Google Is Offering To Replace Broken Nexus 5 Smartphones For Free

September 5th, 2014

Google building

Breaking your smartphone is a terrible experience. That’s especially true when your phone is fairly new. For some lucky Nexus 5 owners, a broken phone can be easily replaced at no cost. As Robert Sorokanich reports for Gizmodo, Google is offering to replace any broken Nexus 5 handsets for free, regardless of how the device was broken.

Google is calling this offer a “special exception” that’s only available to US customers. There’s been no word on why Google is willing to replace broken smartphones and they’ve actually been pretty quiet about the offer.

There are a couple of qualifiers to the deal. First, users must have bought their Nexus 5 through the Google Play Store. Those who have broken their device can then call Google to order a refurbished but otherwise new smartphone. Your credit card will be charged the full price for the replacement phone, but will be refunded once Google has received your broken phone.

The number to call is (855) 836- 3987.

Motorola and HTC have also offered free phone replacement deals in the past. Often, it’s a way to clear out back inventory for older devices. The Nexus 5 is in no way old, but it has been on the market for nearly a year, which means Google is likely trying to clear room for the next model.

If you qualify, this is an excellent opportunity to avoid having to either use a broken smartphone, or pay full price for a new one.

If you have a broken smartphone that doesn’t qualify for a free replacement, Geek Rescue is here to help. Call us at 918-369-4335.

For your business solutions needs, visit our parent company JD Young.

Four Tips For Keeping Your Mobile Device Safe

September 2nd, 2014

Smartphone with padlock

It’s no secret that mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, are becoming an increasingly attractive target for cyber attacks. Threats associated with mobile devices have increased exponentially over the past two years and will likely continue to increase as more users store more information on their phones and tablets and use them to access more. That’s why it’s more important than ever to know how to keep your devices safe and protected. A post at Spyware News details a few helpful tips for preventing malware infection and keeping your mobile devices safe from attacks.

  • Texts from unknown numbers

Most smartphone users have received a text from a number they don’t have saved in their contacts. When these messages are from a friend whose number has recently changed, they’re perfectly harmless. However, when these messages contain links to websites, or inform you about services you don’t remember ordering, it’s a sign of a problem. The last thing you should do is click on the links provided or reply to these messages. If the message claims to be from a legitimate business, like your cell phone provider, you should contact them directly to find out about the message.

  • Update your operating system

Updates for mobile operating systems come out fairly often. The reason for that is because of security flaws that are found and exploited by attackers. When you don’t update in a timely manner, you’re leaving a gaping hole in your phone or tablet’s security, which attackers already know how to exploit. It’s always a good idea to back-up your device before updating the OS, but be sure it doesn’t take you too long to implement the updates.

  • Beware of apps

The apps you choose to install on your device are often the gateway for malware. Some apps are actually malicious programs, but others simply don’t have adequate security in the case of an attempted attack. If you’ve installed apps from outside the official app store for your device, there’s a better than average chance that you’ve opened yourself up to infection. Even official apps have been known to contain issues, however. So, you’ll want to update them regularly too and be sure you’re aware of the permissions each app is granted.

  • Wi-Fi

It’s common for users to leave their Wi-Fi capabilities turned on at all times. This way, their device connects automatically to available networks. It’s convenient, but it isn’t always safe. If your device is set to connect to any network within range, it could be automatically connecting to unsafe networks without you even knowing it. That could potentially allow others on the network to monitor your activity and gain access to your personal information. When you’re away from trusted Wi-Fi networks, it’s a good idea to turn off that capability.

Keeping information stored and accessed by your mobile device safe isn’t as easy as it once was, but with a few intelligent practices, you’ll be able to stay protected.

If any of your devices have been attacked or infected by malware, or you’d like to implement better security, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

For your business solutions needs, visit our parent company JD Young.

iPhone 5 Battery Issues Prompt Action From Apple

August 26th, 2014

Apple iPhone

The iPhone 5 was released in September of 2012 and only enjoyed a one-year reign as Apple’s flagship smartphone before being replaced by the iPhone 5S. Still, the iPhone 5 is remains widely used, but it’s not without its faults. Most notably, an issue with the battery that results in charges lasting a shorter and shorter amount of time. At CNet, Shara Tibken reports that Apple is offering free replacement batteries to users with one of these troublesome devices.

