It seems like every other week these days, the news carries mentions of ransomware or malware unleashed to hold unsuspecting people and businesses’ information for, as the name indicates, ransom. It is a lucrative and growing form of theft, with a surge of 167 times more ransomware in 2016 than in 2015. Yet, this week, what was first thought to be the latest ransomware attack was something intended to be much worse.
The havoc caused this week by the infection known as Petya/ExPetr acted like ransomware at first look –it would pop up and lock data behind a fake screen demanding money for a code to unlock the data and break the encryption. However, there were holes in the way it operated, and experts quickly realized after analysis that the codes customers had paid for were useless. This malware attack wasn’t to ransom data –it was to destroy it. The alleged unlock codes were just random characters that failed to decrypt anything. It wasn’t spread to make anyone money. Experts are calling it a “wiper”. Data on infected systems is lost forever.
The list of infected people and businesses grew rapidly, but security firms also jumped right into action. There are ways to catch a potential infection and stop it.
We’ve long been advocates of staying on top of security and protecting your data. Maintenance is one of the many services we provide, and we understand that losing access to everything on your computer or even an entire office network, could be a devastating and costly process to address. That is the case even when the data that has been encrypted or infected can be cleaned up and restored. In the case of this latest round, that data is simply lost, the extent of which is unknown just yet.
Imagine if your data was suddenly lost forever. We’re often able to recover data due to drive failure, erasure, or common malware infection, but this is worse.
And it’s preventable! Be proactive and save yourself the trouble by contacting us. We’ll set up options to meet your needs, from data backups, top of the line anti-malware and virus protection, to regular maintenance.
There’s a new malware attack seriously infecting computers and stealing data, but the most surprising part of it might be that the targets are Mac computers running OSX. While Apple has taken measures to prevent attacks from the malware, known as OSX.Dok, some users may have already allowed it to live on their machines. OSX.Dok will continuously infect the computer it is installed on every time the computer reboots.
OSX.Dok is unique in that it has been called “the first major scale malware to target OS X users via a coordinated email phishing campaign” by Check Point . It’s true that malware and phishing attacks like this are usually more apt to snare PC users, but this one is one you should pay attention to. Do not click or download any strange attachment or files, and be on the lookout for a .zip file called Dokument.zip.
If you’re infected, you may find fullscreen, but fake messages being displayed that there are OSX updates to be installed, and it requests your password. Do not enter any information if you see one of these screens appear.
Doing so would give the malware administrative privileges, install it on your system, and then be able to steal your data. It could also potentially steal any saved passwords, financial information, or any other sensitive or personal information on your computer.
Mac OS may often be safer from phishing and malware attacks, but this shows that it is definitely not impossible to infect one. Although this attack seems to primarily target European users, with global reach, email could have sent this anywhere.
Apple’s response has been to revoke the privileges of a certificate that has been potentially hijacked to serve as an agent facilitating this malware, so it will likely now be rejected if you aren’t careful and it finds its way to your inbox. If you are infected, contact a trusted computer repair professional, who will be able to remove this malicious software and restore your computer to working order quickly.
Are you a Windows 7 user? Do you still use old software like Office 2010?
Then we’ve got some important news for you!
Mainstream support deadlines for these products, along with some other ones from Microsoft, are approaching. But, what does this mean?
Mainstream support is the typically five-year period when Microsoft provides free patches and fixes for its products. When a product exits the mainstream support phase, Microsoft continues to provide a period (also often five years) of extended support. This means users get free security fixes but other types of updates are paid and require specific licensing deals.
In other words, free support is ending on January 13, 2015 for a number of major Microsoft products, including all versions of Windows7.
Extended support for Windows 7 lasts until January 14, 2020, so you will still be receiving free security updates, but not features updates.
Some specialists have been speculating, though, that Microsoft will end up pushing out Windows 7’s support dates the way the company did for XP, given Windows 7’s popularity and pervasiveness, but so far, there’s been no word from Microsoft officials that this is the plan.
Support for Office 2010 with Service Pack 1 ends on October 14.
In this case, you have two options. You can migrate to the next available Service Pack (Service Pack 2, in this case), or to the next Office version, which in this case is Office 2013.
If you want to be loyal to Microsoft, you can also migrate from Windows 7 to Windows 8. You can buy a hard copy of the program, or you can do the update online. Windows 8.1 Upgrade Assistant will tell you if your PC can run Windows 8, and then will provide you with a compatibility report and optional steps for you to buy, download, and install Windows. If you want to check out the system requirements, you can, but you don’t have to. Upgrade Assistant will do all that for you, and the best thing is that you don’t need to buy the upgrade to run it.
