visitinggeeks

Dick has been in the computer industry for, uh, a long long time. He brings a common sense approach to IT services for home, SOHO professionals and enterprising businesses. He graduated with a S.B. in Computer Engineering at M.I.T. and an MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago.

Dick has been in the computer industry for, uh, a long long time. He brings a common sense approach to IT services for home, SOHO professionals and enterprising businesses. He graduated with a S.B. in Computer Engineering at M.I.T. and an MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago.

Email Scam Log Entry #6: Why am I so lucky?

Email Scam: Boston Globe recently was reporting on a woman receiving an email from Publishers’ Sweepstakes she won but need to pay taxes and some fees first.  She called the phone number and a nice young woman congratulate her and urged her to keep it confidential and don’t tell anyone, even her family so it can be a surprise.  Right?!  Below is excerpt of another email received this past week.

“My name is Warren E. Buffett an American business magnate, investor and philanthropist. am the most successful investor in the world. I believe strongly in‘giving while living’ I had one idea that never changed in my mind ? that you should use your wealth to help people and i have decided to give {$1,500,000.00} One Million Five Hundred Thousand United Dollars, to randomly selected individuals worldwide. On receipt of this email, you should count yourself as the lucky individual.”

Visiting Geeks: Am I lucky or what?  Who doesn’t know Warren Buffett, the oracle financier hailed from Omaha?   Forget about grammatical mistakes and typos.  I’ll take ‘United Dollars’ whatever that is.  Smile and hit your <delete> key.

Rabbit Ear

After power was restored Tuesday night after the storm, we found the FIOS interface was fried.  It’s weird without Internet, phone and TV.  As we live just outside of Boston, we can get TV signals using good old antenna.  But we threw that out long long time ago but we found a short coax cable so we connect it to the TV but signal was weak. Adding a booster did the trick.  Our TV receives the usual major channels.  Here’s our signal booster.

Functional Antenna Design

Email Scam Log Entry #5

Scam Email #5: this appears in inbox…”

Good morning.

Dont regard on my English, I am from Japan.We loaded our malicious program on your device.After that I thiefted all private background from your device. Moreover I received some more evidence.The most amusing evidence which I got- its a videotape with your masturbation.I put virus on a porn page and after you loaded it. As soon as you decided with the video and tapped on a play button, my deleterious soft immediately loaded on your device.

After adjusting, your web camera shoot the videotape with you masturbating,  additionally I saved the video you watched. In next week my virus collected all your social media and email contacts.

If you wish to destroy all the compromising evidence- transfer me 980 united state dollar in BTC(cryptocurrency).

I provide you my Btc wallet address – 1FkizUB6vgJzUz6fQyTRZckcu3QBT

You have 24 hours to go from this moment. If I receive transaction I will destroy the evidence forever. Otherwise I will send the record to all your friends.”

Visiting Geeks: This sounds pretty alarming for the recipient but it’s a scam. Unfortunately, scammers can buy emails by the thousands and simply blasts this type of scary emails out to demand money. Ignore it.  We are testing email screening software to cut down these types of nonsense.  Stay tuned.

Top Robocallers According to YouMail

Estimated volumes of top phone scams in March 2018.

Category Type Volume
Interest rates “0% interest rates” 122.9m
Credit cards “Problem with your credit card” 82.5m
Student loans “Forgive/lower student debt” 71.0m
Business loans “Preapproved for business loan” 53.4m
I.R.S. “Owe money to the I.R.S.” 43.4m
Search listings “Listing has a problem” 31.0m
Travel “Free/discount trip” 27.0m
Preapproved loans “Ready to wire – just need info” 26.2m
Home security “Free service/installation” 26.1m
Utilities “Save money – need your info” 19.2m

Source: YouMail

Cybersecurity 101

My first encounter of computer breach happened almost 40 years ago when I just started as a systems programmer after graduating from MIT. My computer terminal was mis-behaving at random intervals.  Sensing a potential intruder, I wrote a small system utility to monitor and trap the offender.  Once trapped, my utility would identify and lock the hacker’s computer, display a 5-second count down clock and promptly crash the computer when the clock ticked to 0.  It didn’t take long to identify and confront the culprit. I smacked his head with a rolled up newspaper!

