Posts tagged desktop computer

A large of amount of sand, to metaphorically represent the "sand" part of sandboxing security.

Sandbox Security: Why Do I Need It and How Is It Protecting My Computer?

A large of amount of sand, to metaphorically represent the "sand" part of sandboxing security.

Sandbox security is an important computer safety technique that helps keep malicious executables at bay.

A sandbox is an isolated environment that mimics an entire computer system.  This protected space can be used to test suspicious programs and analyze potential threats.  Sandboxing is a vital security feature that prevents malware and other viruses from entering and damaging your computer.

Much of the software you already use, like web browsers, have sandboxes that filter most of the code your system uses to perform daily tasks.  You can create your own sandboxes to test whether a piece of software is safe, in a controlled environment that won’t damage the rest of your computer’s system.

What Is Sandboxing? Why Is It an Essential Security Feature?

Sandboxes give specific permissions to a piece of code, allowing it to perform its functions, while restricting it to a tightly controlled environment.   Programs are then run within this environment, where no additional code permissions can be abused.

In everyday computer use, you come across many sandboxing security techniques.  Your web browser, if you use Chrome or Internet Explorer, runs the webpages you visit in a sandbox.  These webpages are limited to the access granted by this browser’s sandbox, meaning that this site can’t do things like open your webcam without your permission or snoop on your personal files.

Web Browsers With Sandboxing Capabilities

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 Personally Identifiable Information (PII) on your computer.  Sandboxes help isolate these viruses and prevent them from spreading.

Sandboxing browsers don’t have access to your entire computer, because they run in a low-permission mode.  If a malicious webpage manages to take over your browser, it would still have to get past the browser’s sandbox to do any damage to rest of your system.

If a webpage happens to contain malicious code, a browser without a sandbox wouldn’t be able to protect the rest of your computer system.  This creates a security vulnerability through which malware or viruses can be introduced.  Most browsers, with the exception of Mozilla Firefox, have sandboxing capabilities.

For the most part, the fewer permissions granted to the browser or any other program, the more secure your system will be.

woman with smartphone and laptop, with security icons floating around her.  Sandbox security is important for keeping your computer's system safe from malware.

Most of your computer programs are already using sandbox security techniques, but it’s important to know which programs are already sandboxed to better understand how to protect your computer from the ones that aren’t.

Sandboxes Are Already Protecting You

Browsers are among the many sandboxed programs on your computer. There are plenty of other programs that are already being sandboxed for your protection.

Browser Plug-ins

Content from plug-ins like Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight are run in sandboxes.  An online game made with Flash is much safer when played on a web page than when it’s downloaded and opened as a standard program.  As a sandboxed plug-in, Flash contains the game within the browser, and severely restricts what it can do to the rest of your system.

PDFs and Other Documents

PDFs have become a common source of malicious executables.  PDFs and other documents can contain malicious embedded links, and without sandboxes, these viruses could compromise your system’s security. Adobe Reader now runs in a sandbox, and Microsoft Office also has sandboxing capabilities that keep unsafe macros from infecting your computer.

Mobile Apps

Smartphone apps run their code in a sandbox.  iOS, Android, and Windows mobile apps have far fewer permissions than their standard desktop counterparts.  In order to access functions like your location or camera roll, they must ask for the user’s permission.

By keeping mobile apps in low-permission mode, you’re able to keep the information on your smartphone safe. Sandboxes also isolate apps from each other, so one app can’t affect each another’s functionalities.

Windows Programs

If your computer runs on Windows, User Account Control is a form of basic sandbox security that you come across frequently.  Essentially, User Account Control restricts desktop applications from modifying files within your system without asking the user for permission.

This form of sandbox security offers very minimal protection, since desktop programs can still run in the background and log your keystrokes. User Account Control merely stops unwanted programs from accessing system files and system-wide settings.

How You Can Apply Sandbox Security to Your Programs

Sandboxing your own programs isn’t really something you need to worry about, since so many of the apps and programs you use on a regular basis are already sandboxed.  However, it’s useful to know that most desktop programs aren’t generally sandboxed by default.

If you want to run a program without letting it harm the rest of your system, you can sandbox any program. As mentioned before, User Account Control (UAC) doesn’t do much to protect your system.

Virtual Machines

Virtual machines like VirtualBox™ or VMware create entire operating systems within your existing OS to test programs. This simulated operating system is completely sandboxed, so it doesn’t have access to the rest of your system, and the programs you are testing within the virtual machine can’t access anything outside of its designated boundaries.

