Top Privacy Settings for Windows 10

In light of all the new malware out there, you should check and update your Windows 10 privacy settings…

Introduction
If there’s one thing that really gets my dander up, its malware. Saying that it drives me a bit nuts is an understatement. I work too hard to keep my PC running as fast and efficiently as it can. I don’t need some random jerk ruining my work simply because they want to make a quick buck.

All that being said, Windows is one of the biggest malware traps in the world. It runs on nearly every enterprise PC ever deployed, and runs the majority of consumer PCs as well. There are some things that you can do to protect yourself, though; and quite honestly, you should do them. I’ve run into malware before, and its not fun. If you want to protect yourself, follow the advice I’ve given in those two linked articles. You can further protect yourself by adjusting some privacy settings in Windows 10.

While you may not want to do all of these, if you implement them all, you’re likely going to lock yourself down pretty tightly. At that point, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about. However, please note that if you implement all of these, you’re going to shut down some pretty useful Window 10 features. You have to balance your need for privacy with your need for safety. In the end, this is all on you…

Shut Down Cortana
Cortana is only your best friend in the world when she knows nearly everything about you. The more she knows, the more she can do. However, the more she knows, the more your data is “out there.” Cortana interacts with you via voice and through the searches you do when you type questions or search criteria into Windows 10’s search box located on the Task Bar.

You can stop Cortana from getting to know you by following the steps I’ve outlined below. However, if you do this, there are going to be a few repercussions:
1. You won’t be able to speak to Cortana any longer. When you turn her off, you totally get the “talk to the hand” experience from her.
2. She forgets all of the information that she had been gathering on you. If you later change your mind and wish to turn Cortana back on, you’ll be building your relationship from scratch again.

To turn off Cortana,
1. Go to Settings – Privacy – Speech, inking and typing.
2. Under Getting to know you, tap the Turn off speech services and typing suggestions button
3. Under Manage cloud info, tap the Manage my voice data that’s stored in the cloud with my Microsoft Account, link and clear all the data that Cortana has stored on you

Please remember that Cortana remembers all of your data as part of OneDrive. Keeping that information out of potentially prying eyes may be important to you. If you don’t want information on your stored in the cloud, this last step is important.

Turn off Location Services
Location Services are used by your Windows 10 device to help locate you geographically. Yes, this means GPS services are being used on your Windows 10 laptop. There are a number of different apps and security settings that that will use Location Services. Maps and Weather are probably the most obvious of these.

If you’re not using a Windows 10 Mobile device (and to be honest, I don’t know of ANYONE who is…), this means that unless your Windows 10 PC has a cellular connection (some do, some don’t…), your actual location and its accuracy is managed by Wi-Fi, though even in a mobile data world, anyone with a smartphone will tell you that your device and its location services will complain to no end when Wi-Fi is turned off.

When your device does report its location, Windows 10 keeps track of that for up to 24 hours and allows apps with permission to access the location and any related or associated data. When and if you turn off location services, apps and services that require that information won’t be able to function properly. In those cases, you may have to manually set your location.

To manage Location Services, follow these steps:

1. Go to Settings – Privacy – Location
2. Under Location,
a. Under Location service, slide the On/ Off slider off to turn Location Services completely off
b. To manage Location Services for your device, tap the Change button and change the position of the One/ Off slider
3. Under Default location,
a. To manage your device’s Default location, the Set default button. This will bring up Maps.
b. Follow the instructions on setting your device’s default location.
4. Under Location history
a. To clear the location history maintained on your device, tap the Clear button under, Clear history on this device.
5. To manage apps that use Location Services
Those apps that make use of Location Services will be listed in the, “Choose apps that can use your precise location” section.
a. Review this list of apps
b. Tap the slider of those apps you wish to change the service status of.
c. Turning an app on will allow that app to use your location while it runs. It may also leave a service stub running in the background so that it always has location specific data for you
d. Turning an app off will prevent that app from using location specific data.
e. Cortana’s use of Location Services can be managed in the Speech, inking and typing section of Privacy.
6. Action Center Settings
a. The Action Center by default has a toggle for turning Location Services on and off.
i. Display the Action Center
ii. Tap the Location Services tile to turn Location off.
iii. Tap it again to turn it on.

