Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cryptolocker - RansomWare Threat

A computer virus is a software program designed to destroy or steal data. They are often a nuisance,usually designed with malicious purpose, either to disrupt activity, steal information or some other type of financial gain. Viruses have been known to wipe systems out, destroy hardware, or fill a hard drive up with junk applications.

There always exists a motive for the virus's author.Viruses can be used for marketing, theft or political statements. They can bring down home PCs or large corporate networks. Viruses exist under many forms, such as boot sector viruses or browser hijackers to name two. In some cases, a virus will infect a system for the purpose of delivering a "payload", which is other malware with a different purpose.

About two years ago, a new virus called "MoneyPak" came online. When a PC became infected, a phony message was displayed saying the FBI will seize the machine unless a $300 moneypak card was purchased from CVS or Walgreens. From a technical perspective, this was a simple annoying virus that was easy to remove. Gullible users would buy the card and pay the fee, most simply sought out technical help to have the virus removed.


Ransomeware is a computer virus that infects a system and limits access until the owner of the comptuer pays the creator of the virus to have it removed. The Moneypak virus is one such example.

Recently, a new variant of Ransomware (in this case crypto malware) has emerged called Cryptolocker. Crypto Malware infects a computer with a program that takes control of the system and connects to a control server to obtain an encryption key and apply it to specific files on a computer.  Cryptolocker utilizes a 256 bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) key. The algorithm described by AES is a symmetric-key algorithm, meaning the same key is used for both encrypting and decrypting the data. Although the original server handing out encryption keys has been taken down, the virus is still being spread

Current forms of the virus go after typical productivity files such as Microsoft Word, Excel, WordPerfect files, Access databases, photos and other multimedia files. Essentially, files you use everyday. Once the files are encrypted, the only way to read those files is through the key.The virus gives the end users options for obtaining a key, usually by paying a $300 un-lock fee. 

At present, paying the $300 ransom is the only way to have your files unlocked.

How the Virus is Spread

To date, the virus is sent to host computers through "social engineering", which typically has been email. Phony emails  typically appear to be from FedEx notifying the reader that a package is waiting for them, and to click a link for more information.


The best methods to avert falling victim to these scams are:
1. End user education - stay informed on computer malware threats
2. Solid e-mail spam filtering

Public e-mail services through Microsoft (Hotmail, Outlook.com) or Google (Gmail) are generally good at eliminating these threats through behavior tracking technology. Private domain based mail accounts (YourOrganization.com) generally don't have aggressive enough spam filtration that will eliminate the majority of these threats. If you would like to improve  your current spam filtration solution or have the current system evaluated, please contact us to discuss in detail.

If you have a private domain based mail account, contact us for information on our email spam filtration service and antivirus protection software. Coverage for your PC and email starts at just $2.99/month.

(215) 634-2997

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

HP to be dropped from Dow Jones Industrial Average September 20th

In a sign that the computer manufacturer continues to struggle, Dow Jones has announced that HP will be dropped from its list of major US manufacturers, namely due to underperforming stock.

Over the years, HP has struggled to gain a higher share of the computer manufacturing market and branch out from manufacturing printers. In 2001, HP merged with Compaq to acquire a larger share of the PC and camera market. At the time, HP founder Walter Hewlett was reluctant on the merger as he saw then that PCs were a marginally profitable product.

Today, the PC division of HP has the lowest margin of their manufacturing line.

Read more.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Electronic communications rejected by court due to lack of authentication

This may seem like a no-brainer, but authentication of electronic evidence is crucial when presented as evidence.

In 2011, a Maryland appellate court overturned a decision involving a murder trial because the prosecution failed to present any authentication that a message from a MySpace account actually came from the account they claimed it did (see: Antoine Levar GRIFFIN v. STATE of Maryland No. 74, Sept. Term, 2010). (Read more about the Griffin case)

Proper handling, analysis and authentication of electronic evidence is crucial in any form of litigation, otherwise the evidence will be tossed as hearsay.

Our SMS Witness service, which covers text messages, instant messages and Facebook data, provides parties with the proper handling, analysis and presentation of this evidence, so that it can be properly entered into evidence in civil or criminal matters.

SMS Witness entails live collection of data, special chain of custody documentation, data analysis and verification, hash code generation (to prove the file is unique), and presentation of text messages, instant messaging or Facebook messaging in a transcript format.

Sample SMS Text message transcripts:

Don't risk your entire case using a free or low dollar third party app to print out your messages. A single text message could swing a decision, even in a minor case, IF you present it properly.

