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Don’t let the coronavirus make you a home office security risk

Welcome to life working at home, where the only one standing between you and all kinds of malware, ransomware and other security foul ups is, well, you.

Sure, the tech support desk will try to help you, but it’s not like they can stop by your desk and install a patch for you anymore. It’s a brave new scary world and we’re all trying to do the best we can. So, here, are six tips on how to keep your computer safe.

We hate to say it but all too many computer problems are, as they say in tech support land,  “Problem exists between chair and keyboard (or PEBCAK).” That is, little old you. No one’s asking you to become a security guru and win the next Pwn2Own competition. But you must learn a little bit about how to keep your computer safe and you must be warier of potential threats.

You see, there really are people out there who want to grab your password, steal your data and your company’s data, and infect your computer with ransomware while they’re at it. Or, to be more precise, there are automatic botnet systems out there spending every second of the day pounding on your virtual door.

It’s nothing personal. Just like the coronavirus, though, these really are out to get you. So, you need to act accordingly.

Enable automatic updates (usually)

If you, or your corporate IT staff, haven’t done it before, turn on automatic software updates for your operating system and programs.

Everyone says that, but let me add a caveat: If you use Windows for your desktop operating system, learn what your business’s recommendations are for Windows update. You may not want to update Windows at all.

You see lately Windows 10 has a truly lousy patching record.  This included machines not booting properly; your desktop vanishing into the ether; and the File Explorer Search box went haywire for a while. Microsoft has even delayed retiring Windows 10 1709, known to you as the 2017 Fall Creators Update by six months. That’s just so people don’t have to update their older Windows 10 systems and possibly run into problems.

Given all this, do you really want to update, run into a problem, and then try to troubleshoot it on your own? No, I didn’t think so.

Instead, I suggest you pause Windows 10 updates for now. To do that with a business edition of Windows 10, you do this by going to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options. Once there, under the “Choose when updates are installed” heading, select Semi-Annual Channel. This delays major feature updates by about four months, when all the bugs should be worked out. Under the quality update heading, change the deferral period to 30 days from its default of zero. These are the Patch Tuesday patches.

If you’re running a Windows 10 Home and it’s Windows 10 1903 (aka the May 2019 Update, or newer) you can also delay patches. To do this go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update, and look for the “Pause updates for 7 days” button. With this, you can keep delaying it in 7 day chunks for up to 35 days.

Everything else, just go ahead and update. There may even be programs you rely on hiding in your system that need patching but do a poor job of alerting you. For these, you can use SUMo or  PatchMyPC or to track other programs software on your PC that may need an update..

Finally, if you go to a random website and it tells you must update Adobe Flash or some other program before you can use it and you can download it from a link they provide, DON’T DO IT. Often this is a corrupted website trying to put malware on your computer.

Anti-viral software: Who needs it?

You wouldn’t know if from all the ads, but viruses are among the least of your security worries these days. There are all kinds of malware out there, but the traditional virus or worm? Not so much.

That said, while you can use one of the latest and best antivirus programs for most of us Microsoft’s own free Windows Defender Security Center is all you’ll need. If you want more check out, Norton Security Premium or AVG Internet Security,

If you use a Mac, you may think you’re safe. Nope. While you’re far less likely to run into malware than your Windows-using colleagues, there are viruses out there with your Mac’s name on them. For overall protection, we recommend Sophos Home Premium. If you just want good free antivirus protection give AVG Antivirus for Mac‘s free tier a try.

Desktop Linux user? You don’t really need an antivirus program. It’s not that Linux’s security is perfect — nothing is in this world — but it’s better than the rest. There’s never really been an effective Linux desktop virus.

Password management

We all hate passwords and want to move on. Well, maybe someday two-factor authentication (2FA) will be perfected. But, we’re not there yet. In the meantime, here are some simple suggestions on how to use passwords safely and efficiently.

First, use passphrases, like “I-Hate-Coronavirus!!,” which you can remember instead of easy to guess passwords like “abcdef,” the ever popular “password,” or your birthday. Nor, should you use memory unfriendly passwords such as “Gog$^Yack4.” Your memory and your security will thank you.

