Tag Archives: anti-virus

Online Holiday Shopping 2015 – Stop Credit Card Fraud

Black people shopping online this holiday season should be aware that fraud is rampant. Hackers are extremely savvy and know where and how to steal credit card data. So you need to be just as savvy. African-Americans should understand where and how they are vulnerable when shopping, in stores or online. Don’t let a techno-Scrooge ruin your holiday.

According to NASDAQ, nearly 32 million Americans had their credit cards breached in 2014. Forty-five percent of those breaches happened online.  Now is the time to learn online safety to protect your credit, your cash, your identity and your holiday season.

First and foremost, by now you should have the new Chip & PIN or EMV cards. If not then you need to get a hold of your bank or credit card company and demand it. This new card is not perfect but it is far more secure than the regular magnetic strip cards. Of course it takes longer to process a transaction but isn’t it worth it to keep you money safe?

Here are a few tips to help you stay safe while shopping online.

  • Shop only at trusted websites and stores. Stick with the familiar retailers and more common internet sites.  Keep some cash on hand when you shop at unique stores or gift shops to avoid exposing yourself to fraud. Beware of misspellings or domain names using “.net” instead of “.com”. This a common trick used by cyber criminals to fool unsuspecting consumers. Check out “Is ThatWebsite Trustworthy?”

Google / TLS

  • Make sure you see “https” in the URL. Also look for the little green lock. You should be well aware of these things if you shop online anytime not just the holidays. And even if you are not shopping whenever you perform sensitive business online know what a secure website looks like.
  • Do your homework! Research the company or website before making a purchase in person or online. Check websites like Yelp.com or  Scamadviser.com to see what other consumers are saying. Look for a website’s customer rating. Check posts previous customers have written on the company’s website, blog, or customer feedback page.
  • Protect your privacy. Be suspicious of any store or website that asks for too much information. Information such as your PIN, birthday or Social Security number are strictly off limits. Only give up the minimum amount of personal information possible. Don’t store information on the website server. Some websites will ask you to register and keep your credit card number on file in a cookie. Decline this option of you can and purchase as a guest to the website. You may have to enter your information each time you buy but you are safer.  If you do create an account on a shopping website, or any website for that matter, make sure you have a strong and secure password. This makes it harder to be hacked or high-jacked by cyber crooks. Learn how to create a secure password.
  • Use filters that warn you of suspicious or fraudulent websites or web pages. Google Chrome is excellent for stopping you from visiting suspicious websites. Many anit-virus programs can do the same thing. Make sure your anti-virus/anti-malware is up to date.
  • Use a credit card versus a debit card when shopping online.  Why? Because credit cards offer protections from identity theft that debit cards don’t offer. Also credit cards offers you the option of contesting  fraudulent charges to your account where a debit card takes the money directly from you bank account. Its much harder to get back if something goes wrong.
  • Keep good records. Print a copy of your order confirmation, save email receipts, and write down any pertinent information in case it’s needed to contest a charge.
  • Never, ever shop using public computers! These computer are notorious for viruses and malware. They could be hiding all sorts of software to steal passwords and personal information. You have no idea who was there before you or what they were doing.
  •  Beware public Wi-Fi! This is a favorite hunting ground for cyber thieves. They can steal information by simply by being on the same network and watching what you do. But some cyber criminals are even providing free Wi-Fi in hotels and coffee shops as a trap for guests. Once you are on THEIR network you’re at their mercy. Be alert and know what network you are on and use a VPN to protect your Internet traffic from prying eyes.
  • As always check you bank account and credit card statements daily.  If you see any charges you don’t recognize, address the matter immediately. Don’t pay credit card bills until you know all your charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems. After that, you might be liable for the charges.

Happy Holidays!

Back to School Tips for Black Students

canstockphoto26484013Fall is creeping up on students all over the nation. Fall means returning to the campus or classroom. In 2015, the number of black students entering college or returning for another year is rising again.  Black college enrollment is gradually catching up with whites. According to the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)  70.9 percent of black graduating seniors enrolled in college in October 2014 compared to 67.3 percent of whites students.  2014 marked the first time ever that African-Americans enrolled in college at a higher rate than whites.

But there is still a problem. Young black men are not enrolling in college at the same rate as black women. According to Clutchmagonline.com black women are enrolling in college more than any other group. But don’t get it twisted; black men are attending college. Another myth we need address while we’re at it. It is not true that there are more black men in prison than in college. 

