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Repairing Your Computer Quicker for Less
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Have you started to notice your computer's niggles, flaws, and problems growing more severe and more frequent over recent months? These issues can irritate you daily, stop you from doing critical tasks, and even put your data in danger. It may be time to book in your computer for a brief service check or repair to get back on track.

When booking your PC in for a service, you can help your technician get straight to the root of the problem. A few simple notes is all it takes. Many people drop off their computers with, at best, a brief and vague description of the problem they experience.

Technicians have a wide range of tools and years of experience to bring an ageing machine back to health. Even with tools and help, without a clear description of the problem, troubleshooting is far more time consuming and expensive. The best doctors in the world couldn't diagnose a medical condition without a clear explanation of the symptoms.

With just a few simple steps, you can save time and money while ensuring you get your computer back with every problem fixed.

Take Note of the Problem Every Time It Happens

Some computer problems only crop up every now and again. A machine might freeze suddenly, or shut down unexpectedly. Intermittent issues can be frustrating and seemingly impossible to solve, but these occurrences may not be entirely random.

When these events happen, you can help to resolve your issues by jotting down what you were doing and the programs running at the time they happen. Information about what you clicked on last, or settings you recently changed can reveal unexpected links to the computer's behavior.

Detailed notes help technicians to reproduce the problem and see the crash or error for themselves. This can lead to faster fixes, more lasting solutions, and less time spend diagnosing problems in the dark. Simple notes scribbled down on a piece of paper or smartphone app can save you a surprising amount of money.

Keep an Eye on the Environment as Well as the Computer

It's not just things within the computer we need to note down. External factors can play a significant role in how machines operate. Hot and humid days have been known to limit cooling on devices already suffering from heat issues.

Even changing the time of day can raise different computer related issues. There have been occasions where users have reported problems connecting to the internet around lunchtime every day. A seemingly strange coincidence with no apparent cause, until technicians dig a little deeper.

Wi-Fi, which relies on radio waves to send and receive data, uses a frequency of 2.4ghz to communicate with devices. By coincidence, the same frequency is used in concentrated form inside of a microwave to heat food and beverages.

Microwaves, particularly when poorly positioned, or faulty, can cause Wi-Fi issues that disrupt communications every time they are used. Problems that come and go, seemingly randomly, have such a strange link to the computer's environment that they can be very difficult to diagnose.

Take the Right Hardware at the Right Time

Bringing your computer in for repair, whatever the issue, is as simple as picking up the box itself. We don't need the peripherals such as the mouse, screen, or keyboard unless those are the things causing the issue. Bringing in a laptop is as simple as carrying it to us, along with the charger.

If you have concerns about how to safely transport your computer, give us a call first and we can advise you what to bring and how best to pack it.

When deciding when to come in, sooner is always better than later. Computer issues often get worse over time. Vents gather more and more dust, fans run slower and slower. Heat issues in particular drastically lower the lifespan of a machine as time goes on.

A machine that gets less and less stable over time puts your programs and your critical data at risk. Updates applied over a shaky foundation can cause any number of software issues. With data, there's often zero warning before it's gone.

Can you afford to delay?

Give is a call at (508) 279-1080 to book an appointment and give your computer a clean bill of health.

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Ransomware attacks set to double in 2017
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Ransomware attacks quadrupled in 2016 and will double again in 2017, according to a report issued on Monday by Beazley, a provider of data breach response insurance.

The "Beazley Breach Insights - January 2017," found that enterprises are most at risk after being hit with an IT system freeze, at the end of financial quarters and during hectic shopping periods.

Further, the increasing sophistication of the attacks, including continually evolving variants, enable the coders behind the incursions to survey network systems to choose the most critical assets to lock down and to increase their ransom demands based on the value of files they encrypt.
Based on analysis of nearly two thousand data breaches that Beazley's Breach Response division managed on behalf of clients in 2016, the study determined that there were four times as many ransomware attacks in 2016 compared to the previous year.

"The ease and effectiveness of these attacks portend an even larger increase in 2017 with Beazley projecting these attacks to double again in 2017," the study found.

Source: scmagazine

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Yahoo Kids, Deals, More Getting the Boot
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Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer is taking a page from her former employer with a little spring cleaning that will see the demise of several aging Yahoo products.

Yahoo will be shutting down products like Yahoo Deals, Yahoo SMS Alerts, Yahoo Kids and older versions of Yahoo Mail. Most will be gone as of April 30, but Yahoo Mail has until June 3.

