The threat of crapware – it’s not just Lenovo


If you’ve been hearing the name Lenovo a lot more than usual lately, in mainstream media and not just tech news, there is a reason for it…and not a good one. It appears that Lenovo has become a victim of a practice they aren’t alone in, something that we at FMCN and many others in the tech world have been screaming about ages.

The bane of crapware/adware that is preloaded on almost every white box computer and laptop you can buy.

Starting in the summer of 2014, Lenovo began to install software on brand new laptops called Superfish. Ostensibly this was to provide a “better targeted online shopping experience”, but in reality the software just overwrote the legitimate ads on websites with ads of their own. This would have been bad enough for such a huge company to be loading what amounted to adware on their brand new computers, but it got worse. It turned out that Superfish software was actually breaking some of the Internet’s most important security but installing what is called a root certificate on the system. This certificate basically made it very easy for a system to be hacked and hijacked by anyone on a public network.

This only came to light in January and Lenovo has been dealing with the consequences of this since then, with one of their top tech officials posting a full apology and explanations of how to fix the issue. They’ve even posted their own tool to remove all of Superfish software from any affected laptops.

If you happen to have purchased a Lenovo laptop in the past 8 months, go to this site: Superfish Advisory at Lenovo for instructions on how to clean the system.

This breach of trust is serious and will have a last impact on Lenovo’s reputation. We’ve been recommending Lenovo’s over the past while as solid business class machines that you could still get with Win 7 licenses. No more. Even though this install seems to have hit only a limited number of laptops and systems, it is going to cause havoc for IT professionals trying to identify what systems may be compromised. I don’t envy larger corporate IT brethren who may have made bulk purchases.

The real problem here isn’t just the breach. This exposes a practice that ALL laptop and white box system makers are guilty of. Installing crapware on brand new systems, all in the name of making a few extra bucks on the sale of hardware with razor-thin margins for profit. Every company does it to one degree or another, Dell, Toshiba, Asus, Acer…I’d be challenged to find one that didn’t.

Crapware comes as a company’s own branded browser toolbars, windows optimization programs, driver download tools, online backup tools, web browsing media “enhancements”, the list goes on and on. All of it is totally unnecessary, often puts your system at risk of bugs and hacks due to their “enhancements” and often with no real benefit to the user. Quite often, users will ask us to clean all of this off before we deliver what should be a totally clean installed new computer to them.

And it’s getting harder and harder to identify the crapware from what’s actually needed to run a laptop. Is that “pointing enhancement” software for the touch pad or does it have some other purpose? The solution is often to just install a clean version of Windows without any of their garbage. That takes time, and therefore money and often isn’t a viable option.

If there is anything good to come of this breach of trust with such a highly visible company, perhaps others will take a closer look at this practice and judge whether it is worth what it does to its customer base. Companies like Superfish? We can only hope their pond scum level software disappears forever (too much to hope as Forbes recently noted Superfish in a top 100 upcoming business).

 

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‘Breakthrough’ NSA spyware shows deep grasp of makers’ hard drives – Technology & Science – CBC News


'Breakthrough' NSA spyware shows deep grasp of makers' hard drives – Technology & Science – CBC News.

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BlackBerry revives lawsuit against Ryan Seacrest-backed Typo iPhone case – Business – CBC News


BlackBerry revives lawsuit against Ryan Seacrest-backed Typo iPhone case – Business – CBC News.

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Steam Community :: Steam Broadcasting


Steam is the premiere online gaming resource for most pc gamers. Steam sells games and has being doing so for decades and they are known for their “Steam sales” discounting products significantly. Now, with their latest client update, they are adding Steam Broadcasting which allows users who have “friended” each other, to watch each other play live through streaming technology and interact via chat which is becoming more and more popular with the younger generation of gamers. Many Youtube channels carry video of gamers recording themselves in split screen modes for entertainment and the trend is becoming more prevalent as the humour and entertainment value is comparable to watching television.

The link below gives you more information about Steam Broadcasting.

Steam Community :: Steam Broadcasting.

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25 worst passwords of 2014: Is yours on the leak list? – Technology & Science – CBC News


What a great article. If you see your password on this list… FOR THE LOVE OF YOUR DATA, CHANGE IT!

25 worst passwords of 2014: Is yours on the leak list? – Technology & Science – CBC News.

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Merry Christmas to all and Happy New Year!


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It has been a crazy year. It has been a year of landmarks for us and major changes.

In remembering the year, I had to also remember my start in 1994 when I decided to make a business out of what I had grown up on…providing IT service for small business.

When I started this business, I was a sole operator which means I wore all the different hats in our business. Today, with 4 others sharing those roles, I’m down to only 2-3 different hats depending on the day.

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That’s a round about way of acknowledging the hard work and effort by my staff over the years as we have grown the business to level it is today.

Jason came on board almost 12 years ago after his foray into the “dot com” world.

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Bruno joined us in 2008 coming back after a long recovery from a car accident to step up and take on all of our cabling needs.

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Rosemary became our office administrator in 2011 and took a huge chunk of my responsibilities away.

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Starting in late fall 2013 and then in January 2014 with our newest staffer becoming a permanent fixture. Leon Sebastian joined us as a full-time PC technician!

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Then we moved on to our 20th anniversary in June. This one I can’t believe. I remember my apartment/office in 1994 and thinking back to all the technology we had back then including 1gb hard drives for $1000, the first world wide web browsers including Netscape, Zip drives, and Yahoo was introduced as the first mega search engine.

