Its a quick one!

Two Tips for Today:

1) If you have a password that is an actual word (or is all letters), CHANGE IT NOW.  Using what are called brute force (dictionary) attacks, a hacker can “guess” your password in seconds!

A client of ours this week had their password “guessed”, and in just a few hours the hackers/spammers sent out over 20,000 emails using our client’s email account! The result? Our client, along with the entire email server, was labeled by Verizon, Comcast, AOL, (and other services) as a spammer. It not only caused problems for that client, it effected hundreds of other clients as well.

Change your password!  Use odd characters, capital letters and numbers.  And don’t use the same password for multiple websites. A password takes about a minute to change, but could save you HOURS of frustration.

2) If you get strange emails from your friend who has an AOL email address (or yahoo or another free email service), with weird web links in that email, your friend’s AOL account was broken into and hackers/spammers are using that account to send spam.  Contact your friend immediately and tell them to change their AOL password ASAP.

OH and if you are using AOL for business email, call us today and we will get you setup with your own company email and help bring your business in to the 21st Century!  If you use AOL, you have no idea how many emails you might not be getting from your customers, clients, prospects and/or leads… In this economy, its not worth the risk to use AOL for business.


Identity Theft Is Easy

I was watching the Today Show this morning and they had a short piece on the NYC’s implementation of free wireless in many of the subway stations in the city.  Free Wi-Fi can be found at many businesses today (many food chains are now offering it to their customers; Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, etc…) and it is often a great convenience to people who are out and about with their iPads and/or their smartphones.  But with this simplicity comes responsibility.

What the majority of WiFi users do not realize is just how EASY it is for a hacker to grab your signal “out of the air” and analyze it on their laptops almost instantaneously, as you are browsing the web.  So what does this mean?  Well if you are checking your emails and are not using a secured connection, bingo!  The hacker now has your email address and password.  If you are logging into a small ecommerce site to check the status of your order and it is unencrypted, guess what?  They now have your username and password to that site.  AND if you are placing a new order and entering in your credit card on an unencrypted connection… well I think you know…

There are two tools to help you protect yourself and your data.  First when using Wi-Fi connections to connect to your work or to your home computers, if its possible, look to setup a VPN (virtual private network) to make your connections.  So as not to get too technical, think of a VPN as a special tunnel on the Internet where only your data can move through – if anyone should try to intercept your data “out of the air”, all they will see are random characters and numbers; basically gibberish.

For those of you that may not have the means to setup/maintain a VPN, the second tool is to make sure your sensitive data connections are using SSL (secure socket layer) protection.  (in your browser the website should read https:\ versus a non-encrypted site name of http:\  (does not have the “s” in the http).

This goes for your email servers as well.  If you are unsure, definitely ask someone to check it out for you, to make sure your email server is using SSL or TLS.

As a final note, to give you a quick example, below is a free utility that anyone can download from Microsoft and use (click the images to zoom in).  While it isn’t exactly a tool a hacker would use to sniff Wi-Fi connections, it does show you how easy these utilities are made, to help read sensitive information.  The first screen shot shows a user logging into an unencrypted website via FTP (notice the username and password shown).  The second screen shot shows an encrypted connection using SSL.

All that was needed to see the information going across the net via Wi-Fi was to press the Start button on the software.  That’s it.

Be wise. be safe.

No encryption for Wi-FiEncrytped Connection across Wi-Fi

Online Safety – think about this long and hard…

Are you overwhelmed with usernames and passwords for all the websites and apps you use? OR worse, do you use the SAME password for everything?

Do you think you are safe, that no one would want your information?
Think again.

If you are part of the “one password group” you really need to consider changing that practice asap. If you don’t, and your single password should somehow be compromised or stolen, someone can very easily take over your online life (and possibly even your life offline!). But how do you keep track of all your usernames and passwords? If you write them down on paper, what happens if that paper is lost or stolen?

Well let me tell you about a FREE little utility I have used for the past 5 years. It is called Password Safe. It allows you to create as many accounts and passwords as you need. It also allows you to group those passwords into categories (home, work, financial, etc…). Some people even use it to store offline information such as bank account numbers, entry passcodes, credit card numbers, you name it. Oh, did I mention that it is free? And instead of having to remember ALL your different usernames and passwords, you simply need to remember just the one.

OK, so now all your information is stored in this password safe, what if that program is broken into? Well that is where I advise you to create your own pass-phrase for your  program. Unlike a password that is normally 6 to 8 characters, a pass-phrase is normally 10, 15 or even 20 characters. It could be a line from a favorite song with a slight twist; you want to replace some letters in the phrase with odd characters that only make sense to you.

So for instance, the following song line: “If we weren’t all crazy we would go insane”, could become the pass-phrase “If w@ w@r@nt *ll cr*zee we wood go inS*ne”… At first glance, pass-phrases look difficult to memorize, but they really aren’t; especially if you are using it daily. The best part is that while an 8 character password can be broken quite easily with today’s fast computers, a strong pass-phrase might take months to decode using a computer and a brute force attack.

