Hidden Hackers

April 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

hackedSince the dawn of time, crooks have calculated on how to take advantage of others by hijacking the ways we live our everyday lives, and since the dawn of technology it’s gotten a whole lot easier for them.

It’s rare for an average 21st century American to go an entire day without checking email or surfing the internet, usually multiple times, and so the technology that has become our greatest convenience has also become our greatest vulnerability. If you’ve ever received a desperate email from a stranger asking for your monetary support to escape a war-torn country, or an unexpected estate settlement from a distant uncle whose attorney only needs your bank account info to wire you the money, you know what I’m talking about.

It’s easy to feel smug if you’ve never been fooled by one of these seemingly obvious scams, but recently these misanthropic masterminds are increasing their camouflage. Here are a couple red flags to keep watch for:

  1. Emails asking for your password  – If you ever receive something via email asking for your password, especially if you didn’t initiate a password reset, delete it immediately. It’s also a good idea to contact the company that the message supposedly came from to let them know, such as your email or credit card provider and also ask what their protocol is for things like password resets so you can make the distinction. 
  2. Fake online leads – If you work in an industry where potential clients or business connections often contact you via email, such as real estate, pay careful attention to unfamiliar email addresses and the way the emails are worded. Even if you think the message is legitimate, never click on any links it contains. Instead, opt for contacting the person via other information they may have provided like a phone number.  

Technology may be all about innovation and new advancements, but some old things never go out of style. In this case, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

 

 

Local over Big Box

January 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Image result for Keep It LocalThere are many reasons why shopping locally with your friendly service professional or store owner has its advantages.  One of the reasons is because the money you’re spending is going directly back into your community.  Money which stimulates the local economy.  You are keeping the business ‘in the family’ per-se.  There are many other reasons to “shop local”, but none more important than a story recently in the news about big box stores being caught offering un-necessary computer services and products.

A thorough investigation of four out of six Office Depot/OfficeMax stores in numerous cities and states revealed that the tests of brand new PCs showed ‘symptoms of malware’ and required as much as $199 for repairs and protection. 

The investigation showed the new PCs to have never been connected to the internet, which is the ONLY way a computer can get malware.  A totally separate news team from Boston reported a free scan by OfficeMax, misdiagnosed two out of three brand new PC’s as potentially infected.

Officials at the parent company that runs both chains said they are no longer using the certain software to diagnose problems.  Over the past decade, fraudulent PC support scams have emerged and has cost people hundreds of millions of dollars.   

I can’t say that a local business will not make mistakes, but someone who is local can take ownership when problems do arise, and we can be hands on and fix them.

Use local companies for all your needs if you can.  The big box stores don’t have any skin in the game and we do.  We care.  We need your business.  We want you to be happy and completely satisfied.  We need you to tell your friends so they will use us too.  Remember to keep it in the family.

PROS and CONS of Upgrading to Windows 10

July 26, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

thCAUNND85After our last message to you about the free Windows 10 upgrade, many asked if they should upgrade or not. Let’s look at the pros and cons for upgrading.

PROS: The biggest reason to do it now is that it’s free for a few more days. Also, Windows 10 is generally fast system-wide, which is a benefit most of us want. I mean, who wants a sluggish computer? Also, updates to Windows 10 are not optional, they are mandatory. Windows 10 will make your computer update automatically, which means you can worry less about your computer being outdated. I personally think this means more unexpected shutdowns and interruptions are less likely. Additionally, viruses thrive on computers that have not been updated.

Windows 10 allows a local account instead of forcing a Microsoft Account. In my opinion this is a bonus. And if you do the upgrade, Microsoft allows a ‘downgrade’ to the previous Operating Environment for 30 days.

Windows 8 was an unpleasant surprise for a lot of people but Windows 10 goes a long way to putting that right. The Operating System is clean and familiar like it was on Windows 7 and its predecessors. It’s easy to understand, plus it has a wealth of new, helpful features that you might actually want to use.

CONS: The upgrade comes with a lot of information being sent to Microsoft about your activity, or simply put “Data Harvesting”. Admittedly some of the data collecting is indeed for the effectiveness of software like Cortana and Microsoft Virtual Assistant. But, really folks, how much data Microsoft is collecting is anyone’s guess and they will do what they want with that data.

