Archive for Information Security

Looking After Your External Hard Drive

Looking after External Hard Drives

Despite its many advantages, many people still do not use ‘Cloud’ storage as they prefer to use external hard drives that they keep in their home or office. External hard drives free up storage, offer portability, and provide a lifeline in case of computer disaster.

If you are still using external hard drives, it pays to take good care of these compact, convenient devices. Here are some helpful tips.

Don’t knock the drive.

Depending on the type of drive you have, impact could damage it. The hard drive’s mechanical drives work a little like a record player – a bit like spinning platter and a needle arm reading it.

Note, you don’t have to worry about this with a Solid State Drive (SSD) as there are no moving parts.

Don’t pull.

You can damage the drive port with a hard or sideways yank on its USB plug. Remove the device cable with a gentle pull on the plug itself (after ejecting it first).

Then, when you are reconnecting the external drive, inspect the connector before plugging the cable back in. Look for any damage, debris, or corrosion to help maximize the device’s lifespan.

Don’t skip steps.

You may be in a hurry, but always take the time to remove the hard drive from your desktop before physically unplugging it. On Windows, you’ll usually right click on the drive and press Eject. For Macs, you can drag the drive icon to the recycle bin (which changes to an eject button).

Never unplug the drive while moving data to or from the hard drive unless you want to risk data corruption.

Don’t suffocate the drive.

Ever put your hand on the hard drive after prolonged use? It’s hot. Don’t immediately store it away in a bag or tight space. Give it some time to cool off first.

When it’s out, and in use, keep the drive’s vents clear of other objects so that it has some airflow. Set it on a flat, level surface. Avoid placing it on paper, towels, or other cloth items that could add to its heat levels.

Condensation.

Condensation is an enemy to your hard drive. Hard drive failures can be caused by environmental factors such as temperature and air quality too.

Don’t expect immortality or invincibility.

A hard drive isn’t going to last forever. They can also get lost or stolen. Don’t let one external hard drive be the only place you are backing up your data.

If you want to guarantee that your data is safe, have a backup on your computer, on the drive, and if possible, a copy in the Cloud.

If you need help deciding on the best hard drive for your needs, give us a call on 01455 209505.

What is the Best Way to Backup?

What is the best way to Backup?

“That will never happen to me”. We get through our lives telling ourselves the worst won’t happen to us, but we have seen the impact when customers call us in after losing their important data – such as photos and documents. So, what’s the best way to backup?

Approaches to Backup

There are several off-the-shelf backup options you can use. Let’s consider the pros and cons of the most popular ones.

USB Thumb Drives

Also known as “flash drives,” “pen drives,” or “memory sticks,” these thumb-sized devices are compact and portable. But, they have size limitations compared to hard drives. Also, the mobility makes them easy to lose (which can actually set the disaster scenario in motion).

Additionally, a USB thumb drive is robust when not plugged in, but more vulnerable when attached. If someone inadvertently snaps the drive or employs too much force, they can put the data on that backup at risk. Also, as with all electronic devices, they can sometimes fail.

The cheap ones also tend to be slow, which can make backing up sluggish.

USB Hard Drives

Portable hard drives increase the data storage available, often at a decent price. They are designed to be compact and mobile. You can prioritize durability, processing speed, storage volumes and more.

Hard drives are less likely to get damaged than a thumb drive. If knocked or jostled, the cables are flexible. Still, a hard drive can also be prone to physical failure. Selecting an external solid state drive (SSD) can help since it has no moving parts. Information is stored instead in microchips.

Cloud Storage

Backing up to the cloud stores data on an external, secure server. If thieves take your computers and USB backup, you can still access your data on the cloud. Cloud storage providers build in redundancy (multiple copies) to ensure your backup remains safe.

Most cloud storage services back up to secure centres with thousands of servers storing data. They’ll have their own server backups too, just in case they’re the ones hit by a disaster. The providers also encrypt data during transit to further ensure compliance and security.

Migrating to a third-party cloud storage service also cuts the clutter at your home or office. You can count on expert help to ensure security and compliance, plus, you can cut operational costs by offloading in-house storage or external hard drive expenses.

What’s the Best Answer?

