10 Ways to Spot a Phishing Email

10 Ways to Spot a phishing email

Phishing emails are quite prevalent these days. Below are some ways to spot malicious emails.

“Phishing” is an attempt to obtain sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and/or credit card details (and, indirectly, money), often for malicious reasons, by pretending to be a trustworthy entity in an email. [1] Phishing can also occur over the phone or on websites, but email is the most common means.

Millions of phishing emails are sent to unsuspecting victims all over the world everyday. Some phishing messages are so ridiculous that it is easy to identify them as frauds. Others can be more deceptive. Below are ten things to look for when trying to decided if an email is legit.

1: The email contains a mismatched web address

Oftentimes the URL (aka. web address) in a phishing message will appear to be valid. BUT, if you hover your cursor over the URL, you can see the actual hyperlinked address (often at the bottom of the screen). If the hyperlinked address is different from the address that is displayed, the link could be fraudulent or malicious.

2: Website address is misleading

This trick is often used by scammers as a way to convince people that a message came from a reputable company like Amazon, Apple, or your bank etc. The scammer creates a web address that looks like it’s from a reputable company. It could look something like amazon.badcompany.com or usbank.scammersRus.com. It likely won’t be that obvious, but you get the idea. The word before the “.com” is what matters in computer-speak, so make sure it’s legit before clicking on it. And if you’re still not sure, it’s best to just type a web address directly into the browser search bar.

3: The email contains misspellings and bad grammar

This is often a tell-tale sign of a scamalicious email. If a message is filled with poor grammar or spelling mistakes, it probably didn’t come from a major corporation’s legal or customer relations department. It likely originated from Russia, China, or a poor eastern European country.

4: The message asks for personal information

Scammers often trick people to give up personal info by saying something like, “your account is going to be closed unless you update your account information with us ASAP.” If you are still unsure if the email is really from your bank or the company they claim to be, call the company directly, or email them through their website. Do not click any links in the email. That’s exactly what they want.

5: The offer seems too good to be true

This holds especially true for email messages. If you receive an email from someone unknown to you who is promising you the moon, the message is a scam.

6: You didn’t initiate the action

If you get an email that says you have won the lottery or a contest you did not enter, you can bet your bottom dollar that it is a scam.

7: You’re asked to send money

You might not asked in the initial message. But sooner or later, they will ask for money to cover expenses, taxes, fees, shipping etc. If that happens, you know it’s a scam. But hopefully you didn’t click on their questionable links to get this far.

8: The email makes unrealistic threats

We touched on this above, but this is a common one. For example, people have received official-looking emails allegedly from their bank. Everything may look real, but then it will say something like “your account has been compromised and if you do not submit a form [along with your account number] and two picture IDs, your account will be canceled and a judgement will be placed against you.”

A real company won’t send an email like this.

9: The message appears to be from a government agency

Sometimes emails claim to be from a law enforcement agency, the IRS, the FBI, or some other agency. US government agencies don’t normally use email as an initial point of contact, so it’s more than likely fake.

10: Something just doesn’t look right

When in doubt, don’t click. It’s best to be on the safe side and protect your computer and your personal information.

Should You Upgrade to Windows 10?

Should You Upgrade to Windows 10?

After much anticipation and hype, Microsoft is finally launching Windows 10 on Wednesday, July 29th. As people become aware of this free upgrade, they will likely wonder, “is it worth the trouble?”

For the long answer, visit PCWorld’s in-depth Windows 10 review. But here’s the short version.

Windows 10 is a free upgrade for current Windows 7 and Windows 8 users upgrading before July 29 of next year, 2016. After this, the upgrade will cost $119. Once you install Windows 10, you’ll keep getting updates through 2025 with no subscription fees or the like.

If you have questions, let us know. We offer free advice, plus we can help with the upgrade or any issues that may arise.

