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Coping with the Threat of Malware and Cyber Terrorism:

 Today, the world is being threatened by ‘cyber terrorists’ who are able to infiltrate a system and gain access to your personal information using invasive software. Malware is any invasion of unwanted software both malicious (viruses) and non-malicious to your system which results in performance loss; data loss; program modification and/or deterioration; security breach and hardware destruction. The ‘cyber terrorists’ have now emerged with targeted destructive malware threats. These threats are very damaging and becoming more and more a challenge to capture and eliminate from all types of computer systems. These threats are not only affecting your standard personal computer or business computer but have spewed to other systems which utilize the internet including: smart phones, GPS’s, vehicle on-line systems, medical devices, you name it, they are at great risk!

In the April 16, 2013 issue of The Economist, China is recognized as a major source of invasive malware.  The article makes a bold accusation that these hackers are "state sponsored"!  In other words, the Chinese government is fully aware and supportive of their hackers.  However, while China is the major source today, such threats are also being generated by Russia, Brazil, Korea, etc. and even America.

So what can you do?  Become a defensive user rather than a passive user. All forms of technology have inherent forms of risk and danger. The World Wide Web is an information highway where data flows at the speed of light. Consequently it is inherently a source of high risk.  It is of paramount importance that each of us become more responsible users and that as parents educate our children and as managers train our employees and so on down the line on how to responsibly and defensively use technological devices.

When it comes to computers, it is imperative to keep the system software up to date. These frequent updates often include security enhancements which beef up the firewall. Invest in a good antivirus program and run it on a routine basis. Best to check with a reputable service establishment first since all antivirus programs are not created equal. Also, your system resources need to match the requirements of such software in order to operate effectively.

Next, know where you are going on the internet by researching unknown destinations beforehand. Be wary of high traffic websites which offer free downloads, i.e., music,games and porn.  Social sites have become a Mecca for the hackers because of their inherent high traffic.  Keep in mind that a virus is just a click away!  

As far as email is concerned, best to use web mail if possible. This provides an added layer of protection since the mail resides on the webmail provider’s server rather than on your hard drive. Before opening any email look carefully at the subject and who it is from.  It is best to error on deleting a suspicious email  rather than on opening an infected file.

If you suspect that your system has been infected, run a full system scan using your antivirus as soon as possible. Once a virus enters the system it will infiltrate system software and files at a rapid rate. If the antivirus software isolates a virus, make sure to delete it when prompted. Depending on the severity of the virus, the system software may have been damaged or scarred in which case the system hard drive will need to be reformatted and system software reloaded. You will know when this is necessary when the system does not respond to usual commands. Keep your antivirus updated and perform a full system scan on a regular basis, i.e., 1x/week to weed out unwanted malware.

Recognize no antivirus program exists today that is 100% effective.  Sounds hopeless? Somewhat! However, by following the steps outlined herein you may be able to mitigate the threat of malware. Contact PCCMI for any help and assistance at 585-586-3560


How Safe Is Your Private Data?

How much do you really know about Cyber Threats and Cyber Terrorism? How safe is information you consider to be vital and private or for that matter may be considered vital and private to your clients?

Take a look around you and take inventory on how much electronics has been infused in your daily life. Granted not every electronic device poses a cyber threat. But clearly some do! Today, the ones that do are those that have access to the internet or the airwaves. The portable wireless telephone or the cell phone has become an easy target for being tapped. The emergence of the internet has provided the gateway for Cyber Terrorists to infiltrate: computers, smart phones, GPS’s, Health Monitoring Devices, e-readers. Anything that connects to the internet or operates wireless poses a high risk. The wave of the future is for the home, office, classroom, etc., to become more automated where devices can be  monitored and controlled from anywhere via the internet. So, how safe is your privacy? Not very!  Nothing is private. Privacy is a relative term. You can have an idea for a new widget. As long as you keep this stored in your mind it will remain a secret. As soon as you decide to write it down, store it on tape, CD, DVD, or whatever and store it someplace safe (?) you have jeopardized your secret. So, how can you protect yourself and your clients' information?

