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If Your Computer Is Asking You For Money, It’s Infected [PSA]

There’s a nasty virus going around and it’s called Cryptolocker. If you’ve not heard of it here’s the meat of potatoes of what it does. Once your machine is infected it encrypts your data making it inaccessible to you. Then it asks from money to decrypt it. That price can range from $300 to $3000.

The virus first came to light around August/September and finds its way to you via email. The email may look like a shipment update from Fed Ex, UPS, or a message from a bank. Those who open the attachment get the virus installed and a taunting countdown timer on the screen. It’s can even spread across your network and encrypt network drives.

Don’t be fooled, it really does encrypt your data this isn’t just scareware. Heed this warning. Backup your data, update your anti virus, and be very skeptical of shipping and banking emails. Not getting fooled by the shipping email is especially important as we’re approaching Cyber Monday.

This virus is not to be taken lightly. There was even a police department that was infected and had to pay $750 to get their data decrypted! (true story)

You need to backup your data. No, I’m not joking.

Let’s talk about the B word. No one likes to say the B word but I think it’s time we start. Backup, there I said it.

Say it with me now, Backup, Backup, Backup. Not as bad as you thought, right?

“I’ll backup my photos tomorrow”  “I thought you were  backing up the computer”  “Doesn’t it backup automatically”

This sound familiar to you or have you said any of  these? It’s okay if you have and for some of you it’s not too late to save your photos and documents.

One of the hardest conversations I have as an IT professional is explaining to a user that their data is lost. Years of family photos, company financial data, and original artwork are just some of the losses I’ve seen first hand. While data recovery services do exist I can tell you the starting price is $700 and even had a customer pay over $2000 to get his data back.

Backing up doesn’t need have complicated or expensive. There are many online options today that take headache out of ensuring your data is safe.

BackBlaze is by far my favorite. The interface, price, and ease of use are hard to beat. Their product automatically backs  up your data securely to their data centers. If you’re worried about your data’s security, don’t! You can add your own private encryption key that NEVER gets sent to BackBlaze.

In the event that youe hard drive dies you can restore your data to the repaired computer just by logging and downloading it. Not good enough? There is also a “locate my computer” feature so if yours is lost or stolen you’ll be able to see if it been turned on and connected to the internet. You can get the IP address and map it to turn over to the police.

Not impressed? Maybe this will get you. This service only cost $5 per month. You can even get it cheaper if you pay for the entire year (or two) up front! Have multiple computer? Manage them all from one account.

I’ve used all kinds of different backup products and BackBlaze has the right features, right price, and a really cool logo. How can you top that? If you have photos, documents, or other important documents to save this product can put your mind at ease.

http://www.backblaze.com/partner/af1314

 

I’ll cover installation and configuration in another post. In the meantime if you have question please contact me via email or give my a call!

*Disclaimer* I am a BackBlaze affiliate. This means if you buy the product through my link I get credit for the  sale. I believe in this product and that is why I choose to endorse them in this fashion. If you have questions or concerns please call or email me.

free speech

SOPA -You need to know about it

SOPA and PIPA are pieces of legislation that congress is trying to pass with the help of lobbyist.  They are intended to help protect copyrighted materials on the internet. The entertainment industry is backing this effort claiming it will help the fight against piracy and protect their bottom line. It grants power to the government and other private parties to blacklist websites, exclude them from search engine, and have ISPs block them all together. In short, it’s another level of censorship that reaches farther than before.

Please take a few minutes and learn about SOPA and PIPA and the potential impact it could have on you and the sites you love. If you think it won’t affect you, think again. That cool Facebook group where everyone trades/sells their items, yep it could get taken down. Why? Because if some accidentally posts a copyrighted picture and it anger the copyright holder they can file a complaint and have it blacklisted. It will affect everyone.

The Consumerist interview with Ben Parr -Explains potential impact on how this will affect us.

US House of Representatives -Search for SOPA and look a the list of backers.

Wikipedia Blackout -Stop by find out how to contact your elected officials.

video via [laugh pong]

featured photo [Isaac Mao]

eigthgrade

Geeks raising geeks

When it comes to parenting I believe Geeks do it best but I could be biased.

