Tips for Safe Online Shopping

Dec 01
2014

So it’s that time of year again. Trying to find that perfect gift for the kids or the spouse.  A lot of us will turn to the internet for cover as opposed to dealing with large holiday crowds in the retail stores. While convenient, it does have it’s own danger as hackers each year go to new levels to try to steal your sensitive information.  Here are some tips to keep safe during this online shopping season. 

  1. Use sites that you are familiar with. Almost all major retailers have online stores. Stick with sites of trusted companies like Amazon, Best Buy, etc. They all have the security necessary to combat hacking. Also, try to look out for sites with misspellings in the URL as well as sites that are .net as opposed to .com.
  2. Look for the secure certificate. Look for the URL to being with https: and the padlock symbol in front of it. This means the site has SSL protection which will encrypt your information. 
  3. Minimize the information given. Retailers do not need your social security number or date of birth to make purchases. Any site asking for this information could be a scam to open accounts in your name. 
  4. Make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware. Most software will protect you from malware and has anti-phishing capability. This will only further protect you from info stealing. 
  5. Check your bank account frequently. Do not wait for the bill to come at the end of the month. Make sure you stay vigilant in making sure you have no fraudulent charges on your accounts. Most financial institutions require you to notify them within 30 days of a fraudulent charge. After that, you may be held liable for the purchases.

We all like the convenience of online shopping but in order to keep it a convenience and not have it turn into an inconvenience, follow these safety tips to keep your accounts protected. 

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SSL 3.0 Vulnerability Found

Oct 31
2014

You might be wondering why in the world you should be concerned or what SSL even means. However, you probably will recognize the green highlighted “https:” at the start of the web address of your online banking or Facebook log-in page. This essentially means that any sensitive information that will be entered into the webpage i.e. passwords, credit card info, will be encrypted as to protect you from having information stolen. The big news and why you should heighten your alert level is because Google has found a vulnerability in the SSL (Secure Socket Layer) version 3.0, in which they have named it The POODLE Attack (Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption). You can read the report here, https://www.openssl.org/~bodo/ssl-poodle.pdf . The issue is most prevalent with the Internet Explorer 6 web browser.

While SSL 3.0 is obsolete, the newer versions have a downgrade function so that older servers can use the security feature. Hackers have found a way to exploit the “backwards dance” between those security certificates. Most of the time the latest protocol version is used but in rare cases it becomes an issue. Unfortunately, as users, there is not much you can do to prevent this as it is a back-end issue with whatever company you are doing business with. The good news, however, is that any legitimate organization has this under control.

 

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iPhone 6 Bending: Defective or User Error?

Sep 30
2014

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the issues people are having with Apple’s latest version of it’s iPhone. It’s been widely reported that people have had the phones in their pocket, only to discover that it had bent. Some customers have also complained that they received the phone, new and out of the box, already with a slight bow. Apple has contended that they have received only 9 complaints of the iPhone 6 bending during normal use and that the fears of a design flaw are being severely overblown. Quite honestly, I’d have to side with Apple on this. They do vigorous testing on their phones to determine the durability needs and standards that have to be met to prevent this exact situation from happening. Consumer Reports, a U.S. Non-Profit organization, did it’s own testing of the 6 and determined it to be up to snuff. It certainly helps Apple’s case when the main “evidence” being submitted are videos of kids bending the phones with their hands. Of course it’s going to bend under those circumstances. Under normal use practices, there is nothing wrong with the iPhone 6. This is coming from an Android user, to boot.

That brings me to the elusive “normal use practices”. A lot of us have had to deal with phone companies and their notorious claims departments. You already know before you call they will tell you it’s your fault, am I right? Bottom line is, customer service is a HUGE part in the success of smart phone manufacturers along with the providers that sell them. While there probably is a bit of a gray area when it comes to their definitions of “normal use”, giant companies like these aren’t going to fret about sending you a replacement if it truly is warranted. The unfortunate truth is there are a lot of people every day who try to scam for a new phone because they accidentally broke theirs and don’t want to spend another $600. These companies have to protect themselves, too.

The long and short of it is, don’t use your $600 phone as a football, baseball or hockey puck, don’t pretend it’s a pool noodle, don’t tuck it in your back pocket then sit on it (I’m looking at you ladies), don’t put it in the microwave (whole different story for another blog) or don’t run it over with your car and chances are you’ll probably be peachy. Or if you’re like me and have the worst luck in the history of luck, you can just buy the $10/month phone insurance so you have no worries. I haven’t had an incident to date but I’m sure I will now. Hold your kids tight and your phones tighter (but not too tight, that’s not normal use).

 

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HP Issues Laptop Charger Recall

Aug 29
2014

HP has recently issued a recall on certain power supplies for it’s laptop computers. You can check to see if yours is one of them here. Hewlett-Packard in conjunction with federal regulators have recalled 6 million power cords sold between September 2010 and June of 2012 with select HP and Compaq notebooks, also including some docking stations. The recall is due to the cords overheating with the potential to catch fire. 

Of the 29 reported instances, two of them involved people being burned while thirteen others reported property damage. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a warning to stop using the recalled cords immediately to prevent any possible accidents from happening. 

This recall brings up important safety and usage tips for using laptops. You should always power down your laptop when not in use or set the sleep mode. Unlike a desktop, a laptop can overheat which can damage the computer or the furniture it’s sitting on. If you are going to pack it up in a case to use outside of home, make sure it is powered down. A laptop that is running while being in a case will have no way of venting and can melt. Do not rest your laptop on anything soft such as a pillow or blanket. The soft materials are prone to restricting air circulation from the fan and can cause the laptop to become extremely hot which can lead to burns or destruction of the computer. 

If you have an HP or Compaq laptop I would recommend checking out the link above to see if you are one of the unlucky folks included in the recall. Remember to practice safe usage in order to prevent damage to yourself or your devices.

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Battery Technology Breakthrough

Jul 31
2014

With the increasing computing power and functionality of smartphones, one of the top complaints lodged is poor battery life. That could very well be changing. A recent game breaking technology developed by researchers at Stanford University is said to be able to increase current rechargeable battery capacity by up to 400%.

We are all familiar with the term “Lithium Ion”, which is what most of all current batteries are made of. They have three core parts: an electrolyte, an anode and a cathode. The electrolyte provides the electrons (electricity), the anode discharges the electrons and the cathode which receives the electrons after they pass through the circuit. The problem today is that the electrons cannot be collected efficiently because, currently, anode’s are typically made up of graphite or silicon. However, a pure lithium anode would skyrocket performance. That is exactly what scientists believe they have accomplished. The standard for commercially viable batteries is 99.9% efficiency, which is the challenge that still lies ahead. They aren’t quite at that threshold yet but believe they are on the cusp.

If successful, we could expect cell phone batteries with double or triple the battery life, electronic cars that have the ability to travel 300 miles on a single charge without increasing the cost of the vehicles and the ability to roam longer with our laptop computers.

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