Business Security Software

April 27, 2017

You may be wondering what the difference is between consumer and enterprise security software. There is a big difference. The difference comes in how the software is installed, maintained, and monitored.

Enterprise Security software is targeted towards business and it makes it easy for one person to install, maintain, and monitor security software on many PC’s. In addition, enterprise security software is cheaper, per PC, than it would be to purchase a consumer license for each PC.

All of the big names in security software provide enterprise level software. They generally use the same security engines as their consumer counterparts. The big difference is in the interface, deployment, and monitoring. We haven’t tested every product, but of the ones we have tested, there is a clear winner. Vipre Advanced Security. There are two versions of Vipre Advanced Security and Vipre Endpoint Security.

Let’s look at an example of the cost using Vipre Advanced Security versus the consumer version of Vipre. Let’s say you have a small company with 10 PC’s. To purchase 10 individual licenses of the consumer version of Vipre for 1 year would be about $400. If you purchased a 10 seat license of Vipre Advanced Security, it would cost $240 as of April 2017. That’s a big savings. In addition, the Business version gives you a central place to install, monitor, and maintain Vipre on all of the PC’s. You don’t have to physically go to each PC.

If you own or work at a business that has 5 or more PC’s, we recommend  that you switch to Vipre Advanced Security as soon as possible. The security of the computers that run your business is nothing to fool around with. Do yourself, your business, and your employees a favor and switch to Vipre Advanced Security. By doing so you will save money and prevent downtime due to infections.

We can assist you in the installation of Vipre Advanced Security.

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Security Software Roundup

April 27, 2017

(Updated April 27, 2017)

This is a roundup of security software packages. For the purposes of this article, we are focusing on consumer versions targeted at residential customers and small businesses that do not have a server. We will cover business oriented security products in a separate article.

After reading this article, see what security software you have and where it falls on the list. You may also want to forward this to your friends and family so they can see where their security software falls on the list.

We evaluate based on our own tests, personal experience, customer’s experience, and reviews by other credible sources. The criteria used to evaluate these products includes:

  1. Automation. We want to set it and forget it. It should automatically update, automatically scan, and automatically clean. It should not be popping up asking us if we want to allow something or not.
  2. Configuration. Can we configure it the way we want to?
  3. User interface. Does it make sense or is it confusing?
  4. How well it prevent infections
  5. How well it removes infections
  6. Annoyance factor. We don’t want any pop-up ads. We don’t want it to constantly talk to us or ask us a lot of questions. We don’t want it to block us from doing what we need to do, as long as what we are trying to do does not infect our computer.
  7. Performance. Does it slow down our computer?
  8. Price. Is the price reasonable?

No security software gets a perfect score because none of them can completely protect your computer. Thousands of new infections come out every day. They just can’t keep up. But the better the protection, the less likely your computer is to become infected. But you don’t want to go too far and make it harder to use your computer. Computer security is a balancing act.

When you purchase security software, they usually come in different editions. You can generally get a full security suite or just the more basic protection. Most people don’t need the full security suite. It adds a lot of features you don’t need and slows your computer down even more. We generally prefer the more basic packages with a few free utilities added in for extra protection.

We have organized this list of Security software into 3 categories. Not recommended, Neutral, Free, and Recommended. In addition to these three categories of software, we are also including a section of free security add-ons that you will want to check out to help keep your computer safe from infections.

So without further Ado, here is the list!

Not Recommended

We don’t recommend using these products. If you have one of these products on your computer, we urge you switch to one of our recommended products as soon as possible.

