We’ve talked a lot about digital security, but cybercriminals can be sneaky and have been accessing public phone directories to reach out to Microsoft users to try to scam information from them. They are smart and may have additional information about you and will often guess which operating system you are using. It may seem convincing, but don’t be too quick to trust.
Recent months have shown an uptick in scam phone calls pretending to be from Microsoft. These scammers can convince you to give them access to your computer, sell you software and take your information. It’s important to know what to look for to keep yourself protected.
Here are 3 ways to protect yourself from a scam phone call:
Know what to look for
Scammers are relatively predictable. This works in your favor because you’ll be able to learn their tricks. If you know what they are likely to say then you’ll be more protected from being convinced to give them any information.
Scammers often claim to be from:
As soon as you know a caller is claiming to be with anything related to Microsoft, gather information so you are able to report the caller and work to end the call quickly.
Here are some of the things Microsoft will ask for when you report a scammer:
Do your best to gather as much as possible, but be sure and report whatever you are able to gather.
Never make a purchase from an inbound call
Many scammers try to use scare tactics to win you over to their side. They commonly call pretending to be from Microsoft and inform you a virus on your computer. After they convince you of the danger your computer (and information) is in they will try to sell you on their product or service. There are many different scams but they are often trying to sell you on an extended warranty, virus removal or any number of helpful sounding products.
As a good rule of thumb, if someone is calling you offering you a service for your computer, say no. You can reach out to a professional to have them assess your computer for any viruses or other problems.
Microsoft doesn’t make calls
At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that Microsoft doesn’t make calls. They sell computers and it’s up to you to manage your device. They won’t be calling to tell you your computer is running slow or that you have a virus.
The scammers are trying to win your trust by using a well known name and offering to help solve your computer problems. If you get a call, collect information so you can report them and hang up. Do not provide the callers with any personal information, make any purchases from them or let them connect to your computer. Treat any unsolicited call with extreme skepticism.
If you’ve been the victim of a scam call...
There are steps you can take if you believe you have downloaded malware from a tech support scam. Here is how you can protect yourself even after you have been the victim of a scam call:
If you’re concerned about the security of your computer after interacting with a spam caller, bring your computer in today. We can scan for viruses and malware and help you protect your information.
Apple Safari is a powerful and secure browser that comes standard on all Apple products. With Internet speeds continually increasing, it’s easy to get frustrated when your browser starts running slow. While Safari is a powerful browser, it isn’t the fastest and can get bogged down easily. When this happens it’s important to keep a few tricks up your sleeve to get your speed back.
Here are 5 ways to help boost the speed of Safari:
Clear Your History and Cache
The data Safari stores takes up a great deal of memory and often contributes to slowing things down. Luckily, clearing your history and cache is an easy project that can make a big difference. Here’s how to clear out this data:
Extensions can help improve your browsing experience by saving your passwords, checking your grammar or translating words. Unfortunately they can often be buggy because they are third-party add-ons and aren’t always regularly updated. You need to remove the buggy extension, but first you need to find out which one is causing trouble. Here’s how:
The autofill feature of a browser makes navigating the internet much faster, until it starts to slow down your browser. Safari autofill can store your address, credit card info and much more, but if you don’t keep it cleaned out it can start to bog down your browsing experience. Here’s how to clean out your autofill data:
While outdated, some websites still require Flash and java to play video or animated content. These plugins may be the cause of Safari’s slow speed. If you frequent websites that require Flash and Java and aren’t able to remove these plugins, check to see if they need updating.
Visit the Adobe’s website to find the latest version of Flash. This page will identify the version you are running and tell you if you need to update it.
For Java, visit Oracle’s website. Here you will be able to confirm the version of Java you are running and receive instructions if it’s time to update.
Sometimes despite your best cleaning efforts, Safari still isn’t running at the speed you need. If this is the case, it may be time to give Safari a full reset and get a fresh start. This will remove all of your customizations, so hopefully it doesn’t come to this. If you feel this is what your browser needs, here’s how to do it:
If you are still experiencing speed issues with Safari there may be other problems. Give us a call or bring your computer by today to get a diagnosis.
