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New Clients in 2014

 
 
 
 
AFScott is pleased to announce the addition of several new clients, including a law firm, an engineering firm and a 250-person publishing company based in New York. Initially hired to assist with the publishing company’s purchasing and projects based on i...

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Apple Quietly Releases New Computers for the Summer

Apple has released a new Macbook Air and will most likely release a new iMac soon, without the usual fanfare. The computers aren’t HUGE upgrades but are definitely faster chips and will hopefully have better battery life. I’m not certain that the Macbook Air will continue after this refersh, as I’ve been reading hints of an 11″ Retina to replace the Air, which would make sense.

Media and guests check out the latest thinner MacBook Air models after attending a news conference at Apple Inc. headquarters in Cupertino

Other updates we might see soon include Mac Mini, and Apple TV, as well as the new line of iWatches, possibly in October, and the complete discontinuation of the flagship “Macbook Pro (non-retina).

If you’re interested in more info on the Air, drop me a line…

Virus Alert! Cryptolocker: What you should know…

This morning, Andrew asked me to write about the “Cryptolocker” virus. This is a nasty virus that is infecting windows machines at an alarming rate.

What is it?

Cryptolocker is a type of virus known as “ransomware.” Ransomware offers the person with the virus an option to pay a fee in order to get the virus removed from their computer. In the past, most ransomware viruses were usually fixable using standard Antivirus software like Malwarebytes. Not so with the new generation. Currently there is no fix for this virus.

What does it do?

This ransomware will encrypt certain files using a mixture of RSA & AES encryption. When it has finished encrypting your files, it will display a CryptoLocker payment program that prompts you to send a ransom of either $100 or $300 in order to decrypt the files. This screen will also display a timer stating that you have 72 hours, or 4 days, to pay the ransom or it will delete your encryption key and you will not have any way to decrypt your files. This ransom must be paid using MoneyPak vouchers or Bitcoins. Once you send the payment and it is verified, the program will decrypt the files that it encrypted.

Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 9.46.47 AM

Does paying the ransom work?

So far, yes. We’ve seen machines back up and running in several hours after paying the fee in bitcoins.

How does Cryptolocker infect your computer?

Several targets of the virus have reported opening emails that pose as legitimate communication from shipping companies (UPS, Fedex etc), payroll companies like ADP, banks, Xerox etc. The email contains a zip file, which if opened contains a .exe file. If you click on the .exe file you have the virus.

We’ve also seen at least one computer become infected with OUT receiving one of these emails so we cannot guarantee that simply checking your emails will prevent you from becoming infected.

Below are some known email subject headings for the crpytolocker virus:

USPS – Your package is available for pickup ( Parcel 173145820507 ) USPS – Missed package delivery (“USPS Express Services” <service-notification@usps.com>)
USPS – Missed package delivery FW: Invoice <random number>
ADP payroll: Account Charge Alert ACH Notification (“ADP Payroll” <*@adp.com>)
ADP Reference #09903824430 Payroll Received by Intuit
Important – attached form FW: Last Month Remit
McAfee Always On Protection Reactivation Scanned Image from a Xerox WorkCentre
Scan from a Xerox WorkCentre scanned from Xerox
Annual Form – Authorization to Use Privately Owned Vehicle on State Business Fwd: IMG01041_6706015_m.zip
My resume New Voicemail Message
Voice Message from Unknown (675-685-3476) Voice Message from Unknown Caller (344-846-4458)
Important – New Outlook Settings Scan Data
FW: Payment Advice – Advice Ref:[GB293037313703] / ACH credits / Customer Ref:[pay run 14/11/13] Payment Advice – Advice Ref:[GB2198767]
New contract agreement. Important Notice – Incoming Money Transfer
Notice of underreported income Notice of unreported income – Last months reports
Payment Overdue – Please respond FW: Check copy
Payroll Invoice USBANK
Corporate eFax message from “random phone #” – 8 pages (random phone # & number of pages) past due invoices
FW: Case FH74D23GST58NQS Symantec Endpoint Protection: Important System Update – requires immediate action

What to do if you become infected:

If you get the virus on your computer, immediately unplug your network cable and turn off your computer and call your friendly neighborhood IT company. Do NOT try to fix this virus on your own. Leaving your computer plugged in to the network can give the virus a chance to spread to other workstations or even servers.

