All posts by Michael Burton

Worth Repeating …

I’ve touched on this subject before, but I think in lieu of all the recent problems folks have been having with this lately, it is worth repeating.

Have you seen a screenshot similar to this on your computer lately?

Hopefully not! … (and if you do see one in the future, you will know exactly what to do 🙂

 

Looks ominous…Your data has been exposed, as well as you email passwords, bank account passwords, and social media information.  All of your private photos and other sensitive files are at risk!  Ouch!

But take heart…it’s a fake!!!

Repeat:  IT’S A FAKE!!!

IT’S a SCAM!!!

How do I know this?  … I’ve seen this played out over and over again (especially recently – there seems to be a sudden rash of these messages).  Microsoft is not going to call you or pop up a message instructing you to call them! … neither will any other legitimate company.  It’s a heck of a way to make a living – but they do!…and a pretty good one at that, because a lot of folks fall for the SCAM.

For now, just take my word for it and read on.

Don’t click on the windowDefinitely do not call the number listed.  These “Windows Certified Live Technicians” are trying to SCAM you out of money, and will possibly attempt to steal information from your computer, or even introduce a problem you did not have prior to their “visit”.

Here’s how the scam usually goes:

You’re innocently surfing the web or checking a news article, or any number of other activities when a screen similar to the one above will suddenly pop up on your computer.  It may be flashing.  It may be accompanied by sounds (such as sirens).  It looks official…it sounds official, and it has an air of authority and directness that demands your attention.  The message may even give you a time limit to call in order to “save” your computer.  Perhaps you have been experiencing a few oddities on your computer lately, and then this message, coincidently timed, tries to confirm your thoughts…”maybe I do have a problem with my computer…”  And then there is the fear factor.  And after all, the cost seems reasonable in order to “save” your computer.

You dutifully call the number provided (usually toll-free – how convenient), and are connected with a “technician”.  This “technician” will want remote access to your computer, as well as some money (usually a reasonable amount to begin with – most likely charged to a credit card) to “resolve” the issue.  They will sound professional, and somber (after all you have a SERIOUS problem).  Some will actually want you to sign a “consent” (and/or authorization) form! (in case you decide to dispute the charge later).

(Groan) … You give them remote access (they will instruct you in the process).  At this point, they will poke around a bit.  Then usually, they will tell you that you do not have adequate Virus or Malware protection, or it has failed!  They will often display windows for you that list problems or errors (these may even be real errors on the computer – every computer has them, or another fake window such as the one below).

 

 

At some point, they usually escalate the problem (and the price!) after they “determine” the problem is worse than they thought, and will take a “higher level of expertise” to resolve it.  They will attempt to get you up as high as they can in the price range ($300.00 or so), and if you start to hesitate at the price, they will most often “cut you a deal”, and remind you that time is running out for your computer.

 

 

Once they have access to your computer, they can do ANYTHING!…they may appear to be “fixing” the problem, but they may very well be downloading data off of your computer in the background, or actually downloading a virus or other malware to your computer.  Or they simply may be stalling and making the “fix” look good.

Once it’s all said and done…

Best case scenario is that they take your money, and don’t do anything harmful to your computer (nor do they usually do anything useful!).  This is what I most often see as a result.

Worst case scenario is that they take your money, possibly steal data off your computer (such as financial files or tax forms), possibly actually infect your computer, or totally disable it!  This, unfortunately, I have seen as well.  And now you have to deal with the fact that they have your credit card number and possibly other sensitive information from your computer as well (which could actually lead to Identify Theft)!

And how can you trust the security of your computer after such a breach?…even if it appears to be fine?  What ELSE did they do?

Rather than respond to the pop-up – turn off your computer (never mind that the pop up message warns you NOT to do this).  If you have to, shut the computer down manually – press and hold in the power button for 5-20 seconds until the power light goes out.  Note:  You normally do not want to shutdown your computer in this manner, but sometimes these “technicians” will lock you computer and you cannot shut it down in the normal fashion.

After waiting a few moments, restart the computer….and VOLLA! … the problem has suddenly disappeared, and the computer is working normally!

Yea!

If not, then call a REAL technician.

