Tag Archives: security

ransomware website

How to Avoid Getting Scammed

Have you been receiving phone calls or seeing websites that claim your computer is infected with a virus?

Clients have been asking me about these scams and some pretty tech-savvy people have been tricked. Scam artists know how to scare people and get them rattled so they won’t think clearly and will react hastily. These types of scams are not only stressful and expensive, but they cause considerable embarrassment. (Here is a video of a Today Show episode that explains how one of their team got fooled by “The Tech Support scam”.)

The good news is that you can protect yourself with these Techie Tips:

First, be aware that there are many variations on this type of scam. It’s called “Social Engineering.” These scams are designed to manipulate people. Scammers use emails, fake websites and direct phone calls and they may claim to be representing Apple, Microsoft, the IRS, a Bank, Netflix, the FBI, AT&T etc., etc.. (there will me more…)

Here is the simple, easy way to handle all of these:

  • Hang up the phone or
  • Delete the email or
  • Close the window (If the window won’t close, close the web browser if that doesn’t work, shutdown the computer and restart.)
  • Do not call any number suggested

If you feel you must verify that it’s a scam, find the correct customer service number on your monthly statement and call the company directly. (If you look up a phone number on the internet, be sure that you are on the company’s website and not a fake look-alike site.)

If you get tricked by one of these scams and allow access to your computer, don’t panic. It can be fixed. You can take it to a repair shop for a complete checkup and removal of any viruses or spyware. (Let me know if you would like a referral.)

Don’t try to fix it yourself. Running a scan with your antivirus software may not be adequate. Each antivirus program has its strengths and weaknesses and you can’t depend on just one in a situation like this. A professional will have all the right tools.

The scammers may not have installed a virus but may have installed spyware, a keylogger (tracks the keys you use for typing passwords), or remote access software to give them access to your computer whenever they want. They may have only wanted you to pay for phony tech support, but you can’t be sure. You should engage the services of a professional.

If you have passwords stored in a document on your computer, you may want to change all your passwords. (Using a password manager avoids this complication.)

An even simpler solution to all of this is to use a Chromebook computer and Gmail.

Gmail is very, very effective at sending scam emails to the Spam folder and Chromebooks will not allow scammers access to install spyware. Some Chromebooks cost less than the price of a virus repair on a PC or Mac and you won’t have to pay annual fees for antivirus protection and backups. Chromebooks don’t get viruses and everything is on “the cloud” so you can’t lose your files. Let me know if you want more information about Chromebooks.

I hope this Techie Tip has increased your confidence and alleviated any fears you may have had. Now you can confidently and calmly, delete scam emails, close fake web pages, hang up on scam phone callers and enjoy a peaceful techie life!

Please share this with your friends and encourage them to sign up for Techie Tips below so they can be safe and fully enjoy technology like you.

Enjoy!

Mardi

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holiday gift wrapping

Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

This week I received an email from a client about the “UPS Package Delivery Failure” email scam.  He wanted to know if it was a real threat or just a phony scare.  It’s a real threat, it’s been going around for years, and I want everyone to be aware of it.

These scam emails say that a package delivery company was unable to deliver a package and include instructions for things you need to do, that will steal private information or install a virus on your computer.

The main thing you need to remember is that a delivery company will not ask you to print anything or submit information.  If an email asks you to do that, delete it immediately and call the company directly to see if they are trying to communicate with you.

Here is a link to an excellent article on Snopes that explains all the details.

Package Delivery Failure Virus

And while we’re on the subject, now is a good time to review some other safety tips for internet commerce.

Here is a link to good information from the Google Safety Center.

Online Shopping Safety

My “simple, easy and fun” solution is to
Be conscious that there might be hazards
Take time to look at things carefully
Trust your instincts and
When in doubt, ask me

Wishing you a peaceful and joy-filled holiday shopping season,
Mardi

credit.com logo

More on the Equifax Debacle

In response to my last post about the Equifax debacle, one of my students sent me a link to this interesting article by Adam Levin, co-founder of Credit.com

I was curious how my student happened to find this, and I thought it was interesting that he is on the credit.com newsletter list because one of his doctors experienced a data breach and the doctor is provided him with credit monitoring by credit.com.

To keep things simple for you, I will quote the info that I found most useful but I encourage you to read the entire article, especially if you are a victim of the Equifax breach.

  • There are problems with freezing your credit report
  • The potential problems for those compromised go beyond credit cards and taxes
  • You can sue Equifax if your data was compromised
  • Tips for protecting yourself from now on

The Problem with Freezing Your Credit Report

“The New York Times reported still more bad news in the wake of the Equifax announcement.

