Archive for July, 2014

Spam, No thank you.

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Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part series on spam.

In our last blog entry, we addressed ways to identify spam. Now we will explore ways to prevent spam from flooding your email:

  • Don’t volunteer your email address online, as scripts created to search websites can harvest addresses from websites where such addresses are made public. Also others may appropriate your email address to sign up for offers to get free items.
  • Find creative ways to write out your email address, such as substituting [at] for @ or [dot] for the period, as these methods can frustrate spambots attempting to steal addresses. Other options include using an image picture of your address or using JavaScript to dynamically set up the display of your email.
  • Never make your username, which is almost always public, the same as the front segment of your email address, as it’s not terribly complicated for hackers to guess the correct provider that you’re using. Also avoid chatrooms connected to your address, as those addresses are simple to figure out. Finally don’t post to newsgroups or email lists with your private address, for that same reason.
  • Disposable email addresses can stem the flow of spam as well. In addition to your main account, set up separate addresses by topic or type of account. Set all those addresses to forward to your main account. If spam comes through, track it back to that disposable address and eliminate that account.
  • Don’t respond to spam. You create more spam when you reply or click “unsubscribe,” as that verifies your address as legitimate.
  • Never enter contests, answer free or special offers, or order free e-cards, as these are lures to collect your email address for future spamming.
  • If you are a contact for a registered domain, instead of your private email address, use a generic common mailbox for this purpose, such as [email protected] or [email protected].
  • For your public email address, set up a free Yahoo or Hotmail account, saving your private email address for select friends and relatives;
  • Carefully watch for checkboxes when filling out any form online and uncheck those offering services you don’t want. Also look for any Spam or email sharing disclaimers.
  • Consider using a complicated username, as spam programs will try applying a long list of common names to a domain. [email protected] is a lot easier to figure out than [email protected] (not a great business address, however). Still make it something you can remember.
  • Be careful about what you forward, as you may inadvertently be helping spam spread to your friends and business associates.

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Next: How to block and report spam.



Spam the bane of people’s lives

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Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series on spam.

Spam (electronic junk mail) is a bane of most people’s online lives. While your spam filter does most of the heavy lifting, trawling for blacklisted email addresses and employing programs to check for suspicious content, it’s up to you as the consumer to keep an eye out for suspect emails as well. If you’re not alert, a seemingly innocent piece of spam can cause you lasting damage.

Start by checking out the email address for these warning signs:

  • An unrecognized sender, often with a strange email address.
  • A long string of numbers and letters before the @ sign;
  • Check after the @ sign as well. A well-known business won’t using an address from a free email service provider, but instead will have its name followed by .com.
  • Even if the email address is that of a friend of acquaintance, check the content of the message before deciding if it’s legitimate, as spammers can hack address books and send out mass e-mailings using actual email addresses.

Next move to the content of the email:

  • Spam is often laced with any of the following: misspellings, oddly-worded sentences, weird capitalization, strange punctuation and gibberish;
  • No one is going to offer you unclaimed riches. You haven’t won big in a contest. There’s no free electronics or medicine in your future;
  • If the email isn’t directly addressed to you, but rather “Dear Valued Customer” or “Special Member,” it’s likely spam;
  • Ignore any message stressing urgency, demanding that you must take action immediately;
  • Don’t provide passwords or personal or financial information via email. A legitimate business will ask you to log into your account to make any changes.
  • Think about who they are claiming to be.  The IRS, Postal Service, UPS, etc.  generally don’t send unsolicited emails, especially if you have never given them your email address.

Lastly, don’t click on any links in or download from any emails from a sender that you don’t recognize. That’s how malware and viruses can find a way into your computer.

Next: How to prevent spam.


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Data Privacy

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secure data

Sensitive consumer and employee data is the lifeblood of many businesses.

That’s why it’s essential that companies properly secure or dispose of such data.

Raising additional compliance concerns would be financial data, personal information from children and material derived from credit reports. Your company also may have legal responsibilities to victims of identity theft.

