Cyklon IT Solutions

Cyklon IT Solutions

Personal Computer Woes

This is just a quick note to explain the lack of content. Not to go into too much detail, I had computer trouble, which required me to restore from a backup. I didn’t lose any data thankfully, but it really drives the point home about how important backups are. I was able to restore the data relatively quickly, however, due to study starting again, the blog got set on the back burner. We should be back to regular posts from now.


As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment. If the content of this blog is gobbledygook and you are in need of data recovery or other IT services, head on over to our Web Shop (currently undergoing maintenance). Want a good laugh? Check out our blog created entirely by artificial intelligence (AI)

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How to increase your data security if you use a NAS

If you own a NAS (Network-Attached Storage) device, but don’t have a massive budget for security, it is possible to set up your NAS in a more secure way than you may be doing it currently. Generally when you set up a NAS device, it is necessary to open ports directly to it from the Internet through port forwarding. However, if you store sensitive information on your NAS, opening ports that allow direct connections from the Internet can be very insecure. Even though some NAS devices may have in-built firewalls, they are quite basic and this method still exposes the NAS to direct attacks.

A great way to solve this problem (if this is your current set up) is to utilise the network infrastructure of the company who makes the NAS. For example, Synology allow you to use a service called ‘QuickConnect’, which is essentially a routing service from your NAS to anywhere on the Internet. The benefit of this is that you do not need to open ports directly exposing your NAS to the Internet, and if you are within your LAN it will still route directly to the NAS. An added benefit is that you can create a custom name to route to your NAS so that it’s easy to remember. This does shift the trust to Synology, which may not be ideal depending on your privacy and data confidentiality requirements – but it generally fine for everyday people like you and me.


As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment. If the content of this blog is gobbledygook and you are in need of data recovery or other IT services, head on over to our Web Shop (currently undergoing maintenance). Want a good laugh? Check out our blog created entirely by artificial intelligence (AI)

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Artificial Intelligence and its role in the future of data recovery

Artificial intelligence is not something new, in fact artificial intelligence has been researched as far back as the early 20th century. However, the most notable example would have to be Alan Turing, with his paper ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’ from 1950. In this paper Turing discusses many intricate details pertaining to the now burgeoning field of artificial intelligence, which then was only in its infancy – more or less. This paper is what led to what is now known as the Turing Test – which is a test that judges a machine’s “intelligence”. Of course Turing did not refer to it as the Turing Test, for him it was simply a computer’s participation in the ‘imitation game’ (yes, like the movie), where the computer (A) would attempt to make an interrogator (C) think that A is in fact B, which is another person. Hence the name the ‘imitation game’. A can lie, but it is generally accepted that B will tell the truth about themselves. The game is played through computer screens. There is much, much more to the paper, however the basic premise for this article is that the Turing Test is designed to evaluate the effectiveness of artificial intelligence – i.e. “Can machines think?”.

These days artificial intelligence seems to be leaning more toward the ability of computers to “learn”. The process might go something like this – an algorithm is created → relevant data is inputted → it is tested → it is given feedback by humans → the algorithm adjusts according to human feedback. Obviously this is a simplified version of one type of artificial intelligence, but it is one way in which machines can learn from humans. This is commonly referred to as ‘machine learning’. The advancement of such artificial intelligence systems will lead, and are in fact leading to self-learning, where it is not necessary to have constant human feedback. These systems, (such as neural networks) can be (and are proposed to be) used in the recovery of data.

Igor Sestanj and David Edwards propose that machine learning can be used in the recovery of flash and NAND devices such as USB drives and SD cards. They liken the process to that of the human neural system (where neurons accept information via dendrites, process the information and make “decisions”, which lead to an output), and that because many manufacturers use predictable XOR patterns for writing data, firmware corruption can be reversed by replicating the manufacturer’s XOR pattern – revealing the original raw data, and hence be able to be recovered. Here is a link to the paper itself for those that would like to read more – the future of data recovery is very exciting indeed!


