10 ways to protect against hackers

Hackers are a scary bunch—whether working as part of a criminal syndicate or an idealist with a political agenda, they’ve got the knowledge and the power to access your most precious data. If hackers want to target a particular company, for example, they can find vast amounts of information on that company just by searching the web. They can then use that info to exploit weaknesses in the company’s security, which in turn puts the data you’ve entrusted to that company in jeopardy.

Think of your home computer as a company. What can you do to protect it against hackers? Instead of sitting back and waiting to get infected, why not arm yourself and fight back?

Bad guys, beware. We’ve got 10 ways to beat you.

  1. Update your OS and other software frequently, if not automatically. This keeps hackers from accessing your computer through vulnerabilities in outdated programs. For extra protection, enable Microsoft product updates so that the Office Suite will be updated at the same time. Consider retiring particularly susceptible software such as Java or Flash.
  2. Download up-to-date security programs, including antivirus and anti-malware software, anti-spyware, and a firewall (if your OS didn’t come pre-packaged with it). To trick even the most villainous hackers, consider investing in anti-exploit technology, such as Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit, so you can stop attacks before they happen.
  3. Destroy all traces of your personal info on hardware you plan on selling. Consider using d-ban to erase your hard drive. For those looking to pillage your recycled devices, this makes information much more difficult to recover. If the information you’d like to protect is critical enough, the best tool for the job is a chainsaw.
  4. Do not use open wifi; it makes it too easy for hackers to steal your connection and download illegal files. Protect your wifi with an encrypted password, and consider refreshing your equipment every few years. Some routers have vulnerabilities that are never patched. Newer routers allow you to provide guests with segregated wireless access. Plus, they make frequent password changes easier.
  5. Speaking of passwords: password protect all of your devices, including your desktop, laptop, phone, smartwatch, tablet, camera, lawnmower…you get the idea. The ubiquity of mobile devices makes them especially vulnerable. Lock your phone and make the timeout fairly short. Use fingerprint lock for the iPhone and passkey or swipe for Android. “It’s easy to forget that mobile devices are essentially small computers that just happen to fit in your pocket and can be used as a phone,” says Jean-Philippe Taggart, Senior Security Researcher at Malwarebytes. “Your mobile device contains a veritable treasure trove of personal information and, once unlocked, can lead to devastating consequences.”
  6. Sensing a pattern here? Create difficult passwords and change them frequently. In addition, never use the same passwords across multiple services. If that’s as painful as a stake to a vampire’s heart, use a password manager like LastPass. For extra hacker protectant, ask about two-step authentication. Several services have only recently started to offer two-factor authentication, and they require the user to initiate the process. Trust us, the extra friction is worth it. Two-factor authentication makes taking over an account that much more difficult, and on the flip side, much easier to reclaim should the worst happen.
  7. Come up with creative answers for your security questions. People can now figure out your mother’s maiden name or where you graduated from high school with a simple Google search. Consider answering like a crazy person. If Bank of America asks, “What was the name of your first boyfriend/girlfriend?” reply “your mom.” Just don’t forget that’s how you answered when they ask you again.
  8. Practice smart surfing and emailing. Phishing campaigns still exist, but hackers have become much cleverer than that Nigerian prince who needs your money. Hover over links to see the actual email address from which the email was sent. Is it really from the person or company claiming to send them? If you’re not sure, pay attention to awkward sentence construction and formatting. If something still seems fishy, do a quick search on the Internet for the subject line. Others may have been scammed and posted about it online.
  9. Don’t link accounts. If you want to comment on an article and you’re prompted to sign in with Twitter or Facebook, do not go behind the door. “Convenience always lessens your security posture,” says Taggart. “Linking accounts allows services to acquire a staggering amount of personal information.”
  10. Keep sensitive data off the cloud. “No matter which way you cut it, data stored on the cloud doesn’t belong to you,” says Taggart. “There are very few cloud storage solutions that offer encryption for ‘data at rest.’ Use the cloud accordingly. If it’s important, don’t.”
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What is Hacking?