 

Windows XP Users

It’s time to upgrade to a newer operating system if you’re still using an Internet-connected Windows XP machine, as XP no longer receives critical security updates from Microsoft. Unfortunately, Windows XP users can’t get a free upgrade, and it’s very likely that the old hardware will not be compatible with Windows 10.

xp grave

RIP Windows XP – Photo from PCworld.com

Our recommendation: Buy a new Windows 10 machine or a slightly older Windows 8 computer. Some users who don’t want to upgrade have opted for a safer, cheaper alternative, a user-friendly Linux distribution that will work with your current PC.

Also, remember that Office 2003 will be incompatible with Windows 8 or Windows 10.

Windows Vista Users

Windows 10 is a definite improvement over Windows Vista, but the upgrade won’t be free. A fully updated & patched Vista PC works reasonably well, and will continue to receive security updates from Microsoft through April 2017.

If I still owned a Vista-based PC, I would likely upgrade to a Windows 10 laptop or desktop, or I might save a few bucks and get a new Windows 8 since prices are fairly reasonable.

Make sure your computer meets Windows 10’s hardware requirements if you decide to upgrade an existing Vista PC.

Windows 7 Users

When Windows 8 launched, many tech bloggers advised against the upgrade, if you were happy with Windows 7. Windows 8’s lack of a start menu button and attempt to push tablet style apps to your PC was confusing and befuddling at best.

Windows 8.1 fixed many of the most frustrating issues, but now many critics are saying Windows 10 is a masterful blend of the best features of both Windows 7 and 8.

The start button has returned to Windows 10 by popular demand (and should have never disappeared in most people’s opinion). So the user interface will seem familiar to long-time Windows 7 users.

Windows 10 start menu returns!

Windows 10 Start Menu Returns!

 

Though Windows 10 still includes Windows 8’s contentious Metro apps and Microsoft services, it still carries over Windows 8’s under-the-hood improvements: lightning-fast boot times, pooled Storage Spaces, networking improvements, a much-improved Task Manager, OneDrive syncing that carries your preferences from PC to PC, etc. The list of benefits goes on, but now without the odd Start screen, full-screen Metro apps, and their confusing (un)functionality.

There are also new features like the Cortana personal assistant, virtual desktops, and the performance-enhancing DirectX 12 graphics API, which seeks to supercharge future generations of games.

With all the new features, and the low price of free, we think it’s safe to move on from faithful Windows 7.

There is caveat that you might consider if you’re a heavy Windows Media Center user. Windows 10 doesn’t support or include WMC, even if you upgrade from a system that already has it installed.

If you upgrade from a version of Windows with WMC installed, Microsoft will at least provide you with some alternative source of DVD playback later this year. In the interim, VLC is free and a great option.

Also, if you’re a current or future Xbox One user, it has replaced WMC in the living room as far as Microsoft’s concerned, and it is upgrading to Windows 10 anyway.

Windows 8 and 8.1 Users

Yes. Go ahead and upgrade. Reserve your download here. There is no reason not to, unless you’ve purchased Windows 8’s optional Windows Media Center add-on pack and don’t want to lose access to that software.

View the Windows 10 FAQ for more info


Check out the full Windows 10 system requirements and important notes below from Microsoft’s website.

These are for a pre-released version of Windows 10 and are subject to change.

System requirements

If you want to upgrade to Windows 10 on your PC or tablet, here’s what it takes.

  • Latest OS: Make sure you are running the latest version either Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 Update.
  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor or SoC
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS 20 GB for 64-bit OS
  • Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
  • Display: 800×600

