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9 Simple Ways to Protect Your Privacy

While you may think your personal information is actually personal you’d be surprised how much information about you winds up online. Just do a search for yourself on Pipl, a people search directory, to see the personal details out there. (Go on, we’ll wait.) Chances are the search came up with your name, social media profiles and possibly even your parents’ names, address and telephone number too.

Pipl isn’t some secret hacker database. It’s just a repository of publicly available online data about individuals, all of which businesses and advertisers are eager to get their hands on. That’s right: this sort of data collection is completely legitimate, and a lot of it is pulled from information you put online.

Whether you’re worried about identity theft or you just don’t like the idea of other people tracking your every move, there are steps you can take to keep your private data private.

1. Password-protect everything.

You may not think it’s necessary to password-protect your home computer, but all your digital devices should be password-protected. That includes your computers, tablets, smartphones and anything other gadgets with personal data on them. If it’s unsecured by a password, a lost or stolen gadget is a source of personal information for whoever has it, which can lead to identity theft and worse.

The same advice goes for online accounts. Since most of these need a password to set up, the challenge is making strong passwords. Use our tips for strong passwords to be sure yours is a good one. Don’t use the same password for more than one site, because one hacked account could result in all your accounts being compromised. To help you remember all of these passwords, use a password manager such as LastPass or RoboForm.

Turn on two-factor authentication for any site that supports it, which protects your account even if a hacker does get your password. And those security questions designed to help you recover a lost password or forgotten user name? They aren’t very secure, because some of them are very easy for hackers to find out. We recommend making up answers instead and keeping that information in your password manager.

Change the default passwords for anything connected to your home network. Your router is the most important device to secure, because your router could give a hacker complete access to your home network. Don’t forget other connected devices like baby monitors.

2. Keep your computer virus-free.

Digital security has a lot to do with digital privacy. If your computer is infected by a virus or malware, not only can hackers dig through your data to steal your identity, but they may lock up your files and ask for a ransom to get them back. The solution? Run an antivirus program to watch for viruses, and keep your other software up to date to close security holes. This applies not only to your computer but your mobile devices as well.

Our favorite antivirus is Webroot, which offers protection for Windows, Apple and Android devices. If you’d rather use a free app, try Avast. It doesn’t have as many features as Webroot, but it’s a solid antivirus scanner, and the price is certainly right.

Make sure your operating system is up to date with the latest security patches. To make that process easier, we recommend turning on auto-update features. Here’s how:

  • Turn on automatic updates for Windows.
  • MacOS automatically checks for updates by default, but you can check manually with these instructions.
  • Android typically notifies you of updates, but you’ll need to install them manually. Instructions will vary depending on your device and the version of Android you’re currently running; check with your device manufacturer for details.
  • iOS will nag you incessantly about updates, so there’s no chance you’ll miss them. Here’s a walk-through of how to update.

3. Secure your browser.

Your browser is how you interact with the digital world, and if you aren’t careful, you could be leaving a trail of footprints behind you as you browse. Whether it’s websites and marketers tracking you or a hacker spying on what you’re doing, there are ways to keep your browsing habits private.

The first step for keeping advertisers out of your browser is turning off third-party cookies. Advertisers use cookies to see where you’ve been and tailor the ads they show you appropriately. Here’s how to block cookies in ChromeEdgeInternet ExplorerFirefox and Safari.

To go a step farther, you can disable JavaScript. This cuts off another common way advertisers (or hackers) track you, but it can render some web pages nonfunctional. If you want to turn JavaScript off anyway, here’s how to do it in ChromeEdgeInternet ExplorerFirefox and Safari.

Don’t want to worry about any of this? Try the Privacy Badger browser plug-in for Chrome, Firefox and Opera, which shuts down many potential trackers automatically. HTTPS Everywhere is another good browser plug-in that forces your browser to use secure, encrypted sites when they’re available, which helps keep snoops out of your data.

Private browsing mode deletes your cookies, browsing history and other temporary files whenever you close the window. Here’s how to use private browsing mode on ChromeEdgeInternet ExplorerFirefox and Safari. If you’re serious about discreet browsing, though, read this article on browsing the web anonymously.

4. Switch search engines.

Most search engines keep tabs on what you’re looking for so they can target ads to your tastes. If you don’t like the idea of your search history being used to sell you things, DuckDuckGo is the search engine for you. The site doesn’t track any of your personal data, so you can search without anyone watching over your shoulder.

5. Be careful what you share on social media.

Social media can feel like a conversation with your closest friends — except it may be a conversation the whole world can see. If you post enough on social media, the information can be used to track where you are and what you’re up to.

The first line of defense is to lock down your social media accounts. Share only with the people you want to see the information you’re sharing, like your friends and family. On Twitter, your account is either completely open or locked down to people you invite to follow you; changing that setting is as easy as clicking a checkbox. Facebook allows more granular control over who sees what you post. Read How to Keep Facebook Privacy Private to configure your profile.

Don’t want to lock down your account? Then be choosy about what you share. Take special care with personal information that could be used to identify you or track your location. Don’t fill out your complete profile in order to prevent being easily identified or to give someone enough personal details to steal your identity. Consider dialing down what you share. Do you really need to check in to every business you visit, making yourself easy to track? Maybe not.

6. Ask why others need your information.

Whenever you’re asked to provide personal information, whether in person, on the phone or online, consider whether you really need to give it out. Sometimes information like your email address and ZIP code is used purely for marketing purposes; in that case, expect your real and virtual mailboxes to be packed with junk mail.

To maintain your privacy, never give away more information than you have to. This is doubly true of sensitive personal information like your social security number — even just the last four digits. Unless it’s your bank, a credit bureau, a company that wants to do a background check on you or some other entity that has to report to the IRS, chances are they don’t really need it.

