Archives for September 2012

Watch out for fake virus alerts

used with permission from the Microsoft Safety & Security Center

Rogue security software, also known as “scareware,” is software that appears to be beneficial from a security perspective but provides limited or no security, generates erroneous or misleading alerts, or attempts to lure users into participating in fraudulent transactions.

How does rogue security software get on my computer?

Rogue security software designers create legitimate looking pop-up windows that advertise security update software. These windows might appear on your screen while you surf the web.

The “updates” or “alerts” in the pop-up windows call for you to take some sort of action, such as clicking to install the software, accept recommended updates, or remove unwanted viruses or spyware. When you click, the rogue security software downloads to your computer.

Rogue security software might also appear in the list of search results when you are searching for trustworthy antispyware software, so it is important to protect your computer.

What does rogue security software do?

Rogue security software might report a virus, even though your computer is actually clean. The software might also fail to report viruses when your computer is infected. Inversely, sometimes, when you download rogue security software, it will install a virus or other malicious software on your computer so that the software has something to detect.

Some rogue security software might also:

  • Lure you into a fraudulent transaction (for example, upgrading to a non-existent paid version of a program).
  • Use social engineering to steal your personal information.
  • Install malware that can go undetected as it steals your data.
  • Launch pop-up windows with false or misleading alerts.
  • Slow your computer or corrupt files.
  • Disable Windows updates or disable updates to legitimate antivirus software.
  • Prevent you from visiting antivirus vendor websites.

Rogue security software might also attempt to spoof the Microsoft security update process. Here’s an example of rogue security software that’s disguised as a Microsoft alert but that doesn’t come from Microsoft.

Example of a warning from a rogue security program known as AntivirusXP.

For more information about this threat, including analysis, prevention and recovery, see the Trojan:Win32/Antivirusxp entry in the Microsoft Malware Protection Center encyclopedia.

Here is the legitimate Microsoft Windows Security Center:

Screenshot of legitimate Microsoft Windows Security Center.

To help protect yourself from rogue security software:

  • Install a firewall and keep it turned on.
  • Use automatic updating to keep your operating system and software up to date.
  • Install antivirus and antispyware software such as Microsoft Security Essentials and keep it updated. For links to other antivirus programs that work with Microsoft, see Microsoft Help and Support List of Antivirus Vendors.
  • If your antivirus software does not include antispyware software, you should install a separate antispyware program such as Windows Defender and keep it updated.
  • Use caution when you click links in email or on social networking websites.
  • Use a standard user account instead of an administrator account.
  • Familiarize yourself with common phishing scams.

If you think you might have rogue security software on your computer:

Scan your computer. Use your antivirus software or do a free scan with the Microsoft Safety Scanner. The safety scanner checks for and removes viruses, eliminates junk on your hard drive, and improves your PC’s performance.

Get help from a Microsoft partner. If you have trouble removing the software yourself, you find experts in your area.

Check your accounts. If you think you might have entered sensitive information, such as credit card numbers or passwords into a pop-up window or at a rogue security software site, you should monitor your associated accounts.

If you suspect that your computer is infected with rogue security software that is currently not detected with Microsoft security solutions, you can submit samples using the Microsoft Malware Protection Center submission form.

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Computers: Is Consumer Grade enough for your business?

Sure, it’s enticing. You’ll save money right now if you run out to your local big box store or hop online and purchase that computer or that combo firewall/wireless router that’s on sale. But is that money saved really worthwhile for your business in the long run?

They say that a penny saved is a penny earned, but when it comes to your businesses technology, that penny saved may cost you a lot more later on down the road.

The main reason is that the majority of equipment sold at the big box stores are for home users and aren’t made for the higher demands of a small business. Think about it—is that combo firewall/wireless router really going to stop a professional hacker from accessing your critical business or customer data, or provide the security to protect your network? It’s not.

Let’s start by taking a look at the most widespread piece of technology throughout any business in the country—the computer.

Business Grade vs. Consumer Grade

You know that computers are now a necessity for any Small to Mid-Sized Business. But there are so many options out there, aren’t they all the same?  Do a quick search and you’ll quickly find there are many differences.

