Microsoft Security Patch/Update

As you may be aware Microsoft-based computers, including those managed by The PC Whisperer, Inc,. experienced a major issue this weekend starting Saturday January 27th, 2018.

We’ve determined that it’s related to a Windows update pushed out by Microsoft to address the critical security issue associated with AMD, ARM, and Intel processors. The update was an attempt to patch and secure the risk identified earlier this month. Even though many of our clients’ systems were set to NOT UPDATE WINDOWS, the update was pushed through by Microsoft regardless.

Many clients with Windows 7, 8, and 10 operating systems experienced one or more of the following issues and up to 5 hours of down time.

  1. Users were asked to log into their accounts indicating their computer had restarted. Subsequently all open programs had been closed which may have caused some data loss.
  2. Computers displayed for a varying amount of time the notice that Windows was updating.
  3. During the update, some computers showed a blank black screen with a single white cursor blinking at the top left. Others experienced a “Blue Screen of Death,” and when they turned off their system overnight they were able to start up their units with no problem. Rebooting did not help and in fact prolonged the issue because it restarted the update. In both instances however, they eventually finished.
  4. Once the user’s desktop profile was loaded in the system, some programs seemed to be “sluggish” and there were Internet connectivity problems. In these cases, it appears that the update was not quite completed.

There wasn’t anything we could have done to manage or prevent this downtime due to the fact that even though we had disabled Windows Update Service, the patch was applied with force, overriding our update-related settings.

We initially had no information being reported on this but found this article: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-42872301

Pirated Software?

Original Post: 12/13/2009

Do you enjoy paying $199 – $4999 for a software program? Would you like to spend as much for the ability to type an email, document, spreadsheet as it would take to buy a new computer?

No One Does!

Recently I’ve walked into two offices that had completely different IT people supporting them. But they had one thing in common. They both had software installed that they did not own. Rather than spending money on the initial deployment of their office technology they were misdirected. Now they have to spend 2-4 times more than they would have originally to correct the state they are in.

They asked me to review their office and to try to resolve some very simple issues. They had software that needed to be upgraded and were loosing money and jobs because they could not advance.
Their previous ‘IT’ guy, and I use that term very loosely, used every mean necessary to download everything for free. Each workstation and the server had a pirated Microsoft Operating System as well as a pirated Microsoft Office software. You could not upgrade any of the necessary core components of Windows in order to upgrade the software that made them money. What started out as a very simple problem turned out to be the tip of the iceberg.

Well it’s been 3 weeks now and the office is still reeling. After thousands of dollars in software purchases and significant frustration on the part of both parties we are slowly getting them on track. What I don’t understand is why it had to get to this level.

Now when I was young and quite frankly broke, if I could get a hold of something without paying for it I jumped on the opportunity. But I’m talking about the days of High School, not the time of actually owning a business. The moment though that you need support for your small bushiness it’s like watching a sand castle dissolve right in front of you. The time and labor that goes into fixing a situation like this is much higher than it is purchasing it properly initially. So many offices are supported by ‘Free’ promoting staff it is very frightening. But you get what you pay for. No upfront costs means no technical support down the road. I don’t support offices that do not have valid licenses. I will not be held liable for the system failures or the law suits that could occur due to those short cuts.

As tempting as it may be, you need to focus on the long term effects of software piracy. If you are not sure and are a small business owner call us and we can let you know. We offer free office assessments and can let you know if you are at risk for one of Microsoft’s $150,000 fines. It’s better to acquire either Open Source software or Licensed copies of product you need for your office. You wouldn’t steal a truck for a delivery service why steal software to send an email to your clients?

Is your WiFi secure?


I have been telling people for years that they need to put in place some form of protection to their wireless internet router. Sometimes I get the deer in the headlight look and other times I get the, ‘I don’t care’ shoulder shrug.

This is a huge hole in offices and homes that needs to be plugged up immediately. Let me give you some scenarios that possibly you haven’t thought of.

1. I had a customer approach me in a well known retail store after seeing my PC Whisperer Polo and asked me how he could extend a weak wireless signal. After showing him a Linksys Wireless Range Expander I briefly went through how to set this up. When I got to the part that required he enter the encryption key for the Wireless network he asked, ‘What if you don’t have the encryption key?’ I told him I could easily log into his current computers and figure out what that key was or if necessary reset his wireless network. He followed up with, ‘Well, this is my neighbors network and I am trying to use his Internet rather than pay for my own.’ At this point I informed him I would not assist him in connecting to his neighbors network. He got upset and left our conversation. Thank God the neighbor was smart enough to encrypt his network.

