Email Security

June 22, 2021

Email security is an oxymoron. Email is NOT secure. You should never send any kind of sensitive information through email. Sensitive information includes passwords, credit card numbers, personal information, and more.

If you access your email using a web portal (webmail), the communication between your computer and the server is encrypted. If you use an email client (Outlook, Windows 10 Mail, Windows Live Mail, Thunderbird, etc.) communication between your computer may or may not be secure depending on how your email account is set up in your email client.

If your email client settings are not secure, your email can be intercepted and read. If you use webmail or have your email account set up as secure in your email client, then the communication between your computer and the server, but once on the server, it’s not encrypted and not secure. As you know, servers can be hacked. When your email server transmits your email to another service, it is encrypted and is secure. But once it arrives on that server, it is not encrypted and not secure.

And the person you send the email to may not use secure communication between their computer and their email server, so it could be intercepted then. And once stored on the recipient’s computer, it’s not encrypted so if their computer is infected or gets hacked, they could get your email and its attachments.

The only way for an email to be secure, is for it to be encrypted throughout it’s entire journey from your computer to the recipient’s computer and to not store that email on the recipient’s computer.

So what if you need to send a secure email?

If you don’t want to mess with encryption, you can send sensitive information through email if you separate the information and don’t label it. For example, send one email with the credit card number in it and a separate email with the expiration date in it. Do not label them. This is better than just sending all of the info through one single email, but not nearly as safe as encrypting the email.

There are several different ways to send an encrypted email. Some of them are complicated to set up, are not free, and would only be for people who regularly need to be able to send secure email. For the purposes of this article, we will talk about the easy ways to do this for free for those of us who only need to send secure email occasionally.

The easiest way is to use Gmail. To do that, you will need to create a free Gmail account, if you don’t already have one. In addition, you cannot use an email client for this method. You must go to to write and send the email. The recipient does not have to have a Gmail account. Here’s how to do it.

Go to and compose a new email. When doing this, make sure your communication with Gmail is secure. Look up in the left side of the address bar where it lists the address of the server you are on, in this case To the left of that you should either see a padlock or https. The s on the end of http means secure.

When composing a new email on Gmail, look at the bottom for a padlock with a clock in front of it. Click on this icon to make your email Confidential.

You will get a pop-up window that allows you to set an expiration date for the email. The recipient will not be able to access or read the email after the expiration date.

Next, you must specify how the recipient will receive their passcode. Either via SMS (text message to cell phone) or via email. For the highest level of security, use SMS passcode. However, if you do not have the recipient’s cell phone number, or the recipient doesn’t have a cell phone, you can use the no SMS passcode option and it will use email for the passcode. It’s still pretty safe to use the email option since the passcode will be in a separate email but for the highest level of security, use the SMS passcode option.

Address and write your email. When you click send, it will prompt you for the cell phone number to send the SMS passcode to, or if you selected the no SMS option, it will just send the email and use the email address you entered when addressing the email. Either way, it will not tell you what the passcode is. Only the recipient will receive that.

The recipient will receive an email from you, but it won’t be the email you wrote. It will be from Google with a button in the mail telling them to click there to read the email. If you used the no SMS passcode option, then when they click the button, it will show the email on Google’s website. If you used the SMS passcode option, it will go to Google’s website and give them a Send Passcode button. When they click it, it will send the code to their cell phone and prompt them to enter the passcode. Once they enter the correct code and click the Submit button, the email will be displayed.

Note that the recipient will not be able to reply, forward, print, or copy the email. They can, however, take a screenshot or picture of it.

If you find you need to regularly exchange secure emails with another person, or a small group of people, then the easiest way to do that is for everyone to sign up for free Proton Mail accounts. Send your emails using Proton Mail webmail accounts and only send to other Proton Mail accounts. Recipients must use Proton Mail’s webmail as well to ensure security. When you send email from one Proton Mail account to another it all stays on their sever and is stored encrypted the whole time so even Proton Mail employees can’t read your email.

If you need help with your email or with what we covered in this article, please let us know.


MS Edge Takeover

June 16, 2020

In our last article we told you about a new version of MS Edge that had been released by Microsoft. Quick recap, Edge is a web browser that is replacing Internet Explorer. Microsoft released a new major release of Edge which was an optional update. Microsoft has now started installing the update along with other Windows updates. That in itself is no big deal. What is a big deal is what happens after Edge has been updated. Once updated, you get this screen:

The problem here is that you can’t do anything. You can’t click on anything outside of that white window. Inside the white window, your only option is to click the Get Started button. When you do, you get this screen:

If you were to click the Confirm button here, Microsoft would change your default browser to Edge and import data from the browser you had set as your default. If you don’t want to do that, and most won’t, then click the X in the upper right-hand corner of the window to close it.

