Latest Blog Posts & News
Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 at 7:10 pm
The Cloud is not a mystical place in the sky where songs and books magically float about waiting for us to download them onto our tablets and MP3 players. While you probably knew that, you might not really understand cloud computing and what it all means.
First of all, there are many clouds and they can be private, public or a sort of hybrid mix of the two. All it really means is that a group of remote servers are networked together to provide users with a centralized spot for data storage as well as providing access to services, applications and data-processing tasks.
Many companies use cloud-based programs to manage their information. This allows employees to access all sorts of work-related items anywhere where there is an internet connection. Your documents and email can be accessed at home, at the office or even at hotel anywhere in the world or on your smartphone.
For the individual user, the cloud offers you a secure place to store all sorts of things. Most of us use it to store music and books, but many also load their precious family photos up to a cloud-based photo storage service. This means your photos are stored at a remote server with constant backups in place. While this keeps your information secure, it also keeps your hard drive from getting bogged down. Music and photos can take a lot of space on your computer hard drive or smartphone, and using the cloud can be a way to keep everything you want without sacrificing hard drive space.
Of course, you might be worried about security; after all, you will be loading up your private information. These huge online data storage servers are encrypted, but there is always a risk that these systems can be hacked. To protect yourself, do some research about the cloud services you are using. Some services are simply more secure than others, so choose the best possible services. This is especially important if you are storing corporate information or personal information such as bank account numbers, social security numbers and other highly sensitive material.
In general, if you don’t want the world to see your stuff, don’t load it up into the cloud. Nothing is 100% secure, but if you don’t put important documents or incriminating photos in the cloud, then you certainly lower your risk of having these items procured by an evil hacker.
At GeeksAKnockin, we can help you improve your computer security whether you have a home computer system or manage a corporate computer network. We offer full IT support in Portland and the surrounding area. We can help with computer repair in Beaverton, computer support in Gresham, computer repair in Hillsboro or anywhere in the Portland metro area.
Thursday, August 21st, 2014 at 7:34 pm
Everyone loves their computer, until it starts malfunctioning. At this point, it can be a source of huge frustration. Rather than spending hours struggling to pinpoint what is wrong and then attempt to fix it, a better option might be to simply contact a computer repair service. There are many problems that can be fixed quickly and even remotely, getting you back to work as quickly as possible.
Malware is a huge source of problems these days, and Geeks A Knockin can help with spyware and virus removal often via our Virtual House Call service. We access your PC remotely and remove all malicious software. From there, we perform a security audit to identify any areas that are potentially vulnerable. We ensure that all necessary security patches and updates have been installed and complete an evaluation of your system to make sure it is performing normally.
Software installation is supposed to pretty straightforward, but often that just isn’t the case. We can install all types of software programs and create desktop and quick launch icons for the software and troubleshoot any problems you might be having with your software. We even offer instruction for the basic use of many software programs, which can be helpful if you are a first-time user.
Hardware installation and repair can be even trickier, so it is definitely a good idea to call a computer service to make sure that all of your new hardware is installed correctly and running properly. This includes installing and repairing internal components such as graphics cards, hard drives and RAM. We also can help with the installation of external features such as printers and scanners.
Sometimes your computer is working but it isn’t working well, and it can be hard to troubleshoot precisely what is wrong. In these cases, it is usually wisest to contact an expert. Usually we can determine the problem and fix the computer within 90 minutes or less, saving you time and frustration. Geeks A Knockin provides computer repair in Portland, computer repair in Gresham, computer repair in Beaverton, computer repair in Hillsboro and throughout the Portland metro area.
Friday, June 20th, 2014 at 4:41 pm
Whether you have an iPad, an iPhone or an iPod, maximizing battery life is always a priority. Here are some tips that can help you keep that charge for as long as possible.
If you have a 3G or 4G connection, you are able to connect to the web at any time provided there is coverage in the area where you are. However, whenever possible, it is best to connect to a Wi-Fi network. This saves power because the device isn’t roaming for a signal.
If you are in a spot where Wi-Fi signal is hard to come by, but you still wish to access items such as music, books, apps and your camera, it is best to go to settings and change your phone or tablet to airplane mode. Your device won’t be searching for signals or accessing the internet, and this also saves power.
Your screen brightness also affects the battery charge. If you lessen the brightness of your screen, this can help lengthen the life of a battery charge. You would be surprised to find how much brightness can affect the battery charge.
Many apps ask for your location, and you’ve probably seen those annoying pop-ups as you access this app or that app. You can go to Settings and under the Privacy section, you will find Location Services. You can turn off Location Services for all applications or just for certain applications and this can help preserve battery life. You can also turn off Push Notification and this can save a bit of battery as well. As with Location Services, you can turn off notifications for all apps or keep it for some and turn others off, whatever best suits your needs.
