Cautions to take in Computer Hacking

Computer hacking can occur at the worst of times and when we least expect it. The worse of it being that once the hacking has occurred, you can never undo the damage that’s been done. However, you can take steps to prevent it. Follow along to find out how you can prevent a malicious cyber-attack.

  • SSL – Secure Socket Lockets are the next best thing when it comes to online security. Using an encrypted SSl protocol helps to prevent information being read in transit or gain access without the proper authority. For example, it can help safely transfer users’ personal information between a website and your database, without anyone else seeing it.
  • Updates – Updates are made because it is necessary to maintain the softwares functioning properly, and maintain all its security protocols. If an update is made for a phone, for example, it could be because of a security vulnerability. Delaying this will only expose you to attacks, which is what hackers are looking for.
  • Tighten network security – Doing simple and basic things such as changing passwords frequently, ensuring passwords are strong, as well as making sure all plugged into the network are scanned for malware each time they are attached can make a great difference. This can also apply to installing a web application firewall. A WAF can be software or hardware based, and its purpose is to fit between a website server and the data connection and read every data passing through it.
  • Remove autofill – Leaving autofill enabled on websites, can leave you vulnerable to attacks from any user’s phone or computer that has been stolen. With your information already plugged in and accessible, it is easy for hackers to steal it.
  • Back-up frequently – It is vital to ensure that everything is backed up. Whether it is weekly, daily, or 10 times a day in total, back everything up. From saving files, sharing docs, everything should be backed up. If the worst case scenario were to happen, it is important to backup in case one hard drive fails, etc.

With these helpful tips, you’ll be taking the right precautions to limit your chance of a cyberattack.

 

How to Identify & Avoid Unwanted Programs

Unwanted programs are constantly being downloaded, many times, without your permission. This is usually because some programs can only be downloaded as a bundle with another program. Sometimes, even loading up a website can cause other programs to be downloaded as well. Although some unwanted programs might not cause any direct harm or be a malware carrier, they can fill up space in your tech’s system, eventually causing it to shut down. Determining which programs are harmful for your technology can be difficult, especially when there are so many disguised like legitimate ones. Follow along to learn how you can identify and avoid unwanted programs.

Potential unwanted programs (PUPs) can cause technical issues such as:

      Slow computer program

      Display of Pop Up ads

      Collect personal information

One way to avoid installing such programs is by going through custom installation instead of simply clicking on the recommended download method. PUPs can easily be installed when you choose the recommended method. Especially when they are piggy-backing a legitimate program. Many times, the end user licensing agreements (EULA) contain information on the other programs that will be downloaded. Makes sure you read through the EULA and don’t accept bundle programs.

According to The Windows Club, a trick to avoid PUPs is to click on “I Decline” whenever you are downloading a program and the “I Accept” or “I Decline” options come up. However, if “I Accept” happens to be the only option, you should unclick the option and simply click “Next.” Don’t worry; you’ll still be able to download the program.

Want to make sure you haven’t already downloaded PUPs? Here are a few steps on how to identify and get rid of them:

      Go to your browser

      Go to your options

      Manage your add-ons

      Turn off all add-ons you do not recognize

For more information on identifying a PUPs and preventing them, contact M&H online or by phone!

Should You Worry About Smartphone Viruses and Malware?

 

How much do you rely on your smartphone? Well, if you doubt for a second the amount you use it, think of those breath-catching moments when you have misplaced it or dropped it. Shocking how quickly we all panic about our phones, right? Those are the moments you realize that you would have trouble getting through the day without it. Should you then, worry about other risks to your smartphone – take for example viruses or malware?  

 

The answer is yes, smartphones need protection as well. Your smartphone is essentially a pocket-sized computer that holds your valuable personal data, important documents and other files. Most likely you do not want some viruses to lay waste to your data. Here are some quick tips that can help keep your smartphone protected.

 

  • Download a mobile security app to catch those pesky “phone viruses.” Your phone’s app store may offer free anti-virus software.
  • Be judicious about what apps you download. Download an app or document only if it comes from a trustworthy source, such as your phone’s app store. Downloading apps from third-party websites may put your phone at risk.
  • Be careful about where you download apps – are you in a secure area?
  • Put a PIN or password on your smartphone and keep it locked when it’s not in use. Your phone may also have a lock pattern feature, fingerprint password or facial-recognition lock.
  • Stay away from suspicious websites when browsing the Internet on your phone. Viruses can be installed on your phone through malicious websites. If you receive an unexpected email or text message with a link in it, don’t click on the link.
  • Avoid modifying your phone in ways that weren’t intended by the manufacturer. This modification, also called “jailbreaking,” makes it easier for viruses to slip into the device.
  • Encrypt the files and data stored on the phone. Some phones have built-in data encryption that protects your data from prying eyes. Encryption usually shields documents, contacts, calendars, media files and email attachments. It also works for data stored on the phone’s memory card.
  • Avoid connecting your phone to unsecured wireless networks.

