AVG Free Antivirus is a great, free antivirus solution made by AVG Technologies. Many people use AVG, and I have come across a few clients that have accidentally upgraded their Free version to the Paid 30 day Trial version, causing headaches.
The problem occurs when updating AVG Free, and clicking ‘Next’ through a series of screens. On the “Select your product” screen, AVG have pre-selected the “Internet Security Trial/Full Protection” option, which will upgrade you to the paid trial version of AVG.
To avoid this situation, you need to select the “Anti-virus Free/Basic Protection” button, before clicking ‘Next’.
Clients regularly ask if it possible to downgrade AVG back to the Free version.
Yes, if you have accidentally upgraded your AVG Free to the AVG Paid Trial, you can downgrade AVG back to the free edition by starting to uninstall AVG. During the uninstallation process, you will be given the option to downgrade AVG back to the free version.
- Open Start – Control Panel, and then click Programs and Features.
- In the list of installed products select AVG, and then click Uninstall.
- Click the option Switch to AVG AntiVirus FREE.
An AVG installer will run, and downgrade AVG to the FREE version. Wait for the installation to finish, and then restart your computer.
Some clients recently noticed all my memory cards and USB sticks have pictures, making it much easier to identify which stick is which when trying to save a file on to one.
This can be performed using Windows autorun pictures.
To complete this, you’ll need a picture in icon (.ico) format. You can either download an icon file, from sites such as https://www.iconfinder.com or make your own icon from any picture, using an Icon Editor program such as Greenfish Icon Editor Pro.
Locate a picture of your USB stick. I try to find an exact picture of the stick, using a Google Image Search. In this case I searched for “Verbatim 32GB Store n Go USB”
View the picture, Right click on it and select ‘Save picture as’, and save it to your desktop.
To transform the picture in to an icon file, I used Greenfish Icon Editor Pro. The video below demonstrates how easily that’s done.
Save the icon file directly into the USB stick, as ICON.ICO, making sure you save the file in ‘.ico’ icon format.
Create a text file on the USB stick, called AUTORUN.INF which contains the following code:[autorun] icon=icon.ico
*Some additional notes about autorun are at the bottom of this post.
Finally, I make both the icon and autorun files read only and hidden, using Windows Explorer – selecting both files > Right click > Properties and ticking the Read Only and Hidden check boxes.
All done – Just remove and remount the USB drive to see your changes.
The following video demonstrates how it’s done.
YouTube Video URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YprCOwTUlns
Note: The same method can also be used to identify Memory Cards and Hard Drives.
Some notes about autorun:
The autorun feature has many more options, such as the label option, which names the USB stick – eg: “label=MyUSBDrive”.
Autorun is quite an old feature, first introduced with Windows 95. The option commonly abused is the “open=Setup.exe”. This has been abused to automatically run malicious software, without the user knowing.
This was patched at some point during the life of Windows, and Windows must now be configured to allow Autorun.inf to launch items.
An Autorun command reference is located at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autorun.inf
In this hot weather we know to keep ourselves, our children and our pets cool, but its also a good time to check on your PC’s health – perhaps its an overheating pc
Computers will shutdown when they are too hot, in an attempt to protect themselves from excessive heat damage, but permanent damage can still occur.
How do you check the PC’s temperatures ?
The majority of PC’s show their temperatures in the BIOS screen, but this requires a reboot to access it. It’s much easier to view the PC’s temperatures by downloading and installing SpeedFan v4.49, a FREE tool available from the Tailormade IT Solutions website:
“SpeedFan is a program that monitors voltages, fan speeds and temperatures in computers with hardware monitor chips.” Source: http://www.almico.com/speedfan.php
If you do notice high temperatures, or are experiencing strange shutdowns and outages, this can result in permanent damage to your PC, and reduce its life span.
Thermal Paste being applied to a CPU
Tailormade IT Solutions recommends and provides PC maintenance services that investigate and resolve overheating PC issues, including:
Dust Removal – Dust is a great insulator, and cleaning out that build up of dust inside the PC will help it breathe better and run cooler.
Fan Checks – Ensuring your internal PC fans are not damaged, and are working correctly and effectively removing heat from the PC.
CPU Thermal Paste – The PC’s brain, or CPU, generates a lot of heat. Checking and reapplying the Thermal Paste on the CPU can assist heat removal from this important component.
Additional Cooling – Installing upgraded or additional heatsinks and fans, including water cooling for extreme desktop PCs. Laptop owners can also purchase laptop cooler pads.
Please note that the following method of cooling your PC is NOT recommended.
BitTorrent Labs has just released a new tool called BitTorrent Sync, which is used to sync files/folders from one PC directly to another. It works differently to cloud based products like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft Skydrive.
