**Warning** New Ransomware Targets Businesses

Security researchers from Emsisoft have come across a new ransomware family which they’ve dubbed CryptoLocker, or Trojan:Win32/Crilock. This particular piece of ransomware is designed to encrypt files on the infected device and keep them that way until a ransom is paid by the victim.

Interestingly, the files targeted by CryptoLocker are not ones that might be considered important by home users. Instead, the targeted files have extensions such as odt, doc, docx, xls, xlsx, ppt, pptx, mdb, accdb, rtf, mdf, dbf, psd, pdd, jpg, srf, sr2 ,bay ,crw, dcr, kdc, erf, mef, mrw, nef, nrw, raf, raw, rwl, rw2, ptx, pef, srw, x3f, der, cer, crt, pem, and p12.

This shows that the threat is designed to target businesses, to which the content of these files might be of great value.

According to experts, the ransomware is distributed via emails that inform recipients of customer complaints. The file that’s attached to these notifications is a downloader that’s designed to retrieve the actual malware.

Once it infects a device, CryptoLocker creates a registry entry to make sure it starts at every boot. Then, it establishes communications with its command and control (C&C) server. First, it attempts to contact a hardcoded IP address. If that fails, apparently random C&C domains are generated based on a domain generation algorithm.

After a C&C server is found, the malware starts communicating with it via traffic that’s encrypted using RSA encryption.

“Using RSA based encryption for the communication not only allows the attacker to obfuscate the actual conversation between the malware and its server, but also makes sure the malware is talking to the attacker’s server and not a blackhole controlled by malware researchers,” Emsisoft experts noted in a blog post.

Finally, CryptoLocker looks for the aforementioned files and encrypts them using AES. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to decrypt the files without the AES key, which is stored on the C&C server and accessible only to the attacker.

However, users are advised not to pay up. Remove the infection with an antivirus program and restore the encrypted files from a backup, assuming you have one.

How does your business or practice combat such a potentially devastating infection?  First, you need security and protection.  At the minimum we recommend a really good antivirus software along with monitoring to ensure it is always up-to-date and scanning as scheduled.  It does no good to have antivirus if you aren’t sure its performing properly at all times.  Second, you need a proven backup solution with versioning.  If you have never tried to recover from your backup then do you really know it will work?  We have plenty of backup and recovery horror stories I could tell.

If you need help in these areas give us a call.  We can help with managed antivirus, network security and backup/recovery solutions for any size business.  Don’t wait until you’re a victim, get help now.

Coffee Shops Limit Wi-Fi To Discourage ‘Laptop Hobos’

BOSTON (CBS) – It is a common sight in coffee shops all over the area: a person with a cup of coffee, an opened laptop, and no intention of going anywhere. These patrons have even earned themselves a nickname: “Laptop Hobos”

Some shops, overwhelmed by people surfing the web and holding business meetings, are developing more restrictive policies with their Wi-Fi. Disputes over outlets and cords dragged across busy lobbies are also common problems.

Ken Kavanaugh, a regular patron at Fuel America in Brighton, knows he can fit this bill. “I am probably a laptop hobo. I’ve been a free bird since last July and I spend most of my time at coffee houses. That is where I have my meetings.”

Like most cafes, Fuel America offers free unlimited Wi-Fi. Jeff Bonasia, managing director, said, “It really has become a cost of entry into the coffee house-cafe market. It is what people expect.”

Bonasia said he doesn’t require any purchases to tap the Wi-Fi, and he publicly posts the access code. He thinks these long term patrons create a lively atmosphere and he has never asked anyone to leave. Sometimes the requests can be pretty bold at Fuel America, however.

“They actually said it would be great if you had printers in the back so we could print stuff,” said Bonasia with a smile.

Not all coffee shops or restaurants are so generous with the free Wi-Fi. Some are beginning to set limits, or eliminate it altogether. Michael Oshins, a professor of hospitality at Boston University, said it is a predicament for these outlets. “All of a sudden it kind of snowballs into, I can stay here for, this can actually become my office, I don’t have to pay rent any more, this can become my free space.”

That is why Peet’s Coffee now limits Wi-Fi to paying customers who are “Actively enjoying their food or beverage.”

