AOL Users: Beware of Phishing Attempts

Recently, I have been dealing with a number of clients who use AOL and have had their AOL account compromised. Some of those report having recently received an email from AOL that their mailbox was full. They went to the link logged in and took care the problem themselves. But in fact, what they really did was give their AOL password away to someone with the intent of locking their account. Many of them had their entire address book deleted but only after emails were sent to everyone they know telling that they had been abducted and needed money to get away or that they were in jail and needed money for bail.

This is a very common phishing attempt that has been going around for long time. Some of my clients that continue to use AOL have their accounts for a very long time and don’t want to have to change their email address.  Even though many times I have recommended that they should get a different email address and leave AOL they continue to stick with it because they don’t want to deal with the effort of change.

AOL remains one of the greatest risks for phishing in the email industry. People sending these phishing efforts realize that AOL users have used the system for a long time and as a result they realize they’ll do anything to continue to be able to use it. So these hackers send out emails similar to this:

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So let’s dissect this message. First look at where the email came from. That email address is not an AOL email address. But more importantly hover over the click here before you click.

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As you can see, it’s quite obvious it’s not taking you to an AOL server. But people in a hurry, forget these easy to use rules for staying safe. So let’s say it just one more time:

Never, Never click on any email link without seeing where the link takes you.  But then make a conscious decision that the link is going to someplace that makes common sense in the context of what it is supposed to do.  If it doesn’t, don’t click.  If your not sure, forward it to someone that can assist you in determining if it is something you need to do.

Using this common sense approach will keep you from having to deal with all the issues related to an email account being compromised.  Take the time to look forgot clicking.


How can I download a YouTube Video?

Q: I’ve been searching all over the web to find a way to insert a youtube video into a keynote presentation, but with no luck so far. Keynote will accept videos I shot with my old iPhone, but I don’t see a way to save youtube videos, although I know it can be done. I also know they should be MP4 files, but I’ll get to that later.

A: Here is the way I have found to do it. First note to the YouTube video you want to download and save the URL to the clipboard.  Now Go to

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 1.02.46 PMInsert the URL in the download box and press download now.

Select either Low definition MP4 or High Definition MP4 as the format

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Press Start Download

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The video will be downloaded to your downloads folder.

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Beware of Malware installed with Java

For years, Windows users have had to deal with malware installed on their computers. One of the big ones that I see a lot is a toolbar from the company “Ask”.  Ask, once installed takes over you’re searching and adds toolbars for providing pop up messages and redirected finds when you’re looking to purchase something on the web. Many people don’t realize that this toolbar is truly malware.  It is install through various third-party installers that usually bundle at with their product and are paid by Ask.  I cannot count number of times I’ve had to uninstall this and reset the search engines for Windows users.
MacJava Ask AdwareFor a long time Mac users have won in parity with Windows users when it came to software purchased for their machines. Well Mac users can be proud the now when it comes to malware from ask they have absolute parity with Windows computers. In the latest release of Java, Version 8 update 40, Oracle has included Ask malware with the install.  Mac users that have Java installed we’ll get a notice that they have an update,  when they click the update button it will download the Java update software. This software runs do a standard install but once the install begins it pops up a dialog box that looks like the one below. Ask is depending on the fact that people are busy and will continue to just press the next button to get the software installed because they precheck the box that allows them to install the software.  It certainly is easy enough for Mac user, or a Windows user for that matter, to uncheck the box and not get this malware installed. But Malware depends upon laziness from the user and this company is counting on just that.  Most people will just hit the next button and let the software be installed, only to find out when they next run their browser that their home pages been changed, their search engine has been change, and a toolbar for Ask has been installed in their browser.

So the next time you update Java, really installer dialog box and uncheck the box to install this Ask malware.

What’s the story on cookies in your web browser these days?

Verizons-Mobile-‘Cookies’-Could-Take-the-CakeQ: How about a rule of thumb for cookies? I recently discovered that my cookies were causing login problems for a site that I use to order medications.

A: It used to be, that cookies were a real problem for browsers.  Websites would store information about you and then use it too direct you to places they wanted you to go. Some advertising still tries to do this. Have you ever searched for something you’re looking to buy only to find that many websites you go to now have it in their sidebar. It’s a little annoying but it’s the way the web works..

Over the last few years browsers have become more intelligent on how they deal with cookies. Most advertisers have realized that using your information to try to sell you something when you’re not asking really doesn’t work.  As a result I don’t necessarily believe you need to delete all of your web browser cookies as many people used to recommend.  So many websites use these cookies to make our experiences better and deleting them keeps that from happening. Not only that, legitimate websites are using cookies to assist you in being remembered, setting your preferences, and helping you to find things that are actually a real benefit.