With a variety of backup options now available, its surprising that many users don’t consider backing up important data until its too late.
In this post, Tailormade IT Solutions discusses backup options and some of their pros and cons, including their ease of use, safety, security and suitability.
Tailormade IT Solutions can configure a backup routine that ensures your data is safe.
Copy Files Locally
I’ve met users who simply plug in a USB drive and copy data from their computer manually. For example, copying the My Documents folder to a USB drive, CD or DVD.
- User has to remember to backup regularly;
- backup data is held on-site and susceptible to physical loss.
Automated Backup – Locally
The next step would be an automated backup solution. Data is a lot safer if the backup routine is automated and regular. These backup routines typically work at a certain time, and copy information to a USB drive. Users should disconnect the backup drive when not in use.
- Set and forget peace of mind.
- Data held on-site.
Automated Backup/Sync over Network
If you have multiple computers, your can set one aside as a backup PC, and configure all other computers to backup at a certain time to that location. This can work locally or through the internet, using the new BitTorrent Sync tool.
- Set and forget peace of mind.
- Data held on-site.
Automated Backup/Sync to Cloud
Using cloud storage providers (such as DropBox, SkyDrive or Google Drive) to syncing folders has become very popular. These services allow you to automatically sync a folder from your computer to a internet server. With your login details, the server can be accessed from any computer in the world.
Cloud storage providers offer varying levels of service and security, but they also retain ownership of your data in the fine print, and commonly limit the sizes of files you can upload, and/or total server size.
- Data is held off site, and accessible from anywhere in the world.
- Data held by cloud providers is owned by cloud providers.
If you need an IT professional to configure a backup routine for you, contact Tailormade IT Solutions
What is ransomware?
Ransomware defines a category of malicious computer software that encrypts the users data, demanding a ransom be paid to the software creators.
Recently, ransomware has become more common, and means your backup routine is more important than ever.
Is ransomware common?
Dozens of victim businesses have gone public detailing how thousands of dollars had been lost paying ransoms to unlock encrypted data — or in lost productivity by choosing to cut losses.
In the last 6 months, many Australian businesses have had their data held to ransom:
- September 2012: NT based TDC Refrigeration and Electrical had vital financial records encrypted, forcing it to pay a $3000 ransom.
- November 2012: Deanes Buslines was similarly confronted with a $3000 ransom after having its critical data locked down.
- December 2012: A Byron Bay school found its records encrypted and a ransom demanding $5000. The school could not pay, and after trying to bargain with the Eastern-European attacker, forfeited the data and recovered a limited data set from forensic analysis.
- Gold Coast medical practice The Miami Family Medical Centre was held to ransom by hackers demanding $4000 to decrypt sensitive patient information.
- February 2013: Melbourne bus company Firefly Coaches found its data had been encrypted and its Windows machines were locked down. A ransom notice was left demanding $5000 for the decryption key to unlock the data. Firefly had backups.
Firefly, a small family owned business in Avondale Heights, did what many of us fail to do – maintain regular, tested and “air-gapped” backups on a drive which was kept physically separate from the PC network.
A video by Symantec
How does ransomware infect?
Many of these ransomware attacks have occurred initially by visiting through malicious websites which deliver malware using drive-by-download or by opening malicious email attachments / clicking malicious links.
The attackers then breach the company network by brute-forcing open RDP credentials. The Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) function, which allows remote access, is commonly unused and should be disabled (on port 3389).
How to protect against ransomware
A few simple steps will reduce your chances of being infected with ransomware:
- Ensure your computer system has the latest update patches installed.
- Be wary of opening email attachments and clicking links in spam emails, or installing software from untrusted sources.
- Be wary of visiting websites that suggest you need to update/install software, drivers or video codecs.
- Backup important data !!!
Once your data is held to ransom, there are only 3 options: 1. You can pay the ransom demanded, which is generally $3000-$5000 and provides no guarantee that your computer/files will be returned to you; 2. Attempt to crack the encryption using a decryption tool, or 3. Completely wipe and reinstall your system from backups.
Clearly just having a backup stored on a USB drive that is always connected is not safe from the attackers. You need to remove external hard drives, or they will attack them and lock them down too. For many businesses, a sensible “air-gap” solution is to ensure backups are taken off site, as this also prevents against data loss in the event of fire.
Panda Security have released a ‘Panda Ransomware Decrypt‘ tool.
Note: There is also fake ‘Australian Federal Police Ransomware’ which behaves in a similar fashion: Locking the computer and demanding money, with the attackers pretending to be Australian law enforcement officials. The lock screen looks fancy (shown below) but would the AFP accept Ukash ?
