March 18th, 2014
Phishing scams are a common threat of the internet. If users aren’t careful, they can easily be tricked into giving away log-in credentials and other valuable information without even realizing they’re being scammed. At Gizmodo, Adam Clark Estes reports on one of the latest and trickiest phishing scams to hit the web.
The reason this scam is so tricky is because it manages to avoid some of the usual tell-tale signs of phishing. It begins with an unsolicited email arriving in your inbox. The email has the subject line “Documents” and contains a link to Google Drive. On the surface, receiving an email from someone you don’t know that’s called simply “Documents” sounds suspect. But, the Google Docs link is legitimate and points to a google.com URL. What’s the harm in following the link and finding out if this document is really meant for you?
Unfortunately, that’s the thinking of many users. When you follow the provided Google Drive link, you land on an official looking Google log-in page. In fact, it’s an exact replica of an actual Google log-in page. The only difference is that it asks you to enter both your email and password, even if you’re already logged in to your Google account. Many users won’t think twice about entering their information, but noticing this subtle inconsistency is key to avoiding a scam.
Logging in to this spoofed page does take you to a legitimate Google document, but attackers already have your password.
This is another example of how online threats are becoming more intelligent and harder to avoid. For phishing scams like this one, it’s important to remember to avoid following links in your email. Many times, you can visit a website directly, rather than following a provided link. This way, you’ll be sure to land on the actual site rather than a malicious copy.
This scam uses Google Drive because users trust a page with Google’s recognizable logo and branding and because users can’t access a document in Drive without following the link. If you receive an email inviting you to view a file in Drive, be sure you verify who sent it before following the link.
If you’ve been the victim of an attack and need help recovering data, removing malware or improving security, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
February 18th, 2014
Google Chrome is the most used web browser around, but many users don’t know half of its capabilities. Howard Wen of CIO looked specifically at the tools available for Chrome’s tabs that most don’t know about. Here’s a list of some helpful tab tricks and extensions.
It may not happen everyday, but there are times when you find yourself constantly refreshing a page. For those times, Chrome can help with the addition of an extension. There are multiple options, but all allow you to set a timer then sit back and let Chrome refresh regularly on its own.
Many Windows users already have the option of splitting the screen between two windows, but with the Split Screen extension for Chrome, you can display two websites in the same tab. There are multiple reasons why you’d want to or need to use split screen, but there’s one drawback. You have to enter the URLs of the sites you want to display manually, so there’s no option to quickly load favorites.
In the same vein as split screen is this extension that allows for even more customization. Tab Resize allows you to rearrange and resize up to four different Chrome windows so they all display on your screen at the same time. You can use the options that come with the extension, or make your own template for where tabs should go and how they should be sized.
The problem many of us encounter when using tabs to browse is that you end up with so many tabs open that it begins to hurt your systems performance. More tabs require more memory, which can eventually make your computer sluggish. To solve this problem, The Great Suspender, and other similar extensions, allows you to automatically suspend a tab that you haven’t used in awhile. This way, the tab won’t be using memory, but can be easily re-opened when you need it.
If you’re forced to abandon a project before you’re finished, but need to save all of your open tabs so you can pick back up later, you need the Project Tab Manager extension. This allows you to save all the open tabs in one click as bookmarks under a single folder that you name. There are similar extensions that save groups of tabs together so you can return and open all of them at once, or one at a time.
Chrome extensions add exceptional capabilities to the browser, but many users aren’t aware of them and don’t use them. It’s worth your time to head the the Google Web Store and look around for potentially helpful apps and extensions.
If you’re having issues with your computer or internet that an extension doesn’t solve, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
February 17th, 2014
It’s become well-known that more threats exist for Android users than exist for users of Apple devices. One of the reasons that malware often targets the Android operating system is because of the relative insecurity of the app store, Google Play. Malicious apps have repeatedly infiltrated Google Play and infected users. According to a post at GMA News, a number of malicious apps are currently available through the app store and they’ve already infected more than 300-thousand users.
Though the names of specific apps aren’t named, there are believed to be a number of apps responsible for malware infections. These apps typically pose as legitimate versions of other apps, or as different versions of popular, or trendy, apps. Most recently, the game Flappy Bird, which was taken out of app stores, has spawned a number of malicious copycats.
When a user mistakenly downloads one of these malicious apps, it steals the users phone number and uses it to sign up for a premium SMS service. This ends with additional fees being included on a user’s monthly bill. The attacker likely receives some sort of commission for bringing additional users to the service.
