Category Archives: Information Technology

Laptop on fire

Prevent Computer Overheating For Free!

Computer overheating solved for FREE! Speed up your computer, and have it last longer.

Every summer our computers and laptops suffer the tremendous wrath of the sun and we don’t even realise it!
Luckily, today we’re gonna show you some tips and tricks that will help prevent your computer overheating, make your computer last longer, and even make it run smoother and faster.
We’ll try to touch on different points for desktop computers, and laptop computers.

First let’s look at why you should protect your computer/laptop during summer time.
Your computer needs airflow at all times while it’s powered on in order to cool itself. This means that the bottom and the sides of your laptop need to be open in order for the hardware inside to be able to cool itself down, and your desktop’s vents need space to allow air to enter/exit. If your computer/laptop doesn’t have access to fresh air then it could overheat and force itself to shut down to prevent any hardware on the inside from burning itself up, or even worse, you could do some serious damage to your hardware and be looking at a couple hundred dollars in repairs.

Laptop on fire

Protect your computer from overheating


3 Tips To Prevent Overheating

1. (Laptop only) Try to keep your laptop off of soft surfaces. Surfaces such as blankets, couches, clothing, etc. are brutal laptop murderers (innocent until proven guilty). Instead keep your laptop on harder surfaces such as tables, desks, etc.
Note: If you have a gaming laptop, or like to use your laptop on the bed/couch, then you might want to invest into something like this to improve your experience and help your laptop survive!

2. Make sure to keep your precious piece of technology CLEAN! The #1 killer of almost all computers and laptops is DUST. Clean your computer with
this simple and extremely easy to use product.

Using the affordable canned air bought from VanTechs, you can easily and conveniently just blow out the dust from your laptop or computer.
For your laptop, just point the nozzle into the vents on the side, and bottom and blow the dust out.
For a desktop, you can either open up the side panel and blast air at the fans and other parts of your PC that seems to have accumulated dust. If you don’t want to open up the side panel, you can just blow air into the vents and power supply to help dislodge and remove some dust. Although removing the side panel is recommended for cleaning (there are plenty of YouTube videos showing you how to).

Computer being cleaned by canned air.

Click here to learn how to properly clean your computer.

3. Now for the final trick, make sure your computer doesn’t have programs using up 100% of the CPU. This might sound a little complicated, but it’s quite simple.
If you’re on a windows 7 or 10 computer all you have to do is press CTRL + ALT + DELETE (Not escape or backspace). And then your screen will pause for a moment and give you a variety of options, click on “Start Task Manager” then go to the “Performance” tab on the Task Manager window. Here you can monitor how much of your CPU is being used. If you own a mac click here.
If you’re watching movies, gaming, editing, or doing anything heavy expect the CPU percentage to be between 50% – 80%. If you’re computer is just sitting at the home screen with no applications open, CPU should be under 30% (These percentages are just approximate estimates and your computer will vary).

Screenshot of Task Manager in Windows 10 showing 6% of the CPU being used.

Task manager showing only 6% use on the CPU, so it’s not too hot.

Bonus Tip!
4. We know how harmful the sun is to our skin and health, but we still leave our valuable laptops and computers sitting in direct sunlight without a second thought. Leaving your computer in direct sunlight causes it to heat up excessively which can lead to crashes and may very likely cause internal failure or even melting of the casing. Try to avoid leaving the curtains open or putting your laptop out in the sun.  We know it sounds very simple, but a large percentage of people still carelessly leave their computers exposed to the harmful heat of the sun. So keep your computer indoors and cool this summer!


The biggest mistake…

Even if you only use your computer for home tasks such as emails, YouTube and other very basic light tasks, computer overheating, failing or crashing is still very likely.
The biggest mistake anyone ever makes is say “I don’t own a gaming computer, my computer will magically cool itself.”
Something as simple as not keeping it clean can cost you upwards of $200 to get fixed.
So do yourself a favour, and don’t pull the biggest mistake everyone else does.
Start taking care of your computer today, so you’ll know that it’ll run smoothly tomorrow.

