Email: What to Do if Your Email Has Been Hacked

No discussion of email would be complete without addressing the issue of hacking. This is when someone takes unauthorized control of your internet based account and starts doing unlawful things with it. Usually they send emails in your name. Sometimes those emails ask the recipients to click a link taking them to a website and enter information that allows the hacker to take control of your account.  They can get information that will allow them to go as far as sending similar emails to your contacts, identity theft or sending a virus that will shut down your computer. So beware.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR ACCOUNT HAS BEEN HACKED

1. Make sure your security/anti-virus software is up to date.

2. Recover your account. Go to your account and try to log in. You will most certainly need to change your password because the hacker has changed it. You can do this by using the “Forgot My Password” feature and it will help you change your password.

3. Change all, and I do mean all, of the information that is associated with logging into your account. Your password, your security questions, your pin number if you have one. Changing your security questions, especially, will prevent the hacker from taking control of your account again.

4. Check your “Sent” box. This will allow you to see any mail that the hacker has sent to your contacts or anything that is unfamiliar. Delete those emails immediately.

5. Send an email to all of your contacts letting them know your email was hacked. If they see any strange emails from you not to open them and, most certainly, do not click any links in the email. Not only will this alert your contacts to the fact that your email has been hacked but it will alert the hacker that you’re on to them.

6. This final step is not necessary and it may be hard to find a way to do it but report that your account was hacked to the email or social networking platform you are using. This will allow them to investigate and perhaps prevent it from happening again.

PREVENTING HACKING
There are several steps you can take to prevent your account from being hacked.  You should make this part of your daily business practice of making art.

1. This one should be a no brainer but don’t ever, ever share your password with anyone and I do mean anyone. Even a trusted best friend or a family member. Yes you can trust them in just about anything but do you trust them to know exactly what to do with the information. Don’t take that chance.

2. Be on the lookout for Phishing attempts. No reputable company would ask you to change your password in an email. Not even a financial institution, an email company, a social networking company. They have built in ways of asking you to do that right on their websites. Do not even open suspicious emails, especially if they have an attachment – they could be SPAM.  If they contain a virus it will open up automatically and “infect” your computer.  Even if there is not an attachment there could be a virus.  Spammers who use commercial email services can see who opened their emails and what action they took – if any.

3. Keep anti-virus software up to date always. Hackers are discovering new ways to get in all the time. Anti-virus software companies are constantly on the lookout and finding new ways to prevent them just as fast.

4. Take extra precaution when using public computers – in a library or a cafe. Hackers can store something called Malware (which stands for Malicious Software) in public computers. This will allow them to capture all of your information. Please, please, please do not ever do any banking or financial work on a public computer or a computer that doesn’t belong to you. It is a sure fire way for someone suspicious to conduct identity theft.

5. If you are using your own laptop in a WiFi Hotspot – especially one that is not password protected – be cautious. Hackers can get into your computer through WiFi. I’ve even heard of cases where hackers drive around neighborhoods in cars looking for WiFi spots that aren’t password protected. If you are using a wireless modem make sure that it is password protected. Most modems are now coming with built in passwords so it’s not as much of an issue.

6. Never click on ads in search engines – especially if they say one thing and the domain address/URL says another. For Example: if you see an ad for Target, check the URL. If it doesn’t begin with http://www.target.com you know it’s not an official Target website.

7. Always sign out of your accounts, especially when you are in a public space. If you are doing financial work – like going on your bank’s website – don’t just log out of the account – quite the browser. Some people advise shutting down the entire computer but I’m not 100% sure of this. Again, please keep your financial work at home. Don’t go on your bank’s website in a public space.

CREATING STRONG PASSWORDS

1. Use 10 characters or more. 16 characters is ideal.

2. Do not use information that is close to you. Such as the name of a relative, pet, the year or city you live in. Use something that is not easy to guess.

3. Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters and punctuation. For example: iLWoprqba@9548.

COMPUTER SOFTWARE

Firewalls
Most computers come with a Firewall built in and/or it comes with anti-virus software. It’s a computer based program that protects your PC. It automatically monitors incoming and outgoing traffic to your computer as a virus preventative. It also prevents hackers or other people from seeing what you’re doing.  This is based on a set of precepts set either automatically by the software or by you.

Anti-Virus Software
This is software that you will have to purchase but it’s well worth the investment and it’s well worth it to take the time to update it when it asks you to. It repeatedly scans your computer for viruses and removes them when it’s detected. It will also prevent them from coming into your computer. The two best anti-virus software programs are McAfee and Norton Internet Security or Norton 360. Some Anti-Virus software will come with a Firewall for extra protection.

