Do you need help using the Internet?

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coverI have a new book and it may just be the thing you have been looking for!  The name of the book is You’re Never Too Old to Surf:  A Senior’s Guide to Safe Internet Use. 

This book is for you if you have ever wanted to harness the power of the Internet, but haven’t been quite sure what that means or how to do it.  It is intended for the parents, grandparents and great-grandparents who want to use the wide range of tools that are available today on the Internet, from simply surfing the web to buying online, using email, blogs and even social networking sites.  You may have sought guidance from your child or children  only to be annoyed at their exasperated response to your questions.  Or, you may have tried it on your own, and gotten frustrated with the tools, or had some problem result from that use (or know someone who did).  You may be using the Internet, but just not feel very confident in what you are doing.  If you fall into any of those categories, I wrote this book for YOU!  Of course, if you are the child or grandchild and are having trouble explaining things to your elders, this book could help you too.

The book is available from and  Your local bookstore can order it too.  It is published through CreateSpace, ISBN 978-1506163857.

Please give it a try and let me know how you like it.



Facebook Privacy

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If you use Facebook regularly, you probably have seen the following in the last couple of days:

PRIVACY NOTICE: Warning – any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental structure including but not limited to the United States Federal Government also using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, you do NOT have my permission to utilize any of my profile information nor any of the content contained herein including, but not limited to my photos, and/or the comments made about my photos or any other “picture” art posted on my profile.

You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein. The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employee , agent , student or any personnel under your direction or control.

The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law. UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE

Ignore it, it is one of many hoaxes that appear on Facebook.   As I understand it, the law cited has to do with commercial law, and does not address anything about privacy in Facebook or otherwise.

BUT, the hoax does remind us of an important topic, Facebook Privacy.  Your privacy in Facebook is controlled by you through your privacy settings.   To find your privacy settings, look for the small arrow on the top right hand portion of your Facebook page, circled in the image below.   If you click on it you should get a listing of pages you own and some options.


From this menu, select “Privacy Settings,”  and you will get a menu of your various Facebook settings like:


These are the items that you can control.  Clicking on the blue “Edit Settings” will allow you to control the items in those categories.  So, if you select “edit settings” in “How you connect” you see a menu such as the one below:



This literally shows who can see you and request friendship or send messages.  In my case, I have left these settings open.  I have provided no telephone numbers, so there is nothing to see.  If I provided phone numbers, though, I would make sure only “Friends” could see the numbers.  By leaving open the email address, this allows people to find me by searching on the email.

I do know people who have limited who can send friend requests to only friends of friends.  It does limit the number of times you get friend requests, but it does limit your network to people in certain categories of your life.  If that is what you want, then button it down.

The second category is what people can post in the profiles or how Facebook controls tagging.

As you can see from the drop down box, in each case you can show the information to everyone (who has a Facebook account), to Friends of Friends, or just Friends.  In addition, you can limit it to people on certain lists, or even specify the friends using custom.  For example, I have limited who can post to or see my wall to Friends.  Although little of what I post on Facebook is too personal, I do not want everyone in the world being able to read it.   Limiting it to my friends does give me some control.

Now, what if you want to limit a specific post or photo?  Facebook does give you the ability to do that individually through the inline audience selector.  When you are posting, there is a blue menu at the bottom of the post as shown below.


Using the small arrow, you can select who can see the post to limit it to only some people, all your friends or everyone.  This gives you individual control.

A WORD OF WARNING:  While it is important to control your privacy settings so that unintended people do not get control of your personal information, you need to remember that once something is posted, you lose control of that information.  People who can see your post can easily re-post it or save it and post it somewhere else.  This is not a case of “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”  Rather, it is a case of “it is on the Internet FOREVER.”  Before you post, think carefully about how much of a problem you might have if the information ended up with your boss or co-workers, a potential boss, members of your family or whatever.  It might not be a problem today, but if it stays there forever, you might find it to be a problem later.

Free tickets, $1000 Visa Card, My Funny Name and Coke Giveaway

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What do “free tickets on Southwest Airlines,” a “$1000 Visa Card, ” My Funny Name,”  “My Name Talks,” and “Coke Giveaway” all have in common?  Those are some of the recent scams available on Facebook.   They have taken on an interesting twist now.   Instead of a friend posting this on your news feed, you get an invitation to “like” a page.  But, like the other scams, when you like the page,  an application seeks permission to link to your profile, including personal information.  The next step is for the application to post to your wall, posing as you, and sending messages to your friends.  One can only guess what they do with the remainder of the personal information you provide.  Although the method is slightly different from the “normal” approach, the result is the same.  The advice that I provide is don’t click!  You are never going to get the free information, products or whatever.

When you are faced with a wonderful deal that is so very tempting, check before you click.  You can check for these scams on Facebook securityFacecrooks and/or, or even just a Google search to see what is written about them.

