Banner Ads Spreading CryptoWall


A new threat to your computers can be contracted simply by visiting certain high-profile sites. Through a technique known as “malvertising,” banner ads are being used to spread a form of malware known as ransomware. In this case, CryptoWall 2.0, on such prominent Web sites as Yahoo, AOL,, The Atlantic, and

The websites themselves aren’t to blame. Rather these virulent ads are processed through advertising networks, including Rubicon Project, OpenX, and Right Media/Yahoo advertising, which have failed to carry out adequate checks for malicious content. CryptoWall  2.0 encrypts all the files on the hard drive on a victim’s computer and any attached network drives.

If the victim doesn’t pay a ransom by a deadline, those files are lost. Frequently the only way someone will know they have been infected will be telltale files in each directory titled “Decrypt_Instructions.” The latest version is memory resident, meaning it never installs on the hard drive but just runs in memory and disappears when the machine is shut down while the encrypted files remain.

An estimated 3 million people have been exposed to the malvertisements since the campaign was first detected in mid-September. The CryptoWall criminals earn an estimated $25,000 a day from this attack, using a complex bitcoin laundering method to hide their profits. An estimated one billion Android smartphones and tablets may be the next target as a version of the ransomware go on sale in underground web forums.

CryptoWall gets into the computer through a security vulnerability in Adobe Flash Player. Your options to protect your data are either to update to the latest version of Flash. Please see the directions in a recent blog entry or remove Flash from your computer altogether.

Firefox offers a plug-in called Ghostery that blocks third-party ads and trackers from loading when a site is launched. Chrome has a similar extension called AdRemover. Also, always back up your data on an external hard drive, either of your own that you disconnect after you back up, or it may get encrypted too, or a remote one (“the Cloud”).

If you are concerned that your system may be infected, please submit a request. We will be happy to help. Stay safe!


How To Upgrade Adobe Flash Player


Click on the following link to go to the Adobe site:

Click on the Player Download Center link. The following screen (or something similar) will come up. Make sure to uncheck the boxes in the middle “0ptional offers” section. Then, click Install Now in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

If you are using a Windows machine, you must do Internet Explorer Browser. If you use another browser, you must do the same for them.


Be Sure to UNCHECK Optional Offers…


It will likely pop up with a query asking if you want to run or save the program as seen below. Click Run.


You may get a screen at this point that requires a YES to continue. The program will install. When done, click on the FINISH button in the lower right-hand corner, as shown below.


Close the window at this point.


Cryptolocker Virus Alert


In the wild, this month is a new version of ongoing cryptography-based viruses. This new version calls itself Cryptowall 2.0. From research, there are a few key differences in this new version.

In the original Cryptolocker viruses, the payments were to be made by using Bitcoin. In the way that the virus author crafted the payment gateway, if they knew enough, people could “steal” or fake the payments made by others and use these stolen payments as their own. In this new version, this is “fixed.”

Each infected computer is tied to a unique bitcoin wallet ID that the virus generates. You can’t steal someone else’s payment or send a fake payment anymore. The original cryptolocker code upon encrypting files would delete the originals.

The deletion process was similar to a user putting a file into the recycling bin and hitting “empty recycling bin.” In this way, most files are easily recovered as long as not much data has been changed or written to the hard drive in question. With Cryptowall 2.0, this bypass is no longer available.

This version issues a hard drive secure delete command to every file it encrypts. This means recovery is impossible via this avenue. The third change is with how the author is masking the activity back to them. This will make it tough for the authorities to make a break in this case where they were able to with the original cryptolocker virus.

If you are concerned that your system may be infected, please submit a request. We will be happy to help. Stay safe!

Wipe Old Data

Old Data

You’ve upgraded your electronic devices. You’re planning to sell or donate your old equipment. Just make sure you clean out all your sensitive data before you do so.