"We want to bring you experiences that inspire and entertain you every day. That means taking a hard look at all of our products to make sure they are still central to your daily habits," Yahoo said in ablog post. "As part of that ongoing effort, today we are shutting down a few more products. We realize that change is hard, but by making tough decisions like these we can focus our energy on building beautiful products for you like the two we introduced this week - Yahoo Mail for iPad and Android tablets and Yahoo Weather for iPhone."

First on the chopping block is Yahoo Deals, which got a revamp back in 2009. After April 30, saved coupons will no longer be available on Yahoo Deals. If you want your coupon information for some reason, you'll have to copy and paste it into a separate document before then, Yahoo said. Local guide Upcoming, meanwhile, is also done.

The company is also shuttering Yahoo SMS Alerts, and encouraging users to instead download its apps: Yahoo News, Yahoo Weather, Yahoo Sports, and Yahoo Finance. You'll have to access horoscopes via the mobile Web, Yahoo said. There's also the option to get alerts via email or Yahoo Messenger.

Meanwhile, the Yahoo Messenger and Mail apps for features phones "are going away," Yahoo said, but both services will also be available on the mobile Web.

Yahoo Kids (or Yahooligans) is also getting the boot on April 30. The company suggested that parents instead sign up kids for a Yahoo Family Account.

Starting June 3, meanwhile, Yahoo Mail Classic and other versions of the Web-based mail services will no longer be available.

"Those of you using these older versions of Yahoo Mail can switch to the new Yahoo Mail, which is fast and easier-to-use," Yahoo said. "If you're on dial-up or an older browser, we'll move you to an HTML only/basic version of the new Yahoo Mail."

Yahoo will be sending an email with more details as the shut-down date approaches.

Source: PC Mag,2817,2417977,00.asp

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OS X Lion Flaw Exposes Login Passwords in Plain Text
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An Apple programmer has accidentally left a debug flag in the most recent version of OS X Lion, which under certain conditions can cause login passwords to appear in a plain text debug log file, reports ZDNet.

The flaw affects users who have used Apple’s encryption software FileVault prior to upgrading to 10.7.3, while FileVault 2 is unaffected.

To make matters worse, Apple has not issued a fix for the matter, so changing your user credentials right now does not help, as those credentials might end up in a debug log file as well.


The flaw, which was originally spotted by a security researcher David Emery, potentially enables anyone with an admin password to retrieve other user’s credentials.

“This is worse than it seems, since the log in question can also be read by booting the machine into firewire disk mode and reading it by opening the drive as a disk or by booting the new-with-LION recovery partition and using the available superuser shell to mount the main file system partition and read the file. This would allow someone to break into encrypted partitions on machines they did not have any idea of any login passwords for,” claims Emery.

We’ll let you know as soon as Apple issues a fix for this problem.

Source: Mashable

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Malicious QR Codes: A Mobile Security Blind Spot
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It's hard to read in-store signage, magazine, or newspaper advertisements or product brochures these days without seeing a quick response Code (QR Code) -- the blocky, square two-dimensional barcodes that let smartphone users quickly jump to a Web address by simply taking a photo of the code block.

The codes have proved to be popular with marketers, even if they are not well understood by many mobile users: a recent survey by analyst firm Russell Herder suggested that more than half of all respondents -- including more than 80 per cent of respondents in the 18-24 bracket -- had seen QR codes, while around 16 per cent of all respondents had actually scanned one.

Tellingly, however, one out of five respondents had no idea what a QR code is. That's around the same percentage -- 22 per cent -- of Fortune 50 companies that are experimenting with QR codes in their marketing, and not entirely without success: a separate study by Comscore suggested that 14 million U.S. residents scanned QR codes in June 2011 alone.

While marketers wrestle with building demand for the codes, consumers may unwittingly be wrestling with something far more threatening: what if that barcode led your smartphone to a malware-infected Web site? And what if that malware was optimized to target Apple's iOS, Google's Android, or other mobile operating systems with a Trojan that would run in the background and send passwords to its masters?

QR Readers at Risk

It's an entirely possible scenario, says Scott McKinnel, Australia-New Zealand managing director with Check Point Software Technologies. "There's a body of evidence to say that people writing QR code-reading applications aren't thinking about security," he explains, noting the general lack of encryption in the codes and the threat posed by 'attack tagging' -- printing a QR code with a malicious URL on a sticker and sticking it on top of a legitimate QR code.

Since most QR codes are posted in public places where a replacement sticker is easy to surreptitiously attach -- and since most consumers aren't mentally attuned to question the security of QR codes they scan -- this kind of attack is likely to become more common over time.

