Category Archives: Security and Privacy

Sage 50 or Sage 50cloud? Neither.

I just had the most interesting chat with Justin at Peachtree the makers of Sage 50 and Sage 50cloud.  I have a customer using Sage 50 2015.  It’s breaking occasionally with windows update.  Reloading is an overnight ordeal.  I thought I might see what a new version would cost.  I could not find a way to order the desktop version on their website.  Evidently, you have to talk to a sales representative.  Why?  Because just paying for the software does not get you support for the software, there are support options.  You have to buy support and for software that has such bad reputation for breaking regardless of whether you have the most current version, you really don’t want to waste your money buying the software without the support.  Justin confirmed this for me.  Buyer beware.  Here is the text of my conversation with “Justin”.

Justin
Info at 10:21, Jul 17:
Thank you for choosing to chat with us. An agent will be with you shortly.
Info at 10:22, Jul 17:
You are now chatting with Justin.
You at 10:22, Jul 17:
I don’t want to use cloud software. Can I just get a desktop license?
You at 10:23, Jul 17:
for sage 50 I mean?
Justin at 10:25, Jul 17:
Hi, are you currently using Sage cloud software?
You at 10:25, Jul 17:
Why do you ask?
You at 10:28, Jul 17:
You know, I don’t want to sit here for 5 minutes while you figure out how to convince me that I want cloud software… No wonder the support reviews are so aweful. Could you just answer my question… I don’t want to use cloud software. Can I just get a desktop license?
Justin at 10:30, Jul 17:
Yes, you can get a desktop license.
You at 10:31, Jul 17:
Where do I order it so that it is supported?
Justin at 10:32, Jul 17:
Our Sage 50 representatives help with ordering and purchasing support for the software.
You at 10:35, Jul 17:
There isn’t a link to just buy it?
Justin at 10:36, Jul 17:
No. You can purchase via Amazon or possibly Office Depot if you choose.
You at 10:37, Jul 17:
And it will be supported if I do that? I saw reviews that said it’s not supported if bought at Amazon.
Justin at 10:39, Jul 17:
I am not sure how Amazon supports it’s purchases although, purchasing Sage Software directly from the company will include options to purchase support.
You at 10:42, Jul 17:
You folks are so precious… I think I will look a little closer at QB. Thanks for your time.

AOL, YAHOO, Frontier Email Users… Time to Bail?!

One of my customers recently called concerned about a note she received from Frontier, her ISP provider, about her frontier.net Email.  They were excited about their new merger or partnership or something like that with AOL and YAHOO to form OATH.  Life will be so much better for everyone!!!  It said she needed to accept new Email User Policies and Terms of Use to continue using her Frontier email address.  I mistakenly told her, “Oh, that kind of stuff happens all the time, just accept it and move on.”  WRONG!  These new policies are giving this OATH entity thing  (A subdivision of Verizon) carte blache permission to share a lot of your personally identifiable information with third party companies and it is removing your right to participate in any kind of class action ever if they abuse your information.

I want to be real clear… this is about email service, not the Internet Service Provider (ISP) service.  You don’t have a great choice for ISP services in our area, but you do have a few more services for email and you don’t have to use the email services of your ISP.  And while the Frontier issue might be an isolated area, AOL and YAHOO are all over the country so pay attention!

Rather than me going through well documented observations about these OATH policies, I am just going to refer you to the observations of others that you can find on this Google search page:

Google search for “OATH policy change”

I thought this one From Tom’s Hardware was pretty good.  Brief and to the point.:

Oath Waives Users’ Lawsuit Rights, Will Share ‘Individually Identifiable’ Data With Third-Parties

So what should you do?

Free email services are going to scan your mail… cuz they need your information to play mind games with you to get you to buy their stuff or someone else’s stuff…  You might argue (not with me, not with me, but you might argue) that email provided by your ISP (i.e., Frontier, Spectrum, …) is not free, but that’s not how they see it.  They are providing internet access for a price and giving you mailboxes ‘cuz they’re benevolent… Riiiight.  It’s not intuitively obvious that Spectrum is any better, but I do not find a clause in their terms of service that requires me to individually sue them if I think they are abusing the use of my data.  So, at this point I am not going to tell the TWC.com and Rochester.rr.com email folks you should think about another situation, but keep an eye out for trouble because if AOL, YAHOO, and Frontier get away with this without losing a bunch of customers, you can bet the others are going to try the same thing.

My solution… I use my own business server for email.  It is on a shared server, but to the best of my knowledge, no one is mining my email for information to sell products to me.  However, it is on my list of places to read more carefully with I get time.  This doesn’t totally protect my privacy because any time I write to a gmail, yahoo, aol, … user, the Big Sistas are watching.  But I am pretty sure my business to business mail is not subject to free-mail scanning.

