Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Amazon, Walmart passwords possibly leaked

...and the beat goes on....

From Kim Komando's web site, komando.com

"Another day, another hack. This one isn't cut and dry, though. The notorious hacker group Anonymous released 13,000 passwords on the Internet recently and claimed they came from several popular online stores and sites, including Amazon and Walmart.

But, not everyone is so sure the hack is real. In fact, Walmart has denied the claims outright and others think it might be a hoax. Anonymous posted the file to a file sharing site called Ghostbin. The group also claims that it posted a copy of the controversial movie "The Interview" for users to download.

The file also included the accounts of a number of dating and porn sites, and it appears to have some passwords for a popular security program known as CyberGhost, which protects you from a hacker snooping on you when you use public WiFi hotspots.

Allegedly, the passwords come from Amazon, Dell, Hulu Plus, Origin.com, PlayStation, Shutterstock, Twitch.tv, Walmart and Xbox Live. Just in case the hack is real, there are some security precautions you should take.

While many think the hack is hoax, you should still make sure your accounts are safe just in case. If you have an account on any of the sites possibly affected by the supposed hack, just go in to your account and change your password. That way, if the hack is real, the stolen password will be outdated.

Make sure the new password you choose is strong. Otherwise, you're just opening up your account to more security risks. Click here to read my tips to create a strong password that works.

Changing your password is a simple way to make sure your account is secure. Sadly, nowadays we have to take every hacking threat seriously - even when many think it's nothing more than a hoax."

Monday, December 22, 2014

MVPS HOSTS File (with WHYS & HOWS) for January 2015 Available Now

If you are serious about keeping your computer secure, you need a HOSTS file. The one that comes pre-loaded on any Windows system is empty and does us absolutely no good. Fortunately there is a man who updates and makes available at no charge, a monthly updates loaded HOSTS file. (He does accept contributions!)

Over the course of the life of this blog I have spoken of it very often. Once I created a series of 5 blog posts containing everything one needs to know about what a HOSTS file is, how to get it, and how to install it.

The author of the MVPS HOSTS file has kept everything in place so that his file can be loaded and used in every Windows operating system. I have it loaded, and I download and install the monthly updated file, on my XP, W7, and W8 systems.

You can download the current file here: http://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts.htm

If you feel uncomfortable doing this, you can follow my older series of 5 blog posts to give you much more detail. Since I recently deleted Spybot from my security baseline, and if you do the same, you can ignore anything contained in these 5 steps that has to do with Spybot.

Here is a link to the first of the 5 posts. After reading the first one you can use the search box at the top of this page to find #2, and then #3, and so on.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Security Baseline Updated

This is an update to my security baseline. The biggest change is that I have dropped good old Spybot from the list. I never got to like their newer versions and they stopped providing updates to the older version. If you still have version 1.6 be aware that you have not been given updated information in many months, and running the old is probably not doing any good.

Also, and this is very new news, I have upgraded my copy of Malwarebytes to the Premium version. At a price of $24.95 which covers 3 machine installations, I felt the realtime option, available only in Premium, was worth the small expense. Will I upgrade in a year to the newer version as it becomes available? That remains to be seen.

Our home hardware profile has also changed. We now have 2 Windows 8.1 Dell laptops and one Windows 7 desktop. These are the 3 machines we run the Premium Malwarebytes on. Although we still have 2 Windows XP machines, these still run but are not used as regular "production" machines. On these I still run MSE and the free version of Malwarebytes.

1. My anti-virus program of choice is the free Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) aka Windows Defender in Windows 8 & 8.1. This is a very impressive anti-virus program and can replace any you have now. DOWNLOAD HERE

2. Windows Firewall (Standard part of your operating system. Check the Security Center to be sure it is on.)

3. MVPS HOSTS File - download the current month's version and update monthly DOWNLOAD HERE

4. CCleaner - free version - check for newer version than you may already have. Run weekly. DOWNLOAD HERE by clicking on Download Latest Version in the upper right hand corner of the page.

5. Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware - run bi-weekly. DOWNLOAD HERE As noted above I run the Premium version, but the free version is still excellent.

6. SuperAntiSpyware Free Edition - run bi-weekly in the off week after #5. DOWNLOAD HERE

I will be happy to assist you with any or all of the above installations. This can be done remotely.

Questions?  Comment below or write me, pcdoc at brpcdoc dot com

Friday, December 19, 2014

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium

Today I took the plunge and bought Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium. Those of you who know me know that I am loathe to pay for software, preferring to use the free, less featured program.

I have been using Malwarebytes Anti-Malware free version for years. I think it is the best of its kind hands down. So why did I make the switch to the fee-based premium version? I think I made the decision for 2 reasons: realtime monitoring of my systems, and the price is a dramatically low $24.95 for one year, and that one license covers 3 systems, and that is exactly how many production systems we have in our house. So for a little over $8 I can get the realtime monitoring and all of the other bells and whistles that come with  the premium version on all of our machines.

Security today, it goes without saying, is a red hot topic, and I want to do all I can do to make our systems secure. So there you have it in a nutshell: great protection at a very affordable price.

You should consider doing this too.

FYI, we have 2 Windows 8.1 and one Windows 7 machines in the house. The Windows 7 machine runs Microsoft Security Essentials for its anti-virus protection, and the 2 Windows 8.1 machines use Windows Defender for their anti-virus protection (for the uninitiated, Windows Defender in Windows 8 is the new name for Microsoft Security Essentials).


