Category: Uncategorized

Should I turn off my computer when I’m not using it?

Should I turn off my computer when I’m not using it?

We recommend leaving your computer turned on when not using. If you are going to be away on vacation or something for a week or more, then turn it off while you are gone. Otherwise it’s better to leave it on for several reasons. The only drawback to leaving it on is that it will use a little more electricity. Desktop computers don’t really use that much electricity and laptops use even less. You can set your computer up so it turns the screen off to save some electricity.

Here are the reasons why you should leave it on. The main reason is that if you leave your computer on, it can do updates and maintenance while you aren’t using it. If you only turn it on when you are using it, it’s going to do all of that stuff while you are using it, slowing you down and interrupting what you are trying to do.

Hard drives (not SSDs) are happier when they are at a consent temperature. When you turn your computer off, it gets cold. When you turn it on, it gets hot. All of that hot and cold shortens the life of a hard drive.

If you leave your computer on, then when you come back to it, you can get right to doing what you want to do. If it had been off, you would have to wait for it to boot. Computers are usually very slow the first 5-15 minutes after they boot up.

You may be wondering if putting your computer to sleep would be a good compromise. Nope. Putting it to sleep instead of powering off only gives you the advantage of faster startup. It does not allow the computer to update/maintain itself and the hard drive will still go cold.

Update on Secure Passwords

Update on Secure Passwords

We all know that when we set a password, it should be a secure password. That means it should be at least 8 characters long. It should contain upper and lower case letters, at least 1 number, and at least one symbol. In addition, we are told that it shouldn’t contain names, dates of birth, telephone numbers, addresses, or even words in the dictionary. That makes the password very secure, but impossible to remember.

To back track a bit, you need a secure password to protect you from two different types of threats. The first threat is someone trying to guess your password based on information about you. This could be a hacker, but could also be a friend, family member, thief, or someone that somehow got access to your computer. That’s why your password shouldn’t contain any information about you like your name, date of birth, address, phone number, etc.

The other threat is from what is called password cracking. This is a program that can figure out your password. A password cracker will figure out your password. It’s just a question of how long it will take it. The more complex your password, the longer it will take it. If it’s going to take 10 years of computing to figure out your password, then the hacker will stop the crack long before it figures it out.

Recently, some security experts have been saying that all of those rules for passwords are no longer needed. They are saying there is one main rule to follow when creating a password. That is for the password to be really long. Let’s look at an example. Using the old password rules, we might come up with a password like “ZG$6k#K!”. Yes, it’s secure. But it’s hard to remember. And if you have several passwords like that, it’s even harder to remember. Using what they now suggest is just is good, we can create a very long password that we can remember. An example of that might be: “IWantToTravelBackInTimeToMeetAbrahamLincoln”.

The only reason it’s secure is because it’s so long. However, that’s actually easier to remember than that first cryptic password I listed. You still shouldn’t use famous quotes, names, or any information about you like DOB, address, or phone number. But you can still use memorable sentences. You can still throw a number or symbol in there to make it even more secure too. In another example, let’s say you need to set up a password for Amazon.com. You could use a password similar to this: “LoggingIntoAmazon.comCostsMeMoney$”. Even without the dollar sign, it’s a strong password. But with it, it’s even better.

The only drawback to this strategy is that if you don’t type very fast, it can take a while to enter a long password like this. And there are more opportunities for typos. In addition, even though these passwords are more memorable than the old cryptic ones, most of us are still going to end up writing them down so we can remember which password goes with which website.

If you do adopt this password strategy, then please remember the other password rule still applies. That is, you should use a different password for everything. No exceptions! Why? Because if you use the same password for everything, if one thing gets hacked, they all get hacked. If you use a different password for everything, then if something get’s hacked, the other ones are still safe.

If you write your passwords down on paper, make sure you hide it well. Don’t leave it out in plain sight. Don’t hide it under your keyboard. Don’t put it in your filing cabinet under “Passwords” or “Computer.” Come up with a good hiding place.

