Malicious Software, commonly known as Malware is software that negatively impacts your PC. Malware has been around as long as computers have, while the majority of programs you download or install on your PC are safe, some softwares were created to cause harm to you and your PC. One may ask how can a program cause me harm? Well the malware of itself cannot physically harm you but the design can cause you a lot more harm than just physical. 

For instance, there is malware that was designed to steal your information, destroy your files or even worst extract payment from your bank account. Whatever the intent of the Malware’s creator that’s what the effect will be on your or your PC. Persons place malware on people’s PC for many reasons, some do it for fame, others to act as a ransom, and others just to simply cause damage to their target. Much like someone who does vandalism or arson.

Malware comes in many forms, like viruses, spyware, rootkits, ransomware, etc. It is common practice to use viruses and malware interchangeably but a virus is a type of malware. In this article, we will be talking about, how does your PC get malware,  what happens when your PC is infected with malicious software, ways not to get it, and how to eliminate it. 

How does your PC get Malware?

Unfortunately, Malware is often identified when your PC has already gotten infected. Most times with malicious software,  a good question to ask is “What has changed on your PC”. Is there a software you have downloaded or a particular site you have been to that asked you to accept a pop-up? 

One might say that they haven’t been on any strange website, and most of the websites that they’ve been to is safe. Whereas that might be the case on the face of it. There are many websites that you click on, maybe just to check out some quick information from Google. But that site you go to just for a few seconds might have malware embedded in it. Your computer might not change in any way but the malware is being installed and running all in the background. 

Another one that scammers love to use is a fake warning that comes up on your screen saying ”WARNING - Your Computer is Infected With a Virus, click here, install our software to help you clean it.” What you’re doing at this point is installing the malware on your PC. The scammers are tricking you to install malware, that type of manipulation is called social engineering. Where criminals exploit your natural inclination to trust. 

Yet another way one PC can get infected with malware is by opening a file that is infected. It could occur by placing that malware on a USB drive and by using this USB drive you get malware on your PC. This could also be transferred through Emails email is the number one way of getting infected by malicious software. You open up a file sent to you via email and by just accessing that file your PC gets infected by malware. This situation is even more tricky because what if your job requires you to open up files sent to you by strangers? Like an HR department. Where individuals send you their resumes daily. Your responsibility would be to open these files to read their information. All these are ways that one can get infected by malicious software. 

What happens when your PC is infected with malicious software?

There are several effects that your PC will experience when you are infected. Some malware is so minor and so barely noticeable that you could be infected for years and not even realize it’s there. There are some variants of malware that are an extra advertisement that shows up at the bottom of your computer screen. You simply close the advert and it stops that program until a later time. That type of malware may not be intrusive but it is consuming ram on your PC it may pop up an advertisement that does not work appropriately or might simply just be bothersome to be closing that advert every once and a while.

Other Malware can delete your documents. For instance, you might have photos you have stored on your PC and then malware get’s installed and deletes all your photos. So you are going on your PC where you normally store photos and when you check there are no photos in that file. So much so that when you do upload photos, after a day or two they simply disappear. That is the sign of malicious software on your PC.

Some malware will start doing what is called ”thrashing the hard drive”. This is done by the program reading your hard drive as hard and fast as it can over and over and over again, reading the same sector over and over again trying to cause a failure on your hard drive. This attack can cause your hard drive to fail or your CPU to burn up. These are the software that was designed to burn up components on your computer, a very aggressive malware. 

There is yet another type of malware called “Keyloggers” these are the silent type of malware. They run in the background and record every keystroke, record every key you press on the keyboard, and sends it to a server. Whoever has access to that info can now see when you log in to a particular site and sues that record username and password to enter into your various accounts. Malware can make it seem like you are seeing a fake web page instead of the real one manipulate you to put some information there. 

One of the main things that happen when your PC is infected with malware is that your Pc becomes a transmitter. So if you are on a corporate network and that network host 500 PC, it only takes one PC to get corrupted and then every PC on that network can potentially get corrupted because of that one PC. 

