Warning: Protect Yourself from Cryptolocker and GameOver Zeus Now!

It has been two weeks since the National Communications Association warned the world about the GameOver Zeus and Cryptolocker ransomware, and if you haven’t taken steps to avoid these threats, it’s not too late – if you haven’t been infected yet, do so as soon as possible. Otherwise, your network will be vulnerable, and so will your banking credentials.

About Cryptolocker and GameOver Zeus
GameOver Zeus is said to be the reason for the massive spread of Cryptolocker, having infected more than 15,500 computers in the UK alone at the present moment. The peer-to-peer software used by GameOver Zeus looks for bank login credentials to steal sensitive information. If this malware doesn’t find anything of value on your computer, it will then proceed to install Cryptolocker, a type of ransomware that will lock down your PC’s hard drive and charge you a decryption fee. Cryptolocker utilizes a third-party certified cryptography software that conforms to Microsoft’s CryptoAPI, and thus is very difficult to get around without paying the fine. The ransomware locks down files on your computer, limiting what you can access. You are given a timeframe before the malware encrypts everything on your system. In other words, this is one of the worst threats we’ve seen in a long time.

What to Do to Protect Yourself
Here are some security tips from Michell Consulting Group to help you keep your computer safe.

  • Be Cautious. The malware spreads by sending out fake bank statements or malicious web pages that try to get you to enter in sensitive information. By clicking on these emails or visiting these web pages, you are allowing the malware access to your system. Look for anything out of the ordinary, such as lack of signatures on official emails or insecure URLs.
  • Update your security software. By making sure that any antivirus, email filtering, firewalls, and web filtering software is active and operating at maximum capacity, you can cut the risk of infection down significantly.
  • Run security scans frequently. Make sure that your computer hasn’t been infected by running frequent security scans for anything out of the ordinary. You can do this with most antivirus software, which will tell you if there is something threatening on your computer.
  • Keep your operating system up-to-date. By applying the most recent patches and updates, you’ll be fixing vital weak points in your system’s security. Enemy threats will otherwise take advantage of these vulnerabilities and infiltrate your computer.
  • Keep your Data Backed Up. For home PCs, where all of your important data is stored on the PC itself, you’ll want to have a backup solution. For businesses, you should be storing data on your server, not the PC, and that data should be getting backed up as well. If you don’t have a backup solution for your business, this is a critical piece of infrastructure you should consider.

You should print this page in the event that your computer has been locked down so you may best combat this dangerous malware. However, if you have only been threatened by the ransomware, do not pay it.

cyrptolocker screen

If you see this screen, take the following actions toward limiting the impact that the malware has on your system.

  • Disconnect your computer from the Internet, either by unplugging the wired connection or disabling the wireless connection.
  • Disconnect any external storage units, such as USB units, and disable any cloud storage software you may be using.
  • Do not attempt to remove the virus on your own. Contact the professional technicians at Michell Consulting Group at 305.592.5433.

Michell Consulting Group will attempt a system backup restore using your backed up files, provided they aren’t infected (and you have one). At this time, there is no way to decrypt files without the decryption key.

If your computer has been locked down by Cryptolocker, as previously mentioned, it is extremely difficult to crack, and downright impossible for the average computer user. Don’t let the crooks responsible for this malware push you around. Contact Michell Consulting Group today if you have any concerns about this threat.

5 Mobile Apps to Help You Translate the World Cup

Whether you’re watching the World Cup or going on a business trip overseas, you will experience foreign cultures and run into what’s known as “the language barrier.” Thanks to technology, you can quickly and easily make sense of World Cup statistics, or make your way around a city where English isn’t the norm.

How Many Languages Does Google Speak?
You might not speak fluent French, but Google sure does, along with Spanish, Russian, German, Japanese, Chinese, Korean… well, you get the idea. With a Google Translate app installed on your phone, you can translate phrases at will. Need to know where the closest bathroom is? Just type it into the translator, and then find a nearby resident to direct you. Oh, and it can’t hurt to know how to say “please” and “thank you” as well!

It should be noted that Google offers only a rough translation. It takes years to truly master a language and all of its intricacies, so don’t expect a perfect or grammatically sound translation.

They Speak, iTranslate Listens, You Learn!
iTranslate, a feature on Apple’s iPhone, takes it a step further and allows for verbal translations. The iPhone is able to detect languages during speech and translate it for you. This is particularly useful when someone is speaking to you and you don’t have any idea what they are saying. However, some people speak a little too quickly, and the iPhone might not be able to keep up.

We said it before, and we’ll say it again – technology isn’t a substitute for learning a second language, but it sure can be helpful in the endeavor.

