Top Ten Tips To Stay Safe Online

Are you worried about staying safe while using the Internet?

Then check out our great tips on how to stay online by clicking the link below.

The articles go through the following topics:

  • Secure you device.
  • Shop safely with trusted sellers
  • Learn the markers of a secure site.
  • Use a safe and protective payment method
  • Think before you share
  • How to tighten privacy settings
  • What to use a a passphrase
  • How to check the senders email address
  • Check the URL.
  • How to outsmart fishing attempts..

Click the link below to access our easy to print PDF with the tips.

Top 10 Tips to Stay Safe Online Guide

If you have any questions please leave a comment below.

What is the “Internet of Things” or IoT?

You arrive at your home or business and the door unlocks because it knows who you are. The lights switch on automatically and your favorite music begins to stream gently through the room. It’s already the perfect temperature, and as you head to your fridge, you notice an alert on the screen reminding you of a meeting.

It may sound like a scene from a movie but it is actually reality today thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT). Almost anything that can be turned on or off is now able to be connected to the internet. An new industry has been created to help users create a custom experience designed around their unique needs. Electronic locks, lights, healthcare wearables and household appliances are just the beginning. IoT goes beyond devices you can use to surf the web – it’s a global revolution.

Adapters can transform even the most random appliance into a connected gadget and  add new layers of functionality. Cloud software is creating connections, resulting in not just a new experience, but a new way of interacting with the data produced. It may all seem futuristic, but IoT is less about technology and more about enhancing relationships between people to people, people to things and things to things.

Millions of people are already wearing a Fitbit to track steps and calories and others are letting their fridge order groceries! The practical applications are almost endless and include:

  • GPS trackers on pets.
  • home security via webcam.
  • patient monitoring of blood pressure/heart rate.
  • weather monitoring.
  • remote power points.

No more worrying all day if you left the iron on, just push a button on your phone and know for sure it’s turned off.

Of course, with all this comes security risks. The idea of having your toaster hacked is a bit mind-boggling but any technology connected to the internet is open to exploitation. The webcam that allows you to monitor your pets may also allow other people to glimpse inside your home – but only if it’s not secured properly. Unfortunately, it only takes one small gap for a cyber-attack to get through, and once in all connected devices may be at risk.

Having your lights taken over by a far-away prankster may seem like a small risk, but gaps may allow them into your computers, phones, tablets and other devices too. This is the part the news reports and movies skip over – the networking protections that exist in the background, shielding against attacks.

Taking the time to properly secure your IoT device is essential to making sure you get the whole, happy future-tech experience. We’re big fans of the potential of IoT and can’t wait to see what comes next!

Do you have an IoT device that needs securing or would like to learn more? Give us a call on 08 8326 4364 to help.

Windows Vista End-of-Life: What This Means For You

Windows Vista End of LifeJust like what happened with Windows XP the life of Windows Vista is coming to an end. On 11th April 2017, Microsoft will cease all support and security patching. Naturally if you are a current Vista user this wouldn’t be good news and you are not exactly leaping for joy at this news!

Vista won’t stop working on this date but there will be a higher chance of security issues. While you’re watching the count-down and thinking about scheduling an upgrade cyber-criminals and hackers are making plans of their own.

As soon as vulnerabilities surface Vista users will be wide open for attack.Thus even the most stalwart Vista user should upgrade, as continued use will expose your computer to risks. These risks include:

Security risks: Gaps exploited during the Vista lifetime have already been patched but there are many more just waiting to be discovered. Hackers are extremely fast to exploit newly-discovered vulnerabilities and without Microsoft working just as fast to close them, the risk increases exponentially every time you turn on the computer. Antivirus software may not even help you here.

Compliance risks: Many businesses are subject to a variety of compliance conditions some of which require them to run an operating system that’s regularly patched. For those working with sensitive, financial, legal or private data, this is even more important. Continuing to use an unsupported OS places the entire business at high risk.

