Archive for June 2011

Why You MUST Protect Your Email Account

imageWhat would someone learn about you if they were able to go through your email?   Well let’s see, for starters they will know your name if they didn’t already.  They will know your contacts and all the information you store about your contacts.  They will learn about many of the companies you do business with.  They will probably find out who you have your frequent flyer miles with.  They will find out who you have credit cards with, where you bank and possibly even your political and religious inclinations.

So if you were a bad guy, what could you do with this information?  Go through your own email and see what kind of information a bad guy might use.  Did people send you emails on your birthday – bingo, the bad guy knows your birthday.  It’s probably easy to figure out where you live – before you know it you’ve become the victim of identity theft.

But let me give you an even scarier scenario.  The bad guy already knows your email address and your password (because you had an easy password to hack it took him no time at all to get into your account.)  Now that the bad guys have full access to your email, what you do think will happen when they go web sites belonging to your bank, your credit card companies and businesses (like Amazon and Apple) that keep your credit card information “on file”, enter your email address and click the button “I forgot my password”.  Have you ever forgotten your password and used that feature?  What do most of them do?  They send an EMAIL to you with a link that lets you reset your password.  So here’s the bad guy that clicks that button and all he has to do is watch your inbox and wait a few seconds for that email to arrive.  He clicks the link in the email, resets your password and BAM, the bad guy is now in your bank account – wire transferring money online to accounts you don’t own, your credit card accounts and can now go shopping with your credit cards at Amazon (and others.)

So oh no!  Lions and Tigers and Bears – oh my!  What can I do???  The first and best thing you can do is make sure you have a very strong password on your account.  It should be at least 10 characters long and have at least one of all of the following: Upper and lowercase alphabet characters, numbers and special characters.  If your dog is named “scooby” and your password is “scooby1”, your password will get cracked in about 1 second when a bad guy gets to your email account.  Make it “Scooby1” and it might take a second and a half.  Make is something like ###Scooby1$$$ and suddenly you have an almost impossible password to crack (no totally impossible, but since it will take over 100 CENTURIES for them to crack your password, they’ll probably give up before that.

The longer your password is, it gets exponentially harder to crack. So pad your password with numbers and special characters at both ends and you’ll have a password you can remember but will keep the bad guys out.

I would really feel sad if anyone who knows about my blog got hacked and lost money or had to go through the ordeal of dealing with identity theft, when simply beefing up their email password would have prevented it.

BUT THERE’S MORE YOU CAN DO!  I recently wrote about multi-factor authentication.  As far as I know, only Google is offering multi-factor authentication for its Gmail service.  The article I wrote is HERE, so I won’t go into detail here, but the idea that you have not only know the password but ALSO have (in this case) a phone to receive a text message with an access code makes it impossible for a hacker to get into your account, ever if you have a sorry, easy to guess password.

When I log into my Gmail account at home, it only asks me once a month to authenticate with a second number which is sent to my cell phone.  If I need to log in at a computer I don’t normally use, for example at a client’s home, I can log in and it will prompt me for a second code which is on my phone.   I don’t click the “30 day” box and so even if my login username and password was seen, it can’t be used again on that computer (or any other except for my home computer) without the secondary code which by the way changes every 60 seconds.

So here are the TWO reasons I tell my clients why they should not use their cable tv or telephone providers email address, and get an email account with Gmail.  #1) You will never have to change your email address again unless you want to.  When your email address is [email protected] (for Time-Warner customers) or [email protected] or something similar for AT&T customers, all you have to do is either move to a new location where your old service provider doesn’t have service or you just hate the current service you get and you want to change to someone else.  This means your old email account will get cut off and you will have to tell everyone you know and do business with about your new email address – until you can’t stand them anymore and move to someone new again and get a NEW email address again. 

So submit yourself to the pain just ONCE, and get a Gmail account.  You can still use your old email account but over the next several months you can tell your friends to start using the new address and six months from now you can STOP using that old account that is also probably filled with spam (just a bonus – no spam from your old account) and now you have an account that is not only free of spam, but you have much better security control over.

Call if you need help, but PLEASE, if your email address ends in,,,, or pretty much any other account that doesn’t offer multi-factor authentication, get a new email address with Google and use a GREAT password on all your accounts.

DEAL: 23” Acer Monitor for $149 at Walmart

imageWalmart has an Acer 23” monitor for only $149.  It has a full HD resolution of 1980×1024.  I really like this monitor, it’s the right combination of price, size and resolution.  It’s available online and may be in stock in your local store.  Here’s the link to Walmart’s page:

Free Facebook Apps Warns You of Malware & Spam

imageMyPageKeeper is a free app you can add to Facebook to warn you if spam or a malicious post has been added to your page.  Often a friend’s account may be compromised and a post may show up on your page that links to a malicious page.  MyPageKeeper will let you know about it and allow you to remove it.