7. Don’t fall for scams.

Beware of websites, phone calls and emails that try to part you from your personal information. Scammers are getting better at mimicking legitimate businesses, so be on your guard. A common tactic with scammers is to pressure you into giving up your personal information by presenting dire consequences if you don’t. For example, a scammer may tell you that you’re being audited by the IRS or that your computer has a dangerous virus they can fix if you hand over your personal information.

These high-pressure tactics can spook you into giving up plenty of personal details, but don’t be fooled. Legitimate businesses don’t make unsolicited calls to ask for your social security number or computer password. If you’ve received a call or email like this you think may be legitimate, contact the business it claims to be from. Don’t use the link or phone number provided by whoever contacted you; instead, contact the company directly using contact information you personally look up on the company’s website. If the matter is legitimate, the company will confirm so and help you resolve the issue while making sure your personal information stays safe.

8. Only use software you trust.

Whether you’re installing new software on your phone or your computer, make sure you’re getting it from a source you trust. Legitimate-looking software can sometimes turn out to be a complete scam, like the scandal over the Meitu photo app, which collects a mountain of data on its users. Make sure anything you download comes from a trusted developer and a trusted source.

If you don’t know where your software comes from, you don’t know what it’s really doing — and that means there’s no telling where your information is going.

9. Only use secure Wi-Fi connections.

Sure, it’s convenient to use the free Wi-Fi service at your local Starbucks, but there’s no telling who is watching that internet traffic. If you use public Wi-Fi, don’t use it to convey private information. Browsing your favorite website is fine, but take extra security measures if you’re logging into an account. Use a VPN service to encrypt all of the data you send. There are many services that can do this, including NordVPN and Buffered VPN. VPN services charge a fee to use, from day passes to year-round protection.

Harper, Elizabeth. “9 Simple Ways to Protect Your Privacy” Techlicious January 2017

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Watch Out for Thieves Posing as Legit Amazon Sellers

Amazon attracts millions of shoppers worldwide because of its wide selection of products and tempting price deals. However, Amazon attracts not only the innocent but also crooks and scammers out to prey on its gullible clientele.

Earlier this month, posts on the Comparitech blog and Naked Security news site revealed that a new phishing scam has been duping Amazon shoppers. Despite having been reported by users many times, the fraudster, known as Sc-Elegance, had managed to evade being caught, usually by disappearing for a while when things seemed to start getting hot, only to reappear later under a different seller account.

Amazon has already removed the Sc-Elegance listings and shut down the account, but the perpetrators will most likely come back under a different guise, since the scheme seems to be lucrative for the criminals, according to Comparitech.

Sc-Elegance reportedly posted listings of high-end electronic products marked as “Used – Like new.” At the sight of irresistible and heavily discounted price offers, gullible shoppers added the items to their carts. But, when checkout time came, the buyers were notified that there were problems with their orders. Nothing unusual about this at all — it does happens from time to time. The catch here is that there never was such merchandise to begin with.

The fraudulent merchant then emailed the buyers, telling them that it was all a boo-boo on the seller’s part and that stocks were still available at a different location. The email provided a link to a payment page that, to an untrained eye, looked like an authentic Amazon page but was actually designed to collect personal and financial information from buyers.

To avoid falling into traps like these, you need to be extra vigilant and pay attention to confirmation emails that you receive after placing orders, especially those messages that ask you to go to a certain site, click a link or download attachments.

For instance, one tell-tale sign of bogus emails is the presence of sloppy writing in the email — especially misspellings and grammar errors. However, not all scammers failed English 101, so some phishing emails actually do sound and look professional. So, looking for language anomalies may not be 100 percent reliable, but they are usually red flags.

Before clicking on links, downloading attachments or installing software, first check that the email does come from Amazon. For instance, if the “From” line of the email doesn’t have “@amazon.com” in the address, then it is surely from someone else.

Or, if the email asks you to update your payment information, first check the Payments section in the Manage Payment Options page in your Amazon account. If it does not ask you for updated info, then the email that you got is certainly not from Amazon. As a general rule, never pay or provide payment info outside Amazon’s official site. This also means never transacting with an Amazon seller through email or some other means outside the Amazon system.

Amazon’s help page gives you more tips on how to spot such emails and what to do when you get them.

Montejo, Elmer. “Watch Out for Thieves Posing as Legit Amazon Sellers”, Techlicious January 2017

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Gmail phishing: Latest Cyber Attack Infects Users By Mimicking Past Emails

The incredibly clever technique involves a fake but convincing and functional Gmail sign-in page.

A sophisticated new phishing technique that composes convincing emails by analyzing and mimicking past messages and attachments has been discovered by security experts.

Discovered by Mark Maunder, the CEO of WordPress security plugin Wordfence, the attack first sees the hacker send an email appearing to contain a PDF with a familiar file name.

That PDF, however, is actually a cleverly disguised image that, when clicked, launches a new tab that looks like this:

It’s the Gmail sign-in page, right? Not quite. A closer look at the address bar will show you that all is not quite as it seems:

Unfortunately, the attack’s imitation of the Gmail sign-in page is so convincing that many users will automatically enter their login details, simultaneously surrendering them to the hackers, who can proceed to steal your data and use one of your past messages to compromise another round of Gmail users.

In an example described by a commenter on Hacker News, the hackers emailed a link disguised as an athletics practice schedule from one member of the team to the others.

“The attackers log in to your account immediately once they get the credentials, and they use one of your actual attachments, along with one of your actual subject lines, and send it to people in your contact list,” added the commenter.

