Most USB Thumb Drives can be Reprogrammed to Infect Computers

Posted by on Aug 1, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Most USB thumb drives can be reprogrammed to infect computers

 The firmware in such devices is unprotected and can be easily overwritten by malware, researchers from Security Research Labs saidvirus-pendrive

Most USB devices have a fundamental security weakness that can be exploited to infect computers with malware in a way that cannot easily be prevented or detected, security researchers found.

The problem is that the majority of USB thumb drives, and likely other USB peripherals available on the market, do not protect their firmware — the software that runs on the microcontroller inside them, said Karsten Nohl, the founder and chief scientist of Berlin-based Security Research Labs.

This means that a malware program can replace the firmware on a USB device like a thumb drive by using secret SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) commands and make it act like some other type of device, for example, a keyboard, Nohl said.

The spoofed keyboard could then be used to emulate key presses and send commands to download and execute a malware program. That malware could reprogram other USB thumb drives inserted into the infected computer, essentially becoming a self-replicating virus, the researcher said.

Researchers from Security Research Labs have developed several proof-of-concept attacks that they plan to present at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas next week.

One of the attacks involves a USB stick that acts as three separate devices — two thumb drives and a keyboard. When the device is first plugged into a computer and is detected by the OS, it acts as a regular storage device. However, when the computer is restarted and the device detects that it’s talking to the BIOS, it switches on the hidden storage device and also emulates the keyboard, Nohl said.

Acting as a keyboard, the device sends the necessary button presses to bring up the boot menu and boots a minimal Linux system from the hidden thumb drive. The Linux system then infects the bootloader of the computer’s hard disk drive, essentially acting like a boot virus, he said.


Microsoft Wants You to Forget Windows 8

Posted by on Jul 30, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Microsoft wants you to forget Windows 8.  Look to Vista for how Redmond will treat Windows 8 as it moves on to the next bright, shiny OSwin8pro

As talk of the next Windows begins to build and some details of what most are calling for now either Windows 9 or Threshold come into focus, it’s worthwhile to take a moment to remember Windows 8 because Microsoft will want everyone to forget it. And we will.

Unless the Redmond, Wash. technology company radically changes its habits, it will throw Windows 8 down a memory hole even before the successor ships. Just like it made Vista persona non grata in its official messaging in 2009, it will shove Windows 8 so far into the background that we’ll need the Hubble telescope to find it.

Not that that’s unusual. All companies fake amnesia to a stunning degree, even when what they want to forget — more importantly, what they want customers to forget.  It’s always about next year’s shiny object, not last year’s.

Vista redux

To see the future for Windows 8, look at how Microsoft treated Windows Vista — the 2007 edition that launched late and quickly garnered negative reviews that painted a reputation from which it never recovered.

In the months leading up to the launch of Windows 7, Vista’s successor — and a wildly successful one at that — Microsoft came close to banning the word “Vista” from press releases, its most official line of communications to the media, investors, partners and customers.

Not only has Microsoft acknowledged that its share of all computing devices — smartphones, tablets, personal computers — now hovers at 14%, a far cry from its near monopoly as late as 2010, but the company certainly understands how poorly Windows 8 has performed even within the small segment composed of desktop and notebook computers.

The newer OS has outsold Vista, certainly, about 31% better according to calculations based on stated sales milestones that were then turned into per-month figures for Windows 8′s first 16 months and Vista’s first 19. But Windows 8 has lagged far behind its predecessor, Windows 7. The latter bested Windows 8 by 113% on a per-month basis calculated for its first 15 months.


Have You Hugged Your Sysadmin Today?

Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Have You Hugged Your Sysadmin Today?

 Celebrate System Administrator Appreciation Day by showing some gratitude toward the IT pros who do it all.sysadmin-Tshirt

The last Friday of July is System Administrator Appreciation Day, so be sure to take some time today to honor your favorite administrator in style. If you’re not sure what’s appropriate, the SysAdmin Day website recommends cake and ice cream, pizza, cards, gifts, words of gratitude, balloons, confetti, streamers, and “custom T-shirts celebrating the epic greatness of your sysadmin(s).” You could also sing this geeky-cool rock ballad crowdsourced by Spiceworks to the admin of your choice.

