Archive for Home users – Page 2

Should You Pay for a Ransomware Attack?

Getting hit with a ransomware attack is never fun, your files get encrypted by cybercriminals and you can no longer access them, so you’re left having to decide: should we pay to get them back? It’s a scene that’s played out across the world with 70% of businesses saying ‘yes’ in 2016 alone.

Here’s what you should consider if you’re ever in this situation.

Do you trust them?

Besides the fact that they’re criminals holding your data hostage, how confident are you that they’ll send the decryption key or that it will even work? Most attackers demand you send the payment via untraceable Bitcoin, so you have no recourse if they take it and run. You’re also equally trapped if they decide they asked too little and come back with increasingly higher demands.

If they do send the decryption key and you successfully decrypt your files, be aware they still have access to your systems and can hit you again at any time until your network is disinfected by experts. Businesses don’t exactly want their breach publicized either, so many don’t admit to paying the ransom, whether it went to plan or otherwise.

Can you manage the impact of a Ransomware attack?

Best case scenario, you can wipe the affected drives and restore from a clean backup without paying the ransom. You might even decide the encrypted files aren’t that important and simply let them go, or even wipe a whole laptop or workstation.

On the other hand, if your data management comes under any special regulations, like health or legal, you may find the attack has a much wider, more intense impact.

The attacker will usually give you a countdown to motivate a payment, with a threat of deletion when it hits zero. If the data isn’t that valuable, or you have confirmed backups, this urgency has no effect.

There are also new types of ransomware like KillDisk which can permanently wipe your entire hard drive.

How much do they want?

Cybercriminals rarely send out global attacks with set amounts, instead, they prefer to customize the ransom based on how much they think you can pay. Large corporations and hospitals (remember the NHS Ransomware incident not too long ago) are hit with very high demands, while small business demands are more modest. They may be criminals, but they’re smart people who know your financial limits.

They’ll also consider how much similar businesses have paid and how quickly, then expect you to follow suit.

Are your backups good?

Many businesses are discovering too late that their backup systems aren’t robust enough to withstand this type of attack. Either they’ve become infected too, they weren’t up-to-date or they backed up the wrong data.

It’s worth doing some quick checks on your backup processes as even if you have to take the system down for a day as you recover, you’re still light years ahead of those without them.

Can you prevent Ransomware attacks in the first place?

There may have been a time when you didn’t have to consider ransomware as an issue and just had to have some form of basic antivirus service running on your computer – but unfortunately this is no longer the case. You need a good security system in place that includes some form of ransomware protection.

Ransomware is constantly evolving and security is always playing catch-up, so go for the best performing security system – not necessarily the cheapest.

Reduce routes of infection

Ransomware is showing no signs of slowing down. As more businesses keep them funded the cybercriminals are steadily launching new attacks and making it their full-time job. Most attacks come via phishing emails – those emails that trick employees into clicking a link – and they can be extremely convincing. While training helps people spot them, it’s no guarantee.

We recommend using business-class spam filters to catch these types of emails before they land in your employee inboxes so that triggering a ransomware attack becomes something that happens to other businesses, not yours.

Secure your data systems now, we can help! Call us on 01455 209505.

What is Best for your Computer – Shutdown or Sleep?

What is best for your computer - powering off or sleep?

Many times we hear the same question – should I switch off my computer or just let it sleep? Some people believe you should shut down after every use to save wear and tear, others believe you should never shut down your computer – ever.

Others simply want to make sure the pages and apps they left open are still there waiting for them. So, who’s right and what are they really doing?

Back when computers were large and clunky boxes that took a long time to start, you’d probably get fed up with the person who shut it down when it was your turn to use it. If you have an older computer, maybe you still do. Modern computers actually have two options for their downtime: Shut down or sleep.

Shutting down

When it shuts down, the system goes through what is running and closes any open programs (often prompting you to save first), then gradually cuts power to all components. It’s a methodical process that seems quite fast to us but is actually made of 100+ intentionally ordered steps – we describe it as a kind of housekeeping.

However, if there’s a sudden blackout or you hold the power button until it turns off without going through the shutdown process, it means the steps aren’t followed and damage is possible.