So today’s quick tip, try Password Safe (by the way did I mention, its free!)…
And no matter what, think hard about upgrading to pass-phrases instead of passwords.

To get Password Safe, click here (its free)



Reconnecting families is her job!

An Investigative Genealogist Unlocks Some of Life's Greatest Family MysteriesPamela Slaton is by far one of our most interesting clients as she is known as a miracle worker by the nearly 3,000 adoptees she’s helped. After founding her own practice and using a never-quit policy to get around restrictive state laws, she has been able to locate 90% of her clients’ missing relatives, and has earned a reputation as one of the country’s leading investigative genealogists. She helped DMC find his birth parents on Vh1’s Emmy-Award-winning documentary My Adoption Journey, and now facilitates powerful reunions from start to finish on her Oprah Winfrey Network show.

Recently Pam appeared on the Millionaire Matchmaker to help Patti find her birth parents. Pam also has a new book out, Reunited, available on Amazon (click here). If you or anyone you know, is interested in finding out more about someone from the past, don’t hesitate to visit Pamela’s website and fill out a request form.

For the work Pamela continues to do for so many in need, we at Emaxed salute her!

Your Secret To SEO and Online Marketing

Back in college, one class that seemed to inspire an instant feeling of dread was Statistics 101. Simply mentioning the class would bring the strongest business students to their knees! Not to mention after the first few exams, the phrase “why do we need this {expletive} class anyway, no one uses this stuff in the real world?” could be heard  throughout the business department.

Fast forward a few years and guess what? Statistics is not only back, it is back with a vengeance. And the phrase “no one uses this stuff in the real world” has for once been proven wrong. Now statistics is (should be) the most important element in a company’s online marketing efforts. Too many companies throw thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours down the drain as they search for ways to drive traffic to their websites. What they so often forget to do though, is “track” their efforts. Without performance tracking of what’s working and what’s not, you have no way to truly know what your ROI (return on investment) is on your time and money.

And that tracking is done using, what else, statistics.

Statistical packages (specialized software) are a way to view who is coming to your website, where they are coming from and how long they are staying on the pages of your site. Every website should have a statistical package installed and running behind the scenes. That would be Step 1. Step 2 is to make it a priority to create statistical reports on a routine basis of your website’s performance. And finally Step 3 is to use those reports to make informed decisions on how to continue to invest your time, energy and money into your online marketing efforts (similar to Stephen Covey’s “Sharpen the Saw” habit).

Too often companies (especially smaller ones) completely ignore performance tracking with their online marketing and SEO / SEM (Search Engine Optimization / Search Engine Marketing) efforts, and they end up wasting thousands of dollars in the process.

If statistics was never your strong point, and if you are too busy handling the day-to-day operations of your business, then look to someone who has the knowledge that can help give your company advice and make recommendations on how to best apply your online marketing. Performance tracking not only increases your website results, it often saves you time and money.

PS: Did we mention that Emaxed has been known to handle such services
(“Nudge, nudge. Wink wink. Say no more”)

The “Not-So-Perfect” Shot

Its early February. You are looking to impress that new special person in your life. You get home from work and jump on the net to find the perfect restaurant for the perfect Valentines dinner. Two restaurant websites pop-up in your browser…

For a moment pretend you can’t understand a word on either of those websites, nor are there any prices shown. All you can see are the photos displayed on each site (Below is a sample of each site’s photos).
Now after seeing the pictures, which restaurant might you pick?

Building a great website is similar to following a great recipe. A recipe that absolutely requires a few key ingredients to truly be a success. For this post, I focus on just one ingredient in that recipe; a 1/2 cup of photography.

Its actually quite simple; bad photos can easily kill what would otherwise be a great website. So why do so many websites use terrible photos?

Some of the more common reasons:

  • The business owner has a son who likes to take pictures.
  • Or the owner fancies themselves working as a staff photographer for National Geographic (using a disposable camera they just bought at CVS, with photos they just had developed in an hour or less).
  • Or the one we see the most; The company just bought a $2500 digital camera.

Unfortunately, just the same as buying a $2,000 guitar is not going to make you the next Eddie Van Halen, a great camera alone is not going to give you incredible shots. Photography is an art and a skill combined. Great shots don’t just happen.

Our advice? Don’t skimp on the photos; don’t take photography lightly. If paying a professional photographer for a full day shoot is just too much of an investment for you to make, what about enlisting the help of a college student who is studying photography? Or at the very least asking your web design firm if they offer photographic services? Chances are your designer either has someone on staff, or they partner with a semi-professional or professional photographer who offers discounted prices.

Photos can make or break your website…

Ponzios takes Take-Out to a whole new level!

For all of those who grumble at the thought of cooking for all your holiday guests, Ponzios Restaurant (Cherry Hill, NJ) has come up with a way to help!  This year marks a first for their new online take-out system.  With a focus on ease of use, Emaxed helped them build a system that streamlines the process of getting a holiday meal ordered and ready for pickup, with minimal effort.