Welcome to the world of the Mac. Whether you were a PC expert or intermediate user, making the switch to a Mac can make you feel like a complete computer newbie. You may not recognize some of the keys, the windows don’t always fit the screen size and the mouse or trackpad only has one button. While it can feel overwhelming in the beginning, with a bit of playing around and a few tips you can be a Mac pro in no time.
Here are 7 tips all new Mac users need to know:
While PCs generally have a straight forward right or “secondary” click on the mice and trackpads, Macs are a bit different. You are able to customize your secondary click option on your trackpad. Visit System Preferences → Trackpad and set the secondary click settings to whatever makes sense for you. It may feel weird at first but play around with the different settings to see what secondary click works best. You can also buy a third party mouse to connect to your desktop or laptop with a traditional right click to keep things simple.
The Finder feature on your Mac is kind of like home base. On a PC you probably used similar windows to view and search for files. The Mac Finder is the same idea, but better. If you need to hunt something down, be it a file or an application, start here. Click on the Finder icon to open a window. Once it is open, you can search your whole computer for a file or go to the applications folder to open an application. You will become very familiar with this feature of your new computer and learn to love it.
Say goodbye to the Control Panel you are familiar with and hello to System Preferences. Navigate to System Preferences either through the Applications Folder in your Finder or the Apple at the left top of your display. System preferences gives you control over things like your displays, mouse and keyboard. You can even search in the top right corner of the System Preferences window for what you’re looking for to save time. System Preferences is also where you can customize your computer by changing settings. Take a few minutes to get to know your computer and set everything to your liking.
Command Key (⌘)
Macs are full of keyboard shortcuts to help you navigate faster. Most of these start with the command key (⌘). Instead of a PC’s control + V to copy text, you will use command + V. Basically anything you are used to using the control key for you will most likely be using the command key instead. Since this key is in a different place on the keyboard and there’s still a control key, it may take a few days for your fingers to get used to it, but as with most things after much repetition it will become second nature to reach for the command key. Here’s an exhaustive list of the keyboard shortcuts for your Mac.
Close Windows and Applications
On a PC, the button to close out of a program is a red X at the top right corner. On a Mac, this button is just a red dot at the top left corner. This button closes just a window of the program and not the program as a whole, which can be a learning curve for many new Mac users. To close down the whole program you have to go to File → Close. To make navigating your programs easier, try using keyboard shortcuts instead. To close a window use command (⌘) + W. To close a whole program use command (⌘) + Q
The Dock of the Mac is another home base for you to easily access your applications. You can customize the location of the Dock in System Preferences. Many Mac users keep their docks hidden to maximize screen space. When you scroll to the section of the screen it is located in, it will appear. Easily add applications you use frequently to the Dock for quick access by right clicking on the icon while the program is running and selecting Options → Keep in Dock. Click, hold and drag application icons in the dock to rearrange.
Command (⌘) + Option + Esc
If your computer gets overwhelmed and freezes your instinct may be to go hit Control-Alt-Delete but this trick won’t work on a Mac. Instead use Command + Option + Esc to open the Force Quit Applications window. Here you can see the programs that aren’t responding and force quit them to try to resolve the problem.
You’re now well on your way to becoming a Mac expert. If you have any other questions, contact us today for help.
When we think of computer health it’s easy to think only of software updates and antivirus scans. But, your computer is not only the software it runs but the hardware it is built from. It’s important to take care of your computer inside and out to keep it running well.
About once a month, more if you live a dusty climate, you need to dust your the exterior of your computer. This is an easy chore and one you shouldn’t neglect. Keeping dust away from the outside of your computer will prevent it from getting inside your computer and damaging the hardware.
For a desktop, power the computer down. Use short bursts of canned air to remove dust from the inside of your case, keyboard and mouse. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe down your monitor, screen and the rest of your case
For a laptop, turn it off and unplug it. If you are able to, remove the battery. Use canned air or a computer cleaning putty to pull dust out from around the keys and in the ports. You need to be careful to not blow dust INSIDE the computer. Use a microfiber cloth to clean the case and the screen.
