• Posted on July 9, 2017 10:48 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    A Guide to the iPad Recovery Mode Resetting the iPad to its factory default settings is the nuclear option when it comes to troubleshooting.  For most issues, simply rebooting the iPad will fix the problem.  It's amazing what a simple reboot will do for the iPad, although it is important to follow the right procedure when rebooting.  When that fails, choosing to erase all settings and data and start from scratch becomes an option.   But what happens when you can't even reset the iPad?   If the iPad is locked or continually gets stuck at the Apple logo, you'll need to go beyond nuclear and force the iPad into recovery mode. The iPad's recovery mode is a process that uses iTunes on your PC or Mac in order to bypass the normal operation on your iPad.  If the iPad has been disabled or something went wrong with a previous update and it now freezes at the Apple logo, this process can force the iPad to reset to its fresh-out-of-the-box factory default settings. Remember, this should only be used when you cannot get into the iPad to operate it.   If your iPad boots up but freezes often while you use it, you can use some basic troubleshooting steps to help fix the problem. And before you try this option, make sure you have tried forcing a reboot.  If you iPad is merely frozen, even if it is at the Apple logo, try holding down the Sleep/Wake button for a full thirty seconds to see if it will power down.   Once the iPad's screen goes completely dark, wait a few seconds and then press the button again to power it back on.  If the iPad reboots but gets stuck at the Apple Logo again, or it simply won't reboot, you will need to continue with these instructions. If you do not already have iTunes installed on your PC or Mac, you can download it from Apple's website. How to Enter Recovery Mode on the iPad: Connect a USB cable to your PC. The cable that comes with the iPad can be used to connect it to your PC. Only connect the USB cable to your PC, not your iPad. Connecting the cable to your iPad must be done in the proper order. Turn off your iPad. You can accomplish this by holding down the Sleep/Wake button at the top of the iPad until a red slider appears on the screen. Activate the slider to turn the iPad off. Hold down the Home Button. The Home button is the round button at the bottom of the iPad, below the screen. While holding down the home button, connect the USB cable to the iPad. Your iPad should power on at this point. Keep holding the Home button down until you see the iTunes logo appear on the screen. If you see a battery on the screen, you will need to let the iPad charge for a bit and then repeat these steps. You are now in the iPad's recovery mode. You will receive a message on the screen alerting you that you have entered recovery mode. At this point, you can restore the iPad through iTunes using these instructions. This process will work from any computer, so if you don't own a PC and never turned on Find My iPad, you can go through this process using a friend's computer.  If you have backed up your iPad using iTunes or iCloud, you should be able to recover everything up to the point of your backup. But even if you haven't backed up your iPad, you can still recover any apps that you have previously purchased by downloading them from the App Store. What if you don't have access to a computer? If your iPad is locked and you don't have access to a computer, you can use Find My iPhone/iPad to wipe it remotely. You can either use the Find My iPhone app on your iPhone or you can go to www.icloud.com from any device that can connect to the web and then simply log on using your Apple ID. To wipe your iPad remotely, choose your iPad (click the blue button if you are on the map screen) and then choose "Erase iPad".  Get more help erasing the iPad remotely by getting in touch with us through our contact form.

    Blog Entry, Data Recovery, Hardware
  • Posted on May 31, 2017 10:54 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Ransomware cyber attacks are quickly becoming the preferred method of attack by cybercriminals. WannaCry, the latest global incident, is particularly damaging because it is also a worm—not just a ransomware program. As a result, it looks for other computers to spread to. When it infects a new computer, it encrypts the data and locks out the owner until a minimum of $300 in bitcoin is paid. To achieve its unprecedented rate of circulation across networks, WannaCry ransomware utilizes a Windows OS vulnerability that was recently exposed as part of the leaked NSA hacker tools. Microsoft has released a public bulletin along with patches for Windows XP, Windows 8, and certain server platforms that did not receive the original MS17-010 update. You may view their announcement in full here. Whether you call it WannaCry, WannaCrypt, WCrypt, Wanacrypt0r, WCry, or one of the other names currently vying for the “call me this” crown, the ubiquitous ransomware which brought portions of the UK’s NHS to its knees over the weekend along with everything from train stations to ATM machines is still with us, and causing mayhem Worldwide. As a result, our regular roundup has been replaced with what will hopefully serve as a useful place to collect links related to the attack. First thing’s first: this was a big enough incident that Microsoft created a special patch for Windows XP users, some three years after it had the plug pulled on support. Regardless of Windows OS, go get your update. Now that we have that out of the way, here’s some handy links for you to get a good overview of what’s been going on: A rundown by our good selves, detailing the spread and tactics used by this worm to deposit Ransomware globally. A deep dive into the Malware by one of our Malware research specialists. Watching the infection bounce around doctor’s surgeries. How the purchase of a URL dealt a massive blow to the previously unstoppable spread. What happens when the URL purchasing White Hat is doxxed by the press. People are paying to retrieve files, but it seems they’re taking quite a gamble. The Malware authors are processing decryption manually. If you pay, but they can’t be bothered / their PC explodes / they’re hauled off to jail, you’re definitely not getting files back anytime soon. More problems: fake decryption tools. Misery begets misery. It may be down, but it most certainly isn’t out with fresh infections still taking place. Accusations of an amateur hour operation, despite the problems caused so far. Another “kill-switch” domain has been registered, hoping to slow the follow-up tides of Ransomware related doom. The hunt is now on for the people behind it all. They’ve managed to annoy at least 3 major spy agencies, so good luck I guess. And finally… This is a rapidly changing story, with a lot of valuable follow-up data being posted to haunts favored by security researchers such as Twitter, and we’ll likely add more links as the days pass. Update your security tools, patch your version of Windows and stay safe!