You can pay for your own email service through a provider that has a policy not to read your mail.  I found services for as little as $30/year.  I found recommendations for some companies, but I currently do not have a paid service recommendation…  Actually, I am frustrated enough with the “baffle ’em with BS” marketing on these services, I am considering starting one of my own for friends and family and our policy will be simple… we won’t be reading your mail for any reason unless someone hands me a subpoena … or you address it to me.  If any one would be interested in that, let me know and if there are enough with interest, I will think harder.

According to my research, Icloud is not scanning and collecting data from icloud.com mail accounts.  So if you have an apple device and created an icloud.com email, that might be a place to transition…  Finally!  A good reason to pay the extra for Apple…  You’ll have to do the business case for yourselves whether it will be cost effective over just paying for an email service.  I find other things annoying about Apples business model, so I ‘m sticking to more open architectures for my solutions… to each his own though.  If you like Apple, I am not a bigot when It comes to providing services.  I will help you with those products too.

If you want to continue with a “free” email service that sells “you” as their product… the best recommendation I can give you is to get set up with gmail and learn how to use their tools to control what privacy things you can control.  They at least are not trying to force customers to sign agreements that effectively gives them ownership to anything you store on their servers and no right to complain, although I vaguely remember them trying to do that too.  For $49, I’ll help you for the next 30 days to get your email all transitioned to a new service or just watch for blogs here that tell you how to do it.

There will be nothing to stop any free service from rewriting their policies in the future.  Actually, I expect that there might be a little volatility in the “free” email market for a bit.  I know that changing a primary email address is as annoying as changing your physical mailing address, probably more so knowing the number of places you have to contact is probably 20-fold higher.  Then you should keep and monitor the old address until you are sure everyone you want to find you, can find you.   There is a pretty reasonable solution to that problem.  I have customers who long ago purchased their own domain name (e.g., jones.us, smith.net, 3puppies.com) and I taught them how to create aliases with their own domain (e.g. my email address anne@3puppies.com just send the email to my webmaster@kbmenterprises.net).  An alias redirects your mail to any physical email server you choose.  What this means, is that you can keep your email address the same and direct it to a different service if you get annoyed with your current service.   Keeping history is a little trickier, but ihaving a personal domain frees you from having to change your email address every time you move your service.  It’s kind of like having a post office box for your snail mail.  You can move around as often as you can stand to pack your things and your mailing address stays the same (presuming you are moving within reach of the physical post office where the box is located.)  The internet is not as physically limiting as a post office box, so you can create an alias and use it as long as you want to be found to send your mail to any “physical” email box on the internet.  A personal domain can be obtained for $5-10/year if you manage it yourself.

I think I have just outline the next few blog topics.  I will get to those topics as soon as I can…  Have to help the paying customers first.  Let me know if you want to be one of those.  I will send you an estimate.

 

 

 

 

If You Sign In, Then Sign Out (A Little Bedtime Story for Information Consumers)

One of the easiest ways for someone to steal our information, accounts, and credit is for us to be stupid… ok, more politely, ignorant. Ignorant doesn’t make you feel any better? Sorry, I think that captures it. But it’s a popular ignorant evidently… I am talking about an ignorant that means “uneducated” on a particular issue, not ignorant as in “vulgar”. The second easiest way to be exposed to information fraud is to be friends with someone who is ignorant. That’s a little harder to control, but let’s start some conversation with our friends and see if we can stem the ignorance a bit and make our worlds a little safer.

If I describe you, or someone you know, in this article, rest assured, you are not alone and I wouldn’t be describing you if I thought this is a shameful kind of ignorant… The topic is just something that computer experts think is intuitively obvious. Probably even a fair number of readers will think, “Uh Duh!” when I tell you my story. We are all at risk as long as we have one ignorant friend. So here is my story, please share it.

Recently, I went to Verizon to get a new phone. While I was waiting, I was looking at the demo phone options. I picked up the demonstrator Motorola Droid. I tapped the Facebook app and up pops an actual Facebook account with posts and an address book and conversations. I thought, “This is nice, I get to actually see the app in action on the phone.” I pointed it out to the associate when he came over and expressed how nice I thought that was that they have demo accounts. He said, “We don’t have any demo accounts.” What?!?

Someone (I won’t name names, but I could as well as a lot of other information.) had logged into their Facebook account on a demo phone and had left it there for all to use. It took every ounce of willpower I had not to post a very motherly note on this persons timeline. I really had to hold back when I considered sending a suggestion to all of his/her friends that it is not safe to be friends with this person. But I didn’t. I just signed the person out.

So on further conversation, the associate tells me… “It happens all the time!” ALL THE TIME!

The cloud is a lovely convenience. Our information is available to us just about anywhere we go. But you need to know. If you “sign in” to something on the cloud, you really need to “sign out” when you are done. This is true especially if you are not on your own computer or phone. If you don’t know how to sign out, don’t sign in unless you are on your own computer. Period. If you are going to use someone else’s computer or phone to check your email, facebook, twitter, … Make sure you know how to sign out.

Further, if you carry a computer or tablet out of your home, you should have an access password on the device. And not an easy one. If your computer goes missing (it happens), a decent access password will help a little, but you should know, if I get your computer and you leave all your accounts logged, I can get into a lot of mischief and I am not even clever about these things.

