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How can you get better performance with your Internet connection?

You’ve seen the scam artist advertisements for software programs that do nothing more than install junk-ware on your system.

TV Ad for software that did little to help novice PC users

The thing to remember is that many times your PCs Internt connection is slow becausee of your DNS provider.

Now you might be thinking “what is DNS John?” and I would tell you that this is a good question .

DNS means Domain Name Service. It operates on your computer’s port 53 and acts as the phonebook for the Internet. Here’s how…when you want to order a pizza for dinner, you may have to look up the number to the pizza place online or from an ad that they placed on your doorknob. You do not instinctively know the phone number to the pizza place and that’s okay. It’s normal.

Well in the same way you do not have every phone number that you may need in a day memorized, computers do not keep a track of every possible web site you might want to go to in a day stored in them either. Sure, some days you may bounce from a cable news site to a cable weather outlet to an Internet storefront and finally finish up at an Internet movie house like Youtube.

All of these have an IP address and yes, the sites you visit the most often you might want to save their IP addresses in your hosts file. This can be found in a Windows system in C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc\hosts (and note that this file DOES NOT have a file extension).

You can save them in this format:

tech.jchampion.com            50.87.150.160

Now for you to have a better list of sites that are available worldwide on a DNS server. You are no doubt using one of the ones that your Internet service provider told you to use. These DNS servers may use tricks so that in the event you mistype a domain name, you are redirected to a relatively safe site that is hosted by the ISP or the DNS service provider. Any link that appears on these pages that you click on, make money for the service provider and likely put some sort of tracking cookie on to your computer to follow your movements to similar sponsored sites across the vast internet.

One way to speed up your experience and maybe avoid the whole tracking thing, is to use a new DNS provider. I’ll bet you did not think that you could do that but you can?

Simply go your Internet settings on your computer (Control Panel\Network and Internet\Network Connections and choose whichever icon matches your Internet connection). Right click on this icon and select properties. Now select Internet Connection version 4 from the window that pops up and then click on the properties button that highlights directly below that selection box.

Another window will pop up that will give you some options on things to fill out. Leave the top of this window alone if your Internet/network connection is working fine. What you want to fill out is the section that says “Use the following DNS server addresses” — and now you get to fill in any of a series of numbers you like. It looks like this:

The bottom part of this General IP Properties page that has DNS information is what you'll want to fill out.

The bottom part of this General IP Properties page that has DNS information is what you’ll want to fill out.

The IP addresses to populate those boxes are 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220

Google also has a DNS service that is available for the public to use and you can certainly use their IP addresses, 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4 . With these addresses you get away from your ISP’s control but at the same time Google does not provide any level of service to help control or customize your own experience.

A list of other IP addresses for publicly accessible DNS services are listed here — just be sure to check the companies providing the IP addresses that you can use before you use them. You never know what information they could be pushing you to. There is such a thing as DNS poisoning and it is bad.

By bad..I mean that you could think that you are paying for an Amazon or Bank payment service and instead your traffic is directed through JimBob and Bubba-Sue’s scam site that culls your credit card or payment information before passing it along to Amazon or your bank so your purchase goes through and you are unaware anything went wrong, until you see your credit card bill or get that dreaded call from credit card security services.

It’s something to be aware of but do not be afraid. Forge ahead.

My goal in giving you this information is to teach you how to improve things for yourself without needing to spend money on software that does nothing but further bog down your system and worse, entices you to remove files your computer needs to run.

Have fun, be smart, and be independent. There will be more tips coming soon!

 

 

Create a button to kill a pesky or stuck Chrome browser section

browsersSo..you go to a site to read an article on rooting your Android/Apple phone, you get creative and want the lyrics to a popular song, or you visit a news link to some new media site that you’ve never heard of before but it has a news item that you are interested in and it happens…a popup window in the middle of your screen and it is asking you to some task before you leave (and that includes clicking on a “CANCEL” button on the popup.

First off–DON’T CLICK ON ANYTHING within that browser window. Nothing there is good for you or your computer. Most of these sites are made with CSS, HTML5, and Javascripting. JavaScript has a feature that is deployed in every version and you cannot block it easily, called onUnload().

So no matter where you click on that page or even if you CTRL-ALT-DELETE, you may be subject to something being loaded on to your computer screen.
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Another scenario is that Chrome for some reason is just stuck and will not respond to your mouse clicks and you need it dead NOW!

Okay…I hear you…much in the same way we created a shortcut to kill off Internet Explorer under similar circumstances, we can create a shortcut for your desktop or taskbar that will immediately terminate Google Chrome and it will not trigger any onUnload() event that can harm your system.

So to stop myself from reinventing the wheel, I want you to go over this previous posting — http://tech.jchampion.com/?p=16 and follow the steps to the letter.