Virtual machines allow you to install programs on the virtual operating system and run them as if they were open on your actual OS.  You can then analyze the installed program to determine if it contains malware.

They also have snapshot features, which allow you to reset your virtual machine to state it was before malicious executables were installed. You can then continue to test programs in your virtual machine without worrying about crowding or damaging the virtualized operating system.

Sandboxie

Sandboxie, unlike virtual machines, is a program that creates a protective bubble around your existing computer system, effectively sandboxing the parts of your system you specify.  With Sandboxie, browsing the web is more secure.  Any cookies, cached files, and search history, can all be cleared from your browser when you close the sandbox program. You can even send apps directly to Sandboxie to be examined.

All Things Cyber Security With Geek Aid

If you’re still confused or just want to find out more about how to keep your computer absolutely secure, Geek Aid is here to help.  Our professional geeks know your computer system by heart, and can protect you against viruses and malicious content to keep all of your devices in working order. Call us at (877) Geek-Aid to speak with our geeks today.

Business man and woman using a computer.

Checking Your Computer Security

Business man and  woman using a computer.

Checking your computer security settings can keep your information safe.

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.

Close up on businesswoman backing up her computer, which is a good computer security habit.

Computer Security Habits You Should Adopt

Close up on businesswoman backing up her computer, which is a good computer security habit.

Protect your computer security at all times.

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.

Have a broken, glitchy, or vulnerable computer? Then call Geek Aid at 877-GEEK-AID. We specialize in home and office IT, as well as computer setup and virus removal. Find out what we can do for you.

A graphic illustration of a home computer, monitor, mouse, and keyboard.

Home Computer Triumphs Over Supercomputer

A graphic illustration of a home computer, monitor, mouse, and keyboard.

Your home computer might be able to do more than you think.

Your computer might be more impressive than you think. In a recent test, Russian physicists have discovered that a home computer has what it takes to go against a supercomputer. In fact, it is more effective at certain tasks than a supercomputer. Find out how your machine can outperform a high-level computer in complex calculations.

Home Computer Performance

The test was performed by physicists at the Lomonosov Moscow State University. They wanted to see how well a consumer-level machine holds against a supercomputer. A supercomputer is a computer that has high-level computational capacity. This gives it the ability to perform weather forecasting, code breaking, simulations, and many other complex equations.

Researchers used a Nvidia GPU in order to perform the equations. These equations calculated how multiple quantum particles interact with each other. The researchers used multiple programs, along with the GPU, to calculate a numerous amount of data.

The Nvidia GPU excelled at the task. It even outperformed the supercomputer. Researcher begin to think differently about how they process data.

According to the team leader Vladimir Kukulin, “The program computes 260 million complex double integrals on a desktop computer within three seconds. No comparison with supercomputers! My colleague from the University of Bochum in Germany carried out the calculations using one of the largest supercomputers in Germany with the famous blue gene architecture, which is actually very expensive. And what took his group two or three days we do in 15 minutes without spending a dime.”

This test proves that a home computer is cheaper and more effective. It also changes who has access to this technology. Many groups do not have the resources to use one. Now, they can perform complex task, such as quantum mechanics and nuclear physics, on their own. Now that more people have access, eventually these test will lead to new discoveries.

A person is on their tablet using cortana,

Windows 10 — Operating System for the Next Generation

A person is on their tablet using Cortana, a virtual assistant designed for the Windows 10 operating system.

With the popularity of Windows 10, some predict that Microsoft may stick with the operating system for a long time.

As we can clearly see, Microsoft has discovered the importance of moving forward while not leaving behind the things that made Windows the most popular operating system in the first place. With Windows 10, Microsoft incorporated many of the beneficial aspects of 8 that worked well on Windows phones and tablets, but now has returned many of the things we love from the previous desktop versions. We also finally get to enjoy Cortana without having to be on a mobile device. But Microsoft isn’t done yet.

Why the Start Menu Is So Important

The one thing that made Windows 8 unusable to many longtime fans of the operating system was the drastic Start menu change. It basically wasn’t there at all. In Windows 10, we get to enjoy the old menu with some new additions.

Right next to your Start menu on a Windows 10 desktop is Cortana. You don’t even have to open a browser to search. You can type in the taskbar box or just speak to Cortana if you enable the speech option. You can even set reminder notices for meetings and projects that you have to work on, and Cortana will alert you so you don’t need little reminder notes all over the office.

