Ransomware: How Safe are You?

Cyber security hit the headlines again this week with several high-profile victims including the NHS having their data held to ransom with a demand to pay up £230 to get the affected files decrypted.  You can learn more about this attack here.

The National Cyber Security Centre is involved in the investigation of this case, but what are the implications for you?  What is ransomware and what measures should you take to protect yourself? Read more

Virus Removal

Do you suspect your laptop or computer has a virus? Is it running slow or do random windows pop up as you browse the web? Your computer may have an infection, or two. The good news is this can be fixed with a few helpful tips and programs. During this four-step process, Computer Troubleshooters guides you through the actions you can take to remove these irritating computer viruses. Read more

Have you been hacked?

Getting hacked these days is more a question of “when” rather than “if” these days. These details are then commonly shared or sold on various Dark Web forums. Microsoft’s “hacked” app will detect if any of your email addresses are detected in these databases and let you know immediately.

The app uses the industry-trusted Troy Hunt’s massive haveibeenpwned database of breaches.

Armed with this information, you can change your password(s) immediately before further damage gets done.

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/p/hacked/9nblggh6850j

 

Security & Privacy Apps for Your Mobile Devices

Malware, Trojans, bots and other online threats have been growing in number over the years. With the rapid take up of smart phones and tablets the problems haven’t wasted time moving to this platform.

Beyond just setting the internal security options of your device, you should be using a few apps that further increase how well your device is protected.

 

ESET

 

 

 

You should be checking your data usage and phone performance regularly as this can be the first hints to something rogue being installed on your device. ESET should be the first thing you install if you notice issues as it is quick and through in its scans.

The free version can be used indefinitely for free. The premium version offers advanced features like anti-theft protection and call blocking.

 

Telegram

 

 

 

Security and privacy in messaging is a hot topic, Telegram can help in this regard as while It’s similar to WhatsApp in it’s features, it’s much more secure and fast.

Telegram allows up to 5,000 users in group chat and messages are stored on the cloud. This means they stay in sync across all devices that have it installed.

 

Don't let your computer get in the way of your productivity

Scan URL’s from unknown sources

Got an email asking you to click a link? Not all lead to reputable site but Security Plus have came up with a good answer.

Using there browser extension it provides free checking of urls for viruses. It uses up to 64 different antivirus products and scan engines to check for viruses, or to verify against any false positives.

Features:
Powered by VirusTotal online service
Analyzes suspicious URLs with more than 64 different antivirus products
Facilitates the quick detection of viruses, worms, trojans, and all kinds of malware

 

Home page

For Chrome

For Firefox

For Opera

Excellent for when you have some clickbait – but aren’t sure to take it or not.

IT assistance on your schedule

Good Windows Habits To Have

A computer is a lot like a car, in that to get the best out of it you need to maintain it properly. You do not need to be a mechanic or expert to get the best life out your car. Similarly there are some simple checks and tweaks to get the best life out your computer.

Windows Updates.

Updates are essential to maintain your device and it’s software. These should be installed as soon as they are available or whitelisted for install. By leaving these languishing you increase your downtime when these pile up to be installed. Thus it’s better to schedule these in for times you don’t use the machine that let them pile up for when you really need it.

Driver Updates

Driver updates are usually not required if your machine is fairly new. However, in older machines that are discontinued models it can be necessary to keep the machine working. Programs like Driver Booster can help automate the task of finding and updating drivers.

Software Updates

After windows updates software updates tend to be the biggest pain. Going through all your installed software to find updates can take a lot of time. But there are easier ways to do this. Programs like Ninite, Secunia PSI and App manager can scan your software and ensure you have the latest versions installed.

Backups.

This is probably the least maintained task of all. However it’s essential if you don’t want to lose everything to a digital disaster. Windows 8 and above have a a feature called File History which like Apple Time Machine can automate this.
You can even backup online using OneDrive if you have a fast internet connection.

Mindful installing of software

I cannot count the number of times dodgy software downloads have caused a security or performance issue. While yes an AV is there to safeguard you against malicious threats, but it’s up to the user to be aware as well. Use reputable sites to download and scan attachments before downloading. Also, if installing software, read the windows carefully in case you’re installing bloatware with it.

Do not use default admin accounts

This can be a bad habit for some people. But unless you’re constantly doing admin work, you should setup your computer with a lower privilege account for everyday use. This will also prevent your whole system being compromised if the worse should happen.

Clear up clutter.

Internet Search history, caches, temp files… there is a whole plethora of files that are created by the system. Some need to be gutted out every so often to help speed up your system but also to save space. CCleaner is quick and efficient in this task and free as well. Clearing up all those shortcuts from your desktop too will speedup the computer. You may also find most of those programs can be uninstalled or moved to archive too.

