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Staying safe and minimizing risk while using social media

Do your friends make questionable decisions on social media? Yes, because many of our friends actually help scammers share their message, many because they are not well-informed. But just in case you’re in any doubt about how important it is to proceed with caution on social media, consider these three factors:

  1. The web is a dangerous place: The security company Sucuri scanned about 10 million websites and found 26% of them were compromised (hosting malicious injections or otherwise blacklisted).
  2. People are sharing more personal data than ever: That’s not just a hunch, that was the finding of a seven-year study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University: Silent Listeners: The Evolution of Privacy and Disclosure on Facebook.
  3. Consumers are not the only victims: Criminals conducting cyber attacks against companies are finding social media a great resource (there are several social media attack scenarios in the recently published Trustwave 2013 Global Security Report).

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Three suggestions for 2013

The new year has begun, and we have three suggestions for improving the quality of your computing life in 2013.

1. Backup often and in the cloud: Consider the consequences if all your data… Word files, Music or Photo library, Quicken/Quickbooks data, and everything else, were to just disappear. It’s a scary thought, but it happens to the unprepared all too often. Make 2013 the year to get you backup in order and configure it to archive your most important files and folders automatically. A whole-system local backup is very important, too. But the cloud-based approach to backing up protects you from disasters like fire, flood, theft, and virus infestations. Don’t wait another year to safeguard your data.

2. Look before you click: Watch out for fake download buttons,toolbars and other junk-ware. Users get into trouble with these things all the time because they click without thinking. Before clicking anything that’s unfamiliar, take a second or even ten, and look more closely at the link. A little bit of precaution can save you from hassles, and even disasters.

3. Keep it clean: Dust can kill a computer, clogging it and causing everything to overheat, with potentially disastrous results. When you have pets their hair can exacerbate the situation even further. So, schedule regular cleaning sessions where you use a can of compressed air to blow dust and pet hair off your cooling-fan blades and out of your case.

Remember BWS Technologies is always available to assist you. 
Call us at 334-358-6305 or email us support@bwsit.com

Adapted from article from CIO

  • 01/11/2013
  • IT

Top 10 Facebook Fixes

Facebook may be the de facto social network of, frankly, almost everyone, but that doesn’t mean you have to use Facebook exactly the way its creators, or your Farmville-addicted friends, want you to. Here are 10 tweaks to make Facebook better.

10. Access Facebook Chat Through Your Preferred Client
Feel free to set that little box in the lower-right hand corner of the Facebook page, the chat box, to “Go Offline.” If you really want to have even more up-to-the-second chats with your Facebook contacts, you can do so through your own favorite client: Pidgin, Adium, iChat, Trillian, Digsby, whatever you’d like.

9. Back Up Your Account with SocialSafe
There’s a whole lot of data, and photos, in your Facebook account, and getting them all out is no small feat. SocialSafe, which costs just $3, lets you save all your photos, friends, photo albums, and even friends’ photos that you’re tagged in, along with your status updates. It doesn’t grab everything in and around your account, but enough to liberate you from feeling chained to the service.

8. Have a Plan for Your Account After Death
It could be more than a little awkward for friends, distant relatives, and others to leave you messages on your Facebook account, then find out you passed away. Even more awkward for those around you when people go digging through your account, or when your account can’t be deactivated. All pause for thought, and a motivator to set up a post-mortem plan for Facebook. There are services that offer professional account-after-death services, like Entrustet and Legacy Locker, but really, just thinking through a system where somebody you trust has the keys to your account and instructions on what you want done with it. Officially, Facebook offers a “memorialized” account for relatives that can prove their loved one is deceased, but won’t hand over the keys to anyone on their own part.

7. Prevent Sites from Auto-Customizing Content with Your Facebook Login
You can turn off Facebook’s “Instant Personalization” service in your settings, but the reality of your Facebook login status following around the web, and occasionally allowing less scrupulous sites to glom on, is still there. Shut down access to your Facebook credentials from anyone except Facebook using Adblock Plus and custom filters.

6. Filter and Compress Your Activity Alerts
If you let Facebook dictate how it emails you about status updates, replies, “Likes,” and other changes, it will overwhelm you. If you leave it to yourself to check, you can just as easily overwhelm your willpower to avoid distraction. Compress all your Facebook notifications into one or two emails per day with NutshellMail, a social media aggregator that we recommended for filtering and managing your online social life and never missing important events—that last one set up so that event invitations come through right away, but friends tagging you in old college photos waits for your end-of-day web checks.

