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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Backup and Save your business!

There you are busily typing away on your PC or your
Laptop, and all of a sudden the strangest thing happens.
The screen goes black, extinquished like a candle in the
A message appears saying: "The file hal.dll is missing or
corrupt. Windows can not start." Well you know that 95% of
computer glitches are solved by a simple reboot, so
click…oops, can't click, no Windows. Ok then, you reset,
and you think you are sure to be OK when the reboot
Wrong! The same error message appears "The file hal.dll is
missing or corrupt. Windows can not start." How is it
possible for one measly file to kill your system?
DISASTER…What to do now? Phone your tech friend and ask
his advice. He tells you the bad news. You are obliged to
re-install Windows from the original disc! Oh My God! Will
I lose all my programs and data? Yes, you will have to re-
install all your programs. No your data may be safe, but
only if you don't have to reformat your hard disc.
But, your friend asks, I hope you have all your backups.
DO YOU, because that is the key to saving your business.
You know that in today's business world, 95% of your
business information is stored on your computer. This
applies not only to online businesses, but also to offline
ones. In this paperless society of ours, business people
are printing less and less of all their transactions.
Think hard. Where the heck did I hide my original Windows
disc? Really, are you organized enough that you can easily
find your original installation discs, along with the code
numbers they need to re-install.
You own some programs you downloaded off the Net, but they
are stored on your hard drive. Are they backed up? When is
the last time you backed up your data, the lifeblood of
your business.
What backup system do you use? Do you use the old-
fashioned tape systems, or do you backup to CD or DVD?
Whichever one you use, the key is that your backups must be
frequent enough to keep you out of major trouble.
Program backups do not have to be constantly repeated like
Data does. Programs do not change, unless you downloaded an
update. Then your update must be saved on your hard drive,
and also backed up.
Data includes so many different things that it's easy to
forget to back up some items. 'My Documents' contains much
of the data, but not nearly all. Do you know where your
Favorite links are stored? Where is your email that you
saved? Along with your email address book, Microsoft hides
these files quite well.
It took me weeks to find, and then remember where they are
hidden in Documents and Settings. I never did find the
email settings, so have not saved those.
Bottom line: what should you back up, and how often?
Whatever media you use, you must have at least 2 current
backups of everything, and preferably 3. If you use CD or
DVD, have you ever noticed how some discs suddenly become
unreadable, and for no apparent reason. It happens oh too
frequently.. I lose up to 15% this way. CDs have an
expected shelf life of maybe 2 years. Some will surely last
longer, too many die prematurely.
Does that mean you should not use CDs or DVDs to back up?
Of course you should. It is the cheapest backup system I know about. But you MUST have more than one copy. I prefer 3.
The proof of this comes when you save your business by
being able to start over because your backups are up to
Imagine if you lose all your programs and have to buy them
over again.
Imagine if you lose all your emails that have your
registration codes for the programs you bought online. And
what about all the sales and purchase data in your emails.
What about your contact list, your email lists, etc.
Imagine losing all your accounting data that you must have
for year-end tax reporting!
Enough said. Programs already backed up on 2 or 3 copies only need to be updated by adding new programs you buy, and upgrades that come out.
Data should be backed up based on the frequency of your
transactions. It could be daily, or every 2 or 3 days if
your business is in the early growth stage..
Without backups…your business may be dead in the water!
Don't get careless. You may say I will save a disc or two
by backing up less often. Why? One CD-rom disc costs a
buck. Big deal when it means life or death for your
Why take chances. Can anyone predict when you will have a
problem, a computer crash, a new virus? Of course not.
Don't live dangerously, this isn't a thrill ride, it's
your life, your business life!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Top 10 tips for Safe Internet Shopping