Don’t think disaster won’t strike. Research has found data loss and downtime are most often caused by:

• Hardware failures (45% of total unplanned downtime)
• Loss of power (35%)
• Software failure (34%)
• Data corruption (24%)
• External security breaches (23%)
• Accidental user error (20%).

We recommend the 3-2-1 backup strategy. This means having 3 copies of your data. Two (2) of these would be located on different devices (e.g. on your computer and on a backup drive). The other remaining backup copy (1) would be secured offsite, in the cloud.

Want to secure your data for the worst? Give us a call on 01455 209505.

Protecting Your Customers and Your Business Too

Protecting your Customers Information

Security and privacy are at the very top of priorities when considering business IT. Major data leaks are in mainstream news on a near-daily basis and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of customers are impacted every time they happen. The goal should be to make sure our businesses are kept out of danger.

Major institutions, such as multi-national banks and credit card companies, are expected to handle your data well. Unfortunately, less secured businesses require access to our data too.

Even just booking into a hotel often requires you to leave personal details. These few pieces of information are often more than enough to steal your identity, start a line of credit, and access many of your vital services. You can often only hope your chosen hotel handles your information as well as your bank does.

Securing Your Business with Smarter Thinking

There is no way to change how your favourite hotel service operates, but you can affect your own business to improve its security for your customers.

You don’t need the manpower or funding of a major banking chain to handle data securely. With simple tweaks and powerful changes, you can minimize the chances of your business suffering a data breach big enough close your doors for good.

By stepping up IT security to meet modern threats, you can help to limit your liability, put customer’s minds at ease and give your firm a competitive advantage.

Limit Your Data Collection

The single most important thing to consider when securing your business is how much data do you really need to hold anyway? Carefully consider the value of every piece of personal information you collect in any given transaction. Do you have a use for everything you ask for?

Emails, addresses, and contact numbers are useful for receipts and marketing, but additional data many firms collect is often useless and wasteful. Each piece of unnecessary data you hold represents additional value to hackers and thieves. While you may be unable to use your own stored data, hackers will find great value in gathering more personal information. This increases your liability without adding any extra value.

Clearly, the recent GDPR regulations also apply, so it isn’t just good practice to run through the details that you keep.

Consider Your Access Requirements

Think carefully about who has access to information within your business and precisely why they need to access it. Often security problems begin when employees have blanket privileges to access everything within the firm.

Access restrictions should be specific to the company structure. Employees should be limited to only what is strictly required for their role. Managers, for example, are likely to need systems that their junior staff cannot access.

Physical access restrictions are critical too. Unattended computers and mobile devices should require a password or identity verification to log on – preferably without other people knowing the password or leaving the password on a post-it note!

Treating Data with Care

The way you treat your data in day-to-day business reflects the impact hackers or IT disaster will have on your business when it is lost. Do you know where your backups are, and when they were last tested?

Firms often first know they are in trouble when they realize all their data is stored on a business laptop or device that could be easily lost or stolen. Some firms maintain backups on USB drives or shuttle a portable hard drive between home and work.

Protecting your customers and your business is all about the smart application of IT knowledge in a cost-effective and efficient way.

We can help you to protect the most valuable assets your business owns – data. Call us on 01455 209505.

OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?

OK Google, How Safe Are You Really?

Are you prompting Siri, Google, or Alexa? When you talk a home assistant, you join a growing number of smart homes.

Smart home assistants search online, start phone calls, order groceries, play music, turn lights on. All with a single spoken command.

Research into how people use Google or Alexa demonstrates the core features. Listening to music ranked first. Checking weather and asking for general information rounded out the top three. Setting timers and reminders, asking for the news or jokes (perhaps to make up for the news?) are also common.

Yet, the question remains, just how safe are these virtual assistants? After all, having a smart speaker in your home means there is always an open microphone in your house.

Smart Speaker and Home Assistant Safety Concerns

The convenience of the speaker demands that it always be on, ready and waiting for you to say “Hey Siri” or “OK Google.” Once triggered the device records the command, sends the data to servers for processing, and figures out its response.

Smart speaker users can log in to view the history of queries on their accounts. This prompts some concerns that these mega-companies will use the information for financial gain. For example, those talking about an overseas holiday might start seeing related ads on their computers.

Someone hacking into the home assistant to gain access to your personal information is another concern. Those who set smart speakers as a hub for many devices also create more points of vulnerability.