  • Avira
    There’s a free version, a premium version for $30, an Internet Security version fo $60, and an Internet Security Plus version for $80. Doesn’t provide very good protection and tends to slow your computer down more than other products.
  • Bit Defender
    Bit Defender comes in three different editions. Antivirus Plus ($40), Internet Security($50), and Total Security ($70). One plus is that you can put it on up to 3 PC’s. Provides very good protection, but unfortunately, it slows your computer way down.
  • CA Internet Security
    They don’t sell home versions of this software anymore, but some ISP’s use it. If your ISP offers you a free version of this software, just say no. It doesn’t provide adequate protection against viruses and spyware. Slows computer down way too much.
  • Comodo
    Comodo makes an antivirus, firewall, anti-malware, anti spam, and Internet Security. All are free. We like their firewall, although most people don’t need a software firewall. The other components provide OK protection, but not good protection. The biggest problem with it is all of the advertisements. It will even install other products without asking you. A big no-no. It will even change your homepage. Way too intrusive.
  • Kaspersky
    Like most of the other security products, Kaspersky comes in several different editions. Anti-virus ($60), Internet Security ($80), Pure Total Security ($90), and One Universal Security ($100). It provides good protection, but not great. The biggest problem with it is that it’s way too expensive. You can often find Kaspersky on sale on their websites and in stores, but even their sale prices are higher than most others normal prices.
  • McAfee
    Available in Anti-Virus ($50), Internet Security ($70), and Total Protection ($90) packages, there was a time long ago when McAfee was our favorite. But somewhere along the line McAfee got the whole idea of security backwards. Most security products try to prevent viruses in order to allow you to do what you need to do on your computer. McAfee, instead, seems to do it’s best to prevent you from doing what you need to do while letting infections right onto your system. McAfee is one of our least favorite security products at this time.
  • Panda Internet Security (Paid version only)
    Basic protection for $50. Internet security suite for $70, and Global Proection for $80 and they recently released a free version. You can put the paid version on up to 3 PC’s, but again it’s more expensive than a Vipre Home Site license. The paid version provides good protection but too intrusive and annoying. Slow performance too. Another thing I don’t like is when you purchase online they try and throw in all of these extra’s like Extended Money Back Guarantee for $6 and Extended Download Service for $10. Ridiculous!
  • PC Tools
    Their editions are called Spyware Doctor ($40), Spyware Doctor with Antivirus ($50), and Internet Security ($60).Spyware Doctor only protects against spyware, so you’ll have to combine it with another antivirus. Each of these products can be installed on up to 3 computers, which makes the price good. These products offer good protection, but slow your computer down.
  • Trend Micro Internet Security
    Trend Micro’s home security products have the name Titanium. There are four editions of Titaniam. Antivirus ($40), Internet Security ($80), Maximum ($90), and Premium ($100). Slows your computer way down. Too intrusive. Not very good protection.
  • Spybot Search and Destroy
    Spybot is free for home use. There was a time when we recommended Spybot Search and Destroy, but times have changed. This product has not kept up with the times. It only provides mediocre protection with an antiquated user interface and it only protects against spyware, not viruses.
  • Ad-Aware
    The story for Ad-Aware is similar to Spybot Search and Destroy. There was a time when we recommended it, but not anymore. Although Ad-Aware’s user interface is much better than Spybot’s, like Spybot, it only provides mediocre protection. They now have paid versions. One called Personal Security ($12) and the other Pro Security ($36). They are cheap, but we don’t recommend them.
  • Webroot
    Like most of the other security companies, Webroot makes several versions of their security software. It provides pretty good protection, but not quite as good as our recommended products. Their three home products are Antivirus($40), Internet Security Plus($60), and Internet Security Complete($80).
  • Microsoft Security Essentials (free)
    Can only be used on Windows Vista and Windows 7. We recommend you combine this product with an Anti-Spyware product like SuperAntiSpyware or MalwareBytes because although it does a good job against viruses, it doesn’t do as good a job with spyware which is a bigger problem than viruses these days. The one feature that it offers that the other free products don’t is that you can use it on commercial computers.
  • Windows Defender
    Windows Defender is the security software built-in to all versions of Windows starting with Windows 8. On it’s own, it does not provide adaquate protection.

Neutral Products

These products offer pretty good protection, but have some issues. If you have one of these products, then you probably don’t need to switch right away but we recommend you switch when your current subscription expires.

  • AVG (Free and paid editions)
    Provides good protection if you change the settings to be more aggressive. You’ll need to change the advanced settings after install it to tell it to provide better protection. When major revisions of AVG come out, the free version won’t automatically update to it. You will have to manually download and upgrade. The free version of AVG is very intrusive. Pop’s up ads frequently. Also tries to trick you into getting paid version by converting free version to trial version.  Then the trial runs out and wants you to renew, even though you never bought it in the first place.
  • SuperAntiSpyware
    The interface is kind of clunky and is lacking some minor features. But although it’s not fancy, it does an excellent job of protecting against and cleaning up spyware. But not viruses. That’s why it should be used in conjunction with another security product. Most security products protect against both viruses and spyware. So there’s really no reason to have this additional product. The one thing this product is good for is removing spyware from an infected computer. But you can use their free version for that. No need to pay $30. The free version should not be your primary protection since it does not provide active protection and does not protect you from viruses.
  • MalwareBytes
    Even though it’s got a cute name, chances are, you’ve never heard of MalwareBytes, but it provides very good protection. But like SuperAntiSpyware, it only protects against spyware, not viruses, and must be combined with another product to fully protect your system. So why bother with it. Like SuperAntiSpyware, it is also good for cleaning an infected system, but you can use the free version for that, so no need to pay $25 for it. The free edition doesn’t provide active protection and thus does not prevent infections.
  • Norton
    There was a time when Norton was at the bottom of our list because it was too restrictive and slowed your computer WAY DOWN. But in the last two years, Symantec has really made strides in improving it and they have done a good job. In fact, last year, it was on our recommended list. However, in recent months we have seen a lot of infected computers come in that had Norton on them. I guess the hackers have figured out how to get around it. Since Norton is the best selling security product, it makes sense that the hackers would go after it. They have three editions. AntiVirus ($50 for one computer), Internet Security ($80 for up to 3 computers), and 360 ($90 for up to 5 computers).
  • Panda Cloud Antivirus Free Edition
    Good protection for the casual, non-adventurous user. There is a pro version that costs $30, but don’t bother. The nice thing about this one is that it is so easy to use. Basically, you don’t have to do anything. This is nice most of the time, but if it blocks something it shouldn’t, then telling it to not block it can be a pain. It’s pop-ups are really annoying.

