November 4th, 2013
Protecting your computer from viruses and malware is only part of the concern of cyber security. Identity theft, which often begins with data being stolen over unsecure networks, through malware, or phishing scams, is also a costly threat.
Peter Nguyen, of the HotSpot Shield blog, writes that the number of identity thefts in the US is constantly growing. Last year, there were 12.6-million victims, which is enough for an identity theft to happen every 3-seconds. The financial loss of the victims totaled almost $21-billion.
The included infographic covers the how and why of identity theft. It also gives a few tips for how to stay safe. In addition to some offline measures, like shredding documents containing personal information, monitoring your credit reports, and locking your mailbox, here are the most important online safety tips.
- Beware public WiFi. When using an unsecured network at a coffee shop or other public place, limit your activity. Any transactions that require you to input financial information should wait. A firewall should be enabled on your device and you should turn off sharing of printers and files.
- Use proper security on your home wireless router. The router is your first line of defense, so make sure WPA2 encryption is enabled and a strong password is required to log on.
- Keep antivirus programs running in the background and keep them updated. Updating security software enables them to detect and protect against the latest threats.
- Keep social media profiles private. Every social network gives you options for what you share with whom. Make sure strangers don’t have access to information like your birthday, family information, phone number and employment history. This can all be used for identity fraud.
- Use long, strong passwords. Many security experts suggest passwords longer than 6-characters and using both upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
To improve the security of your devices at home, or at your business, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. We not only fix devices, we also help keep them safe.
October 22nd, 2013
Free public WiFi is a well known danger to your device’s security. These wireless networks are unsecured, which makes it easy for hackers to intercept data being transmitted over them.
Most companies also use a wireless network for their employees, which can be just as dangerous. It’s often overlooked, but, as Sam Narisi of IT Manager Daily reports, there have been a large number of exploits due to wireless routers having backdoors and holes in their security.
Recently, D-Link wireless routers were discovered to have a vulnerability that allows a third party to change the router’s settings without needing the password.
Security firm Independent Security Evaluators released a list of 13 wireless routers that they found to contain security flaws. The routers came from trusted companies like Belkin, Netgear and Linksys and allowed hackers to intercept information, gain access to computers on the network and bypass security.
A technique called “wardriving” has been used to crack wireless networks, as well. By simply driving around and area and searching for wireless signals, hackers are able to then use software to break the network’s encryption.
Internal wireless networks are not inherently secure. There are, however, steps you can take to improve their security. Installing the latest patches and continually updating the router’s firmware is important. Replacing your hardware regularly is also necessary since older devices will stop getting patches and have flaws the newer devices don’t. Use HTTPS for administrator connections. And of course, use a long and strong password on your router.
There are a number of ways a criminal can gain access to valuable data within your company’s network. In order to improve your entire security, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
October 9th, 2013
Protecting your privacy when you surf the web is important. The NSA made headlines by invading internet users’ privacy, but they’re not the only ones trying to find out what you do online. There’s valuable data to be had for hackers, but advertisers are also interested in your search history and activity. Ian Paul, of InfoWorld, suggests three ways to protect your online privacy.
If you’re using public WiFi, you shouldn’t be accessing your bank account or any other online account you wouldn’t want another person to have access to. Free WiFi is fine for surfing public web sites and reading the news. For anything more substantial, you should wait until you’re on a protected network. If that’s not possible, think about investing in a virtual private network, or VPN. When using a VPN, the only information others can see is that you’re connected to the VPN. That even includes your internet service provider. Some VPN’s monitor your activity themselves, however, so do a little research before signing up .
- Use the cloud judiciously
Public cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive are extremely helpful. You need to be careful about what you store and share there, however. These are public clouds, which means the data you’re storing is unencrypted. Anyone who breaks into your account will have access to everything you have stored on the cloud. Instead, consider using a private, encrypted cloud for your most sensitive data. One way is to encrypt your files before putting them on a public cloud, but a better option is to invest in a service with built in encryption.