But college requires many things in addition to the desire to learn and better one’s self. It requires money. A college education is shamefully expensive. But what is truly heart breaking is the millions of dollars in scholarships and grants for minority students that are unclaimed every year. There is money available for black students. The AACR published this report revealing the scholarships available to minority students.

But college has other hidden expenses  that students and parents need to realize. These include:

  • On campus parking
  • Course materials, text books, lab equipment, technology and assorted supplies.
  • Taking longer to graduate, additional semesters and summer school.
  • Student social activities.
  • Clubs, fraternities and sorrorities fees.
  • Travel expenses for family visits.
  • Sports activities.
  • Dorm expenses, laundry, bedding, toiletries, etc.
  • Dining hall and meal plans, food.

All these expenses add up year after year and they are not normally covered by tuition. Some college tuition include meal plans but not all. Some will cover lab equipment and supplies. But you need to be aware of these costs and calculate them into your overall education budget. You can find ways to beat these costs here.

But before you even get a chance to pay for all those things and tuition you have to get into college. Many under-priviledged students find the cost of testing and admissins fees to be a major roadblack to geting into school. These fees can add up to hundreds of dollars before a student even gets admitted to college. Thankfully there are ways to beat those fees as well. Some states offer the ACT  or the SAT free of charge. Some states and universities don’t require either  for admittance into school. Some students may qualify for fee waivers allowing them to take those tests and possibly qualify for college application fee waivers as well. To check your qualifications for college application fee waivers the National Association of College Admission Counseling offers this formHere are more details on the ACT waiver requirements and the SAT has some info here.

You still have to buy the books. College text books are notoriously expensive. Betwen 2002 and 2013 the price of a text book rose 82 percent. Why?

You can bring down the price of text books.Occupy the Book Storeis a Chrome browser extension that allows you to shop for the same books you find at your college book store at online stores where you may find them cheaper. Other websites that help fight the high cost of textbooks include;

These are just a few websites but you can find many more by doing a simple web search.

Another concern that could be costly is the loss of personal information at school. You have no doubt heard of a data breach. Colleges and universities are not immune to this. As a student you need to protect your personal information at all times because you are a prime target for hackers. Schools can hold enormous amounts of data about students including their social security numbers, financial information of them and their parents, background information, medical data, and God knows what else.  Parents and students need to understand why student data is such a prized target of data gatherers.

So how does the student protect their pers0nal information at school? Here are a few tips.

  • Protect your technology. Never leave your laptop or phone unlocked and unattended. College campuses are often wide open and thieves know it. Whether you’re in the dorm or the library its easy for a thief to grab it and be gone. Don’t advertise the fact you are carrying a laptop. Laptop sleeves or carriers are clues and a target for thieves.
  • Install a tracking app that will help you track down your device in case its lost or stolen. Encrypt your files. This way even if someone gets access to your computer they won’t get your information.
  • Students are prime targets of malware and phishing attacks on their mobile devices. Students can protect themselves by making sure they are using different passwords on different accounts. One password fits all means a hacker gets it all if he can break or hack your password. And use a strong password or consider two factor authentication. If you have trouble keeping all those passwords in your head then use a password manager.
  • Don’t share your password with your dorm or classmates.
  • Be extremely careful with links and attachments in your email and text messages. Make sure to use a good anti-virus/anti-malware. You can find the best free anti-virus here.
  • Install apps only from reputable app stores. Make sure to scan files with an anti-malware product before installing. Remember, campuses are rich environments for computer viruses.
  • Many campuses offer free Wi-Fi. But who else is on that Wi-Fi? Hackers can monitor and collect information from free Wi-Fi and they do.  So be extra careful when using the school or any free public Wi-Fi. Make use of VPN software so that your web use is encrypted and keep hackers from electronically eavesdropping on you.
  • When using a campus or library computer;
    • Don’t log into accounts, especially banks or accounts that store financial information.
    • Don’t shop online because someone might get not only your login credentials but your credit card number.
    • If you do have to use a public computer make sure to change your user name and password for whatever sites you log into once you get back to your own computer.
    • Browse in Privacy Mode if you can’t erase your browser history and all cookies.

Students can be careless. They may feel that their information is not as vaulable as that of more established adults. Students don’t see the value of their information and this leaves them vulnerable because they don’t take information security seriously. But in reality it doesn’t matter how young you are, data and identity are valuable to cybercriminals. Remember AACR Internet Rule #5 “The currency  and commodity of the digital age is called information.”

