What Is Cyber Extortion?

Article (PSA-0019)
Submitted by: Billy Joe Long
Company: PSA Computer Services
Titled: What Is Cyber Extortion?
Original release date: June 10, 2022

The news is constantly reporting cyber-criminal activity and the devastating consequences of those who are compromised. This article will define what cyber-extortion is, and some steps you can take to make it less likely that you will fall prey to their criminal schemes. I will also lay out for you a vital step you can do now to help recover in the event you are compromised.

So, what is cyber-extortion? Cyber-extortion is a network/internet crime where an individual or group demands money or some other response to discontinue whatever criminal activity they are enacting against you or your business. In one type of cyber-extortion the attackers compromise a device on the victims network and then attempt to install malware known as ransomware on the device. If successful they will then inform the user of the situation and demand payment for the user to regain access to their data.

How are we so easily compromised? Email. Email has become a serious problem with the shear volume of spam that most of us receive. Cyber-criminals know most people are dealing with large volumes of junk email everyday and are likely to click on a link in an email if the email looks legitimate to the user in someway. So these attackers expend quite a lot of effort to custom craft emails to closely resemble authentic emails from companies most of us are very familiar with. Embedded in these counterfeit emails are links to malware and phone numbers to hack groups. Once the link is clicked or the number is called you are well on your way to full compromise and at their mercy.

So what can we do to help avoid this situation? First step, don’t trust any email. You must exercise restraint and common sense. Let me give you an easy example. You receive an email stating that you just won a million dollars. All you have to do is click this link to start your claim. We now apply common sense and mark the email as Spam and then Delete it. Why? Because you did not just win a million dollars and if you click that link to claim it, your going to get something you’ll regret for a long time. Easy right? Let’s try a harder one. You receive an official looking email stating that your payment of $1,200 dollars has been successfully processed and will deduct from your account within the next 3-5 business days. The email then goes on to thank you for your payment and for being one of their valued customers. At the very bottom of the email, where you would expect it to be, is the statement: if you did not initiate this payment please click this link to cancel the payment. What do you do? Take a careful look at the return email address for the email – does it make sense? Now hover over the link they are directing you to – without clicking on it! Does the link make sense? With some training and skill you’ll be able to identify these scam emails and avoid a lot of trouble. If after examining the email you still can’t determine whether it’s legit or not, contact your IT service provider. They will take a look at the email for you and let you know if it’s legit.

What can you do now to help minimize the pain if you do become compromised? Backups. Backup, backup, backup. You hear it all the time, but are you doing it? Are you doing the right kind of backups? If not, you are in store for some serious heartache. With a proper backup system these compromises become less painful. If for some reason you or your business becomes the victim of a cyber-extortion group, it can be mitigated without paying them a dime and with minimal down-time by restoring the system (or systems) to a previous state.

In this article I have attempted to raise your awareness to the ongoing issue of cyber-extortion and cyber-criminals. These crimes are not just happening to corporations or down in the city, they’re happening to local businesses and our neighbors. Knowledge is power – if it is used correctly! I hope you will take what you have learned here and use it as a starting point for your own research into how to protect yourself and your friends from cyber-criminals.

If you have questions concerning cyber-crime, email, backup systems or any other issues give us a call.

Introduction to 5G

Article (PSA-0018)
Submitted by: Billy Joe Long
Company: PSA Computer Services
Titled: Introduction to 5G
Original release date: March 10, 2022

5G is the 5th generation mobile network. That means it is a new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G networks. 5G enables a new kind of network focused on connecting everyone
and everything together.

5G is based on OFDM (orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing). OFDM is a method of modulating a digital signal across several different channels to reduce interference. 5G also uses
wider bandwidth technologies. 5G OFDM operates on the same mobile networking principles as 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution). However, 5G has a theoretical peak speed of 20 Gbps, while the
peak speed of 4G is only 1 Gbps.

5G promises ultra-low latency, which would improve the performance of business applications as well as other digital experiences, such as online gaming, video conferencing, and self-driving cars. The lower the latency, when sending and receiving data, the closer we get to “real-time” communications.

5G networks will also simplify mobility, with seamless open roaming capabilities between cellular and Wi-Fi access. Mobile users can stay connected as they move between outdoor wireless connections and wireless networks inside buildings without user intervention.

