Why Your Windows Updates Are More Important Than Ever

Why Your Windows Updates Are More Important Than Ever

Stories about hackers and virus attacks seem to be making the news almost every day, and many of these news stories include tips on how you can avoid becoming a victim. One common theme among these tips is making sure your Windows operating system up to date.

Every day hackers are trying to figure out new ways to break into Microsoft Windows and once they do find a weakness, they try and find a way to spread it. This could be a malicious email attachment or even something that spreads without your involvement.

Updates Explained

Whenever Microsoft discovers a potential flaw, they push out a small piece of software to all Windows computers running a supported version. If set correctly, your computer will check if there’s any updates or patches and install them automatically. In new versions, this usually happens when you’re shutting down or starting up and doesn’t impact your experience at all. Unfortunately, some users will manually disable or delay their updates, creating a risky situation.

The update may include security patches, drivers or a simple tweak to address bugs or issues with Windows. Sometimes, they even include new features or applications to improve the stability of your operating system. They’re a good thing!

Not All Versions Get Updates

Some older operating systems are no longer supported, which means unless there are extenuating circumstances, Microsoft won’t issue any new updates. Not a single one – generally, if cybercriminals discover a flaw after support ends, they’re free to exploit it. For example, Windows XP support ended in 2014, and Windows Vista just ended in April this year. The moment an operating system is retired it becomes a playground for cyber-criminals.

It’s not just Microsoft walking away from these old versions either. Third-party software like the Google Chrome browser will still work, but they’ve also stopped supporting old versions with crucial updates and patches. It might seem like everything is working fine because your anti-virus isn’t pinging in alarm, but it just becomes a case of risk, upon risk, upon risk.

What to do with older Windows

As much as you’re comfortable with your older version of Windows, each time you boot up you’re exposing your system, important files and the entire network. It only takes one weak entry point in the chain to allow malware into all connected devices. That could mean your photo storage, media centre or even smart appliances. It’s not worth it – if you’re running Windows XP or Vista (or older), you need to update to a more modern operating system ASAP. Give us a call to upgrade your computer.

Give us a call at 778-421-1107

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Why You Should Never Use A Free Email Address For Your Business

Why You Should Never Use A Free Email Address For Your Business

The message is clear: email is king. Many clients and customers choose to communicate primarily by email and as you know, it gives a fantastic ROI in your marketing strategy…unless you’re using a free email like Hotmail, Gmail, or even your internet provider. If that’s the case, you’re losing business each and every day.

It looks unprofessional: Imagine if banks used free email accounts – you’d never feel comfortable giving them your personal details let alone any money. How people perceive your business is what makes your business. Without that professional touch, you’ll appear temporary and fly-by-night. It puts your credibility into question and sends the message that you’re not serious about doing business – or worse – that you’re prepared to cut corners.

It erases your experience: Newer, fledgeling businesses often start out with a free email address. The address clearly communicates that they are new and have little experience, and are perhaps testing the waters in a new direction. They’re not even remotely proven yet and are firmly within the hobby-zone. Continuing to use the free address once your business moves into the professional arena means you’ll struggle to build momentum and any experience will be negated.

It’s forgettable or inappropriate: Your business success hinges on being memorable enough to gain referral custom and results from your advertising. Unfortunately, free email addresses are by default filled with hard to remember clutter, for example – joesplumbing_1985@hotmail.com or milkshakes_mybabby@gmail.com.

Neither of these roll off the tongue, is appropriate for business, or can be remembered without a high likelihood of typos and bounce back. Branded email addresses such as joe@joesplumbing.com make running a profitable, scalable business much easier.

It’s not permanent or safe: When you use a free email address you are at the mercy of the email provider. They may close down operations or cancel your account for any reason. These types of accounts are also often hacked and leaked on a global scale. When a better internet or email deal comes along, you’re still stuck using the old address because it’s printed on your business cards, car lettering and flyers.

Some will agree to keep the address open for a fee, but you’ll lose the control and flexibility you need to grow your business. With your own domain name, you own it and can move it to a new business-grade email service easily. You’ll also have complete master control over the addresses within your domain, resetting passwords and creating/closing accounts at will.

Give us a call at 778-421-1107 to set up your branded business email.

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Snail slow computer

Why Do Computers Slow Down Over Time

Why Do Computers Slow Down Over Time?

Remember the awe you felt when you turned on your new computer and it loaded in a flash? Your computer was the envy of your friends and you weren’t afraid to bathe in that glory. Button on, ready to go, those were the days!

After a year or two though, it doesn’t seem to be quite as zippy…no, you’re not imagining it. It really has slowed down, not just in comparison to newer models and your expectations…There’s a measurable drop in speed and power that has nothing to do with worn out parts. The good news is a little maintenance can have that baby cruising at top speed again. Let’s take a leisurely walk through the system and spot the culprits:

Start-up applications: It’s super convenient to have Skype start automatically and your anti-virus too. In fact, many of the applications starting themselves with the computer are essential to your experience. But some of them are getting a little too ‘helpful’.

