How Refurbished Computers Save You a Bunch (and Get You a Better System)
Refurbished computers are almost like an insider secret – you can get great system specs for a fraction of the price. It’s how many families are meeting their back to school needs and upgrading their old systems, complete with warranty.
There’s one hot tip these people know: a refurb is NOT the same as used. You’re right to avoid those 2nd hand computers you see on Craigslist or Gumtree because there’s a reason that person is selling it! It’s probably slowed to a crawl, making weird noises or flat out broken in a way you’d never discover until too late. Refurbished computers are the complete opposite. They’re computers that have been given a new life, usually with a comprehensive repair, or sometimes they’re brand-new computers that were returned with a small problem like a hard drive failure, so we swap it out and sell it at bargain prices. Occasionally, the computer was even returned simply because the buyer changed their mind, but it’s still essentially brand-new (it might still be in the box!).
Quite often, refurbished computers start their life as business machines, built to the latest specs with business-grade components. When the budget or lease says ‘replace the computers’, that’s what the business does, whether the computers need it or not. There’s nothing wrong with them and they’ve likely been babysat by a corporate IT department who kept them in perfect condition every day. These are great machines that are still plenty fast for home use, both desktops and laptops. Plus, because business-grade components are more durable than the consumer ones, the entire system has been built to last longer and perform better, often up to several years without a problem. Rather than send these impressive machines to landfill, we check and replace necessary components and re-install a clean operating system. Next, we put them through a stack of verification tests, then pack them up ready for their new home. When you talk to us about buying one, we’ll always make sure you get a system that not only keeps up with your needs now, but gives you breathing space for the next few years too.
What are the benefits?
- You save a LOT of money: You get yourself a great computer that’s been set up and checked over by an expert technician, for significantly less than the cost of buying new. Add in the fact that when you score a refurbished business computer you’re also getting more durable, higher-quality components that will last you for years longer than the off-the-shelf consumer model, it’s a clear win. We always recommend that when you see a refurbished deal that’s got you smiling, you act fast – it won’t sit around waiting for you!
- Covered by warranty: A warranty is always included with our refurbished computers, giving you value plus peace of mind. It’s your guarantee that buying refurbished was a great decision. Problems are extremely rare since your computer has been through stringent checks, but if anything pops up that’s giving you trouble, we’ll fix it fast. Forget the delays and hoop jumping you might get with your other warranties, we stand by ours with rapid action.
- You’re saving the environment: Fewer machines end up in landfill and fewer resources are used for unnecessary manufacturing. When you consider each computer requires a certain amount of precious metals to be mined, plastics to be created, packaging created from multiple materials and all the associated flow on effects of shipping, refurbishment is the right choice for the future. While you might not personally see the environmental impact of your decision to buy refurbished, rest assured the planet appreciates it!
Are they reliable?
Some people think that refurbished computers are more likely to break, when in truth, in some cases they’re actually more reliable than brand new. Manufacturers have an expected failure rate, a percentage of computers that go straight from the factory to buyers who discover their expensive new system is dead-on-arrival or breaks within weeks. A refurbished computer has already stood the test of time and it performed without missing a beat. By the time it’s gone through our checks and repairs (both required and pre-emptive), a refurbished computer is better than new.
If you need a better computer on a tight budget, give us a call at 210-549-6477.
HP Recalls Batteries for Notebook Computers and Mobile Workstations Due to Fire and Burn Hazards
This recall involves lithium-ion batteries for HP Notebook computers and mobile workstations. The batteries were shipped with or sold as accessories for HP ProBooks (64x G2 and G3 series, 65x G2 and G3 series), HPx360 310 G2, HP Envy m6, HP Pavilion x360, HP 11, HP ZBook (17 G3, 17 G4, and Studio G3) Mobile Workstations. The batteries were also sold as accessories or replacement batteries for the HP ZBook Studio G4 mobile workstation or for any of the products listed above.
Consumers should immediately visit www.HP.com/go/batteryprogram2018 to see if their battery is included in the recall and for instructions on how to enable “Battery Safety Mode” if their battery is included in the recall. The website provides consumers instructions on how to initiate the validation utility to check their battery and what to download if their battery is included in the recall. These batteries are not customer-replaceable. HP will provide free battery replacement services by an authorized technician.
HP has received eight reports of battery packs overheating, melting, or charring, including three reports of property damage totaling $4,500 with one report of a minor injury involving a first degree burn to the hand.
Best Buy and other stores and authorized dealers nationwide and online at www.Amazon.com, www.hp.com and other websites. The batteries were shipped in notebook computers and mobile workstations sold from December 2015 through December 2017 for between $300 and $4,000. The batteries were also sold separately for between $50 and $90.
HP Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif.
