Are cookies bad for your computer?

Are cookies bad for your computer?

 

Are cookies bad for your computer?

Cookies on your computer – you’ve probably heard of them. It’s likely that you use them – even when you’re not aware that you are. But do you know what they are?

(Disclaimer: The cookies I’m talking about are not delicious. They don’t contain any calories or fat. So what’s the point, right? You’ll find out as you read – they really are useful. However, I’ve decided it’s not right to have you read an article about tasteless cookies without rewarding you – so at the end of the article I’ve linked some really delicious cookie recipes from some of my wife’s favorite sites.)

Cookies are small text files that websites leave on your computer. Many websites use temporary cookies to remember your login name and credentials as you navigate the website. Cookies can also keep track of your behavior and preferences. Have you ever been to a website and placed a product in your cart but not logged in, then a couple days later returned to the site to find that the item is still in your cart?  This is one use of a cookie. Maybe you have looked at shoes on one site and then on other sites notice an ad for those same shoes – this is another use of cookies. Have you been to a website that asked which country you are in only the first time – cookie use again.

Cookies can be helpful when browsing the web and some websites require cookies to run correctly. Why, then, do we hear about problems with cookies? Cookies can contain personal information in a non-secure or protected file. Some cookies are from third party ad companies that can track your movement from one website to the next. Although cookies are supposed to only be accessible from the website that created it, vulnerabilities can allow compromised or malicious websites or hackers to access all the cookies on your computer.

Some anti-malware software will identify third party or un-secure cookies as a vulnerability and suggest that you delete them. You should follow your anti-malware recommendation and clean or delete the cookies identified.

Sometimes a website will not load correctly because of a cookie from a previous session.  If you go into your browser settings you can manually delete your cookies and then restart your browser.  This will often fix problems that you are experiencing on a website.

What can you do about cookies?

  • You can go into your browser settings and turn off all cookies – just know that if you do this some websites will not work properly.
  • You can set your browser to delete all cookies every time you close the browser. This will work to delete your cookies on a regular basis – but websites will lose your preferences and not remember that you were looking at those nice shoes.
  • You can enable the Do Not Track function in your browser. Unfortunately websites do not have to follow this request, they are merely made aware of your choice. This option will not prevent cookies or tracking by websites and is an exercise in futility.
  • You can disable third-party cookies. Third-party cookies are most often used to deliver you ads on websites and disabling them does not usually affect your web browsing experience. I recommend enabling this option.
  • You can follow your anti-malware software notification to clean up particular cookies.  I recommend using an anti-malware program that checks for bad cookies and cleans them up.

Cookies can be good and improve your web browsing experience but also can make your personal information vulnerable. Now that you know more about cookies choose the options that best balance privacy and usability. Overall I believe that the last two options listed are good ones for me to recommend.

If you are concerned about cookies or need other help on your computer, contact me and I can help. Call me at 385-200-0750 or click here to message me.

Links about cookies:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_cookie

http://www.allaboutcookies.org/

http://www.microsoft.com/info/cookies.mspx

http://esupport.trendmicro.com/solution/en-us/1054702.aspx

http://www.symantec.com/security_response/writeup.jsp?docid=2006-080217-3524-99

http://blog.kaspersky.com/cracking-cookies/

Links about Do Not Track:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do_Not_Track

http://log.nadim.cc/?p=112

http://www.pcworld.com/article/219328/why_browser_do_not_track_features_will_not_work.html

Links for delicious cookies:

Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/05/13/chewy-chocolate-chunk-cookies/

Magic in the Middle Cookies: http://www.melskitchencafe.com/2008/12/magic-in-the-middle-cookies.html

Homemade Peanut Butter Oreos: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2013/01/23/homemade-peanut-butter-oreos/

Pizzookies: http://www.ourbestbites.com/2009/03/pizzookies/

Posted in Computer Cookies, Slow Computer Tagged with:

Computer Scam on the Phone?

Computer Scam on the Phone?

MS_phone_scam

Today a friend sent me the following message:

“I just got a call from someone saying my computer wasn’t connecting to get the microsoft updates like it is supposed to. He wanted me to get on the computer and he would talk me through fixing the problem. That sounded way too suspicious to me, so I thought I’d check with you first and see if it sounds suspicious to you too. “

This is an ongoing scam and if you receive a call like this hang up the phone immediately and definitely don’t follow their instructions!

Microsoft states pretty clearly that “Microsoft does not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer” and “Treat all unsolicited phone calls with skepticism.”  link to Microsoft statements

If you follow the instructions from one of these scammers they will take control of your computer and try to convince you to purchase unnecessary fixes or additional services. The scammers also steal your personal information and may damage or infect your computer in the process.

The claims that these scammers make are unrealistic – companies like Microsoft do not know the names or phone numbers of those with a problem computer or out-of-date software. Even when law enforcement needs information on computer users to prosecute online crimes, they must work with internet providers (after obtaining a court order) and not companies like Microsoft.

If you are concerned that your computer is infected or not up to date, contact me and I can help. Call me at 385-200-0750 or click here to message me.

