Computer & PC Help

Ransomware06 Oct

I want to spend a few minutes talking about ransomware from an inside perspective. Recently, a company I’m involved with was hit with a massive outage from RYKU ransomware.  No one knows exactly how and when it started but there are theories.  First let me just say that you should NEVER pay the ransom, why? Well because you’re only encouraging them to do it again and secondly, you don’t know if you do pay you’re actually going to get the decryption key.

What ransomware does, is it takes all your files, regardless of what they are and encrypts them making them unusable. There’s no fix and there’s no way to undo the damage. Think of it like this. You left you house in the morning to go to work. You come back in the afternoon and someone has changed all the locks and put walls around your home so you can’t get in and the only way to access you house is to pay someone to take down the walls and open the locks. You can take the time to break down the walls, call a lock smith or rebuild you home but the time and money to do that is crazy. That’s an extreme example but you get the point.

Probably what happened, and I do not know this to be fact so let just say I’m guessing, someone probably working from home, again not a fact a theory, was either surfing the net or received an email with either an attachment or a link and opened it.  This set off a chain of events.  Now again this is theory not fact, the user either didn’t realize what they did or just simply ignored it.

First things first… If the user didn’t realize what he or she did then the network security team fail miserably. Now yes as an administrator you can only put so many things in place to try to prevent these things but the bottom line is that is up to the user to understand and be educated about these things.  Most companies have orientation for new users and this should be part of that.  Someone from IT should take the time to speak with new users about these things.  You can put up as many red flags on emails as you wish but the fact remains when users don’t comprehend what they are doing, they just go and this leads to total infection and total loss of data.  In my opinion as a network administrator, users no matter who they are, should never be allow to access their personal data on a company laptop or desktop.  There’s no reason for any user to have access to personal email, open internet, such as shopping sites, real estate, Facebook, twitter, etc.  UNLESS their job description has to do with it. For example, a marking person, needs access to things like Facebook, Twitter etc. where as a department supervisor, or director does not. A real estate agent needs access to real estate listings but not personal email.

Here’s what I do know, virus protection while ok is only as good as that moment allows. It will not stop ransomware because ransomware varies so much the virus protection can’t keep up.  Virus scan is only as good as the update it has.  Does that mean you shouldn’t use it…NO.  But keep in mind regardless if you are a personal user or a business user you MUST use your head and take the time to really look at what you are doing. So many times, I’ve heard the excuse, “I have so many emails I don’t have time to really look at them all” Well, this could be the result of that.

Again, being involved in this, it’s a total loss of any locally saved data including backups because if they are not off site or on tape, they are vulnerable too.

Most companies, if not all are NOT proactive, they are reactive.  Why?  Money, but I offer this.  How much is your data worth and what can you do to protect that data?  In my case there were so many things put in place, virus protection, scanning, firewalls, encryption of hard drive etc.  All failed due to user error.

Currently, because of Covid-19 many, many people are working from home.  Most companies offer VPN.  Well some of them have what’s known as split tunnel – a computer networking concept which allows a user to access dissimilar security domains like a public network (e.g., the Internet) and a local LAN or WAN at the same time, using the same or different network connections)  In my opinion this is a NO NO!  A disadvantage is that when split tunneling is enabled, users bypass gateway level security that might be in place within the company infrastructure. For example, if web or content filtering is in place, this is something usually controlled at a gateway level, not the client PC.

ISPs that implement DNS hijacking break name resolution of private addresses with a split tunnel.

Why do I think this is a bad idea, well, if a user is in your network via VPN then that’s all he or she needs, there’s no reason to have access to a public network while connected to a VPN.  Perhaps in this case, the user was checking their personal email on a company laptop while connected to the VPN with split tunnel or perhaps that user was surfing the net and came upon something an opened it up?  I don’t know. 

Bottom line.  How much is your data worth?  You need to do everything you can to protect that data and that starts with backups.  And those backups must be complete.  Yes, it’s expensive but again how much is your data worth and what can you live without?  You must, must have a way to take your backups off site or keep that data totally separate from everything after it’s backed up.   

The pain of having to literally reconstruct and entire network is incredible and what’s worse, is everything must be completely wiped out and reinstalled.  You can’t do that over the network so you have to do it with either USB drives, or CDs.  That takes so much time.  But it must be done because if one machine is missed, your entire network is infected again.

Network teams, and again this is reactive, shut down the administrative shares not allowing an administrator to do what’s known as a C$ share to stop ransomware from spreading after the fact, however, this setups and entirely set of new problems for the techs because it stops them from delivering software, and that means they have to go to each an ever machine regardless if it’s remotely or physically to install software.  No more things like bat files and PS Exec to install software and if you have a big company with lots of machines this becomes extremely time consuming for the techs. Also, a user should never had administrative privileges to install software on their company machines either and lots of places to that for convenience In my opinion bad for security because that gives the user a free pass to install anything they please.

