Classic Shell: The COOLEST Windows 8 Software Yet

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If you are like me, Windows 8 threw you for a loop. With Windows 7 and earlier, you could fly around in the OS, and life was simple. But Windows 8 forced you to think about where you needed to go. It also introduced the Metro design, in which you now had tiles. Tiles are great for anyone with a tablet, but not always convenient for office employees. 

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Last year the highly publicized Windows 8.1 update came out, which added in a new-and-improved Start Menu. It was nice, but tiles were still a big part of that feature. Tiles are utilized in areas that are frequented by everyday users (Documents, Control Panel, Administrative Tools, etc).

For those who dislike the tile feature, I introduce to you… Classic Shell.

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Classic Shell

Classic Shell is software that can be installed on your Windows 8 or 8.1 machine, and get the look and feel you have been wanting. The nice thing about Classic Shell is its customization. You can make it look like a few variants of the Windows 7 start menu and you can also tell Classic Shell to boot to the desktop, so you are not defaulted to the Metro design.

Classic Shell also works on its Windows 8 server equivalents, such as Server 2012 and Server 2012 R2.

Give Classic Shell a try, and if you need help in customizing it, feel free to call our experts here at Everon at 1-888-244-1748. (Or email us at info@everonit.com.) We’re here for you.

 

 

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a…. Superfish? What this is and how you might already be protected

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You may have heard of a trending topic called Superfish. No, it’s not some kind of giant squid or aquatic vigilante. In fact, it’s something with malicious potential that could live on your very hard-drive.

What is Superfish? Well, it’s a type of adware, the likes of which you have probably seen before: unwanted ads, additional pop-ups when browsing, or highlighted text that links you to online shopping results.

How is Superfish different? Superfish was recently discovered pre-loaded on some computers. Most adware is user-installed, inadvertently, when people visit sites and pick up “cookies” that track their shopping habits, etc. While normally harmless, and intended to enhance the online shopping experience, this particular adware has been found to have unfortunate, greater implications — ones that made users vulnerable to hacking. What was created as a partnership to enhance online shopping, in this case, unwittingly turned into a much larger security issue. Superfish had a back door that could allow hackers to access credentials, passwords, or any items they put into their browsers. If a Superfish-carrying computer is used over open-access portals, such as public WiFi, a user could be at risk. This exposure creates a potential security loophole.

Fortunately, Windows was quick to update its Windows Defender anti-malware program to detect and automatically remove the compromised adware. Computer manufacturers have also provided their own set of tools and source code to help others look for any issues that might have been missed.

At Everon, we routinely strip all of the computers we set up for any of our clients. We then reload the hard drives with only the software and systems our clients want and need — leaving out what they don’t. As a precaution, though, as soon as we became aware of the Superfish issue, we immediately assessed all of our Managed Customers’ computers. Because of our standard due diligence in doing set-ups, our customers could breathe-easy: we uncovered only one instance of Superfish, out of over a thousand Managed Customer computers. (We immediately removed the adware on the isolated machine, without the client having to do anything.)

But what if you’re not an Everon Managed Customer? How do you fix this problem?

Well, here is a step-by-step guide to removing Superfish from your computer. However, if you would just feel more comfortable, feel free to contact one of our Everon techs at 888-244-1748. Or contact us at info@everonit.com. We’ll be happy to assist you.

 

Turning Your Cell Phone Into a Wireless Hotspot

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Recently I was asked about how to turn a cell phone into a wireless hotspot, for purposes of being able to go online with a laptop. I realized that this very simple process can be complicated for anyone who doesn’t know how to do it, so I decided to write a post to help give some of the basic facts.

“Tethering” is the act of connecting a WiFi-capable device, such as a laptop or tablet, to your phone so you can utilize your cellphone’s cellular data to get on the Internet. This is a more secure option, offering you more privacy than, say, using the WiFi at a coffee shop. You are essentially turning your cellphone into a wireless router. It’s easier than you think.

The first thing to know is that this process is not free. You have to check with your phone carrier and add a tethering plan (or hotspot plan) to your service. The cost varies depending on how much data you want to have (or be limited to). In my case, I have AT&T. You can review some of AT&T’s monthly data tethering plans here.

Once you have a tethering plan in place, it’s very simple to use. My example is going to be on an iPhone. If you would like instructions on how to tether using your Android device, click here. You can also click here for instructions on tethering with Windows mobile.

For tethering with an iPhone, go to Settings ->Personal Hotspot, and turn on the slider button:

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Once you turn the Personal Hotspot feature on, it actually gives you instructions on how to connect your device to the phone. In this instance, our SSID (the name of our hotspot) is “Oncall,” so you will search for that SSID, which should now be discoverable.