During the 1990s, the term “hacker” originally denoted a skilled programmer proficient in machine code and computer operating systems. In particular, these individuals could always hack on an unsatisfactory system to solve problems and engage in a little software company espionage by interpreting a competitor’s code.

Unfortunately, some of these hackers also became experts at accessing password-protected computers, files, and networks and came to known as “crackers.” Of course, an effective and dangerous “cracker” must be a good hacker and the terms became intertwined. Hacker won out in popular use and in the media and today refers to anyone who performs some form of computer sabotage.

Hacker Tools

There now are more than 100,000 known viruses with more appearing virtually daily. The myriad of hackers and their nefarious deeds can affect any computer owner whether an occasional home user, e-mailer, student, blogger, or a network administrator on site or on the internet. No matter your level of computer use, you must protect your computer, business, or even your identity. The best way to know how to protect your computer is to understand the hacker’s tools and recognize their damage.

Viruses, Exploits, Worms, and More

The term computer “virus” originated to describe machine code command inserted into a computer’s memory that, on execution, copies itself into other programs and files on the computer. Depending on the hacker’s intent, the design of a virus can merely be an inconvenience or have very serious consequences up to a potential catastrophe.

Generally, a virus is a piece of software, a series of data, or a command sequence that exploits a bug, glitch, or vulnerability. Each example is appropriately termed an “exploit.” An exploit causes unintended or unanticipated behavior to occur in a computer’s operating system or applications while propagating itself within the computer.

An exploit and operates through a network security vulnerability or “hole” without previous access to the vulnerable system is a “remote” exploit. An exploit that needs prior access to a system is termed a “local” exploit. These are usually intended to increase the hacker’s access privileges beyond those granted by a system administrator.

Worms are simply viruses that send copies over network connections. A bomb resides silently in a computer’s memory until set off by a date or action. A Trojan horse is a malicious program that cannot reproduce itself, but is distributed by CD or e-mail.

Protect Your Computer: Avoid Computer Holes/Vulnerabilities

Install only trusted software and delete unknown emails. If you have any doubt about a piece of software’s function, do not install it. If you receive e-mails from random people’s names, resist your curiosity and do not open it, just delete it.

Under no conditions download or open attachments from anyone that you do not know and even then be cautious. Banks and most companies that create online personal accounts will not send you attachments. If they do, it is probably best to go to the company site and request the download or at least see if it is legitimate. Avoid adult web sites, a hacker’s paradise.

Whether in your e-mail or online, do not click on ads. If the ad is of interest, find the site. Be careful with what you physically put into your computer. This is especially true for shared R/W CDs, USB hard disks, or flash drives. This is an easy path for a virus to follow from computer to computer.

Protection: Install Anti-Virus Software

Anti-virus software searches for evidence of the presence of viral programs, worm, bombs, and Trojan horses by checking for the characteristic appearances or behaviors that is typical of these programs. When found the program logs its discovery, its type, often its name or an identifier, and it potential for damage. The anti-virus software then eliminates or isolates/quarantines the infected files. For the individual, commercial software is relatively inexpensive; however, there are free anti-virus programs available.

Since new viruses appear almost daily with new code it is imperative that you update you antivirus program often to keep up with these threats; therefore, make sure to set your program to update automatically. To avoid the annoyance of computer slowdown schedule full scale scans late at night.

The same is true for your Windows Operating System. Very often, your OS is where hackers discover the holes to exploit. Of course, in an ever-continuing battle, this software is continuously updated with security patches.

Finally, secure your wireless network with a router that has a built in firewall. Almost all wireless routers are set to no security when first installed. Log into the router and at least set it to basic security with a strong password to replace the factory setting that any hacker knows. A firewall or router that is not configured properly or non-existent allows hackers to scan passwords, e-mails, or files that cross your network connection.

