Tired of Email problems?

February 14, 2018

Are you tired of having your email hacked?
Are you tired of getting lots of spam?
Are you tired of having someone sending spam making it look like you sent it?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, read on!

Email accounts through internet service providers like Spectrum and AT&T are included with your service, but they have problems. They aren’t very secure, they don’t do a good job of blocking spam, and if you change internet service providers, you have to change your email address.

Free email accounts through places like Gmail, Yahoo, and Microsoft (Hotmail.com, live.com, msn.com) have some of the same problems. They aren’t secure and you get lots of spam. In addition, these accounts are free so there’s no support for them. If you have a problem, there’s nobody you can call to get help.

We here at Cyber Tek Computer Pros have been enjoying our own email for years. We don’t get much spam. Our email accounts have never been hacked. And if anyone tries to impersonate us in an email, most email servers will block their attempt. Our email is so good we though, maybe some of our customers would like to enjoy it. So we have created our own email service, tornadomail.net.

For just $25/year (that’s a year, not a month) you can have an email account with our new email service, tornadomail.net. With our new email service, you won’t get very much spam (nobody can guarantee no spam). Your email account is highly unlikely to be hacked (Nobody can guarantee an account won’t be hacked). And thanks to our security measures, spammers can’t easily impersonate your email (Nobody can prevent it, but we make it highly unlikely).

If you are interested in an email account that works and doesn’t have all of the problems that most email accounts have, this service is for you!

If you want to sign up or have any questions please contact us.


Meldown & Spectre CPU Vulnerabilities

January 12, 2018

You may have heard on the news about vulnerabilities in Intel, ARM (Apple), and AMD processors that lets a hacker access your system. You may not be aware that CPU makers knew about this problem for 7 months before someone discovered it and told the world. But I digress. Here’s what you need to know

This affects any computer (desktop, AIO, laptop), tablet or phone that has an Intel, AMD, or ARM processor in it. That’s pretty much all computers, many tablets, and many phones.

We don’t have all of the answers yet since it’s a developing situation. But based on what we know right now, here’s what you should know and what you should do.

This is a hardware issue. But CPU manufacturers won’t be replacing the CPU’s in everyone’s devices. What they are doing is releasing updates to the operating systems (Windows, MacOS, IOS, Android, Linux, etc.) to help plug the security hole in the CPU. If you heard these fixes can slow down your computer, that’s true. But it’s not a massive performance hit on most computers.

If your computer or tablet is running Windows 7, Windows 8 (or 8.1), or Windows 10, keep running Windows Update over and over and apply all of the important updates (don’t worry about optional updates) until there are no more updates to install.

If you are running Windows XP or Windows Vista, they won’t be updated with the security fix and we highly recommend that you replace these computers with new ones.

For Macs, make sure you are running the High Sierra version of MacOS and that you have all of the latest updates. If you have an older Mac that won’t update to High Sierra, consider replacing it with a newer model. To update your Mac, click on the App Store and go into the updates tab.

For IOS devices (iPhones, iPads), make sure you update these to IOS 11. Again, if you have an older device that won’t update to IOS 11, consider replacing it with a newer device. To update your IOS device, make sure your device is connected to Wi-Fi and plugged into a charger. Go to settings, General, Software update. You can also update by connecting your device to your computer and updating through iTunes.

For Android devices (phones and tablets), go into settings, about phone and it should tell you what kind of processor you have. If it says intel, AMD, or ARM, then you’ll want to update to the latest version of Android, is possible. If it doesn’t have Intel, AMD, or ARM, then your safe.

Probably none of you have a ChromeBook, but if you do, it needs to be updated as well.

So, once you get Windows/MacOS/IOS/Android/whatever updated, what else do you need to do? Nothing except all of the standard security precautions we recommend. Check out this article on our website that tells you what we recommend to keep your computer safe.


Note, if your computer is covered under our SAM plan, then we have you covered and you don’t have to worry about your computers.

As always, if you have questions or need help with your computers, don’t hesitate to contact us.


Online Privacy

December 6, 2017

When you go to a website, there is lots of stuff happening in the background that you can’t see. One of the main things going on are cookie activities. A cooking is a small file that a website can save in a special place on your computer. A cookie can have all different kind of information saved in it. Each time you access a website, it uploads that website’s cookie information to the website, and then the website updates it and saves it back to your computer.

Cookies were created to do useful things. When you log in to a website, you can tell it to save your user ID so you don’t have to type it in every time. Its cookies that give you that feature. Some websites save your shopping basket to a cookie. A cookie can save your preferences for a particular website too. There are other good uses for cookies, but I won’t list them all.

