The Tech Corner is a technology news and advice column presented each week courtesy of Melvin McCrary at Georgia Computer Depot in Cedartown.

Why Ransomware Attacks Still Work

Ransomware continues to attack important sectors (hospitals, banks, universities, Government, law firms, mobile users) and other organizations equally worldwide. Ransomware attacks still have a high rate of success. According to a recent study by Google, ransomware victims have paid more than $25 million in ransoms over the last two years.

Encrypting ransomware (crypto-ransomware) is the most widespread cyber-attack of the moment and it’s important to keep all software up to date with backups of all critical data on external hard drives and online. Many software vulnerabilities happen because people don’t update their software.

Use and apply security awareness programs within your business to avoid clicking on unknown links and attachments in email that could redirect to malicious websites;

Restrict the access of employees to only that data to which they need, and limit their ability to install software programs. Remember to disable macros in Microsoft Office. Be sure to have a paid antivirus product that is up to date.

Establish security awareness campaigns that stress the avoidance of clicking on links and attachments in email. Ask these questions when receiving an email message with a link or an attached file:

1) Do I know the sender?

2) Do I really need to open that file or go to that link?

3) Backup the data. Remove local external storage devices after a backup has been taken so that if ransomware does infect the computer, it won’t be able to touch the backup.

4) Restrict administrative rights. Reducing privileges will reduce attacks significantly. Educate staff about what ransomware is, how it can infect their machines

Always show hidden extensions (ransomware.jpg may actually be ransomware.jpg.exe), filter out executable files from email servers and disable remote desktop connections.

Most ransomware is delivered by spear phishing. Often this is facilitated by information gathered through social media. Have a social media policy in place that limits work-related information.

Consumer Reports pulls all Microsoft Surface recommendations

Consumer Reports has announced is pulling its recommendations on four Surface systems due to extremely high failure rates. The organization regularly surveys its readers and members about the products that they own and use. Based on those surveys, the failure rate of all Surface laptops with detatchable keyboards is expected to be significantly higher than other devices.

This is playing out in two ways. First, Consumer Reports is pulling the ‘Recommended’ status on four systems: The Surface Laptop (128GB and 256GB) and the Surface Book (128GB and 512GB) are no longer preferred options. Second, the organization is categorically and specifically declaring the entire Surface product family ‘Not Recommended’ based on its own two-year survey results. According to CR, this is the first time Surface products have been popular enough for the company to gather data from its readers on their long-term reliability and service requirements. Here’s how the organization describes its findings:

“We’ve found that reliability is a major factor for consumers deciding on what tablet or laptop to buy,” Simon Slater, Consumer Reports survey manager, in an emailed statement. Overall, CR reports that a twenty five percent likelihood that an owner of a Surface laptop or tablet product will have problems by the end of the second year of ownership.

The Surface Pro 4 had marked problems with entering sleep modes, leading to low battery life, the Surface Book had hinge problems, and the Surface Pro 3’s battery life deteriorated badly last year. Microsoft initially refused to service these systems at all, breaking a promise the head of Surface had made about MS offering a $200 battery replacement plan. Instead, Microsoft forced Surface Pro 3 owners to pony up $450 for a refurbished unit. Redmond eventually changed course on this and refunded customers their money, but the company’s initial response was still to throw its customers under the bus.

Intel introduces Ruler Solid State Drives (SSDs)

Many personal computers are shipping with SSDs instead of spinning drives for local data. However, a lot of your bytes living in the cloud are probably still stored on spinning drives, which are available in larger capacities at lower prices. Intel is trying to change that with a new form factor for SSDs that could push server capacities into the petabyte range. It’s called the “Ruler” form factor.

Unsurprisingly, Intel’s new SSDs in the Ruler form factor are shaped like a ruler. They’re long and skinny, eschewing the legacy 2.5 and 3.5-inch chassis limits of current consumer SSDs. These drives don’t need to be any particular shape to start with, as they’re just stacked solid state NAND chips inside. A hard drive needs to make room for spinning platters and other mechanical components. So, Intel opted to build the Ruler SSDs to fit into a server rack as efficiently as possible.

Google improves Play store algorithms

Google today announced a change to the Play Store that’s aimed at helping you to find higher quality apps.

Google has improved the Play Store’s search and discovery algorithms to reflect app quality. This means that higher quality apps, aka ones that have fewer complaints about app stability, will be surfaced higher in the results and will be easier for you to find.

So far, this change has had a positive impact on user engagement, says Google. Users are installing higher quality apps more frequently and uninstalling these apps less.

Cell Phone unlocking service

We are now unlocking cell phones for a small fee.