Are Pop-Ups Dangerous?

Are you tired of the constant “pop-ups” on your computer every time you try to surf the web? I know I am! These pop-ups bring advertising that usually has nothing to do with the website and often tries to convince the viewer that they need some type of security software by claiming that the system is infected. Worse yet are the pop-ups that have adult content or offensive ads that are not appropriate for younger viewers. But aside from being annoying and sometimes inappropriate, are they dangerous? Could these seemingly innocuous ads harm your computer? Let’s take a closer look.

 

According to the website The Insider, 50 percent of all ads are closed before they have even finished loading, and whilst this study was only based on a survey of 36 people, the over 10-million users of pop-up blocking extensions on Chrome says something about the popularity of these sometimes unwelcome website visitors. Over the years computer users have become accustomed to the occasional pop-up ad and have learned to either use blockers or ignore the ad altogether. Most pop-ups are harmless forms of advertising, but there have been pop-ups that are more sinister than the typical marketing ploy.

 

Safety When Dealing with Pop Ups

 

  • A general rule of thumb when dealing with pop-up ads is to not click on it if you don’t know the site or don’t fully understand the ramifications of activating the pop-up.
  • Clicking on an ad of this nature could redirect the user to another website that could be infected or geared to steal your personal information.
  • Some pop-ups are said to have malware embedded on the code of the ad. So be sure not to click unless you trust the source.
  • In addition, never reveal your email, name, personal I.D., or sensitive personal or financial information.
  • Do not fall victim to the Scareware pop-ups that want you to pay for a fake anti-virus software, drive-by download pop-ups, or pop-ups which install malware when you close them.

 

For those of us who live on the internet, whether it is for shopping, researching, or working, the best practice is to keep to well known sites like Google, Bing, Yahoo and other big-name blogs/sites/etc. then the likelihood of you getting propositioned by a malicious pop-up is small.

Practicing Safe “Internetting”

We all love the internet. We shop, browse, read the news, network, hunt for information, and play on social media. But while we are busy doing all these things, there is always the risk of being vulnerable to a cyber crime. Do you know what to look for and what should raise a red flag? There are so many risks to be wary of, including: phishing, viruses, spyware, fraud, and malicious websites with the goal of stealing personal information. Here are a few steps to take to practice safe “internetting”.

 

  • Exercise common sense. If a website or link does not look legitimate, then do not click on it. For example, be wary of websites which promote schemes that involve the recruitment of others, receiving money for other people, or advanced payments.
  • Check the website info for errors such as address errors, misspellings, or things that look out of place. Make sure that names match and the website and email have common names so that it does not redirect you to another site.
  • If there is NO icon of a padlock in the browser window or ‘https://’ at the beginning of the web address to signify that it is using a secure link, do not enter personal information on the site.
  • Only download software from sites you trust. Carefully evaluate free software and file-sharing applications before downloading them.
  • Type in a trusted URL for a company’s site into the address bar of your browser to bypass links in an email or instant message.
  • Never open an email or a link in an email that looks suspicious, such as one from an unknown source.
  • Don’t click on an unknown pop-up as it may be spyware. Never click on pop-ups that claim you have won millions of dollars. These are scams.
  • Do not give out personal info to websites that you don’t know or have not dealt with in the past.

 

For more information or training for your clients or employees on safe browsing online, call M&H Consulting today at 1-(866)-964-8324 or visit our website M&H Consults

The Dangers of Unknown Emails

If you are like the rest of the American public, your email inbox is probably overflowing with advertisements, business data, announcements, newsletters, and of course, important work information. It is tempting to just click away and open-and-discard, but don’t do it! Between Trojans, spyware, and ransomware, your data and your operations can be severely and irreparably affected by just one successful cyberattack that could occur due to opening an email.

 

By now we all know that opening an unknown email is bad news. But what signs and red flags should you look for to identify an email that may trigger a disaster? Here are a few things to be aware of as you sort through your daily email list.

 

Be aware of emails that . . .

 

  • Don’t use your name but call you “sir” or “madam” or other vague title.
  • Have attachments that are executable files. Generally, attachments you receive will be documents or graphics with the corresponding “.doc,” “.pdf,” “.jpg,” or “.png” extensions. Avoid opening double extensions or executable file attachments.
  • Are from a company or person you do not know.
  • Have masked hyperlinks.
  • Request personal information that could put you at risk.
  • Have a threat or demand in the sender line.

 

Remember that most emails are safe but all it takes is clicking on the one that isn’t that could damage or lock up your computer system. Training employees on what to look for is a business’ best line of defense, as the employees are the ones receiving and reading through the emails on a daily basis. If you need training or help with protecting your computer systems from cyber crimes, call M&H Consulting at 1-(866)-964-8324 for a free initial consultation.

Online Safety

 

At M&H Consulting, we work alongside many small and medium sized businesses. Many of these business are managed by entrepreneurs who also balance work and family life. Many of them ask our expert advice on online safety for the employees, but keep their children safe as well.  

Whether you are an employee of a company that works online or a teen surfing the net, here are a few ways to protect yourself online.

