Network Security on Your Home Computer
No matter how much time you spend on your work computer, your home computer contains some of your most important files. Our personal machines help manage our finances, social relationships, and professional lives, but we often don’t put in as much effort into keeping them secure. Our computers contain a variety of personally identifiable information (PII), and it’s important to maintain sound computer and network security to protect your files.
Connecting Your Computer to a Secure Network
A network router is your first point of contact with the Internet. Don’t just rely on your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or cable modem to perform comprehensive security monitoring. An Internet connection starts with your modem, connects to your router, and feeds this information into your computer. Your router should be secure before connecting to the Internet.
Here are a few tips to maintaining network defense, once you are connected to a secure network. First off, use a web browser with sandboxing capabilities. A sandbox is an isolated environment that mimics an entire computer system, which targets suspicious programs and analyzes potential threats.
Browsers with sandboxing capabilities are especially useful for recognizing advanced persistent threats (APTs). These APTs are designed to escape detection, breaking through conventional security barriers, and gaining access to PII on your computer. Sandboxes help capture these viruses and clear them out.
When you own a business, you want to keep your home computers well-defended because any crossover information between work and personal machines, through email or messaging apps, can cause a data breach. A recent study found that 60% of small companies fail due to poor network security measures.
Sandboxing can be applied to a number of different programs, such as PDF readers. A common means for viruses to attack your computer is through embedded URLs, where malicious executables can gain entry via PDF files.
Keep Everything Up-To-Date
While this may seem self-explanatory, many malware attacks occur because personal computers are not as diligently updated as company devices. Make sure your computer has current versions of all software you run.
Updating programs like Microsoft Office to the 2007 version or a more current iteration is a good idea, since word-processing is a common function on home computers. Microsoft Office 2010 offers a “Protected View” that opens documents in read-only mode, which blocks any viruses embedded in unfamiliar files.
Many applications have a feature that enables automatic updates. Updating frequently is a good network security practice, since attackers typically exploit hosts that don’t have their software applications fully patched. Additionally, evaluate which programs you use most frequently and those you never seem to use. Do some research on the software you wish to delete, and determine if removing them is possible. Fewer applications on your computer workstation mean fewer channels for hackers.
Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks
Some of the most common attacks are executed through email. A social engineering attack uses human interaction to obtain sensitive information on computers with vulnerable network security. In these infected emails, a person can claim to be an employee, cleaning service, or someone else offering qualifications that would allow them to gather your confidential information.
Phishing tactics also use emails from attackers masquerading as reliable organizations to obtain personal details. Often, these phishers will take advantage of events in the news (i.e. fake natural disaster fundraisers) and holidays (i.e. Christmas shopping deal scams) to steal account information. They even go so far as to pose as reputable banks to issue fraudulent warnings, hoping that alarmed card holders will hand over their account credentials.
Keeping Your Home Computer Safe From Attacks
To avoid these attacks, install anti-virus and anti-spyware software, firewalls, or email applications that filter your inbox. Whenever you are asked for sensitive information such as your credit card number or even your birthday, verify that your information isn’t falling into the wrong hands.
If you suspect that you’ve received a phishing email, call the organization the message claims to be from. Use the contact info on the legitimate website, and ask about the email.
In general, don’t open unfamiliar links or messages with attachments, especially from email addresses not in your contacts. Also, find out how to build a strong password and employ those methods for all of your accounts. Secure and complex passwords should not only be used for WLANs but also for any devices in your home and work that use web interfaces (i.e. printers, self-automated light switch systems, etc.)
When it comes to protecting your personal information, there’s no such thing as taking too many precautions. At Geek-Aid, we specialize in every kind of cyber security. We all rely heavily on personal computers to manage many aspects of our lives, and keeping these devices secure is a top priority.
Last week, we discussed a couple of habits that will help you protect your computer’s security. Hopefully, you now know how to navigate the internet better and protect your data. In order stay vigilant and protect your computer, there is more that you need to know. After all, there is only so much you can do to keep hackers from trying to access personal information. Let’s discuss how you can check if your computer’s own security methods are in working order.
Keep Your Computer Updated
Computer companies know how troubling hackers can be, for both them and their consumers. They do not want hackers infiltrating the private information of the people who buy their machines. That’s why they constantly update their computer security system to fight off all sorts of viruses, malware, and trojans. The first thing you should do is check if your computer is running the latest update. This will ensure that it is up-to-date and ready to fight off anything trying to penetrate your system.
