Thursday, July 11, 2013

Reviewing Your PC Security

It seems dozens of times a year a friend or co-worker asks me to "fix" their PC. This is because generally users of personal computers do not care about how secure their home computers (and laptops) actually are. I believe that this is because the majority of home computer users are unaware of how vulnerable they are to hackers, or how their personal information can be misused. It is, widely and mistakenly, believed that if a mere antivirus is installed, computers are secure. People assume their Antivirus can protect them against all forms of malware, be it a virus, worm, or a Trojan horse. This, however, is far from the reality. Antivirus programs cannot be relied on solely to protect your data and information from hackers.

Here is the Basic Question. Why is it so important to keep your PC secure?

An ordinary person may have no reason to believe why his computer and data may be hacked into, and no knowledge whatsoever of how his personal information might be misused. An unsecured computer over the internet is immensely risky. Your personal information can be altered and abused if your PC security is compromised. Your personal details, such as your Social Security number, credit card numbers, bank and utility account numbers can all be used to access your savings or to open new bank accounts under your name which, consequently may be used for serious crimes such as money laundering or fraud, or simply for stealing your money.

There are some very basic & long standing things you can do. What are they?

There are a number of ways to make sure your PC, and as a result your personal information, is protected properly. First and foremost, reliable anti-virus software must be installed and regularly updated. These are compared to “flu shots,” because they only protect you to a certain extent. Then, you must refrain from opening emails or attachments from people or sources you do not know personally. Take care while opening attachments even from people you know if it is unexpected.

If you want to take same extra steps to protect your PC, Try This.

You must use firewalls to ensure that the ports you are not using are closed off and cannot be used unless you need them. The security updates and ‘patches’ on your operating system and all other software must be kept up to date. All your passwords should be strong, at least eight characters long, and preferably an amalgam of upper and lower case letters and numbers. Keep your PC disconnected from the internet when you are not using it, and keep from sharing access to your computer with people you do not know- sharing files on online servers is very risky. To be even safer, make regular backups of all your data on disks or CDs.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Windows Under The Dome

Ok maybe it's not just me who has high hopes for Microsoft's Windows Phone. I suggest this because of the new  mini-series,  “Under the Dome”. This new series from CBS follows a group of people suddenly cut off from the rest of the world after an indestructible invisible dome suddenly surrounds their town began airing this summer.

The show is classified as sci-fi/horror and watching part 3 this week I had to do a double take several times as Windows phones and Windows tablets were on display and being used by many of the characters.

Hey, that's a Windows Nokia Lumia 920 being charged!

In this week's episode (part 3), Microsoft clearly got under the dome as a few products suddenly showed up in the town, mostly in the youth’s hands. We saw two Nokia Lumia 920s (one white, one red) and even a few Microsoft Surfaces being used by the teens in the scene where they all use a generator to re-charge their devices. The best is probably seeing the Surface being swiped back and forth on the Start screen, which is just kind of fun.

A Microsoft Surface Table appears Under the Dome.

Does this kind of hidden placement really help? Well it can't hurt that's for sure. Microsoft has been working very hard this past year in an attempt to gather some buzz and the "cool" factor.  I believe there is a good chance that this sort of product placement will indeed help increase Microsoft's product share, which has been improving regularly, if not slowly recently.

I am not sure how I actually feel about this new series after 3 episodes but at least the residents are using something other than Android & Apple.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Android Users Beware

It is stories like this that make me glad I am a Windows Phone user.

It was recently discovered that Android has had a major security hole since version 1.6, which allowed hackers to modify almost any Play Store app and turn it malicious without tripping the built-in security measures. The good news for Android users is that the that hole has already been plugged and the fix has been sent out to OEMs (Google was made aware of the issue in February, so it has had time to fix it).

Google claims that it has not seen any app from the Play Store (or other app stores for that matter) that have been affected by this vulnerability.

The Play Store itself scans the apps it offers and the Verify App feature (new in 4.2) scans all apps (even if you installed them from elsewhere).

Samsung and some other OEMs are reportedly already shipping devices that contain the fix. Current devices will have to wait for an update, which has an uncertain timeframe as it depends on OEMs and then carriers to push it out.

As with anything else, be cautious of what you download, not only on your PC, but on your mobile devices as well.

Alert (TA13-190A)

United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team

US-CERT’s mission is to improve the nation's cybersecurity posture, coordinate cyber information sharing, and proactively manage cyber risks to the nation while protecting the constitutional rights of Americans. US-CERT's vision is to be a trusted global leader in cybersecurity — collaborative, agile, and responsive in a complex environment.

As a public service the West Chester Technology Blog will forward alerts issued by US-CERT.

Microsoft Updates for Multiple Vulnerabilities


Systems Affected

  • Microsoft Windows
  • Microsoft .NET Framework
  • Microsoft Silverlight
  • Microsoft Office
  • Microsoft Visual Studio
  • Microsoft Lync
  • Internet Explorer
  • Windows Defender


Select Microsoft software products contain multiple vulnerabilities. Microsoft has released updates to address these vulnerabilities.


