Safely Using Public Computers

Public ComputerWhen summer comes to town many people spend a lot of time away from home but safely using public computers is probably not a top priority. For the small amount time you spend actually accessing the internet in a public place raising this priority level is easy. There are plenty of frightening examples of incidents involving personal information unethically acquired from publicly used computers. I won’t try to scare you; not this time.

What is at stake?

Your various website log-in user names and passwords are valuable to others.
At the very least this information can be used for some low grade mischief. Such as a little prank like logging into Mr. Man’s Facebook account and proclaiming to the world that Mr. Man sleeps with a little stuffed Miss Piggy doll every night. Not funny.
Things get more serious when the stolen log-in allows access to financial websites such as banks or stock trading pages. You don’t want people poking around checking out your balances and most certainly not trading shares from within your online brokerage account.
I used to play poker online and I would be very upset if I logged in to find a zero balance in my account because some fool logged in and lost all my chips before I could log in and lose them all myself.
With your online email account log-in information, a person could not only read saved emails both sent and received, but could compose emails in your name as well. While merely a potential embarrassment to most of us, untimely discovery of questionable content has brought much grief to celebrities, star athletes, and our politicians from all levels of government. Once in a while our cyber-space invaders get what they deserve. Remember the shut down of the English tabloid News of the World? That reminds me to tell you to keep your cell phones close with their WiFi feature turned off while your having summer fun. There’s a lot of stuff on those email/text/camera phones.
Think about it.

Like I said, I am not going to try to scare you with threats of bank account drainage, spousal key logger tracking, child safety issues, empty house while we’re on vacation burglar notifications, identity theft, terrorist high-jacking of your internet connection bringing those black helicopters over the house again.    Just be careful out there.

Okay so you don’t stay in hotels, frequent the airports, sip on Caramel Macchiatos in coffee shops, use the public library computer, or hang out at internet cafes. Maybe you log into your account at a friends house. That friend has other friends who may not be your friends. I’m not purposely promoting paranoia. I don’t have to accuse you of hanging out with creeps to suggest that sometimes people can get a little nosy. If a person learns some little computer trick, and gets a kick out of thinking they are some sort of hacker because they can see what the last computer user has been up to, that doesn’t mean you want them tracking your online footsteps.

Again, even among friends loose log-in behavior can lead to embarrassment or inconvenience, and of course I have a personal example of an inconvenience to share. Some months ago we had friends and family over for a summer evening around a fire pit. We were listening to music on my laptop, through external speakers, streaming songs from a network attached storage device. At some point I got tired of picking the songs and let go the reins. The young man that took over logged in to an online music station page. I’m pretty sure it was Pandora. Well quite some time later, weeks in fact, I clicked on my own Pandora shortcut to listen to music. When I saw the music that came up I knew something was wrong. The suggestions were all rejects for my taste.
I found the explanation to be a saved log-in feature that entered the last users credentials; and this time those were not mine. The other guy’s listening history, from all those subsequent weeks, was being considered as mine; or so I thought.
I was unknowingly logged on to his account automatically. Therefore not only was I suffering through the wrong list of favorites, but every time I picked a song I wanted to hear, I was modifying his favorites list for the next time he logged on to Pandora. He would have to rebuild his whole suggestion matrix too. I said nothing of course.

How To Avoid Trouble

After all that I certainly owe you some usable information. Here are a few basic behavioral and procedural suggestions:

1. You Walk Off – You Log Off.
This is one of those behavioral tips; the hardest kind in my opinion. If you get up for any reason for any length of time, you first must log off of whatever internet site you are visiting. As you may already know, hitting the X in the top right of any program closes the that program, but does not necessarily log you out of the website.

2. No Automatic Log In.
Most banks and other sites of a sensitive nature have time limits for inactivity that will log you out automatically. Nevertheless, you should always click an actual log off, log out, sign out, or end session type of button before you leave the site or close you browser.
What you may not know, or notice each time, is that many programs have an automatic log in feature that saves your user name and/or password. For your convenience, since it’s all just too much having to type in those two words every single time we visit, those lines will be filled in for you; and anyone else who clicks the back button after you leave.