Over £5 billion pounds was spent on online shopping in 2004. The Internet was the fastest growing retail sector last year, attracting one in four shoppers. The growth rate for the online market was 27.4 per cent, six times better than for the traditional retail market. This looks set to rise as more and more people look for more convenient ways of shopping. It’s easy to search for a product and then purchase it – all at the click of a button and from the comfort of your home. You have a fun time shopping, browsing, reading and gathering information about products, and you don't have to take time out from your busy schedule to fight traffic, crowds and queues to buy the perfect gift for your recipient.
But how can you ensure you are shopping safely? Brad Bagherian, Managing Director, at Elaborations Ltd, a web design company in Amersham, has put together the following tips for safe surfing:
1. Take your time
Take your time when purchasing online since high pressure sales tactics, just like in the real world, often indicate possible frauds. Ensure the site is easy to use, designed well and looks professional. An amateur’s site will often look cluttered.
If you are in doubt, stop the transaction. You can stop the transaction anytime before pressing the Pay and / or Confirm button that sends your order off to the business.
2. Look for Contact Details
You may think all online shops will have their contact details on their website. You might be surprised to find that some do not provide their details, no email address and no phone number. This is a sure red flag. Reputable online shops will always provide concise contact information, this includes a physical address and a phone number. If you are suspicious trust your gut feelings. Do not buy online if you are unsure that the shop is real.
3. Consider all costs before purchasing
Shop around and compare prices before buying. When you calculate the cost of a product make sure that you take into account of the delivery charge and the VAT – these are often not included in the overall price. Also make sure what you're buying is not subject to any import restrictions.
4. Check the Returns Policy
Most reputable online shops offer strong guarantees and stand behind their products. Check the Returns Policy before you proceed to the checkout. Things you should take particular note of are; what happens if the goods are damaged or faulty, who should pay the postage costs for the return of an unwanted item and how many days you have to return an unwanted item. Online shopping surpasses the physical shops in convenience, but there is a disadvantage of being unable to physically touch the products, so the greater the refund policy period the better. If there is no refund policy, the best advice is to stay away.
Plus don't forget that under the Distance Selling Regulations, you do have a seven-day-cooling-off period in case you change your mind. For further information on Distance Selling Regulations see
5. Check Delivery Options
Find out when they will be delivering and whether you can choose the delivery date and time. Make sure the address you provide for delivery will have someone available who can sign for the package when it arrives.
Various delivery options may incur extra costs. For example, faster delivery, registered post and weekend delivery may cost extra. So if you don’t want to be surprised when checking out, make sure you find out what their delivery terms are like.
6. Protect your Personal Information
Avoid giving out personal information that is not strictly necessary for a successful purchase.
Check the companies Privacy Policy (which is usually located at the bottom of the website) which tells you what they intend to do with your information. They should maintain your personal details in the strictest privacy and confidentiality according to the 1998 Data Protection Act.
7. Ensure the Transaction is Secure
Check whether the website complies with the industry’s security standards (SSL) which help prevent fraud and protect you by encrypting the personal information you send over the Internet during the transaction. This encryption means that a hacker will not be able to steal your credit card and personal information. You must ensure the following two measures are in place before you complete any transaction on the Internet
 Ensure a padlock image is present on the bottom right hand side of your browser
 Ensure the web address begins with “https”
8. Pay by Credit Card
This will give you added protection because your credit card issuer becomes jointly responsible for the goods that you buy. So if there is a problem that the company won’t resolve, the credit card company will assist you. While the problem is being investigated, you would not need to pay the credit card charge and if the company still doesn’t deliver or they are a scam, you’re in a much better position to claim your money back.
9. Keep a record of everything
Once you have made an online purchase, you will receive an email confirmation and an order reference number. Print these out and keep a note of any reference numbers provided during the transaction. It would also be useful to print out the details of the product or service you ordered. If there was a special offer on at the time, print out the web page with the offer on it. This will include vital information such as the web address, date and time it was printed. If you can not print out the information, then save the page in a folder on your PC for reference. These may be relevant if a dispute arises.
10. Know Your Rights
Online consumers have exactly the same rights as offline consumers. The goods should fit the product description and be as satisfactory as described online. If something goes wrong with your purchase, there are actions you can take with the shop, and your bank to fix the problem. For further information take a look at the Office of Fair Trading website.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Internet Shopping - How Safe Is It?

