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A PC Geek has been serving the Waxahachie area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Can Computer Data Be Stolen Through Power Lines?

power lines resized

If you have an air-gapped computer, you probably think you're safe.  You may think that barring physical access to the machine, no hacker could possibly steal the data on that machine.  Unfortunately, you'd be incorrect.

Security researchers from the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, in Israel, have discovered a new way of stealing data using power lines.  While that may sound like science fiction, it's actually real and a genuine threat, even to computers thought to be highly secure.

If you're not familiar with the term, an air gapped computer is one that is isolated from local networks and the internet.  Because it's not connected to anything, these machines have long been regarded as the ultimate in data security and are used by governments and corporations to store their most sensitive data.

Here's what the researchers had to say about their discovery:

"As a part of the targeted attack, the adversary may infiltrate the air-gapped networks using social engineering, supply chain attacks, or malicious insiders.  Note that several APTs discovered in the last decade are capable of infecting air-gapped networks (e.g. Turlal, RedOctober and Fanny).

However, despite the fact that breaching air-gapped systems has been shown feasible, the exfiltration of data from an air-gapped system remains a challenge."

Up until now, anyway.

The researchers have dubbed this new technique "PowerHammer," and it accomplishes the task of siphoning data from air-gapped systems by creating fluctuations in the flow of electrical current to create a Morse-code-like pattern, which can be used to create a simple binary system.

That accomplished, the only other thing that's needed is a piece of hardware to monitor the flow of electricity as it passes through power lines and then, decode the signal.  According to the research team, data transfer speeds of up to 1000bps can be achieved.

This should scare the daylights out of anyone in data security.

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Tip of the Week: 3 Pieces of Screen Reading Software

Wouldn’t it be convenient if your business could have web pages or applications read out text for you so that you don’t have to? While most would consider this a luxury, these screen reading applications are an everyday occurrence to those who are blind, visually impaired, or have a learning disability. Even if you don’t have anyone in your office who needs screen reading, it can’t hurt to be prepared for a day when you might.

We’re going to discuss some of the more common screen reading software that you might consider for your organization.

Microsoft Narrator
Microsoft Narrator has been on every single form of Windows since 2000. It was initially implemented with the intention of providing those who are blind and visually impaired a solution to take in written content. Narrator can read the dialogue boxes and information in windows to the most basic of degrees. Because of this, it’s not meant to provide a comprehensive in-depth solution. Instead, Microsoft recommends that those who need screen reading download a full-function screen-reader software. For the purposes of installing this application, Microsoft Narrator can help with this process.

Job Access with Speech (JAWS)
JAWS is a powerful tool that is the most commonly used screen reading application in the world. In 2015, JAWS was used frequently by approximately 30.2% of those who used a screen reader, whereas about 43.7% had used it sparingly. JAWS can perform a number of functions, including web browsing, reading text out loud, reading ebooks and other articles, word processing, and communicating through telecommunication apps. JAWS is compatible with every version of Windows since Windows Vista, but if you’re using that operating system, you have bigger problems to deal with than finding a screen reader.

NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA)
JAWS is a commercial screen reader, whereas NVDA presents a more affordable alternative as a free solution. NVDA can read the text on-screen in a computerized voice or output it to a braille machine for use by the reader. The neat thing about NVDA is that you can either download it on a PC and access it that way or place it on a USB drive for use on any computer. NVDA can help users read their email and messages, as well as their social media accounts. NVDA can also assist users with online functionality, word processing, and other productivity software. Just like JAWS, NVDA is compatible all the way up to Windows 10.

Do you have any other recommended screen reading software titles to share? Let us know in the comments.

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Lessons From a Company that Successfully Beat Ransomware

Lessons From a Company that Successfully Beat Ransomware

Ransomware is a dangerous malware that all businesses fear. Although, if the right precautions are taken, a ransomware attack can be completely thwarted. A recent hack attack of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency provides us with a real-world example of this, which helps make ransomware appear a lot less formidable.

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Tip of the Week: 4 Ways to Attract Top Talent to Your Company

Tip of the Week: 4 Ways to Attract Top Talent to Your Company

The ultimate goal of any business is to increase the volume of services it provides its clients in order to reap larger profits, as is likely the goal of your business as well. Perhaps you have been successful in attracting new clients, but if you wish to continue to experience such growth, then you’ll need to also attract quality employees.

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These 2 Keystrokes are All that’s Needed to Access Windows 10

These 2 Keystrokes are All that’s Needed to Access Windows 10

When someone asks you to troubleshoot a problem, it’s because there is something that is preventing their solutions from working properly, which they need them to do. In business, this happens all the time. This is why every business provides some semblance of support with their product or service. What happens, however, when the act of troubleshooting makes something worse. One security analyst came across this problem in an unlikely place: Microsoft’s newest desktop operating systems, Windows 10.

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Why Heart Attack Victims Should Be Wary of Hacking Attacks

Why Heart Attack Victims Should Be Wary of Hacking Attacks

It goes without saying that having to rely on a pacemaker isn’t an ideal circumstance for anyone, even considering that the device allows the patient to continue living a fulfilling life. This is why a particular discovery of a European-based research team becomes a shade or two darker: the team has concluded that it’s possible for a novice to send life-threatening signals to the device.

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Tip of the Week: Make Sure Your Mobile Device Policy Covers These 3 Areas

Tip of the Week: Make Sure Your Mobile Device Policy Covers These 3 Areas

If we asked you to count the number of mobile devices in your workplace, would you be able to do so? This includes smartphones, laptops, tablets, and others--anything that’s not a workstation or hardware tied down to your location. While mobile devices can be beneficial for any business, it’s still important to keep security at the top of your mind. Here are three topics that you need to be sure you’ve considered before allowing mobile devices in the workplace.