If you create a Word Document or Excel Spreadsheet with your passwords in it, don’t call it passwords. Come up with a code word for it. In addition, did you know you can put a password on a Word Document or Excel Spreadsheet? You should put a password on a file like this. Of course, that password should follow standard password rules and should be something you will remember.

When coming up with a password, there are websites that will tell you if your password is strong or not. My favorite is https://www.roboform.com/how-secure-is-my-password. Go there, type in a password to see how good it is. If you have trouble thinking of a good password, they also have a password generator. Go to https://www.roboform.com/password-generator to generate a password. You can specify the length and what types of characters to include.

Email Services to Avoid

Email Services to Avoid

There are a lot of email servers out in the world both free and for a fee. We want to give you some advice on which one’s to avoid so you can avoid problems.

When you sign up for your internet service, you get one or more email accounts with that service. We do not recommend using these services because any time you change services, you’ll have to change your email address. We recommend having an email account separate from your internet service provider.

AOL
AOL email is missing some important features. You can’t even forward your AOL email to another account.

Yahoo
The most hacked email service in the world. Enough said.

Earthlink
If you have an earthlink account, you won’t get all of your emails because they have ridiculous anti-spam policies that filter out legitimate emails.

Spectrum
We already said don’t use an email account associated with your Internet Service Provider (ISP). However, we want to reiterate how bad Spectrum’s email service is. It’s slow and unreliable. There are other issues that are technical that I won’t bore you with.

Outlook.com, Hotmail.com, msn.com, live.com
We used to recommend this email service but a recent redesign ruined the web interface and removed many useful features. In addition, it has had many problems over the years that we won’t bore you with.

For a list of recommended email services, check out this link: https://www.ct-cp.com/?p=2164

How to Spot  a Fake Email

How to Spot a Fake Email

You get an email from your bank or some other company you do business with. But you aren’t sure if the email is really from that company or if it’s fake. The name of this type of email is a Phish email. It can be hard to tell because the fake emails are often pretty good forgery’s.

So, in this article, we are going to try and educate you on how to tell if an email is fake or legit.

Here are some general rules to follow:

  • If there are a lot of spelling and/or grammatical errors in the email, it may be fake.
  • Does the email make sense? If not, it may be fake.
  • Does the email address you by name or is it generic? If it’s generic or addresses you by a name that you don’t use with that company, it may be fake.
  • Is the content of the email generic or specific. Generic emails may be fake.

In general, if you aren’t sure, assume it’s fake and don’t click on any links in the email or open any attachments. Go to the company’s real website manually they way you normally would instead of clicking on a possibly dangerous link in an email. Or call the company to see if it’s legit.

Now look at the example fake email below.

Look at the top where the yellow circle is. It’s says it’s from UPS View. But look at the email address. It’s not an email address on ups.com. In fact, it’s not even from this country. The fact that the email address ends in .ve says its’ from Venezuela. Red flag #1.

Notice how the email gives no name or address. It’s not specific. It’s general. Red flag #2.

It lists a shipment number which doesn’t make sense in this country because we call them tracking numbers. That’s red flag #3.

See how the shipping number is blue? That’ means it’s a link that I can click on. If I hold the mouse pointer over it, being careful not to accidentally click, then at the bottom of the email in the status line (yellow arrow is pointing to this) it shows where the link goes. Notice that the link does not go to ups.com. It goes to tdcind.com. Red flag #4.

How many red flags mean it’s a fake email? For me, it’s 1. My rule of thumb is that you should be suspicious of every email. Even if the email appears to be from someone you know. Even family. If there is even one red flag or if you just have a bad feeling, then assume the email is fake.

