Sunday, February 14, 2016

If you are like me, you have a hard time remembering complex passwords, or just passwords in general. I've been using LastPass for the past 2 years and I'm definitely not going back to the old way of writing them down at home and not remembering them when I'm elsewhere, or simply, not remembering them!
LastPass is a browser based and/or mobile based application you can use to store all of your passwords. You come up with ONE good password that you use to login with, then all of your other passwords are kept inside LastPass for you. Once you have your good password to get into your password manager, you can create passwords from 4 to 100 characters long! The best part is, you don't ever need to remember these, just login, copy it out and then paste it into your webpage. So easy.
If you're like me, get the premium upgrade for only $12.95 a year and use it on your mobile device too! That's only $1.08 per month to make your life a lot easier. If you click the link below, you can get a free month just by getting the referral from me. But, it is free for just the browser use, so if you want to try it out for a while, go right ahead, I know you won't be disappointed!


Saturday, November 28, 2015

You hear it every year around this time, watch out for the scammers, phone calls, etc. Keep your credit cards safe, don't give out personal information to a complete stranger, the list goes on and on.

These warnings have become even more valuable in the recent years as cybercrime has become front page news every few weeks it seems. First TJ Max, then Target, eBay, Home Depot, Sony, etc.

Here is a list of some online scams to check out and make sure you aren't a victim of:

    • This is an attempt to acquire sensitive information from you, such as usernames, passwords, credit card info. This happens either through a spoofed web page or through an email sent to you.
    • Think of it like this, your "bank" sends you an email that reads, "Hello user, it appears you may have had your account information looked at by a hacker, please enter in your username and password so that we can reset it for you". First things first, your bank will never call you or attempt to get you to give this information to them. It is a scam, delete the email or hangup right away. Then alert your bank or other to a possible scam.
Phone calls from "Microsoft"
    • I had a call from a customer the other day where she was supposed to call Microsoft to get them to clear up a virus on the computer. You will NEVER get a pop-up or anything else from Microsoft telling you to call them. The only exception to this would be if you had initiated the call of support yourself, thats it.
    • If you end up needing to do a remote session with Microsoft, the website address you would generally go to is: If that is not the address you are given, I would highly suggest finding Microsoft support yourself and calling a number to get connected to a person that is a real employee.
A new one I heard of just today about a person posing as a courier and coming to your door and saying there is a package that is going to be delivered to you, but they need to verify your information and credit card data first...SCAM! If you think in any way that a person doesn't sound legitimate or what they represent doesn't sound real, shut the door or hang up, period. Better to possibly offend someone then to get your identity stolen or credit cards racked up.

Malware, Adware, Ransomware

  • Malware is malicious software that is used to gather sensitive data, gain access to your system, or just plainly disrupt computer operations for the fun of it.
  • Malware is also known as a computer virus, worm, trojan horse, spyware, scareware, adware
  • Adware is advertising-supported software that pops up on your computer screen, downloads or displays content and is a general nuisance.
  • Ransomware such as CryptoLocker, which targets Microsoft Windows operating systems, will start encrypting your precious files, pictures, videos, etc. Then it will demand you pay a ransom to get your files back. This is usually performed via Bitcoin.
  • For more information on Ransomware, please visit my other post here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I was talking with a coworker last night about ransomware and computer viruses. He had listened to a podcast about how an older woman had gotten ransomware on her computer. She was ready to just clear the computer out and start fresh, when she remembered that her husband had important documents and files on the computer that were worth well more than the $500 price tag that the ransomware demanded to get the files back.

For those of you who don't know, ransomware is a program/virus that encrypts the files on your computer so that you can't access them. It is more than likely found within an email link that you or someone else clicked on.

Basically what the ransomware will say if you get it on your computer is: "We encrypted all of your precious files, pictures, videos, etc. If you want them back, you have to pay us $500 to get them."
Of course, it's not just $500 in a transfer from your bank or Western Union, it's Bitcoin that they want.

What is Bitcoin? From the questions I've asked of people in their 30's and 40's, about 10% of them have actually even heard of Bitcoin. Then, ask people in their 50's and later and it goes down even more. The reason for this is because Bitcoin is a virtual currency or digital currency. It has only been around since 2009 and only in the past 2 years has it even been heard of more in the main stream.

Back to the ransomware you may have gotten. There are a few steps you want to do right away if you even think you may have gotten this terrible virus.
First, turn off your computer. Don't just hibernate or put it to sleep though, especially if it's a laptop. Take out the battery, pull the power cord, undo everything. The reason you want to do this is because the ransomware needs computing power to encrypt your files. No power = no more encryption and loss of your files.
Second, if you had a flash drive or backup hard drive attached to the computer, consider them compromised as well. You don't know how far the encryption may have spread. If this happened on your work computer, tell your IT staff right away; it could spread throughout the network and infected other computers and/or backup drives. Don't plug in any of the possible compromised devices in any other computers until you know they have been checked, the ransomware could spread after being plugged in.
Third, call your local IT company to find out if they can help you to recover your files. FM-IT Direct can do this for you of course!
One thing to note, if you decide not to pay the ransom, depending on what all you have on your computer, how important it is, if you have backups, etc., the files that have been encrypted ARE NOT recoverable.