Stop Synchronization Services
Windows 10 synchs with a number of different services. If you sign into Windows 10 with your Microsoft Account, your settings, including your passwords, may be synched across a number of Windows 10 devices. If you turn off synching, your settings and passwords won’t be synched to your other devices, and the unified experience that Microsoft is trying to perpetuate throughout its OS, regardless of type, brand or vendor, is seriously deprecated.

There are two ways to handle this. You’ll need to insure that you’re connected to the internet as well. Once connected, you can stop synching entirely, or you can toggle the sync settings for an individual app. To adjust these settings, you need to visit the Settings page for Sync.

To adjust your synchronization settings, follow these steps:

1. Go to Settings – Accounts – Sync your settings
2. Under Sync Settings, you can turn sync on or off. Turning it off will turn it off for all services.
3. If you wish to control sync for specific items, under Individual sync settings, you can control
a. Theme
b. Internet Explorer Settings
c. Passwords
d. Language Preferences
e. Ease of Access, and
f. Other Windows Settings

If you wish to turn off notification synching, open Cortana and go to Settings – Send notifications between devices. Here, you can toggle notification synching on or off. You can also edit your sync settings to manage your different signed in devices.

Lock Down your Lock Screen
One of the neatest things that Windows 10 can do is provide a customized lock screen on each of your devices. Depending on your privacy concerns, you can have some convenient information – like text messages or your next appointment – display on your lock screen. However, depending on your privacy concerns, you may not want to do that.

Guessing that this is likely the case, because who wants to have that kind of personal information just hangin’ out there for anyone who passes by your PC to see, you can actually prevent this information from displaying there, if you wish. In fact, there are likely three things that you don’t want appearing on your lock screen – however, most of them start and stop with your email address and your appointment notifications.

In order to secure your lock screen, you’re going to have to make changes in a few different places. To make changes to your Lock Screen, follow these steps:

1. Go to Settings – System – Notifications and actions
2. Turn off Show notifications on the lock screen

After you have done this, you’ll need to attend to Cortana, if you haven’t already. There are a couple of things to take care of here.

To turn off Cortana on your Lock Screen,

1. Go to Settings – Personalization – Lock screen
2. Click the link, Cortana lock screen settings
3. Cortana’s lock screen settings will pop up out of the Start Menu. Turn OFF the following items
a. Let Cortana respond to, “Hey Cortana.”
b. Use Cortana even when my device is locked
c. Send notifications and information between devices
4. Under Choose an app to show detailed status
a. Remove all icons. Tap them and choose None from the fly out menu

The downside to turning all of this off is that your device becomes localized to itself and Windows 10 loses some of its interconnected intelligence.

You can also hide your email address from the log-in screen. This will keep your email address away from unauthorized scrutiny.

To hid your email address on your log in screen,

1. Go to Settings – Accounts – Sign in options – Privacy
2. Turn off Show account details on sign in screen

This option really doesn’t have a downside to it. Not showing your email address on the lock screen doesn’t deprecate any functionality. This just keeps it away from prying eyes.

Turn off your advertising ID
Each Microsoft account has a unique advertising ID that Microsoft uses to collect information on you and your computing habits. It allows Microsoft to deliver a unique advertising experience to you across different platforms.

It’s annoying as hell.

If you sign in to Windows 10 with a Microsoft account, you’re going to get personalized ads following you all over your PC. You’ll see them in apps and even in the OS itself, like in the Start Menu. Thankfully, you can stop the madness and get off the advertising merry go round.

To turn off ads in Windows 10, follow these steps,

1. Go to Settings – Privacy – General
2. Turn off Let apps use advertising ID to make ads more interesting to your based on your app usage.

You may still see ads on your PC, but they won’t be personalized. Turning this feature off prevents personalized ads from polluting your Windows 10 computing experience. However, as I mentioned, it won’t keep you from seeing ads when you use your Microsoft Account on other platforms. If you wish to remove ads on other platforms as well, you can either use an ad blocking utility or you can head over to Microsoft’s advertising opt out page.

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Another One Bites the Dust – So long Olio

I’m sorry to report that Olio Devices didn’t make it… as far as I can tell.