For a young man or woman just starting out in life correcting the problems caused by loss of identity is a painful uneccessary experience. Protect your data!

It’s back to school time and students face many challenges to getting an education. Parents and students working together can make it to graduation day. Good Luck!

Now you know.

 

 

CryptoLocker Threatens the Holiday Season

cryptolocker-2.0Ransomware is not hard to understand. Its simply software, or malware, that takes control of your computer, encrypts all your files and threatens to destroy them unless you pay a ransom. Right now CryptoLocker is terrorizing people all over the world and destroying the joy of the holiday season.

CryptoLocker is probably the nastiest and most infuriating malware to ever cruise the information super highway. It’s primary target are users of Windows computers and devices running Windows 7, 8, Vista and XP operating systems. Most African-Americans use Windows computers. Apple users you are safe…for now. This particular malware has taken over even police computers not once but several times. The last thing you need this holiday season is the joy of paying hundreds of dollars for a computer you already own.

What makes this malware particularly nasty is that it gives you 96 hours to pay up. And some variations of the malware actually have a timer displaying the countdown until your files are destroyed. This adds significantly to your anger and frustration To get your files back you can be charged anywhere from $300-$800. Tracing the pay off ransom is next to impossible since it must be paid using Bitcoin or some other digital currency. The large ransoms combined with deadline make this malware far more aggressive than other malware. Another ugly fact is that it’s spreading faster than any other malware currently known.

The holiday season is one reason that the malware is spreading so fast. According to the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team, it appears in email in boxes appearing to be a tracking notification from UPS, FedEx or USPS.

Corey Nachreiner, Director of Security Strategy at Watchguard Security says, “This lure is far more common for the holiday shopping season,” he said. “As people are doing more shopping online, they’ll be more likely not to suspect emails about packages. My guess is we’ll also see CryptoLocker mimicking emails from Amazon and other shopping sites, too.” During the holiday season African-Americans send and receive packages by the millions. So a notice from a delivery service would not draw a lot of attention. That’s why this malware is so dangerous. But fortunately you have to do more than just open the email. You have to actually click on the attachment or link to download the malware.

There are a few ways to stop the spread and keep yourself safe.

  • Keep your anti-virus software up to date and scan emails and attachments before you open them.
  • Keep track of packages you are expecting and their tracking numbers. Tracking numbers sent in an email do not normally require you to download anything.
  • Examine the mail for double extension files. They have .pdf.exe extensions. If you see this at the end of an attachment or web address use extreme caution.
  • Make sure you have your files backed up on a separate drive or storage device.

If you do get this malware and you are backed up then its becomes a lot easier to clean up your system. According to Nachreiner, just about every anti-virus vendor has a CryptoLocker cleanup tool. A victim can use their regular anti-virus software or Nachreiner suggests the tutorial at FAQ at Bleeping Computer, which he links in his own blog post. You can also find some free tools from a few good Samaritans. These good guys have developed tools to stop CryptoLocker before it starts. One is called CryptoPrevent, and it prevents your computer from downloading double-extension files.

You can get more information about fighting CryptoLocker and eradicating it from your computer at these sites;

Answer.Microsoft.com

CryptoLocker: How to Avoid Getting Infected and What To Do If  You Are

New Site Recovers Files Locked by Cryptolocker Ransomware

Now you know.

Best Free Windows Anti-Virus and Malware Scanners

ZD Net’s Six Clicks has revealed the best free Windows anti-virus and malware scanners.

I preach this to black people and I hope someone out there is listening; treat your computer and Internet connection the way you treat your home. That means keep it clean, keep it secure and keep it safe.

Windows is still the most popular operating system in the world. It’s what most African Americans use everyday. Yeah, Apple is growing and so is open source software such as Linux. But my money is on the fact that you are reading this blog on a Windows computer. And because I don’t know any black people that use Linux.

One of the first things you should always do upon getting a new computer is load the best possible anti-virus software you can afford on to it. Now the funny thing about that statement is that some of the best anti-virus software is free!

But let me tell you this, just using an anti-virus software program is not enough. Anti-virus programs are good for you, don’t get me wrong. But they are subject to user error. Like forgetting to set the regular automatic updates. I have seen people using anti-virus software that has never been updated since the day it was installed. So they were basically surfing the web naked.

