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Tools of the Internet Criminal: Hacking and Phishing Explained

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Living in the information age brings with it certain challenges and pitfalls that are exclusive to its usage and operation. These situations range from the mundane, such as avoiding tripping over any of the myriad of cords and cables present with stationary devices, to the more serious, like the complete theft of your identity. These situations, and many more, make it necessary to follow certain guidelines in order to use it as safely as possible.

As mentioned, identity, information and raw data theft is a problem that has risen with the use of the internet by an order of magnitude. In the past, while identity and other types of intellectual theft were possible, it took a great deal more work to accomplish successfully. Now, virtually all of our lives, and everything that goes with them, is present on the internet, making them much easier to steal and use.

Data and identity thieves are separated into two main types: hackers and phishers. While these two overlap to a large degree, with criminals using both types of attacks on a regular basis, the individual actions that are performed are separated into these two main categories. In order to provide you with the most amount of protection against these attacks, let’s look at both in enough detail to provide you with simple and effective ways to guard against them.

Hacking

If there is one term that is considered synonymous with internet crime and criminals, it would have to be hacking. This is due not only to the amount of exposure it has received from news and law enforcement sources, but also because of the many movies and television shows that center around them.

Hackers are divided into different groups based on what they primarily do with their skills. For example, a black hat hacker is one that uses said skills mainly for destruction or personal gain. White hat hackers mostly use their skills and resources to test the effectiveness of the security of both corporate and private individuals, usually for a fee.

There are a wide range of tools at a hacker’s fingertips, each of which has specific areas that they are most effective at. Some of the most common are:

Password Cracker: As its name indicates, this piece of software is used to guess the password in question, usually by using lists of the most common passwords in use today.

Trojan Horses: Usually attached to an email, trojan horses are adept at finding specific security flaws and setting up back doors for the hacker to use to gain access to the target computer system or network.

Key Logger: As with trojan horses, a key logger is usually attached to a bogus email, which will install itself once the attachment has been downloaded. A key logger will then record each keystroke and usually email it back to the hacker for use in breaking into the system.

Phishing

While the goal of hackers and phishers are similar, usually to gain access to an outside computer or network with the intent of theft or destruction, the approach they use is different. Phishers primarily disguise themselves as reputable businesses or individuals, with the hopes that you will enter in your private information to access a bogus website.

A prime example of a phishing attack would be the construction and sending of an email designed to look exactly like one you would receive from somewhere you have an online account. Usually these emails will notify you of a fake attempt to breach your account, and provide a link to a website they have constructed to look exactly like the real website. Here you will be asked to enter in your account details to ensure its safety, information that will then be taken to the real website to use for exploitation.

How to Protect Yourself

There are a few different ways that you can decrease the possibility of being attacked, as well as actions you can take if you are. Some of the most common of these are:

Firewall: A firewall is a piece of software written specifically to guard your computer against any unauthorized incursion. If you connect to the internet in any capacity, having a firewall installed is vital.

Antivirus Software: As its name indicates this type of software is designed to protect you from installing a virus, as well as remove it if one sneaks in. Always keep your antivirus software up to date in order to have the most protection against the most recent attacks. We recommend Bitdefender, it is an exceptional tool.

Email Links and Attachments: It cannot be stressed enough that if you do not know the source of a received email personally, never click on any enclosed links or download any attachments affixed to it. However, given that hackers or phishers can easily mimic someone in your address book, it may be wise to check with the sender to ensure it truly came from someone you know.

Using the internet is something that can greatly enhance your life in a myriad of different ways. However, in order to keep your activities safe and secure, always be on the lookout for those who would steal your data and information for use in a wide range of illegal activities.

Simple (and free) PC backup options

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Backing up your PC is one of the fastest ways to protect your data from unexpected events.

Backing up your computer is one of the simplest and fastest ways to protect your PC from unexpected circumstances, but still too many of us refuse to take the time or invest the effort in backups. The dangers are easy to see: there's hard drive failure, data corruption, virus and malicious software attacks, and out-right hacking. It only take one of these catastrophes to wipe out everything on your PC and it only takes a simple back up plan to save nearly all of your data.