Apps Are Good

Whether you are using Windows 10 on a mobile or desktop device, you have access to the growing number of apps for Windows devices. This addition helps to streamline the operating system and make it workable across devices rather than requiring a completely unique operating system for mobile and desktop.

Plus, Microsoft has stepped up its web browser usability, replacing the virtually unusable Explorer with Edge. Edge is particularly useful on touchscreen devices, although using the drawing tool with your mouse to edit directly on the screen can be fun too.

Is This Operating System the Final Iteration of Windows?

There are rumors that Windows 10 may be the final version of the operating system and that future updates and enhancements will just be additions to Windows 10. Whether or not that is the way Microsoft intends to go, and how long it will last, remain to be seen.

Is There a Way to Stop a Data Breach?

Unfortunately, the general consensus is that if a hacker targets your company, little can be done to stop it from happening. But does that mean you should roll over and let cyber criminals take whatever they want from your stored data?

Let’s first consider some facts that show it is really tough to stop a data breach, and then reveal some things your organization can do to be conscientious with private data you may be storing digitally.

Why Some Forecasters Say Things Look Bleak

Over 20 percent of government enterprises and large businesses experience a data breach each year, and more than 60 percent have suffered a breach at some time in the past. When the big companies and governments can’t keep hackers out, what chance does a small- to medium-sized business (SMB) stand?

Here are a few things to do in order to dissuade hackers:

Don’t Be an Easy Target for a Data Breach

Many hackers are opportunists, especially those who go after SMBs for a score. Knowing this means you can discourage an attack on your company by having your defenses up. The best practices include:

  • Increase budget for digital security – Whether it means outsourcing your security or purchasing a new software package, you are going to need a budget to spend on protecting data. Think of it as an investment in your company’s reputation, should a data breach occur. Every company wants to be able to say, “We did everything we could.”
  • Encryption – Minimize the chance of a hacker being able to use what he gets from a data breach by keeping everything encrypted, even emails.
  • Two-step authentication, or more if necessary – Requiring only a password for authentication means that your whole organization is only as safe as the weakest password someone uses. Plus, it takes only one user with phishing malware on his computer to make his login credentials available to a hacker.

The fact is that if a hacker wants to get into your files bad enough, a data breach probably is going to happen. But think of it this way – a dedicated thief could probably break into any house if he wanted to, but he is more likely to go after a home with no alarm system and an unlocked door.

Make sure your business isn’t an easy score.

Discover Which Web Browser Suits Windows 10 Users the Best

Before Windows 10, you probably used third-party favorites like Chrome, Firefox, or Opera. But now that Windows 10 comes bundled with the highly anticipated Edge, is it time to change browsers? Windows 10 has been available for a little while, so after actual use, let’s see which browser gets the job done in tests.

How Each Fared in JavaScript Performance

When it comes to testing browser efficiency, JavaScript is often used as a benchmark. Let’s look at some of the most popular benchmarks online to see how your favorite browser fared.

  • Octane – We’ll start with Google, even though that should give an unfair advantage to Chrome, right? No, Edge performs the best, followed by Chrome and then Firefox.
  • Jetstream – Once again Edge is the victor with Chrome trailing behind. Opera took the third spot.
  • Kraken – This is the only JavaScript test where Chrome won the day. Opera finished second, and Edge was a disappointing third.

So after checking JavaScript performance, the biggest surprise is that Edge performed better overall than Chrome. It’s a huge leap from the virtually worthless Internet Explorer. For you are in love with Firefox, its disappointing results, finishing last in two of the three tests and third in the other, may come as a shock. Windows 10 apparently provides a rough environment for the very popular third-party browser from Mozilla.

Total Browser Performance

Why look at just JavaScript performance when RoboHornet can give you overall performance figures? That seems like a game changer. Chrome rose to the top, taking the spot everyone would expect, while Edge ended up in a disappointing last place.

The Verdict

While Edge is a great new browser, it doesn’t seem like it is going to become the number one browser, even for most Windows 10 users. While being able to mark up a website, as well as quickly save and send your notes is a great feature, and the browser seems to function as well as Chrome, if not better in some cases.  However, all of that doesn’t make up for some of the things missing with Edge. For example, you need to be able to bring up a list of tabs you recently closed in case you clicked the X by accident. Plus, Edge still appears to be having some issues with Facebook, and isn’t social media why most people are online?

