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Protecting Your Stuff

Updating to Windows 10

A Cautionary Tale

When I first met Rick the evidence was clear. His computer networking was down. His 2009 Dell All-In-One computer could not access the Internet nor his small Local Area Network. Rick told me everything had been OK until a couple of days ago. Up until then he was running Windows 7 on his computer and had full Internet access.

Win.10.Upgrade.Offer  How about a computer upgrade? Rick thought, “Why not”? Maybe this will refresh my PC. His Dell computer had been a great machine. It was reliable and it had plenty of power for the tasks he had for it. At the upgrade point a  couple of days ago the internet was operating fine. So he accepted the offer and began the download. Windows 10 downloaded and installed. Then his computer restarted. The new operating system came up and everything looked good.

 He first noticed a problem when he tried to go back to the web. No pages would load leaving him with the annoying Page Not Available message. At this point Rick called for help and I got his call.

Why did this happen? As most of you know, the Windows 10 free upgrade is in the news and can pop up on your Windows computer running a legitimate copy of Windows 7 or 8. Most people who take advantage of this offer have no problem. Some have the inconvenience of a program that needs to be upgraded to work with Windows 10. There is one problem consistently reported since Windows 10 was released for Technical Preview. That problem is with failure of Internet and network connections under certain circumstances. To read the full thread on this issue please click the following link to Microsoft Answers.

Here is the cautionary portion of this post. Forensic investigation of Rick’s computer revealed rampant adware and malware infections. Infected elements were found in his Internet Browsers along with Trojan infections in his windows registry and a Rouge Antivirus installed alongside his highly rated, legitimate Antivirus program. The legitimate Antivirus even had some of its registry entries modified by the Rogue Antivirus program.

Now Rick had been aware that his Windows 7 computer was slowing down. But he was unsure which programs were causing his problem and which he should remove. His computer had been operating in spite of its infected payload. Most of the rogue activity was hidden but some problems could not be ignored. Because he sensed something was wrong, Rick employed an online service to “tune up” his computer. According to Rick they were ineffective at improving the performance and “kept trying to sell me additional services”. The online service personnel had installed numerous tuneup and monitoring tools on Rick’s computer. With all those and after 11 hours on the phone working with them, they had failed to detect and remove the malware that infected his computer.

In conclusion, it is necessary to make sure your computer is free of the various forms of malware infection before upgrading to Windows 10. The goal of most of these types of infection is to remain hidden from computer users. A compromised computer is more valuable to adware and botnets while it is infected and responding to them. The major indication of an infection may be that your computer just seems slower and sometimes locks-up. You may also see frequent pop-up ads in your browsers.

We have yet to find the “Swiss Army Knife” for computer protection. There are a number of good Antivirus, Anti-malware and Anti-intrusion tools. However, once the computer is deeply infected no one tool has been sufficient to remove all  the intruders.  We have found several good tools that can work together to remove deeply rooted infections. Prevention is also very important. Take care to screen all free offers and free applications that compete for your attention. Look carefully at programs bundled with other programs that you may want. If it is not necessary, do not accept it. You may have to uncheck a program installation “bundled” with a program that you do want.

Here are links to some tools we have found effective at removal and protection:


Is your business ready for “Cloud Based” applications?

Cloud based applications are available for many businesses and professions. Some examples are Medical Office Management, Automotive Shop Management, Legal Office Management, Microsoft Office 365, Google Apps, Salesforce CRM, QuickBooks Online, cloud based email accounts, online backup services such as Carbonite and many more. Cloud based apps are attractive to small business and professional offices. They offer centralized processing of a number of tasks related to running your office. You don’t have to maintain an on site application server. In some cases, you don’t have to process customer payments at your office making PCI Compliance and client security easier and less risky. Your scheduling and follow up reminders are automated. Maintenance of the necessary equipment and security of the systems at their facility is the responsibility of the application provider. Your responsibilities at your place of business include entering information in your Internet browser correctly, purchasing and maintaining a fast, low latency Internet connection. You must also maintain your network computers in good order and keep them secure, back up your local business data and make sure your on line data is backed up by your application provider.

These are the components of your Local Area Network (LAN) for your business starting with your connection to the Internet:

  • Your Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) Modem/Router/Wireless Access Point/Firewall. Frequently these devices are combined for small networks into one “black box”. For larger networks, each may be a separate component. In any case, the Internet Modem is installed and configured by your ISP along with any other devices included in their black box. The rest of the connections in your LAN are your responsibility. Some examples of ISP’s are AT&T, Cox, Exceed, Dish Network, Time Warner, Telepacific and others. All ISP’s are not created equal in the speed of service they are able to provide. Here is a table of the bandwidth speed required for many of the types of use you may encounter for your network. It is important to pick an ISP that can supply the bandwidth you need for your online applications. For a business the least expensive is rarely the best choice. Too slow and your productivity suffers, too fast and you are paying for service you don’t need.

