Mobile Phone Security

October 12, 2010

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It’s coming people.  Like a tornado, selecting its victims at random, destroying lives and homes.  What is it, you ask?  Viruses and Malware on your handheld devices.

As if we don’t have enough to worry about with viruses on our computers, now we have yet another concern.  A recent attack on Android phones allowed hackers to remotely instruct the phone to send SMS text messages that cost $5 each, driving up the user’s phone bill and putting cash in the hackers pockets.  The Android users had downloaded a “free” movie player, and the exploit was installed in the background.

The “movie app” was downloaded from an outside website not affiliated with Google’s Android Marketplace.

Another scam does not send out pricey text messages, but rather, instructs the phone to dial an international number using a specific carrier.  The call is generally only made once a month, in the middle of the night, and most victims did not notice the charges for a few months.

So how can we protect ourselves from these malware attacks?

  • Only download apps from an official source.
  • Be wary of texts instructing you to download “updates” to your phone’s operating system.
  • Watch your bills closely.
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To Firewall or Not To Firewall….

September 14, 2010

If you have ever installed a fully featured Antivirus program, or another security program, you may of been presented with an option to install a firewall, thereby disabling the standard firewall built into Windows.

What is a firewall, and should we keep the Windows firewall, or use the 3rd party software firewall?

A firewall is a hardware of software application that blocks unauthorized access to a computer or network.  It also lets the right kind of access in or out, meaning you can still access the internet and applications you need.

For most small businesses and home users, a software firewall application is suitable.  For larger networks, or high security, a robust hardware solution may be the answer.

There are arguments for using or not using the built in firewall in Windows.

  • FOR – The windows firewall is automatically configured and turned on by default.  You don’t have to do anything to start it up.
  • AGAINST – Microsoft Windows is a huge target for hackers.  They are always looking for ways to find ways into the system.  It may be harder to attack a system with another software firewall running.
  • FOR – If you have a hardware firewall application, or the firewall setup on your router, it does not hurt to keep the Windows Firewall running on your individual computers.
  • AGAINST – A company that specifically makes security software is focused on the purpose of security.  A 3rd party firewall application typically provides greater protection, though it does require more interaction and configuration.

Whatever your decision is, having a firewall running on your computer(s) is a good idea.  There are thousands of viruses, worms, and other threats floating around in cyberspace.


How to Tune Up Your Computer

July 27, 2010

inQuo computer repair in salt lake city, inQuo computer support in salt lake city, inquo computer repair in utah, inQuo computer support in utah, inquo laptop repair in salt lake city, inquo laptop repair in utahEvery three thousand miles, you dutifully take your car into the shop for an oil change.  Most people were taught to perform regular maintenance on their cars when they were first handed the keys to the old family sedan.  By changing the oil, keeping the various fluids at the right level, and changing the filters, your automobile will run better and last a lot longer.

The same is true for your computer.  The longer you use a computer the slower it may become.  Many times, people think they need a new computer when all they really need to do is to perform some simple maintenance.

System and Software Updates

It is important to keep both your operating system and the software running on your computer up to date with the latest patches and upgrades.  Many times, the security of your system can be at stake if the software running on it is not updated regularly.  Both Microsoft and Apple operating systems regularly release updates.  Other programs can usually be updated by clicking the HELP menu inside the program itself.

Clearing the Cache

A cache on a computer is a place where temporary files are stored.  Many programs, including internet browsers, will store temporary files on the hard drive.  This can help the program fun faster, and save personalized settings. If the cache becomes too large, or the files become corrupt it may cause problems.  A good program to automatically clear the cache is CCleaner.  Easy to use and free!

Security Scans

Viruses, malware and spyware cause many issues for computer users.  They can slow the computer down, and cause issues with the security of your computer.  It is important to keep your antivirus software up to date, and run regular scans with it.  We also recommend using a program called Malwarebytes.  Free and easy to use, Malwarebytes can remove many threats that may be missed by antivirus software.

Hard Drive Optimization

As you install programs and save files on your hard drive, it can begin to get cluttered.  A defrag can help organize all of the files and programs that are physically stored on the hard drive.  This can help with the speed of running programs, searching for and opening files, and many other functions of your computer.

All of these maintenance steps should be done on a monthly basis.  By taking an hour a month to run the updates and security scans, your computer will run faster and last longer.


Plugging the Holes in Internet Browsers

June 29, 2010

Everyone knows that you should use antivirus software to protect your computer, but did you know that your internet browser may be letting viruses and malware infect your system anyway?

Whether you use Internet Explorer, Firefox, or even Google Chrome, there will be vulnerabilities in your browser.  It is important to keep your software up to date with the latest security patches and updates.

  • To keep Internet Explorer up to date, use the Windows Update program that is built into windows.  Click START–ALL PROGRAMS–WINDOWS UPDATE to manually check for updates.
  • Mozilla Firefox will automatically notify you of any important security updates and makes it easy to stay current.  To manually check for updates, click HELP–CHECK FOR UPDATES from the Firefox window.
  • Google Chrome is easy to update as well.  Just click the “wrench” icon and choose ABOUT GOOGLE CHROME.  At the bottom, you will see a message that states “Checking for Updates”.  If an update is found, it will notify you.

Simply updating your web browser is not enough.  Any of the programs or “Add-Ons” you have installed inside your browser also need to be updated.  Recently, some very popular Add-On applications like Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash have created vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer and Firefox.