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How to Fix: Cannot Create Partition: No Free MBR Slots

I have an HP computer, which has 4 hard drive partitions: the System partition, the C drive, the factory image partition (which includes a backup of Windows), and the ‘HP Tools’ partition, which contains BIOS information in case a BIOS flash fails and I need to restore my BIOS. My question is this: I used MiniTool Partition Wizard to shrink my C drive, which then created unallocated space. Normally I can right click the unallocated space and create a new volume, however, I receive an error message that says: ‘Partition Wizard cannot create a partition here because there are no free MBR slots’. I don’t know what that means or what to do next. Can you help? ”

My response:

I use MiniTool Partition Wizard from time to time – it’s good, and it’s free – but, I have to say that I have never heard of this issue before. I asked Sam if he would like me to connect to his system and look at the issue in depth, and he agreed. Here’s what I found:

First, I launched Disk Management within Windows and right clicked over top of the unallocated space Sam had created earlier, but received an error stating that: “You cannot create a new volume in this unallocated space because the disk already contains the maximum number of partitions.” I then tried to do the same using MiniTool Partition Wizard and was also greeted with the same error Sam received earlier – there were no free MBR slots.

I did a bit of research, and what it boils down to is this: Sam had 4 partitions, and all of them were set as primary – which happens to be the maximum number of primary partitions you are allowed per disk. This information is then stored in the MBR (master boot record) of the hard drive. With that said, most people won’t run into this issue because most standard Windows installations will only contain 1 primary partition, which is located on the C drive. However, Sam’s computer was from HP and they do things a little differently.

How to Fix: Cannot Create Partition: No Free MBR Slots

After a bit more research I discovered that it is technically possible to convert one of the primary partitions into a logical partition, thus abiding by the laws of the master boot record (MBR). However, I advise not going this route, because it will likely break the functionality of the computer down the road. In Sam’s case, the Recovery and HP Tools were both primary; changing either one to logical may break either the factory image restoration or the BIOS recovery – and you would not want to find out that either one of these recoveries doesn’t work when you need it the most.

A better way to go about this problem is to work with what is already there. In Sam’s case, the hard drive layout looked like this:

System (Primary) | C Drive (Primary) | Unallocated Space | Factory Image (Primary, Backup) | HP Tools (Primary)

What I did was use MiniTool Paritition Wizard to merge the Unallocated space (which was originally taken from the C drive) with the Factory Image immediately next to it, and then marked all the files on the Factory Image drive as hidden. That way, Sam could use the newly repurposed partition for whatever he wanted, and technically this did not break his pre-existing partition schema. Sam’s hard drive layout then looked like this:

System (Primary) | C Drive (Primary) | Sam’s new partition (Primary, Still contains Factory Image, but now larger than previous) | HP Tools (Primary)

I hope that helps anyone should they encounter a similar issue, especially with HP computers.

A word of warning: always make a disk image backup of your entire hard drive before you go changing around your partitions. I have used MiniTool Partition Wizard previously and adjusted the C drive geometry, only to have it crash and corrupt Windows, thus making the entire system unbootable. As always; if you don’t know what you’re doing, you are welcome to contact me for help

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How to Screenshot A Mac – 4 Simple Tricks

Thank You David Cox:

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Will Windows 10 Install Automatically?

I have successfully reserved my copy of Windows 10 using the ‘get windows 10’ app on my desktop. I am having second thoughts about whether or not Windows 10 will install properly, so I’m not sure if I should cancel it. I might just wait for the Windows 10 ISO, so I can do a clean install. Question: if I go ahead and let Windows 10 install through Windows Update (which is due July 29), how will it be installed? Will Windows 10 be installed automatically? If the install fails will I be able to get my files back? ”

My response:

Based on previous Windows upgrades (from within the desktop of a pre-existing Windows environment), Windows 10 will not install automatically without prior notice and interaction on your behalf. For example, a PC running Windows 7 via the desktop that is upgrading to Windows 8 goes through a series of stages (questions), which eventually leads up to an End User License Agreement (EULA) before giving Windows 8 the “go ahead” to perform the actual install. I suspect the Windows 10 upgrade will be much the same.

Should You Worry about Windows 10?