Millions of people make purchases online, but many people are still wary. They fear the unknown and have many doubts and questions about who they are dealing with. They are afraid of being scammed, and rightfully so. Online shopping can be a completely safe and rewarding experience provided you are dealing with a legitimate, reputable retailer. But how do you know if they are legitimate??? Here lies the "fear of the unknown."
Well, as with anything in life, there are precautions to take, questions you should ask yourself, and signs to look out for. Provided you are careful with who you decide to purchase from, online shopping can be a very convenient and pleasurable experience.
Important Safety Precautions:
Take a good look around the website. Make sure you read their Privacy Policy. A privacy policy let's you know the procedures and methods they have in place to secure your personal information. Find the answers to these questions...Do they share your information with others? Some companies sell or distribute your information to other companies. You may wind up on everybody's mailing list. Do they have security measures in place to protect your information (i.e. SSL)? SSL is the abbreviation for Secured Socket Layer. SSL is security software that encrypts information transmitted between browsers. What this means in layman's terms is that your personal information such as name, address, credit card number, etc. is coded or scrambled so that anyone who may try to intercept this information as it is transmitting cannot read it. But don't just rely on them telling you that their site is secure, check for yourself. You will know when you are in a secure browser by looking at the bottom browser bar on your computer (lower right). If the browser is secure, you will see a security lock image. Also check the web address in your top browser bar. Secure web addresses begin with "https" whereas, non-secure pages begin with "http."
Setting up accounts with online stores is quite common. However, many people are leery of this because they don't understand why it is sometimes necessary. Generally, the only information you are providing is your name, address, email address, and sometimes your phone number. This is all necessary information that the store needs in order to ship your order or contact you regarding your order. Setting up an account with the retailer usually provides you with additional such as tracking the status of your order. On the other hand, if the account set-up asks for more than just your basic contact information, then you may not want
to proceed. You should not be required to provide your social security number, bank account number, or birthdate. This information is much more personal and should not be necessary to have an order shipped.
Read the shipping and returns policies before making a purchase. Make sure you feel comfortable with them. Find answers to these questions...What is their shipping timeframe? Is it within a reasonable amount of time? Will they notify you if it will take longer than anticipated? What choices will you have then? Do they allow returns? Are there restrictions on what items you can return and explanations as to why? Do they make sense?
Don't make huge purchases right off the bat. Make a small, low cost purchase with the company and consider it a low-risk test of their credibility. This allows the retailer a chance to prove themselves worthy of your business, but limits the monetary risk you are taking. Should all go well, you can make a larger purchase in the future with peace of mind, now knowing that this is a legitimate business.
There are many advantages to purchasing online and as long as you are careful with who you choose to deal with you can reap the rewards.
Here are some of the benefits:
Convenience: Why fight the crowds in the stores, especially during the holidays, when you can sit at home on your computer and shop. And price comparisons are just a click away when shopping on the internet. There's no need to fight traffic running from store to store looking for the "best deal." You can have your purchase delivered to your doorstep within a few days.
Prices: Online retailers and storefronts purchase their products from the same manufacturers. However, an online retailer doesn't have the costly overhead that a storefront has (i.e. Lease payments on the building, heat and electric, just to name a few). Therefore, the online retailer doesn't have to markup the price as much as the storefront in order to make the same profit. So you, the consumer, come out the winner!
Store Hours: Online retailers are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Shop at your convenience.
So as long as you take some simple precautions, shopping online can be a very pleasurable, time saving and money saving experience.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Web and Computer Security

