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September 2013 Newsletter9-13 image 1

5 Bad Tech Habits and How to Break Them

Forgetting To Clean 

When was that last time you cleaned your phone? How about your computer keyboard or mouse? Be honest. Now think about how often you shake hands with people, open public doors or sneeze, and then touch your phone. That happens every day, probably multiple times. Studies have shown that phones can have 10 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. A man in Uganda made news in 2012 after he got Ebola after stealing a cell phone from an Ebola patient. So, clean your tech gear as often as you’d clean any other germ or bacteria magnet. Keep some tech-friendly antiseptic wipes near your computer and phone charger.

Having Multiple User Accounts

Having multiple people using the same gadget isn’t just bad for cleanliness. It’s also not great for security and privacy. Recently, a toddler made news for buying a car on eBay using her dad’s Smartphone. Talk about an impulse buy! On a computer, this is easy enough to prevent. In Windows, go to Start>>Control Panel and select User Accounts. On Macs, go to System Preferences and choose Users and Groups. You can create as many users accounts as you need. Be sure to make them Standard accounts. This keeps the users from installing dangerous programs.

Not Taking Breaks

You’re working hard on a time-sensitive project. Hours fly by as you type, your focus never leaving the computer screen. I’ll give you an A for effort, but an F for taking care of yourself. Be sure to look away from the screen at a distant object every 20 minutes or so. This takes the strain off your eyes. There are plenty of free downloads that can remind you. Every hour get up and take a quick walk around. Studies show that sitting for long stretches can decrease your life span.

Not Upgrading

I understand why you haven’t. Upgrading can cost money. You’re used to the way things work. The newer versions might seem more complicated. Well, those are valid reasons, but at some point enough is enough. And in the case of Windows XP and IE, Microsoft has said enough. They say 13 years of support are enough. Windows XP’s end-of-life date is coming up in 2014. After that, it’s receiving no more security updates. It’s already missing key security features found in later versions of Windows. This will just make it easier for hackers to attack you. Internet Explorer 7 and 8 are in a similar boat. They’re way behind on security features and they don’t work well with newer websites. Plus, they’re really slow. That isn’t to say you need to upgrade every time new software comes out. But you do need to upgrade at a reasonable pace. Many people didn’t upgrade while Windows 7 was available. Now they’re stuck with Windows 8 and its much-steeper learning curve.

Treating Public Wifi like Private Wifi

Public Wi-Fi is great. You can get online with your laptop at the airport, coffee shop or hotel. If you’re using a Smartphone or tablet, it’s a great way to avoid using up your cellular data plan. However, you really need to be careful what you do while using it. Don’t forget that it’s a wireless NETWORK. That means you’re sharing it with other people. Don’t think logging in to an encrypted public network is any better. On your home network, encryption keeps hackers out. On a public network, hackers are just other members of the public. They can log in just as easily as you can. Once they’re on the same network, hackers might try to attack your gear directly. Most will settle for snooping on your Web surfing. They’re trying to grab bank and other log-in information. Now, this information is encrypted, but hackers are sneaky. They have lots of tricks to break in to your accounts. As a rule, don’t do anything sensitive while using public Wi-Fi.




Windows XP: The Risks of Not Moving On

As we mentioned in the previous section, the end of support for Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system is fast approaching. Once a year before the date the OS (and Office 2003) is set to lose support and in several other articles where Microsoft expresses its hope that people will rush to adopt Windows 8 as time ticks away for ye olde OS. Microsoft has decided to remind us again and senior executive Tim Rains, Director of Trustworthy Computing, was enlisted to write a blog post about the risk awaiting those remaining running Windows XP systems after 8th April 2014.The main problem with people who stick with XP is, according to Rains, that the attackers will then have the upper hand as they “will likely have more information about vulnerabilities in Windows XP than defenders”. Apparently when any version of some software is updated to fix a vulnerability some people will test to see if the vulnerability exists in other versions of the software which are not yet patched. Software security updates are thus released by Microsoft simultaneously across all affected products. This service will end for Windows XP and Office 2003 next April.

“The very first month that Microsoft releases security updates for supported versions of Windows, attackers will reverse engineer those updates, find the vulnerabilities and test Windows XP to see if it shares those vulnerabilities. If it does, attackers will attempt to develop exploit code that can take advantage of those vulnerabilities on Windows XP. Since a security update will never become available for Windows XP to address these vulnerabilities, Windows XP will essentially have a ‘zero day’ vulnerability forever,” wrote Rains.

He goes on to explain that Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 have historically been affected by a many overlapping Microsoft security bulletins. Despite this, Rains says that many Microsoft customers won’t manage to make the transition from Windows XP in time and some others said they won’t upgrade Windows XP until the hardware it is running on fails. Also Rains points out that even now, while XP still receives security updates and hotfixes, it still suffers from a “significantly higher” malware infection rate than more modern OSes such as Windows 7 and 8. Windows XP’s support for Internet Explorer versions only up to v8 doesn’t help matters either.