Anti-Theft Protection For Your Personal Electronics.

    It’s lunch time and you stop by your favorite coffee shop to check e-mail and grab a bite to eat.  You settle in at a table when your pickup number is called.  Returning to your table, you find your laptop and appetite—have both disappeared! 

    Okay, maybe you’re not foolish enough to leave your laptop unattended in a public place, but one of your Continue reading

10 Things To Consider When Planning Your Upgrade To Windows 7

Windows 7 will be offically released on Thursday, October 22nd and the buzz indicates many users are chompin’ at the bit to upgrade as soon as it hits the market.

Sooner or later, most home users and businesses will be upgrading from their current operating system to Windows 7. Here’s 10 important issues to consider when you begin planning your upgrade to Windows 7.

1: Do I need to buy new hardware?

Many people equate upgrading the operating system to the need to buy a new computer or, at the very least, add RAM and perhaps a bigger hard drive to their present systems. That’s because traditionally, each new version of Windows has needed more disk space and memory than its predecessor.

Will you need to buy new hardware if you want to use Windows 7? That depends. Microsoft’s recommended hardware specifications for Windows 7 Release Candidate include a 1 GHz processor, at least 1 GB of RAM, DirectX 9.0 support, 16 GB of free disk space, and 128 MB of graphics memory (for Aero). Those requirements are pretty much the same as the published system specs for Vista Home Premium/Business/Enterprise/Ultimate (the only difference is that the Vista specs list 15 GB of disk space). Many beta testers report that Windows 7 runs faster on their low-powered machines (512 MB of RAM) than does Vista. Based on our test systems we would not recommend anything less than 2GB of RAM.

General rule of thumb: If your computer is powerful enough to run Vista acceptably, it will probably run Windows 7 just as well or better. If you’re currently using XP on a computer with less than 512 MB of RAM or a processor that’s slower than 800 MHz, you’ll need to upgrade your hardware.

2: Can I upgrade directly from XP?

Many folks who are still running Windows XP want to know whether they can upgrade to Windows 7 without losing all their preferences and settings. The answer is, well, sort of. Microsoft is not providing a direct upgrade path from Windows XP to Windows 7. An in-place upgrade is available only if you’re running Vista SP1 or later. If you’re running XP, even if your hardware is adequate, you’ll have to do a clean installation of Windows 7. However, you can use the Microsoft Deployment Tool 2010, which includes the User State Migration Tool, to transfer your user settings for the desktop and applications to the new Windows 7 installation. You can get the tool here: 

3: Can I do a Vista in-place upgrade?

If you’re running Windows Vista, note that you must install SP1 or SP2 before you can do an in-place upgrade to Windows 7. If you attempt to upgrade a Vista computer that doesn’t have a service pack installed, you will get a message informing you that “to upgrade to Windows 7, the computer needs to be running Vista with Service Pack 1.”

4: Can I upgrade from Windows 7 beta to final release?

Many people are currently running either the public beta of Windows 7 (build 7000) that was released in January or one of the subsequent builds that has been leaked to various peer-to-peer sites since then. Many of them are wondering whether they’ll be able to do an in-place upgrade to the RC and/or final release.

Microsoft has recommended that beta testers go back to Vista and upgrade from it to the final release, but that’s something many will resist. Another option is to do a clean install, but again, many folks are using Windows 7 now on their mission-critical desktops and notebooks, and they don’t want to have to start all over. In deference to them, Microsoft representatives have said that it will be possible to upgrade from the beta, but it won’t be easy; it will involve a number of steps. The installer will tell you “no” when you attempt to do an upgrade from an earlier build of Windows 7. There’s a procedure to bypass the version check so you can do the upgrade anyway.

Microsoft asks that you do this only if you “absolutely require” it. It’s likely that you’ll have a much more stable OS if you do a clean installation.

5: Will there be driver compatibility issues?

A big complaint about Windows Vista was driver incompatibility. Too many people upgraded their OS from XP to Vista only to find that a favorite peripheral, such as a printer or scanner, would no longer work. Vista also introduced a new display driver model, WDDM, which required video card vendors to write completely different display and video miniport drivers. And security enhancements in Vista affected how the OS handles drivers. Even though Vista was in development for five years, many hardware vendors did not have Vista drivers ready for all of their products when the OS was released.