Software incompatibility: New applications are created for current operating systems. This means you probably won’t be able to upgrade past the software you now have. This will further open your systems up with security holes that aren’t being patched for third party applications..

No support: Vista mainstream support was stopped back in 2012 but there were always avenues if you were really stuck with something. A quick Google search or even Microsoft support staff willing to bend the rules; as of 11 April though, that all stops. The only support available will be outdated pieces you can locate with Google, solutions which may send you in circles with no resolution.

Windows Vista End-of-Life: What This Means For You

The solution is quite simple: upgrade your computers. It probably won’t be as simple as just updating your current system to though. Due to the age of Vista era machine you will most likely have to upgrade your whole system – hardware and software.

Windows 10 is the latest release and will give your upgrade investment the best value and security. Vista will continue to work after April 11, but every day you use it puts your system at higher levels of risk.

Get in contact by calling us at 08 8326 4364 to upgrade your Windows.

Should I Pay For Antivirus Software?

Its the age old question that I regularly hear – is free antivirus software as good as a paid for solution?

In a perfect world the best way to avoid a computer virus is by using common sense – but that doesn’t always work with even the most careful users finding themselves infected in an instant. This is why antivirus software exists to help us not get infected – but should you choose free or paid antivirus? Here we list some of the differences between the two:

Advertising: Much like a free game making its fortune with advertising and in-app purchases, free antivirus software will push you for payment. Expect popup boxes pestering you to sign up to the paid version. Some free options will also try to change your browser home page and default search engine, an inconvenience you may be stuck with. Paid options are more respectful and largely invisible unless they have detected a problem.

Effectiveness: It is fair to expect your antivirus to detect malware, and testing shows that in a head-to-head battle free and paid are roughly equal at catching known infections. Generally free antivirus needs to have recorded a virus to its library before it can detect it. Paid antivirus is more likely to identify and stop new viruses – they can detect suspicious behavior, source and attributes and are a far more effective method of detection.

Features: Free antivirus is usually a cut down version of a paid version. In a paid version you can expect advanced features like spam filters, firewalls, parental controls and secure web browsing. Some paid antivirus packages also update your other software applications, forming a more secure protection against attack.

Support: Free antivirus options are very popular because they are free! This means there is generally no support available. If there’s a problem or conflict with another program, you may find yourself without protection until it can be resolved. Paid antivirus options usually include telephone suppor and other forms of support, ready to help with problems ranging from installation to system diagnostics.

Ease of use: Free antivirus packages are generally easy to install and use, but are  limited in their flexibility. They come as-is, meaning you can’t pick and choose what it monitors or how it reacts. For example, users occasionally find it necessary to disable ALL protections in order to install a network game. Paid versions are more likely to allow you to adapt the way it runs, switching features on and off as required.

In summary free antivirus software is fine for very basic protection, those on a budget or with an older PC – in these cases, something is always better than nothing. But we generally recommend you go with a paid antivirus solution to defend you from the new attacks that are released daily and to ensure you have solid protection that will make a real difference to your digital safety.

Talk to us about upgrading to the best security options for your needs.

Why You Should Not Use A Free Email Address For Business

Free email accounts indicated a lack of experience

Many businesses, clients and customers communicate primarily by email and as you know it provides a fantastic ROI – unless you’re using a free email address (like Hotmail, Gmail or one provided by your ISP (internet provider)). If you are still using a free email address you are most likely losing business each and every day.

The downsides of using a free email address are:

An unprofessional look: Imagine if your bank used a free email account – you’d never feel comfortable giving them your personal details let alone your money. How people perceive your business is what can make or break a business. Without a professional touch you will appear as a fly-by-night enterprise. It puts your credibility into question and sends the message that you’re not serious about doing business – or worse – that you are prepared to cut corners and take the cheap option.

It erases your experience: A new or fledgling business often starts out with a free email account. This clearly communicates that they are new, have little experience and are perhaps testing the waters in a new direction. They’re not even remotely proven yet and are firmly within the hobby-zone. Continuing to use the free address once your business moves into the professional arena means you will struggle to build momentum and any experience you have earned will be negated.

