Unlike any industry in the history of the world, the PC industry evolves at an incredible pace. At PC Pitstop, we have been tracking each and every trend related to CPUs, memory, storage, graphics, Windows, and bandwidth.
With tens of millions of PC’s in our database, Pitstop’s market research capabilities are unprecedented in terms of cost, depth, breadth, and accuracy. We have a front seat to all the most exciting trends in computing.
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- Hold down the Ctrl+Alt+Delete keys
- Choose "Task Manager"
- Click on the browser you were using
- Select "End Task"
- If a company is going out of business, and customers are warranted a refund, the company will do so. However, they will not need you to provide your payment information, as it would already be tied to your account.
- If you're ever questioning the refund or offer -- ask for the person's name and tell them you will call them back. Contact the company, via their support options listed on their original website, to confirm what you were told by the original caller.
- Keep in mind, these scammers are going to push for your account information. They don't want you calling back, they want you to fall for the bogus scam. Therefore, they're going to urge you not to call back, and to give them your information now. If it's a legit company -- they won't care if you call back, your refund will still be there.
- Microsoft NEVER puts a 1-800 number in their BSoD screens, or pop-up messages. These are all fake virus scams.
Imagine this alert showing up on your screen. Scary thought, right?
This message, and one's similar, are intended to scare users and force them into acting promptly by calling the toll-free number listed in the alert to fix the issue identified. The problem is, these alerts are completely fake. There is nothing wrong with the computer, therefore there is no need to fix anything.
Over approximately the last year, PC Matic has conducted extensive research regarding this particular tech support scam, deeming it the Fake Virus Scam.
About the Fake Virus Scam
This scam aims to trick users into believing that their computer or device needs to be fixed with unnecessary and costly technical support services. The alert messages create a sense of urgency, making users believe they must call quickly to remediate the problem. They also aim to increase a sense of legitimacy by using a well-known brand, like Microsoft in the alert. Please note, a legitimate Microsoft notification will not include a phone number.
But how does it worm its way onto a computer? Scammers have succeeded in getting an advertisement or pop-up into a user’s browser, probably during a freeware download, which will generate the above alert. Once the fake virus shows up on the computer, the browser appears to be locked. In addition, a voice over may come over your speakers. Below is a recording we've been able to obtain of these voice overs.Just image you're in a work environment and that comes over your computer. Embarrassing, and highly concerning. By including this voice over, victims are increasingly likely to call the number listed to get the fake virus removed.
Once a user calls the scammers, they will want a large payment or subscription fee to “fix” the computer. They also may offer to sell the user a bogus antivirus program, or some other unneeded service.
In order to install these applications, or “fix” the device, they will request authorization to remotely access the computer. Using remote access, these experienced scammers can misrepresent normal system output as signs of problems. It's nothing but a scam to get your money, credit card information and access to your computer.
PC Matic employee Michael Hucks, called one of these numbers to see what exactly the scammers are saying. You may listen to his call below:
How They’re Getting Away with It
The hoax uses what appears to be legitimate phone numbers to build trust with the victim. However, the scam often originates from a country, which will not cooperate with law or regulatory enforcement agencies trying to identify these scammers.
PC Matic has found, most of these fake tech support numbers are directed to one main center which modifies their Urgent Alert messages with new 1-800 numbers every couple of weeks. In just the last three months, PC Matic has tracked 140 different phone numbers tied to the fake virus scam.
Avoid Falling VictimWouldn’t it be nice if you never had to receive these messages at all?
Last year, PC Matic recognized the fake virus problem and added a feature, for no additional charge, to their adblocking technology. This technology has proven to effectively and proactively block these threats. In just the last three months, PC Matic has blocked 4,128 of these scams; up to 450 per day. Fortunately, with PC Matic’s superior adblocking technology, users can rest assured in knowing they are protected and won’t be subject to these stressful and potentially invasive and costly tactics.For those not using PC Matic, there is a way to rid a computer of the scam, after it has populated. In order to do so, complete the following steps:
Just One Tool in the Hacker's ArsenalThis is not the only bogus virus scam going around. Additional fraudulent alerts include phone and email scams. This includes hackers calling a user saying their antivirus solution is going out of business and the caller needs the user's payment information to send a "credit". Hackers have also called users claiming that they have been over billed for services, and were making arrangements for a "refund"; however, they need the payment information to issue said "refund". Another example are emails promising refunds to users of various programs. An example of a scam email that has been sent out can be seen below. Our team also went through the process of helping users identify these scams here. Another, includes a fake blue screen of death (BSoD) screen, like what is shown below. These are just a few examples of the scams that users are falling victim too, but these are the top execution methods to be aware of. Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to these scams:
Internet Speed Analysis MethodologyPC Pitstop has offered free internet speed bandwidth testing for years. Also, the speed tests are part of our PC Matic product which scans PCs internet performance settings. Basically the test measures how long it takes to download a specific sized test data. It then captures the speed in Mbps and also the IP address for each PC. The IP address is a means to identify which ISP the tested PC is using to access the internet. Our analysis is based on approximately 1.9 million download speed test records across 252,000 unique PCs that were performed during the month of January 2017.