Well, if that would have been said to me by my father when I was 2 years of age, I would have understood. But when today, my own computer tells me that when I am 34, I wonder why I spent $1500 on my computer hardware and software just to enjoy the (un-realized) benefits of this great and revolutionary information technology?
Today’s cyberspace is hazardous. None of today’s PC users can claim that they never had a computer virus issue or a PC security breach. Now, if you count today’s number of PC users worldwide, they will soon be 1 billion by 2010 according to analysts. When I see all the computer viruses, infections, trojans, and what not around me, and compare it with the 1 billion innocent computer users around the world, I simply feel sorry not only for those billion users but for myself too. But again, as a common user myself, I must admit it was not all doomsday for the whole industry since 1987 when I started to use computers. So, as a responsible member of this great IT revolution, I must share some of the best tips and tricks that I learned to use to make the minimum room for productivity on my computer.
Please note this is a tutorial for someone who has basic know-how of computer usage. For those who are newbies, I would recommend asking a local expert’s help before trying anything out mentioned in this tutorial. In that case, make room for payment from deep pocket. For your own convenience, print this tutorial for step-by-step instructions.
Whenever my computer is infected, I act on any of the following options;
1. FORMAT HARD DISK: I back up all of my data on a CD-Writer if it is still accessible. And then format the whole hard disk drive and re-install each and every application.
2. USE SOFTWARE: I exhaust all anti-virus and other software options. This is usually my first priority as compared to formatting the whole computer hard disk drives.
Now, let me explain both options in detail;
PRE-REQUISITES: Make sure you have a CD-Drive (Writer), empty writable CDs, Windows OS CD (bootable) that contains files such as Format.exe, Scandisk.exe, FDisk.exe, and Attrib.exe files. Microsoft Office CD, Anti-Virus CD, GoldenHawk CD Writing Software in DOS (copy2cd.exe and cdtools.exe), Serial Numbers of your License, Driver CDs of Motherboard, VGA, Network, Sound and Modem devices. Optionally, download (using or these software from any Internet Café when your own computer is inaccessible and save it on a CD so that you can use it anytime for security purposes;
Golden Hawk DOS based CD Writing Software
HTech Fireman Windows based CD Writing Software
Driver Genius Pro
Partition Magic
AVG AntiVirus
SpywareBlaster & SpywareGuard
Spybot Search & Destroy
HiJackThis & CWShredder
I have intentionally avoided mention of many commercially good and more friendly software’s mention here as I wanted everything to do FREE without any additional costs apart from the usual OS licenses. For your own convenience, you can research Google or Yahoo search engines find further information about such commercial software and their availability / pricing.
I know it is painful and surgical type of solution, but sometimes, it is the ONLY solution left after exhausting all of our efforts to revive our computer machine after a virus attack. Follow this procedure;
Booting Up: Try booting your computer normally first and see if you can login easily. If you can’t or your computer hangs up, try holding F8 key when starting Windows and you will get the Safe Mode. Even if you don’t get the Safe Mode, don’t worry.
Power up your computer and press DEL key or F2 key to login your CMOS. In CMOS, go to Boot Preferences and make CD Drive as boot drive as your first boot drive and change the hard disk drive as the second boot drive. If you don’t see your CD Drive in the boot-up options, your CD Drive is not properly installed. Check the connectors or ask your CD Drive provider for instructions to install the CD Drive. Now, when your CD Drive is ready, insert your Windows OS CD in the CD Drive and restart your computer machine. When prompted, select the option “Boot from CD with CD Option”. When you get the prompt, Notice the CD Drive letter that was allocated to your CD Drive when it installed the CD Driver. It is usually D: drive or the last drive letter depending on the number of your partitions. Note it down as it is the actual drive letter where you will have to type a DOS command like d:
You should now be able to run all software utilities such as Format, Scandisk, FDisk or Windows Installation Setup.exe files. Right now, simply make sure they exist by typing a DOS command dir at the CD drive letter. If you don’t find it with this simple directory command, use dir/s filename to search the file. For example, to search fdisk.exe file, type dir/s fdisk.exe.
BACKING UP YOUR DATA: Before formatting your hard disk drive, please make sure you have proper back up of your critical data files such as Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc files on a CD or any other media for backup that you have access to. In this tutorial, we assume you have a CD-Writer installed for taking backups on Writeable CDs. Their capacity is usually 700MB or less. Here, you should seriously consider using Zipping software like WinZip or WinRAR.
VIA WINDOWS: If you can luckily login to your Windows OS, you should run the CD-Writer software such as HTech Fireman to back up all of your data on an empty CD. If you don’t know how to do it, read their user manual for detailed instruction set. If you can’t access your Windows OS, read on.
VIA DOS: Some of the files that you wish to make back-up, may be hidden. To un-hide them, use attrib *.* +r +s +h.
Now, use the software from Golden Hawk file named as copy2cd.exe to backup your data files or directories on a writeable CD. Before using this command, make sure you are in an appropriate path on the computer such as E:/ where the actual file copy2cd.exe file resides;
Copy2cd c:data*.* f:
Here we assumed that f: is a CD Writer drive. Now, repeat the same for all of your files to back up. When finished, run cdtools.exe command i.e. cdtools f: to finish by selecting option “Disc Finalization”.
If you can’t back up your data using the above-mentioned procedure, either ask an outside expert’s help personally or via internet. If all fails, forget your data forever and carry on installing a new OS as mentioned in this tutorial.
Backing up Your Drivers: An interesting tool to mentioned here is a software that automatically backs up all of your drivers of CD, modem, sound card, vga, usb, printer or just about anything that is currently installed on your system. But this software works only in an operational windows OS, and not in DOS. It is a good and time-saving practice to keep a backup of all of your drivers on a CD by using such a software. Its name is Driver Genius Pro and it is commercial software, not a freeware.
USING FDISK: You may skip this option and go straight to Formatting Hard Disk option, if you wish to use other useful partitions that may contain your data. Before going ahead with this option, Make sure there is no useful data left on your computer to be backed up. This option will delete all of the computer partitions and create new ones.
i) Boot up your computer using Windows OS CD.
ii) Run this command
iii) Press option 3 to delete all current partitions.
iv) To create a new partition, select option 1 and select Y to answer the maximum size question by the program.
v) Next, select option 2
vi) Press Esc key to quit and restart your computer to
See the URL for detailed instructions alongwith screenshots. Now, that you have created the primary partition, you can continue to format the newly created partition. There is a very user-friendly but commercial software called Partition Magic by PowerQuest to manage your partitions easily after installation of Windows.
FORMATTING HARD DISK: Now that you have created new partitions, It is time to format them so that you can start installing Windows. This is how you make your C: drive usable by your Windows OS for installation. Boot up your computer with Windows CD and type format c: command at the prompt. When prompted for maximum size, press, YES. After complete processing you will be presented with the successful report about the formatting of the C: drive. Select your new drive name and press ENTER to finish.
INSTALLING WINDOWS: Microsoft has made it very easy for a newbie to install a completely new OS on a newly formatted partition. It is all wizard based and you simply have to click NEXT each time whenever asked a question. Boot up your computer from the Windows CD and select Start with CD Option. When on DOS prompt, change to the CD Drive that it just created which is usually d: if you have only one partition C. Now type command setup.exe to start the windows installation process.