Before I go any further, I want to make sure you understand that cookies cannot harm your computer and they cannot steal your personal information. However, at some point, advertising services figured out they could track what you do on the internet so they could then display advertisements that you would likely be more interested in. These are called tracking cookies. The advertisers usually don’t know who you are. You’re just a number.

You might think that when you go to a website, it might save one cookie to your computer. But that’s not the case. The website you are accessing can save multiple cookies to your computer. In addition to that, advertising services who advertise on websites also save cookies to your computer.

I know this is confusing. Let me give you an example that might help make all of this make sense.
Let’s say you go to UsefulWebsite.com. UsefulWebsite.com saves a cookie to your computer. That website also subscribes to an advertising service I’ll call AdServ.  When you go to UsefulWebsite.com, it has slots for advertisements. Those advertisements actually come from AdServ’s website, not from UsefulWebsite.com. And because your computer is accessing AdServ’s website via the advertisement, it can save cookies on your computer as well. This is called a Third Party Cookie.

If hundreds of websites subscribe to AdServ’s service, then every time you go to a website that shows advertisements from AdServ, it uses that same tracking cookie and it can use that information to track what you do on those websites. They’ll know what products you clicked on and they use that information to show advertisements for things you have clicked on. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. It doesn’t really hurt anything. They don’t know who you. Unless…

Here’s where it gets a little scary. Let’s say you are using Internet Explorer to access websites. As you know, Internet Explorer is a Microsoft product. When you use Internet Explorer, Microsoft is saving cookies too and tracking you. Same goes for Google Chrome. And actually, Google is the one company using this type of technology more than anyone. You can login to Google Chrome with your Google ID. If you do, Google knows who you are. Even if you don’t login to Google Chrome, if you use Google Chrome to access Gmail, Google knows who you are. They can track your activities using tracking cookies like any ad service, but Google knows who you are.

Let’s also say you have an Android phone. To make that work, you have to use a Google ID. Now think of all of the information Google can collect about you. And Google knows who you are. And before you say it, Apple does the same thing. Just not as well as Google.

What can you do about all of this?

Whatever browser you use, you can change the settings so that 3rd party cookies are blocked. That will help a little bit.

Most browsers have an option to request that a website not track what you do. This is called a “Do Not Track” request. But it’s just that. A request. They don’t have to honor it. And many don’t.

You can install an Ad-Blocker (uBlock Origin, AdBlock Plus) in your browser (Chrome, Firefox, or Edge. Not Internet Explorer) to block advertisements and their cookies.

These types of things help many of the situations, but not all. If you are really concerned about privacy, here are some things you can do in addition to the things I already mentioned above.

  1. Use an anonymous browser like Epic, Comodo Dragon, or Maxthon.
  2. Use a search engine that doesn’t track you like DuckDuckGo or startpage.com.

There are a lot of plug-ins (add-ons) for Chrome and Firefox that claim to help with privacy. I’ve already mentioned that you can install an ad-blocker add-on to Chrome or Firefox. The problem with most of these add-ons is that they can often interfere with the normal operation of a website. In other words, they can make it where you can’t use some websites. An ad-block add-on can do this as well but if a website isn’t working, you can disable the ad-blocker for that site and fix it.

In case you are wondering, VPN doesn’t change anything with tracking cookies.

As for your phone, not much you can do other than go back to a flip phone.



Windows as a Service

October 18, 2017

With the release of Windows 10 in 2015, Microsoft started using the term “Windows as a service”. You may not have heard that, but us IT professionals hear it all the time from Microsoft. The term itself is not important, but It’s important for everyone who owns or uses a Windows 10 computer to understand what it means for your computer.

In the past, Microsoft tried to release a new version of Windows every 3 years. They waited 6 years from XP to Vista, but adhered to the 3-year release schedule since then until they released Windows 10. Microsoft says Windows 10 is the last named version of Windows. I believe they will drop the 10 at some point and then it will just be Windows. That won’t happen until after Windows 8.1 is dead which is scheduled for January 10th, 2023. At that point, Windows 10 will be the ONLY version of Windows that is being supported by Microsoft.

In the past, Microsoft has used different ways to update Windows. Windows XP had service packs. Windows 7 even had one service pack. Windows 8 was updated to Windows 8.1. But with Windows 10, we have this idea of Windows as a service. In a nutshell, that means they will just keep updating Windows 10 forever.

