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What To Do When Your Email Gets Hacked

This month, it was confirmed that every single Yahoo account was compromised in the 2013 data breach. That’s 3 billion accounts. Data stolen included names, email addresses, phone numbers and birth dates, among other information. And, of course, that’s just one in a series of recent massive security breaches. The odds are that if you haven’t already been hacked, you will be.

If your email account has been hacked, would you know what to do? Changing your password isn’t good enough. You’ll also want to make sure the hacker hasn’t set up your account to let him get back in or to keep spamming, even after he’s locked out. Here’s what you need to do to get everything back in order and keep hackers out of your account for good.

Step #1: Change your password

The very first thing you should do is keep the hacker from getting back into your email account. Change your password to a strong password that is not related to your prior password; if your last password was billyjoe1, don’t pick billyjoe2—and if your name is actually BillyJoe, you shouldn’t have been using your name as your password in the first place.

Try using a meaningful sentence as the basis of your new password. For example, “I go to the gym in the morning” turns into “Ig2tGYMitm” using the first letter of each word in the sentence, mixing uppercase and lowercase letters and replacing the word “to” with “2.”

Step #2: Reclaim your account

If you’re lucky, the hacker only logged into your account to send a mass email to all of your contacts.

If you’re not so lucky, the hacker changed your password too, locking you out of your account. If that’s the case, you’ll need to reclaim your account, which is usually a matter of using the “forgot your password” link and answering your security questions or using your backup email address.

Check out the specific recommendations for reclaiming possession of your account for Gmail, Outlook.com and Hotmail, and AOL.

Step #3: Enable two-factor authentication

Set your email account to require a second form of authentication in addition to your password whenever you log into your email account from a new device. When you log in, you’ll also need to enter a special one-time use code the site will text to your phone or generated via an app.

Check out two-step authentication setup instructions for Gmail, Microsoft’s Outlook.com and Hotmail, and AOL.

Step #4: Check your email settings

Sometimes hackers might change your settings to forward a copy of every email you receive to themselves so that they can watch for any emails containing login information for other sites. Check your mail forwarding settings to ensure no unexpected email addresses have been added.

Next, check your email signature to see if the hacker added a spammy signature that will continue to peddle their dubious wares even after they’ve been locked out.

Check your “reply to” email address. Sometimes hackers will change your “reply to” email address to one they’ve created that looks similar to yours. So when someone replies to your email, it goes to the hacker’s account, not yours.

Last, check to make sure the hackers haven’t turned on an auto-responder, turning your out-of-office notification into a spam machine.

Step #5: Scan your computer for malware

Run a full scan with your anti-malware program. You do have an anti-malware program on your computer, right? If not, download the free version of Malwarebytes and run a full scan with it. I recommend running Malwarebytes even if you already have another anti-malware program; if the problem is malware, your original program obviously didn’t stop it, and Malwarebytes has resolved problems for me that other anti-malware software wasn’t able to resolve. Scan other computers you log in from, such as your work computer, as well.

If any of your scans detect malware, fix it and then go back and change your email password again (because when you changed it in step #1, the malware was still on your computer).

Step #6: Find out what else has been compromised

My mother-in-law once followed the ill-advised practice of storing usernames and passwords for her various accounts in an email folder called “Sign-ups.” Once the hacker was into her email, he easily discovered numerous other logins.

Most of us have emails buried somewhere that contain this type of information. Search for the word “password” in your mailbox to figure out what other accounts might have been compromised. Change these passwords immediately; if they include critical accounts such as bank or credit card accounts, check your statements to make sure there are no suspicious transactions.

It’s also a good idea to change any other accounts that use the same username and password as your compromised email. Spammers are savvy enough to know that most people reuse passwords for multiple accounts, so they may try your login info in other email applications and on PayPal and other common sites.

Step #7: Humbly beg for forgiveness from your friends

Let the folks in your contacts list know that your email was hacked and that they should not open any suspicious emails or click on any links in any email(s) that recently received from you. Most people will probably have already figured out that you were not the one recommending they buy Viagra from an online pharmacy in India—but you know, everyone has one or two friends who are a little slower to pick up on these things.

Step #8: Prevent it from happening again

While large-scale breaches are one way your login information could be stolen, many cases are due to careless creation or protection of login information.

A look at Splash Data’s worst passwords reveals people still choose common passwords and passwords based on readily available information, making their accounts hackable with a few educated guesses. Easy passwords make for easy hacking, and spammers use programs that can cycle through thousands of logins a second to identify weak accounts.

Picking a strong password is your best protection from this type of hacking. It also is prudent to use a different password for each site or account, or, at the very least, use a unique password for your email account, your bank account, and any other sensitive accounts. If you’re concerned about keeping track of your passwords, find a password management program to do the work for you.

Limit the amount of personal information you share publicly on social media. Hackers use this publicly available personal information to help answer security questions that protect your accounts.

Bookmark websites that you frequently use to access personal information or input credit card information. This will prevent you from accidentally landing on a site that hackers set up to catch people mistyping the site address.

In a friend’s case, her passwords were pretty good and there was no malware on her computer. But she was careless about where she was logging in. On a recent trip overseas, she used the computer in her hotel lobby to check her email. That was a bad idea.

Computers in hotel lobbies, libraries, and other public places are perfect locations for hackers to install key-logging programs. The computers are often poorly secured and get used by dozens of people every day who don’t think twice about logging into their email or bank accounts or entering credit card information to make a purchase. The best practice is to assume that any public computer is compromised and proceed accordingly.

