Category Archives: Technology

Defending PCs against Malware, Spyware, & Virii

I’ve been getting more requests as of late for an article to cover PC security.  While user education is ultimately the best way to keep a PC running well, setting up the right protection before beginning your journey into Cyberspace will also help prevent problems from occurring in the first place.

Fortunately – getting the right protection doesn’t mean having to pay alot!  Here is a list of FREE software that you can download TODAY to help keep your PC running in top notch condition!

  • Change your default browser

Start by clamping down one of the most vulnerable spots on your computer – your internet browser.  “Drive by downloads” and much malware enter in through browser vulnerabilities. Download one of these two browsers (or both!) to stymie this threat!

FireFox (Opinion: Better privacy / no Google spying)

Chrome: (Opinion: Faster overall performance, less buggy/quirky)

These browsers auto update w. the latest versions as they are released – making sure you’re patched against the latest vulnerabilities.

  • Add an Ad-Blocker

Next, add an ad-blocker for your browser.  Many ads are designed to be “clickbait” – causing malware / spyware to potentially be loaded.  Eliminate this vector altigether by installing Ad Blocker Plus –  available for either of the above browsers:

Adblocker Plus:

  • Add Anti-virus, Anti-spyware, and Anti-malware programs

Next, since there’s no perfect defense, it’s time to add some memory resident program / scanners to shield against “bad” downloads in real-time, as items are being downloaded & stored onto your PC:

Malware Bytes

Spyware Search and Destroy

For Antivirus, read these articles for free anti-virus, and choose what you think is best!

By having the protections above – a auto-updating browser, ad blockers, plus built-in defenses against bad downloads – we are several steps closer to keeping a PC running healthy.

Best of luck!

Your Facebook profile = Your biggest security loophole

On your facebook, can you tell me:

– When is your birthday?
– What’s your hometown?
– Name of your high school?
– Name of your elementary school?
– What are your favorite books?
– Favorite actors and actresses?
– Favorite TV show?
– Post pictures of your pets, and tag the photos with their name?
– Links to your family member’s facebook pages?
– Or, their names?
– Maybe you can tag your parents & their names on your photos?
– Maybe post pics of your car, and show off?

OK, so I admit the last 2 are a stretch – but have you seen the default security questions asked for your email, bank account, retirement accounts, etc?

With just a few key pieces of personal info – birthday, address, SS# – many of which are floating around in electronic and paper forms… (e.g. was the SS number REALLY necessary for the doctor’s office, hm?) – a “Black Hat” / cyber criminal can very easily get at & steal your ID?

Actual, real examples that I’ve personally seen from financial institutions to reset passwords, grant access, and the like include:

– What’s the day and month of your birthday?
– What town did you grew up in?
– Where did you go to grade or high school?
Hint: Even if you didn’t list the schools – the town name can be used as a cross-reference to find out easily!
– What’s your mother’s maiden name?
– What was the first make and model of your car?
– What’s the last name of your favorite actor?
– What’s your favorite TV show?
– What’s your favorite pet’s name?

You may be thinking: “…but Steve – set the info to private! I should be safe, right?”

OK – let’s take a step back. Look at your friends list. I assume there are a few hundred, if not thousands listed. How do you really know if that friend request that you got from “a friend from High School” was REALLY from your friend in High School? How do you know that someone didn’t go through the effort of creating a “fake profile” to send you a friend request, just to gain access to your personal details / likely the answers to your security questions?

Do you know who you're really "Facebook friends" with?

Granted – the above scenario may seem far stretched, and I may sound paranoid – but let’s weigh the pluses and minuses here.  Humor me and answer the following:

– What do you REALLY get out of sharing all of the above info with the world?

– What can potentially go wrong if an ID thief gets their hands on this info?   How long will it take to fix?

It’s obvious that posting personal details is really of minimal benefit (I have to admit, I do/did enjoy than the wall of ‘Happy Birthdays” that are posted on the wall annually…)  The potential cost, hassle, and burden caused by identity theft from this huge gap / security loophole here is too great. Too many “security questions” about seemingly private things are in fact – publicly available!

To date, I’m still puzzled why there’s been no “forwarded campaign” that’s pointed out the shocking similarities between the most common security questions used by many websites to prove identity, versus the profile questions posed by Facebook.

Conversely – I see alot of these hoax posts about “post this message to preserve your privacy rights on facebook.”   You want to REALLY protect your rights?  Clear out unnecessary info from your profile, tell your friends why, and PASS IT ON! 

FB Privacy Hoax

Let’s be frank here – I’m no security expert, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that any truly complete FB profile is just ripe for the picking for ID thieves.  Why hasn’t this received more exposure?

Please – for your identity’s sake – delete all that extra crap off your facebook profile.  It can cause alot of potential problems, with really minimal benefit.

