Archive for April 2014

Still Using Internet Explorer? Please Stop.

A new “zero-day” exploit has been found in Internet Explorer allowing an attacker to install malware on your computer. 

What’s a “zero-day” exploit?  That’s when the good guys find a flaw that the bad guys are already taking advantage of.  Microsoft won’t have a patch for two weeks, and if you’re running Windows XP, it will never get patched.

I really recommend you use either Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome as your daily browser.  They update more often and are more secure.

   

It May Not be the Viruses That Drive You Crazy!

Viruses are nasty – you don’t want them.  They are like bad guys breaking into your home.

Most of you are pretty good about doing the right things (if you’re been keeping up with my blog here) so you don’t get a major infection.  But I’ve noticed a RAPID rise in what I call “weeds”, and the worst part is you KNOW they’re there – and THAT’s when my phone rings.

They “technically” are not viruses, they just “help” you find sites on the web or redirect you to sites you “wanted” to see but just didn’t know you wanted to see them.  I call these things “weeds”.

Most anti-virus programs don’t catch them because YOU gave them permission (interpreted as you WANTED those programs) to be on your computer.  But when downloading something, you (probably without knowing it) gave them permission to install onto your computer.

I’ve had lots of calls the last few weeks for things like this – they get in the way of getting to where you want to go on the web.  And even if you get there – you might get swamped with pop-ups and ads that you don’t want to waste your time with.

I have a client whom needed a full rebuild on his computer because it wouldn’t boot up.  Turned out to be a bad hard drive.  We needed his product key for Microsoft Office 2010 so we could re-install it onto the new hard drive.  After removing the hard drive and attaching it as a USB drive to another PC I was able to see the files on it, however despite downloading several programs designed to extract that valuable product key, none were able to.  I did notice however that many of them offered to install additional software to “improve” my computing experience.

Needless to say, even though I said “no” to their generous offers for the additional software, I had a ton of junk added to my system.

I uninstalled the obvious programs I didn’t ask for, and then MalwareBytes found a ton of others that they also installed.

 

The Summary:  Don’t install “free” programs to fix your computer problems.  A quick call to me (for which I usually don’t’ charge for unless it runs long) might provide a solution to whatever it is you’re trying to fix.  Once you download something to help you “convert YouTube” videos or “speed up my computer” or whatever, you’re probably going to get a weed and once that happens, you probably have a lot and unfortunately it costs the same to pull weeds as it does to remove viruses because I have to make sure nothing gets left behind.

I’m TRYING to save you money.  Please —–  CALL me before you try to fix your own computer problem.  I hate taking (but I will) your money if you didn’t heed my advice.

Happy Easter!

I hope all of you have a very Happy Easter.  Enjoy the day, enjoy your family and friends, enjoy your church.  In an emergency I can even help you today – but I’m hoping for an technologically UNeventful day for you and a great day in every other way!

Tek-Chic Systems Now Has a Backup Program

imageI KNOW you have documents and photos that would devastate you if your hard drive crashed.  “Oh, I have an external hard drive backup” you say.  Well, what happens if someone breaks in and steals your computer equipment (they WILL take it all) or there is a fire and everything just melts.  I know you’ve got insurance for your things, but your data is gone. 

Carbonite is an inexpensive way to very simply and securely have your data stored in the cloud so when the worst happens, you don’t have to worry about your data.

When there was a fire in the Steiner Ranch community where I lived and we were evacuated, I didn’t worry the slightest about what I had on my computer.  I took care of my dogs and got out of the house.  I THOUGHT about my computer data, but knew it was backed up with Carbonite and took care of more important things in the moment.

Now you can just go to Tek-Chic.com/Carbonite and see the options you have.  Carbonite is absolutely the best in class when it comes to online backup.  For $59.99 a year you can back up EVERYTHING on your computers hard drive, no matter how big it is – AND you can access you data from anywhere via the web.  It’s EASY to install and once it is – you can forget about it.  Carbonite will automatically backup your data as it changes.

Carbonite is an excellent company and I have to tell you, ONLINE backup is the ONLY way to protect you from certain viruses.  There are viruses out there that will encrypt all your documents (photos, music, etc.) on ANY hard drive connected to it.  Currently they want $300 to give you the decryption key, otherwise after 72 hours you data is lost forever.  Off-site backup with Carbonite makes sure you can ALWAYS get your data back.  PLEASE don’t call me when it’s too late.  I may not be able to help you then.

Don’t Panic, But Do This Test

You may have heard about the “Heartbleed” flaw that has been discovered.  It’s really technical trying to explain in, but in simple terms, IF a bad guy knew about it (and there’s no evidence a bad guy found it before the good guy did last week) then they COULD have possibly gained the ability to trick you into thinking the secure site (like your bank) was real even though it really belonged to a bad guy.  A fix for this flaw was published within a day, but it is up to the folks managing the web servers to apply the fix.  Most companies if they have any kind of proper IT support have already fixed their servers so that your secure connection is in fact SECURE. 