What do you do if you have already clicked?  Well, first and foremost, remove the applications that have been installed so they will not do any additional damage.  Click on the small down arrow in the upper right hand corner of your browser, and select “apps.”   Follow the instructions to delete the application.  In addition, you must clean your news feed so that others do not see the offer and click on it.  Select the “x” in the upper right hand corner of each listing that mentions one of these offers (it becomes clear when the mouse is run over it).

Remember to follow the same rules  that you do in real life — if the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Walk away from such offers, or at least check them out before you provide data and access to them!

For more information, you can check out the recent post on Facecrooks.


Man-in-the-Browser and Financial Transactions Security

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Online banking makes paying bills and transferring money easy and fast.  But are you sure that you are protecting yourself and your money?  What would you do in the “real world”?  First, you would want to make sure you were really at the bank, and that it is open.  You  would want to hand your checks and money to an official teller and get receipts of all of your transactions.  In addition, you would probably get fairly suspicious if someone were looking over your shoulder or if you had to conduct your business through a third party (not someone who works for the bank).  You would be wise to ensure that your records were accurate and that no one was stealing your signature or banking documents.

If we are going to take advantage of the benefits of online banking, we need to translate those practices into the virtual world.  First, you should have a unique and strong  password for your banking account.  If you are not sure how to get a strong password, look at my previous post on the topic.  Second, you should avoid using a public computer for your online banking because it might have installed software to log your keystrokes or to remember your passwords without your permission.  Third, you should keep information about your account and password quite secret.  Fourth, of course, you should always be running up-to-date virus protection and malware protection to ensure that your computer is doing what you intend.  Your bank may have additional software and/or devices that provide additional security for your transaction.  Fifth, you must update your operating system and browser as recommended, especially if you use Windows and/or Internet Explorer.  Both products have features that are often

Even if you follow safe computing practices, you may still be at risk thanks to a new kind of trojan (similar to a virus) that might have infected your computer,  called a “Man-in-the-Browser” (or MitB) trojan.  The trojan is a piece of software that does not install itself on your computer, but rather installs itself as an add-on program within your browser, without your knowledge.  What happens is the MitB alters what the user and the bank see during the transaction.  So, for example, the bank does not get correct information about how much money to pay a vendor, and you do not see how much money was actually reported.  In fact, it might transfer money to another account and you might not be aware that it happened.

Your virus protection examines all of the software on your computer by comparing it to known problems or peculiar behavior.  Just as your police officers fingerprints and now DNA samples to compare to evidence at the scene of a crime, your virus protection compares strings of computer programs to those known to be viruses, malware and trojans.  If those do not identify the perpetrator of the crime, they look for people who are behaving strangely.  Likewise the virus protection examines programs for unusual activities, like replicating themselves,  growing quickly, or accessing a number of services on the computers. Generally these strategies work well.  However, MitB trojans are particularly difficult to detect since they change their appearance and behavior tens of thousands of times each day.   A particularly good (and easy to understand) description of this phenomenon was aired on BBC News.  Since they are hard to detect, it might take some time before your virus protection understands that there is a problem and by then it might be too late.

There are some warning signs for this kind of problem.

  • If it takes your computer longer to process requests
  • If your financial transactions take longer than normal
  • If you are asked for more information than normal during your financial transaction, especially if you are asked for passwords or sensitive information such as social security numbers.

What do you do if you experience one or more of those symptoms?  You should call your bank as soon as possible and give them the date and time of the transaction.  Do not email your bank because the same software that interferes with your financial transaction may interfere with the sending of the mail.  Your bank may have monitoring software that catches and disallows unusual transactions to protect you, so you may not have a problem.   If you do, you will need to rely upon your bank’s policy as to how much you are responsible.

Facebook Applications

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Did you know that no one reviews applications before they are made available on Facebook?  Most people think that if an application runs on Facebook that it was vetted somewhat or that it is, at least,  reliable.  That is not true, unfortunately.  Anyone can write an application with any mission in mind.  Once you give them access to your data, they unfortunately have your data and can do with it what they want.

Clearly there are multiple kinds of applications developed.  Some are developed by people who enjoy programming and want to develop something to show that they can program (many of these people are looking for jobs and putting it on their resumes).  Others have developed applications for themselves, and share it out of kindness.  These seem like harmless enough purposes, and they may well be.  However, if they are not good at programming they may inadvertently cause negative things to occur.    Then there are the people who just want to cause problems, or who want to collect information for nefarious purposes, or who are trying to scam users.