As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment. If the content of this blog is gobbledygook and you are in need of data recovery or other IT services, head on over to our Web Shop (currently undergoing maintenance). Want a good laugh? Check out our blog created entirely by artificial intelligence (AI)

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The best free data recovery software

When searching online for the best free data recovery software, you are likely doing it in reaction to something that has happened. Whether you accidentally deleted files, formatted your hard drive or had to reset your computer due to malware or other issue, it will be reactionary – most likely. Also, if you are searching for data recovery software, you must realise that it is possible. It is possible, but not always, depending on quite a few factors.

Unfortunately, in my experience using free data recovery software, there are generally two main barriers. The first barrier is what I like to call a “trial wall” – this is where restrictions are placed on the program that allow you to “trial” it. One way this is implemented is to restrict the number of files that can be recovered by the program. Another way is to restrict the amount of data that can be recovered. A third trial wall recovery software will employ, is to show you all of the files that have been recovered, but it won’t allow you to save them until you activate: read, pay for the software. In any case this doesn’t help you! This trial wall barrier is generally found with commercial or closed-source programs. The following programs fit under this barrier:

Recover My Files

  • The evaluation version of the software “is the FULL VERSION” – though you will be able to view all the recovered files, you won’t be able to save them
  • Closed-source

Disk Drill

  • Trialling this software will only allow you to recover up to 500MB – less than one CD worth of data, or about 150 – 200 photos
  • Closed-source

DiskGenius

  • Free version will not allow you to save files
  • Closed-source

GetDataBack

  • The free trial allows you to view the recovered files, but you will have to purchase it to save them
  • Closed-source

EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

  • Free trial allows you to view the files, but you will not be able to save them until you purchase the full version
  • Closed-source

R-Undelete

  • Free version can recover files from FAT partitions
  • NTFS partitions (what is mostly used by people on Windows computers) in the free version are limited to 256KB per file – which is not very much – one photo from a modern camera or phone would be around 2 – 3MB, or roughly 10 times bigger
  • Closed-source

All of the programs here are quite user-friendly, that is, they are easy enough to use by non-technical people, however, they are not really free if you want to recover all of your files. There are many other tools for data recovery that come under this section, but they essentially do the same thing and have similar limitations, so it’s a bit redundant to list them all.

The second main barrier that I’ve found with free data recovery software is the level of knowledge needed to make use of it. There are two parts to this barrier, firstly the level of knowledge to use the tool to begin with, and secondly the level of knowledge to make use of the information that they provide. There are some very good open source projects and software, but they can be more difficult to use. Linux, in general, is a better operating system for these types of tools in my experience. Though when it comes to data recovery, these data recovery tools are used in the command line – people that use Windows may not be comfortable using the command line. The following data recovery software are listed below:

TestDisk

  • Powerful and completely free data recovery software
  • Can also repair disk partitions (as long as it is caused by software, and not hardware)
  • Open source

Ddrescue

  • Another powerful and completely free data recovery program
  • Similar features to TestDisk
  • Open source

These free and open source data recovery tools listed here are very powerful and can recover great amounts of information, however, there is a steep learning curve. If you are unsure about TestDisk and Ddrescue then I recommend not attempting to use them as you can potentially do more damage and lose data permanently.

PLEASE READ: If you have experienced data loss, i.e. you have accidentally formatted your hard drive, deleted files (photos, videos, documents, etc.) then it is recommended to stop using the device until you are able to begin data recovery. The reason being is that you risk losing more data by overwriting the sections where the lost data resided.


As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment. If the content of this blog is gobbledygook and you are in need of data recovery or other IT services, head on over to our Web Shop (currently undergoing maintenance). Want a good laugh? Check out our blog created entirely by artificial intelligence (AI)

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Stop being honest, it’s putting you at risk online

There are many techniques that hackers employ (white hat and black hat, and those in between) to gain access to systems – one category of these techniques is social engineering. Have you ever created an online account, and when filling out the secret questions, wondered how this could be used by someone that’s not you? If you’re an honest person (or just simply not paranoid enough to care), you likely fill these secret questions in a way that is easy for you to remember, which is generally the truth. The problem with this is that anyone that knows you could also use this information to reset your password and gain access to that account. Even if they don’t personally know you, that won’t necessarily stop them from finding out this information – through phishing, or even just searching your online profiles they might be able to gather enough information to perform this attack.

