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Thursday, March 12, 2015

RollAround Ads and You

The RollAround Ads (aka "PUP.Optional.RollAround.A" or any variant)

This is very disturbing!  As always check with a local computer technician expert on matters regarding your PC and safety.

So as some of you may or may not be aware, not only have I worked extensively on computer technology and electronics for a fair amount of my life including childhood, I'm also going to college where I'm learning even more about said technology and the concepts therein to become a fully capable, competent, and respected computer technician.  This is what I've done in the past, this is what I do for both a hobby and for education, and I am always happy to share my data with anyone who wants to inspect my work.

As part of being an aware computer-savvy technician, I'm always looking to new improvements to computer tech, as well as the network security news, and all matters related to consumer PC safety including online habits.  Before reading up on any new information, my first priority is to make sure that my own PC's, both my desktops and my laptops, run at their peak efficiency, and that they are all virus free, malware-free, and spyware-free (or at least, as much as humanly possible with scans runs on a somewhat frequent basis about once or twice a week, more if I find hidden viruses or malware previously undetected).

I've spent the last 72 hours determining the extent of the problem that exists with certain malware that has been showing up recently in my weekly security sweeps on my laptops.  The following information is for anyone that doesn't know about RollAround popups adware/malware.  Your anti-virus or anti-malware software may not even detect it for weeks, even months.  Mine certainly did not, and again I run security scans at least twice a week on my own computers, and at least bi weekly on the rest of the devices and computers on my home network.

At first, I had not heard about "RollAround" AdWare / Malware, so to me it's relatively new.  After extensive research, I have found that it's been around for years.  I don't know how far back it goes, but it was simply too disturbing to ignore.

From what I've read, "PUP.Optional.RollAround.A" or some variant disguises itself as a persistent cookie installed onto your computer via one of your favorite browsers, say Firefox for example.  You might be asking the same question I did when I researched this relatively new tracking tool, and you'd be right to say to yourself "I didn't opt to participate in this tracking cookie.  How do I get it off my system?  How did I get it in the first place?"  Well, that last part I'm working on for myself.  Apparently, just by visiting any site that uses these special persistent cookies, you've automatically agreed to it.  At least, that's how their legal terms and conditions states it.  You can always opt-out, and even block cookies specifically, but unless you REALLY know what you're doing, it can be a tedious task, and one that can change the way you access your frequently visited websites.  I was especially surprised that the community college I go to has this cookie on their website, and I have used both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox interchangeably, and have frequently deleted cookies to make sure my site visits aren't tracked, even marked the checkbox in Chrome and in Firefox "Do Not Track" or their respective equivalents.  Though, it's obvious that even my weekly scans haven't given me any indication up until recently that there was anything mischievous going on with my PC systems.  I had no clue whatsoever, and I had been constantly trying to figure out why my systems would run so sluggish.

RollAround malware/adware tracks everything from your online viewing preferences, to shopping habits, purchases, what sites you do or don't visit, even if the visit is accidental (So, even if you inadvertently click on an ad that sends you to that awful porn site, it'll track that and think that's your preference).  It can run even when you're not physically on your PC, but your computer is still running and connected to the internet.  This is another reason I like to turn off my PC nightly, but I haven't been because I want security and other updates to occur while I sleep.  There's always the option, if you have it available, of turning off all network traffic via your firewall, or disconnecting from the router or cable modem directly and physically.  However, that still doesn't solve the problem of what to do with this malware.

I truly thought I had a handle on it just yesterday after running three full and complete scans with both MalwareBytes' "Anti-Malware" scanner, and Norton Antivirus provided by my ISP Comcast / Xfinity (don't judge, I just prefer to NOT go with Dial-Up or DSL if I can help it).  For whatever reason, it keeps popping up on my system.  From what I've researched, these cookies can come from any number of [now questionably] reputable companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, and other companies with investments in online shopping, and online ordering, who want YOUR data, your shopping habits, your internet browsing patterns, what products and services you find interesting, what products and services you don't buy, etc.  While this is NOT a new tactic for businesses, what is new is the legal loophole that they've all found to install software onto your computer without your knowledge, and then leave an opt-out open for anyone who doesn't want their data tracked, but even using that tool doesn't guarantee that your information, your browsing habits data, won't be tracked by other companies who use the same technology.

