Archive for February, 2010
Users of firefox may already know that you can add all sorts of widgets to it that enable all kinds of useful extra features. We’ve just found a great tool that will make your life so much easier;
Add this to Firefox, and it allows you to put a sticky note right onto a webpage, that will be there when you revisit it. A great use for this is where you lookup a few different websites, and need to ring the companies behind them and get more information; Just use this extension to take notes during each phone call, then those notes are saved right on the webpage, so you can refer back to them quickly and easily.
Give it a try!
In order to ensure your privacy is protected, we strongly suggest you disable Google Buzz in your GMail account, and delete your Google Profile if you have one;
To disable Google Buzz;
- Log into Gmail
- Scroll right down to the bottom of the page
- Click Turn Off Buzz
To delete your Google Profile;
- Go to google.com/profiles/me
- Click the Edit profile link on your profile page.
- Click the Delete profile link at the bottom of the page.
- Select Yes, delete my profile.
UPDATE: Randy Abrams, Director of Technical Education over at ESET, is scathing of the way Google have rolled this out, and strongly suggests you disable both Buzz AND delete your google profile if you have one. We have instructions if you need them.
Today Google rolled out another service to add to its ever growing back of tricks, this one called Buzz. The folks over at Google are clearly running scared of companies like Twitter and Facebook, which to me is rather strange, as I don’t see either of them as a threat to Google.
Google Buzz integrates with Gmail (so as far as I know, if you aren’t a Gmail user, or don’t use it on the web, no buzz for you!), and shows up an option within the Gmail website interface.
Much like Facebook and Twitter, you can post status updates, and in the case of Google Buzz, by default those updates are fully public. You can choose to share the update with specific groups of people, but those people must be in your Gmail contacts, and you need to setup groups in that interface (much like you can already do in Facebook)
You can also share links and photos, the latter get uploaded to Picasa Web Albums. That all seems to be pretty standard, although it is very strange that Google didn’t include video sharing via Youtube as well.
But here’s the big risk factor; People know Twitter is fully public, and when they use it, they know what they say is out there for everyone to see. People also know that with Facebook, they can be more private, sharing only with their friends and family.
Google Buzz is anything but private; When you start using Buzz, it makes public the people you have emailed / chatted with the most. This alone could be highly embarrassing for people, who have always used their email as a private communications medium. You will also notice that things you do on other Google websites will suddenly start being shared on Google Buzz, and that too may be something you do not want.
My major concern here is that because Google have so many varied web properties and many people use a variety of them, now that they are tying them together and publishing publicly what you are up to on them, peoples privacy is likely to get seriously invaded until they take the time to go through and adjust a myriad of privacy options.
Add to this the story that some bloggers who were using a gmail account to interact anonymously with their audience have suddenly been outed by the new Buzz feature, and the problems with the sprawling mass of websites that Google has become is brought into focus.
If you have started using Buzz, you should definitely get over to the Google Profile that you will now have (that link will take you to yours if you have signed into Gmail) and go through the settings there; You can turn off some information such as your full name and your followers from being published publicly, and if you don’t put much information into it, Google don’t include it in search results.
I’ll be turning it off shortly, once I’ve had a good play with it; Twitter and Facebook are enough for me.
Every week we see computers that are infested with a variety of “malware”. This is a generic term we use to describe any software that is on your computer for nefarious reasons, and not in any way to help you. Most of the time, this software sneaks into your system, rather than being purposely installed.
Business owners should be especially worried; A single malware infection on your business computers can cost you thousands of dollars in lost revenue, and worse, can expose your private business files to hackers and others online. It’s vital that you do everything you can to avoid getting infected in the first place, so making sure all your staff have read this post is an excellent first step.
Anti Malware Software
You must ensure that your systems are fully protected by proactive anti malware software. This software needs to be installed on every workstation, and if you have staff that use their own personal computers at work, or for work, then you need to insist their machines are protected the same way. Any machine that is left unprotected can be the gateway for an infection that can take your entire network down.
We use and recommend ESET Anti Virus. This award winning software is very reliable, highly effective, and an easily affordable solution. We believe that no computer should be left without it. We believe using this product gives you the very best protection available.
Setup an account and use OpenDNS
DNS is the system that allows your computers to find a website when you type in the name, such as www.shiftsolutions.com.au; Because every website has to be looked up at least once, it’s possible to make a list of known dodgy websites and block them. By configuring your computer or network to do all it’s lookups using OpenDNS, you can have them simply refuse to let you go places they know are bad. This takes some configuration, and is not for the non techie, but our engineers can set it up quickly for you. If you want to give it a go, head over to www.opendns.com and check them out.
Use Firefox to browse the web
Many infections start when the attacker uses a known flaw in the software on your computer to sneak through and install onto your machine; Unfortunately, there are so many flaws being found in Internet Explorer all the time, that we think it is just safer to use something else. Mozilla Firefox has many features built in to help prevent infections by malicious websites, and we think everyone should be using it as their primary web browser. We install it on every machine we service.
Be more suspicious of emails
Many malware authors will spread their nasties by collecting email addresses off an already infected persons computer, and emailing all of them with a specially crafted email designed to look like something you would normally open. They include a link, or sometimes an infected attachment, which if you open, infects your system. Be very careful when you get emails that you didn’t specifically request. It wouldn’t hurt to either delete them immediately, or compose a new email back to the sender asking them to clarify what the email is about. You should always delete emails that appear to be jokes, videos or pictures from your friends, these are one of the more common ways malware spreads.
