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Computer & IT Solutions

08456 01 01 05

There are many telephone scams out there and you need to keep your guard up! If you’ve not been reporting in communication with a company then you’re more likely to be cautious as the call is “out of the blue” – but things can go wrong if your guard is down because you recently got off the phone to that company.

A client of mine was recently subject to just such a situation as they’d not long been on the phone to a broadband supplier complaining about the speed of the broadband that they were receiving. A couple of hours later they received a phone call from an ‘engineer’ purporting to be from the same company and that they were investigating the problem! The ‘engineer’ identified themselves with a company employee ID and gave them a telephone number – these were all part of the scam!

As part of the ‘diagnostic process’ they obtained remote control of the computer and then proceeded to run all kinds of test (in the foreground!). Unknown to my client the scammers were running other things in the background which they couldn’t see. Following some questioning they asked the client to log in to their bank account to see if the ‘problem’ was now resolved. Whilst the client was distracted, they started transferring monies out of the account and as the link was still logged in this was not a problem for them.

The client then started to become very suspicious (they couldn’t see that the web browser was still open) and they hung up the phone (unfortunately, they didn’t break the connection that the computer had to the internet!) and called the number that they’d been given. Not surprisingly the person who answered the phone confirmed the company employee ID and the ‘engineers’ name. A short while later the ‘engineer’ called back and continued ‘running diagnostics’ whilst suggesting that the client ‘deal with other things’ as the process would take some time. When the client returned to the machine there was a message from the ‘engineer’ on the screen saying that all the tests had now been completed and that the system was okay! What the ‘engineer’ had actually done was to corrupt the way that the computer used the internet so that the client couldn’t access their bank accounts and see what had occurred.

There are a few morals to this story, beside the fact that “They really are out to get you!” :-

  • If you didn’t make the phone call then you really don’t know who the person calling is.
  • If you call the number that you’ve been given, use a different phone to the one that you received the call on.
  • You should never give somebody else access to your machine via any form of remote control, unless you know them well enough that you’d give them your bank cards, bank details and security codes (passwords/pins etc).

 

Useful links

Action Fraud: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

 

Windows 10 Logo

If you are intending to take the free upgrade to Windows 10 from a qualifying O/S (Windows 7, 8 & 8.1) you need to start planning to get this done soon, as the free offer runs out on 29th July 2016. After that it will cost approx. £100 to get this upgrade.

 

I’m aware of over 300 clients who have already made the move and in the majority of cases it has been an easy process that they’ve completed themselves.

Based on the experience that they’ve had, and the minor interventions that I’ve had to make, I’ve constructed the following set of instructions.

  1. Ensure all updates possible are applied for the current version of Windows that you’re running.
  2. Start the upgrade process (this can take a couple of hours.) During this process:
    1. Your system is checked for any obvious problems
    2. The upgrade is downloaded from the internet
    3. The upgrade commences on your machine
    4. You are then asked to login and the final stage completes
  3. Restart your machine
  4. Click on “Start” -> “Settings” -> “Update & Security”.
    1. With “Windows Update” selected on the left, Click the “Check for Updates” button and allow it to install anything that it requires.
    2. Repeat this process until pressing the “Check for Updates” completes with “No Updates Available”.
  5. Restart the system again.
  6. Right Click on “Start” and then Left Click on “Command Prompt (Admin)”.
  7. In the Black window that opens type “sfc /scannow” and press the “Enter Key”.
    1. This will run a process which scans to check that everything is okay and tells you if there were problems found or not.
    2. Type “Exit” into the black window – which will close it.
  8. Restart the computer once again.

That should resolve the bulk of any problems that you may encounter.

“Well, I’ve clicked on the ‘Get Windows 10’ icon on the taskbar and given my email address. Now what Happens?”

We’ve seen the first of the emails coming back from this process

1. It comes from ‘Windows’ (windows@email.microsoft.com) – if it comes from anywhere else be careful!

2. It’s subject is ‘You’ve reserved Windows 10 – what’s next?’

The email then continues to explain the process, how long it is likely to take

 

 

Below is a useful link to Microsoft which deals with all the common questions about Windows 10

http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows/windows-10-faq?faq=upgrade&ocid=reserve_r_PostReserve_mod1_faq

 

Protecting your data is more important than ever these days. The number of fake emails which contain code or links to malicious web pages which will encrypt your data and then demand a ‘ransom’ to unencrypt it are increasing.