Back in 2015, I spent most of the year doing an extended round up of smart watches. I’m sorry to report that most of the devices that I reviewed as part of that round up, including

The Microsoft Band
The Fitbit Surge, and the
Pebble Time

have all met a rather disappointing demise. None of these devices are available for purchase today, not even two years since I published each review (or there abouts…)

Microsoft introduced Band in December of 2014; and it was one of the HOTTEST items for that Holiday season. I was fortunate enough to get one for both me AND my wife. Unfortunately, they weren’t very comfortable and the battery life sucked. Microsoft followed Band up with Band 2; but then discontinued the device in the middle of 2016. The entire team had their direction refocused on Microsoft Health; but even THAT is nowhere to be found. It seems Microsoft’s foray into wearables and in the health market doesn’t have a consumer presence to speak of, and never will.

The Pebble Time wasn’t as well received as the original Pebble or even the Pebble Steel. As such, Pebble sold itself to Fitbit; and they laid off all their people, closed their software store, and called it a day in December of 2016. They were the first on the market with any real success, but they didn’t last, unfortunately.

Since Fitbit purchased Pebble, there really hasn’t been anything out of Fitbit of note. While they have released the Alta and the Alta HR, those devices aren’t innovative at all and don’t offer any new features that the Charge 2 does.

Fitbit’s best asset is its software, the Fitbit App. It’s really some of the best fitness tracking bits that I’ve seen. Unfortunately, their hardware leaves a great deal to be desired. I was hoping that Fitbit might be able to do something innovative with the IP from Pebble, but it hasn’t emerged yet, and we’re coming up to a year since the acquisition. If “it” isn’t out by the 2017 Holiday Buying Season (whatever “it” might be…), they likely aren’t going to do anything of note with it.

So, the Band and Pebble are gone; and the Surge is a huge non-influencer (like the rest of Fitbit, in my opinion…). Unfortunately, the other big watch player I reviewed in 2015 is also now… gone.

The Olio Model One has also been discontinued. Their website is still active, and has been most of the year, but every model of every collection they have, including Steel, Black, Rose Gold, and Gold, indicate that they are sold out. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, this has been the case for the better part of the year (2017).

I got in touch with Steve Jacobs, the former CEO of Olio Devices, and he confirmed that th company has indeed been sold. While the organization existed for four years, this was apparently their entire overall goal (as it is with many start ups…). Olio was hoping to be purchased by someone… whom that might be, however, is unknown.

While Mr. Jacobs and I are acquaintances, and we did have direct and open communications during 2015 and the early part of 2016, I can only assume that part of the conditions of the sale of Olio Devices included keeping the entire deal confidential. Steve simply won’t give up the goods on who purchased Olio, or what they plan to do with the site, the watches or the IP.

As it stands, right now, the site, while still active, is a ghost town. The software used to manage the smartwatch, Olio Assist (iTunes App Store Link, Google Play Store Link) while technically available if you’ve previously downloaded it, may or may not be available for new users to download.

The biggest problem with it, however, is the way the software was designed to work. As of this writing, its nearly completely deprecated.

Olio watches are designed to pair with an Android or iPhone smartphone. The device software must be running on your smartphone – not just merely installed – while using the watch. For most smartwatches, this is usually enough. However, Olio Assist has an additional dependency. In order for its digital assistant to work, Olio Assist must communicate with a central server. Olio Assist only communicates with this server when the watch is paired and actively in range of the smartphone, with the software running.

The central server knows exactly which watches are connected to which smartphones. It provides data to support ALL of its complications, including weather, time zones AND your schedule. That last one kinda surprised me. Olio Assist doesn’t synch contact or calendar data between your phone and the watch, it synchs it to the central server first, and the server provides data to the complication, back through your smartphone and the app.

With Olio Devices now no longer functioning as an active entity, all of their servers are off line. The only thing that the watch can do now is get notifications, because they are sent directly to the watch from the smartphone itself. The watch will also notify you of incoming calls and will still control music playback. However, everything else… every other feature that Olio Assist provided, Schedule and Weather complications, time zones, Rules, Earlier, Now and Later Services, and ANY part of its Digital Assistant, now no longer work due to an interruption of communications with their central servers.

Steve Jacobs also indicated to me that it is very possible that even those services that are currently providing value, may also stop working. If this is the case, then the watch is living on borrowed time; and the $450 to $650 price tag that many paid for this device may soon become a huge issue.

Most luxury watches costing this much work for years, if not decades. This apparently won’t be the case with the Olio Model One… and that’s hugely disappointing.

My suggestion for you is this – buy an Apple Watch. It’s the only one that I reviewed that is really still around and that is being improved on. Apple will be releasing watchOS 4 in September of 2017. If you must have an Android Wear watch, make sure you get something that is either made or branded by Google directly or from Samsung. Otherwise, you may find yourself trying to figure out how to make an expensive orphaned device work after it’s no longer being actively supported.

