QWorks Computer and Network Monitoring and PCI Compliance

In response to clients requests regarding keeping their systems up and running, QWorks has implemented a network/computer monitoring system. The system is available in 3 Tier levels.

–Tier 1–

This Tier level will monitor and alert me to the following:

Whether Anti-Virus is or isn’t installed.
Has there been a recent Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD)?
Hard drive space running low .
Application crashes.
Errors reported to Windows Device Manager.
Fragmentation of your hard drive.
Hard Drive health.
Whether your firewall is or isn’t enabled.

–Tier 2–

This Tier level includes Tier 1 services and adds:

1) Installation of appropriate hardware which includes a minimum of a QWorks supplied router providing a basic level of security and reliability.

2) Centrally managed Anti Virus and Anti Malware including frequent updates to the detection database.

3) Centrally managed updating of most third-party applications. This Tier level automatically updates your third-party applications as software manufacturers discover flaws in their software and issue version updates to correct these flaws which often include patching for cyber security issues.

–Tier 3–

This Tier level includes Tier 2 services but replaces the basic router with a Unified Threat Management (UTM) router providing a higher level of protection from cyber criminals.


Each Tier level often allows me to solve problems before you even know they occur.

We can also provide network switches, 1 or more WiFi access points, an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), and more. All of these devices are also monitored from the cloud and can alert me if there is a problem with any of these devices, including a loss of internet connectivity.

Many businesses accept credit cards and are thefore subject to Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance. QWorks can ensure that your Information Technology equipment is fully PCI compliant. Lack of PCI compliance can result in a data breach and/or heavy fines which can be be very expensive (in the multiple thousands of dollars range) and is therefore very important. Tier level 3 is required for PCI compliance.

Call or email me today and find out what I can do for you.

QWorks is offering a few new services – including Cybersecurity

In response to some of my clients, QWorks is offering a few new services.

— Basic Protection —
Nothing will protect you 100% but first line of defense is stopping an infection from occuring in the first place with a tiered layer of security.  Begin with a Unified Threat Manager router from Calyptix.  After that, MalwareBytes Premium can help. Should an infection occur, recover files with an off-site backup via QWorks Backup.

— Internet Connectivity Backup —
If your internet goes down, can you still conduct business? You can if I install a cellular based Internet backup system.

Call or email me today and find out what I can do for you.

Backup, backup, backup – and backup

You’ve heard the phrase “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” right?  You’ve been meaning to “do something” about backing up your data.  Well, it won’t get done unless you actually DO SOMETHING.

As an example of the importance of backups, a vulnerability first uncovered by the National Security Agency and then released by hackers on the internet is just one of many RansomWare attacks and is now being used in one of the most prolific cyberattacks ever launched around the globe.

It’s called WannaCry, and it’s brought computer systems from Russia to China to the UK and the US to their knees, locking people out of their data and demanding they pay a ransom or lose everything. So far, more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries have been affected, with victims including hospitals, banks, telecommunications companies and warehouses.

And this is just one variant of ransomware.  There are thousands more.

Should you be infected with any ransomware, you are faced with 2 choices: pay the ransom and hope or restore from backups.

I know which I’d rather do.

To have a reliable backup system, your data must exist in 3 separate places:

1) The original data
2) An onsite backup
3) An offsite or “cloud” backup such as QWorks backup

Ransomware is one of the most destructive pieces of malware in existence. This malware encrypts your files which then requires a “key” to unencrypt each encrypted file. This “key” can be purchased from the Ransomware thieves and varies in cost typically from $300.00 to $600,000.00. And there is no guarantee you will get the “key” or that the the “key” will work. Ransomware typically encrypts Word, Excel, and Quickbooks files, along with many others, and usually encrypts your onsite backup files as well but will not encrypt your offsite or “cloud” files. So, your onsite backup is for “normal” issues such as accidental file deletions, modifications, or corruption. One of the primary purposes of an off-site backup is protection from Ransomware.

So what should you do to help prevent an attack?

1) Back up your computer and store the safety version in the cloud or on a drive that is not connected to your computer.

2) Use robust antimalware software.

3) Keep all the software on your computer up-to-date. Enable automatic updates.

4) Never open attachments in emails from someone you don’t know. And remember that any email account can be compromised.

5) Enable the “Show file extensions” option in the Windows settings on your computer. This will make it much easier to spot potentially malicious files. Stay away from file extensions like “.exe,” “.vbs” and “.scr.”

6) If you find a problem, disconnect your machine immediately from the Internet or other network connections (such as home Wi-Fi).  Call me or any reliable computer repair professional.

Over time, your backup system may fail or require additions or modifications. Therefore, a procedure of checking on your backups on a regular basis should be instituted. This is something I can do for you if you like.

Contact me and I can examine your backup system, correct what’s wrong, or install a backup system if you don’t have one.

Keyboard and/or Barcode Scanner Not Working

4-day marathon of tracking down a major problem shared by 5 different clients.
USB input devices, keyboard and scanner, will not output data that has been input. In other words, keyboard and barcode scanner won’t work. Think that won’t put a hitch in your giddy-up?
Turned out to be, get this, HitmanProAlert.
Go figure. I love my job. It’s so easy. I just finished remotely controlling about 12 computers and implementing the fix. Uninstalling HitmanProAlert.

So, yeah, I think I got everyone squared away today. If anyone out there is still having this problem, lemme know.

Windows XP end of life – What does it mean?

Microsoft has announced that April of 2014 is the cutoff date for Microsoft’s support of the Windows XP Operating System. What does this mean for you? The most important point to stress is that your computers WILL continue to operate.