It’s difficult to anticipate all the ways the assistant could prove to be too good a listener. In one case, a voice assistant recorded a private conversation and sent it to the couple’s contacts list.

Steps to Stay Secure with a Smart Speaker

That candid conversation aside, few big privacy issues or personal data breaches have been reported – so far. Nevertheless, if taking advantage of Alexa, Siri, or Google helper, keep these strategies in mind.

1. Clear your history. Don’t leave everything you’ve ever asked it stored on the company server. The assistant will relearn your commands quickly.
2. Connect with caution. It’s great to be able to turn on the TV and dim the lights without leaving the comfort of your sofa. Be wary of connecting security or surveillance devices to your home assistant.
3. Mute the microphone. Yes, it undermines your ability to call from the closet “OK, Google, what’s the weather like today?” But, turning off the mic when it’s not in use stops recording without you knowing about it. Yes, the microphone may still be powered up, but you can expressly mute it.
4. Secure your network. Home assistants do their work by connecting to the Internet using your network. Ensure they are accessing a password protected network. They should use devices (e.g. routers) changed from default password settings – unfortunately, most people just use that default setting and it leaves your network open to outsiders with the knowledge to be able to get into it.
With a little effort you can gain convenience without worry.

Want more questions answered about setting up a smart speaker to be safe and reliable? We’re here to help. Give us a call on 01455 209505.

Is There A Safe Way to Use the Cloud?

Is There A Safe Way to Use the Cloud

Cloud technology has grown to new heights in recent years. Ten years ago ‘the cloud’ was jargon almost nobody was aware of, today it is a phrase used almost daily – after all its available even on your smartphone. More and more homes and businesses today are taking advantage of the huge benefits cloud services have to offer.

The sudden and widespread adoption of this new technology has raised questions too. Some want to fully understand what the cloud is before committing their vital data to it. Most want to find out what the cloud can do for them. Everyone wants to know, is it safe?

What Is The Cloud?

The Cloud is an abstract name for an engineering principle that allows you to store, retrieve, and work on your data without worrying about the specifics of having and maintaining it on your premises. Storing your data on the cloud essentially means saving it on a secure server without worrying about the fine details or costs.

Your data may be stored on a single computer, or distributed across multiple servers held at secure data centres all around the world. Most often it’s stored across one or more data centres as close as possible to your physical location.

From the perspective of the end user, the big idea behind the cloud is that where data is stored ultimately doesn’t matter to you. Your cloud server takes care of retrieving your data as quickly and efficiently as possible, whilst keeping it safe and secure.

With cloud technology, you are free to forget about the specifics and worry only about the bigger picture.

Security In The Cloud

Many people are concerned by the idea of their confidential data being distributed somewhere else. Often, people imagine small unguarded computers being responsible for vital company information. In a cloud setting, almost nothing could be further from the truth.

A modern data centre is many times more secure than an office server in your own building. The difference could be compared to storing your cash in a highly secured bank vault versus a locked box on your desk.

The reality is more like many hundreds, or thousands, of computers are stacked up multiple stories in height. Data centres make storing and securing data their entire business, meaning they employ high-level cybersecurity and back it up with top of the line physical security too, including Bio-Security measures.

Today, digital assets are treated with security previously used only for cash, or precious metals such as silver and gold. Walled compounds, security gates, guards, and CCTV protect physical servers from unwanted access. Redundant power supplies even protect services against unplanned power outages.

State of the art digital security encrypts data, secures transmission, and monitors services for intrusion too.

Cloud Convenience

Storing data in the cloud means having easy access and very regular backups. People can work on documents at the same time, save files, and transfer documents without worrying about redundant copies and saving over previous versions.

The cloud acts as the ultimate productivity and security tool. Many firms haven’t known they needed it until they started using it.

User Security

The most significant threat to your cloud security comes from the users. Creating a weak password or reusing an old one to access your cloud services, opens up your data to easy access by hackers.

Falling for a phishing scam, or accidentally installing malicious software on your computer gives attackers the single opportunity they need to strike.

And of course, keeping your password on a post-it note is unfortunately an all too common thing.

Attacking a fortified, secure data centre is almost impossible. Targetting a user with common attacks and weak passwords is comparatively simple. These issues can be guarded against and prevented with training, awareness, and simple security tools. A simple password manager can guard against a large number of the biggest threats to your data.

