Charles Tips – SSL hype

Let’s broach the topic of SSL (Secure Socket Layers) and their importance on the web.

Using SSL is like sending certified mail through the post office. Mailing certified letters requires a signature by the receiver. The sender knows it got to the right place. SSL is instantaneous!

SSL is a security protocol (specified way of doing things) that helps guarantee that the browser you are typing information into is actually connecting with the website you believe you are connected to. This is extremely important when doing online banking, sharing private or personal information, or using your credit card. SSL is important regardless of the device (phone-tablet-laptop-computer) you’re using.

Besides ensuring you’re reaching the correct destination, SSL is MOST important when using devices through public WiFi (hotspots). They can be “snooped” by hackers. “Snooped” means hackers can sit in a parking lot near a place with WiFi and easily record all data communications happening. It is a hacker’s gold mine for people not security conscious.

Businesses expect to pay roughly $70-$199/year plus installation for SSL on a website. At CharlesWorks, it’s part of the hosting – with NO additional ongoing charges.

SSL is important! Feel free to contact us for more information.

Charles Tips – Email Extortions

With 20+ years in the web business, scams and schemes to steal from people still amaze me.

Several web clients have made me aware of a scam to frighten them into making a bitcoin payment.

They’re from addresses like “Anonymous Hacker” or even your own email. Subjects are “You have been hacked” or similar. They gloat they’ve infected you through some (usually unsavory) site you visited. They explain how they did it in terms most folks don’t understand – making you think they are really an expert – and frighten you into believing they’re monitoring your computer.

They threaten to send very personal items and even videos of you to everyone you know unless you comply with the demand within some short time period. They warn if you report them, they’ll distribute the “dirt” on you immediately.

We try to force these messages to spam on our servers. Sometimes they get through. We reassure several people each week they are a scam because they usually are.

However, devices DO get hacked. If you truly believe you’ve been hacked, you should see your IT person or someone who specializes in “cleaning” computers ASAP. We can recommend folks who can help.

Charles Tips – Review your Website

Customers want specific info about products and services. If there have been no changes since your website launched, they’ll look somewhere else.

New info triggers search engines to re-scan your website and index it according to what it sees as current and popular, relative to other websites in your industry. Distinctive and useful content helps the search engines recognize what your site is about. Posting new content on a regular basis gives the search engines a reason to scan your site more often.

Updating depends on your industry and who your competition is. The important thing is to review your site on a regular basis. We recommend a website review at least once a month.

Ensure your contact information up to date – nothing is worse than nonworking phone numbers or wrong hours. Your navigation hyperlinks all need to work as well. Good testimonials are an absolute plus. Noteworthy news posted can also help broadcasting your latest and greatest developments.

If you’re website doesn’t allow you to easily change the text in it, you should consider updating to one that will.

Keeping your website material up to date will help keep your current clients as well as add new ones.

Charles Tips – Email Security

Compromised email can be an important component of identity theft. People take much of today’s electronic communications for granted.

Think about what’s connected to your email accounts – activities like shopping and even online banking to name a couple. Hackers getting into your email can give them an open doorway into many aspects of your financial and personal life. The losses incurred through compromised email can be enormous.

Good security practices are great deterrents. Start by using strong passwords to mitigate such losses.

Wireless connections can be “sniffed”, meaning hackers can wait nearby and record the information being sent and received over the connection.

Always access your email using encryption. Encryption makes it close to impossible to decode the wireless traffic. With email clients like Outlook, Thunderbird, Apple Mail or even a mail apps on phones, make sure encryption is turned on. With webmail through web browsers be careful to access it using https:// to ensure an encrypted email server connection.

Free wireless hotspots are a haven for hackers. You are pretty safe as long as you are using encrypted connections.

If you don’t understand how to set up and use encryption, call your web hosting, email or device provider for help. Don’t risk potential losses.

Charles Tips – Do-It-Yourself Sites

Do-it-yourself website builders make it sound SO easy! And they can be. But there can be a steep price to pay.

I see ads every now and then boasting about how you can build a website in an evening with no previous experience. Several times a month we have people who have fallen into that trap, then contact us to help them out of it.

