Posted on April 10, 2017 by Apple Valley Computer Staff in Our News with Comments Disabled
Let’s say you purchase a new desktop computer equipped with an updated version of Windows 10 plus an antivirus system developed by a respected name in cyber security. As weeks go by, you notice that everything is going smooth; the Windows Update notifications roll along with the latest definitions of the antivirus database. You have every reason to believe that your system is protected, but this does not mean that your computer will never be infected with malware.
Malicious hackers are constantly working on new methods to bypass cyber defenses such as antivirus programs and resident shields. If your desktop or laptop computer in Apple Valley succumbs to a malware attack despite the presence of an updated and reliable antivirus program, here are some explanations as to how security was breached or bypassed:
These type of attacks have become extremely common over the last few years. Email messages are popular vectors of phishing attacks; recipients are tricked into clicking on a hidden binary element that executes malicious code when it is clicked or tapped on. Some, but not all, antivirus programs will detect a malware signature to warn users before clicking; however, users may still inadvertently allow code execution.
Social Engineering Within the Browser
This attack vector is even more common than email phishing; it consists tricking website visitors to click on links that actually execute malicious code written in Java or Adobe Flash. Modern browsers are getting better at preventing these attacks; nonetheless, sophisticated malware coders can bypass these security measures.
The most skilled virus and malware authors are able to write code that changes the binary signature of a digital package; in this fashion, hackers are able to distribute malware that bypasses security software until the antivirus database is updated. In some cases, hackers can craft obfuscation attacks that involve various packages that can be assembled to execute a stealth attack.
This technique is used by hackers who attach malware, which in this case becomes a payload, to legitimate apps or installers. Wrapping is an advanced technique that builds on the Trojan horse attacks of yesteryear.
Zero Day Exploits
Security researchers are constantly finding vulnerabilities in operating systems and major software applications such as web browsers. If hackers can find these exploits before security researchers do, the likelihood of an attack that bypasses antivirus programs increases.
Posted on April 3, 2017 by Apple Valley Computer Staff in Our News with Comments Disabled
In March 2017, software developers and internet security analysts took notice of a new cyber threat infecting desktop and laptop computers running Windows operating system versions from XP all the way to Windows 10. The name of the threat is ReImage PC Repair Online, and it is a cumbersome piece of malware that poses as utility software to optimize PC performance.
Malware Masquerades as Real Programs
Since about 2015, ReImage PC Repair has been advertised across several websites as a tool to fix certain Windows issues. The most typical infection method is by means of a voluntary download; let’s say a college student in Apple Valley is doing online research for an assignment and sees a banner ad for ReImage. If her laptop has been acting up lately, she may fall for the offer of a free trial download.
The problem with ReImage is that security researchers have detected various versions of the software, and one of them is an actual utility for computer optimization. Malicious hackers have hijacked the ReImage brand for nefarious purposes; when this is the case, the program starts off as “nagware” that constantly displays scary messages about virus infections and directs users to make an online purchase of the full version of the software.
The hacked version of ReImage looks and feels like a legitimate optimization utility, at least until users realize that their systems start running slowly due to malicious processes running in the background. At this point, the program turns into adware and begins displaying pop-up ads, redirecting web browsers to visit rogue pages and collecting personal information.
Stay Aware of Symptoms of Viral Infections
In the beginning, owners of powerful computers may not notice a reduction in performance; however, it does not take long before the malware starts displaying bogus error messages about non-existing issues and virus infections. Most, but not all, antivirus programs will detect and either remove or quarantine this malware. Thus far, there have not been reports about serious dangers posed by the rogue versions of ReImage, but cybercrime groups may later decide to rework the fake utility as a Trojan for ransomware.
Posted on March 24, 2017 by Apple Valley Computer Staff in Our News with Comments Disabled
In early March, owners of personal computing devices powered by the Windows 10 operating system were surprised to see a banner advertisement inside their File Explorer utility.
