COPPA’s New Rules To Keep Kids Safe Online

July 17th, 2013

Kids with smartphone

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act was initially enacted in 1998 and mandated the collection of data from children under 13. Known as COPPA, the rule was amended in 2012 to cover a wider range of information, which addresses the increase in mobile usage and social media. This modified version went into effect July 1st, but Grant Gross, of ComputerWorld, reports that some websites are struggling to stay in compliance.

COPPA requires special care and security for children’s identifying information, including cookies, geolocations, photos and videos. Critics claim that what the FTC is asking of developers is next to impossible, however.

The rule is meant to protect children against targeted advertising and online tracking, so that’s where the FTC suggests websites focus their attention. Though violations of COPPA can carry up to a $16-thousand penalty, most believe there will be a grace period for developers to hone new policies and develop new strategies to comply.

As a parent, you can look for apps with a seal of approval from the Association for Competitive Technology and a group called Moms With Apps. Their Know What’s Inside campaign awards a seal of approval for developers who comply with the recommended practices of COPPA.

To be sure you keep your children completely safe online, you’ll also need Geek Rescue’s Safety Net. For about a dollar per day, you get the ability to keep children away from potentially dangerous and inappropriate sites. Call Geek Rescue ta 918-369-4335 to learn more about keeping your kids safe.

Ransomware Sites Pose As FBI

July 17th, 2013

Ransom

You’re at home surfing the web, as you’ve been known to do. You follow a couple of interesting links and suddenly find yourself in a dark corner of the internet. A page appears in your browser claiming to be controlled by the “FBI Cyber Department” or “FBI Cybercrime Division”. They tell you they’ve seized control of your browser, recorded your activities and you will face legal action unless you pay a sizable fine. To show they mean business, they flash a pop-up of displaying your current location.

Now what do you do? Attempting to leave the page only causes the cycle of messages to start over and trying to close the browser proves fruitless. Paying the fine, however, would be just as pointless.

This site is a scam, as you may have already guessed. It’s accurately called ransomware because of the way it holds your computer hostage and demands payment. Previously, we warned you about a virus that similarly locks down your computer. The virus is difficult to get around, but there are some things to try if you come across a ransomware site, as Topher Kessler details in his post at Cnet.

Because this site is based off a relatively simple JavaScript code, it can be thwarted by disabling JavaScript in your browser. This will be an option found in the settings. Once JavaScript is disabled, the window can be closed like normal.

If you can’t find the JavaScript option or don’t want to go that route, force quit the browser. Unfortunately, your browser may automatically take you to the last page of your previous browsing session, which puts you back where you started. There are ways to disable this function, however.

If you happen to be using Safari, simply reset it from the application menu. These simple fixes will allow you to regain control of your browser and your computer. If you continue to experience trouble or want to safeguard against other malicious attacks, Geek Rescue is always here to help. We have the experience and know-how to restore your computer after any attack and safeguard it for the future. Come by or call us at 918-369-4335.

Spam Email as a Distraction

July 17th, 2013

Spam email attack

Have you heard of a Distributed Spam Distraction or DSD? It refers to the use of a flood of spam emails overwhelming your inbox to distract you from important emails detailing a cybercriminals real actions. John P. Mello details the dangers of a DSD attack for CIO.

Though still fairly rare, there’s been a spike in the number of DSD occurrences since the beginning of the year. The attack can last up to 24 hours and send a deluge of 60-thousand messages to your inbox. The spam is difficult to filter since it contains no malicious links or malware. The criminals make messages as simple as possible because their purpose is just to distract you.

If you experience a DSD attack, someone has obtained not only your specific email address, but also account information and passwords for an important site. While you’re sorting through a ridiculous amount of emails, usually filled with random quotes from books, criminals make changes to your online accounts, possibly transferring money or making purchases. Since these actions automatically send an email to your inbox, the spam is used to cover them and keep you unaware.

It’s important to change passwords and stay diligent in combing through spam emails when experience a DSD attack. Contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335 immediately for help. They help you deal with the attack and protect you from future attempts to steal your data.

What You Need To Know About Free WiFi

July 17th, 2013

Free WiFi

Free WiFi is available everywhere, which is great to keep you and your devices connected to a high-speed internet connection. Those free networks, though, are notoriously lacking in security and provide opportunities for cyber criminals to take advantage of you.  David Gorodyansky highlights some reasons for concern when using free WiFi while traveling this summer for Forbes, but his advice rings true even if you are just hanging around your hometown.

Do you have security software installed on your home computer? Chances are you wouldn’t think of surfing the internet at home without some sort of antivirus protection at least. Now, do you have similar software on your phone? For most people, the thought of protecting their smartphone has never entered their mind. Those same people use their phone to not only surf the web, but also to book reservations, make purchases and check their bank account. One could easily argue that your phone should be even more secure than your home computer.