You may be wondering how you tell the different versions of Windows 10 apart. Each version has a version number. As of October 1st, 2017, the latest version of Windows 10 was version 1703. There have been quite a few updates to that version. Each update is identified by a build number. As of October 16th, the latest build of version 1703 was 15063.674. You can find out what version and build you have by clicking on the start button, type winver and hit enter.

Here’s how Windows as a service works. Microsoft will release bug fixes (Quality updates as they call them) monthly on what is called Patch Tuesday. They’ve been doing this since 2003. It’s the second Tuesday of the month. In addition to the monthly “quality” updates, Microsoft will release “Feature Updates” twice a year. These are the more major updates that change how Windows works. Not as major as going from Windows 7 to Windows 8, but bigger than the monthly updates.

That’s pretty much it. They will continue to fix bugs and patch security holes on a monthly basis like they have been doing and instead of doing major release every 3 years, they will do smaller upgrades twice a year. By the way, one of those semi-annual feature updates was just released on October 17th, 2017.

This aggressive mode of constantly updating Windows is good for security but it’s bad in many other ways. Every time Windows is updated, it seems to break some software or some device driver or something causing headaches for users and IT departments all over the world.

Those of you who subscribe to our Security And Maintenance (SAM) plan are lucky that you don’t have to worry about updates. We take care of it. And we don’t let an update install on your computer until it has been tested and found not to cause any major problems.


More Viruses for Mac Computers

August 28, 2017

As long as I can remember there has been a myth that Apple computers aren’t susceptible to viruses. It was never that they aren’t susceptible, it was that there weren’t enough of them to warrant hackers going after them.

Windows has been dominating the desktop/laptop market since Windows 95 came out. About 10 years ago, Windows was running on about 92% of all desktops and laptops and only about 6% were Apple. Today, Apple has risen to 20% in the United States and Windows has dropped to 75%. The numbers outside of the U.S. are quite different as Apple computers aren’t as popular outside the U.S.

Now Mac users who bought into the myth that their computers were immune to viruses are finding out they are susceptible. Apple computer viruses are quickly on the rise now. As of July 2017, the number of Apple viruses since July 2016 has increased by 230%!

We here at Cyber Tek Computer Pros can confirm that we are seeing more infected Mac computers.

Note that we are talking about iMacs and MacBooks. This does NOT include iPads, iPods, and iPhones. They use completely different software.

Anyway, if you have an iMac or MacBook (or MacBook Air), we highly recommend that you have antivirus software installed on your Mac.

If you want the best security there is, then consider subscribing to our Security And Maintenance (SAM) service plan. It’s only $20/month. It includes the best security software you can buy. But our SAM plan is much more than just security. Click here for more information on our SAM plan. The next best security for the Mac would be BitDefender. It costs $50/year. There are also some free security programs for the Mac. The best ones are Sophos and Avast.

If you have any questions or need help with your Mac, please contact us.


How to Encrypt Your Email

June 28, 2017

In past newsletters, we have told you how email is not a secure form of communication. As an email travels from one sever to another, it can be intercepted and read by programs (called bots) that harvest information from email. We told you to never send sensitive or important information of any kind through email. We have been asked several times if there’s a way to set up secure email. The answer was always, yes, but it’s not easy and it probably doesn’t work like you think it would.

Recently, however, we have been testing a Firefox add-on called “Encrypted  Communication”. This add-on is limited in what it will work with and there are still extra steps you have to go through. But using this add-on, you can indeed send an encrypted email.

First, you need Firefox (http://www.getfirefox.com) and you have to install the “Encrypted Communications” add-on(https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/encrypted-communication/).  Next, you must be using webmail. You can’t be using Windows 10 Mail, Thunderbird, Windows Live Mail, Outlook, or anything like that. You must be using the webmail interface to your email, which all email has. To access your webmail, open Firefox. In the top address bar (not the search bar) enter the address for your webmail. Here is a very partial list of the most popular ones.

If your email address ends with Go to
Gmail.com http://www.gmail.com
Yahoo.com, att.net, sbcglobal.net, prodigy.net http://mail.yahoo.com
Austin.rr.com http://mail.twc.com
Hotmail.com, outlook.com, msn.com, live.com http://www.outlook.com
AOL http://mail.aol.com

Once you have Firefox and Encrypted Communications all set up, use Firefox to access your webmail. Compose a new email. When you are ready to send, right-click anywhere in the body of the message and choose Encrypt Communication. It will then ask you for a password. STOP!!