Upgrading Office requires an extra step, because first you need to uninstall the previous version running on your computer. It’s a very simple process, but this new version of the suite doesn’t replace the old one while you install the new one, like previous versions did. You just need to go to the control panel, and perform the uninstall process from there.
In any case, if you have doubts or need help, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are here to help you!
(212)682-6878 / (718)459-9477
At this point we’ve all been hearing too much about this new Heartbleed Open SSL’s encryption flaw.
To be honest, the more I heard about it, the harder it became to understand what it means and most of all, how do I protect myself???
First of all lets set it straight. “Heartbleed is an encryption flaw which affects Open SSL’s 1.0.1 and the 1.0.2-beta release, 1.01 which is used widely across the web and in a number of popular web services. The flaw can theoretically be used to view apparently-secure communication across HTTPS, usually denoted by a small closed padlock in a browser’s address bar.
The data potentially at risk includes everything from passwords and encryption keys to financial details and personal identifiable information — allowing a hacker to dip in, swipe data, and leave no trace of their existence.”
After a few days of the world going crazy over Heartbleed, we get to a point where, if your favorite websites, bank, online merchant, etc., haven’t yet fixed the problem. Then you should kiss them goodbye and walk away.
On the other hand, even if they did fix it and made an effort to keep your personal information protected, there’re definitely some steps on your end that you shouldn’t avoid.
- Change all your passwords! I know it does sound like a hassle, and it probably is, given the amount of online shopping we are used to do these days.
Even if the websites are already fixed, go ahead and change your passwords anyways! I say this because these sites were vulnerable at some point. That means your private information was already compromised.
- If your favorite sites or services support two-factor authentication, use it. Everybody understands it’s usually a lot more trouble to set up than a simple password. But if this had taught us a lesson, is that extra security measures are worth it!
- You should also clear all your Web browsers’ cache, cookies, and history. That’s never a bad idea anyway. You don’t want old memorized passwords walking into trouble at an untrustworthy site.
- And last but not least. Check your bank and credit-card statements very carefully. If you’ve been compromised, chances are all too good that you’ll find out by finding suspicious charges on your credit cards.
After you’ve done all this, you should be no longer vulnerable to Heartbleed’s nightmare. But beware; no solution is easy when it comes to this one. So if you start getting emails or calls offering to fix the problem, don’t buy it! It will probably be a scam…
If you need help, we’ll be happy to assist you. Otherwise, Good Luck!
What do I do with my old Windows XP?
Nowadays, 38 % of all computers use Windows XP. That includes the U.S. military, NASA, 40 to 50% of all businesses in the US and 95% of all ATMs.
Maybe we should start thinking of a solution, since this represents a big problem for most computer users in this country.
Microsoft is ending all tech support for this operating system after April 2014. This doesn’t mean that your computer will cease to function after this deadline, but in the event of a problem or any bugs appearing after April, you’re on your own. This will make a strong case for migrating to a different operating system.
At a first glance, you might think that Windows 7 or Windows 8 are the obvious choices for replacing your old Windows XP operating system. After all, it’s the same manufacturer, and you’ll carry forward the system’s compatibility. But there are other options that might be more suitable for your needs and you should consider them all.
Newer Windows versions
If you’re committed to staying in the Windows world because of software requirements or just sticking with what you know, Windows 7 looks and behaves like Windows XP and it’s also cheaper. Depending on your level of tech expertise, sticking with Windows will reduce the compatibility and re-skilling burden. You certainly won’t be left behind moving to Windows 7, but take into account that this one is already a four-year-old technology.
If your hardware’s also that old, you can’t take advantage of the latest tech that computing can offer; and Windows 8 is more closely stitched to the hardware it runs on when it comes to security and performance.
On the other hand, Windows 8 is good, but it’s not for everyone.
Enterprises are more stable today and will find more interoperability on Windows 7.
If compatibility is not an issue for you, and you want to get out there and see what the world has to offer you, there are a series of options you might want to consider.
Linux is a free Operating System that will probably save you a few dollars and make your day a little better, but its lack of available software and official tech support will quickly send that new found happiness down the drain.
Also, it won’t help compatibility with other computers that run on Windows.
You can also try the newer and friendlier Android, but you’ll encounter the same compatibility issues, and a slightly better, and bigger, choice of software available.
If you end up crossing the street to one of Microsoft’s fiercest competitors, Apple, and switch to OS X Mavericks; you will find that this is an extremely easy to use operating system.
Friendly customer support, instinctive interface, and with a rather small learning curve. Compatibility between Windows and Mac OS is not a big issue anymore, and the software available is almost the same for both. The problem here is that you would have to buy one of those notoriously more expensive Macs.
