Do’s And Don’ts For Creating Your Passwords

August 8th, 2013

Password

How long do you think it would take an experienced hacker to break into your most valuable account online? For most people, the answer is about 3 minutes.

The average hack time is low because many people make it painfully easy to break into their accounts. Using names, anniversaries, birthdays and other personal information that is also public information, or at least readily available on any of your social media accounts, is a surefire way to get an account hacked. Similarly, using full words in your password makes it easier to crack.

There are four character types available for any password, upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters like symbols and punctuation. Use a combination of all four to make the strongest password possible.

As you might expect, the shorter your password is, the weaker it is. Shoot for a length of at least 8 characters.

Since nearly two-thirds of people use the same password for multiple sites, when one site becomes compromised, a cyber criminal gains access to every account using that password.

For more information about creating strong, secure passwords, check out Denise Lu’s article at Mashable and the accompanying infographic from Instant Checkmate.

Even the strongest passwords don’t protect you fully, but they do make it more unlikely that your most precious data remains secure. To put more security in place, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. We have a number of security solutions for home and business to keep data out of the wrong hands.

Your Browser Stores Your Passwords For Anyone To See

August 7th, 2013

Password

When you log-in to your most visited sites on the web, your internet browser will offer to store your log-in information so you don’t need to enter it every time you visit the site. Many users use this function to keep from forgetting passwords or just to make their lives that much easier.

Have you ever thought about who might have access to the passwords you store? Particularly for Chrome and Firefox users, anyone with local access to your machine also has easy access to all of your stored passwords.

Tim Scheisser, of TechSpot, reveals that in two of the most common browsers, stored passwords are not hidden behind encryption or any type of master password. Instead, they are available to anyone using the computer.

Chrome representatives say the omission of any type of security around your stored passwords was intentional. Rather than leading you to believe your passwords are safe because of encryption or other measures, they want you to understand that if anyone gains local access to your computer, all of your information is compromised.

While it’s true that someone who has access to your physical machine is hard to stop, many users would prefer more protection than Chrome and Firefox supply. Internet Explorer and Safari both provide a master password lock before granting access to stored passwords. This is certainly breakable, but at least takes some effort.

Client side protection has never been, nor will it ever be the main focus of a browser. To maximize your security, consider not using the store password function. You’ll also want to call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335 and have the latest security software loaded onto your machine. With the right tools in place, you avoid devastating losses of data.

Avoid Identity Theft With These Tips

August 6th, 2013

ID Theft

There are about 12-million people who are the victims of identity theft each year. In the US alone, identity theft costs about $18-billion. What can you do to avoid having your identity stolen?

As Abigail Wang, of PC Mag, points out, the key to staying safe is taking precautions offline, as well as online.

Shredding documents, especially mail like bank or credit card statements, that contain personal identifiable information is vital in keeping your identity safe. Even address labels that include your name could be harmful. Before you throw out junk mail, be sure to shred it. When mailing checks, drop them off at the post-office instead of leaving them for the mailman.

Online, it gets trickier to make sure you’re safe. Installing robust antivirus software is a necessary precaution and goes a long way to protect your security. You’ll need to keep that software up to date at all times.

In your email, trust your spam filter. If an email looks suspicious, don’t click any links contained in it and avoid opening at all if possible. Deleting old emails containing account information is also a good idea in case a hacker gains access to your inbox.

On social media, use privacy controls so that people you don’t know can’t see your personal information. It’s amazing how much someone with some expertise can do with just your birthday and hometown.

To keep your email and computer safe, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. We install state of the art security software that locks out hackers. Every three seconds, someone’s identity is stolen. Don’t let yourself be a victim.

 

How To Use Virtualization To Help Your Business

August 5th, 2013

Virtual icon

There are many common problems in the day-to-day operations of a business that can be solved by implementing virtualization. Paul Mah, of CIO, has a list of some of these issues.

Virtualization has become such a buzzword, it’s definition and capabilities have expanded recently. At its most basic level, virtualization is creating a virtual version of a device or resource. For many companies, that means creating a virtual copy of servers and storage devices to create more resources without multiplying costs. When you consider the implications of creating virtual, working versions of actual devices, the possibilities are nearly endless.

  • Extend an apps life- Most businesses use some sort of niche application, which easily becomes obsolete and unusable without regular updates or maintenance. The company that made the app may no longer be in business, or may have just stopped offering support for that software. Either way, the application is useless if the machine running it stops working. If you virtualize the entire machine, you not only extend the life of the machine indefinitely, but you also allow access to the app from nearly anywhere.
  • Back-up your data-  Much like the application of cloud services previously discussed here, virtual machines are a great way to back-up important data. By making a copy of a server or storage unit, you’ll have a restore point in the event of a disaster.
  • Provide mobile access- Your workforce is more mobile than ever before and virtualization makes it easy for them to access vital information and applications when they’re away from their desks. Creating a virtual machine that hosts any programs they may need to access makes it easy for anyone to conduct business from practically anywhere.
  • Beef up security- An alarming number of SMBs can’t survive the cost and data loss associated with a large-scale cyber attack. With virtualization, minimize the risks by segmenting your employees activities. Create a virtual machine used only for web browsing so hackers can’t access any vital data.

