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Custom Gaming PCs Make Great Holiday Gifts | Apple Valley Personal Computers

Custom Gaming PCs Make Great Holiday Gifts

If you have loved ones who are passionate about video games, a custom gaming desktop is one of the best gifts you can surprise them with this Christmas. Even if their gaming lifestyle is focused on video game consoles, all gamers know that PC games always deliver that extra boost to maximize their experience, not to mention that PC gaming also offers a wider range of titles that are often not available on the Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony consoles.

In video gaming parlance, custom desktops are known as PC gaming rigs; these are powerful systems configured in ways that guarantee the high performance demanded by today’s modern PC titles such as “Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus,” a game that has been praised for its storytelling, outstanding graphics and incisive political commentary that is very apropos of our times. Another game that is being praised for the full sensorial experience it delivers is “Rez Infinite,” a musically driven shooter that is a remake of a Sega Dreamcast title but is now available on PC as a virtual reality game.

If you are not familiar with the specifications of custom gaming rigs, the technicians at A Plus Computers in Apple Valley recommend that you consider the two aforementioned titles and their requirements when you think about gifting a system. Although both games have minimum requirements, you will want to look at the optimum requirements, particularly for “Rex Infinite” since this is a virtual reality game; with this in mind, here are some ideal specs:

  • Central Processing Unit: Intel Core i5, 7500 which runs at speeds of at least 3.4 GHz.
  • Graphics Processing Unit: 8 GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070.
  • Random Access Memory: 8 GB DDR4.
  • Storage: 1 TB Seagate or Samsung HDD or SSD
  • Operating System: Windows 10 with Fall Creators Update

As for the display, you can choose a 4K 1080 monitor or take advantage of a television set at home that already offers this resolution. For Rex and other VR titles, you can choose between the Oculus Rift or HTC VIVE headsets. When it comes to controllers, it is better to let gamers choose the ones they feel most comfortable with.

At A Plus Computers, we build gaming rigs with liquid cooling and attractive cases that feature lighting effects. Our systems are benchmarked and tested for the best performance, and our work is always guaranteed. Contact us today to learn more about custom gaming rigs.
The Dangers of Online Shopping During the Holidays | High Desert Personal Computers

The Dangers of Online Shopping During the Holidays

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday already behind us, retailers across the United States are looking forward to the rest of the holiday shopping season, which is poised to break sales records previously set in 2016. On Cyber Monday alone, sales were expected to surpass the $3.5 billion mark, which is what happens when 49 percent of American shoppers go online to find deals.

The holiday shopping season is followed with great interest by economist and market analysts, but there is another professional sector that is keeping a close eye on this annual retail extravaganza. Information security experts are concerned about the steady rise of malicious hacking during the holidays, and they expect hackers to be very active this year.

If you plan on getting some holiday shopping done online this year, you should also plan on staying safe. At A Plus Computers in Apple Valley, our information security experts recommend that you take the following precautions:

  • Use only systems you can actually trust. When was the last time you updated your antivirus software? When was that last time you conducted a full scan of your desktop or laptop? If you do not trust your computer to be 100 percent safe for online shopping, feel free to bring it to A Plus Computers for an evaluation.
  • With the above in mind, you should never do any online shopping at internet caf├ęs or public terminals. Hackers are known to install keylogging malware as well as wireless data sniffers on public Wi-Fi networks.
  • Be very careful when checking your email during the holidays. Phishing scams tend to multiply in the days before Thanksgiving, and they tend to continue until late in December. Never click or tap on attachments that seem suspicious, and the same goes for links that you do not fully trust.
  • The browser you utilize for online shopping should support protocols such as HTTPS and secure socket layer. Always look for icons that look like locks and keys, and keep your browser up-to-date. Check the settings of your antivirus software for browser integration.
  • Practice good password and PIN safety by changing them every month; this is something that you can turn into a habit by using a solid password manager.

If you are in doubt about the security of your desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone, you should first make sure that the device is protected before getting online shopping or banking done during the holidays. Contact A Plus Computers for more information.