Panera is cutting computer users off after a half hour during their busiest hours.

Fuel America patron Suzanne Mello says policies like that are too severe. “I would probably just go to another store if that is the case. Where ever I can get free Wi-Fi and AC and they let me stay is good.”

Oshins believes these shops have a tough balance to achieve. They obviously need paying customers, but there is also value in looking busy. “It’s like, this place is happening. I want to go there. So all of a sudden it creates that customers become part of the environment or the ambiance, if you will, and all of a sudden it is more welcoming,” said Oshins.

Reposted from here

I Love A Rainy Night…


Just like Eddie Rabbit, I love a rainy night as well.  My computer and other electronics, not so much.

This time of year boasts some of the most damaging electrical storms of the year, especially in our area (Mid-Carolina Region).  As it happens, we get tons of calls from customers and clients after a summer storm with complaints that their PCs or network equipment is not working.  So, lets look at this briefly and hopefully we can help you should you ever find yourself in this situation.

First, lets talk about electronics and lightning in general.  For simplicity we are just going to focus on a PC but the rules remain the same for almost any electronic item, particularly computers and peripherals.  The components inside your PC are VERY sensitive to electricity and ESD (electrostatic discharge).  You remember when you were a kid and you would dragging your socked-feet on the carpet and shock the mess out of your sibling?  Have you ever exited your car in the winter and the door give you a jolt of electricity from static buildup?  Well, these small lightning bolts are far more than enough to damage the internal components of your PC.  On more than one occasion I’ve seen someone touch a computer case and the static shock cause the PC to shutoff.  Now, imagine what a nearby lightning strike can do.

So how do you protect your PC from lightning?  The absolute best way is to unplug it from the wall.  TURNING THE PC OFF AND LEAVING IT PLUGGED IN IS WORTHLESS.  Sorry to have to emphasize that but I hear that all the time… “but I had it turned off…”.  Simply, turning it off doesn’t remove it from the circuit… UNPLUG IT.

“But what if I’m not there to unplug it?”… I’m getting to that now.  Of course you’re not going to be able to unplug it every time a storm comes up… and even if you could I highly recommend a good… no… a GREAT surge protector.  Come on… you spend $600 and up for your PC and peripherals and you want to protect it with a $9 power strip?  

The industry standard for measuring electrical energy is Joules. A surge protector’s Joule Rating tells you how much energy the surge protector can absorb before it fails. A higher number indicates greater protection.  Most good surge protectors will cost around $30 to $50 and typically come with some kind of assurance, insurance or warranty.  The two best brands (in my opinion) is Tripp-Lite and APC.  There are other brands which are good so you pick what you want so long as the Joule rating is high.  I recommend nothing less than 2160 Joules.  Remember, this is protecting a large financial investment of your electronics so don’t go cheap here.

Lastly, you find yourself faced with a PC that will not function after a storm… what do you do?

Listen carefully… once you realize the PC will not turn on, DO NOT continue trying to turn it on. You can, and most likely will, cause further damage the more you mess with it.  In many cases the damage is initially rather isolated but continuing to try to turn it on allows for the damaged parts to send surges and spikes throughout the rest of the internal components which can result in a total loss of the PC… including your precious data (see our post on having a backup).

(DISCLAIMER – if your system is damaged this could cause further damage… do this at your own risk).  Many times the PC is not turning on because there was a quick power cycle which put the PC in a state of flux and it was not actually hit by lightning or an electrical surge.  In these cases, the PC is likely NOT damaged but just “confused”.  Here is how to fix it… if this is the problem.  Unplug the PC for about a minute (make it 2 to be sure).  This will give the PC time to drain all the electricity stored in it’s components.  While it is unplugged, check the outlet you are plugging it into to ensure it actually has power.  Now, plug the PC back in and try to turn it on.  If it turns on, you just saved yourself an unnecessary repair bill.  If it does not turn on… DO NOT TRY AGAIN.  Take it to your trusted PC repair company ( like Carolina Computer Concepts ) and allow them to test the PC with special equipment and handle the repair properly.