I truly believe that you can prepare for these things however you need to hire someone with enough experience and knowledge to prevent this.  You can’t rely on out sourcing for this.  You need to have protections in place, regardless if it’s routing to stop the spread of infection, hollow root domains, or simply not allowing open internet access regardless of what the CEO demands.  It needs to be explained that if this happens the cost of rebuilding is much worse than simply not being allow to access personal mail or surf the internet.

So what’s you data worth?

Computer & PC Help

Can You Increase Your Download Speeds Without Increasing Your Bill?21 Dec

This is an article written by Johnathan Blakley
There’s some good information in this…

Fast internet has become a necessity. Whether you go online to run a business, shop, listen to music or watch TV, you can’t do much in today’s world without a speedy connection.
Unfortunately, though, most internet service providers know this, and with a lot of people now switching away from cable, these big businesses are making up for lost revenue by charging more for what we really need.

However, the last thing any one of us wants to do is spend more money on the internet. It’s already expensive and upgrading your service can tack on a hefty amount onto your monthly bill.
But you don’t always need to increase your bill to get better download speeds. There are other options. Here’s a few to get you started.

Begin with a Test

The first thing you should do before making some changes, though, is to test your current connection. If you don’t, then you’ll never really know if you’ve improved. You can do this by simply typing “run speed test” into Google. The first hit will take you a site where you can check speeds for free.

You may want to do this a few times, largely because internet speeds tend to vary according to the time of day. But doing this first will give a benchmark to work from, which will help tell you if the tricks we’re about to discuss are actually doing something to increase your internet speed.

Get a New/Additional Router

One of the first things you need to realize about your internet connection is that the speed delivered through your modem and your router may be different. The modem is what connects you to your ISP’s lines, whereas the router is what delivers the connection to your devices.
Routers have limits as to the connection speeds they can emit, and this usually correlates to when they were manufactured. So, if you bought your router five years ago, then it’s likely it can only handle top speeds from that time, which are much slower than what you get now.
This can create a situation where you’re paying for 100 Mbps but only getting 30. Consider upgrading your router to something that can handle the connection you’re paying for, and this should help increase speeds.

Another thing to consider is where your router is in your home. If the signal has to travel through several walls to get to where you’re connecting to the internet, then it’s likely you’ll get a bad connection.
The solution here is to either move your router closer to where you use the internet. Or, you could get an additional router that delivers a stronger connection to other parts of your home.

You can also buy a range extender, which will do the same thing but may cost a bit less than another router.
Plug in Using an Ethernet Cord

WIFI has come a long way, but it can still sometimes struggle to deliver the highest possible speeds. As a result, if you’re interested in boosting speeds without raising your bill, then consider plugging into your router the old-fashioned way using an Ethernet cord.
Of course, you can only do this with computers and smart devices such as TVs. But this could be a good move because it will free up your WiFi airwaves for other devices, helping to deliver a faster connection all around.

Obviously, we all love the convenience of wireless internet, but going back to a corded connection can provide a real speed boost, and it won’t cost you more than a few bucks, assuming you don’t already have an Ethernet cord hanging around.

Change Providers

Increased competition in the ISP marketplace has generally been a good thing for consumers. However, telecommunication companies are notoriously tricky. They like to lure people in with promotional deals, and then after a year or two, they will jack up the price you pay for the same service you’ve always gotten.

This is annoying because these promotional deals are usually quite good. Companies know it takes a lot for people to switch service providers, so they like to throw things at you to encourage action.
But if you’re an existing customer, then you probably can’t take advantage of these great deals. It’s one of the great paradoxes in internet and cable service: you’re charged more for being a loyal customer.

The solution? Change providers. Get on the phone with a competitor and get a quote. You can take this number back to your ISP and let them know that if they don’t match the offer you’ve received from another company then you’ll cancel service.

A lot of times they will match, as they’re deathly afraid of losing customers. But if they won’t, then go ahead and switch. Most ISPs will waive installation fees for new customers, so it’s quite possible that changing providers will get you better speeds without costing you a dime.

Limit Devices and Apps

Real versus actual internet speeds depend on a thing called bandwidth. So, while you may be paying for 100 Mbps of speed, you might never get this on any one device because the bandwidth is clogged. A good analogy is a water pipe. The speed at which water travels through the pipe never changes, but a bigger pipe allows more water to flow through it.
Increasing bandwidth (installing a bigger pipe) will indeed bump up your bill, but there’s another way to increase speeds without spending more money. Just pay attention to how many devices you have hooked up at once. If you have a Smart TV, consider disconnecting it when you’re not using it.
Also, make sure none of your devices are using up bandwidth in the background. Close out apps and shut down programs when you’re not using it. This will help ensure that more bandwidth is available to you on the device you’re using, which means a faster connection.

Give Yourself a Boost

See, getting faster internet speeds doesn’t need to cost you more money. These small changes are easy and cheap, and while they may only provide a small boost in connection speed, this can often be enough to turn your web browsing from a frustrating experience to something far more pleasurable.

Computer & PC Help


There seems to be a theme today with robocalling and scams. There are many different types of phone scams.


  • Apple Cloud one
  •  IRS
  • Social Security
  • Particularly to target the Elderly, there’s a call from a supposed grand child in trouble and needs money.