Translate Me? No, Translate You
Translate Me, another free app, can be used to translate from one language to another. One of the most useful things about this app is the “Swap” button, which lets you invert the phrase that you just entered. Say you translated a phrase from Japanese to English – hitting the “Swap” button would swap it from English to Japanese (not much of a help, considering that Japanese characters are much different from English, partially limiting what this app can and can’t do).

This app also keeps an archive of everything you search for for easy access later. This is particularly useful if you are traveling a lot. Who knows – maybe one day you won’t even need a translation app!

Ziggy Who? Stardust?
This isn’t the David Bowie song we’re talking about here – it’s another interaction app for your smartphone called Ask Ziggy. The app itself isn’t dedicated to translation, but acts more like Siri for the iPhone, allowing you to ask questions and get answers, or prompt your phone to do certain commands. In this case, the app will translate your voice (or another’s) to another language.

When using Ziggy, you need to manually enable the translation settings. Afterward, the app will translate anything you say exactly, so be careful with how you word things. Otherwise, you might tell someone “translate good evening” on accident and not realize it until they give you a funny look!

The Most Generic Translator Name Ever
The simply-named Online-Translator.com app can translate to or from multiple languages at once. It even allows you to use a Topic area, which lets you specify what kind of word you are trying to translate. This can be especially useful for a Germanic language (such as German or English) where capital letters can be the difference between a verb and a noun. This will help you find the right translation for the right phrase. Like Translate Me, this app keeps an archive of searched phrases for later access.

No matter where in this world you go, you can rest easy knowing that you will be able to get back to your hotel or find the nearest bathroom with ease. Michell Consulting Group can hook you up with all sorts of mobile technology for your business in addition to these mobile apps to keep you more effective while on the road. To take advantage of these perks, call Michell Consulting Group at 305.592.5433 – we’ll do our best to make technology a little less foreign to you!

Don’t Be Neutral about Net Neutrality!

Lighting up the airwaves in the United States is the issue of net neutrality. It’s a complex and technical topic regarding Internet regulations, but don’t let the fine print keep you from caring. This is an important topic that could affect how the Internet is consumed around the globe!

Now, you may be thinking, “The laws governing how the United States uses the Internet will surely only affect America. The rest of the world shouldn’t be concerned.” Keep in mind that the Internet connects the global community, and if the citizens of the U.S. are hindered from connecting and contributing to this community, then the whole world will feel the effects of these new regulations–which are currently being considered by U.S. lawmakers.

What is Net Neutrality?
These new regulations regarding net neutrality are essentially an assault on the free sharing of ideas over the Internet. Currently, the Internet content in America is distributed neutrally (thus the term “net neutrality”), which means that everything posted on the Internet gets a fair shake at finding an audience. You can think of it like every news story, big and small, no matter the source, gets a chance to start at the same starting line in the race to be seen.

What’s being proposed to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by ISP companies (the businesses responsible for delivering Internet service), is permission to provide a tiered Internet service plan. The proposed plan will allow users to pay ISPs a premium for delivering their content to audiences more quickly. In the race to find an audience, it’s like a company can bribe the ISP to get a head start.

Why it’s Important to Keep the Net Neutral
Essentially, this will turn the Internet into a “pay to play” situation. Corporations with deep pockets will easily be able to pay the premium to get their content released first, giving them a hugely unfair advantage over the little guys trying to be heard. In fact, if a major corporation happens to deem an independent startup to be a threat, they can potentially pay extra to have their competitor’s message squashed. This new idea totally flies in the face of the entrepreneurial spirit which has allowed so many small startup companies to fairly find success in highly competitive markets.

Obviously, this is a big money grab by major Internet providers like ComCast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon, and they’ve got the giant corporations on their side–especially if these new regulations will give corporations the ability to make it harder for small startups to grow. This much money on the table is a recipe for disaster when mixed with politicians and the freedoms of the little guy.

Net Neutrality isn’t Dead Yet!
Thankfully, these new and egregious regulations have yet to be passed. Actually, before these new laws can be passed, the FCC has first agreed to hear from the public on this hot-button issue. U.S. citizens have until July 15th to submit their comments about net neutrality. These points will then be considered in an initial round of debates. The public will then have a chance to respond to the initial debate with additional comments that must be submitted by September 10th. Hopefully the outrage of the American people will be louder than the corporate dollars being funneled into Washington D.C. via lobbyists.

You don’t want to sit on the sidelines for this issue. If this goes through, it will have negative ramifications for how you consume data that’s important to you, like news and entertainment, as well as how your small business gets its message out. What are your feelings about net neutrality? Share them with us in the comments!

