The worst virus ever made?

You might have heard about the new “CryptoLocker” virus in passing. I could go into great detail about it, but I will start by telling you this; If you download this virus, you will mostly likely lose all of your data, and will probably be beyond help.

The virus can be removed easily enough, but your files will still be encrypted (unusable). There are currently only two ways to get your data back from this infection. 1) Pay the people that made the virus around $900 (rising daily) or 2) Have a recent backup of your files. This virus also attacks attached external drives, dropbox folders and network drives. If you are leaving an external drive plugged in as a backup, it will also become encrypted.

This virus is primarily coming in email attachments. Some claiming to be from Amazon, some as an Outlook update. Be extra careful what you click on! We have a few specialized tools for this virus specifically that can help prevent the encryption, and we can also set you up with a back up system that will allow you to recover from an infection in no time. We don’t want any of you to be victims of this!

All About Toolbars

One of the most common symptoms of computers we receive is trouble with browsing the internet. This can be caused by many different things, but the most prevalent is the nefarious “toolbar.”

These little gems will change your homepage, send you somewhere else when you click a link or enter an address, slow down your browsing, and create security risks.

Where do they come from? How do I keep them off my computer or get rid of them?

The first question is the easy one. Toolbars have become a form of paid advertising. When you download a Java or Adobe update (or just about any software) you will be asked: “Would you like to also install the AwesomeInternet Toolbar? Change your homepage to AwesomeInternet?” etc. The company offering the toolbar has paid Java to offer their product.

Installing new or updating existing software is something we do offhandedly, but slowing down and reading what toolbars from being installed on your computer.

Removing them is trickier, as they don’t show up in most virus scans (they don’t fit into that category). You can disable most in your internet browser’s settings, but some are more stubborn.

If you run into this, have a question during an install, or need help removing them, call or come by today!

Everything You Need to Know About the Cloud

Microsoft just appointed a new CEO. He made it clear he will be focusing on cloud computing and mobile devices. I thought it would be a good time to talk about this “cloud” stuff and hopefully paint a clearer picture of what it actually means.

I watched a hidden camera prank the other day where a guy was in an Apple store posing as an employee. He told a customer “Our iCloud got so big we now have iPuddles.” The customer seemed impressed by this. (There is no such thing as an iPuddle… yet) So we have iCloud, Cloud Backup, Cloud Servers, Cloud Processing. So what does that mean? What is a “cloud”? What does it do for me? Why is it any better than what I am doing now? Is it safe?

What is it?
When you hear “Cloud” when discussing anything technology related, it is basically just referring to something being “off- site.” So, cloud backup refers to your files being backed up on a third party’s server (ex. Carbonite) through an internet connection instead of on your computer or external hard drive. What does that do for me? Cloud Computing can do many things for you. 2 examples;

  1. Convenience: You can access your files, your phone contacts, your customer database, etc. from anywhere. For instance, I use Carbonite to backup my home and work computers. I can log on to the Carbonite website from ANY computer and select  individual files to download or restore the entire backup.
  2. Minimal downtime: With traditional backups and file storage, if your computer dies or your phone is lost, it can be devastating. By using the cloud, every device and hard drive I own could die at the exact same time and I wouldn’t be worried. I would buy a new laptop, and be up and running again almost immediately.

Is it Safe?
This is where we lose most people. It’s new and they don’t trust it. The answer to this is… it’s probably safer than what you are using now. However, no technology is 100% bulletproof. I generally explain it like this; Most home computer users, and many small businesses, are frankly quite careless with their precious data. They don’t use even minimal password protection. They give everyone administrator privileges. They write passwords on Post-It notes and stick them to the monitors for the world to see. If they were banks, they’d be leaving the vault door open and the keys in the locks of safety deposit boxes. The guard would most likely be napping in the break room. Cloud computing is like a locked armored car (remember, off-site) staffed by well trained armed guards. The network connections between your local network and the online backup vendor’s servers are encrypted and monitored for attempts to tap into the data streaming between you and the vendor. It’s certainly more secure than the wide-open bank vault described above, and it’s generally secure enough to thwart even the best hackers. The risk of a breach between you and a cloud computing vendor is quite low. The risk of a security breach in your office or home is much, much higher. Most thieves will go after the low hanging fruit. It’s much easier and won’t bring nearly as much heat as a massive hack of a major cloud provider. There is risk, but the reward more than justifies it for me.

If you want to talk cloud, let us know. We can set you up with Carbonite backup, make sure your iCloud is doing it’s job, and discuss all the available cloud options with you!