And that… totally sucks.

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IOBIT Advanced SystemCare 10 PRO

Keep your computer running quickly with this must have Windows utility.

If there’s one thing that I know and know well, its Windows PC’s. I’ve been reviewing hardware and software since 1995. While that’s all nice and good, despite anyone’s best intentions when you work with a Windows PC – installing software, surfing the web, using different and new peripherals (and installing their drivers…) can often cause a number of different performance problems. This is why I like applications like IOBIT Advanced SystemCare 10 Pro. It’s a utility that can make your PC function like new or better than new, with just a few clicks.

IOBIT Advanced SystemCare 10 Pro can help you optimize your computer and keep it clean from issues and problems that will degrade its performance. The application has a number of different modules that can help you Speed Up, Protect, as well as Clean and Optimize your PC. It also includes a Tool Box that can help you find different IOBIT based tools to help you fix, tweak and care for your PC. It also includes an Action Center that provides you with a way to license and update other IOBIT products as well as key Windows components.

IOBIT Advanced SystemCare 10 Pro can help you speed up your PC, keep it clean and optimize your Windows 10, Windows 8 and Windows 7 PC. You can get rid of junk files, remove privacy information and accelerate your internet surfing speed so you can enjoy a faster and cleaner online experience. With its Startup Optimization module, IOBIT Advanced SystemCare 10 Pro can scan your startup items and help you decide which ones to keep and which ones to remove, speeding up your PC.

IOBIT Advanced SystemCare 10 Pro’s Performance Monitor is one of its most popular features. In its latest incarnation, it’s been expanded . Its new Resource Manager can keep track of your system components – CPU load, disk use, RAM allocations, etc., and it allows you to end tasks as well, reducing resource use, improving your PC’s performance.

App Pro’s: One year subscription is only $29.99 USD, Real time protection

App Con’s: Subscription based consumer service

Conclusion: IOBIT Advanced SystemCare 10 Pro is an all in one solution that provides PC optimization, system cleansing and resource management in an all in one package designed to keep your PC running at its gest. It also has an anti-malware scanner to help keep your PC clean of viruses, worms and other types of malware. It can block malicious attacks, protects your browser home age, removes ads and alerts you when you accidentally surf to malicious web sites. It supports IE, Chrome and Firefox with all of these features.

I’ve noticed that my PC’s performance is often negatively impacted by junk system files, a bloated browser cache and slow startup. Installing IOBIT Advanced SystemCare 10 Pro resolved all of these issues. While I’ve never been a huge fan of subscription based software licenses, this one definitely makes sense. You get a great deal of value for only $30 per year; and you always get the latest malware definitions, optimization techniques, constant monitoring of junk on your system. You also get the ability to capture the face of the person that steals your laptop/ PC if it turns up stolen, all without the thief knowing that his picture is being taken.

While I’m also not a huge fan of non-standard user interfaces, the UI on IOBIT Advanced SystemCare 10 Pro is optimized for Windows 10; and is so logically organized and laid out that it more than makes up for it.

Simply put, this is a GREAT application, and it is something that everyone really needs to have on their Windows PC.

URL: https://advanced-systemcare-professional.soft32.com

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Five of the Best Windows 10 Creator’s Update Features

These are the best features you’re likely to find as part of Microsoft’s Windows 10 Creator’s Update.

Microsoft released the Creator’s Update on 2017-04-11. Unfortunately, the rollout of this update hasn’t completed yet, as there are still a great many PC’s that have not received it yet, including my Surface Book. However, that doesn’t mean that those that have it won’t absolutely love it. Along with increased stability and performance enhancements, there are a few cool features that bare mentioning. I’ve pulled those and have a quick blurb on each.

• Night Light
Night Light is a new, time based Windows 10 feature that reduces blue light coming out of your display. If you compute in the evening, Night Light is supposed to help you sleep better. The introduction of blue light on the eyes and brain is said to increase brain activity. Night Light reduces blue light emitted from your display (be it built in or external), giving you the chance at a better night’s sleep. This reduction of blue light is also supposed to be easier on your eyes, especially in the lower lighting conditions often found in your home during the evening hours.
• Animated Doodles
Everyone loves taking photos. With the introduction of the smartphone, everyone has a camera with them, literally, all day long. Customizing your photos is often a huge pass time and something that nearly everyone loves to do. Thanks to Windows Photos, you now have a new customization option open to you.