Sleep option

The second option is to put your computer to sleep. This can be triggered by an automated timeout or a user click. Your system uses a special type of memory called RAM to hold all your running programs exactly as you left them but uses minimal power to do so. The hard drive stops spinning, the graphics card lets the screen go black, and even the system fan slows to become almost silent.

When you wake it by moving the mouse or pressing a key, it ‘wakes’ again almost instantly.

Reasons to Shut Down a Computer

A switched off computer isn’t drawing power which is good for the environment – but shutting down is about more than just saving power. It can sometimes give improved stability over a machine that’s been running for days/weeks. This is because every time you shut down, you give your computer a chance to clear out all temporary junk files it’s been carrying in memory. It also triggers various health checks on startup that may otherwise be missed, important routines like checking for updates or scanning for viruses. It’s certainly more convenient to spend an extra minute booting up than lose everything to a cyber-attack.

For older computers or those under heavy strain like gaming or video editing, shutting down also provides a necessary chance for the components to cool down.

Reasons to put a Computer in Sleep mode

Speed is the big selling point here. You can literally sit down and start working where you left off without the delays of bootup, finding your program, opening your saved files, scrolling down… it’s all right there and ready. You can even tell it how long to wait before putting itself into sleep mode, just in case you get called away and forget.

Windows updates still run in the background, so that’s okay, but it’s important to note that your computer might get stuck waiting for a reboot that never comes. Those pending updates may stack up, ineffective until it either forces a reboot or becomes unstable enough that you give in to a restart.

For example recently, when we went out to a computer repair in Gilmorton we found that the laptop had been kept in sleep mode every day for over a week. The system was very unstable and whilst it was a quick boot up every morning, problems were stacking up.

The best method is….

Since the whole point of having a computer is that it’s ready to work when you are, we recommend shutting down at night when it’s definitely not in use but using sleep mode during the day. Updates will get all the rebooting they need, memory is refreshed for the new day, and you’ll get the best of both worlds – speed and stability.

We can help your computer boot faster, give us a call on 01455 209505.

How to Survive a Hard Drive Crash

How to survive a hard drive crash

People of all ages are now storing their photos, documents and other important data digitally – it’s the march of progress and even non-technical people are learning the ropes – or at the very least know that they should back up. You can buy USB sticks and even external hard drives in supermarkets, so it is easier to back up now than ever before.

As with all things, there is a “but” and it’s something that affects a minority of customers, but if you are one of the unlucky ones, it affects you in a big way. Hard drives, USB sticks and other electronic storage can (and do) go wrong, either through age, accident, virus infection or something else.

Stop for a moment and think about what you’d lose right now if your hard drive or USB backup failed.

If you’ve ever lost your data, you know the panic and rage that follows…turning the house or office upside down, hoping desperately to find that USB stick that maybe your data was copied to, once upon a time…before collapsing onto the couch as it sinks in: there’s nothing left. Or merrily saving your backups onto the external hard drive that you’ve had a long time and which has never gone wrong – until you check it and find that it has actually gone wrong for some time and that what you thought was saved, isn’t.

So having done the right thing by backing up in the first place, you will no doubt be wondering “so what can I do then”? The thing to do is to think ahead and not be a data loss victim.

Recommended backups

Backing up used to be something only tech geeks did, but like everything else, it has gone mainstream. In an ideal world backups would follow a 3-2-1 approach: 3 copies of your data, with 2 local at your home or office and 1 offsite.

Typically, this means keeping your data on your computer, one copy of precious files on a backup USB drive, and one that automatically uploads to the secure cloud as you add new files. Why? Because that way, the USB drive protects your data if your computer dies, and the cloud copy protects you if something happens to the computer and your USB drive, like fire, flood or theft. This isn’t as far-fetched as you think, as a customer found when their back up was destroyed in the Lutterworth area recently.

3 backups are too fiddly – what backups are the minimum?

It’s a rare home where someone takes the time to sit down each week and carefully run a backup. Not that it’s tricky, but unless you’re one of those cool geeks it’s pretty boring and not a high priority after a long day! Small businesses are usually better, but not always. That’s why we recommend a cloud backup solution or letting us take care of it remotely.

At a minimum, you do need a ‘Cloud’ storage account – where a copy of your important files are kept on your computer but are automatically copied to a secure server as well. Cloud storage has multiple backups so that your data is always safe and depending on the Cloud storage that you use, you can even recover the data after a ransomware attack.

