Deadlines, Costs & Risks with Windows 7

by Bill MacLennan, CEO of Your Computer Hero

It’s decision making time again. Microsoft is forcing businesses to upgrade to Windows 10. As with any technology upgrade, it is wise to gather a few critical details before jumping into a major upgrade like this. So, in this article I want to give you the relevant information to guide your planning for the transition. Most of all, I want to help you uncover any hidden costs and avoid expensive surprises while adopting the new Windows 10 operating system.

 

Deadlines and Cost with Windows 7

As of January 14, 2020 the only people who will receive support for the Windows 7 operating system are those who are willing to pay for it, and it’s not cheap. For Windows 7 Pro you will pay $50 per machine for the first year, the second year jumps to $100 and the third year it will double again to $200 per machine. Microsoft will completely phase out support for Windows 7 after the three years.

 

Risks: Why does Microsoft Support Matter

Since Microsoft produces the most widely used operating systems, hackers are constantly trying to find holes in it. Therefore, ongoing Microsoft support is critical. They routinely push out updates and patches that shore up vulnerabilities found in the software. This is why there is a huge security risk in continuing to use an operating system that is no longer supported. I believe there is even some risk in continuing on the paid extended support. Since Windows 7 is no longer in focus, Microsoft may be late in pushing out critical updates or understanding vulnerabilities.

 

What’s Involved With Moving to Windows 10

You may recall the transition from Windows XP to Windows 7. Many people tried to adopt the new operating system without much thought our planning.   Unfortunately, some people ran into huge surprise costs when it wouldn’t work. In most of these cases, it wasn’t the software.  The computers were under powered to accept the upgrade. That is also going to be true with the new Windows 10 operating system.

 

Two important things to consider when planning for the transition to Windows 10:

Age of Computers: You may run into trouble if your computers are 5 or 6 years old. It is critically important to assess each computer in your network before you start the migration to Windows 10.

 

Mechanical vs. SSD Hard Drives: The biggest change we have seen in the computers in the past several years is the transition from mechanical hard drives to the faster solid state (or ssd) hard drives. See pictures below. The new Windows 10 operating system will definitely work better with the solid state drives. Since the ssd’s have come down in price considerably, it may make sense to replace computers rather than upgrade them.

 

If you have not yet made the transition to Windows 10, it may be something to consider as you look at your fourth quarter spending for 2019. Give our shop a call, our technicians are equipped to help you with the planning and implementation of the new Windows 10 operating system.

November: Tech Gadget of the Month

Tech Gadgets that Improve Productivity, Security or Efficiency in the workplace.

This month’s tech gadget is the

Ideal for the board room and business presentations.  This little unit measures approximately 5.5in x 1.6in x 5in , weighs just under 2 pounds and  is easy to carry in a laptop bag.

It has a variety of compatible connection types:

  • USB 2.0 Type A(1)
  • USB 3.1 Type C(1),
  • Card Reader (Micro SD), 3.5mm Audio Out(1)
  • HDMI 1.4(1)

Available through the ViewSonic web site for $326.00 + S&H

 

The Power of Storytelling

As local business owners we often run across acceptation people doing wonderful things in our community.  Moriah Prange is one such person.

by Moriah Prange

Passionate people are infectious. One of my favorite quotes is from preacher and abolitionist John Wesley: “Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn.” I love this quote because it communicates the power of one person to affect others through their enthusiasm. Your passion is the most important thing you bring to work every day.  It is your love for what you do that brings your work to life, paints it with color, and makes your services invaluable to your clients.

One of the best ways to share your passion is to tell your story. Most of the small business owners I know trace their passion for their work back to a personal experience. Telling a story creates connection with the people you serve and authentic growth for your business.

I am passionate about my work as a massage therapist because massage has been life changing for me. Before I entered massage school, I was frustrated and disconnected from my body due to my disability. Massage therapy allowed me to reenter my space and feel whole for the first time in my life. I love what I do because I know firsthand that massage can help my clients feel better, move better, and live better.

You have an amazing story to tell. Here are three outlets to kick start your sharing:

  1. Face to face. Talking with someone face to face about what you do is the most effective way to communicate your passion. Face to face interaction allows you to show your enthusiasm through your words and body language. It also allows your audience to ask questions and connect with you personally. Face to face sharing could happen at your local networking group, over coffee, or at a business open house.

 

  1. Social media. Social media has power to influence a diverse audience across multiple platforms in minutes. Social media is a fantastic outlet to tell your story through words, pictures, or videos. Make the “like” and “share” button your best free marketing tool!