    Blog Entry, Data Recovery, Hacking
  • Posted on February 8, 2017 11:55 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Do you suspect your email account has been hacked? Can't login to your email account? Are you getting undeliverable and bounce messages for email you never sent? Are friends and family complaining of receiving email you never sent? Is it malware? A hacker? Here's how to tell. Undeliverable and Bounce Messages Spammers frequently spoof the From sender on the email they send. They just substitute their real email address with a random email address found on a mailing list or one just randomly made up. Some poorly configured email gateway products don't distinguish between the manually editable "From" address and the actual sender origin, so they simply send any undeliverable messages to the spoofed From address. To better understand how this works, and help you track down the real origin of an email, see: Reading Email Headers. Best defense: Simply delete the undeliverable/bounce messages. In other cases, email worms will send themselves disguised as an undeliverable/bounce message. The bogus email contains either a link or an attachment. Clicking the link or opening the attachment leads directly to a copy of the worm. Your best course is to learn to overcome curiosity. Best defense: If you receive an undeliverable or bounce message for an email you know you did not send, resist the temptation to open the attachment or click the link. Just delete the email. Unable to login to your email account If you are unable to login to your email account due to an invalid password, it's possible that someone has gained access and changed the password. It's also possible that the email service is experiencing a system outage of some sort. Before you panic, make sure your email provider is functioning normally. Best defense: Prevention is key. Most email providers offer a password recovery option. If you have even a hint of concern that your email password has been compromised, change your password immediately. If you specified an alternate email address as part of the password recovery, make sure that address is active and be sure to monitor the account regularly. In some cases, you may need to call your email provider and request a reset. If you go that route, be sure to change your password from the one provided during the phone call. Be sure to use a strong password. Email appearing in Sent Items folder If copies of the sent email are appearing in your Sent Items folder, then it's likely that some type of email worm might be involved. Most modern-day malware won't leave such tell-tale signs behind, so it, fortunately, would be indicative of an older, more easily removed threat. Best defense: Update your existing antivirus software and run a full system scan. Email is sent to address book, does not appear in the Sent folder, and it's a webmail account The most likely cause is phishing. Chances are at some point in the past, you were tricked into divulging your email username and password. This enables the attacker to login to your webmail account and send spam and malicious email to everyone in your address book. Sometimes they also use the hijacked account to send to strangers. Generally, they remove any copies from the Sent folder to avoid easy detection. Best defense: Change your password. Make sure you've checked the validity of any alternate email addresses included in the password recovery settings first. Symptoms don't match the above Best defense: Make sure you do a thorough check for a malware infection. Fully scan your system with installed up-to-date antivirus software and then get a second opinion with one of these free online scanners. Receiving complaints from friends, family, or strangers One of the problems with spoofed, hijacked or hacked email is that it can also lead to responses from angry recipients. Stay calm - remember, the recipients are just as much a victim as you. Best defense: Explain what happened and use the experience as an educational opportunity to help others avoid the same plight.