You’ll be able to retrieve files at will, without having to roll back your entire drive, and know your solution has caught even the smallest file change without you needing to flag or mark it in any way – all automatically. Even better, because it’s in the cloud, you can access your secure backup from anywhere. Left a work file at home? No problem, it’s in your cloud backup. On holiday and need to check a detail or show off a photo? No problem, it’s in your cloud backup.

Small Business Backups

As well as file backups there are cloud backup solutions that allow you to not only back up individual files, but your entire computer, so in the event of a major issue you can get your computer up and running again very quickly. In fact some cloud backup solutions even provide a virtual machine that a copy of your computer runs in, so that you can continue to work even whilst the real computer is being rebuilt.

We’re able to get you set up with the perfect backup solution that meets your needs, both now and in case of emergency. If you’re ready to protect your data before you lose it, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Common Reasons for Computers to Break

Common Reasons for Computers to Break

We know computers always break at the worst possible time, but what are the most common reasons for that failure? It’s easy to think it was something you did since you were using it at the time, but even so, normal user actions are rarely the cause of a broken computer.

Physical Damage to the Computer

Accidents happen, but they don’t always mean you need to buy a new computer. As an electrical item, liquid spills are a major problem, yet happen all the time. This could be anywhere from a spill on the keyboard to going overboard with the screen cleaning spray – it doesn’t matter too much if the keyboard is cabled or Wi-Fi to a PC, but if it’s part of a laptop then that liquid can cause serious problems.

Laptop users need to be especially careful when choosing their work surface, as cafes and kitchen tables often have small puddles left behind. If you’re lucky and the liquid didn’t fry the circuits, ongoing corrosion is still likely, as is stickiness to gum up the internal parts.

Similarly, a dropped computer isn’t going to be happy, nor is one that’s been knocked around. Even a light thump of frustration can cause loose cables, disconnections and internal damage.

Age of the Computer

Computer parts have an expected lifetime, especially moving parts like fans or mechanical hard drives. Some computers can run 24/7 for up to a decade, while others can barely be used but fail within warranty.

When age is the issue there are usually early warning signs like extra noise or slowing down, but the actual ‘break’ generally happens when you go to turn the computer on, perhaps after a crash or overnight – either it makes a valiant effort before giving up, or nothing happens at all.

Sometimes it’s luck of the draw with how the computer was manufactured, and quality does play a big part in how long it can keep churning and the phrase “you get what you pay for” does apply in the I.T. world. That unusually good deal may not be the best thing for you to spend your money on.

Power Surges

We like to think electricity is a constant stream that never varies, but computers are particularly sensitive to both surges (too much electricity) and brownouts (not enough electricity). You might notice the lights dimming or flickering during a brownout, or glowing just a tad too strong during a surge. These variations never last long, and they’re not something you can control unless it’s just your house but they can easily break your computer.

A good surge protector can guard against mild increases in voltage, but quality is key as we found recently with a customer whose PC could not boot in Gilmorton. Even though the PC power cable was attached to an extension that had a ‘surge protected label’, it was in fact a low quality one and the power surge just went straight through it.

If the surge is bad enough even a good quality surge protector may not be able to take the charge, but you stand a better chance with one than without it.

Heat

Overheating is a big contributor to premature computer death. Some computer parts run hot and need plenty of cooling to keep them working. You might not feel it from the outside, but internal components can rapidly build up heat that needs to go somewhere.

When your airflow vents get blocked with dust or pet hair, the temperature continues to increase until components literally bake themselves to failure. At set temperatures, the computer will automatically switch off to try and cool down, however the more often this happens and the higher the temperatures, the more likely your computer is to die.

This is especially true for laptops and many times we see customers using their laptops on soft surfaces such as cushions or quilts, which of course simply blocks the vents and increases internal temperature. When using a laptop, wherever possible keep the vents clear and use it on a hard surface.

Hard Drive Failure

Your data is stored on a hard drive, and if you’ve got a mechanical hard drive (most people do), it works a bit like a record player with a spinning ‘platter’ and a mechanical arm that reads it (although the ‘arm’ doesn’t actually touch the surface).

Small bumps, liquid, age, surges and overheating can all trigger hard drive failure.

