Verizon Tracking Cookie UPDATE

A while back we posted about the Verizon tracking code. Well there was an update.

In an recent update (October.2015) Verizon allows users to opt out of the tracking code. BUT you have to log into your web account or call them to remove the tracking.  They are counting on the fact that it is a pain  that most people will NOT remove them selves and that they can continue to sell the data.

Why HP’s recent power cord recall should spark your attention

n late August, HP announced a recall of the LS-15 AC power cord which was included with many notebook computers sold from September 2010 through June 2012. According to HP, “potentially affected power cords can be identified by a molded mark [of ‘LS-15’] on the adapter end of the power cord. Not all power cords with the molded mark are affected.” In short these power cords can spark and burn, posing a fire and shocking hazard to both you as the user and your property. Not all of the LS-15 cords are faulty but we highly recommend ordering a replacement instead of waiting until it’s too late.

While HP has voluntarily recalled these products and offered a replacement system, the company is notorious for pulling all information about faulty products and their subsequent recalls as soon as the recall window has elapsed. Please follow the link below to see if your laptop is one of the affected units and fill out the attached form to order a replacement as soon as possible.


LS-15 Power Cord Recalled

3 simple steps you can make to come out ahead in Arizona’s monsoon season

Monsoon season in Arizona. The heavy rains, spectacular lightning storms, and ominous walls of dust bearing down on the city make for incredible pictures but cost the Valley heavily. It’s usually not direct damage; the water rarely gets inside our buildings and the dust stays outside for the most part. Usually, buildings are well grounded and even a direct lightning strike causes minimal damage. Yes, if the roof gives way the desktop is not going to fair well, but thankfully that is much rarer.

Unfortunately the indirect effects are what kill computers on a fairly regular basis during monsoon season. The power fluctuations (spikes; brown outs; black outs; and rapid bounces of power) are the real enemies of electronics and the data they store.

So how can you protect yourself?

  1. Surge protectors: Not the $2.99 power strips but the $20 super suppressor strips. These will always come with a guarantee of $10,000 to $50,000. While these protect your equipment from surges, they don’t do much for brownouts, black outs or bouncing power but they are a step in the right direction. If your computer doesn’t have one, get one immediately.
  2. Line interactive UPS: A line interactive battery backup (universal power supply) is the best defense. These UPSs take the alternating current (AC) power from the outlet and convert it to direct current (DC) before cleaning the power up. If the power is low (brown out) or off (blackout), it will supplement the power or if the power is high (spike or surge), they bleed off the excess power and store it in the battery. Finally the UPS reconverts the power to AC and delivers a clean, steady stream of electricity to your devices. Warning: make sure you purchase a unit the correct size for the amount of equipment you are going to power through it.
  3. Data Backups:  It will eventually happen. Sadly even the best protection can fail and you will ultimately lose your precious data so make sure you back it up. For home users and small businesses a cloud backup is the best choice. Any other method (flash drives, external hard drives etc.) are going to be at risk from a power event while they are connected.  We suggest Carbonite orMozy as easy to use, inexpensive methods of cloud backup.

As always you can call either of our locations and one of our technicians can suggest the proper solution for you and/or your business; however we’d rather you be safe than soggy so implement these simple solutions ahead of time to keep you safe during the storm.


Universal power supply

Smokin’ deal: cheap e-cigs can infect computers when connected through USB

The jury is still out on the validity of this story but it’s worth sharing even if just for a laugh. An nondescript company executive’s computer was recently  attacked by malware after charging his e-cigarette using the USB connector, as shared on Yahoo today. IT personnel deduced that when the executive connected the charger to his computer, the  e-cig had access to the server and immediately infected the system, despite anti-virus and other security software. We recently posted about USB drives being used for malicious behavior so we feel the latest e-cig story can in fact be true. Regardless if it is or not, we encourage computer users to be careful about what they connect electronically or everything could easily go up in smoke.