As technology advances so does the ability of hackers to steal information. One of our client’s came in recently and proudly extolled how he was now protecting his computer data by having it uploaded to the internet and stored in “The Cloud”. This client had recently had a hard drive failure where much of his data was lost. Understandably he wanted a way to protect his data from potential catastrophes.  I politely asked him if what was being sent to “The Cloud” would be something he would be willing to put on a billboard located on a busy highway. He quickly said “No way”.  The intention of backing up his data was good but the thought of his data being hijacked never entered his mind. Any transmission of data is at risk. The Cloud Storage Service Providers will tell you they are encrypting your data which makes it virtually impossible for a hacker to decipher it. Wrong! These hackers are experts at decrypting encoded information.  Remember your data is being transmitted over the internet which can be intercepted and decoded. These hackers make large sums of money selling private information.

Frustrating? Absolutely! Hopeless? Not unless you decide not to become a more responsible and informed user of technology.  

How can PCCMI help? What you don't know poses a risk.  If you are concerned about how much at risk your systems are,  PCCMI will assess your operation and find ways of mitigating these risks. Please call us to set-up a free initial consultation to discuss your personal or business concerns at 585-586-3560. Remember that knowledge is power. However, taking action is what leads to peace of mind.  

Be Aware of 'Scareware'

We are getting frantic calls from customers who are being victimized by scammers’ saying they represent Microsoft or some other company, i.e., McAfee, Norton, etc. The caller indicates that they have been notified that the owner’s computer has been infected with Viruses/Malware and that for a fee they can remove them. Once given the OK, they gain access remotely to the computer and are able to navigate their way throughout the system and do whatever they want without the owner being any the wiser. They often will go to the system 'Event Viewer' and point out that the computer is being bombarded by invasive software. Unbeknownst to the owner, they can disable the anti virus software and install a virus into the system and indicate to the owner that they can remove it for a fee. The fee can range from $50 - $500 or more! Given the OK they will collect the funds and make like they are removing the virus/malware when they are not and make off with the funds. The tip off comes usually when the owner asks the representative for some proof of legitimacy such as their callback telephone number or their website. The representative will dismiss this inquiry by saying that they are not allowed to provide such information or they will often redirect the owner to a legitimate website (not their own by the way) in an attempt to add credibility to their claim.

Let’s examine the logic of this scenario or lack thereof. First of all, Microsoft, McAfee, Norton, etc., has millions of customers all around the globe using their software and out of all those millions how were they able to determine that your computer located at xyz Anywhere Street in the third floor bedroom has a virus/malware infestation? The other thing is that once you allow someone to enter the doors of your computer you have relinquished control.  They have full access!

What can you do?
Become an informed user. The use of technology comes with responsibility. Today, we are being bombarded with new and powerful technological devices. More often than not we plunge ourselves into the new device with the attitude: “I can do this!” Most of us don’t understand how it does what it does but who cares as long as we get to ‘pay dirt’. This is why the hackers who create the chaos are having such a field day in generating the invasive artificial intelligence that is worming its way through the operating system of our devices and peeking at our private files and observing our Skype video calls real-time all the while with us thinking we are safe and sound in the privacy of our home. Social sites have become a Mecca for the hackers. While millions of people are giving up their identities by telling their life stories and flooding their home page with photo upon photo of themselves their children or who ever fail to understand that once it’s put out there on the vast internet you cannot take it back! EVER!!!!! Remember that the hackers have found ways to attach invasive software onto those so called Free Games, Music! Free anything today comes with risk. Know where you are going on the internet. Get some training. Keep your operating system and virus software up-to-date. 

PCCMI is here to help in any way by providing training, virus/malware removal or installing virus protection. Contact us at 585-586-3560 for any assistance needed.

IenterACT:

PCCMI announces a new consulting service to small businesses and start-up’s under the name: IenterAct. IenterACT will focus on assisting existing small businesses and start-up’s in: Building a positive on-going business on the Internet and not draining your wallet doing it!

Why is this service needed?
Many business owners are surprised when we say launching a new website is not the first thing one should do to make a positive long-lasting impression on the internet. Too many frustrated individuals have gone this route spending significant time and money launching a website with the thought from the old adage: “Build it and they will come”. That may have worked for Kevin Costner in the movie Field of Dreams but I wouldn’t bank on that happening for your application especially given time and money constraints. Many businesses have suffered setbacks when making ad hoc attempts at internet marketing. PCCMI offers a unique time proven method of developing the enterprises: purpose, customer benefits, competitive advantage and delivery system. Once there is a clear understanding of what, why and how the internet will be used to promote the business then and only then should a launch of a website and an on-line campaign begin. But it doesn’t end there. Maintaining the campaign is as essential as the launch if not more. Thus it becomes vital that clear roles and responsibilities be established to carry on the process on a routine schedule.