In truth, the term “sysadmin” is used a little broadly, and can sometimes conjure thoughts of the guy in the wiring closet who sets up email accounts and unjams the printer. In fact, System Administrator Appreciation Day actually was inspired by a Hewlett-Packard ad for laser printers. It depicted a sysadmin receiving flowers and gifts from his grateful co-workers. Sysadmin Ted Kekatos had just installed several of the printers at work, and he decided to create an actual day when the scenario in that ad could play out.

That was in 2000. Today’s sysadmins do much, much more, and the folks at SolarWinds set out to quantify that. They surveyed system administrators about the duties they actually perform and found the most common were: troubleshooting IT problems (89%); monitoring system performance (87%); and answering technical queries and assisting users (85%). A range of other responsibilities also rated highly, most having to do with system and network performance, as you can see in the infographic below.

SolarWinds then compared the average salary of a sysadmin to the amount a company could potentially spend to staff all of the functions a single sysadmin typically performs. They estimated a business actually saves $612,000 per year per sysadmin, assuming it would hire a full-time employee for each function performed. Clearly, that’s not a realistic assumption, and the calculation is a bit exaggerated. It does, however, serve to make the point that sysadmins are highly versatile employees providing exceptional value to the workplace.

And the responsibilities listed here may not be giving some sysadmins — especially those working in large organizations — quite enough credit. I know of many IT pros with the title of system administrator who deal with technologies like virtualization and cloud administration on a regular basis. The sysadmin may seem like a bit of a catch-all title, but maybe that’s happened because they really can do it all. Give those people a T-shirt!


Microsoft Warns of Pending Support Deadlines for Windows 7, Office 2010 SP1, Windows Server 2003, and more

Posted by on Jul 21, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Microsoft warns of pending support deadlines for Windows 7, Office 2010 SP1, Windows Server 2003, and more

Summary: Microsoft officials are beginning to sound the support warning bell for customers running a number of its popular products, including Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003, and more.mssupport-147x99

As the second half 2014 rolls in, Microsoft is stepping up its warnings for approaching support deadlines for some of its key products, including Windows 7.

A few definitions worth knowing: Mainstream support is the typically five-year period when Microsoft provides free patches and fixes, including but not limited to security updates, for its products. When a product exits the mainstream support phase, Microsoft continues to provide a period (also often five years) of extended support, which means users get free security fixes but other types of updates are paid and require specific licensing deals.

“End of support” means there will be no more fixes or patches — paid or free, security or non-security — coming for specific products. (There are some temporary workarounds, as Windows XP users have discovered, but as a general rule, end of support means, for most intents and purposes, the end.)

Mainstream, free support is ending on January 13, 2015 for a number of major Microsoft products, including all versions of Windows 7 (Enterprise, Home Basic, Home Premium, Ultimate and Starter). Extended support for Windows 7 lasts until January 14, 2020, so users can expect to continue to receive free security updates, but not feature updates, for Windows 7 until that point. For those running Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 applied, the end of mainstream and extended support dates are the same — January 13, 2015 and January 14, 2020, respectively — given there is no Windows 7 SP2.

Some industry watchers have speculated that Microsoft will end up pushing out Windows 7′s support dates the way the company did for XP, given Windows 7′s popularity and pervasiveness, but so far, there’s been no word from Microsoft officials that this is the plan.

Mainstream support also ends on January 13, 2015 for all versions of Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 and all editions of Windows Storage Server 2008. Mainstream support for Dynamics C5 2010, NAV 2009 and NAV 2009 R2 ends on January 13, 2015, as well.

