In the last few weeks, we have seen a noticeable increase in scams that use pop ups trying to convince you to call a phone number to “fix” a problem. The pop up may also use your speakers to tell you not to turn off your computer and to call the number on your screen. Do not call the number. This is a scam and anything these people say on the other end of the phone is a lie.
Also, we’ve had multiple people report pop-ups in the notification center located on the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, which usually look something like the photo below. Usually it will generate multiple pop-ups in a row and will keep doing it even if you close the ones that have opened. If this happens to you, do not click on the pop up. Instead, click on the 3 little dots to the left of the “X” and select “turn off notifications for (fill in program)”. Or call us but do not click on pop up or call the number listed.
The hallmark of these scams is the claim that your computer is compromised and you need to call Microsoft or Windows to fix the issue. Also important to note that Macs are not immune to these pop ups.
This is always a scam. Microsoft / Windows / Apple will never ask you to call them.
These pop ups may also start speaking to you through your computer speakers. This is part of the scam designed to scare you.
If you see a pop up like this, you may not be able to close it. The scam often claims to lock your computer or that turning off your computer will permanently damage it. This is a lie. The best thing for you to do is immediately turn off your computer completely. Press the power button and hold it down for 20 seconds to shut the computer down. If your computer is off, there is nothing a scammer can do to compromise it. Once your computer is off contact us via phone, email, or our website so we can give you advice about what to do next in your specific situation. Do not ever call a phone number from a pop up no matter how convincing it may seem.
We have found that adding an adblocker to your browser can help prevent these pop ups. Contact us for quick and easy instructions to add an adblocker to your browser(s).
With passwords, we see everything – little pieces of paper, notes on phones, password books, and documents on computers called “Passwords.” The number one rule of password management is this: do not reuse passwords. Reusing passwords means that if a single account is breached, many of your other accounts are at risk of being compromised. However, managing all your passwords is a huge hassle and most people find it frustrating.
So, how do I create unique passwords that I will remember?
Put simply, you don’t need to remember them. Use a password manager to create and store unique passwords. You have to remember one password called the “master password.”
For password management, I use LastPass. I find it easy to use and inexpensive. You pay a small fee, install the LastPass app on your phone and a browser extension on your computer and your passwords are all there for you. LastPass can generate unique passwords of any length and save them in your account. You do incur a slightly higher risk with storing your passwords in the cloud but I feel the benefits outweigh the risks.
Passwords making you crazy? Give us a call at 610-733-6842 or fill out our contact form here.
*H/T to Douglas Muth – ideas taken from this article.
UPDATE: This post was updated on August 16, 2020.
How much is your data worth to you? If your hard drive crashed or if you lost your device – would losing the data upset you? Of course it would! You have pictures, emails, documents, music – your whole life is on that thing!
It’s not a question of “if” your hard drive will fail, it’s really a question of “when.” Hard drives are the most sensitive pieces of equipment on a computer. They are essentially floating platters that spin at high speeds with a head that moves back and forth over the platters. (UPDATE: This was written when spinning hard drives were all we had. Now we have solid state drives which are not spinning platters but when they fail, data is usually not recoverable except by an expensive data recovery company. All the more reason to have a reliable backup.)
- Have 2-3 copies of all your important data. One copy on your computer, one on an external drive, and one in the cloud.
- Ideally, one of your backups is not local. It is stored in another location in case of a problem in your home/office. Cloud backup services such as Carbonite are a perfect solution for off-site backup.
- Do not use CD/DVD’s as backup. They are not reliable in the long run and technology is moving away from these discs.
- Set up a backup plan that you will use! This doesn’t have to be hard.
- Not everything has to be backed up. Your 100 GB music collection can most likely be recreated if need be.
- Backup all your electronic devices – mobile devices as well as desktops/laptops.
- Backup regularly.
- Test restoring data to make sure backup is working.
TYPES OF BACKUP
- Local – This means using an external hard drive plugged into your computer or a NAS (Network Attached Storage) that plugs into your router and allow all computers on your network to use the drive for either backup or storage.
- Off-site – Your home or business could suffer some kind of damage that would render your computer and your external hard drive useless (think flood or fire.) Nowadays, off-site storage is the “cloud.” This is a great alternative for laptops since you don’t have to plug an external drive.
CLOUD STORAGE VS. CLOUD BACKUP
What I often hear is people saying “Oh, I use the iCloud/Dropbox/Google Drive, my data is backed up already.” There are significant differences between cloud storage and cloud backup. Free cloud storage applications are great for several things—organizing pictures by vacation, baby, or DIY project; sharing these memories with family and friends; allowing for easy access to these files across multiple devices. Read more about backup here.
What cloud storage applications should not be confused with is secure backup. Cloud storage applications do not provide comprehensive, automatic backup of all files on your computer. As such, the user is unable to set policies for data retention, including what’s backed up and how frequently. They’re also poor protection against one of the most common forms of data loss—user error and accidental deletion. If you delete something stored only on the cloud, it’s usually gone.
