Articles & Reviews

A Focus on Sophos Home – Computer Security

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Business Grade Security at Home

One subscription of £40 covers 10 computers  

Grab a 20% discount here / A free trial here

Sophos Home, as it is called is not a name that springs to the mind of most home computer users. If you ask anyone what they use then you are likely to hear names like AVG, Avast or Norton and McAfee or Bit Defender and Panda. The reason for this is that Sophos has primarily been a business grade product that is designed around business users. The good thing about it being designed around a business product is that the software does not produce regular pop-ups trying to sell you yet another feature. Sophos Home is also run under the same centralised system the company uses for its business customers. Further to this one gets a central online place where actions and configurations for each computer under the account can be carried out, this is very useful for parents who can block the children’s computer from accidentally accessing inappropriate sites and many other features.

While Sophos will deal with all the important stuff straight away there are some things it simply flags up for instance a pup (potentially unwanted program), it could be the setup file that’s languishing in the downloads folder of a family members computer. In this instance the owner of the Sophos account gets an email to bring attention to it, from here one has only to log into the online control panel and instruct Sophos to ignore it or delete it. This is just one of the brilliant features in the control centre. Standard protection that constantly runs with these features:

Antivirus: Blocks known viruses, threats, trojans and worms.

Web Protection: Blocks websites known to have malware.

Ransomware Protection: Stops ransomware encrypting your files.

Privacy Protection: Alerts you to unwanted use of your webcam.

Malicious Traffic Detection: Detects and stops programs connecting to malicious remote servers.

One subscription of £40 covers 10 computers  

Grab a 20% discount here / A free trial here

The Alternatives To Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office online is simply a cut down version of the full office suite. It’s fine for basic tasks and files are automatically stored in your Onedrive online. It’s a free way of getting Microsoft’s flagship tools and all you need is a Microsoft account – info about Microsoft accounts here

Just like Microsoft Google has it’s own on line office. It works in much the same way, you sign in and simply click to create a new document or sheet or slide. Sheets and slides are Googles name for spreadsheets and presentations, docs are saved in Google’s own format but any created document or sheet etc can be shared or downloaded in Microsoft’s format. 

Google Docs Menu

Not many have heard of this but Ashampoo has been producing good software for years and their office software is very good. It’s not free but it is good value for money and you can download a trial. There is a free version also from Softmaker who sell their own version. The Free version (Ad supported) is here (Free email registration req’d)

Ashampoo Office

Libre Office and Open Office ( Open Office now discontinued) are both excellent free office suites. By default they save files in the .odt format but can easily save in the popular .docx and older versions if required. Libre Office will also open the older files from Microsoft Works. 

Why you need a mobile phone for your email

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All of the major email providers like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Apple plus many more offer the option to link your mobile phone to your email account, Why?

The answer is simple. Many of us have our systems set up so that when we log into our email the log in details are automatically filled in for us. Well this is fine until the day when that does not happen, your computer crashes or you have a new one or something else happens, and you have forgotten your password…

If you have a mobile phone, and I mean just a mobile phone as it does not have to be a smartphone, just so long as it can send and receive text messages and calls you can register the number with your Google, Microsoft or Apple etc. Then if you find yourself locked out it can be as simple as receiving a text message from your provider with a code, just type the code into the web page provided and then, providing all is well you will be prompted to create a new password – simple. Without this very useful facility getting back into your account can be nothing short of a nightmare and it can take days or weeks and sometimes never.

There is another great feature of using a mobile phone with your email and that is Two Factor Authentication. Put simply if you try to log into your email from any computer other than your own you will be prompted for a one off access code via your phone – it is automatically sent. Tap this in and you’re away. It is a great way of securing your account especially as these days we hold so much more important stuff it them. Usually one can find their account settings in the menu where you log out of your account, providers change things often enough that it’s not worth making a walkthrough for it.

For more info on getting a budget mobile phone, something that will cost minimal to run, see my other website called Mobilefoneinfo.com

 

What is a Microsoft or Google Account?

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I find many people are a put off from having a Microsoft or Google account because it is often confused with holding an account with a local company, in other words, at some point one expects to get an invoice. This is not accurate and in fact in the case of Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Apple etc it is entirely possible to have an account and pay nothing. Apple will ask you to provide a form of payment but it will never be used providing you don’t purchase anything from their app store.

In a nutshell an account is simply that you have access to email, storage and, if included, office applications and the free levels of service offered are usually fine for most people.

A Microsoft account will give you free access to email, 5Gb of storage on Onedrive (Microsoft’s cloud storage) and access to their on line office applications.

