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Spammers and malware make money - not a lot but that is even MORE scary!

What would someone sell YOUR passwords and login user names for?!

See passwords sold for less than a can of Coke or the much, much more detailed version at Symantec to appreciate the cold, hard economics of identity theft. If someone is prepared to sell an identity for 50p then presumably it didn't take much effort to acquire it in the first place!

What should you worry about with Spam, PC security etc.?

As expressed strongly in appropriate sections of this site - the foothold or bridgehead position for many thieves of identity is the e-mail password. If you use Outlook it is transmitted in clear text every time that you Send and Receive your mail which some people do even when in Public Internet Access WiFi access zones. If you use webmail and don't bother to use a secure connection then it is transmitted - again in clear text - once every time you login to your webmail system.

Once someone has that username and password combination the hacker can monitor every e-mail that you receive and gather all the information required to then go to web sites that you have signed-up to and click on the 'Forgotten my password' link - unless of course you were ....... ...... enough to use the same password as your e-mail! Don't forget that they can pick up the reminder e-mail, action it AND DELETE IT WITHOUT YOU EVEN KNOWING in many cases!!

Some web sites have an approach to security that is both comprehensive and simple enough to catch these problems for instance how often do you REALLY check that the Date and Time of your last login was when YOU logged in!

Some sites are SO bad at security they could compromise your on-line banking?!

One blindingly obvious example of gross incompetence is that no system on earth should ever be able to tell you what your password IS! That would mean that if it had been used elsewhere (e.g. online banking!) then that could be 'discovered'. For me, Virgin Mobile were the most memorable in that respect although there was another company but it wouldn't be in MY best interests to divulge who!

How easy is it to acquire your passwords and user names for?!

That tends to depend very much on how you personally treat PCs, the Web and connectivity in general. If you:

  • are happy to live on the 'bleeding edge of technology' - always taking the latest software and gadgets and the default settings they arrive with
  • profilically use lots of web 'gadgets' - especially on social networking sites
  • use Laptops or even e-mail enabled 'phones in public WiFi hotspots
  • keep a simple approach to passwords and use the same ones in several different places
  • don't know if your PC has a Firewall, Antivirus and Automatic updates from Microsoft

there is a reasonable chance your details are already in the hands of people who might want to take over your identity and take whatever they can of your assets...

Is there a 'solution' that will 'work for you'?

There are no solely technical solutions to the problems described above other than get rid of all of the technology that the issues stem from. No matter how sweetly the sirens sing - painless remedies are simply not possible unless you have so much cash that you can employ a "Technology bodyguard" to keep you out of trouble.

SECTION to be expanded and structured to stereotypical subsets of target audience... Not that the content isn't there - it is the formatting which is the challenge...

Firstly you should click on the normal Windows Start button (or just press the 'Windows Logo Key' to the bottom left of your keyboard) and then click on 'Control Panel', which is usually half way up the right hand column. Then click on 'Security Centre'

This is the security centre of XP from Start -> Control Panel -> Security Centre.

This dialogue is not simple because the place that you click upon to make changes is where it says 'Security Centre' at the BOTTOM of the page as opposed to all of the status messages with similar text and the illusion of clickable buttons that are prolific above the actual link to click.

If you are on Broadband there is little downside in leaving the updates on the MS web site until you are ready to review, download and install them typically within a 10-15 minutes period. Bear in mind that updates often require a restart to become effective so you MAY wish to choose a time and day when that is convenient and start the download 20-30 minutes before you are ready to restart.

A 'reasonable' compromise between keeping up-to-date and avoiding the very occassional problem caused by updates is to take the 'Download updates for me, but let me choose when to install them' option. With THIS option you should wait until the update has had a chance to be retrospectively 'nuked' by Microsoft if it is indeed a 'bad' one. So waiting until the Thursday morning after an update would be a good time to allow your PC to install the update and remember that it is likely to want the PC to be restarted anyway.

If you are on dial-up then you would benefit from the downloading that can be done whilst you are generally surfing, especially as it happens 'in the background' without much disruption. The only downside is that your choice about installing them is typically 'all or nothing' whereas you get a choice with the option described above and below.

When there are updates to download you will be prompted by Windows - usually by a 'balloon' notification in the icon area in the far bottom-right of your monitor. You will then see the window to the left.

This window cannot be made to default to the 'Custom' setting so you have to remember to select that every time you get this window.

This window allows you to be selective about the updates that you download and gives you the control to avoid a bad update as long as you are aware that there is one and you know which of them to deselect.

Obviously you click on 'Install' when you are happy that the (ticked) list is what you want.

Please note that you fully SHOULD CLOSE DOWN your PC at the VERY LEAST EVERY MONTH** and my normal recommendation is every week(end).

If you have now changed your settings from Automatic to something where you have to 'opt-in' to the action being taken then you need two things:

  1. Remember that you will almost certainly need to apply the updates sooner or later and even if you are a 'safe surfer' then you are at risk for a little longer now
  2. Knowledge of when an update has got some potential downside! To that end we are considering creating a distribution list of people who would like to be notified of any likely problems with Windows Updates or indeed more than likely - not the case! If that would be of interest to you then please use the Contact us page to tell us of your interest, OTHERWISE we suggest that you bookmark the following Google query as a basic method of discovering any large-scale, generic problems such as the recent problems with Zonealarm.

    For a very, VERY brief comment about the status of patches then click here for a summary without details.

If you don't understand all or some of the content of this page

Obviously we can provide advice to suit your specific circumstances - call 0844 884 2244*¹¹ from a landline and we will be happy to call you back to find out what would be best for you.

If you want to take the best 'simple' option then we suggest that you:

  1. Make a note of the telephone number(s) to call in case of service failure(s) - there is a page here with a few hints and a form that you can use to document the contact details that you may need
  2. Bookmark the following page to use when you have connectivity problems... or call 0844 884 2244*¹¹
  3. Turn Automatic Updates ON - apply automatically - see the image above
  4. Make a note in your diary if it's easy to do so that every 2nd Tuesday of the month is 'Patch Tuesday' and if the next time you restart (boot) your PC after that you have a problem then you MAY want to refer to the page of hints above as you MAY have been given an update from MS that has caused the problem.
  5. Don't forget to restart rather than hibernate your PC (see Fast PC startup using no electricity) the next time you close your PC after 'Patch Tuesday'

I hope the information above has been useful, let me know if not! Any Comments, suggestions or corrections to: Contact us please. This would be especially useful if the software environment you have is different to mine and the headings, text or prompts are different.

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Business before Technology Limited, Company number: 4969011.
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*¹¹ Note that calls to 0844 884 2244*¹¹ will cost 7p per a minute, your telephone provider (including mobile providers) may add an additional access charge.
14Jan16: not 0 or 0 !