During installation, make sure you properly name your PC as per your preferences and select your regions and Time zone. When finished, the computer will re-boot and during next re-boot it may ask some drivers of your Sound Card, VGA, Network, or other devices attached. Provide the requisite driver CDs and locate the paths of the appropriate drivers. If you are not sure, leave it like that and press NEXT to ignore. When your windows installation is complete, you can install Microsoft Office, setup internet connection and start using it as normally as you would. Please make sure you install all the security software such as anti-virus, anti-spyware, adware, and other software as mentioned in the next section.
Installing Anti-Virus: Download free AVG Antivirus software and install it. Make sure you get its free key from their website by registering. This software is not auto-updated for critical viruses and for an auto-update version, you will have to pay. If you wish to pay, we would recommend world’s most popular brands Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micros instead. No matter what Anti-Virus software you install, make sure you enable its Auto-Protect feature for automatic protection of your computer’s resources and in-coming or out-going emails from any virus attack. Some software even allow you to setup silent detection and destruction without any disturbance to your work. Further, they are auto-updated via internet at the regular interval that you setup. Hence, you can rest assured that whenever a security threat is spread all over the world, your software will automatically download the requisite updated version and install its defense on your computer.
BROWSER SECURITY: To setup your browser (Internet Explorer on Windows) for maximum security against the usual threats, follow this procedure;
i) Start up your browser
ii) Go to IE > Tools > Windows Update > Product Updates, and selected Security Updates to be automatically updated. Microsoft releases patches and security patches from time to time to make sure your system's security is up-to-date.
iii) Now, go to Internet Options/Security/Internet, press 'default level', then OK. Now press "Custom Level." In the ActiveX section, set the first two options ("Download signed and unsigned ActiveX controls) to 'prompt', and 'Initialize and Script ActiveX controls not marked as safe" to 'disable'. Now you will be asked whether you want ActiveX objects to be executed and whether you want software to be installed. Sites that you know for sure are above suspicion can be moved to the Trusted Zone in Internet Option/security.
If you use another browser such as Firefox or Netscape, see their documentation on how to securely set it up against any such internet threats.
Installing Anti-Spyware: Spyware, adware, browser hijackers, and dialers are some of the fastest-growing threats on the Internet today. By simply browsing to a web page, your computer may become a victim. You can install SpywareBlaster and SpywareGuard to effectively guard your computer from such internet threats.
It includes Fast Real-Time Scanning engine for known spyware and heuristic/generic detection capabilities to catch new / mutated spyware and Download Protection along with Browser Hijacking Protection in real-time.
Simply download the software (free) from their website and install it on your system. Make sure you download its latest update too or enable its Auto-Update feature to be updated automatically in the background. Now, when you are ready, run the software to check the spyware on your computer. When spyware are found, it reports accordingly. Press "select all", then press option "kill all checked". Although it won't protect you from 100% spyware, But it is a very important extra layer of protection.
Next, install another software that is called Spybot Search & Destroy. It works exactly like SpywareBlaster, but it never hurts to have a double layer of spyware detection alongwith Spybot R&D.
Installing Anti-Adware: Adware is a common term used to describe potentially dangerous websites and scripts that do data-mining, aggressive advertising, Parasites, Scumware, selected traditional Trojans, Dialers, Malware, Browser hijackers, and tracking components. There is a very good software called Ad-Aware available to scan and remove such nuisances from your system.
To start using it, simply visit Lavasoft USA website and download its free non-commercial version of Ad-Aware Personal Edition. Run its setup program and install it. When prompted, ask it to scan your computer. If there are any adware found, it is detected and removed automatically by Ad-Aware. Run this software on a weekly or daily basis, if possible to keep your system clean.
In addition to the Ad-Aware, Internet Explorer comes with a very handy tool that allows you to block specific sites that may carry well-known advertisers, marketers, crapware pushers to the Restricted sites Zone. If you had to input 50000+ of such sites manually yourself, it would takes years. Luckily, there is a software that does it all automatically and it is called IE-SPYAD. Once you merge this list of sites and domains into the Registry, the web sites for these companies will not be able to use cookies, ActiveX controls, Java applets, or scripting to compromise your privacy or your PC while you surf the Net. Nor will they be able to use your browser to push unwanted pop-ups, cookies, or auto-installing programs on your PC. It is not an ad blocker. It will stop top unwanted crapware from being installed behind your back via "drive-by-downloads"; prevent the hijacking of your home page.
This Restricted sites list is based in part on info from: discussions in the SpywareInfo Forums and other forums that specialize in crapware removal major crapware reference sites: doxdesk,,, PestPatrol and SpywareGuide.
To start using it, simply download it from their website and run its install.bat file. Make sure you run its update as well soon after its installation.
INSTALLING FIREWALL: A firewall software acts as a defense shield against hackers, intruders, and blocks access attempts to your computer. ZoneAlarm is a professional firewall software that works in a stealth mode automatically and makes your computer invisible to anyone on the Internet.
Download it from ZoneLabs website and run its setup for installation. I recommend you use its Express Settings which automatically configures your most commonly used software like browser, chat messengers, ftp software to access internet, while blocks every other internet traffic in real-time. If any software or service tries to upload or download any data, it pops up an alert whereby you can allow or disallow such internet traffic.
Computer Slow Down: It is very common to see many complaining about their computer slow-down. The fastest and easiest cure is using Windows’ built-in Defragmenter utitlity that you can find in Startà Programs à Accessories à System Utitlities à Disk Defragmantor and run thorough defragmantation. It will take a while before it ends.
If your system’s performance does not improve after running defragmantation utility, consider scanning your computer via a software utility called HiJackThis which you can download and install on your system. Use this tool carefully as it is intended for advanced users only. HijackThis is a tool, that lists all installed browser add-on, buttons, startup items and allows you to inspect, and optionally remove selected items. The program can create a backup of your original settings and also ignore selected items. Additional features include a simple list of all startup items, default start page, online updates and more.
CWShredder is a utility for removing CoolWebSearch (aka CoolWwwSearch, YouFindAll, and a dozen other names). This tool will find and destroy all traces of the CoolWebSearch (CWS) hijacker on your system including redirections, IE slowdowns, start page changes, un-authorized addition of sites in IE Trusted Zone, and blocking access to IE options or setup.
Download CWShredder from their official website only as there is a similar named virus/trojan on the loose at various websites which you may accidently download and install, hence become more infected than being cured instead. When it is installed successfully, run the software to scan your local machine. Select the fix button & it will get rid of everything related to CoolWebSearch. Close ALL other programs & windows, including IE, before running CWShredder. Reboot after doing this.
I know there is still a lot left, but as I wanted to keep this tutorial as brief as possible, hence I covered only the critical elements here. I am sure you will have fewer breakdowns (if not ZERO0 and more productive hours on your computer. I would recommend you to setup all the software’s auto update and auto-check options to free your time for more productive things than just playing hide and seek with spywares, adwares or viruses. Happy and safe computing!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Dirty Little Computer Viruses and How To Protect Yourself