The credit freeze service the credit bureau offered (originally offered for a fee until it finally decided to provide it for free for 30 days) generated PINs that were based on the time and date the PIN was created. These PINs are required to release the freeze whenever you need to grant access to your credit files in connection with a loan, an apartment rental, or a job application (where permitted by law). Unfortunately, they’re laughably easy for a hacker to guess before then.

The bigger problem is that a freeze needs to be in place at all three reporting agencies in order to be effective. As credit expert John Ulzheimer told the New York Times, putting a freeze on your credit with only one reporting agency is ‘like locking one of three doors in your house and leaving the other two unlocked. You’re hoping the thief stumbles on the locked door.'”

Types of Fraud to Be Aware Of

“…the threat goes way beyond maxed-out credit cards, fraudulent credit applications, and tax-refund fraud. With Department of Motor Vehicle information also in play, the risks are elevated. A fake ID made out in your name could cause you to get arrested for an outstanding warrant. In the realm of identity-related fraud products, a fake driver’s license is a luxury item for sure, but it’s still one that could hurt you if a scammer provides your information on a fake license the next time they’re pulled over for speeding or collared for a crime.

And then there’s the serious risk of medical-identity fraud. Consumers could see delays in prescription fulfillment because of fraudsters using their health care information. Worse, consumers may not be covered for health care expenses until they are able to prove they are who they claim to be using the same information that the crooks used—a frustrating and often complicated process.”

Legal Remedies

“One can only assume there will be lawsuits galore. In fact, one enterprising person has already automated the process. A robot lawyer is on the case, allowing consumers to automatically file a claim against Equifax in small claims court.

According to the Verge, consumers are still able to join class action suits while pursuing a small claims court remedy.

‘Even if you want to be part of the class action lawsuit against Equifax,’ the Verge reported, ‘you can still sue Equifax for negligence in small claims court using the DoNotPay bot and demand maximum damages. Maximum damages range between $2,500 in states like Rhode Island and Kentucky to $25,000 in Tennessee.'”

Protecting Yourself Now

“While it’s okay to hope that your services and vendors will do things right, you need to stay vigilant. And this should go without saying: if you can change privacy and authentication settings on a product or service, do it. If that’s not possible, perhaps you should consider finding a new vendor or service.

The easiest way to protect yourself, in my opinion, is by using a system called the “Three Ms.” The Three Ms is the centerpiece of my book, Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers and Identity Thieves, and the approach continues to be the best way to keep your personally identifiable information from being used in identity-related crimes.

And they are simple:

1. Minimize your exposure. Don’t authenticate yourself to anyone unless you are in control of the interaction, don’t overshare on social media, be a good steward of your passwords, safeguard any documents that can be used to hijack your identity, and freeze your credit.

2. Monitor your accounts. Check your credit report religiously, keep track of your credit score, and review major accounts daily if possible. (You can check your credit report for free at Credit.com.) If you prefer a more laid-back approach, sign up for free transaction alerts from financial services institutions and credit card companies, or purchase a sophisticated credit- and identity-monitoring program,

3. Manage the damage. Make sure you get on top of any incursion into your identity quickly, and enroll in a program where professionals help you navigate and resolve identity compromises—oftentimes available for free, or at minimal cost, through insurance companies, financial services institutions, and HR departments.”

“…Equifax is not the first, nor will it be the last, breach of note. Being prepared and alert is still the best remedy, because breaches have become the third certainty in life—right behind death and taxes.

A final tip: check with your insurance company, financial services institution, or employer. You may already have access to identity protection and resolution services, which is your best bet when it comes time to navigate the identity theft quagmire.

Many thanks to Adam Levin and credit.com for this helpful information.

I invite you to post comments or questions below and I will respond.

Enjoy your day in any case!

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Equifax Data Breach

I hate to trouble you with bad news, but you need to be aware of this.

Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, has revealed that an estimated 143 million U.S. customers may be affected by a data breach carried out by criminal hackers. It includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers. Additionally, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers and dispute documents with personal information for approximately 182,000 consumers may have been accessed.

Many thanks to Kim Komando who has written an excellent article which you can read here for all the details. My simple and easy version for you is…

Equifax is sending direct mail alerts to customers whose information was included in the data breach. Keep an eye out for the notice in your mailbox.

The company has created a website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, to help consumers check if any of their information has been affected. However, the tool requires you to provide your last name and last six digits of your Social Security number to initiate the check. I question if it is a good idea to give information to a company that just experienced the largest credit bureau data breach in history.