Impressive as the attack is, there are ways to protect yourself.

The most obvious giveaway is that the legitimate Gmail sign-in page’s URL begins with a lock symbol and ‘https://’ highlighted in green, not ‘data:text/html,https://’. However, if you hit the address bar, you’ll also see that the fake page’s URL is actually incredibly long, with a white space sneakily hiding the majority of the text from view.

Maunder also recommends enabling two-factor authorization on Gmail, which you can do here.

“We’re aware of this issue and continue to strengthen our defenses against it,” Google said in a statement after this article was published.

“We help protect users from phishing attacks in a variety of ways, including: machine learning based detection of phishing messages, Safe Browsing warnings that notify users of dangerous links in emails and browsers, preventing suspicious account sign-ins, and more. Users can also activate two-step verification for additional account protection.”

The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2017.

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7 Ways to Take Screenshots in Windows 10

Capture all — or just part — of your screen with a few keystrokes.

windows-screenshots

Screenshots are handy — whether you’re trying to write a how-to article or show your friend something on your screen — but taking screenshots in Windows 10 is not as simple as it could be.

Don’t get me wrong, you have plenty of options. There’s the Snipping Tool, various keyboard and physical button shortcuts, and tons of third-party tools. It’s just not as intuitive as I’d like (I’m a big fan of Apple’s screenshot process in OS X). But if you’re looking for screenshot info, look no further — here are seven different ways to take a screenshot on your Windows 10 device.

Snipping Tool

Windows’ built-in screenshot tool, the Snipping Tool, has been around since Windows Vista. You can find this tool in Start > All Programs > Windows Accessories > Snipping Tool.

snipping-tool.png

 

To use the Snipping tool, open it and click New to begin the screenshot process. The default snip type is a rectangular snip — you’ll use your mouse to crop a rectangular part of your screen for capture. You can also take free-form, window, and full-screen snips with the Snipping Tool.

The Snipping Tool does not automatically save your screenshots — you will need to manually save them in the tool before you exit. It does automatically copy your captures to the clipboard.

Print Screen

To capture your entire screen, tap the PrtScn button. Your screenshot will not be saved, but it will be copied to the clipboard — you’ll need to open an image editing tool (such as Microsoft Paint), paste the screenshot in the editor and save the file from there.

Windows Key + Print Screen

To capture your entire screen and automatically save the screenshot, tap the Windows Key + PrtScn. Your screen will briefly go dim to indicate that you’ve just taken a screenshot, and the screenshot will be automatically saved in the Pictures > Screenshots folder.

Windows Key + H

If you’d like to capture your entire screen for sharing purposes, you can use the Windows Key + H keyboard shortcut. This will capture your entire screen and open the Windows Share toolbar so you can immediately share it with your friends via email, Facebook, Twitter, OneNote, etc.

Alt + Print Screen

To take a quick screenshot of the active window, use the keyboard shortcut Alt + PrtScn. This will snap your currently active window and copy the screenshot to the clipboard. You will need to open the shot in an image editor to save it.

Windows Logo + Volume Down

If you’re rocking a Windows Surface device, you can use the physical (well, sort of physical) buttons to take a screenshot of your entire screen — similar to how you would take a screenshot on any other smartphone or tablet. To do this, hold down the Windows Logo touch button at the bottom of your Surface screen and hit the physical volume-down button on the side of the tablet. The screen will dim briefly and the screenshot will be automatically saved to the Pictures > Screenshots folder.

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

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How to Restore Deleted Files on Any Device

imagesFew tech disasters can send your stomach into free fall quite like realizing you’ve deleted something important from your laptop or phone, with no obvious way to bring it back. Luckily, if you find yourself scrambling to restore your deleted files, there’s still hope. Free tools and apps are widely available to help you recover your deleted data no matter what platform you’re using. Here’s what you need to know.

On most modern forms of storage, deleting a file doesn’t actually delete it—it usually just tells the operating system in charge that the space the file is using is free for other data. If you can get in quickly enough, it’s possible to bring your file back from its digital grave before something else has rushed in to take its place, so speed is of the essence.

Back up, back up, back up

back-up

Being told you should’ve backed up your stuff right after you’ve deleted a folder full of holiday pictures isn’t very helpful, but it’s worth repeating for future reference. The simplest option is to use a cloud service which mostly all have undelete features built into them.

In the case of Dropbox’s apps, for example, load up the web interface, then click Deleted Files to see a list of recently erased files and folders. Click Restore next to any entry to bring it back. Deleted files are kept for 30 days or a whole year if you’ve signed up for Dropbox Pro and the Extended Version History add-on.

Windows and Mac

If your files are gone from the Recycle Bin or the Trash, then you need a dedicated third-party tool to search for and recover your erased files. Recuva is one of the best and most well-respected options for Windows, while DMDE and PhotoRec are both worth considering as alternatives for undeleting your data.

Those of you on a Mac might want to take a look at Disk Drill, Prosoft Data Rescue and MiniTool Mac Data Recovery. All three come recommended from various sources, though (similar to Windows) there are lots of options to choose from. If one program can’t find your files, you should run a scan with a different program.

Recuva gives you a choice of a step-by-step wizard or “advanced” interface with more control. In both cases, you can choose the type of file you’ve lost and where it was (if you know), and Recuva gets to work. If the application doesn’t find anything, you can opt for a deeper scan, which is more thorough, but takes much longer.

In the program’s advanced mode, any fragments of files Recuva finds are ranked using a simple traffic light system. If a file is marked green, then Recuva has a good chance of bringing it back. Select the files you want to restore and click Recover to see if Recuva is able to rebuild them successfully.

