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Posted on Nov 29, 2015 in Newsletter, Welcome | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 30 – Online safety (again!), Halloween hackers and much more

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Top Windows Tutorials
TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 30

Welcome to the November 2015 TWT Newsletter

Here in the UK, November means bonfire night and fireworks, while our American readers look forward to Thanksgiving. It’s also the start of the festive shopping season and just like last November we have some great tips to keep you safe when shopping online this year.

Important! A number of our subscribers have had difficulty receiving our newsletter. At Top-Windows-Tutorials.com we never send out unsolicited e-mails. To make sure your TWT newsletter reaches your inbox, please add topwindo@top-windows-tutorials.com to your contacts, buddy list or white list.

In this months issue:-

What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
Windows 10 Superguide – Physical book launches this month
Halloween hack attack on Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
Staying safe online this festive season
Tip of the Month – Windows 10 tablet PCs and the Taskbar
Free Utility of the Month – Secunia PSI
Windows Store App of the Month – Words With Friends
Windows 10 – Privacy concerns partially justified, new updates soon

What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?

Last month we took a look at a tool called HashTab. This is a program you can use to check the integrity of files you download or send to friends. By using a special mathematical formula, HashTab can detect changes in files, even down to a single bit.

picture Finding file hashes with HashTab – Two Tutorials

A file hash is a mathematically generated finger print for a file. If you want to make sure a file has not been tampered with, or corrupted during download or transfer, checking a known file hash is a great idea. One easy way to check file hashes on your machine is using HashTab. Click here to see the first tutorial for this simple but powerful little program.

Windows 10 Superguide – Physical book launches this month

Here at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com we like to offer our training courses in as many formats as possible, so that you can learn the material in whatever way works best for you. With this in mind it gives me great pleasure to announce that we are finally able to release the physical book format version of our best-selling Windows 10 Superguide.

While e-books and PC training courses have their benefits, many students prefer to learn from a traditional text book. Rather than try to cram the lesson instructions in a second window, with a physical book you can simply read from the page then attempt the techniques yourself. Use bookmarks or your fingers to easily skip back and forth between concepts or look up terms in the full, comprehensive index at the back of the book. Even geeks like myself appreciate the benefits of a physical book!

Currently, we’re waiting for the first proof-copy of the book from our publishers. Once we have received this and reviewed it, the book will go on sale. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or RSS to be informed as soon as it is available.

Halloween hack attack on Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?

This halloween it wasn’t just mischievous ghosts, ghouls and spooky scary skeletons who were up to mischief, computer hackers were too. If you visited our site on October the 31st you may have been invited to download a “Flash player update”. Hopefully you refused this update, as it was all trick and definitely no treat.

So what happened? First of all, our site and its content were not hacked. No customer data was stolen. What actually happened was that one of the plug-ins we use for analytics and anonymous user statistics was hacked. The hack actually happened at another website, specifically Pagefair.com. When this hack happened, the normally benign code that Pagefair provide us with was very briefly substituted for a script which tried to install malware.

Luckily, the risks of infection from this attack were low. In order to be infected you would need to agree to install the bogus update. You would also need to ignore warnings from your virus checking software. Most virus checkers would successfully detect the exploit, including Microsoft Security Essentials. The malicious script was live for about an hour and its unclear how many, if any, visitors were affected.

If you think you might have been affected, it would be prudent to scan your computer using your preferred antivirus package. Please also note that Pagefair assure us the malware, which was intended to hijack your computers processing power to mine for Bitcoins, has now been rendered inert anyway.

We apologise to all our readers for this attempted security breach. Remember, stay alert while using the web, even if you are on a site you trust. If something unusual happens or a page appears asking you to install an update, cancel or close the page and then check for the update manually. Our videos on Top-Windows-Tutorials.com now all use HTML5, so you do NOT need Flash player in order to view them.

Staying safe online this festive season

Here in the UK, cyber security has been pushed to the forefront of everyone’s minds once again as TalkTalk, one of our major ISP and telecommunications providers, suffered a catastrophic hack attack. As the story slowly unravelled, it seems like TalkTalk have a lot to answer for, if most media outlets are to be believed, with much of the stolen customer data being stored unencrypted on the companies networks. Furthermore, it seems like the method hackers used to get into the companies networks, known as an SQL attack, is something a large company like TalkTalk should have easily been able to protect against.

It’s disappointing that big companies like this don’t take customer security more seriously. Already, TalkTalk customers are being cold called by fraudsters who have obtained their information from the recent hack. With Christmas and black Friday around the corner, there’s never been a better time to take a look at your own cyber security practises and make sure you’re as secure online as you can possibly be. We’ve run several articles like this in the past, including one last November, but this isn’t a problem that ever goes away, so while it might not be the most fun topic, take a few moments to go over these security tips and keep your credit card off the fraudsters Christmas lists.

