Sunday, April 13, 2014

Heartbleed Explanation and Advice

Yes.  Heartbleed is a complicated situation.  Basically, there is nothing you can do about it, as the exploit is on the website -- not your computer.  The exploit is that in many situations, if it is present, heartbleed can steal the password to the website you are logging in to.  Here's what you need to know to make decisions about what you should do.
1.)  Most Internet security applications cuurently will NOT detect heartbleed, because it does not reside on your computer. This may change -- but heartbleed is a "passive" exploit, and therefore difficult for your security app to detect.
2.) If you do not do any financial transactions over the Internet, and/or have no memberships with significant amounts of personal information about you on them, you really don't have much to worry about.
2.)  If heartbleed DOES give you a reason for concern -- you first need to find out if the website that concerns you is vulnerable to the exploit.  Here are two websites that claim to be able to check other websites to see if they are vulnerable to heartbleed...
If the website is vulnerable, that does NOT mean that they are infected with heartbleed -- only that they CAN be infected with it.  They will probably have instructions on what they prefer for you to do.  Most vulnerable sites are recommending that you NOT change your password until they have patched the vulnerability.
3.)  Because this vulnerability has existed for a while, the general advice on the Internet (and I strongly agree with it) is:
      a.) Change all of your passwords for all sites .
      b.) DO NOT use the same password twice.
Yes, this will be a major aggravation, but IMO, it is necessary for everyone for now and into the future.  This is not just because of the heartbleed virus, but because of major exploits that techies like me are seeing "coming down the road".  I am now working on a broad-range "Security Makeover" plan to offer my customers that will include how to manage multiple, non-duplicating passwords easily and safely.  I hope to be emailing you with details by mid-May.
Hopefully this will answer your most of your questions.  If not, just let me know...

Monday, April 7, 2014

XPocalypse! What Should You Do!?

Tomorrow, Microsoft will end security updates for the venerable Windows XP.   Here is what Your PC Tech has to say about it...

1.)    The “demise” is not going to be a “sudden death” for Windows XP.  It is only the end of security updates.  It will continue to function as normal.

2.)    “The Media” and Microsoft are making it sound like once the security updates end, your PC will be flooded with infections.  This will not happen.  XP will be more vulnerable to infections as time goes on, but it will probably be a gradual increase – not a sudden onslaught.

3.)    If you can afford a new PC – now is the time to get one.  That is the safest thing to do.  You can still get systems with Windows 7 installed, which is very much preferred over the new Windows 8.  While Windows 8 is not generally liked, Microsoft has finally “got it” and is making a number of improvements to make it more friendly.  So if you can only afford to buy a Windows 8 computer, it won’t be as bad as the early ones that you may have heard so many bad things about.

4.)    Upgrading your old XP system to a Windows 7 system *might* be an economical alternative.  It will depend on the components in it.  This will have to be checked by me, (or some other technician).  If your system happens to have a little

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Laptop Won't Power Up? Try this first.

If you press the power button on your laptop and nothing happens, unplug the power cord, remove the battery, press the power button, and wait about sixty seconds...  (Nothing should happen yet...)

Then plug the power cord back in, re-install the battery, and press the power button.  If the laptop still doesn't power up, call me.  There is a significant problem that I will have to look at in person.

If it does power up, the most likely cause is either (1.) the laptop got "stuck" in Sleep (Stand-by) Mode, or (2.) it shutdown due to overheating.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Windows 8: The Coming Storm

Windows 8 is scheduled for release late next year (2012).  It will not be "just another version of Windows" -- it will be the most dramatic change in personal computing since the very first version of Windows replaced "DOS" 21 years ago.  The most fundamental, functional elements of Windows will be massively changed.  These changes compel me to make a recommendation that I very rarely make...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Check Your Adobe Acrobat and Update It -- ASAP!

Almost every computer that uses the Internet has a version of Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on it.  You need to check your PC and make sure that your version of Adobe Reader is Version 9 or above.  If it isn't, you have a significant risk of your PC being infected by a virus.  You should uninstall whatever version of Adobe Reader you are using, then go to and install the latest (free) version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.  NOTE:  Watch out for the opt-out or it may install another unwanted toolbar on your Internet browser!   "Read more" for further details.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Update Game: Which Ones To Install?

Computers often barrage you with messages about updating "this and that".  Sometimes these updates cause more problems than they prevent.  Sometimes, viruses get you to install them by posing as (fake) updates.  So I'm often asked which updates should be installed, and which can be ignored.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Cloud" Security Applications: Warnings...!

There is a growing business in "Cloud-Based" Anti-Virus and security applications.  (e.g. Panda Cloud)  Are they any good?  

What is "The Cloud"?

"The Cloud" is "The Internet".  It's another embarrassingly deceptive Information Technology Marketing Invention. I hate the term, but the services are here to stay.  They have some distinct advantages for some types of businesses.  For single end-users, there is only one:

Brian’s “Quick Guide” to Password Creation & Security

Passwords are a necessary aggravation.  There really are no ways to guarantee your password will stay secure, you can only do your best to balance your needs against how much hassle you’re willing to tolerate.  The following considerations don’t lead to a conclusion – they are simply facts to help you choose password security that you can live with -- comfortably.

What's the best Anti-Virus?

Updated November 15, 2011

NOTE:  These recommendations are only for security applications that are installed on your PC, NOT for Cloud security applications.  Read the post "Cloud Security Applications: Warnings...!"
You'll get a LOT of advice and preferences from your friends and other "experts". Here are my current recommendations....

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Should I Buy an iPad (or another "Tablet PC")?

Tablet PCs are the current rage.  They are here to stay, because they absolutely do provide conveniences that no other type of PC provides.  However, they also have some drawbacks and limitations.  This post is a guide to understanding the differences so you can make a decision.

Your PC Tech's Upfront, Simple Summary: 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Moving Up (North)

Due to several reasons -- including the changing economy -- Kathy and I have decided to move to our home in Ellijay earlier than we originally planned.

Don’t worry – I’m not completely leaving Marietta. I’ll still be living in Marietta until our house sells, and....

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Will Tablets (iPads) Replace PCs?

Perhaps you've heard the fireworks and acclaim for iPads, along with the claims that they will quickly replace Personal Computers.  Is this true?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Are "viruses" and "malware" the same thing?

Updated September 18, 2011
Technically, no. But the difference is mostly Geek Jargon. Here's a brief background to help you understand the differences, and how they affect your choices in security software...