Open laptop with money flying into it. Shows how pricey IT support can be.

Don’t let this happen to you

Vantechs Computers is happy to help you with all your technology needs. More tips & tricks to come, so make sure to follow the blog!

 

Dropbox breach!

With the recent news that Dropbox had experienced a data breach, cloud attacks are becoming a big concern. We recommend using different passwords for each provider you utilize. Also change the passwords frequently. And as always, keeping sensitive data in the cloud could lead to bigger problems in case of such attacks.

Here is a useful link to see if your account information has been leaked: https://haveibeenpwned.com. Simply enter your email address and see the results. Be sure to take action if there are any leaks. Please contact us if you have any concerns!

 

Backup and Disaster Recovery

Following the recent outage at Delta Airlines, a study by Symantec found that 57 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses do not have a disaster recovery plan. Less than half of SMBs back up their data weekly or more frequently and only 23 percent back up daily.

100% of our managed clients have affordable daily backups and full disaster recovery plans. Is your business protected?

Control iTunes on your Mac by wagging your finger

ControlAir lets you skip songs, adjust volume and pause music with a simple movement of your hand.

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ControlAir controls for iTunes.

There are a lot of different ways to control media playback on your Mac. You can use the built-in keys on the keyboard, the Today widget, the mini-player, an app on your iOS device, and the list goes on.

Today, you can add yet another way to control music Mac using your Mac’s iSight camera and your hand. The magical control experience comes in the form of a free app called ControlAir.

After installing ControlAir from the Mac App Store, you’re guided through a brief tutorial that doubles as a setup process.

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ControlAir setup screen.

In short, you raise your hand with your index finger pointing up. The camera on your Mac identifies the gesture, and brings up ControlAir’s controls. Moving your finger down selects the highlighted control, be it skipping a song or cranking up the volume.

ControlAir suggests being within 1 to 5 feet of the camera for best results, although I was able to use it from across the room (roughly 10 feet, 3 meters) on more than one occasion when testing.

There’s an elephant in the room we need to address: the fact your Mac’s camera is left on the entire time you’re using the application, watching your every move. The app’s controls live in the menu bar of your Mac, making it easy to pause or quit the application at anytime should you feel the need.

If you’re OK with that, you’ll be glad to know ControlAir also handles playback commands for the following apps:

  • iTunes
  • Spotify
  • VLC
  • QuickTime Player
  • VOX
  • Rdio

How to enable Smart Lock for Google Apps accounts

Google Apps users will need an admin to enable the feature before it can be used on a Chromebook.

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Smart Lock setup on a Chromebook.

Google recently launched its Smart Lock feature on Chromebooks, where a user can unlock his or her laptop simply by having an Android device nearby.

The feature was easy to setup on Gmail account, but as noted in this guide walking users through the setup process, my Google Apps account was lacking the feature altogether.

After some troubleshooting, reaching out to Google’s PR team, and subsequently talking with Google Apps Support, I was able to figure out the process for enabling Smart Lock on an App account.

Since Smart Lock is disabled by default for Google Apps users, you’ll need to have admin privileges or ask the admin for your account to enable it.

You can do this one of two ways. The first and easiest, is to visit admin.google.com and sign in to your account. From there, click on Device Management followed by Chrome. Enable Smart Lock and Save Changes.

However, I ran into issues after receiving the above directions. When I went to the Device Management panel, Chrome was nowhere to be found. Eventually I discovered you can access Chrome settings by signing into your admin page (same link as above) and clicking on Apps followed by Additional Google services, then Chrome Management. As with the previous method, once you’re on this screen you simply need to enable Smart Lock and save the change.

After enabling the new feature, restart your Chromebook and then follow the directions outlined here to get it up and running.

How to set up Chrome Remote Desktop for iOS

Google has released an iOS app that makes it possible to access your Mac or PC from any iOS device with an Internet connection.

An iPhone 6 Plus controlling a MacBook Air using Chrome Remote Desktop.

Chrome Remote Desktop is hardly a new service from Google. It’s been around for years, allowing users to access a Windows or Mac computer from another computer or an Android device. When it came to this Google service, iOS had been left out.

