Lastpass – The only password Manager You Will Ever Need!

How often does this happen to you?
How often does this happen to you?

I’ve got more passwords than I can count. Work email, Personal email. Facebook, Twitter. Instagram. Snapchat. Pinterest. LinkedIN, Online Banking. Every single credit card. The Patient portal for my doctor’s office (and my childrens portals as well). Netflix, Hulu, Plex, Reddit, Ancestry,  Xbox One, Playstation 4, Verizon for cable, Sprint for my cell phone,  Online shopping at Amazon, Kohl’s, Target, Old Navy, Home Depot, Sears, eBay… it’s easy to forget all the places where we have online accounts. and how many passwords we’re using.

in fact, the average computer user has over 130 passwords to remember. And the worst thing you can do from a security standpoint is use the same password for every site because it makes a hackers job much easier.

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Lastpass is a web based app that allows you to save all your different passwords in one vault, out in the cloud,  and set one master password to get that vault open.  Your password vault is encrypted so even the team at LastPass can’t access your passwords. Set one secure password for the vault and never worry about remembering each and every site password ever again. I suggest a long phrase that’s easy to remember and type. For example, I might choose Chara33BigZchamps2011 or Gronkspike87NEpatsSBx4

With my one master vault password, I can log in and access literally 1000’s of passwords I would certainly have forgotten. This is especially true for those sites you only visit once or twice a year.

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Another nice feature included in Lastpass – you can create multiple profiles containing all your contact info, like the stuff they ask for every time you sign up for a website – and lock them down with the vault password too.  My PC Overhaul profile has my name, street address, phone number, credit card, date of birth and credit card numbers for the business. When I go to a site to buy parts for a customer, the checkout process is simple. I click on my PC Overhaul profile in lastpass and it fills all that information in for me. And you can have as many different profiles as you want. I have a profile for work, another for personal purchases, and a 3rd for web forums (using my spam email account).

Lastpass also has the ability to create randomized secure passwords for you. This is handy if you always plan on using Lastpass to log in to sites, but won’t be helpful otherwise.

Once you have it installed, whenever you go to a site with a saved password, lastpass offers to autofill the username and password fields for you. You enter the vault password and can choose not to be prompted for the vault password for a period of time.  If you know you will be in front of the computer for 3 hours, you can set it to leave the vault open for that long, and after that time anyone with access to your system will be asked for the master vault password again to get in.

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There are literally dozens of handy features to lastpass, especially considering it’s a free app, I highly recommend you check it out.

Lastpass

 

Unsend an email in Gmail using Google Labs

Everyone has sent an email they wish they could get back. Now with Google Labs, Gmail users can create a window of time where you can take back that nasty reactionary email, possibly saving your relationship or job.

  1. Go here to be taken to Gmail Labs.
  2. Search for Undo Send, and click Enable.
  3. Scroll to the top or bottom of the page, and click Save Changes
  4. Gmail will reload. Once it’s done, go to General Settings, and find Undo Send. It should be enabled already; if not, check the box to enable it.
  5. You can change the period within which you can cancel an email with the dropdown box just below the checkbox.
I have highlighted the tab in Google Labs.
I have highlighted the tab in Google Labs.

 

 

Google Takeout

If you are a Google user, you probably have a lot of information stored in your various Google accounts. All your emails, contacts, photos, Google drive files, and even your location data is all out there on the cloud.  Now there’s a simple interface for downloading all that data for back up or archiving.

Google Takeout is not new, but it has been redesigned to make the interface easier to use.

After opening the app, you see a list of all the different types of data you can archive. Just check the box next to the data you’d like to download.

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You can touch the arrow to the left of the check mark to see additional options. For items like contacts, bookmarks,  SMS messages or location data a file is created with all the data in it and there aren’t any options to configure. But in some cases you can be more selective about what exactly you back up.

For example, under Google Drive, you can choose to include everything you have uploaded to your online storage account, or select only specific files, folders or even only files of a certain type.

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Under Google Photos, you can also back up everything or select individual albums. I use Google+ for my online photo storage, so I happen to have a large number of albums (over 800 just in 2014) to back up.

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And if you’re downloading your gmail data, you can archive the entire account (complete with attachments) or extract only the folders that are important to you.

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Once you’ve decided what you want to archive,  you can choose your format and delivery method.

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Google will let you know when your archive is ready for download. I selected my entire account while I was creating this post, and I am still waiting a week later, so please be patient if you have selected a large amount of data.

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How safe is your online data?

