Web Tips

Anatomy of a Ransomware Hack

We have all heard that “ransomware” is on the rise and that no one is immune. It’s true and it’s scary.

I got a call from a client last week that went something like this (I paraphrase), “Hey, Sandy, I got an email from a woman I know casually with an invoice attached. Should I open it?”


Ransomware and viruses can be spread easily through PDF files and ‘evil’ links. Just like an offer that’s ‘too good to be true’, an email that appears to come from someone you know (whether you know them well, or only vaguely), which is ‘odd’ or ‘suspicious’, probably is. S-T-O-P. DO NOT OPEN IT. Open up a new email, write that person in that ‘clean’ email, and say something like, “Hey – I got an odd email from you with an attachment. Did you send it to me? If not, you may want to email your contacts and let them know that your email was spoofed, and NOT to open that email if they got it”. Delete the initial email. Move on with life.

We can’t avoid malware and ransomware, but I have always wondered WHO and HOW it spreads so quickly.

Enter a wonderful video from Cisco (they make major network equipment that allows all of us to communicate so quickly and easily through computers).

Please find four minutes to watch this – it is entertaining – and horrifying.

I present: Anatomy of an Attack

If you want to learn more about how a ransomware attack appears if you are hacked, check out this good video by EnigmaSoftware on Digital Extortion:

It’s well worth the time to watch these videos in order to better understand how your behavior can actually open you up to attacks. Understanding is the first step in being able to avoid being attacked.

What are browser Add-Ins (Add-Ons), Extensions and Plug-Ins and why do I care?

It seems like every time you start to get on top of technology ‘lingo’, another term comes out. On top of that, depending on if you are a Google/Chromebook, Apple or Microsoft user, similar terms are given different names, so that you can’t tell that they’re really the same thing. Enter the world of web browser add-ins, aka add-ons, aka extensions, aka plug-ins.

There are four main browsers (you know, the program or window that you open to get to the web) – Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox. Most people have a favorite – whether it’s a favorite because they just accept the default browser on a new device, or because they specifically install a particular browser. Regardless of why you use one browser over another, you can probably improve the way your browser behaves by installing one (or more) tiny programs called add-ins (or add-ons or extensions or plug-ins). These little programs make a browser “smarter” and allow you to do more with the browser than you could before the add-in/add-on/extension/plug-in was installed.

For example, concerned about “them” knowing who you are and where you go on the web? Consider installing an extension that protects your privacy. Struggle with the ever-growing list of passwords? Install an add-on that manages your passwords. How about one that will pin a page to Pinterest for you instantly. Use Evernote? Install an add-on that will allow you to save a web page to Evernote with one click. Want to find coupon codes as you’re shopping (even on Amazon)? There’s an add-on for that. Do you want to more easily download videos you see online to your computer? Grab an add-on. The list goes on and on and on.

These add-ins (add-ons), extensions and plug-ins take your fuddy-duddy old browser and make it work for YOU, the way YOU want it to! What a concept!

Once installed, an add-in may add a new toolbar, or a new icon on the toolbar, or just change the behavior of your browser in some way or another. The behavior is usually described in a blurb before you actually install it.

Each browser has a different portfolio of these tiny programs available for use (though Internet Explorer probably has the fewest). They are updated all the time. If you’re trying to do something in a browser, check out the add-ins. Annoyed by a particular behavior of a browser (e.g. do you always get a message about cookies being installed on this site or that site)? Find an extension that blocks or changes that behavior.

Each of the main browsers has its own catalog:

List of addons for Mozilla

List of Chrome extensions

Internet Explorer Add-On Gallery

List of Safari Extensions

Here are directions to installing add-ins/extensions/plug-ins by browser:

Installing Internet Explorer Add-Ons

Installing Chrome Extensions

Installing Firefox Add-Ons

Installing Safari Extensions

GMail and Google Users BEWARE of this scam!

Yikes! It’s been way too long. So sorry…trust me, I have tons of stuff to share, just not enough time to write :-).

That said, I just came across this article today – outlining a new, active and SUCCESSFUL scam to steal your Google/Gmail credentials and essentially, hack your life.


Basically, you get an email which LOOKS like it is from someone you know. You click on the image and it LOOKS like the Google signon. The word ‘Google’ even appears in the url. But BEWARE: It is NOT Google’s signon screen. You’ve moved to the hackers site.

The REAL Google signin screen starts with: https://accounts.google.com
Other words/letters/numbers/characters may follow the .com, but there is NOTHING BEFORE THE https://accounts. That is the critical difference.

