Frequently Asked Questions
On a daily basis we answer a lot of questions from people trying to better understand their systems. Many of those questions are asked repeatedly by many different people. Here we would like to take some time to answer those questions for you.
How do I know if a webpage is legitimate?
The Internet can be a scary place. Not everyone out there has your best interests in mind. With that being said, It's important to know that the site you're visiting is put up by the people it claims to be by.
To do this it's important to pay attention to the URL in the Address bar. The address bar is typically found at the top of the page and will be white with black/gray text, as seen below. The most important part of this is the darker text, in this case "google.com" which is the primary domain name. This identifies the site you're on and is very difficult to fake. Some sites try and fake it by making a similar subdomain, like "google.somewhere.com" which is infact an entirely different site.
The domain name also comes in handy when searching for a site, for instance in google. Say we're searching for HP's support page. So we type in HP Support
If you look closely at the green address, you'll notice the first two results (above the line break) are not actually links to HP's support site. They are paid ads, and go to "iyogi.cc" and "ratchetinfotech.us", where as the next result (below the line break) goes to "hp.com." The next few links also go to HP's site in this particular instance.
Another thing to note is that the first two non-HP sites, also have phone numbers. These numbers are not going to be HP, but instead will be for a third party company, which will most likely expect to be paid for helping, and may also be malicious.
Microsoft Called Me...
One of the scams that gets a large number of people in trouble is a phone based scam. In these scams, the attacker will call a resident claiming to be one of any number of major computer companies (Dell, Microsoft, Google, HP, Etc.) and tell them that they are detecting an infection on their computer. These are always fake. These companies do not track the status of computers they sell after they sell them.
Once the caller has made contact they will almost always attempt to get the user to give them remote access to their machine. If allowed in they will often install viral or other malicious software on the machine and then claim that the user needs to buy software to clean the machine. If the user refuses, they will end up being blackmailed into removing the software or will have to take the computer to a shop to remove the infection.
How did I get infected?
Infections can come at you from almost any activity on the internet. Many legitimate sites are targeted as pathways to infections, either through the ads on the page (which are paid for and provided by a third party) or due to a hacker or virus compromising the web site itself. They can also come from sites specifically built with the intent to infect you. Using many of the same tricks that legitimate sites use, hackers can build sites which show up high in the search ratings for popular search terms, especially those related to current events, pop culture references, and common research topics.
Once you have reached one of these sites there will be a trigger which downloads the 'payload' into your temp files. Once it is on your computer it may either activate immediately or wait a pre-determined amount of time before it shows itself.
What Anti-Virus Should I use?
Anti-Virus Software comes in every shade of the rainbow with pricing to match. It can be a very confusing decision trying to choose which version to go with especially for those who aren't overly tech savvy. The debate about which is best is an argument that will probably never be settled, but there is generally a consensus on those that fill out the top spots.
To add to the confusion many of these also offer several versions including Trials, Free version and Paid version of which there may be several levels. Some also offer what they may call a 'smart scan' which is not in fact a working anti-virus but a basic scanner which will tell you when you are infected but lack the tools to remove it or protect you from it.
Despite what logic might tell you, many FREE anti-viruses are in fact just as good as their paid cousins. Here at PCS we generally recommend a small group depending on the situation of the client:
AVG easily holds our primary recommendation. For home users it offers a free version that is a rival for any off the shelf Anti-Virus such as Norton of McAfee. For businesses it requires a paid license which also comes with several extra features. AVG also offers several plug ins for their anti-virus which can add features like automatic backup and performance evaluations.
Microsoft Security Essentials is a free anti-virus offered by Microsoft which will often install itself with your automatic updates should you not have any anti-virus installed. It is very simple and since it comes from the same people as your operating system it is very easily installed on the computer.
Avira is a good (and free) alternative to either of the above and often works better with older computers that wont run either of the previous two. It is often more obvious about what its doing with pop up reminders and notifications in the bottom corner and can sometimes be distracting to the user.
Comodo is our recommendation for people who are willing to sacrifice simplicity and convenience for that extra layer of protection. Comodo takes the stance of putting all the security to the max and then pealing it back as needed. It can sometimes be a hassle for users and will prompt you to allow nearly every program you run on your computer, however this can block many attacks that others would miss.
The important thing to remember here is that with any anti-virus, they are reactionary and can only stop viruses after the virus has been identified and definitions have been updated. In order to truly be protected you have to be proactive. This means that even with anti-virus installed you must be looking out for your own good. Make sure your definitions are up to date (many of the newest AV software will do this automatically) and be careful about what sites you go to and what programs you let run on your computer.
How can I protect my children on the internet?
There are many ways to help keep your kids safe on the internet and monitor their usage. Some are better than others. We often recommend Blue Coat's K9 Web Protection software. It is free to use and allows multiple levels of security as well as customization to block specific sites, or allow specific sites. Alerts also trigger an audio alert in the form of a bark, allowing you to monitor activity, even when not in the same room. If it blocks a site you think should be fine, you can allow one time or permanent access by selecting that option and entering your password.
I acidentally deleted a file, What do I do?
It only takes one misclick to delete something important and lose important information. The first step to take is to check the recycle bin. This is located on your desktop and generally looks like a trash can. You can open it by double clicking, and inside you will fine a list of all your recently deleted files. If the file you deleted is there, you simply need to right click it and select 'Restore.'
If your file is not found in the Recycle Bin, then your options become slightly more complicated. The good news is, Windows doesn't 'Actively' delete anything. Instead, it marks the file as 'deleted' and then waits until it needs the space on the hard drive to write over it. This is beneficial in two ways. The primary reason it does this is to make the Hard Drive last longer, but a secondary benefit is that it allows recovery of lost and deleted files. With the right knowledge and the right software, it is possible to restore the file to it's previous location. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, this is something you can do on your own, but if you want to make sure it's done right, you should bring it to the professionals.
My Hard Drive failed, What now?
Hard Drives have a 100% failure rate. They are mechanical devices that typically spin at 7200 RPMs, and they can't last forever. Their lifespan can vary greatly though. Typically, they last 3-5 years, with some dying in less than a year, and others lasting a decade. There are many factors that determine how long they can go, including:
- Quality of Manufacture
- Local Environment
- Treatment and Use
- Type of Drive
Like anything, better manufacturing costs money, so a cheaper Hard Drive is less likely to live a long peaceful life, while a better Hard Drive is more likely to last. The enviornment that it's kept in can also play a big difference, if it's a dirty or rough enviornment, it's likely to degrade preformance and wear down the equipmnet faster. This extends to the treatment and use of the comptuer as well. A desktop drive will typically last longer than a laptop drive, since the desktop drive is stationary most of the time. By the same note, a laptop that is used gentally, and is typically operated on a table or desk will last longer than a similar laptop that is used in a vehicle, or in other situations that cause rocking and motion while the drive is in use. The Type of drive can also factor in, however, for most users, the drive types are generally similar, so there's not much to worry about there.