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Educating Your Children on Cyber Safety

posted by Taylor Esler

Educating your children on cyber security

Children are literally growing up “connected.” New social media services pop up like weeds and there is an ever-increasing number of apps and games that connect online. Additionally many schools are migrating to cloud services such as Google Drive and require work to be completed and submitted online. While this connected lifestyle has benefits, these opportunities also come with some risks. We will explore three areas of risk and what you can do to help your children stay safe.

The Risks

  • Conduct: The lack of physical presence can create a powerful sense of anonymity. This may lead kids to act differently that would in real life.
  • Contact: The lack of physical presence often causes kids to forget that the individual on the other end may not be who they say they are or may not have their best interests in mind.
  • Content: There is no shortage of ways to capture and post videos, sound, images and text messages online. The temptation for children is to “out-post” others and over-share information about themselves or their family members is very real and they often do it without realizing the consequences. Children may also not realize the dangers of identity theft or malware infection when others ask them probing questions or ask them to take actions such as clicking on links.


  • Safety at Home: Educate your children about online behavior and closely monitor online activity.
  • Safety Outside the Home: Emphasize to your children that they should use the same etiquette they use at home when online at school or anywhere else.
  • Online Etiquette: Remember what they say online could go viral or be published in your local newspaper. Educate your children to evaluate their intended comments or postings in this light. “Would you want what you are about to post to be published in the newspaper for all to see and know that you said it?”


  • Use parental controls: Many web browsers and mobile phones offer robust features to block objectionable or dangerous content. Third party web filtering software is also an option.
  • Run malware protection software: While no malware protection is perfect, they provide protection from ‘drive-by’ or otherwise misleading downloads, which children may be tempted to click on.

The post Educating Your Children on Cyber Safety appeared first on EarthLink Blog: Internet services, Web Hosting, IT services.

Recovering From Ransomware

posted by Taylor Esler


recovering from ransomware

Ransomware is a special type of malware that is actively spreading across the internet today threatening to destroy victim’s documents and other files. Ransomware is just one of many different types of malware which has become very common because it is so profitable for criminals.

Ransomware is commonly spread by emailing victims and tricking them into opening an infected attachment or clicking on a link to the attacker’s website. Once this particular type of malware infects your computer it will start encrypting your files or your entire hard drive. You are then locked out of your entire system or cannot access your important files. The malware will inform you that the only way to unlock your system to recover your files is to pay the cyber criminal a ransom to provide you with a password to decrypt your information. Most often the ransom is paid in some form of currency such as Bitcoin.

Should You Pay the Ransom?

The problem with paying the ransom is that often people pay these criminals when they are infected which motivates criminals to infect others. Though you may not have another option to recover your files, there is no guarantee you will get your files back. During the decryption process, you may be infected with additional malware. Decrypting after the ransom is paid doesn’t confirm the ransomware is removed from your device.  Ransomware can stay dormant on your device and attack again later.

Back Up Your Files

The best way to recover from ransomware without paying the ransom is to recover your files from backups. This way even if your computer is infected with ransomware you have a way of recovering files after rebuilding or cleaning up your computer. Keep in mind that if your backup can be accessed from the infected system, ransomware might delete or encrypt your backup files. Therefore, it’s important to back up files to either a reputable cloud-based service or to store your backups on external drives that are not always connected to your system. Be sure to regularly test that you can recover the files you need should your system become infected with ransomware. Backups are important as they also help you recover when you accidentally delete files or your hard drive gives out.

Further Protective Measures

  • The more current your software, the fewer known vulnerabilities your systems will have and the harder it is for cyber criminals to infect them. Therefore make sure your operating system, applications, and devices are enabled to automatically install updates.
  • Use a standard account that has limited privileges rather than privileged accounts such as administrator or root. This prevents many types of malware from being able to install themselves.
  • Cyber criminals often trick people into installing their malware for them. They might send you an email that looks legitimate and contains an attachment or a link.
  • Do not click on suspicious web browser popup windows
  • Do not open files with file extensions that are likely to be associated with malware (e.g., .bat, .com, .exe, .pif, .vbs)
  • Ensure that you have malware protection installed and do not disable malware security control mechanisms (e.g., antivirus software, content filtering software, reputation software, personal firewall) and make sure that they are continuously updated
  • Do not use administrator-level accounts for regular host operation
  • Do not download or execute applications from untrusted sources

The post Recovering From Ransomware appeared first on EarthLink Blog: Internet services, Web Hosting, IT services.