You may have heard about the latest celebrity phone hacking scandal involving stars such as Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande and Kate Upton. The photos were stolen from Apple’s iCloud service, and not the phones themselves. Many of the celebs had already deleted the photos and videos from their iPhones, some of them a year or more ago, but they still had those files backed up on iCloud. Hackers use a variety of methods to get into iCloud accounts, from brute force attacks to trying easy to guess passwords, since iCloud would not lock you out if you guessed wrong a certain number of times.

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In the case of these particular celebrity photos, they have been floating around on the “dark net” for quite some time before they were finally leaked publicly.

Though it hasn’t yet been confirmed that the pictures came from iCloud accounts, reports have speculated that the hackers used a recent tool called iBrute, which can repeatedly try different combinations of passwords on Apple’s Find My iPhone service until one of them works. Once Find My iPhone is breached, it is possible to access iCloud passwords and view images and other data stored in a user’s iCloud account. Apple had previously allowed an unlimited number of password attempts on the Find My iPhone service, but it has since limited it to five attempts, making the iBrute tool ineffective. [TheVerge]

You may or may not have intimate photos and videos you want to protect from prying eyes. Even if you don’t, think about all the sensitive information you may have in your email and private messages on Facebook and other social media sites. There’s probably some stuff in there you’d rather keep to yourself.

So what can you do to protect your private files and conversations online?

First, accept that virtually everything we do now electronically can be hacked or compromised. It may only be  a curious spouse, but it could be an ex, a co-worker, or a professional hacker.  The best way to keep someone from gaining access to sensitive data  is not to put it online in the first place.

For data that you DO share, the first thing you should do is have a complex password that nobody can guess. “Password”, “123456” or your telephone number are not going to cut it. As this Password Strength cartoon by Randall Munroe demonstrates, substituting numbers and symbols for letters is still easy for a sophisticated software prgram to crack. 

Password Strength cartoon by Randall Munroe

For example, Bruins?Win?Habs?Lose! will not be easily cracked by hacking software and is easier to remember than Bru1n5W#nH4B5L0s3. Phrases make a password more complaex without being too hard to remember. And if remembering is an issue, try a free password manager like LastPass.

Another thing you can do is enable two step verification. This means in addition to knowing the password, the person trying to get into the account has to have access to some kind of device like your phone. where a code may be sent to verify your identity.

ZDnet has this great info on how to set up two step verification for some of the most popular services:

Apple iCloud

  1. Login to My Apple ID.
  2. Pick “Manage your Apple ID and sign in”
  3. Select “Password and Security”
  4. Under “Two-Step Verification,” select “Get Started,” and follow the instructions.

Note: Be aware that when you change your Apple ID to two-factor authentication, it’s a one-way journey. You can only change your password afterwards by using the two-factor method.

Dropbox

  1. Sign in to Dropbox.
  2. Click on your name from the upper-right of any page to open your account menu.
  3. Click “Settings” from the account menu and select the “Security” tab.
  4. Under “Two-step verification” section, click “Enable.”
  5. Click “Get started” and follow the instructions.

Note: You will need to re-enter your password to enable two-factor verification. Once you do, you’ll be given the choice to receive your security code by text or to use a mobile app.

Google Drive

  1. Login to Google from this link.
  2. Enter your phone number.
  3. Enter the code that you’ll get from either a text or a voice phone call.
  4. Follow the instructions.

Note: You will need to get a new code for each PC or device that uses any Google services. For some services, such as Gmail when accessed on an Apple device or by a mail client or some instant message clients, you’ll also need to set an application specific password.

Microsoft OneDrive

  1. Login to your Microsoft Account.
  2. Go to “Security & Password.”
  3. Under “Password and security info,” tap or click “Edit security info.”
  4. Under “Two-step verification,” tap or click “Set up two-step verification.”
  5. Click “Next,” and then follow the instructions.

Note: Microsoft may require you to enter a security code that the company will send to your phone or email before you can turn on two-step verification.

Many other services now offer two-step authentication. Here are ZDNet articles detailing how to set it up onFacebookTwitter, and Google.

 

Use Google+ to Backup Photos Taken With Your Phone

If you enjoy taking photos with your smartphone, you have probably run into problems backing them up or transferring them to your computer. Whether you have an Android or an iPhone (or really any smartphone for that matter),  Google+ can solve some of these problems for you.

Every Google+ account allows you 15GB of free cloud storage, which is shared between your email (gmail), Google Drive files and your Google photos. If you create a new gmail account and use it for only photo backups, the entire 15GB can be dedicated to your photo storage.