Kantra, Suzanne. “What To Do When Your Email Gets Hacked,” Techlicious, Computers & Software, 10/23/2017

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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How to Maintain a Calendar in Microsoft Outlook

Here’s how you can set up and work with one or more calendars in Outlook.

You use Microsoft Outlook for your email. But do you also use it for its calendar? Perhaps you do, perhaps you don’t. Either way, you can take full advantage of the calendar feature in Outlook to manage your scheduled appointments and events. You can add an event to the calendar and share it with other people. You can invite people to meetings and other events. You can juggle more than one calendar. You can share your calendar with others. And you can tweak your Calendar settings. Let’s look at the process for creating and maintaining calendars in Outlook.

For this article, I’m using Outlook 2016 via my Office 365 subscription, but the process works virtually the same in the prior few versions of Outlook.

Launch Outlook. Click on the calendar icon at the bottom of the pane to switch to calendar view. You can now manually add an event.

Double-click on the date for your event. In the Event window, enter the details for the event, including the subject, location, date and time, and any notes you wish to record. When done, click on the Save & Close button.

Back in calendar view, your event shows up on the date you chose. Now you want to share that event with another person. Double-click the event to open it. In the Event window, click on the Forward button to open an email with the event as an attachment. Address and send the email. Your recipient can open the attached event to view it. With the right email software, that person can also click on the button to Copy to My Calendar to add the event to his or her own calendar.

Now you want to create an event for which you’re inviting another person or multiple people. In calendar view, double-click the date for the event. Enter the appropriate details. Click on the button to Invite Attendees. An email window pops up. In the To field, type the names or email addresses of the people you want to invite to the event. If the other people have shared their Outlook calendars with you, you can click on the Scheduling button to see if they’re free for the event. Click on the Response Options buttons. By default, your invitation requires a response from the other people and allows them to suggest a different time if they’re busy during the date and time you proposed. You can keep these options or turn off either one.

Click on the Appointment button and then click on the Send button to send the invitation. In return, you should receive emails from the other people either confirming their participation in the event or suggesting an alternative date or time.

Need more than one calendar? Perhaps you want to maintain one calendar for your personal events and another calendar for your professional or work-related events. For example, I have one calendar for personal use and another calendar for meetings with a business client. To create another calendar in calendar view, click on the Open Calendarbutton and then click on the option to Create New Blank Calendar. In the Create New Folder field, make sure Calendar is the selected folder. Type a name for the new calendar and then click OK. You should see your original calendar and the new calendar listed in the left pane under My Calendars. To view your new calendar, click on its checkmark. Both calendars now appear side-by-side. You can manage either calendar by right-clicking its entry in the left pane. From the popup menu for the original, you can hide it, change its color, or copy it. For the new calendar, you can also rename it or delete it.

Next, you can work with shared calendars. You can share a calendar with another person or several people via email. Click on the E-Mail Calendar button. Select the calendar you wish to share if you have more than one. Select the date range, anywhere from today to the whole calendar. Set any other options and then click OK.

Your calendar is attached to your email as an iCalendar file with an extension of ICS. Address and send the email to the other person or people. Your calendar appears in the body of the email for your recipients to view. They can also click on the ICS file or click on the Open this Calendar button in the email to add your calendar to their own calendar view.

If you use an Office 365 or Exchange account on the backend, you can send a sharing invitation to other people using the same server so they can view your calendar. To do this, click on the calendar you wish to share in the My Calendars list. Click on the Share Calendar button. In the Sharing Invitation email, add the names or email addresses of the recipients and then send your message. Click Yes when asked if you want to share this calendar. Your recipients can access your calendar by clicking on the Open this Calendar button in the email. The calendar then shows up in their calendar view under Shared Calendars.

You can also publish a calendar online, though that option requires WebDAV, something you would to access on a computer with Microsoft’s Internet Information Services (IIS). Click on the Publish Online button and choose the option to Publish to WebDAV server. Type the address for the server in the Location field and then click OK.

Finally, you can tweak your calendar through the Outlook Options menu. Click on the File menu and then click on Options. In the Outlook Options menu, click on the setting for Calendar.

In the first section for Work time, you can set the hours and days of the week that you want to appear in your calendar. In the second section for Calendar options, you can establish the time for reminders, add holidays to your calendar, and tweak other options. In the third section for Display options, you can select the colors and layout for your calendar.

In the fourth section for Time zones, you can choose your primary and secondary time zones. In the fifth section for Scheduling assistant, you can decide where to see calendar details. In the sixth section for Automatically accept or decline, you can choose to automatically accept or decline meeting invitations. And in the seventh section for Weather, you can opt to show or not show weather on your calendar.

Whitney, Lance. “How to Maintain a Calendar in Microsoft Outlook.” Windows Secrets, Office, October 10, 2017 

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Eight ways Word’s built-in styles can save you a ton of time

Word’s built-in styles are integrated into many useful features, like footnotes, numbered lists, and header and footer text. Here’s a quick look at how to use these styles to save time.

Word installs nearly 300 styles that are built in and ready to use, but there’s nothing wrong with creating your own custom styles—especially for paragraph and character formatting. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that many of Word’s features rely on its built-in styles. Knowing when to use built-ins and when it’s okay to customize will make your work a lot easier. Even if you never use a custom style, knowing how to manipulate the built-ins will help.

1: They’re easy to use

Every Word document makes use of styles, whether you recognize them or not. Just typing text uses Word’s built-in Normal style. A style is a set of formats. By applying styles, you can quickly and consistently format your documents. You can build your own styles or use the built-in styles. Because the built-in styles already exist, of course, they’re easier to use. Most organizations don’t have specific conventions for ordinary word processing needs, so make things easy on yourself and use the built-in styles, unless you have a specific reason not to—and I can think of lots of reasons not to make more work for myself.

