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Don’t Fall Victim to Webcam Blackmail

Don’t Fall Victim to Webcam Blackmail

Many users have reported recent scam messages from individuals claiming to have intercepted their username and password. These messages often state they have been watching your screen activity and webcam while you have been unaware.

Typically, attackers threaten to broadcast footage to your contacts, colleagues, or social media channels. Demanding payment in Bitcoin, malicious hackers blackmail their victims to keep confidential information private.

Where Have the Attacks Come From?

In many cases where hackers have claimed to have a victims’ password, this has turned out to be true.

In the last few years alone, many large websites have suffered enormous hacks which have released confidential details on many of their users. LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Myspace all suffered massive and devastating hacks. Some users of these services are still feeling the consequences today.

The details leaked from these sites, and others facing the same issues, are sold online for years after the initial breach. Hackers buy username and password combinations in the hopes of reusing them to access services, steal money, or blackmail their owners.

How to Respond

If you have been contacted by one of these hackers, it is a scary reality that they could have access to your credentials, data, and online services.

The only thing you can do in response to this type of email is to ignore it. This “we recorded you” email is a scam made much more believable because they probably do have one of your real passwords gained from a site hack.

That said, accounts that share the same password should be changed immediately. Security on additional services you use should be updated too.

Self Defense On the Web

When using online services, a unique password for every site is your number one defense. A good password manager makes this practical and straightforward too.

Using a different password for each site you use means that hackers can only gain access to one site at a time. A hack in one place should never compromise your other accounts by revealing the single password you use everywhere.

Often, people think that maintaining many passwords is hard work or even impossible to do. In truth, it’s almost always easier to keep tabs with a password manager than it is to use the system you have in place today.

A high quality and secure password manager such as LastPass, or 1Password, can keep track of all your logins efficiently and securely. They often offer the chance to improve your security by generating random and strong passwords that hackers will have a tougher time cracking.

Password management services offer a host of features that help you log in, remind you to refresh your security, and make your safety a number one priority. After using a manager for just a short time, you can be forgiven for wondering how you managed without it.

If you think you might have been hacked already, or want to prevent it from ever happening, give us a call to at 885-2410 update your security.

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Remote IT Will Create Tech That Works for You

Remote IT Will Create Tech That Works for You

There are few things as frustrating as IT issues getting in the way of your work. Even the simplest of problems can break your flow, ruin your productivity, and waste your time. IT should be working to boost your day instead of slowing you down.

Tripping up on a computer glitch can happen at any moment. Working to fix one can take hours. You might try a few steps that have worked before, ask a colleague for help, or try a web search to see what turns up. All of these take time from you or your colleagues, and often make the original problem worse.

When you outsource your help desk, your IT problems become our IT problems. We take charge of righting the ship to keep your tech on the right track.

Setting Up Your Business for Success

Many businesses try a break/fix model to deal with IT issues. This means waiting for problems to happen before contacting IT to resolve them. Break/fix adds costs and downtime to every IT issue as they happen. To us, this makes it an unacceptable long-term solution for business.

The process of scheduling a mutually suitable time to visit, diagnosing the issue, and resolving every issue on a case-by-case basis is massively time-consuming. Both IT technicians and in-house staff waste productive hours dealing with, often trivial, problems.

We think that time could be better spent building your business instead.

Your Personal Help Desk

When you outsource your IT help desk, you get a custom service dedicated to resolving your issues fast. Technicians with the knowledge and experience of years in IT can work without creating new problems or making the original issue worse. In modern IT, knowledge and experience is the key to successful solutions.

Many of the issues we resolve on a day-to-day basis are problems we have seen many times before on many different systems. IT is our business, and we know it very well.

How Outsourced IT Works For You

Outsourcing your IT means simply submitting a ticket to have issues taken care of. Having your own help desk to rely on means having help available exactly when you need it. Waiting on a local firm, or nearby technician to become available should be a thing of the past.

Queueing for an ‘advisor’, waiting on hold, and spelling out your problem over and over again is no fun for anyone. There should be better ways your time can be spent. There are certainly many ways firms can benefit more from ours.

Submitting an electronic ticket to resolve your issue is an easy, one step, process. Detail the problem once, email the ticket, and you can return to your work. We’ll call you back to work on a solution when the timing best works for you.

Managing Problems Remotely

To resolve system issues, diagnose, update, or maintain systems, we often log in remotely and take ownership of the problem personally. We’ve found there is little advantage to wasting time asking staff to find menus, click on links, and tell us what they see. We get straight to the heart of the problem and fix it there and then.

Problems that tie up one or more machines for a long time can be scheduled for out-of-hours, holiday, or weekend fixes. Large, system-wide updates or upgrades can be done remotely when they won’t get in the way.

