Has Office Depot Been Diagnosing Computers with Fake Problems?

Office Depot has provided free PC checks for years but new light is being shed on the program as accusations of false diagnoses have surfaced.

Office Depot has recently been accused to taking advantage of unsuspecting customers by selling computer repair services for problems that do not exist. Office Depot is known to have free PC health checks at its locations but until recently, nothing has come to the surface about false diagnosing.

Office Depot Scam

This came to light because a former employee came forward saying that he believed the company was fraudulently diagnosing computers with customers who may not be aware. A CBS affiliate went undercover as a result an found that an Office Depot was in fact diagnosing issues that did not exist.

One of the most common issues presented to customers was malware. In turn, the company said they could fix it for a large price. During the undercover operation, they presented new computers that had not been used and had just come out of the box. For the computers, a computer security firm IOActive, guarantees a clean bill of health. The firms VP of Technology, Will Longman, said himself that there was no evidence of malware when they used the computers as part of their process.

During the undercover operation, the CBS affiliate even bought computers from Office Depot and took them to a different store to get them checked out. The other store said they found malware on this device as well.

The diagnosing of the computers varied from store to store as well. Where some would recommend anti-virus software, others would say ignore the test results. On the opposite end, you get the serious diagnosis of malware. This shows that Office Depot does not have a set way of handing these free PC checkups and the diagnosis is completely left up to the employee or individual store.

For now, a spokesperson for the company is saying they do not take these accusations lightly and will be investigating throughout the company. However, what about the people that have already spent good money on a service that they did not really need. Office Depot should take a look at the program and really fine tune it if they wish to continue.

If you want quality and trustworthy examinations of your computers in {city}, be sure to call {company} by {phone}, email us at {email}. If you are having computer problems, right now is a good time to stay away from Office Depot.

How the Technology Entrepreneur Has Helped the Small Business Owner Compete on The Global Stage

Our entrepreneurs are, in many ways, the driving force of the business world. Spearheading innovations, pushing for new thinking, new ideas, and new gadgets that revolutionize society and change our lives for the better has been at the core of the entrepreneurial ethos and an inspiration to many people. So, it’s natural that there be a day to celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit, which parallels the American spirit of pioneering new ways of doing things. That day this year was November 15th, and it’s a day that celebrates not only the entrepreneur him/herself, but also how technology has helped the small business owner compete on the global stage. Without Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and even Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Alexander Graham Bell, where would small business owners be today? Light years behind the times, and living much more “inconvenient” and disconnected (in the global sense) business lives, that’s where.

Entrepreneur Day

The Role of Technology in the Entrepreneur’s (and Enterpriser’s) Story

Without tech entrepreneurs shaking the world-tree, we’d be closer to living in the Middle Ages, certainly. In the engineering, computer science, and information technology worlds alone, the entrepreneurial innovations have been staggering, and what have allowed us to send electronic messages through the air around the globe in seconds; to visit hundreds of millions (if not billions) of websites, which act as a virtual storefront or storybook of someone’s life or business; and to learn, as a global village, of news stories that travel the globe in a few seconds, uniting us through shared information. Without technology entrepreneurs conceptualizing better tools, gadgets, devices, and ways of doing things, we’d still be riding horses around and sending smoke signals as a form of long-distance communication. And, business owners would have to be doing a lot more “old-fashioned” legwork, with little time to be doing any entrepreneurial thinking, planning, or delegating of their own. Which is all the more reason to celebrate these free thinkers and humanitarian visionaries for their contributions to society.

Entrepreneur’s Day – A History

Entrepreneurs’ Day, as an ostensibly American holiday, was created in 2010 by David Hauser and Siamak Taghaddos, co-founders of Grasshopper, the entrepreneur’s phone system, as well as Amir Tehrani, entrepreneur and co-founder of The Legacy Foundation. It falls on the last day of Global Entrepreneurship week, during Entrepreneurship Month and is meant to be a way of showing gratitude and respect to the people who achieved success, sometimes against all odds, and who helped a lot of people by creating jobs for them in the process. In 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama declared November of that year as Entrepreneurship Month and November 6, 2012 to be celebrated as Entrepreneurs’ Day. Supporters of Entrepreneurs’ Day are trying to make it an official U.S. holiday that would fall on the third Tuesday of every November. There is also a World Entrepreneur’s Day being celebrated on August 21st, which means double the opportunity to celebrate radical innovations in the business world!

