Don’t You Be Singing those Black Friday Buyer Beware Blues

Alongside links to Amazon, Home Depot, Staples, etc. Google’s sponsored shopping sections also show unfamiliar stores with lower prices than those of the well-known retailers. But are these really good deals?

Here are some ways to see if an inexpensive site is really going to get you what you want. None of these are absolute rules; the more information you have to make your decision about trusting an unknown website with your account or other personal information, the better sense you can get whether it’s worth making the bargain.

  1. It’s harder to get into cybersecurity trouble when staying with well-known brands and websites. That way you’ll know the origin of the merchandise you’re getting, and can feel more confident that these popular businesses are going to have overall better site security.
  2. How old is the site? Enter the domain name in https://websiteseochecker.com and check the “Age” column. The number of years and/or days may tell you something about the site’s basis for reputation.
  3. When in doubt, run a Google search for the site name, too. Red flags may be immediately apparent.
  4. Does the site have an odd-looking domain name? If a website’s address looks weird or unlikely … it’s probably good to avoid.
  5. Here’s a collection of crooked tactics Bryley engineers have witnessed over the years. Best to steer clear of:
    • A site with a wildly unexpected selection of merchandise (e.g. diapers, jet skis and industrial abrasives [Amazon excepted])
    • Contact information that does not correspond to the website
    • A customer service email that looks fake
    • Or a customer service email that looks official, but doesn’t line up with what you know to be true. As career-criminal-turned-FBI-man Frank Abagnale told Tech Republic, “people are basically honest and because they’re honest, they don’t have a deceptive mind. So, when they see an email that looks official, they assume that it is real.”1 Be wary. Best never to click email links, but go on your own to the website to conduct your transactions.
    • Are prices just a bit too low? Some scammers have become savvier in making their prices look low, but still high enough that you can imagine a scenario by which they can sell at that rate, rather than the ridiculously low prices that are clearly too good to be true. Someone may just be baiting you.
    • Online shops that ask for information like date of birth, social security number or anything other than your credit card number and billing and shipping address

Online Shopping at a Coffee Shop?

Wi-Fi has serious security limitations. And shopping sends seriously valuable data out into that Wi-Fi wild. Unsecured connections give hackers access to intercept your data and read what you’ve sent.

Set-up and use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to create an encrypted data tunnel between you and a VPN provider. There are many consumer-oriented VPN products available, and Bryley offers a VPN solution for businesses.

Make sure the website you’re shopping at has an up-to-date SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate that verifies encryption on their end of the communication chain. But SSL encryption is no guarantee of legitimacy. SSL is important, but it can give the false impression that you’re not dealing with tricky jerks. Sometimes attackers pay for an SSL certificate or they use a free https://letsencrypt.org certificate.2 Let’s encrypt is a great initiative to get encryption in wide use, but its certificates are limited to 90-day periods — how perfect for setting up a site just for the holidays.

General Browsing Best Practices

Update your browser and operating system. One of the more frequent entry points for malware is through unpatched software. Online shoppers are most at risk due to the sensitive information involved. At a minimum make sure you have an updated browser for shopping. A new browser can protect your cache and cookies and save your bacon.

Use up-to-date antivirus software to keep you safe from known malware. Outfit each of your devices with a product that scans apps for viruses and spyware and blocks shady websites.

Online Shopping and Your Bank

When it comes to shopping, malicious hackers are most often looking for credit card data. Online shops are the best place for them to get that information. If these shops get hacked, their information — your information — falls into the hands of cybercriminals. So it’s a good practice to review your bank statement and watch for any suspect activity. If you do see something wrong, call the bank quickly. In the case of credit cards, pay the bill only once you know all the charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank of problems.3

Credit cards are safer than debit cards. Credit cards have extra legal defenses. With credit cards, you aren’t liable if you are a victim of a fraudulent transaction, so long as you report the fraud in a timely manner. Credit cards also give you leverage in disputes with a seller. Banks are much more protective of credit card accounts since it’s their money on the line, not yours.

Keep a record of your purchases. Hold on to your receipts, including warranty and return information, and destroy the receipts when you no longer need them.

Buying holiday gifts online can be enjoyable, and should be enjoyable: no mall crowds and whatever you buy’s delivered to your door. On your phone or computer you can compare prices, product features and reviews at any time. Though their nefarious techniques evolve over time, their goal is the same: bad guys are trying to divide you from your money or personal information. Being smart online will let you enjoy some peace of mind, too.