Microsoft is trying to force or trick people into switching to Edge. Personally, I think they have, once again, gone too far. They have a history of these types of strong-arm tactics. They do this because, unfortunately, it works. As a result of doing this, a lot of people will end up with Edge as their default browser. Many people will just use it because they don’t know how to change it.

If you accidentally did click the confirm button and Edge is now your default browser and you want to change your default browser back to what it was before, all you have to do is go into Settings, click on Apps, in the left column click on Default Apps, and then on the right scroll down to the setting for web browser and click on it to change it to whatever you want it to be.


New Version of MS Edge

June 9, 2020

Microsoft Edge is a web browser like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. A web browser lets you view web sites. Microsoft Edge is replacing Internet Explorer. If you have Windows 10, you already have Edge because Edge comes with Windows 10. However, Microsoft recently released a new version of Edge and you may get a pop-up message about it.

The icon for Edge is a lowercase, dark blue ‘e’. Here’s what the Edge icon looks like:

The icon is similar to the Internet Explorer icon which is a light blue lowercase ‘e’ with a gold halo. Here’s what it looks like:

Many people think Edge is Internet Explorer because of the similar icon. Because of this, with this new update, Microsoft is changing the icon for Edge to a blue-green swirl.

If you use Edge, then you should update it if the pop up appears on your computer. But it’s not urgent. If you don’t update it, it will be automatically updated along with the next Windows Update.

If you don’t use Edge, don’t worry about it.

If you do, you may be wondering what’s new with Edge. In a nutshell, it’s core has been totally replaced. The original Edge wasn’t very popular and had a lot of issues and limitations. Microsoft has totally replaced what’s called the engine in Edge and replaced it with the same engine used by Chrome. The engine is called Chromium. Although Chrome and Edge will share the same engine, they will still be very different.

One cool thing with this update is that Edge will now be available, not only on Windows, but on Mac’s, IOS (iPhones & iPads), and Android phones and tablets. They are even going to release a version for Linux.

It will be interesting to see how well it’s received. We haven’t started testing it yet, but will soon.


New Backup Service

May 12, 2020

We have been selling Carbonite subscriptions for many years and have many customers relying on Carbonite for their backup. In the last year or so, customers have been having quite a few problems with Carbonite. Sometimes it won’t update itself and stops backing up. But the worst problems have been when customers needed to restore data due to a hard drive failure, and Carbonite didn’t have all of their files. That is totally unacceptable. In addition to that, Carbonite prices have gone up twice in the last few years. It has gone from $60/year to $84/year. 

For all of those reasons, we went on a search to find a backup service that works better, has fewer problems, and cost less than Carbonite. After an extensive search, we have settled on a new backup service called Zoolz. Strange name, but good service. This service may not be for everyone. The one feature it does not have is the ability to download backed up files on the fly from their website. We have found, however, that only a couple of our customers need that feature. 

For those customers who purchased Carbonite from us, we will contact you when your Carbonite subscription will be ending and, if you are open to it, switch you to the new service. If not, we can still renew your Carbonite subscription.

For those of you who purchased Carbonite, or some other backup service, from someone else, if you are interested in our new service, let us know when your subscription will be ending and we can switch you over.

And for those of you who don’t have a Cloud backup service, we highly encourage you to get one, whether you get ours or someone else’s. Backups are a must have, these days. Your hard drive can crash. Your computer can become infected with RansomWare. The best things about cloud backup services are that they are automatic and even if your home or business burned down, your files are safe. Every computer that has any important files on it should have cloud backup.

If you have any questions or want to subscribe to our new backup service, please let us know!


Pandemic Computer Questions

April 20, 2020

We have been getting a lot of questions relating to the stay at home order that we don’t normally get.

Here are some of these questions and our answer.

  1. Do I have a webcam?

    In general, desktops don’t have webcams built-in. You can get a webcam that sits on top of your monitor and plugs into your computer using a USB cable. However, if you don’t already have a webcam, getting one now is not easy. They are hard to find and way more expensive.

    Most laptops have a webcam built-in. But not all. Some older or cheaper laptops don’t have them.

    All In One Computers
    Most AIO computers have webcams built-in. But not all.