Whether you have learned your lesson from a past experience
with a nasty computer virus or have been pressing your luck
by surfing the web and downloading various files or opening
those email messages sent to you by people you don’t know
without any real understanding of just how vulnerable you
really are each time you log onto your computer you now have
the opportunity to discover what steps you can take to avoid
such an annoying and many times destructive infestation.

Listed below are some of the guidelines you can follow in
order to keep those nasty viruses from making a mess out of
your computer and your life.

•Purchase and install a well respected antivirus software
program and be sure to set it up so that it automatically
runs when the computer starts up each time.

•Make sure to keep your antivirus software up to date by
either using the automatic update feature that many come
with or make it a habit to manually check at least once or
twice a week for updates on your own.

•Set your antivirus program to scan for potential viruses
each time you open a word-processing document like the ones
that get sent through email. Viruses found in
word-processing documents are called Macro Viruses.

•When purchasing software make sure to only buy from
vendors that are well known and from ones you trust.

•Resist swapping data with the use of floppy disks or other
mobile storage devices between various computers. If
exchanging programs between computers is unavoidable just
make sure to scan the storage device(s) for viruses before
transferring data from one computer to the next.

•If using floppy disks to transfer data make sure to format
them before using them for the first time.

•Never use pirated software. This is both illegal and a
very good way to invite an unwanted computer virus.

•When downloading software from the internet do so as
little as possible. There are many neat programs available
on the internet, but unfortunately there are many viruses
that go along with them also.

•If you must download programs from the internet ALWAYS
scan them for viruses BEFORE opening them up to install on
your computer.

•Probably the most important and neglected method of
disaster recovery are periodic backups of all important
files found on your computer. Should a virus happen to get
through your lines of defense you may need to replace the
virus corrupted files with fresh ones that have been kept
for such an occasion.

