What is Multifactor Authentication and why do you need to use it?

We all have more online accounts than we really know what to do with! For the most part we simply login to any account with a username and password. However, due to the increase in sophistication of hacking techniques, constant data breeches, and social engineering, simple usernames and passwords are constantly getting hacked and stolen. Which means they aren’t good enough to keep your account out of the hands of bad people.

What is Single Factor Authentication?

Signal Factor Authentication, or SFA, refers to logins that only utilize a username and password.

What is Multifactor Authentication?

Multifactor Authentication, or MFA, adds additional layers of security to your SFA.

How does it work?

Most accounts have the option to add MFA to them. Whether you are checking your GMAIL, Facebook, Twitter, or shopping at Amazon.

Basically you set up more than a simple username and password. MFA uses your username, something you know, and something you have.

“Something You Know” refers to a password, PIN, security questions, or other personal information that you provide.

“Something You Have” refers to a code sent to your mobile device, an app that asks you to approve the login, a USB drive, or some other physical authentication that must be input in a timely manner to ensure you are the one actually making the login request.

Basically, adding MFA to your accounts means that a hacker cannot access your account even if they have the username and password since they will not have the 3rd part – the Something You Have.

How to Create a Secure Password

The longer the password, the more secure it is. The standard 8 characters should only be your starting point, consider making them at least 12 characters long.

Never use default passwords, any of the following, or any password resembling the following:

  • 12345678
  • 11111111
  • 123123
  • ABC123
  • Password
  • Password1
  • MyPass
  • Qwerty

A few more tips:

  • Never re-use old passwords
  • Pick a unique password for every account
  • Never use personal information (such as family names or birthdays)
  • Never use your pet’s name
  • Avoid using common words or sayings
  • Don’t use the name of your favorite sports team or actor/actress
  • Never share your passwords

Here’s an idea:

Pick your favorite line from your favorite song and use the first letter of each word in the line followed by a set of random numbers along with a special character. For example the line, “Help! I need somebody. Help! Not just anybody. Help!” Would be: HInsHnjaH158995!

That password is 16 characters long, contains both uppercase and lowercase, numbers, and a special character. Perfect for any account, easy for you to remember, and is very difficult for a hacker to try to figure out.

If you believe that you were hacked, always start by changing your password! Need help? Contact TeCHS


Click the image below to download this password information as a handy reference flyer (PDF).

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

9th anniversary

As we celebrate our ninth incredible and wonderful year as your TeCHS we always take time to look back at everyone that has helped us, guided us, taught us, hired us, partnered with us, and shared with us to help make TeCHS what it is today. We could not have gotten here without you.

We truly appreciate everything our amazing clients, customers, friends, family, and partners have done for us – thank you for your referrals and for your business. We truly appreciate you and we look forward to continue serving your technology needs.

This year has been incredibly difficult – for all of us. We wanted to make sure that you knew that your TeCHS are still here for you and are now doing the majority of our service calls remotely. Safety and health are our #1 priority! Most problems can be easily fixed off-site. Have an issue with your computer? Let’s schedule a remote service call and get you back up and running!

remote computer repair services

Seth and Kim, your TeCHS, are proud Ventura natives with well over 30 years of combined tech-y knowledge and know how. We strive to keep everyone’s digital life running smoothly and to keep business and money in our beautiful and wonderful county! From the home user to local business needs – we provide affordable, fast, friendly, professional and reliable services for everything from your toaster to your website!

-Your TeCHS 

New apps to help you learn something or get fit while in quarantine

Well, it has been well over a month since we were all ordered to “shelter-in-place” and I bet you are a bit bored. You are most likely also spending a lot more time using your phone, tablet, computers, and TVs than you are used to.

Here are a few new apps that can help distract you during this difficult time. A lot of people have found comfort in cooking, reading, exercising, and much more while we all hunker down at home and wait to reemerge into a (hopefully) COVID-19 free world.

LEARN TO COOK

The Project Foodie: Guided Cooking app will help you learn to be a better home cook. Recipes are demonstrated by professional chefs and are broken into steps.

LEARN SOMETHING ELSE

The EdX app offers hundreds of classes on just about any topic that you can think of. The classes have been compiled from some of the world’s best institutions including Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, Tsinghua, The Smithsonian, and more. Learn to code, learn about history, learn about the universe, and so much more!

LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE

Duolingo is a free to try language learning app that is structured more like a game than a class. It is very image heavy, fast-paced, and incentivizes you to keep going with small inconsequential rewards. On top of actual languages they have fictional ones like Star Trek’s Klingon and Game of Thrones’ High Valyrian.

GET FIT

Aaptiv is an audio app designed to get you moving. Just turn it on, listen, and workout. The Runkeeper app tracks when you run to help you measure your progress.

LEARN MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS

This meditation app is a free mindfulness, meditation, and compassion building tool for all ages. It is designed to ease your mind from the moment you open the app. The app gives you a self-evaluation and then analyzes your current state to give you a personalized experience. The sessions include things like guided breathing, brief meditations, or even calming compilations of cat videos (if you are lucky).

GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS

The Nextdoor app connects you with neighbors in your specific neighborhood. This is a good place to swap stories, trade items you need, and help keep an eye on each other from afar.

CONNECT WITH YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY

Always remember that connecting with others helps boost your overall mood. We are human and we need one another. Use apps like FaceTime and Skype to have a quick video call.

We are truly in unprecedented times but we will get through this together. Stay safe, stay sane, learn something new if you have the time, and make sure to check in on others… from the safety of your home, of course.

Need a hand or have a question? Please do not hesitate to contact us.

Tips to help during the COVID-19 Pandemic

covid-19 pandemic

The current COVID-19 pandemic is changing how our world works, educates, and socializes. We are all learning how to keep healthy, sane, and connected to each other during this difficult time. To that end, this month I won’t be writing about technology so much as sending out a few tips to help you keep connected and safe right now.

Get Out:

With stress and anxiety at an all time high, a dose of fresh air and sunshine can go a long way! Make sure to get out and get some sun every day. Simple short walks around the block can help you feel rejuvenated and generally happier.

Connect:

Just because we all need to stay at home and away from others right now doesn’t mean that we cannot connect with each other. How can this be done?

-Social media – If you don’t have any social accounts, now is a good time to set one up. Contact your loved ones and see which they are active on and create one yourself.

-Email – Take a few minutes to write short notes to friends and family to say hello, touch base, and even request assistance if you need it.

-Phone – Give people a call!

-Text – Same with calls and emails, texting is a great way to keep in touch with quick statements.

-Video – Now is a great time to learn to use Skype or Facetime to chat with loved ones and actually be able to see them.

Order Online:

-Lots of small businesses are going to need your support through this pandemic if they are to survive. Most of us eat out at least once a week but currently we cannot go to restaurants, consider ordering take out or delivery from your favorite local places.

-Most grocery stores offer delivery or pick-up services for orders.  

-Other places like Amazon, Costco, Target, Walmart, etc are still shipping orders from their warehouses – if you need toiletries or other items consider ordering instead of heading into a physical store.

A few general health tips:

-Stay home as much as possible.

-Call your doctor if you have respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing, or shortness of breath) and/or a temperature above 100.4 F. 

-Shield all coughs and sneezes with a tissue, elbow, or your shoulder (not your hands).

-Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If you cannot wash, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Let’s all remember to be considerate of other people and help slow the spread of this awful virus. Our best course of action is to slow how quickly the virus spreads by staying home and away from others. You can review the CDC’s guidance for more information on how you can do your part.

We are all in this together. We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy and remain that way. If we can help please let us know.

Cheap Cables – A Warning

charging cables

Did you know that the dollar store charging cable you bought and use on your devices just might be choking your tech to death? Did you know that recently there has been a huge influx of weaponized cables that can harm you as well as your device?

This is what is called Supply Chain Poisoning and it is kind of a big deal.

Cables are being sold right now with hidden malicious modifications that damage your devices and even steal data from your device and/or computer while you are charging it. Criminals have even found ways to embed small wireless transmitters right inside those skinny little cables.

Here are a few ways to protect yourself and your tech:

  • Buy only OEM cables from reputable dealers*
  • Charge your phone in a wall outlet – not connected to your computers’ USB port
  • Buy a USB protection adapter that blocks the data pins
  • Inspect any new cables for noticeable tampering

*Reputable dealers include stores like the Apple Store, Samsung’s online store, and Telco stores. Places like Amazon, WalMart, or your local Dollar Stores are not reputable dealers.