And for all you Eddie Rabbit fans… here ya go:

First Look At Windows 8.1

What will Windows 8.1 Preview add or change about Windows 8?

Well, instead of telling you, we thought it best to just show you.

Ok… Did you notice anything interesting about that preview?  Something that was seen but not talked about?  Come on, watch it again.  You can’t miss it!

Go to our Facebook page and comment under this post on what you think it is.

Beware Windows 8.1 Preview

When the 8.1 preview is available, Windows 8 and Windows RT users will receive a Windows Update notification. That update will trigger the new bits to show up in the Windows Store, where potential testers will be able to read the description and choose whether or not to install.

Once the final versions of Windows 8.1 are available, after their release to manufacturing, those who have downloaded the preview will get the same Windows Update plus Windows Store notification. While the user’s data and accounts will be preserved if and when they choose to install the free, final 8.1 release, all their apps must be reinstalled.

Even if testers opt instead to roll their devices back to Windows 8 after installing the preview bits, they still will have to reinstall their apps once they move to the RTM version of Windows 8.1.

Windows 8 users who do not install the preview build and opt instead to go straight from Windows 8/Windows RT to Windows 8.1 will not have to reinstall their apps. All settings, data and apps will carry over. Users will be able to decide when and if they want to move from Windows 8 and Windows RT to the 8.1 versions.

Niehaus, a spokesperson for Microsoft, characterized the Windows 8 to 8.1 upgrade as “a little better” than how Microsoft handled the Windows 8 test build to RTM upgrade. A Microsoft spokesperson said the Windows 8 to 8.1 upgrade would be “comparable” to the Windows 7 to Windows 8 upgrade, in terms of how the upgrade dealt with user settings, data and apps.

Niehaus also told session attendees that Microsoft expects to have a reduced footprint size for Windows 8.1 as compared to Windows 8. He said the team has been working on removing old components, temporary files and improving NTFS compression to free up more space on users’ machines. He noted that 4 GB of free space will be needed to install the Windows 8.1 preview builds. And he said that installation of Windows 8.1 will not result in the replacement of the recovery partition in Windows 8.

“If you deleted it, [8.1] won’t replace it,” Niehaus said.

So, let’s recap… If you plan to check out the Windows 8.1 Preview, you WILL have to reinstall your apps whether you move on to the final 8.1 release or go back to 8.0.  If you wait for the final release of 8.1 and move from 8.0 to the final release you WILL NOT have to reinstall your apps.

CCC edited the original story for content.  This story originally appeared at ZDNet 
under the headline "Microsoft goes public with Windows 8.1 upgrade policies."

This Message Will Self-Destruct…

We’ve all seen Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible movies taking on impossible odds with the coolest gadgets imaginable.  One of the best noted parts of the Mission Impossible movies (even the old TV show) was the self-destruction of the secret message.  Wouldn’t it be so cool to be able to do this?

Well you can.  Using BurnNote.com, you can send a private email message to anyone.  The recipient will receive an email directing them to the Burn Note website where they can view the message.  When the recipient starts viewing the message, a timer starts and gives them just enough time to read the message and then it disappears… forever.

Here is what the official Burn Note site has to say about it’s service:

“Every message on Burn Note is automatically deleted using a timer when it is opened. Deleted Burn Notes are completely erased and can not be recovered. While being viewed, our patent-pending Spotlight system makes message contents resistant to copying, capture via screenshots, and the glances of curious bystanders.”

Just think of the possibilities of how useful this can be.  Send confidential information to someone, such as passwords.  Let friends know of a surprise party for someone.  Send your spouse a message at work without it being tracked within their corporate email.  Send sensitive information to a client.  The list can go on and on.

There is also an app for the service on Google Play and The App Store so you can use it easily from you smartphone or tablet.

Give it a try and post back on our Facebook page what you think about it.

Click “Like” below and also share it with your friends by clicking your favorite social media icon below.

Small Businesses Waste $24B Annually Trying to Manage Their Own IT Environments

A new Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) backed research study discovered that SMBs worldwide fritter away some $24 billion in productivity annually by assigning non-technical personnel to manage their IT environments. Read between the lines, and the study makes the case for small businesses to more effectively leverage Managed Service Providers (MSPs), Value Added Resellers (VARs) and cloud computing.