So here are your options from the way I see it after trying to either deal with or remove this garbage from your PC (and mine when I encounter it in my scans):

  1. Accept it.  It's pretty safe to say that this new legal technicality where just by visiting a website, your data on a site you've visited or are visiting, even by accident, could be tracked, even if everything you do tells that site you don't want to be tracked.  By now, it's fair to say it's a standard practice for nearly every company that does business online to use this tracking software.  Even non-internet businesses, reputable business use this strategy when concocting advertising and sales.  There is the supposed idea that your data is kept confidential, but I question that when I get dozens of ads unrelated to what I'm viewing.  For better understanding of this practice, I suggest watching the episode "Attack of the Killer App" from the TV series "Futurama" (available on Netflix as long as Netflix doesn't replace it with something crappy).  Although the episode features technology slightly different from a PC, the message in it is clear.  You want convenience?  You pay a price.  This is that price!
  2. Go "Off the Grid".  Put your tin foil hats on, because conspiracy theorists are gonna go ape-shit over this.  Like I said earlier, this practice is not new, but the way it's being done is relatively new from the perspective of a computer / internet consumer.  Many people, fed up with the way their data is being collected, dissected, analyzed, and processed into relevant ads for their personal preference, will often take to "cutting the digital cord" by not using any and all electronic devices, including computers, tablets, smartphones, etc.  Even using their old TV could be "beaming commercial ads into your brain" while you sleep.  I have personally never believed that last part, but if you feel you can handle being off all electronic devices, more power to you.  Though as I said before, this practice is still in use offline as much as it is done online.
  3. Customize your online experience.  There are ways to limit what data is collected, tools that have been (only recently) built into consumer grade internet browsers.  Tools like "private browsing" where no cookies are stored, no data is shared, and your browsing habits are only minimally tracked, if at all.  I've not yet had a chance to test this option specifically to verify that is what happens, but since it's my job to know what internet-related news including network security threats are out there, I might for one week try this method of "private browsing" and see if it works.  Though, you can, without going to "private mode", "incognito" or "InPrivate Browsing" depending on your preferred browser, customize your browsing software to accept cookies only from certain sites, especially from those specific sites you frequent the most so that the accidental click of a pornographic ad won't lead to your browser sending personal data about your "accidental" porn viewing habits.  While I disagree on some of those clicks being "accidental", it does happen even to the most careful user where they'll click on an ad that leads to a pornographic website.  There are other ways, other software that is designed to block ads so that this doesn't happen to you, but now it's just getting convoluted and complicated to keep your browsing data from being collected, even "accidental" data being transmitted.
  4. Run Anti-Malware, Anti-spyware, and antivirus scans regularly.  This should go without saying.  Be self-conscious about internet safety.  Like myself, you may have been as careful as you could possibly be, but that ONE accidental click could end up putting you in a compromising position of having to explain why suddenly your PC now redirects to pornographic websites to your significant other, your loved ones, etc.  While that may or may not be difficult depending on how well your loved ones know you, it doesn't hurt to do the prudent thing and run scans at least once every two weeks, or more frequent depending on your online viewing habits, just to be safe rather than sorry.
On a final note, this practice is how companies as well as would-be identity thieves and scammers are able to send targeted spam email (and regular snail mail) to your inbox, attempting to sway you into either buying their ridiculous product, or getting suckered into a scam that costs you all of your finances.  Just because you practice safe internet browsing doesn't mean everyone else who uses your PC will do the same.  As I found out, even (supposedly) reputable companies are not honoring their commitment to keeping your data confidential and safe.  They'll sell it to whomever they can, even to lowest bidders, just to get that extra $1.25 per click.  

