Latest Spam Tactics

What the bad guys are doing with your leaked information

This particular e-mail I received invoked anger.

What I got looked like other spam messages, but this one was a little different.  It started with the normal junk about my e-mail address being hacked, blah, blah.  It looked like a mass e-mail.  They alleged that they sent the message FROM my e-mail account (which I noticed they didn’t). But then they revealed one of my personal passwords!  Wait, WHAT!?

They said they know the password to log into my e-mail account and then provided “proof” that they actually did.  I was not happy.  How could this be?  How do they know my password?

So after a little digging, here’s what is happening.

This might be the latest tactic to scare people, similar to other scare-ware pop-ups.  The whole point is to get us scared, and then motivated to taking action.  Usually to the detriment of our bank account (ie. they hope we pay them money).

When they reveal your password, they have likely gotten it from a hacked company that you do business with.  Almost every few months we hear about the latest security breach.  Last month, for instance, Facebook announced they’ve been hit again.  They originally said 50 million users were affected, but last week admitted to “only” 30 million users.  They said last week that we don’t need to change our passwords.  Phew.

What companies have been hacked that you do business with?

So there’s a website that keeps track of hacked accounts.  You can search by your e-mail address and see if you are one of those affected.

In my case, Bitly, a company that provides our shortened web address (type mcs.bz in your browser address bar to see what happens.) was hacked.  They stole email addresses, passwords and more.

Some clarification: Like many of you, I use the same password for multiple accounts.  The password they revealed to me wasn’t exactly the password used to check the e-mail address they claimed.  It was a lowercase “J.”  But, in any sense, the password DID MATCH EXACTLY what I had used for Bitly. Now it made sense.  So it was Bitly’s password that needed to actually be changed and not my e-mail.

This security breach happened back in 2014.  But only now are we seeing what the bad guys are doing with the information.

Check to see what companies have been hacked here: https://haveibeenpwned.com

Can I upgrade my memory (RAM)?

The 3 components when buying RAM

If you haven’t added memory yet then most likely yes, you can!  Just to be fair, we are talking about RAM (also referred to as memory), or what will speed up your computer.  All computers have a maximum amount of memory (RAM) that they can run, but usually aren’t at capacity when you purchase your machine new.

Installing RAMRAM, or Random Access Memory, works with the CPU to process your data.  It doesn’t store data long-term.  In fact, once you turn off your computer, RAM dumps it’s memory.  Your hard drive (and a small part of the CPU) stores the data when you turn it off.  The speed of your computer is determined by these 2 components: RAM and CPU.  Since upgrading the CPU can be costly, increasing the amount of RAM is the best first option if there is still room to upgrade.

See how much RAM you have by Right-Clicking on My Computer (This PC for Win 10) and clicking Properties.  It should list the total RAM (usable in parentheses).  That’s all it will tell you, though.  8GB of RAM is kinda the minimum amount needed for basic computing.  Use your computer brand’s website (Dell.com, Toshiba.com, etc.) to research your computer model and find how many slots you have and a total amount and type of RAM it can hold.

 

An alternative to finding out how much RAM you have (and can have) is to use something like Crucial’s RAM checker found here: http://www.crucial.com/usa/en/systemscanner

 

1. Determine the amount of gigabytes (GB) you have and want

Check the specs for your specific computer and buy an equally distributed number of sticks for these slots.  Most laptops have 2 slots and most new desktops have 4 slots.  It’s best to have the same amount of memory per each pair of slots.  For ex. use 2 sticks of 4GB of memory for your laptop to make it have 8GB, or use 2 sticks of 8GB in paired slots to make 16GB.  On a desktop, use 4 sticks of 2GB (or 2 sticks of 4GB) for your desktop to have 8GB.  Just keep them paired.

 

2. DIMM or SO-DIMM?

So-DIMM RAM

So-DIMM RAM (for laptops)

There are two different types of RAM, so check in the specs to be sure to get the right kind.  The most notable are the laptop sticks, known as So-Dimm (small outline dual in-line memory module) or Notebook RAM, found usually in laptops (and some desktop MACS).  These are smaller modules.  Desktop RAM, or DIMM (dual in-line memory module) RAM is longer.

 

3. Check the SD-RAM version

Computers from the 1970s to 1990s used DDR RAM.  DDR SDRAM, also called DDR1 SDRAM, has been superseded by DDR2 SDRAMDDR3 SDRAM and DDR4 SDRAM. None of its successors are forward or backward compatible with DDR1 SDRAM, meaning DDR2, DDR3, and DDR4 memory modules will not work in DDR1-equipped motherboards, and vice versa.”