5G technology should improve connectivity in under-served rural areas and in cities where the demand can overwhelm today’s available capacity with 4G technology. 5G is designed to deliver
faster and better mobile broadband services than 4G LTE. Because of this 5G is expected to impact every industry.

If you have questions concerning your email services give us a call.

Email – POP, IMAP, SMTP … What Does It All Mean?

Article (PSA-0017)
Submitted by: Billy Joe Long
Company: PSA Computer Services
Titled: Email – POP, IMAP, SMTP … What Does It All Mean?
Original release date: December 1, 2021

Almost all of us use Email on a daily basis, but most of us have little idea as to what is happening “under the hood” when we send or receive an Email. Like an automobile, not knowing how it works is not a really big deal … until something stops working! A little bit of knowledge about how the automobile works can save you time and money. The same is true about Email.

This article intends to give you basic information about how Email flows from a sender to a recipient and the most common protocols used to perform these functions.

Email works a lot like regular mail works. With regular mail you write a letter and put it in your mailbox with the flag up. This flag lets your post-delivery person know you have an outgoing letter. The postal delivery person will take your mail to the post office, where it will be sorted and routed to the next destination. Each time it is sorted and routed it should, theoretically, be getting closer to the intended recipient address. Once delivered and when the recipient next checks their mailbox – voila! – they get the letter you mailed to them!

With Email you write your message in your Email program and click the send button. If all works as expected, it is sent from your Email program to your Email providers mail server. Your Email providers server then routes the Email to the next appropriate destination, until it finally ends up at the intended mailbox. Once delivered the recipient can use their Email program to download the message from their providers server or they can view their Email on the server directly without removing it from the server.

Email uses different protocols to transport your Email from and to your Email account. They can be grouped into two types: “Incoming” & “Outgoing”. Before looking at the common protocols used today, let’s get a working definition of protocol. An Email protocol is a standard method of information exchange between email clients (programs such as Outlook or Thunderbird) and Email servers (usually hosted by your Email service provider). One type of protocol is used to send Email (SMTP protocol) and the other type of protocol is used to receive Email (POP3 or IMAP).

Knowing this allows you to determine some basic facts about any Email issues you are experiencing. For example, if I am having trouble sending Email, and my Internet service has been verified as working, then my problem may very well be related to my send protocol (SMTP protocol) settings. If I am having trouble receiving Email, and my Internet service is working, then my problem may be related to my receive protocol (POP3 or IMAP) settings. This is a gross oversimplification of the Email troubleshooting process and is intended for basic discussion purposes only.

One last point on email protocols. The receive protocol you use makes a big difference in the way you view and work with your Email. If you need to check your Email from more than one device (computer, laptop and phone) then you should use the IMAP protocol. If you only intend to check your Email on one device then you can use the POP3 protocol, although IMAP is still recommended – if available.

When you use IMAP, your Email program functions as a “Viewer” through which you can view your Email and directories located on your service providers server. Your Email remains on their server(s) and is available for viewing by many devices at the same time. With POP3, your Email program downloads your Email to your computer and removes the Email from your service providers server(s). If you were to attempt to check your Email from a different device now, you would not see any Email other than those that came in since the last time you checked. This can lead to a very complex and confusing Email environment.

If you have questions concerning your email services give us a call.

Windows 11, The Basics

Article (PSA-0016)
Submitted by: Billy Joe Long, Owner
Company: PSA Computer Services
Titled: Windows 11, The Basics
Original release date: September 10, 2021

Yes, we were told by Microsoft in 2015 that Windows 10 would be the last version of Windows. However, recent news has verified there will in-fact be a new version – Windows 11. So let’s take a few moments to have a look at this “new” version of Windows.

As of now, Microsoft expects to begin shipping Windows 11 on October 5th of this year. The new version will be distributed as a “free” Windows upgrade to existing Windows 10 users, if their
computers meet the Windows 11 system requirements. Here are the current minimum system requirements (subject to change):

  • A modern 1GHz 64-bit dual-core processor
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 64 GB drive
  • 9-inch display
  • 1366×768 resolution
  • UEFI, Secure Boot & TPM 2.0 compatible
  • DirectX 12 compatible graphics/WWDM 2.x

The first thing to note is Microsoft will not be releasing a 32bit version of the Operating System (OS). This is generally not a serious issue – 32bit programs should continue to run as expected on the 64bit OS.

The next thing to note is Microsoft will be limiting “officially supported” Windows 11 computers to certain Central Processing Units (CPU). Currently, you will need to have an Intel 8th-generation or better CPU to officially run Windows 11.