Scanning Your Settings for Better Protection
There are plenty of useful tools that computer manufacturers release as well. These tools are able to scan your computer for potential problems like weak user passwords or if you are using all of your security features. They can also educate users on the proper security setting for protection against threats. Just remember to download this kind of software straight from your computer’s manufacturer and not untrustworthy sites.
Secure Your Internet Browser
The number one way that hackers gain access to your computer is through the internet. Accidentally opening suspicious emails, clicking random links, or browsing unfamiliar websites can leave you at risk. In order to avoid downloading something malicious, you have to secure your browser’s own security settings. You’ll find that your browser does more than just block pop-up ads. Like your computer, your browser needs to stay updated to protect your system. Your plugins need to stay updated as well. If they remain out of date, then your system is vulnerable.
Make Sure You Have a Strong Firewall
The biggest defense against hackers is your system’s own firewall. Most computers come with a built-in firewall. They block others from penetrating your computer’s files and prevent them from seeing your system online. You have to make sure this computer function is working at optimal efficiency. Try running a port test service. These services are meant to test your firewall and make sure the world cannot see your computer. If it can detect your computer, then it’s very likely that your firewall settings are not correct or that you have a virus.
Make Sure Your System Is Secure With Geek Aid
Confused? Want to make sure that your system is absolutely secure? Well, Geek Aid is your best bet. Our geeks are trained to know the ins and outs of your system. That way they can not only protect you against viruses or threats but keep your system in working order. We make house calls and service offices as well. So, call us at (877) Geek-Aid to speak with one of our geeks today.
Computers are an essential part of our everyday lives. Whether it’s the cell phone you carry in your pocket or the desktop sitting in your room. They help us work and do our day-to-day task. Without them, our world becomes far less convenient. What is more important than the machine itself is your computer security habits. Protecting your computer from any type of malfunction or malicious attack is important to protect your private data. Let Geek Aid walk you through a couple of ways to ensure you aren’t left vulnerable.
Always Update Your Computer Security
Anytime you boot up your computer, the first thing you should do is check for updates. A new update to your operating system isn’t just an annoying notification that pops up. An update is a vital part of keeping your computer safe. New viruses are born every day, and some hackers even create ones to attack specific operating system. A new update is your computer company’s way to fighting off these infections. The longer you wait to update your system, the more vulnerable you are to an attack.
Change Your Password Game
Over and over we need to remind people to change their passwords. Many use the same password they have been using for several years for every account. This is a bad computer security habit. If your password becomes predictable, you are giving hackers the opportunity to access your devices, personal accounts, and more. Generate random passwords or strong ones that use a combination of letter, numbers, and symbols.
Create Computer Backups
When in doubt, regard Murphy’s law. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. As your computer grows older, it’s is more likely to experience random glitches and crashes. You shouldn’t worry too much though as you can prepare for these kinds of unexpected events. Make sure that you regularly create backups. Do it every 2 weeks or every month to make sure the latest information and files are safe and secure. If you need help, there are some useful tips online on how to back up your system.
Email Carefully and Navigate the Web Safely
Going on the internet helps us gather information, stay on top of the news, and do so many other tasks at lightning speed. However, the internet isn’t always safe. Browsing on the web or opening up an unknown email is how a lot of people contract viruses. You have to be more careful. Do not open or download attachments or files from people or sources you don’t trust. Also, shareware and free downloads are often packed with malevolent software.
Investing in Antivirus Software
An extra antivirus software on your machine won’t hurt. In fact, these types of software are your number one barrier against hackers trying to steal or mess with your private data. They can set up firewalls and detect viruses attempting to penetrate your computer’s defense. Do some research and spend some money on a good antivirus software.
It seems harder and harder to protect your computer from security threats and virus. Hackers are constantly trying to gain access to your computer system using the latest tricks and cons. We’ve discussed before how to protect yourself from malicious malware. For example, if you click on a suspicious link in an email, there a good chance you’re inviting a virus to infect your computer. However, a new report suggests it might not be enough. A new virus is now able to infect your computer the moment your mouse hovers over the link.
Malicious Malware Installs Banking Trojan
What’s a Banking Trojan? It’s a type of malware that is designed to break into an online bank account and move a person’s money into a hacker’s bank account. In the U.S., these trojans steal millions of dollars from business and personal accounts. Companies and organization are usually the targets of these nefarious campaigns.
