In the tech news last week we learned about a new Phishing scheme that has allowed hackers to get control of thousands of gmail mailboxes.
If you haven’t heard the term “Phishing” before, you’ll probably hear a lot about it this year. Basically it refers to sending a legitimate-looking (but fake) email, link, or attachment to someone in hopes they will click it or open it. Doing so potentially gives the hacker who sent the “Phish” control of your email account or your computer, and it’s extraordinarily difficult to defend against
even with virus & malware protection software.
While rare, Phishing is a fast growing industry because it can be a big money maker for the hackers who design clever Phishing schemes. Remember all the Hillary emails leaked during the campaign? That started from a Phishing email someone on her staff opened. We’ve also seen Phishing attacks in the news against a hotel, which locked all the room doors until the hotel paid a ransom, against airlines, and against hospitals. Taking data hostage in exchange for untraceable ransom money is a big revenue generator for overseas hackers today.
So what can you do to protect yourself and your business from Phishing attacks? Two things:
- First, educate yourself and your staff about what Phishing looks like. The Today show and our partners at ESET created an online quiz to help you do just that: click here for that. For something more intensive ask us about easy & engaging cybersecurity training from our friends at Ninjio.
- Second, change your passwords – regularly. Especially if you think you may have fallen for this recent Gmail phish. In Gmail you can do that by clicking on your account icon in the top right corner, then choose the My Account button shown here:
Also while you’re in the password section, make sure your cell phone and contact information is up to date, and consider turning on two-factor authentication (2FA). What 2FA does is text you a code to enter each time you login to the system. That’s inconvenient, but much less inconvenient than losing your email account to hackers.
In recent years right here in Anderson we’ve seen hackers sneak into small business gmail accounts and wreak all sorts of havoc – from requesting wire transfers from the business owner’s bank account to stealing passwords and social security numbers from emails they find, to impersonating the business owner and asking for money from their friends and family.
Protecting yourself from Phishing is important. Take a few minutes to take the Today Show test, and update your passwords to any important services you use. And of course, we’re happy to help if needed.
Clever Techs is proud to be the only IT firm in Anderson which has been approved to sell our PC and Mac services through Amazon.com.
The pricing is the same as if you order from us directly, and most of our small business services aren’t listed on Amazon, but on July 12, as part of their “Prime Day” deals, Amazon will include up to $40 cash back when you order our services through their site.
If you are an Amazon Prime member and need high quality PC or Mac service, check out our page on Amazon and watch for the special promotion coming up July 12.
For almost a year now Microsoft has been promoting (pushing) a “Get Windows 10 Free” upgrade to every PC running Windows 7 or 8. The upgrade has been controversial, mostly because of Microsoft’s aggressive tactics – several of our customers have found themselves “upgraded” without permission!
But all that will end soon – on July 29, 2016, the free upgrade offer will end, forever (really). So should you take advantage while you still can?
This is not a “one-size-fits-all” situation – there are quite a few PC models which aren’t fully compatible with Windows 10, so if you upgrade you may find your mouse or network doesn’t work quite right anymore. And a few (very few) applications that run on Windows 7 won’t run properly on 10. (The good news is if you decide you don’t want the upgrade it’s easy to revert back to your previous Windows if you do so in the first 30 days after the upgrade).
But overall the new Windows 10 has had mostly positive reviews, and it’s designed to be more secure and more cloud-and-touch-friendly than Windows 7 without being as shockingly different as Windows 8. Plus Windows 10 will be supported by Microsoft for the forseeable future, where Windows 7 will become unsafe to use in 2020 (and Windows 8 in 2023). If your hardware is in good shape then taking the free upgrade can save you from buying a new computer for a few more years.
Windows 7’s support ends January 2020, Windows 8’s ends January 2023.
Windows 10, if kept updated, is expected to last long after 2025.
Still, after the debacle that was Windows 8 many people are hesitant to upgrade. And Microsoft’s pushiness with the free upgrade isn’t helping.