DIMM RAM

DIMM RAM (for desktops)

Most computers today use DDR3 (PC3) or DDR4 (PC4) RAM.  The number of pins will change with these types, as well as the speed of the RAM.  The number PC-1600 or PC-2100 is the clock speed in MHz and doesn’t matter for typical computing today.  Gamers, however, should check with their motherboard manufacturer to see which clock speed to use.

Read the details of the memory to make sure you are getting the right amount.  Below is a total of 16GB of RAM, packed in 2-8GB sticks.  It’s DDR3 laptop (So-Dimm) memory!  RAM exampleThe brand of RAM usually doesn’t matter much.  MACS, however, can sometimes be picky.  I always use Crucial brand RAM in Macs.  But again, check with your computer specs for other options.  Cheaper is usually just as good!

That’s about all there is to it.  Now get a small screw driver and open the back compartment of your laptop and swap out your memory!  Sounds a bit simplistic.  Well. if you need more help let us know by calling or opening a support ticket on our Help Desk.  Best wishes for faster processing!

This article was first seen on the Help Desk of MyComputerSolutionz.com. All Rights Reserved.

 


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Why Is My Computer Running Slow?

We’ve all experienced it.  It wastes our time. Frustrates. Causes anxiety and then temps us to go buy a new one: A slow or freezing computer!

Of course computers never run as fast as when you first bought it, and you understand this.  So you load your new toy with massive programs, new browsers, music, videos, pictures and then, if you’ve not cluttered things up enough, browse the internet and pickup malware, viruses and other un-needed programs!! Great!

 

Here are 8 reasons why your computer might be as  slow as a brick:

1. Programs Utilizing Memory (including programs in the background)

Running programs use memory.  The more robust of a program, the more memory.  This is normal.  But you can’t run every program.  So you may have to decide to either shut down a program or two to free up some memory.

Background programs, however, are usually the programs taking up much-needed memory.  These are programs that are loaded when Windows boots, ready to be used at moments-notice.  But you really don’t need them all readily available.  See all running programs from your Task Manager (click Control-Alt and then Delete to run it).  You’ll see quickly what is using memory.

Task Manager View Windows 10

Task Manager View for Windows 10

Task Manager View Windows 7

Task Manager View for Windows 7

I’d like some help with my computer…

To keep programs from loading automatically (I’m pointing at you Skype), you can either remove them from the “Startup” folder on your computer, or go into your computer configurations (MSCONFIG) and disable it.

To change items in the start-up folder:

Mac: Applications / Systems Preferences / User Groups / Login Items, then uncheck unneeded programs. Delete desktop icons you don’t use by trashing them or, in the case of files you’ve saved to your desktop for convenience, reorganizing to the appropriate folder.

Windows 8 and 10: Windows key + X / Task Manager / Startup tab, then right-click on the programs you want to remove and select Disable.

Windows 7 and older: Start button, then search for System Configuration. Go to Startup tab, then uncheck each of the programs if you don’t want starting when the system boots up.

To use MSCONFIG on a PC, type “msconfig” (without parentheses) in your Win 7, 8 or 10 search bar.  Right-click on the program and choose “Run as Administrator.”  Select “Yes” to allow the program to make changes to your system.  Then click the “Start-up” tab.  You can deselect any programs checked that you want to stop from auto-loading.  Be careful to only uncheck ones that you recognize.  Click “Ok” and then allow the computer to reboot if needed.

When you run out of memory using only one or two programs, it may be time to add memory (RAM) to your computer (but not so fast!).  This is an easy process, but becomes expensive on laptops and newer systems.  You can easily spend $100 on memory, so make sure you don’t have another issue going described below.  To see how much memory you have, type “My Computer” in the search bar and Right-click on the folder (My PC for Win 10).  Choose Properties.  This will display how much RAM you have installed.  It’s recommended to have a minimum of 8GB using today’s technology.

 

2. An Overactive Virus Scanner

Virus under microscopeSome virus scanners take up a lot of memory.  If you have one, you’ll know it because if you pause a scan, everything speeds up.  You’ll also see in the Task Manager how much memory it’s using when running.  It might be time to consider another (lighter-weight) virus scan program.

 

3. A Full Hard Drive

It’s recommended by many in the computer world that you keep 10% of your hard drive free.  Some people claim this number to be as much as  25%, but I’d shoot for 10% or more.  Type “My Computer” in the search bar and click on the folder (My PC for Win 10).  Look for the C: Drive and it will show how much space is being used, as well as the amount of free space.

