Windows 7 End of Life

Released back in 2009, Windows 7 how now been on the market for over a decade! Many homes and businesses are still using this rock solid operating system but as of January 14th 2020 there will be no further security updates provided for Windows 7 by Microsoft. Are you ready for what this means for your business and can you be sure your data will be safe come this deadline?

With the end of support coming for Windows 7 it is essential that these systems be upgraded to a newer operating system. Operating systems require constant updates to protect against newly found security exploits and vulnerabilities. If your business continues to operate its systems using Windows 7 after it is no longer supported, you will be open to many issues discovered after January 1st. This will also lead to less and less software being compatible with the operating system. Your office suites, anti virus software, browsers and other programs will work in the short term but as time passes and you wish to upgrade to the latest versions, Windows 7 will not be compatible anymore.

Microsoft has been continuously updating and adding features and security patches to windows 20 since 2015 and the operating system is now in a very stable, mature state. With Microsoft claiming that they will continue to update the operating system rather than working to release any further operating systems for the foreseeable future. This means that it is a well vetted solution for your business.

Thankfully for homes and businesses on a budget, Microsoft has allowed anyone with a valid Windows 7/Vista/8/8.1 license to upgrade to Windows 10 without any extra licensing fee. This upgrade is quite straight forward but especially in the case of business software it is best to first check with your IT provider if the upgrade will interfere with any systems currently in place as well as evaluating if your computer will run Windows 10 satisfactorily rather than being replaced.

Acadian Computer Services has performed over a hundred Windows 10 upgrades in the past few years in preparation for this change. Give our staff a call today and we can make sure that you are ready for this changeover.

613-384-6735

Internet Scams

A lot of Internet scams take place without the victim even noticing. You can greatly reduce the chances of being scammed on the Internet if you follow some simple precautions.

What to Look For

Scammers can use the Internet to promote fraud through unsolicited or junk emails, known as spam. Even if they only get a handful of replies from the millions of emails they send out, it is still worth their while. Be wary of replying, even just to “unsubscribe”, because that will give a scammer confirmation that they have reached a real email address.

Any email you receive that comes from a sender you do not know, is not specifically addressed to you, and promises you some benefit is likely to be spam.

Malicious software—also referred to as malware, spyware, key loggers, trojan horses, or trojans—poses online security threats. Scammers try to install this software on your computer so that they can gain access to files stored on your computer and other personal details and passwords.

Scammers use a wide range of tricks to get their software onto your computer. They may trick you into clicking on a link or pop-up message in a spam email or by getting you to visit a fake website set up solely to infect people’s computers.

Phishing scams are all about tricking you into handing over your personal and banking details to scammers. The emails you receive might look and sound legitimate but in reality genuine organizations like a bank or a government authority will never expect you to send your personal information by an email or online.

Scammers can easily copy the logo or even the entire website of a genuine organization. So don’t just assume an email you receive is legitimate. If the email is asking you to visit a website to “update”, “validate” or “confirm” your account information, be skeptical.

Delete phishing emails. They can carry viruses that can infect your computer. Do not open any attachments or follow any links in phishing emails.

Online auctions and Internet shopping can be a lot of fun and can also help you find good deals. Unfortunately, they also attract scammers.

Scammers will often try to get you to deal outside of online auction sites. They may claim the winner of an auction that you were bidding on has pulled out and offer the item to you. Once you have paid, you will never hear from them again and the auction site will not be able to help you.

Protect Yourself

Remember

If you choose to shop online or participate in online auctions, make sure you know about refund policies and dispute-handling processes and be careful that you are not overcharged. Also, you may want to use an escrow service, such as PayPal. This service will hold your payment and only release it to the seller once you have confirmed that you received what you paid for. There is usually a small fee for this service. A legitimate bank or financial institution will never ask you to click on a link in an email or send your account details through an email or website.

Caution

Never buy from bidders with poor ratings on auction sites, and do your best to ensure that you are only making purchases from genuine shopping sites. Never provide your personal, credit card or account information unless you are certain the site is genuine.

Think

Don’t reply to spam emails, even to unsubscribe, and do not click on any links or call any telephone number listed in a spam email. Make sure you have current protective software or get advice from a computer specialist.

Investigate

If an email or pop-up offers you a product or service that genuinely interests you and it seems reasonable, be sure that you understand all the terms and conditions and costs involved before making a purchase or providing your details.

Ask yourself

By opening this suspect email, will I risk the security of my computer? Are the contact details providedin the email correct? Telephone your bank or financial institution to ask whether the email you received is genuine.

A Quick Guide to Backups

There is a general rule of thumb when it comes to IT: If you don’t have at least 3 copies of a file, then you won’t mind if you lose it.

While this is great in theory, very few people put that much thought into backing up their pictures, documents, music, or other important files. Time and time again we have seen people completely lose years of information because they don’t think about backups until it’s too late. If your hard drive fails, it can cost up to $1500 to try and recover the data (on the slim chance that it may be recoverable at all). The initial cost of an external hard drive or cloud storage can save you a lot of money in the long run. So how do you make sure your data is safe in case of a disaster? There are essentially two types of backups: file-based and image-based.

File-based backups are the most common. This is essentially just taking a copy of all your important data and making another exact copy in a different location. This can be on a USB stick, external hard drive, a cloud storage provider such as Carbonite or CrashPlan, or just copying to another computer. This is the simplest method since if you lose your files, you can just copy them back over into their original location and you’re done. Restore times are very fast depending on the amount of data you have. However, it does have some downfalls. File-based backups do not backup your operating system or installed software. In addition to this, they are vulnerable to ransomware attacks such as the Cryptolocker virus (see our previous blog for more information). There are steps you can take to reduce these risks, but the best way is to have an image backup in tandem with your file backup.

