When people think about hacker groups, there is no group more notorious than “Anonymous.”
Believe it or not, “Anonymous” is not some “secret organization”, as the media would have us think. With all the information, and sometimes misinformation out there about this group of “cyberterrorists” there are only a few facts.
1. Anonymous is not really an organized group.
It’s easy enough to join Anonymous, as it is really more of a movement than an actual organization. All you have to do is proclaim yourself a “member”. This is the main reason the icon is a suited man with a question mark for a head, or a man in a mask. There is no designated leader, no structured ranks, no systematic order, and no secretly scheduled assignments. People within Anonymous come to the forefront when they demonstrate their hacking abilities or spearhead internet causes or rally people together online; doing it in the name of Anonymous.
2. Anonymous began with a joke.
It began on the website “4chan” in 2008, an online community of people in different groups determined by their interests and such, a site not unlike today’s mainstream internet site Reddit. It was in this year that Anonymous became a political hacking group, when it began to flood The Church of Scientology with prank calls and faxes, even going as far as to take down their website.
3. There has been a lot of inner turmoil.
Anonymous faced a bit of a civil war in its earlier years that resulted in some of the most notable hackers within the group branching off into different groups like “Lulzsec.” After the Scientology debacle, many within were divided between whether or not they wanted the movement to continue as a politically charged hacktivist group or just a bunch of trolling pranksters.
4. The Irony
It’s a little difficult to operate a group of hacktivists all pursuing one common cause while maintaining complete anonymity without people labeling particular cyberattacks or data dumps as “Anonymous led.” This is the problem Anonymous has been facing for quite some time now, and it only really adds to the occasionally laughable public profile.
5. Anonymous beliefs
When people hear about Anonymous nowadays, many roll their eyes or scoff or simply pay no mind at all. Once upon a time, it did have a set belief system. It was for the betterment of society, not just toppling websites for the fun of it but also exposing people, holding protests against the “1%” and, threatening terrorists groups.
6. The Mask
Originally seen in Warner Brothers 2005 film “V for Vendetta,” the mask has become absolutely iconic within the hacktivist group and is used to designate specific members. Funnily enough, the movie itself is very pro-copyright in some respects, which would probably offend the entire Anonymous movement, but it has somehow remained over all of these years as the “face” of Anonymous.
7. Anonymous is broken.
Conflicting beliefs, motivations and skills have caused Anonymous to crumble beneath itself and fade from the public eye. With some of its most skilled hackers like “Sabu” from Lulzsec retiring or being arrested, it has become a mockery of what it used to be. Falsely identifying two possible officers who shot Michael Brown, wrongly shutting down twenty thousand Twitter accounts of people whom those involved claimed to be a part of ISIS (but were not,) and just generally mucking it up as of late certainly hasn’t helped its reputation.
This group of internet “hacktivists” has made a profound impact on what we know about hacking and internet causes today. It has opened our eyes to things in the world that are going sideways, the movement also wreaked havoc on governments and corporations.
It is interesting to note, that while the general public thinks of them as a “serious problem”, the “members” of Anonymous don’t take themselves seriously at all.
If you need help protecting your computer from some of the internet’s nefarious denizens, contact Tech Force today!
Of the three types of hackers the most dangerous are the Black Hat. These guys do it for profit; it is how many of them actually make a living, and they don’t care at whose “expense”.
A Grey Hat might hack into a corporation’s bank account to transfer money to a poor family that needs the funds for rent or food; a Black Hat will do it to transfer money to his own account so he can buy a new car.
While not all hackers are dangerous, the White Hat hackers work to make the world a safer place, but finding vulnerabilities and patching them before the bad guys can exploit them.
Some of the more nefarious hackers sit in coffee houses, parks, and even stores scanning for a chance to snag your passwords, account information, and other credentials. They can also sometimes sit in offices programming malware and viruses that will pop-up on your screen while you surf the net and hold your computer hostage until you pay the ransom.
