Quick Bytes News – Autumnal Snippets

Here we go again with the Autumn release…

Back to school and an oncoming Christmas, but with Halloween & Guy Fawkes double spook shows in the way. I may try celebrating the Equinox this year for a change on some hilltop if the weather permits, (well, got to try it once!).

Talking of spook shows I see that GCC (our local retrograde County Cabal) are continuing with their mass burn monster incinerator at Quedgeley, where peaceful protestors are arrested for trying to keep our air breathable and our poll tax charges lower.

Caring is carrying a high price these days.

To attempt a brightening up the scenery now, I offer you this;


Android Mobiles Security

 

In today’s world most of us carry a smart phone or tablet, the majority of which are based on Google’s own Android operating system. Many of us began using these for web based functions like browsing and email. Then also along came thousands of Apps and games which often are free which according to their creators ‘enhance the online experience’ for us when using smart devices.

If  that is all there is too it then this post ends now, which it doesn’t.

With an historic headline like this …

“Android Was 2016’s Most Vulnerable Product”

Android needed a big review. >source<

 


So some clever and well intentioned people decided to run tests on how safe it might be to do your online banking or other sensitive personal data transfers from an Android smart device and they were concerned. Its so easy to say ‘yes’ to download an App and then grant it access to all centres of your device when it asks for permission. But what have you done?

Firstly the App may not behave as it appears to offer, remember ‘free’ has its price so beneficiaries will exist somewhere to it being on your device.

Did it come from Googles own Play Store? If not how sure of it can you be when it hasn’t been independently verified by them? Even then caution is advised. Do you really need the App anyway?

If you do need it and would like it tested before installing it you could upload it here for AV-C online analysis

Its creators, AV Comparatives have written of it as follows;

…. “malware analysis tool, which is available free to all users. It is a static analysis system for detecting suspected Android malware and adware and providing statistics about it. Users can upload APK files and see the results in various analysis mechanisms”…

AV – C’s regular bulletins are a very useful and detailed source of their testing of security and privacy vendors products, for example this came from their Aug 2017 report on Mobile Security.

a pic

In their own words ….

“The review mainly focuses on the security features – anti-malware, anti-theft, and privacy – and only mentions further functionalities briefly. The structure of each product report is identical, allowing readers to compare products easily.
The main purpose of a mobile security product is to protect users and their devices from potential harm inflicted by malicious apps, fraudulent mails, or phishing URLs.”


Google Play Protect

Is a new set of protective features that Google have bundled into their ‘Play Services’ feature as of July 2017, so its a good idea to check that it is running on your Android phone. From an article …

“Google Play Protect combines various Android security tools, like app scanning, previously known as Verify Apps, browser protection and an anti-theft feature in the form of Google’s Find My Device app.

Google Play Protect was first launched at the company’s I/O Conference in May and will roll out to all Android devices running Google Play Services 11 or higher” source

One thing though …
“Smartphones often contain a lot of personal data. Luckily Google continuously adds new security to Android. Unfortunately, only 7 percent run the latest Android version (Nougat)”

Manufacturers of smart devices are notorious for delaying for long periods the fixes to security that Android has proved needed to lock them down against malicious code on the web.


“Project Treble”

This may be fixed with Google’s “Project Treble” sometime ahead soonish says this article from Slashgear. So better times ahead but what about now?

If your manufacturer hasn’t got around to updating your phone to ‘Nougat’ yet your best off following the best practice principles of;

  • Remove all junk and unnecessary Apps on the device
  • Install a quality Anti Virus/Malware App (see above) and check it occasionally to be fully functioning
  • Don’t click on links sent to you in texts, Apps and emails that you don’t feel right about, listen to your instincts first.
  • Beware of using unsecured (no password or WEP encrypted) WiFi connections in public places especially for anything sensitive, they are not safe! Best to always do your important stuff at a trusted location like home or office if you can.

 

You might be wondering if having an Android at all is a good idea? I think my answer would be that it will be once new developments above are in place throughout the manufacturer supply chain.

If waiting for that seems like a worrying idea then an iPhone iPad may well be better for now and there are many available in second use markets if a new one is prohibitively expensive. Though again, always use Apps you download only from the Apple Store.

That is all for now.

 

Greg

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Quick Bytes News – Autumn Edition

Greetings to you all

The undeclared and yet obvious evidence on trees everywhere on this sunny day is that Autumn has at last arrived. A little late and now a bit chilly but at least its here and so Westonbirt Arboretum will be happier that their gates will soon be frequented by tree and leaf spotters en-masse! (or for brexiteers, ‘by the bundle mate‘).

Another interesting arrival which I have yet to watch my way fully through is another  fascinating new documentary of epic length  (3 hours) by Adam Curtis which is now on BBC iPlayer named HyperNormalisation. So far I’ve only seen 20 minutes of it but in that small part I am already hooked on it! If its half as good as Adam Curtis’s last documentary Bitter Lake it will be fascinating. I will give the link to it at the bottom of this QBN post.

These days reality has become bigger than fiction across politics as we witness daily with the US elections pit dogfight, and our own rather ‘different’ pre brexit, shape shifted government, so nothing surprises me now (though Adam Curtis may change that).