So if you want to learn more about Windows 10 and what it’s like to use BEFORE you upgrade, we’ve got a deal for you. Our partners at Bigger Brains are allowing us to post their “Windows 10 Essentials” training course right here on our website for you for FREE until July 29 (Click below).
Check out the award winning free course HERE.
And for a full year of Bigger Brains training, including courses on Excel, QuickBooks, Outlook, Gmail, HIPAA and 50 more, ask us about our $79 special!
We get asked a lot, “What makes you different from <the other guys>?”
The truth is that there are lots of things that make us different, but they boil down to four categories:
I used to change my own oil in my car. I still could, but it takes me at least an hour and probably more when you factor in borrowing my neighbor’s ramps, figuring out where I left the tools, buying the right filter, cleaning up afterwards, etc. What takes me an hour of work the guys at the quick lube place can do in 10 minutes. Why? Because they’re setup to do it – they have the tools and the supplies to get it done faster and better than I can do myself.
At Clever Techs we spend thousands of dollars every year on improving our tools. It’s no surprise that we get customers referred to us by Verizon and Best Buy and other IT companies because they know we have cutting edge tools that can do the job when others can’t.
Investing in tools is also a way to save our customers money – if one of our techs can do a job in 30 minutes that might take 3 hours for someone else, we can charge less than our competition, do a better job for our clients, and make a good profit for ourselves.
Having the best tools to support our business customers and our walk-in clients is an important part of our philosophy.
Tools don’t work by themselves – you need some talented people to know what tools to use and to take care of our clients, and I’m proud to say that the team at Clever Techs is the best I’ve ever worked with.
Technical talent is great but what really matters is a passion for taking care of customers, to make sure that we’re doing the right thing (see “Trust” below).
Our team is up to 8 now: Nick, Jim, Kevin, Scott, Jennifer, Aaron, Sylvia, and me (Chip). We’re not perfect, but we’re constantly improving.
You can have smart people and great tools, but in this business if you aren’t doing what’s right for your customers you won’t be in business long.
Technology is intimidating and confusing to many people, which is why the fake phone calls from “Microsoft support” fool so many people into paying strangers to do who-knows-what to their computers. Therefore earning and keeping our client’s trust is paramount.
If something isn’t worth fixing, or if there’s a better way to do what you’re trying to do, we’ll tell you. To do our job we sometimes need access to our client’s passwords and sensitive information, and we have very strict policies controlling who within our organization can access that information. All remote access is logged and monitored.
I listed it third but really I would rank Trust as the most important thing we do.
25 years ago when I was getting started, technology seemed to change every year. Today it seems to change every week! Literally – for example, we were creating a training course for Microsoft’s Office 365, and we were filming on Saturdays in February and March. On three different Saturdays we had to redo training because of major improvements Microsoft had made in the product in between filming days.
At CT-Anderson we have an unfair advantage over every other IT company in the world when it comes to training, because we share our office space with Bigger Brains, a company that makes award-winning online training classes.
All our techs have access to over 60 Bigger Brains training courses, but we also send techs out to other training events as well. Just a few weeks ago Scott and I spent a day at the Microsoft Atlanta office getting trained on Office 365 and related technologies, and last October I was able to spend several days at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond getting educated on their upcoming solutions.
We know you have lots of choices when it comes to a technology partner for your business or for your home. We believe our focus on Tools, Talent, Trust, and Training makes us the best choice.
I always hesitate to write about the “scary” aspects of technology. Some people are already too scared of technology, but usually in the “That’s why I refused to do online banking” wrong way. For most people though, stories about the bad things that can happen are too easily dismissed as “Well, that’ll never happen to me.”
But I have to share four stories of people right here in Anderson, SC who have lost hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of $$ from online con artists and hackers. I want you to know what’s out there so you can keep these evil, evil people from hurting you or your business.
Story #1: Meet The New Boss
In late November a local small business owner needed to wire $50,000 to a vendor. He emailed the same local banker he used all the time, and she sent over the appropriate forms which he filled out and returned. The problem was the banker needed a verbal authorization but the small business owner was stuck in jury duty and could only respond via email. They sent wire transfers all the time, surely this one time the bank could make an exception?