How do you protect yourself from Cryptolocker?

The only answer here is prevention. Once you are hit with this virus there is no real way to get your information back with out paying the ransom. However, if you are backed up to an external drive you can simply re-format your computer and re-install Windows and all of your data. We highly recommend backing up every file that you consider important. If you need help with this please ask us.

That is the basics of what you need to know regarding the cryptolocker virus.

Please get in touch with any questions you might have as to how you can backup and prevent this virus from encrypting your data!

 

Thanks,

 

Matt

 

 

 

 

Calling All Parents…

Happy New Year everyone!

We’ve been talking a lot about kids and computers at the office lately. Over the past couple years it’s become a LOT easier for kids to get in trouble while using the internet.  Several of us at AFScott are parents, and it means a lot to us to make sure our kids are able to use the internet for all the amazing things it has to offer, but to use it safely!

kids_phone

Phone addiction: a common problem…

I was reading some stats last week, and found this quote: “95 percent of teens between 12 and 17 use the internet, 27 percent of this group uploads video, and a whopping 80 percent use social media sites like Facebook on phones and the computer.” This is scary. Scarier still is that almost the same stats exist for 8 to 12 year olds, which makes sense as my 2 year old can already open my iPhone and put on Netflix to watch a cartoon.

With this in mind our team is in the process of putting together an instructional presentation for our friends and colleagues, and for local parents. We want to help find solutions for common problems facing parents and kids in the current tech world.

Several of the things we have identified as issues to discuss are:

– Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc)

– Adult Content

– Online Bullying (Ask.fm and others)

– iPhone apps such as Kik, Snapchat, and 9GAG

– Obsessive computer / iDevice use or gaming

We’d like your help in letting us know what issues YOU are dealing with with your children. Please get in touch either on this message board or via email and let me know what hurdles you’re facing, and we can address your issues in our presentation.

My next post will be on a free in-home solution called OpenDNS that automatically filters adult content in your house. It does a great job, but is not a total fix for the above mentioned problems as it doesn’t cover phones not on your wireless system, or phone apps.

How-To-Remove-OpenDNS

 Please take 3 mins to send an email! Thanks a bunch.

Matt

 

 

AFScott Nominated for NJ Business of the Year!

Good news: We have been nominated for a Business of the Year award!

BoY600

Right from the press release:

AFScott has been named a finalist in the Business of the Year (1-50 Employees) category in the 2013 NJBIZ Business of the Year awards program. The program honors New Jersey’s most dynamic businesses and business leaders who share a commitment to professional excellence, business growth, and the community.

Award finalists were chosen by an independent panel of judges and selected in six different categories: Corporate Citizen of the Year, Emerging Business of the Year, Executive of the Year, and Business of the Year (1-50 Employees, 51-100 Employees, 101+ Employees). AFScott, based in Bedminster, NJ, was selected as a finalist in the Business of the Year (1-50 Employees) category.

A second-time nominee for NJBIZ Business of the Year (1-50 Employees), AFScott’s founder and CEO Andrew Scott says, “We are honored to be selected for this award.
Our success is a testament to the strengths of the team we’ve assembled and the relationships we’ve grown with our clients over time. We look forward to continuing to help our customers face the rising challenges of technology in the business world.”

Finalists and winners of the NJBIZ Business of the Year program will be recognized and the winner in each category chosen during an awards dinner on December 9, 2013 at the Palace at Somerset Park in Somerset, NJ. NJBIZ, New Jersey’s leading business news publication, will produce the event that is presented by EisnerAmper LLP and sponsored by Comcast Business, K&L Gates, and Sun National Bank. For more information, please visit www.njbiz.com/events or call (732) 246-5737.

Fingers are crossed here, we’ll keep you posted in December…

Matt

 

Newsflash: Microsoft Officially Ends Support for Windows XP

It sounds unbelievable, but it’s been TWELVE years since Microsoft’s workhorse OS “Windows XP” was released. I remember the day it came out, which is somewhat frightening.

I’m not sure if XP will be remembered as the best OS in the MS line, or if it will just be remembered as being SO much better than it’s predecessor (Windows ME) and it’s successor (Windows Vista). Either way, it was my favorite and I’ve missed it since upgrading to Windows 7 a couple years ago.

