How can I tell if my computer is infected?

Virus infection

One of the common questions we are asked, is how to tell if a computer is infected? Some computer viruses are getting ‘clever’ by deliberately making themselves as stealthy as possible, so that they can do their work without you ever knowing.

Luckily, most of them can still be spotted, if you know where to look or what to look for – especially if there is a combination of symptoms.

Computer is running slow?

The general rule is that computers tend to get a bit slower over time just in normal use, so you need to be careful here. The more that computers are used and the older the technology in them, the more likely it is that the computer will take a little longer to do things than when it was new.

If however, your computer gets slower in a short period of time, that is a possible indication that something is amiss.

Where has my search engine gone?!

You switch your computer on, you want to do an internet search and suddenly Google, Bing or whatever search engine you normally use, is no longer there.

Although some people can inadvertently change the search engine in their internet browser, the majority of cases we see are that the search has been changed without your permission. This is classic computer malware behaviour (malicious software).

Unfortunately in many cases it isn’t a simple task to get rid of them by changing the setting back to what it should be, because they tend to reinsert themselves.

Pop-ups, pop-ups and more pop-ups!

If you are getting pop-up windows appearing, particularly advert-style ones, then again this is a classic symptom that you may be infected.

These annoying windows can appear even though you may have switched off pop-up windows in your internet browser and are usually scam-type infections, trying to convince you to spend money on computer programs and the like.

New icons on your desktop

Quite often we see icons on customer desktops that the customer has no recollection installing – particularly for so-called optimisation or driver update programs.

Many free downloads contain links to other software that is downloaded at the same time and whilst this extra software may not be classed as a virus in itself, they are classed as ‘Potentially Unwanted Programs’ and are automatically removed when professional technicians disinfect a computer. They were installed without your express permission, are hoaxes or simply don’t really do what they say that they do.

If you suspect that your computer is infected, give us a call on 01455 209505 and we can check your computer for you.

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Google Calendar in Windows 10

Windows 10 logo

Windows 10 has a built-in Calendar app which you can use to schedule appointments and reminders, but if you are a Google Calendar user, you can still use that service with your Windows 10 computer.

To integrate your Google Calendar with Windows 10, open the Windows 10 Calendar app by clicking on the Start button and selecting Calendar from the list on the left or the tiles to the right. When open, on the left-hand side is a cog icon – click that icon to open the Calendar app settings menu.

When open, click on ‘Accounts’ on the right-hand side and then ‘Add account’. Select Google from the drop down list, just sign in with your Google details and the Google Calendar will synch with your Windows 10 built-in Calendar, allowing you to use both.

You may find that the synch times between the two may not be as quick as, say, your smartphone to Google, but you can still use your Windows 10 computer with your Google Calendar, rather than be stuck with the built-in Calendar.

You can also use other Calendars, for example iCloud too.

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Too many toolbars

Popular internet browsers

A ‘Toolbar’ is an extra piece of software which inserts itself into the top of an internet browser and looks a part of it.

These toolbars can add search functions, links to various programs, online services and much more. They are easily available, usually free and are made to sound as though they are things that you cannot do without.

The thing is, you can do without them and we recommend that you avoid them if possible – even if they are from well-known companies.

There are a number of reasons for this. One is that every time you start up your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome etc.)  the toolbar will also load and install itself into the browser. This can not only slow the loading of the browser in the first place but can also slow down the loading of websites, as some toolbars monitor the content of each web page and that information needs to be processed in the background- which slows things down.

This monitoring is another reason to avoid them – usually deep down in the terms and conditions (that no-one reads) is a clause that says that you give the toolbar permission to track what you are doing on the internet and send this information to a third party, either for adverts or something else.

Another practical reason to avoid them is that some are just badly designed and written. They can interfere with legitimate uses of your internet browsers and can even stop them functioning at all in some cases.

In extreme cases, we have seen multiple toolbars in customer internet browsers and this can not only slow the browser down, but also the computer itself.

When you can bookmark your favourite sites, you may want to look at your toolbars, to see if you really need them.

 

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Laptop care

Laptop care when using

When repairing Laptop computers we find that there are a number of problems that crop up regularly, so we want to highlight the most common to help you protect your laptop (as well as Tablets and Netbooks).

Handle with care

When picking up your laptop (especially when it’s in a laptop case or bag) be careful how much pressure you apply to the lid when picking it up using its edge. Inside the lid are a number of electrical items which can cause problems if damaged, as well as the thin screen itself, and too much pressure can cause damage inside the lid.

Similarly, be careful where you leave the laptop, as we have had to replace many laptop screens because the laptop had been inadvertently sat on or stood on!

Needless to say, dropping laptops does happen – unfortunately you may find that you have intermittent problems afterwards due to stress damage inside the laptop, even when you cannot see damage externally. So if you have had an accident with your laptop, keep an eye on how it performs for a while afterwards.