The banker agreed to bend the rules and release the $50,000. But, right before she pushed whatever button would send the funds along, she decided to call the business to double-check that everything was correct. Good thing she did – the REAL business owner was there and was COMPLETELY unaware all this was happening. Turns out hackers had gained access to his gmail account and setup rules so that any correspondence with the bank was shifted to a different email that they controlled, so they were able to use the owner’s email without him ever knowing about it.
Sound like a pretty unusual situation? Sadly, it’s not as rare as you think. We hear about this sort of thing happening to local businesses several times a year. Just today a client forwarded us an email from their business owner asking him to send a wire transfer – in this case the hackers knew the business owner’s name, knew who inside the company could send wire transfers, and they had registered a whole set of fake email addresses using a small, almost unnoticeable typo in the company’s name. (The one thing they hadn’t counted on in this case was that the owner didn’t use email).
Story #2: Staying Offline Isn’t Safer
Last summer we got contacted by a local auto dealership with an unusual and frustrating situation – a steady stream of customers had begun showing up at their car lot demanding the cars they had purchased from the company’s website.
These frustrated customers were confused when the dealership owner told them he didn’t have a website. “Of course you do” they’d say, and show it to him – yep, there was a website with his company name and address. It had a local number, but that wasn’t the real number.
Turns out some clever folks in another state had setup this website and a internet-based phone number to take calls (but they only answered the phone for out-of-state callers, since local callers would discover their scam too easily). They advertised collectible cars with prices that were a little too low, but not so low that it looked like a scam. Still, some people would get suspicious and call other dealers in Anderson to make sure the website was legit. I assume the calls went like “Hey do you know XYZ cars?” “Oh sure, they’ve been around a long time”, and then the person would feel more comfortable wiring a very large deposit (which they would never see again).
The only good news for our auto-dealer client was they didn’t directly lose any money from this scam. They did lose a lot of time talking to very angry “customers”, and in dealing with law enforcement, and potentially getting sued from the folks who did lose money though.
Story #3: Microsoft Comes Calling
Like every other scam, the “Microsoft” tech support scam is all about money. It either starts with a random phone call (usually from “Microsoft”, sometimes from “Windows” or from some generic support name), OR from a virus on your computer that pops up a message asking you to call a support number.
Actually “asking you” is not the right term. “Trying to scare you into calling” is more accurate. They usually mention some serious problem they have detected and that your computer is running slowly and that you must call to get it fixed. (See the video above for typical examples).
If a person calls, and gives them control of their computer…. then all bets are off. They may infect the machine, they may demand a payment to “fix” problems they describe as critical issues (but which are mostly or entirely made up). They may erase or encrypt your files and demand a ransom.
At least 2 or 3 times every single week we have people drop off computers at our service center for repair after they’ve been “fixed” or infected or hacked by these scammers. Unfortunately most of the time they have already paid hundreds of $$ to the scammers.
PLEASE don’t fall for these folks – remember that we fix ANY computer problems here for $89, and even the most expensive places like Office Depot or Best Buy are still under $200 most of the time. We’ve seen customers who have paid up to $1000 for these “repairs”.
Story #4: The Return of Crypto
Since the early 2000’s computer viruses and malware have been about making money. By planting infections on your computer they can do things like sending spam from your computer or using your computer to attack other computers.
Most of the malware infections we see do these things, but the payoff is pretty low, maybe a few pennies a day for each infection. Still, well written viruses can infect hundreds of thousands of computers, so it adds up.
In 2013 though a Russian hacker named Evgeniy Bogachev changed the rules when he invented Cryptolocker, the first widespread ransomware virus which used encryption. Cryptolocker worked like this:
- Infect a PC
- Begin encrypting all the files, photos, and data on the PC. Encryption is like a combination lock – if you don’t know the combination, you’ll never be able to access your data or photos ever again.
