Archive for Tech Tips for Computer Users

Windows 7 Update causing problems

We’ve had a few reports of users having difficulty booting Windows 7 today. Even one of our office computers had this problem. We’re not sure yet if it was a Windows 7 update, but enough people are having this problem, that we suspect so. And are putting this information out without a full investigation into the issue to try to be as helpful as possible.

The problem is manifesting itself by the Windows 7 computer not finishing up the booting process. It will start, but the only thing displayed on the screen will be your mouse pointer on a black background. You can move the mouse pointer around the screen with no problem, but the computer doesn’t finish booting.

Trying to reboot into the other options (Safe Mode with or without Networking, Safe Mode with Command Prompt) doesn’t help. You will get the same screen with moving mouse pointer.

The solution we have found requires booting with a Windows 7 Installation CD. Once the Windows 7 Installation CD starts to boot, you’ll need to press a key to have it continue.

Once you get to the first screen, instead of installing Windows 7, click the option at bottom to “Repair your Windows installation.” The program will search your hard drive for Windows installations (will probably find just the one). Select that installation and then Next. You will now be able to run “System Restore” to restore your system back to the previous restore point. (Hopefully you have System Restore turned on.)

After System Restore is finished, your computer should boot with no problem.

If your system still doesn’t boot after this, you will need to contact us for a service call.

(This is an urgent post intended to get needed information into users’ hands as quickly as possible, and so we haven’t taken the extra time to enumerate every step or provide screen captures.)

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners, Tech Tips for Computer Users

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7 Password Tips to Protect Against Business and Identity Theft

strong passwords help prevent identity theftAh, those pesky passwords. If you work in the corporate world or in an office, you have one for your PC/Network and, unless there is a password synchronization application that combines them, you probably have more than one for other applications. Add those to the ones that you have for your home Internet, your banking and other websites that require passwords, and before you know it you have a nightmare on your hands in trying to manage them. How easy a target are you for business and identity theft?

Part of the frustration has to do with the different requirements for password formatting. Some systems only require four characters, some require eight. Some need a combination of alpha and numeric characters and others do the same with the addition of a few capital letters thrown in for extra security. It can be positively maddening.

The worst thing you can do with your passwords is to place them in a text document which can be accessed on the hard drive of your computer. Your files are vulnerable to business and identity theft- even if you think they are not. If someone is intent on finding them, they can. Even if you place them into a password protected document, those can be cracked, too.

Writing them down has its own vulnerabilities, too, and there are varying opinions on this practice. If you do write them down on a piece of paper, put the document in a locked location whether it is in your home or at work.

Here are 6 tips on how to handle your passwords to protect against business and identity theft:

1. Make your passwords complex. People who use easy to remember or short passwords are inviting disaster. Use a little imagination and pick a password that is very difficult to attach to your life. Stay away from birth dates, phone numbers, house numbers, or any other number that is associated with your life.

2. Keep passwords unique. When you change your passwords, make them unique from each other. Do not use the same password on all of your sites. If you do, then you are open to having every site that you have a password to being vulnerable to hackers to log on and steal your identity, money or destroy your reputation.

3. Be obscure. Use a combination of letters, numbers, capital letters and special characters if possible. The more you do this, the more secure your passwords will become. Create an alphanumeric version of a term you can remember. Using this technique the word “Spaceship” becomes “Sp@ce5h!p”. Another technique is to remember a phrase, and use just the first letters of the words. For instance, the Bible verse John 3:16 is easy to remember and “FGsltwtHgHobS.J3:16” is incredibly secure. (Unless of course, all of you use it! Come up with your own!)

4. Longer passwords are more secure.  Most systems allow passwords to be longer than the average person uses. A twelve character password, especially if it’s obscure as described above, will be exponentially more difficult to crack than just a six or eight character password.

5. Change regularly. This is the singular tip that can save you if you do not heed any of the other tips. How often should you change your password? How secure do you want to be? The frequency with which you change your password will determine how secure you are from becoming a victim. The more often you change it, the better you are. The longer you leave it the same, the more vulnerable you become. Three months is a good cycle for a password, but certainly if you fear for the security of your identity, then a monthly change is not out of the question.

6. Password-protect your PC. Be sure to give your PC a password on power-up. This will help protect your files unrestricted access to your PC.

7. Password-protect your wireless home network. If you have a wireless home network, be sure to password protect it as well. Use the same principles above in order to secure your wireless network. This will prevent others from accessing your connection and using it maliciously to hack the personal or business PCs and laptops you and your family use at home.