So how can we be safer and sleep better in this concerning world?


a-typical-picture
Take Five Campaign

I discovered TakeFive during a visit to my local building society and picked up a leaflet showing this very helpful resource which has a wealth of Video and other written downloadable materials on it. These offer very sound and easy to understand advice on how to spot and avoid fraud. You can watch their short introductory video here

The TakeFive website is friendly and easy to navigate and can be found here

So please do follow their guidance and perhaps share it with other family members who might also benefit from it.


a-typical-picture
WiFi Hot Spot Advice

Although this website is written for an American audience the technology is essentially the same and so I have included it.

WiFi is everywhere now and because many people walk around with a portable pad, laptop or smartphone and they like to use the internet on these wherever they are, its now important to draw attention to using these devices with a better degree of security than is offered by many WiFi hot spots in metropolitan areas.

Not all are properly secured with WPA2 encryption and so another person could intercept data between your device and the router and so possibly raid your privacy, or worse!

Their website article is here


But all may not be completely safe at home or office if you use one of these WiFi Extenders ….

a-typical-picture

From an article by ISP Review “The network security gurus at Pen Test Partners have warned owners of BT’s Wi-Fi Extender 300 (Broadband Extender 300 Kit) adapters to update its firmware after they uncovered a string of vulnerabilities that could result in your home WiFi network password being leaked. The 300 series WiFi extenders are single band (2.4GHz) 802.11n spec devices that offer a headline maximum wireless network speed of 300Mbps (150Mbps in 20MHz mode and 300Mbps in 40MHz mode) and as such they’ve largely been superseded by the dual-band 600 and faster series. Never the less you can still buy them for only £19.99 a pop.”………

So do beware of these devices, the full details of the models involved are here and the good news is that BT have issued a firmware fix to close the vulnerability which is mentioned at the base of the ISP Review web page.


ZZZzzzzz …

And finally – a ‘did you know’ question that is topical as we now have the lights on more until next Equinox. ‘Did you know that bright lights are wrecking your sleep  and possibly also your health?’

According to this article from HowToGeek our devices are too bright and we look at them too late into the evenings for quality sleep to be guaranteed!  In it is written “to break all the research down into a single sentiment: We’re happiest and healthiest when we experience crisp blue-white light in the morning and afternoon, dimmer and warmer light in the evening, and sleep in a truly dark room.”

As you would expect there are technical fixes for the various portable devices suggested here and if you like, even special glasses but I guess that the real fix is to know when to obey natural instincts and let your body simply relax!

Sleep well!


TTFN

I hope you found this issue of QBN helpful and informative and if you would like to discuss any articles in it or seek any additional help from me, then please do call, I love a chat!

PCT Door Magnet

btw – the Adam Curtiss documentary I mentioned earlier, that might keep me up too late if I fail to watch the clock is viewable for free from the BBC here

Greg

Quick Bytes – Summer Holiday Edition

Greetings To All

I hope that those of you who have taken a work break enjoyed it or are still doing so if sat inside somewhere waiting for the rain/hail storm or associated winds to abate ( otherwise why would you be reading this when on holiday?).

Certainly this summer is proving that weather cannot be relied on to follow any previous ‘norms’ any more (probably our own collective fault but I won’t dwell on that obvious point right now).

For those of you yet to escape from ‘your norm’ I wish you happy journeys and suitable accomodation and weather!

In this edition I will cover considerations that affect both PC’s & Macs.

 

email – Changes to be aware of

In recent months many email providers have set out to achieve better security for customers by pro actively snaring that lousy spam that we all hate and also stopping as best as they can the more dangerous ‘spear phishing’ offerings from scammers and crooks who target us more efficiently than before.

Certainly I have received more of those emails recently myself in common with many and the danger was first in the zip file attachment on earlier ones, and more recently in a hyperlink in the message body. So what can be done as the crooks get smarter?

The first thing is to be aware of is any dodgy wording styles you see in any email you recieve, even one purporting to come from a known contact because until all email providers have caught up with these changes to their systems its still possible to spoof an email to fool the recipient by disguising the senders real email address. (see DKIM & SPF below)

Next is to beware of zip file attachments. My previous anti virus didn’t alert me to the attachments by snaring them, but because I am naturally cautious I didn’t open them. The rogue emails were from people I didn’t know and each one had a differennt email domain source, very suspicious! So I only I saved them to my Desktop and, because I doubted the ‘Clean’ report that came from my now previous anti virus (Panda) and (surprisingly) my anti malware (Malwarebytes), I posted it them up to virustotal where it lit up all over the screen as dangerous!

Its not good that many well known AV vendors also didn’t see the danger! So now I use one that did see it, Kaspersky (subscription), though BitDefender would have done if I didn’t find its console irritating. Those weren’t the only 2 that caught it but they are the ones I am more familiar with.

So unless you are very confident, your best friend is still Suspicion and its best pal, Caution.


SPF & DKIM

Though this might appear like a 1980’s pop queen duo its a lot less pretty but for reasons I mentioned above, its now much more necessary and will affect your outbound emails being successfully received so do read on.