How can you defend against this? Well, one convenient way is to make use of your password manager (which you should already be using! If not, see here). Password managers such as KeePass (or my preferred version, KeePassXC) and Bitwarden allow you to add notes to any entry, which allows you to add any secret question information. Just make sure that you also include the secret question, so you don’t get muddled up. Also, KeePassXC has a nifty feature to “protect” any note entry information (handy for mitigating against shoulder surfing) – all you have to do is edit an entry, either by double clicking it, or right click the entry and select “View/Edit Entry” as shown here,

KeePassXC Right-click
KeePassXC right-click

Then click on “Advanced” on the left-hand side, click “Add” on the right-hand side and then click “Protect” while you’re editing the entry. You can set up an entry for each secret question. There are other ways to protect your information online, though you have to keep in mind that falsifying information such as your name is against the Terms and Conditions of many websites – and may be against the law in some instances, so use caution when attempting to obfuscate certain information. Other than that, make sure you keep safe online!


As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment. If the content of this blog is gobbledygook and you are in need of data recovery or other IT services, head on over to our Web Shop (currently undergoing maintenance). Want a good laugh? Check out our blog created entirely by artificial intelligence (AI)

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What is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) and what use is it to me?

You may be using password managers to securely store your passwords and other information, but what happens if your master password gets discovered (perhaps through keylogging or maybe someone found that post-it note with it written on it)? Well 2FA can definitely assist with this dilemma. 2FA is an extra security step (something you have) in addition to your password (something you know). In general 2FA is a time-based code that is regenerated every so many seconds. It can be software-only (such as [Google Authenticator][play-store-google-authenticator or Authy, or hardware backed (such as a Yubikey). The reason 2FA is so beneficial is that even if your password (master password for your password manager or passwords for online accounts) is compromised, they will not be able to log in to your accounts without the 2FA code. Even if they have access to your 2FA key (especially a Yubikey), if you have set up a password on the 2FA application they still won’t be able to access your accounts. Good security practices utilise a layered approach so that if one layer becomes compromised all is not lost.


As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment. If the content of this blog is gobbledygook and you are in need of data recovery or other IT services, head on over to our Web Shop (currently undergoing maintenance). Want a good laugh? Check out our blog created entirely by artificial intelligence (AI)

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Password manager recommendations

Over the years I have used and tried a few different password managers – if you don’t know what a password manager is, see our post here. I am a strong proponent of open source software and definitely recommend this avenue. Open source software has the benefit of being able to be publicly vetted, whereas closed source is just that closed off software that cannot easily be audited or inspected by the public. So then what are the best password managers to use? That depends on your requirements – though instead of going into too much detail I will just jump straight into the recommendations. In my experience, the two best password managers that I have come across are KeePass (specifically, KeePassXC, which is a community fork of KeePass), and Bitwarden. Both of these password managers have their pros and cons – and for most people Bitwarden is going to be the best option. Here’s why:

Bitwarden

  • Free
  • Open source
  • Strong encryption
  • Supports many browsers:
    • Google Chrome
    • Mozilla Firefox
    • Opera
    • Microsoft Edge
    • Safari
    • Vivaldi
    • Brave
    • Tor Browser
  • Also compatible with Windows, Mac OS and Linux as desktop applications
  • Automatically syncs, with the option to host your own Bitwarden server
  • Password generator
  • Premium option ($10US / year), which includes:
    • 1GB encrypted storage
    • 2 factor authentication (2FA) login for extra security
    • Password hygiene & vault health reports
    • TOTP authenticator key storage & code generator
    • Priority customer support

