Friday, November 20, 2015

"Safe Computing is Like Safe Sex" by Richard G. Lowe Jr

Safe Computing is Like Safe Sex:
You have to practice it to avoid infection
(Safe Computing Series Book 1)
by Richard G. Lowe Jr

Richard G. Lowe Jr, author of Safe Computing is Like Safe Sex, stops by today for an interview and to share an excerpt from his book. You can also read my review and enter our exclusive giveaway for a chance to win a signed paperback copy of the book.
Coming soon in this series: Safe Mobile Computing, Sins of the Internet: Dangers in the online world, and Cloak and Dagger: What do "they" know about you and what can be done about it?. In addition, the author is working on a Home Computer Security training course, to be released at the start of 2016.
For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on Real World Survival Tips and Survival Guide.

Criminals. Hackers. Viruses. Malware. These and other dangers await you in the Wild Wild West of the Internet. Your computer is at risk whether you believe it or not. Your data could be moments from destruction, or worse, sold in the hacker underground to the highest bidder.
Is there any hope?
Your credit cards and Social Security information can be easily stolen by hackers if you don’t take proper precautions. You could find your life hijacked, your credit ruined and your bank accounts. Your life could be destroyed at any time without any warning.
Is there anything you can do?
What if the information on your computer became available to criminals? What if your computer disappeared or was destroyed? Are your files and photos one step away from destruction because of a virus or a computer crash?
Are things really that bad?
Did you know your computer to be held for ransom? With one keystroke everything on your computer can be held for ransom. When this happens there is no hope of recovery. Your computer becomes as useless as a brick.
How can you prevent this?
Computers crash sometimes and destroy all of the data on the disks. Thieves can break in and steal your computer with all of the data.
How do you keep your data safe?
Protect your Windows computer and your information. Secure your photos, tax records, documents, contacts, and everything else from harm. Keep the evil hackers out by practicing computer security basics.
How? How can you remain safe? How do you keep criminals out of your online accounts? How do you prevent viruses from destroying everything on your computer?
Buy this book. Read it. Keep your data safe. Protect your online accounts.
What will you learn by reading this book?
  • How to protect your computer from viruses.
  • The best way to keep your online account safe from evil hackers.
  • How to keep your data and photos safe from computer crashes and disasters.
  • How to prevent intruders from using your wireless to break into your computer.
  • How to protect yourself on the coffee shop Wi-Fi.
  • How to safely use a hotel or public computer.
  • How to build a firewall around your computer to keep evildoers out.
  • How to protect your computer from viruses using antivirus.
  • How to secure your home network.
  • And many, many other tips and techniques to keep your data, your credit, and your life safe.


Common attacks and what to do about them

Social engineering

At the retail chain where I used to work we learned about social engineering the hard way. We found out that hackers would dress up as computer technicians, boldly walk into a store and explain they were dispatched to replace the credit card readers. The idea was to replace those card swipers with skimmers that sent any credit card numbers to the hacker’s computer as well as our own.  Our stores were briefed to demand a certain type of identification from all technicians so the hackers were unsuccessful.
The most important tool available to hackers is called social engineering. Believe it or not, this is not some fancy application or a super hacker missile. In the days before computers this was called a con job. Pure and simple, social engineering is the attempt to con someone into doing something at the behest of the hacker.
If you saw the movie Hackers from a few decades ago, you’ll remember the scene where one of the hackers dressed up as a computer technician and boldly walked into a business to install special equipment. That was one form of social engineering, where the hacker pretends to be someone he’s not in order to gain access to your equipment.
Social engineering is defined as tricking people into bypassing or breaking normal security procedures, or, more simply, conning them into doing something having to do with computer systems. You normally wouldn’t click a link that said “click here to install nasty virus”, would you? But you might click a link that pretended to be a letter from a friend, a notice from your bank, or an advertisement promising vast financial gains.
Attackers use social engineering to get you to relax your defenses so they can install malware themselves on your computer system. A virus might be hidden within a cute screensaver, an application that looks interesting, or a photo or video. Each of these things tries to get you to download them or click a link so the virus can do its dirty deed.

