Making the Shift from IT to Business Technology

IT is trapped in the cost center side of the business equation instead of being associated with creating measurable value for the business. Headspring, a company that excels at application modernization has identified 5 key ways for companies to embrace IT as an integral part of the business.

I went #DigitallyDark for 36 Hours

Going digitally dark and giving up my phone for 24 hours extended to something between 36-48 hours. It was actually pretty easy. I did make note of all the times I thought about reaching for my phone, to check the score of the Mariners game, or to look up a restaurant, or to kill time while waiting in line. I do a lot of using my phone as a pacifier when I’m waiting – I’m guessing I’m not alone on that one.

iPod Touch Giveaway

The time has come to give away the October 2008 iPod Touch. This month’s requirements were simple – be subscribed to the newsletter. Simple enough, especially because it’s free. In past months, I’ve given away a Toshiba laptop and an 80GB Zune, so I decided it was time to give away something from the Apple universe this month. It turns out Dave was the lucky recipient of the iPod Touch. Dave has been notified by email and will be receiving his shiny new iPod in the mail shortly. Stay tuned for the November giveaway in the first newsletter of next month.

Windows Secrets Lists Best Free Software

Scott Dunn over at Windows Secrets provides a list of the nine must-have freeware apps, based on the overlap in reviews from four respected publications. To make Scott’s list, an application had to appear on the list of three out of four of publications. You can read Scott’s methodology in picking the software, then download the apps. Most have been mentioned here before.
Avira AntiVir Personal is one of the most frequently updated free antivirus apps.
Comodo Firewall Pro is a solid upgrade to the Windows Firewall, providing protection for both inbound and outbound traffic.
TrueCrypt is my favorite disk encryption software. If you want to make sure files on your disk are locked down, use TrueCrypt with an external key on a USB drive.
CCleaner is a favorite registry cleaner and temp file remover.
Lightning for Thunderbird is a must-have because Thunderbird lacks a calendar.
Foxit Reader is a lightweight alternative to the slow-loading Adobe Reader for PDF browsing. It is free but the terms are confusing because Foxit tries hard to upgrade you to their “pro pack”.
Audacity is the best free multi-track audio recorder period. I’ve written several tutorials for audio recording and podcasting based on Audacity.
Wavosaur is the audio editor I affectionately think of as “Sound Forge lite”. It’s a great two-track audio editor with most of the functions you’d need from a pro app like Sound Forge.
Pidgin is my favorite unified instant messaging client. Since Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, Google, and numerous other messaging apps refuse to collectively play nice, Pidgin bridges the gap for you.
My own lists of best freeware solutions are much longer, but it’s excellent to see Scott’s distilled list of freeware featuring nine overlapping greats.

Best Ways to Protect Yourself From Phishing

If you’ve had an email account for longer than 5 minutes, you’ve likely encountered at least one Phishing attempt. These are the emails that look like they are from your bank, or Paypal or eBay asking you to verify some sort of security problem by logging into your account. Places that have your financial details will NEVER send you emails like these. They are fake. The emails are attempts to steal enough of your personal info to ultimately steal your financial assets.
But the email looks real, right? I know I’ve had a few I was tempted to trust. So how do you make sure you don’t accidentally end up losing money and screwing up your credit rating for someone else’s personal gain? Here’s a handful of ways that should make sure you never get tricked.
Don’t Click Links – Don’t click links asking for your personal information in email messages. Your bank won’t send you an email like that ever. SOLUTION: Type in your bank’s Web address in the address bar of your browser (or add it to your favorites and click the favorite). From there you can login and verify that your account is as it should be.
Don’t Trust Threats – Your bank, the IRS, Paypal, etc., will never contact you via email with any threat of legal action or security breach. They also won’t offer you found money via email. If there’s some threat for in action in an email message, assume it’s bunk.
Use the Phone – If you’re still not convinced the email isn’t real, call the business who supposedly sent it and get customer service on the line. Customer service people are paid to provide you information about your account and will be happy to make you comfortable with your account status.
Don’t Use the Same Password Everywhere – One of the worst things you can do is use the same password everywhere. If you get tricked into revealing your password at one site, the email address and password combination could get the same thieves into every account you hold if you routinely use the same email address and password at all locations. If you need help picking passwords, something like Roboform comes in handy, because it will generate a password for you and store it securely so you won’t forget it later. (And it’s free for up to 10 passwords).
It is also wise to use different usernames when possible. Pick a unique username for your bank, ebay, your credit card company’s site, and any other site that has personal financial data about you.
Tools to Help You Fight Phishing
Use visual cues in software to help identify potential phishing attacks.
Look for the lock in Firefox:
Firefox address bar lock
Look for the Green address bar and the Lock in IE.
Internet Explorer address bar lock
It’s worth pointing out that the secure certificates required to make the address bar turn green are expensive and even many legitimate financial institutions aren’t currently using them. IE does a much better job of telling you when a site has a problem with its security by warning you with red in the address bar:
IE address bar certificate warning
Watch for Warning Signs in email – For instance, Outlook will tell you if links in a message look suspicious.
Outlook Message Warning
Use additional software to help secure against phishing attacks. While IE and Firefox offer rudimentary warning signals, you can get additional protection by using one of the internet security software packages.
The best rule of thumb is to assume the messages are fake and verify your account by going directly to the financial institution’s site. Your data will stay safe and you still get the peace of mind knowing your account info is up-to-date and secure.