- When encryption is complete, halt the computer and demand a ransom in untraceable funds.
The original Cryptolocker was destroyed thanks to a multinational effort lead by the US Department of Justice and Microsoft, however the creator is still freely living a luxurious life with the estimated $3 million he collected in 2013 and 2014 from his victims.
Unfortunately the idea lives on – just last week you may have seen in the news that a hospital in California had to pay $17,000 to get their patient data un-encrypted. Here in SC a school system had to pay $8500 to unlock 24 infected servers for their elementary schools.
Keeping your virus protection, malware protection, and security patches up to date can help, but it’s not enough. Many of these “ransom” infections start from an email attachment opened by someone in the organization, something that’s usually disguised as a bill or invoice or legal notice or fax – anything to get people’s attention in the hopes they’ll double-click to see what it is. Once they do, it’s hard to stop.
What Can You Do?
- Keep your software up to date
- Use good quality anti-virus and anti-malware programs, and keep them updated daily. (Even though they can’t prevent these problems, it’s still a good start).
- Change your passwords regularly, and use two-factor authentication for important accounts such as banking and email. Write down your passwords in our handy password keeper to keep them safe.
- Educate your team – make sure everyone knows not to click on any attachments they aren’t sure about.
- Backup your data! The only surefire solution to ransomware is having a safe, offline backup copy of everything that is important.
- Make sure you have a website, and make sure your hosting provider is scanning it for malware as well. (We spent 2 weeks recently cleaning infections off of a client’s website)
What Clever Techs is Doing
We have already been working aggressively to secure our clients, including changing our updated protection software last year and adding DNS filtering to most of our contract clients.
For 2016 we have already invested over $2000 in advanced security assessment tools and ransomware prevention kits. Starting next week we’ll begin scheduling network and security assessments for our small business clients (if you’d like to get your business on the list let us know).
We’ve also started a partnership with a company called Ninjio which provides weekly training videos for everyone inside a business, to educate them on what they can do to reduce the risk of cybersecurity issues within the organization. For more information about getting access to Ninjio, contact us.
Finally, if you or anyone in your organization receives an email or a phone call that you aren’t sure about – especially if it wants you to open an attachment or call “Support” – send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if you aren’t on a service contract with us we’re still happy to take a look at it for you free of charge and let you know if it’s legitimate or not.
We’re thrilled to announce that we’ll be formally opening our new location on Thursday, February 18th.
Feel free to drop by anytime between 3pm and 6pm to enjoy:
- A Ribbon-Cutting from the Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce at 4pm
- A tour of our service center and video studios
- Demos of our IT Health Monitoring and Security Assessment tools
- Free consultation on any IT issue
- Discounts on our refurbished computers
- Coupons for $20 off any PC or Mac service
- Complimentary Small Business Network & Security Assessments
We hope you can join us in celebrating our new, state-of-the-art service center!
Clever Techs / Computer Troubleshooters / Bigger Brains1520
E. Greenville St, Suite D
Anderson, SC 29621
(next to Sonic & Badcock Furniture)
Come visit us in our new, much larger location at 1520 E. Greenville St, Suite D.
It’s just 1/4 mile from our old location in the Windsor Place (old Winn-Dixie) shopping center, next to Sonic and Badcock Furniture.
We’re still settling into the new location but look for a formal Grand Opening coming in January!
(Our phone numbers and emails all stay the same. )
We hope you can come and join us for Anderson’s Shrimp & Grits Cookoff, today at the Civic Center between 4pm and 8pm!
Details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/727010977421244/
Plus we’ll have some fun giveaways at the Clever Techs booth, including sweets from our friends at The Sweetery and these fun gizmos:
Ten Things You Need To Know About Windows 10
A few days ago many Windows users started getting messages popping up recommending they “Reserve Your Copy of Windows 10”. The messages are legit – it’s Microsoft working hard to build awareness about the new version of Windows before it’s July 29 launch date.