Drive-by attacks

The link promised pictures of cute cats, so Shelby clicked on it right away. She loved animals, especially cats, and spent a bit of each day laughing at funny pictures about them. Shelby had not patched her system in years which made her vulnerable to drive-by attacks. As soon as the web page opened in her browser, Shelby’s system was infected with a particularly nasty virus.
Sometimes just opening a web page or email message can infect your system with a virus. All you need to do is visit or drive-by that page in order for malicious code to be downloaded onto your computer. These types of viruses can only be successful if you have not kept the operating system and applications up-to-date with recent security updates.
Sometimes these drive-by attacks occur when advertisements are displayed. Criminals might create banner ads which infect your system as soon as they are viewed on a web page.
The following actions will help prevent drive-by attacks:

  • Ensure security updates are regularly installed on your system for the operating system and all applications.
  • Use a product such as AdBlock Plus to remove advertisements from your web browser.


Bill, a friend of mine, woke up late one night and couldn’t get back to sleep. He decided to check his inbox since he had nothing better to do. He saw an email that appeared to be from PayPal stating there was unusual activity on his account and he needed to login to recover. He clicked the link, entered his username and his password. Afterwards he went back to sleep, happy that his PayPal was protected from fraud. Unfortunately, he fell for a phishing scheme and actually give hackers his username and password. Within a short time all of the money in his PayPal account was gone.
Spam email messages are often attempts to use social engineering to steal login information. One form of this is called phishing. This is when an email pretends to be from your bank, PayPal, the IRS, or something similar and asks (demands) you click a link. The email will look very similar to, if not exactly like an official message from that bank or other company.
Once you click the link a web page that looks exactly like one you would expect will ask you to log in by entering your username and password. Once you enter that information, you will be told the password is incorrect and the web page will be redisplayed. Unbeknownst to you, the first web page was a hacker site. It stole the password and username that you entered, displayed the error message, then passed control over to the correct web page with you none the wiser. The hacker can now log into your account anytime he or she chooses.

Praise for the Book
"I finished reading the book this morning. There was a ton of stuff I did not know about internet security. I use Google Chrome, CCleaner, McAffee LiveSafe, and Anti-Malware. I just started to use HTTPS after reading that page. I really like your BEST PRACTICES. Your examples are easy to read and informative. " ~ Robert W. Locke Jr.
"Lots of really great information, put in a way that non-IT people (like myself) can not only understand, but really GET! I learned a lot reading this, both about being safe, and about computers themselves. Thank you, Richard!" ~ Angela Barrus
"I found this book to be easy to follow and I learned a lot that I did not know, that I thought I already knew - I will be making some changes with my use of the computer myself thanks to much of the information this book has given me. With so much more hacking and inappropriate use being made of the internet world these days you can never be protected enough. I highly recommend this book for everyone who is starting out in the computer world and for seniors like myself that thought they knew more than they really do." ~ Patsy Jolene Sleeman
"This book is clear and concise. It speaks to the lay person, as well as someone who knows just enough about computers to be dangerous. The writer also gives screen shots to help you through the steps to protect your computer. It was great! I will use all this information to protect my computer." ~ Wendy M. Williamson
"I am actually pretty computer savvy, yet this book made update the way I and my family use their PC's safely to protect against outside threats. Some of the main things I learned, there are many different ways to become a victim, how to be proactive and not be a victim, what to do if I ever became a victim, and that I know sufficiently less about PC protection that I thought." ~ Brandon Patterson

