Ransomware

 

As you may have heard, a new and major ransomware attack was unleashed worldwide back in May of this year (2017), named WANNACRY. This one infected at least 75,000 computers in 99 countries in a very short amount of time. The ransomware locked computers and networks using file encryption software, and demanded payment by Bitcoin (a non-traceable crypto-currency) to release the data.

 

These types of attacks typically enter a computer through a “phishing email” and then spreads to other machines on the same network by exploiting vulnerabilities, including vulnerabilities in the computer’s operating system (although Microsoft did discover the vulnerability and released a patch, many computer users do not regularly update their operating systems and may have missed the critical repair).

 

What can you do to prevent ransomware on your own computer?

Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t click on links from unfamiliar sources. Even if you think you know the sender, be cautious about clicking on email links. When in doubt, DELETE IT! Be especially wary of messages requiring you to act quickly, asking for personal information, or threatening you in any way.
  • Keep clean machines: Prevent infections by updating critical software as soon as patches or new operating system versions are available. This includes mobile and other internet-connected devices.
  • Use strong authentication, requiring more than a username and password to access accounts, especially critical networks, to prevent access through stolen or hacked credentials.
  • Conduct regular backups of systems: Systems can be restored in cases of ransomware and having current backup of all data speeds the recovery process.
  • Make better passwords: In cases where passwords are still used, require long, strong and unique passwords to better harden accounts against intrusions.

 

For more information, or for a complete system checkup, contact TeCHS!

We are fast, affordable, and friendly. Serving all of Ventura County.

(800) 669-2022 | http://www.ezdigitallife.com

 

~Your TeCHS

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Safeguarding Yourself From Scams – Don’t become a victim! Part 1: Common Techniques

Safeguarding Yourself From Scams – Don’t become a victim! Part 1: Common Techniques

scam-alert1
1.) Phishing : Phishing e-mails mimicking online businesses or banks in an attempt to fool people into freely giving out confidential personal and financial information. URL Obfuscation is the part of the phishing scam that really plays on human error and our brain’s ability to “fill in the gaps” automatically by sending a victim to a fraudulent web site address that looks almost exactly like a real address (i.e. http://www.pay-pal.com versus http://www.paypal.com).

2.) Pharming : Pharming is another form of phishing that “poisons” a person’s computer’s DNS cache and redirects visitors from a real web site to a bogus mirror site. Every web site has its own internet address and the Domain Name System (DNS) translates the IP address into the host name. A DNS cache poisoning changes the entries in the computer so when the legitimate site is typed in, the victim is sent to a fraudulent web page instead.

3.) Trojan Horse : Trojan Horses are malicious software files that infiltrate your PC by hiding in seemingly innocuous files. Some Trojans, called “keystroke loggers,” record every one of a person’s keystrokes and send that information back to the attacker.

4.) Trojan : Zombie Computers and Man-In-The-Middle Attacks are part Trojan and the malicious software that is installed on the victim’s computer allows that person’s PC to be controlled remotely by their attacker without their knowledge. The Man-In-The-Middle attack is frequently partnered with an “Evil Twin” which is a fake wireless internet hot spot connection that looks almost like a legitimate service. When the victim attempts to connect, the criminal launches a transaction to get the victim’s credit card information in the form of a standard pay-for-access deal to use the wireless internet.

5.) Cashier’s Check Scams : There are numerous ways to use cashier’s checks in scams. Here are a few of the most common –

Money mule: you receive payments, and you’re supposed to deposit the payments to your account and forward the money to somebody else. Often advertised as a work-at-home check processing job, these schemes are often problematic. In some cases, you’re laundering money for criminals. In other cases, the first few payments are fine, but eventually you’ll get a fake check (after they’ve gained your trust) and you’ll lose money.

Foreign wealth scams: somebody you don’t know reaches out to you and asks for your help transferring a large sum of money out of a corrupt nation. In exchange, you can keep a tiny fraction of the transfer, which is more than you make in a year. Of course, you’ll have to send money to somebody to complete the transfer (which will never arrive).

Inheritance and lottery scams: you’re about to receive a lot of money, but you’ll need to pay a small amount for taxes or legal fees to “release” the funds. It’s a small price to pay for the riches that are headed your way. Of course, they’ll never materialize.

Property rental scam: somebody is moving to your area for a new job. They’d like to pay the first and last month of rent (and security deposit) with a cashier’s check before they ever see the property. The day after you deposit the check, they say there was an issue with the job – they’re not coming, so they don’t need the rental. You can keep the security deposit, but they’d like for you to return some of the rent. After you send the refund, you’ll find that the check was a fake.

Part 2 (JULY) will go over a few tips to protect yourself.

~Your TeCHS

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SCE Scam Warning

Please be aware that utility imposter scams are on the rise here in Southern California. Imposters claiming to be with Southern California Edison (SCE) are calling people and demanding immediate payment to avoid electricity service being disconnected due to allegedly past due bills. The caller demands that the customer purchase a prepaid cash card, call the imposter back, and give the imposter the cash card number.