A popular type of malware these days is called ransomware. When this type of malware affects your PC it takes the form of a ransom. So the program does not delete your files, instead, it encrypts all your data.  Now once encrypted you can no longer get access to your data, your data is still there however but to decrypt your data the attacker says to pay them a certain amount to decrypt your files. The reason why this type of Malware is so popular is that attackers can now monetize their malware. All of the other malware and its effects on your PC doesn’t necessarily bring a direct monetary value to them but this one does. 

Ways to Avoid Malware?

  1. Avoid downloading or installing softwares you do not trust. - One way to avoid malware is by not downloading or installing any file that you do not trust. If you are interested in downloading a Microsoft product for instance and there is a website that is not Microsoft offering the said product. You should be extra careful before downloading that particular software. 
  1. Stay away from websites without the Padlock icon - Another way to effectively avoid malware is by not visiting websites that do not have a padlock in your browser’s URL. That padlock icon means that your connection is secure and that the information that you enter into that site is also secure. It also registers the certificate from that website showing the certification path, certification status, and who it has been issued by. 
  1. Pay attention to the UAC - When installing software on your PC, Microsoft has what is called the User Access Control. What this does is create a prompt when any software is about to perform a change on your PC. This prompt then asks you if you would like to perform said change or deny that change from happening.

    According to Microsoft, The UAC elevation prompts are color-coded to be app-specific, enabling immediate identification of an application's potential security risk. When an app attempts to run with an administrator's full access token, Windows 10 first analyzes the executable file to determine its publisher. Apps are first separated into three categories based on the file's publisher: Windows 10, publisher verified (signed), and publisher not verified (unsigned). The following diagram illustrates how Windows 10 determines which color elevation prompt to present to the user.

    The elevation prompt color-coding is as follows:

    Red background with a red shield icon: The app is blocked by Group Policy or is from a publisher that is blocked.

    Blue background with a blue and gold shield icon: The application is a Windows 10 administrative app, such as a Control Panel item.

    Blue background with a blue shield icon: The application is signed by using Authenticode and is trusted by the local computer.

    Yellow background with a yellow shield icon: The application is unsigned or signed but is not yet trusted by the local computer.
  1. Install an Antivirus Software - An antivirus software acts both in identifying and eliminating malware on your PC. Most antivirus softwares have features that identify malware as it arises. They perform scans in the background or has storage of known malware and as soon as it sees that type of malware being installed it goes ahead and quarantines it. 

How to Eliminate Malware?

To eliminate malware revolve around utilizing software with the capability to identify, quarantine, and delete malware. Most times it revolves around an antivirus tool. 

Antivirus Software - There are a lot of antivirus softwares out there that do an amazing job in eliminating malware on your PC. According to USNEWS, the best Antivirus software for 2021:

Antivirus software protects against these types of threats by performing key tasks like:

A good antivirus is truly your go-to tool for eliminating malware. 

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, malware has been there for a long time and will continue to be present as long as computers exist. So let’s do all we can to be mindful of what malware is, how we get infected by them, and how to eliminate them. 

During the Pandemic, many professionals had to switch from working at their offices to working at home. In many cases, their office computers would have all the necessary tools, softwares, and features to perform their day-to-day task. If you are working from home with large files or proprietary files like CAD, graphics design, etc. then getting that same level of efficiency from home computers may appear difficult.  

Moreover, if you’re a part of a team that needs access to one particular file at the office, then working from home may make It seem impossible to collaborate with team members on this file.  

Nevertheless, rest assured, accessing your large work files from home is very achievable. Whether you are downloading a lot of data at once or working on your work pc from home, there are plenty of ways to ensure you have access to your files from anywhere.  

In this article, we will discuss 3 ways to access your work files remotely. 

1. Remote Desktop Protocol 

Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is a Microsoft operating system feature that allows a user to connect to another computer over a network connection. This feature allows you to access a separate device from the one you are using, being able to make use of it as you were there in person. 