KeePassXC

  • Free
  • Open source
  • Supports strong encryption
  • Offline only by default (though you can sync using a cloud service)
  • Compatible with Windows, Mac OS and Linux
  • Password generator

In any case, you should consider using a password manager if you aren’t right now. In addition to password managers you you should also consider enabling 2FA on all online accounts that support it. If you would like more information, please see our post [here][ The importance of regular backups


As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment. If the content of this blog is gobbledygook and you are in need of data recovery or other IT services, head on over to our Web Shop (currently undergoing maintenance). Want a good laugh? Check out our blog created entirely by artificial intelligence (AI)

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What is a password manager (and what is it not)?

Password managers are a convenient way of, well, managing your passwords. This is fairly straightforward, but there are software that manage passwords – but are not in my mind password managers. For example, operating systems and browsers have password “rememberers” that store passwords for you, but they are not necessarily stored in an encrypted state. So while they offer slight convenience, there is no benefit to security because the information is kept in plain text – sometimes even if there is the option for a “master password”. For this reason it is not recommended to use these, but to opt for an actual password manager. Examples of these password “rememberers” are:

  • Internet browsers that ask you if you want to save your password (e.g. [Internet Explorer][wikipedia-internet-explorer], [Mozilla Firefox][firefox-homepage], [Google Chrome][chrome-homepage], [Safari][safari-homepage])
  • Apple’s [Keychain][what-is-keychain-access]
  • Linux Password and Keys

These are but a few examples, and is recommended not to use these because as mentioned earlier, the details are stored in plain text. What this means is that if someone gets access to your computer, they will be able to extract them and read them as if you typed them into Notepad.

So then if all these are not password managers, what are they? Password managers are actually dedicated programs, browser add-ons or websites that are designed to securely store passwords and login information. The benefits of using proper password managers are primarily convenience and security through:

  • Storing login details (and other information such as form auto-fill data) securely by encrypting everything with a master password
  • Allowing you to create much stronger passwords and different passwords for each website / service

For recommendations on which password manager you should be using, see our post here.


As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment. If the content of this blog is gobbledygook and you are in need of data recovery or other IT services, head on over to our Web Shop (currently undergoing maintenance). Want a good laugh? Check out our blog created entirely by artificial intelligence (AI)

We’ve done the research, so you don’t have to!

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[wikipedia-internet-explorer][https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Explorer] [firefox-homepage][https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/] [chrome-homepage][https://www.google.com/chrome/] [safari-homepage][https://www.apple.com/safari/] [what-is-keychain-access][https://support.apple.com/guide/keychain-access/what-is-keychain-access-kyca1083/mac]

What is redundancy and how can it save your (virtual) life?

Data redundancy, simply put is having the same data replicated in two places. There’s more to it than that but for a rudimentary understanding it is one way to think about it. Data redundancy is not the same as a backup. A backup is a “snapshot” of your data at a particular time, whereas redundant data is literally the same data - hence why it is referred to as redundant. If you have your own backup solution such as a Network-Attached Storage (NAS) device, then it is a good idea to have at least two disks installed and mirrored. This way if something happens to one disk, if it fails for whatever reason, you have the other disk with the same data on it. If your NAS supports hot swapping, you can simply purchase another hard drive (of the same size and speed) and replace the failed drive. The NAS will copy the data to the new drive and your redundant array will be back up once it is done without skipping a beat. There are numerous ways in which you can implement data redundancy, which will be covered in future posts.