The Naked Security blog recently offered up a cautionary tale of why it’s essential to take this important step. A Canadian used-computer dealer claims to have a pile of data that they pulled off servers originally belonging to an international professional services firm. Those companies are now in court, battling over the disposition of the data.

Need more convincing? USA Today reported that Robert Siciliano, an identity-theft expert for the security firm, McAfee, bought 30 used devices off Craigslist. Half the devices were thoroughly wiped clean, while the other half still maintained data, including bank accounts, Social Security numbers, work documents, and bank records.

A recent survey by Internet security company AVG revealed that nearly 60% of Americans use three or more Internet-connected devices at home across three different operating systems. Those collect a lot of sensitive data over a short period of time. What can the average person or company do when retiring an older machine?

Personal Computers

You’ve decided to recycle your old laptop or desktop. The simplest, most secure solution is to remove the hard drive physically. It can then be installed in your new computer or put in a USB hard drive enclosure to be used as a backup or portable storage. If that’s beyond your skillset, commit to a secure wipe starting with backing up anything you value from the hard drive on your old machine onto an external hard drive or an online backup service, generically known as “the cloud.”

Next, perform a secure wipe. Among the more popular data-destruction programs are DBAN, CBL Data Shredder, and ErAce. These programs not only delete the data but overwrite it a certain number of times, making the data much more difficult to retrieve.

This process can take hours, even days, depending on the size of the drives. Allow sufficient time for the process. Also, be sure to remove any portable storage like DVDs or flash drives. HCP can take care of all of this for you; please contact us about this service.

Mobile Devices

First, transfer whatever information you wish to save to your new device. Then, use the factory reset to wipe your old device. Second, remove or erase SIM and SD cards. Finally, double-check your phone book, call logs, voicemails, emails, text messages, downloads, other folders, search histories, and personal photos. For more specialized directions for your particular device, check your owner’s manual or look for such information online from the manufacturer.

Gaming Consoles

For gaming consoles, start with the standard factory reset. Then, remove or securely erase any media cards. Check your owner’s manual or go online for specialized directions for your console.

Remember, a little time invested in obliterating your precious information can save you time and money in the long run. Stay safe! For help with a computer problem, submit a request.

What is a Router?


What to Look for in a Router

Let’s start with the basics. What is a router? It’s a device that sits between the internet and your computers.

Its primary job is to take incoming information from the internet and route it to various computers within your network. But that’s just the initial role of the router. Most routers have built-in firewalls to provide security, keeping that which has been previously defined as suspect out of your business network.

Features present in business-class routers at all price points include stronger security features, more flexibility in access to your network from remote locations, and the ability to be improved as your business grows. Can you get by with a consumer-model router, or does your company require something more? Here are some factors to consider:

  • Do you want the best security features?
  • Do you have many employees who require frequent remote access to your network?
  • Do you run your own email, Web, or RADIUS (the top security option) server?
  • Do you need to set up advanced virtual local area networks?

Firms that use the internet or “Cloud” options as a big part of their business often have multiple internet providers. This requires load balancing or failover redundancy capabilities on the router to maintain and optimize their business’s internet connections. Choosing the right router should start with a thorough assessment of your business’ needs and projected future growth balanced against what you can afford as part of an integrated network. HCP can help you with this assessment, request a consultation today!



What is a firewall


A simple concept has taken on a whole new meaning in this computerized era.

As the term suggests, a firewall has always been a wall meant to prevent fire from spreading and to protect important areas within a structure.

Today’s firewall technology serves much the same purpose – to protect business computer networks from threats inside and out.

Think of a firewall as a moat that shields against from those that want to storm the castle that is your business.

There are two main types of firewalls: hardware and software.

A hardware firewall serves as a first line of defense against attacks coming from the outside world, and is either installed in a broadband router or as a separate device.  It employs a technique called packet filtering.  The data being sent to your firewall is in the form of multiple packets, similar to an addressed envelopes with letters inside.  The firewall looks at the header of a packet (the address on our envelope) to figure out its source and destination addresses. By using  a set of predetermined criteria, the packet is either allowed to pass or thrown out.

