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The Technology Tour Guide: Tech Tips

Welcome again to our technology tips newsletter - thanks for sticking with us! Feel free to forward this to your fellow tourists!

Transport sensitive data safely

In our last edition we told you about a contracted employee of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services that lost a thumb drive with personal information from 50,000 medical providers. Nobody ever thinks this will happen to them but there are far more cases of lost or stolen sensitive data than get publicized in the news. Emails can also be lost, incorrectly addressed or intercepted making any attachments with sensitive data just as risky. Ask yourself the following questions: (1) how would you feel if someone found your lost thumb drive with sensitive data, and (2) how would you feel if your doctor or attorney lost their thumb drive with your personal data, or (3) how would you react if you accidentally emailed a client's tax return to the wrong person? There is no reason to take such a risk, especially since there are some easy to use free utilities you can use to protect your data in transit. 

One such free utility is called 7-Zip from, similar to WinZip which is primarily a file archive and compressor utility and includes support for AES-256 encryption, a strong encryption protocol adopted by the U.S. government and used worldwide. This utility gives you the ability to create an encrypted archive of your sensitive data in order to copy it safely to your thumb drive or attach in an email. If your email ever falls into the wrong hands the attachments are useless. If your thumb drive is ever lost or stolen, you have only lost the cost of the drive, typically less that $10. Just purchase a replacement - thumb drives are cheap - your data, and the cost to your business is not!

Installation is easy - just download the utility and follow the instructions. Once installed on your system, navigate to the file on your hard drive which you want to put onto your thumb drive. Right-click the file, choose "7-Zip" from the pull-down list and then choose "Add to Archive" and a window will pop-up. Here is where you choose the settings: give the archive a name, say "test" in the first field, select "zip" for the Archive format, enter a password and choose "AES-256" for the Encryption method. When you click OK, 7-Zip will take the file you specified, encrypt it and create an archive named "". This file is now perfectly safe for you to attach to an email or copy to your thumb drive to transfer.

Installation and use is not really as complicated as it seems from reading the previous paragraph - I promise, really! Check out these videos. Learning to use 7-Zip is well worth the investment in your time and will help you stay out of the news if your data falls into the wrong hands...   If you are absolutely stuck, give us a call.

I read it on the Internet - it must be true!

Warning - Cell Phone Numbers Go Public This Month   Well no, actually they won't. This hoax has been floating around for so long and it still amazes me how often one of my friends sends me an email with this warning. The message goes on to warn you that cell phone numbers will be released to telemarketers, and even goes on to say that consumers will be charged for incoming calls from these companies. 

This claim has been floating around the Internet on and off for years with no factual basis whatsoever and it makes me wonder why people keep forwarding it. Resending this false information will help no one at best, and at worst it will make your friends scratch their heads since this hoax is so easy to verify. Simply do a Google search with a few of the terms of this email, like "cell phone number public" and see what you get. All of the top results indicate this is a hoax since simply by reading the titles of the articles. In addition, when you look at the search results, you can get a feel for the legitimacy of the content by looking at the website address or URL. Sites such as snopes, or urbanlegends are my personal favorites and are always up to date but you can also look for more authoritative sources, in this case direct from the Federal Trade Commission: 

From the Cyber Security Desk

Is your Wi-Fi network secure? Local teens in Iowa are warning of the dangers of unprotected Wi-Fi networks after they recently performed an experiment using a long-range wireless antenna to scan the wireless Internet connections. They worked through many local residential areas near the University of Northern Iowa and were surprised by the results that approximately 17 percent of the available Wi-Fi connections were not properly protected and are trying to get the word out to the public to warn them that this could be a big issue. "Anyone could get on one and do whatever they want. Legally, it's still in the gray area who is responsible when something goes down on someone's system. So, if you have an unsecure Wi-Fi it may cause trouble for you" The students undertook this project as part of a Cyber Defense competition. One big danger of an unprotected Wi-Fi network is the possibility of someone using it to download or view illegal content such as music, videos or child pornography. There have been instances of people using someone else's Wi-Fi, viewing illegal material and the person who set up the Wi-Fi ends up getting in trouble. 

Protecting your Wi-Fi is pretty simple. Just because your router is working doesn't mean it is secure. Every router is a little different but the overall steps are very similar - perform a Google search on your router model for more detailed instructions. The overall process should take about 10 minutes and is basically a matter of choosing an encryption algorithm and a key, or password. One of the more common encryption methods is WEP but with the ease and availability of hacking tools, WEP is no longer considered secure. Choose WPA or WPA2 and pick a key. Don't forget your key because you will need this key when you configure your wireless device. 

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Happy technology - stay safe my friends!
Brian Sietz