Tech – for Everyone

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

Video: To Catch An ID Thief*

When you think of the Internet underground, you probably don’t think about Burbank or Ventura, Calif.. But if you want to see what’s going on in the Web’s darkest corners, the Ventura Freeway is where you need to go…

I have been a fan of Bob Sullivan’s MSNBC Red Tape Chronicles for a while now, and recently I had the time to go through some of his older articles, and I came across one I had missed — A Portal On Credit Card Crime.

I highly recommend that you read this article.

On it, I also found links to a Dateline special undercover series titled “To Catch an ID Thief”, which I had also missed. It too, is a “must read”, er.. “must see”. So I have provided links to the videos. (You will need to enable Flash.)

Amazing stuff here. I hope you’ll watch and learn, and tell your friends.

'To Catch an ID Thief'
‘To Catch an ID Thief’

2: Underground den of thieves
2: Underground den of thieves

3: 'Hansen Discount Electronics'
3: ‘Hansen Discount Electronics’

4: CH delivery
4: CH delivery

5: Where's Wendy?
5: Where’s Wendy?

6: Harsh truth
6: Harsh truth

Today’s free link: Free Lifetime License for SUPERAntiSpyware Professional – 20 to Give Away

Today’s free download: If you are considering building your own website, or are interested in free WYSIWYG web-authoring tools, a nice tool is the free version of Web Easy Professional, by V-Comm.

*Orig post: 5/8/09

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

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July 29, 2009 Posted by | computers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Security Alert — An Infection Has Been Detected!

Online crime is bigger than the global drugs trade¹. The Internet shadow economy is worth over $105 billion.  No country, no person, no business and no government is immune from CyberCrime.

Currently there is an epidemic of fake anti-malware software on the Internet– which is collectively called “rogue anti-malware“ and/or “scareware”. Marketed under hundreds of different names, such as VirusRemover 2008 and Antivirus XP 2009, this type of rogue software scares people by giving false alarms, and then tries to deceive them into paying for removal of non-existing malware. [update: some of the newer ones are now encrypting your files, and requiring a ‘ransom’ for the key. Don’t pay. There is help online.]

This video shows what happens when a legitimate Website gets infected and redirected to one of these bogus anti-malware scams.
Yes, folks, legitimate websites are being ‘hacked’. (It’s called “poisoned”.)

The people behind this scourge use many different ways to try to entice you to click – realistic looking pop-up windows appear, offers of “free trials” arrive in e-mail, and “free scan” buttons on legit-looking ‘fight malware’ websites.. the means are quite varied!

As this video shows, the user is tricked into (scared into, really) providing their credit card #  to clean infections that weren’t there before they clicked and aren’t really there now.
* The ‘false positives’ are not “cleaned” BUT, more adware and spyware is installed.
* A good percentage of my calls at Aplus Computer Aid are folks needing help with getting rid of these rogues. Because these clever programs use the latest techniques to combat removal, and it can be quite tough — if not impossible — to truly remove them.. without formatting your hard-drive.
* For more, please read Is that anti-spyware program really spyware?
* One Website dedicated to combating this epidemic is Spyware Warrior. It has a pretty good list of known rogues, and much more detailed information. Another excellent resource is Bleeping Computer.
* I have written several How-To’s on protecting yourself from malware, and how to clean your machines as well. Click here to see those titles.

¹ From a recent MessageLabs whitepaper. (This eye-opening report provides a disturbing look into the ‘dark’ world of cyber-crime. This link is the online version.. you need to scroll a bit..)

Today’s free download: WOT (Web Of Trust) is a free Internet security add-on for your browser. It will help keep you safer from online scams, identity theft, spyware, spam, viruses and unreliable shopping sites. WOT warns you before you interact with a risky Website. It’s easy and it’s free.

  • Ratings for over 22 million websites
  • Downloaded over 4 million times
  • The WOT browser addon is light and updates automatically
  • WOT rating icons appear beside search results in Google, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Gmail, etc.
  • Settings can be customized to better protect your family (new “Parental Control” setting blocks access to Web sites with a poor child safety rating and no rating at all)
  • WOT Security Scorecard shows rating details and user comments

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

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April 16, 2009 Posted by | advice, antivirus, cyber crime, hackers, Internet, Internet scam, PC, phraud, privacy, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Another advantage of credit cards..

