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PC Rescue Newsletter December 2008

Christmas is here and we'd like to wish everybody a happy Christmas and an excellent new year.

Now the summer holidays are here, we've a number of suggestions of how to make sure you don't get any nasty surprises from your system when you get back from your holidays. One important thing to watch is the risk of viruses and exploits being released while you're away and this is one reason why we recommend you avoid using Internet Explorer as your main web browser.

Internet Explorer alternatives

There's been renewed calls not to use Internet Explorer thanks to a bug discovered earlier this month.This "Zero Day Exploit" allows bad guys to design websites that can steal passwords and other user information.

Internet Explorer is the web browser built into Windows. All web browser, and other software, can have security bugs, but because of the way IE is designed, it is particularly prone to these security problems.

To make hings worse Internet Explorer is a fundamental part of Windows so any problem with IE becomes a problem for your entire system. This is why we think it's a good idea to use an alternative to Internet Explorer. Some of the options include.

Mozilla Firefox

The most popular alternative browser is Mozilla Firefox. You can download a free a copy from the Mozilla website.

Opera

One of the longest established alternative browsers, Opera tends to be the cutting edge browser, while it's not for everyone it's fast, stable and is also a free download.

Google Chrome

A new alternative is Google's web browser. It's fast but it does do things a bit differently from the others. You can get this free from Google's website.

Apple Safari

If you use a Mac then the Safari browser is included with your system. Windows users can download a free version from Apple.

All of these alternatives are perfectly good for general web browsing. It's best to try each and use the one you find works best for you. Unfortunately you can't completely get rid of Internet Explorer. Not only is it a integral part of Windows, but some web sites won't work properly on anything else, so reserve IE for those sites that require it and use an alternative for the rest of the web.

Jargon of the month: Zero day exploit

A ďzero day exploitĒ is where the details of a security bug have been made public before the manufacturer knew about it. This gives the malware writers a window of opportunity to cause mischief before anyone can plug the hole.

Computer services

Need a computer tech? We can get technicians to help you with your home and office computer problems anywhere in Australia.

If you need a new computer set up, a virus removed or would just like to make sure your computer is running as it should be, we can help you.

Call 1300 798 957 and our call centre can arrange a visit or online service.

Starting up after the Christmas break

If you are going away or shutting down your office over the Christmas break then Zero Day Exploits are one of the things you need to be aware of. Before reading emails and surfing the web make sure you've updated your antivirus and installed any security patches.

The bad guys donít take holidays and you can be certain there will be new exploits and viruses released over the break.When you do restart your machines, also remember the order you should start your equipment;
  1. Internet connection.
  2. Router
  3. Accessories like printers, scanners and external drives.
  4. Servers
  5. Workstations.

Generally if you do it in this order, everything should start up fine. If you don't have things like routers or servers on your system then just skip to the next point.

Ask a question

Our sister website, IT Queries answers common computer problems.

If your computer has a frustrating problem, have a look for an answer at IT Queries. If you don't find one, just ask on the IT Queries site and we'll get a solution to you.

Shutting down for the holidays

To reduce nasty surprises when you return, there's a series of things you should do before leaving your computer to its own devices over the break.

Backup

Backup is the most basic and essential point. The data on your network is far more important than the computers themselves. For many homes and businesses that information is the most valuable asset on the system.

Before everyone leaves, run a full backup and verify it, that is make sure all your data has been backed up. Someone needs to take that backup home, give it to the neighbours or put it in safe storage.

Itís possible you may need to access important business files in a hurry. I like to copy critical documents and current projects, orders, etc. onto a DVD, CD or external drive. This drive should spend the holiday at a senior managerís or the proprietorís home where it can be accessed at short notice.

Your accounting program has a backup system. Run that backup program onto a disk and send a copy to your accountant.

Shutdown and unplug

Power surges are a big threat to computers and networks and in most of the country Christmas is a time when storms and bushfires are common. While the office is closed, unplug all equipment that doesnít need to be on. This includes monitors, routers and hubs.

Disconnect equipment from power, network and phone sockets. You can safely assume printers, scanners and most peripherals are safe to shut down.

If you are a business that runs a server or handles its own email, then you shouldnít touch any of the servers, routers or switches without express permission from your IT people.

Internet Access

The most damaging power surges come through the phone lines. So if you donít need Internet access while away from the office, unplug the Internet modem from the phone line.

If you do need access, then speak to your tech people or electrician about surge protecting the line. Surge Protection For that equipment that needs to be on, surge protection is a good idea.

These devices will stop power surges from blowing up sensitive electrical equipment. Your electrician can install equipment that will protect the entire office and you can buy protected power strips for under $100 or the better Uninterruptible Power Supplies for $150 upwards.

So unplug as much as possible and make sure your data is safely stored.

Computer books

Who says you can't get a good computer manual? Our Dummies books are available online. If you want to learn more about your computer, we have the answers.

Next month will see the release of the next Internet for Dummies. We've updated this to cover the latest in mobile Internet access, web 2.0 and high speed ADSL.

The current version of PCs for Dummies covers Vista computers and the earlier version covers Windows XP. So we can help you get the most from both versions of Windows.

Phishing scams increase

The last few weeks have seen a steady rise in dodgy emails arriving. Two recent spates claim to be "Account Verification information" messages from the Commonwealth Bank and Optus. If you click on the supplied link, you'll be taken to a very good imitation of the Optus and CBA sites where you'll be asked to put in your username and email details.

While most of the scams are fairly obvious to spot, there's no doubt the theives are getting better at disguising themselves. If you get any emails that try to get you to log on to a bank or other secure website, be suspicious.

As the economy tightens we'll be seeing a lot of more of these scams appearing. Most likely many will go along the lines of "get rich quick" to prey on people in financial difficulties. Treat them with care and warn your friends and loved ones about these tricks.

Price Increases

Computer vendors are making it clear they will be prices will be going up substantially in the new year. Sony, for instance, will be increasing prices between 25 and 35%.

The message is clear, if you are looking at buying any electronic equipment, do it over Christmas.

e-Training

Want to learn more about your computers? Our e-training courses can help you in the comfort of your home or office. Courses include introduction to the Internet, Learning Microsoft Vista, Office 2007 and dozens of other specific topics.

Just contact us on 1300 798 957 and we can give you all the details. If you book one of our technicians for a computer service, you'll get 30 days complimentary access to the e-learning programs.

Internet Filtering

The issue that's focussing the minds of the IT industry at the moment is the proposal to force all Internet access to go through a government approved filter.

After a trial in Tasmania, the government is now looking at trialling it nationally. Optus and iiNet have agreed to take part in the trial.

This proposal is by far the most controversial issue in the Australian IT industry for years. The amount of venom on both sides has phenomenal with the minister, Senator Conroy, accusing opponents of the proposal as supporting child pornography recently.

The pros and cons of Internet filtering are quite substantial and we'll be looking at the issue on tonight's ABC Nightlife spot. If you can't tune in, we'll be summarising the issues on the web site in the next few days.

ABC Radio Spots

The next Nightlife is on Friday, January 30 at 10pm and our next Sydney 702 Weekend spot will be at 10am on either February 1 or 8. We'll have an update for our January newsletter.

Feel free to call in on 1300 800 222

If you'd like to offer any suggestions about topics or improvements to the shows please contact us.

Comments and suggestions

If you have a topic you'd like us to discuss on the websites, Smart Company blog or the radio spots please contact us.

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©Technology Publishing Australia, 2008