Beware the Bogus Flash Player Download

Installing software should be a simple and risk-free activity, but you know that’s not the case. If it were, you wouldn’t be reading this.

A lot of software installers include various options making it confusing as to what you need and don’t need. My best advice is to always go for the custom installation option so you can deselect anything that’s not familiar to you. Of course, hopefully it goes without saying that you should never install software you don’t fully trust.

Anyway, getting back to the point – have you seen a prompt recently that tells you to “Please install Flash Player Update (Recommended)”? They look like this:

Bogus Flash Player

 

It doesn’t matter which web browser you use, these little suckers will still pop up if you land on a website that’s either malicious, or legitimate but compromised. If you do see one, there’s a chance your computer may be infected with adware or other potentially unwanted programmes.

What does it do?

Well, their sole purpose it to make money. They generate web traffic and collect sales leads for other dodgy sites by displaying advertisements and sponsored links in your web browser.

If you click on the download link or install button, rather than installing an update you’re agreeing to download an adware or malicious programme into your computer. This could leave you with unwanted things like toolbars (e.g. Sweet-Page, AwesomeHP), adware (e.g. EnhanceTronic, Feven 1.8, CouponBuddy) or other forms of malware.

So remember,

  • Only download software you trust
  • Always go for the custom installation
  • If in doubt don’t click!
MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Staying Safe Online–Shop Safely

shoppingThere’s nothing better than a spot of retail therapy.

Of course, with the internet, you don’t even have to get wet doing it! Now if the weather’s a bit pants but you need to do a spot of shopping all you have to do is go online.

But things aren’t always as they seem.

How many websites have you come across offering a free trial offer? You probably can’t believe your luck, sign up and think nothing of the screen that asks for your credit card details – just to cover p&p you understand.

But 9 times out of 10, you’ll start receiving and be billed for other products that you probably don’t even want. Once you head back to the website to find out what’s going on you spot the teeny tiny print that informs you should you wish to cancel at any time, please call our customer services department who will be happy to help. Yeah right – they’d be happy to help if you could actually get through to them.

This type of distance selling is governed by rules but only in the UK. So if the site you visited is based overseas you’re unlikely to get your cash back.

Be vigilant and stay safe

The internet is a safe place to buy provided you follow a few simple rules and use a bit of common sense.

  • If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Use sites you know, so if you’re just dabbling with internet shopping stick with the big national stores.
  • Research what you’re buying to get the best deal. But if you find a site that’s selling the product vastly cheaper than anyone else, listen to the alarm bells that should be ringing in your head very loudly.
  • For security use your credit card or, even better, a Paypal account – that way the buyer never gets to see your credit card details. Only use your debit card if you trust the site.
  • Never, ever give your bank account details – even if they don’t take credit cards or Paypal and you really, really want the item.
  • Only buy from sites that use a secure service and display either https:// or the padlock symbol.
  • Anyone can fall foul of hackers so always check your statement when you receive it and report anything unusual no matter how small an amount or even if it’s refunded later on. If you don’t recognise it, check it out.

Buying online is convenient, fast and can often get you a better deal than you’ll find on the High Street.

Just remember to be vigilant and take a few simple steps to stay safe.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Windows Updates–The Why, How and Are They Safe?

microsoft

It’s something that you just accept as a PC owner (of the Windows variety).

Every now and then your computer will begin to download Windows updates.

But why does that happen? How does it happen? And is it safe for your computer to be downloading stuff under its own steam like that?

Well this post is going to lead you through those questions to put your mind at rest.

Why updates happen

In an ideal world, software would be created to the offer the optimum package of services you’ll ever need. But it’s not an ideal world and things change.

New ideas are created, glitches happen, hackers come up with new ways to violate your computer etc. All of these incidences mean your software has to be regularly updated to make sure it runs smoothly and offers you the best possible protection.

How they happen

Your PC will already be preloaded with software and it’s this that initialises a connection with the internet to check for and download updates.