    Cell phones
    All smart phones have cameras.

    Every tablet I have ever seen had a camera.

  2. When I try to use my webcam, I get a black screen
    Take the tape off that is covering your webcam.
    If you have an All In One computer, your webcam may be one that pops up. Look on the top for a cutout section and press down on it to see if a webcam pops up.
  3. Do I have a microphone?
    Any device that has a webcam has a microphone too.
    If you add a webcam to your desktop, that webcam has a microphone built-in to it.
  4. Do I have to install the Zoom app to join a Zoom meeting?
    No. You don’t have to. But we recommend that you do.
  5. Do I have to sign up for a Zoom account to use Zoom?
    You don’t have to have an account to join a meeting and you don’t have to pay anything either.
    If you want to host a meeting, you do have to have an account, but it doesn’t cost anything. However, your meeting time will be limited to 40 minutes.
  6. Is Zoom free?
    The basic version of Zoom is free. But there are limitations. If you are only joining meetings, then there’s no need to pay for Zoom. If you are hosting meetings, a meeting hosted by a free account will be limited to 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, it will cut off. Ready or not. If your 40 minutes are up and you weren’t finished with your meeting, you can simply start a new meeting and go for up to another 40 minutes.
  7. How can I work remotely?
    You may be able to work from home using your personal computer, but you may be limited on what you have access to. You may not have access to network resources like a share drive and so forth. VPN is one way to work from home. It will give you access to network resources, but still has the disadvantage of having to install everything on your home computer.

    For a very small office, that only needs access to email and to a few documents, you may want to set up your email on your home computer and use a cloud sharing product like Dropbox or OneDrive to share documents.

    For most people, the best way to work from home is to use remote control software. What that does is allow you to control and use your work computer from your home computer. That way, you don’t have to install anything on your home computer and you have access to all of the resources your work computer has. It’s also better for company security because you don’t have company data on your home computer. It’s still all on your work computer, share drive,  etc.

    Your company should provide remote control software for doing this. However, if it’s a small company, or your company doesn’t want to do that, you have options.

    There was a time when there were several free remote control products out there that worked well. One by one, however, they have all eliminated the free versions of their products. The cheapest one is called It’s only $30/year and works pretty well. If you want something better, you’ll have to pay more. A lot more. There are many remote control products on the market and we certainly haven’t tried them all. LogMeIn and GoToMyPC are both good and are now owned by the same company. LogMeIn is $350/year. That allows you to have LogMeIn set up on 2 computers that you can remote into. GoToMyPC is more expensive at $35/month ($420/year) to remote into one computer. These are the only ones we can recommend at this time.

    If you go shopping for remote control software, be aware that many of them are more for support organizations than towards individuals. In addition, many of them, especially the “free” ones, require manual router configurations to work. These same ones have other limitations as well.


What is a Microsoft Account

March 6, 2020

If you have an iPhone or any other Apple device, you have an Apple account. Your Apple ID is your email address. You must sign in with your Apple ID to setup and use your iPhone or iPad and to use iCloud. You have the option to create a free email account on if you wish, but this is optional.

If you have an Android phone, then you must have a Google account. It works much the same as an Apple account. While it is possible to create a Google account using your existing email account, Google hides that option and so most people end up creating a Gmail account to use for their Google account.

Years ago, Microsoft started doing a similar thing and calls them Microsoft Accounts. Your Microsoft account can be created using your existing email account, or you can create an email account on one of Microsoft’s free email services like or

Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft gave you the option to login to Windows using a Microsoft account instead of a simple local (offline) account. There are pros and cons to using a Microsoft Account to login to Windows. One good thing is that if you forget your password or can’t login to Windows, you can reset your password online either on your computer or using another computer or device (cell phone, tablet, etc.). With a local account, you would probably have to call us.

Another good thing about logging into Windows with a Microsoft Account is that you can synchronize settings and apps across multiple Windows devices if you login to all of them using the same Microsoft Account. This sync is not the same as iCloud. It will sync a lot of your Windows settings so that the settings are the same on all of your Windows devices. If you use Microsoft Edge for browsing the web (not recommended), it will sync saved passwords too. In case you are wondering, you can sync your Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox data across devices too using either a Google account or Firefox account.

You’ll have to have a Microsoft Account if you want to use OneDrive. By the way, a Microsoft Account has been required (in most cases) to install Microsoft Office for some time now. If you have a recent copy of Microsoft Office, you probably have a Microsoft account.