The Short and Sweet

Quoted from

“If you want affordable general purpose internet and won’t be using any kind of remote access or hosting services, get 2-4 Mbps downstream per user and don’t sweat the upstream speed.  But do be aware of these metrics so you can make informed changes going forward.

Table o’ Bandwidth Requirements (Downstream)

Bandwidth (per user) What it’s fast enough for…
< 1 Mbps Email
Instant Messaging
Frustrating Web Browsing
MUDs (those old text adventure games, remember?)
1-2 Mbps Web Browsing
Audio Chat
Streaming Audio (i.e. Pandora)
Online Gaming
3-4 Mbps Video Chat
Streaming Video (YouTube, Netflix, etc.)
High Quality Photos
Peer to Peer File Sharing
Obsessive Facebook Use
5-9 Mbps Streaming HD Video
10-20 Mbps Digital Software Distribution
20-50 Mbps Downloading very large files
50+ Mbps Huge households
Small Countries
Impatient People

Table o’ Bandwidth Requirements (Upstream)

Bandwidth (per user) What it’s fast enough for…
< 256 Kbps Email & Instant Messaging
Web Browsing
Audio/Video Streaming
SSH Server
512 Kbps Audio Chat
Online Gaming
Remote Desktop
1 Mbps Video Chat
Emailing tons of obnoxious photos
Hosting a network game (2-4 players)
Screen Sharing
2 Mbps Skype with more than 2 people
Hosting a network game (4-8 players)
Remote Backup
Web server for a small site
3-5 Mbps Multicast Video Streaming
Web server for a mildly popular site
P2P Network Hub
10+ Mbps Making Me Jealous
  • Your Local Area Network infrastructure may be connected in three different ways, wired, wireless and mixed wired and wireless. The best connection for your LAN is a wired connection to your router or your ISP’s combination appliance. For this connection you should be using a category 5e or 6 twisted pair cable. A good quality router and network switch is necessary to supply the computers, printers, scanners and other appliances on your network. The next most stable network is a mixed wired and wireless network. It is best to use wired connections to the computers that are accessing your cloud applications. You may use wireless for your printers, laptops, tablets and other devices if you have a modern, high powered wireless access point or combination router.  Modern routers with  Wireless a/n capability are the fastest and most stable. With a top quality, high capacity wireless router you may choose to make your network entirely wireless. Wireless LAN connections with older or lower powered routers and wireless access points are the slowest and least stable. Speed and stability decrease with your distance from your wireless router. You must do a site survey of your wireless network coverage and remove any appliances and mitigate other nearby wireless networks that are interfering with your wireless signal.  Here are some links to wireless router reviews:,review-2498.html,2817,2398080,00.asp

  • Your network workstations are the primary access point for your cloud based applications. An under-powered, inexpensive computer will not give you the most effective access. Your computer’s operating system, internet browser, CPU speed, amount of random access memory (RAM), and speed of your hard drive all have an effect on your online and local performance. Some cloud based apps have specific operating system requirements. Some will only work with certain Internet browsers. In general, you need the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer. You may also need a current version of Microsoft Word or similar productivity software to produce and print reports and invoices. Google Apps for business intends to be compatible with your cloud apps and is a suite of cloud applications. Microsoft Office 365 is a suite of the familiar Microsoft Office products re-imagined as cloud apps. You web apps can operate well with the latest versions of  Apple Mac, Microsoft Windows, Linux Ubuntu and other 64 bit operating systems. I would recommend at least 8GB of RAM, a 2.7MHz dual core processor (CPU) and a 250GB hard drive. For the most responsiveness a 250GB SSD hard drive is worth the slight additional expense.
  • It is very important that your network computers be protected from viruses and internet browser infections. Browser infections are now the most popular way that cyber criminals use to gain access to your internet connected computers. Stay away from “free” internet download sites that include additional programs beyond what you asked for. Some of these sites bundle adware and other unwanted programs with your free download. Make sure that your browser’s internet cache is regularly cleaned of temporary files stored there. Regularly scan your computer for infection with a good quality anti malware and anti adware program.
  • Your Cloud based application may include data backup and malware protection for your cloud stored data. It is important to determine your protection when you evaluate the package before you make your purchasing decision. If you are responsible for backing up and protecting your data you need to arrange to protect it. There are cloud based data backup vendors who can back up and encrypt your customer’s information. You should consider backing up key business data locally as well. Consider what can happen if you lose internet connection. Will your business be able to function if you cannot connect to the cloud? Internet connections are now very good. However, local or regional conditions or disasters can put your business off-line. A bit of planning can insure you are able to take care of your customers during an emergency.

Maintaining a secure business enviornment

If you can’t afford to lose it you can’t afford to risk it.

Is your business data and the health of your business at risk?

