Archives for November 2009

Persistent Virus or Spyware? Get a Custom Cure™!

There’s a dirty little secret in the field of computer security: no antivirus or spyware product can detect or clean everything. It’s true. StopSign is a great product and we’re constantly upgrading our antivirus and antispyware engines to provide the absolute best protection for our members; but there is no security product on the market that can deal with every single infection, especially emerging or previously unknown vulnerabilities, called zero day attacks. Our solution to this problem is a Custom Cure™ that our Support Staff creates on an individual basis for any active member who needs one.

We’ll often hear “Well so and so’s product removed such and such infection, why didn’t StopSign?” Honestly, we’re glad when we hear that, because that means our members are talking to us instead of assuming the worst, and then we can tell anyone experiencing this problem about our very unique Custom Cure™ service that addresses anything we might miss during a scan. Once we know about your problem, our support techs will get some information about your infection and then create a fix that’s customized for your particular needs.

Just like all of our US-based support, a Custom Cure™ is part of your StopSign membership and is provided at no additional charge! That’s right… all of our technical support is absolutely free to our members. We don’t charge you for Custom Cure’s™, phone calls, emails, or online chats with our Support Staff.

If you’re an active StopSign member and come across a particularly nasty virus or spyware infection that just keeps sticking around, please contact our Support Staff and submit a support ticket online so we can begin to walk you through the entire process and get your machine clean.

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.

How to Identify and Prevent Cyberbullying.

How to Identify and Prevent Cyberbullying.

Today’s kids are spending more and more time online in chat rooms, texting via cell phone, and using every digital gadget available to them to communicate with their friends. Not only are they chatting with friends from their schools and neighborhoods, but they’re also meeting new people online and talking with them, too. In most cases the chats are fun and friendly, but there is a growing concern over a dark side of these digital discussions: cyberbullies.

What is cyberbullying?

The National Crime Prevention Council defines cyberbullying as: “Online bullying, called cyberbullying, happens when teens use the Internet, cell phones, or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.”. Emails, IM‘s, Twitter posts, text messages, MySpace pages… any digital resource can, and likely has been, used for the purposes of cyberbullying.

Warning signs of cyberbullying and harassment.

There’s a large variety of ways that a bully can harass a victim online. A few examples are creating or altering photos in a suggestive manner, continually sending the victim hateful messages, rallying a larger group of people to humiliate someone, and spreading false rumors in order to hurt or embarass the target.

Everyone reacts differently to harassment, but there are some classic warning signs that somehing is wrong. The victims of cyberbullying may:

  • Become uncharacteristically withdrawn or antisocial
  • Have trouble sleeping, or possibly have nightmares
  • Avoid going online or using their cell phone
  • Unexpectedly shut down a computer when others come near
  • Ask questions about revenge, death, or suicide

At the first sign of any of these, or other unusual behavior, parents, teachers, and other responsible adults should take note and talk to the child. Catching these things early is a key to prevention. And if you come across any bullying, make sure to save any evidence (save emails, print the screen with chats, etc.).

Cyberbullying in the news.

In recent years there have been several high-profile stories in the press regarding cyberbullying. Not only do these stories bring to light the wide-ranging impact of cyberbullying and other forms of digital harassment, but they also illustrate that it’s not just teens bullying other teens. Here are a few examples:

How do we stop cyberbullies?

Early detection of harassment is key, though it’s not always easy to find. Staying on top of your child’s internet and cell phone usage is one way to be in the loop. And don’t worry about keeping tabs: it’s not snooping or invading their privacy, it’s looking out for their well being!

We’ve come up with a short list of 5 cyberbullying prevention tips to help parents and their children stop cyberbullying in it’s tracks:

  1. Report cyberbullies:

    As with any bully, make sure that your kids know that it’s not OK for this to happen to them. They should also tell a responsible adult: parents, teachers, etc. Parents and other adults should take the information seriously and should report any instance of harassment to the authorities (police, school administrators, etc.)

  2. Education = prevention:

    Talk with your kids and let them know the ramifications of cyberbullying: fear, embarassment, and other negative reactions.

  3. Consider a contract:

    There are plenty of examples of fair use contracts between parents and children online that have clear, concise rules of internet and cell phone usage. Find a few examples and discuss them with your kids so that they know what is expected of them and get a written promise of compliance.

  4. Look for warning signs:

    Red flags that show up when a child is the victim of a cyberbully include (but aren’t limited to): being nervous when downloading emails or IM’s, becoming angry when online (or just after going offline), being uncharacteristically withdrawn from friends and family, the unexpected absence of any cell phone usage, and avoiding any time online.

  5. Get informed, stay informed:

    Keep an open door policy with your kids so that they know they can come to you at any time to discuss problems that may arise both online and offline.

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.

