Windows 7 support is ending, upgrade or replace your computer?

Windows 7 support is ending meaning your computer will not be secure

Extended support for Windows 7 ends on January 14, 2020.

What happens when Windows 7 support ends? Your computer will no longer receive software updates, including security updates, from Microsoft. If you continue to use Windows 7 after support has ended, your computer will still work, but it will become more vulnerable to security risks and viruses.

Buy a new computer?

If your current computer is quite old you might benefit from the advances in technology by buying a new computer. You will most likely get a faster processor, more memory and more storage space with prices starting from around £330. Your new computer will already have Windows 10 installed and you will have to copy your files from your old computer and install any software you want to use.

Upgrade your current computer?

You might not have the funds for a new computer, and why should you replace your current computer which is working perfectly. Well, you don’t have to. Windows 10 will more than likely run on your computer. For around £150 Windows 10 can be installed on your current machine. After backing up your files, the computer is wiped and a brand new copy of Windows 10 is installed before copying back your files and reinstalling software you use.

Move to another Operating System?

Many people chose not to move to Windows 10 when it was offered as a free upgrade. Some people tried it and did not like it, some listened to others opinions and have decided Windows 10 is not for them. If you do not want to move to Windows 10 then you could move to a Linux Operating System. Linux is a free alternative to Windows, there are many distributions (a unique OS based on Linux) to choose from and they are just as capable as Windows.

Screenshot from Mint (Linux Distribution)

Made a decision? Or need further information / advice.

You can contact me and I will explain anything that you are unsure of. Whatever decision you make, I can carry out the work for you. You will get the best prices and the best service with as little downtime as possible.

Scam emails

It is not often that a day goes by without a scam email appearing in one of my inboxes.  Threats of account closures, refunds from HMRC, PayPal payments going astray even threats to life.  All of these emails have common telltale signs that will help you identify scam emails.

Scam emails, how to recognise and deal with them

Scam emails, also known as Phishing are a very common way for criminals to try and defraud you.  They will hope to trick you into providing personal information enabling the criminals to access your accounts. They may threaten you, demanding payment directly or trick you into downloading malicious software before ‘charging’ for a removal service. To help protect you from scam emails have a look at the following tips.

Delete it

This might sound obvious but many people see a strange email and are intrigued enough to open it.  This is what the scammer wants. Once you’ve read the email you will naturally begin to question whether it is a scam and then be more inclined to follow links or instructions. If you are in any doubt, delete it.

Opening a scam email is highly unlikely to infect your device but you are more likely to question whether the email is genuine.

Check the sender

Scammers use email spoofing to disguise where an email has been sent from. Email spoofing is where the email is altered to look as though it was written by someone else. If you hover over the sender or right-click on the sender name you should be able to see the email address behind it.  The email address will look wrong and unrelated to who the email is claiming to be from.  At this point there should be no further doubt in your mind, delete the email.

Don’t click links

If you are still unsure and wish to proceed. Never click the links in the email. If you hover over a link it will show the address you will be taken to on clicking. This will be the website that the scammer wants you to visit so they can gain more information or infect your device. If you are tempted to check, open your browser and go to the official website before logging in and checking to make sure all is in order.

Report them at Action Fraud

Before deleting the scam emails you can report them via the Action Fraud website.  The link is https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/ and use the online reporting tool. There is a short form to complete and then you can forward the scam email to them.

Windows 10 April 2018 (version 1803)

Computer freezing after updating to Windows 10 (version 1803)?

Version 1803 keyboard tip

If you have updated to Version 1803 of Windows 10 and are experiencing random computer freezes, then you are not alone.

Many users have reported this problem when using certain apps, such as “Hey Cortana” or Google Chrome.

Microsoft has officially acknowledged the problem and are working on a solution which they hope to deliver during the next updates which are scheduled for May 8, 2018.


What can you do until it is fixed?

There are a few temporary workarounds that you can use until the problem is resolved.

Press the Windows logo key + Ctrl + Shift + B at the same time. This combination restarts your graphics driver (your screen will go black for a second) and hopefully unfreeze your computer.

