Keep Your Computer Safe, Clean and Fast

Is your PC running much slower than it was when you first got it? Adware, spyware, junk files, and a fragmented file system can gradually drag down a once fast computer to a frustratingly slow pace. Even on a Mac, a little system housecleaning now and then can significantly improve performance.

A study reported by the Associated Press found that 77% of adults in 12 states thought they were safe from computer viruses and hackers, but two-thirds of them had anti-virus software that was not up to date, had no firewall program, and 80% had spyware on their computers. Spyware surreptitiously monitors users online activity and slows down their computers.

Let computer tutor / computer doctor bring your computer back to the speed and efficiency you once enjoyed, and help you protect your computer with up to date anti-virus software and a good firewall program.

For most computers a periodic maintenance service, including removal of adware (which can cause unwanted advertising to pop up) spyware, and junk files, a windows registry repair, disk defragmentation, and upgrade recommendations takes about two to four hours.

Another reason computers slow down is a failing hard drive. The hard drive stores all of your data. Hard drives often begin to fail after three to five years. I'll help you back up your data, and if necessary, replace your hard drive with a new one. Hard drive prices have dropped in the last few years. If you are running low on storage space, we can upgrade your hard drive to a much larger one for less than you might think.


Security Alert - Fake Security Programs are viruses

In the past year there has been an increase in "drive by" computer virus infections with programs that appear to be warning you about viruses on your computer after doing a "free scan" (which you never asked for). The whole program is itself a virus - called a Trojan Horse. It installs itself when you visit a web site that has been set up as a trap, or click on a link in an email that connects you to one of these sites. They try to get you to buy their program online, which promises to remove the infections. This may be a scheme to steal your credit card information.

Having a Trojan virus on your computer also opens the door to other nefarious behavior, such as using your computer along with hundreds of others to mount a coordinated "denial of service" attack on a targeted site. Some of the names of these fake antivirus programs are "Antivirus 2014", "Antivirus Pro 2014", and "Antivirus 360". At the very least, you should have a recent version of a good antivirus program on your computer (no more than 2 years old), and the virus definitions list should be updated frequently. We like Norton Security, but there are several other PC security programs that work very well. If you want a free antivirus program for your Windows PC, try Avast!).

Macs have so far been spared about 99% of computer viruses, but that could always change. As Apple continues to increase its market share, they could become a more interesting target for virus writers and hackers. The design of Mac OS X, being built on a Unix platform, makes it inherently more secure than a Windows system. However, for a layer of extra protection we recommend the free Avast Mac Security.

If your computer has become infected, try running updating and running your antivirus program. If it doesn't remove the infection, you may need expert help. We can often remove the virus WITHOUT the labor-intensive solution of having to wipe your hard drive, reinstall Windows and all of your programs, and replace all your data. PLEASE backup your data frequently! If you do not have an automated backup system, we would be happy to set one up for you.


Wireless Web Safety Tips

The convenience of wireless Internet access through smartphones, tablet computers, laptops and even desktop PCs and Macs has gotten rid of a lot of the hassles of being tethered by Ethernet cables. Along with the freedom and easy access come some security concerns. Here's a list of Wi-Fi safety tips from State Farm Insurance:

Stay up to date. Upgrade your network security from a Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) to a Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) or WPA2 system. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, a nonprofit trade organization, the most secure system is WPA2. "Average Joe hackers won't be able to crack WPA- or WPA2-encrypted data," says technology guru Amy Webb who advises Fortune 500 companies, governments and other entities.

Change your network defaults. Most wireless routers arrive with the security set low and a generic name, SSID, to make them easy to set up. Change those immediately. Make your password harder to hack. The Wi-Fi Alliance recommends passwords of at least eight and preferably 14 characters, with a mixture of numbers, upper and lower case letters and symbols. Stay away from passwords that include actual words or personal information, such as your name or address.

Do your banking at home. It may seem convenient to pay your bills while you're waiting in an airport lounge, but avoid conducting transactions over a public connection. Turn off your Wi-Fi when you don't need it. Most laptops and smart phones search for Wi-Fi signals automatically. That connection stays open even if you aren't on the Internet. So shut down the connection when you're not online.



Why It's Important to Password Protect Your Wireless Internet

NY case underscores Wi-Fi privacy dangers

Sunday, Apr 24, 2011,11:20 pm ET

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Lying on his family room floor with assault weapons trained on him, shouts of "pedophile!" and "pornographer!" stinging like his fresh cuts and bruises, the Buffalo homeowner didn't need long to figure out the reason for the early morning wake-up call from a swarm of federal agents.

That new wireless router. He'd gotten fed up trying to set a password. Someone must have used his Internet connection, he thought.

"We know who you are! You downloaded thousands of images at 11:30 last night," the man's lawyer, Barry Covert, recounted the agents saying. They referred to a screen name, "Doldrum."

"No, I didn't," he insisted. "Somebody else could have but I didn't do anything like that."

"You're a creep ... just admit it," they said.

Law enforcement officials say the case is a cautionary tale. Their advice: Password-protect your wireless router.


It's unknown how often unsecured routers have brought legal trouble for subscribers. Besides the criminal investigations, the Internet is full of anecdotal accounts of people who've had to fight accusations of illegally downloading music or movies.

Whether you're guilty or not, "you look like the suspect," said Orin Kerr, a professor at George Washington University Law School, who said that's just one of many reasons to secure home routers.

Experts say the more savvy hackers can go beyond just connecting to the Internet on the host's dime and monitor Internet activity and steal passwords or other sensitive information.

A study released in February provides a sense of how often computer users rely on the generosity — or technological shortcomings — of their neighbors to gain Internet access.

The poll conducted for the Wi-Fi Alliance, the industry group that promotes wireless technology standards, found that among 1,054 Americans age 18 and older, 32 percent acknowledged trying to access a Wi-Fi network that wasn't theirs. An estimated 201 million households worldwide use Wi-Fi networks, according to the alliance.

The same study, conducted by Wakefield Research, found that 40 percent said they would be more likely to trust someone with their house key than with their Wi-Fi network password.

For some, though, leaving their wireless router open to outside use is a philosophical decision, a way of returning the favor for the times they've hopped on to someone else's network to check e-mail or download directions while away from home .

"I think it's convenient and polite to have an open Wi-Fi network," said Rebecca Jeschke, whose home signal is accessible to anyone within range.

"Public Wi-Fi is for the common good and I'm happy to participate in that — and lots of people are," said Jeschke, a spokeswoman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that takes on cyberspace civil liberties issues.

Experts say wireless routers come with encryption software, but setting it up means a trip to the manual.

The government's Computer Emergency Readiness Team recommends home users make their networks invisible to others by disabling the identifier broadcasting function that allows wireless access points to announce their presence. It also advises users to replace any default network names or passwords, since those are widely known, and to keep an eye on the manufacturer's website for security patches or updates.

Source: AP via USA Today:

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