Update on Secure Passwords

June 24, 2019

We all know that when we set a password, it should be a secure password. That means it should be at least 8 characters long. It should contain upper and lower case letters, at least 1 number, and at least one symbol. In addition, we are told that it shouldn’t contain names, dates of birth, telephone numbers, addresses, or even words in the dictionary. That makes the password very secure, but impossible to remember.

To back track a bit, you need a secure password to protect you from two different types of threats. The first threat is someone trying to guess your password based on information about you. This could be a hacker, but could also be a friend, family member, thief, or someone that somehow got access to your computer. That’s why your password shouldn’t contain any information about you like your name, date of birth, address, phone number, etc.

The other threat is from what is called password cracking. This is a program that can figure out your password. A password cracker will figure out your password. It’s just a question of how long it will take it. The more complex your password, the longer it will take it. If it’s going to take 10 years of computing to figure out your password, then the hacker will stop the crack long before it figures it out.

Recently, some security experts have been saying that all of those rules for passwords are no longer needed. They are saying there is one main rule to follow when creating a password. That is for the password to be really long. Let’s look at an example. Using the old password rules, we might come up with a password like “ZG$6k#K!”. Yes, it’s secure. But it’s hard to remember. And if you have several passwords like that, it’s even harder to remember. Using what they now suggest is just is good, we can create a very long password that we can remember. An example of that might be: “IWantToTravelBackInTimeToMeetAbrahamLincoln”.

The only reason it’s secure is because it’s so long. However, that’s actually easier to remember than that first cryptic password I listed. You still shouldn’t use famous quotes, names, or any information about you like DOB, address, or phone number. But you can still use memorable sentences. You can still throw a number or symbol in there to make it even more secure too. In another example, let’s say you need to set up a password for Amazon.com. You could use a password similar to this: “LoggingIntoAmazon.comCostsMeMoney$”. Even without the dollar sign, it’s a strong password. But with it, it’s even better.

The only drawback to this strategy is that if you don’t type very fast, it can take a while to enter a long password like this. And there are more opportunities for typos. In addition, even though these passwords are more memorable than the old cryptic ones, most of us are still going to end up writing them down so we can remember which password goes with which website.

If you do adopt this password strategy, then please remember the other password rule still applies. That is, you should use a different password for everything. No exceptions! Why? Because if you use the same password for everything, if one thing gets hacked, they all get hacked. If you use a different password for everything, then if something get’s hacked, the other ones are still safe.

If you write your passwords down on paper, make sure you hide it well. Don’t leave it out in plain sight. Don’t hide it under your keyboard. Don’t put it in your filing cabinet under “Passwords” or “Computer.” Come up with a good hiding place.

If you create a Word Document or Excel Spreadsheet with your passwords in it, don’t call it passwords. Come up with a code word for it. In addition, did you know you can put a password on a Word Document or Excel Spreadsheet? You should put a password on a file like this. Of course, that password should follow standard password rules and should be something you will remember.

When coming up with a password, there are websites that will tell you if your password is strong or not. My favorite is https://www.roboform.com/how-secure-is-my-password. Go there, type in a password to see how good it is. If you have trouble thinking of a good password, they also have a password generator. Go to https://www.roboform.com/password-generator to generate a password. You can specify the length and what types of characters to include.


Email Services to Avoid

June 5, 2019

There are a lot of email servers out in the world both free and for a fee. We want to give you some advice on which one’s to avoid so you can avoid problems.

When you sign up for your internet service, you get one or more email accounts with that service. We do not recommend using these services because any time you change services, you’ll have to change your email address. We recommend having an email account separate from your internet service provider.

AOL email is missing some important features. You can’t even forward your AOL email to another account.

The most hacked email service in the world. Enough said.

If you have an earthlink account, you won’t get all of your emails because they have ridiculous anti-spam policies that filter out legitimate emails.

We already said don’t use an email account associated with your Internet Service Provider (ISP). However, we want to reiterate how bad Spectrum’s email service is. It’s slow and unreliable. There are other issues that are technical that I won’t bore you with.

Outlook.com, Hotmail.com, msn.com, live.com
We used to recommend this email service but a recent redesign ruined the web interface and removed many useful features. In addition, it has had many problems over the years that we won’t bore you with.

For a list of recommended email services, check out this link: https://www.ct-cp.com/?p=2164


att.my.yahoo.com Not Found

April 26, 2019

If AT&T is your Internet Service Provider and you have your web browser go to att.my.yahoo.com when it starts up. Bad news. att.my.yahoo.com is gone. If you try to go there, you’ll get an error telling you the page was not found.