After importing your photos into Windows Photos, open one up. You will see a “Draw” option near the top of the window. Click the option, and you’ll be able to choose a pen type. Draw what you want on top of the photo and then click Save. Click Play, and Windows Photos will replay the drawing actions you just completed on top of your photo. If you’re so inclined, you can share you’re photo and animated doodle with your friends through one of your favorite apps.
• Game Mode
The Windows 10 Creators Update improves gaming performance and provides a better overall gaming experience. If you have a powerful computer with a modern CPU and at least 16GB RAM, then you’re likely not going to see much of an improvement in gaming. However, if you have a laptop or other computer that wasn’t necessarily meant for gaming, you may see at least a 10% performance bump and better FPS (frames per second) rating . You should also see better performance from apps running in the back ground while gaming.
• Paint 3D
With the Creators Update, Paint got a significant update. Paint can now easily create entire 3D scenes. You can also now, ink things on Bing Maps and measure distances and make notes related to landmarks and other points of interest. It also includes a mini-view feature that allows you to keep UWP (Universal Windows Platform) apps to open in tiny dedicated windows while you do other tasks.
• Pause Windows Updates
The big thing about Windows 10 and its updates is that, well.. you get ’em whether you want them or not… whether you’re ready for them or not. That’s the way the OS is designed. You get updates when the OS and when MS want you to get them.

The problem with this is that without your direct input, you could lose important data, or find yourself locked out of your PC when you really need it. Thankfully, Microsoft saw that potential problem and has designed a way of stopping the force feeding. With the Creators Update, you get more control over when Windows 10 is updated.

When an update is ready to install, Windows displays a large notification with three options – Restart now, Pick a time [to restart], or Snooze. You can’t dismiss the notification without picking an option. If you choose Snooze, you get a three day pass on the update; and you can hit Snooze as many times as you want. If you snooze an update for 35 days, Windows 10 won’t push the update to you without you first agreeing to the install; but it will change Snooze to Remind Me Tomorrow. This is perhaps one of the most important new features in the Windows 10 Creators Update.

Windows 10 Update Assistant
Have you gotten the Windows 10 Creators Update yet? Have you paused any updates? With Microsoft’s Windows 10 Creators Update still rolling out to PCs across the planet, it’s hard to say if and when everyone will be able to experience these great updates. For example, the only way I can get the Creators Update on my Surface Book is to either force it with the Windows 10 Update Assistant.

The Update Assistant is a downloadable executable that allows you to pull down the update itself so it installs on your computer; or will allow you to download an image that you can burn to a DVD or to a USB stick that will install Windows 10 Creators Update from scratch. If you choose this latter option, you will need a computer with a transferable license (one that can be upgraded to Windows 10); or you’ll need to purchase a product key.

If you opt to use the Windows 10 Update Assistant, you’ll need to be a more experienced Windows user. You’ll need to be able to troubleshoot update issues and problems on your own. For example, I forced the Windows 10 Update, and things ultimately went sideways about three to four weeks post update. I have no idea what happened. I don’t really care. All I know is that I had to reset my Surface Book, wiping all of the data, taking it back to factory fresh. That was about three weeks ago, and I have yet to get any kind of signal that my Surface Book can or will update itself to the Creators Update anytime soon. Windows Update is offering me the Windows 10 Update Assistant again, and to be honest, I’m not eager to jump on that boat again.

The Creators Update in and of itself is really great. I enjoyed using it, over the Anniversary Update. I think it’s must more stable and my Surface Book was noticeably faster with it. However, as I’ve found with Microsoft, it’s the route of the journey and not necessarily the journey itself or even the destination that’s the issue. The road you take will really determine what happens to you after you get there. That’s what happened to me.

If you’re using the Windows 10 Creators Update, I’d love to hear what your favorite features are. You obviously know what ones l like best. Why don’t you meet me in the Discussion area and let me know what your favorites are as well as how you got there.

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MacSales Introduces 2.0TB Aura Pro SSD

MacBook Pro upgrades are few and far between; and you NEED to look at this one, long and hard…

I’ve been using Apple computers since 2006 when Apple made the switch from PowerPC chips to Intel. At that point, due in large part to Apple’s Boot Camp, it made perfect sense. Back during this time, it was really easy to upgrade nearly every Mac. Today, Apple’s Boot Camp even supports Windows 10, continuing to make it a perfect multiplatform solution.

