Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Security Software

Most mental health professionals would agree that we have a duty to keep confidential our clients’ PHI. This seems especially true if we keep that information on computers that can be lost, hacked, or subject to viruses of all kinds.

I recently had, and am continuing to have, an experience of possible identity theft. I did nothing to cause it or to leave myself open to that attack. Stupid things happen. A portable drive with a database of providers was lost or stolen. The VHA wrote to notify me and to offer a year of free credit monitoring and fraud alerts. As most of my personal information including SSN, EIN, name, address, and all the rest was on it, I accepted their offer quickly. My suspicion is that a less experienced employee or an intern copied it to a thumb drive to work on at home. The information was obtained from the Social Security Administration’s database of mental health providers without my knowledge or permission, to be used in a provider demographics study. As a client would feel in a similar situation, I am concerned, anxious, and feel that someone is responsible for potential harm to me. To the VHA’s credit, they immediately admitted their loss and offered some protective measures. Of all the times that I believe my personal information may have been lost, stolen, or compromised this was the only time I was notified.

We owe our clients the best security we can provide. Probably the best security software available to the public is produced by
Norton/Symantec and McAfee. They are good and their respective prices reflect that. Many other commercial security software brands are available and usually, as good as the two named, but possibly not as comprehensive.

I have found free versions of some lesser-known software brands available that have proven as effective, in combination, as one of the major manufacturers’ software suites.
AVG offers free versions of their Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware, and Anti-Rootkit software. As far as I am currently aware, their Anti-Rootkit program is the only free rootkit software available. I use all three. CheckPoint Software’s ZoneAlarm Firewall is a well-known and effective free security application that I also use and rely on. Spybot-Search & Destroy is a very effective free “donation-ware” anti-spyware application. I also use it with confidence. LavaSoft’s Ad-Aware-2007 is a free adware search and removal application. It has very recently been updated and apparently did not install well on my computer. Its past versions have been quite useful and worked perfectly in combination with all the other free programs listed. Microsoft also offers free anti-virus and internet filters, as well as updates to your operating system. I use Microsoft Update, Windows Live OneCare safety scanner, Windows Defender, and the Malicious Software Removal Tool. All of the Microsoft tools may be found on the single Microsoft link appearing above.

These are some of the best free security programs available. I recommend them with some caveats, however. I am making recommendations based on my personal use of Microsoft’s XP Pro and XP Home operating systems and cannot generalize to other OSs. If you do not use these links to obtain the software, be certain that the providers and spellings of the program names are exactly the same. There are imitators using names very similar to the good software that may contain malware or be malware themselves. Finally, if you like the software, please consider purchasing their commercial versions. Be careful out there.

Peace, Doc

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Monday, July 23, 2007

EverNote 2.1 Update

EverNote®2 is offering a free, updated version of their remarkably versatile and useful note and web information collection program. It is version which employs a new database. If you update from a previous version, your content will be saved and updated to conform to the current database engine, but it will no longer be useable with prior versions. The commercial versions of this software offer extensive additions to the basic free version. Web clips, graphics, e-mail, notes, handwriting, snapshots, sketches, and much more may all be recorded, many on either free or commercial versions. It is simply remarkable that so much versatility is offered in their free version. It is definitely worth a trip to the download section of the EverNote Website to compare versions and download one of them.

I find that I am not alone in my high regard for this application. Those with much more knowledge and ability concur:

EverNote is a genius piece of software that collects and stores all of your digital data, indexing them and making them searchable. - Michael Calore, Wired News

EverNote 2.1 - Free Version
Software Version: MB)

EverNote 2.1 lets you easily store and quickly access typed and handwritten memos, webpage excerpts, emails, phone messages, addresses, passwords, brainstorms, sketches, documents and more! This is a FREE version with no expiration. Learn More

Peace, Doc

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

MediLexicon Toolbar Update

As I age, I wander the Internet more and tend to take paths wherever they lead me. In this case, I found an updated version of the MediLexicon Toolbar that I have written about previously. This is version 2.0 and has added features and customizable aspects. It is available for either Internet Explorer or FireFox, and retains its built-in uninstall button. It includes medical news, including mental health topics, and has added to the reference databases it can search for answers to your questions

I am an inveterate toolbar collector and could probably fill my entire monitor screen with them, leaving only an inch or so at the bottom for actual website content. There is an easy way to display only the toolbars you want during any session when using IE, however. Simply right click on any empty space in the toolbar section at the top of the screen, and a menu of your installed toolbars will appear with check marks at the left of the active ones. Just check or uncheck the bars you wish to appear, and you can once again view most of your screen. I hate to admit that I accidentally discovered this feature less than a year ago.

Several other free programs have been discovered or updated and will be reported upon in future posts.

Peace, Doc

Copyright © 2007, Thomas A. Blood, Ph.D.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007


When I first discovered Lifehacker I immediately liked their web site and their stated reason for producing it: "Computers make us more productive. Yeah, right. Lifehacker recommends the software downloads and web sites that actually save time. Don't live to geek; geek to live." Some of their more recent posts have included a free Smart Bookmarks Bar for Firefox, Alpha Geek: Make Microsoft Word less annoying, Calculate your caffeine intake (with nearly 200 popular beverages listed,) Create a living will online, How to find the best web freebies, Build a ten day survival pack for $25 or less, Tips for faster bar service, How to be a gentleman (first rule is "do not spit," and 75 comments followed it,) Prevent your dryer from catching fire, Financial mistakes redux - how to avoid them, Alpha Geek: 10 cool cell phone tricks, Mobile sign language lookup, and a free bandwidth NetMeter for windows. These were under half the entries between March 16, 2007 and March 20, 2007.
Google offers a specialized
Lifehacks custom search page which includes a search tool which seeks information from five sources: www.lifehacker.com, www.lifehack.org, www.43folders.com, www.ehow.com, and www.howstuffworks.com. I have found this to be a very useful tool that produces mostly relevant responses to common, real-life questions and some quite useful software. My first query using the Lifehacks custom search engine was "cyber stalking" which produced this relevant response as its' first citation from www.lifehack.org.

I hope you find these resources useful.

Peace, Doc

Copyright © 2007, Thomas A. Blood, Ph.D.

"I don't profess to be profound; but I do lay claim to common sense." - Charles Dickens

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