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Safe Computing Tips for our Clients

To answer the ongoing demand by clients, friends, and family for computing tips and help, we have put together this page of guidance, tips, and recommendations to help make your home and small office/home office computing experience easier. This is not a complete list of help but we intend to continue to add to it as we address various questions for our customers. For customized support or for larger business needs, contact LRT for a complete analysis of your business needs.
Computer Based Training offers self-study training CDs on desktop applications.

How to Identify Email HOAXES and/or URBAN LEGENDS

Every day, you receive emails that you are asked to pass on. The contents of many of these emails are HOAXES and/or URBAN LEGENDS that have been around for a long time, while others profess to pass on USEFUL INFORMATION.

ALWAYS checks these things out BEFORE passing them on (and you should too, before sending anything out). There are numerous places on the Internet that you can use to check your facts. One good place to check the facts is

LRT Product Recommendations

As our clients hear repeatedly from LRT - always use up-to-date Antivirus, Firewall, spyware removal software, and anti-spam protection for business or home computing. We hear complaints daily about the effort wasted in the battle against spammers, hackers, and virus writers. We agree and remind you that use of the tools listed above will minimize these threats to your computing environment.

These four tools each perform a different function and
we recommend all computers be protected with all four.

Many solid products are available in a variety of price ranges. LRT has no affiliation with these companies. We just like their products and use them at home and for our friends and family. Call LRT to discuss the right product choice for your business needs.

Our personal staff picks for home and SOHO use are listed below.

In the US, Norton and McAfee Antivirus are both highly recommended.
ZoneAlarm Firewall
is reliable and easy to use and understand product. A free and a professional version are available.
MailWasher is a powerful email checker with effective spam elimination which works by making spammers think you no longer exist by bouncing back their email so it looks like your address has been closed down.. A free and a professional version are available

Visit to read user reviews of products before you purchase.

Current Alert

There is a new version of the MyDoom mass-mailing worm in circulation on the Internet. The bogus message directs folks to click on a link, directing them to an infected system, which then infects your system. Some of the emails claim to be from PayPal, the online payment system that is part of Ebay. Typical bogus message content would be something like: "Congratulations! PayPal has successfully charged $ 175 to your credit card. Your order tracking number is A866DEC0, and your item will be shipped within three business days. To see details, please click this link." Of course, understanding that you did not authorize PayPal to do anything to your credit card, curiosity might lead you to click on the link to see if someone is ripping you off. It pays to be cautious, if you use PayPal, instead of clicking on that link (which will more than likely deliver you a "surprise" package), just contact PayPal directly and see if anything has actually happened.

There are many things you can do to protect your system, but the biggest three are: Be suspicious, if you did not do anything, or request anything, check things out before just clicking away - always check to see if there is water in the pool BEFORE diving in. This is true of non-requested email attachments, emails themselves (no, I am afraid you did not win that lottery - no, you are not a large bank capable of transferring millions of dollars, and no, there is no free lunch). Keep your anti-virus software up to date and run a good firewall. Use Windows Update frequently at home - Microsoft has been very, very busy the past two months and you do not have the push technologies at home that we have here. It pays to check for anything that Microsoft describes as "critical", a term they are not kidding about.

Compute wisely - compute safely.


A competition between computer-virus writers is responsible for more than a dozen recent variants of the Mydoom, Netsky and Bagle viruses in the past week. That includes the most recent, W32/Bagle.j@MM, another Medium Risk mass-mailing worm with characteristics similar to its predecessors—including a potentially dangerous backdoor component.

Caution: An infected email can come from addresses you recognize.

What to look for:

From: Varies. Address may be forged.
Subject: Varies. Examples— - E-mail account security warning. - Notify about using the e-mail account. - Warning about your e-mail account.
Body: Varies. Example— Dear user of "(user's domain inserted*)" mailing system, Your e-mail account will be disabled because of improper using in next three days, if you are still wishing to use it, please, resign your account information. For details see the attached file. For security purposes the attached file is password protected. Password is "(5 random numbers inserted)".
The Management, The (user's domain inserted*) team http://www.(user's domain inserted*).com * Where the user's domain is chosen from the To: address. For example the user's domain for would be "".
Attachment: File may be .EXE .PIF or .ZIP

Symantec Security Response encourages all users and administrators to adhere to the following basic security "best practices":

  • Turn off and remove unneeded services. By default, many operating systems install auxiliary services that are not critical, such as an FTP server, telnet, and a Web server. These services are avenues of attack. If they are removed, blended threats have less avenues of attack and you have fewer services to maintain through patch updates.
  • If a blended threat exploits one or more network services, disable, or block access to, those services until a patch is applied.
  • Always keep your patch levels up-to-date, especially on computers that host public services and are accessible through the firewall, such as HTTP, FTP, mail, and DNS services.
  • Enforce a password policy. Complex passwords make it difficult to crack password files on compromised computers. This helps to prevent or limit damage when a computer is compromised.
  • Configure your email server to block or remove email that contains file attachments that are commonly used to spread viruses, such as .vbs, .bat, .exe, .pif and .scr files.
  • Isolate infected computers quickly to prevent further compromising your organization. Perform a forensic analysis and restore the computers using trusted media.
  • Train employees not to open attachments unless they are expecting them. Also, do not execute software that is downloaded from the Internet unless it has been scanned for viruses. Simply visiting a compromised Web site can cause infection if certain browser vulnerabilities are not patched.