Keep everything up to date – We hope that most of our readers know the importance of keeping their PCs up to date. Fortunately, this process is automatic in modern versions of Windows. We have an entire section of our site dedicated to Windows updates here.

Remember that other software you use on your PC can also be vulnerable to hackers, especially if said software uses the internet in any way. Critically, you should always make sure your web browser is up to date. If you use any plug-ins or add-ons in your browser, you should check that they are up to date too. Firefox users can use the page here to check their plugins.

How can you check that all the other software on your PC is up to date? There’s no definitive answer to that, but our free utility of the month goes some way towards that goal. Secunia PSI (personal software inspector) will scan your computer and highlight any out of date software it finds. The program knows about thousands of apps and can even help you automatically update many popular programs. See our Free Utility of the Month section to learn more.

Don’t re-use passwords – This is probably security faux-pas number one with the general public. With the number of online services and websites rapidly expanding, many of us use dozens of different websites, services and other online related things that require a username and password to log into. Because there are only so many passwords one person can remember, it doesn’t take long before people start re-using the same passwords across multiple sites.

Now, imagine one of the services you use was hacked and your password was stolen. Although sites should take steps to make this extremely difficult, even if their entire database is stolen, as we’ve seen time and time again in the past, many big companies are not taking security as seriously as they should. If your password is stolen from one site, fraudsters will most likely try that same password with other online services that you use.

We covered how password managers work extensively way back in our January 2011 newsletter. Our coverage then was prompted by a security breach at Gawker Media. You can check out that newsletter here.

What about shopping and surfing on your phone or tablet? Now that many of us use multiple devices, password management gets more complex. Back when the PC was the only portal onto the world wide web, it was quite acceptable for your passwords to sit in a encrypted database on your PC. Now, of course, people want access to their online services on phones and tablets too. Because of this, many password management tools have started offering cloud synchronisation capabilities. While this should theoretically be safe, since your password database is encrypted, it obviously exposes your data to greater risk. If a hacker did somehow manage to decrypt your password database, you might not even find out until it was too late.

Rather than taking the risk, use your mobile device sensibly. For services like Facebook or Twitter, you can use the mobile apps rather than the web. These mobile apps will save your password for you, just remember to protect your mobile device with a strong password or pin code. If you need to shop online, you can always browse on your phone and save a bookmark for later, then come to your PC to complete the purchase.

If you really want to shop on your mobile device, consider a password manager that offers local network sync. In this situation, your password database is only ever stored on your devices, not in the cloud. One such password manager that supports this is Sticky Password Manager. It’s available for Windows desktop, Mac, iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Android, though sadly not Windows phone just yet.

Don’t run as administrator – You will often find articles written by security experts (and so-called security experts) bemoaning UAC or User Account Control in Windows. You should all be familiar with UAC now, those prompts that appear when you install new software. Usually the criticism of this actually very useful feature comes about because the default settings it uses aren’t completely secure.

You can protect yourself from all manner of threats by using UAC in conjunction with standard user accounts. In this setup, every time a UAC prompt appears, it will prompt you for your administrator account password. This might be slightly less convenient, but you should encounter relatively few UAC prompts in your day to day computing activities. We cover how to create new user accounts on this page.

Does your phone need antivirus? This was a question pitched to us by a reader. If my desktop computer needs an antivirus, and I do many of the same activities on my phone, why doesn’t my phone need an antivirus package too? The answer depends on the type of phone you use. If you use an iPhone or a Windows Phone, you do not need antivirus software and indeed there isn’t any available anyway. The reason is simple, these devices only allow software to be loaded from their specific app stores. Apps on these devices are also heavily restricted in what they can do and aren’t usually allowed to affect the devices operating system in any way. Any software which is sold in the app-stores is pre-vetted and scanned by Microsoft or Apple. While it’s true that this process is not infallible, there’s really no need for an antivirus program on a platform that’s locked down like this.

Android phones are different and are a little more flexible in what can and cannot be done on them. These devices are significantly more vulnerable to malware and running an antivirus program on your Android device may be a good idea.

Our final piece of advice for this section would be “Don’t panic!” Although it can seem like shopping or even using online services is fraught with danger, remember that shopping on the high street isn’t without its risks either. Fraudsters have attacked ATM/Cash machines, pay-terminals in shops and of course there’s the good old pickpocket ready to swipe your card too. Be vigilant wherever you shop this year and you will minimise the stress of the festive shopping season.

