what is whitelisting?

The Wisdom of Whitelisting

Do you remember the good old days when we were able to tell the bad guys from the good guys on TV westerns by the what is whitelisting?color of their hats?

Cyber vocabulary includes the term “black hat.” It is derived directly from those old westerns and those dirty, low-down, dastardly villains. Today, the term is used to describe internet hackers who ambush the innocent folks in white hats. Folks like you and me.

The problem is that it’s hard to tell the color of their hat when they are lurking in the shadows of cyberspace.

There’s an App for That

Yep. There seems to be an app for just about anything. Including some apps created by and for bad guys.

Until recently the most commonly used means of identifying malicious apps was “blacklisting,” or what some of the wranglers around the campfire call “The Oops Method.” In its most simplistic form, you create a blacklist of apps you already know are bad guys. The digital list blocks the bad guys from loading on your PC. The problem is that someone has to discover the evil app either by being caught unaware or by keeping up to speed with all the latest information. Except for the apps that are unknown because they are not on the list, the idea works fairly well.

There’s a Better Way than That

The better way is called “whitelisting.” This method involves creating a list of apps that we already know to be good guys. Instead of blocking the bad apps, whitelisting turns the tables and allows only the apps and software that are on your white list to have access to your computer or mobile devices. Only those who have been “deputized” on the whitelist are allowed in.

Now, that’s very technical, but it does describe the difference well enough for you to know that whitelisting is more effective than blacklisting.

We can help you get a white list started and help you keep it up to date. Tech Sentries is the logical source for your protection. We’re wearing our white hats and protecting your PCs, laptops, and other connected devices against the dangers that lurk in the shadows of cyberspace.

Don’t wait. Contact us today at (843) 282-2222. Tech Sentries is always on duty helping you “Guard Your Technology” at all hours of the day or night and keeping updated on how to be better prepared for Internet scams.

Google Phishing Scam

Don’t Take the Google Docs Phishing Scam Bait

Google Phishing Scam

When your Daddy taught you to fish, he taught you how to bait the hook. The secret is to make the bait so alluring that the fish doesn’t sense the hook. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Kind of makes you wonder if some fish didn’t pay attention when they were swimming in their schools.

When it comes to phishing online, we must realize that we are the phish. We have got to be “fin”nicky about what we bite on, especially if it looks really, really good.

Online scam artists – we’ll call them “phisher”men – know that not everyone of us is going to bite. They are happy to catch a few. The objective from our point of view is to not get fooled. When we get fooled, we get caught.

The Google Docs Scam

Here’s how the scam works.

  1. You receive a message from someone you actually know, inviting you to access a Google Doc.
  2. The trick is to get you to bite by clicking on an “Open in Docs” button. It’s not that the message is too difficult to pass up; it’s that it just looks so real.
  3. Once you bite, you receive a request for access to your Gmail account. At this point, you may as well jump into the boat. You been snagged.
  4. Once you have granted access to your Gmail account, the “phisher” sends a similar message to everyone in your contact list.
  5. What really gets your gills is that all traces of the messages sent from your Gmail account are removed.

The cycle keeps repeating itself over and over.

Now What?

As far as experts have been able to determine, no information was stolen and used in any way that smelled fishy. The scam was – or is – someone’s twisted sense of fun. Willie Sutton robbed banks because they were there. Seems to be the same motivation with the Google Docs scam.

We should be concerned because any “phisher” with the capability of pulling off this scam most likely has the ability to do great and widespread damage.

Very real threats exist. Even though you may not be able to see them, they could be lurking right before your eyes. Knowing this,

  • Be vigilant.
  • Think before you act.
  • Make sure you are protected from phish bait before it hits the proverbial water.

You can be vigilant and you can think before you act, but you are going to need help protecting yourself. Tech Sentries is the logical source of your protection. We guard and protect your PCs, laptops, and other connected devices against the dangers that lurk in cyberspace.

Don’t wait to get hooked. Contact us right now. Let us show you how we can help.

Internet of things downsides

A Word of Caution About CloudPets and Other IoT Children’s Toys

Internet of things downsides

News about the popular children’s toy, CloudPets, recently served as a reminder that “not all that glitters is gold.” So it is with the Internet of Things. Although the IoT is heavily promoted by citing its many benefits, as with so many other things, there are always downsides.

The hook that makes CloudPets so appealing to parents – and especially grandparents – is that the product of parent company, Spiral Toys, allows communication via a mobile app and the internal electronics of the plush toy line.

The problem with the toy is that it was not, at least as of the end of February 2017, adequately unprotected from intrusion. It was, in effect, a microphone as a virtual snooping device inside a toy for anyone who understands how to use the internet as a spying tool.