My Review
This book is written for the average Windows computer user who wants to protect their computer. It begins with a Foreword featuring testimonials from a number of people who have worked with the author, detailing his 35 years of expertise in the field of computer safety. The first quarter of the book simply deals with information and terminology. I was familiar with a lot of it in a vague sense, but the author has a knack of bringing it all together in a simple and coherent way. The author then provides tips and techniques to make your computer more resistant to hackers and data thieves. They include such simple practices as not using public wifi, using a PIN for your phone and tablet, shredding envelopes and documents before throwing them away, making sure no one sees you enter your PIN or password, not posting anything on the web that you don't want to be public knowledge, not using public computers to access personal information, etc.
The author explains cloud storage, backups, and using a password manager. He states that one of the most important things you can do is make sure your operating system is up-to-date. The book is filled with highlighted "best practices" and includes examples of the personal experiences of the author as well as other people. Some advanced security features are also provided for the more technologically-savvy readers.
Cute cartoon illustrations add a bit of levity to the serious subject matter. The book also includes handy links, a glossary, recommended reading list, and additional resources by the author. The book is a little bit repetitive, but this allows you to dip into different sections of the book as required, without having to read from the beginning.
A must-read for anyone using a computer - that means you!

Interview With the Author
Hi Richard, thanks for joining me today to discuss your book, Safe Computing is Like Safe Sex.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
Anyone from young adult through adult will enjoy this book. I’ve purposely kept the language straightforward to make it easy to read and comprehend.
What sparked the idea for this book?
I have worked in the computer industry for 33 years, and one thing I’ve learned is that the majority of people do not take the time to secure their systems. Often they believe it is too technical, difficult or expensive. Sometimes they think they are safe because they have a certain brand, and occasionally they simply never think about security.
It’s too late to secure your computer after a hacker has stolen your money, destroyed your files or assumed your identity. I saw too many people bring their systems for repair who hadn’t thought about security, and there no recovery. The virus or hacker destroyed their files.
Thus, I wrote this book to explain to people how they can secure their computer systems by installing a few simple programs and changing some habits. By following "best practices", simple things that can be done quickly and easily, they can reduce the chances of losing their valuable information.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
I worked hard to make it readable for anyone and tried to keep the language simple and straightforward. Whenever I had to use a technical word, I’m careful to define it for the reader.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope people put the techniques they learn to use and make their computer systems safer. This way they can protect themselves, their identities, their money and their precious photos, documents, and other files.
How long did it take you to write this book?
This book is the result of 33 years of experience and two years of writing. The book was reviewed by three security experts and their suggestions incorporated into the text.
What is your writing routine?
I write for eight hours every day. I have a timer that is set for forty-five minutes. While that is counting down, I speak into dictation software (in fact, the answers to this interview have been dictated.) I typically write about two thousand words in that forty-five minute time.
Once the timer goes off, I take a break. Typically I’ll do forty-five minutes of writing followed by a fifteen-minute break three times, then stopped for lunch. I’ll repeat that routine in the afternoon through dinner. Finally, I’ll do a couple more before going to bed.
I use that fifteen-minute break between writing sessions to stretch, exercise, get a drink of water, or just stand outside and stare into space. The idea is to get away from the computer screen do something different.
How did you get your book published?
I decided to take the self-publishing route, and this book is available on Amazon in both Kindle format and paperback.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
The first thing to do is to set aside time each day that is writing time. It doesn’t matter whether that’s an hour a day or six hours or whatever you’re comfortable with. Just make it clear to everyone around you, including your family, but that’s the time you write.
Make sure you have the phone, television, and any other distractions turned off or shut down.
Then during that time, do your writing. If you get writers block, then either power through it or write something else for a while. Sometimes alternating between two or three different manuscripts is a way to conquer writer's block.
The whole point is you have to do it. You have to write. That’s the whole point of being a writer.
As far as publishing goes, there are any number of alternatives. I decided to self-publish my first few books to help support my ghostwriting business, and because it’s a simpler route to take.
I am working on several novels, and I expect to send those out on the more traditional publishing route. I need to find an agent who will shop them around the various publishers.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I am also a photographer and have almost 1 million pictures on my photography website. I enjoy hiking, traveling around the United States, and helping people find happiness and regain their human rights.
What does your family think of your writing?
My family is fully supportive of my writing.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I’m an Air Force brat, born on Air Force Base in California. My family traveled all around for a few years before settling down in Southern California. I was highly creative as a child, spending a lot of time building model boats and airplanes and similar things.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
I was a voracious reader as a child. My first science fiction book was Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. That’s a tough read for a seven-year-old, and some of the concepts certainly are a bit adult in nature, but it gave me a new viewpoint on life that I'd never considered before. After that, I was hooked on science fiction and fantasy.
One of my fondest memories was visiting the library and checking out half a dozen books as part of the reading program. Each book earned a sticker, and I always had a full page of stickers and then moved on to the next contest.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I wanted to be a writer most of my life, but in high school I ran into some teachers who are highly discouraged pursuing writing as a career. This created a block that took most of my life to resolve.
Once I got my first job in the computer industry, I have this idea that I could work during the days and write at night but that didn’t happen at all. Work was difficult and very stressful, and all I wanted to do when I got home was something that didn’t involve a computer screen or typewriter at that time.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
I had many experiences as a child, and those are often used as background material in some of my writing.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I hear from my readers all the time, and usually they thanked me for giving of information that they need.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
By the end of two thousand fifteen, I expect I will have twenty-four short Kindle e-books for sale on Amazon. These are all nonfiction and on a large variety of subjects. There will be several on writing, computer science, computer security, relationships, and human rights.
I’m working on three novels at the moment including one called Peacekeeper, which will be, when complete, a ten volume series.
Another is called Fur Baby, which is the story of my cat from her birth to her death. I’m writing this as part of the NaNoWriMo project, which is for authors to write a first draft of a novel in one month. It started on November 1 of this year. The novel will be written from the point of view of the cat, and begins with her being thrown into a sack and tossed into a river with her brothers and sisters. I picked her up at the Humane Society, and we were together for twelve years until she passed away.
I’m also writing a lot of short stories and expect these to be published in various magazines, newsletters, and websites.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to stop by today, Richard. Best of luck with your future projects.