There are also cons to using a Microsoft Account to login to Windows. The first concern is privacy. Microsoft can track everything you do, much like Google and Apple do. I’m not convinced Microsoft doesn’t track everything you do even if you don’t use a Microsoft Account to login to Windows. But that’s another article.

Another con is that you MUST enter a password to login to Windows. Local accounts don’t have to have passwords, but Microsoft Accounts do. It is possible to set it up so that when Windows boots up, it will automatically enter your password for you. But the drawback to this is that most people forget they have a password and then don’t remember what it is. Then something happens and it asks for the password and they don’t know what it is.

I bring all of this up because Microsoft is now requiring Microsoft Accounts when setting up a new computer. Thankfully, there are ways around it. One way is to keep your computer disconnected from the Internet the first time you turn on the computer and go through initial setup. Don’t connect it to the internet until you are completely done with first time setup and get to the desktop. Then you can connect it.

Another way is to create a new Microsoft Account, or login to an existing one while setting up a new computer. Then once you have gone through the initial setup, you can go into settings, set up a new local account with administrative privileges, log out, login as new local account, and delete the Microsoft Account from Windows. A bit of a pain.

Something else you should be aware of concerning Microsoft Accounts. When you try to get an app from the Microsoft store and you are using a local account, it’s going to encourage you to login with your Microsoft account. You don’t have to, but if you do, it will show a window similar to what you see on the left. If you simply click next, Microsoft will convert your local account into a Microsoft account without asking you. Sneaky, huh? Do yourself a favor and click “Microsoft apps only”. We have had many calls where Microsoft tricked them into converting their local account into a Microsoft Account without them realizing it. Then, the next time they turn their computer on or reboot, it asks for a password and they are baffled because they didn’t have a password before and they don’t know what the password is. However, it’s asking for the Microsoft Account password. But because Microsoft didn’t say, “we are going to convert your account into a Microsoft account and from now on you’ll have to login using your Microsoft Account password”, most people don’t realize what password it’s asking for.

If this happens to you, you’ll have to login to your computer using your Microsoft Account password once in order to switch it back to a local account. If you don’t know the password, it’s easy to reset online. Then you can go into settings and convert your account back to a local account.


Internet Traffic has Changed

February 28, 2020

What is the Internet primarily used for these days? I bet you can guess that video streaming is the biggest chunk of internet traffic. In fact, it’s approaching 80% of traffic on the internet these days.

In 2005, video streaming traffic was just 10% of internet traffic. Because of this increased heavy traffic, the Internet has been slowly re-wired without most consumers even knowing it. If you were streaming video on Netflix or youtube back in 2005 or 2006, or maybe in Hulu in 2007, you may remember that when you tried to start a video, there was a long pause while the video stream was buffered. Once it was buffered, it would start playing. But often in the middle of the video, there would be a pause while it buffered again.

Video streaming companies like Netflix used to have one big data center that had all their video and streamed it to customers all over the world. But they had to change that because it couldn’t keep up with the demand. They slowly converted over to what are called Content Delivery Networks (CDNs). Basically, streaming services like Netflix have videos stored in the cloud at different locations (CDNs) around the world.

A lot of people don’t really understand what the cloud is. It’s basically some server somewhere on the internet that’s not at your local location. It’s called the cloud because you don’t really know exactly where it’s stored. You just know it’s stored somewhere on some server on the internet. As far as you know, it might as well be stored in some cloud in the sky.

Because of this change, when you start a video streaming these days it starts almost instantly and you rarely, if ever, see any kind of buffering either at the beginning or at any time during playback.

When you stream something, it streams it from the CDN closest to you. This cuts down on internet traffic since the video stream doesn’t have to travel as far. And because it’s not travelling as far, it can start faster and there’s no need for pausing to buffer.

The interesting thing is that these streaming services don’t even own the data centers in the CDN. For example, Netflix uses Amazon Web Services for their CDN network data centers. Netflix does have a data center but all it does is send the video to the CDNs. It doesn’t stream video to customers.

Some worry that the video streaming companies have too much power since they basically control 80% of the traffic on the internet and that other traffic on the internet is suffering because of it. Time will tell.


Final Word on Windows 7

February 28, 2020

You are probably aware that Microsoft ended support for Windows 7 on January 14th of this year (2020). On January 14th, Microsoft released the last batch of security updates for Windows 7. Going forward, there will be no more security updates to Windows 7. New security vulnerabilities are discovered in Windows every week. Those newly discovered security vulnerabilities will no longer be fixed in Windows 7. Only Windows 8 and Windows 10 will continue to have these fixed. Windows 8 will stop receiving security updates after January in 2023 for the few of you who have Windows 8.