Make sure you use a good password. The longer the better. It should include multiple uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. There should not be any words in it that appear in the dictionary. It should not include any names of any kind. It should not relate to any information about you (dates of birth, phone numbers, kid’s birthdays, street address, etc.). Can’t think of a good password? Use a password generator to make this easy https://www.roboform.com/password-generator.
Use a password manager to safely store and manage your passwords.
For more information about how to create a good password, read this article on our website. For more information about password managers, read this article on our website.

If I didn’t make that clear, make sure you use a good password. It will ask you to verify the password, so you’ll have to enter it twice. After that, your email is now encrypted. You can now press the send button.

Now, the person you are sending the email to will also have to use Firefox. They will also have to have the Encrypted Communication add-on installed. And, you will have to tell them what the password is for that email. No, don’t email them the password. Call them, text them, send them a letter, whatever. Assuming the recipient of the email has all of that, they will get an email that looks like a bunch of random characters. All they have to do is right-click on the body of the message and choose Decyrpt Communication. It will then prompt them for the password. Once the correct password is entered, the email will be readable. If they close the email and re-open it, they will have to re-input the password.

So, there you have it. You can send encrypted email. And that means absolutely nobody can read that email except you and the recipient, right? Unfortunately, no. Encrypting an email as described above will prevent almost everyone from reading it, but not everyone. The NSA, for example, can get around just about any type of encryption according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden.


Yet Another RansomWare

June 28, 2017

Last month we had the WannaCry Ransomware attack. WannaCry was squashed by the discovery of a “kill switch” that killed WannaCry. But now, this month, there’s a new one called Petya. Like WannaCry, Petya has mostly affected Europe. However, it has affected the US. One of the victims in the US was the Pennsylvania’s Heritage Valley Health System. No “kill switch” has been found for Petya yet, but it’s only been a couple of days. Hopefully they will find one and kill it.

We like to keep you informed about this because we have several customers who have lost important data to RansomWare infections. RansomWare doesn’t reveal itself until it’s too late. It works in the background encrypting your files and once encrypted, it reveals itself. At that point, you have two options. You can pay the ransom, or restore from backup.

We strongly discourage everyone from paying the Ransom. Don’t let these criminals profit from their crimes. That’s why it’s so important to have a good backup. But not all types of backups protect you from RansomWare. If you back up to an external hard drive, for example, RansomWare will encrypt that too so you won’t be able to restore from backup.

You need a backup that can restore previous versions of files. That’s why we recommend Carbonite for residential customers and CrashPlan for business customers. These online backup services allow you to restore previous versions of files. This is important because when the RansomWare encrypts your files, those encrypted files are backed up. Even to services like Carbonite and CrashPlan. That’s why you have to be able to restore previous versions of files because the most recent version that was backed up was encrypted by the RansomWare.

But having a good backup is Plan B. Plan A is preventing the RansomWare infection in the first place. That’s where really good security is a must. The best security you can get is through our Security And Maintenance (SAM) plan. Not one computer covered under the SAM plan has ever had its files encrypted. We had one SAM customer who got one of those fake emails from Fedex and opened the attachment. The RansomWare got on his computer, but our security kept it from encrypting his files so all we had to do was remove the RansomWare.

In summary, make sure you have good security to avoid RansomWare, be careful what you click on and what you open, and make sure you have a good backup system that allows you to restore previous versions of files. Do that, you will lessen your chances of getting a RansomWare infection, but if you do, your data is protected.


2017 Scam Update

May 12, 2017

The most pervasive scam that we here at Cyber Tek Computer Pros have seen in the last year is what we call Fake Microsoft. You may encounter them in several different ways.

You may get a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft, Windows Support, or something like that. Often they have a foreign accent. Although they claim to be Windows Support, they aren’t. It’s a scam. Don’t believe anything they say about your computer. DO NOT LET THEM GET ON YOUR COMPUTER. If you let them on your computer, they will put a system password on your computer and you won’t be able to use your computer. Microsoft will never call you out of the blue unless you called them first.

If you are surfing the web and a page comes up and says there’s a problem with your computer and to call Microsoft (or Windows Support) at the following number, don’t call it. It’s a fake web page. The number goes to Fake Microsoft too. A web page can’t know the health of your computer. Don’t believe anything it says about your computer. These web pages make it so you can’t leave the web page. Most of the time, rebooting your computer will fix this.

Don’t look up phone numbers for computer/printer support organizations on Google or any other search engine. Instead, go to their website and find their number there. The reason is that if you search for Microsoft Support phone number, HP Support phone number, Dell Support phone number, or any other support phone number. The first ones you find will be Fake Microsoft. If you call them, you’ll be sorry.

