NEPA Geeks Blog

New Ransomware Scam Targetting iOS Devices Through Find My iPhone Exploit

We are warning all of our customers with iPhones and iPads that they should immediately back up their devices either to their iCloud account or to their personal computers. Several news outlets have reported that hackers are using a Find My iPhone exploit to remotely lock-up iPhones and iPads.

The “Find My iPhone” feature is an important safety mechanism that allows a user to lock-down and erase sensitive data in the event that their device is lost or stolen. However, in the wrong hands, this feature can be used to disable devices and, in the case of this attack, demand a ransom to reactivate it.

The hackers are using a classic attack known as “phishing” to set up sites that look like legitimate Apple websites. The user enters their email and password into a form on the sites, thinking they are accessing a legitimate website, but are actually sending their credentials to hackers. The hackers then use this information to access and lock the devices using the “Find My iPhone” feature to demand a ransom in exchange for unlocking the device.

Again, if you haven’t done so already, backup your data to iCloud or your computer. (It’s important to note that iCloud’s Photo Stream will only store your last 1,000 images, so users with a large number of photos should definitely back them up to their computer.) Users are being asked to bring their devices to the nearest Apple store if they’ve been compromised. There, they can get their phones unlocked. However, doing so requires a hardware reset, which means that all data on the device will be lost. This is why it is extremely important to set up your iCloud account and backup your data immediately. Doing so is the only way to get your photos, pictures and music back after a hardware reset.

For more information on this attack, visit BGR.com or ArsTechnica.com.

What you need to know about Windows XP End of Life

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Attention! If you are a PC user running Windows XP on your home or business computer, it is extremely important that you contact us right away!

On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will be ending its support for Windows XP. What this means for you is that Windows XP will be left open and vulnerable to any future attacks from hackers.

In the past, hackers found security holes and exploits that would allow them to do anything from hijacking your computer to stealing your valuable information. When these holes would become known, Microsoft would release a patch update that would close the holes and help keep the hackers out. From April 8 on, however, these patch updates will no longer be released, meaning that any new holes or exploits will remain so forever.

If you are a home user, your personal information — along with anything else stored on your computer — could become accessible to anyone knowing how to exploit these security holes. As such, it’s very important that you upgrade to any operating system later than XP. This includes Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8.

If you run a business that has computers running Windows XP, this is especially important as it could mean the end of certain security certifications. Running a computer with XP will soon become a liability as it means that your computers are no longer secure or trustworthy. If your business relies on storing the information of customers and clients, this data could be easily available to hackers capable of exploiting new found security holes in your systems! As stated, it is vital that you contact us right away for help and a consultation on what you will need to upgrade your home or business computers.

A quick call is all it takes to make sure you have everything you need to keep your computers running safe and secured. Our number is 5704745100 and we are available from 9 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday (9 to 5 on Saturday.) Just give us a call and we’ll be sure to help!

Bitcoin for Computer Repair Now Accepted at NEPA Geeks. You can even pay with Litecoin.

According to CoinMap.org, NEPA Geeks is the one of the only computer repair shops (if not the ONLY computer repair shop) in North-East Pennsylvania that accepts Bitcoin for computer repair.

Well, as far as we can tell, based on the screenshot below:

coin map

This map shows businesses in NEPA that accept Bitcoin, including Centerline Guitar Repair Shop in Hazleton.

If you’ve never heard of Bitcoin, it’s an open source peer-to-peer payment network and digital currency that was introduced in 2009 and has been steadily increasing in popularity and worldwide acceptance as a legitimate currency.

One of the facets of Bitcoin that make it so attractive to businesses and merchants such as ours is the low transaction fee associated with transferring funds. Typically, the transaction fee is lower than the 2 to 3% charged by most credit card companies. This reduced fee helps us keep costs low, which we then pass on to customers and clients by keeping our rates for repairs low. All in all, if we can keep the regular cost of doing business down, it’s better for everyone, and that’s why we’ve decided to incorporate Bitcoin as a method of payment.

We accept Bitcoin for computer repair, web hosting, iPhone and Android repair, and even game console repairs. The cost of parts and all of these services, and many not even listed here, are easily paid for using Bitcoin. So, if you’re one of the many early adopters of this brave, new, digital frontier, we’d be more than happy to assist you by allowing you to pay in the currency of your choice! (Litecoin also accepted!)

For more information, stop in or give us a call. We’re always here to help.

New malware, CryptoLocker, locks your files and holds them for ransom

Because we care about our customers, we want you all to be on alert for a new strain of malware going around. It’s called CryptoLocker, and it extorts money from victims by encrypting their files and holding them for ransom.

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Image source: GrahamCluely.com

What is CryptoLocker? It’s a nasty piece of malware (or ransomware) that encrypts the files on a victim’s hard drive, rendering them unreadable. Photos, documents, PowerPoint Slides, etc… nearly everything you have stored on your hard drive becomes garbled bits of useless data without the key to unlock them. To get the key, victims are asked to pay hundreds of dollars in untraceable currency — with no guarantee that they will ever get them back, of course. To add insult to injury, it seems the bad guys don’t like credit cards, which can be easily traced and revoked by the card issuing companies. They accept only BitCoin, MoneyPak and other annoyingly difficult methods of payment on their ransom.