Regardless of these calls, there are ways to protect yourself.
First things first. There are many apps for cell phones that you can download for free. Once such app is Call Protect from AT&T. This app actually lets you know when the call is a scam or a fake. It sometimes automatically blocks calls and it also allows the user to block calls. Verizon has it, Sprint has it and I’m sure the rest of the cell phone companies have them to. You just need to search for the app either in Google Play, if you are an Android user or the app store if you are an Apple user. These apps are free and they do work. If nothing else it will help identify when something isn’t right.

For those of you that have landlines, you’re not as lucky, there’s no apps for your landline. However, use common sense and really listen to what they are saying. If you do, you’ll know it’s a fake. The most common calls are about your Apple ID or I-Cloud account. I can assure you with 100% certainty that Apple Tech Support will NEVER call you. They don’t even know you exist unless you initiate the call. Apple or anyone else for that matter will NEVER know your account has been hacked.  They do not scan everyone’s accounts, it’s IMPOSSIBLE. But, these scammers try to make you believe they do.

The other common calls are the Social Security Scams, and the IRS scams – these too if you think about it are also just a way to get information from you. Social Security NEVER contacts you by phone. Its usually a letter in the mail and why would Social Security be asking you about your social security number in the first place? If they called you then they should already have that information and there’s no need to give it to them. The same can be said for the IRS. They will never call you to tell you that you owe them money or your taxes are due. You’ll get a letter in the mail, if the IRS is calling you then why are they asking you for information? They called you therefore they should already have that information. NEVER give out your information over the phone to someone that calls you.

The scam that targets the elderly, is about a “child” who calls grandma to tell her he’s in trouble and needs money wired to him. OK if you’re elderly, call your son or daughter and ask them if this is the case. Of course, the person on the other end is going to tell you not to tell mom or dad, but you need to be smarter than that. Tell them you’ll call them back. If it truly is your grandchild then you know the phone number and if they give you some story about their phone, then ask for the number where they are at and then call the parents. Again, common sense. And yes, I understand this is a pressure call, because they are hoping to sound desperate enough so you’ll drop everything and get them money.

This is holiday time so the scammers are out in full force trying to steal information from you. It’s a constant fight. As soon as one scam is discovered, another one isn’t far behind.

Today, the NY Post reported that 60% of Americans have been victims of robocall scams. That’s sad. But that’s what these scammers are hoping for. NEVER GIVE OUT INFORMATION, NEVER. If you make the call that’s different, you know who you’re calling but if someone is calling you, they should already have that information.

This is the article published in the New York Post:
This is an easy fix. Just listen to what’s being said and believe me you’ll outsmart them.

The same applies for on-line too. Emails are the easiest form of scams. You click something you get a virus and your information is stolen. Its that simple. I have various articles one how to spot a fake email please look them over so you can protect yourself.

Its truly unfortunate that today we live in a world where people want to steal your identity, your money and anything else they can but this is the world today and you have to be smarter than that. These calls are designed to make you panic and scared so that you will not think and let them just have what they want. Don’t do it, be smarter than that. Stop, take a breath, and think! If you do that you will NOT be fooled

I came across this today and I thought it was important to include in this post. Please don’t be fooled:

Computer & PC Help

What is bandwidth/Internet Speed and how much do I really need30 Jun

A reader wrote to me and asked me to post some more information about bandwidth.  I thought it was a great idea so please check this out:

It’s pretty informative and easy to understand.  Please have a look

The definition of bandwidth means the amount of data that can be sent from one point to another in a certain amount of time. It is measured as a bit rate expressed in bits per second (bits/s) or multiples of it (kbit/s Mbit/s etc.) For example, internet companies will sell you 5 mbits, 25 mbits, 50 mbits and even 100 mbits and 1000 or gigabit.

Obviously, the more megabits you buy the faster your internet speed will be. Please note the amount of internet speed is separate from the speed of your computer. You can have a fast computer but slow internet speed or a slow computer but fast internet speed.

Download speed is defined by the amount of speed it takes for you to resolve an internet page, or the amount of speed which gets transferred from the internet to your computer. This is mostly what you pay for.

Upload speed is defined by the amount of speed it takes for you to send data to the internet. Or how fast you send data from you to others. Uploading is necessary for sending big files via email, or in using video-chat to talk to someone else online (since you have to send your video feed to them). Most companies set the download speed faster than the upload speed. Upload speed is usually about 11 mbits. Where as download speed varies.

How Much Speed Do I Really Need?
Here are some general download speed requirements based on everyday online activities:
Check email and browse the web: 1-5 Mbps minimum
Stream HD content: 15-25 Mbps minimum
Stream 4K content and play competitive online games: 40-100 Mbps minimum
Stream 4K content, play online games, and download very large files: 200+ Mbps minimum

Wireless is different, that speed depends upon the router you are using. New routers, modems, etc have both 5 Ghz and 2.4 Ghz. Newer devices run on 5 Ghz however, older devices run on 2.4 Ghz making them seem slower.
Wireless is pretty fast and you can stream from it too. That speed will depend upon how much you’ve purchased from your service provider and how many devices are connected. If you try to stream with 1-5 mbps you’ll notice what’s called buffering or simply the video will stop and start. 15-25 mbps will be ok however, but depending upon how many people are connected will determine how fast or slow your connection will be.