5 Good Reasons Your Business Should Use a Virtual Private Network

Whether you’re on the move or at the workplace, your WiFi connection isn’t the most secure method of browsing the Internet. Hacking techniques are growing more sophisticated, and you never know who could be observing your connection and Internet activity. Thankfully, there are ways to remediate this issue, like using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

A VPN provides many benefits for your business needs, and brings about two main goals. The VPN hides your network signal with encryption, shielding it from unauthorized viewing, and it hides your IP address by making it appear to be something that it is not, such as a machine in a foreign country or location. There are obvious benefits to this, but let’s go over five of the best reasons to use a VPN.

Public WiFi Will No Longer Be a Threat
Unfortunately, this might be news to some people – public WiFi, like your local McDonald’s or hotel is not safe, especially for confidential business emails and such. Public WiFi signals are not encrypted, and that can lead to your actions being observed by unwanted eyes. With a VPN, you can connect to public WiFi networks without fear, as the VPN will encrypt your browsing experience and keep you safe from eavesdroppers.

Concealing Your VoIP Calls
Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) can also be taken advantage of if you don’t take the proper security measures against hackers. By using a VPN, you’ll be able to protect yourself from these eavesdroppers. If you frequently use Skype or any voice-chatting software, it is a good idea to implement a VPN connection.

Avoid Prying Eyes That Could Come Back to Bite You
A hacker that’s out to dig up dirt on your business is able to take advantage of the Internet to uncover all kinds of dirt on you and the way you do business. In order to prevent your company from turning into the next Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber, use a VPN. This prevents your results from being traceable to you – particularly if you cover sensitive topics that could come back to haunt you and your company.

Keep Questionable Content Out of your Network
You don’t need to worry about what your employees do on their personal devices with a VPN. No matter what kind of questionable content an employee might look up or access on their computer, it isn’t connected to your network when they use their device personally, and use the VPN for business-related activity.

Privacy Is Your Right, Take Advantage of It
As a human being, you have a right to privacy (though the NSA might disagree), and you shouldn’t have to broadcast what you’re doing on the Internet 24/7 on a normal WiFi connection. You shouldn’t need to be monitored constantly. Your business should be able to function properly without anyone stepping on your toes, and your clients would appreciate it if their information was safe from prying eyes, as well!

If a VPN sounds like something you want to install for your business, give Michell Consulting Group a call at 305.592.5433. We’ll be able to hook you up with a solution to suit your business needs, and you’ll be able to rest assured that the only people monitoring your system are us – keeping threats out, and your company safe.

Turn Up the Cuteness with Pets at Work!

Pets at work? Yes! We’ve come across a fun, furry idea to relieve workplace stress. Kitties and puppies! In a fun twist to the workday, many companies are allowing staff to bring their pets with them to the office, and the results are adorable!

Pets Relieve Stress
It’s well-documented that pets reduce stress levels. Therefore, how nice would it be to pet an itty bitty kitty after experiencing a rough phone call with a customer? Or better yet, what about your faithful dog resting his face on your lap during an intense board meeting? With a few modifications to your company’s policies and office layout, you can decrease stress levels while turning up the cuteness!

Pets Make for a More Sociable Work Environment
Having pets at work offers companies with increased team collaboration. This is due to animals being such wonderful ice breakers. Think about the typical office setup with the sound of workers typing away at their computers over awkward silence. Unless your staff resembles that of a workplace sitcom, it’s likely that your office has some shy, or even antisocial people that can benefit from the easy conversations brought about by the itty bitty office kitty playing with a ball of string.

This new social dynamic can lead to office relationships being built that improve team communication and collaboration. Even customer relations can benefit from having pets around. Customers will want to pet the animals in your office and they will walk away from your company with a positive experience, along with a little bit of fur and slobber on their hand.

Pets Get People to Exercise
Another benefit to having a pet-friendly work environment is increased exercise. Think about it; Fido can’t sit in an office for nine hours straight. Sooner or later, the pooch has to make an organic contribution to the outside world. This will require someone taking a leash and spending time outside circling the block. Without such an incentive to exercise, employees may spend all of their breaks indoors checking social media while carbohydrates turn into fat.

It’s obvious that pets in the workplace can improve the office for the better. However, you probably don’t want to allow everyone to bring in all of their pets to work without first taking some precautions. Here’s a brief checklist that you will want to go through before opening the floodgate of cuteness.

  • Get input from everybody on the team about their like or dislike of pets. For example, a worker terrified of dogs having to spend their day sitting next to a pitbull will not turn out well. You will also want to check for allergies.
  • Have cleaning supplies handy along with a clear understanding of who’s responsible for cleaning up the messes.
  • Create a detailed policy that covers every possible pet problem. What types of pets or breeds aren’t allowed? Should pets be vaccinated? Are there areas where pets aren’t allowed? What are the consequences if an animal destroys company property? Having answers to these questions figured out in advance will save you a lot of stress for when the poop hits the carpet.
  • What do you think? Do you want to bring Poochie to work with you, or would the pet mess be too much for you to handle? Share with us your thoughts in the comments!