Even though you’ll have firewalls and security packages on your PC the connection won’t be blocked because it’s the software you already have that’s making the connection. Your Firewall is there to keep intruders out and not there to prevent you (or your software) from downloading the updates your systems needs to work properly.

Are they safe?

The thought of your PC doing this for you may leave you feeling a bit nervous.

What if one of the updates isn’t real and is really from a malicious third party who has hacked into your update service?

First off, updates only come from particular internet addresses (e.g. http://update.microsoft.com). As this is under Microsoft’s control you can be pretty sure their security is as tight as…well, the tightest thing you can imagine, so the chances of anyone getting in there are extremely unlikely.

For arguments sake, say a hacker managed to get their own software into an official update channel, what then? Well, your PC will only accept data if it’s signed with a valid cryptographic key – and making a fake code is impossible.

So, if your PC starts to download a Windows Update don’t worry.

There are bad guys out there

Even though Windows updates are OK, there are still a lot of bad guys out there.

One of the most popular ways to try and infect your PC is through phishing email scams. Your security software should protect you from  these but it pays to remain vigilant at all times. If you don’t recognise the email sender, never open the attachment and delete the email straight away.

Common sense with a healthy dose of scepticism will help you stay safe on and off line. But if you do experience any problems get in touch with your local IT support company immediately.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

SSL–Keeping Secure Online

computersafetyWhat is SSL?

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer protocol and was created by Netscape to ensure secure transactions between web servers and browsers.

In a nutshell, it uses a third party, a Certificate Authority (CA), to identify one end or both ends of the transaction.

So the question has to be asked, if it is easy for some extension applications to access people’s data when on a website that doesn’t use SSL, why sites don’t use SSL for all their pages?

Well, the answer is that in the past it’s come down to a matter of computing resources.

Encrypting all traffic to and from your server takes a lot of processing power which for many sites would require extra hardware resources and therefore more cost. Plus it would also have an impact on the visitors’ browser because that will have to do more work when receiving SSL pages. This obviously has a knock on effect for low powered clients like mobile phones.

But more recently both server and client side computing power has increased which means more sites are now able to use SSL. This includes pretty much all the major webmail providers.

However there are still many popular sites that don’t use it – Facebook and Amazon to name but two. Mind you when using Amazon you do have to re-enter your password before you can actually buy any products or change shipping address so an attacker is unlikely to be able to do anything nasty even if they did manage to hijack your session with amazon.

But for sites without SSL or the re-entering your password method are still vulnerable. If someone impersonates you on Facebook they could download all your contacts and send them messages pretending they are coming from you, change your details, view all your pictures and even change your privacy settings without you realising it.

At the end of the day, if the site you’re visiting shows http:// rather than https:// in the address bar, you’re potentially vulnerable. It’s worth bearing in mind.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

WiFi – How Vulnerable Are You?

Three cheers for WiFi – now we can work almost anywhere, we don’t need as many wires as we used to and it gives us much more freedom.

But with freedom comes risk.

If you are on a wireless network (at home or at work), how secure are you?

I’m not talking about locks or physical security here but rather network security/

Does your WiFi network require a password?

Hopefully the answer is yes, but if it’s no you’re using an open WiFi network and potential at risk.

“That’s OK, our network is secured by using a WEP protocol key.”

That’s great but did you know these networks can also be vulnerable since WEP encryption is quite easy to crack (if you know what you’re doing).  Once an attacker has gained access to your network they will be able to view all the traffic on it in the same way as they could on an open network.

There’s food for thought.

But don’t panic. Using a WPA secured network makes it much harder for attackers to deal with. This is because traffic to each user is secured separately so an attacker would have to decrypt each packet they captured before they could exploit the vulnerability. Quite frankly, for most people, that’s far too much like hard work so they won’t bother.

So at the end of the day, if you’re going to use any kind of public WiFi network, you could be putting yourself and your data at risk.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Internet Security–Bullguard

 

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Ensuring your computer is safe from viruses should always be at the forefront of your mind.

Surfing the net should be a fun and safe experience but there are a number of ‘sharks’ lurking out there just waiting to spoil your day.