Mobile devices are also often lost or stolen, which gives the thief immediate access to all the information you’ve accessed with that device. Phones have lock screens and apps to prevent access to your personal data and similar preventative measures are available for laptops and tablets.

For the specific problem of using unsecured mobile hotspots, there are encryption services to make your personal experience safe. By utilizing one of these services, you are free to take advantage of free WiFi but won’t be sacrificing security. Even with provisions in place, however, it’s a good idea to take some precautions. Encryption and other protections make it very unlikely for outsiders to steal your information, but not giving out personal information makes it completely impossible. If possible, refrain from making purchases or reservations with your credit card on your phone’s browser. Those can usually wait until you’re in the most secure environment possible.

To secure your mobile devices and to learn more about encryption services, like VPNs, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. They’ll not only make sure you have the most up-to-date security software, but also teach you about safe surfing habits.

 

Your Laptop is Frozen, Now What?

July 17th, 2013

Computer Freeze

Part of being the proud owner of a laptop is dealing with the crippling frustration of freezes or crashes at some point. You can do everything possible to keep your device well-maintained, but chances are you’ll experience a freeze up eventually. While this is certainly aggravating, it’s not a complete disaster, as Brian Westover explains in his article for PC Mag.

The first thing to do in the case of a freeze, besides refraining from physically throwing your computer, is to try to diagnose the problem. The diagnosis can change the needed course of action, so you’ll need to think about the problem before knowing how to solve it.

The vents may be clogged with dust, lint or pet fur. That causes overheating, which leads to a forced shutdown. The solution may be as simple as clearing outside obstructions, like blankets, that are covering the vents. If there’s an internal clog, a can of compressed air could clean it out, but you may have a hardware problem that will need a professional repair. Geek Rescue specializes in repairing your computer, whether it needs a thorough cleaning or a hardware fix or upgrade.

You may have insufficient RAM available, which causes anything from sluggish, slow performance to a crash. You can research your own memory problems using Task Manager, but Geek Rescue does the legwork for you and has the tools to fix the problem once it’s been diagnosed.

Another possibility for a computer freeze is software issues. That’s an all-encompassing term that covers virus and malware infections, software bugs, BIOS changes and more. To fix the problem, try using System Restore to return to your last, healthy saved state. Then run a virus scan and updates. Geek Rescue takes care of these steps for you to find and solve the problem. They’ll also help keep the problem, or similar problems, from happening again.

These are just a small sampling of the possible reasons for computer problems. Though they are some of the most common, there are hundreds to thousands of other reasons for freezes. Take your computer to one of Geek Rescue’s locations to get expert analysis and a quick, efficient and effective fix. Come see us or call us at 918-369-4335.

Vulnerability In Smartphone Security Leaks Your Data

July 16th, 2013

Smartphone

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a smartphone user. And if you’re a smartphone user, chances are you’ve been wondering lately about how secure your phone is. The NSA has been spying on you, but perhaps more troubling is the likelihood that ordinary citizens have had access to your phone and all the data you access it with.

Adam Clark Estes, of Lifehacker, details a recently discovered, and fairly sizable, hole in Verizon’s security that allows anyone with a little desire and know-how to hack into your device and monitor your activity. After learning of the weakness in their security, Verizon was quick to patch it, but this news creates a number of questions for all smartphone users.

The team that exploited Verizon’s security says there are more holes just waiting to be breached. That goes for Verizon and nearly any other provider in the U.S. Also, for any hacker who gained access to a device before the update to security still has access.

The lesson here is that none of us are safe when using smartphones. If you haven’t been victimized yet, it’s only a matter of time. Your provider’s security clearly isn’t enough to protect your data and information, so invest in something more substantial. Bring your device to Geek Rescue to make it fully secure. Our Geeks give you a variety of options to keep any device safe from hacks, viruses and malware. Come by or call us at 918-369-4335.

The Growing Threat of Phishing

July 15th, 2013

Gone Phishing for Cyber ThreatsInfographic by Via Resource

The estimated 37.3 billion people targeted by phishing scams in the past year seems like an incredibly high number, until you start to realize how common and ordinary phishing is. Banners, link on social networks or instant messengers and emails containing information specific to you can all lead to phishing attacks.

This evolution stems from the average user growing more savvy. Cyber criminals understand that generic emails making wild claims about money won overseas no longer draw your curiosity. Now, social engineering tactics are used to create phishing attacks that are much harder to ignore. These attacks, called spear phishing, are highly targeted and use information mined from your online profile. Maybe you tweeted about a business trip or have emails saved from your bank or cell phone provider. Criminals use this information to put together an attack tailored to you, which greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll click their link or provide them with personal information.

Browse through the included infographic to better understand the dangers associated with phishing. These attacks are aimed at both personal and business users, so you need to be on your guard wherever you are. To ensure your safety online, consult with the professionals at Geek Rescue. They offer a variety of services designed to keep you safe from all types of cyber criminal attacks. Come by or call us at 918-369-4335.

