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The New Generation of Computer Trojan Attacks | Victorville Computer Safety

The New Generation of Computer Trojan Attacks

Information security (infosec) analysts are seeing a major shift from modern ransomware strikes to old-fashioned Trojan attacks. According to the most recent edition of Microsoft’s Security Intelligence Report (SIR), hackers are using Trojan-style attacks more than ever, and this uptick in activity is largely due to an increase in potential vectors.

The infosec community describes attack vectors as the objects that malicious hackers can use to disguise malicious code or criminal intent. The very first Trojan attack is described in Ancient Greek mythology as part of conventional warfare; in terms of infosec, the first Trojan dates back to 1975, when a programmer developed a script that asked users questions about their favorite animal while code execution copied files across directories.

Dangers Hidden in Trojan Attacks

Whereas the most spectacular hacks that have made headlines over the last two years have been related to ransomware attacks against hospitals and even police department, the Microsoft SIR study indicates that Trojan attacks on average users climbed by more than 57 percent over the second half of 2015.

In Windows computers and tablets, the following Trojans have been detected by SIR analysts:

  • Win32/Colisi
  • Win32/Dorv
  • Win32/Dynamer
  • Win32/Peals
  • Win32/Skeeyah
  • Win32/Spursint

Every other malware detection being reported by Microsoft’s security products these days is a Trojan. This is a major infosec concern due to the diversity of Trojan delivery methods.

New Avenues of Malware Attack

The new generation of Trojan attacks seeks to take advantage of the machine-to-machine (M2M) protocol, the Internet of Things (IoT) and smartphone assistants such as Apple Siri, Google Now, and Microsoft Cortana. Infosec researchers are also worried about smart home automation devices such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

One of the most worrisome attacks was recently reported by McAfee Labs and identified as Trojan Acecard. The attack surface, in this case, is an Android smartphone; the vector is a phishing script that invites victims to try a new app or a video, which in reality enables a script to run in the background. The next time the user accesses the Google Play digital marketplace, the malicious script prompts the user to take a selfie of their driver’s license and uploading it for credit card verification. In reality, the selfie is going to attackers who will use it for identity theft.

Infosec analysts believe that the next wave of Trojans will target digital assistants and smart devices that users trust on a daily basis. For this reason, it is important to make sure that all computers, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and home networks are protected with antivirus software and internet security suites.
Tech Support Folk Tales - Baking Logic Boards and Freezing Hard Drives

Tech Support Folk Tales – Baking Logic Boards and Freezing Hard Drives

As we become more attached to our computing devices, the lengths of what we will do to prevent a complete loss of data or functionality are becoming more interesting and ingenious.

Two of the most unusual repair techniques associated with modern computers involve using kitchen appliances as a desperate measure to salvage the device or at least the data contained therein.

Computer owners should keep in mind that the two situations described herein are anecdotal, which means that they should not be attempted at home due to the strong likelihood of total loss.

Cooking a MacBook

There was a time when Apple products were thought to be infallible, at least when compared to Windows PCs, due to their operating systems being coded into the hardware architecture. In reality, this did not preclude problems that any computing device can experience; plus, Apple eventually changed its hardware architecture to resemble the rest of the personal computer market.

One problematic Apple device was the 15-inch MacBook Pro released in 2011. That luxurious laptop became notorious for having several problems with its video display not working correctly and eventually locking up the entire system. We are talking about a piece of hardware that many people paid $2,500 for when it hit the market.

It so happened that this MacBook would only get worse if users tried safe boots and data recovery procedures. Eventually, some tech-savvy users determined that the most efficient way of fixing this problem was taking the machine apart, remove its logic board component, wrapping it in aluminum foil, and placing it into a conventional oven preheated to 170 degrees Celsius or 325 Fahrenheit. After seven minutes, the surface of the logic board will be slightly toasted, but it would actually solve the problem once reassembled.

A Frosty Hard Drive

The tale of data being recovered from a failed hard drive after being placed in the freezer for 12 hours goes back to 2010.

A typical hard drive failure is caused by the disk becoming warped and causing friction against the read/write component. Removing the hard drive and placing it inside two zip-lock bags so that it can spend the night in the freezer would shrink the disk surface at least for a few hours, hopefully long enough to recover some data.

