Spam Emails

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Category: Business, IT Security, IT Support.

Junk emails, or Spam are emails sent to you without consent by people or businesses with which you have no relationship. Receiving Junk email can cause significant problems for your business as it can clog up your email system and often carries viruses or spyware.

The problems of junk email

You may wonder why it is so important that Junk email is managed. Here are just a few reasons:

  • If you are constantly receiving Spam email it will use up your internet bandwidth (effectively costing you money) and important messages can be delayed or blocked.
  • Spam is often sent with the intention of spreading viruses or spyware. Opening Spam emails could infect your PCs.
  • Many junk emails messages are inappropriate and contain material that could offend people in your company.
  • Even relatively harmless spam can distract staff and waste their time as they check the content and follow links to irrelevant web sites.

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Category: IT Security, IT Support.

A New Year detox is top of the “To Do” list for many of us in the first week of January – but there’s no need to limit the big clean-up to your body.

I spend much of my life giving advice about backing up, repairing and renewing IT systems. I can get especially evangelical about it at this time of year, when quieter work flows for many organisations make it easier to contemplate bad habits and think about the essential steps to a healthier IT set-up. So the first of my New Year resolutions is to protect your data properly.

It’s ironic that a typical company will have locking doors, alarms and insurance policies to secure their physical property, but very little in place to guard against the loss of the information that allows the company to operate.

Put another way, if your office building burnt down, it would cause serious disruption, but the permanent loss of data could be catastrophic. A business simply can’t operate without the matrix of information that underpins operations such as invoicing, sales, stock, HR, and contracts with customers and suppliers.

And don’t just consider the back-up – think about how quickly and easily you can get your systems operational again. Just because you have the data backed up doesn’t mean you’ll be operational again in hours – it could be days. Ask your IT provider for an estimate on the recovery time and decide if further processes or systems are needed to protect your business.

The second resolution is to minimise downtime risk. You can achieve this by maintaining and monitoring your IT systems properly. Yes, it does require resource, but the investment pays off in terms of efficiency.

And, finally, for those with old creaking servers, don’t think that simply replacing them with a new one is the solution. Take a look at the various cloud-based solutions. It could mean you can upgrade sooner than you think and have a more flexible system.

Phone Scams

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Category: IT Security.

IT phone scams have been around for a number of years, but we have recently seen a surge in the number we have had reported to us.

 

The scam works where the caller offers ‘computer support’ but in reality is setting out to defraud.

Last year alone the Metropolitan police closed down 19 websites that were believed to be scams – teams at Indian call centres were ringing computer users claiming to be from IT support companies. The users were then told there were problems with their computers, which could be fixed.

After being told to download a program that hands over remote control of their computer so the caller can install ‘fixes’, the PC users are told of a charge of up to £200 for subscription to ‘the preventative service.’ But in the majority of cases the ‘fixed’ computers never had any problems in the first place.

The reports of people being cold called and bullied on the phone are both widespread and troubling. There will never be a situation where a company will legitimately cold call you saying they have detected errors on your computer.

If someone calls you unsolicited claiming to want to help you fix your computer, we offer the following advice:

  • Be wary of unsolicited calls about security problems, even if they claim to be from a well-known company.
  • Never provide credit card or bank details, to an unsolicited call.
  • Do not go to a website, type anything into a computer, install software or follow any other instruction from someone who calls out of the blue.
  • Make sure you have up to date virus protection and security for your PC

Anyone who believes they have been a victim of this cold calling scam should report the matter to National Fraud Authority, via its website (www.actionfraud.org.uk).

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Category: Business, Home Computing, IT Security.

It may be wrong and it’s certainly illegal but according to a recent survey we have conducted, one in two Wi-Fi users in the UK still access someone else’s wireless Internet network without permission.

Wi-Fi ‘piggybacking’ has been around since the dawn of wireless computing, with people obtaining free Web access by using networks which have been left unsecure because the owner has not set a password. Over half (58 per cent) of the 300 respondents we surveyed around the UK admitted to the practice. What’s more, almost one in three people believe there’s nothing wrong with it – despite the fact that dishonestly using an electronics communications service with the intent to avoid paying is an
offence under the Communications Act 2003.

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Category: IT Security, IT Support.

Not a week goes by without me receiving an email from a well meaning colleague, friend or relative warning me about a paricular nasty spam email or virus.

The scenario is usually the same, they have received this from one of their friends, colleagues, etc with a note to say that they should look out for a particular email and that they shouldn’t open the attachment if they get it. I don’t think that spam email has ever subsequently arrived in my Inbox!

The problem is that these emails are themselves spam and generally designed to clog up the internet with rubbish. If each person receives such an email and sends it to just 10 friends and those 10 friends do the same, after just 10 forwards that generates 1000,000,000 (one thousand million) emails.

The advice that each of these emails offer is standard advice that should apply all the time you are using email.

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Category: IT News, IT Security.

It’s been an interesting week with no less than three calls about the dreaded “Internet Security 2010” virus. This seems to be a new strain of something that was around early in 2009 (maybe they write them over the Christmas break when you and I are have our turkey and pies !).