  1. https://www.techrepublic.com/article/famous-con-man-frank-abagnale-crime-is-4000-times-easier-today/
  2. https://www.computerworld.com/article/3427858/what-is-magecart-and-was-it-behind-the-ticketmaster-and-ba-hacks-.html
  3. https://www.pcmag.com

 

 

 

Infographic: Tips for detecting a phishing email

Phishing emails are getting more complex all the time.  As the stakes rise, cyber criminals are employing increasingly subtle techniques and messaging.  Gone are the days when you simply had to turn down preposterous offers from royalty who had miraculously decided to become your unlikely benefactor.

The phishing email of today is designed to look as legitimate as possible.  It will try to distract you from clues that give away its true intent by creating a sense of urgency.  Typically they front as legitimate emails from familiar sources, sometimes even appearing to come from within your own organization.

Fortunately, once you know what to look for, these emails will be as easy to spot as those starting “I am a prince from [insert  random country name here], and I wish to bathe you in riches…”

The Mysteries of Microsoft’s Model for Windows

“All they had to do was come up with a way to charge ten bucks a month and now no one steals music,” I overheard a college student say. He was talking about how Apple transformed from selling software (mp3s via iTunes) to renting access to songs, aka Software as a Service (SaaS). Apple Music now has the most paid music subscribers in the US and based on this success, “announced new subscription offerings for magazines, TV shows and video games”. 1

Per Forbes, 84% of new software is being delivered as SaaS. 2 This selling model built Netflix memberships (20 million renters at the height of its DVD service compared to over 150 million SaaS subscribers today 3 ), Dollar Shave Club razors, Stitch Fix and Amazon’s Subscribe and Save. Subscriptions moved Adobe’s market cap more than 87% since 2012 to $108 billion. 4

The Curious Case of Windows 7 Legacy Apps

“Support for Windows 7 is Coming to an End. … January 14, 2020 …” nagged a Windows 7 screen last week.

Like any other piece of technology, Operating System software gets obsolete. The obsolescence comes in the form of vulnerabilities to hackers, who get rich knowing how to look for and exploit these weaknesses in the code, compromising the contents of your computer and network.

Obsolescence also comes from more powerful hardware at a relative lower cost that enables the OS to do more with less code. Greater efficiencies in hardware and software mean some businesses will accomplish the same work as other businesses in less time.

And among the more compelling features of Windows 10 is that developers’s apps can scale to work across platforms, so desktops, laptops, phones and tablets function with the same software without the formerly prohibitive development costs of coding from scratch for each device. The result is more robust and cost-efficient software that, for example, can control processes remotely.

But this does not mean you are without legitimate reasons for maintaining Windows 7 software that works for you. The law requires you to have access to the data created with that software: “judges … have potent sanctions options available … when [businesses treat electronic data] preservation … with ignorance, indifference”

https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/bad-behavior-in-ediscovery-is-still-30811/

So it is important to maintain your organization’s data created in legacy software. You or an IT partner will need to develop strategies for addressing your organization’s dependence on legacy software. This is sometimes a technical process requiring the involvement of third-party specialists. For instance, some legacy software was built to utilize 16-bit chip architecture. Windows 10’s 64-bit version does not support 16-bit programming. Still Microsoft has made a way to get you the benefits of 64-bit Windows 10, and still allow you to run 16-bit and 32-bit software through virtual machine environments. These virtual machines will probably get you enough access to meet compliance issues, but interface changes may render the legacy apps limited in function. Overcoming these types of challenges might not be appropriate to handle on your own.

If your organization has multiple Windows 7 licenses, the upgrade path can be costly, and not just for the multiple new OS product keys. There may be costs related to replacing your legacy software beyond the cost of the software itself. It is important to consider implementation costs, including possible downtime and employee training. Be sure to work with your IT department or partner to ensure that these considerations are included in your upgrade plan.

An IT partner like Bryley can help come up with a plan to meet your specific upgrade needs, so your business functions productively through the end of Windows 7 and the use of legacy apps, to arrive at solutions that will work for the coming years. Bryley can be reached at 978.562.6077 Option 2. With 32 years of experience, Bryley’s professionals have a broad knowledge of business software and can guide you with your business’s Windows 10 transition.