You can call Equifax’s dedicated customer care number 866-447-7559 to check but, judging by the magnitude of the breach, there will probably be long wait times. Let me know if you try that and how it goes so I can let others know.

If you use the website tool and are found to have been affected by the breach, you will be offered a chance to use Equifax’s own credit monitoring program, TrustedID Premier, free of charge for one year. However, you will have to agree to its Terms of Service and buried in the fine print is this a specific arbitration clause that waives your ability to participate in a class action lawsuit against Equifax.

Considering the extent of the stolen information, I doubt that one year of free credit monitoring is enough. With Social Security numbers involved, the threat of identity theft for those affected will assuredly be lifelong.

Kim suggests that you put a credit freeze on your accounts and she provides excellent instructions on how to do that here.

Other Important Steps To Take If You Are Affected

Scammers use the information they’ve stolen to target victims with other scams. If your data was compromised, please take extra caution and watch out for the following schemes:

Keep an eye on your bank accounts – You should already be checking your bank accounts online or your paper statements for suspicious activity. It’s even more critical now. If you see anything that seems strange, report it immediately.

Beware of phishing scams – Scammers will try and piggyback on data breaches like this. They will create phishing emails, pretending to be from the affected company, hoping to get victims to click on malicious links that could lead to more problems. They are tricky so call me if you suspect anything.

I hope you are not affected by this. (If you are, let me know.)

As always, if you have any questions or if you suspect a scam, feel free to call me and leave a message. I will get back to you just as soon as I can.

In any case, I hope you enjoy your day,

Mardi

What to Do With An Old Computer

When I saw this astonishing video I realized that I should address this issue in my Techie Tips.   

Screenshot 2017-09-09 at 11.06.45 AM

When clients ask me what to do with their old computers, I recommend recycling them at Best Buy.  It’s quick and easy.  You just drop them off at the customer service desk.  

Many times, my people like to donate them to a charity or give them to a friend or relative.

In any case, you need to protect the data on your hard drive if you have any sensitive information on it that you would not want criminals to see.

How It Works

You cannot actually erase data on a drive.  When you delete something, the space on the drive gets marked as “vacant” or “writable” so new data can be written over it.  The original information is still there until it’s overwritten and can be found with specialized software.

Some people assume that they can reformat their hard drives, but that just erases the directory that the computer uses to find the files.  It doesn’t delete the files.  The physical bits and bytes still exist.  With regular use, the data  will get overwritten, but it’s a random process and you won’t know which files have been overwritten and which haven’’t.

A “full format” will overwrite the drive with zeros but it’s still possible to recover data with specialized software.

The Solution

DBAN is a free software that overwrites the drive multiple times.  I found a comment online by a Tech who said that after 20 passes, nothing can be recovered.  He swears by it 100%.  I looked up DBAN and it has a disclaimer that it’s not “certified safe.”  I imagine certification would be important in situations where there is legal liability — where you are responsible for someone else’s sensitive data.  If you are willing to install the software and do 20 passes this might be a good solution for your needs.

The most common recommendation is to remove the hard drive from the computer and smash the disks or memory chips with a hammer (wear safety glasses.)  I did that with my old PC laptop and I thought it was fun but you might not share my enthusiasm for taking things apart to see what’s inside.  

I told Angel Sanchez at NYPC Repair (on Hwy 111 in Palm Desert near the Red Barn) that a lot of my clients would probably not want to deal with removing the hard drive and he said you are welcome to bring your computer into the shop and they will take it out and smash it for you with no charge!  Isn’t that great!  Love NYCP Repair!

In Summary

Now you know the whys, the hows and simple solutions.  Your choice will depend on your level of comfort about the security of your files.  For most of us, it isn’t an issue but if it is, you know what to do.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or need help.  

Enjoy!

Mardi  

P.S. If you have found this information helpful, please support my mission to make technology simple, easy and fun for mature adults.  Share this post with others and encourage them to sign up to receive all my Techie Tips via email.   They can sign up here  Thanks!

AOL Phishing Scam

AOL Phishing Scam

One of my clients sent this to me yesterday. It’s a Phishing scam, just as she suspected. Good job Harriett!

AOL HELP.