Now that Vista has been out for more than two years, most hardware vendors have updated their drivers to work with it. Because Windows 7 uses the same driver models as Vista, the vast majority of hardware devices that work with Vista will work with Windows 7. For Vista drivers that won’t install on Windows 7, you can usually solve the problem by installing in Compatibility Mode. To do this, right-click the driver’s setup file, select Properties, click the Compatibility tab, enable compatibility mode, and select the appropriate operating system from the drop-down box.

6: Will there be application compatibility issues?

As with drivers, most applications that run on Windows Vista will run on Windows 7. You may need to enable Compatibility Mode on some applications, as described above. Interestingly, some applications that ran on XP and would not run on Vista will run on Windows 7. Microsoft reported in March that it had identified at least 30 old applications that will run on Windows 7 although they failed to do so on Vista. These are being referred to as “rescued applications.”

7: What if I have apps that won’t run on Windows 7, even in Compatibility Mode?

There may be some XP applications that you can’t get to run on Windows 7, even using Compatibility Mode. In the past, that might have been considered a reason not to upgrade. However, you may still be able to enjoy all the benefits of Windows 7 without giving up your favorite apps, thanks to a new compatibility feature called XP Mode. XPM is a host-based virtualization solution that will reportedly be made available at no cost to users of Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions.

XPM includes a fully licensed copy of XP that runs in a virtual machine on your Windows 7 computer. This differs from just installing XP on Virtual PC or VMware. The virtualized applications appear like local applications on the Windows 7 desktop because they’re published to the Win 7 host operating system. With XPM, you will be able to run any XP application on Windows 7. The caveat with Windows 7 virtualized “Windows XP Mode” is that you WILL NEED TO UPGRADE  your hardware in order to use this feature. It will only run on an Intel VT based processor (vt – virtualized technology)

8: Should I wait for Windows 7 release to buy a new computer?

Some individual computer users may be wondering if they should wait until Windows 7 is released to buy a new computer, to ensure that the system will work with the new OS. An advantage of waiting is that after Windows 7 is released, (you can pre-order systems with Windows 7 today) you’ll be able to buy a computer that has it preinstalled, so you won’t need to take the upgrade path.

9: Which edition of Windows 7 should I choose?

A big complaint about Vista is that there are too many editions to choose from. Windows XP offered only two retail editions: Professional and Home. (XP Media Center edition and Tablet PC edition were available only to OEMs.) But Vista offers a large and sometimes confusing array of options: Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate. (Starter is available only in “emerging markets,” and Enterprise is available only to volume licensing customers.)

Windows 7 will also have both Home Basic and Home Premium editions. The equivalent of Vista Business edition will revert to the Professional moniker. As far as we can tell, Enterprise and Ultimate editions will be the same, except that the former is sold only through volume licensing. There will also be a Starter edition, which will be installed on low-powered netbooks. Here’s a Windows 7 comparison chart to help you out

A major change is that each successive Windows 7 edition will include all features of the lower cost ones. Many Vista Business and Enterprise users were annoyed that they didn’t get Windows Media Center, DVD Maker, and other consumer-oriented features that came in Vista Home Premium. Since Home Premium couldn’t join a domain and lacked support for EFS and some other business-oriented features, if you wanted both, you had to buy Ultimate. Windows 7 Professional will include everything that’s in Windows 7 Home Premium, and Enterprise will include everything that’s in Business edition. Companies will be able to easily block the consumer features when they deploy Pro (or Enterprise) on their networks.

Most people will find that either Home Premium or Professional will fit their needs. If you need BitLocker or the ability to boot from a VHD, you’ll want Enterprise or Ultimate.

10: What are the main reasons to upgrade to Windows 7?

Why upgrade to Windows 7 rather than stay with Windows XP or Vista?  If you’re still running XP, an important consideration is the fact that Microsoft ended mainstream support for XP on April 14. Although critical security updates will still be provided at no cost until 2014, additional support is provided only to customers who pay for a support contract with Microsoft.