The study, conducted by researcher AMI-Partners, examined the impact of so-called involuntary IT managers (IITMs) at SMBs in North America, Latin America and EMEA tasked with handling their companies’ IT solutions. In particular, the research focused on the impact on business productivity of IITMs in the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Chile and India.

The $24 billion lost annually results directly from IITMs taking time away from primary business activities to perform IT management functions for which many are ill-prepared, according to the study’s findings. AMI surveyed 538 IITMs in small businesses with 100 employees or less and, from that data extrapolated that 3.8 million SMBs in the target countries manage IT internally with non-technical personnel.

While SMBs in the study invested $83 billion to equip their businesses with IT and communications equipment, they lost $24 billion in productivity trying to internally manage their IT environments. When asked about a solution to the problem, IITMs in the study believe that cloud-based solutions can ease some of the burden of managing IT.

“Many small businesses don’t have the budget for formal IT support, so they rely on the company’s most tech-savvy individual to manage their technology,” said Andy Bose, AMI Partners founder, chairman and chief executive. “As our research shows, relying on an Involuntary IT Manager can have an adverse impact on small businesses’ productivity, which can negatively affect revenue and translates into a very high opportunity cost.”

Other than pointing out how much productivity SMBs lose from fussing with managing IT operations on their own, the study’s findings indicated a movement to cloud services by SMBs. Indeed, some 33 percent of IITMs said they are likely to shift more IT spending toward hosted or cloud solutions while 36 percent are interested in a productivity and collaboration suite.

“The cloud when delivered right is a game-changer, providing small businesses with the IT solutions they need to solve their most challenging small-business technology concerns,” said Thomas Hansen, Microsoft SMB worldwide vice president.

Some highlights of the study’s findings:

  • On average, IITMs lose about 300 hours per year of business productivity while managing IT
  • 36 percent of IITMs feel that IT management is a nuisance
  • 26 percent indicated they don’t feel qualified to manage IT
  • 60 percent of IITMs want to simplify their company’s technology solutions to alleviate the difficulty of managing IT day-to-day

Reposted with modifications from: http://thevarguy.com/business-technology-solution-sales/smbs-lose-24-billion-productivity-annually-winging-it-management?utm_source=052013&utm_medium=FOP&utm_campaign=NL

How to protect your laptop while using a Wi-Fi Hotspot.

According to Jiwire, there are around 823,314 free and paid Wifi hotspots in the world. There are 135,758 in the United States alone, meaning there’s a pretty good chance you have used at least one of these hotspots at a hotel, the subway station, the nearest Starbucks or even the bus, yet, not many people are aware of the vulnerabilities they expose themselves to while using these hotspots, which include stolen social network, banking and e-mail information to name but a few.

But, don’t panic.

The Carolina Computer Concepts’ Team is here to help you with your device’s safety and so we present you 7 tips to take into account when using Wi-Fi hotspots. Continue reading “How to protect your laptop while using a Wi-Fi Hotspot.”

Should your car disable your smartphone to prevent texting while driving?

According to one survey, 49 percent of adults admit to texting while driving… even though 98 percent know it’s unsafe

“Uncle Sam wants automakers to make it impossible for you to text your wife, check Facebook, and watch a video while you’re driving,” says Damon Lavrinc at Wired. In late 2011, the federal Transportation Department suggestedthat all 50 states ban texting and other use of your cell phone while driving. (Forty states now have texting-while-driving bans.) And on Tuesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (FHTSA) issued new guidelines urging carmakers to disable most visual-manual activities while the car is in gear. Continue reading “Should your car disable your smartphone to prevent texting while driving?”

The Death of Windows XP!

On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will officially end support for Windows XP.

So what does that mean exactly? Does XP turn into the technical equivalent of Cinderella’s pumpkin coach and stop working?

“This means that customers and partners will no longer receive security updates to the operating system or be able to leverage tech support from Microsoft after this time,” Microsoft’s Erwin Visser writes in a recent post to the Windows for Your Business blog. Clearly, you need to upgrade to Windows 8. Or at least Windows 7. Continue reading “The Death of Windows XP!”