There are a number of ways to back up your data – cloud services (Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive, Dropbox to name a few!) or local devices (External hard drives or network drives connected to your home/work network).

The advantages and disadvantages of these need to be understood to ensure you are getting the right kind of protection.

Cloud Services

The majority of these are known as a ‘synchronising service’. They are often used for connecting your various devices together making it possible to have access to the same information on any of the devices.

Advantages:

The backup happens automatically as long as you’re connected to the internet and therefore you don’t have to think about it.
Information is accessible from all devices.
If a piece of equipment breaks all you need to do is replace it, put in you user ID and password and the data comes straight back down.
If you delete a file it is deleted from the cloud service and therefore removed from all the other devices.

Disadvantages:

If anything deletes or corrupts a file whilst you’re connected to the internet, this will replicate itself to the cloud and therefore all other devices.

Local backup devices

There are two basic types of local backup – an external hard drive which you connect to the computer and a network based device.

External Hard Drive: Advantages

The backup can be scheduled to happen at specific times – as long as the device is connected to your machine.
The backup can often be held as a ‘history of changes’, giving you the ability to retrieve the file as it was before the corruption/damage happened.
The unit can be hidden away between backups.

External Hard Drive: Disadvantages:

The whole system is reliant on you remembering to connect your machine and the backup unit!

Network Drive: Advantages

The advantages are very similar to those of an external hard drive but can be scheduled to occur (hourly if required) so you don’t have to remember to connect the device.
The device can be hidden away anywhere in the home/office as long as it can connect to your network.

Network Drive: Disadvantages

Your home/office network must be running.

Still unsure?

As you can see from the above, deciding the best mechanism for protecting your data can be a little involved. Don’t get me wrong – any backup is better than none. Often the best approach is actually a combination of these approaches.

Cloud storage is great for immediate backup of data on the equipment as long as the internet is available. The photos from your phone are protected quickly (just before you drop it in a puddle!). The document you wrote on the desktop at home is available on the laptop you’ve got with you and often also just using a web browser on someone else’s machine. Malicious or unintentional deletion or modification of files does replicate itself everywhere though.

Local backups, either external hard drives or network devices, have the ability to give you a point in time to go back to recover a file before it was changed, but it can’t protect the phone or let you get to the document you wrote on the other machine.

The best approach I’ve found so far uses cloud storage and then a network attached device to protect this by backing up the cloud storage on a periodic basis. This means that you don’t have to think about it happening, all your devices share and you can get a file back in the state it was in a week ago!

Remember ‘Cloud Storage’ is protected by the password you set, so make sure this is a secure one !

Windows 10 Logo

 

Windows 10 arrives on July 29th 2015. This is being made available free to all machines which currently have a legitimate copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8 installed. This is as long as the upgrade is performed within 365 days of the launch date – so you can do this early or wait a bit.

To get your upgrade click on the windows symbol which has arrived in your taskbar (bottom right corner of your screen) Get Windows 10and register. This will request your email address so that it can reserve a place in the queue for the upgrade.

Why a queue?

There are estimated to be well over a 100 million machines around the world which qualify for the upgrade, but this can’t be achieved in one go therefore Microsoft have decided the best way to handle the load on their servers is to upgrade machines in batches on a first come first served basis. That’s why the queue.

Has it been tested?

There are more than 5 million testers, myself included, based around the world who have been part of the ‘Windows Insider Program’. The whole point behind this has been to test how it looks and feels and to help the development team gauge what people do and don’t like.

What will I see?

For those who currently have Windows 7 installed, it’s faster and contains the new web browser ‘Microsoft Edge’. This is the replacement for Internet Explorer which had been enhanced as far as possible. You’ll also get access to the new Windows Apps and these will run in a window on your normal desktop.

For those running Windows 8, the block style start page has been removed and this has now become part of the ‘Start Menu’ that all previous versions of Windows had.

There are new versions of Mail, Calendar and Contacts along with a raft of other improvements.