Protection from Ransomware

Some cloud providers give added protection by having multiple backups of your data. Not only does this make sure that your data is always available, it also allows some providers to simply delete any ransomware-infected data and replace it with clean data – so you don’t have to pay hundreds of pounds to get your data unencrypted.

In today’s modern tech environment, the cloud is not only safe, it’s very likely the safest, most reliable, and most secure way to store your critical data.

We offer a variety of cloud services to help you, whether at home or a business. Give us a call on 01455 209505.

Has Your Email Been Hijacked?

Has Your Email been Hijacked?

A common problem found by some customers in recent months has been spam emails appearing to come from their own accounts.  Despite not knowing why, there are reports of friends, family, and contacts receiving spam email that appears to come from them and this has understandably worried many people.

Some have had their accounts suspended or shut down by their service providers as a result.  For many, this experience can be highly disruptive as well as worrying. It’s a problem that can cause many issues in both your professional and personal life.

The key to defence is learning how these attacks happen, and figuring out what you can do to protect yourself and your contacts against them.

Hackers Using Your Email Against You

Scammers that send out spam messages are continually looking for ways to make the process faster, cheaper, and more efficient. It’s the best way in which they can make more money every day by scamming unsuspecting victims for even more cash.

One of the most efficient ways they do this is by hijacking ready-made, trusted email accounts like your own. Hackers have several tools at their disposal to attempt to hijack your accounts.

Unfortunately some of the things which make emailing fast and easy to use, means that details such as those in the ‘From’ field, are easy to fake. A hacker might change the ‘From’ information to make it appear as if the email comes from anyone, simply by creating an account in that name in an email program – the details of the real sender are usually hidden away in something called an email header.

Defending yourself against this kind of misuse is difficult but you can help yourself by being cautious and if you believe something to be out of place, such as a strange ‘Subject’ title or attachment, you can try to verify that an email, even one you expect to receive, does come from the person that you believe it to be from. If you have any doubt, give them a quick call to verify – if their emails have been hacked, then they will appreciate the warning.

If your email provider flags up an incoming email as ‘suspicious’, or ‘untrustworthy’, it may well be.

Stolen Credentials

Hackers often buy large bundles of email addresses and passwords from the dark web. Leaked emails are often put up for sale following hacks of major companies and service providers (for example see previous Blog post here).

The value of these details comes from the fact that most passwords are unlikely to have been changed, the details attached to them are trusted, and often get hackers access to additional services too.

It is unlikely that you will know about every single hack incident that happens to a company that you use, so change passwords regularly.

How To Detect an Email Intrusion

It can take a long time before you’re aware that malicious hackers are using your details. You might even be the last person in your contacts to know.

The first sign to look out for is a large number of unexpected emails in your Inbox. These are likely to be replies to emails you never sent in the first place. Out of office, automatic responses, people complaining about spam, and people responding to the email as if it were genuine may all come to you first.

Keep a close eye on unexpected emails appearing suddenly in your Outbox. A hacker may be ‘spear-phishing’ (pretending to be from a trusted source) to someone that you do business with or trust. By acting as you, using your address and details, they may be able to divert payments or confidential information to their accounts instead.

A typical example is a business that receives an email from another business, stating that their bank details have changed and to make payments using the new bank details. Whenever you get an email like this, then always verify with the sender.

Do bear in mind that extra emails in your Inbox or Outbox do not happen every time, so the absence of these emails does not mean that you can relax your cautious approach.

Protecting Yourself Against Hackers, Attackers, And Hijackers

Sometimes your computer might have been compromised to give hackers access to your services, or malicious software may have infected your machine to steal data and infect your contacts. So in the first instance, use a good (and preferably not just a free version) of an Internet Security program.

Take extra care to change your passwords if you believe your email has or may have been accessed by hacker. Use a different, more secure password for your email than you do for every other service, such as using a mixture of capitals, numbers and special characters. Your email account is often the key to accessing many of the services you use most, so you need to protect it as much as you can.

Run a virus scan and maintain security updates. If you think your computer could have been infected, have your machine and services looked at by a professional if you believe there is a risk that your data is being used.

Business Email Users can Authenticate their own Email

If you have your own email service, you can enable various email authentication methods such as SPF, DKIM and DMARC which are ways that your genuine emails can verify that they are genuine – helping to make it more difficult for someone to pretend that they are you. It also has the added benefit that it helps you pass through spam filtering.

