Hey Thorp, is your business ready for Charter Spectrum Internet? Will you be able to take advantage of the new high-speed Internet or will your old network hold you back? Join us on Thursday, May 11th in the conference room at the FairBridge Inn & Suites of Thorp from 5pm to 7pm and learn about not only the new Charter offerings, but new computers from Lenovo and network options from Yellowstone Computing! We will have a variety of computers and network devices onsite as well as video presentations. Not a business owner? Come on over, we’ll be answering questions about home Wi-Fi, computers and more!
If you’ve ever had a sudden computer problem, you know it can be very stressful. So much of our day-to-day life requires having access to a working computer.
Homework, budgeting, bills, even browsing dinner recipes all have a degree of urgency that mean dealing with a broken computer isn’t comfortable for long. Yellowstone Computing offers three options: remote repair, onsite service call, or bring it in. Which is the best choice for you?
Benefits of Remote Support
Speed: If remote repair is a possibility, your technician can connect via the Internet and have you operational in short order. If you subscribe to a monthly service plan, you might also choose to just leave it turned on in the morning and go to work as normal, while we log in to conduct the repair, and have it ready for your return. Without this option, you’d need to juggle time in your schedule to drop the system off during normal business hours (9am to 5pm) or schedule a time for us to come to you.
Convenience: You get to skip the unpleasant tasks of unplugging the PC, untangling the cables and carting it into the repair store. Even then, once repaired, you’d still be privileged with carrying it back home and playing a game of which-plug-goes-where.
Computers may be getting smaller, but they’re still heavy and fiddly! Laptops are designed to be moved around often and it may not be a problem to stop at the repair store, but traveling with a desktop PC requires a little more effort and a lot more inconvenience.
Negatives of Remote Support
Limited repair options: A remote connection can only repair certain software problems, not hardware problems. It’s impossible for the technician to swap out a failed part remotely, and unless you’re confident in your own repair skills, guided physical repair isn’t viable either.
Occasionally the problem will also be outside the computer, perhaps a troublesome printer or connection. Your technician may be able to walk you through correcting some of these minor problems yourself, but most invariably require an onsite service call or taking your computer to the shop.
Connection speed: A slow or unstable connection will make a remote repair take longer and increase the difficulty of the task. The extended time impacts the cost for the call, and in extreme cases, can negate any benefits of skipping the physical inspection. Your connection needs to allow the technician to see real-time responses as if they were sitting there in person.
Accessibility: If your computer won’t start or can’t connect to the Internet at all, your technician can’t log in remotely. Problems of this nature include seeing a ‘blue screen of death’, boot failure and failure to power on. As much as we’d like to help you, being able to log in to your system is a vital step in the remote repair process.
Remote support and repair is the ideal situation, purely for speed and convenience. As a bonus, in the event the remote repair is unsuccessful, it also means your tech now has a better idea of the problem and can speed up any on-site or in-store repairs. Remote support is the best option for many repairs and gets your computer working again with minimal disruption and if you have a monthly service plan, greater cost savings!
Need a repair? Call us at 715-255-0325 for rapid remote support, and don’t forget to ask about our remote service plans! - We will be adding support links to our webpage in the near future, stay tuned!
Over the past few months I have noticed a disturbing trend. Customers are coming to me after falling victim to a tech support scam. Such scams are unfortunately commonplace these days. What has me alarmed this time is the unexpected vector by which these attacks are being perpetrated. These victims were not fooled by a fake popup message on Facebook claiming their computer was infected, nor did they answer a phone call from a random person claiming to be with Microsoft Support. No, these poor people have been referred to these scammers by real, legitimate, support representatives. Before I go further, please note that this article is not a witch hunt, nor is it meant to discredit any person or company. The purpose of this article is to make people aware of a serious threat to their privacy and livelihood. The story below is true and has happened to numerous people, only the names have been generalized.
Bob was enjoying his morning coffee while catching up on his email. Suddenly, Bob realized he hadn’t gotten any new messages for two days. He clicked the send/receive button several times but still didn’t get any new messages. Bob’s email address was provided by his ISP (Internet Service Provider) so he grabbed his latest bill and gave them a call. After talking with the support agent for several minutes they were unable to find a problem. The agent found Bob’s connection was working fine and that his email address was working correctly at the company, so the issue must be with Bob’s computer. The agent asked Bob what program he was using to access his email. Bob was using Windows Live Mail, so the agent says he will give Bob the number for Microsoft Support. Bob is frustrated that the support agent couldn’t fix his problem but at least the agent helpfully provided a number to call to fix his issue. After hanging up with his ISP support agent, Bob calls the number he was given.
