Tech – for Everyone

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

Tips For Safe Online Shopping*

I think it is a pretty safe bet that quite a few of you are doing some last minute holiday shopping.. and that some of you are going to use the Internet to do some of that shopping.

I would like to remind you that there is a healthy, active, and well-financed underworld of cyber-criminals who are well-aware of the fact that the next few days are prime credit card and “identity” theft opportunities, and are going to be particularly active in trying to GET YOU.

You will see an increase in spam, and bogus pop-opens that tell you you are infected when you’re not. (Note: The phraudulent Skype alert is active again, too. see Skype — “Windows Requires Immediate Attention”.. Not! )

I am posting the following Basic Internet Shopping Tips in the hopes that Tech–for Everyone readers will not join the 9 million Americans who had their identities stolen last year.

  • Download Software Updates — Regularly!
  • Use Complex Passwords (include numerals and @#$%^&*[])
  • Use Onetime Credit Cards
  • Verify Secure Connections See that little padlock symbol at the bottom of your screen, and in the URL address bar?
  • Check Your Credit
  • Enter Your Shopping Site’s Web Address Manually (embedded links=no!)
  • Shop From Your Own computer (not a public ‘hotspot’)
  • Enable your browser’s phishing filter, or install a add-on. (such as the super-easy WOT toolbar)
  • Don’t Send Credit Card Information Over E-mail. Even if you think it’s secure. Don’t send it over IM either. If you feel uncomfortable about sending personal information online, call up the business.

I would like to direct your attention to the first bulletpoint. The programs on your computer need to be fully “patched” with the latest updates, as exploiting weaknesses is the primary method hackers use to infect your machines. (You visit a website that they’ve ‘poisoned’, and if you have an unpatched ‘hole’, bingo – you’re infected.)

How do you know if you have the latest updates? For all your installed programs? Do you think you are patched? Don’t guess. Be sure!

Today’s free link+download: Secunia offers a tool that I highly recommend. The online scanner (which you should bookmark, btw) will scan your machine for roughly 100 programs and tell you if there is a patch/update you need. If you go this route, you will need to visit once or twice a week.)
Better yet, they offer a download, a Personal Edition, which will scan your system against a database of over 7,000 programs.
Even better yet, it includes direct download links to the missing patches it finds.

I just ran it and it found an old ActiveX plug in, and told me that my Java Runtime Environment was out of date.. and I didn’t think I had installed JRE on this machine!

Further reading:
Computer Security – Time to Think About It

A Teen Texting Trend All Parents Should Be Aware Of

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

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December 20, 2008 Posted by | advice, browsers, computers, cyber crime, hackers, how to, Internet scam, News, PC, Phishing, phraud, security, shopping for, software, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Phishing phraud

Folks, a short one today. The main point can be found in this report from Gartner– 3,500,000 Americans gave up sensitive information to phishers in 2007, for a total loss of $2.8 billion dollars. We, Dear Reader, are being conned and ripped-off at an alarming rate.

I have talked about phishing here before, and warned you against clicking on the links you receive in e-mails before too. These phishers have become so skillful and crafty that it truly is nearly impossible for the average person to tell a fraudulent phishing website from the real. The phraudsters are also developing techniques that are making the usual defenses (ie, “blacklists”) ineffective. And the number of cyber-criminals, and their phishing sites, is growing.

Tip of the day: Turn on a heuristic phishing filter.
It is more important than ever that you exercise caution and apply safe browsing practices when you go online. (To read my prior articles on phishing and safe browsing, click here.) One of the few tools that can help you when it comes to these bogus websites is a filter which uses heuristics to watch the webpage for activity that indicates hacker techniques.

For those of you using IE 7, make sure this filter is turned on. Click on the “Tools” menu (upper-right corner) and then select “Internet Options”. Then click on the “Advanced” tab.
Now scroll down through the list of options until you see the Phishing Filter (as shown) and make sure the “Turn on automatic website checking” radio-button is selected.
Click on “OK”.
Now you will have some protection enabled, and when you go to a website that is not “acting right”, a warning message will pop-open and alert you. When this happens, I suggest you close that window and leave that site quickly.

For those of you using “alternative” browsers; you may find a built-in phishing filter much like IE’s (by exploring the Options) depending on which one you have (some do, some don’t) or you can download an “extension” (aka “plug-in”), such as SiteAdvisor, and today’s free link.

Today’s free link: the free version of LinkScanner allows you to right-click on a hyperlink (in an e-mail you receive, for instance) and determine if it is valid. I can recommend the “Pro” version, as well, as a much more complete tool.

Help protect your privacy and your “identity”, and take these simple steps. And, maybe, send this article to your friends.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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January 18, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, IE 7, PC, Phishing, privacy, security, tech, Windows | , , | 4 Comments