LONDON (Reuters) – Prices charged by cybercriminals selling hacked bank and credit card details have fallen sharply as the volume of data on offer has soared, forcing them to look elsewhere to boost profit margins, a new report says.*

Yes, folks, you read that right. If you want to buy a stolen credit card and PIN, now’s the time because the price has never been better. A Platinum card — guaranteed to be “fresh” and work when you use it — can be had for $20.

This is because hackers have been so successful at planting Trojans on your machines, poisoning websites, and getting people to provide their identities through phishing (spam) e-mails, and using their botnets, that they simply have too much product.

We aren’t just losing the war on cyber-crime, we’re not even fighting one.

So.. since stolen credit cards are now a dime-a-dozen, what is the “shadow economy” organized cyber-criminal to peddle? “New types of stolen data are now commanding a premium, such as patient healthcare information that can be used for insurance fraud or to illicitly acquire and sell medicines.

Other premium data includes business information, company personnel files and intercepted commercial emails.”

Yikes.

These kinds of news stories, and reports, never seem to make make the front page or headline the news. Billions are being stolen from us, every year, the problem is growing, and we don’t seem to care.

And the media doesn’t like finding the “guilty party” in this kind of story because the truly guilty are us.
* From a security perspective, the Internet is completely broken and needs to be scrapped and rebuilt. Nobody knows how to “fix” the old structure. The headline, Tech Experts Are Baffled isn’t very reassuring to the public, and that might lead to the dreaded “consumer confidence” failure.

* We –the common everyday Internet surfer– can’t be bothered with securing our machines, or even learning enough of that “tech stuff” to realize our PC’s are not convenient toys.
“Why get a new Vista or Mac computer? My Windows 98 machine lets me get on the Internet and play BlackJack..” How many times have I heard that???
Some experts say that 75% of all the computers are infected with malware. Wonder why?
What does this story’s headline look like?

* We –the common everyday Internet surfer– KEEP clicking on e-mails that promise us free iPods, or tell us that there’s 750,000 Pounds Sterling waiting for us to simply pick it up.
What does this story’s headline look like?

Awww, I’m getting depressed, angry, and.. frustrated. We deserve to have our identities stolen, and we can’t blame the smart people for taking it from us when it’s this easy.

Yes, a lot of this is not our fault. The Tech Industry continues to sell us crappy products, and would rather be first to market than to check the security of their technology. I wrote about this here, How the Tech Industry is Failing You.

* To read the whole news story which triggered today’s rant, click here.

To visit Finjan (one of the article’s sources) and look at their quarterly analysis of the state of Web security and cyber-crime, click here.

I apologize. I didn’t mean to bring you down. But if you think you can take more, why not read about how the credit card companies are putting unsecured transmitters into your cards now, so a criminal can pick your pocket wirelessly! Credit Card 2.0.

Don’t you just love the folly of Man?

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

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July 15, 2008 Posted by | advice, Apple, computers, cyber crime, Internet, Internet scam, iPhone, PC, security, tech, Vista, Web 2.0 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

System Restore/ID Theft/Startup programs

“System Restore won’t work”, “I’m worried about ID Theft, how do I know if an email is legit?”, “I can’t get this #$*& program out of my Startup folder” — these are examples of some of the questions I have received since posting my articles on these topics. Today I’m going to review, and provide more solutions and answers.

Tip of the day: Since I’m going to cover the questions above, there is not going to be a single “Tip of the day” today. Instead, there will be “Today’s three questions”…
More on System Restore: What to do when System Restore just refuses to work. As I mentioned in my first System Restore post, SR simply is not a failsafe miracle worker. There are troubles that can occur that it simply does not repair — such as a corrupted SAM database. It is however a good place to start. It does undo a lot of the damage you can accidentally do to your machine. This fact is why you should always make a back up of your system — either a “disk image” made with a 3rd-party utility like Acronis True Image, or Norton Ghost, and/or Windows Backup Utility (Start >Programs >Accessories >System tools >Backup).
I stated in the prior article, and will repeat here, that you may have to repeat the System Restore process several times before one “snapshot” finally takes. When you use SR, you will see a calendar with available snapshots in bold dates. You should see several. Start with the most recent date and time, and work your way backwards. If you have done this with no luck, you probably have one of those troubles System Restore is not designed for. Either look elsewhere for solutions, or call for some Tech Support (we Tech Support folks need to make a living too, you know).