In my opinion, the days of suggesting that you delete all your cookies, or prevent your browser from storing cookies are really over.  So my recommendation is to review your cookie settings and allow your browser to store them, or at least some of them.

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In Safari, this is under privacy preferences. As you can see from the dialog box, using “Allow from websites I visit” or even “always allow” is probably a reasonable setting.

In this case of the problem you were having where the cookie was causing problems it certainly is a time to delete it. But most web browsers give us the ability to delete individual ones rather than all the cookies.  In Safari, to remove all the cookies you would press remove all website data. But if you have a particular website you want to remove the cookie from, you can press the details button. From this dialogue.  This allows you to remove a single cookie causing a problem. Find the site you want to remove and press “Remove”.

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In Chrome, it’s a little more difficult to find. first go to preferences in chrome then scroll to the bottom and click “Show advanced settings”.  Under the privacy area press the content settings button.  This is where you find your cookie preferences.

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Now press the All cookies and site data..”  button and you’ll find where to go to delete individual cookies.  Again, find the site you want to remove, select it, and press the small “x” on the right side.

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in general cookies are not a bad thing anymore. I believe they enhance our experience on the web and make surfing easier. So don’t be afraid of cookies anymore.

Outlook sends attachments as Winmail.dat

imageQ: Many of my colleagues tell me that when I send them a PDF file as it comes to them as a file called winmail.dat. They try to open it but are never successful in being able to see the PDF.  What are they doing wrong?

A:  it’s very likely they’re not doing anything wrong. It’s quite possible your email client is telling the PDF to be sant in a format they can read.  I suspect your using Microsoft Outlook to send the email.  Out of the box outlook wants to send email in the default Microsoft RTF exchange outlook format. If the person your sending to has Outlook, they don’t have an issue.  If the mail provider has software to convert this on the fly, they don’t have a problem either. But some mail providers, particularly local Internet service providers, don’t do this and send the email in whatever form it comes in.

Fortunately, the solution is extremely simple.  All you need to do is change your settings to send mail in a more common format that doesn’t require conversion.  Here are the steps:

  1. Open up your Outlook email client.
  2. Click on File located in the upper toolbar.
  3. Select the Options setting.
  4. From here, select the Mail category.
  5. Now, under Compose messages, you want to ensure the HTML or Plain Text option is selected for the Compose messages in this format.
  6. Next, underMessage format, set When sending messages in Rich text format to Internet recipients to Convert to HTML format or Plain Test format
  7. Click OK to finish.

If that doesn’t solve the problem,Microsoft has a technical note that might assist. Here’s a link to it.

Adware – coming to a Mac near you


As most of you know the consulting work that I do requires me to work on both Macintosh computers and Windows machines. For years one of the biggest difficulties I see with Windows  has been Adware. Wikipedia defines adware as:

… any software package which automatically renders advertisements in order to generate revenue for its author. The advertisements may be in the user interface of the software or on a screen presented to the user during the installation process. The functions may be designed to analyze which Internet sites the user visits and to present advertising pertinent to the types of goods or services featured there.

That’s pretty much exactly what it is. It’s not a virus. It’s more of an annoyance than anything else. Adware has the ability to hijack what you were doing on the Internet and send you information from or possibly even to a website different than what you were looking for. Adware can be subtle. It may send you to websites that are similar to what you were looking for but not exactly the same in an effort to get you to purchase things from a different vendor. It may take over your entire search function on your computer and never allow you to search sites that you want. In this case it only sends you to sites the adware developer wants you to see.

For years a large portion of the problems I see in Windows are related to adware. I always characterize it as software that has its friends. On Windows it’s very common for one Adware infection to lead to many more because the software itself goes out and downloads other adware or malware to install on your computer.

There are great tools in windows to remove much of this like Malwarebytes that allows you to remove much of this adware and clean your computer up. But typically an Adware infection is accompanied by many other problems on a Windows computer.

The purpose of all this background is to give you an idea of what Adware is. But the real news is that Mac users are now beginning to join the adware fold with their windows counterparts. In the last week, for the first time that I remember, I ran into a serious adware infection on a Macintosh computer. The person infected was a sophisticated long term Macintosh user who made the simple error of clicking okay to a pop that told them to update their flash player.