A nice man answers on the first ring, “This is Jimmy with Microsoft Support, how can I help you?” Bob is a bit suspicious as “Jimmy” clearly has a foreign accent, he also has trouble hearing Jimmy because of all the voices in the background. But because his ISP agent gave him this number and since so many companies use overseas call centers, Bob puts his suspicions to rest and explains his problem to Jimmy. The first thing Jimmy does is use a remote support tool to connect to Bob’s computer. Jimmy then proceeds to show Bob all kinds of technical readouts and explains to Bob the reason his email isn’t working is because of all these errors and viruses his computer has. Bob is surprised by this because aside from his email, everything else was working fine. He also had his computer serviced at a local shop just a few months ago and was given a clean bill of health. Bob explains this to Jimmy, who then continues to dazzle Bob with all of these problems and how if Bob wants his email to work then all of these issues must be fixed. Bob really needs his email working so he tells Jimmy to get it fixed. More technical details flow across the screen, scans are run and a short time later Jimmy says everything is fine. He then tells Bob his repairs cost $399. Bob is amazed that such a simple thing could cost so much and again suspects he might be getting scammed. Jimmy calms his fears and assures Bob that in addition to everything being fixed, he also receives free technical support for a year and free antivirus as well. Bob is still dubious but agrees to pay. Rather than take his credit card details though, Jimmy says Bob will need to go purchase some Apple iTunes gift cards for payment. Bob runs down to the dollar store, buys the gift cards and calls Jimmy back to give him the card numbers.
Our friend Bob has just been scammed. The scary part? It was because he was referred to a scammer by someone he trusted.
When I first heard one of these stories, I thought perhaps the support agent had made an innocent mistake. Perhaps he felt bad that he was unable to help his customer and simply ran a web search for Microsoft Support and gave his customer the first number he found. Unfortunately, the number went to a fake support company and his customer paid the price. The sad reality however, is that in most of these cases the support agent is deliberately referring people to these scammers for money.
I spoke with some of my peers who work in IT security and asked them if they had seen a similar trend. Not only have they encountered it, some of them have even been approached by these scammers for assistance!
Here’s how this terrible incident comes about. Like any business, scammers need customers. Since they have no scruples they will use any means to get them, including lying, cheating and intimidation tactics. In addition to fake popup ads and random cold calls, scammers have taken to paying referral fees to people who send fresh victims to the scammers. Support agents working for legitimate companies make excellent sources. They are trusted by the victim (often implicitly) and they handled tens if not hundreds of calls each shift. This means they can greatly increase the scammers profitability. Scammers pay handsomely for such referrals, ranging from $20 to $50 per victim. This makes it a very tempting offer; the referring agent can make large amounts of money via referrals in addition to their regular paycheck.
How To Protect Yourself
Before calling an unknown company and giving them access to your computer, consider contacting a local support company about your issue. Not only will you be able to work with a real person in your area, but the costs will likely be far lower. You will also be supporting a local business, perhaps even your neighbor.
What To Do If You Are A Victim
If you’ve fallen for this sort of scam, there are several steps you should take. First, if you used a credit or debit card for payment, contact your financial institutions to report the charge. Second, contact your service provider’s regional management team and give them the details of your call to their support center. This will allow them to track down the agent responsible. Third, you can report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Center at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
If you need assistance contacting either your service provider or the FTC, please contact Yellowstone Computing and we will be happy to help!
This time of year, the thunderstorms come rolling through. As a result, we often run across a handful of computers that have sustained damages from lightning strikes and power surges. Here's some advice so you can avoid being one of our clients who needs a new computer.
Unplug Your Electronics and Anything Connected
Electricity follows the path of least resistance and any physical connection to your computer should be disconnected. That is, it's best to unplug both your computer’s power cord as well as all the other cables and cords, including Internet cable, printers, external hard drives, monitors, etc. Don’t forget to unplug your modem or router as well. If your computer uses a wired Internet connection, and the modem is still plugged in, a surge can travel along that path.