Examples of Cloud Storage:
- Google Drive
- Dropbox, Box, etc.
- One Drive
Examples of Cloud Backup:
Some backup suggestions:
- Carbonite – For $60/year, get unlimited storage space in the cloud. Carbonite installs a program on your laptop or desktop that quietly runs in the background and keeps your computer backed up. Incredibly easy to set up and use. The first backup takes a long time but after that only changed data is backed up. Works with Windows or Macs.
- File History – Windows 10 has a built-in backup and restore program that works with your external hard drive.
- Time Machine – Mac OS X comes with a program that will automatically back up your data when you plug in an external hard drive. Time Machine saves multiple copies of your files so you can go back through versions to find a file you accidentally deleted.
UPDATE: This page was updated on August 4, 2020.
I find a lot of people are confused with what iCloud is and what it does.
What is it?
iCloud is a cloud-based service by Apple. It works by syncing your data from your iPhone/iPad/Mac/Windows PC to your other devices signed in to the same Apple ID. Syncing means if you delete a photo on one device, it is deleted on all your devices. Apple gives you 5GB of storage free to sync your devices. If you run out of space, you can either delete some data or you can buy more storage from Apple. Prices are here. If you share an Apple ID with several members of your family, you are all sharing only 5GB of free storage. If everyone has their own Apple ID, they each get their own 5GB free.
iCloud is also a full backup of your iPhone/iPad. You can only restore this data by restoring the full backup over your iPhone/iPad.
What gets synced to iCloud and all your devices:
- Desktop/Document folders
- Safari Bookmarks
- Keychain passwords
What doesn’t get backed up from your Mac
- Downloads folder
- Video folder
When do iCloud backups happen from your iPhone/iPad?
- iCloud will backup your whole device over Wi-Fi every day if these conditions are met – a device is turned on, locked, and connected to a power source.
If you want to be extra safe (like me), turn on iCloud backup for your iPhone/iPad AND back up your computers by using Time Machine on a Mac and File History on a Windows computer. Do not rely on iCloud as your only “backup.”
Turn on two factor authentication (also called Multi-Factor Authentication) on every account you own. Passwords are no longer safe “enough.” Online security breaches are happening all too often these days.
What is two factor authentication? It is securing your accounts with two levels of security. One level is the password and the next level is a code texted to your smartphone. This prevents someone who has a password from getting into an account. You probably already do this on various accounts that require it such as your bank and Apple ID. Some accounts like Gmail and Amazon offer 2FA but don’t require it. You should turn it on these accounts.
If you need help setting up 2FA/MFA, please contact us.
As novel coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnoses continue to increase around our area and the world, Thames Computer Consulting is committed to providing a safe environment for our clients and ensuring business continuity, to the best of our abilities. We are confident that we can provide continuing service during this time.
Thank you for your continued trust in us.
We are currently taking the following measures of precaution:
We are implementing a remote only policy with a no contact drop off/pick up location for repairs that require hands on work.
We can remotely help you with any issue you have.
If you need to bring us your computer, we will arrange an appointment with you where you will leave your device in a protected area. For laptops, we will wipe down the keyboard and trackpad with alcohol and use our own keyboard and mouse. For desktops, we will wipe the box with alcohol, use our own keyboard, mouse and monitor and then wipe it down again before returning it to you.
We want to protect you as much as we want to protect ourselves.
Do you need to remote into a work computer?
If you need help setting up remote connection to another computer, please let us know. We have a variety of ways we can set that up for you.
We will continue to monitor news from the World Health Organization, among other sources and guidelines, and are committed to reassessing the situation and adjusting our plans accordingly.
We wish you all good health and thank you for continuing to place your trust in us. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or inquiries.
AOL is now charging for using their desktop software. You can access your email at mail.aol.com for free but using the software is going to cost you. Now is a good time to switch off of AOL. Follow the steps below to switch to a free Gmail account.
Go to Gmail.com, click on Create An Account. Create your new Gmail account. Have Gmail fetch your AOL email. You set this up in Gmail Settings. Add a signature to your Gmail account saying your address has changed. Reply to all email from the Gmail account. Eventually, you’ll be able to stop the AOL forwarding as all that will be left will be junk email. Mark all junk as Spam. Gmail has an amazing spam filter.
Voila! No one will call you Grandma/Grandpa because of your AOL email!
Microsoft really wants you to upgrade to Windows 10. As a matter of fact, it is a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8.1 users until July 29, 2016. Microsoft has never offered free upgrades before. In the past, you had to buy a new computer or buy a license for the new operating system costing around $120.
There is a lot to like about Windows 10. It works with computers and tablets. It’s interface feels more modern than previous versions of Windows. Your older computer will run faster with Windows 10. I am now recommending most users upgrade. Contact me for help deciding or going forward with the upgrade.
