Home Security Blog.

This time of the year identity theft is at it’s height. More people are filing their tax returns online. If you stop to think about it, your return has all the information needed to steal your identity. Therefore, it’s important to take steps to be sure this information is secure.

If your computer does not update your spyware daily, I recommend you install this feature before sending out your tax return on-line. It’s usually very simple and takes just a minute or two. My computer up-dates at 3am in the morning every day. You can set the time for your computer to up-date at any time you like. If you don’t have any protective spyware , you can download several different programs at a nominal fee. There are many free spyware programs available as well. Do some research, and decide which one best meets your needs. Talk to your friends or a computer center to see which one they recommend. I use AVG Spyware and have very pleased with it, and it’s free.

Windows Internet Explorer 7 browser also has a feature to keep your identity safer.

I talked about phishing in an earlier post. It’s when you are scammed into providing your personal data to an individual or company that are supposedly helping you. These emails usually tell you your account has been breached and they need this information to protect you. What they are actually doing is collecting your information to steal your identity. Before disclosing personal information, check out the company or website . Be sure they are legitimate as well as “a secure” website. If you feel you’ve sent your information to a fake, phishing, website report it immediately to the appropriate institutions. Such as: IRS , FTC , Federal Trade Commission and an organization called the Anti-Phishing Group. If you have used a credit card, call and cancel it. This will minimize any damage that might have been done.

You should also change your passwords on all your online accounts if you feel you’ve been compromised. Especially accounts related to any of your financial information.

A good program to download is Windows Defender. This program was originally called Windows Spyware and is a free Microsoft program. It reviews and protects against possible unwanted software.

The best defense against identity theft on the computer is educating yourself on ways people steal your identity and the programs available to protect yourself. It is important you up-date your security programs routinely.

Posted on March 20th, 2008 at 05:13 by Alex Smith in computer security,Email Security,Identity theft,security services - Comments (0)

Most people give the information a person needs to steal their identity without knowing it. Leaving documents around or throwing them in the trash is an example. Here are a few tips to safegaurd your idenity information.

* Buy a shredder. You can purchase one very inexpensively at any discount store. They simply fit over a trash can and will shred paper documents as well as the “old” credit card. First rule of thumb, shred all personal documents. Even those unsolicited credit applications your receive .

* Protect your social security and driver’s license numbers. Don’t give them out to someone you don’t know. Your driver’s license numer can be just as dangerous to give out as your social security number. This number tags you to your identity. That’s why all wotk and credit applications ask for it. If fact, it’s best not to carry your social security card with you. Remit it to memory. Don’t have these printed on your checks.

* Never give out personal information over the phone, internet or mail before you know who you are dealing with.

* Protect any of your passwords. Don’t use an obvious password like your birthday, street address, some numbers of your social security card or mother’s maiden name. If you have forgotten your password, be suspicious of any website you click on to have them email it back to you.

* Remember, even your residence may not be a safe place to keep personal documents. This especially true if you have a roomate, employ outside domestic help, do a lot of entertaining, or work done in your home.

* A lot of links on the internet are “trogan Horses.” Never click on any unsolicited email link. Use only a website address you know. Have a “firewall”, spyware or antivirus software added to your computer. I have all three on my computer. Some antivrus programs, such as AVG, are free and very good. Use a program that always up-dates your software. They can automatically do this daily even at a time you don’t use your computer.
*The government has a great site for additional information. If you need to file a complaint for some type of identity or would like more information, check this site.

As we are becoming a more “cash free” society, the crime of Identity Theft is increasing at an alarming rate. The criminals are also getting more sophisticated in their means to accquire your personal information. Identity Theft is a serious crime and can damage your credit without you knowing it. Getting your credit restored can be costly and it take s a long time to correct the damage done by Identity Theft.

The first line of defense is to know some of the many ways people steal your identity:
* If you see anyone going through a dumpster or someone’s trash, report it immediately. They may be looking for discarded bills, credit applications, or anything that might have any personal information on it.
*Do not give any information to someone calling you or emailing you trying to “up-date” your account informatiom. Banks and credit card companies do not do this. They already have your information.
*Be careful where you use your credit card. Some shady merchants may have a systen that duplicates your credit card infomation as you use your card. This is called “skimming.” This can occur on items you purchase over the internet as well. “Caveat empore”, let the buyer beware.
* Report immediately any bill that you were suppose to receive but it hasn’t arrive when you expected it. Criminals will take them out of your mail box to obtain your information. Don’t leave personal information in your desk or file cabinet at work.
* Another ploy is to put in a change of address form to another location to re-route your mail.
*They can steal your wallet or purse. Call your credit card companies and cancel your card. Also, report to the three major credit bureaus immediately. They can block anyone from changing or adding to your accounts. There is a toll free number for each bureau and when you report to them they are required by law to send you a “free” credit report.

The three main credit bureaus are:
Equifax 1-800-525-6285
Experian 1-888 397-3742
TransUnion 1-800-680-7289

You can obtain more information from the government by calling a toll free number 1-877-438-4338 or logonto their website.