The most incredible aspect of the aforementioned repair attempts is that they were figured out by users who did not have proper backups or did not think about a data recovery option. If your computing device in Apple Valley is on the brink of failure, don’t try any of the two dubious repairs above; bring it to PC Performance Pros instead.
What You Can Expect From Home Networking | Apple Valley Computer Repair

What You Can Expect From Home Networking

Some architects, developers and contractors in Apple Valley and other parts of the High Desert are starting to take home networking seriously by incorporating it into their residential project planning.

Creating Home Networking Infrastructure

As smart home automation and the proliferation of mobile devices continue to expand, networking is set to be a new residential construction standard. Suburban developers estimate that half of residential construction projects in California will include home networking features when finished.

Until the time when new homes in Apple Valley are delivered with home networking included, homeowners will have to think about the type of installation they want in their properties.

Some families living in small apartments can get away with a minimal wireless network anchored by a router that various devices can connect to. In some cases, the router can actually be a mobile device set to share its wireless broadband signal.

Optimizing Home Network Resources

Setting up wireless networks in single-family residences is a more complex affair due to the larger space to cover and the number of devices that will be connected, which may include desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, security systems, and smart home automation devices that are part of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Most requests for home networking installations these days tend to be of the wireless type for a couple of reasons. Homeowners believe that a wired network will imply a visible tangle of wires and Ethernet cables snaking through the house; however, this does not have to be the case. The home networking solutions being delivered with new residential construction projects feature wired installations with Local Area Network (LAN) ports strategically placed around the house. In these installations, routers and modems can be discreetly set up and connected to each other; users will have a choice to plug into a LAN port or use a wireless connection.

The advantage of professionally installed wired networks is that connections are immediately achieved when a device is plugged into a LAN port. With wireless networks, there are important privacy and security considerations such authentication and encryption. Poorly configured Wi-Fi networks are a security nightmare, particularly when they support home automation devices such as baby monitors, webcams, smoke alarms, video surveillance systems, motion detection sensors, and others.

Managing the security features of a Wi-Fi network is not a simple task unless devices that support the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) are selected.

In the end, if you wish to enjoy wireless home networking in your property, you should first contact A Plus Computer to discuss your options.

Breathing New Life Into Old iPhones | Apple Valley Computers & Mobile Devices

Breathing New Life Into Old iPhones

Another year, another new product announcement by one of California’s most legendary tech giants. During a September news conference, Apple announced two new iPhone models: the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, both expected to become the new flagship models for the firm headquartered in Cupertino.

The iPhone 7 was hotly anticipated by the most ardent enthusiasts; even though there was some disappointment related to the elimination of the 3.5 mm audio jack, the new features are tempting enough for many iPhone users to consider an upgrade.

If you are an Apple Valley resident who is in love with the iPhone, there is a strong chance that you will upgrade to the iPhone 7 or the 7 Plus in the months to come, perhaps as a self-indulgent holiday gift. If this is the case, you should start thinking about what you should do with your old iPhone once you upgrade.

Buying and selling used iPhones has become somewhat of a cottage industry. Recycling centers that specialize in electronics will gladly accept old iPhones since they are often donated or stripped for parts. These are sensible solutions. However, they are not as fun as repurposing, which consists of making slight modifications to the device so that it serves a different function. Here are some ideas:

Document Scanner

If you conduct an online search for iPhone scanner stands, you will find various easy projects. The idea is to turn your old iPhone into a dedicated scanning unit that you can use to digitize all your documents and rid your life of paper.

Baby Monitor

Considering that a decent baby monitor retails for more than $100 these days, downloading the nifty Cloud Baby Monitor app can instantly save you a few bucks. With this app, you can actually talk to your baby, play music and even dim the light when it is time to sleep.

Jukebox

Instead of simply hooking up your old iPhone to a speaker system and using the standard iPod or iTunes apps, try installing an advanced music player such as Stringer and search Google for instructions on how to make an attractive wall mount.