However, users should have control over whether to upgrade or not.
Microsoft recently changed the pop-up that wants to upgrade to Windows 10 ever so slightly so that now when you click on the red “X” to dismiss it, you have given tacit approval for Windows 10 to install.
Let me explain. For months, the pop-up users of Windows 7 and 8.1 have been receiving looked like this:
It looks like you have no choice here – Upgrade now or Upgrade tonight. But if you clicked on the red “X” at the top right of the windows, your computer did not upgrade.
That doesn’t work anymore.
Now, the pop-up has changed so that if you click on the red “X”, it sends the message to Microsoft that you want to upgrade!
The new window looks like this:
To stop the upgrade, you now have to notice the sentence “Click here to change upgrade schedule or cancel scheduled upgrade.” Clicking the red “X” schedules the upgrade.
There are other ways to block the upgrade such as third party programs that will stop Windows from upgrading. Contact us for details.
Call us for guidance on the Windows 10 upgrade:
– My computer upgraded, things look different. HELP!
– How to make sure your computer upgrades correctly
– Preventing the upgrade.
While the basic options are fairly straight-forward, the advanced options can be daunting. So I recommend sticking with the simplest options that will fit your needs. The way that these options are managed depends on which Operating System you are using, so I’ll go through each one separately.
The Power Options can be found in the Control Panel, which should be a button in your Start menu. If your Control Panel is in Category view, the Power Options are under “System and Security”.
From this screen, you can choose the overall power saving mode for your computer. These are fairly self-explanatory, but where it gets interesting is if you choose the “Change plan settings” option for your desired power mode.
Plan settings: From here, you can select from the drop-down menus the time intervals for the given power option. The computer will automatically enable that power-saving option when it is not in use for that amount of time. If these options aren’t enough for you, or you are feeling adventurous, check out the “Change advanced power settings” menu. If you choose not to go into the advanced settings, and changed something here, make sure that you click “Save changes” before leaving this window.
The Energy Saver options for Mac can be found in the “System Preferences” panel on the Apple menu. This will give you two dials which can be adjusted however you like. “Computer sleep” is when your computer will enter into sleep mode. “Display sleep” is when your monitor will automatically turn off. “Put hard disks to sleep when possible” means that your computer will preserve even more power when not in use — this might mean it takes a little bit more time to wake up, but should still be relatively quick.
On a laptop, you may notice that at the top are two different tabs — one for “Battery” (i.e. when your computer is running on battery power), and one for “Power Adapter” (i.e. when you are plugged into a power source. The settings for each of these modes are completely separate and not affected by each other.
This is the most basic resting state of your computer when it is on but not running. It stores all of your open applications and their states in active memory, and powers down all of the non-essential systems. The machine can then be woken up very quickly and easily, and restores everything to exactly where you left off. The computer still uses power in this state, but only enough to retain your applications in memory.
Be careful about what you leave open when putting your computer to sleep. For example: You can leave web applications open, but everything you had entered into a webpage without submitting might be lost, and many of the open websites will time out. Just to be safe, I recommend not leaving any web forms open, and saving everything in all other open applications (Microsoft Office, Calendar, Notepad, etc.)
Here’s how to use the sleep mode manually:
A. Many PCs and laptop keyboards have a sleep button. It usually looks like a crescent moon and might have other symbols on it. Pressing that key will initiate the sleep mode for your PC. If you don’t have that, you can try option “B”.
B. In the Start menu, at the bottom, you should see the “shut down” button. There should be a little arrow next to it. If you click that arrow, it will give you all of the various options of signing off, restarting, or putting your computer into a low power state. At the bottom, you should see the “Sleep” and “Hibernate” modes. If you’re curious about the “Hibernate” mode, I will discuss it next.
If you click on the Apple logo on the left of your menu bar at the top of the screen, you will find the most important system functions. One of which, probably towards the bottom, is the “Sleep” option.
This is an option exclusive to Windows. It is very similar to “Sleep”, except instead of going to a low power state, the computer shuts off completely. When you power up the computer, everything will automatically be restored as it was before. The downside is that it takes a little bit more time than “Sleep” to initiate and restore. As with “Sleep”, be very careful about what you leave open when going to this state, as some information might get lost, especially in web forms.
To get out of either of these modes, you can simply press (but DO NOT HOLD) the power button on your computer and it will restore everything for you. If you like to be on the safe side, some computers will wake up from “Sleep” with a keystroke, but not all.
One last note about using these modes: Don’t disconnect a USB device or monitor, you should only do it through the proper channels (i.e. “disconnect this device”) when your computer is either running normally, or properly Shut Down.
That’s all for now, I hope everyone enjoys the power savings you should be getting by properly using these modes. Join us next time, when I will discuss how to use automated power-saving options, and make the computer decide how best to save energy!