• Posted on March 27, 2017 2:45 pm
    Joseph Forbes
    1

    The Cyber Division of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued an alert to warn the healthcare industry that malicious actors are actively targeting File Transfer Protocol (FTP) servers that allow anonymous access. According to the law enforcement agency, attackers have targeted the FTP servers of medical and dental facilities in an effort to obtain access to protected health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII), and use it to intimidate, blackmail and harass business owners. “The FBI recommends medical and dental healthcare entities request their respective IT services personnel to check networks for FTP servers running in anonymous mode. If businesses have a legitimate use for operating a FTP server in anonymous mode, administrators should ensure sensitive PHI or PII is not stored on the server,” the FBI said. The agency cited research conducted in 2015 by the University of Michigan, which showed that more than one million FTP servers had been configured for anonymous access. These servers allow users to authenticate with only a username, such as “anonymous” or “ftp,” and either a generic password or no password at all. The FBI pointed out that vulnerable FTP servers can also be abused to store malicious tools or to launch cyberattacks. “In general, any misconfigured or unsecured server operating on a business network on which sensitive data is stored or processed exposes the business to data theft and compromise by cyber criminals who can use the data for criminal purposes such as blackmail, identity theft, or financial fraud,” the FBI warned. In 2015, IBM named healthcare as the most attacked industry, with more than 100 million records compromised, after in the previous year this sector did not even make it to the top five. An IBM report for 2016 showed that the volume of compromised records was smaller, but the number of data breaches increased, causing operational, reputational and financial damage to healthcare organizations. A report published recently by Fortinet showed the top threats targeting healthcare companies in the last quarter of 2016, including malware, ransomware, IPS events, exploit kits and botnets.

    Blog Entry, DATA, Hacking
  • Posted on March 26, 2017 12:00 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    This list describes common causes of slow Internet connections in homes. A poorly performing connection can be caused by broadband router configuration errors, wireless interference, or any of several other technical issues with your home network. Use these tips to not only diagnose but also fix the causes of slow Internet connections. Many of them apply to wireless hotspot connections, too. 1 Check Your Broadband Router Settings stefanamer/iStock As the centerpiece of a network, a broadband router can be responsible for slow Internet connections if configured improperly. For example, the MTU setting of your router will lead to performance issues if set too high or too low. Ensure your router's settings are all consistent with the manufacturer's and your Internet Service Provider (ISP) recommendations. Carefully record any changes you make to your router's configuration so that you can undo them later if necessary. 2 Avoid Wireless Signal Interference United States Radio Spectrum - Frequency Allocations. www.ntia.doc.gov Wi-Fi and other types of wireless connections may perform poorly due to signal interference, which requires computers to continually resend messages to overcome signal issues. Household appliances and even your neighbors' wireless networks can interfere with your computers. To avoid slow Internet connections due to signal interference, reposition your router for better performance and change your Wi-Fi channel number. 3 Beware of Worms... Internet Worms An Internet worm is a malicious software program that spreads from device to device through computer networks. If any of your computers are infected by an Internet worm, they may begin spontaneously generating network traffic without your knowledge, causing your Internet connection to appear slow. Keep up-to-date antivirus software running to catch and remove these worms from your devices. 4 Stop Network Applications Running in the Background Some software applications you install on a computer run as so-called background processes - hidden behind other apps or minimized to the system tray - quietly consuming network resources. Unlike worms, these applications are designed to do useful work and not the kind a person wishes to remove from their device normally. Games and programs that work with videos in particular can heavily utilize your network and cause connections to appear slow. It's easy to forget these applications are running. Always check computers for any programs running in the background when troubleshooting a slow network. 5 Isolate and Repair Faulty Network Equipment When routers, modems or cables malfunction, they won't properly support network traffic at full speeds. Certain technical glitches in network equipment negatively affect performance even though connections themselves can sometimes still be made. To troubleshoot potentially faulty equipment, temporarily re-arrange and re-configure your gear while experimenting with different configurations. Systematically try bypassing the router, swapping cables, and tests with multiple devices to isolate the slow performance to a specific component of the system. Then decide if it can somehow be upgraded or repaired... or if it needs to be replaced. 6 Work with Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) if Necessary Command Prompt - Ping - Unresponsive IP Address. Bradley Mitchell / About.com Internet speed ultimately depends on the service provider. Your ISP may change their network's configuration or suffer technical difficulties that inadvertently cause your Internet connection to run slowly. ISPs may also intentionally install filters or controls on the network that can lower your performance. Don't hesitate to contact your service provider if you suspect they are responsible for a slow Internet connection.