Apple maintains that only “a small percentage of iPhone 5 devices may suddenly experience shorter battery life”, but the problem is evidently large enough to warrant a recall. The one exception is that only devices purchased between the iPhone 5’s release in 2012 and January of 2013 are eligible for a free battery replacement. Those users experiencing similar problems with devices purchased outside of this window are on their own.

To find out if your phone is eligible, put your serial number into this page Apple has created specifically for this issue.

If you’ve already paid to replace a defective battery on an eligible device, Apple advises you contact them about refunding the price of the replacement. However, if you’re planning to take advantage of this offer, any damage that impairs the replacement of the battery, which includes a cracked screen, will have to be repaired first.

This isn’t the first issue with the iPhone 5 that’s necessitated a free replacement from Apple directly. In May, Sleep/Wake buttons were recalled when users reported problems. Eligible customers in that case were also treated to a free fix.

The iPhone 5S and Macbook laptops have also been the subject of free fixes for problems that crop up long after the device’s release.

If you’re having problems with any of your devices that aren’t eligible for a free fix from the manufacturer, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

And for your business solutions needs, visit our parent company JD Young.

Study Reveals The Risk Involved With Chrome Extensions

August 21st, 2014

Risk knob turned towards high

Google’s Chrome browser includes a number of useful features itself, but it also offers the opportunity to add features and capabilities through extensions. There are thousands of options for extensions offering a variety of functionality. Not all of these extensions are trustworthy, however. At Tech World, Jeremy Kirk reports that about 10-percent of Chrome extensions examined by security researchers were deemed either malicious or suspicious.

Researchers began looking closely at extensions due to concerns that they are the next attacking point for cybercriminals because of the potentially valuable information available through compromised web browsers. After examining 48-thousand extensions, researchers found 130 that were outright malicious and another 4712 suspicious extensions.

The flagged extensions were capable of various misdeeds, including affiliate fraud, credential theft, advertising fraud and social network abuse.

Much like malicious apps, extensions are granted permissions that give them a great deal of power. Malicious extensions have been observed intercepting web requests from the browser and injecting JavaScript into web pages. Researchers hope that the results of this study help to make clear that extensions need to be more limited.

If you’ve installed a malicious extension, you also won’t know about it right away. The extensions are designed to stay dormant until you visit a specific type of website. Even then, a typical user may not notice any malicious or suspicious behavior.

Google has already reacted to these findings and is attempting to make it harder for unofficial extensions, like those found outside of their Web Store, to be installed. It’s likely more changes will be implemented soon so that Google can exert even more control over extensions.

While some of the flagged extensions weren’t harmful to users, they still displayed activity that was suspicious in nature, like changing ads on a site. Some of these extensions have been downloaded millions of times.

If you’ve installed any extensions from outside of Google’s Web Store, your safest option is to uninstall it immediately. If you feel your computer has been compromised and may still be infected by malware, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

For your business solution needs, visit our parent company JD Young.

Bank Of American Email Scam Spreading Dangerous Malware

August 18th, 2014

No Spam sign

Cryptowall is the latest ransomware malware to be claiming victims. Much like CryptoLocker, Cryptowall encrypts the files on a victim’s computer and demands a payment to decrypt those files. This malware is usually spread as an attachment on spam emails. A post at Spyware News details the Bank of America email scam that’s currently spreading Cryptowall.

If you’re not a Bank of America customer, it’s easy to ignore messages claiming to be from the bank about your account. Those that do have active accounts find the messages more believable, however.

Users are reporting seeing emails claiming to be from Bank of America with an attachment. The emails are from “Andrea.Talbot@bofa.com” and advises the user to open the attachment because it contains information about their account. The email contains an office phone number and cell number with an 817 area code and even includes a standard confidentiality notice at the bottom. The email appears to be legitimate except for the fact that no bank, much less on the size of Bank of America, would send confidential account information to customers this way.

The attached file is named “AccountsDocument.zip” but those that download it quickly discover that it’s malware. Specifically, it’s the Cryptowall virus that encrypts files.