Along with making your computer unusable, hard drive failure means your data is also lost. Whilst it may be a sudden breakage, take note of any strange noises or repeated crashes and back up your data in advance.

Like a car, your computer needs to be serviced. We can check your computer both physically and its software, to make its running right and will keep on working for you. Give us a call on 01455 209505.

A Free Alternative to Microsoft Office

A Free Alternative to Microsoft Office

When buying a new computer or even reinstalling Windows on an existing computer, many people do not realise that there is no way to reliably transfer a program from one computer to another. That is fine so long as you don’t need to reinstall a program, but there are no guarantees that you will never need to replace your hard drive, or have to reinstall Windows due to a virus infection or some other cause of data corruption, so you may have to reinstall software.

In the past week alone we have had to repair a local PC in Broughton Astley due to a power surge that corrupted the computer file system and also had to reinstall Windows on a local laptop in Hinckley that had a failed hard drive that needed replacing.

Also when we deliver a new computer, we often see a frown on customer’s faces when they try to remember where they put those program installation disks from years ago.

Many times you can just download new device driver software, but when it comes to something like Microsoft Office, it’s a whole new ballgame. All those documents, spreadsheets, etc. need a program to open them and if you don’t have one, you can have a real problem.

If you have found the installation disk, great. If you just have a card with an activation code, you may be able to download the Office software again, depending on the version of Office that you have. Similarly if you bought a download installation package, you may be able to download it again.

But if you do not have the original Office installation disk or installation package, what are your options? Microsoft no longer supply CDs of their software and similarly you can no longer buy individual Office programs such as Outlook or Word. Essentially you have two choices – you either buy an expensive download or rent the Office software on an annual basis.

The Free Office Alternative

There is however a free alternative to Microsoft Office, called Libre Office.

This is an alternative Office suite that is compatible with Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, Powerpoint files and more, and it is free because it is Open Source software. So you can carry on using the files that you already have, without having to buy another copy of Office.

Libre Office is not just for use in the Home, we know of small businesses that choose to use it for general office tasks too. It is reliable and is compatible to a high degree.

Unfortunately, this free software does not provide an alternative to the Outlook email program.

Be careful what you download

If you want to get the Libre Office download, you can get the software from their website at https://www.libreoffice.org/.

If not going straight to the website to get the download, be very careful where you download it from as there are websites out there that try to get you to download it from them, but it is not the genuine article and may even contain malware.

Why not try it out? You may find that you can save yourself some money!

If you need help in transferring your data or installing software, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Upgrading your Computer instead of Buying

Upgrading your computer

Computer technology is always getting updated and after a while the next “latest and greatest” piece of kit comes out. But do you need to keep buying that “latest and greatest”, after all most computers get slower the older they are?

Actually you don’t. Depending on how old your computer or laptop is, there are things that can be done to try to speed things up and help you to put off having to buy another machine.

Regular computer maintenance

The first thing is regular maintenance – such as running ‘Disk Cleanup’ and ‘Defragmenter’ which get rid of the clutter of unused files and arrange the files so that your computer doesn’t waste time looking for them. Both of these can be found in the Start > Program menu > Accessories > System Tools (Windows 7) or search for them on the taskbar of Windows 10 (Windows 10 has regular defragmenting enabled, but check when it last took place as it may be scheduled when the computer is usually off).

Adding computer memory

After this, you may get a speed boost by adding memory (called Random Access Memory or RAM), but many people get confused with this term. The hard drive is the permanent storage for Windows, your programs and files but the memory in your computer  does a lot of the hard work because when you switch on, a copy of everything is loaded into that memory, so that you can use the computer.

The more computer memory you have, the more the computer can do, a bit like having a small desk or a larger one. If you have too much ‘RAM’, your computer will not get any faster so your money can be wasted but not having enough can make your computer slow down to a crawl.

Installing memory is easy, takes next to no time (although you need to be careful and take anti-static precautions) and is relatively cheap. For example, a recent customer wanted to do a PC upgrade in Lutterworth and doubling the ‘RAM’ in their PC increased performance noticeably.

Upgrading your Hard Drive

It’s not just memory ugrades – upgrading the hard drive is also an option. Another customer wanted an SSD PC upgrade in Broughton Astley, where they had a PC with a mechanical hard drive and wanted the much faster SSD drive replacing it, as an SSD drive is an electrical one with no (slower) moving parts. The difference in boot time and responsiveness was dramatic.