FROM THE HACKER’S PERSPECTIVE
Why would someone want to hack your email or your account?  What is the motivation behind it? The most common answer is simply for sport – to get a cheap thrill. It can also be for unlawful reasons – such as accessing bank accounts, identity theft or information gathering.  Hackers are usually sophisticated software programmers.  You can receive a legitimate looking email from a hacker.  It will come from a trusted email service provider or a company.  It may even have the logo and usual format from the company. Such as clothing1@target.com or info@paypal.com

Hackers usually send out a huge broadcast of emails, so they’re not just targeting you. They are looking for anyone who is uniformed enough to open the email and take action. Even just opening the email could cause a problem – a virus could open automatically onto your computer and do one of several things.

MALWARE/VIRUSES
The technical name for a virus is Malware (short for Malicious Software).  It is a general term for hostile or intrusive software.  In addition to the internet or email this can come from being in a Wifi Hotspot or a public computer.  The types of Malware that you may come across include: Worms, Trojan Horses, Ransomware, Spyware, Adware and Scareware.  Here are descriptions of the different types of Malware.

Worms
Software that spreads across a network of computers – without attaching itself to software or an email or an in company message.  It replicates automatically again and again and again.  This has been known to shut down entire companies or even sections of government.  Chances are that you are only on a network of one computer – yours – so you won’t have to worry too much about this one.

Trojan Horses
These are similar to Computer Worms but they don’t self replicate. Typically they are used to cause theft or loss of data and could possibly cause harm to your computer.

Ransomware
Malware that restricts access to the computer that it infects and demands a ransom to be paid to the creator in order for the restriction to be removed.  Some forms of Ransomware simply lock the system and display’s messages intended to coax the user into paying to get the computer working again.

Adware
This is exactly why you should avoid click ads on Search Engines.  It’s advertising supported software that will generate ads in your name.  When you click that ad in the Search Engine the hacker will gain access to your computer.  It will also generate revenue for the hacker.

Scareware
A virus that produces frivolous and alarming warnings and threat notices. They are most certainly fictitious or a useless Firewall or computer registry cleaner. It will also try to increase it’s perceived value by bombarding the user with constant warning messages.

I hope that by telling you about the different kinds of viruses it will send the message home that protecting your computer is key to your success and can save you thousands of dollars.  Sometimes computer stores will charge a ton of money just to recover files.  This is also why you should never leave anything on your computer’s hard drive.  Always use a Flash Drive/Memory Stick.

SOCIAL MEDIA HACKING
One more tip to prevent hacking on your Social Networking accounts.  Be a warm contact always.  This is good not just to prevent hacking but for your business.  A warm contact is someone that clicks like, comments and posts.  In other words, is active. Hackers are looking for cold contacts.  These are accounts that were set up and never touched again.  The hacker will take the same actions that they do on email with the exception that they may tag your contacts in photos you didn’t post, or post something on your timeline.

If you do find a friend who has been hacked inform them immediately and then unfriend them.  The hacker can access your account through them.  As soon as the person resolves the issue you can get back in touch with them.

If your Social Networking account has been hacked follow the same steps as you would to recover an email account.

Hopefully none of this will ever happen to you and if you take the precautions I’ve mentioned going forward it won’t.  I can tell you that my computers have never been hacked and I’ve been working on computers – mostly Macs – for over 20 years.  Besides the fact that hackers don’t seem to be interested in hacking Macs there are great preventions built in.  PC’s are also prevalent in offices, companies and government offices.  Hackers will get far more results with a PC. Therefore, if you own a PC please constantly update your anti-virus software and get total control over your Firewall.

If you take just one thing away from this post, it is to be vigilant and to always be on the look out.  Make preventing viruses and hacking a daily business practice of making art.

 

Internet for Artists: Website Design: The Gallery Pages

The most important reason that viewers will visit your website is for your art. It is important to present it, therefore, clearly and simply. There are several options for doing this and there are new options appearing as new technology becomes available.

When I first started writing this I was using Photoshop Elements and Dreamweaver 8. I am now using Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Web. It’s amazing the difference in new technology and will probably always be a novelty to me. It has Photoshop Extended. Photoshop Elements is a perfectly good enough program if you can’t afford Photoshop Extended and will let you do all the things you need to do. Therefore, there is no excuse for poorly presented photos.

Since I am talking about photos let me speak about a newer format. .png 8 and .png24. These two elements are lossy compression elements as is a .jpg or .jpeg. That means that you will loose pixels when you save it but not as much and the color options are in the millions and millions. This makes it a format that is great for the web and presents your art in a clearer way. .jpg or .jpeg is still the preferred format in most applications for exhibits, grants, fellowships and residencies.