Celebrating Entrepreneurs’ Day the Right Way

On November 15, entrepreneurs are encouraged to thank their mentors, give funding and advice, and spread the word about how to achieve success in business. People who are not yet successful entrepreneurs might want to read the biography of a particularly successful business man or woman on this day to get inspired. Groups of like-minded people, be they friends, college students or businessmen just starting off might want to gather to talk about the lives of celebrated entrepreneurs, and the steps they took in their lives to become the successes they were or are, conducting a sort of analysis of the person’s life and achievements. They can also take this time to brainstorm new ideas or present their own ideas and theories to the group to get feedback and constructive criticism.

Also, people who wish to show entrepreneurs thanks and respect for their achievements can take to social media to spread awareness about Entrepreneurs’ Day, so it can become a true holiday someday. We can all harness the power of the Internet, so even sharing a simple photo and message from the Entrepreneurs’ Day website can help reach the target of 50,000 votes needed to ask Congress to pass the creation of an official Entrepreneurs’ Day.

Thank You, IT Entrepreneurs

We wish to thank all entrepreneurs, though in particular, the information technology pioneers who have allowed business networks to be the vibrant nerve centers of small business owners that they are. And, for those of you that need or want to give a little more TLC to your IT networks, give {company} a call at {phone}, or email us at {email} and we can help you get your IT performance back up to speed.

Malicious Spy Apps Hasten Need for Better Mobile Security, Cautious Downloading

Last February, some potentially malicious apps that could be used as spy tools were identified by CBS News, who gave some needed tips and warnings designed to mitigate the consumer rush to download the avalanche of mobile apps flooding the marketplace. Specifically, the warning was aimed at those downloading popular free apps for Android phones and iPhones – 75 to 80 percent of which had been breached, said CBS News. Ironically, the number of potentially malware-infected apps jumps to as high as 97 percent among the top paid apps on iPhones and Androids.

Mobile Security

No matter if they are proffered by unscrupulous advertisers or black hat hackers looking to steal your private information, awareness and discernment are everything when searching for mobile app downloads. Case in point: California resident Susan Harvey reported over $5,000 in unauthorized transactions after she bought a slot machine game app through Google Play.

“It was something you purchased once, for like $15,” Harvey said.

When she went to reload the game, she found hundreds of unauthorized purchases had been made. “My heart sank, I just sat there looking at it… I was physically sick, because I didn’t know what they were,” Harvey said.

Cybersecurity Experts Weigh In on the Issue

Susan Harvey’s story’s no surprise to cybersecurity expert Gary Miliefsky, whose company tracks malware. He said certain apps are designed to steal your personal information.

When asked what the potential consequences for consumers are, should they download a malicious app, Miliefsky replied, “You’re going to lose your identity. You’re going to wonder why there was a transaction. You’re going to wonder how someone got into your bank account and paid a bill that doesn’t exist.”

Milifesky added that when you download an app, you also give permission for it to access other parts of your phone, like an alarm clock app that can also track your phone calls. He explains that an alarm clock doesn’t need all those permissions, intrinsically. It doesn’t need to access to the Internet over Wi-Fi, or your call information, recent calls you’ve made, call history, or your device ID.

“This to me is not a safe alarm clock,” Miliefsky said.

And there’s the weather and flashlight apps that Miliefsky says exploit legitimate banking apps to capture information, which can happen when someone takes a photo of a check to send to their bank.

“The flashlight app spies on the camera and notices the check and grabs a copy of it, then ships it off to a server somewhere far away,” Miliefsky said.

Last year the group FireEye discovered eleven malware apps being used on iPhones that gathered users’ sensitive information and sent it to a remote server, including text messages, Skype calls, contacts and photos. Apple fought back by removing the apps and putting stricter security measures in place.