Another factor in how well your computer works (particularly when booting up) is how many programs or apps are set to automatically start whenever you switch on. These days many programs assume that they should start automatically but the more that do, the slower boot time gets and your computer resources are being used up, making your computer slower over time.

Simply click the Windows icon key on your keyboard and the letter ‘R’ at the same time, type msconfig in the box, select the startup tab and check what is loading.Whilst this is technically not an upgrade, it can help speed things up a little – you just need to make sure that you only switch off those programs/apps that you don’t need, as some things in that list need to run for the computer to work properly.

Obviously when deciding whether to upgrade or buy new, you need to take into account the age of the computer as you don’t want to spend too much on an old machine, but if you spend wisely you can put off the new purchase for a bit longer.

If you would like help or advice about upgrading your computer, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Phishing – What Is It and How to Avoid It

Phishing – What Is It and How to Avoid It

There’s always some IT jargon to contend with and here is another one – ‘Phishing’ – but you do need to look out for it. ‘Phishing’ is the attempt to obtain your personal information (login details, credit cards etc.) by someone pretending to be someone trustworthy in an email or other electronic communication.

Typically, they may try to get you to a website which may look completely legitimate and identical to the genuine website, such as a bank, and there they get you to disclose information that they want for their own purposes. On the face of it you may read this and think “They wouldn’t catch me out”, but they are very good at what they do and can be very persuasive.

A single click can be the difference between maintaining data security and suffering financial losses and not just personal bank accounts – businesses are especially vulnerable. From the moment just one employee takes the bait in a phishing email, your business is vulnerable to data breaches and extensive downtime.

As well as being vigilant, here are a few tips for things to look for :-

1. Poor spelling and grammar

While occasional typing errors happen to even the best of us, an email filled with errors is a clear warning sign. Most companies push their campaigns through reviews where errors are caught and corrected. Unlikely errors throughout the entire message indicate that the same level of care was not taken, and therefore the message is possibly fraudulent.

2. An offer too good to be true?

Free items or a lottery win sound great, but when the offer comes out of nowhere and with no catch? Take care not to get carried away and do not click without investigating deeper. Remember, this can look as though this is coming from anyone that you may actually happen to deal with – your broadband provider, bank or any other source – and the criminals have just struck lucky in your case that you are an actual customer.

3. Random sender who knows too much

Phishing has advanced in recent years to include ‘spear phishing’ (more jargon!), which is an email or offer designed especially for you or your business. Culprits take details from your public channels, such as a recent function or award, social media, etc. and then use it against you.

The only clue can be that the sender is unknown – they weren’t at the event or involved with you in any way. Take a moment to see if their story checks out.

4. The Website address or email address is not quite right

One of the most effective techniques used in phishing emails is to use domains which sound almost right. For example, [microsoft.info.com] or [pay-pal.com]. This technique is also used in search engine listings where someone pretends to be a company.

Hover over the link with your mouse and review where it will take you. If it doesn’t look right, or is completely different from the link text, send that email to the bin.

5. It asks for personal, financial or business details

Alarm bells should ring when any message contains a request for personal, business or financial information. If you believe there may be a genuine issue, you can check using established, trusted channels such as calling the company using a telephone number that you know is genuine.

Take care if using a search engine to get the number – ensure that the information comes from the genuine website (see tip No.4 above).

While education is the best way to ensure phishing emails are unsuccessful, a robust spam filter and solid anti-virus system provide peace of mind – especially if you are running a business.

Give us a call on 01455 209505 to discuss how we can help secure your system against costly phishing attacks.

3 Internet Habits to Keep Children Smart and Safe

Protect Children Online

How can you make the internet a safer place for your children? It’s a common concern as all parents want their children to be protected and happy whenever they go online. It’s relatively easy to supervise and monitor the very young ones as they stare delightedly at the Disney website, but the risks increase greatly as children get older and more independent.

Safe internet usage goes beyond reminding them not to talk to strangers. With the evolution of the internet and the way it’s now woven seamlessly into our lives, the focus now needs to be on ingrained habits. That means ensuring your children have the tools and responses to online events so that no matter what happens, they’re not placing themselves (or your family) at risk.