Friday, October 31, 2014


It is really hard to keep up a blog like this one, and I have not been giving it the time and effort needed to keep it going. Apologies.

I am going to take a rest. Yes, I have my health and I am doing fine. It's just that priorities change. I may or may not be back to this blog. I'm not sure, but I have my doubts.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Best free spyware and adware removal tool

Finally Kim Komando agrees with me! :-) No, but seriously, I have been recommending Malwarebytes as a free tool to clean up malware on your system. It is one excellent tool and normally the first thing I run on YOUR systems when you ask me to clean your system.

As Kim points out, it is a passive tool. This means you have to run it. Unlike your anti-virus program which is active and always looking out for bad stuff, you take control with this tool. Please note that Malwarebytes does have a fee-based tool as well, and this is an active tool. If you don't mind spending the money go for it!

For the time being I am using the free version, the one I have been recommending all these years. It is an excellent tool. Kim recommends running this once a month. I recommend every 2 weeks. I am considering buying the fee-based version.

Check out What Kim has to say about this.

Best free spyware and adware removal tool

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August HOSTS file

The August 2014 MVPS HOSTS file is available now and can be downloaded here: http://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts.htm

This is a very valuable tool in your set of tools to prevent malware on your system.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Verizon FIOS

Okay, I will admit I absolutely love Verizon FIOS. I quit them, oh maybe a year ago and switched to Comcast. Why? My Verizon Triple Play prices got out of control and I was up to nearly $200 a month! CRAZY!

So, as I said, I switched to Comcast. It was a disaster. Their internet speeds simply cannot compare to FIOS. So there I have said it. I love Verizon FIOS.

I received a note from Verizon a few days ago and included in the note was this sentence: "We love having you in the FiOS community and as a member of My Rewards+. To show our appreciation, we upgraded your Internet upload speed to match your download speed—for free. This upgrade is just one more great benefit of being a member of My Rewards+."

I have to say that was nice to read, but I was paying for, and getting, 50 MBPS download and 30 MBPS upload. I didn't really feel I needed the extra upload speed, but it was free and automatic, so I got it. I just ran a speedtest.net and look what I got (below). AMAZING results. THANK YOU Verizon!

Oh, by the way, when I came back to Verizon recently. leaving Comcast behind, I carefully crafted my package to favor internet and downplayed the TV and also eliminated the landline (more on that later in a separate post).

YouTube Doesn't Know Your Password

Excellent video!

Monday, August 11, 2014

New Site Recovers Files Locked by Cryptolocker Ransomware

This is really amazing! Spread the word. From http://krebsonsecurity.com/

"Until today, Microsoft Windows users who’ve been unfortunate enough to have the personal files on their computer encrypted and held for ransom by a nasty strain of malware called CryptoLocker have been faced with a tough choice: Pay cybercrooks a ransom of a few hundred to several thousand dollars to unlock the files, or kiss those files goodbye forever. That changed this morning, when two security firms teamed up to launch a free new online service that can help victims unlock and recover files scrambled by the malware.


First spotted in September 2013, CryptoLocker is a prolific and very damaging strain of malware that uses strong encryption to lock files that are likely to be the most valued by victim users, including Microsoft Office documents, photos, and MP3 files.

Infected machines typically display a warning that the victim’s files have been locked and can only be decrypted by sending a certain fraction or number of Bitcoins to a decryption service run by the perpetrators. Victims are given 72 hours to pay the ransom — typically a few hundred dollars worth of Bitcoins — after which time the ransom demand increases fivefold or more.

But early Wednesday morning, two security firms – Milpitas, Calf. based FireEye and Fox-IT in the Netherlands — launched decryptcryptolocker.com, a site that victims can use to recover their files. Victims need to provide an email address and upload just one of the encrypted files from their computer, and the service will email a link that victims can use to download a recovery program to decrypt all of their scrambled files.

The free decryption service was made possible because Fox-IT was somehow able to recover the private keys that the cybercriminals who were running the CryptoLocker scam used on their own (not free) decryption service. Neither company is disclosing much about how exactly those keys were recovered other than to say that the opportunity arose as the crooks were attempting to recover from Operation Tovar, an international effort in June that sought to dismantle the infrastructure that CryptoLocker used to infect PCs."

Continue reading →

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

You've been hacked! Here's what to do

Found this on Cnn Money:

"Russian criminals have stolen more than 1.2 billion Internet usernames and passwords, and the odds are decent that some of yours might be among them.

There's no need to panic at this point -- Hold Security, the firm that discovered the theft, says the gang isn't in the business of stealing your bank account information. Instead, they make their money by sending out spam for bogus products like weight-loss pills.

That means you need to stay on your guard. If you see strange messages being sent from your email or social media accounts, you might be among those affected.

Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself:

Change your passwords and make them smart: When it comes important services, including email, banking and social media, you'll want to change those passwords. As a rule, create different passwords for different services,and change them every six months or so.

There's a lot of debate about what makes for the best password. Some experts recommend using a password manager -- a single service that you log into which then generates random passcodes for all your accounts.

But the danger with password managers is that they create a single point of failure: if the password manager itself is compromised, all your accounts become vulnerable.

Another solution is to use long sentences or phrases. The more characters you add to a password, the more difficult it is for a computer program to crack -- even if your password is a simple sentence that's easy to remember ("I Need 2 Spend Less Time On Social Media")."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A new virus is tearing apart Windows

From Kim Komando:

"A new virus is on the rise, and this one is a doozy.