Using a strong, unique password is a good way to protect all of your accounts online. It doesn’t make them hacker-proof, however. Many online accounts are offering 2-factor authentication, which makes it much more difficult for anyone else to access your account. To set it up, you’ll request a PIN from Google, Facebook or whoever your account it with. They’ll send it to you by either calling or texting the phone number associated with the account. You then enter that code with your password to verify that you are the owner. Now, only the devices you’ve authenticated in this manner have access to your account.
These techniques help keep you safe online, but no method is foolproof. Cyber criminals are continuously coming up with new ways to steal your information or infiltrate your accounts.
For help improving the security on your devices, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. We not only fix broken and infected devices, we also help you keep them safe.
October 8th, 2013
Is your home WiFi network secure? Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad information out there that convinces users that they’ve secured their home network, when in actuality it’s still as vulnerable as ever.
Eric Geier, of CIO, set out to debunk some popular myths regarding WiFi security in a recent article. The items on this list have been proven to be inconsequential for protecting you against potential threats.
You’ll find many individuals across the web suggesting you stop broadcasting your wireless router’s name, known as its SSID, or Service Set Identifier. This is to keep your network invisible from those you want to keep out. However, it will still be visible to most users and the SSID is easy to discover for hackers. Plus, trying to stay invisible can make you a target as criminals believe there may be valuable data on your network that you’re trying to conceal.
MAC stands for Media Access Control. A MAC address is an alphanumeric code used to uniquely identify each device on your network. You’re able to configure your router to only allow certain MAC addresses access to your network. In theory, this would keep out unwanted network users, even if they have your network’s password. However, hackers have tools to easily see the list of accepted MAC addresses and can then change their device’s address to match one of those. This makes MAC address filtering little more than a time waster.
In addition to the MAC address, each device on your network has a unique Internet Protocol, or IP, address. Your router issues an IP address to each device when they join the network. By changing configuration so your router only has a limited number of IP addresses to issue, you should be able to limit how many users your network can possibly have. Hackers are able to scan for IP addresses being used by your network, however. They can then assign an acceptable one to their device and by pass this security measure.
Another myth is that reducing the power of your wireless router will make it harder to be accessed by anyone outside your home. The theory is that since the WiFi network won’t be visible from as far away, not as many people will be able to penetrate it. Hackers use high-powered antennas, however. So, having a low powered router will only limit your use of your network.
If you’d like to truly secure your network, consider encryption and firewalls. Coupled with regularly updated antivirus software, this is the best way to keep your network and computer safe. For help improving the cyber security at your home or office, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
October 3rd, 2013
There are plenty of articles online about how to improve your own cyber security. Because there are so many, it’s easy to get lost or overwhelmed reading about tactics that provide little help.
Mark Stockley, of Naked Security, suggests concentrating only on the essentials. Here are three things that every home should do to immediately make a significant impact on their cyber security.
- Regularly update security software
Most likely, there is already an antivirus program on all the computers in your home. Those antivirus programs, and other security software, is only effective if they’re continuously updated, however. New forms of malware are issued daily and hackers are constantly inventing new ways to attack your machine. The only way to come close to keeping up is to install updates as soon as they’re available.
If there’s a wireless router in your home, the first thing to do is to protect it with a strong password. After that, check to find out what type of security it’s set to. You want to protect your router with WPA or WPA2. This stands for ‘WiFi Protected Access’ and are considered the best way to protect your router. The other option is WEP, which has been determined to be inferior.
The key to creating a strong password is to make sure it contains both upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Longer passwords are better so try to shoot for 8-characters or more. Even with a strong password, the chances of your account being hacked is greatly increased if you use the same password for multiple accounts. Using a strong, unique password for each account is the best security tactic. If you think you’ll have trouble remembering all of those different passwords, consider using a password manager, which are available online and encrypt all your passwords behind one master password.
These three tips won’t make your security completely impenetrable, but are all vital steps to take. If your security is missing any of these, you are at risk of a malware infection or worse.
To improve your security, or to clean malware and viruses off your machine, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335.
September 17th, 2013
With the impending release of Apple’s latest version of their operating system, iOS7, users will be prompted to upgrade their phone to gain access to new features. The release of new operating systems usually is synonymous with the addition of bugs and issues. Samantha Murphy Kelly, of Mashable, writes that before you upgrade, you should back-up all of your data.