Customers suspecting any fraudulent activity of this nature should ask for the caller’s name, department, and business phone number. Customers should then immediately terminate the call and call the local police! and SCE at (800) 655-4555.

Always remember that a real SCE employee:

  • Will never call and demand immediate payment.
  • Will never threaten to cut off your service.

Also:

  • Never give out any of your own personal information (including your credit card number, ATM or other card number, PIN numbers, account number, etc).
  • If someone calls you and requests that you leave your home at a specific time for a utility-related cause, call the police. This could be a burglary attempt setup by the caller.
  • Always be suspicious of anyone who arrives at your home without an appointment asking to check an appliance, wiring, or suggesting that there may be some electrical problem inside your residence. SCE employees would have setup that appointment ahead of time and all SCE employees will be wearing an ID badge.

~Your TeCHS

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Online Safety, Part 2 – Unsolicited Calls

I write a lot about staying safe online but in our world this subject is incredibly important. Over the next few months I will be writing about general online safety tips.

Scam-Alert

There is a very common scam out there right now where you will get a call and the person on the hone will say something like this: “Your computer is infected with a virus and I will help you get rid of it.” They also usually state they are from “Microsoft” or “Apple” or some other large computer company. They are not. They are nothing more than lying thieves.

They will then ask you to go to a specific web site address and allow them access to take control of your computer.

DO NOT DO THIS!
NEVER DO THIS.

Hang up IMMEDIATELY! Then block the phone number from your phone (or add to the auto-reject list).

We even get these calls at our office!
I admit, if we aren’t busy we have a little fun with these people… and if you are so inclined, I suggest doing so yourself but NEVER go to the site they tell you to and NEVER give them access to your computer.

Once you allow them access, they will have total control over your system, your data, your digital life.

~Your TeCHS

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Online Safety, Part 1 – Links

I write a lot about staying safe online but in our world this subject is incredibly important. Over the next few months I will be writing about general online safety tips.

links

LINKS : If it looks suspicious, even a tiny bit, don’t click on it. Just don’t. Resist the urge. Close the browser or delete the email and DO NOT CLICK!

Your bank (or PayPal, or eBay, or ETSY, etc) WILL NEVER email you asking for your bank account number, your social security number, a credit card number, etc. If you get an email that looks like it is from a legitimate company asking you to log in to your account for any reason (like those listed above), delete the email. If you think it is real, delete the email anyhow – NEVER CLICK A LINK IN THESE TYPES OF EMAILS. You can always type the company’s web address into your browser yourself to get to their real website and check on your accounts. Never ever click the links.

A lot of link-related scams come in emails from what looks like your friends and family. Check the email address (you can usually see the address it came from by hovering your mouse over the sender’s name) – you will see that the email address is not your loved one’s email. The scammers are simply using their name to get you to click the link they sent and grab all of your contacts as well.

There are so many scams out there right now that phish for your information like this. Once you click the link – they have you! Sometimes all they get are your contacts, sometimes they take over your entire computer… and if you happen to click on one that infects your computer with ransomware you may lose all of your data, or a big chunk of your money trying to salvage your data.

~Your TeCHS

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Three tips to help you stay safe online

Three tips to help you stay safe online

Scammers are constantly increasing their fake emails and calls… Here are three really good ways to protect your identity and information online from criminals, scams, and phishing attempts.

  • Keep a clean machine: Keep all of your software up-to-date (especially operating system updates) on all Internet-connected devices to reduce risk of infection and malware. Check for updates regularly and make sure they are installed.
  • Use a better password: Improve your defenses on accounts by making passwords that you can remember and that are hard to guess. Passwords should use a combination of numbers, capital and lowercase letters and symbols. They should also be different for every account.
  • Passcode protect:  Every device ‒ laptop, tablet or smartphone ‒ should be protected with a passcode or password to prevent unwanted access if it is lost or stolen.

~Your TeCHS

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Safeguarding yourself, your identity and your loved ones in our digital age : Part 2 of 3 : Computers, spyware and deleting files.

Safeguarding yourself, your identity and your loved ones in our digital age.

Part 2 of 3 : Computers, spyware and deleting files.

Your personal computers contain a wealth of your most personal and valuable information as well as a venue for exploitation and theft by savvy criminals. The easiest way for a criminal to steal information off of your computer is to physically steal the computer. Laptops are prime targets for theft and you should never leave one unattended. Never leave them in your car, do not stow them in overhead bins while traveling and when you are at home, store them some place that they are not easily seen.

Also:

  • Secure your computers with passwords that are not easily guessed.
  • It is best to use alphanumeric passwords if you can remember them.
  • Or use an odd sentence that makes sense to you.
  • Keep in mind that the longer your password is, the more characters it contains, the harder it will be to guess.
  • Don’t write your passwords down anywhere someone could stumble upon them. It’s best if you don’t keep written records of your passwords.
  • Make sure that you have good virus protection installed on your computer.
  • Never click on any links in emails or online that you do not recognize or that you are even slightly are unsure about… even if it comes from a friend or family member.