  • To check for updates for Add-Ons in Mozilla Firefox, click on TOOLS–ADD-ONS.  Click the FIND UPDATES button.
  • Unfortunately, Internet Explorer makes it a little harder to update the Add-Ons.  Click TOOLS–MANAGE ADD-ONS.  This will list all of the Add-Ons that are installed.  Make a note of each one.  Open the following website and search for each add-on:  http://ieaddons.com/en/
  • Updating Add-Ons, or Extensions in Google Chrome is fairly easy and straightforward.  Click the “Wrench” icon in the top right-hand corner, then click EXTENSIONS.  Click the “Plus” sign next to the header DEVELOPER TOOLS.  Now click the UPDATE EXTENSIONS NOW button.

Remember, updating the security of your computer is a never-ending process.  By making sure the things you use the most are updated, you should be relatively safe.


The Virus Issue Part One of Three – inQuo’s Tech Tip Tuesday Newsletter Volume 11

December 18, 2009

Anyone who has touched a keyboard has probably heard of computer viruses, spyware, malware, etc.  But do you really understand what those terms mean, and how they can affect you?

This is the first of a three part series on computer viruses.  We will define what different types of viruses are, what they can do, how to remove them,  and how you can prevent future infections.

Definitions

Adware – A small software program, typically installed when visiting certain internet websites, or installing “shareware” or “freeware” software.  Adware can monitor websites that you visit, and transmit that information to marketers for research and targeted advertising.  It can increase the delivery of advertisements in the form of pop-up ads, targeted banners, etc.

Malware – Malicious software that is installed without your knowledge, that is used for sinister purposes, such as gathering information like passwords, installing viruses and trojans, turning a computer into a “Zombie”, and other unwanted actions.

Spyware – Again, software installed on your computer without you knowing.  Spyware can be software installed by an owner of the computer to monitor the activities.  For example, a parent that installs software to log the keystrokes of their kids, or a business owner monitoring their employee’s computer use.  Spyware can monitor internet activity, and can also re-direct users to specific websites.

Trojan (Horse) – One of the more riskier malware programs, a trojan horse virus typically starts out as a small program that seemingly causes no harm, but can give others unauthorized access to your computer system.  They are usually not self replicating, like viruses and worms, and they do require interaction with an outside party, like a hacker.

Virus – A virus is a program or set of scripts that can cause harm to your computer by deleting or corrupting files, disabling security software and other problematic things.  A virus is typically a local program, and can be spread through manual processes, like sharing flash disks or USB drives, as well as email, IM programs, and social networking websites.  The term virus is generally used as a blanketed description for other types of infections, like trojans, spyware and malware.

Worm – A self-replicating program that spreads through networks, e-mail, instant messaging programs and file sharing.  Worms do not usually attach themselves to other programs.  Many worms do not typically cause damage to files or programs, however, they can cause problems with bandwidth because of how they spread and replicate.

Zombie (Computer) – A computer that is connected to the internet, and has been compromised by a trojan, virus or worm.  The computer is then used by someone controlling it, to send out spam e-mails, spread viruses, attack websites, etc.  The owner of the computer does not know their computer is being used in that way.  An estimated 80-90% of all spam e-mails sent worldwide comes from zombie infected computers.


Securing your Wireless Access – inQuo’s Tech Tip Tuesday Newsletter Volume 3

November 20, 2009
Wireless access is a great way to untangle the cords that hold you back from wandering around your office or home, laptop in hand.   It is a great tool for increasing productivity, but without the proper security, wireless access could expose you to security risks.Most wireless routers will offer ways to lock up the security of your wireless network.  There are typically two different security scenarios for wireless access.  WEP and WPA.
  • WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) was the original security protocol for wireless access.  Designed to offer the same protection as regular network passwords, it is now considered un-secure and can be easily hacked by someone with the proper equipment.
  • WPA (WIFI Protected Access) is the current standard for stronger wireless access security.
How do I know if my wireless security is setup?
The easiest way to tell is to use your computers network viewer to view available wireless networks.  If your wireless network shows a little padlock symbol, or if it requires a password to access it, then you are probably ok.   If your wireless security is not configured, it would be recommended to get it setup as soon as possible.  Each wireless router will be different when setting up the security options.We have linked some helpful pages for some of the main manufacturers of wireless routers:

How to Optimize Your Internet Settings – inQuo’s Tech Tip Tuesday Newsletter Volume 2

November 20, 2009

With the vast array of internet websites and web applications, sometimes we can run into little problems accessing them.  Whether you are using Internet Explorer or another browser, many different websites require you to install plug-ins or add-ons like Java or Flash.  Typically, there are few problems installing these applications, but that is not always the case.Some websites may change your internet settings.  This may make it optimal when visiting their site, but can cause problems with other applications.   There are some easy ways to optimize your internet settings and reset your browser.  The steps below are the first things most technicians will try when troubleshooting browser and internet problems.
  1. Access the Control Panel and double-click Internet Options.
  2. On the first tab (General), click the Delete button under Browsing History.  Make sure all of the options are checked, and click Delete.
  3. Click the Settings button under Browsing History.   Click the View Objects button.  This will open a window with a list of any add-ons or plug-ins installed.  Right-Click each item and click Delete.  These objects will be reinstalled the next time you access a website that requires them.  Close the window, then click OK.
  4. Click on the Security tab at the top of the window.  Click on the button that says Reset all zones to default level.
  5. Click the Privacy tab.  Click on the button that says Default (this button may be grayed out.  Skip this step if it is grayed out).
  6. Click the Content tab then click the Clear SSL State button.
  7. Click the Advanced tab.  Click the button that says Restore Advanced Settings.
    Now click Apply, then OK. It is a good idea to restart the computer after completing these steps.
The steps above are a good start in troubleshooting issues with browsing the internet.  You can also use the steps on a regular basis to clean up temporary files and reset your internet settings.  It might be a good idea to optimize your internet settings once every couple of months.