However, there is hope! You can protect yourself by maintaining a few good security habits.
1.Uninstall Any Software You Don’t Use
Chances are that most of the software that comes with that fresh Windows install are just trials to get you to pay for the full version later. Basically you try it for 30 days and then it will pop-up ads every time you turn on your computer to get you to buy it. These bloatware programs can make your computer vulnerable.
2. Automatically Install Security Updates
Your Anti-malware and antivirus software is a great defense against hackers. Keeping it up-to-date plugs holes that a hacker can get through. If you don’t have time, or updates confuse you, think about getting a Maintenance Plan – It is like having your own personal nerd in the basement keeping you and your family safe.
3. Avoid Plugging in Devices You’re Not Sure About
If this amazing person you just met in the coffee shop hands you a USB with a file of a story they just wrote on it, use some skepticism. If you find a random drive lying on the ground, best to toss it in an Electronic Recycle bin. Remember what curiosity did to the cat.
4. Never open attachments or emails (unless you’re really sure)
You just got an email telling you, you won a trip to Ibiza! Yay for you! Maybe… If it isn’t a timeshare, then chances are that link or attachment on this amazing offer is malware or a virus waiting to infiltrate your computer and take over your life.
5. Don’t share personal data when surfing on public WiFi
Many stores, coffee houses and even restaurants have public Wi-Fi these days to allow you to use their apps and electronic coupons right in the store. This is a bad opportunity to transfer funds, pay bills, or message your Social Security Number to a friend. On a public Wi-Fi connection, a hacker can intercept this information and make it their own.
The same goes for Internet Cafés. If you have to use a public computer to do these things always remember to take the proper security measures.
Hackers can be some rather nasty hombres, but luckily there are ways to keep yourself from becoming a victim. If you would like to learn more about staying safe from hackers, or are interested in a Maintenance Plan to keep you and your family safe, reach out to Tech Force in Racine.
In today’s business world, having great Wi-Fi isn’t a luxury -it’s a necessity. Businesses, with their varying needs, have personal requirements for what constitutes great Wi-Fi. For some small businesses, consumer-grade Wi-Fi may be sufficient, but many find that business-grade Wi-Fi is more appropriate. As companies grow, there becomes a tipping point where business-grade is necessary. So how do you know if your business is ready for business-grade Wi-Fi? Ask yourself the following questions to find out.
How many devices use your Wi-Fi?
It used to be that only desktop computers connected to your Wi-Fi, but that is no longer the case. With the rise of portable devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, each person may be using your Wi-Fi from several devices. Consumer-grade hardware is designed for just a few people (like the amount that live in a single household) but can’t manage larger amounts of users and all of their devices. This is especially true for sustained usage. Remember that your employees aren’t the only people who expect to be able to connect to your Wi-Fi. One of the first things visitors typically do is look for a Wi-Fi network to connect their smartphones to.
What is the size and shape of your workspace?
The number of access points you will need for your Wi-Fi is dependent on the amount of physical space that needs to be covered, the shape of the area, wall material, and the number of users/devices. In smaller spaces, consumer-grade Wi-Fi is good enough. Larger, oddly shaped spaces benefit from business-grade. If your building’s walls are made of brick, cinder blocks, or cement, you likely need more access points than buildings made of other materials. Make sure you have a strong connection from all locations. It’s annoying to only be connected to Wi-Fi in certain areas of a building and find yourself in a deadzone a few steps later.
Access points for business-grade Wi-Fi tend to be more powerful and flexible. For example, some business Wi-Fi systems can transfer Wi-Fi devices from a crowded access point to one that is less busy. By doing this, everybody’s fast speed remains. If you foresee your range needing to increase, such as renting out more space, it’s easier to add more access points to business-grade Wi-Fi than consumer-grade. Businesses that anticipate scaling up soon are better off with business-grade Wi-Fi.