Symptoms
Internet Security 2010 will try to trick you into believing that your computer has serious security problems so that you buy the program. The Internet Security 2010 virus will start and perform a fake scan of your computer. The scan report will list a number of infections and when you try to remove them, you’ll “conveniently” find out that you need to buy Internet Security first. Do not buy Internet Security 2010.

If it got on your computer it will look something the image below.

Virus on your PC. Screenshot

 

Damage Done
The good news (if you can call it that) is that the virus does not actually seem to damage your data so once removed your computer will function as normal.

How to remove
Whilst we would never pretend that you can’t remove this virus yourself, it is worth stating that it is not a job for someone who is uncomfortable with editing the Windows Registry and generally dealing with low level utility programs. For that reason we do suggest that you get an expert to remove it for you.

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Category: Home Computing, IT Security, IT Support.

Criminals are now getting data from your computer via the phone! Is this some new secret device that the criminals have invented? No, they’ve just found a new way to scam people without technology.

The PC Support Group has received a number of calls recently from irate people who had money fraudulently taken from their accounts. Why did they ring us? Well one such scam company used our support number on their web site so victims unsurprisingly decided to call it. It was quite a shock but I’m pleased to report that we helped as much as possible and have now had the number removed. We have also reported the incidents to the police and trading standards but for now the scam continues and is a real concern.

It would appear that all the individuals had received unsolicited “cold” calls from someone claiming to be their Internet Service Provider (ISP). The caller seemed to have just enough information to make the recipient believe the call was genuine. They then offered “essential” IT support services and somehow gained access to their financial information. Within days they found money had been withdrawn from their bank accounts without their agreement.

Which? magazine also reported in December 2009 that consumers across the country had been called by scammers pretending to be from the computer software giant Microsoft or an internet service provider.

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Blackberry iPhone

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Category: Business, IT Security, Podcasts.

In recent years mobile computing has become one of the fastest moving areas of technology. So fast, in fact, it is sometimes difficult for businesses to know which options to take and how best to reap the benefits.

The rise of the iPhone as a serious business contender is one area of great debate. Blackberry Bold or iPhone 3G, that is the question.

The iPhone is undoubtedly the sexier device with a simple touch-screen interface and thousands of “cool” applications. The general opinion appears to be that the iPhone wins on the following features: range of applications, browsing, calendar, watching videos and listening to music while the Blackberry wins out on keyboard usage, battery life, and email. It is, however, fair to say that both do everything very well.

For business usage the BlackBerry is the hands-down winner for a perfect desktop extension. When setup with the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES), pretty much whatever you can do from Outlook on your Exchange server, you can do from your BlackBerry. Also, BES offers a simple way of managing, controlling, and deploying mobile devices throughout an organisation although this only becomes relevant if you have more than about 20 mobile users. RIM’s focus on security also make the BlackBerry the obvious choice for a corporate environment.

Our advice would be that right now if you are a serious business user (i.e. email and security are important to you) or you are in a business with more than 20 mobile users then Blackberry is still the best choice. If you want a more general device then iPhone is the obvious choice. Next month we might think differently though!

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Category: IT Purchasing, IT Security.

Trading standards officers have reported that an increasing number of UK consumers are being tricked into buying fake goods by companies pretending to be UK based.

Unfortunately many people think that to have a .co.uk web address you have to be a UK based company but it’s estimated that nearly half a million sites with a .co.uk address are operated from overseas.

Trading standards officer believe the “co.uk” suffix is lulling consumers into a false sense of security. In fact it offers no protection whatsoever, and certainly doesn’t mean the site is operated by a UK company.

You can reduce the risks when selecting companies on line by:

  • Searching for any user reviews of the site;
  • Double clicking on the padlock symbol in the corner to reveal details about the company that registered the site; and
  • Trying to connect the site to the real world by finding phone numbers or UK addresses.
  • Call the telephone number (if there is one) and see who you get to speak – ask a few questions about where they are based

Nominet who is responsible for giving out domain names in the UK has no plans to change the rules for gaining UK web addresses. Basicaly anyone prepared to give their name and address, and pay £5, can buy a co.uk domain name for a two-year period.

So when shopping or choosing any service on line, do your homework and stay safe.

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Category: IT Security.

The PC Support Group has discovered a potentially serious problem with version 8.5.322 of the AVG Anti-virus software. It may partially uninstall itself leaving the computer exposed to potential viruses.

Although reported in some other parts of the world it would appear that The PC Support Group was the first company to discover and report the problem in the UK.

Users are typically noticing the problem when they open MS Outlook and get a message relating to the ‘AVG Exchange add in’ being removed or unavailable although they can check by seeing if the AVG icon is still visible (usually on the bottom right of the screen).

The PC Support Group has worked with AVG to understand the problem and ensure its customers are updated with version 8.5.323 which overcomes this issue.

We take the security of our customer’s systems very seriously and it’s one of the reasons that we recommend AVG as over the last few years it has regularly come out as one of the top rated anti-virus packages available. We were therefore very surprised to discover this problem.

AVG responded quickly and a fixed version is already available. Within hours of the discovery we had upgraded most of our customers and the remainder will be completed very shortly.

Business users not supported by The PC Support Group should go to AVG web site, click on Support, choose the Downloads tab and then select the appropriate version to download and run. Then select the ‘Repair’ option and follow the prompts.

If you’re in any doubt then contact your IT support provider who should be able to advise you.