dec 2006 newsletter

target gift card alert

The newest fraud with Gift Cards is like this: Thieves go to Target and pick up gift cards. They take the gift card numbers (and phone number), and set the card back on the shelf. They then start calling the 800 number several times a day waiting for the card to be activated (by you, a purchaser). When they discover a $ balance (when it's purchased and activated), they go to, and spend the entire balance. Target gift cards do not have a "scratch off," hiding the important account information. Look for scratch off authentication codes on all gift cards. Don't buy gift cards in isolated, low traffic areas of the store, where someone may have the opportunity to take down card numbers.

Benefits of a Limited User Account

Both Windows XP and 2000 have a provision to make a user a "limited user" account. This is a very useful, albeit seldom used function in Windows which can significantly minimize the impact of a Virus or Spyware attack, should you open a contaminated e-mail attachment (file link in Instant Messaging, contaminated MP3, or contaminated Video Codec, to name a few). This concept is nothing new; it was used in concert with Corporate Networks, where a company wanted to control what a user could do to their computer. A limited user account prevents the user (and any programs they launch, whether intentional or not) from manipulating low level windows settings, entrenching itself into the innards of Windows, and shutting down critical or neutralizing processes, such as Virus and Spyware Scanner.
A limited user account prevents the user from installing new software, making system changes such as power and display settings, and some software, such as Microsoft Outlook, when newly installed, it's mail configuration cannot be setup under a limited account. Some older software written before Windows XP or 2000 will not work under a limited user account.

how-to instructions

To test to see if you and your programs can be run under a limited user account, here are instructions for Windows XP Home Edition:

Changing your account type involves assigning passwords and reducing user credentials. If you lose or forget your password, PCNS has no way to recover the password in the event you lose or forget it. If you are certain you have old software written before the year 2000 installed in your PC you should NOT attempt these system changes.

1. Make sure everything works as expected. Have all your software installed, configured, and all display and power settings to your liking. Your Outlook mail must be properly setup and functioning.

2. Create a new Computer Administrator Account, such as EricAdm (any name of your choice). Click Start, Control Panel, Users. Click Create A New Account. Type a name. Click Next. Computer administrator should be selected. Click Create Account. Click the name you just created (next to the picture). Click "Create a Password." Then type in a new password. Passwords are case sensitive, and can contain Letters, Numbers, and Symbols. Then click the "Create Password" Button. Write down the password, and store it in a safe place. Do NOT forget the password. PCNS has no way to recover the password in the event you lose or forget it.

3. Logoff and sign on the new account you just created. If you cannot login, sign on with the previous account, and change the password of the account you just created.

4. Assuming you have successfully logged in with your new user account, go back to Control Panel, User. On the left, click "Change another account." Select the account you want to change to a Limited User, and click it. Then click "Change the account type." Click the "Limited" option button, then click "Change Account Type."

5. Logoff, and sign on with your Limited User account. You now have an additional layer of security against viral contamination and spyware. You can still be infected, but the impact of an attack with be substantially reduced as the Spyware and Viruses can only infect your System to the extent of your security credentials.

Remember, not all third party software will run properly under a limited user account. You can easily switch your account back to an Administrator account, however it's worth investigating with your software vendor to get some workarounds. Properly designed software should not require the user running it to be in the Administrator's group. In some households, parents will be administrators, and they create UserID's with "limited user" privileges for their kids, because kids tend to click everything.