Archive for the ‘Tech News’ Category

Phone Scams Involving Your Computer’s Health

Friday, December 20th, 2013

I recently posted on our Facebook page about a recent development in our area of Northern Minnesota – but it’s happening everywhere as well.

A client received a phone call from a man claiming that he knew she had a Microsoft Windows computer and that it was on its way to failure – something about crashing or viruses, either way they told her that this was legitimate because they apparently had their computer’s “ID number”. For all we’re concerned this could be something like 1343GFQ032RD and it might sound legitimate to someone who is unsure all while being completely meaningless.

Regardless of what someone on the phone tells you, there is no legitimate reason why someone would be calling your phone to warn you that your computer is about to break. Not only would they have no way of knowing (without already having backdoor access to your computer – which you may want to have examined if strange events continue) but there is a 99% chance that if you do fall for their trap, you’ll be paying them to “fix” the problem – and they will instead either actually create real problems or further increase problems and then they’ll want to be paid again to “fix” the last problem.

If you get a phone call from someone who is asking or demanding money to help you with your computer PLEASE do not pay them or give them any details, or download anything they ask you to. You can do whatever you like – if you’re the kind of person who likes to toy with telemarketers then string them along and waste their time. Otherwise, just hanging up on them and/or ignoring their calls will save you from potentially being bullied into paying for illegitimate service.

Windows Live Mail, Connecting to Cold Snap-Provided Email

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Connecting To Cold Snap Technology Email

via Windows Live Mail

This tutorial will teach you how to use Windows Live Mail to connect to CST Email services. While this is focused on setting up Windows Live Mail, some of these elements are similar to other Email client programs, and services.

For a details on connecting with SSL or with Thunderbird, Outlook, or other clients please contact us.

If you have not started Windows Live Mail before, the window below will pop up automatically. If it does not, you can access it by clicking the Accounts tab across the top of the window, and then click the button labeled Email.

Adding a new email address

Adding a new email address

Step 1B

In this window,

Email address: Fill this in with your email address (in example, johndoe@mysite.com)

Password: Fill this in with the password set up or assigned to your account.

Display name for your sent messages: This can be what you like, but should be your real name.

Please make sure to checkmark the box beside Manually configure server settings.

Then click Next.

 Step 2

Incoming server information

Server type: Please select POP.

Server address: This should be mail.your-domain.com. (Your-domain to be replaced with the website you have through Cold Snap. For example, if your website is http://mysite.com, then this would be mail.mysite.com)

Port: Please type in 110, if not already present.

Do NOT checkmark Requires a secure connections (SSL).

Authenticate using: Clear text should be selected.

Logon user name: This is your full email address. (in example, johndoe@mysite.com)

Outgoing server information

Server address: This should be mail.your-domain.com, as explained in the previous section.

Port: Please type in 587.

Do NOT checkmark Requires a secure connections (SSL).

Do checkmark Requires authentication. (If you have an older version of Outlook or Outlook Express see how to enable outgoing authentication here.)

Please click Next.

Step 3

If all was well, this should be all that is required! We can check back on our main screen after clicking FinishEmail should download automatically at this point, if the account was set up correctly. Your Cold Snap provided email service should now be fully set up.

Mobile Security Breaches: A Historical Snapshot of Mobile Security

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Seven percent of U.S. families endure the agony of identity theft, according to the 2013 Montana Department of Administration’s Cyber/Data Information Security FAQ. Primary points of attack include credit card data, online banking information and social security numbers. Easily accessible, unencrypted portable devices remain among the most common points of security breach.

Whether from a misplaced BlackBerry, a lost thumb drive, a stolen laptop or inefficient cloud security, you and your family remain at risk of the worst possible consequences of modern technology: Complete financial and personal disruption.

Two Stages of Mobile Security Breach

Before dipping knee-deep into the history and evolution of mobile security, consider the distinction between a mobile security breach and a mobile data breach. The State Privacy Office of West Virginia defines the differences as follows:

  • Security Breach – Getting a hold of unauthorized information that compromises the confidentiality, respectability or security of private information maintained by a business or a person
  • Data Breach – The negligence or unauthorized disclosure of personally identifiable information in a manner that enables compromise of addresses, banking data, names, dates of birth, health care details, Social Security information and more.

However, no mobile device security plans for the near future distinguish between the two terms. Although mobile security programs aim to eliminate data leakage and unauthorized BYOD access to corporate assets, data security authorities continue to apply the twin terms interchangeably. For the purpose of event listings, tracking and problem resolution, technology experts make no distinctions between a hacker stealing information from a corporate database and a lost smartphone containing the personal information of the device owner, company customers or company employees.