As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment. If the content of this blog is gobbledygook and you are in need of data recovery or other IT services, head on over to our Web Shop (currently undergoing maintenance). Want a good laugh? Check out our blog created entirely by artificial intelligence (AI)

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The chink in the armour of information security isn’t where you expect

When people envisage computer systems being hacked they may imagine a shadowy figure furiously typing away on a keyboard in a dark basement. Or they might think about some complicated wall of code or fancy high-tech gadgets to break into these systems. The reality is, unfortunately, much more benign than Hollywood would lead us to believe. In fact, it isn’t penetration testers or hackers that put information or computer systems at risk – it’s actually the users and administrators. Probably one of the most common weaknesses would have to be passwords. Users – even administrators tend to create weak passwords because they are relatively easy to remember, the problem is, they are even easier for computers to calculate. The best defense against this is of course to use a password manager, see our post here for recommendations on the best (and most privacy-respecting) password managers. Next, administrative configuration is a common weakness in systems that is often overlooked. What this means is when administrators set up systems, whether it be websites, servers or any number of systems such as network environments, too often they will leave certain settings as the default. At worst, they leave the login details as default, so if this is an internet-facing device, anyone who stumbles upon it will be able to login and most likely do whatever they please, including changing the login details – nice.


As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment. If the content of this blog is gobbledygook and you are in need of data recovery or other IT services, head on over to our Web Shop (currently undergoing maintenance). Want a good laugh? Check out our blog created entirely by artificial intelligence (AI)

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The importance of regular backups

Our personal data is arguably priceless compared to that of, say company data, which can relatively speaking, be easily replaced. Those embarrassing photos that you now look back on and laugh about are irreplaceable, that exact moment can never be replicated – so data loss should be avoided, and when it can’t be avoided, it should be mitigated to the fullest extent. To achieve this, it is necessary to have backups of your personal data. There are many options when it comes to backing up your data, so where should you start? Well that depends on a few factors. Firstly, cost is an obvious starting point. There are ‘free’ services that will offer gigabytes (GB) worth of online storage for no financial cost. I stress the word financial, which leads into the next consideration for your backup solution – privacy.

Privacy is often overlooked by people because most people generally don’t look past the ‘free’ aspect of the services and don’t consider what is happening to their data (or simply don’t care). There are many examples of large companies misusing customer information in the form of selling their data to marketers and other agencies, the prominent contemporary of which being the Cambridge Analytica scandal that Facebook was caught up in. However, it is almost unavoidable at this point to completely ditch all of these services – due to their massive financial backing they have the means to provide much more than their open source counterparts. I am a huge supporter of open source software and take advantage of many open source programs and services, though I am still guilty of using these ‘free’ services – even if it is minimally. If you have an Android phone you are inevitably using Google’s services by default and the alternative of using a custom Android operating system such as LineageOS is more effort than many are willing to deal with.

There are, however, other considerations for backing up your data. One of the mantras of data backups is for them to be ‘regular, and off-site’. Regular, to minimise data loss if anything happens to your device, or if you accidentally delete data. Off-site so that again if anything happens to your device, the data is safe. The off-site aspect is generally more for if there’s a fire – this ensures that the backup doesn’t get destroyed along with the primary data. We will cover backup solutions and services in future posts. Stay tuned!


As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment. If the content of this blog is gobbledygook and you are in need of data recovery or other IT services, head on over to our Web Shop (currently undergoing maintenance). Want a good laugh? Check out our blog created entirely by artificial intelligence (AI)

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Why you should never pay the ransom

Back in 2017, the WannaCry worm took the world by storm causing financial damage and all but halting services such as those use by the NHS in the UK. This malware reportedly infected tens of thousands of computers in approximately 150 countries. The basic premise of the worm was to, a) encrypt the user’s important files (rendering them essentially inaccessible – they may as well have been deleted), and b) spread itself to as many other computers as possible.

After being infected, the user would be presented with a pop-up similar to this image:

WannaCry Screenshot
By Unknown criminal - https://cdn.securelist.com/files/2017/05/wannacry_05.pngDownloaded from :https://securelist.com/blog/incidents/78351/wannacry-ransomware-used-in-widespread-attacks-all-over-the-world/, Public Domain, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54032765

This type of malware is called ransomware, and as can be seen in the image, a timer is also displayed, threatening that the files will be “lost” if the timer reaches zero. Do. Not. Ever. Pay. Why not, you ask? Because the most likely scenario is that you pay the ransom and you never see your files again. Which is what likely happened to the majority of people. The type of people who are willing to extort people of money, logically are also not likely to be honourable. But I’ll lose all my data? Okay, well if you pay the ransom, then you will lose all your data and your wallet will be substantially lighter. What are my options? Read on my friend…

Because this particular attack is going on two years old now then you have either likely lost all your data, lost all your data and given the crooks money, or you have only lost some of your data and not given them any money. How? By having backups! If you don’t have any backups, especially in this day and age you are doing yourself a disservice.


