Archive for Home users – Page 2

Controlling Windows 10 Autoplay Settings

Autoplay settings in Windows 10

‘Autoplay’ in Windows was originally designed to automatically open removable media that you have plugged into your computer, such as CD/DVD or USB media – it was meant to speed things up for you, but it has had a checkered history.

In the old days, putting in a CD/DVD or USB media with Autoplay switched on was a good way of passing viruses from one computer to another, as viruses were automatically executed when the media was opened for you. This is why good security programs today either automatically scan removable media when inserted, or ask you to allow it to do so, but some programs are better than others and some may not stop a virus from executing itself in time.

Later versions of Windows switched Autoplay off by default and Windows 10 asks you what you want to do, when removable media is inserted. However we do see customers that switch it back on, for ease of use but this does pose a risk.

Even today, it is recommended that Autoplay is switched off. You can do this by going to Settings > Devices and select ‘Autoplay’ on the list on the left. Toggle the Autoplay switch to ‘Off’, Autoplay will be disabled and you will not see the pop-up window again. This allows you or your security software to scan the removable media before opening.

Alternatively, or you just find that annoying, the next safest thing is set Autoplay to ask you what to do every time media is inserted, rather than automatically opening it. In Windows 10 you can actually select different actions for different media, for example you can set memory cards to import photos from your camera (which is unlikely to be infected). The settings for this are in the same section as described above, and you go to the ‘Choose a default’ for each media showing in the list.

There is also even greater control of individual media by going to the ‘Autoplay’ setting in Control Panel, where you can choose a default for many more options such as Pictures, Video, Audio etc. that may be present on your removable media.

Rather than just automatically opening media, the final thing that you can do is to set Autoplay to open the media in File Explorer – but as some viruses reside in an area of removable media that is read when opening its file list, this is not that much better than automatic opening. We would recommend scanning all removable media before opening it in File Explorer.

Every day people are using the same USB drive in their home and office/business computers, or putting removable media into their computers that has been used in a friend or relative’s system. This means that the weakest point is the danger point for compromising the security of your computer – so the friend/relative that may not have a good security program, or a compromised office computer are routes to computer infection.

The last thing you want is to have your computer disinfected, so it pays to reduce the risk where possible.

If you would like help in securing your computer or believe that your computer may be infected, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Share..Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestPrint this pageEmail this to someone

Beware – the fake TalkTalk Scam is Still Going Strong

Keep your computer secure from scammers

A couple of years ago, TalkTalk made the news after admitting that they had been hacked and large amounts of customer private data had been accessed illegally. At that time there were a number of scammers pretending to be from TalkTalk, phoning people trying to get remote access to their computer by saying that they were infected or their emails had been hacked.

The idea was to convince people into paying them a lot of money, by accessing their computers to either create a problem (to pretend to fix), to syphon details to be used later in ID and bank fraud or just to scare the customer.

Scammers are back

We are now seeing an increasing number of cases where scammers are using the TalkTalk excuse but are even more believable, by giving information that a customer would assume could only be from TalkTalk. For example, customers who have had problems with their emails and who have contacted TalkTalk about it, who have then got a call from the scammers.

Even if these calls are just a coincidence, and that the contact information they are currently using is from the original hack, we strongly suggest that all TalkTalk customers be extra vigilant anyway as these people are very believable and make a lot of money doing this. This also applies to ANY other company that calls you out of the blue, as TalkTalk is not the only company name misused by scammers in this way.

Remember that TalkTalk would never call you to ask for passwords, or contact you out of the blue to ask to remotely access your computer for some reason. Also, they could not tell if your computer is infected or not without examining it, so they would not call you to tell you that it was.

What to do if they call

If you do get a call from someone saying that they are from TalkTalk (or other company), no matter how believable, do not let them access your computer. Go to the genuine company website, get contact details and call them, to make sure that the person you are talking to is genuine.

Also, remember that remote connections can be used legitimately too and you should not be put off using it – just be especially careful who you allow to connect remotely to your computer and you should be ok.

If you think that you may have already been scammed or just want help, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Share..Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestPrint this pageEmail this to someone

Is Anti-Virus Enough These Days?

Is Anti-virus protection enough these days?