Research by cyber security company Trend Micro and information security blog Dodge This Security revealed a new malware downloader is installing banking Trojans. What makes this particular malware stand out is that users don’t even have to click on anything for it to activate. All users have to do hover their mouse cursor over a hyperlink in a PowerPoint file.
These attacks were largely made against companies and organizations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Hackers sent PowerPoints containing the Trojan via spam email. These emails were disguised as finance-related, making the user believe they were related to a recent order or invoice.
Older computer systems are more at risk than new ones. While the malicious malware does try to automatically download onto your computer, the latest Microsoft Office will ask you beforehand. This provides the user a security measure to prevent the virus from affecting you. However, older versions of Office will execute the PowerPoint file.
Keeping Your Computer Safe
Many companies do not update their computer’s operating system or applications. Working off of older technology leaves them vulnerable to attack and without that added layer of security that they need. Unfortunately, just like we saw with the WannaCry situation, it isn’t so easy for large scale companies to update their computer systems.
A good antivirus software will help to protect your computer from an attack like this. Trend Micro was able to detect 1,444 spam emails last month. Another way to avoid becoming a victim of online theft is by looking out for suspicious emails from unknown senders. These are often the most dangerous types of emails with hackers hoping that you will download its contents.
If you are a small or big business, your computer system is a target. It is best to invest in protecting your company’s private and important information. At Geek Aid, we can assist you with business IT solutions, including:
- Performance Enhancements on Computers
- Crash Repairs
- Data Recovery
- Data Backup
- Security From Thieves and Competitors
- Email Setup
- Technology Consultation
Don’t leave your company’s security system at risk. Call Geek Aid at 877-GEEK-AID for computer and technical support.
Recently, England’s healthcare system was the victim of a massive cyber attack. The ransomware known as WannaCry locked doctors and employees across at least 25 hospitals out of their networks. Later, it was discovered that the same attack hit multiple organizations across the world. Find out what happened and how it become the largest ransomware attack to date.
What Did WannaCry Demand?
A hacker group known as The Shadow Brokers stole and leaked several Windows’ exploits from the NSA. Within the information leak, a remote code execution vulnerability called ExternalBlue was used to access unsecured computers and install the now infamous ransomware. The computers affected were either not updated or running Windows XP or 2000, which are operating systems that are no longer supported.
The ransomware program is modified version of WannaCrypt, a virus that has plagued computers before. The malicious software locks users from their computers, and then ask them to pay a $300 fee via bitcoin to obtain the encryption key. The longer the user takes to pay the ransom, the higher the fee becomes.
How Did the Virus Make It Onto Computers?
Like many other pieces of malware, WannaCry spread because people didn’t take proper precaution. The virus is believed to have originated from compressed files attached to emails. It’s important to avoid becoming an online victim. This is a topic that we have discussed before because there are a lot of opportunistic groups looking to take advantage of internet users.
Why Are Small and Large Businesses Using Vulnerable Systems?
Upgrading to the newest operating system is not so simple for business. For example, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) notes that medical equipment uses old operating systems and are not easy to update. Business with multiple computers or larger IT system can also have a hard time updating their infrastructure. Some updates can break key application needed to do work. Companies have to be very careful when performing a companywide update, otherwise, it can critically damage everyone.
While Microsoft has ended support for older operating systems, they recently created a patch to address the incident. Companies using Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003 can now download a patch to protect their computers. If you can, we suggest updating your operating system regularly to avoid risk to your private information.
Are You the Victim of a Cyberattack?
If you notice the telltale signs of a cyber attack on your computer system, call us at Geek Aid. Our IT and networking specialist can help. We offer services like data backups, data recovery, virus removal and more. We even provide recurring updates for companies to prevent attacks from infecting your system and disrupting your business.
One of our services even includes setting your business up with your own private exchange or email setup. That way your email is only distributed to those who need it. Your computer’s security system is important to us. So, call Geek Aid at (877) GEEK-AID today. You can also reach us via email by filling out our contact form.
How many times have you come across a website’s contact form to be met with a reCAPTCHA field at the end? We’re also sure that you are familiar with clicking that little “I’m not a robot” box as well. Have you ever wondered what this section is for? Well, as the little box says, it’s to make sure that you are not some robot looking to spam the website owner’s email.