Millions of Lenovo owners are being warned to not use their desktops and laptops for “any kind of secure transaction,” amid concerns that the company installed adware on their machines. (more…)

With the recent news headlines from the TV and newspapers about the latest security threats to your computers, you could understandably be thrown into a panic.

These latest threats are specifically written to attack PC’s running Windows, so if your computer doesn’t run Windows – Stop right here. This does not affect you – but other problems might, so always keep your anti-virus up to date.

If you are running Windows, read on.

What is it all about?

‘Gameover Zeus’ is a particularly nasty piece of malware – malicious software – that will hunt around inside your computer for files that look like they may contain financial or other sensitive information. Once it finds them, it steals them.

The FBI has said that the criminals in this case used “phishing” emails to install ‘Gameover Zeus’ on victims’ computers. A phishing email is one that looks like it came from somewhere official, like your bank, but didn’t – instead directing you to download the rogue malware.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has estimated that around 15,000 computers may currently be infected in the UK. Worldwide, it runs into the millions.

But while the 15,000 figure is relatively low, this warning should not be ignored. Everyone should run a scan on their system and this should be done on a regular basis.

GetSafeOnline.org – a government-backed initiative – published a list of downloads it recommends to run a sweep of your system and get into shape. Unfortunately, overwhelming traffic is causing the site to falter, and so people are also being directed to the UK Cyber Emergency Readiness Team (Cert) instead. –  (Dave Lee: BBC News)

What should you do?

1. Don’t panic.

2. Ensure that you keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware systems up to date.

3. Ensure that you have backups of all your irreplaceable files. A sensible thing at all times!

4. Keep your computer operating system, applications and anti-virus protection up to date.

A good way of running a specific scan for these threats is available at the Trend Micro Security Site.

First work out whether you’re running the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows. To do this:

Right Click on ‘My Computer’ or ‘Computer’ (depending on the version of Windows (XP, Vista, 7, 8). Then Left Click on ‘Properties’ in the menu that appears. This will bring up information about your system. At the top it will state what the Operating System is and will also tell you if it’s the 32 or 64 bit version.

Then go to the Trend Micro page and click on the download link for the 32-bit or 64-bit scanner. Allow this to run (it takes about 15 minutes), it will check for these threats and will remove them if found.

 

 

If you have been following Microsoft security news recently, you are likely aware that support for Windows XP ends on April 8, 2014. It is important to note that after this date, customers running Windows XP will no longer receive new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options, or online technical content updates. This means that any new vulnerabilities discovered in Windows XP after its “end of life” will not be addressed by new security updates from Microsoft.

This is one to be wary of – I’ve seen a couple over the last few weeks and it’s nasty.

It tends to be contained inside an attachment which looks like it’s a PDF. The sources that I’ve seen are many HMRC, various parcel services etc.

It should be noted that a pdf will travel as an attachment to an email without problems. If the email contains a ‘zipped/compressed’ attachment you should be wary.


This will encrypt your documents (.doc, .xls, .jpg, and .dwg to list but a few) and then throw up a splash screen telling you that you’ve got 100 hours to pay them up to $300 USD or a token used in the encryption of the files will be destroyed. The countdown is real !! Once it reaches zero the token will be deleted and the files cannot be recovered.

The message here really is not to get infected in the first place, and also to ensure that you have a backup which can replace these documents after the machine is cleaned up.

If you’re already using Windows 8, getting 8.1 is sort of a no-brainer. Although the improvements aren’t mind-blowingly spectacular, many of them are useful, such as customizing the split screen between multiple apps, better multi-monitor support, a more configurable start screen, and a lock screen that acts as a slideshow. Windows 8.1 allows you to boot straight to the desktop. It also brings back the Start button, but that doesn’t really work the same as the real start menu in Windows 7 and before, so you’re better off still using a Windows 8 start menu replacement.

Current Windows 8 users: Head over to the Windows.com page for the link to the free download on Windows Store (or just head to the Windows Store on your computer). When you update, your files, desktop apps, and settings will be transferred–and you can even keep working while the update is happening. (Download can take anywhere between 30 minutes to several hours, according to Microsoft.)

Be warned though this can take quite some time to complete. It does appear to have been well tested and the updates that I’ve been through have happened gone very smoothly.

You can get it from the Market Place – it should turn up as the prominent tile on the left

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