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Considering A New Computer For Your Home or Business? Why You Need to Act Now!

Immediate Attention Required

“Windows 8 is a like a bad blind date.”  I shared that blog post headline when Microsoft released that operating system four years ago.

I strongly encouraged you to avoid buying a new computer with Windows 8 because of its myriad of problems and inconveniences.  Many other tech gurus and bloggers echoed my thoughts.

You still had the option to wisely purchase a PC with the tried and true Windows 7.

Fast forward to today.

The headline now reads, “Windows 10 is a terminal illness for your computer.”

But Microsoft is taking it one step further.

Unlike in 2012 when they introduced Windows 8, Microsoft is now forcing all new computers to come with the atrocious Windows 10 operating system installed after October 31.

You will no longer be able to purchase a new desktop or laptop with the stable, easy-to-use Windows 7 after October.

What’s So Bad About Windows 10?

Unfortunately, I don’t have enough room in this column to explain in full detail the major problems with Windows 10.  But let me highlight two.

(For my complete thoughts about Windows 10, download my free report 7 Frighteningly Dark Secrets Microsoft Desperately Doesn’t Want You To Know About Windows 10 at https://www.calibreforhome.com/windows10secrets)

  1. Forced updates can crash your computer – with few remedies.

Keeping your PC up-to-date with the latest operating system updates and security patches is a primary defense against virus infections and hackers.

But it’s not always a good idea to install updates as soon as they’re released.  Microsoft notoriously releases updates without testing them, resulting in a slew of frustrating problems and crashes.

Windows 10 takes away your ability to install updates when you want them.  Instead, Microsoft forces them to install.

I’ve already seen several computers crippled by the latest update to Windows 10.

 

  1. You have NO privacy in Windows 10. Nearly everything you do on your computer is tracked and reported to Microsoft – even putting the NSA to shame.

While we don’t know exactly what information Microsoft gathers from your computer, we know they’re capturing an enormous amount of it.

It most likely includes:

  • What websites you visit,
  • What programs you use,
  • What devices you have attached to your computer,
  • And so much more.

We also know that, by default, Windows 10 Home can:

  • Control your Internet bandwidth usage
  • Install any software it wants whenever it wants
  • Display ads
  • Log your browser history and even your keystrokes

And yes, it’s legal for Microsoft to do this.  Because you agree to it as soon as you power on your Windows 10 computer.

The future of Windows 10 doesn’t look promising.

That’s why I refer to it as a terminal illness for your computer.  Because it will require regular, frequent check-ups by a computer professional to fix its problems and keep it running.

 

Time’s Running Out

This is your siren call.

If you’ve been casually thinking about or seriously contemplating buying a NEW desktop or laptop computer for your home or business, you want to do so BEFORE the end of October.

Calibre Computer Solutions can still order you new computers with the much-preferred Windows 7 operating system.  You won’t find them at the big box stores.

If you wait, you will be forced by Microsoft to buy one with the privacy-invading, update-crashing Windows 10 operating system.  A decision I guarantee you will regret.

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What’s Your Password?

Forgot Password

“I changed all my passwords to ‘incorrect.’  So whenever I forget, it will tell me: ‘Your password is incorrect.’”

Memes like this provide much-needed laughter about passwords.  Otherwise, trying to create and remember complex passwords for nearly every website you visit causes you to cry in frustration.

Have you ever forgotten your password for Facebook or your email account?

You’re not alone if you have.  Over the past month, an increasing number of clients solicited my help to recover or reset forgotten passwords.

The Mistake Most People Make

Web browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Internet Explorer offer to remember your passwords for all your websites.  You let them and you never have to type in your password again for that website.  It conveniently fills in your username and password each time you visit the page.

The problem occurs when your web browser must be reset.  Resetting your web browser can cause Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer to forget your saved passwords.

Then when you visit a site like Facebook, you must enter your username and password.

But because the only place your password was stored was in the web browser, you can’t log in. 

Thus begins the arduous and sometimes impossible task of resetting your password by answering security questions or replying to recovery emails.

Keep Your Accounts Up-To-Date

Resetting your forgotten password is much easier if you keep your email address and/or cell phone number up-to-date on various websites. 

Facebook, for example, allows you the option to have a code texted to your cell phone or a recovery email sent to your email address should you lose your password.  Within five minutes, you can create a new password and be on your merry way.

But some people I’ve assisted had an old email address or cell phone number configured in Facebook.  They also couldn’t remember their answers to their security questions.

The result:  forever locked out of that Facebook account.  Forced to create a new one, re-add all their friends, and start anew.

ACTION STEP:  Make sure your current email address and cell phone number are correctly configured as recovery options for all of your online accounts – Facebook, email, banking, credit cards, etc.

The Best Place to Store Your Passwords

Trying to remember zillions of different, complex passwords for different websites is mind-boggling.  Keeping an up-to-date written list is practically impossible.

That’s why I strongly encourage you to use a free password management program called LastPass (www.lastpass.com).

