Insidious New IRS Social Engineering Attack

There is an insidious new IRS scam doing the rounds. They send you a phony IRS CP 2000 form and claim the income reported on your tax return does not match the income reported by your employer. This is meant to get you worried. To confuse you further, the bad guys claim this has something to do with the Affordable Care Act.

You might receive emails with attached phony forms, text messages and even live calls to your phone about this! You need to know that the IRS will never initiate contact with you to collect overdue taxes by an email, text message or phone call.

If you get any emails, text messages, old-time snail mail or even live calls about this, do not respond and/or hang up the phone. If you receive a “CP 2000″ form in the mail and doubt this is legit, you can always call the IRS at 1-800-366-4484 to confirm it is a scam.

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Lastest iTunes Update Causing Problems

We’ve responded to a number of calls from clients experiencing issues with the latest iTunes update.  This is a known issue with update 11.1.4 released on or around January 22, 2014.

Fortunately, there is a workaround (from the iTunes support forums):

Go to Control Panel > Add or Remove Programs (Win XP) or Programs and Features (later)

Remove all of these items in the following order:

  • iTunes
  • Apple Software Update
  • Apple Mobile Device Support (if this won’t uninstall move on to the next item)
  • Bonjour
  • Apple Application Support

Reboot, download iTunes, then reinstall, either using an account with administrative rights, or right-clicking the downloaded installer and selecting Run as Administrator.

The uninstall and reinstall process will preserve your iTunes library and settings.

Please note:

Some users may need to follow all the steps in whichever of the following support documents applies to their system. These include some additional manual file and folder deletions not mentioned above.

HT1925: Removing and Reinstalling iTunes for Windows XP

HT1923: Removing and reinstalling iTunes for Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8



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Warning: CryptoLocker – New Ransomware Variant

We’ve been hearing about a nasty virus making the rounds that will encrypt a user’s files and attempt to solicit a ransom payment in order to regain access to the data.  Currently it’s been able to bypass most security and antivirus software and has primarily been spread as an email attachment.  As always, exercise caution when opening ANY email attachments.

There is no fix for the infection if it succeeds in encrypting your files.  The only way to recover the data is from a backup.  Make sure your backups are in place and working.

More info here:


CryptoLocker – a new ransomware variant
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Reminder: Support for Windows XP Ends April 2014

All good things must come to an end and unfortunately, that time is fast approaching for Windows XP. Every Windows product has a lifecycle. The lifecycle begins when a product is released and ends when it’s no longer supported or sold. For Windows XP, that day is April 8, 2014.

End of support refers to the date when Microsoft no longer provides automatic fixes, updates, or online technical assistance. Without Microsoft support, you will no longer receive security updates that can help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software that can steal your personal information.

Contact us for assistance in upgrading your systems today – 763-442-1275.

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Safeguard Your Company's Online Bank Accounts

You’ve heard us speak to the issue of security for small businesses quite a bit lately and the risks continue to grow. Don’t think for a minute that just because you’re a smaller business that cyber criminals will overlook your business.

Here’s a great article on protecting your online bank account from fraud:

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“Ransomware” Infections on the Rise

The latest trend in malware is what the industry calls “Ransomware”, and while not really new, it is becoming quite popular.  We’ve encountered a few of these infections on client computers already and the industry is warning that these types of threats will continue to grow.

So what exactly is a “ransomware” infection?  As the name infers, this type of infection holds either access to your computer or your data for ransom until you pay.  The most common infection so far has involved the computer being locked down with a window impersonating a warning from the FBI displaying a threatening message and blocks the user from doing anything else unless you pay the fine or find a way to remove the program.   The other type of infection will actually encrypt your personal data such as your documents photos, music, etc.   For these infections, there is NO way to remove the infection or recover your data without paying or restoring from a backup.

These attacks are incredibly sophisticated and are generally delivered to victims computers by a “drive-by” download.  All it takes is a visit to a compromised web page and the malware is installed onto your computer without any interaction on your part.

