22 Texas Towns Hit With Ransomware Attacks

In the month of August 2019, NPR verified that officials discovered 22 municipalities had been hit with ransomware. One of the officials stated that the attackers had asked for $2.5 million to unlock the files.

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What should I do if I suspect my computer has been hacked?

Getting an email that tells you that your computer has been hacked or seeing suspicious activity on your computer is a cause for deep concern.  Hollywood and the press has done a great job of raising our levels of concern for this kind of intrusion.  There are a few signs of intrusion you can look for, a few things to do if you see signs of intrusion, and a few things you can do right now to prevent it.

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What to do if you receive an email indicating a hacker has your password

Recently, a client received an email that is pretty darn scary.  Let me include the email here and a few bits of information that I think will help anyone that also has this problem.

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Weird Noises in the Machine

Look, I am not poking fun at anyone when I say this, but if your computer is making weird noises, it’s probably trying to tell you something.  Weird noises can mean many things, and typically they are not good.

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Don’t Assume You Know the Problem

We recently went on a call that we knew there was probably something wrong with the physical network because the client’s inhouse tech support team said so.  Level 1 and 2 tech support are in house for this client and they usually do a good job of troubleshooting.  This case was no different, so the diagnosis we were given was reliable.   In ITIL methodology there are incidents (the thing that happened) and there are problems (the cause of the incident).  Confusing the two can lead to headaches.

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Prime Day is Coming!

Hey, have you heard of Prime Day?  It’s like Black Friday, only it’s in the middle of July. Sounds exciting, right?  Well, get geared up!  It’s nearly here, and you won’t believe the range of great deals that are coming up.  

As pointed out in Tom’s Guide, a good product review web site, and a great place to go for shopping news:

Last year, Amazon celebrated Prime Day on Tuesday, July 11. The actual deals, however, started two weeks before that date. On June 26, Amazon slashed the price of its $129 Echo down to just $79. At the time, it was the best price we had ever seen for the Echo. The 24-hour deal was the kick-off to Prime Day and a clue of how big a role Alexa would play during Prime Day 2017.  

Although Amazon hasn’t declared an official date for Prime Day 2018, we expect it to fall sometime during the week of July 9, possibly Tuesday, July 10. Whatever day they choose, we expect Amazon will offer another Echo deal in late June and then kick off Prime Day deals the nigh before Prime Day is scheduled to begin.

There are spotlight deals: Prime Day Spotlight Deals feature top brands, popular items and deep discounts that last until Amazon stock is gone. These deals have the most inventory and some of the best savings. Find Spotlight Deals through the “Shop All Deals” link on Amazon.com or at www.amazon.com/primeday

There are Lightning Deals: Thousands of Lightning Deals are “watchable” (is that a word?) 24 hours ahead but only run for a limited time with limited quantities. New Lightning Deals will launch as often as every 5 minutes. You’ll see a timer on each deal as well as a status bar showing availability until the deal is claimed. Find these limited-time deals through the “Shop All Deals” link on Amazon.com or at  www.amazon.com/primeday

You can shop deals as early as 6pm PT / 9pm ET on the day before and deals are organized into categories.  Prime members will be able to find deals faster, so get your prime membership now!  The savings you get from these deals could more than pay for the Prime membership.

Prime Day and Prime and Prime Membership are owned solely by Amazon.

Equifax Has Been Hacked!

Folks, I realize the internet is abuzz with different companies being hacked and alerts about all sorts of data breaches, but this one is not just a some-company-somewhere type of hack you can disregard.  Neither is this an oh-no-let-me-call-so-and-so.  This one will directly affect many many people over the course of many years.  Let me explain.

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PSA: New Ransomware Outbreak! WannaCry/WannaCrypt Windows Vulnerability

There is a new ransomware attack called “WannaCry” that has the ability to affect your computer by simply being on the internet.  It has affected around 100 different countries and spreads without user intervention, clicking, or performing any action.  In other words, if you don’t have the proper security patches and protections in place, you are vulnerable right now without even touching your computer.