In 2012, Apple released the retina MacBook Pro. This display change signaled not only a change in Apple display technology, but a change in its notebook architecture. At this point, according to Apple, the MacBook Pro was no longer user upgradable.

That is… until now.

On 2017-06-26, MacSales and OWC (Other World Computing) announced the availability of a 2.0TB SSD upgrade for the mid-2012 to early 2013 Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display. This particular upgrade is a HUGE deal. OWC and MacSales are one of the very few providers of upgrades for this class of MacBook Pro notebook. The upgrade comes in two flavors – one with an external enclosure and one without.

The Aura Pro 2.0TB SSD upgrade frees up and boosts capacity on the internal hard drive – at over five years of MacBook Pro ownership. The Aura Pro drive is also available as a kit with an Envoy Pro enclosure to immediately reuse an Apple internal hard drive, creating a new external USB 3.1 Gen1 portable drive. This is the perfect upgrade for a middle aged Mac, as it increases storage by at least 1TB (for those MacBook Pros that came with a native 1.0TB internal SSD).

aura

The Aura SSD line is a professional storage line that offers increased performance not only over the native SSD, but other SSD replacements. It also provides

The Aura Pro SSD offers a wide range of industry-leading controller technologies for performance and reliability, including:
• Global wear leveling algorithm automatically distributes data evenly and manages program/erase count, maximizing SSD lifespan.
• StaticDataRefresh technology manages free space, gradually refreshing data across the SSD over time, enhancing data integrity.
• Hardware BCH ECC corrects errors up to 66-bit/1KB for superior data retention and drive health.
• Best-in-class power consumption.
• Advanced security protocols support AES 128/256-bit full-drive encryption.
The cost of the 2.0TB Aura Pro is $899.99 USD for the drive only. If you’re looking for the kit with the Envoy Pro enclosure, it will set you back a cool $939.99 USD.

I had an Aura Pro 480GB SSD for the Late 2012 MacBook Air that I had for a couple of years. The performance of that drive was totally awesome. The performance bump on that i5 based Mac was definitely noticeable and a huge boon. It was more than worth the cost of the drive.

I am currently working with OWC and MacSales to see if I can get one of these drives for review. I will let you know how that effort goes. It will be a nice contrast review against the Mid 2017 15″ MacBook Pro and OWC/ MacSales USB-C Dock and Thunderbolt 3 Dock that I have waiting in the wings.

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Top 10 Tips to Avoid Malware

In light of the latest bit of ransomware – Petya – here are tips to prevent getting hacked

The latest bit of ransomware – dubbed Petya – is currently running through banks, financial institutions and healthcare facilities in both Asia and Europe. The bug, like most ransomware, encrypts corporate data by encrypting hard drives, preventing access to needed data and computer systems. It also seems to have crossed the pond and entered the US.

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck reported that it had become infected with the malware as did multinational law firm DLA Piper, which counts over 20 different offices in the United States. Heritage Valley Health Systems, a health care network that runs two hospitals in Western Pennsylvania, also confirmed in a statement to Recode on Tuesday to be the victim of the same ransomware attack that has spread around the globe.

Petya in and of itself is a bit problematic in that this particular bug has the ability to adapt and mutate quickly, often working around patches that have been released by operating system and anti-malware vendors alike. With Petya, it’s difficult to insure your computing systems stay malware free. Anti-malware and OS vendors are having a great deal of trouble staying ahead of the game.

So, what’s the best way to stay Petya (as well as other phishing and ransomware infections) free? The best advice I can give ANYONE is to follow these top 10 computer security tips.

