Mac OS Malware – What you need to know

It’s finally happened.  Mac’s have finally reached that magic threshold where more and more people are purchasing MacBooks and iMacs.  The “bad guys” have recognized that and are writing Mac OS malware, viruses, and ransomware.  Yes, they are specifically targeting the Mac OS.  They’ve had years of practice on Windows machines.  They know Mac users are a bit more discerning, so their malware needs to be even more subtle to trick those Mac users.  Their products look like the real thing – a real email from Dropbox, a real pop-up from Adobe.

It’s a jungle out there, so don’t think you’re immune just because you have a Mac!mac os malware

Two versions that are targeting Macs are MacSpy and MacRansom.  MacSpy does the usual data scraping, browser history harvesting, etc. MacRansom is a straight-up ransomware.  The cost to retrieve your data is about $650-750.  You can read more about them in this article from Dark Reading.

Another Mac OS malware that’s spreading is installed when you think you’re installing an Adobe upgrade.  You do get the upgrade, but you get a “snake” program as well.  For anyone interested in reading more, check out this article.

Another Trojan, named OSX/Dok, is also relatively new and spreads it’s program through a sophisticated phishing email.  So far, it seems to be targeting primarily European Mac users.  Checkpoint says that:

“This new malware – dubbed OSX/Dok — affects all versions of OSX, has 0 detections on VirusTotal (as of the writing of these words), is signed with a valid developer certificate (authenticated by Apple), and is the first major scale malware to target OSX users via a coordinated email phishing campaign.”

Have you learned something about Mac OS malware? If you found this helpful, please forward it!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission if you sign up.)

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Tech Terms Decoded – CPU

Decoding Tech Terms

Are you as confused as I sometimes am about common Tech Terms?  When Chris talks about RAM and Memory and CPU and gigs of storage, I’m not sure what he is saying. I’ve done some digging to see if I can help explain CPU in non-Tech terms.

Computer Processing Unit or CPU

The CPU is a component in your computer where the actual calculations are carried out.  Here’s a good explanation from TechTerms:

“The CPU is the primary component of a computer that processes instructions. It runs the operating system and applications, constantly receiving input from the user or active software programs. It processes the data and produces output, which may stored by an application or displayed on the screen.

The CPU contains at least one processor, which is the actual chip inside the CPU that performs calculations. For many years, most CPUs only had one processor, but now it is common for a single CPU to have at least two processors or “processing cores.” A CPU with two processing cores is called a dual-core CPU and models with four cores are called quad-core CPUs. High-end CPUs may have six (hexa-core) or even eight (octo-core) processors. A computer may also have more than one CPU, which each have multiple cores. For example, a server with two hexa-core CPUs has a total of 12 processors.”

Which Processor do you have?

For a Mac, click on the Apple in the top left corner, then select “About this Mac”.  Finally, click on “Overview” to see your Processor.

Mac Processor

For a Windows machine, click on the Start menu, then click on Control Panel, and finally select System.

Tech Terms - RAM

 

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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Tech Terms Decoded – Operating System

Decoding Tech Terms

Are you as confused as I sometimes am about common Tech Terms?  When Chris talks about RAM and Memory and gigs of storage, I’m not sure what he is saying. I’ve done some digging to see if I can help explain Operating System in non-Tech terms.

OS or Operating System

The Operating System is what allows your computer to run.  Whether you are using a Mac, a Windows, a Linux machine, or something else, the OS manages the internals to make sure your document is delivered successfully to your printer, or your proprietary spreadsheet is automatically saved every 2 minutes.

Some of the Operating Systems available include Windows, OS-X for Mac’s, Linux, Android for Smartphones, and iOS for iPhones. The Operating System is what allows the applications or computer software to communicate with the computer hardware and get things done.  It is software that controls the basic operations of the computer.  The Operating System also oversees file management.

Here’s a good definition from TechTerms

“An operating system, or “OS,” is software that communicates with the hardware and allows other programs to run. It is comprised of system software, or the fundamental files your computer needs to boot up and function. Every desktop computer, tablet, and smartphone includes an operating system that provides basic functionality for the device.”

Which Operating System are you using?

For a Mac, click on the Apple in the top left corner, then select “About this Mac”.  Finally, click on “Overview” to see your OS and version.