Keep Food and Drink Away
Food is full of crumbs and grease -- both things you do not want on your computer. Drinks are well, liquid, which can be fatal to your computer if it spills. Since you spend a lot of time at the computer we understand how hard it is to keep food and drink away, but it’s important to keeping your computer healthy and kicking for as long as possible. One slip and your computer is toast. If you do need to eat or drink near your computer, keep it off to side where a stray hand is unlikely to cause a spill and use a lot of napkins. If you do find yourself in the midst of a liquid emergency, here are a few tips to keep the damage to a minimum.
Use a Protective Case
This rule only applies to laptops, but it’s an important one. If you are toting your laptop with you from work to home or out to coffee shops it needs to be protected. Use a backpack with a laptop sleeve inside to keep it away from all the other items you are carrying, or use a padded laptop sleeve to cover it before putting it in your bag. The most ideal solution is to use a separate computer bag all together to prevent accidental damage from books, foods, liquids or cords.
So you’ve developed the habit of dusting the outside of your computer regularly, now it’s time to dive a bit deeper. About every six months, open up your desktop and clean out all the dust. No matter how clean you keep the outside, dust is going to sneak in and harm your computer’s performance. This can be more complicated and working with a professional team like us is often the smart way to go.
If you decide to do it yourself, unplug every cable, accessory and add on devices from your computer. Open the computer up and use a microfiber cloth to wipe down all exposed surfaces. Use canned air to tackle the motherboard, GPU and fan blades. Use alcohol wipes to clean off grime on any stubborn spots.
Do a Monthly Cleanse
No matter how well you care for the hardware of the computer the software still needs some regular love. Once a month you need to do a cleanse. Sort through your files and remove anything old or outdated. Move them to an external hard drive or the cloud for safe keeping if you don’t want to delete them. Run a scan on your antivirus and anti-malware programs to see if anything nasty is lurking on your computer. Then, run any legitimate OS or software updates and you’re good to go!
Taking care of your computer, outside and in, will help it live a long and productive life. If you need a professional to clean the inside of your computer, run updates or wipe viruses, we’re here for you, stop by today!
It’s almost impossible to make it through a day without access the internet, but is your personal information at risk when you do? While there are viruses and hackers in the world, most people can stay safe if they follow a few key security measures.
Here are 5 crucial tips for keeping yourself safe online:
Create Secure Passwords
You’ve probably heard it countless times before but we’re going to tell you again to use secure passwords. Variety is what is important here. Think capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. You should never use the same password on multiple sites. It makes it easier for hackers to access your personal information. If you have trouble remember your passwords, use a password manager such as LastPass or 1Password to manage and remember them for you.
Use a Popup Blocker
Those obnoxious popups won’t only you drive you crazy, they can infect your computer and steal your information. To keep yourself safe and the insanity at bay use a popup blocker software or browser extension. Many browsers have a built in popup blocker you can turn on in your settings. Generally most popup blockers will alert you when a popup has been blocked and give you the option to override and open the popup. This is helpful because some websites will open new tabs or windows when you click to submit information or make a purchase. Nine times out of ten, you don’t need to see popups.
Browse on a Secure Network
WiFi is readily available but it’s not always secure. If you aren’t required to enter a password to access the WiFi (we see you Starbucks) then it is not a secure network and your information may be at risk. When you browse on an unprotected network you’re basically putting your information out in plain sight. Anyone else who is connected to the open network you’re on can easily gain access to your computer. So stay safe and don’t browse in public.
Keep Personal Information Safe
Common sense is key to internet safety. Never give your personal information (bank accounts, social security number, birthday) to an unknown site or a popup. If something pops up (or if someone calls you) asking for your information leave quickly. You should only provide sensitive information when you are initiating the transfer on a secure site, such as your bank’s website, while connected to a secure network, such as your password protected network at home.