This SCAM will often be initiated with a telephone call as well.  Same SCAM…different avenue.  Hang up.

 

Now mind you, there are some real pop-up screens out there (such as a Ransomware screen):

 

 

If you get one of these, you may be in serious trouble…

Which is why you need to practice safe computer habits:

Don’t be in a hurry when you see something as the above, or anything that falls outside of the norm, or seems off or suspicious.  Think it through.  If you’re unsure as to whether you actually have a problem, call a local professional (such as The Computer Man), and wait for their response before proceeding (no matter how threatening the message on your computer is – or how worried you might be).

Never open the doors of your computer to a stranger!  (I.E.  give remote access to your computer) – except perhaps to a legitimate repair technician.  For instance, if you own a Dell computer, and it is under warranty; if you call Dell for technical support, they may want remote access to your computer.  But note the pattern – you called them – they did not call you, or pop up a message on your computer.  In this case, by all means, grant access.

Ensure you have proper Virus and Malware protection.

Ensure you have a current data back up (and preferably a complete system image backup).

Ensure you have some sort of off-site backup (on-line or in your car for example).

Ensure you employ safe email practices (when opening attachments, clicking on links in a message, etc.).

If you’re unsure of any of the above – call me! … I will end up costing you a lot less money, and will provide a lot more satisfaction! … as well as peace-of-mind.

Be safe out there!

And beware of all the SCAMS out there.  There are a lot!  A quick Google search will yield a lot of useful information.  But even here, be careful on the search result links…some of these can be fakes or produce harmful results as well…but that’s a topic for another day.

Take Care,

TCM

 

 

 

Is the cloud safe ?

Cloud

 

Is the (Internet) cloud safe?  There are a lot of opinions about this.  As we have seen in the past few years – everyone is possibly (at least somewhat) vulnerable to attack (hack – hackers), and it seems to be an ever-increasing problem.  The list of companies and government institutions (and this list is by no means complete) hacked in the last 2 years is fairly long.  To list a few of them:

US Military

Premera Blue Cross

Anthem

Sony

Home Depot

JPMorgan Chase

AshleyMadison

MSpy

Adobe

Evernote

TJ Maxx

AOL

US Department of Vet Affairs

T-Mobile

EBay

Target

Neiman Marcus

White Lodging

Sally Beauty

Michaels

Affinity Gaming

Ney York

PF Changs

Albertsons & SuperValu

Community Hely Systems

UPS

Dairy Queen

Goodwill

Jimmy John’s

Sourcebooks

Kmart

Staples

Bebe

There is just simply no guarantee…

Even if you data is encrypted in the cloud, an employee of the company that hosts your data could potentially have access to the encryption keys, or the government can possibly request the encryption keys.  The U.S government claims the right to read personal online data without warrants.  Google and Microsoft regularly get requests from governments and courts to hand over user data.

And then there are the hackers who are out for gain.  If your data is not encrypted, the hackers can have a field day with it (as in the case of AshleyMadison).  And as an aside – no matter what you may think of AshelyMadison and it’s users – it was private (and very personal) data that was hacked.

I think the cloud is a valuable service, but I personally don’t put anything in the cloud that I would not want my parents, children, spouse, pastor, or co-worker to see or read 🙂  Not that I have any real secrets – but some conversations, some pictures, some messages, are meant for a certain recipient – not the world – to see, hear, or read.

If your data is not personal, then by all means put it in the cloud.  It’s a good way to back it up.  If it is personal, I would (personally 🙂 think twice.  It’s a choice each individual must make for themselves (IMHO).

We cannot protect the data we must give companies (like Anthem), but we can protect the data we collect and store.  I am not so sure the cloud can.

The cloud is a great way to store data off-site (which is a really good idea), but there are other ways to accomplish this – it just takes a bit more effort.

Not only can the cloud be potentially hacked, but our vehicles (newer ones – computer controlled and with wireless connections) and other automated machines can possibly be hacked as well (it’s already been done).  As we automate more and more of our lives (like self driving vehicles, clones, etc.), we face the danger of these systems being controlled by the wrong people.

