How To Reduce Pop-Ups And Other Browser Best Practices

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

One of the most annoying things about browsing the web are pop-ups. Depending on your browser, your ability to limit or block pop-ups is probably built-in. If it’s not, there is definitely an extension for that purpose.

There are also other ways to ensure you have the best and fastest browsing experience possible.

Before we get into which browsers have which kind of pop-up blocker, let’s examine a fact. Pop-ups are annoying, but not always intrusive or unwanted.

There are instances where I need a pop-up from a site as it may be an internal page that has been requested or a log-in box. This can be frustrating as we may not know a pop-up is coming from a link. It may appear that nothing has happened.

So how do you know? The best practice and safest way is to allow pop-ups from sites you trust (as needed).

Say you’re on your banking site and you click log-in. Normally, a pop-up log-in box is displayed, but nothing happens. The pop-up has been blocked.

In the browser, you can enable this webpage to allow pop-ups, thus restoring your access and keeping you secure in the process.

In addition to pop-ups, users must also be on the lookout for pop-under windows. These are typically pages that open with other pages, like a tag along. They also frequently occur when attempting to leave a web page. They pop underneath other windows, hence the name. In most cases, pop-up blockers will stop most pop-unders.

So what about the browsers? Well, let’s just cover the Big Three: Chrome, Edge, and Firefox.

These browsers all come with a built-in pop-up blocker – all of which can be enabled in the settings page of the browser.

In most cases, these will do what you want them to: stop pop-ups. However, there are some instances where pop-ups or pop-unders make it through. There are third party extensions for most browsers that will typically offer more security.

Now that these pop-ups are handled, what else can we do to make a better browser experience? There are a few things you can do to perform sort of “maintenance” on your browser.

Clearing your cache (stored data) can help a website that doesn’t want to load very quickly. Most people know about clearing your browsing history, but there are other clean-up methods available.

There are a few different types of stored data associated with browser use. Some of this is background information, temporary data, passwords, and preferences. You can choose which parts to remove, so you can still keep your saved information without having to reenter it.

Another quick and easy tune up process is to remove any unused browser extensions. This can help with basic browser speed and performance.

Maintaining a generally healthy system is also a key to browser speed. Malware and adware can often specifically affect browsers. Any malware affecting the entire system would affect your browsing speed as well.

The best practice you can have is to use a strong antivirus and scan your computer regularly. There are many factors at play and paying attention to all of them is key to the best browsing experience.

Inside The Anatomy Of The Human Firewall

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Each year, around 61% of small businesses become the victims of a malware attack. While many small businesses may think no one would ever come after them because of their size, know that over half of the total global attacks hit small businesses and, for thieves, getting access to your systems is becoming increasingly lucrative.

Companies collect more about customers than ever before: medical history, financial records, consumer preferences, payment information, and other confidential information.

Some of this information could be used in malicious ways to either harm your business or directly harm the customers, so we all understand that we must protect it from cyberattacks.

Creating a human firewall is the best way to keep your system and data safe, but what exactly is a human firewall, why do you need one, and how can you build one? Let’s take a look! [Read more…]

How Google Password Checkup Can Protect Your Data

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

While the terminology between a data breach and data leak may not seem very important, being prepared to react to compromised data is. Let’s start with knowing the difference between a breach and a leak.

A data breach is an unauthorized intrusion into any private system to access any sensitive data. Data breaches are typically the work of hackers.

A data leak may result in the same end game scenario, but differs greatly in that a leak is data left exposed or accessible, often accidentally.

While the hope is that you are protected and that your passwords are all secure, this realistically isn’t the case. You can have the strongest password possible, but depending on what information may be sold or accessible, the security can be entirely out of your hands.

Worse, a breach or leak won’t always make national news or show signs of unauthorized access.

If you see an out of state charge on your debit card, you’ll have a good idea that you didn’t make the purchase and suspect that you’ve been compromised. In the case of seeing unauthorized charges, the issue is clear.

However, say your email is compromised. It isn’t so obvious.

Perhaps the person with your credentials will monitor for a time in order to find valuable information on you or others.

There are so many ways to be compromised and so many types of information that someone with access to your account may be looking for.
In the past, I have used a few different websites to periodically check. This is obviously problematic, as reputable sources for compiling breached information are not overly abundant.

Being an IT professional, I felt comfortable looking for these sources. I do not recommend the same for just anyone.

Luckily, you no longer have to search to find any potentially compromised accounts. Google’s new extension “Password Checkup” is here to help.

Google Password Checkup is a browser extension that alerts you to any potentially compromised accounts.