So, do us computer technicians a favor.  When we attempt to help you with cleaning your PC system, be honest.  Even with those "accidental" clicks on porn ads, that information could be extremely helpful in finding out why your system is being infected so aggressively and frequently.  We're not here to judge you, make fun of you, or embarrass you in front of others like your family or friends, we're here to help.  If there's been a mistake in online internet browsing, own up to it.  Even if you don't think ANYONE in your household has done so, admit the possibility that mistakes do happen.  I've long thought, and am still a believer in the fact that computers do not make mistakes.  Humans often do, even if they're not totally aware of it.  

I'll do my best to keep you all updated on this and other internet/computer/network security related tips.  Please feel free to comment.  If you'd like me to answer a question, or research a related topic, please feel free to email me at "".  Thank you!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cryptolocker Virus and You

I came across this article Cryptolocker Virus News Article and believed it was noteworthy to point out some good tips and ideas drawing from experience.

First off, these viruses are usually the result of visiting sites that are less than reputable.  Never submit information on a website you don't trust or (let's be honest) is completely riddled with pornographic images.  Secondly,  always keep your anti-virus updated with the latest definitions.  Third, keep your anti-malware scanner software updated as well.  Lastly, even with the latest updates on both antivirus and anti-malware, it does you no good if you don't run regular scans on your PC.  Most PC techs will tell you to run a scan at least once a week or more often depending on your web surfing activity.

Depending on your antivirus program, be sure to visit its website for information on this virus, and tips on how to prevent it from giving you trouble on your PC.  A good rule of thumb for myself is that I clean my browser history, delete my cookies, and run every scan possible with both my anti-virus and anti-malware software programs at least twice a week.  This is not because of pornographic sites, but because I do a lot of research both on black hat sites and white hat sites.  I have to be well versed in network security.  But for the average user, a scan of both programs at least once a week is more than prudent.

Also, if you have children, please limit their internet activities, set parental controls, and block websites entirely if you think there may be some questionable content.  For more information, please visit the following sites I believe to be helpful: - For Norton security products. - For McAfee security products. - For AVG security products. - Kaspersky Security products.

If you still need help, please contact a PC technician immediately for assistance.  Also keep in mind that like with any new virus or computer or network security issue, updates are being put together as fast as humanly possible.  Patches are being made, and updates are being designed to close loopholes.  Be sure to keep up-to-date on all updates (whether you're a MAC or PC user).

For more information, contact your network or system administrator if in a work environment.

Friday, September 6, 2013

US and UK spy agencies defeat privacy and security on the internet (Courtesy:

This latest blog I wanted to share because of the rise of concern over privacy and security.  I felt it necessary to write about this after reading the following link:


I stumbled upon this when I was checking my "Google+" account.  To be fair, I haven't read the article in its entirety.  Though playing devil's advocate, I can see some potential benefits to this happening.  And because of the rise in concern over privacy and security after the recent leak of NSA (National Security Agency) domestic eavesdropping, I felt it necessary to point out some of the potential benefits here as opposed to the potential pitfalls some folks jump to (the conspiracy theorists).

The first and foremost benefit is this:  It's better this happens by the United States and the United Kingdom's spy agencies than have it happen by someone with less-than-honorable reasons.  Let's face it, everyone would be in an uproar if someone in a much more foreign (and hostile) sovereign power did it.  I'd be in total concern that someone broke my encryption codes in a foreign hostile region than my own government.  Besides, unless I'm doing something completely illegal, I have nothing to hide.

Another benefit to this development is that because of this government sanctioned "breach", a "white hat" or ethical hacker (someone who is paid to legally break into secure networks and computer systems) can find solutions to such breaches of security and privacy, and find new countermeasures and defenses against such cyber attacks.