2. I had a client call me one day asking for help. She explained that while she was downloading songs from iTunes her song list abruptly changed. She was suddenly looking at her neighbors song list. All of her songs were gone and it was in the process of synchronizing with her iPod. All of her songs dissappeared! Before this she had been trying for months to get all of her computers in the house to connect to eachother and share a common printer. She knew a little about wireless networking and had the correct wireless network name but it was not working correctly. After 2 hours of investigating the issue, her entire neighborhood had wide open wireless networks. Another part of the problem was none of the home owners had changed the default wireless name. Everyone had a Linksys router and Linksys names their default wireless network, Linksys. I was able to determine that her husband was connecting to their Eastern neighbors wireless network. She was connecting to her Western neighbors. And their sons were connecting to a third unknown network. When she started downloading her songs from iTunes her wireless network became a weak signal and for a moment her laptop ‘jumped’ to the stronger network at the same time her neighbor was downloading songs. iTunes got confused and swapped data across the two networks as well as their personal settings.

3. The third scenario I heard from a former colleague of mine. He was at a clients home and could not get their computer online. He asked to be excused for a moment and drove up and down the neighborhood looking for a good signal to download drivers from. Eventually he found an unsecured wireless network and while waiting for the drivers he scanned their network. He found almost within 5 minutes their quickbooks files and personal data was easily accessible. After the driver downloaded he disconnected and drove back to the clients home.

4. I was called to a small business that had complained their highspeed Internet was not very fast anymore. Typically I hear this complaint when their office has been infected with Malware so I went in ready to clean viruses and spyware. There were only 3 computers in the office so the Comcast Cable Modem should have been working perfectly. I was convinced this was viral but what I found was that their wireless router was not encrypted. I looked at the log of computers currently connected to this router. 35 computers, iPhones, and SmartPhones were utilizing this connection. They were all users in the building that were looking for a ‘free ride’. I deleted the entire list, encrypted the network, and reconnected the 3 computers. They had never had such speed and were so excited. I’m sure the other 32 users were a bit put off.

If those scenarios are not scary enough to you, check this out.

5. Pub fined $13k for Wi-Fi copyright infringement – CNET News

This last scenario is the scariest to me. I talk to clients about this all the time. You may not care that your neighbors use your Internet. You may not care that your data or Internet is available for anyone with a wireless computer or smart phone. But understand, the person who pays the bill also pays for misuse. Not only do you need to worry about your employees downloading inappropriate information, now you have to worry about total strangers.

Please lock down your network. If you need help call your local computer tech and secure your wireless. We only charge $85.00 for this and can have it done for you within an hour.

What are Parental Controls?


“Parental Controls” is a term that has been widely used to describe tools that allow parents to choose appropriate content for their children. Parental control software has been developed for everything from TV to the Internet. Safe Eyes falls in the later category of Internet parental control software. Safe eyes is a flexible set of tools that allows anyone to determine the type Internet usage that is appropriate.

Safe Eyes Parental Control Software Includes:

Content Controls – Flexible content control allows you to select the types of website that are appropriate.

Program Controls – Control Instant Messengers, P2P File Sharing, and other harmful programs.

Time Controls – Control the amount of time spent online, and the times when the internet is available.

Usage Logging – Create and review logs of websites visited, programs used on the Internet, and Instant Messaging Chats.

Usage Alerts – Be notified instantly via email, text message, or phone call when someone visits inappropriate websites.

Parental Control Software For Website Content
There are many different types of websites that can be potentially harmful to children. With 35 categories, our parental control software gives you the ability to fine tune access to websites and ensure that harmful content is blocked. Our effective Internet control will ensure that your children are protected whenever they go online.

Instant Messaging Parental Control Software
Whether you are interested in blocking Instant Messaging or just monitoring who your children are chatting with, Safe Eyes parental control software helps you accomplish the task with ease. Our parental controls allow you to monitor Yahoo!, AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, and MSN Instant Messenger.

Control Time Spent Online with Safe Eyes Parental Control Software
The Internet can be a great resource for homework, research projects and fun activities. But it can be easy to get sidetracked playing games or watching videos online. Our parental controls allow you to specify the amount of time that can be spent online, and the times of the day when the Internet is available.

What is the deal with Apple?


First of all please let me say that this is my personal opinion. This is not factual or supported by any of the people or manufacturers listed below. This is solely my conclusion after the experiences I have encountered.