Posted on February 27th, 2008 at 07:11 by Alex Smith in computer security,Email Security,Identity theft,security services - Comments (0)

I was just looking at The National Neighborhood Watch website. It has a lot of resources which can help a neighborhood establish a neigborhood watch program. Forming a solid neighborhood watch in your area is the first defense against crime. Keeping the program active once it is established is imperative.

Unfortunately we live in a society where people don’t know who lives 2 0r 3 doors on either side of them or even their next door neighbors. While in the Security Alarm Industry, I heard over and over again , ” I don’t need an alarm system because we have a neigborhood watch program”. Most of the time , an inactive neighborhood watch program results in a burglar stealing items from the neighbor’s home unnoticed. We are a busy society and people don’t feel they have the time or desire to get involved with their neighbors. Having a close knit neighborhood makes it safer for everyone.

It was once said that there are three kinds of people, those that make things happen, those that never make things happen and those that don’t even know what’s happening. If you don’t have a neighborhood watch program in your area, start one. If you have one, become active in it. Remember the saying, “there’s safety in numbers”.

Make it your task to know ALL the people on your block including the children. Report anything out of the ordinary. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Yes, it takes some of your time, but being active in your community will pay off many times over.

You can order materials and information to form your area program from The National Neighborhood Watch Organization.

Posted on February 18th, 2008 at 16:39 by Alex Smith in Home Safety,Home Security,warning signs - Comments (0)

Choosing the right security alarm system and company for your home can be very confusing. In some market areas, there can be numerous alarm companys listed in the yellow pages. Here is some informatiom to consider in choosing which security alarm system will meet the needs of your family.

The company is the first and most important consideration:

* Is the company a local company that will be in business for the duration of your ownership or is it a national company in business for years. Ask how long they have been in business. I have seen some alarm companies go out of business and leave their customers without protection. Ask if the company you are reviewing is a dealership or the parent company. Some dealerships have different policies than the parent company.

* The personnel is as equally important. You need to ask if the company: Does background checks on ALL employees. What kind of training is given/required by the installers. Do they keep up with the latest technology and how it is implemented into existing securitiy alarm systems.

* Most states require the alarm company to be licensed. This means every person working for the company must be licensed. Ask to see the salesperson and technician’s license before the sale and installation.

* Ask how the system will be monitored. Is it their own monitoring company or do they contract with another company. Understanding how the monitoring company handles an emergency is extremely important.

* Good planning of your system must be addressed. An alarm sytem is not a “one size fits all”. Each family and home are different and it should fit into the family’s lifestyle . Ease of operation should be a concern. If it’s too difficult to operate it won’t get used.

* Ask your friends about their company and system. Do they receive fast and reliable service. Did they feel comfortable with the technicians that installed or repaired their system.

* Be careful about any “long term” contract they might require. If you are unhappy with the company or the system after installation, they could have you obligated with a non-cancellation contract. Getting out of the contract could be very expensive. Ask about their warranties.

* Get two or three quotes to compare the equipment as well as the prices. Be sure you understand what equipment you are getting. A good alarm representative could spend as much as 2 to 3 hours to design your system. This means looking at both the outside and inside of your home.

Topwebsite lists four of the best alarm companies.

Posted on February 15th, 2008 at 21:52 by Alex Smith in Home Security - Comments (0)

More and more Americans are purchasing vacation homes. In most cases, this means it is vacant a good portion of the year. What can you do to keep your property secure?

Many alarm companies, especially ADT, are now providing a way to protect and monitor your property almost any where in the world!

The systems have several video cameras integrated into the security system. These cameras can be full color or even infa-red. That can video record your property in poor lighting conditions. Many users are getting these sophistcated systems for their main residence as well.

These cameras can be set so any movement will start the DVR, (Digital Video Recorder), recording the event. Many DVR’s will keep this information stored for several weeks or months. The DVR can also send this information to your home, work, cell phone via the internet. It also can send an alert signal to any of these locations the instant an ocurrence is happening. When you hear this “alert signal” you will be able to view your property as the occurence is taking place .

You can observe your property at any time from work or any other remote location that has an internet connection. Now you can see if your chilldren have returned safely home from school. Know who’s ringing your door bell without opening your door. The applications are unlimited. Imagine, being able to check in on your main residence as well as your vacation property from home or work.

An ADT Security Professional will design a custom system to meet your needs.

Posted on February 8th, 2008 at 09:52 by Alex Smith in ADT home security,Home Security - Comments (3)

According to an article in the BBC, hackers are at it again. In Decmber 2007, a new virus dubbed Mebroot came on the scene. Since it’s introduction, it has infected over 5,000 computers worldwide. It attacks computers using Windows Operating Systems. The reason it’s so dangerous , it can bury itself deep inside windows programs to avoid detection.

Previously, I warned you about “booby-trapping” websites. This is the most common way it effects the computer. It has a rootkit which tries to overwrite part of your hard drive called the Master Boot Record (MBR). When your computer is turned on this is where the computer gets it’s information about your operating system to boot up.