ISP Bandwidth ResultsOur initial analysis shows the top 10 most popular ISP based on the number of unique PCs that ran our internet speed tests. The data shows a fairly pronounced separation of 5 ISP with average download speeds greater than 30 Mbps and the other 5 with less than half of that speed. This type of analysis shows the average level of throughput each ISP provides. However, it is limited in the insight it provides. Looking at the same data separated into prevalence of Mbps ranges again shows a separation of the two tiers. The top tier ISP each have 80 to 90 percent of the users with an average download speed over 15 Mbps. Time Warner Cable trails the top tier group in its ability to provide 15 Mbps to approximately 80% of its customers. In an attempt to gain a little more insight into the performance of each of the ISPs, we compared the average of all the test results for each PC to the average of the slowest speed reported for each PC. For example, if a given PC had 3 tests in our data set with speed values of 20, 15 and 10 Mbps, the average of all tests would be 15 Mbps. However, the slowest speed would be 10 Mbps. The following chart compares the average of all speed tests to the average of the slowest speed tests for each PC tested. In this chart, the lower the bar the better. Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable both lost about 20% of customers getting the 15 Mbps speeds when using the slowest speed analysis. Time Warner fails to deliver 15 Mbps to almost 39% or their customers when looking at the average slowest test results. The net take away one can draw from this is that when speeds slow down for Time Warner Cable and Charter customers, the slowdown is more pronounced than with any of the other popular ISPs.
Average Desktop and Portable PC Monitor Display Size
Popularity of Monitor SizesOver the pass seven years, larger desktop monitor sizes continues to be the trend. Our data shows that in 2016, over half of all desktop PCs are 20 inches or larger. Large screen LED and LCD monitor prices continue to decline. Another driving force of the larger monitor display size is a reflection of how PCs usage has become more focused on entertainment. Larger screens are often desired for tasks such as streaming video, displaying photographs and playing action games. The portable PC display size landscape show a little different picture. Our analysis below reveals relatively flat display sizes over time. Obviously, the 18 inch and larger displays reflected in the chart below are likely due to external monitors being attached to portable PCs. The data shows that the 15 inch display size represents approximately 75% of the portable PCs in use today. In addition, approximately 15% of users prefer the larger 17 inch displays for their portable needs.
End of Support for Microsoft Windows Products - What does it mean?Windows Operating Systems life cycle report, which Microsoft maintains, provides end-of-support dates for each of Microsoft's Windows products. Based on the report, support for Windows Vista happens in April of 2017.
Source: Windows Lifecycle Fact Sheet - Dec 2016The life cycle report contains specific information which users need to understand. Terms included in the report, such as End of Mainstream Support and End of Extended Support, can be confusing. Per a Networkworld.com article : "Ending mainstream support for a product means Microsoft will no longer be enhancing that product. What it does NOT mean is there will no longer be fixes for security and reliability issues." The article goes on to say, "When extended support ends, you can no longer count on any security patches or reliability patches."
Microsoft Windows Vista - Extended Support Ending April 2017Many Windows users remember the end of extended support for Windows XP in April 2014. Likewise, Windows Vista is scheduled to meet its life cycle end in April of 2017. The Vista operating system has an interesting life span. Its introduction, in early 2007 was designed to replace the popular Windows XP. Vista design included improvements in graphics, networking and security over its predecessor. However, it drew criticism for its heavy resource requirements, restrictions for the copying of protected digital media, longer boot times as well as other issues. As as result, its satisfaction and initial adoption rates were lower than those of Windows XP. Our analysis shows the current installed base percentages for each of the major Microsoft Windows operating systems. Vista usage represents a fairly small percentage, 4%, of the total Windows installed base.
What should you do if you have Windows Vista?If you are still using Vista, you don't have to do anything. Just as the Windows XP end of extended support came and went in 2014, your Vista operating system will continue to work after April 2017. Be aware that Microsoft won't be generating any updates or security patches after support is discontinued. If you are a satisfied Vista user, continue to use it. PC Pitstop recommends that you have a good security product (like PC Matic's SuperShield) and that you maintain proper backups. However, if you are ready for an OS update take a look at Windows 10. You may like it.
What is Cloud Based File Synchronization?Cloud based file synchronization represents the storage and access of electronic data or media files via the "Cloud". In simpler terms, it just means saving and maintaining your PC files use cloud storage. Cloud storage is just another way of saying a hard drive found on an internet server. Storing data in the Cloud generally provides a safe and remote place for housing your digital files. This internet access means users can retrieve the files from a variety of devices such as PCs or other portable devices. This assumes that those devices have internet access and contain the required software or applications for accessing the data. Synchronization means that when a person adds or changes files on their device, the additions and changes are also saved in the cloud. For example, a smart phone can have a synchronization app that automatically places a copy of each picture taken into the Cloud. The synchronization software also allows collaboration with others users. Most synchronization software have a feature which allows the owner of the data to share access with others. The synchronization function insures that users have access to the most up-to-date version of the file. Most software contains features that allow others to make changes to shared data and for those changes to be updated to the Cloud file. Synchronization software generally requires an owner registration process for creating the personalized cloud storage. Most software provides a specific amount of free storage. As a person's storage needs expands, additional storage is usually available for a cost. The amount of free storage and additional storage pricing depends on the individual software's policy.
Popular Cloud Based File Synchronization SoftwareOur analysis of PCs shows that Apple's iCloud software leads the pack in popularity. Other popular cloud based file synchronization software includes Drop Box, Google Drive and Microsoft's OneDrive. If you haven't already done so, maybe its time to try out one or more of the cloud syncing file programs. The initial free storage is generally ample for sharing your pictures or other PC files with friends and family. Getting started is generally is easy. Search for one of the programs in your browser. Download and install the software and then identify what files or folders you want to synchronize.
PCs Installed BaseHP appears to be the beneficiary of brand choice for both the desktop and portables PC branded systems. Its interesting to note that the two leading brands of HP and Dell currently makes up over 50% of PCs in use.
Brand Loyalty - Have the rules changed?As the maturity phase of the PC industry continues, consumer behaviors also change. Brand loyalty is a consumer behavior that often changes as an industry matures. An argument can be made that with the increased availability of online reviews and ratings, some folks might rely less on their past experiences. Online reviews and ratings always need to be scrutinized for honesty and reliability. However these reviews often give the consumers a wonderful resource for making educated purchases.
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