Dubbed the "Bladabindi," this is a multi-identity virus that has the capability to fool your firewall by adding itself to the firewall exception list and waltz right in. The malware then targets main systems, like your keyboard, webcam, your browsers and your Windows information.

Bladabindi then siphons your user IDs, passwords, computer name, serial number and country, and steals personal information with no one the wiser. It can also check for camera drivers to record and send video wherever it wants.

This malicious malware is spreading through USB drives. Bladabindi replicates itself into rootware and is disguised under a different icon by the hacker. When the victim clicks on it, it runs the Windows Explorer system as if nothing bad appears to have happened.

Bladabindi has mainly been attacking computers in India, and is currently being tracked by the Computer Emergency Response Team - India (CERT-In). CERT-In is trying to find a way to disable this nasty software, but in the meantime there are a few things you can do to protect your computer.

Scan your computer with a tough anti-virus software and a cleaner kit to determine if it's even on your computer. If Bladabindi is found, it's tough but not impossible to remove.

You should also scan and clean any USB or external drives that you use with a USB cleaner. You should also keep all of your software up to date and patched to beef up security.

And, I cannot stress this enough, you must follow the rules of Internet safety to keep your information safe! Do not click or follow unsolicited email attachments or ads, do not visit untrusted or sketchy sites, use tough passwords, and be vigilant about social media attacks
You can find more great safety tips here at my Security Center, and you can also use this program as a last resort."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I hate Google Chrome

I do not understand the fascination with Google Chrome, Google's attempt to replace Firefox and Internet Explorer as our browser of choice.

Let me say up front that I hate Google Chrome.

It is not just that I don't want Google to know everything I do on my computer. They pretty much own me already, and I am okay with that. I was an early Gmail user. I have several Google blogs. I do recognize Google as the best search engine, and on and on.

Why do I dislike Google's Chrome browser so much?

It's a very small thing. I installed Chrome versions right from the start, version after version, but never found the one feature, available in all other browsers, that I wanted so badly.

What is that feature? It is a simple thing.

Firefox and Internet Explorer allow their users to display a list of their Favorites (IE) or Bookmarks (Firefox) down the left side of the browser window.

Chrome has NEVER offered that simple feature and still does not.

I, along with thousands of others, begged Google to include this bread and butter feature, standard in all other browsers, in online forums or fora if you prefer. The response from Google - none at all.

I think that many of you whose homes I visit or whose laptops get dropped off at my house, have Google Chrome because of the fact that - if you are not careful - you will get it when you download CCleaner, one of the best free little programs I have ever seen. I recommend it to all of you and you should use it weekly.

When you download CCleaner and probably other programs as well, you may see a window offering a download of Google Chrome, and there is ALREADY a check mark in the box that says yes to download it.

Or maybe you are on the google.com web site and there is that very annoying download Google Chrome in the upper right hand corner.

Read the displays. Don't accept a check mark that was put in the box for you. UNCHECK IT! Don't ever click on an icon to download it.

There is nothing to be gained from using it. Most people I visit try to use it because it is there and this leads to much confusion on their parts.

The bottom line is that Google Chrome offers nothing that Firefox and Internet Explorer don't.

Monday, July 14, 2014

MVPS HOSTS File available for July

MVPS HOSTS File Update July-08-2014

The MVPS HOSTS file was recently updated [July-08-2014]
Download: hosts.zip (131 kb)
How To: Download and Extract the HOSTS filehttp://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts2.htm
HOSTS File - Frequently Asked Questionshttp://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hostsfaq.htm
Note: the "text" version makes a great resource for determining possible unwanted connections ...
http://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts.txt (498 kb)
Get notified when the MVPS HOSTS file is updatedhttp://winhelp2002.mvps.org/updates.htm

Monday, July 7, 2014

Downloading Programs?

If you have a need to download a program, please use http://filehippo.com

I look at so many customer machines where I see what I consider "junk" programs. Many of these come along for a free ride when you download a program you want, but get from some other web site. For years I recommended download.com for downloads, but they have become so unfriendly that I strongly recommend that you switch now to filehippo.com.

Even so, when you download a program, regardless of source, you need to READ the screens that display when installing the program

Why? Here is one example. When downloading ccleaner from filehippo, one of the displays asks if you want to also download and install Google Chrome. I can't tell you how many installations of Google Chrome I have seen and the customes says "I don't know how it got there". I usually do know! The answer is in this paragraph, so READ the installation screens.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The top 10 Windows 8 questions everyone asks

A PC Doc customer just asked me yesterday if I would recommend a new Dell laptop with Windows 7 or with Windows 8. It turns out he has a desktop PC running Windows 7 and did not want to have to learn something new. I couldn't argue with hm on that point. Having 2 Windows 7 machines, I thought, made sense for him.

I am almost sorry I didn't make a pitch for Windows 8. Let me say that our two new (December 2013) Dell laptops are doing very well. Yes, they are different from what we were used to, but it turns out W8 is pretty easy to learn and it is rock solid - in our experience. It is simply a very reliable workhorse. For the record, my desktop is a W7 machine. I like having both because I support customers with both and I need to know both. And, once you get past what we used to call the GUI (graphical user interface) they are pretty much the same.

The customer mentioned above has an XP laptop now, and I cleaned and tuned it for him. It should get him through the summer. It has the same old problems most XP machines have: a slow processor and not enough RAM. His processor clains to be about 1 GHz (986 MHz I think it said), He has 1 GB of RAM and really should spend $40 for the upgrade to its maximum 2 GB, but I doubt the customer will spend the mney. "Good money after bad" or some excuse like that.