Or, hey – if it’s already posted / out in the open, then maybe it’s time to create an alternate identity…
– With a birthday of 1/1/75
– “none” for parents because I’m adopted
– A graduate from “The School of Hard Knocks”
– A fan of “50 Shades of Grey,” “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid,” and Garth Brook’s country music
– A proud owner of 4 turtles named Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo, Rahpael, plus my favorite mouse called Splinter
– ..and I’ll call myself… “Rusty Shackleford.”

Dale: "Did someone say Rusty Shackleford?"

– Rusty M. Shackleford


An Interesting Side Business – Walkthrough from Conception to Implementation

Clickminded SEO course

“ClickMinded is an SEO training course for startups. It’s a side project I’ve been working on, outside my full-time job, for the last 3 years. It really took off this year, and crossed over into six-figure revenue in 2014. The course now has 3,888 users.

I was talking to a friend about what a weird journey it’s been to get ClickMinded to where it is, and he recommended writing about it. Hopefully this post will have a few insights that can help other people get their own side projects off the ground and into 6-figure revenues, without leaving their job.”

[Credit goes to my bro William for finding this!]

Best Practices : Affordable, yet Highly Reliable Data Storage and Backup

How do I backup my data securely, yet have access to it whenever I want, without the security and failure issues that can happen with Cloud-based Services?


I was having a discussion with a friend the other day about the best approach on storing, backing up, and protecting semi-sensitive content (such as designs & other IP).  I’ve been asked this same question a number of times, and figured an article that discusses what I’ve found for me to be “best practice” for affordable, yet highly reliable data storage and backup might be interesting to others as well.

First, let’s quick compare between the 2 most popular methods of data backup: Cloud vs local disk (attached of LAN) backups.

Cloud Backups

– Easy access anywhere
– Can be automated, “Set and forget”
– Low cost or even free (e.g. Google Drive)

– Possibly insecure
– Subject to failure (especially on free services), OR
– Recurring costs for services (Carbonite, etc.)
– Not suitable for large file sizes; takes awfully long to download TBs of data


Disc / Drive based

Computre Storage

– Secure
– Great for large sized files / where speed counts

– Must lug around media
– Media can be lost
– Inherent costs to start / upkeep per replication
– Generally not automated – needs additional custom software / configuration


The object here is to pull the convenience and benefits of Cloud storage, and combine that with the security, expandability, and fast upload/backup speeds of local storage.  I’ve used the following design with great results – here’s my general formula:

PC-to-Server Concept - 1439271_12735323

“Best of Both Worlds” Design

1 – Order / Build your own RAID-protected FTP server
2 – Connect via uplink anytime via services
3 – Keep it running at home/facility
4 – For additional security, back up said FTP server across LAN into another part of your home/facility

Server Software

On the server box’s software, I really recommend running it on a server OS platform.  For simplicity, I recommend Windows Home Server 2011.  While it’s been discontinued, licenses / discs can still be found on sites like eBay.  Windows 7/8 can also be used – but a server OS is best for stability reasons.

Server Hardware

While the temptation to build as low cost of a server as possible is always there – DON’T.  Spend the extra bucks and make sure it has field-expandable storage – you’ll thank yourself later.   We can also just start off with plenty of storage from the get go – but remember that storage drive prices drop over time, and by the time you need more storage, pricing has likely come down.  Remember: Drive space is cheap, and if time is valuable to you – expanding later on is just a lot of hassle.

For storage size, I recommend going for at least 4-6+TB at minimum, which should be suitable for most families at the time of writing. (Of course, more is needed if videos / movies are also digitized & stored, as they tend to eat up space quickly due to their massive file sizes.)

Automate the backup

Next, to automate the backup process from your PC, MAC, etc. – via software like Syncovery can be configured to do incremental updates via LAN and FTP synchronization.  Try it out here

There are definitely others, but I’ve used Syncovery for YEARS and I’ve found it to be great.  Give it a whirl!

Making it Cloud-enabled

If you go outside of your LAN quite a bit, you’ll probably want FTP synchronization.  Be sure to set up a service like to keep your server box online and addressable directly even with a dynamic / DHCP address on your router – as your home/facility IP address is likely to change over time.

Then, configure and set your automated backup software above to target the FTP server running on your box – and your Cloud-enabled portion is ready to go!

Extra protection : Against Fire, Flood, and other Acts of God

For even more security – back up this new FTP server via LAN into another more basic LAN box – ideally elsewhere in the home / facility.  In the unlikely event of something like a fire, it’s not likely for it to hit (2) spots at once – allowing you to protect your data!


Properly built (or purchased from a custom shop), such a server would provide the following:

– Easy access anywhere
– Can be automated, “Set and forget”
– Never a need to lug around your media (no discs)
– RAID protected storage has built-in backups
– Can be additionally backed-up elsewhere in the same facility/home for more redundancy
– Secure – no one else has access to the files (Use SFTP for more security)
– No limit on file sizes, since you determine your storage space capabilities

– Cost of the initial server build
– Much more complex than either Cloud-based or disc/drive-based backups
– Recurring electric costs of running a server


Hope this helps!