Keep Your Guard Up

Email hacking seems to be picking up, putting you and your computer’s security and well-being at greater risk. To continue our “look before you click” message from last month, here are a few protective reminders.

Above all, use common sense and trust your gut feelings. If something doesn’t seem right, it’s probably not right.

  • We’ve seen a lot of reports about messages sent through AOL. They come from hacked email address books and contain either a link or attachment. There is a tipoff: The sender’s address doesn’t look like a normal AOL address. It usually has a double “” in there.
  • Whoever is trying to attack your computer through any email address usually has a subject line such as “hey there check this out” or something similar. Does the person who is supposed to be the sender usually send you something with that kind of subject line?
  • Does the person who’s supposed to be the sender normally send you email, or is it from someone you haven’t heard from in a while – quite a long while?
  • Are you really expecting something to be delivered by UPS or FedEx? When was the last time the freight carrier – not the merchant – sent you tracking information?

If you click on a website address, open an attachment or even reply to one of these bogus messages, you can open up your computer to malware, a Trojan horse or some other attack that can be an inconvenience at best or a major problem at worst, such as a keystroke logger that can steal your passwords for financial-related sites.

You may not be able to protect yourself against everything out there, but a little common sense can go a long way:

  • Look before you click
  • Keep your anti-virus and malware/spyware up to date
  • Use strong passwords with combinations of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters

If you suspect you have a virus problem, call us – 973-433-6676 – right away. Don’t email us and don’t try to reboot your machine. Just call us, and we’ll take it from there.


Back-ups Beat Outage Woes

We typically associate outages with power outages, but communications lines – whether coaxial, copper or fiber optic – can go out, too. Do you have a back-up plan ready to go?

Power outages are relatively easy to overcome – or keep problems on a small scale. You can locate battery back-up systems strategically around your office to cover computers, servers, routers and other networking equipment and peripherals. These systems are not designed to provide long-term power to keep on working. Instead, they should give you and your workers enough time to finish a task, save your data files and then shut down systems in an orderly fashion. This will help everyone resume work more quickly when power is restored. You should augment your battery back-up systems with surge protectors to prevent sensitive electronics from getting fried when power comes back.

If your back-up plan includes storing apps and data files to the cloud, you can respond more effectively when power goes down. Within your office or home, make sure your work is regularly saved to an offsite storage server. That will make it easier to save work manually and help people get restarted from another location.

Depending on whatever else is happening, you may have the option to send your workers home, where they can reconnect – assuming they have power – and continue working through an Internet connection. Another option, depending on your location and size of workforce, would be to go to a coffee shop or some other place that has Wi-Fi – and power – available. The cost of coffee and lunch or a snack may be a good investment if it helps everyone tie up some loose ends or respond to customers’ immediate needs. And if the outage is short, everyone can get back to the office quickly.

If your business is in an office building, check with your landlord or property manager to see who supplies telecom connection services. You may be able to split your connections among multiple providers, and they may have contingency plans that keep at least part of your office running if communications go down. While we all love our feature-rich VOIP telephones, it’s important to note that the old copper telephone lines still function in a power outage or when coaxial and fiber-optic lines go down. You can generally use cellular connections for phones and devices when all else fails.

Once you know all of your available connection and networking options, we can work with you to design and deploy a system that will help you weather a storm or work through an outage. Call us (973-433-6676) or email us for a consultation. We can help make sure you ask your landlord or property manager the right questions and then install a system that best meets your needs.


Windows 8.1 Update – Do it Today!

Did you just install Windows 8.1 on your computer and think you are set? Think again. You need to install Update 1 (like a Service Pack update) Windows 8.1 today in order to get all service updates for that version of the Windows operating system. Here’s why it’s important to act now.

Windows 8.1 Update is a cumulative update to Windows 8.1, containing all the updates Microsoft has released for Windows 8.1. This means that if you install this update, you will not need any earlier updates. And that’s a good thing – because there won’t be any more updates for 8.1 unless you have Update 1. More important, Update 1 is the new servicing baseline for Windows 8.1, which means that May’s security updates and all future updates will be dependent on Windows 8.1 Update.

Today, May 13, Microsoft will issue security patches that detail flaws they are fixing and those flaws will be left unpatched for all Windows 8.1 users until you install Update 1. If you stay with Windows 8.1 and don’t install Update 1, you will face the same problem as Windows XP after Microsoft cut off security updates last month. This is nothing new. Major updates to previous editions of Windows (“Service Packs”) also had “cut-off” dates for users to apply updates. But the XP cutoff came after 13 years, not after just eight months.

Once you install Update 1, you’ll be fine. In fact, you’ll be able to take advantage of some features that should have been in Windows 8 all along.

If you don’t have a touchscreen, Update 1 intelligently goes to the desktop by default on startup or reboot and uses desktop apps by default. It also reduces the sensitivity of hot corners, highlights newly installed apps and dramatically improves the Modern UI for keyboard and mouse users. It also cuts its install size in half (from 32GB to 16GB) on SSDs, runs faster on slower hardware and drops minimum memory requirements from 2GB to 1GB of RAM.

While the results are better, we still believe it changed too much too quickly for businesses with users accustomed to using a keyboard and mouse. The update won’t solve all of our issues, but it will help make them more manageable.

Regardless of your OS, it’s important to keep the software up to date. Updates maintain protection against malware and hackers and help keep your system at peak performance. Having all your software up to date also makes it easier and faster to install new programs and equipment.

We do have some cautions about updates. Make sure you get them from the software publisher to ensure you’re getting the genuine product. Also, don’t click on “extra products,” such as other browsers that you may accidentally set as your default or that may reset your search-engine preference.

If you have any questions about the Windows 8.1 Update 1 or any other updates, contact us right away for help – [email protected] or 973-433-6676. Keeping your OS and other software up to date aids security and keeps your IT system running more smoothly.


Get Internet Explorer Update Immediately


 If you’re wondering why we didn’t put out a notice this week when the IE security issue blew up, there are two main reasons why we didn’t hit the panic button and get you all stirred up.

But first, if you rely on Internet Explorer as your web browser, let’s take care of that problem. You can get an update from Microsoft, and we strongly recommend you download and install it now.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Click on the Start button
  • Click on Control Panel
  • Click on Check for Updates on the left side of your screen
  • Click on the update for your version of IE
  • Reboot your computer after the update is installed

Once you complete these steps, you can go back on the Internet using any browser you like.

With your IE update successfully installed, here’s our reasoning on staying calm.

The first reason is that this really wasn’t earth-shaking news. The security problem with IE started back in 2001 with the release of IE 6, and it has continued through IE 11.

The second reason is that we believed that rushing to download Firefox or Chrome browsers could have created more problems. Businesses have been using IE for many years and are set in their ways. Mass changes at the spur of the moment would have upset a lot of work routines, and the likelihood of inefficiencies were greater than the likelihood of security breaches. That’s our opinion.

An extension of the rush to download a new program is a problem we’ve discussed before. When people download programs in a hurry, some don’t look at everything carefully. They can make the wrong choices and get versions riddled with spyware and malware that could disrupt their computers and networks and lead to bad security problems.

XP users have dodged a security bullet this time around. Whatever you want to say about Microsoft, the company has acted responsibly to plug up this hole. XP users may not be as fortunate the next time around. It’s time to stop playing electronic Russian roulette and move on to new technology.