Pro Tip: Encryption How To’s

posted by Taylor Esler


You have probably heard people talk about using encryption to protect themselves and their information. In this article, we will explain what encryption is, how it protects you and how to implement it properly.

Why Use Encryption?

You might have sensitive information on your devices, such as documents, pictures and emails. If one of your devices were to be stolen, all of your sensitive information would be in someone else’s hands. Encryption protects you in these situations by helping ensure unauthorized people cannot access or modify your information.

How It Works

Encryption converts information into a non-readable format called ciphertext. Today’s encryption works by using complex math operations and a unique secret key, converting information into ciphertext. The key locks or unlocks the encrypted information. Your key could be a file stored on your computer, a password or a combination of the two.

What Can You Encrypt?

There are two types of data to encrypt:

  • Data at rest – such as the data stored on your mobile device
  • Data in motion – such as receiving email or messaging

Encrypting data at rest is vital to protect information in case your computer or mobile device is lost or stolen. Full disk encryption (FDE) is a widely used encryption technique that encrypts the entire drive in your system. This means that everything on the system is automatically encrypted for you. Today, most computers come with FDE but you might have to manually turn it on or enable it. FileVault is used on Mac computers while Windows computers can use Bitlocker or device encryption. Mobile phone encryption for the iPhone and iPads automatically enable FDE once a passcode has been set. Starting with Android 6.0 (Marshmallow), Google is requiring FDE be enabled by default provided the hardware meets certain minimum standards. Please check with your device manufacturer to determine if it supports FDE.

Information in motion is also vulnerable. If data is not encrypted it can be monitored, modified, and captured online. This is why you want to make sure that all sensitive online transactions and communications are encrypted. A common type of encryption for data in motion is HTTPS. This means that traffic between your browser and a website is encrypted. Look for https:// in the URL, a lock icon on your browser or your URL bar turning green.

Key Things to Remember

  • Your encryption is only as strong as your key.
  • If using a passcode or password for your key, make sure it is a strong, unique password.
  • The longer your password the harder it is for an attacker to guess or brute force it.
  • If you can’t remember all of your passwords we recommend a password manager to securely store your passwords.
  • If your device has been compromised or is infected by malware, cyber attackers can bypass your encryption or leverage your secret key to decrypt the data if your key is not stored securely. It is important you take other steps to secure your devices including using anti-virus, strong passwords, and keeping them updated.

The post Pro Tip: Encryption How To’s appeared first on EarthLink Blog: Internet services, Web Hosting, IT services.

What Do You Know About Malware?

posted by Taylor Esler

Beware malware

Malware, also known as malicious code and malicious software, refers to a program that is inserted into a system, usually covertly, with the intent of compromising the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of the victim’s data, applications, or operating system or otherwise annoying or disrupting the victim. Malware has become the most significant external threat to most systems, causing widespread damage and disruption, and necessitating extensive recovery efforts within most organizations.

There are five types of malware:

  • Ransomware – Ransomware is a subcategory of malware which typically will block access to computers or data until a payment is made.
  • Trojan – A Trojan is a self-contained, non-replicating program that, while appearing harmless, actually has a hidden malicious purpose. Trojans either replace existing files with malicious versions or add new malicious files to hosts.
  • Spyware – Spyware is a type of malware used to covertly observe a user’s activity and gather information about a user without their knowledge or consent.
  • Virus – A virus self-replicates by inserting copies of itself into host programs, data files or propagating through network file sharing. Viruses are often triggered through user interaction, such as opening a file or running a program.
  • Worm – A worm is a self-replicating, self-contained program that usually executes itself without user intervention.

