Notes From My Presentations
From time to time I do presentations for local groups and as such I am posting my notes from these events here with useful links and additional information.
I am adding some valuable links here that I cannot easily provide during my presentations, along with recommendations for some useful tools to protect your computer and identity.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or to schedule a housecall to resolve your computer issues.
With Windows computers, a certain amount of slowing-down is normal. If it is more than about 20%, this is not normal and can be caused by viruses, low hard drive space, inadequate memory, hardware failure or an abundance of “helper” applications loading when it starts up. Many programs you download and install with add little “helper” functions that load at startup. This makes their program look good, because it loads quickly. This is because a substantial portion of it is loaded into memory at all times. This does NOT benefit YOU. It just makes them look good. We remove all of these unnecessary startups when working on a computer so that you actually get the performance you expect and are paying for.
Identity theft is a rapidly growing problem. Everyplace you go on the internet, someone is tracking what you look at and order online. There are browser settings that will curtail this and software products that can make your online activity anonymous. See our blog for a discussion of this topic.
The Tor Project offers a browser that will anonymize your online activity and keep you from being pummeled by advertising for all the things you search for. Unfortunately, everyone is collecting your search statistics to send you advertising. Tor will stop that, but it does slow down your searches while your traffic is routed through their servers.
There are probably more bogus web pages online than legit ones at this point in time. When searching for anything, never click on the first listing. Always hover your cursor over the listing and look at the bottom of the window (in the status bar) to see where it will take you. If the address does not match the product or service you are searching for, keep looking.
Given the rise in instances of Identity Theft, we recommend LifeLock. I use it myself because I had my identity stolen in 2014 and a fake tax return was filed with my credentials.
Neither the IRS nor Microsoft will call you. The IRS will send you one of those conspicuous envelopes many, many times before they will pick up the phone as a last resort. Microsoft on the other hand, knows nothing about you and could not possibly care less about the condition of your computer. If you receive a call from either one, ask for a number to call them back. Most scammers will hang up very quickly and move onto the next mark. Don’t ever give money to anyone who calls you soliciting donations. Check the Better Business Bureau for recommendations.
Malware is comprised of computer Viruses, Trojans, Hijackers and assorted other pests that can ruin your day and harvest more personal information than you can imagine. Cookies are not generally a big concern. These are used to keep track of you when you go to sites that require you to log in for access. They save you from having to write down all your passwords. There are malicious cookies and any decent AntiVirus software should protect you against them.
Virus / Malware Protection
Most people fall into two categories.
Those who have been infected – and those who are going to be infected again. People generally choose a virus protection program on the recommendation of someone they know. They assume in the absence of their antivirus software warning them of a problem – that everything is fine. This is not necessarily true. With more than 30 years in the computer business, I have installed, removed and tested every brand of malware protection on the planet. Most of them work marginally well. Our recommendation is AVG CloudCare – because it very simply works better than everything else. We have installed more than 3,000 licenses of AVG products over the last 10 years and never had a machine infected afterward.
Some Popular Misconceptions regarding Antivirus products and Utilities:
1: A popular belief is that more is better.
I have seen computers with 5 or 6 different antivirus software products installed. This is a very bad idea. When a virus tries to infect the computer, all antivirus products that recognize it attempt to capture and subdue the invader. A battle ensues and frequently the virus escapes in the frenzy. More that one AV product causes a significant performance loss which enables an infection to slip past the defenses. It’s like running through molasses while trying to catch a home invader.
2: As in #1, More utilities to “clean” the computer and improve performance the better.
WRONG again. None of these tools are safe to use in the hands of the typical user. In addition to this part of the problem, many “free” software products piggyback on some very annoying add-ons that steal your information and slow down your computer. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but Nothing is free. The wrong application of some computer utilities can render your computer unbootable. There are a few utilities we use when fine tuning a computer’s performance. I remove them when I am finished to keep you out of trouble. I would never leave a tool in your hands that you could potentially do harm to your computer with.
3: All Antivirus products are created equal.
This is very simply not true. Over the last 20+ years, I have removed quite literally hundreds of thousands of infections from computers that were “protected” by McAfee, Norton, Trend Micro, ESET Nod32. Malwarebytes, Webroot, Bit Defender, Spybot, Kaspersky, Avast, Sophos, F-Secure, Panda, Check Point, Gdata, IObit, Microsoft Security Essentials and every other product on the market. I have sold and installed some of these over the years but abandoned them after finding their algorithms or performance crippling code to be more trouble than they were worth. We use and recommend ONLY AVG CloudCare. It very simply does a better job at protecting your computer. Our installation also protects your web searches and simply will not allow you to go to a site that could infect your computer.
4: In the absence of an alert from your AV product, your computer is safe and clean.
Also not true. In the absence of third party validation, do not know for sure if your computer is clean. If 2 or more high end tools verify you are infection free, you can breathe easy. I have cleaned substantial numbers of viruses from computers protected by a variety of competing tools which reported no problems of any kind. This is why we use AVG CloudCare.
There are a great many bogus AV products on the market which are not only bogus, but far worse that some of the garden variety viruses. Many of these exist only to steal your personal information and banking information.
Ransomware is the very worst problem you can have.
If you see a message on your screen demanding money for the return of your now-encrypted files, shut off the computer immediately. By doing this you can possibly save at least some of your data. These infections encrypt all the files on your computer and demand payment via BitCoin of several hundred dollars. There is NO guarantee you will get your data back after the first payment. There is NO way to recover your data once it is encrypted. I can recount several horror stories regarding this problem.
You need a backup for anything you cannot easily replace. This includes photos, tax documents and legal documents. There are many choices for backup software and we offer two of them to our clients that we feel are the best options. You need a local hard drive for quick restoration of unintentionally deleted files and a Cloud-based backup for disaster recovery. Unless you have a ridiculous amount of data to back up, this is very cost-effective.
Data Storage Location
NEVER store your data on the Desktop. Your desktop is a volatile location. When your computer crashes and your profile is corrupted, you will most likely lose all your precious data that was stored there. Create a folder on your hard drive or in the My Documents folder and put a shortcut to that folder on your Desktop. This will reduce clutter and better protect your data in the eventuality of a crash. Remember this: It is not a question of IF your computer will crash – it is a matter of WHEN it will crash and how much you will lose when this happens.
If you get in your car and see a twenty dollar bill (or other denomination) stuck under your windshield wiper, LOCK YOUR DOORS and drive away immediately. It is a scam. The same goes for a large piece of paper or a note stuck to a window. Drive to a safe, public location far away from where you discovered this and then remove anything obscuring your visibility. A fire station or police station is an excellent choice. These are scams to get you out of your car and carjack you – or worse.
Passwords need to be complicated ( C0mPL1C4t3D* as an example ) Recommendations are:
- 10 + characters
- Combination of letters, numbers and special characters (*&^%$#@!)
- NEVER use a word that can be found in a dictionary
- Use an expression (like into the night) and do some modifications:
1nt0-Th3_N19hT? or !ntO*tH3$N1gHtt-
- Combine two unrelated works (like feldspar-towhee) and work from there:
F3ld5p4R_T0wh33! or feLd5p4r?tOVVh3e=
- Never use a pet’s name, your address, phone number or Social Security Number
Read our blog entry on how to combine both letters and numbers and be able to remember the password. There are several numbers that look similar to certain letters and you can substitute these numbers for their respective letters and make cracking your password very difficult. Financial sites should be a completely different kind of password than all other sites. Nothing even similar should exist between your banking / investment logins and say Amazon.com.
If you have any questions about any of these items, feel free to call or email me. I am available to solve your computer / smart phone problems at any reasonable hour.