Important notes

  • The upgradeability of a device has factors beyond the system specification. This includes driver and firmware support, application compatibility, and feature support, regardless of whether or not the device meets the minimum system specification for Windows 10.
  • If your PC or tablet is currently running Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 Update, you can check to see if it meets the requirements by using ‘Check my PC’ in the Get Windows 10 app.
  • Applications, files and settings will migrate as part of the upgrade, however some applications or settings may not migrate.
    • For Anti-virus and Anti-malware applications, during upgrade Windows will check to see if your Anti-virus or Anti-malware subscription is current. Windows will uninstall your application while preserving your settings. After upgrade is complete, Windows will install the latest version available with the settings that were set prior to upgrade. If your subscription is not current, upgrade will enable Windows defender.
    • Some applications that came from your OEM may be removed prior to upgrade.
    • For certain third party applications, the “Get Windows 10” app will scan for application compatibility. If there is a known issue that will prevent the upgrade, you will be notified of the list of applications with known issues. You can choose to accept and the applications will be removed from the system prior to upgrade. Please copy the list before you accept the removal of the application.

Feature deprecation

  • If you have Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8 Pro with Media Center, or Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center and you install Windows 10, Windows Media Center will be removed.
  • Watching DVDs requires separate playback software.
  • Windows 7 desktop gadgets will be removed as part of installing Windows 10.
  • Windows 10 Home users will have updates from Windows Update automatically available.
  • Solitaire, Minesweeper, and Hearts Games that come pre-installed on Windows 7 will be removed as part of installing the Windows 10 upgrade. Microsoft has released our version of Solitaire and Minesweeper called the “Microsoft Solitaire Collection” and “Microsoft Minesweeper.”
  • If you have a USB floppy drive, you will need to download the latest driver from Windows Update or from the manufacturer’s website.
  • If you have Windows Live Essentials installed on your system, the OneDrive application is removed and replaced with the inbox version of OneDrive.

Additional requirements to use certain features

  • Cortana is only currently available on Windows 10 for the United States, United Kingdom, China, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain.
  • Speech recognition will vary by device microphone. For better speech experience you will need a:
    • High fidelity microphone array
    • Hardware driver with Microphone array geometry exposed
  • Windows Hello requires specialized illuminated infrared camera for facial recognition or iris detection or a finger print reader which supports the Window Biometric Framework.
  • Continuum is available on all Windows 10 editions by manually turning “tablet mode” on and off through the Action Center. Tablets and 2-in-1’s with GPIO indicators or those that have a laptop and slate indicator will be able to be configured to enter “tablet mode” automatically.
  • Music and Video stream through the Xbox Music or Xbox video app available in certain regions. For the most up to date list of regions, please go to Xbox on Windows website.
  • Two factor authentication requires the use of a PIN, Biometric (finger print reader or illuminated infrared camera), or a phone with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capabilities.
  • The number of applications that can be snapped will depend upon the minimum resolution for the application.
  • To use touch, you need a tablet or a monitor that supports multi-touch. (more info)
  • Microsoft account required for some features.
  • Internet access (ISP) fees might apply.
  • Secure boot requires firmware that supports UEFI v2.3.1 Errata B and has the Microsoft Windows Certification Authority in the UEFI signature database.
  • Some IT administrators may enable Secure Logon (Ctrl + Alt + Del) before bringing you to the log in screen. On tablets without a keyboard, a tablet with the Windows button maybe required as the key combination on a tablet is Windows button + Power button.
  • Some games and programs might require a graphics card compatible with DirectX 10 or higher for optimal performance.
  • BitLocker To Go requires a USB flash drive (Windows 10 Pro only).
  • BitLocker requires either Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 1.2, TPM 2.0 or a USB flash drive (Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise only).
  • Client Hyper-V requires a 64-bit system with second level address translation (SLAT) capabilities and additional 2 GB of RAM (Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise only).
  • Miracast requires a display adapter which supports Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) 1.3, and a Wi-Fi adapter that supports Wi-Fi Direct.
  • Wi-Fi Direct Printing requires a Wi-Fi adapter that supports Wi-Fi Direct and a device that supports Wi-Fi Direct Printing.
  • To install a 64-bit OS on a 64-bit PC, your processor needs to support CMPXCHG16b, PrefetchW, and LAHF/SAHF.
  • InstantGo works only with computers designed for Connected Standby.
  • Device encryption requires a PC with InstantGo and TPM 2.0.