Recommended Free Products

In recent years, some free antivirus products have really improved. So much so that they are probably fine for most home users who aren’t too adventurous on the Internet.

Here are our favorite free products:

  • Avast Free Edition
    Good protection. Requires that you register your email address and receive a license. It talks to you telling you that Avast has been updated. Some people find that annoying. Note that there is a free version for businesses too.

Recommended Products (Paid)

Although not perfect, these products are the best available in our experience. These are the products we use on our systems. these are the products we recommend to all of our friends, family, and customers.They are in order starting with our highest recommendation

  • Cyber Tek Computer Pros Security And Maintenance (SAM) Plan
    Our SAM plan offers the ultimate protection plus a lot more including free infection removal if your computer does become infected. Click here for more information our this service plan.

  • Vipre
    Vipre comes in two flavors. For $40 you get Vipre Antivirus which protects against viruses, spyware, and rootkits. For $50, you can get Vipre Internet Security which adds a firewall and other protection. We recommend Vipre Antivirus over the Intenet Security version. Vipre provides very good protection and doesn’t slow your computer down much.One of the best things about Vipre is you can purchase a Home Site License which allows you to install it on up to 10 computers. A Home Site License for Vipre Antivirus is $60, $70 for Vipre Internet Security.Another good thing about Vipre is that if your computer does become infected, you can call their support line and they will try to remove the virus for you at no additional charge. I’m not aware of any other company that will do that. The reason they can do it is because Vipre provides such good protection. Like anything, it’s not perfect, but it provides the best protection for the money and the best features.You can purchase Vipre or Vipre Premium from us.

  • ESET
    ESET’s products are NOD32 Antivirus ($40) and Smart Security ($60). They provide very good protection without slowing down your computer a lot. The interface is OK.
    You can purchase ESET products at www.eset.com.

Free Add On Products

Whether you use a free security product or a paid one, we recommend that you use these two free add-on security products.

  • uBlock
    Some security software includes ad blocking functionality, but most don’t. None of our recommended security products include it. We recommend blocking ads because many infections get on computers through third party web banner advertisements. But never fear, you can get free ad blocking software for your browser as long as you don’t use Internet Explorer or Edge. We recommend you use Google Chrome or Firefox as  your browser and install the uBlock add-on.
  • BitDefender TrafficLight
    This add-on isn’t available for Internet Explorer or Edge. It helps keep you from going to an infected website. Again, we recommend Google Chrome or Firefox with this add-on installed.

Computer security is a balancing act. Not enough security and your computer can easily become infected. Too much, and your computer can become slow and hardly usable.

The bottom line is that we recommend you use one of our recommended products (free or paid) and then add on ad blocking and website rating software.

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Change Your Apple Password Before April 7th

April 4, 2017

If you use iCloud, whether you use it on your iPhone, iPad, laptop, or computer, we recommend you change your iCloud (Apple) password before April 7th. That’s just 3 days from now, so don’t doddle.

iCloud has not been hacked. But lots of other websites have been hacked. You would be surprised how many get hacked every month. When a website gets hacked, the information that is stolen varies wildly depending on the website and depending on the type of hack. But often what is stolen are user ID’s and passwords of users.

When you couple that with the fact that most people use the same passwords for all websites, all the hackers have to do is hack one website and get that password and then they have your password for lots of other websites, often including your email account.

That’s what is happening here. Hackers have harvested thousands of user id’s (almost always your email address) and passwords from many websites. And now they say they are going to use that information on April 7th to access all of the iCloud accounts they can. Any account they successfully access will be devastated. They’ll wipe all of your data off iCloud. They’ll wipe your iPhone and they’ll wipe your iPad.

It seems to me that these people are Hacktivists than hackers. In case you haven’t heard the term Hactivist, it’s a hacker that only hacks to bring awareness to a problem, right a wrong, or promote a political agenda. I believe that is the case here because these hackers are giving a date for it and all you have to do to prevent it is change your iCloud password.

To reiterate, please change your iCloud/Apple password before April 7th.

For information on how to create a good password, please read this article on our website.