Windows 10 October 2018 Update

Windows 10 October 2018 Update

Microsoft has released a major update to Windows 10, code named Redstone 5. As far as we are concerned, there isn’t really anything very interesting in this update. Here’s a very brief list of some of the more interesting changes:
  • Clipboard history A history of what you copy and paste instead of only remembering the last one.
  • Dark mode for Microsoft Apps As you know, there are two types of apps on Windows 10. Desktop apps, and “Microsoft” apps. This update gives Microsoft apps a Dark mode meaning you can choose a color scheme with dark colors.
  • Swiftkey for touchscreens. Swiftkey is the best touchscreen keyboard. I use it on my phone. Now it’s available on Windows if you have (and use) a touchscreen.
  • New Snipping tool Most of you have probably never used the snipping tool. But for those of you who do, it’s being phased out and replaced by Snip & Sketch starting with this release of Windows 10
  • Fewer Windows Updates Restarts I’ll believe that when I see it.
  • Your Phone app Lets you grab photos from your phone via the internet. Only works with Android phones right now.
  • Make Text Bigger The option to make text bigger.
See what we mean. Nothing mind blowing or exciting. And now for the bad news. It’s been reported that this update has deleted some user’s documents. As we have said about every major update that has been released, wait at least until November before you install it. Let others experience the problems and wait for Microsoft to fix those problems before you install it. Those of you whose computers are on our Security And Maintenance (SAM) plan don’t have to worry about it because we control the updates on your computer and will install it when the time is right.
A website says my computer has malware

A website says my computer has malware

If you are surfing the web and you suddenly get a website that says your computer is infected or something and to call a number to get the problem resolved, that is a scam.

These type of web sites have been a real problem in the last year and the problem is getting  worse. Even with the best security, you can still encounter these websites.

Just be aware that if a website tells you something is wrong with your computer it’s a scam.

Most of these types of web pages make it to where you can’t use your web browser until you get rid of that web page. You can’t switch to another tab. You can’t close the web browser. Some of them even have audio warning messages. The easiest way to get around this is to reboot your computer. Or, if you know how, you can open task manager, find your browser (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Vivaldi, Opera, Safari, etc.) and end the task.

Along the same lines, if you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or “Windows Support” telling  you that your computer has a virus or that your copy of Windows is going to expire, those are also scams. Do not let them on your computer! Microsoft will never call you unless you call them first.

If you go to look up a phone number on the web, watch out. There are a lot of fake numbers out there. In the last few months, Google and the other search engines have done a good job of eliminating a lot of those fake numbers, be aware that these fake numbers are out there. When you call one of these fake numbers, they even answer the phone claiming to be with the company you were looking for. But they’re not. When looking up a phone number on the web, make sure it’s coming from the company’s domain. For example, if you searched for HP Support Phone Number, the first number that comes up first might be from a website called hpsupporthelp246.com. But that’s not HP’s website. So that’s a fake number. Look for the phone number from hp.com.

Is my email address on the dark web?

Is my email address on the dark web?

You may have seen advertisements or gotten emails from companies like Experian are offering a free dark web scan to see if your email address is on the dark web. We would like to educate you on what this really means.

The name dark web sounds ominous. Like using the name “dark one” to refer to Satan, the name dark web conjures up images of fire and evil. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The dark web is much like the web you know. The only difference is that it is only accessible using special software that allows users and website operators to remain anonymous or untraceable.

Now that we understand what the dark web is, what are the chances that your email address is on the dark web? Actually, very good. The vast majority of people’s email address is on the dark web. Only people who have done very little on the web are not there. Chances are very good that your email address is on the dark web. Pretty much all of my email addresses are on the dark web.