If you first need to repair your old iPhone before repurposing, bring it to A Plus Computer in Apple Valley. From LCD screen and headphone jack replacement to water damage and home button repair, we can get your old iPhone ready for its new function.
Adware and Spyware Are Becoming Harder to Detect | Victorville A Plus Computers

Adware and Spyware Are Becoming Harder to Detect

Two of the most insidious cyber threats in history are evolving and getting more sophisticated.

According to Kaspersky Lab, a renowned Internet security firm, cyber espionage outfits that work on behalf of governments are either targeting individuals for additional profit or selling kits to cybercrime groups. The name of the latest cyber threat reported by Kaspersky is Project Sauron, and one of the most persistent malware variants is known as Remsec.

The History of the Remsec Malware

Remsec searches for vulnerable networks prior to identifying individual targets. Once a backdoor is selected, a keystroke logger and file replicator execute. In the beginning, Kaspersky noticed that the victims were obviously targeted by government espionage agencies; later, however, the victims became more random, which indicates that either Project Sauron is diversifying or that the Remsec malware had been acquired by cyber criminals.

The problem with Remsec is that it is not obviously detected and may not trigger antivirus software. Until a few years ago, computer owners in Apple Valley and Victorville knew how to recognize certain signs that indicated their systems might have been infected with adware or spyware. The most common symptom used to be related to poor performance; however, today’s advanced processors and abundant RAM are hardly bothered with malware. The digital footprints of modern cyber threats are also harder to detect.

Adware and spyware came of age shortly after the World Wide Web began to deliver a multimedia experience; from about 1995 to 2005, these threats were so persistent that Internet security firms developed products that specifically focused on removing them.

Early computer virus attacks focused on cyber vandalism; however, this malicious purpose would later switch to financial motivation. Adware seeks to deploy digital advertising in a furtive manner; spyware is coded for the purpose of getting information about consumer profiles.

Wide-Spread Cybercrime

Governments have enlisted the assistance of hacking outfits to develop more powerful spyware; this is a problem insofar as cybercrime outfits being able to acquire malicious code that they can use for fraudulent financial gain.

Increasingly, spyware packages are also being sold on the Internet to unscrupulous third parties who wish to snoop on someone else’s cyber life. Planting this commercial grade spyware is difficult; once installed, however, it may evade detection by traditional antivirus programs.

At A Plus Computers in Apple Valley, security specialists use a combination of security tools and manual directory and registry scanning to catch sophisticated spyware, which may be difficult but not impossible to detect.
Should You Get the Windows 10 Anniversary Update? | Victorville PC Upgrades

Should You Get the Windows 10 Anniversary Update?

If you own a desktop, laptop or tablet is running Microsoft Windows 10 in Apple Valley or Victorville, the chances are that you have heard about the Anniversary Update.

The free Windows 10 upgrade is officially over for most users, which means that you may have to pay for a new installation. If this is your case, you will probably get a Windows 10 version that includes the Anniversary Update.

One Year After the Windows 10 Update

If you took advantage of the free Windows 10 upgrade, you would certainly benefit from the Anniversary Update, which is essentially the same as the old Service Packs that Microsoft used to release.

Remember the Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3)? That was a major enhancement that cemented Microsoft’s dominance of the operating system market. The Windows 10 Anniversary Update is similar to SP3 in terms of fixes and improvements, but you may want to wait a bit before downloading and installing the update.

Concerns Regarding Windows 10 Installations

  • First of all, if your Windows 10 experience has been negative, there may be an issue with your device. It is important to remember that Microsoft offered the free upgrade on a massive scale for the purpose of gaining market share; this means that the Seattle tech giant may have offered Windows 10 to owners of systems that barely passed the minimum hardware requirements.
  • If your Windows 10 installation is slow or unresponsive, your computing device may not have been ready for the upgrade. This has been the case with owners of older desktops and laptops running Windows 7. Owners of budget tablets running Windows 8.1 may have run out of flash storage because of inadequate partitions. These are situations that call for an evaluation of the system, which may be in need of hardware upgrades, maintenance, repairs, or reconfiguration.

