Archive for General advice – Page 5

Why People Create Viruses

Why people create viruses

You’d be right in thinking it’s hard to program a computer virus that can spread across the world in a flash – we’re talking days of constant computer nerd-work. So why do they bother? Well, it generally comes down to 3 reasons: Money, showing off their skill, or to simply be a pain – but mainly its money.

Here’s how people are making money with computer viruses: –

Bank account theft:

Virus creators are more than happy to help themselves to your bank details, sneaking in to grab your login details or credit card info. They can either transfer your funds away or use your credit card details to go on a shopping spree. Sometimes they’ll leave the fun to another person though, and simply sell your details to the highest bidder.

Ransomware:

Rather than a financial snatch and grab, sometimes a virus will encrypt your files and demand money for the unlock code. Without a true backup plan in place beforehand, you’re completely at their mercy as the encryption strength is usually pretty strong. You’ll be given very helpful information on how to pay, plus a firm deadline before your files are destroyed permanently.

Ad swappers:

A cheeky technique, this is when they create a virus that either puts annoying ads on websites you visit, or places affiliate codes on pages so that when you buy something legitimately – eg, from Amazon – they get a percentage as a ‘referral fee’. Their kickback doesn’t make your purchase cost more and you may not even know you’re supporting their activities, but its there.

Bitcoin mining:

You might have heard of digital currencies being used for payment, but did you know you can also earn them with your computer processing power? Unfortunately, ‘renting’ out your computer’s processing power means paying more in running costs than you’d make – especially if you didn’t know that your computer was doing it in the first place.

Botnets:

Infected computers can be remotely controlled to do whatever the virus creator wants. In this case, they’ll usually set the infected ‘bot’ computers to overwhelm a target web server, like an e-commerce store. Sometimes it’s done as revenge, but more often it’s blackmail. The ‘Botmaster’ says “pay me thousands or I’ll crash your site during the biggest shopping day of the year” and uses a network of potentially thousands of infected computers to do the dirty work.

Account stealing:

Subscription accounts like Netflix are often hijacked, leaving you to pay the bill for someone else’s entertainment. But sometimes, virus creators go one step further with online Gaming accounts. All those Gaming digital items that you played so hard for (special clothing, weapons etc.) can carry real world value and be stolen from your account and sold on a black market. Yes, that’s cheating!

Should this make you paranoid? Of course not, but it does reinforce the need to keep your devices secured, especially computers.

Give us a call on 01455 209505 to help make sure your computer is secure and protected.

How to Proactively Maintain Your Computer

Maintaining your computer

For a device that’s supposed to make life easier, computers can involve a lot of work! There’s so much to keep track of that it’s no wonder most people push ahead and forget the routine maintenance until something breaks.

Of course, the problem with being reactive is the damage is already done. Photos and files get lost forever in a crash, and information gets stolen in a hack…by then it’s far too late. It’s a bit like closing the gate after the horses have already bolted. This is where ‘proactive’ people come out on top.

Thousands upon thousands of homes around the world are using managed services to proactively put computer problems firmly behind them. It’s a done-for-you maintenance program that we offer which tries to detect problems and prevent them from getting worse. Here’s why it’s the best choice.

You’re always up to date.

It seems like every second day there’s some new and urgent update waiting to be installed. Whether they’re patching security flaws or adding new features, they seem endless. Even if they do install automatically, they tend to do it at the worst possible moment, leaving you to wait up to 30 minutes when all you wanted to do was quickly check your email.

Using our special managed services software, we can make sure your computer’s updates are all finished and done. As part of our service, we also make sure all updates are compatible not just with your hardware, but also with your other software. After all, updates are supposed to make your experience more secure and more enjoyable!

You’ve got anti-virus.

The best anti-virus is the one that’s up-to-date and running, yet you’d be surprised how many people switch it off or never let it update. While you might be in the habit of scanning files and browsing safely, others in your home might not have the same priorities. Having managed services ensures your anti-virus is always running and dealing with any viruses it finds. If the anti-virus program stops working for whatever reason and your protection is at risk, we will find out and be able to take steps to rectify it.

Your hardware stays healthy.