Not too long ago, everyone was warned about computer viruses and ‘Anti-Virus’ became the in-word when it came to computers, because the last thing you wanted was for someone to cause damage using a virus program.

Since then, criminals have jumped on board the malicious software scene and big money can be obtained from data – especially yours.

Increasingly the media are telling us that there are more threats than basic viruses now, things like ‘Ransomware’ (a malicious program which encrypts your files so that you cannot access them again without payment), software aimed at stealing your credit card and identity data, telephone scams using remote software, plus others.

Protection – what can you do?

Clearly, if you want to go on the internet you do need anti-virus protection but unfortunately, protection from free programs is not enough these days. Yes they are definitely better than nothing, but you have to ask yourself if big corporations such as Yahoo and TalkTalk can get hacked, maybe minimal protection compared to paid-for protection, is not the way to go.

A good paid-for security suite is the minimum these days and even then, you have to be careful about what websites you visit, emails you open and what you download.

The One Anti-Virus Rule

Traditionally, the rule has been that you must only have one anti-virus program running at any one time on your computer. To have two anti-virus programs was definitely not recommended, as they compete with each other and at the very least slowed your computer to a crawl, if not actually corrupting your data. We have come across many computer systems with two or more anti-virus programs which have caused problems. That was up till now.

There is now a product called Malwarebytes, which has been designed to actually run alongside your traditional anti-virus program, without causing the problems as before. It compliments your current protection by looking for the ransomware / malware-type of threat and assists in the protection of your system by concentrating on the non-traditional danger to your computer, without causing problems having two protection programs.

As it is a paid-for product it runs in real time, bolstering the protection of your system. As the threats particularly of Ransomware are becoming a problem, especially for businesses, it is recommended to seriously think about adding to the scope of your protection.

Ultimately, no protection system is guaranteed 100% effective as they are always catching up with the “bad guys”, but it is worth considering whether or not one protection program is enough these days, bearing in mind online banking and other day-to-day internet use that involves sensitive personal and financial information.

If you do decide to go down the additional protection route, we can supply Malwarebytes at below retail prices, so if interested give us a call on 01455 209505.

Share..Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestPrint this pageEmail this to someone

5 Ways to Extend the Life of your Laptop

Entend your laptops life

Laptop computers are one of the most fragile pieces of tech you’ll ever buy, but they also receive the roughest treatment. From the sensitive flat screen inside the lid to the spinning hard drive, there are components inside your laptop that do not take too kindly to excess vibration or pressure.

Extend your laptop’s life with these five easy tips.

Avoid sharp movements during use:

While some newer laptops have an SSD drive with no moving parts, many laptops still have mechanical drives which work a bit like a record player. Mechanical hard drives have multiple heads like a record player needle (although they do not actually touch anything) and data storage disk-shaped platters, like a record.

The head hovers just microns over the surface of the spinning disk reading the data from it and a knock can cause them to collide. Just like a deep scratch on a record, whatever data was on that section can be corrupted and lost, so movement should be kept to a minimum.

Make sure you always power down the laptop before moving it or packing it away. Whilst many modern laptops have anti-vibration technology which stops the hard drive heads when movement is detected, this cannot protect against sudden movement or continually placing the laptop on a hard surface, causing vibration.

Keep it cool:

Your laptop has 2 ways of telling you when it’s too hot – the fan and auto-shut off. Each component in your laptop is generating heat, and the harder it’s working, the more heat each component creates. The fan runs to blow that heat out of the vent and keep the components cool enough to continue operating.

Because there’s no clear temperature indicator, your fan volume is the best guide to monitoring laptop heat. While the laptop is working hard (and getting hot), the fan will spin faster and louder. It’s not uncommon for it to sound like a hair dryer at times! Help it out by keeping your fan vent clear of books, blankets, and other blockages.

Modern laptops should automatically power down if they get too hot but you shouldn’t let it get to that stage, as excess heat over a prolonged period can cause internal damage or a reduction in the laptop’s working life.

Respect the power cords:

Inside those robust looking power cords are a bunch of delicate wires, begging you to be gentle. You’d think they should be able to take a beating, get bent, twisted and run over with chair wheels, but unfortunately not. Keep cords clear of sharp or flat-edged items, and when wrapping for transport try to mimic how it came out of the box. Wrap the cord gently around itself or the power adapter and secure with Velcro or similar.