One very important consideration is that the Windows 10 Operating System and existing computer software (and hardware driver’s software) may not be compatible. Computer software can also be described as any software that the PC Manufacturer, or you, installed on your computer. If you use specific or particular software on a regular basis you should check with the manufacturer of the software for compatibility with Windows 10.

Navigation of Windows 10 will not be as fluid as you might like or expect. If you’re use to Windows 8 you’ll have a little more ease, but if you use XP or 7, then this will be a new experience.

The free upgrade is available until July 29th and the decision is up to you. The best piece of the puzzle is you’re not alone. Frankie OnCall is here to partner with you making this decision or any other computer needs.

Spam Campaign

July 15, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

thCA4CUKQ1Internet security firm F-Secure is warning there is a massive spike in “Spam Campaigns”. They are seeing 200 times the volume of spam that contains malware known as “Locky”. Locky is ransomware and it encrypts the data on a computer to try and extort payment from the owner. This malware is advanced and effective. It is also difficult for an Antivirus to detect.

The best defense is to avoid it altogether. You can prevent ransomware by being wary of spam messages, and don’t open documents or follow links in emails you are not familiar with. If in doubt, just don’t click it. Antivirus helps, but it can’t protect you from malware like Locky. If it seems strange or too good to be true it probably is!

Windows 10 Upgrade

June 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

thCATT76QAWindows 10 has been here for a little over nine months, which means you only have a couple months left to get a free upgrade.What is important for you to know is that Microsoft has now started to auto-schedule upgrades and these upgrades are being scheduled with or without user consent. Here are some interesting facts for you.

Windows 10 has many monitoring and data collections tools. The operating system is able to:

1. Gather search history
2. Web usage
3. Windows Store usage
4. Details of what applications are used
5. Voice recordings
6. Emails
7. Geographic information

Basically, Windows 10 can pretty much gather anything about you from your PC and internets usage. This information is used for improving Windows services, however, it’s also used for advertising and market research.

You may get a pop-up on your computer that says you are auto-scheduled to upgrade on a certain date. If you’re not wanting to upgrade to Windows 10, there are options to cancel. This is only if you catch the upgrade option in time. If you do want it, the free upgrade expires on July 29th.

If you don’t wish to upgrade, then you’ll want to check regularly to make sure that you’re not being forced. Until Microsoft deactivates the upgrade, being watchful is the best course of action. As always, Frankie OnCall is here to assist you with any of your computer/laptop needs.

Don’t Be Scammed

April 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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I know there is a lot going on in our country, but we all have one thing in common, April 15th. Since we’re in tax season, here is a list of the most recent tax scams and other tactics that the IRS wants us to watch out for and what we can do to avoid falling victim.

1. Scam artists calling saying they have your tax return and need to verify a few details, sometimes they even say they work for the IRS.  They might even have a fake identification number, and will already know some information about you.  They also have the capability to make the caller ID look like the IRS is calling.

2. Phishing and Malware E-mails – clicking on the links will only send you to fake websites asking for personal information. The websites can also have malware, which can infect your computer.  There is a new email going around asking people to log-in to the IRS website and update their online e-file.  This IS NOT the IRS website, it’s a scam and they are just trying to collect your personal information.

So what can you do if you are called or receive an e-mail:

The IRS will never:

1. Call you to demand payment, and they will not call about taxes that are owed, because they will mail you first.

2. Demand that you pay now without giving you the chance to ask questions or make an appeal.

3. Require you make a payment with a certain form of payment, like a prepaid debit card.

4. Ask for credit card or debit card numbers over the phone.

5. Threaten you by bringing in the local police to arrest you for not paying.

If you are contacted or receive and email, DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINKS IN THE EMAILS.  What you should do, is forward the email to the IRS.  Send all questionable emails to phishing@irs.gov.  Always remember the IRS will not contact a taxpayer by email to ask for personal or financial information. Another point to all of this information is to educate and inform ourselves on how to better protect our personal information.