The only thing that we are going to change the command you paste into the command line area from “C:\Windows\System32\taskkill.exe /F /IM iexplore.exe /T” to “C:\Windows\System32\taskkill.exe /F /IM chrome.exe /T”

If you want to understand what all your instructions mean it is simple – taskkill.exe is the Windows commandline command to terminate a task by either process identification number or by name.

/F means to force it dead
/IM means the image name to kill
/T is telling taskkill to not only kill the program but any child programs that may have opened up as a result

This is quick, painless and easy. Just follow the steps from above and if you want instructions on all of Taskkill’s options use this TechNet link —

This works in Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Server 2003, Server 2008, Server 2008r2, and Server 2012.

As usual…if you have any questions about this–just ask! Find me on Facebook, Twitter (@jachamp) or via this blog.

john

MyLife.com–why you should avoid it

You see the commercials on TV that someone may be looking for you. It seems like you have old boyfriends/girlfriends lining up to talk to you after all this time and they are doing it at the MyLife.com website.

Well…I accidentally clicked on the MyLife.com site when Google returned it in a search for a former coworker’s email address. What happened next was eye-opening.

First off..you must understand how malware-laden sites work. You visit a site with malware loaders, a popup comes up on your screen telling you that you have a virus and need their “anti-virus solution” or worse, the computer seems to lock up and there is nowhere to click except on a yes or no box on the popup.

If you are smart, you know that clicking on either box, or even on the circle x in the upper righthand corner, to close the window, will result in something being uploaded to your computer without your knowledge. It’s one of the reasons why I found and re-published instructions for creating a shortcut for immediately closing Internet Explorer without triggering any loaders (see this link: http://tech.jchampion.com/?p=16 ).

Well I mention all of this because this is the exact same behavior that the MyLife site exhibits. The site “grabs” Internet Explorer and there is nowhere to click on the page to close the application except inside the popup box that pushes you to register for this pay service. And for the record, you may not be surprised to learn that not very many of your old friends, girlfriends, or boyfriends are looking for you on this site as they probably did not want to pay the fee to contact you either.

And according to Techpaul’s blog ( http://techpaul.wordpress.com/2009/03/06/just-say-no-to-mylifecom/ ), the site is more annoying than nefarious. In order to join you must surrender your contacts list and from that moment on, your friends and family will be spammed relentlessly by the MyLife servers. In addition, it appears that they turn over your contact information to any advertiser whose ad you click on. Hint–there is only one teeny tiny “no” link on those ads while the rest of the ad is a clickable surface. Sneeze and exert pressure on your mouse and the advertiser gains access to your profile/contact information and possibly that of your friends as well.

In short…please stay away from the MyLife.com site and if you have joined, perform a Google search on how to remove your name and information from social networking sites.

Clicking on an Osama picture can be hazardous to your computer

Malware purveyors keep looking for the next thing to convince you to click on download/”Look at this!” type of links. Sunday night’s announcement of Osama Bin Laden’s (I don’t really care if I spell that name right–the terrorist doesn’t deserve for it to be spelled correctly) death and the subsequent details coupled with America’s thirst for blood and gore mean that the pickings are ripe for malware purveyors.

So Facebook users…you’re up first. You are a prime target because most of you are not all that computer saavy and most click on anything that looks tantalizing…afterall if it looks salacious it must be awesome, right? And also if no one knows I clicked on the gory details link, what’s the worst that can happen? After all, there is that big “X” in the upper right hand corner of my browser right?

The FBI knew this was going to happen and issued a press release to the American public warning people about such links:

“The FBI today warns computer users to exercise caution when they receive e-mails that purport to
show photos or videos of Usama bin Laden’s recent death. This content could be a virus that could
damage your computer. This malicious software, or ‘malware’, can embed itself in computers and
spread to users’ contact lists, thereby infecting the systems of associates, friends, and family members.
These viruses are often programmed to steal your personally identifiable information.”

So what does this mean to you, the common user? It’s simple. Until the Obama administration announces it has released photographs and/or videos, there are no such things. You should pay full attention to the FBI’s warning. Click on nothing that you do not know. Click on only those things you were expecting and from trusted sources after using your anti-virus/anti-malware to the fullest.

Finally…if you do accidentally stumble into one of these traps…follow the regular steps to remove malware viruses from your computer. If you don’t know what these are, then you should be extra careful about the things you click on.

The Epsilon Breach Just Keeps Getting Worse

When it first happened, media from CNN, Fox, Time, NY Times, Washington Times, and other popularity driven news organizations did the lazy thing and reported the press release that Epsilon and those companies who turned over your personal information to Epsilon wrote to give the information they wanted you to think was true.

Epsilon Breach Press release

But the information contained in that release, like most press releases, is misleading at best and downright false at worst.

Here’s why…spam and spear phishing are the least of your worries in a breach of this kind. Coupled with other information email addresses, usernames, and companies you deal with can tell a lot about you and give identity thieves and identity sellers, loads of personal information to gain access into your life.