Because of the way recovery programs work, you should shut down any other applications during the restore process (to prevent your precious data being overwritten). You should also restore files to a different location than the one they were originally in—again, this helps to protect the original data.

Android

Unless your files were on a memory card—in which case plug it into your computer and use one of the tools mentioned above—getting erased data back on Android is pretty much impossible without root access. This isn’t difficult to do, but it comes with a certain degree of risk (and voids your warranty).

There are dedicated Android apps that will look for deleted files for you, including DiskDigger and Undelete, but you might also be able to recover data by plugging your phone into a computer and using one of the desktop applications mentioned above to look for any traces of your erased files.

There are desktop programs dedicated to the retrieval of deleted phone files, but you’ll have to pay to use them and root your phone first. Check out Fonepaw Android Data Recovery and EaseUS Android Data Recovery. Again there’s no guarantee you’ll get your files back.

Most of the files you have on your phone will have come from somewhere else (and so you should have a backup), with the notable exception of photos and videos. This is an excellent reason to use something like Google Photos to manage your pictures, especially because there’s a recycle bin built right into it.

iOS

If you’re probably trying to get photos back from the digital grave when it comes to an iPhone—all your other files are likely to be copied somewhere else, either in iTunes or on the web. If you’ve recently backed up your phone to iTunes or iCloud, you can retrieve your photos from there.

Your first order of operation should be to visit the Recently Deleted album folder in the Photos app (or in your iCloud Photo Library), where your pictures and videos will stay for up to 40 days before being permanently erased. That’s a pretty big window of time for you to weigh up whether you really did want to delete that image.

As for other types of files, if you’ve deleted something that hasn’t been synced from iTunes and isn’t included in an iOS backup your options are unfortunately pretty limited. While there are desktop programs you can try, like Dr. Fone iPhone Data Recovery, they can only get access to certain types of data.

With access to the iOS file system pretty restricted (remember most Android undelete tools only work if you root your phone), apps can’t perform the same magic tricks as desktop software can to bring your files back. Unless you know a data forensics expert, your files are pretty much gone for good.

If you’ve scoured your backups and iCloud’s undelete options with no success then all you can do is make sure it doesn’t happen again. Make regular backups and sign up for an extra cloud service, whether it’s Google Photos or Dropbox, so you always have at least one additional copy of all your important files.

Nield, David. “How to Restore Deleted Files on Any Device“. Gizmodo June 2016


In the event that you are not backing up your systems regularly, this article is a good resource containing many recovery options for you. Although this is good information in case of an emergency, we HIGHLY recommend that you make it your #1 New Year’s resolution to develop and execute a Data Backup Plan.

Give us a call today for a free consultation at 732-780-8615.

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How to Safely Delete Private Data Forever

delete-data-foreverIf you’re erasing sensitive files from a computer, you probably want them gone forever and far beyond the reach of data recovery tools. Unfortunately, that’s not what happens all of the time. Here are some simple steps you can take to make sure your files are deleted permanently.

When you hit delete on a file, in most cases, those 1s and 0s aren’t actually erased. The operating system just marks the space they’re taking up as free for new stuff, so until something new shows up, that data can often be recovered.

What third-party eraser tools do is wipe over your sensitive files with random data, so not even the best recovery utility on the planet can bring them back. It’s a bit like scribbling over a handwritten note with thick black marker pen.

df-1

Or at least that’s true for traditional hard drives. Modern solid-state drives (SSDs), and the flash memory in mobile phones, don’t work in the same way. That’s primarily because applications don’t have the same control over where data is written and overwritten.

If you’ve got an SSD fitted, deleted files are harder to recover once they’ve gone beyond the Recycle Bin or Trash anyway (see the end of this note from Apple). On top of that, the safest option for ensuring they’re gone forever is to keep your drive encrypted. With those caveats in mind, read on.

Permanently deleting files on Windows

If you want a file on Windows to be immediately trashed without a visit to the Recycle Bin first, it’s easily done. Just hold down Shift as you tap Delete in File Explorer.

The file could still be recovered by someone smart enough to install a professional data recovery tool though, so on a traditional, mechanical hard drive you’ll need a more comprehensive tool to make sure the 1s and 0s have been well and truly wiped.

deleting-filles-screenshot

Eraser is a simple but effective tool that’s been around a long time on Windows. Point it towards a file or folder and it overwrites it with random data that should be enough to stop it from ever coming back.

There’s a scheduler tool too that you can use to wipe certain sections of your hard drive regularly. If you want to, you can add the program to the right-click menu in File Explorer, giving you even easier access to it.

df3

Blank and Secure is a very similar, lightweight tool that perhaps has a more friendly user interface and is portable as well, so you can run it from a USB drive if you need to.

Once you’ve launched the executable, just drag and drop the files you want to get rid of into the Blank and Secure window. You can set a few basic options before deleting, and the utility can automatically shut down your PC afterwards if it’s going to be a lengthy job.

df4

CCleaner is a perennial Field Guide favorite and has a disk wiper tool built into it in addition to all the other clean-up jobs it does—though you’ll need to stump up for the premium version (a free trial is available).

It’s more suitable for wiping entire disks or all the free space on a disk at once rather than individual files, but in any case this is often a better way of securely wiping sensitive data, especially on the newer SSD drives as we’ve mentioned. You can find Drive Wiper in the Tools section

If you do have a solid-state drive, then encryption is probably a better option. BitLocker is available in the Pro versions of Windows 10, or you can use a third-party solution like VeraCrypt. You might also find the SSD manufacturer has provided utilities for encrypting and securely erasing the disk as a whole.