Microsoft has also increased the required drive storage to 64GB, up from 16GB with Windows 10. The same goes for RAM, being bumped up from 2GB to 4GB.

The greater storage and RAM requirements are probably required to support the myriad of new
features and changes needed to differentiate Windows 11 from Windows 10. For example, Windows 11 will feature a brand-new user interface (UI). This new UI will feature a new Start menu and Taskbar experience. I am not particularly thrilled about needing to retrain muscle memory for productivity, but for those of you who love constant change – this should be appealing.

Microsoft has said that Windows 11 is “built for gamers” with features such as: Auto HDR, Direct
Storage and DirectX12 Ultimate. These features may matter to you gaming enthusiasts, but for
business users, it will make little difference.

A more useful change has to do with Microsoft “Creators” updates which came with Windows 10. Microsoft has been struggling with rolling out two major updates a year with Windows 10. There
have been constant, serious, problems for end users as Microsoft engineers have struggled to meet the update release dead-lines. Windows 11 will be returning to one major update per year.
This should result in less: data loss, time loss and frustration for end users. This is a welcome change and long over due in my opinion.

As mentioned previously in the article, Windows 11 will be offered as a free upgrade. Microsoft says there’s no time limit on upgrading to Windows 11 and we will not have to upgrade to Windows 11 right away. That is good news indeed, but note – you will need to upgrade at some point in the future and it may require new hardware. We’ll know more about this as it is released
from Microsoft.

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) will still have to pay for a Windows 11 license. OEMs are people/companies who build computers for end users and want to ship Windows 11 on the new computer.

There is not a lot of practical information I can give you about Windows 11 at this point. Once the new OS is released I’ll be able to provide a more in-depth review of Windows 11.

If you have questions or concerns about Windows 11 give us a call.

You’ve Got Spam!

Article (PSA-0015)
Submitted by: Rebekah Long, Technician
Company: PSA Computer Services
Titled: You’ve Got Spam
Original release date: June 10, 2021

Getting spam is a hassle. No argument there, but what’s even worse than that?

Unknowingly sending it.

When fake, unverified, and potentially virus ridden emails go out with your email address, it can look bad. And not only do you look bad, but you also have to deal with the emails that bounce back due to dead addresses.

There’s one reassurance in all of this, your computer is not actually sending out spam, and your computer and IP address are still safe. Unfortunately, there is still some bad news.

If spam is being sent from your email address, your address has either been “spoofed” or “hijacked.” Either way the spam isn’t coming from your computer, and probably not from the bad actors computer either. It’s most likely being sent from someone’s “Malware-Infected” computer – and they probably don’t even know they’ve been hacked!

Spoofing an address is when someone sends email with your email address as the sender, even though they don’t actually have access to your email account.

Unfortunately, as of now, there is no way to prevent spoofing. Additionally, there is no way to know for sure who sent the spoofed emails and no way to stop it from happening.

Fortunately, these bad actors tend to change the email address’s they spoof often, and they will move on from your email address eventually. Your email service provider may administratively block your email address for a period of time when they notice the large amount of email being sent from your email account. If this happens, you will need to contact them to “unblock” your email address.

Hijacking can be much more devastating. In the case of a hijacking the criminal takes control of your email account. This includes them having the ability to read your email, and contacts list. They can then use this information to specifically target people in your contacts. A hijacker can also lock you out of your own email account by changing your password.

Thankfully, unlike spoofing, something can be done about hijacking.

If you can still receive email, try logging into your email account on another computer or by using your internet browser’s private mode. When the login fails, try the services “Forgot your password?” or “Need help?” link. The service will email you a password reset link. You will need to act fast and get the password reset email before the bad actor.

If that fails you’ll have to contact your email service provider and explain the problem. If you have access to the internet, then perform an internet search similar to “I can’t sign into my Gmail account” or “I can’t sign into my Outlook account” or the name of whatever email service you use. This should get you to a support page for your email service provider.

If you’ve been using the same password for other services – you should change those passwords immediately to stop the hacker from moving onto other services you use.

Once you have your email account back under control, don’t forget to email apologies to everyone who received spam from your email address.

Here are four things you can do to help prevent your accounts from being hacked in the future:

  • Use passwords that are 9 characters or more. Utilize upper and lowercase letters, numbers and a special character or two (if allowed).
  • Use different passwords for each different account (don’t be lazy, you’ll regret it later!)
  • If the account offers multi-factor authentication, use it.
  • Do not send passwords in emails …. ever!