A Bitter Run-Down of Mobile Device Security Breaches

Originally designed as enterprise-centric and tightly controlled mobile devices, smartphones have evolved in a consumer experience in portable computing. Current operating systems sometimes run on open-source coding, opening a floodgate of hacker enabled doorways, windows and crawlspaces. Here is a sampling of some history-making mobile security breaches.

August 2006: First Trojan malware invades BlackBerry email process. It came as a free tic-tac-toe download. It’s purpose: to attack the BlackBerry email functions. Fortunately, this one was designed by a security research seeking only to expose the risk factor.

January 2009: Multiple security issues in BlackBerry PDF format opens pathway to memory corruption via hacker-generated email containing specially-crafted PDF files. Possible extent of the dangers included the execution of arbitrary code on the BlackBerry Enterprise Server. Fortunately, RIM uncovered the vulnerabilities and released a reliable patch.

March 2011: Android market takes direct hit from 50-plus malware-infected applications. The DroidDream malware illustrated the additional security issues associated with open-market app publication. Fortunately, Google intercepted the malicious apps before major damage occurred.

2013 Mobile Security In The Here and Now

Winning the battle for digital security is an ongoing battle. A simple observation of the daily Microsoft security updates for Windows reveals the depth of the problem. Every modern mobile device presents product-specific security risks and every modern mobile device presents some common security issues.

As users, you depend on the manufacturers for low level protection. But the primary source for substantial mobile security remains common for every user and every corporation. Mobile users can also enlist proactive help from ID theft protection services such as LifeLock. You must:

  • Restrict access
  • Know the contents
  • Use encryption
  • Install passwords
  • Maintain backups
  • Handle with wisdom

Why You Should Make Your Website Responsive

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

You spent plenty of hours working on your mobile site, getting it just right, only to discover Google is penalizing both your mobile and desktop sites because of coding issues that flags duplicate content. While Google is generally good about recognizing the difference between mobile and desktop sites, it is entirely possible to encounter some bad search engine optimization issues with multiple versions of the same site. One way some designers are getting around this is through the use of responsive design, which uses a single design that adapts to the display of the device accessing it.

Websites that work on any screen

Websites that work on any screen

The Benefits

Responsive web design isn’t just a trendy buzzword. It’s incredibly useful technology that can reduce your web design budget. For example, Malleck Design mentions the up-front money-saving aspects, since designing a single set of code takes a smaller chunk out of your budget than designing two or three. Your overall conversions will also increase, due to the unified browsing look as you go from device to device. It looks more professional than a mobile site that is completely different than what the customer is normally used to browsing around on their home or work PC.

Saving Yourself SEO Headaches

In a perfect world, the Google bot will see a mobile site and understand this content is associated with the site, but it is only duplicating the content out of necessity, as opposed to an attempt to game the system. However, sometimes Google Bot doesn’t recognize a site is supposed to be mobile-only and may incorrectly assume that there is a duplicate content issue. Responsive design cannot have this problem since it only uses the user agent to change its display through each design element, instead of presenting a completely different web page entirely.

The Rise of Multiple Devices

Many people own a tablet, smartphone and PC, and use all three devices for their web browsing behavior. Users used to search for WiFi hotspots to go online, now they like to see the 4G coverage map on their mobile phones. Responsive design adapts to the way people are using the Internet by adjusting to the platform. When your customers know they can access your site anytime, anywhere, and on any device they want, and the experience is mostly identical across all of the platforms, they’re going to have a much better time. The mobile market, particularly in the tablet sector, is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. This year, tablet shipments are expected to grow almost 70 percent compared to last year, Gartner reports, so getting your responsive design in place now is a good way of future-proofing your website.

Mobile Management Tips for Your Business

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

mobile phone used by cheerful businessmanEmployees have access to two or more devices in the workplace, creating a ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) landscape that makes it imperative for businesses to examine the cross-use of personal and business devices in the office, a recent study conducted by Apperian confirms.

There was a time when employers were more likely to supply a work laptop or tablet with the understanding employees don’t use them for personal reasons, and that they keep work off of their personal computers and devices. That’s a policy that’s becoming tough to enforce, given that today’s young office workers are essentially surgically attached to their devices. Smartphones and tablets are no longer distractions so much as appendages; units that help workers to navigate and better understand the world around them. Be that as it may, BYOD can make management a nightmare.