Complete end of support for Windows Server 2003 is approaching next year, as well. On July 14, 2015, Microsoft’s extended support period for that product cuts off, which means the company won’t be issuing patches, updates or fixes of any kind for that operating system (unless users have pricey Custom Support Agreements in place). A number of small businesses are still running Windows Server 2003. Microsoft officials are hoping to convince them to move to Windows Server 2012 R2 and/or Azure.

“With the average Windows Server taking over 200 days to migrate, now it is the time to act and start planning for your migration,” Microsoft officials warned Windows Server 2003 holdouts recently. “With the Architectural changes in 32 bit to 64 bit technology – everything changes in Windows Server 2012.”

On the more immediate front, there are some other end of support dates worth noting.

Support for Office 2010 with Service Pack 1 ends on October 14, 2014, as does support forSharePoint 2010 with SP1. Support also is ending for Forefront Unified Access Gateway 2010 with SP3 and Visual Studio 2012 Remote Tools, Test Professional, and Express for Web, Windows 8 and Windows Desktop.

“Customers should migrate to the next available Service Pack to continue to receive security updates and be eligible for other support options” for these service pack releases, Microsoft officials said.

Windows Phone 7.8 mainstream support also is ending soon — on September 14, 2014.


Browsing the Internet Safely

Posted by on Jul 13, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Browsing the Internet Safely

Internet Safety Tips: How to Avoid Spyware

If you think devious Web sites are the only places where spyware awaits its victims, you are in for a shock. Spyware lurks in many corners of the Internet; often in places where you’d least expect it. All it takes is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to compromise your Internet browsing safety.safeweb

Here’s where the danger lies:

  • You open your Web browser and begin browsing
  • You visit a site and unknowingly fall into a spyware trap, such as:
    • A pop-up you click on, even to close it
    • A deceptive link that you follow
    • A clickable graphic that leads down a dangerous path
  • Spyware loads onto your PC without your knowledge
  • Sometimes simply opening a Web page or an HTML email starts the installation
  • Your computer is infected and your personal information is at risk

Spyware quickly begins its task of stealing your information (including credit card numbers, usernames and passwords), directing your browser to suspect sites, changing or deleting your files, pummeling you with pop-ups and slowing your PC to a crawl.

Internet browsing safety

Internet safety can be deceiving. Seemingly reputable sites may contain spyware traps, or the sites themselves may be counterfeit — phishing sites posing as the real thing to lure you into their scams and debacles. The path away from Internet safety often begins innocently enough; however, certain sites are more prone to be a source of spyware, including:

  • Adult sites
  • File sharing sites
  • Social networking sites

Follow these internet safety tips for avoiding spyware and fortify your computer security right away:

  • Avoid questionable Web sites
  • Only download software from sites you trust. Carefully evaluate free software and file-sharing applications before downloading them.
  • Update your operating system regularly
  • Increase your browser security settings
  • Type in a trusted URL for a company’s site into the address bar of your browser to bypass links in an email or instant message
  • Make sure that you have the best security software products installed on your PC:
  • Use antivirus protection and a firewall
  • Get antispyware software protection

Stay safe online

An unprotected computer is like an open door for Web sites that threaten your Internet safety with spyware and computer viruses. Firewalls monitor Internet traffic in and out of your computer and hide your PC from online scammers looking for easy targets. While free antispyware and antivirus downloads are available, they just can’t keep up with the continuous onslaught of new spyware strains. Previously undetected forms of spyware and viruses can often do the most damage, so it’s critical to have up-to-the-minute, guaranteed protection.


How to Choose a Server for your Small Business (Part 3)

Posted by on Jul 8, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Rack Servers

If you anticipate the need to run several servers, either right away or in short order, consider moving up to rack-mount models. These types of servers come in a standard width (to fit in a 19-inch rack) and a standard height (a multiple of 1.75 inches, or 1U; a standard rack is 42U high). A rack permits you to fit many servers into a relatively small footprint, and typically it includes a cable-management system to keep your installation neat.Computer-Hardware

Most rack servers are highly expandable, with sockets for multiple CPUs, copious amounts of memory, and lots of storage. Rack-server systems are highly scalable, too; once you have the rack in place, you won’t need floor space for additional servers until the rack is full. Although they typically cost more than tower servers, they’re cheaper than blades.