Meeting demands

There’s a stark contrast between a business grade computer and a consumer grade computer starting with the way they are built. Most consumer grade computers are mass producedto sell at said big box retailers and are made to operate efficiently for 2 years, if you’re lucky. Most business grade computers are produced on-demand on a much smaller scale and are made to last 3-4 years, at the higher demands that are required.

Compatibility

The support needs and requirements are much different as well. If you have ever tried to connect a home computer (consumer grade) to a business network, you know that it doesn’t work very well. There’s a reason for that—the software (Windows Home versions) on home computers aren’t made to connect with a business network. The same goes for getting support for your home computer through a business technology provider: we can figure it out, but it will take longer and a lot more investment on your part to make that happen.

Horror story time

We recently had a client purchase a computer from a big box retailer that needed to be able to connect to their network. The computer was on sale, so they figured it was a good deal. They were unable to successfully connect the computer to their network, so they called us to figure it out for them. It took one of our engineers about two days’ worth of time to properly configure the computer to work how the client needed it to. In the end, they spent about double what it would have cost to purchase a business grade computer that was already configured to their needs.

These are just a few examples as to why you need to consider the pros and cons of investing in the proper computer for your business. By purchasing a consumer grade computer, you run the risk of needing to replace it much sooner than you should, or needing costly service work down the road to keep it running.

If you aren’t sure what type of computer will work best for your specific business needs, give us a call. One of our consultants will be happy to explain the differences and help you find a computer that will meet your demands.

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Are you ready to BYOD?

used with permission from HP Technology at Work

As business becomes more mobile, tablets and smartphones are taking an active role in the technology shift. BYOD (bring your own device), where employees use their personal devices to complete work tasks, is becoming common practice—sometimes sanctioned and sometimes under-the-radar. It’s inevitable that people will want to consolidate devices and make work as easy as possible, but can a tablet or smartphone really be used as your primary computing tool?

BYOD: right or risky?

For workers who need to be on-the-go, smartphones and tablets can truly increase your overall efficiency. Employee productivity increases, and so do budgets. But before you can reap these benefits, there are some risks and considerations to recognize, especially when employees are using their own smartphones and tablets, instead of ones provided by your IT team:

  • Device variety: There’s a large menu of operating systems and hardware options, which makes it difficult for IT to focus on securing a single platform.
  • Outdated firmware: Many consumers don’t generally keep current on their firmware, which disables basic operation and other functions of the device.
  • Network authentication: Lost or upgraded personal devices still carry potentially sensitive company information that you won’t want floating around.
  • Mobility issues: Tablets and smartphones are susceptible to theft or loss, and can get expensive to replace.
  • Data plan misuse: When adding tablets into budgets, data plan costs are often forgotten. Most users will go over their plan, and generally it’s from personal use (e.g., streaming movies or browsing the internet).

How to mitigate these risks

By making employees aware of these issues, you’re already helping your business. Some ways you can centrally mitigate these risks are:

  • Keep your eyes open for available updates for devices, and encourage your employees to do the same. Explaining the risks of losing data may give your employees the nudge to also be on the lookout.
  • Wipe data on devices that no longer sync with company resources.
  • Keep passcodes on your device whenever possible.
  • Include data plan costs in the tablet budget. You can also tether a tablet to your mobile phone to share usage. You can do this by turning on your mobile phone’s “hot spot,” which allows you to share your data plan with devices around you.
  • Finally, figure out how to properly roll out a smartphone/tablet plan so your employees aren’t working from their own devices. It may seem like a tough task but, in the long run, you’ll be preventing so much risk—and employees will be happier using newer devices.

Tablets: efficient, effective, inevitable

Tablets like the HP Slate 2 and HP EliteBook Tablet have more to offer than just stunning visuals:

  • Familiarity: They both offer ease of use because they run on Microsoft® Windows®, while the EliteBook comes equipped with a full keyboard.
  • Mobile printing: According to IT Web, tablet owners print twice as much as the average user [1]. HP ePrint lets you easily print from your tablet from virtually anywhere with internet access [2].
  • Convenient printing: The HP Officejet 100 Mobile Printer allows you to print from a variety of mobile devices using Bluetooth [3]. It’s also compact and easy to carry with you.
  • Elite Premium support: Your time is precious—don’t waste it servicing your tablet. We’ve got a support team here with specific knowledge on your EliteBook tablet who will dedicate their time to your needs. All day, every day.
  • Multitasking: Should you decide to only keep a tablet around for email and schedule needs, it works great as a second monitor, making task transition seamless.
  • And, of course, business productivity: While HP tablets run on Windows and can run familiar applications you use every day—like Microsoft Office—other tablets use apps, many of which fulfill unique business needs. These include project management & collaboration, note taking, scheduling, travel logistics, event organization and more.