It is incredibly important that you have updated security software on your computer and keep all of your applications and operating systems up to date with the latest security patches as well as ensuring you regularly backup your data.   We also recommend a layered approach to securing your network through the use of additional security appliances and services to help reduce the chance of these infections slipping through.

Additional information on these attacks can be found here:

Latest ‘ransomware’ attacks are scarily sophisticated
Inside a ‘Reveton’ Ransomware Operation

Don’t fall victim to these attacks – contact us today to help secure your computer systems.

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The Case for Business Class Email

The Case for Business Class Email

For most small businesses, email is a critical part of their business.  In fact, in a recent Gartner and Symantec study, it was determined that up to 75% of a company’s intellectual property resides in its email and other messaging applications.

As a mission-critical part of your business, email simply has to work, be fast, and always accessible from the office, on the road, or from home. Today, this means being able to access your email, contacts, and calendar directly from your computer, smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device, so you’re never out of touch with your business.  It also means this critical data needs to be safeguarded against loss.

Unfortunately, many small businesses still rely on outdated email solutions to manage and access their email.  The most common are POP3 and IMAP.  Developed in the 1980’s, these email solutions are often included (read “free”) as part of a web hosting package or by your Internet Service Provider.


POP & IMAP – What’s the Difference?

The main difference between POP & IMAP is the way in which they control your email inbox. When you use IMAP, you are actually accessing your inbox on the mail server.   IMAP does not actually move messages onto your computer. You can think of an e-mail program using IMAP as a window to your messages on the server. Although the messages appear on your computer while you work with them, they remain on the central mail server.   The benefit of IMAP is that it makes it easier to view email from home, work, or your mobile device because all of your email is stored on the server.

POP does the opposite. Instead of just showing you what is in your inbox on your mail server, it checks the server for new messages, downloads all the new messages in your inbox onto your computer, and then deletes them from the server.  POP can create problems with duplicate & missing emails when accessing your account from multiple devices.  Furthermore, because it downloads all of your email to your computer, you’re responsible for ensuring your email gets backed up.

Probably the biggest issue with POP and IMAP is that these technologies only support email and offer no provisions for calendar or contact information.


The Benefits of Hosted Exchange

The major benefits of Hosted Exchange is not in what it can do better than free email solutions, but rather what it can do that free email can’t.  Starting with mobility and the built-in Exchange ActiveSync, any iPhone, Android, Blackberry, or Windows Phone can sync your email, calendar, and contacts.  This mobile connectivity means you and your employees can be productive wherever they are.

With Microsoft Outlook on your Windows or Mac computers, you’re able to take full advantage of the full collaboration functions of Microsoft Outlook, such as group calendars, contacts, task schedulers, and file-sharing.  Combine that with the Outlook Web App (OWA), which allows full Outlook functionality when the desktop version is not available, and the power of Hosted Exchange becomes clear.  With secure anytime, anywhere access to your email accounts along with consistency across all of your devices, means less time worrying about email and more time spent doing business.

As you can see, Microsoft Exchange offers a quantum leap over basic email solutions.  If you’re still using a POP or IMAP based email solution for your business, you’re missing out.

You can read more about our Hosted Exchange offerings here, or if you’re ready to get started, contact us today to discuss Hosted Exchange as a solution for your business email needs.

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Optimizing Battery Power on Your Laptop

Business Computing Tip-of-the-Month:

“Optimizing Battery Power on Your Laptop”

Laptop Battery PowerThe most basic step you can take to prevent power loss on your mobile PC is to invest in a high quality battery and always keep a spare on hand. Splurging on a quality battery and spare can save you from hours of lost access to your mobile PC.

Battery Care

Once you’ve invested in a good battery, you need to take care of it. To clean your battery contacts, first turn off and unplug your mobile PC. Remove the battery and wipe its metal contacts and its contacts inside the device with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Let dry completely before reinstalling and reconnecting to a power source. Repeat every two to three months.