If you still don’t know what to do, and need further information on this subject, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We can always do the job!
Remember, you should UPGRADE your OPERATING SYSTEM BEFORE APRIL 2014!!!
Nowadays, walking around the house with your tablet, or using your laptop in bed, is considered sort of a given. But this can quickly become annoying when your internet stops working the way it’s supposed to.
Then, what do you do when your internet appears to be slow?
The first thing you have to do, is check the speed.
To begin with, you should try to find out precisely how fast your connection is. You can do this at a website called speedtest.net.
In order to do this right, you have to restart your computer. There might be number of factors affecting your internet or your computer performance, for instance, too many windows open, or any other task that’s taking resources from your computer and your internet.
After you’ve restarted your computer, plug it straight the modem with a Ethernet cable. This will show you how fast your internet goes without any interference, straight from the source. Write these numbers down and check you’re getting what your provider is charging you for.
Then, plug back your router and run the test again, through your wireless network. Compare both results. If there’s no big difference, then your WiFi is fine and you should talk to your internet provider. Either, you need to upgrade to a better plan, or you let them know you’re not getting what you’re paying for.
Now, if your WiFi makes your internet significantly slower, you have an issue on your hands. But there’s a few things you can do.
Go and check your router.
Your problem might be here. One of the last standards in routers technology is the 802.11n wireless networking standard. What’s important here is the “n” at the end. If you pay attention to your router, you’re going to see that it’s labeled 802.11 and b, g, or n. It’s fine if your router belongs to this last group, but if you see a “b” or a “g” after this numbers, maybe it’s about time you get a new one. If this is the case, and you do buy a new router, you’ll be able to see your internet speed climb up pretty drastically.
But even if you already own an “n” router, there’s something you can do to improve its response. Updating the firmware might increase your internet’s overall performance. Every router is different, so in order to update the firmware correctly, you should check the manual or the company’s website for instructions.
Who else is using your WiFi?
Bandwidth is not that hard to fill up. Online gaming, video and, specially, file sharing, can take up all your resources pretty quickly diminish the speed and condition of your connection.
There’s something else you can do.
If your house is big enough to keep your router too far from your computer, or the walls are too thick, then you might have a week signal.
In this case, you can get a wireless extender. It takes your router’s signal and sends it again to the parts of the house that the router can’t reach, using the same frequency.
This is not a great solution because, since it has to obtain the signal and then resend it, you make your WiFi, at least, twice as slow as it was. So, before buying one of this devices, try placing the router in a better location, and situate it as high as possible, away from your fridge and any thick (and/or) metallic furniture.
If you keep having problems or any doubts, don’t hesitate to contact us!
It’s important to keep your sensitive data safe. Nowadays, you can password protect any document or folder that you deem relevant by following a few simple steps.
But first, let me give you a little tip. Before password protecting any document you may wish to create a backup of the non-password protected folder and files in case you forget the password in the future.
If you are using Windows XP professional edition on a computer that has different accounts, this are the steps you have to follow:
- Select the folder you wish to encrypt.
- Right-click the folder and click Properties.
- Click the Advanced button.
- Check “Encrypt contents to secure data” option.
- Click Apply and then Ok.
After you are done, the encrypted data should be grayed out. If you are using Windows XP home edition, this should also be a fairly easy process. Here are the steps:
- Select the folder you wish to encrypt.
- Right-click the folder and click Properties.
- Click the Sharing tab.
- Check the box Make this folder private
- Click Apply and then Ok.
Like in the previous example, the encrypted folder should be grayed out. There are a couple requirements that you need to follow, in order to be able to encrypt and safe guard those files and folders.
- The hard drive must be formatted in NTFS and not FAT32 File System.
- The folder you’re attempting to encrypt must be in your own personal folder. For example, if your name is bob, you must be encrypting a folder that is or that is contained within the below folder: C:Documents and SettingsBob
Files and folders not frequently used
Now, if you need to password protect files or folders that you do not frequently use, one of the simplest ways is to compress the folder and files with a compression utility and password protect the compressed file. However, each time you wish to work or modify the files you will need to uncompress the files using the password.
Windows ME and Windows XP users – Microsoft Windows ME and Windows XP come with their own compression utility. This utility can also be used to compress and password protect files.
You should know that when a file is compressed, users can still view a listing of the files in the compressed file. If you wish for both your file names and the contents to be hidden, move all the files into a single folder and password protect that folder.
File and folders frequently used or accessed
If you need to password protect or encrypt data you frequently use, you will need to install a third-party program that will enable you to protect your files and folders. Below are some free and commercial solutions.