A great resource on such issues is the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Business Center (

Among the topics the BCPBC can help with are:

For more help on keeping data secure submit a request for a free consultaion at

Stay safe!

Strong Passwords

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Strong password2

Passwords are part of the lock which safeguards your computer and online world.

They control access to your personal and financial information and should be made as effective as possible, to keep intruders out.

Weak passwords are those that are easily guessed by hackers (such as “password123”). A password shouldn’t include your name, common names of people or places, technical jargon, repeating sequences or keyboard sequences.

But passwords need to be easily remembered by its creator. So the dilemma is coming up with a strong password that also can be simply recalled.

A strong password must be at least eight characters long. It must include a character from the following four character sets: lower-case letters, upper-case letters, numbers, and character symbols (+, =, (, ), &, %, !, ?, <, >). It shouldn’t include three or more consecutive characters from your login or full name.

Some other password no-no’s:

bad passwords

  • If you must write down your passwords, keep them in a secure place, away from your computer;
  • Don’t use the same password on multiple accounts, because if one account gets breached, they would all be at risk;
  • Don’t enter passwords when others can see what you’re typing;
  • Don’t share your password with anyone;
  • Don’t walk away from a shared computer without logging off;
  • Don’t leave an application unattended if it is logged in or unless a password-protected screen saver is in place.
  • Do not store your passwords on your computer in an unencrypted format.  Saved password options in many browsers are not encrypted.
  • Do not store your passwords online in an unencrypted form

There are several programs that can be used to store your passwords in an encrypted form.  Two that are highly recommended are LastPass, and Dashlane.   The biggest advantage/disadvantage is that you only have to use one password to access all your passwords.  These programs rate the passwords you enter, so make sure to make them complex enough not to guess, but easy enough to remember using the guidelines listed above.

Developing multiple strong passwords may take some time and effort, but it beats the alternative of trying to restore your ruined financial record.

Stay safe!

Wireless Network Security

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It’s beneficial for society when people share. Still, you shouldn’t be sharing your wireless network with others, especially the unscrupulous who you don’t know.

A wireless network consists of an internet “access point’’ – a cable or DSL modem – connected to a wireless router. This yields a signal sent through the air, as far as several hundred feet, which any computer with a wireless card within range can use to access the internet.

Without taking precautions, your network can be used with anyone nearby with a wireless-ready computer or mobile device. Such a person could “piggyback” on your network, or worse access vital personal and financial information on your computer. If your network is used to commit crime or send spam, that activity incorrectly could be traced back to you.

The most effective method to secure your network is encryption, which scrambles the information you send over the internet into a code so that others can’t access it.

All your system equipment must use the same encryption. The choices are Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP). WPA2 is the strongest, and you should use it if you have the choice, as it should protect against most hackers.

WEP encryption is sometimes found on older routers, and doesn’t protect against some common hacking programs. Consider upgrading to a new router with WPA2 capability.

Wireless routers often arrive with encryption turned off, so you must turn it on. Directions which come either with the router or from the manufacturer’s web site should tell you how to do so.

A few simple steps should help to keep your computer and router secure:

  • Use anti-spyware and anti-virus software and a firewall, basic security practices that you would use for any computer connected to the internet.
  • Change the name of your router. Switch from the service-set identifier (or SSID), the standard default ID assigned by the maker, to something unique that only you would know.
  • Change the router’s pre-set password. These default passwords are often known by hackers, so change it to something only you would know, at least 8 characters, but the longer the better.
  • Limit your wireless network to specific computers. Every computer on a network is assigned a unique Media Access Control address, and wireless routers usually have a mechanism to allow only machines with particular MAC addresses to access the network.

Also don’t assume that public wireless networks are secure. On such hotspots, log in or send personal information only to web sites you know are fully encrypted. Always log out when you’re finished using an account. Don’t use the same password on different sites. Pay attention to browser warnings, and keep your browser and security software up to date. Installing browser add-ons and plug-ins can help to encrypt sites as well.

If you need help with your wireless network configuration submit a request at and we’ll schedule a tech to work with you.

Stay safe!