Instead, you can use att.net or my.yahoo.com. Try each one to see which one you like better. Then you can set your home page to the one you like best.

If you need help with this, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Microsoft to Nag Windows 7 Users to Upgrade

April 23, 2019

We’ve told you here in our newsletter that Microsoft will stop supporting Windows 7 on January 14, 2020. We’ve recommended that those of you still running Windows 7 upgrade or replace by the end of the year (don’t wait until the last minute). Now, Microsoft will be nagging you too.

If you still have Windows 7 and haven’t already, you will soon be seeing a message pop up on your computer from Microsoft telling you about the end of support for Windows 7.

What does end of support really mean? Microsoft hasn’t added any new features to Windows 7 since January 2015. It’s currently in extended support which means they only release security updates for it. And they do that every month. Why? To keep your computer as safe as possible from threats. After January 14th, 2020, Microsoft will no longer release any security updates for Windows 7. From that point forward, your computer will be more and more vulnerable to attack.

You are probably wondering if you should upgrade your computer to Windows 10 or replace your computer. The answer to that question will be different for everyone depending on their computer. If you have this question, let us know, we can take a quick look at your computer and give you our recommendation.

You may also be wondering how much upgrading to Windows 10 costs. If you have a valid license for Windows 7, the cost of a Windows 10 upgrade is free. However, the process of upgrading is not for the average person, so you will probably need us to do it for you. If we can do it remotely, the labor cost would be $80 give or take $40 depending on any issues that may arise.

However, if you have an older computer, this would be an excellent time to upgrade to an SSD and breath new life into your older computer. For that, we would have to do the work on your computer in our office. Contact us for a quote.


How to Spot a Fake Email

March 27, 2019

You get an email from your bank or some other company you do business with. But you aren’t sure if the email is really from that company or if it’s fake. The name of this type of email is a Phish email. It can be hard to tell because the fake emails are often pretty good forgery’s.

So, in this article, we are going to try and educate you on how to tell if an email is fake or legit.

Here are some general rules to follow:

  • If there are a lot of spelling and/or grammatical errors in the email, it may be fake.
  • Does the email make sense? If not, it may be fake.
  • Does the email address you by name or is it generic? If it’s generic or addresses you by a name that you don’t use with that company, it may be fake.
  • Is the content of the email generic or specific. Generic emails may be fake.

In general, if you aren’t sure, assume it’s fake and don’t click on any links in the email or open any attachments. Go to the company’s real website manually they way you normally would instead of clicking on a possibly dangerous link in an email. Or call the company to see if it’s legit.

Now look at the example fake email below.

Look at the top where the yellow circle is. It’s says it’s from UPS View. But look at the email address. It’s not an email address on ups.com. In fact, it’s not even from this country. The fact that the email address ends in .ve says its’ from Venezuela. Red flag #1.

Notice how the email gives no name or address. It’s not specific. It’s general. Red flag #2.

It lists a shipment number which doesn’t make sense in this country because we call them tracking numbers. That’s red flag #3.

See how the shipping number is blue? That’ means it’s a link that I can click on. If I hold the mouse pointer over it, being careful not to accidentally click, then at the bottom of the email in the status line (yellow arrow is pointing to this) it shows where the link goes. Notice that the link does not go to ups.com. It goes to tdcind.com. Red flag #4.

How many red flags mean it’s a fake email? For me, it’s 1. My rule of thumb is that you should be suspicious of every email. Even if the email appears to be from someone you know. Even family. If there is even one red flag or if you just have a bad feeling, then assume the email is fake.


Internet Explorer Not Safe

November 28, 2018

In the last 4 years, we have been recommending that use of Internet Explorer (IE) be avoided for many reasons.
Those reasons included the fact that IE is slow and not as safe as other browsers. Since the release of Windows 10 in 2015, Microsoft has been phasing IE out and phasing Edge in. Microsoft Edge is their replacement for Internet Explorer.

It has now come to the point where the avoidance of IE is no longer a simple recommendation. It is an urgent recommendation now. We urgently recommend that you do not use Internet Explorer. The primary reason for the change in the urgency of this recommendation is that Internet Explorer is even less safe to use than it was because it has not kept up with changing technology. Microsoft hasn’t been releasing any security updates for IE for some time. In addition, more and more websites simply won’t work with IE. And it’s still slow.

What browser should you be using? There are more than 50 web browsers floating around the Internet. Many of them are very good. You can even get Apple’s Safari web browser on your Windows computer. However, our recommendation for web browser has not changed in years. We still recommend using either Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. That goes for both  Windows and Mac computers.