The Microsoft Security Bulletin Summary for July 2013 describes multiple vulnerabilities in Microsoft software. Microsoft has released updates to address these vulnerabilities.


These vulnerabilities could allow remote code execution or elevation of privilege.


Apply Updates
Microsoft has provided updates for these vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Security Bulletin Summary for July 2013, which describes any known issues related to the updates. Administrators are encouraged to note these issues and test for any potentially adverse effects. In addition, administrators should consider using an automated update distribution system such as Windows Server Update Services (WSUS). Home users are encouraged to enable automatic updates.

Staying Tech Safe On Vacation

Summertime 2013 tech Tip #4

My summer series of tech tips continues with help on staying safe, digitally (at least) while on vacation.

The reality is many 21st century families want or need to text, check email and update social media accounts, even when the goal of taking a vacation is to take a break from our everyday lives. I struggle with this as well. Every summer vacation at the shore I try to disconnect - but I usually fail to do so. However, would should all be aware that our online activity while on the road can put us at a higher risk of having our identity stolen.

Identity theft is a serious crime that can have a lasting negative impact. Just one important piece of information, like a Social Security card, a driver’s license or a bank account statement, can provide a criminal what he needs to steal someone’s identity. What’s worse is victims may not realize their identities have been stolen for weeks, months or years after the fact, allowing the crime to perpetuate and destroy their credit. The good news is there are actions you can take to help protect your identity while on vacation — and anywhere else you may be mobile and online.

Mobile Routers or Cellular Hotspots
Consider a portable router to create your own Wi-Fi hotspot for your own or your family’s devices. You’ll need a local SIM data card, which is available at most electronic stores or even airport kiosks. This will help you avoid using public Wi-Fi spots.  All cellular companies sell mobile hotspot devices.

Avoid Contact with Hackers
If you use public Wi-Fi, be very cautious of using unsecured networks. Make sure you are logging into a secured or private network when you use Wi-Fi. If you aren’t sure, don’t visit sites that contain sensitive information, like bank accounts.

Be Careful Being Social
Using social media while you travel can be a great way to share your family’s trip but remember — checking in or posting pictures can alert someone that your home is vacant! Make sure to set your home alarm, hire a house-sitter or maybe the best option is to delay posts until you are back home. If you do really want to share these photos while you are on vacation, make sure to set your privacy settings to “friends” only. This will help limit the number of people who actually see these pictures.

Make Sure It's Legit
Before logging onto a website from your mobile device, make sure the URL is legit. There are plenty of URL spoof sites out there, created in order to steal your information. Unfortunately many mobile browsers do not show the URL, so it is best to bookmark your favorite sites after you type in the address.

Lock Down Your Social Networks
If you have a blog or social accounts — such as Facebook and Twitter — use the highest security settings possible to ensure your information, posts and photos aren’t being leaked onto the internet.

Strong Passwords
Use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols and punctuation marks to make your passwords harder to crack.

Secure Your Mobile Devices
Losing your mobile phone, tablet or laptop can be just as bad as losing your wallet. Be sure to protect your mobile devices with strong passwords and encryption. Consider installing wiping software on your mobile device so that you can remove your information remotely if your phone is lost.

Facebook's New Graph Search

The feature allows users to make in depth searches of your friends based on similar interests, details and so on. It has been in limited beta since earlier this year.

This new feature went live yesterday, July 8. It is currently only available for users with their language set to US English.

The tool is designed to help people find friends and other users with similar interests. It is also possible to dive much deeper into the information given on people’s profiles.

From Here You Can Complete Searches in Facebook Like Never Before

For example, it is possible to find people who have worked at two companies and list them.

It has also been referred to as Facebook’s first incursion into online dating. It is possible to type in “Single friends in West Chester”. Doing so will bring up all of your friends in West Chester who are single.

It is also possible to use the search menu to find local restaurants and what your friends are saying about them, and so on.

According to reports, a mobile version of the function will be released later this year for iOS and Android devices.

You can learn more about Facebook's new graph search here.

I, personally am a fan of services like Foursquare and Untappd for features like this, but if you are entrenched in Facebook's world check their new grap search out.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Steve Lipsky's Water is On Fire from Recent Fracking ~ RRC Says, "No, It's Not!"

Featured in the Debut of  Josh Fox's "Gasland 2" on HBO Earlier Tonight.  It will run at various times all week. 

Watch carefully, as Steve Lipsky's water catches on fire.  

Thank you to WFAA's Award-Winning Journalist 

Brett Shipp 

for this important report earlier this year.

Click Here to read all about the Imminent and Substantial Endangerment Order issued by the EPA for this methane contaminated water well in the backyard of the Lipsky's. (December 7, 2010.)