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Posted on Jun 20, 2016 in Newsletter, Welcome | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 37 – Brand new PC? Declutter it now! TeamViewer hacks and more

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Top Windows Tutorials
TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 37

Welcome to the June 2016 TWT Newsletter

June means the start of summer, which here in the UK can be quite hit and miss. We’ve started the month with mostly rain, at least we don’t need to feel bad being couped up inside working on our Windows computers!

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In this months issue:-

What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
Buying a new PC – Clear out that clutter!
Tip of the Month – Don’t e-mail files, use OneDrive or Dropbox
Free Utility of the Month – Audacity
Windows Store App of the Month – SkyScanner
Has TeamViewer been hacked? Is this software worth the risk?

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

In May we updated most of our Truecrypt tutorials. Truecrypt has now been discontinued, but the exact same functionality is now available in VeraCrypt. We also showed you how to use the System Restore utility in Windows 10.

picture VeraCrypt – Three new tutorials

Use VeraCrypt to protect private data on your PC, these tutorials will show you how to install the software and create encrypted file containers. View the first tutorial here.

picture Using System Restore on Windows 10

In this video we’ll take a look at the System Restore utility in Windows 10. If you have a recent problem with your computer, then by using this utility you can ‘roll back’ your PC to an earlier date, before the problem occurred. Click here to view the video.

Buying a new PC? Clear out that clutter!

These days, many of us are holding on to our PCs for longer than we ever did in the past, but when it comes to time to replace ageing hardware, most of us will simply choose a computer from a local store or a shop online, rather than go to the hassle of building one ourselves. The PC market remains fiercely competitive and one way manufacturers drive down costs is to do deals with other companies to include their software on your new PC. Many manufacturers also bundle their own tools, sometimes for updating their own software or hardware or sometimes as another means to generate revenue.

While such bundled software has been a bone of contention with users for some time, usually it was considered merely an inconvenience, or a minor annoyance, taking up a small amount of hard drive space that could be better used for other things. More recent studies suggest that such software could be more than just an inconvenience though and could actually be a security risk for you and your PC.

Back in the March 2015 newsletter, we reported on how Lenovo had inadvertently introduced a serious security flaw on its new PCs through a program called Superfish. This free software was designed as a marketing/search assistant, which should have been harmless enough, but it actually caused a serious security problem on users computers that could have resulted in banking details and other website logins being compromised.

Now, a recent study into the security and quality of bundled software has revealed a whole host of flaws with the software that comes with new PCs from no less than 3 different major manufacturers. Dell, Hewlett Packard and Lenovo all bundled software with one or more vulnerabilities, allowing hackers, particularly those who might be on the same network at a coffee shop or hotel, to launch a “Man in the middle” attack, where your data is captured as it’s transmitted between your computer and the hotels router/wi-fi access point. Even software designed to update other bundled software was found to be vulnerable in some cases (this does not apply to Windows Update, which comes with all PCs and does not currently have any known security vulnerabilities). Those of you who want to know more about this story on a more technical level should check out this article on Ars Technica.

What can you do to protect yourself from such things on a brand new PC? Some experts advocate simply reinstalling Windows when you first get the machine, though this can be somewhat long-winded and quite intimidating for anyone other than an expert user. Furthermore, if you reinstall using the tools that come with your PC, often you will find that the very same unwanted free apps are reinstalled too.

Alternatively, it may simply be better to use the “Change or remove a program” section in the Control Panel. You can find this easily by simply searching for it on the search bar. You can then choose any program you want to uninstall from the list. You can also view a tutorial on uninstalling programs by visiting this page. Even if your PCs not brand new, it never hurts to uninstall software you’re not using any more. At the very least, this frees up space on your computer for other files or programs.

Remember, if you uninstall the manufactures software, you may wish to periodically check their website for updates to your computer. Although Windows update will keep Windows up to date, manufacturers may issue new drivers or BIOS updates to fix other problems. Usually you don’t need these unless you’re facing a problem with your PC however.

Tip of the Month – Don’t e-mail files, use OneDrive or Dropbox

The likes of Facebook and Twitter might be used by millions of people around the world, but the humble e-mail account is used by virtually everyone that has an internet connection. As we move into summer, many of us will be taking photos or videos of the summer fun we’ve been having. What if you want to send these pictures to a friend or relative that shuns social media? You could attach them to an e-mail, but think carefully before you do this! E-mail is one of the oldest services still in regular use on the internet today. It’s real legacy technology that should have been replaced years ago but still manages to carry on because the difficulty of deciding on a universal replacement means that we probably never will.

Because e-mail was never designed for sending files, when you attach a picture, video or other file to e-mail, it has to be specially converted into text first. This results in a significant overhead in the size of the file. If you then send this e-mail to a friend on a slower internet connection, or who might not have much storage space on their device, or who may be using an e-mail account with limited storage space, it can cause problems for your recipient.

The solution is to send a link to your files, rather than the files themselves. This works on any e-mail account and with any device that has web access. Simply drop your files into either a OneDrive or a Dropbox account and then use the share/copy public link option. This will generate a web address that you can paste into your e-mail. When this link is clicked, it will take you directly to the file you want to share. You can find out more by viewing our OneDrive tutorials here, or our Dropbox tutorials here.