Let’s Learn About Malware and Viruses

July 15th, 2013

Malware warning

You’ve likely heard about the importance of protecting your devices from both computer viruses and malware, but do you know the characteristics of the two and the differences between them? Understanding how each works helps you to spot possible signs of infection. You will also have an easier time avoiding the actions that will infect your computer in the first place.

Dan Steiner, for Business2Community, writes “While there are many different types of malware, viruses are a specific strain that is distinct in the way it infects computers and its reason for doing so.” Remember in geometry when you learned that a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t always a square? In this case, a virus is a form of malware, but the term ‘malware’ doesn’t always refer to a virus. Malware could also be a trojan horse, worm, keylogger or any type of malicious software.

A virus is a specific term for software that impairs a computer by infecting files. Some other simply minor annoyances while more complex viruses are capable of rendering your machine inoperable or stealing your data.

Viruses are used less because they are “noisy”. This means the warning signs that your machine has a virus are easy to detect. Other types of malware are able to operate in the background without harming noticeably harming your system’s functionality and many are even able to stay undetected by security software. This way, the malware is able to secretly steal your data without you ever knowing anything is wrong.

Whether you are experiencing a minor virus annoyance or worried about malware stealing your data, bring your computer to Geek Rescue for a full diagnostic and cleaning. Geek Rescue restore’s your device to a healthy state and helps to protect it from future attacks. Come by or call us at 918-369-4335.

Antivirus Software Isn’t Enough

July 15th, 2013

Virus Alert

To protect yourself from viruses, malware and phishing attacks, you need a currently updated antivirus program installed on the device you’re using to browse the web. By now, this is a well-known truth. Relying on the presence of antivirus software alone, however, is no longer enough to keep you and your computer safe.

Kaspersky Lab reports that there is a new, unique form of malware detected more than once every second. That equates to about 200-thousand new forms of malware being created each day. Even regular updates to your antivirus software can’t keep up. Antivirus is still necessary to catch the majority of infection attempts you’ll run into during a normal web browsing excursion, but you need extra security to protect you from the rest.

For businesses or homes, users are often their own worst enemy when it comes to fighting viruses and malware. In his article for Computer Weekly, Warwick Ashford explains that “securing computers remains easier than securing users.” That’s because infection attempts use manipulative language to get users to open emails or click objects their computer knows they shouldn’t. Social media, when not protected properly, also gives cyber criminals more than enough information to goad you into a phishing attack or infect you with malware. In many ways, the best way to protect yourself online is to trust your spam filter and security software and practice safe, disciplined surfing.

Using a cloud infrastructure with real-time updates is one way to further protect your computer. Geek Rescue knows how to keep you protected, even against the increasingly intelligent and effective threats out there. Contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335 now, before your computer is infected, to explore your options and stay safe from attack.

Going Invisible And Staying Safe On The Internet

July 12th, 2013

Invisible man

To many people, being invisible and undetectable on the internet is only necessary for criminals who are partaking in illegal activities. Those people overlook how easy it is for websites and other users to monitor your activity and steal your information. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to stay safe by going invisible. Chris Gayomali touched on a handful of your options in his recent article for The Week.

Masking your IP address makes it more difficult to track your online activity, which is a particularly valuable skill considering the recent developments with the NSA. Your IP, or internet protocol, address is a set of numbers assigned to your device. Computers, phones, even printers, all have an IP address. To mask your IP, your connection to the internet is rerouted through other machines, which makes it hard to pin down where you actually are. There are programs readily available for download to help with this task, although some websites may not support your masked IP experience. Geek Rescue will outfit your computer with top-of-the-line software to mask your IP and keep you safer online.

Have you ever heard of a VPN? It stands for Virtual Private Network and they supply encrypted tunnels to keep your online activity secure. Again, there are plenty of downloadable tools to help you set-up your own VPN. They come in handy when using free WiFi, which are by definition unsecure networks and attract shady characters. To set up your own VPN, call Geek Rescue or stop by. They’ll have you surfing securely in no time.

You may not be using your email for any illegal activity, but that doesn’t mean you want anyone to have access to your message content. Addresses, phone numbers, bank account numbers and social security numbers are routinely included in emails. Encryption services are readily available and many don’t even require registration. Geek Rescue has the email solutions you need to ensure that no outside sources have access to your private messages.

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have all been accused of sending information to the government. What do you do if you don’t records of your searches forward to official agencies? A little research can help you discover a new search engine that promises not to track or store records of your searches. Predictably, traffic on these search engines has risen steadily in the past few weeks.

Finally, if the search giants’ sites aren’t safe, neither are their chat clients. Encrypted chat services are often as easy as adding a plug-in to your browser. It may not be quite as convenient as Gchat, but you can be sure that no one else is reading your conversation.

For more information on how to surf safely and keep your computer and data private and secure, talk to the experts at Geek Rescue today. Give us a call at 918-369-4335.