If your computer becomes infected there’s a good chance you could lose data, lose money or even lose your identity.

Identity theft, credit card fraud, hackers, spam, virus’ and spyware could become a reality if you don’t surf safely.

Take the Bull by the horns

With so many products available how do you decide which one is right for you?

Well, here’s the low down on one product that might just be what you’ve been searching for.

Bullguard Internet Security 10 Suite is a complete solution that will protect you from all these threats.

By installing it on your computer you can safely email, shop and bank in confidence. Plus, with Bullguard’s 5 GB of online backup, your photos and music are kept safe and sound regardless of whether anything happens to your  computer.

It offers:

  • Antivirus protection
  • Antispyware
  • Firewall
  • Spam filter
  • Secure, online backup
  • Gamed mode to offer fast but safe gaming with minimal resource consumption
  • Free 24/7 support

With virus protection, a firewall, spam filter and 24/7 support, Bullguard offers you the protection you need.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

IT Security–Everyone’s Responsibility

computersafety

Your business is founded on IT.

Through it you control your stock, marketing, orders, communications…everything.

Without it your business wouldn’t be able to function which is why is it essential you keep your IT safe from  other competitors, sabotage or the anonymous hackers that lurk in cyber space.

It is very difficult for most people to understand the motivations behind these attacks. Some may be due to unscrupulous competitors who want to create valuable (to them) down time in your systems. Others do it simply because they can.

This is why it is essential for your business to have strict IT security measures for everyone.

IT security threats

The types of threats that are out to get your business are:

  • Spoofing email – these come with attachments that normally format your C: drive (e.g. W32.sobig.a, W32.nachi.worm and Netsky)
  • Tampering – (or sabotage) someone with an axe to grind could internally alter documentation before sending it out. This could harm your business by falsifying information etc.
  • Repudiation – a disgruntled employee could delete critical information to cause chaos etc.

Therefore it is vital that you have excellent security in place and all your staff understand the importance of not opening attachments in suspicious emails.

What’s the password?

Passwords are an important part of securing your network system.

Keeping your password secret is vital because if someone works it out there’s no telling what might happen.

Using a complex password is essential to make sure no one guesses it. By mixing text and numbers at least 6-8 characters long will make it virtually impossible for someone to crack.

Whatever it is, make sure you can remember it – never write it down – and change it every month or so.

Who are you?

Another aspect of IT security is being vigilant to who’s about.

If you see someone roaming around your office on their own and you don’t know who they are, don’t be afraid to ask them.

When you leave your desk always log off so someone can’t gain access to the system under your name.

Of course a potential threat might not appear in person, if you get a phone call saying it’s your IT department and they need to know  your login and password – DON’T TELL THEM. If it is genuine they’ll come and find you in person.

All of this might sound like common sense but it’s worth reinforcing it amongst your staff every so often.

Be vigilant, be safe, be secure.

Online Storage and Backup

Have you tried Livedrive?

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It’s the one thing that fills you with fear. Something so terrible it could literally kill your business.

What is it?

That terrible moment when your computer crashes. Everything is gone – your work in progress, your customer files, your accounting data, your photos, your music…

There are numerous ways you can avoid this catastrophe. You could use an external hard drive or one of the many online storage and backup solutions that are available.

One that we have found to be particularly good is Livedrive which was reviewed in PCPro in July 2010.

It offers its users a wide range of features including:

  • Unlimited storage
  • Web access (so you can access your files form any computer)
  • Incremental backups
  • Simple installation
  • Synchronisation of files between computers

It’s so simple, just create your Livedrive account, download and install the local client and choose the folders you want to back up.

It usually backs up your files in real time, uploading a new version every time you save. Plus, deleted files are stored for a minimum of 30 days and up to 30 pervious versions of every file are retained so you can easily revert back to an earlier copy of a document even if it’s been overwritten several times.

Livedrive also has settings that include point to point encryption, exception and prioritisation settings for different file types and a LAN transfer option to synchronise data between all the computers on your local network. Plus it adds an option to the Windows right-click menu to instantly back up selected files. It seems to have though of everything.