It’s forgettable or inappropriate: Your business success hinges on being memorable enough to gain repeat custom and referrals from advertising. Unfortunately free email addresses are filled with hard to remember clutter, for example – franksplumbing_1975@hotmail.com or bookkeeper1198@gmail.com.

Neither of these roll off the tongue, are appropriate for business, or can be remembered without a high likelihood of typos and bounce backs. Branded email addresses such as frank@franksplumbing.com make running a profitable and scalable business much easier.

The email address Is not permanent or safe: When you have a free email address you are at the mercy of the provider. They may cancel your account for any reason or even cease operations. These free accounts are also often hacked and their passwords leaked on a global scale. You get stuck using the same provider (and can’t take advantage of any better deals) as you need to use the old email address because it is on your marketing materials (printed on your business cards, car lettering, flyers etc).

With your own domain name and subsequently your own email address you own it and can move it to a new business-grade email service easily. You also have complete control over the domain and can reset passwords and create and close accounts at will.

Give us a call at 08 8326 4364 to set up your branded business email.

Will Clicking That Link Cost You Thousands?

Ransomware has been a huge security threat in 2016. No-one was safe. Hackers targeted everyone and everything – including office networks and home PCs. In fact anything connected to the Internet (including smart TV’s and surveillance cameras) was fair game for them. They were very successful, with reports of upwards of $US846million reported just from incidents in the US. With this sort of monetary gain business is booming for hackers, with thousands of attacks each day bringing in an average of $US640 per target. Even more alarmingly is that the cost to the end user is on the rise with hackers demanding more and more money each time.

Some hackers even offer to help and rescue you from the issue that they caused – for a fee of course! One method is to trick you into thinking you have a virus or malware issue that will spread rapidly if you don’t pay them money to remove it. Another scarier method is that they pretend to be from a law enforcement agency (ie the Federal Police, FBI or a similar type of organisation) and say your computer was involved in a crime (anything from money laundering to child pornography). If you pay them a certain amount of money quickly you can avoid going to prison.

The real bad malware that is spreading rapidly at the moment are the crypto range of viruses. These viruses cause users to be locked out of their own data by encrypting files on users computers and servers. Folders of business documents, pictures, photos, music and even financial records are all held hostage until a ransom is paid. The encryption is such that it is unbreakable and unless you have a good backup paying the ransom is often seen to be the only solution.

The way these evil hackers get into your computer is deviously simple. They convince users to click on an email attachment/link or pop-up. For example you receive an email or pop up that:

  • supposedly tracks an undeliverable package.
  • is a bill or credit from a utility company.
  • alerts you to a virus that was found and needs to be removed.
  • an invoice from a company you have never heard of and / or for goods you never ordered.
  • advises you of a recent traffic or some other type of fine.

They make the message so tempting to click through for more details (this is what the hackers count on). Their messages and pop-ups aren’t obvious threats and so can easily slip under our radar and through various spam and virus filters.

Paying the hackers to solve or unencrypt your files is not recommended as they are not the most trustworthy bunch. That one payment may lead to demands of more and more money with no solution in sight.

To make things worse, the malware can encrypt your backups too. Having a backup is very important in any situation, but in cases like this, the right backup is needed – with several other backup copies not connected to your network and stored safely offsite. An online backup is also recommended. Before restoring your backup remember to check that the malware isn’t lurking in the background, ready to not just re-infect your restored files but also the backup drive itself.

To avoid finding yourself dealing with ransom demands we recommend being wary of all email attachments. Even if they are from business associates, friends and family – if you are not sure what the file is don’t click it. The sender may not have sent that email intentionally and their compromised system may be automatically emailing everyone in their address book.

You should also be wary with any popups that appear out of place, especially ones that try to make you panic or do something you are wary of doing. If the message doesn’t sound or look right then don’t click it. Ransomware is just too dangerous to risk.

