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Things I wish everyone knew about home computer security

I’m a security professional by trade, with two certifications. I’m not responsible for defending your computer networks, but I want your networks to be secure. There’s a really simple reason for that. If your computer and your network is secure, then it isn’t attacking mine. Or anyone else’s.

Several fellow subscribers to a train-related interest group that I like got hacked recently, and have been sending out spam messages. They’ve received a lot of advice in the hours since. Some of it has been good, and some not as good. So I tried to think of some things that people could do in about 30 minutes to keep the crooks at bay.

Incidentally, the computer crooks won’t be going away. Computer crime happens because the criminals can make more money doing that than doing something legal. The only way to make it stop is to make it too hard, so that getting a real job becomes more profitable. You won’t solve that problem in 30 minutes, but if we all take that single step down that road, we’ll make the world that much safer. So, with that, let’s roll up our sleeves.Read More »Things I wish everyone knew about home computer security

Take back some privacy

The creepy Girls Near Me smartphone app is drawing some much-needed attention at data brokers, companies that aggregate information about you from public information and information you provide to marketers. I even found an article that talks about how to opt out from selected brokers.

I recommend you do. Open up a temporary Yahoo or Hotmail account, use it for your opt-outs, then close or abandon the account.Read More »Take back some privacy

Greenberg’s Marx Trains Pocket Price Guide, 9th edition: A review

I received my copy of the new 9th edition of the Greenberg Pocket Price Guide for Marx trains this past weekend. Marx used to print on its packages, “One of the many Marx toys. Have you all of them?” This book won’t completely answer that question, but at the very least, it gives you a start, and helps you avoid paying too much for the ones you don’t have yet.

Read More »Greenberg’s Marx Trains Pocket Price Guide, 9th edition: A review

Microsoft buyouts that worked

This week, Microsoft surprised a lot of people by buying Skype. I think most people thought Facebook would do it. Now I keep hearing pundits say that this will fail, because Microsoft buyouts always fail.

I’m sure some of them do, but none come to mind at the moment. But I can think of several Microsoft buyouts that worked out really well. Over the years, I think Microsoft has proven itself to be pretty adept at both cloning products and buying products. They don’t always improve them all that much, but they frequently remain popular.

Sometimes I think Microsoft is better at buying products than developing them. After you see this list, you might agree.
Read More »Microsoft buyouts that worked

Fixing my b0rken WordPress installation

A little over a week ago, WordPress started acting weird. First, it just got dog slow. Then my site stats page started freezing until I scrolled down and then back up again. Then I started seeing a WordPress.com logon screen on my site stats page. I had to look that account up. Thank goodness for Gmail. Then my Akismet spam filter quit working. Then my stats page stopped working entirely.

I lived with it for a couple of days. I figured maybe WordPress and Akismet had changed something. Or maybe my Linux distribution had. And maybe some update messed things up, and some other update would come along and fix it. No such luck.Read More »Fixing my b0rken WordPress installation

Fix host hijacks or host file hijacks for free

Sometimes your antivirus will tell you that you have host hijacks or host file hijacks, but not elaborate on how to fix them. Some people charge way too much to fix them. Here’s how to fix host hijacks or host file hijacks for free.

A former classmate’s computer suddenly stopped letting him get to search engines. Aside from that, his computer appeared to be normal.

Fortunately he had some antivirus and antispyware software installed, so he was able to run it and get a relatively clean bill of health, but he still couldn’t use Google or Bing or Yahoo.

One of the pieces of software he ran mentioned a host hijack or hosts file hijack, but didn’t offer to clean it up without ponying up some serious bucks.

That was enough to tell me how to clean it up though. You don’t have to buy anything.Read More »Fix host hijacks or host file hijacks for free

Firefox vs. Chrome

I used Google Chrome this week while I waited for Firefox 3.5.1 to come out. I like both browsers but still prefer Firefox by a slight margin. But Chrome is nice to have for those times when Firefox has unpatched vulnerabilities.Popups: Chrome wins hands down. Firefox doesn’t block all popups, but in a week of using Chrome, I had zero popups. None. That was nice.

Searching: Firefox wins. Most people don’t mind hitting ctrl-f to search, but I’ve grown used to Firefox letting me search by hitting the / key. It’s faster and easier and now that I have the feature I hate not having it.

Blinky crap: Firefox wins. I can disable animated GIFs in Firefox and I can use Flashblock. Maybe I can get Chrome to disable animation too, but I know where to look in Firefox. Firefox will stay near and dear to me as long as it lets me block all that blinky crap.

Speed: Chrome runs Google Maps and the new Yahoo mail faster and on a marginal PC it scrolls text a bit better. But I think Firefox finds sites faster. Both are much faster than IE though, and after suffering through 8 hours of IE at work every day, either one is heavenly.

Search bar: If all you do is search Google, Chrome is better. I routinely search Amazon and eBay, a lot. Chrome’s way of doing it is clumsier than Firefox even though it uses less screen space.

Frankly I like both browsers but I’m glad to have Firefox back. I may find myself alternating between the two based on whatever I happen to be doing.