"It's a threat and it is real," says McKinnel, noting that an unscrupulous hacker could read the contents of a QR code, then modify the URL with extra elements that incorporate a security exploit. For example, a QR code could facilitate an attack by malware that makes fraudsters money by getting the phone to repeatedly text a premium SMS number at a cost of dollars per message.

"Compared with the kinds of complex attack vectors you see in conventional programming, this kind of attack is not that difficult," he explains. "Inserting or deleting elements -- for example, by adding a command line that would install malware, connect to a remote computer or cause a buffer attack -- would not be that difficult."

Although all smartphone operating systems could be subject to exploits of known vulnerabilities, Android devices have proven more susceptible to malware because of Google's relatively open policies on posting new apps. Google recently addressed this by introducing Bouncer, a feature that automatically scans new apps for malware -- but resourceful hackers have shown remarkable success in bypassing protections to infect Android smartphones and tablets. The addition of QR codes as a new attack vector, McKinnel warns, could only help them further.

Harder to Guard Against

Although conventional mobile security software and URL filtering techniques may go a long way towards stopping mobile users from visiting infected sites, sheer weight of numbers means that most smartphones remain completely vulnerable to new forms of attack. QR code-reading apps could provide a first line of security defence, but few have implemented security-specific capabilities.

While smartphone and tablet security solutions are continuing to evolve, in the short term user education has a major role to play in preventing infections through new attack vectors like QR codes. The problem, McKinnel says, is that most smartphone users would be unaware if their devices have been compromised -- and few take the time to do basic checks on QR codes, such as looking for the telltale edge of a sticker applied over the real code.

Even though many users have learned to think twice before clicking on an emailed URL that may not lead where it says it will, the relative newness of QR codes means most users are unlikely to exercise the same level of caution -- and that makes the codes an extremely open method for attack that may prove able to circumvent normal security controls.

"People tend to take the path of least resistance, and if there's a bargain to be had by visiting a QR code link, they're going to do it," McKinnel explains. "If it's in a legitimate publication and brand, you should be right."

"But if you're having a look at the sticker and don't recognize the brand, or it's on a one-off billboard or something that doesn't feel right, why would you visit that link? This is just another security issue that's adding to the multitude of issues already associated with smartphones. There's another element of a risk that you need to consider when looking at mobile device security -- and ultimately, you just have to use your common sense."

  • See more like this:
  • online security,
  • malware,
  • wireless security

Source: PCWorld

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Facebook Blacklists Bad URLs, Gives Free Trial of Anti-Virus Software
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Facebook is making sure its 900 million users are protected from malicious URLs in addition to spam, phishing and viruses. The company announced Wednesday that it’s partnering with Microsoft, McAfee, TrendMicro, Sophos, and Symantec to offer its growing user-base more protection.

“Our URL blacklist system, which scans trillions of clicks per day, will now incorporate the malicious URL databases from these security companies to augment our existing level of protection,” the blog post notes. “So whenever you click a link on our site, you benefit not just from Facebook’s existing protections, but the ongoing vigilance of the world’s leading corporations involved in computer security.”

Taking security measures a step further, Facebook also announced the AV Marketplace. Users can download a six-month license for a full version of anti-virus software from one of Facebook’s new partners, free of charge. Facebook reminds users to “like” its Security Page to receive regular updates from these partners about how to keep data safe from online predators.

“We have had a long standing partnership with McAfee and many others in the security community, and the AV Marketplace will offer users more choice and increase the scope of our partnerships,” Fred Wolens, a Facebook spokesperson, wrote in an email to Mashable. “We believe we have a unique opportunity to provide our users with the software and technology to help keep their data safe both on and off of Facebook.”

Facebook privacy and security has always been an issue the site has aimed to address, as millions of people put detailed personal information on the site. Earlier this month it was reported that Homeland Security searches the social network for keywords that might lead them to breaking crime news. Scammers also use Facebook for ploys such as fake sick baby scams.

Source: Mashable

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Google’s Project Glass: One day…
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Good news for those of us with imperfect vision.

We, like everyone else, have a lot of questions about Google's Project Glass. Though Google this month invited people to share feedback based on a video that showed how the product might work, Project Glass is still in development, so we don't know an awful lot about it. Still, it seems the search giant is eager to set the record straight on at least one issue that many people seem to be wondering about, and that is whether or not those who already have glasses will be able to use the Google specs.

