The IT hardware issues your business experienced in previous years should, ideally, be a thing of the past. Although some minor issues may remain, they can be avoided by taking care of your computer hardware. The following checklist can help you better manage your hardware.

✓ Clean up your computer components

Wipe your monitor with clean, static-free fabric; remove excess dirt from your mouse’s exterior; and tidy up your keyboard with compressed air. Don’t forget your computer tower! Dust buildup can block your computer’s air vent and affect its performance. Ensure that your workstation is getting adequate ventilation and isn’t directly exposed to sunlight and other heat sources.

 

✓ Manage your cables

If you’re not giving your computers’ cables the attention they deserve, now’s a good time to do so. Other than wiping the thick coat of dust off of computer cables, consider using cable management solutions that unclutter and untangle messy wires. These don’t just organize and secure your cables, they also help ensure your PCs run quieter and are less prone to overheating as a result of blocked air vents.

 

Planning to relocate or upgrade in the near future? Organizing your computers’ cables now makes future relocation and upgrading processes much easier.

 

✓ Review and update your inventory

Keeping an inventory of all your hardware helps you manage hardware life cycles and purchases, identify items that are near their end of life, and ensure you avoid duplicate purchases of items already in stock.

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Your inventory list should include all owned and leased devices: PCs and laptops, printers and scanners, tablets and smartphones, and modems and other network hardware. Update all your assets’ serial numbers and keep track of their respective users and location.

 

✓ Printer maintenance

Clean the interiors and exteriors of your printers, including paper trays, which are sure to have accumulated dirt from years of use. You should also repair and/or replace parts and accessories such as print heads and cartridges that are no longer in good condition. Should you decide to do a complete printer maintenance, check for the latest software updates for your printers and install them immediately.

 

✓ Implement a hardware policy

This is also a good time to create a technology guideline that your employees can follow to ensure they work efficiently. These guidelines reduce the need to spend on unnecessary repairs, keeping the succeeding year’s checklist shorter. With clear instructions on the proper use, replacement, and storage of your hardware and devices, you’ll be better able to manage your hardware for years to come.

 

With a more organized IT hardware inventory, you have one less thing to worry about. Want to get more in-depth hardware management advice? Call our experts today.

 

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment

 

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

You may think that you’re not online enough to risk your safety, or that you never visit unsafe sites. However, the world wide web is a vast network where the exchange of information is often difficult to track. Here are some good reasons to “go incognito”.

With the headlines about data breaches and cyberattacks greeting you every time you go online, it seems impossible to have a surefire, foolproof way to keep your information secure. Sometimes cyber predators are relatively harmless, but oftentimes, their goal is to steal identities and financial information. Virus scanners and firewalls can definitely help, but here’s an added layer of protection when you go online.

What is private browsing?

Your web browser — whether it be Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari, or Opera — stores the addresses of the sites you visit, cookies that track your activity, passwords you’ve used, and temporary files you’ve downloaded.

This can be convenient if you frequently visit certain pages, can’t remember your login details, or if you’re trying to recall a website you visited a few days ago. But if someone else uses or gains access to your computer, your most private (and embarrassing) internet activities are exposed for anyone to see.

With private browsing — also called Incognito Mode in Chrome and InPrivate Browsing in Edge — all the information listed above does not get recorded. In fact, all the websites and information you accessed during a private browsing session is discarded without a trace as soon as you close the browser. This can come in handy when you’re using a public computer because you’re instantly logged out of all the accounts after closing the window.

Private browsing also prevents cookies from being stored on your computer. In a normal browsing session, sites like Facebook will inundate you with highly targeted ads based on the sites and pages you’ve visited. But in private browsing mode, your internet activity won’t be used against you by marketing companies.

Another benefit of private browsing is you can use it to log in to several accounts on the same site, which is useful if you need to log in to two different Google accounts at the same time.

Limitations of private browsing

Although private browsing does prevent your web browser from storing your data, it doesn’t keep your online activities 100% private. If your computer is connected to the company network, system administrators can still keep track of what you’re browsing, even if you’re in Incognito Mode. Also, if spyware or keylogger malware is installed on your computer, hackers will still be able to see what you’re doing online.

A keylogger malware records every key you punched in and may send this information to a predefined email address without you knowing. This means passwords, answers to verification questions, account numbers, credit card details, or even the words you type in a chat can be emailed to someone spying on your online activities.