Also make sure your backups are working correctly and regularly test your backups.

Call us on 08 8326 4364 to set your computer up with protections against ransomware / malware / viruses, and put backups in place that will keep your important files safe.

Should You REALLY Click That Button?

All of us have had that pop up that just won’t leave. It’s hounding you to upgrade your software or change some sort of setting and clearly it has zero intention of giving you a rest. That software wants to be upgraded or that setting changed and it wants it now.

update

Begrudgingly you click the “Yes” or “Ok” button and let it upgrade in the background or change that setting. Maybe now it will leave you alone to get some work done but instead of doing something positive you quickly discover it’s given you the exact opposite. Your essential hardware no longer works, you’ve got errors all over the place, and that application no longer runs at all.

The urgent popup was more of an instant downgrade.

Before you click that nagging upgrade button, consider the following:

Is the popup for legit software?

Do you have that software already installed on your machine? Does the popup look dodgy with poor spelling or grammar? If so it may be a virus or piece of malware trying to install on your machine.

Will this upgrade benefit your business?

Some upgrades are only cosmetic. They look great and the developers pitch them as the latest and greatest, but without additional innovation on offer – you’re better off waiting for a version with some actual benefits.

Is the upgrade going to work with your current systems and processes?

If your project management software no longer talks to your scheduling software, you’ve got a problem. It’s reasonable to expect the upgrade to have gone through robust testing and bug fixes, but even the mega corporations are caught out in an instant.

Is your current solution still an option?

Developers cease support of older software versions after a certain date. In these cases, continuing to use an outdated version leaves your system vulnerable, without patches and security updates. If your software is at the end of its cycle, you’ll need to upgrade regardless. This, however, gives you the perfect opportunity to revise your selection and make some experienced decisions – upgrade or replace.

On the other hand, if the upgrade is going to have a positive effect on productivity, efficiency or customer satisfaction, definitely put it on your to-do list. Hold off for just a few days or weeks while your IT technicians research any conflicts that might arise.

Being an early adopter isn’t always the best idea. Sometimes you need to let your other software packages catchup – compatibility issues will always be an issue. It’s more important than ever before to take your time and research the upgrade to see how others have fared – before things come crashing down.

Call us for a quick compatibility check BEFORE you click any popups.

Six Quick Security Tips To Keep Your Business Safe

securityEvery employee shares one inescapable flaw that is putting businesses at risk – they are human.

Up to 59% of data breaches can be traced back to something an employee did or didn’t do, which helped create a security incident or cyber-attack.

To help prevent security issues build security awareness and respect into your company culture, so that maintaining digital security becomes as simple as making a cup of coffee.

Use complex passwords: Every employee, including management and owners, need to use an alphanumeric password that they haven’t used before. Password managers can assist with making sure they’re never forgotten.

Verify unknown identities: Not familiar with ‘Jenny from Accounting’ who has called to ask for sensitive information? Double check the callers identity and access permissions before releasing any information. Hackers love to play on our desire to help other people.

Encrypt by default: People regularly transfer data to a laptop, USB drive or smartphone so they can work offsite. Unfortunately this equipment can be easily stolen or lost. Set operating systems to encrypt data by default, so that it becomes useless in the wrong hands.

Protect portable devices: Laptops, mobile phones and other portable devices should always require a password and be set to auto-lock after a short period of time. Never leave them unattended in cars, buses, restrooms etc, and if travelling by plane take them on-board as carry-on luggage.

Set personal usage rules: Many businesses block productivity-vacuums such as Facebook and other websites but what are the rules regarding games, video streaming or shopping? Can users install their own software? When business devices are used for personal usage, security tends to slide which results in unintentional malware installation. Also don’t let the employees spouse or children use any company device.

Educate often: People often fall into the “it won’t happen to me” mindset. As security threats change regularly have a quick five minute discussion once a month to remind staff that you always need to be vigilant.