You should also use a password manager. With most of us having to deal with dozens of sites and services requiring passwords, no one can remember all of them. The answer’s a password management program.

Password managers enable you to manage your login credentials across all your devices while keeping your passwords secure. They can also automatically fill in web forms for you. Many web browsers, such as Edge, Firefox, and Google Chrome include this functionality

If you don’t trust Microsoft, Mozilla or Google with your data, or you want non-internet password management, you need a standalone password manager. The best of these are LastPass and 1Password.

Of course, if 2FA is available on services you use all the time. Use It. Yes, it can be a nuisance entering in a PIN from a text message or the like, but it makes them orders of magnitude more secure.

Bad guys gone phishing

The single biggest security problem you’re most likely to run into is phishing. There are two kinds of phishing. In the older type, scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information. Once they have your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security number, you can kiss your privacy, credit score and possibly your job good-bye. In the other, you’re encouraged to download or open a file or click on a link, which will infect your computer with malware.

In either case, they often look like they’re from someone or a company you trust.  They often tell you a story to trick you into making a fatal mistake. This can include the following: Saying they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or problem, there’s a problem with your account, you’re eligible for a refund or you need to pay a (fake) invoice. 

There’s already been a significant rise in coronavirus phishing messages. You can be sure they’ll be many more proclaiming a cure, an urgent message from the CDC, and the like.

Phishing messages also disguise themselves with personal information. They’ll include your home address, your pets’ names and so on. Don’t buy it. It’s easy to find your personal information on the internet. Just consider for a moment how much to tell people about yourself on Facebook and the other social networks.

You can spot phishing messages with several tell-tale signs. If you look closely at the address instead of being from a real address, say [email protected] it will be from [email protected]. They also often open with a generic solution such as “Hi Dear” instead of your real name.

When you get a phishing message, delete it. Never reply to it or open any link or attachment within it.

Finally, another phishing variant is the Microsoft support call scam.  In this one, you’ll get a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or a partner and that an automatic scan of your PC has shown a problem and they’re here to help all for one low price No, no they’re not. Microsoft will never call you out of the blue. At the very least, you’ll lose a few bucks and the worst you may find your computer and all your company’s files locked up with ransomware,

Virtual private networks: VPNs still a necessity

These days a lot of our front-line business programs, such as Office 365, Google Docs, and QuickBooks Online use a software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud model. For these, you don’t need a VPN. But, a lot of our in-house applications still are humming away in our data centers and server rooms. That means, you’ll need a VPN to safely get to them.

If your company hasn’t set up a VPN for you, tell them to set one up right now. Otherwise anything you send between your home and your office is vulnerable to be spied on.

Picking a VPN isn’t your job — you may be acting as a chief security officer, but you aren’t paid like one nor do you have the technical expertise.

If you’re running a small business, you need to pick a small-office/home-office (SOHO) VPN now, Some of the best, easy-to-deploy choices are ExpressVPN, StrongVPN, or TunnelBear

Backups: Your last chance for survival

Last, but never least, you may not think of backups as part of security, but they are. They’re the last safety belt to save you from disaster when everything else has gone wrong. As long as you have a good backup, even if your files are frozen by ransomware and your machines are working more for a botnet than they are for you, you can still wipe everything and start fresh.

Again, this is something your IT department should be handling for you. But, in the rush to get you out the door and working from home. it may have been neglected.

The quickest, easiest way to back up your business PC from home is to use a cloud backup service. Once your company’s sysadmins catches up they’ll also find it easier to get at your backups if they’re on the cloud rather than if you’re using an old-style DVD or even tape backup system. Ones to consider are Acronis, Carbonite, and IDrive. A more home Mac and Windows friendly solution is Google’s Backup and Sync.

Secure at home

Keeping your work safe from home isn’t easy. Butit’s not rocket science either. Just follow these tips and you should be OK.

After all, I’ve been following them for more than 30 years of working from home without a single security incident. If I can do it, you can, too.