BadUSB: the technology world’s newest incurable, unpredictable plague

Using a USB is no longer one of the safest ways to transfer files between computers. Why? Because two researchers (Karsten Noll and Jakob Lell of SRLabs) have discovered a way to reprogram the device’s firmware to attack the computer to which it is attached. As if this weren’t bad enough, the reverse engineered USB can affect the computer in such way that any USB device that is plugged into it will be corrupted as well. Think that connecting an anti-virus device will solve the problem? Think again. The infected computer will self-replicate the malware onto the newly attached device’s controller to make it a BadUSB as well.

Because this new attack isn’t a normal virus, security measures like McAfee or Norton will not stop the attack. These systems scan files and program codes to identify malicious behavior and attributes. This BadUSB as the creators have dubbed it is unique because it is run through the controller of the USB, not in the memory. Thus, the connected computer will not be able to recognize the malware. The device identifies itself as a USB to the computer once connected but is able to redefine itself as another device such as a keyboard. This may not seem useful at first but once defined as a keyboard, the malware can then enter strokes that command the computer to do tasks such as download Trojans or log into accounts, giving the USB needed usernames and passwords.

Unfortunately once a computer has been infected, there is nothing even the savviest tech can do to remove the malware. Noll explained that the only valid defense for this breach is for the device creators to “make it so the firmware can’t be reprogrammed.” Even an unopened USB drive fresh from the store can already have been infected at the factory so planning to replace all old devices with new ones doesn’t ensure security. Until the way USB controllers are made and programmed differently at production, this new threat is a reality that we should all be on the lookout for.


Google Chrome asking you to update? It’s a trap!

You’re reading through your email and a pop-up appears on your screen stating that your Google Chrome or Video Player is out of date. Rest assured; it is fake. Chrome is automatically updated meaning you do not have to do so manually. No matter how authentic the pop-up may appear, Chrome will never ask you to click and update. Ever. This pop-up was designed to do one thing and one thing only: get you to click UPDATE. The moment you do you will be infected with a horde of malware and virus programs because your current antivirus program(s) will be disabled. Your web browsers will be cluttered with toolbars and add-ons. Searches will be hijacked to custom sites delivering even more malware and garbage. The moral of the story here is don’t click UPDATE.

So what do you do if you see this on your computer? Simply close your browser and reopen it. If these pop-ups continue, do your best to avoid those sites. Still happening even after that? Well then it’s too late; you have picked up a bug which is guaranteed if you have already clicked on the link. Shut down the machine and bring it into either of our shops in Tempe or Gilbert. We can remove all of the junk that has been loaded onto the system and get you back into the clear.

No matter how authentic the update request may look, Google Chrome will never ask you to update

No matter how authentic the update request may look, Google Chrome will never ask you to update

Verizon is selling your Internet use information to advertisers…and there’s nothing you can do to stop them

You search for a website on your phone and assume that your internet provider is the only one who knows where you visit. Turns out if you have Verizon, you were wrong. Recently it has been discovered that for at least the past two years the communications provider has been selling the data it collects from its mobile internet users and sells the information to marketing companies. Verizon refers to the process as a Unique Identifier Header (UIDH) which inserts unique numbers and letters into users’ web requests. Paying advertisers can then use these distinctive web addresses to identify which you tend to visit and can closely tailor their ads to your searches. The UIDH system alters the addresses through Verizon’s network so deleting saved cookies will have no effect on the advertisers’ ability to view your tendencies and history. Even more troubling to many people hearing about the tactics is that the company’s opt-out function does not stop the process. Verizon and its advertising clients won’t use your searches for personalized ads; however, it will continue to collect all of the information that it did before you opted-out. Bit of a head scratcher, yes? Providers including AT&T and Sprint are now also being questioned if they employ tactics similar to Verizon. Be careful for what websites you visit on your phone; Big Brother is not only watching but keeping track of where you go…

UPDATE: AT&T confirms to use of similar program:

Verizon UIDH