A couple weeks ago Microsoft announced that it will finally put the last nail in the coffin of our dear friend XP. They will officially end support for the OS on April 8th, 2014.

What does this mean for you if you still use XP?

The short answer is that you need to update to Windows 7 before then. The long answer is that there will be no more automatic updates, including security updates which will make you more vulnerable to viruses and spyware.

WinXP-Win7 dual boot

Windows 7 happens to be a great OS. The only problem is that you can’t just upgrade your computer from XP > 7 directly. You have to remove all of your data on to an external drive, upgrade to 7 and then import all of your files and settings back into the machine. It’s complicated, and a pain.

I’ll write another post on the best ways to migrate as we get closer to D-Day. In the meantime, XP users, get yourself mentally prepared for change!

 

Cheers,

Matt

 

 

7 Reasons To Upgrade To iOS7

Apple’s new iDevice OS, iOS7 might seem pretty daunting. Unlike the past few OS updates, this one completely changes the way your phone looks AND acts. I think the look is the more terrifying, as it doesn’t really look like any iPhone we’ve seen to date.

I’ve been playing around with the OS for the past few days. So far I’ve found that the good outweighs the bad.  Here’s a few reasons that you SHOULD upgrade.

 

1. Control Center:

When you swipe the up on the touchscreen Control Center appears. Here you can adjust your brightness, turn on the camera flash as a flashlight and go to airplane mode on the fly. This was my one of my favorite old Cydia apps (for Jailbroken phones) and Apple has done a great job implementing it in the new OS.

 

2. Instagram-like Photo Filters:

You can now filter your photos just like on the Instagram app. If you use Instagram you know what I’m talking about, if you don’t, click on a photo and then “Edit” and go to town…

 

3.  Swipe to Go Back:

This one’s a no-brainer: you can swipe back on your phone to go back to the last page you were on. This works on Mail, Messages and Safari and probably some of the other basic apps as well.

 

4. FaceTime Audio

This is great for talking to your international friends, or just saving minutes: you can now use FaceTime’s Audio feature to talk on your phone using the internet rather than calling someone. I’m not sure if this works over ATT, Verizon and the rest of the mobile providers but it definitely works over wireless.

facetime-audio

5. Smart Search in Safari

The entire top bar of Safari is now combined into the “Unified Smart Search Field.” You can type an address, or search google, just like the “real” Safari on an Apple computer.

 

6.  Automatic App Updating:

You can set the OS to automatically update your apps. Rumor has it that this app was for some reason demanded by Senator John McCain. I’m not sure if I’m buying that but it’s a great feature regardless.

 

7.  Airdropphoto

This might be the best feature of all of them: you can now share files between iDevices using wireless or bluetooth with the Airdrop app. This includes pics and videos. This will probably take a while to catch on but I’m sure it will become quite popular.

 

Don’t be fooled by iOS 7’s new look. It’s a smart, powerful tool that has basically taken some of the best apps and features from the Android OS and Cydia app store and made them it’s own. Give the upgrade a shot and let me know what you think!

 

Matt

6 Easy Ways To Speed Up Your PC

A couple weeks ago I wrote a blog post about ways you can speed up your Mac. I received a few emails asking me to show some love to the PC community, which makes up the majority of our country’s computer users. Fair is fair. Try a few of these and let me know how you make out:

 

1. Remove unused items from start up:

This one always gets me. Your operating system auto opens a ton of different programs when it boots up, most of which you don’t need. Going in and removing the unnecessary programs will speed you up for sure. To do this go to the start menu and type msconfig and hit return. Once the System Configuration program opens, click on the Startup tab, which should be 2nd from the right. From there you can un-click items that you don’t need. Be careful as you don’t want to turn off anything important. If anything is questionable, look it up, call me, or just leave it alone!

  startup

 

2. Remove unused programs from the computer all together

If you are like me, your computer most likely came with a lot of software that you don’t really need. Over    timuninstale you also add programs, including duplicate programs by accident (for instance you add Outlook 2010, but you already had Outlook 2007: now you have both). These programs take up room on your hard drive and valuable resources, and over time can really slow you down.

