Author Archive for CSH – Page 5

Search Google More Safely

Search Google more safely

We all use Google, quickly finding everything we need on the Internet. It’s replaced dictionaries, encyclopedias, instruction manuals, newspapers and in many cases, even doctors (not such a good thing!).

However, sometimes your search results aren’t the real thing and can be downright malicious. For example, we regularly find that customers search for, say, a printer driver software update and they type in something like “XP442 printer driver” . A close look at some of the results shows things like ‘ epsondrivers.org ‘ or ‘ printerdriversforyou.com ‘ – not the manufacturers official website – so you may get a driver but you are very likely to get something unwanted too!

Here’s how to search more safely: –

Pay attention to the URL in Google

Below every result title there’s a URL (website address) in green. No matter what the title says, this URL is where your mouse click will take you. Unfortunately, cyber-criminals will often list their site with a familiar and trusted title but link you to their scam/malware pages.

Another example can be the title of your bank name (eg, Example Bank), which seems legitimate, but the URL could be www.baabpjhg.com which is obviously not your bank. Sometimes they’ll attempt to trick you by putting the real site into the link too, eg www.baabpjhg.com/examplebank.com which makes it even more likely to catch you out when skimming through results quickly. When you visit the page, it might look exactly like your bank’s site and ask for your login details, which are then harvested for attack.

Whilst jibberish in the link is pretty easy to spot, sometimes they’ll take advantage of a small typo that you can easily miss. For example, www.exampebank.com (missing the letter L).

Notice Google search results v paid adverts

Google does a pretty good job at making sure the most relevant and legitimate sites are at the top of the list, however paid adverts will usually appear above them. Much of the time, these paid ads are also legitimate (and you can quickly check the URL to verify), but occasionally cybercriminals are able to promote their malicious site to the top and catch thousands of victims before being removed.

Similarly, well known businesses can pay for adverts, even though much of their software is classed as ‘Potentially Unwanted Programs’ and technicians remove them from computers every day.

Believe Google’s malicious site alerts

Sometimes Google knows when something is wrong with a website. It could be a legitimate site that was recently hacked, a security setting that’s malfunctioned, or the site was reported to them as compromised.

When this happens, Google stops you clicking through with a message saying “this website may be harmful” or “this site may harm your computer”. Stop immediately, and trust that Google has detected something you don’t want in your house.

Turn on Safe Search

You can filter out explicit search results by turning on Google Safe Search. Whilst not strictly a cyber-security issue, it can still provide a safer Google experience. Safe Search is normally suggested as a way to protect browsing children, but it also helps adults who aren’t interested in having their search results cluttered with inappropriate links, many of which lead to high-risk sites.

Switch Safe Search on/off by clicking Settings > Search Settings > Safe Search.

These are just a few tips to make your searching safer, but the most important is you – never take your internet security for granted and always be cautious when using any search engine, as they can only display what they find out there on the internet – good and bad.

Need some help securing your system? Give us a call on 01455 209505.

How to tell if your Computer has a Virus

How to tell if your computer has a virus

Sometimes computers do strange things that ring alarm bells and the next thing is that you’re running virus scans and demanding everyone come clean about their browsing habits. Fortunately, not all weird occurrences are caused by viruses – sometimes your computer is simply overloaded, overheating or in desperate need of a reboot.

Here are some tell-tale signs of a malware attack:-

1. Bizarre error messages

Look for messages popping up from nowhere that make no sense, are poorly worded or plain gibberish – especially if they’re about a program you don’t even have. Take note of anti-virus warnings too, check the warning is from YOUR anti-virus software and also that it looks like it should.

If a message pops up that isn’t quite right, don’t click. Not even to clear or cancel the message. Close the browser or shut down the computer instead, then run a full scan.

2. Suddenly deactivated anti-virus/malware protection

Certain viruses are programmed to take out the antivirus/antimalware security systems first, leaving you open to infection (this is why we advise our customers to always have all the system tray icons visible on the taskbar, on the bottom right-hand side). If you reboot and your protections aren’t back doing their job, you may be under attack. Attempt to start the anti-virus manually.

