Tag Archives: Windows

ALERT! – Specter and Meltdown Security Flaw – ALERT!

Regardless of what computer you own, Apple or Windows, Spectre and Meltdown security flaws affect you. Security researchers recently revealed the details of these two microprocessor security flaws. Chips made by Intel, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and others are in billions of devices making them sitting ducks for hackers.

Devices with these chips include phones, tablets, PCs, and computer servers. Exploiting the vulnerability opens the door for hackers to steal personal data, passwords, cryptographic keys, and other supposedly inaccessible information from device owners. While the average consumer should exercise caution the impact on business could be devastating. 

The Meltdown flaw only runs on Intel chips while the Spectre flaw can affect devices with virtually any modern processor.

Computer microprocessors handle data like a passwords or encryption keys. Normally these are kept from other apps. But both Intel and AMD pride themselves on the speed of their chips. To do this the chips use whats known as “speculative execution” to try to guess answers that may be needed if a chain of calculations came out a certain way. Since the delay in calculations can be predictable researchers found that a rogue app could guess where confidential data was located in a chip’s memory and steal it.

Regardless of your web browser, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, or any version of the Windows family, they all use Javascript code.  Hackers could introduce a data stealing Javascript program and post it on any chosen web site. Your browser app would automatically run the rogue code like it was an ordinary part of the site’s features resulting in your data becoming vulnerable or stolen. As you can see this is an extremely grave threat to business computing.

Although this vulnerability is now known there is no evidence anyone has used it…yet. And that is where the danger lies. The danger of these flaws is so great that tech companies  swung into action quickly to fix the problem. Perhaps too quickly.

According to various news sources the Microsoft patch to fix the flaw has been damaging some devices.  In some instances the computers are suffering performance problems while others have been bricked. A bricked computer is frozen and unusable. The problem has become so bad that Microsoft has halted issuing the patch for both Spectre and Meltdown for AMD equipped computers and devices.

Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich addressed the Meltdown and Spectre issue as the keynote speaker at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “I want to thank the industry for coming together to address the recent security research findings reported as Meltdown and Spectre,”  said Krzanich. He called the response to the issues a “collaboration among so many companies.” Krzanich promised that “for our processors and products introduced in the past five years, Intel expects to issue updates for more than 90 percent within a week, and the remaining by the end of January.”

Browser makers have swung into action to combat the flaw. Users of Google Chrome should turn on a feature calledsite isolation.”  The feature prevents malicious Javascript from accessing sensitive data. Google will soon release an update to Chrome’s Javascript feature that will improve protection against Spectre attacks, however, browser performance may suffer.

Microsoft has already issued a Windows security update for its Internet Explorer and Edge browser apps labeled “KB4056890” to protect against Spectre. According to Microsoft the update will change the browser’s features to protect confidential information in a device’s CPU. But make sure you check if your device has an AMD chip before using this patch.

Firefox maker Mozilla said its newest apps changed several features to make Spectre attacks more difficult. Released on January 4th, Firefox version 57.0.4 includes the new protections. Mozilla said in a blog post that it is studying additional ways to strengthen security against the attacks. “In the longer term, we have started experimenting with techniques to remove the information leak closer to the source, instead of just hiding the leak by disabling timers. This project requires time to understand, implement and test.”

Apple is planning to release an update to Safari in “coming days” to protect against Spectre. Early tests of the Apple updates showed a minimal impact on browser performance. For additional information on Apple products click here.








Back to School – There’s and App for That

Back to School

Its that time of year, back to school. And going back school means being prepared for the challenges of getting an education. Unfortunately many black students fail not because they are not intelligent or capable but because they are unprepared for the basic challenges of school. Our students do not come to school with the skills to take effective notes or plan their time properly. This alone is enough to kill a college career.

This is compounded by the failure of the public school system to properly prepare African-American students for the academic environment at the collegiate level. While the numbers are poor across all racial groups, black and Latino students are far behind their white counter parts. Nationwide only about a third of high school students are prepared for college level math and reading.

According to a report from National Assessment of Educational Progress  32 percent of white students and 47 percent of Asian students scored at proficient or above in math. Only 7 percent of Africans-American and 12 percent of Latinos students scored as proficient.

The gap was also seen in reading with 46 percent of white students and 49 percent of Asian students scored at or above proficient, while only 17 percent of black students and 25 percent of Latino students seen as proficient. 

The stats indicate that less than half of all students have the necessary skills to succeed in college. So, as you see, all students not just African-Americans, need help. So in the age of technology we turn to apps to make the transition to college a successful one.