Then came September and we completed one of our regular cabling jobs but after doing some calculations, we realized since 2008 we have run nearly 1,000,000 linear feet of copper cable for our clients. Way to go Bruno Murru who is our cabling technician.

At the end of October we got notified that our application for trademarking “I see dead data…” had been approved and by November, it was all legit. If you are one of those people asking about shirts and hats, by all means, contact us and we can arrange to sell you our swag!

TM

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The “Geek” Holiday Wish List


It is the time of year where the combination of sales plus open wallets equal the Holiday Technology Bonanza! If you missed black friday and cyber monday, then you still have 10 shopping days left for the latest and greatest.

Here are some of our picks starting with our own little gift idea:

For those of you who have been asking about our shirts, we finally have them ready for public consumption. They come in all men’s sizes, women’s babydoll sizes and even a few kids sizes. Just contact us for details.
i see dead data generic shirt

$25 for one, $20 each for 3 or more!

You can contact us at info@fixmycomputernow.com for details.

Our next selection is based solely on our desire to have Firefly the TV show brought back!

Firefly Serenity Flash Drive
8gb of shiny metal usb storage!

2020_firefly_serenity_flash_drive
It is currently available at http://www.thinkgeek.com for $29.99USD. http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/2020/

Next up is the natural progession in the sci-fi world from storing your media on a sub stick to playing your media. That’s no moon!

Death Star Bluetooth Speaker
Available at http://www.thinkgeek.com for $69.99USD.

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http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/hssk/

This one I have been waiting for years to come out. A monitor stand with built-in USB hubs. This is a fantastic idea that should have been brought to market decades ago.

hsqg_spacebar_keyboard_organizer

Available at http://www.thinkgeek.com for $129.99USD.

http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/hsqg/

Talk to one of our consultants if you have any questions or would like more details on any of the information presented here.

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I see DEAD data…and other scary things!


In the Spirit of Halloween, I came up with some photos from our portfolio of cabling work from past years where we were brought in to fix or clean up a mess. Trust me, some of these are SCARY not only to the clients who owned them but to us while we untangled the mess in most cases blind to what can of crazy we were opening up.

First up the one we liked to call “The drape of death”. This particular job has more than 200 connections and none of the labeling was correct. On top of that, the slightly touch to one single cable could potentially disconnect dozens more. We had to do the whole job in 48 hours with a crew of 4.

Cable Drape

Next up, “The Rainbow Connection”. Normally different colours are used to identify categories of equipment. In this case, they just used whatever patch cables they had regardless of length or type. With over 100 devices connected, it took 8 hours to sort through it all.

Rainbow

This next one is called “The precarious perch”. Most of the equipment was not secured and was balanced and teetered on the shelves with the cables themselves used to restrain things from falling. Most of it had fallen previously on employees of the company.

Cabling Mess

“Hiding in the closet” was another one where nothing was secured and only balanced on a shelf in a closet that was accessible by everybody including cleaning staff getting the vacuum cleaner(see red handle).

Scary Closet

The last one I call “The cursed cement pumpkin” because it sort of resembles a pumpkin face. After specifically dealing with an electrician to install conduit and access boxes for cabling, we came to the jobsite to find our cables literally buried in cement damaging them beyond repair. I didn’t know there was a mob hit contracted out on our poor cables.

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It is amazing to us to find almost an unlimited selection of crazy cabling situations for clients who never thought poor cabling could be related to poor network and internet performance. Now that’s scary!

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Yup..Must Have!


From time to time, we come across new gadgets and technologies that awake the geek in us. For some it is always about having the latest and greatest, for others its about the uniqueness of a particular item, but in generally the common theme is…MUST HAVE!

Our first item, is one I have purchased myself and have relied on frequenty. It is an external USB battery pack for charging your phone, laptop or tablet. I have the slightly older version which provides 13500mAh of power; enough to charge my smartphone 8-10 times without charging the battery itself.

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At Amazon.com right now for $52, it is a steal!

New-Trent-PowerPak-Shockproof USB Battery

Our next favorite item is a wireless mini keyboard that can be used on any computing device but works particularly well for people who have computers or TV smart boxes for thier media. Its small, easy to use and replaces any wired or bulky traditional keyboard and mouse combo.

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mini-wireless-qwerty-keyborad-with-mouse-touchpad-built-in-laser-pointer

And last but not least, my personal favorite, a usb rechargeable flashlight:

eb77_usb_charging_mini_flashlight

http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/eb77/

It retails for $8 USD, what a deal!

Talk to one of our consultants if you have any questions or would like more details on any of the information presented here.

If you liked this article check out What is SSD and why should I consider it?

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Apple and iCloud security and the lack of it


A big shout out to Ars Technica for doing the work to research this after last week’s iCloud breach and continuing it after the breathless Apple hype for their new(ish) devices.

If you have an iPhone, iPad or even one of the newer iPod’s you need to read this and consider the methods recommended for securing your device. It is FAR too easy to an even casually determined attacker to breach the iCloud right now. Apple is working on this, and their new iOS will be better, but that doesn’t save people on other devices.

http://arstechnica.com/features/2014/09/ipwned-mining-iphones-icloud-for-personal-data-is-terrifying-simple/

It isn’t hard to secure your data, though it might add some extra layers to how you get to it, but in the end its worth it. Don’t think “oh no one would ever attack me!” You have more worth for your data then you can imagine. Take the steps now to beef up your security.

And then…consider switching to a more secure platform. Seriously.

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