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I won’t click on random or suspicious links

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Fake | Spoofing | Virus-filled | Identity-stealing | Hacking | Phishing Emails. So how do you know?Online Thief

Fake emails and websites will try to look like a real company’s email: all for the purpose of stealing your personal information. Passwords and account numbers are the favorite to grab, but sometimes to simply track your browsing habits and send information to the criminal’s web site. Hence it is important to check shortened links that come in emails to ensure more safety.

EBay, PayPal, Amazon are some of the favorites to spoof, because they are such common web sites. If you are getting emails from a web site like those mentioned, and you are not sure, then close the email. Open a browser, and login to the web site directly. Any email that came to you should be mentioned somewhere in the notifications area. The good news is a lot of the emails come from out of country, and the wording of the emails are sometimes a giveaway. Check for proper use of grammar and spelling. Really look at the logo in the email – is it pixelated? Or, does it look as clean as the ones on the web site.

Online Thief

How to tell if the link in the email is safe without clicking on it

Use a link scanner

Link scanners are web sites and plug-ins that allow you to enter in the URL of suspicious link and check it for safety. URLVoid is a really good one, because it uses multiple services to research.

In order to copy the link safely, without clicking on it, you can right click on the link and choose copy shortcut (IE), Copy Link (Firefox) or Copy Link Address (Chrome). You can paste this into the Link Scanner utility.

Check Shortened Links

URLVoid can’t handle shortened URLS from services like tinyURL or Bitly, To check shortened links that you usually find on services like Twitter, you can use Sucuri. It will expand the shortened links and check it against a variety of services to ensure no threats are pending. In order to copy the link safely, without clicking on it, you can right click on the link and choose copy shortcut (IE), Copy Link (Firefox) or Copy Link Address (Chrome). You can paste this into the Link Scanner utility.

Hover over the link

If you hover over a link without clicking on it, you will see the full URL pop up with the links destination in the lower corner of your browser.


I Promise to Restart My Computer

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Reboot OftenHow often should I restart my devices? That is always the question. We all know the technology answer to everything: Did you restart? But why? Restarting your device simply gives your device a fresh start. Nothing bogging down memory, froze applications cleared, and generally either fixes or at least give a fresh troubleshooting start.

If the device is a smartphone, you should not have to restart it often at all. If you have recently installed OS updates, or, on occasion if things just don’t seem to be acting right. You can simply shut down the apps to solve the problem. Restarting your device is sometimes the quickest way to free up RAM. If the phone is suddenly running much hotter than usual, a restart is also in order.

If the device is a tablet, like an iPad or Android, they are in the same category as a smartphone. However, when you get into Surface Pros, Windows Tablets, or equivalent, then they should be treated and restarted as you would a laptop. If applications are hung up, or when the fans are whirring loudly and sound like a jet airplane. Most newer laptops with Windows 8 or Windows 10 are designed to sleep and use virtually use no power or resources. Because of this, you should not have to keep restarting your device.

If the device is a laptop, it depends on the brand, and the usage. If applications are installed, Windows Updates, or simply seems like the fans are whirring, it is simply time to reboot. Windows 7 Laptops have more of a power draw, and should be rebooted a little more often. And what about if you running something older? Restart at the end of each business day, and then call Sandra Network for a replacement!

If the device is your desktop, then same rules apply as a laptop. Windows 10, Windows 8 need a restart rarely. Windows 7, sometimes. Anything older, daily is best.

Personally, I try to remember to restart each Friday or at the end of my work week, to ensure the computer AND I both get a fresh start for my return Monday morning.


I won’t click on any emails unless I know who it is from

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Are you surprised that Great Aunt Mildred is actually on email? Well, most likely she isn’t, and you are being scammed. Is it unusual that your Help Desk department just sent out a coupon for a great deal? If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is an email scam.

Typically, if the email is from a scam artist, known as a “fake” email, the sender will try to make sure the email comes from a real company. They are really meant to get you to click on them and share personal information. The real key is in the email headers. Where email headers are found varies based on the email program you are using. In Gmail it’s under Show original. In Outlook you can find it in various places, depending on the version. Most recently, it is in File – Properties.

Email Properties

email header txt

click to see sample of header

The headers should be read from the bottom to the top. Each server that handled your email is listed, with its own message, starting with Received. For example:

To find the REAL sender of your email, you have to find the earliest trusted gateway, which would be at the top.   You can trust it if it lists the mail server for the domain in question. So, if it is from [email protected], you will see If you’re really unsure, you can run a query from a utility like MXToolbox. If this is above your technical interest or ability, simply consulting with your IT person is the best idea. The best thing to do is copy and paste the headers into an email to IT and your answer should be quickly answered!

Fake emails also usually have
the following properties:

Urgent tones. If it is threating to suspend your account, ruin your credit, delete all your data. Especially if you do not respond right away.

Asking for an immediate reply with confidential information. Anyone legitimate would not ask for confidential information in an email.

Generic greetings. Most companies that you have accounts with personalize emails to you with your first and / or last name.


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Not again! What is this Crypto-Locker doing and what is Ransomware?

Masked Man Cryto LockerHELP!

Here we go again.  Crypto Locker.  I know of 3 more organizations this week who have been hit with it.  What is Crypto Locker?  It is a virus that encrypts all of your files, and then a ransom note is left behind.  Unless you pay the ransom, you lose all of your files.  Is it possible to 100% protect yourself?  Maybe not 100%, but you can surely recover without paying ransom.  Listed below are some ways to protect yourself.

Don’t Click!