Upgrade editions

We’ll keep you on like-to-like editions of Windows. For instance, if you are using Windows 7 Home Premium, you’ll upgrade to Windows 10 Home.

Some editions are excluded: Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise, and Windows RT/RT 8.1. Active Software Assurance customers in volume licensing have the benefit to upgrade to Windows 10 enterprise offerings outside of this offer.

1Windows Offer Details

Yes, free! This upgrade offer is for a full version of Windows 10, not a trial. 3GB download required; standard data rates apply. To take advantage of this free offer, you must upgrade to Windows 10 within one year of availability. Once you upgrade, you have Windows 10 for free on that device.

Windows 10 Upgrade Offer is valid for qualified Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 devices, including devices you already own. Some hardware/software requirements apply and feature availability may vary by device and market. The availability of Windows 10 upgrade for Windows Phone 8.1 devices may vary by OEM, mobile operator or carrier. Devices must be connected to the internet and have Windows Update enabled. Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1 Update required. Some editions are excluded: Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise, and Windows RT/RT 8.1. Active Software Assurance customers in volume licensing have the benefit to upgrade to Windows 10 enterprise offerings outside of this offer. To check for compatibility and other important installation information, visit your device manufacturer’s website . Windows 10 is automatically updated. Additional requirements may apply over time for updates. See the Windows 10 How to Upgrade page for details.

Virus Removal and Malware Prevention – Lexington, KY

Virus Removal – Computers Plus Repair Lexington

Computer Virus Removal in Lexington KY

Computer Virus Removal in Lexington KYThe skilled virus removal technicians at Computers Plus Repair in Lexington have extensive experience and success in removing all kinds of computer viruses and malware.

One of the most common computer services we perform is virus and malware removal, including removal of rogue security software which is becoming increasingly common (see below for a definition of terms and prevention).

Our virus removal service is quick, guaranteed, and competitively priced.

See our price list or request a quote; or call us at 859-523-5355

First we diagnose the severity of the problem through observation of the computer’s symptoms. Then, we utilize one or more of a number of diagnostic scanning and removal programs. In more severe cases we remove the hard drive and connect it to one of our computers to run the scans externally. This way, the malware can’t prevent removal programs from scanning and removing the infected files.

In a few cases, where there has been substantial damage done to core Windows system files, we recommend a data back-up (if desired) and a re-installation of the Windows operating system. In this case, the computer’s software would then be restored to a similar condition as it was when the computer was new.

We guarantee our work for 30 days, but you can be free of viruses for much longer if you take some of the precautionary measures discussed below. Also, refer to our post about our top recommended free software, which includes some of our anti-virus software recommendations. We also sell some more robust anti-virus programs in our store. Feel free to call us or stop in with any questions. We are always glad to help. Read more

Remove Cryptowall Trojan Malware

Remove Cryptowall & Restore Files

A new piece of pesky malware is making its rounds. Often identified as “Trojan.Cryptowall”, it is a Trojan that encrypts your computer files making them inaccessible. It then requires payment to have the files decrypted and to remove Cryptowall.

The threat typically gets installed by clicking links in spam emails, via exploit kits hosted through malicious ads or compromised sites, or by other malware.

This is a nasty piece of malware. As always, we recommend users to be very careful what links they click on and to avoid suspicious websites. In about 30% of cases we have been able to successfully restore access to some or all of users’ files after removing Cryptowall. The remaining option is a system restore to remove the treat. 

We do not recommend paying the ransom as directed by Cryptowall. There is no guarantee that the scammer will give you a decryption key to unlock your files, and the threat still remains. If your computer has been taken over by this frustrating piece of malware, give us a call or bring in your computer for us to take a look. We are glad to help.

Computers Plus Repair in Lexington, KY: (859) 523-5355

More Detailed Info on Cryptowall

Once Cryptowall is installed on your computer, it creates several registry entries to store the path of the encrypted files and the program runs each time the computer restarts. It encrypts files with certain extensions on the computer and creates separate files with directions on how to allegedly acquire the decryption code.