3. Wipe Out Your Footprints.
I will admit that there are times when the auto-log-in feature is tempting. For me, with my eyesight fading, signing into a website on my smart-phone is nearly impossible. Also, I have been heeding my own advice and using a different password for every site, and even changing passwords periodically.The problem is that my likewise fading memory is not up to recollecting multiple gibberish passwords that change irregularly. Not happening.

So if you must use the automatic log in feature, and even if you don’t use it but have been browsing the internet, you should erase traces of your web activity before leaving any public computer.
Internet Explorer version 9 and above offers InPrivate Browsing as seen here: Internet Explorer 9 Features- InPrivate Browsing which takes care of the breadcrumb trail but you can also brush out your tracks manually with the next bit of instructions.

Remember, Internet Explorer also keeps a record of your passwords and every page you visit, even after you’ve closed them and logged out, in a temporary folder. This is also for your convenience as it then takes less time to access a webpage you previously visited.

First Your Passwords

Before you go to the web turn off the Internet Explorer feature that remembers passwords.

  1. In Internet Explorer, click Tools, and then click Internet Options.
  2. Click the Content tab, and then click Settings, next to AutoComplete.
  3. Click to clear the check box for User names on passwords and forms. You want the box empty.

In Firefox you can find Start Private Browsing and Clear Recent History by clicking the Tools tab near the top left of the screen. Firefox allows you to select which items to delete and from when using the a drop down box and specifying the last hour, day, or everything.

Then Delete Temporary Internet Files And Browsing History

When you finish your use of a public computer, you can help protect your private information by deleting your temporary Internet files.

  1. In Internet Explorer click Tools
  2. The first line is Delete Browsing History which is convenient; as it is in Firefox.
  3. The pop up window is clear enough about what you can delete or keep. At home I fill the check mark on the first item, Preserve Favorites Website Data because I know I’m the one that picked the favorites. But safely using a public computer means clearing that as well. Here’s an official Microsoft video walk-through in case my words are not working: Delete webpage history.

Look Over Your Shoulder

It may sound silly. It may feel silly. But it will work. If someone is bold enough to flat out look over your shoulder it would be a shame to let them get away with your information so easily. If you see someone peeking, remember this keyboard shortcut: Windows Key + d. That combination minimizes all the windows on your screen. Then you can pounce on the creep at a more leisurely pace knowing your stuff is hidden.

Treat the act of logging into a public computer as you would entering your pin number at the ATM. I admit that I don’t give enough thought to safely using either of those. I don’t take a second to look over my shoulder for any person near me, or for someone across the street with binoculars, but I should. It just doesn’t occur to me. Nor do I clear the cache at the library but so far I am not up to anything I need to worry about. I could do better. We all must train ourselves to not be victims. Somewhere in my brain I hear the advice of a crime prevention expert saying that awareness is the best form of self-defense. To avoid being a victim try not putting yourself in a vulnerable situation. I think that plan works for defending your information and identity as well.

Thanks for reading,

– Steve

Technoworries Computer Repair

 

 

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Remove Your Picture From A Google Search

Remove Your Picture From A Google Search

There are several reasons why you might want to remove your picture from a Google images search. I will not venture to guess your particular reason but instead offer instructions for taking care of the situation. This week a customer asked me to help remove a photo from the internet. He found the photo in a simple Google search of his name. The photo is not offensive, he is about as far from being a minor as I am, and there are no copyright issues, but he just prefers that his image not be visible to the uninvited masses.

I am not familiar with any legal aspect as to whether or not a website is allowed to post a picture of you without your permission. I am only offering some insight into how the system works and how to use the system to tear down a goofy picture of you that somebody hung up just beyond your reach on the wall at school by the girls’ locker room entrance.      I made that up.     That never happened to me.