What about cost? Sure, many backup plans are cost prohibitive or require a year's service for an upfront fee, but what about the free alternatives? If you can protect your data with just the equipment you have on hand and nothing else, will you do it?

Here are two options for securing your files at nearly no cost to you.

Easy File backup

The simplest and most cost effective way to secure your important files from data loss is to use one of the many free cloud services. Take your pick from Google DriveDropboxOneDrive, and the many other providers of simple, folder-based cloud storage and make use of the free storage.

Take Google Drive for example. All you need to get started with Google Drive is an active Google account and a PC to install the drive on. Head to drive.google.com and select Download Drive. Follow the instructions from the installation process and then you are done. Just log in with your account information and you can begin copying files from your normal PC folders into the Google Drive folder. Now these files will be located on your PC as well as in your Google Drive in the Cloud.

You will be able to access and edit directly from the Google Drive folder with no need to copy and paste back and forth.

System Image Backup

Microsoft also makes it easy to protect your PC with a free, pre-installed tool called System Image Backup. The tool creates an image of your computer with all of your Windows settings, programs, and files in a format that allows for a full restoration. System Image Backup is a great too for a single PC restoration, but is not as comprehensive as some pay services and will occasionally run into issues when attempting to restore an image on a different hardware setup.

To begin the backup process using System Image Backup, you will first need to use another free tool provided by your Windows OS, called Recovery. This tool creates a recovery drive from a USB drive or disks that allows your PC to boot into the Windows Recovery Tool without the necessity of a functioning operating system. The process is easy, but will destroy any data already located on the destination drive, so be sure to use a USB drive that is empty or unneeded.

To access the Recovery tool, open up the Windows Search tool and type in Recovery. Choose Create A Recovery Drive and follow the instructions. This recovery tool will allow you to boot your PC to a recovery mode in the event of a catastrophic failure and allow you to recover your system from the backup image we are about to create.

Once your recovery drive is finished, you are now ready to create your backup image. To access the Windows System Image Backup tool, open up the Windows Search tool again and type in File History. The link to System Image Backup will be located in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. Click the link and then the System Image Backup interface will appear.

From the new interface, follow the instructions, which will ask you to select a destination drive, network location, or disk options. Select the option you feel most comfortable with, but understand that the disk option will require a significant amount of disks to backup your PC fully. Once the backup process is complete, you will be able to restore your PC to this version of its file structure. Be sure to continue to make images on a regular schedule to protect your system as it evolves.

Windows 8.1 & Why you should update

Windows 8.1 Update: Why You Should Update Now

 

Following the mass of updates issued in June 2014, Microsoft issued six new computer updates with patches for all versions of Internet Explorer (IE) for all the Windows operating systems it supports at the beginning of July. According to experts in computer repair, Portland residents and others who use Windows should ensure the installation of the latest updates, especially if they have Windows 8.1.

Why the Updates Matter

Small business computer support often comes in the form of virus and malware eradication because of a security breach. In addition to being careful about the websites visited and email messages opened, installing an operating system’s security patches is critical to keeping the data on a computer safe.

Microsoft labeled two of the six July updates as “critical,” the highest threat level. Three are “important,” a step below “critical.” One update is “moderate.”

The “critical” updates will patch versions 6 through 11 of Internet Explorer, as well as IE6 on Windows Server 2003. The “important” and “moderate” updates include patches for all desktop and data center editions of Windows, including the Microsoft Service Bus for Windows Server.

Why Windows 8.1 Users Should Pay Attention

Windows 8.0 and Windows 8.1 required users to update their devices via the Windows Store. While the company offered its customers the choice to receive automatic updates, not everyone is onboard. If those using Windows 8.1 or Server 2012 R2 do not update their systems with the latest patches by August 12, 2014, they will not receive any future updates or security features. Computer repair experts share that Windows plans to roll out several updates in the future for Windows 8.1, which may require the installation of Update 1 and other updates issued in the past.

Before needing a costly computer repair, Springfield-area residents with Windows 8.1 or any other version of the operating system can ask contact us help them determine if they’re receiving automatic updates or have the critical updates installed. Rethink Associates will help you if you have any questions related to the latest updates or keeping your computer secure.