Legit vs. Phishing: “how do I know if an email is legit?” In my post about the rocket scientist, I discussed phishing and recommended an anti-phishing site toolbar, which combats a form of phishing called “pharming“.
I suggest you take no chances with emails. Simply do not click on links in emails. Also, realize that your bank will not send you links. They know about phishing, and they figure you already know their URL (you should have it bookmarked, so use that…or call them directly). Also be aware that just because an email claims to be from a friend or relative, doesn’t mean that it is. If you are not expecting an attachment.exe “executable” (application) or “you gotta see this!” .jpg from Uncle Fred, by all means don’t open it! Email him and ask him, “did you send me a..?” It is an easy thing for an Evil Doer to spoof a Sender address.
And finally, make sure your antivirus definitions are up to date. If it is not already on by default, open your antivirus’ Options and look in “Update Options” for “Download and install new definitions automatically” (or words to that effect) and make sure it’s selected. If available, have it set to scan email and email attachments as well. (If it’s not, consider switching to the free Avast! or AVG antivirus programs..)

Removing stubborn start up programs: If the methods I described in “My Startup folder is a clown car” proved insufficient for getting rid of a really determined program, there are three more methods you can try. The first is to read my Manage your Startup programs; second is msconfig, and the last is editing the Registry.
If these easy methods in the article didn’t do the trick, start by opening the msconfig utility. Click Start >Run and type in “msconfig” (no quotes), and then click on the Startup tab. Here you will see a list of the programs scheduled to start when Windows boots. Uncheck the checkbox next to the program you are having the troubles with. You will need to restart your system for the changes to take effect.

The second method, editing the Registry, is for advanced users who are comfortable treading in such risky waters. Changes made to the Registry are immediate, and there’s no “undo” feature. If you feel you are determined to dive in, please create a Restore Point before starting and back up the Registry to a .txt file first. Please read (or re-familiarize yourself with) Microsoft’s detailed how-to here. They Key you’ll be working with is HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\CurrentVersion\Run.
But please: this is not for the inexperienced. Do not try this without reading and understanding what editing the Registry is about, and what damage one mistake can do. First use the aforementioned methods and please consider simply using Add/Remove Programs to “retire” the troublesome program altogether…or try a program like StartUp Cop.

Today’s free link(s): I am satisfied with this freeware Startup manager: Ashampoo StartUp Tuner 2.

If you have been a victim of a phish, have been clicking unsolicited links willy-nilly, or let a window that magically popped open one day “scan your computer to remove infections”.. or just want to know your scores — get a free credit report , and find out if you’re the only “you” accessing your credit.
[Note: I believe it is worth it to have your credit reports monitored.. which is not a free service. For $5/month, I use , which monitors the big three report companies.]

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

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June 9, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, security, software, System Restore, tech, troubleshooting, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What your car is saying about you*

The auto manufactures are competing to put the most computer into your car. The merging of digital devices and personal transportation is progressing with alacrity. We know this. The fact that there has been “chips” in our cars for a decade or so is also well known. OnStar™ GPS tracking of our movements has been successfully marketed as a benefit to us, and we pay extra for the privilege. And our car has a microphone, to listen for ‘our calls for help’ (but, only when we push the button… Right??).

I read that the Vehicle Infrastructure Integration Consortium, a government “safety and efficiency” program, (there is a detailed description on Wikipedia, I suggest you scroll down to the paragraph titled “public concerns”) has developed a prototype for an on-board vehicle computer designed to interact with the Internet that will use Linux. (These are the folks who want to put radars in cars, “to detect proximity to the vehicle ahead and automatically apply the brakes to avoid rear-end collisions”) And they want to use the Web so the cars can, “provide a direct link between a vehicle on the road and all vehicles within a defined vicinity. The vehicles would be able to communicate with each other (and the cops), exchanging data on speed, orientation, perhaps even on driver awareness and intent.” This, to “improve traffic flow.”
Hmmm…. Driver intent?!?