There is a web site you can go to that will tell you if the web site you’re wondering about has fixed their servers.

Here’s what you do, go to SSLLabs.com, this page offers a “SSL Server Test” of the company you’re interested in. 

For example, let’s say you back at Wells Fargo.  Go to the link above, and in the box that says “Domain Name” enter WellsFargo.com.  Since a LOT of people have already done it before you, they already have the results and you’ll see perhaps several results because a big company like Wells Fargo will have several servers.  Click on the first one and you’ll see a lot of gibberish you don’t need to understand, but there is one thing you’re looking for, and that’s the line that says (hopefully) “This server is not vulnerable to the Heattbleed attack”.  At that point you know that they have fixed the problem with their server.  You can check your banking and financial services websites.

This is what you want to see in the report when it’s done….

image

To perhaps save you a little time, here are a few sites I’ve checked and they have already fixed the problem:

Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank, RBCU.org, UHCU.org, Capital One, Google (includes Gmail), Yahoo, Outlook.com (Hotmail.com), AOL.com, Fidelity.com, Scottrade.com

So don’t go crazy, just make sure the sites you depend on for a secure connection (that starts with HTTPS) have fixed the problem, and then live long and prosper.

R.I.P. Windows XP

imageIn case you have been sleeping when you should have been paying attention to my blog (and shame on you if that’s the case) then you might be surprised that as of today, your Windows XP machine is now a sitting duck on the Internet for all the bad guys who have been waiting for this day to come.

That’s because yesterday, April 8th was the LAST day that security updates (actually updates of any kind) are to be published for Windows XP.

What does that mean?  That means that all the exploits that the bad guys have been saving for months will get unleashed onto the Internet today.  Windows XP will never get “patched” or updated again, so as more and more security holes are found, the bad guys will have an even easier time getting into your Windows XP computer.

If you’re in a situation where you just cannot replace or update your computer to a newer version of Windows (like Windows 7 or 8), then at the very least, here’s what you absolutely should do….

1) Go into the Control Panel, go to User Accounts and create a new account called “Admin”.  Make sure that it is an “Administrator” account.  Set a password for that account (if you want, you can make it “admin” to keep it simple.)

2) Log out of your current account and log into the Admin account you have just created.  Windows will set it up as a new user so it may take a minute – be patient.

3) Go into the Control Panel, go to User Accounts, and select your old account, change the Account Type to “Standard User”.  Do this for any other users accounts that you may have on the computer other than the Admin account.

When you log back into your normal account, anytime you need administrator privileges for something (like to install a program) it will prompt you for the administrator password.  Or, you may have to log out and then log in as the Admin to make the change.  While it may be a pain, this will GREATLY reduce the chances of a bad get getting into your system, as most changes a virus will want to make will require administrator privileges, so you’ll KNOW when something is going on with your computer.

 

If you can afford $100, I can set up your computer so that even if you get a virus, simply rebooting it will get rid of the virus.  The downside is that anything you want to save must be saved to an external hard or flash drive, because NOTHING gets saved on the computer’s hard drive at each reboot.  It’s a technology called “Steady State” that Microsoft came out with years ago.  Nothing you intentionally or unintentionally download will remain on the hard drive at reboot, so at least you don’t get infected this way.

 

Upgrade if you can. Stay with Windows XP only if you have to.  Continuing to use Windows XP won’t kill you, but after a few virus infections, you’ll be paying enough to have bought yourself an inexpensive modern computer. 

Oh, and if you DO decide you can afford to get a new computer, PLEASE call me and let me know what you’re looking for.  I don’t make any money on this, I just don’t want you get pay too much or get the wrong system to suit your needs.

“Hearbleed” Flaw in the News

Don’t panic, this information just came out today (Tuesday).  It wouldn’t be a bad idea to change your banking, credit card and email password just to be safe.

The news is that a form of the secure Internet connection that you see in your browser as “HTTPS” (the “S” meaning secure) has a flaw that MAY have been expoited.

No one knows if in fact anyone has taken advantage of the flaw, since it was discovered by a good guy (known as a “white hat” hacker.)

So don’t go jumping off any roofs or anything like that.  The POTENTIAL is dramatic but in reality the chance you’ve been compromised is minimal.

This isn’t related at all to the fact that Windows XP support ended today – that’s just a coincidence. 

The flaw is in the web servers, not your computer.  In the next day or two you’ll want to change those important passwords

Just don’t panic.  News outlets will LOVE to make a lot out of this because it gives them something to talk about.  Ignore all the “panic”, just login to your financial institutions in a couple of days and change your password.  Chances are you never needed to in the first place, but just to be sure – go ahead and do it.

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