Archive for Home users – Page 3

Spectre and Meltdown – What They Mean for You

Modern computers contain processors (CPUs) which do the heavy calculations that make your device work – the better the CPU, the faster your device. These computer chips are used in devices made by computer manufacturers all over the world, as well as Microsoft, Apple, Google and are in servers everywhere.

‘Spectre’ and ‘Meltdown’

Severe design flaws were recently discovered in CPUs, and these vulnerabilities were called ‘Spectre’ and ‘Meltdown’. Essentially these vulnerabilities can allow hackers to take advantage of the fact that whilst it is not being fully used, modern CPUs can do something called ‘speculative execution’. This is a techy way of saying that they take notice of what tasks you do often, and try to do those tasks for you in the background and store the data for you, so that it is quicker for you then next time you choose to do that task.

It’s a bit like going to the same coffee shop every day and one day you find that they have your cup ready for you. Except in this case instead of coffee its data – at times very important data – and that’s the problem. This data is held in something called a ‘cache’ and just sits there until it is told to clear itself.

The ‘Spectre’ vulnerability allows attackers to trick the processor into performing these speculative operations and ‘Meltdown’ can collect the data that is created. To date there have been no reports of attacks but as this has been known in the IT community for a while it is only a matter of time, especially given the fact that these vulnerabilities exist in CPUs made over very many years – so there are plenty of them to attack.

It is serious enough that CPU makers and makers of Operating Systems are rushing to get security fixes out to users. Intel are issuing updates for their processors to fix the vulnerability and AMD are working on a patch. Microsoft have issued updates for Windows 7, 8.1 and 10, with Apple have released updates for iOS11.2, MacOS 10.13.2 and tvOS 11.2. Google, Amazon etc. are also looking at the issue.

What does it actually mean for you?

The fixes that are being issued make changes to the way CPUs speed up your work – in effect the fixes are putting the brakes on the CPU to an extent and potentially reducing its performance. Some people may see a minimal impact but some may see a significant slowdown in the performance of their device after the fixes have been applied.

At the present time, it is believed that Windows 10 with newer CPUs will see a negligible impact but with older CPUs there may be a noticeable decrease in performance. Most noticeable decrease in performance are Windows 7 and 8 machines with older CPUs and according to Microsoft, fixes for Windows Servers will have a “significant impact” on performance after the updates.

It may be that over time, these updates may be refined and the impact may be reduced, but for the time being if you see a marked decrease in the performance of your device, it may well be that fixes for CPU flaws are causing it or contributing to it.

Whilst it may be unwelcome news, it is vital that you do keep all your updates current, no matter what device you are using.

If you would like help please call us on 01455 209505.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.