Change Your Password!

In the last few days, we’ve had a bunch of calls from customers who have had their email hacked.  They are hearing from friends and clients that their email is sending out spam.  Some of them have been aggravated with us because they feel like their anti-virus should have protected them.  (Security software can’t protect you if someone else already has your password information.)

Here’s the deal.  Several years ago, LinkedIn was hacked.  Login credentials were stolen from approximately 117 million LinkedIn accounts!  Although this happened in 2012, one of the “bad guys” has recently decided to sell the credentials.

LinkedIn

According to this article from Tech Crunch:

Now, according to a new report from Motherboard, a hacker going by the name of “Peace” is trying to sell the emails and passwords of 117 million LinkedIn members on a dark web illegal marketplace for around $2,200, payable in bitcoin.

117 million LinkedIn emails and passwords from a 2012 hack just got posted online

CNN:Money adds their two cents:

Companies typically protect customer passwords by encrypting them. But at the time of the 2012 data breach, LinkedIn hadn’t added a pivotal layer of security that makes the jumbled text harder to decode.

Put on the defensive, LinkedIn is now scrambling to try to stop people from sharing the stolen goods online — often an impractical task. The company is also invalidating all customer passwords that haven’t been updated since they were stolen.

LinkedIn said it’s reaching out to individual members affected by the breach. This particular hack affects a quarter of the company’s 433 million members.

http://money.cnn.com/2016/05/19/technology/linkedin-hack/

Since many people use the same password on their other online accounts, the hackers can potentially access other accounts as well.

Our advice?  Change your passwords for LinkedIn and other social media sites today.  If you use the same passwords for other online sites, change the passwords for your email and banking accounts too.  (If you didn’t have a LinkedIn account prior to 2013, you should be safe.  This time.)

Changing your passwords on a regular basis is always a good idea!

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.

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The Scariness Increases

Ransomware

Chris forwarded a link to me the other day about some scary “malvertising”.  For those of you who didn’t have Senor Garcia for High School Spanish, “mal” is a Latin prefix meaning “bad”.  Other words you might be familiar with include “malware” and “malicious”.  And that’s what this is: Malware that looks like advertising, but really contains malicious code.

I can hear you saying: “But I know how to be careful and not click on stuff that looks suspicious!”  And that’s the issue right there.  These are “advertisements” that appear on highly respected websites.  ARS-Technica warns us that:

“Mainstream websites, including those published by The New York Times, the BBC, MSN, and AOL, are falling victim to a new rash of malicious ads that attempt to surreptitiously install crypto ransomware and other malware on the computers of unsuspecting visitors, security firms warned.

The tainted ads may have exposed tens of thousands of people over the past 24 hours alone, according to a blog post published Monday by Trend Micro. The new campaign started last week when “Angler,” a toolkit that sells exploits for Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, and other widely used Internet software, started pushing laced banner ads through a compromised ad network.”

Another technical site, MalwareBytes, mentions some other websites, including Newsweek, Realtor.com, and NFL.com.

And, the malware that is being downloaded isn’t your run-of-the-mill virus.  In many cases it is Ransomware, which takes all of your files and encrypts them with a special key.  You then need to pay a ransom to get the encryption key to get your data back.

This is not a message you want to see popping up on your screen!

Ransomware Image - source: http://arstechnica.com/security/2016/03/big-name-sites-hit-by-rash-of-malicious-ads-spreading-crypto-ransomware/
Ransomware Image – source: http://arstechnica.com/security/2016/03/big-name-sites-hit-by-rash-of-malicious-ads-spreading-crypto-ransomware/

What is our advice?

  1. Use an adware blocker like AdBlock Plus
  2. For some websites, they won’t show you ANY content unless you agree to see their ads.  In that case, never click on an advertisement.
  3. If you really are interested in a product or service that is being offered, go to the company’s site directly.
  4. Keep your data backed up to an external source.  And back it up at least once a month – more often if you are working with ever-changing and precious data.