Hackers and spammers know how to find weakness and out of date software is one of the most common ones. Turn on auto update features on your operating system, browser, antivirus software and Adobe Flash, to name a few. Keeping software updated will help keep you safe from attacks.
If you have additional questions about internet security or need help updating software, installing software and more, reach out today!
Scams are running amuck hoping to infect your computer and steal your information. It’s easy to misunderstand what updates are important, and safe, and which ones aren’t. Gone are the days to ignoring updates because they are “too hard.” Software and computer companies have made it easier than ever to update your software so there’s no excuse.
Updates You Need:
Operating System Updates
Keeping your operating system updated is one of the best ways to protect yourself from viruses and malware. Only update your operating system if it is from your computer itself. Never install a operating system update from the internet on your computer unless it’s from a trusted source. Consider setting up automatic upgrades to keep your computer updated without even thinking about it.
In addition to your operating system your software programs should be kept up-to-date for the best experience. Most programs will let you know when an update is available or you can install a software tracking software to keep an eye on them for you. Keeping your word-processing programs and other softwares as up-to-date as possible will keep things running smoothly, but is not critical.
All PC users need to have an antivirus program running and fully updated. Mac users are less prone to viruses and can take or leave antivirus software. Avast is an excellent antivirus software for PCs. The trick is to keep the software updated. Your antivirus software is only as good as the most recent update. Download Avast for free here.
Updates to Avoid:
Updates from Popups
When browsing the internet never download an unknown software or update. Popups are riddled with spammy updates trying to trick you into downloading an unsafe software. Use common sense and avoid any software download you didn’t initiate from the internet. Using a safe browser, such as Chrome, will help keep you safe from dangerous files. Avoid using Internet Explorer at all costs. Microsoft no longer keeps this program updated and it is incredibly unsafe to use as a browser. Only use Internet Explorer to visit trusted sites. To keep yourself fully protected install an ad-blocker add-on or extension.
A bit of common sense and some added security will keep you and your computer safe. Never trust unrequested software updates or downloads from the internet and install an antivirus software to keep your computer protected in case of a stray click.
If you have any other questions about updating your computer, give us a call! We would love to help you figure out what updates are important and what updates you should avoid.
Staying safe online should be a high priority for anyone who is an internet user, especially if you are using to web to access or share private information, such as your birthdate, social security number and bank information. When you’re doing research for work, school or just trying to find a new site to browse, it’s hard to know what is safe and unsafe. The number one secret: look before you click.
Here are 5 easy ways to protect yourself from dangerous websites:
Hover First, Then Click
Questionable websites can make themselves appear legitimate on a Google search page. Try to only click on links on the first page or two of Google as those are more likely to be trustworthy. However, it is still important to take a second look before you click through. In Chrome browsers, you can hover over a link to see the web address before clicking through. Look in the bottom left corner of your screen. If your browser doesn’t offer this feature you can right click and copy and paste the link into an offline document to investigate before clicking through. If you recognize the site as legitimate, proceed with the previously scheduled program. If something seems fishy, do a bit more digging before clicking.
Use a Link Scanner
If your initial investigation has led you to believe you’re working with a potentially dangerous website, you can use a link scanner to confirm your suspicions. Right click on the link and select copy. You can use a site such as URLVoid or Sucuri’s Site Check to check if the site has been reported or contains malware, viruses or spyware.
Investigate Shortened LInks
Shortened links are most prevalent on social media platforms, but can be found on search engines as well. Short links are the perfect way for a dangerous website to hide itself and get your click. So before you click, stop and investigate. Sucuri’s Site Check is one of the few link scanners able to process shortened links as many will simply tell you it’s from the link shortener site, such as Bitly. Sucuri will expand the link to accurately tell you if it’s safe or not.
Use a Filter
Internet filter’s aren’t just for parents to protect their kids from adult material, they can be used to protect you from spyware and phishing. There are many filters you can buy or download to prohibit your access to questionable sites. The filter will block access to sites proven to be unsafe. This will save you time you may otherwise spend investigating links. Using a filter will also help reduce your stress of accidentally clicking on an unsafe site and allow you to browse in peace. If you aren’t sure where to start simply turning on Safe Search through Chrome is a good step in the right direction.