The downside of a hardware firewall is that it’s built to keep the bad stuff out. Generally, it treats traffic coming out from the interior network as benign, which isn’t always the case. Viruses or malware which has gotten inside the network can attach itself to outgoing traffic and go on to infect destination computers, something that’s bad for business.

A software firewall is installed on a user’s machine and can analyze a program that is trying to access the Internet and either allow or block its ability to send and receive data. If the firewall isn’t sure about the program’s nature, the user gets prompted to confirm before the traffic is allowed to pass.

While a software firewall is easier to tailor for individual machines, it’s also the more expensive option, as it requires more configuration on each computer in your network.

The next factor to consider is the number of users in your network and the importance of your data. That will help you to decide whether you need a Small Office Home Office or the ”larger” enterprise-class firewall.  Each variation has different abilities as how far into the packet it goes to determine whether the information is benign or potentially hazardous to your machines or network, or how configurable the settings are for letting certain items through the firewall to your internal machines

The proper combination of hardware and software firewalls will give your business the greater security which it needs.

The techs at HCP are experts on setting up and configuring both types of firewall. For help visit



Charity Scams


There are people on the Internet waiting to exploit your generous nature. A little research can help your charity dollars reach those that you intend to assist.

Research is only the first step. Next there are a number of warning signs of fraudulent charities. Unless you have previously given your email address to a particular charitable group, assume that any email you receive from a charity is bogus. Clicking on a link enclosed in such an email could also create a pathway for malware to enter your computer.


Also, beware of “charities” that:

  • Won’t provide detailed information about its identity, mission, costs, and how the donation will be used.
  • Refuses to offer proof that a contribution is tax deductible.
  • Has a name that closely resembles that of a better-known, reputable organization.
  • Thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making.
  • Uses high-pressure tactics like trying to get you to donate immediately, without giving you time to think about it and do your research.
  • Asks for donations in cash or asks you to wire money, or offers to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately.
  • Guarantees sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. By law, you never have to give a donation to be eligible to win a sweepstakes.

So you’ve decided to make a donation to a particular charity. Your wariness shouldn’t end there, however.

Be certain the website of the charity you’ve chosen uses encryption technology before entering sensitive information such as credit-card numbers or bank draft information. Check the URL: http:// is not secure, while https:// is secure. There should also be a key or padlock symbol located in the corner of the web browser. If you’re uncertain, contact the charity by phone or email before donating.

Also investigate the group’s privacy policy, so that you know how your personal information is being handled.

For more information, visit

For help with a computer problem, visit



CyberVor Russian Hacker Data Breach

Keep your Data Safe

Keep your Data Safe

Data security has once more been brought to the public consciousness in recent days with the revealing of the largest data breach in history.

A gang of Russian hackers, nicknamed CyberVor, stole 1.2 billion username and password combinations, along with more than 500 million email addresses, from 420,000 sites. They did this using botnets, computers that have been infected with and controlled by a virus.


What does this mean for the average internet user? Increased vigilance and prompt action, to keep accounts secure.

Here’s some steps to protect yourself:

  • Change passwords, especially if you’ve been re-using them on multiple sites (even though you know you shouldn’t, as that makes life easier for hackers). Make them stronger and longer, a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid using personal information in your password words.  Security firm McAfee recommends blending unrelated words together with numbers and symbols (i.e. “Mutant2Cows!ontheloose). Don’t just stick numbers and symbols at the end, but mix them in.
  • If remembering multiple passwords is too daunting a task, consider getting a password manager to store your passwords. Among the free ones are Lastpass (, keepass ( and Norton Identity Safe (
  • Enable two-factor identification on any sites that offer it. When you use a different computer, the site will issue a code via text or email that you must enter to access your account, another layer of security.
  • Check your accounts for unauthorized activities. This doesn’t mean just your financial accounts. If hackers get into your email account, they can access any site you’ve visited via email. So check your sent folder for any emails you didn’t send. Always keep an eye on your social media for any status updates.