By the way, if you are using a Mac, you know that Internet Explorer was never an option for you as it was Windows only.

When Internet Explorer’s replacement, Microsoft Edge, was first released along with the first release of Windows 10, it had a lot of problems and was missing a lot of features. Over the past 3 years, Microsoft has improved it and added many of the missing features. While we don’t recommend Microsoft Edge, it’s pretty good now and if you use it and like it, you should continue using it.

The icon for Internet Explorer was a light blue lowercase ‘e’ with a golden halo around it.
Microsoft made the icon for Microsoft Edge very similar to Internet Explorer’s icon. It’s a darker lowercase ‘e’ but the ‘e’ has a little break in it. We’ve included the two icons here so you can compare them. Because the two icons are so similar, many people think they are using a newer version of Internet Explorer when, in fact, they are using Edge.

As always, be careful downloading programs from the internet. You can end up getting a fake program that is really a virus. Below are safe places to download Firefox and Chrome.

Firefox:                http://www.getfirefox.com

Chrome:              http://www.google.com/chrome

To the right are the icons for Chrome and Firefox. Chrome’s icon looks like a multicolored doughnut with a blue center. Firefox’s icon looks like a fox wrapped around the world.

You don’t have to choose one browser. You can have many browsers installed on your computer and you can even use them at the same time. In fact, it can be helpful to have both. When a website is created, it is often only tested with one browser and may not work with other browsers. So if a website doesn’t work right with one browser, you can try another one. Not including Edge or Internet Explorer, which come with Windows 10, I personally have 4 browsers installed on my computer and I use all of them for different purposes every day. Most people don’t need that many though. In case you are wondering, the other 2 browsers I use heavily that I didn’t mention in this article are Vivaldi (https://www.vivaldi.com) and Opera (https://www.opera.com).

One of the great things about these browsers is all of the add-on;s available. However, one of the worst things about these browsers is all of the bad add-on’s available for them. Browser add-on’s can enhance security, add features, and make your browsing experience much better and safer. However, there are a lot of malicious add-on’s and there are a lot of add-on’s that are poorly written and end up messing up your browser.

Some security related browser extensions we recommend are:

  • Bitdefender TrafficLight
  • uBlock Origin
  • Ghostery

These are available for both Chrome and Firefox (and many others). You don’t need all three. We recommend that you either use a combination of Bitdefender TrafficLight and uBlock Origin, or use Ghostery. We aren’t recommending one over the other. If you don’t want to fool with an ad blocker (they can cause issues), then just install Bitdefender TrafficLight. There are many other useful extensions. These are just the security related ones that we recommend. Note: Don’t go crazy with extensions as each one takes system resources and if you have too many it can slow down your computer.

While we are on the subject of web browsers, let’s touch on smart phones and tablets. These browsers, and many others, are available on your mobile devices as well. Like Windows, you don’t have to use the web browser that came with your device. Android devices usually come with Chrome as the default while Apple devices come with Safari.

As usual, let us know if you have any questions or need help with any of this, or anything else on your computer.


Speed Up Your Computer

October 17, 2018

There are quite a few things that can cause your computer to run slow, but they can be categorized into two broad groups. Hardware and software. Let’s take a look at each category.

The primary items in this category that can slow down your computer includes Malware & PUP’s, a fragmented hard drive, runaway processes, and Windows may need a tune-up.

  1. Malware and PUP’s
    Malware includes viruses, spyware, and basically any program that has malicious intent. The term Malware comes from combining the term malicious and software. a PUP is a potentially unwanted program. These are programs that are not malicious by nature, but tend to cause problems like slowing down your computer, changing your browser settings, and so forth. Many of these can be prevented or cleaned up with your security software assuming you have good security software.
  2. Fragmented Hard Drive
    Some may consider this to be hardware and not software, but its software because you can fix it by running a defrag program.  Let’s say you want to take your rifle down to the shooting range to practice. But all of the pieces of your rifle are in different parts of your house so you have to go find each piece of your rifle and put it together before you can head out to the rifle range. In this example,  your rifle is fragmented. Having to get all of the pieces and put it together takes time. If your gun was all assembled and in one spot, you could just grab it and go. This is how it is when files on your hard drive are fragmented. When files are fragmented and your computer accesses that file, it takes a lot longer to read that file than if the file was assembled and in one spot. Fragmented files can dramatically slow down your computer. The fix is to defrag your hard drive.
  3. Runaway Processes
    A runaway process is when a program running on your computer takes a large amount of resources thus causing other processes to run slowly. A process may hog the processor or the hard drive or memory. The only way to handle this is to use Task Manager to figure out which process is causing the problem and then based on the program, figure out how to resolve the problem. The program could be a part of Windows or some software you installed.
  4. Windows Needs a Tune-up
    Over time, as Windows runs, it gets dirty and needs to be cleaned from time to time. The list of things we do during a tune-up is very long, but some of the actions we take include cleaning up old temporary files, removing un-needed/un-wanted software, stopping programs from running automatically if they don’t need to, and more. When we do a tune-up, that service includes all of the software related items in this list plus many more.

