Bay City Blog

Well here we are again. The past couple of weeks we have heard about WannaCry Ransomware.

We have now have a tally of businesses and private data being locked down and that you are required to pay a sum of money to release your data. If you try to negotiate they will increase the cost to release your data.

Currently worldwide there has been 350,000 victims'. These are the ones who have notified authorities. There will many more not notifying authorities. Some companies under the law will be required to protect the data against misuse of personal information. There are penalties for not taking appropriate action.

Action points:

1. Ensure you have a between Firewall your data and the internet.

2. Ensure that you have a good anti-virus program and it is up to date. Email washing is also a good practice

3. Ensure that all your Computers and Servers are up to date.

4. Ensure that you take backups regularly at a time frame of what you can afford to lose.

5. Ensure that your backups are off the network as the ransomware virus will attack shared drives.

6. If you receive an email that you do not know the sender be aware it could be ransomware. Police, Government, Law Courts do not email infringements or fines. Do not open them. Check them out before opening them and hover your mouse over the link and see it it aligns with who is sending it.

7. If you find a USB stick, do not just plug in a USB stick to see what is on it. It may have the ransomware virus and you will then get infected. Check with your IT Company or qualified staff to check the USB stick CD or other memory transfer devices.

These are measures you can take to help protect your data. At a glance these action points may seem intrusive but it will go a long way to protect your data.

Now in 2017 we are seeing more and more companies and even the public being caught by this virus.

You need to setup protection against this virus. One simple thing to do is make backups of what data you belive is critical to you or yor business.

This includes photos reciepts taht are sent via email etc., emails (your PST files), invoicing databases etc., on a regular basis. Again the regularity depends on how much data you can afford to loose.

I have stated the minimalist. Ideally you would proctect yoiur data by a good anti-virus software such as TrendMicro Worry-Free Business services and implement a firewall in your data network.

Just keep in mind should you get the Ransomware virus there is no retreaving of your data that has been infected. It can cost from $2,000 to $500,000 and possibly more.

Remember backups are critical at a minimum and that the data doesn't reside on your network.

How they are obtaining your personal information without trying hard.

We are now seeing the increase of jobs being offered to just about everyone via email. These on the surface seem genuine.

Seems genuine. There not. You may receive many of these emails for account managers to invoice processes or just to email people. Most want to pay around $800 per week ranging up to $3200 per month depending on the level of expertise required.

Seems plausible? It's not. Sorry to provide the bad news but these sites want your bank details together with your name and address age etc. giving them all the information they need to access your account details and your money.

The other method is to pose as an account manager of your bank. Asking you to verify your name and date of birth address etc. NEVER GIVE OUT THIS INFORMATION. If you need to talk to your bank phone them back and speak to the department concerned. Look the number up do not use the number provided as they will give you a number that does not relate to the bank.

Nasty Emails

By: Trevor Moon

The Heading says it all.

Currently there are a number of emails doing the rounds either posting a job application, parcel pick-up, infringement notice etc. These should all be treated as suspicious. Unfortunately the person receiving these emails may click before reading and identifying what the attachment is.

One method that can reduce these actions is to have the operating system ask whether you want to run this application.

I know this can be tedious but it will limit the chance of infection or the spread of the virus either on your PC or the network.

Now let's talk about the Ransomware Virus.

This has now developed (Mutated) to a new level. It has the ability to attack shared folders where Company data is stored. In most cases where a good backup is kept, the data may be recoverable and only a day's Data may be lost depending on the frequency and when the backup is carried out. This data we are refering to may be your accounting system data, company information, strategy or other critical information that may be compiled as a group, individual or by consultants whose data may no longer be available.

This may sound over the top but one of our clients recently found this to be true

The ideal backup scenario is to backup onsite, off-site and possible cloud. This may sound like an over kill but if you were infected it is nice to be able to recover your data.

It is important to have both a firewall, well respected antivirus software, and a good backup strategy to try to limit this attack on your data.