For the time being, be extra cautious about opening any emails from Bank of America and don’t download any attachments. If you have questions about an email, always contact the institution named in the email directly, rather than downloading attachments or following links provided.

Unfortunately, if you’ve become infected by Cryptowall, or a similar virus, there’s often no easy way around it. If you’ve recently backed-up your system, you can restore the encrypted files after the malware has been removed. Otherwise, you may not be able to recover the encrypted files.

If your device is infected with malware of any kind, call Geek Rescue for help at 918-369-4335.

For business solutions needs, visit our parent company JD Young.

Google Chrome Expanding Their Safe Browsing Service

August 15th, 2014

Google Chrome logos

Google’s Chrome browser has always been a leader in safe and secure browsing. If you’ve used Chrome before, you’ve likely been confronted with a warning that a page you’re trying to visit isn’t safe. You may have even seen a warning about a potentially malicious file attempting to be downloaded. On the Chrome blog, Google recently announced their latest addition to their Safe Browsing service, which expands its protection against suspicious downloads.

In current versions of Chrome, users are warned if a file they’re attempting to download contains warning signs that it might actually be malware. Starting soon, Chrome will automatically block malicious downloads. This will also now include downloads disguised as helpful that make “unexpected changes”. That refers to applications that change your browser’s homepage, or desktop, or add tool bars without your knowledge or consent.

When Chrome recognizes any of these types of files being downloaded, a warning will be shown informing the user that the download has been blocked. There’s certainly the possibility that a blocked download was actually legitimate, however, so users will have the option of restarting the download from their Downloads list.

Tools like this help keep malicious files off of your computer, but users shouldn’t rely on them completely. The best way to stay safe and secure is to stay away from low quality websites and to be cautious about downloading anything. These tools are a good safety net, but your browsing habits should be the first line of defense.

If any of your devices have been infected with malware, or just need a tune-up, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

For your business solutions needs, visit our parent company JD Young.

 

Most Malware Now Runs On Virtual Machines Too

August 13th, 2014

Malware concept

In the past, most forms of malware would not run on virtual machines, which was a way to avoid detection and study. That now seems to be changing, however. Jeremy Kirk reports at Computer World how malware has changed its tactics and why malware producers are now interested in infecting VMs.

To understand the reasoning behind wanting to infect VMs, you only need to understand that most malware is created to infect as many users and environments as possible. If there’s a limitation that the malware won’t run on VMs, that greatly limits the potential for infection. This is particularly true with VMs becoming more typical in many businesses’ infrastructure.

Instead of ceasing operations on VMs, malware now is being produced with the goal of moving from a virtual machine to its host server, which could then give it access to many more environments.

Malware is typically easy to detect if it begins executing immediately after being downloaded, however. So, to avoid detection on VMs, malware comes with a delay. Before decrypting and launching their payload, malware waits a few minutes, or until a specified number of left mouse clicks are made by the user. This is usually enough time for security programs to label the file as harmless and move on.

Over the past two years, security firm Symantec studied 200-thousand samples of malware and found that only 18-percent stopped working on a virtual machine. While this does introduce the possibility of malware spreading from VMs to servers, it also creates an opportunity for researchers. Now, they’ll be able to study malware in a detached environment.

Unfortunately, since 18-percent of malware still disappears on a virtual machine, hardware is still needed to be sure that all infections are found.

For help removing malware from your devices, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

For your business solutions needs, visit our parent company JD Young.

Color Changer App For Facebook Infects Thousands Of Users

August 12th, 2014

Facebook

Have you ever thought that Facebook would look better in a different color than the traditional blue? Many users have had that thought and have attempted to add a Facebook app to their profile that would allow them to change the color of their personal Facebook experience. As Dave Smith reports for Business Insider, the Facebook Color Changer app is malware that sends everyone who clicks on it to a phishing website.

More than 10-thousand users have reportedly been affected by the color changer app. Users who click through to the malicious phishing site have their Facebook logins stolen so the scammers can spam their friends with more fake offers.

Additionally, some users have reported that the website they’re directed to also asks them to download other files. Differing reports say users are directed to download a video or another app. These files are also malicious but so far it’s unclear what kind of damage they’re capable of.