We’re getting smarter/more savvy about avoiding “evil” sites, so they have to get smarter/more savvy to draw you in. Don’t get sucked into this particular hack.

Safe browsing, everyone!

Yes, you really MUST pay attention to the Heartbleed “bug”

(Sorry, I don’t usually send out posts so close together, but this one is important)

By now, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you MUST have heard about the “Heartbleed” Security flaw. And, yes, *sigh*, it DOES involve your passwords and online security.

Some of your most prevalent websites were affected, potentially exposing your personal information to nefarious plotters.

THIS APPLIES TO ALL YOU MAC USERS, as well!! It’s not a computer hardware security hole, but rather, a website logon security hole.

So…how do you know if you’ve been affected? Trust me, 99% of you who have online signons were affected. I found two TERRIFIC articles (thanks Mashable and GitHub) on whether or not the most popular websites are vulnerable.

For a list of those sites which you most likely use – and whether or not you need to change your password for that site – please click here:


Change any passwords where they recommend you change them.

NOTE: If a site has NOT been patched for the security flaw, then changing you password will do NO GOOD. Wait and change that password once the site has been patched. Check the list every day or two for the next couple of weeks.

Want to check out a site yourself (maybe a smaller site that isn’t on one of these lists)? Click here and enter the URL you need/want to check. (Thanks for Jane McLaughlin, Lifecycle Software, for this site)

For a LARGER list – the 10,000 most popular sites which could be exposed because of password vulnerability – check out this list:


Tip: To see if a particular website you frequent is on the list, open up the list, then hit CTRL+F (Windows users) and enter a part of the site name…you’ll be ‘searching’ for just sites containing whatever you typed in. Makes it a WHOLE LOT faster than scanning 10,000 lines.

If password management just makes your head spin, you might refresh yourself with some password management tools in an earlier post that we did:


Your Tech Tamer spotlighted by HostMySite.com

Imagine our delight and surprise when we found out that we were to be HostMySite.com‘s customer spotlight!

While no one goes around looking for reasons to call any kind of Tech Support, we’ve found that it’s never painful to get on the phone with the friendly folks at HostMySite.

Anyway, we enjoyed being interviewed for the article, and appreciate the fact that we’re recognized by one of our partners!

Check out the article:


(Besides the fact that I look possessed in the photo, I think that they wrote a very nice article)

SEO – top organic rankings, keywords – and avoiding scare tactics

Many of my clients have heard me go off on a rant or two about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and how to avoid getting taken to the cleaners by people promising you extraordinary ranking results.

What is SEO, you ask? SEO is the ability of a search engine (e.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) to locate your web page in response to a search string that a user has entered. Simple example: If you’re looking to purchase a cupcake in Maui, Hawaii, then you might enter the following search in your favorite ‘Search’ box: cupcake bakery maui hi (NOTE: I know that there would be proper capitalization and punctuation if you were typing an email or letter, but ‘search’ doesn’t care about capitalization and grammar). Hit return. If you’re the local cupcake baker in Maui, then you want to come up at the top of the listings. That’s SEO. Getting your listing to appear at/near the top.

So now that we’re clear about what we’re discussing, let’s delve a bit further into HOW pages become ‘top’ of the list. Bottom line: Pages come up at the top of the list because they are RELEVANT. Search engines try to prioritize pages by how closely to the question posed during the search matches the specific page content…and it does it based upon finding KEYWORDS. Words on the web page that match the words in the search question.

The trick is to get your pages to show up near the top of results ‘organically’ (no, we’re not talking about Whole Foods). In this case, ‘organically’ means that you’re not paying for placement. Your pages appear in the results on their own merit…naturally.

The trick is two-fold. First, you have to come up with the questions that your potential clients are going to ask of a search engine when they’re trying to find you. Second, you want to get your page to appear near the top when they do ask the question. Being buried on page 5 of the results won’t do you alot of good.

It is possible to ‘do it yourself’, but it requires time, study, and a great deal more patience than I possess. Good marketing people know the ins and outs and can help your pages climb up the ladder of search results by targeting the correct keywords (words used in the search queries) that your potential customers are likely to use. That said, if you’re going to invest in marketing assistance, you don’t want to fritter away your hard-earned money – you want results. And all of the people who guarantee a ‘Number 1 result’ can actually be yanking your chain – ALOT – but they are not necessarily fibbing.

To quote Kim Landry of Hollister Creative, “Their [the people who say they’ll make you number one] guarantee is solid because a web page optimized for a keyword phrase for which no other web page is optimized will take the top spot in search results for that phrase. But that “win” won’t help your business because chances are, the reason none of your competitors optimize for that phrase is that no one searches for it.”