Since rack servers operate in very close proximity to one another, they require more active cooling than tower servers do. The fans in these servers can be quite loud, and you’ll need a climate-control system to keep a full rack cool. For those reasons, most businesses isolate their rack servers in a dedicated room. Rack servers can be more difficult to maintain, because they must be physically pulled from the rack for servicing. And like a tower server, rack servers require a KVM arrangement for setup and management.

Blade Servers

The primary distinction between a rack server and a blade server is that several blade servers operate inside a chassis. Adding a new server is as simple as sliding a new blade into the chassis. You can install other network components, such as ethernet switches, firewalls, and load balancers, alongside the servers in the same enclosure, and you can install the whole assembly in a rack. Since the chassis provides the power, cooling, input-output, and connectivity for all the devices inside it, you don’t have to deal with new cables when you add something. Blades are neater and can pack more computer power into a given space than any other server ecosystem, yet their upfront cost is higher because you must also purchase the enclosure.

Blade servers do have their drawbacks. Typically they provide fewer expansion opportunities because they aren’t equipped with as many PCIe slots and drive bays as tower or rack servers are. On the other hand, businesses deploying blade servers usually have shared storage, such as a storage area network, to support their blade servers (and some blade chassis can accommodate SAN storage right alongside the servers). As you’ve probably guessed, housing all those components in such close proximity generates a lot of heat. Blade systems, like rack servers, require plenty of active cooling (usually augmented by fans mounted inside the chassis).

The Bottom Line

If all you’re looking for in a server is file sharing, client backup, and limited remote-access capabilities for a small number of employees using computers (ten or fewer), a Windows Home Server machine or a NAS will satisfy your requirements with an extremely modest investment. A larger small business that needs just one or two more-powerful servers would be better off with towers. They don’t take up a lot of floor space, and they don’t require elaborate cooling systems, but they’re easily expanded, and high-end models can support virtualization.

Once your IT requirements grow beyond what a couple of servers can do, it’s time to consider moving up to a rack server. Dozens of these machines can fit in the same footprint as a couple of towers, and this server architecture is quite scalable. Blade servers are even more space-efficient and scalable. If you need more servers than will fit in a rack, you’ll be happier with a blade ecosystem.

How to Choose a Server for your Small Business (Part 2)

Posted by on Jul 7, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

How to Choose a Server for your Small Business (Part 2)

Choose the Right Server for Your Needs

The big names in the server market are Dell, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Lenovo, and Oracle. Choosing the right server depends in large measure on the applications you intend to run on it.  If your business has more than ten employees using computers, (1) you need to operate an email or print server, (2) manage a complex database, (3) run sophisticated server-based applications (such as ERP or CRM), (4) you have very large storage requirements, or (5) you require large-scale virtualization capabilities, you’ll want a more robust server option such as a tower, rack, or blade server.Computer-Hardware

Tower Servers

You can easily mistake a tower server for a desktop PC–and in fact, you can press a desktop PC into service as a server. Tower servers cost less than expensive rack-mount systems. They can operate on the floor or on top of a desk, but you can also retrofit them to sit in a rack. Tower servers are generally quiet, because they don’t require a lot of cooling fans. A high-end tower server with a fast CPU, lots of RAM, and a plethora of hard drives can pack a punch, especially when you take virtualization into account (provided that the CPU and operating system support it).

On the downside, you’ll need a keyboard, monitor, and mouse to manage each tower server, or you can invest in a KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) option that enables one set of peripherals to control several machines. (You can control micro towers running Windows Server using Remote Desktop Connection via a client PC.) More important, a tower server provides limited scalability once you’ve maxed out its capabilities. If you anticipate your IT requirements expanding rapidly, a rack or blade server is a better alternative than finding space for a bunch of towers.