Even though private browsing has quite a few benefits, you shouldn’t solely depend on it for online privacy. Your computers and mobile devices must be equipped with Virtual Private Networks that encrypt your internet connection and prevent anyone from intercepting your data. And don’t forget to scan your computer for viruses with a strong anti-malware program to keep spyware and other malicious web monitoring software at bay.

If you want to know where you can get these solutions or learn more about web browser security, call us today. We have the tools and expert advice you need to prevent anyone from snooping on your internet browsing.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

 

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Unless the computer app is critical for your work, alerts about a new patch update or incoming message can distract you. Luckily, you can personalize your notifications settings on Windows 10’s action center using these three simple steps.

Overarching action center settings

First of all, you should customize your Windows 10 system-wide notifications settings. To view these:

  • Click on the Cortana icon on your taskbar and type ‘Notifications’.
  • Click ‘Notifications & actions settings’.

Here, you can turn off alerts entirely or customize the alerts for core functions such as alarms, reminders, and incoming VoIP calls.

Settings for individual applications

If you want to take a far more nuanced approach to your notifications, there are advanced options to create rules on an app-by-app basis. At the bottom of the ‘Notifications & actions’ setting screen is a section titled ‘Get notifications from these senders.’ By enabling any of the items in this list, you can open a new window full of more graded notifications options. From here, users can specify lock screen, sound, and priority settings for individual software.

You can also adjust the amount of notifications of a particular app in the ‘Number of notifications visible in action center’ setting. To do so, click on the app’s name and select the amount of notifications you’d like to receive at any given time. Although the default amount is three, you can choose to get up to 20 notifications.

Closing the blinds

For users who have no interest whatsoever in the Windows 10 action center, you can banish it entirely. To do this:

  • Open Cortana and search ‘Notification area’.
  • Click ‘Turn system icons on or off’.
  • Toggle the Action Center option to remove the icon from your taskbar.

You can also choose which apps to remove from your taskbar entirely. To do so, click the back arrow to return to the ‘Notification area’ window and choose ‘Select which icons appear on the taskbar’.

If artists have tools unique to their style, why shouldn’t the tools of your trade be tailored to your preferences? Get in touch with us today to speak with one of our tech-savvy specialists about your technology goals to start achieving new levels of productivity and efficiency on your Windows machine today.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Windows 7 was one of Microsoft’s popular and best-loved operating systems (OS), and most of us are still using it. But like the OSs before it, Windows 7 will eventually reach the end of its lifecycle. Mainstream end of support for Windows came into effect on January 13, 2015, but extended support won’t end until January 14, 2020. Find out what this means for you.

No more security updates

End of support for Windows means Microsoft stops issuing security updates for that operating system (OS). For example, Windows Vista and Windows XP can no longer receive security updates despite the substantial security holes found in them.

On January 14, 2020, the same will be true for Windows 7. From there, you’ll be on your own. You can still use antivirus tools and other security software for protection, but they won’t be enough to defend against bigger threats. Security software will also gradually drop support for older versions of Windows. Large organizations can sign “custom support” contracts to keep getting security updates while they transition to a new OS. But Microsoft will ratchet up the price going forward to encourage those organizations to move to a new version of Windows.

Software companies will halt support too

When Microsoft ends support for an OS, that’s also the signal for third-party companies to stop supporting that particular version of Windows with their own software and hardware. This doesn’t happen immediately but it does eventually.

For example, Windows XP support ended on April 8, 2014, but Chrome didn’t stop supporting Windows XP until April 2016, two years later. Mozilla Firefox stopped supporting Windows XP in June 2018. Steam will officially drop support for Windows XP and Windows Vista on January 1, 2019. On the other hand, software companies dropped support for Windows Vista more quickly, as it was much less popular than Windows XP.

New hardware may not work

New hardware components and peripherals will stop working on your system too. These need hardware drivers, and manufacturers might not create those hardware drivers for your old, out-of-date OS.

Presently, the latest Intel CPU platforms don’t even support Windows 7 and 8.1. However, the operating systems are technically still in “extended support.” You can keep using your old OS with your current software and hardware, but you have no guarantees of future updates or compatibility.

When will Microsoft end support?

Microsoft has a well-defined support lifecycle for its software products. They come ahead of time so they’re never a surprise. The agreement includes the assurance that Microsoft is committed to providing products with improved security. While they may be unable to provide security updates for older products, they do advise customers to install the latest product releases, security updates, as well as service packs to remain as secure as possible.