Antivirus vs. Antimalware

There is a lot of confusion about what exactly are antivirus and antimalware, and what which one works best. Well in order to find out what their purposes are, we must clear out what viruses and malware actually are.

A virus is a code within a program that can copy itself over and can cause damage to a computer by corrupting the system and, even, destroying data.

Malware, on the other hand, is a general word for any malicious infection. This includes Trojans, Spyware, worms, adware, ransomware, and (you guessed it) viruses.

Now that this is cleared out, you are probably wondering why antivirus exists when antimalware can take care of it. Well, let’s get into the differences between these two security software.

Antivirus software was created during the uprising of computers and the Internet. Therefore, this security software was created to tackle older forms of infections, like Trojans, viruses and worms. They are programmed to protect computer users from any traditional malware that are predictable and, still, dangerous.  

Opposite to antivirus, antimalware was created more recently as newer threats began to rise. These malware tend to be much less predictable since new ones are constantly being created and released at high speeds. Antimalware seeks out for more dangerous threats than those that antivirus programs are used to handling.

With that said, if you are wondering which one should be used, the answer is both. You want to protect your computer from all malware, whether it is predicted or unpredicted.

If you need more advice on which antivirus and/or antimalware programs are best, contact M&H for help!

Why your PC is Infected, Again

You’ve probably just got through getting rid of a malware issue when, all of a sudden, a new infection has tampered with your computer again. There are many reasons why this happens but one of the main issues could be that you don’t have an efficient security system. There are many different types of malware that can infect your computer in different ways.

Viruses are codes that copy themselves over causing damages to the running system it has hooked onto.

Worms are also codes that copy themselves over but run in the background of your computer rather than hooking onto the system.

Trojans are software that usually gets downloaded because they appear to be one thing but end up turning into something malicious.

Drive-by Downloads is malware that recognizes the weaknesses in your browser and causes your system to become infected.

Adware is usually hooked onto software and uses an advertising delivery system. These are easy to get rid of by simply uninstalling the downloaded software it came with.

Spyware is software that monitors your computer by either tracking the web pages you visit or everything you do with your mouse and keyboard in order to collect any information available.

Ransomware locks down your computer so that you can’t get regular access to certain programs unless a payment is made to unlock it.

Scareware is software that scares you into believing that your computer has been infected and that they have the solution to get rid of the infection if they are paid to do so.

As you can see, digital infestation is getting more and more sneaky and much more difficult to detect and prevent on your own. The best solution for this madness is to run valuable security systems in your computer. For more information on this and other ways to prevent malware from infecting your system, contact M&H by phone or email!

Protecting your Mobile Device

When you think of antivirus or security protection, your initial thought is probably laptops and computers, but truth is that smartphones and other mobile devices are no longer safe from malware and viruses. Mobile devices are susceptible to cyber attacks by malware and viruses created specifically to target them.

It’s important to begin taking the same precautions we do on computers,  on mobile devices especially when these malware are so easily contracted, difficult to detect, and almost impossible to remove. Malware can be embedded into your devices, without you even being aware of it, and gain complete access to your device. The worst part about it is that malware can be hiding in any free app.

Here are a few tips to protecting your mobile device from such malicious programs:

Update. This is something we cannot stress enough. Updates come with security solutions to any gaps the past operating system had been missing.

Get Protection. Malware and virus protections do exist for your mobile devices. A couple that we recommend is Malware Bytes and Sophos Antivirus. Malware Bytes offers real time protection and scanning to detect any malicious programs in your device. Sophos Antivirus takes it a few steps further by allowing you to encrypt your data. This helps protect your data in case it is lost or stolen. If that wasn’t enough to convince you already, this program also allows you to set up a remote wipe, which will allow you to wipe out all the data in your device if it were ever stolen.

Avoid Third-Party Sites. This is one of the easiest ways for malware to gain access to your device. They don’t need to go through many tough restrictions like they would if they were going through iTunes and Google Play.

If you are interested in getting full protection on your mobile devices, contact us for advice!