Restart your machine more often.

You wouldn’t leave a car running all day even when you’re not using it. Similarly leaving a computer on standby does not do it many favours. You should turn off your machine when not in use or at least restart it once in a while.

What good habits do you like you like to give users on using their machines?

 

 

Amazon Fire Sideloading

The Amazon Fire is a decent sub £100 tablet for many. But it’s limited by the Amazon Store.

A lot of users have bricked their Fire tablet (and warranty) trying to root it. But this is unnecessary as apps can be easily sideloaded onto the device.

 

First enable developer options on your Fire.

Settings > Device Options and then scroll down to Serial Number. Tap the serial number until “Developer Options” show up underneath.

Now open Developer Options and under Debugging turn on Enable ADB to allow installing the ADB USB Driver.

To perform ADB debugging on Windows, you’ll need to install the Amazon Fire 5th Gen SuperTool

Download and unpack the file to a folder, and then run 1-Amazon-Fire-5h-gen.bat

Select option 1 in the first and then the second screen. Hit any key to proceed with the install.

The Windows Device Manager will open automatically. You will find the Fire under Universal Serial Bus devices, right-click and select Update Driver Software. Choose “Browse my computer for driver software” and browse to the unpacked folder. Select the android_winusb.inf file, and click Open, then OK.

After this, return to the SuperTool and press any key to continue, followed by ENTER to return to the initial menu.

At the menu, select to install the Google Play Store and remove lock screen ads, press 2 and hit ENTER, followed by any key to confirm the conditions.

The program will go through four installation stages before your device is ready to be used.

 

How has your experience been with the Amazon Fire?

PDF repair and viewing

Files can get corrupted easily when transmitted online. PDF is among the most popular file formats. So has a lot of redundancy to enable restoring and extracting of data in worst case scenarios’

Adobe’s PDF reader tries to do a recovery when it cannot read the PDF. However you can also use Foxit, Okular and Evince to attempt recovery if Adobe doesn’t want to play ball.

If you still cannot read the PDF then there are free online services like PDFaid which can help recover your PDF.

Another option is to use a PDF to Word converter to extract what you can out the file in another format.

It’s only after trying these solutions that you need to consider specialist help.

Do you use free tools, or prefer to go down the paid route straight away?

Android Phone Malware Removal

Computers and mobiles are always susceptible to malware and virus attacks.  However it’s not always necessary to wipe and start again.

You can use AV scanners like ESET to help prevent infections in the first place. But you can also set your device into safe mode to check what apps might be culprits – and uninstall them.

To boot into safe mode:

Press and hold the power button till you get the “Off / Reboot” screen.
Tap and hold “Power Off” till you get a prompt to “Reboot to Safe Mode”.

Tap “OK”.

Wait for the phone or tablet to reboot.  You should see “safe mode” in a corner of the screen to tell you it’s successful.

Now all you need do is head over to Settings > Apps > Downloaded to see what you have that should not be there.

If you identity the app(s), and on the next screen tap “uninstall” to remove. Simply reboot once done.

If the app still is not removed, then it likely has Device Administrator Access. In this case, go to Settings > Security > Device Administrators.

Locate the app and tap the checkmark next to it.

Tap “Deactivate” when prompted.

Now you can go back to Settings > Apps > Downloaded and uninstall the app.

 

If the device is beyond scan and manual repair then you can backup your data using applications like MyPhoneExplorer and do a full reset on the device.

System Restore Fixes

Windows System Restore can be a lifesaver at times. whether it’s a dodgy driver or a file accidentally deleted.

 

However, three common issues that we get a lot of calls about, can be easily resolved:

System restore not scheduling properly.

Download this utility called Restore Point Creator. Unpack and run to see all your available restore points. At the top click System Restore Point Utilities > Schedule creation of System Restore Points.  Don’t forget to check the box labelled “Wake computer if the system is sleeping”.

System restore not completing a restore point properly.

This is often caused by logical errors on the disk of corrupted system file. The quick way to fix this to open a command box as an Admin. Then type  “chkdsk /f /r” without the quotes.  Then in the same box: “sfc /scannow” without the quotes.

System restore not working at all.

System “speedup” utilities can sometimes wreck havoc on services that they deem you do not use. This can cause problems down the line when you want to use that service.

If you type “services” into the search bar, this brings up the services application. You want to check the following apps are on “automatic” and “running” in the fourth and third columns

System Restore Service
Volume Shadow Copy
Microsoft Software Shadow Copy Provider Service
Task Scheduler

 

If you still have issues, then feel free to chat with us.