Tech-Related Resolutions For 2012

Tech-Related Resolutions For 2012

A new year brings new opportunity for us all to change our old habits for new ones. Take me, for example. I’ve set up a few resolutions for myself that include getting healthier, spending more time with my family, and learning a new programming language. Maybe you want to dedicate more time to a hobby, or finish up that project car that’s been sitting in your driveway since 1998. 🙂

New Year resolutions are kind of a laugh to most people, because we all know that as humans, we’re loathe to change on our own. We all get used to doing things a certain way unless life kicks us in the behind to do something about it. But this year, you and I can make a positive change before something bad happens.

I’ve got 3 super simple things you can do to make the technology-related side of your life better. Each of these will either save your life (seriously), save you from embarrassment &/or identity theft, and save you from the wrath of a loved one for losing important files… like wedding photos, etc. Read on:

  1. Resolve to be safe with technology

    Some of you probably laughed when I said a tech-related resolution could save your life, but this really could: Use your tech and gadgets only when appropriate. I’m looking right at you, car texters. But it goes beyond texting while driving. Stop messing with your GPS devices, using your cell phone without a hands-free device, and even fiddling with your stereo settings while driving. A click here or there to change a station or re-route your GPS is one thing, but I’ve seen a lot of people concentrating more on the gadgets than the road. Don’t be the one who becomes a statistic!

  2. Resolve to change your passwords

    This will be, by far, the easiest and best thing your can accomplish in this resolution list. For every service you use, whether a bank, Facebook, or, change the password. You and I both know that it’s been a while. Maybe not for every login you have, but if you’re like most people then many (or even most) of the services you use haven’t seen a password update since you first signed up.

  3. Resolve to back up your important files

    With services like Dropbox, making backups of important files like your digital photos is easier than ever. And if you’re worried about putting sensitive data in the cloud then do what I did: Buy yourself an external USB hard drive and back them up there. Even if all you did was a straight copy and paste from your desktop or laptop to your external drive, you’d have the peace of mind that your files are safe. I have a friend who lost all of his wedding photos because of a hard disk crash, and let’s just say it wasn’t pretty to hear about the wrath of his lovely wife.

I sincerely hope you take those 3 simple changes to heart. You’ll find that they aren’t tough to do, and you’ll be a lot safer in the long run by doing them. Here’s hoping you and your loved ones enjoy a happy, safe, and technology filled 2012!

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.

Reporting Online Fraud and Cybercrime

Reporting Online Fraud and Cybercrime

If you or someone you know is becomes the victim of online fraud or any other type of cybercrime (or even just an attempt at it), you need to contact the authorities as soon as possible. Keeping it to yourself can lead to repeated attacks, as well as continued spread of Internet fraud, crime, and even increased distribution of viruses and spyware through crime networks that try to set up shop on your computer.

Depending on what level of fraud and/or cybercrime you’re dealing with, you may have to notify multiple agencies. But regardless of how many places you have to contact, doing so will be the first step to stopping the crooks in their tracks. Please use the list below as a starting point to report any incident:

  • An Important First Step:

    If the fraud you’re reporting reporting is, or becomes, aggressive or threatening in any manner, contact your local authorities. The police in your community should be made aware of any potential threats to you, your family, your home, etc.

  • Get Into The System:

    Head to, the “Internet Crime Complaint Center”. This site is a partnership between several government agencies, including the FBI. The IC3 has an online complaint submission form that you can use to report online fraud and other Internet-related scams.

  • If It’s International…:

    If you feel you’re the victim of an international scam operation, contact, a coalition of about 2 dozen countries who want to help stop cross-border cybercrime. You may also want to contact a US Secret Service field office to let them know, too.

  • Contact Credit Reporting Companies:

    If you think you’ve been the victim of identity theft, contact any one of the big 3 credit reporting companies. They’ll get your information disseminated to all three. Their contact info is as follows:

Don’t just be a victim of online fraud and cybercrime. Contact the appropriate authorities and government agencies and stop Internet-related crime before it stops you.

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.

Are Popup Ads Dangerous?

Are Popup Ads Dangerous?

Excuse me, but your pop-up is on my screen.

Ah, yes… the ubiquitous pop-up ad. Annoying? Yes. Misunderstood? Possibly. Dangerous? Well, that remains to be seen. But what exactly is a pop-up ad? Is it anything at all that “pops” up on your screen a pop-up ad? Wikipedia says:

Pop-up ads (or pop-ups are a form of online advertising on the World Wide Web intended to attract web traffic or capture email addresses.