Welcome to life working at home, where the only one standing between you and all kinds of malware, ransomware and other security foul ups is, well, you.

Sure, the tech support desk will try to help you, but it’s not like they can stop by your desk and install a patch for you anymore. It’s a brave new scary world and we’re all trying to do the best we can. So, here, are six tips on how to keep your computer safe.

We hate to say it but all too many computer problems are, as they say in tech support land,  “Problem exists between chair and keyboard (or PEBCAK).” That is, little old you. No one’s asking you to become a security guru and win the next Pwn2Own competition. But you must learn a little bit about how to keep your computer safe and you must be warier of potential threats.

You see, there really are people out there who want to grab your password, steal your data and your company’s data, and infect your computer with ransomware while they’re at it. Or, to be more precise, there are automatic botnet systems out there spending every second of the day pounding on your virtual door.

It’s nothing personal. Just like the coronavirus, though, these really are out to get you. So, you need to act accordingly.

Enable automatic updates (usually)

If you, or your corporate IT staff, haven’t done it before, turn on automatic software updates for your operating system and programs.

Everyone says that, but let me add a caveat: If you use Windows for your desktop operating system, learn what your business’s recommendations are for Windows update. You may not want to update Windows at all.

You see lately Windows 10 has a truly lousy patching record.  This included machines not booting properly; your desktop vanishing into the ether; and the File Explorer Search box went haywire for a while. Microsoft has even delayed retiring Windows 10 1709, known to you as the 2017 Fall Creators Update by six months. That’s just so people don’t have to update their older Windows 10 systems and possibly run into problems.

Given all this, do you really want to update, run into a problem, and then try to troubleshoot it on your own? No, I didn’t think so.

Instead, I suggest you pause Windows 10 updates for now. To do that with a business edition of Windows 10, you do this by going to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options. Once there, under the “Choose when updates are installed” heading, select Semi-Annual Channel. This delays major feature updates by about four months, when all the bugs should be worked out. Under the quality update heading, change the deferral period to 30 days from its default of zero. These are the Patch Tuesday patches.

If you’re running a Windows 10 Home and it’s Windows 10 1903 (aka the May 2019 Update, or newer) you can also delay patches. To do this go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update, and look for the “Pause updates for 7 days” button. With this, you can keep delaying it in 7 day chunks for up to 35 days.

Everything else, just go ahead and update. There may even be programs you rely on hiding in your system that need patching but do a poor job of alerting you. For these, you can use SUMo or  PatchMyPC or to track other programs software on your PC that may need an update..

Finally, if you go to a random website and it tells you must update Adobe Flash or some other program before you can use it and you can download it from a link they provide, DON’T DO IT. Often this is a corrupted website trying to put malware on your computer.

Anti-viral software: Who needs it?

You wouldn’t know if from all the ads, but viruses are among the least of your security worries these days. There are all kinds of malware out there, but the traditional virus or worm? Not so much.

That said, while you can use one of the latest and best antivirus programs for most of us Microsoft’s own free Windows Defender Security Center is all you’ll need. If you want more check out, Norton Security Premium or AVG Internet Security,

If you use a Mac, you may think you’re safe. Nope. While you’re far less likely to run into malware than your Windows-using colleagues, there are viruses out there with your Mac’s name on them. For overall protection, we recommend Sophos Home Premium. If you just want good free antivirus protection give AVG Antivirus for Mac‘s free tier a try.

Desktop Linux user? You don’t really need an antivirus program. It’s not that Linux’s security is perfect — nothing is in this world — but it’s better than the rest. There’s never really been an effective Linux desktop virus.

Password management

We all hate passwords and want to move on. Well, maybe someday two-factor authentication (2FA) will be perfected. But, we’re not there yet. In the meantime, here are some simple suggestions on how to use passwords safely and efficiently.

First, use passphrases, like “I-Hate-Coronavirus!!,” which you can remember instead of easy to guess passwords like “abcdef,” the ever popular “password,” or your birthday. Nor, should you use memory unfriendly passwords such as “Gog$^Yack4.” Your memory and your security will thank you.