If you’ve been hacked and need help give us a call.

What Is Dynamic DNS And How Can It Help Me?

Article (PSA-0014)
Submitted by: Billy Joe Long, Owner
Company: PSA Computer Services
Titled: What Is Dynamic DNS And How Can It Help Me?
Original release date: August 14, 2020

What Is Dynamic DNS And How Can It Help Me?

If you are going to be setting up a server to host a service which you plan on offering to the ‘outside world’ (external to your network), a problem you may run into revolves around your ISP (Internet Service Provider) providing you with a dynamic public IP address instead of a static public IP address.

Dynamic IP Addresses

A dynamic IP address is given to you for a designated amount of time. At the end of this designated time your ISP may give you a different IP address or reassign the same IP address to you again. This does not affect any services on your local network, and in most cases is completely transparent to you and your local network users. It does become a significant problem when you are offering external services, such as a website or hosting a game server for instance.

Static IP Addresses

A static IP address, as its name states, does not change. Static IP addresses geerally cost extra – if your ISP even offers the service.

What Is DNS? And Why Is It Necessary?

DNS stands for Domain Name System. Domain names are easier to remember than a bunch of numbers. For example, most people type google.com to visit the search engine instead of typing its IP address – Another example is typing psa-2.com to visit the PSA Computer Services support website instead of typing its IP address – Think of DNS like you would phone numbers stored on your phone. You typically look for a name when you want to make a call. It is the same principal – the name has a phone number associated with it. When you click the name to make a call, your phone converts that action to the phone number and completes your call. DNS services work in a similar fashion – it uses a name, such as psa-2.com, and associates the name with an IP address. When you type psa-2.com into your browser, it is converted to an IP address, and you are then connected to the service using the IP address.

The Dynamic IP Address Issue

This dynamic IP address provided to you by your ISP is a problem because your IP address is how external users can find your network and the service(s) you are hosting on the internet. You can think of your IP address as a street address. It tells people how to get to your webserver, game server or other service you are offering. If this address is constantly changing, then you you would need to contact your users and let them know what your current IP address is every time it changes, if you want them to have access to your hosted service. For most people or businesses hosting public services from their local networks, this is not feasible.

The Dynamic DNS Solution

This is where dynamic DNS comes in. Dynamic DNS is a service that you can setup directly on most routers or on a server directly using a dynamic DNS client application. A dynamic DNS provider, such as DynDns or NoIP, provides you with a custom domain name. The dynamic DNS service then associates your new custom domain name with your current dynamic IP address. Every time your dynamic IP address changes, the service updates your custom domain name with your new IP address. Now all you have to do to allow your users access to your public service is provide them with your custom domain name provided to you by your chosen dynamic DNS service provider. Every time your IP address changes the service will update your custom domain name with the new IP address, and your users will continue to have access to your service.

Problem Solved

If you would like more information about Dynamic DNS and what it can do for you or your business give us a call.

Remote work in the age of COVID-19

Article (PSA-0013)
Submitted by: Billy Joe Long, Owner
Company: PSA Computer Services
Titled: Remote work in the age of COVID-19
Original release date: May 13, 2020

Remote Work In The Age of COVID-19

What a strange time in world history. Who could have predicted the Wuhan Coronavirus (COVID-19) would close down the US economy? Because of this unforeseen event, many businesses have been taking precautions to reduce exposure and transmission among employees. Global business giants like Amazon and Twitter, as well as local businesses, are implementing precautions which include work travel bans, cancelling in-person meetings and conferences, and encouraging employees to work from home or “self-quarantine” until a vaccine or cure has been found.

With millions of people working from home for many weeks now, there has been a real need for remote desktop services, and video conferencing services to help keep businesses functioning, and to keep families and friends, who are separated by distance, connected.

There are quite a few companies and products that facilitate remote working. Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams provide quality video-conferencing services, and TeamViewer and LogMeIn provide remote desktop services.

Working from home can be a real challenge, but with the right set of tools, a healthy dose of patience, and a solid internet connection, you can still connect with your colleagues and access your remote computers to accomplish the work you need to get done.