Suppose these "white hats" didn't exist.  Let's just say for the sake of argument that our governments weren't proactive in setting up these legal breaches, who would be responsible for the safety and security of our computer systems and networks?  The manufacturer's?  The individual public users?  "Black Hats"?  Those are the folks we really should worry about.  They are the ones who hack for many reasons.  Primary reasons include greed, bragging rights, and to "just have fun".  Sometimes, although rare, "Black Hats" have been used for political cyber attacks on politician's systems, networks, etc.  

My personal suggestion to get an idea of what this all means, watch the movie "Live Free or Die Hard".  In this movie, they talk of something hackers everywhere both live for and fear called a "fire sale".  I won't explain the details of which since they are explained in the movie, and while I don't think it'd actually happen, it's a very real worry.  "White hats" who work on government payroll are constantly working on making sure someone or a group of people are not able to perform this theoretical "fire sale".

One final thought on this subject, for those of us in I.T. (Information Technology)/I.S. (Information Security) industries, this can be a useful development, because it means someone is already working on solutions and remedies to counteract such breaches and cyber attacks.  Those of us in said industries are working hard to keep up with developments like this so that we can do our job that much more effectively and efficiently.  The last thing we want is for someone to blame us for something that wasn't within our control, or even a degree of control.  

Have questions or need something explained?  Send me an email at, and I'll do my best to either answer your question or provide an explanation.  If I cannot, I'll point you in the right direction.  If you'd like your question or explanation featured in a blog, let me know too!  Thanks for reading. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Basic Terminology (Jargon)

If you're anything like me, you get tired of people who term components of a computer incorrectly.  It's annoying, frustratingly confusing, and worst yet is when a consumer/customer gives you an incorrect term, it can lead you to the wrong conclusion, which leads to an incorrect solution, and therefore a very unhappy customer because now they feel they've not only been misled to believe you can help, but it also reflects badly on your organization.

This post is NOT for those of you who are like me.  No, this is a post for the average "joe" consumer who, over the past 25 years has heard the usage of terms through second- and third-hand accounts of computer trouble being handled improperly, mostly because a tech was given incorrect terms.

The purpose of this post is to (hopefully) educate the consumer public, the tech support caller, and the general computer operator / user on proper terminology when speaking tech to a tech.  Let's face it, when you use incorrect terms, it can mean the difference between getting your problem solved or mishandled, sometimes worse.

It's a lot like negotiations in business.  You can make or break a deal using either the right or wrong words or phrases.  Only instead of losing a million dollar contract, you might lose your data on your PC system including important spreadsheets for your job, important contacts, or in the case of the home user you might lose precious pictures that haven't been processed for actual photo prints, videos of your family's invaluable moments in your lives, your email, sometimes even your family medical and financial history.  We have to face the reality that in today's world, the PC system is much more than a business tool.  It has become a tool for the home user, and when it fails with no backup system in place (hard-copies, physical items in a safe, etc) we lose a piece of ourselves with it.

The following are a list of proper terms.  This is not an all-inclusive list, but it should illustrate some key differences in how we think about a computer system.

RAM - Random Access Memory.  This is a component of your computer with both physical and virtual parts to it.  The physical part is the memory module chip that is installed inside your PC system.  Sometimes it can be removed and replaced with an upgraded chip or set of chips.  Usually rectangular in design, small, and relatively inexpensive, though for higher memory upgrades, the prices do go up.  This part of the computer is what stores information (temporarily) when accessing data (files like spreadsheets, databases, word processing documents, pictures, music files, even the internet), and writes data to the hard drive after being temporarily stored for use.

ROM - Read-Only Memory.  Just like it describes, this is a type of memory that can only be read, and not written to.  Things like date/time, processor information, hard drive data, internal components are stored here, and are for general informational use.  It's not meant for modification or manipulation.

CD - ROM - Compact Disc Read Only Memory.  Just like ROM, the information stored on a CDROM Disc is meant for general use and cannot be modified or written to (with some exceptions).  Sometimes it can be software, firmware for a product, or filled with data files pertaining to a product or device.  There are different types of "CDROM" discs, but we'll cover that later.