5. Find Out When Anyone Else Logs into Your Account
Maybe you left yourself signed in at a friend’s house. Perhaps you found out too late that you should have given your old cellphone a better wiping clean. However it is that you’re concerned about other people getting access to your account, you can wipe the slate clean and pin it down from your Facebook settings. As the Trouble Fixers blog explains, there are settings to get email or SMS notices whenever your account is accessed from a “new” device, be it a browser, phone, or other gizmo, once you wipe the slate clean and register your computers and phones as authorized.

4. Get Back the Basic Privacy You Signed Up For
If you’d wanted everything you posted to be public, you’d use Twitter. If you wanted all your co-workers to see it, you’d send it over email. You signed up for Facebook to give a select group of friends access to the more private side of your life and thoughts, and you can get back to that kind of small-circle feeling. We’ve previously posted guides to Facebook’s simpler privacy controls, as well as getting back to what you first signed up for. Even with Facebook’s latest round of comprehension improvements, it’s still worth looking at what you might not know you’re sharing.

3. “Quit” Facebook While Still Staying in Touch
Facebook can be more trouble than it’s worth, especially for those who have anything approaching privacy concerns. Still, it’s becoming the world’s phonebook replacement, and some people still want to get messages and sign in for events when necessary. So go ahead and quit Facebook without actually quitting Facebook, by wiping out one account and building another with very limited access to prying eyes.

2. Strip Out Annoying Facebook “Games,” Quizzes, and Other Cruft
Sure, you can click on every single one of your friends’ indulgences to hide them, but there will always be another questionnaire, turn-based addiction machine, or other viral thing right around the corner. Wipe them all clean from your account with F.B. Purity (technically “Fluff Busting Purity”), a user script that installs on nearly every major browser and cleans away all those status updates you never want to see again.

1. Stop Your Friends from Revealing Your Location
Facebook’s new Places feature? Yeah, it’s a lot like Foursquare, Gowalla, and other I’m-here-right-now apps. The big difference is that your Facebook friends can, by default, check you in somewhere without your knowledge. To prevent letting everyone else publish your social calendar, you can disable Facebook Places, or just disable your friends’ ability to geo-tag you.

adapted via lifehacker.com

  • 09/03/2010
  • OS

Five simple steps for Computing on the Road

So whether you are a small business, about to embark on the holiday of a lifetime, a short break or six months backpacking around the world, then make sure you follow these five simple steps.

Travelling with your laptop

  1. Remove all sensitive data off your laptop
  2. Back up all your data before you leave

Using a computer that is not yours while abroad

  1. Don’t give away personal data and passwords
  2. Don’t store passwords or login details when using a shared or public machine
  3. Close down and log out of the browser once you have finished your session

Adapted via AVG Blogs

  • 08/30/2010
  • IT

9 Dangerous Things You Can Do Online

Below are 9 potentially dangerous things, and what you can to do to make doing them safer.

1. Checking the “Keep me signed in” box on public PCs

How to protect yourself:

  • NEVER, ever, check the “keep me signed in” box if you’re not using your personal laptop or home desktop
  • Be careful with work computers. Your office PC might feel “yours” but others can easily snoop when you’re away from your desk. They could do something as simple as forward all your messages to their own private email account
  • If you just signed IN to Google, eBay, Amazon or other site from a public PC, make sure to sign OFF once you’re done
  • Delete your browser history from the browser tools when completed to protect your privacy
  • Using your browser’s privacy mode while browsing prevents information such as the websites you visited from being stored. Internet Explorer 8 calls it “InPrivate Browsing” and Google Chrome calls it a “New incognito window”
  • Never save passwords even when prompted to do so by your browser because someone else using your computer later would have access to your accounts

2. Failing to update Microsoft Windows OS /Java / Adobe Reader / Adobe Flash

How to protect yourself:

  • Java / Adobe Reader / Adobe Flash are responsible for an astounding number of PC infections due to security exploits. The best way to avoid becoming a target is to update all three pieces of software as often as you can. Flash will prompt you automatically, but you can tell Java to search for updates daily, instead of bi-monthly. Sign in for automatic updates with Adobe Reader as well
  • Make sure to update your windows operating system. One way to do this is to set your windows updates to install automatically. This will reduce your exposure to hackers exploiting vulnerabilities in the windows operating system

3. Searching for celebrity gossip, incriminating material (i.e. sex tapes)

How to protect yourself:

  • This one is a no-brainer. Always be cautious while accessing this material. Malware authors know that people naturally gravitate towards the sex/celebrity combo, so new attacks are targeted specifically towards this crowd
  • If you must, search for your news on Google News, Bing News or other aggregator. These services do a basic triage of sites, so chances are you’ll be kept from reaching infected blogs/web pages
  • When searching on Google use https://www.google.com instead of the common http://www.google.com, which will send your search request through an encrypted SSL connection. CyberDefender has found that doing so reduces the risk of being infected from search results.