Do you want guests to have the same quality Wi-Fi as workers?
In households, where consumer-grade Wi-Fi is prevalent, all users share the Wi-Fi equally. In a home environment, if children are slowing down the internet with Netflix or video games, it’s not a big problem. However, a choked business Wi-Fi can cause a lot of problems. Business-grade Wi-Fi allows you network management. You can assign a designated amount of bandwidth to different users so they’re unable to clog the entire connection. You can allow visitors internet access without giving them unlimited access to the network.
How much does the internet affect your employees’ productivity?
For some companies, workers only use Wi-Fi for a few quick tasks. With these types of businesses, if the internet is slow, it won’t have a big impact on how much work your employees get done. Consumer-grade Wi-Fi might be a good choice. For other companies, there isn’t much people can accomplish if the Wi-Fi isn’t working well. The slower your employees work, the less money you make. Wi-Fi troubles can also lead to frustrated, unhappy workers. If fast internet is essential for people to complete their daily tasks, business-grade Wi-Fi is important.
Strong Wi-Fi is a necessity for all businesses. This is especially true for larger businesses that connect a lot of devices (from both employees and visitors) and have a big work area. Also for those where employee productivity depends on a strong connection. The goal is to keep your business-critical technology running smoothly. Consider carefully whether consumer-grade Wi-Fi or business-grade Wi-Fi is the best choice for your business. When you ask yourself the questions above, the answer should become clear.
Is your business’s Wi-Fi struggling? Give us a call at (262) 515-9499 to discuss a solution.
Like many valuable things we buy, new computers suffer from wear and tear over time. Our computers are particularly vulnerable as we have placed more and more demands on them every year. New machines have got faster, quieter, more reliable, and more capable over time. At the same time our own computers have begun to slow and sometimes even stop performing altogether.
There are many ways to address the problem of a PC which isn't quite performing up to the task anymore. Whether frustratingly slow or no longer working; we are happy to take a look. When you bring your computer to us we will diagnose the condition and find a solution that works for you. Often times the simplest solution works best. A complex problem sometimes only needs a simple repair to get your home computer up and running like new again. Whether a small replacement part, loose wire, or bad connection; we will find and fix the problem to give your familiar, home machine a new lease of life.
Many computers come to us running slowly, taking a long time to start up, or freezing when trying to load files and programs. Often owners have reached breaking point and become convinced the machine is fit for only the scrap heap. In many cases, the problem can be pinpointed to a bottleneck in the system. A single, seemingly trivial, part can be holding up the entire system. Amazingly, upgrading just that one component can make the whole machine run like new again.
Adding memory can provide extra space for programs to run faster. Adding an updated, faster hard drive can allow files to be retrieved without delay. In both cases, a low-cost single component can provide a cost-effective solution that makes an old machine like new again.
In some cases, computers succumb to more major faults. A critical part, difficult to replace, may stop working altogether. A failure of the motherboard for example, the backbone that all other components connect to can be expensive, if not impossible, to fix. Typically, with the fast-paced and ever-changing nature of computing, a motherboard will only house computer parts that were manufactured around a similar time.
A motherboard is almost certain to be incompatible with components built just a couple of years before or after its own design for example. Occasionally even a motherboard failure can be resolved too. In these cases we strive, whenever possible, to find a replacement board of the same generation that will work alongside existing components. The result is a cost-effective solution that keeps cost down by saving replacement parts.
In cases where a like-for-like replacement motherboard is not available, many parts of the computer may have to be replaced at the same time. Often replacement costs in these cases can get close to, or even exceed the cost of buying a new machine.
We would always give advice where it makes sense financially and practically to consider replacing an old machine. Often, in this respect, a home PC can be considered a little like a car. Sometimes a simple, non-expensive, easy to replace component such as the window wiper can fail. While a crucial part to be used for driving; it would be silly to suggest replacing the vehicle once it has worn out.
