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News & Noteworthy

Alert: New Virus Information (April 10, 2014)

Windows Security Calls: POE has received two calls today about a new phone scam designed to take control of your computer system. The phone caller will pretend to be a "Windows Software Security" expert, or an employee of Microsoft. He informs the victim that their computer has a virus and is no longer secure, or is in danger of being "blacklisted".

These calls are fake. If you receive one, Pacific Office Equipment recommends declining the service and hanging up. DO NOT ALLOW THEM REMOTE ACCESS TO YOUR COMPUTER. DO NOT GIVE OUT YOUR CREDIT CARD NUMBER.

As always, POE recommends turning on automatic updates within Windows, keeping your Anti-Virus software up to date and performing frequent scans.

Heartbleed: Another situation dealing with computer security is being dubbed the "Heartbleed Virus". Many sites, such as email, banking or online shopping, send only encrypted data through the Internet. You can tell your site is using encryption when the site address starts with "HTTPS" or a lock icon appears on your browser. Some secure sites use a "Heartbeat" to keep the transmissions back and forth alive. Unfortunately, information can overflow from this "Heartbeat", and sometimes that information can be sensitive data like passwords. Heartbleed takes advantage of the information overflow and snags the data.

While Heartbleed doesn’t directly affect home users’ systems, Pacific Office Equipment recommends taking some precautionary measures. First, see which sites you need to take action with. This link has a list of affected companies:

Next, change your passwords AFTER the website upgrades their systems. For example, if you use Yahoo mail, check to see if they’ve used the secure system with a flaw (they have). Next, check to see if they’ve patched their system (they mostly have). If they’ve patched it, then change your password. If you change the password before their systems are upgraded, the new password will be just as vulnerable as the old.

Windows XP: Finally, there is the Windows XP situation. Windows XP was released in 2001 and Microsoft was committed to patching flaws for over a decade. As many know, Microsoft stopped support of Windows XP on Tuesday, April 9. You can keep using XP, but Microsoft will no longer be updating the system and it will be at increased risk for viruses. It is generally recommended that you update to a modern, more secure operating system, either on your current computer or by buying a new computer. Pacific Office Equipment can get Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 pre-installed on new computers. If the computer is compatible, we install Windows 8 onto some computers.


Important Info on the CryptoLocker virus

Pacific Office Equipment wants to alert our customers about a new, particularly vicious form of malware infecting computers.

The malware is called “CryptoLocker” which, as the name suggests, locks files with encryption. Like many viruses, CryptoLocker is spread as an email attachment and they try tricking you into thinking the malware is from a legitimate company or source. Once running on your system it will encrypt your files with an extremely strong algorithm. They will give you the key to unlocking your files, but only if you pay money (often $300 to $400) in untraceable digital accounts within three days. Otherwise they will destroy the key and your files will remain encrypted.

Pacific Office Equipment does have technicians that can remove viruses, malware and ransomware. However, decrypting your files from CryptoLocker is nearly impossible. Paying the ransom leaves you open for other attacks, and may not get your files back anyway. The best offensive is actually having a good defensive. There are several steps to prevent this, and other viruses, malware and ransomware…

First and foremost, make certain your operating system, browser and antivirus are all up to date. Computer viruses often exploit holes in software. There are regular updates to Windows, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and other programs.

Second, keep backups of all your important documents. CryptoLocker has spread across networks, so it’s not effective to back up to the server.  It’s best to have a cloud-based backup system, such as POE’s Syncrify, or an external hard drive that is not connected to the computer except when the backup is running. You can set the backup to occur on a regular basis, weekly or daily if you can will prevent important data from being lost. However, if your data is infected or encrypted, stop the backup schedule immediately so your infected data doesn’t overwrite the good versions.

If you use a cloud backup, call them after the infection is cleared and let them know you’d been infected. Cloud-based backups often have redundancies built in. Even if your files in the cloud were infection, they may be able to restore to a version before the virus hit.

Third, remain paranoid when online. Don’t follow links in emails. Modern browser often have ways of showing the “true address” of a link. For example, say you receive an email claiming to be from your bank with a link to login. On the current versions of Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer, hovering over the link will trigger an address to appear in the lower left corner. If your bank is First Federal or Strait View and the address is then the link is leading you to another site than your bank.

If you receive an attachment from a friend, scan the attachment before opening or running with up-to-date antivirus. Contact list hijacks are common, so your friend may not have sent the file willingly. If you receive an attachment from a complete stranger it’s best to treat it extremely suspect.




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