Then on Monday Google unceremoniously released the iOS Chrome Remote Desktop app into the App Store, making it super-easy to access your computer (or a family member’s computer) from your mobile device wherever you have a connection.

Before we dive into setting up the iOS app — or lack of required setup — you’ll need to make sure you have two things installed on the computer you plan on connecting to.

Chrome Remote Desktop app in the Chrome Web Store.

The first is, naturally, Chrome. Second, you’ll need to install the desktop version of the Chrome Remote Desktop app from the Chrome Web Store.

Once you have those two items installed, launch the app on your desktop and follow the prompts to complete the setup process. A video walking you through it all can be found here. Trust me when I say, you need very little technical expertise to get it installed.

The most important aspect of setting up the service is to remember your PIN. You did write it down, didn’t you? OK, good.

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Chrome Remote Desktop on an iOS device.

Now that you have a PIN and the app is installed on your computer, download the iOS app from the App Store here. After its installed on your device, sign into the same Google account you used in Chrome and your computer should show up in the list. Tapping on the computer name will launch a remote session, where you’ll be prompted to enter your PIN. After successfully entering it, you’ll gain complete control over your computer.

Today’s computers face more attacks than ever

More malicious software has been created in the past 2 years than in the previous 10 years combined.

 

CBS

Nestled into a storefront at the top of San Francisco’s tree-lined Valencia Street is one of the city’s top defenses in the war against malicious-software infections: a computer repair shop owned by Del Jaljaa.

People bring their infected computers to Jaljaa’s San Francisco Computer Repair store 5 to 10 times a day, desperate for help restoring their devices to working order. In the past few years malware has grown to be about a third of his business. “It’s our bread and butter,” he said.

Getting computer infections more often? You’re not alone.

Infections from malicious software — harmful code that’s also known as malware and that includes things like computer viruses and worms — are keeping repair specialists like Jaljaa busy, thanks in part to an exponential rise in the types of malware hitting PCs. Malware detections by AV-Test, a company that tests the effectiveness of antivirus software, spiked in 2014 to more than 143 million, up 72 percent from last year, according to a report released Thursday.

To put that in perspective: there was more malware found over the last 2 years than in the previous 10 years combined.

Other malware watchers, such as security-software makers Malwarebytes and Kaspersky, have noticed similar trends.

Kaspersky saw four times more mobile malware attacks in 2014 than the year before, said Patrick Nielsen, a researcher with the company.

For years, antivirus software blocked malware based on the malicious software’s code. But would-be hackers found a way around that: They can buy or freely download malware code; then change just a few pieces of it. Suddenly, the code is invisible to the antivirus programs, and free to wreak havoc.

It’s not unlike plagiarizing grade-school homework, said Timo Hirvonen, a senior researcher at security-software maker F-Secure. “It’s as easy as removing a word or adding a letter to a Microsoft Word document,” he said. As a result, malware is changing so often that it’s getting harder to stop.

The security industry has attempted to find an answer. One of the newest techniques is to keep track of how malware behaves and what it tries to do. Imagine malware that attempts to copy your online-banking password: any file doing this would be tracked by these new security tools.

 

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Data from AV-Test shows malware attack rates spiking. AV-Test.org

Even then, however, security researchers say they’re barely keeping their heads above water.

“At the pace we’re going, that’s just not feasible [to defend against] anymore,” said Jérôme Segura, senior security researcher at Malwarebytes.

The escalating game of cat and mouse has even entered the world of cryptography. Hackers are jumbling the code of their malware to avoid getting caught, using the same techniques companies use to protect sensitive files.

Avoiding “shady websites,” as Nielsen put it, isn’t enough in an age when malware can be delivered by ads on legitimate sites like Yahoo News.

So should we just swear off computers forever?

Jaljaa, the computer-repair-shop owner, said there are simple things people can still do to keep themselves safe. Users still need to install antivirus and other security tools, as they’ve been doing for years, he said. But they should also make sure to keep all their software up to date.

And if you do get a malware infection you can’t get rid of? Well, there are always people like Jaljaa to bail you out. But it’ll cost about $130.