Operating System - Mac OSx

Operating System – Mac OSx

For a Windows machine, click on the Start menu, then click on Control Panel, and finally select System.

Windows Operating System

Windows Operating System

Are you happy with your current Operating System?  Have you thought about upgrading to a newer version?  Let us know if you need help!

 

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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Tech Terms Decoded – Computer Memory

Decoding Tech Terms

Are you as confused as I sometimes am about common Tech Terms?  When Chris talks about RAM and Memory and gigs of storage, I’m not sure what he is saying. I’ve done some digging to see if I can help explain Computer Memory in non-Tech terms.

Computer Memory Storage

Computer Memory is defined by the techies in two ways.  First of all there is Primary memory or RAM which is highlighted in a previous blog.  Next is Secondary Memory.  And now we all know why we get confused talking about Memory.  The Geeks think Primary storage or RAM.  Normal folk think about where you put your files, which is referred to as “secondary”.

Computer Memory or Secondary Memory: The amount of storage you have in your Hard Drive or Solid Sate drive (or even your SmartPhone)  is what we’ll talk about here. (Read this blog for the difference between a Solid State Drive and a Hard Disk Drive.)  Computer Memory is where you store your files, your photos, and your music.  The more storage you have, the more music you can play!

And, yes, computer memory makes a difference on your SmartPhone too.  One year when I was on vacation, I had to bring my computer to the beach to take the sunrise photos.  My phone had so little storage, that I had to download them to my computer if I took more than 15 pictures!  Needless to say, I could not take videos with that phone.

How Much Storage do I Have?

To find out how much storage your Windows machine has, first click on the Start Menu.  Next click on “Computer”.  Here it will show how much storage you have, and how much is free or available.

Computer Memory - Windows

Computer Memory – Windows

If you want to find out how much storage you have on your Mac, first click on the Apple in the top left corner.  Next select “About This Mac”.  Then click on Storage. You should see something like this with a breakdown on where you are using your computer memory:

Computer Memory - Mac

Computer Memory – Mac

How Much Memory Should I Have?

If you’re constantly having to delete photos or files, you need more!  In general, if you’re buying a new machine, you should have double the amount that you are currently using.  If you need help ordering and installing more computer memory, then click here.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission when you sign up.)

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Need a new part?

For Geek For Hire, last week was all about installing new parts for our customers.  Chris replaced (or added) parts on new and older computers.  If you have a non-working part on your computer, don’t think you need to get a whole new computer just to get it to work!

  • For example, one customer had a non-functioning keyboard on his laptop.  Chris ordered a new keyboard from the manufacturer and installed it.  Another option is to get an external keyboard – either wired or Bluetooth.  Although your laptop is not quite as portable when you have to lug around a keyboard too!
  • Another customer got a new desktop computer but it came without a DVD drive.  Chris ordered a very high quality DVD drive for this customer.  He took the desktop apart, put the Drive in the right place and securely attached it to the inside.  Then he tested it to make sure it worked properly – both read and write functionalities.   (I wonder what movie they watched!)
  • A third customer needed more RAM which Chris was able to install.
  • Another customer ordered a new soundbar and asked Chris to install it for them.
  • Another customer woke up to a black screen.  Chris determined the problem was the monitor and not something internal to the machine.  A new monitor was ordered – problem solved!  (Sometimes there is a problem with the video card inside the computer which causes the monitor to not work.  Chris can replace those too.)

Other miracles Chris performed last week included bringing a MiniMac back from the dead, removing several hundred viruses from a MacBook Air, removing viruses from a Dell Windows 10 machine, and uninstalling Windows 10 and reinstalling Windows 7 on yet another machine.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet, but I’m tempted! Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link:  Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial

Free Substitutes

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can’t believe how expensive everything is getting!  When I look at the prices for different software, I am astounded!  So, with that in mind, here are some Office Suite products you can download for free instead of buying the latest version of Microsoft Office. (All of these say they will work with Windows, OS-X, and Linux.)

OpenOffice:

For common office software like spreadsheets and word processing, many people like and use OpenOffice. Here’s the description from the Apache website:

“Apache OpenOffice is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in an international open standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages. It can be downloaded and used completely free of charge for any purpose.”

Head to the OpenOffice website for more info.