For example, major corporations, like Microsoft, or any banks, will not call you and ask for personal information.  There are other forms of communications that major corporations will use, and usually when YOU call THEM, they are having YOU verify a password, or your last purchase (credit card companies, etc), so that you are verifing your identity to them, not the other way around.

So, the next time someone calls or emails and asks you to verify ANY personal information:

1. Say no

2. Hang up

3. Call the company directly – you can usually find the contact information on any written correspondence from the company.

Frankie OnCall is always available to you if you have any needs about security or virus protection.  Don’t forget to take advantage of our Spring Special – 10% off a Spring Computer Tune-Up.

To SSD or not to SSD

February 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

In the last newsletter we talked about Windows 10 and mentioned how your computer would operate better with an SSD. So what is an SSD and how can it help you?  SSD stands for sold-state drive and we’ll compare it to an HDD, which is a hard disk drive.

A hard disk drive is a basic storage space on a computer and the data is stored on metal platters with magnetic coatings. The solid-state drive does the same thing but stores the information on flash memory chips that are connected. The sold-state drive also uses less power and generates less heat than the hard disk drive.

The benefits of having an SSD over an HDD, is the SSD has a larger capacity of storing data and has faster speed. A computer that has an SSD will reboot in seconds, where the HDD has to warm up to operating speed. Another benefit of having an SSD is durability. There is less chance of damaging the SSD if the computer or laptop is dropped.

So, the question now is which type of drive is better for your needs? If you are not sure let Frankie OnCall help you make that decision.

That pesky Windows 10 nag.

January 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

the-strategy-1080533_1920There is a tool that will remove the Windows 10 nag, and we have that tool.  We can have you updated, up to speed, and remove the nag for you.  The second option is to update to Windows 10.  In our opinion, Windows 10 is not as comfortable to use as Windows 7.  If you choose to update, there will be growing pains.

Here is a tip, if you update to Windows 10:

At the install, several screens will ask you, what to use as a default application –  **uncheck everything**

 

We do this because:

  1. There is more freedom
  2. Less running in the background

Additionally, if you use Microsoft Internet Explorer, there is a deadline to upgrade to IE11 or Edge.  This upgrade needs to be completed by January 12. Microsoft Internet Explorer is not the safest browser and older versions are much more likely to cause trouble for you and your computer.

If you want to update and you don’t want to do it yourself, we can also do this for you.

Whether you have Windows 10 or Windows 7, they both will run smoother and better on a SSD (We’ll tell you more about Solid State Drives in the next article.  So stay tuned.)

 

Ready for Windows 10?

June 25, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Windows10By now you may have seen the icon at the bottom-right corner of your screen that says you can reserve your copy of Windows 10 as soon as it is available. “That’s great”, you say, “but should I?”

Windows 10 is not officially released until July 29th and you can upgrade for free at any time over the next year. For this reason, we recommend waiting until it has been released for a little while before updating. There are sure to be a few bugs and we will be aggressively testing Windows 10 in order to make the best recommendation for our clients.

Staying connected to this blog and our newsletter is a great way to stay updated.

With this new version of Windows comes some interesting features in regards to productivity and management from an IT perspective. What does this mean for the home user? It means we are able to support your needs more efficiently than ever before with options that simplify everything from e-mail, file sharing and backing up in the cloud.

The wires are going away which goes for the things attached to those wires as well. In the same way that WiFi is changing how we use the Internet and connect to each other, slowly the boxes surrounding your desk are getting smaller or going away entirely. This is a good thing if you have an expert IT service at your side to carry you through the rapid changes going on today. We can help you simplify your life using technology and are always willing to recommend the best solution or answer any questions. Give it a try!

The Age of Information

May 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

NewspaperIn an age of information overload, I ask one simple question,  how do you get your news?

You have news on television, on the radio, and on the internet.  But there is one source of news that is still very much alive.

The written word.  The newspaper.  News magazines.

When was the last time you picked up the Kansas City Star?  This has been our local newspaper for decades, and they are still fighting the good fight every single day.

But there is also the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and other such papers that are still very much in print.

There is nothing like holding a paper, a magazine, or an actual book in our hands.

Oh yes we definitely can get the news online…read online…do just about anything online.

It’s more than just instant information.

It’s about really connecting with our world around us.  NOT JUST Digitally.