“They get at your GPS, your contacts list…to build a profile on you,” Miliefsky warned.

Some apps, though, are simply collecting information for advertising and marketing purposes. In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission settled a lawsuit with a company over its popular Brightest Flashlight app, alleging it transmitted consumers’ personal information to third parties without telling them. But Miliefsky said he’s found another flashlight app that can do much more troubling things.

“This one turns on your microphone in the background, listens in on you, and sends an encrypted tunnel to a server we discovered in Beijing,” Miliefsky recounted.

Miliefsky relates that they’re actually listening to people’s conversations and sending that audio back to Beijing.

“We’ve tracked it. I can show you where it does it,” he said. Miliefsky said it can be traced to a few blocks from Tiananmen Square on Information Drive in Beijing. And, he actually gave a report on that app to the FBI.

Miliefsky calls it “spyware at the nth degree,” and makes a pointed recommendation that, ”We really have to look at our phones and say, ‘This is really a personal computer that fits in our pocket. Let’s shut down all the apps we don’t use. Let’s delete apps that don’t make sense and reduce the risk of being spied on.’”

The creator of the Brightest Flashlight app ended up settling with the FTC, agreed to change his company’s policy, and delete all the unauthorized information it had gathered.

Susan Harvey sued Google over her alleged hack, but a judge recently dismissed it, saying she and her attorney filed too late. Google said fewer than one percent of Android devices got bad apps in 2014 – which is still a considerable number when you consider that there are now roughly 1.5 billion Android devices in use globally.

Need a Mobile App Downloading Consultation? 

If you are concerned about safe mobile app downloading and usage and need help, you should consider a consultation with {company}, a leader in IT consulting, services, and management. Call us at {phone} or email us at {email} and we will be happy to help you with any questions or concerns you may have.

Systems Engineer Day (Nov. 25) Will Highlight Why Businesses Need Quality Systems Engineers

November 25th is the day when we can all celebrate a group of people who have made a tremendously valuable contribution to our world – especially the IT interconnected world. The celebrated group is system engineers, and the day has been set aside to recognize how much of our world is positively affected by them. Their diligent work has enhanced all our lives in the areas of:

Every bridge you cross, plane you fly on, and computer you use wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for systems engineers. And, for those traveling in space right now, the International Space Station would certainly not be there if it weren’t for leading-edge systems engineers and their ingenuity. No one can dispute the fact that the systems engineer job is one of the most important in the world.

Systems Engineer

A Brief History of Systems Engineering

The term systems engineering first appeared in the 1940s in relation to Bell Telephone Laboratories. Some 70 years on, this highly technical profession has been divided up into various fields and sub-fields, including:

  • Cognitive Systems Engineering
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Mechatronic Engineering
  • Reliability Engineering
  • Security Engineering
  • Software Engineering, among others

Celebrate Systems Engineer Day

Systems Engineer Day was only recently created by the folks at www.SystemsEngineerDay.com so we could have a way to say thank you to the men and women who sit at their computer terminals endlessly in order to make our lives that much easier and better. If you happen to be a systems engineer yourself – thank you! – you deserve to take the day off and do something other than stare at a computer screen. If you’re not a systems engineer, but want to show your appreciation for one, then there are many ways you can do that. For example, if you are their boss, maybe let them take the day (or part of the day) off; invite them out and buy them a drink or two; bring them some drinks or eats into work; buy them movie or game tickets; send out a nice company notice (intranet post) that acknowledges the work they do.

Need Help with a Systems Engineering Challenge?

If you need help with a systems engineering challenge, {company} is a proven leader in providing IT network systems engineering in {city}. Contact one of our IT experts at {phone} or send us an email at {email} today, and we can help you with any of your questions or needs.

Why Buy Cyber Insurance?

If you do a lot of business on line, you do need cyber liability insurance. Your criteria in finding the right insurance policy should, among other things, include coverage language that is broad enough to meet our needs.

