Crypto Locker Virus

On October 28th, 2013, posted in: Thinking Smarter by

A new virus has surfaced and is making you pay money to get your information back. In most cases, the virus is activated from opening an attachment in an email. If you have any concerns about an email you receive, do not open it.

For more information on the virus, visit this website http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/virus-removal/cryptolocker-ransomware-information.

Call us if you have any questions.

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Initially dual screens may seem a techy luxury that the average user would not need. In actuality it can increase the productivity of any user by installing a second monitor. As two monitors can be used just as easily as one, the addition of a second requires no new learning curve and therefore immediately produces advantages.

It is often that a user will find themselves referring to two different windows during work. Whether it’s an email inbox and an internet page or a calendar and an Excel spreadsheet, one window is rarely all that’s required. With only one monitor, the user must memorize the information from one window, minimize it, maximize the other window, and recall the information. This process is not only an inefficient use of time, it often ends in error as the information is not accessible at the time of input.

Two monitors eliminate this loop entirely. Instead of repeatedly opening up and switching windows, a user can drag the spreadsheet they need to read to one monitor, and the email they are writing based on that spreadsheet to the other. No longer does accuracy depend on the memory of the user nor is time spent copying and pasting.

The time saved may seem insignificant, but for every keystroke or mouse click saved, the user’s process becomes more efficient. In Smart’s experience, when first tested by the computer administrator in an office, the subsequent advice for the office wide implementation of a dual monitor setup from the administrator is often compelling enough for an entire company to do so. Call us and make the switch today!

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There are passwords for everything. Logging into a computer requires a password, logging into a billing program requires a password, and logging into practically every website from banking to score checking requires a user to create this supposedly unique layer of protection for their data. While the response to such a call for creative letter grouping is often apathetic simplicity, strong passwords are a convention one should follow.

A password is the most fundamental level of defense against hackers. Even with the most sophisticated antivirus software available, no firewall will restrict the actions of what it sees as the “user” which in essence can give anyone with access to the user’s password the same control over the computer the legitimate owner has.

When creating a secure password, keep in mind the following advice:

  1. Don’t make passwords under 6 characters. They are too easy to find through a code breaking program!
  2. Use case sensativity and numbers. The difference between a password in all lowercase and a password with varying cases and numbers is how much longer it would take a hacker to break it. Numbers and case variations are an easy way to keep your information secure.
  3. Don’t use the same password for everything. It may seem tempting to memorize one password and put it in for every requirement, but if a hacker figures it out at one level, they will likely try to use that same password for every other application.
  4. Try changing a sentence into a password. The sentence “My dog’s names are Buddy & Spot” which can be easily remembered can be used as the password “MdnaB&S”.
  5. Try replacing addresses, birthdays, or important places with symbols and numbers. Instead of “oakstreet”, a secure password could be “o@kstr33t” .
  6. Try typing a phrase a row up on the keyboard. Instead of “password”, the result would be “0qww294e”.

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Making the decision to purchase a new computer or laptop is not an easy one. What model do I want? How fast should it run? Do I opt for upgrades or stay with the basics? Probably the biggest decision though, is how MUCH do I want to spend? Whether your purchase is driven by personal or business use, this question still applies.

What does all this have to do with CompleteCare Accidental Damage Service? A LOT! You don’t want to go through the process of buying a computer/laptop more then you need to. That is why we ALWAYS recommend adding on this feature provided by Dell. This isn’t the typical warranty coverage–if you drop it, too bad –if you spill your coffee all over your laptop, too bad. With CompleteCare, coverage is much broader and allows you to save money in the long run if something does happen.

Coverage and Repairs Include:

  • Liquid spilled on or in the unit
  • Drops, falls or any other collisions–even if the LCD is damaged or broke
  • Electrical/Power Surge
  • Accidental breakage (lots of little pieces)

Keyword is ACCIDENTAL–if any of the above occurs intentionally, it will not be covered. But who would really throw their computer, right? (Unless you’re really frustrated with your IT support–of course it wouldn’t be Smart). Make the Smart decision and protect your investment.

