Hackers Are Targeting Your Smartphone, But Why?

September 6th, 2013

Smartphone Danger

You’ve likely heard how cyber criminals can hack your smartphone and gain access to your accounts, or even take over functions of your phone. But do you understand why your smartphone is such a coveted target?

Marshall Honorof, of TechNews Daily, writes that “your smartphone contains as much sensitive information as your wallet” and is always on, connected to the internet and vulnerable.

Your smartphone has a number of vulnerabilities, which makes it a challenge to protect. You’re probably always logged into social media and email accounts on your phone. This means that anyone who gains access to your phone also gains access to all of these accounts. With the information gained from social media and email, an intelligent hacker is able to gain access to almost any account you have online.

Smartphones also present the unique problem of text messaging vulnerability. A text message is practically impossible to block since phones open them as soon as they’re connected to a network. This means text messages containing malware are a near-perfect weapon.

There have even been demonstrations of infecting iPhone’s with malware through charging. Once a phone is infected with malware, any number of bad outcomes is possible. Your data could be collected, activity monitored, accounts hacked and phone functions hijacked.

When Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS are activated, phones broadcast a shocking amount of information. Your location and the model number of your phone are available to anyone who cares enough to look for it. Retailers are actually beginning to use this information to tailor ads to you.

Turning off functionality like GPS and Wi-Fi when you’re not using it not only grants you more privacy, it also saves your battery. Experts also suggest uninstalling social media and email apps from phones. These apps are less secure than the websites they represent and keep you logged in at all times.

In addition to better usage habits, you’ll need robust security software to keep your phone safe. Contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335 to find out how to improve the security on any of your devices.

How To Protect Your Data When An Employee Leaves

September 5th, 2013

Dismissed Employee

Many companies have adopted an agile, mobile infrastructure to give employees access to vital data from practically anywhere. This is certainly effective for day-to-day business, but what happens when an employee leaves the company? How do you protect your data?

A recent post on IT Manager Daily suggests the key is a balance between your own interactions with the departing employee and security put in place after the individual leaves.

The first step is to develop a plan. In this plan should be a detailed, step-by-step protocol that is followed each time an employee leaves the company. You should also assess the risk an employee poses to the business should they be terminated or resign. Many times a senior member of your organization is more likely to steal data and start a competitor than a low-ranking employee.

Part of that plan should also include a robust contract signed at the time of hiring. This contract, similar to a non-compete, should have a data protection clause that prohibits employees from accessing and misusing company data once they’re no longer a part of the organization. These contracts also typically include a plan of action for lame-duck employees and how they will spend their last work days after putting in notice.

After an employee leaves, it’s vital that you shut off their access to any company data. Passwords should be changed on everything the employee previously had access to. If they used a company email account, you should even change the password to that. All company property should be turned in before the employee leaves. Once out the door for the last time, an employee doesn’t need any access to your data.

Taking these precautions against data theft doesn’t mean you don’t trust employees. They’re just good business tactics to ensure your data stays secure. In fact, developing a trust and allowing employees to leave on good terms is one of the most powerful ways to make sure no data is stolen. If an individual leaves liking you and your business, they’re less likely to do anything to harm it.

If you’d like to increase the security on your company’s data, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. We have a variety of security solutions to secure your network and keep your data safe.

 

How To Spot and Avoid Phishing Emails

September 5th, 2013
How to Detect a Phishing Email
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

 

Phishing scams are producing some unbelievable statistics. 500-million phishing emails are sent every day. 250 computers are hacked each minute. These statistics are why it’s important to protect yourself not only with the latest security software, but also with an understanding of how to avoid the scams.

Phishing emails are attempts to gain access to your accounts or steal some information a hacker deems valuable. They often appear to be from reputable businesses and will ask you to respond with your account information or personal identifiable information. The best thing to do is not respond. Mark the email as spam and delete it.

Many phishing emails will end up in your spam folder. So, the first step in avoiding these scams is to trust your spam folder. Unless you find an email you were expecting to receive in the spam folder, it’s best to leave them alone. Even emails from your contacts could be malicious. There are numerous cases of an individual’s email being hacked and a malicious email being sent to their entire address book.

If a phishing email does end up in your inbox, be aware of the sender’s usual behavior. For example, your bank probably only sends out emails for specific reasons and never asks for your account information over email. If you receive a message that seems out of the ordinary from a company you do business with, it’s always better to call them to find out what’s going on. Be sure to look up the number for yourself also. Many times, a false number will be included in the phishing email.