As reported by PC World magazine, the ad sits prominently on top of the File Explorer window. The first offer is for a subscription to Microsoft Office 365 with expanded OneDrive storage. The ad can be temporarily dismissed by clicking on a button labeled “Not Now;” however, it is displayed again on future File Explorer sessions.
Public Response to Microsoft’s Newest Move
As can be expected, quite a few Windows 10 users have condemned Microsoft’s decision to display ads inside an application that is used nearly as often as the Start Menu. On Twitter, the reactions have ranged from disappointment to exasperation. This is not the first time the tech giant has been criticized for displaying ads within their products; a similar situation has been experienced by Skype users in recent years.
The egregious ads being displayed in File Explorer are part of a campaign that Microsoft first hinted in a previous Windows Insider update as part of notifications feature similar to mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS. Ostensibly, the notifications were designed as part of a product education program by Microsoft, but this feature has turned into a full blown and shameless ad campaign.
Continuing Trend with Windows 10
According to testers who have installed beta versions of the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update, Microsoft intends to continue showing ads in File Explorer. As the situation currently stands for Windows 10, this operating system features more ads than all its competitors combined. Some of the other places where Microsoft ads can be found in Windows 10 include the Task Bar, the Edge browser, and even the popular Solitaire game.
Turning off ads in File Explores requires going into the folder and search options, which can be accessed from the File Explorer by clicking or tapping on View followed by Options. Once the Properties window appears, ads can be disabled from the Advanced Settings option. Users must scroll down to the options labeled “Show sync provider notifications” and remove the checkmark to stop ads from showing.
It is important to note that removing ads from File Explorer does not stop them from showing up in other sections of Windows 10. If you would like to configure your operating system so that it is completely free from ads, contact the Windows specialists at A Plus Computers in Apple Valley.
Posted on March 17, 2017 by Apple Valley Computer Staff in Our News with Comments Disabled
At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, tech giants such as Amazon and Samsung stole the show with their latest developments in smart home automation. From voice-activated virtual assistants that control appliances to refrigerators that send smartphone notifications when food items are running out, Americans are ready to turn their homes into households such as those portrayed by the animated television series The Jetsons.
Smart home automation is quickly becoming a reality; however, security analysts are worried that people may not be aware of the potential risks associated with this technology. It is important to understand that smart home systems are essentially networks that connect devices to the internet, which means that they could be breached by malicious parties. In 2016, unsecured smart home devices were breached by hackers who perpetrated a massive denial of attack that knocked out major websites such as CNN, PayPal, and Twitter across North America. This attack underscored the need for greater security in the world of smart home networks.
Rise of Smart Homes
There is also a concern about privacy and the use of smart home assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. According to a survey conducted by market research firm Gartner in March 2017, two-thirds of homeowners are worried about smart speakers constantly listening to their conversations while connected to the Internet of Things.
To wreak havoc in a household, hackers only need to gain access to a single device or appliance connected to a smart home network that has not been properly secured. Once hackers are deep into a smart home network, they may be able to access smart locks, disable alarms and sensors, control appliances, and even breach devices such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home assistants, which contain sensitive information such as conversations, notes, agenda items, messages, and others.
Network Security Concerns
One of the problems with smart home automation systems is that electronics manufacturers market devices with too much emphasis on plug-and-play and do-it-yourself features; this creates a false sense of security among homeowners who set up their own networks without applying adequate security measures.
If you are thinking about setting up a smart home network in Apple Valley, contact A Plus Computers to discuss your options with our technicians. Don’t think that hackers only target the smart home devices of celebrities and corporate executives; cybercrime groups dedicated to identity theft scan for vulnerable networks indiscriminately. The last thing you want to do is to invite hackers into your home through an unsecured network.