If you need help getting rid of any malware, or learning how to regularly back up your data, give us a call!

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

Custom Computers

Gaming Computers

One of the services we provide is to build custom computers from scratch.   Chris is building one now for a long-time customer. In fact, this is the second machine we’ve built for this particular customer!

Here’s the process. Chris talks with the customer about what their goals are:

  • What do they hope to use this computer for?
  • How much storage should it have?
  • What software is required?
  • Should this be a portable computer or one that stays in the office?
  • What is the budget?

Once Chris has a good understanding of what the requirements are, he does some research to determine exactly which parts need to be ordered. Often times there is a choice to be made between two or more options. He’ll have a conversation with the customer to decide which will best meet their needs. Once all the parts have been decided, he’ll send the list (with all the order links) to the customer for ordering.

When the parts arrive, it looks a little chaotic for a while, but then it all comes together!

You can hear the excitement in Chris’ words:

“One of my special joys is to design and build full custom computers, and this one is for a customer who is still using last full custom computer I made for them about 5 years or so ago.

There are several special features in the design, but one of the special results is absolutely Smokin-Hot processor performance: using a modern 4 core processor and water cooling, the stock speed is 4Ghz on each of the 4 cores.

To make sure things are thermally stable, I’ve been running a CPU heating utility, which launches 8 CPU intensive processes all running in parallel, and after about 1H the cooler is only warm to the touch with a slight increase in overall fan sound. Nice!

Note: this picture was taken after the computer was on for about 10 minutes, but /before/ the burn-in process was started.”

 

This computer is almost ready to be delivered to the customer!

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.

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.

 

Windows 10 Update

Upgrading to Windows 10?

We continue to see machines that have upgraded to Windows 10 with serious problems.  And, I continue to get asked if machines should be upgraded.

Here’s the scoop:

  • If you have a Windows 7 machine, don’t upgrade unless you have a serious business need.
  • If you have a Windows 8 machine, you should be okay to upgrade, although you may still experience some issues
  • If you have a Windows XP or earlier machine, don’t (DO NOT!) upgrade.  Consider purchasing a new machine with Windows 8 or 10 already installed.

If you’re planning to upgrade do this first:

  • Back up your data.  Use an external Hard Drive if you have one, or upload to the Cloud
  • Make sure you have a list of all the programs and applications that you use.
  • Make sure you know what all of your passwords are, especially if you have asked your computer to remember them for you.
  • Make sure you know what your WiFi Router password is.

Tired of the Win10 “Nag” message?

I asked Chris how to get rid of the message that pops up frequently reminding you to UPGRADE NOW! WHILE IT’S STILL FREE!.  Here’s what he said:

  • “The only reliable method I’ve found so far to prevent a machine from presenting the “Get Windows 10 Upgrade” (GWX) nag message is to rename the GWX folder which contains the upgrade program.
    • See a small window icon in the tray, to the left of the clock in the task bar.
    • Go to the folder: “C:\Windows\System32” /and/ the “C:\Windows\SysWOW64”
    • Rename the “GWX” folder to something else – such as: “_GWX”, if it exists in either folder.  Note that you will see a popup titled “Folder Access Denied” and the message “You’ll need to provide administrator permission to rename this folder”.  Click on the “Continue” button to proceed with renaming the GWX folder.
    • Reboot your machine.
    • See that the small window icon is not present, and note that it does /not/ reappear”

If you have any questions about upgrading, give us a call

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.
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Heads UP!

Heads Up folks!

I’ve gotten three calls this week from people who have fallen victim to the phone calls from “Microsoft”.  The person on the other end of the phone is very convincing.  Within the first minute or two, you just know that they are right.  You do have spyware or viruses on your computer and you’ve given them your credit card info and let them onto to your machine.

Then there is the phone call that I keep getting and wrote about in a previous blog. https://geekforhireinc.com/who-is-really-calling/ They leave a message that says:

“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.”