Kim continues by pointing out the following (which I have been preaching for years, so I’m feeling vindicated today by her corroboration). I’m going to paraphrase, but please, PLEASE visit her original post here.

First, your keywords and the content of your page have to be relevant. No one wants to end up on a page for butterflies when they searched “cupcakes”. Kim says: “The best keyword phrase is highly relevant to whatever you are “selling” on your page. It is a phrase your target audience would type into the search field to find exactly that. Brainstorm a list of phrases. Do a Google search on each one. If the results show pages selling something very similar to your page, the phrase is relevant.”

Second, find out how many people conduct searches on a given phrase using another FREE Google tool (we LOVE free tools here). Landry again: “Using the free (and amazing) Google Keyword Tool, find out how many people search your keyword phrase each month. High search volume is good, but low can be fine if your phrase is so specific that only a knowledgeable prospect who is ready to buy would search that phrase. If the search volume is zero, you can pose as an SEO expert and con your competitors into optimizing for this phrase.”

Third, know the competition for a particular phrase. Kim’s tip: “The Keyword Tool will also tell you if competition for your phrase is high, medium or low. High means it is a very popular phrase that many competitors are optimizing for. It will cost you to pursue a page one spot for that phrase. Fortunately, the Keyword Tool automatically suggests alternate phrases, some of which have medium or low competition.”

Bottom line: You need to know your customers, and what your customers need from you, to be able to optimize your website for search results. YOU know best. Do some homework. Give it thought. Then, engage a reputable marketing firm to ‘make it happen’. The results will speak for themselves!

Making your website mobile-friendly…you have to do it!

Greetings, All –

I am so sorry for the lack of posts this past month…Honestly, it feels like I just wrote the last post a week ago, and it’s already a month old. Oye! How does that happen?!?!

First, a very Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers here in the United States. It is a time to give thanks, and I certainly thank all my loyal readers and clients – for without you, it’s no fun.

We all know that more and more people are checking out websites on their smartphones. People are on-the-go…they hear about something and immediately check it out – from their phone. UNFORTUNATELY, a ‘normal’ website will not appear correctly on a phone…well, that’s not exactly right…they appear correctly many times, but they might be itty-bitty and no mere mortal (certainly, not any mortal over the age of 35) can actually read the text, or images and text can be ‘off’. That said, converting your site can often end up in the ‘too hard’ pile…We don’t know how to go about it, we don’t have time to do it…whatever the excuse.

A reader of this blog asked if I knew ‘how to make a website mobile’. While I knew THEORETICALLY what was involved, I didn’t really know the HOW – having put my own website in the ‘too hard’ pile for making it ‘mobile-friendly’. So, I figured that it was about time to figure it out. Imagine my happiness and delight when I found a GOOGLE related site which helps you -for f*r*e*e – convert your existing site to a mobile application.

Follow along…it’s really not a bad experience!

Here is the ‘traditional’ home page for our website YourTechTamer.com

Your Tech Tamer traditional home page

We want to ‘mobilize’ this site using Google’s HowToGoMo application (HowToGoMo.com). The music to my ears (well, eyes), was the link ‘build your free site now‘.

Enter your URL and press ‘Make My Site Mobile’. GoMo presents you with an initial mobile layout that you can then edit:

GoMo layout

You can play around with any number of designs, or leave it at the default created. Once you’re happy with the basic design, it’s time to work on changing colors, etc. Click on ‘Next’ to bring up the next screen:

Go Mo Edit Design

I only changed the number of navigation items showing, but you can change any number of different things to customize the look and feel of your new mobile site. You can create a ‘push to call’ button. You can change colors/images. Basically, let your creativity shine and see where it takes you! Once you’re done, you’ll need to create a signon for ‘DudaMobile’ (they’ll be hosting your new mobile site). Once you’ve entered the information, its time to PREVIEW your new mobile site – see how it appears on the four major types of mobile devices:

Preview Mobile Website

Make sure you check how your individual pages appear…because that’s as important as how the navigation adjusts. Some highly formatted pages do not ‘mobilize’ well. Check with your web developer if they don’t.

You can also setup blogs as mobile sites – check out the mobile version of this blog at http://mobile.dudamobile.com/site/yourtechtamerblog from your smartphone.

