Cyber Monday Warnings and Tips

By this point everyone knows of Cyber Monday; the first Monday after the long Thanksgiving weekend in which retailers advertise huge discounts to online shoppers. This round of shopping is designed for those who would prefer not to engage in the sometimes rugby like skirmishes that happen on Black Friday, the big sales day at brick and mortar locations. In addition, online shopping can appeal to the savvy bargain hunter for the ease in which they can comparison shop. Also, let’s not forget the attraction of shopping in comfort, lounging in pajamas in one’s own home.

Still, online shopping is not without it’s pitfalls. Following some simple guidelines can save a great deal of hassle, while at the same time aiding in keeping important credit and identity information private.

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Share Your Feedback – We’d Love to Hear From You!

people_love_us_on_yelp

Write a Review!

Many people find us on Yelp, and then become new clients because of reviews written by folks like you. I encourage all clients who have discovered Silverleaf through Yelp to share their experience by writing a review: it only takes a few minutes, it helps us (and helps other consumers), and it’s fun!

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Avoiding Online Scams

In this crazy technology-enabled world we live in today, scammers, theives, and otherwise unscrupulous folks have never had more tools at their disposal for stealing your data, your identity, and your money.

In this blog post, I’ll recall some of the scams and schemes that I’ve been the personal target of in the past year, and review some of the ways that you can avoid becoming a victim of online scams!


Typical Scams:


“Your account has been compromised, please verify all of your information”

A common scam involves sending a victim an “official-looking” email, scaring them with a claim that their account is in danger, and then soliciting personal login credentials from them.

Remember: no website or company will EVER ask you to “verify” or “confirm” your username/password information!


“I want you to buy $3000 in laptops using these two credit cards”

I’ve received emails from people claiming to be interested in purchasing computers from me. They ask how much I’d charge for, say, three high-end Sony VAIO laptops. Once I give them a quote, they say, “Ok, great – I’ll give you this credit card information, and you go ahead and purchase that for me”.

Yeah, right – can you say “stolen credit card” with MY name attached to a $3000 fraudulent purchase? I don’t think so.


“Click here to Download, Win, Verify!”

We’ve all seen this on various websites and unsolicited emails. Just go to any “free” software download site, and you’ll see this type of “clickbait” plastered all over the site. The danger here is that some of these URL links can lead to virus-hosting malicious websites.

Rule of thumb: before clicking on ANYTHING, just “mouse-over” the link and look at the URL preview that your browswer/email client displays. If you don’t recognize the URL, DON’T CLICK IT.


“Hi, I’m so-and-so from the Help Desk. BIG problem with your system, so I’m going to need all of your information to fix it”

While rare, these types of one-on-one social engineering attacks can be very effective. Attackers pretend to be calling from your company’s IT department, scare you with claims that your system is compromised, and then subtly ask you for sensitive data and information to help them “fix” the problem.

If you ever receive an unsolicited call like this at your workplace, don’t release ANY information, and make sure that your REAL IT department is made aware of it immediately!


“This app is requesting permission to do the following: take ALL of your data”

On Facebook, there are thousands of apps you can install on your account: everything from games, birthday reminders, and video-sharing apps. Most of these apps are harmless, but some of them take control of your Facebook profile and extract your personal data for viral marketing purposes. This way, the app can spread itself through your personal social network by posting and otherwise notifying your friends’ of its presence.

Before you install ANY app, read it’s privacy and permission statements first!


“Install this software using the (Recommended) settings”

Software developers want to make their product easy for the end-user to install and use, so they’ll often include a “Recommended” installation option alongside an “Advanced” one. This way, the software is installed using default settings without the user having to do anything else.

Be careful, though: MOST of the “Recommended” installations will also install “piggyback” software. For example, downloading and installing the popular “Adobe Flash Player Plugin” also includes (as the “recommended” or “default” option) downloading and installing the “Google Chrome” web browser. So, if you follow Adobe’s “recommendation”, a browser that you might not even want will get installed on your system (and automatically set as the default browser)!