If the built-in styles don’t suit your needs but you want to take advantage of their feature-linking behaviors, create a template and modify the built-ins. It’s the best of both worlds.

2: You gain stability and consistency

You can’t delete Word’s built-in heading styles. That means you can’t accidentally destroy your document’s style hierarchy by deleting a style that’s in use—even though you didn’t realize it. In addition, your documents are consistent from one file to another. That means more professional documents and easier sharing.

3: Building a table of contents is a snap

You can use any style to generate a TOC, but using Word’s built-in styles reduces the work because it’s automatic. The heading styles are the defaults; use them for chapter and heading titles and your TOC will literally write itself. Once the document is complete, with built-in heading styles applied, you can generate your TOC as follows:

  1. Position the cursor where you want to insert the TOC.
  2. Click the References tab.
  3. Click Table Of Contents in the Table Of Contents group and choose an option from the gallery (Figure A).
Figure A

Word’s built-in TOC options are adequate for most uses

4: Navigation is more efficient

Most documents comprise a single page or only a few pages, and navigating is as easy as clicking, using the scroll bar, or using PageUp and PageDown. However, these tools aren’t adequate for browsing large documents. For that, Word provides the Navigation Pane (Document Map in older Ribbon versions). To view the pane, click the View tab and then check Navigation Pane in the Show group. Figure B shows this pane with a simple document, but you can easily imagine its worth in a long document. Simply click the headers in the pane to quickly access that section of your document. This feature works only with built-in heading styles.

Figure B

Use the Navigation Pane to access sections in large documents.

5: You can work in Outline View

Outline View also relies on built-in heading styles. It’s similar to the Navigation Pane, but it displays and supports a true outline format, as shown in Figure C. Whereas the Navigation Pane is a useful tool for accessing areas of your document, Outline View allows you to promote and demote headings to specific levels, so evaluating and even restructuring your document is easier.

Figure C

Use Outline View to organize a document.

6: Print Layout is more flexible

As with the Navigation Pane and Outline View, you can collapse entire sections in Print Layout view. After applying a built-in heading style, Word displays a small arrow in the left margin. Hover the mouse to the left of the formatted heading to display it (Figure D). Then, click it to make that entire section disappear (and reappear).

Figure D
Use collapsible headers in Print Layout.

7: Cross-references are easy to set up

Cross-references are simple to generate in Word if you use built-in heading styles. Once you apply a heading style, that heading is immediately available for cross-referencing, as you can see in Figure E. Word doesn’t include text styles with custom styles. When using custom styles, you must bookmark the headings—and if you’ve worked with bookmarks before, you know they can be messy and frustrating. (Word’s hyperlinking feature behaves similarly.)

Figure E

Built-in heading styles mark headings for inclusion in cross-referencing.

8: Updating page numbers and captions is automatic

Word offers numerous ways to insert page numbers and captions. When you use these features, Word applies built-in styles: Page Number and Caption, accordingly. To quickly update all page numbers or captions, simply change the built-in style.

Bottom line

Many features use built-ins styles, and you won’t always realize they’re in use. Anytime you need to modify all instances of a feature-based element, such as footnotes, endnotes, bulleted and numbered lists, and header and footer text, look for a built-in style to modify. Their names are descriptive, so they’re easy to find.

Harkins, Susan. “Eight ways Word’s built-in styles can save you a ton of time” Tech Republic, Microsoft October 30, 2017

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Windows 10 Tip: Five ways to personalize notifications on your PC

Did you know you can easily personalize what notifications you get on your Windows 10 PC and how they show up, so you can focus on the ones most important to you?

To get started, head to Settings > System > Notifications & actions‌.

First, send notifications, reminders and alarms directly to the action center by right-clicking action center in your taskbar, then selecting Turn on quiet hours.

Stop notifications from showing during a presentation by turning on Hide notifications when I’m duplicating my screen. Or, keep them from showing on your lock screen when you’re not logged in by turning off Show notifications on the lock screen.

If you’re tired of seeing notifications from a particular app, turn them off next to the app under Get notifications from these senders – or, click on the app for more options.

You also always have the option to stop getting notifications on your PC by turning off Get notifications from apps and other senders.

Pidgeon, Elana. “Windows 10 Tip: Five ways to personalize notifications on your PC” Windows Blogs August 2017

Posted in: MS Office Tips and Tricks, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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5 Easy Ways to Find Your Phone

What would you rather give up than your phone? According to surveys over the last few years, many have said they’d rather give up sex (30%), chocolate/alcohol (80%) or even their car (%30) than do without their phone. So when our phones are lost or misplaced, we panic. Fortunately, there are many easy ways to track a phone, whether it’s hiding in the couch cushions with the ringer off, left behind at a restaurant or even stolen and turned off. Here are 5 ways to find your phone when it goes missing.


The first four ways of locating your phone require that your phone have location capabilities turned on BEFORE you lose your phone. For Android phones, you’ll find this under Settings > Security & Location > Location (for some phones, you’ll just see Location). For iPhones, go to Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud then select Find My iPhone and then turn on Find My iPhone and Send Last Location. You may be prompted to enter your Apple ID and password.

1. Google it (Android)

If you have an Android phone, you can find your device by Googling “find my device” on any device with a browser and internet access. Depending on the browser you use and whether you’re logged into your Google account, you may be taken directly to Find My Device – Google or you’ll need to select “Find My Device – Google” from the search results. Either way, you’ll then log into your Google account or re-confirm your password. Once you’re logged in, you’ll be presented with a screen that shows your phone’s location and the option to “Play Sound,” “Lock” or “Erase.” If you select “Play Sound,” your phone will ring for up to 5 minutes, even if the ringer is off. If your phone is off,  you will see its last known location.