So this article I found today on pcworld.com is timely. In short let me say that W8 is rock solid and is here to stay for the foreseeable futire. Users should not shy away from it.

The top 10 Windows 8 questions everyone asks

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

SOS - don't be "Lernered"

Not meaning to be political. but I thought the news about the IRS losing Lois Lerner's e-mail and then later saying the e-mails of 6 other IRS employees had also been lost, was a bit hard to swallow.

I know from experience how much large organizations, but certainly the IRS, keep multiple copies of all computer data. Perhaps the IRS should contact the NSA. Surely they have copies of all of Ms. Lerner's data! This is sorta said tongue in cheek, but the whole mess is just so hard to believe.

Why? Because I use SOS Online Backup (http://www.sosonlinebackup.com/). With SOS I know all of my data is safe and secure on the SOS backup systems in the cloud. I check it periodically and have retrieved data from my backups successfully.

It almost seems impossible to me, but I have been an SOS customer for over 3 years! I mean, the time has just gone by so quickly.

I started with SOS in March of 2011. At first I backed up all of my data on the SOS cloud. I had nearly 100 GB of data so the initial backup process took some time - a matter of days. After that I ran the backup program on a daily basis. It would back up any new data I had created that day. In a matter of months, maybe weeks, I realized that I didn't really have to do this every day and switched to weekly backups. I have been running weekly backuos for years now and am very confident that every photo, every song, every document is backed up in the SOS Cloud, and I know I can retrieve any item in a matter of a minute or less. I have tested this, and the system works.

I know there are other backup services out there. I can only state that SOS works! Give it a try and don't be "Lernered"!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Comcast is turning your home routers into public Wi-Fi hotspots

We had Comcast recently for a very short while. It was AWFUL in so many ways. We have the luxury of being able to choose between Verizon FIOS and Comcast. Verizon service was fantastic but their pricing was out of sight. We quit Verizon for Comcast. I think it lasted maybe 60 to 90 days before I realized that, although less expensive, it was simply horrible in so many ways. I got a "please come back letter" from Verizon, and a week later another one. They offered a better rate than I had been paying them before, and in fact, their monthly package, including 50 MB/S download and 25 MB/S upload and cable TV (Prime) came in $34 per month cheaper than Comcast! It was an easy decision to switch back to Verizon FIOS where we once again are experiencing true high speed internet. As a part of my negotiating with Verizon, they waived all of those nonsensical installation fees, the ones the like to spread over 3 months to make them seem smaller!

 It took me about 5 seconds after Comcast installed to realize what they were doing with MY router. I fixed that quick.

Here is the story as found today on bgr.com:

"Comcast has a brand new feature for its Internet subscribers called Xfinity Wi-Fi, but it’s going about it the wrong way, likely making even more enemies in the process. SeattlePi reports that Comcast is turning some of the Wi-Fi routers placed in the homes of subscribers into a “massive public Wi-Fi hotspot network,” but it’s doing so without giving customers the opportunity to opt out before the service is rolled out.

In theory, Xfinity Wi-Fi sounds like a neat idea, as it can provide free Internet access to other Xfinity subscribers as long as they’re within reach of such an Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspot. Moreover, the extra load on the router does not affect the bandwidth of the customer who houses it, as the device creates two independent networks, one private, and one public, using additional bandwidth for the public one.

As such, any users on the public Xfinity Wi-Fi network will not slow down customers’ connections, according to the company.

Comcast apparently informed its subscribers about the move in the mail a few weeks ago, and then email notifications go out after the service is turned on for each user. The company on Tuesday turned 50,000 Comcast Internet customers into public Wi-Fi providers in Houston, with 100,000 more hotspots to be activated by the end of June.

Users only have the opportunity to disable the service after it’s activated. A Comcast FAQ section further details Xfinity Wi-Fi, while the following guide, as listed by SeattlePi, should help Comcast customers disable the new Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspot feature:
  • Log into your Comcast account page at customer.comcast.com.
  • Click on Users & Preferences.
  • Look for a heading on the page for “Service Address.” Below your address, click the link that reads “Manage Xfinity WiFi.”
  • Click the button for “Disable Xfinity Wifi Home Hotspot.”
  • Click Save"

Monday, June 9, 2014

How to boost home WiFi for PCs and more

If only one of these tips helps improve your response time, it's worth reading. I saw the Kim Komando article on her web site not too long ago, and today I found it on USA Today.

"Sometimes Wi-Fi doesn't seem to make any sense. You're trying to connect to your home network but you're getting a stronger signal from the neighbor's router than your own router.

Inconsistent coverage is one of Wi-Fi's big problems. It always seems to stop just short of where you need it. Even when you do connect, the signal is spotty and unbearably slow. Fortunately, there are several tricks to boost a Wi-Fi signal. Even better, most of these tricks are free.

Choose the right location

Most Wi-Fi antennas are omni-directional: the signal goes every direction equally. So if you put the router along an outside wall, you're wasting half your signal outside. In fact, many times that's why you get such a strong signal from your neighbors. They're making the same mistake.

Cool trick: If you need to send a Wi-Fi signal a long-distance in just one direction, you can add a parabolic reflector to your antenna. If your router has an internal antenna, a sheet of curved aluminum foil set behind the router can work as well.