Once you choose that, you input the special, randomly generated password you see on the Personal Hotspot screen, and it should connect you instantly. Note: even though your hotspot is discoverable by you, others won’t be able to log onto it, as they won’t have the password. Also, you do have the option to set your own password by clicking on the > next to the password. This will open a new screen that requests a special password for the hotspot.

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In some cases, it is more feasible to have a personal hotspot off of your phone, rather than to actually have Internet access at your home. I have met some people who get such slow speeds at their house that they use this method as their only way to connect. It is incredibly reliable and is great for any person who is constantly on the move but needs to stay connected. (If you are interested in how fast your 3G or 4G speeds can be, check out this great article that shows the latest speeds, as of Dec. 2014.)

For further information on tips and tricks you can do with your smartphone (in particular iPhones), be sure to check back here for my next series of blogs that outline cool things you can do with your smartphone. And remember, if you have any questions while you are trying to set up your own, personal, wireless hotspot, you can always contact us at Everon: 888-244-1748 (or info@everonit.com). We’re here for you 24/7, 365!

Physical Ways to Protect Your Network From Being Hacked

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There are all kinds of security threats to a company’s network, and while no security is foolproof, there are things you can do to help maintain your network’s integrity.

To protect individual computers, you should disable a computer’s ability to automatically install new USB drives. This prevents malicious software from instantly loading when a device is plugged in. However, this will only affect the new devices from being installed. Your keyboards and mice will still work.

maninthemiddleattackOne of the best ways to prevent physical devices on the network from being hacked is to prevent access to them. Securing routers and modems in areas that are open to the public will prevent someone from tampering with them. Additionally, enforcing controlled access to network rooms helps prevent man-in-the middle attacks. Controlled access should apply to the server room, as well, to prevent someone from plugging in a USB with malicious programs, or uploading a virus directly to the server.

MantrapHowever, having a secured entry to locations has its weakness, too — mostly unintentional, human error. The most common mistake is kindness to other people. This sounds bad, I know, but it can be dangerous to hold a door for someone. Or to let in someone in who forgot his/her key card. The bad guys will try to play on the kindness of others. There is also tailgating — when someone with access to an area opens the door, and then another person catches the door before it closes. This is one way criminals gain access to secured areas without the necessary credentials. The best protection against tailgating is a mantrap (no, we are not talking about Indiana Jones-type traps). A mantrap is created when you have to go through two doors to access the secure room, preferably with a hallway between the two doors. This method traps the tailgater in-between the two doors and helps prevent access to the secure area. 

These are easy ways you can help prevent physical devices from being tampered with. And your network from being hacked. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss further security options for your company, please give us a call at 888-244-1748. Or email us at info@everonit.com. We’re here for you 24/7, 365.

 

 

Top 7 Wireless Security Habits You Should Have for Your Home Network

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There are things the average; non-tech can do to ensure a safer, more secure network at home. For purposes of this article I’ve used a Cisco / Linksys device, but many of these tips can be translated to whatever wireless access device you’re using.

1. Change the default administrator password for your WAP device (WAP = wireless access point). To me, this is the most important of all of these points.  It’s different for every wireless type.  Check with your manufacturer’s instructions (the ones that came with the device, when you bought it), for your default password. Logon with these defaults and change your password.

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2. Turn off the WPA/WEP Encryption. Of all the levels of encryption, these are the weakest, the least secure. Select WPA-2 from your dropdown list for the strongest encryption available for wireless networks.

 

3. Enable MAC address filtering for the laptop or device that needs to authenticate to your WAP. “MAC address” doesn’t mean an Apple Mac computer. The MAC address is the unique hardware address of the device. This list allows only those who are defined, or specified, to access your wireless network.

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4. Change and hide your default SSID. SSID refers to the name of your wireless network or Service Set IDentifier. You can hide your network name from being broadcasted.

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5. Enable firewall & AV (antivirus) on each computer and WAP (firewall only). That will create another, added layer of security to prevent a hacker from accessing your WAP.

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6. Position WAP in the center of your home, and not near exterior walls, to eliminate any signal leakage. This is an interesting point: most of the time wireless signals can broadcast about 1000sq feet. The signal broadcasts out in all directions, 360 degrees. If you place it in the back of the house, your neighbor is going to get a stronger signal than you are, at the front of your house. Also, they make plenty of signal boosters to get good signal throughout your environment. This varies amongst all households and building structures, but is still something to think about.

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7. If you’re leaving, like on a vacation, disable the broadcast of your wireless. A lot of people don’t do this. They leave on vacation, and this gives hackers plenty of time to get into their network, unnoticed. I just unplug mine when I go out of town. Simple as that.

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Happy vacationing!