Common Myths About Technology: Part 1

With a world surrounded by technology, we are constantly hearing about the many ways to care for your devices and what the dos and don’ts are when handling them. A lot of the times we can’t help but come across some information that completely contradicts the one we may have just heard about.

We have searched some of the most common myths about technology and decided to share them with you in two parts to help clear some contradicting information for you. Here is part 1 of the common myths:

Macs Are Not Prone to Viruses

One of the most common myths is the one about macs not getting viruses. Perhaps this myth stems from Apple’s claim that their OS X software system is not susceptible to the common viruses targeted towards Windows. Although this is true, it does not mean that apple computers are not susceptible to those viruses created to target Macs.

In fact, the more common these computers become in homes and offices, the more vulnerable they become towards malware.

A Cell Phone’s Battery Should be Drained Before Charging

This is another very common misconception and the reason for this goes back to when NiCd batteries were common in many tech devices. The NiCd batteries suffer from “memory effect” which leads to the battery not being able to recharge up to 100 percent, causing the battery life to drain more quickly.

Since the early 2000s, NiCd batteries have been replaced with Lithium-Ion batteries, especially in all Apple products, which eliminate the “memory effect” issue. Although this is true, though, Apple does advice for the devices to be drained at least once a month in order to help maintain battery life.

More Bars Means Better Service

When we see our signal bars go down, we immediately start moving around to get more signal in order to have better service. Truth is, the bars only show the signal strength to the cell phone tower near you. The service is determined by the amount of tech devices connected to that same tower.

Files are Permanently Deleted Once Trash Bin is emptied

Maybe this is something you never thought of before, but the fact is that after the trash/recycling bin has been emptied in your computer, fragments of those deleted files can be left behind. This means that those fragments can be restored. The act of deleting a file is simply to make space for new ones.

In order to fully delete files on a Mac, you may want to follow up by clicking on “Secure Empty Trash.” If you are a PC owner, it is best to download a secure deleting program.

 

Private Browsing Means Anonymity

Private browsing does not keep anyone anonymous. Using this browsing mechanism simply keeps your computer from saving information about the websites visited and what typed or clicked on while being there. However, files downloaded from private browsing will remain in your device.

Anti-Virus Choices

Cyber attacks, hacking and security breaches are in the news almost daily.  No one is immune.  Small businesses and large corporations are at risk for Trojans, rootkits, adware, spyware, malware, ransomware, and all kinds of malicious software. Thankfully, anti-virus experts are trying to stay up-to-date and aware of the latest virus threats.  Let’s examine some of the traditional, full-scale, or free antivirus tool as reviewed by PC Magazine.  

PC Mag has reviewed over 30 different commercial antivirus utilities, and that’s not even counting the many free antivirus tools. Out of that extensive field, they named four Editors’ Choice products.

  • Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus (2015) – This top rated (Editor’s score 4.5) personal and  professional anti-virus that is compatible with Windows Vista, Windows XP, Mac OS, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10
  • Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2016– Editor rating as excellent at 4.5.  Compatible with Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10. Editors’ Choice winner Bitdefender Antivirus Plus earns top scores in lab tests and PC’s own tests, and also packs in a wealth of useful bonus features.
  • Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2016) – Editor’s rating of excellent at 4.5. Kaspersky Anti-Virus (2016) looks a little different from last year’s model, but it still delivers excellent protection, as proven by its excellent scores in independent lab tests and our own hands-on tests. It is compatible with Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10.
  • McAfee AntiVirus Plus (2016)– Again a top rated Editor’s choice at 4.5 (excellent). McAfee AntiVirus Plus is very capable, and it includes a raft of bonus features. But what pushes it into stardom is the fact that a single subscription lets you install protection on every Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS device that you own.

All About Macs

Joshua Hewitt

So you have a Mac and you hear about all the PC users getting some sort of “virus”, “spyware” or “malware”. You do not have to worry because you have a Mac, right? Wrong! Macs are now becoming the target of viruses, spyware and malware. Back in the day, there was much less worry about any “junkware” infecting your PC. Now that Macs are becoming more popular in homes and offices, they are becoming bigger targets than previously seen. While there is no I 00% fool proof protection, here at M&H, we highly recommend to make sure that your investment in a computer is protected. The Apple system OS began setting up some built in protection since system release 10.6. 7, but as you know, computers and programs evolve by the minute! The built-in security features of OS X reduce the risk of malware attack, but they’re not absolute protection. It’s very important to have not only an antivirus solution (such as Sophos antivirus for example), but to also have a malware/spyware solution as well. So, how can you get said “malware” and/or “spyware”?

