Cyber Attack Prevention

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Category: IT News, IT Security, IT Support, Latest.

The National Crime Agency have announced that online users have two weeks to prepare for a “powerful cyber attack”. Two pieces of malware software known as GOZeuS and CryptoLocker are at the centre of this alert and are reported to be responsible for hundreds of millions of pounds of fraud globally.

At The PC Support Group, we’re putting together an action plan to best protect our customers

All computer users are being warned to ensure their security software and operating system are both up to date, and to run scans to check for any problems. Important files should also be backed up.

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The eBay Hack: Should you be worried?

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Category: Business, IT News, IT Support, Latest.

Ebay, the world’s biggest internet auction site, is the latest large organisation to be the victim of a cyber hack.

Blaming what they call an “Achilles heel” for the encrypted user information being taken, the company quickly advised users to change their password in order to prevent personal information falling into the wrong hands.

It’s thought to be the biggest reported hack ever in terms of the number of people affected (approximately 223m worldwide). Although it’s believed that financial data is not at risk, it’s still a major concern that data such as phone numbers and email addresses could be exposed to hackers.

So how does this news affect you, the eBay user?

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Heartbleed Bug

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Category: IT Security, Latest.

If some of the headlines from the past week or so are to be believed, all our email accounts and social network sites are easy targets and the information about us they contain are just waiting to be hacked to within an inch of their lives at any time with little anyone can do about it.

But don’t panic just yet. It might not be as bad as you think.

So before you start saying Farewell to Facebook or “ta-ra” to Twitter, here’s a little more information about the Heartbleed bug, what it does, how it works and how you might be able to fight it.

1. What is the Heartbleed Bug?

Basically, the Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. It’s official name is CVE-2014-0160 and allows an attack to read information from a web server even when it’s supposed to be secured against intrusion. The bug affects an OpenSSL extension known as “heartbeat” which makes it possible to keep a secure communication channel open without re-negotiating security protocols.

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Bad Password

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Category: IT News, Latest.

A list of the 25 most guessed passwords in 2013 has been released – with “123456” being hacked more than any other.

An unoriginal option, maybe, but it’s proven to be the most common and means last year’s most commonly used password – “password” (ironically) – has been relegated to second place.

Other popular passwords in the running included “abc123,” “111111,” and “letmein”.

The list, which is released annually by SplashData and compiled from files containing millions of stolen passwords, is an attempt to highlight the danger of poor personal security and encourage users to come up with more original, as well as stronger passwords.

So, what can you do in order to keep your computer and valuable information safe at all times?

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Curved Television

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Category: Latest.

At The PC Support Group, while specialising in IT Support, we are constantly on the pulse of the latest technology trends – and a new year means new possibilities. Here’s some things to look out for in 2014.

January. A month of dismal, dank and dark days, never ending sales and even less appealing credit card bills.

But for gadget geeks seeking their annual fix of technological titillation, the month that everyone loves to hate actually provides a ray of optimistic light as the great and good in the world of innovation gather in Las Vegas to display their wares.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES for those in the know) takes place in the Nevada dessert each year and is a great place to showcase the latest advances and innovations – which may be hitting the shelves in the months to come.

So here are five technological trends that may, or may not have featured, but are certainly worth keeping an eye out for in 2014:

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iPhone 5S Finger Print Scan

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Category: IT News, Latest.

The latest generation iPhone was unveiled by Apple at a glitzy event in California earlier this week.

Pairing the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, this is the first time the technology giant has released two handsets on the same day, in what many think is a change of direction for the company.

Despite all the fuss surrounding a possible new budget-friendly version, it’s the latest 5S model that has made all the headlines as phone enthusiasts wait to see what Apple has up its sleeve next.

With the iPhone being Apple’s single biggest product in terms of income, the announcement is a vital part of their strategy for the next 12 months when it comes to seeing-off competition from the likes of Samsung and Nokia in the cut-throat world of smartphones.

So, after all the razzmatazz of this latest Apple announcement – you may find yourself asking: “What exactly is the difference?” and “Why should I upgrade or buy Apple’s latest model?”.

Well, here is a rundown of what you need to know.

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Apple iOS7 Interface

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Category: IT News, Latest.

Apple has announced changes to their iOS interface system for its iPhone and iPad users in order to create a ‘flatter’ effect.

New design chief Jony Ive has said it was an attempt to make the system look “cleaner” and help “elevate” users’ content. The alteration follows a similar change to the OS X system, which is used by Mac computers.