Tip of the Month – Windows 10 tablet PCs and the Taskbar

If there’s one group of users dissatisfied with Windows 10, its those of us who owned Windows 8 tablets. Windows 10 just feels like a backward step for touch-only devices in so many ways. One particularly irritating feature is the taskbar. Microsoft now make the taskbar appear in tablet mode, with no way to get rid of it completely. When using apps designed for Windows 8 machines, you may find yourself accidentally summoning the taskbar when trying to interact with elements at the bottom of the screen.

To solve this problem ,we recommend moving the taskbar to the right of the screen. This won’t prevent it appearing if you touch near the bottom of the screen, but it at least won’t get in the way of what you are trying to do. The quickest way to move the taskbar is as follows.

Put your tablet into desktop mode, if it’s not already. You do this by swiping in from the right of the screen and deselecting “Tablet Mode” in the Action Centre.

Right click or press and hold on the taskbar and choose “Properties”.

In the “Taskbar and Start Menu Properties” window that now appears, find “Taskbar location on screen” and change it to “Right”.

Click or tap OK and put your tablet back into tablet mode and you’re all set.

Free Utility of the Month – Secunia PSI

Keeping Windows itself up to date is pretty easy. Windows Update typically takes care of that for you, with little or no user intervention required. What about the other apps on your PC though? Vulnerabilities, which can be exploited by hackers and fraudsters exist in third party programs too. These programs don’t usually update with Windows Update and require you to manually check for updates.

To make things easier, Secunia PSI (Personal Software Inspector) knows about thousands of different apps. The software can scan your PC and detect any out of date software. You can then update these apps yourself or, in the case of some more popular apps, have the program do it automatically.

While there were a few false positives that the program flagged (one of our old Superguide titles, for instance), generally, and when used with common sense, Secunia PSI is a valuable tool that helps keep your PC that little bit more secure. Download your free copy by visiting this page.

Windows Store App of the Month – Words With Friends

This addictive little game, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Scrabble, has been responsible for a good deal of procrastination while writing this months newsletter. You can play the game with friends anywhere in the world, and the game is available on a huge number of devices, from Windows PCs to Android phones and iPhones. Players on the PC can play against players on other devices too.

You’ll soon find yourself checking in regularly to see if any of your opponents have put a new word in! Join in on the fun by downloading the Windows version of the game here.

Windows 10 – Privacy concerns partially justified, new updates soon

Seems it wouldn’t be a TWT newsletter lately without some Windows 10 news. As we’ve stated in the past, our Windows 10 experience thus far has been generally positive, but there certainly are some areas that are a disappointment. First of all, we need to follow up on a story we ran in our September 2015 newsletter. In this newsletter we asked, were “Windows 10 privacy concerns, legitimate or overblown?”. The answer is, of course, somewhere in the middle. Microsoft have recently released an official statement saying that some elements of their telemetry collection (or automatic spying if you prefer) cannot be disabled. These elements collect anonymous information when your computer crashes, but of course even supposedly anonymous data can accidentally contain private information.

Should you hold off from upgrading to Windows 10 because of this? Probably not. If you’re already using online services from Google, Apple or Facebook, you’re already giving away heaps of private data in exchange for those services anyway. Furthermore, while Microsoft won’t let you disable every last bit of telemetry collection, third part apps will. Spybot anti-beacon can completely disable telemetry and data collection in Windows 8.1 or Windows 10. Keep in mind if you do use this tool, certain apps will stop working. For instance the Windows 10 mail app will no longer be able to connect and you can forget about using Cortana. For your e-mail needs you can of course use third-party mail apps such as Thunderbird instead.

The other, slightly more exciting Windows 10 news this month is that the next major update to the operating system is due any time now. This update will bring some neat new features and fixes to the new OS, as well as bug and glitch fixes. A few of the expected new features include a new, fully integrated Skype and messaging app and some improvements to both Microsoft Edge and Cortana. Rumour has it you will be able to use Cortana without needing to log into your PC with a Microsoft account, for instance.

Since Microsoft doesn’t exactly give us much choice in the matter any more, Windows 10 users can expect this update to download and install automatically sometime this month. We’ll report back next month and detail any significant changes you need to be aware of.

That concludes our newsletter for November. On behalf of the team here at TWT, I’d like to say thank you to all our readers, new and old for your continued support. Hope you had a great Bonfire night if you’re in the UK, and hope you have a great Thanksgiving if you’re in the US. We’ll see you again on the 10th December 2015 for more tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the best out of your PC, be it Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10. We hope that you found this newsletter informative and useful. If you did not then please let us know why, you can contact us by visiting this page. If you have enjoyed this newsletter, feel free to pass it on to all your friends and family, or better still encourage them to sign up for their own copy. Until next month, keep checking Top-Windows-Tutorials.com and enjoy happy, safe and stress-free computing!

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