Call 215-634-2997 for more information, or sales@richmondcomputer.com

Monday, August 12, 2013

"Tax"-achussets targets IT Industry with new "computer services tax"

Governments have been taxing citizens since the days of the Egyptian Pharaohs. Over time, governments have levied taxes to raise funds to operate the government, be it for military protection or domestic services. Rates rise and fall due to the state’s needs or political agendas in play. Taxes have been known to start riots and wars, such as the Magna Carta and the American Revolutionary War. In modern times, there are no shortages of controversies as governments levy new taxes against its citizens.

On Tuesday July 24, 2013, the Massachusetts state legislature passed an $800 million dollar transportation finance plan to fund statewide highway and transit needs. While the legislation increased existing taxes on items such as gasoline, a new tax was created called the “computer system service tax”, which applies the state’s 6.25% sales tax to computer services. The new tax is expected to generate $161 million per year, and applies to a variety of technical services provided by those in the IT industry. Some examples include:
·       Installation of “prewritten software”, for example re-installing Windows 7 onto a customer’s PC
·         Installing a packaged software suite such as QuickBooks onto a customer’s computer
·         Web based software/applications operated by a company within Massachusetts
·         Networking computers together on a LAN
·         Installing software patches (enhancements) on already installed software products (i.e. Microsoft product updates/security updates, antivirus software updates)

Oddly, the tax does not apply to the installation of Open Source software because there is no transaction to acquire that software. However, if an IT Professional is engaged in website development and uses an open source template to build the customer’s site, then the services are taxable. Confused yet? This also means modifying an existing website (content management) is now taxable, but website hosting and cloud storage are not taxable.

The tax singles out the computer industry, and those who outsource technology functions to service providers, be it individuals or corporations. This causes a number of problems. First, if the tax is not repealed, it sets a precedent which other states or legislative bodies could follow. Secondly, it hurts innovation. Companies may elect to defer upgrades and projects which would otherwise improve commerce. Thirdly, it encourages companies to defer maintenance such as the installation of new antivirus software or security updates on network computers when performed by consultants or contractors. Compromised computers and websites are often the source of malware infections for other systems, and encouraging companies to defer maintenance because of rising maintenance costs is a dangerous situation for everyone. Fourth, IT consultants and contracting firms already pay their share of income tax, as do the companies that utilize these services.

Targeting the IT industry will only impede the growth of the IT industry. The IT industry, like many others is diverse. It is comprised of firms small and large, from independent consultants to multinational firms. In some cases, a “computer services” tax will cost jobs. Small businesses could decide to keep certain tasks in-house, even assigning them to less than qualified personnel (the famous scope creep). While there remains a great deal of ambiguity regarding the law, what is clear is the losers are the IT sector and businesses within “Tax”achusetts.

Rather than waste precious legislative time (is there such a thing on the taxpayer's dime?), legislators could have studied where this tax was enacted before, namely to the south in Maryland in 2007. There, a similar outcry led to the repealing of the tax not long after it became law.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Microsoft Makes Appeal to NSA on PRISM Scandal

In a surprise move for Microsoft, general counsel Brad Smith wrote to US Attorney General Eric Holder to make a plea for permission to disclose and explain to the public what information the software giant has been handing over to the NSA as part of the PRISM scandal, which came to light by leaker Eric Snowden who is now seeking asylum while holed up in a Russian airport.

The concerns brought up by Microsoft's attorney primarily deal with preserving constitutional rights of U.S. citizens. However, it is more likely that Microsoft's lawyers are concerned with liability over the surrendering their customers' data to the U.S. Government, and potential for lawsuits as part of those requests.

With more and more data being stored in the cloud, and most computers on a 24/7 connection to the internet with various "behind the scenes" applications transmitting data to Microsoft, its likely that all of our computers are potential sources for monitoring by government authorities.

Read More

Do you think Microsoft should be able to disclose to customers what information is being requested and turned over to the NSA?

Sound off here!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gigabit Wifi coming soon

The Wi-Fi Alliance, a global organization that ensures the interoperability of Wi-Fi technologies, began certifying so-called "ac" devices on July 20, 2013. The new standard is called "802.11ac" will have speeds of up to 1.3 Gigabits per second.

Since few devices are currently on the market with the new standard, pricing is much higher than standard WiFi devices. Netgear's R6200 WiFi access point starts at $160.00 at Best Buy.

