Five things to know about ransomware

The fight against ransomware is getting tougher. Here are five basics everyone should know about it.


  • What is ransomware? Ransomware is a type of malicious software, or malware, that denies access to files and data until a ransom is paid. There are two distinct types of ransomware. The most common is crypto ransomware, which encrypts sensitive data and files until a ransom is paid. The other type, locker ransomware, locks a device, completely preventing the victim from using it. In most cases, ransomware encrypts personal files, blocking users from accessing them. Victims are given instructions on how to pay the requested ransom, and only after doing so, are they given a decryption tool that will unlock the files.
  • How does ransomware encryption work? A well-designed ransomware strain will typically use an asymmetric encryption algorithm, which leverages a pair of keys – one public and one private. The data that is encrypted with the public key can only be unlocked by this matching private key and vice versa.
  • How do victims pay cyber ransoms? Ransoms are typically paid in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin due to its anonymity and difficulty to trace.
  • How much is a typical ransom? Requested ransom amounts can vary wildly. In the WannaCry attacks, victims were asked to pay between $300 to $600 via BitCoin to have their files unlocked. This may not seem like much, but it’s important to consider the other, more severe, costs resulting from such attacks due to downtime caused by lack of access to systems. Shockingly, it was recently reported that South Korean web hosting provider paid $1 million in bitcoins to hackers after a Linux ransomware infected its servers and encrypted the websites data hosted on them.  A big jump from the amount the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center reportedly paid last year.
  • How do I mitigate risk? Ransomware prevention measures can seem particularly daunting as administrator rights are not always required for some of today’s advanced strains of malware to compromise an end users’ machine and infect the endpoint. This means that while privilege management can play a role in mitigating risks, many strains of ransomware can encrypt data using standard user rights. So even if an organization has removed local administrator rights, this doesn’t necessarily mitigate the risk.



Safety Tips for Your Mobile Devices

That smartphone in your pocket – or your tablet or laptop – contains significant information about you and your friends and family – contact numbers, photos, location and more. Your mobile devices need to be protected. Take the following security precautions and enjoy the conveniences of technology with peace of mind while you are on the go.

Keep a Clean Machine
  • Keep security software current on all devices that connect to the Internet: Having the most up-to-date mobile security software, web browser, operating system and apps is the best defense against viruses, malware and other online threats.
  • Delete when done: Many of us download apps for specific purposes, such as planning a vacation, and no longer need them afterwards, or we may have previously downloaded apps that are longer useful or interesting to us. It’s a good security practice to delete all apps you no longer use.
Protect Your Personal Information
  • Secure your devices: Use strong passwords, passcodes or other features such as touch identification to lock your devices. Securing your device can help protect your information if your device is lost or stolen and keep prying eyes out.
  • Personal information is like money – Value it. Protect it.: Information about you, such as the games you like to play, what you search for online and where you shop and live, has value ‒ just like money. Be thoughtful about who gets that information and how it’s collected through apps and websites.
  • Own your online presence: Use security and privacy settings on websites and apps to manage what is shared about you and who sees it.
  • Now you see me, now you don’t: Some stores and other locations look for devices with WiFi or Bluetooth turned on to track your movements while you are within range. Disable WiFi and Bluetooth when not in use.

Connect with Care

  • Get savvy about WiFi hotspots: Public wireless networks and hotspots are not secure, which means that anyone could potentially see what you are doing on your laptop or smartphone while you are connected to them. Limit what you do on public WiFi, and avoid logging in to key accounts like email and financial services. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) or a personal/mobile hotspot if you need a more secure connection.
  • When in doubt, don’t respond: Fraudulent text messages, calls and voicemails are on the rise. Just as with email, mobile requests for personal data or immediate action are almost always scams.


Wise giving in the wake of Hurricane Harvey

by Colleen Tressler

It’s heartbreaking to see people lose their lives, homes, and businesses to the ongoing flooding in Texas. But it’s despicable when scammers exploit such tragedies to appeal to your sense of generosity.