    Blog Entry, DATA, Internet
  • Posted on March 19, 2017 11:16 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Websites getting blacklisted is a very extensive problem faced by businesses. When it happens, web masters panic and the vendors face an interruption in their daily business as they struggle to assist their concerned consumers to clean their websites and return online. It can happen due to a variety of reasons. Even Google may blacklist a website, and on an average, it's been estimated that about 10,000+ websites get blacklisted on a daily basis.​ Getting to Know about the Mishap Many businesses cannot afford to install costly monitoring programs or employ security experts and often take time to realize that their site has been blacklisted. Almost 50% of the business owners are warned about the compromised site by a search engine, browser or other alert when they try to visit their own site. Time is the biggest enemy of blacklisted websites as every minute that the site remains blocked is precious and leads to revenue losses due to the bad impact on its marketing activities and eventually sales and loss of the organization’s reputation. Be Prepared to Deal with the Problem It might take several hours or even days to get rid of the malware and protect a website based on the infection’s severity; it also depends on whether or not the website is secured by an effective and frequent backup regimen. The foremost part of the fix is eradication of the malware and restoration of the website. Even after this process, the web masters have to request Google to review the site before getting the block removed. Dealing with Black-listed Websites Web hosts find it to be a nightmare to handle blacklisted client websites, straining their operations and possibly weakening their credibility. Clients generally fail to understand the reason behind the blacklisting of their site and tend to unjustly put the blame on their host. Smart hosting vendors should extend assistance to their customers and help them get over the trouble at the earliest. Hosts that provide robust tools to solve the problem of their clients will finally instil a sense of loyalty and confidence in them. Vendors that lack these tools may waste considerable resources on remediation and in the process, even lose their valuable clients. Blacklist remediation will not be an extensive ordeal if the affected site owners have smart automatic backup regimen in place as they can restore the functionality and files of the affected site easily with the right tools. To help their clients, hosting vendors should be aware of the following remediation steps so that it can be implemented efficiently and quickly as soon as a client finds out that his website has been blacklisted. Look for Malware Check for malware by running efficient antivirus programs on all the computers used by an admin for logging into the website. Also, scrutinize the server logs for any activity by the admin whose computer is infected. Change the logins and passwords for all accounts, including those of database access, FTP, CMS accounts, and system administrator. Ensure that strong passwords are set. A sophisticated hosting provider should let their customers to make these changes easily on a dashboard interface. Let customers know how important it’s to install the latest editions of Operating Systems, apps, blogging platform, CMS, and plug-ins. Delete any new or modified file that has been added to the server after detection of the problem and execute a complete system restore. The restoration can be completed through a single click if you provide a cloud-oriented auto backup and disaster recovery services to your clients. If not, the clients will have to find the latest clean editions of each modified file and manually download them. Request Google to Review the Site and Remove the Blacklist This is the best way for hosting vendors to handle the remediation as soon as possible; just ensure that the tools required for getting a customer’s website back online are ready with you always.

    Blog Entry, DATA, Internet
  • Posted on March 14, 2017 11:45 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Several small and midsize businesses are susceptible to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. What would be the best way for such businesses to handle this problem? Plan ahead – this is what security experts suggest based on their experiences in the past! A majority of the small businesses and start-ups have small teams with very little resources to defend DDoS attacks. As indicated by the name of the attack, it stops users from accessing the services and a site by hurling lot of data against the firm’s web and hosting services. If you are wondering if DDoS attacks are really so common that businesses need to be concerned about it, statistics indicate that around 2,000 such attacks happen on a daily basis costing a loss of revenue in the range of $5,000 - $40,000 per hour for businesses. Hackers can be fake vandalists, competitors, hactivists or extortionists. If your company isn’t equipped with professional network security experts, here are few things you can do to stay safe from DDoS attacks. Stay Prepared Every business should have a disaster recovery plan ready for DDoS attacks. Some of the best practices should include identifying the key employees who are given the responsibility. Establish the roles of every team member, their tasks and requirements. Give the team the needed practice on a mock basis so that those involved are aware of how to handle things when a disaster happens inevitably. Work with your internal PR and IT teams, ISP and hosting providers to recognize the susceptible aspects of failure, routes of escape and technical gaps. Understand DDoS Attack  There are many well-tested DDoS prevention programs that run advanced algorithms to identify various kinds of traffic. They try to sniff out, identify and filter different kinds of benign and malevolent bots and allow only legitimate traffic. It’s not easy to judge from just one instance if the hack is just amateurish or professional, though it’s fairly assumed that any network attack that crosses 50 Gbps is likely to be professional. Mostly multiplied under the inoffensive category of 'network security programs,' few of the very common hack devices are called stressors or booters. As implied by the name, these devices intensify and focus the payload of DDoS. Be Ready to Respond with Your Guns As in all cases of disaster reaction, stay calm without panicking. Ensure that your services are up and running; give your customers a brief. Your team can respond readily only if you’ve prepared properly. Co-ordinate with your team members and optimize the tactics for the disaster response. Once the attack is mitigated by your tech team, ensure that the communication team is ready to reveal the details to the press and legal team is prepared to handle the possible regulatory and compliance part. If you are asked to pay the attacker a ransom, don’t do it as this will only mark your organization and they may return for more. Once you are identified this way, other hackers may also sense it and come your way. Learn and Implement Once the attack subsides, try to learn things from the attack. Analyse strongly as to what went right and what went wrong.  Ensure that your legal and IT teams collect the required forensic information. Create a communication protocol to deal with the internal team queries, your clients and the press. Try to detect the network holdups from the attack and select an infrastructure with inherent resiliency. Analysis and communication are the two aspects that will go a long way in preparing for the next attack and enhance your team morale. And, you should be wary of the latest threats emerging in the cyber world such as the latest DDoS Extortion Attack.