Part of this process involves the malware intercepting messages sent to a user’s smartphone and sending messages without the user’s knowledge. Because the premium service needs confirmation before it can begin to charge you, the malware must intercept the confirmation message containing a PIN, then send a message back with that PIN.
To gain access to a user’s phone number, the malware uses a vulnerability in the popular messaging app, WhatsApp. Even though users without WhatsApp could become download a malicious app and be infected, it’s not clear if the malware would have the same capabilities.
To avoid downloading an app that will infect your smartphone, be sure to carefully read the permissions the app requires. These malicious apps clearly state in their permissions that they read text messages and need a connection to the internet. While some apps needs those permissions legitimately, most do not. If an app asks for permissions they shouldn’t need, it’s best to avoid downloading.
If your smartphone is infected by malware, bring it to Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.
February 6th, 2014
There are a number of ways for hackers to hijack your web browser. Usually, this stems from a user downloading a seemingly legitimate application like a game or security tool. Hidden as part of that download is malware that allows for browser hijacking. As Lisa Vaas of Naked Security reports, Google Chrome users now have a better warning system in place for any attempts to hijack the browser.
Since October, Chrome has featured a “reset browser settings” option. To find it, go to the Advanced Settings menu and scroll to the bottom. Pushing this button resets Chrome to all of the default settings it came with and removes all extensions and apps associated with your browser. It’s like starting over from scratch, which is useful if a malicious program has changed settings you aren’t aware of.
The first few months of the ‘reset browser settings’ button’s existence, it was limited because of its relatively hidden place within the settings menu. There was always the possibility that users may not know about that option, or that they won’t know their browser is being hijacked.
Now, Google has introduced a new warning system that causes a message to pop-up on screen anytime Google’s settings are changed without the user’s knowledge. Users are able to reset their settings directly from that warning pop-up.
For some users, resetting their browsers back to the factory default settings isn’t the best option, despite evidence of browser hijacking. Many have already asked Google to include an option to return to a previously saved state. This way, you wouldn’t need to completely re-customize Chrome. Some of your extensions and settings would stay in tact, rather than resetting everything and making you alter every setting and add extensions again. There’s been no word yet if Google will make this possible in a later update.
Typically, browser hijacking is easy to spot. You’ll notice your homepage has been changed, or that ads are being injected into websites where they don’t belong. Some hijacking malware can’t be thwarted by a simple reset of browser settings, however. Depending on the type of infection you encounter, failure to find and completely remove the malware could result in repeated browser hijacking. In these cases, resetting your browser only fixes the problem temporarily.
If you believe your computer has been infected with malware, come see us at Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.
January 29th, 2014
If you’re a laptop or tablet user, you understand how important it is to get the most out of one battery charge. Adjusting settings can earn you some extra time, but optimizing the applications you use is another way to improve battery life. At 7Tutorials, Ciprian Adrian Rusen tested the five most popular web browsers on three different devices to find out which provided the biggest boost in battery life.
Tests on each device were run with ‘balanced’ power plans. Screens on each device were set to never turn off in order to simulate a constant browsing experience. Each device tested browsers Microsoft Internet Explorer 11, both the touch and desktop versions, Google Chrome 32, Mozilla Firefox 26, and Opera 18. All devices were running Windows 8.1 as their operating system.
This tablet featured an Intel Atom processor running at 1.33 GHz and 2 GB of RAM. It featured the longest battery life of any of the devices tested and also the largest discrepancy between a browser’s affect on battery life. Internet Explorer Touch performed the best lasting eight hours and 52 minutes on a single charge. IE’s Desktop version lasted about an hour less, while Chrome and Firefox each ran out of battery after about six and a half hours. Opera lasted six hours and 11 minutes.
- Microsoft Surface Pro 2 tablet
This tablet is much more powerful than the Toshiba Encore and the battery life reflected that. The Surface Pro 2 had a quad-core Intel Core processor running at 1.6 GHZ and 8 GB of RAM. The best browser was again Internet Explorer, but this time the Desktop version outperformed the Touch by about an hour. Firefox lasted four hours and 22 minutes, which was good for second. Opera allowed for three hours and 56 minutes of battery life, which made it ten minutes better than IE Touch. Chrome was the worst performing browser in this test, dying before the three and a half hour mark.