Posted on March 10, 2017 by Apple Valley Computer Staff in Our News with Comments Disabled
Many owners of Apple iPhones and iPads cannot envision being separated from their mobile devices for more than a day. For this reason, being able to take their devices to a local repair shop is a very convenient alternative to searching for an Apple Store or an authorized vendor such as Best Buy; however, this is something that Apple is not happy about.
As recently reported by BuzzFeed News, Apple is lobbying against legislative proposals that would require the company to provide local computer repair shops with manuals and special tools that would allow technicians to fix certain issues related to the iPhone, iPad and other devices. In Nebraska, state legislators are debating a “right to repair” bill that would give Apple device owners more repair options and competitive pricing.
Difficulties in Repairing Apple Devices & Computers
Apple’s justification for opposing the bill is that the company would reveal trade secrets if forced to provide repair shops with technical manuals and proprietary diagnostic tools. As the situation currently stands, Apple holds a virtual monopoly on iPhone and iPad repairs and would like to keep it that way. Other states such as Kansas and New York are considering introducing legislation similar to the Nebraska bill, and Apple is expected to lobby against it.
Companies such as Apple and Samsung, which are known to make millions of dollars each year by exerting control over repairs, make it difficult for independent computer repair shops to service their products. The certification process to become authorized repair facilities for these companies is often prohibitive and costs thousands of dollars.
A Plus Computers in Apple Valley offers various iPhone repair services. Customers can bring their devices to replace the LCD screen, headphone jacks, batteries, and accessories. Additionally, our technicians can diagnose and fix issues related to the iOS settings and the home button. If a “right to repair” law is enacted in California, our technicians could perform even more repairs since they would have access to manuals and tools that Apple currently guards very jealously. This would create more convenience for customers who would no longer have to endure long wait times and expensive repairs at the Apple Store or Best Buy.
Advocates of “right to repair” laws do not believe the claims by Apple about revealing trade secrets. The bottom line is that consumers should have greater options in terms of electronics repair.
Posted on February 24, 2017 by Apple Valley Computer Staff in Our News with Comments Disabled
Law enforcement agencies in Maryland and Virginia are warning the public about a recent increase in crimes involving online computer repair scams.
According to a recent newspaper report published by USA Today, police detectives in Ocean City, Maryland, are investigating a cluster of incidents that consist of victims being contacted through email, text messages, social media update, or over the telephone. In most cases, scammers gain remote access to Windows desktops and laptops after victims fall for their story, which presents them as computer technicians working for Microsoft and monitoring internet traffic.
Learning to Identify Online Scams
Identity theft and fraudulent credit card charges have been reported in several states during the first weeks of the New Year. On January 6, a local newspaper from Williamsburg, Virginia reported that a 67 year-old man lost $6,700 to computer repair scammers who stole his identity and ran up the balance of his Visa Platinum card with fraudulent cash advances. In this particular case, the scammers applied a confidence scam that started in April 2016 and continued through December.
The Williamsburg man was first contacted on his mobile phone and told that this desktop computer had been infected with malware. The scammers then asked the man to switch on remote access, at that time they may have introduced malware and showed the computer owner a fake antivirus scan report. At that time, the man agreed to pay $249.99 for the fraudulent repair, which was charged to his credit card.
The scammers contacted the man a second time and charged his credit card once again. A few months later the scammers called again, and this time they said that they were planning on refunding the amounts charged for the previous computer services because they were changing their business model. The victim gave the scammers the routing information of his checking account so that $500 could be wired. The scammers initiated a wire transfer for $5,000 and showed the man proof of the transaction, which they immediately stopped, but not before telling the victim that they had accidentally entered an extra zero. At that point, they asked the man to return the wire, which he did.
The scammers claimed that the $5,000 wire never made it, and somehow convinced the man to get a $4,700 cash advance from his credit card, which he also ended up wiring.
Detectives investigating the aforementioned cases are urging the public to hang up on unsolicited calls from unfamiliar computer repair services.