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You can’t open a magazine or news website without being exposed to the catch phrases and supposed wonders of the so-called “Cloud Computing”. Unbeknownst to many in the technology world, those outside it are often uninformed of the actual use of terms like “Remote Applications”, “Offsite Storage”, and “Redundancy” in their environment. For those who aren’t well versed in the matter, we at Smart would like to take this opportunity to explain cloud computing.

Simply put, cloud computing is a network model which relies on servers located at a distant location accessed over the internet. Instead of routing email and sharing documents through a server located in the office, each user connects to their own piece of a server pool. This eliminates the thousands of dollars spent on server upgrades every five years as well as the hardware costs associated with adding storage or new users to an environment. It also means that any point, multiple “redundant” copies of your data exist offsite. If a data failure were to occur on one of the copies, Microsoft would automatically revert back to a working clone and you would never notice the downtime. The cloud, in essence, offers complete data security without the expense of backup solutions. In case of a disaster or complete hardware failure of an on premises server, offsite backup tapes or hard drives would be required to ensure data safety. With the cloud, the idea of server backup becomes obsolete with data being stored simultaneously at different locations hundreds of miles away from each other across the country.

For a nominal monthly fee, Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud can be utilized not only as a mail and data server, but also as a Microsoft application provider. The full version of Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint can all be accessed via the internet browser or from a program on your computer the way you most likely do now. This means that whether you are on your computer or accessing the internet abroad, you have access to full version production programs you require as part of the same monthly fee.

As far as security is concerned, Microsoft provides state of the art solutions at every layer of defense. The physical databases which house Microsoft’s cloud servers are more secure than most government buildings with much of the storage underground in isolated locations. The email and data security they offer for their customers is built to meet the needs of multi-thousand employee enterprises and government entities. While on premise security can be made extremely safe to use with the correct configuration, but it cannot compare to the guaranteed security of an entity dedicated to keeping millions of users safe.

The Cloud solution, is not right for every environment. Smart can help you decide, based on your needs, what the best solution is. If you want more information, give us a call.

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In a world of “3G, 4G, and mobile hot-spots”, it’s easy to get caught up in acronyms without actually knowing which method is best to connect to. Any portable internet enabled device that supports 3G (soon to be 4g) broadband connection and Wi-Fi actually has three different methods of accessing the internet.

The first method is a true Wi-Fi scenario in which a physical cable from the Internet Service Provider is attached to a wireless router. The router in turn broadcasts the signal to any Wi-Fi enabled device in its proximity. When you access Wi-Fi in your office, you are connecting to the same connection that a wired device would, but in wireless form. If you are connecting to Wi-Fi at a public “hot-spot” like those offered at Starbucks or libraries, you are sharing wireless broadcast of a wired Internet Service Provider connection at that location. Unlike the office, “hot-spots” at these locations do not offer the same protection that the secure, firewalled environment at your office most likely provides. It therefore behooves a user to limit public Wi-Fi usage to non-confidential information. That is not to say that every time you open a document your information will be stolen, just that you are more vulnerable to security threats at public locations.

When using a 3G enabled device like a smartphone or tablet which are not connected to Wi-Fi, the devices are connecting to the internet though a cellular connection. Instead of receiving a signal from a wired Internet Service Provider, the device receives data from a cellular company in the same way it receives a mobile phone connection. 3G as it is called, allows a user to access internet anywhere they receive signal, eliminating dependence on public “hot-spots” for mobile access. Unfortunately, this method is normally noticeably slower than a Wi-Fi connection. Though it is safer than a shared public “hot-spot”, it is not as safe as the firewalled environment in an office.

The third method to access the internet is actually a hybrid of the other two. Certain 3G enabled devices have the capability to supply a Wi-Fi signal. Rather than receiving data from a wired connection, these devices receive a 3G signal from a cellular tower and broadcast it as a Wi-Fi signal which can be accessed by any Wi-Fi enabled device in range. Although the connection appears the same as a regular wireless router on a laptop or tablet accessing it, it is important to recognize where the Internet is actually originating. Wi-Fi signals from a 3G broadcasting device like the Verizon Mi-Fi can provide mobile internet for multiple users, but rely on a wireless 3G (or 4G) signal and are therefore significantly slower than traditional Wi-Fi. This connection is again safer than a public “hot-spot” and is advisable for connecting to confidential elements while on the go.

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