The net results (pardon the pun) of failing to provide even minimal security measures are that millions of private conversations, both in home and across the cloud, were exposed and held for ransom by cyber thieves.

One cyber security expert told the London Daily Mail that,

“It’s an alarming leak because not only does it expose very personal information from children, but the company has also elected not to notify impacted families.

“The primary risk is the invasion of privacy it poses to families. Whilst there is still the potential for hackers to abuse the usernames and passwords stolen, it’s strangers listening to your children which worries parents the most.

“There’s little functional value to voice recordings of children, but it’s content of a very personal nature which families would obviously like to keep private.”

Yet another expert said,

“Anyone can connect to the toy, as long as it is switched on and not currently connected to anything else. Bluetooth LE typically has a range of about 10 – 30 meters, so someone standing outside your house could easily connect to the toy, upload audio recordings, and receive audio from the microphone.”

The Lessons to Learn

  1. Do not underestimate the need for security for all connected devices.
  2. Any device connected to the internet is vulnerable to attack. This includes smart house and smart car devices.
  3. Just because an object looks like a toy, if it contains internet-connected devices, only your child should think it is a toy.
  4. Be concerned. Be careful. Be cautious.

Personal privacy, identity, and even conversations, are all in danger of being accessed via the internet and the cloud. No one is exempt. Everyone needs to be sure they are protected.

phone scams

Phone Scams – Just Say Nothing

Just when you think you are above being scammed by callers to your phone, some new twist on the old scam schemes sneaks onto the scene. The latest scam may be the sneakiest since Satan got Eve to say “Yes” in the Garden of Eden.

phone scams

The new scam is so simple that many people never see it coming. After all, this is the hallmark of a scam. If we saw it coming, it wouldn’t work.
The point of this article is to help you see it coming.

The Skinny on the New Phone Scam

The objective: to get you to say “Yes.”
The method: to ask you a question to which you will answer “Yes.” The questions sound innocent enough. For example:

  • “Can you hear me clearly?”
  • “Am I speaking to (your name)?

The sting: Once the caller has a recording of your voice saying “Yes,” your response can be “spliced” into another recording in which the questions are different. In the altered recording, your “Yes” sounds like a response by which you agree to purchase something. Or worse.

The Sides of New Technology

The constant and accelerating development of new technologies is exciting. However, we need to be aware that there are people who use good technology for evil purposes. It’s okay to be excited, but it is important that we be cautious.
Both the FCC and the BBB have issued advice on how to avoid being scammed on the phone.

  1. Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. Let them go to voicemail.
  2. If you answer and the caller (often a recording) asks you to hit a button to stop receiving calls, just hang up. Scammers often use these tricks to identify, and then target, live respondents.
  3. If you receive a scam call, write down the number and file a complaint with the FCC so it can help identify and take appropriate action to help consumers targeted by illegal callers.
  4. Make a note of the number and report it to BBB Scam Tracker to help warn others.
  5. Ask your phone service provider if it offers a robocall blocking service. If not, encourage your provider to offer one. You can also visit the FCC’s website for information and resources on available robocall blocking tools to help reduce unwanted calls.
  6. Consider registering all your telephone numbers in the National Do Not Call Registry.

Common sense used to be enough to be your guide. Now it takes education, wisdom, and forethought. Be alert. Be cautious. Be safe.

Phishing

New Phishing Attack Targets Gmail Users

PhishingIncreased awareness is taking place concerning a phishing attack. It has been around for over a year and is targeting Gmail users. Inboxes are being infiltrated by hackers, which is allowing these cyber criminals access to both incoming and outgoing email messages. That in and of itself isn’t the shocker. What is more surprising is what happens next. Hackers look for emails that have links attached and replace them with a Gmail login screen that is malicious. Once the user clicks on the attachment, they will see a Gmail login screen prompting the login and password for that account. Once this happens, the hackers have instant access to sensitive login information, making it easy for them to see a whole new inbox to start the process over from.

Here’s how it works…

Let’s say someone sends you an email that has a Word document attached to it. That email is sent from their Gmail account to your Gmail account. Your account becomes hacked, which opens it up to cyber criminals who can get in and put that malicious Gmail login screen in place of the attached Word document. Now when you click on that attachment, you follow the prompts to sign into your Gmail account. Instead of opening the document as you thought it would, it gives hackers full access to your password so they can get into your account. They grab more email addresses from your list and repeat the cycle.

Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks take place when malicious links, malware or attachments sent by hackers infect your account through the emails they send. They are certainly nothing new, but they are always changing and evolving, becoming more sophisticated and tough to catch.

This Gmail attack is a great example of that. Usually there are several red flags associated with a phishing attack that make it easy to avoid being infected. But with this attack, it comes from an email thread that seems familiar and trusted. You usually don’t know the sender, whereas in this Gmail attack, you most likely do know the sender. It’s easy to suspect a hacker when you see urgent messages in your email, telling you to please open immediately. It could be under the guise of overdue bills, an invoice that has a mistake, package tracking info, etc. Because it is coming from a trusted source, you click on the malicious attachment, giving the hackers the info they are looking for. One tip is to watch out for spelling and grammar mistakes. The hackers are counting on the fact that you won’t think twice about it if it’s coming from an email you already deem safe. If you see spelling errors, be careful about what you click on. Also, be wary of any screen prompting you to log into your account when you’re already logged in! Many people miss the small but obvious signs of a phishing attack.

Stay safe online with more tips from Tech Sentries! Call us at 843-282-2222.

computer encryption Myrtle Beach

Computer Encryption and How it Works

computer encryption Myrtle BeachKeeping others from being able to see the content on your computer is your right. No justification is needed—only appropriate action. In today’s political climate, computer security is one of the most common questions we are asked here at Tech Sentries. These questions often deal with protecting your data, keeping the government out of your affairs, and even encryption. If you don’t know what encryption means, much less how it’s used, this article is for you!

So Just What Does Computer Encryption Mean?

Basically, encryption involves scrambling text into a unique code using mathematics. Special encryption software uses algorithms to generate these codes from your text. Unless you are a person who knows how to unlock this code, it will look like unrecognizable nonsense.

The key to unlock encryption is referred to as a cipher. They have been used in many ways for the last 2000 years. Due to their complexity, it can take many years for any person or computer to successfully decode or unlock the cipher.

The truth is we all use computer encryption everyday but might not be aware of it. Did you know that each time you log into your bank account, join a Wi-Fi network or shop on an HTTPS site you are using encryption? These types of transactions use encryption called “in transit,” which deals with information transferred over the internet. If a file or disk gets encrypted on a computer, it’s referred to as “in place or at rest” encryption.

To put it simply, think of encryption as bits. The standard encryption key uses 256 bits, which literally has billions of possible cipher combos. The math is downright overwhelming! The two most common encryption types are symmetrical and asymmetrical. This simply means that with symmetrical, the same key is used to both lock and unlock the encrypted files. The opposite is true of asymmetrical—one key locks it and another unlocks it. The latter is the more commonly used method.

How Does Computer Encryption Work?

Certain software is used that creates ciphers which are highly complicated. This is what will scramble the data in your folders and files. Often, the encryption is so complicated that it can only be read once unless properly decrypted or “unlocked.” While a supercomputer or superhuman might be able to decode the encryption, it would likely take many years. Instead, encryption software can be installed like other programs and you will need a strong password to protect the files it encrypts. The password is your cipher to unlock everything so it is crucial to choose wisely when creating this password. Here are some tips:

  1. Don’t use words from the dictionary
  2. Try creating a phrase rather than just a word
  3. The more characters, the stronger the password
  4. If possible, use combinations of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters such as (#$%&!).

You might have a file with one or more lines of text in it that could be dangerous. If you enter that line into your encryption software, it would take the line of text and convert it to a long combination of letters, numbers and characters that would make no sense to anyone unless decoded. It may end up looking far longer than your original line of text, which makes it even harder for a hacker to get to it.

Should I Encrypt My Data?

For the most part, we strongly encourage everyone to encrypt their data. Even more so if you use tablets and/or laptops. Encryption goes a long way in protecting you from spying eyes of thieves, hackers, and even government. It also prevents malware and other viruses from getting into your data. The simple fact that it takes your carefully chosen password to unlock your files makes encryption worth it—everyone who values their privacy and security should use it!

There are a few options depending on what device you’re using.

Each of these options works in much the same way. Enable or install the encryption program, set a drive or folder, give it a secure password and encrypt. Just do not forget that password!

What About Backdoors?

The term “backdoors” has come up when certain officials aren’t happy with security companies not providing them a “backdoor” way to access encrypted files. Government seems to always want to put more surveillance in place and they don’t take too kindly to companies refusing to provide them with a hidden key that would allow them access to the data they want whenever they choose. Fortunately, no backdoor access is currently being enforced and we have no reason to believe that these security companies are building any backdoor access to their encrypted data files.