This is only a short glimpse at the capabilities of virtualization. To learn how to implement it in your business, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. 

 

Malware Infects You From Unlikely Places

August 2nd, 2013

Sneaky businessman

You may think it’s easy to avoid malware. Sketchy looking emails, not-so-subtle internet ads and downloading too good to be true files all lead to likely infections of your computer. Those are thinly veiled attempts to put malware on your machine and most internet users have learned how to stay safe. But what if those malware attempts weren’t so thinly veiled?

Jaikumar Vijayan, of ComputerWorld, reports that malware is being distributed more often from legitimate cloud services like Google Docs or Dropbox, which makes them difficult to avoid. In the past, malware usually stemmed from a site created by a hacker. That made it easy to seek out those sites and blacklist them. Naturally, hackers’ methods evolved to try to stay one step ahead.

Because the malware stems from a usually trustworthy source, the malicious files are more likely to slip past any security defenses in place. No longer can you blindly trust files simply based on where you found them.

Evidence of malware has been found in a number of online cloud services. These services allow registration without requiring much information, which means cyber criminals are able to register with fake information.

To stay safe from infection, you’ll need to be more intelligent in your web activities and have the latest security measures in place. To be sure you’re prepared for the latest malware attack, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. They clean your machine to rid it of any existing malware, and give you the tools to keep it clean.

 

Cloud Computing Is Your Solution For Disaster Recovery

August 1st, 2013

Lightning

One of the most popular buzz words of 2013 is the cloud. While everyone is talking about it, many businesses are unsure of how and where to implement it. Cloud computing is a dynamic solution to a number of issues, but it is best suited for disaster recovery.

Disaster comes in many forms, but the cloud handles all of them with minimal effort on your part. Whether your data is wiped out from an attack, a virus or a natural disaster, the cloud has you covered.

John Dix, of CIO, recently spoke with IBM Distinguished Engineer Richard Cocchiara about the ways cloud computing helps in disaster relief. Cocchiara had one particularly good note for small to medium business owners. Cloud computing levels the field between them and their larger counterparts. While big corporations have the budget for off-site servers that constantly back-up data, smaller companies didn’t have the same luxury. Now, the cloud makes that solution affordable.

Let’s say your company experiences a catastrophic loss of data. Companies that don’t back-up their data, or back-up onsite might be in real trouble. Companies utilizing the cloud to back-up their data will experience a quick restoration of the vital data.

What if your servers fail, or need to go down for maintenance? Cloud computing offers the ability to failover, which means the down server’s functions are assumed by a working machine. It also offers restore points far enough back to overcome the failure.

Finally, there’s the dreaded natural disaster. Floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, fire or just a glitch in your sprinkler system will knock out your onsite data storage. Even if you have offsite back-up, a regional disaster, like an earthquake, hurricane or tornado with a large range of damage, could wreak havoc on your data. When your data is in the cloud, you’ll be able to access it when you need it.

Cloud computing is a dynamic, flexible and reliable solution for disaster recovery, which is a worst case scenario. Having a plan in place helps your business overcome disaster, rather than struggling with it. Geek Rescue puts a plan in place for you. We are experts in cloud computing and help you plan ahead for disasters. Call Geek Rescue today at 918-369-4335.

How To Fix or Overcome A Slow Internet Connection

July 31st, 2013

Slow Internet Snail

We’ve become so spoiled by regularly fast internet speeds that any load time we encounter is almost unbearable. Occasionally, even your fast, usually reliable internet connection becomes a slow frustration. Lifehacker has suggestions on what to check if you find yourself not-so-patiently waiting for websites to load.

If it’s not a sudden change, but rather a continuous problem that your internet is maddeningly slow, you may be getting what you pay for. Check with your provider for how fast the internet on your plan is, then use a site like speedtest.net to see if you’re getting the speeds you were promised.

If your connection is slower than it should be, try the tried and true method of turning off hardware then restarting. You can reset your modem, router and computer to try to fix the problem. You may discover that your wireless signal is too weak if you’re on WiFi. It could be as easy as moving your router to a different spot in the house, but there are a number of possible fixes to boost your signal.

Your internet speed can be significantly slowed down by programs or plug-ins that use a large amount of bandwidth. For example, if you’re using a download manager to download multiple large files, your speed in your browser is going to suffer. There are also tools that block elements on web pages that can use up your bandwidth, but that won’t speed up your connection, only help you get the most out of it.