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WannaCrypt is a ransomware program targeting Windows. On Friday, 12 May 2017, a large cyber-attack using it was launched, infecting more than 230,000 computers in 150 countries, demanding ransom payments in the cryptocurrency bitcoin in 28 languages.
It was being spread primarily by phishing emails (most commonly links or attachments) and as a worm on unpatched systems.
The attack affected Telefónica and several other large companies in Spain, as well as parts of Britain’s National Health Service, FedEx, Deutsche Bahn and LATAM Airlines. Other targets in at least 99 countries were also reported to have been attacked around the same time.
WannaCry is believed to use the EternalBlue exploit, which was developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to attack computers running Microsoft Windows operating systems. Although a patch to remove the underlying vulnerability for supported systems (Windows Vista and later operating systems) had been issued on 14 March 2017, delays in applying security updates and lack of support by Microsoft of legacy versions of Windows left many users vulnerable. Due to the scale of the attack, to deal with the unsupported Windows systems and to contain the spread of the ransomware, Microsoft has taken the unusual step of releasing updates for all older unsupported operating systems from Windows XP onwards.
Shortly after the attack began, a researcher found an effective kill switch, which prevented many new infections and allowed time to patch systems. This significantly slowed the spread. It was later reported that new versions that lack the kill switch were detected. Cyber security experts also warn of a second wave of the attack due to such variants and the beginning of the new workweek.
As always, be sure your Windows is up to date. XP users should consider upgrading where possible. The vulnerabilities for that operating system will not go away. Don’t click links in an email. Don’t open file attachments.
And, our longest running advice; back up regularly. You can back up to the cloud, or another drive. Programs like Macrium Reflect can Image your drive essentially restoring everything at any time.
This is a public service security announcement for all users of computers running any version of Windows.
We have confirmed that a serious virulent ransomware threat known as WannaCrypt0r/WannaCry has affected Windows computers on shared networks in at least 74 countries worldwide, with 57,000 reported individual cases being affected. And according to the analysis team at Kaspersky Lab, that number is growing fast.
Once one computer on a network is affected, the malware infection easily spreads to other Windows computers on the same network, shutting down entire government agencies and national infrastructure companies. Hospitals across the UK were being forced to divert patients and ambulance routes as of Friday afternoon, and several utility companies across Europe reported infection across their computer networks according to BBC News.
What Is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a kind of malicious script or software that installs itself on your computer without your knowledge. Once it’s installed and running, it will lock down your system and won’t allow you to access any files or programs on that computer. Usually, as in this current WannaCry exploit, it will alert you to the lockdown with an impossible-to-ignore pop-up screen which informs you that your computer is being held for ransom. To unlock your system and regain access to the computer being held hostage, the lock screen informs you that you must purchase an unlock tool or decryption key from the hacker.
Where Did This Threat Originate?
In this case, Microsoft has been aware of the vulnerability since March 2017, when it published a Security Bulletin covering the potential risk. According to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, early indicators seem to point to the attack originating in China, but more information is needed.
How Can You Tell If Your Computer Is Infected?
The most obvious way to tell if your computer has been affected is if you are seeing a ransomware pop-up screen when you start up your computer. But because we don’t know how long the malware sits on your computer or network, not seeing this pop-up isn’t necessarily an indication that you haven’t been infected. The bottom line: if your Windows computer has connected to a shared network, such as those found in schools, public places, cafes and businesses, and you don’t have complete control over every computer on that network and haven’t been keeping Windows up-to-date, your computer may be infected.
How to Protect Yourself From the Vulnerability
According to Microsoft a fix for this vulnerability was released on March 14th for all affected versions of Windows. If you are running Windows and have automatic updates enabled you should be okay. If you don’t and haven’t updated recently you should update to the most recently released version immediately. It is important to note that unsupported versions of Windows, like XP, did not receive this security update. Those systems should either be isolated or shut down.
Please pass this along to your friends and family. Those that are less technical may not have updates auto-enabled, and may need a helping hand updating their operating system.
Windows Defender tops AV-Test zero-day malware charts for the 3rd straight month
The recent test reports of Security firm AV-Test reveal that Microsoft’s Windows Defender has scored 100% for the 3rd consecutive month when tested for the zero-day malware protection. AV-test tested Windows Defender against current online threats, which involved accessing known malicious websites or e-mails so as to test if the security product is able to ward off attacks practically or not.
AV-TEST Product Review and Certification Report tests for Windows 7 (January and February 2017) and Windows 10 (December 2016) show Microsoft doing a great job and scoring 100% in zero-day malware checks. Here is the analysis.
Windows Defender does a good job for Windows 10 & Windows 7
Not long ago, Windows Defender was so mediocre that it was only considered as the baseline metric in third-party tests. However, analysis of the recent AV-test reports will tell you that Windows Defender has improved significantly in the past 12 months.