A better way to install software is to use the “Advanced” option (don’t worry, it’s usually not THAT advanced – just select the installation folder, and you’re done). This way, you’ll be able to prevent any built-in, unwanted piggyback software from installing.


Conclusion

I want all Silverleaf fans to be safe when they’re browsing the Internet, because there are a lot of people out there looking to steal from you. My best advice is to be vigilant (and skeptical) when it comes to browsing, email, and software, so as not to leave yourself vulnerable to a scam or attack.

And remember: if it seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. (especially on the Internet!)

Scam: New Update from facebook. Now you can check who visited your profile.

Facebook Scam: Now you can check who visited your profile.

Facebook scammers are once again trying to take advantage of curious users who want to know which of their friends are visiting their profiles. This is a scam. The “Facebook Profile Viewer” and “Profile Visitor” apps are not something you want to install.

Remember: Facebook does not give you any way to find out who has been viewing your profile, will never do so, and neither does any app or service.

This particular scam says something along the lines of:

New Update from facebook. Now you can check who visited your profile. check here ——–>>>@[266343576787035:128:FAŒBOOK PROFILE VIEWER ®]<<<<------ Who Watching your Profile ? [Facebok user]'s Photos

The text “FAŒBOOK PROFILE VIEWER ®” is a link to the rogue app. If you click on the link, you have to permit the app to access your profile and install it on your Facebook account. It spreads by sharing the above image on your profile and asking your Facebook friends to Share it.

You should always be very careful about installing random Facebook apps on your account, especially ones that ask for a lot of access to your account. Take a minute now to remove all the Facebook apps you find suspicious. If you don’t know how to do so, you can refer to the following guide: How to clean up your Facebook apps.

As a general word of caution, don’t click on everything your Facebook friends share on the social network. If you see a scam like this one, report it. Then go check your Messages and Wall to make sure you’re not spreading the scam; the sooner you clean it up, Unlike all relevant Pages, and uninstall all relevant Apps, the better. You can also contact Facebook Security if you’d like to.

Note: this article was first posted on 3/27/12 at zdnet.com

Home Business Computer Setup Checklist

Awesome stock photo of a home business computer user
Awesome stock photo of a happy, productive home business computer user who followed this checklist.

When I started working from home, one of my first tasks was making sure that my computer was properly configured to meet the needs of my business.

Entering the business of Computer Repair & Consulting, in particular, meant that my specific computer needs were a bit above average (most folks don’t need 5 external hard drives, for example). But I consider the basic components of my setup to be critical for any home-based business setup, not just those that are specifically tech-oriented.

In this article, I’ll describe these components and talk about why it’s essential for home businesses to set up them up properly.

Disaster Prevention

Most home business owners rely on their computers for all of their core communication, accounting, and storage needs. Therefore, it is crucial that you take a few easy steps to help you survive (or even better, prevent) a catastrophic computer failure:

Hard Drive Failure – If your primary hard drive crashes, and you don’t have a backup, you’re in big trouble. Data recovery is easy if you have a backup, but very difficult (and costly) if you don’t. Install an external hard drive, and use it to keep up-to-date backup copies of ALL your data. (And don’t forget to backup your mobile devices too!)

Power Surges and Blackouts – This is especially important during the hot summer months, when electricity usage peaks and power surges/outages are common. Installing an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) will give your desktop computer 10-15 mins of extra use following a power outage, allowing you to save your work and avoid possible data corruption from a sudden power loss.

Beware the Spill – Coffee, coconut water, and vodka martinis are all terrific drinks for working at home. However, these tasty beverages are also shockingly effective at frying the main logic board of your laptop computer. A liquid spill is usually a career-ending event for a laptop, and most warranties (such as AppleCare) do NOT cover liquid damage, so be sure to keep liquids safely away from your laptop!