If you’re happy with it, hit ‘Setup My Mobile Website Redirect’. This publishes the mobile site on Duda’s servers:

Mobile Conversion Publish Site

Lastly, you need to give a snipped of code to your webdeveloper to put in the header of the home page of your website. It’s an easy step and is explained very well on this screen:

Why do you need this? You need it to allow users to be directed automatically to the correct site for them based upon the device that they are using. The web can be intelligent enough to know when someone is trying to search on a site from a mobile device. If it senses that the ‘searching device’ is a mobile device, it will automatically redirect the user to the ‘mobilized’ version of the site and away from the ‘standard’ website.

There’s only one caveat…the mobile site is only free for a year…after that, it will be $108…but the good news is that you don’t need to leave a credit card on file…use the site for a full year and see how you like it…tweak it and adjust it. At the end of the year, you can pay the $108 OR you can actually give your website developer the code that was created from the site (yes, you can get to the HTML and CSS code within the ‘build your mobile website’ screens) and integrate it into your own website code. Either way appears to work.

At worst, you get experience – for free – with what you want to appear on a mobile site…then you are a knowledgeable consumer if you choose to have the mobile site integrated into your hosting…and you can show a website designer exactly how you want it to appear.

Have fun MOBILIZING!!!!

Want to read web pages later and from your other devices?

How many times have you found yourself waiting in line, sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room, racing to meet someone for a lunch or coffee only to get that text that says ‘Sorry, but I’m running 15 minutes behind’? I can answer for myself – often (I’m also a perennially early person – when I’m on time I feel late, so I often have a few minutes to spare when I arrive somewhere).

What do you do to make this time ‘productive’? I often find myself reading the ‘newspaper’ on my phone. There are many times, however, that I would rather be reading something that I had WANTED to read, but didn’t have time to read when I ran across it. In other words, that article in PC World that I meant to get back to, or an article on what my beloved Phillies are going to do in the off-season to shore up the bullpen. Be clear, these weren’t articles in a magazine or newspaper that I ripped out to get back to later…these were online articles that I just didn’t have time to read when they flashed across my screen. Oh, I’ll bookmark the pages…and say ‘I’ll get back to that when I have time’, then the free time and my ability to locate the article and my proximity to my desktop that contains the bookmark are all in different places on the space-time continuum. In other words, the articles probably don’t get read.

Enter the neatest little application by the name ‘Pocket’. Pocket allows you to take all the articles you want along with you on any device you use. Best of all, it is SIMPLE and FREE. How easy? Real easy:

Simply go to http://getpocket.com/ and sign up for an account. They only ask for a username, password and email address. That’s it.

pocket signup form

Once you create your signon, you’ll be taken to a screen which allows you to choose how you want to save your pages:

pocket getting started

Clicking on the ‘Learn How’ link takes you to this screen:

pocket how to save

Install the add-on to your browser that will allow you to ‘pocket’ the articles. Once you’ve installed it, then this icon appears in your browser:

Click on that icon from any page and it ‘illuminates’:

That illuminated icon means that the webpage has been ‘pocketed’ and will be available from any other device on which you have Pocket installed.

Start ‘pocketing’ any articles that you want to ‘get back to’. They’ll appear on your Pocket dashboard:

Now, go to the App Store for your ‘other’ device(s) and download the Pocket App. You’ll be able to read any of those articles – wherever you are and whenever you have the time. If you want to get fancy, you can tag archived items in order to group similar articles together. There are even options for saving via email or Twitter (in fact, over 300 apps let you ‘Pocket’ directly). Now that you’re aware of Pocket, you’ll start seeing the little pocket icon show up in lots of places.

Here’s to making non-productive time more productive!

How do I know if someone is talking about me on the web?

As “they” say, your reputation is everything. This includes your reputation among family, friends, colleagues, and now, what appears about you online. Yes, you need to make sure that you stay abreast of any information posted on the web about you.

Have you ever had the experience of having someone – maybe a casual friend or business acquaintance – call you out of the blue to congratulate you on the award that you just won, tell you ‘atta boy’ or ‘atta girl’ for a speaking engagement you just landed? As a former boss of mine used to say, “How do it know?” (please forgive the poor grammar, that’s a direct quote!). In this case you might be wondering, “How on earth did they find out already, I didn’t tell anyone/see anyone, etc.?”

Well, back-in-the-day, just a little after dinosaurs roamed the earth, there used to be services called ‘clipping services’. Companies paid handsomely for people to comb through various publications for mentions of the name of their company, mentions of the appearances of their top executives, etc. You paid by the number of periodicals you wanted reviewed, as well as, by the number of times those periodicals were published, plus the number of names/mentions you were searching.