For the best all-around signal, you want your router as close as possible to the middle of the house, or the middle of the area where you need it. That means if you live in a two-story house, you want it either on the first floor near the ceiling, or on the second floor near the ground.

You should also pay attention to what's around the router. Putting it right next to a wall or inside a bookcase can partially block the signal. And definitely keep it away from metal, a microwave or a cordless telephone.

Change the channel

If you've moved the router and it didn't help as much as you'd hoped, then you might need to tweak a router setting. This mostly applies to 802.11g and older 802.11n routers. If you have an 802.11n router purchased in the last few years or an 802.11ac router, it should do this for you automatically.

To access the settings, open your computer browser and type in the router's IP address. The IP address will be in your router's manual, which will also tell you the default router username and password so you can log in.

Important side note: If you haven't changed your router's default password, you're leaving it wide open for hackers. So, be sure to change the password while you're in the settings.

Once you're in the settings, you can adjust the router broadcast channel to reduce interference with other routers. Most 802.11n and g routers are set to channel 1, 6 or 11, and you should stick to one of those. For example, if your router is set to channel 1, try switching to 6 or 11 and see if that improves your signal.

If you want to see what's really happening in the invisible world of radio waves, grab a program like Vistumbler for your laptop or the Wi-Fi Analyzer app for your Android gadget. Both will show you the routers in your area and what channels they're using.

You don't want too many routers using the same channel. See how many routers are using channels 1, 6, and 11 and use whichever channel is least crowded.

Upgrade your router

If you do have an 802.11b, 802.11g or older 802.11n router, it might be best to upgrade to a new router. Newer routers often have better range, faster speeds and extra features like guest networks.

You can also buy a Wi-Fi booster or range extender, but unless you have an especially large house those shouldn't be necessary. If you do buy a new router, you might be able to use your old router as a range extender.

On the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, newsletters and more, visitwww.komando.com. E-mail her at techcomments@usatoday.com."

Friday, June 6, 2014

McAfee Anti-virus

Anyone who knows me knows that I don't spend money on anti-virus programs. I will stick with the Microsoft free products for now.

I received the e-mail below yesterday from McAfee. I received it because I am using McAfee on my new Dell laptop. The machine came with a free one year subscription. Knowing full well that McAfee has an excellent product I decided to stay with it for the year to gain some experience with their product.

I am very impressed. It is quiet, non-invasive of my activity, and seems to do the job one might pay for if one were so inclined.

More on this in the future if warranted.

  Guess how many new threats
McAfee blocked from your
Dell PC in the last month?
  McAfee discovers and blocks
3,889 new threats every hour.*
Cutting-Edge Security,
Designed for Your Dell.
McAfee’s exclusive Active Protection technology finds and blocks new
threats (thousands discovered hourly*) in less than a second
PC cleaning to safely remove junk files for better computer performance
and health.
Better performance. Faster scans and updates keep your PC running
at full speed.
Powerful email protection to help keep your inbox free from spam and
phishing scams.
Exclusive Online Offer.
Extend your protection now and save $20!
Offer expires in two weeks.
Renew now!
McAfee Award Winning Protection
“McAfee offers a very complete security solution for
both the experienced and the less experienced user.”
SHiFT Magazine, 12/2011
“McAfee is user friendly and the interface is also very
nice... A most pleasant surprise – outstanding!”
Computer Hoy Magazine, 11/2011
Buy with Confidence   |   30-Day Money Back Guarantee   |   30-Day Free Support
Product: McAfee LiveSafe
Username: tmcgonegal@gmail.com
Protection good until: 12/02/2014
Please note: Some users may be required to reinstall after purchase to take advantage of new product features.

*Source: McAfee Labs

Tested product: McAfee Total Protection 2012

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Time to update HOSTS file

MVPS HOSTS File Update June-04-2014

The MVPS HOSTS file was recently updated [June-04-2014]
Download: hosts.zip (132 kb)
How To: Download and Extract the HOSTS filehttp://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts2.htm
HOSTS File - Frequently Asked Questions
Note: the "text" version makes a great resource for determining possible unwanted connections ...
http://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts.txt (501 kb)
Get notified when the MVPS HOSTS file is updated

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Secret Global Strike Kills 2 Malicious Web Viruses

Wow, this is amazing! To me the most amazing part of all of this is the realization that there are so many very smart, no brilliant, people in this world. This is a NY Times story.

"WASHINGTON — Federal agents over the weekend secretly seized control of two computer networks that hackers used to steal millions of dollars from unsuspecting victims. In doing so, the Justice Department disrupted the circulation of two of the world’s most pernicious viruses and turned a 30-year-old Russian computer hacker into a most-wanted fugitive.

The strike, coordinated with the European authorities, was aimed at malware called GameOver Zeus, which is known to steal bank information and send it to overseas hackers, and CryptoLocker, which burrows into computers and encrypts personal data. The hackers then demand a ransom to unlock the files.

“By the time the victims learned that their computers had been infected, it was far too late,” Leslie R. Caldwell, the assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division, said Monday.

Together, the Justice Department estimates, the two malicious programs have infected between 500,000 and a million computers and cost people more than $100 million in direct and indirect losses.

Authorities had been investigating the two viruses separately, but along the way, they realized that GameOver Zeus was the main vehicle by which CryptoLocker was spread, the Justice Department said.