If you’re looking for a way to give, the FTC urges you to be cautious of potential charity scams. Do some research to ensure that your donation will go to a reputable organization that will use the money as promised.

Consider these tips when asked to give:

  • Donate to charities you know and trust with a proven track record with dealing with disasters.
  • Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events. Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • Designate the disaster so you can ensure your funds are going to disaster relief, rather than a general fund.
  • Never click on links or open attachments in e-mails unless you know who sent it. You could unknowingly install malware on your computer.
  • Don’t assume that charity messages posted on social media are legitimate. Research the organization yourself.
  • When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source before you donate. The charge will show up on your mobile phone bill, but donations are not immediate.
  • Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials. If they should be registered, but they’re not, consider donating through another charity.


Job scams

Some people joke about being “between jobs,” but there’s nothing funny about unemployment. Looking for a new job is stressful, and as the weeks turn into months, you may jump at any opportunity, no matter how dubious or grim.

Scammers know this, and they prey on desperate people. They send emails with headings like, “Your Résumé” or “Work From Home Job.” At first, these sound like exciting opportunities. Can you really make $1,200 a week sitting on your couch?

Employment scams are common, and you don’t have to be jobless to find their offers enticing. Many of their targets are the unemployed or underpaid eager for a change of pace. No matter what the location or time of year, scammers find a needy victim with bills to pay.

This year, I’ve noticed a rise in two different types of job-related scams. These can look very convincing if you don’t know how to watch out for them.

Mailed Check: In this scam, you apply for a job and get a response. Your potential employer mails you a check. It’ll be made out to you for $500 or so. Of course, that should be a red flag. Why would they pay you before you start working?

Reputable companies won’t do that. But scammers will call you or email you to say the mailed check was their mistake. They ask you to wire the funds back to them. If you fall for it, their bad check won’t cover the funds so that the money will come out of your bank account.

Upfront Fees: Some fake companies will require an “activation fee,” or even upfront costs for “training” and “materials.” If you’re dying for work, you might convince yourself that this is normal because you need to “spend money to make money.” Don’t rationalize. Legitimate employers should not require fees.

Cyberbully Protection | Psychology Today


R U there?  Can U hear me?  Will U plz make it stop?  My life is ruined.  I can’t show my face in public again…  No 1 listens, who can I turn 2?  R U there?  Plz make it go away:(

Cyberbullying words can cut and oftentimes the victim feels alone, scared, anxious, depressed and like there’s no one who understands them.  Although cyberbullying doesn’t directly inflict physical harm it does cut psychologically.  Sometimes it leaves scars that don’t heal.  Teens can quickly spiral to the dark side and have depressed thoughts that parents couldn’t even begin to fathom.

Do you worry about your teen being involved with cyberbulling?  According to a study released recently by the American Osteopathic Association, parents are concerned about the well being of their child in cyberspace.  The survey polled more than 1,000 parents of teenagers aged 13 to 17 and found that 85 percent of parents reported that their children had social media accounts and about 52 percent of parents admitted to being concerned about cyberbullying.  The study also revealed that one in six parents knew their child had been the victim of a cyberbully.  Additionally, most of the cyberbully reports were not a onetime occurrence but were repetitive.

Approximately 91 percent of parents believe they, not teachers, are responsible for preventing the long term effects of cyberbullying.   More than 75 percent of parents reported that they discussed cyberbullying with their children, while 86 percent said they joined their child’s online social network to help monitor their teens’ interactions online. Also more parents (2 out of 3) reported monitoring the security settings on their teen’s social media accounts.  And just who are the worst offenders?  This study found that girls are more likely to be the cyberbully.  About two-thirds of cyberbullying was done by girls, making it twice as common among girls as boys.

So what can parents do to protect their teen from cyberbullying?  For starters, review the tips below with your teen.

Top Sixteen Cyberbullying Protection Tips for Teens:

1. If you’ve become a victim of cyberbullying, take down your page(s)!  No exceptions!

2. Don’t fill out those online surveys.  If you do, be very selective about what kind of information you post.  No personal information!