SPF & DKIM are each little records that need to be added to your email domains DNS  settings so that when you send an email  from any other source than your own registered email domain, it will carry the necessary credentials to get through the ever tighter mail gateways of the recipient’s email service. Otherwise it may be dumped in the spam skip or simply ‘dropped’ by the server because the address of the sender system differs from the one the email is usually sent from.One of many mass send email online platforms is MailChimp and as an example they have offer this advice  …

“DMARC stands for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance, and takes effect if an email fails certain types of authentication. DMARC policies benefit the email community as a whole because they help prevent phishing, spoofing, and the delivery of fraudulent emails. However, strict DMARC policies can sometimes misidentify your legitimate marketing emails as fraudulent and reject them.”

They add … “To improve deliverability, we encourage you to use a From email address at a domain owned by you or your organization, like firstname.lastname@mycompany.com. Not only will this help avoid delivery issues, it can help your subscribers recognize your brand. ” source http://kb.mailchimp.com/accounts/email-authentication/about-dmarc

As the web page shows the approach to DMARC when using a free email provider or a registered  email domain diffe,r so an enlightened approach is needed. But its worth getting yours set up before too many of your emails become lost.


Time is up and I must leave NOW, but Windows wants to Update!

We all realise a little late that we must stop working on our laptops and because time deliberately accelerates when we least want it to, we have to move on promptly. Perhaps because we need to make it to an appointment, catch a train or bus or because the partners birthday party begins in less than 1 hour but Windows then freezes us to the spot by forcing us to wait for updates to complete! The tension and self recrimination wheels can begin turning which might spoil your next meeting experience unless …. you do this.

  • Click on any empty area of the desktop or pressing Windows+D on your keyboard. Then, press Alt+F4 to access the Shut Down Windows dialog box.
  • To shut down without installing updates, select “Shut down” from the drop-down list.

For those of you wanting to be geeky you could add the following line to a batch file you save on your desktop and run it when the need arises.

shutdown -s -t 0


Mac’s & Viruses / Malware

Before the current time the sound & safe Mac was a safe system where viruses rarely made in-roads but this is now increasingly under threat from web based attacks through the browsers as you traverse the web. Most ‘nasties’ that affect PC’s still don’t run on Macs but the number that do are increasing steadily so I think it is now time to flag this up and offer guidance.

I went looking for answers and found this report from a verifiable source which gives a full review of the reasoning for anti virus on Mac’s and offers ideas on prevention both through extra user care, and by installing an anti virus which it gives comparatrive reviews on and across several vendors of the programme.

It is a long read but as you might expect its worth it by comparison to becoming infected, especially so if the infection encrypts your data and ransomes it back to you for a fat fee! As always I can help you with working to an understanding and discussing actions, please contact me for this.

Please do keep in mind that by backing up your data to my Stroud Cloud you will be able to fully recover your data in that event, if lightning strikes differently.


That is all for now, have a great late summer while the sun still shines.

 

If I can assist, advise or entertain you further in I.T related topics do give me a call!

 

Warm regards

 

Greg Dance

Free Time
Have up to 30 minutes FREE consultation time!

 

Quick Bytes News – Spring 2016

 

Welcome to the spring edition of QBN!

Some of you may be wondering where the March & April editions went, and the simple truth is that for several reasons I have been just too busy to get them written! So sorry about those absences but I hope this edition will make up for the missed postings!

 

In this edition I will draw together some of the news from the IT arena in a form which is not overly detailed so that I get more into a single edition.

If any of you wish to know more on one topic or more do let me know and I may then make it an article or feature in a later edition if enough interest is there for this. Otherwise of course you can ring me for a chat!

So here we go …


Obsolescence – the inevitable process.

Obsolescence is one of the inevitable processes when something is evolving and as you all know I.T. epitomises this.

So the first story I have of this is that if you are still using Windows XP or Vista and your chosen browser is Google Chrome then you need to be aware that Google have discontinued updates support for it.  So because Microsoft themselves discontinued updates 2 years ago also for XP and soon will do likewise for Vista, a move on to Windows 7 is really the best one for you to make (unless you don’t mind the very unfamiliar desktop of the more recent Windows 8.x & 10 operating systems).

Windows 7 updates are good for another 4 years or so and despite Microsofts best persuasive coercions many of us will hang on to this OS until a need drives us on.

 

End of Sales Microsoft Windows 7 & 8.x

End of sales refers to the date when a particular version of Windows is no longer shipped to retailers or Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). Examples of OEMS are Dell and Toshiba—PC manufacturers who often preinstall Windows software.

This table gives end of sales dates for specific Windows operating systems.

Client operating systems and updates

End of sales for Windows preinstalled

 

Windows 7 Professional October 31, 2016
Windows 8 June 30, 2016
Windows 8.1 October 31, 2016

 

* Note that when the retail software product reaches its end of sales date, it can still be purchased through OEMs (the company that made your PC) until it reaches the end of sales date for PCs with Windows preinstalled.

Source:- http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/lifecycle#section_2

Security support for Windows 7 and 8, will end in 2020 and 2023 respectively.

 

Apple Quicktime Player

Its best to remove Apple’s Quicktime media player from your systems because its no longer supported and lets face it, its not necessary either.