Just like on windows this infection was buried down deep into the operating system and difficult to find and remove. But fortunately like windows there is a utility out there that seems to do a good job in this particular case. After removing many parts of this by hand I ran across a product called Adwaremedic and after reading many Google reviews of it ran in to do the final cleanup on the machine. It seems to have done a great job but having only needed to use it once it’s hard to give it a golden recommendation yet.

The main thing to keep in mind for Mac users is they need to think about safe computing just as Windows users have had to do for years. Here are a few things to consider as you surf the web on your Macintosh:

  • Never respond to pop up windows. Always close them using the close button in the window dialogue rather than the cancel button on the window itself.
  • If your computer tells you something needs to be updated in a pop up window never do it there. If it’s flash player, go to Adobe’s website and download flash player from there. Never accept the help that a popup is trying to give you.
  • Be careful when installing applications that are downloaded from places you’re not familiar with. In Windows I found out the hard way that even a well respected site like CNET has massive amounts of malware in their download section.
  • Be careful installing free applications.  If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 10.20.39 AMApple has done a great job to keep us from having to deal with this for years.  New versions of Mac OS even prevent us from downloading applications outside of the App Store by default. But there still too many of those out there and typically that has to be turned off to be able to install software you need to use.

To me, it looks like more of these are going to start popping up on our Macs and continue to be a real problem on Windows. Practicing safe computing can keep your machine clean whether it’s a Windows computer or now even a Macintosh.

Can virus problems on Windows get any worse?

imageJust when you thought you’d seen it all. Spyware that locks up your computer, viruses bit force your computer to crash, annoyances that pop up windows over and over, but you haven’t seen the worst of it. There is a whole new class of virus making its rounds on the Internet, and this one’s about as bad as it can get.

The industry is calling the term ransomware. And that does a pretty good job of describing it. Ransomware is a virus that once installed on your computer encrypts all of your files with a high-quality encryption key and then asks you to pay to have your files released from encryption.

The definition of ransom where is as follows:

Ransomware is a type of malware which restricts access to the computer system that it infects, and demands a ransom paid to the creator(s) of the malware in order for the restriction to be removed.

It sounds hard to believe, or something you would only see on TV, but it’s very prevalent on the Internet right now. Typically this type of virus gets installed by normal means. Machines that are not running antivirus software, or people who either don’t read the dialog boxes that pop up or pay no attention and click on them. But once it’s installed, this virus is much more than an annoyance. It silently, and in the background, encrypts all of your files so that you can no longer open them up. If you try to open one of the files your ask for the encryption key, which the virus sets and you have no control over. Then, once it’s done all of the damage, it pops up a box on the screen requesting you to pay to get the encryption key. And they don’t ask for just a few dollars like some of the old viruses, they typically ask for between $300 and $500 to get the encryption key and unlock your files.

If your computer gets to the point that it asks you to make a payment you’re pretty much out of luck. The only hope you might have would be if you have your good back up and can recover files from the back up. But if your backup drive is connected and running all the time there’s even the chance that it’s encrypted your back up.

I’ve run into this situation twice in which even though the user was backing up their computer the backup was connected and was encrypted also.  And since these viruses use very capable encryption software, there is really no way to get your files unlocked unless you pay their fee. Most of these ask that you pay the fee through prepaid cards that you purchased at Walmart or Walgreens. You then send the card numbers to a particular website and hope that they provide you the key to unlock your files. If this sounds grim, your understanding correctly. It is.

Often, the ransomware will claim you have done something illegal with your PC and that you’re being fined by a police agency or government. These claims are absolutely false. It is just a scare tactic design to get you to pay the money without telling anyone.

So what’s a person to do? Well if you’ve already been infected with ransomware, it’s pretty much too late. Hopefully you’re back up will not be encrypted, and we can erase your computer reinstall your software, and restore your backup files. But if you’re back up is locked up also, you may just be out of luck. You could always pay the fee and hope for the best. But paying the fee encourages more of this and in the long run may cost you much more in the future.  And there’s no guarantee that your files will ever be accessible again, even if they send you a key.

If you were to pay their fee, you need to recover your files, copy them off of your computer, and then do a full erase and reinstall of the computer.

If you’re reading this, and you use Windows, your best option is to have a back up that is not connected to your computer, preferably offsite to protect you from fire and other catastrophes.  You should also reinforce the rules of safe computing within your household to ensure that no one does anything that might infect you with a virus such as this.