A reCAPTCHA field makes sure that actual people are submitting a request to you. It makes it impossible for a malicious program to enter information into your contact form and send you unwanted messages, or worse, viruses. In 2009, Google acquired this technology and now they are giving it a much-needed upgrade.
How reCAPTCHA Used to Work
The reCAPTCHA program has seen various updates over the years. In the beginning, the system displayed an image where the letters were made up from several photos. It would form two different words that usually had no correlation with one another. Users would then type those words in and click the “I’m not a robot” box to complete the form.
As time moved on and Google acquired the technology, they begin finding new ways to circumnavigate updated robots. Around 2012, they started used photos with house number acquired from Google street view. Two years later, they changed the system by having users identify certain photos in a group of pictures.
What Is the Invisible reCAPTCHA?
This year, Google is rolling out what seems to be the ultimate update to its anti-spam technology. It requires almost no user interaction at all … unless you are displaying suspicious behavior.
Back in 2014, the company created the noCAPTCHA reCAPTCHA. This eliminated all of the tests and security tricky fields meant to keep away sophisticated robots. All users needed to do was check the “I’m not a robot” box and submit their request. How was this new system more secure than previous versions? That’s pretty easy to understand.
Using its new learning and improved risk analysis engine, the system analyzes your browsing behavior. If it believes that you are a human, then you will be able to fill out your form without going through a variety of security fields. However, if it can’t accurately predict your behavior, the engine will see you as suspicious. As a result, it will present you with the CAPTCHA that you are normally used to filling out.
The latest update seeks to eliminate user interactions with the reCAPTCHA altogether. Even the “I’m not a robot” box no longer appears on the user’s screen. Users simply fill out the contact form. This new tech is constantly learning. The more people who fill out contact forms, the more the system is able to determine the difference between someone who it real and one who isn’t.
The “Invisible reCAPTCHA” is set to release sometime this year.
At one point or another, all of us have problems with our computer. The wonderful machine that allows us to do work, browse the interwebs and do a myriad of other things sometimes malfunctions beyond our understanding. At that point, we are calling the computer manufacture only for them to ask us if we tried turning it on and off.
Some of the issues we encounter can be serious threats. Other times, they are simply common computer problems. As a user, you should know how to identify between the two and what to do when you encounter them.
Keeping Your Computer Security Up-to-Date
Viruses and spyware are often a user’s number one concern – as it should be. Online threats are more prevalent today than they have ever been. Your computer’s behavior is a telling sign. Look out for anything peculiar that doesn’t normally happen with your machine. More than likely, your computer is being affected by some kind of malware that you accidently downloaded.
Antivirus software is your best defense against malicious programs. These programs generally work to protect your computer from the latest threats. However, viruses and spyware evolve to work around your computer’s protection software. You have to keep your antivirus software updated. Once you have updated your computer’s security software, run a comprehensive scan. It will weed out any threats to your privacy.
Dealing With Common Computer Problems
If you are experiencing issues with your computer, it will usually tell you. Error messages with alert you of an action that cannot be completed or if you are doing something that conflicts with another program. Sometimes, a computer will only give you the error code, leaving you stumped and confused. A simple Google search will provide you with the answer to the problem. Follow the instruction given to you and everything should be in working order.
If your computer is running slow, check your local disk space. You could have too much saved on your hard drive. Look through your files and erase anything you don’t need. You could also have too many programs running in the background. Go into your settings and open the privacy section. Next, you’ll find a section labeled “Background Apps.” You can turn on and off apps as you see fit.
Preventing Future Incidents
Your computer is an important tool. That’s why you need to be more careful online. When you are browsing the internet, stay away from shady and untrustworthy sites. Also, beware for freeware apps that promise you a service that you would normally have to pay for.
Also, remember that computers can be dumb. Certain parts of your operating system may break or are plagued by a bug. That is why companies release weekly updates. They eradicate common issues that interfere with your computer.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what is happening with your computer and if they are just common computer problems. If there are any issues that are beyond your control, then call us at Geek Aid. We are here to solve all of your computer repair issues.
The digital world is a dangerous place. There are vultures are out there, who only want to take advantage of you and steal your personal information. However, being vigilante will prevent you from becoming an online victim. At Geek Aid, we are all about cyber security. Here are a few ways that you can protect yourself from dangerous hackers.