So how to present your art. Remember that each artist is different and each website should be professionally presented but at the same time unique and inline with the artists style and technique. I did like the disjointed rollover. That means that you have thumbnails of your work on one side and when the mouse rolls over it, a larger image appears. This allows your viewer to see a larger version without having to click on anything. However with the advent of new technology and the fact that Dreamweaver CS5.5 no longer has the technology to support it, it’s not the ideal way to go.

Another way is clicking on a thumbnails and a larger image imposes itself over the page with a transparent black background. Much like in this website: www.kathleenjgraves.com. Make sure that this is done in .html or Javascript and not Flash. Flash is not supported by mobile devices and is slowly going out for computers as well.

This artists website has a portfolio system with thumbnails on the top that visitors click and a larger image becomes available below them: http://www.symastudios.com/PORTFOLIO/Pages/PUBLIC_ART.html#8

I’ve also seen pages with thumbnails that open into a new window. This is becoming common again. However, make sure it’s not a “pop up” window (a small window that opens to the top left or top right of the browser). Also make sure there is a way to go from photo to photo without having to leave the separate window. It’s best to have it open to a full web page rather than a “pop up.”

I can’t really offer you more options at this time but keep looking around. Look at what other artists are doing, galleries and museums. See what you like and instruct your designer accordingly. Make sure it’s simple, all about your art and you will have great success.

Internet: The Basics

The Internet is an extremely important marketing tool for artists. It’s a way for you to make connections, make money and develop a real following.

Now that you’ve gotten all of your other materials prepared it’s time to get your website up and running and your “presence” on the internet. You will need to approach it in an organized fashion and think about who “you the artist” are and how you will present it to the world. Developing a website plan can help you construct that “persona” and a brand that will help you towards success. From there you can go onto selling on sites like eBay, Yessy and Etsy, Social Networking, Blogging and so much more. You will need to have a plan just like any other business. Consider it the internet section of your marketing plan.

Just to give you some background on my qualifications on this topic, I am a website designer and am trained as a Graphic Designer and in Advertising. Before I design a website I always like to have a consultation with the artist about how they will present themselves to the world.

I will go into depth on each and every aspect of the internet and how you can use it to get publicity, network and make a profit from it. As an introduction, you will find a glossary of definitions below. They will not only give you definitions of each item in the topic but perhaps give you information on items you thought you already knew about. You will be able to refer to this again and again. However if you do find it overwhelming you can contact me for a website consultation at: info@theartistobjective.com

The Internet or World Wide Web (www.) – A network of interconnected links – websites, blogs, web pages, etc. that may include content such as text, images, video and/or audio – that are hosted and available for viewing on a computer.

URL (Universal Resource Locator)The address of a website, usually – but not always – proceeded by www. It’s also known as the Domain Name of a website. Example: http://www.smithartist.com

Domain Name – The name or address of your website – otherwise known as the URL – that is registered with a domain registration company. It is unique to you and you only. In most cases you will purchase a domain name that is registered for a certain number of years.

.html (Hyper-text Markup Language) – The basic language – or set of tags – that make a web page visible. It tells the computer where to find an image or where to place text. The color of the text or design and whether it’s centered, aligned to the left or to the right and so much more. It also instructs search engines to place your website or blog in the right category. See Meta-Tags and Meta-Descriptions below.

Tags – The “words” of .html. Usually surrounded by < > (known as ankle brackets) and give a command. Usually starting with a start tag and ending with an end tag like this this content is bolded to give it emphasis.

Java Script – a type of language (like .html) that allows for minor animated functions on web pages.

Adobe Flash – a multimedia platform that is generally used to add animation, video and interactive media to websites. Some websites are designed entirely in Flash. Note that this is not recommended for several reasons, which I’ll go into in another post.

Search Engines – A program that allows you to search for documents, websites, pages, blogs or any type of content on the internet.

Spiders, Crawlers or Robots – automated programs used by search engines to evaluate your website and “index” or categorize their content.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – process of adding, removing or placing content on a website so that it can gain higher placement on a Search Engine. Tip: Once your website is up and running you will get a few emails about SEO from companies offering to upgrade your search engine visibility. Ignore them all. They are all SPAM.

Meta-Tag – a series of up to 8 key words (no more) that helps search engines categorize web pages.

Meta-Description – a two sentence description of a website that is visible on the search engine under the title of the website.

Website – a collection of linked pages that can be static, dynamic or interactive. It can be used for personal or commercial/business purposes. A static website does not change. The content is put up and it stays the same and it doesn’t invite a visitor to do anything. A dynamic website has moving content such as video or animation and an interactive website allows your visitor to click on media, watch it or create something and much more.

