How to Install a Free Office Suite

2014-06-04 13_42_04-LibreOfficeFor years Microsoft Office has been the defacto standard of Office Suite programs. Actually, I think it’s been decades at this point since another program has been considered a real revival for Microsoft Office. Almost all businesses use it and most government agencies rely on some version of it so if you want to send or receive documents that’s really been your only option.

If Microsoft Office was free, maybe that wouldn’t be such a big deal. But it’s not free. Far from it, Microsoft Office is now several hundred dollars per year even for home users.

That seems a little ridiculous to me. So today I’m going to show you how to get a free, full featured Office suite for absolutely free. And best of all, it’s compatible with most Microsoft Office formats so you can still exchange documents with people using Microsoft Office.

The program I’m going to show you today is called LibreOffice, an open source office suite created by volunteers and professional programmers all over the world instead of a single organization.

When I say “office suite”, what I really mean is a group of programs. Normally an office suite includes at least a word processor, a spreadsheet program, and a program to create presentations. In Microsoft Office these programs are called Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, respectively.

The office suite I’m going to show you today also includes its own word processor, called Writer, it’s own spreadsheet program, called Calc, and it’s own presentation program, called Impress. It also features a drawing program simply named Draw, a math formula editing program (which most people will never use, I know) called Math, and a database program, similar to Microsoft’s Access database, called Base. Obviously these aren’t the most creatively named programs ever, but they definitely get the job done.

Long time users of Microsoft Office, specifically those who used MS Office before they switched to the so-called “ribbon” user interface, will immediately recognize some similarities between Word and Writer. The vast majority of Word’s features are also in Writer, so the learning curve when switching programs is minimal.

This also goes for Calc and Impress. Years ago, when Calc was relatively new, you couldn’t necessarily trade documents back and forth between Calc and Excel. Microsoft Office uses proprietary file formats by default, so it took a while for the LibreOffice team to make Calc into a usable and compatible alternative. Lately, though, the compatibility level is high enough for everyday use. I’ve used LibreOffice at work and at home for many months now and haven’t run into a document it couldn’t handle yet.

LibreOffice can be downloaded from the official LibreOffice website. Bare in mind, though, that an office suite is a huge program, and the current file size of the download is over 200 megabytes. If you’re on a slow connection it’s likely the download will take a very long time to complete.

Have a problem opening documents or other files on your computer that you need help with? Zookaware technicians are here all day everyday for remote technical support.

Deceptive Ads On Ebay Push Toolbar Downloads

ebay pushing toolbars

The advertisement found on eBay

So you’re going about your business, happily browsing eBay in search of fine Victorian polished brass door knockers or assorted 1800th century cast-iron crockery when you notice near the bottom of the screen an icon alerting you to a new message. That could be important. Quick, better click it! Or maybe you shouldn’t.

Just looking at the image to right, you can probably tell it’s an advertisement. The little “i” symbol in the top right corner and the words “AdChoice” at the bottom right make it pretty clear that this is an ad. Then again, look at all that empty space in the middle. Why would an advertiser leave it like that? That’s wasting, like, 70% of the space the ad takes up. That seems like a pretty poor use of advertising resources, doesn’t it? Take a look at the picture below and everything should become a bit more clear.


The eBay advertisement in context. Note how the ad is designed to blend in with the rest of the page.

Looking at that advertisement with the rest of the page in context, some of those odd design decisions become clear. The background color is designed to match eBay’s background color. The empty space in the middle of the ad is there to make it seem like the words “AdChoice” are unrelated to warning that you have an urgent message to read. Seems more than a little deceptive to me.

So where do you end up if you click on that ad? You’re taken to a website completely unrelated to eBay, that advises you to install their software because  “You’re missing the tool to view private messages.” Interesting. And, oh look, it has a free download.

When you download their free software, which they reveal a little lower on this page is a browser toolbar made by MindSpark Interactive, the installer by default tries to set your default homepage and default search page to The reason they do this is because and MindSpark are both owned by parent company IAC/InterActiveCorp. And you better believe IAC makes a boatload of money from people using their search software and search engine.

That’s really what this ad is trying to do. It’s trying to get you to install a toolbar and maybe change your default homepage and search page, all in the hopes that you’ll generate advertising revenue. Shame on eBay for allowing this kind of advertising. They should know better. And shame on IAC for trying to trick people into installing their software.

How I (Almost) Fell for an IRS Scam Email

IRS SCAMWe read about it all the time: Malware that spreads by email through malicious attachments. It was one of the first ways malicious programs spread on the internet and new malware continues to use this method to spread for one simple reason – It works.