While a reactive person is always suddenly stuck without a computer when hardware fails, proactive people with managed services have already had the problem fixed. Our special software monitors the health of your hardware, for example your hard drive, looking for early warning signs of failure. If detected, we can let you know in advance so that it can be dealt with. This means you’re able to get it repaired at your convenience, making sure no files are lost and no other hardware is damaged in a domino failure.

Your Windows stays healthy

Our managed services don’t just keep an eye on the health of your hard drive, it can also make sure that important updates take place for third party programs such as Adobe Reader and many others. It also advises if you have a problem program, a firewall problem and many more potential issues.

Support is a phone call away.

Just got a new printer and it won’t work properly? Got a weird error popping up? Your laptop won’t talk to the wifi? Our remote support team can help with whatever technology issue has been bugging you and wasting your time. No nonsense advice is just a phone call away, and our team can remotely connect to diagnose and fix many problems. This means you can carting your computer into a shop, and still get your most pressing computer issues fixed.

Not only that, we make it easy to get in touch as a handy contact form is available on your desktop, so you can message us with just a couple of clicks.

You’re always optimized.

Whether your computer is actively playing up or not, our monitoring service can keep in touch with your event logs, services and processes and look out for anything that needs correction. This means we’re effectively trying to stop problems before they get to you, making sure that when you sit down to use your computer, it’s doing exactly what you want.

You can get more details from our Managed Services page here.

Put computer problems behind you – get managed services today. Call us on 01455 209505.

Top 5 Cloud Advantages for Small Businesses

Business cloud backup

Cloud technology has created a revolution for small business, changing the way you store, share and backup files. While ‘the cloud’ is often hard to understand because it’s neither in the sky or in a single location, there’s no arguing that it’s improving business storage across the board.

Storage concerns can be a thing of the past as small businesses can benefit from the flexibility, cost savings and protections of cloud solutions. We’ve done the research for you and identified 5 ways small business in particular benefits from making the move.

It’s Cheaper

Budget is always a limiting factor for businesses, many of which are further constrained by pressure from higher up. Some regard investing in cloud solutions as a large expense that can be put off indefinitely. In most cases though, making the switch to cloud storage costs a fraction of the price.

Compared to maintaining and powering servers, scaling to keep up, and repairing in emergencies, cloud storage offers extraordinary savings. With one decision, you get access to high-end infrastructure and dedicated support, plus a healthier bottom line. Cloud solutions were specifically created to meet your needs, which means you only pay for what you use.

Costs remain capped while the benefits continue to rise, a clear advantage for the budget-conscious business.

It’s Secure

A lot of people like having their data where they can see it. But that’s not always the safest option. Natural disasters can happen, break-ins are a worry, and employees are always losing laptops and phones, or have them stolen.

More often though, someone simply makes a mistake and deletes important files, or accidentally infects the system with malware. Cloud storage mitigates every single one of these risks, with storage in ultra-secure locations, protected against disasters, and committed to robust backup systems.

In recent times particularly, we’ve seen many small businesses survive ransomware attacks purely because their critical data was secure in the cloud with clean backups available.

It’s Compliant

We know medical businesses and services need to follow certain regulations when it comes to patient data. This includes security as well as data integrity, plus backups and auditing. Many cloud providers acknowledged this need early on and made sure to offer compliance guarantees. They therefore keep abreast of changing regulations, often implementing new requirements before you’ve even heard about them. With cloud storage systems, you essentially slash your compliance workload and let your provider do the worrying.

It’s Portable

One of the key benefits of cloud storage is your ability to collaborate remotely. In the past, this would have involved multiple file copies that need to be merged back together, often confusing employees as to which is the ‘right’ file. With cloud storage, your staff can work on the same file, using the same interface and real-time updates.

Even having different versions of software is no longer an issue. Employees can work on a file in the office and then securely access the same file from their smartphone, laptop or other location, without needing to buy additional software or worry about version corruption. Sharing and collaborating becomes easier, more desirable and more secure.

It’s Easy to Migrate

One of the biggest concerns we hear is that it will be too disruptive to migrate to cloud solutions all at once. That’s okay. You don’t have to do it all in one day, it can be migrated in stages.

Talk to us about your cloud options by calling us on 01455 209505.