The most distinctive change that users will notice is a move away from the use of leather, wood and other more natural materials and textures in the phone’s apps. Highlighting the new look of the firm’s Game Centre app, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi joked: “We just completely ran out of green felt and wood – this has got to be good for the environment.”

The new system also uses what is known as a parallax effect, which means the icons shift against the background as the phone is tilted.

Opinion is split as to how Apple customers will react to the changes, with some saying that the classic look has been lost forever and that existing customers will be confused by the new design. Others have accused Apple of trying to mirror the look of their main rivals Android.

Following the announcement Apple shares fell in value by around nine per cent.

laptops vs. tablets

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Category: Home Computing, IT Support, Latest, Mobile Computing.

There has been a huge rise in the popularity of tablet computers over the last couple of years. This has been mainly due to their easy to use interface, portability, and the wide ranging ways they can be used. Recently Google has released their first tablet and Microsoft has announced that they will be bringing out their own tablet in October 2012, hoping to capitalise on the booming market. Some people are now looking at using these devices as an alternative to a laptop; below we consider the pros and cons of both.

Inputting Data

The obvious difference between a laptop and a tablet is that laptops have a physical keyboard. Tablets rely solely on a touch interface on the screen for input. This is fine when it involves mainly pointing, dragging or tapping to navigate around a program but when it comes to typing longer documents most people find it easier and more comfortable to use real keys.  It’s possible to add an external Bluetooth keyboard to many tablets to make this more like a laptop but it adds to the cost as well as having more to carry around.  This starts to detract from what’s great about tablets.

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Category: Latest.

Once upon a time 1K (yes enough to hold 1,024 characters) was the standard for running a personal computer and to move this information to another computer consisted of a C90 tape, a lot a screeching noises from the computer and much anguish. Apologies to those born after 1980 who probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

Things got better with the advent of the read/writable CD giving us the capability to move 720MB of data although it still took up to half an hour to copy the data onto the disk.

With the advancement to DVDs capacity moved to 4.7GB, quickly followed by dual layer DVDs, Blue Ray and more recently Dual Layer Blue Ray. The reality is that we can now store up to 50GB on a single disk but the time it takes to actually write the data (“burning” time) is an ever increasing issue. There is only so fast you can spin a disk!

The other challenge with all this technology is that you need a compatible device on both machines and with the more recent introduction of NetBooks it is quite common to find no such device attached at all.
One market that has continued to advance is the memory stick. Only a year ago it would have cost you £30 or more for 256MB but I have recently bought a 16GB stick for £17 and we are starting to see 32GB and 64GB sticks also dropping in price dramatically.

For me this is by far the quickest and most cost effective means of moving data from one machine to another as well as storing all those handy documents and programs for when you need them. With the advent of in-build encryption it is the perfect tool for my job.

Looking a bit further into the future, how long is it before we can do away with the traditional hard disk altogether and have Windows and all our programs stored on a single solid state device?

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Category: Latest.

Traditionally PCs have appeared in two main forms – a workstation and a laptop. Saying that, the laptop I used back in the early 90’s actually weighed more than a modern workstation!

With improving technology and everything reducing in size and power consumption, some of the big manufacturers developed a new type of portable machine called the Pocket PC. This was backed by Microsoft who developed the Windows Mobile operating system that included a cut down version of Office to allow viewing of basic spreadsheets and Word documents. Both HP / Compaq and Dell have sold machines in this form since around 2000 but with the advent of Smart Phones this market has all but died.

Smart Phones now include a multitude of applications and with some of the more powerful devices they can manage your email, display your spreadsheets & documents and provide full internet capability. But for me they are still a phone and even with the larger displays have limited appeal for anything but some basic business needs.

In a similar way the iPhone, the Blackberry Storm and some of the more recent offerings from Nokia & Google offer some more advanced functionality with a half decent screen. But again I have real issues navigating some basic websites or reading anything but a basic Excel spreadsheet or Word document.

What has really got me excited has been the introduction of the Netbook. Asus took the market by surprise when they introduced a full portable PC for around £150 in early 2008. It offered a fully functional PC with either Unix or Windows XP and could run all the standard Windows applications with no loss of functionality. Since that time nearly every major PC manufacturer has now brought out something in this form factor and the market is absolutely buzzing with variety. They come in at around 1KG in weight, include 1GB of memory, 80GB hard disk, integrated mobile broadband or Wi-Fi and cost around £250.

As an example of how flexible they are here is a great story – I was working away from the office when a customer called with a support issue on their Netbook. I plugged in my Mobile Broadband Card, connected to their Netbook (which was sitting in the back seat of their car also using Mobile Broadband !) and resolved the issue in 10 minutes.

True Flexibility… and great IT support!