Have You Prepared for Windows 10?

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Nothing is more rewarding than getting something for free and thanks to Microsoft we will not have to wait until the 4Q Holidays.  Microsoft has placed a rubber stamp on the release date of their newest operating system branded Windows 10.  It is set to be released on July 29th for a limited time and to select users.  For full details, terms and conditions, please visit http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/windows-10-upgrade (external link).  The newest operating system is a hybrid of their predecessors Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 and promises to deliver a familiar user friendly environment.

With all new implementations of operating systems, it is always a good idea to take precautions. Here are the three important steps to take while implementing Windows 10:

BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP

As with anything you do that is major to your computer, before you upgrade, ALWAYS backup important data and software.  Having a backup will ensure that if anything goes south, your data will not be impacted. In today’s day and age, you cannot afford to not back up your data. All too often do we hear the stories that “my screen is cracked and it’s too expensive to get repairs” or “my system won’t boot and I need my data back.”  If you are not in the habit of backing up your important information, now is the time to practice new habits.

For those that are on a budget, you can get an external drive from your local electronic store for less than $70 or you can find a great deal from vendors on Amazon.  There are also many online backup solution providers that do a great job in automating backups to the cloud.

Once you have completed the backup process, it is recommended that you test the files to ensure usability. There are rare occasions that although uploaded to an external source, the file itself could be corrupted or inaccessible.

Upgrade or Fresh Install?

Now that backups are in place, it is time to upgrade.  For the majority that will get the Windows 10 update, they will initiate the process by way of an in-place upgrade while the cautious few (myself included) will do a complete reformat of the system and a fresh installation of the new OS.  So, you may be asking yourself, which one is correct.  Honestly, there is no right or wrong way to install Windows 10 but if there is one thing we can all agree upon; that is, software is not perfect and glitches happen.

It is always a good idea that before you install a new OS, be sure to have a copy of the ISO file that contains the OS, burned to an external source as a backup.  An ISO file is an executable CD/DVD/USB program or application.  It will allow the computer to launch directly into the program at startup or initiate the setup process.

For corporate or enterprise environments, it is a good idea to do a fresh installation on a test machine first before fully deploying in a production environment.  This will allow you to test all native programs for functionality and compatibility.  If the tests are successful, you can create an updated image to automate your new user process.

It is worth noting that there may be instances where a custom software solutions you use will not be compatible with the latest OS.  If you run into that issue, contact the software vendor and inquire about Windows 10 support.

Install an Active Anti-Malware and AV Solutions

Lastly, before you start browsing websites, install an internet security suite.  It is true that having a Free Anti-Malware (AM) or Anti-Virus (AV) program is better than having nothing at all, but it is strongly recommended that you have an active subscription at all times.  An active subscription will ensure that you have the latest protections to the ever growing threats in cyberspace.  On the same note, it is always a good idea to schedule full scans and/or boot-time scans if your AM/AV program has that functionality.   A boot-time scan will allow the security program to search your computer without any active processes running on your system.  This is especially helpful if you have any rootkits or Trojan viruses lurking on your system. Since these types of scans are labor intensive, not to mention time consuming, it is a good idea to automate these scans for times outside of production or normal usage hours.

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The Dangers of Downloading Apps

Mobile apps are a great way to solve immediate problems that we deal with on a daily basis. Need a flashlight to aid you while you look under the hood of your car? A quick stroll through your local market will reveal a plethora of applications that will instantly turn your device into a high powered sensation. What about converting dollars into pounds? Guess what? With a click of your finger, it can happen. Even apps for dog whistles exist.  Let’s face it, mobile apps are a staple of our culture and society. We often get so complacent on using them, that we never consider at what price these illustrious tools come at.

The majority of the applications we purchase on the various markets are free and do not require anything additional in the form of sign ups. That’s great, right? Well consider TINSTAAFLs rule. There is no such thing as a free lunch. What I mean is what is package as free, is often accompanied with a price: your privacy.

Your personal information can be sold to third parties at a decent premium by app developers. This helps to offset the cost of development and is the most widely used method to generate revenue for publishers besides embedded ads.
Many apps that you download can have access to vital and private information including your contacts, phone number, pictures, email addresses, documents and even your camera.

I recall one day, I downloaded a game from the market and within minutes I received an unsolicited text messages for a vacation I recently won and apparently signed up for. Perplexed by this, I uninstalled the application and reinstalled just to isolate the root cause. To my amazement, I received the same solicitation. As I investigated the application’s permissions in settings, i discovered that the application has access to my phone book and my phone number. Needless to say, I had to uninstall the program to avoid my friends and family from being impact.

So what can you do to protect yourself? First and foremost always explore the permissions you are granting an application prior to downloading, especially if you are downloading from an android market. Apple has a more stringent submission process than Google Play at the time of this writing. Ask yourself, does it make sense for this app to access this information; am I comfortable with giving them  this access; how reputable is the publisher?

Next, take some time to review the comments left by others who have experienced this app: is there a consistency in the comments; is there anything outside the ordinary that the app should not do; are others uninstalling the app for reasons not related to it’s intent. That valuable information could help prevent you from being exposed.

Lastly, prior to downloading, ensure that you have a popular well known antivirus application on your mobile device that has the ability to scan applications that have been downloaded.  Many of these programs have the ability to notify you right away if the application has been marked as malicious or problematic. Some even give you the option to limit the permissions the application has. This is a significant benefit.

Understanding how the app market works is a great step in protecting your privacy.