Signs to Look Out For:

  • Slow performance
  • Unexpected computer crashes
  • Pop-up ads (even when no browser is open)
  • Excessive hard drive activity
  • New browser homepage or toolbars
  • Unexpected Antivirus disabling
  • Lost functionality

Ways To Avoid An Attack: 

  • Do not open suspicious emails oremail attachments, click on hyperlinks, etc. from unknown or known senders, or visit websites that are likely to contain malicious content
  • Do not click on suspicious web browser popup windows
  • Do not open files with file extensions that are likely to be associated with malware (e.g., .bat, .com, .exe, .pif, .vbs)
  • Do not disable malware security control mechanisms (e.g., antivirus software, content filtering software, reputation software, personal firewall) and ensure that they are continuously updated
  • Do not use administrator-level accounts for regular host operation
  • Do not download or execute applications from untrusted sources

The post What Do You Know About Malware? appeared first on EarthLink Blog: Internet services, Web Hosting, IT services.

Backups: When and How to Use Them

posted by Taylor Esler

Back-up Data

At some point, you will most likely have some computer malfunction that causes loss of some or all of your personal files, documents or photos. Maybe you accidentally deleted the wrong file, experienced a hardware failure, or lost your laptop. Even worse, malware may have infected your computer. In times like these, backups are often the only way you can rebuild your digital life or recover critical data.

What to Back Up and When

There are two approaches on deciding what to back up:

  1. Specific data that is important to you
  2. Everything including your operating system

If you are not sure what to back up then the best approach may be backing up everything. You should also consider how often you want to back up. Apple’s Time Machine or Microsoft Backup and Restore allow you to create an automatic “set it and forget it” backup schedule. Other solutions can allow continuous protection in which new or altered files are immediately backed up as soon as there closed.

How to Back Up

You can store your files in two ways:

Physical Media:

Backing up to physical media keeps your files on a physical storage device, such as DVD’s, USB devices or an external hard drive. Whichever media you choose, never back up your files to the device that holds your original files. It’s also smart to label your physical media with info about the backup and the date it was created.

Some disadvantages to storing on physical media is the possibility of disaster or theft. Physical media can be lost, stolen or damaged just as easily as the original files.

Cloud-based solutions:

Cloud-based storage works by installing a program (client) that automatically backs up your files for you. You can pay for cloud storage providers to store your backups. The price is normally determined by the size of the backup.

The advantage of this solution is in the event of a disaster or theft, your files will be virtually stored off-site. Additionally, you can access these files from anywhere. The disadvantages of cloud-based backups are that recovery can be slower especially if you have a large amount of data and you will also need to ensure that the cloud service provider can store this data securely to prevent unauthorized access.


After backing up your data, it’s always a good to be certain that you can recover it. Check every month that your backups are working by recovering a file and validating the contents. Additionally, be sure to make a full system backup before a major upgrade such as moving to a new computer or mobile device or before a major repair.

Key Points Summary

  • Automate your backups
  • When rebuilding an entire system from backup be sure to reapply the latest security patches and update before using again
  • Outdated backups may become a liability so it is recommended to delete these backups to prevent unauthorized access and in the case that cloud storage is used, manage your storage capacity and related costs
  • Be sure to verify that cloud backup and storage providers have security measures in place to protect the data by checking the policies and reputation of your cloud provider:
    • Ask if they encrypt your data when it is stored
    • Determine who has access to your backups
    • Verify they support strong authentication, such as two-step verification

The post Backups: When and How to Use Them appeared first on EarthLink Blog: Internet services, Web Hosting, IT services.

Securing Your Tablet

posted by Taylor Esler


While hackers pose a serious problem, there’s also the risk of losing, forgetting or having your devices stolen. Keep your tablets safe by following these tips:

  • Lock your tablet with a secure pass code
  • Run automatic updates for the latest and safest operating system
  • Enable remote tracking to locate your tablet if lost or stolen
  • Disable all applications’ location tracking in privacy settings, except for those that need it
  • Know where and how your data is secured within the cloud
  • Only enable cloud sharing when sharing something specific
  • Be aware of what apps synchronize with your other devices

The post Securing Your Tablet appeared first on EarthLink Blog: Internet services, Web Hosting, IT services.