1. What’s in a Name?
Just because you see an email in your inbox from a name you recognize doesn’t mean they sent it to you. Be wary of all email in your inbox. Inspect the email address. If it looks suspicious or if you don’t recognize the domain (the wording after the “at sign” – for example @microsoft.com), don’t open it. Delete it immediately.
2. Look but don’t Click
Hover your mouse over any embedded links in any of the emails you receive. Don’t click before you do. A tool tip should appear showing the actual email address, or in the case of browser based clients, the address should display in the status bar at the bottom of your browser window. If the address isn’t one you recognize or if it looks strange, again, don’t click it.
3. Check for Spelling or Grammar Mistakes
Legitimate messages don’t have major spelling errors or clumsily structured sentences. If the message reads strangely and strikes you as unprofessional, its likely a fake. Delete it.
4. Analyze the Salutation
Messages from financial institutions will always address you by your name. They’re never going to call you, “Valued Customer.” If you get something like this from one of your financial institutions, I’d delete it and ignore it.
5. Don’t Give out Your Personal Information
Legitimate companies will never ask you to provide identity information or credentials via email. EVER.
6. Beware of Urgent or Threatening Language in the Subject Line of any eMail
Invoking fear via threatening or urgent language is a common phishing tactic. Be wary of any email indicating that your “account has been suspended,” or your account has had an “unauthorized login attempt.” There’s an excellent chance the emails are bogus.
7. Review the Signature Line
Lack of details about the signer or the absence of their contact information at the end of the message strongly suggests a phishing attempt
8. Don’t Click on Attachments
Malware payloads are often embedded in email attachments. Don’t open any you weren’t expecting, even from someone you know. Contact them offline, if possible, and confirm they sent you the attachment.
9. Don’t Trust the Information in an eMail Header
Hackers are smart enough now a days to spoof not only the display name, but the mail header as well. Even if you know how to check this information, you may not be able to validate it as genuine, so don’t bother. Assume this information is fraudulent in any suspect email.
10. Don’t Believe Anything you see
This is NOT your father’s internet any more. The world is hell bent on stealing everything you own and could own in the future (your identity, your credit, etc.), so the best defense is a strong offense – don’t trust anyone or anything you suspect is illegitimate. It may look valid, but it’s better to err on the side of caution that to spend the next 8 to 14 months straightening out your credit because you were the victim of a phishing attack. If you have even the slightest doubt or it even remotely looks suspicious, don’t open the message.

The point of all of this is that THIS particular piece of malware REQUIRES diligence.

Petya is rapidly changing. Its mutating and adapting to patches and detection engines in popular and well known, professional grade malware prevention products. You HAVE to be careful here, or you may end up losing everything on your PC.

Aside from the above, you should also do the following proactive steps on a regular basis. (start NOW if you haven’t done these yet, and insure that you do it malware free):

1. Install and Run an Anti-Malware Package
I have used a number of different packages over the years. Right now, one of my favorites is IOBIT Advanced SystemCare 10 Pro. Regardless of what you use, get one, install it, and use it… often.
2. Get your data on a cloud service
Whether we’re talking productivity files (Word, Excel, etc.) or pictures and home movies, it doesn’t matter. Get your data synchronizing with a cloud service so that you have an easy way to get your data back if it gets taken hostage.
3. Start a Local Backup Regimen
Macs have Time Machine. Windows users have Windows Backup; or you can use AOMEI Backuper and AOMEI Image Deploy. However, any way you cut it, you need to start and execute a local backup plan.
4. Start an Off-Site Backup Regimen
In order to do this, you need an off-site back up service like Carbonite or Backblaze. These low cost, subscription based services allow you to back up your computer over the internet and allow you to do a simple restore as well via the internet or via a hard drive that you can order and have delivered to you.

So, in summary:

1. Trust your Gut. Don’t open goofy looking email. Just delete them
2. Backup your data
3. Install and run an antimalware app

Have you gotten hit by ransomware? Have you paid the ransom, or have you just blown or replaced the drive and started over? I’d love to hear from you if you have gotten bitten. If you have, hit me up in the Discussion area, below, and tell me all about it.

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Microsoft Replaces Placeholders with Files on Demand

OneDrive’s Placeholders have finally gotten a replacement on Windows 10…

I think nearly everyone will agree – Windows 8 was pretty much a train wreck. The OS confused nearly everyone that used it; and that confusion came in the guise of a tablet “interface” that had features missing, existing features deprecated, and a new set of applications that just didn’t fit the design language that everyone was used to when it came to Windows.

However, there was one thing that came out of it that nearly everyone, present company included, really liked, and that was OneDrive Placeholders.

Placeholders in OneDrive were special file stubs that looked like your documents but actually just “took the place” of the actual document. When you actually wanted or needed to edit the actual file, you could double click on it to open it or sync the actual copy down to your hard drive and use it as you normally would. Placeholders were a wonderful way to seeing every file that was stored on OneDrive. This was especially helpful so that you wouldn’t have to choose what files to have on your PC or not. You could bring down what you needed and the rest was done with Placeholders.