4. Using BitTorrent to download copyrighted music/software/film/TV shows

How to protect yourself:

  • Stick to official downloads/streams such as iTunes, Hulu and legitimate websites. Avoid torrent sites at all costs – even if legit (not malicious), some of the ads found in torrent sites could be compromised. Drive-by downloads are often found in compromised ads and can infect computers without any sort of user input. Visit site -> get infected automatically
  • Do not download pirated material
  • Do not download pirated material 🙂

5. Online gaming (free to play, social games on Facebook and beyond)

How to protect yourself:

  • Be careful when downloading free to play (F2P) clients. If the client software is malicious – or quality assurance happens to be spotty – you could be putting your PC at risk
  • Don’t give out your login information to strangers. In fact, don’t give out ANY kind of information, personal or not, to people you meet gaming. At the very least, you could have your virtual items stolen. At worst, you could lose real money
  • Avoid falling for the old “FarmVille Secrets” scam. You will either download a Trojan or expose your Facebook login info to criminals

6. Leaving Facebook privacy settings wide open, therefore exposing personal info to all

How to protect yourself:

  • Carefully review your privacy settings on Facebook. Err on the side of caution – don’t let “friends of friends” see your birthday, cell phone number, etc. All of these could be used in an attempt to impersonate you to credit cards, credit unions, etc
  • Only friends should have access to the more personal layer of information we all have. So choose your friends wisely – “serial friending” would expose you just as well

7. Connecting to unknown wireless networks

How to protect yourself:

  • In public places, like airports and hotels, be careful about logging into unknown (private) wireless networks. In a hotel for instance, be sure you choose the official one, not another in the neighborhood. Bad guys can eavesdrop as you use your computer, “imitating” a real, safe environment
  • Public settings for your laptop are a whole lot more secure – e.g. no file sharing, increased firewall settings, etc

8. Using the same password for every single online account

How to protect yourself:

  • It’s hard work to remember several different passwords, so no wonder some use the same password over and over again. But if that one password leaks out to cybercriminals, your entire online life is suddenly open to the world
  • Keep different passwords for different purposes. Keep email and social media passwords separate, for example
  • Certain browsers can also help with a “master password” that keeps a multitude of passwords in check. So even if you have different passwords for different services, you only have to remember the master password Using a tool (Roboform or Password Vault) for this purpose that encrypts password information and uses best practices to generate passwords is an even better idea

9. Trying to get a free iPad, PlayStation 3 or similar gadgets (scams/phishing)

How to protect yourself:

  • Oldie but goodie: there’s no such thing as a free lunch
  • If an online offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is
  • Avoid any kind of giveaway that’s not supported in a big way by a known brand, even if it happens to be an online brand (like Zappos, for example)
  • Keep a security suite fully updated, since most of them can catch phishing attempts resulting from this kind of scam
adapted via gizmodo.com

How to: Properly Coil Your MacBook’s Power Cord

Apple’s white power brick is pretty handy, what with the attached hooks for coiling it up and packing it away. If you do it wrong, though, you’ll likely stress the cord and break it (or worse, create a fire hazard).

Instead of just coiling it up, make a loop so the joint between the brick and the wire isn’t bent. It’s simple, see video below.

via tested.com

  • 08/20/2010
  • IT

How to Tag People in Your Facebook Status Updates

This was quite a big deal when it was announced this past September, but from the amount of searches on the topic “how can I make someone’s name go blue in a Facebook status?” it seems some people still have not found the answer.

To mention someone in a status update just type “@” (a la Twitter) in the status bar and start typing their name as it appears on Facebook (Facebook is rolling out an update that allows you to just type a proper name). An auto-generated list will then come up with people in your social circle whose name starts with the letters you’ve typed. The feature also works with pages, brands, events and companies.

Hit the name you want, complete the update, click share and the name will become a hyperlink (you won’t see the @ symbol) and will appear in blue text.

  • 08/19/2010
  • OS

Your Photos Can Your Reveal Secrets

You can easily find out where people live, what kind of things they have in their house and also when they are going to be away.

Security experts and privacy advocates have recently begun warning about the potential dangers of geotags, which are embedded in photos and videos taken with GPS-equipped smartphones and digital cameras. Because the location data is not visible to the casual viewer, the concern is that many people may not realize it is there; and they could be compromising their privacy, if not their safety, when they post geotagged media online.