 

Upgrading is better than using unsupported Windows

The support lifecycle is rapidly fading away as Microsoft shifts to its Windows as a service and Office 365 subscription models. If you want to prevent security frustrations, it’s best to upgrade to a newer version of Windows. Should you need help in upgrading, or have further concerns about your current Windows, give us a call.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Smartphones are like palm-sized computers, and they deserve the same protection as desktops and laptops. While you don’t need to install bulky security software to protect against cyberthreats, there are steps you can take to keep cybercriminals at bay.

Mobile malware MO

Mobile malware can be as harmful to a business’s network as infected desktops and laptops. Potential problems include overcharges on phone bills, stolen data, intercepting messages, tricking users with phishing attacks, and sending fake notifications to one’s contact list.

Most malware comes from applications downloaded from third-party app stores and give hackers access to passwords, user account information, and other sensitive personal data. Since many business users link their Android devices to each other, malware could transfer from one device to the next.

Who is responsible?

The burden doesn’t fall solely on smartphone users. App stores such as Google Play Store are responsible, too, such as in the case of the malware-ridden banking and weather apps that were downloaded from the Google Play Store. In these cases, the companies that were affected were urged to provide updates regarding the malicious apps so they could be removed from the store.

How to avoid being victimized by malware

The Google Play Store isn’t 100% secure, but downloading from established app stores — and not from little-known and less secure ones — reduces the probability of downloading malicious apps. In cases when an infected app makes its way to the store and starts getting lots of downloads, Google will be quick to remove it from the store and make everyone aware of it.

Despite app stores’ best efforts, it’s nearly impossible to prevent mobile malware from getting through to the store. That’s why it pays to read user reviews where infected users post detailed warnings. Also, regularly updating your mobile device’s operating system and security software helps prevent infection as the latest versions of those are patched against the latest known threats in app stores and elsewhere online.

Malware doesn’t discriminate, so regardless of your computer or mobile device of choice, it will find a way to infect you if your software isn’t up to date. To find out whether your business devices are safe and fully protected, consult our cybersecurity experts today.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment.

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Hard drive space is a top priority for Windows 10 users. Techies who use budget computers navigate with limited storage or with Solid-State Drive (SSD). Having little disk space obstructs the free flow and enjoyment of using the hard drive, so you need more storage space. Here are some tips to free up your disk.

Delete junk on Files

Windows 10 includes a feature to help you create more space by erasing unnecessary files. In some cases, this feature can find and remove several gigabytes of unnecessary system files. To use the feature:

  1. Open SETTINGS and click SYSTEM.
  2. Click STORAGE
  3. Scroll down and select CHANGE HOW WE FREE UP SPACE
  4. Under TEMPORARY FILES, select the files to be deleted including temporary files, downloaded files, and items in the recycle bin.
  5. Under the FREE UP SPACE NOW, there is an option that lets you delete an older Windows 10 version.
  6. Click the CLEAN NOW button to free up space.

 

Use Disk Cleanup

This is a similar but slightly different tool for sniffing out unnecessary files that are taking up too much space. To give it a try:

  1. Open any desktop folder.
  2. Right-click on THIS PC in the pane on the left, then select PROPERTIES.
  3. Click the DISK CLEANUP button, then CLEAN SYSTEM FILES.
  4. The Disk Cleanup tool gives you a number of options, many of which you should consult with us before deleting. They include: Windows Update Cleanup, Downloaded Program Files,
  5. Temporary Internet Files, Recycle Bin, and Temporary files, among others.
  6. Click OK, then click DELETE FILES.

 

Delete applications and games

Consider uninstalling apps that are rarely or never even used. These include bloatware or pre-installed programs. You may not even realize certain games or applications are taking up hard drive space. To remove them:

  1. Open SETTINGS, then click APPS.
  2. Click APPS & FEATURES.
  3. Select the apps and games you feel comfortable removing, then click UNINSTALL.

Use “OneDrive Files” On-Demand feature

A new Windows 10 tool, OneDrive allows access to files in the cloud using File Explorer. This means your files will be stored in the OneDrive cloud and won’t take up hard drive space unless you need to download them for offline editing.

  1. Open the OneDrive application.
  2. Right-click the OneDrive icon in your task bar, select SETTINGS, and click the SETTINGS TAB.
  3. Under FILES ON-DEMAND, check SAVE SPACE AND DOWNLOADED FILES AS YOU USE THEM.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Copy and paste your documents to the OneDrive folder (located in the left-hand pane of the File Explorer), select all of them, right-click the selection, and select FREE UP SPACE.