“Computers running QuickTime for Windows will continue to work after support ends. However, using unsupported software may increase the risks from viruses and other security threats,” US-CERT said. “The only mitigation currently available is to uninstall QuickTime for Windows.” Public disclosure of the two bugs hastens the urgency for users to distance themselves from QuickTime for Windows. Both vulnerabilities expose Windows machines to remote code execution”.

See more at: Apple Deprecates QuickTime For Windows, Won’t Patch New Flaws https://wp.me/p3AjUX-uxZ

Privacy not Piracy

The piracy I refer to is when a web server uses various methods to steal your privacy for targeted advertising.

PC Techniques will be releasing a new service soon to help with keeping out the invaders, but until then here are some reasons to take notice of the question of ‘why’!

 

Twitter’s global operations and data transfer

Twitter Trouble.jpg

In the small print has crept in this …

“Our services are a window to the world. They are primarily designed to help people share information around the world instantly.

To bring you these services, we operate globally. Twitter, Inc., based in the United States, and Twitter International Company, based in Ireland, (collectively, “we”) provide the services, as explained in theTwitter Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. We have offices, partners, and service providers around the world that help to deliver the services.

Your information, which we receive when you use the services, may be transferred to and stored in the United States, Ireland, and other countries where we operate, including through our offices, partners, and service providers. In some of these countries, the privacy and data protection laws and rules on when data may be accessed may differ from those in the country where you live.

 

How cyber criminals use social engineering

This article from Malwarebytes is useful to give you an idea of how they try to get past your defences by pretending legitimacy based on information they have acquired from elsewhere about you.

 

More Google

An interesting article here from Techcrunch on how Google are at last cleaning up their act ahead of legislation to protect consumers

“Google is cleaning up its Chrome Web Store – the marketplace where you can browse for extensions and apps for its Chrome web browser. The company says it’s making changes to browser’s User Data Policy, which will now require developers to be more transparent about how they handle customer data, and which will require user consent when data is collected, among other things.

The changes come at a time when the Chrome Web Store has been targeted by malware makers, who have posted rogue extensions that do terrible things like spy on web users and collect their personal data”

 

Journalist Gets Hacked While Writing Apple-FBI Story

“That’s why this story is so important to everyone,” says hacker, who was a fellow passenger on his flight.

The article on the dangers of using an open WiFi (no password needed) is here

 


Finally, for now..

I do hope you are not put off by these articles from realising the potential for good that technologies offer to us.

To me its like being in a strange land as a tourist, you keep your senses tuned in to your enviroinment, wear appropriate protections  and don’t get hooked into a story that just looks toooo super real! (aka clickbait stories in ads posted on websites which are overly sensationalised or otherwise appear unreal.

 

A story of the future of I.T which may prove to offer us happier outcomes

“Imagine walking on Mars and being able to examine rock formations from all angles, or collaborating on the same 3D hologram design with someone thousands of miles away.

Or imagine being able to diagnose and treat the diseases of people half way around the world while you remain in your clinic, or walking around a gallery and having your own holographic guide pointing things out to you on your smart glasses.

These are just some of the exciting examples of what “augmented reality” (AR) technology is beginning to offer us.”

source:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35629715?

 


Do call me if you want a chat!

Greg  07579001747

 

 

 

Quick Bytes News – February 2016

Hello and welcome to my February QBN newsletter!

At last the sun has fought its way through the thick dark-grey cloud base and the incredibly powerful winds have abated, I was wondering if it was time to put a sign outside my home saying ‘No Apocalyptic Horsemen Callers Please’!

 

Windows 10 – When, (no longer, if)

On the topic of unwanted apocalypses, I expect many of you have been increasingly pestered by the Microsoft Windows 10 pusher applications which are now beyond persuasive, and live in the land of heavily coercive! For those of you who wanted and like that operating system then fine, but I add that it tells a lot of stories about you through its telemetry functions which makes you a target for its associated ‘boot in the door’ marketing buddies.

For those of you who, like me, do not want to risk the ‘upgrade’ because of concerns of compatibility with your hardware or your existing software, your privacy from marketing or spying pests and familiarity with the desktop and start menus, you may want to read on.

On the 8th February I saw these 3 updates being offered for me to install.

Updates for W10 Warning

I do not leave my PC set to allow automatic Updates any more, its simply too risky these days because if we leave the back door unlocked, Windows 10 will move in and declare squatters rights. So I investigated these and surely there are accounts on the Microsoft forums that were posted by other watchful Windows users of these and their findings are that these are again likely to be another set of changes to take away your choice of upgrading or not.

 

GWX Tool

There is  a handy prevention tool which you might want to download and run (it doesn’t need to install) called GWX Control Panel. It looks like this when run and as you can see I have already used it on my PC;

GWX - JAN 2016 VERSION

It is simple to use and will remove the installation files that Microsoft have already placed on your PC without your knowledge and prevent your PC from being hijacked by Microsoft and forced to take the free-fall plunge to Windows 10. You can get it here  As always with running programmes these days I urge you to not ‘google’ it and follow links set by the responding sites, always download software from the vendors own sites.

Finally do enable ‘Monitor Mode’ when running this; it looks like this

Monitor Mode

If you wish to know more of why doing this is so important to so many people you can try reading some of these posts.