Regardless of whether you’re a middle schooler or working on your doctorate you can find an app that will make things a little easier for you. You may need help taking notes or keeping a schedule. There is an app for that.

Google Keep

Taking notes is the first step to study and key to retention of classroom information. Google Keep is a note taking app that helps the student to keep track of information. It is also a key tool if you are part of a study group. Using Google Keep group members can take and modify notes together, in real-time.

Keeping good notes and being part of study group is great. But only of you know how to schedule your time and avoid those parties. Time management is another key to a good education and good grades, oh ,and avoiding those all night cram sessions.

Google Keep is free and available for Apple and Android.

Microsoft To-Do

Microsoft launched the new To-Do app to replace the Wunderlist app. Basically Microsoft bought Wunderlist in 2015 and has decided to upgrade it with new features and a new name. To-Do lets you create simple to-do lists, set reminders, and keep track of projects.

One of the new features of Microsoft To-Do is the “My Day” feature. My Day encourages users to focus on daily tasks by refreshing the list every day. How you may ask? The app connects with the student’s Office 365 and Microsoft Outlook . Microsoft has included an intelligent suggestions feature to recommend tasks for each new day based on upcoming items or old entries. For the sake of fun Microsoft also lets you assign an emoji to easily tell tasks and suggestions apart and will sync across whatever devices you’re using To-Do on.

To-Do is free and available for Apple , Android, and Windows 10.

My Study Life

Students have a tendency to fail to plan. Its called being young. Time management is not a strength of many college students. My Study Life is a reminder and planning tool that can be key to academic planning and success. The designers of this app claim that it was built from the ground up with academia in mind. My Study Life app supports weekly and daily rotation timetables as well as traditional weekly schedules. Students can receive notifications regarding incomplete assignments, upcoming classes and exams using the app. Its all about time management and task reminders that syncs across all devices and works even when the student is off line.

My Study Life is free available for Apple, Android  and Windows platforms.


If you can’t write effectively you won’t make it in college. Yeah, you could pay someone to write your papers for you but what happens when you  get a job? You need to learn to write and write good. That’s where Scrivner comes in for the college student. Scrivner is an extremely popular app used by many writers and scholars. This app requires a little patience to learn all its capabilities but once you get there it is a beauty to work with. It can organize you project and does just about everything else you need to research, write papers, master or doctoral thesis, a novel or what every you instructor requires. But don’t bother buying the app if you don’t have the program on your laptop or desktop computer.  You can buy the program for Apple or Windows laptops and desk computers here.

Scrivner app for mobile costs $20.00 an is available for both Apple and Windows platforms.

Google Slides

Every student will eventually be tasked with creating a PowerPoint slide presentation. And when you get that first job you can bet someone will ask for one.

Regardless of your major you will have to work in a group and you will have to combine multiple PowerPoint slides from other students. And of course not everyone will come through with their slides. Don’t bother arguing with them. Simply tell them to use that smartphone to download this app and get to work no matter where they are. Google Slides allows you to monitor their progress through your own Google Slides app. The app will update the presentation whenever a change is made.

Google Slides is free and  available on Android and Apple.


Students that are looking at studying math or engineering, astrophysics, or accounting or some other number focused field need a good calculator app. WolframAlpha is dedicated to help those students who are and are not hardcore physics geeks. The company likes the name “Computational Knowledge Engine.” If you check out the home page you will see that it claims to be able to handle everything from basic math to socio-economic data to meterological calculations to physics! WOW!

WolframAlpha is $2.99 and available for Windows 10 and Apple

Now you know.



App of the Week – Grocery Gadget

8022be36-dad3-4574-81a3-16d91b30e02bYou really don’t get busy until you have to manage a family. Many African-American families are trying to manage children, work, school activities and recreation activities. For two parents this is a major job. For single parents the task becomes monumental. Throw in grocery shopping and it becomes an bigger challenge. Thats why Grocery Gadget is the App of the Week.

Grocery Gadget will help families simplify shopping.  The productivity mobile app works along with the online portal to help you save time and money in the home, and at the grocery store.

At home the app saves you time by allowing you to enter your regular grocery items in the app or portal. Input the items and quantities you keep on the shelves or pantry. When you are ready just add the amount you need. Items you don’t need you leave simply leave at zero. You can share this list across multiple devices allowing the family to work as a team.