While working from home, keep these three ideas in mind:

  • Set time boundaries between work and personal time. Working from home can seriously blur the lines between work hours and personal hours. This constant connectivity, if not controlled, can lead to increases in your stress and anxiety levels. It can also make you a very distracted individual –
  • Get some exercise. Going for a walk around the block a couple of times a day can make a world of difference to your stress and anxiety levels. Remember to leave the phone at home –
  • Connect with another person. Take time to sit down and talk with someone in your home, without distractions, and you will feel better for it. If you live alone at home, this can be a little more difficult, considering the stay at home order, but you need contact, so on that walk you’ll be taking, if you see someone else, don’t be afraid to say, “Hi”.

I hope you and your families are well during this time. If you would like more information or have questions about how you can use remote services give us a call.

Windows 7 End of Life – What You Need to Know

Article (PSA-0012)
Submitted by: Billy Joe Long, Owner
Company: PSA Computer Services
Titled: Windows 7 End of Life – What You Need to Know
Original release date: October 30, 2019

Windows 7 End of Life – What You Need to Know

Microsoft will end support for the Windows 7 operating system on January 14, 2020. This includes all editions of the Windows 7 operating system: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate. If you have not upgraded by January 14, 2020, you will be using an unsupported operating system.

You may wonder what Microsoft means by “ending support”. This means they will no longer provide support for laptops and desktops with Windows 7 installed. If you run into a bug in the operating system, Microsoft will not fix it – so don’t bother calling them.

An issue often overlooked when discussing the end of support for Windows 7, is the third-party application issue. Many software providers will not support their software if it is installed and running on an unsupported operating system. Additionally, some software you purchase may not install on Windows 7 at all. This will become more prevalent as time passes.

Additionally, Microsoft will stop patching Windows 7 with security updates. The patches provided by Microsoft for Windows 7 help keep the operating system secure, and as time passes the un-patched operating system will become more and more insecure and prone to compromise by hackers.

One bright spot on the horizon, if you choose to upgrade to Windows 10 from a properly licensed and activated copy of Windows 7, is that you may not need to pay for Windows 10. As of this writing, I am able to upgrade Windows 7 computers to Windows 10 and activate them with a valid and legal digital license at no cost other than the $100 flat rate I charge to perform the upgrade. That is a savings of approximately $140 – $200 per computer, depending on the edition you get.

If you need help upgrading your desktop, laptop or a whole organization give us a call.

Security Update – 2019

Article (PSA-0011)
Submitted by: Billy Joe Long, Owner
Company: PSA Computer Services
Titled: Security Update
Original release date: February 16, 2019

Security Update

“From the sudden spread of WannCry and Petya/NotPetya ransomware, to the swift growth in coinminers, 2017 provided us with another reminder that digital security threats can come from new and unexpected sources. With each passing year, not only has the sheer volume of threats increased, but the threat landscape has become more diverse, with attackers working harder to discover new avenues of attack and cover their tracks while doing so.” – Excerpt from Symantec 2018 Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR), volume 23, clarifications by Billy Long.

The Internet can be a dangerous and costly place. Network and computer security threats are a very real concern for businesses and home users alike. Symantec, the world’s leading cyber security company, reported an astounding 8,500% (yes, that’s correct eight thousand five hundred) increase in detections of coinminers on endpoint computers, a 92% increase in new downloader variants and an 80% increase in new malware on Macs.

Data and identity theft are a profitable sector, but that is not the only thing at risk in today’s Internet connected world. Your network connected device has processing power and that processing power has become a commodity to many “bad actors” who are diligently punching in to work each day.

These “attack teams” or “attack groups” are constantly developing methods for infecting devices and computers with malware for their own nefarious purposes. Malware can spread through, what appear to be, legitimate files, links or websites. What’s even worse is “attack toolkits,” can be downloaded for free or purchased from the Internet making cybercrime accessible and inexpensive to commit and allowing these crimes to be perpetrated by relatively unsophisticated attackers.

It’s important for all Internet users to have a basic understanding of these threats and to learn how to protect themselves. This article is the first in a series of articles which will provide an overview of malware threats, suggestions for infection prevention and steps to take if you suspect your computer is infected.

What Is Malware?

The word “malware” is a portmanteau, blended from the words “malicious” and “software.” It is most often used as a catchall term for computer related threats such as viruses, spyware, adware, and other software installed without a user’s consent or knowledge.