Windows 7 also provides the improved graphical user interface (Aero) you get with Vista. Search is improved, and consumers with children will appreciate the parental controls feature. The most important reason to upgrade from XP is security; both Vista and Windows 7 provide much better security.

If you’re using Vista, some of the new features and functionality you’ll get with Windows 7 include a more streamlined GUI with a more functional taskbar that features Jump Lists; new and more sophisticated versions of Paint, Wordpad, and Calculator; easier windows management with snap-to docking; elimination of the sidebar (while maintaining support for gadgets); and new built-in troubleshooting tools. While Windows 7 still focuses on security, User Account Control (UAC) is far less in your face and more user-configurable than in Vista. Windows 7 also has built-in support for touch (if you have a touchscreen monitor). Keyboard fans will find a number of new keyboard shortcuts to help you avoid use of the mouse in many situations.

For administrators, Windows 7 offers new tools such as PowerShell v2, improved Group Policy, and VHD image management and deployment.

The Windows 7 October 22nd release will hopefully bring new life to the PC market – at least that’s what the major OEM computer manufacturers are betting their Q-4 sales figures on. Let’s see what the economy has to say.

What's YOUR ID Theft Risk?

What’s Your ID Theft Risk Number?

Just when you finally figured out how to get your all important FICO credit score – another important number pops up in your life: your ID score. Your ID Score can alert you to your risk for identity theft.

In use now for a decade by financial institutions and other creditors, the ID score calculates the risk that customers are who they say they are. Now for the first time, San Diego based ID Analytics, one of the companies that develop and sell the score to businesses, is making it available to consumers for free on the web.

You must fill out your contact information (your social security number IS NOT required) and answer some simple questions about your financial history. The result is a score between 1 and 999. The higher the score, the more you are at risk for identity theft. If your score is high, there are links provided to the nonprofit identity, Theft Resource Center, which can help you learn how to protect yourself.

From your results page, you can also request your free credit report, as well as get links to other agencies offering assistance if necessary. At the bottom of this article, I’ve included a link to the Federal Trade Commission and their information on Identity Theft.

I performed this risk check on myself and came up with a “low risk” ID score. Actually, it was lower than I had expected based on the number of Internet purchases I make on a regular basis.

Remember, it’s important to stay vigilant about protecting your identity. Always shred sensitive documents before throwing them away, exercise caution when providing personal information on-line, and perhaps even consider using a secure mailbox for receiving incoming mail. You can’t be too careful these days.

Federal Trade Commission- Identity Theft Website

Looking For An Alternative Browser?

It seems as though we’re always talking about Internet browsers and what the “Big Three” are doing or trying to do to each other. Remembering back a few years, anyone who thought the death of Netscape was the end of the browser wars was sorely mistaken.

Prepare to be overwhelmed by an onslaught of new browser updates and releases in the coming months as Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera, and Google all vie for the leadership spot in our web browsing application of choice.

Before you make YOUR decision however, there are other alternatives out there that you may not have heard of. No they’re not big players in the ongoing browser wars but one may provide an attractive alternative for you.  Some of the lesser-known browsers sport unique features that the big boys lack – here’s 3 that might fit your particular browser requirements:

FLOCK – The browser for Social Networks
Take A Load Off. Would you run errands all day if you could have someone do it for you? Of course not! Flock delivers the latest webmail, photos, videos and updates from your favorites sites, so you can stop running around. Some ideas are ahead of their time – billed as a social web browser, Flock owes it’s ongoing success to its integration with several social networking sites and web applications. Myspace, Facebook and Twitter to name a few as well as various media sharing outlets like Flickr, Photobucket and Picasa. A bevy of blogging tools, easy webmail access and the ability to upload photos just by dragging them are the icing on a multilayered cake.
Take a look:

MAXTHON – Internet Explorer for Power Users

Old-school browser aficionados may remember Maxthon by another name: MyIE. Now in version 2 it wouldn’t be fair to refer to Maxthon as an IE shell any longer. Maxthon manages to separate itself with some unique features, split-screen browsing support (like having 2 monitors without the expense), advanced drag-and-drop controls, URL hotkeys, the ability to give URL’s an alias as well as a built in screen capture applet.
Take a look:

TOR BROWSER BUNDLE – A browser add-on for the paranoid among us
Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis.

Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location. Tor works with many of your existing applications, including web browsers, instant messaging clients, remote login, and other applications based on the TCP protocol.
Take a look:

My personal favorite of these alternatives is FLOCK. I don’t need MAXTHON’S additions to IE8 because I’m still waiting for Microsoft to fix IE8’s ongoing problems – why add to the mess. And if I were paranoid enough to warrant using TOR’s features I’d probably NOT be on the internet at all.

But hey, don’t go by my opinions, download an alternative browser and decide for yourself.

AntiVirus 2010 – Don't Get Caught By This One!

One of the more irritating internet problems to surface lately is a program calling itself Antivirus 2010 or Antispyware 2010.

Antivirus 2010 is a rogue anti-spyware program from the same family as Antivirus 2008 and Antivirus 2009. Like its previous incarnations, Antivirus 2010 is promoted through the use of advertisements on the Web pretending to be online anti-malware scanners.

These advertisements pretend to scan your computer and then state that your computer is infected and that you should download and install Antivirus 2010 to remove these infections. These rogues are also known to be advertised and installed through Trojans that display fake security alerts in your Windows taskbar stating you are infected. Once you click on one of these alerts, it will bring you to the download page for Antivirus 2010, or even download and install it without your permission.

Once Antivirus 2010 is installed on your computer, it will be automatically configured to run when you logon to Windows. This is done by adding a startup that launches the C:\Windows\System32\wingamma.exe executable. This executable will then launch the AV2010.exe and the fake Windows Security Center. Once running, it will scan your computer and list a variety of infections that cannot be removed unless you first purchase the software. This infection will also randomly display fake security alerts on your computer stating that you are infected or have some sort of security risk. If you click on these alerts, it will prompt you to purchase the software.

These fake alerts, along with a fake Windows Security Center that advertises Antivirus 2010, are used to further scare you into thinking you are infected so you purchase the software.

Another new addition to these types of rogues is the creation of a fake Blue Screen of Death. At random intervals, Antivirus 2010 will create what appears to be a Windows crash, but in reality is just a fake screen. These fake crashes are used to further persuade you to purchase the software. If you receive this crash, you can simply reboot your computer, or try pressing Alt-Tab or Control-Alt-Delete to get out of it. The text of the crash is:

“***STOP: 0×000000D1 (0×0000000, 0xF73120AE, 0xC0000008, 0xC000000)
A spyware application has been detected and Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer SPYWARE.MONSTER.FX_WILD_0×0000000
If this is the first time you’ve seen this Stop error screen, restart you computer. If this screen appears again, follow these steps:
Click to make sure your antivirus software is properly installed. If this is a new installation, ask you software manufacturer for any antivirus updates you might need.
Windows detected unregistered version of Antivirus 2010 protection on your computer. If problem continue, please activate your antivirus software to prevent computer damage and data loss.”

This is what the fake screen looks like

This is what the fake screen looks like

Antivirus 2010 spreads like many similar applications. It is distributed through online advertisements that are disguised as anti-virus scanners. If user clicks on such a banner, he or she is receives false reports about infections detected. Antivirus2010 tries to intimidate people by reporting nonexistent threats in order to get them interested in downloading this application. In other instances, Antivirus2010 can be installed by trojans and infected web pages without a user’s consent.

Antivirus 2010 is not a security tool; it is dangerous computer parasite. If you can catch this infection quickly enough, we’ve found that Malwarebytes can clean it up. We’ve also found some instances where the ONLY fix was to format the hard drive and re-install everything from the ground up.

Be careful out there – when searching for ways to remove this malware, some of the websites offering a free program to help you, are actually infected sites that download additional Trojans to your computer. When in doubt – take your system to a professional!

Microsoft Announces Critical "Out-Of-Band" Security Updates To Be Released On Tuesday July 28th.