New Ransomware Alert for the High Desert | Apple Valley Computer Repair

New Ransomware Alert for the High Desert

Information security researchers have detected a new malware threat deployed by malicious hackers days before the start of the holiday shopping season. The threat has been identified as a ransomware attack called Scarab, and it is being distributed by means of a massive botnet known as Necurs, which is sending out phishing emails at a very fast rate.

In just a few hours, the botnet delivered millions of email messages that contain a scanned document as an attachment. The content of the email instructs recipients to extract the zipped document so that it can be evaluated; in some cases, the attachment is purported to be a receipt for a recent online purchase. In reality, the attachment is a Trojan that downloads a Visual Basic script and executes the Scarab ransomware.

Symptoms of Malware & Ransomware Infection

Computers infected with this ransomware will display a message explaining that the files have been encrypted and hijacked. Once encrypted, users will be locked out of their files unless they pay a ransom and receive a key from the hackers to remove the encryption. As has been the case with previous ransomware attacks, the hackers offer an incentive: affected users who get in touch with the attackers soon after they see the message will pay less than those who take their time; however, the ransom amount appears to be negotiable.

One variant of this attack features subject lines such as “Scanned from Epson” or “Scanned from Lexmark,” which is a standard subject line used by popular scanners connected to office networks for the purpose of delivering imaged documents via email. What this subject line suggests is that hackers are expecting to trick business users who routinely use network printers, copiers, and scanners.

The fingerprint of this malware is being updated by antivirus software providers; as usual, A Plus Computers in Apple Valley recommends that computer users in the High Desert ensure that their antivirus definition files are up to date. Furthermore, computer users should keep in mind that malware and phishing attacks tend to intensify during the holiday season since this is when online shopping tends to be more active.

The best security measure to protect against ransomware attacks is to constantly backup files. Should your hard drive be encrypted maliciously, you can always reformat, reinstall the operating system and restore your information without having to make ransom payments. To learn more about protecting your computer against malware, contact our information security specialists.

Known Issues With the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update | Victorville Computers

Known Issues With the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

In the middle of October 2017, tech giant Microsoft released the most significant update to its flagship operating system, but things did not go as smoothly as planned. According to technical bulletins posted on the Microsoft TechNet website, the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update has created issues for users whose personal computing devices share a certain configuration of data storage technologies and motherboards.

Users Report Issues With Windows 10

One reported issue has come from Windows 10 users whose machines feature a combination of Kingston solid state drive (SSD) storage and a motherboard manufactured by Gigabyte. The problem specifically referred to an inability to complete the update process and a sudden reboot to the BIOS with an error message that indicated that the system failed to initialize. Users who encountered this issue also reported that their SSD devices were initially locked up and only resumed operating after they were reset.

Even more, issues were reported by users whose systems are powered by ASUS x299 motherboards and Samsung SSDs. The problems were first noticed after downloading the Fall Creators Update, which requires a reboot; at this point, users were treated to a Windows error code 0xc00000bb, which prevented them from accessing their desktop, apps or files. Other ASUS motherboard reported that they were able to apply the update only after reinstalling Windows 10 and trying again; incidentally, a few of them had multiple hard drives installed in their systems.

Troubleshooting Operating System Problems

Most of the reported problems were eventually solved with a clean Windows 10 installation followed by the Fall Creators Update while recovering personal data from a backup file, but this can be largely considered to be a hassle. As can be expected, this has not been an issue for owners of Microsoft Surface devices.

An even more commonly mentioned issue is known as error 0x800F0922, which is related to spotty internet connections or by users who are connected through a virtual private network. In these two instances, users have been able to solve the issue by resetting their connections and disabling the VPN.

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update has been highly anticipated due to many new features and fixes; for example, the OneDrive cloud service is now fully integrated with the operating system, and the new protection system against ransomware attacks has been applauded by the tech community. If you are having problems applying this update, contact our Windows technicians at A Plus Computers in Apple Valley today.

Should You Switch to the Microsoft Edge Browser? | Apple Valley Computers

Should You Switch to the Microsoft Edge Browser?

