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.)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

WOW! Solar Impulse ~ The First Trip Across America 2013

Happening Now. Zero Fossil Fuels Used. 

Livestreaming NOW. July 6, 2013

"[...]Zero-fuel airplane's epic flight to New York live! 

Check out the triumphant conclusion of the historic crossing of the United States with the world's first airplane able to fly day and night without fuel!

Solar Impulse, a project born in Switzerland, is ending its Across America mission that started exactly two months ago at NASA's Moffett Airfield at the heart of Silicon Valley.  

This epic in stages that led the solar plane to Phoenix (AZ), Dallas (TX), St. Louis (MO) and Washington D.C. is now coming to an end with the scheduled landing at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport sometime after 2AM EDT (UTC-4) on Sunday July 7th 2013.

Watch the entire flight live starting one hour before take-off -- around 3:30AM EDT (UTC-4).
The live streaming includes interviews with pilots and project Co-founders André Borschberg from the cockpit and Bertrand Piccard from the ground, reruns of the mission flights and interviews with Solar Impulse team members."[...] (~ From the Solar Impulse LiveStream)

Click here to visit the Solar Impulse YouTube Channel for incredible videos of this first solar flight across America!!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

West Chester Connect Launches July 8, 2013

The Borough of West Chester is proud to announce that we are providing a new service which is intended to enhance civic engagement within our community.

“West Chester Connect” is the name of our new service. You can download the free app in your smartphone’s app store by searching for “West Chester Connect”. The app is free of charge. Once downloaded you can easily report “environmental”, “public safety” & “quality of life” issues. You can then follow the process of your work orders through push notifications on your smart phone.
“West Chester Connect” officially launches on July 8, 2013.

You can learn more about “West Chester Connect” by visiting our website at
This service is not intended for emergencies. As always continue to call 911 for emergency situations.

What is West Chester Connect? 

West Chester Connect is simply a way of fostering engagement between citizens and their government. Through the free "West Chester Connect" smartphone app citizens can easily and quickly provide information regarding environmental, public safety and quality of life issues. 

Citizens can then remain engaged with their government as the work orders are processed and completed through push notifications on their smartphones.

What is West Chester Connect NOT For?

First and foremost. West Chester Connect is not for reporting emergency situations.  The reports made through this service are handled as non-emergency situations. 

West Chester Connect is not a place for social commentary. 

You can read the official press release here.

You can learn more by reading our "Citizen Guide"

Monday, July 1, 2013

Fun in the Sun With Your Smartphone

Summertime 2013 Tech Tip #3

A trip to the shore for some sunshine and water may sound like the perfect getaway and in many ways it can be. However your smartphone probably will not agree. There is little doubt that many of us are addicted to our smartphones so here are some tips for keeping them safe this summer.

Seek some shade. Direct sunlight can cause overheating, so be sure to stash your devices somewhere shady. If you do trigger an “overheated” alert, be sure to turn off the device and move it to a cooler location. Do not place it inside a freezer!

Invest in a quality case. In the summertime, the living is easy – but not for your gadgets. Sticky fingers from ice cream, blowing sand and condensation are just a few of the perils the season brings for your devices. There are a ton of options on the market, including rugged cases to help protect from drops and waterproof options to help keep things safe poolside – or tabletop during meals.

Limit the glare. Sunlight can make your screen hard to read. You can tackle this in a few ways:

Adjust your brightness settings. Navigate to your device’s “Settings” menu, then select the “Display Settings.” You can modify both “Brightness” and “Backlight” options on most devices: the higher the brightness settings, the easier it is to read your screen in sunlight. Some devices also offer an “Auto Brightness” option that automatically adjusts your screen for optimal viewing.

Purchase an anti-glare cover which will help make your screen more legible in bright light.

Find some shade. Relax under an umbrella or a tree for some temporary relief.

Low-Fi Stereo Fun!  Summer means impromptu gatherings, which just beg for a great music. But if you do not have portable speakers handy, you can try this simple trick to pump up the volume.  Place your music player in a bowl or glass to amplify your device’s speakers. It really works!

Stay tuned for more fun-in-the sun technology tips.

West Chester Connect Launches July 8, 2013

West Chester Connect officially launches next Monday, July 8. You can read the press release here.

You can also check out our "West Chester Connect - Citizen Guide" here.

West Chester Connect - Press Release

How To Tell If Your PC Has a Virus

Summertime 2013 Tech Tip #1

One of the questions I am asked very often is "how do I know if my computer has a virus"?

Is your computer running very slowly? A common symptom of a virus is much slower than normal computer performance. However, there can be other reasons for slow performance, including a hard disk that needs defragmenting, a computer that needs more memory (RAM), or the existence of spyware or adware. For more information about spyware, see How to tell if your computer is infected with spyware.

Are you getting unexpected messages, or are programs starting automatically? Some viruses can cause damage to Windows or some of your programs. The results of this damage might include messages appearing unexpectedly, programs starting or closing automatically, or Windows shutting down suddenly.
Is your modem or hard disk working overtime? An e‑mail virus works by sending many copies of itself by e‑mail. One indicator of this is that the activity light on your broadband or external modem is constantly lit; another is the sound of your computer's hard disk continually working. These are not always symptoms of a computer virus, but when combined with other problems, can indicate a virus infection.
To check for viruses, scan your computer with an antivirus program. New viruses appear every day, so keeping your antivirus program updated is important.

What is Spyware?

Summertime 2013 Tech Tip #2

One of the most common problems computer users deal with is Spyware. The threat of Spyware infecting your PC is becoming more real everyday. It is easier then ever for your PC to become a victim of Spyware. What is Spyware anyway?
Spyware is a type of software that is installed on your computer to watch and record your activity. Some types of spyware record your keystrokes and information that you type into websites or other programs and then use that information for targeted advertising or identity theft. These programs can be installed on your computer in many ways, but often they are hidden inside of software such as free games, screen savers, or animated cursors.
Here are some signs that your computer might be infected with spyware:
  • You notice new toolbars, links, or favorites that you didn't intentionally add to your web browser.
  • Your home page, mouse pointer, or search program changes unexpectedly.
  • You type the address of a specific website into your web browser, but you're taken to a completely unrelated website.
  • You see pop-up ads, even if your computer isn't connected to the Internet.
  • Your computer suddenly starts running slowly. Not all computer performance problems are caused by spyware, but spyware can cause a noticeable change.
Sometimes, your computer will show no symptoms, even if a spyware program is running. To help protect your privacy and your computer, I recommend that you run Windows Defender or another antispyware program at all times.
What if Spyware is on your PC?
If you have spyware or other potentially unwanted software on your computer, you should use an antispyware scanner and removal tool to try to remove it. You can also try to remove spyware manually. You might need to use both of these methods more than once to completely remove the spyware or other potentially unwanted software.
Spyware can sometimes be hard to remove. If an antispyware program notifies you that it can't remove spyware, follow the instructions provided by the antispyware program. If that doesn't work, try these options:
  • Try installing an antivirus or another antispyware program. Many antivirus programs also come with antispyware protection.
Sadly sometimes even the most trained and well informed computer experts cannot remove a well entrenched and hidden piece of spyware. Some spyware can hide itself so well that it can't be removed. If you still see evidence of spyware after trying to remove it with an antispyware program or after trying to uninstall it using Control Panel, you might need to reinstall Windows and your programs.