Recently the comment, “I’m just going to trash this computer and buy a Mac.” Has been increasingly uttered by our clients. I have also heard people say they are safer and never have viruses. I believe strongly that the reason for these two comments is a lack of knowledge when it comes to this fruity PC. Please don’t get me wrong. I have watched Apple try to improve their market share in the residential computer industry for more than 20 years. I even won animating awards in High School using a Mac. They are a great product in their element. When editing video or audio media or producing incredible movies Apple computers are absolutely untouchable.
Why this blog? Well there are a couple things to say about why they are so good, and it only came to me in the recent years. I purchased and built the most expensive, fastest, and impressive Windows based desktop for gaming. Even though every piece and part matched perfectly it still did not look as good as an XBOX 360 or Playstation 3 on my TV. Why? I could not figure it out and it bothered me for months. Then it came to me.

In the retail computer industry there are many brands selling the Windows operating system like Dell, Compaq, Gateway, Hewlett Packard, Sony, Toshiba, even off brands like Alien Ware. But regardless of the brand Windows still gets a bad rap. Then there’s Apple. They don’t offer their operating system to any of those companies. Like XBOX and Playstation there is only one manufacturer and developer. Apple makes and sells their Macintosh computers as well as the O/S together. You won’t see a Dell with a Leopard operating system on it. I believe this is because Apple was smart and decided to control the hardware AND software. There-in lays the stability advantage. Microsoft has to come up with a new operating system every 3-4 years that is not only visually appealing but can function with minimal errors on EVERYONES hardware. Walk into any retail store and look at all the options available in Windows desktops and laptops. If you had any programming experience you would understand to make a product properly communicate with each and every micro-processor, video card, CD-Burner, etc you would understand the problem. It’s like walking into the middle of a riot and asking everyone to “Just get along”. This to me explains why Apple is so stable and Microsoft is losing the battle.

Then there are viruses, or the lack there of. Most annoying viruses that have come to be since the first personal computer entered the home came from people who wanted to learn how computers worked. They studied programming and learned how to build and dismantle programs. They developed programs like Lotus 1-2-3, Word, Quicken, even AOL. But they also learned how to damage and destroy computers using programming. That is where viruses came from in the computer world. If you look at the average number of DOS/Microsoft based computers back in the early 1980’s in comparison to the number of Apple based computers you would see what these programmers had to learn on. Because of this Windows has been fighting viruses for almost 3 decades now while Apple has relatively gone virus free. Now the market share Apple has been fighting so much to change is giving programmers more opportunity to learn a new type of O/S. It was only a matter of time before Apple started to warn users to load an anti-virus program on their Mac’s. It was also a matter of time before the headlines reported the first virus alert on a Mac. December 4th, 2008 Apple reported and then removed from their web page. As quoted by another blogger, “What’s curious now is that Apple has zapped the support advisory which started this entire debate off its website. All you get now is a “not found” message if you follow the link.”

Furthermore, an Apple spokesperson has been quoted in the press saying:
“We have removed the KnowledgeBase article because it was old and inaccurate. The Mac is designed with built-in technologies that provide protection against malicious software and security threats right out of the box.” – Apple spokesman Bill Evans, Macworld, 3 December 2008.

If this information hit the media imagine the impact on Apple sales when one of their biggest marketing facts is that they are virus free.

As I said, these are only comments and thoughts of mine. We support Apple pc’s just as much as we do Microsoft. If you have any, please comment.

How to prevent Virus infection.

First of all it is important to know that there is a big difference between Viruses and Malware (a.k.a. Spyware, Adware, Ransomware, etc.) Viruses are software programs designed to damage or dismantle a specific target. Malware is more-so a collecting or monitoring software that gathers information and performs a programmed task with that information.

Secondly, Viruses are more obvious than Malware. Viruses openly impact your computers performance. They will likely shut down functions or abilities of your computer. Malware on the other hand in most situations needs you to continue working while it performs it’s tasks behind the scenes. The longer it can perform it’s task unnoticed the better.

Finally, Viruses are mostly things of the past. Viruses were written by their programmers to see what they could do with their knowledge. Malware is designed around the concept that you have something they want. Typically it is for financial gain. And they derive it through identity theft, ransom, or unsolicited advertisements.

specific hardware in a computer, specific Operating Systems (a.k.a. Windows, iOS, Linux), or specific file types. Since the first sale of personal computers virus protection was necessary and seldom thought twice about.

These days, Anti-Virus software manufacturers have tried to offer a ‘suite’ of products such as ‘Privacy Protection’, ‘Firewalls’, and even ‘Spyware Protection’, in addition to their basic ‘Anti-Virus’ products. But, they have miserably failed in offering as solid of a product as their original claim to fame.