CD - ROM / DVD - ROM Drive - This is a component of the computer system that reads discs.  Depending on how old the system is, it might ONLY read CDROM software discs and music CDs.  If it's a newer system, chances are it's a DVD-ROM drive where it can read most types of discs.  Some examples are CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R/DVD+R*, and DVD-RW/DVD+RW* as well as music CDs, photo CDs, regular movie DVDs, etc.

*Note - There is a difference between the (-) disc and the (+) disc.  A good discussion on what the difference is, and what the benefits are of each can be found on C|Net's discussion forum here - LINK

A little side remark about CDROMs and CDROM/DVDROM drives, customers/consumers use these two terms interchangeably, so be careful in providing the right term when speaking to a technician.  It can mean the difference between you having to either buy a new disc or buying a new CDROM drive (which depending on your system specifications can get expensive, and we haven't even discussed labor costs).

CPU - Central Processing Unit.  This is a processor chip that drives your computer.  It's the brains of the whole operation.  This is what provides the billions of calculations per second, handles all components inside the system, and assigns tasks to said components while still controlling the flow of data between your hard drive (we'll discuss that term as well) and the installed RAM.  Some home users believe that their entire PC tower is the CPU.  We'll get to explaining that later.  Without the CPU chip, the computer system is nothing more than a dead and expensive paperweight.  A quick note here.  If the chip were to malfunction or all-of-a-sudden NOT WORK, the computer system will turn on, but nothing would boot.  The OS, the BIOS, NOTHING would go.  And yes, we'll discuss those terms, too!  Although unlikely to fail, when it does, you'll know it well before the tech does.

HDD - Hard Disk Drive.  This is an internal component in your PC system that handles the semi-permanent storage of your computer data, including your Operating System (OS).  In the early days of computers, Hard Drives didn't exist.  Data was stored on what were called "Floppy Disks" in FDDs (Floppy Disk Drives).  Because of the decline in the use of Floppy Disks, we won't even go over that topic (unless you're a hardcore computer technician that's worked on them for 30+ years).  Once again, should this component malfunction for whatever reason (corrupt drive, virus, missing OS), the computer will turn on, even boot the BIOS, but after that nothing will load.  Only a cursor that might say something like "Bad or missing data" or "No Operating System Found"!  Another quick note, be careful what you delete on your drive, and in fact, never delete any file you are unsure about.  It may mean the difference between being able to load your Operating System, and having to either have a tech reload software for your OS, or buy a new PC altogether.  Also, run virus checks as well as general maintenance checks (defrag, ScanDisk, backup, etc) regularly.

Once again, the average user will sometimes say "My hard drive failed, and I can't load anything!".  This is another example of incorrect usage, although sometimes they will be right on the money.  Consumers often mix-up CPU & Hard Drive to describe the fact that their computer has failed.  What they say, and what they mean are not necessarily incompatible, but often times they are.  So be sure to know your terms before you ask a tech for help.

Computer Monitor Screen - Whether it's the old CRT (Cathode-Ray Tube) big ass box with a screen, or the newer LCD displays, this is what displays all the information from your PC including the OS, your data files, music, video clips, your internet sites that you visit, that Facebook or Twitter account you frequently check for updates, your email, etc.  Consumers often mistake this for it being their whole computer, and often times it's just the display itself that has failed, although certain exceptions can occur.  A good rule of thumb is to make sure it's NOT the display by using another one in its place and running the computer.  If you are able to see the computer loading, then it's not something inside the PC.  If you cannot, it's a good bet something else is going wrong.