Should you “Reserve Your Copy”? Here’s 10 things you should know about Windows 10 before you click that button:
10: It’s Not Bad
Let’s be honest the most recent version of Windows, Windows 8, is bad. Really bad. Like, so bad that PC manufacturers like Dell and Toshiba have lost millions of dollars because nobody wants to buy a computer with Windows 8 on it. (Disclaimer – all the computers we sell, new and (most) used, come with Windows 7).
Windows 8 was especially disappointing to us since the most popular Windows 8 video on YouTube features our own Chip Reaves and was filmed right here in Anderson! Search YouTube for “Windows 8” and you’ll see it a the top – but notice that most of the comments love the video but still hate Windows 8!
There are a lot of reasons why Windows 8 was so bad, but suffice it to say Microsoft knows they screwed up and they’ve worked incredibly hard over the last two years to make a new version everyone will love. Almost all the early reviews agree they’ve succeeded – if you’re used to Windows 7 or Windows Visa, you’ll find Windows 10 very easy to get used to.
9: There Is No Windows 9
There are lots of reasons why Microsoft skipped the “Windows 9” version number altogether. Some say it’s because it looks too much like “Windows 95”, the popular version from 20 years ago. Some say it’s because Windows 8 was SO bad they want to put more distance between it and what comes next.
Maybe Microsoft’s marketing folks just wanted a mystery to keep people talking about Windows. Whatever the reason, you’re not crazy – there is no Windows 9.
8: It’s FREE! (Mostly)
Windows 10 is completely free for computers running Windows 7 or Windows 8 (or 8.1). It’s not only free it’s very easy to install – see below. The free upgrade is available for one year, starting July 29. We don’t know if Microsoft might extend that, but I suspect they will.
For computers running Windows Vista, unfortunately there is no easy upgrade. Microsoft support for your Windows will end in April 2017 so we recommend replacing your computer by then. An upgrade to Windows 10 can be purchased, but it will require a clean install and your older equipment may not be compatible.
For Windows XP, your support ended last year so in most cases your computer should really be replaced or upgraded immediately.
7: It’s EASY To Install
For Windows 7 and Windows 8 computers, Windows 10 can install as a simple (though large) Windows Update. No software to buy, no CD to install, it will install by itself after a few approving clicks from you.
All your programs and data will still be right where you left them when the upgrade is complete, BUT be aware that some programs may not be compatible with Windows 10 so check with your software provider before clicking “OK”.
6: It’s the LAST Version of Windows. Ever. Sort Of.
Microsoft has said that Windows 10 will be the last version of Windows, ever. Once you install it, or buy a computer with Windows 10 installed, you’ll never need to buy Windows or upgrade your version ever again.
Now, that doesn’t mean Windows 10 won’t get updates – it definitely will (that’s a requirement in a world where hackers are constantly trying to find ways to break into your system to make $$). But those updates will be more of a continuous, ongoing process without the big version milestones we’re used to.
5: It’s Designed For “The Cloud”
With Windows 10, like the latest operating systems on the Mac, iPad, and Android, is “designed for the Cloud”. What that means in this case is that it’s just as easy to save your documents and photos to your OneDrive or OneDrive for business cloud account as it is to your local computer.
I know there are security concerns, but this is a GREAT thing for most people. Every day we work with clients whose hard drive or flash drive has died or been stolen, and they’ve lost things. Important things. Like, photos of the kids or business financial documents kinds of things.
Storing files in services like OneDrive, Dropbox, or Google Drive eliminates the risk of losing your important files due to hardware failures, theft, natural disaster, or accidental deletion. Plus it means you can access your files anytime, anywhere from another PC, tablet, or smartphone.
Microsoft, Google, and others see this as the future of computing and they’re working overtime to make cloud storage safe, easy, and cheap, and Windows 10 is another step in that direction.
4: It’s Safe
One of the few redeeming features of Windows 8 was that it was much harder to infect than previous versions of Windows. THAT feature is one that Windows 10 keeps – security is one of the highest priorities throughout Windows 10.