Tower servers come with the same operating system choices as rack and blade servers do, including various flavors of Windows Server and Linux.

How to Choose a Server for your Small Business (Part 1)

Posted by on Jul 7, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

How to Choose a Server for your Small Business (Part 1)

So, your business has grown large enough that you need your first server. Congratulations! Acquiring a server is a big decision, so some trepidation is understandable.Computer-Hardware

Server Basics

Although a small server might look no different from a high-end desktop PC, the machines are designed for very different tasks. A desktop computer is designed for one person who needs a user-friendly operating system to run desktop applications such as a word processor, a spreadsheet, an email client, and a Web browser. A server runs a specialized operating system designed to support many users.

It’s engineered to run multi-user applications such as email, messaging, and print servers; shared calendar programs; databases; and enterprise resource planning software. A server also makes it easy for your employees to share data and collaborate, since it operates as a central repository for all of your documents, images, contacts, and other important files. It can host a company intranet, for sharing information with your employees quickly and economically. Set up a virtual private network, and you and your employees can access the data on the server remotely from anywhere you have Internet access.

On top of that, a server can automatically back up your desktop and laptop systems, so you’ll never lose critical data if one machine fails or is lost or stolen. Servers are designed to be reliable, secure, and fault-tolerant, with redundant storage options.

If you expect your business to expand, choose a server that’s scalable and can grow with you. If you operate a small to medium-size business, the question isn’t “Do I need a server?” but “Which type of server do I need?”

On-Site/Remote Support & Maintenance Plans

Posted by on Jul 4, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

On-Site/Remote Support & Maintenance Plans

Our maintenance plan is an integral service for your servers, network and workstations. Whether you’re an organization of one hundred or a one room office, we are your IT department. Our qualified IT professionals and support staff are dedicated to keeping your technology running at peak

A Convergent Technologies Preventative Maintenance Plan gives you more than worry-free technical solutions. It gives you peace of mind allowing you to get on with your business without the anxiety of a failed network when you need it most. Preventative maintenance services are vital to the life cycle of your hardware. Get the most value from your technology investment by maintaining your assets and stop the cycle of break-replace.

We believe in a preventative approach to technology-care based on your unique workflow. We sit down with you and find out how your business operates and design a custom solution based on your exact wants and needs. Because we know that problem do occur regardless of a well laid out plan, our Preventative Maintenance plan also includes 24 hour emergency service. We will be there for you at anytime to help you reach your deadline.

Why do you need a maintenance plan?

Your computer network is a collection of multifaceted machines and software. It is performing trillions of calculations every second using hundreds of parts and wires, and is under regular attack by processing needs, unwanted viruses, and spyware.

Do you want more reasons why every small business needs regular and proactive server and workstation maintenance and optimization? Take a look at what we’re already doing for our clients:

1. Review and management of Firewall, virus and spyware protection needs on a monthly basis

2. Resolve network issues that occur through daily use of servers and workstations Prevent storage issues & data loss through management of hard drive resources

3. Apply critical software security updates at least once a month.

4. Monitor regular scheduled data backup

What are Virtual Servers?

Posted by on Jun 27, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

What are Virtual Servers?

Server virtualization is the partitioning of a physical server into smaller virtual servers to help maximize your server resources. In server virtualization the resources of the server itself are hidden, or masked, from users, and software is used to divide the physical server into multiple virtual environments, called virtual or private servers. This is in contrast to dedicating one server to a single application or task.serverVirtualiztion1

Benefits of Server Virtualization

Server virtualization has many benefits. For example, it lets each virtual server run its own operating system and each virtual server can also be independently rebooted of one another. Server virtualization also reduces costs because less hardware is required so that alone saves a business money.

Server virtualization also conserves space through consolidation as several machines can be consolidated into one server running multiple virtual environments. It also utilizes resources to the fullest so it can also save on operational costs, for example, using a lower number of physical servers reduces hardware maintenance.