  • Never give out personal information whether it is your phone number, address, or parents names without ensuring you are on a secure site.
  • Never post something that could come back to hurt you later whether you are in the working world trying to get a job.
  • Check for authenticity before downloading or installing software or doing anything that could possibly hurt the computer or mobile device or potentially jeopardize privacy.
  • Do not post risque images on business or personal sites.
  • Be true to who you are.
  • Never open emails that you suspect are from a stranger or could potentially have a virus attached.
  • Monitor who has access to different accounts and who your children are dialoguing with on a daily basis.
  • Talk to employees as well as you own children about cyberbullying and signs of an online predator.
  • Call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at (800) 843-5678 if you’re aware of the transmission, use, or viewing of child pornography online. Contact your local law enforcement agency or the FBI if your child has received child pornography via the Internet.

What If . . . things go wrong with your computer?

Accidents happen especially when we are stressed and overworked. Accidents on and around technology can be a whole lot more than a “whoops” moment. They can be downright damaging to the hardware and potentially files that are on the hard drive. We have compiled a few “What If. . . “ moments in case you are wondering what will happen to your technology if  (insert horrible event here) happens.  Here’s hoping you don’t have one of these events any time soon.

  • What if you spill a drink on your keyboard? The answer according to Guardian Online is fairly straightforward. “If you‘ve only spilled a small amount of clean water on it, you may well get away with it. You can remove and clean a sticky keyboard using a damp cloth or soft toothbrush and distilled water before drying it thoroughly, and in extreme cases, people try methylated spirits (ethanol) or solvents (isopropyl alcohol).”
  • What if your hard drive gets physically damaged? The answer really depends on the extent of the damage and if data can be recovered. If the damage is minimal try to get the data off the drive and take it in for a check up. If the drive is seriously damaged now is not the time to find out that your data recovery strategy is not up-to-date. Contact your IT department or the consultants working with your department who may be able to find backed up data or recover the data on that drive.
  • What if I accidentally open suspicious email? Obviously don’t click on emails that look suspicious in the first place but if your mouse gets moved or something unforeseen happens, disconnect your device, backup your files, and then call your IT department or IT consulting company to check your machine for malware or other suspicious content.
  • What if I get ransomware? According to PC World, “Don’t negotiate with e-terrorists. Instead, remove many ransomware viruses without losing your files. The process varies and depends on the type of invader. Some procedures involve a simple virus scan, while others require offline scans and advanced recovery of your files.” For specifics read here.

Amazon Web Services

Many of us enjoy using Amazon on a daily basis when we order products through Amazon Prime or watch movies through the Amazon Stick. But did you know that small and medium sized businesses have been using Amazon Web Services for features such as: computing, storage, database storage, analytics, application, and deployment services that help organizations move faster, lower IT costs, and scale applications. Millions customers are using Amazon Web Services for products and solutions. Let’s take a closer look at this and how it may be a good choice for your business.

 

Whether you are running applications that share photos to millions of mobile users or you’re supporting the critical operations of your business, a cloud services platform provides rapid access to flexible and low cost IT resources. Here are some of the benefits that businesses may procure with the use of Amazon Web Services.

 

  • Ease of Use – The intuitive applications of Amazon allow users to quickly and safely run aspects of business.
  • Affordable – Businesses only pay for the compute power, storage, and other resources used, with no long-term contracts or up-front commitments.
  • Security – Businesses will benefit from a data center and network architecture built to meet the requirements of the most security-sensitive organizations.
  • Flexible – Select the operating system, programming language, web application platform, database, and other services you need. With Amazon Web Services, your business will  receive a virtual environment that lets you load the software and services your application requires.

 

Contact M&H Consulting to find out more about these web services and whether they can be helpful; to your company.

 

Putting Google to Work for your Business

We all know the Google name and the power behind the well-known search engine. But did you know that just by signing up for a Google email for you and your employees, that you have the power of cloud computing right at your fingertips? Google’s suite of applications seems to cover every angle of computer-based work including: creating presentations, spreadsheets, documents, and calendars all in a collaborative format! This is a great opportunity for start-ups to reduce costs and maintain a superior level of communications among team members.

 

The benefits of using Google’s suite of applications are far reaching especially for companies that are highly mobile and operating on a tight budget. The standard version of Google Docs, which is amazing on its own, can be beefed up for just $50 a year or more. That includes cloud-based file storage and help desk services. In addition to the affordability of this suite, Google is highly mobile, meaning users can access files via mobile phones, even the Apple iPad, and of course from desktop computers and notebooks. If your work takes you out-of-the-office often, this may be a sound choice for your small or medium sized business.

 

Google Docs, spreadsheets, and presentations have other features that are a “must” in today’s collaborative work environment. For example, Google Docs provides automated backup for documents as they are edited. Collaboration is also made simple with Google’s ability of allowing multiple users work simultaneously on the same file. This is critical when a presentation is on a deadline and multiple employees are making changes and additions up to the last minute.

