Monday, February 27, 2012

Internet Browser Security

Q: How can I protect my computer from viruses (via my internet browser)? 
Part 2
The good news is, today's internet browsers can help you fight back the bad guys from infecting your computer.  Remember, no internet security solution is 100% secure.  You still need to be aware and alert when you click on links or give out information.

Your favorite web browser may be able to help you achieve safer surfing.  

1.  Settings:  While instructions and features vary, go to your browser's security and privacy settings and tweak those to insure your privacy and safety.
2.  Stay up to date:  Make sure you download software updates for your browser.  When in doubt, download a new version from the company's legitimate web site to make sure you have the latest.
3.  Safe Sites:  Some browsers let you set up the browser so it alerts you when you are visiting a site that is known for suspicious traffic.  McAfee has a tool that you can add into your browser called the "SiteAdvisor" to help you as you surf the net.  You can find the tool at:

The Internet Surfing Experience: Tips to protecting yourself while surfing online

Protecting Your Computer

Question:  how can I protect my computer from viruses?
Viruses attack your computers and other internet ready devices in a variety of ways.  A common method is by hiding the software in an attachment or a link in an email.  Always think twice before clicking on a link or attachment, even if you know the sender.

In addition, you may want to consider using a free software tool or purchasing a tool to add a layer of protection to your computer.  If you have a Mac instead of the Windows operating system, make sure you look at the product for compatibility.

What to look for in a tool:
1.  Is it easy to use and install?  Look for customer reviews.
2.  Features included.  Does it include antivirus, antimalware, and antispyware?
3.  Never purchase a tool from a pop up ad, these are usually bogus packages

There are many free tools out there that do a great job.  Two examples of those tools include:
1.  Microsoft has a free scanner and removal tool at: 

2.  Sophos also offers free tools at: 

You can also purchase tools.  Some examples of software that you can purchase from vendors are McAfee, Norton, Panda and F-Secure.  PC Magazine did a review of 2012 tools that you can read at:,2817,2372364,00.asp 


Imagine picking up your smartphone to look at your Facebook page to check messages and it looks like you just added a lot of friends.  You start to read through the posts and you suddenly you realize you are in someone else’s Facebook profile. 
Or, your phone suddenly starts to act slow and there are apps open that you don't normally use.

Is it possible your phone has been hijacked?  The answer is maybe.

  • Cybercreeps are getting smarter and are creating viruses to infect your cell phones. 
  • There were an average of 30 cell phone viruses per month last year.  All were contained and damages were minimized.
  • Cybercreeps created fake online banking software that looked legitimate.  Cell phone customers downloaded it and did what they thought was online banking until they realized their id and password had been stolen!

1.    Lock:  Always lock your phone using a password or PIN code
2.    Block:  For banking, download mobile apps only after checking with your financial institution to make sure you don’t load an imposter app
3.    Protect:  Set your phone to always prompt you for a password before software can be downloaded to it
4.    Detect:  Never assume that your voice calls are confidential – some countries have no encryption at all for cell conversations.  Calls on 3G or 4G will have more security so check your signal.

If you think your phone has been hijacked, call your phone vendor immediately.  Go to a computer that you trust and change all passwords to your accounts to try to minimize the creeps from taking over your accounts and your identity.

There are some virus software packages that you can purchase to add more protection to your phone if you are concerned.  Some examples include F-Secure or Sophos.  To learn more about these options, there was a recent review posted on the leading mobile software antivirus protection providers for 2012 posted at: 

Email Account Takeover Tips

Q:  Help!  A hacker has taken over my email account.  Now he is sending notes to my friends that I'm in trouble and need money.  What should I do?

A:  First of all, we are so sorry that you are going through this.  We hope that none of your contacts were duped into sending the cybercriminal money.  If they were, tell them to immediately file a police report and to file a report online at to report internet fraud.  In addition, there are 8 steps you can take to help clean up your email account and hopefully avoid future issues.

Step #1:  Identify all online accounts that you use that are tied to that password.  Notify them in case they see fraudulent or suspicious activity.  Keep them written down on a list to make sure you notify everyone.  
Some examples include:  your kids' schools, your bank account, your credit card account.

Step #2:  Change ALL passwords, not just your hacked email account.
Go to a different computer that you trust is not compromised and change all passwords.
Make sure all of your passwords are different and changed immediately.