A window wiper may be low-cost and simple to replace, but if the engine were to wear down or break the solution may not be quite as simple. Attempting to make a 30-year-old car as fast, safe, and reliable as a brand new model generally doesn't make any financial or practical sense. Sometimes the best course of action to save money and avoid breakdowns is a more up to date vehicle.
In computing, many of the same rules hold true. The best solution in each case is always tailored personally to fit you and your own computer.
Bring your machine in to us or give us a call us at (262) 515-9499 or click here to discuss your computer issues. We'll keep you informed about your machine and advise on the best course of action to get you up and running as quickly as possible.
Last week we took a brief look at the three common types of Hackers – White hat, gray hat, and black hat.
With a more professional approach to hacking, the “White Hats” don’t often stray much beyond what they’re compensated for. Some of them work for different clients around the globe. While others have offices with one company.
The “Gray Hats” have foggier, more ambiguous motivations, and hacking may even just be a hobby for them. Many “Gray Hats” consider themselves to be what we call “hacktivists”.
Hacktivists are hackers who are motivated by politics or by a cause. With the intent of bringing public attention to an issue that they believe needs to be addressed.
There has been quite the debate over whether hacktivists are “good” or “bad” to begin with, as many of them aim to right perceived wrongs, or to enact a specific change – Such as the hacktivist group “Anonymous”, who regularly takes down ISIS social media profiles, or some of the contributors to Wikileaks, who work towards full disclosure of information.
Some of the more prominent hacktivists have been known to take down government websites (via DDOS) for long periods of time, which is a heavy criminal offense. Others have been known to breach servers and steal information, leaking personal data to the public, such as the Sony Data breach of 2011, when the personal information of all registered users was stolen by a group of hacktivists.
While there have been attacks in which private information was leaked for the sole purpose of embarrassing the users of specific sites, their primary objective is usually to open eyes, and to direct attention to something imperative that everyone is missing.
Recently there has been a clamp down on these hacktivist campaigns, reducing the overall number of political attacks around the globe exponentially, but that doesn’t mean they’re over and done with. There have been massive hacktivist attacks as recent as we saw in the 2016 presidential election, and hacktivism today is still considered disruptive, if not downright dangerous; a real threat to online communities, multi-national corporations, trade associations and businesses in general.
Regardless of whether or not you own a business of your own, you could still be affected by a more large-scale attack, and even more so by a personal one.
We talked about those hackers who aim to gain financially from either individual, corporate, or even government losses, check back next week when we discuss these Black Hat hackers and how to secure yourself from them.
When you think of the word “hacker,” what’s the first image that comes to mind? Was it a hooded figure, sulking in the basement and desperately waiting for the opportune moment to obtain all of your information with the click of a button? Or perhaps it was a socially awkward teenager chugging down their fifth energy drink of the night while typing out strings of 0s and 1s like rapid fire. The media most often portrays them as one of the two.
The term “hacker” started out relatively harmless. They were seen as innovators in the 1950s, the kind of person that challenged the manual and found different solutions to a problem. Eventually the more negative connotation stuck when the nineties arrived and is presently the most popular definition, a “hacker” is someone who uses a computer to gain unauthorized access to systems or data.
Today we mainly recognize three different kinds of hackers, categorized by the motives behind their actions. They typically hack with the same skill sets as one another as most hackers use the same methods.
Black Hat Hackers, also known as “Hacktivists,” apply their skills maliciously and their objectives typically range from stealing the personal data and monetary funds of individuals like you or I, to major corporate breaches. They work outside of the law, and what they do is usually very illegal.
These guys can type at mach ten, dress like death -if he wore a hoody and ratty jeans. The sketchy guys that stand in the back alleys of the internet waiting to tempt you with empty promises and infect your computer with malware and other harmful viruses.
Occupying a vast land of motivations neither good nor bad, Grey Hat don’t aim to directly cause harm to anyone.