Very few people know about geotag capabilities and the only way you can turn off the function on your smartphone is through an invisible menu that no one really knows about.

Indeed, disabling the geotag function generally involves going through several layers of menus until you find the “location” setting, then selecting “off” or “don’t allow.” But doing this can sometimes turn off all GPS capabilities, including mapping, so it can get complicated.

Because of the way photographs are formatted by some sites like Facebook, geotag information is not always retained when an image is uploaded, which provides some protection, albeit incidental. Other sites like Flickr have recently taken steps to block access to geotag data on images taken with smartphones unless a user explicitly allows it.

But experts say the problem goes far beyond social networking and photo sharing Web sites, regardless of whether they offer user privacy settings.

You need to educate yourself and your friends but in the end, you really have no control, protecting your privacy is not just a matter of being aware and personally responsible. A friend may take a geotagged photo at your house and post it.

ICanStalkU.com provides step-by-step instructions for disabling the photo geotagging function on iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Palm devices.

adapted via nytimes.com

  • 08/18/2010
  • OS

Searching for “Virus Removal” Tools Can Lead to an Even Worse Outcome

Many people tend to trust well known companies such as Google and Yahoo, but sometimes these search companies serve up some troubling links in their search results. There are many people who use these search sites to find out information about how to remove viruses, etc., but if a user types in “Security Tool Removal,” they are served up dangerous links that go to malicious websites. These websites can create even more of a security risk without the user even knowing.

All links in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) that are marked red indicate that these sites are dangerous. The red indicator is from the WOT (Web of Trust) Firefox and Internet Explorer add-on. The WOT add-on shows you which websites you can trust for safe surfing, shopping and searching on the web.

When searching “Security Tool Removal” look at how many dangerous websites are marked red. The chances of someone clicking on one of those dangerous links are pretty good.

I encourage and recommend that you download the WOT add-on for Firefox and or Internet Explorer so that you know what links are marked dangerous preventing you from clicking on links that go to malicious websites.

Download the WOT plugin

  • 08/13/2010
  • IT

Free Wi-Fi – Worth the risk?

Wi-Fi has become virtually a staple in our technologically-enhanced lives. Its convenience increases productivity in countless industries, academics and even the family home. Retail establishments such as Panera Bread, McDonald’s and Barnes & Noble offer free Wi-Fi in their stores as an amenity to get customers to browse and buy their products. While “free Wi-Fi” might seem like a no-brainer, customers should keep in mind the inherent risks of free Wi-Fi.

What’s the Big Deal? It’s free
Since it’s free, most establishments do not use Wi-Fi encryption to secure their respective networks thus offering hackers a way to steal your usernames and passwords. Some explained the reason for using unencrypted 802.11g was to ensure maximum compatibility between communication devices.

A Hacker’s Hotspot
“Wardriving” is the idea of driving around town and looking for a Wi-Fi network that is unencrypted or has weak encryption and can be easily cracked. With zero or minimal security, a Wardriving Hacker can intercept, unscramble and figure out the information being sent between a customer’s laptop to the Wireless Access Point of an establishment. Another tactic that can easily swipe your login credentials is a Rogue Access Point. In this case, a hacker can set up a Wireless Access Point that imitates the true Access Point. If your notebook connects to this Rogue Access Point, you won’t see any difference as the hacker can duplicate the log-in screen with near 100% accuracy. This is like phishing, where you receive an alert email from your bank or credit card company asking you to click on their link and “verify” your account is okay by logging in.

What You Can Do
There are a few steps you can take to minimize the chance of your information getting stolen:

  1. Make sure your passwords are long and are fairly unique. Having “SMITH_1980” as one of your passwords wouldn’t be difficult to crack.
  2. Turn on you computers firewall and make sure your security software is up to date.
  3. When logging in, pay attention to the URL address along with any inconsistencies with the log-in page (i.e. spelling, inaccurate pictures).
  4. Check to make sure your laptop is connected to the correct Wi-Fi network and not to one with a questionable name.
  5. Access your banking and credit card accounts at home so as to minimize the chance of being a victim of financial identity theft.
  6. Speak to your employer’s IT department about a VPN connection. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and allows you to connect to your company’s network in a secure way.

In Conclusion
 By knowing the risks associated with free Wi-Fi service, you can minimize the chance of a security breach and possible identity theft.

Adapted via Geeks.com

  • 08/12/2010
  • IT
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