To see what programs are installed on the computer, go to the Start Menu and click on Control Panel and then click on Programs and Features. This will generate a list of all of the software that is loaded on your computer. You can then go thru, highlight whatever program you want to remove, and click Uninstall. As with tip #1, be careful with you remove, but unlike #1 if you remove the program from this menu it completely removes it from your computer. Removing the wrong program can cause serious harm to your machine, so if in doubt do not remove.

3. Change Web Browsers and Clear your Cache

This will only help you if you’re experiencing slow browsing speeds. Windows comes with Internet Explorer, Microsoft’s standard (and horrible) web browser. Explorer allows add ons, includes the “Bing Bar” and is generally known to be the slowest web browser on earth. Speed up by using Firefox or Chrome, which you can download here and here, respectively.

The browsing cache is a repository of files collected from websites you visit. Over time these files can add up, and slow your browser down. Once you’ve switched browsers, clear your cache often. Follow this link to learn how to clear Firefox cache. This link will show you how to clear your Chrome cache. There are also free programs like Ccleaner that will do all the work for you.

4. Run some cleanup utilities

Taking a few minutes to run the Windows native cleaning utilities can be worth your time for sure. The first one to run is Disk Defragmenter. If you have Windows 7 this should be running automatically. To make sure go to Start and in the search bar type in Disk Defragmenter. When the program opens it will tell you whether or not it’s running automatically and if it’s not you can click on Configure Schedule to set it up.

On Windows Xp, to run the “defrag” you can hit Start, and then double click on My Computer. Target the drive you want to work with and right click on that drive. Then on the Tools Tab click Defragment Now.

defrag

 From this window (in both XP and 7) you can also choose to Check Errors. This utility can’t run while you’re working on the computer, but you can schedule it to run the next time you restart. Just give yourself a few minutes though as it can take a while to run after you re boot.

5. Upgrade Your RAM

As with Apple machines (see this article to speed up your Mac), the best way to see real results with the speed of your computer is to upgrade the RAM. The RAM is the memory that the computers programs and operating system are constantly accessing, and when there is not enough, things start to get very slow!

I use Crucial for my memory upgrades. When you visit their site you can download the System Scanner and run it. It will tell you how much memory you have, how much you can max out at, and then very conveniently sell you what you need. They’re inexpensive and ship quickly. If you need help installing your RAM please call your friendly AFScott at Home rep (me) who will be glad to assist you.

crucial

 

6. Get rid of your Spyware!

I’m going to make the last one easy. Spyware can build up on your system and begin slowing you down. Sometimes it just takes one spyware program to slow you down, other times its combinations of hundreds of small spyware programs that add up and eat away at your computer’s resources. Also, viruses can cause severe problems for your computer and will also slow you down.

The solution is easy: download Malwarebytes and run it! This program is easy to install and will clear out all of the spyware and viruses on your computer.

If you’d like to read more about computer viruses and virus scanning software please read my article on which virus scan programs I recommend.

 

Okay, your machine should be running a bit faster now! None of these tips is a sure thing, but running through all of them will make a difference. If you have any questions or comments about this post please get in touch!

Matt

 

Back to School!!

It’s that time of the year already: back to school time. I bet some of you are in the market for a new computer for your kids (or for your self!)!

Taking the time to configure your computer correctly before purchasing is very important. I’ve had several clients lately walk into the Apple store and purchase a computer that was sold to them with the previous year’s chip set (the i5). Note to self: All Macs are Not Created Equally. If you buy the wrong machine, the lifespan of your computer could be shortened by literally 2 years! (See below pic).

Please give me a call to discuss various options. I will take the time to figure out which computer fits you or your children’s needs, and help you with the ordering and setup process.

Visit our website to see what services we offer and see how we can help you!

Thanks,

Matt

i5 i7 benchmarks

 

 

5 Easy Ways to Make Your Mac Run Faster…

On a day to day basis I see a lot of different computers. For my own needs I have an Apple, and I *usually* recommend them to all of my home clients. Obviously there are times when Apple is not the right fit for someone, but 9 times out of 10 they are better, faster and will last longer than their PC competitors.

Along the way I’ve picked up some tips for making your Mac run faster. Some of these also apply to PCs. I’ll give you a general description of each and tackle some of these more in depth at a later date. Most of these should be easily do-able for the average user. Here we go:
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