If you have multiple Android devices, you can also download the Find My Device app (free for Android) to view all of the device associated with your account.


2. Use Find My Phone (iPhone)

If you have an iPhone, you can use Find My Phone, an app that comes preloaded on iPhones and iPads and is available on iCloud.com. As noted above, you’ll need to turn on Find My Phone before you’ll be able to use Find My Phone (go to Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud then select Find My iPhone and then turn on Find My iPhone and Send Last Location). Then you’ll be able to see your phone’s location by logging into iCloud.com and selecting the Find My Phone app. You’ll also be able to see other devices associated with your account and, if you’ve set up Family Sharing, you’ll also be able to see their devices’ locations, unless they’ve decided to keep their location private.


3. Use a phone tracking app

Tracking and recovery apps like Prey Anti Theft (free for iOS and Android) provide one place to track all of the mobile devices in your home, whether they run on iOS or Android (It covers Macs and PCs as well). Once you’ve installed the app on a device and created a Prey account, you’re ready to start locating.

Depending on your issue—loss or theft –you can set your device to respond in different ways when you notify Prey the phone is missing. First, the phone determines its location and sends it back with a time stamp and pictures taken with the phone’s front and back cameras. Then you can have the phone sound an alarm, receive a text message that states the phone is lost or stolen or operate in stealth mode. You can also set up Control Zones, areas in your city that you’ll be notified if the phone enters or leaves.

The free version covers 3 devices and one Control Zone and will store the last 20 location reports (you can get as many as you want, but the older ones are deleted as new ones come in). You can upgrade to a Personal account for $5 per month for 3 devices and 3 Controls Zones, saves 100 location reports per device and generates reports more quickly when you report a device missing. A Home account will cover 10 devices, comes with unlimited Control Zones and costs $15 per month.


4. Use your smartwatch

One feature on my Apple Watch that I use at least once a day is Ping iPhone. I just swipe up on the watch face and select the ringing phone icon. Tapping will ping the phone once. If you have an Android Wear watch and an Android phone, you can say “Ok Google, find my phone.” Then you scroll up and tap Start and then select Find my phone. It will start ringing, even if the ringer is off.

Your smartwatch must be paired with your phone, Bluetooth must be turned on and the two devices must be in range.


5. Use a device tracker

While you’ll likely use your phone to find your keys and other items clipped to the Tile Pro, you can also use this tracker to ping your phone. You simply double press the Tile icon in the center and your phone will start to ring, even if the ringer is turned off. The Tile Pro has a range of up to 200 feet. You can pick up one Tile Pro for $34.99 or two for $59.99 on Amazon.

Kantra, Suzanne. “5 Easy Ways to Find Your Phone” Techlicious September 27, 2017

Posted in: Mobile Computing

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Ransomware Can Destroy Backups in Four Ways

I just found a very interesting blog post by Jerome Wendt, President & Lead Analyst of DCIG, Inc., an independent storage analyst and consulting firm.

He started out with “The prevailing wisdom is that if you back up your data you can recover from a ransomware attack. While this premise generally holds true, simply backing up your data no longer provides an absolute guarantee that you can recover from a ransomware attack. Here are three techniques that ransomware may use to circumvent existing backups and make your “good” backups bad.” I have added number 4 at the end as a bonus.

And then he described three bad guy tactics to ruin your backups:

  • Finding and encrypting backups on network file shares. Many backup products backup data to file shares accessible over corporate networks. Further, many organizations use the default directory name created by these backup products to store these backups. The default names of these directories are readily accessible in the documentation published by backup providers. Some creators of ransomware have figured this out. As part of their malware that find and encrypt data on production servers, they also probe corporate networks for these default backup directories and encrypt the backups in these directories. In so doing, they increase the possibility that companies cannot recover from backups.
  • Hacking the backup software’s APIs. A number of enterprise backup software products offer their own application programming interface (API). Using these APIs, organizations can write to them to centralize backup and recovery under their broader data center management platform. However, ransomware creators can also access these published APIs for nefarious purposes and used them to corrupt and/or encrypt existing backup.
  • Plant a ransomware “time bomb.” To date, when ransomware encrypts a company’s data, the encryption generally occurs as soon as or shortly after it gets onto the corporate network. However, ransomware continues to evolve and mature and, as it does so, it grows both more patient and more insidious. Rather than encrypting data as soon as it breaches the corporate firewall, it begins to infect the data but does not immediate encrypt it. Then, only after days, weeks, or months go by and this infected data has been backed up for months does it initiate the encryption of the corporate data. In many respects, this is the worst type of ransomware attack. Not only is all of a company’s production data encrypted, the company thinks it has “good” backups and when it goes to restore the data, the restored data encrypts as well because it was infected when it was backed up. This may make it almost impossible for an organization to determine when it was initially infected and which of their backed up data they can reliably and confidently restore.
  • Delete your Shadow copies. You know about this one, several major strains have been doing this for a few years now, and are constantly improving this part of their malicious code.

Wendt concluded: “Ransomware arguably represents one of the most insidious and dangerous threats that organizations currently face to the health of their data. The inability to access and recover from a ransomware attack may put the very survival of a company at risk.

“To counter this risk, many look to backup software as their primary means to recover from these attacks. But as ransomware takes aim at backup software, organizations need to take a fresh look at their backup software to make sure that it has the right set of features to counter these newest forms of ransomware attacks to ensure they have a verifiable path to recovery.”