Google's Isabelle Olsson today confirmed that it's working on several ideas when it comes to using Project Glass with prescription glasses. Google apparently saw this question regarding compatibility for glasses-wearers more than once following its request for feedback.

"Here's a question I saw a few times: 'I use prescription glasses. Will this work for me?'" Olsson wrote. "We ideally want Project Glass to work for everyone, and we're experimenting with designs that are meant to be extendable to different types of frames," she explained. "Many of our team members wear glasses, too, so it's definitely something we're thinking about."

Olsson posted the photo above to show how the device might work with prescription glasses but it sounds like Google isn't even close to settling on a design for the bespectacled masses. That said, it's nice that the company is thinking of us.

If you missed the April 4 video from Google that shows how Project Glass could be used in everyday life, check it out below.

Google Project Glass

Source: Tom's Guide

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Over 600,000 Macs Infected With Flashback Malware
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Typically when we hear the word "malware" or "trojan," the Windows PC or Android platform come to mind. But now Apple's built-in deflector shield in its Mac OS X platform has proven to be not quite so resistant after all, as Russian antivirus company Dr. Web is now claiming that more that 600,000 Macs -- most of which reside in the States and Canada -- are infected with a trojan horse virus called "Flashback," or rather, "BackDoor.Flashback.39."

Originally the number was 550,000 infected Macs, but the company later tweeted a correction with the current number. The report states that 56.6-percent of the infected computers reside in the United States (303,449 infected hosts), and 19.8-percent reside in Canada (106,379 infected hosts). The United Kingdom follows with 12.8-percent and Australia with 6.1-percent. Other infected Macs reside in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Brazil and many more countries.

274 infections are based in Cupertino, Calif., Apple’s hometown, Dr. Web said.

"Systems get infected with BackDoor.Flashback.39 after a user is redirected to a bogus site from a compromised resource or via a traffic distribution system," the company said on Wednesday. "JavaScript code is used to load a Java-applet containing an exploit. Doctor Web's virus analysts discovered a large number of web-sites containing the code."

"Links to more than four million compromised web-pages could be found on a Google SERP at the end of March. In addition, some posts on Apple user forums described cases of infection by BackDoor.Flashback.39 when visiting," Dr. Web added.

Flashback was originally uncovered by Intego back in September 2011, disguised as an installer application for Adobe Flash. Once it was installed by the end-user, the trojan would deactivate network security features and then install a dyld library that would inject code into running applications. It would also scoop up personal information and send the data to remote servers.

"Each [Flashback] bot includes a unique ID of the infected machine into the query string it sends to a control server. Doctor Web's analysts employed the sinkhole technology to redirect the botnet traffic to their own servers and thus were able to count infected hosts," the antivirus company said.

The Mac-based botnet arrives while Apple pushes the Mac OS X platform as a more secure environment than Windows. "A Mac isn’t susceptible to the thousands of viruses plaguing Windows-based computers," states Apple on its homepage. "That’s thanks to built-in defenses in Mac OS X that keep you safe, without any work on your part."

Looks like Apple needs to re-route power to the OS X deflector shield, as alien code is beaming in despite the company's "we've better than Windows" stance.

Source: Tom's Hardware

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HDD Industry Set for Return to Growth This Year
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The destructive Thailand flood caused HDD shipments to decline by 4.5 percent in 2011 year-over-year, but 2012 is expected to bring 7.7 percent unit growth. IDC forecasts an average annual growth rate of 9.6 percent between 2011 and 2016.

"In many respects, the hard disk drive industry has collectively hit the 'reset' button," said John Rydning, an IDC research vice president in a prepared statement. "A reset of the HDD industry structure should allow for the remaining HDD industry participants to slowly reduce HDD prices from current levels at a rate that still delivers value to customers, while at the same time ensuring sufficient funding is available to develop new HDD technologies that are needed to improve HDD capacity, performance, reliability, power consumption, and security."

Long-term growth, however, will only be possible if the major HDD manufacturers will be able to evolve into storage device and storage solution suppliers that address more markets than they do now. IDC believes that client PC HDD revenue will substantially decline over the next few years, while HDD demand from personal storage, entry-level storage, and enterprise applications (combined) is predicted to increase. The market research firm said that enterprises will make up the lion's share of sales down the road.

The company also noted that the cost of SSDs is not yet at a level where these devices can be easily justified for integration in an average PC. The opportunity for HDD makers is to convince PC vendors that hybrid HDDs are the more cost effective solution over SSDs, IDC said.

Source: Tom's Hardware


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