Step #3 - Check your email settings, especially any "forwarding" functions.  Make sure your settings are set the way you want them to be and that the hacker is not forwarding your email account to some other accounts.

Step #4 - Notify your email account provider.  Many email account providers allow you to fill out an account complaint form so they know you have had your account hijacked.  

Step #5 - If feasible, consider moving to a new email account name.  Sometimes, the hacker has done such a complete takeover of the account, that it might make more sense to move over to a new email account name.

Step #6 - Scan your home and work computer for viruses and malware
Run a full scan and fix anything that the scan finds.  Remember, scans do not find anything so watch for suspicious computer behaviors such as hearing access to the hard drive or a light flickering when you are not running a program.  There are a lot of free tools that you can use in addition to your virus protection listed on the site and at

Step #7 - Go to all of your social media accounts and broadcast to your family and friends that your account was hacked.  Don't be embarrassed, it happens to most people.  They will thank you later from helping them avoid being a victim too.

Step #8 - Keep in mind that safe surfing habits such as not clicking on links, opening attachments, or refraining from using free Wi-Fi networks that you do not really know the owner of is a good step towards prevention.

Be on the lookout for this Google Beta Scam!!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Address books are at risk but how would you know?

Notes taken by: Theresa Payton, Fortalice, LLC. Content also featured in WBTV's segment "Protecting Your Cyberturf" featuring Theresa Payton and Kristen Miranda

Remember the days of the rolodex?  You needed to contact someone and you just flipped to the contact.  Or, the old-school address book?  Now most of us carry a smart phone which replaces the rolodex and address book.  And sometimes, our most sensitive information, is who we associate with.  Now we learn that your contacts are at risk when you use online services.

It’s probably was one of the best kept secrets until now and it might leave you feeling violated.  Your address book has been and can be accessed when you link to some of the most popular sites via your smart phone.  The online companies actually consider it a “best practice” to take that information.  Theresa Payton explains what they are doing, the risks, and how you can avoid peeping eyes!

Twitter, Foursquare, and Instagram routinely snoop and look at your personal address book on your phone.  Did you know that they can do that?

A developer noticed that a company named Path was uploading address books.  After a deeper look he determined they were doing this without user permissions.

In addition, Congress asked Apple to explain how the Apple-store “approved apps” work in relation to consumer privacy, including the phone books.  Apple said it is against their published rules for address books to be collected without user permission, but they have no explanation for why apps are doing this.

Apple plans to make sure apps that want to take your address book, have to send you a very targeted and specific notice that they are going to look at your contacts.  They did not commit as to when we would see this important privacy change.

Apple did say they caught and stopped Yelp, GoWalla, Hipster and Foodspotting from doing this in the past.

Google said that any apps that do this on their phones must ask your permission up front.  

Another place to be aware of this practice is the “Find Friends” feature that you see often on social media sites.  For example, if you use the Twitter app to “Find Friends” in your address book, they will store your information for up to 18 months.

A security developer tested out Foursquare and if you sign up via your phone, it grabs and sends your address book without notifying you.  Foursquare says they will change that and warn you in the future.

1.  When you get those warning pop ups, for example asking for location or access to your address book, think twice before you give the “ok”
2.  Any app that “helps” you by accessing your contacts - use at your own risk or just skip it altogether and be selective in who you add to that app and social network
3.  Speak up - when consumers speak up, the companies do take notice and make changes

SUPERPHONE:  It’s predicted that the next generation of smart phones are going to be dubbed SUPERPHONES because they will include super features such as high def video, consistent 4G connections, and amazing speeds.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Geocaching is fun, but steps to take to be safe

Geocaching, it’s where the digital world and the physical world come together to create a unique type of treasure hunt.  Typically, the treasure hunt is created by unknown volunteers all over the globe that hide treasure boxes in various public places.  These treasure hunts can be a great way to experience the great outdoors, use GPS and a compass, and experience something new and different.  However, it can also cause safety concerns for those placing the treasure and those seeking it.  

The new treasure hunt, called geocaching, is fun.  All you need is a smartphone with GPS and time for an adventure.  But you can run into difficulties that can lead to safety issues.  For example, you are relying on a person you don’t know, to give you the correct GPS coordinates, to find a treasure and you have no idea what’s in it.  Theresa Payton explains what you need to know so you can be safe while experiencing your internet inspired treasure hunt.

