Interesting Idea for an Old Computer

A Computer TreeWhen you get a new computer, you might wonder what to do with the old one, especially if it works.  We work with Connecting For Good in Kansas City to help refurbish and distribute these computers to needy families.  However, there are some other uses.

My colleagues at Lifehacker had some interesting ideas.  The one I like best is the “guest computer.”  When people come over and need to just check email or print a boarding pass, why not have them use that spare computer.  After all, hotels have those kinda resources.  Just be sure to use it every so often to check to make sure it works and gets security updates.

When it’s finally ready to go out to pasture, don’t just throw it in the trash. Give us a call.  Even if it doesn’t work, we can still get it ethically and responsibly recycled.  We’ll make sure your private data is erased and the computer ends up in good hands.

Photo by mikecogh

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Has Your Password Been Stolen?

Authenticity required passwordWith all the recent and continuing breaches, one thing we learned is you can’t rely on a company to tell you.  Breaches are reported months and sometimes years later.

If you’d like to check if yours was stolen, the website “Have I been pwned” helps.  All you do is put in your username or email address (no passwords!)  It then tells you what hacks you’ve been a victim of.  I was only the victim of seven on one email address.  I consider that lucky.

Fortunately, I use a password manager.  All those passwords on those sites were unique, so I was safe.  We help clients all the time setup password managers.  It’s easy and saves you time and hassle.  All you do is remember the password to your password manager and it takes care of everything else.

Photo by liako

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Remote Workers Do Better (We Support Remote Workers)

Lego computerM

ore and more, businesses are supporting working from home. It used to be a luxury.  Only cushy jobs let you work from home. So-called “real jobs” required you to go into the office.  No more!

This article from Stanford Graduate School of Business shows that remote workers have a 13% improvement in performance. The reasons are obvious, but it’s nice to have some data behind it.  You don’t have to worry about a commute.  The main reason they mention resonates with me the most:  control over the environment.

When you’re working from home, you have control of everything: the noise level, the temperature, the furniture, etc..  At the office you not only don’t have control of the environment, but others invade it.  Coworkers stop by to chat.  My problem was people’s lunches that would stink up the place!

With work-from-home, your internet connection is your expressway into work.  No internet = no work.  We get that.  Too many companies feel that residential computer repair customers are a lower priority than businesses.  They miss the fact that people work from home and get business done.  According to this study, 31% of remote workers missed work due to technical problems. How frustrating!

That’s why we focus on small office, home office, and residential customers.  They need computer support outside of the traditional office.

Photo by Matt From London

Which is More Secure? Your Phone or Laptop

Action Link Wireless

With many people having both a smartphone and laptop synced, you’d think people would secure them equally.  In reality, it seems people are more worried about their phone rather than their laptop (or desktop).  That’s a big mistake.

This article has some interesting facts!  The ones that stood out to me are related to leaving the laptop unattended.  I see this in coffeeshops all the time. Someone will take their phone in the restroom with them or up to the counter, but otherwise just leave their laptop there.  It also makes sense it’s easier to carry a phone in your pocket compared to a laptop.

Nonetheless, both devices should be protected equally.  That includes proper password, encryption, and other security methods.  This is a much bigger deal if you’re bound by professional codes of conduct like HIPAA, FINRA, or PCI.  We’re here to help with that and have lots of clients in these situations.

Photo by Kevin Johnston

Is Your PC Dirty Inside?

We see all kinds of computers here.  Inside, most of them are dirty.  Some are pretty wild inside.  Most of the time it’s not the client’s fault.

I really need to clean this

There’s a fun subreddit where people post pics of dusty computers.  I’ve never posted there, but I’ve thought about it.  Computers have cooling fans and sit on the floor many times, so it’s natural they collect dust inside.  Dust can causes the fans to fail and overheat, so it’s a good idea to have them cleaned.  Pet dander and smoke debris get in there as well.

Don’t just take a vacuum to clean it, please.  While we love seeing you, we don’t want to see you because of this.  Static is what causes computers to get “fried.”  If you don’t make sure to ground yourself, you’ll transfer a charge to the computer.

We have special equipment to clean inside the computer without zapping it with electricity.  Checking the insides of a computer is part of our standard tune up process, but feel free to ask for it during any service call.  We carry the tools with us.

Photo by Lee Edwin Coursey

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Use Chrome? Don’t Settle for a Boring Chrome Start Page!

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Many clients use Google’s Chrome browser on a PC and a Mac.  It’s fast and reliable, but it’s also highly customizable.

This blog post gives you some easy ideas of how to change your start page.  My favorite though is New Tab Motivation by The Mindful Tech Labs.  They also make chatbots for Facebook, so there’s no excuse not to be motivated.

Let me know in the comments what your favorite start page is.

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Have a Landline; You’re in the Minority!

Image from page 206 of Bell telephone magazine 1922

Back in 2016, we crossed a major threshold in technology.  A majority of US Households use mobile phones and don’t have landlines. It makes sense as mobile phones become a necessity.  Why use a phone that ties you to one location?

If you still have a landline, there’s probably a few reasons.  First, you might be concerned about your phone number.  Everyone has it, so if you got rid of it, you’d lose contact with people. That was my first worry too.  Fortunately, mobile providers make it easy to “port” a number.  I walked into my AT&T store and five minutes later my landline was now a mobile phone.  It’s a ton cheaper than my landline.  Best of all, all the calls get forwarded to my mobile phone, so I can get calls from both numbers.  Yeah.