You should also use a password manager. With most of us having to deal with dozens of sites and services requiring passwords, no one can remember all of them. The answer’s a password management program.

Password managers enable you to manage your login credentials across all your devices while keeping your passwords secure. They can also automatically fill in web forms for you. Many web browsers, such as Edge, Firefox, and Google Chrome include this functionality

If you don’t trust Microsoft, Mozilla or Google with your data, or you want non-internet password management, you need a standalone password manager. The best of these are LastPass and 1Password.

Of course, if 2FA is available on services you use all the time. Use It. Yes, it can be a nuisance entering in a PIN from a text message or the like, but it makes them orders of magnitude more secure.

Bad guys gone phishing

The single biggest security problem you’re most likely to run into is phishing. There are two kinds of phishing. In the older type, scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information. Once they have your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security number, you can kiss your privacy, credit score and possibly your job good-bye. In the other, you’re encouraged to download or open a file or click on a link, which will infect your computer with malware.

In either case, they often look like they’re from someone or a company you trust.  They often tell you a story to trick you into making a fatal mistake. This can include the following: Saying they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or problem, there’s a problem with your account, you’re eligible for a refund or you need to pay a (fake) invoice. 

There’s already been a significant rise in coronavirus phishing messages. You can be sure they’ll be many more proclaiming a cure, an urgent message from the CDC, and the like.

Phishing messages also disguise themselves with personal information. They’ll include your home address, your pets’ names and so on. Don’t buy it. It’s easy to find your personal information on the internet. Just consider for a moment how much to tell people about yourself on Facebook and the other social networks.

You can spot phishing messages with several tell-tale signs. If you look closely at the address instead of being from a real address, say [email protected] it will be from [email protected]. They also often open with a generic solution such as “Hi Dear” instead of your real name.

When you get a phishing message, delete it. Never reply to it or open any link or attachment within it.

Finally, another phishing variant is the Microsoft support call scam.  In this one, you’ll get a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or a partner and that an automatic scan of your PC has shown a problem and they’re here to help all for one low price No, no they’re not. Microsoft will never call you out of the blue. At the very least, you’ll lose a few bucks and the worst you may find your computer and all your company’s files locked up with ransomware,

Virtual private networks: VPNs still a necessity

These days a lot of our front-line business programs, such as Office 365, Google Docs, and QuickBooks Online use a software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud model. For these, you don’t need a VPN. But, a lot of our in-house applications still are humming away in our data centers and server rooms. That means, you’ll need a VPN to safely get to them.

If your company hasn’t set up a VPN for you, tell them to set one up right now. Otherwise anything you send between your home and your office is vulnerable to be spied on.

Picking a VPN isn’t your job — you may be acting as a chief security officer, but you aren’t paid like one nor do you have the technical expertise.

If you’re running a small business, you need to pick a small-office/home-office (SOHO) VPN now, Some of the best, easy-to-deploy choices are ExpressVPN, StrongVPN, or TunnelBear

Backups: Your last chance for survival

Last, but never least, you may not think of backups as part of security, but they are. They’re the last safety belt to save you from disaster when everything else has gone wrong. As long as you have a good backup, even if your files are frozen by ransomware and your machines are working more for a botnet than they are for you, you can still wipe everything and start fresh.

Again, this is something your IT department should be handling for you. But, in the rush to get you out the door and working from home. it may have been neglected.

The quickest, easiest way to back up your business PC from home is to use a cloud backup service. Once your company’s sysadmins catches up they’ll also find it easier to get at your backups if they’re on the cloud rather than if you’re using an old-style DVD or even tape backup system. Ones to consider are Acronis, Carbonite, and IDrive. A more home Mac and Windows friendly solution is Google’s Backup and Sync.

Secure at home

Keeping your work safe from home isn’t easy. Butit’s not rocket science either. Just follow these tips and you should be OK.

After all, I’ve been following them for more than 30 years of working from home without a single security incident. If I can do it, you can, too.