Your phone or tablet also might be continuously searching for new emails and alerts, and this takes away from the battery, as well. You can keep the device from fetching mail as often by going to the Mail settings manually.
Making recommended updates might seem time consuming, but not only does a software update increase security and fix bugs, it also can install improvements that make the device work more efficiently and thus your battery life will be extended further.
Friday, May 23rd, 2014 at 4:59 pm
Even for those who know little about computers, using Microsoft Word is fairly simply and straightforward, but there are definitely some cool tips and tricks that can make this program even more efficient and user-friendly.
For instance, at the very top edge of your Microsoft Word page, you will see a few icons. The first is a capital W and if you look to the right, you will see a down arrow with a bar on top of it. If you click on this arrow, it allows you to create a custom toolbar at the top of your page. For instance, you can select the spellcheck shortcut key or perhaps add a shortcut for print preview and print. There are several other options and you can customize it anyway you like.
One thing that many people find distracting is the built-in spellchecker in Word. Sure it’s handy, but when words start becoming underlined in red, it often slows us down and pauses work as we backspace and try to spell a word correctly. You can turn off this auto spellcheck by going up to that special arrow at the very top, clicking on it and selecting the “More Commands” tab. Then on the left, select “Proofing.” You will see a bunch of customizations that you can make including a section entitled “When correcting spelling and grammar in Word.” Just uncheck the tabs you don’t want, such as “Check spelling as you type.” You can still go up to the Review tab and do a spellcheck later, but those red underlines will be gone.
If you are typing something and wish to make a specific word bold or begin typing in bold face, you probably know that you can select the word and then go up to the area under the Home tab and click on the B. However, it’s much easier to simply hit CTRL B. This will allow you to quick start typing in boldface. Hit CTRL B again, and you will go back to typing normally.
It might seem like you have to type in the date on many pages during the day, but rather than physically typing the date, hit Alt-Shift-D and the date will be added automatically. This is a great tip for students as they often have put the date in at the top of their papers.
Often we type something and then accidentally select it and erase it. Don’t panic, just hit CTRL Z and what you just erased will reappear. In fact, this undo command can undo several of your last actions if needed. If you “undo” a step too far, don’t worry, simply hit CTRL Y and it will restore that last undo command.
These are just a few of the many shortcuts available in Microsoft Word. There are hundreds more features within this program that can be quite helpful. You can print mailing labels, insert footnotes, number pages, create columns, insert citations and much more.
Friday, May 2nd, 2014 at 4:52 pm
That is why sometimes you don’t have to type in your name and address on some websites, they already know who you are. Cookies also are used to gather information about how you surf the web, such as what types of pages you frequently visit. It might all sound ominous, but these cookies are only storing information that you already have provided. They cannot access your computer and steal information.
You can clear cookies as well as your browsing history, but typically, unless you are on a shared computer, it usually isn’t necessary to do this. In general, when you provide information such as credit card data or other personal info, it is best to do this only on our personal computer or device.
We are all worried about web security, but there are better ways to protect yourself from harm than worrying about cookies. For instance, use different passwords for every website where you store financial information, such as your credit card. Make sure the passwords contain a mix of capital and lower-case letters as well as numbers and possibly symbols.
Be sure to have a good anti-virus program installed on your computer and have a firewall in place to protect your computer network. Be savvy about what you download when you are on the computer. Only download items that you are sure are from trustworthy sources. Don’t open suspicious emails; simply put them in the trash. Anytime you see a file in an email or on a web page with an extension on it such as Document.exe, be wary of clicking on it and downloading whatever is on it.
Sometimes, these emails can come from people in your contact list. You might be tempted to trust an email from a friend, but it is possible that the friend has been hacked. Often these emails with have (RE:) in the subject line or have no subject at all. If you are unsure if an email is unsafe, create a new email and ask your friend if they sent the email or if they have been hacked.
Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 at 4:15 pm
Malware is something of which all computer users have a vague notion. This is simply a blanket term for malicious software and there are several common types of malware that are infecting computer systems around the world.
A virus is a type of malware that most computer users have heard about and probably have had end up on their computer. This is a bit of code that replicates and attaches to file, programs or your hard drive. You can get a virus from a corrupted email link, from clicking on a pop-up ad or from downloading software from the Internet. Viruses can slow down the speed of your computer, corrupt files, steal space from your hard drive or harm programs installed on your computer.
A worm is another type of malware and like a virus it can replicate itself, but it doesn’t have to attach to anything in order to replicate. With a virus, you have to activate and executable file in order to download the virus. So if you open an email, but don’t click on or run the file you won’t get the virus. Worms can spread without an executable file. Worms have been used to crash Web servers and computer networks as well as to gain control of a computer remotely.