So you go to the Google search site, type your name in the search window, nothing much shows up, you click on the Images link on the left, and about four scrolls down the pack of thumbnail photos you see you. Let’s say it is a harmless photo, no drunkenness, nudity, or other incriminating circumstance. However, you did not post the photo – don’t know who did – but you would like it erased.

 Just Ask

The first step involves requesting that the webmaster of the site which is hosting the photo remove the file. A couple of terms there that might be unfamiliar: A webmaster is the website administrator responsible for maintaining the site. That is the person who puts in and takes out content including photos. Hosting just means providing a place on the internet for content to be stored and accessed remotely. Most websites and their hosting companies use little in the way of content guidelines or user screening procedures. Arguably the positives outweigh the negatives regarding such limited online censorship. Terrorism, child abuse, and hate crime is right out; but the rest is up to citizens to police. Also remember, Google is not hosting the images. The search engine only gives you an on-demand index to help you find what you are looking for on the web and Google needs to be notified if something is wrong among the billions of web pages on the internet. Google does however have the power to help you if the hosting site is non-responsive. They have plenty of official rules that they may choose to enforce. The rules are in the End User Agreement we all agree to without reading. If a copyrighted image is at issue, an effective encouragement towards webmasters is to point out that search engine companies ban sites that break copyright laws. But before we start tying U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act notifications to rocks and tossing them through some windows I will calm down and get back to the simple removal request instructions.

To expedite the removal request process I suggest having the exact Uniform Resource Locator (URL), or web address, of the photo ready to paste into your email request.

 Finding The Photo’s Exact Address

  1. Go to www.google.com and run a search for your name.
  2. On the left side of the page you should see a clickable link labeled Images. This returns only images as results instead of websites and snippets of text content.
  3. Once you find the image you would like to have removed click on that image.
  4. You will be taken to a page with the image more prominently displayed and sometimes you will see the actual website grayed out in the background. Click on the Full-sized image link found on the right hand side of the page . See photo.
  5. On the page that then opens up you should see your image all by itself. At the top of your internet browser window there is an address bar where you will find something like http://www.sitewithmypictureonit.com. Click on that text (URL) in the address bar once, or as many times as it takes to make it all highlighted in blue, then right click while it’s still blue, and click Copy. Now Pastethe URL into some file or document, so it’s available when you use the URL removal tool in a minute.A handy way to do that last step is to right click any blank space on your desktop and see a menu pop up. On that menu is the word New. Hovering on the word New will get you another menu and on that menu list is Text Document; click that. Now there is a little empty text file on right your desktop that you should double click to open. Once it’s open Paste the copied address. The desktop is an easy place to find this file later and you will remember to delete it when done.

 How To Contact A Webmaster

On my computer repair site, as well as this blog, there is a menu button clearly labeled Contact that is used to communicate with me directly. Most websites have either a similar contact link or a clickable email address somewhere on the main home page. Many other sites have direct webmaster links, usually located at the bottom the page in small print, that will not detract attention but are available if you know who you want. Some websites aren’t as eager to hear from visitors and make it nearly impossible to find a human being connected to the operation; but we have ways.

WHOIS

Whois is a query and response protocol developed in the 80’s so system administrators could obtain contact information for IP address assignments or domain name administrators. In plain English – We can use this thing to find a website owner’s contact information among other things. Most any web hosting site or domain registration site will have this Whois tool but here’s one to start with: http://www.whois.net/

Once you find the contact email address you can use it to send a request to the webmaster of the webpage to take down the picture or content and thus remove your picture from a Google search.

 Do It Yourself

Once the image or page is taken down by the website that was hosting it you can further assist the removal process by manually requesting the page be stricken from Google search results. Now I once I show you this next step you may be tempted to skip contacting the webmaster and wonder why I even advised all that bother in the first place. Do not step into the light. This next tool only works if preceding changes have been made. The easy road leads nowhere but back to the starting line; as usual.