The bottom line is encrypting your files is legal, free and easy to do. If you run a business or just have personal files you don’t ever want anyone gaining access to, computer encryption is the safest thing to do!

For more information about computer encryption and computer security, call Tech Sentries today! (843) 282-2222.

Scam Alert Myrtle Beach

Protecting Yourself From Email Scams During The Holidays

Fraud Alert Myrtle Beach

 

During the holidays, it’s extra important to be aware of email scams as you’re sending and receiving your holiday gifts and packages. One of the more common scams during this season are the fake delivery notices that you have a package waiting. Consumers are once again reporting this scam at an alarming rate so we wanted to help you be aware of what it is and what it looks like

What Does This Email Scam Look Like?

The scam works like this: An email is sent by the scammers with the subject line reading something like “Delivery Failure From USPS.” There will be a link to click on to find out why your package wasn’t able to be delivered. As soon as you click on that link, you’ve opened up your computer for the virus. Some of the lingo used might look something like this:

USPS.com

You have a package that your postman was unable to deliver.

Please print the label provided to you through this link and take it to your nearest post office to retrieve your package.

NEVER CLICK ON THE LINK!

Clicking on links associated with these email scams can open up a host of issues. The biggest risk is downloading a virus to your hard drive. This allows your sensitive information to become exposed and easily stolen. Scammers would have access to your passwords, credit card info and other financial data.

Often, malicious ransomware and malware infect your computer without you ever even knowing it. Once you attempt to sign into various accounts online, the email scammers will use a mirroring program to record your actions and they will use that to steal every bit of personal information they can get their hands on.

It isn’t just the post office dealing with these scams—UPS and FedEx also have fallen prey to hackers and scammers. The scary part is the scammers will use official looking logos and websites to make themselves look legit. You will receive notices that look completely official from the shipping companies, making it hard to know when you are dealing with an email scam.

Protecting Yourself

Stay aware! If you get emails that you don’t think you should be getting from either the post office or a major shipping company, do not click links within that email! Even though you may be waiting on a package, it’s better to deal with the company directly, rather than risking a virus by clicking on a link.

Be on the lookout for any phone calls claiming to be employees of any of these agencies. If you are called and asked for sensitive information, never provide that info until you know for sure who you are dealing with!

Look for obvious errors in grammar and spelling on any emails or other communication. It’s usually a dead give-away that you’re dealing with an email scammer.

Never answer texts you aren’t sure about. This, too, can open you up for email scams.

You can never be too careful when it comes to your personal information this holiday season! It’s ok to be suspicious of any text, email or phone call that you aren’t sure about. If you are expecting a package, always deal directly with the shipping company!

For more information on how to protect yourself from email scammers during the holidays, call us today at Tech Sentries! Our number is 843-282-2222.

Remember “Think Before You Click!”

Which Generation Is More Likely To Fall Victim To Online Scammers?

Scammers Myrtle BeachDid you know that elderly people aren’t necessarily the most likely to be scammed online? Well, the Better Business Bureau issued a report stating that its Millennials and Generation X’ers who are the most likely to be a victim of scammers. The reason? The elderly population are far more likely to actually report the incident of a scam before financial loss occurs. In fact, over 90% of them will report it sooner than the younger generation. Even though Millennials and Generation X’ers are far more tech savvy, they are far slower to report being scammed, making them much more likely to lose money as a result.

Oddly enough, many of these younger people never reported the scam activity because they never actually believed they were really a victim. Even though they may feel they are immune to malware attacks and other scammers, none of us are immune to it. Staying aware and being informed is your best defense, no matter how old you are! Knowledge is power when it comes to protecting yourself against online scams. If you fail to report being scammed in a timely manner, your chances of suffering a financial loss will increase dramatically! The elderly population seem to know this.

One other important factor worth noting is that the individual’s online activity can play into becoming a victim of scams. This is because of online shopping and other retail websites visited by younger people. Individuals under the age of 45 tend to shop online much more than the older generation, thereby making them more susceptible to online scammers and malware.

The bottom line for a take-away lesson here is to always be aware of the fact that you are as much at risk for being scammed as anyone else. If you are solicited to spend money, sign up for various websites and their services, or even asked to click on a link you receive in your email, STOP and THINK before you click anything! Make sure that you are spending only in secure websites with secure methods of payments. If you have any questions about what you are seeing, call the BBB and ask them to verify the site or company before you spend any money or click any links that could cost you dearly!

While it is possible to recover a financial loss, it’s very difficult if it is not reported immediately! To get the absolute best protection, call Tech Sentries today! We can apply the best application whitelisting technology which will block unsafe or unwanted programs from ever opening. Let us show you how easy it is to be protected so you can keep your mind on the things that matter most to you!