3. Social media messages you didn’t send

Are your friends replying to messages you never wrote? Your login details might have been hacked and your friends are now being tricked into giving up personal information or worse. Change your password immediately, and advise your friends of the hack.

4. Web browser acting up

Perhaps you’ve noticed your homepage has changed, it’s using an odd search engine or opening/redirecting to unwanted sites. If your browser has gone rogue, it could be a virus or malware, usually one intended to steal your personal or financial details.

Skip the online banking and email until your scans come up clear and everything is working normally again.

5. Sluggish performance

If your computer speed has dropped, boot up takes longer and even moving the mouse has become a chore, it’s a sign that something is wrong – but not necessarily a virus. Run your anti-virus scan and if that resolves it, great. If not, your computer possibly needs a tune-up or quickie repair.

6. Constant computer activity

You’re off the computer but the hard drive is going, the fans are whirring, and the network lights are constantly flashing? Viruses and malware use your computer resources, sometimes even more than you do. Take note now of what’s normal, and what’s not.

Got a virus? Give us a call at 01455 209505.

Office 365 – important changes for Outlook users in October

Outlook users of Office 365 need to use 2010 version or newer

Anyone connecting to the Office 365 email system using Microsoft Outlook needs to be aware of important changes that are taking place at the end of October 2017.

From 31st October, Microsoft are changing the protocols that allow connection between the Outlook email program and Exchange – moving to a more secure ‘MAPI over HTTP’. They state that they are doing this as MAPI is more efficient with data transfer and allows more secure authentication, compared to the previous method.

Unfortunately, Outlook 2007 (and earlier Outlook versions) do not work with this new protocol and Microsoft will not ‘upgrade’ them to make them compatible. This means that anyone using these versions of Outlook with Office 365 will no longer be able to access their emails after 31st October and will need to move to a more recent Outlook version, to continue to access their emails through Office 365.

Also, any newer versions of Outlook must be up to date with their regular updates, to ensure that they work correctly after the 31st October.

Here are the Office version numbers that are the minimum needed to keep the connections working after the changeover (information supplied by Microsoft as at 28.9.17):–

Office 2010 – 14.0.7164.5002
Office 2013 – 15.0.4779.1002
Office 2016 – Subscription: 16.0.6568.20xx or MSI: 16.0.4312.1001.

To check the version of Office 2010, open Outlook, go to Help > About Office Outlook.

To check the version of Office 2013 or later, go to File > Office Account > About Outlook.

For further help give us a call on 01455 209505.

CCleaner program hacked

Popular Ccleaner program hacked

 

Many people use the free CCleaner program which is used for computer maintenance and file cleanup and it is so popular that millions of downloads take place very week.

Unfortunately Piriform, the company which makes the program, has announced that one of the program versions downloaded by millions of users over a four-week period, had been hacked and has been used to install what is called a ‘back-door Trojan’ virus on people’s systems.

The versions which are affected are CCleaner v5.33.6162 and CCleaner Cloud v1.07.3191 for 32-bit Windows – which were downloadable between 15th August and 22nd September.

The hack allowed the program to cause the download of further unwanted software, possibly including keyloggers and ransomware and initial investigations show that that the program was hacked at the company, before being released to the public using their normal download servers.

Information relating to the infected computer may also have been sent to the hackers servers during this period.

CCleaner users with the above versions should immediately uninstall the program and download the latest version as soon as possible. Although the company states that only the above versions are affected, we recommend uninstalling any version downloaded between those dates before reinstalling, just in case investigations later show that more versions were affected.

We also recommend that if you have the one of the versions mentioned above, you should take the usual common sense precautions such as full scanning of your computer with a good security product, as well as keeping an eye on your bank statements, etc.

This incident is not only potentially serious for users it is also embarrassing for the parent company that now owns Piriform – the antivirus security company Avast. Although further investigations are taking place to find out how this happened, many people may now lose confidence in the CCleaner product.