Before considering a purchase, consider operational gains are mostly applicable to the streaming of large files across a WiFi network, such as videos and sound files.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Use of Facebook data for criminal & civil litigation

Recently, Facebook disclosed that it received thousands of requests for data from user accounts in the last half of 2012 alone. This reinforces the fact that investigators, and ultimately the courts, are relying more on electronic data for litigation purposes than ever before.

That being said, Richmond Computer now offers transcription and data collection services involving Facebook data, similar to the highly popular SMS Witness program, which converts cell phone text messages to court admissible transcripts. Starting at $49.99, we can collect Facebook data and produce items such as Facebook messages into transcripts, complete with documentation on collection and production methodology and analysis of metadata.

Read more.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Microsoft to end all support for Windows XP April 8, 2014

Microsoft has set the date for an end to all support for Windows XP: 4/8/2014. Windows XP was once the mainstay of home and office PCs, and continues to be used on 37% of all business computers (a staggering number!). Despite this, Microsoft is pushing forward with making Windows 8 the flagship of home and office operating systems. Recently, Microsoft has released an updated version in response to significant backlash from end users on the format and usability of the newest version of Windows.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Microsoft relents on start button in Windows 8

Following months of heavy criticism over the removal of the start button from the Windows 8 operating system, Microsoft added this feature back in Windows 8.1, which is not yet available to the public.

The return of the start button demonstrates that Microsoft is sensitive to the heavy criticism from consumers and feedback from those in the technology industry. However, the return of the start button does not equal the return of the "start menu", where one would normally find a list of apps and programs on their system. Early reviews indicate that the modifications in 8.1 do improve accessibility to the system.

The "Metro" syle screen is similar to that of Windows Server 2012. The universal application of the new interfaces do show Microsoft's commitment to breaking out of its "Windows shell", which has defined their products since Windows 95.

If you are in the market for a new computer system we still exercise caution in choosing Windows 8 over Windows 7 for an operating system. While Windows 8 reviews indicate that it is a more stable operating system than Windows 7 (Windows 7 is an extremely stable platform), there is a good period of adjustment in dealing with the new Graphical User Interface (GUI). While Windows 8 is less demanding on hardware than its predecessor, the switch to the new system has been called a "jarring" experience for many.

If you are in the market for a new system, contact us for a free consultation on which OS is best for you.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"FBI" MoneyPak Drive-by virus still alive and well (Revton Virus)

Since 2011, a "drive-by" virus has been circulating on infected web servers which, when visited by web surfers, installs a software application known as the "Revton Virus" which locks the user's computer and demands payment for copyright infringement with the FBI's logo on the computer screen.

Richmond Computer continues to receive calls for removal of this virus, which takes about 30 minutes. Because of the high number of infections seen, we've been able to flat-rate the removal cost to just $80.00.

While there are many options out there to remove the virus, if you are looking for timely removal with minimal effort, we suggest you call us. Work can be performed at your location or our office at no additional charge for customers within Philadelphia.

More information:



Monday, May 6, 2013

Software you own becoming a thing of the past

Remember the days when you went to a store and bought a software application that came in a box? It looks like the days of picking up boxes of software with neatly packaged CDs and user manuals are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

Last year, Microsoft rolled out its Office 365 suite, which is the software giant's alternative to spending upwards of $400 for Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel and Access (among others). Now, for a monthly fee (called "subscriptions"), users can continue to utilize this software, so long as the bills are paid. If you stop paying the bill, you can still access your files with restricted abilities.

Adobe is the latest software company to jump on the clouded subscription craze. In a recent announcement, Adobe has decided that applications part of their creative suite, such as Photoshop, will ONLY be available in the cloud, under a subscription.

The benefits to you as the consumer are low cost of entry for gaining access to the software, which will now change more gracefully through frequent, periodic updates, as opposed to drastic changes from version to version.

The downside? You'll need to tie your bank account or credit card to Adobe or Microsoft to pay the monthly subscription fee to continue to use the software. Effectively, you will no longer own the software, but only have rights to use it under their EULA and as long as the bill is paid.

Read more.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Microsoft Windows XP Support Ends April 8, 2014

Extended support for Windows XP ends one year from today. What that means is no more security updates and patches for identified vulnerabilities, meaning the system will be "wide open" to attacks from malware and other loopholes in the operating system. After 10 years, we at Richmond Computer would like to think Microsoft has plugged all the holes, but new exploits are always being discovered by would-be malware authors.

In addition to the end-of-life for Windows XP, Microsoft will also be discontinuing product support for Office 2003.