Cyber-Attacks: Don’t Be Fooled By Internet Foes

posted by Taylor Esler

Trusting other online

One of today’s most effective cyber-attack methods is to take advantage of the human tendency to trust.

Social engineering, a form of psychological manipulation where an attacker cons users into divulging information or doing something they want the user to do, can occur through phone calls, email, text messaging, social media and online chats.

Indicators of social engineering attacks include:

  • A tremendous sense of urgency, or pressure to make a quick decision
  • Someone asking for information they should already know
  • Something too good to be true

To avoid social engineering attacks, never share your passwords and don’t share too much personal information on social media, which can give attackers information to mislead you. If someone asks for something personal, verify their contact information first.

The post Cyber-Attacks: Don’t Be Fooled By Internet Foes appeared first on EarthLink Blog: Internet services, Web Hosting, IT services.

Do You Know The Keys To Creating A Strong Password?

posted by Taylor Esler


A password unlocks a kingdom of information — yet people often make themselves vulnerable to cyber attack by using weak passwords.

To create better passwords, use these password safety tips:

  • Use at least 12 upper and lowercase letters, symbols and special characters
  • Make an acronym out of a memorable sentence: My 1st son was born at Atlanta Hospital at 2:30pm= M1swb@AH@2:30pm
  • Don’t use personal information easily found from a Google search or social media
  • Don’t store your passwords in a Word document or on paper
  • Use different passwords for each account
  • Never share your password
  • Avoid logging into accounts on public computers or unsecured WiFi

If you believe your password has been compromised, change your password right away. If you need help, contact EarthLink Support.

The post Do You Know The Keys To Creating A Strong Password? appeared first on EarthLink Blog: Internet services, Web Hosting, IT services.

Cell Phones: The Risks You Should Know About

posted by Taylor Esler

Risks of cell phones

These days, most of us can’t live without our cell phone. However, it can be dangerous to be attached to a device without knowing how it can be hacked. Some security concerns include dangerous app downloads and changes to default settings.

iPhones: WhileApple is known for tight security measures and therefore safer security measures on its cell phones, some users may be tempted to jailbreak their iPhones to get around restrictions. Jailbreaking is not recommended because it invalidates iPhone’s warranty, renders Apple’s security measures useless, can cause crashing and instability, and may even “brick” or freeze the phone.

Androids: To offer more freedom, Google allows users to download cell phone apps from outside the Play Store. But this opens users to risk, as attackers can try to distribute malicious apps.

  • Avoid apps from outside the Play Store
  • Scan apps outside the Play Store for malware before installing
  • Enable the “Verify Applications” setting to regularly scan for malicious apps (even apps from the Play Store)
  • Be suspicious of apps that ask for excess permissions

The post Cell Phones: The Risks You Should Know About appeared first on EarthLink Blog: Internet services, Web Hosting, IT services.

Troubleshooting tips for your DSL Internet connection

posted by Skeeter Harris

We’re always concerned when our customers can’t get the most out of the internet.   As a result of our continuous monitoring, and information that we’ve received from those customers who have reached out to us, we have been able to quickly isolate and address the most common issues that affect performance and connectivity.   We believe that there are no widespread issues on our end at this time but we want to provide some troubleshooting steps that we think may be helpful for our customers who frequently experience connectivity issues.

  1. To make your internet connection as consistent and secure as possible, please follow the steps outlined in the links for Windows Users and for Mac Users
  2. It is critical that all WiFi connections are password protected. This prevents unwanted users from accessing your home network, impacting performance, connectivity and possibly your personal information.
  3. All computers should be protected with anti-virus software (yes, even Macs). There are many free programs available and also those for purchase. EarthLink offers Symantec’s Norton product line for a modest monthly fee, but we mostly want you to know that your computer needs to be protected.  Viruses not only can compromise your computer, but they often can result in poor performance or an inability to get to the internet.
  4. Whatever issue may be impacting your connection, we don’t want you to feel like you’re alone.  If you would like one of our technicians to reach out to you directly, please send us a private message with your account information and your best contact number and we’d be happy to troubleshoot with you.

The post Troubleshooting tips for your DSL Internet connection appeared first on EarthLink Blog: Internet services, Web Hosting, IT services.

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