Kim Lindros and Ed Tittel in their CIO article What is cyber insurance and why you need it make a good case for buying a cyber liability insurance policy:

  • Technology and conducting business over the open Internet can lead to cyber attacks with potential for losses and liability.
  • Cyber liability insurance should be part of a comprehensive risk management plan.
  • About one-third of all U.S. companies are currently subscribing to some type of cyber liability insurance.

Cyber Security Insurance

What cyber insurance covers

Essentially, cyber liability insurance covers first-party expenses and third-party claims. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to writing cyber insurance policies, but, according to Lindros and Tittel, a cyber liability insurance policy typically covers expenses in connection with:

  • investigating the cause and determining how to repair and prevent recurrence of the damage
  • losses to the business because of network downtime, interruption of business transactions, recovery of lost data and public relations crisis management
  • notifying customers and other affected persons of the data breach along with connected expenses for providing credit monitoring services to affected customers
  • responding to lawsuits, regulatory fines, and reimbursing costs of paying extortion as a result of ransomware attacks

What to look for as a cyber insurance purchaser

Again, there are a variety of policies and levels of cyber liability protection available. Alan R. Lyons, et. al, provide this checklist of what to look for in their article on mondaq.com. The policy should:

  • provide sufficient limits to cover potential liability expenses. (Beware of underestimating the costs and buying a policy that covers only lower limits or has high deductibles.)
  • contain coverage for “prior acts.” (This will protect the buyer in case a breach occurred prior to the purchase of the insurance.)
  • include coverage for breaches through unencrypted laptops or mobile devices. (Past attacks have occurred through the latter and should be covered in the policy.)
  • include coverage for fines or penalties assessed by regulatory agencies. (This is especially important for any business that is subject to HIPAA privacy rules.)
  • provide adequate business income coverage. (The coverage can be triggered only by a full stop in business or simply a mere interruption in operations, depending on the needs and nature of the business.)
  • cover a so-called “wild virus.” (A “wild virus” attacks targets no specific business, but “roams wild” on the Internet.)
  • cover social engineering scams. (The CEO scam, for example.)

Summary

So, if you do a lot of business on line, you do need cyber liability insurance. Your criteria in finding the right insurance policy should include coverage language that is broad enough to meet our needs. Know the deductibles and upper limits of coverage, as well as how to make a claim when a loss occurs.

To learn more about cyber liability insurance contact {company name}, {city} at {phone} or contact us at {email}.

Josh’s Monthly Musings

Wow, what a month it has been!

IT Consultant in Los Angeles

First off, here in Los Angeles I watched the U.S. election closely along with my professional and personal communities. And I’m saddened and concerned with the next 4 years of Trump presidency that lies ahead of us.

My worlds are diverse worlds: L.A. Creative Technologies counts two managed clients co-owned by LGBT minority couples, and outside of work I have friends and collaborators from across the cultural spectrum. Accordingly, the increased racism we’ve all been seeing around us is not being taken lightly.

On a business-level, I’m not at all sure how this will change the landscape for my own organization and that of my clients & prospects. Probably not so much for us in liberal-leaning Los Angeles, but I’ll be watching and adjusting focus and priorities as needed. I continue to feel blessed to work with the amazing companies that have chosen L.A. Creative as their provider and to expand new and exciting directions.

As described in more detail here, we just signed up Grand Performances as our newest fully-managed I.T. client. This is really exciting for me personally as represents two milestones for our managed business: they are both a non-profit committed to bringing free cultural services to the L.A. Community, AND they are focused squarely on music, a personal and creative passion of mine. Thanks so much to Deputy Director Nurit Smith for bringing us on board!

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-2-31-06-pm

And now we’re starting the final push of 2016, wrapping up various projects, starting to help our clients plan their technology for 2017 and getting ready to spend some time with friends and family.