This threat attempts to convince you to pay money to get the passkey to free your files. It uses a number of different schemes to encourage you to pay the ransom. Of course after the scammer gets your money, he is under no obligation to release your files.

Another variation of Cryptowall is termed Trojan Cryptodefense. Cryptolocker is a similar piece of malware.

Means of Infection

In Cryptowall spam campaigns, the email will usually contain an attachment to an infected file along with a message that tries to coerce the user to download the file. The spam email might say the attachment is an purchase invoice, an undelivered package reminder, or a fax alert. If you open the attachment, your computer will promptly be infected with Trojan.Cryptowall or a variation of it.

It can also be transferred through exploit kits on compromised websites or malicious ads. The Rig exploit kit and the Nuclear exploit kit are two kits that have been used to compromise users’ computers with Cryptowall.

Other pieces of malware can install Cryptowall as well. For example, if a computer is already infected with Downloader.Upatre or Trojan.Zbot, then it’s at risk of getting Cryptowalled.

Functionality

Cryptowall was designed to prevent you from opening your files so that it could attempt to require payment in order to regain access. It does this by encrypting a large number of files on the computer with public/private key encryption using a very strong 617 digit or 2048-bit RSA key.

Once it has your files on lockdown, Cryptowall displays a ransom message via text document or HTML page. It may also warn that the decryption key will be deleted after a certain amount of time in order to pressure the you into paying quicker. The scammer may demand hundreds of dollars, and the amount may increase after a certain amount of days.

Remove Cryptowall. Remove Cryptolocker

The message will then give a link to a website where the scammer wishes to take payment. These sites are usually hosted on the anonymous Tor network, which scammers often use to hide their identity. The threat has asked the user to install a Tor network browser in order to access the site, but newer versions of the threat do not require the user to do this. The user may have to pay using an anonymous currency such as bitcoin to help shield the attacker’s identity.

Remove Cryptowall. Remove Cryptolocker

Even if you pay the ransom, there is of course no guarantee that the scammer will give you a decryption key to unlock the files.

Laptop DC Jack Repair and Replacement – Lexington KY

DC Jack Repair and Replacement in Lexington, KY

We Repair DC Jacks / DC Plugs / DC Connectors / DC Power Harnesses / DC Power Sockets and Electronic Key Fobs

Laptop DC Jack Repair in Lexington KYIf you have to wiggle your laptop cord or hold it at an angle to get a charge, your laptop likely needs DC jack repair. Also, the DC jack on your laptop may be damaged if the power cord no longer charges it, although this can also be due to a failed laptop charger cord – we carry many models in stock.

Oftentimes, the DC jack can be repaired or replaced at a reasonable cost. Our repairs run from $50 to $150 depending on the amount of work involved in the repair. We have parts for certain popular models in stock and can quickly acquire other model parts for speedy repair of your laptop. Sometimes we must partially disassemble the laptop before it can be determined if the faulty jack can be re-soldered or must be replaced. Read more

Windows 8 Start Button, Active Corners, & Trackpad Gestures Fix

If you’re looking for a way to get back the Windows 8 Start menu & Start button, disable Windows 8 active corners, or disable laptop trackpad gestures in Windows 8, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve provided a walk-through below, but if you’d prefer the peace of mind of having someone else do it, we are glad to do it for you in our Lexington repair store.


Replace the Windows 8 Start Menu

If you’re missing the classic Start menu and Start button in Windows 8, you are not alone. It was a drastic change to an old favorite that a lot of people found useful.

Luckily, there is a free easy way to get it back – actually multiple ways. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll walk you through just one of the better options. If you want to check out some more, see this article for a good comparison of a few of the top Start menu replacement options.