Image-based backups are critical in business environments for servers or systems that may be difficult to reload from scratch. A snapshot of the entire system is taken and stored in a location of your choosing. These files are not readable by anything except for the software that created it. If the system were to completely crash, you can restore the image so your computer is back in the exact state that it was when the last backup was taken. This way if a total failure occurs, all you need to do is replace the hardware and restore the image. Popular image-based backup software includes Windows Backup, Acronis True Image, or Veeam. You can also restore individual files and folders from an image backup if you only need a few files. More robust backup software designed for businesses can be quite expensive, but the free alternatives are more than enough for most home users.

All backups, especially image-based backups, need to be tested periodically to make sure they are running properly and are able to be restored in the event of a disaster. After all, a backup is only useful if it can be restored.

Is your Computer Telling you Something?

While some clues to the presence of a virus on your computer may be obvious, your computer might be giving you subtle clues that it’s in danger.

Your Computer is Slower than Normal.

Malware is known to slow down not only your operating system but your internet speed as well as applications. If your computer is running abnormally slow, and a lack of RAM or damaged hardware doesn’t seem to be the culprit, it’s time to consider some serious virus scanning.

Constant Annoying Pop-ups.

If your computer is riddled with unsolicited pop-ups it’s time to worry about Spyware. Not only do they make it difficult to use your computer, but they are often a clue to something more sinister going on in your computer. Spyware or not, don’t click on suspicious pop-ups, don’t answer strange e-mails and use caution when downloading free applications and programs.

People Receive Strange Messages from You That You Didn’t Send

This is a trend that is booming due to the major usage of social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter! In this situation, messages or e-mails are being sent from your account without your knowledge. They often contain dangerous links and pose as special offers and deals on anything from designer sunglasses to bogus fundraisers. This is dangerous as we store and send important information to our social media and e-mail accounts. If someone approaches you to say you’ve been sharing strange posts or e-mails (that you don’t recognize) take action IMMEDIATELY. Set strong passwords for your accounts, and log out of all of your accounts on ALL devices.

The internet is still a fairly new technology that grows every day, and the growth of cyber criminals is healthy. Our dependency on the web causes a huge amount of sensitive information to be on the web, so it’s important now more than ever to protect yourself from these sometimes vicious computer infections. If you suspect your computer might be infected, it’s important that you take action immediately or contact a computer service that is knowledgeable in virus protection and extraction.

Take Control of your Business with a Disaster Recovery Plan

Almost all businesses, large and small, rely on some form of technology to process customer information, payments, inventory and so much more. Computer systems are key to the functionality of so many retail stores, restaurants, corporate offices, government offices and so much more. 

A failure of any kind in your workplace computer system can be devastating. Losing customer’s trust, halting business operations, and the exposure of sensitive data. Some of this data could be vital to the continued operation of your business! 

A disaster recovery plan will help you snap back from mistakes big and small to provide the best possible service to your customers, and ultimately have the least possible cost impact to your business. Nobody is immune to computer viruses, Ransomware, Malware and technical failures, so having a plan when they strike will have the least impact on your business. A disaster recovery plan that incorporates checking and double checking is often a good remedy, along with a great backup strategy.

Having an educated staff is ultimately the best way to fight potential disaster. If you don’t have an in-house IT trained professional, it’s more than worth it to invest in an outsourced computer service specialist company that will be familiar with your system when disaster strikes.

The Dangers of Unpatched Computer Systems

To leave your computer and its’ apps with their security features out of date is to leave it unpatched. The danger of this is that it leaves your computer and the programs/apps you use open for attack by aggressive e-mail phishing scams posing as programs such as Adobe, QuickTime, Microsoft Office and more.  

Because people are comfortable with big names and especially if they are programs used by the victim, they are likely to open and download the content of these vicious e-mails. 

Often, the attack doesn’t require the victim to download the content attached for the infection to wreak havoc on the computer. Attackers can get into the computer system and steal important information and install “back doors” to return to for further attacks. 

To avoid exploitation of your computer, it’s recommended that you keep your computer systems patched. Often “DIY” patching attempts are not 100% effective due to a lack of the proper knowledge and tools available to properly patch. It’s recommended to contact a computer service professional to provide more accurate patches. 

5 Tips for Stronger Cybersecurity in Business

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone reading this that cybersecurity is of the utmost importance in business. With the ever-changing, rapidly world of tech, having strong information security practices could mean preventing information breaches and monetary loss for you and your clients.

According to a survey from KPMG and British Telecom, only 22 percent of companies have a thorough plan to prevent and address cyber security breaches. According to the same survey, an astounding 97% of companies have said they have suffered a breach or attack.

Attacks often come in the form of ransomware, which is the most common kind of cyber attack. Ransomware is increasing in prevalence and has global reach. According to TrendMicro, there was a 172% increase in ransomware kinds in 2016, with some notable attacks on businesses such as the University of Calgary. There’s a lot to know about ransomware! Curious about the basics? Check out our quick rundown here.

The bottom line here is that cyber security risks are increasing, and it’s important to be prepared. With that in mind, we’ve compiled 5 tips to help keep your business’s security as tight as possible.

  1. Don’t connect services to the internet unless it’s necessary. By minimizing the places for an attack to happen, the risk of an attack is reduced.
  2. If you are outsourcing emails, do your homework on the reputation of the company and opt into security features like two-factor authentication, and even better, a physical security key.
  3. Regularly check for weaknesses in security.
  4. Train your staff on cyber security best practices.
  5. Stay up to date on new risks!

If you have questions about how to improve your cyber security practices in your business, get in touch with us. We know our stuff and are happy to help!