Why You Can’t Just Throw Old Company Computers Away

Here are two primary reasons you can’t just throw away your old devices when the company updates them. First of all, it is terrible for the environment. Second, it is not a secure way to dispose of data. Let’s look at some better ways to get rid of old company computers than just dumping them into a landfill.

The Effect on the Planet

Most technology contains chemicals that should not be leeching into the Earth. Some common contaminants are:

  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Barium
  • Arsenic

You don’t want any of that getting into the ground water, so consider these alternatives.

Proper Disposal Methods of Old Company Computers

  • Resell – If your old machines still work and have value, you can consider selling them.
  • Donation – You could also donate old machines, and potentially even get a tax break.
  • Reclaim – If there is no good use for what you are getting rid of, reclaim companies can dispose of the products properly. Usually, if you can deliver the product to a store, there is no fee. Even certain bargain electronics stores accept old company computers.

Before You Dispose of Old Equipment

Whether you are selling one of the old company computers, donating it, or dropping it off to be disposed of properly, keep in mind this one important thing. Make sure that no one can access your old data—and reformatting is not enough. Here are some tips for properly wiping stored data.

  • Computers – Software exists that will allow you to overwrite hard drives to Department of Defense standards.
  • Mobile Devices (iOS) – Restore the device to its original settings. This doesn’t just wipe the phone or tablet. It actually encrypts the data, and then restores the system settings.
  • Mobile Devices (Android) – First, you want to encrypt the data on your phone. Then you can restore the original factory settings. Sorry, but Android devices don’t do the encryption on their own yet.

Now you know how to protect the environment, protect your data, and maybe even make a few dollars in the process when it comes time to upgrade your work devices.

Data Storage: HDD Still King

I think most people agree, our technology can never have too much data storage. This is especially true as video becomes the primary medium through which we communicate and entertain ourselves. Whether watching, sharing, or editing, storage is the key. Speed is important too, however, which leads many to wonder: Why don’t solid state drives dominate the market?

While solid state drives may have a big advantage in performance over platter-based HDD drives, the expense of SSD is the major factor keeping HDD alive. One hard drive producer, Seagate, has now produced an HDD to stretch the bounds of storage further than ever before, and both the size and cost-efficiency of the drive are equally impressive.

This new 2 terabyte drive is a mere 7 mm thick. They were able to do this by stacking two plates on top of each other. The drive, in total, is only 2.5 inches in size. That also allowed them to drop the weight down to just over 3 ounces. Enter, the Cadillac of HDDs.

So what is the future for Seagate? Are even smaller and lighter HDDs with more drive space in our future? Actually, reports from the company orient the future toward hybrid drives. It’s a smart move. Seagate has created drives with tons of HDD storage and a NAND module to increase the speed without the substantial price jump that separates HDD and SSD.

What you can do today with 2 TB of storage:

  • Store 500,000 songs
  • 320,000 images
  • 240 hours of HD video
  • 26 hour of UHD video

The size of the drive makes it perfect for the next generation of laptops with larger data storage, but the amount of storage will rival desktop computers as well. The future may be SSDs and hybrid drives, but today belongs to this 2 TB beauty.

 

Meet Facebook’s Digital Assistant: M

Apple and Microsoft will soon no longer be the only games in town when it comes to digital assistants. If you like Siri or Cortana, but don’t want to be tied to a particular OS, then M may be the solution and future of personal digital assistant apps. Facebook has decided to include the AI service as a part of the Facebook Messenger app. But don’t just expect another digital assistant who provides reminder notices and makes quips when you ask what is zero divided by zero. Facebook may not get there first, but they know how to improve on an existing product (just ask Myspace).

M will actually be able to accomplish more than other AI predecessors. For example, you will be able to ask M to make reservations at a restaurant, set up your travel arrangements, make appointments, and even purchase items. M isn’t just here to answer questions with a search query. This digital assistant is intended to take care of many of the things you would expect a human personal assistant to do for you.

When can you expect to start using M? Based on what we have seen so far, there could be a long wait ahead. David Marcus, the VP of messaging products at Facebook, says that they are still early in the project. It won’t be ready to release until all the bugs are worked out. Don’t forget that Facebook has over a billion users. That means that this project needs to be ready for release on an incredible scale before it can go live.

In the meantime, Facebook is bigger than ever. The CEO recently announced that a new milestone was reached for the company – one billion same-day users. That means that on Monday, August 24th, about one out of every seven people on the planet logged into their Facebook account at some point. That’s a true testament to how important staying connected is to the human race albeit one with the help of a personal digital assistant app.

 

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