When and How to Stop Google Chrome From Running in the Background

By default, when you close Google Chrome, the browser window closes, but the application itself continues to run in the background. There are a few reasons for this.

First and foremost, this makes it faster to open a new browser window. Since Chrome is already running in the background, there is less that has to take place behind the scenes before your new browser window appears.  This makes the browser feel quick, even on slower machines.

Running in the background also allows any Chrome extensions you might have installed to continue to operate. These are applications that run within Chrome and either enhance the browser’s existing features, or add new ones. Extensions range from those that change Chrome’s background colors to those that add support for third party applications.

This behavior, however, might not always be desirable.

If you are running an older or less powerful computer, you might find that forcing Google Chrome to stop running in the background could noticeably improve the overall performance of your computer.

Similarly, if you are using a laptop, having Google Chrome running in the background could negatively impact your battery life.  By forcing Chrome to close completely, you might find you can stretch your battery life just a little further.

If you fall into one of these two categories, or would simply prefer to avoid having Chrome run in the background, you can follow the instructions below to disable this behavior.

In Google Chrome:

1. Select “Settings” in the Chrome Menu

2. Click on “Advanced” at the bottom of the settings page that appears.

3. Under the “System” heading, find the box next to “Continue running background apps when Google Chrome is closed.”

By default, the toggle button next to that text will be set to the right with a blue background.  To prevent Chrome from running in the background, simply click the button so that the toggle is to the left, with a gray background (see screenshot above).

If, in the future, you decide you would like to allow Chrome to run in the background once again, simply repeat the steps above and move the toggle back to the left.

The Snoopiness of Things

The 2015 Arkansas murder case that depended on smart-home devices, made the news again as the judge in the civil case upheld his ruling that James Bates is financially liable for the death of Victor Collins. The case against the accused was built on, among other forensics, records from Amazon whose Echo device was installed by the scene of Collins’ death, as well as evidence from a so-called smart meter. The smart meter reported inordinate usage of water around the time of death, which led the police to argue that a bloody patio was hosed down.

Best Practices for Using Social Media

A sense of belonging, a sense of community and for businesspeople, a touchpoint for customer service and the ability to market to specific demographics are among social media’s benefits. And like every technology, social media – by which I mean websites that offer sharing tools that allow people to interact (e.g. Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, Facebook, YouTube) – have their drawbacks.

Tips to Troubleshoot Common, but Annoying Computer Problems

Just about everything requires a computer these days.  When your computer works, it’s great.  When a problem arises, the first thing to do is try not to panic.

There are many different things that could cause a problem with your computer. No matter what’s causing the issue, troubleshooting will always be a process of trial and error.  You may find yourself trying a few different approaches before you can find a solution.  Some issues are easy to fix and others may require the help from a professional, but if you decide to try to tackle it on your own here are a few tips.

  1. Write down your steps. Once you start troubleshooting, you may want to write down each step you take. This way, you’ll be able to remember exactly what you’ve done and can avoid repeating the tasks. If you end up asking other people for help, it will be much easier if they know exactly what you’ve tried already.
  2. Take notes about error messages. If your computer gives you an error message, be sure to write down as much information as possible. You may be able to use this information later to find out if other people are having the same error.
  3. Always check the cables.  It’s very easy to accidentally knock a cable out of connection, so if you’re having trouble with a specific piece of computer hardware, such as your monitor or keyboard, an easy first step is to check all related cables to make sure they’re properly connected.
  4. Restart the computer. When all else fails, restarting the computer is a good thing to try. This can solve a lot of basic issues you may experience with your computer.

Process of Elimination.  If you’re having an issue with your computer, you may be able to find out what’s wrong using the process of elimination. This means you’ll make a list of things that could be causing the problem and then test them out one by one to eliminate them. Once you’ve identified the source of your computer issue, it will be easier to find a solution.

This is just one example of an issue you might encounter while using a computer. You are trying to print, but the printer won’t print.  You have some ideas about what could be causing this, so you go through them one by one to see if you can eliminate any possible causes.