    Blog Entry, DATA, Hacking
  • Posted on March 10, 2017 12:02 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    The term Denial of Service (DoS) refers to events that render systems on a computer network temporarily unusable.  Denials of service can happen accidentally as the result of actions taken by network users or administrators, but often they are malicious DoS attacks. One of the more recent DDoS attacks (more on these below) occurred on Friday, October 21, 2016, and rendered many popular websites completely unusable for most of the day. Denial of Service Attacks DoS attacks exploit various weaknesses in computer network technologies. They may target servers, network routers, or network communication links. They can cause computers and routers to shut down ("crash") and links to bog down. They usually do not cause permanent damage. Perhaps the most famous DoS technique is Ping of Death. The Ping of Death attack works by generating and sending special network messages (specifically, ICMP packets of non-standard sizes) that cause problems for systems that receive them. In the early days of the Web, this attack could cause unprotected Internet servers to crash quickly. Modern Web sites have generally all been safeguarded against DoS attacks but they're certainly not immune. Ping of Death is one kind of buffer overflow attack. These attacks overrun a target computer's memory and break its programming logic by sending things of larger sizes than it was designed to handle. Other basic types of DoS attacks involve flooding a network with useless activity so that genuine traffic cannot get through. The TCP/IP SYN and smurf  attacks are two common examples. remotely overloading a system's CPU so that valid requests cannot be processed. changing permissions or breaking authorization logic to prevent users from logging into a system. One common example involves triggering a rapid series of false login attempts that lock out accounts from being able to log in. deleting or interfering with specific critical applications or services to prevent their normal operation (even if the system and network overall are functional). DoS attacks are most common against Web sites that provide controversial information or services. The financial cost of these attacks can be very large. Those involved in planning or executing attacks are subject to criminal prosecution as in the case of Jake Davis (pictured) of the hacking group Lulzsec. DDoS - Distributed Denial of Service Traditional denial of service attacks are triggered by just one person or computer. In comparison, a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack involves multiple parties. Malicious DDoS attacks on the Internet, for example, organize large numbers of computers into a coordinated group called a botnet that are then capable of flooding a target site with immense amounts of network traffic. Accidental DoS Denials of service can also be triggered unintentionally in several ways: many users suddenly trying to access a network or server at the same time, such as visiting a public Web site where a major social event is happening network administrators accidentally unplugging a cable, or incorrectly configuring routers a system becoming infected with a computer virus or worm

    Blog Entry, DATA, KnowledgeBase (KB)
  • Posted on March 1, 2017 2:54 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    An Overview of Bittorrent P2P File Sharing Question: What exactly is "bittorrent" sharing? Answer: Bittorrent networking is the most popular form of modern P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing. Since 2006, bittorrent sharing has been the primary means for users to trade software, music, movies, and digital books online. Torrents are very unpopular with the MPAA, the RIAA, and other copyright authorities, but are much beloved by millions of college and university students around the planet. Bittorrents (also known as "torrents") work by downloading small bits of files from many different web sources at the same time. Torrent downloading is extremely easy to use, and outside of a few torrent search providers, torrents themselves are free of user fees. Torrent networking debuted in 2001. A Python-language programmer, Bram Cohen, created the technology with the intent to share it with everyone. And indeed, its popularity has taken off since 2005. The torrent community has now grown to millions of users worldwide in 2009. Because torrents strive to screen out dummy and corrupt files, are mostly free of adware/spyware, and achieve amazing download speeds, torrent popularity is still growing fast. By straight gigabytes of bandwidth used, bittorrent networking is the most popular activity on the Internet today. How are torrents special? How is the torrent community different from Kazaa and other networks? Answer: Like the other file-sharing networks (Kazaa, Limewire (now defunct), Gnutella, eDonkey, and Shareaza) Bittorrent's primary purpose is to distribute large media files to private users. Unlike most P2P networks, however, torrents stand out for 5 major reasons: Torrent networking is NOT a publish-subscribe model like Kazaa; instead, torrents are true Peer-to-Peer networking where the users themselves do the actual file serving. Torrents enforce 99% quality control by filtering out corrupted and dummy files, ensuring that downloads contain only what they claim to contain. There is still some abuse of the system, but if you use a community torrent searcher like www.thepiratebay.org, users will warn you when a torrent is a fake or dummy file. Torrents actively encourage users to share ("seed") their complete files, while simultaneously penalizing users who "leech". Torrents can achieve download speeds over 3.5 megabits per second. Torrent code is open-source, advertising-free, and adware/spyware-free. This means that no single person profits from torrent success.   