As for having second thoughts about installing Windows 10 (whether it’s through Windows Update or a clean install) – you won’t need to worry about any of that providing you make a disk image backup of your system and all your files before the July 29 deadline. As long as you have disk image backups and you test the backup procedure, then you should be good to go and there should be no need to worry. There’s really nothing else to say and do beyond that.

For disk image backups, I recommend Acronis True Image. I’ve been using it on all my PCs for 10 years now and it’s saved my bacon many, many times, which is also why I keep mentioning it repeatedly in the newsletter. It’s really that good, and I’m sure many users reading this will attest to its effectiveness. You can purchase it through our website (1 PC license, or a 3 PC license, which is the best deal). If you don’t know how to set up the backup, I would be more than happy to help you with it – just send me an email.

What if Windows 10 Install Fails and You Don’t Have a Backup?

If you don’t have a backup and Windows 10 fails to install, then getting your files back will likely be a painful experience. You can hire someone to do it for you (like myself), or you can attempt to do it yourself. I don’t recommend the latter, but the steps (roughly) would be as follows:

  1. Take the hard drive out of your PC and attach it to another system.
  2. Boot the secondary PC and attempt to locate all the user files from the failed Windows install.
  3. Note the many locations of all user files on the hard drive, and copy those files onto another hard drive.
  4. Next, launch an Administrative command prompt. Take ownership of the files you copied onto the secondary hard drive using the “takeown” command, followed by resetting the access control list permissions using the “icacls” command. You will most likely need to do this recursively as there will be folders inside of other folders and you don’t want to do this on a folder by folder basis or it will take weeks to complete. Needless to say, this is all very surgical, and special care must be taken to not take ownership of the wrong files or you could do some serious, irreversible damage. If you don’t reset the permissions, you won’t be able to to modify any of the files you copied over.
  5. After the files have been copied and permissions reset, you will most likely want to format the drive so you can reinstall Windows.
  6. Shut down the secondary system and take the formatted drive out, then put it back into your system.
  7. Reinstall Windows and all your programs.
  8. Replace all your user files from steps 1-4 back onto the system.
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How to Fix: ‘Failure configuring Windows Updates; Reverting changes’ Error

I had to reinstall Windows 8 on my machine, and I wanted to download the Windows 8.1 update afterward. But when I try, that I’m told I must have all the current Windows 8 updates installed. So, I looked at the updates for Windows 8 and there are over 150 of them. I requested that they all be downloaded and installed, and they did. However, when the installation and configuration starts, I get the message that there was a ‘Failure Configuring Windows Updates; Reverting changes‘, and then Windows Update fails. Now I’m right back where I started from. Can you tell me how to work around this as I am not able to update to Windows 8.1? ”

My response:

Unfortunately this a very problematic issue, and it requires some troubleshooting. Microsoft outlines steps to resolve a corrupt Windows Update; however, based on my experience there is a lot of information missing on this page, plus there are too many external pages that link to other pages which only serve to confuse the reader. As such, I’ve compiled a straightforward list (below) using tried and tested methods to help you to resolve the ‘Failure Configuring Windows Updates; Reverting changes’ error.

Note: please try these steps in order, as they are meant to be exhausted from start to finish:

  1. Scan the Hard Drive for Errors
  2. Unplug any removable media and reboot; try Windows Update again
  3. Run the System File Checker tool (SFC.exe)
  4. Attempt Windows Update from a Clean Boot
  5. Download and Run the Windows Update Troubleshooter
  6. Clear the Windows Update Cache
  7. Use the Deployment Imaging and Servicing Management (DISM) tool
  8. Perform a System Restore then Reapply Updates
  9. Perform a Windows Refresh or Restore

1. Scan the Hard Drive for Errors

If your file system is corrupt, this will cause Windows Updates to fail. That said, if you have surface errors on the hard drive this will cause files to become corrupt, Windows Update to fail, and may not be recoverable. To scan the file system for errors:

a. Click Start, then type in “this pc” (no quotes) and click on This PC when it shows up in the start menu.

b. Navigate to C drive and right click it, then select Properties.

c. Go to the Tools menu (tab) and under Error Checking, click Check Now.

d. Ensure Automatically Fix File System Errors in check marked, and click OK.

