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Beware: Ransom-ware CryptoLocker

Once this malware is executed on a computing device it encrypts files in the victim’s computer, and demands a ransom 300 USD to be paid by the victim within 72 hours in order decrypt the victim’s files.

In early September 2013, security experts around the world became aware of a very nasty piece of malware that, once executed, encrypts files in the victim’s computer, and then demands a ransom of $300 for decryption.
This one of the most destructive malware infections I have ever seen! It is essential that anyone with a connection to the Internet is aware of this beast.
This type of malware is popularly known as ransomware and is spread using social engineering tricks especially via email such as fake FedEx, banking, credit card, or UPS tracking notifications with attachments. Once the victim opens such email attachments, CryptoLocker gets installed and starts scanning the hard disk for all kinds of documents. These include images, videos, documents, presentations, spreadsheets AND including any backup files that may also be maintained on the target system. Thereafter it encrypts these files converting them into an unreadable form. The ransomware then pops up a message demanding a payment of $300 (currently) to obtain the private key to decrypt the files. The message also displays a time limit within which the payment must be made.
CryptoLocker uses unique RSA encryption method of public private key pair to encrypt its victim’s data. It is not possible to decrypt the files encrypted in this way until one has access to the private decryption key. The key is not stored on the infected computer, but rather on the hacker system which, of course, we do not have access to.
There is no known fix – other than paying the ransom. Without the key it is not possible to decrypt the data encrypted by this malware. The malware defines a window of 72 hours to pay the ransom and to get the private key to decrypt your data. If the amount is not paid the hackers destroy the private key and your encrypted data is locked forever with no way to recover it. Hackers behind this malware are able to avoid the trace back by using digital cash systems like Bitcoins, UKash and MoneyPack, where the payments can be anonymous.
Here are two very simple steps you can take to minimize your risk:

* Never entertain unknown or unwanted emails with attachments, especially those that come from FedEx, banking, credit card, or UPS tracking notifications. Use strong anti-phishing, anti-spam and content filtering to filter out the fraudulent emails and no-go web sites.

* Ensure that your systems are backed on a regular basis. Preferably daily, with multiple versions and maintained at an off-site location.
I have attached a link to recent NakedSecurity newsletter from SOPHOS that includes a MUST WATCH video that illustrates how Crypto-Locker works, prevention, cleanup and recovery.

http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2013/10/18/cryptolocker-ransomware-see-how-it-works-learn-about-prevention-cleanup-and-recovery/

Posted in: Malware, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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Save Time and Money with Managed IT Services

If there is one thing most small businesses can agree on is that time equals money. Small business owners are in a position where they have to be a jack-of-all-trades, often spending most of their day wearing different hats. This is the nature of the small business and while expected is not always the best use of time. In order for a small business to be successful and remain competitive in an industry, there must be designated time for the owner to focus on growing and building the business. In many cases small businesses fail as a result of being unable to handle emergencies or other situations that are simply beyond the control and expertise of the owner. Leveraging Managed IT Services can help.

Any business that relies on technology, which covers almost every business operating today, can benefit from managed services. Managed services providers understand that not every business has the ability to pay for an internal IT department which can be very expensive yet necessary to ensure all aspects of technology are supported. Without this backup, many small businesses find themselves in a position where they have to foot a very expensive bill to recover from a disaster or emergency. In other situations, using out-of-date or ineffective technology is simply a waste of both time and money on the part of the small business.

Here we look at how small businesses can make the most of their time and money by hiring a managed services provider.

  • Focus on running the business- One of the major benefits of outsourcing your technology needs is that the owner and employees of the company can focus 100% on their individual duties to keep the business moving in the right direction. This is the most valuable use of time for all parties involved, instead of hours or even days lost when trying to deal with technological issues that in house employees are not trained to handle.
  • Offer expert advise – There are many small businesses that simply do not know what they need to improve the functionality of their business. The old adage, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” does not apply in all cases. By consulting with a managed services provider you may discover areas of your business which can be improved that you previously thought were working “just fine”. Expert advice may be able to help you improve the efficiency of your business while positioning you better within the industry.
  • Support when you need it – Managed IT Services Providers are not only there in the event of an emergency or recovery, but also provide monitoring which can invaluable in preventing problems before they can impact the business.