How to Stay Safe from Scams or Malware on Facebook

Facebook scams

At last count, Facebook has clocked up over 2.7 billion users, which makes the platform more attractive than ever for scammers and hackers. While you may be logging in to share your latest family photos or catch up with friends, the chances of accidentally triggering a scam or malware are increasing.

Here’s how to stay safe on Facebook and stop the spread.

Look out for freebies and surveys

Everybody loves a freebie and for the most part the competition posts on Facebook are legitimate. Having said that, when you see a giveaway for vouchers for a mega-store, alarm bells should ring. ‘Do this quick survey and we’ll send you a £50 Amazon Voucher!’ – it’s too good to be true.

Even one click can take you on a journey through the underside of the web, picking up trackers and malware at every stop and at the end, you’re asked to share the post so your friends can get a voucher too…except nobody ever gets the reward.

Check your permissions with games and quizzes

Whenever you access a new game or quiz, you’ll need to give permissions for it to access your Facebook profile. Most people click the okay button without any thought, but if you review the permissions you’re giving, you’ll often find they’re asking for a massive amount of personal data; public profile, friend list, email address, birthday and newsfeed. Do they really need ALL this information?

Sometimes it is from necessity, but bear in mind that some apps can be preparing to launch attacks against you both on and off Facebook. For example, when you call your bank they ask certain security questions like your full name, birthday and maybe which school you went to. All that information is in your Facebook profile and is now shared with your permission.

Don’t friend people you don’t know

Having lots of friends is nice, but that friend could end up costing you. It might be someone pretending to know you, or a picture of a pretty girl to entice men (and vice versa). Once you friend them, they get access to everything your friends can see. In this case, it’s more than the risk of someone knowing your personal data, you’ve just given them intimate access to your life.

If it’s weird, forget it

It doesn’t happen very often, but hackers find ways to take advantage of flaws in Facebook. A common hack that keeps popping up in various forms is to embed malware in a link. The virus then infects your machine and contacts all your friends with an enticing message, like asking whether a picture is of them.

When they click to view the picture, the virus catches them and their friend list, and so on. Facebook is pretty good at staying on top of these flaws, but they need time to fix it. Just like if you got a weird email with an attachment from a friend, make sure that you use that same level of scrutiny in your Facebook and don’t open messages or links that seem out of place.

Need help securing your privacy? Call us on 01455 209505.

New Google Chrome Browser Scam

New Chrome browser Scam

A new scam targeting the popular Google Chrome browser has been reported, which attempts to panic users into calling a number and – you guessed it – providing a card number to pay to ‘fix’ the non-existent problem.

The way they do this is to display a fake error message in the Chrome browser: –

Fake Chrome Scam Security message

As well as displaying this message, they make the browser completely unusable by making Chrome download and save high numbers of files at so fast a pace, that the browser freezes.The notification that the downloads are happening can appear so fast and then disappear, so that users may not see it and be warned by it.

Chrome Scam downloads

Pretty soon, the computer processor and RAM resources gets used up, leading to the point that the whole computer is rendered useless, which adds to the panic.

The scammers hope that by the user panicking, the phone number is called.

This scam can be introduced onto systems through a website that has been hacked or by malicious advertisements.

What to do if you get this Scam message

In Windows, press the Control + Alt + Delete keys and select Task Manager – with the Chrome browser highlighted, click ‘End Task’. Then the usual virus/malware scanning should be done.

In MacOS, select ‘Force Quit’ by pressing Command + Option + Escape, to do the same.

So if you are unlucky enough to get caught in this scam, whatever you do, do not call the number. Close the browser and run thorough scans using a good security package.

If you need help, call us on 01455 209505.

Desktop v Laptop – Which is right for You?

Want to choose between a desktop and a laptop?

Thinking of buying a new computer? Laptops have become the go-to choice for many people in the market as they’re sleek, portable and heavily advertised. But are they the best choice for your needs?

Before you buy your next computer, unless you have a specific need for a laptop, take a look at these considerations – you may discover you’ve been dreaming of a desktop all along!

How portable do you need it to be?

Hands down, laptops are easier to move around than a desktop. You can pick them up, pop them into a backpack or case and away you go. That doesn’t mean desktops are bolted to the floor, just that they’re not designed to go with you. With that portability though, comes a trade-off: thin and light means your computer performance takes a hit unless you spend a lot of money on higher-end kit.