Posted on February 17, 2017 by Apple Valley Computer Staff in Our News with Comments Disabled
There was a time when owners of Apple computing devices did not have to bother with tuning up or optimizing their operating systems. Apple used to put its operating systems on chips instead of on hard disks, but that was a long time ago. These days, only certain iOS products such as the iPhone and the iPad feature this computing architecture; machines powered by Mac OS X are essentially devices that rely on disk-based operating systems.
Maintaining Your Apple Computing Product
If you own a Mac or MacBook, you essentially own a computing device built on the Intel x86 architecture that powers Windows machines. This means that your version of OS X resides on the hard drive, which could affect the performance of your device over time as it handles more files. As the drive gets filled with data, your Mac or MacBook will begin to run slower. You will notice this when booting your device; you may have inadvertently installed more startup items than your Mac or MacBook can handle.
When a hard drive gets too full, your Apple device may not be able to perform its automatic hard drive defragmentation; some applications may stop working altogether due to memory shortages.
Improving the performance of your Mac or MacBook is a matter of tuning up the hard drive and modifying OS X settings for maximum efficiency. When you bring your OS X device to A Plus Computers for a tune-up, here are some of the things that our technicians will look for:
DNS Prefetching: This feature allows the Safari browser to operate faster by evaluating links on a page, saving them in the background and loading pages in the background. With the improved broadband connections and advanced DNS server technology in use these days, the DNS prefect file could be cleared and the feature turned off.
Desktop Widgets: If you have been upgrading OS X on the same device for years, you have probably installed quite a few desktop widgets. Depending on the age of your Mac or MacBook, our technicians may recommend turning off the Apple Dashboard and all widgets.
RAM Monitoring: When tuning up your Apple device, our technicians will look at the Activity Monitor and determine the items that may be triggering CPU cycles and consuming memory. Some login items can be disabled to improve performance.
Disk Directory and Memory Caches: These two OS X features can accumulate indexing errors and too many items over the years. Our technicians will run tools to detect and remove these errors.
Posted on February 10, 2017 by Apple Valley Computer Staff in Our News with Comments Disabled
Unresponsive or slow wireless connections are among the most unpleasant issues experienced by Windows 10 users who have upgraded their operating systems over the last couple of years. For those used to network management under Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, the connection delays and slow data transfer speed of Windows 10 can seem exasperating; at this time, there are a few ways to improve this issue, which will hopefully be fixed by the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update.
If you experience a lack of wireless connectivity during the first couple of minutes after you start up your Windows 10 device, you are not alone; this is known issue related to the sleep and hibernation modes typically used by laptop users when they shut down their devices by closing the lid.
Troubleshooting Potential Issues with Windows 10 WiFi
Depending on the wireless router and the drivers being used, it may take Windows 10 a full two minutes to establish a connection if it is starting up from Sleep mode. Interestingly, this not the case when booting up after shutting down. It is a known fact that wireless network discovery and handshaking takes longer on Windows 10, and this issue will hopefully be resolved in future updates; for the time being, you may be able to deal with this by enabling Fast Startup from the Power Options and selecting the “Choose What Power Buttons Do” option. This is the default setting for Microsoft Surface portable devices equipped with solid state drives, and it is designed to wake up Windows 10 in the fastest way possible.
Another known connectivity issue experienced by Windows 10 has been reported in the wake of the Anniversary Update, and it is related to the Windows Auto-Tuning feature, which causes slower data transfers for some users. While Windows Auto-Tuning is supposed to improve the performance of software applications that receive internet data from the connected network, the feature does not work as it should on all system configurations.
To learn whether Windows Auto-Tuning is enabled on your Windows 10 desktop, laptop or tablet, you would have to start a Command Prompt session as an administrator and look at the status of the TCP stack in the network shell. This is the only way Windows Auto-Tuning can be disabled, and it is not something that you should try unless you are familiar with managing Windows 10 settings with the command prompt.
If you are experiencing internet connection issues with your Windows 10 devices, contact A Plus Computers in Apple Valley today.