In a rare announcement last Friday, Microsoft said it would be releasing security updates on Tuesday July 28th–outside of its monthly patch cycle–for a critical vulnerability in Internet Explorer and a moderate vulnerability in Visual Studio.

The two security bulletins will address one overall issue and are being released separately “to provide the broadest protections possible to customers,” Microsoft said in a statement.

The vulnerabilities affect Windows 2000, Windows XP, Vista, Windows Server 2003 and 2008, Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8, Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003, Visual Studio 2005 and 2008 and Visual C++ 2005 and 2008, according to the security bulletin advance notification available here:

“While we can’t go into specifics about the issue prior to release, we can say that the Visual Studio bulletin will address an issue that can affect certain types of applications,” the statement said. “The Internet Explorer bulletin will provide defense-in-depth changes to Internet Explorer to help provide additional protections for the issues addressed by the Visual Studio bulletin.”

“The Internet Explorer update will also address vulnerabilities rated as critical that are unrelated to the Visual Studio bulletin that were privately and responsibly reported,” Microsoft said.

Customers who are current with their security updates are protected from known attacks related to these updates. The updates will be released through the Microsoft Update, Windows Update, and Windows Server Update services.

Webcasts to address customer questions are currently scheduled to be held on Tuesday at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. PDT. If you want to take advantage of either webcast, go to the link below to pre-register.

If you miss a live webcast, they will be available afterwards to view on demand.

Microsoft typically releases security patches on a monthly basis, the second Tuesday of every month, and did not say why it is making this rare, out-of-band release. We can only assume that these security holes are serious enough to cause big problems if not patched immediately.

Let’s wait and see what happens over the next few weeks because there are always end users, who for whatever reason, do not install the critical updates and are adversely affected by an attack of some kind.

AVG LinkScanner – Free and Easy


FREE AVG LinkScanner

 AVG lauched its AVG LinkScanner as a free standalone product on April 20th, 2009. The free version of AVG LinksScanner is compatible with most current consumer anti-virus and security suite products, and is available to home users onlu.

AVG LinkScanner also included the AVG Toolbar which provides easy access to LinkScanner capabilities right inside the browser, along with built-in access to Yahoo!’s search engine.

AVG LinkScanner showcases technology that is uniquely relevant to today’s Internet users in ways that database-driven products (such as McAfee SiteAdvisor) are not. LinkScanner protects against random, invisible cyber-threats. These threats can steal or damage data simply by users visiting the infected page. Regular anti-virus software cannot protect users against this type of threat due to the transient nature of these threats. LinkScanner gives users an additional real-time layer of protection alongside their existing security software.

Additionally, this initiative will generate leads via downloads that will serve as an additional route by which to introduce new customers to the AVG product experience for later up-sell to a paid AVG solution.

The global announcement was made by AVG at the RSA Conference 2009 in San Francisco via a number of launch vehicles including meetings with key press and industry analysts, press release, a microsite and associated electronic marketing vehicles to drive download volume, a brief product demo and other tools designed to build awareness for the product.

Click here to download LinkScanner

And don’t forget to give AVG’s FREE antivirus program a try:

How To Manage The Keys to the Kingdom

User Names and Passwords: Part Duex
Earlier this year, many of us were surprised to discover that several famous Twitter accounts were compromised, including President Obama’s and Britney Spears’. Even more surprising was the simple trick used to gain access to these accounts: a simple password-guessing scheme. Like so many other emerging social networking sites, Twitter failed to provide even the simplest password-protection techniques, such as locking an account and resetting the session if multiple incorrect passwords are entered.

Why are we still discussing passwords in 2009?
I thought that by now we’d be using fingerprint scans, digital certificates, or retinal scans of some kind. Instead, we’re still primarily using passwords, a secret combination of keyboard characters that uniquely identifies the user as that specific person. (At least, that’s the theory behind passwords.)

Password-guessing scripts became commonplace years ago. These scripts would attempt to log in to a account using a known ID and a word from a dictionary file as a potential password; tirelessly, patiently trying one word after another.

These scripts could pretty much guess any password eventually. So we humans became a little smarter and started substituting punctuation characters for letters. The word “password” became “p@$$w0rd” because that’s not a dictionary word, right? NOT!