 

What Is Ransomware

By: Trevor Moon

Once again there are people via the internet trying to extort money from you and/or your business.

It is in the form of a virus and it will encode your hard drive making the data unreadable.

This will then be followed up with a message setting out terms to unlock your drive.

It generally takes the form of a payment in Bit Coins and once paid they will give you a code to unlock your drive.

There has been instances where people have paid this ransom and not backed up their data and the drive has been relocked, hence another payment has had to be made. It can range from $500 to $2000.

Government agencies have tried to crack the code but have not been successful. Hence the need to protect your data.

Currently, as of this week, these attackers are targeting websites where they have infected Java Scripts. Should you visit one of these sites then you may have the ransomware virus downloaded on your computer and then be required to pay for your hard drive to be unlocked.

We at BayCity Computers recommend backups be carried out on a regular basis, such as hourly or daily basis depending on the frequency in which your data changes and your companies ability to recreate the data to minimise data loss.

A good firewall and antivirus software which can monitor web and email traffic to minimise this happening.

We recommend WatchGuard Firewalls and TrendMicro Worry-Free Services advanced software. Our backup solution is Veritas  together with your own onsite server.

At BayCity Computers we offer solutions, call us and we will help protect your network. Tel: (03) 9775 4424.

 

 

Heading Into 2016

By: Trevor Moon

We are now heading into 2016. Another year has passed, but we are still facing threats from the internet.

So we do need to ensure that our networks, PC's and servers are protected. This should include a good anti-virus software with online spam and virus filtering together with a firewall, thus helping to ensuring secure data and company information.

The other issue can be staff. Should they plug in an infected USB then the next stage information can be transmitted to a remote destination.

Once this data is available to the source you may find they will either demand a ransom or sell to your competitors or just display this information on the internet. It may seem insignificant but remember that your customers or suppliers may not be happy with this.

We can help with a free security audit providing recommendations on how to maximize your security.   

 

 

Data Security

By: Trevor Moon

If your sensitive information was to wind up on the internet what would you do?

The data that you have stored within your network may seem insignificant at this stage to you, but to your opposition it may be highly desirable.

Out in the Internet just about everyone has access to computers and the internet. This means that the bad boys or just students fooling around may gain access to your data publish it or sell it to your competition or something that may seen as just for fun, modify your data.

In the end it doesn't matter what they do but it will affect your business directly and immediately.

Just remember there can be ramifications such as suppliers or customers who do not want to deal with you because their data/information is also compromised. Banks start to worry that your business may go downhill and hence provides a flag in their system.

Security does matter although you may be ambivalent to it, remember there is a lot more at stake when your data is compromised.

At BayCity Computers we can help you too secure your data.

These days there is hardly a computer or smartphone that isn't connected via the internet.  This provides incredible advantages for instant access to emails, information, communicating via social networking, and accessing and interacting with information on line. This facility is provided via the internet, which is a public global network that connects almost any computer enabled device to any other device. This means you can communicate with almost anyone anytime, but it also has other, negative consequences. 


Firstly, the global nature of the internet means that while you can connect to any one, it also means that anyone  can potentially gain access to information stored on computers, servers and web sites that are connected to the internet.  That is why it is critically important to protect your information by using safe internet practices, including having up to date antivirus and antispyware, installing firewalls, keeping your software up to date and having complex passwords.  A great site produced by the Australian Government has useful and up to date advice on the best methods to protect a Small Business in the on line world:  http://www.staysmartonline.gov.au/  Protection for Small Business

Keeping internal customer records and financial information secure from prying eyes is an absolute must in business.  In addition, businesses also need to take care with other less secure information such as emails and comments posted in Social Media.  Since emails are transmitted across networks and stored on other people's computers, they need to be regarded as almost public information.  Jeff Kennett recently said on 3AW radio (10/11/2011) that you shouldn't write anything in an email that you wouldn't want to appear on the front page of The Age.  This is sound advice. Even more care needs to be made posting on Facebook and other social media sites such as LinkedIn , as this information is intended for publication even if the privacy settings are meant to restrict the availability of this information.    Also, any comments posted on twitter are completely public so definitely don't post any information you don't want the world to know about.