Malware can get into your system in a variety of ways. Here is short, non-exhaustive list:

  • Infected email attachments
  • Infected removable storage devices such as portable “thumb-drives”
  • Downloaded software
  • Links in email, social media websites, or instant messages

For more information on methods of attack and attack terminology, check out the “Threat Glossary” being compiled at the PSA Computer Services support website: https://psa-2.com/threat-glossary/

Do You Need to Worry About Malware?

So, you may be thinking this all sounds scary, but does it really affect me at home or at my small business? Yes! It is not just large companies or government organizations that need to protect themselves. Anybody can be a victim of cyber-crime if not properly protected.

If you are a business, your customers trust you with their information. If you’re a home-based user, you may have family pictures, important documents or business data stored on your computer. If you’re not taking appropriate steps to secure your network and data, your computer and information are not safe. Preliminary statistics indicate 1 in 3 people were hacked in 2018. Information security breaches can have major financial and legal consequences.

In the next article we will look at what network and computer protection is available to you and how to exercise common sense Internet usage to help reduce the probability of you or your business being compromised.

Directory Structure and File Name Conventions

Article (PSA-0010)
Submitted by: Billy Joe Long, Owner
Company: PSA Computer Services
Titled: Directory Structure and File Name Conventions
Original release date: October 19, 2018

Directory Structure and File Name Conventions

When storing data we, as responsible digital citizens, need to ensure our directory structures and file names are human readable and well organized. This ensures the digital information stored within your company (or home) can be retrieved efficiently and accurately. We start this discussion by looking at a few directory structure conventions and a usage example.

As with most things in life, consistency is critical. Organize directories in a way that makes sense within the context of your home or company, and then stick to it. It should make sense to anyone who happens to be working within the directory structure. For example, I work from a home based office, so my computer contains not only personal data (pictures, documents, ect), but also business data. The root of my storage directory structure clearly describes that distinction by providing two directories: ‘Personal’ and ‘Business’. Within the ‘Personal’ directory I have organized my personal digital life, and within the ‘Business’ directory I have organized my business digital life.

Once the initial directories were in place, I began to make more distinctions about the type of data the directory contained by using descriptive names and nesting related directories, where appropriate, in a hierarchical fashion.

Here is a simple example; let’s say you have hundreds (or more) pictures collected over many years. To efficiently organize these pictures, we first, create a ‘Pictures’ directory (one probably already exists on your computer). Then organize the pictures further by creating a year directory within the ‘Pictures’ directory, eg. 2018, 2019, ect. Then within each year directory you could include month directories, eg. JAN, FEB, ect. This directory structure can be as simple or complex as necessary. Personally, I adhere to the ‘keep it simple and consistent’ policy. Next, let’s take a look at ‘File Naming Conventions’.

A file name should be distinguishable among other files. Groups of files should be easily sorted for efficient reviewing and searching. File names should also be unique. Over time files can be moved and without the existing folder structure, important descriptive information about the contents of the file could be lost. Carefully consider whether your filename would be meaningful outside of your directory structure.

Here are guidelines I use consistently for file names within my company as well as at home:

  1. If the date the file was created is important, include it in the filename. If you are going to use the date, be sure to pick a date format and stick to it consistently. I like to use the MMDDYY format (two digit month, two digit day, two digit year.)
  2. If the file is related to a project, consider using an abbreviation of the project name as part of the file name.
  3. If the file is part of a multi-organizational effort, consider using your organizations initials in the name. Be sure your initials are unique among the other involved organizations.
  4. If there will be multiple versions of the file, consider using a ‘zero padded’ numbering system as part of the name. You will need to make an educated guess as to how many versions there may be, and pad the version number appropriately. At a minimum, I pad file versions with two zeros, eg. 001, 002, ect.

Finally, here is a list of the “Do’s and Don’ts” of file naming.

  1. Don’t use spaces and punctuation, except for the hyphen and underscore.
  2. Do use underscore or “camelCase” between file name elements, eg. my_data_file.txt or myDataFile.txt . Neither approach is better – but whichever one you pick, stick to it!
  3. Don’t use spaces, tabs, semicolons or periods in your filename.
  4. Do try to keep the file name to a maximum of 25 characters in length if possible.

A well thought out directory structure coupled with an equally well thought out file naming convention makes searching and sorting information a very straightforward task. If you work at a company, be sure to check and see if they have employee guidelines to directory and file naming conventions … they really should! One day we will retire, will the guy or gal replacing us be able to find anything efficiently? It’s really up to us.