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How Businesses Doing IT the Old Fashioned Way are Losing Money

How Businesses Doing IT the Old Fashioned Way are Losing Money

Technology has been ingrained into today’s society to the point where businesses can’t function without it. Your organization relies on servers, networks, and workstations to keep productive and access important information, but all of this technology saddles your business with the responsibility of maintaining the components, as well as budget challenges.

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Passwords Are on the Way Out. What’s Next?

Passwords Are on the Way Out. What’s Next?

Passwords are a critical security component of any online account. In many cases, they’re the fine line of defense against the horde of threats that exist on the Internet. The problem that many users have with passwords, however, is that good passwords are difficult to remember, and on their own, aren’t necessarily the most secure option. So, how can you make passwords both easier to use and more secure?

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Tip of the Week: 3 Tips to Cleaning a Computer that Anyone Can Do

Tip of the Week: 3 Tips to Cleaning a Computer that Anyone Can Do

When you invest in a new computing device, you should know that a little bit of tender loving care goes a long way toward prolonging its lifespan. Yet, cleaning your device can be a bit tricky, especially if you don’t want to risk permanent damage to its components. Thankfully, it’s not rocket science to clean up your PC, especially when you have this step-by-step guide.

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Why Small Businesses Need to Think Big When it Comes to Network Security

Why Small Businesses Need to Think Big When it Comes to Network Security

There are benefits to being a small business. Being small provides all sorts of flexibility, including the ability to make decisions quickly and without having to go through so many hoops. Plus, you have a smaller workforce, which makes for a more personal experience. However, this also leads to a rather unfortunate side-effect of believing that you’re immune to being hacked.

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For Emergency Purposes Only: Users Can Now Activate Facebook’s Safety Check

For Emergency Purposes Only: Users Can Now Activate Facebook’s Safety Check

Since 2014, Facebook has quietly featured Safety Check, a crisis response tool that lets users in areas struck by natural disasters or other emergencies to confirm their safety on the social network. Originally, Facebook itself would have to activate a Safety Check, but that has changed--the power to activate a safety check is now in the hands of the stricken community.

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Tip of the Week: 3 Simple Tricks to Resolve a Troublesome Wi-Fi Connection

Tip of the Week: 3 Simple Tricks to Resolve a Troublesome Wi-Fi Connection

The dreaded Wi-Fi dead zone: it’s a place where all wireless signal drops or becomes unstable, even though you could move three inches in either direction and you’ll have no problem. In this case, there’s usually something interfering with the signal, be it a wall or another device. We’ll walk you through some of the basic troubleshooting tips that you can use to resolve your connection troubles.

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Honor Among Hackers? Not for Those Who Hack Hospitals

Honor Among Hackers? Not for Those Who Hack Hospitals

It’s safe to say that hacking is a frowned-upon practice, but that hasn’t stopped cyber criminals from attempting to turn a profit off of it. This practice has led them to target nonconventional organizations, including hospitals and other healthcare facilities. However, just because a hacker can target a hospital, does this mean that they should? This is a topic of some debate amongst hackers, whom, believe it or not, actually do have some sort of ethical standards.

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What Kind of a Story Do Readers Want? Big Data Knows

What Kind of a Story Do Readers Want? Big Data Knows

Sometimes it can be tricky to identify what will be popular in the years to come, but that doesn’t stop big data from trying. Cultural anomalies are particularly difficult to predict, but an algorithm is attempting to predict which modern novel will become the next big bestseller. Jodie Archer, author of an upcoming book titled The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of the Blockbuster Novel, takes a critical look at what makes something popular amongst consumers--particularly in regard to literature.

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Tip of the Week: These Windows 10 Shortcuts are Worth Committing to Memory

Tip of the Week: These Windows 10 Shortcuts are Worth Committing to Memory

A mouse is practically necessary when using a computer, be it for working with documents or for browsing the Internet. However, that shouldn’t stop you from using key command shortcuts to cut down on the number of clicks you need to make. With Windows 10, there are plenty of shortcuts that can be used to accomplish more throughout the workday.

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You Won’t Believe What Happens to a PC After Plugging in this USB Device!

You Won’t Believe What Happens to a PC After Plugging in this USB Device!

USB is a popular technology in all modes of today’s society. You’d be hard-pressed to find a modern piece of technology that’s not compatible in some way, shape or form with USB. Thumb drives, chargers, and even portable drives all use this common technology. However, this also means that hackers can take advantage of its popularity to spread malware and other problems.

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A Pocket Guide to Cloud Computing

A Pocket Guide to Cloud Computing

There is no question that, by now, you have heard of the cloud. The computing method has grown to be an essential component for any business to consider. But what does “the cloud” actually refer to, and what must a business owner consider as they select a solution for their needs?

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Tip of the Week: Maximize Productivity By Listening to the Right Music

Tip of the Week: Maximize Productivity By Listening to the Right Music

Nowadays, with streaming services like Spotify, Google Play, and Pandora available on a plethora of mobile devices, music lovers have an easy time enjoying tunes everywhere they go, including at the office. While this is all well and good, have you ever stopped to wonder if music is helping your employees, or holding them back?

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Why You Should Read the Fine Print Before Downloading Adware

Why You Should Read the Fine Print Before Downloading Adware

Has this ever happened to you? You come across a free app online that seems interesting, entertaining, or helpful so you decide to download it? However, as soon as you click the download button you regret it as it begins to install browser toolbars, adware, and other annoying (and potentially dangerous) software onto your device? How can you keep this “crapware” from getting too out of hand, and why is it so popular in the first place?

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