Other features of the app include;

  • Take photos of the items you need and share them so your spouse won’t pick the wrong thing.
  • Import recipe ingredients – Make sure you have what you need.
  • Compare prices of grocery items – Buy  your groceries at the best possible price. Best store prices will appear in green.
  • Search for coupons – Find e-coupons offers for the items you buy. You can ddd them to your store loyalty card with a single click. Grocery Gadget works with 28 participating chains including Safeway and Kroger.
  • Import data from other apps – Access the portal to import data from other applications such as  CSV, GroceryIQ, Shopper, Groceries, and others.

Grocery Gadget  is available for $2.99  on Apple ,Windows and Blackberry platforms. Android and Nokia are temporarily unavailable. 


App of the Week – Parkmobile

PARKMOBILE USA, INC. LOGOParking can be a bitch. Trying to find a parking space is bad enough and then feeding the meter becomes a bigger pain especially if you are parked three blocks from your place of business, restaurant or shopping location. Its gets exponentially worse if you’re in a strange city. That is why Parkmobile is the App of the Week

How does it work? The first thing you need to do is register your car, or cars, in the Parkmobile system.  You can add up to five cars or people to your account. Registration can be done on the smartphone after downloading the app. You also have to connect the app to a major credit or debit card. Now you’re all set.

parkmobile_meterWhen you’re driving around looking for  a parking place keep an eye out for the bright green Parkmobile parking sticker on the meters. Each Parkmobile meter has a number. You simply enter the number into the app and it will ask you  how long you want to be there. The options are by the hour and minute, by the hour  or the maximum parking time allowed. If you choose the max the app will automatically display the price and ask you to approve it. It will then display a stop watch showing you exactly how much time you have left before you are in violation.

Parkmobile makes paying just as simple. The app offers its own Parkmobile Wallet. Parkmobile Wallet allows you to put money on your Parkmobile account so that your parking transactions are deducted from that balance instead of getting individually charged to your credit card. Should your Parkmobile Wallet balance reach zero your primary credit card on file will be charged a pre-set amount to replenish the balance. It also accepts payment through VISA Checkout, MasterCard, Discover, American Express and PayPal. Parkmobile recommends VISA or MasterCard as they are the most wildly accepted.

Other features of the app include a map of meters in your area or the area you are traveling to. A ‘Find My Car’ function. This is a GPS enabled feature that helps you locate your car. Once you leave your car you just tap the screen on your smartphone and it locks in the location of the car. So when you are finished with your business you don’t have to wander the parking lot or the city streets trying find your car, You can also add little notes about the area to help you locate it easily. You can save your parking sessions so that you can keep a budget of your parking costs and you can also save special locations on a favorites list. Other features include;

  • Easy access to gated facilities using the QR Code.
  • Parkmobile has partnered with Ford and Volvo to make the service available in “connected cars.” This offers  the ability to locate, drive to, and pay for parking all through the car without the need for a mobile phone. 
  • For businesses Parkmobile provides flexible discount programs. Merchants can purchase QR Code Coupons to offer customers for discounted parking when paying through our app in the designated area. You can scan the QR code linked to the promo or manually enter a promo code.
  • Parkmobile’s online permit system integrates easily with all major enforcement solutions, including drive-by enforcement (LPR).
  • Parkmobile allows you to  pay for electrical vehicle charging by integrating with several EV charging equipment manufacturers. The system generates and sends the user a unique access code via text to activate their EV charging session.
  • For owners of fleet vehicles the Parkmobile Fleet program helps keep track of all of your fleet vehicles’ parking receipts, payments, and reimbursements. Check the Parkmobile website for more information.

Parkmobile and its services are available in numerous cities. Click here to see of your city offers Parkmobile.

Parkmobile is free and available for Apple, Android, Windows, BlackBerry and on Amazon.


App of the Week – Waze

Black people love their GPS. Not everybody remembers the bad old days when you had to know how to read a map to get somewhere you were not familiar with. And of course those maps could not tell you about traffic problems. That is why Waze is the App of the Week.

Waze works by creating a community of everybody on the road working together to avoid traffic hazards. For those of you who don’t know this is called crowd sourced traffic information. And this community, or crowd, is 50 million drivers strong and all over the world. Its the next step up from GPS.

Traffic is the first thing that comes to mind with the Waze app. Nobody likes the idea of sitting in traffic. Many GPS systems provide traffic updates but not in real time like Waze. What makes Waze really special is the way it blends human intelligence and technology to work for the driver.