1.  Law enforcement has reported lots of false alarms where citizens see a suspicious box hanging off electrical or water equipment.
2.  You are ultimately relying on strangers to tell you to go look for treasure and many of these geocaches are deep in the woods or remote areas of a park.
3.  The concern that geocaching desensitizes people and they stop reporting suspicious boxes because they assume it is a geocache.
4.  Geocaches are popping up in sites that are dangerous such as attached to road signs, water sources, or electrical/gas sources.

1.  Consider controlled geocache adventures.  Places like the National Whitewater Center have created their own experiences for visitors.
2.  If you see a suspicious looking box, don’t assume it’s just a geocache, please report it.
3.  Do not broadcast on the internet, in advance, that you are going geocaching and the sites you are going to.  Please always geocache with friends.  Safety in numbers!
4.  If you are hiding the buried treasure by placing a geocache, never attach it to water, gas, or electrical sources because you create a safety issue for yourself and others--and, you may be breaking the law
5.  Think first before you go galloping into the woods with an odd looking box, you may look suspicious and need to answer to authorities!
6.  Prepare in advance:  have your phone fully charged and/or extra batteries for the phone or GPS you are using.  Dress appropriately for the weather.  If you are going into remote areas, have items such as water and flashlights on hand just in case you get lost.  It’s also a good idea to have a big stick and a pocket knife just in case you need it.  Always have a first aid kit on hand or in the car.
7.  Consider a back up plan in the event you cannot get a cell phone signal.  Create a rendezvous point and specific time to meet.  Walkie talkies for your party can also be very helpful.

This is a hashtag term on Twitter meaning “Follow Friday” but also interpreted as a “Fun to Follow”.  Friday is a traditional day on Twitter to do a shout out for your favorite products, celebrities or other people you like to follow on Twitter.  You may see someone say, “You are true #FF” meaning “You are a true fun to follow for Follow Friday”.


Safe and controlled geocaching at the National Whitewater Rafting Center:

Geocaching website at:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service lists guidelines if you want to geocache at and tips for safe geocaching at:

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Are You Ready When Facebook Moves Everyone to Timeline?

Notes taken by: Theresa Payton, Fortalice, LLC. Material also featured in WBTV's segment Protecting Your Cyberturf, featuring Kristen Miranda and Theresa Payton.

We told you before about Facebook releasing a new look and feel called timeline.  Some of you might already be using it and others may still be on the old look and feel.  You need to know that Facebook is planning to roll it out to everyone.  But are you really ready for it?  What about posts you did a year or longer ago?  Do you remember those?  Studies show that recruiters, prospective mates, and others research you online and judge what they see.  Are you putting your best face forward on Facebook?  
Theresa Payton to tells you what to expect and give you some tips to protect yourself.
Before timeline, those posts were always there but they weren’t as easy to get to.  On the current Facebook format, you have to go to the bottom of the screen, hit older posts, wait for the older posts to queue up, and repeat again and again to go back in time.  Not now!  Just go to timeline and choose the point in time and presto!  It’s there.

5 Tips to clean up your image:
1.  Go to your privacy settings, and change the settings for “Who can see posts by others on your timeline” and “Who can post on your timeline” to “Friends”.
2.  While in the privacy settings page, you can change the settings for “Maximum Timeline Visibility” to “Friends”.
3.  Change “Limit the Audience for Past Posts” to “Friends”
4.  Don’t forget you may have posted things on someone else’s wall that needs to be reviewed.  Check your “Activity Log” to see any posts you made on someone else’s wall.  If you see something that needs to be removed, delete it.
5.  Search through all your old posts to see if there any you should “delete” or “hide”

Just remember, digital is forever AND when Facebook makes a change, they usually default all privacy settings to wide open.

It’s a new shopping app meets coupon site started by Tom Vitale.  It’s named after Vallerie Bertinelli, it’s her initials and what he calls her as a nickname.  Instead of printing a coupon, the deal is on your phone and you show it to the merchant.

If you want to see how you look to other people on Facebook with Timeline, go to this link and follow the instructions.

You can also look for pointers on how to safely use Facebook by going to their Safety center at and their Privacy center at