 

Lastly, move apps, games, and other files to an external hard disk so the computer can create more internal space if there is an extra need for more storage on the Windows 10 device. All these tips are user-friendly, but if you need to give your Windows 10 machines a serious overhaul, give us a call now.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Contrary to what you may believe, cyberthreats don’t only target Windows computers. Even small-business users can click a seemingly harmless link and become a victim of a cyberattack. If you don’t want this to happen to you, there are a few simple things you can do.

Check your Privacy Settings

Begin by making sure that your Mac settings are set up properly to keep your information safe. Click System Preferences (the gear icon along the bottom of your screen), then open the Security & Privacy pane, which contains four tabs that allow you to manage different security features. You should do this with an administrator account so the changes affect everyone who uses this computer.

Take Advantage of the Firewall

One of the biggest steps you can take to protect your computer is to enable macOS’s built-in firewall to block unwelcome network connections. Just go to the Firewall tab in the Security & Privacy settings, click on the padlock at the bottom of the screen, and key in your username and password. Then enable firewall by clicking on Turn On Firewall.

To modify its settings, click on Firewall Options just below the Turn Off Firewall button. A dialog box will pop up and you can click on Enable Stealth Mode. Turning on Stealth Mode will make your Mac invisible on public networks (like an unsecured coffeeshop WiFi).
In the Firewall Options, you will also find a list of services and apps that are allowed to receive inbound connections. If you want to add an app or service to the list, just click the ‘+’ button below the list itself. However, we recommend keeping this list as short as possible because any app connected to the list can be exploited.

Set Up a Firmware Password

Nowadays, macOS/Mac OS X automatically turns on FileVault encryption. This means that it encrypts the hard drive by default, and the only way it can be accessed is by logging in. Keep in mind, though, that this feature won’t necessarily save your account in case someone reinstalls macOS/OS X, or when they use a USB memory stick to boot the Mac and possibly remove all data from your hard disk.
To increase protection, set up a firmware password. To do so, restart your computer, and then press and hold down Cmd+R before the Apple logo shows up on screen. You can let go of the keys once the progress bar pops up.
Choose your location and language when asked, then click on the Utilities>Firmware Password Utility menu. Simply follow the instructions here, and make sure to never forget or misplace your password. Forgetting your firmware password can be quite a hassle because only Apple technicians can recover it.
Ensure that your confidential data remains confidential simply by performing minor tweaks on the system settings. It takes only a few minutes of your time to ensure lasting online protection. If setting up a firewall or firmware password sounds a little too advanced for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experts.
To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Con artists have created a new method of deceiving Chrome users by freezing their browsers and displaying a security notification with bogus tech-support contact details. Their ultimate goal is to scare potential victims and trick them into dialing the fake hotline number on the screen.

The End Game
The scam works by displaying an error message indicating a bogus security breach incident that renders a browser unusable. These scammers capitalize on the fact that a serious crash can’t be solved by simply closing the site, thereby sending the users into a panic. This encourages them to dial the number listed on the warning message.
On the other end of the line, the scammers would pose as Microsoft or Apple representatives to convince users into surrendering their credit card details to repair a non-existing security issue. The scams are generally carried out through legitimate sites or malicious ads that have been hacked.

The Ingenious Process
This new scam operates against Chrome by corrupting the window.navigator.msSaveOrOpenBlob programming interface, which basically uses it as a form of distraction. The hackers manipulate the browser and forces it to save a random document on a disk repeatedly at super fast intervals that are impossible to notice. After five to 10 seconds, Chrome will be completely unresponsive.

The Easy Fix
To recover, Windows users simply have to open Windows Task Manager (press ctrl + shift + esc keys) and stop the process there. On the other hand, macOS users just need to wait until a system message prompts them to close the unresponsive Chrome tab. Typically, the latter is a more appealing option since users would have the freedom to close only the corrupted page. Manually closing the whole browser means possibly losing unsaved files in any open Windows.
When faced with IT-related issues, you need to determine how you can approach them calmly. The threats in the digital world may be terrifying and intimidating, but causing a panic in your workplace isn’t the answer. Call us as soon as any problems arise, and we’ll help you as soon as we can. We can even hook you up with other security measures to beef up your network security.

To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment
Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

According to security researchers, a bulk of the world’s computer processors have gaping flaws. The flaws, grouped under the term ‘Spectre,’ affect many critical systems including web browsers like Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox. Here’s a quick rundown of these major vulnerabilities and what you can do to secure them.

What is Spectre?
To understand this unprecedented vulnerability, you need to know some computer chip basics. Modern chips try to speed up their work by storing information related to predictable and repetitive processes. Whenever CPUs perform calculations ahead of time that end up being unnecessary, the data is thrown away into a supposedly secure storage cache.