Truly deleting digital files is not as easy as it sounds. You may think that once you delete something from your computer that it is gone forever, but a lot of times that is not the case. Physically destroying old hard drives that you no longer need is the best way to make sure no one will retrieve any of your sensitive data.

We all do a lot of shopping online which means we are all typing our credit card numbers into lots of different websites. Make sure the company you purchase from is reputable. If something seems too good to be true, it is! Massive discounts on normally very expensive items from shady online stores are going to cost you a lot more than you think.

Next week : Part 3 : Medical records, credit reports, junk mail and documents.

~Seth & Kim Ralph, TeCHS

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Safeguarding yourself, your identity and your loved ones in our digital age : Part 1 of 3 : Phones and home valuables.

Safeguarding yourself, your identity and your loved ones in our digital age.

Part 1 of 3 : Phones and home valuables.

 

Before I start this article I would like to share a personal experience about fraud and my grandparents.

Last year my grandfather received a phone call from a man who claimed to be a lawyer in Virginia who told him that his grandson was in that state at a wedding, that he got drunk, drove, was arrested and needed $3,000 for bail money. My grandfather did exactly what any other caring family member would – he raced to a Western Union office to send the money.

My grandmother thought it was a bit odd and decided to call me and ask if my brother had travelled out of state to a wedding. He had not. My brother was safe at work in Ventura. I told them to get back in the car and get back over to the Western Union office to put a stop on the wire transfer. Thank goodness they called me in time and got back to the Western Union office in time. We were very fortunate and happened to get their money back.

Very scary!

 

This scam is very common right now and these criminals target grandparents specifically.

 

So how can you protect yourself from crafty digital-age criminals?

Thieves are always looking for new ways to catch people unawares and take advantage of them. A lot of the technology you use everyday can leave you open for a possible attack. There is no guarantee that anyone’s information is 100% safe, no matter how careful you are, but there are a few small things you can do to reduce your risks of becoming a victim.

 

Phones and home valuables.

When it is possible, try to keep your private conversations private. In order to ensure that private conversations are not being spied on, sensitive conversations should be done in person and in a private location.

Cell phones are less secure than landline telephones and with the right technology your cell phone signal can be intercepted. It is best to keep your cell phone password protected and all of the information backed up. There is quite a lot of personal information stored on your cell phone that you may or may not know about:

  • Your social security number
  • Your full name
  • Your address
  • Your bank account numbers
  • Your credit card numbers
  • Other miscellaneous account numbers

Living in a gated community offers you excellent advantages such as:

  • Secure locked mail boxes
  • Flood lights
  • Controlled entry
  • Security patrols

There are additional safety measures that you can take. Always keep valuables hidden in your home; don’t leave things like jewelry boxes sitting on top of dressers in plain sight. Small portable fire safes are great for keeping your valuables safe from fire… but if a criminal finds one in your home, you saved them the trouble of having to collect your valuables in one place. If you need a fire-proof safe install one that is large enough that it cannot easily be lifted by one person and make sure it is bolted securely into concrete.

Don’t broadcast that you are leaving town, or that you are out of town, on social networking sites. That is sort of like putting up a flashing neon sign over your house that says “no one is home and no one will be home for a while, so come on in and take what you want.” Wait until you return home from your trip to share it with everyone.

Next week : Part 2 : Computers, spyware and deleting files.

~Seth & Kim Ralph, TeCHS

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‘Smishing’

‘Smishing’ Another Identity Theft Scam

Have you ever been “smished”?

Identity theft experts warn us all to be on the alert for text messages with links — they could be an identity theft scam known as smishing. Similar to phishing (which involves email), smishing uses cell phone text messages to deliver bait that’s intended to get you to divulge personal information.

Smishing may involve winning a prize or a message that contains something that requires your immediate attention — the link tells you to “click here.” If you click on the infected link, it downloads malware that allows the bad guys to gain control of your device remotely. They can then use your phone from anywhere in the world to access your banking information, credit card data and the like.

What to do if you receive a text message that asks for sensitive information:
-Do not reply to the message.
-Do not click on any of the links that may be embedded in the message.
-Contact your carrier’s privacy or fraud team. If their company name or brand is used in efforts to fraudulently obtain personal information, they may choose to pursue legal action.
-Contact your bank or financial institution to be sure your accounts have not been compromised.

Visit the FTC Identity Theft website to learn more about how to minimize damage from identity theft. If you believe that you have been a victim of a smishing scam, you can file an online complaint with the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant.

The bottom line:
-Just don’t click the link!

As technology provides new ways to expose and defend against familiar scams, clever con artists will devise new ones. Always be careful what you click on.

~Seth & Kim Ralph, TeCHS

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