Remember to use unique passwords for all of your accounts. Yes, we know it’s hard to keep track of all of them. That’s why we also recommend that you use a good password manager. My favorite password manager is RoboForm. However, it’s not that easy to learn for the less technical person. Other password managers that are easier to use include Dashlane and LastPass.

Here’s how a password manager works. You store the passwords for all of your websites in the password manager. You have one password to get into the password manager and that’s the only password you have to remember. When you go to a website, you give the one password for the password manager, and the password manager fills in the unique password for the website you are signing into. This allows you to have long, complicated, and unique passwords for each website.

If you do try a password manager, make sure you enable 2-factor authentication and also make sure your master password follows all of the rules in the article on our website about how to create a good password.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions or need help.

 

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Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead… Almost.

March 28, 2017

Windows Vista, considered by many to be the most hated and berated version of Windows, will officially die on April 11th.

In case you don’t remember, Microsoft hurried Vista to market in 2006 because it had been 5 years since they released Windows XP and they wanted to get a new version out ASAP. That turned out to be a mistake because they rushed it to market before it was ready and it had A LOT OF PROBLEMS.

Once Microsoft ironed out all of the problems, it actually became a good version of Windows. But most people couldn’t forget how it was when it was first released, and so the hatred continued. Actually, the version of Windows that I thought was the worst was Windows ME which came out in 2000. It was far worse than Vista and never got fixed. Just replaced by Windows XP.

Enough of the history lesson. The purpose of this article is to let you know that April 11th is what Microsoft calls the end of support for Windows Vista. What that means is that from that date forward, Microsoft will no longer release security updates for Windows Vista. And that means that from that date forward, it will become more and more dangerous to use Windows Vista on the Internet.

In fact, several software vendors have already discontinued support of their products on Vista. For example, you can’t install the latest version of Adobe Reader or Google Chrome on Vista.

You may think I’m like Chicken Little crying that the sky is falling. Because the Internet is a dangerous place that is getting more dangerous each year, you have to keep up with the latest versions in order to reduce the risk. You may be thinking that your computer is safe because you have security software. Think again. In order to reduce the risk of damage to your computer, security software by itself isn’t enough. You have to keep programs like Flash, Java, & Reader up-to-date. You have to keep your browser up-to-date. And you have to a version of Windows for which Microsoft is fixing security vulnerabilities as they are discovered.

Even with all of these preventative measures, you are still vulnerable. But leave out any of these preventative measures and your vulnerability increases exponentially.

If you have a computer with Windows Vista on it, we recommend replacing it as soon as you are able to. It doesn’t necessarily have to be by April 11th, but don’t wait more than a month or two after that.

We don’t recommend this, but if you insist on using Windows Vista after April 11th, here are some rules to follow to help reduce your risk a little:

  1. Make sure you have good antivirus software that is up-to-date and not expired. If you are using Microsoft Security Essentials to protect your computer, uninstall it and install Avast Free Version.
  2. Don’t use Internet Explorer or Google Chrome. Use Firefox. (http://www.getfirefox.com).
    Install uBlock and TrafficLight add-on’s for more security.
  3. Don’t open PDF files on your computer.
  4. Use a good online backup service that protects against RansomWare attacks. We recommend Carbonite (http://www.carbonite.com).

As usual, if you have any questions about any of this, or need any kind of help with your computer, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Power Issues And Computers

March 2, 2017

While all electronic devices are subject to power issues, computers are much more sensitive to them than other devices. That’s why it’s important to understand these issues, and protect your computer from them.

There are several different types of power issues that can happen. Here is a list, what they are, and how they affect your computer.

