Fast and Free Video Conversion

October 5th, 2012 by cbello

With all of the video formats out there, AVI, WMV, FLV and MP4, to name a few, it can be a challenge to keep track of which video files are compatible with your different systems and devices.  With Sothink Video Converter, you can take any video or audio file and convert it to the proper format for virtually any device (iPod, iPad, iPhone, HTC, Blackberry, Android, XBOX, Sony PSP, PC, etc). This all-in-one free program features an easy to use interface and works quickly to convert to high-quality video.

Share Presentations and More with Slideshare

September 7th, 2012 by cbello
SlideShare 101
View more presentations from Amit Ranjan

SlideShare is a free Web-based sharing program that allows users to find, create and share presentations online.  With SlideShare, anyone can upload slides to the Web from PowerPoint, OpenOffice, Keynote or a variety of other formats, including PDFs, videos and prerecorded webinars.  You can easily sync MP3 audio files with your slides to create a musical slideshow or narrated lecture. Presentations can be kept private or made public if you would like to share your work with a wide audience. Viewers have the option to download public presentations and reuse or remix the slides.  Another benefit of using SlideShare is that the presentation files can be viewed on smart devices without Flash and smart phones.

Easily Convert to PDF in Office 2010

May 2nd, 2012 by cbello

As a new feature in Microsoft Office 2010, you can easily convert your document to a PDF from any Office program (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint). In previous versions of MS Office, you needed to have additional software installed to create a PDF. Now when you save your document, PDF is among the file types to choose from:

The PDF format is useful for sharing documents because all of the formatting is preserved and the file is protected from further editing.  Remember to keep your original Word document if you will need to edit it later.

Dangers of P2P File Sharing and Illegal Downloading

March 20th, 2012 by cbello

What Is P2P?

P2P stands for Peer-to-Peer which means the sharing of files between two or more users on the Internet. The concept behind P2P networking is powered by a peer-to-peer application such as Gnutella, KaZaA, Napster, iMesh, LimeWire, Morpheus, SwapNut, WinMX, AudioGalaxy, Blubster, eDonkey and BearShare. The P2P application takes a piece of allotted data or sometimes whole directories from your hard drive and allows other users to freely download this content, and vice versa. Content downloaded via P2P applications can be potentially laced with a computer virus or be legally protected copyright data. P2P programs are most often used to share music and videos over the Internet. Although sharing, by passing around a CD or DVD is not illegal; sharing by creating multiple copies of a copyrighted work is illegal.

How P2P Works

Much of the P2P activity is automatic and its use is unmonitored. Computers running this software will be busy exchanging files whenever the machine is turned on. Some of the P2P programs themselves contain “spyware” that allows the author of the program, and other network users, to see what you’re doing, where you’re going on the Internet, and even use your computer’s resources without your knowledge. Once installed, these applications are hard to remove. In some cases a user has to know which files to remove, which registry entries to edit, and which configuration files need modification. Since the computers running the P2P programs are usually connected to a network, they can be used to spread malware, share private documents, or use your file server for store-and-forward where data transmitted from one device to another passes through a message center which is used by the message service to store the transmitted message only until the receiving device can be located and then forwards the data transmitted to the intended recipient. Various types of illegal files can be downloaded and re-shared over these P2P networks by mistake. This includes child pornography, which can bring the owner of the computer and network under severe criminal penalties.

Risks from P2P Programs

Some P2P programs will share everything on your computer with anyone by default. Searches done so far revealed patent applications, medical information, financial and other personal and corporate information. Viruses, Worms and Trojans are being distributed at a fast rate.

Cybercriminals these days are using a modified version of the Zeusbot/SpyEye malware, which is using a peer-to-peer network, rather than a simple bot to command-and-control (C&C) server system, making the botnet much harder to take down. Also, P2P network enables the botnet to stay alive and gather information, even if portions of the network are shut down making it even more dangerous to use P2P software.

ZeuS is very popular in the cybercriminal world because it’s capable of stealing a wide variety of information, documents and login credentials from infected systems. Both ZeuS and SpyEye can be best described as cybercrime toolkits that are used for the creation of customized banking Trojans. The code base of the two former rivals was merged last year that led to the creation of strains designed to target mobile banking customers. Basically, if the control messages are handled by P2P networks, it is almost impossible to track the criminals behind it.