Question: How exactly does bittorrent sharing work? Answer: Torrent sharing is about "swarming and tracking", where users download many small bits from many different sources at once. Because this format compensates for bottleneck points, it is actually faster than downloading a large file from a single source. "Swarming" is about splitting large files into hundreds of smaller "bits", and then sharing those bits across a "swarm" of dozens of linked users. "Tracking" is when specific servers help swarm users find each other. Swarm members use special Torrent client software to upload, download, and reconstruct the many file bits into complete usable files. Special .torrent text files act as pointers during this whole process, helping users find other users to swarm with, and enforcing quality control on all shared files. Comment: Torrent vs. Kazaa. Torrents are different from the competing Kazaa network in one significant way: torrents are true P2P sharing. Instead of "publisher servers" dishing out files, torrent users do the file serving. Torrent users voluntarily upload their file bits to their swarm without payment or advertising revenue. You could say torrent users are motivated, not by money, but by a "Pay-It-Forward" cooperative spirit. If you recall the Napster.com model of the 1990's, bittorrent swarming is the same, but with sharing incentive added. Torrent sharing goes like this: if you share files via bittorrents, you will be rewarded with increased download speed. Conversely, if you choose to "leech" and not share your files upwards, you will be punished with slow Torrent download speeds. Download speed is controlled by torrent tracking servers, who monitor all swarm users. If you share, tracker servers will reward you by increasing your alotted swarm bandwidth (sometimes up to 1500 kilobits per second). Similarly, if you leech and limit your upload sharing, tracking servers will choke your download speeds, sometimes to as slow as 1 kilobit per second. Indeed, the "Pay It Forward" philosophy is digitally enforced! Leeches are not welcome in a bittorrent swarm. Question: How do I start using bittorrent? Answer: Bittorrent "swarming" requires six major ingredients. Bittorrent client software (there are dozens of choices, all free to install). A tracker server (hundreds of them exist on the Web, no cost to use). A .torrent text file that points to the movie/song/file you want to download. A Torrent search engine that helps you find these .torrent text files. A specially-configured Internet connection with port 6881 opened on the server/router to allow torrent file trading. A working understanding of file management on your PC/Macintosh. You will need to navigate hundreds of folders and filenames to make file sharing work for you. Setup Comment: At the very worst, it will take you about one day to set up your PC or Mac for torrent swarming. If you don't employ a hardware router or software firewall with your modem, then setup will likely take only 30 minutes of choosing and installing your bittorrent client. If you do use a hardware router or firewall (which is a smart way to configure your home machine), you are likely to get "NAT" error messages at first. This is because your router/firewall has not been taught to "trust" your bittorrent data yet. Once you open digital port 6881 on the router/firewall, the NAT messages should stop and your bittorrent connection should work just fine.    Question: What exactly are the Bittorrent download steps? Answer, Part 1: Copyright warning. Unless you live in Canada, you must understand that copyright laws are commonly violated by P2P sharing. If you download/upload a song, movie, or TV show, you do risk a civil lawsuit. Canadians are somewhat protected from these lawsuits because of a Canadian court ruling, but not residents of the USA or most parts of Europe and Asia. This lawsuit risk is a reality, and you must accept this risk if you choose to download P2P files. Click here for more details on this copyright controversy. Answer, Part 2: The torrent download process goes likes this: You use special torrent search engines to find .torrent text files around the Net. A .torrent text file functions as a special pointer to locate a specific file and the swarm of people currently sharing that file. These .torrent files vary from 15kb to 150kb file size, and are published by serious Torrent sharers around the world. You download the desired .torrent file to your drive (this takes about 5 seconds per .torrent file at cable modem speeds). You open the .torrent file into your torrent software. Usually, this is as simple as a a double-click on the .torrent file icon, and the client software auto-launches. In other cases, this software will even open the torrent file for you. The torrent client software will now talk to a tracker server for 2 to 10 minutes, while it scours the Internet for people to swarm with. Specifically, the client and tracker server will search for other users who have the same exact .torrent file as you. As the tracker locates torrent users to swarm with, each user will be automatically labeled as either a “leech/peer” or as a “seed” (users who have only part of the target file, versus users who have the complete target file). As you might guess, the more seeds you connect to, the faster your download will be. Commonly, 10 peers/leeches and 3 seeders is a good swarm for downloading a single song/movie. The client software then begins the transfer. As the name “sharing” implies, every transfer will happen in both directions, “down” and “up” (leech and share). *SPEED EXPECTATION: Cable and DSL modem users can expect an average of 25 megabytes per hour, sometimes slower if the swarm is small with less than 2 seeders. On a good day with a big swarm, however, you can download a 5MB song within 3 minutes, and a 900MB movie within 60 minutes. Once the transfer is