  1. Power Surge
    1. What is it?
      A short term increase in voltage. Usually caused by faulty generators, air conditioners, and other devices.
    2. What can it do to my computer?
      Power surges typically will not harm a computer with a healthy power supply but if the computer’s power supply is weak or damaged by previous electrical issues, a power surge could cause it to fail.
    3. How do I protect my computer from it?
      A good surge protector or an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS).
  2. Power Spike/Impulse
    1. What is it?
      Similar to a Power Surge, but with a much more dramatic increase in voltage. Typically caused by lightning but can also happen when the power comes back on after a power outage.
    2. What can it do to my computer?
      A Power Spike can cause catastrophic damage to your computer, or any electronic device. Many people turn their computers off during a storm to protect it. But that doesn’t protect your computer from Power Spikes because your computer is still connected to the electrical grid and so the power spike has a path to get to your computer unless you have proper protection.
    3. How do I protect my computer from it?
      You can shut your computer down and unplug it from the electricity but you also have to unplug any cable that goes to your computer that is connected to a device that is plugged into an A/C plug. This includes printers, powered USB hubs, external hard drives, etc. A better way is to have a good surge protector or a UPS.
  3. Power Outage
    1. What is it?
      When the power goes completely out. Could last for a fraction of a second, or for hours or even days in extreme cases.
    2. What can it do to my computer?
      What a sudden loss of power does to a computer depends greatly on what the computer was doing at the time of the power loss. If you were editing a Word document, for example, you could lose the contents of that document. If the computer was in the middle of writing to the hard drive when the power loss occurs, it can cause corruption on the hard drive, but this is rare.
    3. How do I protect my computer from it?
      On computers with healthy power supplies and healthy hard drives, the chances of a power loss causing a problem are very slim. The only way to protect your computer is by using an UPS.
  4. Power Sag/Brown Out
    1. What is it?
      This is a short term decrease in voltage usually caused by high-demand on the electrical grid. These are rare here in central Texas but are more common in other parts of the country.
    2. What can it do to my computer?
      It can cause your computer to freeze, crash, or act weird. It can cause loss or corruption of data. It also reduces the lifespan of some electrical components like power supplies, hard drives, etc.
    3. How do I protect my computer from it?
      The only protection is a UPS.
  5. Noisy or Dirty Power
    1. What is it?
      Faulty generators, switches, nearby radio transmitters, and similar devices can cause power to contain “electrical noise” and interference.
    2. What can it do to my computer?
      It can shorten the life of your computer and cause it to act weird, suddenly shut off or reboot, or cause it to freeze or crash.
    3. How do I protect my computer from it?
      The only protection is a UPS.

As you can see from the list above, there are quite a few power related issues that can have an effect on computers and those effects can be catastrophic.

How you should protect a particular computer from these issues depends on what type of computer it is and how critical the computer is to you. First, if the computer is a laptop, then all you need is a good surge protector. That’s because a laptop has a built-in battery and so it’s not susceptible to power outages (assuming the battery isn’t defective and has a charge).

If the computer is an All-In-One or a desktop, then ask yourself what effect it would have on your life or your business if the given computer wasn’t working for a day or two. Would that be an inconvenience or would it be a big problem?

If it would be an inconvenience, then get a good surge protector that provides at least 2000 joules of protection and comes with an insurance policy for connected equipment. Don’t rely on these cheapo power strips that say they have surge protection. Their surge protection is usually not very good.

If it would be a big problem to be without a given computer for a day or two (or more), then we recommend getting a UPS. Not just any UPS. The first thing you should look for is a UPS that connects to your computer with a USB cable. This is important because when there is a power outage, your UPS can tell your computer to shut down. This prevents the computer from experiencing a sudden loss of power in the event of a power outage that lasts more than a few minutes. The other feature to look for in a UPS is the voltage. How much voltage you need depends on how much power your computer uses. This can be hard to determine. For the average computer, 550 VA should be fine. For a computer that is more powerful, you’ll need more voltage. For them, a minimum of 650VA is recommended.

When you connect a computer to a UPS, be aware that the UPS has two different types of outlets. On one side of the UPS are outlets that only have surge protection. The other side has ports that will be supported by the battery in the UPS. The computer itself and your monitor should be plugged into the battery backup outlets while all other devices should be plugged into the surge protection only outlets.

When you have a computer that is protected by a UPS that has been properly set up, you don’t have to worry about your computer. If there is a storm, the surge protection will protect it. If there is a power outage, the UPS will keep the computer from losing power and will tell the computer to shut down if the power outage lasts more than a minute or two. The only thing you have to do is remember to turn the computer back on after the power comes back on. You may be wondering why everyone doesn’t have a UPS. Two reasons. One is many people never heard of them. The other reason is that they aren’t cheap. A good surge protector is around $30. A good UPS is $80 or more.

If you are interested in getting a UPS on any of your computers, give us a call. We can install them for you and make sure they are installed and configured properly. We can even purchase the UPS for you.

And, by the way, we recommend that you have all electric devices plugged into good surge protectors. This includes TV’s, sound systems, DVD players, DVR’s, cordless phones, cell phone/tablet/laptop chargers, and so forth.

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What You Need to Know About Email

February 22, 2017

Email, which stands for electronic mail, became popular during the 1970’s in the government and large corporations. It then began to trickle down to smaller companies. As more and more people got computers at home with dial-up internet access, email began to filter into our everyday personal lives as well until it became a major form of communication. Although email is still a major form of communication in both the business world and our personal lives, email is not a popular with millennials (generation Y) as they tend to use text messaging and social media.

Even if our use of email has declined, it’s still a major form of communication. Yet, most people don’t really understand some of the important aspects of email. So with that in mind, here is everything (almost) you need to know about email. I say almost because this article would be way too long if I included everything.