Blog (Short for Web Log) – a type of website or part of a website that is updated with content. Usually writing but it can be images or video. It has followers and is actually considered a legitimate form of journalism. A good example of a blog is: http://jazzsaints.blogspot.com/

Web Traffic – Information generated by visitors to your website or blog. They click on something that leads to your page or click something on your website. Tip: This can be tracked by Google Analytics. More in a later post.

Visitor – Someone that is viewing the home or index page of your website. There are two types of visitors. New Visitors – a visitor that has not made a previous visit – and a Repeat Visitor – a visitor that has come to your website more than once.

Hit – Otherwise known as a click. A visitor comes to your website and clicks on a link. That’s a hit. The more hits a website generates, the more popular it will seem to Search Engines and they will place your website higher on the list based on your Meta-Tags.

Google Analytics – A free service offered by Google that allows you to track traffic, in detail to your website. This will help you figure out what’s working and what isn’t.

Server/Host – A huge computer owned by a company (like GoDaddy.com or Hostdime.com) that allows your website to be live 24/7 for viewing by the public. Very often hosts will give you a deal if you purchase a hosting package when you purchase a domain name. Both will be for a specific duration of time – like 3 years for example.

Email – An online communication between two or more people. I will go into how you can use email to optimize your visibility online and off in depth in another post.

Social Networking – interactive websites that allow you to connect with people, view photos, videos, join groups, gain more exposure, and keep followers interested. There are 400+ Social Networking websites but the “big three” are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Even YouTube is now considered a social networking website. I’ll go into it more in depth in a series of future posts.

PayPal – The most popular ecommerce company in the world. It allows you to open an account (for free) and pay or get paid for things on the internet. (It will take a small percentage if you get paid – usually from 2-2.75%). You can create customized buttons generated through PayPal that you can add to websites, blogs and emails. PayPal is an eBay affiliated company as well and if you intend to sell anything on the internet PayPal is a MUST! They’re in the business of security and everyone knows it. You’ll get paid faster and easier because there is a level of trust with PayPal. It also allows buyers or collectors to pay via credit card, debit card, PayPal account or even a checking account. www.paypal.com

YouTube – A video sharing website (created by 3 former employees of PayPal) that allows you to share and watch videos. You can create and subscribe to “channels.” Over 10 Million people watch a day and usually more than one video. You can even see demonstrations of painting, sculpting and art making, videos of artists work and so much more. Why not create a video, post it on YouTube and get a piece of the action?

Photostreams or Photo-Hosting Websites – Websites that will host your photos for use in other mediums such as a blog. They also function in a way that is somewhere between a blog and social networking. They are public, allow people to see your images and comment on them. www.Flickr.com is a good example

eBay – An online market place where people sell things from and to all over the world usually through auction. Sellers with a track record can create an eBay store and you can also create a “buy it now” price. eBay makes their money by charging a fee for posting items up front. Start slowly and build. More in another post.

Online Stores – a website where you can sell and purchase items. There are several devoted to art and hand crafted items. Etsy.com, Fine Art America and SaatchiOnline.com are good examples

On Demand Stores – Stores where you can design items that are then created and shipped after a visitor to a website purchases it. Such as www.zazzle.com/artists or www.CanvasPress.com

Online Galleries – Galleries that function on the internet in the same manner as a gallery with four walls with one major advantage. They can reach a much larger audience and even some viewers who would never even step foot in a gallery or museum. Beware of the vanity online galleries or galleries that use unprofessional practices like audience generated jurying. Shameless Self Promotion: www.melissawolffinearts.com

Online Art Portals – Such as Fine Art America, Saatchi Online, Artnet.com. They connect your website – usually for a fee – to a designated portal of art buyers and collectors. Buyer beware! There are websites that claim to put your website in front of a larger audience but don’t deliver. Pick and choose carefully.

Website Design Software – Software that allows you to create a website on your computer and then transfer it to the host through something called a ftp (file transfer protocol – a series of web language that helps a host communicate with your computer) The best software for website design is Macromedia Dreamweaver – which can be purchased alone or as part of Adobe Creative Suite. There are other programs for website design out there but none are as easy to use or as flexible. It will even support Adobe Flash and Java Script and something called CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). WordPress.com is a blogging format that you can use to create something similar to a website. It’s not a website per se, you don’t have traditional means of Search Engine Optimization and Search Engines will categorize it as a blog.

If you’re doubting the seriousness of selling online let me clear that up. This past year (2014) Sotheby’s is organizing a collaboration with eBay to make their auctions live online.  Amazon.com is now carrying expensive art by approved galleries.  By 2018 online sales of art are expected to jump to over $34 Billion a year.  Shouldn’t you be able to be a part of that statistic?  It’s time to get yourself online if you’re not already. If you are already online it’s time to hone your skills and make money!