If we go by Wikipedia’s definition (and for the purposes of this blog post, we are), then we can break it down to say that anything that opens up a “form of online advertising on the World Wide Web” is a pop-up ad. Notice the emphasis on “online” — in this blog post we’re not including pop-ups that are generated from software. (Usually in the form of a Windows dialog box) That’s a good topic for another post at another time.

What’s dangerous and what’s annoying?

In reality, a true online ad is no more dangerous than a TV ad. Sure, it may be an annoyance, but you’re not going to get anything you don’t ask for unless you click on the ad. The trouble is that a malicious pop-up can be confused with a legitimate pop-up ad. That’s the rub. Whether those pop-ups come from software, a website, or from a magical dimension (ha-ha-ha), bad stuff is bad stuff, and that bad stuff is often masked to look like a legitimate pop-up. Why? Because the folks who are trying to get their badness out there are preying on our trust. Make the pop-up look like it came from a trusted source and more people will click.

Because of that, you and I have to be careful when surfing the Web and we’re confronted with a pop-up. Even if it’s something we’re interested in, we run the risk of being redirected somewhere we didn’t think we’d be sent to. And even if we’re not interested, sometimes even closing the pop-up can be a challenge. How many times have you tried to close a browser window with a pop-up ad only to be confronted with another pop-up? Even worse are the pop-up confirmation boxes that ask us if we’re sure, and then confuse us by saying clicking one button will do this and the other will do that, and neither explanation seems clear as to what clicking on either will actually do. It’s enough to drive you crazy!

Closing the pop-up debate.

If you’re surfing the Internet and keeping to well known sites like Google, Bing, and other big-name blogs/sites/etc. then the likelihood of you getting propositioned by a malicious pop-up are small. But no matter if you stay on the big sites or walk the wild side, you can keep yourself safe by downloading and installing a pop-up blocker, antivirus and anti-spyware software that specifically looks to remove any malicious software you may accidentally get infected with. Doing so will help keep you safe, whether or not you’re being exposed to legitimate ads or dangerous pop-ups.

Image courtesy of / CC BY-ND 2.0

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.

There’s No Free Lunch Online.

There’s No Free Lunch Online.

I want to talk about “free“. I don’t know about you, but I love free things. Free samples at Costco, kids eat free specials at restaurants… free is great when you can get it. But it’s not really free, is it? I mean, they want you to buy… they wouldn’t be in business if you didn’t. The free is just to get you in the door; but before you leave they want that “free” to turn into “pay”.

A very famous (and very popular) pop artist has a song that goes:

“We are living in a material world, and I am a material girl.”

She is not wrong about where we’re living.

Like it or not, companies exist to make money. That’s not a popular thing to say out loud, but the fact is we all need to make money to survive. Your company needs to make money just as much as mine does, and when they do make it, we get our checks, pay our bills, and send our kids to school.

We see “free” a lot with services and products in the online world, don’t we? Free software, free upgrades, free this or that. But if you look closely, many times you see a free version advertised, only to click on the link to find out (surprise, surprise) that they push the paid versions. StopSign doesn’t do that. We offer a paid service, and a darned good one at that.

In our industry, that of Internet security, we have a lot of competitors. So what sets a company like ours apart if there are plenty of other choices? Why should you choose StopSign over someone else? Because StopSign offers you three things:

  1. Commitment to quality: First and foremost, we have quality software. We stand behind every download and every account that our members have. We’re nothing without you and we know it, so we try harder. We’re a small business, and we don’t have a bajillion dollars behind us to flood the market with empty promises.
  2. Excellent customer service :We’ve got 100% US-based support. Not outsourcing our support means that as a StopSign member you’ll get helped by people who live right here in the United States. We’re committed to keeping as many jobs in the US as possible.
  3. Up front pricing: We don’t ply you with “free” and pretend you aren’t going to pay for our services. Sure, you could get a free 30-day trial of StopSign to test out the waters, but we’re not going to lie and say it’s 100% free. We want you to try StopSign out, see how great we are, and become a paid StopSign member. And because we’re not trying to fleece you with “free”, we don’t have to charge exorbitant support fees if you run into a major problem. Once you pay for your StopSign membership, that’s it until your next bill. You do not pay extra for support! Few antivirus software vendors can say the same thing.

