How's you virus protection?

When's the last time you thought about the virus protection on your computer? Often, we only talk about what to do after the infection has happened. However, there are ways to be proactive and in many cases avoid the infection altogether.

One basic way to be a little more secure is to find and fix the areas where a computer might be vulnerable. This might look like running an operating system that is no longer supported, such as Windows XP, or leaving outdated programs, that aren't being used, on the computer. In both of these instances, "doors" are open to an attack. Our advice, delete programs that you're not using. Not only will this free up space and help that computer to run faster, but it will also remove a possible entry point for a virus.

Of course, we can't talk about security without mentioning email. Plain and simple, be safe and cautious. Some things to look out for are the email address (do you recognize the sender?) and the formatting of the email (does the wording seem odd?).  

We've mentioned this a lot in the past, but always make passwords protecting critical information as cryptic as possible. The less they make sense, the harder they are to crack. Basically, don't use your birthday or easily found personal information.

No computer is unhackable, but why make it easy? So, take a few steps or as many as you can to protect that device.

What's the Ransom?

Ransomware is making a come back, but it's nothing new. In fact, it's been around for awhile. What is it? It's a type of malware that can essentially lock up a computer. Of course if that was all it did, then it would probably have a different name. Ransomware not only locks up the computer that it infects but, as the name implies, it also demands a ransom. In most cases, the computer suddenly becomes unresponsive and then a screen appears stating that the operator has been involved in some illegal or illicit activity and must pay to have the computer unlocked. 

Most malware can be completely wiped from a computer or completely prevented with a couple of pieces of software. In many cases everything can be put back to the way it was before the attack. However, that's not always the case with this particular type of malware. There are versions of this malware that actually encrypt all of the files that it infected making it near impossible if not completely impossible to get the files back. Why? Because the encryption key needed to unlock all of those files is sitting on the hacker's computer. That means that the ransom would have to be paid in hopes that the hacker will actually send the key. Oddly enough, there are reports of people receiving the key after they have paid the ransom. What does all this mean? Be careful and take some precautionary measures.

Here are some of the precautionary measures we recommend:

1: Beware of links. Never click on links that are either not recognized or that can not be trusted. Companies like Pandora who survive because of advertisers probably have enough safeguards to stop these threats from embedding themselves, but what about your personal email? 

2: Have virus and malware protection. We can't stress this enough. Virus and malware protection is a drop in the bucket as far as expenses are concerned. Especially considering the fact that a new hard drive will most certainly cost more than the virus software. Also, keep this protection updated. It's not a sure fire way to stop every attack, but it's a great preventative measure.

3: Keep security plugins updated. Microsoft doesn't like these viruses and malware programs any more than you or I, so they're trying to stop the attacks from ever happening. Between security plugins and virus and malware protection the computer should be covered.

4: Back Ups! Back up the computer everyday. We recommend a service like Carbonite, which backups in real time, or a simple external/jump drive will do the trick. Carbonite will back up your files and, with some form of an external drive, a copy of your entire computer (all your software, files, and the operating system) can be made. This way all files can be accessed through Carbonite, if the computer needs to go offsite for someone to repair the damage, and if there's a complete copy of the drive, then the drive can be wiped and reloaded with the uninfected files. Note: the second option can be a little more complicated, so make sure to talk with a computer professional if you're uncertain about the process.

Protecting a computer from everything isn't possible, but these preventative measures should protect a computer from most threats. As a final note, cutting down on the time that a computer is connected to the internet also helps because it cant be attacked if it isn't on... When possible, turn off any non-essential computers at night, which will in turn conserve energy and save money!

Why did my computer restart?

Did your computer restart all by itself? Don’t worry this has happened to most people at some point and typically is nothing to worry about. There are a couple of common things that could be the culprit. 

  1. One issue could be Dust. If a computer isn't properly cleaned on a regular basis, then the components, fans, etc. can become coated in dust keeping the computer from cooling properly. Most modern computers are set to shut down if they start to overheat. The solution would be to open the computer and, with a can of compressed air, gently blow the dust off of the components, fans, etc. 
  2. The culprit we always recommend investigating are Windows Updates. Whether it’s to save time or because the computer came preset this way, Windows may be updating automatically. When these updates are run the computer must restart to apply the changes. If this is the case, then go into the Control Panel > Systems and Security > Windows Update > Change Settings. Here the preferences can be set for if and when to update, to manually or automatically update, and even schedule the update. If the issues persist after making these changes, then it might be time to call a professional.
  3. Another issue could be that the Computer has a Virus. If this is the suspected issue, then run a virus program such as Kaspersky or Norton and the problem should be solved. 

Could your computer stand to be a little faster?

People are sometimes told that once a computer slows down that it has reached capacity or that it's time for a replacement. This isn't necessarily true. Many times there are a few basic things that can be done to help in this situation. In the following article we have a couple of tips to help.

Note: Before trying any of these steps to improve your computer's speed, make sure to create a full backup of the computer.

Step One: The first option is to work on the Startup Process. Turning off programs that aren't necessary for the startup will help. If you have a newer computer with Windows 7 or 8, then you could install a Solid State Drive which will naturally have a faster startup time than a traditional hard drive.

Step Two: Cleaning out excess files is also a good thing to do when trying to speed up a computer. Once that is done, run the Windows program Disk Cleanup. This removes temporary files, empties the recycling bin, and removes a variety of system files and other items you no longer need.

Step Three: After cleaning out the files comes the Defragmenting process. On traditional disk drives, information gets scattered across the drive causing the computer to go and gather all the pieces of a file and assemble them once they are needed. This obviously isn't the most efficient way for the computer to gather information, so by running the defragging program built right into the computer, all this information can be collected, sorted, and organized making the computer run more efficiently and effectively. To do this: Open My Computer > Right Click on the Main Drive > Choose Properties > Select the Tools Tab > Choose Defragment Now. This process may take some time to complete, so make sure that the computer won't be needed during this process.

Step Four: Removing any Viruses also needs to be done on a regular basis. It's best to have a program that runs in Real Time to protect the computer from any major threats. We recommend having Malwarebytes, which can be set on a schedule and will run in the background without affecting productivity. This protects from malware like worms, trojans, and spyware. Also having Norton Anti Virus or Kaspersky will protect the computer from major virus attacks in real time and stop them before your computer is ever damaged.

Virus Protection: You can't be too careful

Spyware, Trojans and worms. These are different forms of software that have one common intent. They want to infect your PC or server. You can't be too cautious when dealing with any form of malware, so the following list is a few reminders to help protect against these threats. 

Reminder 1: Make sure to have a reputable anti-virus software product installed on each PC. Norton and McAfee are both good products. Also make sure to keep the virus software updated. A good anti-virus software product will constantly update the list of viruses it detects and protects against. 

Reminder 2: Never open zip files unless you know who the file is from and are expecting it. Double and triple check the legitimacy before opening any zip file. 

Reminder 3: Always be suspicious of any email you are not expecting or don’t recognize. It may be tempting to open that email from the guy in China who wants to place a big order with you, but the probability is that his intentions are not good.

Reminder 4: When in doubt, look at the email address. If the senders email address ends in something other than .com and you don't recognize the sender, then it's probably best not to open the attachment. 

Final Reminder: Be cautious.