 

4. Malware or Virus

Yup, these use up memory.  Some even are created to lock your computer up.  Usually we see PCs that have several instances of malware that are slowing things down.  The best thing to do is run your virus scan and then another malware scanner, such as Malwarebytes or AdwCleaner.  This usually is all that’s needed.  For more specific viruses (or Trojans), there are Trojan removal tools.  Search Google for the issue you are having and you may find lots of discussion about it.  Be sure to only download a removal tool from a known source, otherwise you may just be downloading yet another virus!

 

5. Rogue Programs

These are the ones that get downloaded without you knowing with a “free” program you have downloaded.  Free games are notorious for including other programs without your clear knowledge.  You can delete these by heading over to “Installing/Uninstalling Programs.”  From there, click the top of the column under Date Installed.  Then look for the date that you noticed the slow-down and remove programs that either have no author or installed the same day a game was installed.  Be careful in this window, though, since some strangely-named programs are running by Microsoft to run Windows.

 

6. Failing Hard Drive

Sometime reported as what sounds like pebbles in your hard drive!  A noisy drive is a failing drive.  Back things up quickly and don’t keep your computer on unless you need to, until you’ve replaced it.  Drives range from $50 to $300 or more, depending on the capacity and whether it’s a rotating or newer Solid State drive (similar to Flash Memory, like your smartphone uses).

 

7. Bad Memory Module (RAM)

This is fairly uncommon, since a bad module usually won’t let you start your computer to begin with.  There is built-in and third-party software to check your memory.  Search for “memory test” for this option.

 

8. Failing Processor (CPU)

The worst case scenario is a failing processor or CPU (Central Processing Unit).  This is connected to the motherboard to run your machine.  There are very few ways to test for this, so stick to the above suggestions.  As last resort, you can put in a used (or new) CPU into your machine and see if it improves the speed.  Unfortunately, the price of a new processor may be closer to the price of getting a new machine.

 

Bonus

Special Web Browser Note: If you are having issues with just your web browser, you may have too many extensions installed.  All your other programs work fine—but when you open up your Google Chrome or Firefox, things slow to a crawl.  This isolated issue usually has to do with too many add-ons or plug-ins running in your browser.  But it also can also mean you have malware or a virus.  Try disabling all of your add-ons and restart your browser.

Get help with a slow computer…

What’s the Deal With GDPR Compliance?

How Data Protection Affects You

GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, is a regulation from the European Union that helps protect web users’ data.  Wait, I know, I know.  Before you say it: You are in the United States!  But before you hit ‘delete’ calling this irrelevant, let me explain how it affects you.

If you collect names, IP addresses, session cookies, or e-mail addresses (which most websites do), you collect personal data. This personal data should be protected, right?  True.  But starting May 25th, some US websites were also required to abide by new European website privacy laws.  Of course my head was spinning trying to understand why we should be required to follow European laws.  So I did some research.

After digging deeper, this law will apply if you market (even by accident) to the EU (European Union) or a country within.  Business owners with no market share in the EU, who don’t target the EU in marketing, and don’t own an overseas domain name, have little to no required changes to make.  Or do you?

For those that might be (even inadvertently) marketing to Europeans, and those wanting to tighten your own privacy reigns, let’s take a look at their laws.  The theme is this: Be more transparent with your potential clients.  We can all learn about transparency and protecting our clients’ data!  So here are the highlights behind this regulation.

  1. Explain who you are, how long you’re keeping user data, why you need it, and who on your team or externally has access to it
  2. Get explicit and clear consent to collect data through an opt-in
  3. Give users access to their own data, the ability to download it, and to delete it from your records completely
  4. In the event of a hack or security breach, let your users know about it

So these aren’t too bad.  But the fines for not complying are!  “You could get fined 2% of your worldwide annual revenue for failing to disclose a data breach, or up to 4% for failing to ask for user consent when storing data.”1

What should I do?

Perhaps you don’t market to the EU and don’t service these clients.  It’s probably a good idea, however, to have an easy-to-read privacy policy and explanation on how you use personal data.  Get to know what personal data you actually collect, and make sure it’s being handled with care.  Lastly, (this will also improve your Google ranking) get an SSL to protect personal data in transit from your server to your customers.

If you sell or market to Europe (or the EU), now is the time to pony up and get that privacy policy written.  Get a clear statement on how you handle cookies and personal information.  Check out these easy-to-read articles by Elegant Themes here and here.  Also, you can check out this article by Fortune and this one by Forbes.

If you need help with compliance, we’d be glad to offer suggestions or setup your pop-up!

1 https://www.elegantthemes.com/blog/resources/a-quick-guide-to-data-protection-regulations

 

So I Think I’ve Been Hacked!