If you still have a computer with Windows 7 on it, you should consider either upgrading to Windows 10 or replacing the computer. There are some situations, usually in business environments, where older software or hardware won’t work on Windows 10 and they must keep Windows 7, at least for now. But for most of us, upgrading or replacing is not only a good thing to do, it’s something we really must do.

You may be thinking, “Since I have good, unexpired, up-to-date security software, I should be OK, right?” Actually, no. Computer security software works like the flu shot. It protects you against known strains of the flu, but not all strains of the flu are known. And since there are always new ones being discovered every day, you can’t rely solely on that. Using Windows 7 on the internet after end of support even with good security software is a risky thing to do.

In Summary, if you have a Windows 7 computer, you should upgrade or replace it as soon as possible. Whether or not your computer can be upgraded depends on the computer. We can take a look at it and tell you. You may be wondering how much it costs to upgrade to Windows 10. Upgrading from Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10 is free if you have a valid license for Windows 7 or 8 to upgrade from. If we do the upgrade for you remotely, the cost is generally $80, give or take $40 depending on your computer. If a remote upgrade is not possible, then the cost will be $105 – $150.


Should I turn off my computer when I’m not using it?

February 19, 2020

We recommend leaving your computer turned on when not using. If you are going to be away on vacation or something for a week or more, then turn it off while you are gone. Otherwise it’s better to leave it on for several reasons. The only drawback to leaving it on is that it will use a little more electricity. Desktop computers don’t really use that much electricity and laptops use even less. You can set your computer up so it turns the screen off to save some electricity.

Here are the reasons why you should leave it on. The main reason is that if you leave your computer on, it can do updates and maintenance while you aren’t using it. If you only turn it on when you are using it, it’s going to do all of that stuff while you are using it, slowing you down and interrupting what you are trying to do.

Hard drives (not SSDs) are happier when they are at a consent temperature. When you turn your computer off, it gets cold. When you turn it on, it gets hot. All of that hot and cold shortens the life of a hard drive.

If you leave your computer on, then when you come back to it, you can get right to doing what you want to do. If it had been off, you would have to wait for it to boot. Computers are usually very slow the first 5-15 minutes after they boot up.

You may be wondering if putting your computer to sleep would be a good compromise. Nope. Putting it to sleep instead of powering off only gives you the advantage of faster startup. It does not allow the computer to update/maintain itself and the hard drive will still go cold.


Getting Pop-up Ads on Your Computer?

September 30, 2019

If you have Google Chrome and get a lot of pop-up advertisements in the lower right-hand corner of your screen, there’s a very good chance they are coming from websites. They are appearing because you gave them permission to show you “notifications”. Is an advertisement a notification? No. But some naughty websites are misusing that feature of Chrome to show advertisements.

If you use Chrome and are on a website, it may pop up a message saying that the website would like to send you notifications. It will ask you to allow or deny that request. If you allow it, you may get advertisements popping up in the lower right-hand corner of your screen. These advertisements can show up from a website even if you aren’t currently viewing that website. So be sure to block it except on websites you want to allow to show you notifications there, which should be very few.

If you have already allowed some websites to show notifications and you would like to get rid of those notifications, here’s how.

  1. In Chrome, click on the menu button and chose settings.
  2. Scroll all the way down and click on Advanced.
  3. Now find “Site Settings” and click on it.
  4. Now find “Notifications” and click on it.
  5. At the very top is an on/off switch for site notifications. If you don’t want notifications from any sites, just turn this off and you are done.
  6. If you want notifications from some websites, say Gmail for example, then you’ll need to remove unwanted websites from the block list.
  7. At the top is a block list and at the bottom is the allow list.
    The block list is the websites you denied the ability to show you notifications.
    The allow list is the websites you allowed the ability to show you notifications.
  8. Scroll down to the Allow list. To the right of each website that has been allowed to show notifications, is a menu button (3 dots in a vertical line).
    Click on the menu button for that website and choose remove.
  9. Do that for each website you don’t want to be able to pop-up notifications.
  10. Some websites may not have a menu button and may, instead, have a silhouette of a puzzle piece. This means that it’s a google website and you can’t remove it from the allow list.

If you have trouble doing this, or just don’t want to fool with it, let us know. We would be happy do this for you.

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