The primary items in this category that can slow down your computer include Processor, Memory, and Hard Drive. Let’s take a look at each one.

  1. Processor
    The processor is the brain of your computer. A faster processor with more cores may speed up your computer depending on what processor you currently have and how you use your computer. This is not a cheap upgrade and you have to be very careful to get the right processor. But it really doesn’t matter because it is not possible to upgrade the processor in most manufactured computers from the main manufacturers like Dell, HP, etc. It’s possible on some desktops, but not a lot. And it’s generally not possible in most laptops. The processor can be upgraded in most custom built computers but for most people, upgrading is not an option and not something you should attempt on your own.
  2. Memory
    Memory can be upgraded in all desktops and most laptops if memory is not already maxed out and it’s not an ultralight type laptop. Will adding memory speed up your computer? That depends on how much memory you have now and how you use your computer. If your computer has 2GB of memory, upgrading will help it run faster. If you have 6GB of memory, it may not make much difference. Upgrading memory is fairly easy in most desktops and easy in many laptops. However, some laptops have be disassembled for a memory upgrade. The cost of the upgrade depends on the type of memory needed and how much you need.
  3. Hard Drive
    The hard drive can be upgraded in all computers. PC’s are generally fairly easy. Laptops vary. Some are very easy while others require you to completely disassemble the laptop. Upgrading a hard drive isn’t as simple as removing the old hard drive and installing the new one. The hard drive is where Windows is installed and where all of the programs and files are stored. What you have to do is clone your old hard drive to the new one, then remove the old one and install the new one.In years past, a hard drive upgrade meant replacing a small hard drive with a larger hard drive. But today, it means upgrading from a mechanical hard drive to a solid state drive (SSD). If your computer has a mechanical hard drive, upgrading to an SSD will make a huge difference in performance. Upgrading an old system with an SSD will bring an old computer back to life. Why? Because SSD’s are so much faster than mechanical hard drives. In addition, fragmentation is not an issue on SSD’s so you don’t have to worry about de-fragmenting  your SSD.

Now that you know all of that, you may be wondering what you should do on your computer to help speed it up. We can look at your computer and evaluate it and give you a recommendation. However, for most computers, you’ll want to address all of the items on the software list, and item 3 on the hardware list.

If you aren’t inclined to do any of these things yourself, we can, of course, do it for you. Our tune-up service addresses all 4 of the software items listed and much more. This service is $120 to $150 depending on if the tune up is done remotely or in person.

An SSD upgrade cost will vary depending on the size drive you need, but the range is $250 – $350.

If you have us do a tune-up and an SSD upgrade at the same time, the tune-up will be discounted to $90.

Many people have a computer that is 3-4 years old that is running slow and are thinking about getting a new computer. A new (good) computer will cost $500-$600. If you have us transfer everything over from the old computer to the new one, that costs $150, bringing the total cost of a new computer to $650-$750.

If we take your old computer and do a tune up and an SSD upgrade, that will most likely cost $340. The upgraded old computer will be faster than that new computer would have been and you saved hundreds of dollars.



Windows 10 October 2018 Update

October 5, 2018
Microsoft has released a major update to Windows 10, code named Redstone 5. As far as we are concerned, there isn’t really anything very interesting in this update. Here’s a very brief list of some of the more interesting changes:
  • Clipboard history A history of what you copy and paste instead of only remembering the last one.
  • Dark mode for Microsoft Apps As you know, there are two types of apps on Windows 10. Desktop apps, and “Microsoft” apps. This update gives Microsoft apps a Dark mode meaning you can choose a color scheme with dark colors.
  • Swiftkey for touchscreens. Swiftkey is the best touchscreen keyboard. I use it on my phone. Now it’s available on Windows if you have (and use) a touchscreen.
  • New Snipping tool Most of you have probably never used the snipping tool. But for those of you who do, it’s being phased out and replaced by Snip & Sketch starting with this release of Windows 10
  • Fewer Windows Updates Restarts I’ll believe that when I see it.
  • Your Phone app Lets you grab photos from your phone via the internet. Only works with Android phones right now.
  • Make Text Bigger The option to make text bigger.
See what we mean. Nothing mind blowing or exciting. And now for the bad news. It’s been reported that this update has deleted some user’s documents. As we have said about every major update that has been released, wait at least until November before you install it. Let others experience the problems and wait for Microsoft to fix those problems before you install it. Those of you whose computers are on our Security And Maintenance (SAM) plan don’t have to worry about it because we control the updates on your computer and will install it when the time is right.