Storing your photos on Google+ also makes them much easier to share with other people. Photos are put into albums by date, and all the albums are private by default.  Once your photos are uploaded, you can view them  from any web browser or by opening the Google+ app on your Android or iPhone. (Select Home in the upper left, then Photos to view your photos.)

This is what the photos look like on a Windows computer once they have been uploaded.
This is what the photos look like on a Windows computer once they have been uploaded.

 

You can choose to set your phone to backup over Wi-Fi or over mobile networks. Most people choose to upload photos over Wi-Fi, since that’s available at the office, home or on the road and doesn’t count towards your phone’s data plan. Your mobile network is a good choice if you are on the road for work or on vacation and want to be sure the photos back up before you get home.

 

The Android and IOS Google+ apps offer slightly different backup features. Both will store an unlimited number of  photos, reduced to a maximum side length of 2048 pixels. Android users have the option to store full versions of their photos, but keep in mind that takes up more of your 15GB free cloud space.

The Android app can be set to upload only when the device is plugged in and charging, which can help save battery life if you have a large number of photos to upload.

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Best of all, more than one device can use the same account. I was using Google + to back up my photos from my Samsung S4 (Android), but my wife’s photos from her iPhone 5 used the Icloud app and went to an entirely different place. So i created a new “family” Google account, and logged into it with both phones. Now all our photos are automatically backed up whenever we are near a Wi-Fi hotspot to one cloud location.  You can also upload photos to the account from any computer, so photos taken with all your various cameras can be in one place.

I am home with our two boys all day, so I filled up the 15GB quickly, but for $2.99 a month I upgraded to a 100GB plan. It’s a simple way to back up photos from multiple devices to one account and both of us can access the account from any web browser to view or share the photos.

If you want to try out Google+ as a photo nackup solution, here are the instructions for Anroid and IOS.

 

What Files Should I Backup?

I am constantly reminding people to keep regular backups of their files, but what does that really mean? There are hundreds of folders and sub folders on your computer, so which ones should and shouldn’t be backed up?

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First of all,  let’s talk about the software you can use to run the backup. There are lots of programs you can use to back these files up. New computers often have some sort of backup software installed and some external hard drives come with pre-installed backup software as well. A backup feature is also sometimes built in to some of the large antivirus suites. But if your computer or external drive doesn’t give you a backup option, don’t panic. If you have Windows 7 or Windows 8 or Windows 10, a backup feature is built in.  And of course there are several great free backup tools out there, like Redo Backup & Restore, Create Synchronicity, and Free File Sync. It’s not important which backup software you use, just be sure to get one that you are comfortable using and use it or schedule it to run regularly.

Free File Sync's interface. The 'Source" drive is shown on the left, the "Target" on the right.
Free File Sync’s interface. The ‘Source” drive is shown on the left, the “Target” on the right.

 

And one more important note-  one backup is never enough. That external hard drive you are using to back up your files is likely going to be in the same location as your computer in order to run these backups. If you have a theft, a natural disaster like a fire or flood, or a power surge fries your computer, chances are the backup drive will meet the same fate. So the key is to have a backup that’s not located wherever your computer is. Most people use a cloud backup for this. If you are confused about the cloud, it basically just means it’s kept on a server outside of your location. Free services like DropboxGoogle Drive, Box,  JustCloud, and Microsoft’s Skydrive (soon to be Onedrive) may be enough if you only have a few Gigabytes of data to back up. If you have a large amount of data, paid services like iDrive, SOS Online backup, or even Amazon’s Cloud backup solution are a better option. They allow you to upload very large document, photo, video and music collections (or whatever else you need to store) to a secure account and usually the cost is under $10 a month. Spending $100+ a year to backup your data may seem like a lot of money, but when it’s compared to the $1000-$1600 data recovery companies usually charge to attempt to get your files back after a hard drive crash, it’s a very good investment. DVD or BluRay media also make an excellent backup for files that won’t be changing, like years of older photos. these can be put in a fireproof safe, safety deposit box, or even given to a friend or family member to keep at their place so you will always have a copy “offsite” so to speak.

 

Carbonite's different plan options for home users.
Carbonite’s different plan options for home users.

 

Before we select the folders to back up, there are some hidden folders we need to be able to see, so you should change your settings to make them visible. You can do it manually, or I have a handy little script you can download that will do it for you.

You can manually show hidden files too.

Click on START->COMPUTER->TOOLS and then select the Folder option button.

To show hidden files in Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, select Tools, then Folder Options
To show hidden files in Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8, select Tools, then Folder Options

 

Then choose the VIEW tab, and under HIDDEN FILES AND FOLDERS, choose the radio button for Show Hidden Files , folders and drives.

