Computer / Internet News

Is your smartphone or tablet slowing down? Closing your open apps could help.

If your smartphone or tablet is slowing down, closing your open apps could help speed it up. When you “close” most apps on a smartphone or tablet, it actually remains in memory running in the background. Over time you may have dozens of apps running in the background which can make it feel slower. Read the instructions in the articles below to close open apps.

How to force an app to close on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch

Find, open & close apps – Android Help

FBI urges home users to reboot their routers to disrupt the spread of newly discovered malware

Netgear router power cable plugged in

Netgear router with power cable plugged in. Image courtesy of listing at Bonanza.com

The FBI is urging owners of routers used in most homes and small offices perform a power-cycle (reboot) of their device to help disrupt the spread of a newly discovered malware targeting such devices. Vulnerable routers include popular devices from Netgear, Linksys, and TP-Link – however this is not a complete list.

A reboot is done by unplugging the thin/black power cable from the rear of the router, waiting about 15 seconds, then plugging it back in. After a few minutes all of the lights on the front of the router should return to normal and your internet connection re-established.

If you need help with rebooting your router, call your internet service provider at the phone number listed on your bill for assistance. If you own one of the router brands mentioned above, you can contact Computer Techs and we will reboot your router for a nominal fee.

For more detailed information about the VPNFilter malware, security journalist Brian Krebs has a detailed article here.

If your router is older than 5 years old, learn more about replacing old insecure devices, and installing firmware updates on newer devices by reading Is it time to replace your Wi-Fi. Computer Techs installs router firmware updates as part of our check-up & updates service, as well as our scheduled maintenance plans.

Is it time to replace your Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi enables you to use your computing devices wirelessly throughout your home. If your Wi-Fi router or internet gateway (provided by your internet provider) is over 5 years old, it’s time to replace it with newer, more secure technology.

In the past year security flaws have been found in the Wi-Fi protocol that’s used in all routers and gateways, and patches have been released as firmware updates for only the newest routers manufactured in the past few years.

A benefit of replacing your Wi-Fi not only fixes current known security vulnerabilities, a new Wi-Fi router can increase the range and reliability of your Wi-Fi. The latest mesh networking technology can blanket your home in wireless coverage using 2 or more linked Wi-Fi radios.

You may have to contact your internet service provider to have your Wi-Fi updated. To find out if you need new Wi-Fi, contact us to for an evaluation of your current Wi-Fi equipment.

How to find your lost or stolen mobile smartphone or tablet

If you’ve lost your mobile smartphone or tablet, or if your device is stolen, you can often find its location by going to a dedicated website on your computer. But before your device can be located, your mobile device needs to be setup to allow it to be located. Now is the time to check and make sure your device is setup – before your phone gets lost or stolen. [Read more…]

What you need to know about the Summer 2017 Equifax data breach

Updated 9/13/17 to include information from Consumer Reports:

Equifax, one of the large credit reporting agencies in the U.S. recently announced a data breach that may affect 143 million Americans. In case you’re not familiar with the population of the United States, that number is equal to just about every adult who’s ever applied for credit. Initial reports indicate that exposed data may include names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. Note that Equifax DOES NOT have access to passwords to your financial accounts.

The Federal Trade Commission posted a helpful article with suggestions on what you can do to help protect your financial data now that the data breach has come to light. However, contrary to their advice that includes entering your personal information to check to see if you’ve been affected by the breach and sign up for free credit monitoring through TrustedID Premier, a 3-bureau credit monitoring service (Equifax, Experian and Trans Union) which also is operated by Equifax (yes, the same company that exposed your data in the first place) – security researcher Brian Krebs recommends placing a credit freeze on your file, and further explains how to do it in this article.

Additional information from the FTC includes:

  • Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
  • Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
  • Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
  • If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
  • File your taxes early — as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.

Consumer Reports has updated information on How to Lock Down Your Money After the Equifax Breach.

Learn how to spot scams that pop-up on your screen – and how to close your browser

Screenshots similar to the one above all have one thing in common. They are all trying to convince you that there are problems with your computer or device, and that you need to call a toll-free number in order to fix the problems. However, if you call the number you will be connected to a scammer who will use scare tactics to access your computer and attempt to convince you that there are serious problems with your computer, and that paying several hundred dollars for a “fix” is your only recourse. Remote support scams have tricked millions of people into paying an average of a few hundred dollars each for non-existent problems.