  • Verify that your backup is running
  • Keep your antivirus software up-to-date
  • Install spyware software and run it at least once a month
  • Don’t click on pop ups
  • Don’t update software for my pop up while you’re in the browser. Always go to the vendor website and download from there
  • Be diligent as you compute. If something looks funny don’t click on it. If you see signs that there something wrong with your computer get help immediately and don’t just hope that it will go away

If you follow a few of these rules, and ensure you have that good off-site backup, the likelihood is you can recover from something like this. But most importantly, don’t be the person who tells me they had planned to back up tomorrow when they have an occurrence such as this. Never put off till tomorrow a backup but you could run today.

Top 10 reasons people don’t have a backup

imageAt this time of year many of you will be taking photographs of your family at Christmas. When people gather around you and you click your phone or your camera to take those photos you have to realize that some of the people in those photos and in those situations may not be with us next year. How tragic it would be to not have their memory available to you in the photograph you so thoughtfully took this year. But even when you consider those things many people don’t think that they can have a loss of data on their computer.

Computers today are amazingly reliable. They can run continuously for years and never had a problem. They can store massive amounts of information and never have a problem recalling it. But computers today are still electronic devices that are susceptible to the same things seen been in the past. Electrical surges, loss due to theft, a simple drop off the table, a failing piece of hardware, are all real world problems that I see all the time. In the past having a backup may have been difficult. Backup software was hard to use or expensive to purchase. External drives to store your back up data were expensive. But none of those things should’ve stopped you then and none of those things should stop me now.

Your memories are too valuable to you to risk their loss. Hard drives are inexpensive for backup, costing less than $100 and lasting for years. But I hear all the time great reasons for not backing up your data. So if you’re one of the few people that I’ve talked with who have decided not to back up due to one of these reasons, take a minute and reflect on how silly some of the sound.

The top 10 reasons you don’t have a backup

10.  I have my important files on a thumb drive

Thumb drives are handy particularly for moving files from one place to another. But the cost of thumb drives today don’t make sense for backing up your data. Many people have hundreds if not thousands of gigabytes of data and to have enough thumb Drive storage for all of this would be prohibitive.  Plus what’s easier to lose Van a small thumb drive? Backing up your files and making this your only storage for back up is not a smart way to go.

9.  I can always use drive savers to recover my data if I have a problem.

Drive savers is a wonderful company that has saved many people by restoring unreadable and failed hard drives. They’re extremely good at what they do and unless there’s been a catastrophic drive failure can usually get the data back. But expect to pay. And pay through the nose you will.

Data recovery companies know they have you over a barrel and charge for it  The kind of clean room it takes to be able to do this kind of data recovery is expensive. I once had a client who lost their entire business due to a raid system drive failure. 14 drives RAIDed together and none of the drives failed, but the RAID controller did. The files were mission-critical and he sent them off to drive savers. Drive savers recovered every bit of data. And send him a bill for over $27,000.

So yes data recovery companies can save you. But you have to really need the data you be willing to spend that money. Many people ask me about this option in times of a loss. But only one has ever been willing to pay the cost.

8.  Backing up is too complicated

All of the commercial operating systems today have built-in backup. It’s all easy to set up and does it for you once it’s set up. It may be complicated for you to set it up but I can help you with that for 30 minutes worth of my time. And once it’s set up it does it for you. I just can’t see this as an excuse.

7.  I’ll forget to do it anyway

See item 8 above.  Once it’s set up backup can be automatic.

6.  It’s not going to happen to me

Famous last words. You may have used computers for 20 years now and never had one fail but you also now have 20 years worth of data to lose if yours fails today. Computer components are electronics. Spinning hard drives still have bearings that go out.  If you really believe it’s not going to happen to you you’re just fooling yourself. The law of averages says one day you’ll have a data loss and if you’re not prepared for it think house silly you’ll feel if this was your excuse.

5.  My data is just not that important

Some people don’t believe they create anything on the computer. They just use it for email and web surfing. They may store a few pictures but nothing really important. But thoughts change when you’ve lost data. You remember the taxes that you have stored. You remember the pictures of uncle Gus who’s no longer with us. You remember your business papers. You remember just how important your date is to you.

4.  Running a back up slows down my computer

If your backup software is set up correctly it can back up in the middle of the night when you’re not using your computer. If you’re backup is incremental you’re only copying files that have changed since the last back up. Sure, the first backup takes a long time but after that backups can happen in minutes. In the time it takes you to grab a coffee your computer could be completely backed up.