I’m not saying cloud based companies are not doing all they can to protect our data – I think most of them are (although some in the above list were warned about security before being hacked) … it’s just that sometimes the hackers are better…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EMF

EMF…

 

EMF
Night Owl City / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Electric & magnetic fields.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Services:

“Electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) are invisible areas of energy, often referred to as radiation, that are associated with the use of electrical power and various forms of natural and man-made lighting. EMFs are typically characterized by wavelength or frequency into one of two radioactive categories:

  • Non-ionizing: low-level radiation which is generally perceived as harmless to humans
  • Ionizing: high-level radiation which has the potential for cellular and DNA damage”

 

Radiation Type Definition Forms of Radiation Source Examples
Non-Ionizing Low to mid-frequency radiation which is generally perceived as harmless due to its lack of potency.
  • Extremely Low Frequency (ELF)
  • Radiofrequency (RF)
  • Microwaves
  • Visual Light
  • Microwave ovens
  • Computers
  • House energy smart meters
  • Wireless (wifi) networks
  • Cell Phones
  • Bluetooth devices
  • Power lines
  • MRIs
Ionizing Mid to high-frequency radiation which can, under certain circumstances, lead to cellular and or DNA damage with prolonged exposure.
  • Ultraviolet (UV)
  • X-Rays
  • Gamma
  • Ultraviolet light
  • X-Rays ranging from 30 * 1016 Hz to 30 * 1019 Hz
  • Some gamma rays

See the full article here:    Source: Electric & Magnetic Fields

 

As you can see in the above list, we are continually exposed (in some form) to EMF.  With the widespread use of wireless networks (Wi-Fi), smart meters, cell phones, computers, tablets, and Bluetooth devices, and in an ever-increasing number – we finds ourselves surrounded by EMF.  Some folks believe even the low-level (Non-Ionizing) categories are a danger (especially to younger children), and some have claimed to been harmed by them (as in cancer).  Who knows for sure?

Definitely something to think about…

I also found this site on the web – with a lot of useful information:  http://emf.mercola.com/

Is it for you ?

Windows10-image

 

Windows 10 is here.  Is it for you?

Windows 10 is offered as a free upgrade to those running Windows 7 or Windows 8 for the first year.  You most likely have noticed the notification from Microsoft, and may have reserved your free copy (and don’t be concerned if you have not gotten it yet – you will in time).  So, is Windows 10 for you?

I’ve had a bit of time to test the pre-release versions and the final version.  I like Windows 10.  I think Microsoft has done (this time) what they attempted to do with Windows 8.  They have combined Windows 7 and 8 together, in a fairly seamless integration.  I’ve updated a few computers to Windows 10 now, and had very little difficulty both upgrading, and doing a clean install.  Windows 10 has a fresh, clean look, and so far – on my machines have been pretty much flawless.  There are a lot of great new features, like Virtual desktops and Task View, Cortana (Internet and computer based search – virtual assistant),  The start menu is back – integrated with the tiles of Windows 8.  The Charms menu has been replaced with a much cleaner Settings area, and  the notification area has been revamped to give you all the notifications you might want or need on your computer.  Microsoft also introduced Edge with this version – a new browser built from thee ground up.  For gamers, there’s an Xbox app.  Windows 10 will also dynamically switch the interface between the PC-friendly desktop and a Windows 8-like mode that’s better suited for fingers, depending on how you’re using the device.

So, IMHO – if you currently are running Windows 8 – I would definitely upgrade (but be sure to have a good backup in place before you do).

For those running Windows 7 – perhaps.  There are a few points to consider.

If you like the Media Center – it is gone in Windows 10.

If you like the Windows sidebar/gadgets – it is also gone in Windows 10.

DVD playback support is missing – you will need your own DVD software (easily obtained).

Solitaire, Minesweeper, and Hearts – these have been removed as well (you can get official Microsoft versions of these in Microsoft’s App store).

Floppy drive support will require downloading a driver.

Windows Essentials OneDrive application has been replaced with Microsoft OneDrive.

If you have older programs, games, or devices (Pre Windows 7) – they may not run in Windows 10 – Be sure to check before upgrading.

Windows 10 (thus far) does automatic updates to your computer – I have read where some automatic driver updates for some graphics cards have presented some problems.