Excellent advice!

Sjouwerman.Stu. “Ransomware Can Destroy Backups in Four Ways” KnowBe4 CyberheistNews Vol7 #37 Sept 2017

Posted in: Security

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Microsoft Excel: Why your spreadsheet is so slow

How to deal with “Out of Memory,” “Not Enough System Resources,” and more.

When your Microsoft Excel spreadsheet slows to a crawl, you can’t help but notice. It may take longer to open and save your files, longer for Excel to calculate your formulas, and longer for the screen to refresh after entering data, or sorting and formatting the cells.  System memory is the other issue that relates to Excel’s slowness.

Slow spreadsheets take longer to manage and, as always, time is money. We’ll show you how to tackle this problem.

When Excel spreadsheets get too big

Excel is capable of creating a very big spreadsheet, but the bigger it gets, the more memory is needed to keep it open on your PC.

In the current version of Excel, each spreadsheet has 1,048,576 rows and 16,384 columns (A1 through XFD1048576). Each cell can hold a maximum of 32,767 characters. I would not advise pushing these limits.

The number of records (rows), fields (columns), and formulas can slow down performance considerably. Every time you add new records, then press the Enter key—or use features such as Sort, Format cells, or Insert/Delete Columns or Rows—Excel recalculates all those formulas. This can cause a lag time of several seconds or more between each process. Using a lot of graphical elements can also hinder performance.

One solution, and one that I highly recommend, is to keep your spreadsheets small and tight, with fewer fields and, if necessary, fewer records. You can accomplish this by creating multiple spreadsheets in a single workbook, with links or three-dimensional formulas. You could also create Relational Database spreadsheets that connect your tables with unique, key fields.

Turn on Manual Calculation and use F9

Another solution is to turn off the Automatic Workbook Calculation option, instead using the Function key F9. When Manual Calculation is selected in the Calculation Options, Excel withholds calculating your formulas until you press F9.

1. Select File > Options > Formulas.

2. In the first section: Calculation Options under Workbook Calculation, click the Manual button.

3. Check the Recalculate Workbook Before Saving box if you want to ensure that the spreadsheet calculation is always current. Or uncheck this box if you plan to calculate the spreadsheet manually using the F9 key before exiting.

4. When finished, click OK.

Excel memory limits

Users constantly ask me: Why does my spreadsheet say “Excel cannot complete this task with available resources. Choose less data or close other applications?” Similar errors include “Not enough System Resources to Display Completely,” or “There isn’t enough memory to complete this action. Try using less data or closing other applications,” or just “Out of Memory.”

Although memory does not affect Excel’s calculation or manipulation speed, the size of your database (number of columns and rows used) is affected by the amount of available RAM in your system. Remember, just because your computer has 8GB of RAM, that doesn’t mean you have that much available to work with.

Excel has its own memory manager and memory limits. The 32-bit version has a limit of 2GB of virtual memory, while the 64-bit version offers up to 8TB of virtual memory. Contrary to some rumors, those numbers include the software itself, plus any add-in programs you have installed.

And that’s just in Excel. Other demands on your system’s memory include the OS, all the other applications that are currently open on your computer, plus a dozen other hidden processes such as DLLs, drivers, and a long list of .exe (executables) that are running in resident memory and/or in the background. Graphics, charts, formulas, and features such as the spell checker, sorting, and printing also consume memory.

For the many users still working with the 32-bit version of Excel, if your spreadsheets are less than 2GB and you’re still receiving memory error messages, try closing all other programs that are running (including the Internet and your email program) to gain additional working memory.

When it’s time to move from 32-bit to 64-bit Excel

If the performance and memory tips above both fail to increase your system’s performance or reduce the number of memory errors, then maybe it’s time to switch to the 64-bit version of Excel. This version does not limit your file sizes, but instead enforces limits only by available memory and system resources. This means if your system has 8GB of memory, Excel can access all of that minus whatever the system uses.

If you’re considering a change from Excel 32-bit to Excel 64-bit, here’s what to keep in mind:

1. Check out the Large Address Aware update. Microsoft rolled out this patch in June 2016, for 2013 and 2016 Excel versions. This update alters the 2GB limit on address space to 4GB when installed for the 32-bit version of Excel in the 64-bit version of Windows. For 32-bit Excel running in 32-bit Windows, the 2GB address space limit is increased to 3GB.

2. Other files are affected when you install this update: For example, for 32-bit Excel with 32-bit Windows, you must make a change in your boot file. Be sure to read Microsoft’s documentation on the Large Address Aware update before you install anything or make any changes.

3. 64-bit Office only works with 64-bit Windows. You cannot run the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Office on the same computer. If you attempt this, Microsoft displays an error message.

4. If you want to upgrade from your 32-bit version to the 64-bit version, you must uninstall and then re-install Office. The reverse is also true.

32-bit vs. 64-bit Excel: Features you’ll lose

Despite the performance beneifts of 64-bit Office, Microsoft actually recommends the 32-bit version of Office for most users, because of its greater compatibility with other applications (particularly third-party add-ins). Also, some of Office’s application features are not supported in the 64-bit OS, such as:

1. The legacy versions of Equation Editor and Equation Builder are not supported

2. The Word Add-in libraries are also not supported (many dozens available online for free or for a minimal cost).

3. Some ActiveX controls and some VBA codes are not compatible.

4. Some database files in Microsoft Access have source code issues.

5. Outlook MAPI applications must be recreated, and

6. The Graphics Device Interface (GDI) rendering may have performance issues due to incompatibilities between the 32-bit and 64-bit devices.