They also determined that the operations were run by the same man, whom the Justice Department identified as Evgeniy M. Bogachev, of Anapa, Russia. Investigators were hunting for him even before they knew his name. Inside the F.B.I., he has long been one of the government’s most sought-after individual cybercriminals, through his screen name, Lucky12345.

While both pieces of software are distributed through spam emails, they accomplish different things, each highly damaging.

Once inside a computer, GameOver Zeus quietly tracks each keystroke. When the software detects someone logging into a bank account, it records the password. Armed with that information, hackers log in and drain the account. Often they stole more than $1 million from businesses, prosecutors said, with at least one theft exceeding $6 million.

CryptoLocker spreads through emails that look like they are from legitimate businesses, including fake tracking notices from FedEx and U.P.S. Once inside a network, such as a company’s computer system, the virus can spread from one computer to the next. As it spreads, the software locks up computer files behind unbreakable encryption, then demands hundreds of dollars in exchange for the code that unlocks it.

Investigators say many people and organizations, including the police department in Swansea, Mass., have paid to recover their files. Those who refused saw their files permanently erased. Such so-called ransomware is a growing security threat.

Investigators have targeted large malicious software networks, known as botnets, before. In 2011, the F.B.I. hijacked a command-and-control server that ran the similarly harmful Coreflood network. It then sent a shutdown command to every infected computer, effectively killing the virus in one stroke.

This weekend’s takedown, which was months in the making, was far more difficult. While CryptoLocker used a command-and-control server, GameOver Zeus did not. Instead, it relied on a decentralized structure, and it did not have a simple shutdown command."


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Scary new ransomware takes over iPhones, iPads and Macs

I saw this on Kim Komando's web site, komando.com

"A new wave of ransomware is specifically targeting Apple devices.

iPad, iPhone and Mac owners in parts of Australia are reporting that their devices are being held hostage. On their phones, tablets, and Macs, they are seeing messages on the screens demanding $50 to $100 to gain access to their gadgets
If you don't pay the ransom, you don't gain access to your device. There is a work-around. But first, how did the bad guys get in?

Time Magazine is reporting that it appears that whoever’s behind this has gotten ahold of people’s iCloud usernames and passwords, then used the Find My iPhone feature to remotely lock devices, demanding payment in order to unlock them. Now, that's pretty clever.

One iPhone user, a Fairfax Media employee in Sydney, said she was awoken at 4 a.m. on Tuesday to a loud "lost phone" message that said "Oleg Pliss" had hacked her phone. She was instructed to send $50 to a PayPal account to have it unlocked.

If you have a passcode on your device, you will be able to unlock it after the hacker has sent you the message demanding payment. Ignore the hacker's message and simply enter your 4-digit PIN.

Those who had not set a passcode are unable to access their device. Your best bet is to bring your phone, tablet or Mac down to the Apple store and ask them for help.

It's just a matter of time before this attack spreads beyond Australia.

What should you do?

Set up passcodes on your devices. Change your iCloud password too.

For your Mac, read this tip that shows you how protect from snoops.

You need security programs on your phone or tablet. Click here for the 5 best apps to secure your tablet or phone."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Microsoft cautions against Windows XP hack

From cnet.com:

Microsoft is warning XP users to steer clear of a hack that installs security updates despite the recent end of support for the aged OS.

In a statement sent to ZDNet on Monday, Microsoft explained:

"We recently became aware of a hack that purportedly aims to provide security updates to Windows XP customers. The security updates that could be installed are intended for Windows Embedded and Windows Server 2003 customers and do not fully protect Windows XP customers. Windows XP customers also run a significant risk of functionality issues with their machines if they install these updates, as they are not tested against Windows XP. The best way for Windows XP customers to protect their systems is to upgrade to a more modern operating system, like Windows 7 or Windows 8.1."

Microsoft turned off the support tap for Windows XP in early April, which means the software giant will no longer provide bug fixes, security patches, or other updates for the OS. That cutoff puts XP users at risk, so it's only natural that some would try to find a workaround to keep their XP computers secure.

As described by Betanews, the hack directs updates intended for Windows Embedded Industry and Windows Server 2003 to XP machines via a Registry change. But XP isn't quite the same as Windows Embedded or Server 2003.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Windows XP die-hards can slash attack risk by dumping IE

From computerworld.com:

"Computerworld - By switching to a non-Microsoft browser, Windows XP users can halve the number of vulnerabilities that apply to the OS, according to a survey of flaws Microsoft fixed in the second half of 2013.

The statistics support the advice from security professionals, who have recommended users run a rival browser to avoid some of the attacks aimed at their unprotected PCs.

Microsoft stopped sending patches to Windows XP PCs last month. The ban also applies to any version of IE that runs on the aged operating system. But a tally of Windows and IE vulnerabilities patched from July to December 2013 shows that the browser poses a greater security risk to XP bitter-enders than does the OS itself.

During the six-month stretch, Microsoft patched 19 separate critical vulnerabilities in the versions of IE -- IE6, IE7 and IE8 -- that run on Windows XP. "Critical" is Microsoft's most-serious threat label, and indicates that hackers who successfully exploit such bugs can probably compromise the PC and plant malware on its drive.

Security experts, including those at Microsoft, have predicted that hackers will analyze the patches provided for other versions of the operating system to find flaws in XP. By conducting before- and after-patch code comparisons, attackers may be able to figure out where a vulnerability lies in, say, Windows 7, which will be patched, then sniff around the same part of XP's code until they discover the bug there. From that point, it will be relatively straight forward for them to craft an exploit and use it against unprotected XP PCs.