A Google account will give you access to email, 15Gb of free storage and their on line office. It should also be noted that if you have an Android phone or tablet, and if you use the Google Photos app you can have free unlimited photo storage – Google just reduces the quality of your pictures a little (They still look great) but if you want your pictures to stay exactly as they are then you may choose not to do this and start paying for extra storage after reaching the 15Gb allocation.

You can also use the Google Photos app on Apple devices (it’s also known as Google Sync – especially on desktops) and have the same free unlimited storage. See my post here about this.

An Apple account (icloud.com) is usually attached to an apple product but also gives access to an online world. You can log in via icloud.com and use online versions of Apple’s office software and also send/ receive email.

Yahoo also gives you email and photo storage via it’s Flikr platform.

Also worth reading – Why you need to link your mobile with your email provider

 

Save Money on Your Internet Security Software

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We all realise how important it is to keep our systems secure, we are regularly reminded in the news when we hear about yet another cyber attack and the new twist to an age old scam. Most new computers come with a trial of McAfee or Norton in the hope that you will subscribe and continue to do so while the auto renew feature keeps you paid up and reassuring messages  from said provider inform you that you are protected against the latest threats – are you? These providers along with other household names like AVG and Kaspersky or Panda have dominated our choice of security for the last decade or so.

There is a new threat that has not been covered by the majority of security software until only recently and not all suppliers are there yet. Much of the security is down to our own common sense, don’t click on that link or watch that small video clip. But what about those infected web pages that dish out malware and inject code into our web browsers and our systems? There is a separate security program for that, Malwarebytes.

This software program exists (for paid members) to constantly watch and protect you by stopping any malware from getting into your computer, it will happily work alongside your antivirus/internet security software, whatever you use although I believe that in the past I have not been able to install Kaspersky as it checked for the presence of already installed security products and insisted Malwarebytes was removed prior to install, it can always be put back afterwards.

To get back to the main point of this post, saving money on your security software. I often get asked which in my opinion is the best to use and my answer is always the same, in essence, all major platforms use the same definitions of antivirus engines, the same updates of raw data that tells them what infections are out there. Then there are the other tools that a security program may provide such as system cleaning and maintenance tools that make it easier for you to use, over time people get used to these and prefer to stick with them as their systems maintain a relatively trouble-free life more confidence is held in the security product of their choice.


 

Your Internet Service Provider Can Save You Money

Many people do not realise that the likes of BT, TalkTalk, EE and Fleur Telecom all offer free or discounted security software. If you are not sure then just log into your own customer account and see what else your package offers or email the support team of your internet provider. At the time I wrote this post BT offer McAfee Security (Badged as BT Virus Protect) free and depending what package you have with them you can protect up to 15 devices for free. TalkTalk offer what they call TalkTalk Boost that is actually F-Secure and EE offer s discounted version of Norton, I have also, thanks to a customer, Christine (She’s a regular reader of my website – thank you) found out that Fleur Telecom offer their Fleur Security Suite that also incorporated Symantec Endpoint Protection.

So going through this route initially can save you and your family many pounds. There is another option and that is to contact your bank, if you are registered for online banking then there is often security software offered with it – check it out.

One last word. Knock off that Auto Renew feature because you will be charged the top price automatically and I have seen charges of £80 or more regularly paid out, yes I know that can be a small price to pay for ones peace of mind when you consider for a moment the alternatives but a little shopping around will save you up to half that or more. Let’s say you have a McAfee account, turn off the auto renew. As the subscription runs out check out the prices at other online sites and even your local PC World etc. You can in this case purchase a new product elsewhere at a cheaper cost then log in to your McAfee account and type in the product key, there’s a place for it and voila you have another year at less cost. You still need to download the product from within your account and replace the old version you have but that’s it.

Protect yourself against fraud.

I have written a post here with details of how to keep yourself safe from fraudsters, I have also found this thanks to a helpful reader, it’s from Fleur Telecom and it’s a well written pdf on keeping yourself safe and far more detailed than my post – see the link below.

Fraud Prevntion by Fleur Telecom

Need to reinstall your security software or get access your online account? See this post.

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Beware The Fraudster’s Keep Yourself Secure

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The genuine ones do not phone you. Your internet provider, your bank, Microsoft etc. If you get a call – just put the phone down – don’t hesitate – it’s a scam.

In recent weeks people have approached me both during and after an incident, I get a phone call from someone who tells me that they have a Microsoft, BT or TalkTalk technician on the phone who says there are problems with their computer or broadband or even an upgrade to their router. Stop, put the phone down.

These people are very convincing and often sound professional, their aim is to get into your computer to steal your information and get as much money out of you as they can. They offer often useless or free software at hugely inflated prices and there it is not without possibility that any software they provide may be set up to steal information. Here are some of the things they may tell you:

“We recently refunded too much money into your bank account and we need you to enter your bank details on this screen so we can take back some of the money.”