Soon, vast dictionaries of “script kiddies” passwords were available for download. As a secondary response to this threat, operating system and application vendors began increasing the length of acceptable passwords as the old systems of eight uppercase characters for passwords was too limiting. Additionally, some vendors decided to implement a system that would automatically lock the account after too many incorrect guesses, thereby rendering it useless to an attacker.

Is this really enough?
Considering all these factors together, here’s the current password protection system:

•Longer passwords
•More complex passwords
•Account lockup after too many incorrect guesses

These controls made passwords reasonably secure, for a while.

Now that we connect to a world full of websites that implement security inconsistently, we all need to review website security carefully. You don’t want to become (or remain) a member of a website that has weak security policies. To make matters worse, if you use the same or similar passwords on all websites, the website with the poorest password capabilities will force you to have a lowest-common-denominator password, significantly weakening your security across the Internet.

I always advise that you use a different password for each site you join but even using different passwords may not be the end all solution. If you have an email account on a system with poor password capabilities, that still weakens your security a great deal. How? Many websites send password-reset email to your registered email account. So if your email can be compromised, that email account could be used to receive password reset notices, for those accounts that have stronger password policies.

Before joining or remaining with an Internet site, review its password security practices and capabilities.
•Is the password sent over an encrypted connection? It does you little good to create an unguessable password if it will be sent across the Internet unencrypted. Find out whether encryption is used with the application.

•What is the password’s minimum and maximum length? Beware of websites and applications that don’t insist on a minimum length, or that declare a maximum password length in the single digits. I no longer recommend anything less than 12 characters – the more characters, the more secure your password.

•What characters does the site support? Is the password limited to uppercase or lowercase? Are punctuation characters allowed in the password? If not, these limitations may force you into using passwords that are more guessable than you want.

•Are the password-reset challenge questions predictable or easily researched? Once the challenge answers are guessed, what can the attacker do? Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s Yahoo! account was cracked because the hacker simply learned all he could about her. Thus, he was able to answer all of her challenge questions and then take control of her account.

A Few Words Of CAUTION
Consider very carefully whether you should share so much of “you” with the Internet. In the old days, hackers were good at asking you to take surveys that would ask your children’s names, favorite sports teams, and so on. Why? These were likely passwords. As you go online (and reveal every detail in your life), you allow people to guess your challenge-question answers, (or at least allow them to claim to be you when talking to Help Desk staff half a world away).

•Is the account locked if too many incorrect responses are given? Beware of assuming that this feature is implemented and that it will work. Many systems cannot implement a persistent counter, so hacker tools take two tries at your password and then skip to another account. When the tool returns to hacking your ID and password, will the system “remember” the past two incorrect guesses?

•What are the automated password-reset mechanics? Is the password reset info sent to an email account with weak password policies?

•Is the account lockout permanent or temporary? I’ve got good news and bad news for you. Good news: Your account is locked. Bad news: The lockout resets automatically after 20 seconds—enough time for the hackers script to work on three other accounts before trying your account again.

Passwords are very easy to break or guess, because people choose simplistic values. Even those applications with account lockout features often create breakable backdoors with ineffective challenge questions or weak temporary timeouts.

So here’s the bottom line…
•Use complex passwords/passphrases whenever possible.

•Ensure that password-reset functionalities are configured to use your email account with the most secure password policies. Avoid using “free” email accounts – remember the old saying: you get what you pay for.

Here’s a link to the Password Generator program we discussed last year. You can download it for use on your PC.

Or, you can simply generate secure passwords online:

Here’s some additional information on Pass Phrase’s from Wikipedia. This will be the next wave of security once websites and application programmers adapt their security procedure to accept them.

Are FREE Email Accounts REALLY Free?

FREE Email Accounts?  You get what you pay for!!!

We’ve all been told there’s no such thing as a free lunch; yet it’s hard to resist the call of “FREE.” That’s one of the reasons so many people have free e-mail accounts through Hotmail, MSN, and Gmail.

