Archive for Internet

Make your Google Searches Even Better

Make your Google searches better

Google is the most used internet Search Engine (3 billion searches a day), yet most people only use it for very basic search terms and not to its full potential. Here are a few tips to help make your searches better: –

Tell Google What You Need

Google is smart and can understand “conversational searches”, particularly voice searches such as when using a smartphone.

For example, “do I need” searches, “can I” searches, and “how much [any item] do I need” type searches are understood and can help filter to your exact point, no matter how broad it may be.

The ‘tell it what you need’ formula works for a multitude of questions – here are a few more formats to give you the idea: –

• Release dates: [movie/game] release date
• Fast facts: [name of person] death
• Stats: [city] population

Limiting Types of Results

With one additional click, you can tell Google that you only want Images, or Videos, or News, Books and more. Your initial results are presented as a combination of all types – you can see the ALL tab highlighted up at the top. Just click the tab to indicate which result type you’re really looking for and Google will be able to filter things down for you.

Using drop down Filters.

One of the least well known Google search tools is to limit results to sites from a particular country and/or time period. Do a search and at the top of the page where you can select the above tabs, click ‘Tools’ to drop down a second menu. You’ll see the option to limit Country and Time.

2 extra clicks and your search is now limited to your home country and items from a specific period only.

Using Search operators.

Search Operators are instructions to Google to make your search term more specific.

For example, enclosing your search terms in “quotation marks” binds the term together so Google can’t break it up, e.g. “Project Management” will search for those two words exactly as typed, with no substitutions.

You can use OR between words and your searches will not use the usual AND that Google places between them.

Use the term IN to convert between units, e.g. 70 mph in kph or 1lb in grams.

An Asterisk * can be a placeholder that allows you to search similar to largest * in the world or you can put site: before a domain name to search that website, e.g. site:youtube.com [name of video, person, etc.].

There are many more search operators that you can use.

Make sure its Google (or whatever search engine you normally use)

Many computers we see that are infected with viruses or malware, have their internet web browser search engine changed in what’s called a “search engine hijack”. For example during a virus disinfection in Hinckley recently it was discovered that the customer had unwittingly had their search engine changed by an unsrupulous website and their searches were routed through servers which gave biased results.

This ‘hijack’ is normally spotted when you go to your web browser one day and see that the usual search engine looks different – it may have a different name, logo or adverts displayed.

If your search engine has been changed without your knowledge, it may indicate that software has been installed without your express permission and you should scan your system with an effective security software package.

If you would like help with searching, or suspect that you may have unwanted software on 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.

Backup up the Right Way for Businesses

The 31st of March is World Backup day and it’s a great time to put a backup in place. Businesses are losing large amounts of data every day, purely because ‘backing up’ is stuck at the bottom of their to-do list.

But how? What’s the easiest, most effective way for your business to backup?

You’ve probably heard of file backup by a number of names: Cloud Sync, Cloud Backup or Cloud Storage. They’re all similar enough to be confusing and meaningless enough to be anything, so here’s what they mean and which one you need today.

Cloud Sync

Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, etc. are services that sync up with a single folder on your computer. They mirror it. When a file changes in one, the sync service rushes to change it on your computer too, so they are always the same. Cloud Sync services are hugely flexible for remote employees, or even those squeezing in a few quick tasks while riding the train to work.

They’re easy to use, require no training, and the free tiers are enough for most individuals. Accidentally deleting a file means it disappears from the Cloud Sync drive – almost immediately – and overwriting a file does the same thing, so if an employee makes edits to the wrong file, then those edits take place. Having said that, if disaster strikes and the wrong file is overwritten or deleted, or your local copy becomes corrupted (or ransomed), even though the corruption is uploaded too, the good news is that some Cloud Sync services offer a 30 day backup option that can be used to replace deleted or ransomed files.

So when choosing which Cloud Sync to use, make sure that this is offered.

Cloud Storage

Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, etc. are massive data centres full of storage drives that work just like your local hard drive, except that you access them securely via the internet. In fact, when you use a cloud sync app like Dropbox, they’re actually sending your data to one of these locations, but with a difference.

While the Sync services have a constant back and forth connection between the storage centre and your folder, Storage services do not – you store a backup that you instigate.

You can access cloud storage on a per/GB basis yourself and upload your entire backup as desired and even though it won’t update with changes on your local network, it will be safe from disaster. When you need to retrieve a file, you simply login and download it.

Your backed up data is secure, protected against disaster, and always available to you. However, because it relies on you/your employee to handle the backup plan and manually take care of the uploads, this is a higher-risk solution. Unless your employee is scouring your network each day/week/month for changes to files and uploading them with fervent dedication, chances are this plan won’t work.

Cloud Backup

Carbonite, Backblaze backup, Crashplan, etc. might not be names you’ve heard before, but they work in the background to monitor changes to files on your computer or network and make sure you’re backed up. You can roll back individual files or whole drives, and even select from earlier backups, not just one. Like sync services, they use cloud storage centres with extra-high security and redundancy so that your data is always there when you need it. Even better, neither you nor your employees need to worry about when it was last done.

The One You Need

Let’s talk planning. We recommend starting with the 3-2-1 strategy. This means having 3 copies in total, 2 of them locally such as on your computer and an external drive, and another offsite in the cloud. Using this strategy keeps your business operating when data disasters occur and is an investment in your uptime.

We can help get you set up with the 3-2-1 method, including selecting the best cloud service for your needs.

Need help with your backup? 3-2-1… Call us on 01455 209505.

Why People Create Viruses

Why people create viruses

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

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

Bank account theft:

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

Ransomware:

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

Ad swappers:

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

Bitcoin mining:

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

Botnets:

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

Account stealing:

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

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

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

How to Stay Safe from Scams or Malware on Facebook

Facebook scams

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

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

Look out for freebies and surveys

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

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

Check your permissions with games and quizzes

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

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

Don’t friend people you don’t know

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

If it’s weird, forget it

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

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

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

New Google Chrome Browser Scam

New Chrome browser Scam

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

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

Fake Chrome Scam Security message

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

Chrome Scam downloads

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

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

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

What to do if you get this Scam message

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

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

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

If you need help, call us on 01455 209505.

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.

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.