To see the system in use, OR if you are in need of some last minute food for the holidays, click here.

Holiday eShopping is here: Don’t get scammed!

Follow these 3 Steps to protect yourself!

Today I almost clicked on an email that was most definitely a spam/scam message. The email looked that legit to me (and I definitely should know better). Only after taking a few seconds and remembering these three easy steps did I catch myself before it was too late.

First some vital information: Many of the spam emails you receive are sent for one reason, to get you to click on any of the links contained in the email. Once you click on a link, your web browser will open and there is a good chance your browser/computer could be infected with a virus or some sort of malware.  But there is more… You could be sent to a website that looks JUST like a real company’s site, and once there, you may innocently proceed to type in your user-name and password to login to your account.

But Guess what?
You just gave your real account information directly to a hacker. 

The site you were sent to was in fact a bogus website, and when you logged into your account, you sent your information off to the hacker.  What is even more frightening is that some hackers are so skilled, they can grab your real user-name and password you just typed, save that information to their own computers, then incredibly, log you into the legitimate company’s website! (all within a second or two)

Now you are truly logged into, BUT you gave away your user-name and password information to the hacker, and you don’t even know you did so!

So before we even get to these 3 quick steps, know that the goal of most spam email is to get you to “click”. That means whatever you do, do NOT click unless you are VERY sure about the email message; even if the email appears to come from someone you know (or a company you trust, like Amazon, the example shown below).

Now without further delay, here are your three quick steps:

Step 1:

Roll your mouse over any link in the suspected email message.

Step 2:
At the bottom of your email window, you “should” see the URL address (the website) that link represents.  If the URL does NOT contain the main company web address that seems to have sent this email, do NOT click on any of the links in the email. For instance, the example here appears to have been sent by Amazon, stating that I placed an order – which of course I did not place. The plan is to get me excited and worried enough to want to immediately find out if someone broke into my account, by clicking on a link. **

Step 3:
If you are still worried that someone has broken into your account. Simply open up your browser, type in the company ( and login to your account like you always do. Then look up your orders.

In fire rescue they say; Stop, Drop and Roll

With email rescue let’s say; Stop, Think, and DON’T CLICK

** If your email reader does not display the URL at the bottom of your screen, then you can try right-clicking the link (which will NOT open your browser but will open a small pop-up menu). From that menu choose “copy link location” and then right-click into a word processing program and choose to “paste”.  That will show you the link’s URL without it opening up your browser.

e-Etiquette Quick Tip #1

Have you ever expressed interest in buying something online and sent a quick email for more information, then never heard back from that company? Or maybe you attempted to make a reservation at a restaurant’s website (because they offered that service), but again got no response from them?

Sadly those experiences are often the norm, not the exceptions…

How fast do you respond back to your customers, clients, and prospects? Within a day? A week? Ever? I can recall at least a half dozen times where a prospect emailed us a question through our website, I received their message, and personally responded back to them within 5 minutes… Amazingly each of those prospects became clients (they all commented either about how they never heard back from other companies or how they never received such a prompt reply “in their life”). And “no” we don’t sit and watch our in-boxes minute by minute! :)

So here is our quick tip…
When you get a business email from a client, customer, vendor or prospect, write them back as soon as possible; even if it is just an acknowledgement that you received their message. No, you don’t need to be checking your emails every 2 minutes and stopping your day to respond to each email, but can’t you make it a habit to check for new messages once an hour? And while auto-replies help to at least acknowledge you received their message, you can do a LOT better than that. I promise you will be amazed at the responses you get!

6 Quick Tips To Keep Your Computer Safe

Not a week goes by without at least one client/friend/family member asking how to steer clear of viruses on the net.

So here are some quick tips (for Windows users):

  1. Antivirus Software.  Get it, install it and maintain it.  Our favorite is Norton Internet Security, but even the free antivirus programs will work.
  2. When browsing the Internet, use Firefox, Chrome or Safari for Windows as your browser.  Microsoft’s IE (Internet Explorer) is simply too tied to the operating system (Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8) of the computer and has too many weaknesses. Our favorite: FireFox.
  3. For Windows Vista and later versions, don’t use the default administrator account as your regular user’s account.  Create a new regular user and use that account.  This helps prevent unwanted software/viruses/malware from being installed on your computer without your knowledge.
  4. Get to know Windows System Restore.
  5. Back-Up your data. Just do it.
  6. Oh and did we mention to back-up your data?  AND back-up to ANOTHER computer or DVD or USB Key or portable hard-drive.  If your computer crashes and your only back-ups are on that computer, you are up the river without a paddle.

PS: While Apple products and linux operating systems aren’t as big a target as Windows, hackers are getting more and more skilled each and every day. So whatever you use to browse the web; computer, iPad, iPhone, Android phone, etc… Please back-up your data.