Not to mention that the folks who stole this information want you to turn over your computer to them. While they don’t want the electric bill from running it, they do want to use its CPU cycles, ram, and hard drive space to rent out to spammers, malware providers, adware servers, adult oriented material, child pornography, and let’s not forget about general mischief.

So how do you protect your from all of this sad activity?

1) Never click on links in incoming emails.
2) Use a good anti-virus/anti-malware/firewall.
3) Use common sense. Do not load photos/images just because a friend, an acquaintance, or someone else you may know sent them to you. Using steganography, a user can load javascript loaders, into the cutesie images that are sent to you and those can be used to begin delivery of malware, spyware, or other stuff you just don’t want on your system.
4) Stop sending emails that are meant to be forwarded. These give hackers an idea about which users are more susceptible to attack than others.

Finally–the reason why spam and malware continue to spread is because people are allowing the tools that come with their PC’s to expire, or just think a sofware firewall is sufficient. And let’s not forget the profit margin. Sending spam is quite profitable and people keep opening it, reading it, and responding to it.

It’s so profitable in fact, that many of the original spam factories of the 90’s are now legitimate email marketing companies.

So please…take responsibility for your computing actions. If you cannot afford to pay for the Symantec/McAfee software subscription that comes with your new computer…have a tech remove it and install Microsoft Security Essentials, AVG, Avast, Avira, or some other free anti-virus option.

A whale of a hoax just for you

Our friends at NakedSecurity, part of the Sophos Antivirus company, a new link threatens your computer and perhaps your Facebook account.

If you see a message on a friends’ Facebook wall talking about a whale being tossed into a building, don’t click on it. It will be a rogue site that will attempt to garner information from you.

But the hoaxes from the sick and greedy don’t end there.

There are many other viral links spreading on Twitter, Facebook and many will land you on FouTube which is a fake YouTube site, or some other “fill out this form” survey site which may seem innocent until you start seeing that your Facebook profile suddenly likes the link you clicked on, and your Twitter account has been updated to try to attack more of your friends/followers.

Just take a second to vet (check out) each link you are seeing.

Same holds true for scams on Facebook attempting to take money from you for tsunami relief. Only give money to charities that you have dealt with before and never give money or credit card information to people who call/contact you first.

A Google tool you need to make use of

Google has unveiled its newest tool…a blocking tool which will let you pick the results that you want to no longer see whenever you do a Google search.

Now the results looks like this–

Blocking results from Google

A way to block bad stuff from your Google results

This gives you a chance to block malware acting sites like MyLife.com, PirateBay, and others.

You can read more on Google’s blog site: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/hide-sites-to-find-more-of-what-you.html

Video Malware attacks on Facebook

See any posts like this lately?

Example of malware video post on Facebook

Here is an example of a malware video post on Facebook

This is the latest wave of malware loaders to hit Facebook. Facebook assumes that you are a responsible PC owner and leave it up to you what you will and won’t click on.

But make no mistake…this is a trojan horse that delivers a negative software load on to your pc and may create a bigger hole for worse stuff to load on to it later down the line.

If you click on one of these links accidentally…immediate use the Kill IE button we created last night and then download a copy of MalwareBytes. Then update the MalwareBytes definitions and finally run a scan on your system.

Warn your friends and family members who are on Facebook about this and let’s stop this replication.

Be leery of videos that say “SICK” “FUNNY” or anything else that seems unusual. Also look at the url that the video is hosted on. If the video comes from YouTube, Vevo, MTV, Comedy Central or other trusted sources you are okay.

If the video is hosted on a site you have never heard of…DON’T CLICK ON IT!

Build your own IE “eject” button

Sometimes Google sends you to sites where there is no safe place to click.

If you ever find yourself on a page that locks your browser up so that your only choice is to click on a site manufactured pop-up; then you need an eject button and I am going to show you how to make one.

Step one, right click anywhere on your desktop that is empty and choose Create New –> Shortcut

Kill IE shortcut button

An icon/button that you can use to shutdown IE safely

Now you need to give the shortcut some direction and tell it what to do. The command that you would type in DOS to kill IE is:

C:\Windows\System32\taskkill.exe /F /IM iexplore.exe /T

So you need to enter this command into the Target field and then select okay.

Kill IE Screenshot 2

Adding in the command into the target field in Windows new shortcut

Next step–name the shortcut. I call it KillIE.exe

Kill IE Shortcut Screenshot 3

Name that new shortcut

Now you have a perfectly good shortcut to kill a locked browser safely. There is a technical reason why we will kill Internet Explorer in this manner but trust me, this is safer than use CTRL-ALT-DEL/task manager.

Why? Because this way is a rude way to exit IE. Task Manager uses a polite mechanism which politely unloads the content from the Windows. This polite manner gives scripts that lock up your browser a chance to save their place and store data on your computer. The Kill IE tool/shortcut not only simply kills the IE session, it can also be modified to work on Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and other browsers and it is safer because it does not allow a site to grab a foothold on your system.

Questions? Ask John