Of course, this is being touted as a boon to us dumb citizens. We are told, “this will improve the driving experience” (not to mention, make us safer). How could our car accessing the Web be a benefit? The VII-C says, “by alerting cars about approaching emergency vehicles, collecting data to map weather patterns with high precision, and allowing for ‘over the air’ upgrades of vehicle firmware.”

Hmmm… Let me think about that…
1) Don’t approaching emergency vehicles have flashing lights and loud sirens?
2) Weather??? Like, I’m not going to go where I need to go because there’s a cold front developing..?
3) Automatic updates (aka “patches”)? What does this imply? That there’s concern about viruses and hackers, maybe? (You bet there’s concern!)

Of course the key words here are ‘traffic flow’, and ‘transmit its location’. By publishing its onboard data via the Web, some person in some government office will be able to see where every car is, its speed and direction of travel, and by activating the microphone, will be able to listen to the conversations taking place inside.
Think about that. Frankly, it scares the pants off of me.

I want you readers to know that the government already has this ability to some extent. We are rapidly approaching the point where every car being produced has some type of GPS built into it. They track us through the cellular phone signals (but these are “unreliable”). To “get better gas mileage”, we have all kinds of mini-computers on board that record our speed and braking, and store that info for later perusal — this aids in “accident reconstruction”. But these are not enough. They want more and better tracking technology installed. They don’t want “recorded”, they want “reported”.

Do NOT violate the speed limit in a rental car. The onboard computers will snitch, and when you go to return it, you will be hit with a stiff fine. I kid you not. Joyriding is out, too: excessive acceleration, hard braking, and high lateral G’s are recorded and reported too, even if you never top out above 65. Yes, your car is a snitch. Divorce attorneys and Law Enforcement love the GPS recorder.

Let’s tout the boon to mankind: parents can benefit from these automatic recorders too. Want to know how your kid treated the family car? Where they went? If they braked too hard or accelerated too hard? If they parked at Lover’s Lookout? Just buy an adapter and plug in your laptop. You can play Big Brother and see everything the car did. (I’m still working on how you can send the signal that activates the car’s microphone, and listen in on your kid… That will be a money-maker!)

The miracle of technology is in our cars. We are being told it’s for our benefit and we believe it. OnStar is something we all think is great, and we’re convinced it’s a status symbol (remember when only top-end cars offered it?). Sometimes, I think our desire for security makes us kinda dumb, and I think dummies get what  dummies deserve.

I, for one, don’t want a single recorder, chip, microphone, GPS locator, or transmitter on my person or on my car. It’s nobody’s business where I am, where I’ve been, or… my speed and direction of travel. (Did you miss my article, “It’s time to write your Representative”? Click here.)
They are going to do this, folks, and they’re not giving us citizens much say (“not much” = none).

Tip of the day: Use a soft, lint-free cloth, very slightly dampened with plain water to clean your monitor screen. You do not really need fancy, or expensive products to do this.

Today’s free link: Today I’m putting out the call for your input in this section. Is there a free program or tool that you think is fantastic, but you haven’t seen me post it here? Send me your recommendation — the name, not the link — and I’ll run it through my testing. Those that pass will appear here, with accreditation.

For those of you who aren’t at all bothered by this, and have quite the opposite view; in that you want access to this info (perhaps you are the parents of a beginning driver), devices are available now. If your vehicle is newer and GPS equipped, all you need is a special plug (adapter), if your vehicle [or, the one you’re letting the kid drive] is older, you may want to take a look at this Wall Street Journal article: http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB110911718132361463.html

Folks– there’s only a few days left. Tell me if you prefer this site’s new look by taking this 1-question survey Click Here to take survey

* Original posting– 8/17/07

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

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May 14, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, privacy, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments