Everyday Tips from the ComputerMom 

June 2017
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Welcome to June! Can you believe the year is half gone already? I hope you all have wonderful plans for this summer.

I received a lot of calls about the WannaCry attack in May. Infections like this are on the rise, so now is a good time to learn how to protect yourself. You Mac users should read this article as well - Mac ransomware, while rare, is out there as well.

Every one of you uses an internet browser every day. My second article is about browser basics, written so that you and I are speaking the same language should you need some assistance.

Julie Marto 
PS - DON'T CALL THAT PHONE NUMBER! If your browser is screaming at you that you have an infection, it's a scam. Try turning your computer off and on first. If that doesn't work give me a call!
WannaCry Attack - How to Protect Yourself from Ransomware 

It's been a while since I wrote about  ransomware - the type of virus that encrypts all of your personal files and demands payment to give you the key. Last month a particularly nasty strain called WannaCry made the news after shutting down computer systems in over 150 countries. I received multiple calls from clients asking if they were at risk. The answer is yes, but here are the steps you can take to protect yourself:

Keep your system up to date - most viruses exploit system vulnerabilities in order to run. It's Microsoft's job to patch those vulnerabilities, and the way they do that is via Windows updates. Windows 10 is very diligent about applying updates - almost too diligent, as you have no way to turn off updates and little control over when they happen. Windows 7, on the other hand, has had a lot of issues with stalled updates. It's no wonder that the vast majority of affected systems were running Windows 7. If you are still using Windows 7, check to make sure your updates are running, and consider upgrading to Windows 10 - I can still do that upgrade for you!

Back up your system - You won't lose your files if your system is properly backed up. Backup is a complex topic, but here are some highlights:
  • The easiest and safest type of backup is a cloud-based site like Carbonite or CrashPlan.  In the case of infection, these backup sites will allow you to roll your files back to their unencrypted state. 
  • Files sharing sites such as Dropbox offer a certain level of protection as well, by allowing you to roll back files to a previous version, but they are not nearly as comprehensive a solution as the true backup sites. 
  • Windows has several tools to back up to an external drive, but you risk having your backup drive encrypted if it's attached to your system when you get infected. So, if you use an external drive for backup, it's best to keep it disconnected except when you are actually performing a backup. 
  • At the very least, you should sync your pictures with Google Photos and copy your most important documents to a thumb drive on a regular basis.

Keep your antivirus up to date, and consider adding an additional level of protection - Windows 10 automatically includes a base level of protection called Windows Defender, which should be sufficient to protect you. If you are still on Windows 7, you must manually install an up-to-date antivirus. My recommendations are Norton (especially if you can get it free from Comcast), Kaspersky, and Eset. Additionally, I recommend installing a program called Cryptoprevent, which blocks this type of infection specifically. 

Don't open email attachments or links that you aren't expecting - the majority of these infections are spread through email attachments. Be very cautious opening any attachments or links, even those that come from friends, that seem suspicious in any way!

Fortunately, very few of my clients have fallen victim to any of these types of attacks. Keep your system up to date, install a good anti-virus, back up your files, and be vigilant about attachments, and you should be fine.
Browser Basics

If the internet is the information superhighway, your browser is the car you use to drive to your destination. All browsers provide basically the same functions, but, just like cars, some are faster than others, or offer different features. People often ask me which is the "best" browser to use. The answer is simple - the "best" browser is the one that works at your favorite sites, and that you are most comfortable with! 

All computers come with at least one browser built in. PCs come with Edge and Internet Explorer. Macs come with Safari. Most people also download and add at least one additional browser, either Google's Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox, or Opera. It's a good idea to have more than one browser, as sometimes websites work better with one than another. 

Each browser is a little different, but they all include the same basics: 

Home Page - this is the site that opens up when you first launch your browser. It might be a page set by your computer manufacturer, like the Apple home page or MSN, or it might be a page you chose yourself, like your email inbox. It also might be a set of links to frequently visited pages. If you press the little house button at the top of your browser, you will be instantly returned to your home page. Your home page is completely customizable - set it to whatever you want it to be!

Address bar - this is the open space where you can type in a web address, like www.thecomputermom.com. Most browsers also use this as a search box - if you type in "computermom" and hit enter, your browser will show you a bunch a "hits" - responses to your search. You can set the search bar to use any search engine you like - I prefer Google.

Back/Forward/Refresh buttons - as you navigate through various websites, the browser keeps track of where you have been. If you want to go back a few pages, click on the backwards arrow. Once you have done that, you can click on the forward pointing arrow to return. The refresh button, which will look like a circular arrow, will reload the current page, with any updates or changes that might have happened since you first landed there.

Favorites/Bookmarks - each browser has a different way to save and organize sites you visit frequently. Additionally, most browsers allow you to use a favorites toolbar, where can keep links to the websites you go to most often, like your email or financial sites. I will typically set up a favorites toolbar for you, with customized links, in a home visit.

Because browsers are so customizable, they are often the first sign that something has gone wrong with your computer. You might have toolbars installed that you never wanted, or your home page might be some site you didn't pick. Your searches might direct you to advertisements, or your browser might only open to a page that yells that you have an infection. If you have any of those symptoms, your computer probably needs a good cleaning. Just give me a call, and I'll get you straightened out!