Permanently deleting files on macOS

Like Windows, macOS has a keyboard shortcut you can use to tell files to skip the Trash on their way to the digital graveyard: Option+Cmd+Delete. Alternatively hold down Option as you open the File menu and you’ll see a Delete immediately entry.

df5

As you’ve no doubt noticed, Macs have been moving towards SSDs for some years now, and that means conventional secure erase techniques don’t really apply. Instead, you should switch on FileVault, which will make deleted files very difficult to recover once they’ve gone from the Trash.

Head to the Security & Privacy section of System Preferences and open up the FileVault tab to make sure it’s switched on. The flip side is that even you will struggle to get your data back if you forget your system password or recovery key—but you’re not going to do that, are you?

df6

There were secure erase options in Mac OS versions of years gone by, but they’ve all been abandoned in Sierra.

While you will find ‘secure erase’ tools in the Mac App Store, they’re going to be largely ineffective for files stored on SSDs, and may even reduce the life of the drive with their persistent overwriting. Of course a standard mechanical external drive is different—by all means use a tool like FileShredder or Shredo.

Nielddavid, David. “How to Safely Delete Private Data Forever”. Gizmodo, Field Guide. December 2016

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Collaborate on a Holiday Photo Album with Ease

photos-onlineHoliday gatherings mean lots of snapshots; and when the party’s over, the good feelings continue though shared photos. Here’s how to create a collaborative album made up of everyone’s favorites.

There are dozens on online sites that let you post images for others to view. But they often lack good collaboration options — or your friends and family simply don’t want to sign up for them. On the other hand, almost everyone you know probably has a Facebook or Google account. And cloud-storage services such as Dropbox and OneDrive are also in widespread use.

In this article, I’ll tell you how to create a quick and simple photo album in Dropbox, Facebook, Google Photos, and OneDrive. Then I’ll explain how to allow selected collaborators to add their own photos to the mix.

But before you start uploading, use a bit of discretion. Don’t kill those good feelings by posting all 258 pictures you snapped after the fourth cup of eggnog. Pick just the best ones — and encourage your collaborators to do the same!

Note: The following instructions assume that you’re creating and sharing your album on a Windows PC, via a desktop browser.

Facebook: The universal social network

Facebook is the obvious choice for this sort of project. Sometimes, it seems as if most of the human race shares photos — as well as political views and too much personal information — on the king of social networks.

But Facebook’s very openness and ubiquity brings considerable privacy issues. So before you and your friends start building shared photo albums, check out  “How to keep your Facebook privacy private.” Among other things, it’ll tell you how to limit who sees your albums.

If you and your collaborators decide to use Facebook, be sure to create the album on your Home page, which is not the same as your News Feed page that comes up when you launch Facebook. To get there, click your name on the blue bar at the top of the page to return to Home.

Start your new album by clicking Photos and Create Album. This brings up a standard Windows/File Explorer “Open” dialog box. Go to the appropriate folder and select the photos you want to share. (For better organization, you might want to put those photos in a separate folder beforehand.)

Click Open; Facebook will pop up its Create Album screen and upload your photos. While that’s taking place, enter information such as an album name in the panel on the left (see Figure 1). Next, check the Make Shared Album option under “Let Friends Add Photos.” Now enter the names of your collaborators.

Create Album

Figure 1. Facebook’s Create Album includes the Make Shared Album option for collaboration.

Click the Post button to make the album live.

Facebook will notify your collaborators of the new album the same way it notifies you that someone has commented on a post. They can simply click the notification to go directly to the album (assuming they’re already signed in to Facebook). Once on Facebook, collaborators click Add Photos and select their contributions to the new album. When they’re done, they click Post Photos.

Facebook includes several contributor privacy options. From the album, click Edit/Privacy; you can then select Contributors Only, Friends of Contributors, or Public (Figure 2). See the Facebook Help system for more information.

Contributor privacy

Figure 2. Facebook gives some privacy control over album contributors.

Dropbox: Sharing is easy; collaboration, less so

Dropbox is excellent for storing images, and it has strong collaboration tools. But it doesn’t have a formal system for creating collaborative albums.

To create a basic album in Dropbox, all you need do is create a new folder inside your main Dropbox folder, give it an appropriate name (e.g., “Holiday party”), and move or copy the desired photos into that folder. (Simply moving photos might cause other related apps to lose track of the images’ location.)

You don’t even have to upload the collection; Dropbox does that automatically as part of its standard synching process.

If you want to share the album but not allow collaboration, right-click the folder and select Copy Dropbox Link. Your clipboard now contains the URL to the online version of the folder. You can then paste the URL into an email or a Facebook post — your recipients don’t even have to have a Dropbox account.

Allowing others to contribute to an album gets more complicated. Your collaborators must have Dropbox accounts, and each account must have enough room for the final album. A free Dropbox account has only 2GB of storage, making it all the more important that everyone be selective in what they put into the album.

To create a collaborative folder/album, right-click the folder on your PC and select the Share option (the one with the Dropbox icon on the left; see Figure 3).

In the Share dialog box, type in your collaborators’ email addresses — or better yet, copy and paste them from your email client or address book so you won’t get stuck with a typo.

Make sure the Can edit option is selected and then click the Invite button.

Your collaborators will receive an email inviting them to Go to folder. That brings them to the online folder, where they’ll have to click the Add to Dropbox button (Figure 4). The folder and its contents will then download to their local Dropbox folder.

Add to Dropbox

Figure 4. Collaborators must have a Dropbox account to add photos to an album.

Once that’s done, all they need do is move or copy some of their photos into that folder to become part of your album.

