Protecting your Laptop from thieves (Part 1)

Posted February 11, 2014 By BillImes4

Back in December, my laptop was stolen while I was out of town. Much of what I had on the laptop was backed up or cloud based, so materially, the loss was tough, not catastrophic. This really got me to thinking and finding ways to protect a laptop.  If I lose my iPhone, I have ways to fPreyProjectCapture1ind it or “brick” it, but what about a Windows 7 laptop???

I found an open source project that provides protection for PCs, Macs and Phones similar to what Apple offers for the iPhone.  It is called the Prey Project (http://preyproject.com/) and they have two flavors, free and pay.  The free service is a little more limited that the pay service, but looks to be rather robust, just limited to the number of devices.  I am only looking at the free for PC version at this time.  The pay service is reasonable, starting out at $5 per month that covers 3 devices.  There are five tiers that cover from 3 to 500 devices and run as much as $399 a month.  In effect, they cover everyone from the home user to the larger companies.

In effect, it installs and stays silent until you log in to the website and activate the system.  When activated, as soon as the device gets on the internet, the commands are processed.  The picture shows the commands available and how they are set.  You can geo-locate the device by the nearist WiFi connection or if the device has a GPS, by the GPS. You can get a detailed report about the device’s network status, you can view the webcam, you can make the device alarm or lock and there are several more.  You can get a snapshot of the screen and/or a list of processes running on the device when it logs into the Prey Project.  All in all a very interesting program that is really hard to find for the non-technical user. The device does check in with the Prey Project servers every time it boots up or connects to a network.  Once it does, it checks for its status and will run any commands you have set up for it to run.PreyProjectCapture2

The next screen shot is where the professional version shines.  There are a few of these that are tough to stop and tough to detect.

I am really looking forward to never having to use this program, but the piece of mind it gives me is pretty good.  Having my laptop stolen from my truck was not a very good experience for any of my family.  A lot of my business material was on it (backed up) and I had to change the passwords on ALL of my online accounts.  I am hoping with this program, I can at least force whoever steals my laptop to reformat and re-install Windows and I can avoid the rush of changing passwords within 24 hours.

I have installed the free version of this program on both of my laptops.  I use an iPhone so I don’t have to install this on that device.  Hopefully I will never have to use this program, but if I do, I’ll be sure to do a write up on how well it worked.  Maybe I will try it when I get ready to retire the older laptop… mmmmm…

I have a few more tricks that i will share with you in the next post.

 

Willis “Bill” ImesOwner/Technician
PWS Technologies

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Do not be your computer’s worst enemy

Posted June 15, 2013 By admin

Some of the things I have seen recently makes it seem like the user is the computer’s worst enemy, even if they don’t mean to be.  Let me give a few examples…

  • A user sees a yellow shield in the system tray and even though it is know to that user that this means there are updates from Microsoft that need to be applied, ignores it.  One of the most critical things that need to be done to protect yourself from online threats is to apply the Microsoft updates as soon as they are available.  This user got lucky and after two months asked me to get rid of the pesky yellow thingy on her system tray.  The updates included several for Microsoft Internet Explorer which she uses.  Once again, UPDATE!
    • The GOLDEN RULE of computer safety is to keep your operating system and anti-virus software up-to-date.  Microsoft pushes updates out to your computer to patch and security hole that is discovered out in the wild.  This reduces the chances of a malicious hacker getting into your system.  Keeping your anti-virus software updated means you have the latest tools to fight off attacks before they infect your system.
  • A user goes to a web site that has a video that a Facebook friend sent her.  She starts the video and up pops a windows stating her computer needed the latest version of Flash player to see it.  The user had no idea why her computer was out of date, but pressed the “OKAY” button.  Needless to say, 24 hours and $80 later, I cleaned the malware off her computer and educated her in the dangers of blindly accepting updates from questionable websites.  Her operating system, Java and Flash were all up to date and she still believed the malicious pop-up.
    • I tell users to use common sense when something unusual happens.  If you get a message from a friend that sends you to a strange website, question that.  Is that something that that friend would do?  When a strange website asks you to update something or install something, question that.  Why does this site need this?  Normally it is never good.

I would like to say that there has been an increase in spam mail from delivery companies that pose another threat requiring user intervention.  If you are expecting a package from UPS, FedEx, DHL or any other delivery company, DO NOT open up any link in an email received from what appears to be the delivery company.  Open your browser and type in the address of the company and check it the safe way.  I have had a few instances of this scam infecting user systems.

