Hidden Hackers

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

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

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

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

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.

Updating Your Technology

thCA4C7H4MEarlier this year, President Obama asked the technology industry to help solve a couple of problems the United States is challenged with.  The government has networks that are outdated and are not capable of reaching rural communities, and the other problem is finding a resolution to the debate about national privacy versus security.

This debate of course is referring to the FBI and Apple court case.  President Obama spoke to the audience at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, and asked them to improve the civic life of those in America.

Apple is opposing a court order, saying that this would put millions of phones at risk.  The President called for a balance in meeting the needs of law enforcement with the privacy of Americans. 

The President also used the Affordable Care Act website as a failure in technology for the government, and why their outdated systems will just not work anymore. 

Frankie OnCall is consistent with the important message of keeping your own personal or business computers, laptops, and servers updated.  We also believe that everyone needs to make sure they are protecting their devices from viruses, malware, and other privacy attacking concerns.  As the government works on updating their own technology needs, make sure you are taking care of your own technology needs.

Frankie OnCall is here for you.  You. Me. Healthy PC.

 

Don’t Be Scammed

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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

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.

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