complete, leave your torrent client software running for at least two hours. This is called "seeding" or "good karma", where you share your complete files to other users. Suggestion: do your downloads just before you go to sleep at night. This way, you will seed your complete files, you will increase your upload/download ratio, and you will have complete downloaded files by the time you wake up! Movie and music plug-ins: you will likely need to install media players and updated codec converters to play your downloads: e.g Windows Media Player, DivX, RealAudio, Daemon Tools Virtual CD/DVD. Click here for details on getting these plug-in players. e.g. XP Codec Pack and other coder-decoder converters. Enjoy your movies and songs! Fair warning: you will want a second hard drive once you start serious torrent downloading. Songs and movies require large disk space, and an average P2P user commonly has 20 to 40 GB of media files at any one time. A second 500GB hard drive is common for serious P2P users, and the recent low prices on hard drives make it a good investment. Other resources you will need for Bittorrent downloading: Here is a list of good torrent search engines. Here is a list of good torrent software for PC and Mac. Here is the original torrent client software (no GUI, just console). Bittorrent Frequently Asked Questions. Meet Bram Cohen, the torrent creator.  

    Blog Entry
  • Posted on February 24, 2017 11:49 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    What would you do if your most private information was suddenly available online, for anyone to see? Just imagine: pictures, videos, financial information, emails... all accessible without your knowledge or consent to anyone who cares to look for it.  We've probably all seen news items come out about various celebrities and political figures who have been less careful than they should be with information that was not meant for public consumption. Without proper oversight of this sensitive information, it can become available to anyone with an Internet connection. Keeping information safe and protected online is a growing concern for many people, not just political figures and celebrities. It's smart to consider what privacy precautions you might have in place for your own personal information: financial, legal, and personal. In this article, we're going to go over five practical ways you can start protecting your privacy while online to guard yourself against any potential leaks, avoid embarrassment, and keep your information safe and secure. Create Unique Passwords and Usernames for Each Online Service Many people use the same usernames and passwords across all their online services. After all, there are so many, and it can be difficult to keep track of a different login and password for all of them. If you're looking for a way to generate and keep track of multiple secure passwords, KeePass is a good option, plus it's free: "KeePass is a free open source password manager, which helps you to manage your passwords in a secure way. You can put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key or a key file. So you only have to remember one single master password or select the key file to unlock the whole database. The databases are encrypted using the best and most secure encryption algorithms currently known (AES and Twofish)." Don't Assume Services are Safeguarding Your Information Online storage sites such as DropBox do a pretty good job of keeping your information safe and secure. However, if you're concerned that what you're uploading is especially sensitive, you should encrypt it - services like BoxCryptor will do that for you for free (tiered pricing levels do apply). Be Careful Sharing Information Online We're asked to fill out forms or log into a new service all the time on the Web. What is all this information used for? Companies make a lot of money analyzing and using the data that we are freely giving them. If you'd like to stay a little bit more private, you can use BugMeNot to avoid filling out unnecessary forms that ask for too much personal information and keep it for other uses. Never Give Out Private Information We should all know by now that giving out personal information (name, address, phone number, etc.) is a big no-no online. However, many people don't realize that the information that they are posting on forums and message boards and social media platforms can be put together piece by piece to create a very complete picture. This practice is called "doxxing", and is becoming more of a problem, especially since many people use the same username across all of their online services. In order to avoid this happening, be extremely cautious in how much information you're giving out, and make sure you don't use the same username across services (see the first paragraph in this article for a quick review!). Log Out of Sites Often Here's a scenario that happens all too often: John decides to take a break at work, and during that time, he decides to check his bank balance. He gets distracted and leaves the bank balance page up on his computer, leaving secure information out for anyone to see and use. This kind of thing happens all the time: financial information, social media logins, email, etc. can all be compromised extremely easily. The best practice is to make sure you're on a secure computer (not public or work) when you're looking at personal information, and to log out of any site you might be using on a public computer so that other people who have access to that computer will not be able to access your information. Prioritize Online Privacy Let's face it: while we'd like to think that everyone we come in contact with has our best interests at heart, this is sadly not always the case — and especially applies when we're online. Use the tips in this article to protect yourself from unwanted leaks of your personal information on the web.