Finally, it is not guaranteed that if you follow the above
steps that you will not be the victim of a computer virus,
but you can sure bet that if followed you will greatly
reduce the chance of being an unsuspecting recipient of such
an unwanted program.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

8 Simple Ways to Defend Against Evil Doers Both Online and Off

There once was a time when the only option people had when shopping was to either call in or snail mail in a catalog order form or to jump in the family car, fight through traffic, and wait in long checkout lines to complete the purchase.
Well, nowadays there’s still a few major mail order catalogs floating around and we all still visit our local retail outlets, but time has also introduced the internet as one of our options to shop from the comforts of home.
The internet has made shopping at home a breeze and along with it has unfortunately brought the so called ”Evil Doers” who I believe have such little happiness in their own lives that they must leech pleasure from the hardworking and innocent individuals of our wonderful and surrounding nations.
And yes, I am speaking of the ever growing problem known as Identity and Credit Card Theft.
As an online and offline consumer it is in my best interest to protect myself while at the same time wanting to help others protect themselves as well.
Below is a short yet thorough list of ways that you can follow to help yourself stay safe and be a happy consumer and keep “Evil Doers” at bay.
1) Always shred sensitive materials such as bank statements before throwing them away in the regular trash. Just because the paper documents are in the garbage doesn’t mean they are safe from peeping eyes.
2) Contact your local bank or credit card provider to request a card with a low limit. This can make you feel more at ease about shopping at those not so familiar places and can reduce the damages caused by such an ill intended individual if they get hold of your number.
Also never give out the 3-letter Card Identification Number found on the back of the credit card unless you absolutely trust the merchant you are dealing with.
3) NEVER give out your social security card number for any reason! If capable you are best to obtain a tax I.D. number from the Internal Revenue Service or local tax agency.
If any “Evil Doer” gets hold of your personal information such as home address, birth date, and Social Security Number you are at great risk of being victimized.
4) Only purchase items online through secure order pages which is typically indicated by a small, yellow, “Padlock” image usually located somewhere near the bottom of your internet browsers window.
5) If you ever receive an email asking for sensitive information and claiming to be from a company that you have an account with, NEVER supply the requested information and never click any links or hit reply to send such personal information back to the “company”.
Many legit companies will not ask for sensitive information via email.
If you get such an email you are better off to make a copy of the letter you received then close that browser window and then open a NEW window and access the company directly from their website address.
You should then submit the email you made a copy of to the company so that their anti- fraud personnel can take the necessary steps to send out warnings of possible fraudulent activity to be aware of to its members.
6) Be cautious about downloading and installing unnecessary programs onto your computer. If there are programs that you indeed must download ALWAYS scan the files for viruses and make sure that your anti-virus program is up to date.
There’s a wide variety of viruses that are distributed to unprotected computer systems and some of which are known as “Key Stroke Loggers” that record your sensitive log in names and passwords and then are made known to the trouble maker.
7) If possible try to utilize 2 different computers when using the internet.
One computer should only be used for general internet surfing just in case it was to obtain a virus such as a Key Stroke Logger so there would be little threat of someone getting your personal information.
Only use the second computer to access more sensitive information such as online banking or other important websites that require passwords and important information.
8) Finally, if there are young members of the family that have computer use privileges be sure to monitor and restrict the sites and programs they are allowed to use.
Many fraudulent individuals love to prey on the unexpecting and inexperienced web surfer.
In any case just be certain to contact the police or appropriate authorities the INSTANT you believe that you have become a victim of Identity Theft or Credit Card Number Theft.
The sooner you tell the authorities the better the chance they can help you recover from a financial catastrophe.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Protect Your Little Black Book