LibreOffice:

The Document Foundation’s LibreOffice is another office suite.  Here’s the description from their website:

“LibreOffice is a powerful office suite; its clean interface and powerful tools let you unleash your creativity and grow your productivity. LibreOffice embeds several applications that make it the most powerful Free & Open Source Office suite on the market: Writer, the word processor, Calc, the spreadsheet application, Impress, the presentation engine, Draw, our drawing and flowcharting application, Base, our database and database frontend, and Math for editing mathematics.”

More info here.

Caligra Office:

Yet another Office Suite.  According to their website:
“Calligra Suite is a set of applications written to help you to accomplish your work. Calligra includes efficient and capable office components: Words for text processing, Sheets for coputations, Stage for presentations, Plan for planning, Flow for flowcharts, and Kexi for database creation.  In addition, Calligra offers cutting edge applications for artists to work on 2D drawings and illustrations: Krita for painting and raster drawing, and Karbon for vector graphics.

More here.

Chris has been using OpenOffice for years and can provide some training if needed.

Note:  Some of these applications require that you have Java installed.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area.

How do I … (fill-in-the-blank)…?

How-To Books:

Like a lot of our customers, I try to figure things out for myself before I call in outside support and training. That is doubly true for learning new software and applications. If my friends can’t help, I type my request into Google. If that doesn’t work, I head to the bookstore. With that in mind, here are some books we recommend:

If you’re trying to learn Windows 10:

If you can’t figure out your Windows 8 machine:

If you need help learning how to navigate on your new Mac:

Microsoft Office

Open Office:

  • I’m trying to find a great book to recommend on using OpenOffice, a replacement for the (fairly expensive) Windows Office Suite. If there is a book that you love, please share the title with me and let me know why it’s so great!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area. Links to products may provide a small commission to Geek For Hire.

 

Who is Really Calling?

Computer scams are rampant if my voice mail is any judge.  For the last few weeks I’ve been getting a voice mail message with the following recording:

“This call is in regards to the security software we installed on your computer last year. Now we see a red flag on our end stating there is a security breach on it. Please call 1-866-758-1262. I repeat, 1-866-758-1262. Thank you.”

We’ve also received phone calls from regular people like you or me who fell victim to these scams.

Whenever you receive a call on your home or mobile phone from a number that you do not recognize, be extra careful. Dell or Microsoft or Toshiba or even Apple won’t be calling you to tell you that your computer has a virus.  When you get this kind of call, your spider-sense should be tingling!

There are times though when you answer the phone and the person on the other end is very convincing.  You might believe them and agree that they can access your computer remotely.  Then when you hang up the phone you have second thoughts.  Some things you should do right away are to:

  • Turn your machine off.
  • Disconnect the internet from your machine.  You may need to unplug the Ethernet cable from your machine or turn off the router if you have wireless service.
  • Turn your machine back on and confirm that your anti-virus is still working and is still installed.
  • Start your virus scanner.  It should tell you whether any malware has been installed, and it should remove those programs.
  • Once your virus scanner has completed and has removed any potential threats, you can reconnect your internet.
  • For the next few days be very cautious about how you use your machine.  For example, it would be prudent not to enter any financial or banking information on that machine – use your phone or iPad instead.  If the machine doesn’t show any signs of continued infection, it should be fine.  If it starts displaying pop-ups or becomes very slow, it’s time to call in a professional to do a through scrub of the machine.

You can find other symptoms of an infected machine here:

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area.

 

Experts say computers won’t last as long as you think

We have several customers with very old machines and they generally ask us how much longer they can expect their machine to last. We’re talking ten plus years! Remember Windows ME? Yup, we’re still seeing customers with that Microsoft Operating System!

It’s true that the machines that were built prior to 2010, for example, are likely to last five or so years. Some people have gotten them to last longer by taking special care of them. For example, we’re still happily using our 2008 iMac. Eight years later, it still performs very well. However, machines built in the last couple of years were only made to last three to six years.

I talked with Chris about computers in general and how long we can expect them to last.

“Computer technology doubles every three to four years and computers tend to last about four years. The better (more expensive) computers tend to last much longer than the cheaper ones will.”

Other experts around the internet chime in:

“…we use the 3-4-5 theory.  Plan on three years, hope for four, and don’t push past five years.”

“If you’re looking at the computer as a whole, with no interest in upgrading or replacing parts, expect to get at least three years out of the average desktop computer.”