I was always fascinated by this concept. Did one person read the same newspaper or magazine 100 times, each time with an eye out for a separate reference, or did they have an incredible memory and were able to scan the names/references that they needed to find, then read the publication once and picked up all the mentions – whether it was one or many? I still wonder. I could probably do a search and find out. If you want more information on “Clipping Services”, you can start with this Wikipedia link.

But I digress…Those services have sort of gone the way of buggy whips. They were indispensable at one point in time, but are used only by a select few today. Why? Because each and every one of us has access to our own “Clipping Service” – FOR FREE!

Google (yes, good ‘ole Google again) provides the free service called ‘Google Alerts’…and I strongly advise each and every one of you to at least set up a ‘vanity search’ for your own name…so you know what people are saying about you on the web.

It couldn’t be easier to set up. Simply go to www.google.com/alerts. The service DOES require a Google signon, but its a small price to pay for a VERY powerful service.

Use standard Google Search ‘rules’ (e.g. put a proper name in quotes to get results with the first and last name together) to get the results you are searching for, enter the search string in the ‘Search Query’ field. For example, if I want notifications for anything posted on the web about my company, I’d enter “Your Tech Tamer” (quotes INCLUDED). If you have a common name, you might want to tweak your search string to eliminate some errant notifications about the OTHER person/people with your name. We’ll use “Phil Collins”, but not THAT Phil Collins as an example. If you are A Phil Collins, but not THAT Phil Collins, you could enter a search string “Phil Collins” -Genesis -drummer -music. This will give you notifications of “Phil Collins” where the words “Genesis”, “drummer” and “music” are NOT mentioned. That helps to weed out some of the ‘other guys’. Additionally, if you go by a formal name and a nickname, you should set up BOTH alerts, the one above AND one for “Phillip Collins”.

If you want to limit the type of information you receive, you can select from the ‘Result Type’ drop-down and select ‘Everything’ or ‘Videos’ or ‘Blogs’, etc. to narrow down the amount of information. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t want everything for this ‘clipping service’ on your name, but you have the option.

‘How Often’ will determine how frequently results are sent to your e-mail. You can choose from ‘As it happens’, ‘Once a day’ or ‘Once a week’.

‘How Many’ is a quality filter…changing this from the default may create a deluge of e-mail.

‘Deliver To’ is the e-mail address to which the digest will be sent.

Hit ‘Create Alert’ and Google will begin trawling the web for any new posts that match your criteria. NOTE: It does NOT give you all the things ALREADY posted…you can run a normal Google search for those. It WILL give you any NEW posts on the web that meet the criteria.

Sit back and wait for Google to deliver your newly created ‘clippings’ to your Inbox.

Only your own imagination limits the amount of information you can have filtered into your inbox. After you set up alerts for your own name and company, create ones for friends, family, co-workers, clients, and competitors. Then YOU will be the first person saying ‘Hey, I just heard you won that coveted award…Congratulations!’

If you need help with creating accurate Google search strings, check out this post from last August.

How can I access my Bookmarks or Favorites from any computer?

There are so many times when I’m working on a computer that is NOT my own and I want to get to some website that I have bookmarked (set as a ‘favorite’) on my computer. Worse still if you work primarily on public computers and can’t save your own set of bookmarks at all. Maybe you have a personal computer and a work computer, and somehow, the favorite that you need to reference always seems to be on the other computer. Some URL’s (e.g. Google) are obvious, but others are well-hidden or buried or not entirely ‘findable’ without the help of that precious bookmark.

Is there a solution? Is there a way to make your bookmarks/favorites ‘portable’ or accessible from ANY computer? You betcha!!!

Time to check out www.aboogy.com.

With Aboogy, you can set up all your favorites that can be accessed from any computer – as long as you remember you Aboogy signon. When you first go to www.aboogy.com, you’ll be asked to create a user ID and password, then click on a confirmation e-mail from Aboogy. Once that’s done, you are ready to roll with setting up your own list of favorites/bookmarks/shortcuts that can be accessed from ANY computer.

Your first time signing in to Aboogy, you’ll be asked to read this screen – they’ll only show it once!

Once you’ve closed that screen, you’ll be able to set up your favorites and tracking a variety of ways – buttons, links, images, categories – all under YOUR control!!

Start by importing your existing bookmarks or favorites from your computer:

Next, edit and organize the links as you like using the ‘Editor’ tool:

Head back to your Aboogy page and VOILA! Your bookmarks/favorites are all available to you from ANY computer:

The additional benefit is that if your computer crashes, you haven’t lost your library of bookmarks/favorites – even if backing up isn’t on your regular schedule (though shame on you for ignoring that critical chore :-)!)