Correction, 6:14 p.m. PT: Kaspersky’s Patrick Nielsen clarified the security-software maker’s estimate of the increase in mobile malware attacks from 2013 to 2014. He said the company saw a four times increase from year to year. The story has been changed to reflect this.

The biggest cyberthreat to companies could come from the inside

A recent attack against Morgan Stanley that exposed hundreds of thousands of customer accounts was an inside job, a threat experts say is nearly impossible to stop.

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The Morgan Stanley Building in Times Square, New York City. The financial services firm revealed on Monday an employee had stolen data from more than 350,000 accounts. Getty Images

Companies spend billions of dollars each year to protect from determined hackers attacking from across the Internet, but experts warn they shouldn’t ignore a closer threat they aren’t even ready for: Inside jobs.

Morgan Stanley, one of the world’s largest financial services firms, revealed Monday its customer information was breached. But it wasn’t the result of determined hackers or sophisticated email attacks. Instead, Morgan Stanley said it was an employee who stole data from more than 350,000 customer accounts.

The move is a wake-up call to companies, which spent an estimated $71.1 billion in 2014 on cybersecurity, up nearly 8 percent from the year before. And while hackers have successfully attacked large companies like JPMorgan, Target and Home Depot, experts warn employees pose just as much a threat, whether they act intentionally or by accident.

While the cybersecurity industry is devising an ever growing list of technology to protect from intrusions, it turns out there’s relatively little that can be done to stop an insider who already has access to a company’s otherwise highly protected data.

“There’s always going to be a way, just like with hacking, for insider attacks to happen,” said Lucas Zaichkowsky, who used to manage computers at a major credit card processor and is now a security expert at Resolution1.

Attacks by insiders are often characterized in three ways: They’re hard to detect and don’t happen often. But when an attack does come from the inside, it can be devastating. Security researchers at the Ponemon Institute say 88 percent of IT pros surveyed say they struggle to identify insider attacks, and security consultants at SpectorSoft say less than half of companies are even capable of noticing.

Few companies publicly disclose these types of attacks, and when they do they rarely estimate the damage. SpectorSoft said insider attacks — 35 percent of all those committed — cost US companies $40 billion in 2013 alone.

Few ways to protect

Despite the challenges in detecting and blocking insider attacks, there are ways that can help companies reduce the risk of insider attacks.

First, experts recommend companies tighten restrictions on highly sensitive data, locking files behind passcodes and security systems only employees and trusted business partners who must have access actually do. One way to do that is with cryptographic computer code, which jumbles a file’s contents using an algorithm that only those with the proper computer keys have.

If the information does have to be accessible on the company network, “try to come up with a data policy that segregates it,” said Andrew Conway, a site and data breach expert for security company Cloudmark.

Companies also need to monitor the actions of the employees who do have access, to ensure the data isn’t copied or destroyed without approval. Many attacks have been spotted by warning systems, but the alarms went unnoticed.

Other long-standing techniques include preventing files from being copied to USB by physically blocking USB ports with liquid cement, and removing cameras from the screens of laptop and desktop computers. Some companies even use “air-gapped” computers — machines which are neither connected to the Internet nor to other computers.

The US government has gone to some lengths to ensure certain kinds of data are better protected than others. Nuclear facilities, for example, have used air-gapped computers for years. There are also laws governing how medical data is stored and accessed, requiring companies to keep extensive logs every time the files are read.

Another option for companies is to bring on a chief security officer, someone who understands and knows how to balance security with a company’s day-to-day business, and sets rules for how files are stored and accessed. Ponemon backed up this assertion in a 2013 study which found the cost per record exposed in a breach goes down when a company has hired such a person.

Even if companies implement all those measures, experts say they can’t entirely secure their systems from a determined insider.

Consider famous information leakers like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, each of whom accessed and leaked thousands of classified government documents. In both cases, they were able to circumvent some of the US government’s most secure computer systems by virtue of being on the inside.

“If the NSA can’t prevent an insider breach, then how is an enterprise company going to stop one?” Conway said.