 

  1. Creative outlets. When you share your story, think outside of the box. Most of us share our passion through words, but don’t keep your passion confined to a page. Maybe you enjoy art, music, or volunteering. Use these creative outlets to communicate why you love what you do.

However you choose to share your story, don’t leave it untold. Share your passion with the world. And watch it catch fire.

 

Moriah is a certified massage therapist with training in seven modalities of bodywork including Swedish massage and Craniosacral Therapy. She is also a certified pediatric massage therapist with training through the Liddle Kidz Foundation. Moriah graduated with highest honors from Minnesota School of Business with an Associate of Applied Science degree in massage therapy. Moriah is passionate about massage therapy because she believes it is an excellent way for both kids and adults to live vibrant, healthy lifestyles. Moriah’s massage therapy practice is based in Elk River, contact her at 612-559-9931

 

3 “Techie” Reasons You Can Be Thankful This Season

1.Cyber Thieves Keep A-Knockin’ But They Can’t Come In. A study presented at the International Conference on Dependable Systems and Networks showed that small-business networks are attacked every 39 seconds by some type of hacker or malicious software. Thankfully, having the proper firewall and office network security tools can prevent even the most determined cyber hacker from getting his hands on your network. Are your systems covered?

2. Downtime Should Be A Thing Of The Past. Thanks to monitoring and
maintenance tools that are openly available, any reputable computer
company can now actually notice when things go awry and prevent your computers from having issues. Hot fixes, patches and security updates are generally items that, when maintained on a regular basis, keep a network healthy and up and running. If, for some reason, your network still has some kind of downtime, cloud-based remote management tools allow your IT professional to access your system from anywhere, getting you up and running more quickly than ever before.

3. If Disaster Strikes, You Can Be Back Up & Running In Minutes Instead Of Days. In addition to lost data, many businesses’ operations would be completely down for days or weeks if a major disaster like fire, flood or theft ever occurred. Here’s where Backup & Disaster Recovery solutions (BDR) can help you feel very thankful indeed. Most of today’s BDR solutions include a “virtualization” component, which means an exact “picture” of your server and computers is taken throughout the day and stored elsewhere. If you ever need to get back up and running, your IT company simply restores that image…and you’re back in business.

If you are more frustrated with your network then thankful, perhaps it is time to take advantage of some of the tools that will help you become better protected and secure.  If you have questions about your network’s security, remote monitoring and maintenance or BDR solutions, give our shop a call to talk to one of our expert technicians.

 

 

The Single Most Dangerous Assumption Businesses Make About Bank Security That Can Cause Them To Lose Their Money

Here’s a shocker to most business owners: Your bank often can NOT reclaim money stolen from your bank account due to fraud or cyber-crime. That means if money gets drafted from your business bank account from a hacker, phishing attack, identity theft or by any other means, you have little to no chance of getting it back.

This often comes as a surprise to businesses who think the FDIC will “save” them from getting their accounts wiped out, and can get the money back once taken. The reality is that the FDIC insurance is to protect you from bank failure, NOT fraud. So if your debit card or account information gets accessed by a hacker and you don’t notice it within the same day, you can pretty much kiss that money goodbye.

Recent studies have shown that 83% of small businesses take no formal measures against cyberthreats even though almost half of all attacks are aimed at them.

 

Here are 5 essential steps you can take right now to protect your business:

 

  1. Enforce A Strict Company Password Policy. This is a simple step, but it is still violated by many companies every day.  Make sure that you and your employees change passwords regularly, don’t use the same password for all accounts and require complex passwords.

 

  1. Set Up A Firewall. Small business owners tend to think that because they are “just a small business”, no one would waste time trying to hack into their network.  The fact is that hackers will target the weakest link.  Without a firewall, that “weak link” is YOUR company.

 

  1. Designate A Banking-Only Computer. Banking fraud is one of the biggest threats to small business. The 2011 Business Banking Study showed that 56% of businesses experienced payment fraud (or an attempt at fraud) and 75% experienced account takeover and fraud online.  By using a single computer solely dedicated to online financial transactions (no e-mail, web-surfing, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) it’s much harder for outsiders to gain access to your information.

 

  1. Back Up Your Files Daily. It just amazes me how many businesses never back up their computer network.  You can lose data as well as money in a cyber attack.  Thanks to many new cloud based technologies, you can even schedule offsite backups to occur automatically.  If the data in your business is important to you, make sure that you have more than one copy of it.

 

 

 

October: Tech Gadget of the Month

Tech Gadgets that Improve Productivity, Security or Efficiency in the workplace.