While the browser extension is installed and enabled, it checks any account you log into using Google Chrome.

Now, this is not a foolproof protection blanket. While this is a great tool, it only checks against any data breaches that Google is aware of.

These are the same type of searches I mentioned earlier. While I would have to search before, Google Chrome can handle the work here.

If there is potential that your account is compromised, you should ensure you take steps to recover the account and change the passwords.

While there is no surefire way to remain safe, stay diligent. Remember to make sure your computer isn’t compromised by regularly running your anti-virus software.

Much like you lock your door at home, make sure you are taking care of your personal information.

Using Google’s Password Checkup is a great start, but it’s only a start. Change your passwords regularly and keep them unique.

A passphrase is a great way to have a password that is easy to remember but difficult to guess.

What Are The Top Cybersecurity Trends For 2019?

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Several events in 2018 brought cybersecurity to the forefront of public consciousness, as major sectors– from financial institutions to Facebook– were affected by cybercrime.

According to Forbes, 34 percent of US consumers had their personal information compromised in 2018. Security experts and business leaders are constantly looking for ways to keep two steps ahead of hackers.

Cybersecurity trends for 2019 are a popular topic. Here is what’s anticipated this year in the cybersecurity realm.

Tougher regulations
As digital capabilities are rapidly gaining a worldwide foothold, data is becoming our most highly-valued commodity. [Read more…]

Can Anyone Really Track Your Phone’s Precise Location?

It’s 2019 and everyone willingly carries a tracking device in their pockets. People can have their precise locations tracked in real time by law enforcement, the government, and advertising companies. It may sound like dystopian fiction, but it’s a reality.

How law enforcement can track your location
AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all sell data — including geographic locations associated with customer phone numbers — to a variety of sketchy third-party companies. This data, for instance, can be used by the bail bond industry to track people down, sometimes as accurate as a few hundred feet of their location. There’s not much oversight and rogue bounty hunters have access to the data. And this isn’t even a new problem.

Back in May 2018, The New York Times reported that this could happen. After the story broke, cellular carriers promised to do better. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have all promised to stop selling this data to aggregators. And it appears that Verizon already stopped before the New York Times story.

How the government can track your location
It’s worth emphasizing that the government itself can still get access to your location data from your cellular company. They just need to get a warrant, then serve that to your cellular service provider.

If the technology exists, the government can get access to it with a warrant. It is quite a change from decades ago when the government had no way to track people’s real-time locations with a device that’s nearly always on their person.

The government doesn’t even need to get your cellular company involved. There are other tricks they can use to pinpoint your location with even better accuracy, such as by deploying “stingray devices” near you. These devices impersonate nearby cellular towers, forcing your phone to connect to them.

How advertisers can track your location
It’s not just your cellular carrier. Even if your cellular carrier perfectly safeguarded your data, it’d probably be very easy to track you thanks to the location access you’ve given to apps installed on your smartphone.

As innocuous as they may seem, Weather apps are particularly bad. You install a weather app and give it access to your location to show you the local weather. But that weather app may also be selling your data to the highest bidder. You likely didn’t pay money for your weather app, so the developers will need to make money somehow to keep the lights and servers on.

The city of Los Angeles is currently suing the Weather Channel, saying that its app intrusively mines and sells its users’ location data. Back in 2017, AccuWeather was caught sending its users’ location data to third-party advertisers — even after updating the app to remove that feature.

It’s best to avoid giving third-party apps access to your location. Stop using third-party weather apps and use your phone’s built-in weather app instead.

How your family can track your location
Your phone is capable of determining its location and sharing it in the background, even if the screen is off.

You don’t need to have an app open. You can see this for yourself if you use a service like Apple’s “Find My Friends,” which is included on iPhones. Find My Friends can be used to share your precise real-time locations with family and friends. After you give someone access, they can open the app, and Apple’s servers will ping your phone, get your location, and show it to them. Of course, this is only with your permission, but it just shows how pervasive this technology is.

Inside The United States Of Cybersecurity

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Last year, Alabama and South Dakota passed laws mandating data breach notification for its residents.

The passage meant all 50 states, the District of Columbia and several U.S. territories now have legal frameworks that require businesses and other entities to notify consumers about compromised data.

All 50 states also have statutes addressing hacking, unauthorized access, computer trespass, viruses or malware, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Every state has laws that allow consumers to freeze credit reporting, too.

While those milestones are notable, there are broader issues when it comes to legislative approaches to cybersecurity across the United States. There are vast discrepancies and differences among states when it comes to cybersecurity protection. [Read more…]

Top 5 Cybersecurity Predictions For 2019

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Cyber threats are a genuine danger for businesses, no matter their size or industry. Companies that face data breaches are likely to fail within months after the attack, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance. Security issues can ruin your reputation and cause expensive damage to your company.