Thanks for reading and please let me know your thoughts on any of the above and if you need any help getting ready for next year

November 17th is “Unfriend Day,” a Day to Trim the Social Media Fat

Is your friend list on Facebook ridiculously long? Have you recently thought to yourself, “I’ve never even met half of these people”? For those who are tired of being inundated by a cluttered and largely meaningless news feed, constant gaming requests and self-concerned posts filled with trivial information from so-called “friends” on Facebook, this November 17th is official “Unfriend Day,” where you are encouraged to take the time to trim the fat from accumulating a friend list that’s largely made-up of non-friends. It’s a day designed to have us celebrate the true friends and meaningful associates that add to our existence instead of what amount to glorified trolls and spammers, many of them. A large percent of them are just regular people, yes, but regular people who, for the most part, offer only time-wasting posts about their dog or babies or “words of wisdom” that are more like an uninvited Hallmark card adding to your desktop clutter. You’ve got better things to do.

Unfriend Social Media

The Business of Unfriending

It would be a good idea to take advantage of Unfriend Day to trim the fat on both the casual and business levels of social media. Facebook and LinkedIn are the leading social media platforms on which people do business, and both can exhibit their share of “friend clutter”. This is why the weeding out of extraneous non-friends or duds posing as business associates will streamline your ability to do business on social media. It doesn’t do you any good to race to that 500+ connections mark on LinkedIn if you get constantly bombarded by unsolicited come-ons and grandstanding by “associates” with no sense of decorum or discretion online.

Likewise, in the race to gain Likes on Facebook, many owners of Facebook business pages don’t take a closer look at who’s liking them, and why. Social media users can easily pose as a “fan” of your page, then spam your page with irrelevant, time-wasting posts. Trimming the fat more regularly than once a year is a good practice, and will be like doing light house-cleaning regularly in lieu of a once-a-year deep cleaning that’s labor-intensive.

A Brief History of Unfriend Day

It was comedian and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel who brainchilded Unfriend Day in 2014 to fight the burgeoning trend of the practice of collecting social media “friends” like some kind of self-serving, visual accessory. The word “unfriend” first made it into the Oxford Dictionary in 2009, and was also the word of the year that same year. Oxford defines it as a “verb – To remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.” Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer for Oxford’s American dictionary program, explained the Dictionary’s rather controversial choice, saying, “It has both currency and potential longevity. In the online social networking context, its meaning is understood, so its adoption as a modern verb form makes this an interesting choice for Word of the Year.”

Need Advice on Better Social Media Practices?

If you need further advice about better social media practices, {company} is a proven leader in providing IT consulting and social media management in {city}. Contact one of our IT experts at {phone} or send us an email at {email} today, and we can help you with all your questions or needs.

 

New Client Spotlight: Grand Performances

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-2-31-06-pmLA Creative Technologies is thrilled to announce that we have recently signed on as the IT support provider for Grand Performances. For more than 30 years, Grand Performances has brought the very best of global culture to the heart of Downtown LA. Their mind-blowing summer concert series includes music, dance, theater, and more. They make their home at the gorgeous California Plaza, and strive to celebrate diversity, inspire community, and unite the city through free access to global performing arts.

As a part of Los Angeles’ music and creative community, Grand Performances is a perfect fit for our creative verticals. They are a fully managed LA Creative client that will benefit from our 24/7 managed IT support, and our Strategic Planning services. We’ll be working hard to make sure that everything we do lines up with their organization’s strategic goals.

We’re so glad that we’ve been given the opportunity to work with such an amazing organization, and we’re looking forward to helping them continue to find success.

Want to find out more about the IT support solutions LA Creative offers? Contact us at {email} or {phone}. We’re the IT professionals local businesses trust.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 Event Talks Surface Studio, Creators, and More

The Microsoft Windows 10 event which took place on October 26th highlighted 10 major aspects of the new browsers and multi-application creative platforms coming under the aegis of Windows 10. “We are all creators,” says the accompanying 90-second recap video that accompanied the Windows 10 blog post regarding the event, and which could be taken as the slogan of this new rollout. Below are the ten main new features of the Windows 10 update.

Microsoft Windows 10 Creative Edition

Turn your desk into the ultimate creative studio with Surface Studio.

