by popularity, but by keyword, relevance, and page content.
* your searching history is not tracked and stored.

It is this second one that appeals to me. Here’s Cuil’s privacy statement: “Privacy is a hot topic these days, and we want you to feel totally comfortable using our service, so our privacy policy is very simple: when you search with Cuil, we do not collect any personally identifiable information, period. We have no idea who sends queries: not by name, not by IP address, and not by cookies. Your search history is your business, not ours.

And here’s (part of) Google’s*:

  • Google uses cookies and other technologies to enhance your online experience and to learn about how you use Google services in order to improve the quality of our services.
  • Google’s servers automatically record information when you visit our website or use some of our products, including the URL, IP address, browser type and language, and the date and time of your request.
  • (*Yahoo, MSN, and the others do the same thing.)

    And so, if your privacy is a concern of yours, and/or you would like to stop playing the popularity game, I recommend you give Cuil a try. And since it produces results in a different layout than you’re used to seeing on the others– such as the use of tabs, and “drilldowns” (used to narrow down the list of results by category)– I also recommend taking a brief moment to look over the explanatory “features” page to see how it works.

    Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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    July 29, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, Internet, privacy, security, tech, Web 2.0 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Sunday nights at my house

    Mondays. Yuk.

    Sunday nights were special nights when I was a lad. My statistics show that quite a decent percentage of my readers will recognize these short video clips.. and understand what I mean.

    Which was followed by..

    Television before “ripped from the headlines” dramas, and “Reality TV”. A few decades ago, now. (My, how time passes..) Many things have changed with the years. Agreed?

    When I was boy, wearing my PJ’s (with feeties) and watching these shows, there were still many things that hadn’t been invented yet– such as cell phones, ATM cash machines, magnetic stripe readers, video games, CD’s or DVD’s or VHS/Betamax (we had 8-Track tapes).. heck, we didn’t even have cordless phones yet, much less personal computers.
    For fun, we skipped rope, played soccer, threw dirtclods/water balloons, rode bicycles, and read books. (Don’t snicker too much, you younger readers; we had Lawn Darts [fun for the whole family!])

    Lawn Darts

    Lawn Darts

    I am a member of what is known as “Gen-X” (as in, mysterious).. the first generation after the “Baby Boomers”.
    As I understand it, there’s also a “Generation Y“.. and even a “Gen-Z”.
    Som Gen-Y fun facts, according to Wikipedia:
    97% own a computer
    94% own a cell phone
    76% use Instant Messaging and social networking sites.
    15% of IM users are logged on 24 hours a day/7 days a week
    34% use websites as their primary source of news
    28% author a blog and 44% read blogs
    97% have downloaded music and other media using peer-to-peer file sharing
    49% regularly download music and other media using peer-to-peer file sharing
    75% of college students have a Facebook account
    60% own some type of portable music and/or video device such as an iPod.
    I think some of those numbers are on the low side. Like, by a lot.

    Needless to say, I don’t view the world in quite the same way as a Gen-Y does.
    There is a definite “gap”.

    I’m not sure where I intended to go with this.. so I think I’ll stop. I will continue long enough to tell you that more of my thoughts on this can be read by clicking this link
    And I will invite you to leave your thoughts on this as comments.

    I’m pretty sure I have more to say, but….

    Copyright 2007-8 &copy Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanixpost to jaanix

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    July 28, 2008 Posted by | computers, tech | , , | 3 Comments

    Pen Scanners– A Back-to-School Must

    There are some technologies that really do make me say, “gee, I wish they had that when I was a kid”, and one of them is the hand-held document scanner.

    A hand-held document scanner is pretty much exactly what it sounds like it is; a portable device that allows you to “scan” text and images into digital form so you can store them on your computer… and thus access them for later study.
    It’s kind of like having your very own pocket Xerox machine.

    pen scanner

    This is simply a “must have” if you are a researcher, or a student, as it replaces hand-writing out your notes, or carrying pockets full of coins to feed into the library’s copy machine.

    When you find a relevant passage in a book, or other document, you simply pass the device over the text, much like you would use a highlighter. Later, you attach the device to your PC via a USB cord, and thanks to OCR, you can open your scanned passages in a text editor, like Word.

    Hand-held document scanners (generally) come in two flavors; a true “pen” style — as pictured above — and a “wand” style.

    The “pen” style makes it easier to capture just the lines of text that you are interested in. However, you must pass it in a fairly straight line, and wobbling it high or low may cause you to have to rescan the sentence (most have a preview window).. and some people use a plastic ruler as a guide.

    I prefer the “wand” style, even though it (usually) means capturing a whole page. The color versions of these devices are pretty good at scanning images. Another advantage of the wand is if you are scanning tables and charts– the included software allows you to open the scanned tables in Excel.

    Tip of the day: A simply fantastic Back To School gift (either for yourself, or someone you love) is a hand-held digital note taker. They’re quite reasonably priced.
    My personal reco is to go with the slightly pricier wand scanner, and to go with the pricier-yet color model.

    I won’t say which one’s “best”, but I will say that I agree with this PC Magazine review (read it here).

    Today’s free link: SyncBack is a backup program that also functions as a file synchronizer, such as keeping your thumbdrive files and desktop files updated. From ZDNet:”Easily backup, synchronize, or restore your files to another drive, FTP server, ZIP file, networked drive, or removable media.

    Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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    July 26, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, Digital Images, gadgets, hardware, Portable Computing, shopping for, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

    Truth, and the Internet*

    • Teach your kids that not everything they read or see online is true. Encourage them to ask you if they’re not sure.

