DMM Tech Tip and Meme for 4/11/14

Posted April 11, 2014 By Mom
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Today’s post is brought to you by The Friendly Swede’s Amazon shop of affordable, quality accessories for all your portable thingies. Everything The Friendly Swede sells has an average review rating of 4/5 stars or higher, is affordably priced, and is eligible for Amazon Prime shipping as well! Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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First up, I’m announcing a change to the weekly Tech Frustration Friday meme format. While some people are enjoying the memes, others would rather just get some more tech tips and how-to’s in this space. So from now on, I’ll include a quick tech tip along with the weekly meme. Here at DMM, I aim to please. :)

 

THIS WEEK’S TECH TIP is one some of you already know, but for those who don’t: the universal UNDO command in most computer programs and in the browse as well is Ctrl+Z. Press the Control key and the letter “z” key at the same time to undo when you’ve accidentally deleted a whole paragraph in an email, pasted over something you meant to leave in place in your Excel spreadsheet, or to undo pretty much any other text-based mistake you’d like to pretend never happened. It’s especially handy in email programs like Gmail that don’t have an undo button.

 

On to this week’s meme!

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Today’s post is brought to you by the unannounced Amazon Instant Video $5 Stand Up Comedy Sale. Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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So your Facebook friend Mary’s daughter just gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and you posted a note of congratulations on her announcement status update. The only problem is, over 40 of Mary’s other Facebook friends will also be posting their congratulations, and since you’ve “engaged” with the original status update Facebook will assume you want to be notified every time someone else adds his or her two cents.

Facebook also assumes you want to be notified anytime someone engages in any way (Likes, comments or Shares) with something you’ve posted on your own Timeline, but sometimes you don’t.

Whether it’s the little beep Facebook plays or the clutter in your Notifications list, the unending stream of notifications can get real annoying real fast. Here’s how to turn off notifications for a specific Facebook status update, whether from your own Timeline, someone else’s Timeline, or a fan page.

First, locate the status update for which you want to turn off notifications in your Notifications list and click on it to open the status update (click or tap on images below to open an enlarged version in a new tab or window):

Next, click on the little downward-pointing arrow in the upper right-hand corner of the status update and select Stop Notifications from the drop-down list:

That’s all there is to it! You can go back and turn notifications back on at any time, but obviously, it’ll be a bit trickier to track down the original status update since it won’t be popping up in your Notifications list any more.

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

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Today’s post is brought to you by Zipbuds tangle-free, ComfortFit2 earbuds. Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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What Is Heartbleed?

If you haven’t heard about the scary-sounding Heartbleed internet security breach yet, you will soon. It’s not just the name, this one really IS scary for techies like me because it’s a flaw in one of the most widely-used and trusted internet security methods, something called “Open SSL”.

In a nutshell, Open SSL is supposed to encrypt, or scramble, secure data before it’s transmitted, then un-scramble it when the recipient site or web service provides some kind of credential to prove they’re allowed to receive the secure data. This is a type of security that’s been in use by web server administrators for a very long time: it’s the very thing many of them have been relying on to prevent security breaches.

The security hole dubbed “Heartbleed” has existed in Open SSL for at least two years, but it was only recently discovered. Anyone who knows about the flaw and how to exploit it can quietly gather unencrypted versions of the data being transferred across Open SSL connections: passwords, usernames and the like.

 

What You Need To Do

This is a case where the lion’s share of responsibility for fixing the problem falls to people who run web servers. A fix, or “patch” has been released. Where applicable, it’s up to web server administrators to replace the flawed SSL “certificate” with the patched version. This will all be happening in the background where site visitors won’t even be aware of it, and most of the most popular and heavily-trafficked sites are already patched.

Server administrators are hard at work getting those new certificates up, but since the security hole has existed for over two years it’s impossible to know if any of your online accounts have already been affected. Therefore, it would be very wise to hit every secure site you use and change your password.

If you’re dreading the prospect of such a task and worried about how to first come up with new passwords and then remember them later on, see my DMM post Hacker Defense: Password Creation & Management for the very easy to use system I employ for my own passwords.

Since it was a Google tech who first discovered the security hole, Google’s servers were among the first to be patched. Google links so many things to a single account that if you use any Google services, you will definitely want to change your Google password right away.

The screenshot below illustrates how to change your password in Gmail, which will change your password for ALL of your Google accounts (YouTube, GDrive, Blogger, et cetera). (Click or tap on the image below to view an enlarged version in a new tab or window – the arrows indicate accessing the Accounts and Import tab of the Settings area, and the location of the Password options area on that tab)

GmailChgPasswd

Not every secure site employs Open SSL, and not every site that employs Open SSL has been affected by this security hole. The problem is, there’s no way to tell.

There are some web pages available where you can type in a site’s web address to see if it has the patch installed, but these are geared to tech-savvy people. I’ve visited some, and they’re clearly intended for web server administrators, not consumers. For one thing, to get the most accurate results you have to type in a ‘fully qualified domain server’ name, which includes the address of something called a “port”. The test results include references to things like “STARTL”, “broken pipe error” and “EOF indicator”. If all of that’s Greek to you, these web pages will not help you.

Therefore, it’s safest to simply change your password for any and all sites where you feel it would be a very bad thing for a stranger to have your login credentials, because it’s possible a stranger already does. In cases of banking or online shopping sites where your financial account information may have been compromised, it wouldn’t hurt to go back in a week and change those passwords again. This is because you can’t be certain exactly when all of those sites will have the patch applied, and in the meantime your new login credentials could be at risk.