As of October 2010, Microsoft discontinued sales of the XP Operating System. Since then, one cannot buy a computer with that Operating System. Microsoft has continued to release patches and updates for the XP OS, and as of this writing, is continuing to do so until April of 2014. It is these patches and updates, or rather the lack of, that pose the first problem.

As malware programmers continue to pursue us, Microsoft makes every effort to prevent these miscreants from harming us. These efforts are released as updates and patches every Tuesday and if your system is set up correctly, they are downloaded and installed automatically, generally without you even noticing. Many of these patches replace existing system files that may have become corrupt over time and with the replacement, keep your computer running trouble-free. In April of 2014, they stop.

The next problem will be the lack of applications and drivers for Windows XP. Manufacturers of printers, as an example, peripheral manufacturerers no longer make drivers for Windows XP. So as we continue to add new equipment or replace older equipment, it is likely that the newer equipment will not work with Windows XP. Application developers will no longer develop Windows XP compatible programs. Quickbooks, Quicken, Microsoft Office are examples of such; after a certain date, as yet unknown, we’ll not be able to install these programs on a Windows XP machine.

Now is the time we should look into what Operating System we’ll need to replace the outgoing Windows XP Operating System. Windows 7 and Windows 8 are the current viable Microsoft Operating Systems. Which one is right for you? That depends on many factors including the hardware, software, and peripherals you have installed. These newer Operating Systems can require significant horsepower and memory. Your existing computers may or may not be enough. The only way to know for certain is to assess your current systems and make a determination after the assessment.

Please call if you’d like me to help.

PCI Compliance and Your Business

If you process credit cards in a retail environment, you’ve heard about PCI Compliance. But what have you done about PCI Compliance? The consequences of non-conformance to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards can be very severe. Let’s secure your system and prevent an unwanted horror story.

Why Cleaning Your Computer Is Important

Most of us don’t give much thought to the inside of our computer cases.  And that’s good.  Computers, for the most part, are very reliable machines and don’t usually insist we occupy our heads with constant concern.  But a little thought now and then about cleanliness will help keep our computers trouble free.

There are two main categories of clean.  The first is software junkware buildup.  The second is the physical interior of your computer case.
– Junkware cleanup should be done at least quarterly.  Allowing junkware to increase its presence can slow down or stop the computer.
– The biggest enemy faced by the inside of your computer case is heat.  Heat can cause a CPU to shut down, a power supply to blow up, or a hard drive to fail completely.  This is why, when you buy a desktop computer from me, you get at least 3 fans:  1 for the CPU, 1 for the power supply, and 1 for the case.  But if dust is allowed to build up inside the case, the fans can’t do their job.  The dust will block the airflow, cause overheating, and slow down or stop the computer.


QWorks Quick Q&A – Laptop problems

Laptop and notebook computers have their own set of problems.  If it’s related to software, memory, or hard drives, I can help you.

However, if you need a new screen or a new power jack, I recommend using a compamy that specializes in this kind of repair.  I have a relationship with such a company.  You can contact them directly or I would be happy to look at your problem and be your intermediary.

Contact information for Laptech PC is:
(770) 449-4600

QWorks Quick Q&A – Viruses, Trojans, Adware, Spyware

Virus, Trojan, Adware, Spyware. All of these things can be grouped under one common term: malware. And what is malware?

In its simplest terms, malware is any program that does something to your computer that is not good. It can delete files, stop you from running programs while pretending to be the solution for that problem, collect information about your internet surfing habits, collect credit card information; anything the author wants it to do. And it usually does this without your knowledge or permission! Not good.

So how does one remove malware? The real answer is: it depends. It depends on what has infected your system. And is it just one infection or is it more? Malware, once installed, usually calls its buddies to come and play. So a typical infection commonly involves more than one piece of malware. The ONLY sure-fire way to remove all malware is to reformat your drive and reinstall Windows, and your applications and data.

How did you get infected? Most infections occur due to visiting an infected site or opening a malicious email attachment. There is no telling what website is infected or whether or not an email attachment is an infection waiting to happen.

How does one keep from getting infected? Since one cannot know, in advance, what website is infected or what email attachment is harmful, the best bet is a multi-level approach.

1) Stay away from websites that are known to be prone to infection and don’t open email attachments from people you don’t know.

2) Install software that helps keep you from becoming infected.

3) Install software that can clean an infection if it gets through your defenses.

I have come up with a combination of software that addresses each of these steps. It is NOT foolproof, but it sure gives you a head start on prevention and cleaning.

A) Web of Trust for notifying you of known bad sites. (FREE)

B) Microsoft Security Essentials for detecting and preventing an infection. (FREE)

C) Malwarebytes Premium for detecting and preventing an infection, and for cleaning an infection if it does get through. (PAID)

Here are the links for each of these:

Web of Trust: http://www.mywot.com

Microsoft Security Essentials: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/security-essentials-download

Malwarebytes Premium: https://malwarebytes.org

Proper installation and setup is essential. Call me and I’ll help.

QWorks Quick Q&A – Where is my file?

I am often asked to find a file for someone and then discover that knowing about files and folders is a bit rare these days.

Modern Operating Systems have a structure of folders and files that is based on the way we all keep track of real files and folders. Files are in a folder, the folder is in a drawer, the drawer is in a cabinet, etc. Computers are organized in the same manner.

When you create a document with an application such as Microsoft Word, that document is stored as a file. That file is in a folder, that folder may be in another folder, and all folders are stored in a cabinet. That cabinet is called a hard drive. Most documents that you create are stored, by default, in a particular folder named Documents or My Documents. All files have their favorite folders; Music, My Music, Videos, My Videos and so on.

Learn the file and folder structure of your computer and you may never have to ask me “Where is my file?”.

Copyright © 2013. All Rights Reserved.