As my children are growing older I’ve realized that I am raising geeks. The oldest two (fifteen & eight) are both into gaming and Sci-Fi. At any given moment my daughter could ask me if I want to watch Star Wars, or my son might want to hit a dungeon on WoW. They are on their way to full fledged Geekdom. While this interest has been promoted by us as parents introducing them to geeky things we find sometimes it comes from the children to the parent.

Recently my son approached me about a series of vampire books The Chronicles of Vladamir Tod by Heather Brewer. Most of the vampire series out today are geared toward romance, sparkles,and wolves this one is not. It the story of a boy starting in eight grade and following him through high school. He’s a half vampire trying to survive growing up. My son loved the series and after discussing it with him at length I decided to give it a read. I was pleased with what I found.

There is some blood and violence being a series about vampires but it doesn’t detract from the story. All the typical plight of adolescence is there but complicated with the struggles of being the only half vampire in a small town as well as some other…challenges.

I find myself a proud Geek with awesome Geeklings coming into their own. It’s really something else to be able to share in something that young geeks have found. So if your geeklings are looking for a young adult series to devours (pun intended, you know VAMPIRES) than I would recommend this The Chronicles of Vladamir Tod.

eigthgrade

Give the gift of Geek

Give the gift of GeekLooking for that perfect gift for someone? Why not give them a Geek for Christmas!

Purchase a computer cleanup gift certificate. The service includes Malware removal, physical cleaning, disk maintenance and start up optimization. I even pick the computer and bring it back and install it.

Through the end of December I am offering this service at 50% off. $40 gets this amazing door to door service. Use the link below to purchase and be sure to include the name of the person receiving this AMAZING gift. Within 24-48 hours of purchase you’ll receive a customized gift certificate.

Residential users only! Click the button below to purchase.

Stopping online bullies

Growing up I would guess almost everyone had a run in with a bully. Maybe it was just a one time incident or possibly repeated attacks and harassment. Twenty years ago, even ten years ago the social landscape was very different. If you were bullied at school you came home at the end of the day and were safe from the reach of a bully. Today we are all so interconnected between cellular phones and social networks even at home you are bombarded with harassing comments, statuses, and text messages. As a parent what can you do to help?

Online harassment

If your child is getting harassed online with via chat client or social networks you have options other than disconnecting your internet access.

  • Monitoring Software: You can gain insight on what they are doing and at the same time block access to social media site. Qustodio is a free tool you can download and install. It monitors and reports on internet activity and block specific site or categories of sites. You can get reports daily or weekly about their surfing habits. In addition to reporting and blocking you can set time limits by time of day or allot so many hour per day total. Best part is that its free!
  • Have a tech savvy kid that might find and uninstall software? Use OpenDNS. This service has many benefits like less malware and less ads on sites but it also allows blocking of sites and categories. One of the perks it that you can set this to work on your router. You’ll experience faster (in most cases) surfing and be exposed to less online garbage
  • Be the parent. Internet is a privilege at our house, not a right. Remove the computer from a child room, have it in a open area that you can see what they are doing. Make them delete social network accounts. Demand their passwords for everything. Use leverage if you have to, like “sit down and give me the passwords or hand over your car keys”. At our house if you don’t comply to rules you lose your cell-phone.

Cellular devices

Does you child have cellular phone they are receiving harassing messages on? There are some simple solutions for that too with completely disconnecting it!

  • Depending on your carrier, you might be able to restrict who they can contact and who can contact them on their phone AT&T has SmartLimits (charge applies), you pick the number for incoming and outgoing and that’s it.
  • If the message are of a violent nature, contact your local authorities. According to privacyrights.org “Forty-four states now have laws that explicitly include electronic forms of communication within stalking or harassment laws. For specifics please see www.ncsl.org/programs/lis/cip/stalk99.htm.” Filing a police is the first step, documenting the harassment is essential. If there is real chance of physical harm or repeated verbal abuse this will assist authorities pursue subpoenas from cellular carriers if things escalate.
  • Inform yourself about cyberbullying and what it is. Internetsaftey101.org has a section describing what is and what the statics are surrounding it.

