Great Plains Communications Residential Blog

Keeping Your Family Connected

Tag: Online Security (page 1 of 2)

What is the WannaCry Ransomware Attack?

You may have seen the terms WannaCry, WanaCry, WCry, or Wanna Decrypt weaved throughout the news the past few days. This is referring to the most recent global ransomware attack. Initiating in Europe on Friday, per White House Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert in Monday’s midday White House briefing, it has spread to over 300,000 computers in over 150 countries. So what does this all mean and what can you do to protect yourself from ransomware?

What Does It Mean?

Ransomware: malware planted illegally in a computer or mobile device that disables its operation or access to its data until the owner or operator pays to regain control or access.

Malware: software intended to damage a computer, mobile device, computer system, or computer network, or to take partial control over its operation

Ransomware isn’t a new idea, but if you haven’t heard of it before this outbreak, the simple explanation is that if a computer gets infected, certain common files (such as JPG and PNG pictures, DOCX Word documents and PDF files) get encrypted with a secret key that only the attacker holds. In order to get those files back in one piece, the attacker requires a payment (in WannaCry’s case $300-$1200) to get the key in order to decrypt the files.

What Can You Do to Protect Your Devices?

A patch for this attack was released by Microsoft, which fixed the vulnerabilities on all modern-supported OSes (Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10 and XP is even included).

Other prevention advice offered by No More Ransom!:

  • Back up your computer and store the safety version in the cloud or on a drive that is not connected to your computer.
  • Use robust antivirus software.
  • Keep all the software on your computer up-to-date. Enable automatic updates.
  • Never open attachments in emails from someone you don’t know. And remember that any account can be compromised.
  • Enable the “Show file extensions” option in the Windows settings on your computer. This will make it much easier to spot potentially malicious files. Stay away from file extensions like “.exe,” “.vbs” and “.scr.”

If you find a problem, disconnect your machine immediately from the Internet or other network connections (such as home Wi-Fi).

 

For more detailed information on the WannaCry ransomware attack, check out the following publications:

http://www.ntca.org/images/stories/Documents/Communications/flash_wannacry_final.pdf

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/05/15/528451534/wannacry-ransomware-what-we-know-monday

Cyber Security and Summer Vacations

Summer vacations are something we all look forward to at every age. Soaking up some rays by the lake, experiencing a new place or just relaxing with the family. While the car ride used to be filled with yelling out states as you spotted them on passing license plates and the anticipation of winning I Spy, it has turned into a quiet murmur from headphones and clicking from the new game the kids downloaded. As you take technology along this summer, Great Plains Communications would like you to keep these cyber security tips in mind to ensure all your information stays safe and secure.

1.       Limit the Social Media Vacation Posts Until You Get Back

Turn off check-ins and location tracking. People are always sharing the hottest new restaurants they visited and what gyms they frequent. While that tells us where they are, it also tells scammers and criminals where they aren’t, at home. Limit vacation posts until you return from your trip. Broadcasting that you are states away from your home opens a window of opportunity for criminals to climb through.

2.       Lock Up Your Gadgets

Make sure to password protect everything, from tablets to cellphones. Another way to lock up your devices is by using the safe in the hotel room when leaving them unattended. Like your wallet, the information on your computer is private and important, so be sure to keep them locked up if you leave them in the room during an outing.

3.       Be Cautious When Using Public Wi-Fi

Check with a source before connecting. Wi-Fi network names are manually created, which means scammers could easily create theirs to mimic a nearby airport or hotel. Once connected to a scammer’s network, your data is in their hands.

4.       Stick to the Basics

Bring what you need and leave the rest at home. Just like you don’t bring every pair of shoes on your trip, you don’t need to bring every device you own. The time is to be spent with family. Facebook will still be there when you get back. Don’t forget to look up this summer and enjoy all the excitement and relaxation a vacation provides.