Fast forward to now. With the proliferation of Internet, cyberhackings are much more frequent, complex and damaging nowadays.  We hear and remember high-profile ones like Equifax, Home Depot, Target, Sony…  But according to 2016 State of SMB Cybersecurity Report, almost 50% of small businesses got hacked.

“Most small-business owners don’t think they’re at risk. As a result, … they are indeed ill-prepared to safeguard against an attack,” said Bryan Seely, a network engineer famous for hacking into the FBI.

You, my business customers, are small businesses.  I have to care. I don’t want you to fail. Yes, I know about antivirus software, firewalls and encryption.  But that’s baby stuff and I know there’s so much that I don’t know. So,

In a moment of insanity, I signed up a course on Cybersecurity: Technology, Application and Poilicy from MIT xPro.  I instantly regretted my witless decision after looking at the ridiculous syllabus, plus there’s a test weekly for 6 weeks before the final exam. Arrrrgh.

It started this week….  and I’m happy to report that MIT professors haven’t changed.  It’s fire hose water boarding time.  I just took week 1 assessment test…. We’ll see.

Drop me a line if you are curious about information flow tracking, taint propagation, trusted computing base, fully homomorphic encryption or obliviuos random access memory.

Am I having fun yet?!

Computer Scam Log Entry #4

Fake Email #4: Accountant receives email from colleague with invoice to pay vendor via wire payment.

Visiting Geeks: The from email address was correct and clicking the blue “from email” link shows colleague’s correct email address.  Forwarding the invoice was also usual procedure except the content to wire payment raised suspicion from the accountant and alerted Visiting Geeks. Visiting Geeks examines the email message routing details and determined that it was sent from Lagos, Nigeria.  This kind of spoofing is done frequently by criminals and not too difficult to carry out.  It doesn’t necessary mean that the colleague or the accountant’s  computers were compromised.

Take Away:  Even legitimate looking emails could be a scam. Anything out of the ordinary should raise an alarm.

 

 

Computer Worm Log Entry# 4 – WannaCry

Worm #4:  The message “Oops, your important files are encrypted.” or “Hello, dear friend! All you files have been ENCRYPTED.” displays on your screen and a ransom is demanded.

Visiting Geeks: These are classified as ransomware. Some computers at the City of Atlanta, Baltimore’s 911 system and Boeing were all attacked recently with a crypto-virus derived from a vulnerability uncovered by the NSA.  This type of malware is classified as a WORM.  Once a computer is infected, this WORM will seek out other computers on the same local network and try to infect them as well.  Phishing is the typical way of gaining entry.  Data is encrypted and cannot be recovered unless ransom is paid. To protect your computer, be vigilant on incoming emails, apply latest Microsoft security updates as well as having a real-time anti-virus protection, plus a off-site/cloud backup for your data.

Steps to Roll Back Windows 10

Not a week go by without a customer expresses desire to roll back or uninstall Windows 10 to go back to the previous version of Windows for a myriad of reasons.

Many customers did not want to upgrade but after relentless messages from Microsoft, they either relent or answer the upgrade question incorrectly, resulting Windows 10 being installed.  Still more customers do not know that they can revert back to their previous operating system within 30 days of upgrade.

Now that 30-day window has long passed and there is no simple push button way to roll back.  For non-technical users that want to restore to their computer’s previous operating system, these are general and necessary steps:

  1. Back up all your data.
    1. pictures, documents, emails, favorites, contacts, music and any application specific data.
  2. Locate installation disks and product codes of the applications installed in your computer.  Eg. Microsoft Office, Quicken, Quick Books, etc.  Sometimes, that could be username and password for the application you purchased. Because you need to re-install them after the previous operating system is re-installed.
  3.  Locate your computer’s original installation disk, including component drivers; or the restore disks you made.
  4. If you do not have 3. Go to your computer manufacturer’s web site. Use your service tag or serial number in the Support pages to see if restore disks are available for sale.  Buy that if they are available. Sometimes, the re-installation disks/USB drive come with instructions. Manufacturer re-installation media will automatically activate original Microsoft product key.
  5. Assuming you have the restore/re-installation disks and verified that you saved all your data, set aside at least 3 to 4 hours to do the re-installation.