Zone Wireless Headset

This new produce from Logitech comes with a whole host of wonderful features:

  • Well designed
  • Noise cancelling
  • Comfortable
  • QI Charging
  • 14 hour battery life
  • 2 year warranty
  • 30 m wireless range
  • Excellent call quality

But watch out for the price tag.  They retail on Amazon for about $170.00

They are quite a bit more expensive then competing products on the market, but are offering premium quality, superior comfort and a 2 year warranty.

 

 

Cold Weather and Your Laptop-Is It a Good Mix?

Now that autumn is truly upon us and freezing cold temperatures are just around the corner, it may be timely to talk about colder temperatures and  your laptop or other mobile device.  Is it safe to leave your laptop in your car overnight?  You may know that a computer or laptop is more likely to become damaged from heat than it is cold. Actually, a computer may operate more efficiently in cooler conditions. However, taking a computer that has been in a cold temperature to a warmer temperature, can cause condensation inside the computer housing, which can cause damage.

One way this may happen is leaving your laptop out in the car during winter overnight and then moving it into a warm building and powering it up immediately. To help prevent this situation from occurring, do not leave your laptop in a car for any length of time during cold or hot weather. When working in cold conditions or transporting your computer through colder weather, keep it in its laptop carrying case. If you’re working in extreme cold weather (e.g., -5°c or lower) and move the computer to a warmer room, keep the computer off for at least 30 minutes before it’s turning it on.

Finally, whenever working in any place with extreme weather, it is always a good idea to consult the computer documentation or manufacturer for their recommended operating temperatures. Not all laptops and computers are the same, and each component in them can react differently to temperature.  If you suspect you have issues with your computer because of condensation or other weather related issues, we offer computer repair for this and other issues at our shop in Ramsey.

Source: Adapted from ComputerHope.com

 

 

Is There Ever a Good Reason to Click a Link on an Email from an Unknown sender? 

By Bill MacLennan, CEO of Your Computer Hero

 I received a very tricky email the other day.  It appeared very official, stated it was from American Express, and asked me to violate one of my sacred rules for email hygiene by asking me to kindly “take a moment to confirm I received my card,”  offering two links, one to confirm online and the other to confirm through an ap.

Never, Never, Never trust a link in an email unless:

  • I know the sender personally
  • I am expecting the email
  • I have inspected the senders entire email address for validity.

After investigating the email and contacting the fraud department at American Express, I have concluded that it is a legitimate email. However, in a climate where phishing and social engineering scams are growing increasingly savvy, it amazes me that a large company would send out such an email.  Most don’t.

Therefore, I continue to advise against ever clicking on these links or any other link in an email like this, no matter how legitimate it may seemYou have little to gain and much to lose if it turns out to be a scam.  If it is a matter of activating a new credit card, there is always a phone number that comes with the actual card.  Card confirmation may be required, as the subject line in the email indicates, but clicking a link in any email like this is certainly not.  Please beware of ANY email you receive that appears to be from a large company that asks you to click on it.

Having said this, let’s explore a few basic characteristics of scam emails as we commonly see them today.  Again these scams grow more sophisticated and legitimate looking by the day.  I think it makes sense to share what I look at with these, I have included a screen shot of an obvious scam for reference here.

The #1 Tool in the scammer’s toolbox is GETTING YOU TO PANIC! It is not always what you see in an email, but what you feel.  Scammer’s know that your ability to reason goes down exponentially when you are emotional.  If they can find your panic button, it will lead to you divulging private information like your social security number and/or credit card numbers.  If you are panicked by something you see in an email, stop immediately, take a breath and fact check using another source.

You can see in the “Capital One” example that the subject line says, “Account Locked #80485612857’” this is designed to get you panicking.  This also applies to scammers who may call on the phone.  The latest has been another wave in scammer phone calls where the caller announces that there are warrants for your arrest.  Don’t get swept away in panic.  Always, always, always verify any statements made over the phone or email with another source.

A couple more points of interest on the Capital One example:

  • Always note the entire email address.in this case it’s funstomp.online@georgia.gov.  If I go to Capital One company the URL is actually capitalone.com, not “georgia.gov,” and not “funstomp.online.”  There is obviously something fishy here.
  • You will also often see misspellings or grammatical errors in these types of emails.
  • One last point of interest is the simplicity of the email format and the use of the logo.  The logo looks a little pixilated in the email, like it was copied from the website and pasted into the email.

The above 3 points are pretty obvious, but you would be surprised at the number of people who get duped, probably because of the emotionally charged nature of emails like this.