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Don’t worry about CurveBall just yet — get your Citrix systems patched

Hey, admins! It’s been an exciting week, eh?

Most of you have been inundated with requests — demands — that you patch all of your systems immediately to protect them from the highly publicized CVE-2020-0601 Crypt32.dll security hole, known as “Chain Of Fools” or “CurveBall.” 

While you were scrambling to comply with the NSA’s unique advertising, abetted by almost every security expert on the planet, a funny thing happened. There are no in-the-wild exploits for the ol’ CurveBall. But there are lots and lots of Citrix ADC and Citrix Gateway systems under attack, using a security hole announced in December called CVE-2019-19781. 

It’s so bad that @Random_Robbie said in a tweet early this morning that nearly all of the top malicious scans this morning detected by GreyNoise.io are trying to crack into Citrix (formerly NetScaler) Gateway systems.

According to @0XDUDE Victor Gevers, as of early Monday morning, “14,180 [servers] are still vulnerable. There are sensitive networks unpatched out there. With only a few volunteers we are trying to help (remotely) these organizations that are behind or stuck in the mitigation process.”

William Ballenthin and Josh Madeley at FireEye have discovered a novel piece of malware called NOTROBIN that takes over compromised Citrix systems then leaves a back door for future exploits:

Upon gaining access to a vulnerable NetScaler device, this actor cleans up known malware and deploys NOTROBIN to block subsequent exploitation attempts! But all is not as it seems, as NOTROBIN maintains backdoor access for those who know a secret passphrase. FireEye believes that this actor may be quietly collecting access to NetScaler devices for a subsequent campaign.

Citrix itself posted some manual workarounds on Dec. 19, but it didn’t get around to issuing  fixes for some of their products until Sunday:

Permanent fixes for ADC versions 11.1 and 12.0 are available as downloads here and here.

These fixes also apply to Citrix ADC and Citrix Gateway Virtual Appliances (VPX) hosted on any of ESX, Hyper-V, KVM, XenServer, Azure, AWS, GCP or on a Citrix ADC Service Delivery Appliance (SDX). SVM on SDX does not need to be updated.

It is necessary to upgrade all Citrix ADC and Citrix Gateway 11.1 instances (MPX or VPX) to build 11.1.63.15 to install the security vulnerability fixes. It is necessary to upgrade all Citrix ADC and Citrix Gateway 12.0 instances (MPX or VPX) to build 12.0.63.13 to install the security vulnerability fixes. 

If you’re using ADC version 12.1, 13, or 10.5, or the SW-WAN WANOP package, you get to wait until the end of this week.

All of this has led the Dutch National Cyber Security Centrum to issue a startling recommendation:

If you have not applied the mitigating measures of Citrix or only after 9 January 2020, you can reasonably assume that your system has been compromised due to the public exploits becoming known. The NCSC recommends at least drawing up a recovery plan as explained in the section “Possible compromise” in this message.

Yes, they’re saying that if you’re running any of the affected Citrix products, and you didn’t apply manual blocks until after Jan. 9, you should assume that your systems are compromised.

Meanwhile, poster wruttscheidt on the Citrix discussion forums has some pointed (and unanswered) questions for Citrix management.

While your users clamored for a fix to a non-existent threat, many of you had your networks pwned.

I continue to recommend that you hold off installing the January Patch Tuesday patches. Some problems have cropped up, and it’s still too early to tell if anything major is lurking. Get your Citrix house in order, and wait for this month’s highly publicized patches to ferment.

Join us for the straight scoop on AskWoody.com.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Wayback Wednesday: If it works, don’t knock it

As pilot fish is installing a new workstation, he notices something sitting on the stack of paper in a nearby printer.

“It was a piece of coral,” says fish, “so I took it out.”

Give it to me, says a user who sees what fish has done, and she puts the piece of coral back, explaining that it’s needed to hold the top of the tray up so the printed sheets don’t fall to the floor.

Fish removes the coral again and flips over the tray extension. User is amazed.

