IT Consulting and Tech Support Blog

The Cost of “Free” Software

Have you ever been tempted to try to acquire expensive software without paying for it? It turns out that “free” software can be more expensive than one might think!

Take Photoshop for example: Subscribers can sign up and start using Photoshop for as little as $10, a far cry from the high upfront cost that it used to be, in the range of $600+. Adobe’s move to this subscription model makes it easy for aspiring artists or even amateur photographers to use the professional software at a reasonable cost.

Don’t want to pay? Cracked versions of Photoshop are illegal, and trying to obtain them can lead to more than just legal trouble. A Google search for “Photoshop crack”, “Photoshop key”, or similar keywords can yield a wide array of results. It’s possible that some of these results will actually lead to a download of Photoshop. However, many of them can lead to pages full of malware, viruses, or worse.

When searching for a “free” version of copyright protected information or product, there is a high probability of coming across websites that are less than trustworthy. Often times, these sites have malicious advertisements or pop-ups that are created to harm the computer and the entire network that is connected to it.

New River Computing has seen quite a few “ransomware” infections in recent weeks as a result of Flash ads from searches, malicious email links, and more. Here’s an example of what can go wrong:

We received a call about some files not being accessible. Our engineers connected to the server and immediately noticed the issue—all of the client’s files had been encrypted by a malicious virus. Our team jumped into action right away and disabled access to the server to stop the encryption process. The next step was to identify the infected computer. After a bit of digging, the computer was identified and steps were taken to determine how it became infected. By stepping through the web browser’s search history, several sites associated with free software were identified. Many of these sites contained pop-ups and Flash-based ads. It was eventually determined that the infection came from a compromised Flash ad stream.

Here’s how the virus works:

  1. The virus installs using a security flaw
  2. It searches for files to encrypt, scanning the network for shared folders on other computers and servers
  3. Then the virus encrypts (locks or conceals) the files and folders making it impossible for you to retrieve them
  4. The virus reveals itself when you try to access a file or folder and you see a pop up with an “800” number to call for the ransom
  5. If you call the number and pay them, they may release your files and folders; or they could take your credit card information and go on vacation

After all is said and done, several engineers worked simultaneously in order to regain control and scrub the network, adding up to about 11 hours, with the cleanup cost totaling around $1500. Comparing the costs of a virus remediation vs the costs of paying for Adobe Photoshop: For the same price as the infection cleanups, the user could have had the full Photoshop subscription for 30 months (2 ½ Years) or just the photography suite for 150 months (or 12 ½ years.).

We should note that we were able to restore all files that had been encrypted, because there was a complete and current backup.

As Robert H. Heinlein once said, “TANSTAAFL!” (There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.)

 

Posted in Backups, Exploits, New River Computing News, Security Products, Vulnerabilities, Web Security | Leave a comment

Top 5 Risks of Outdated Technology

Click on the image below to view Microsoft’s infographic of The Risky Business of Outdated Technology!

MS_RiskyBusiness_v13

We can help – Contact us for a free network review!

Posted in Exploits, Microsoft Windows, Technology Trends | Leave a comment

The most destructive computer viruses – infographic

Supreme Systems IT put together this infographic about the “most destructive” computer viruses of all-time. It gives a broad overview and history of computer viruses and malicious software.

computer virus infographic

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HIPAA security – keeping data secure

If you are a “covered entity” under the HIPAA Security rule, then you already know that your company (and thus your employees) collect a lot of protected health information (aka PHI). PHI is basically information about another person that is not for public knowledge but needed in order to conduct business. What business? Information that insurance companies need to process claims and health care professionals need for continuity of care.

Due to more recent mandates, healthcare entities have been required to use electronic health records where patient information is entered, accessed, stored, and distributed through computer and web based programs.  The HIPAA security rule simply states that all data that pertains to PHI must be secure and not accessible by persons that do not need to know or by persons that intend to harm. Continue reading »

Posted in Exploits, Mobile Security, Technology Trends, Uncategorized, Vulnerabilities, Web Security | Leave a comment

How will users upgrade to Windows 10?