You will be prompted to reboot your computer. But before you do that, unplug any removable media and reboot as noted in suggestion #2.

2. Unplug any removable media and reboot; try Windows Update again

As noted on Microsoft’s website, having removable media such as an external hard drive or USB flash drive plugged in can cause Windows Updates to fail. Unplug any of these devices on your computer, reboot, and try the Windows Updates again.

3. Try the System File Checker (SFC)

Sometimes Windows components can become corrupt which then causes the Windows Services to become corrupt, including the Windows Update Service. You can attempt to fix that by running the Windows System File Checker. Here are the steps:

a. Click Start, and then type in “cmd” (no quotes) but DO NOT press Enter on the keyboard; when CMD (the command prompt) shows up in the Start Menu, right click it and select “Run as Administrator” from the context menu.

b. A black window (the command prompt) will appear. Type in “sfc /scannow” (no quotes) and press Enter on the keyboard. This will begin the scan and will take about 5 to 10 minutes to complete.

c. After the scan try running the Windows Update again

4. Attempt Windows Update from a Clean Boot

Sometimes installed programs can interfere with the Windows Update process. To ensure that no programs are interfering with the Windows Update process, you can initiate a “Clean Boot” by following these steps:

a. Click Start and type in “msconfig” (no quotes) and press Enter.

b. Go to the Service Tab and checkmark “Hide all Microsoft Services”.

c. Next, click on Disable All, then click Apply.

d. Click the Startup Tab and then “Open Task Manager” link (if present)

e. Select all items in the Startup tab list, then click Disable.

f. Click OK and have Windows reboot your computer

Note: once you have Windows Update working properly you can reverse these changes (if desired) by following the instructions in reverse.

5. Download and Run the Windows Update Troubleshooter

Oftentimes the Windows Update service can become corrupt. Download and run the Windows Update Troubleshooter to try and have this Microsoft “Fixit” fix the Windows Update Service. It’s worth noting that the previous steps I’ve outlined above should be tried first before running the Windows Update Troubleshooter because ignoring those steps may cause the Troubleshooter to fail. Additional information on troubleshooting Windows Updates for Windows 8 is here.

6. Clear the Windows Update Cache

Clearing the Windows Update Cache usually does the trick for a wide range of Windows Update related problems. To clear the cache, navigate to the C:\Windows\WinSxS\ folder, then look for the file called “pending.xml”. Left click it, then right click over top of the filename and rename it to “pending_old.xml” or similar; renaming the file will effectively ‘reset’ the Windows Update process. Once the file has been renamed, re-run the Windows Update again.

7. Use the Deployment Imaging and Servicing Management (DISM) tool

As mentioned in Step #3, sometimes Windows components can become corrupt. The DISM tool can find corrupted Windows files and then download corrected ones from Microsoft’s servers online. To run the tool, follow these steps:

a. Click Start, and then type in “cmd” (no quotes) but DO NOT press Enter on the keyboard; when CMD (the command prompt) shows up in the Start Menu, right click it and select “Run as Administrator” from the context menu.

b. A black window (the command prompt) will appear. Type in “DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Scanhealth” (no quotes) and press Enter on the keyboard. This will begin the scan and will take about 5 to 10 minutes to complete.

c. After the scan try running the Windows Update again

8. Perform a System Restore then Reapply Updates

Performing a System Restore will revert your computer to a last known good configuration. You won’t lose any personal files or data but you will lose any customizable changes to Windows since the last restore point. To access the System Restore feature, do the following:

a. Click Start, and then type in “restore point” (no quotes) and DO NOT press enter. Look for the Settings icon to appear and click that.

b. Click on the option labeled Create a restore point; you will then be taken to the System Protection tab of the System Properties control panel.

c. Click on the System Restore button; then click on the Next button. You will then be shown a list of available restore points that you can restore.

d. After the system is restored the computer will reboot, then try the Windows Update again.

