CryptoLocker ransomware may cost you all of your data, or up to $4,000 USD in ransom
There is a virus making the rounds that encrypts all of the data on your computer’s hard drive, any mapped network drives or computers accessible from your computer, and all of the data on your backup drive if it's online (connected and powered on) when your PC is infected with CryptoLocker. If you backup your data to the cloud (data storage services on the internet) and it doesn't have versioning, it will probably just contain copies of your encrypted files.
Because the virus uses social engineering, even the best anti-virus/anti-mailware programs won't protect you. It is especially important to do the following:
keep your anti-virus, anti-malware and web-facing programs (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, JAVA, Adobe Flash Player, etc.) up-to-date
make regular backups and keep them offline (disconnected or turned off)
don't leave mapped drives connected; connect just when you need to use them
- ensure all computers in your network have stong passwords
don't open e-mails or e-mail attachments from people you don’t know, or when you were not expecting them (e.g. your bank, UPS/FedEx, etc.)
don't download files from other than trusted sites
There is a free program (CryptoPrevent) that prevents this virus from executing and doing its dirty work. There is also CryptoGuard – a free program that prevents your browsers from connecting with the servers that issue the encryption key that would be used by CryptoLocker to encrypt your data. The logic behind CryptoGuard, is that If CryptoLocker can't get the encryption key, it can't encrypt your data. One or both of these programs has to be installed before you get infected.
Once your computer is infected, removing the virus does not decrypt your data. In fact, doing so makes it more difficult to pay the ransom to have the data decrypted. If you don’t have an offline backup and your computer gets infected, you’re out of luck or up to $4,000 USD if you want your data back. (The $4,000 price is for those whose anti-virus program removed the virus and/or those who didn't pay for the decryption key within the alloted 72 hours, and need to obtain the key in a follow-up procedure, as explained in this blog).
If after reading the articles in the above links you need some help, please give us a call (613-592-8485) or drop us an e-mail.
Beware of “Pizza Techs”
“Pizza Tech” is a derogatory term that legitimate PC repair businesses use to describe low-priced, fly-by-night computer repair people who repair computers for just enough money to buy pizza and beer. Their rates are extremely low and reflect their lack of technical qualifications, business registration and ethics. They see nothing wrong with using or installing pirated, illegal or unlicensed copies of Windows or computer programs and will offer to install them for a very low price or for free. So why beware of them? Read more...
"Microsoft" (or "Rogers") Support Scam
If you receive a telephone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or Rogers, saying that your computer has been broadcasting viruses or has generated an error report and they are calling to resolve it — immediately hang up the phone, it's a scam! Microsoft and Rogers Technical Support never make unsolicited telephone calls. These scammers will try to get you to go to a web site or to run a program to help diagnose or fix the fictitious problem, but it is really to enable them to take control of your computer so they can steal personal information, credit card details, banking information, or passwords.
It is not uncommon for Windows to have problems and to offer to send problem reports to Microsoft, so it's a persuasive ruse. The caller will be very assertive and almost abusive to those who challenge them or refuse the bait, but don't be bullied. Hang up! If you are having problems with your computer or suspect that it may have a virus, you do the calling. Call a local tech whose identity, credentials and location can be verified through a telephone call that you make. I also recommend that you undo whatever they did, by running System Restore. Select a restore date and time that pre-dates the call.
A common hardware problem that users experience with laptops, is overheating. It can be very serious and cause failure of the solder joints that attach the Graphics Processor Unit (GPU) chip to the laptop's circuit board (motherboard). The GPU is often incorporated into another chip that controls the overall functioning of the laptop--the Northbridge chip. When these solder joints fail, the laptop either won't start up or there will be a blank or distorted display.
If the fan in your laptop runs at high speed a lot, or if the laptop unexpectedly shuts itself down periodically, you are advised to have the laptop inspected and cleaned internally before it's too late. It might just save you from having to buy a new laptop. Read more...
How to Choose an Anti-Virus Program
Virus infections are the bane of many computer users. More and more viruses are really nasty and difficult to remove without re-formatting the hard drive and re-installing Windows from scratch. Given the increasing difficulty of removing infections, virus protection is vital. Yet, determining which anti-virus program provides the best protection is not easy. How does one decide? The most popular, recognizable or expensive products are not necessarily the best. Brand leadership can often be attributed to more effective marketing, not better performance. Read more...