CryptoLocker only affects Windows users, for the time being. Linux and Apple’s OSX remain immune to the attack, although this could change in the future.

So, what can you do about it?

Currently, the only way to get your files back from CrytpoLocker is to not lose them in first place. What this means is that, if you haven’t been infected yet, buy yourself an external backup drive (many fine models exist at your local retailer for less than $100) and save everything that is important to you on the drive. It’s important that you buy a model with enough space to store your important information but that has enough room to store future backups, as well. If you can, buy 2 drives — one to do automatic backups on a nightly/weekly basis and another that will have only your most precious data, disconnected and safely tucked away where it will be safe from physical damage and/or theft.

If you have malware/virus protection, make sure it is running and up to date! Most of the vendors have already updated their products to check for and defend against CryptoLocker, but there’s nothing they can do once the malware has already ransacked your drive. Encrypted files are EXTREMELY difficult to decrypt. In much the same way data stored by government and financial institutions are encrypted to protect them from hackers, so too will be the data on your hard drive. CryptoLocker is that nasty!

Be wary of any .exe files you might have acquired from unfamiliar sources, and especially don’t run anything sent to you in an email, even from trusted sources. Most often, these programs are spread by people you know who don’t know they are infected.

If you have been infected by CryptoLocker, it’s already too late. We can purge your system of the malware, but encrypted files are encrypted files… There’s nothing we can do. This last fact cannot be stressed enough: encrypted files are very, very difficult to decrypt without the key, and there’ s no guarantee that the files will be decrypted even if you do pay the ransom. Therefore, backup your data immediately and keep it somewhere safe. If you do get infected, all we’ll have to do is get rid CryptoLocker and restore your computer from the backup.

For more information on CryptoLocker, Graham Cluely has an excellent write-up on. Or contact us, and we’ll more than happy to help you out.

Shop Small and Save Big on Small Business Saturday, November 30

Shop small and save big on repairs this Small Business Saturday

As part of Small Business Saturday, NEPA Geeks are extending an offer to save 20% on all repair services.

To redeem the offer, just bring your broken computer, phone or video game console into the shop on Saturday, November 30 to receive a 20% discount on the service charge to repair it. That’s all there is to it.

Cracked screen? Overheating XBox? Viruses and spyware plaguing your laptop? We’ll take care of it, and you’ll reap the savings.

Small Business Saturday is an effort that is sponsored by American Express and began as a way to show support to all small and local businesses in cities and towns across America. We’re just one of the many shops that are taking place in this great cause that helps stimulate the economy, create new jobs and improve the community. Over 100 million people shop at independently-owned and operated businesses each Small Business Saturday, and we’d be very honored if you chose to shop small by bringing your computer or cell phone to us for repair.

As always, computer diagnostics are free, and our technicians are always willing to make house calls if you can’t bring your equipment to the office.

For any questions or problems you might be having, just give us a call at 570.474.5100 and our address is 108 N. Mountain Blvd. Suite B, Mountain Top, PA 18707. We can also be reached at staff@nepageeks.com

For more information on Small Business Saturday, visit ShopSmall.com.

NEPA BlogCon is this Saturday! See you there!

nepa blog con presenter badgeThis Saturday is the 2nd annual NEPA BlogCon, and the NEPA Geeks are very proud to be a part of it!

If you haven’t heard of NEPA BlogCon, it’s an annual, day-long conference set to take place at the Luzerne County Community College in Nanticoke, PA on October 5, 2013.

Along with discussion of how to become a blogger (or a better blogger) there will be plenty of chances to meet and mingle with many of the other notable bloggers and blogging personalities that live and work throughout North-East Pennsylvania.

Not only will we be attending the conference, one of our technicians, Dale Culp, will be giving a presentation on the importance of setting up a domain name for marketing and branding purposes. So, if you happen to be there, be sure to sit in on his presentation. And, afterwards, meet up with the Geeks to talk more about how our hosting services can help take your blog to the next level!

In the meantime, the NEPA Geeks “geek blog” has been nominated for a NEPA BlogCon Blog of the Year award! However, we can’t win the award without your help… so we invite anyone reading this to follow the link to the poll and give us your vote!

Lastly, as we will be attending NEPA BlogCon, that unfortunately means that the office will be closed this Saturday, October 5. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but we hope you understand.

Thank you, to all of our clients and customers past and present, and we hope to see you at BlogCon!

NEPA Geeks is now fully accredited by the BBB!

BBB Plaque

The BBB plaque on our wall.

One of the backbones of a good business partner is trust, and we work extremely hard to be worthy of that trust. From ensuring that we use only quality parts when replacing and repairing your electronic equipment to making sure our customers are satisfied with the work that we do at a fair price, trust goes into every step of the process. Recently, we’ve taken a much larger step towards building trust with our customers by becoming accredited with the Better Business Bureau.