For staff, updates appear to happen without anyone around to see them. You would be forgiven for thinking the IT is fixing itself.

Our golden rule is to make sure IT works for you, not the other way round. If you are wasting staff hours on hold, arranging meetings just for your tech, or structuring your day around simple problem solving, your firm could be upgraded in a flash.

Call us at 885-2410 or just submit a ticket and we’ll sort out the rest.

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Struggling With Email Overload

Struggling With Email Overload

Email has allowed us to send and receive messages more easily than ever before. While this is a good thing, it can lead to problems. You may receive dozens or even hundreds of emails in a day. At this point, it feels like you’re wasting your entire day dealing with those incoming messages. Even worse, it makes it difficult to find important messages in your inbox. You can quickly become overloaded with emails.

So how can we deal with this overload? The first step is to reduce the number of emails you receive overall and there are a few ways to do this.

Restrict who you give you email address to It’s important to think carefully about who you give your email to. For example, if you enter a lot of contests, this often automatically subscribes you to several email campaigns. If you type your email into every popup box asking for it, these add up. Reduce who you give your email to.

 

Unsubscribe

Go through your inbox and unsubscribe to newsletters that you never read. If you haven’t opened one of their emails in months, chances that you’ll start to later are low. Turn off notifications from social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. If you like emails from these networks, then at least adjust the settings so they email you highlights once a week or month rather than allowing them to spam your inbox several times per day.

Do you need that notification?

If you receive emails that contain information you can find elsewhere, switch those notifications off. For instance, you might run an e-commerce site that sends an email for every sale. If your website already has a record of this, you don’t need it in two places. Make sure not to use your email as a to-do list. When you need to remember to do something, put that on a list elsewhere to clear up your inbox. If this is a hard habit to break, at least make a folder for things you need to do and move emails there and out of your general inbox.

Change your email habits

Change your own email sending habits. If a topic is complex and will require a lot of back and forth conversation, consider discussing it in person or over the phone. Sending fewer emails will reduce how many you receive in return. Remember that you don’t need to respond to every email you receive. A response indicates a willingness to continue to conversation.

Resist the urge to send messages with a single word like “Thanks!” or “Ok” and you’ll notice others will stop sending you similar, unnecessary messages. When sending group emails, you can also remind others not to use “reply all” unless it’s information relevant to the entire group.

Start clearing out

Now you can start emptying out your inbox and getting rid of any old emails you don’t need to keep. Delete old calendar invites, advertisements, or any emails where the problem has already been resolved. Respond to any messages that can be answered within only a few minutes. File everything that is left until you have a completely empty inbox. Archive messages where you don’t need to take an action, but you think might be useful. You can search and find these later if necessary. Put other emails into folders based off of the type of email and the priority level.

From now on, all of this can be automated. You can have receipts automatically go into a receipt folder, calendar invites go into another, etc. A cluttered inbox leads to your mind feeling just as cluttered.. Free up your inbox to free up your mind and create more time in your day-to-day life. Let email overload become something of the past.

If you need help with your emails, give us a call on 885-2410.

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Is Your Laptop Running Hot and Loud?

Is Your Laptop Running Hot and Loud?

Laptop computers commonly heat up a little in normal operation. Electronic components, including large capacity batteries, become warm in use. Your laptop should never become too hot to handle though.

When a laptop turns hot to the touch or starts to sound like a jet engine, it’s likely beginning to overheat.

Modern laptops use nearly silent fans to cool components and keep the system is comfortable and safe to use. In some cases, the sound the computer makes is the best tool you have to diagnose its running condition. Excessive heat causes the fans to work harder and faster to compensate. This jet engine sound is one of the first clues you have to indicate all may not be well.

Why So Hot

Because of their compact size and portability, laptop computers are particularly prone to overheating problems. Their tiny footprint puts electronic parts closer together, creates less room for cooling vents and adds a heat generating battery which introduces more hot air into the system.

Most laptops have small fans that suck in cool air, passing it over metal fins to exchange heat from the case. The resulting hot air exhaust is expelled through vents back into the room. This process prevents heat building up inside the machine. The constant air cycle keeps the laptop running cool no matter the workload placed on it.

This process can be interrupted by any number of factors during operation. Alongside cool air, computer fans can also suck in dust, stray hairs, even cigarette smoke too. Smoke in particular contains thick tar which coats the fins, fan blades, and internal components.

Foreign debris inside the machine prevents components from working at their best. Tar, dust, and hair slows down the internal fan and coats the heat generating components and cooling fins. This coating prevents air exchange and keeping components warm as if they were under a blanket.