Consequences of Copyright Infringement

Downloading and sharing files which contain copyrighted material is against the law. The responsibility to restrict sharing and monitor the legality of your downloads lies solely with you. This is what can happen to you:

  • Disciplinary action. Your name may be forwarded to the Dean of Students Office for disciplinary action. Sanctions include fines, termination of university network access and/o university probation.
  • Legal consequences. Copyright holders may offer a legal settlement option (a.k.a. Early Settlement Letter) or pursue legal action against you.
  • Financial implications. If a copyright holder chooses to pursue legal action, the minimum damage for sharing copyrighted material is $750 per file (in addition to legal and court fees). Some students who settled their cases outside of court were forced to pay substantial amounts. There is no way to predict how much you may be required to pay in settlement costs.

The Federal statute, titles 17 and 18 of the U.S. Code, provide criminal penalties for infringing on copyrighted material. In the worst case infringements can be punishable by up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Repeat offenders can be imprisoned for up to 10 years. Violators can also be held civilly liable for actual damages, lost profits, or statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringement, as attorney’s fees and costs.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes it a crime to create software that helps distribute copyrighted materials. It also limits an Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) liability if the ISP notifies the alleged infringer and suspends access to illegal copies of copyrighted materials. As an ISP, Loyola is required to comply with the DMCA.

What to Do About P2P

  • 1)  Remove any copies that are running on any computers. This may take some time, and require some professional assistance.
  • 2)  Do not allow P2P software Internet access. This may mean: Disable NAT – Network Address Translation; Block access to/from the common P2P ports; Use a packet-reassembly firewall that can examine streams of data in-context for possible P2P misuse.
  • 3)  Delete any files on any machines which may have been obtained over a P2P network.

Legal Alternatives for Downloading

Some of the sites listed here, provide some or all content at no charge. They are funded by advertising or represent artists who want their material distributed for free. This list is not exhaustive of all content that is legally available. However, it will give you some legal options.

Movies: Watch movies online legally. Many of them are free->> Hulu Movies, Joost Movies, Amazon Video on Demand, Netflix, CinemaNow, Walmart Movies, BlockBuster

TV Shows: Watch TV shows online legally. Many of them are free->> Hulu TV, Joost TV, Clicker TV, Netflix TV, Walmart TV, iTunes TV

Music: Listen to music online legally. Many of them are free->> Pandora, Slacker, iLike, Music Rebellion, Last.fm, Blip.fm, Napster, Rhapsody, Yahoo Music Unlimited, iTunes Music, eMusic, AmieStreet, Mindawn, Zune

Others: ESPN3, GameFly, GameTap, Steam

For more legal websites click here

Students can also watch new movies on-demand while on campus: http://watchnow.reslife.com/loyolachicago/SDC/Content/Browse.aspx

Identity Theft

February 10th, 2012 by cbello

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is a crime where a person uses your personal identification information, like your name, Social Security Number, driver’s license number or credit card number, without your permission with an intention to commit fraud. This also allows the criminal to steal money from you by opening up new credit card accounts and running up charges on them or purchasing new services like a phone account, internet, rent an apartment, etc. in your name. You may not even be able to find out about the theft until you review your credit card statement and notice charges you didn’t make or in some instances until you review your full credit report and credit history.

How is it harmful?

Identity theft can also provide a thief with false credentials for immigration or other applications. The biggest problem with identity theft is that the crimes committed by the thief are often attributed to the victim. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. Identity theft is a serious crime and it can be harmful to the person whose identity is stolen by losing out on job opportunities, or denial of loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. Aside from losing money and confidence in the marketplace, identity theft also soils the reputation and livelihood of the consumer. In few cases, they may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit. According to the FBI, identity theft is the fastest-growing white-collar crime in the United States.

What can one do if already a victim of Identity Theft?

1)     Place a fraud alert on your credit reports as and review them as fraud alert prevents an identity thief from opening more accounts in your name.

2)     Close the accounts that you suspect have been opened fraudulently immediately.

3)     File a complaint with the local police or with the Federal Trade Commission, which may help in recovering from identity theft more quickly.

How to avoid Identity theft?