Surprisingly, viruses and worms are not the most common type of malware out there. The Trojan horse accounts for nearly 70% of malware. A Trojan is similar to a virus in that this too is a string of malicious code, but a Trojan does not self-replicate. Instead it carries out a specific action, which is determined by the person who wrote the code. It’s called a Trojan horse because it is usually disguised as something useful or fun, such as computer game. You download the game, but what you are really receiving is malware. Some malware creators use Trojan horses as backdoors into a computer system. Once the backdoor is open, they can access your system and steal crucial data, passwords, financial information and more.
Spyware is yet another type of commonly seen malware. This is a type of software that gathers up information about you or a company or a computer network without anyone’s knowledge. A Trojan horse can be a type of spyware. Spyware doesn’t replicate and isn’t set up to destroy or corrupt your files, but instead seeks to gain information about you, such as your browsing history, your credit card numbers and other personal information for identity theft. The recent cyber-attack on Target is an example of how dangerous spyware can be.
In order to prevent malware attacks on your own computer or computer network, it’s best to construct a good defensive plan. For instance, never download something from the Internet unless you trust the source and have run the file through your anti-virus software. If you see one of those ominous pop-ups that claim your computer has a virus or your files have been corrupted, open up your task manager and shut down the pop-up. These are scam ads designed specifically to download viruses or Trojans to your computer and they are not coming from your anti-virus software.
Your email is a hotbed of virus activity as well, so be careful what you click on. Virus emails often come from a source not listed in your contact. Often our spam filter will catch the email, but not always, so if you see an odd-looking sender, chances are it’s someone trying to infect your computer. However, our friends and our contacts sometimes accidentally download a virus and the virus immediately replicates and sends itself to you via email. If a contact sends you a link that seems odd, maybe it has a weird subject line or perhaps no subject or the text of the email is odd and asks you to click on a link, it’s almost always a scam. If you don’t click on the link, you won’t get the virus, so just delete the email.
It’s also wise to install anti-virus software, preferably with a firewall. You only need one anti-virus program for your computer. You won’t be better protected if you have two or three virus programs, just research the software available and select one with top reviews. Be sure to allow the program to make updates, as these updates increase your overall level of security. In general, all updates help increase security, so when Firefox or Explorer asks you to make an update, this will help make you a more secure Internet user.
If your computer is already corrupted, simply contact GeeksAKnockin today and we can set up a time to come out and remove all the malicious software on your computer or network. Not only will we remove the malware, we will perform a comprehensive audit of your computer or network to find areas of vulnerability. This can help you prevent malware infection in the future. We also evaluate your computer to verify that it is performing normally and that security patches have been installed.
Tuesday, November 12th, 2013 at 8:36 pm
We wanted to make you aware of some more email scams we’re seeing, and pass along the information so you can keep yourself protected.
One is involving “.TIFF or .TIF” files. This is a picture format that is often used by graphic artists and the publishing industry. There is a specific vulnerability that is circulating by using these files, that when an infected file is opened it allows the attacker to gain remote access to the computer. At the time of this email, Microsoft does not have a patch for this. It affects specific versions of Windows and Office, but our recommendations are to avoid opening these files in general, as with any file, unless you are expecting it from the sender.
For more detailed information from Microsoft you can read their release here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/security/advisory/2896666 (This is a safe link we are providing)
The other email scam we are seeing is a general phishing scam, but the sender has been spoofed to look like the email has been sent from within the company or by a company you know. This can be particularly deceptive as employee may think you’ve sent out an update and click on these links which are likely infected with a virus or malware.
Here’s a screen shot of an email that GeeksAKnockin’ received just to show you how real it can look. We actually did not send this email internally but it looks as if we did. Again, if at any time you are unsure or have any question about an email with an attachment be sure to ask the sending party if they really did send it.
Tuesday, October 15th, 2013 at 3:46 pm
We wanted to make you aware of a virus that is making the rounds and can have devastating effects on the data on your computer.
The name of the virus is called Cryptolocker, and one of the ways we are seeing it deployed is through emails called phishing scams. These emails may look like they are from reputable sources such as FedEx, Intuit/ADP Payroll, IRS tax notices and have subjects or information designed to trick a user into clicking a link or attachment. For example, they might say ‘Your payroll failed to process, please see the attached report for important information’.
If you suspect any email, especially those with links to click in the body of the email or an attachment, to be suspicious we highly recommend you do not open these. If you get a notice such as these and are concerned they may be valid (for example, you just shipped something with FedEx and you get a ‘your shipment was lost’ type of notice), we always recommend going directly to the vendor’s website to check status directly.
The issue we are seeing with Cryptolocker is that it “locks” up all the user files and documents on the computer, and essentially holding them “hostage”, claiming it needs a set amount of money from you to pay the ransom (there are conflicting reports about if this actually works to unlock the files or not) for your files back. We are successfully able to remove the virus itself from your computer, but the files ARE GONE. There is no way to recover them unless you have a good backup.