Another reason might be faxing.  No worries here.  Online faxing is often free through websites or even iPhone and Android apps.  It’s still way cheaper than your landline.  Newer multifunction printer/scanners support internet faxing as well.

Finally, it’s about the comfort level.  People perceive landlines as more reliable.  Back in the day, they were.  Now, most voice calls travel on internet lines anyways.  All the outages we’ve had with Midco in Lawrence is because of that.  We see the same issues with AT&T customers.  When the internet goes out the phones go out, and vice versa.  The two are linked together.

If you need help making the switch, give us a call. We’ve helped lots of clients with it.

Photo by Internet Archive Book Images

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Police Using Fitbit Data Against You?

Fitbit ForceI’m not talking the fat police either.  I’m talking about someone going to jail based on what a fitness tracker told police.

The details are explained here . It should give everyone pause for concern.  The obvious thing is “don’t do anything wrong,” but the problems go deeper than that.  For example, given that people know how these trackers are used, what could stop someone from switching yours out and framing you.  I know I’ve accidentally picked up my spouse’s tracker before.  The Supreme Court is already grappling with issues of cell phone towers and privacy.  Their decision might impact cases like this as well.

Photo by Bekathwia

Biggest Online Security Threat is You

Security Stock 11081

We can put the best antivirus on your computer (Malwarebytes), but ultimately they’re ineffective you work around them. It’s not just phishing attempts. There’s a whole bunch of reasons humans mess everything up.

Phishing is Getting More Sophisticated

Most of us know not to click that link pretending to be from Amazon or our local bank.  Phishing emails used to have telltale signs like broken English and generic greetings like “Dear Customer.”  Scammers have upped their game.

Last summer a massive attack used Google’s document sharing system to trick users into clicking a link.  I consider myself pretty sophisticated but I fell for it on one of my accounts.  I do product reviews and just assumed it was a press release.  I often get those through Google Docs.

The Wall Street Journal (paid article) explains the seven deadly sins of why we click that link:

  • Confidence: ‘Trust us, this is normal.’
  • Greed: ‘Get your cheap pills here!’
  • Urgency: ‘The boss says hurry up and click.’
  • Fear: ‘Your PC is infected! Click to fix’.
  • Shame: ‘Click here to see what everybody is saying about you.’
  • Lust: ‘Psst! Check out these nude celebs.’
  • Sloth: ‘Didn’t update your OS? Thanks!’”

That article talks about how major companies and politicians got snared by one of these sins. All you need is one person to make a mistake to infect a whole company

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) isn’t Enough

We love 2FA.  That’s the system that texts you when an unknown login attempt happens and let you approve it.  Hackers use the above sings to get you to disable it.

Mashable reports on an NSA analysis of how people get tricked into turning off their protection.  All you really need is to take the typical phishing a bit further.  I know every time my system does updates my bank thinks I’m on a new system because the browser is updated.  I go ahead and put in my special code to gain access.  I could easily be tricked into giving up my second factor.

We’re Not Dumb, But Scammers are Smart

Although I’ve come close, I’ve never gotten taken in by one of these scams.  I’d chalk that up to luck rather than skill.

A few stories I read made me feel slightly better that I’m not dumb.  One refers to a New York Supreme Court Judge taken for over one million dollars. Southern Oregon University was taken for $1.9 million.

You’d think Google and Facebook are smart enough to avoid getting taken.  Nope. Both were victims of a scam that raked in $100 million.  With the combined power of these two companies and their sophisticated systems, I feel kinda helpless against it.

Cisco, a computer networking company, tried to train employees not to click links in a unique way.  It sent them phishing emails to see who would click. Sneaky, but it worked

It Doesn’t Need to Be Email

We’re all protective of our emails, but sometimes the threats come in the old-fashioned way.  This link explains how someone from Starbucks was tricked into sending money.  Scams like this rely on the seven sins mentioned earlier.  Security has to be on everyone’s mind and not just focused on how the threats come in.

How to Prevent It

The obvious first line of defense is computer security.  We can help with that. Not just antivirus, but making sure you’ve got the latest security patches.  Beyond that, you have to be extremely skeptical.  This article sums it up best:

“There’s often a misconception that everyone needs to be a security expert — but that’s not the case. Security is not everyone’s day job, but ultimately, often all users need to have a mentality of caution — they have to be mindful of what they’re doing, and be aware that their actions on corporate equipment, and can be far-reaching.”

When in doubt, don’t click the link.  Pick up the phone and call someone directly!

Photo by Hivint

Keyloggers and What You Need to Know

keyloggers

Last year, Lawrence was hit with it’s first reported keylogger attack at KU.  It’s a problem sweeping the country.  The problem in Lawrence is mild compared to some schools.

For example, one student changes his grades 90 times in a 21-month period along with five of his friends.  That article explains why schools are a target.

“Keyloggers are cheap, they’re easy, and the targets – schools and universities – too often have paltry budgets for equipment, software and skilled administrators.”

While I’m sure KU has upped their security since then, it just takes one mistake for a hacker to install a keylogger.  Free State and Lawrence High School should be on alert as students applying to colleges might try to do this.

With all these attacks, the patterns are the same

  1.  Someone uses a public computer to enter in grades or
  2. They fail to notice something attached to their computer

If you’re responsible for entering in people’s grades, do it on your own private computer.  If you see something unusual connected to the computer, don’t put in your password.  Instead call your IT department.  If you can’t call them, call us!

Photo by Robbert van der Steeg

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