9. Perform a Windows Refresh or Restore

Refreshing Windows will reinstall Windows, but your personal files and settings will not be affected. If your computer is super messed up, this is one of the last resorts to resolve the issue. To perform a refresh, proceed with the following steps:

a. Click the Start Menu and type in “PC Settings” (no quotes); when the PC Settings Icon appears, click it.

b. Click the Update and Recovery link, then click Recovery.

c. Under the option ‘Refresh your PC without affecting your files’, click Get started.

d. Attempt to download and install all the Windows Update again.

Optionally, you can reset Windows. Resetting Windows will effectively nuke the hard drive and reinstall Windows factory fresh, but you will lose all data on the drive in the process. You can achieve this using the same steps as Refresh (described above), but choose “Remove everything and reinstall Windows” (Reset) instead.

Good luck!

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How to fix the four most annoying quirks of Yosemite


OS X 10.10 Yosemite is out, and, while there aren’t many surprises in the interface—which Apple has been showing off since June—users are getting their first tastes of the new look and new features. And many of them are finding that there are some annoyances the way Yosemite displays (or doesn’t display) certain things. Here are my top four Yosemite annoyances and how you can fix them.
Banish translucency

I don’t get the whole thing about translucency. It certainly looks cool, and the technology required to render both a translucent menu and what’s behind it is probably quite complex. But what’s the point of translucency? Is it simply, to paraphrase Steve Jobs, when he presented the rotating cube that displayed with Fast User Switching back in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, “Because we can?”

translucent fluff

I don’t see the point of a blurry interface…

To me, translucent menus just look blurry. And with thinner fonts, it makes it even harder to see what they say. It’s bad enough to have blurry menus, but this extends to some windows. You can see it in the Spotlight window, the Safari window in certain situations (such as when you display Favorites), and in the menu bar. Apple says that “Translucency adds more dimension to your desktop,” but I don’t really need more dimension; I need to see things more clearly. Translucent sidebars in the Finder or iTunes don’t make using OS X any easier.

Fortunately, it’s easy to turn this off. Open System Preferences, then click Accessibility. Click Display, then check Reduce Transparency.


You can get rid of translucency in the Accessibility preferences.

There are two interesting things here. First, that Apple hides this in the Accessibility preferences, rather than in, say, the General preferences, which is where the option to use the dark menu bar and Dock. Second, that Apple isn’t clear on the word it’s using. It’s translucency, not transparency; the Apple web site gets it right, but the Accessibility preferences have it wrong.

End rant.
The case of the missing iTunes sidebar

Since the earliest days of iTunes, the sidebar—the list at the left, which showed your different media libraries, your playlists, and your connected devices—was a familiar and practical tool. But now, in iTunes 12, it’s gone. It had already been granted second-class status in iTunes 11, but iTunes 12 nuked it.

Well, not exactly… You still can display a sidebar, though it won’t show everything the previous versions did. When viewing any of your media libraries, click on Playlists in the navigation bar near the top-center of the window. This displays a sidebar with the name of your currently selected library at the top and your playlists below. This playlists sidebar displays in any media library, and if you click the name of the library—such as Music—you can choose to view your content along with the sidebar.

itunes sidebar

iTunes lets you display playlists in a sidebar while viewing any media library.

While it’s not exactly the same as before, it’s better than nothing.
What’s the address?

In Safari, by default, you no longer see the full address of a web page that you’re visiting. For most people, this isn’t a big deal, but I sometimes want to know the exact address of a web page. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix for this.

In Safari, go the the Preferences window (choose Safari > Preferences), then click Advanced. At the top of this preference pane, in the Smart Search Field section, check Show full website address. You’ll now be able to see the full address of a page.

It’s worth noting that if this option is turned off, you can still see the full address by clicking in the address field; this highlights the URL and display it in full.
Too much information

Spotlight is a great tool for searching for things on your Mac, and it’s now been extended to search the web and Wikipedia, perform conversions and much more. But there’s a lot of information displayed by default when you invoke Spotlight—perhaps too much.

You can whittle this down by choosing System Preferences > Spotlight, then unchecking some of the categories on the Search Results tab.


Adjust what Spotlight shows when you search.