Unfortunately, some email services (especially at the cheaper end of the market) don’t check for these authentications, so you do need to be a little bit choosy about which email service you use.

If you think your email could have been hijacked, or your details used elsewhere, give us a call on 01455 209505.

Don’t Fall Victim to Webcam Blackmail

Don't fall Victim to Webcam Blackmail

Many customers have reported recent scam messages from individuals claiming to have intercepted their username and password. These messages often state they have been watching your screen activity and webcam while you have been unaware.

Typically, attackers threaten to broadcast footage and your web browsing details to your contacts, colleagues, or social media channels. Demanding payment in Bitcoin payments, malicious hackers blackmail their victims to keep confidential information private.

Where Have the Attacks Come From?

In many cases where hackers have claimed to have a victims’ password, this has turned out to be true, but usually its not because you have been hacked – but rather that a company you have had dealings with has.

In the last few years alone, many large websites have suffered enormous hacks which have released confidential details on many of their users. LinkedIn, Yahoo, Myspace and TalkTalk all suffered massive and devastating hacks. Some users of these services are still feeling the consequences today.

The details leaked from these sites, and others facing the same issues, are sold online for years after the initial breach. Hackers buy username and password combinations in the hopes of reusing them to access services, steal money, or blackmail their owners.

How to Respond if You get One of these Emails

If you have been contacted by one of these hackers, it is a scary reality that they could have access to your credentials, data, and online services. That said, accounts that share the same password should be changed immediately. Security on additional services you use should be updated too.

The only thing you can do in response to this type of email is to ignore it. This “we recorded you” email is a scam made much more believable because they probably do have one of your real passwords gained from a site hack, but that does not mean that they have access to your computer or Webcam.

Self Defence On the Web

When using online services, a unique password for every site is your number one defence. A good password manager program makes this practical and straightforward too.

Using a different password for each site you use means that hackers can only gain access to one site at a time. A hack in one place should never compromise your other accounts by revealing the single password you use everywhere – unfortunately we still do come across customers that only use one password for everything.

Often, people think that maintaining many passwords is hard work or even impossible to do. In truth, it’s almost always easier to keep tabs with a password manager than it is to use the system you have in place today.

A high quality and secure password manager such as LastPass, or 1Password, can keep track of all your logins efficiently and securely. They often offer the chance to improve your security by generating random and strong passwords that hackers will have a tougher time cracking.

Password management services offer a host of features that help you log in, remind you to refresh your security, and make your safety a number one priority. After using a manager for just a short time, you can be forgiven for wondering how you managed without it.

If you think you might have been hacked already, or want to prevent it from ever happening, give us a call on 01455 209505 to help update your security.

CSH Computer Services is a local business providing PC and Laptop repair and I.T. support services to Homes and Businesses. We are based near Lutterworth, Hinckley and Broughton Astley in Leicestershire and provide a full range of services, from PC and Laptop repairs, PC and Laptop upgrades, sales of new computers and workstations plus business network support. We also provide Virus and Malware disinfection, Broadband installation and troubleshooting, data recovery, Wireless networking and troubleshooting, plus much more. We work in and around the whole Leicestershire area and can be seen daily in Lutterworth, Hinckley, Broughton Astley, Market Harborough, Nuneaton, Rugby, Leicester and surrounding areas too.

Invest Well in your IT Security

Invest Well in your Business IT Security

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a common rule for many business owners.  It serves to protect your business against unnecessary costs and unneeded downtime – but it can pose an outright threat when it comes to IT security.  

Security threats to your firm move so fast that your IT should be working just as hard as your company just to keep up.  Every day, hundreds of thousands of new malware threats are released.  Falling even hours behind means any one of these attacks can threaten your business.

The single most dangerous thing IT security can do is stand still.  Keeping up with the latest advice, technology, and updates the security industry offers is vital to keep your business safe.  This makes up much of the unseen job of IT professionals.  Hackers never stop looking for new ways into your system, which means your security can’t stop looking for ways to keep them out.