Sharky knows printers need healing crystals, not corals. Send me your true tales of IT life at [email protected]. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Mobile security perceptions don’t approach reality. And that’s a problem.

In general, security vendors love consumer surveys where consumers say that they would never, ever, ever do business with a retailer or a bank with poor security practices. But consumers have historically been terrible predictors of their own behavior, and they also tend to tell retailers and banks what they want to hear, rather than the truth.

And the truth, based on the public financial filings of plenty of companies that have suffered public data breaches, is that consumers — partially thanks to zero liability programs from the payment card companies — tend to not change retailers or banks when such data breaches happen. Why? Quite a few reasons. First, zero liability sees to it that they don’t lose any money (it actually limits losses to $50, but almost no business enforces that, and they tend to simply eat all of the consumer losses). If consumers lost large amounts of money from breached retailers or banks, yes, they’d flee, but that doesn’t happen.

Then you have the reality that consumers often don’t read about these breaches and, even if they do, they tend to not care. If a store is offering a product or service that they want and the price is good, they are not going to abandon that retailer because of a data breach nine months ago that didn’t end up impacting the consumer. As for the consumer lying to a survey, that’s simply a case of sending the message they want to send. Those consumers want the retailers/banks to protect their money, so they’ll gleefully check off the box that says “I’ll abandon a retailer that doesn’t have great security” because, well, why not? It doesn’t obligate them to do anything.

I bring this up because of a pair of surveys that hit my desk this week. Identity vendor Ekata reported that “91 percent will not use a platform again if they are a victim of fraud.” Not true. Assuming the survey is accurate, it merely means that the overwhelming majority of consumers will say this when filling out a survey, not that they will indeed abandon that platform. That’s vendor wishful thinking.

Tip for any CISO/CSO or IT leaders who are being pitched by a security vendor that makes a claim that consumers will abandon retailers or banks (payment card processors and card brands are a different case): Ask the sales rep to name any publicly held retailer or bank that has been breached and then suffered a statistically significant number of customer departures. Then hit the SEC database, look up that business’s quarterly filings and see if it reported any breach-related losses. You won’t find any. It’s an argument that works in surveys but not in the real world.

Part of this is because of departure friction. The simple truth is that it’s a hassle to change banks — and the more services the consumer uses, the harder it is to leave — and a pain to switch retailers (because the customer most probably likes the merchandise and the pricing and convenience or else wouldn’t be a repeat, longtime customer). I make an exception for Visa and Mastercard because there is little to no friction switching from one to the other. And major processors lose money when breached because it’s other businesses — not consumers — that abandon them.

This brings us to the second item that crossed my desk. It was a survey from Iovation, a fraud detection vendor. That survey found that “close to two-thirds (64 percent) agree that they would switch financial institutions/credit card companies for ones that have more advanced security protocols in place, while 61 percent agree that they would switch to a company that makes security easier for them.”

“Makes security easier” is an interesting point that I’ll get back to that in a moment. But there’s a big problem with consumers saying that “they would switch financial institutions/credit card companies for ones that have more advanced security protocols in place.” Specifically, the overwhelming majority of consumers have no clue what security protocols are in place with financial institutions or payment card companies. When was the last time you saw a consumer pen-testing a financial institution, gaining access to forensic reports for that company or conducting a sworn deposition with that institution’s CISO?

Banks, for very good reasons, keep as many details about their security programs secret for as long as they can. So how can consumers claim to switch businesses based on information that they can’t possibly access?

The bottom line is that they can’t. But — and here’s where Molly Hetz, an Iovation product marketing manager and the main author of the report, makes a useful observation — those consumers can make such a decision based on their perception of security. And that’s where things get tricky.

Consider: One of the best security and authentication approaches today is continuous authentication, where the system considers typing speed, typing pressure (for mobile devices), IP address, time of access, what files are being accessed, duration of session, typing accuracy (number of typos per minute), etc. — and compares all of it against a profile of a session that presumably was of the actual user associated with those credentials. The best part about continuous authentication is that it’s indeed continuous, meaning that it won’t theoretically be fooled by an attacker who does everything properly and within character for 10 minutes and then does the evil things that the attacker always planned to do.