Tech Home – Keep Your Technology Secure

Living in a world of technology has made it easy for us to stay connected. We have friends, businesses and online information all at our fingertips. Our lives have become a constant stream of emails and newsfeeds connected between multiple devices. Great Plains Communications wants to make sure you understand just where those connections are going and make sure they are all protected, with a new service called Tech Home.

The program provides world-class security for all your devices, home and on the go, with web security and antivirus systems. Gone away is the worry of lost files when your device crashes or gets damaged. With Tech Home you will be able to sync and back up all your files, photos, contacts and additional important information. No matter where you are, or which Wi-Fi you connect to, Tech Home will have you covered with a cloud-based protection keeping your personal information secure and convenient.

With round-the-clock technicians, you will always be provided with help to setup, test, fix and enjoy your network. Up to four computers, laptops, phones or tablets are covered through Tech Home, with the low price of just $2.99 for an additional mobile device and $4.99 for an additional laptop.

With Tech Home, you’ll have the support you are looking for and the protection you need. For more information on the new product, call 1-855-853-1483 or visit our website at https://www.gpcom.com/residential/internet/techhome.

Are You Making the Most Common Mistakes of Password Security?

We live in an increasingly hackable world, where you no longer need a piece of metal with unique notches and grooves to get into some of the most personal aspects of someone’s life. All you need is a password. Do you use the same password for everything? Is your password “123456” or “password”? These are common mistakes made by hundreds of thousands of people every day. Great Plains Communications wants to remind you that password protection is crucial to the safety of everything from your files and account information, to your Wi-Fi connection.

Here are a few common mistakes to keep in mind the next time you change your passwords (because you should be changing them, a lot).

  • Do not use the same password for everything. Just don’t.
  • Do not use your partner, child, or pet’s name, not even if there is a 0 at the end. The number isn’t hiding anything.
  • Do not use “123456”, “password” or “qwerty”. If you do, congratulations you have made the list of the most frequently used and easily hacked passwords.
  • Do not use your birthday. Facebook just notified me that it is today. Happy Birthday!

Just as you wouldn’t hand out the key to your home to just anyone, be wary when giving out any passwords or where you are writing them down. Where you store your password information is just as important as putting time into a secure choice. Ultimately, by changing your passwords often and keeping in mind the common mistakes above, you can increase the safety and security of your personal information and assets.

If you have questions about changing your Wi-Fi password or for more information, call our Customer Response Center at 1-855-853-1483.

Internet Security – Level: Completely Protected

Internet Security

We know that we talk about Internet security a lot.  However, protecting your data and privacy online is essential
to enjoying the Internet and keeping yourself safe.  In our commitment to keep the Internet as fun and protected
as possible, we use a variety of tools and tactics that you may not be aware of.  Here is a list of the ways that
Great Plains Communications works to keep you safe:

Email Guardian: If you are a Great Plains Communications webmail user, then you are already
protected by one of the best spam filters in use today.  Email guardian quarantines suspect email
so that those with viruses don’t have a chance to infect your computer.  This quarantine also lets
you see the email before it is removed from your inbox.  That reduces the chance that an email
which only looked dangerous doesn’t get tossed out before you get to read it.

Password Genie:  Even if you have a great memory, remembering the username and password combination
for every site that you visit on the Internet is very hard.  Many browsers will auto-remember your passwords, but they don’t check to see if it’s you or someone who just wants access to
your accounts.  Password genie only requires you to know one username and password combination.
Once you sign in, it supplies websites with your access information.  Since you have to sign-in, no one
else can get to your accounts.  It’s secure and easy!

SecureIT: For only $4-$6 a month, you can get total piece of mind about your computer’s safety.  SecureIT
provides anti-virus and anti-spyware protection as well as firewall protection.  It will stop you from
accidentally visiting sites that download malware to your computer and parents can even block certain sites
from kids’ computers.  Plus you get 24/7 support in case you ever have a question.

Posts on the blog:  Whenever we get a scam alert, we post about it here.  We post tips and tricks about how
to protect your online safety.  It’s a must read!

