Over the last year I have met numerous business owners doing a great job running their business, but find themselves struggling to keep up with today's ever-changing computer and internet technologies. Some have even expressed a virtually non-existent knowledge of computers and how to use them. In today's rapidly evolving world of the information age, running a business can be a challenge if you know little to nothing of computers. For those local to Southwest Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin Colleges system has a solution for you! They offer several computer classes in many areas and are reasonably priced.

The main page for their Continuing Education curriculum is located here: http://uwc.edu/academics/courses/continuing-education

For those in the Richland area, the main page is here: https://ce.uwc.edu/richland-center/catalog/category/computers

Note that Accredited Design has no affiliation with the UW, and they have not in any way asked or paid me to "advertise" these courses. In fact, I emailed them asking if such courses were available and have yet received no reply. I found this information by conducting an online search. Hopefully this information is valuable to someone.

In just the last week I have been contacted by two separate close friends in a panic that their computers have contracted a horrible virus which showed both text and audio alerts that their computer is infected and were directed by a recorded voice and on-screen text to call a technical support phone number for immediate assistance. The screen looked similar to the image below. Click the image to zoom in:

View the embedded image gallery online at:
https://accrediteddesign.com/blog.html#sigProId8412caea64

The warning locked their browsers and would not allow the users to leave the page. In both cases my friends both committed the big mistake of actually calling the number and were greeted by people with heavy Indian accents calling themselves Microsoft technicians who were there to help. Thankfully one of them hung up on the criminals before they were able to remotely connect to her computer and after saying they needed payment immediately for "virus removal services". I was able to guide her though steps to regain control of her computer. The other friend fell for it completely and not only gave them access to her computer but also gave them her business bank account routing and account number. The criminals installed a real virus on her computer and also did something called syskey in Windows, which acted to further lock down the computer at any time they choose with the intent to get the victim to repeatedly come back to them to "remove more new viruses". For the latter case, I instructed her to completely power off her computer and bring it to me. Her personal files were extracted from her hard drive with the assistance of a local security expert at Phoenix Computers at 608pc.com by opening the drive in a separate Linux OS and copying them to a USB drive and then scanned them for viruses. Her computer needed to be nuked with DBAN and then reformatted with a fresh install of Windows 10 to get every trace of the criminals off of it. She also needed to change ALL passwords to ALL her sensitive accounts and websites, including email and also had to close all of her bank accounts and open new bank accounts. The criminals did in fact attempt to withdraw money the following day (after she had already called them back and told them off) but the transactions were blocked due to her warnings to her bank.

This method of scam is on the rise and was even cited by the U.S. FBI in a recent public service announcement:

Fbi Psa 2014

 

There are also several YouTube channels dedicated to the art of "Scam Baiting" in which they set up a virtual machine and remove or replace all the Windows system tools commonly used by the scammers to scare and control victims and then proceed to confront them about why they feel the need to steal from people. In almost every case the scam baiter is met by insults and foul language from the criminals. One of the better channels on which to watch examples of this is here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOkhTr4FqEAWRz2UecVsh4g but be advised that there is really horrible language when the scammers realize that it's all a setup and being filmed for very public release on YouTube. I recommend donating and liking / subscribing / commenting on such channels and videos to help spread public awareness of this issue, as their actions are about as predatory and malicious as it gets in the cyber sense.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE CONFRONTED BY ONE OF THESE WARNING SCREENS:

  1. Don't panic.
  2. Don't click on ANYTHING!
  3. Don't call the fake technical support or any other phone number.
  4. If you're on Windows, press CTRL + Alt + Del on your keyboard, and then click the "Task Manager" option. In the new window look for your browser, IE: Chrome, Firefox, Safari and click to highlight it. Then click "End Task". Don't reopen your internet browser yet.
  5. Follow the little guide linked HERE to completely clear your browser's cache, history and cookies. Don't reopen your internet browser yet.
  6. Run a complete Anti Virus scan on your computer before you use it any further. The best in my opinion is to run scans with all of the following:

Kaspersky Internet Security

MalwareBytes Anti Malware FREE!

MalwareBytes AdwCleaner FREE!

The best free alternative to Kaspersky Internet Security is currently Avast

While Accredited Design does not currently offer any computer operating system security or cleaning services, there are likely to be many in your area who do. If you happen to be in Southwest Wisconsin one of the best is Phoenix Computers at 608pc.com as mentioned earlier in the article. If not, it could be worth a call to them anyway if you're willing to ship your computer to them to be cleaned but this may also incur shipping costs.