The more powerful your laptop, the bigger and heavier it is, and you won’t enjoy lugging that weight around all day. If that’s got you leaning towards an ultra-portable, consider this: The smaller and lighter your laptop is, generally the weaker it is. Fortunately, when you do choose a desktop, cloud technology means your data is mobile, even if your main computer isn’t.

What balance of power and price do you need?

The bottom line here is that a desktop will always give you more power for less money. Their larger cases allow for bigger and better components, with more effective systems to avoid overheating. Even the most powerful laptop is going to be hotter than its desktop equivalent, and much noisier too.

If you’re using power-hungry software like games or video editing, we recommend choosing a desktop – the heat control alone is worth it as frequently overheated laptops don’t survive long.

In terms of power versus cost, desktops win in this category.

Desired screen size

As laptops are designed to be portable, screen sizes are usually around 11”- 15.6”. Larger, more powerful laptops go up to around 17” and are generally called ‘desktop replacements’ as they tend to be heavier and are less likely to be carried around – as well as being more expensive.

Desktop monitors today however, start at 17” and the average is 22”. These larger sizes give you more space to work in, options to tile your applications and multi-task, and even sit back and watch an HD (or even 4K) movie. They also allow for nice big text and images, with a better ability to choose the visual experience that suits your needs.

Admittedly you can connect many (not all) laptops to a separate Monitor, but who wants to spend the money for an additional screen when you have one in the laptop?

Your working comfort

Many people buy a laptop only to get home and find it’s a pain in the neck – literally! The traditional laptop design means you’re always looking down at the screen which can put a strain on your neck. You can try to raise the screen by placing the laptop on a stand, but then the keyboard can be out of easy reach. The smaller keyboards and touchpad designs may also leave you more prone to repetitive strain injuries.

Many people do end up connecting their laptops to external monitors, keyboards and mice, simply so they can work in comfort. Desktop computers on the other hand, allow you to create the perfect working environment for your needs and even cater for other family members. Monitors are usually height adjustable, keyboards and mice are wireless, and you’re able to place the desktop on the floor out of the way or under the monitor depending on the model you have.

If you’re on your computer for more than short bursts, your body will appreciate you choosing a desktop.

Are you looking for flexibility?

When you choose a laptop computer, it’s like ordering from a set menu. You get this brand, in this design, with these specifications. Changing out parts for repair or upgrade can be difficult and expensive as there’s not a spare inch of space. Some parts are extremely hard to get to, which can turn a simple swap into a dealbreaker.

The extra space inside a desktop gives infinite flexibility for upgrades over time and fast repairs. This means you’re able to easily pop in more powerful components for a fraction of the price and extend the life of your computer by years.

Talk to us about your next computer and we’ll find the right one for you. Call us on 01455 209505.

3 Tech New Year Resolutions to Keep

Tech New Year Resolutions to keep

If your typical New Year’s resolutions lasted about 30 seconds, you’re not alone. Pledges to eat better, start running and learn how to juggle can be rebooted again next year easy enough. This year, we challenge you to think about your tech health with some resolutions you’ll want to keep.

1. No More Junk Mail

Whether you checked a box agreeing to get newsletters, or you have no idea how you got on that list, it’s time to say goodbye. Start by emptying your mailbox to zero unread messages – no you don’t have to read spam – you have permission to delete it unread, but after marking it as spam so it can be filtered out in future. Let’s face it, if you were going to read it, you would have done so already.

Now that you’re starting with a clean slate and a huge feeling of accomplishment, resolve this: Each day, unsubscribe from 5 lists. Keep an eagle eye out for that ‘unsubscribe’ link and click it with confidence. You don’t even need to give a reason if it redirects to a survey page. Before too long, your inbox will be a refreshing place filled only with people and businesses you look forward to hearing from.

2. Go Password Pro

With all these password leaks from LinkedIn, Myspace, and goodness knows who hasn’t come forward yet, now’s the time to get smart with your passwords. Because most people use the same passwords on every site, a single breach can be the hack that keeps on giving to the bad guys. You know how important it is to use different passwords for each site, but that’s a LOT of passwords to remember!

Instead of writing them down, we recommend using a password manager like LastPass. It remembers all your various passwords for you, so all you need to know is the super-protected master password. Master passwords are kept encrypted on your system, not theirs, and 2-factor authentication checks with you via text for all big changes.