Avoid Becoming an Online Victim by Ignoring Dangerous Links
We have discussed the perils of clicking on dangerous links before. They mostly come through emails. That’s why emails have filters to weed out junk mail. They are most likely coming from malicious sites. Never click on an unknown link.
Question Suspicious Emails
Some hackers are clever. They will pretend to be legitimate sources and convince you to give them your personal information. Check the email address to see if it looks suspicious. If they say you owe money, call the company directly and check with a representative to find out if the email is real.
Be Careful What Information You Share Online
Hackers are often able to trick people because they monitor the information they are putting on social media. They will use your interest, location data, and other public knowledge to try and fool you. You can restrict this information by adjusting the privacy settings on all of your social media accounts. Some allow you to restrict who can see what you post, keeping your information invisible from unwanted eyes.
Make Your Passwords Complex and Unknown
We know that passwords can be hard to remember, but you should never use words or phrase that relate to you. This will leave you vulnerable, especially if you use your password as a username elsewhere or if it’s related to information that is public. It is best to create something complex like these:
Ensure that you are hack-proof and protected from becoming an online victim. Remember, always stay safe in the digital world.
You have more than likely visited websites that have had malware ads running on them. They’re everywhere, whether you know it or not. Often referred to as “malvertising,” these malware ads infiltrate sites as a banner or popup ad and then redirects you to a harmful website.
How do malware ads find their way onto these sites? First, someone hacks into an ad delivery server. They then upload an ad with harmful content unbeknownst to the ad network. Once it’s in the ad network, users are put at risk.
Many people might assume that an attack of this kind only happens on sites you shouldn’t be on in the first place. But high-volume sites such as the New York Times and Spotify were victims to this type of attack in 2016 alone.
Malware Ads Spread Ransomware
This is the biggest problem with malvertising. By disguising itself as a regular ad in the server, one could potentially appear anywhere. And the consequences of getting a malware ad are varied. The most devious of these problems is ransomware.
Ransomware instantly downloads itself onto your computer. It then denies access to your computer or its files until you pay the hacker to decrypt it. This is a shady operation designed to hold the user hostage.
AdBlock’s Role in Preventing Malvertising
For many, installing AdBlock is a contentious issue with obvious benefits, as well as more its share of nuanced negatives. As users become more accustomed to getting their content for free, the sites themselves need to find revenue in different ways. Hence, the advertisements. These ads can be annoying, however. This is why many users have resorted to AdBlock. Forbes recently pleaded with their users to turn off their AdBlock because of the effect it has on their revenue. Their site was then hacked by a malware ad shortly after.
A situation like this creates an even stronger case for AdBlock than it ever had before. Protection from these harmful ads is crucial. Users can’t leave themselves open to these attacks. Ad networks will have to get stronger security in order to make users comfortable with getting rid of their AdBlock. Because as it currently stands, both parties are losing.
Predicting the cyber security trends of 2017 is a worthwhile exercise after such a hack-heavy 2016. Many of these hacks were high-profile. As a result, they dominated the news cycle for the majority of the year.
On a smaller scale, local businesses are hurting badly from this. Less than one in three small businesses have basic security tools. Nearly a quarter of them say they’ve had a loss of data. While almost half list it as their greatest fear. This is coming from Carbonite research, and they predict these cyber-attacks can potentially grow in 2017.
Everyone seems vulnerable in this climate. People in both the public and private sector are worried about leaks, malware, phishing, and whatever else may come.
So, what can we expect to happen in 2017? How will people be protecting themselves from more sophisticated attacks? To answer these questions, here are a few trends we predict will play a big role in making people safer in the year to come.
Predicting Cyber Security Trends in 2017
- Expected to increase this year is regulation. Research estimates that government spending on cybersecurity will continue to increase to somewhere in the billions by 2019. Whether it’s through legislation or more standard security controls, there will be a call for as much prevention as possible.
- Demand for cyber-insurance will reach new heights. More companies will be looking for this type of insurance than ever before. It could lead to a significant spike in premium cost because of this.
- The cloud will be scrutinized due to these breaches. Companies providing cloud capabilities for users are not equipped to protect. Users will be wise to find other security options on their own.
- More schools will implement cybersecurity education programs. The Air Force Association has already launched one at no-cost for elementary schools. A well-informed user is the first step in preventing a cyber-attack. So, teaching kids at a young age about potential threats will make future generations more aware.
After such a wild year, cyber security trends in 2017 all tend to lean toward vigilance. Education and better focus on prevention are imperative.