Some of them may in fact have good intentions, breaking into different organizations online and informing them of vulnerabilities anonymously. To some of them it’s only a hobby, to others, selling those vulnerabilities to different agencies is also common occurrence and their livelihood.
Often called the “ethical” hackers, a White Hat is someone who utilizes their skills for the good of other people or companies and are usually hired in order to do so in the first place.
They’re compensated to find breaches in security, vulnerabilities, test systems and a plethora of other small jobs here and there that require their level of devotion and technological understanding.
Unfortunately, lurking behind each type of hacker are those that are ruthless in their pursuit of getting political and public attention. The members of this group can come from white, gray and black, and each is trying to open the eyes of the world.
Join us next week when we take a closer more in depth look at the people known as “Hacktivists”.
As often as we hear computer companies boast about the quality and efficiency of their products, it’s almost difficult to imagine anything going wrong. Sure, we see the warning signs and we know we should rationally be taking extra precautionary measures to ensure that nothing does go wrong – but more often than not, we simply push that thought to the side in favor of something more “important”.
The fact of the matter is that any day now you could lose all of the information stored on any of your computers or devices. Be it a liquid mishap, an internal shortage, or something completely unaccounted for, it can and does happen. Unfortunately that’s not always convincing enough in the argument of why you should backup your data though, so why else should you take the extra steps?
1. Accidents Happen
Believe it or not, as much as we try to prevent them, accidents do happen, and they happen more often than we think they do. Maybe you forgot to save that paper before exiting, or maybe a program simply stopped working in general. Either way, backed up data is guaranteed to keep that data in safe from the occasional accident.
Say you left your laptop in the library, or perhaps you fell asleep on the bus and your backpack was ransacked, while it’s not always easy to track that lost device, you can at the very least access your backed-up data if you’ve happened to save it on some sort of cloud storage. From there it only takes a few clicks to restore all of that data onto a new device, if you choose to invest in another one.
3. Hardware Failure
Some malfunctions are completely out of your hands, they happen deep within the hardware itself and within an instant, all precautions you’ve taken aside, everything you had on your computer is lost completely. Unless of course, you had it backed up to begin with. Then it’s just a matter of getting a repair, or a new device.
4. Viruses, Malware, and Hackers
Some problems you might face aren’t even technical errors, but malicious attack from hackers that aim to corrupt your data, steal it, or hold it for ransom. It’s easy to see why having safeguarded data is a good idea in that case.
5. Save Money on Potentially Expensive Data Recovery
Regardless of what happens, if your data really means that much to you and you’ve somehow lost access to it, you can still take it into a computer repair shop and get the data recovered right off of the hard drive, but be warned that it can be a little expensive. With prices reaching upwards of hundreds of dollars, it’s not difficult to see the appeal in backing up your data.
When it comes to data backups, it’s always better to have it and not need it than it is to need it and not have it.
This is just a short list of why you should be backing your data up regularly. If you need advice on how to backup, or even need some lost data recovered, your friends at Tech Force are always happy to help.
Here at Tech Force, we have to solve a lot of computer problems. While some complications are more puzzling than others, here’s a short list of the most common issues that are brought into our shop.
One of the most common problems we come across is the “hardware mishap.” Typically this includes spills or drops, laptop screens being broken, motherboards fried, and others of the like. Hardware mishaps are pretty common and can be expensive at times.
Another problem we see a lot of is the “slow computer.” Older devices have a tendency to fall victim to this particular annoyance because as they age they can build up dust and grime on the hardware, and the software itself can become clogged with useless files that do nothing but take up vital storage and leave a device in a miserably sluggish state. In a fast paced world, the last thing people want is a computer that runs at a snail’s pace.
Viruses are the bane of a computer user’s existence. Not only do they knock a computer from NASCAR level speeds down to leisurely strolls in the park, they can also do some serious damage. From the mostly harmless popups that occasionally assault the user, to the dangerously malicious ransomware that could cost you thousands, viruses are unfortunately still a frequent occurrence.