One of the most prominent upgrades of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, which you may have already received on your desktop, laptop or tablet computer, is the overall improvement of the Microsoft Edge browser. If you have not been using Edge as your default browser on Windows 10, you may want to know that Microsoft has been busy trying to improve it.

In terms of web browser market share, Google Chrome commands the lion’s share with more than 50 percent while Microsoft has a paltry seven percent with Internet Explorer and Edge combined; for this reason, it is not surprising that the company is working to improve the functionality of Edge.

Here are five new features of the Edge browser that were included with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update:

Full Screen Browsing

This may seem like a minor upgrade, but many users found the old full screen mode, which featured a small address bar at the top, truly annoying. To activate the new full screen mode, just press F11 or look for it in the menu.

Improved eBook and PDF Reading Experience

If your Windows 10 computing device is equipped with a touchscreen, the Edge browser is now your best option for reading PDF documents and eBooks. You are now able to sign PDF documents, make persistent highlights and even add comments, which means you no longer have to print out a document just to sign it and scan it. In the case of eBooks, the reading experience has been enhanced for touch gestures, and you can now also add notes via the keyboard or with voice comments recorded by the Cortana virtual assistant.

Text-to-Speech Narrator

Web pages and documents can now be read aloud as you are browsing in a voice that sounds natural and pleasant.

Taskbar Pinning of Web Pages

This used to be a standard Windows 8 feature, and it makes sense to bring it back to Windows 10. If you want to quickly access a favorite website from the taskbar at the bottom of your screen, choose the “Pin this page” option from the Edge menu.

Bookmark Manager

The next time you touch or click the star icon on the address bar, you will notice that the bookmark manager has been improved with a new layout and better organization features. There is a new option that allows you to edit the URLs of your bookmarks right from the folders where they are kept.

Using Your Smartphone as a Desktop PC | Apple Valley Home Network Setup

Using Your Smartphone as a Desktop PC

A few years ago, being able to use your desktop or laptop computer as a full-featured phone was considered a hi-tech trend, at least until Skype, VoIP, and smartphones hit the market. The roles have now been reversed; smartphones have become as powerful as desktop computers, but they have stumbled on their way to becoming full PC replacements.

The future of personal computing is something that has not been clearly defined yet. We suspect that it will heavily involve mobile devices, but there are also the prospects of wearable computing and virtual reality to consider. If you are mostly interested in casual internet browsing and checking your social media activity, a smartphone is indeed a good PC replacement. If you need to accomplish school and business-related tasks, there are a few things you can do to turn your smartphone or tablet into a desktop PC.

iPhone Remote Desktop Computing

Unfortunately, the extent of PC use on iPhones is mostly limited to remote desktop sessions enabled by apps such as Team Viewer, LogMeIn, and Mocha VNC, which all work reasonably well. Other options include using the Reflector software, but that requires an actual PC or Mac; some users can use a combination of Apple TV and AirPlay or even Apple’s own HDMI connector, but these options are not as elegant as the next.

Nokia Lumia 950

In October 2017, Microsoft announced that it would suspend development of Windows 10 Mobile and new smartphones. Fortunately, the Nokia Lumia 950 is still on the market, is fully supported and is selling very well. This advanced device features the Continuum option; this means that it can be connected to a Microsoft Display Dock, which retails between $65 and $100. Once connected in this fashion, the Lumia 950 turns into a full Windows 10 device with keyboard and mouse support.

Android Smartphones

There are various methods to turn your Android smartphone into a desktop PC; they may involve cables, connectors or Bluetooth streaming. Depending on the input and output jacks on your Android device, you may be able to connect a mouse, keyboard and monitor with a powered USB hub. The Android operating system has offered decent mouse support since version 4.4, known as Kit-Kat. In the near future, new Samsung smartphones will also offer Dex, a Linux kernel app that will allow a full desktop experience by means of a dock.

If you need help turning your smartphone into a desktop PC, contact A Plus Computers in Apple Valley today.