- AxCrypt – An excellent free encryption utility that enables users to encrypt all files within a folder and not allow those files to be viewed unless a passphrase (password) is known.
- WinCry – A freeware utility that enables your files to be encrypted, secure deletion, as well as other helpful methods of protecting your files.
- Folder Guard – A commercial version of a password protection software that enables you to password protect files, folders, and other Windows resources.
Anyway, there are a few other things you should know too. It’s important to keep in mind that there is no such thing as a 100% protected file. There are numerous tools, utilities, and instructions for how to break a lot of the encryption and passwords on files. However, the protection methods listed above will protect your files from the majority of users who may encounter them. If you’re working with really sensitive data we suggest a commercial product for protecting your files and data. Also, even though a file or folder may be password protected it still can be deleted (unless the program supports the ability to protect files from being deleted). Always remember to backup all your files, even those protected by passwords. And last, but not least, if you forget the password, unless you’re willing to spend the time attempting to break it or pay someone else to break the password, all your file data will be lost. Unless you’ve made a backup of the non-password protected data. If you need any further help to protect your files, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We can help you!
The new year is starting folks! And, as usual, people make their predictions for the next one. These are ours:
What will happen with Windows 8.1 and the Microsoft franchises?
The big question: Will people buy Windows machines en masse? If not, what does that mean for the future Microsoft franchises such as Office? We’ll know how this one turned out early in 2014 when tech giants start reporting their results. There are more than a few reasons why Windows worries are warranted. Chromebooks have sold pretty well and there’s a good chance you’re going to see PC makers diversify their OS options. You may even see some Android running PCs.
But there’re also some other trends worth noting. 3D printing is going mainstream. A lot of the coverage around 3D printing will revolve around consumer applications. The real revolution is already about to happen and that will be in the supply chain in 2014. As 3D printing bolsters the supply chain and creates parts on demand there could be a manufacturing renaissance ahead. We’ll all be makers.
For cell phone users and gamers. I mean, everybody!
Should Windows Phone continue gaining market share, app developers will have to start giving the platform its fair share of attention, while at the same time, a group of upstarts in the guise of Firefox OS, Jolla, and Samsung will be looking to steal their piece of the cake from the lower end of the mobile market.
We should also pay attention to Valve’s Steam Machines — not only because it has the opportunity to overturn the PC gaming industry, but also because it is the first reason in a long time that many developers have had to take a second look at building for Linux-based platforms.
Gaming was one of the reasons why Microsoft got into the household, and it could be one of the reasons why it disappears from it too.
What cell-phone am I wearing today?
Today, everybody’s got a smartphone. Tablet prices are crashing and the biggest consumer tech companies are trying to figure out what they can make next to keep the profit rolling in. As such, we’re going to see through 2014 renewed attempts to make wearable technologies – glasses, watches and others – into desirable and useful consumer devices. The devices we’ve seen so far are at best intriguing but flawed; marred by limited capabilities, clunky designs and poor battery life. And they’re being anxiously pushed by hardware manufacturers on a mostly underwhelmed public. But they hold promise – whether that’s in health monitoring or just allowing us to check messages without digging out a smartphone. So next year we will, hopefully, see better versions of these devices.
If you have any doubts, questions or just feel a little curious; don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We can help you out!
Most people believe that the majority that computer invasions and problems are caused by hackers, but that’s not the case. Truth is; it is more common for a computer to be hijacked than hacked. Well, I’ll tell you how to spot a hacked or hijacked computer, and what you can do to prevent both from happening.
1 – New programs installed
Sometimes you may see new programs or files to the computer. If you are the only user on the computer and new programs are installed, this could be an indication of a hacked computer. However, there are also several legitimate reasons why a new program may appear on the computer, such as operating system updates, plugins and free programs that usually encourage you to try their toolbar.
In any case, there’s always the chance that a hacker may have broken into your computer. Backdoors and Trojans are by far the most common programs to be installed on the computer after it has been hacked. These programs allow the hacker to gain access to the computer. Spyware, rogue antivirus programs, and malware can be an indication of a hacker. However, are more commonly a sign that your computer has been hijacked while on the Internet.
2 – Online passwords
Sometimes, after an online account is hacked, the attacker changes the password to your account. Try using the “forgot password” feature to reset it. If your e-mail address has changed or this feature does not work, contact the company who is providing the service, they are the only ones who can reset your account.
3 – Spam e-mail being sent
When an e-mail account is hacked or taken over, the attacker almost always uses that account to spread spam and viruses. If your friends, family, or coworkers are receiving e-mail from you advertising something like Viagra, this means that your e-mail is compromised. You can fix this just by logging into your e-mail and changing your password.