    Blog Entry, Data Recovery, Hacking
  • Posted on January 5, 2017 11:24 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    You’re not really sure How the Heck They Got Your Password, but they did, and now you’re freaking out. The password to one of your accounts has been cracked and you don’t know what to do to get control back of your account. Let’s look at several things you can do to get control of your account and get things back to a secure state: If Someone Cracked Your Password But You Can Still Log Into Your Account The worst case scenario is that your account password gets hacked and the hackers change your password. Hopefully the security questions that you answered when you set up your account will help you regain control of your account and allow you to reset your password back and lock them out. What if there aren’t any security questions? Many accounts have a password reset process that will allow you to initiate a reset using an email account that you have on file with the account provider. Unless the hacker has changed this email address, you should be able to regain control of your account by having the password reset link sent to your email. If They’ve Taken Control Of Your Account and Locked You Out By Changing The Password If the person who cracked your password has locked you out by changing your password then getting it reset might be a little more complicated. You may need to contact the account support line of the account provider and explain the situation, they should be able to verify that you are who you say you are via other means such as by looking at the phone numbers you have on file, verifying your address, or reviewing the answers to your security questions. Make sure that you inform the account provider that this just happened and that any new information recently added to your account is false and that you want to place your account on hold until everything is sorted out. Reporting the password hack quickly is essential to limiting the damage. If The Account Was Your Main Email Account If your main email account is hacked then things can become even more complicated because, chances are, you have a lot of other accounts pointing to your email account for password reset purposes. Thankfully most email providers have multiple ways of verifying that you are whom you say you are. Follow their account password reset procedures and if all else fails contact their account support. The next step you should take after resetting your main (hacked) email account password is to change all passwords for any other account that you have that point to that account for password reset purposes. The reason: the password crackers could have initiated password resets for those other accounts. Steps to Take To Prevent it From Happening Again: Make Your Next Password Much Stronger When creating passwords to replace ones that have been cracked, you need to create a much stronger, longer, and more complex password. For tips on creating strong passwords, check out our article: How to Make a Strong Password. Use Two-factor Authentication If It’s Offered Another way to prevent future account compromises is to enable two-factor authentication on the accounts that support it. Two-factor authentication usually requires some kind of token, such as a PIN that is sent by the account provider via an already established communication line that you have verified, such as a mobile phone or secondary email account. Other methods of two-factor authentication use fingerprint readers such as those featured on newer iPhones, iPads, and some Android devices. Linking these devices to your account works in two ways.  If you never lose your phone, you will always be notified of when someone or you are accessing online accounts.  If you lose your phone, then someone has your whole life in their hands.

    Blog Entry, DATA, Data Recovery
  • Posted on January 3, 2017 12:00 pm
    Joseph Forbes
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    Keeping track of passwords can seem like a hassle. Most of us have multiple sites we visit which require password logins. So many, in fact, that it's tempting to use the same username/password combo for all of them. Don't. Otherwise, it takes only the compromise of a single site's credentials to have a toppling domino effect on the security of all your online assets. Fortunately, there is a fairly straightforward way to have different passwords for each site you use but still make the passwords easy enough to remember. Creating Unique Passwords Before you begin creating strong passwords, you need to consider the use of those passwords. The intent is to create strong passwords unique to each account, but easy enough to memorize. To do this, first begin by splitting the sites you frequently login to into categories. For example, your category list might read as follows: social networking sites auction sites ecommerce sites email accounts banking sites forums A word of note here about forums. Never use the same password for a site's forum as you would for logging into the site itself. Generally speaking, the security on forums is not as strong as it is (or should be) for the regular site and thus the forum becomes the weakest link in their security. This is why, in the example above, forums are split into a separate category. Now that you have your categories, under each appropriate category, list the sites to which you must log in.  For example, if you have a Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo account, list these under the category 'email accounts'. After you've completed the list, you're ready to begin creating the strong, unique, and easy-to-remember passwords for each. Creating Strong Passwords A strong password should be 14 characters. Each character less than that makes it a little easier to compromise. If a site absolutely won't allow a password that long, then adapt these instructions accordingly. Using the 14 character password rule, use the first 8 characters as the common portion to all passwords, the next 3 to customize by category, and the last 3 to customize by site.  So the end result ends up like this: common(8)|category(3)|site(3) Following this simple rule, when you change your passwords in the future - which, remember, you should do often - you'll only need to change the first common 8 characters of each. One of the commonly recommended means of remembering a password is to first create a passphrase, modify it to the character limit, then begin swapping characters for symbols. So to do that: Come up with an 8 letter passphrase that is easy to remember. Take the first letter of each word to form the password. Substitute some of the letters in the word with keyboard symbols and caps (symbols are better than caps). Tack on a three letter abbreviation for the category, also replacing one of the letters with a symbol. Tack on a site specific three letter abbreviation, again replacing a single letter with a symbol. As an example: In step 1 we might use the pass phrase: my favorite uncle was an air force pilot Using the first letters of each word, we end up with: mfuwaafp Then we swap some of those characters with symbols and caps: Mf{w&A5p Then we tack on the category, (i.e. ema for email, and swap out one character of ema: e#a Finally, we add the site abbreviation (i.e. gma for gmail) and swap out one character: gm% We now have a password for our gmail account of Mf{w&A5pe#agm% Repeat for each email site, so perhaps you end up with: Mf{w&A5pe#agm% Mf{w&A5pe#aY%h Mf{w&A5pe#aH0t Now repeat these steps for the additional categories and sites within those categories. While this may look hard to remember, here's a tip to simplify - decide in advance what symbol you will equate with each letter.

    Blog Entry, Data Recovery, Hacking