It’s possible that the DNS server, which your computer uses to look-up websites, is having problems. There are ways to find the fastest DNS available, but if your DNS isn’t actually encountering issues, you won’t see much improvement.

In some cases, a slow internet is just the reality you have to deal with. If there are no easy fixes available, you can choose to load versions of websites with fewer design elements so they’ll load faster.

There are plenty of ways to try to maximize your internet speed, but sometimes it’s just time to find a new provider. Be sure to do your homework before making the switch so you know you’re getting the best option for you in your area.

To learn about all of your options in fixing a slow internet connection, consult the experts at Geek Rescue. Whether there’s a problem with your computer, router, modem or another source, Geek Rescue finds it and fixes it quickly. Come by or call us at 918-369-4335.

Patience Is A Virtue For USB Flash Drives

July 30th, 2013

Flash drives

USB flash drives are a great way to quickly store important data, which you can then transport and have with you at any time. They’re small, easy to use and generally have plenty of storage for whatever you’re using them for. You may encounter some problems, however.

Here’s a common scenario. You’re running late for a meeting, but before you leave, you have to move an important file onto your flash drive. You impatiently wait for the file to finish transferring and abruptly rip the flash drive out as you run for the door. What could possibly go wrong?

As Tessa Miller, of Lifehacker, notes “the most common reason flash drives get corrupted is impatience.” Removing the flash drive without warning, or telling your computer to ‘unmount’ it, increases your risk of corrupting the filesystem. But the progress bar said the file finished transferring, so why does this risk corruption?

It’s all about ‘write caching’, which is a way to improve system performance. When you transfer a file from your hard drive to the flash drive, it appears to be done right then, but in actuality, that request is cached and saved for later. This makes it possible for your system to move on without waiting for the transfer to be completed. So, without warning your computer that you’re removing the flash drive, you may be leaving some files in the cache, still waiting to be transferred. This causes corruption, and worse, you’ll be without the files you needed for your meeting.

To avoid corruption, unmount your flash drive from your computer so all read/writes are certain to be completed. If you should encounter any type of loss of data or file corruption, consult the pros at Geek Rescue. They are able to restore data in almost any circumstance. Geek Rescue also offers a variety of storage options for your business, in case you lose faith in that flash drive. Come by or call us at 918-369-4335.

Tablets Are Taking Over

July 29th, 2013

Tablets

Your TV is flooded with commercials touting the latest and greatest tablet computers. The internet is full of consumer reviews and articles talking about the pros and cons of the latest tablet. Even a typical workplace features a certain reliance on a tablet. CIO’s Josh Fruhlinger published a look at some traditional industries that have changed the way they do business thanks to a tablet.

The first may also be the most surprising. Members of the clergy have jumped on the tablet bandwagon, which features bible apps and other helpful tools like Dropbox. Even the pope has tweeted from an iPad.

Trash collection workers are also utilizing the power of the tablet. Workers on their route can see who has paid their bill and who hasn’t. In programs like Tulsa’s recently adopted service, workers can also note in real time who is recycling correctly and staying within the rules. Similar programs can help police and fire departments. Also helpful are the GPS and navigation features.

When you think of doctors doing their rounds in a hospital, you probably envision them with clipboards containing a patient’s medical history. Now, those doctors can carry one tablet with all of their patients’ information and much more. X-ray’s and test results can be shown to patients much faster, which is vital in a profession where speed of service can save lives.

Whether you have adapted your business to tablet use or just enjoy the convenience of using one at home, Geek Rescue has you covered for maintenance. When your tablet starts acting up, bring it to Geek Rescue. They also put measures in place to protect your tablet against viruses, malware and other harmful programs. Come by or call us at 918-369-4335.

Appraise the Value of Your Email

July 26th, 2013

Dollar Bill at sign

Many people think they don’t need to worry about criminals hacking into their email accounts because there is nothing of value or interest in their inbox. Most likely, that’s not true. Fahmida Y. Rashid, of PC Magazine, reports that a tool from the University of Illinois- Chicago puts a value on your email to give you an idea of why someone might want to access it.

Cloudsweeper puts itself into the mind of a cybercriminal and scans the emails saved in your inbox to find potential value. Hackers are looking for account information, passwords and even other sites associated with your email address. They can use password resets to change your existing passwords, then read the email the site sends to you to get the new one. That means that any email you haven’t deleted from a site you have an account at could be dangerous to you in the case of a hack.

The service isn’t perfect. It pops up with false positives if you happen to keep emails from sites like Facebook or Amazon but don’t actually have an account there. Still, it lets you see what messages you should consider deleting before they fall into the wrong hands.

To fully protect your email, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. Don’t let your personal information or account information get out. Geek Rescue keeps you protected with the latest security software and IT services.