    Blog Entry, Internet
  • Posted on February 12, 2017 6:50 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    Well it always happens (short post), eventually automation gets comfortable with itself and BOOM!  An Update overwrote our custom theme. Across my SNX Consulting network, I accidently applied a theme update to my custom "Vanilla" theme which I'm using as a placeholder.  Welp, it just happens to be the same name of another theme that is publically available through WordPress.   So through my "left-clicky" of Apply Updates, I ended up overwriting my custom theme. Basically means, my homepage is now showing someone else's theme work, and a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream. A Yummy Mistake!, So after I go get a bowl of Vanilla Ice Cream, I'll look for my backup. Maybe have it fixed by Monday

    Blog Entry, HAPPINESS
  • Posted on February 10, 2017 11:39 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Welcome to the exciting world of bittorrent downloading! While file sharing is controversial and often accused of being 'music piracy', millions of users continue to share their files, and thousands of new torrent users are added every day. To get you started, here are 5 quick tutorials for beginning torrent users. We recommend that you read the following articles in order. We also recommend that you install reliable antivirus software before you actually start downloading. Happy reading, and enjoy your new torrent download experience!   1 Torrents 101: Understand How Bittorrent File Sharing Works Paul Taylor/Stone/Getty ImagesIf you are new to torrent downloading, then you will definitely want to read about how the system works.  Torrents, aka 'bittorrents',  are pointer files that help you locate dozens of other users' computers.  You then connect to those private computers with your special torrent software, and copy their music and movie files to your own computer. Read more about how torrent downloading works... 2 Use a VPN Connection to Cloak Your File Sharing Signal Tunnelbear.com. Tunnelbear.comBy subscribing to a virtual private network service, you can mask your connection and identity as you share files.  Your VPN connection will cipher your connection so that eavesdroppers will only see illegible data when they try to view your downloads.  Simultaneously, a VPN will bounce your signal off multiple servers, making your physically very difficult to trace. Here are some very good choices for a VPN privacy service... 3 The Best Torrent Software Torrent downloading requires special software that can read .torrent files.  These torrent software products also need to provide management control over download and upload speeds, priorities, and cataloging. Here are several torrent software products that About.com readers recommend. 4 Best Torrent Download Sites: How to Find Torrent Movies and Music Once you understand torrent 'swarming' and have the torrent software installed, now it's time to find the .torrent pointer files that get you the music and movies you want.  Many torrent sites offer searching services for free (but with the annoyance of banner advertising).  Some torrent sites are private communities that closely guard their catalog of torrents. Read about the best torrent sites for beginners here... 5 Warning: How to Spot Fake Torrent Files Photodisc / Getty ImagesSadly, there are vandals, thieves, and scammers out there who will use phony torrent files to put malware on your computer.  By disguising their nasty software as attractive movies and music downloads, these scammers seek to deceive you into installing their stuff.  RAR files, WMV files, password-protected files: these are just some of the ways torrent files are faked. Read more about spotting fake torrent files here... 6 Protect Yourself from Bad Torrents with Antivirus There are many good antivirus products to choose from.  But when it comes to free antivirus tools, there is one product that really stands out: Avira.  In repeated tests by several computer professionals, Avira consistently caught more malware infections than its competition.

    Blog Entry
  • Posted on February 8, 2017 11:55 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Do you suspect your email account has been hacked? Can't login to your email account? Are you getting undeliverable and bounce messages for email you never sent? Are friends and family complaining of receiving email you never sent? Is it malware? A hacker? Here's how to tell. Undeliverable and Bounce Messages Spammers frequently spoof the From sender on the email they send. They just substitute their real email address with a random email address found on a mailing list or one just randomly made up. Some poorly configured email gateway products don't distinguish between the manually editable "From" address and the actual sender origin, so they simply send any undeliverable messages to the spoofed From address. To better understand how this works, and help you track down the real origin of an email, see: Reading Email Headers. Best defense: Simply delete the undeliverable/bounce messages. In other cases, email worms will send themselves disguised as an undeliverable/bounce message. The bogus email contains either a link or an attachment. Clicking the link or opening the attachment leads directly to a copy of the worm. Your best course is to learn to overcome curiosity. Best defense: If you receive an undeliverable or bounce message for an email you know you did not send, resist the temptation to open the attachment or click the link. Just delete the email. Unable to login to your email account If you are unable to login to your email account due to an invalid password, it's possible that someone has gained access and changed the password. It's also possible that the email service is experiencing a system outage of some sort. Before you panic, make sure your email provider is functioning normally. Best defense: Prevention is key. Most email providers offer a password recovery option. If you have even a hint of concern that your email password has been compromised, change your password immediately. If you specified an alternate email address as part of the password recovery, make sure that address is active and be sure to monitor the account regularly. In some cases, you may need to call your email provider and request a reset. If you go that route, be sure to change your password from the one provided during the phone call. Be sure to use a strong password. Email appearing in Sent