Self Help Computer repair

By: Trevor Moon

As an average computer user what do you do when problems occur?   In last month's article we talked about the immense complexity of the current computer systems and how difficult it can be to diagnose and fix problems.  Even experts who understand the inner working of the windows 7 operating system will often resort to simply reinstalling the whole system when difficult problems occur rather than trying to find which of the 80,000 files or 200,000 setting are causing the problem.


The important thing is not to feel that you need to be an expert on everything and that it is OK to seek help.  If you are competent at your job and with the computer, it doesn't necessarily follow  that you must also be capable of fixing computer problems.  It's a bit like driving a car. You need to have skills to drive safely and competently but should not be expected to understand how the engine works, or how to fix the car if it breaks down.

So what do you do when problems occur? - here are our list of DO's

  1. Write down the details of the error.
    The first thing to do when faults occur is to write down the time the fault occurred together with the description of the error message and any related error codes and which programs were open or being used.    This information is extremely helpful to those who need to provide help to track down the problem and fix it.  It also makes it easier for the fault finder if you are able to replicate the circumstances that caused the fault.
  2. Look up the product help.
    If you are not sure whether it is a computer caused error or simply something about the program you don't understand, then it is also a good idea to use the help system. Most programs contain basic help which will refer you to correct documents on the internet to provide  further information. That way you see whether the problem is, for example, simply a mistaken key stroke rather than a computer malfunction.   Also make sure any advice is from reputable sources and not just any Joe Blow posting on the internet.
  3. Call an expert
    Have a good support arrangement with your IT company or software provider then give them a call to get some advice.
  4. Restart the computer and/or restore to an earlier time.
    A common way of fixing various glitches is simply to shut down the computer and restart.  For more advanced users it is appropriate to consider performing a system restore to an earlier point time. The System restore message may come up when you reboot, in which case follow the prompts to complete the restoration.  This procedure is completely safe and is reversible to there is no risk of doing any damage to the system.
  5. Set a time limit for working on the problem.
    One of the key points about trying to fix things yourself is to set a definite time limit on how long you spend trying to fix things or research the problem.  If you know the value your own time to the business then you will be more aware that it pays to seek help sooner rather than later to avoid costing money by not calling for help.  In fact trying to fiddle with a system can make things worse and make the repair job much more difficult later. As a rule of thumb, as an average computer user if you have spent more than 10 minutes identifying the problem and rebooting once then it is definitely time to seek help either from a colleague or your IT company.  A more knowledgeable computer user should not spend more than 30 minutes trying to fix a problem after doing a system reboot or a restore.  At that time some more expert advice should be sought.

If that is the list of things to DO then here is our list of things NOT TO DO:

  1. Waste hours trying every fix suggested on the Internet.
    Whatever you do don't waste hours trying to fix the problem yourself. Use our guidelines above to set reasonable time limits for persisting or trying to fix problems.  Often the big time wasters occur when researching the problem on the internet and trying every recommended fix from top to bottom only to end up in a worse mess.
  2. Downloading and running bogus fix it software.
    These come in thousands of guises, some are downright dangerous and others such as registry cleaners will at best be ineffective and possibly make things worse.  Many of these programs optimise their website to pick up on key words and pretend to offer a solution to your problem but are little more than deceptive advertising.
  3. Call your mates for help too often
    Many  people have mates in the IT industry or knowledgeable friends who they call on for advice. Getting a little bit of help is OK but calling them during working hours and taking up their working or leisure time to have the problem fixed, will most likely result in you losing a friend and still having the problem.
  4. Use unlicensed or old software without product support.
      If you run a business then you must have appropriate support for the software that you run.  Avoid free software unless there is an option to upgrade to paid support options.  As for using unlicensed or copied software this is ticking time bomb and will eventually cause grief when your system fails, you cannot get support and the system you need to run your business cannot be restored.
  5. Do all of the steps above,
    Waste hours, apply every bogus fix from the internet, download and run registry cleaners, get your mates in, argue with your mates,  call up the IT guy to fix the mess,  have a confused look when the IT guy asks for the program disks and explains that your software has been downloaded from the net by your mate and find out you need to buy new software and then complain when the bill is more than $100.