“We notice that you have recently been experiencing slower than usual broadband speeds and problems with your internet connection.”

“We have received notices of error messages from your computer and your PC has been infected with viruses.”

“We see that you have problems with your router.”

“We will compensate you for the inconvenience of this call.”

There have been many occasions where the owner of the computer has been told that if they don’t pay then their internet will be cut off or/and their computer will be locked out, the latter is common, upon rebooting your computer after a fraudster has had access to it one is presented with a small square log in screen that requests a password, a password you do not have, yes you are locked out of your computer. If this was not bad enough you then find out your computer needs to be cleaned and it’s operating system need to be reinstalled. There is a way to put this right without reinstalling Windows but as there is no guarantee that the fraudster has not installed something else that can silently steal your information, so a reinstall is the best option. All your files, in most cases can be backed up and put back afterwards.

There is something else.

It is also common for people to search for a solution to their printer problem, email problem or internet problem. These fraudsters know what you are searching for, the next thing you know is that you have landed on a page promising a quick and effective solution to your problem, a prominent telephone number is also displayed and often with the name of the manufacturer in question. This also is most likely to be a scam, you call the number and very quickly get through to a technician who promises to sort things out – you could be letting yourself into a lot of problems.

The best thing to do if you want to investigate your own computer problem is to go directly to the manufacturers website for example, www.epson.com or www.hp.co.uk or www.microsoft.com etc. It is possible however that if your computer does have what’s known as a dns redirect (your website navigation to certain sites gets redirected to a malicious site) or something similar then even attempting to go to a legitimate site could land you somewhere that is not. If in doubt then contact your local repair shop for advice

Companies such as Microsoft, HP and BT ect do not readily advertise a telephone number in a blatant enough to prompt you to call, usually you have to look for it and even if you do call them you are unlikely to get through to a technician straight away.

A favourite software program these fraudsters use, there are two of them and both are actually legitimate companies however, because they are free to download and install they are used. I have placed two images below so if you are asked to download one of these then don’t.

This link leads to the Ammyy Admin website where they have put up a warning about their software being used by these fraudsters. Click here to read it.

TalkTalk has recently begun blocking access to Teamviewer’s website in order to protect customers. I say again that these two companies are legitimate but unfortunately fraudsters are using it in this way.

Remember, Microsoft, your bank, internet provider, BT, Talk Talk etc will never phone you. Stay safe and just hang up.

 

Speed up Google Chrome – make it faster.

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If Google Chrome seems a little sluggish you can speed it up. Try this. In the top right hand corner of the web browser is it’s menu (Three vertical dots). Click this and choose ‘Settings’. Once there scroll down to ‘Advanced Settings’ and under ‘System’ turn off ‘Use hardware acceleration when available’. Restart Chrome to effect the change. See the image below.

Speed up Google Chrome

 

Also in settings you can go to the ‘extensions’ menu and disable or remove any extensions you don’t need.

How to reinstall your McAfee, Norton or AVG internet security software

If you find you need to reinstall your security software from McAfee, Norton or AVG then the links below should help. It should be no more difficult than logging into your account on line and then downloading a fresh copy of your current package. If you find you have no allocated devices left, just remove the device in your online account that is the same device you are going to reinstall on.

Norton account login – Click here

McAfee account login – Click here

AVG account login – Click here

 

How to easily save an email or any document as a PDF and at No Cost

You may have project files in a folder and want to add associated emails to them or you may want to save an important email as a document for archive or distribution. Do you have an older word processor that does not support exporting or saving as a PDF? There is a simple solution :

Cute PDF Writer

This is a free download that once installed creates a virtual printer. All one needs to do is simply choose to print the email or document and choose ‘cute pdf’ from the list of printers, the software will then produce a pdf version of your email or document that you can save or distribute wherever you like.

Click the button below for more info.

Extend your wireless broadband easily with the help of Netgear

Running out of range? Can’t get WiFi in the top bedroom?

There are several options but one that I have tried and tested in the last few years are Netgear Universal range extenders. Setting up really is as simple as pushing a button. Most broadband routers or Hubs as BT calls them have a button called WPS (WiFi Protected Setup) and getting connected is easy.

You start by plugging in your Netgear range extender about halfway in the direction of where you want to extend it – directly into a mains socket for best results, switch it on and leave it for a minute so it can fully start up. Next go to your broadband router and press and hold the WPS button for a few seconds, let go and you should see the WiFi or WPS light flashing. Now press the WPS button on the Netgear extender for a few seconds and wait for a minute or two.

That’s it. All being well you should find that your network is now extended and you have much improved WiFi connectivity. Check out the video below and also check it out on Amazon. The full range is here