It is important for every small business to carefully examine their technical needs in order to see what services will be most beneficial to the company. Managed IT Services Providers can offer services that not only reduce technology costs over time but also improves functionality which in turn saves time. When this balance is achieved a small business is in the perfect position to thrive and grow.

Click here to learn how BizTek Connection, Inc. can help you save time and money with our Managed IT Services for your business in Little Rock, AR and surrounding cities.

 

Posted in: Tech Tips for Business Owners

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The PC isn’t dead yet

Don’t trust the hype. Yes, you’ve heard in the tech press that the PC era is finished and that tablets have taken over. But are these claims true? Are PCs really dying? The writers at ITworld, in a recent feature, state that no, the PC isn’t dying. Actually, according to ITworld, the PC remains as important as ever.

Bad Signs?

Those predicting the passing of the PC had a boost when Steve Jobs, before his untimely death, compared PCs to trucks. He said trucks dominated when most people lived rural lives. But now that more people live in cities, cars are more important than trucks. In Jobs’ analogy, PCs are trucks and tablets are cars.

Work

ITworld, though, has produced a solid counterargument. First, it highlights that the Ford F150 Pickup is always the top-selling vehicle in the United States. That, of course, is a truck. And the reason? People need trucks to work.

PCs and Work

Tablets are great for lots of things. They’re not great, though, for folks who have to get real work done. It’s not easy typing a report on a tablet. It’s a chore to use tablets to produce spreadsheets or slideshows. But PCs? That’s the kind of work at which these machines excel. And, as ITworld argues, until we don’t need to work anymore we’ll need our PCs.

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Don’t expect much from Windows 8.1

New York Times tech writer David Pogue doesn’t have high hopes for Windows 8.1. And if you don’t like the original Windows 8 operating system, you shouldn’t, either.

The problems

First, Windows 8.1 doesn’t restore the Start menu. Users who desire it will still need to install a third-party app that restores it.

Two worlds

Secondly, Windows 8.1 still doesn’t know whether it’s a touch-screen or mouse-and-keyboard system. The system’s TileWorld section works well with touchscreens. But its Desktop section is obviously designed to be navigated with a mouse and keyboard. By splitting itself in two like this, Windows 8.1 doesn’t make anyone happy.

A disappointment

Pogue’s advice? If you’re not a fan of Windows 8, the upgrade won’t do much to change your mind. Stick to the superior Windows 7.

Posted in: Uncategorized, Windows 7, Windows 8

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Is Office Mobile a good buy?

Should you spend $100 each year — what it costs to get a required subscription — to get Microsoft’s Office Mobile on your iPhone? The short answer? No, you should not. For an extended answer, you can check out Jill Duffy’s recent review of the app at PCMag.com.

Too costly?

Duffy writes that Office Mobile is an sophisticated piece of software, one that’s simple to use and understand. The drawback, though, is that getting the program requires that you buy a subscription to Office 365. That will run you a minimum of $99 a year. And that price is way too high, Duffy writes.

Subscription

Office Mobile is far from the only program that enables you to edit reports, view spreadsheets and create documents on your iPhone. There are many alternatives out there that are free. And Duffy recommends that users, rather than spending nearly $100 a year, use a collection of these free alternatives to handle their office-task needs.

Shopping

If you’re an experienced smartphone user, then, you’ll take Duffy’s advice: Shop around on the ‘Net for the best free alternatives to Office, programs such as Polaris Office. You might be surprised at how powerful these programs are.

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Taking an e-mail break

Tired of returning to work after vacations to see an inbox packed with messages? You can prevent this. You’ll simply need a willing helper at work and some advance planning.

The helper

Jonathan Feldman, a contributing editor at InformationWeek, recommends that before you take your trip, you create an agreement with a co-worker. While you’re gone, this worker will handle your e-mail messages, reading them, sorting them and placing them in specially labeled folders. When this co-worker goes on vacation, you’ll manage that person’s e-mail.

Before your trip

Before you leave on vacation, tell your most frequent e-mailers that you’re taking a trip and that your associate will be managing your e-mail while you’re gone. Feldman emphasizes you’ll want to make sure these senders are aware that another person will be reading their messages.