“As a general rule of thumb, I expect laptops to last two to five years. Desktops may last three to seven years.”

“…a good timeframe to consider upgrading is around every three to four years.”

What can you do to help your machine last longer and keep it humming along?

  • Keeping the insides free of dust and pet hair.
  • If a machine is short on RAM, adding more will help it to run faster.
  • Too many protective software programs will make a machine run slower.
  • When the hard drive is more than 50% full, it will begin to run slower.
  • Viruses will tend to make your machine run slower. If you think you may have a virus, run your virus scanner to remove them.
  • Things get bigger and more computationally intense over time, so there are lags.

Remember, even if your machine is running perfectly, to keep your machine backed up regularly. Backups never go out of style and you never know when that hard drive might fail!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more at http://www.GeekForHireInc.com Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area

 

Data Transfer vs. Data Recovery

We’ve been doing a lot of Data Recovery lately so I asked Chris to tell us what is involved in Data Recovery and how it is different from Data Transfer.

Although Data Transfer and Data Recovery are similar phrases, they are different in important ways.

Data transfer is the act of copying data directly from one device to another. (For example when you purchase a new Mac and need to transfer your data from your old PC.) Data transfer tends to be much faster than Data Recovery, because it uses the native copy function provided by the Operating System. But, if there are physical problems on the device, or if the filesystem on the device is corrupt, data transfer will not work because it is not tolerant of errors.

Exploding Disk Drive!
Exploding Disk Drive!

Data recovery is performed by specialized software that is tolerant of physical disk errors and errors in the filesystem. It takes much more time to perform Data Recovery because the process has several steps.

Although Data Recovery is much slower to produce a Gigabyte of data, it is tolerant of errors so it is capable of getting to files and putting them back together.

There are five main steps in Data Recovery:

  1. Is the device accessible?
    • if the disk controller is unresponsive, we would need to replace that and retest;
    • if the disk does not physically turn, we will not attempt to fix;
    • if the disk “clicks” when it is turned on, this indicates internal damage within the hard drive which we will not attempt to fix;
    • if the data is overwritten, we will not know this until after the data is recovered and you have inspected your data
  2. Media Analysis (to find where the good data blocks and the bad data blocks are)
  3. File Analysis (to discover what disk blocks comprise which files and folders, and in what order)
  4. Data Selection (to choose which files and folders should be recovered because they are interesting and necessary, and which files and folders should not)
  5. Data Production (the act of creating new files from the recovered data onto an external hard drive).

Our method of recovering data is “Read Only”, meaning that we will not open the hard drive to get to your data; We will connect your hard drive to an adapter, and attempt to access the data through the disk. We will not open your hard drive because we don’t have a “Clean Room”, and we don’t have the spare parts or the specialized equipment necessary to transfer your platters to another drive in a way that would work and not damage your data. If we were to physically open your hard drive, we would introduce significant contamination to your disk, and this would not improve the chances of getting back your data.

If we find that we cannot access your data, we will stop work, because proceeding will not improve the chances of our getting your data.

If we cannot get your data, and you have a business case for getting your data, we recommend that you send your hard drive to one of the major data recovery companies and not to a local company which says they can do it. Because that company will get “one bite of the apple”; they will need to be able to open the disk in a clean room, and have the resources to get your data, because there is a serious risk that your drive will be polluted by their attempt.

There are a handful of Data Recovery companies in the country which specialize in recovering data from physically bad hard drives. They have a clean room, spare parts, and invasive methods of getting your data. They charge a lot more than we do, but we are usually successful, and we can determine in a reasonable amount of time whether Data Recovery is something we are likely to be successful in doing or not.

Our most exciting Data Recovery story happened several years ago.  There was a fire near Gold Hill, Colorado.  Our customer’s home survived the fire, but the next spring, with all the snow melt and spring rains, a mud slide buried their basement.  Their computer was covered in several feet of mud.  Chris carefully cleaned the machine and then started the data recovery process.  Success!

We can recover data from Windows or Mac hard drives.  The device can be formatted using the Windows filesystem or for the Mac filesystem. It doesn’t matter to us if the computer that the device came from is bootable or not, because the device will be removed from the “source” computer and then connected to an adapter, which will allow the data to be accessed directly.

Let us know if you have any questions about this process. Give us a call or send an email.

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fourteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website.  Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area and remote service throughout North America.