To minimize the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft, remember the word SCAM:

S – Be stingy. Do not give your personal information to others unless you have a valid reason to trust them
C – always Check your financial information on a regular basis to track your financial status
A  – Ask for a copy of your credit report from time to time – you are entitled to 1 free report every year
M – Maintain careful records of your banking and other important financial accounts

The ‘Gameover’ ID Theft Malware

January 18th, 2012 by cbello

What is the Gameover malware?

Gameover is an updated Zeus malware attack that goes after bank information.  The attack takes place when malicious users send spam email to infect computers with malware, which is designed to collect bank account information from the recipient’s computer.  After this malware is on your computer,  it is able to steal usernames, passwords and can bypass financial institutions’ user authentications.  As the name of the attack suggests, once the malware gets your information, it is “game over” for your bank account.

How it works

Spammers spread the virus to computers by sending out emails from the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA), the Federal Reserve Bank, or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) saying there is a problem with your bank account or recent transaction.  A link is provided in the email to fix the problem, which then leads you to a fake website. As soon as you click the link and go to the website you also just downloaded this malware to your computer.

How to protect yourself

NACHA, FDIC, and the Federal Reserve all say they don’t send out unsolicited emails to bank account holders. So if you want to confirm there’s a problem with your account or one of your recent transactions, contact your financial institution. Do not click on any links sent via email, as these may take you to a Web site that places malicious software on your computer. Instead, enter the address that you know is legitimate into your browser. For example: Instead of clicking on the URL received in an email (such as http://www.123citi-bank-usa.com/update/yourcredentials.html), open up Firefox and navigate to Citibank’s known website: www.citibank.com.

Where can I find more info?
Visit http://www.luc.edu/uiso/protect_yourself.shtml for additional security tips.

Network with Ning

January 6th, 2012 by cbello

Ning is an online platform that allows you to create your own social network or join an existing one.  It’s a unique place to share your interests with other people online. By creating a Ning webpage, you can customize the look of your site and choose features to add, such as forums or media pages. It could be used for sharing ideas, connecting to people with similar interests or even in a classroom setting (see this Educause article for some ideas). On Ning, you can also find a wide range of networks to join from politics to art.

Easily Create Visual Tutorials

December 9th, 2011 by cbello

If you teach, train or support computer users, using screen captures can be an efficient way to provide instructions.  Taking multiple screen shots and formatting your images in a word processing program can be time-consuming.  Screen Steps is an all-in-one program that allows you to capture images, add text and annotations then export your document to Word, PDF, html or a blog or Web page.

Cost – 39.95 with the option to take an additional 15% education discount: http://www.bluemangolearning.com/screensteps/purchase/

Screen Steps Help Resources:
http://bmls.screenstepslive.com/spaces/screensteps/manuals/screensteps

Get More Out of your Phone with Google Voice

November 11th, 2011 by cbello

Google Voice is a unique phone managing and messaging system that allows you to unite all of your phones under a single number.  Once you set up an account, you get a Google Voice phone number that you can route all your calls through—home, work, and cell— so that they ring on a single device. With Google Voice, you get free SMS text messaging, as long as you have a data plan, and you can also make cheap international calls.

When you receive a call through Google Voice, all your phones (or a subset) will ring, allowing you to answer whichever phone is most accessible. You can set certain callers to automatically always go to your cell phone, directly to voicemail or only to your house phone. Additionally, Google Voice allows you to listen in on a voicemail that is in the process of being recorded so you can decide whether or not to answer the call.

Perhaps one of the coolest features of Google Voice is its transcription capabilities—Google Voice can transcribe a voicemail into a text format that can be read like an email, and even be forwarded to your email account. You can then easily respond with a call or a text message.  You can also search through voicemail transcriptions as you would your email inbox. Making things even simpler, Google Voice can integrate with your mobile device’s native address book and  you can set up different greetings for different contacts.  Google Voice is currently available for Android, BlackBerry, and iPhone devices.

To learn more, visit the Google Voice Help Page.

Back up your Files Online with DropBox.com

October 21st, 2011 by cbello

If you are constantly emailing yourself documents or always carrying around your USB drive for backup, you may want to try an online service for file storage.  Drop Box is an easy backup system that enables users to share files between their computers and mobile devices. With a free account you get 2GB of space to store your files; you can also upgrade to a 100GB, 200GB, or 500GB account with a monthly paid plan.