Category: Security

Security Update–Google Chrome–Important

Google discovered a major security flaw in Chrome and the put out an update for it on Thursday.

In the upper right hand corner of the browser window — you should see a big GREEN ARROW.   Please click it and choose the update option.  The update will get applied and Chrome will re-open in about 2 minutes or less. 

If you don’t see the arrow — it means you probably already have the update.   But to be sure — click on the “3 dot menu” in the upper right (where you go to get Chrome settings).  Click Help — click About Google Chrome.   Version  # should be 72.0.3626.121

Simple Security Stuff–February 2019

I realize that the last two weeks of update were truly “honors class” material.   The take home points are — 1) I always install ad blockers for my clients.  2) You should have a second (or 3rd) browser installed should there be issues with your primary browser.  3) The ability to use my preferred ad blocker in Google Chrome may change by the end of the year.  4) I can help you with this issue should the time come.

Let’s go remedial this week.


Simple Security Stuff – February 2019

When sending out group e-mails:  put yourself in the To field, put everyone else in the Bcc field.

-Never make your password out of revealing or obvious information (Birth date, maiden name, password123, etc.).

-One trend in password creation that I like is to create a sentence (ex.  ILiketheYankeesin19).

-You need to be using a separate password for each website.  You can start with the same base and add a unique suffix for each particular website.

-Ideally, you should use a software password manager.  I set up either Last Pass or 1Password for my clients.  They are secure and they work.

-If you are not ready to use a password manager: Never ever ever store your passwords in a Word document on the computer.  If you are going to store them this way, we need to put them on a flash drive that you can plug into your computer when you need to look at them.  (Please contact me if you are in this situation).

-If you still aren’t ready to use a password manager (hint), I don’t mind you using a paper based “notebook”.  

Browsers and Ad Blockers 2019–Part 1

Face Time

Apple really messed this one up.  I know you iPhone, iPad and Mac users out there really like Facetime.  It means a lot in your business and family communications.  It’s built into all of those 3 devices I just mentioned.  You don’t need a separate Skype account for it to work.  Apple got this one right.  However, there is a hiccup.  A Facetime flaw was found in group Facetime calls that allowed you to be secretly recorded even if you don’t answer the call.  Cupertino — we have a problem!!   Apple is taking this so seriously that they have disabled the group Facetime feature until they can roll out a fix later this week.   Please be checking your iPhone once a day over the next week. I am expecting an update by the end of the week.   If you really want to be safe, you could turn off Facetime entirely as a short term precaution.    Settings >> Facetime >>  Flip the switch.  I won’t be doing that, but I don’t blame you if you want to.  Just be sure to turn it on the next time you want to do a Facetime chat with your brother in St. Louis. 

Browsers and Ad Blockers – Part 1

I wrote several Updates on ad blockers back in 2015 and 2016.  Those posts can be found on my blog theacronym.com by searching for the term “ad blocker”.   I have used an ad blocker in my browsers for at least 10 years.  I have used an ad blocker on my iPhone since they were allowed back in 2015.  I install ad blockers on nearly every single client computer I work on.  I think I have only been told one time to remove the ad blocker entirely.  (Hint: it may end up being a mistake.)  Of course, I show my clients how to turn off the ad blocker for a particular website should it be requested.   I described the notion of ad blocking as a dilemma we face as Internet users.  Much of the web that we use is free.  Those websites pay their bills with ads.  If everyone blocks ads, these sites can’t pay their bills.  They will either need to come up with new revenue models or cease to exist.  The vast majority of Internet users are not blocking ads, so you are in a rare group. 

I don’t feel bad about blocking ads.  Why?  Many of my clients computers have been infected with annoying adware and malware due to bad ads.  Why are there bad ads?  Most website do not manage their ads.  They turn them over to a 3rd party service.  Every so often those ad networks do not properly screen the code behind particular ads or the websites they link to.  Your computer is adversely affected, likely resulting in an expensive service call to someone like me.   Either because I have to (ie. to watch a TV show on a network’s website) or because I want to support a particular site, I do unblock ads on a case by case basis.  I am less offended by websites that serve up their own ads and don’t rely on an outside company.  These sites are few and far between, unfortunately.  I am very willing to unblock these “1st party” ads. 

My go to ad blockers on the computer are Ad Block Plus or uBlock Origin, and I tend to favor the second one.  You likely have one of the 2 installed by me.  On iOS devices I like Ad Guard, though there are other choices.  For some clients, I have taken the notion of blocking one step further and gone with a “sledgehammer approach” blocking all advertising servers at the network level of the computer before they even get the the browser.   This may be the right call if you have had serious security problems due to ads in the past or are very averse to ads.  

Coming next week — Part 2  — How the most popular browser may try to limit your ability to block ads later this year.  Stay tuned. 