The lone laptop in the test is also the only used device. The battery life was described as poor and even the top performing browser couldn’t last 90-minutes. It also featured a quad-core Intel Core processor. It also had 6 GB of RAM and a much larger hard drive than the tablets. The original battery had been replaced with a generic that fit the same specs. Once again, IE’d Desktop browser was the top performer at an hour and 25 minutes. The difference between the top browser and the worst, IE’s Touch, however was a scant 12-minutes.
The findings from this test suggest that Internet Explorer will likely give your device a longer battery life. Depending on the age of your device and the efficiency of your battery, a different browser might not make much of a difference, however.
If your device is suffering from poor battery life, slow performance or broken hardware, fix it by calling Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
January 23rd, 2014
The amount of malware being produced to infect Android devices is growing rapidly. Usually, it’s easy to avoid being infected by only downloading apps from Google’s Play Store and only visiting trusted sites. It’s also generally easy to spot signs of an infection. At State of Security, Anthony M. Freed reports on the latest malware threat for Android that defies these conventions.
It’s called Android.He.He and it’s able to intercept both phone calls and text messages of infected devices. While similar malware that either intercepts calls or messages or sends them will leave evidence in your call log or text message history. Android.He.He not only deletes any evidence that a call or message was ever sent to your phone, it even keeps any notification from popping up at the time of the call or message.
The malware infects users by posing as a security update to the operating system running on their device. Once downloaded, an app called Android Security is added, but the malware is even capable of hiding this apps existence from the user.
It seems these attacks are highly targeted because the malware uses a predetermined list of phone numbers. When one of these numbers attempts to contact an infected the device, the malware intercepts it. This would seem to work best for targeted attacks against specific users, but could also work for general attacks by using numbers of popular credit card companies, banks and other organizations that may give attackers an opportunity to steal valuable information.
This supposed security update is not found in the Google Play Store and, while it could be sent to users directly, it is usually first encountered in an ad advising you to update your operating system, or in a third party app store.
It’s important to put security apps in place to protect you from some threats, but unfortunately security for mobile devices is lagging behind attackers. For that reason, it’s also vital to avoid putting yourself in a potentially harmful situation, like downloading apps from an ad or untrusted source.
If any of your devices are infected with malware, bring it to Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335.
January 20th, 2014
Google Chrome is the most used web browser in the world, but it recently made headlines for the wrong reasons. Chrome features extensions, which are additions that improve the capability and functionality of the browser. As Lucian Constantin reports at Computer World, two extensions were removed from the Chrome Web Store after users reported they were injecting adware into legitimate websites. This caused ads and paid links to appear for users with these extensions, which Google explicitly forbids in their extension agreement.
The nature of how these extensions began distributing adware is interesting. Both extensions, ‘Add to Feedly’ and ‘Tweet This Page’, were both sold recently by their developers. Both already had thousands of users who had added their extensions and both were developed as legitimate, useful extensions. Once they were sold, an update was released that featured no bug fixes or additional features. Instead, the update turned the extensions into adware.
When these new malicious extensions are added to Chrome, links on websites you visit are replaced with links to sites within an advertising network. Those responsible for altering the extensions are likely being paid each time a user clicks on these links. The sites a user is taken to aren’t necessarily harmful themselves, but they won’t be where anyone intended to go.
This method of altering existing extensions is effective because most users allow extensions to be updated automatically without having to take any action themselves. So, a third party is able to purchase an extension that is already installed on thousands of browsers and immediately have access to those users. It also seems that extensions with certain permissions are being targeted. Even trusted extensions often have permission to alter content on the websites a user visits. Some also have authorization to post to social media profiles or the ability to access passwords. With these permissions in place, altering an existing extension can give criminals the ability to post spam links, send users to malicious sites and steal log-in information.
Because of the way Google monitors extensions, security experts believe this method wouldn’t be effective for distributing malware. But, hackers can purchase extensions and make changes to accomplish a number of nasty jobs without having to infect users with typical malware.
Changes to Chrome’s Web Store may be coming soon to close this vulnerability. For now, make sure your extensions don’t update automatically and read the permissions of each carefully.
If your computer has been compromised and is need of a repair, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
January 13th, 2014
There are few experiences more frustrating than when you can’t connect to the internet or your connection is unbearably slow. Almost everything we do, whether for work or in our free time, requires an internet connection, which makes not having one painful. There are a few tools available to help you diagnose internet connectivity problems, but, as Alan Henry of LifeHacker reports, few are as simple and easy to use as the Connectivity Diagnostics app for Google’s Chrome web browser.