Classic Start Menu

Classic Shell’s most noteworthy component is the free Classic Start Menu, and it’s exactly what many Windows 8 users have been missing. Read more

Upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $15

Get Windows 8 Pro for $14.99

Windows 8 logoMicrosoft Windows 8 Upgrade Offer:

  1. Buy a qualified Windows 7 PC between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013
  2. Register for the offer
  3. Redeem your promo code to receive the $14.99 upgrade

If you buy a qualified Windows 7 PC between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013, you can purchase a download of Windows 8 Pro for 14.99. Read more

Tips for Cleaning a Laptop LCD Display, Flat Screen TV or Monitor

Caring for a Laptop LCD Display, Flat Screen Monitor, or Flat Screen TV

Displays are expensive. And you probably want yours to last a long time, so why not take good care of it? It should probably go without saying that great care should be taken when eating or drinking near a laptop or other display because sometimes even the smallest amount of water in the wrong spot can short out the internal components. Not to mention food and drink gets the keyboard and screen all dirty and gross!

Also, make sure you never pick up your laptop or monitor by the screen. This could cause damage to the screen. Make sure to pick it up from underneath to avoid potential damage. If your laptop LCD has been damaged, most times it can be fixed.

Read more

Tips for Backing Up Data and Preventing Data Loss

Data loss can affect anyone…

It is especially problematic for those who have valuable information stored on their computers, such as business documents, financial records, or personal photos and videos.

Every hard drive will mechanically fail at some point and need replaced. Sometimes there are warning signs, and sometimes there aren’t. Also, malware and viruses can damage or delete critical system files. Oftentimes the only solution is to reformat the drive and reinstall the operating system. In these cases, everything on the drive will be lost.

We often perform data recovery for our customers in Lexington, KY due to hard drive failure or virus infection, and they usually regret not having a backup system in place when their valuable data is no longer accessible.  A little bit of planning now can prevent serious frustration and stress down the road in the event of hard drive failure or operating system corruption.

Here’s what we recommend to prevent data loss:

1. Back up your data

An excellent preventative measure is to buy an external hard drive. An external drive can be attached to any computer at any time simply by plugging it into a USB or firewire port. 

Many external drives also have the added benefit of one-touch and/or scheduled back ups – you simply specify the folders and the software will take care of the rest. Macrium Reflect software is a good free backup software if your external hard drive doesn’t come with it’s own software, or if it’s not user friendly. A 250GB hard drive will provide ample room for the average user, and Newegg.com is a good website to shop and compare drive prices, sizes, and ratings.

If it’s a desktop computer, an alternative is installing a second internal hard-drive in your computer (which we can do). Read more

Hard Drive Failure & Data Recovery – Lexington, KY

We perform data recovery in Lexington KY on a regular basis for customers who have encountered hard drive failure or have been unable to access their files due to malware, viruses or data corruption. If your computer is having problems, the article below may help you determine when a hard drive is failing or when it is virus-infected. In any case, if you’re having computer problems, feel free to come by our store or contact us with any questions.

Signs of Hard Drive Failure

Catastrophic hard drive failure is usually indicated when the computer doesn’t recognize the hard drive and Windows doesn’t even begin to boot. More technically, the drive can no longer be detected by CMOS setup, or if it fails to pass BIOS POST and the operating system never sees it. A hard drive also includes controller electronics, which occasionally fail. Hard drive failure is sad

Gradual hard drive failure is somewhat more difficult to diagnose. Its symptoms include corrupted data and slowing down of the PC caused by gradually failing areas of the hard drive, requiring repeated read attempts before successful access. These can also be symptoms of other computer issues, such as malware. A rising number of bad sectors (as indicated by S.M.A.R.T. data) can be a sign of a failing hard drive. Also, a cyclical repetitive pattern of seek activity, such as rapid or slow clicking noises (click of death), can be indicative of hard drive problems. During hard drive failure, each particle from the damaged platter and head media can cause a bad sector. Bad sectors, in addition to platter damage, may quickly render a hard drive useless if you continue to use it. Read more