Data loss is an extremely overlooked issue that people don’t usually think about until it happens to them personally. It could be due to a myriad of causes; theft, hardware mishap, software failure, and so much more. It’s the reason we highly recommend using a cloud to backup all of that highly important data you might have on your devices. It saves you a lot of time and money in the long run. Fortunately, even if you forget to back-up your data, there are experts who specialize in data recovery.
If you have never traveled through an Airport with a laptop, it can be a bit of a pain. Tech Force has prepared some basic guidelines to make the process as smooth and painless as possible. With a little planning your vacation will go off without a hitch.
Always take your laptop as a carry-on. Baggage handlers are basically trained to move the baggage as fast as they can from cart to plane and back the other way, this means toss, shoving, throwing and yes, even dropping your luggage. Play it safe and keep this sensitive machine where you can keep it safe.
Security check points
Make sure your laptop is turned off before you approach the checkpoint. Some laptops take forever to wake up from “sleep mode” should you be asked to turn your device on for the personal at the checkpoint, not having to go through the “power off-power on” song and dance will make it easier for all involved.
Also be sure sure to place your shoes in the first bin, coat and toiletries in the next, then suitcase and bags, and your laptop the last. This will make it easier for you to gather your items quickly when reaching the other side.
On the plane
Never place your laptop in the overhead bin. Unless you are over 6 feet tall you won’t be able to see the compartment clearly, and neither will anyone else. They will toss, throw (picking up on an airport theme here?), shove and drop anything in the way of getting their bag to fit in that tiny compartment. Laptops are best stored under the seat in front of you.
Just a reminder: Bulkhead seating does not have seat storage in front of it, but there is side storage for carrying on items. Ask an attendant for a secure space here if you are not planning on using your laptop while sitting in a bulkhead seat. If you are planning on using your laptop in flight it is best to ask for a “non-bulkhead” seat.
These simple tips will help you and your laptop have a safe and happy trip. But if something should happen to your laptop while you are traveling to far off reaches, we here at Tech Force back in Mt. Pleasant, are always here to help you get your laptop back on track.
Let’s face it, most of us keep our lives, the lives of our children and some of our friends on our laptops. Losing this information can be catastrophic, especially when traveling. Last week we began covering the basics of how to keep your laptop safe. This week we will continue that discussion, and talk about some things that you can do to keep your laptop safe during your travels.
Make your sure Anti-Virus and Operating System are up to date.
This is something you should always do, even when not traveling. It not only keeps your data safe but keeps your usages smoothly running.
Back-up your data
Before you walk out the door in that new swimsuit and cabana sunglasses to board your plane, back it up. The most important thing about your laptop is the data it holds. Make sure that data never gets lost no matter what by safely uploading it to a cloud server or external hard drive that will stay at home.
Don’t rule out a Safety Lock
It seems a little outrageous but if traveling to big City airports and bus stations it might be a good idea to get a security lock for your travel bag. It may not completely prevent the determined thief from taking your laptop. But it will cause the casual thief to think twice. There are several different types of these. Take a “Google” browse and see which one would work best for you.
If you’re like a lot of people and keep your whole life on your laptop, it would definitely be a good idea to purchase insurance for it. Some business and even home owner’s insurance policies insure travel loss. Check with your insurance agent to see if you’re covered.
Make use of the Do Not Disturb sign
Carrying your laptop with you everywhere you go while traveling isn’t always practical. From time to time you’re probably going to need to leave your laptop in your hotel room. If you do so, be sure to hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door before you leave. This will keep the housekeeping out of your room when you are not there. Besides, you can always get more towels while you’re lounging at the pool.
If you have any questions about keeping your computer safe while traveling, give the friendly folks at Tech Force in Mt Pleasant a call. We’re always happy to help!
Tech Force Blog
We provide you with important, practical tips and insight for your technology and networks for both home and business.