About the Author
After spending over 33 years in the computer and information technology industry, Richard decided to take an early retirement to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional writer and published author. Richard is a leader in the computer industry, serving as Vice President of Consulting at Software Techniques and Beck Computer Systems before settling down as Director of Computer Operations at Trader Joe's. During his twenty-year tenure at that esteemed company, he focused on computer security and preparing for the possibility of disaster.
In addition to creating hundreds of articles for the web and blogs, Richard actively works as a professional ghostwriter. In that role, he has completed books on a wide variety of subjects including memoirs, business volumes, and novels. Because of his in-depth background in software management and computer security, Richard has ghostwritten a number of major books in those areas.
Additionally, Richard has published books of his own. His first two volumes, Safe Computing is Like Safe Sex and Real World Survival Tips and Survival Guide, respectively touch on the subjects of computer security and how to survive emergencies and disasters. Richard has also written and published a series of short ebooks on the aspects of freelance writing, including blogging and ghostwriting. Other published books include Expert Tips on Throwing a Party and How to Surround Yourself with Beautiful Women without Being a Sleazeball.
An avid adventurer, Richard has been a photographer for much of his life, with a focus on nature, scenic, performance and event photography. He has done everything from hiking in dozens of national parks throughout the country, to photographing various unique festivals and events, such as the Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade Ball and the World Mermaid Awards Convention. He is well known in the Renaissance Festival and Belly Dance communities, having photographed over 1,200 dance events and 400 festivals. For several years, he photographed the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, California.
Richard is currently working on a large number of short Kindle ebooks on a wide variety of subjects. Beginning in 2016, the first of a ten volume series of Science Fiction novels will be published.
One of Richard's passions is to use the power of words to educate people on human rights. He believes the world will be a better place when human beings are treated with the full respect and dignity they are due.

Enter our exclusive giveaway for a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Safe Computing is Like Safe Sex by Richard G. Lowe Jr (US only).