The first thing you should understand is that email is not secure. When you send an email, it’s not encrypted or anything. It can travel through several servers before arriving at its destination. If one of those servers is infected with a particular type of virus, that virus could intercept your email. And because email is not encrypted, that email can be read and information can be harvested from it. That’s why we always say that you should never send sensitive or identifying information through email. This includes passwords, credit card information, account numbers, and stuff like that.

The second thing you should understand is that email isn’t as reliable as you might think. Mainly due to the constant battle against SPAM, many emails are rejected by the server on the other side of your email and never reach the person you are trying to contact. Even if your email is delivered, it could go into the recipient’s spam folder. Or, the person on the other end might not see it because it’s just one email among 100’s of others.  You can request a return receipt, but that usually doesn’t work. If you send an important email, you can ask the recipient to reply and acknowledge that they got the email. Many won’t do this, though. If the email is really important, you might want to contact the recipient using a different form of communication to verify they got it.

A big problem with email that everyone knows about is spam.  In 2009, more than 97% of all emails sent were spam. Thanks to many factors, that number has come down to around 70%, but that’s still really high. Never click on a link in a spam email. In fact, avoid opening them. Worse than spam is the spoof email. This is an email that pretends to be from a business and trick you into clicking on a link in the email. These emails can be very convincing. If you receive an email that looks like it’s from a business you do business with, the safest thing to do is to avoid clicking on links in the email and, instead, just go to the businesses website, login, and take care of it that way.

Email is the second biggest delivery mechanism for computer viruses. Second only to the web. When most people think about email and viruses, they think about attachments. Never open an email attachment unless you are absolutely sure it’s safe. And it’s hard to know because your friend’s email account could have been hacked. But when it comes to viruses and email, it’s not just about attachments. What’s more common these days is the email tries to get you to click on a link that goes to an infected website that infects your computer.

Now that we have talked about all of the problems with email, let’s talk about solutions and best practices.

If you have your email through one of the free providers (Gmail, Outlook.com, Yahoo, AOL, etc.) then you should enable additional security features which will help prevent your email account from getting hacked. First, you should have a strong password for your email account and you should use that password only for that email account. Why? Your email account is often the key to resetting the passwords on the websites you login to. If someone hacks your email, they can reset the password for your bank, for example, and get into your bank account. For information on creating a strong password, check out this article on our website. In addition, turn on 2-step verification. Different email services have different names for it, but basically, the first time you log into your email on a new device (PC, phone, tablet, etc.) you must verify you are who you say you are. The best way to do that is using your cell phone and text messaging. For more information on 2-step verification, check out this article on our website.

Along those same lines, we don’t recommend using email accounts provided by your Internet Service provider. There are many reasons for this which you can read on this article on our website. In a nutshell, these email accounts are unreliable and unsafe. Get yourself an email account on Gmail or Outlook.com and use that instead. And changing email addresses isn’t a big deal if you know how to do it right. Let us help and we’ll make the transition easy.

When you access your email using an app or email client, it can interact with your email server in two different ways. These are POP and IMAP. We recommend avoiding POP and using IMAP. IMAP keeps your email in sync on all devices. POP doesn’t. When you access email from a device like a phone or tablet, you use an app. These apps default to using IMAP which is good. If you use a program other than Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or similar to access your email, then those don’t use IMAP or POP because that’s a direct connection to the email server. But if you use a program like Thunderbird, Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail, Incredimail, or similar to access your email, make sure you use IMAP.

And now for some email etiquette. Don’t forward a bunch of emails to all of your friends. Try to limit forwarded emails to 1, maybe 2 a day. More than that and you are basically spamming your friends. And when you send them an important email, they may not read it because they may assume it’s just another junk email you forwarded.

All businesses, no matter how small, should have a website and they should use email accounts for that website. When your business uses an email account that is on one of the free email services, it just doesn’t look professional. For example, if I owned a business called Fred’s Fill Dirt, I shouldn’t use an email address of fredsfilldirt@gmail.com. I should use fred@fredsfilldirt.com.

And finally, what should you do if your email gets hacked?
Check out this article on our website.

I hope this article was informative, helpful, not too technical, and not too long.

If you have any questions about email or need help, reply to this email or give us a call.

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What to do if you are having trouble viewing websites

November 18, 2016

Your computer boots up but when you try and go to a website, either nothing happens, you get an error, or perhaps it goes to the wrong website. Or maybe the website comes up, but it isn’t displaying correctly.

Here are some of the simpler things you can try when you are having trouble viewing websites.

