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By Sandia Computers 05 Dec, 2016
We as users often overlook the fact that we store sometimes irreplaceable things on our computers. For some people, it's pictures of their children or grandchildren that they don't have anywhere else. For others, it's tax records or important financial documents. If you are someone who works primarily from a computer, than it's possible that all of your projects and work are stored on your computer. 

Now imagine for a second that it's all gone...
This scenario is far from impossibility, and happens much more often than most people care to imagine. If your computer is not equipped with a solid state drive, the hard disk drive technology that is in the machine with all your data stored on it is a design that is now more than 32 years old, and is had to bear the load of reading and writing data at a high speed any time your machine is on. And even if you do have a solid state drive, while they are ten times more reliable, they are still not invincible.

When it comes to digital data storage, redundancy may be your best friend.
Backing up your data to a location that is not the computer itself is the only way to make sure that would still be reachable in the event that the computer itself were to fail catastrophically. Making a copy of your user data on an external hard drive is the most secure and effective way to keep your important files safe. Some users use programs that back up their data to the cloud, but the cloud is easily breached in most cases; just ask anyone affected by the iCloud leak. Some users choose to use a program that makes image files of their machines and backs them up to another location on the machine, but if you can't image back to the now dead machine, what good is that image? Furthermore, if the drive fails, it will take that image file and your data with it.

Some of us at Sandia Computers have learned this the hard way; we implore our customer's to get a drive and keep at least one if not  multiple copies of your data, and stored them in safe places.

Come on in and talk to a Sales Representative about the Backup Special we are running. External backup drives on sale; 5TB HDD's are 50% off while supplies last. 
By Sandia Computers 11 Nov, 2016
Is there any difference in security between Microsoft's Edge, Mozzila's Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari (Apple Users) browser? 

This question was answered on October 26, 2016. Browser security should be on top of everyone's mind these days, as it's one of the most likely ways you'll be compromised.
Cyber-Thieves know we spend most of our time on the internet, so they have shifted their focus from just exploring your
OS (Windows, MacOS, etc.) to exploiting browsers in conjunction with operating systems and utilities.

Blended Attacks
Computer security has definitely improved  over the years, so hackers have had to implement a 'blended attack' approach to compromise users.

Instead of exploiting one program or utility, they use a combination of attacks on various known vulnerabilities in the most commonly used programs to improve their chances of success and to gain deeper access.
Your web browser is often the first item on the list in these blended threats.

Measuring Security in Browsers
There are a number of things to consider when evaluating browser security, but none of them point to the absolute best browser for everyone to use.

Security and usability can often be at odds; the most secure options can be more difficult to use and the easiest to use can often be the least secure.

With browsers, the most secure options are generally the ones that strip features out or employ tactics that results in noticeably slower performance. 

There is no such thing as a 100% secure web browser, so you need to find the balance between security and usability that best suits your needs.

One measure of security you may want to consider is how often the browser is updated, since the update interval represents the amount of time hackers can exploit a known vulnerability before it's patched.

Here are the standard update intervals for the most popular browsers:
Microsoft Internet Explorer and Edge: 30 Days
Google Chrome: 15 Days
Mozilla Firefox: 28 Days
Apple Safari: 54 Days
Opera: 48 Days

Security Through Obscurity
The term 'security through obscurity' is often used to describe how lesser used technology can be more secure only because they're less targeted by hackers.

The most popular browsers have the largest number of known vulnerabilities because cyber-thieves are willing to spend more time trying to exploit a tool they know hundreds of millions of people are using.

One of the reasons that Safari and Opera have longer update intervals is that they have fewer vulnerabilities (and users) than the others, which many would suggest is a great example of 'security through obscurity'.

Vulnerability counts by themselves don't really say much as the severity and complexity required to exploit them mean a lot more.

At a recent hacking contest called Pwn2Own, Google Chrome came out as the most difficult to exploit, while Apple Safari and Microsoft Edge didn't fare as well (Opera and Firefox were not part of this competition).

What's Really Important 
Focusing on browser security is kind of pointless if you aren't keeping everything else in your system updated as well.

Here's the biggest problem we regularly see- risky online behavior can negate most anything you do from a security standpoint, so surfer beware!
By Sandia Computers 05 Nov, 2016
It usually starts off by browsing the web or clicking a link on a popular webpage. The page then redirects to what seems to be an alert from Microsoft themselves, or "technicians" impersonating a Microsoft licensed partners; at times locking your screen, and with a loud sound with a voiceover giving you "bad news". This message also asks the user to not shut down or restart their computer, as it may cause "data loss" or "operating system malfunction". Sounds quite scary doesn't it?

Below this scary pop up, a toll free number is then given for users to call in order to get help and remove presumed viruses, malware, and even "upgrade" your network or IP security. In most cases, users call the number, falling for the phishing scam.  What happens after that is just an orchestrated show to make the user believe they are indeed infected, and that, of course, money is needed in order to "remove" and install protection for their computer. At that point most users instantly become aware that something does not sound right. Especially after scammers ask for their credit card number or checking account. 

The U.S. Justice Department charged 61 people and  entities on Thursday with taking part in a scam involving India-based call centers where agents impersonated Internal Revenue Service, immigration and other federal officials demanded nonexistent debts.

The scam, which had operated since 2013, targeted at least 15,000 people who lost more than $300 million. Twenty people were arrested in the United States on Thursday, while 32 individuals and five call centers in India have been charged, the department said in a statement.

The defendants, including 24 people cross nine U.S. states, were indicted by a Grand Jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

U.S. Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said at a news conference that the United States will be seeking the extradition of those based India and warned others engaged in similar schemes.

"It's really important for the scammers in India to know that the United States  is looking at this. is watching them and they could, if they engaged in that activity, be extradited to the United States and could sit in jail for several years," Caldwell said. 

According to the indictment, the operators of the call centers in Ahmedabad, in the Indian state of Gujarat, "threatened potential victims with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay taxes or penalties to the government."

Payments by victims were laundered by U.S. network of co-conspirators using prepaid debit cards or wire transfers, often using stolen or fake identities. 

The call centers also ran scams in which victims were offered short-term loans or grants on condition of providing good-faith deposits or payment of a processing fee.

The Justice Deportment said that investigations involved Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Treasury, Homeland Security, U.S. Secret Service and police officials.

What to do if your system gets this scam pop up?
Definitely do not call the number. Shut down your system by holding the power button for about 10 seconds. Turn on your system once again, clear your web browser history and your system should go back to normal. If the problems seem to persist, bring your system in to Sandia Computers; we will diagnose the issues and get your system up and running like brand new. 

What to do if you called the number?
If you already called and gave the scammers access to your system; more than likely you gave them access to infect you with malware and viruses that may affect your system. These scammers may also have access to your data; including passwords, banking information and more. In this situation is best to shut down your system and bring it to Sandia Computers in order to diagnose the issues and remove any type of malware or virus. We will be more than happy to get your system cleaned and safe to use. 
By Sandia Computers 28 Oct, 2016
Stay tuned for updates, news, pictures, videos, specials and more on our new blog. We are excited to share more of who we are and what we do! Thank you for choosing Sandia Computers.
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