If you let Fake Microsoft onto your computer and now you can’t use it, give us a call and we can fix it for you.


Use Your Computer to Help the World

May 10, 2017

How many hours a day do you use your computer? That answer can vary from just a few minutes to all day. During that time when you aren’t using it, did you know that your computer could be helping to cure cancer, analyze the Earth’s climate, find life on other planets, cure AIDS, or do any number of other things to help mankind? It’s true.

As you probably remember, we generally recommend that you leave your computer on all of the time so that your computer can do updates and maintenance when you aren’t using the computer. That way, your computer is the fastest and most up-to-date that it can be when you are using it. Why not have your computer doing something useful when you aren’t using it?

This is done through something called Distributed Computing. Traditionally, if you wanted to crunch data, you would run it through a big powerful server. These servers are fast, but very expensive. The idea behind distributed computing is to push pieces of the data crunching off to thousands of much less powerful computers. Each computer can crunch a small part of the data. It’s even better if people are willing to volunteer their computers to participate.

Interested in participating? All you need is BOINC! BOINC stands for Berkely Open Infrastructure for Network Computing. It’s a software program you can install on your computer that will allow you to participate in distributed computing. You decide which projects your computer is used for. You decide when and how much of your computer will be used.

I have been using BOINC and participating in this since 1999. Wow! 18 years. Hard to believe. My level of participate has fluctuated over the years. Sometimes I just have one computer running BOINC. Sometimes several. Right now, I have 4 computers running it at different levels.

There are lots of projects to choose from. Projects are in areas like biology and medicine, astronomy, mathematics, seismology, cryptography, cognitive science, physics, chemistry, climate, and others. I’m participating in SETI@home (looking for ET), World Community Grid (looking for cures to diseases), Rosetta@home (looking for cures to diseases), and climateprediction.net (trying to understand Earth’s climate).

If you are interested in participating in this, here’s how:

  1. Go to http://boinc.berkeley.edu
  2. Click on the green download button to download BOINC.
    The download page will give you the option to download BOINC by itself or BOINC plus VirtualBox. If you have this option, download BOINC+VirtualBox. If it doesn’t give you this option, just download BOINC.
  3. After downloading it, you’ll need to run it to install BOINC.
  4. When installing BOINC you will come to the BOINC Configuration options.

    This is a very important window and you should stop and think about how you want it to run on your computer. If you take the default options and hit next, it will install BOINC as a screensaver. That means after the mouse and keyboard have been inactive for a specified amount of time, BOINC will kick in and start processing. It will show stuff on the screen until such time that your screen turns off and it will continue to process. BOINC will replace your current screensaver.

    Note: a lot of people are confused about what a screensaver is. The background picture on your desktop is not a screensaver. That is a background picture also known as wallpaper. A screensaver is something that kicks in after the specified amount of time and shows stuff on your screen. It can be photos, bubbles, a message, stars, or any number of things.

    If you click the advanced button, you can deselect the screensaver option and select the service option. The service option means BOINC runs all of the time in the background and you will never see it show up as a screensaver. There will be an icon and messages that pop-up from time to time. In addition, installing as a service will limit what projects you can participate in. Some projects use the graphics chip on your computer for processing. If you install as a service, these projects can’t run.

    For most people, the best option will be to go the screensaver option.

  5. The rest of the installation is straightforward.
  6. Once installed, you’ll need to configure it and attach to projects.
  7. When BOINC opens, go to the projects tab, click on Tools, Add Project.
    1. Choose the project you want to add. You’ll have to create an account with each project.
    2. Once you’ve got your projects, click on Options and then Computing preferences.
      Here’s where you can specify when BOINC crunches projects and how much of your computer’s resources it uses. You can tweak these going forward until you get it the way you like it.

As always, if you need help or would like for us to install and configure BOINC for you, just let us know.


Windows 10 Creator’s Update Breaks Windows 7 Games

May 4, 2017

Windows 10 doesn’t come with games like Windows 7 did. It is possible to install the games from Windows 7 on Windows 10. The problem is that every time there is a major update of Windows, Microsoft breaks those games. Intentionally. So after each major update, you have to reinstall the games.

A major update to Windows 10 called the Creator’s Update has been released and it breaks the Windows 7 games. If we had installed the Windows 7 games on your Windows 10 computer and they stopped working, let us know. We can install them again. If you have Windows 10 and want to have the Windows 7 games intalled on your computer, please let us know.

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