There are other PasswordManagers out there – please see previous post.

3. Backup. No Really, Backup.

“I’ve been meaning to backup” is the cry of someone who just lost all their photos. Good intentions don’t count AT ALL in data security, because once the data is gone, it’s gone.

With new cloud backup options, there’s no reason to put this off, because backup apps are now easier and more accessible than ever before. You can also backup to local drives, but this will take a little extra remembering on your part, as you’ll want to have at least one drive that stays disconnected in case of viruses.

With cloud storage such as Dropbox, it’s so easy to back up and you don’t have to do anything that you don’t already do – just save in that Dropbox folder and it’s all done for you.

There you have it. Three New Year’s resolutions you can easily keep, and that will make a real difference to your year. Opening your email will be a pleasure, you’ll be a spectator only in any future password leaks, and your precious files will be safe against all manner of disaster.

Feels better than any diet, doesn’t it?

Stuck with any of this? Call us on 01455 209505.

Stop your Business becoming a victim of Social Engineering

Social Engineering is a danger to your business

You can have top-notch security in place in your business, but there is still one danger – ‘social engineering’. Most people have never heard of it but perhaps the more familiar term is ‘con’: the art of manipulating people to take certain actions or divulge private information.

Social engineers are a special type of hacker who skip the hassle of writing code and go straight for the weakest link in your security defences – people. A phone call, a cheap disguise or casual email may be all it takes to gain access, despite having solid tech protections in place.

Here are just a few examples of how social engineers work:-

Email

Pretending to be a co-worker or customer who ‘just quickly’ needs a certain piece of information. It could be a shipping address, login, contact or personal detail that they pretend they already know, but simply don’t have in front of them. The email may even tell you where to get the data from.

The hacker may also create a sense of urgency or indicate fear that they’ll get in trouble without this information. Your employee is naturally inclined to help and quickly sends a reply.

Phone

Posing as IT support, a government Official or customer, the hacker plausibly and quickly manipulates someone into changing a password or giving out information. These attacks are harder to identify and the hacker can be very persuasive, even using background sound effects like a crying baby or call-centre noise to trigger empathy or trust.

In person

A delivery man in uniform gets past most people without question, as does a repairman. The social engineer can then quickly move into areas of your business that may have sensitive information. Once inside, they essentially become invisible, free to install network listening software or devices, read a note with a password on it, or tamper with your business in other ways.

For example, if your Wi-Fi code is visible (and we see this all the time on ‘post-it’ notes and written signs) then the hacker can get access to your network simply by sitting in a car outside your building and connecting to your network with that password.

Then, with the right knowledge and software, they can cause all sorts of issues.

It’s impossible to predict when and where (or how) a social engineer will strike. The above attacks aren’t particularly sophisticated, but they are extremely effective. Staff naturally try to be helpful, but this can also be a weakness.

Not just in Businesses either – remember that there are regular reports of people being conned by plausible sounding phone calls out of the blue, from people pretending to be from your broadband company or Microsoft – just wanting to get connected to your computer.

So what can you do to protect your Business? First, recognize that not all of your employees have the same level of interaction with people, the front desk clerk taking calls all day would be at higher risk than the factory worker, for example.

We recommend that there should be awareness of the possibility of a security breach – you don’t need formal cyber-security training for each member of staff but the level of risk needs to be identified, focusing on the types of scenarios staff might find themselves in.

Social engineering is too dangerous to take lightly, and unfortunately far too common.

Talk to us about your cyber security options today. Call us at 01455 209505.

Is Your Home WiFi Good Enough?

Is your Home WiFi good enough?

Wi-Fi has forever changed the way we live, work and play. We can surf the internet in the home or on holiday by the pool, look up a recipe in an instant, and even connect our lights to voice control. It’s no wonder it was accepted with open arms, but is your Wi-Fi as good as it needs to be?

10 years after Wi-Fi first made its way into homes, it’s evolved into a juggernaut of speed and accessibility that we can’t do without, but think about how many wireless devices your home has – the average home has at least 10 devices connected wirelessly to the internet, many have more.