An easy way to unplug things efficiently is to have everything plugged in to the same surge protector or power strip. Then simply shutdown your computer and unplug the power strip as storms approach. Although we do recommend having a surge protector, we've seen where the surge protectors do not offer enough protection from lightning, and during a storm it's best to unplug altogether. In addition, if a surge protector has been left connected during a power surge or lightning strike, it should be replaced even if it still works as it may be damaged.
If You Have a "Zapped" Computer
Some of the symptoms of a zapped computer are a failure to power on, failure to boot, strange buzzing or high-pitched noises and random loss of power during use. If your computer has been struck by lightning, your home or rental insurance policy may cover the cost of replacement. In addition, some surge protector manufacturers also offer a warranty if the device fails to protect your components. Of course, that means that your surge protector purchase must be registered before the damage occurred. We can provide an assessment, estimate and replacement, if you should need one. In the case of a lightning strike it is usually recommended to replace the computer, as there is no reliable way to determine the full extent of the damage and some problems appear in the days or weeks following the strike.
The Internet is growing and evolving so fast that even the dictionary has trouble keeping up. Here are 12 suddenly common terms that are helpful to know.
The most popular browsers in 2017 are Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Microsoft Edge*. (*Internet Explorer has been superseded and is no longer recommended due to security concerns)
Electronic Mail (formerly spelled with a hyphen: ‘e-mail’) is typed messages sent from one person or business to another via the Internet. It’s delivered almost instantly and then waits patiently for the recipient to open and read it.
You’ll need a webmail service (e.g. Gmail) or installed software (e.g. Outlook) to read, write and send, but you can also set your smartphone up for this. Most emails are in the form of letters, newsletters or catalogs, often with a more casual tone. Email can include text, links to the internet and images, but not video or sound.
Before important data is sent over the internet, it’s scrambled to turn it into gibberish that means nothing to anybody who might intercept it. Unless there’s been a massive security breach, only the sender and intended recipient will have the decryption key to turn it back into readable data.
You don’t have to encrypt your own data as it happens automatically. Your email provider and important places like banks and online stores have digital security systems that take care of the encryption/decryption for you.
A firewall is a security measure designed to act like a door bouncer to your network. When an unauthorized user attempts to gain entry, the firewall blocks their path until it’s checked them out thoroughly. If there’s anything suspicious, the firewall refuses to let them in.
HTTP and HTTPS
These are acronyms for the rules of how data is transmitted to your computer screen. The actual mechanics are incredibly complicated, but the terms have one very important distinction:
HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) means the images, text and links should appear in your browser.
HyperText Transfer Protocol Secured (HTTPS) means the page has an added layer of security to hide your personal information from hackers. Data sent through pages with this prefix is securely encrypted before transmission.
Every device that accesses the Internet is assigned a unique IP address to identify itself. It’s used to make sure when you request a page or document, it’s sent to you – and not someone in Alaska. Your IP will look something like ‘126.96.36.199’ and may be referred to as fixed or dynamic.
Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is the company that allows you to connect to the Internet. They’ll also offer extra services like email or web hosting. It’s impossible to bypass the ISP and connect directly to the Internet.
A broad term to describe viruses and malicious software from hackers. Malware can manipulate you into paying money, take control of your computer, steal your private details or break your computer in some way. Instead of listing each specific threat, you’ll commonly see them lumped together under ‘malware’.
The traffic system for your network, connecting computers and devices within the home and acting as a defensive gateway to the Internet. These hardware devices can be wired or wireless, and allow you to share one Internet connection amongst all the computers/devices in your home.
A broad term to describe all the websites and applications that let you share and interact with others online. To fit this umbrella, the site needs to allow user profiles, live updates and the ability to add friends/followers.
The most common social media applications are Facebook and Twitter.
Spam and Filtering
Any unsolicited messages sent over the Internet, usually in bulk, are called spam. Usually, it’s electronic junk mail, but it’s also a technique hackers use to trick people into clicking links to their malware.
Email applications are reasonably good at identifying spam and should shift it automatically to a spam folder before you see it. Occasionally, the filters get it wrong and you may find a relevant email needs to be moved back to your inbox.
Each website has a unique address on the web known as a URL (Uniform Resource Locator). URLs commonly end in .com but can also end in a country specific extension like .com.au or .fr, or more recently, in new and exciting extensions such as .xyz or .me
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