Easy Fixes For Your Hard Drive Problems

September 9th, 2013

Hard Drive

If there’s a clicking noise coming from your computer or you encounter a number of freezes, there’s probably a problem with your hard drive. Most manufacturers claim their hard drives last for more than 1-million hours of use, but the failure rate of a drive is about 3 to 5 times higher than that.

A recent post on Techopedia has some tips for how anyone can attempt to fix their hard drive. Before opening up your machine, check your warranties. Many times, trying to fix your own computer will void your warranty, which leaves you no safety net if you aren’t successful.

  • Create A Back-up

There are paid services and free services to back-up the data on your hard drive. The important thing is to make sure you have a back-up in case your drive completely fails. This is good advice whether your hard drive is acting up or not. 

  • Ask Windows To Fix It

More recent versions of Windows is actually capable of fixing some of the minor errors on your hard drive. Right click the your hard drive in the “My Computer” menu, go to “Properties”, then “Tools” and select “Check Now”. 

  • Replace It

If the “Check Now” tool crashes, there’s a serious problem with your hard drive. Even if it runs successfully, it may tell you you’re due for a replacement. Before replacing it, however, deactivate software like Office 365. This way, you can restore from back-up on your new hard drive. 

  • Make A Clone

There are programs available that will clone your hard drive, which then allows you to put the cloned drive onto a new, healthy hard drive. This way, you won’t be starting from scratch and you’ll be sure all your data and programs are already in place. If the errors on your old hard drive are from viruses, however, you’ll just be infecting the new drive as well. So use caution with this option. 

Your hard drive is arguably the most important piece of your computer. If it isn’t working properly, your entire computer can be virtually useless. While there are some easy fixes for common problems, some issues are best left to the professionals.

If your computer isn’t working properly, bring it to Geek Rescue. Our staff will diagnose and fix the problem quickly and efficiently. We work on a variety of devices so if it boots up or turns on, we fix it. Come by or call us at 918-369-4335.

Text Message Scams Threaten Your Smartphone

September 9th, 2013

Smartphone scam

You’ve probably heard of phishing and even spear phishing. But have you heard of smishing?

Criminals are using text messages, or SMS, to send phishing scams directly to your smartphone. Dubbed smishing by some, it’s another way for hackers to steal your money, information or monitor your activity.

Just like phishing and spear phishing, smishing relies on social engineering to play on your fears. Most smishing messages offer you money or gift cards, or claim to be your bank or credit card company.

About.com’s Andy O’Donnell published some tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of a smishing scam.

  • Know Your Bank’s Texting Policy

If your bank sends you a text regularly, it might be harder to decide when it isn’t legitimate. However, if you’ve never received a text from your bank before, you should be extremely wary when a text from a bank shows up on your phone. This goes for any accounts you have with any company. If a text comes to you, don’t respond to it. Instead, look up the customer service number for that business and contact them directly. 

  • Beware 4-digit Numbers

When an email-to-text service is used, a 4-digit number will usually be shown as the sender. Not all email-to-text users are malicious, but criminals use them to mask their actual location. If you get a text from someone without a typical phone number, be extra cautious.

  • Use The Text Alias Feature

If you seem to be getting a lot of spam texts, or just don’t want to worry about them, your phone provider likely offers a text alias feature. This allows you to use an alias number to send and receive text messages and you can then block texts from coming to your actual number. This alias will only be known to those you give it out to, so scammers won’t have access to it.

  • Block Internet Texts

As mentioned earlier, email-to text and other internet text relay services help scammers mask their identity and allows them to send a high volume of messages. Your cell phone provider will allow you to block all texts coming from these services. This will reduce the number of smishing texts you receive, but you might also miss out on legitimate texts from companies using these services.

 Putting additional security on your mobile device is another great way to ensure your safety. To find out more about mobile security, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. 

How Secure Is Your Internet Browser?

September 9th, 2013

Web browser

Google Chrome, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox are the three most popular browsers for PC users. One of the reasons for this is that each offers users security tools to keep them safer while surfing the web.

Kim LaChance Shandrow reports for Entrepreneur that 31-percent of internet attacks target businesses with fewer than 250 employees. This means that regardless of who you are, or how big or small your company is, you have a significant chance of being the victim of a cyber attack. You can’t afford to browse the internet without the proper security in place. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the security each of the top three browsers offer users.

  • Firefox

This browser’s maker, Mozilla, is a non-profit foundation and is mostly funded by Google, who pays to have their site incorporated into the browser. It is also considered by many to have the best security features of any of the most popular browsers. “Undercover” mode and the “Do Not Track” tool both help keep your activity online invisible to others, including website who would normally track you. Firefox also warns you when you encounter a potentially malicious site. Malware, phishing scams and dummy sites are all recognized and you are given advance warning. 

  • Chrome 

Google’s browser is the most used in the US and boasts the fastest performance. Privacy settings are highly customizable and the “Incognito” mode works just like Firefox’s “Undercover” to keep your activity hidden. There’s also a “Do Not Track” tool but it’s not as user friendly as Firefox’s. While Chrome does a good job protecting users from malware and dummy sites, a big flaw is that information saved, like passwords, contact and credit card information, isn’t encrypted.

  • IE10

Microsoft boosted their security offering in the latest version of their browser. “Enhanced Protected Mode” safeguards against malware, tracking and hacking. Internet Explorer specifically protects against cross-scripting attacks and offers “Do Not Track” and “InPrivate” modes, much like Chrome and Firefox. One security gap exists in ActiveX, which is included to make rich media like video and animations run smoother. Cyber criminals are able to use ActiveX as a hacking tool when it’s allowed to run. IE10 does allow users to disable ActiveX, however, and only use it on trustworthy sites.

Browser security is certainly improving with each new version, but a browser’s protection will likely never be enough to keep you fully secure. Antivirus and anti-malware software should be installed and regularly updated on your machine and firewalls should be in place. The idea is to make it as difficult as possible for hackers to infiltrate your device.

For help improving your security at home or the office, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. We offer a variety of security solutions to keep your data safe.   

Firewalls: Here’s What You Need To Know

September 6th, 2013


Most everyone has heard of a firewall, but few really know what it is and what it does. The first thing you need to know is that you need one.

A firewall is a line of defense that monitors and filters data entering and leaving your network or computer. Andy O’Donnell describes a firewall for About.com as a “network traffic cop”.

It’s simple to understand that there are criminals outside of your network that want to get in and steal your data. Keeping them out is important, just as keeping criminals out of your home is important. A firewall is the first line of defense for keeping the criminals out and your data safe.

The other job of a firewall is ensuring that outbound traffic of a malicious nature is also blocked. This is a little harder to understand. Outbound data usually refers to what you are sending out of your own network, so why would you want to limit that direction of traffic? Well, if you do get a malware infection or allow access to your network to a malicious program, data can be sent from your computer to download more malware. A hacker is much more limited if the data sent from the infecting malware is limited by your firewall.

There are hardware-based firewalls that exist outside your computer. It would be a dedicated piece of hardware you add on to boost security. Many people already have a hardware firewall contained in their wireless router. To make sure it’s active, you’ll want to check the router’s settings.

There are also software-based firewalls. Most operating systems, like Windows for example, come with a standard firewall that is active by default. There are also a number of antivirus programs that also include software-based firewalls.

If you don’t have an active firewall, your operating system has probably alerted you to that fact. To improve your system’s security, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. We have a variety of security solutions to keep all of your devices safe.

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.