And while you might not be paying out of pocket for these services, there IS a cost. Here’s the price you pay when you use a free e-mail account: 

An Extra Helping Of Spam: And loads of it. Are these free services selling your e-mail account? Do spammers have ways of gleaning your e-mail account? No one seems to know for sure (or at least they’re not talking). But the bottom line is you’ll end up with a lot more ads for Viagra than you bargained for.

Your E-mails Aren’t Guaranteed Delivery: The majority of spam messages come from free e-mail accounts. Even though you aren’t sending them, spam filters look at the server sending the message and, if it’s a known source for spam, will block the e-mail from going through. That means your e-mails might be getting blocked before they even reach the sender.

Customer Service? Non-existent: See you DO get what you pay for! If you have a problem, you’re usually on your own to figure it out.

Difficulty In Moving, Forwarding, or Downloading: Free e-mail services require that you read your e-mail through their web interface. If you want to move, forward or download your e-mail, contacts or other information, the process is cumbersome and sometimes impossible.

No Archiving: E-mail archiving, or storing old e-mails in a searchable, retrievable format has become very important (even a legal requirement) in some industries like medical and financial. E-mail is considered a form of communication and if you use it to support customers, order products, or to negotiate any type of deals, you want to keep a record.

So while these free services are okay for chatting casually with your friends, they are NOT recommended for business purposes or for sending anything you consider important.

Here’s a question to ask yourself: if your e-mail account was erased tomorrow and all of the messages, contact information, and history went bye-bye, would it be a slight inconvenience or a catastrophe? If it’s the latter, then you need to bite the bullet and get a “real” e-mail account. And, while you’re at it, you should also get an account that reflects your own domain name.

The only reason for keeping a free e-mail account is to provide certain web sites with an e-mail address when you don’t care about getting communications from them, or that may spam you later on. If you have your email configured through your own domain, we’ve even got a solution for that – disposable email addresses –but that’s a topic for another article.

Why Your Laptop Needs An “Instant Kill” Switch

It’s lunch time and you stop by your favorite café to check e-mail and grab a bite to eat. You settle in at a table when your pickup number is called. Returning to your table, you find your laptop and appetite—has disappeared!

Okay, maybe you’re not foolish enough to leave your laptop unattended in a public place, but one of your employees might think it’s okay to leave a laptop or PDA in their car, a hotel room, or in their gym bag and end up exposing your company’s data and network to thieves.

If it hasn’t happened to you or someone you know, according to the FBI, it will. Sure you have a backup of the data, but now detailed information about you, your family, your business and your clients is in the hands of a criminal intent on stealing your money, identity or worse. There is a lot of software and hardware that protects your data from being stolen by online criminals, but how do you protect your data when someone steals your physical laptop or PDA?

Until now, your only recourse was to change the passwords to your network, financial websites, etc., watch your credit report and cross your fingers hoping for the best. But thanks to new security software, you can instantly erase all of the data on your laptop or PDA preventing thieves from accessing the data.

Here’s how it works: Special security software is installed on your laptop that checks for your “kill” command whenever it connects to the Internet. This happens even before Windows prompts for the user name and password. If it receives the “kill” message, the data on your computer is instantly destroyed. You may not get your laptop back, but you’ll prevent the thief from stealing the information it contains.

Over the years, we have had a few clients experience lost or stolen laptops and PDA’s. In some cases, there was real concern about the data that was on those systems.

We have been researching and evaluating the various technologies that are available to provide this level of protection and we’ve selected GadgetTrak ProActive Security as our recommended technology. GadgetTrak supports PC’s, Mac’s, Smart Phones, PDA’s, iPhones and USB devices like USB keys, iPods, Cameras and more.

If your PDA is stolen, you simply text a message to it that includes your password and the PDA is reset it to its blank factory default condition. What could be easier?

As with all theft and hacker deterrents, thieves can circumvent this software by downloading your data before connecting the device to the Internet. Surprisingly, the typical thief isn’t smart enough to know this. So, for absolute security, data encryption still remains the most reliable form of protection. Encrypted data is unreadable to thieves unless they have your encryption key. There are pros and cons to both approaches, but it’s important for you to have SOME protection. For help in determining the best solution for you and your business, give us a call @ 781-834-9208.

For additional information:

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