  1. Reboot your computer and try again
  2. Try a different browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Edge, Safari).
  3. Reboot your modem, router, gateway.
  4. Run the troubleshooter.
    1. Right-click on network icon in lower right-hand corner near date/time.
    2. Choose troubleshoot problems.
  5. Clear browser cache.
    This varies from browser to browser. Here are instructions for the top 3 browsers:

    1. Internet Explorer
      1. Click on tools, internet options
      2. Click the delete button
      3. Click the delete button
    2. Chrome
      1. Click menu, settings
      2. Scroll down and click “Show advanced settings…”
      3. Click “Clear browsing data” button.
      4. Click “Clear bowsing data” button.
    3. Firefox
      1. Click menu, history
      2. Click “Clear recent history”
      3. Choose “Everything” for the time range to clear.
      4. Click “Clear now” button.
  6. Make sure you have all of the latest Windows Updates
  7. Make sure the browser you are using is up-to-date. If not, update it.
  8. Run a scan with your security software to make sure your computer isn’t infected.
  9. Make sure Java is up-to-date (www.java.com)
  10. If using Firefox, make sure Adobe Flash is up-to-date (www.adobe.com)
  11. If using an ad-blocker, temporarily disable it to see if that helps.
  12. Check the add-ons installed in your browser and disable/remove any suspicious ones.
    1. Internet  Explorer – Click on Tools, Add-ons
    2. Chrome – Click Menu, More Tools, Extensions
    3. Firefox – Click Menu, Add-ons, and then Extensions on left

Those are the easier things that you can try. If those don’t fix it, contact us.

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2016 Update on Spam

October 21, 2016

It’s been three years since our last article on Spam. We don’t do a lot of updates on spam because, frankly, not much has changed. There has been one new development in the world of spam, but the main reason we wanted to do an update on spam was for anyone who may have missed our previous articles on the subject.

In our original article about spam, we told you that it gets its name from a Monty Python skit. If you would like to watch that skit, click here. They repeat the word spam so many times in that skit, it is reminiscent of how spam repeats itself in your inbox.

Today I want to tell you about a new tactic spammers have started using. I also want to go back over what you can and should do about spam.

If you haven’t had your email account hacked and used to send spam, you probably know someone who has. When your email gets hacked and used to send spam, all you have to do is changed your password and security questions and that fixes it.

First of all, you should be aware that email is not safe. What I mean is, when you send an email, at least part, if not all, of your email’s journey to its destination is one in which the email can easily be intercepted and read by a program called a bot (short for robot). The email would continue on its journey to its destination, but the contents of the email can be read and analyzed by computer programs that harvest information from those emails.

The information they harvest can vary, but the most common information is who sent the email and who was the email sent to. Basically, they are harvesting email addresses. Some other computer programs harvest other information like personal information, credit card numbers, and passwords. That’s why you should NEVER send any sensitive information via email unless you can cleverly mask the information. The good news is that it is computer programs looking at the emails, not humans. So it’s pretty easy to embed information in an email in a way that a computer program wouldn’t recognize it. For example, if you send an email to someone and say: My password is 1234567, a computer program can be written that easily identifies that and reports back to its programmer what your password is. But you could send the same email and write it differently and it probably would not be picked up by a bot. For example, you could say: “I’m going to send you a separate blank email with the password in the subject line.” Then send them another email, put the password, and only the password in the subject line. Leave the body of the email blank and send it. A bot won’t know it’s a password. But I digress.

Once the spammers have harvested your email address and who you are sending email to, they will then send out an email to the same people you sent email to. They send the email out in a way so that, to the untrained eye, it looks like it’s from you. But in actuality, the email was not sent from your email account. At first you may think your email account has been hacked but in reality, it hasn’t been hacked. And that’s the worst thing about this new tactic. When your email account has been hacked, you can change your password and lock the hacker out. That won’t help in this case because the email wasn’t sent from your email account. Basically, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. The good news, though, is that the spammers will only do this for a week or two and then they’ll move on to someone else and the problem will go away. They might come back to you occasionally though.

If you start getting emails from your friends and family telling you they are receiving spam from you and that your email has been hacked, it may or may not be true. Ask them to forward the email to you. If you know how to look at the email headers, look at them and see if the email was really sent from your email account or not. You can also forward it to us and we’ll look at it and let you know.

Other than that, not much has changed in the world of spam. The war continues between spammers and those that try to stop them. Those of us who fight against the spammers know that we can’t win the war. But we can significantly reduce the amount of spam each person has to deal with. If you get a lot of spam, be aware that you would get 100 times more spam if it weren’t for those who battle the spammers every day.

There was a time when 92% of all email was SPAM. Thanks to System Administrators and Anti-Spam software, that rate has fallen to around 45%. But the actual amount of spam that makes it to your inbox has probably increased. Here’s how it goes. Anti-spam software blocks spam. Spammers figure a way to get around it and spam gets through. Anti-spam figures out a way to block it. Spam goes down. Then spammers figure a way around it. Then…well, you get the idea. Lather, rinse, repeat. The never-ending spam battle.