Waze users contribute to the community by driving with the app open on their phone. This allows the app to passively contribute traffic and other road data. Users can be more active by alerting other “Wazers” of road hazards such as accidents, police traps, or other road situations. This can save the user time and money by navigating around the problem. The police are not exactly fond of this feature but we will get to that later.  This  crowd sourcing helps other Wazers to get an early heads-up about what’s up the road “awaze”. Waze also uses the local community as active map editors creating the most up to date local road map possible.  But you can also use the app in an anonymous mode to be completely invisible to other Wazers.

But Waze gets better. It has the ability to learn your routes and be a step ahead of you as you drive. Your trip is mapped and kept on the servers so that roads on the Waze system are always up to date. Most commuters usually have more than one route to work or home in their head. But the question is; “what is best route for me right now ?” Waze works by  remembering your route after  3 or 4 trips.  Waze collects this information and learns your optional routes.  That’s how Waze answers the question; “what is best route for me right now?”  

Waze is also a social app. It matches your friends from your phones contact list with those who are also using Waze and lets you know.  Waze will also notify them you are using Waze as well. This is known as the “system suggested” friends. You can approve of the friend connection or not. There are obviously some privacy issues there and Waze allows you to disable the feature. You can also use the messaging feature to contact other Wazers privately using the MyWaze messaging feature or talk to everybody by using the Map Chat feature.  

As a Waze user you can collect points and move up in the ranks from a Baby Wazer to the ultimate Waze Royalty. Along the way to these illustrious rankings you collect points that are translated into Candies. In all honesty I really don’t see what the value of these mystical prizes are. My question is do they relate to some form of credibility for a Waze user? To me it actually seems to be some kind of game. You be the judge.

Another feature of the Waze app is that users  can point out cheap gas stations on the maps.

But there is one issue with the Waze app that have cops pretty upset.  With this app users can alert one another about the location of police officers, speed traps and other law enforcement activity. Many police officials believe the app can be used by criminals to avoid the police or worse, target them. The National Sheriff’s Association has requested that Google, who owns Waze, remove the police sighting feature before they take legal action. Some critics have said that the government does not like the Waze police spotting feature because it could significantly reduce the number of tickets written and the revenue that comes from that source.

Some police officers believe that the app can be a benefit by letting the public know where the cops are and increasing their visibility. But others feel that it is a serious danger to police safety. The debate will be interesting.

Waze is free and available for Apple, Android and Windows platforms




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;


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

New Site Recovers Files Locked by Cryptolocker Ransomware

Now you know.

Antivirus Myth and Reality

Courtesy of Stuart Miles

Courtesy of Stuart Miles

Antivirus myth and reality means that anti-virus software alone won’t keep you safe and secure online.

Computers are like babies; they like to be clean, safe and healthy. The truth of owning a computer is that it needs constant care and attention to keep it healthy. But if you think that a simple piece of anti-virus software is going to keep your computer safe and healthy you are flat wrong.

Black people should understand this; anti-virus software is designed to keep viruses out as long as they are updated regularly. The owner, that’s you, must make a conscientious and educated effort to properly work on the Internet. That’s where AACR comes in. We teach you these things

First of all you need to educate yourself about your computer. Basic knowledge about computers can be found here. I am truly amazed how many black people go online everyday and don’t really understand a computer. Now understanding a computer is different than using the Internet. You can find more on that topic here.

But lets get to the myths and reality of antivirus software.

Myth #1  Only Windows computers get viruses.

Fact: Windows OS computers  used to be the dominant systems in the marketplace. No longer. Hackers and other computer malcontents used to spend most of their time designing viruses to attack the Windows OS. But as you know Apple has gained traction both in private and public sectors. Apple products are big sellers now compared to the early 90’s. So hackers have stepped up their attacks on them.  And now mobile  malware (smartphones and tablets) is the new frontier for hackers. And of course they are targeting the Android phone OS, considered the dominant smartphone platform. But make no mistake they are also targeting Apple iPhones (iOS) devices. Bottom line, whether you have a Windows or Apple computer, or a Android or Apple based mobile device, having a robust antivirus program is a must.

Another thing AACR strongly recommends is that you perform regular antivirus and malware scans using a free online service such as Kaspersky Labs or TrendMicro House Call. By doing this you get a wider scan of the possible viruses that may be infecting your computer. Your on board software might not recognize the virus definition where the online scanner will. Using an online virus scanner can really help. You should check Kaspersky and TrendMicro for other free antivirus tools as well.