On a Windows tablet, press both the volume up + volume down buttons three times within 2 seconds.

If you are using a laptop, you can try closing and opening the laptop lid.

CCleaner Hacked

CCleaner window

CCleaner Hacked: What Do I Need to Know?

“CCleaner Hacked!” has been all over the internet today and for good reason. Malicious code was inserted into the CCleaner initialisation code which resulted in a two-stage backdoor being installed on users computers. The first stage of the malware collected the following information from infected systems:

Name of the computer
List of installed software, including Windows updates
List of running processes
MAC addresses of first three network adapters
Additional information whether the process is running with administrator privileges, whether it is a 64-bit system, etc.

This information was submitted to an external IP address and the second stage of the malware was downloaded to the infected machine. It appears that this second stage was not run once on the infected machine and it is highly unlikely that it will be.

You can read Paul Yung’s post on the incident here. Paul Yung is the VP of Products at Piriform, the company that makes CCleaner.

Should I be concerned?

It is very concerning that this has happened. CCleaner is a well known and trusted piece of software used by millions. The infected update was available from 15 August 2017 – 12 September 2017. It is believed that over 2 million users installed this infected version. The fact that the second stage of the malware never ran does not negate the fact that it happened and could have had much worse consequences.

Was I Infected?

If you have CCleaner installed on your computer, open it and have a look at the version number (as shown in the image below).

CCleaner version information

Check if you have a 32-bit version installed. The 64-bit version was not affected, if you have a 64-bit version of CCleaner then you do not need to worry.

If you have a 32-bit version installed and the version number is 5.33.6162 or higher then you were more than likely affected.

Users of the CCleaner Cloud version 1.07.3191 would also have been affected.




What Should I Do?

If you have a system backup, you could restore your computer back to a date prior to 15 August 2017. Then download and install the latest version of CCleaner from the website.

Run a full antivirus scan and a malware scan on your system and your backups.

Alternatively, you could reinstall Windows completely. This might sound a little over the top but it is the only way to know your system is clean after something like this happens.

If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me and remember to share with friends and family who might not be aware of this.

accelerometerst.exe system error

accelerometerst.exe system error message

If you are suddenly getting this message when you turn on your HP laptop. Do not worry as there is a simple solution.

The accelerometerST.exe file is part of the Hewlett-Packard 3D DriveGuard program that protects the hard drive from shocks and drops. In the event of a shock the part of the hard drive responsible for reading the data is moved to a safe position to prevent damage to your data. Whilst this will protect your data in many cases it should never be seen as an alternative for taking regular backups of your data.

Solution to accelerometerst.exe system error

Uninstall the HP 3D DriveGuard program from your computer via the Control Panel.

Once uninstalled restart the computer.

Go to Hewlett-Packards customer support website located at https://support.hp.com/us-en/drivers

Enter your product name, number or serial number and wait for the available drivers to be shown.

The HP 3D DriveGuard software will be listed under the Driver-Chipset heading.

Download and install the program then restart the computer.

That’s it. The software will be protecting your hard drive again and you will no longer see a system error message.

Still Running Windows Vista – It’s time to move on.

Windows Vista and Windows 10 installation media

Windows Vista will no longer be supported from April 11 2017

Windows Vista was released in 2006 as the successor to Windows XP. It was not a popular version of Windows and never really stood a chance. There are however a small percentage of people still using Windows Vista. If you are one of these people then you need to be aware. From April 11 2017, you will no longer receive new security updates or non-security fixes from Microsoft. You will not be protected against threats and bugs discovered after this date.

In other words, it’s probably time for a new computer.

Why a new Computer?

Windows Vista was released back in 2007 so there’s a good probability that the hardware in your Windows Vista machine just isn’t up to the job anymore. Technology has moved on and so have we as users. one issue when looking at older machines is the potential cost to upgrade. If the machine needs more memory, a larger hard drive and then the new Operating System you could be looking at paying out a similar amount to a brand new computer. That ageing processor might just about cope with Windows 10 but wouldn’t you rather have a fast up-to-date machine that could see you through the next 10 years?