For example, iTunes helper loads in the background to speed things up when you connect your device – but if you can’t even remember the last time you ran iTunes on your computer, then it can go. Programs like that are holding onto a portion of your processing power and adding to your speed issues. The average home computer automatically loads around 75 programs at start-up!

Temporary junk: Computers are kind of messy. They leave temporary files and snippets of information all over your hard drive, each action leaving a trail rather like a roaming toddler with a sticky sandwich. Every web page, every image on that web page, every program you run and every game you play leaves something behind.

It may be the tidbits of information called “cookies”, saved game files, auto-restore files or even a log so that you can hit the undo button 100 times while it remembers your actions for you.

The more junk your computer builds up, the slower it gets.

Viruses and malware: These infections sit in the background consuming resources while doing various nightmarish things. They may be spying on your actions, stealing your information or reaching out through your network to infect others. Occasionally, the impact is limited to seeing your computer slow to a crawl, however, the flow-on financial costs of an infection can easily reach into the thousands.

Bloating: With every new version of software comes a new set of features, introductory sequences and design improvements. The problem with this is the application becomes larger and larger with each new version, requiring more system resources to install and run – and slowing your computer down.

Just like a car, computers need regular maintenance – we offer a Tune-Up service to bring your computer back to its original speed and extend its life.

Give us a call at 778-421-1107 to book in a Tune Up.

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Port Alberni Computer

Welcome to the Internet of Things

Welcome to the ‘Internet of Things’

You arrive at home and the door unlocks because it knows who you are, sensing the key in your pocket. The lights switch themselves on and your favourite music begins to stream gently through the living area. It’s already the perfect temperature, and as you head for the fridge, you notice an alert on the screen congratulating you on meeting your exercise goal today and suggesting a tasty snack.

Okay, it sounds like a scene from a movie, but it’s actually a reality today thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT). Almost anything that can be turned on or off is now able to be connected to the internet. An entire industry has popped up to help users create a custom experience designed around their unique needs. Electronic locks, lights, healthcare wearables and household appliances are just the beginning. IoT goes beyond devices you can use to surf the web – it’s a global revolution.

Adapters can transform even the most random appliance into a connected gadget, as well as add new layers of functionality. Cloud software is creating piggy-back connections, resulting in not just a new experience, but a new way of interacting with the data produced. It may all seem impossibly futuristic, but IoT is less about technology and more about enhancing relationships between people-people, people-things and things-things.

Millions of people are wearing a Fitbit or Jawbone to track steps and calories, while others are letting their fridge order groceries! The practical applications are almost endless, commonly including GPS trackers on pets, home security via webcam, patient monitoring of blood pressure/heart rate, weather monitoring, and remote power points. No more worrying all day if you left the iron on, just push a button on your phone and know for sure it’s turned off.

Of course, with all this connectivity comes risks. While the idea of having your toaster hacked is a bit mind-boggling, technology connected to the internet is open to exploitation. The webcam that allows you to monitor your pets may also allow other people to glimpse inside your home, but only if it’s not secured properly. Unfortunately, it only takes one small gap for a cyber-attack to get through, and once in, all connected devices are at risk.

Having your lights taken over by a far-away prankster may seem like a small risk, but gaps allow them into your computers, phones and tablets too. That’s the part the movies skip over – the networking protections that exist in the background, shielding against attacks.

Taking the time to properly secure your IoT device is essential to making sure you get the whole, happy future-tech experience. We’re big fans of IoT and can’t wait to see what comes next!

Got an IoT device? Give us a call at 778-421-1107 to help you set it up securely.

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Anti Virus Port Alberni

ALERT: Your Antivirus May Be Letting You Down

ALERT: Your Antivirus May Be Letting You Down

The best way to avoid a computer virus is by using common sense, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be safe from attack. Even the most careful user can find themselves infected in an instant and spreading the virus faster than a sneeze in flu season. It’s why antivirus software is still the first package we install on all systems – because you never know when you’ll be attacked. But should you choose free or paid antivirus?

Advertising: Much like a free app making its fortune with in-app purchases, the free antivirus software will push for payment. Expect popup boxes pestering you to sign up to the paid version at least daily. Some free options will also try to change your browser homepage and default search engine, an inconvenience you may be stuck with. Paid options are more respectful and largely invisible unless they’ve detected a problem.

Effectiveness: It’s fair to expect your antivirus to detect malware, and testing showed that in a head-to-head battle free and paid are about equal at catching known infections. And therein lies the kicker: generally speaking, free antivirus needs to have recorded a virus to its library before it can detect it. Paid antivirus is more likely to identify and stop a new virus. It essentially bases the detection on suspicious behaviour, source and attributes, a far more effective method of detection.