Printing a Copy of Last Pass Passwords

When stressing to my clients the need to use a password manager — I mention my 2 favorites  – 1Password and Last Pass.   I have been using both for years.  Overall, I think 1Password is better because it is an actual program on the computer, not only an “embedded app” in the browser (like Chrome or Firefox).

Having a printed copy of your passwords is very important. Unfortunately, 1Password for Windows does not let you easily print out a list of all passwords (while their Mac version does).   Therefore, for clients that are exclusively Windows users — I highly recommend Last Pass. 

If you have never printed a copy of your Last Pass passwords or its been a while — complete this short exercise today.

Open your browser

Click Last Pass button

Sign in if necessary

Click Last Pass button

Click More Options

Click Print

Click Sites

(Last Pass may ask you to sign in with your master password again)

Site data will decrypt and appear on screen

You can then print this page (or pages out) like any other web page

**Note: please repeat if you have stored secure notes in LP and want to print them out — instead of “Click Sites”, it would be “Click Notes”

Christmas Eve 2018 – $1000 Present For You

Still Falling for Tech Support Scams

I think I do an exceptional job at educating my clients about consumer issues as they relate to technology.  It still blows my mind that some of my clients continue to fall for “tech support scams.”   Some of these scams may be outright fraud — money for the taking with no intention of services ever being provided or the intentional infection of the computer and subsequent (hallelujah) we’ve fixed your computer ma’am.   Others may employ unethical business practices, actually coming to you through a pop-up ad or a phone call with the intention of providing tech support services.  They will typically imply that you have a corrupted computer and they can fix it.   You may be asked to pay a one time charge of $300 for the incident or be offered a “deal” of $800 or more for “lifetime” support.   I am calling scam on both types of schemes.  They could ask to get paid by credit card, but their favorite method is the CHECKING ACCOUNT NUMBER.  Do you know that anyone with even limited technology / payment processing skills can run an ACH on you as long as they have your routing number and checking account number found at the bottom of your check.  This is really scary.   A recent customer was told by a scammer to put their filled out check on the scanner and let them remotely scan it for payment purposes.  Before I even helped her, I had her go to her bank and close the account.  In the future, this is how I will handle it.  We can always take care of the computer later, you must take care of your identity first.   In this most recent example in my consultancy, the tech support scam incident was likely triggered by a malicious pop up ad telling them that their computer was out of date and in trouble.

If you really want to block ads from even getting a breath of internet on your computer – let me know.  Most of you have browser based ad blockers.  I am not talking about that.  I have something better in mind, on a per computer basis, that prevents the ad servers from seeing the light of day.   


Microsoft or Apple or Google are not going to mysteriously pop up on your computer with a phone number (or call you) telling you that you have a problem and that you need support. 

^^^ Please copy this sentence  to your memory. Read it several times.  Then, copy it and paste it into Word or your word processing program.  Make the print really big!  Print it out.  Tape it to your wall or your desk.   This is a $1000 tip offered completely FREE!  Merry Christmas!

A Note on Saving on Services

Numerous clients have contacted me since last week’s update about saving money on home telecommunications services.  With some I have been able to help save on services  – in a big league way – and in one case I was not.  I don’t think I oversold this idea.  If you shoot me a private e-mail, I would be glad to let you look over my Comcast bill and see that I pay $112.xx indeed for TV + a very fast internet package, with three TV’s and owning my own Internet equipment.   I have been asked about saving money on the cable modem, which runs about $11 / mo.   A good one — Arris or Netgear brand — will cost you $100 and easily last 3 years, short of “Acts of God”, etc.  The math works in your favor.  However, if you have phone service from Comcast, you will have to pay about the same $11 a month for a combined modem / router device.  These cost more than a standalone modem in the store — and may not be worth it to buy outright.  The reason why I have always advocated for a separate cable modem (rented or not) and router (owned by you) – is because it is SUPERIOR ON TECHNICAL MERITS.  It’s not a matter of cost.  And since I have been asked this recently — well Mr. Computer — do you use a separate cable modem and router? Yes I do.  I have a Netgear modem and a Synology router. 

With that out of the way, there are basically three ways that you are going to save in the BATTLE FOR COST CUTTING —  1) hoping you qualify for a package discount on like services because its been a while (and by that I mean like a year or two) since you qualified for such a promotion, 2)  MAKING SACRIFICES, or 3) Cutting down to Internet only and then subscribing to a service like Hulu Live TV at $40 which will give you most of the channels you want.  If you insist on the “24 hour cattle ranching channel” (or pick your niche channel) that is the highest cable tier, I don’t know how successful you will be at cost savings.  I could easily be paying $200+ a month.  I got it to where it is, consistently, by making sacrifices.   If you want to save, please let me know your circumstances.   We should look at the cell phone bill also!