3.  Managing back up files takes time

Today’s backup systems manage their data automatically. When the drive fills up it deletes the oldest copies of the files in the back up. You never have to touch it and you never have to sort it. If you use a laptop you just have to plug the drive in periodically and let it back up.

2.  Backing up cost too much

For the cost of an external hard drive you can be completely backed up. You don’t need any expensive software because your operating system already include software to do the back up. External hard drive can be purchased for less than $100. Aren’t your memories worth that?

1.  I was going to run a back up tomorrow

How many times of I heard someone tell me that they don’t have a back up but they planned to run one tomorrow. Some people still believe tomorrow never comes. The time to back up is today not tomorrow.

So where do you fall in this list of reasons?  Do any of these sound familiar? I hear them all the time. I tweeted out about two weeks ago to people that follow me “backup backup backup” but unfortunately this week I ran into another situation where a hard drive failed and there was no backup. Don’t let this happen to you.

Take advantage of the after Christmas sales to buy a backup drive. If your backup drive is over three years old maybe it’s time to replace it with a larger one. If your date is truly important to you maybe you need two copies of a backup with one stored off site.

Perhaps a Christmas gift for yourself this year should be sitting down with me for an hour and discussing your backup plan.  It could be the best hour of consulting you’ve ever spent.

Windows 10 Technical Preview – On the Right Track

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 3.18.38 PMIt’s always good to see new software that looks like it’s on the right track. And it’s even better when a company like Microsoft finally listens to their customers and comes out with a preview of the next release of windows that looks like it’s on the right track. I recently had the opportunity to install the Windows 10 tactical preview on my virtual machine. I was very impressed with the ease of install and the ability to get it up and running quickly. Technical previews are not always this way. But beyond the installation, what I saw surprised me.

Windows 10 technical preview shows me that Microsoft has been listening to its customers. Finally!

Most of the real issues with Microsoft current Windows 8  have been addressed in this preview. All of the things related to the metro-based apps, the fact that they use full-screen, the lack of the start menu, the lack of shortcuts and the ability to do things with the keyboard, are all there in Windows 10. In fact, if you go out to the web and read all the things people hate about Windows 8, the majority have been fixed and windows 10. The old Microsoft would not have done this. The old Microsoft would’ve thought they knew better. But this preview is not from the old Microsoft.

There have been many changes in Microsoft and their windows development over the last couple of years. Some of those include new leadership. Rather than the combative attitude of Steve Ballmer who believed he knew better than all of his customers, we are seeing a Microsoft that understands that customers are the ones who drive use of their product. The changes in Windows 10 are a wonderful start. In fact, if Microsoft released this tomorrow, I would be willing to recommend to my clients that they go this direction, particularly on new machines or replacements for Windows XP. Today, I universally recommend Windows 7.

So I believe there’s hope here. Microsoft needs to continue this product development and get it out as quickly as possible. This is an all new windows. Not new in the way it works, actually it’s older in the way it works in that Windows 7 functions are used here much more than Windows 8. Windows 8 Will become the new Windows Millennium. The product and everybody wishes they skipped if they didn’t.

Microsoft didn’t say anything about price when they put out the technical preview. Microsoft needs to consider price when it releases this product though. I certainly cannot imagine Windows 8 users who have suffered through the use of Windows 8 would have to pay anything for a Windows but actually is something people want to use. So Windows 8 upgrade must be free. But more than that, Microsoft needs to reduce the upgrade price of windows. It needs to follow the direction of Apple and Google in providing free operating system updates. If Microsoft wants to grow their marketshare again, this is the way to make it work. But I don’t suspect it will be free for users of Windows below Windows 8. So let’s all hope that the price is something at least reasonable.

The real problem is what do you recommend to someone who needs a new PC now. I’m going to continue to recommend Windows 7, but I’m certainly going to tell them about Windows 10 and the good things Microsoft may have just around the corner.

Print Dialog is missing Features in Chrome

Q: From my laptop, using the Chrome browser. I can not print double sided from.  I can print double-sided from my stand alone computer. I can print double-sided from my laptop using Safari or Word. Is there something fairly simple that I can do to correct that Chrome problem  and be able to print double sided or should I just use Safari?

A: Chrome uses their own dialogue to do printing. When you go print from chrome the dialogue looks like this.Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 2.29.34 PMIf you click on the area that I have highlighted in red that says print using system dialogue, it changes to this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 2.30.13 PMThat’s the same dialogue Safari uses so if you can print double-sided in Safari now you can do it in chrome too.  In this case you would need to click on layout and select two-sided printing.