If you’re worried about your photos/videos being on the public internet like this, keep in mind that e-mail has no built in security either. If you need a more secure means of sending files, use a service like PGP Mail or Wickr.

Free Utility of the Month – Audacity

There are lots of reasons why you might want to edit a sound file on your PC. Perhaps you want to convert a voice recording into a ring tone. Maybe you’re a budding musician who wants to edit a sample, or produce a short clip of you playing the guitar. Whatever the reason, this great free audio editing package can manipulate and edit sound files of any size. You can even use it with most PCs to convert your old cassette or vinyl recordings into MP3!

Grab your copy of the program by visiting this page, or head over to this page to see our Audacity tutorials.

Windows Store App of the Month – SkyScanner

Looking for an affordable holiday this summer? If so, you might just snag yourself a bargain flight using this powerful app. Rather than trawling the web, use this handy app to instantly scan millions of flights from over 1,000 different airlines, all for free.

Highly rated in the Windows store, this neat little app is easy to use and convenient, and could net you some extra holiday money. Grab your copy of SkyScanner here.

Has TeamViewer been hacked? Is this software worth the risk?

Security and convenience are always two things that are at odds with one another. You could improve the security of your home by adding an extra four locks to your front door, but that wouldn’t make it terribly convenient whenever a visitor or the postman stopped by. The same thing applies in computing of course. Do you encrypt your laptop, meaning you have to enter a passphrase every time you turn it on (often in addition to your regular Windows password) or do you simply rely on the security mechanisms that Windows comes with? By and large this comes down to just how sensitive the data is on your PC. While you might not care so much if a thief steals your holiday photos, you might be less pleased if they suddenly manage to empty your bank account. Keeping in mind that many of us use online banking now, having someone take full control over your PC could mean them taking full control of your financial information too.

Who would give control of their PC over to a stranger though? Unless you were unlucky enough to lose your laptop, most of us wouldn’t just hand over the keyboard and mouse to an unknown third party. Physically sitting at a desk isn’t the only way to get control over a PC however, one such way is to install remote control software, software like TeamViewer.

What is TeamViewer and exactly what does it do? TeamViewer lets another user take remote control of your PC through your local network or across the internet. Of course, there are lots of legitimate reasons why you might want to do this. We use similar software (Goto Assist) here at TWT HQ to help our customers who have technical problems we cannot troubleshoot via e-mail. You also might need a file, or to run a program on your home PC while you’re out on the road.

While software like TeamViewer can be extremely convenient, it also poses a significant security risk. Around the start of the month, several websites started running stories of how TeamViewer users around the world have had their computers compromised. The reported attacks resulting in the loss of money from Paypal or bank accounts or the installing of ransomware, software that locks your computer and files until a ransom is paid to the attackers.

TeamViewer were quick to deny that there had been any hack. Claiming the malicious activity was down to password re-use and general bad security practises. This is despite many users claiming they were hacked despite strong passwords and two factor authentication.

If you use TeamViewer or other similar software, there are some common-sense things you can do to keep yourself more secure.

Turn off TeamViewer or any other software when you don’t need it – If you’re not planning on needing remote access to your PC today, then turn off TeamViewer! Better still, turn the PC off entirely, even the most sophisticated hacker can’t remotely hack a PC that isn’t powered on.

Restrict access – TeamViewer lets you restrict access to your PC to certain IP (internet protocol) addresses, though this requires some advanced understanding of IP addresses and how the internet works. If you only use TeamViewer to connect to PCs in the same building, turn off external access altogether by selecting “LAN Connections Only” in the configuration window.

Use two-factor authentication – Two factor authentication is a way of strengthening the security of your logins. Rather than just using a password, you use a password and a security code. This security code changes each time you need to log in. You may have used a similar system with your bank, where you use a little code generator. With TeamViewer, this code generator is an app on your mobile phone, rather than a separate physical device.

Don’t use unattended mode if possible – Unattended mode in TeamViewer allows you to log onto your PC as long as it’s switched on. You don’t need to grant permission for someone to connect. Obviously this mode is a much bigger security risk. Perhaps you have family members living at home while you’re out on the road? If so, instead of using unattended mode, give them a call first and tell them how to accept your connection.

Never grant access to an unknown third party! – This one really sounds like a no-brainer, but people still fall for it. If you get a cold call claiming to be from Microsoft, or your ISP, or a technical support department, then simply hang up the phone. This particular scam has been going on for several years now. Usually the fraudster will try to convince you that there are viruses on your PC and that they can clean them up for you, if you allow them to connect through TeamViewer, Goto Assist or Ammyy (three programs that basically serve the same purpose). Don’t be duped by this, Microsoft, your ISP or any other reputable company will never cold-call you like this and request access to your PC.

Think carefully about using TeamViewer (or similar software) at all – Why do you need remote access to your PC? If there are certain documents you need, consider storing them in your OneDrive or your Dropbox. Files stored in the cloud like this are more vulnerable to hackers, but by taking sensible security precautions (like the ones listed above) you can minimise the risk and of course, losing a few files is far more preferable to losing control of your whole PC.

That concludes our newsletter for June. 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. The TWT Newsletter will return on the 10th July 2016 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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