Here is another tip black people need to know about. Root kits! What is a root kit? Its the most evil of all malware. Its only purpose is to hide in your computer and disguise what other viruses and malware are doing. You may have a root kit operating on your computer and you would never know it. And most antivirus software tools cannot detect it. It may have been there for years working silently in the background. In order to detect a root kit you need special software detection tools. A good one to use is McAfee RootkitRemover. Other specialty root kit remover tools include, Bitdefender and Malwarebytes Anti-rootkit BETA. Now when you see the word BETA it means that you are dealing with a new product that may not be perfected. Malwarebytes has a good product but if your files are not backed up somewhere then you may want to choose another product. After all they’re all free.

Myth #2  Processing errors or poor computer performance means my computer has a virus.

Fact: A slow computer can be a symptom of a virus or other malware. But it could also indicate that your computer is cluttered and running too many programs at once. ( See “Treat The Internet Like You Treat Your Home Parts 1, 2 &3”) As I said at the beginning you need to keep your computer clean and healthy. That means eliminating any programs you don’t use or need. Make sure you have a minimum of programs set to start up as soon as the computer turns on. Make sure you update your software regularly to keep them secure. Defragment your hard drive regularly  or run the Disk Utility function on Apple computers.Watch out for things like your homepage changing or a new browser or tool bar appearing. That’s almost always malware.  For smartphones and mobile devices delete apps you don’t use.To maximize your battery life restrict the update, push notification and geo-location services on apps. These functions come standard on many games and apps  but aren’t really necessary  to their functioning.

Myth #3  All the antivirus protection I need can be downloaded  free from the web.

Fact: These free programs offer basic protections. And if you re-read the first myth you will see that in combination with other free services you can stay pretty well protected. But  education is the best defense for black people online. Phishing attacks and social engineering attacks are designed to get you to do something that compromises your security. Not the software, you. You need to understand how online scams and phishing attacks work. You need to understand what to click on and what not to click on.You need to understand how you protect your information.  No software can stop this. You need to learn about fake websites, typo squatting, drive by downloads and all the scams that come your way via the Internet. African-Americans should arm themselves with knowledge to avoid these online dangers. You can learn lot by reading these books.

Myth #4 Viruses are written by the antivirus companies

Fact; I have heard this a million times. And to be honest I can see where it comes from. I’m still not sure about the whole Y2K thing. But conspiracy theorist could be motivated by the fact that some cyber security companies create viruses to test the limits of existing protection software. In reality cyber attackers are responsible for the most dangerous malware. They are constantly changing and coming up with new and ingenious ways to infect computers. These hackers are in a never ending game to stay one step ahead of antivirus programs as they try to steal sensitive data and money from users.

Antivirus software is not enough. Black people should focus on learning what to do and how to act online. Ask yourself these questions;

1. You can’t drive your car everyday without maintenance so why would you use your computer without regular maintenance?

2. You need to understand the rules of the road before driving a car. Wouldn’t you want to know the rules of the information super highway before getting online?

3. You look for hazards, crazy drivers, and traffic signs when driving because they help you steer clear of danger. Don’t you want to look for  danger signs on the Internet?

Its easy to understand.

Know you know.

ALERT! Emergency Adobe Flash Player Security Update ALERT!

As if the Windows Eflash_windowsxplorer bug was not enough here we go again. An emergency Adobe Flash Player security update has released an emergency security update  to repair yet another critical software flaw. Apparently the software has a flaw that allows hackers to takeover your computer!   This flaw is named CVE-2014-0515 and impacts Windows, MAC OS and Linux computers.

In order to fix your computer and protect yourself you need to to visit the Adobe Download Center. To clear up any confusion this Adobe Flash Player fix WILL NOT correct the Microsoft Explorer bug.

Breaking It Down

Now keep in mind this problem is unrelated to the Microsoft Explorer bug I wrote about yesterday.  But this Flash Player is yet another default program found on many computers owned by black people. Its likely you have it and don’t know it. And yes this flaw allows hackers to take over your computer. See bot, botnet and zombie. And that is why I do what I do. I encourage black people to get a little more familiar with their computer and their software. Learn what is there so you can see what’s not supposed to be there. I have said it before, if there is software on your computer you don’t use or don’t know what it is for then uninstall it.  Read; Treat Your Internet Like Your Home parts 1, 2 and 3.

This is another one of those endless mistakes that software code writers simply can’t seem to stop making. I really don’t understand this. Apple is pretty good at keeping its code secure and its only rarely that you hear of an Apple specific code issue.  So my question is;  why can’t others emulate what Apple is doing?  The hackers seem to find these holes every time. Do I need to stress that it is extremely dangerous to build a car with the gas tank in the passenger compartment? Well that’s the way I see software makers writing code. If  a mistake is made the user gets burned…over and over again.