July 20, 2018


I know we keep writing articles about passwords, but it’s because they are so important. And we have some new and interesting information for you.

Having a good password is important. Many people set a password and say, “Nobody will guess that password.”. However, the truth is, most of the time a password is cracked, not guessed. Password cracking programs use many different methods to try and crack a password. That’s why having a strong password is so important.

What are most likely ways a hacker can get your password?

  1. They hack into a vendor’s system and steal all of their customers passwords. There’s not much you can do about this other than keep an eye on your account and on the news and change your passwords every so often.
  2. Malware, phishing emails, or fake websites trick you into telling them your password. To avoid this, make sure you have good security on your computer, be careful what you open and where you click, and keep tabs on your accounts.
  3. They use a password cracking program to figure out your password.
    Have a strong password to prevent this. Use a different password for each account.

As you know, there have been a lot of hacks in the last few years and a lot of passwords were stolen. Wpengine.com recently analyzed a large set of Gmail accounts and their passwords that had been stolen and posted online. The results of their analysis were very interesting. You can read their full article by going to http://www.wpengine.com/unmasked.

The first thing I found interesting were the 50 most common passwords used.
The most common ones were numbers from 1234 to 123456789. The word “password” was the second most common password. Not surprising at all. Other common passwords in the top ten were qwerty, 111111, and dragon. I didn’t expect dragon, but the other two were no surprise.

The most common passwords on the list in positions 11 to 50 that were no surprise to me were 123123, abc123, letmein, 666666, 123321, and 7777777. I have encountered customers with all of these passwords.

If you use any of the passwords on that list, you might want to change your password.

As you know, most services require you to include a number in your password. Wpengine.com’s analysis revealed that the vast majority of people just add the number 1 to the end of their password. The number 2 was a distant second.

The average length of all the passwords was eight. The vast majority of passwords were between 6 and 10 characters long. As you know, the longer your password is, the harder it is to crack.

Something you might have noticed in the most common passwords list is that first names are commonly used as passwords. The article also lists the most common words used in passwords. They categorized them too. Categories included nouns, verbs, colors, animals, fruits, I Love, My…, superheroes, first names, and days of the week.

There are several lessons that can be learned from that article.

  1. Don’t use common or obvious passwords.
  2. Don’t use words and names in your password.
    1. If it’s in the dictionary, don’t use it in your password.
    2. Don’t use proper names like names of your family members, pets, etc.
  3. Don’t put the number 1 on the end of your password.
    In fact, use several numbers throughout your password.
  4. Don’t just use capital letters at the beginning of passwords.
    Use them throughout.

Do you know who takes note of these types of lessons? Hackers. That’s right. They are going to use these lessons to try and hack into accounts and they will be successful. They could hack into your account if you don’t have a strong password.

For more information on creating a strong password, click here read this article on our website.


A website says my computer has malware

July 9, 2018

If you are surfing the web and you suddenly get a website that says your computer is infected or something and to call a number to get the problem resolved, that is a scam.

These type of web sites have been a real problem in the last year and the problem is getting  worse. Even with the best security, you can still encounter these websites.

Just be aware that if a website tells you something is wrong with your computer it’s a scam.

Most of these types of web pages make it to where you can’t use your web browser until you get rid of that web page. You can’t switch to another tab. You can’t close the web browser. Some of them even have audio warning messages. The easiest way to get around this is to reboot your computer. Or, if you know how, you can open task manager, find your browser (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Vivaldi, Opera, Safari, etc.) and end the task.

Along the same lines, if you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or “Windows Support” telling  you that your computer has a virus or that your copy of Windows is going to expire, those are also scams. Do not let them on your computer! Microsoft will never call you unless you call them first.

If you go to look up a phone number on the web, watch out. There are a lot of fake numbers out there. In the last few months, Google and the other search engines have done a good job of eliminating a lot of those fake numbers, be aware that these fake numbers are out there. When you call one of these fake numbers, they even answer the phone claiming to be with the company you were looking for. But they’re not. When looking up a phone number on the web, make sure it’s coming from the company’s domain. For example, if you searched for HP Support Phone Number, the first number that comes up first might be from a website called hpsupporthelp246.com. But that’s not HP’s website. So that’s a fake number. Look for the phone number from hp.com.

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