LRT Email Tips


How to Change the Program That Automatically Starts When you Click on a Certain File Extension

This question arises usually after someone installs a new program and now many file types now open in it instead of the program they previously opened in. You probably have installed some program such as QuickView which took over various file types as its own. This means they open up in Quick view (or whatever) by default instead of the old program as you used to see. You can change this if you want.

This is a handy instruction to keep on file

To change which program starts when you open a file In My Computer or Windows Explorer, on the View menu, click Folder Options. Click the File Types tab. (I only get File Types tab in My computer window)

In the list of file types, click the one you want to change. (i.e. *.pdf) Click Edit. (see picture)

In Actions, click Open. Click Edit. In Application used to perform action, enter the program you want to use to open files that have this extension, and then click OK. (See Picture below)

Note The settings for selected file types are shown in File type details.


Windows 98 Steps:

1. RIGHT click on "Start " button & select "Explore" option.

2. In Explorer, Click on "Tools" then on "Folder Options"

3. In the Folder Options Window - select the "File Types" Tab

4. Scroll down until you come to the file type you want to change (ex. JPEG) and click on it.

5. Choose EDIT

6. New window opens - Choose Edit again. Use Browse to move to the .exe of the program you want to use to open this file type. E.G. "c:\program files\photoshop\photoshop.exe"

7. Choose close.

8. That file type should open with the new program.

(Option 2 - Say you want stuff to open with Photoshop - Reinstall Photoshop and when it asks which file types it should open - check each that you desire.) Now I tell you.

Image Adjustment Tips

When emailing an image from a digital camera - it often becomes a 21inch wide, low resolution attachment. Here is a trick to resize AND improve image quality.

1. Open image in an image manipulation program such as Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop.

2. NOTE: STEP ORDER IS IMPORTANT. First, change Resolution to 300 dpi [it was probably only 72 dpi] in the original file. Now while on the same screen, change image size to a standard photo size such as 4 x 6 or 8 x 10.

Note if you change size first it does not do the same thing and image gets very jagged & hard to read - esp text!

If you don't like the new size - use File, Revert - then do image size again. This maintains image quality much better than repeated, consecutive image re-sizing.

3. Don't forget to SAVE the result.

Tips on How to Spot a Dangerous E-Mail

Since I get the pleasure of helping several folks recover their PC's after they get a virus etc. I thought I would send out an explanation of a new email scam/virus attempt that is going around and some general tips to spot dangerous emails.

Basically, someone spoofed (i.e. pretended to be) my internet service provider and wrote an email that was supposed to look plausible enough to get me to open the (virus or trojan infected) attachment. There are several variations of this. Two are shown below:


Version 1

Dear user of gateway e-mail server,
Our antivirus software has detected a large ammount of viruses outgoing from your email account, you may use our free anti-virus tool to clean up your computer software. For more information see the attached file.
Have a good day,
The team

Version 2

Dear user of "" mailing system,
Some of our clients complained about the spam (negative e-mail content) outgoing from your e-mail account. Probably, you have been infected by a proxy-relay trojan server. In order to keep your computer safe, follow the instructions. For details see the attached file. For security reasons attached file is password protected. The password is "28315".
Have a good day,
The team


Watch out for any email you weren't expecting that tries to persuade you to open an email attachment.

However, the clues that alerted me are listed below so you can know what kind of things to look for. Basically - be very cautious of any attachment - even if it comes from your ISP. Having current anti virus with automatic updates and a firewall will prevent almost all viruses or worms from entering your system. This frustrates the writers of these things so they try now to trick you into taking an action -- like opening an infected file -- that will cause your pc to become infected.

So here's the clues:

1. An ISP or company like Microsoft would post a patch etc. on their web site - not email it to you. NOTE: Microsoft NEVER e-mails people. Windows has a feature that lets it check the microsoft web for updates automatically. Also a bank, PayPal, Ebay, and most reputable online businesses will never send you an emailed form requesting "an update of your account record" - Especially one that requests security information like "Pin", "Password", "Account Number" etc.

2. The first attachment was a ".zip" file and the second was a ".pif" file. Never trust a ".pif" file. As for ".zip" files - they can contain anything.

3. The password offered for opening the ".zip" file "for security purposes" ..... well -- if its included in the same email as the file - it offers no security whatsoever.

4. Typos - Actually typos are a big clue of spam, viruses, etc. I don't know why people that are smart enough to come up with a scam or virus cannot figure out how to use a spell checker.

5. One of the e-mails referred to a return email address of "" which did not work when I tried it directly.

6. On the ISP web site itself - there was no message related to the contents of the email. If they were actually doing something as suggested in the email - they would have had a prominent message on their web.

Happy & Safe Computing from LRT

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