If your original power cable no longer works, be careful when buying a replacement adapter if it is not a manufacturers model, which can be expensive. Universal adapters are freely available with multiple removable heads that can fit various makes of laptop, but getting the correct fitting isn’t the only important thing – it’s the voltage.

If you turn your laptop upside down, there is usually a label on the underside (or sometimes under the battery) which indicates the correct voltage for the laptop. Some universal adapters can go above the common 18.5 / 19 volts and if they do, it can cause damage to your laptop. Double check the voltage needed and check the universal adapter voltage setting before powering it up.

Carry it padded:

Look for a bag that not only fits your laptop but also provides padding. If it is shut down, your system will endure countless bumps and bangs as the bag is moved around, even with careful use. Ideally your bag should have side, bottom, AND top padding, as well as a waterproof outer. If backpacks aren’t your style, look for padded or hard-shelled sleeves.

Back it up:

Laptops give us fantastic mobility but as mentioned above some parts are quite fragile. While a backup won’t make your laptop components last longer, it will make minor repairs that much easier. You’re more likely to take it in for a service if your data is accessible elsewhere, and of course, in the event of accident or theft, you’re fully prepared.

Consider an off-site backup for additional protection, so no matter what happens with your laptop you still have your important files.

Call us at 01455 209505 to give your laptop a life-extending service.

Share..Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestPrint this pageEmail this to someone

Making Computer Issues a Thing of the Past

Managed services

We repair many computers and laptops each week, but unfortunately this is often ‘closing the barn door after the horse has bolted’. Computers have a habit of dying at the worst possible time – like when an important project is due tomorrow, or before you copy family photos to a backup.

We’ve combined our repair services with preventative measures aimed at preventing this happening to you. Our managed IT services are called ‘Proactive Care’ and can remotely take care of all the computers in your house or office, helping to protect you against both threats and system failure.

Here are a few things that form part of the protection package.

Anti-virus always up-to-date:

While many computers have anti-virus software installed, they don’t often have the latest virus and threat definitions. These systems are at risk every minute they spend online, as the anti-virus simply will not pick up and stop an unknown threat if it doesn’t have an up to date list of things to look for and these lists are updated many times a day.

‘Proactive Care’ makes sure that your anti-virus definitions are always up-to-date, keeping your computer secure against even the newest viruses.

Software patches:

Hackers like to spend their time figuring out new ways to break into computer systems. Software companies like Microsoft and Apple release regular patches to close these security holes. The patches are supposed to be applied automatically, but we often find that isn’t the case – patches didn’t download, were cancelled or produced an error.

Our services involve remotely checking that each patch has been applied successfully, and troubleshooting if required. As an added advantage, any time new features are packaged into an update, you’ll find them already installed for you.

Early failure detection:

Some parts in your computer send out alarm bells when they’re about to die.

Unfortunately, they’re not literal alarm bells (that would be too convenient), but rather information in the background that needs to be interpreted or manually checked. We can monitor these and advise if repairs are required.

For example, hard drives which store your information do eventually wear out, but they’re one of the parts that send out early failure warnings (unless the fault is a catastrophic one). We can monitor this and give you ample warning so that you have time to back up your important files. When it’s time, we’ll work with you to arrange drive replacement, making sure to either clone or re-install your operating system, whichever suits your needs best.

Tune-ups:

Even the most cared for computer will slow down over time. Hard drives become cluttered, operating systems corrupt and ghosts of uninstalled programs still remain. We can remotely schedule and run a regular maintenance routine that will keep your system running in good condition.

Our managed Proactive Care service happens entirely behind the scenes, so there is no disruption to your experience. You simply enjoy the benefits of having your own IT specialist team at one flat, low cost.

Start with managed IT services today – for more information give us a call on 01455 209505 or visit our Managed Services page.

Share..Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestPrint this pageEmail this to someone

Windows 10 – Microsoft reveals the Data it collects

Windows 10 logo

With the forthcoming launch of the Windows 10 Creators Update, Microsoft has released more information about the amount of data it collects from your computer, and sends back to Redmond.