While older devices are typically happy with a slice of slow internet, your newer devices like 4kTVs and media streaming simply can’t function without fast internet. Add in a game console, tablet, a few smartphones and a laptop or two, and your Wi-Fi is suddenly stretched beyond full capacity and struggling to keep up.

Yet, most people don’t know how fast their Wi-Fi is, or if it’s working right– they only know how many bars they’ve got. Unfortunately, counting bars can be misleading.

Here’s why relying on your Wi-Fi bar count might be ruining your internet experience:-

Bars measure the wrong thing

While it’s great to know you’ve got a ‘strong’ signal, it would be even better if you could have a ‘fast and available’ internet signal. The fact is that the internet could actually be down and you’d still have full bars because it’s really only measuring how close to the Wi-Fi router you are.

That proximity measure doesn’t take into account how many devices are fighting for the same bandwidth or whether there’s any left for you.

Wi-Fi goes sideways

While next-door’s Wi-Fi can reach the back of their property, it can also go a similar distance sideways into your house. This extra ‘noise’ can disrupt and slow down your own Wi-Fi. In dense areas, your Wi-Fi is basically getting lost in a swirling field of signals, all using the same channel and frequency. It’s a digital crowd which can seriously slow your speeds.

This can be fixed by changing your Wi-Fi channel to one with less cross-talk.

Everyone uses the default settings

Most home Wi-Fi uses a 2.4ghz frequency by default. Whilst it makes a ‘Plug & Play’ router easy to set up, it does mean you’re not getting the speeds you could be. Switching to the 5ghz frequency means your Wi-Fi is separated from the neighborhood cross-talk. 5ghz is also considerably faster, which is a bonus.

Priority isn’t set

While not Wi-Fi specific, there is also a “Quality of Service” setting if your router supports it. This allows things like Netflix and Skype calls to always take priority and remain uninterrupted over less important tasks like downloads.

You’ll be able to watch movies with less of those awful buffering jumps and video chat without freezing.

Is your home network not keeping up? Give us a call at 01455 209505 and we can help to improve your internet experience.

What to do if your Hard Drive Fails

Hard drives fail eventually

If your hard drive is going bad, chances are strange things are happening and you’re a little panicked.

It’s where you put your digital memories, your household files and maybe work that you’ve been doing for months. As far as you’re concerned, that hard drive IS the computer and failure is not an option.

Perhaps it was overheated, knocked around or came from the factory with a flaw. Unfortunately, all hard drives will fail eventually. So how do you know if it’s definitely the drive and what should you do?

Start by watching for these signs: –

Computer slowing down

Because standard hard drives contain moving parts, the slower it gets, the slower your computer gets. It’s a bit like a record player, with spinning plates and a needle whipping from side to side, except the needle doesn’t actually touch the disc.

Your hard drive may eventually take longer to spin up and longer to retrieve files, which will have an impact on everything from booting up to playing games.

Blue screen of death

A classic Windows error, this is when your computer locks up to only show a blue screen with an error code, which while it does mean something specific has gone wrong, can always be translated loosely to ‘nope, not today’.

The more often your computer does this, the more severe the problem is and although it can be caused by other things as well as the hard drive, if blue screen happens it is a critical issue.

Not booting up

During the initial bootup stage, your computer is loading a program stored on the hard drive – it’s your operating system e.g. Windows or MacOS. If some of the files have a problem (because the hard drive has a problem) or they can’t be found, the computer won’t boot. Errors vary, but the outcome is the same.

Corrupted files

Sometimes a file won’t open because the computer says it is corrupted. Some essential pieces of the file are missing, and unlike a book where a missing page is only inconvenient, it’s a deal breaker for computer files.

Noises

You’re familiar with the normal noises your computer makes, but as the hard drive fails the noises can change. You might hear clicking, grinding or even a sci-fi phaser noise. Noises will get louder or speed up during heavy file access.

Whenever something is clearly wrong, the key is to stop and turn your computer off. Continued use can result in more data loss.

Even if you don’t have a backup yet, turn it off now because the large task of backing up can cause extra strain on an already delicate hard drive. It’s tempting to hurry and try to get a quick copy of your files, but in these cases, it’s not about time – it’s about the extra spinning, scratching, warping and electrical charge, all dissolving your precious data with each access.

If you have problems with your hard drive, give us a call on 01455 209505 – we’re happy to help.