Does that mean you should never use Facebook Applications?  Certainly not.   Some of them are quite useful, or quite fun and should be used.  But, you need to protect yourself.  You could adopt what has been identified as “Sauter’s First Law of Computing” — never be the first to adopt new computing (hardware or software).  Let someone figure out how to solve the problems first!  (An associated lemma says not to adopt new computing alone … always have a friend who can help you solve unanticipated problems.)  Sometimes that is not possible, or sometimes you just don’t want to make your friends into guinea pigs.

You could first search Google for the name of the application and see what it says about the application.  Or, go to Facecrooks to see if they have a notice about problems with the application.  Or check the Facebook Security .  You can also go to the application’s Facebook page and look for information.  Click on the “information tag” … is there a description and does it tell you who developed it?  If so, check out the developers for their reputation.  Check the number of users — you do not get extra points for being the first.  Read the reviews of the application, to determine the experiences of other users.  Think about the information to which they want to give access — does it make sense, or are they looking at more than they should really need to see?  Think about the benefit of the application — is there enough advantage to make it seem reasonable?

As I have said before, use the same “common sense” in the Facebook world that you would use in real life.  Do not assume anyone else will protect you, but rather be a wise consumer of computing.

Scams that Cost you Money

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This must be the time of year for scams on Facebook and email.  This morning I opened my email and saw the following from a friend:

I hope you read my email on time, I have been robbed and left stranded in Edinburgh, Scotland where I made a short trip to days back.
I lost my bag and all personal effects in it(passport, Credit Cards etc).
The embassy here issued me a temporary ID card and will allow me fly home without a Passport, but I will have to settle my bills myself.
I’ve also made contact with my bank but it will take me days to retrieve my credit cards or access  money in my account from here.
Can you please lend me some money to  pay my bills and book a ticket back home?
Kindly let me know. I will check my email often to read from you


It sounds like a horrible situation, doesn’t it?  And it is your friend, you should help.  This message may come to you via email or Facebook, but it is a scam!  In this case, someone has broken into my friend’s email address and sent the messages.  He hopes to find a few people who will help their friend by sending money to them.  The money, of course, goes to the thief, not to the friend.  Generally the thief has come and gone before anyone knows to start tracking him and he gets away scott free!

This message is tugging on those heart strings.  It is particularly common for messages like this to be sent to seniors, by people posing as their grandchildren!

How do you know it is a hoax?  Generally these thieves have just enough information about the individual to make the request sound like it is coming from a relative or friend.  So, before you send money,  call the person or a close relative of the person (for example, your child when inquiring about a grandchild), and see if he is even in a foreign country.  If that is not possible, ask the person from whom you received the email or Facebook post some question the answer to which is only known by the real person.  In other words, verify the story before you spend the money!

If it is not your friend or relative, then try to contact them to tell them their account has been compromised — he may not even know it!

How to examine Scams and Spams

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My post yesterday talked about scams that propagated by money or control or ignorance.  Today I received a message on Facebook that is ever as much a scam, but it is the kind that pulls on your heart strings instead of your purse strings.   The message came in as

URGENT ……… To all the parents whose children — have a profile on facebook! There is a man who tries to make contact with the children to talk about sex. His name is Thierry Mairot. please, copy and paste on your wall! Thank you for protecting your children! PLEASE share as an emergency. He poses as Justin Bieber! His profile appears as Justin Bieber! PLEASE SHARE (( shared from a friend of mine – pass it along ))…..

We all want to protect our children and grandchildren from people like this, and so we pass this along to warn our friends.   Instead, I first checked  I went to the site and typed in “Thierry Mairot” into their search box at the top right corner of the page.  I found an entry that had a very similar message to the one above.   Let’s look at what Snopes provides you.

  • At the top of the entry, Snopes provides a rating of the veracity of the message.  A red dot (such as the one at the top of the page about Mairot) means the rumor has been shown to be false.  If the dot were green it would mean the rumor has been shown to be true whereas a yellow dot means that the rumor is unconfirmed and a white dot means the rumor cannot be classified.  Of course if there are multiple parts to the rumor, it might get both red and green dots meaning that there are some parts that are true and others that are false.
  • The next information is an example of the message that has been investigated.  You will note that the one on Snopes does not mention Justin Bieber, but is, in essence the same message.
  • Associated with that example is a date when it was seen.  Note in this case, Snopes first started investigating the rumor in September 2010!
  • After that summary information, Snopes will provide a discussion of the origin of the rumor (to the best of their ability to track it down), and the variations it has taken over time as well as related rumors (in this case, the related rumors include “social deviants” posts).
  • Finally Snopes provides the last date the entry was updated.  In this case it was last updated in October 2010, meaning they have found no new information about the rumor since that time.

Checking allows you to dismiss the rumor without further action.  So, you will not generate lots of spam by forwarding it onto your friends and relatives.  You also will not annoy your children and grandchildren on a non-issue, and hence are more likely to keep those channels of communication open for when there is really a problem.

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