"After April [2014], when we release monthly security updates for supported versions of Windows, attackers will try and reverse engineer them to identify any vulnerabilities that also exist in Windows XP," said Dustin Childs, director of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing group, in an October 2013 blog. "If they succeed, attackers will have the capability to develop exploit code to take advantage of them."

Of the 16 critical Windows XP flaws fixed in the second half of 2013, 14 were also patched in Windows 7 and Windows 8, one was also addressed just in Windows 7, and one was found only in Windows XP. In other words, 15 of the vulnerabilities fit Microsoft's criteria as reverse engineer-able.

Cyber criminals will have an easier time locating bugs in IE, as IE6, IE7 and IE8 will continue to be patched on other flavors of Windows. Even IE6, which shipped before Windows XP, will be patched until July 2015, when Windows Server 2003 retires."

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Microsoft Internet Explorer Fix Includes Windows XP

How's that again? Well whaddya know?!:-)

I saw this on wsj.com

"Microsoft announced Thursday it has patched a major security hole in its flagship Web browser, including old versions for Windows XP – a break from past statements.

The Redmond, Wash., software giant this weekend warned users that hackers were exploiting a new flaw in Internet Explorer, the default browser for much of the Web. The flaw attracted unusual attention because it also affected older versions of Internet Explorer used with Windows XP.

As of April  8, Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP and had said it would stop patching it. That means hackers, in theory, would be able to use those holes in cyberattacks in perpetuity.

But the company decided to make an exception in this case."

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

5 ways to test your computer’s security

This article was posted on Kim Komando's web site. I usually check her site every day, and so should you. You never know when you will find something that could help you! Kim's site is here; komando.com

The subject article, 5 ways to test your computer’s security, can be found here:

5 ways to test your computer’s security

Saturday, April 26, 2014

April HOSTS File now available

MVPS HOSTS File Update April-22-2014

The MVPS HOSTS file was recently updated [April-22-2014]
Download: hosts.zip (132 kb)
How To: Download and Extract the HOSTS filehttp://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts2.htm
HOSTS File - Frequently Asked Questionshttp://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hostsfaq.htm
Note: the "text" version makes a great resource for determining possible unwanted connections ...
http://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts.txt (500 kb)
Get notified when the MVPS HOSTS file is updated

Friday, April 18, 2014

XP Still going strong

Okay, enough of this. This'll be my last such post. A full 10 days after the cessation of XP security updates from Microsoft, my 2 XP machines are running fine. I do a Windows Update every other day or so, and have not seen any security updates from Microsoft. On the other hane, Microsoft continues to push out virus definition files, almost one a day, for its MSE, so that's good.

I also haven't heard of any XP-directed attacks.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Windows XP lives on: Avast survey shows 27 percent of its XP users don't plan to switch

At least we know where we stand. I would think that more than 27% are sticking with XP. By the way, Avast makes a very fine free anti-virus.

"Microsoft may have ended support for Windows XP, but free antivirus software vendor Avast projects that for millions of users, that won’t mean squat. 

Avast had previously reported that 23.6 percent of its users were still running Windows XP. In the days before Microsoft ended support of Windows XP on April 8, Avast surveyed close to 165,000 of those users. The results, released in in a blog post on Monday, indicate that 27 percent of Avast’s Windows XP users don’t plan on doing anything, even though Windows XP systems are theoretically vulnerable to attack from hitherto unreported vulnerabilities."

More here.....

Friday, April 11, 2014

XP Users: Day 4

All is going well on my 2 machines.

I run Microsoft Updates every day, and today for the first time, I saw 3 0's on each machine, meaning there were no updates of any sort. This is to be the new norm from here on in, the only exception being I may see a MSE Definitions update file.

However, I run a full MSE scan on both machines at 2 AM every day. So far these scans have been clean, with no issues found. Prior to the scan I indicate that a check for updates should be performed, and I continue to get updates almost every day. This is all good.

What is not all good IMHO is the MSE window. Microsoft is sure out to scare everyone they can into buying a new computer. It is very likely that neither you nor I could run Windows 7 or Windows 8 on our older XP machines.

So I continue to ignore all of the red ink and keep a watchful eye on things. I always check the MSE History tab to make sure there were no problems found.

Yesterday I ran Spybot on both machines and again, no problems were found.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

XP Users: Day 2

All went well on my 2 XP machines today. There were no XP updates except for MSE definition files. MSE runs a full virus scan at 2 AM each day. It did early this morning. No problems on the machines. I ran a Spybot scan today on both machines. No problems found.

I installed MSRT last night thru automatic updates. I ran the full MRT scan. Again no issues.

Things seem eerily quiet!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

XP Users: Updates

I was surprised this evening to find 9 updates for one machine and 10 for the other. There was a wide variety of updates including Windows XP Security updates, MSE definitions update, MSRT, and some MS Office updates.

I am guessing the XP Security updates will be the last?

XP Users: 0 Days to go!

Well, it's here, the last day of support for Windows XP. Last night I checked for updates on both of my XP laptops, found one or two and installed them, and ran full virus scans on both machines. As of this moment, they live and appear to be fine.

I use Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) for my anti-virus program on both machines. As long as I see updated signature files coming from Microsoft I will keep on using MSE. When that changes I will change to another free anti-virus, but for now it's a daily watch on these machines.

Good luck to us all!

Monday, April 7, 2014

XP Users: One day to go!