How is FM IT Direct supposed to recover my files then? The files that are on your computer and devices that are not encrypted yet, (because you shut off your computer right away) can still be recovered.

From the story at the beginning of this lengthy article, the woman ended up paying the ransom and getting her files back, through quite a lengthy process.

One final thing to note. Even if you get the money together to pay and get your files back, the ransomers could just not send you the key and you'd be out both your money and your files. Or, if wherever the server is in the world that is holding your key were to be seized by the authorities and shutdown, you would also lose your files, whether you paid or not, or were going to pay.

One of the best things you can do is to get a backup solution such as Carbonite, (which FM IT Direct is an authorized reseller of) and having "versioning" in place. Having several versions of your backup files makes it so that if your computer gets ransomware on it and is completely compromised, your latest backup or a version of it, will still be safe and intact.

If you have any questions about this or any other service that FM IT Direct provides, please click here to be routed to the contacts page, or call 701-491-8750.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

For those of you who have heard about the uconnect hacking issue for Daimler/Chrysler vehicles, or if you haven't yet, there is a website you can go to and download the software update that will fix the problem.
Simply enter your VIN number in the box and it will tell you if you need to install the update. You can then either bring your vehicle in and get it updated, or download the patch to a USB flash drive and do it yourself.
Hope this helps anyone out there in need of this fix!
uconnect software update site

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Many of you out there have called me and asked to save your documents after getting infected by some version of encryption software on your computer. Most of the time, clicking on some email link or even just the email itself can download the software or take you somewhere and did it.

After watching a weekly podcast called Security Now that I subscribe to, I heard of a way that almost anybody could've gotten this nasty bug from going to any number of typical web sites.

Here is the video clip, it starts where I wanted it to at the beginning of the story and will end at 28:28, but if it starts at the beginning, just go to 22:30 to start. So a 6 minute video will give you a good idea of what had possibly happened. If you don't have 6 minutes to watch, look below the video to go to my quick explanation.

Basically, during a period from December 2014 to February 2015, if you went to any regular web site you visit such as, Daily Motion, Huffington Post,, How to and others and there was an ad on the page and your Internet browser had flash player enabled, you could've been affected. Pure and simply, you may have not done anything out of the ordinary and caught this nasty little bug.

This could've gotten anybody at any time from any of the sites listed in the video or more. So men out there, I know how we can be blamed for going to web sites that our significant others think are "not appropriate" and get the usual look when a virus gets on the computer, it very well could've been the other person who went to a site and caught it. Just food for thought.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Firefox users out there, if you have ever typed "about:config" into the browser search bar, it brings up any type of configuration option and information about Firefox that you can customize.
Anyways, there is a new plugin that someone put together that puts all of this information into a nice UI interface so you can browse it easily! 
Here is a screenshot of what it looks like:

Sunday, March 1, 2015

I've heard of some more ransomware news the last few days from Valley News Live and from the BBB of Minnesota/North Dakota. What it's saying is what I had explained in my last blog post; be careful where you surf and click, and be quick if you think you may have ransomware.

Being careful where you surf and what you click on has become more important in the past few years, especially on smart phones. Smart phones are being targeted more and more since so many people use them and are more apt to click on a link in their phone then on their computer.
It used to be said that if you thought an email was spam or could direct you to a malicious site, you should just open it on your phone instead. But, since hackers are directing more of there malicious programs to smart phones and tablets, it is no longer safe to assume checking a link or email on your phone is safer than checking on your computer.

The best thing to do when finding an unfamiliar email from anywhere that you don't know, or link in an email from a trusted friend or colleague, is to send it to your spam folder or delete it right away. What I personally do if I see an email from a friend or family member that doesn't look right, I'll call them or send them a text message or instant message asking if they just sent me the email and the subject matter. If they say yes and what it is, then I will be more apt to take a look at it. Or, if I send out an email with a link to it that may look strange to someone else, I will message them saying that I just sent them an email with a link and that it is fine to trust it.
It may seem like an extra unneeded step, but I'd rather be safe than sorry, and so would the other person that your'e sending to. This is a huge problem in the enterprise environment and you all have probably gotten lectures at work about not clicking on any strange emails. Basically if you don't trust it, don't click on it.

Why am I talking so much about emails and links you ask? The reason is because so many times, the way that people get tricked or scammed into visiting a malicious website is from simply clicking on a link in an email or website, or popup for that matter. Just clicking on a link may not even look like it's doing anything bad. But, that link could download a malicious program and install it on your computer or phone without your knowledge and then be gathering information on you or anyone else who uses the device.

I'm including a link to a great security blog by Brian Krebs called "Krebs on Security". He has put together a graphic about the value of a 'hacked' PC. Here is the link: Value Of Hacked PC

I'm also including another link to the same site by Brian Krebs where he illustrates the hacked value of an email account. Please take a look and read to give yourself a refresher or first time look at what can be done with your email address if it is hacked. Here is the link: Value Of Hacked Email Address

Finally, I am letting you know that FM-IT Direct can remove the ransomware from your computer, or if it has gone too far, we can salvage what is remaining of the data that hasn't been encrypted yet.
If you have run into Ransomware on your computer, please call (701) 491-8750 to talk to me or go to the contacts page here and we'll figure out what the best route is to get your files and your computer back!