If you’ve mistakenly added the color changer app to your Facebook profile, or any other app that you need to remove, you can do so by visiting the Settings menu. That’s the one with the small lock icon in the top right corner. From there, click on ‘Apps’ in the menu on the left and find the apps you want to remove in the list. Click the ‘X’ by the app name and it will be removed.

In the case of the color changer app, you’ll also want to run a full virus scan of your computer and change your Facebook password.

If you’re still interested in changing the color of Facebook, there are more legitimate ways of doing it. If you’re using Chrome there are add-ons available that can change Facebook’s color scheme. Always do some research before adding extensions or apps of this nature, however, as they’re ripe targets for scams.

If your computer, or other device, has been infected with malware, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

For your business solutions needs, visit our parent company JD Young.

Three Ways To Keep Data Safe Before Your Smartphone Is Stolen

August 11th, 2014

Stealing smartphone from purse

Having your smartphone stolen is bad news for a number of reasons. Beyond the fact that you now have to replace your phone, you also run the risk of having valuable data stolen from it. Texts, pictures, passwords and other files are all vulnerable when your smartphone is stolen or even lost. But, there are ways to protect your data before this scenario plays out. At Gizmodo, David Nield explains a few methods for securing your smartphone’s data so a thief can’t access it.

  • Lock it

Every smartphone includes the option to lock the screen, but an estimated half of users don’t use any type of lock function. This becomes especially problematic when your phone is stolen, or you just leave it behind or unattended for a few minutes. Many users are reluctant to put a lock in place because they don’t want to have to enter their PIN each time their screen goes to sleep. But, for Android users, there are apps available that only put locks in place when you leave your house or workplace. Or, you could use a lock pattern instead of a number combination. Anything is better than leaving your phone completely vulnerable.

  • Remote features

Much like lock screen functions, remote features that both wipe your smartphone’s data and locate the device are available to all users. They just need to be set up or activated. Unfortunately, many users either don’t know about them, or fail to activate them before they need them. Apple, Android and even Windows phones all have the capability to be remotely wiped and located in the event they’re lost or stolen. Do some research and make sure you’re prepared with your device.

  • Create back-ups

Keeping strangers from poking through your phone is half the battle, but the other half is getting that data back. If you regularly create back-ups of your most important files, you’ll never have to worry about losing them. This comes in particularly handy if you find yourself needing to remotely wipe your phone. You can do so even if you’re not positive it’s been stolen because you’ll have back-ups of everything readily available.

It’s also a good idea to change passwords on accounts you have an app for, like social media or banking apps, to keep strangers out. You can also look into two-factor authentication to make accounts safer, but that won’t help as much in the event that someone else has control of your device.

If you need help securing any of your devices, or your having other issues with them, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

For your business solutions needs, visit our parent company JD Young.

Malware Hidden Within Images Could Become Latest Trend

August 8th, 2014

Futuristic Malware concept

Earlier this year, malware called Lurk was discovered infecting users with vulnerable versions of Adobe Flash. That same malware continues to count victims, but has altered its tactics slightly. At Dark Reading, Kelly Jackson Higgins reports how Lurk is embedding malicious code inside an image to infect users.

Steganography is the term used to describe this type of attack and it’s one that’s well-known in the intelligence and security community. In this particular scheme, iFrames on websites are used to infect users with security flaws in their version of Adobe Flash. This would be users who haven’t updated recently. Popular and legitimate websites were used to spread this malware. Rather than downloading a malicious file, which can be easily spotted by antivirus programs, Lurk is downloaded as an image with malicious code embedded within it.

Experts say this method isn’t complex, but because it’s difficult for security applications to spot it, it can be extremely effective. Attackers using this scheme have reportedly infected 350-thousand users over just a few months and netted hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit.

The profit comes in the form of click-fraud. The image file that a user unknowingly downloads contains an encrypted URL, which is used to download more files. Those are used to earn clicks on ads and websites that in turn make the attackers money.

The Lurk attack remains active and experts believe steganography will be used in more attacks in the coming months. To protect yourself, make sure to update and patch all programs, especially Adobe Flash, each time an update becomes available.

If you’ve been the victim of an attack, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.

For your business solutions needs, visit our parent company JD Young.