Never respond to a pop-up on your computer or smartphone screen that urges you to call a number for help. If the Window will not close normally by clicking the red “X” on the upper-right corner of the window, try the following:

  • At the bottom of the window check the checkbox to “Don’t let this page create more messages” or “Prevent this page from creating additional dialogs” then press “OK”. You should then be able to close your browser normally using the red “X”.
  • Turn off or restart your computer using your normal method via the Start button icon on the bottom left taskbar, then Shut down or Restart. If the fake warning website covers your full screen where you cannot see the Start button icon, press the Windows key (  or  located near the bottom left corner of your keyboard) which should bring the Start menu to the foreground.
  • If neither of the above methods work, press and HOLD the power button on your computer until it turns off.

After turning your computer back on and/or opening your browser, don’t go back to the website or email that you had visited immediately prior to seeing the pop-up.
[Read more…]

How to improve wireless coverage at home

Do you have poor Wi-Fi coverage inside your home due to low signal or interference from other nearby Wi-Fi routers? How about poor wireless cell coverage at home due to wireless carriers having trouble locating their cellular transmission antennas, towers and poles in residential neighborhoods? Resident complaints that cell towers will decrease property values or become eyesores within the landscape have persuaded elected officials to deny the permits needed to construct new cell sites.

Fortunately there are a few solutions that will improve Wi-Fi and wireless cell coverage in the home and other small-to-medium size buildings where coverage is weak.

Wi-Fi coverage

In the past few years new Wi-Fi technology has allowed manufacturers to produce more powerful Wi-Fi routers, range extenders and mesh network devices that increase range, speed and reduce “dead spots” within the home or office.

Wireless cell coverage

All four major U.S. wireless carriers now offer Wi-Fi Calling, which is available on many of the latest smartphones. Wi-Fi Calling uses the existing Wi-Fi connection in your home to connect your phone to the wireless cellular network through your home broadband internet connection. When connected, calls and text messages will typically be as clear and reliable as your Wi-Fi connection.

Alternatively, the carriers also offer a small device that connects to your home broadband internet connection called a “femtocell” which improves the wireless signal to cell phones located nearby. Each carrier has their own branded femtocell – links for the individual carrier’s femtocell offerings follow:

The advantage of Wi-Fi Calling vs. getting a femtocell is that if you have a compatible smartphone and a Wi-Fi router, there is no extra cost to setup Wi-Fi Calling. A femtocell can cost up to a few hundred dollars, however carriers will sometimes discount or fully subsidize the cost for the device for their more profitable customers.

Computer Techs can help with the setup of new Wi-Fi devices, Wi-Fi Calling on your smartphone or a femtocell – just contact us to setup an appointment.

How to safely manage your passwords

Updated November 2016:

When helping clients login to their computer or websites, I often see them pull out a scratch pad or sticky notes with various passwords scribbled on the page. There’s a better and more secure method to record your login information. [Read more…]

Secure your email account with 2-step verification

With email account hacking being a common occurrence, email providers Google, Microsoft and others introduced a 2-step verification process that can keep unwanted people from accessing your email account, or help you regain access to it in the event of a forgotten password or if it has been taken over by a hacker.

It is important to note that you must setup 2-step verification for your account before hackers have a chance to do it first – and potentially lock you out of your account. Computer Techs recommends that you set-up 2-step verification now, as a pro-active preventative measure to keep hackers from accessing and/or taking over your email account.

2-step verification, (also known as 2-factor or multi-factor authentication) requires that anyone accessing your online account have 2 pieces of information in order to prove legitimate access:

  • Something the user knows (e.g., password, security answer, PIN)
  • Something the user physically has (e.g., phone, smartphone displaying a randomly generated code, ATM card)

If you are unsure about setting up 2-step verification, please contact us and we will set it up for you. If you’d prefer to do it on your own, see the links below for instructions for the most popular email services.

• Google/Gmail:  If you use Gmail on your iPhone, an email program on your computer, or certain other 3rd-party applications that access your Google/Gmail account, you will need to generate a one-time application-specific password in your Google account settings page for each device or application. Please read the information and watch the video Sign in using application-specific passwords before proceeding. You can then follow the instructions at Getting started with 2-step verification.

• Outlook Mail/Hotmail: See this Microsoft support article to setup two-step verification, or this blog post for more information.

• AOL: See AOL’s information about 2-Step Verification: Stronger than your password alone.

• Yahoo: See Two-step verification for extra account security.

• AT&T/Yahoo accounts (sbcglobal.net/att.net/nvbell.net/prodigy.net): Though AT&T/Yahoo email accounts do not offer a 2nd verification method for login, you should register a cell phone number with your account to make resetting your password easier. See Use your wireless number to reset your password.

Additionally we recommend that you secure your other online financial, social and file sharing accounts. See the THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION (2FA) website for tutorials for most popular websites.