10 STEPS TO RECOVER FROM A COMPUTER HACK

So you think you've been hacked?So a friend tells you that you’re sending spammy-looking emails out.  But it can’t be–you had no idea.  You even check your sent email folder to see if you’re crazy, but all the emails look familiar.  You respond bewildered to your friend, not knowing what to do.  Have I been hacked??

The first thing to do is stay calm!  Part of the scam here is to get people worried and scared that everything on their computer has been stolen, which is terribly unlikely.  It’s most likely that this message was spoofed with your name and/or email but that your email wasn’t hacked.

If you think your computer has been hacked, but no-one has contacted you about a strange email, start at step 4.

Let’s do some discovery. Then figure out how to get cleaned up!

1. The first thing to do is to get a copy of the email “headers.”  This is the code sent through the servers that contain an email.  The headers are found by different means in each email client.

In Apple, click View —> Message —> Raw Source
In most Outlook versions, open the email in a new window, click File —> Properties
In Gmail, Click the down arrow, then click Show Original

All headers read from newest to oldest, so the top being the latest messages and the bottom being the originating headers.  So look towards the bottom of the header and search up for the first instance of these:

Look for:
“Received From: example1.com” and this server is who really sent the message
Look for the next “by: example2.com” to see who then received the message
X-Mailer is the device used to send the message.
You can also look for the line “DKIM-Signature” and find the d=somedomain.com.  This is a third party sending an email but is authorized by somedomain.com.

 


Example Header


*A more simple solution is to paste the header into Google’s Header Check at https://toolbox.googleapps.com/apps/messageheader/ and confirm the servers used match the real sender

If example1.com matches the From name domain, then this verifies this email as legitimate.  If you notice that the example1.com is somewhere located in India or Belgium, completely different than the sender, it’s fair to say that this was a spoofed email.

If you’ve been spoofed, then it’s time to tell your friend that he/she should run their virus and malware scanner and add that sender to their blocked list (since it really isn’t you).  In this case, that’s all.  Spoofing happens all the time and there’s little you can do to prevent it.  You haven’t been hacked, nothing has been stolen.  No need to proceed to #2.

But, if your discovery from above shows the email to be legitimate, then someone is likely sending email on your behalf.  This changes things.  If you determine someone is sending emails on your behalf (or you aren’t sure), then you should take some action. Go on to #2.Virus Stamp

2. Change your email password(s) and security questions immediately.  If you have a lot of sensitive information on them, consider enabling 2-factor authentication.  If your email has been blocked or you can’t log in, Use the recovery methods provided by the email company.  Check your contacts list to make sure it’s still there.

3. Notify your friends that you’re account has probably been hacked and to not open any strange emails from you, especially attachments.

4. Virus Scans. Run your Antivirus Scanner in “Full Scan” mode.  This will take a while, but you need to do this.  Consider running a full Virus scan on your other computers to make sure nothing has spread.

What Virus Scan?  Use whatever virus scan you have installed or consider switching to Kaspersky or Avast, which have the top ratings in 2018, if you think it’s not finding the virus.  The best FREE antivirus is Avast, rated by Toms Guide and PC Magazine.

Free vs. Paid?  Well, under normal conditions I recommend using free virus scanners.  They usually take less resources and don’t bog the computer down when running a scan.  However, these are circumstances I’d recommend a paid service:

  • You have kids (or you) like to click on a lot of things, not always knowing if it’s safe.
  • Your computer stores a lot of sensitive information.
  • You want to “set it and forget it” and don’t mind paying for it.
  • You think you may have been hacked big time!  Now’s probably the time to pony-up.

 

Do I have a virus?

5. Run a good malware scanner.  Malwarebytes.com has a free one.  For serious hacks, consider paying for a virus and malware scanner combo.  Avast has a very reputable one this year.

6. Make a backup of your computer.  Everyone should have a backup! Google “creating an ‘Image’ of your hard drive.”  Keep this backup in case things get worse.

7. Contact Credit Agencies.  Depending on how much sensitive information is stored un-encrypted on your computer (ie. bank info, social security numbers), consider contacting the credit agencies to see if anything has been run through your credit.  Change banking and other sensitive website accounts you use online.  If you don’t save a lot of this type of information, you can skip the hassle.

8. Run a scan of your Windows Operating Files to be sure your operating system is running correctly.  To do this, in the search field, type “Command” without the quotes.  Right-click on the Command Program and “Run as Administrator.” On a command line type “sfc /scannow” without the quotes.

9. If you can’t access your computer, follow instructions given by LifeWire.

10. Monitor your computer!  If, after trying all of the above steps, it’s slow, freezes, restarts on its own, the next step is to reinstall Windows.  But that’s for another article!

Feel free to reach out to us if you need any help.  We offer free consultations by phone or through the help desk.  Happy computing!