Scam Alert

 

In this day and age there is no shortage of scams targeting all sorts of people of all ages in all walks of life. Below is an account of how I narrowly avoided one targeting web developers such as myself. A few days ago, I received a text message on my smartphone from the phone number (681) 233-1381.

 

Hello, I want to know if you handle Website design for a new company, also if you accept credit cards? kindly get back to me ASAP, so that I can email you with the Job details. Thanks

 

Only on rare occastion do I receive a legitimate random text message concerning new business, but this sounded like perhaps it could be real, so I replied:

 

Yes, both. Visit accrediteddesign.com

 

The next day, I received an email direct to my business email address from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. stating the following:

 

Here is the job details

I have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in GA and the company is based on Horseback Riding and exercise services, i need a best of the best layout design for it, can you handle that for me ?
I need you to check out this site but i need something more perfect than this if its possible http://www.rockinghorseranch.com.... the site would only be informational, so i need you to give me an estimate based on the site i gave you to check out, the estimate should include hosting and i want the same page as the site i gave you to check out and i have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site.
Note:
1. I want the same number of pages with the example site i gave you to check excluding videos and blogs.
2. I want only English language
3. I don't have a domain yet but i want the domain name as besthorsebackriding.com
4. you will be updating the site for me.
5. I will be proving the images, logos and content for the site.
6. I want the site up and running before ending of next month.
7. My budget is $4000 to $8000
Kindly get back to me with:
(1) An estimate
(2) Your cell phone number
(3) And will like to know if you are the
owner ??.

smith Cole

 

With this, numerous alarm bells started going on in my head and I had a creepy "I'm being stalked" sort of feeling about this. I've been in business dealings in my adult life as long as I can remember, have been in sales and marketing nearly as long and several things seemed very odd to me.

  1. It originated with a text to my phone.
  2. The phone number (681) 233-1381 is unlisted, even in reverse cell phone search and it's a Hurricane, WV landline phone number and he/she says the company is in GA.
  3. How did they text me from a landline?
  4. The name, "smith Cole" seemed odd. A search for the name in WV and GA yielded no results, only "Cole Smith" in Hurricane, WV.
  5. How did they initially only have my cell phone number for texting me, but have no clue about my email or company information to otherwise contact me.
  6. If you read the email closely, it seems English is not their first language, however they speak it fairly fluently.
  7. Why would they ask for my cell phone number in the email when the origination was a text chat and they already had my cell phone number?
  8. Why would they want to know that I'm the owner? Who cares?
  9. What's up with the "project consultant"? Another 3rd party?

So after doing some research and speaking to another friend in web development, I confirmed without question that this was a total scam attempt. The first clue I had was this post:

http://www.topix.com/forum/business/computers/TOU7MI4GLAOFQFKRH

After speaking with the mentioned friend, he forwarded me these links:

http://blog.ihenix.com/nearly-got-scammed/

https://wolfcreekweb.com/post/Scam-Targets-Web-Designers

https://benweiser.com/the-art-of-the-web-design-scam-e-mail/

https://teamtreehouse.com/community/web-design-scam-heads-up

 

Here’s a quote from scamwarners.com as to how this works.

  • The scammer places a (usually large) order for goods, services or a reservation.
  • The scammer insists on using his own courier/shipper or freight company.
  • The scammer gives a plausible explanation for additional charges to be added to the card. These may include, but are not limited to, another party needing payment but doesn’t accept credit cards, or taking safety precautions by only sharing credit card information with one party.
  • The scammer provides credit card information for payment with a request for the overage to be sent to a supposed third party. That third party is the same scammer using another name. The usual request is for the payment to be sent by transfer via Western Union or Money Gram.
  • Any credit card information you receive belongs to an innocent victim. The scammer is using your ability to charge and process cards as a way to steal money from compromised cards. Any money sent to the scammer is lost, with both the business and card holder as victims.

So basically, had I continued with this person via email, They would have had me process a stolen credit card number in the amount of say, $4,000. Once the payment was made and it was processed and complete, I would have seen this as a sign that it's for real. They would have then asked me to pay this third party project consultant (really the same person, the same scam artist using a different name alias) an amount of say, $1,500 for their content services from my own credit card. The end result would have been that the $4,000 payment they made to me would fall through after about two to three days because it was a stolen card in the first place, and I'd be out the $1,500 I had just legitimately paid to them. I'd never hear from them again.