Windows 10 is easy to use, so you wont be lost if you’re used to Windows 7, and it will make a lot more sense than Windows 8!.  But if you have no need for the new features, Windows 7 will still do for a lot of folks, and will be supported by Microsoft through 2020.

If you want to upgrade to the latest version of Windows (and I think a nice one), I think you’ll like it.  You can roll back to your previous version of Windows if you do not like it (I have not tried this feature myself, but I have heard of some problems – so be sure you really want to upgrade first :).

Be sure to have a good backup on hand before upgrading.  And preferably, a Windows image.  I had no difficulties in my experience, but yours may vary.  Anytime you are upgrading a device, something can possibly go wrong 🙂

And although my computers are running well on Windows 10 – your mileage may vary.  There may be some bugs I have not seen, heard, or read about.  Like any new version of an Operating System – it’s quite possible, and you can always wait a few months and see if any come up before upgrading.

Now that Windows 10 is in the stores, you can also go to a local store and try it on for size first.

If you have any questions or concerns about Windows 10, feel free to contact me (434 971 7405) or leave me a comment.

Take care,

Michael

The Computer Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Windows 10…

Windows 10 is coming.  Microsoft has moved on from Windows 8.  They skipped Windows 9, and went directly to Windows 10.  If you’re currently running Windows 7 or Windows 8, you more than likely have received a notice (on your computer) from Microsoft about Windows 10.  It will be a free upgrade for these operating systems.  You have a year to take advantage of this free offer.  But is it worth upgrading to?  Most of my clients running Windows 8 do not like it – for them I would say yes – upgrade to Windows 10.  I am currently evaluating a pre-release copy, and it makes sense for Windows 8 users to move on.  Windows 10 will definitely be better than Windows 8.  If you’re running Windows 7, it may not be as easy of a choice.  If you like the style of Windows 7 (like all previous releases in nature), you make not want Windows 10 – it is a bit different.  Many of us do not like change.  For now, I would go ahead and sign up for the free upgrade, but wait awhile before installing it.  If you do decide to install it, make sure you have a good backup prior to doing so.  Hopefully, you will not need it, but you’ll be most happy you did that backup if something goes awry.  I’ll know more about Windows 10 as the release date draws near.  If you have any questions about this new release, please feel free to contact The Computer Man.  I am most happy to answer any questions or address any concerns you may have with the new version.

Coming soon to a PC near you!

Happy Computing 🙂

 

Windows 10 - coming soon to a PC near you !The Windows 10 desktop (as it appears currently)

 

On-site Service !

Sometimes, you have to take your equipment into a shop to be serviced…like your car.

And you have to go to a shop to get a haircut, or see a doctor (not too many doctors come on-site these days 🙂

But a lot of times, folks will come to you – such as a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter, and The Computer Man.

I will come to your location – HomeOfficeHome-Office.

The Computer Man specializes in on-site service in Charlottesville VA, and surrounding areas.

There are a lot of advantages to on-site service.  You do not have to tear down your computer – put it in your vehicle, and drop it off at a store.  Then wait…

Nor do you have to pick up the repaired computer, bring it home or to your office, and set it back up.

And if something did not go quite right with the repair – repeat the procedure 🙁

I can perform most repairs and services right on-site.  If for some reason, the computer needs to be removed for repair – I will come and pick it up, and return it to you at the completion of the job.  I’ll set it up, connect all your devices, and let you test it.  If for some odd reason, I missed something – I will return at no charge and correct the problem.

On-site, I establish a relationship with my customers.  There is only me, so I am the one you see on each visit.  I can get a feel for your setup.  You can sit down with me (if you like) and watch, ask questions, and learn how to maintain your computer.  On-site, I fix your computer problem the same day (in most cases).

Sure, there are some advantages to taking your computer to a shop, or having someone access your computer remotely – perhaps a bit of a price break for instance…

But, personally I think the advantages of on-site service far outweigh the bit extra in cost (if there is any – I am very competitive in price).

So if you have a computer need, and want someone to come to you – then call The Computer Man – Have Tools…Will Travel…

Until then,

Michael

 

 

 

 

 

Help is only a phone call away …

Just make sure the person on the other line is legitimate!

Have you ever gotten a call from “Microsoft”, or gone online to research a problem and found yourself talking to or chatting with “an authorized representative” of a known company – but is not really affiliated with that company at all?