The biggest issue with these do-it-yourself sites is that you don’t own your site! The platform/servers the site is built on is proprietary – so you’re locked in to that company. Couple that with the fact that the site can’t be easily customized. Also, your site looks like numerous others. Many of these sites are not found well in the search engines. They have layers of coding that makes it easy to make changes but harder for the search engines to “see” what they’re about.

Do-it-yourself sites are generally not through local companies either. So if doing business with local people who will send business back to you is important – that’s another reason to avoid them.

When thinking of having a website built, take the time to ask a developer about options. Simply ask, “Do I own my website?”

Charles Tips – Spam

We get many questions about spam (Junk E-mail). Spam clutters up your email. It’s also used to deliver online scams and malware/viruses.

A common question is “Any idea of why I’m seeing spam emails in my Inbox?” Spammers most likely got your email address from your friends or acquaintances – people you know and correspond with – whose computers or phones were compromised. Their contact lists get added to the spammers lists. Spammers also get emails from when we purchase online and from finding email addresses on websites.

Spam is difficult to avoid. One way to handle it is to hit the delete key. That’s much the same as just throwing junk mail away that’s delivered by the mail carrier.

However, spam email can be filtered. The good news is that better than 98% can be filtered into a junk email folder.

One filtering problem is determining which are actually spam – Home Depot, Lowe’s, Staples or other vendors are spam to many and not spam to others. Good mail servers allow users to “mark” items as not spam in that case.

There are numerous email servers that behave in just as many ways handling spam. If spam is an issue, check with your email provider about your options for handling it.

Charles Oropallo (Charles@CharlesWorks.com) started CharlesWorks in Peterborough NH in 1998. His team does website design, hosting, search engine optimization (SEO) and related web services.

Charles Tips – Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of raising a site’s ranking with the search engines. Sites can have different rankings on various search engines. Each search engine’s scoring methods vary and are closely guarded secrets. Where you “rank” is how close you are to the top (e.g., 1 vs 100).

No one can promise a #1 placement. Only paying the search engine itself can guarantee that! However, there ARE things that can be done for better placement. Understand that search engines are like artificial intelligence. They “read” the text in a site to gain understanding of what a site is about – much like humans do. They understand context and categorize topics.

There’s no magical trick to gaining website search engine ranking. Plenty of information in a website’s text about its products or services is key. More written info about a topic equals more relevant search results.

While photos help aesthetics, text still “tells” search engines what a site’s about. Don’t be afraid to write in great detail about your products and services. Remember: The more pages there are on a site about a topic – the more relevant the site becomes about that topic.

Charles Oropallo (Charles@CharlesWorks.com) started CharlesWorks in Peterborough NH in 1998. His team does website design, hosting, search engine optimization (SEO) and related web services.

Charles Tips – Domain Directory Listing Scams

Here’s another scam designed to get you to share your credit card information: the Internet Domain Listing Service. It’s been around many years.

The Domain Listing Service usually involves an invoice you receive either via email or in postal mail. It’s deceptively designed to look like a bill you owe regarding your domain name. There is generally a sense of urgency expressed in it. The invoice coincidentally arrives roughly about the time your domain is due for annual renewal. That’s key to folks falling for it.

What the “service” purportedly offers is listing your domain in places on the web to get your website found – for several hundred dollars or more. We have found little or no evidence of any tangible results for most of these. We’ve actually seen web sites banned in search engines as a result of some “listing” services.

There ARE valid directories on the web that help sites increase search engine ranking. At CharlesWorks we provide this for no additional ongoing inclusion fees.

Carefully read the text in these offerings! It usually reveals that they are just a solicitation and not a required service.

Charles Oropallo (Charles@CharlesWorks.com) started CharlesWorks in Peterborough NH in 1998. His team does website design, hosting, search engine optimization (SEO) and related web services.

Charles Tips – Domain Name Renewal Scams

There are so many scams out there on the Internet it’s impossible to keep up with them or list them here. Here’s a common one we see nearly every day to possibly hijack your domain name. Your domain name is the unique identifier that gets web visitors to your website – you don’t want to lose it.