How did your email address get on the dark web? Hackers hack servers and steal information and then sell it on the dark web. This type of information is purchased by spammers and identity thieves. Your information can get onto the dark web in other ways too, but that’s the primary way. If you ever watch or read the news, you’ve heard about website breaches. Yahoo, Dropbox, Adobe, LinkedIn, Equifax, Uber, AOL, Ameritrade, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Citigroup, Compass Bank, eBay, Facebook, Gmail, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, NASDAQ, Neiman Marcus, Texas Attorney General, Scottrade, SnapChat, Sony, Starbucks, Starwood Hotels, TJ Maxx, Twitter, U.S. Army, Walmart, Verizon, and Wendy’s just to name a few better-known websites and companies. In reading this list, you can see why most people’s email address is on the dark web. This is but a tiny sampling. The list is huge. And that’s just the ones we know about. Many companies keep it a secret when they get hacked.

You are probably asking, “If my email address is on the dark web, what does that mean for me?”.
If your email address is on the dark web, you are going to receive more spam than an email address that is not on the dark web. In addition, it’s more likely that a hacker is going to try and hack your email account. That’s pretty much it. Companies like Experian are using the scary phrase “Dark Web” to try and scare you into purchasing their identity theft protection. Don’t fall for it. It’s nothing more than a ploy to try and scare you into signing up for their services.

Our advice? Don’t bother with these dark web scans. Assume your email address is on the dark web (because it probably is) and follow the guidelines below to protect yourself.

  1. Make sure you have a good, complex password.
    For our recommended password guidelines: Click here to read our password article on our website.
  2. Turn on 2-step verification for your email account.
    For more information about this, click here to check out step three in this article on our website.
  3. Keep your computer safe and secure by doing the following:
    1. Keep Windows up-to-date
    2. Use one of our recommended security products (or Sign up for our SAM plan).
    3. Don’t let your security software expire or get out-of-date.
    4. Keep security sensitive programs updated. These include Java, Flash, Reader, Skype, and many more.
  4. Be careful what you open and what you click on.
    When in doubt, shoot us an email and ask us. If you get an email you are suspicious of, forward it to us and ask us to check it.
  5. Don’t fall for scams. The internet is chock full of scams and scammers will be calling you, if they haven’t already. When you search for a website or phone number on the web, you’ll probably get several fake ones at the top before finding the real one.

We sincerely hope this article has been helpful to you. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

Windows as a Service

Windows as a Service

With the release of Windows 10 in 2015, Microsoft started using the term “Windows as a service”. You may not have heard that, but us IT professionals hear it all the time from Microsoft. The term itself is not important, but It’s important for everyone who owns or uses a Windows 10 computer to understand what it means for your computer.

In the past, Microsoft tried to release a new version of Windows every 3 years. They waited 6 years from XP to Vista, but adhered to the 3-year release schedule since then until they released Windows 10. Microsoft says Windows 10 is the last named version of Windows. I believe they will drop the 10 at some point and then it will just be Windows. That won’t happen until after Windows 8.1 is dead which is scheduled for January 10th, 2023. At that point, Windows 10 will be the ONLY version of Windows that is being supported by Microsoft.

In the past, Microsoft has used different ways to update Windows. Windows XP had service packs. Windows 7 even had one service pack. Windows 8 was updated to Windows 8.1. But with Windows 10, we have this idea of Windows as a service. In a nutshell, that means they will just keep updating Windows 10 forever.

You may be wondering how you tell the different versions of Windows 10 apart. Each version has a version number. As of October 1st, 2017, the latest version of Windows 10 was version 1703. There have been quite a few updates to that version. Each update is identified by a build number. As of October 16th, the latest build of version 1703 was 15063.674. You can find out what version and build you have by clicking on the start button, type winver and hit enter.

Here’s how Windows as a service works. Microsoft will release bug fixes (Quality updates as they call them) monthly on what is called Patch Tuesday. They’ve been doing this since 2003. It’s the second Tuesday of the month. In addition to the monthly “quality” updates, Microsoft will release “Feature Updates” twice a year. These are the more major updates that change how Windows works. Not as major as going from Windows 7 to Windows 8, but bigger than the monthly updates.

That’s pretty much it. They will continue to fix bugs and patch security holes on a monthly basis like they have been doing and instead of doing major release every 3 years, they will do smaller upgrades twice a year. By the way, one of those semi-annual feature updates was just released on October 17th, 2017.

