• 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
  • Posted on December 30, 2016 10:00 am
    Joseph Forbes
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      It's a really awful way to start a day: you press the power button on your computer and nothing happens. Few computer problems are more frustrating than when your computer won't boot. There are many reasons why a computer won't turn on and often very few clues about what might be the problem. The only symptom is usually the simple fact that "nothing works" which isn't much to go on. Add to this the fact that whatever is causing your computer not to start could be an expensive part of your PC to replace - like the motherboard or CPU. Do not fear because all may not be lost! Here's what you need to do: Read #1 below (it'll make you feel better). Pick the best troubleshooting guide (#2 - #9) based on how your computer is acting or #10 if your PC stops at any point because of an error message. Note: The "computer won't start" troubleshooting guides below apply to all PC devices. In other words, they'll help if your desktop or laptop won't turn on, or even if your tablet won't turn on. I'll call out any important differences along the way. Also, all are applicable no matter what Windows operating system you have installed on your hard drive, including Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. Steps 1 through 5 even apply to other PC operating systems like Linux.   Don't Panic! Your Files are Probably OK When faced with a computer that won't start most people tend to panic, worried that all the data on their PC is gone forever. It's true that the most common reason a computer won't start is because a piece of hardware has failed or is causing a problem but that hardware isn't usually a hard drive, the part of your computer that stores all of your files. In other words, your music, documents, emails, and videos are probably safe - just not accessible at the moment. So take a deep breath and try to relax. There's a good chance you can figure out exactly why your computer won't start and then get it back up and running. 1.  Don't Want to Fix This Yourself? See How Do I Get My Computer Fixed? for a full list of your support options, plus help with everything along the way like figuring out repair costs, getting your files off, choosing a repair service, and a whole lot more. 2.  Computer Shows No Sign of Power Try these steps if your computer will not turn on and is showing no sign at all of receiving power - no fans running and no lights on the laptop or tablet, nor on the front of the computer's case if you're using a desktop. Important: You may or may not see a light on the back of your desktop PC depending on the kind of power supply you have and the exact cause of the problem. This goes for the power adapter you may be using for your tablet or laptop as well. How To Fix a Computer That Shows No Sign of Power Note: Don't worry about the monitor yet, assuming you're using a desktop or an external display. If the computer is not turning on because of a power issue then the monitor certainly can't display anything from the computer. Your monitor light will likely be amber/yellow if your computer has stopped sending information to it. 3.  Computer Powers On... and Then Off Follow these steps if, when you turn your computer on, it promptly powers back off. You'll probably hear the fans inside your computer turn on, see some or all of the lights on your computer turn on or flash, and then it will all stop. You won't see anything on the screen and you may or may not hear beeps coming from the computer before it shuts off by itself. How To Fix a Computer That Turns On and Then Off Note: As in the previous scenario, don't worry about the state your external monitor is in, if you have one. You may have a monitor issue as well but it's not possible to troubleshoot it quite yet. 4.  Computer Powers On But Nothing Happens If your computer seems to be receiving power after turning it on but you don't see anything on the screen, try these troubleshooting steps. In these situations, the power lights will stay on, you'll likely hear the fans inside your computer running (assuming it has any), and you may or may not hear one or more beeps coming from the computer. How To Fix a Computer That Turns On But Displays Nothing This situation is probably the most common in my experience working with computers that won't start. Unfortunately it's also one of the most difficult to troubleshoot. 5.  Computer Stops or Continuously Reboots During the POST Use this guide when your computer powers on, shows at least something on the screen, but then stops, freezes, or reboots over and over again during the Power On Self Test (POST). The POST on your computer may happen in the background, behind your computer maker's logo (as shown here with the Dell laptop), or you may actually see frozen test results or other messages on the screen. How To Fix Stopping, Freezing, and Reboot Issues During the POST Important: Don't use this troubleshooting guide if you encounter an issue during the loading of the operating system, which occurs after the Power On Self Test is complete. Troubleshooting Windows related reasons why your computer won't turn on begin with #6 below. 6.  Windows Begins to Load But Stops or Reboots on a BSOD If your computer begins to load Windows but then stops and displays a blue screen with information on it then try these steps. You may or may not see the Windows splash screen before the blue screen appears. This kind of error is called a STOP error but is more commonly referred to as a Blue Screen of Death or a BSOD. Receiving a BSOD error is a common reason why a computer won't turn on. How To Fix Blue Screen of Death Errors Important: Choose this troubleshooting guide even if the BSOD flashes on screen and your computer restarts automatically without giving you time to read what it says. 7.  Windows Begins to Load But Stops or Reboots Without an Error Try these steps when your computer powers on, starts to load Windows, but then freezes, stops, or reboots over and over again without generating any kind of error message. The stopping, freezing, or reboot loop may happen on the Windows splash screen (shown here) or even on a black screen, with or without a flashing cursor. How To Fix Stopping, Freezing, and Reboot Issues During Windows Startup Important: If you suspect that the Power On Self Test is still going on and that Windows has not yet started to boot, a better troubleshooting guide for why your computer won't turn on might be #5 above. It's a fine line and sometimes hard to tell. Note: If your computer won't start and you see a blue screen flash or remain on the screen, you're experiencing a Blue Screen of Death and should use troubleshooting guide #6 above. 8.  Windows Repeatedly Returns to Startup Settings or ABO Use this guide when nothing but the Startup Settings(Windows 8 - shown here) or Advanced Boot Options(Windows 7/Vista/XP) screen appears every time your restart your computer and none of the Windows startup options work. In this situation, no matter which Safe Mode option you choose, your computer eventually stops, freezes, or restarts on its own, after which you find yourself right back at the Startup Settings or Advanced Boot Options menu. How To Fix a Computer That Always Stops at Startup Settings or Advanced Boot Options This is a particularly annoying way in which your computer won't turn on because you're trying to use Windows' built-in ways to solve your problem but you're getting nowhere with them. 9.  Windows Stops or Reboots On or After the Login Screen Try this troubleshooting guide when your computer powers on, Windows shows the login screen, but then freezes, stops, or reboots here or anytime after. How To Fix Stopping, Freezing, and Reboot Issues During Windows Login The stopping, freezing, or reboot loop may happen on the Windows login screen, as Windows is logging you in (as shown here), or any time up to Windows fully loading. NTLDR is Missing. 10.  Computer Doesn't Fully Start Because of an Error Message If your computer turns on but then stops or freezes at any point, showing an error message of any kind, then use this troubleshooting guide. Error messages are possible at any stage during your computer's boot process, including during the POST, at any time during the loading of Windows, all the way up to the Windows desktop appearing. How To Fix Errors Seen During the Computer Startup Process Note: The only exception to using this troubleshooting guide for an error message is if the error is a Blue Screen of Death. See #6 above for a better troubleshooting guide for BSOD issues.