Posted on January 23, 2017 by Apple Valley Computer Staff in Our News with Comments Disabled
At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, tech journalists were excited by the prospect of smart home automation, which is set to have its breakthrough year in 2017. If you have thought about welcoming smart appliances and other devices into your Apple Valley home, 2017 would be a good starting point; nonetheless, you should also think about approaching this idea with security in mind.
Securing Your Smart Home Against Cybercrime
One quick review of two major cyber security incidents that took place in 2016 should be enough to convince Apple Valley homeowners that smart home automation is a concept that can exploited by malicious hackers. In October 2016, a botnet consisting of smart home devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) resulted in major internet outages across a few regions of the United States. Months before that incident, dozens of printers connected to university campus networks were hijacked by a hacker who proceeded to print pages filled with antisemitic and profane messages.
Information security experts are rightfully concerned about the issues created by smart home automation. One of the problems in this regard is the plug-and-play nature of many smart home devices that encourage do-it-yourself installations; most people do not pay attention to the security of their home networks and will simply connect new devices without checking for potential vulnerabilities.
In 2016, cyber security researchers from the University of Michigan were able to breach a Samsung smart home network and obtained the PIN code of the front door’s electronic lock. Once inside a smart home network, hackers could disable security cameras, sensors, and alarms, and they could also access personal information left by family members on the smart refrigerator’s digital notepad.
New Products for Home Security in 2017
At the CES 2017, computer security firm Symantec introduced its first-ever hardware product: a secure router and firewall for smart home networks. This product arrives at a great time; after all, nearly 30 million new smart home devices are expected to be connected to the IoT this year.
Secure routers are a good start in making smart home networks safer; however, the diversity of devices that can be connected requires closer scrutiny in terms of security settings. Each smart home device must be considered an addition to the attack surfaces that hackers seek to breach; for this reason, the security of each device must be ascertained.
If you are thinking about a smart home network in Apple Valley or elsewhere in the High Desert, A Plus Computers can help you with installation and security.
Posted on January 16, 2017 by Apple Valley Computer Staff in Our News with Comments Disabled
Of all the New Year’s resolutions you can think about for 2017, one of the most important should be to make your personal and business computing devices safer throughout the year. Here are some useful recommendations from the computer security specialists at A Plus Computers in Apple Valley:
Tech Support Phone Calls from Microsoft
Since 2010, scammers purporting to be Microsoft support technicians have been calling unsuspecting individuals to purportedly help them with fake issues affecting their home and work computers. In some cases, the calls start after victims were lured through elaborate phishing scams and instructed to give out their telephone numbers. In some cases, the scammers have demanded online payments for computer repairs they never performed; in other cases, they have collected personal data for identity theft purposes. At any rate, you should resolve to hang up the phone on anyone who calls you and claims that they are calling on behalf of Microsoft.
Denial of Service Attacks on Mac Users
The first week of 2017 brought a new cybercrime incident to users of Apple OS X devices, particularly desktop Macs and MacBooks. According to reports by information security firms, the attack starts with a traditional phishing maneuver of enticing Safari users to visit a malicious website that executes code and installs malware. The next thing you know, your Mac will begin drafting email messages and furiously dumping them on the desktop faster than you can delete them; this will cause your Mac to crash eventually. You may see a phone number displayed on the subject line of the draft messages; do not call this number by any means. If your Mac does not recover from the crash, call A Plus Computer for assistance.
Resolve to Optimize Your Computer
When was the last time your computer or laptop was serviced? You may want to start the New Year the right way with a thorough analysis of your system and determine what your computer needs in terms of upgrades and optimization. If your antivirus program is out of date or inadequate, you are putting your system at risk. If your computer is running slower each day, you may have hidden junk files that need to be cleared. A good New Year’s resolution in this regard is to opt for the optimization package offered by A Plus Computers; your system deserves it.