Protected: Additional Work Notice to Techs

by Office Administrator on October 6, 2017

in Internal Techs

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A reader asks:

With all that is going on in the news with credit theft I would like to know your opinion on who you think is the best identity theft company to purchase insurance from at this time? Lifelock or Identity Guard?

This is a great question. While we are not in the ID security business or the credit reporting business, I suppose it’s seems natural to our customers that we might know something about this subject because the Equifax breach was perpetrated by computer hackers and we are in the computer business. While ID theft is outside of our purview as a company, I will try to answer based on the reading and research I have personally done on this situation.

I personally don’t believe in identity protection services, because you are only alerted after your identity has already potentially been stolen, or at least compromised.

A better option is to initiate a credit freeze with the three main credit reporting bureaus. This does not affect any current credit that you have open. It only prevents an ID thief (and you) from authorizing a check on your credit report (thereby making it impossible to get credit in your name). If you need to permit someone access to your credit report, say to open a new credit card or apply for a car loan or get an insurance quote, you will need to unfreeze (“thaw”) your credit. It is a little inconvenient if you are planning to apply for credit frequently. But it is the only way to be certain that you will not have your identity stolen.

I did this recently for myself. (I have previously done it for some family members.) I may need to apply for credit again, say to look for a better deal on car insurance (insurance companies routinely request your credit report before proving a premium quote), but at that time I will thaw my credit. Given this monstrous breach and the lack of accountability shown by Equifax, I think this is the only real solution.

You will need to initiate the freeze at each of the three main reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. It only takes a few minutes online at each website. Depending on what state you live in, you may have to pay a small fee. Here is state-by-state detail on the cost.

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Protected: Documentation after an Assignment

by Office Administrator on September 25, 2017

in Internal Techs

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A reader wote the following recently:

“When I delete something on my computer it goes to trash. When I delete it from trash where does it go?”

When you delete an item from your recycle bin, from the user’s point of view it’s “gone”. That means that space on the hard drive is now available for something else. In reality, it’s still there but it can be overwritten at any time by the system, and the only way to get it back is by using professional data recovery software or, failing that, by sending it to a data recovery lab. However, once the system overwrites that location on the hard drive (which you have no control over once you delete it from trash), it’s gone forever and most likely can never be recovered.

If you have files on your computer that you can’t afford to lose, it’s a good idea to back them up, and set the backup not to purge deleted files from the backup for a certain period of time. That way, if you accidentally permanently back up a file, you can retrieve it from your backup. If you are concerned that your backup does not retain deleted files, please contact us to discuss how we can help improve your backup so you can rest easy.

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October 2017 EDIT: Since we posted this back in August, new information has come out indicating that Russia has been using Kaspersky software for spying. Whether or not Kaspersky was directly involved or if this effects Kaspersky’s consumer products, is still not known. However, if you prefer to switch to another product, see our recommendation below.
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There have been several news reports discussing possible ties between Kaspersky Labs and Russian intelligence. Each new “revelation” seems to consist of another American government official speculating, without any specifics, that Kaspersky may be doing bad things. Several of our customers have inquired whether we are still comfortable recommending and selling Kaspersky products.

First, there is no evidence that Kaspersky is using its products to spy on behalf of Russia or any other entity. Some of the news reports refer to the fact that Eugene Kaspersky, the founder of Kaspersky Labs, went to a Soviet intelligence school as a teenager. This is essentially the entire case against Kaspersky at this point.

While I, Roberta, am as concerned as anyone about Russian hacking and interference in our last presidential election, there is no evidence that Kaspersky has anything to do with any of this.

Secondly, while it makes sense for federal agencies to be particularly careful about what security products they use, whether foreign or domestic, we believe it is highly unlikely that the Russian government is trying to spy on individuals, who are unlikely to have anything of value to a foreign entity, via Kaspersky’s consumer product offerings.

We don’t see a need for any of our customers to switch at this time. If information comes to light indicating that Kaspersky may be involved in Russian spying, we will reevaluate our position. For now we believe Kaspersky is the most effective consumer anti-virus software available.

If you disagree with our assessment and you prefer to switch to another product, you may consider the highly regarded WebRoot antivirus as an alternative. Of course we can’t guarantee that any company is not involved in corporate malfeasance or spying, but if you decide to purchase WebRoot, we can help you remove Kaspersky and install WebRoot in its place. Regular labor rates will apply.