Why Do Computers Fail?

By: Trevor Moon

Ever wondered what goes on inside your computer, or why it doesn't always do what you expect?   Like a magic genie, just give your command and off it goes to do the work to edit that document, run your calculation, change that picture, or play a movie. Inside the computer are millions of parts and thousands of programs all working together to fulfil your wish.  Unfortunately a failure in even one small part or in a program will cause errors or crash the computer.


The complexity in a modern PC is almost impossible for the brain to comprehend. Try getting your head around the scale of the current desktop computer system as represented by the following statistics.

  • When the first microprocessor chip was introduced by Intel in 1975 it had 2,300 transistors, the current versions have more than 500 million.
  • The Hard Drive in your computer, which stores all your programs and files, is an electro- mechanical device that spins at around 7200 revolutions per minute. The read/write head floats above the spinning disk at a height of only 3 nanometres.  By way of comparison, if the disk were the size of the earth then the head would float only 25 cm above the earth. Not much space for error!
  • A typical Windows 7 computer has more than 80,000 program files and over 200,000 individual program settings which are stored in the computer "registry".  Errors in any of these files or settings can cause the computer to malfunction.
  • Windows 7 can work with thousands of different pieces of hardware and comes with in built support for more than 5000 different types of hardware from files stored in its library.   These hardware files are called drivers.

 

Thankfully, computer systems are relatively reliable despite their complexity.    Lets then look briefly at some of key components inside the computer and where problems can occur.


The  Central Processing Unit.
Also called the CPU or brains of the whole system.   These are now incredibly tiny and powerful.  Smaller components means the computer can be faster, more capable and use less power. Fortunately the central processing unit is one of the most reliable parts of the computer and can be expected to last years, even with 24 hour operation. Usually other parts of the computer will fail before the central processor does.

The Hard Disk.
The hard disk is the permanent memory store insider the computer.  Being electro- mechanical it is more prone to error than the non moving or so called "Solid State" parts such as the CPU.  Unfortunately hard disk failure will result in loss of your data, so it is a major catastrophe when it does fail. That is why it is so important to constantly save your data to a back up device.   Minor hard disk failures can also cause glitches in the programs which can look like software faults.

Operating System
The operating system is like the autonomous nerve control system of the brain keeping a watch on everything and keeping things organised.  With the Windows operating system,  Microsoft has invested billions of dollars in time and effort  to ensure the software is reliable. Microsoft has an army of testers, to try out every function and combination of functions to find mistakes and correct these before the product is launched.   Even after launch continual updates are used to correct errors when they are found.


Microsoft has also built in a range of self checking and correcting features into Windows 7 that automatically fix common errors when they occur.  The system configuration is automatically backed up on a regular basis and when any changes or updates are made to the computer. In the event of a failure of the system settings the previous state of the computer can be restored.

Other Hardware.
The great strength of the Microsoft Windows system is its ability to support a wide range of hardware and software from thousands of suppliers.   This gives the Microsoft windows system its incredible flexibility to suit a wide range of needs, and also fosters competition amongst hardware suppliers which keeps prices down.    It is a considerable challenge for both hardware suppliers and Microsoft to keep the system functioning smoothly when supporting a huge range of different types of components.

Overall
Considering the millions of parts, program files, settings and hardware types that make up a modern computer it's no wonder they sometimes fail.  In next month's  article we will talk about what the average user can do to help overcome computer problems and seek appropriate help when problems do occur.