Continue that suspicion onto Facebook, MySpace etc
Now that you are suspicious, be extra dubious about “that hilarious video” your friend messages you about in Facebook. Lets face it, if they wanted to share a video, they’d upload it to Facebook, and it would appear in your news feed; If you get a mesage with a link, just delete it, and ring your friend, they are probably infected already, and will need our help to clean their system!
USB Drives can be dangerous
If you are running a business, the safest rule is to make sure nobody brings a USB drive from anywhere outside the business and plugs it into a work computer. Just don’t do it, it’s too easy for malware to infect USB drives and move onto every machine you use the drive on. If USB drives are a handy tool in your business, buy each employee a company USB, and have them only use that one within the office, never outside of it. The same theory works at home; Use your own USB drives at home, but make sure they never get plugged into random computers, and that your friends and family leave theirs at home when the visit.
Don’t download software online without looking into it first
Many users get infected when they download “video players”, or “smilie packs”, or even screen savers. While there is plenty of good software online, there is also plenty of rubbish, so it’s best not to start wandering the internet downloading things to “try them out”, because it will usually lead to disaster. If you are after software for your machine, try download.com, a reputable site that makes sure things it provides are not infected with malware.
Never install music and other downloading software
So called “peer to peer” or “p2p” software is one of the leading causes of malware infection; Nearly every machine we see infected has a program called Limewire installed. People install it to illegally download music, but it brings with it a whole host of malware when you install it, and once installed, it can allow more to get in. Plus, it tends to upset your internet service provider, so all in all, its best to avoid this type of thing.
Get your machine serviced at regular intervals
This is probably our best piece of advice; Getting your systems serviced at least once a year ensures that everything is humming along as it should, and the users of the machine haven’t started doing dangerous things that might lead to disaster later on. Business users should always have a maintenance plan, which takes the worry off the business owner, as it ensures an engineer is onsite regularly to checkup on the systems.
Sometimes you want a way to know that someone has read your email. Outlook provides this via a feature called “Read Receipts”. You simply tell Outlook to request one for the email you are writing, and the person at the other end can choose to let you know. If you don’t get a receipt back, that doesn’t mean they didn’t read it of course, because many users refuse to send read receipts.
If you would like to request a read receipt for just the email you are working on now, this is how you do it;
- In the message, on the Options tab, in the Tracking group, select the Request a Delivery Receipt or the Request a Read Receipt check box.
Outlook 2003 and 2002
- In the message, click Options.
- Under Voting and tracking options, select the Request a delivery receipt for this message or the Request a read receipt for this message check box. Or select both check boxes.
If you would like every email you send to automatically request a read receipt;
- On the Tools menu, click Options.
- Click E-mail Options, and then click Tracking Options.
- Select the Read receipt or the Delivery receipt check box. Or select both check boxes.
Here’s a video from Microsoft on the topic;
With email becoming the standard way business users communicate with suppliers, customers and staff, it’s worth taking a minute to take stock of how you use your email, and see what you can do to to make it more efficient, and less of a time sink;
Don’t forget to the subject
Too often we see emails sent in with no subject at all. Imagine if you received five emails, and one had no subject line, but the other four all pointed you to some pressing need by the sender for your action. Chances are you are going to ignore the email with no subject. Make sure you summarise your emails content in the subject line so the recipient can take action quickly.
Don’t start a new email by replying
Following on from the last point, we see many emails that are sent by replying to a previous email. The problem here is the subject never gets changed, and so the recipient sees an email that looks like it’s about something they’ve already dealt with, but in reality is a new issue. Often these types of emails get lower priority, so make sure you click NEW MAIL and start from scratch.
Make sure you include context in replies
When you are replying to an email, you would normally click the reply button, and your email client should include the contents of the original email at the bottom of your reply. This helps ensure the party at the other end can keep up with the conversation flow; Remember, they could be sending hundreds of emails, and getting a one line email back that just says “Yes, lets do it!”, may leave them wondering what they proposed.
It’s also a good idea to be clear in your own reply, so rather than just agreeing, include what you are agreeing to in the text you write back.
Make it clear what you want done
Where you want the recipient of your email to take action, make sure you spell it out in the email, don’t leave them guessing. At the end of your email, make a dot point list of the actions you need taken so the recipient knows exactly what you expect, and can take action accordingly.
Be Careful with “Reply All”
Often these days people will send the same email to several people; Be careful when replying, as your email software will have a “reply all” button that will send your return thoughts to EVERYONE who the original email was sent to. This can be embarrassing if part of your reply includes “I can’t believe you are including Mr X in this, he’s hopeless!”
Always Describe Attachments
When sending an attachment to a recipient, a file or document, always include a brief description within the body of the email of the attachment. Don’t “force” the recipient to download and review a document if he or she does not need to.
Pickup the phone
Too often things drag out via email that could be resolved with a short phone call; If a range of questions and answers need to be exchanged, it is often better to do that via phone, and then summarise the conversation via an email afterward so you have on record what was discussed or agreed to.
No Reply Necessary
This is a great tip and one that we will try and internalise at Shift Solutions; Where you are just emailing to ensure people are kept up to date, and you don’t even need to hear back from them, save them the hassle of replying at all by included the phrase “No Reply Necessary” at the bottom of your email.
Include Your Full Signature
Make it standard practice to include your full “signature” at the end of all emails. This includes your name, company name, phone number, etc. Make it easy for the recipient to get back in touch with you in the easiest way possible for them. Sometimes putting your phone number in the subject line is great when you need a quick reply to something important.