Some things to discuss with staff are:

  • Links in emails – Hackers often send emails that look like they are from your bank, phone company or similar. Be sure to check the link by hovering over it with your mouse. This method of attack is known as ‘phishing’.
  • Tech scam popups – Be on the lookout for popups advising that your computer is infected and you need to call a phone number or download software.
  • Email attachments – Never open an unknown attachment and even from people you know and trust. If you are not expeciting an attachment from the sender always contact them to confirm and scan for malware before opening.

If you need help implementing better security practices in your business, give us a call on 08 8326 4364 or via email at support@dpcomputing.com.au

How To Spot A Tech Scam

Scammers swindle millions from people every day.

If your computer had a security problem, you’d want to know about it ASAP, right?

Before your important files are corrupted, your photos lost and your digital life destroyed. Even thinking about gives me the shivers.

Tech scammers know we’d be lost without our computers, and that we don’t always know what’s going on behind the screen – which is why they’ve been able to swindle millions from every day people across the world.

The scam goes like this:

ScamsOne day out of the blue you receive a phone call from someone with a heavy accent (usually Indian) saying they’re from Microsoft (or some other company) or worrying pop-up appears on your screen, saying your system has been infected with a virus.

To fix the problem, the caller or the pop up says you to download some support software, which they’ll give you a special link for.

A technician then uses that software to gain access to your system and make it appear your system is riddled with viruses. Flashing screens, mysterious diagnostics whizzing by, fabricated errors…they’ll do or say anything to make you panic. They’ll even go as far as claiming your system has been infected with illegal content and if not corrected you will face criminal charges.

Demands for credit card information follow soon after. Once the card details are provided, they simply stop fiddling with your system to make it seem the problem is fixed. To continue the scam, they’ll soon access your system to recreate the problem, this time offering a ongoing paid subscription for ongoing protection.

What To Do If You’re Targeted By A Tech Scam

1. Don’t taunt them. Just hang up. Right now you’re only a phone number in their system and they’ll move onto the next – if you give them cause to target you personally, you may find yourself in a dangerous situation.

The real Microsoft will never randomly call people like this. Ever.

2. If a pop-up appears, immediately run an anti-virus scan. Don’t click the pop-up or call the number.

What To Do If You’ve Already Been Scammed

It’s okay. It feels horrible, but you’re not alone and the situation can be corrected.

Call your financial institution and have the charges reversed and your card reissued. It’s easier than you might think and helps the authorities locate the scammers.

Then give us a call on 08 8326 4364 (or support@dpcomputing.com.au) and we’ll make sure they no longer have access to your computer.

Crypto Virus

The CryptoLocker virus (or similar variants – CryptoWall, TorrentLocker, PC Lock) are still very active on the Internet.  This family of viruses is known as ransonware and can effect computers and any connected networked devices. They are spread via email and / or infected websites.

Trojan-Horse-BackDoor_Generic15_BPGV_-150x150The virus encrypts all files it has access to on your local computer which can include any network shares, USB hard drives, memory cards, backup system drives etc. Usually the first sign of infection is being unable to open files and / or noticing files names with the words decrypt or how to decrypt (eg DECRYPT_INSTRUCTIONS.txt) on your computer.

Currently the only way to decrypt the files is to pay a ransom fee, but this method may not work. Generally the only other way is to recover files from a recent backup.

This is a really nasty virus because its possible for your backups to be compromised depending on your backup strategy and network topology / server configuration.

Further information on the virus is available from the following link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CryptoLocker

Keeping your antivirus up to date and ensuring your computer systems are to date on security and application patches is CRUCIAL to stop this virus entering your systems. You should regularly install any patches available from the MS Windows Update website and also update other software which includes – Java, Flash and any other applications installed on your system.

Check and double check that your backups work and ensure you backup to multiple devices which aren’t all connected to a machine or the network at the same time (ie an air gap backup).

We regularly assist clients in keeping their systems up to date and regularly perform such maintenance. We also help clients infected with this virus (but it is cricital that you contact us ASAP). If you need help please let us know – click here for our contact details.