Chances are your mom told you the same thing my mom did: “You get what you pay for.” If you paid nothing for software, what do you think you’ll get when you need help? At StopSign, our reasonably priced subscriptions ensure you get quality, US-based support that won’t quit on you or ask for more money to help you out when you need it. We hope that you’ll choose StopSign for your antivirus and Internet security needs.

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.

Do You Let Websites “Remember” You?

Do You Let Websites “Remember” You?

Allowing your computer or a website to remember you (or info about you, like your username) is a double-edged sword. On one hand there’s the convenience of not having to type things in over and over, and on the other there are security concerns that can leave your computer or your online accounts vulnerable. Knowing what you’re committing when you let something remember you is very important, and is something you should consider before checking the box to OK.

There are several common places where something will let you remember you or your information. Each one has its own set of ups and downs with regards to keeping your info in its memory:

  • Public Computers:

    If you’re using a public computer, at the library for example, you should never allow passwords to be stored. If you do, it’s kind of like inviting anyone to view your accounts. You wouldn’t give a stranger the key to your house; don’t give them a key to your online accounts.

  • Private Computers:

    To keep friends and family from accidentally mucking up your settings, consider using separate user profiles may help alleviate this problem. Then you’ll just have to remember to log out of your profile when you’re done.

  • Websites:

    Having a website remember you and/or your password should only be done on private computers, and even then you might consider only doing it if you have a separate profile as mentioned above. Sure, you’re not going to have strangers rummaging through your PC (and if you do, you’ve got bigger problems), but a friend or family member could accidentally erase an email, click on a buy button, or lose a setting. S

  • Gadgets:

    I’ve got a new iPhone (no iPhone hater commentary, please), and I used it without protecting it with a pass code for the first month. Then a friend asked to check it out and asked why I didn’t use a pass code. I was a bit taken aback because I hadn’t considered it. Then he pointed out that if I lose my iPhone, all of my emails, etc. are wide open for whomever finds it. Good point! Why it didn’t occur to me I don’t know, but I’m using a pass code now and you should do the same on any gadget or gizmo that lets you protect it that way.

If you have the ability to use a username and password (or pass code), do so. But think about having the PC, site, or gadget remember those settings before you press the OK button. Having your info stored is a balancing act between safety and convenience, and you’re going to have to make that call for yourself based on what it is and who has access to it.

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.

Dangerous Tech Habits.

Dangerous Tech Habits.

Who would think that something as simple as texting would be a dangerous tech habit? Or uploading a photo? It may be a bit on the overly cautious side, but it’s true.

The relative ease with which we can make our daily life public is great. Thirty years ago we were still relying on long-distance phone calls and snail mail to keep in contact with friends and family, but now we’ve got gadgets and gizmos galore to help us out. Video conferencing, cell phone family plans, and photo sharing sites keep us in constant contact. Traditional long distance phone calls are becoming more a thing of the past and Internet-enabled devices are giving us more ways to connect.

The only down side is that no one is teaching us how to use these things safely. How do we know how far we should go? How much is too much? How can we keep our private information private while still exploring the web? These are questions you usually have to answer yourself. But we’ve come up with some quick tips on things to look out for when you’re out there.

  • Texting while driving:

    I almost feel silly writing this, but the fact is that plenty of people still haven’t figured out that texting while driving is crazy-dangerous. It’s so dangerous, in fact, that many cities are outlawing texting while driving. Pull over or wait until you are parked to send or read a message and keep yourself (and the others around you) safe while on the road.

  • Opening unexpected email attachments:

    It happens to the best of us, but this is particularly important if you like keeping your PC virus-free. Don’t open emails from anyone you don’t know, and only open/save/view files from friends when you know you’re expecting something.

  • Public geolocation announcements:

    Foursquare sure is fun, especially when you’re mayor of a location or you get a new badge. So is geotagging your pictures and putting them on Flickr for grandma to see. But be careful when you’re doing these things because if you have geotagging enabled, anyone who has access to your geo-aware services or websites may be able to see the location of your home, school, or office. That may be fine if you only allow friends and family access, but if you leave it open for everyone you may be giving more details than you mean to do. And the last thing you want is an unwelcome visitor coming over.

  • No backups:

    If you aren’t backing up your important files (taxes, family photos, legal documents, etc.) then you’re asking for trouble. DVD burners and external hard drives are pretty reasonably priced, so there’s no real excuse for it unless you like the danger of flirting with disaster.

  • Easy passwords:

    If you haven’t read our post “12 Tips for Making a Good Password.“, do it now. I’ll wait. Did you read it? Good. Now go change all of your passwords.

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.