If you use Facebook, this would be one of the apps to use.  Here’s the link to their web where you can add it to your Facebook account:

Find the Cheapest Gas with Gas Buddy

imageAbout four months ago I first mentioned Gas Buddy and though gas has come down in the last couple of weeks, it’s still not cheap and after I saved 20 CENTS A GALLON a few days ago I thought I’d mention it again.  Gas Buddy is available on Android, iOS (iPhone), Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry.  You can also just use your PC and go directly to their web site to find the best price.

I normally buy my gas at HEB, they usually have the best price near my home, but I was driving through Cedar Park, pulled up Gas Buddy and holy smoke gas got cheap.  I don’t know why it’s so much cheaper, but the station I found on Gas Buddy was new and had crazy low prices, well worth the few blocks diversion.

Here’s the link to Gas Buddy:

Has Your Password Been Hacked?

imageThere has been an outbreak of major companies getting hacked and user data being taken.  Often the hackers post some or all of the hacked data to prove they did it.

Well, some industrious individual has combined the available data and created a website called “Should I Change My Password?”  All you have to do is type in your email address and the page will tell you if that address is among the KNOWN hacked addresses.  If it finds a match the site will advise you to change all your passwords, which you should do.  Now if the site does not find a match that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to be safe, it just means you’re not in the available data, so as always be sure your passwords are strong and don’t use the same one for all your sites.  Here’s the link, give it a try:

DEAL: 14” Dell Vostro Laptop with Core i5 – $529!

imageI don’t think this deal will last long, in fact Dell’s site already says there is a 3-day delay in shipping these.  Dell has their Vostro 3450 laptop on sale for $629, to save an additional $100,  upgrade the warranty to two years and at checkout add the coupon code R975$?FPRF?31X.  You’ll also get free next business day shipping (once they’re back in stock.)  This is probably the best price I’ve seen on a top tier laptop with a Core i5 processor.  The laptop also comes with 4GB of memory, a 320GB hard drive, Windows 7 Professional, webcam,  Office 2010 Starter Edition (a free “light” version of Word and Excel – good enough for average use,) wireless N networking, DVD burner and a BACKLIT KEYBOARD!  This is a great deal for a great laptop with a great warranty – along with the two year warranty if they can’t fix your computer over the phone Dell will send someone out to you the next business day to fix it!

Here’s the link to Dell’s site – be sure to upgrade the warranty to 2 years and enter the coupon code at checkout:

Make Web Pages Easier to Read With Your Mouse

imageIf you’re under 40 then web pages probably don’t pose much of a problem for you.  If you’re over 40 you may be wondering why the type is so small.  Well, it’s because you’re over 40 (go ask your optometrist.)  The good news is that it’s easy to enlarge web pages, and when you combine that with widescreen monitors giving you lots of extra space on the left and right you’ve can enjoy web sites without having to reach for your glasses.

Unless you have a smaller monitor running at a resolution of 1024×768, you probably see extra black space here on my web site.  To take advantage of the extra space and enlarge the page, all you have to do is press the Control key on your keyboard and turn the scroll wheel on your mouse.  Give it a try – one way zooms in and the other zooms out. 

You can do the same thing with just your keyboard.  In Windows hold the Control key (Ctrl) and use the + key to zoom in and the – key to zoom out.  On a Mac use the Command key with the + and – keys.  Another trick with the Mac you can do is go into your System Preference, select “Keyboard and Mouse”, Select “Trackpad” and enable “Zoom while holding Control”.  Now when you hold the Control key on your MacBook you can zoom in and out just sliding up and down the trackpad.  Pretty cool.

So enjoy the extra space your widescreen monitor gives you, and if you still need to use your glasses after enlarging a web page – well, that’s life.

A Tech GIANT turns 100 Years Old – Really!

imageI’m not kidding, a name you’ve heard of since you were a kid turned 100 years old yesterday.  I’ll let you think about it for a little bit while I tell you what else happened the same year this company was started…

In 1911:

– The Brooklyn Dodgers announced plans to build a new concrete and steel stadium.

– The first photograph from an airplane was taken over San Diego

– The FIRST Indianapolis 500 was run

– Earl Ovington becomes 1st air mail pilot

– Ronald Reagan was born

– The San Francisco Symphony was formed

– Marie Curie gets her 2nd Nobel Prize

– The United States sends 20,000 troops to the Mexican border

So who is this tech company that was formed when airplanes were considered a new fangled thing?  IBM.  That’s right, International Business Machines.  PC World has a short article talking about the beginnings of IBM, interesting even if you’re NOT a geek.