The virus sometimes downloads other malicious programs such as, keyloggers. These can steal your confidential information from your computer.

It is thought to be based from a Russian virus writing group called the torpig family of viruses.

Although it can be detected by some virus protection programs, most commercially bought programs will not detect it. Computers running Windows XP, Windows Vitsa, Windows Server 2003, and Windows 2000 that are not fully patched are especially vunerable.

It is important to keep all your computer protection programs updated. As hackers introduce new viruses, security software is being developed to detect and delete them.

Posted on January 22nd, 2008 at 05:31 by Alex Smith in computer security - Comments (0)

Viruses are designed to Replicate themselves. In order for it to do this it must be permitted to execute a code and it usually is written into your memory. They quite often attach themselves to a file that may be a part of one of your programs. When the user starts this program, the virus code is executed and infections takes place.

Most viruses can be broken down into two groups; Nonresident and Resident. A nonresident virus seaches for a host that it can infect. After infecting these targets it transfers control to the program it has infected. A resident virsus dosen’t look for a host but loads itself directly into your computer’s memory. Every time you try to rid your computer of this virus, it will reoccur the next time you re-start your computer because it’s still lodged in your memory. It can also infect new hosts when some files are accessed by another program or operating system.

The Nonresident virus has a finder module has a finder “finder module” and a “replication module”. The finder module finds a file to infect and the replication module does the infecting.

The Resident Virus also has a replication module very similar to the nonresident virus but is not called a finder module. This virus loads the replication module directly into your memory so it will be executed every time an infected operating system is executed. It may infect several programs in your computer.

In conclusion, some viruses tag along looking for a host which would be some program or attachment you downloaded. It will then trigger some data file on your computer to trigger the execution of a code that is hidden within a data file.

I was reading howstuffworks blog. They have a good article on viruses. Check it out here.

Posted on January 14th, 2008 at 20:27 by Alex Smith in computer security - Comments (0)

Computer Viruses” are one of the most confusing problems of the average user. People tend to lump together all sorts of computer malfuntiions and call them a virus. In fact, the term “virus” can refer to several types of malfunctions of your computer and each has a specific name. This piece is the first of several articles in which I will discuss various malfunctions that can effect your computer and how to deal with them.

“Viruses” can be broken down into different catagories. Each has it’s own way of effecting your computer and may be gotten in a different way. Some of the computer malfunctions are really not, per say, viruses like Trojan Horses, or Worms. However, whether it is a virus, a Trojan Horse or a worm, most of the time it comes onto your computer over the internet.

What exactly is a Virus? Simply stated it usually is a program that can copy itself and infect a computer without the permission or knowlege of the user. They can even mutate the more they infect additional computers. This is why some viruses are hard to block or guard against. Hackers develop programs which can by-pass the type of virsus blocking software that you might have on your computer. Most true viruses need a host to be transfered where as Worms and Trojan Horses can be spread without being part of a host. No matter what it is, a virus, a worm, or a trojan horse, they initially seem harmless.

First Rule of Thumb, don’t download any attachment in an email or World Wide Web Messeage from someone you don’t know. Some viruses can damage your computer and it may take a professional to remove it. Some can even look into your personal data and can gain access to your personal files to steal your identity.

Pc Magazine has an interesting article on the I Luv You virus. With Valentines Day coming up…..it’s a good one to review. We always tend to think….this won’t happen to me…but check out what happened to this company which has lots of computer engineers working for them.

Next blog we’ll discuss ways of prevention. Until then, watch what you download to your computer.

Posted on January 11th, 2008 at 07:33 by Alex Smith in computer security - Comments (0)

Quite often calls or mail comes from “pre-approved” credit card companies. Every time you respond to one of these offers, it can lower your credit score. Credit Bureaus have a toll free number of 1-888-5-optout (1-888-567-8688). Contacting them at this number will prevent these offers for two years. Be sure to tell them that you do not want them to disclose your personal information. The three largest Credit Bureaus contact sites are:

Equifax, Inc. Options
P. O. Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123

Experian, Consumer Opt Out
701 Experian Way
Allen, TX 75013

Trans Union LLC, Name Removal Option
P. O. Box 97328
Jackson, MS 39288-7328

If you are bothered by unwanted telephone offers call or write to:

Telephone Preference Service
Direct Marketing Association
P. O. Box 1559
Carmel, NY 10512

Tell them to put your name and phone number on a “do not call list”. You may also tell a telemarketer that calls you to put you on a do not call list. This might only limit the amount of calls you get. A lot of charities do not use Direct Marketing lists. Some charities can bypass a do not call list because they are a non-profit charity or if you have donated to them in the past.

There is National “do not call” list. Here again, some non-profits are not required to go by this list. To put your name on this list, call 888-382-1222 or log on here.
Several states are working on laws to reduce unwanted mail and phone calls. You may want to call your state’s consumer protection agency. Be patient with some charities that may call you. Your contact might have been by mistake and the best charity with all it’s limitations can call you in error. Give them a chance to correct their mistake.

Posted on January 2nd, 2008 at 17:46 by Alex Smith in mailbox security - Comments (0)

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