There are already some users who have gained access to iOS7 and have reported no problems. However, it’s a good idea to back-up your phone periodically and ahead of a major update is a great time for some piece of mind. This way, you aren’t risking anything by upgrading.
If you’re currently using iOS5 or iOS6, your iPhone will automatically back-up data to the iCloud, but you must first enable this feature. To do that, go to ‘Settings’, select ‘iCloud’ and then ‘Backup & Storage’. Once you’ve done this, your iPhone will back up your data daily, as long as it’s plugged in and connected to WiFi with the screen locked.
Even with this option enabled, you’ll want to back up manually before upgrading your OS. By following the same steps as before, but selecting ‘Back Up Now’ your phone will back up your data right then and there. It’s a lengthy process so be prepared and the more data you have, the longer it will take.
One other issue you should resolve before updating to iOS7 is clearing some storage space. You’ll need space to update, so go ahead and get rid of seldom used apps, old photos and music you no longer want.
If you end up losing some of your data, call Geek Rescue. We have the tools needed to recover data for nearly any device. We also fix broken gadgets and get rid of viruses and malware infections. Call us at 918-369-4335 or come by Geek Rescue.
September 10th, 2013
It seems like every day there is a new function you are using on your smartphone that you can’t live without. As we use our phones for more and more, our battery dies earlier in the day. But, there are a few simple solutions for making your smartphone’s battery last longer without giving up any of those fancy functions, as suggested on the BeetleBite blog.
If you’re not on the go, or are not currently using a wireless network, there’s no reason to have GPS or WiFi enabled. These features are incredibly useful, but are a strain on your battery. They’re also easy to disable so if you’re concerned about your battery life, they should be the first to go.
Many people leave their phone on vibrate all of the time. This way, there’s no annoying ring tone to worry about and you’re never the person whose phone goes off in the middle of a meeting or movie. When your phone is on vibrate, however, it actually uses quite a bit more of the battery than when you let the ringtone play by itself.
Your display probably eats into your batter more than anything else. This is an unavoidable problem, but you can limit just how draining your display is. Except for a few specific circumstances, you don’t need your screen set to the brightest possible display. By dimming it a few notches, you can gain more battery life.
Surprisingly, the color on your screen’s display makes a difference in how long the battery lasts. Displaying black is less draining than displaying white. So, change your wallpaper to black and your phone could last the whole day.
These tips allow you to use your phone longer before the battery dies and doesn’t demand you give up much functionality.
When your phone needs a fix, for poor performance or for broken hardware, call Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. If it boots up or turns on, we fix it.
July 31st, 2013
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.
July 17th, 2013
Free WiFi is available everywhere, which is great to keep you and your devices connected to a high-speed internet connection. Those free networks, though, are notoriously lacking in security and provide opportunities for cyber criminals to take advantage of you. David Gorodyansky highlights some reasons for concern when using free WiFi while traveling this summer for Forbes, but his advice rings true even if you are just hanging around your hometown.
Do you have security software installed on your home computer? Chances are you wouldn’t think of surfing the internet at home without some sort of antivirus protection at least. Now, do you have similar software on your phone? For most people, the thought of protecting their smartphone has never entered their mind. Those same people use their phone to not only surf the web, but also to book reservations, make purchases and check their bank account. One could easily argue that your phone should be even more secure than your home computer.
Mobile devices are also often lost or stolen, which gives the thief immediate access to all the information you’ve accessed with that device. Phones have lock screens and apps to prevent access to your personal data and similar preventative measures are available for laptops and tablets.
For the specific problem of using unsecured mobile hotspots, there are encryption services to make your personal experience safe. By utilizing one of these services, you are free to take advantage of free WiFi but won’t be sacrificing security. Even with provisions in place, however, it’s a good idea to take some precautions. Encryption and other protections make it very unlikely for outsiders to steal your information, but not giving out personal information makes it completely impossible. If possible, refrain from making purchases or reservations with your credit card on your phone’s browser. Those can usually wait until you’re in the most secure environment possible.
To secure your mobile devices and to learn more about encryption services, like VPNs, contact Geek Rescue at 918-369-4335. They’ll not only make sure you have the most up-to-date security software, but also teach you about safe surfing habits.