Modern Systems for Modern Business

One of the most common security threats a business opens itself to is using an outdated operating system or software package.  Many firms are scared to upgrade, update, or renew their IT over fears of breaking legacy systems.  Many rely heavily on old software and are afraid to make a large change themselves.  Some businesses today still run machines on Windows XP, an operating system first released back in 2001.

Old operating systems such as Windows XP, Vista and from next year Windows 7, stop receiving security updates and patches that protect against newly released attacks.  These systems become very vulnerable, presenting a large target for knowledgeable hackers.  This happens many years after newer versions have been released, giving knowing IT firms a chance to migrate safely.

Hackers are always on the lookout for businesses that run IT equipment outside of its suggested service life.  A server, desktop computer, or peripheral is a golden opportunity for criminals to enter and threaten a business.

Hackers purchase their attacks on the dark web, safe in the knowledge that old systems won’t be patched.  These attacks can then be used to attack unguarded firms to steal or compromise vital company data.

An unpatched old machine is like a valuable security door left propped open overnight.

Smart Budgets

Budgeting for business is a difficult task.  We aim to make the most of everything we spend and reduce spending as much as we can and IT security can easily fall very far down the list of priorities.

IT can seem like an easy way to cut costs.  It’s a department that the customer doesn’t always benefit from directly, and when it’s working well, it might not be on the radar at all. Despite working largely behind the scenes, successful IT is one of the critical components of every highly successful firm.

Even businesses far removed from the IT world, typically uses payment machines, ordering systems, and inventory.  Even restaurants and retail stores rely on computers to operate.  Downtime for any critical system can be a complete disaster.  A business can be unable to trade, and costs can mount up fast.

When vital IT components are used by the customer, a sales website, or an automated booking system for example, the problem can multiply tenfold.

Keep On Top Of The Essentials

Good IT isn’t built on high peaks and deep troughs in the yearly budget.  The kind of IT that makes your business and helps it to grow is built by smart financing and careful planning.

Maintaining steady updates, keeping pace with the latest security, and building your IT as you build your business keeps you in the driving seat when it matters most.

When IT is planned and issues are solved before they appear, security becomes cheaper, easier, and many times more effective.  System upgrades can be planned out months, if not years in advance so you are never caught unawares.

Don’t let your IT be broken before you take steps to fix it.  Move ahead of the curve and give us a call on 01455 209505.

New Years Computer Resolutions

New Years Computer Resolutions

New Year resolutions can come and go, but if you would like to keep your computer running smoothly, here are a few tips that can help.

Running the Best Security Software

Most computers today run at least some form of basic antivirus.  In the modern day however, threats have evolved to be more sophisticated, more damaging, and much more common.   Ransomware, malware, phishing, and zero-day attacks all work to attack unpatched systems without strong security.

Today, to keep up with increasing threats, you need a complete internet security package.   A layered system means more than just virus scanning.  A comprehensive security package includes prevention, detection, firewall and system monitoring at a minimum.   These layers work together to provide security many times stronger than a stand-alone system.

Reliable, up-to-date, security keeps you safe online.  It’s a resolution you simply can’t afford to skip.

Clean Up Files

Cleaning up unnecessary files is the number one way to gain additional storage space on a typical device.  It’s cost-effective without any extra hardware purchases too.

Almost all computers have files hanging around from old software, data or applications they no longer need.  Just like tidying the spare room or de-cluttering the kitchen, clearing files off your desktop and organizing your emails will leave your computer feeling refreshed and new again.

Restart Your Computer

Fully shutting down a computer and rebooting can take time.  When you are watching the clock, waiting to start a task or get work done, it can feel like an eternity.  Most of us enjoy simply opening the lid or powering on the screen to have everything ready to run.

Many times, we come across a computer that has not beeen fully restarted in weeks and these habits can cause issues with running software and the operating system too. Hardware updates, security patches, and critical updates often wait for a reboot before they install and reboots or shutdowns perform essential maintenance tasks too.

Merely performing a reboot at least every once in a while can secure your system and help get rid of software problems and updates can prevent new issues from cropping up too. Our general advice is to shutdown daily, unless there is a reason not to do so.

Use A Password Manager

Hacks of large institutions and popular websites are frequently in the news today.  Almost every month a major service reveals they have been hacked, their database compromised, and their customer credentials have been stolen.

For this reason, it is very unwise to use the same password to access multiple websites.  This can be a challenge for many.  It’s clearly impossible to remember a unique and secure password for every site you visit.  We recommend using a password manager that can store and recall your passwords for you.