LastPass gives you:

  • Unlimited and secure storage for passwords and notes
  • Automatic backup of passwords
  • Automatic completion of login fields and forms

By installing a simple add-on to your web browser, you’ll have quick access to all of your passwords.  You can also store credit card numbers, license numbers, insurance information, and more.

You only have to remember one master password – the one you use to log in to LastPass.

LastPass will even detect when you change your password for a website and offer to automatically update it in the program.

For a measly $1 a month, you can upgrade to LastPass Premium and have access to your passwords on all your computers and mobile devices.

Please … if you don’t take any other advice I give, at least write down your passwords in a notebook.  Better yet, put them in LastPass.

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5 Myths About Virus Infections

Computer Virus

Our tech bench at Calibre Computer Solutions always has at least one computer (usually more) on it that’s been infected with some type of virus or malware. Nasty infections requiring specific removal tools and processes have increased dramatically over the past year.

The number one question I’m asked is, “How did this get on my computer?  I have antivirus protection.”

In today’s column, I would like to dispel five common myths most computer owners believe about viruses and spyware. Learn these, make the recommended changes, and your risk of infection will be greatly reduced.

MYTH #1 – If I have an antivirus program, my computer is safe.

Unfortunately this is not entirely true. Having a good antivirus program, such as our recommended Managed Antivirus, is an important step in the right direction.

However, malware creators work hard to sidestep the common protection programs either by exploiting newly discovered security holes before they’re patched or by using “social engineering” to trick users into opening infected files directly.

While there is no guarantee of total safety, experts recommend a combination of the following for reasonable protection:

  • Professional antivirus software – NOT the free AVG or Microsoft Security Essentials
  • Regular software updates for your operating system (Windows or Mac OSX), Java, Adobe products, and Internet browsers
  • User education (e.g. “If you don’t recognize the sender, don’t open the attachment”)
  • Perimeter defense (firewall, hosted spam filtering, DNS protection)
  • Regular, automated backups

MYTH #2 – If I use a Mac, I don’t have to worry about viruses.

Once upon a time this was mostly true. When Macs were a tiny slice of the overall market, it just wasn’t worth the malware writer’s time to learn how to infect Apple computers.

With the growing popularity of the Apple Mac though, comes a growing interest from online criminals. In 2012, over 600,000 Mac computers were infected with the Flashback malware, and security maker Sophos currently tracks over 4500 Mac-specific viruses and malware currently in use around the world.

Like PC users, the time has come for Mac users to add antivirus software and make sure they are being diligent with software updates and backups.

MYTH #3 – My mobile devices can’t get infected.

Also not true!  The fastest growing segment of both malware quantity and malware profitability (for the criminals creating these things) is the smartphone and tablet market – more specially, Android-based devices.

iPhones and iPads are still largely malware-free, though a June 2012 article in Forbes magazine titled “There is too malware on the iPhone!” makes the point that iDevice users should not assume they are completely invulnerable.

With the rise in Android malware, it is important to install protection software on your mobile phone or tablet. I recommend using VIPRE Mobile Security.

MYTH #4 – No one would be interested in hacking into my computers.

Really?  I hear this a lot, often from people who:

  • Have a reasonably powerful computer, and
  • Have a high-speed internet connection

That’s really all criminals need.

With that computer infected and under the control of a malware-enabled criminal botnet, it can be used to send thousands of spam messages per day, attack other computers on the Internet, or control other infected computers so that authorities can’t trace the real controller’s point of origin.

They can also watch every keystroke you enter in the computer, looking for patterns that might be credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank accounts, and passwords. These can be bundled and sold on the online black market. Since the entire process is automated, it’s common for thousands or even hundreds of thousands of infected computers to be under the control of just a handful of people.

The take-away here is, no matter how unimportant you think your computer might be, you should still take precautions to protect yourself AND others.

MYTH #5 – If I do get infected, it just means I’ll get some error messages or pop-up ads.

Unfortunately this is also wrong. As I mentioned above, malware is a serious, money-making business for the creators. We already talked about some of the ways they can make money – hijacking your computer to send spam or to capture your credit card information for example. In those cases, people generally have no idea their computer is infected until they notice problems on their credit report.

A more aggressive version of malware is becoming more common though.

Imagine this scenario – You turn your computer on one day. Instead of the normal startup screen, you get a message saying that your computer’s files are encrypted and the only way to get them back is to wire $300 to the hackers. After they receive the money, they will give you the password to get all your data back. (Although they’re more likely to just demand more money).

These are increasingly common strategies that these online criminals use to make money.

To fight back, use these three tips:

  • Use strong protection (see point 1 above)
  • Backup regularly
  • Use strong passwords and change them often

Make sure any hosted email accounts you may have, including Gmail or Hotmail, include a second authentication method such as a cell phone or alternate email account. Usually with this in place, you will be notified whenever your primary password is changed, and you can contact the service provider immediately if you weren’t the one who changed it.