Sartain.JD. “Microsoft Excel: Why your spreadsheet is so slow” PCWorld September 2017

Posted in: MS Office Tips and Tricks, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Hey, Turn Bluetooth Off When You’re Not Using It

You intuitively know why you should bolt your doors when you leave the house and add some sort of authentication for your smartphone. But there are lots of digital entrances that you leave open all the time, such as Wi-Fi and your cell connection. It’s a calculated risk, and the benefits generally make it worthwhile. That calculus changes with Bluetooth. Whenever you don’t absolutely need it, you should go ahead and turn it off.

Minimizing your Bluetooth usage minimizes your exposure to very real vulnerabilities. That includes an attack called BlueBorne, announced this week by the security firm Armis, which would allow any affected device with Bluetooth turned on to be attacked through a series of vulnerabilities. The flaws aren’t in the Bluetooth standard itself, but in its implementation in all sorts of software. Windows, Android, Linux, and iOS have been vulnerable to BlueBorne in the past. Millions could still be at risk.

So, yeah, turn off Bluetooth if you’re not using it or if you’re near anyone you don’t trust. There might be some inconvenience when you bring your laptop to your desk and want it to connect to a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. You might end up flipping the switch fairly often to use Bluetooth headphones. But you likely don’t use Bluetooth most of the time. Even if you lean on it all day at work, you can ditch it at a birthday dinner or when you’re asleep. And if you use it 24/7 on your phone because of a peripheral like a smartwatch, you can at least turn it off on your other devices, especially any Bluetooth-enabled internet of things gear.

“For attackers it’s Candy Land,” says David Dufour, vice president of engineering and cybersecurity at the security firm Webroot. “You sit with a computer with a Bluteooth-enabled radio—just scanning for devices saying, ‘Hey, is anybody out there?’ Then you start prodding those devices to look for things like the operating system and the Bluetooth version. It’s a hop, skip, and a jump to start doing bad stuff.”

BlueBorne

As overall device security improves, researchers and attackers alike have turned to ancillary features and components to find ways in. In July, researchers announced a bug in a widely used Broadcom mobile Wi-Fi chip that put a billion devices at risk before it was patched. And in 2015, researchers found a critical flaw in Apple’s Airdrop file-sharing feature over Bluetooth.

And then there’s BlueBorne. Apple’s iOS hasn’t been affected by the flaws since the 2016 iOS 10 release, Microsoft patched the bugs in Windows in July, and Google is working on distributing a patch (though this can take significant time). But in addition to endangering core devices such as smartphones and PCs, BlueBorne has implications for the billions of Bluetooth-equipped internet of things devices in the world including smart TVs, speakers, and even smart lightbulbs. Many of these devices are built on Linux and don’t have a mechanism for distributing updates. Or even if they do, they rarely receive them in practice. Linux is working on but hasn’t yet issued a BlueBorne patch.

“We wanted get the research community on board with this, because it didn’t take us a long time to find these bugs, one thing kind of led to another and we found eight really severe vulnerabilities,” says Ben Seri, the head of research at Armis. “Our assumption is there are probably a lot more. We want to get eyes and ears on this type of thing because it’s largely gone neglected by the research community and by vendors over the past years.”

When Bluetooth is on in a device, it is constantly open to and waiting for potential connections. So a BlueBorne attack starts by going through the process Webroot’s Dufour describes—scanning for devices that have Bluetooth on and probing them for information such as device type and operating system to see if they have the relevant vulnerabilities. Once an attacker identifies vulnerable targets, the hack is quick (it can happen in about 10 seconds) and flexible. The impacted devices don’t need to connect to anything, and the attack can even work when the Bluetooth on the victim device is already paired to something else. BlueBorne bugs can allow attackers to take control of victim devices and access—even potentially steal—their data. The attack can also spread from device to device once in motion, if other vulnerable Bluetooth-enabled targets are nearby.

As with virtually all Bluetooth remote exploits, attackers would still need to be in range of the device (roughly 33 feet) to pull off a BlueBorne attack. But even with the extensive and productive BlueBorne patching that has already happened, there are still likely plenty of vulnerable devices in any populated area or building.

The Best Defense

The importance of Bluetooth defense has become increasingly clear, and the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which manages the standard, has focused on security (particularly cryptography upgrades) in recent versions. But attacks like BlueBorne that affect individual implementations of Bluetooth are attracting attention as well. “Attacks against improperly secured Bluetooth implementations can provide attackers with unauthorized access to sensitive information and unauthorized use of Bluetooth devices and other systems or networks to which the devices are connected,” the National Institute of Standards and Technology noted in its extensive May “Guide to BluetoothSecurity” update.

You can’t control if and when devices get patched for newly discovered Bluetooth vulnerabilities, and you’re probably not going to stop using Bluetooth altogether just because of some possible risks. But apply every patch you can, and keep Bluetooth off when you’re not using it. “With security everything is kind of like the flavor of the week,” Webroot’s Dufour says. “So this week it’s Bluetooth.”

Security’s often a matter of weighing risk and reward, defense versus convenience. In the case of Bluetooth, it’s an easy call.

Hay-Newman, Lily. “Hey, Turn Bluetooth Off When You’re Not Using It” Wired September 13, 2017

Posted in: Security

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6 Easy Opt-Outs to Protect Your Privacy

How to shrink your exposure to telemarketers, bulky catalogs, and online data mining

Marketers want your personal data and they’re willing to work hard to get it. The result can be a barrage of unsolicited mail, telemarketing calls, and pop-up ads.