So learn it’s as simple as securing your home. Sign in, sign out. Thank you for protecting my security. Feel free to share this article… especially with your children. Please!

So What is With All These Pop-ups I’m Getting?

Voluntary Illiterate, can just read the bold, but don’t blame me if you miss something important. That’s probably what got you here in the first place.

I almost hate to write this article since removing pop-ups has been pretty lucrative for me lately, but it’s getting real boring, so maybe if I tell you how to fix the easy ones, you can get on to causing more challenging problems on your computers.;-)

Every vendor delivering “free” software or updates is including in their download process something they consider “useful” that you don’t need and most of the time don’t want. This of course is a courtesy… Ya… right. They are getting paid for each download, so of course, they make these extras either inconspicuous or, worse, appear to be something that you need. Therefore, when downloading or loading from DVD, you need to read every screen that is presented to you looking for the actual name of the program that is being loaded. If it’s not the one you requested or there is a check box that agrees to loading something other than what you have requested, be careful. There is usually a check box or a “skip” action that you need to use so this garbage (not my first choice of words) doesn’t end up on your computer. The “skip” action might be hidden until you mouse over the right location on the screen. Even vendors that I have recommended for years are doing this. Your ever-helpful ISP (e.g., Time Warner, Frontier, …) are doing it with antivirus software. You do not need a McAfee product if you already have an antivirus application. Contrary to their suggestion, you don’t need tuning software either. If you are not sure, call and ask me.

My favorite!… Recently, I bought a Microsoft Office License from my favorite vendor and as a “bonus”, I was sold a game on my invoice . (It was actually more complicated than that. They deducted $40 from the price of Office and added the game for $40. They of course advertised the reduced price on Office. I am sure they are on commission with the game company.) I didn’t want the game. I didn’t need the game. But I couldn’t order the Office software at the reduced price without getting the download of a game. I couldn’t even order Office at the full price to avoid getting the game license. Really pissed me off and, yes they know now, that it pissed me off… At least they did not force me to actually download the game… Small consolation, I know.

Invariably, when you have loaded one of these handy extra programs, the symptom is usually a pop-up something. It is either a prompt to tune your computer when you have never had to tune your computer before or browser window for some more downloads or a shopping site. Sometimes it is the very dangerous “You are infected with a virus! Download XYZ and we will fix it.” Don’t click anything on that that prompt. It is wired to start downloading regardless of where you click… Even the X to close the window will trigger a download.

So the real defense against this activity is never to download anything… But as I said, even the legitimate vendors are doing things in update software… as a courtesy… so downloading is hard to avoid. I can’t emphasize enough… read the prompts carefully.

If you miss something, I do sometimes too, or you didn’t “check the box to not not get something”… Ya, watch those double negatives, here is what I have to do when you call and say, “So What is With All These Pop-ups I’m Getting?” If you are using Windows 7 or 8, then you can probably clean up a lot of them yourself without downloading a registry cleaner… Ya, that’s the first thing I want to do when I have been infected from a download program… I want to download another program… Not! If you are still on XP, the process is a little more complex, so you will have to keep calling me.

In Window 7 or 8, as soon as you get your first pop-up, do not do anything else… open your control panel. If you don’t know how to open your control panel, check back in a week. That will probably be next week’s top question. In control panel, Click Programs and Features. You should get something like the picture in Figure 2014.02.05.1.

Program List

Figure 2014.02.05.1

Read the instructions in red on the figure… Correction… do the instructions in red on the Figure.

This is where this will get a little tricky if you don’t know a lot about the programs you use. Uninstall the most recent programs as long as you don’t recognize the name. If you are unsure, call me. Usually these are programs above the Adobe programs. Adobe is constantly updating. If there are no programs above the Adobe programs… like you see in my Figure… Look just below. Maybe they have been loaded for a day or two and you didn’t notice. If nothing looks recent enough, then click the top of the name column to sort by name and start looking for “Toolbars” and “Search” programs. This can take a little more thinking, but if you like to live on the edge go for it.

Other than Google (and Norton if you have Norton Antivirus or McAfee if you use that), I uninstall everything that has Toolbar or Search in the name… Ask, Bing, Conduit (a really irritating one), Yahoo… everything that is not Google or Norton (McAfee). If you have Norton, then McAfee needs to be eliminated too. Norton and McAfee do not like each other. Adobe has been installing McAfee with it’s updates… You don’t need it if you have Norton… Adobe doesn’t care.

If you get rid of all Toolbar and Search programs, then your computer is going to surf much smoother. If the pop-up is still bugging you, then you will have to pay me… I will warn you that Conduit also changes setting in your browsers (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Chrome.) If you find Conduit on your PC, you will likely need to reset all of your setting in your browsers to completely eliminate all the damage it has done. If you don’t know how to do that and you don’t want to pay me to fix it, check back in a few weeks. I will probably be bored with that fix too;-)