The computer that you are remoting into becomes a window on your pc screen allowing you to access all of the programs and files stored on that computer. You can be at home or anywhere with internet connectivity and be able to access the computer you have been connected to. 

To access the RDP you must use Microsoft operating system. The official software is the Remote Desktop Connection, which comes preinstalled on all Microsoft systems. 

Remote Desktop Connection Screenshot

What are the pros of remote desktop protocol? 

What are the cons of remote desktop protocol? 

The Remote Desktop Protocol is a safe and free method to access your large files from your home environment.  

2. Remote Access Softwares 

Remote access software allows one pc to control or view another pc from anywhere with internet connectivity. Much like Microsoft Remote Desktop software, these applications allow you to access other PCs as if you were behind the screen physically. However, unlike Microsoft, these applications can work on either Windows or macOS so one can easily access files between any machines. The remote access softwares generally provide these basic features. 

What are the basic feature of remote access softwares? 

Setting up remote access software generally takes a few minutes with each software offering a specific feature that makes it stand out from the other. Here are a few remote access apps and what they offer. You can get a comprehensive list of the best remote desktop softwares on G2’s website. 

These apps as well as many others are available for the accessing of files remotely. Offering cloud solutions and protected access.  

What are the pros of remote access softwares?  

What are the cons of remote access softwares?  

3. Desktop Virtualization 

Desktop Virtualization allows a user to simulate workstation load from a connected device remotely or locally. Simply one of the best methods on our list, virtualization a technology that separates the infrastructure of one device from the physical client device used to access it. There are two main types of desktop virtualization, which depend on if the operating system instance is local or remote. 

What are the two main types of desktop virtualization? 

Remote desktop virtualizations allow an IT department to have better control over softwares and desktops using virtual machines. There are several benefits of Remote Desktop Virtualization. 

What are the pros of remote desktop virtualization? 

What are the cons of remote desktop virtualization? 

Desktop virtualization is getting increasingly simple, with businesses reaping tremendous benefits from their uses. Workplaces are becoming more productive and as the work environment is constantly changing you need a robust infrastructure that is able to change/adapt to this environment. At ACT360 we offer virtualization services for when performance, ease of use, and ability to work quickly is the main goal. We work with you and bring you the best virtualization service possible.  

Conclusion 

Accessing large files remotely is becoming increasingly necessary as businesses move into a work-from-home environment. Employees need to be able to access their data anytime, anywhere, and from almost any device. We discussed three ways to access those large files remotely. 

Remote Desktop Protocol, which uses Microsoft remote desktop protocol to get access to other windows desktops.  

Remote Access Softwares, which are applications that offer features like remotely accessing other PCs that have the server installed, share clipboard, offering to simply view the other machine or have full control of that machine. 

Desktop Virtualization, which makes it possible to access an entirely different computer with optimal protection, enhanced features, and performance. 

We all forget stuff. I forgot how old my Mom was a few days ago, so I just put “Happy 35th birthday” in a card and called it quits.

Everyone laughed, and now I’m out of the will.

Maybe you’re forgetful, too. Are you reading this with only 9% battery because you forgot to charge your device last night? Are you hoping one of your co-workers has a cable you can borrow?

Let’s say you have a Samsung A10. Adam over there has a cable he picked up at the gas station for $2 that he’s using to charge is iPhone 7. Marcus has the original cable that came with his Huawei Mate 30 Pro.

So who's it going to be? Which phone charger should you borrow?

First, let’s explore what’s actually inside a phone charger cable.

What's in a phone charger cable?

A lot of engineering goes into cables – they’re not just strings of metal wrapped in rubber with an end that fits in your phone.

Inside the little plastic “heads” of OEM cables are small circuit boards and resistors. These not only protect your data, but also protect your device from surges. They’re there to make sure the cable is operating at peak efficiency.

Adam’s gas station cable is so cheap because it likely doesn’t have any of those circuit boards, whereas Marcus’ cable does.

Since neither cable is designed specifically for your Samsung A10, why does any of this matter?