Why is PCCMI capable of doing this service?
Experience! PCCMI and 3DCOOL.COM were partner companies. 3DCOOL provided the hardware expertise for the cooling and powering of computers and systems on a global scale. PCCMI provided the building and repair of custom graphic computer systems and off-the-shelf systems for the local market. 3DCOOL’s sole existence was derived from internet sales. PCCMI provided the technical assistance in managing the website resulting in a monthly traffic rate of 4.5 million hits! While getting that many hits sounds wonderful not all of these hits turned to sales. Through the process of driving sales, PCCMI focused on driving sales more so than getting random hits on the website. This required an entirely different approach to internet marketing and sales. The emphasis became one of focusing on ‘Qualified Organic Visitors and Resultant Sales’. Once this distinction was clearly understood the campaign was successfully launched and maintained.

How do you determine if our process is right for you? 
Contact PCCMI at 585-586-3560 to set-up an initial free consultation to discuss your goals. PCCMI will be more than happy to assist you in making the right decision.

Risk Assessment and Mitigation:

How safe is your enterprise from unplanned events, such as an invasion of viruses and malware or an unexplained interruption of: internet services, power, communications, computer systems, etc.?  How about compliance issues?  Is your business complying with privacy rules, regulations and mandates?   Have your employees been updated on the the threats that exist on the internet including the social sites?  Let's face it most of the time the business manager spends is on keeping the business up and running and with fingers crossed in hopes of nothing going wrong.  

How much downtime can your business withstand without severely impacting the customer or the financial integrity of the enterprise or that of the customer?

PCCMI will conduct a risk assessment of the enterprise as a whole or any segment you desire.  The weak links will be identified and a mitigation action plan prepared.  Implementation can be done by your company, PCCMI or both.  Call to set-up a free consultation to discuss your concerns and how PCCMI can be of assistance at: 585-586-3560
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Tips on buying a new computer:

​Buying a new computer can be exciting and daunting at the same time. Hopefully, this tech note will help in reducing the anxiety. PCCMI offers a free consultation to assist you in understanding your basic needs and how to make an informed choice. Just call us at 585-586-3560 to set up a convenient time to come in.

What do you need?  A computer is a powerful tool and like any tool, you want to make sure you get the one that meets your immediate and projected needs. Let’s start out in deciding if you need a laptop or a desktop computer. If portability or physical space are important, a laptop can fill the bill. Otherwise, choose the desktop. Laptop’s are more expensive and more costly to repair. Next decision will be in choosing a PC or a MAC. If you have been using the PC and are familiar with Windows based software, choose the desktop. Some users are moving to Apple’s because of the ‘perceived’ safety from viruses. Currently, there is no doubt that Windows based pc’s are being targeted by hackers more so than Apple’s are. However, Apple computers are finding their way into the repair shops to have malware removed.

If you are a general user, that is, one who does basic searches, email, storing of photo’s, downloading and saving music, then an off the shelf product will do. But you will need to consider what operating system will be installed. Today, Windows 8 is the base system for PC’s. Make sure to get at least 6GB of RAM and a minimum of 250GB Hard Drive space. A stock Quad Core Intel (i3 or better) or AMD Quad Core CPU Processor will be sufficient. Regardless of which make computer, verify that the system is wireless ready. Also, make sure to check the compatibility of your existing printer, monitor and other equipment and accessories with the newer system. 

When choosing a laptop, consider screen size. If you are having trouble looking at small images and print or require eyeglasses, ‘test drive’ various screen sizes. Screens come in two types: glossy and matte surface. Glossy screens make images look better especially if you are doing photo work. The downside of a glossy screen is that under certain lighting conditions, glare may become an issue. While the matted screen will minimize glare, you may lose image quality. Furthermore, consider the weight of the laptop and its portability.

If a desktop is your choice, you have the option to get the ‘All-In-One’ or standard setup with tower and monitor both separate. The ‘All-In-One’ is a great space saver since the monitor is integrated with the rest of the system. So, the concept of a tower is gone and has less wiring and thus a neater setup.

There are other factors to consider when purchasing a computer. While the system will come with the operating system preloaded, other software such as word processing, excel, power point, publisher, etc., will not be. This software may cost in excess of $100. Therefore, make sure to question which software is included with your purchase. Furthermore, if the system is going to be used for graphics design or gaming, it is important to look to a more sophisticated system or a custom configured system. Everything from the processor, motherboard, graphics cards, memory, hard drive, tower size and cooling are vital to performance. At this point PCCMI can assist you. Good luck!