Every device shares the total amount of speed you purchase. So, one device will get the full speed, 2 devices will split and the more devices the less speed for each device. I wouldn’t put 10 devices on a 1-5 mbps bandwidth, you will be crawling on the internet. Most homes will be ok with 15-25 mbps. Business generally need more speed because they have numerous devices. They usually purchase 100 to 1000 gbs of speed and sometimes more depending upon the business needs.

I suggest, if you are going to cut the cord as they say, you up the internet speed. You will also need to consider how many devices will be connected at the same time because this will determine how good your internet streaming is. The more you have, the more devices you’ll be able to connect and the faster you’ll stream.

There are many places to check internet speed here are some examples:
This one is for your mobile devices:

Here are some for your home:

Knowing your speed matters because it will give you an idea of what you’re capable of doing on line and what you are paying for. Don’t let any company determine what you need because they will sell you the top of the line and most of us do not need that type of speed.

I hope this explains what you need and what you should have.

Computer & PC Help

Don’t be A Victim!02 Dec

I want to share a true story that happened to a client of mine. I know this is a bit long but please read this though!

Let this be a lesson and a warning to everyone.

I received a call from a client of mine, he left me a voice mail stating that his internet was blocked and he didn’t know what happened.  I called him back upon hearing the voice mail but he didn’t answer the phone.  This started my wheels turning because I was thinking “How in the world could his internet be blocked?”  So, I called him again and left him a message.  Still, in the back of my mind I’m thinking something just isn’t right, but I guess he will call me when he gets a chance.

A few hours later my phone rings and it’s my client.  He proceeds to tell me that he’s not sure what happened but he was trying to get on the internet and he got a message that his internet was blocked and he needed to call a phone number.  In addition, he received that same message on his iPhone, so he decided to call the phone number.  The person he called, gave him his name and gave him a case number so he thought this was truly Apple support. He kept telling me how professional this guy was and he truly believed this was the right thing. Again, to me red flag, Apple doesn’t have anything to do with internet or Microsoft.  He told me he was on the phone with this tech support person for hours and they were on his machine installing a firewall.  I asked him who was on his machine installing a firewall.  He told he spoke to a gentleman named Kevin and he, Kevin was on his machine via Team Viewer, a remote access client, checking his machine and running some tests.  I told him that I didn’t understand how a company knew his internet service was cut off.  So, he explained this to me again.  Still confused, I told him that this didn’t sound right and I’d call him back.  I then called his Internet Service Provider and asked them if they monitored or cut off internet due to a virus. They told me no.  I called him back and told him this isn’t right. Stop this and get your money back.  He insisted this was legit.  I asked him how would anyone from apple support know you had a virus or how would anyone know your internet was blocked?  I explained that in order to know that your service was blocked someone would have to monitor every device you own, and Apple simply does not do that and the only people that can cut off your internet was your internet service provider.  I told him I was on my way over there and he should cancel this immediately and get his money back.  He told me he paid this alleged company with ITUNES cards?  I asked him how much, he told me $300.00.  I then said you paid them in iTunes cards?  What company accepts that for payment?  He said Apple. I told him no way this is right.


When I arrived at my client’s house, I observed that someone was on his PC running a program that looked to me like it was tracing his internet.  It’s called a packet tracer, in other words this program was going to monitor my client’s internet access.  This program would trace his every move on the internet, my client made, record his keystrokes, meaning all passwords. So that if and when he decided to go to his bank account this program would record his user name and password so that whoever this was could gain access to his banking, credit cards and even his identity.  I called the so-called tech support tech “Kevin”.  Now Kevin had a very heavy Indian accent, probably from India or maybe Pakistan, I’m not sure. I asked him who he was and what company he was from.  All he would tell me is that he was Network Support.  I again asked him what was the name of his company and he told me Network Support. I asked to speak to his supervisor, and he told me no.  This was finally becoming clear to my client that this indeed was a scam.  I cut off the remote access immediately.


My suspicion was correct. This so-called company was doing exactly that; recording his keystrokes.  I know this because upon doing  a virus scan, my client uses Viper, it revealed that whoever was on his machine had installed Trojan horse. A Trojan horse can do a lot of damage.  It can record your every keystroke on your computer.  For example, when you access your bank account on the internet, the trojan horse will record your user name and password thereby giving whoever is recording your information access to your bank account, credit card information and even your identity.


I cleaned up the virus and told my client to change is email password and his computer password.  He did that.  I rebooted his machine and the damage was done!  The PC had crashed and would not come back.  I explained to my client that this probably was a result of him letting whoever this was into his PC.  About 2 hours later I got his PC up and running and got his data back.