Issues to Consider

A few of the issues that arise when everyone is using their own devices in the office:

  • Cross-compatibility. When everyone is on a different brand of phone, it’s hard to get everybody on the same page. Some apps aren’t even available for every version of the same Android phone, let alone Droid, iPhone or BlackBerry.
  • Security. When everyone is taking their own devices back and forth from home to work, security can become a major concern. In the days of company-provided laptops and tablets, this wasn’t such a big deal, as you could be fairly certain your employees would use their work devices for work purposes only. Now, you can’t be so sure.
  • Licenses. When everyone is on a Windows laptop, everyone can use the office’s license for Microsoft Word. When one person is on Windows, one is on iOS, and one is on a homebrew OS, you’re generally going to have to buy everyone their own individual license for each program, which can be expensive for a small business.

A Possible Solution in Mobility Management

Mobility Management is exactly what it sounds like: a system that allows you to manage your enterprise when it comes to mobile employees. Most phones have apps that allow you to manage employees on the same phones, to share files and apps and so on, but few phones allow you to manage an office network that includes multiple phone manufacturers and operating systems.

An exception to that rule can be found in the BlackBerry 10’s Enterprise Mobility Management system, which allows users to access and connect with iOS devices, as well as those equipped with BlackBerry, and Android. The experience for users of Enterprise Mobility mobile phones is pretty seamless, as you can secure, deploy, manage, remotely control and collaborate with the three big smartphone operating systems.

The idea here is to offer flexibility and accessibility, and, in the area of recruiting, an edge over the competition. It may seem funny that something like this could be a deal breaker, but for many talented young techies, “Can I use my own phone?” can make the difference between doing a good job and a great one.

What are your thoughts on Mobility Management? Share them in the comments.

Windows 8

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Windows 8 – How and what is it? Windows 8 is the newest operating system from Microsoft, the successor to Windows 7. It provides a few new things and while keeping some features the same – it generally could be said that Windows 8 is a completely new system.

Win8Logo

Firstly, why is it new? Windows 8 offers a fresh experience built from the success that was Windows 7 – Seven was wildly popular and some even viewed it as the spiritual successor to Windows XP rather than Vista. The desktop environment is still present – like other Windows systems and strongly represents the Windows 7 desktop. However, this is hidden by the new “Metro Experience” introduced in Windows 8.

Win8Metro

The Metro Experience

“Metro” is what stands out tall and first in the long line of new features and what you’ll be presented with right away when you start up a machine with Windows 8. It’s a streamlined environment where “Apps” will be presented to you in squares and rectangles all put together nice and squarely. This is a great addition – for mobile computers using Windows 8. Communities around the Internet have been frustrated with how much Windows 8 is designed for mobiles and forcefully using this setup on all installations, including desktops where it is much less useful. Metro goes great on a tablet, or phone or even touch-screen laptop, though as it’s much like a home screen on an Android or Apple device.

Aside from Metro, Windows 8 also offers some new features and re-tooled others. Something that long-time users of Windows may notice immediately is that once you discover how to get to the desktop (Windows Key + D or find the “Desktop” Metro tile) you will see a lack of any discernible and trademark “Start Button” or “Start Menu”. For some reason, Microsoft decided this was not a good inclusion – leaving many long-time users wondering how to navigate their desktop.

A lot of customers and people who ended up with Windows 8 on their new computers seem to be lost without something that has been so paramount in previous systems from Microsoft. There are several solutions to this problem, and the one that has been found by us to be the most helpful is “Start Menu 8” by “IOBit”. It’s fairly customizable and can be very much like the old Windows 7 menu. There are other alternatives for those searching for this solutions though, so do a little googling for what will suit you the best.

Start Menu 8

IOBit’s Start Menu 8 is a welcome sight.

Options Screen

Fairly customizable.

Windows 8 has included some old features in new ways, for example file searching was arguably one of the most powerful features behind Vista and more-so in Windows 7. Since the Start Menu is gone, where did this feature go? From your W8 desktop, hit Windows Key + F, and this will bring up a new menu on the right side of your screen, where you can search for an App, a Setting or a File all in one.

Win 8 Search

Windows Key + F

If you have Windows 7 already, should you upgrade to Windows 8? It’s a hard decision to say yes or no, and you’ll have to think about if you want to re-learn things you already know to more familiarize yourself for the modern, hybrid PC and Mobile system. Is it more powerful? We’ve only seen a couple computers in shop with it so far, and it seems to operate cleanly minus all of the struggles of misplaced features. You may like it, but you also may not – the best suggestion would most certainly be: “Try Before You Buy”.