Can Celebrities Infect Your Computer With Malware? | Apple Valley PC Repair

Can Celebrities Infect Your Computer With Malware?

Daily cyber threats continue to make the internet a very dangerous place for your personal and business computing devices, particularly when you are browsing the web and searching information about your favorite celebrities.

According to a recent report published by information security firm McAfee, developer of the popular antivirus software of the same name, hackers take advantage of the popularity of celebrities by using malware code along with search engine optimization tactics to make you visit websites where they have planted malware.

The greatest danger for internet users is when they search for free MP3 audio files featuring their favorite musicians; when unsuspecting users download what they think are songs, they are likely to end up with a Trojan infecting their computers with malware. Naturally, users whose systems are not protected with antivirus software, or who have not updated their virus definition database, are at the greatest risk.

Here are the celebrities whose internet searches are posing the greatest risk for users at this time:

Avril Lavigne

This Canadian pop singer has a substantial internet following, and this is something that hackers try to take advantage of. Rumors about Lavigne’s alleged death and about her romantic life abound in online discussion forums; there is also the fact that she has been working on a new album that is scheduled to be released sometime this year.

Carly Rae Jepsen

This is another Canadian pop singer with a large internet audience. A few years after her catchy single “Call Me Maybe” topped various pop music charts, online discussion about her personal life, which she mostly keeps private, grew at a massive rate. Quite a few malicious websites purportedly feature intimate photos and videos of this singer; all of them have been set up for malicious purposes.

Bruno Mars

This talented American musician is known to release one hit song after another, and he is often remixed by electronic dance music (EDM) artists. Searching for Bruno Mars MP3s on torrent websites is extremely risky since many of them are packaged as Trojans that hide malware.

Calvin Harris

This British EDM musician and producer is extremely prolific and manages to attract the attention of entertainment and celebrity gossip sites. As expected, quite a few false and outlandish rumors about Harris routinely appear online; this is fodder for malicious hackers who intend to distribute malware programs such as keystroke loggers and browser hijackers.

Windows 10 Security Tips for Small Businesses | Victorville Computer Upgrades

Windows 10 Security Tips for Small Businesses

If you are a small business owner in Victorville or elsewhere in the High Desert, Windows 10 should be your first choice in terms of operating system, and you should also make sure you are running the version that is adequate for your company.

As of October 2017, Microsoft has released a dozen versions of Windows 10. The two baseline editions are Home and Pro; the rest of the editions are developed for specific uses such as mobile devices, educational laptops, and larger enterprises. Unless you run a micro company from home, your choice of Windows 10 should be the Pro version. If you are still using Windows 8.1 Pro, you should make an effort to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise, and your main motivation should be protecting your company’s data.

In the current cyber threat environment, small companies are at a great disadvantage. Hackers and cybercrime outfits know that small business owners often work with limited budgets that do not allow them to invest a lot in terms of information security. Fortunately, Microsoft has included many security features in the Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows 10, and most of them are built into the Windows Defender app.

Here are some Windows Defender features you can configure right now to protect your business data in the High Desert:

Device Guard

This Windows Defender feature works at the kernel level of the operating system. By default, apps are generally trusted and allowed to execute if they are not blocked by the antivirus system; once Device Guard is activated, this feature takes a closer look at the running processes and locks down apps that are not trusted or that are acting irregularly.

Application Guard

Similar to Device Guard, this feature locks down Windows 10 to prevent unauthorized installation of apps that have not been vetted by an administrator. Application Guard also scans attachments and will prevent the execution of malicious code hidden therein.

Exploit Guard

As its name implies, this feature takes a closer look at previous known exploits and evaluates potential new weaknesses, particularly when users run legacy software.

Credential Guard

Advanced cyber attacks look for opportunities to steal username/password combinations. Credential guard adds a layer of security to incoming remote connections; this is particularly useful if you allow employees to connect to the office network from home or when they are out on the road.

If you have security questions related to Windows 10, contact PC Performance Pros in Victorville.