You can cut down on those offers by signing up with the Do Not Call Registry and other services, some set up by industry groups. The World Privacy Forum’s Top 10 Opt Outs is a comprehensive resource of websites and organizations that help consumers reduce the amount of marketing material coming their way.

But you can also accomplish a lot, more quickly, with the whittled-down data-collection cleanse outlined below.

Not all of the online forms you’ll be accessing are equally simple to navigate. Follow these tips for cutting through the clutter and the whole six-step exercise can take under 10 minutes to complete. (I got it down to 9 minutes, 8 seconds.) That’s less time than it takes to do the dishes, and it will help make your inbox equally sparkly and clean.

Let’s start with pesky telemarketing calls.

1. National Do Not Call Registry

You know those annoying calls from “Heather at account services?” The National Do Not Call Registry helps you prevent such unsolicited intrusions from telemarketers.

Where to go: The FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry provides one-stop shopping for telemarketer opt-outs.

How it works: Once you get to the Registry you’re given two options: 1) to register or 2) to check to see if you’re registered. The straightforward form allows you to provide up to three lines, I registered my cell, my home landline, and my office line in just seconds.

What you’ll need: You have to provide a valid e-mail address to receive confirmation e-mails—one for each phone number you register—those confirmations arrived in my inbox almost instantly. When I clicked on the link in each e-mail, I was done.

2. Prescreened Credit Offers

Is your mailbox filled with “pre-approved” credit card offers? Lenders send out those solicitations after buying lists of potential borrowers from major credit reporting firms such as Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can stop that cycle at the source. (This Federal Trade Commission FAQ page explains pre-screened credit.)

Where to go: The Consumer Credit Reporting Industry website, or call 888-567-8688.

How it works: The online form lets you opt out for five years. If you want to opt out permanently, you need to print out, fill out, and mail back an old-school paper form. Maddeningly, to get access to the paper form you first need to fill out another form online. You might want to do the quick-and-easy online opt-out first, and then go back and do the paperwork for the permanent opt-opt later.

What you’ll need: Your Social Security number. I’ll admit I felt a little uncomfortable entering my SSN, but the reality is that if you’re getting these offers, the credit reporting agencies have this information anyway.

How long it took: 1 minute, 24 seconds (not including the time to fill out and mail the permanent opt-out form).

3. DMA Choice

I like the fall Pottery Barn catalog as much as the next guy—until I have to carry 20 pounds of mixed paper to the curb on recycling day. The opt-out program set up by the Data & Marketing Association won’t solve that problem completely, but it will reduce the volume of mail coming in.

Where to go: Head to DMA Choice.

How it works: This is a two-stage process. First, you register with DMA, providing an e-mail, password, and credit card information, including your zip code. Once you’re logged in, you get steered to a menu with three options. Clicking on the Catalogs/Magazines/Other Mail Offers link opens a daunting alphabetical list of companies. Ignore it. Head instead to Stop All Catalogs and click on Remove My Name. The site will ask you if you’re sure, at which point you click on Yes, Take Me Off and confirm your address.

What you’ll need: A credit card. You have to pay $2 for the online opt-out and $3 if you mail in the form. There are free opt-outs for caregivers and those with a deceased relative.

How long it took: 3 minutes, 12 seconds (including the time spent entering my credit card information to pay the small fee).

4. FERPA

Public school enrollment information about your children doesn’t have to be public. FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, gives parents and students the right keep a range of directory-style information private, such as the student’s address, place of birth, and dates of attendance at the school. The catch is, you have to request this.

Where to go: Since the FERPA opt-out procedure is district-specific, there’s no national online clearing house. You need to request a form from your local school district or print out the generic one on the WPF website, which you can then submit to local officials.

How it works: The WPF form is reasonably straightforward. You enter a little info about your student, along with your opt-out preferences. Many school districts only accept FERPA opt-outs at the beginning of the school year, so don’t delay.

What you’ll need: The forms vary somewhat, but there’s a good chance you’ll need to provide a student ID number.

How long it took: 40 seconds (not including the time to fill out the printed form and return it to the school).

5. Banks and Other Financial Institutions

The information collected and distributed by banks varies widely. Since that information can include very sensitive information such as account balances, it’s worthwhile to take the time to protect it.

Where to go: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation explains your rights and opt-out options, but does not provide a universal opt-out for financial institutions. The WPF site, however, includes an opt-out list for many large institutions, including Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, and Citibank (1-888-214-0017)

How it works: I bank at Chase. So using the link above, I entered my account information and checked off all the options provided, instructing the bank not to share information about my creditworthiness or other personal information with affiliates and third parties for marketing purposes.

What you’ll need: Your account number and your Social Security number. If you have multiple accounts, you only need to enter the info for one. Don’t forget about your mortgage and investment accounts.

How long it took: 52 seconds.

6. Data Brokers

Data brokers are clearing houses for much of the information that’s gathered about you online and used by marketers. Most don’t have easy opt-outs. But Acxiom, one of the biggest data brokers, is an exception.

Where to go: Acxiom’s website includes an opt-out page.

How it works: I checked Acxiom’s About the Data site, and discovered that the company knows quite a lot about me, ranging from my family status to my income and political affiliations. Some of the information was surprisingly accurate, while other parts were flat-out wrong. You can, however, skip this step and go straight to the opt-out form.

What you’ll need: A little advance research. You’ll want to register your name, but also common misspellings, any maiden name, names from previous marriages, addresses dating back as far as you can recall, and all of your e-mail addresses.