Tip: E-mail addresses can also be spoofed without hacking the e-mail account. After changing the e-mail password, if your friends continue to get e-mails you have not sent, it is likely someone is spoofing your e-mail address.
5 – Increased network activity
For any attacker to take control of a computer, they must remotely connect to that computer. When someone is remotely connected to your computer, your Internet connection will be slower. Also, after the computer is hacked, it’s common that it starts to attack other computers.
Installing a bandwidth monitor program on your computer can help determine what programs are using bandwidth and how. Windows users can also use the netstat command to determine remote established network connections and open ports.
Please keep in mind that there are also dozens of other legitimate reasons why your Internet connection may also be slow, so don’t panic over a slow internet day
6 – Unknown programs wanting access
Computer security programs and firewalls help restrict access to programs on a network or Internet. If the computer asks for access to programs you do not know, rogue programs may be installed, or it may have been hacked. If you do not know why a program needs access to the Internet, we recommend blocking access to that program. If you later discover these blocks cause problems, it can be removed later.
Tip: A firewall prompting you for access may also just be someone trying to probe your network, looking for open or available ports in your network. Undesirable as is it, it may not be a hacker.
7 – Security programs uninstalled
If the computer’s antivirus, anti-malware, or firewall has been uninstalled or disabled, it can also be an indication of a hacked computer. A hacker may disable these programs to help hide any warnings that would appear while they are on the computer.
8 – Computer doing things by itself
When someone is remotely connected to a computer they can remotely control any device. For example, a mouse cursor could be moved or something could be typed. If you see the computer doing something as if someone else was in control, this can be an indication of a hacked computer.
9 – Internet browser home page changed or new toolbar
Internet browser changes such as your home page changing to a different web page, a new toolbar being added, your search engine changing, web pages getting redirected. These are all signs of a browser getting hijacked and not a computer hacker.
You now have the tools to spot a hacker that’s trying to get into your computer. Sometimes we can avoid them, but when you can’t, we come to the rescue. Call us Now!
The New York Times number one tech columnist, David Pogue gave quite an interesting TED talk to simplify our interaction with technology. Here are the top 10 time saving tech tips he shared with us:
1- Don’t scroll with your mouse. Use the space bar on any browser. Every time you hit it, your browser scrolls down one page. If you hold the shift key while you press the space bar, it will scroll up.
2- When you’re filling out forms on the web, you can hit the tab key to jump from box to box. Now, when you get to the popup menu where you put your state, you don’t have to actually open that menu. Just hit type the first letter of your state over and over until it gets to the one you need. This also works for months of the year and everything you have in those popup menus.
3- If the text on the website you’re reading is too small, there’s a very quick solution. Just hold the crtl key while you press the plus sign and it will make the text bigger. To get the opposite effect, just hold ctrl key and press the minus sign.
4- Texting takes you longer than you’d like? This tip will definitely help you! Just hit space twice after you are done typing the sentence and forget about period and capital letters. The phone will do it for you!
5- Want to re dial your last call? Just hit the call button to get the number of your last call into the dial box, and then hit call again to make the call.
6- How tired are you of getting instructions on how to leave a message on your friend’s phone? There’s a way of bypassing those instructions and go straight to the beep. Every carrier has a different key, but you can learn them and save yourself from being annoyed one more time.
For Verizon, you just have to press *. For Sprint, press 1. For AT&T and T-mobile press the universal # key.
7- You can throw away your oxford dictionary now. Google can be your new dictionary! Just type “define”, followed by the word you are looking for and Google will show you the definition. You don’t even have to click on anything. It will just show you the definition as you type. You can also type in any airline flight and it will show you the status and other useful data as gate, ETA and such. And finally, you can also use it as a unit and currency converter.
8- On every word processor, there’s no need to drag the mouse over a word with the right button clicked and slide over it. You only have to click over the desired word to highlight it. After that, you don’t even have to delete it. You can just type over it!
9- Do you know what shutter lag is? You sure know it’s annoying, but do you know how to get rid of it? Shutter lag is the time your camera uses to calculate focus and exposure before it actually takes the picture. You can forget about it by half pressing the shutter a few seconds before taking the shot. That way, the camera will pre-focus and you can kiss shutter lag goodbye!
10- A useful tip for your presentations. In order to momentarily stop your presentation and black out the screen, you only have to press the “b” key. Hit it again and the screen will go back to where it was. Hit the “w” key instead, and you’ll white out the screen. This works on Keynote, PowerPoint and every presentation program.
If you need more tips to help you skate through your usual tech related problems, contact PcMac Express Today!