Another way to make Spotlight searches more useful is to reorder the different results. If you want, say, your contacts to be at the top of the list, just click on Contacts in the preference pane then drag it up the list. You’ll see a small line display as you move items up and down. Customize Spotlight so it works the way you want it; you may want to leave all the categories checked, but just move down to the bottom the ones you don’t use often.

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Easy ways to digitize your old photos

Name three places where I could find your old photos right now. I bet at least one of your answers is photo albums, frames or shoeboxes. Years take a toll on our precious photos.

It’s time to get them into your computer. I know, it’s a huge job that sounds as daunting as climbing Machu Picchu. Having done both, at least you won’t get altitude sickness working with photos.

• Digitize the photos

The first step is getting your photos into a computer. Purchase a scanner, either an all-purpose flatbed model (starting at $100) or one made specifically for scanning photos.

You can also take photos of photos using your camera, smartphone or tablet. But if you are going to do that, download the Heirloom app that was created for scanning photos.

Heirloom automatically adjusts lighting, tweaks perspectives and crops edges so you don’t have to do so much work. Plus, you can keep your pictures in albums and frames as you scan, so you don’t have to spend time getting them out and potentially damaging them.

If you have tons of photos, consider sending them to a photo-scanning service like FotoBridge, PhotoBin, or ScanCafe. The average price is typically $75 for 250 photos.

• Let’s organize

Once you have your photos converted to image files in your computer, you need some way to organize them. You don’t want to be wading through files to find that one hilarious picture from when you were 11.

If you own a Mac, the built-in iPhoto has you covered. For PC, use the free Google Picasa.

These programs will do their best to auto-sort photos by date, but on scanned photos they’re not going to have accurate date information. So, you will need to manually enter date, location and event information for each photo.

iPhoto, Picasa and other photo organizers usually have facial recognition too, which should help sort the photos based on who is in them. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a nice shortcut.

Be sure to set good picture titles. “Aunt June, 1959, Chicago” will be a lot easier to find later than “IMG00602.JPG.”

Tagging your photos is another good practice. Tags are descriptive keywords that describe what’s going on in the picture.

Keywords for the Aunt June picture might include “Graduation” or “Grandma Virginia’s house.” That can help narrow your search when you’re thumbing through 125 pictures of Aunt June.

One thing many people have trouble working with organized albums is that the albums only appear in the program. So if you uninstall Picasa, for example, your organization goes away. Your pictures will only have whatever file names and folder organization you started with.

This is a tip to remember. Both iPhoto and Picasa have the File>>Export feature. This sends an organized album to its own separate folder on your hard drive. You can tell the program to number the files so they’re always in the right order.

• Let’s backup

One of the main reasons for digitizing your photos is to make sure they stay safe from damage or disaster. After your photos are all pretty and organized in your computer, be sure to make a backup.

I recommend using an online backup service like Carbonite, Mozy or BackBlaze. Carbonite is the one I’ve used personally for years and it’s never let me down

Online backup is best because, unlike disc backups or an external hard drive, it keeps your information safe from burglars and local disasters. Plus, you can look at your backed up photos from any computer, tablet or smartphone, which comes in real handy when you are at a relative’s home and want to share photos you haven’t put on Facebook. It’s a great side benefit that I have used many times


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Computer Tune-up Special


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Is Your Router Easy to Hack? Learn How to Properly Secure Your Router.


If you’re like most people, you probably don’t give your home WiFi router another thought after checking to make sure it has Internet connection. But did you know that your home WiFi router is a crucial component to your overall security?

While a WiFi router means no more hassling with messy Ethernet cables, you could unknowingly be putting your data at risk of being intercepted if you don’t properly secure it.

When was the last time you checked which WiFi encryption you’re using? Perhaps you’ve been using Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) all this time without even knowing! Using WEP as your WiFi encryption is equivalent to using no encryption at all, as this flawed encryption standard can be hacked in a matter of minutes. To better protect your network, you should upgrade to WPA2, a newer and more robust WiFi network security standard. We’ll show you how to check which WiFi encryption you’re currently using and how to upgrade to WPA2.