There are some clever Scams out there.

Now let’s think about this for a minute…Did you register your computer with Microsoft when you purchased it?  Have you ever spoken with Microsoft in the past and given them your phone number or any other information? … Not likely.  Microsoft does not likely know you exist 🙂 …

But these scammers are good at what they do.  They have nothing to do with Microsoft (except use their name) – although they’ll likely tell you otherwise.  They’ll likely start off the conversation by telling you that your computer is infected with dangerous viruses, and/or Malware, been hacked, in danger of crashing, or there is imminent irreparable loss of data, etc..  They may point you to some log files on your computer that show errors and warnings (these actually exist – but are perfectly normal).  Usually, they want to take control of your computer (remotely).  Then, with their foot in the door, they can create problems for you, possibly downloading programs to your computer, and/or popping up false messages and warnings.  Not to mention, possibly stealing important or private information, or actually infecting your computer!  Then it usually comes around to the money.  For $39.99 – $75.00 – $150.00 – or $300.00 they can fix your computer and having it running like new!

Not.

Ignore these folks! 

It’s a SCAM … and a popular one.

I know of one case, in which the scammers took $300.00, then actually created a problem on the computer (after “cleaning it up”), so that the person would have to call back for more “help”! … and of course – pay more money!!

One of the best responses I’ve heard of – after listening to the opening scammer spill – was “that’s odd – I don’t have a computer” !

Or – “I’ll run that by my spouse (boss, friend) – they work for the FBI (or local police department) in the forensics department, and know all about computers”.

They’ll go away … there just usually phishing (like fishing 🙂 – and know nothing about you – or if you even own a computer (or smart phone, tablet, laptop, etc.) or not!

If you think you may actually have a problem with your computer, contact a reputable company (such as The Computer Man)

If you have a question or problem with your computer – call, email, or post on this site…I’ll be more than happy to discuss it with you, and give you some insight as to the “real” problem.

Michael (not from Microsoft)  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve got a secret …

It’s my password 🙂

What’s your password? Is it “secret”? Is it secure?

According to password management company SplashData, http://splashdata.com/press/worstpasswords2013.htm the top three passwords of the year (2013) are “123456,” “password” and “12345678.” The top three passwords haven’t changed, but “123456” and “password” swapped places from last year. The company’s list of the “25 worst passwords of the year” was compiled using data that hackers have posted online, which are said to be stolen passwords.

Here are the 25 most common passwords of 2013, along with the change in rank from last year.

1. 123456 (Up 1)

2. password (Down 1)

3. 12345678 (Unchanged)

4. qwerty (Up 1)

5. abc123 (Down 1)

6. 123456789 (New)

7. 111111 ( Up 2)

8. 1234567 (Up 5)

9. iloveyou (Up 2)

10. adobe123 (New)

11. 123123 (Up 5)

12. admin (New)

13. 1234567890 (New)

14. letmein (Down 7)

15. photoshop (New)

16. 1234 (New)

17. monkey (Down 11)

18. shadow (Unchanged)

19. sunshine (Down 5)

20. 12345 (New)

21. password1 (up 4)

22. princess (New)

23. azerty (New)

24. trustno1 (Down12)

25. 000000 (New)

These passwords might have ben good in the early eighties, but using them today (IMHO) is like leaving valuables in the front seat of your car, unlocked – with the windows down 🙂 … Easy pickings for hackers and thieves.

Hacking has evolved into an art – and is nothing to take lightly these days.

So what’s my password ? …”thecomputerman”? …”illnevertell”? … or perhaps “secret”? …

Well – to be honest, none of the above.

But let’s take a simple password like Michael and see what we can do to make it stronger and more secure.

First – if we add capital letters to the password – like MIcHaEl – we’ve increased the security.

Now, let’s add some numbers:  1MIcH7aEl9 – better still…

Now, lets add some special characters (usually #$!%&* are allowable – and perhaps others) :  *1MIc%H7aE$l9! – now we’re talking 🙂

Remember, hackers can use computer generated programs with the assistance of dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps, you-name-it – and can run through thousands of iterations in a short amount of time.  They could also pursue social media sites to pickup information that might aid them.  If you use a simple password – your most important stuff is at risk!