Links and attachments are a popular way to attempt to infect your computer with malware, which then allows hackers to gain access to your accounts. Be wary of any links and attachments sent to you from unknown sources. If you’re expecting a file to be sent to you by a friend or coworker, it’s probably safe. But, if someone you don’t know sends you an email with an attachment, or even a friend sends you a link you don’t recognize, it’s better not to open them.

For help keeping phishing scams out of your inbox, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. We offer state of the art spam filters and the latest in security software to keep you safe.

Hackers Only Need One Android To Breach Your Network

September 4th, 2013

Angry Android user

The growing trend of BYOD, Bring Your Own Device, means that more and more employees are using their personal smartphones on company networks. The initial concern surrounding BYOD is that sensitive and valuable information will be stored on personal devices and potentially lost or stolen. But, as Sam Narisi points out for IT Manager Daily, there’s another significant threat to consider.

A security researcher for Tripwire recently demonstrated how a single compromised Android device could be used to hack into a company’s IT infrastructure. This is possible through Google apps, which many companies use for cloud computing and email.

Android uses a “single sign-on” feature, which means that users aren’t asked to continuously authenticate their Google account with a password. Instead, the Android device stores a cookie the first time you authenticate your account and remembers that your device and your account are linked.

The problem is similar to forgetting to log-out of your email or social media account on a shared computer. For example, if you’ve ever checked your Facebook page at a computer lab or library and forgotten to sign-out when you left, you probably ended up with some joke statuses on your account. College students know exactly what we’re talking about.

For this Android flaw, when an employees device is lost or stolen, their accounts remain active. Whoever holds that device has access to everything stored in Google apps, including the employee’s email account.

An intelligent hacker, however, doesn’t even need to physically hold the Android to access Google apps. If they are able to infect the device with malware, they could also gain similar access to Google accounts.

The simplest fix for this security flaw is to keep anyone from accessing corporate Google apps with their Android device. Failing that, keep from downloading any extraneous apps, especially outside of the Play Store. That will go a long way in keeping malware off your smartphone.

For more help keeping your smartphone or other device safe and secure, contact Geek Rescue ta 918-369-4335. We offer a variety of security solutions for both home and business.

Laptop or Tablet: Which Is Right For You?

September 4th, 2013

Laptop or Tablet

When it comes time to replace your current laptop or tablet, you may find yourself wondering which device you should get. Should you replace your laptop with a tablet, or replace your tablet with a laptop?

Brian Westover, of PC Mag, dove into this issue to help you decide what type of device is right for you. Here are some key points to consider.

  • Power

What do you need to do with your new device? Laptops have the clear edge on pure power. They handle internet browsing, streaming video, gaming and even photo, video and audio editing. Many also feature Blu-ray compatible disk drives. But, don’t pay for power you don’t need. Tablets are well-equipped to allow you to surf the internet, stream video and audio. 

  • Form

Tablets have touchscreens and no keyboard, although you can add one to almost any tablet. If you plan to use your device to type a lot, or use programs with heavy-mouse usage, a tablet’s form might be frustrating. Laptops, however, offer built-in keyboards and touchpads. 

  • Mobility

Both devices are able to be packed up and taken with you. However, tablets have the edge in mobility because of their light-weight and excellent battery life. Even the laptop with the best battery life will struggle to keep up with a tablet. 

  • Price

This is a no brainer. If price is the only factor you care about, you’re getting a tablet. An efficient, capable tablet will cost you less than $300. Even top of the line iPad’s are well under $1-thousand. Conversely, a top of the line laptop gets extremely pricey. But, you’re paying for quite a bit more power. 

Many people decide not to make the choice between laptop and tablet and instead own both devices. If you’d rather opt for one device to keep up with, however, it comes down to personal preference.

For maintenance and fixes on your laptop or tablet, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. We fix all of your devices and offer fast, friendly service.

Common Computer Problems You Can Fix Yourself

September 4th, 2013

Fixing computer

If you own a computer, or any device really, you’re likely to encounter problems from time to time. But, as Ben Kim of CIO points out, some of the more common problems have easy fixes that you can handle yourself.

Regardless of the problem and before you try anything else, restart your computer. There’s a reason this is cliched advice. For many issues, a restart will put everything right.

  • Slow performance

Your system will slow down when your hard drive gets too full. If you’ve noticed a sluggish performance, try clearing some space. Windows users will also want to use Microsoft’s System Configuration tool to trim down the number of applications that open automatically on start-up. To access it, press Windows-R, type “msconfig” and hit Enter. 