In essence, if your Windows 10 device is not working properly, applying the Anniversary Update may complicate things further. You may want to have one of our technicians diagnose your system to determine what should be done to ensure that you have an optimal Windows 10 experience.

Another reason why you may want to wait a couple of weeks before applying the Anniversary Update is that you may have third-party software that is not ready for it. Give third-party developers some time to fix things on their end before installing the update so that you don’t run into issues.
What You Should Know About Computer RAM Failure | Hesperia PC Issues

What You Should Know About Computer RAM Failure

Residents of Apple Valley and Victorville who came of age during the 1970s and 1980s will probably have very fond memories of their first family computer. It is also very likely that those old computers, despite being ruefully outdated and obsolete, would still be operational these days.

History of RAM in Desktop & Laptop Systems

In the early days of personal computing, the early devices were truly built to last. Those Commodore and Tandy/RadioShack home computers of yore, along with the early x86 machines, will probably still boot to MS-DOS, Windows 3.1 or to a forgotten operating system if their owners took reasonable care of them. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the most recent generations of personal computers.

When PC manufacturers increased their operations to keep up with heavy demand in the late 20th century, the durability of components was substantially downgraded. This was not too much of a problem for computer users who intended to upgrade their systems every couple of years, but people who wished to use their PCs for more than four years started to get affected by RAM failure.

The random access memory (RAM) requirements of the x86 and later Pentium architectures were provided by what is known as memory sticks. There was a time when RAM lasted forever; as time passed, it lasted longer than other components such as the hard drive, power supply, cooling module, CD drive, etc. By 2005, PC owners began to experience old RAM issues, which they often confused with Windows registry or hard drive problems.

Symptoms & Effects of Failing RAM Modules

Sporadic freezing, deteriorating performance throughout the day, the Microsoft blue screen of death, corrupt files, and strange error messages can be signs of RAM failure and deficient memory. When this happens, memory upgrades no longer make sense; the best course of action is to diagnose whether the existing RAM is about to fizzle. Once RAM has severely degraded, it no longer allows a computer to function.

The determination of RAM gone bad can be made during the boot sequence if it is critical; otherwise, the technicians at A Plus Computers can also run a few diagnostic utilities to gauge the quality of the installed RAM. If it is no longer adequate for optimal PC operation, it can be replaced and upgraded at a very reasonable repair cost.

In some cases, the memory modules on the motherboard may be the culprits of the RAM issues. At any rate, fresh RAM will always be welcomed by computer owners.

The Importance of Computing Device Security Audits | Victorville Data Backup

The Importance of Computing Device Security Audits

A recent photograph featuring a portable computer used by Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook, is sparking discussion about computer security. A casual photo taken at Facebook’s headquarters in California revealed that Mr. Zuckerberg places masking tape over the camera lens and microphone port of his laptop at work.

Naturally, hackers would love to breach whatever security measures Facebook has in place for CEO Zuckerberg. Being able to maliciously activate his webcam and microphone to snoop on Mr. Zuckerberg would be an irresistible trophy for any hacker, which could, in turn, find a fence to pay a handsome amount to learn corporate secrets from the world’s most powerful online social network.

Taking A Look at Possible Security Risks

Mr. Zuckerberg is hardly the only computer user who tapes over his webcam and other input sensors. Using tape was probably a decision taken after a security audit or assessment. One cannot blame Mr. Zuckerberg for being too paranoid; after all, Silicon Valley companies are routinely targeted by hackers who hope to breach their complex security networks.

Although Apple Valley and Victorville are outside of Silicon Valley, computer owners should not assume that they are any safer. Taping over webcams and microphones when not in use are non-restrictive security options. The problem with this practice is that it is virtually limited to desktop and laptop systems.

For some reason, many users who use tape on their computers do not think about doing the same to their smartphones and tablets. The audiovisual inputs in these mobile devices are vulnerable to being secretly taken over by malicious apps, and Android-powered devices are the most likely to be targeted. In some cases, a smartphone camera can be manipulated even when the touchscreen seems to be deactivated.

Have Your Security Examined by Experts

When you want to be absolutely sure that the computing devices you use are safe, you should look into a full security audit. At A Plus Computers, security specialists ask questions about all the devices used in a household or in an office. These days, many homes depend on a single wireless router to provide Internet connectivity to multiple devices, and these tend to be impromptu networks that lack security.