Setting up these habits is easy, and begins with three basic understandings:-

Downloads are a no-go

Most children can’t tell the difference between a legitimate download and a scam or malicious link. It’s not their fault, the online world is full of things that will trick even the most savvy adult. The difference is that children tend not to take that extra moment to check exactly where that link is pointing, question whether it’s too good to be true, or even read what they’re agreeing to.

For example, only this morning we collected an infected computer in Lutterworth which had become infected through a teenager downloading software which unknown to them, contained malware.

They want to get back to what they were doing, and if something pops up, their first instinct is to click ‘yes’ – purely so that it goes away. Unfortunately virus and malware writers know this and target children, for example games software patches and music are prime examples. That single click ‘yes’ may have just opened the door to malware and viruses that will ruin their computer – or worse.

Set a family rule that they need to ask permission for all downloads (and an adult will check it first), and to never ever click a popup. When you’re called over to give download permission or check a popup, talk through exactly what you’re checking and why. As your child matures, get them involved in this process so their safe habits extend outside the home.

Critical thinking is essential

Most youngsters think the internet is a magical place and can’t imagine their life without it. With that acceptance though, comes unwavering trust that the internet would never lie to them, never trick them and never hurt them. While we adults know better, it’s only because we already view the internet with a certain level of distrust.

The best way to keep children safe is to teach them to view the internet with critical thinking and not be blindly trusting. That includes teaching them to question the motives of other people online. Is that person really a child? What do they really want? Simply make them think that they need to treat the internet in the same way as they should beware of strangers in the street.

Unfortunately, all children do need to be aware that predators use the internet to target and lure children. Ensure your children tell you immediately if a stranger makes contact. Along with this stranger danger, teach them to identify what marks something as suspicious, and what they should avoid. If they come across anything inappropriate, they should shut down the computer and come straight to you.

The internet is forever

Children have an overwhelming drive to contribute to the internet, they don’t think twice about recording a video, jumping in a chat room or onto social media. The world really is their playground!

But what they don’t understand (until its too late), is that anything that they upload, write or say is on the internet forever. Even if they delete it or use a platform where content self-erases, someone can still screenshot and send it right back out.

Many cyber-bullying cases are based around this exact type of scenario.

Once your children know that everything they post is permanent, they’ll hopefully be more likely to pause and think before posting – every time.

If you would like us to help you to secure your computer and help keep your family safe – give us a ring on 01455 209505.

Why Do Computers Slow Down Over Time?

Why computers slow down over time

Remember how you smiled when you turned on your new computer and it loaded in a flash? Button on, ready to go, those were the days!

After a year or two though, it doesn’t seem to be quite as zippy – the thing is that you’re not imagining it. It really has slowed down, not just in comparison to newer models and your expectations…there’s a measurable drop in speed and power that has nothing to do with worn out parts.

The good news is that a little maintenance can have your computer working faster again. Let’s identify the slowdown culprits:-

Start-up applications

It’s very convenient to have Skype start automatically and your anti-virus too. In fact, many of the applications starting themselves with the computer are a great benefit to you, but some of them are getting a little too ‘helpful’.

For example, ‘iTunes helper’ loads in the background to speed things up when you connect your device – but if you can’t even remember the last time you ran iTunes on your computer, then it can go. Programs like that are holding onto a portion of your processing power and adding to your speed issues but as more and more programs get installed, more and more think that they have the right to start whenever you switch your computer on.

The average home computer automatically loads around 75 programs at start-up!

Temporary junk

Computers are kind of messy. They leave temporary files and snippets of information all over your hard drive, each action leaving a trail rather like a roaming toddler with a sticky sandwich. Every webpage, every image on that webpage, every program you run and every game you play leaves something behind.

It may be information called “cookies”, saved game files, auto-restore files or even a log so that you can hit the undo button 100 times while it remembers your actions for you. A memorable one is the backup files that your computer can store, after it has had a major update – sometimes these files can be huge.

The more junk your computer builds up, the slower it gets.

Viruses and malware

These infections sit in the background consuming resources while doing various malicious things. They may be spying on your actions, stealing your information or reaching out through your network to infect others.

Occasionally, the impact is limited to seeing your computer slow to a crawl, however the flow-on financial costs of an infection can easily be larger than you realise – for home users as well as businesses.

