Saturday, 16 February 2013

How to check that a web site is safe to visit

Links to web sites present themselves to us in a myriad different ways. That link in a Facebook post that'll show us a funny video; an email from an acquaintance containing a link to an amazing special offer; a message posted in a newsgroup or forum containing a link to a valuable piece of information; the list is endless. Most of the time these links do exactly what is expected. However there are folks out there hoping to trick us into visiting some web page or launch a piece of code that'll attempt to perform some unexpected and probably harmful action. But, hey, I've got internet security software so I'm protected against this kind of thing, right? Not necessarily. It's not guaranteed that your internet security app, even when fully up-to-date, will 'know' about that new piece of malware and, therefore, may not be able to block it. So the best advice is  if you really want to proceed then do so with caution. Thankfully there are some resources out there that'll help. Here are a couple of sites the purpose of which is to check the safety of a web site when given the site's address.

McAfee's Site Advisor - It's not necessary to install the free download in order to use this resource. Instead I suggest you go ahead and enter the site's URL into the  text box in the right sidebar under the heading of View a Site Report (see image on right) and you'll see either a green (safe) or red (unsafe) at the beginning of the report. If you're interested to know more SiteAdvisor goes on to provide a lot more detail.

Norton’s SafeWeb (see screenshot below) works in a similar way to the McAfee site. When displaying a site’s threat report it contains user community input in the form of reviews and ratings in the right sidebar. The actual Norton review starts with the green (safe), orange (caution advised), red (unsafe) or grey (unknown) icon, followed by the threat report, that includes the results of 17 different malware tests. For certain sites, Norton’s SafeWeb also reports information of e-commerce safety (whether the site encrypts transactions and has a privacy policy).

In summary it makes perfect sense to use one or other of these sites to check out a web site if you're at all unsure about its safety.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Problems downloading attachments in hotmail? I’ve seen this and have fixed it. Read on to find out how I did it.

I was invited to assist a client who was struggling to overcome a newly evolved problem on her Windows 7 laptop. The issue is understood to have appeared following the removal of Google Chrome from the system. Specifically the user was no longer able to download email attachments from her hotmail account. All attempts to do so resulted in the appearance of the following pop-up message along the lower edge of the Internet Explorer 9 browser window. The wording in the dialog box reads… Do you want to save  Get attachment_aspx?file= xxxxxxxxxxxx with a dropdown menu giving options to save or save as. Clicking on either button or the ‘x’ resulted in no response. Yup… zombified!
One suggested solution I discovered involved either enabling or disabling the browser’s Silverlight add-on. Alas that step did nothing to help. Another suggestion I came across was to make sure that the program and file associations were set back to refer to IE rather than Chrome. This revealed that some associations were set incorrectly but updating them didn’t help. In the end updating the browser to IE10 nailed it for me. However I also updated the old style hotmail interface to the Outlook one at the same time; it may have played a part.
My hope is that one or more of these suggested solutions helps others searching for a fix to the same or a similar issue.