A good password manager relies on just one, very secure, remembered password to safeguard an encrypted database of all your login credentials.  The password database is often stored in the cloud for access from all your necessary devices.  A manager can typically assist in creating a strong, secure password for each of your accounts too.

Using a good password manager and unique password for every site protects you against the attacks commonly in the news.  Hacks compromising major services from your providers will be powerless against directly affecting your other accounts and services.

Keep Your Computer Away from Dust

Dust, hair, and household debris are one of the major causes of premature death for computers.  Fans, used to cool components, suck in house dust as well as the air they need.  This dust often clogs up the inside of the device and overheats internal components.

If possible, keep a tower PC off the carpet and don’t run your laptop sitting on the floor, blanket, or other soft furnishings.  Cleaning out your device is as good a resolution as any, and there’s never a better time than now.

For a little help sticking to your digital new year resolutions and starting off on the right foot, give us a call today on 01455 209505.

Common Malware to Watch Out For

Common Types of Malware Infection

The term “virus” is often used to describe many different types of infection a computer might have and can describe any number of potential computer programs. What these programs have in common are they are typically used to cause damage, steal data, or spread across the network but they are usually designed for a malicious or criminal intent right from the start.

Malware (‘malicious software’) is any software used for negative purposes on a personal computer  and can actually be legitimate software, but which is being deliberately misused.

Adware

Short for ‘advertising-supported software’, adware is a type of malware that delivers advertisements to your computer.  These advertisements are often intrusive, irritating, and often designed to trick you into clicking something that you don’t want. A common example of malware is pop-up ads that appear on many websites and mobile applications.

Adware often comes bundled with “free” versions of software that uses these intrusive advertising to make up costs.  Commonly it is installed without the user’s knowledge and may be made excessively difficult to remove.

Spyware

‘Spyware’ is designed to spy on the user’s activity without their knowledge or consent.  Often installed in the background, spyware can collect keyboard input, harvest data from the computer, monitor web activity and more.

Spyware typically requires installation to the computer. This is commonly done by tricking users into installing spyware themselves instead of the software or application that they thought they were getting. Victims of spyware are often be completely unaware of its presence until the data stolen is acted on in the form of fraudulent bank transactions or stolen online accounts.

Virus

A typical virus may install a keylogger to capture passwords, logins, and bank information from the keyboard.  It might steal data, interrupt programs, and cause the computer to crash but  more commonly, includes a ‘ransomware’ package – see below.

Modern virus programs commonly use your computers processing power and internet bandwidth to perform tasks remotely for hackers – the first sign of this can be when the computer sounds like it is doing a lot of work when no programs should be running.

A computer virus is often spread through installing unknown software or downloading attachments that contain more than they seem but perhaps the most common is by links in emails.

Ransomware

A particularly malicious variety of malware, known as ransomware, prevents the user from accessing their own files until a ransom is paid.  Files within the system are often encrypted with a password that won’t be revealed to the user until the full ransom is paid.

Instead of accessing the computer as normal, the user is presented with a screen which details the contact and payment information required to access their data again.

Ransomware is typically downloaded through malicious file attachments, email, or a vulnerability in the computer system. This si the type of infection that seriously affected NHS machines not too long ago.

Worm

Among the most common type of malware today is the computer ‘worm’.  Worms spread across computer networks by exploiting vulnerabilities within the operating system.  Often these programs cause harm to their host networks by consuming large amounts of network bandwidth, overloading computers, and using up all the available resources.

One of the key differences between worms and a regular virus is its ability to make copies of itself and spread independently.  A virus must rely on human activity to run a program or open a malicious attachment; worms can simply spread over the network without human intervention.

No need to be paranoid!

So with all these types of infections, it would be easy to be put off using computers altogether and we have certainly met people that do the minimum possible with theirs, due to infection worries.

The fact is that we have found that the typical number of calls for traditional computer virus infections has gone down over recent times and that more often than not, infections today are the result of scams or insufficient security protection.

If you use common sense, a good security package (preferably paid for as opposed to a free version) and are cautious with what you do online and download, then you can reduce the chances of infection – but you must remain vigilant.

If you would like us to help  keep your systems safe from malware, give us a call on 01455 209505.