Equifax Data Breach and UK Customers

Equifax Data Breach and what it means for UK customers

Recently, Credit reporting company Equifax has revealed that its databases were hacked in a large-scale breach affecting millions of customers across the US, UK & Canada and personal information was leaked. While no hacking event is ever good news, some are easier to ignore than others – but unfortunately, this isn’t one of them. Major UK companies such as BT and British Gas use Equifax services as well, so there may be UK customers affected too.

Equifax is one of the three main organizations in the US that manages & calculates credit scores. To do that effectively, they have access to almost every piece of financial data for adults – social security, tax file numbers, drivers’ licence, credit card numbers…the big stuff. On July 29, Equifax disclosed the breach, stating that hackers had repeatedly gotten in through a vulnerability in their systems from mid-May to July of this year.

Equifax, cyber-security experts & law enforcement officials are on the case, working to minimize the long-term damage and it may be that the number of customers actually affected in the end may well be small. Also, the UK Regulator – the Information Commissioner – has asked Equifax to inform all UK customers that may be affected.

Whilst you do not need to panic, there is a risk of personal information being in the wrong hands. You should consider that risk, particularly as this type of personal information can circulate for a long time due to the fact that these hackers also sell the information on to others.

Here are a few ideas to protect yourself against possible future compromise: –

Keep a close eye on your finances and accounts.

Check for notifications of new credit applications, monitor your statements and bills, and immediately report any suspicious activity or sudden change in billing.

Change all your passwords to be strong, unique and long.

The stolen data may give hackers a free pass into bank accounts, email and personal information. Add two-factor authentication where possible – this is when an account demands a second layer of authentication before allowing access or changes – so just getting the password correct isn’t enough, the hacker would also need to get the special code sent by SMS text.

If you believe that you have been compromised, consider freezing your credit report.

This makes it harder for identity thieves to open accounts under your name, as access is completely restricted until you choose to un-freeze.

BT have provided the Equifax UK telephone number 0800 014 2955 for customers that have a query over their credit file and they can also be contacted via their website www.equifax.co.uk.

If you need help with your passwords, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Age UK Business Directory Member

Age UK Business Directory

We are pleased to announce that CSH Computer Services is now a Member of the Age UK Leicestershire & Rutland Business Directory.

The Age UK Business directory is a free service to help older people find a trustworthy business in their local area.

Age UK Business Directory are very careful about the services they promote on the directory and every company listed has been checked by Age UK staff and has agreed to abide by the Business Directory customer charter.

This is alongside the Which? Trusted Trader membership that we hold and gives customers that extra assurance that we have their interests in mind when working on their behalf.

How to Make Your Photos Last A Lifetime

Make Photos Last a Lifetime

Digital cameras are great, and thanks to smartphones, we have one with us almost all the time. We’re taking more photos than ever before, and building a lifetime of digital data. But despite the enormous value of these photos and videos, most people don’t have a backup. It’s time to shine a light on this essential task and make it a regular habit before those precious memories are gone forever.

If you asked someone what possession they’d save from a house fire, many would say photos, and they’d make a point of grabbing a frame or album on the way out. But with digital photos, you don’t need a fire to lose everything, they could simply disappear in the blink of an eye with hardware failure or theft. There’s no warning, no smoke alarm, and without a plan already in place, little no chance to recover the data depending on how is was damaged. It’s time to get set up with a true backup system.

Is one copy enough?

You might think saving your information to an external hard drive or flash drive is enough. You’re right, it’s better than nothing, but since the data is stored in only one place, this isn’t a backup – it’s just storage. That drive could fail at any moment, perhaps from age, malfunction or plain old theft.

Often enough, that drive can become lost over the years or even put somewhere ‘safe’ and promptly forgotten! And with the way technology is moving, accessing that data in 5 years might even bring up compatibility issues – some newer computers don’t even have CD/DVD drives, yet hundreds of thousands of homes would still have photos stored on a plastic disc.

Two copies?

You might have your extra storage drive as backup and keep a copy on your computer. This is a better solution, and how many people store their data, but it still isn’t enough. While you’re protected against device failure, that house fire is going to take both copies up in flames.

Thieves would probably grab the external drive while they’re bundling up your computer too, so again, you’d be left with zero copies. It’s close, but it’s not a true backup system.