Windows 10 Logo

Microsoft seems to be (mostly) following Apple’s OSX strategy by making its own upcoming OS “Windows 10” a free upgrade. According to Thurrott.com, “Microsoft says it will deliver the final version of Windows 10 to 190 countries sometime between June 21 and September 23, 2015.” The update will be available to existing Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 customers. Continue reading »

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5 Ways to Avoid a Phishing Attack

Here at New River Computing, we like to share interesting infographics as we come across them. Our main goal is to try and disseminate intricate IT related information quickly and clearly, to as many users as possible.

This particular one deals with Phishing Attacks. We hope it helps. Stay Safe!

Continue reading »

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Craigslist Resume Scam Spreads Trojan Virus

Reports of “Craigslist résumé” viruses have skyrocketed in recent months. Some of our clients here at New River Computing have unfortunately fallen victim to this recent outbreak. Thankfully, we’ve been successful at cleaning up the aftermath, but often the remediation process is long and arduous due to the sophistication of the malware. Continue reading »

Posted in Exploits, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Windows, Virus Outbreak Alerts, Vulnerabilities, Web Security | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Matt Stuart featured on WDBJ7 cyber security report

NRC’s Matt Stuart was recently interviewed for a feature on Ronaoke’s WDBJ7 about cyber-security and how you can protect yourself this Cyber Monday. Matt discussed some of the recent trends in security vulnerabilities include cold-calls from scammers falsely claiming to be Microsoft support representatives, and spoofed websites that fool users into thinking they are visiting a legitimate site. You can check out Matt’s advice on the video clip above.

Keep in mind that Microsoft, along with most other legitimate technology companies, will never call you out of the blue and ask for credit card information or access to your computer.

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Battling Fake Microsoft Support Scammers

Microsoft Support Scam

Fake antivirus support is a problem. We know fake “Microsoft representatives” call targeted Windows users to persuade them that their computers are inundated with warnings and errors as shown in the Windows Event Viewer, a legitimate Microsoft application that lists system information. We even watched Jerome Segura, a senior security researcher at Malwarebytes—catch some of these over-the-phone tactics on video.

Unfortunately it seems scammers still use the telephone to cold call folks pretending to work for Microsoft (or some other reputable software company) in order to convince users that their computer needs “fixing.” But as users get smarter, scammers get bolder. Recently, scammers have begun claiming that they need immediate remote access to computers in order to fix security threats. Once they convince the user to allow them remote access in order to “take care of the problem,” these savvy scammers then suggest installing fake malicious software—in order to “protect” the machine from future infections.

Just a few days ago, this happened to one of our clients. After receiving a phone call from someone claiming to be from “Microsoft Security Services,” Sally, as we’ll call her, was told that her computer had been hacked by someone in Austin, TX, and the “representative” claimed he needed to remote in to fix it right away. Continue reading »

Posted in Exploits, Microsoft Windows, Security Products, Technology Trends, Virus Outbreak Alerts, Vulnerabilities, Web Security | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NRC’s George Probst films first 360-degree great white shark video

A curious great white shark swims into to check out the Kolor Abyss 360.

NRC’s web designer, George Probst, was asked early this year to test out a new underwater camera rig that films 360° footage. George took the Kolor Abyss 360 on his recent great white shark diving trip to Isla de Guadalupe, and was able to capture some close-up footage of great white sharks. As far as we know, this is the first published video footage of great white sharks using this technology. This new technology allows for the video to be viewed from any angle and will create an immersive experience when viewed with a head-mounted display (such as the Oculus Rift).

You can read more about George’s experience with this new technology and view the 360° videos at Exclusive 360 degree video of great white shark.

If you’re lucky enough to have a head-mounted display, let us know how the experience was. If not, you can still experience the 360° effect by clicking and dragging on the video with your mouse to change the viewing angle.

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