As someone who has been around and taught others how to avoid these kinds of scams for years, I like to think I’m pretty much immune to this kind of trickery. But an email we received today made me reconsider. I fell for an IRS scam email. Well, almost.

The incident started when a member of our support team asked me for help handling a serious looking email: “Hey, I’ve got a ticket that needs your or Carl’s attention. Probably Carl’s. It’s regarding taxes, and it’s actually from IRS.GOV

That sounds serious. I should probably see what’s going on. “Send it over to me.

He was right, the email did claim to be from the IRS. Hmm.


Subject: Your FED TAX payment ( ID : 79YIRS062755509 ) was Rejected

Gee, that looks important. An email from an address about a tax payment being rejected. I should probably pay attention to what it says.

The body of the email gave some more important sounding information:

Your federal Tax payment (ID: 79YIRS062755509), recently sent from your checking account was returned by the your financial institution.For more information, please download notification, using your security PIN 55178. Transaction Number: 79YIRS062755509

Payment Amount: $ 5410.00
Transaction status: Rejected

ACH Trace Number: 730273539869094
Transaction Type: ACH Debit Payment-DDA
Internal Revenue Service, Metro Plex 1, 8401 Corporate Drive, Suite 300, Landover, MD 20785.

Uh oh. This seems serious. Looks like an automated message about a tax payment gone wrong. And the IRS doesn’t play around. Well, shoot, what do I do now?

Wait a minute. This email has an attachment too. That’s strange… Generally automated emails don’t come with ZIP files attached, especially about tax information.

2013-12-26 13_52_04-C__Users_Anthony.Patarini_Downloads_Dangerous

OK, this is starting to make sense now. But normally these scam emails look a little less professional. This one is kind of clever. OK, shields up!

Let’s see what’s in this ZIP file. (Kids, don’t try this at home.) I opened the file up in a virtual machine with no internet access. This allows me to handle dangerous files without much risk of infecting the rest of my computer or network.

2013-12-26 13_53_38-C__Users_Anthony.Patarini_Downloads_Dangerous_Tax payment

Inside the ZIP file is what appears to be a PDF file. That makes sense, I guess. You’d expect your tax information to come in a PDF file right. Wait. That icon looks a little off. I wonder what happens if you view the Properties of this file…

2013-12-26 13_54_23-Tax payment Properties

It’s a trap! As I’d suspected, there is more to this file than meets the eye. It’s not really a PDF file. It’s a program disguised as a PDF file. As soon as someone tries to open this file the program infects the computer, probably with some kind malware designed to steal bank account credentials and add any infected computers to a botnet.

There are a few things that can be learned from this situation:

1. Scammers can fake the sending address of their emails

The email I received said it was sent by someone at In reality, someone just faked the identifying information on the email to make it look like it came from the IRS.

2. Don’t trust unexpected attachments

Unless you’re expecting an email with an attachment from someone, don’t open email attachments if you can possibly avoid it. Malware authors have gotten very good at hiding malicious code.

3. Keep your antivirus and antispyware software up to date, but don’t assume it’s invincible!

After doing a little more research, it looks like we’re not the only ones who received this email. It just started spreading today, and at the time I started writing this only 3 or 4 anti-virus programs detected this file as dangerous. I’m sure that number has grown dramatically by the time you’re reading this. But if I’d actually opened that attachment and run the program, my antivirus program wouldn’t have caught it. This malware was so new that antivirus companies hadn’t had a chance to update their programs to detect it yet! Keep yourself and your computer safe, don’t open attachments!

NSA Paid Security Company RSA $10M To Use Backdoored Algorithm


National Security Operations Center
Photo Courtesy of

News broke on Friday that security company RSA Security LLC was reportedly paid $10,000,000 in a deal with the National Security Administration to use a compromised algorithm as the default for generating random numbers in some of its software.

The algorithm, known as”Dual Elliptic Curve Deterministic Random Bit Generator” or “Dual_EC_DRBG”, has been championed by the NSA since its release.  But security experts have been suspicious about Dual_EC_DRBG since at least 2006 when it was found that the random numbers produced by Dual_EC_DRBG had a slight non-random bias. In 2007 two cryptographers demonstrated that due to the unique characteristics of Dual_EC_DRBG the algorithm contained a weakness “that could only be described as a backdoor” according to cryptographer Bruce Schneier.