The movie Little Black Book features a young woman, Stacy, who is frustrated when her boyfriend refuses to share information about his past relationships. When his PDA, a Palm Tungsten C, falls into her hands, she is faced with a conundrum. Does she give it back, or does she explore it? If she gave it back, we wouldn’t have a movie, now would we? Stacy then proceeds to identify his ex-girlfriends and contact them. Let the games begin.
Could this really happen? Of course it could. Most PDA’s contain a plethora of information about a person and their activities, their digital footprints. People store contact information, appointments, meetings and midnight rendezvous’. They store passwords, login ID’s and PIN numbers. They have photos of people they know and sometimes in awkward circumstances. It’s a lot to have to explain. The courts are only beginning to grapple with how to handle the content in a PDA. One person’s little black book can be very incriminating indeed.
For the rest of us, we have nothing as exotic; however, we are all in danger of exposure and threat. Identify theft has become one of the largest white-collar crimes. There is enough information in the average PDA for someone to take over your life. So, what’s the solution? Give up your PDA? No. You face the same problem with the typical day planner. It has all of the same information, it’s just not as accessible. In fact, a PDA has certain advantages over a planner. You can password protect some of the data. You can even encrypt data. Most importantly, you have a backup. The data is safely stored on your computer and archived on external media if you have taken the proper steps.
That duplication of data also means an identity thief has more ways to get to it. So, what can you do? Well, the first concern is to make sure that you backup your data. Synchronize your PDA at least daily. I synchronize my Treo 600 2-3 times each day, usually when I arrive at my office or leave it. Backing up your data means that you should be creating a copy on tape, CD, zip disk, flash ROM or other external media and storing it offsite. If you are not, you are asking for trouble and your business is at risk. If your PDA is ever stolen, you will need to restore that data on a new PDA.
Next, you need to minimize the amount of data someone can actually access. Let’s face it, if a hacker really wants to get your data, they will succeed. However, not every criminal is a super hacker. Sometimes you just want to keep your information from prying eyes. Just because you labeled something as private in your PDA doesn’t mean someone else can’t read it. It depends on what application you synchronize with. If you sync with Outlook, records that are private on your PDA may be public in Outlook.
The best way to protect passwords and PIN numbers is to store them in a password application that encrypts the data. The best applications have both a PDA application and a desktop application that allows access to the information from either system. The trouble is converting that data from whatever format it’s in currently. I’ve struggled with this one myself. There is no easy method I’ve found so far. Just set aside time to copy and paste the data into the password application. It might take a few hours to get that information into a secure application.
If you’re worried about someone viewing your schedule, the best approach is to archive your past history periodically. Outlook has settings that allow you to specify to how often calendar events will be archived. This will wipe the history from your PDA also. Archives are usually stored in an external file that can be accessed later.
If you have incriminating photos, delete them. If you want a copy, save it on external media like tape, CD and flash ROM. For contacts, you can archive them or simply move the record to an external file. Outlook allows you to create a .pst file that you can use to save email, calendar, address, tasks, or other information. Once you move a record, it will be removed from your PDA.
And, don’t forget to delete the cookies and memory cache on your PDA’s web browser. Remember that website you checked out last week? Is that something you want everyone else to know about? I don’t think so.
Don’t forget physical security; keep an eye on your PDA. It’s possible to take steps to protect your data and remove your digital footprints. Protect your little black book and it will protect you.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Can I Guess Your Password?

We all know that it’s dangerous to use the same password for more than one program. If you sign up for a program run by someone of low moral fibre, what is to stop them running through various programs with your username and password to see what they can access?

But of course remembering all the different passwords can be a headache. And writing them down somewhere isn’t a great deal safer than using the same password again and again.

You can buy software that stores the passwords for you, but do you really want to pay money for another piece of software that performs a solitary function?

Try this simple, two-step, technique that lets you generate an infinite number of passwords, without having to remember any of them.

Step One: Choose a 4-6 letter word or number sequence that you can remember easily. Needless to say, don’t reveal this to anyone. For the purpose of this demonstration, I’ll choose the word "cash"

Step Two: Apply this secret word or number sequence to the name of the program you are setting up the password for.

To accomplish this, invent a couple of easy to remember rules.

Rule 1: Decide which part of the program name you are going to use. It could be the whole name, the first 6 letters of the name, the last 8 letters of the name. It’s totally up to you, be as creative as you like.

eg – For the program TrafficSwarm, I might choose the first 8 letters of the name. This give me: "traffics"

Rule 2: Take the portion of the program name you have selected and merge it with your secret word or number sequence to create a unique password. Again, be as creative as you can with this rule. You could replace every second letter, every third letter, every vowel or every consonant.

eg – If I replace every second letter of "traffics" with my secret word "cash", I get " t c a a f s c h "


- If I replace every vowel of "traffics" with my secret word "cash", I get " t r c f f a c s ". The "s" and the "h" are not used as "traffics" has only two vowels, but some words will use all four letters of "cash". Some words might have more than four vowels, in which case just start back at the beginning with "c" and "a" and so on…

You don’t have to worry about making your rules overly complex. Even the best code-breakers would need to see several of your passwords before they could start to guess what you rules are.

As long as you keep your rules safe and sound, your password is secure. But the real beauty of this system, is that you don’t have to remember the passwords you create. You ONLY have to remember the rules.

When you log into the program the next time, just apply your rules to the program name, and you can work out what password you generated. Once you have been using the rules for a while, you’ll generate the password in your head, without even having to pause.

Don’t worry if it seems a little complicated at first. Read this article through a couple more times and then try this technique with just a couple of programs. Once you are happy with it, all that’s left to do is to start working your way through existing programs and update your passwords. It’s time consuming, but for peace of mind you’ll be glad you did.
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