Computer Tower (Tower Chassis) - The box that houses all the above components (along with other key elements) of a computer.  It also has blinking lights, a power light, and often will include the ever-popular power button.  On newer systems, it may even include USB ports, memory card slots, and microphone / headphone jack ports.  This is where consumers mix this term up with CPU, HDD, and OS.  If something fails, they will usually use this term first before they get to the correct term.  Some of the components inside besides the RAM, HDD, CD/DVD ROM drives are:

1) Video Card - This is what connects your LCD or CRT display monitor and allows you to view your system data whether it's your internet sites, your data files, your pictures, etc.  The older systems might require these, but on newer systems, the video feed is "On-board" meaning it's integrated into the system.  This has been explained in another blog entry.

2) Sound Card - Ever wonder how you are able to hear music files, video clips, and other sounds from your PC?  It's usually from the sound card plugged into your speakers via a 3.5mm speaker jack port.  On older systems, it's not necessarily required, especially on business-class PC systems.  On newer systems, just like the video card, it can now be integrated into the system without you having to buy an unnecessary item.

3) LAN/NIC Card - LAN (Local Area Network) or NIC (Network Interface Controller) card is what connects you to your network whether its your ISP, your router, your Network Hub, etc.  It's what controls the traffic of data and information between your PC and the World Wide Web/Internet.  Once again, older systems might require a separate controller card to be installed in order to use the network.  On newer systems, like the video and sound, it's now being integrated into the PC so you don't have to take it apart to install.  The standard cable to use on this is the ethernet cable or RJ-45 cable jack.

4) Dial-Up Modem - Although now considered archaic, this was widely used on systems older than 2003.  It was considered the industry standard to have a 56k (that's 56 kilobits) modem connecting to a dial-up network (D-U-N) provider.  These types of modems usually use the RJ-11 jack cable, otherwise known as "telephone cable" like the one used when plugged into a wall to either a standard telephone, or the more widely used portable phone with a power base.  Some consumers use the term "Modem", and those of us techs old enough to know the difference between DSL, Cable, etc think of dial-up modems automatically.  Just be sure to let the tech know what type of connection you do have.  If you don't know, please call your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and find out.  Most of the time, if you get a bill from your provider, you should already know.

Some PCs are coming out with "Wireless" capability built-in, which replaces the need for ethernet wire or NIC cards.  Though be sure to let your tech know the difference by describing if you are using a wireless connection to your network, or if it's wired in.  The reason being is that we techs have to change our approach in dealing with network problems when it's one or the other.  Obviously we can't use tactics to fix a wired network problem on a wireless network, and vice-versa.

5) USB (Universal Serial Bus) port - This is a relatively newer type of port that can connect devices such as cameras, webcams, scanners, printers, and about a 100 other types of devices.  Some debate has been going on for some devices whether you can have the computer running and plug a device in.  Although it is considered "hot-swappable" (meaning the device can be plugged/unplugged while the computer is in operation), some devices require that you install software either before or after a device is plugged in.  Without getting into the technical detail, let's just say that the computer has to be aware of the device before or after software installation that controls your device.  I've yet to see a USB port "die" or fail, but when it does there's usually nothing you can do except maybe buy a USB hub or buy a new system.  It's cheaper to buy a USB hub and plug it into a working USB port.

6) Power Supply - DO NOT under any circumstance try to repair this item inside your PC.  You CAN, however, replace it yourself or have a tech do it.  It supplies power directly inside the PC to load your system and provide you with access to your PC relatively quickly.  Without it, your computer won't work.  The caveat to this is the fact that although the power supply can fail, the computer won't necessarily have to be replaced.  However, if the failure is severe enough, like say during a powerful thunderstorm with lightning, it can fail to such a degree that your computer is rendered useless, even after repair.  When users have come to me complaining their computer won't turn on, this is what I check first.  I check to see if A) the computer's power cord is plugged in to a working socket, and B) if it can display information on the monitor screen.  Although techs know when the power supply fails, it can sometimes be a challenge for the average consumer to know the difference between a hard drive failure and a power supply failure.  A good rule of thumb is simply if you can get power to the PC, it's NOT the power supply.  If you press the power button and absolutely nothing happens, it's a good bet your power supply is fried like chicken.