I hope this information finds someone else before they nearly slip into the grip of a similar scam artist. Always trust your instincts, and always hesitate and investigate if anything seems abnormal to you.

It's time to migrate your Joomla site

Most Joomla! website owners, implementers, and designers are aware that Joomla! version 3 is the latest major release of Joomla!. The Joomla! Project has recently announced that version 2.5 support ended on December 31, 2014! If you are not already aware, version 1.5 support ended on April 30th, 2012.

BREAKING NEWS 12/14/2015:

It has come to our attention that the Joomla Security Strike Team was notified of a critical security vulnerability and they have just released a patch on 12/14/2015. There was a High Priority Remote Code Execution (affecting Joomla 1.5 through 3.4.5). According to news posted by the Joomla Security Strike Team your site can be very easily hacked if you are not running the latest Joomla version 3.4.6 or later.

Further details can be found here:

https://www.joomla.org/announcements/release-news/5641-joomla-3-4-6-released.html

This critical vulnerability affects all versions of Joomla below 3.4.6, including Joomla 1.5 and 2.5 versions. Since these series of Joomla are no longer supported, there will be no patches released for Joomla 1.5 and 2.5 websites. It is highly advised that you migrate to Joomla 3 ASAP if you are running these rather outdated versions of Joomla.

If you are running an older version of Joomla and wish to be updated please contact us ASAP and we can help you get your site secure.

Do you have Joomla 3.4.x but have no time to upgrade - need help?
If you need help with the upgrade then we can do the upgrade for you as a priority. Send us your site details NOW and we will add you to our list of sites to upgrade and make secure.

What does all of this mean?

As mentioned, Joomla! is an amazing CMS which makes up the core framework of millions of websites. Joomla! is a software project maintained by a skilled group of software developers as well as a large and knowledgeable community of experts. In order to keep up with internet trends as well as constantly emerging security threats, the Joomla! developers are constantly upgrading and reworking the Joomla! code. These changes emerge in the form of release versions of the Joomla! system to be installed on your web site. Joomla! works in such a manner that all updates to a major release can only be made within that major release. In other words, Joomla! 2.5.5 will update smoothly to 2.5.6 and later on to 2.5.7 but never to 3.x. In order to make the leap to 3.x from 2.5, a “migration” is required which is in essence a full or partial rebuild of a website where certain elements of the system can be “copied” or “migrated” over to the new system. When many of the web technologies driving a major release of Joomla! become archaic, a new major release version of Joomla! is developed and released, and the archaic versions are abandoned. This means that no more updates will be made to that version.

Conclusion

Joomla! 3 is where you need to be! Not only for important security reasons but for ease of management for your entire website. And don't you want to take advantage of all those new features? Joomla! version 3 will be actively supported through at least September of 2016 as reported on the Joomla! Development Network.

We are experts at migrating Joomla! websites. More and more new clients are coming to us every day because of our experience and knowledge with Joomla! upgrades and development.

Feel free to contact us or give us a call at 608.383.3333 and we can chat about your needs and requirements.

Click here to get a free migration quote today!

Joomla! 1.5 support ended on April 30, 2012 and Joomla! 2.5 support ended on December 31, 2014. Click here for more information.

On April 21st 2015, an update at Google impacted most websites on the web. From April 21st 2015 onward, only mobile and responsive websites will appear in Google search results on mobile devices.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME?
To put it simply, if your website is not mobile friendly or responsive, your website will not show up in Google's search engine results on most mobile devices! You will become invisible.

WHAT DOES THIS GOOGLE UPDATE LOOK FOR?
The Googlebot must be allowed to scan your CSS and JS files in order to deem them as mobile friendly. At the time of writing this post, tablets are not affected, but expect this to change soon.

TAKE THE TEST
Google provides a Mobile-Friendly Test Tool which you can use to see if your website is mobile friendly to Google:

https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

WHAT CAN I DO IF MY SITE DOES NOT PASS THE TEST?
There's no easy way to say this, but you have no choice except to upgrade your website to use a responsive or mobile friendly framework.

NEED ASSISTANCE?
As always, if you are in need of assistance migrating your website or making it mobile friendly, we are here to help you. Contact us and we can help you stay visible to the search engines! You can read the official announcement here: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.fr/2015/02/finding-more-mobile-friendly-search.html