  1. First, you check the printer to see that it’s turned on and plugged in to the surge protector. It is, so that’s not the issue. Next, you check to make sure the printer’s ink cartridge still has ink and that there is paper loaded in the paper tray. If things look good in both cases, so you know the issue has nothing to do with ink or paper.
  2. Make sure the printer and computer are communicating correctly. If you recently downloaded an update to your operating system, it might interfere with the printer. But you know there haven’t been any recent updates and the printer was working yesterday, so you’ll have to look elsewhere.
  3. You check the printer’s USB cord and find that it’s not plugged in. You must have unplugged it accidentally when you plugged something else into the computer earlier. Once you plug in the USB cord, the printer starts working again. It looks like this printer issue is solved!

Simple solutions to common problems.

Sometimes, problems can be fixed using simple troubleshooting techniques, like closing and reopening the program. It’s important to try these techniques before resorting to more extreme measures. If the problem still isn’t fixed, you can try other troubleshooting methods.

Power button will not start computer.

  1. If your computer does not start, begin by checking the power cord to confirm that it is plugged securely into the back of the computer case and the power outlet.
  2. If it is plugged into an outlet, make sure it is a working outlet. To check your outlet, you can plug in another electrical device, such as a lamp.
  3. If the computer is plugged in to a surge protector, verify that it is turned on. You may have to reset the surge protector by turning it off and then back on. You can also plug a lamp or other device into the surge protector to verify that it’s working correctly.
  4. If you are using a laptop, the battery may not be charged. Plug the AC adapter into the wall, then try to turn on the laptop. If it still doesn’t start up, you may need to wait a few minutes and try again.

An application is running slowly.

  1. Close and reopen the application.
  2. Update the application. To do this, click the Help menu and look for an option to check for Updates. If you don’t find this option, another idea is to run an online search for application updates.

An application is frozen.

Sometimes an application may become frozen. When this happens, you won’t be able to close the window or click any buttons within the application.

  1. Force quit the application. On a PC, you can press (and hold) Ctrl+Alt+Delete (the Control, Alt, and Delete keys) on your keyboard to open the Task Manager. On a Mac, press and hold Command+Option+Esc. You can then select the unresponsive application and click End task (or Force Quit on a Mac) to close it.

  1. Restart the computer. If you are unable to force quit an application, restarting your computer will close all open apps.

Slow Performance.

  1. Empty your recycle bin by right-clicking on the Recycle Bin icon (usually on the desktop) and choosing the “Empty Recycle Bin” option.
  2. Check your mail files. Remove any large attachments and delete unused mail. Images and videos take up a lot of space, so consider moving those to an external drive.
  3. Remove temporary files from your internet browser
  4. Perform a disk cleanup

Virus.

A virus is a malicious computer program that is designed to interfere with the operation of a computer program or destroy computer programs. They occur in various forms and they normally attack computers from various sources such as infected external memory modules, fake software, or the internet.

  1. Installing anti-virus software is the best way to eliminate malware and other forms of malicious computer software. However, it is important to ensure that you install an antivirus software that is compatible with your operating system and computer specifications.
  2. It is also important to routinely check for software updates. It is worth noting that the best remedy for this problem would be to avoid using infected secondary storage devices with your computer and avoid visiting websites that are likely to have viruses. This due to the fact that sometimes, the anti-virus software may degrade the performance of the computer.

The computer is frozen.

Sometimes your computer may become completely unresponsive, or frozen. When this happens, you won’t be able to click anywhere on the screen, open or close applications, or access shut-down options.

  1. (Windows only): Restart Windows Explorer. To do this, press and hold Ctrl+Alt+Delete on your keyboard to open the Task Manager. Next, locate and select Windows Explorer from the Processes tab and click Restart. You may need to click More Details at the bottom of the window to see the Processes tab.   Run a virus check when the computer goes back to its normal working condition.
  2. (Mac only): Restart Finder. To do this, press and hold Command+Option+Esc on your keyboard to open the Force Quit Applications dialog box. Next, locate and select Finder, then click Relaunch.
  3. Press and hold the Power button. The Power button is usually located on the front or side of the computer, typically indicated by the power symbol. Press and hold the Power button for 5 to 10 seconds to force the computer to shut down.
  4. If the computer still won’t shut down, you can unplug the power cable from the electrical outlet. If you’re using a laptop, you may be able to remove the battery to force the computer to turn off. Note: This solution should be your last resort after trying the other suggestions above.

Mouse or Keyboard Stops Working.