3.  Give your parents access to your accounts.  This is for your protection.

4.  Only accept close and “real friends” to your social media sites.

5.  Don’t talk to strangers.  If you don’t know them, block them from your site.

6.  Don’t reply to any degrading, rude or vulgar posts.

7.  Block all people from your site who post those things in tip 6.

8. Report inappropriate posts, pics, videos, etc., to site operators.

9. Don’t delete inappropriate material.  Take a screen shot; print it out, or save it.  This is your evidence should you need it in the future.

10.  If a friend tells you that they see something bad about you online, ask him to print it out or save it for you.

11.  Tell a parent or a trusted adult if you are a victim of cyberbullying.  Don’t keep silent.

12. Never, ever, share personal information with others online that can come back to bite you.  If you want to share something big with a friend, do it face to face.  Don’t do it online where the world is your audience.

13. Never, ever, share your username and password with anyone except a parent.

14.  Make your username and password unique so that no one can figure them out.

15.  Don’t ever provide an itinerary of your day on your social media site(s).  It is not safe for others to know every step that you’re going to be making during the day.

16. Take a stand against cyberbullying.  Don’t only stand up for yourself but get others involved as well.  For example, start a school wide campaign.  If you are a victim of cyberbullying you are not alone.  Help break the silence and let’s put an end to bullying!


Smart devices – choose them carefully

A smartwatch on your wrist. A smart TV in your living room. Maybe even a smart fridge or other devices are now connected to your home’s Wi-fi.

But have you thought about what could happen if someone hacks them?
What kind of data flows through them?
What could they reveal about your habits, about your family?

Each time you get excited about a new Internet-connected device, take a minute to consider what online dangers you’re exposing yourself to.

Not many device makers are focused on security as priority, but you should pay attention to this aspect.

Better Business Bureau: Start With Trust

BBB Tip: Don’t Let an Eclipse Blind You to Scams


The “path of totality” where the total solar eclipse is visible will stretch through 13 states from Oregon to South Carolina. In the center of that 70-mile wide path, the total eclipse will last from 2 minutes to 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Outside of this path, observers will see a partial eclipse.

Big events also mean big opportunities for scammers and unscrupulous businesses. With a rare event like this, it is important to plan carefully and to trust your instincts. Here are some things to be wary of while you get ready for the eclipse.

Counterfeit Eclipse Glasses

You should never look directly at the sun, so to view the solar eclipse directly without damage to your eyes, you need special solar filter glasses. These are much more powerful than sunglasses. While sunglasses only block about 50% of the sun’s rays, solar filter glasses block more than 99.99%. Unfortunately, many of the solar glasses available online may be counterfeit or do not meet safety specifications. Your best bet is to stick with a brand whose glasses are certified by NASA and the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Here is a list of reputable vendors from AAS.

Here are some additional tips for safe viewing:

  • Regular sunglasses, even very dark sunglasses, are not enough.
  • Warn children of the danger in viewing the eclipse without protective eyewear.
  • Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device.
  • Do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer – the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.
  • If the filters on your eclipse glasses are torn, scratched, punctured or coming loose from their cardboard or plastic frames, discard them.

If you are unable to get glasses, one way of indirectly observing the eclipse is by using a pinhole projector. NASA has instructions on how to do this, as well as files to print out and use,

Accommodation Scams

If you are looking for a place to stay during the eclipse, be careful if you are booking online through a third-party site. Check with to see what previous customers’ experiences have been. Make sure to correspond within the website or app and not through other means. Always double check that a listing is on the real website and emails are coming from official addresses. Using a credit card offers the best fraud protection. Don’t deal with anyone who asks for payment outside of the platform’s approved options.

There have been reports of travelers who booked hotels for the eclipse long in advance (before it was widely publicized) only to see their reservations canceled or moved to hotels far from viewing spots. Some of the original rooms are then offered again at a much higher rate. If you are traveling out of town for the eclipse and have a hotel booked, make sure you double-check your reservations before heading out.