Only a full security audit of all devices and network appliances can dictate whether a computer user should be taping over webcams or microphones. Installing a virus scanner may not be enough in terms of total security; for this reason, a security audit is always recommended.
Why You Should Upgrade Your Computer Before Upgrading Windows | Victorville

Why You Should Upgrade Your Computer Before Upgrading Windows

More than 300 million computers around the world are running Windows 10, the latest and most advanced version of the celebrated Microsoft operating system. If you live in Apple Valley or Victorville, chances are that you have seen an offer to upgrade for free to Windows 10.

If you have still not made a decision about upgrading to Windows 10, you should take the time to read the following points before taking the leap.

Is Windows 10 Any Good?

Windows 10 is as groundbreaking as Windows 95 and Windows XP were in their respective heydays. This is a powerful, polished and intuitive operating system that will fit the needs of all users these days. If you have grown accustomed to previous Windows versions, you will certainly benefit from the upgrade, particularly if you have other Microsoft products such as the Surface hybrids, Nokia Lumia smartphones, Xbox, Office 365, etc.

Can My System Handle Windows 10?

If you have seen the upgrade offer from Microsoft, which may cease to be free after July 29, 2016, your system probably has the minimum requirements for Windows 10; however, this does not mean that your computer will be able to handle it well.

One of the most common complaints expressed by users who have upgraded to Windows 10 is that their systems have become extremely slow or unresponsive. Some users have even rolled back to their previous Windows versions. These are mostly users whose hardware configurations probably scraped the bottom of the minimum system requirements.

Upgrading Your Hardware Before Upgrading Windows

It is important to remember that Windows 10 is an advanced, next-generation operating system. If your computer has not been upgraded in years, your system will probably not be a good fit for Windows 10.

Most desktops and some laptops can be upgraded in terms of hardware so that they can be powered by Windows 10. The most drastic upgrade may require a motherboard replacement; otherwise, simply improving RAM and the hard drive can get your system ready for Windows 10.

If you have not seen the offer to upgrade at all, you may be running Windows Vista in an old machine. If this is the case, you can still bring your system to A Plus Computers so that our technicians can upgrade both the hardware and the operating system, preferably before July 29.
When Antivirus Software Becomes Dangerous | Apple Valley PC Repair

When Antivirus Software Becomes Dangerous

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an alarming advisory to computer users in early July. The warning is specifically directed to users of Norton and Symantec antivirus software.

According to the DHS notice, the computer security products sold by Symantec have various vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to gain remote access to desktop and laptop computers. Once inside a system, hackers can not only steal information but also plant malicious code and virus programs to infect other computers across networks.

Possible Security Vulnerabilities on Your Computer

One of the specific vulnerabilities cited by DHS is certainly worrisome since it involves a common mechanism used by Symantec and other cyber security firms. When antivirus programs scan computer systems, they often rely on the unpacking of compressed data files to detect malware. DHS experts believe that the unpacking system used by Symantec contains a flaw that could allow a remote attacker to obtain root privileges.

Having root access to a system means that an attacker can act maliciously without the user or antivirus system being able to detect the threat. The DHS notice mentions that Windows, Linux, and Apple OS X operating systems could be compromised.

What the Future Holds in Store

While the situation is certainly embarrassing for Symantec, it is important to note that security patches, advisories, and fixes have already been issued by the company; they are SYM16-008 and SYM16-010. If you have installed Symantec or Norton antivirus or Internet security products in Apple Valley, and you would like to know whether the vulnerability applies to your system, contact A Plus Computer.

Symantec has been on the receiving end of a lot of flack since the DHS warning was issued, but there have not been any reports of attacks that have taken advantage of the aforementioned flaws. A Google security researcher looked into the issue and mentioned that it was very worrisome.

While actual reports of an exploit have not been issued, this does not mean that hackers have not discovered it. Antivirus and computer security suites often undergo independent testing not only by the DHS but also by private research labs. Independent lab results are very important when it comes to choosing antivirus software.

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