Yesterday’s phone charging cables

On Google’s Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 6P and 5X devices, released in 2016/17, the cables were built with a 56k ohm resistor. Without it, unregulated electrical current coming from an uncertified third-party charger, or from the USB ports on a Mac or Windows machine, could spike. This would cause the battery to begin rapidly combusting!

Yes, older devices paired with cheap charging cables could begin smoking and melting. They could even spark a small fire!

Worst of all, because you were using an uncertified charger, you voided your warranty, leaving you on the hook to cover the loss.

Apple & Android chargers

With most Android and Apple devices, charging is a little less dangerous.

Apple devices can detect non-certified cables and refuse to charge or sync data.

With Android devices, all cables will accept a charge, and most will allow data to sync. However, Android limits the charge to the lowest possible setting -- typically 5W.

This is known as “trickle charging.” It works, but it’s slow.

slow_charge

Wireless Chargers

So what about wireless chargers? Since there’s no cable plugging into your phone, it shouldn’t make a difference which charger your use, right?

Technically, that’s true, there’s no cable plugging into your phone. But there is a cable connecting the charger to a USB port, or into a wall adapter.

Old wireless chargers topped out at 5W, but today they’re up to as much as 15W. Still, the speed at which your device charges may be limited to the lowest electrical current available.

For example, if you use a 5W adapter with a 15W charging pad, you may only get the 5W charge.

Similarly, if you use a 10W charging pad with a Samsung Galaxy S20, which is capable of charging at up to 15W, your phone may still charge at the 10W electrical current.

Am I using the right charger?

How do you know if what you’re buying and using is a high-quality, certified phone charger?

Simple.

Apple clearly prints “Made For iPhone” or “MFi” on the outside of the cable. All USB-C cables, designed for newer Android devices, read “Compliant C cable – 56k” or something similar.

All Micro and Mini USB cables for older Android devices won’t have identifiable characteristics. But they don’t require a strong electrical current to charge, so most any will be fine.

Which cables will over-charge my battery?

None. It’s a myth. There’s no such thing as over charging a battery. Once it’s charged, it’s charged.

You Can't Over Dry

Which chargers will ruin my battery?

Damaged chargers and cheap, counterfeit chargers might kill your battery. But generally speaking, mixing and matching cables won’t harm your battery. At least not when it comes to new phones.

You may just be reduced to the trickle charge we mentioned earlier.

Phones like Huawei and OnePlus use proprietary circuitry to deliver a fast charge. That means you have to use the charger that comes with your phone if you want to take full advantage of their quick-charge capabilities.

Note: OnePlus Nord is set to release July 21, 2020, and is available for pre-order.

If you’re not sure which chargers are safe for your device, or if you have any other questions about your mobile device, batteries or chargers, give us a call at 705-739-2281. We can help.

When you don’t preserve your network, you set yourself up for critical issues, not the least of which include data loss and downtime.

Here are 3 things you can do right now to protect your network from a catastrophic event.

3. Back up files – EVERY DAY

According to research conducted in March 2020 by HelpNetSecurity.com, 21% of SMBs do not have a data protection plan, leaving them vulnerable to cyber attacks and data loss.

While 57% of the top leaders in accounting, banking and finance said data backup is the key concern in data protection, daily backups are often overlooked. Ontech Systems states, “60% of backups are incomplete and 50% of restores fail.”

Between malware, cyber criminals and natural disasters, it’s not a matter of if SMBs will have a problem, but when. 

2. Maintain Backup Procedures

Data protection is not a set it and forget it task. It requires frequent checks and ongoing maintenance to ensure everything is running as it was set up to run.

For example, you may think your daily backups are working just fine because you see the files every day. But if you’re not checking them, how will you know if those files have become corrupt? How will you know if large chunks of data are being missed?

The only way to be sure your backup procedure is working properly is to check on it frequently.