Then choose the VIEW tab, and under HIDDEN FILES AND FOLDERS, choose the radio button for Show Hidden Files , folders and drives.
Then choose the VIEW tab, and under HIDDEN FILES AND FOLDERS, choose the radio button for Show Hidden Files , folders and drives.

 

Finally, the files you should backup.

Files to back up for Windows XP
Files to back up for Windows XP

 

♦  Documents: Your documents folder is an obvious choice. This folder can be a catch it all for some people, with files of various types from actual documents, resumes, tax forms, to downloaded exe files, photos and subfolders created by programs on your computer. Depending on which version of Windows you have, this may also be called “My documents”.

♦ Photos & Videos: The “Pictures” or “My Pictures” folder and the “Videos” or “My Videos” folder are the most important folders I back up. Most of us have been using digital cameras for at least 10 years now and don’t have any negatives to fall back on if we lose these originals (like we did in the old days). Unless you are a professional photographer these have no monetary value, but preserving these memories is priceless. I back these up to disk and the cloud, but also burn a DVD at the end of each year as a set of permanent negatives. Mine are BluRay discs, which cost roughly $1 each but it’s well worth it knowing every photo ever taken of my children are safely stored away.

♦Music: “Music” or “My Music” folder.  –My Mp3 collection is huge and includes stuff I ripped from CD years and years ago, songs I converted from cassette of my old high school bands, and download music. If you use Itunes, this is where the Itunes data is stored for your music, playlists and apps.

♦Application Data: “AppData” or “Application Data” folder. This is that hidden folder we need to back up. The subfolders inside here contain settings and preferences for your software, as well as your PST file for Outlook that is used to store all of your Outlook data, including your emails, contacts, calendar, and more.

♦Bookmarks: For Internet Explorer, these are stored in “Favorites”. If you use Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, there are in a subfolder of your AppData folder.

Of course, you can always just back up your entire User profile. The downside to this is you use more space and end up backing up lots of temporary files, but it’s one way to make sure you get every file you need without missing anything. This could be found at C:\Users\Username in Windows 7, 8  or Vista, and C:\Documents and Settings\Username for Windows XP.

You can back up the entire user profile. This is the default Administrator profile in Windows XP.
You can back up the entire user profile. This is the default Administrator profile in Windows XP.

 

Don’t bother backing up the “Windows” or “Program Files” folders, since you can’t restore your Operating System or your programs without completely reinstalling them.

 

 

 

RemoveMe Lets You Unsubscribe From Junk Email

pcoverhaul-removeme

We all get our fair share of junk mail. Some of it isn’t even “junk” per se, but ads from retailers where we still shop. Or at one point in time, that newsletter you signed up for was full of helpful information but now you don’t have the time to read it or that hobby is on the back burner. This stuff can really clutter up your inbox.

Sure, you can unsubscribe from each one of them manually – if you can find the link to unsubscribe, which many of them hide. Or maybe you HAVE unsubscribed by jumping through all their hoops only to receive emails a day or two later.

And that’s where RemoveMe from PowerInbox  comes in.

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RemoveMe is a very simple add-on to your web browser. Click the big green button on the RemoveMe page, and your browser will ask you for permission to install the add-on.

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Once you grant permission, log in to your email account. Hovering over the subject line will now give you a handy little unsubscribe button. All you have to do is click, and RemoveMe goes right to the correct link to remove you from that particular mailing list.

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Click the link to unsubscribe and junk mail won’t be arriving from that company any more.

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How to copy your contacts from Yahoo to Gmail

This will show you how to export the contacts out of your yahoo mail and move them to a new gmail account:

You’re going to follow these steps to export your contacts to a .CSV file.

How to export contacts from Yahoo! Mail:

Go to Yahoo! Mail and select the Contacts tab.

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Select Actions Export All.

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Choose from the programs listed on the page.Select Export Now.

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How to export contacts from Yahoo! Mail Classic:

  1. Go to Yahoo! Mail and select the Contacts tab.
  2. Select Tools Export.
  3. Choose Yahoo CSV.
  4. Select Export Now.

Now you need to create your gmail account at gmail.com.

Once that’s done, Follow these steps to import that CSV file you created.

Sign in to your new Gmail account. Click Gmail at the top-left corner of your Gmail page, then choose Contacts.

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From the More actions dropdown menu, select Import….

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Click the Choose File button.

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Select the CSV file you created from yahoo and click the Import button.

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You’re done! Gmail will show you the contacts it has imported for you.