You may be wondering why spammers send spam. Surely, in this day and age, everyone knows not to click on spam, open spam attachments, and so forth. While most people do know that, not everyone does. And spammers are tricky and good at what they do. They can fool us into thinking an email is legit. Because spam is so cheap and easy to send, spammers only need one person out of ten million to fall for a given spam to make it successful. So basically, spam works.

Here’s what you should know about dealing with spam on a daily basis:

  1. Don’t open spam.
    Before opening any email, look closely at who it’s from and the subject. Also look at the date and time. If you are suspicious, don’t open it.
  2. Don’t click on links, pictures, or anything inside a spam email.
  3. Don’t open attachments in spam.
  4. Never try to unsubscribe to spam email.
    (note: it is safe to unsubscribe from legitimate business emails.)
  5. If there is even one shred of doubt as to whether or not an email is legit, treat it as spam.
  6. Turn off email preview.
  7. Use built-in anti-spam or install anti-spam software.
    This is a big subject that we could devote an entire article to. If you use webmail, be sure and mark spam emails as spam so that similar spam won’t be delivered to your inbox in the future.
    If you read your email using an email client like Outlook, Windows Live Mail, or Thunderbird, we can install a free anti-spam product that will drastically reduce the amount of spam you have to deal with.

And most importantly, don’t waste any more time with spam than you have to. Quickly deal with your spam as outlined above and move on.

As always, if you have any questions or need help with any of this, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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2016 Scam Update

October 21, 2016

From time to time we update you on computer related scams. A couple of years ago we told you about a scam where you would get a call from someone claiming to be with Microsoft or “Windows Support” telling you that your computer is infected and they can fix it for you. For a fee.

We also told you about a related scam where if you looked up a phone number for Microsoft Support, Dell Support, HP Support, and so on, the first numbers that came up were fake numbers that went these same scammers who want to “fix” your computer. For a fee.

Now these same scammers have expanded. They create these web pages that tell you something is wrong with your computer and tell you to call a number to get it fixed. Of course, there’s a fee. You may be wondering how you actually end up on one of these web pages. There are several ways. Clicking on a link in a spam email is the obvious way, but there are others. One way is through misspelled websites. For example, if you went to goggle.com instead of google.com, you might get one of these websites. But the biggest way is through advertisements on websites.

It’s complicated, but in a nutshell, many websites subscribe to advertisement services. These advertisement services show ads on their customer’s websites. These advertisement services get hacked so that an advertisement takes you to one of these scam web pages. You go to a legitimate website, but the ad on the web site is from one of these hacked advertisement services and you get sent to a scam website.

These web pages don’t just say somethings wrong with your computer. Call this number to get it fixed. They pop-up messages that prevent you from leaving the web page or using your web browser. They sometimes play audio over your speakers telling you about the problem on your computer and to call the number to get it fixed.

The bottom line is that Microsoft will never call you to tell you there is a problem with your computer. A legitimate website will never tell you that something is wrong with your computer. A website cannot know if somethings wrong with your computer. Unless you are on one of our service contracts, we won’t even call you to tell you that something is wrong with your computer.

If you find yourself on one of these web pages that you can’t get out of, the easiest thing to do is reboot. However, it might come back when you open your web browser again. If that happens, you’ll probably need to call us so we can remote in and fix it for you.

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Windows Vista End of Support Six Months From Today

October 11, 2016

Microsoft will end support of Windows Vista six months from today. If you have a computer with Windows Vista on it, we urge you to replace it in the next few months. Many vendors have already discontinued support for Vista. For example, you can’t get the latest version of Adobe Reader on Vista. And since Adobe Reader is a security risk, that’s a problem. Same goes for Google Chrome and several others. That list is going to grow quickly.

You may be wondering what it really means when we say Microsoft will end support for Windows Vista. What that means is that Microsoft will stop releasing security updates for Vista. So on the day they end support for Vista, that doesn’t mean your computer with Vista on it will go boom. It just means, from that point forward, it will be more and more likely that your computer will become infected.

You may also be wondering how you can tell if you have Windows Vista. The quickest and easiest way to find out what version of windows you have is to click the start button, type: winver    and hit the enter key on your keyboard.

You may be wondering if you should upgrade your computer from Vista to a newer version of Windows. The answer is a resounding no. You’ll have to get a new or at least newer (refurbished) computer that has a newer version of windows on it. If you decide to go with a refurbished computer, don’t get one with Windows 7 on it because you will be in the same boat 3 years from now. Get one with Windows 8 on it. If you don’t like Windows 8, we can make it easier to use.

If you decide you need a new computer, we can help. We can get you a new computer. If you purchase your own computer, be sure and read: http://www.ct-cp.com/?p=12 before choosing a computer. And no matter who gets your new computer, we can transfer the data and settings over from the old computer to the new one.

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