I know that OEM cables can be pricey but they are worth it. Don’t be caught with your cheap cable not only charging your phone… but also charging your credit card or stealing your identity!

Keep Your Smart Assistant Voice Recordings Private – How To Opt-Out

We all love our voice-activated helpers… on our phones or in our homes… but did you know that they record everything you say? Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant devices all have ways for you to opt out of recording and human transcription… but you have to actually opt out on your own. Do it!

I am sure that by now you have read at least one article full of revelations and apologies from literally all of the major smart assistant makers on how they handle the audio snippets that their devices record. Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri, and Microsoft Cortana were all using third-party contractors to transcribe all of the recorded audio from the devices. However, the backlash over the lack of transparency kick started quite a lot of new customer controls.

If you haven’t done so before, now is the time to take stock of how you have things set up on whatever platform you have chosen to use. Each service has its own mix of options and controls. So, here is how to stop Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana from recording and keeping your voice data… and once you are done, tell a friend or two to do the same.

Siri

To opt-out on Siri : Settings > Privacy > Analytics & Improvements > Improve Siri & Dictation and toggle the switch off.

If you previously has this enabled, you will need to delete all the audio Apple has collected from you. To do that, go to Settings > Siri & Search > Siri & Dictation History > Delete Siri & Dictation History to wipe everything clean.

Alexa

Amazon was the first smart assistant company to centralize and expand its user controls for voice recording retention, but it mainly due to massive public backlash.

You can review the voice recordings Amazon has stored for your account by going to Settings > Alexa Privacy in the Alexa app or through Amazon’s website. There you can delete entries one by one, by date range, by device, or everything. You can also delete recordings by device on the Manage Your Content and Devices page. You can delete voice recordings directly through the smart assistant device by saying things such as “Alexa, delete what I just said,” or “Alexa, delete everything I said today”… but you will need to turn on that feature. To turn that on in the Alexa app or Amazon’s website go to Settings > Alexa Privacy > Review Voice History.

To opt out of sending your Alexa recordings to Amazon, go to your Alexa Account in the Alexa app then Alexa Privacy > Manage how your data improves Alexa and turn off Help Develop New Features and Use Messages to Improve Transcriptions.

Google Assistant

Google offers a number of ways to stop audio retention or to delete your recordings. This page lays out the different ways you can choose from to delete or opt out in a desktop browser, on Android, or on iOS. To delete recording on desktop, open your Google account and choose Data & personalization in the left navigation panel. There, under Activity controls, choose Web & App Activity and then Manage Activity. Here you can scroll through the list of entries—those with an audio icon next to them include a recording and you can delete individual items one at a time. Or on this same page click the More menu in the upper right, choose Delete activity by and under Delete by date select All time. Then at the bottom choose Delete.

To opt out of letting Google collect recordings in the first place open your Google account and choose Data & personalization in the left navigation panel. There, under Activity controls, choose Web & App Activity and then make sure the box next to Include voice and audio recordings is unchecked.

Cortana

To manage or delete your audio recordings of interactions with Cortana, make sure you’re logged into your Microsoft account and then go to Microsoft’s Privacy Dashboard.

Regardless of which platform you use keep in mind that these expanded controls, while positive and necessary, don’t change the fundamental concept of smart assistants. These services run on devices that contain a microphone, and can be woken up to “hear” things you’re saying and process them on a random faraway server. As with any internet-enabled technology—but particularly one that involves a potentially live mic—there are always going to be privacy considerations no matter how much control you have.

If these devices are a helpful and delightful force in your life, that’s fine! Just take steps to protect your privacy.

Microsoft support for Windows 7 is nearing the end!

windows OS

Can you believe that Windows 7 is 10 years old? Some time ago Microsoft announced that support for Windows 7 will come to an end on January 14, 2020.

So, what does “end of support” really mean?

On January 14, 2020, and going forward, your computer will still function but Microsoft will no longer provide the following for your operating system:

  • Technical support
  • Software updates
  • Security updates or fixes

Can you still use your computer?

Technically yes. You could continue to use your PC running Windows 7 however, without continued software and security updates it will be at great risk of hacking, viruses, and malware.

What should you do?

Well, it is once again time for an operating system upgrade. You will need to migrate over to Windows 10 as soon as you can.

Do you need a new computer?

That depends. Some older systems can handle the new operating system and some will not be able to.