Event Scams

Cities across the path of totality are holding eclipse festivals with both free events and VIP viewing parties. Scammers may set up fake events or charge people for access to free public parties. These tips for avoiding summer festival scams can also help you separate real eclipse events from fake ones. NASA has information on many events.

Bus Scams

Traffic will likely be very heavy on any road between a major city and the eclipse path. A bus might sound like great option, but be careful you don’t make a reservation only to end up without transportation. Make sure you deal directly with a bus or limo company to avoid scammers using a legitimate business as a front. Go to to look for Accredited Businesses and read reviews and complaints before you book.

This month’s eclipse may be a rare chance to see an extraordinary astronomical event right in your backyard. That urgency and unique opportunity are what can make scams successful. Remember to do your research and always trust your instincts — if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

If you are the victim of a scam related to the eclipse, you can go to to file a scam report.


No secret bank accounts to pay your bills

by Colleen Tressler

Another day, another scam. Case in point: the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports that scammers are telling people they can pay their bills using so-called “secret accounts” or “Social Security trust accounts” and routing numbers at Federal Reserve Banks. In exchange for personal information, like Social Security numbers, people get what they think is a bank account number at a Federal Reserve Bank. But this really is just a way to get your personal information, which scammers can then sell or use to commit fraud, like identity theft.

It’s good to keep in mind that people do not have accounts at Federal Reserve Banks. Only banks can bank at the Federal Reserve. But what happens if you try to use this “secret” account? Well, the Federal Reserve Bank will deny the payment, since you don’t really have an account there. Once the payment is rejected, you’ll be notified that you still owe the money – which is about when you might figure out that this was a scam. At that point, you may owe a late fee or penalty to the company you thought you were paying. You also may owe fees to your bank for returned or rejected payments.

If you see a video, text, email, phone call, flyer, or website that describes how you can pay bills using a Federal Reserve Bank routing number or account, report it to the FTC. It’s a scam. And remember: never give your credit card, bank account, or Social Security number to anyone who calls or emails and asks for it – no matter who they say they are.

False promises from a work-at-home scam

by Andrew Johnson

It’s hard to pass up a job opportunity that promises a large income and the flexibility of working entirely from home. Especially when the opportunity appears at the top of your online search results and includes video testimonials of success stories, making it seem legitimate. The problem is, most of these job opportunities are scams and won’t deliver on their promises.

Today, the FTC announced that a federal court put a temporary stop to a work-at-home scam that failed to live up to its promises. According to the FTC, Work At Home EDU made false claims that people could earn “hundreds of dollars, per hour from home, without any special skills or experience” by paying for a $97 work-at-home program. Once people paid, they were told that for $194.95 more, they could buy the advanced program and earn a whopping six figures a month. Unfortunately, none of it was true.

If you’re looking to work from home, here are some questions to ask to help you determine if a program is legitimate:

  • What tasks will I have to perform? Are any other steps involved?
  • What is the total cost of this work-at-home program? What will I get for my money?
  • Will I be paid a salary or commission?
  • Who will pay me? When will I get my first paycheck?
  • What is the basis for your claims about my likely earnings? What documents can you show me to prove your claims are true before I give you any money?

Before you hand over any money, also make sure you know what information you’re entitled to under the FTC’s Business Opportunity Rule. Doing an online search of the company’s name with the words “complaint,” “reviews,” or “scam” also can be a good way to hear what others have to say.


How to back up your computer – the best advice in one place


I bet that you worry about the data on your laptop, just like me. And, just as I used to do, you probably keep putting off that backup you’ve been meaning to do for a while. So for people like you and I, who can’t really spare that much time when it comes to backing up their data, I put together this simple, actionable guide to stop procrastinating and get it over with.

And if you’re more the “it can’t happen to me” type of person, just take a peek below, which shows general failure rates for computer hard drives just like yours:



According to a study by BackBlaze:

“For the first 18 months, the failure rate hovers around 5%, then it drops for a while, and then goes up substantially at about the 3-year mark. We are not seeing that much “infant mortality”, but it does look like 3 years is the point where drives start wearing out.”