That’s a good way to build a shared collection of images, but there’s another way to create a more formal Dropbox Album (see Figure 5) — but not collaboratively. Any images that are shown in your online Dropbox Photos section can be added to a Dropbox Album. On the Dropbox website, click Photos and then Album in the left column. Next, click New Album. Give it a name. Next, go back to Photos and select (big blue checkmark) any you want in the new album. When you’re done, go to the top of the page and click the three-dot menu icon. Click the Add [number] to album option and select the album name.

Dropbox Album

Figure 5. Dropbox’s online Albums feature doesn’t support collaboration.

The catch: Unless you’re using the Dropbox Camera Uploads feature, it can take some time for new images to show up in Photos — if they do at all. Also, others can view your Dropbox albums but not edit them.

Google Photos: Easy and quick albums

Google has its own Dropbox-like cloud-storage service (Google Drive), but it also has another service intended specifically for photos.

To use Google Photos, you and your collaborators must have Google accounts — Gmail or YouTube accounts will do.

When you first set up Photos, you’ll get two options for “Upload size:” High quality and Original (Figure 6). The former option gives you unlimited free storage, but your images will be compressed. They’re good enough for a typical PC, but I probably wouldn’t want to view them on 50-inch HDTV or print them. The Original option keeps the full size of the uploaded photos, but it counts against your storage allotment. That’s 15GB for a free account — minus what you’re using for Gmail and other Google services.

Upload size

Figure 6. Photo’s High quality option compresses uploaded photos, potentially reducing image quality.

To create an album, go to the Photos website, click Upload, and pick your images from the dialog box. Once they’re uploaded, select Shared Album from the next dialog box (see Figure 7).

Shared Album

Figure 7. Click the Shared Album option to allow collaboration.

Next, in the Add to shared dialog box, click New shared album and give the album a name; then, click the Share button in the upper-right corner.

In the next dialog box, enter names or email addresses, or select from the list provided by Google. Add a message. (You can also get a link post/email or connect to a social-networking service.)

Your collaborators will receive an email with a View album button. This will bring them to a message box where all they need do is click Continue. They can then click the tiny Add to album icon (along the row of icons in the upper-right corner), click Select From Computer in the upper-right corner, and select their photos.

OneDrive: Easy collaboration for Win8/10 users

If your collaborators are Windows users who like their software up-to-date, they probably all have subscriptions to Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud-storage solution — even if they don’t know it.

When you set up a PC for Windows 8 or 10, the installation process all but insists that you create a Microsoft account — and a Microsoft account always includes OneDrive. (There’s a OneDrive for Mac app, but most Apple users don’t have it on their systems.)

Microsoft gives you 5GB of storage for free. But if you have Office 365, you get a full terabyte. But please, don’t try to fill even one percent of that terabyte with a single photo album — you might lose some friends.

As with Dropbox, you can easily share a photo album with anyone. But you can only collaborate with other OneDrive users. Start your collaboration by creating a folder inside the local OneDrive folder. Name it as you like and move/copy your best holiday photos into the new folder.

To create a quick online slideshow of your photos, simply right-click the local OneDrive folder and select Share a OneDrive link. Then paste the given URL into an email.

Creating a OneDrive Album requires a bit more work. Right-click the local folder and select View online. Now, in your browser, right-click the folder and select “Create album from folder,” as shown in Figure 8. (The album name will be the same as the folder.) While still in your browser, click the Photos heading on the left side of the screen; then click the Albums tab at the top.

Create album

Figure 8. OneDrive makes it easy to create an album from a folder of photos.

To collaborate, right-click the album and select Share. In the resulting dialog box, click “Anyone with this link can view [or “edit”] this item” and make sure that Allow editing is checked (Figure 9).

Share options

Figure 9. OneDrive’s Share feature includes the Allow editing option for collaboration.

Click either Get a link or Email, depending on how you want to notify your collaborators. I prefer getting a link and pasting it into an email I create myself.

When your collaborators receive the email, they can click the link to go directly to the album’s webpage. Once there, they can click Upload/Files to put their photos into the album. If you want to lock the album, simply go back to the Share dialog box and uncheck Allow editing.

Using the common format: You might want to discuss these four services with your collaborators before you start. The one that all or most of them have will likely be the one they’re most willing to use.

Inevitably, you’ll have one would-be collaborator who has trouble using email. Find a way to acquire their photos and upload them to the album yourself.

Spector, Lincoln. “Collaborate on a Holiday Photo Album with Ease”. Windows Secrets. December 2016

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How to Keep Your Facebook Privacy Private

fbIf you’re like me, you share a lot about yourself with a great many Facebook “friends.” But are they really friends? Can you trust them? And can you trust Facebook?

The answer to those questions depends on how you set up your Facebook-privacy settings. And an important component of those settings is defining what kind of friend you want your various friends to be.

And, of course, even the best privacy settings are pointless if someone hacks into your Facebook account. So you also need to know how to lock down access to your account.

I’ll assume you’re accessing Facebook and changing settings in a standard browser.

Take a minute to better secure your account

When jumping into Facebook privacy/security settings, you might be tempted to click the little lock icon on the right side of Facebook’s title bar and select the Privacy Checkup option. That can help, but I think the following instructions will be more helpful.

Start by clicking the triangle just to the right of the lock icon and selecting Settings (see Figure 1). You’ll find the Password option on the default General section (see the page’s left nav column). If you don’t already have a long and strong password, or it’s been years since you changed it, click Password and enter a new one that will be difficult to crack.

Facebook settings

Figure 1. Click settings to update to a strong password.

Now click the Security heading in the nav column for the following options:

Login Approvals: Also called two-step verification, this setting makes it much more difficult to be hacked. To get into your account, the crook will need your password, your cellphone PIN, and physical possession of your phone.

Login Approvals option

Figure 2. The Login Approvals option adds a form of two-factory password verification.