Watch for heat and dust

Heat and Dust are enemies of computers, particularly laptops, so you should avoid placing a laptop on any soft surface which blocks the ventilation holes underneath and/or at the sides. Despite all the marketing photos, this includes quilts, sheets, cushions or anything else that can cover the ventilation grilles.

Also, all computers attract dust and you would be surprised at how quickly dust can build up inside a laptop – if it builds up too much it can cause overheating so just have a look every now and then.

Keep the power on!

Finally, when Windows Updates are installing, make sure that your laptop is plugged into the mains power – you do not want the battery running out during the update process as this can seriously affect your computer.

Similarly, do not close the lid unless your laptop is specifically set up to stay switched on, when the lid is closed.

If you need help with a damaged laptop, give us a call on 01455 209505 or use our Contact form.

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How To Protect Your Children While They’re Online

Secure your children when on the internet

Waking early to sneak in a couple hours of Minecraft, Roblox, YouTube or Xbox…grabbing their ‘educational’ iPad and Facetiming a friend…sending emails and texts…the world is their oyster.

Not just the younger children, but teenagers too.

To be honest, as an adult, we really have no idea what’s cool or what they’ve been introduced to at school. All we know is that they’re going to using their devices and we won’t be able to watch them every second of the day. Plus of course, no matter how many Cyber-Safety talks they’ve had, how many times they can parrot the rules back, they’re children and they don’t always stop to think.

• They don’t realize certain search terms might not be such a great idea
• They trust they are messaging other children
• And they would rather not limit themselves to 2 hours per day

Protect your Children with Parental Control Software

A Parental Control Software (PCS) package is essentially an internet filter for children. It takes all the inappropriate things online and blocks your child from accessing them, seeing them or even knowing they exist.

Adults can override and disable the software easily, so their own experience is unchanged and unmonitored.

As an added bonus, Parental Control Software can also be used to put time limits on internet usage, or even log all online activity. While you may not feel the need to review the logs on a daily basis, they can be vital in identifying cyber bullying, sexting, or inappropriate relationships.

The best time to install Parental Control Software is now, before your children become comfortable with unrestricted access, and before they see things they shouldn’t.

Give us a call to set your computer up with Parental Control Software today.

 

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Think before you click

avoiding computer scammers

A common way of getting a computer infection is by what is called a ‘Phishing’ email – that is an email pretending to be from a trustworthy source.

Quickly spot the red flags and put phishing emails where they belong:-

1. Poor spelling and grammar

While occasional spelling mistakes happen to even the best of us, errors throughout the entire message should be a warning sign.

2. An offer too good to be true?

Free items or a lottery win sound great, but when the offer comes out of nowhere – there’s definitely cause for concern. Do not to get carried away or click without investigating.

3. Random sender

Phishing has advanced in recent years to include an email or offer designed especially for you or your business. Details from public news, such as a recent function or award, or social media can be used against you. If the sender is unknown and you do not know them in any way, be careful.

4. The website or email address is not quite right

One of the most effective techniques used in phishing emails is to use addresses which sound almost right. For example, [microsoft.info.com] or [pay-pal.com].
Hover over the link with your mouse – if it doesn’t look right, or is completely different from the link text, send that email to the bin.

5. Personal, financial or business details

Alarm bells should ring when any message contains a request for personal, business or financial information, especially passwords.

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Got a bad case of overused password?

Do not duplicate passwords

You’re not alone! Most people use the same password everywhere – home, work, Gmail, Facebook… even for banking. Considering how many passwords we’re expected to remember and use on a daily basis, password exhaustion is a very real thing. It’s no wonder that when yet another prompt for a password appears, users enter easily guessed combinations like ‘abcd’ or ‘password’.

Trouble is, even if your password is making the required effort, hackers are taking a daily stroll around the internet and collecting logins and passwords as they go, from either leaked details or sites with security flaws.

Then, they’ll try their luck with that login/password set elsewhere. They know more than half the internet users in the world have only one password and email combination, so the chance of gaining access to your accounts is actually quite high. Even the big names in tech are at risk of password breaches:

360 million MySpace emails and passwords leaked. 117 million LinkedIn account details leaked.

Same password used elsewhere? Cue the domino effect! One site breach follows another and another until hackers have nothing more to gain. The only way to break this chain reaction is to use a different password for each site.

How to Create Easily Remembered Passwords

Have a system or template for creating your own unique passwords, that you’ll be able to remember, but is not obvious to hackers. For example: !K1ttyFB75!

It might seem complicated, but the above is really just based around the words ‘kitty’ and ‘FB’ for Facebook. Change the FB to something else for other sites.

What to Do If Your Password Has Been Hacked

Immediately change all passwords with all online accounts – particularly banking. It also goes without saying that if you believe that you have been hacked, you need to inform your bank/credit card provider as soon as possible.

If you need help changing your passwords or setting up a secure password system, let us know on 01455 209505 and we’ll be more than happy to help you.

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