Your two incoming mails were placed on pending status due to the recent upgrade to our database,In order to receive the messages Click Here

 to Login and wait for response from  AOL Mail

.We apologies for any inconveniences 

Best Regards,

The AOL! Mail Team
I was suspicious because of the reference to holding back only two emails.  A big company like AOL doesn’t have time to notify people of small stuff like this.  (Most of the time, companies don’t even notify us of big changes!  LOL )  Mail held up by a “data base upgrade” would most likely just come through later, after the upgrade was completed.

Of course, being the intrepid, curious researcher that I am, I just had to click on the link to see what would happen.  This is what showed up…

URL Terminated  

The TinyURL (p95eoub) you visited was used by its creator in violation of our terms of use. TinyURL has a strict no abuse policy and we apologize for the intrusion this user has caused you. Such violations of our terms of use include:

  • Spam – Unsolicited Bulk E-mail
  • Fraud or Money Making scams
  • Malware
  • or any other use that is illegal.

If you received spam, please note that TinyURL did not send this spam and we do not operate any email lists. We can not remove you from spammer’s database as we have no association with spammers, but instead we recommend you use spam filtering software.

This confirmed my suspicions.  I let Harriet know and thanked her for letting me know.

You are always welcome to email me when you have a concern like this. My mission is to make your computing experience more enjoyable and to help others as well.

Please forward this to everyone you know so they can be safe and feel relaxed, happy and confident with their computers and techie gadgets.

Thoughts or comments about this topic?
Please comment below.

Thanks!

Looking for Work On Craigslist – Safety Tips

CRAIGSLIST-large570

Hi Mardi,

I am still in Brazil.

I am trying to put an add for a new job on craigslist and I can’t do it.

I open the craigslist page but I can’t find the right place.

Could you help me doing that?

I will try to call you.

I recently received this message from a client and it reminded me to let you know about a couple of hazards to avoid when you, or someone you know, is looking for work online.

When I first moved to the Desert, I was looking for work on Craigslist and encountered two potentially dangerous scams.

The first and most obvious scam, was an email from a company offering me an interview and requiring that I get a credit report to bring to the interview.  They said I needed to get it from the company they recommended and the link to the website was included in the email.

I couldn’t imagine why someone would need a credit report before an interview or expect me to divulge financial information to a company I didn’t know, so I knew it was a scam.

facebook login

The second scam almost got me!  A company said they were interested in me and I could learn more about them at their Facebook page.  At first, I thought it was strange that they didn’t send me to their company website, but then I thought they might be trying to be hip and leading-edge by having a company Facebook page.

I clicked on the link and it took me to a page that looked exactly like the Facebook sign-in page.  I signed in, but had a weird feeling that something was off.  I looked up at the address bar to see exactly where I was and it said “fakebook.com/….”  I thought oh my gosh, they just captured my Facebook login and password!

I immediately opened a new window and went to my Facebook page and changed my password.  Luckily I got there, before they were able to changed my password and lock me out.  Whew!

craigslist banner

There are good jobs available on Craigslist and I actually found one at that time.

You just need to be careful and let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Please forward this to everyone you know who is looking for work so they can be safe and feel relaxed, happy and confident while using Craigslist.

Thoughts or comments about this topic?  Please share in comments below.

Would You Believe This?

If you received an email saying this would you believe it?  Think about this

“Your account PayPal is limited you have to solve the problem in 24 hours”

Hello PayPal customer,

We are sorry to inform you that you can not access all your paypal advantages like sending money and purchasing,due to account limitation 

Why my account PayPal™ is limited?

Because we think that your account is in danger from stealing and unauthorized uses .

What can I do to resolve the problem?

You have to confirm all your account details on our secure server by click the link bellow and following all the steps
I received this on Wednesday and I was immediately suspicious for several reasons:

  • The wording seemed awkward,
  • The  “24 hours” time frame seemed unnecessary,
  • My PayPal account is linked directly to my bank account, not a credit card that could be compromised
  • My PayPal password is very secure.

There wasn’t any apparent reason for my account to be “in danger.
I was pretty sure this was a scam.

Screenshot 2015-01-30 at 8.09.29 AM

Instead of clicking on the button in the email that said “Confirm Your Information,”  I went to PayPal directly, logged in to my account and saw that there was no problem there.  The email was a scam just as I had suspected.

If I had clicked on the button in the email that said “confirm your information” and logged in on their web page, I would have given the scammers the password for my PayPal account.  I don’t know if they would have asked for additional information, like the bank routing number or credit card number.  I know better than to go that far with the process.

Screenshot 2015-01-30 at 7.56.16 AM

I clicked on the button to test it for this article and the web address (URL) did not even have the word “PayPal” in it. It was http://realitygameforums.com/confirm.account/verifie.information/update/
“realitygameforums”!  Really!  If it weren’t so treacherous it would be funny!

