Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Is Cell C LTE any good? Maybe this will help you decide...

I had a rather joyous moment last week when after a very, very long wait, a small "L" suddenly appeared at the top of my Lumia 930 screen, in place of the usual boring "H+"...

Cell C
Cell C (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For those of you who may not know, that means "LTE" - in short, a much faster mobile internet connection which Vodacom, MTN and 8ta have been offering for a while now.

Cell C is traditionally always the late guy to the party, but I have to say that this wait was indeed worthwhile.
From the moment that I noticed that LTE became active on my phone last week, I have been taking speed tests at random intervals and all around JHB on my daily travels.
From Glenhazel to Edenvale, Bedfordview to Rosebank, Illovo to Orchards - check out the results below to get a summary of the Cell C LTE experience so far...

Downloads peaked at an impressive max. speed of 54.51Mbps, and Uploads peaked at 15.26Mbps, depending on signal strength.
Overall not a bad show I have to say, but certainly a quick way to eat through mobile data!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Avast for Business goes free...

Following on from my previous post about Cryptowall, Avast recently launched a free business version of their proven antivirus software.

Avast! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the personal version of Avast Antivirus has always been free, the huge difference here is twofold:

  • The free business version runs on PC desktop and server platforms (Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10, SBS, Server), as well as Apple Macs (that old saying "Macs don't get viruses" no longer applies, folks);

  • The solution is cloud-based.
    This is a big plus, since it can then be managed, monitored and administered from virtually anywhere.
Traditional business antivirus solutions, which are designed to protect servers as well as workstations, can set you back a fair deal.
Startups and smaller businesses however, may not have the capital to put down on commercial antivirus solutions, and this is where Avast comes in.

I am currently testing the free business solution to get a feel for it, and interestingly, there are no limitations in terms of installs or licences, so you can install it on as many devices as you need to:

The cloud-based control panel is also well laid out, and provides a tidy overview of your protected devices, as well as a real-time threat status.
I have to say that it all looks rather appealing, especially since it costs the same as a breath of fresh air...
The only real "gotcha" is that you can upgrade to a premium paid version.
This obviously offers a more formidable arsenal of antivirus wizardry, however I expect that most users will find the free version more than adequate.

Cryptowall is back on the prowl, so watch your back...

Back in 2014, a nasty virus called "Cryptowall" reared its unsightly head in the computer world, and it proceeded to leave a fair deal of pandemonium in its wake.
Of course once antivirus definitions the world over became aware, the threat was largely eradicated and peace reigned in the Kingdom of CPU.

These things are like a bad rash though, and there has of late been a resurgence of this particular bad boy on PC's all over the place.
Hell, Carte Blanche even featured an article on the virus a few weeks back - I'm sure the wonderfully talented humans who coded it must be awfully proud! Well done guys! 

Anyway, back to the post - in short, watch your back as you normally would when dealing with the internet, email, flash drives from other PC's, pretty much as you would do when walking down a dark alley at night.
This particular threat entices the hapless victim by means of links on dodgy sites, links within the attachments of spam mails and a variety of other sneaky tactics.
Once the user clicks on the link, if not stopped by an antivirus, the virus will then initiate and continue to install itself in memory, and as a startup item on the infected PC.

Symptoms of Cryptowall (how you know that you are infected...):

  • Cryptowall scans the PC for folders which contain your meaningful data - here we are talking about the Desktop folder, My Documents etc.
    It also scans mapped network drives - these will become infected as well, but only specifically mapped drives.

  • Next, it encrypts every "work" file that it finds - this includes Word documents, Excel documents and PDF documents, among others.

  • Finally, it dumps approx. 4 files into every folder that it has encrypted, named "HELP_DECRYPT.ext" - each of these files provides instructions on how to decrypt your data, and it's pretty simple - pay up. Yup, all this virus amounts to is extortion.
    The variation of the infection that I recently dealt with wanted payment in Bitcoins, but I'm sure they take Diners Club, AMEX, VISA and many other forms of payment too :)

  • Any attempt to now open an encrypted file will result in a generic program error, as if the data within the file is corrupted.
    At this point, panic may set in.
    This is justified, since there is no way to decrypt the files without paying up, unless you have a recent intact backup of your files. Do not plug your backup drive in, until you are 100% sure that your PC is clean again.
    For a very technical rundown of the threat, including cleaning and recovery options, check out:
You DO NOT want to see these files on your hard drive...
So in essence it's a pretty simple virus, but the impact that it can have on a business with a lot of data is HUGE.
After going through a rough few days taking one of these bad boys down recently, my advice to end users is simple - protect yourself in every possible way, and that isn't limited to antivirus software.
Sure, getting yourself a great antivirus like Avast is a non-negotiable, however always tread carefully when making use of a public domain like the internet.

Watch where you browse. 
Triple check who sent you that not-so-kosher looking email.
Don't click on that link in the body of a "banking" email, and if you do end up being on the very unfortunate receiving end of one of these, make sure that your data is backed up somewhere off your PC - preferably on an external drive.

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