What Your Business Should Know About Choosing a VPN

Monday, August 5th, 2013

proxyMore than 600 data breaches occurred in the U.S. last year, as well as nearly 50,000 reported security incidents, according to an annual Verizon report. A large portion of those breaches were accomplished on mobile devices, and with public Wi-Fi everywhere you turn, a VPN could make or break your data security.

Virtual Private Network overview

Photo by Ludovic.ferre via Wikimedia Commons

How Hackers Get In

While free public Wi-Fi services are popular, there are risks associated with the convenience. Mobile employees open the door for unscrupulous data thieves when they fail to use common sense before signing onto email and financial websites on the road with company equipment.

Employees who assume the strongest Internet connection from McDonald’s network in the parking lot make it easier for scammers who could be lurking nearby with a similar network name. Bolt Insurance executives found many employees fail to log into encrypted, secure https websites because they simply forgot to confirm the address before signing in. Bolt suggests using Virtual Private Network software for all employees who work on the road.

Securing Data with Virtual Private Networks

A VPN is simply a network of computers joined together across multiple locations to add security and privacy via authentication hardware and software. Access to the network is allowed with unique passwords or PIN identifiers. Internet Service Providers, http://www.internetserviceproviders.com, touts the ease and flexibility of VPNs for business owners. Security and privacy are the most practical benefits for business owners.

Free Services

Both privacy and security protocol should be carefully examined before signing up for a free service. Some no-charge VPN providers log all activity, and most users are subjected to contextual ads based on past activity online.

Businesses that want to take a trial run with a free service should remember all data is available to the host provider. Choose websites to visit with caution during the trial period. Some experts suggest only using free services offered by well-established providers to avoid a fly-by-night scam artist.

Paid Services

Paid services vary widely among providers. Prices vary based on features, storage space and the number of exit points. Depending on the nature of the business, monthly rates are as low as $5 per month and can go up to several hundred dollars per year. Even with paid services, it is important to look for secure connections, i.e. SSL or IPsec, when selecting a provider.

Exit Locations

Free services usually have fewer exit points. An exit proxy, or location, is a connection setting that allows you to “appear” in another network or country, thus adding a layer of anonymity and security. As a general rule, the higher the number of exit options available from your VPN, the more discreet your activities are online.

Beyond the number of available locations, it is important to find a VPN provider that offers exit proxies that fit business needs. If a service provider offers 18 exit points, but doesn’t offer an exit in Panama, and the business wants to connect with other computers in Panama to capture live television broadcasts or connect with remote employees securely, the service won’t provide the most beneficial features — regardless of the price. Choosing a provider that offers a variety of exit points that fit company networking goals is essential to finding a best fit.

What recommendations do you have regarding VPN? Share them in the comments.

Business and Government Get Hit by Identity Theft, Too

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

While consumers are fighting their own personal wars with identity theft, companies are also inventing new ways to deal with the increasing threat. Banks lose millions of dollars every year by having to compensate identity theft victims, and so they’re developing new ways for consumers to protect themselves.

Who's you online?

Who’s you online?

Money Matters

Companies that have a single reported security breach may find themselves with billions of dollars in damages, as well as a troubled reputation that will linger for years to come. USA Today reports that businesses lose between $150-$250 for each card number stolen from their files. This amount represents the required legal fees, consultants and administrative costs. This may not seem like a lot, but tens of thousands of credit card numbers can be stolen in a single breach.

Government Dealings

Companies aren’t the only ones dealing with the challenge of identity theft. The government has also been affected. The state of South Carolina had its security system breached in 2012, resulting in 3.6 million Social Security numbers being exposed, thestate.com reports. And in a 2006 security breach at the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department, the personal data of 26.5 million veterans was downloaded to a laptop that was later stolen (and later, recovered).

Once information is accessed by a hacker, it can be uploaded online. At this point, nothing can stop the information from being traded on the Internet, and those who have been affected may have no choice but to petition for a change of their Social Security number. This is not an easy process and can sometimes take months. Government agencies are especially vulnerable to security attack, because so many of them run legacy computer systems.

Retail Threats

Retail establishments are at increased risk for identity theft, because they rely on third-party vendors and merchant payment processes for many of their services. Consumers are more likely to experience identity theft during the holidays, in part due to new and seasonal workers employed at retail locations. This means retail stores need to be cautious about running background checks on their new workers.