A truly new class of device that transforms from a workstation into a powerful digital canvas, Surface Studio provides users a more natural and immersive way to create. It’s the thinnest display ever built, and dazzles with its 4.5k ultra HD screen, delivering 63 percent more pixels than a state-of-the-art 4k TV. Pre-order Surface Studio now at $2,999 USD.

Give high creativity a spin with Surface Dial.

An all-new peripheral designed for the creative process, Surface Dial integrates with Windows 10 to work with any Surface device for faster and more intuitive ability to scroll, zoom, and navigate files and pages. Surface Dial, available for pre-order now for $99 USD, also enables a set of unique user experiences exclusive to Surface Studio.

The versatile power of Surface Book.

Surface Book with Performance Base makes the most powerful laptop in its class even more powerful. Three new Surface Book models feature 6th Generation Intel Core i7 processors and pack more than twice the graphics processing power as the first Surface Book iteration. Plus, it plugs 16 hours of battery life into the same sleek, versatile design beloved by many. Surface Book with Performance Base starts at $2,399 USD and is available for pre-order now.

Update to Windows 10 Creators.

The upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update in early 2017 will enable anyone to create, share and experience in 3D and mixed reality, connect faster to loved ones, and will allow every gamer to be a more empowered broadcaster. And with the Creators Update, Microsoft Edge will be the first browser to bring 3D to the web.

With liberty and 3D for all.

Microsoft introduced a new way to bring your ideas to life with Paint 3D, a whole new 3D art studio. They also introduced the new online community Remix3D.com, which connects creators and creations around the globe. Remix 3D will enable new scenarios for creators wherein they can share their 3D creations broadly with the Remix 3D community. Everyone is invited to begin creating and sharing in Paint 3D today by joining the Windows Insider Program at insider.Windows.com. You can learn more about 3D in Windows 10 at Remix3D.com.

3D models and new inking features supported by Office apps.

New features in Office apps will be had with The Windows 10 Creators Update, including support for 3D models and new inking capabilities. Through PowerPoint on Windows 10, you will be able to add 3D models to bring your presentations to life. 3D-model perspectives can also be changed by rotating in three dimensions and applying transitions like Morph to apply cinematic-style 3D animation. The new inking capabilities in Office 365 announced October 26 include Ink Editor in Word, which lets you use your digital pen intuitively to make changes directly in Word, making the pen a mightier sword (and editing tool) than ever.

People everywhere will be able to experience mixed reality.

The Windows 10 Creators Update “will be the most powerful and affordable way to experience mixed reality,” says the Windows 10 blog. As announced in October, HP, Lenovo, ASUS, Dell, and Acer will ship the first VR headsets capable of mixed or “augmented” reality through the Creators Update. Premiering in 2017, these accessories will contain built-in sensors to enable inside-out, six-degree freedom for simplified set-up and better ease of movement as you experience virtual worlds, with no markers required.

In-game broadcasting available for all gamers.

Anyone can become a game broadcaster or watch live gameplay with Beam technology that Microsoft engineers have built into Windows 10 and Xbox One. And, they’re adding custom, gamer-created tournaments to Arena on Xbox Live. So, whether you’re playing on Xbox One or a Windows 10 PC, Xbox is bringing every player together to play, compete, and broadcast.

A faster way to connect and share with your nearest and dearest.

The Windows 10 Creators Update puts the people you care about most at the center of your user experience with Windows MyPeople. With MyPeople, you will be able to pin your favorite contacts to the Windows task bar with easy drag-and-drop and sharing access for any document, photo or video right on top of the contact.

This is all just the tip of the iceberg for Windows 10 Creators and fans of ultimate creative computing. 3D and mixed reality for everyone, in-game broadcasting, and MyPeople are just some of the new interactive experiences coming with the Windows 10 Creators Update in early 2017. Additional productivity, creativity, security, and gaming features will also be included and announced soon by Microsoft. We’ll keep you posted.

Have Windows 10 Creators Questions?

If you need further advice on the Windows 10 Creators update, talk to a specialist at {company}, which is a proven leader in providing IT consulting as well as software management and support in {city}. Contact one of our helpful IT experts at {phone} or send us an email at {email} today, and we can help you with any of your questions or needs.