Most of you use the Google Chrome browser. It is my browser of choice as well. However, this message is still applicable if you use Firefox, Safari, or even Microsoft Edge.
The security threat I see most often these days is the browser hijack. This does not mean your whole computer had been taken over by malware. However, your browser has been corrupted. Your homepage may be unfamiliar to you. Google searches are being rerouted to a strange search engine. Its even possible that all of your browser traffic is being intercepted. Scary stuff!
You can tell if you are being hijacked by searching in the search box of your browser or going to Google.com. Search for whatever you’d like, “new restaurants Philadelphia” for example. The results page should CLEARLY come up on a Google page (or possibly Bing if you use the Edge browser). It should be obvious – clear as day.
If you do not see Google search results, you have a problem. It’s likely that you have mistakenly installed a bad extension in your browser. Most often, this is not a crisis requiring the operating system to be reinstalled.
However, your browser history needs to be cleared, the offending extensions need to be removed, and the browser needs to be reset.
Don’t lose hope!
A. Privacy: GDPR and Oath. You may have received a bunch of notices recently detailing the updated privacy policies of various services that you use. The European Union’s new privacy laws take effect on May 25th. These regulations are known as GDPR. They are taking customers’ data a lot more seriously than we are on this side of the pond. International companies such as Facebook and Google are adhering to these standards even for their American customers. It’s a solid business practice. Did you know that you can download all of your Facebook (or Google) data in a single file? Did you know that you can control how Facebook advertises to you? GDPR = Good. To find out more http://money.cnn.com/2018/05/21/technology/gdpr-explained-europe-privacy/index.html
Additionally, some of you who have a Yahoo or AOL account may have received notices about policies from an organization known as Oath. (My joke is — “zero authorization to violate your privacy,” but I’ll get back on topic.). Oath is a division of Verizon that oversees both Yahoo and AOL. Yahoo users may have even been asked to accept the new terms. You really don’t have a choice if you want to keep using the account. As a quick primer for those new to the VIP Computer Care family — my favorite free e-mail accounts are Google and Outlook.com. Customers may choose a paid e-mail account if they want to get actual customer support. My favorite choices here are Fastmail ($20 per year), G (G Suite a paid Google account, $5 per month), or Office 365 (a paid e-mail account from Microsoft, $5 per month).
B. Windows: I’m still compiling reports of horror stories from users that had bad experiences with the latest version of Windows 10 (version 1803), released on April 30th. Whenever possible, I have set your Windows computers to a 120 day delay schedule. Unfortunately, I had to help a customer last weekend who couldn’t delay Windows version upgrades. He purchased a consumer grade Windows desktop. I offered the next best thing. I managed the upgrade for him. It took 2 hours, which is about what I expected. With fingers crossed, there were no hiccups. I am not recommending that I do this proactively for others, at this time, if you have already been set up for a delay. Ultimately, Microsoft will iron out the wrinkles. After all, hundreds of millions of business customers rely on Windows. Version 1803 should be ready for prime time in a few months. In August, lets talk about upgrading your computer.
C. Mac: Apple’s big annual event, the WWDC, is happening on June 4th. While it’s not specifically a new hardware event, Apple has been known to release new Macs at this event. We can only hope that they offer a mea culpa on the Mac Book Pro and their awful keyboards. At the very least, they could update the Mac Book Air with 2018 innards. (The 2017 Air, while still my #1 choice at this date and time, features 2015-era parts.) Additionally, the Mac Mini needs a major refresh. It has not been updated since October 2014. Apple needs to keep a $500-600 Mac on the market to welcome new customers into the family.
If you are a Facebook user, I would encourage you to tweak your privacy settings or get some help doing so. From the computer, when you are on Facebook.com you need to click the triangle in the upper right corner of the Facebook page. From there click on Settings. Then click privacy. Those settings can be tweaked to your liking. I think the most important one is the setting all the way down at the bottom. Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile? That should be set to “No.” After you have adjusted those options, you will also want to look at Apps and Websites from the Settings page. There you will see all of the websites and apps that you have given access to using your Facebook account. Some of these may be valid, but there may be some that you want to revoke. In the Security and Login section you can turn on two factor authentication for your Facebook account. I highly recommend it if your Facebook account is important to you and you want to prevent unauthorized access. Finally, you need to go to your Facebook profile page by clicking on your name at the top of the screen. You should go through each entry in the About section and decide whether info like your birthday, employers, Likes, and so on are shared with Only Me, Friends, Friends of Friends, or the whole world. It’s time for a tune up! You may need to put the same effort into your Google account as well.