Hackers can gain access to the discarded data by using malware to create digital backdoors. From there, they can simply sneak in, sift through the private information, and even trick the processor into throwing away even more sensitive information. This is known as a Spectre attack.
Though the exploit is highly technical and difficult to execute, researchers said Spectre affects all modern processors, including those developed by Intel, AMD, and ARM.

How does it affect browsers?
As mentioned, hackers would need to install malware on a device to perform a Spectre attack. One tactic experts found effective is if hackers build a malicious program and embed it on a website. Should anyone visit the rogue website, their browser will automatically run the malicious program.

Once inside, the attacker can use Spectre to gain full access to keystrokes, encryption keys, and login credentials.
So far, there is no evidence of Spectre attacks actively being used to steal data from web browsers, but they are difficult to detect. Experts also predict hackers will likely develop specialized malware now that this information is available to the public.

Is there a way to protect myself?
Fortunately, major browser developers were quick to release updates as soon as the Spectre attack was discovered.

Mozilla also has security features to prevent some Spectre attacks, but announced a full-blown solution is in the works.
As for Chrome, users can expect an update as early as January 23. But for the time being Google recommends enabling the Site Isolation feature, which limits how much access browser plugins have to your computer.

This feature can be enabled by going to your address bar and entering: chrome://flags/#enable-site-per-process.
Even though the updates may affect browser performance, it’s a small price to pay compared with having your credit card or social security number stolen.
Like it or not, Spectre is just one of the many threats targeting your web browsers. That’s why you should call us today. We offer expert advice and cutting-edge solutions to make sure your browsing experience is a pleasant and safe one.
To learn more about how to safeguard your business, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE

Laptops may not be the most powerful computers, but the benefits they provide are undisputable. For one thing, they deliver a similar user experience to your huge desktop PC, but much more conveniently and affordably. But before you reap their many benefits, learn five precautionary steps you should take before using them.

1. Update your laptop’s operating system
One of the first things you should do before using your laptop is upgrade its operating system. Assuming you did not purchase the laptop right when it was released, your laptop will still be running an older operating system. With important patches and fixes released in each new update, it is recommended that you install the latest one to ensure your laptop is free of any vulnerabilities.

2. Remove bloatware
Opening your laptop for the first time, you might notice that there are already several preloaded software in the system — some of which you will probably never use. These are known as bloatware.
These apps take up a lot of your valuable drive space, so consider getting rid of them. The easiest way to do this is by downloading a bulk uninstaller, which allows you to check all the bloatware apps you don’t want and remove them in one fell swoop.

3. Install protection software
It’s no secret that the world we live in is unsafe. And with so much confidential information nowadays becoming digitalized, it is necessary to protect yourself against losing important data from your computer. The solution to this is very simple. By installing antivirus software that can automatically — or manually — scan your computer at a scheduled time, potential attacks can be thwarted before they become more serious.
Not only is your laptop’s data vulnerable to cyberattacks, there is always a chance your laptop can get lost or stolen. While there are preventive steps you can take — such as being mindful while using your laptop in public places — another solution would be to install anti-theft software. Security features such as “Find My Device” for Windows 10 and “Prey” for other operating systems can help you locate your device if it’s ever stolen or misplaced.

4. Optimize your power settings
One of the most frequent problems that laptop users have is that their batteries run out of juice too fast. However, you can actually extend the battery life by making a few tweaks to your power settings.
Reduce your display brightness, but not so much that it causes eye and mental fatigue
Use the Sleep or Hibernate mode for your operating system.

5. Set up a backup plan
Imagine spending months working on an important project and suddenly finding it nonexistent the next day just because your laptop crashed. Deadlines will be missed. Profit margins will decrease. Customers will leave unhappy. And if worse comes to worst, you’ll be out of business.

Why add more unnecessary stress if you can prevent it from happening in the first place? By setting up an automatic backup system, you can regularly save all your important files; that way, you’d still have access to the data anytime were anything to happen to the original file.

You can also store all your important documents in the cloud, which ensures access whenever you need, even if your laptop crashed or got stolen.

Getting a new laptop can be fun, but the joy might be short-lived if you don’t set up any preventive measures from the start. Call us for information on how we can help you secure your company’s laptop today, or if you are looking for an expert to help you find the best solutions for your business talk to GCInfotech about a free technology assessment

Published with consideration from TechAdvisory.org SOURCE