Spend whatever time you can reviewing all that you should have done by now, by reviewing the blog posts below. Make sure you have backed up all of your data. The absolute worst case scenario would be that your machine gets corrupted and you lose all your data. In that case, it's probably time for a new machine.

I do not expect any real problems, but who knows? It is always best to be prepared. If you have any questions you can write me at pcdoc@brpcdoc.com.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

XP Users: Just another 6 days to go!

Please be sure to read my 7 previous posts and check to make sure you have understood all of these recommendations and taken necessary steps to protect your system(s) as well as can be done..

From Microsoft at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/enterprise/end-of-support.aspx comes these tidbits (both news to me):

Will Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool be supported after April 8, 2014?

Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool is aligned with the company's anti-malware engines and signatures, and as such the removal tool will continue to be provided for Windows XP through July 14, 2015. However, any PC running Windows XP after April 8, 2014 should not be considered protected as there will be no security updates for the Windows XP operating system. 

Will Microsoft Security Essentials be supported after April 8, 2014?


Microsoft Security Essentials will not be available for download on Windows XP after April 8, 2014. If you already have Microsoft Security Essentials installed, you will continue to receive anti-malware signature updates through July 14, 2015. However, please note that PCs running Windows XP after April 8, 2014 should not be considered protected.

Friday, March 28, 2014

XP Users: Backup all of your data

For most of us this is the most important step. I have been backing up my data for years.

I am talking about:

all of my documents, like Word, Excel, Powerpoint, any other text documents, in my case I include my web sites in this (the local copy of what is out there on the web), etc. These include everything you'd expect to find like tax forms, wills, PC Doc class handouts, letters I have written over the years. etc. Even I am amazed when I see that this folder, containing many, many other folders, numbers over 58,000 files.

all of my pictures. I am talking digital photographs. I am talking about the 46000 +/- digital photos I have taken since 2001 when I got my first digital camera. Also included are many old photos I have scanned and converted into digital files.

all of my videos. I don't remember when I bought my Flip Video Recorder. but as I look at the My Videos directory I see I have videos in the Flip folder dating back to 2005, so I am working on year 10 of these. I also see many other videos. Some are YouTube downloads, others make up the old Super 8 videos my son had converted to digital videos, some videos taken by my family which were given to me, and more than a handful of miscellaneous videos saved from various sources over the years. There are roughly 1400 of these (quite large) files.

all of my music. I have over 3000 individual songs (files) in several categories (folders) like Christmas, Kids, my old favorites, Patriotic, etc.

If you are fortunate enough to have organized your files on your PC, as I have over the years, the rest is pretty easy. I realize, for most of you, you will have some preliminary steps to get through this. Start by moving files into the proper one of the 4 folders named above (Documents, Pictures, Videos, and Music).

When ready to back up your files, right click once on the Start button (lower left), and select Explore from the resulting pop-up menu. You should have an idea of how much data you need to backup. I am talking about how many gigabytes (Billions of characters).

Doing what I just laid out, I see this window:

Above you can see the data folders we are talking about - the four of them.

Next, determine how much data you want to back up. To see the size of your aggregated data, right click once on the upper (there are 2) folder named My Documents. Select Properties from the drop down menu. You will then see a window that looks like this:

On this new window note that I have selected the General tab at the top of the Properties window. For me, then, I see that I have a total of 114 GB that includes almost 108,000 files.

I do not expect most of you will have nearly this many, but you need to find out how much data you have on your PC and you MUST have an ironclad plan to back up all of this data before April 8!

The next step is to determine onto what device you will back up your data.

Do not, under this April 8 circumstance think of simply making a duplicate copy on your hard drive! Think in terms of your whole PC being destroyed. Think about backing up your data to an external device, one which can be easily removed and stored (off site - out of the house is best).

Three types of storage media come to mind.

1) A thumb, aka flash, drive

2) A portable external hard drive. These are small, attach via a USB connection, and are pretty affordable these days.

 3) A back up service in "the Cloud", meaning you store your data at a servicer's location. There are many of these in the business. I do this and I use SOS Online Backup, http://www.sosonlinebackup.com/. I am very happy with SOS. I am so comfortable with them that I now just run my backups once a week. I can view my data at any time, and I can restore a file at will - easily. I really love SOS. Find a company you are comfortable with if you want to back up your data in the cloud. It is very reassuring doing this.

However, you may choose to use a thmb drive. Just make sure you buy one that is big enough to hold all of your data.

A Micro Center 64GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive can be bought today for $25.99! (I am amazed at this low price). They make quality stuff and you can buy it online from your easy chair at http://www.microcenter.com/product/388688/64GB_USB_20_Flash_Drive

If you need larger, I have seen 128 GB flash drives advertised too! Simply amazing. That would handle my 118 GB easily.

However, if you decide to go to a flash drive I would urge you to buy 2! Use one for your first backup, and then a week or several weeks later use the second one for your second backup. Always sight verify the backed up results and be sure you can easily restore a file from the flash drive.

Or, you may choose to use an external portable hard drive.

These are priced all over the board. Here is one that seems to be mid-priced, but shop around and ask questions: Matsunichi Inc. 500 GB Portable SuperSpeed USB 3.0 External Hard Drive. The writeup says it also supports USB 2.0. http://www.microcenter.com/product/418095/500GB_Portable_SuperSpeed_USB_30_External_Hard_Drive

If you use a flash drive or a portable hard drive, get the device out of the house after you are satisfied that you have backed up everything you intended to back up!