Modern lithium ion batteries can be recharged and partially discharged time and time again, but you should never fully discharge them. Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries common to older laptops should be completely drained and recharged every one to three months.

After mastering the basics of battery care, make sure you are utilizing your mobile PC’s built in energy saving features.

Optimize Your Power Settings

The hard disk and display on your mobile PC consume the most battery power. Choose a power plan, refered to as a power scheme in Windows XP, to reduce the use of power-hungry functions and lessen screen brightness.

Utilize the following battery-saving states:

  • Sleep or Standby

    In a sleep state, your hard disk and display turn off, and all open programs and files are saved in Random Access Memory. In case of a crash or power loss, save your work before placing your system in sleep mode. Your mobile PC should wake up quickly from sleep, and your desktop and files should appear just as you left them.
  • Hibernation

    When your computer hibernates, it saves everything to its hard disk before shutting down. When you restart, your desktop should be restored exactly as you left it. Hibernation takes a bit longer to wake up from than sleep, but it uses less power.

Further Tips for Lowering Your Energy Use:

  • Turn off your wireless device when you’re not connected to a wireless network but you’re using your mobile PC.
  • Turn off scheduled tasks.
  • Keep the use of tools in the notification bar minimal.
  • Limit power-intensive activities such as gaming, watching a DVD or listening to a CD.
  • Reduce power consumption by adding memory (RAM) to your mobile PC.
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What are Managed Services, and How Can They Save My Company Money?

Business Computing Tip-of-the-Month:

“What are Managed Services, and How Can They Save My Company Money?”

When a company subscribes to a managed servcie, the provider manages the network equipment and applications on the client’s premises according to the terms established to meet the client’s unique business needs.

For small and medium-sized businesses, managed services provide enterprise class capabilities for an affordable monthly fee-with no large initial capital investment required.

Subscribing to managed services will:

  1. Bring high levels of network support and availability.
  2. Enable internal IT staff to focus on strategic activities instead of network support.
  3. Allow you to pay only for those networking services that you need.

Managed services bridge the gap by giving companies access to leading network technologies and management expertise without the need to invest in technology upgrades.

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Useful & Quick Keyboard Shortcuts to Save You Time

Business Computing Tip-of-the-Month:

“Useful & Quick Keyboard Shortcuts to Save You Time”

Laptop Battery Power Just using your mouse to make computer commands takes more time than you think – keyboard shortcuts save both time and energy by reducing multiple clicks to a single combination of keys.

Keyboard shortcuts are used for tasks that you do all the time, such as opening or saving files.  The table below offers only a fraction of the common standard-keyboard shortcuts, many of which work across Office applications—such as the following:


  • Outlook
  • Access
  • Visio
  • PowerPoint
  • Word
  • Excel

A full list of built-in keyboard shortcuts can be found in the Help section of any particular computer-based application.

Press this To do this
F1 Open Help
F7 Check the spelling of titles or words in any Office application with the Spelling & Grammar checker
Windows logo key Open the Start menu
Alt+F4 Quit a program
Alt+Tab Switch between open programs or windows
Ctrl+N Open a new (blank) document
Ctrl+A Select all content in a document, window, or text box
Ctrl+S Save the current file or document (works in most programs)
Ctrl+C Copy the selection
Ctrl+X Cut the selection
Ctrl+V Paste the selection
Ctrl+P Print a document or webpage
Ctrl+Z Undo an action
Ctrl+Y Redo an action
Ctrl+F Find text in a document
Ctrl+H Find and replace text in a document
Ctrl+B Boldface text
Ctrl+I Italicize text
Ctrl+U Underline text
Ctrl+G Go to a page, line, or bookmark in a document
Windows logo key +F1 Display Windows Help and Support
Esc Cancel the current task
Application key Open a menu of commands related to a selection in a program (equivalent to right-clicking the selection)
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