For instance, let’s compare the AV-test report for Windows 7, for zero-day malware protection in the past 12 months. In July and August 2016, the Windows Defender scored 95.2% and 86.1% respectively while for the same test conducted this year in January and February, it scored a perfect 100%.
Analyzing the results of the third-party suites, some of which charge you money to use them, the likes of AVG Antivirus Business 16, G Data Antivirus Business 14, Intel Security McAfee Endpoint Security 10.2, Seqrite Endpoint Security 17.0 were found to be trailing Microsoft.
On the other hand, Bitdefender Endpoint Security 6.2, F-Secure Client Security 12.30, Kaspersky Lab Endpoint Security 10.2, Kaspersky Lab Small Office Security 10.2, Sophos Endpoint Security and Control 10.6, Symantec Endpoint Protection 14, Symantec Endpoint Protection Cloud 22.8 and Trend Micro Office Scan 12.0 were found as effective as Windows Defender, all scoring 100%.
For Windows 10 users
Comparing the AV-test report for Windows 10, for zero-day malware protection in the past 12 months. Back in March and April 2015, the Windows defender scored a poor 88.9% and 88% respectively. Whereas, in November and December 2016, it scored 97.9% and 100% respectively showing a remarkable improvement.
Third-party suites like AVG Antivirus Business 2016, Bitdefender Endpoint Security 6.2, G Data AntiVirus Business 14 and Intel Security McAfee Endpoint Security 10.2 were found to be less effective dealing with zero-day malware protection when compared with the Windows Defender.
While, F-Secure Client Security 12.2, Kaspersky Lab Endpoint Security 10, Kaspersky Lab Small Office Security 5, Seqrite Endpoint Security 17, Sophos Endpoint Security and Control 10.6, Symantec Endpoint Protection 14 and Trend Micro Office Scan 11 were at par with the Windows Defender, all scoring 100%.
Can you consider Windows Defender against top third-party antivirus suites
The results from the AV-tests shows that Windows Defender has improved a great deal in moving from the lower bottom levels in the last 6-12 months. Although it has still more ground to cover before it can challenge the top security vendors who offer a better overall protection, you can surely rely on Defender to provide more than average class protection.
I saw the same method used on 12 April 2017 with minor differences.
Now today 13 April 2017 at about 1930 we are seeing the start a hybrid campaign mixing elements of all the previous campaigns.
Remember many email clients, especially on a mobile phone or tablet, only show the Name in the From: and not the bit in <domain.com >. That is why these scams and phishes work so well.
There are a multitude of different subjects. Some of then ones I received today are:
- OFFICIAL USPS REFUND INFO
- AUTOMATED USPS OFFICIAL LETTER REGARDING YOUR PARCEL
- Serious trouble reported to the USPS customer support team
Typical senders imitating USPS include
- USPS Support Management <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- USPS Express Delivery <email@example.com>
- USPS Support <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Some of the email contents look like
With this notification, we would like to inform you you that your item was
Please check the required information by following this link.
Yoshiko Kepp – USPS Parcels Operation Agent.
We had some problems with your order N471357737, but our support team will
do its best to solve the issue.
Please, click on the link provided below to contact the USPS customer
Mallie Kirkhart – USPS Chief Delivery Manager.
With this notification, we would like to inform you you that your item was
Please check the required information by following this link.
Yoshiko Kepp – USPS Parcels Operation Agent.
These are very similar to the ones I saw yesterday and Brad saw the day before. These all use various subdomains of maildeliverys.com to divert to http://tramplinonline.ru/counter/1.htm where you see what looks like a word online website and you are invited to download then latest plugin version to read the documents online.
Now this is where the hybrid element comes into play. Once you press download, you get a zip file plugin.zip which extracts to plugin.js Current Virus total detections: Payload Security Whereas Tuesday and yesterday you got a direct mole ransomware download not going through all this rigmarole and adding extra malware into the mix.
This uses the same delivery methods previously described where a list of 5 sites is encoded in an array. The script tries each site in turn until it gets a response and delivers counter.txt which goes through the whole routine again until all copies of the malware are downloaded and auto-run. Various obfuscation techniques try to conceal the downloads. Also the site containing the fake word online download plugin page contains all the malware files as well. I haven’t found the 1.htm on any other site yet today.
The way these work is the original .js file looks like
take the first site in the array ( var x ), add counter/? and the long string in var m and you end up with a link looking like
Which is relatively easy to de-obfuscate by replacing the string from var m with the letter a getting this
That is then further de-obfuscated by deleting all examples of ‘;NXmef+=’ giving the working download script
that starts with the first site in the array ( var ll) and then downloads these ( if the first site cannot be contacted or the file is missing, it moves on to next site and so on, eventually giving 3 malware files.