I advise African-Americans, well everybody, to invest a little time in a using a scanner. Why? A scanner is a tool that allows you to scan your computer for viruses and malware that may be missed by the anti-virus software. See a lot of new viruses and malware may slip into your system because your anti-virus software simply does not recognize them. Scanners look for the very latest malware and does so actively compared to where regular anti-virus software simply waits passively for something to happen. See the difference?  But keep in mind that there are very distinct advantages and disadvantages to using virus scanners. Including the fact that  using a scanner can eat up a lot of your computers resources. In other words it slows your computer down…a lot. So I advise you shut down all programs and do your scanning at night when you are a asleep.

ZD Net‘s SixClicks reveals the best and latest and free Windows anti-virus and malware scanners. You should be using them at least once a month. I do.

Now you know

Know if You’ve Been Hacked

Here is a simple warning to black people; you need to know if your computer has been hacked. Its not an easy task if you don’t teach yourself what to look for.  For example what happened when you suddenly have a new homepage or search tool bar? Or perhaps a web banner that will not go away? These are just a few clues you need to look out for.

Anti-virus software is not perfect, some are better than others and some are just plain useless. You need to have a good anti-virus software on your computer regardless. Do a little research online and find a good  anti-virus protection software. You can find some excellent protection for free. But you also need to stop depending on software to protect you. Take a step up and learn how to spot trouble if your software doesn’t.

How would you know if your system has been hacked. Download the information packet from InfoWorld.com and stay alert.

The African American Cyber Report is dedicated to helping you understand and protect yourself.

Now you know

PCMag Names Bitdefender Best Free Anti-Virus Tools

Box Shot Bitdefender Antivirus 2014 775If someone offers you something for free that could protect you from the evils of the Internet why would you turn it down? You wouldn’t. This past April PCMag.com  released the results of  testing done on free anti-virus tools and you need to pay close attention. Coming in number one was the Bitdefender free anti-virus to0l.

In tests against other free anti-virus software Bitdefender came out smoking with five stars in all five categories. The categories included detection, cleaning, protection, false positives and performance. According to PCMag.com Bitdefender “scored super high in just about every test.”

Bitdefender was tested against the following anti-virus tools; Avast!, AVG, Avira, Comodo, Emsisoft,Fortinet,Microsoft, Norman, Panda, Qihoo/360 and Sophos. Only Bitdefender scored five stars in all five categories.

But not everyone is so high on Bitdefender. According to Techradar.com Bitdefender only came in fifth in its tests. But they still sing its praises saying “its one of the best around.”

Freebies on About.com said that Bitdefender was  “…on par with any of the arguably better-known free antivirus programs in my list.” The site also said that Bitdefender was  “..one of the better of the best free antivirus programs.” Yet this site only rated BitDefender as sixth in its rankings.

Breaking It Down

Black people sometimes assume that something free is cheap or has strings attached.  I’m telling you when it comes to anti-virus something is better than nothing. But if you don’t have to scrape by with just any old thing why should you? Bitdefender will save your ass from a disaster. You need anti-virus software on every device you own, desktop, laptop, tablet and phone. Are you listening?

I read numerous articles about free anti-virus software so you won’t have to. Less tech, more knowledge, that’s what I do. Let me tell what I learned? I learned that I have been wrong about Microsoft Security Home Essentials and the free online Safety Scan. They are not the best by a long shot so just keep that in mind. I would say that using the Microsoft anti-virus and scanning tools are the equivalent to buying the cheapest car on the lot. You got transportation. That’s about it! I also learned that Bitdefender, compared to other anti-virus software, was less intrusive and simpler to use. You don’t need to fool around with installation, settings and remote administration or any of the stuff that become too technical too quick.  As a matter of fact, Bitdefender will remove any other old anti-virus software for you. Remember, less tech, more knowledge.

After studying all the information available I came to the conclusion I better switch to the free Bitdefender. Yes it was free. Again, that’s not a bad thing at all.  I really like its capabilities and the fact that it can not only detect viruses and malware but clean them from your computer as well. What more do you want?

I seriously implore black people to pay attention to these things. As much as I sound the alarm about the bad things on the Internet I also try to point out the good things too. Bitdefender is good. Now you know.

Google Offers Refunds after Virus Shield Fiasco

Google has offered full refunds for an anti-virus app that was sold on its Google PlayStore site. The app, named Virus Shield, was completely ineffective but still became a best seller. In addition to the refund Google is also offering a $5 dollar credit. Deviant Solutions, the maker of the app claims there was mistake  and the app was  not supposed to be released.