How to Avoid Having Your E-mail or Online Accounts Hacked
If your friends complain of receiving fraudulent e-mails from you and you can’t log into your account any more, your e-mail account may have been hacked. Hackers typically change your password and then send spam or fraudulent e-mail to people in the account's address book. How can this happen? You could have set yourself up for it by using a weak password, e.g., a word that is in a dictionary, a list of commonly used passwords (like “passw0rd, abc123, etc.), or information about you that can be found on the internet, e.g., your nickname; place or date of birth; home address; telephone number; the name of your spouse, child, pet, mother's madden name; etc. Read more...
Rogue Anti-Virus / Anti-Spyware Programs
A problem many computer users are experiencing lately, is a dramatic alert that their system is infected with multiple viruses, spyware and trojans, or has a serious security vulnerability -— and it stubbornly refuses to go away or to let the computer be used for anything useful. To remove the viruses or to fix the problem, users are told they must pay for the program that detected them. If it happens to you, don’t pay, it’s a scam! Read more...
Should I power off my computer when not using it?
There is an old debate that powering off computers when not in use is more stressful than leaving them running, so many people choose to leave them on constantly. Personally, I always place my computer in Sleep mode if I am going to be away from it for more than a minute. Hard drives have only so many hours (rotations) to live, so why waste them by leaving them running when no useful work is being performed. Having a drive become unreliable or unreadable may mean losing your data, and a major repair if Windows and programs need to be re-installed on a new drive.
There is a much more important reason to power down computers when not in use, and that’s the potential for a fire. Power supplies, video cards and the computer’s circuit board all use electrolytic capacitors that can fail over time and explode and catch fire! I have had such a failure in a power supply and it destroyed my two hard drives in the process. The noise nearly startled me to death; aluminum chaff was everywhere and the stink from the electrolyte was wretched! Fortunately, in my case, it did not catch fire and I was there when it happened anyway, so could have dealt with it if it had. You might not be so lucky. So, be sure to put your computer in Sleep or Hibernation mode when leaving it unattended for any length of time, especially if the computer is a few years old.
Microsoft Office Alternative — Free!
Most computers purchased today come with a time-limited trial of Microsoft Office, which includes Microsoft Word and Excel. MS Word is the de facto standard word processor used in business, government and education. So, sooner or later, computer users will need to open or send documents created by, or compatible with, Microsoft Word. The requirement and cost to register MS Office can come as a rude surprise, and at a time when the budget has already been spent. Fortunately, there are free alternatives... Read more...
A recent SquareTrade, Inc. study of 30,000 laptops reported that 31% of the brand new laptops failed within three years — 20.4% from hardware malfunction and 10.6% from accidental damage. The most reliable brands were found to be Asus, Sony and Toshiba and the least reliable to be Acer, Gateway and HP. Those tiny netbooks failed from hardware malfunction in their first year 20% more often than regular laptops. The three-year projected malfunction rates for netbooks, entry-level laptops and premium laptops are 25.1%, 20.6% and 18.1%, respectively. Read more...
What would you do if your hard drive crashed while you were reading this? Are there any e-mails, address books, files or documents you would regret losing forever? How about school homework/projects, or personal pictures that can't be replaced because someone in them is no longer available or they were a magical moment, lost to time? If you don't backup the personal information on your computer on a regular basis, you could really regret it one day, maybe even today! Read more...
Hard Drive Images
A hard drive image is a file that contains all the software and data that resides on your computer's hard drive, including application programs, your documents, pictures, music, favorites and desktop items, configuration settings and the operating system. It can be used to restore your computer to work and look exactly as it did when you created the image -- in approximately half an hour, versus a few hours if you need to reinstall Windows and don't have a drive image! Read more...
Say WOT? Video Professor a Scam?
Who hasn’t seen the ubiquitous TV ads for the Video Professor’s “Free” computer training lessons on CD? They also appear on the company's website, and on sites listed in search engine results and in Facebook ads. Be aware that If you order the CDs and don’t return at least one CD within the ten-day trial period, it may cost you almost $300 USD, according to an article by Michael Arrington of TechCrunch. Read more...
Power Bar Surge Protection
With thunderstorms, comes the risk of power surges caused by lightning strikes. Where we live, there is also the risk of power outages and momentary power interruptions due to rampant residential growth that has overtaxed the community's power distribution capacity. Read more...
Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)?
Another device that offers protection from power quality problems, is an Uninterruptible Power Supply, or UPS. If your computer unexpectedly reboots itself when lights are switched on or an appliance on the same household circuit starts up, or during thunderstorms, you need a UPS. A UPS contains a battery, a battery charger and an inverter which converts the battery voltage back into 110 volts AC just like that from a wall socket. In the event of a power failure, the battery... Read more...