In addition to these services, Great Plains Communications is constantly keeping tabs on new
scam alerts and we do our best to make sure our customers are aware of potential issues.  We
keep consumer data completely secured, so you can be assured that everything you let us
know is completely safe!

Have any more questions about how we make sure you stay safe online?
Let us know in the comments section below.

Creating the Ultimate Password

Passwords can be tricky.  On one hand, you need something that is easy to remember.  On the other, you need passwords that aren’t easy to guess and that keep your information safe.

While creating simple passwords can be tempting, it’s only going to make it easier for hackers to break into your accounts and access your sensitive information.  In order to help keep you safe online, we have created a quick list of tips to create passwords that will truly protect you.

  • Passwords should be at least eight letters long
  • Do Include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Do Include at least one number
  • Do Include at least one non alpha-numeric symbol (&, !, *)
  • Don’t use the same password for every website
  • Don’t use words that have an obvious association to you.  (Ex: Doc1234 if you are a doctor or a pet’s name)
  • Don’t let browsers or websites auto-remember your passwords if you are on a public computer or laptop

If the challenge of remembering a password that looks like “ComPlicAted24?” seems daunting, there are programs that can help.  At Great Plains Communications, we recommend a program called Password Genie, which securely remembers your passwords for you when you are logged into your Password Genie account.

Do you have any additional tips to make your passwords as strong as possible?  Let us know in the comments section below!

Safe and Sound – Securing Your Wireless Network

We’ve mentioned several reasons why you should secure your Internet connection if you choose to use a wireless router.  Whether it’s to keep your speeds up or protect yourself from charges of copyright infringement, securing your router just makes sense.

A recent story about a man who was mistakenly arrested after his neighbor used his Internet connection to download illegal materials has prompted us to remind customers again about the dangers of allowing others access to your wireless connection.

  • Remember that you are responsible for your connection – While the man in the story above was able to prove that the computer downloading the offending files wasn’t his, it’s not always that easy.  Especially when it comes to copyright violations, the offending connection is likely to be blamed whether the actual owner of that connection downloaded the files or not.
  • It slows you down – The more devices using one connection the slower the connection will be.  Don’t pay for the entire neighborhood to have High-Speed Internet.
  • It makes it easier for people to hack into your computer – From small business owners to enthusiasts who sell online, users can have a lot of sensitive information on their computers.  While securing your network isn’t a 100% guarantee of protection, it’s definitely a deterrent.  Think about it this way – thieves are likelier to steal from an unlocked car.  Your unsecured network is that unlocked car.

Securing your network only takes a few minutes and can save you from some pretty serious headaches.  For more information on how to secure your connection, check out this article from PC World.

 

More Ways to Protect Your Internet Security

Recently we posted an article about Top Ways to Protect Your Internet Security.  Here are a few more ways to make sure that your online experience stays safe.

Beware of outdated versions of Adobe Reader/AcrobatAdobe Reader, the most popular program for reading PDF documents, comes pre-installed on most computers.  However, vulnerabilities in Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat (another program for reading files) are a very popular way for viruses to get into your computer.  Make sure that you have the latest version, with the most up-to-date protection, at all times.   Updating is easy since Adobe searches for updates automatically and will prompt you to run updates on the program.  If you do want extra help, check out our online PC support options.

Don’t click on pop-ups that claim your computer is infectedIn our last post, we advised that you get to know your anti-virus software.  Knowing how your computer is protected will help you avoid programs known as “scareware”, which  can pretend to be anti-virus programs who have detected hundreds of viruses on your computer.  They offer to “clean” your computer if you purchase the full version of the program.  The thing is, your computer wasn’t infected to begin with and you are effectively paying to get rid of one virus pretending to be real software.

If you see one of these programs appear on your screen run a scan with your actual anti-virus program.  Whatever you do, don’t give the program any credit card or other personal information, as these programs will send the data right back to the scammers and put your identity at risk.