Again, the majors like Google, Amazon, Apple/iTunes, Facebook, Twitter and so on are already patched. But when it comes to smaller banks, finance companies, credit unions and online retailers, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

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Today’s post is brought to you by San Francisco Bay Coffee OneCup for Keurig K-Cup Brewers: these bulk-pack, premium coffee k-cups at a discount price are how I start the day, every day. Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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You may have noticed that, along with all the other changes bundled into Facebook’s latest site redesign, they’ve made a change to the videos that appear in your newsfeed so that they START PLAYING AUTOMATICALLY. You may not have been hit with this change yet, but if so, it’s coming. Yesterday I was VERY annoyed to click over to my FB newsfeed and find the SAME VIDEO playing SIX TIMES in my newsfeed as I scrolled down—because five of my FB friends had shared or commented on the original video post and FB re-posts the video to my newsfeed EVERY TIME a friend comments on it or shares it. GRRR!!

Well, at least you can turn this annoying new feature off. Note that these instructions are for the Facebook site, not any of the Facebook apps. I’ve read that it’s possible to turn video autoplay off in the apps as well, but the specific method varies according to the specific app version. My suggestion would be to explore the Settings options available in the app in that case. To turn it off on the FB site, read on.

Begin by dropping down the main Options menu, as shown below (click or tap on image to view an enlarged version in a new tab or window):

FBOptionsDropDown

Select “Settings”, as shown by the highlight in the screenshot above. In the Options screen that loads, select “Videos” from the bottom of the left-hand sidebar. In the screenshot below I’ve already selected it. Finally, set the Video Settings autoplay option to “Off”, as I’ve done in the screenshot (click or tap on image to view an enlarged version in a new tab or window).

There’s no “Save changes” or “OK” button, that’s it – you’re done!

 

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Adware That Tricks You Into Installing It

Posted April 7, 2014 By Mom
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Today’s post is brought to you by this month’s Amazon list of Kindle Books Priced at $3.99 or Less. Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.

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Over the weekend my son and I had an unhappy adventure with adware. But the hour or so I had to spend cleaning up his computer is your gain, because today I’m sharing both the scam, and how to fix it, here on Digital Media Mom. First, let me say right up front that this post only pertains to Windows XP or higher computers, so if you’re running a Mac or Linux machine there’s nothing for you to see here. Sorry about that.

 

How Scammers Can Trick You Into Voluntarily Installing Adware

My kids love to play Minecraft, and they especially love customizing their game by installing “mods”. Mods are ‘modifications’ that expand the functionality of the game by adding new features, options and tools. As you can imagine, having The Digital Media Mom for a mother, my kids are well-schooled in how to avoid malware. Even so, my son was caught in the net of an adware download that stowed away with a Minecraft mod he’d downloaded. This particular adware changed his browser home page (and wouldn’t let him change it back), changed his default search engine from Google to the adware’s own, ad-filled search engine (and wouldn’t let him change it back) and automatically injected ads into his view of every web page he visited (and wouldn’t let him turn them off).

It’s not unusual for malware or adware to come bundled with online downloads, but it’s usually a totally hidden thing. In this case, the adware company lists its files right on the download page for the thing the consumer actually wants to download, but the filename is shown as something that appears to be a legitimate part of the download; it has a name that gives no indication it’s adware, and in fact is made to look like a necessary component of the thing you want to download. Then, the fine print in the ‘terms and conditions’ of the download includes a clause where by starting the download, you’re giving permission for the file to bypass your firewall and antimalware / antivirus program and immediately, automatically install itself.

So long as the adware company can claim consumers are voluntarily downloading the adware and are voluntarily installing it, there’s no risk of breaking any laws or being called a malware company. They can operate right out in the open—except of course, when it comes to full disclosure of what that additional file on the download page is, or what it does. The screenshot below shows just one example of this type of program doing what it does best: popping up ads in the browser (click or tap on the image to view an enlarged version in a new tab or window).

AdwarePopup

Once installed, these adware programs are VERY hard to remove. The programmers who create them make it virtually impossible for a non-tech-savvy consumer to eliminate them. But that’s no problem for you, because I’ve got your back on this one!

 

How To Get Rid Of It

As I said, it took me about an hour to remove this monster and fully clean up after it. Some of the process involved pulling out my techie bag of tricks, but 95% of the job was accomplished through two steps that anyone can take in this situation. So if you find you’ve inadvertently downloaded and installed one of these adware nuisances, here’s the simple, safe, two-step cleanup plan:

1) Run Windows System Restore. I’ve previously written about how to do this, so rather than repeat all that information here I’ll just provide a link. Click here to read my post with full Windows System Restore details.

2) Download and re-install your browser software. Here are the typical download pages:

Google Chrome

Windows Internet Explorer

Mozilla Firefox

That’s it! These two steps won’t totally eliminate every tiny piece of the download, but they will get rid of its effects. You may find that the original download file is still there in your Downloads folder, and if that’s so you can just delete it. But more likely, you’ll find that the adware program(s) is/are still listed in your Programs list on the Control Panel, and that attempting to “Uninstall” from Control Panel will have no effect. This is because the adware programs usually insert some lines into your Windows Registry, where all the major operating details of every program running on your computer live, and are designed to leave those lines in place even after the adware itself is gone.

The only way to eliminate those lines from Windows Registry (and make the program(s) disappear from your Control Panel) is to manually edit the Windows Registry file. BUT DON’T DO IT!! Even for an experienced software engineer, manually editing the Registry file is a risky thing to do because just ONE wrong keystroke in that file can break Windows on your machine. Far better to just tolerate the program name(s) on Control Panel and ignore them.

 

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