Features: Free antivirus options are usually created from the paid version, taking out everything except the bare minimum. In your paid version, you can expect advanced features like spam filters, firewalls, parental controls and secure web browsing. Some paid antivirus will also update your other software packages, forming a more secure protection against attacks. For example, you might view a malicious image file that takes advantage of an exploit in your PDF software. Unfortunately, hackers have advanced beyond simple tactics and it’s not just about avoiding email attachments anymore.

Support: Free antivirus options are the most popular choice because they’re… free. Obviously. This also means there’s generally no support available. If there’s a problem or conflict with another program, you may find yourself without protection until it can be resolved. Paid antivirus options usually include telephone support, ready to help with problems ranging from installation to system diagnostics.

Ease of use: Depending on what you use your computer for, this may be an important concern. Free antivirus options are easy to install and use, but are very limited in their flexibility. They come as-is, meaning you can’t pick and choose what it monitors or how it reacts. For example, users occasionally find it necessary to disable ALL protections in order to install a network game. Paid versions are more likely to allow you to adapt the way it runs, switching features on and off as required.

Free antivirus is fine for very basic protection, those on a budget or those with an older PC. In these cases, something is always better than nothing. But we generally recommend you go with a paid antivirus to defend you from the new attacks that are released daily and to ensure you’ve got solid protection that will make a real difference to your digital safety.

Talk to us about upgrading to a paid antivirus. Phone: 778-421-1107

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5 Ways to Love Your Laptop

5 Ways to Love Your Laptop

5 Ways to Love Your Laptop (and Make It Last Longer)

Laptop computers are one of the most fragile pieces of tech you’ll ever buy, but they also receive the roughest treatment. Extend your laptop’s life with these five easy tips.

Avoid sharp movements during use: While some newer laptops have an SSD drive with no moving parts, many laptops still have mechanical drives which work a bit like a record player. It has a head which is like a record player needle, and a data storage platter like a record. The head hovers just microns over the surface of the spinning disk and a knock can cause them to collide. Just like a deep scratch on a record, whatever data was in that section will be corrupted and lost. Make sure you always power down the laptop before moving it or packing it away.

Keep it cool: Your laptop has 2 sure ways of telling you when it’s too hot – the fan and auto-shut off. Each component in your laptop is generating heat, and the harder it’s working, the more heat each creates. The fan runs to blow that heat out the vent and keep the components cool enough to continue operating. Because there’s no clear temperature indicator, your fan volume is the best guide to monitoring laptop heat. While the laptop is working hard (and getting hot), the fan will spin faster and louder. It’s not uncommon for it to sound like a hair dryer at times! Help it out by keeping your fan vent clear of books, blankets, and other blockages.

Respect the cords: Inside those robust looking power cords are a bunch of delicate wires, begging you to be gentle. You’d think they should be able to take a beating, get bent, twisted and run over with chair wheels, but unfortunately not. Keep cords clear of sharp or flat-edged items, and when wrapping for transport try to mimic how it came out of the box. Wrap the cord gently around itself or the power adapter and secure with Velcro or similar.

Carry it in padded style: Look for a bag that not only fits your laptop but also provides padding. Your system will endure countless bumps and bangs as the bag is moved around, even with careful use. Ideally, your bag has a bottom, side and top padding, as well as a waterproof outer. If backpacks aren’t your style, look for padded or hard-shelled sleeves.

Back it up: Laptops give us fantastic mobility but as mentioned above they’re quite fragile. While a backup won’t make your laptop components last longer, it will make minor repairs that much easier. You’re more likely to take it in for a service if your data is accessible elsewhere, and of course, in the event of accident or theft, you’re fully prepared. Consider an off-site backup for additional protection, so no matter what happens with your laptop you still have your important files.

Call us at 778-421-1107 to give your laptop a life-extending service, or click here

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Vista End Of Life

Windows Vista End-of-Life: What This Means For You

Windows Vista End-of-Life: What This Means For You

The countdown is on for Windows Vista users. On 11th April 2017, Microsoft will cease all support and security patching, just like they did with previous Windows versions. Naturally, you’re rather attached to your current operating system and not exactly leaping for joy at this news!

Unfortunately, the longer your computer goes without an upgrade, the higher the chance of a complete system breach. While you’re watching the count-down and thinking about scheduling an upgrade sometime soon, cyber-criminals are making plans of their own. As time progresses, they’ll actively target out-of-date systems and search for vulnerabilities.

Even the most stalwart Vista user must finally upgrade, as continuing to use it will expose your computer to some pretty confronting risks, including:

Security risks: While Microsoft may have patched the gaps exploited during the Vista lifetime, there are many more just waiting to be discovered. It gets worse: your antivirus program is unlikely to intercept these attacks. Hackers are extremely fast to exploit newly-discovered vulnerabilities and without Microsoft working just as fast to close them, the risk increases exponentially every time you turn the computer on.