  • Slow downloads

If your downloads are taking longer than they should, test your connection speed. You can do this on a number of websites. Resetting your modem and router is also a good idea before contacting your Internet Service Provider. 

  • Pop-ups

If you’re seeing a high number of pop-ups ads, you’ll want to make sure you have a pop-up blocker enabled in your browser. If they appear when you aren’t even surfing the internet, you’ve got adware. This usually stems from you installing a program that had adware hidden in it. To remove it, try running any security software you may have, or installing new adware-specific programs.

  • Wi-Fi disconnects

If you’re sitting in range of your wireless router, but you still get a weak signal or constant disconnects, there are a couple of fixes. First, try resetting the modem and router. Then, let Windows troubleshoot the problem for you by right-clicking on the Wi-Fi icon in the taskbar and selecting ‘Diagnose Problem” or “Troubleshoot Problems”.

  • Printer doesn’t print

 We’ve all had our share of printer-related headaches. Check to make sure there’s enough ink, toner and paper and the notification light isn’t blinking. Turn the printer off, then back on. You can even completely unplug the power supply and wait a few seconds before plugging it back in. If you still can’t print, check to see if the “Use Printer Offline” option is enabled. Windows will switch this automatically in some circumstances so make sure to uncheck it. 

If these fixes don’t work or you have a more serious issue, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. Our team of techs fix any problem your device may have. Give us a call, or bring your device to one of our convenient locations.

Make Your Old Apple Device Faster

September 3rd, 2013

Speedometer

If you’ve had your iPhone or iPad for over a year, chances are it’s running a little slower than it should. If so, you have two options. You can buy the newest model from Apple, or you can get the most out of your old model with a few tricks.

Whitson Gordon, of Lifehacker, suggests using some tricks to speed up your old Apple device before giving in and buying a new one.

  • Don’t update

Your favorite app might prompt you to update to the latest version, but don’t be too hasty. That latest version may have more features and demand more resources than your old device can handle. That could make your favorite app nearly unusable on your phone or tablet. If you are a couple of generations behind, apps and even the iOS updates will begin to leave your device behind. If it works well now, consider sitting the updates out. 

  • Go native

The apps that Apple included on your device usually work best. So, while you may prefer a different internet browser, that third-party app won’t run as fast as the included Safari. This isn’t a big deal for newer devices, but if you want to milk as much speed out of an old device as you can, it helps to use the native apps. 

  • Clean it up

The more storage space being used on your device, the slower it will get. You’ll even be at risk of crashes. So, clean up that storage space by deleting anything you don’t need or use. Apps you rarely use are usually the first to go. This may also mean you need to trim down your music library and find another place to store pictures and videos. It’s also a good idea to delete old text messages. 

  • Unjailbreak

You may have decided to jailbreak your device to be able to customize it better or to gain new features, but that may also cause it to slow down over time. If you have an older device that’s gotten too sluggish, consider unjailbreaking and uninstalling all of those custom features. This may get your device back to working order. 

At Geek Rescue, we fix broken devices and help to keep them running well for longer. If your device is broken, or just not working as well as it should, bring it in for a tune-up. Come by or call us at 918-369-4335.

Broken Smartphones: Fix These Common Problems

September 3rd, 2013

Broken smartphone

Apple offers a valuable trade-in program for customers who are upgrading to the newest iPhone model. The catch is that your phone has to be in working order. Fixing your phone is certainly worth it when it means potentially getting more than $200 towards your next iPhone.

Amazon, Best Buy and Verizon are just a few of the other options you have when looking to get some money back on your used phone. Those options include Android phones as well. But, a working phone will always get more money than one that can only be salvaged for parts.

Joshua Brustein, of Business Week, published some common smartphone problems and how to fix them.

  •  Water damage

We all know someone, maybe it’s you, who has dropped their phone in a toilet, washing machine, pool or spilled water all over it. Putting a wet phone into a bag of rice is a commonly known solution, but there are some problems. The phone needs to be put into rice immediately after coming in contact with water and should not be turned on. Rice also probably isn’t a solution if the phone is soaked. A hair dryer is helpful, but blowing hot air on electronics can be just as harmful as the water, so use the lowest setting and use it in short bursts. 

  • Headphone jack doesn’t work

This is a common occurrence because lint from your pocket or dust gets caught in the headphone jack. Cleaning out these foreign particles usually fixes the problem. Many people suggest cutting down a q-tip, then dipping it in alcohol. For the record, Apple doesn’t recommend this treatment because alcohol is corrosive if it contacts certain parts of your smartphone. 