Anti-Virus products that are exclusively meant for Anti-Virus protection should be purchased and not the suite of products. Most of these suites offer tools that are included within the Operating System on your computer. Why load two of the same programs to only slow down your PC?

Products like Malwarebytes Premium are recommended by The PC Whisperer, Inc.

How much RAM do I need?


Many retail chains sell their computers with the bare minimum in order to compete with competitors and earn your business. Computer pricing is based on the Operating System, Speed, Capacity, and Purpose. However, it is hard to find a part time retail salesman who has your best interest and your future needs in mind.

Computers running Microsoft Windows XP (Home, Professional, and Media Center) have very different hardware requirements but the basic memory should be no less than 512 Megabytes. Computers running Microsoft Vista (Home Basic, Home Premium, Ultimate, and Business Edition) should have a minimum of 1 Gigabyte of memory.

Where the misunderstanding happens is when additional programs are bought and installed. Most software manufactures have ‘minimum requirements’ on their boxes. Microsoft Office for instance suggests a minimum of 256 MB, but recommends 512 MB – 1 GB of total memory. This memory recommendation is meant to be in addition to ALL other programs loaded on the computer. For example, If your computer was running Microsoft XP AND Office, Microsoft recommends you have 1.5 GB of TOTAL memory in your computer.

Additionally, ‘Real Time’ programs (those that run in the background the entire time the computer is running) such as Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware, and Chat software have their own memory requirements and should be added to the system total in order to have the most efficient computer.

The PC Whisperer, Inc. recommends Windows XP computers with the most recent updates, security patches, and service packs with traditional productivity software and protection software should have at least 2 GB (3.5 GB Max) of total memory. Windows Vista computers with the same above software should have a minimum of 3 GB of total system memory.

What is the best way to backup my data?


Today we store everything on our computers. Our family pictures, our accounting information, even our password lists. What would happen if you lost everything? Would you have extra copies of your first born child, or of your brand new business? How much time and energy would you lose as well as money trying to recover your precious information?

We recommend you have one or both of the following options in place for every computer you own.

a. External Hard Drive or Pen Drive – An external hard drive has its own power supply and is not dependent on any operating system or power from the main computer. This means if for any reason your computer were to fail to boot, your external drive would be able to be plugged into ANY other computer and your information would be retrievable. With a Pen Drive, there is no power supply and it is susceptible to static shock, but it is more portable and easier to work with.

b. Online Backup Solution – Companies like www.DiamondBackData.com offer a monthly or annual fee to back up your software to their servers. By doing this you are ensured that in the event of a fire or flood your data is not only stored on your computer but off site at another location. This keeps your critical files intact and safe.

What is Spyware/Adware/Malware?


In the last 3 years Spyware has been misunderstood as a virus, when in fact it is a completely different threat, AND it is not protected by any Anti-Virus software.

It used to be you were told to ‘Clean your cookies’ but cookies are simply an advertising dream. As you visit a web site you are ‘tagged’ with a serial number that applies to you and your login if used. Each site uses cookies to see which links you click on, which pages you view, and how long you are there. They are similar to your common grocery store club card and offer you very little in return. Deleting them removes your saved passwords and preferences for those pages.

Each website you visit that advertiser’s pay top dollar to have their company displayed as an ad has the potential to install Spyware on your computer. Spyware is used similar to a cookie but instead of a small single file, it uses a smarter program to track you. These programs run in the background of your computer and often times communicate with the original programmer which give the illusion of ‘slowing’ down your computer. They are not a danger to your computer in moderation; however a high amount of them can slow you down and even make your computer cease to function.

In addition to spyware, there is ad-ware and mal-ware. Ad-ware is spyware that has a cargo that is dumped on your computer to display pop-up’s and advertisements when you are on or offline. They are just as much of a threat as spyware, but the ‘types’ of advertisement displayed is not controlled and could display inappropriate images. Mal-ware is the worst of the three threats. This is when your computer has been compromised by another user and is being used as an ‘extension’ of their work. Spammers or people who need to hide their identity will often use Mal-ware to make other computers appear to be theirs as they perform illegal actions.

Removal and prevention of these threats is crucial to today’s Internet users and their daily tasks. Products like Webroot Spy Sweeper (www.webroot.com) are highly recommended. Free software such as SpyBot Search & Destroy and Ad-Aware SE are not supported, and offer ¼ of the total protection that Spy Sweeper does.