How to protect yourself:

As always, the best way to keep yourself protected is to keep your computer up to date.  Sure, those constantly recurring patches are annoying, but they are necessary.  The quickest and easiest way to protect yourself NOW is to update your computer with the latest Windows security vulnerability patch.

Information for the patch can be found HERE and HERE.

A direct link to the patch to download and run can be found HERE.


How to check for the update:

Settings, Updates, Update History
Control Panel, Programs and Features, Installed Updates


How do you know if you are infected?

When you try to open a word document, your computer tells you that your file has been encrypted.


What to do if you find yourself infected:

1. Remove the computer from your network.

2. Call your LOCAL computer professional for help recovering from this threat.


phone: (469) 844-7789

Acer Aspire 5750 – 6866 will not turn on

Hi Folks,

This is a troubleshooting entry to help those DIYers and other techs working on this laptop (or one like it.)

Here are some of the symptoms this laptop has exhibited:

  • Laptop starts up intermittently (Sometimes will start and go to Windows.  Sometimes will not even POST.)
  • Battery will not charge
  • Power and battery light flash 5 times
  • Power and battery light flash continuously
  • Powers on then shuts off 2 seconds later

This laptop has a replacement power supply (Lite-on) and a replacement battery (new Duracell).  After doing some research, I have determined that neither of these replacement parts should cause any of these issues unless they are defective.

Here is what I did to eliminate possible causes and the results in sub bullets below:

  • Remove the battery (AC adapter only)
    • intermittently starts up or…
    • starts up and then shuts down after 2 seconds.
  • Run with only battery
    • will not start up and…
    • only blinks power light and power indicator on front edge (dead battery)
  • Run with both AC and Battery
    • intermittently starts up AND…
    • blinks power indicator, power button (blue) and blinks battery indicator (orange)
  • Visually inspected the motherboard without removing power jack connection and power jack connection to the motherboard
  • Visually inspected the power jack without removing.
  • Changed out the CMOS battery (to no avail)
  • Charged overnight
  • Discharged overnight and recharge without turning on the power.

None of this worked.

Here is how I finally found the issue.  I completely removed the power jack cable and inspected it.  Though it looked intact from a cursory visual inspection after removing the top panel, the real problem was that the ground wire had become dislodged.  However, it remained in place in such a way that a visual inspection without a continuity test would not find out that the ground wire had become disconnected from the solder point.  So, a technician, doing a visual inspection, would not have found the problem.

I had to completely remove the left speaker, lcd panel and hinges before I could get to the motherboard, disconnect all cables, antennae, and wires, to finally flip it over and remove the motherboard connection to the jack and finally the jack itself from the case which was attached with adhesive tape.  After doing a continuity test and finding that the ground connections were both intermittently working, was I able to check the solder point which was under shrink tubing and thus not visible to reveal the problem.  Also, this created a lot of false positives and could have damaged the motherboard due to power issues.

So, gentle reader… please test the power jack continuity if you have any of the issues above.  Or, you can just replace the power jack and see if that was the cause.

Suspicious Phone Calls

Today I got a phone call from a foreign sounding guy.  He identified himself as Peter Smith, and he asked me if my name was Mr. Four.  Of course, that’s not right, so I corrected him.  He proceeded to tell me that I was registered with Microsoft and that he was calling me to alert me that I had been hacked and that people were using my IP address for criminal purposes.

If you get this phone call.  Don’t listen to what he has to say.  Politely disconnect the call.  If you suspect he was onto something or if you just want some reassurance, call your local IT guy and ask him to please help you determine if your computer is safe.

What’s the moral of the story?  There are lots of people out there trying to get money from you.  They don’t always have your best interests at heart.  Please, stay local with your computer support so you can be assured you are dealing with a real person that has your best interests at heart.


Covenant Computing