Moral of the story…

This cost this man $300.00 in iTunes cards plus what he paid me.  And unfortunately, he’s not going to get that money back.  Upon speaking further to my client to try to figure out exactly how this happened I found out the following:

He was expecting a package from Fed Ex which was delayed.  He received what he thought was an email from Fed Ex about his package.  He clicked on the link and this started this entire scam in motion.  What happened is when he clicked on that link it installed what is know as a redirect in his browser to emulate a problem.  In this case it directed him to a page which told him his internet was blocked and he needed to call a number to have the problem resolved.  What he failed to realize is that by calling this number and allowing this criminal on to his machine that this was the scam.  He has his phone service though his Internet company and I asked him if his phone was down.  He said no.  I told him that his internet was never down in the first place and this was all a set up.  His pride was a bit damaged but I explained that this could happen to anyone.


Don’t let this be you!

First thing to understand that the only people that can cut off your internet service is your internet service provider.  The first call you need to make is to them to find out if there is a problem.  Second thing to know is that NO how, NO way, does anyone, Apple, Microsoft or any internet service provider monitor your internet.  Meaning they will NEVER know if you’re infected with a virus.  You have to initiate that call.  Third thing and MOST IMPORTANTLY; NEVER, NEVER allow anyone on to your machine via remote service that you don’t know.  If you call tech support and they want to get on your machine then that’s fine but remember you MUST initiate that call and it should be to either your Internet Service Provider your maybe your own tech support person, No one else.  Any reputable company will never take iTunes cards as payment for anything and any reputable company, if you cancel a service will never give you a problem.

Lastly and I can’t stress this enough, when you go though your email especially when you get something from Fed Ex or USPS, or any company, check the return address on the email.  That will tell you who it’s really from so you don’t get scammed.

Computer & PC Help

A Word about Ransomware04 Sep

Ransomware is the latest and greatest virus/malware to disrupt both business and private users.  It comes via email, phony ads and web pages that are hi-jacked.  There is no cure for this type of malware.  It’s either pay up or lose everything.  My advice, better to lose everything then pay up.  If you pay up it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get your docs, spreadsheets, etc. back, it just means in my opinion that you’re encouraging these thieves to continue on.

Let me briefly explain what ransomware is. Ransomware is an infection you get mostly via emails that contain either infected attachments or infected links.  When you open these attachments, or click on these links, immediately your information becomes encrypted with an extension other than for example .doc.  The extension .doc or even xlsx would be changed to doc or xlsx.MOLE66 or doc or xlsx.crypt or doc or xlsx.lckd and the only way to decrypt this information is to acquire the decryption key. That’s what these thieves sell you.  Well at least they say that that will.  Once you’re infected a note will appear on your screen




Once you see this, the “deed is done”.

This is an interesting article of ransomware


There are things you can do to avoid getting infected. The best way it to simply be very mindful of everything in your email and on line

If something doesn’t appear right, it’s not.  As for emails they are getting more creative using banking logos, Microsoft logos, IRS logos, FedEx, UPS, etc.  Just remember, if you are not expecting a package, you shouldn’t even open the email. If you are expecting a package the company will NEVER send you an attachment in the mail, they will send you your tracking number and a link to the delivery information, but you still need to be careful.  Your bank will never ask you to verify anything on line, unless you’re logged into the website.  Microsoft, The IRS, etc. doesn’t send out emails and they don’t call you.

Make sure you check the email address, that it a major clue.  If the email address is or something that makes no sense it’s phony.  I’ve written an entire blog on how to spot phony email.

And as for calling you, how in the world would someone know that there’s and issue, virus, etc. on you PC without actually being in front of it? I’ve heard so many stories of people getting these phone calls and allowing someone they don’t know login in to their PC remotely, the next thing you know, the PC is now encrypted with ransomware and someone is asking you for money to get your information back!

If you’re a business, you need to make sure your IT department has backups. There’s a saying “You’re only as good as your last backup” If you’re a home user you can backup your information too. Simply purchase an external hard drive and copy whatever you can’t afford to lose on that drive and only use it when necessary.  This way if you do happen to get infected you have your information safely stored away and its can’t be touched.  You’ll need to make sure your “infection” is cleaned before you access your information again and that could mean either doing what’s called a system restore, or reformatting you machine.  Only then should you try to access anything stored, otherwise you’ll infect what you have backed up.

If you’re surfing the net and something doesn’t look right, just close the browser (IE, Firefox, Edge or Chrome).  If you’re suddenly getting popups or your home page is something different you’re probably infected with something.  Again, do a system restore or call someone in to clean whatever you’re infected with.

The moral of the story is the more aware of what you’re doing either on line or with emails, the less likely you’re going to get infected.  I’ve heard time and time again especially from the business community, “I get so many emails, I don’t have the time to check everything” Well my answer to that is the 5 extra minutes it takes you to check something will prevent you from losing everything and infecting everyone else and possibly taking down that particular business.  It can take weeks to restore all business information and in some cases they are forced to pay because they don’t have a good backup or disaster recovery plan.

If you’re employed in IT make it your business to educate your users on how to avoid getting infected.