Items folder If copies of the sent email are appearing in your Sent Items folder, then it's likely that some type of email worm might be involved. Most modern-day malware won't leave such tell-tale signs behind, so it, fortunately, would be indicative of an older, more easily removed threat. Best defense: Update your existing antivirus software and run a full system scan. Email is sent to address book, does not appear in the Sent folder, and it's a webmail account The most likely cause is phishing. Chances are at some point in the past, you were tricked into divulging your email username and password. This enables the attacker to login to your webmail account and send spam and malicious email to everyone in your address book. Sometimes they also use the hijacked account to send to strangers. Generally, they remove any copies from the Sent folder to avoid easy detection. Best defense: Change your password. Make sure you've checked the validity of any alternate email addresses included in the password recovery settings first. Symptoms don't match the above Best defense: Make sure you do a thorough check for a malware infection. Fully scan your system with installed up-to-date antivirus software and then get a second opinion with one of these free online scanners. Receiving complaints from friends, family, or strangers One of the problems with spoofed, hijacked or hacked email is that it can also lead to responses from angry recipients. Stay calm - remember, the recipients are just as much a victim as you. Best defense: Explain what happened and use the experience as an educational opportunity to help others avoid the same plight.

    Blog Entry, Data Recovery, Hacking
  • Posted on February 4, 2017 12:36 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    My run-in with the dark side of automatic updates One of the advantages I've touted for Windows 10 is the fact that updates are installed automatically. In effect, you don't have a choice, or at least your choices are limited. Microsoft pushes updates through to your computer and that's more or less it. I've called this a good thing, and I stand by that statement. The biggest security problem with Windows systems, after all, is unpatched computers -- not malware, nor Trojans, or viruses. No, it's people who don't update their systems, allowing malicious software easy entry into the operating system (OS). However, it's not all sunny days when it comes to automatic updates in Windows 10. I experienced the downside of those updates during the early days of the OS and thought I'd share my experiences here. It's a tale of fear, loss, and, ultimately, relief. An experience that almost crashed my computer in a really, really horrible way. I Don't Think '100%' Means What You Think It Means It started when I checked my Dell Studio 1737 laptop and saw a gray screen that said "Installing updates 100%", with "Do not turn off your computer" underneath, and a little swirling circle that typically indicates your computer is installing updates. In other words, Windows 10 automatically downloaded and installed an update, and now it was just finishing up. I waited for my PC to reboot, as is typical. I figured that it would happen momentarily, since the message told me that the update was 100 percent installed. I waited for the reboot, and waited, and waited, and…well, you get the idea. If it was indeed 100 percent installed, it shouldn't have taken this long. Then, because nothing was happening, I did what Windows warns you never to do: I turned off my computer. Using the Force (Shut Down) When I turned the computer back on, I got nothing. I tried "waking it up" by hitting the Enter key, then slamming on some other keys, then (perhaps a little too energetically) clicking the mouse. Often, this will bring up the desktop. But this time, nothing -- again. I then tried the classic "force shutdown" key combination of pressing the Ctrl+Alt+Delete keys at the same time (sometimes known as the "three finger salute"). The combination usually triggers a hard reboot, in which the computer turns off then restarts. But this time, nothing happened yet again. My next step was to press and hold the power button for about five seconds. I wasn't sure this would work, but it's helped in the past with other computers. And… voila! The computer shut down. I waited a few seconds, then turned it back on. But I got another gray, blank screen, and no boot sequence. I started to worry that something bad had gone wrong with Windows due to the update. This laptop is still fairly new and expensive. I couldn't afford to have it go down. I tried pressing and holding the power key again for five seconds. The computer shut down, again. Once I started up again, I got another message that Windows was updating. Wait -- what? Updating again? Didn't it update before? Doesn't "100% Updated" mean 100 percent updated? This time, I got progress messages like "18% updated … 35% updated … 72% updated…" Once again, it hit "100% Updated", just like it did when I had the first problem. Success At Last I held my breath, waiting to see if I was about to start the evil cycle all over again. But this time, I got my startup screen, and was able to log in to my computer. Whew! There would be no need to reinstall Windows this day. I next went into my update settings at Start>Settings>Update & Security>Update history. Here's what I saw: Update for Windows 10 for x64-based Systems (KB3081441) Failed to install on 8/19/2015   Cumulative Update for Windows 10 for x64-based Systems (KB3081444) Successfully installed on 8/19/2015 One update tried to install and failed, while another one succeeded. It wasn't the same update, since they have different "KB" numbers (KB is a Microsoft designation that identifies update packages). Oh, the Pain On top of all those updates, there was also a "Cumulative Update" for Windows 10 three days prior. At the time this told me that Microsoft was finding and fixing a lot of bugs in the OS, which is par for the course with a new version of Windows. It's also why you may want to wait for a little longer before updating to a major new version of Windows 10. Update problems can plague a number of Windows 10 users whenever a new release rolls out. While your choices are limited there are actions you can take to delay Windows 10 updates. We'll take a look at that in an upcoming Windows 10 Updates survival guide. Ultimately, these forced updates are still a good thing despite my experiences. It can, however, be a pain for early adopters.