Compliance risks: For business users, this is a big one. Many businesses are subject to conditions that require them to run an operating system that’s regularly patched. For those working with sensitive, legal or private data, this is even more important. Continuing to use an unsupported OS places not just the system security at risk, but also the entire business.

Software incompatibility: New applications are created exclusively for current operating systems. This means you can’t upgrade past the software you now have, and will soon be phased out of new updates and options across all application types.

No support: Vista mainstream support was stopped back in 2012 but there were always avenues if you were really stuck with something. A quick Google search, an expert on call or even sympathetic support staff at Microsoft helpdesk willing to bend the rules; as of 11 April though, that all stops. The only support available will be outdated pieces you can locate with Google, solutions which may send you in circles with no resolution.

Windows Vista End-of-Life: What This Means For You

The solution is quite simple: upgrade your computers to Windows 10 well before the April 11 deadline.

Windows 10 is the latest release and will give your upgrade investment the most value over time, as well as the best security Windows users have ever seen. Vista will continue to work after April 11, but every day you use it puts your system at increasingly higher levels of risk.

Get in contact by calling us at 778-421-1107 or submit a service ticket here to upgrade your Windows.

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How To Protect Your Children Online

How To Protect Your Children While They’re Online

Children have all the time in the world to spend with their best friend: Technology.

Waking early to sneak in a couple hours of Minecraft, Roblox, YouTube or Xbox…grabbing their ‘educational’ iPad and Facetiming a friend…sending emails and texts.

Not just the younger children, but teenagers too.

To be honest, as an adult, we really have no idea what’s cool or what they’ve been introduced to at school. They’re digital natives and use it in ways we would never dream of.

All we know is that they’re going to using their devices and we won’t be able to watch them every second of the day. Plus of course, no matter how many Cyber-Safety talks they’ve had, how many times they can parrot the rules back, they’re children and they don’t always stop to think.

  • They don’t realize certain search terms might not be such a great idea
  • They trust they are messaging other children
  • And they would rather not limit themselves to 2 hours per day

Protect your Children with Parental Control Software

A Parental Control Software (PCS) package is essentially an internet filter for children. It takes all the icky, inappropriate things online and blocks your child from accessing them, seeing them or even knowing they exist.

Adults can override and disable the software easily, so their own experience is unchanged and unmonitored.

As an added bonus, Parental Control Software can also be used to put time limits on internet usage, or even log all online activity. While you may not feel the need to review the logs on a daily basis, they can be vital in identifying cyber bullying, sexting, or inappropriate relationships. Parents around the world credit these logs with saving their child’s mental health, and occasionally, their life.

The best time to install Parental Control Software is now, before your children become comfortable with unrestricted access, and before they see things they shouldn’t.

Give us a call to set your computer up with Parental Control Software today.

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Balance being social with staying safe

So how do you balance being social with staying safe?

People happily share their private information online, building robust libraries that can easily become a one-stop goldmine for fraudsters.

It’s not exactly the intention everyone has when they sign up, as the whole point of Facebook is to share your life with your friends. It hooks us into a global community and the experience does depend on us making certain privacy sacrifices.

So how do you balance being social with staying safe?

On Facebook alone, the average person shares 13 pieces of personal information ranging from a fairly innocent name/email combo, all the way to mothers maiden name and home address.

It doesn’t sound like a lot, but those 13 pieces have the power to unravel your life within minutes.

Even checking in at home has become the norm, helping to create a multi-dimensional online identity. The details are available to anyone who cares to look, whether they’re a friend keeping in the loop, or someone with a much darker agenda.

The problem is, you just don’t know who’s looking at your profile or why.

For example, someone could try accessing your email account by clicking the ‘Forgot password’ link. The email service follows its security rules and asks identifying questions like ‘which high school did you go to? What is your pet’s name?’ Unfortunately, the most common identifying checks and answers are probably available on Facebook.

Once your email address is compromised, hackers can use that to break into other services and go through, clicking ‘Reset Password’ on site after site, account after account – they have full access to your email, so there’s nothing stopping them from emptying your bank accounts – or worse.

7 Ways To Secure Your Facebook Without Missing Out on the Fun

  • Begin by previewing your profile as others see it
  • Review what should and should not be visible to strangers
  • Consider only sharing partial details, like birth day and month, but not the year
  • Only ever ‘Friend’ people you know and trust
  • Be wary of duplicate or ‘odd’ friend activity – hackers will often clone or hack a friend’s profile and initiate an urgent and uncharacteristic request for money
  • Update your past privacy settings too
  • Set default future sharing to ‘friends only’
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