Using The Cloud

The term ‘Cloud’ may just seem a fancy name for storage on secure servers, but we have seen it save many people’s important data and for ease of backup, protection and security it’s hard to beat.

We recommend keeping one copy on the computer/device and another on Cloud storage. Of course, you can also still an external drive as a third copy if you wish (and many in the IT world consider ‘The Rule of Three’ as the way to go) but the best Cloud storage solutions have multiple backups, which is not the case when using an external drive.

The Cloud backup can be fully automated so you don’t even need to worry about remembering to do it. If the day comes that you need your data back, it’s ready and waiting in perfect condition – even if you have been infected with Viruses and Ransomware (depending on your Cloud storage provider). Cloud technology also means your data is far away from any potential fire or flood, it’s secure and with the right company, guaranteed against loss.

There’s a saying in the IT industry: “There are two kinds of people: those who backup, and those who have never lost all their data”.

No matter what the cause of your data loss, it always has a deep impact, particularly when it comes to precious data like photos. While re-creating some homework or the family budget might just be inconvenient, there’s no way to recreate photos once they’re gone.

Most importantly, it’s a loss that is very avoidable.

If you want help in protecting your data, give us a call at 01455 209505 to implement a well-rounded backup system.

Too Many Passwords? Try a Password Manager

Keep your computer secure from scammers

One of the regular things we see is customers struggling with the number of passwords they need to remember – so many login details are needed these days. As we have advised previously, it is not a good idea to have just one password for everything so how can you keep track of all of them?

You can try using a Password Manager – this is a program or browser extension that allows you to store passwords in an encrypted form on your device, but also do much more. The bonus is that all you need is one Master password to manage it.

The passwords are saved in an encrypted password ‘vault’ and when you go to a specific website, the Password Manager inputs the password for you. Whilst many browsers already do this for you, a Password Manager does it in a more secure way.

Some Password Managers advise you as to how secure your passwords are – preferably using a mixture of letters, numbers, capitals and special characters. Some can automatically change passwords for you and as well as set up two-factor authentication – this is where you can open the password vault with your Master password, but you also use some form of verification (such as getting a code texted to your phone), which you type in to prove that you are authorised to access those important password details.

The main point is that you would not need to remember large numbers of passwords, which means that you can easily keep your online accounts as secure as possible.

There are a many Password Managers – here is a selection of the best known ones: –

LastPass

This is one of the original Password Managers and installs a browser extension or mobile app. With one master password you can access the password vault and manage passwords for all websites that you log into. It can even generate secure passwords for you.

At the moment the browser extension is free to use and more services are available in the premium version.

True Key

Intel has produced a Password Manager that is free to use for 15 passwords, which is enough for many people, and also a premium version which allows more and extra services. As well as the usual encrypted password facility, it allows multiple ways to access the password vault – master password, second device, email or even facial recognition.

Dashlane

As well as storing your passwords securely, this product helps you by providing a rating of your password security strength. The premium version also allows synching across multiple devices as well as two-factor authentication.

These are just three of the many Password Managers out there but whatever one you choose, do make sure that it is from a reputable company. If using a search engine, take particular care checking the website address the download is coming from as it needs to come from the company itself and not an address that is only similar.

Also you need to remember that whilst Password Managers help you keep track of your password security, you still need to maintain effective security software and keep a cautious eye on what you download from the internet.

If you would like help with password security, call us on 01455 209505.

Increase Your Business Email Impact with Smart Strategies

Be smart with your email

Most small businesses rely on email as their preferred form of communication – email is the go-to format we’d be lost without. It is no surprise – it’s quick, simple and provides a paper trail. But its convenience doesn’t always mean relaxed. In fact, poor email communication can hurt your reputation and cost you customers.

Here’s how to be smart with your business email:

Are you using a free email service?

Most businesses use a domain name – that is a web address where their name can be used for either a website and/or email addresses. If you are using a free email service instead of an address with your business name, will that put off any customers? What impression may it give? It is very easy to set up a domain name and have a professional looking email address – and it is much less expensive than you think.