Logging into an account from a link received in an e-mail, IM or other suspect sourceThe risk you run by logging into your online accounts (banking, social media, etc.) from an e-mail link is that you could be taken to a fake landing page set up by a scammer to take your personal information.  When in doubt, go to the log-in page directly by typing the URL in yourself and log-in from there.  (If you ever have trouble remembering your passwords, check out our earlier blog post Say Goodbye to the Frustration of Forgotten Passwords)

Top ways to protect your online security

Here at Great Plains Communications, we spend a lot of time thinking about Internet security.  What’s the point of offering some of the fastest download speeds available in our towns, if no one feels safe getting online?  So we’ve outlined a few easy ways to make your time on the web safer.

  • Know your anti-virus software – Tech website CNET is a great resource for finding out if your anti-virus software is actually keeping your computer safe.  You’ll find full reviews of dozens of popular anti-virus software programs.  If you find out that your program isn’t giving you the protection that you would like, there are a lot of great options out there including SecureIT and Microsoft Security Essentials.

  • Be careful of new e-mail scams – While you probably already know not to open e-mail from someone you don’t know, there is a new e-mail threat that comes in a deceptively safe package.  Hackers are breaking into e-mail accounts and sending out dangerous links from those accounts.  If you see an e-mail from a friend without a subject line, be cautious.  If you open the e-mail and only see a link, erase the e-mail immediately.  You should also let your friend know that their account has been hacked as there is often no warning for the sender.   No one is immune from this one, nearly one-third of congressional e-mail addresses were hacked earlier this year.  If you have a gpcom.net e-mail account, find out how your account is protected here.
  • Change your passwords – If your computer does get infected, it’s important to make sure that you change your passwords after your computer is cleaned.  Most viruses are meant to do nothing more than wreak havoc with your computer, however some are “keystroke catchers” and they have ability to record your passwords and usernames as you type them in.  If you find that keeping track of new passwords is difficult, try the free 30-day trial of Password Genie, an ultra-secure site that will keep track of all of your passwords for you.  They will even auto-fill your usernames and passwords for you!
  • Verify website’s domains – Whenever you are entering information into a website, double check the URL (the website’s domain name).  There are people who buy domains that are almost identical to a real website, often with a commonly used typo, who then prompt users to enter in all sorts of data. It’s called typo-squatting and it’s on the rise.  Make sure that you are on the right site by checking the domain suffix; .com, .edu, .net, etc and making sure the name was typed in correctly.

While there are some pretty nasty bugs out there, for the most part, the internet is a safe place as long as you take a few simple pre-cautions.

Say goodbye to the frustration of forgotten passwords

For anyone who has ever struggled with remembering a password, you know just how frustrating and time consuming getting to your information can be.  Passwords aren’t going anywhere either as websites continually try to find ways to protect users and customizeyour experience on the web.

Unfortunately, the desire to avoid this frustration often leads people to use memory tricks that can expose them to security risks.  Strategies such as writing down all of your passwords and keeping the list near your computer means that anyone with access to your PC will also have access to your data. If you use the same password for everything, you risk that once one account is compromised, the hacker will have access to all of your accounts. Even letting your browser remember your passwords can be fraught with risk if you are on a public computer or others have access to your PC.

It seems like every strategy to make remembering your passwords easier just makes them easier to steal, which of course defeats the purpose of having passwords.  Sigh.

We at Great Plains Communications are big believers in keeping the Internet fun and useful, which is why we are now offering Password Genie.  This service creates an encrypted database that stores all of your passwords and automatically fills out your log-in information when you use Explorer or Firefox browsers.

The program has several benefits compared to using your browser’s “auto-remember” function.  The program is completely secure, featuring 256-bit AES encryption, which is the current standard used by online banking websites.  You will also be able to install Password Genie on up to five computers with an unlimited number of users on each device.  Even if you buy a new computer or have to re-install the program on your current computer, your passwords and usernames will still be there.

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