Fighting Browser Invasions

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Surprisingly often, we find issues on clients' computers that they were't even aware of (and weren't why they called). 
 

A perfect example of this is browser spyware, which can silently take over your web searches, change your home page, pop up fake warnings, and steal your information.  We're seeing a LOT of these lately on both PC's and Macs, in Safari, Chrome, and Firefox.


Rather than a loooong written explanation, and to kick off our long-promised YouTube channel, we've created video tutorials for the most popular browsers (see below). They're brief and easy.  PLEASE do yourself a favor and follow the directions to check your own browser.

 

Firefox . Safari . Chrome

 

p.s. Your feedback and requests for other tutorials welcome!

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Happy Independence Day,

 


Alison Holtzschue
and the computers dot mom team

 

Incoming!!!

The EU Creates an Email Barrage for the Rest of Us

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Is your email inbox flooded with “Important Privacy Policy Update” emails? Unlike some well-intentioned tech journalists, we’re not even going to TRY to persuade you to read them all--it’s probably futile.  BUT: it’s not that much work to change key settings on the most commonly used sites. 

And this is good advice for the myriad accounts you had completely forgotten you had:

“If you’re not in the EU, there’s not much you can do about all the companies that have data on you, but you can, at least, try to unsubscribe and close your accounts with them.”  

April Glaser, What to do with those GDPR privacy policy emails before you delete them

While you’re at it, sign up at HaveIBeenPwned (click Notify Me) to be alerted when your email address is part of a major security breach.


That FBI reboot-your-router warning

 Oooh, the FBI!

Oooh, the FBI!

Russian hackers have infiltrated half a million routers and the FBI recommends that we reboot our routers. This has generated a lot of concern and confusion, as few people have a detailed understanding of their network equipment. Here’s what you need to know.

Do I have a router?

Very likely. If you have a wired or wireless network (aka WiFi) or if you have more than one device connected to the internet, then you have a router.

How do I find it?

Wherever internet service enters your home, there will be a cable connected to a box installed by your Internet Service Provider.  That box is either a combination modem/router, or it’s just a modem and there will be a second box plugged into it which is the router.  It’s often (not always) a black box with a bunch of blinking lights on it.  Here are images of a few common ones:

 

 Cisco (Linksys) New-ish Router

Cisco (Linksys) New-ish Router

 Eero Router

Eero Router

 Arris brand Modem + Router 

Arris brand Modem + Router 

 Verizon Modem + Router

Verizon Modem + Router

 Older style Linksys Router

Older style Linksys Router

 Apple Time Capsule

Apple Time Capsule

 Another type of Apple Time Capsule

Another type of Apple Time Capsule

 

It’s confusing because the combo devices are often referred to as just modems, or just routers, when they’re really both.  Some people have fancier setups with multiple devices, but always start from the cable end for best results.

How do I know if it’s infected? Should I reboot it?

The short answer is you don’t, but rebooting is normally harmless, so you might as well: unplug the power from the router, wait a bit, and then plug it back in.  

Will rebooting fix it?

The bad news is that if you ARE infected, rebooting won’t necessarily fix it; you will need to factory reset your router and re-set up your network. (If the previous sentence was incomprehensible, we can help). The good news is that only a limited number of models were affected (list here).

How do I find the model of my router?

There will be a label somewhere on the back or bottom of the router. (Apple's labels can only be read by people under 45, or with a magnifying glass). Once you have it, try Googling the model; if it’s more than 3 years old or so, might be time for an upgrade anyway.

IRL (in real life)

In non tech news: It’s finally summer! Treat yourself: visit Governor’s Island.

 

Back to Basics: Backup

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Happy belated Pi Day!

We are often asked to recommend backup strategies. There's no one-size-fits-all solution, so here's our best call as of today (after a LOT of research).  Hope it's helpful.

Backup: Why

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Is there anything on your computer you would hate to lose? Family photos, financial stuff, the draft of your novel?  

Are you backing up? How? Where? (Remember: iCloud and Dropbox are NOT true backup). 

Protect yourself. It shouldn't take more than fifteen minutes, as this detailed article explains. Have a backup strategy that covers you when (not if!) your computer crashes or the upstairs neighbor lets the bathtub overflow. 

Backup: How

Every backup plan requires two things: a place for the backup to be stored, and software to perform the backup. Ideally, you should have both LOCAL storage (fast and easy to retrieve information) and ONLINE ("cloud") storage in cases where the problem affects your local storage as well (a fire, ransomware). Backups should require minimal effort, be secure and make it easy to recover in a crisis.

It's just four steps:

1. Figure out how much storage space you'll need

 (here's how for both Mac and Windows).

2. Pick a cloud backup service

Free: If you don't have a lot to back up (less than 2 GB total), Mozy Free is easy to use and works really well. If you have 2-<5 GB,  iDrive has a free plan although it's a little less intuitive. 

Paid: Lots of data, one computer: Backblaze is a top-rated service for ease of use and unlimited storage at a reasonable price ($50/year). However, be aware that if you accidentally delete something on your computer, it will also be deleted from your backup after 30 days.  And the simplicity means fewer features and less control.

If you have multiple computers to back up, or want more features, iDrive gets the nod (and PC Magazine Editor's Choice). they don't offer an unlimited plan, but among other advantages, deleted files are kept until YOU decide to dump them.  

3. Buy a storage drive

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that's at least double the capacity of the number you got in step 1.

If you have more than one computer to back up, or you don't want the drive plugged in to your computer all the time, consider Network Attached Storage, or NAS.
 

4. Set up local backup

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If you have a Mac, set up Time Machine to work with the external drive.

If Windows, the same software you're using for cloud storage can manage your local backup IF you have a paid plan, otherwise use the backup software that came with the drive or the un-user-friendly but free built-in Windows Backup (instructions here for Windows 10, here for 7/8.1). 
 
That's it! Don't hesitate to get in touch if you have questions.

Alison Holtzschue
and the computers dot mom team



Note: recommendations are always based SOLELY on what we believe is best based on our research, but some links may be affiliates.