Why You Should Use a VPN

Think You’re Safe? Here’s 5 Reasons Why You Should Use a VPN

At LaptopMd we’ve covered security in depth on our blog. Today we want to talk about a hot topic – Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs. Once upon a time VPNs were only for businesses or security experts.

Nowadays, with the rise of censorship, tracking, and internet hacking, VPNs are something casual users are considering, and that’s probably a good idea.

It’s pretty easy to get a VPN app from the Microsoft, Google, or Apple store and install it with a few clicks on a button. Typically only basic configuration is needed. You no longer have to be a security expert to protect your right to privacy.

As you can see from this popular VPN website, VPNs aren’t extremely expensive either. In fact, you can get a pretty robust VPN with strong encryption for as low as the cost of two coffees a month.

Here are five reasons why you probably should be using a VPN:

Device Protection

How many times have you logged onto wi-fi at a coffee shop, store, or airport to take advantage of the free connection? It’s easier than you think for a malicious hacker to sniff out your information, or even fool you into connecting to a fake site, giving them the ability to download malware straight to your computer or phone.

VPN tunnels send data from a server straight to your phone; all data is encrypted. That means that even if you are on an unsafe network, hackers won’t be able to interfere, or even see what you’re doing.

Evade Tracking

VPNs direct all of your internet traffic through an encrypted tunnel. You have the option to choose a server in any location, and choose a different IP. This can be useful if you need to access sites at work or school when the network is severely restricted, blocking various sites, but accessing these sites will enhance your studies or work.

Avoid Being a Commodity

Did you know that internet service providers can now collect and sell your data as they would like? Every time you log online, every move you make is tracked, and monetized. Congratulations, to advertisers, you, as a person are now a product.

Advertisers buy your internet history so they can analyze what sites you visit, where you currently shop, what your interests are and more so that they can make their advertisements more appealing to you.

Actually, more people may be interested in what you are doing online than you think – social media sites, and yes, hackers. A VPN protects you from becoming a product that can be sold.

Access Geoblocked Content

Unfortunately, not all countries are afforded the same privileges as we have in the US. Some countries in the world are subject to censorship or a government controlling what you see online. If you are visiting one of these countries, a VPN will bypass content restrictions so you can access simple streaming services like Netflix and YouTube or your religious or political readings.

Privacy is a Right, not a Privilege

New Yorkers can’t go anywhere without being caught on surveillance camera. We’re followed and watched by advertisers, cell networks and tracked by social media sites and our ISPs. If you believe that privacy is a right, not a privilege, look into a VPN. You don’t have to be doing anything wrong to be spied on.

Your life is not for sale, so you should stop companies from profiting off of it without your permission.

If you’re interested in network security, or internet security, talk to one of our techs today and we’ll be happy to help. We remove Viruses, Malware, do data recovery and love to talk tech in general.

 

6 Greatest Causes of Data Loss

The data we so meticulously save to our devices is always at risk. Here at LaptopMD, we want everyone to save themselves the devastation of losing that data.

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In that regard, here are the six most common causes of data loss we encounter.

Hardware Damage
Hardware is not meant to last forever and rarely lets you know when it’s about to die. The worst part is when hardware dies, you lose your data. This is why it’s advised you update or change hardware every few years.

Computer Theft or Loss
Someone breaks into your home or car and snatches up your computer, laptop or tablet.

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You leave it in a cab or coffee shop and all your efforts to recover it fail. For many of us, loss of data means a lot more to us than the hardware.

Damaging Software
The biggest thrill for a hacker is finding a way to crack what’s supposed to be the latest firewall or antivirus platform. Someone somewhere is virtually attacked every day. While it is advantageous to be connected via your devices, it means opening yourself up to numerous risks.

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From stealing data and slamming you with spam to making you think something’swrong with your computer so that you can pay hackers to “fix” it, these hazards can be hard to avoid.

Power Failures
The latest operating systems are capable of performing auto-saves to memory before a computer loses power. But that shouldn’t be relied on for protecting data. A shutdown can also disrupt reboot operations and make accessing data difficult later.

Damage as a Result of Mishap
We drop our computers. We spill liquids on the keyboard and watch in horror as our machines die.

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Replacing a computer is a hard pill to swallow, but losing your pictures, files, music and other data hurts. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely anyone will design a waterproof computer any time soon.

Accidental File Deletion
Probably the number one issue brought to us is losing whole files or parts of files. The major reason data is lost is due to the fact there are not appropriate workflow procedures and backup strategies in place.

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These would save a lot of time.

Now you are unprepared!
Even in today’s sophisticated world of technology and knowledge of the risks, more users than not still operate without regular backups. Backup daily, install the latest anti-virus solutions and be ready to reinstall your OS should you have to. If you’re regularly backing up,

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your files will not be in danger if you encounter any of the above issues. In the worst case scenario, you can contact LaptopMD. We use the latest tech to review and save data where possible.