Have questions? Need a hand? TeCHS can help! Contact us for an appointment today.

Start 2020 Right! Technology Tips for the New Year

happy new year 2020

2020 is just around the corner and now is the time to prepare all of your tech, your business, your marketing, and yourself for the coming year. Here are a few helpful tips in all 4 areas.

1.) For Your New Tech

Setting up a new device

Fully charge your new device before you begin setup or use. If the device requires an account (Apple ID, Google, Microsoft, Amazon account, etc.) you should login (or recover) any existing accounts that you have. If you wish to set up a new account for your device, be sure to document the email address and password/pin numbers used to create the account. Always add security questions, or 2-factor authentication, as well as a valid alternative contact method (email or phone number). Once your device setup has been completed you should connect your device to your wireless network (if applicable) and perform any system updates by accessing the settings from your device menu.

Protecting your device

Electronics are expensive, and accidents happen. Invest in a high-quality case as well as a good screen protector. If you feel you are very accident prone, consider adding device protection offered by your provider.

Maintaining your device

To keep your new device running at peak performance take some time to regularly uninstall unused apps, disable unneeded notifications, and restart your device regularly. You also need to periodically physically clean the entire device with a soft non-abrasive cloth. When charging the device – never leave it on a charger overnight. This will cause damage to the battery and shorten its lifespan.

2.) For your Business

The start of a new year is an exciting and challenging time for businesses. It is a great time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t over the previous twelve months. It is also an excellent time to take stock and evaluate what your business needs to go forward.

Is Your Hardware Still Up to The Task?

If your computers and peripherals are over 2 years old it is well past time for a hardware upgrade. Newer hardware isn’t only safer to use, it is faster, and is capable of holding more data. Today’s computing demands asks a lot of our hardware and older hardware simply isn’t up to the task. Take time to review your IT demands to ensure there are no bottlenecks in your productivity pipeline.

Is Your Backup Reliable and Working?

Every business needs reliable backups for their data. It doesn’t matter if you simply transfer files manually to an external hard drive or USB storage device, copy documents over to a local server, or save all of your media to the cloud, you need to have a system in place that is performed on a regular basis. You don’t want to find out that your backups haven’t been going on when you need them the most.

Is Your Compliance Up to Date?

Nearly every business has compliance and regulations standards that it must adhere to if it is to keep its position in the marketplace. These may be industry specific (such as medical or automotive certifications), or regional protections (such as data protection regulations). Compliance regulations tend to change regularly. Make sure that yours are up-to-date.

3.) For Your Business Marketing

Is your website ready for 2020?

Website trends are constantly changing and your site needs to change with them. Much like your hardware, if your website’s look and feel hasn’t been updated in the past 2 years it is well overdue for a facelift. Web technology, consumer expectations, search engine optimization rules, and more change dramatically from month to month. If you don’t keep up you will be left behind by your competitors that do.  

Social Media Channels

Is social media part of your marketing strategy? If it isn’t, it sure should be! You need to be where your potential customers are and they are all over social media. Take the time to put together an engaging strategy for 2020 that includes posting on a very regular basis.

Marketing Materials

Do your marketing materials still reflect the right message for your brand? When was the last time they had a re-design of their overall look and feel? All of the materials about your business that your prospective customers see need to stay on top of current visual trends in order to be noticed.

4.) For Yourself

A new year can be a bit daunting but never forget that you need to take time to work on yourself as well. We aren’t talking about New Year’s resolutions that everyone forgets about come February. I mean the small things every single day that make your day better, your life better, and the lives of those around you better. Keep the playful kid inside of you alive and enojoy every day that you can. Life is short. Enjoy!

… and Happy New Year!

May 2020 bring the everyone peace and happiness they deserve.

Scammers are exploiting a Firefox bug to freeze your browser

Scammers are taking advantage of a Firefox bug that causes your browser to lock up and display the following message:

“Please stop and do not close the PC … The registry key of your computer is locked. Why did we block your computer? The Windows registry key is illegal. The Windows desktop is using pirated software. The Window desktop sends viruses over the Internet. This Windows desktop is hacked. We block this computer for your safety.”

It then tells you to call a toll-free number.

Don’t call the number!

Never ever call any number like this.

Simply force-quit your browser and go about your day.

Mozilla says it’s actively working on a fix but as of right now there isn’t one.