3 Things Your Username Shouldn’t Say About You.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

From “Romeo and Juliet“, by William Shakespeare

The creation of a username (or user ID) for any online service or account is often overlooked as a topic of Internet safety. Although the username you create for your bank’s web site may not be viewed by many people, your email, social network, and instant message (AKAIM“) usernames will be viewed by dozens, hundreds, or maybe thousands of people (depending on your popularity online and/or the openness of the service).

When choosing a username it’s best to not take any chances. Crooks, predators, fraudsters, scammers… anyone with ill intentions might be able to wedge their way into your life to cause problems. There are 3 types of personal information found in many usernames that might be useful to the bad guys, which we’ll discuss below.

Note: In the sections below we use various usernames as examples. These are not intended to be the usernames of actual people, and any similarity is purely coincidental.


This is especially important for children, as their usernames can be displayed to all kinds of unsavory characters online, from sexual predators to cyberbullys. When helping your child select a username for themselves, be careful not to reveal their age.

Here are some examples of age-defining usernames:

  • Little15 Shows the age of the user.
  • Bobby1997 The full year of the users birth.
  • Kewl95Dude The partial year of the users birth.


Area codes, city/county names, zip codes, phone prefixes… there are many ways to give a crook or scammer information on where you live. Remember the movie “You’ve Got Mail“? Tom Hanks’ character used his building number in his username (“NY152”). Rich guy, building in his username… there’s some quick and easy info for a baddie to pick up on. Don’t be that guy (or gal).

Here are some examples of location-defining usernames:

  • Alice90210 The zip code of the user
  • Derrick212 The area code of the user
  • KingCoKyle The county of the user. (e.g. “King County”)


Whether you’re a man or a woman, it’s easier to identify people when you know more things about them. If, for example, someone wanted to cyber-stalk you, it would be easier to pick you out in a crowd if they could eliminate half of the group by only looking for one sex vs. the other.

Here are some examples of gender-defining usernames:

  • LadyInRed
  • MisterMan
  • MrsHotPotato

A few things to note

We’re detailing suggestions, not absolutes. If you’re 87 years old and decide that HappyGramps87 is the username for you, then you’ll probably be fine since age is much more of an issue for children. And, of course, there are things that shouldn’t need to be said like putting things like your PIN or Social Security number in your username. Just use your best judgment and do what you think is right. And safe.

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.

Social Engineering: A Digital Con Game.

Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace are wonderful ways to connect with friends and family. Unfortunately they also provide excellent resources for online crooks to gain sensitive information via social engineering, a term synonymous with con games in the world of computer security. By learning what social networking is, you can protect yourself from would-be (virtual) attackers and keep your data safe.

What is “social engineering”?

Social engineering is a non-technical intrusion using human interaction (thus, the “social” in “social engineering”) to gain information which directly, or indirectly, leads to a scam of some kind. The information compromised can be of any variety: passwords, access to computers and/or networks, account information, or anything else that can lead to additional data, money, identity theft, hacked accounts, or other problems for the victims. It’s considered a safer and easier way to run a con since the scammer rarely has to be physically present in front of the victim, so the Internet provides an excellent medium for these kinds of scams.

How does social engineering affect my social networking accounts?

Attempts to phish for information are notorious online, and you should learn how to protect yourself from phishers. Instant and direct messages, emails, chat… all forms of online communication have the potential to be tapped, spoofed, or intercepted. Whether it’s email, a social networking site, or something else, all it takes is one unsecure account and a bit of luck in order to gain access from hundreds, if not thousands, of other users. With access to one unsecured account, the scammer now has the trust of all of their friends and followers of the real account owner. The flood gates are now open for additional phishing attempts, data loss, and other forms of digital mischief.

Social engineering is very simple and very effective. The weakest link in any computer security scenario will always be a human, and social networks are chock full of them. With enough patience it’s only a matter of time before a scammer finds a victim.

How can I protect myself from being a victim?

The easiest way to guard against social engineering is to be skeptical of offers presented in emails, online, and over the phone. Social engineering attempts prey on every aspect of human behavior (greed, compassion, fear, love, etc.) and can even exploit outside events such as natural disasters and current news topics in order to extract information from the victim. Here are a few specific things you can do:

  • Ensure the legitimacy of anyone claiming to be a representative of a company, government office, or organization.
  • Never reveal personal information unless you are certain of their need for the information and that the information will be held in the strictest confidence.
  • Keep your passwords and other account access data secure. No company or it’s representatives should ever ask for your password, no matter how convincing the story they give you.
  • When entering sensitive information online, make sure you’re really on the web site you think you are on. Read our “How to Spot a Fake Website” post to learn more.
  • Never send sensitive and/or personal information via email or instant message to anyone, even friends and relatives. Spoofing emails and IM information is too easy.

If you come across a social engineering attempt, make sure to contact the service you used when the attempt occurred. Most social networking sites, companies, and organizations have a computer security team that handles these issues and you can help stop the spread of these attacks. Listed below are some resources for a few online services regarding safety, abuse, reporting, and/or support. To find out how to report on other sites, check their Help or Support links.

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.