How much would a new machine cost me?

Cost is always going to come down to personal preference. E.g. what you want to get out of the machine. If you are just looking at a new machine to perform simple tasks then for around £350 we can provide a brand new laptop or desktop computer with Windows 10 installed and copy your data from the Windows Vista machine. We will also give you an introductory lesson to Windows 10. The move to a new operating system is not as bad as you think.

Do I have any other options?

Again, depending on what you use the machine for, a free operating system can be installed on the Windows Vista machine after backing up your data. This costs £50, and we will show you around the new operating system.

The one option we would not recommend is to carry on using Windows Vista. The risk of compromise will increase once support ends and you will come across more apps and devices that will not work with Windows Vista.

It is time to move on.

Free Windows 10 upgrade

The free Windows 10 upgrade ends on 29 July 2016

desktop after free windows 10 upgrade

Microsoft’s offer of a free Windows 10 upgrade will be ending on 29 July 2016. This has been confirmed in a blog post by Microsoft. If you are running Windows 7 or Windows 8+ this means you have a little under 30 days to take advantage of the free Windows 10 upgrade. After 29 July it will cost around £100 to buy Windows 10.

Do I have to upgrade to Windows 10?

No. If you are perfectly happy with your Windows 7 or Windows 8+ computer, and Windows 10 does not appeal to you, then just carry on ignoring the upgrade notifications that appear (these will stop sometime after 29 July). Windows 7 continues to be supported until 14 January 2020 and Windows 8+ until 10 January 2023.

What if I upgrade but don’t like Windows 10?

If you upgrade to Windows 10 and really don’t like it there is the option to go back to your previous operating system. This option is not available if it is more than a month since you upgraded, if you have run cleanup tools that removed previous windows installation files or the C:\Windows.old folder has been deleted.

Don’t rely on other peoples opinions on Windows 10, upgrade and see if you like it.

Is there anything I should do before upgrading?

The most important thing on a computer are the files created by you. Everything else can be replaced or reinstalled, which will just take time. Your pictures, documents, music and videos would be harder to replace (if not impossible). So our number one piece of advice is “BACK UP”. That means, copy all your personal files to an external device and store it somewhere safe.

If you upgrade to Windows 10 and have any questions, you can always ask for help and advice here. There are multiple ways to contact me and I will always get back to you as soon as possible.

Make sure your friends and family are aware of the free Windows 10 upgrade end date, you can share using the links below.

Twitter data breach – “Our systems have not been breached”

There is no evidence of a Twitter data breach

twitter data breach

32,888,300 login details of Twitter users have been put up for sale on the Dark Web. A user going by the alias Tessa88@exploit.im is asking for 10 bitcoins (£4060.20 at todays exchange rate) from anyone that wants a copy of the list. Twitter however, is confident that this is not a breach of its network.

It is believed that the details may have been gathered from combining information from other recent website breaches, malware on victim machines that are stealing passwords for all sites, or a combination of both. Twitter has cross-checked data with their own records and Twitter accounts identified for extra protection have been locked and require a password reset by the account owner.

LeakedSource, a site that keeps a database of leaked login credentials, added a copy of the data to their searchable repository of leaked data. Credentials on the list have been verified as real and valid and LeakedSource use the following explanation as proof this was not a Twitter data breach.

The join dates of some users with uncrackable (yet plaintext) passwords were recent. There is no way that Twitter stores passwords in plaintext in 2014 for example.

There was a very significant amount of users with the password “<blank>” and “null”. Some browsers store passwords as “<blank>” if you don’t enter a password when you save your credentials.

The top email domains don’t match up to a full database leak, more likely the malware was spread to Russians.

Password concerns

twitter-password

LeakedSource also list some of the passwords Twitter users use and it shows that there are a lot of people who are not following good password practices. You can read an earlier post of mine regarding password security and if you are using simple passwords and/or using them on multiple sites, change your habits now.