There are so many things going around that look like the real McCoy.   If you even slightly suspect that your great aunt Mickey would never send you something like that, she probably didn’t.  Call and ask before opening that attachment of the keg party.  Chances are, she was not there and did not take the picture.  If you can’t ask her, contact your IT Administrator and ask.  The same goes for suspicious pop ups and controls that want to install when you browse the web.  No computer should have pop-ups appearing all the time.  If your computer is doing this, you have some type of virus or malware.  If you are not trained in its removal, consult a professional.  Does this pop up describe in detail all the things that you are not protected against?  Is it threatening personal data, credit cards?  Real Anti-Virus programs don’t do it that way.  Does it tell you that unless you pay you will lose all your files?  Again, not the language of a legitimate program. Don’t fall for it.

Anti-Virus Programs:

Most Up to date Anti-Virus programs can, in fact, catch Crypto Locker.  The problem is, there are many variants being released.  This is why it is important to always run up to date Virus Software, and up to date Virus definitions.  As a new variant is discovered, an up to date definition is released.  If you update daily, then you will have the protection that you need.  Updates can be scheduled and automatic. What if you are up to date, but are the lucky one who discovers a new variant before the Anti-Virus software company does?  With up to date software, comes support.  They will still assist in removal, and, they get to document the case you just found in order to create new definitions.  It takes a community.

Windows Updates and Program Updates

Windows updates are critical to the safety of your computer.  As hackers find vulnerabilities in program code, they are exposed.  Windows Updates closes them right back down, just like updating your virus definitions. This is the same for any program you run on the computer.  Always keep the programs up to date.

Application Safety Controls

Ever notice that Outlook does not display pictures or links unless you give it permission to?  Word and Excel open, blocking all editing or macros until you give it permission?  That is because hackers hide code in Macros, or in downloaded content to an email message.  This allows another layer of security so that you have the control on what you trust and what you don’t.  You can turn off these features, and it would seem more convenient than just enabling content as you need.  Keep in mind, it is more convenient to respond to those prompts then it is to rebuild your data once you have allowed the malicious code through.

Offsite Backups

Do you really think that flash drive is your best defense?  I guess it is better than no defense, but there has to be more.  Offsite Encrypted backups allow you to keep your data safe and off the computer.  If you get a virus infected file, and the file is backed up, with the right backup program it is not a problem.  If the offsite backups are encrypted, and isolated, that means todays backup might contain infected files, but yesterday’s files are still safe and can be recovered.

Local Backups

If a virus hits the entire operating system, you need to be able to roll right back to where you were before this bad-dream-of-a-virus happened.  However, code like Crypto Locker knows how to crawl through your network and reach out to all hard drives and mapped drives the computer can see.  You need a backup program that knows how to ‘hide’ the backup drive to all but the backup program.  Many of the expensive ones do this, but so does the Windows Backup Program.  And its free.

What about our Clients?

Can I safely say that Sandra Network clients have never caught this virus?  We certainly can’t.  We can’t protect users from opening up that email from “Aunt Mickey”, no matter how hard we try..  Can I say that Sandra Network clients have NEVER had to pay ransomware prices?  Yes, I can.  Can I say that Sandra Network clients have never lost all their data or had full loss of business over it?  Yes I can.  We update, implement, train the employees, and are always watching out for our clients.  All safety controls in place, all the time.  That is what we do.

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What is Managed Services and How does it fit?

What is managed services, and how does it fit?

Managed Services is the ability to involve a 24×7 staff to monitor and maintain your computers.  Most of the time, the smaller IT companies will not have the staff to accomplish this.  Monitoring is then outsourced to a firm that does NOTHING BUT this type of monitoring.  The NOC, (Network Operations Center) will monitor for errors, apply updates (windows updates, antivirus updates) and respond to any issues.  To respond to an issue, a NOC employee will establish a remote session to your computer, and fix whatever the issue is.

What is the benefit of Managed Services?

With managed services, the IT firm acts as a liaison between your company’s network and the outsourced firm.  This is usually done at a cost per unit.  What this means to you is regardless of what goes on, your cost remains the same each month.  Equipment is monitored 24×7, and pro-actively maintained.

What are the downsides of Managed Services?

The downside to managed services is you simply do not know who is in your computer. What they are looking at.  Granted, I may have trust issues, but, after 20 years of being in the IT business, there are more than enough reasons to be hyper-sensitive to this.  Data theft is real.  Hacking is real.  Viruses are real.

There is also real value in knowing your IT staff, and ensuring they know you.  Not an “anonymous” person from virtually anywhere in the world.  Your IT staff should be part of the team.  To know you, is to know your business.  They know your deadlines.  They know how you like things done.  They know your users, and how to assist them.  Ever call the 1-800-HELP DESK type number?  Did you have to tell your entire story, just to be transferred and tell it again?  At every transfer, have to also repeat your information, case number, contact number?  Personally, I feel that to pick up the phone and to call someone who knows you, knows your business, and simply make a request feels a lot more secure.

Is there a place for managed services?

Absolutely.  We manage networks where the PC’s are all in the field, and the data is in the cloud.  In this environment, there is no “local”.  No local server, no local security, no local staff.  The data IS maintained offsite in a staffed secure location.  In this type of organization, Managed Services is your best way to maintain any amount of control and monitoring to the remote users, while keeping all the machines up to date.


Closing thoughts

Technology is here to stay.  This means we have to find a reliable way to embrace it, maintain it, and back it up.  Unless we are in the IT field, it is best left to the pros.  In most businesses, infrastructure failure can bring the entire company to a halt.  You need to have a team that you trust, who personally understands that infrastructure and ensures that your business is always in the right hands.


Not sure which way makes more sense to you?  Give us a call.  No pressure, no worries.  Start by having a conversation about what is important to you.

978.535.0202 x201

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