No matter what you’re using for virus/malware protection it’s not enough.  Ransomware often times, disables your virus/protection so you can’t rely on that to make sure you’re not going to get infected. You need to rely on you.  Awareness is your best friend to avoid getting infected.

There are some decryption tools available for some ransomware infections, however, it’s all catch-up.  Some of these tools work and some of them do not.

Here’s another link for decryption tools, but again remember this is all catch-up and you must have the variant of ransomware that is listed in what ever decryption tool you’re trying to find.


I hope I’ve encouraged you to be more mindful when reading emails and surfing the internet. And I hope you now understand how dangerous ransomware is.

Computer & PC Help

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Computer & PC Help

A Word About Microsoft Updates22 Feb

In all my years of doing IT, I never thought I’d be writing a blog like this.  I am actually writing an open letter to Microsoft…

Dear Microsoft;

I realize windows updates are important and what we call “a necessary evil” however, I think you people need to do some more testing before you send out updates that virtually render machines inoperable. This is so irresponsible on your part.  Let me explain:

I deal with clients in other states via VPN and remote desktop. My clients are a small office with little IT resources maybe 10 PCs and 2 servers at most.  They do not have the money to invest in WSUS servers and contracts with Microsoft for support.  That is what I’m here for. My clients all use windows 10 pro and dell computers.  They stay up to date with updates and drivers too as it’s automatic.  Recently, they were forced, I say forced because you don’t have a choice to not update, to update; so they are running the latest version of windows 10, 1079.  If that’s not bad enough, they installed the latest updates one which included KB4074588. After installing this “lovely” update, they were unable to use their keyboards and mouse.  This update disabled all USB ports!  Good job!  The only way anyone was able to use their machine was to remote in.

After many phone calls back and forth to me and texts galore, I got to work doing as much research as I could.  I could not figure out if this was a hardware issue or a software issue, but my “gut” was, telling me it was software but I had no proof.  I started doing research and I finally found some information via my savor site Experts-Exchange.  They were able to point me in the right direction, which was update KB4074588, however this took days to figure out and in the meanwhile my clients were remoting into their PC’s to try to work.  I remotely uninstalled KB4074588 and finally the user(s) was able to use the keyboard and mouse again.

That’s not the end of the story… After that, the machines one by one decided to crash with “inaccessible boot device” and again I had to do hours upon hours of research to find a fix for that too!  Another update!

Again Experts-Exchange to the rescue and they gave me instructions on how to get around that too!  The last little surprise was one profile on a machine was corrupted beyond repair so I had to recreate a new one and that user was not happy.

So for 4 days I worked and worked with frustrated clients with no warnings,  and with help from the company that issued these fowl updates. The clients lost hours and hours of work time because they couldn’t use their machines.  If you call Microsoft tech support with these issues it’s at least $250-$300 before they will even speak with you and they caused this mess.  They should at least allow help for free since it’s their updates and their responsibility to make sure things function properly with their software. Again in my opinion irresponsible on Microsoft’s part.

I understand the security and safety issues we all face especially in business with users not being that educated enough to know when not to download something or when a web page is bogus. And between trying to keep the operating system secure from hacking it’s a tuff job and it’s a process.  However, Microsoft is now being a bit irresponsible with issuing updates that render machines basically glorified paperweights.  I think they need to do a bit more testing of things before they just blindly send stuff out and cause these type of issues.  In addition, may I say this is not the first time I’ve experienced Microsoft updates causing problems with the operating systems either, this one was just a major mess.  With windows 10, you can’t stop updates from installing!  As a result of this mess with windows updates, I disabled the service for windows updates until I can figure out a way to test each and every update and then it’s still going to be a fight to tell the machine which update to install and which update not to install. Again, almost impossible to do because Microsoft apparently does not care to have the user decide. Unfortunately, you’re dammed if you do and you’re dammed if you don’t! To be fair, I will say that the process of issuing updates is to say the least challenging, and I do understand that everything is basically catching up to what ever is newly invented however, testing is a necessary thing and I just think Microsoft should be more responsible on that end.  I’ve seen many updates crash operating systems lately and that’s not a good thing.


For anyone going through this mess this is what I had to do to resolve this issue.  I am posting it here:

This is with the 1079 update.  You’ll need to remotely Uninstall KB4074588. Then I had to do this because the machine wouldn’t boot it was inaccessible boot device:
Boot Windows 10
Go to Repair
Go to Tools/Options to get a command prompt.
Confirm the drive letter for the Windows image. Usually D: –> dir d:
Run the following to view the installed packages which will also show a date of install.
Dism /Image:D:\ /Get-Packages
Find the package(s) that were just installed by date. Run the following command on the last installed package:
example: dism.exe /image:d:\ /remove-package /packagename:Package_for_KB4014329~31bf3856ad364e35~amd64~~
The patch that caused my issue was from 1/6/18 or 1/10/18     Remove the latest windows update entry with Rollup Fix in it’s name.  Once complete, close command prompt, turn off computer.  Power back up.  You should be back into WIN10.
If you still receive BSOD, rinse and repeat with the next latest update, try it again.  You’ll eventually boot right back into WIN10.