A lot has been much said about Privacy issues with Windows 10 since its launch, although it’s fair to say that Apple and Google similarly scoop up data from your devices too. This time, Microsoft are saying that they are cutting down on the amount of data that they collect with this latest update and the details of what they actually do collect makes interesting reading.

What data they collect now

Windows 10 Home and Professional versions currently have two levels of data collection – Basic and Full.

Basic Mode is supposed to collect data on your hardware, records of crashes, how good your internet connection is, driver software usage, what apps you have installed and how they are used, as well as other things that are diagnostic in nature.

Full Mode collects the data from Basic level as well as things like your “inking and typing data” (yes that’s right, typing data) and records of system events. In certain circumstances they can get copies of user documents that have caused software crashes and run diagnostic tools on your computer, although there is a set of rules that apply before they can do so.

What data is collected after Creators Update

In Basic Mode, a lot of diagnostic technical information is sent over (see this although it’s written in geek) which is supposed to help Microsoft identify potential malware infections and the causes of crashing, to help them make the operating system more reliable. Also collected will be details of your hardware including the serial number of the machine, data on what applications are given administrator access permissions, your battery life, what mobile phone network you are using, and some other things.

Full Mode has not been explained as fully as Basic Mode, but as well as everything in Basic it includes data relating to your browser choice, the apps that you use to edit videos and images, user settings and preferences, what apps you have installed, internet addresses (URLs) that have triggered errors, total time reading eBooks, visited webpages, the list of peripherals attached to your computer, text typed in searches, words you have spoken to Cortana and more.

There has been a third option, where telemetry data can be switched off but that has only applied to the Enterprise, Education and other specialist versions – if you are using the Home and Pro version, you’re stuck with either Basic data collection or the Full package.

Microsoft emphasises that data collected is intended to be primarily for diagnostic reasons and the Creators Update will make it more explicit what data is collected, so you will be able to make more informed decisions when setting things up after the update. Having said that they are also being more transparent on what data is collected for marketing and advertising purposes too.

The jury is out as to whether privacy continues to be a thorn in Windows 10’s side and certainly some governments are taking an active interest into what information is actually being collected from peoples’ computers and why. The unfortunate thing is that users will not have any choice – if you use Windows 10 you will have data collected, possibly on a substantial scale.

Share..Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestPrint this pageEmail this to someone

Orange Email – the End of the Road

Orange Email is closing

It has been on the cards for some time but one of the UK’s big internet companies, Orange, have announced that they are closing a number of their email accounts – so-called ‘legacy’ accounts – from 31st May 2017.

Why are they closing the accounts?

Over the years, internet companies have been bought and sold, including to competitors. Generally speaking, as the companies have been bought up, the new owners have kept the email addresses from the old company going, so as not to cause too much hassle for customers because of the changeover. After all, changing your email address is a process that no-one wants to do very often.

Unfortunately, these legacy email systems make little or no money for the new owners so the costs of running them are not recouped. Also, email technology has changed and improved over the years and few companies want to invest in upgrading their systems supporting the legacy products.

What email addresses are closing?

Here is the list of the email addresses that are closing: –

•    Orange.net
•    Orangehome.co.uk
•    Wanadoo.co.uk
•    Freeserve.co.uk
•    Fsbusiness.co.uk
•    Fslife.co.uk
•    Fsmail.net
•    Fsworld.co.uk
•    Fsnet.co.uk

What you need to do – Home users

When you decide to create an alternative email address, bear in mind that it may be preferable to open an account that is not dependant on your broadband company as this will give you flexibility later on, should you wish to change.

We recommend (as does Orange) that you consider opening a Gmail account with Google. This free service has some of the best anti-spam in the business and has much more flexibility than the service that you had before.

What you need to do – Business users

If you are using one of these addresses for your business, you need to get a new address now so that you can warn your customers and suppliers as soon as possible, as there appears to be no facility from Orange to forward your customers to your new address, after the closure date.

As mentioned in a previous Blog article, it is best to use your domain name for your business emails – and this is actually cheaper than you may think.

If you need help in creating your new email account, domain name or transferring Emails and Contacts to your new email address, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Share..Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestPrint this pageEmail this to someone