  1. Go here https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/removals to request removal of a page or site from Google’s search.
  2. Click New Removal Request.
  3. Enter the URL of the webpage you want removed. It has to be exact. That is why I suggested that the address of the image be pasted in a document on your desktop.Then you can copy and paste it from that saved document into the little space at Google; or some other search engine such as Bing or Yahoo.
    Click Continue.
  4. Click Remove this page.

Remove Your Picture From A Google Search Some More

Even after the webmaster removes the image from the website a small thumbnail copy of the picture will likely still show up in a Google search. This can be due to a copy of the file being stored in your internet cache, a temporary holding spot created so that files can load faster as you surf the web. All browsers have a tool for cleaning the history of visited sites. It’s usually found in the Tools or Preferences tab at the top of the browser window.

It is also possible that it will take a day or two for Google’s perpetual crawling spotlight to shine on the website in question as it shines on all sites periodically. Once this content scanner checks the website, and finds your image removed, Google search results will be updated, and cease showing the little image of you that leads nowhere.
If it’s a sensitive image, a minor is involved, or there is a copyright issue etc., you can request a more urgent resolution to the lingering image. Read up on this one though as it does more that ask politely.
http://support.google.com/bin/static.py?hl=en&ts=1114905&page=ts.cs

Not So Bad

You see? Removing your picture from a Google search can be tricky but not impossible. Removing text based content that you find offensive may prove trickier; even with the help of the webmaster of the site. For instance, if I find a story that proclaims my ideas to be stupid and dangerous, and I convince the foolish person that my ideas are in fact brilliant and valuable to society, we still have to be exact in our corrections. There’s still a cached version of the nasty page in Google’s scan spotlight thing that will come up.
Let’s say that the webmaster changes the content as noted above. If I then use the removal tool to request that Google remove any page using the phrase “Steve’s words are stupid and dangerous”, and the new page  was written with “Steve’s words are brilliant and valuable”, the search engine sees “Steve’s words are blah blah blah” and those first words are enough to cause Google to leave the nasty version alive.

Complicated and destined for a separate blog post if requested. It seems to me that images are more potentially troublesome and are thankfully easier to remove than text.

I personally tried an image search for my name and not many pictures came back. Since I am not all that popular I even had to include the town I live in just to see my pictures on the first few pages of Google image results. Nothing there I care to remove but then again there were a few images that I do not remeber submitting to any websites. A computer repair place had my head on their website; that seems kosher. Saw some images of me that other people have put up on Facebook of course. A My Space picture that was put up there before the turn of the century. Nothing too embarrasing. So far so good but it is wise to check periodically I suppose.

I can see how the unapproved posting of a photo would bother folks. It could cause real trouble in fact. So if you have any difficulties with these instructions and would like my help to remove your picture from a Google search just send me a message using the contact button, through this Technoworries Support Tool, or just call. Once you know how it’s done it should take less time than reading this post.

Thanks for reading,

Steve         – from Technoworries

 

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Phishing Email

Most of you may know by now what phishing email is and its intended purpose. For those who do not I will be brief. The term phishing is a variant of the word fishing and alludes to the use of clickable links or email attachments as bait designed to entice a reader’s link-clicking bite. Phishing email is sent in an attempt to acquire certain information, usually log-in credentials, your username and password, and even social security and driver’s license numbers. I must admit to falling for one or two of these spoofs myself in the past. Back then I was merely redirected to some sales pitch page. Continue reading

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Easy To See PC

If you are having trouble making out the words on your computer screen you can magnify things for an easy to see PC. I do this every day. Every day since I turned fortyish. Somewhere around forty I discovered that computer screen manufacturers must share tools with car mirror manufacturers. I know this because objects on the monitor are larger than they appear. They must be. Continue reading

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Missing Taskbar

A customer request for help with her Missing Taskbar serves as the subject for this article. It has been a while since my own Windows taskbar has gone A.W.O.L. but not so long ago that I can’t remember the initial panic and subsequent frustration.
The taskbar by the way is the strip that normally rests along the bottom of the screen. The right side of the strip is home to the clock and at the left rests the Start button. The Start button that is the skeleton key to the Windows operating system.  Continue reading

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