 

Post 1

Post 2

Post 3

Enough said?

 

Telemetry – the new spy on the block from Microsoft

Luckily for us all people like Safer-Networking (known for the long running Spybot Search & Destroy anti malware) are not only on the ball, they also produce freeware tools such as ‘Anti Beacon‘ to help protect us. They describe this as;
“Spybot Anti-Beacon for Windows 10 is a small utility designed to block and stop the various tracking (aka telemetry) issues that come with Windows 10. Seeing the bunch of incomplete or broken scripts to disable tracking in Windows 10, and the tools that install adware or worse in exchange for their function, we wrapped disabling tracking up in a small tool that’s free and clean. With the upcoming news about telemetry in Windows 7 and 8.1, Spybot Anti-Beacon has added support for those as well”.

Its for Windows 7 and 8.x as well so may I suggest you use it if you have one of those systems?

 

Good News (for a change) about Advertising – You DO have a choice!

I found this website which offers us a chance to opt out from ads from members who are in the European Self-Regulatory Programme and so it becomes easier for us to control the blizzard of unwanted rubbish they spit at us when we browse the web. But do keep in mind that you need to add their add-on to all browsers that you use.

Their website is very comprehensive and gives much detail on how to alter settings in your browser(s) so I advise reading it a couple of times before diving in and do remember that some websites do not function fully if you have disabled cookies or other advertising related functions, so be prepared to back track if this becomes a problem on those websites.

For your perusal here is some of the material from the YourOnlineChoices Website;

“How the beta extension works

The YourOnlineChoices beta browser extension works to preserve your choices expressed on youronlinechoices.eu. This applies specifically for Online Behavioural Advertising (OBA) from participating companies. The websites you visit may still be collecting information for other purposes than OBA. Also, the participating companies may continue to deliver ads to you – but these will not be based on your interests or browsing habits.
 As more companies join the European Self-Regulatory Programme on OBA, they will be added to the Ad Choices page. There is no intervention required from you as a consumer to update the plugin; however, you should note that if new companies are joining the Programme your options will not be automatically set-up, and therefore we encourage you to visit the Ad Choices page from time to time.
Also, you should note that the extension and your respective choices work only in the browser you are using, therefore you should set your choices and preserve them in each browser and computer you may use. This extension is currently in beta and will be updated from while to while.”

http://www.youronlinechoices.com/uk/browser-extension

Hopefully this may help you to keep the pests off your online experience, wishing you good outcomes!

And talking of choices being removed, has the Apple gone rotten?

Here is a worrying story from Apple about their iPhone 6 and how having it repaired anywhere but in their own stores (and at their prices) might render it dead useless. 

 …..”We believe Apple may be intentionally forcing users to use their repair services, which cost much more than most third-party repair shops. There is incentive for Apple to keep end users from finding alternative methods to fix their products. Think of it this way: let’s say you bought a car, and had your alternator replaced by a local mechanic. Under Apple’s strategy, your car would no longer start because you didn’t bring it to an official dealership. They intentionally disable your car because you tried to fix it yourself. That is wrong,” PCVA notes on its website.

A London-based lawyer, Richard Colbey of Lamb Chambers told Guardian, Apple’s reckless policy of killing iPhones following a software upgrade breached basic consumer laws in the UK. It could be viewed as an offence under the Criminal Damage Act 1971.”

source:- International Business Times

 

If I can help you with anything in my news letters do give me a call on 01757 900 1747, or email

That’s all for now!

Greg

PCT Door Magnet

Quick Byte News January 2016

Welcome to the January edition of QBN!

I bet some of you wondered if it would appear in time!

Its been a busy month for me (as I am sure it has for many of you also), though our reasons for this will vary, the outcome is much the same. No time to get those little but necessary things done! So here is a quick throw together (but I hope useful) news letter  to satiate your curiosity.

 

Web browsing – is it Becoming a Hazardous Past Time?

The answer to this question is yes. To help avoid the traps one can slow down a bit and check before going there. You might see it as the equivalent of looking down an unfamiliar dark alley way before running down it. Not an easy new habit to adopt when rushing in a click-happy manner as we have been used to, but it may save you  a lot of hassle if you can master it!

For instance …

You could load a secure browser such as Comodo Dragon or Comodo Ice Dragon. These fire breathers will beef up the Google Chrome engines defences and also I found in Comodo Dragon, offer you a useful add on ‘Comodo Web Inspector’ which sits on the right side of the browsers address bar. According to the Comodo website the features are described as

  • “Has privacy enhancements that surpass those in Chromium’s technology

  • Has Domain Validation technology that identifies and segregates superior SSL certificates from inferior ones

  • Stops cookies and other Web spies

  • Prevents all Browser download tracking to ensure your privacy”

So maybe a review of your current browser is needed?

 

 

If you adopt one of the Comodo Browsers you will also get this built in extension which I think is useful – Web Inspector. Curiosity got the better of me so I tried it on my own website and got this result …

PC Techniques Webinspector assessment

 

… so you can visit my site without any worries!

If you are unsure of a web link that was sent to you through any media it would be a good idea to test it with this first if at all you are uncertain.