Check the box next to “Require a security code to access my account from unknown browsers” and then follow the setup wizard.

Once that’s done, every time you — or someone pretending to be you — sign in to your account on a new device or browser, Facebook will text you a code number; you’ll then need that code to complete the sign in process.

Login Alerts: When this option is enabled, you’ll get an email notification whenever your account is first accessed by a browser or app. If you get this email, and you haven’t signed in to Facebook with a new browser or app, you’ll know immediately that you’ve probably been hacked.

Your Browsers and Apps: This shows you a list of browsers and devices you (or someone pretending to be you) have used to access Facebook. It can be a shockingly long list. Best to trim those you’re no longer using. (You might need to enable Login Approvals to populate the list.)

Take a little time to review the other Security Settings options; you might, for example, want to enable a Legacy Contact.

Control who gets to see what information

With your Facebook account reasonably protected from hacking, you’ll now want to keep from sharing too much information — with the wrong people.

Before posting anything on Facebook, take a look at the pull-down menu just to the left of the Post button. It’ll probably say Public, Friends, and either More Options or Custom, as shown in Figure 3. (The official name is the “Who should see this” menu.)

Who should see this?

Figure 3. Before you post, consider who should see what you’ve posted.

Consider who you want to read this item. If you select Public, your friends can share it with anyone — both on and off Facebook.

If you select Friends, your friends can only share it with other friends of yours. But there’s an exception: When you post a link to something readily available on the Internet — an article, for instance — your friends can share those with anyone. That makes sense; you don’t own that information.

So if you want your words of wisdom to go viral, select Public. If you want to keep it just among friends, select Friends.

Under the Custom setting, you can select other Facebook groups and categories you belong to — for example, Family or Close Friends.

Not every ‘friend’ is a close, personal friend

“Champagne for my true friends. True pain for my sham friends” — David Benioff, 25th Hour.

Contrary to what some believe, Facebook isn’t a popularity contest. There’s really no reward for the most “friends.” Just because the bully who beat you up in Junior High, or some total stranger, sends you a Friend Request doesn’t mean you have to accept it.

If you want to share a piece of yourself with everyone on Facebook, create a public page.  To create a public page, click that little rectangle in the upper-right corner of the Facebook page and select Create Page. Follow the instructions.

What about the people you’ve already friended — and now wish you hadn’t? Simply unfriend them. If you see them on your timeline, hover the cursor over their name and, when the pop-up window appears, go to the Friends menu and select Unfriend (Figure 4). If they’re not visible on the timeline, search for them on Facebook, go to their page, and pull down the Friends menu and select Unfriend there.

Unfriending

Figure 4. Facebook makes it easy to remove unwanted friends.

If someone you’ve unfriended starts harassing you on Facebook, click the little lock icon and select “How do I stop someone from bothering me” (Figure 5). Follow the prompts.

Stop Facebook stalkers

Figure 5. The privacy settings include help for stopping harassment.

Setting up tiers of Facebook friends

Unless you believe in the “My life is an open book” philosophy, you’ll want to define your types of friends. Facebook offers categories, and you should really use them.

For instance, you can demote a Friend to an Acquaintance. Use the same steps given above for unfriending someone, but select Acquaintance rather than Unfriend (see Figure 6). That way, you’ll see fewer of their posts popping up on your timeline — although by default you’ll still see some. The Following button in the popup box lets you “unfollow” them.

Set a friend as acquaintence

Figure 6. Demoting a friend to an acquaintance

You can hide certain posts from categories of friends. For example, open the aforementioned “Who should see this?” menu (again, next to the Post button) and look for “Friends except Acquaintances,” as shown in Figure 7. (It might be under More Options.)

Friends except Acquaintances option

Figure 7. The Friends except Acquaintances option lets you control who sees a particular post.

It’s important to remember that when you turn a friend into an acquaintance, they’re still a Facebook Friend. They’ll get everything you post to Friends; they just won’t get the posts you limited with “Friends except Acquaintances.” And your full friends won’t be able to share those posts with your acquaintances, either.

Facebook can help you choose which friends should be acquaintances. Go to the Home page and scroll down the left column, looking for the “Friends” group. You’ll see a list of Friends categories, many of which you probably had no idea you had. Click on Acquaintances.

You’ll get a news feed of posts only from your Acquaintances. On the right, you’ll find a list of Friends that Facebook thinks you might want to demote (Figure 8). If you agree on any of them, click the Add button next to the name. You can hover over a name for more details. You should also click “See All Suggestions” at the bottom of the list.

Recommended demote list

Figure 8. Facebook can display a list of friends you might want to demote to an acquaintance.

Conversely, you can also promote Friends to Close Friends. Not surprisingly, there’s no “Friends except Close Friends” on “Who should see this.” But there is an option to post only to Close Friends.

You can promote a friend to a good friend the same way you demote friends to an acquaintance. It’s only a matter of picking the appropriate menu option.

Clicking on the Friends category opens a page where you can create addition lists of friends (Figure 9).

Create new friends lists

Figure 9. Facebook lets you create custom friends list for controlling what you share.

By mastering all of these lists, you can control who sees what.

And then there’s Facebook itself

With Facebook, you have to remember whom you’re dealing with. It’s a highly successful, for-profit company that doesn’t charge you a fee.

That doesn’t mean it’s really free. It can collect an astounding amount of your personal information, and it earns its billions of dollars mostly through a special form of advertising. Over time, the service creates a detailed profile of you from what you post and what you read. That data is used for targeting tailored advertising to you.

In short, whenever you use Facebook, you’re giving away a piece of your privacy. Keep that in mind whenever you use it.