3: It’s Fast
Sometimes new versions of Windows s-l-o-o-o-w d-o-o-w-n older PCs, or even newer PCs that don’t have beefy processors. Windows 10 was designed for speed, and in many ways is the fastest version of Windows in years.
2: Internet Explorer is (Almost) Gone
Internet Explorer, the browser that has come with Windows for 20 years, will still be included in Windows 10 – but it’s no longer Microsoft’s recommended browser. That honor goes to a new program called Microsoft Edge.
For a lot of technical reasons Internet Explorer will always have problems viewing certain websites, but it’s still necessary to use a few sites – such as the government’s e-verify site. In recent years most people have started using alternate faster browsers like Firefox or Chrome.
Switching to an entirely new, more modern browser means that Edge will load faster and work smoother than Internet Explorer – but IE is still around, just in case. For now.
1: Should you “Reserve Your Spot”? Probably Not.
Despite that message on your screen encouraging you to “Reserve Your Spot”, and despite the mostly very positive reviews Windows 10 has had from the 1 million users who have been testing it since last fall, we don’t recommend that you “Reserve Your Spot”.
For one thing, “Reserve Your Spot” just means you’ll be able to download Windows 10 in the first day or two after it launches. By early August anyone will be able to upgrade anytime, so your reservation is really only helpful for folks who want to be first to get it.
Also as we mentioned above you may have software which is not compatible with Windows 10. The upgrade is a one-way street, once you’ve upgraded there is no easy way to go back if you find a critical program stops working, so give your software vendors some time to catch up to Windows 10, and make sure they guarantee their programs will work with it, before you make that upgrade.
As always we’re here to help with any of your technology needs or questions: 864-225-1888.
Annual Rate Increase Notice
Dear Valued Client,
2014 was a GREAT year for Clever Tech Solutions (Computer Troubleshooters of Anderson). Thanks to wonderful clients like you:
- Our business grew by 22%
- We won the “Small Business Of The Year” Award from the Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce
- Scott Smith was recognized by the Independent Mail as a “20 under 40” business leader
- Chip Reaves was recognized as one of the top 250 most influential people in our industry with a MSP250 award
We take our role as your “IT Department” very seriously so in 2014 we invested $15,134 in new tools and equipment, including:
- A new & improved online backup service
- Better website & remote support tools
- A new service tracking system
- Better virus cleaning & prevention tools
We also hired a full-time customer service manager (Nick Nelson) to oversee our scheduling & customer communication. With Nick’s help we decreased the average turnaround time for our service center and the average on-site & remote response time for our business clients.
We also did some research into our competition, and compiled our findings into the chart at the bottom of this post.
As you can see, our value is by far the best in every category.
As you might expect our costs have risen since last year as well, with slightly higher rent & payroll.
With increased costs and with our rates being well below much of our competition, we have to consider raising our rates for service and for our popular Silver & Gold service plans.
We considered it – and we aren’t going to do it. All rates will stay exactly the same.
The fact is that you and the rest of our wonderful clients keep referring us new business, and the new tools and technologies we’ve invested in help us to work faster & smarter, heading off many “big” problems that would otherwise be time consuming for us (and expensive for you).
With more customers & better tools, we can afford to continue providing premium IT support at affordable rates.
So for 2015 we commit to continuing to invest in technologies and tools that will allow us to serve you even better.
And, in lieu of a rate increase, we would appreciate it if you would refer us to just one more friend or business associate who might benefit from our services.
As always we sincerely appreciate your business, and if there is any way we can serve you better in 2015 just let us know.
With Sincere Gratitude,
Chip Reaves & Scott Smith
Owners, CT-Anderson (Clever Tech Solutions)
How We Compare To Our Competition
In-Shop Labor Rates
Includes data backup?
|Clever Tech Solutions (Us)
90 days “no excuses”
$90/hr + $20 callout
|“Big Electronics Store”
$99-$299 per problem
|“Big Office Supply”
$69 for 90-day warranty
|Local IT guy
|Local IT firm
Information compiled via phone calls in November, 2014