If you feel the rewards of using a tablet or smartphone for business outweighs the risks, you have plenty of company. Technology is moving forward at a quick pace, and mobile computing devices are the next phase. In order to make the right decision, you must first understand all the information about BYOD—and then work out a plan that ensures your mobile workers are still practicing safe computing, even when they’re on the go.


Microsoft and Windows are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies.

[1] IT Web, “HP drives Web-enabled printers,” February 2012
[2] Requires an Internet connection to the printer. Feature works with any connected Internet- and email-capable device. Requires HP Web Services Account Registration. Print times may vary. Some HP LaserJets may require a firmware upgrade. For a list of supported documents, and image types, see www.hp.com/go/eprintcenter. And for additional solutions, seewww.hp.com/go/mobile-printing-solutions
[3] Notebook or netbook must be Bluetooth enabled. Includes Windows MobileR phones. Additional fee required through 3rd party service provider for BlackBerry, Palm OSR and Nokia Symbian smartphones.

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3 Hidden Costs of Aging IT Networks

Network refresh. . .I’ll give you a moment to stop cringing.

Better? Ok.

It’s something that most business leaders don’t want to think about, but needs to be considered when your network reaches the three year mark. A network refresh is an investment, there’s no doubt about that, but the cost of doing nothing and continuing to work on an aging network most likely has greater costs that you may not even realize.

Consider the fact that network components begin to deteriorate after 3 years. That means they require more maintenance than new equipment. Add in that the demands on today’s networks are much higher than ever (stop and think about how much more work do you do using technology than you did a few years ago!) and will only continue to go up, and that you’re asking equipment designed for a previous age to deliver on these increased demands, and you have a recipe for a network break down.

Let’s take a look at some of the underlying costs associated with an aging network:

Performance

If your network continually goes down or needs maintenance, your team is losing work time. This costs you money by decreasing staff productivity and results. Take a moment to calculate the money lost on just employee salary for an hour of down time…

                Average Employee Hourly Rate x Number of Employees = Employee Salary lost per hour

Say your average employee hourly rate is $20 and you have 10 employees – that’s $200 for just one hour of downtime! And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. What about customer satisfaction when your business comes to a halt, without access to critical data? If a network crashes, it will usually be down for at least a few hours before a technician can be onsite to remediate any problems.

Operations

Aging networks are far more inefficient than modern technology and have much higher power consumption rates. (The new HP ProLiant Gen8 Servers boast a 6x performance increase for demanding workloads over older servers.) These older network components end up raising your operating expenses, which is an ongoing expense.

Service

Ongoing network problems are another common issue. With these issues comes more service calls to repair minor or major issues. Perhaps the newest version of your accounting software is no longer supported by your old hardware specs, causing error after error. Maybe your server is on its last legs and needs repeated emergency maintenance. Maybe you’ve embraced personal devices like smartphones and tablets on your network, but they aren’t compatible with older technology.

Nobody wants the extra expense of unscheduled maintenance or repairs for their network – the cost for these on-site trips or even remote service begins to add up quickly!

How do you fix the problem?

Business technology has matured to a point where a properly configured network should run stably with little to no unscheduled maintenance. If you find yourself consistently having issues or needing unscheduled service calls, it may be time to consider a partial or full Network Refresh. Your network and your IT infrastructure is like a car: at some point it gets enough miles on it that the cumulative costs to fix it after each breakdown exceed the cost of a new car.

Do you need a network refresh? You can answer that question by assessing your network in detail. To learn more about or to schedule an assessment, contact us! We’ll be more than happy to help you get started!

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VMware View Price Increase

The price of VMware View will be increasing by 10% on September 28, 2012. Therefore, if you have been looking to deliver virtualized desktop services from the cloud but have not pulled the trigger yet. Now is the time to do so. If you would like to learn more about VMware View or other IT management products, contact NMGI at (620) 664-6000.

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