For those of you not wanting to use the Comodo browsers you could use the subscription version which looks like this …

Online Webinspector Site Checker

Their website states:-

Web Inspector is a cloud based service that inspects your website for malware, detects any vulnerabilities to being attacked and protects your website from thousands of security threats, daily! It also embeds PCI compliance scanning for E-commerce websites that accept credit card payments, to keep them compliant with the payment card industry’s mandatory standards“.

 

Mal-vertising – a new vector for attacking your browser.

Some advertisements are deliberately set to be served to you from malware infected servers and even for those not so nasty the experience of not being able to get to the materials you wanted to see because they block your views is annoying.

These days persistent, nagging online ads can become overwhelming if you don’t have your defences up. I have mentioned measures to keep them in check in previous postings and so won’t revisit this now. But if you wanted to know more of the blizzard of channels they come from when you visit many well known media websites you could look here and if you wished, opt out (note:- from members sites only).

 

DNS Proxy – A way to divert your website requests through a safe and manageable channel.

Domain Naming System is the clever way the web signposts your website and other requests to get the request to the right server. Normally DNS is sent through your Internet Service Providers own DNS servers and the quality of those can vary. Happily there are some which allow you to send your traffic through them instead which allows you to specify filtering and other controls which can stop some of the web-rubbish from affecting your computer.

Open DNS is just one of these which you may want to consider using.

OpenDNS

Their website states:-

OpenDNS settings apply to every device — laptops, smartphones, tablets, DVRs, game consoles, TVs, literally anything that connects to the internet. We’re the world’s leading DNS service, meaning you’ll see noticeably faster internet speeds as well.”

 

Now for the one that I WAS surprised to read:-

Anti Virus Browser Toolbars (extensions) are BAD for your browser!

According to a new article “whatever antivirus program you use, don’t install the browser extension. If you already installed it or weren’t given a choice (many install their extensions by default), visit the Extensions, Add-ons, or Plug-ins page in your web browser and disable any extensions associated with your security suite“.

Intrigued, I read that even with well reputed AV products such as AVG, Avast and Norton you could be opening your browers to potential attacks  unnecessarily because they use code from another source (Ask) which isn’t properly secured and in use may also prove themselves to be traitors because they set out to serve you adverts you don’t need or want. So the best advice is to remove any toolbars that your AV vendor has packaged in and let the browsers own security measures handle the necessary security tasks. Naturally I assume you have the newest version of your browser installed if not you know what to do. So enough said I myself will now take the appropriate actions!

As always I am very happy to take your enquiries for how I may help you with any of these tasks, all you have to do is contact me.

 

More in February, and bye bye for now.

 

Greg

PCT Door Magnet

Quick Bytes News – December 2015

PCT Door Magnet

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seasons Greetings, and welcome to the December edition of Quick Bytes News.

 

In this edition I have reviewed online data storage services and compared them to our own Stroud Cloud service.

This is an exercise I do from time to time to ensure that our own services are ahead of, or at least in line with competitors elsewhere.

In my research I soon found that some competitors offerings have changed…. and then changed back, another was bought up and closed down, and others have morphed into bigger versions of the same but not become any more secure.


 

As a backdrop to my writing I offer you these images from the web which illustrate my points.

One can see quickly that as this developing and hotly headline grabbing industry tries to bamboozle the customers with ever more features, name changes and falling prices, it blindly follows in the wake of predecessor businesses that did the same and then saw a need for dramatic U-Turns or sellouts / buyouts to get-out of the doo-doo that they raced into.

One PCWORLD article writer wrote …

“Office 365 subscribers aren’t the only people getting cuts in their storage limits. Starting in 2016, free users will only receive 5GB of free storage, down from 15GB. Microsoft is also discontinuing the 15GB camera roll storage bonus that allowed mobile users to upload their pictures to OneDrive. Like the free tier, the camera roll will stop in early 2016. As with Office 365 subscribers, anyone on the free tier and/or using the camera roll will have “at least” 12 months to pull their data out of OneDrive and get below the new limit. Microsoft is also doing away with the 100GB and 200GB OneDrive paid plans priced at $1.99 and $3.99 per month respectively”.

Recent changes to online storage providers
Recent changes to online storage providers

Wikipedia - Onedrive Wuala

 

 

 

 

 

 

As well as rising prices and in some cases, falling quota limits, I have also seen that it is still a small minority of online storage providers who actually offer SECURE Backup Data Storage of the Stroud Cloud variety!

The vast majority only offer unencrypted data sharing (or replication) services.

These are OK for replicating non important data across multiple platforms such as mobile devices and PC’s and for sharing files between group members, but it must be kept in mind that should one device be lost or stolen then the thief may well have access to all of the data shared by the group member who’s device is now in their hands.

Further as these providers are in a state of constant flux and subject to the changes I mention above, can you be assured that the contractual obligations you signed up for will be observed fully by the new owner of the service?

If you read my November edition of Quick Bytes News you will have seen that The Safe Harbor Agreement between the EU and USA has been found by the highest court in the EU, to be unlawful. So where your data is stored does now matter, legally speaking.


 

Now I will compare this with my own Stroud Cloud Data Storage.

As you may know I set out to create a backup storage system which is fully automated so ensuring that your data backups are not overlooked.