I’m a fan of continuous authentication. It works far better than passwords, PINs, biometrics (at least the popular biometrics such as facial, fingerprint and voice recognition, rather than my favorite, which is eye scan) and multifactor authentication (MFA, which is often susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks, especially with a numeric code sent to a mobile device via a text).

One of the advantages of continuous authentication is that it is transparent to the user, meaning that it generates no friction and doesn’t delay or detract the user at all. But Hetz makes the legitimate argument that when a financial institution uses such a frictionless authentication mechanism, the user doesn’t see it. And when users don’t see a security approach, they might very well assume that there isn’t one. This is a classic security contradiction: Using a more secure approach might cause users to assume it’s a less secure approach because those users associate friction — jumping through a lot of visible hoops, such as “click on all of the images that have a street sign” — as a sign that the financial institution is really trying to protect their money from bad guys.

Financial institutions “need to have some visible security, because if [users] don’t see anything that validates that security,” the users will assume it doesn’t exist, Hetz says.

But there are other points in the report that are not right without context. For example: “Importance is still placed on having low service fees (62 percent) and good customer service (55 percent), but it is clear that privacy and security needs must be addressed first.”

There are reasons why customers switch banks and reasons for them to stick around. The more bank services that are used (online bill paying, for example), the harder it is to switch banks. The customer thinks “Aargh! If I switch, I have to manually re-enter all of the details of all of the companies I pay. It took me months before I finally got that list complete.” Or consider some of the more sophisticated bots being used by financial institutions today. The more accounts a customer has with that financial institution (checking, savings, mortgage, retirement, credit card, debit card, shuttle accounts for ACH or Venmo or Zelle payments, etc.), the more helpful those bots can be. Again, it makes it more daunting for a customer to choose to move accounts.

Let’s look again at that survey answer. High service fees and bad customer service are absolutely reasons that can overwhelm the departure pain concerns, but perceptions of privacy and security will be unlikely to make a change worthwhile. An exception (which isn’t really an exception) would be a customer whose bank account was actually emptied out through fraud, and whose bank took a very long time to replenish the account and was not responsive when asked for status updates. But that’s less a security issue than a customer service one. And, yes, bad customer service will absolutely force customers to leave.

Another example: “Close to two-thirds (64 percent) agree that they would switch financial institutions/credit card companies for ones that have more advanced security protocols in place, while 61 percent agree that they would switch to a company that makes security easier for them.” Yeah, not so much. Based on Hetz’s argument, a consumer can absolutely have a perception — which may or may not valid — of weak security at a current financial institution. But how can consumers have a perception of security at a financial institution that they haven’t used yet? At best, they can see marketing claims from that other institution (I don’t think we even need to address how worthless those security claims are) and they could have heard word-of-mouth comments from other consumers, who may have even less of an accurate perception of the security standing.

That conclusion requires a very generous — and self-serving — interpretation of the survey results.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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6 Google Tricks When You Don’t Know What to Search For

Despite spending millions of dollars on fancy algorithms, Google Search can sometimes be a fickle beast. You know that the information you’re looking for is out there, but no matter what search terms you enter, you can’t find a suitable result.

But don’t worry. If you don’t know what to search for in Google, there are a few tricks you can try that might prove useful.

So today, we’re going to look at a few different ways to help you search for something. Keep reading to learn more.

1. Wildcard Search Operator

google wildcard when you don't know what to search

Google’s wildcard search operator is useful if you…

  • Don’t know a particular word in a phrase you’re looking for.
  • Want to search for multiple results around a base phrase.

To use the wildcard search operator, just type an asterisk (*) in place of the world you’re not sure about.

For example, let’s suppose you’ve heard a great song on the radio, but you can’t make out a certain word. You could type “We all live on a * submarine.” The Google results would show you any results that match the phrase. You might see results like “We all live on a yellow submarine,” “We all live on a big submarine,” “We all live on an old submarine,” and so on.