Please be aware that these types of calls are on the rise and they are getting better about fooling you.  I’ve said it before – Microsoft, Apple, Dell, or HP won’t call you to tell you that your machine has been infected.  Don’t give these people access to your computer or your credit card info!

Be careful out there folks!

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.

Snow Day – perfect time to organize your computer files!

With the beautiful weather outside, it’s hard to concentrate on getting any work done.  The view from the deck outside of my home office is breathtaking – see for yourself:

Snow Day at the Eddy's!
Snow Day at the Eddy’s!

A day like today might be a good day to clean up your computer files!

Organize your photos:

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always put my files where I can easily find them again.  Especially my photos!  Every once in a while I’ll organize my photos by date.  I generally use the year and month.  I put the year first so that when the computer sorts the files by name, they’ll remain in date order.  If there are a lot of photos from a particular day or event, they’ll get their own file folder.

  • For example, my files might look like this:
    • 2016-02-February
    • 2016-01-January
    • 2015
      • 2015-12-December
      • 2015-11-November
      • 2015-11-November – Thanksgiving Vacation
      • 2015-10-October
      • etc., etc.

Once I get the file structure organized, I simply drag and drop the photos to the correct folder.  At the same time, I might also rename some of the photos too. Then it’s much easier to search for (and find) the photo of Auntie Em from among the hundreds of photos I took last Thanksgiving.

If I didn’t name the folders by date with the year first, but instead used the month first, when the computer sorted the folders based on name, it would end up looking like this:

  • April 2015
  • April 2014
  • August 2015
  • August 2014
  • December 2015
  • December 2014
  • February 2016
  • February 2015
  • February 2014
  • January 2016
  • January 2015
  • January 2014
  • July 2015
  • July 2014
  • June 2015
  • June 2014
  • etc, etc.

… and that wouldn’t be very helpful at all.

To rename a photo file, simple place your cursor on the file.  Then you can double click on it to rename it, or press the F2 button.  Give it a new name that is meaningful to you.  That will make it easier to find it later.

Organize your Computer Files:

When you store documents on your computer, it’s important to file them in such a way that you are able to find them again.  I’ve watched while friends have downloaded a file or photo from the internet and it goes straight into the “Downloads” folder without even getting a new name!  There are hundreds of files in there.  How will you ever be able to find that pdf again when its name is “2848066_orig.pdf”?  I would suggest setting up your files in a way that makes sense to you.

For example, you could try something like:

  • Family
    • Dick
    • Jane
    • Sally
    • Tom
  • Home
  • Photos
    • 2016
    • 2015
    • 2014
  • Recipes
    • Beverages
    • Desserts
    • Main Meals
  • Work

Then when you need to find a file, you’ll have a much easier time of it!

How do you get motivated on a day like today?

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.

 

 

 

 

Are You Thinking of Using a Password Manager?

I am of two minds when it comes to an online password manager.  On the one hand, I think it would be a great way to keep multiple passwords secure.  On the other hand, I worry about hackers gaining control of my data.

That being said, if your keyboard (or monitor) looks like this, it’s time to find another solution!

Is this your password manager?!

Luckily, there are several online password managers to choose from:

  • 1Password
  • Dashlane
  • LastPass
  • KeePassX
  • mSecure
  • Sticky Password

Most of these have the same or similar features.

  • Manage passwords over multiple devices
  • Generates ultra strong passwords
  • Stores banking and other sensitive information
  • Most are free but do have an annual or monthly fee for certain upgrades
  • Some utilize the iPhone fingerprint to confirm your identity

Even with a secure password manager, you still need to be careful of “spoofing”, where a fraudulent web page is displayed to trick you into providing your super-secure password key as described in this article:

Which password manager do you use?  What are its best features?  What don’t you like? Let us know in the comments below!

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 and remote service throughout North America.

 

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.