I also set out to ensure that no readable data was out on the web unless it was encrypted before it left your computer, this way any interception of it or theft of it by any means would prove fruitless because only you hold its encryption key.

To further reassure you I also offer that you can log into your own data storage portal and manage your data sets, this also enables you to restore data yourself. Otherwise I offer to do this for you.

I also set out to get your data returned to you when needed quickly, instead of relying on broadband speed to get it back because when the chips are down you need it fast. So I offered delivery via physical delivery and restoration of your data.

Your data is only stored in Stroud, never elsewhere!

 

Other Stroud Cloud – Advantages

  • We don’t keep changing our business name or product name.
  • We don’t get bought out by a competitor with all the unforeseen changes for customers data.
  • When we create and store your drive images you don’t have to reinstall Windows and then go through all of the 100’s of updates, restarts and configuration changes all over again!

Pricing

From £38:- for a storage account and client installation / setup PLUS a full years storage (up to 25Gb), additional storage at £6.00 per 10Gb block. So its not expensive! Full details on my Stroud Cloud website here


 

Last Month I featured the perils of WiFi but this month I look into the future to bring you the opportunities of LiFi.

LiFi is a light frequency broadband technology that uses light frequencies (unlike radio frequencies of WiFi) and so this may prove much less potentially harmful to living beings than WiFi appears to.

LiFi would be transmitted to your device from light bulbs in your home that emit no light when not needed during daylight periods, but do emit broadband or other data signals. This means your signals are not overlapping with those from adjacent properties and it means an almost infinite number of frequencies are available compared to WiFi, for which the available frequencies are becoming exhausted.

The full article is here


As always please do let me know if I can help you with your technological needs which include Repairs to Devices and Networks, Installations, General Guidance, Tuition and of course Secure Data Storage .

Also I am grateful for your feedback

 

Quick Bytes News – Supplemental – November 2015

Observations from a meeting I attended concerning Electronic Hypersensitivity Effects on Humans from WiFi (RF) Transmissions in the Home or Office. 14-11-2015.

I have written this article mid-month instead of waiting until the onset of December which we all know as the month of buying and receiving gifts because this article may influence how you, the reader does this.

I write this because I attended an important talk last weekend which highlighted the sheer scale of radio emitting devices which now exist in many homes and these emit concerning levels of microwave frequencies into your living spaces.

Radio Frequency emissions (RF) do not travel in a line from a transmitting device to the receiving device, they radiate in all directions and so will inevitably contact human and other living bodies within the radio range of their design. As we all know now any street in the UK is also a veritable bath of emitted radio signals from all of the communication devices in buildings and carried by millions of us on our person every day.


So whats all the Noise about?

As I understand it, ‘the noise’ is about the large gap between the official safe limit for human exposure to microwave energy emissions and the one measured by medical professionals and the insurance industry’s own risk assessments. Outdated standards of safety that are still in use, state that harm is not caused unless heating of the body happens as a result of exposure to RF emissions, and these standards were written before our current knowledge of the harmful effects on human living tissue and its cellular structures were as well known as they are today.

Manufacturers of the devices emitting microwave signals will put disclaimers with the devices they sell in very small print in its box, knowing that no one reads the small print as they rush to use the new device.

Insurers avoid litigation by excluding any harm caused from devices from insurances, so they do know and yet the sales of these devices romps on regardless. User beware!

Devices we Use

Baby Alarms and Monitors, Door Bells, Blue Tooth headsets, Wireless Mice & Keyboards, Wireless Thermostats, Bluetooth in Cars, Utilities installed Smart Meters (Electric, Gas and Water), Laptops, Smart Phones and Tablets and the list grows constantly.


Why the Concerns?

“The World Health Orgnaisation (WHO) / International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Classified RF as a Group 2 B ‘Possible Human Carcinogen” (2011). Despite this, there has been no attempt in the UK at disseminating this important information to the public”.

I will not try to explain why medical professionals and scientists are alarmed at the rapidly increasing harmful effects being reported by doctors, but I do understand that because we human beings are bio organisms that are little different from other aninal species, we in common with them have never evolved to live in a smog of electromagnetic microwave emissions.

It seems inevitable to me that at least some sensitive groups will be affected by microwave RF especially when exposed on a constant basis, and that some will be more seriously affected than others. Naturally the weaker are more vulnerable, the young especially because microwave signals penetrate their thin skulls more easily than adults thicker skulls if using devices against the head such as phones and bluetooth headsets..

The full detailed document giving details of medical and other studies is here. Its a long and detailed read but because safety controls are behind the wide scale deployment of devices inside our homes it is worth at least a quick scan over.


Avoidance

You can try avoiding having too much in your living space where remember, you are the ones in charge as an important first step.

Naturally some RF will enter your living spaces from nearby buildings and cellphone towers but those generally won’t be as energy intense because of increased distance.

  • Refuse Smart Meter installations, you have the right to do this! From recorded data it has been found that these meters emit RF energy in very high powered bursts that are much higher energy than any device in your home.

    They have to get their signal out beyond your home to receiving stations and so the energy bursts they emit will be designed to get there through any walls or people in the way. And yes, they emit radially in all directions! They have been identified as fire hazards in homes in the USA by many fire departments so insurance cover may be hard to get.