Manage your inbox

Your inbox is only for items you still need to access. Once you’re finished with an email, you should delete it or archive it. If you were to imagine your inbox as physical letters, you’d never let it grow to a 6-foot high stack of chaos. Instead, you’d either throw them out or do the filing. It’s not hard to identify which ones to keep for reference, so create inbox folders to sort them accordingly. As emails arrive and are actioned, move them to the relevant folder or the delete bin.

Write professional messages

Stepping across the line from casual to careless is easy if you skip the basic elements of good business writing. Grammar will always be important and the sentence structure of your language hasn’t changed. All email programs include a spell-checker, many of which draw attention to errors immediately, so there’s really no excuse. Typing in all CAPS is seen as yelling, and breaking your text into paragraphs makes your message so much more readable. One last thing before you click send, quickly glance over your email to make sure your tone is appropriate and no mistakes have snuck through.

Embrace the subject line

Many emails are missed because the subject line was empty or meant nothing to the receiver. Writing these attention-grabbing nuggets can be tricky, but if you simply summarize the message, it will be better. Just remember to keep them under 5-8 words so they fit on mobile displays.

The subject line is also checked by anti-spam filters, so it is even more important to have one that makes sense to the receiver.

Be smart with attachments

Keep attachments small – under 2MB – as they can clog up the email server as well as your email program and other people’s. For larger attachments, share the file location as a link using cloud storage. When you’re sent an attachment you’d like to keep, save the file and then delete/archive the email.

And as always, be careful with unexpected attachments, especially from unknown senders. It’s more important than ever to scan all attachments with an antivirus before opening.

Keep your CC/BCC under control

The carbon copy (CC) and blind carbon copy (BCC) let you send the email to additional stakeholders, more as an FYI than anything else. As a rule, use BCC if you’re using an email list or privacy is an issue. But before you add extra people to the email, make sure the email IS relevant to them. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a pointless email chain!

If you want help to make your business email better or need a domain name and email account setting up, please call us on 01455 209505.

4 Simple Tips to Help Keep Your Internet Banking Safe

Online Banking precautions

Online banking has boomed in the past few years – branches are fewer and apps are in. Half the time when you visit a branch, you’re steered towards a computer for a DIY transaction – with optional assistance. But is internet banking really safe?

You’re always told to keep your financial details private, but the good news is you CAN bank more safely online with a few simple precautions.

Always type in the website address

Many attackers will attempt to trick you into clicking a fake link to your bank website. Usually sent as a ‘phishing email’, they’ll claim that there’s a problem and ask you to click through to your bank and correct it asap. The link points to a fake website that looks almost exactly like your real bank site and is recording your private account info.

You can avoid scams like this simply by accessing your bank by manually typing in the website or using a bookmark – never a link.

Avoid public computers and networks

Jumping onto a PC at the library or other public place might seem like a quick and easy way to check your account, but public computers are often targeted by scammers. In just a few moments, they can install keyloggers (programs that record usernames, passwords and other private data), then sit back as all future user details are emailed to them.

The same problem applies with free, unsecured Wi-Fi.

You’re better off using an ATM or a data-enabled smartphone, preferably one with a security app.

Use a strong password with 2-factor authentication

Create a unique password for your online banking, something you’ve never used anywhere else. Mix up words, numbers and symbols to create a complex password that can’t be guessed easily. Avoid giving attackers a head start with data they can find on Facebook, like childrens names, pet names, birthdates, etc and really think outside the box.

And of course, never write it down anywhere near your wallet, phone or computer.

If remembering is likely to be an issue, you might like to consider a secure password manager app. Many banks will also help boost your security with two-factor authentication, sending random codes to your phone (or a special LCD device that they provide) to verify any activity.

Check page security before entering data

Finally, take a second to spot the small padlock icon at the top before you enter any data. You’re looking for a padlock appearing as part of the browser itself, not just an image on the webpage. It will be either in the bottom corner or next to the URL. The address will also start with https:// instead of http://. If you don’t see these things, the page is NOT secure and you shouldn’t log in.

We have many customers that never use online banking, but for the majority of people who do, these simple steps will help keep your transactions a little bit safer.

Need some help securing your system against scammers? We can help. Call us on 01455 209505.