You can have as many computers as you like on your Livedrive account and each will have a separate entry to the web portal. There’s even a mobile version too and an app for iPhone users.

Livedrive is definitely one of the most feature packed online backup services out there at the moment. Its easy to use and is actually one of the cheapest which is why we are offering it to all our customers and recommending it as our first choice online storage and backup service. 

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Think Posture When Using Your Laptop

postureBack in November we featured a blog post which commented on the dangers of laptops.

OK, technically speaking a laptop isn’t actually going to kill you or cause you serious harm intentionally – after all it’s just an inanimate lump of plastic, circuitry and metal. But the post did comment on Adrian Lee’s article in The Daily Express which advised how the increased use of laptops was being blamed for a large rise in neck and back problems because they encourage bad posture.

But all is not lost. You can safely use your laptop without risking life and limb simply by taking reasonable precautions and employing a modicum of common sense.

Think posture

You can use your laptop in blissful safety if you adopt a few good habits. These easy to follow suggestions will ensure you can work at your favourite laptop without running the risk of injury.

  • Always use a separate keyboard and mouse so your laptop can be put on a stand with the screen open at eye level.
  • Make sure your laptop is placed on a stable base which will provide support for your arms.
  • Take regular breaks (including short micro breaks). The movement will prevent the build up of stress on your muscles and joints.
  • Posture is everything. Adopts a good sitting position with lower back support and make sure all your other desk equipment is within reach.
  • Sit right back in your chair with your feet flat on the ground. Also make sure you don’t cross your legs or ankles.
  • Align your keyboard to your body by making sure the B key is in line with your belly button.

By making these simple suggestion good habits, you can prevent (or at least minimise) any aches, pains and discomfort.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Don’t Let Your Laptop Become a Pain in the Neck

 

pain in the neck

It’s official! Laptops are bad for you.

OK that might be a slight exaggeration but according to Adrian Lee in The Daily Express the increased use of these portable computers is being blamed for a large rise in neck and back problems because they encourage bad posture.

Adrian tells us that according to Tim Hutchful of the British Chiropractic, laptops are only designed to be used for short periods. But many people spend hours at a time on them as they are being increasingly used in the home as substitutes for desk computers.

The main problem is that whereas a desktop computer has a separate screen, keyword and mouse, laptops don’t and their users are forced to hunch over and look down to view the screen which places a lot of stress on the neck, shoulders, arms and back.

“The average weight of a human head is between 8 and 10 pounds,” explains Tim. “You don’t have to bend over a laptop for very long to begin placing strain on the muscles by overloading them. Compared with standing up there is twice as much load.”

Extensive and prolonged use can cause chronic nerve damage to the spine, neck, shoulders and arms while slipped back discs are another issue. Also resting your wrists on the edge of a laptop can damage tendons and even leg pain can be a result of poor posture.

How to maintain good posture while using computers

For many of us, the use of computers is an everyday occurrence. So how can we minimise the risks of neck and back problems?

Well, here are a few suggestions:

  • Maintain good posture while using your computer by siting back in your chair, keeping your ears directly over your shoulders and your shoulders over your hips with your screen at eye level.
  • If you regularly use a laptop, buy a stand and separate keyboard and mouse.
  • Take breaks every 40 minutes. Set the timer on your cooker to ensure you have to get up as moving around refreshes the flow of blood to your muscles.
  • Drink plenty of water – the added bonus of this is you will have to take regular toilet breaks!
  • Take micro-breaks. Sit back in your chair for a few seconds, shrug your shoulders and allow your arms to drop to your sides.
  • Don’t use your laptop sat on the sofa. Working at a table or preferably a desk is much better.

But it’s not just computer usage that can cause problems. If you use the phone while working, invest in a headset so you’re not tempted to wedge the receiver under your chin while taking notes.

There, I bet you never realised how bad for your health computers can be. But being sensible about how and when you use then will keep back and neck pain to a minimum.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.