In 2019, we are already predicting increased cyber crimes to steal more data and resources. The FBI reported that over $1.4 billion in losses were experienced by companies and individuals in 2017.

These expenses come from increasing security, losing information, losing physical resources, ransomware payouts, scams and more. The most significant sources of cybercrime included: [Read more…]

HTTPS And Why The Internet Still Isn’t Secure

Frank DeLuca is a field technician for Tech Experts.

HTTPS stands for “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure” and it is the secure version of HTTP, the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website you’re connected to.

Most web traffic online is now sent over an HTTPS connection, making it “secure.” In fact, Google now warns that unencrypted HTTP sites are “Not Secure.”

So why is there still so much malware, phishing, and other dangerous activity online?

“Secure” Sites Have a Secure Connection

In previous iterations of Chrome, it used to display the word “Secure” along with a green padlock in the address bar when you were visiting a website using HTTPS. Modern versions of Chrome simply have a little gray padlock icon next to the navigation bar, without the word “Secure.”

That’s partly because HTTPS is now considered the new baseline standard. Everything should be secure by default, so Chrome only warns you that a connection is “Not Secure” when you’re accessing a site over an HTTP connection.

The reason for the removal from displaying the word “Secure” is that it may have been a little misleading. It may have easily been misconstrued to appear like Chrome was vouching for the contents of the site as if everything on the page is “secure.” But that’s not true at all. A “secure” HTTPS site could be filled with malware or phishing attempts.

HTTPS Does Not Mean A Site is “Secure”

HTTPS is a solid protocol and all websites should use it. However, all it means is the website operator has purchased a certificate and set up encryption to secure the connection.

For example, a dangerous website full of malicious downloads might be delivered via HTTPS. The website and the files you download are sent over a secure connection, but they might not be secure themselves.

Similarly, a criminal could buy a domain like “www.bankofamerica.com,” get an SSL encryption certificate for it, and imitate Bank of America’s real website. This would be a phishing site with the “secure” padlock, but again, it only refers to the connection itself.

HTTPS Stops Snooping and Tampering

Despite that, HTTPS is great. This encryption prevents people from snooping on your data in transit, and it stops man-in-the-middle attacks that can modify the website as it’s sent to you. For example, no one can snoop on payment details you send to the website.

In short, HTTPS ensures the connection between you and that particular website is secure. No one can eavesdrop or tamper with the data in-between.

HTTPS Is An Improvement

Websites switching to HTTPS helps solve some problems, but it doesn’t end the scourge of malware, phishing, spam, attacks on vulnerable sites, or various other scams online.

However, the shift toward HTTPS is still great for the Internet. According to Google’s statistics, 80% of web pages loaded in Chrome on Windows are loaded over HTTPS. Plus, Chrome users on Windows spend 88% of their browsing time on HTTPS sites.

This transition does make it harder for criminals to eavesdrop on personal data, especially on public Wi-Fi or other public networks. It also greatly minimizes the odds that you’ll encounter a man-in-the-middle attack on public Wi-Fi or another network.

It’s still no silver bullet. You still need to use basic online safety practices to protect yourself from malware, spot phishing sites, and avoid other online problems.

October Is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Online security is something that should get everyone’s attention. Threats exist all around us: ransomware, viruses, spyware, social engineering attacks and more. There’s so much you need to know to keep your personal and business information safe.

But where do you start?

As trusted cybersecurity professionals, we want to help you get educated and stay informed.

That’s why during National Cybersecurity Awareness Month our goal is to give you all the information you need to stay secure.

How can we help? We’ll be sharing valuable and timely information on cybersecurity in blogs, in our newsletter, and on all of your favorite social media sites. [Read more…]

The Ransomware Threat Is Growing – Here’s Why

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

One of the biggest problems facing businesses today is ransomware. In 2017, a ransomware attack was launched every 40 seconds and that number has grown exponentially in 2018. What are the main reasons for this type of escalation and why can’t law enforcement or IT experts stop the growing number of cyber-attacks?

Ransomware Trends
One of the reasons involves the latest trends. The art of ransomware is evolving. Hackers are finding new ways to initiate and pull off the cyber-attack successfully.

Hackers rarely get caught. So, you have a crime that pays off financially and no punishment for the crime. The methods of attack expand almost daily. Attack vectors increase with each new breach. If cyber thieves can get just one employee to click on a malicious link, they can take over and control all the data for an entire company. [Read more…]