  • Physical buttons stop working

Maybe the home button on your iPhone is stuck, or you can’t use the back button on your Android anymore. Once again, this is a problem that can be cleaned away. While alcohol is again a popular solution, be careful not to use much and watch where you put it. If you just want your phone to be usable again, there are workarounds such as iPhone’s “assistive touch”, which allows you to use the touchscreen for everything your broken physical buttons usually do. 

  • Cracked screen

Though there are some who consider a cracked smartphone screen to be a fashion statement, most would prefer to have it fixed. There are kits available online that include tiny tools so you can fix your own phone. While they will give you the tools necessary to complete the job, they don’t guarantee success. For this common problem, it’s usually best to rely on professionals. 

Geek Rescue fixes all of the common problems listed here and more. Whatever the problem with your smartphone, we’ll get it in working order. Call us at 918-369-4335, or bring your device in to Geek Rescue today.

Surf Smarter To Stay Secure Online

August 30th, 2013

Smart surfer

Protecting your security and keeping your privacy online is possible. It takes more of a commitment than just keeping your antivirus software updated, however.

John Okoye, of Techopedia, suggests that your own browsing habits have as much to do with security as your security software. Here are some of the ways you can protect yourself.

  • Understand Your Browser

Do a little research and discover how the internet browser you’re using stores your data. It may be tracking your history and selling it to advertisers without your knowledge. However, many browsers have options to surf privately without saving your history or data. 

  • Proper Spam Techniques

Even if you are extremely careful about who you give your email address out to, you’ll still receive your fair share of spam emails. When one appears in your inbox, don’t respond. That includes following the ‘unsubscribe’ link. Once spammers learn that your email is active, you’ll actually receive more spam than before. Also, be sure to mark the email as spam, rather than just deleting. it. If you find that more spam emails are making through your spam filter, consider adding additional rules, or changing email providers. 

  • Be Careful With Social Networks

Social media profiles are a resource for hackers. By learning your birthday, address, phone number and email address, they can intelligently hack into other accounts, or send you phishing scams. Be sure to take advantage of security options to keep your information private and don’t over share. There’s usually no reason to include a phone number on your Facebook page. 

  • Be Smart About Email

Do some research and find an secure email provider. One that protects you from spam and doesn’t save your emails in a log. Your email should also be encrypted to ensure that no one but the intended recipient is reading them. You may also consider having multiple email accounts. That way, when registering for accounts on ecommerce sites or anywhere that you don’t want to have your primary or business email, you can use a secondary account. 

These are just some of the ways you can take action to stay safer and more secure online. To beef up the security for your home PC or your business network, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

Windows 8 Picture Passwords Are Insecure

August 30th, 2013

Windows 8 broken security

Windows 8 offers users a unique password option when users sign in. Rather than a text password, users are able to use an image from the Pictures folder to keep their PC secure. Although this is an interesting idea that personalizes a user’s device, it is proving to fail in the security department.

As Thomas Claburn reports for Information Week, a group of researchers created a method for breaking the Windows 8 picture passwords. Their model was successful in hacking a password 48-percent of the time during one test.

To set a picture password, users choose an image, then draw circles, lines or tap different places on the image. When they log-in, they just need to take the same actions in the same order. It’s similar to smartphones that lock with a pattern, rather than a pass code.

Windows 8 does take some precautions to make this method more secure. Most notably, a user is limited to 5 log-in attempts. After a fifth failed attempt, the device is locked down. This means hackers can’t launch a purely automated attack, or brute force attack, that tries every combination possible. During testing, a purely automated attack was only successful about 1-percent of the time.

That is still a significant number of users at risk, and researchers suggested that a higher success rate is likely with a little training. Beyond the technical capabilities of picture passwords, what makes them insecure is how most people use them. When manipulating an image, most people will circle, or tap the eyes and draw a line on the mouth. These tendencies make it much easier for a password to be hacked.

What’s lacking from picture passwords is a strength meter. When you make a password for an online account, most sites will tell you if the password is strong, weak or unacceptable. Windows 8 included no such meter for picture passwords.

Since this is a new log-in method for most people, users won’t know what a strong picture password consists of. A password meter could help ensure that users have a password strong enough to hold up to a hacking attempt.

To keep your machine more secure, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. We have a variety of security solutions to keep you safe.