As of June 17, 2013, NEPA Geeks is a fully accredited business with the BBB. What this means is that we are being held to a whole new level of accountability. By becoming accredited, we’ve put ourselves out there as a name that can be trusted and a business that works hard to keep that trust.

The standards for becoming a BBB accredited business include honest advertising, transparency, a vow to honor all promises, responsive service, integrity and the utmost of security when it comes to safeguarding your private information. Of course, these are standards we’ve held ourselves to long before becoming accredited, but now you know that we take these issues very seriously.

When it comes to computer repair, web hosting, cellphone repair, or any of the many services that we offer, wouldn’t you rather work with a business that pledges to keep and honor the practices and standards set forth by the BBB? We think so. And that’s our promise to you.

We are proud to be the NEPA Blogs and PA Live! blog of the week!

This week, we are extremely honored to be the NEPA Blogs “Blog of the Week” and featured on WBRE’s “PA Live!”

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Each Tuesday, NEPA Blogs features a different blog that either caters to news and information about North-East PA or is maintained by a blogger located in North-East PA and presents them on WBRE’s “PA Live!.” Both Jason and I are proud to share this distinction as we each strive to provide a useful service to the community as well as building a successful business.

Be sure to watch “PA Live!” at 4 pm on WBRE to see our blog!

Update: Just in case you missed it when the segment aired on TV, the video is now available on the PA Live! site.

Time for a PC spring cleaning? Dust can lead to a dead power supply, or worse!

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We’ve seen worse, but don’t let your computer get this dusty before you come see us!

Time for a PC Spring Cleaning

It seems like the last few weeks, our number one service request has been to replace bad power supplies. The power supply is a metal box inside your computer (usually with a fan inside) and distributes power to the mother board, disc drives and various other components. It’s the part with the black cable that plugs into your wall. You can see what one looks like in the upper right-hand corner of the picture to the right.

So, why are we seeing so many dead power supplies? Well, between Jason and I, we came up with a couple of theories.

DUST

For one, despite Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction that spring would come early this year, we just haven’t seen it, yet. As a result, people are keeping their doors and windows closed — many with weather stripping to seal up drafts. If you aren’t dusting and vacuuming regularly, dust gets trapped and builds up inside your house, especially for households that smoke, run their fireplace or use coal for heat.

Dust gets pulled into your computer and sticks to the fans, grates and other components, clogging up airways and acting like insulation, keeping the heat from dissipating when components begin to warmup. Dust that clings to fans can cause them to fail sooner as they struggle to keep the air flowing through your PC. A bad fan isn’t just a noisy nuisance, though, it can allow a PC to overheat, which can lead to a cooked CPU and video card, burned out motherboard or power supply. Once a PC begins to overheat, if not immediately shut down, the various parts inside can be ruined in just a matter of seconds. It doesn’t take long!

DRY AIR

Dry air isn’t just bad for your skin, it’s bad for your computer, too. Ever get a shock when touching a door knob or another person after rubbing your feet across a carpet? That tiny jolt might sting for a fraction of a second, but it can utterly destroy the vital electronics inside your computer.

Dry skin rapidly sheds dead cells which become dust and mix with other particles in the air, each becoming charged and building up static electricity. Those charged particles build up inside your computers and can allow the components to short or discharge, frying them in the blink of an eye. This is also why it’s important to be properly grounded if you ever venture to open your computer’s case and poke around inside. If your body has built up a static charge, you could easily zap any of the chips inside and permanently damage them. It’s best to keep your computer cleaned out, free of dust, and to never touch anything inside the computer if you’re not grounded and have allowed the static electricity to safely discharge.

WORKING OVERTIME

Another drawback of the overdue spring is that people are staying inside, using their computers more instead of going outside to enjoy the nice weather. Our modern PCs are an endless source of entertainment and diversion, from playing video games to watching movies and TV shows, chatting online or catching up with friends over social media. Those long hours add up, and as the computer constantly works to stay cool, eventually it will wear out.

Power supplies generally last well beyond the useful years of the average PC, meaning that you’ll probably be ready to upgrade to a whole new system before you have to worry about one burning out. However, for the reasons I’ve stated here, some power supplies might burn out much sooner than others.

In conclusion, whether due to wear and tear over the years from working under normal conditions, a build-up of dust that leads to overheating, or electrical shock damage from static or other sources (lightning strikes, power surges, brown outs) power supplies can go bad for a variety reasons. Why does it seem to be happening so often these last few weeks? That’s anyone’s guess. But with spring just around the corner, it’s definitely time to look into getting your computer cleaned out.

Give us a call if your computer isn’t booting properly or is overheating, randomly shutting down, making a lot of noise or just needs a good cleaning out. We’re more than happy to help!

As a note of caution, if you decide to clean your PC out yourself, be extra careful around the power supply, and NEVER open it unless you are specifically qualified to do so! There are components inside your power supply that can build up a dangerously high level of voltage that can kill you if discharged. Play it safe! Contact an expert, like us, if unsure.