  • Use wired device connections where ever possible instead of WiFi, this can be achieved by using wires directly to the device from the router, or you could use your homes/offices power ring main to carry the signal using Powerline plugs which are not expensive. Once those are in place the routers and the devices WiFi can be disabled.

  • Usage Habit changes – Try keeping any active WiFi enabled devices you retain in use switched off  (or in airplane mode) or well away from sleeping inhabitants or close to where people or pets spend long periods resting such as lounges or beds. The greater the distance between peoples bodies and RF devices, the better.

  • Disable the 3G or 4G when not in use as well as the WiFi, those G’s are very powerful and only are used when you are emailing or browsing the web. You can buy wired headsets which allow you to use the phone with it away from your body, so reducing your exposure to the highest energy density levels when in use.

  • Tablets were mentioned as always using maximum power transmissions (unlike smart phones) so can be more harmful.

Source:- http://www.iemfa.org/wp-content/pdf/Mallery-Blythe-v1-EESC.pdf

If you wish for PC Techniques to assist you with any technical changes to your systems do give me a call.

Quick Bytes News November 2015

Up to 30 minutes FREE consultation time.
Up to 30 minutes FREE consultation time.

Welcome to the November edition of Quick Bytes News. In this edition I cover the recent change in EU law that now restricts the open door of the Safe Harbor Pact set up 15 years ago between the EU and the USA.

Up until last month data in the EU could be transferred over to the USA without any formal process being completed, all that has now changed.

Then I cover the newest intentions of Microsoft to coerce Windows 10 into your PC, beware!

Finally I offer alternatives for your consideration from the well proven Linux stables, Mint and Ubuntu.


European Court of Justice rules ‘Safe Harbor’ Pact invalid
Europe’s highest court has ruled that the 15 year old Safe Harbor pact between the EU and US is no longer valid.

The ruling is likely to mean that personal data should no longer be transferred to US bodies solely on the basis they are Safe Harbor certified.

Organisations will now be required to take additional steps to safeguard personal data that they make available to US companies, including cloud services providers. The decision will likely drive up compliance costs for many organisations.”

There is an article on the issue on the BBC website at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-34442618 The relevant part reads:
“Personal data should no longer be transferred to US bodies solely on the basis they are Safe Harbour-certified.
Instead to authorise the “export” of the data, the two bodies involved must draw up and sign what’s referred to as “model contract clauses”

Privacy obligations are described in detail in this document produced by The Information Commissioners Office

Model Contract ClausesInternational transfers of personal data
Data Protection Act
20120228  V1.0

See – https://ico.org.uk/media/1571/model_contract_clauses_international_transfers_of_personal_data.pdf

“It will involve lots of contracts between lots of parties and it’s going to be a bit of a nightmare administratively,” commented Nicola Fulford, head of data protection at the UK law firm, Kemp Little.
“The model clauses themselves are standard form – what you need to put into them are details of the data involved and the security steps being taken.
“It’s not that we’re going to be negotiating them individually, as the legal terms are mostly fixed, but it does mean a lot more paperwork and they have legal implications.”

All of this will drive up costs and potentially cause delays.”

More perspectives here


Stroud Cloud – Safer Harbour – I think!

A little plug for our own Data Storage is in order because as many of you know our Stroud Cloud Data Storage service  will never send your encrypted data anywhere else, it stays in Stroud! Please see here for details.


Windows 10 – Again!

Microsoft Announce they will be sending Windows 10 to you BEFORE they do it (this time, unlike last time).

The ‘option’ of the Windows 10 upgrade window is again being forced open by Microsoft as they try harder to gain the momentum on this skeptically received new OS.

In their own words;

“We will soon be publishing Windows 10 as an “Optional Update” in Windows Update for all Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 customers. Windows Update is the trusted, logical location for our most important updates, and adding Windows 10 here is another way we will make it easy for you to find your upgrade.

Early next year, we expect to be re-categorizing Windows 10 as a “Recommended Update”. Depending upon your Windows Update settings, this may cause the upgrade process to automatically initiate on your device. Before the upgrade changes the OS of your device, you will be clearly prompted to choose whether or not to continue. And of course, if you choose to upgrade (our recommendation!), then you will have 31 days to roll back to your previous Windows version if you don’t love it”.

So be warned if you don’t like having your choices stolen watch out for their updates as they may be rather huge (last time it was 3.6Gigabytes).

http://blogs.windows.com/windowsexperience/2015/10/29/making-it-easier-to-upgrade-to-windows-10


Alternatives do exist and they can be free!

Maybe it really is time to look for a free and non coercive operating system, maybe one like Ubuntu or Mint from Linux and bundled with them you get a free Office compatible suite of programs, Libre Office. In this suite you get a Word processor,  Spreadsheet, Database and Presentation programs much like MS Office. I have used the free Windows based version of Libre Office for a year and am very happy with it.

The great offerings from the open source (Linux, Firefox, Thunderbird etc) community are well worth taking a close look at and they offer a much reduced attack profile from malware compared to Microsoft.


As always if I can help you do give me a call

Finally to help you I have published my Charges Tarrif on my website now. I have kept these to a minimum as best as possible. They are here

Greg