The reason this is so disturbing is that the email and the verification web page looked so authentic.  Many people could be tricked by something like this and I don’t want it to be you!

This is a common technique for tricking people. It’s called Phishing.

Phishing is the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.  Phishing – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

If you ever get emails that appear to be from your Bank or credit card company or any other source that is asking for sensitive information, don’t click on any buttons or links in the email.  Go to your account online and login to see if there are any messages for you; or call the bank, credit card, or other company directly and ask them if there is an issue with your account.

nortonHere is more information from Norton Internet Security ttp://us.norton.com/transactsafely/phishingscam.jsp

To protect yourself against phishing, follow these basic guidelines:

  1. Be wary of emails asking for confidential information—especially of a financial nature. Legitimate organizations will never request sensitive information via email.
  2. Don’t get pressured into providing sensitive information. Phishers like to use scare tactics, and may threaten to disable an account or delay services until you update certain information.
  3. Be sure to contact the merchant directly to confirm the authenticity of their request.
  4. Familiarize yourself with a web site’s privacy policy.
  5. Watch out for generic-looking requests for information. Fraudulent emails are often not personalized, while authentic emails from your bank often reference an account you have with them.
  6. Never submit confidential information via forms embedded within email messages.
  7. Never use links in an email to connect to a web site. Instead, open a new browser window and type the URL directly into the address bar.
  8. Maintain effective software to combat phishing. Norton Internet Security automatically detects and blocks fake web sites. It also authenticates major banking and shopping web sites.

Senior_Year_by_ScarecrowArtist

I hope you have found this information helpful and that you feel more empowered and secure now.

Please send this tip to your friends so they will be empowered and protected too.
Thoughts or comments about this topic? Please share in the comments below.

Passwords Can Be Simple and Safe

Passwords Can Be Simple and Safe

I know you hate having to use so many passwords.  It’s a big pain to keep track of them.  You might even be using the same password for multiple sites and allowing your web browser to save them so you don’t have to login every time.

A recent article by Kim Komando, inspired me to encourage you to take the bull by the horns, do some house cleaning and start using a password manager. This will make your online life so much simpler and safer.
Here are some great tips based on her article, One secret about online accounts every computer user needs to know

You may have created dozens of accounts that have only been used once. Just think of how many times you’ve created a username and password just to read an article, play a game or download something.  This can be dangerous because your information is floating around on dozens or hundreds of websites that may or may not be secure.  Even worse, if you have used the same username and password for every site, every account you have is in danger.  A hacker who gets your account information from one site can use it to get access to your other accounts as well.

The solution is to hunt down and close any accounts you are not using and then change the passwords to your existing accounts so that each one is unique.

A simple browser trick

1) When you create a new online account or log in to an old one, your browser stores the username and password. This makes it easy to log back in later.  It also means you can go now and see what accounts you’ve created.

2) After you locate your accounts, you can close down the accounts you are not using and create unique passwords for the sites you are keeping.

3) Then turn off “password storing” and erase the existing passwords in your browser. The option to erase the passwords is in the same place you view the saved passwords.  (The Instructions are below.)

Use A Password Manager

LastPass, The last password you will ever need

 

 

 

 

 

I know this seems like a lot of work but you only have to do it once.  Then, If you start using a password manager like LastPass all your unique passwords will be stored in a vault and you will only need to remember one master password.  The password manager will even generate secure passwords for you so you don’t have to think them up. You will love it!

If you need help to clean things up or to learn how to use a password manager like LastPass, I’m always here for you. Just call for an appointment.

Invite some friends to a Play Shop in your home, community room or office.  A play shop is a really fun way to learn and only costs $25 hr. per person.

Forward this tip to your friends so they will be safe and happier too.
Thoughts or comments about this topic? Please share in the comment section below.

Instructions for web browser applications:

FIREFOX

To see your login information in Firefox, go to the Firefox menu – it’s the icon on the right with three horizontal lines – and click Options.

Under the Security tab, click the “Saved Passwords” button.

Then click the “Show Passwords” button and click “Yes.”

CHROME

In Chrome, click the icon with three horizontal lines in the upper right and choose “Settings.”

Choose “Settings” on the left, and then click the “Show advanced settings” link at the bottom of the screen.

Scroll down to “Passwords and forms” and click the “Manage saved passwords” link.

If you want to log back into your old account, but don’t remember the password, then you can click on a password and click the Show button next to it.