Links to additional information:

http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/avoid-phone-scams.aspx

http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/msname.aspx

http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_vista-security/strange-call-pretending-to-be-from-microsoft-tech/19e6a366-cf86-4a6b-bb2e-2ab81645553d

 http://www.abc15.com/dpp/money/consumer/data_doctor/data-doctors-fake-microsoft-call-scam-on-the-rise-again

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-04/11/malwarebytes

Posted in Computer Scams

Why is my computer so slow now?

Why is my computer so slow now?

This is a very common problem that most computer owners have faced. In several job interviews I have been asked this question: How do you fix a slow computer?

In the vast majority of cases I have worked on, malware was the cause of the slowdown. Malware is a broad term that includes computer viruses, worms, trojan horses , adware, spyware and more.  I define malware simply as any software that causes harm to your computer. In the last ten years malware infections have grown exponentially. Just having your computer turned on and connected to the internet puts it at risk even if you’re not using it! Even using your favorite search engine may be dangerous because they sometimes inadvertently link you to an infected website.

Graphic of malware for last 10 years

 Image from: http://www.av-test.org/typo3temp/avtestreports/print_malware-last-10-years_sum_en.png

 

What can you do to keep your computer safe from malware? Prevention is the best medicine and if you follow these steps you will greatly reduce the risk of getting infected with malware.

  1. Turn on your Windows Firewall. All versions of Windows since XP service pack 3 have a decent firewall that will stop simple works. A firewall works by blocking ports of unauthorized internet traffic so that only legitimate traffic gets in. Unfortunately several forms of malwares hitchhike with legitimate traffic through a legitimate port. For example an infected website may send malware to your computer with legitimate website data straight through Internet Explorer . The firewall is important but only one piece of protection your computer needs.
  2. Make sure Windows is up to date. Microsoft releases new updates for Windows every month, many of which fix security holes and problems.  I recommend that you set Windows to download and install Windows updates automatically. And please don’t ignore the notifications to reboot your computer after an update. The sooner you apply the new updates the sooner you will be protected from those security problems.
  3. Keep anti-virus software up to date. It is very important to not only have anti-virus software installed but also to keep the virus definitions up to date. Anti-virus software companies release virus definition updates at least once a week. If your anti-virus hasn’t been updated in over a week your computer is at risk.
  4. Say NO when you don’t recognize the program. Pay attention when the User Account Control window pops up informing you that a program needs permission to make changes to your computer. If you do not recognize the program or know why more permission is needed click NO or CANCEL.  Normally you will see the User Account Control window when you are in the process of installing a new program or changing a setting on your computer and in these situations it is correct to click YES or CONTINUE.
  5. Be careful about what you download or open. Only download software from known good websites.  Don’t open email attachments from people you don’t know or that look fishy.

Here are some steps that you can follow if your computer is infected:

  1. Reboot the computer in Safe Mode. Malware often prevents you from cleaning it when in normal mode. Booting into safe mode only allows the basic windows programs and services to start and without the malware running active defense you have a better chance to uninstall it.
  2. Run a full scan in Safe Mode. While in safe mode use your up-to-date anti-virus program to run a full scan of your computer.
  3. Use a different program to run a second scan. Sometimes a second program can clean up an infection that the first cannot. This is a full scan again in safe mode.
  4. Hire a computer expert. Computer experts, like me, can perform more advanced steps to remove malware. Some of the advanced steps include manually disabling malicious Windows services, booting the computer from an alternate device to clean your computer without Windows running, editing and correcting the Windows registry and executing commands in the windows recovery console. Call me at 385-200-0750 or click here to message me.

Additional information about malware:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd632948.aspx

http://www.av-test.org/fileadmin/pdf/avtest_2013-03_search_engines_malware_english.pdf

http://www.av-test.org/en/statistics/malware/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malware#Proliferation

http://www.trendmicro.com/us/security-intelligence/research-and-analysis/index.html#threat-reports

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zombie_computer

Posted in Slow Computer

Help! My laptop is broken! What should I do now?

Fixing laptops is my specialty, but you should check a few things before bringing it in for repair:

First – Check to see if your laptop is still covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. Find the serial number, or if it is a Dell the Service tag number is usually on the bottom of the laptop. Sometimes the serial number is under the battery. Go to the manufacturer’s website (dell.com, hp.com, etc.), go to the support page and follow links to check you warranty status.

Second – Check your receipt. Did you purchase an extended warranty through the store?

Third – If your laptop is out of warranty and not covered by an extended warranty, then that’s the time to contact me – Paul the Tech Guy. I will diagnose the problem so you can know how much it will cost to repair your laptop.

If your laptop is covered under warranty but you hate calling tech support, I am willing to work with the manufacturer to fix your laptop.

Would you rather just buy a new laptop? Let me recover your data off the broken laptop before you replace it. Also – your broken laptop may be worth something to me, so don’t toss it! Contact me and I will tell you how much I’m willing to give you for it.

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(Replacing a fan in a HP Pavilion dv6000 laptop)

8.jpg

(Replacing the I/O board in a Dell 15R laptop)

Posted in Laptop Repair