In addition, I found this


Computer & PC Help

Year End Advice29 Dec

I’d like to end this year with some information about surfing the internet.  These are my tips for the new year.  Regardless if you’re a heavy user or a light user you need to protect yourself at all times.  The best way to do this is to use your head.  If something doesn’t seem right, it’s not.  Case in point…  Humans are curious by nature and the hackers’/malware criminals know this so the easiest way to infect your machine is to send you an email with an attachment.  The first thing most people do without even thinking about it is open an email and click on the attachment.  It’s that simple.  You’re infected and in most cases you don’t even know it.  That’s what these criminals rely on.  They will send you emails in the form of FedEx, UPS, USPS, etc. emails with these attachments meant to infect your computer, and most people just blindly open these without even a second thought regardless if they are expecting a package or not.  They will send you phony bank notices with links in them for you to click on and once you do that and fill out any of the information you’re infected. Just like that.  No one stops to think, why did my bank or a bank I don’t even bank at send me this?  Most people just click on the links and start filling them out.  One of my all-time favorite scams is you receive an email that you won millions of dollars and all you need to do is pay a fee to get your money.  Really?  Have you ever won something and paid for it?  You’d be surprised how many people fall for that. Or someone in some foreign country has discovered a long lost relative of yours and you have a million-dollar inheritance.  Never mind, your family has nothing to do with that country, or again you have to send a check to receive your money, which you should never do.

There’s a new con going around where you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from technical support at Microsoft and they explain that you have a virus on your machine and they offer to login and clean it for you.  Humm…. That’s interesting because how would anyone know who’s never seen your machine that you have a virus?  Answer is they don’t. It’s a scam.  But again people are easily fooled into thinking this is legitimate.

Sometimes, internet pages get hijacked, meaning you think you’re one the correct website but it’s off just enough for you not to notice and once again you’re infected.  It happens with many search engines such as google or yahoo. If you just take a second or two to look at the page, you’ll see that it’s not right. Something is either spelled wrong, or in the wrong place but because you’re more interested in getting where you’re going you don’t stop to look at where you are at.  In addition, pop ups get people to.  You’re on a web page and suddenly without warning, something pops up. “Your machine is infected with a virus download this virus scan now and we’ll clean it up free of charge” or “Your PC is running slow click on this and we’ll diagnose and fix it for you”.  What that is in reality is the virus.  Someone is relying on you to click on that link so they can infect your computer.  Now there’s even Facebook identities being stolen and I attribute that to passwords that are very simple to crack. Too often your friends accounts get hijacked and you wind up getting several invitations from friends that are already allowed on your page.  This can lead to issues too.    If you’re page does get hacked I recommend first to notify Facebook and second change your password to something more complex.


So what’s are the consequences of all this?  Well for starters the money it’s going to cost you to have this cleaned up and it’s expensive. Sometimes depending upon who’s doing the “cleaning” they just reinstall everything and you lose everything, for example you have hundreds of photos saved and once someone begins the process of reinstalling that is lost.  Also, depending upon what you’re infected with can be disastrous.  Criminals can capture your bank account information and basically steal your codes and clean out your accounts.  Identity theft is also a concern.  Once they capture your personal information they can assume your identity and kill your credit.  They can also lock you out of your own machine too.


What can you do to protect yourself?  Well remember this “curiosity killed the cat” as they say.  So you need to learn how to slow down and look at your emails before you blindly click on them.  Check the senders address.  If it looks funny, then it’s not real.  Remember if something is too good to be true it’s not true.  You’ll never win a lottery you never entered.  If your family isn’t from that particular country, then you can’t possibly have long lost relatives.  Never allow anyone you don’t know to access your computer especially remotely.  If you’re on a website and something pops up un-expectedly just close your browser.  It’s that simple.  Make sure your virus protection is up to date.  Your virus protection is only as good as your last update.  If you’re using software for a firewall (aka internet security), make sure you know how to use it and what to block and not to block. Sometimes this software can be more problematic if you don’t understand how to use it.  Apple products, macs, iPads etc. can get viruses too. So can Linux machines.


You can use extensions such as web of trust, ghostery, and adguard to help you notice what’s going on when you hit a web page.  These are all free and install easily into your browser.  They will not slow you down either they will just make you aware of things.  But the best thing of all is you.  You need to look at what you doing before you just blindly click on something.  Especially those sites like Facebook and Twitter.  When you see those incredible coupons on your pages for 95% or 75% off on something this too is a scam.  Just be aware of what you are doing and you’ll always be safe.  The internet is an open place where people take full advantage of you and because it’s mostly anonymous most of the time these people who steal from you never get caught.  You have to outsmart them.  So for 2017 let’s all pledge to do a better job of slowing down and arming ourselves with tools to help use prevent viruses and malware.