Causes of Overheating

Sometimes the way a laptop is used can cause it to overheat too. Resting a laptop on thick carpets, blankets, or soft furnishings can block vents, preventing the fans from sucking cold air in or blowing hot air out.

Leaving the machine running on carpet or furnishings, particularly for extended periods of time, can cause overheating issues and introduce extra dust into the components too.

The best place to rest a laptop while in use is on a hard surface such as a desk, table, or lap tray. This allows air free access to the vents and helps prevent dust and hairs getting inside the machine.

Overheating Results

As the computer starts running hotter for longer, its fan will attempt to compensate by running faster and more often. This results in the “jet engine” noise many users report when their computer is struggling to keep up.

Unfortunately, once dust, hair, or tar has already found its way into the machine it is notoriously difficult to clean out. The only way to reset the machine to run cool and quiet is to disassemble the base and clean out its components.

Much like a car engine, computer components have a designed temperature range in which they can safely and reliably operate without any issues. Extended periods of running above the temperature they are designed for can cause damage, sudden failures, and drastically shorten the designed lifespan of the computer.

Unlikely Causes

Often times seemingly random blue screen computer crashes can be traced back to components that have been overheating inside the computer. As heat builds up, vulnerable components start to fail, sometimes temporarily, in the hotter temperatures.

By the time the computer is rebooted and cooled down the issue is seemingly resolved. Back in operation, the computer heats up once more and eventually crashes again. These irregular crashes are highly inconvenient and can sometimes cause data loss too.

However, these symptoms are minor compared to a complete write-off of the machine. For some users, the first sign that their machine is too hot to run safely is when the motherboard is burnt out or their data storage has been irreparably lost.

If your laptop is running hot to the touch or has started to sound loud or irregular, bring it to us for a thorough clean out. You can also call us at 604-885-2410

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How Losing a Mobile Device Puts Your Entire Business at Risk

How Losing a Mobile Device Puts Your Entire Business at Risk

Losing a mobile phone or laptop is an experience that everyone dreads. The expense and inconvenience of buying a new device is unpleasant, but only represents a fraction of the damage done when a device is misplaced. The cost of data contained within every device can add up to many times more than the total value of the device itself.

Chances are, you already use automatic login on a large variety of online services. Each of these services are vulnerable to an attacker having possession of your device.

Usernames and passwords – An obvious place for an attacker to start is the likely long list of usernames and passwords saved for future use by your browser. This is often done to save time when logging into sites that you visit often. Almost universally, people opt to save login information so that they don’t have to attempt to remember it every time they return.

In only a short amount of time, a browser is trained to log in to your Facebook, cloud storage, and bank details just by visiting the page using your regular device. These details, called up by the browser, are saved in a single list accessible to anyone with access to the device. For an unscrupulous stranger with a found device, this list represents a goldmine of information. Simply by finding a phone misplaced in public they may gain access to a huge array of services.

The problem can be made many times worse where a single password or a combination of similar passwords have been used across several accounts. In some instances, an attacker need only gain access to a single one and reuse the same stolen credentials across many sites and services.

Email – Email accounts are a key target for attackers looking for access to your personal information. It is a service that many take for granted, logging in once the first time they set up the device and using automatic login every time after. It is a service that also unlocks a great deal more than just private messages. Of course, an attacker having free access to read your personal emails is bad news, but with email access a malicious user can gain access to many of the most commonly used web services online.

Using the “forgotten password” button on many sites triggers a response that emails a password reset link to the email address registered on file. An attacker may use this feature to reset account passwords to one of their choosing. Doing this both grants themselves access to your account and denies you access to rescue it.

Contacts – One of the best features of instant messaging is that your contacts know the messages come from you. When a message is sent from your device to someone you know it displays along with your name, details, and likely a photograph too. This can lead to identity theft, one of the biggest concerns of a lost or stolen device.

With contact information already programmed in an attacker has an opportunity to impersonate you when speaking to anyone in your contacts list. Using your identity, an attacker may attempt to steal yet more details about you and your contacts.

Social Media – Your social media accounts are often the face of your brand. They can be a primary way to reach out and contact customers. They are almost always the first point of contact a client has with your business. They are also extremely vulnerable to being hijacked from a stolen device.

Fraudulent social media access can allow attackers to harvest both client and business data. Even without profiting directly, posting privileges can be used to cause irreversible damage to a business.

Protecting your business – Services, accounts, and entire businesses can be put in great danger by something as simple as misplacing an unsecured mobile phone or laptop computer.

We can help you to stay secure and remain in control even in the face of losing a device. Give us a call at 604-885-2410 and let us help secure your business.

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