Make sure that you have a good antivirus program running – we recommend using paid versions as they tend to protect you more comprehensively than free versions.

Bloating

With every new version of software comes a new set of features, introductory sequences and design improvements. The problem with this is that the application becomes larger and larger with each new version, requiring more system resources to install and run – and slowing your computer down.

That is why you usually find that each new version has higher computer ‘minimum specifications’ than previous versions – but do you really need that ‘latest and greatest’ version?

Just like a car, computers need regular maintenance – we offer a Tune-Up service to bring your computer closer to its original speed and extend its life. For example, a recent computer tune up in Lutterworth left a very happy customer who thought that they would need a new computer, but we managed to put that off for a while!

Give us a call on 01455 209505 to book a computer Tune Up.

Why Spam is a Small Business Nightmare

Why Spam is a Small Business Nightmare

15 years after the world united to crack down on spam emails, we’re still struggling with overloaded Inboxes and estimates of the extent of global spam, range from 60% to over 80% of email traffic. All that unwanted email continues to flood the internet, much of it targeted towards small businesses, and the impact goes wider than you might think.

Here’s the full breakdown of how modern spam works and how it’s hurting your business.

What is spam?

Generally speaking, spam is any unwanted message that lands in your email, comes via text, social media messaging, or other communication platform. It might be sent to your main business account, eg your ‘contact us’ email, or direct to your employees. Most of the time, spam is annoying but relatively innocent messages from another business inviting you to buy/do/see something. They’re newsletters, reminders, invitations, sales pitches, etc. You may know the sender and have a previous relationship with them, or they might be a complete stranger.

Occasionally, spam may even be part of a cyber attack.

Why you’re getting spammed.

Maybe you or your employee signed up for a newsletter or bought a raffle ticket to win a car. Perhaps you got onto the mailing list accidentally after enquiring about a product, not knowing that simply getting a brochure sent through would trigger a spam-avalanche. Often there’s fine print that says they’ll not only use your details to send you their marketing, but they’ll share your details with 3rd parties so they can send you messages too. That single email address can be passed around the internet like wildfire, and before you know it, you’re buried under spam.

Sometimes, and more than we’d like to think, your details are found illicitly, perhaps through a hacked website for example, like the recent LinkedIn leak. More often though, your email is simply collected by a computer ‘scraping’ the internet – scouring forums and websites for plain text or linked emails and selling them as prime spam targets. It’s easy to see how individual office employees receive an average of 120 emails daily, over half of which are spam!

Spam is not just annoying.

We all know spam is annoying, but did you know it’s also resource hungry? Your employees are spending hours each week sorting their email, assessing each one for relevance and deleting the spam. Too often, legitimate emails from clients and customers get caught up and are accidentally deleted. Add in the temptation to read the more interesting spam emails and productivity drops to zero.

On the other side of the business, your email server might be dedicating storage and processing power to spam emails, occasionally to the point where inboxes get full and real mail is bouncing out. While most spam is simply an unwanted newsletter or sale notice, there’s also the risk that any links may be a cyber-attack in disguise. After all, one click is all it takes to open the door to viruses, ransomware, phishing or other security emergencies.

How to reduce the spam.

Normally, spam is filtered out locally by your antivirus security software (depending on your choice of software of course) and all email servers have the capacity to use in-built filtering software before you get it – one of the most common software packages being called ‘SpamAssassin’. On top of that, there are third-party anti-spam companies which you can use to add further filtering, where typically the third party gets all your emails first and processes their filtering on them, before it even gets to your server.

Also the 2003 Can Spam Act is a global set of anti-spam laws that was set up that requires all marketers to follow certain rules, like not adding people to mailing lists without their permission, and always including an ‘unsubscribe’ link. This why many companies send you an email to confirm that you want to be added to their mailing lists, even when you have asked for it in the first place.

So firstly, make sure you’re not accidentally giving people permission to email you – check the fine print or privacy policy. Next, look for the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email. Unfortunately, not all of them include the link, or they hide it somewhere impossible to see.

The worst spammers use that ‘unsubscribe’ click to confirm that your email address is valid/active and then sell it on, so don’t automatically go for the ‘unsubscribe’ link – look at the email first and decide before clicking.

If you need help with your anti-spam protection, call us on 01455 209505.