This aggressive mode of constantly updating Windows is good for security but it’s bad in many other ways. Every time Windows is updated, it seems to break some software or some device driver or something causing headaches for users and IT departments all over the world.

Those of you who subscribe to our Security And Maintenance (SAM) plan are lucky that you don’t have to worry about updates. We take care of it. And we don’t let an update install on your computer until it has been tested and found not to cause any major problems.

More Viruses for Mac Computers

More Viruses for Mac Computers

As long as I can remember there has been a myth that Apple computers aren’t susceptible to viruses. It was never that they aren’t susceptible, it was that there weren’t enough of them to warrant hackers going after them.

Windows has been dominating the desktop/laptop market since Windows 95 came out. About 10 years ago, Windows was running on about 92% of all desktops and laptops and only about 6% were Apple. Today, Apple has risen to 20% in the United States and Windows has dropped to 75%. The numbers outside of the U.S. are quite different as Apple computers aren’t as popular outside the U.S.

Now Mac users who bought into the myth that their computers were immune to viruses are finding out they are susceptible. Apple computer viruses are quickly on the rise now. As of July 2017, the number of Apple viruses since July 2016 has increased by 230%!

We here at Cyber Tek Computer Pros can confirm that we are seeing more infected Mac computers.

Note that we are talking about iMacs and MacBooks. This does NOT include iPads, iPods, and iPhones. They use completely different software.

Anyway, if you have an iMac or MacBook (or MacBook Air), we highly recommend that you have antivirus software installed on your Mac.

If you want the best security there is, then consider subscribing to our Security And Maintenance (SAM) service plan. It’s only $20/month. It includes the best security software you can buy. But our SAM plan is much more than just security. Click here for more information on our SAM plan. The next best security for the Mac would be BitDefender. It costs $50/year. There are also some free security programs for the Mac. The best ones are Sophos and Avast.

If you have any questions or need help with your Mac, please contact us.

What to do if you are having trouble viewing websites

What to do if you are having trouble viewing websites

Your computer boots up but when you try and go to a website, either nothing happens, you get an error, or perhaps it goes to the wrong website. Or maybe the website comes up, but it isn’t displaying correctly.

Here are some of the simpler things you can try when you are having trouble viewing websites.

  1. Reboot your computer and try again
  2. Try a different browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Edge, Safari).
  3. Reboot your modem, router, gateway.
  4. Run the troubleshooter.
    1. Right-click on network icon in lower right-hand corner near date/time.
    2. Choose troubleshoot problems.
  5. Clear browser cache.
    This varies from browser to browser. Here are instructions for the top 3 browsers:

    1. Internet Explorer
      1. Click on tools, internet options
      2. Click the delete button
      3. Click the delete button
    2. Chrome
      1. Click menu, settings
      2. Scroll down and click “Show advanced settings…”
      3. Click “Clear browsing data” button.
      4. Click “Clear bowsing data” button.
    3. Firefox
      1. Click menu, history
      2. Click “Clear recent history”
      3. Choose “Everything” for the time range to clear.
      4. Click “Clear now” button.
  6. Make sure you have all of the latest Windows Updates
  7. Make sure the browser you are using is up-to-date. If not, update it.
  8. Run a scan with your security software to make sure your computer isn’t infected.
  9. Make sure Java is up-to-date (www.java.com)
  10. If using Firefox, make sure Adobe Flash is up-to-date (www.adobe.com)
  11. If using an ad-blocker, temporarily disable it to see if that helps.
  12. Check the add-ons installed in your browser and disable/remove any suspicious ones.
    1. Internet  Explorer – Click on Tools, Add-ons
    2. Chrome – Click Menu, More Tools, Extensions
    3. Firefox – Click Menu, Add-ons, and then Extensions on left

Those are the easier things that you can try. If those don’t fix it, contact us.

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