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  • Posted on February 3, 2017 11:33 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Using keyboard shortcuts help you use your laptop without a mouse Keyboard shortcuts greatly enhance your productivity and save you a whole lot of time. Instead of pointing and clicking with the touchpad or external mouse, you can keep your hands on the keyboard and simply press combinations of keys on to get things done. Besides making you more efficient, using keyboard shortcuts also can reduce wrist strain. Here are the best Windows shortcuts you should know or print for quick reference. 16 Essential Keyboard Shortcuts Copy, cut and paste: Use these basic key combinations when you want to duplicate (copy) or move (cut) a photo, snippet of text, web link, file, or anything else into another location or document by pasting it. These shortcuts work in Windows Explorer, Word, email, and pretty much everywhere else. CTRL+C: Copy the selected item CTRL+X: Cut the selected item CTRL+V: Paste the selected item Selecting items: Highlight an item so you can copy and paste it or do some other action CTRL+A: Select all items in a window, on the desktop, or all text in a document Shift+Any Arrow Key: Select text within a document (e.g., one letter at a time) or one item at a time in a window CTRL+Shift+Any Arrow Key: Select a block of text (e.g., a whole word at a time) Find text or files: Quickly search a document, web page,  or Windows Explorer for a phrase or block of characters CTRL+F or F3: Opens a "find" dialog box Format text: Hit these combinations before typing to bold, italicize, or underline CTRL+B: Bold text CTRL+I: Italicize text CTRL+U: Underline text Create, Open, Save, and Print: Basics for working with files. These shortcuts are the equivalent of going to the File menu and selecting: New..., Open..., Save..., or Print CTRL+N: Create a new file or document or open a new browser window CTRL+O: Open a file or document CTRL+S: Save CTRL+P: Print Work with tabs and windows: CTRL+T: Open a new tab in your web browser CTRL+Shift+T: Reopen a tab you just closed (e.g., by accident) CTRL+H: View your browsing history CTRL+W: Close a window Undo and redo: Made a mistake? Go back or forward in history. CTRL+Z: Undo an action CTRL+Y: Redo an action Once you've got the basic keyboard shortcuts down, learn these to save even more time. Move the cursors: Quickly jump the cursor to the beginning or end of your word, paragraph, or document. CTRL+Right Arrow: Move the cursor to the beginning of the next word CTRL+Left Arrow: Move the cursor back to the beginning of the previous word CTRL+Down Arrow: Move the cursor to the beginning of the next paragraph CTRL+Up Arrow: Move the cursor back to the beginning of the previous paragraph CTRL+Home: Go to the start of a document CTRL+End: Go to the end of a document Move windows: One of Windows 7's best features, you can snap a window to the left or right of the screen and fit half of the screen exactly, or quickly maximize the window to full screen. Hit the Windows button and arrows to activate. WIN+Right Arrow: Resize the window to half of the display and dock it to the right. WIN+Left Arrow: Resize the window to half of the display and dock it to the left. WIN+Up Arrow: Maximize the window to full screen. WIN+Down Arrow: Minimize the window or restore it if it is maximized. WIN+Shift+Right/Left Arrow: Move the window to an external monitor on the left or right. Function keys: Press one of these keys at the top of your keyboard to quickly perform an action F1: Open the Help page or window F2: Rename an object (e.g., file in Windows Explorer) F3: Find F4: Shows the address bar in Windows Explorer F5: Refreshes the page F6: Moves to a different panel or screen element in a window or the desktop Take a screenshot: Useful for pasting an image of your desktop or a certain program and sending to tech support ALT+Print Screen: Capture a screenshot of a window CTRL+Print Screen: Capture the entire screen/desktop Working with Windows: Windows system shortcuts CTRL+ALT+Delete: Bring up the Windows Task Manager ALT+Tab: Show open applications so you can quickly jump to a different one WIN+D: Show your desktop WIN+L: Lock your computer CTRL+Shift+N: Create a new folder Shift+Delete: Delete an item immediately, without placing it in the recycle bin ALT+Enter or ALT+Double-click: Go to the properties screen for files or folders (much faster than right-clicking and selecting "Properties")

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