Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Watch out for these bad tech habits

Do you practice bad tech habits? You may think you don’t. But you do you re-use passwords, neglect to back up files or frequently leave your tablet alone and in plain sight? Then you’re guilty of many of the most significant bad tech habits recently uncovered by PCWorld Magazine. In order to protect your devices and yourself, you’ll study these bad habits and then make changes to your own behavior. It’s the best way to protect yourself when computing.

Becoming a target

Your tablets and smartphones are valuable. So don’t make it so easy for thieves to snatch them. So many people practice the bad tech habit of leaving their devices unattended at a coffee shop or restaurant booth when they set off to get refills or another cookie. While they’re gone, thieves could easily snatch their devices off of the table and speedily leave the restaurant. Then there are those people that perform the bad habit of staring so intently into their smart phone screens they don’t spare any attention for their surroundings. It’s easier for crooks to sneak up close to these distracted folks, sock them and then escape with their smart phones or tablets.

Don’t Make Yourself Sick

Bad tech habits may harm your health, too. Perhaps you sit all day hunched in front your computer. This bad posture can result in serious back pain. Additionally, it may cause carpal tunnel syndrome. The remedy here? Sit up straight, take frequent computing breaks and get an appropriate chair that places less stress on your back. On the subject of breaks, another bad tech habit is not taking any. As PCWorld says, your can hurt your eyes, strain your back and blur your thought processes if you insist upon spending the entire work day concentrating on your computer screen. Don't forget to take regular breaks to keep yourself healthy.

Lost Data, Personal Information

Do you use the same password at each and every Web site where you register? This is a especially dangerous habit. What happens if hackers crack that go-to password? How much of your personal info will they then be able to access? Or maybe you never take time to back up your files. PCWorld correctly identifies this as another dangerous computer habit. What if your hard-drive crashes? If you don’t have any back-ups, do you lose your most critical files?

Friday, May 17, 2013

The AP: Scammed by a clever phisher

You would never open a phishing e-mail that asks you to deposit $1,000 to obtain $1 million, would you? And you would definitely never open something from a Nigerian prince needing the funds he needs to flee to the United States, right? But what about the most refined of today’s phishing e-mails? Think you will never be seduced by one of these? Think again. A recent phishing e-mail snared the Associated Press, the nation’s top provider of wire-service news. Given that the AP could become a victim of phishing, so could you.

The AP attack

AP fell victim to a phishing scam organized by a group calling itself the Syrian Electronic Army. This group was able to take over the news service’s Twitter account, sending out a message that President Obama had been injured in an explosion at the White House. This message was obviously false, it still had a significant impact, sending the stock market into a brief but precipitous freefall.

The e-mail

How did this attack succeed? Hackers sent legitimate-looking e-mail messages to AP staffers referring them to what was said to be an important news story in the Washington Post. The phishing e-mail was professional enough so that some AP staffers clicked on it, starting the process that gave the Syrian Electronic Army control over the company’s Twitter account. AP had to shut off its Twitter account as a result.

A warning

It’s tempting to blame the AP for this attack. But the true lesson here is that none of us is safe from the savviest of online scammers. Con artists have advanced past the days of phishing e-mails stuffed with horrendous grammar and sent by “senders” with outlandish names. If you want to protect your online life today, you’ll have to be more vigilant than ever. Scammers are adapting. You’ll need to do the same.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hackers love the iPhone

Mobile devices have always been often considered as more safe. Desktop and laptops, the reasoning goes, are way more susceptible to hackers and cyber criminals. That’s true to a certain extent. But hackers are clever enough these days to compromise tablets and smartphones, too. And there’s one particular mobile device that gets compromised a lot more often than any other. According to a recent story by Business Insider, it’s the iPhone which is the most hackable mobile device.

The most hacked

Business Insider reported on the latest statistics from Web security company SourceFire, which released the report "25 Years of Vulnerabilities." This report charted the Critical Vulnerabilities and Exposures -- also known as CVE -- of a host of software and mobile devices. The CVE is the standard that security companies use when charting cyber-exploits. SourceFire found that 210 CVE reports had been filed on the iPhone. For comparison's sake, Android only had 24 CVE reports.

Reasons

What are the reasons for this? Why have hackers had such a field day with the iPhone while pretty much ignoring other mobile devices? There isn't any simple answer to this. But Business Insider wonders whether the iPhone might be targeted more often simply because of its popularity. All things considered, the device still maintains popular status in the tech world, and customers still flock to purchase each new version of this device. Having said that, this argument falls apart when examining the growing popularity of Android-powered devices. As per the SourceFire report, the number of CVEs on Android devices actually dropped in 2012 when compared to 2011. And it was just last year when Android’s market share – and the number of Android devices purchased – soared.

Going after the king

A recent interview with the SourceFire report author on the ZDNet Web site proposes another reason for the high number of iPhone hacks: Hacking the iPhone might present a challenge worthy of the most gifted hackers. Consider how Android devices work. They rely on an open platform. This means that developers could easily create malicious third-party apps that users can download themselves onto their phones. That’s not very much of a challenge for hackers. But hacking the iPhone, which does not boast an open platform? That’s a real test of a hacker’s skill.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Not all LCD computer monitors are created equal

Is it time for you to upgrade your LCD computer monitor? Guess what? It's not as simple a process as you may think. This is because not all LCD monitors are the same. Some respond quicker. Others do a better job reproducing colors. And, of course, some are simply pricier than are others. If you're in the market for a new LCD monitor, you'll need to have a close look at your computing habits. Do you mostly use your computer for writing reports, searching the Web and sending e-mail messages? Or do you use it watch movies and TV shows? Maybe you use it to create art. All of this matters when you're searching for the right LCD monitor for you.

Size isn't everything that matters

The Lifehacker Web site just recently took a look at the different monitors on the market today. The lesson from this site? Monitors are definately not created equal. Some, for instance, feature lightning-fast screen response times. These monitors are favored by hardcore gamers who want their video screens to move as fast as their thumbs. Others do a incredible job of reproducing colors and boast clear viewing angles. These monitors might work better for graphic designers and other visual artists, according to Lifehacker.

Types

The Coding Horror blog, by writer Jeff Atwood, says that most monitors sold these days are TN models. This is because these monitors are less costly. They also have screens that respond swiftly. But TN monitors aren't perfect. Coding Horror ranks their viewing angles and color reproduction abilities as only average. Users can also pick IPS monitors, which boast excellent color reproduction and excellent viewing angles. Their response times are solid, though not as quick as those of TN monitors. The downside? They are the most expensive monitors out there.

The middle choice?

VA monitors are also well-liked. Coding Horror ranks them between IPS and TN monitors. These monitors feature better color reproduction and viewing angles than TN monitors. They also feature slower screen-response times than do TN monitors. They are more costly than TN monitors are but less than IPS versions.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Phone passcodes are far from hacker-proof

You secure your smart phone with a passcode that you need to enter before it springs to life. But just how much protection will this passcode actually give you? The disturbing answer? Not nearly enough, according to a recent story by the tech Web site Lifehacker. The story details the many passcode exploits that hackers have used recently to compromise smart phones. Fortunately, the story does something a lot more comforting, too. It tells users how to best protect the data on their smartphones.

Passcode exploits

The Lifehacker story highlights the newest passcode exploits which have made it possible for hackers to compromise Apple’s iPhone and the Galaxy Samsung smart phones. The Apple exploit, enabled criminals to get into the iPhone phone app. Hackers didn’t gain total access to phones. Nevertheless they were able to use the app to make phone calls, view pictures and look at or edit users’ contact lists. The exploit focusing on Galaxy smart phones operated in a different way. Hackers could flash the phone’s home screen for just about a second. This gave them enough time to launch apps or start downloading an app that gave them full control over the phone.

Not foolproof

As the Lifehacker story says, none of these problems should surprise smart phone users. Passcodes offer protection, nonetheless they have never been failproof. According to Lifehacker, passcodes do no better a job protecting your phone than passwords or PINs do securing your bank accounts or membership Web sites. Hackers can crack your phone's lock-screen passcode or, in the case of skilled cyber thieves, break into your phone's hard drive to gain access to your data.

Protection

To protect yourself, first make sure that your lock-screen passcode is at least complicated to guess. Lifehacker recommends a passcode consisting of letters, symbols and numbers. Next, make sure to encrypt the data that you store on your smart phone. Lastly, consider paying for services such as Prey or Apple’s Find my iPhone. These services give you the ability to track your phone after it’s stolen or you lose it. Even better, it allows you to eliminate the data stored on it, so that hackers can’t reach it.