Friday, June 19, 2015

Still Using Windows XP? Then Read On!

We've all heard the warnings and the techie nay-sayers scream from the data center rooftops, "Get rid of XP! Abandon XP!" From the standpoint of security, sure it is a idea to move on to a more modern and/or more secure operating system. But there are a good handful of reasons why people cling to Windows XP and if you are one of the more than 25% of the operating system share that chose to do so then here are some tips for you.

Use Anti-Virus Protection: It goes without saying that everyone should use a good anti-virus software. There are still a good number of free suites that are still supporting Windows XP, even if Microsoft is not. Take a look at AVG, Avast!, Comodo and Panda to name a few who have not announced end of Windows XP support dates as of yet.

Use Malware Protection: A very good companion to any anti-virus protection is the use of a good malware scanner. Again, there are many free options. The thing about free versions is that it is completely manually invoked. If you can part with the few dollars for say MalwareBytes Anti-Malware, then the program can be setup to check for updates and scan the system on a schedule.

TIP: While you are downloading MalwareBytes Anti-Malware, pick up the free MalwareBytes Anti-Exploit as well. Just one more layer of protection to help when you are browsing online.

Toss Internet Explorer: Besides the fact that Internet Explorer is stuck in version 8 under Windows XP, it is slow, bogged down and everyone is trying to exploit its many vulnerabilities. Using alternatives like Chrome, Firefox or others is the best way to go because they are still supported, safe and they self update without so much as a normal restart of the browser which we do anyway when we are done browsing, right?

Do Not Use Outlook Express: Like Internet Explorer, Outlook Express has been abandoned by Microsoft and therefore does not receive any love, or updates for that matter. So if you are not ready to abandon the application-style email client for the cloud-based solutions, then check out Mozilla Thunderbird, Windows Live Mail, IncrediMail, etc. Or, if you really like the Outlook experience, fork out $5 per month and get the Office 365 subscription.

Keep Checking Updates: I know, it sounds crazy, right? Didn't Microsoft stop supporting Windows XP? Yes, they did but there may be other elements of Microsoft that have available updates. One such item is the Malicious Software Tool. Also, if there is a major update to any hardware that is still supported then you can get that downloaded too.

So let's review. There are still plenty of users who have not yet given up the Windows XP platform. If you are still using it, all you have to do is be very careful and take some sensible precautions. Be sure that you are also self-monitoring where you go and that you are not being socially-engineered. You can still enjoy one of the greatest operating systems abandoned by least for a couple more years.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Computer Support on a Stick? Hold That Thought!

You’ve seen the ads on television; Everything from a USB flash drive to solve all of your computing woes to inexpensive remote service techs. These sound like great tools when you are watching a thirty second or sixty second ad because they squeeze a lot of fantastic words into the delivery and the end result is that this flash drive or service will solve your problems instantly and forever! Remember that anything that sounds too good to be true probably is not.

So let’s break this down by the two different classes. The first class is the all-in-one USB stick. You purchase this product and insert it into a USB port and it is suppose to solve all the issues on your computer. There will be interaction by you, the consumer. This is a suite of tools that will need to be run individually to do certain functions of cleaning and disinfecting. But when you’re finished how do you truly know that the infections are gone? How do you know that your computer is actually clean? What if your infection was a root kit? Wait..what is a root kit? That is a lot of unanswered questions, right. Guess what, all you really paid for there was a glorified cookies and browser cache cleaner. It did nothing to eradicate the viruses, Trojans, spyware or anything else.

The second class is the over-the-telephone experts. Call them now and get your computer running faster in 30 minutes only $19.99! Well, the $19.99 is apparently a fee you give them to allow an unknown person remote access to your computer. Once in they tell you that you have $300-$1000 worth of necessary work to be done to your computer. Believe it or not many people will fall for this and the headaches that ensue afterwards are anything from even slower computers to more viruses to have pictures and documents stolen from your computer. What is that worth to you? Scary isn’t it? The end result is that you have to hire a professional anyway to undo the damage that was done when you could have hired a qualified technician in the first place to take care of your needs. Several know cases to me on this are that after not allowing the additional work to be performed, strange things happen after the “tech” logs off the computer.

So as you can plainly see there are problems with both of these classes of computer hope. The facts are that only a qualified technician can actually diagnose your computer and tell if you have a serious problem and how serious. No two viruses are the same; some keep regenerating after software or a tool gets rid of them. A USB stick will not tell you if you have legitimate problems lurking in your system. It takes the care and expertise of a professional who knows what to look for and the end result is that you are treated kindly and taking care of in a manner that is much more guaranteed than a flash drive you purchased off the television. Look into the guarantees that come with these other products and services. Trust your computer to an expert and develop a relationship with that individual or business. You will be much happier in the end.