To see the password, you will have to enter your Windows account password, which does make it harder for casual snoops to get in.

INTERNET EXPLORER

You can’t view saved usernames and passwords directly in IE. You would need a third-party program like IE PassView.  However, I recommend that you don’t use Internet Explorer anyway.  It is easily invaded by spyware. I use Google Chrome but Firefox is good also.

SAFARI

In Safari, go to Safari>>Preferences>>Auto-fill. Click the Edit button to view the saved passwords.

Need Help?

If you need help to clean things up or to learn how to use a password manager like LastPass,  I’m always here for you. Just call for an appointment.

Invite some friends to a Play Shop in your home, community room or office.  A play shop is a really fun way to learn and only costs $25 hr. per person.

Forward this tip to your friends so they will be safe and happier too.

Simple Fixes for Webcam Spying

Are you scared by all the news stories suggesting that hackers can spy on you through your computer and gadget cameras?

My mother has been really concerned about it and I understand how scary it can be.  It is almost overwhelming and really annoying when all these “advances” in technology bring new challenges and require more education!

You don’t need to worry though, I’m dedicated to calming your fears and giving you the information and help you need so you can relax and enjoy your toys again.

Despite the potential dangers, webcams are great tools for chatting long-distance with friends and family, and conducting  business.

When you understand how they work and how to secure them, you will feel much better and have more fun.  Enjoy!

Please help others by forwarding this to all your friends and relatives and encourage them to subscribe to my techie tips so they can be protected and have peace of mind also.  They can click right here to subscribe.  If you are into social media, you can use the sharing buttons provided. That will be a big help also. Thanks!

INTERNET-ENABLED CAMERAS  Internet Cameras

Internet-enabled security cameras and baby monitors are becoming more and more common because they are inexpensive and easy to set up.  These gadgets connect to your Wi-Fi network and they are a great way to keep an eye on kids, aging parents and your possessions.

However, many people don’t follow the directions when setting them up and leave the default username and password in place. Hackers have made it their business to know all the default login information for every gadget on the market.  If you don’t change the factory settings they could find your camera online, log in, and watch you or put you on a website with thousands of other cameras for curious snoops to browse.

Good News!
The solution is easy: just remember to change the default password when you set up any type of new gadget. If you buy a camera that doesn’t have a password, exchange it for a different model.

COMPUTER WEBCAMS  lamptop cam

Once hackers get on your computer, they can use programs to turn on your webcam without triggering alerts like the webcam light. Thus, covering or unplugging the camera when not in use is a good idea.

However, hackers could still have full access to your computer. They could rummage through your email, browser history, passwords, documents and anything else they want.

And, of course, when you do use the webcam, they can eavesdrop.

To get on your computer, hackers use a remote access tool, or RAT. That’s what tech support agents use to get on your computer remotely to change settings or fix a problem. Fortunately, remote access tools require your permission, so a person can’t just take control without your permission.

However, hackers have many ways to trick you into letting them on to your computer — fake email attachments, malicious links, Trojan viruses, and phony tech support calls.  Once you’re tricked into running a file, clicking a link, or inviting them on to your system, they can take control and do whatever they want.

More Good News!

The solution is pretty simple. Just avoid unsolicited email attachments and links, run up-to-date security software and don’t believe anyone who contacts you claiming to be tech support for a major company.

Operating systems on your computer may have a remote access tool (RAT) built in. This makes it easier for real tech support to get on your system, but it also makes it easier for a hacker to trick your system into letting them on.

To turn off Remote Assistance in Windows, go to Start>>Control Panel. In the Search box in the upper right corner, type “remote” and then click the “Allow remote access to your computer” link.

Uncheck the “Allow Remote Assistance connections to this computer” option and click OK.

For Macs, go to the Apple icon and select System Preferences. Click the Sharing icon and uncheck Remote Login, Remote Management.

If you use a company laptop, it could have similar software on it. Companies are supposed to disclose the presence of that kind of software but they don’t always do it, so if it doesn’t belong to you, be mindful of what you do on it.

smartphone cameraTABLET AND SMARTPHONE CAMERAS

Tablets and smartphones also have cameras but I haven’t heard of any malicious apps or spying apps that can trigger the camera.  That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, or won’t exist in the future but I will let you know if that changes.

A word to the wise….if there is something you really don’t want the world to see, don’t put it on your smartphone or tablet.

If you have any questions or comments about this or if you have any suggestions for future tips, please post a comment below and let me know. I always love to know what you think and how I can help you. Thanks!