All of this might be somehow excusable if there were a plausible reason for RSA to use Dual_EC_DRBG as its primary random number generator. For example, if there was a significant performance gain from the use of the algorithm, it may be possible to use it in low-powered and embedded systems where other random number generators would be otherwise unusable. But that’s not the case. In fact, Dual_EC_DRBG is three orders of magnitude slower than other comparable random number generation algorithms. There are no discernible technical advantages to using it whatsoever.

RSA released an official response to the media on Sunday, December 22, but it did little to explain or justify it’s actions in light of the allegations being made. The main point to be taken from their response is that RSA “never entered into any contract or engaged in any project with the intention of weakening RSA’s products”. “Intention” seems to be the key word in that sentence.

The question this raises is why would RSA, a highly respected security company, risk so severely damaging their reputation in an industry built almost entirely on reputation? $10 million sounds like a lot of money, but considering RSA was purchased by parent company EMC Corporation for $2.1 billion in 2006, the money alone couldn’t be the only reason they would risk their future in the security industry, could it? The answer to that question is something we may never know.

CryptoLocker Crew Has Earned More Than $300K Since September

CryptoLocker User Interface. Photo courtesy of Dell SecureWorks.

Since its introduction in early September of this year CryptoLocker has made headlines by preventing its victims from accessing their own files. According to analysis by Dell SecureWorks the number of CryptoLocker victims has grown into the hundreds of thousands, with the exact number likely to be above 250,000.

All of these infected computers add up. While not everyone pays to ransom demanded by CryptoLocker the small percentage that do have made cybercrime a very profitable endeavor for the group behind the malware. Current estimates suggest that in Bitcoin payments alone the group has grossed more than $300,000. And it’s very likely the group has earned far more than this, as Bitcoin is only one payment method offered and is more difficult to acquire than other options.

Global CryptoLocker Infection Rate. Photo courtesy of Dell SecureWorks.

CryptoLocker infection rates show no sign of slowing. While CryptoLocker originally spread only by targeted emails to high-priority businesses, in recent weeks it has been spread largely by botnets and professional exploit kits. This means that the individuals behind CryptoLocker are likely paying other malware owners to infect new machines with CryptoLocker for them.

While CryptoLocker may change in the future, computer users should know that there are precautions that can be taken to prevent CryptoLocker infections. If nothing else, having up-to-date backups of your important files could save you hundreds this holiday season.

3 Money Saving Browser Addons

It’s that time of year again. Time to rack your brain trying to come up with gift ideas for everyone you need to buy presents for this holiday season. And then, once you’ve finally figured out what you think they’ll like, you’ve gotta figure out where you can buy the present and (if you’re smart and not made of money) try to find the cheapest price on that present as well. Just a TINY bit stressful, not to mention time consuming.

If you’re not looking forward to going through that process again this year then rejoice, Dear Reader, for I come to you with solutions. These three browser addons won’t tell you what the best idea for a present is but once you’ve figured that out they will show you the cheapest place you can get it in no time at all. No more manual price checking. More time for drinking eggnog and watching reruns of the same holidays specials that have been on TV for the past 40 years. Or whatever you want to spend your time doing.

Priceblink2013-12-04 16_24_41-PriceBlink - Installation Steps

When you’re viewing a specific product PriceBlink searches the web for lower prices and lets you know if you’ve found the lowest price. Priceblink displays a small banner at the top of the webpage you’re viewing once it has searched for a better price to indicate whether a better price is available as well as which other websites are selling the same product. The small banner is only displayed on pages where it recognizes a specific product for sale, so it does a good job of staying out of your way when it’s not being used.

Download PriceBlink Here

Invisible Hand

2013-12-04 16_31_51-Amazon.com_ APC BE350G UPS System_ ElectronicsInvisible Hand is a lot like Priceblink. It shows a similar small banner on the top of your screen alerting you to any cheaper prices and letting you know what other stores are selling the same product. But Invisible Hand also works for finding the best prices on flights, hotels and car rentals, which could be a nice added benefit if you’re planning on going anywhere this holiday season.

Download Invisible Hand Here

NOTE: Though technically you can use Invisible Hand and Priceblink at the same time, they do very similar jobs and can conflict with each other in some cases. We recommend only using one.

Honey2013-12-04 16_17_53-Place Your Order - Checkout

Instead of searching online stores for cheaper prices on individuals products, Honey searches for coupon codes specifically for the website you’re shopping at and then applies them for you automatically. You’ll see a small “Find savings” button on the checkout page of supported websites. Just click the button and Honey works its magic to get you the lowest possible price. Honey will still work even if Invisible Hand or Priceblink are installed, so I recommend using both to get maximum savings.