  • Software from an untrustworthy source
    • Software of any kind is distributed via BitTorrent or Usenet.
    • Software with a corporate brand, such as Adobe Flash Player, doesn’t come directly from the developer’s website.
    • Rogue websites such as Softonic and CNET Download distribute free applications that have been packaged in a superfluous “installer.”
    • The software is advertised by means of spam or intrusive web pop ups.
  • Software that is plainly illegal or does something illegal
    • Software that you would otherwise have to pay for is “cracked” or “free.”
    • An application helps you to infringe copyright, for instance by circumventing the copy protection on commercial software, or saving streamed media for reuse without permission.
  • Conditional or unsolicited offers from strangers
    • A web page tells you that you have a “virus” and offers to help you remove it. (Some reputable websites did legitimately warn visitors who were infected with the “DNSChanger” malware. That exception to this rule no longer applies.)
    • A web site offers free content such as video or music, but to use it you must install a “codec,” ” plug-in,” “player,” “downloader,” “extractor,” or “certificate” that comes from that same site, or an unknown one.
    • You win a prize in a contest you never entered.
    • Someone on a message board such as this one is eager to help you, but only if you install an application of his choosing.
    • A “FREE WI-FI!!!” network advertises itself in a public place such as an airport, but is not provided by the management.
  • Unexpected events
    • You open what looks like a document and get an alert that it’s “an application downloaded from the Internet.” Click Cancel and delete the file or message.
    • An application does something inexplicable, such as asking for permission to access your contacts, your location, or the Internet for no obvious reason.
    • Software is attached to email that you didn’t request, even if it comes (or seems to come) from someone you trust.

macs

So here is the bottom line, be careful of what sites you visit, what emails you open and what programs you run. Say if you were walking on the streets of Boston, and someone came up to you and said “Hey, I got a free watch! You want it?” I would be very cautious of that person. The same thing should go for using the internet. You want to make sure you have your information protected, and again, we advise to protect your investment. Macs are great machines, but like a car, they need to be taken care of Remember, if you ever have any questions or concerns, ask our tech experts at M&H during your next tech for a day visit or email us at support@mhconsults.com

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Keeping You and Your Devices Safe

In today’s fast paced world we are becoming more and more dependent on our electronic
devices. We access our data and spreadsheets on our laptops and tablets. We call and email our clients on our smart phones. The devices we use are becoming more integrated with everyday life, and as such we use them for more than just business.

Many people will stream a video, or listen to music on their devices. Imagine, however, you click on a link to watch a video, and instead your device becomes locked, with a message stating that there is child pornography on your device and you will be reported to the FBI unless you pay to have it removed. This is exactly what happened to a young girl in Tennessee. She unknowingly installed malware that took over her phone and started to wreak havoc. This type of malware is called “Ransomware”. It is a form of malware that installs on your devices, and can be from
websites, emails, etc. Some of it will threaten to delete or encrypt your data unless you pay a fee. Some will delete the data and then demand a fee to restore it. Some, like above, will install illegal things and demand that you pay or if not that you will be reported to the FBI. What’s worse is that you could pay the ransom demanded, and you’re not even guaranteed to get your data back, or device freed.

poison-computer

This type of malware is big business, and has mostly been limited to computers (laptops or desktops.) With today’s technology of more mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones we can expect that this will become the newest trending market for being targeted by the writers of the Malware. Companies such as Avast have reported in increase of blocked attacks, and they see the trend rising.

All hope is not lost however. There are steps that you can take that can help you to
avoid this type of personal attack. First you should always be wary of links. Never
click on an unknown link, especially from emails. If an associate or friend has
emailed you something that contains a link make sure that you verify that it actually
came from them before clicking on it. Attackers have ways of making emails seem to come from people you know and wouldn’t suspect. Second, you should only use approved methods of downloading applications onto your smart phone or tablet. This includes Google Play and the Apple Store. This is not always a guarantee of safe programs, but they are less likely to be harmful if coming from them. Third, make sure that you have some sort of program to block these types of attacks. This means virus/
malware protection. Make sure that you use a reputable vendor, and purchase the protection. There are many free versions out there, but when it comes to your devices and data it is better to be safe than sorry. You know the adage, you get what you pay for.

If you do become the victim of one of these ransomware attacks make sure that you first contact your local authorities, especially if the ransomware has downloaded illegal items onto your device. After that you can contact us any time at 866-9MH-TECH or email us at support@mhconsults.com and we will be glad to assist you.