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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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Verizon Email Transition

by Office Administrator on March 27, 2017

in News, Tech Thoughts and Tips

Verizon email customers have been receiving an email message informing them that Verizon is discontinuing their email service and moving all accounts to AOL. While we can help in your migration to another email provider, it is not necessary to switch to another provider. AOL was acquired by Verizon in 2015, and Verizon will transfer all your Verizon emails and contacts to AOL if you want to keep your current Verizon email address.

If you need help with this transition please contact us and we’ll be glad to help.

If you do decide to switch to another email provider we can help you migrate your mail and set up a temporary forward and an autoreply so that if your contacts email your old address, they will be advised that you have switched.

The Frequently Asked Questions on the Verizon Web site details more information about the transition.

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Keep Control of a Critical Business Asset

by Roberta Piket on February 23, 2017

in Messages from the Owner, News

Recently a business customer of ours which uses our hosted Exchange service emailed us, casually letting us know they were implementing a new web site with a web developer. It all sounded fine, until I did a little digging and discovered that they had handed over their domain registration to this new developer. The new web site developer now had complete control of their domain name and where it points to. Here’s what this means, in layperson’s terms:

  • If this developer went out of business or disappeared, control of their domain name would disappear with them. They were at this developer’s mercy.
  • If they fell out with this developer and wanted a different designer to update or edit their website, they were at this developer’s mercy.
  • If they were unhappy with the performance of the web site host that this developer used or the site got infected with malware because of poor maintenance, they could not move the site files (which they had paid for) to another host. They were at this developer’s mercy.
  • If they needed to change their email server (MX) records or create other DNS records, they could not make the changes themselves and at the time they wanted to make them. They were at this developer’s mercy
  • They did not have the ability to renew their domain name. They had to depend on the developer renewing it. If that didn’t happen for some reason, their web site would be down, mail would stop flowing in and out, and, potentially, a third party could take control of their domain name and demand an exorbitant fee to sell it back to our customer. In other words, they were…
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    …you get the picture.

    Here’s a well-written article which explains a bit more and offers some helpful suggestions.

    If you are unsure who owns your domain name, you can check here for the registration info by typing in your domain name in the search box on the upper right and clicking the green button. For example, if I wanted to look at the info for our domain, I would type in “nygeekgirls.com” (without the quotes). When I do this, I see that I am the owner of and contact for nygeekgirls.com.

    There is absolutely no need for your web site developer to register your domain name, even if the developer will be hosting your site. Your domain name is one of your most important business assets. Make sure you are in control of it.

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    From Calvin Trillin: The Scariest Word

    by Roberta Piket on December 11, 2016

    in Geek Humor, News

    One of our valued clients sent us this essay by revered humorist Calvin Trillin.

    Of course, if you are on our Remote monitoring and Maintenance plan you do not have to worry about random updates affecting on your PC or Mac.

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    Microsoft’s Windows 10 free upgrade offer ends on July 29th, 2016. After this date, if you want to upgrade your Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer to Windows 10, you’ll have to purchase a retail version of the software.

    We don’t see any reason to upgrade. As we’ve pointed out in previous posts, installing a new operating system over your current OS can cause issues with drivers, printers, and software installations. However, if you still decide to upgrade, you will want to be aware of the July 29th deadline.

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    Schedule Sending in Outlook

    by Roberta Piket on July 15, 2016

    in News

    One of my facvorite features in Outlook (for PC) is the Delay Delivery option. You can schedule an email to go out at a future date and time, and if you leave Outlook open, it will automatically send at that time.

    Sometimes I’ll have a good idea over the weekend or in the evening, but I don’t want to bother my customer or colleague during his or her “down-time” with an email that is not time sensitive. Sometimes I want to allow more time before sending a follow-up to a previous message, but I don’t want to forget to follow up. I’ll set the Delay Delivery option knowing I can always delete the email or move it to the drafts folder if I decide not to send it.

    Until the time the email is scheduled to go out, it will sit in your Outbox. No matter how many times you manually click “Send and Receive”, it won’t send until on or after the time you have scheduled it for.

    If Outlook is closed at the scheduled send time, then the message will be sent the next time you open Outlook.

    Note that when you close Outlook, you’ll receive a pop-up reminding you that “you have messages in your Outbox waiting to be sent”:

     
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    This is normal.

    Instructions vary only slightly for each version of Outlook. Here’s how to schedule sending on an email in Office 2013:

  • In the message, on the Options tab, in the More Options group, click Delay Delivery.
  • Under Delivery options, select the “Do not deliver before” check box, and select the delivery date and time.
  • Click close and send or edit your message as you normally would.
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