Unfortunately, the version of OneDrive that came with Windows 8.x was not compatible with Windows 10. Microsoft further deprecated all subsequent versions of OneDrive so that all platforms (all versions of Windows, macOS, etc.) ran off the same sync engine. Placeholders, we were told would come back at a later date.

My friends… that time has come.

As part of the latest Windows Insider build on the Fast Ring – Build 16215 – Microsoft is releasing a new OneDrive client that has a new feature called Files On-Demand. In an entry on the Windows Blog, Dona Sarkar, a software engineer in the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft noted,

“With Files On-Demand, you can access all your files in the cloud without having to download them and use storage space on your device. All your files—even online-only files—can be seen in File Explorer and work just like every other file on your device. You’ll be able to open online-only files from within any desktop or Windows Store apps using the Windows file picker. And you’re covered in both your home and professional life since it works with your personal and work OneDrive, as well as your SharePoint Online team sites.”

The updated OneDrive client will be rolling out over the next few days but can also be installed from here.

After enabling Files On-Demand in the updated OneDrive client, your files will have an “Online-Only” status and be shown with an icon with a “cloud” overlay, similar to what you see below. Local files will have a green checkmark with a white background. Always available files (those that are marked, “always keep on this device”) will have a white checkmark with a green background. Examples of all three icons can be seen immediately below.

Please note that installing this version of the OneDrive client on any other Windows version – for example, Windows 7 – won’t enable the feature. The feature is dependent upon the latest Fast Ring Build, currently Build 16215. Release notes for that build can be found here.

When installed on a Windows 10 PC with the right Fast Ring Build, the user will see the following when they click on the OneDrive icon in their system tray:

Unfortunately, for me, I don’t sit in the Fast Ring any longer. I’ve had too many issues with prerelease versions of Windows to understand that if I want my Surface Book (or other designated Windows 10 PC) to run without issue or problems, I need to stay away from them. It’s really a one way move. Every time I’ve tried to reset my PC back to a released version of Windows 10, its died.

Files On-Demand is currently scheduled to be part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, due out sometime in Q3 2017.

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Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate

Download, Convert and burn your videos to DVD’s with this easy to use cross-platform tool.

When you’re a parent or grandparent, believe it or not, video is what you live for. Thirty to forty years ago, it used to be pictures. Grandparents would patiently wait for pictures of their grandchildren to come in the mail; or they’d be hand delivered to them. Either way, what they got were physical stills, and that’s about it.

Today, it’s a completely different story.

Today with smartphones and with the internet, parents (and grandparents alike) can take and share not only stills but video with nearly everyone, at any time. However, not everyone is as technology savvy as the next person. Sometimes, you need a different, more traditional way to share video. That’s why I like Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate. It’s a cross platform (Windows and Mac) tool that allows you to share your story regardless of computer type.

Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate is an all-in-one multimedia suite that enables you to extract audio from videos, convert videos to any popular format with zero quality loss and 30x faster conversion speed. With it you can transform any home DVD movie to nearly any format you want, burn & copy home DVDs, provide one-click online video download, edit videos and more. The package is very compact and easy to use.

Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate supports native codecs like Apple Pores, Intermediate Codec, and DNxHD, so you can convert videos to one optimized format for iMovie, FCP etc., and then edit them for the best overall effect. The process is fast, over 30x faster than previous versions; and allows you to convert both audio and video to and from over 70 different formats. The app also supports native codec support for professional apps like Final Cut Pro.

App Pro’s: Works on both Mac and Windows platforms, provides for conversion, downloading

App Con’s: Not all web browser extensions install correctly

Conclusion: Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate is an easy to use multi-platform application that is fast and easy to use. You can use it not only to download non-copy protected videos from the internet; but you can use it to burn DVD’s with cool menu systems as well.

The app runs off of a subscription service, costing $40USD per year for a single computer license. You can also purchase a single, lifetime license for $60USD. A family license (2-5 computers) for $118USD for Macs and $100USD for Windows PC’s.

I’ve really liked using this app. It’s easy to use and offers a great many features that you would normally only find on a much more expensive, desktop app. The only issue I’ve had with this app is the installation of its Chrome Extension. The process generates an HTTP404 error, clearly indicating that either the application is in error, or the extension location in the store has been moved.

URL: http://wondershare-video-converter-ultimate-mac-version.soft32.com/

 

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