Malware concerns

There is also a large concern of malware harvesting credentials, not just for Twitter but for any website that your browser may have saved passwords for. Check your computer regularly for viruses and malware, if you don’t feel confident in doing this, take your computer to a local computer repair company and ask them to check for you.

Password Security – update your password habits now.

Today, May 5th 2016, is World Password Day. A global celebration to promote better password habits. A day when we can take a look at our password security and make changes to improve it.

password security

Password Security – How secure are your passwords?

Do you use a simple password and use that same password for multiple accounts? You will be surprised how many people do. The image at the top of this post shows you the password security of the password “snowman12” which would take 42 minutes to crack. You can try it yourself at https://howsecureismypassword.net/

Which is why step number one of improving password habits is:

Create strong passwords

The key to a strong password is length. Your passwords should be 8 characters long at the very least, and difficult for someone to guess. Avoid using personal information, especially if someone can find the answer on social media, or by searching your name online.

In addition to length, secure passwords also use a mix of uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols.

Okay so I will update my password to “Sno%wm”An12” and check the password security now… Brilliant it now says it will take 4 hundred years to crack the password. It is a lot more difficult to remember but I will just write it down and use it for all my accounts.

It is better than using a simple password for all your accounts but it brings us on to step number two:

Use a different password for each account

If someone has access to your one. key password, they have access to everything.

Cyber criminals know people reuse passwords, and after a major password leak, they’ll try using this passwords and email addresses to get into all kinds if sites. Often, it works.

The solution is simple: have different passwords for every online account. That way if one account is compromised you can rest easy knowing your other accounts are still safe.

How are you going to remember all those different, complicated passwords though?

Get a password manager

A good password manager safely stores all your passwords, remembers them and can generate strong passwords for you. This makes it incredibly easy to use different, hard to remember passwords for every account, so you only have to remember the one master password to get in.

We use and recommend LastPass to our customers.

And to make sure our password security is as good as it gets:

Turn on multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication adds another step before authorizing a user. For example, a code can be text to your mobile which has to be entered before you can continue. This means that someone would have to know your username, password and also have access to your phone before they could access your account.

Sounds like too much work?

It is a lot less hassle than changing everything after your accounts have been compromised and you’ve cancelled your credit and debit cards and persuaded your bank that you never made those purchases on your latest statement.

How to uninstall QuickTime for Windows

Why should I uninstall QuickTime?

On the 14th April 2016 it was announced that there are two new, critical vulnerabilities affecting QuickTime for Windows. Apple were informed of these vulnerabilities in November 2015 and Apple later advised that QuickTime would be deprecated on Windows.

Deprecated means that it should not be used because there is (or there will be) a better alternative, that should be used instead.

In other words Apple is no longer providing security updates for QuickTime on Windows. These vulnerabilities are never going to be patched.

So what’s the risk?

uninstall quicktime from windowsIn order for these vulnerabilities to be exploited you would have to visit a malicious web page or open a malicious file. There are no active attacks against these vulnerabilities currently but that may change now that the announcements have been made. There will also be ever increasing risk as more and more unpatched vulnerabilities are found in the software. The only way to be protected against all current and future vulnerabilities is to uninstall QuickTime for Windows.

Details of the vulnerabilities can be seen on the following links:

http://zerodayinitiative.com/advisories/ZDI-16-241/
http://zerodayinitiative.com/advisories/ZDI-16-242/

Okay, so how do I uninstall QuickTime?

You need to open the Control Panel. If you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7 click on the start button, you should see the Control Panel option in the menu. Windows 8.1 users can open Control Panel by pointing to the upper-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer down, and then clicking Search. Type Control Panel in the search box and then click Control Panel. Windows 10 users can right-click on the start button and click Control Panel.

When in the Control Panel click Programs then Uninstall a Program. Scroll through the list that appears and click on QuickTime. An uninstall option will appear at the top, select this option and follow the prompts.

uninstall quicktime in the control panel

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Sig-ma is a computer repair company based in Yeovil, Somerset. 

We offer professional, affordable services to businesses and home users alike.

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