Tech – for Everyone

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

2008 — A Watershed Year For Cybercrime

Experts say 2008 was watershed year, as cybercriminals perfected their techniques, building automated “SQL Injection” programs (to poison websites) and running massive botnet networks.

2008 cybercrime report

Hmmm... seems to me I was just saying..

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which began operation on May 8, 2000, as the Internet Fraud Complaint Center was established as a partnership between the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to serve as a vehicle to receive, process, and refer criminal complaints regarding the rapidly expanding arena of cyber crime.

Complaints are up 33%.. to view this report, click here.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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March 31, 2009 Posted by | computers, cyber crime | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Night of the Living Computer*

It’s like we woke up inside a horror movie– we are being attacked by zombies.

Night of the Living Dead

Yes. It’s true. Real life is imitating art (if you’re willing to call Night of the Living Dead “art”). We really are under attack by zombies– only our zombies aren’t trying to eat our flesh, they are trying to sell us bootleg Ph@rmacuticals and cheap V1@gra, fake Rolex watches, and steal our identities. [note in the photo how the zombie is reaching for the wallet?]

In real life, our zombies can’t claw at us directly and they don’t have teeth. Our zombies are computers. Our computers. And they attack via e-mail and the Internet. Like the zombies in Night, they spread the zombie disease by infection. Differently, our zombies aren’t mindless; they’re controlled by villains (aka “cyber-criminals”).

Yes. Your computer may be a zombie, and odds are you wouldn’t know.

If it isn’t a zombie (yet), it is constantly under the attack of infection via the Internet. An unprotected computer, connected to the Internet, will be infected within 8 minutes (12 seconds in a recent test).
90 to 95% of all Internet traffic traveling the wires is zombie-generated junk e-mail that’s either a fraud attempt or (and?) loaded with malware– the “attack”.

How did this happen? Well, part of it is the Tech Industry’s fault (see, How the Tech Industry is Failing You), either unintentionally, or through lack of foresight, or through willful negligence and the rush to market. Security either wasn’t considered, or it was too expensive.
Nobody predicted the nerdy hackers evolving into the organized, well-financed, Mafia-style criminal gangs of today.
And they put too-powerful, fully-capable machines into the hands of the unwashed masses– us.
The rest of it is our fault.

* We let our antivirus expire and, every day, close the warning.
* We think we’ve just won the British Lottery.
* We still run Windows 98 because we’re “comfortable with it”.
* We cannot resist ‘free’ pornography.
* We cannot be bothered with those REALLY ANNOYING little windows that pop open at the worst times and tell us that a “newer version is available.”
* When someone tries to tell us about our machines, they start using big words in a funny language and we ‘tune out’.
* We believe that everything computer-related should be free, so we download cracked (aka “pirated”) software, bootleg music and video, and we don’t care who or where it comes from.

I could go on and on and on (and on, believe me!).

Yes.. we are our own worst enemies. But, you don’t have to be a part of the problem. And you don’t have to learn a big word-filled foreign language (aka “Geek speak”) to avoid the zombie attack.

Today’s free link: I have put together a list of proactive steps every computer user should know.. a checklist. In it you will find links to free, safe, and effective methods for protecting your computer, and keeping it safe. Please look over, Top 10 Things You Should Do To Your Computer. And then do us all a favor, pass the list on to your friends who have computers.

* Orig post: 08/18/08

Today’s free download: RUBotted by Trend Micro (see below)

Today’s free link: RUBotted is a free program that can help detect if your machine has been zombie-ified, and Bill Mullins has written a good description/review of it, here (he also posts the download link, so you can visit there and don’t need to return here..) Catch the Bad Bots with Free RUBotted from Trend Micro

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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March 31, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, cyber crime, how to, security | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Federal Free File – eTaxes, 2008

IRS Program Lets Taxpayers Use Tax Preparation Software For Free

I am like many Americans in that I have become somewhat reliant on my computer to help me do my Federal taxes. It all started with a CD I received in the mail — a free copy of H&R Block’s TaxCut. I tried it. And I found it just a wee bit easier to use and figure out than the 1040A user manual our government provides.

The following year, I received a CD, and the year after that.. and sure enough, I became “hooked” on TaxCut. (I understand that the other tax prep software player(s) did the same in other locations.)

This year, however, H&R Block neglected to send me a free TaxCut CD.

Well, NBD, I figured. I’ll just go to the H&R Block website and download a copy.
On the site, H&R Block wants to sell me a copy.

By now, I was “jonesing” for my TaxCut “fix”… I almost paid. But with a little further research I found out that to access the free version of TaxCut, I had to first go to to the IRS website.

IRS banner

On the IRS site, there is a page called “FreeFile”, and here you will find the “partnership links” to the free versions of 19 accepted tax prep programs — of which TaxCut (and also TurboTax) is one.
To qualify, you must have an Adjusted Gross Income of $56,000 or less.

Today’s free link: FreeFile at the IRS
Note: there’s two buttons on the page; “I will choose” and “help me choose”. Though all of the programs there are accepted by the IRS, I would recommend clicking the “I will choose”, and then selecting either TaxCut or TurboTax.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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March 30, 2009 Posted by | advice, how to, Internet | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

An Open Letter To Arnold Zimmerman

To: Arnold Zimmerman
From: Me

Arnie! Do NOT do it!!!! If you take that step, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life. I don’t care what else you have to cut, or do without.. just don’t do that. Please!