If you ever have a question about the legitimacy of an email, or if you are inundated with scam emails like this, we can help you by enabling email filtering and security software.  Our tech heroes are standing by to answer your questions.

 

 

Ransomware Attack: Is your business at risk?

By Bill MacLennan, CEO of Your Computer Hero

I get a lot of questions from business owners about ransomware attacks, as I should, the statistics about the cost of ransomware attacks on businesses is nothing short of terrifying.  Here are some statistics you should be aware of regarding ransomware attacks:

 

  • A new organization will fall victim to ransomware attack every 14 seconds in 2019, and every 11 seconds by 2021 (Source: Cyber Security Ventures)
  • Ransomware attacks have increased by 97% in the last 2 years. (Source: Phishme)
  • 34% of business hit took a week or more to regain access to their data. (Source: Kaspersky)
  • In 2019, ransomware from phishing emails increased by 109% over 2017 (Source: Phishme)
  • Ransomware generates over $25 million for hackers each year. (Source: Business Insider)

 

Definition: Ransomeware; noun: ransomware; noun: ransom-ware

a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.  Usually, a program is deployed on the system that encrypts the data, the hacker then demands a ransom to unlock the encryption so the owner of the data can have it back.

 

In this article I want to give you a behind the scenes look into how we guard our clients’ networks against such attacks and discuss four ways that companies can be vulnerable.

There are 4 best primary ways that companies can safeguard themselves against a successful ransomware attack:

  1. Educate employees about phishing scams. Most ransomware attacks are initiated through email. Employees can be duped into clicking on a link that deploys the encryption software. Clicking the link gives permission to load the encryption software which looks for the Windows vulnerabilities once on the system.  Just last month, Monore College in New York had their computer systems and website shut down by a ransomware attack.  Hackers demanded 2 million dollars for the encryption code to release the ransomware.  The malicious software entered the system by an employee who clicked on an email link.
  2. Upgrade-for Microsoft 7 users. Microsoft will discontinue free support of Windows 7 this January. After this time, you may pay for support for three years, the price is per computer and increases each year.  I recommend updating to Windows 10. The support is critical because it updates the vulnerabilities to the latest hacker schemes, like the most recent ransomware attacks known as the “wannacry” or “NotPetya.”
  3. Be VERY VIGILANT about updating and implementing patches. Scheduled maintenance is not an option for your business network and it is a critical service that we offer our business clients. It is absolutely paramount that updates and patches get implemented on a timely basis. If you are not totally certain that these updates are happening as they should, it may be time to talk to us about doing that maintenance for you.  If a ransomware attack circumvents your firewall, it looks for Windows system vulnerabilities on the computers in the network, the patches and updates address these vulnerabilities.
  4. You must have adequate backups. If a ransomware attack happens, the first place we will look for recovery is your data backups. The best backups include an off site/cloud based copy that has redundancy, so multiple copies and multiple days worth.   In light of these increasing attacks, and others like them, I have come to believe that the best defense against a costly cyber attack is the Datto device.  This is a hardware piece that creates an exact, real time image of a server or data store computer so the system can be booted back up right away after it is hit.  The Datto device also has ransomware blocker that dramatically decreases the chance of a successful attack.

Definition: Phishing

noun: phish-ing /’fiSHing/: the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers (or in this case click on a link that executes malicious software)

 

According to a poll from Insureon and Manta, only 16% of small business owners think they are susceptible to a cyberattack.  Yet, 61% of attacks occur at smaller businesses.  Don’t wait until you are under attack to get your cyber security plan in place!  If you have more questions than answers regarding the security of your network, call our shop today to talk to one of our expert technicians!  We would love to answer your questions about your current system and discuss how we can help you avoid being a victim of the increasing number and severity of ransomware attacks.

September: Tech Gadget of the Month

Tech Gadgets that Improve Productivity, Security or Efficiency in the workplace.

UPWADE Portable Travel Power Strip 

  • Universal 100V-240V
  • 2 Outlets
  • Surge Protector
  • Travel Power Strip
  • 4 Smart USB Charger Ports (Max 5V 4.2A) 1200W
  • 5ft Long Extension Cord
  • Multi-Port Wall Charger (UL Listed)

 

There are never enough outlets for charging all of our devices. Airports and hotels are only slowly adapting to the needs of today’s travelers. This power strip will make you instantly popular with those nearby in the airport terminal. Great for a hotel “base” setup, easily stores, bag included, in any backpack or briefcase.

Retails for 16.99 + S&H on Amazon.com.