Spam for the Kindle Store – oh Boy!

imageI know you Kindle owners (and Kindle App owners with iPad or Android tablets) LOVE your Kindle books, but Reuters is reports that spam books are on the rise in the Kindle store – pretty much close to worthless eBooks are clogging the store, making it harder to find the good books.  Follow the link to the Reuters article:

Keep Your Computer Updated! It’s the 2nd Tuesday of the Month – Yay!!!

imageOur favorite day of the month, the 2nd Tuesday, when Microsoft pushes out updates to its products.  Also be looking for other products like Java, Adobe Flash and Adobe Acrobat Reader to have updates as well.  Computers that have NOT been updated is how the bad guys get into your system.  Don’t become a victim of yourself – keep your system up to date (that goes for you Mac users too!)

Glow Hockey – Today’s Free Android App

imageToday’s free Android App at the Amazon App Store is Glow Hockey, air hockey for your phone, lot of fun but I lost even on the “easy” level, but hey, I’m not perhaps the greatest gamer.

If you don’t have the Amazon App Store “app” on your phone, go here to get it, then on your phone you download the game  Remember, everyday is a new free app, I check it everyday.

Citicorp Hacked in May, Just Now Telling Us

imageThe New York Times has reported that Citicorp  was hacked back in May revealing over 200,000 names, account numbers, email addresses and transaction histories.  So if you have an account with them, be very cautious if you get an email allegedly from them – and NEVER click on a link within the email.  If it asks you to go to the bank’s website, then open your web browser and type it in yourself.  One thing they didn’t get was your password but they’ll to get it.  If your password is pretty simple, you would be well advised to log onto your bank’s site and change your password, making it harder for someone to hack.  Here’s the link to the N.Y. Times article:

DEAL: 17.3” Dell Laptop with Core i5 only $499!

imageBelieve it or not, Best Buy is the place to go for this deal, and this is a good one.  Any Core i5 laptop is going to give you excellent performance, and $499 is a great price for any computer with this processor.  Add to this the fact that this is a big 17.3” screen from Dell and you’re not going to find deals like this very often.  A big 640GB hard drive and 6GB of memory make this a computer you can edit your home videos with as well as work on large Photoshop files without breaking a sweat.  It also has a DVD burner that can PLAY Blu-Ray movies, a HDMI port so you can connect it directly to your HDTV and it also has a webcam and a flash memory card reader.

If there’s a downside, it’s that this thing will be big and heavy.  Best Buy says it weights 6.7 lbs., Dell’s website says 7.1.  You probably wouldn’t want to carry this around all day long.  Also the larger screen is going to eat into the battery life – so if you want something portable that will run for a long time on batteries then this isn’t for you.  But if you want a computer you can easily move around with a nice big display that you can connect to your HDTV, this is a really good one.  You can order it online or check to see if they have it in your local store.  Here’s the link:

Six Things Geek Dads REALLY Want for Father’s Day

imageTech Republic’s Jason Hiner wrote a great article on what you can do for your geeky father on Father’s Day to really show how much you love him.  Follow the link and though you may not understand the geek within, at least he’ll know that you love the geek within:

Microsoft Won’t Call You at Home Out of the Blue

imageI’ve heard of this recently occurring in the U.K., but today I had a client tell me HE got a call a week ago from someone claiming to be from Microsoft.  The person had an accent that indicated he was probably calling from India.  This person said that a virus had been detected on his computer and they were going to help him remove it.  Fortunately he was smart enough to realize that Microsoft doesn’t KNOW his phone number, so he immediately was suspicious and didn’t give them any information.  They will try to get you to go to a web site to install software to “remove” the virus (it will in face INSTALL a virus), and may even try to get your credit card information to pay for certain services.

Please don’t fall for this.  This is just a phone scam and since most computer users run Windows, their chance is pretty good that the people they call will actually have a Windows computer.  Obviously homes that only have mac’s get a pretty good laugh when they hear their “Windows” pc has a virus.

This is all about social engineering, getting you to believe what is false to actually be true because it “sounds” true.  Don’t be fooled, don’t get tricked.  Readers of my blog here are pretty smart and there’s no reason you should get stung by the bad guys.  Be sure to let your friends and family know that the bad guys are stepping up their approach and they should ALWAYS be on the lookout for scam artists.

Computer repair in Austin, computer service in Austin, Windows help in Austin, computer repair in Steiner Ranch, computer repair in Lakeway, pc repair in Austin, pc service in Steiner Ranch, pc service in Lakeway.