/counter/exe1.exe ( mole ransomware) VirusTotal | /counter/exe2.exe delivers kovter / powerliks VirusTotal | /counter/exe3.exe VirusTotal | VirusTotal ( first one possibly corrupt or only partially downloaded ) Payload Security shows a restatements.dll dropped VirusTotal
Today’s sites are
All these malicious emails are either designed to steal your Passwords, Bank, PayPal or other financial details along with your email or FTP ( web space) log in credentials. Or they are Ransomware versions that encrypt your files and demand large sums of money to recover the files.
All the alleged senders, amounts, reference numbers, Bank codes, companies, names of employees, employee positions, email addresses and phone numbers mentioned in the emails are all random. Some of these companies will exist and some won’t. Don’t try to respond by phone or email, all you will do is end up with an innocent person or company who have had their details spoofed and picked at random from a long list that the bad guys have previously found.
The bad guys choose companies, Government departments and organisations with subjects that are designed to entice you or alarm you into blindly opening the attachment or clicking the link in the email to see what is happening.
There are frequently dozens or even hundreds of different download locations, sometimes delivering the exactly same malware from all locations and sometimes slightly different malware versions from each one. Dridex, Locky and many other malwares do update at frequent intervals during the day, sometimes as quickly as every hour, so you might get a different version of these nasty Ransomware or Banking password stealer Trojans to the version we list here.
Be very careful with email attachments. All of these emails use Social engineering tricks to persuade you to open the attachments that come with the email. Whether it is a message saying “look at this picture of me I took last night” and it appears to come from a friend or is more targeted at somebody who regularly is likely to receive PDF attachments or Word .doc attachments or any other common file that you use every day.
The basic rule is NEVER open any attachment to an email, unless you are expecting it. Now that is very easy to say but quite hard to put into practice, because we all get emails with files attached to them. Our friends and family love to send us pictures of them doing silly things, or even cute pictures of the children or pets.
Never just blindly click on the file in your email program. Always save the file to your downloads folder, so you can check it first. Many malicious files that are attached to emails will have a faked extension. That is the 3 letters at the end of the file name. Unfortunately windows by default hides the file extensions so you need to Set your folder options to “show known file types. Then when you unzip the zip file that is supposed to contain the pictures of “Sally’s dog catching a ball” or a report in word document format that work has supposedly sent you to finish working on at the weekend, or an invoice or order confirmation from some company, you can easily see if it is a picture or document & not a malicious program.
If you see .JS or .EXE or .COM or .PIF or .SCR or .HTA .vbs, .wsf , .jse .jar at the end of the file name DO NOT click on it or try to open it, it will infect you.
While the malicious program is inside the zip file, it cannot harm you or automatically run. When it is just sitting unzipped in your downloads folder it won’t infect you, provided you don’t click it to run it. Just delete the zip and any extracted file and everything will be OK. You can always run a scan with your antivirus to be sure. There are some zip files that can be configured by the bad guys to automatically run the malware file when you double click the zip to extract the file. If you right click any suspicious zip file received, and select extract here or extract to folder ( after saving the zip to a folder on the computer) that risk is virtually eliminated. Never attempt to open a zip directly from your email, that is a guaranteed way to get infected. The best way is to just delete the unexpected zip and not risk any infection.
Creating disk images lets you restore Windows and all your imaged disks and partitions to a previous working state from compressed copies you have created and kept updated on external storage media, quickly and probably without technical help.
You can recover from:
– a failed disk drive (restore to a new one)
– ransomware (which encrypts your disk)
– user error
– unrecoverable problems from failed updates to problem programs
– unbootable PC (hardware faults aside)
Images also act as a full backup- you can extract files too.
You can even use images to help you move more easily and quickly to a new PC.
Imaging can even help you sleep at night knowing you have a second chance.
I recommend and install on every computer I service Macrium Reflect (free) as a good robust solution and more reliable than some others. It’s
– more feature rich
– more flexible
– more reliable
than Windows Backup and Restore system images.
There are other such programs, free/commercial, some with simpler interfaces, but Macrium is one of the most robust and reliable.
How long does it take?
SSD+ USB3 – maybe 15 mins
HDD + USB2 – maybe 40-50 mins
That’s with little personal data, few programs installed.
– of course, depends on how much you have on C:
(You can and should image all your partitions and disks)
You need a backup medium – I recommend a 1tb external drive. This will vary dependent on the number of images you keep, I recommend keeping 3 images of each computer you own. So is only a rough practical guide.
Some comment that system restore isn’t always reliable; if it works and solves the problem, great. But sometimes restores won’t work or fail. And of course, a restore point only covers a limited number of aspects of the system. That’s where disk imaging comes in.
I can assist with setting this up and showing you how to do it.