We recommend that you do not open any emails that you are not expecting, especially those that contain attachments from companies that would not normally send them. When in doubt, contact the sender or the company directly.
If you would like to review your current backup/disaster recovery configuration, let us know and we will contact you to discuss. We recommend review of this information at least annually.
Here are a few examples of phishing emails. None of the following are legitimate emails, each has an attachment that likely contains a virus. Some of them look very real, even the name of the sender looks real, or they use logo’s from real companies.
If you click on each image it will enlarge it for viewing.
Lastly, here is the pay now screen some are seeing when they do have this virus:
We hope you remain unaffected by this virus, however, if you encounter this virus on your computer, unplug the network cable from the computer as soon as you can. This will not prevent infection, but may prevent spreading it across your network to other computers. Do not turn off the computer or attempt removal of the virus yourself – tampering with this virus can result in permanent loss of data. Then call us for help.
Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 at 4:47 pm
You are in the middle of printing invitations to an upcoming birthday party and suddenly the printer stops working. You check the paper tray, pull open the ink drawer and replace ink, yet are unable to get it fixed. You decide to give the tech support number a call for some help.
You go online and use your favorite search engine and type in “hp printer support number” (or whatever printer you may have), and suddenly are faced with a ton of choices! Which one is correct? One of them? All of them?
What you see on a simple search for a support number is actually quite deceptive. This is not because of the actual printer manufacturer themselves, but unscrupulous practices from companies that are not often even in the United States.
Here’s a couple screen shots taken from both Google and Bing with the search term “hp printer support number”. Both are the first results that would come up for a consumer. On the Bing search I count SEVEN different phone numbers, which I’ve circled in red. On the Google search there are TWELVE, also circled in red.
NONE of these numbers are for the official company HP. Every single one leads you to a company other than HP, some that are not even based in the United States.
Bing Search HP Support
Google Search HP Support
What happens when you call one of these companies then? Some may immediately want a credit card to bill you for tech support, others may want to install a remote application to access your computer to provide their support. From here, they will suggest they run tools and make sure your computer is up to date, or suggest that possibly you have a virus or errors on the computer that’s causing your printer to not work.
The next thing you know, they are running their “tools” and you watch the flashing screen and red text exclaiming you have viruses and errors. It may look something like this:
Then they will suddenly demand payment for them to clean up the computer, or fix your initial problem – remember what that was? Oh yes, the printer! You can see how they suck you into this terrible scam.
Even if you don’t pay, and decide to hang up the phone right then, they’ve now put their software on your computer, which often disables your antivirus, and continues to cause problems until it is removed. Or they’ve baited you into one of their “contracts” paying either yearly or monthly, and nearly impossible to get out of, or you find they do nothing to help in the long run.
Going back to the original problem, that printer that suddenly decided to stop printing, what is a consumer to do? We have a few ideas for you:
- If you are sure your printer is under warranty, you can try to contact the manufacturer directly. Instead of searching for a support phone number through a search engine, go directly to their website instead and find their support information that way. Some may even have FAQ resources to read through, so that you can attempt to fix the problem on your own, at no cost to you.
- Call a known and familiar company like GeeksAKnockin’!
We’d also like to point out this same advice goes for any sort of support you might be looking for online. If you look for support numbers by doing a search most of the time the numbers listed are fake. Most companies tend to bury their support numbers on their websites to make the consumer search a bit for them, but these fake companies have taken full advantage of this hassle and used search engines to get their numbers in the open, hoping the consumer won’t try to go any further and just call them. Best advice is to always go to the website of the company you are trying to locate, or refer to your manual or paperwork to find contact information.
In a future blog we’ll provide a list of working links to some of the major tech companies for your use. Please let us know of any specific ones you’d like us to include and we’ll do our best to help you with that!
Tuesday, August 13th, 2013 at 9:41 pm
We are letting you know of a current scam that is affecting a lot of our customers recently. You may get a call from someone or a company claiming to be Microsoft, telling you they need to gain remote access to your computer to either fix it or review some problems. After they’ve gained access they will run programs that will make it look like your computer is infected or has serious errors that need to be fixed and often will start demanding money or for you to input a credit card.
One of our own tech’s had a call like this a few months ago, and pretended to walk through some of the requests with the scammer, just to understand how they work. They will sound very convincing and often for someone who may not be technical this can sound extremely upsetting.
Please know that Microsoft will NEVER call you directly to fix your computer. Do not allow anyone claiming to be from Microsoft or other agency access to your computer, especially if they call you randomly.
Here’s more information from Microsoft about these phone scams: http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/avoid-phone-scams.aspx
We’ll be starting a series of blog posts with more information on how to protect yourself and what to look for.