Similarly, you could use the Google wildcard search operator to look for results around a theme. For instance, if you search for “reliable * provider,” search results might include “reliable internet provider,” “reliable web hosting provider,” “reliable VPN provider,” etc.

2. Find Related Sites

google related sites when you don't know what to search

The Related Sites tool lets you find any sites that are similar to the domain you enter into the search. The trick is especially useful if you’re researching a niche subject and want to find other sites that discuss the same topic, but you don’t know what to search for.

The tool primarily works by analyzing the backlinks pointing to a domain and listing sites that have similar sets of backlinks (for those who don’t know, “backlinks” is a fancy way of describing other sites that have linked to an external domain/page). Thematic relevance also plays a part; the thematic information is chiefly sourced from Google Ads data.

To use the Related Sites tool, just type related:[domain] (with no space). For example, if you enter related:makeuseof.com, you’ll get a list of other tech blogs that provide similar (but worse!) content to ours.

3. Exclude Words

exclude words to help google search

If you want to search for something but you keep getting a list of unrelated results, a great way to refine your query is to exclude particular words.

The ability to exclude words is useful if a list of search results is dominated by a particular person or company. You can exclude a word by typing a directly before the word. You can also add more than one excluded word.

For example, if you search for “Liverpool,” almost all the results on the first couple of pages show links for Liverpool FC, the English soccer club. To see results about the city rather than the team, you could type “Liverpool -football -soccer -fc” to force Google to omit any results about Jurgen Klopp’s side.

4. Find Results Within a Range of Numbers

google price range computer don't know what to search

You can add two periods (..) between search terms to find results within a specific range of numbers. The trick is perfect when you want to search for something in a specific price range or at a certain point in time, but you don’t know what to look up.

For example, let’s imagine you’re trying to research 19th-century American history. If you type “USA 1800..1900” into Google Search, you will get a list of results about the country that specifically relate to that period in history.

Similarly, you can use the trick to find items to buy that fit within your budget. Typing “computer $100..$200” would reveal any product listings and articles about machines in the $100 to $200 price range.

5. Multiple Missing Words

google around search tool

We’ve looked at how to use an asterisk as a wildcard operator, but what options do you have when there are multiple words that you’re unsure of? If you don’t know the majority of the phrase or query that you need to look up, is it possible to still find what you need?

Yes! The solution is to use the AROUND operator. Simply type AROUND followed by an estimated number of missing words in brackets, for example, AROUND(4).

So, let’s use the example of a paragraph in a book. Specifically, this phrase from To Kill a Mockingbird:

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

To look for the phrase using the AROUND tool, you could type “Mockingbird AROUND(25) sing their hearts out” (note there are actually 28 missing words). Google would then be able to locate the quote.

6. Google Image Search

google image search

You’re walking along the street one day and see a great painting or photograph. But what is the subject matter? Who is the artist? How old is the image? It’s impossible to know what to search for if you don’t have the faintest idea about what you’re looking at in the first place.

Rather than typing an entirely unsatisfactory description into Google and hoping for the best, it makes much more sense to try and do a Google image search. You can perform an image search from both your computer and your mobile device. Just take a photo of the item in question and see if Google can match it to an image somewhere else on the web.

To perform an image search on mobile, you first need to open images.google.com and request the desktop version of the site using your browser’s settings menu. To begin the search process, tap on the Camera icon.

We’ve written about the best Google Image hacks


7 Vital Google Image Search Hacks




7 Vital Google Image Search Hacks

Want to use Google Images like a pro? Here are advanced tips you should know for successful image searches
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if you’d like to read more.

Learn More About Using Google Search

The six tricks we’ve discussed in this article will all help when you don’t know what to look up. If you’ve got any other ideas for what to do when you don’t know what to search for, let us know in the comments below.

And if you’d like to learn more about using Google Search, make sure you read our other article on how to customize Google’s search results


How to Customize Google Search Results (And Add Extra Features)




How to Customize Google Search Results (And Add Extra Features)

Did you know that you can change both the look and the functionality of Google’s search results? Download these extensions today.
Read More

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