  1. If you’re using a wired mouse or keyboard, make sure it’s correctly plugged into the computer. Be sure the cord is not damaged.  If it is, replace it.
  2. If you’re using a wireless mouse or keyboard, make sure it’s turned on and that the batteries are charged.
  3. Clean the bottom of your mouse, and use compressed air to clean the keyboard.

Blue Screen of Death (BSOD).

This is a very common computer problem especially if you have installed sketchy or buggy software. The most important question to ask yourself is what did I just do before the device stopped working? If you installed a new piece of software, plugged in to new hardware, downloaded custom drivers, installed a Windows update, or changed settings, this could be the cause.  Depending on what you just did, the repair may depend on that change.

  1. If your computer is unusually hot, it could be due to running high-performance settings.  This may be the cause of BSOD.
  2. If this is the first time you’ve encountered a Blue Screen of Death on your computer, you can run your PC’s Blue Screen troubleshooter to try to diagnose the issue:
    • Open Start
    • Click Settings
    • Click Update & Security
    • Click the Troubleshoot tab
    • Click Blue Screen
    • Click Run the troubleshooter
    • Review the solutions and follow any on-screen instructions
  3. Remove any unnecessary hardware. Things like USB flash drives, Ethernet or HDMI cables, controllers, printer cables, SD cards, and so on can be removed from your computer without impacting the computer’s performance. Furthermore, flaws in hardware items such as these can trigger a BSOD and continue to trigger it until they are removed.
  4. Wait for your computer to restart. Once BSOD appears, Windows will diagnose the problem, attempt to fix whatever the issue is, and then restart. If your computer restarts like usual and doesn’t run into a Blue Screen error again, you can make some changes right from your desktop.  If the BSOD appears again while your computer is attempting to restart, check its error code. If the error code is 0x000000EF, you should immediately skip ahead to the next part. If not, try rebooting in Safe Mode.
  5. Run a virus scan. While rare, sometimes viruses can trick your computer into thinking that it’s malfunctioning, which can in turn cause the BSOD crash.  If the virus scan comes up with any malicious software, remove it immediately.
  6. If the virus scan sends software settings suggestions (e.g., battery life) to you during the scan, try implementing them. A flawed setting may cause the BSOD to appear.

No Sound.

  1. Check the volume level. Click the audio button in the top-right or bottom-right corner of the screen to make sure the sound is turned on and that the volume is up.
  2. Check the audio player controls. Many audio and video players will have their own separate audio controls. Make sure the sound is turned on and that the volume is turned up in the player.
  3. Check the cables. Make sure external speakers are plugged in, turned on, and connected to the correct audio port or a USB port. If your computer has color-coded ports, the audio output port will usually be green.
  4. Connect headphones to the computer to find out if you can hear sound through the headphones.

Blank Screen.

  1. The computer may be in Sleep mode. Click the mouse or press any key on the keyboard to wake it.
  2. Make sure the monitor is plugged in and turned on.
  3. Make sure the computer is plugged in and turned on.
  4. If you’re using a desktop, make sure the monitor cable is properly connected to the computer tower and the monitor.

If you don’t find a solution to your problem, you may need to ask a family member or friend for assistance.  You can always search the Web, look for a YouTube video or a chat line.  Keep in mind that some computer problems have simple solutions, although it may take some time to find them.

For more complex problems, more in-depth solutions may be required, such as reformatting your hard drive or reinstalling your operating system.  Call us at 978-562-6077, or email us at ITExperts@Bryley.com.  We are here to help.

Tis The Season for Porch Pirates – Don’t Let a “Would Be” Thief Ruin Your Holiday

Technology has made it very convenient to purchase just about anything and have it delivered at our doorstep. Online buying and package delivery has really become the norm for retail shopping. However, especially during the holiday season, there’s an unfortunate piece of news – “porch pirates” – those modern day thieves who steal packages from doorsteps. In a report from Package Guard, it claims that 11 million US homeowners have had packages stolen from their front door or porch in 2017, and those numbers are due to be higher by the end of this year.

When To Replace a Server

Every IT professional would agree that servers are the lifeblood of your organization. No matter what daily task you perform, whether it is responding to email, preparing for a presentation, or completing other workday tasks, it’s important to have a server in your office that runs smoothly. No organization, no matter what the size, wants to face the IT issues associated with a slow or non-responsive server. While there is no way to accurately predict when a server will need to be replaced, there are some general guidelines you should observe to ensure that this critical piece of equipment is running properly.