Finally, there are password programs that can help with this important task, but the best advice is to start with the tips above right away. Password software can be useful as an organizational tool, but it is no match for using sound methods to manage and make your passwords difficult to crack.

Click here to learn how WJP Enterprises, Inc. can help protect you against business and identity theft with our Network Security Services for your business in Brandon, Plant City, and the rest of Hillsborough and Polk counties.

Posted in: Security, Tech Tips for Business Owners, Tech Tips for Computer Users

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Protect your Parents and Grandparents from computer scams.

Computer Scams often catch older individuals

A sad fact of this world is that there are some pathetic people who would rather cheat people out of money rather than work for their own. The computer industry is no different: there are some vile “computer technicians” out there who are trying to trick people into paying them to fix problems that don’t exist — or even worse, that the “computer technicians” create themselves. Unfortunately, many of the people who are tricked into paying money are older individuals who are often both a little nervous and/or intimidated by technology, and also more trusting of others than people of younger generations.

It’s time to have the “don’t talk to strangers” talk with your parents and grandparents. Let them know that if someone they don’t know calls them and tells them their computer is having problems on the Internet and has viruses and is spreading them, JUST HANG UP. (I actually like cursing them up one side and down the other first, but I digress….)

I’ve heard of several people– and had to give the bad news to a few– who have been swindled by these type of calls. It may be difficult to younger people who are comfortable with computers to understand how someone could fall for such a scam, but it is obviously occurring, because the criminals keep doing it… so they must be having success with it.

So how are they able to convince people their computer is corrupted and needs cleaning or remediation? There’s undoubtedly a lot of tricks they use, but a couple seem to be mainstays. Here’s how a typical scam conversation will go:

First, they’ll usually announce that they are from Microsoft, or “Windows Tech Support”, or “Tech Support Company for your computer” and they’ll ask for the person by name. This is public information, and easy to come by. And the “trust”  factor starts then… someone calling asking for a specific name gets further than asking for the “man of the house” or such.

Secondly, they immediately start talking about the user’s computer. This enforces some believability. Most households have computers nowadays, so the the chances there’s a computer are good; yet, some people accept this as a trust factor, since “they knew I had a computer.”

Another step here is convincing the user that they are definitely the person the caller is trying to reach. One method I’ve seen for this is talking the user through a series of steps to display  the “zfsendtotarget” like the below picture:

Screen capture of zfsendtotarget used in computer scams

The zfsendtotarget is sometimes in computer scams

The fake computer technician will explain the “zfsendtotarget” line is the unique license or code for your computer, and that it identifies exactly which computer they are dealing with, and then reads a code and asks the user to verify the code matches the code they see to make sure they are both talking about the same computer. When they match, it again enforces the idea in the user’s mind that this is a legitimate call. Unfortunately, it’s a complete lie. That’s the GUID of the “Send to compressed folder”, so by definition, it’s going to be the same on EVERY COMPUTER in the world running Windows. (At least, all the computers running the ENU, or US English, versions of Windows).
The next step is convincing the user there is a problem with the computer. One method is to talk the user through opening up Event Viewer and looking for red or yellow icons.

EventViewer usually shows warnings and errors and can be misconstrued in computer scams

When the user sees the red error and yellow warning icons, they are told these are reports of viruses on the computer. Again, a complete and total lie. Every computer will display errors and warnings in the Event Viewer, and many of them are completely harmless; even the error messages are often caused by Microsoft Windows just being over-sensitive and verbose about reporting issues. Most users can’t really decipher all the messages in Event Viewer and don’t need to ever go into it. It’s just there for advanced troubleshooting by IT professionals when a real issue arises.
Once the phoney computer techs have convinced the user there is a problem with the computer, and the tech can resolve it, they will talk the user through getting the technician remote access to the computer.
At that point, it’s all over. The user is scammed.
The technician will convince the user they have to pay so much money for the support call, so much money for antivirus and anti-malware programs, and so much money for “extended support”– supposedly a year of tech support or protection or whatever. After the technician has remote access, he’s in complete control. If the user doesn’t go along and pony up all the money being requested, the fraudulent tech will change the user’s password and lock the computer. Now the user won’t be able to access the computer at all until they pay up. Their only methods of getting access to their files again is either pay up to the devil, or contact an IT professional to come in and recover the files, which may cost as much as the first option anyway.
Summary: In the end, there’s just one thing to do… tell your parents, grandparents, everyone you know… if someone unknown calls you and says they are from Microsoft, or any other company, and saying they need to fix your computer, JUST HANG UP. Don’t worry about being rude, JUST HANG UP.

Posted in: Tech Tips for Computer Users

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