Consumer Precautions

While banks, governments and corporations are working hard to lessen the impact of identity theft, the bulk of the responsibility still falls upon the consumer.

  • Avoid using paper statements, and thoroughly review your statements every time you get one
  • Consider signing up with an identity theft protection service such as LifeLock. These companies will monitor your account activity and alert you if they see anything suspicious
  • Never release your credit card information online until you have verified the recipient
  • Teach your children about Internet safety
  • Don’t leave your mail in your mailbox overnight, and always shred documents before discarding them

Have you ever been a victim of identity theft? How did it affect you? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Dirt and Dust – Are you destroying your computer?

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Fundamentally, computers are complex machines. They can perform many tasks of modern life, but are susceptible to the same flaws as any other machine would be. Dirt and dust are mortal enemies of machines and have several troubling consequences, home and office computers included. In a list of the ten most common reasons for computer failures published in 2008, number six was dirt and dust while heat rated number eight, even though heat can also be a side effect of a dust buildup.

What exactly is it that dust and dirt do to your system? First, it would help to understand what dust is – dust is a mixture of particles such as plant pollen, cloth fibers, paper fiber, and tiny specks of dirt, skin cells, and hair from both pets and humans. Some dust is capable of conducting electricity as well and can short out your computer. It is entirely a deadly combination of gunk capable of serious damage.

Dust will find a way into any part of your computer/laptop, and every part it settles on can be affected negatively. For example, dust can diminish the lifespan of your components, increase power consumption, clog your fans, and insulate and short circuit the electronics. This would cause excessive heat damage, damaged or destroyed cooling fans or damaged parts. All of these problems could lead to dire results such as costly repairs or replacements of individual parts or the whole system.

There are several warning signs however – slowness of the operating system (throttled speed) or louder fan activity for no apparent reason to name a few. It is highly recommended to get your computer or laptop checked for dirt and clogs, and having this maintenance done will help prevent critical and costly failure.

Build a Better Site and Clients Will Convert

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

In this age of sustainability and virtual networking, a simple WordPress website can be your virtual business card, CV, point of contact with prospects and data mining source for client information. Gregory Cohen, of CrossTown Digital Communications says that outlining the developmental stages of your site and identifying your website’s goals is essential to creating a great site that will best serve your needs. If you’re a business owner who depends on clients and contract work, then converting prospects is the name of the game.

Define Your Goals

As Cohen said, a business website is a means to an end, so make a list of what you would like your website to accomplish. For example, if you want to grab a visitor’s attention and assist them as they’re looking at your site, there are tools like customer service software at LivePerson.com that can spark the interest of a prospect and get them interested in your product and services faster. If you want to create a site that will request and collect contact information from visitors, building a splash page is a great solution. You can create a form that will request contact information from site visitors or, if you’re not the DIY type, you can outsource the design project to another graphic designer.

Appearances are Everything

Many times when business owners create their first site, they want to include flashy banners and animation, but these elements can be very distracting and even annoying to visitors who want to visit a site and get the information they need without worrying about their computer crashing or having to mute a pop-up video. Web1marketing.com advises first-time web designers to create a clean, simple design that can be easily found by search engines. Use limited flash animation and, when including images or video on your site, be sure to use alt tags to describe what is featured in the images and video. These tags and other keywords used in the site’s copy are identified by search engines and help users to find the sites that they are looking for.

Easy on the Eyes

Many times users will scan a site quickly to see if the site has the information that they’re looking for, if it’s not the site they need, they’ll leave quickly. That’s why you will want to grab your visitor quickly with easy-to-identify content that is bold and easy to read. Choose a font that is easy to read and professional, such as Arial or Times New Roman. Stay away from fonts that are difficult to understand or unprofessional, like Helvetica or Comic Sans. To make your content is clear and easily found on your site’s pages, break up your copy with bullets and headings. Visitors will see that your site is useful and offers the services they need immediately.

Get a Second Pair of Eyes

Pay attention to details. Have a friend or a professional site auditor review before you launch your page. You would never want a client to find a glaring spelling error. A potential client might leave your site if they find that your shopping cart hyperlink is broken. Ask a trusted friend or pay a professional to have a look at your site and make helpful suggestions, before you release your new site for all of the world to see. Once your new site is launched, keep it up to date and have someone check out the changes, so new errors don’t creep in.