As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment. If the content of this blog is gobbledygook and you are in need of data recovery or other IT services, head on over to our Web Shop (currently undergoing maintenance). Want a good laugh? Check out our blog created entirely by artificial intelligence (AI)

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What is data loss and why should you care?

Data loss is inevitable – whether it is from user error, malware or caused by a hardware failure. The most common cause of data loss would have to be users deleting files by accident, however, there are other causes leading to data loss that are less known. Some of these causes of data loss are software-related, some are due to hardware problems. A small caveat, data loss does not necessarily mean that the data is “gone” or deleted, it could simply be that the data is rendered inaccessible to the user or owner of the data.

Following this vein, certain malware has the potential may cause data loss by removing a user’s access to their data through encryption. The most devastating example of this in recent history is the WannaCry worm back in 2017, which utilised exploits reportedly created by the National Security Agency (NSA) in the US. This widespread worm infected computers globally, with the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom (UK) being hardest hit due to their computers still running older versions of Microsoft Windows. If you ever find yourself in the position where your data is being held “ransom”, the best advice is to not pay the ransom (which can be substantial, and you’re not guaranteed to get your data back) and instead opt to restore your computer from an earlier backup. Don’t have a backup or backup plan? Read our post, The importance of regular backups.

Hardware can and will fail, the probability of hardware failures begin to quickly approach 1 the more time has passed – this means that the longer you use the same hardware, the more likely it is to fail. A great article posted on Backblaze goes into detail about hard drive failure rates. It is definitely prudent to replace your hard drives on a regular basis, maybe every 2 or 3 years – but that depends on a lot of factors, including but not limited to the environment in which they’re stored, as well as their workload. Sometimes you may run into some bad luck and have multiple hard drives fail at the same time due to a bad batch. I remember years ago having 2 or 3 Western Digital drives fail in a very short amount of time due to this – not disparaging Western Digital as I still use their drives to this day, but there was a bad batch at that time, which was unfortunate. For this reason it is a good idea to buy hard drives at different times so they are not part of the same batch, however, this is not always time or cost-efficient for consumers or businesses alike. Similarly, you should also employ redundancy as part of your backup solutions. If that term means nothing to you, please see our post, What is redundancy, and how can it save your (virtual) life?.


As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment. If the content of this blog is gobbledygook and you are in need of data recovery or other IT services, head on over to our Web Shop (currently undergoing maintenance). Want a good laugh? Check out our blog created entirely by artificial intelligence (AI)

We’ve done the research, so you don’t have to!

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Welcome Post

Hi! Welcome to the blog. Unlike our sister-site Blog Powered by AI, the contributions in this blog are by real people (currently by one people, me)

Topics covered in this blog will be similar in nature to those of our sister-site Blog Powered by AI, however, it is vetted and will be much higher quality. If you are in need of IT services, head on over to our Web Shop (Which is currently undergoing maintenance, sorry!). We provide remote and local data recovery as well as more general services like virus and malware removal. Unfortunately the local services are only available in Uppsala, Sweden at the moment. However, the remote data recovery is available anywhere there is Internet.


As always reader participation is not just welcomed, but encouraged! If you have any suggestions, corrections or anything in between, feel free to leave a comment. If the content of this blog is gobbledygook and you are in need of data recovery or other IT services, head on over to our Web Shop (currently undergoing maintenance). Want a good laugh? Check out our blog created entirely by artificial intelligence (AI)

We’ve done the research, so you don’t have to!

Thanks for reading!