Don’t depend on sites to protect your security information. Take these simple steps to guard yourself.

For help with a computer problem or if you have questions about security, visit


Stop the Unwanted Emails

Stop unwanted email

In our last blog entry, we addressed ways to prevent unwanted email. Now we will explore methods to block and report spam that does make it to your private email address.

Most email providers have systems in place to block and report unwanted email. Following are directions for three of the biggest providers:

  • Gmail: Most unwanted email automatically gets detected and sent to a spam folder, and is deleted after 30 days. If you get a message that you feel is spam, check the box next to it and click the “Report Spam” button in the top tool bar. Conversely, if you find a message in your spam folder that you feel is legitimate, check it and click the “Not spam” button.
  • Yahoo!: Yahoo’s spam filter is strong and catches most unwanted email automatically. If you find a message you consider spam, check the box next to it and click the “Spam” button in the upper tool bar. You can use your Blocked list to stop senders and domains, but that’s likely to provide temporary relief, as spammers change addresses and domains regularly.
  • Outlook: Outlook’s Junk Filter is set to Low protection, which catches the obvious spam. You can increase the filter’s strength by clicking the Home tab, then Junk, then Junk Email Options. Under the Options tab, select the setting you want for your filter (each are describe there). Also a number of third-party spam blockers can be installed into Outlook, for advanced and updated filtering.

Reporting the spam can hit spammers where it hurts most: in the pocketbook.

Before deleting unwanted email, forward it to [email protected], the spam box for the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC investigates a suspect email, and if it is spam, the original sender can be charged $500 per email. The more email from the same spammer, the more likely that it will be investigated.

Another place to report unwanted e-mail is anti-spam groups such as Spamcop (, which tracks spam back to its ISP and reports it.


For help with a computer problem, visit

Spam, No thank you.


Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part series on spam.

In our last blog entry, we addressed ways to identify spam. Now we will explore ways to prevent spam from flooding your email:

  • Don’t volunteer your email address online, as scripts created to search websites can harvest addresses from websites where such addresses are made public. Also others may appropriate your email address to sign up for offers to get free items.
  • Find creative ways to write out your email address, such as substituting [at] for @ or [dot] for the period, as these methods can frustrate spambots attempting to steal addresses. Other options include using an image picture of your address or using JavaScript to dynamically set up the display of your email.
  • Never make your username, which is almost always public, the same as the front segment of your email address, as it’s not terribly complicated for hackers to guess the correct provider that you’re using. Also avoid chatrooms connected to your address, as those addresses are simple to figure out. Finally don’t post to newsgroups or email lists with your private address, for that same reason.
  • Disposable email addresses can stem the flow of spam as well. In addition to your main account, set up separate addresses by topic or type of account. Set all those addresses to forward to your main account. If spam comes through, track it back to that disposable address and eliminate that account.
  • Don’t respond to spam. You create more spam when you reply or click “unsubscribe,” as that verifies your address as legitimate.
  • Never enter contests, answer free or special offers, or order free e-cards, as these are lures to collect your email address for future spamming.
  • If you are a contact for a registered domain, instead of your private email address, use a generic common mailbox for this purpose, such as [email protected] or [email protected].
  • For your public email address, set up a free Yahoo or Hotmail account, saving your private email address for select friends and relatives;
  • Carefully watch for checkboxes when filling out any form online and uncheck those offering services you don’t want. Also look for any Spam or email sharing disclaimers.
  • Consider using a complicated username, as spam programs will try applying a long list of common names to a domain. [email protected] is a lot easier to figure out than [email protected] (not a great business address, however). Still make it something you can remember.
  • Be careful about what you forward, as you may inadvertently be helping spam spread to your friends and business associates.

For help with a computer problem, visit

Next: How to block and report spam.