1. Update Anti-Virus and Firewalls

It may seem like a hassle to continually update your anti-virus and firewall software but failing to do so can leave you exposed to harmful cyber attacks. According to Ontech, roughly 20% of SMBs will be hacked within 1 year, and more than 50% won’t even know they’ve been attacked.

Protect your data with reputable anti-virus and firewall software. And don’t forget to update security patches! New viruses are being created all the time, which means last month’s anti-virus may be obsolete this month without the new patch.

Of course there are many more ways to protect important data. When you're ready to explore your data protection options, give us a buzz, our IT experts will help you setup and implement the right data protection plan for your business.

Talk to Us

Whether it be you’re replacing a dying/old laptop, or you’re buying your first laptop, that the key to look for is the specs, and nothing else. While yes, specs do mean longevity, performance and others, if you came across two laptops with the same specs, but one was $250 cheaper, you’d obviously buy that one.

Why spend that extra $250? Here’s why:

As with any laptop, specs are king – or at least, that’s what the marketing will let you believe. The age-old idiom of “You get what you pay for” is king in the computer world, whether that be laptops or desktops.

If you spend $3500 on a Mac desktop, you’re getting mid to top end hardware in a shiny fancy metallic enclosure. You’re getting stability and recovery options that Windows based machines can’t even come close too, but you’re also getting limited and expensive repair costs, and technical support is either hard to come by or expensive as well.

Consumer-grade Laptops

Almost any consumer grade based laptop or desktop is made of plastic. Any time plastic is heated and cooled repeatedly (aka. When you turn your laptop on and off), that plastic weakens the structural integrity. One day you’ll wake up and go to your laptop, open the lid and *CRACK*, the hinge your lid opens on splits in half, and you’re now not able to open the screen.

You can either plug it into another monitor if your laptop supports it, or you’ll have to get that hinge fixed. In our experience, replacing the bottom plastic shell and hinge assemblies on LCDs are so expensive, that it’s more profitable for you as a consumer to buy another laptop. You’ll then have to go through the hassle of transferring your data, re-acquiring your software, disposing of the broken laptop, and more.

Plastic structural integrity could fail in as few as 50 heat/cool cycles, or as much as 1000. You could get lucky, or you could get a lemon that isn’t covered under any warranty. Now you’re out $200, and a new headache is forming.

Business-grade Laptops

Business grade laptops, available at most high-end computer shops, are usually made of metal, or from a robust polymer that doesn’t weaken when heated and cooled repeatedly.

These laptops, while more expensive usually, come with the same or exceed the specs of a consumer grade laptop, and are manufactured and engineered to last a company 5+ years.

For a small investment, you wouldn’t need to be replacing everything every other year. You’ll get the same or better warranty, and components inside (what makes up the specs) are usually a higher quality part, or a name brand component, not a “as cheap as we can find to drive the price down” consumer grade part.

A handy breakdown of what specs you should be asking about, or looking for, will be coming within a few weeks, so stay tuned.

As always, if you have any questions regarding the differences between business and consumer grade computers, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Ah yes, having the option to work from home. A fantastic perk for the average office employee.

What used to be a one-off just a few months ago is now a government-mandated regulation. At least for the time being. We thought it would be a short-term scenario, but this new way of conducting business may be proving more desirable to many SMBs.

Let’s face it, there’s less overhead, fewer hours spent commuting, and many employees are finding a positive work/life balance. We’re proving that we are truly capable of being productive in our job even though we’re working from home.

You Don’t Have to Dress Up to Show Up

For the business owners who decide to give remote working an indefinite kick at the can, transitioning from a traditional work setting will, of course, require some adjustments. Not only by business owners, but by employees as well.

Last year, for example, staff would come together in an office setting, complete with computers, water coolers and a “9 to 5” schedule. The day was quite structured. As an employer, it was easy to keep tabs on everything and everyone. As an employee, it was easy to access information and collaborate with colleagues.

So how do you monitor productivity when you’re nowhere near your employees?