5 Signs Your Computer Got a Virus

Many viruses inflict the most harm before people even notice them. It’s vital to learn the signs of infection so you can take immediate action.  We want to warn you about 5 common signs of infection:

5 signs you got a virus

#1 Annoying pop-up advertisement
If pop-up advertisements appear when you aren’t browsing the Web, a virus is probably creating them. Some malware distributors seek to generate revenue by delivering third-party ads to computers without user permission.

5 signs you got a virus

Others try to sell products or services that supposedly remove the virus. Never respond to these advertisements; most Internet criminals won’t fully remove their malware if you pay them. They will try to extract more money out of you in the future. You could also end up with fake anti-virus software on your computer.

#2 Locked access
A message may inform you that police or other authorities have locked access to your PC. It might accuse you of viewing illegal content, breaking copyright laws or committing other crimes. Even if it seems authentic, don’t believe these statements. Government agencies don’t actually lock citizens’ computers and demand fine payments when they detect illegal activity.

5 signs you got a virus

The truth is that criminals use deceptive “ransomware” to demand cash from people who want to regain access to their files or applications. Find a way to remove the malware rather than rewarding such behavior.

#3 Subtle symptoms
Some viruses have fairly subtle symptoms. They might cause a PC to run somewhat slower by placing more demand on its Internet connection or processor. You may not even notice this if you have a fast computer with plenty of bandwidth. Nonetheless, the malware could be stealing your account numbers, passwords and confidential documents.

5 signs you got a virus

It may use your machine as a repository for pornographic images or instruct it to take part in scheduled attacks on other computers. A virus with few or no symptoms can still be quite harmful.

#4 An error message
Your computer could be infected if anti-virus or program management utilities become impossible to access. For instance, you might see an error message when you try to run a spyware scanner or activate firewall software.

5 signs you got a virus

Some malware also stops users from reaching theTask Manager in Windows. You may find that your computer does nothing when you press the control, alt and delete keys at the same time. This makes it more difficult to detect or interrupt an illicit program’s malicious activities.

#5 Strange emails
When acquaintances receive email messages that you never sent, a virus could be responsible. You might discover this when people reply to them or you receive notifications about “bounced” email. Be sure to check your outbox for unauthorized messages.

5 signs you got a virus

Malware can also commandeer social media accounts and use them to transmit viruses or post fraudulent ads. If a virus doesn’t directly infiltrate accounts, it may provide hackers with your login details and enable them to send messages without permission.

React fast
When you suspect that your computer contains malware, it’s important to take action quickly. Viruses intercept more private information and infect additional files when they remain in place for long periods of time.

5 signs you got a virus

For example, a malicious program could be recording every keystroke and sending the data to hackers. If you notice the signs of a virus or accidentally download a suspicious file, please visit the professionals.

How To Stop Spam

It’s your lucky day, over and over! The King of some far off land has passed and wants to give you his fortune, just like the one the day before, and the day before that right? Are you that lucky, or is someone just trying to trick you? Probably the latter.

Unfortunately, spammers and scammers frequently lurk our inbox wanting nothing more than to cause harm to your computer and bank account. You may not fall for their games, but many do. According to cNet.com, over 30% of knowingly Americans open spam, and 8% even open files attached to the e-mails!

mailbox

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CryptoWall of Doom

NOTE TO ALL WINDOWS USERS:

If you’re e-mailing, be very careful what files you open. Cryptowalls are Super-Viruses, and they can ruin all the data on your computer.

Cryptowalls generally come in e-mails as .PDF/.EXE file attachments, asking you to open them for more information about a question posed in an e-mail.

Once you open these files, the malicious code sweeps your computer, encrypting all your files. The infected computer receives a notepad file warning of a $500 USD ransom that goes up to $1000 in seven days. The money must be sent in bitcoins and sent to the e-mail directed.

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The “Big Deal” about Hillary’s E-Mails

What is she wearing? I can’t wait to E-mail Michelle about this.”

 

If you’re like many, you may wonder what the big deal is about Hillary Clinton using a private e-mail server for her governmental duties. While there are way more important stories in the world, the concern about the former Secretary of state using an e-mail address linked to a personal server is legitimate. Besides the remote but intriguing possibility that she was handling foreign policy with a NextPrez2016@gmail.com handle, her sidestepping of the government network is a somewhat devious maneuver. Additionally, the security concerns that arise with using a private network are too dangerous when our nation’s sensitive information is involved.

All municipal and federal employees utilize government servers to correspond. As a former government worker, I can attest that rules stated I was never to use my personal e-mail for ”business”. With top flight encryption and consistent maintenance by IT engineers beyond the cutting edge, these networks are simply more secure than the average e-mail server. Big time public e-mail providers can’t be held to the same standard, because pictures of your week at the beach are a little less of a priority than protecting national security.

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Security Advisory: Trojan Viruses on Mac Computers and Apple’s Simple Fix

Apple has recently been hit with two highly publicized trojan viruses, ratcheting up the security focus on Apple’s line of Mac computers.  The recent trojan viruses have come in two varieties – both of which involve the user being tricked into mistakenly downloading and opening these malicious documents:

  1. The first masquerades as a PDF containing offensive political statements in Chinese and creates a backdoor that installs malware on a person’s Mac.
  2. The second trojan virus poses itself as a fake Adobe Flash installer which temporarily attempts to siphon off personal information from the user’s computer sending it back to remote servers.