I know some folks who use the same password (or a similar one) for many if not all their accounts.  Not good 🙁

Once someone has one of your passwords, they are likely to “go shopping” – using your username (usually your email address) and the “secret” password to gain access to any of your other potential accounts (like your bank account, shopping accounts, social networking accounts, etc.).

But Michael, *1MIc%H7aE$l9! is hard to remember… True.

So what to do? … and by the way – this applies to your “secret” questions as well (usually needed to reset a password for example).

1.  Use passwords of eight characters or more (using upper and lower case characters, numbers, and special characters) as in my example:  *1MIc%H7aE$l9!.  You can also use a password generator.

2.  Some folks recommend using passphrases – short words with spaces or other characters separating them (secure*vault*box10).

3.  Avoid using the same username/password combination for multiple websites.

4.  Make the answer to your “secret” questions uncommon – even if it’s not the actual answer, or create your own question if possible.

If you have a hard time remembering those strong passwords and secret questions, you can use a password manager application that will store your passwords, and automatically log you into websites.

Or you can write them down.

Better yet, create a Microsoft Word or Excel document (or some such similar program) and password protect the document (will require a password to open the document).  Warning! – do not forget this password – or you will not be able to access your password list!

To be safe, print out the password list (and the master password) and store it in your favorite book (or drawer, or cubby hole).

!TaKe7CaRE#$%1

Michael – The Computer Man – Have tools…will travel…

 

 

 

 

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name ? … Apparently a lot…

20 some years ago – before starting my own business – I was thinking of a good business name.  I heard someone refer to me as “The Computer Man” (I was working in an IT related field at the time), and thought “that’s a good name” – kind of generic – like the gas man or the electric man – something people would remember.  And so, in 1995, The Computer Man was born (in Charlottesville VA).

I tried to obtain the domain name (The Computer Man.com) – but it was taken (still is – although it has changed hands a few times in those years).  So I chose Havetools.com (have tools…will travel).

I had a custom logo made:   logo

 

I started with one client…my sister!

I was off and running!

20 years later…

I did a Google search for “The Computer Man” today, and came up with over 42 pages (about 492,000,000 results) of The Computer Man related sites!

Wow…a lot of computer men out there…

But only 1 in Charlottesville Virginia – me 🙂  ( I came up in the results as well 🙂

I found the Computer Man on YouTube:     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWD7iqtOJSE   and   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1IqqlW1U4k

A man who shot his computer (I’ve been tempted to do that a couple of times):     http://fox59.com/2015/04/22/frustrated-with-troublesome-computer-man-shoots-it-8-times/

Lot’s of Google images:  https://www.google.com/search?q=the+computer+man&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=tGZaVZSSKYS6ggSr84PYDA&ved=0CAkQ_AUoA2oVChMIlLypzarMxQIVBJ2ACh2r-QDL&biw=1680&bih=920

And Computer Men across the country (and world).

There’s even a Computer Man college !

Apparently, a lot of people like that name 🙂

Me too…I think it’s a good name.

But there’s a whole lot more to it…I’ve seen a lot of business come and go in twenty years – some with really good names.  It takes a lot more than a good name to stay in business…

I found out years ago for example, that the key word in a service oriented business is service!  Give folks good – no great –  service at a reasonable rate, and they will remember your name.

Some other keywords:  Honesty. Quality Work, Pride in Workmanship, Experience

And that’s what I offer you…and more.

Your (local) Computer Man.

Serving Charlottesville Virginia and surrounding areas since 1995.  Still here… Still have tools…Still travel… 🙂

 

Computer Repair – Have Tools – Will Travel

The Computer man specializes in on-site computer repair service in Charlottesville VA, and surrounding areas.  TCM celebrates his 20th year in business in 2015!   With over 40 years of computer experience, I have been around as long as computers have 🙂 … You don’t stay in business for twenty years if you are not doing something right.  I strive for quality work.  My standards are high.  I am efficient in time, and thorough in work.  I provide quality work, and I guarantee it!

If you have a computer need – call me (434 971 7405) – I have tools…will travel 🙂

Michael

Tool Users