How long it took: 1 minute, 30 seconds. The form itself is quite simple to use, but the dropdown menus slow things down a bit, as does the CAPTCHA confirmation that you’re a human, not a robot.

St. John, Allen. “6 Easy Opt-Outs to Protect Your Privacy” Consumer Reports September 2017

Posted in: Security, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Try These Top Add-Ins for Microsoft Word

You can beef up Microsoft Word with the right add-ins.

Microsoft Word packs a lot of features and functionality into one single application. But there’s always room for more. Perhaps you wish Word included a built-in dictation feature that converted your speech into text. Or maybe you’d like a Word feature that reads your documents aloud to you. Or perhaps you’d like a built-in translator that can translate your text from one language to another. Well, Word may not include these items, but you can tap into them by installing an add-in. Add-ins provide greater functionality and flexibility to an Office application so you can do so much more with the program.

You’ll find an array of Word add-ins through Microsoft’s online Office Store, but I’m going to highlight what I think are some of the top and most interesting add-ins to give you a head start. We’ll look at Dictate, an add-in that lets you dictate your documents directly into Word; TextAloud, an add-in that reads your text aloud to you; Read My Document; another add-in that reads your text to you; Translator, an add-in that can translate text in your document between different languages; Collins Dictionary; an add-in that offers a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a translator with audio pronunciation; and Wikipedia, an add-in that lets you access the online encyclopedia site without leaving Word.

Dictate

Windows 10, 8.1, and 7 already come with built-in speech recognition and dictation. But now there’s a new kid on the block. A Microsoft Garage project, Dictate is a free add-in designed for Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook. Tapping into the technology behind Cortana, Dictate uses speech recognition to convert your words into text. After installing this add-in, launch Word and you’ll see a new menu called Dictation. Click on that menu to display the Dictation toolbar.

Click on the Start button in the Dictate toolbar and begin speaking. As you dictate, you can see the text as interpreted by the Dictate add-in appear in the Response field next to the Start button. You can speak punctuation marks and other non-alphanumeric items, such as periods, commas, and quotes. You can say “new line” or “new paragraph” to move to a new line or paragraph.

The add-in supports 29 spoken languages and can handle real-time translation to 30 languages, so you can speak your text in one language and have it converted into the text of a different language. So, how did Dictate fare? Not as well I had hoped, at least initially. In my testing, Dictation got a fair number of words wrong and was no more accurate than Windows own Speech Recognition feature (which you can access from Control Panel). But the more I used Dictate, the more its accuracy improved. So, if you’re willing to put some time into training it, Dictate is definitely worth trying.

TextAloud

Here’s an add-in I’ve used for years to help me proofread and edit my documents. TextAloud reads your text aloud to you, so you can listen for any mistakes and hear how your documents sound. After you install TextAloud, open Word and click on the new TextAloud menu. From the TextAloud toolbar, you can opt to hear your entire document, the part starting from the cursor, or only selected text. You can pause, stop, and resume the speaking of your document. You can also alter the speed at which the voice speaks.

TextAloud isn’t free. The software by itself costs $29.95. If you want more natural sounding voices, you can add two AT&T Natural Voices for an additional $25. But if you need a reliable tool to help you listen to and verbally proofread your documents, TextAloud is worth the price.

Read My Document

Want a no-frills but free add-in that can read your documents to you? Read My Document fills that bill. Add Read My Document to Word. You have to trust the add-in and follow a few more steps. You then control it from the right pane and can access it by clicking on the Insert menu and selecting My Apps from the Add-ins button. Select the text you wish to hear or select the entire document and then click on the Read selected text button. You can pause or play the reading. The voice used by Read My Documents doesn’t quite have the smoothness of the AT&T Natural Voices but it’s not bad. It has a certain accent to it that makes it pleasing to the ear. You can’t switch voices or control the speech as you can with TextAloud. But for a free program, Read My Document is quite effective.

Translator

Using the power behind Microsoft’s own Translator app, the free Translator add-in can translate text in a document into a different language. After adding Translator, you’re prompted to open Word and trust the program. You can then access it by clicking on the Insert menu and selecting My Apps from the Add-ins button. The program pops up in the right pane. Choose the source and target languages. Select text in your document or select the entire document, and Translator displays the translation in the right pane. You can change the target language, and the displayed text automatically switches to your new language. Translator is a cool and convenient tool if you need to translate text on the fly.

Collins Dictionary

This helpful and free add-in provides a dictionary, thesaurus, and translator in one package, and can even pronounce words for you. Add Collins Dictionary from its page at the Office Store and then open it in Word. After you trust it, the add-in appears in the right pane. Select a word in your document, and the dictionary serves up a definition. In some cases, you can click on a speaker icon to hear the word spoken aloud.

Click on the link for the Thesaurus, and Collins offers synonyms for the word you selected. Then click on the Translator link, select a source language, and Collins translates the text into your chosen language, courtesy of Microsoft Translator.

Wikipedia

Yes, you can always access Wikipedia directly from the Web. But this free add-in provides access to the online encyclopedia within Word. After you add Wikipedia, the usual right pane pops up. Writing about a specific topic, and want to learn more about it? Just type a word or phrase in the search field and click on the search icon, or just select text in your document. The program displays the Wikipedia entry about your subject. Scroll down the pane and you’ll find more information and a link to expand the article to get even more details. Clicking on a link within the article brings you to a new article corresponding to the link, and all within the same pane. If you use Wikipedia as a source of information, you’ll find this a helpful and handy add-in.

 

Whitney, Lance. “Try these Top Add-in’s for Microsoft Word,” Windows Secrets July 2017

Posted in: MS Office Tips and Tricks, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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