Okay .. so, what am I talking about? And, who is Arnold Zimmerman?

Arnold was the MITS (Journalistic term = “man in the street”) quoted in an alarming article I read. His line,
I didn’t think I would ever go back,” said Zimmerman, 66, of Davenport, Fla. “It was terrible. But with this economy, you got to look to cut wherever you can.”

The “cut” referred to is going back to (shudder) dial-up. The article, Cost-conscious consumers downgrade from cable Internet to dial-up.


Sorry. That’s what happens every time I think of that..



Wow. I gotta stop, and think about.. kittens.. or something.


That’s just too scary. But if you want to read more, the Boston Herald article is here.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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March 28, 2009 Posted by | Internet, News, tech | 2 Comments

An Open Letter To Sun Microsystems

To: The Head Honchos at Sun
From: Every computer user (as voiced by Tech Paul)

Re: Open Office downloader/Yahoo toolbar.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Your practice of shoe-horning additional software into the update packages for the JRE (Java Runtime Environment) is morally and ethically wrong. Java_plus_Yahoo

The most odorous aspect of this is the fact that you place a check in the checkbox by default, and thousands upon thousands upon thousands of unwanted installs occur because of it. This whole deal is shady at the time original install, but particularly vile in an update.

If we — for some unfathomable reason — actually want another toolbar, or the Open Office “downloader”, we will go get them.

This practice stinks. We all hate it. Shame on you.

Come on, guys — you’re better than this!

[note: we are aware that this unethical behavior is not by any means limited to Sun Microsystems, or Yahoo. This *crud* has become an industry practice, and people should pay close attention during any software install. Un-check those checkboxes! The ultimate responsibility is ours.]

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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March 27, 2009 Posted by | computers, tech | , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Smartphones On The Cheap

Are your seatbelts fastened? I’m about to shock you, Dear Reader.

I found a How To better than any I have ever written. Below is the link and some snippets..

How to use a Blackberry Smartphone with a cheap “Pay As You Go” mobile phone plan…


“I love my gadgets, and when opportunity presents itself to try something different, I cannot resist.

The object of the this story is to demonstrate how I maximized the usage of a Blackberry Smartphone using one of the cheapest mobile phone plans out there…

I have always been fascinated with PDA’s, have owned quite a few, and was currently looking for something that would provide PDA capabilities, as well as, mobile phone capabilities. I did not want to pay a lot or get trapped into a lengthy service contract with a mobile phone provider just to own a computer in my pocket…”

I believe that this article will appeal to (and inform) any “user level” — from those who have managed to avoid these fancy gadgets, to texting über-ninjas. I highly recommend clicking the link (above) and giving this one a read.

I tip both my writer’s cap and my geek hat to Rick Robinette (blog= What’s On My PC) and I thank him for permission for these snippets.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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March 26, 2009 Posted by | advice, gadgets, how to, Internet, Portable Computing, tech | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

PSI To The Rescue

This morning I turned on my laptop and was greeted with one of those “critical warning” alert windows — and I was quite happy about it.

Loyal Friends and True to this series know about “rogue” antivirus programs, and how they are known as “scareware” because of how they use phony “Warning! VirusXYZ has been detected on this machine!” pop-ups to try to get you to click their link.
(see, “WINDOWS REQUIRES IMMEDIATE ATTENTION” and Internet Plague – Rogue Antivirus)

But my alert-screen today was not one of those items of crimeware, (though that stuff has become a real epidemic) but a window from a program that I have recommended to my readers several times. It told me that it had found two “insecure programs”; and that one of those insecurities was rated as “critical”.

Loyal Friends and True to this series know that “insecure” means that there are known flaws in the code of these programs which hackers use to “exploit” (aka “attack”) your machine and gain control and plant their keyloggers, backdoors, and mailers. In fact, “exploits” are the primary method of infection.

The program I refer to is Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector and its job is to scan my system for missing updates and patches (which close the “insecurities”). I clicked “show me more” and PSI opened and displayed its results. Listed first is the “critical”..


Huh. How about that. Adobe Reader managed to sneak back onto my machine (probably, Firefox downloaded it so I could view an online PDF), and SURPRISE! it is critically vulnerable.. again.
I am beginning to hate all things Adobe.. and I make it a practice to keep Adobe products off of my computer. They are the hacker’s favorite. I use Foxit¹ to read PDF’s and Word to create them.


By clicking the little “+” sign, Secunia PSI presents me with “one-click” options for fixing the problem. If the vulnerability is in a program I like and want, I just use the first button which will download the appropriate patch/update. This is very cool, and saves many steps.
But since we’re talking about an Adobe product, I click on the Add/Remove Programs button and remove that sucker.
(For those of you that care, the second insecurity was in the Java Runtime, and I did click on “Download Solution”.)

I am very grateful to the good folks at Secunia for not only developing this very important security tool, but making it freely available to the public. Again, you can get it here, Personal Software Inspector.

The most important computer security step you can take is to keep your software patched and updated, and PSI does all the work for you, and offers one-click fixes. Secunia, you guys get a big tip of my geek hat.

Today’s free link: 9 Good Things The Internet Has Ruined Forever

¹ I don’t know how long I will continue to use Foxit. There are currently exploits against it now too.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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March 26, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, hackers, how to, PC, security | 7 Comments