First, what’s wrong with WEP?
Wired Equivalent Privacy or WEP was introduced in 1999 to provide a WiFi network with security comparable to that of a wired network.

WEP was widely used for years, but before long, it became clear that WEP security was about as strong as a wet paper towel. For example, in 2005, the FBI publicly demonstrated how it could crack WEP passwords within minutes. Once passwords are cracked, a hacker can do just about whatever he wants on your network or to your computer— including stealing your bank account information.

Though WEP was retired as a WiFi network standard in 2004, it’s still in use today, particularly by those with older computers and pre-2005 wireless network routers.

Bottom line: If you haven’t upgraded to WPA2, you should consider doing so right away.

How to check which WiFi encryption you’re using
If you’re on Windows 7, follow these steps:

1. In the bottom right of your system tray, look for the wireless network icon. Left-click on the icon and you’ll get a popup menu of available wireless networks.
system tray WiFi icon

2. Hover the cursor over your home network name, and you’ll see which WiFi encryption you’re using.
system tray WiFi icon expanded

If you’re on Windows 8, follow these steps:
1. In the bottom right of your system tray, look for the wireless network icon. Right-click on the icon and select ‘Open Network and Sharing Center’.
Windows 8 Open Network and Sharing Center

2. Click on the network name
Network name

3. Click on ‘Wireless Properties’
Wireless properties

4. Click the ‘Security’ tab. From there you can check which WiFi encryption you’re using.
Security type

If your home WiFi network is determined to be encrypted with WPA2, ensure the password to your network is secured with a strong password, and that your computers all have at the minimum, an antivirus and two-way firewall.

Now, if you’ve determined that you’re using WEP, you should immediately upgrade to the stronger WPA2 encryption.

How to upgrade from WEP to WPA2
Start by checking to see if your wireless router supports WPA2. If you’re not sure, do a Google search on your wireless router’s name and add the word “specs” or “specifications” to the search phrase.

If your router doesn’t support WPA2 (or at the very least, WPA), consider investing in a new wireless router. Like most consumer electronics, WiFi routers have become increasingly more powerful and less expensive. Additionally, WiFi speeds continue to evolve, so if you have a new computer, a new router may make the difference in your Internet connection speeds ( as well as your security. )

If your router does support WPA2, here’s how to upgrade from WEP to WPA2. The instructions below are for Cisco Linksys routers, so steps may differ depending on the manufacturer of your router.

1. Open your Web browser and type in your router’s IP address in the URL bar (the default IP address is usually
192 in address bar

If you don’t know what your IP address is, click ‘Start,’ then ‘Run,’ then type ‘CMD’ (without the quotation marks) and press ‘Enter.’

When a new window opens, type “ipconfig” and press enter. This will reveal your router’s IP address under ‘Default Gateway’.
ipconfig_default gateway

2. Next, enter your router user name and password when prompted. If you have never created a username and password before, try “admin” as the user name and leave the password field blank. If that does not work, contact your provider or you can refer to this site to determine the default username and password. And if all else fails, purchasing a new router and starting from scratch may be a solution.
authentication required

3. Once you’ve accessed the router setup dashboard, click on the ‘Wireless’ tab and then choose “Wireless Security.”

4. From there, click the drop-down menu for “Security Mode” and select “WPA2 Personal” and select “AES” for “WPA Algorithm”. (Note: Consider changing the password (WPA Shared key) to your router if you’ve been using a weak password.)
security mode

5. While you’re still logged into the router setup dashboard, this would be a good opportunity to change the default username and router password. The router password is what allows an administrator access to the router dashboard itself. Click on the “Administration” tab then click on “Management”. From there, create and confirm your new password. We recommend that you use a different password for the WPA shared key and the router password.

6. Save your settings. Please note that other devices connected to this router will require that you enter in the new password.

It’s definitely worth it
Ultimately, if you’re still using WEP security, you’re needlessly making yourself vulnerable to hackers. We think spending a little time (and if necessary, money) to switch to WPA2 security is well worth it!

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