Many people receive mail about renewing their domain name. These offerings are designed to look like you owe money to renew domains. In some scams, when you respond to these you may lose your domain. They’re sophisticated and have been around a long time. Reading the text closely usually reveals that they are in fact a solicitation to move your domain elsewhere.

Domain names are usually handled one of two ways. One is through the company you do business with to handle your web needs. They keep the domain locked in a master account of theirs and through that they ensure that the domain name is kept renewed and bill you for that. The other way is for the individual to manage their domain themselves. That method leaves open the possibility of not receiving an email and therefore losing the domain as it expires. Domain expiration allows anyone else to purchase that domain name.

Charles Tips – Passwords

In keeping with the basics, a common issue we see at CharlesWorks involving our web clients in general has to do with passwords.

A trick to remember with passwords is to keep them simple yet complex and different enough so they aren’t easily guessed. A very good way to have a secure password is to use words or combinations of words that mean something to you but not anyone else. It’s also more secure if you use a capital letter where one would not normally be expected. Here’s an example of making a typical word into a secure word just by changing which Letters within the word are capitalized:
PeteRborOugh

Or you could go a step further by using numbers in place of some of the letters so you have both numbers and capital letters:
Pet8Rbor0ugh

To really beef up security, in this example we’ll make it 2 words separated by a hyphen or a number:
hEll064bYe

Using a couple words in this manner will pass the security requirements for many systems. You can use a couple words that you can remember and therefore don’t have to write down anywhere.

Needless to say, post-its on your monitor should be avoided. Hopefully this CharlesWorks tip will help get you away from that habit!

Charles Oropallo (Charles@CharlesWorks.com) started CharlesWorks in Peterborough NH in 1998. His team does website design, hosting, search engine optimization (SEO) and related web services.

Charles Tips – Introduction

Welcome to The Web Corner!

Charles Oropallo, CharlesWorks founder, Peterborough NH
Charles Oropallo, who owns and founded CharlesWorks in 1998 in Peterborough NH

Charles Oropallo from CharlesWorks in Peterborough NH will be bringing you articles on popular web topics with helpful hints. Most are simple, some are for the more experienced. All should be useful and educational. We will address:

    • Passwords with our focus on making them secure – yet easy to remember.
    • Common Internet scam information about domain name renewals to perhaps save you a lot of grief going forward.
    • More Internet scam information about Directory Listing scams to again save you a lot of grief.
    • SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in layman’s language and how it works.
    • Current web design products like WordPress – a free content management system for building websites.
    • Some information about spam and how you get onto those spammer’s lists.
    • Common myths and misconceptions about domain names aimed at helping you protect your online brand.
    • The ease (or not) of website self-maintenance for do-it-yourselfers.
    • The importance of shopping local and supporting your own community.
    • Things to know about email security on your phone or on your computer or on your tablet.
    • Website hosting and the advantages to local servers vs cloud storage.
    • The occasional pitfalls of having your friends help you with your web needs.
    • Reviewing your website now and then.
    • A little about email etiquette and things to avoid.
    • A common email extortion to ignore.
    • Secure Socket layers (SSL) and the surrounding hype.
    • Some tips and thoughts about choosing domain names.
    • Free counters and issues surrounding most “free” web stuff.
    • Info about a common “you need to update your email” scam.
    • A brief explanation of “the cloud” as applied to the Internet.
    • Social media – Facebook in particular – and how it relates to your web presence.
    • How long you have to get site visitor’s attention.
    • Who owns your domain and info about domain ownership.
    • Checking up on your web content and the minimum needed.
    • Checklist to help you find the best web developer.

And more! We’ll update this page over time with the topics we cover each week!

Lots to share!

Email us with questions/suggestions. Check back here at Charles Tips each week to see our weekly installments!

Charles Oropallo (Charles@CharlesWorks.com) started CharlesWorks in Peterborough NH in 1998. His team has performed website design, hosting, search engine optimization (SEO) and related web services for thousands of web clients on four continents.