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A common danger on the internet is the “tech support” scam. It strikes when you are browsing the web normally until a pop-up appears saying that a problem has been found with your PC. The warning will include a phone number to call for repairs. It may even appear that you are calling Microsoft for support. These pop-ups may prevent you from using your computer. If you call the number, the scammers will ask you to visit a website and then download remote access software which they will use to access your computer to perform fake repairs or worse. When the “repair” is done, they will ask for your credit card and attempt to charge it.

Recently scammers have added a new wrinkle. They will tell you they are from Microsoft and then ask you to visit the Microsoft remote support page (support.microsoft.com/help) to enter a code they read to you over the phone. Since this is a legitimate Microsoft page, it’s easy to assume that, once you enter the code given to you, you are safely connecting to Microsoft; however the scammers have found a way to direct you to them instead. Microsoft uses a third-party product called LogMeIn to gain access when they provide remote support. The scammers have figured out that they can use LogMeIn to generate an access code for you to enter on the Microsoft site. This works because the Microsoft remote support page doesn’t check to make sure the codes entered there were generated by Microsoft. It will accept the scammer’s LogMeIn code and then the scammer will be connected to your computer.

To prevent becoming a victim, it’s important to remember that scammers will always be updating and improving their methods. The best prevention is to be suspicious of any unsolicited communication about your PC or your internet accounts. Even if the scammer directs you to visit a trusted website to enter their access code, the code itself can be fraudulent.

Often just restarting your computer is enough to get rid of a wayward browser pop-up. If there is any doubt, you can always reach out to us at New York Geek Girls and we can double-check for you and clear up any issues as well so you can safely get back to work!

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[This is an edited and updated version of a post from 2013.]

If someone calls you claiming to be from Microsoft and tells you that your computer is reporting errors to Microsoft, it’s a scam. If that person offers to “fix” your computer, you should hang up immediately. Please note: Microsoft does not receive error reports from your computer, and they aren’t in the habit of calling you out of the blue.

Recently I received a call from a new client whose elderly mother was the victim of such a scam. She allowed the caller remote access to her computer, and after he got in, he demanded money from her to fix the “problems”, which were normal log entries showing trivial errors as well as routine information. When she refused, he locked her out of her computer and told her if she didn’t pay up, she’d never be able to use her computer again.

Fortunately she didn’t give these bad guys her credit card info, as that would only have compounded the problem. Instead her daughter called me. The hackers had created a “syskey” password (an excrypted password which is very hard to crack) that locked her out of the machine. Fortunately, after booting into the third-party utility Offline NT Password and Registry Editor, I was able to delete the syskey from the registry and get this customer back into her machine.

Warning: Offline NT Password and Registry Editor can damage your system if used incorrectly. Please consider calling us instead of attempting to use this tool yourself.

Although this article was originally intended to discuss a situation in which a scammer calls you, it is just as important not to call the scammer!
We’ve received several help requests lately from customers who accidentally visited a hacked website. The user saw a pop-up that claimed his computer had been infected and was instructed to call a number on the screen for help. Again, no legitimate company will contact you that way. Just close your browser if that happens. If you can’t close it, restart your computer and then clear your browser cache.

If you are unsure if you have a virus or other malware, call a qualified computer services company that you trust to help you, not an unfamiliar number flashing on your screen.

Remember, anti-virus can only go so far. If you let a stranger into your house, you can’t blame the locks on your door or the police if you get robbed. So don’t let a stranger into your computer.

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During the past week, computer systems throughout the world were reported to be disrupted by an extensive ransomware attack, mostly affecting Britain and Russia. Transmitted via email, the malicious software encrypts files and demands ransom before users can regain access.

Microsoft, in a nearly unprecedented move, released free security patches for older versions of Windows, including Windows XP, which it no longer officially supports.

In this particular case, the hackers only targeted older versions of Windows, not Windows 10, the latest edition of the software. However, it’s important to keep your computers patched no matter what version of Windows or Mac you are using. It’s also important to have multiple backup sets available from which to recover in case malware gets through all your other lines of defense and you need to restore your files from an older, unencrypted, backup.

If you are one of our Remote Monitoring and Maintenance (RMM) customers, then your computers are properly patched and secure and your anti-virus is up to date.

If you are not an RMM customer and you are concerned that your computers are vulnerable or that your backups may not be adequate when (not if) the next attack hits, contact us to find out how we can help.

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