Dealing With the CCleaner Malware Hack | Apple Valley Virus Removal

Dealing With the CCleaner Malware Hack

Windows PC and laptop owners in Apple Valley should check if they have the popular CCleaner utility software in their systems. CCleaner is an application that simplifies the process of deleting junk files from hard drives where the Windows operating system is installed; some of the files are made up of registry changes, browsing sessions, archived document changes, and others that tend to slow the system down. For the most part, this app is effective and heavily marketed, thus contributing to its popularity.

Trojan Attacks Through Fake Servers

If you have CCleaner desktop version 5.33.6162 for Windows or CCleaner Cloud 1.07.3191, you should know that the developer of these apps and its parent company have reported a security breach that could affect more than 2.25 million computers around the world. For the record, the two compromised CCleaner are for 32-bit systems, but they will run on 64-bit operating systems such as Windows 10. In essence, hackers were somehow able to infiltrate the binary code of CCleaner so that it could behave as a Trojan horse attack. The mechanism was for the installed apps to call a rogue server located in the United States, which would look for certain data in the infected machines and upload it for malicious purposes such as identity theft.

Piriform, the British developer of CCleaner, explained that the matter is being resolved by parent company Avast, which develops and sells a popular antivirus and internet security solution. The rogue server in question has been taken down, and Avast has released a security patch to fix the issue; however, questions remain about a secondary “back-door” attack, which the company believes could hide in a compromised Windows system and go undetected.

Protect Your Computer From Malware

If you have a copy of CCleaner installed on your Windows computer, you should not run this program to check on the version. Instead, you should remove it from your system completely and revert to a previous restore point that was saved prior to installation; this is what Avast has recommended, and the company has updated its virus definition database so that it can detect and eliminate the malicious code.

Windows users in Apple Valley who have questions about CCleaner can contact A Plus Computers and speak with our security technicians about removing the program and scanning for other malware instances and restoring the device to a safe point. As other antivirus developers include this issue in their malware definition databases, more infections may be revealed.
Bluetooth Vulnerability Could Affect Mobile Devices in Apple Valley

Bluetooth Vulnerability Could Affect Mobile Devices in Apple Valley

One of the most common features found in modern computing devices has become a security concern after researchers announced their discovery of a few vulnerabilities. Bluetooth connectivity has become a standard in both desktop and mobile computers; this is a feature that has been incorporated into smartphones, video game consoles, printers, connected toys, headphones, and many other devices. We have become so accustomed to Bluetooth that we tend to leave it on at all times, and this happens to be a security concern according to recent findings by Webroot and other information security firms.

Tech news media outlets are reporting on the “BlueBorne virus,” which is more of a security weakness than an actual computer virus. BlueBorne was originally discovered by researchers at Armis Labs in April; since then, many tech companies have been working on distributing security patches and fixes to address this vulnerability, which affects virtually all operating systems except the most recent versions of Apple iOS 10. All Windows, Android and Linux systems could be affected until patched.

Implications of BlueBorne Security Vulnerabilities

The BlueBorne vulnerability has been described as being very problematic because it can go virtually undetected. Hackers who work with devices that scan for Bluetooth radio frequencies can find the weakness to inject malware of their choice. A major concern is that the malware could be coded to infect other Bluetooth devices carried by users who are in proximity to the infected host, and this could occur without detection.

At this point, even hackers whose skill sets are not very sophisticated could obtain scripts from Dark Web sites that will allow them to scan for devices vulnerable to BlueBorne. All that a hacker would need to know before injecting malware is the operating system and the Bluetooth drivers.

Apple, Google, and Microsoft have stated that they are working on developing and distributing patches and updates for all their operating systems to fix this vulnerability. Security analysts are particularly concerned about Google’s ability to distribute patches to millions of Android users around the world. In the case of Linux, developers are putting the final touches on a new kernel, which should be easier to patch; however, the same cannot be said about previous versions.

Owners of mobile devices in Apple Valley should turn off Bluetooth whenever they are not using it until they can ascertain that the operating system has been patched. If you have questions about updating your operating system, contact A Plus Computers today.

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