3 Steps for a Smooth Transition

  1. Planning
    Plan, plan then plan some more. To successfully transition from an in-office setting to a fully remote setting, planning is key. First, ask yourself:
    1. Who will be working from home, and in what roles?
    2. What do workers need to accomplish from home?
    3. What software and hardware will be required to make that happen?
    4. Is anyone apprehensive about working from home?
    5. How can I improve processes for team members working from home?
       
  2. Equipment
    Fortunately, modern-day technology has evolved to the point where just about any type of hardware needed to work can be moved to a home-based setting. It’s not like we have to deal with AS400s the size of your living room anymore.

    Depending on the scenario, you’ll need a collection of basic hardware (laptops, cell phones and tablets) for each remote worker. Whenever possible, it’s best to be consistent, making sure everyone is working with the same equipment and software. Peer support can be very helpful, especially when team members are working remotely.
     
  3. Connectivity Typically, if it goes without saying, I won’t say it. In this case, though, I feel the need to reiterate the importance of a strong and reliable Internet connection. Here’s what we recommend:

Avoiding the Pitfalls 

As with any operational changes of this magnitude, there may be pitfalls along the way. We want to help you avoid them. Here are some quick tips:

Now, these are just some of the high-level requirements for a successful work-from-home transition. There are a lot (I mean a LOT) of smaller details that need just as much planning.

Don’t worry, we’re not going to leave you out on the ledge to fend for yourself.

Next week we’ll be talking about all the ins and outs of setting up your team to successfully work from home. We’ll look at:

So, spend this time working through the planning process and getting organized. And we’ll see you back here next week. In the meantime, if you have any questions or need assistance setting things up, give us a call – we’re always happy to help.

Tired of talking about COVID-19 yet? Us, too. Let’s talk about a post-COVID world instead. 

The past few months have been … ahem … a whirlwind. Your world has been flipped upside down. You, your staff, and your customers have all been forced to abide by “social distancing” rules, a concept that wasn’t even on your radar earlier this year. 

And what happened when we all went home, and stayed home?  

We went online, of course! For good, bad or indifferent, we all turned to our trusty interwebs. We logged on for entertainment and socialization, to shop, to do our banking, and even to keep virtual doctor appointments. 

No matter what industry you’re in, your customers have been pulled into a digital vortex.

Sure, some may have already been tech savvy, but just as many weren’t ready for the pendulum to swing so far so fast.  

What happened next? Your call centre blew up.  

Yeah, ours did, too.  

Countless businesses just like yours have felt the sudden influx of customer service inquiries since the brick and mortar doors (literally) closed indefinitely.  

Digital adoption, ready or not 

In all honesty, we’re impressed with how the public is adjusting to being in isolation, forced to fend for themselves online.

   

… the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself. - Darwin 

Being in the web and IT space, we’re especially intrigued by how many businesses plan to continue down the digital path to customer self-service even after lockdown restrictions are lifted. 

Let’s talk about how you can lighten the load on your customer service team. Here are three ways to help customers embrace digital transformation even after your physical doors reopen: 

  1. Teach staff the subtle art of digital product promotion 

    Ensure your frontline team is making the best use of your digital tools, not just for themselves, but for your customers. Promoting tools they trust and rely on every day is the simplest way for them to (naturally) encourage customers to embrace those same digital tools.   
  2. Create an instructional online hub 

    TD has a great online hub filled with useful information about its digital tools. If you don’t already have one, we strongly recommend building a collection of walkthroughs and app simulations.

    It serves as a handy resource for front-liners to support customers. Better still, it helps customers help themselves, ultimately alleviating some pressure from your customer service team.  

    Learn about our Content Marketing team. 
  3. Reward customers for digital adoption 

    This one’s a no brainer. Who doesn’t love free stuff? When customers need a gentle nudge toward digital adoption, it’s easy to get them there with loyalty points, interactive quizzes and games. It’s even easier when you offer a chance to win a cool prize.  

Those are just a few of the many ways to help customers embrace digital transformation. Your call centre team will thank you. 

If you’re ready to get your ACT together, give us a buzz!  

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