Search, Don’t Type
One way unsafe sites can catch you is by using URLs almost the same as common sites. If you’re prone to typos or are unsure if the site you’re looking for is .com or .org it’s better to search for the company than type the website. Amazon.com is safe but amzon.com may not be. Using a search engine to find the accurate URL for the website you are wanting to visit can save you the hassle of a stolen identity.
When you’re using a search engine it can be hard to know what is safe and what is unsafe, but these tricks will help keep you protected. If you need help installing anti-virus programs or internet filters or if you believe your information or computer is already compromised, contact us today!
Does your computer feel like it’s trying to run with weights on? Do you have enough time after opening a program to go get a drink and still wait for the program to finish loading? Like us, computers slow down as they age. Since each person has their own usage habits it’s hard to pinpoint why this happens. Hardware and software issues are common causes for computer slowness and can often be repaired. Over time downloading files, installing software and surfing the internet can hog your system’s resources. The tips below will help restore your computer’s speed.
Here are 5 ways to improve your computer’s speed:
Scan for Viruses
A virus is a small program with the ability to attach itself to your computer’s software, data files or the boot sector of your hard drive. These programs can fill you your hard disk with junk files, access private information, corrupt your data or even send itself to your email contacts. There’s no 100% foolproof method of preventing viruses but you can take some precautions by being smart opening emails and browsing the internet.
If you’re computer is running slow you will want to do a scan with an antivirus software. If you don’t have a software or your software is out of date, here is a good free program to use. Running a scan will show you where you may have a virus on your computer so it can be removed.
Scan for Spyware
Spyware is an unwanted program exploiting your computer for commercial gain, aka causing pop-up advertisements, collecting personal information or monitoring your browsing activity. These “infections” can be caught in the same way as a virus. Much like viruses they can slow your computer down and are dangerous to your privacy. A malware scanner will search your computer for such programs and tell you where to find them. We recommend Malwarebytes Anti-Malware.
Uninstall Unused Programs
A majority of your computer’s speed comes down to memory, and keeping programs you no longer use installed hogs valuable memory. Browse through your computer’s programs and you’ll likely find several you are no longer using. On a Windows computer browse programs through the Control Panel under “Add or Remove Programs.” On a Mac you can find all installed programs under “Applications.” Once the unnecessary programs are uncovered they can be easily uninstalled.
Remove Junk Files
Files build up quickly from even basic computer usage which can slow you down. Simple things such as browsing the internet creates temporary files and cookies which over time will slow your browsing speed. By cleaning out these files, and ones you created and no longer need, you can improve your computer’s performance. This is a mostly manual process but you can use a program like CCleaner to search your computer for temporary files. CCleaner will also search your registry, where programs tell Windows how to use program, for broken entries taking up valuable memory and slowing your computer down.
Defragment Your Hard Drive
If you’re not running a solid state hard drive, defragmentation can benefit your computer’s speed. As files are installed, deleted and moved around information is fragmented in pockets across your disk, making your computer work harder to find the information making your computer slow. On a Windows computer you won’t need any additional software to defragment your hard drive. The process varies on different operating systems but is generally located under Tools in your hard drive folder. You can search your computer for defragment if you have trouble finding it.
Keeping your computer running at a good speed by doing the above tasks regularly. Here’s your general service calendar.
If you find your computer is still running slow come in for a professional diagnosis as soon as possible. We are here to help!
Technology is progressing at an almost impossible pace and teens are generally early adopters of new tech. The internet it’s a bit of a black hole and, as with real life, there are opportunities for teens to get themselves into trouble. The dangers are out there, so how do you keep your teens safe?
Here are our 5 tips for keeping your teens safe online:
Set Clear Boundaries
It’s important to lay out clear rules with your teens regarding your expectations of their use of technology. Having guidelines in place makes imposing consequences based on behavior outside of the rules easier and more fair. Most teens have personal devices such as laptops, phones or iPads making it easy to hide many of their actions. As a parent check their devices to see if they are staying within the boundaries.