So next time you go to your PC systems administrator or a PC specialist tech, please be aware of these basic terms.  It can mean the difference between you getting your PC fixed, or being frustrated with the PC tech because there's been a misunderstanding between you both, and you both walk away feeling frustrated one way or another.

Have questions or need something explained?  Send me an email at, and I'll do my best to either answer your question or provide an explanation.  If I cannot, I'll point you in the right direction.  If you'd like your question or explanation featured in a blog, let me know too!  Thanks for reading.

Until then, keep your "cookies" tuned in!  :-D

Friday, April 27, 2012

Hoax Warnings vs. Real Warnings & You

We've all seen them.  Someone posts an email, a status update on Facebook, MySpace (blech), etc, and it usually says something to the effect of "DO NOT ADD [insert person's name]!  This person is a [insert hacker, pedophile, sex predator, or some automated implanted virus].  While there may be some truth to this, I would exercise caution on these warnings about certain individuals to your Facebook/MySpace/Whatever!  There are individuals out there who would love to prank an unsuspecting victim with a virus, or a video clip that is embedded with a virus.

Admittedly, I fell victim to something like this years ago on MySpace, and to date, my entire internet-connected family thinks it was I who initiated the whole thing.  Bottom line, if the video clip doesn't seem like the kind of thing your friend or family member wouldn't post, i.e. Grandma posting a pornographic video clip that just doesn't seem like something she'd do, or post an obscene message, it's a good bet that either her account has been hacked, or someone imitated your Grandmother's name, sometimes a very obvious misspelling, and posted to your wall.  In other words, don't click the link.  Contact your friend or family member by phone, or talk to them in person if possible, and get the facts straight.  My suggestion is to not jump to conclusions about any link, video clip, picture post or any other post that seems out of character for that person.

With all that being said, I stumbled across a message from a friend on my Facebook account from about a "Don't Add" Warning!  While I understand it's message of caution, I like to think that people would use common sense.  A few things to think about when seeing these warning messages:

1) Do I know this person / website / organization?  If the answer is no, it's a good bet you're not going to add them anyway.  In fact, the names listed will probably sound like generic names that could be just about anyone in the world trying to glean information off your PC using a keylogger virus, or by some other method.  This opens up your friends list (especially on Facebook/Twitter/MySpace) to their list of targets.  In other words, EXERCISE caution whenever possible.

2) Do I recognize that email address?  Hackers are pretty sneaky, and there are some REALLY gullible people out there who think to themselves "Oh that must be....[insert relationship status here with a name]!  I guess I just wrote their email address wrong!"  You'd be surprised how often this is the case.  If there is any doubt in your mind, and I mean ANY doubt whatsoever, my personal suggestion is do NOT add that email address or handle ID to your Instant Message programs (Y! Instant Messenger, AIM, MSN/Windows Live Instant Messenger, Skype, etc).  Better to be safe than sorry later.

3) Have I contacted this person without the use of a computer?  If the answer here is no, there's no need to go any further.  Just delete the request, and move along with your daily social media and instant message usage as normal.

The key piece of logic to remember here is that if they don't sound like someone you know, you're better off getting a complaint by phone from that friend rather than risk getting scammed.  I refer to my previous blog entry here Email Spam and You where it mentions "If it's too good to be true, it's probably not true."  The opposite can also be applied here.  "If it sounds too far fetched and bad to be true, it probably is."  If you're ever unsure, contact a PC specialist in your area.  Many offer a free or low-cost consultation.  If you're concerned about privacy, find a member of your family that has some extensive troubleshooting experience.  You may end up saving yourself some time, some frustration, and of course the biggie, MONEY!!

Have a comment? Suggestion? A topic you'd like to have discussed on my blog? Email me at And if I don't know the answer, I'll post up information on who to ask, where to go, or what to do to get your answer. :) Until then, have a great day, and I hope you've enjoyed reading my computer tips so far!