A starting statistic: As of March 2013, 38.7% of all PCs continue to  run Windows XP. Windows 7 currently makes up 44.73% of operating systems used on home and office computers.

Looking to upgrade your current system or go with something totally new? Call us  at (215) 634-2997 for a consultation to help decide if Windows 7, Windows 8 or a Mac is right for you.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

UPS is NOT sending you e-mail

We've all missed the UPS guy, but when we do, UPS isn't going to send you an e-mail to tell you about it. Despite being in the 21st century, "old brown" still uses paper stickies to alert you when you missed a delivery.

Unfortunately, implusiveness and gullibility get the better of us. As we discovered today after deploying brand new Windows 7 PCs for a client, one of the staff received a phony e-mail claiming to be a UPS notice with a "billing attachment". The user clicked it once. Nothing. Then again, and again, and again. Within 30 minutes, their network ground to a halt. Now its costing hours of time and effort to repair a file server and client PCs that were infected by numerous pieces of malware.

Think carefully when reading e-mail.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Making IT integral with your Business

IT support and technology in small business has traditionally been regarded as "the guy in the back office" that no one sees until something breaks. For small business that outsources IT to firms like us at Richmond Computer, we're never seen nor heard except during deployment projects or emergency repairs.

In today's digital business world, that's all changing the face of technology and those that support it. Since technology is front and center when it comes to operating a business, IT staff are also now on the front lines when it comes to interacting with staff and customers.

Our mantra has always been delivering products and service that enhances a business either through improving productivity or cutting costs, or both. In addition, Richmond Computer has recognized the value to  our customers by not just being the fix-it guys in the back office, but being able to interact with the customers of our clients and integrating technology with customer service and overall value to the customer experience.

Where does your current IT solution stand?

Monday, March 25, 2013

More changes to Windows 8 - Windows BLUE

In an effort to push acceptance of an otherwise weakly adopted new product, Microsoft is releasing another patch to Windows 8: a component named "Windows Blue". Allegedly, Blue allows more customization to the start screen (which replaced the desktop/start button environment). Notably, is the ability to split apps on a screen, a popular feature in the business world, especially in multi-screen environments. However, rumors from the beta testing mill claim that Blue eliminates the ability to run the "desktop" on Windows 8 systems.

Microsoft has tried all sorts of gimmicks to get consumers and business users to adopt Windows 8. Tech savvy or not, most can appreciate Microsoft's interest in becoming more like Apple, with tiled screens to resemble iPhones and iPads, yet they've forgotten that most users grew up with the desktop and start button, and stuck it out with Windows all these years because of its (don't laugh) stability.

If you remember this screen, you're old enough to remember Ronald Reagan as president

Read More.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Technology and Mass Transit: SEPTA, NPT and your smartphone

Philadelphia's public transportation service provider, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), is in the process of developing and deploying a tech-heavy fare and payment collection system that will transport riders from the current 1940's system of tokens and paper tickets punched by train conductors to "Smart Cards" and other near-field technology media.

While we won't get into the details about the system itself here, SEPTA's management has been bragging that the new system dubbed "NPT" for New Payment Technologies, will allow riders to pay fares using their smartphones. This isn't revolutionary as one can purchase rides on airplanes and trains/buses in other cities, and has been the case for a few years now. SEPTA's approach is different than Amtrak for example, because of specific technologies deployed. One can purchase an Amtrak ticket now onboard the train through the Amtrak website. After the purchase is complete, the phone will display a barcode which is then scanned by the attendant on the train. The same method of validation is also used by airlines when checking in.

However, SEPTA in their infinite wisdom, decided that barcodes were too "old school" and instead is only utilizing near-field communication (NFC) devices, such as credit cards or smartphones with such capabilities, which today is most Android based devices. But SEPTA staff didn't do their homework, or simply listened to the wrong "geeks". If you don't know what the most common and popular smartphone is today, you've been living under a rock. iPhones never had, and have no plans to add NFC to future models. This means users of the most popular phone on the market are forever locked out from buying fares to ride buses, trolleys and trains in Philadelphia because SEPTA felt barcodes weren't on par with today's "modern" technology.

Instead, this new NFC-NPT system will force train riders to have a smartcard in their pocket in order to pass through newly installed turnstiles in center city and then "tap-out" to a NFC reader at their train station of their final destination. Its an extra step and an investment in alot of station gating devices all because the agency refused to include barcodes as a method of reading a paid fare.

Deployment begins July 2013 with completion in mid 2014. Stay tuned.