Tech Talk for the Sandwich Generation: Gmail Warning!

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Well, it’s time for another round of tech tip reminders for all us Sandwich Generation caregivers who really don’t have time to deal with bugs, worms, viruses, etc. Unfortunately, that’s what the nefarious authors of such things count on. So here is SandwichINK to the rescue, thanks to one of my favorite White Knights of the computer world – WindowsSecrets . This time it’s Gmail that’s at-risk. Apparently there is an unpatched hole in it that various and sundry “pirates of the internet” would like to take advantage of. As WindowsSecrets explains:

If your Google account includes such personal information as stored credit card numbers (for Google Shopping, for instance), a contact list, photos, and business or financial documents, having your account hacked could be more than just an inconvenience. One way for an attacker to steal passwords — especially given the ubiquity of open, unencrypted Wi-Fi networks — is to use software that "sniffs" Internet traffic. If you enter your username and password on a Web page without encryption, your inputs are transmitted as plain text, not just over a Wi-Fi connection but also through every router that happens to be located between you and the service’s machine.

YIKES! Fortunately, the author, Scott Spanbauer, goes on to explain what can be done to help protect yourself. I strongly encourage each of you to head straight over there to get the full details and implement them ASAP. I know I’ll be working on that this afternoon. I don’t use my Gmail email often. Generally it’s a backup for my primary accounts. But it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Speaking of being safe, this is also a great time to make sure all your important software is completely updated, including Windows, whatever browser you use, your antivirus/firewall, etc. Then run your defragmenter, your antivirus scanner, and any anti-spy software you use. While you are at it, it’s also important to backup your documents and any other important items that you wouldn’t want to be without in case of a total computer meltdown.

One extra step I would recommend at least once per year and more often is better – make a backup copy of your important computer files/documents to store at another site. Whether you put it in a safe deposit box or at the house of a relative or friend, it’s a wise investment. Having just heard of a huge apartment fire in my area that left 35 families homeless and all their computer equipment totally destroyed, it was a vital wake-up call to me that I wanted to share with you. Another option is to back-up the documents online. I have to admit, I haven’t given that a try due to safety and hacking concerns. For non-confidential items and photos, though, that could be a good option.

Don’t forget to do a little computer caregiving by helping your aging parents and other family members perform these same tasks with their computers. Even our grandkids can use that kind of help!

Once you’ve completed all these projects, take joy in the fact that you are in the small minority of computer users that do all that and that you are also in the small minority who are well-prepared for the majority of computer crises. Isn’t that a nice feeling? 🙂

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