Download Honey Here

How to Easily Recover Deleted Files

RecuvaAccidents happen. Maybe you deleted the wrong file by mistake or a software program on your computer malfunctioned. Maybe a malware infection deleted your files. Maybe your kids/parents/pets/crazy-cat-lady-next-door have somehow managed to destroy your data despite your best precautions. Fear not! You may still be able to recover your deleted files.

The first place to check, if you haven’t already, is in the Recycle Bin. If you’re somehow lucky enough that the file(s) you were looking for are there, all you need to do to recover them is Right-Click on them and choose “Restore” from the menu that pops up. If you’re not so lucky, keep reading.

Recycle Bin Recover

Believe it or not, when you delete a file normally the file isn’t completely removed. The only part of the file that is removed is the reference to where it exists in the file system. The data of the file still exists on your hard drive and can be recovered, at least until it is overwritten by other files. File recovery, therefore, is a time sensitive operation. The sooner after deletion you attempt to recover the lost files, the greater the odds of success. You also don’t want to download or install a bunch of software to try recovering the files. Every new file created on your hard drive increases the chances that some of the data you are trying to recover is being overwritten.


With that in mind, the easiest way I’ve found to recover deleted files is to use a free tool called “Recuva”. Weighing in at a paltry 3.4 megabytes for the installer and less than 9 megabytes once installed, Recuva is downright tiny compared to many other file recovery tools.


After being installed Recuva will automatically attempt to perform a file recovery. It will ask a series of simple questions to try to determine the type and location of the deleted files. Recuva will also ask you if you want to perform a “Deep Scan”. The Deep Scan feature works by scanning for “file headers”, or the beginnings of files, in all the blocks of your hard drive. Because the Deep Scan feature scans the whole hard drive at a very low level, the process can take a very long time, sometimes as long a several hours. It is recommended that the Deep Scan feature be used only if the files you are looking for aren’t found during a normal scan.


After Recuva has finished scanning it will display a listing of all of the deleted files it has located. Most of the files displayed will probably be deleted temporary files and can be ignored. To the left of the file listing, Recuva also shows a color coded circle indicating the probability of a successful file recovery. Green means the chances are excellent, orange means acceptable, and red means unlikely.

image002Once the file(s) you’re trying to recover have been located, select the checkbox next to each file and press the “Recover” button at the bottom right of the program. Recuva will then attempt to recover the selected files and open a dialogue box reporting the results of the recovery attempt. Good Luck!

Recuva can be downloaded from the Piriform website:

FBI Moneypak Virus Removal

FBI MoneyPak virus, otherwise classified as “RansomWare”, is a virus that’s made it’s way around the internet for some time now.   The virus’s creators ask for money to get rid of the warning, and even if you do comply by wiring them the money the persistently pesky bug does not go away.

After contracting the virus you will notice that you will be unable to control your system and your screen is replaced with a very scary looking message which you can see an example of below.



It is the official FBI logo with a  message that may even accuse you of committing a crime, such as downloading child pornography.  Then there’s the ransom demand for anywhere from $200 to $500 to get back control of your computer. DO NOT PAY THE “FINE”. I cannot stress this enough don’t waste your time or money in paying the scammers to remove this from your computer, it will never happen.

The virus can be in an email, or on a less than reputable website/link, or even in an attachment for something completely different.  There are plenty versions of it, with many tailored specifically to the country you live in (in the UK, the warning can be from the Metropolitan Police Service).  The virus locks your computer but it usually does not destroy any data.

If you get it there are several things that you can do to try and remedy the issue yourself, or take it to a professional who can fix it.

If you are feeling a little DIY, here are several links to antivirus software applications to remove it from the basic system

From Norton – This usually entails booting into safe mode with networking support and running a downloaded utility

From Kaspersky – This uses a software utility specifically for ransomware like this. You do have to download the Kaspersky WindowsUnlocker utility, and create a bootable cd with it, to start the system, and run it before windows boots.

Many people report problems with antivirus software being able to remove the FBI MoneyPak virus because its frequently changed by its creators to avoid detection.  If the above programs fail to remove this virus you can call us at 1-800-290-9809 and sign up for our ZookaWare Plus service.  We will remotely access your PC and manually remove the virus.  This service costs $19.95 per month for unlimited tech support and you’re free to cancel any time.  If we can’t remove your virus we will give you a refund immediately.


The best offense in this case being able to use your computer is a good defense. Have anti-virus, antispyware and a firewall running on your PC at all times.