Spector, Lincoln. “How to Keep Your Facebook Privacy Private” Windows Secrets. March 2016

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How to Take a Screenshot on Mac: 5 Simple Ways

macMac is known, talked and preferred for several of its good features and functionalities. Yet you might miss ‘Print Screen’ button on its keyboard (which is a bypass for screenshots). Nevertheless, Apple has enabled some other keys on its keyboard to carry out the task.

There are a variety of methods (and keyboard shortcuts) to take different kinds of screenshots on Mac. Using various keys, you can capture an entire screen or even a part of it. Here is the know-how to take screenshots on your Mac.

Method 1

mac screenshot

If you want to take screenshot of the entire screen, follow these steps

  • Press Command+Shift+3 keys.
  • Screenshot will be automatically saved on your desktop.
  • Now find the .png file on your desktop.

Method 2

screenshot

Unlike capturing entire screen, you can capture a part of it. Follow these steps to take screenshot of part of your screen.

  • Press Command+Shift+4 keys.
  • This command will bring up the cross hair.
  • Now select the area of which you want to take screenshot.
  • Release the mouse or trackpad button.
  • If you want to cancel it, press Escape (esc) key before releasing mouse.
  • Find the screenshot on your desktop in .png file format

Method 3

If there is a particular Window that you want to capture, Apple has a hack for that as well.

  • Press Command+Shift+4 keys.
  • This command will bring up the cross hair.
  • Now press space bar. This will change cross hair into camera pointer.
  • Move the camera pointer to the Window you want to capture.
  • After this, click your mouse or trackpad take screenshot.
  • If you want to cancel the command, press Escape (esc) key before releasing mouse.
  • Find the screenshot on your desktop in .png file format.

Method 4

screenshot mac

If there is one particular menu on your Mac that you want to capture, follow these steps.

  • Open any menu on your Mac. For example- Finder menu.
  • Press Command+Shift+4 keys.
  • This command will bring up the cross hair.
  • Now drag and select the menu.
  • Release your mouse or trackpad to take screenshot.
  • If you want to cancel the command, press Escape (esc) key before releasing mouse.
  • Find the screenshot on your desktop in .png file format.

Method 5

take a screenshot on mac

Alright, you might not want to remember all these shortcut keys. Here is another app on your Mac that helps you take screenshots without any hassle. Here you go.

  • Open Applications folder.
  • Now open utilities folder.
  • Find Grab app and launch it.
  • Grab won’t have a dedicated window, rather it’ll work almost entirely from the menubar.
  • Click on ‘Capture’ tab
  • Now select an option out of the given ones, to take the screenshot.

Grab helps you take screenshot of screen, individual window and even a part of the screen. You should select any of the options accordingly.

These are 5 ways to take screenshot on your Mac. Try these out and let us know of any other hack that you would like us to present to you.

Khatri, Minal. “How to Take a Screenshot on Mac: 5 Simple Ways.” Systweak, 05 Dec. 2016.

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Watch Out For These 3 Holiday Online Shopping Scams

scamThe holiday deals are already rolling out with early Black Friday specials on Amazon, holiday circulars leaking online and big name retailers offering incentives to buy directly from their sites to get a jump on your gift list. But along with the amazing Internet deals come the scammers with new and inventive ways to trick you into handing over your credit card number and personal information.

Here are three of the biggest scams to watch out for this holiday shopping season.

1. Incredible discounts from unknown sites

Not every site offering a great deal is up to no good, but the more amazing the offer, the more wary you should be. Entering your credit card info won’t get you that great gift on a bogus site, but it will get the scammers your credit card info and address which will allow them to start racking up charges.

These sites can also lure you in by offering not products, but coupons for popular gifts. If you find yourself having to enter a lot of personal information to get the coupon, reconsider if it’s worth it.

What to look for: Watch out for sites with strangely spelled names (i.e. Taarget.com). Be wary of ridiculously discounted deals on high price items like iPads or hard to get items like the hot toy of the season. And when using a lesser known site, use a unique password if you have to sign up for an account to purchase.

2. Malicious links in text, email or Facebook feeds

Your digital life will be targeted in a number of ways to get you to click on a link that will download spyware or a malicious program designed to capture passwords and other personal information. These will come in the form of offers for great deals in your inbox, on your mobile phone via text messages and on Facebook from shady accounts. Also beware the emails telling you a package you didn’t order is being delivered.

What to look for: Carefully check the source of the link. Even if it’s from someone you know, if you didn’t know it was coming, contact them first to make sure they sent it. If it’s from an unknown source and offers an amazing deal, you can bet that it’s a scam.

3. Bogus gift card offers

This popular stocking stuffer is a vehicle for a common Internet scam. It involves an email or text saying you’ve qualified for a deep discount on a gift card ($10 for a $25 card!) But the site it takes you to asks for extensive personal information. Enough for scammers to get into your bank account, for example.

What to look for: This one is straightforward, don’t click on any links for amazing deals. Also, be wary if you come across any sites that offer gift cards at unheard of prices.

What to do if you think you’ve been scammed

If you think you’ve clicked on a link that downloaded something malicious to your device, immediately run a virus scanning program. This is especially true if you are on your mobile phone or tablet. Those devices aren’t immune to scamware, even iPhones and iPads.

If you given your credit card information to a site you think may be shady, call your credit card company immediately and alert them. They will put a watch on your card for suspicious activity.

In general, stick to the well-known sites, don’t click on an links from unfamiliar sources and don’t be duped into giving up extensive personal information to get a good deal.

Techlicious. “Watch Out For These 3 Holiday Online Shopping Scams.”  Techlicious, LLC, 23 Nov. 2016.

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