If none of the above seems to help then pull the plug. Suspend your internet account, suspend their cell phone. Above all get professional help, educate yourself on how to help your child. If you’re not familiar with technology and how to monitor or disconnect your service ask for help.No one should have to suffer bullying alone, not children and not the parents of bullied children.

If your child is being bullied by computer or cell phone I will offer my services for free. I can help you get monitoring setup on computers and help you contact your cellular carrier.

Stopping laptop abuse: How not to ruin your laptop

It seems like everyone has a laptop these days; prices are so low now they have become a staple in many house holds for everyday computing.

Prices may be cheap but let’s face it no one likes to find their laptop dead. Today I would like to tell you how to make that laptop or netbook last a long as possible.

Don’t smother it

Just like teenagers laptops don’t like to be smothered. Take a look at the edge and bottom of yours. See those vents and those tiny rubber feet? That’s how your laptop cools itself. The feet are meant to raise the bottom just enough to circulate air to the fan. Don’t get me wrong, not every single make or model works like this but the majority do. Overheating can cause serious trouble including failed hard drive, failed motherboard, and failed battery.

Tips to keep your laptop cool:

  • Always keep it on a hard level surface. Placing it on your bed to use it will block cooling vents, same with your lap
  • Make sure it’s completely powered off before putting it into its case
  • Periodically blow the dust out of the fan. Be cautious and don’ t let the fan spin, compressed air can make it spin faster than it’s intended for. (ask me how to do it safely)

Keep it dry

You’d think that would be a no brainer but nevertheless I have worked on laptops with liquid damage. All of them coffee with cream and sugar. Most spills happen on the keyboard. If you spill liquid on yours you’d better act fast. Unplug it and pull the battery out, open your laptop flat as possible and lay it keyboard down on a towel. Let your laptop dry at least overnight, a full 24 hours if you can take it. Depending what you spilled on it the damage will vary. If it was just water you could be okay. Coffee with sugar and cream would likely mean a new keyboard and possibly a trackpad. Get professional help and stay out of the retail chains. Someone with experience should open your laptop and see how far the liquid got. If you were quick enough you could be okay with minimal expense.

Keep it cool, keep it dry, and backup it up regularly!

Need some computer advice?

Everyone likes free stuff, right? Well I’m giving away more free service!

Use my new Free Help submission form to ask a question and I will send you a response within 24-48 hours. Whether its a question you’ve been dying to ask about computers or simply “my computer is doing “insert issue” what can be done to fix it?”

So I challenge you to challenge me. Send your questions and I’ll send you back the solution. http://scottbrosnan.com/free-help/

Do you do freelance work?

Working in IT has always led to freelance work. Whether it’s friends, family, or a local business, there is always a user in need of assistance. With the economy still in the dumps I think more business and home users are seeing the value in freelancers. Until recently I’ve always just kept track of request and payments with a spreadsheet but things have gotten to the point that a simple Excel workbook just isn’t enough.

What I need was a solution that would allow me to create estimates, invoices, and track my time and materials. After trying several solutions I’ve finally settled with Freshbooks as it can handle all these tasks. Best part is it’s all online so I can handle all my administrative tasks from any computer that has Internet access.

Clients

Managing clients it very simple. The free package allows up to three, the next step up ($19.99/month) allows 25. there are two more packages above that. You can upgrade/downgrade at anytime so it can grow as your business does.

Client profiles include the ability to add multiple contacts with unique phone numbers and addresses. Freshbooks even allows you to assign log in credentials for each contact. Customers can log in and review/accept estimates or print out copies of invoices. Additionally, they can open support requests while logged in.

Invoices

The ease of invoicing customer is one of my favorite parts of Freshbooks. I email my invoices, with Freshbooks I can choose which contact at my customers office receives the invoice or choose multiple contacts. If your customer doesn’t accept invoice via email you can buy postage from Freshbooks and they will snail mail it for you!

Invoicing is full featured, you can bill time from projects, materials from inventory, or create recurring invoices. Have an associate helping you with a project, they can bill you via Freshbook for their time/materials. As I said, this is my favorite feature.

Other Features

There are many other features like expenses, project and time tracking, and document storage. I’m not going to cover these here. However, if your freelance work is growing and your not using Freshbooks you are missing out on a great set of tools.