    I came across this bullet-point on a security vendor’s* helpful tips & advice page. I was looking at Internet Safety tips for parents sites, as part of my relentless pursuit of bringing you, Dear Reader, the best gosh-durn information possible. (‘Cause that’s the kinda guy I am.) That particular point was #10 on a 10 Things Parents Should Do list.
    It’s a good bullet-point. Agreed?

    Not to get too far off the topic here, but how are parents supposed to do that when they themselves haven’t learned it? People believe what they see in print.. and what the CBS Evening News tells them.

    Okay.. I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about people. Them. All those other cars on the freeway. They believe it because they read it in their local paper, or saw it on TV. Or.. CNN.  Or they “Googled it”.
    And those things never lie.

    [The media are businesses. Businesses need to make profits. Headlines sell papers. Fear makes headlines. Add it all up and you get– The Media is in the business of profiting from your fears.]

    How many lies, distortions, or “misreporting’s” have you found in print or seen on TV as you’ve traveled down life’s path? One? Two? Each and every day?

    Here’s the Truth: The Internet is the worst possible source of information because any-old nutcase with a computer can publish there (like I am doing right now) AND it is the best possible source of information because any-old nutcase with a computer can publish — without government interference, unmotivated by profit, and “say it as he sees it” (like I am doing right now).
    A confusing dichotomy.

    A confusing dichotomy I urge you to always remember.. and to tell your kids about… that should make for an interesting conversation!

    Tip of the day: Don’t be ignorant of the dangers of the Internet. Educate yourself and your friends and your kids about online predators, identity-stealing spyware, and phishing e-mails, and take steps to get protected. (A good way to do that is to become one of this site’s regular readers. To make it easy, click on the orange “feed” icon, or “Bookmark” me.)

    * The advice page referred to is at Webroot’s (SpySweeper) Website. Their advice page is here. It has four main categories: Internet Dangers, Online Activities, Threats, and Resources.
    Of course, modestly sprinkled in with all the free advice is urgings to buy their product (which is OK, SpySweeper is consistently in the Top 3) which you are free to ignore. There is some really good information there, and it’s bullet-point easy to read. It is Today’s free link.

    If you have a computer in your home, and you have a child in your home, you might also want to take a look at my other Internet+Kids related articles. Clicking this link will produce a page with all my past articles that are ‘tagged’ with those keywords. My special page on safety advice is here.

    Did you miss my Top 10 list? Click here for my Top 10 Things You Should Do To Your Computer.


    *Original posting 3/26/08

    Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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    July 25, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, Internet, kids and the Internet, tech | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

    "Attention Required"

    I have a disturbing personality quirk. I have had it for a very long while, actually– I don’t respond well to the words “mandatory” or “required”, and I don’t do too well with “urgent” or “now!” either..

    When someone (say, my mother) would tell me to, “get over here now“, I knew I was in trouble and I would move slower than grass grows.
    When a Mandatory Staff Meeting was being held (back in the days before self-employment) I was famous for always having some trick worked out that allowed me to escape attendance.. because we all know that “Mandatory Staff Meeting” translates into English as “torture session – guaranteed to drive you insane.”

    So, armed with that knowledge about me, you will understand why I ignored this e-mail for several days…
    IRS Notification – Tax Refund – Attention Required.

    .. and if you read me regularly (or, happened to catch this article) you know that when I did take an action on this e-mail, I marked it as Junk, unopened.

    What?! (you say) How could I disrespect the IRS?! (you say)
    Well, for one, the IRS does not e-mail you important documents (neither does your bank, or Pay Pal, or..). And, the IRS — like almost every other Government institution — uses “dot gov” in its URL. In fact, the Internal Revenue Service’s web address is

    These particular phraudsters haven’t tried spoofing the URL, instead they’ve set up a similar looking name, hoping that I wouldn’t notice.
    This classic phishing attempt is using “social engineering” to try to get me to reveal information that will allow cyber-criminals to adopt my identity. It is using my conditioning (to reacting) to Authority. It is appealing to my greed. It is telling me to “act now” (or miss out). In it is a hyperlink that would take me to a very realistic-looking fake IRS website.
    This phraudster, or gang, probably had a network of zombie computers send out a million of these e-mails.. because he knows that for every phishing-savvy person, who deletes at a glance, there’s 3 who’ve never heard of phishing.

    Tip of the day: Pay attention to details, and know that IRS phishing e-mails are an everyday occurrence, and an estimated 6,000 fake IRS websites are in daily operation. Don’t even open e-mails you suspect may be a scam.
    Yes. I’m repeating myself. But, at least a part of someone’s identity is being stolen every two seconds (global) at an estimated cost to business of $25 billion a year. That’s 15,000,000 victims a year.

    Today’s free link(s): Folks, I don’t usually do this (in fact, I never have before).. but I bet you don’t know that you have a heuristic bogus Website detector built right into your machine, and all you have to do is turn it on. I wrote an article on how to do that, and the link to it is here.

    Firefox users have this protection as well, and it is already enabled. When you see this..
    you’ve stumbled across a cyber-criminal’s site. I have been using the new version of Mozilla’s Firefox browser, Firefox 3, for a while now, and am satisfied enough to recommend it. To get it, or just read more about it, click here.

    Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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    July 24, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, e-mail, Firefox, how to, Internet, Internet scam, Phishing, phraud, security, spam and junk mail, tech | , , , , , , | 2 Comments