Use Parental Controls
There is a wide range of technology available to keep parents in touch with what their teens are doing online. Once you decide how much you want to know, you can install a variety of applications and controls on their devices. From basic parental controls through your internet provider to built in parental controls on their devices to third party applications that send you updates of their texts and online actions, you can choose how involved you need to be.
Keep Technology in Common Areas
Part of your technology talk should involve areas where your teens are allowed to use their devices. Consider requiring technology to stay in common areas at all times. When teens bring it into their bedrooms, they are treading on a slippery slope. Not only will you not know who they’re messaging or what they’re searching, using phones or laptops before bed can have a negative impact on their sleep patterns. So keep the devices in family areas is a win-win.
Friend them on Social Media
While not a sure fire solution, being friends with your kids on social media will help you keep track of their friends and online activities. If your teen wants a social media profile, make adding you as a friend a requirement of their internet privileges. They may not be happy about it but if it’s being your friend or losing their phone, it’s easy to guess what they’ll pick.
Demonstrate Good Behavior
Monkey see, monkey do as they say. Demonstrate to your teens how to spend time without technology. Make the dinner table a phone free zone. Have movie nights with no phones allowed. Showing your teens the benefits of disconnecting from technology will help to make them less reliant on their digital lives which helps keep them safe.
There is no sure fire way to keep your teens safe online but precautions can be taken. If you need help installing parental controls or internet security on your devices, call or stop in today!
Everyone has heard of a computer virus and understands it can destroy your computer, causing it to seemingly eat itself from the inside out. Unfortunately, although the risks are there every time you check your email or browse the internet, many people don’t take necessary precautions to keep themselves safe, which in turn puts them at risk for a cyber attack.
Here are 3 common cyber security mistakes and how to avoid them:
Biting the Phishing Hook
It may seem like most people are aware enough to say no to scams phishing for information, but we still see them because they still work. According to Verizon in 2016, 30% of phishing emails were opened. With these kind of open rates it’s no wonder phishing still happens. Phishing emails deliver malware and ransomware through infected attachments or links.
This scam is common in the workplace. A phisher will send a well written email to a whole office conning employees into click on links which then infect the computer with malware. This malware can be designed to create false money wires or steal personal information, enabling the attacker to steal the victim’s identity.
The key to avoiding phishing scams is education and security. Keep yourself informed of known scams, be cautious opening emails from people you don’t know. Never click on a link or download attachment if it seems fishy. Gmail and other common email services have scam filters to help keep you safe, but it’s still important to proceed with caution.
Leaving Passwords Out
We understand managing passwords can be a real challenge. Writing passwords down on sticky notes, in notebooks, saving in a Word of Excel spreadsheet is dangerous business. If you have a hard time remembering your passwords invest in a password management system such as LastPass. These types of programs save all of your passwords inside a “vault” protected by one master password. This means you only have to remember one and you can throw away all those sticky notes, delete the unprotected Word Doc or Excel spreadsheet and enter into a new world of safety.
Not Knowing What’s at Risk
If you don’t know there’s a risk, you can’t protect yourself from the risk. It’s important to understand the way ransomware and malware functions to best protect yourself from financial loss. Ransomware, one of the newest types of viruses, collects and holds information hostage as blackmail to get a payment from the victim. The viruses change as quickly as we discover them, so it’s important to keep yourself as informed. You also need to keep any antivirus or anti-malware programs up to date to protect yourself from sneaky viruses.
Many people are unaware that viruses aren’t designed with the malicious intent of destroying your computer. Many, if not most, viruses today are designed to bring financial gain the attacker, at the cost of the victim. The main things to remember are:
When in doubt, close out of suspicious website, emails and programs immediately and shut your computer down. We happily accept walk-ins, so bring your computer by to have it professionally examined and cleared of any suspicious software or files to get you back to safe browsing.