As frustrating as a lack of internet can be, perhaps even worse is not knowing what’s causing your outage. That’s why diagnostic apps like this one are so handy. Whether the issue is with your computer, router, network, or service provider, the Connectivity Diagnostics app finds it so you can fix it.
Unlike other similar applications, the Connectivity Diagnostics app doesn’t require any additional software installed to run. It works through Chrome and is completely free. To find the cause of your internet problems, it can check for an active connection, attempts to contact your DNS server, checks for firewalls blocking your connection or pay-portals, tests for DNS resolution delays and tests for network delays. Each test returns additional information on whether it was successful or not to help you pinpoint the problem.
This isn’t an enterprise level application, but it’s perfect for individual users. Because it’s simple to use, you don’t even need to be tech-savvy to diagnose your connectivity issues.
If your computer is having problems you can’t solve, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
December 18th, 2013
The number of smartphone users worldwide is continually growing. The way they use their devices is also expanding with more internet browsing and online activity than ever before. Unfortunately, this means that smartphone users are becoming a more valuable target for hackers and malware. Protecting your mobile device with antivirus or anti-malware apps is important, but as Mathew J. Schwartz reports for Information Week, even the best antivirus apps available to Android users can’t remove malware from your phone.
That may sound like an odd statement but Android antivirus apps can’t delete or even quarantine threats they detect. The reason for this limitation is Google’s Android Application Sandbox. Every Android app runs in this sandbox, which isolates app data and code execution from other apps on the device. With each app isolated, an antivirus app doesn’t have the permissions needed to delete malware it finds.
Security apps are getting better for Android, however. Researchers testing 28 different security tools for Android found that their average success rate improved in the past three months, from 90.5-percent to 96.6-percent. They found that the best apps come from familiar names like Avast, Symantec, Avira and Kaspersky.
When choosing a security app, there’s more to consider than just if it can detect malware. You want an app that doesn’t overly drain your battery and one that loads quickly and runs efficiently. You also have to consider how accurate its detection rate is. You don’t want false positives going off each time you attempt to install a clean app.
Despite the improvements being made to Android security apps, they’re going to continue to be lacking until they’re allowed to actively treat the malware infections they detect. Google has remained silent on when that might be.
In the meantime, users must be in charge of their own security. When using your smartphone, you can’t rely on security precautions to keep you safe. Instead, you’ll need to steer clear of malware by avoiding suspicious links and untrusted malware. Understand that your device isn’t secure and don’t visit potentially dangerous websites.
If you have a malware infection on any of your devices, including your smartphone, bring it to Geek Rescue or call us at 918-369-4335. We remove malware, viruses and fix any issue you’re having.
December 9th, 2013
Worldwide, Android is actually the more popular choice for smartphones than Apple devices. But, security issues are a common complaint of users and a common reason many opt for Apple instead. Bob Violino of InfoWorld reports that these concerns over security are mostly overblown, but points out the two risks that exist for all Android devices.
The Android version of the App Store is Google Play. It’s a marketplace where users can download all kinds of apps. But, it’s regarded as much less protected than Apple’s App Store. The nature of Android is that it’s open for development. This encourages new, innovative apps and features to be developed, but also allows for malicious apps to find their way into the marketplace. Many apps ask for more permissions than they need, even if they aren’t actively malicious. Performance issues and data loss are often attributed to a bad app. Because Google Play does not set up enough precautions to keep malicious apps out, it’s a legitimate concern for Android users.
In the context of the Android platform, fragmentation refers to the many different manufacturer’s and versions of the Android operating system that are currently running on users’ devices. Unlike Apple’s iOS that is consistent for all users, manufacturer’s are able to tweak and alter Android specifically for their devices and aren’t forced to roll out updates once they become available. The result of this is that outdated versions with security flaws are allowed to run, which is a danger to users and to any network they connect to. The majority of Android users are running out of date versions of the operating system. This poses a significant threat to businesses who allows employees to use their own devices on the company network.
The Google Play store and fragmentation are both legitimate concerns for security with Android. For individual users, being more cautious about what apps you download and being proactive about updating your device’s operating system both help to overcome these problems. For businesses, a robust compliance policy, an end to support for older versions of Android and other security provisions allow your company to use Android devices without as many security issues.
For help securing a device or a network, or to fix an existing problem with a device, come by or call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.