No Worms in this Apple, Thank You Very Much

Apple has responded with swiftness, quickly updating its central database of malware definitions, which are downloaded daily onto a person’s computer and used to notify users of potentially harmful files that they download.  (Note: Malware definitions are only available to users of Apple’s Snow Leopard and Lion operating systems.)

Users who have not yet been affected by these two trojan viruses should automatically receive a warning from the operating system before opening the affected files.  Also, it goes without saying that it’s always wise to only download software from sites that you trust but if you think that you’ve been affected, please let LaptopMD+ know and bring your computer in right away.

As a reminder: Apple’s malware alerts should not be considered fixes but simple warnings meant to keep people aware of the type of files they are downloading, providing an extra level of caution.  As always, make sure you are downloading the latest software updates from Apple and have installed an anti-virus program on your Mac.

Read more about these trojan viruses from Mac Rumors and CNET.

What If…: Data Security in a Worst Case Scenario

Hard Drive Encryption is a vital part of laptop securityWe’ve talked a little about security in this blog, since it’s an essential part of owning a computer. From running the right antivirus software to making sure you don’t reuse passwords, there are a number of things you can do to keep yourself at least somewhat safe (never mind that something like 50% of computers imported to the US from China come pre-packaged with malware. Remember to always wipe and do a clean windows install on new machines). But what do you do if the worst-case scenario happens? How do you protect your laptop if it gets lost or stolen?

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How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love The Cloud

Cloud computing diagram
Image courtesy of wikipedia.org

When you or I send something to the cloud, where does it go? Do you know? Does anyone know? Questions like these have been cropping up left and right, and with companies from Apple to Microsoft moving to the cloud, they are bound to get more common. As with most new technologies, the media has done a great job trying to scare people without providing very many explanations, and with all the recent news of large companies getting hacked, there must be something to their claims that the cloud is a big, scary, unsecured place, right? Well, about that…

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How to Choose and Properly Maintain an Anti-Virus Program

computer securityWhen talking about basic digital security tips and protecting yourself online, I would be remiss to not pass on wisdom on how to properly choose and maintain an anti-virus program.  Many customers of ours bring their laptops or computers in for repair because of problems resulting from the anti-virus/security settings on their computer – whether an anti-virus program is improperly installed or is not installed at all.

Here are some tips I’ve shared with customers in the past on how to choose the right anti-virus software, set it up, and maintain it over time:

  1. Download a trial version

    Utilize the available versions and try out several programs before you actually buy the software.  There are a multitude of programs out there and each will bring their own unique flavor of security protection.  Trial software allows you to experience and test out the actual program without incurring the hefty prices.  Try different security packages, from different developers, and find out which one suits you best and works best on your computer.

  2. Be aware of ‘weighty’ software

    During the trial period watch and see how the anti-virus software affects your computer’s performance.  Note peculiarities such as speed, responsiveness, and unexpected computer freezes.  These problems can be symptomatic of ‘bloatware’ which unnecessarily slows your computer down.  Anti-virus software (especially the Norton Security Suite) can slow computers down so you will want to find the right software that fits your digital habits/needs.

  3. Buy as a Suite of Products, Not as a Single Piece of Software

    Most antivirus/firewall programs are available as a suite of products even though you can buy the standalone copies by themselves.  Contrary to popular belief, you will get a better deal (and more protection) when you focus on a suite of security products rather than individual programs.  Software purchased in suites, especially internet security software allows you to get more features for less money.

  4. Leverage the Available Bulk Licenses

    Most internet security software suites come with multiple licenses allowing you to install the program on multiple machines.  Take advantage of these bulk licenses and install the security software on all of the computers in your home, such as your spouse’s laptop, the kids’ computer, etc.  Protecting your entire home network is an integral part to mastering digital security.

  5. Get the Physical Software Disks

    Some programs allow you to download the application but be sure to buy the actual software so you have the disks if the computer crashes.  This makes computer recovery much easier for you and the repair engineers working on your computer.  You never know when you’ll need the actual disks and you don’t want to get caught with a missing login/password or without an internet connection like we’ve happen to customers in the past.

  6. Run/Schedule Software Updates Regularly

    When you install the program, make sure you activate and schedule the automatic updates and regularly check to make sure your program is up to date, especially if something feels out of place.  Anti-virus developers release several dozen patches a year that you need to be protected from.  Hackers will never stop so make sure you are applying updates to the anti-virus/firewall program as they become available.

Recommendations

So which anti-virus/firewall packages does LaptopMD like best and recommend?

We prefer and recommend Kaspersky Anti-Virus and PC Tools to our customers.  Both companies offer lightweight but full-featured software suites that we’ve seen perform well on our own computers as well as those of customers.

Share your thoughts in the comments and ask us what is still on your mind about anti-virus software.