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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.
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.
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 email@example.com
For more information on Small Business Saturday, visit ShopSmall.com.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Earlier this week, we finished replacing the broken screen on a laptop that had been dropped. As you can see from the picture below, it was in pretty sorry shape.
Although it might seem like a catastrophe, this sort of damage doesn’t mean the laptop has been totaled. As we often do with a job like this, we ask clients deposit the amount necessary to cover the price of a new part before we do any work. From there, we simply wait for the part to arrive (which, unfortunately, can sometimes take as long as a week) and then get the laptop back up and running in a matter of hours. And all this for much less than it would cost to buy a new laptop!
Most of the time, replacing a cracked laptop screen or defective part costs so little compared to the price of a new laptop that getting the old one repaired is very cost effective. Sometimes, however, it isn’t. In those cases, either when a part is soldered directly to the board, or when the laptop is so old that parts for it are no longer available, you don’t get much of a choice. We’ll make sure you understand your options and tell you when buying a new laptop is the way to go.
If you’re ever unsure whether a laptop can be fixed or not, it’s always best to give us a call and let us take a look at it. You might even be surprised to learn that the laptop wasn’t broken at all, it just needed some TLC to get up and running again.
Another thing to consider when thinking about buying a new laptop is that, while it might be cheaper, it’s not always more convenient. Your laptop is probably stuffed with old memories, projects and other things you don’t want to lose. You probably have photos from vacations on there, movies and music, homework and gigabytes worth of other important data you can’t replace. If the laptop is so broken that it can’t even turn on — assuming the hard drive isn’t dead — how will you get that data off? Fortunately, we have tools that can help. Whether you want the data backed-up to an external drive or transferred to the new computer, we’re more than happy to assist you.
Each of these laptops were repaired, cleaned and returned to their owners in perfect working order. Dell, Asus, Sony, HP… we can fix any brand. We’re you’re local solution for computer repair, servicing all of North-East PA and conveniently located in Mountain Top. Just give us a call at 570.474.5100.
How secure is your password? Is it “password?” Come on… These days, security is more crucial than ever. As more and more of your accounts get tied together with Facebook/Twitter integration, hackers can easily gain access to all of them with just a little bit of work. Don’t make it easy for them!
Here is a great infographic from The Daring Librarian detailing 4 password security tips you should follow when setting a password for any of your online accounts (and 10 other geeky tips you should be using):
And there you have it. Hopefully, this will give you something to think about the next time you need to set a good password (hint: that time should be RIGHT NOW! Remember Password Security Tip #4!)
Despite anything you may have been told in the past, and how no password can be 100% secure, they are all we have standing between us and stolen identities, stolen credit card information and much worse. Personal data, and even work-related information, is at stake. This is especially worrying if you borrow a laptop from work with valuable data on it, work from home on a personal computer or interact with the public, making yourself susceptible social engineering scams at the office. Having a lousy, easily crackable password could cost you your job if you’re not careful.
There’s no guarantee that these password security tips are going to keep you completely safe, but they should definitely make it a lot harder for hackers to get into places they don’t belong.
Viruses, worms, trojans, spyware and malware — what does it all mean? If you’re at all familiar with technology, you’ve probably heard a few of these words dozens of times. But what are they? What’s the difference between them? This lengthy, in depth Ars Technica article covers the basics.
We all try our best to keep our antivirus software up to date while practicing the “tried and true” methods of handling potentially malicious software. For example, you should never click on an email attachment, even if it looks innocuous. The problem is that some malware is very good at looking like perfectly safe file types, such as PDFs, Word documents or pictures, so these things aren’t always obvious (which is why they work so well at being spread like wild fire.)
The best thing you can do is educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about malware, how it works and how it spreads. Learn about the things that viruses can, and can’t, do. This article from Ars Technica is a great start!
Viruses, Trojans, and Worms, Oh My: The basics on malware is the second installment of Ars Technica’s Guide to Online Security, and a good read for anyone who wants to know more about malware and how to protect themselves from it.
From here, you can always look up information on Wikipedia or other security websites and blogs. There’s a wealth of information out there, so take advantage of it! And, if worse comes to worse, you can always give NEPA Geeks a call. We specialize in virus removal and would be more than happy to assist you with any questions you might have.