The Importance of Local Copies

A TV show that I enjoyed watching used to advertise new episodes by saying “ripped from the headlines.”  For this update, I will start with  — ripped from the customer files…

Your computer files can be so valuable.  You may need documents for legal purposes.  You may require samples of your work for future career endeavors or to get a deal completed.  Important photos can help you create promotional materials for or commemorate an event.  Your files are evidence — possibly of something exemplary or even wrongdoing. 

My point here is that separations happen.  Employment ends.  You may be forced off of the board of your HOA or community organization.  Business partners become entangled in disputes. Friendships and marriages terminate.  Hard drives fail.  Fires destroy homes. 

Cloud based backup services like Carbonite or Backblaze, even iCloud, are useful tools.  If you are running a computer with a desktop operating system like Windows or mac OS, and have important files on there, you should also have an external hard drive that backs up your entire system automatically.  Services like Dropbox and One Drive that allow you to store and synchronize selected folders can also play a key role in your technology scheme.   Today’s modern cloud based e-mail services can hold messages and attachments spanning many years worth of communications. 

However, if this data really matters to you, you should think about manually making physical copies of certain items on a periodic basis.  If your life, career, or project depends on it — protect yourself.  iPhones and iPads can be plugged into a Mac or Windows computer and backed up locally to that machine through Apple’s free iTunes software.  Love it or hate it, Microsoft’s Outlook e-mail program (Windows or Mac) can be used to back up all of your e-mail into a single file.  Again, if it’s critical to you, a periodic archive may be a good idea.  Who could forget floppy disks from 25 years ago?   Today, we use flash disks (or thumb drives) to copy smaller batches of files and folders.  These disks are cheap.  It would not hurt to have a few on hand (or an additional external hard drive) to copy specific items when the situation arises.   Here are Samsung 32 GB flash drives on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Samsung-BAR-Plus-32GB-Champagne/dp/B07BPHML28/ref=dp_ob_title_ce

Multiple copies never hurt. There are potential dangers with living our technological lives on autopilot.

Technology Update 11/12/18: Resisting Technology

1.  Although I covered the new Mac computers and iPad Pro at length in a blog post for my Apple clients on 11/1 (https://theacronym.com/2018/11/01/recap-of-apples-brooklyn-event/) I wanted to make everyone aware of these new models.   Apple has a new Mac Mini desktop that starts at $799, a Mac Book Air laptop that starts at $1199. If you’re frustrated with Windows and want to go Mac, these are your points of entry.  The iPad Pro is an interesting device.  It has as much or even more raw power than almost any personal computer out there.  It’s extremely portable.  Apple even sells a magnetic keyboard that makes it like a laptop.  With the keyboard, it will cost at least $1000.  For some it could become a primary computer.  For others, the iPad Pro may represent a strong secondary device.   If you can learn to play within its rules, it’s a much simpler device than a desktop Windows or Mac environment.  Don’t forget the regular iPad @ $329.  It is the best value in the Apple family.
2.  With all of this Apple excitement, I don’t want to leave out the Windows world.  New models are out as well.  If you want something like an iPad Pro, that still runs a full version of Windows  — look no further than the new Microsoft Surface 6.   With Windows systems, I will always go back to my clubhouse leaders.   For a premium product, you can’t go wrong with the Dell Latitude 5000/7000 laptop, Lenovo Thinkpad T480, or Thinkpad X1 Carbon.  These are systems built to last.  In terms of desktops, I am still a fan of the Dell Optiplex and Lenovo Think Centre systems.   Most of these computers are custom orders and not found in stores.  Occasionally, I do go on a shopping trip with a client at a big box store and last week there was such an occasion that arose.  I didn’t want to pull just anything off the shelf.  At about $500, this HP desktop met my standards.  It looks good on the desk and there was only one junk program that I had to remove.  It is a great option for the budget conscious.  https://www.bestbuy.com/site/hp-pavilion-desktop-intel-core-i3-8gb-memory-1tb-hard-drive-128gb-solid-state-drive-hp-finish-in-natural-silver/6290502.p?skuId=6290502
3. Resisting Technology
I know that some of you are hesitant to embrace new technologies offered by the devices you own.  One that I don’t think you should avoid is Apple Pay (or for those of you with Android phones that support it, Android Pay).  Adding your credit or debit card to the Wallet on your iPhone costs you nothing and takes only about 5 minutes to set up for one card, if that.  Stores like Panera, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Stop and Shop, Best Buy, Costco, Macy’s and thousands more will allow you to pay by tapping your phone.  Why should you do it?  If you would already pay with a card, using Apple Pay helps prevent identity theft.  The store never gets your 16 digit card number. It gets a very long, randomized string of numbers.  If a particular store suffers a massive breach, like Target or Home Depot did a few years back, you will be in the driver seat.  The super secure card number you used via Apple Pay cannot come back to zap you.  Your Apple Pay device generates a dynamic security code for each transaction. I use Apple Pay whenever I can.  Check out the Wallet app on your iPhone if you’ve never looked at it.