 

Finally, Google takes all the stress off the business owner by taking care of maintenance and security. Google and the secondary service providers worry about power surges, failed hard drives, upgrades, and compatibility while you run your business. Google’s security track record is also excellent. Data stored with Google is probably as safe as it would be in most corporate data centers.

 

Talk to M&H Consulting if you want to put Google to work for your company. We can help train and troubleshoot for your company.

Protect your Identity on Social Media

You probably have heard of many people getting “catfished” or of people “catfishing” others. This is one form of identity theft that usually comes about through a social media network with photos and identity information taken from other strangers’ profiles. The act of being catfished may not sound as serious to some. After all, it is social media, where pictures are easily taken; that’s what you sign up for when you create an account, right? Wrong. There are many things that can go wrong: someone can ruin your reputation by using your image or, even worse, gather information to piece together and create financial fraud, or any other serious identity theft crimes. But, don’t panic or go off to delete all of your accounts! We have some tips to help you stay safe.

Set your account to private. Keep all strangers from getting information about you. While doing this, go through the entire privacy setting to make sure everything you want to keep private stays that way. If you come across a setting you don’t understand, keep them closed anyway; it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Don’t give strangers access to follow you online. If you don’t know who those people are, you don’t know what their intentions may be in following you or adding you as a friend. After all, all it takes to file a fraudulent tax returns is a name, birth date and social security.

Use a hidden name. This can be a middle name or a nickname that only your friends and family would know, so that they can still find you online or know who you are.

Be aware of the content you are sharing. Make sure you are not mindlessly revealing the answers to your security questions online. Also, try not to post images that show the layout of your home so that strangers can’t figure out where you live. Avoid sharing your location and birthday, if possible.

Avoid clicking on random links on social media. This includes those random social media quizzes. Many times, those links can carry malicious and invasive codes along with them that can infect your account or, even worse, your technology.

Cyber Attack Trends to Watch out for

With all new technology trends come new cyber attack trends. According to an article in TechRepublic.com, 90 million attacks will hit tech users in a year and 70 percent of them will go unnoticed! Because of this, we have searched for the patterns of cyber attacks to be on the look out for years to come. Here is what we found:

Ransomware will continue to rise:

There have been many cases of ransomware in the past and they are expected to rise as a security problem in taking advantage of vulnerable servers. A large part of the reason for its rise is because this is one of the easiest ways of getting confiscated data back; you just pay the ransom.

Rise in attacks on Industrial Control Systems:

Let’s face it; many of our Industrial Control Systems are past the outdated stage of technology. Because these outdated systems were not designed with cyber security in mind, they are expected to be a security issue for the future.

More Sophisticated Spear Phishing:

With more sophisticated spear phishing, it will be more difficult to tell which emails should be avoided from those that are legitimate. Spear phishing emails are no longer as simple as a scam link being sent and asking to be clicked on. They are disguised as important business/company emails.

Hacking on Internet of Things:

Because the Internet is being applied in every device, even those, which were not originally built to connect online, many every-day appliances are expected to be hit with cyberattacks. These devices can be anything from an app-controlled coffee maker to self-driven vehicles. With these devices, privacy is limited once they are hacked. Hackers can get access to your home and business through these technologies.

Simply being aware of these cyber attack trends is not enough. Security measures need to be taken in order to prevent such attacks. For information on how to get ahead of these attacks, contact M&H Consultants!

Finding the Root Cause of an IT Problem

Do you ever think you have gotten rid of a computer virus just to find your computer acting the same way as it did when you had the virus? We have all been there. The reason why this happens is usually because you have actually taken care of the symptoms rather than the actual root cause. Because this is such a common issue, we have decided to go through a few steps to help you find out the root issue to your IT problem and how to prevent them from reoccurring.

We have combined a few steps to help analyze the root cause. Read along to find out.

  1. Find out what the issue is.

You have to first figure out what the symptoms are in order to figure out what the problem is.  For example, if your computer is infected, ask yourself, “why is it infected?” You may figure out that it is because your malware program is outdated.

  1. Find out why the problem exists.

This step doesn’t necessarily give you the root cause of your IT problem but, it could definitely be a first step direction to it. In continuation with the first example, here are a few questions you can ask yourself to figure it out: (a.) “Why is my antimalware outdated?” Maybe you simply didn’t update the program. (b.) “Why didn’t I update it?” Maybe you forgot to, or the program didn’t offer one. (c.) “Why didn’t the program offer an update?” Maybe there is no longer an update for this version of malware program.

  1. Find out the root cause.

Once you have figured out all the reasons why this problem exists, you are able to determine what the root cause is. Using the example, once you have figured out that you malware program no longer offers an update, you may wonder “why doesn’t it offer an update?” and through research find out that the service company may no longer exist. This means that the virus system kept coming back because you have a program that is no longer working for your system.

After figuring out the root problem, it’s important to design a plan to prevent the problem from returning. Maybe, after you figure out that you need to download a new malware, you can design a maintenance plan to remember to check for updates and to see if your malware program is still relevant.

If you need help figuring out what the root cause of your IT problem is, or you need help designing a solution for your problem, contact M&H.