Productivity and Security

Optimizing your computer for maximum speed and productivity should be a top priority for home business owners, but securing your computer against external threats is just as important:

Anti-Virus Software – Not necessary for Mac users (yet), but critical for PCs. A computer virus can completely disable your machine and compromise sensitive information, so it is very important for PC users to have up-to-date AV software running at all times. Consider free anti-virus software as an alternative to the expensive, bulky programs that come pre-loaded with most PCs.

Software Updates – Don’t put these off by clicking “Remind Me Later” indefinitely: fully-updated software programs generally run faster than their outdated counterparts, and are also more reliable with fewer crashes and conflicts. Remember to update!

Network Security – Whether you’re running a simple home network, or a more advanced resource-sharing solution, the basic principles of network security apply: limit access to your network by setting permissions, change passwords frequently, and make your passwords difficult-to-guess (“password” and “12345” are NOT secure password choices!)

Online Branding and Promotion

Congrats on setting up your new home business computer system! Now it’s almost time to get to work, but first you need to attract a few customers:

Website – Investing in even a simple web design will allow interested parties to get basic information on your business online, and will serve as the public face of your brand in the absence of a physical storefront or office. If you work from home, and you want the public to find your business, then you need a website.

Online Branding and Promotion – Having your own website is great, but unless it is marketed and promoted properly, it will essentially just sit there and act as an expensive virtual business card. Your website should not only look professional, but also generate business (i.e. conversions). Your content needs to be keyword-optimized, mobile-optimized, indexed by search engines, submitted to local directories, and back-linked by social media so that it can found amongst the 600+ million other sites out there. Drive traffic to your site, and get conversions with professionally-optimized content.

Conclusion

Running a business from home is a challenging and rewarding experience, and a home business computer setup that is optimized for fast, reliable operation can help make it a productive and profitable experience as well. Maintaining a professional website will help you promote your brand, and will generate more leads and conversions for your business.

Please contact me for help with anything mentioned above, or feel free to leave a comment below!

iOS: How to Back Up Your Phone’s Data

How to back up your iPhone's Data

(click the giant iPhone above for backup instructions)

Backup! It’s Easy

Backing up your iPhone data is really simple, so make sure you do it, because if you don’t, you will probably regret it. You do this in iTunes and it usually takes just a couple of minutes: click the image above for instructions.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to back up your data on ALL of your devices, not just on your iPhone. If your device ever gets lost, stolen, smashed, or simply stops working, and you don’t have a back up, guess what? All of your photos, documents, and contacts are gone, along with all of your app data too.

Seriously, you really don’t want to have to learn the hard way about how crucial it is to keep regular back up copies of your data. Read my sad, sad article entitled Data Recovery: Dealing With Loss (And Hard Drive Failure) if you don’t believe me.

Inevitably, your phone will break, and your hard drive will crash – always be prepared with an up-to-date copy of all of your data!

How to Clean Up Your Facebook Apps

Facebook has many fun, useful, and unique software apps that users can install. However, some of these apps are really spammy and annoying, and some even exhibit virus-like behavior by collecting your personal information and propagating themselves throughout your private social network.

 
Here’s a quick guide showing you how to clean up any unwanted Facebook app:

Step 1:

To start, login to Facebook, click on the drop-down menu in the top right, and choose Privacy Settings:

Step 2:

From the “Privacy Settings” page, in the “Ads, Apps and Websites” section, click Edit Settings:

Step 3:

From the “Ads, Apps and Websites” page, in the “Apps you use” section, click Edit Settings:

Step 4:

From the “App Settings” page, look at your apps and make a note of each one you don’t trust, don’t like, or haven’t even seen before. Click Edit:

Step 5:

The apps you have installed probably have a lot permissions to your Facebook account. Some of these permissions can be removed one-by-one, but others are required for the app to function. If you find that you do not want a particular app to have access to your Facebook account, and you’d like to remove it, click on Remove app in the top right corner.

Step 6:

You’ll then be asked for confirmation before removing the selected app. Click Remove to complete the process, and repeat these steps for any other app you’d like to modify or remove.