Now you’re probably trying to figure out how old your computer is. Is it closing in to the 3 years mark? Maybe you should not postpone that backup this time.

But who would be interested in my data?

Cyber criminals for starters. And they have the tools and knowledge to crack your passwords (which are probably too simple and weak) in just a few minutes.

Real life criminals who might steal your laptop, tablet or smartphone. Maybe they won’t be interested in the data inside more than in the gadget itself, but can you really count on that?

And then there are problems such as: losing your laptop/tablet/smartphone or damaging it in some way. You could become your own problem.

reasons to backup your data world backup day


“But backups are complicated and I don’t have the skills for that.”

That’s a myth
(and an excuse you use to justify not backing up your data). Because I know there’s a lot of information out there, I created this guide to makes things simple and actionable.

There must be some software that can recover my data, even if it gets deleted accidentally.” I hate to break this to you, but no, there isn’t. There is no magic wand, and no undo button for this one. If your computer’s hard drive fails, it’s ALL GONE.

Could you bear losing everything on your computer: family photos, vacation videos, work projects, financial documents, passwords, music, etc.?

I thought so. There’s only one thing left to do:

Read the steps below and apply them ASAP!


Backups are necessary copies of your data that you store somewhere safe to restore in case anything happens to the device you’re working on.

For now we’re going to focus on creating a backup for Windows users, but you can find a backup solution no matter what device or OS you’re using. Moreover, you can also use some of the principles listed here to get started.

Here 2 important factors you need to think about before starting your backup:

  • How much storage space do you need?
  • Do you want to backup all your files or just a selection containing the most important ones?

The 5 golden rules of data backup

1. Keep at least 3 copies of your data.
2. Keep backups on different types of support.
3. Maintain a constant, automated backup schedule.
4. Keep your data backups in a secure, off-site location.
5. Secure your backups with strong passwords and keep those passwords safe (check the password security guide for more details).

The rules above are simple, so now I want to help you find the right tools to get it done. So I have one question for you:

What do you want to spend on your data’s safe storage: time or money?

If all you want to invest is time, you can choose one of these free cloud storage services:

If the stuff you want to backup fit in the free space offered by one of these services, all you have to do is couple it with a free backup software and you’re done! And we have just the list for you: 34 Free Backup Software Tools.

If your backup needs exceed these free options, you should keep in mind that online backup software and storage is not expensive!

Let me give you some examples:

Cloud storage (pricing per month):

  • Google Drive – $1.99 for 100 GB or $9.99 for 1 TB (check out the rest of the options)
  • OneDrive – $1.99 for 100 GB or $6.99 for 1 TB, including Office 365 (check out the rest of the options)
  • Dropbox – $9.99 for 1 TB or $15 / user / month for unlimited(!) storage (details)
  • SugarSync – $7.49 for 100 GB or $9.99 for 200 GB (check out the rest of the options)
  • Symform – $10 for 100 GB or $20 for 200 GB (check out the rest of the options)
  • Bitcasa – $10 for 1 TB or $99 for 10 TB (details)
  • SpiderOak – $12 for 1 TB (details).
  • Amazon Cloud Drive – $11.99/year for storing unlimited photos or $60/year for unlimited everything (details).

Online backup services (pricing per year):

You can also this great comparison tool to evaluate features and pricing for multiple software options. Check out the homepage on as well for backup tools for other operating systems and focused on specific criteria.

Because you should follow backup rule nr. 2 – keep backups on different types of support – let’s check some external drives options as well:

  • HGST Touro S 1TB – $70 (details)
  • HGST Touro Mobile 1TB – $55 (details)
  • Seagate Expansion 1TB Portable – $65 (details)
  • Seagate Backup Plus Slim 1TB – $65 (details)
  • Seagate Expansion 1TB – $60 (details)
  • Toshiba 1TB Canvio Basics – $58 (details).

All that you have to do now is:
1. Make a choice of a free or paid storage
2. Pick a backup software solution
3. Choose the files you want to back up
4. Set a constant backup schedule
5. Sit back and know that your data is safe.

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