Tailormade IT Solutions would like to sincerely thank all our customers for their business in 2012, and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2013.
Tailormade IT Solutions will close on the following days:
Tuesday 25th December 2012, Wednesday 26th December 2012 and Tuesday 1st Jan 2013.
My New Years Resolution for 2013 is that everyone keeps a backup of their important data !
Reason: It’s likely that Ransomware will continue to spread in 2013, and the only effective solution is to have a backup, that is not normally connected to the PC.
Symantec Whitepaper: Ransomware a growing menace
After infecting your PC, ransomware can encrypt your personal data and then display a message encouraging you to pay for the data to be un-encrypted. Some messages say your PC has been locked by police due to downloading illegal material, and you must pay a fine before your data will be released, earning the bad guys $5 million a year.
It’s quick and easy to get a decent backup in place, using online storage, or a USB drive and some automated backup software. This protects your important data from ransomware and/or Hard Drive failures.
Tailormade IT Solutions is now listed in the Victorian Government Seniors Card Online Discount Directory, the online directory of discounts for Victorian Seniors Card Holders.
Click the image above to visit our page on the directory
We are also listed in the printed directory which is distributed to 650,000 older Australians, giving potential customers another avenue to find quality IT support at an affordable price.
Eligible card holders will receive a 10% discount on all services.
The full online directory of Seniors Card Discounts is available at http://www.seniorsonline.vic.gov.au
Sharing Outlook Data can be confusing and quite expensive, and a number of small business owners have asked how to share data between PCs running Microsoft Outlook.
In larger businesses, sharing Outlook data is normally performed by a Microsoft Exchange Server. This allows for shared contacts, calendar and mail folders. However the cost of Microsoft Exchange (US$708) makes this choice not viable for many smaller businesses.
Tailormade IT Solutions to the rescue !
This means you can now have the improved productivity of using shared Outlook data, for a fraction of the normal price.
For example, if you run a business with a Shop PC and a Laptop PC, this product will allow your business to view and record customer bookings on either PC (using a shared calendar) and update customer details on either PC (using shared contacts).
There is also a FREE cut-down version called OsaSync Lite, which will share or synchronize your Outlook Contacts across 4 computers.
Canon Pixma MX410
New inkjet printers are very affordable, and include scanners and fax machines – but the cost of replacement ink cartridges soon ads up.
The Canon Pixma MX410 printer shown above normally uses Canon PG510 (Black) and CL511 (Colour) ink cartridges, available in a combo pack for $51.99 at OfficeWorks.
These cartridges contain just 9ml of precious ink, and have a page yield of 200-250 pages (approx), which is why they run out so often.
Looking for a cheaper option ??
I purchased a Rihac Constant Ink Supply Solution (CISS) for $115 which includes a 100ml refillable ink tank (pre-filled with High Grade UV Dye ink) which allows for countless refills.
Although a little fiddly to install initially, the system is mess free and the tank can be eventually be topped up using 100ml bottles of ink.
The savings speak for themselves.
According to Rihac, this system saves up to 90-95% on your printing costs! “*Equivalent to approximately 60 standard cartridges. Epson cartridges have approximately 10 mls of usable ink inside. Our CISS allows you to print continuously. Epson cartridges are approximately $23.52 each (officeworks). Our CISS is pre-filled with 100mls of each coloured ink, so in dollar terms that is approximately $1,400.00 worth of cartridges if bought separately.”
Click on the pictures above to see the Rihac CISS installed.
The Rihac CISS works with a range of Brother, Canon, Epson & HP printers. If you are looking for cheaper printing, I recommend using a Rihac Continuous Ink Supply Solution.
To see if your printer can use a Rihac CISS, visit: http://www.rihac.com.au/inklink8482-ciss-units-c-26.html
DropBox is a very handy service which many people use to backup data. They offer free 2GB accounts which allow you to store backups off site.
I’m sure Dropbox is an excellent company with its user’s interests at heart, I simply wanted an additional layer of privacy and security to an already great, and secure, service.
I’m working on a new backup application, which will automatically convert a specified folder of data into an encrypted vault, and then upload the vault to the DropBox website. This will occur automatically at a set time.
Tip: Ensure your backup data is always encrypted when stored online.
This means that before your backups leave the computer you physically control and own, they’re encrypted. They stay encrypted while being synchronized, until they’re back in your physical control.
Update: The main programming code was quite short and now is in beta testing.
Run(TrueCrypt & ” /v ” & $VaultName & ” /lx /p ” & $Password & ” /a /q /b /s”)
DirCopy($SourceFolder, “X:\” & $VaultName, 1)
Run(TrueCrypt & ” /q /d”)
FileCopy($VaultName, $DropBoxFolder, 9)