A happy return

When you come back, your helper should leave you with an organized set of e-mail folders, folders containing urgent messages and others containing purely informational ones. By doing this, you won’t have to spend a whole workday slogging through a packed e-mail inbox.

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Digg Reader an effective replacement for Google Reader

Google Reader was one of the more popular RSS readers available. That’s why there was such an outcry once Google announced it was subsequently killing the service. The latest news? Google Reader is gone, however, the new Digg Reader is a deserving replacement.

Digg Reader

Digg is a community news voting site with a small development team. But, as Jill Duffy writes in her review on PCMag.com, this hasn’t stopped Digg Reader from being an easy-to-use and intuitive service for all those still mourning Google Reader.

Easy to use

In her review, Duffy writes that it’s very easy to navigate Digg Reader and find your news feeds. It’s also straightforward to find Digg Reader’s settings and features, both of which make using the RSS reader simple.

Keeping abreast

Digg Reader, and all RSS readers, really, can help business owners keep up with the news that directly impacts their companies. It’s why entrepreneurs ought to be thrilled to see a suitable alternative to Google Reader hit the scene.

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Should your meetings be low-tech?

Do your work meetings seemingly drag on indefinitely and achieve little to nothing? Perhaps technology is to blame. Laptops, smartphones and tablets are great tools. Nevertheless they could also sidetrack your staff during company meetings.

Turn off the tech

Jake Knapp, design partner at Google Ventures, in a new story on Medium suggests an attractive solution: Bosses need to keep technology out of their meetings. Doing this, Knapp suggests, increases productivity during these meetings in a significant way.

Low-tech

Knapp recommends that meeting attendees not be allowed to bring their laptops, smartphones, tablets, or even their smart watches into meetings. By doing this, they’ll be ready to concentrate on what you’re announcing, not what’s flashing on a screen in front of them.

The timer is key

And to offer hope to your unexpectedly tech-deprived employees? Set up a timer so that everyone in the meeting can see it. When that timer goes off, the meeting is over – no matter what.

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The Duracell Powermat: Taking the hassle out of charging

Charging your smart phones is a pain. You often forget to plug them in before you leave for the day. Inevitably, when you forget, you’re left without your smart phone when you need it most. Thankfully, there is a way to fix this, the Duracell Powermat 24-Hour Power System.

Positive Press

Duracell’s Powermat 24-Hour Power System includes its own Powermat, a portable backup battery and a case that fits either iPhone or Samsung Galaxy smart phones. This system, which retails for around $100, gives you all the charging options you may need.

Power all day

The Powermat 24-Hour system works in concert with a specially designed case: You purchase a case that matches your iPhone or Galaxy phone, snap that case around your device and use your phone as usual. The case will charge your phone wirelessly through the included Powermat when you’re not using it. The Powermat 24-Hour system can charge two smart phones at a time.

A sound investment?

Is the Powermat 24-Hour Power System a sound investment for you? Probably so, if you’re constantly on the move. With this system you won’t have to keep track of wires. With the portable back-up battery unit, you won’t need to worry about seeing your smart phone shut down while you’re on the road.

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The new science of smartphone protection

It’s a sinking feeling: You’re showing your new smartphone as it slips from your grasp and falls on the concrete sidewalk below. This does not have to be the death of your new smartphone though, not if you’ve invested in one of the newest cases — which have science supporting them — created to protect smartphones from unforeseen falls.

Powerful protection

The New York Times’ Gadgetwise column recently focused on a new generation of protective cases created for smartphones. According to the Times, these new devices do a significantly better job of cushioning smartphones.

D30

The Times highlights the cases made by Tech21, a London-based firm. Based on the column, the cases manufactured by Tech21 contain D30, a polymer material. Should you drop your phone and it’s protected by one of these cases, the D30 absorbs and redirects the force of an impact, keeping your prized smartphone safe.

Peace of mind

The best news? The cases made by Tech21 are reasonably priced, according to the Times. The company’s Impact Band case costs $30. Its more upscale Impact Mesh will cost you $35. That’s not a lot of cash to spend on ensuring peace of mind.

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