To restore/re-install:

  1. Insert your restore/re-installation disks into the CD/DVD drive or in the case of a flash drive, insert into USB port.
  2. Turn on your computer and press either Esc, F2, F10, F11, F12 or Delete key to get to the boot selection screen.  This is different for different computer model and you may have to Google to find out the right key sequence.
  3. Once you have the boot selection screen, select the CD/DVD drive or USB (if flash drive).
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to install the operating system.

Assuming you are successful in re-installing the operating system.

  1. Check to make sure internet works. If not, go to the computer manufacturer’s website to find, download and install the correct internet driver. (That means you may need a second computer.)
  2. Reinstall all your application software.
  3. Restore your data.
  4. Check to make sure all devices are working.
  5. Run Windows update and that may take a while. It may run overnight.

This is meant to be a general guideline and gives you a rough idea on the scope. You should verify the steps and modify as needed for your computer model.

 

Computer Scam Log Entry #3

Fake Zeus Virus Warning

Scam #3: A message from “Windows Defender Alert” on your computer monitor proclaims a Zeus virus has been detected and your data has been compromised.  The message says your computer is infected due to downloading adult/porn videos. Do not shut down the computer and contact Microsoft at a toll free number on the screen.

Visiting Geeks: This is a very common scare tactic used by the scammers.  Do not call the toll free number. They want to sell you “services” to remove the virus for you and then up-sell you a multi-year maintenance contract. Just the opposite, your computer most likely is not infected by the Zeus virus. Instead, the message is caused by adware surreptitiously installed in your computer.  You need to uninstall suspicious program, remove dubious web browser extensions, add-ons  as well as doing a detailed scan using one of the reputable anti-virus program.  To learn more, click here to read an article with more detailed information.

Buy A New Computer With Guidance. No Markup.

Buying a new computer can be a bewildering experience for consumers and small businesses as there are plethora of choices on top of ever changing technologies.  Some times, we would arrive at customer sites only to find the new computer(s) with incompatible or missing components. And no one wants that.

There are no shortage of articles on the Internet giving you 10 must haves, 9 new features, 7 steps on picking computers. These actually lead to more anxiety and confusion.  I confess that I am adding one more piece on this topic.

Our goal is to help you make the right choice without angst.  Call us before your next purchase.  We have no brand or system bias. We do Windows and Apple. We simply want the best fit computer for you.

That’s why we don’t mark up computers.  You can buy the ones that we recommend directly on your own or prepay us to purchase on your behalf.  Whichever is more convenient. Either way, you pay the same sales price, sales tax and shipping charge.  Instead, we charge a fixed consulting fee of $39. More often than not, we save you time, aggravation and more.

Our approach is to learn more about you.  We talk and listen.  We answer your questions and we ask questions like:

  1. How do you use your computer?
  2. What do you like about your current computer?
  3. How often do you use the computer?
  4. Are there any existing applications that you would like to continue to use?
  5. Do you still want to use the same monitor?
  6. Do you want to use the same printer?
  7. What’s your aptitude to learn new things?
  8. Do you travel, moving around the house with your computer?
  9. Is your current computer a Windows computer or Apple?
  10. Do you want similar system?
  11. What about a tablet?
  12. Do you have a preference, brand or otherwise?
  13. Aside from email, web browsing, what else you use the computer for?
  14. What is a comfortable screen size for you?
  15. Any particular color preference?
  16. How many people are going to use this computer?

We would learn if you like to open many tabs in the web browser or not, streaming Netflix, You Tube or playing Spider Solitaire, Type A or not and more. These snippets of information give us a pretty good idea on your needs.  You notice that there’s no mentioning of CPU speed, memory size, graphics card and hard disk speed.  Because through the conversation, you gave us a pretty good idea what would work for you.

We will then research and propose 3 alternatives within your price range with costs and where to purchase.  We give you the pros and cons of each alternative. You may choose or ask more questions. It may take several iterations.  And that’s O.K. We are here to help.

We hope this makes your next computer purchase a little bit less daunting and a more pleasant experience.