You only have to follow the news to know there is a high level of risk. Current threats are coming  from several directions. There are hackers and botnets all over the world who have a huge financial incentive to gain access to your business  and customer data. Theft of credit card information is regularly reported and well known. The most lucrative prize in the United States at present is Social Security numbers and associated data. As far as personal data is concerned those bring the highest price on the darknet.

  1. Hacking and data theft. Hacking into an organization is frequently accomplished by taking advantage of internal lapses in security. An infected USB drive is plugged into a computer internal to the company network. An email from a person known to an employee is infected and opened on a network computer. An infected web site is made to look like a legitimate site and opened on the internal network. Frequently, the person who opens the rogue file may not even know that there is a security problem. Infections have been known to remain hidden for days while they spread in the internal network. During this time the “Trojan Horse” looks for high value data to steal. Many times the company servers and network are used to transmit the data out undetected to command and control servers for a botnet.  A good company firewall can mitigate against incoming attempts to gain network access. Stolen data transmitted from inside the organization’s network can be more difficult to detect.
  2. Stealing your productivity with virus, adware and malware. At first these types of infections may be barely noticed on the victim computer. When they have spread and initiate computer slowdown, popups on web browsers, strange search results and even computer crashes they are already deeply embedded in the operating system.
  3. Computer crashes and data loss. Infections can cause valuable business data to be lost or stolen. Computer crashes can also result from hard drive failure and data corruption. The computer hard drive still has the highest component failure rate. That is why a good network backup plan is one of the most important components in recovery from disasters, large or small. It is not enough to back up your important data to an on-line backup service and forget about it. Remote backup takes a long time to recover over the internet. It is important to have a protected on-site backup, rotated on a regular schedule, to speed up recovery time. Your backup media should be stored in a fire-proof and water-proof safe when they are not engaged in backup. Your financial data and business secrets are especially rich targets for theft and should be protected separately.
  4. Loss of access to email, the internet and social media. All these are potential attack vectors as well as important day to day business and marketing data. Your email inbox is not a good place to store large volumes of correspondence and business data. There is an upper limit to the storage capacity and search-ability of email clients.  The risk is for potential data corruption and data loss when you near the storage limit.  Your email account can be hacked and used as a conduit for all kinds of malware. It is important to protect access to your accounts with a strong password. The same protection should be applied to your social media accounts. Accounts which require two-factor authentication are inherently better protected.

What do you need to stay protected from these assaults?

  1. Network, computer and smartphone security.
  2. Antivirus, anti-malware and anti-keylogging tools.
  3. A backup plan that includes both on-site and internet backup.
  4. An internet service provider with a proven up-time record and a fail-over plan.

All antivirus and anti-malware protection tools are not the same. Independent ratings of their effectiveness range from most effective through somewhat effective to actual malware masquerading as protection. The difficulty is to pick the best rated protection in each category. The first task is to pick a reliable reviewer. Some are merely apologists for poor preforming software and some knowingly promote junk-ware. Here are a couple of suggestions for reviews:,2817,2372364,00.asp It is important to check these reviews carefully to find the protection that meets your needs.

Backup Monitoring

Backup Monitoring Procedure

To be sure of your backup, there are two procedures: 1. Regularly check your backup progress and 2. Regularly check the reliability of your backup. For the first, to check that your backup software is backing up regularly, open your backup program. For example Windows operating systems have a backup utility included in their System Tools. There are other commercially available backup programs which are included with many external USB storage devices. Click on the backup icon and you will get a management page that has the backup and restore icons, (as well as other management tasks). Check the backup schedule messages to see if your software is following your backup schedule with no errors.

For your second backup monitoring procedure, remain in the interface you have opened for your Backup Manager. Click on the Restore icon and pick a small file to restore. I recommend you choose a text file or document that is easily readable. Check your chosen file before you restore it by opening it directly from your computer. Make sure that you can read the file. Then restore the file from your USB backup disk. Check the file again for readability. If that file works, you have verified that your backup is usable. Please note that if a file is corrupted before you back it up, and backed up with corruption it will not be usable after your restore. However, if you have a file backed up before corruption and it later becomes corrupted, you can restore the earlier version of the file to make it usable again.

As you know, backup is important insurance for your business. Many small businesses get busy and shortcut this process. That shortcut poses a significant risk. I recommend checking your backup processes at least monthly. You can check more frequently depending on your tolerance for risk. I recommend at least 2 USB backup disks to protect against backup failure. Your backup disk should be on rotation with another backup disk to protect against damage or failure of each disk. Disks should be rotated at least weekly with the disk not currently attached to the computer stored in a protected area. The stored disk should be protected from fire, flood, mechanical and electrical damage. A fireproof safe on your premises is a good start. The overall goal of this and other data safety procedures is to be able to recover and continue your business as rapidly as possible after a minor or a major disaster.

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