Computer & PC Help


It seems to me that people do not pay much attention to the passwords they use for things like banking, email accounts, Facebook accounts, amazon account etc.  First rule of thumb is do not trust anyone, meaning the site/company you’re dealing with to protect your password.  Companies get cracked all the time, they are exploited via malware which is mostly because someone in the organization opened an email attachment, clicked on a link or went to a website without really looking or knowing what they are doing.  All it takes is one user to set off that “bomb”. Once that “bomb” is set in motion all bets are off and passwords can be cracked and you, the user can also be exploited.  It happens all the time.

Education is your best friend regardless if you work in a business, where you have access to a PC and the internet (most of us do) or you’re a home user.  It doesn’t matter, awareness of what you are doing makes all the difference in the world and can save you from the headache of being hacked.

Being in IT for almost 20 years, I’ve heard it all.  The usual excuses range from “I don’t have time to really look at my emails because I get so many of them so I just skim them and do what I can”. “I can’t remember all those passwords so I try to make them as short and as simple as possible”.  “I clicked on that link because it popped up and it said it would clean my PC”

Well, in the two to five seconds it took you to ignore the rules, it might have just cost you hundreds of dollars, your identity stolen and your accounts hacked.  If something is too good to be true it’s just not true.  Why would suddenly coupons appear for $75-$100 discount for a store on Facebook?  Well the simple answer is because users are so gullible!  They want to believe that this is going to save them money if they simply click here and install the hidden software attached to this stuff; that’s what these people are hoping for.  In the five seconds it takes you to share that coupon for $75 from your favorite store, that cracker on the other end might have just gained access to your Facebook account, your email account and perhaps your banking information.  Is that worth it? No! If you just took the 2 minutes to really think about it you’d realize it’s just a scam.  So you might be thinking, “Well how will I know when something is real then?”  Short answer is treat everything like it’s a threat – doing that probably will protect you from being hacked.  Also consider this… If you use the same password for your on-line banking, your retailer accounts and other on-line things then once your password is discovered everything you do on line is virtually lost!  The criminal will have access to it all and believe it or not, most people use the same passwords for everything.  This is a big no-no!   You’ve basically given the “keys to the kingdom” to the criminal that cracked your password.  Use different complex password for all your different accounts.

Without getting to technical I will try to explain passwords and the need for complexity in them and why you should always maintain long complex passwords for everything you do on line and in business.  First thing to understand is the longer and more complex your password is, the harder and longer it is for a cracker to steal.  That doesn’t mean you should use 100 letter passwords you can’t remember. It simply means using passwords like password1 PassW0rd1 or even P@ssw0rd will not protect you at all.  Using your birthday for example 32356abc will not help you either.

The reason for this is the following. When a hacker/cracker for example cracks a company like a bank or for example, an on line retailer they gain access to their network.  This gives the cracker access to things like servers and databases.  All passwords are stored on a server in a database.  Basically when you type your password it gets compared to what’s in that database and if it matches you are authenticated and allowed access to whatever you’re trying to reach.  So if a cracker gains access to this database they can simply steal the database, download it to their own machines and run tools to crack your passwords. And believe me there are many tools to crack passwords.  The shorter and easier your password is, the easier it is for that criminal to crack it.  (Think about what happened to Sony.  Most likely someone within the organization opened an email that was sent to them with some type of attachment, they opened it and set off that “bomb.  This cost Sony millions not to mention the embarrassment of publishing emails.  It was so simple for the crackers to do this.)

These programs look for things like asdfghjkl (which is the second row of letters on your keyboard), or password (any variation of that), birthdays etc.  These programs are set to look at dictionary words, combinations of letters and numbers and even dates in order to obtain your password.  The longer and more complex your password is the harder it is for that program to obtain it.   That’s a simple as I can make it. So, if a person is using for example the password – P@ssw0rd1;  it will probably be stolen within the first five seconds of the program, but if the user has a complex password for example MyCh1|dr3n@! Which is more complex or My1$tb0Rn1$@b0y! It’s going to take much more time and money on the criminal’s part to figure out what that password is.  If you look at the 2 passwords I just created they are actual phrases the 1st one is my children @1 the second one is my 1st born is a boy!  All I did was take a phrase I can remember and mix it up with letters, numbers and special characters.  Doing things like this will make it much harder for the cracker on the other end to decipher what your password really is. I’m not suggesting this is 100% full proof because honestly nothing is, but the more difficult/complex you make it the harder it becomes for that criminal to steal your password.

What I want you the user to understand is that it’s basically up to you to protect your information and identities on the internet.  Being aware of what you’re doing, slowing down and thinking before you open that email and click on that attachment and going to that website and installing something that says it will clean your PC is just not a good idea.

Lastly, these criminals are getting smarter, they have ways of even misidentifying themselves on the phones, they can spoof caller ID so for example say you get a call from someone claiming to be from a technical company and they tell you that your PC is infected with a virus and they will for Free remote in and clean it. Well looking at the caller ID perhaps that is a real caller?  Really?  How in the world would anyone know on the outside that your computer is infected with a virus? The answer is they would never know and you should not fall for that.  Once you give that person on the other end of the telephone access to your PC they will have access to your mail, banking information and anything else you may do on line.  My advice is to hang up that phone.

I hope you follow these simple tips for safety on the internet

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