Just Give Me Your Personal Information and Everything Will Be Fine

A woman visiting a Myrtle Beach resort recently report a scam in which her credit card was charged close to $2,000 – in California!

The scam is neither new nor localized. In 2015 a Memphis hotel guest fell for the same scam and soon discovered $1,000 in unauthorized charges on his card.

Information, Please

Personal Information Myrtle Beach

The scam is simple. The scammer calls the hotel room and identifies themselves as “so and so and the front desk.” He or she goes on to explain that the hotel’s credit card system has crashed or that there was a minor problem with their credit card when they registered. All they need is to read your credit card information to them again over the phone.

The problem is that the call did not originate at the front desk. In fact, it could originate from nearly anywhere, as long as the caller sounds sincere.

Don’t Think You’d Fall for That? Think Again.

What if you were doing research on the internet and a window pops up on a website indicating that the information you want is a “secure file” or “protected document?” It’s not a problem. All you need to do is provide the requested personal information and you will be given access to the file.

Same scam. Different playground. Fooled you! Whether it is done on the phone or on the internet, the scammers are phishing, and you have taken the bait, hook, line, and sinker.

Be Smarter Than the Scammers

A simple rule: Never give out your personal information. The tighter you hold onto it, the less likely it is to be stolen.

A simple question: Was your information really stolen? Or, did you voluntarily give it away.

A simple strategy: THINK before you give out your personal information. It’s nice to be nice and cooperative, but it’s stupid to be stupid and cooperative.

A simple precaution: If you receive an email that asks you to view a secure or protected document by clicking a link, delete the email. Do not open. Do not pass Go. Do not lose $200.00 (or more).

For more information, please call Tech Sentries at 843-282-2222.

Your Mobile Phone Calls May Be Up for Grabs

mobile phone security

You’ve seen the cell phone intercepts, tracking, and cloning in the movies and on TV. It’s scary, but you know that it is make-believe.

You’ve read the headlines about the NSA listening in on cellular conversations. That’s really scary, but you don’t really care because you think that they won’t be listening to you. You have nothing to hide.

Think again. The NSA’s favorite son, Edward Snowden says that you should care.

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

IMSI Catcher Development

IMIS catchers were developed in the mid-1990s. Referred to in the vernacular as “grabbers,” IMSI catchers are cellular monitoring devices. Of course, since no one wants anyone else to be able to be able to monitor their calls, the original versions were marketed as anti-terrorism equipment.

Just in case you are wondering, IMSI is the acronym for International Mobility Subscriber Identity. And, if you are thinking that cellular monitoring requires a technologically advanced war room deep inside the NSA (or China), be warned that, as rapidly as technology advances, so does the technology require for grabbing your subscriber identity and call data.

Don’t think for a minute that wearable technology is only about being healthy and fit. As far back as 2013, body-worn IMSI catchers were advertised “for covert snooping.” According to published reports,

“The device is small enough to fit under a shirt. It needs from one to 90 seconds to capture the international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI) or international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) of the person being tracked. It works on all GSM-based networks regardless of country and is fully operational even when functioning in a moving vehicle.”

IMSI Catcher Distribution

The distribution of IMSI catchers is kind of like hand grenades. They may be advertised as anti-terror devices, but they can also be used to create the thing they were designed to prevent. And, they are illegal in most places.

While it’s not always clear whether grabbers are illegal (technology moves faster than legislators), like hand grenades, not many of us want our neighbors to own them. It’s not a matter of whether they are legal or not. It is a matter of whether they will use them.

We should all be able to take comfort in the knowledge that our neighbors would never be able to obtain a hand grenade – or a grabber. We should be able to, but we can’t – because they can. Most ostensibly, Alibaba, the world’s largest e-commerce website offers a grabber for $1,800 USD.

Do a Google search for IMSI catcher under the Shopping tab. The good news is there is only one SERP. The bad news is that there are any. It should also not warm the cockles of your heart to see that there are nearly 15,000 searches per month for IMSI catcher. Who are those people and why are they searching for this?”

IMSI Detection

All is not lost. Android IMSI Catcher Detector (AIMSICD) is an app designed to “detect and avoid fake base stations.” SnoopSnitch is available from Security Research labs in the Google Play Store, but its application is somewhat limited at this time. Signal, RedPhone, TextSecure, and ChatSecure apps are all robust enough to shield the content of your personal communications.

What happens on your cell phone should stay on your cell phone. Especially if you are Anthony Weiner.

Call Tech Sentries today for all your security needs.

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