    Blog Entry, DATA, Data Recovery
  • Posted on May 22, 2016 11:52 am
    Joseph Forbes
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    Recover Deleted Files with Recycle Bin or File Recovery Software First things first: recovering deleted files from your hard drive, media card, flash drive, iPhone, or some other device is very possible. While I can't guarantee that your accidentally deleted file can be recovered, there's a good chance it can be, especially if it hasn't been too long since it's been deleted. Files that get deleted aren't usually truly deleted but are instead just hidden, waiting to be overwritten by something else. You can take advantage of this fact and recover deleted files you want back. Follow the steps below, in order, to maximize your chances of recovering deleted files from your device: Difficulty: Easy Time Required: Depending on how long ago the file was deleted, your habits on emptying the Recycle Bin, and some other factors recovering files you've deleted could take a few minutes or up to an hour or more. How to Recover Deleted Files Stop using your computer! Aside from the specific tasks I outline during the rest of this tutorial, the smartest thing you can do is to stop writing data to the drive that contained the deleted file.As I mentioned above, files that are deleted are actually just hidden. The only way the file you want to recover disappears completely is if the same physical space it occupied on the drive is overwritten. So... don't do anything that might cause that to happen. Most "write heavy" are things like installing software, downloading or streaming music or videos, etc. Doing those things won't necessarily overwrite your file but the chances go up the more you do them. Restore the deleted files from the Recycle Bin. You've probably already looked in the Recycle Bin, but if not, do so now. If you're lucky enough to have not emptied it since you deleted the file, it might be here and in perfect working order.Tip: Files you delete from media cards, USB based drives, external hard drives of any kind, and network shares will almost never be stored in the Recycle Bin. The same goes, more obviously, for things like your smartphone. Very large files from any source are also often deleted outright, skipping the Recycle Bin. Download a free file recovery program and use it to search for and recover your deleted files. If the files you're looking for have already been emptied from the Recycle Bin, a file recovery tool can typically help.I'm a big fan of Recuva, my top pick in my list, but if you don't like it for some reason, or if you try it and it doesn't find the file you need to recover, by all means work down the list. Important: I highly recommend downloading the "portable" version of Recuva, or whatever program you choose, directly to a flash drive or some drive other than the one with the missing file(s) on it. Extract the portable version of the file recovery tool you chose. Portable programs usually come in ZIP format which Windows natively supports (i.e. unzipping is easy in Windows).If you downloaded it to a flash drive, extracting it right there onto the flash drive is great. If you had no choice but to use your hard drive, extract it there. If you had to use your hard drive and choose an installable version of a file recovery tool, go ahead and install it as directed. Use the file recovery tool to scan for files that can be recovered, a process that could take a few seconds to several minutes or longer depending on how large the drive is.The exact procedure differs from program to program but this typically involves choosing the drive you want to scan for deleted files on and then tapping or clicking a Scan button. Once the scan is complete, locate the file from the list of recoverable files, select it, and then choose to Restore it.Again, the details on recovering files you want to recover are specific to the tool you chose to use in Step 3 above. Important: While you hopefully found the file you needed to recover in this list, it's possible you didn't. When that happens, the paid for versions of these data recovery programs could have the potential to successfully recover. There is a reason why Free data recovery isn't always Free. Tips & More Information The Recycle Bin should be the first place you look to recover deleted files. If you skipped Step 2 above because you "know" it's not there, just humor me and check again. You never know! As I mentioned a few times above, recovering files from devices like smartphones, music players, flash drives, and network drives is possible but can sometimes require some extra steps. You do not need to have a data recovery software program installed before you delete the file to use one, which is great news. A dead hard drive, or a non-working computer, presents an extra layer of trouble when you need to recover a file. While this is possible in most cases, see my Can I Recover Files From a Dead Hard Drive? for more on figuring out what to do. Still Having Trouble Restoring That Deleted File? See Get More Help for information about contacting me on social networks or via email, posting on tech support forums, and more. Let me know exactly what you've already tried doing to recover the deleted files, what program (if any) you've already tried, and how you think they went missing. That'll help me help you!

    Blog Entry, Data Recovery