  1. You use of the internet exposes your system and you to some dangers.  By following a few simple rules, you can reduce your risk and make your internet experience more enjoyable
  2. Keep your system up-to-date – The operating system (Windows, Linux or Mac), your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, etc.), your anti-virus program (MS Security Essentials, Norton, McAffee, etc.) and the browser add-ins like Java or Adobe Shockwave.
  3. Use common sense when going to strange websites.  Watch the address bar in your browser to be sure you go to the site you’re supposed to.  Are you going to “www.youtube.com” or does if say “www.youtoob.com”.
    Treat emails as an evil necessity.  When I receive an email from someone that looks suspicious, I either spam it or forward it to the proper anti-spoofing address after looking at the sender’s email address.  I will have a more detailed write up on this subject in my next blog entry.

Being aware of how you can get infected is half the battle.  The other half of the battle is up to you!

Bill Imes
Technician/Owner
PWS Technologies
www.pwstechnologies

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Most people forget their computers when it comes to Spring cleaning.  One of the biggest issues with home computers is heat build up due to dust.  Just because you keep your house clean and neat doesn’t mean that the inside of your computer case is.  You would be surprised at how much dust build up occurs when you keep your computer on or near the floor.  The following pictures are from a three year old desktop from a clean house.

IMG_0234  The people who own this computer keep their house very clean but did not think about their computer.  The computer was running slow and randomly shutting off.  When asked where the computer was placed, the owner said they kept it in the family room on the floor next to their computer table.  Our Spring Cleaning Special was the fix for their problems along with getting their computer off of the floor.

IMG_0235Dust acts as an insulator inside the computer.  It clogs up the heat sync for your CPU and drastically reduces the cooling capacity of the system.  Most of the newer CPUs have thermal protection built in to protect on of the most expensive parts of you computer.  This thermal protect consists of a maximum temperature that when reached will automatically shut the computer down.  Over time this can cause other issues including the drying out of the thermal transfer paste between the CPU and the heat sync.  The CPU cooling fan can be affected by dust slowing it down or stopping it altogether.  The dust will cover other parts of the system like memory and other vital chips on the motherboard.  Dust acts just like insulation in your home when it accumulates on the hard drive(s). Heat is a major killer of hard drives.

Our Spring Cleaning Special includes a cleaning of the software side of the computer (desktop or laptop).  This will get rid of temporary files that most programs fail to remove, we will make sure your system files are fully up-to-date and that you are properly protected by an up-to-date anti-virus program.  On a desktop, we will open up the case and clean out the inside to prevent dust build up.  On a laptop, we will make sure the cooling system is clean and operating properly. We also offer an upgrade cleaning that includes replacing the thermal paste on the CPU and re-seating of all add-in cards and memory.

We can help keep your computer up-to-date, lasting longer and running smoother.  The call is yours to make.

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Know your Anti-virus software…

Posted April 28, 2013 By admin

Over the past month, I have cleaned two infected computers.  Both computer were infected by similar malware, the dreaded “Anti-virus Software” scam.  This infection normally starts by a visit to a hijacked site.  A pop-up then appears stating that AVA Anti-virus Software or Windows XP Anti-Virus Software or Windows 2013 Antivirus Software has found 135 infected files, click okay to clean.  The screens look legitimate and most users know they have an anti-virus program, they just don’t know what it looks like.

The most common anti-virus programs I have found are Norton (free with Comcast), McAffee, AVG and MS Security Essential (PWS Technologies basic).  Open your antivirus program up every so often, if nothing else, to see what the screens look like.  I have Comcast as my ISP and have Norton Security Suite installed on one of my home computers.  The screens I see with the virus look NOTHING like my Norton screens.  I also have MS Security Essentials on another computer and the same thing with this program hold true, the screens are different, especially in color.

If you want to avoid the pain of a Virus/Malware removal, KNOW YOUR ANTI-VIRUS Software!

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New PWS Technologies Blog

Posted April 12, 2013 By admin

I have officially rolled out our new blog.  I will be trying to keep this up to date with regular post about things going on in the computer world and in our shop.  I hope to have helpful write ups on software, tips and other information that can be used by average users.

Stay tuned for more coming…

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