PC Matic Research Overview

Unlike any industry in the history of the world, the PC industry evolves at an incredible pace. At PC Matic, we have been tracking each and every trend related to CPUs, memory, storage, graphics, Windows, and bandwidth.

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    Users Actively Seeking Out Alternative Antivirus Programs Due to Cyber Threats

    Users Look for Better Protection Against Today's Cyber Threats

    PC Matic recently conducted a survey, including 500 participants, regarding the impact of recent ransomware and crypto-jacking attacks.  According to the results, approximately 45% of participants have either already switched antivirus providers, or are considering it, due to these growing cyber threats.
    Of those who participated, less than 18% reported being hit with ransomware.  Therefore confirming, the boost in news coverage is generating increased cyber awareness and the fear of becoming the next potential victim.  Users are looking for preventative options to avoid falling victim before these attacks hit, instead of looking for remediation efforts.

    MSPs and VARs

    It is important MSPs and VARs use this opportunity to educate customers instead of continuing to steer them towards outdated technology with poor protection.  These outdated technologies, often called legacy antivirus programs, offer up archaic blacklist solutions which only block known malicious threats.  This method is no longer effective, as malware threats are morphing every single day.  It is impossible for legacy systems to keep up, making it impossible for their user's data and devices to remain protected.  HelpNetSecurity stated,
    "More than half (53 percent) of U.S. organizations that were infected with ransomware blamed legacy antivirus protection for failing to prevent the attack..."

    Application Whitelisting Offers an Alternative and Effective Solution

    It is clear, users want a preventative solution.  But, what is the most effective preventative security solution to thwart cyber attacks such as ransomware and crypto-jacking?  Various third-parties point to whitelisting as a viable defense, including the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT), New Zealand's CERT department, the Department of Homeland SecurityFBI and NSA.
    PC Matic Pro offers an automated, global whitelist solution that is simple to deploy in an easy-to-manage platform.  PC Matic's whitelist is effective, proving in independent third-party testing it blocks all forms of malware, including ransomware.
    In AV-Test's most recent results, PC Matic was determined to be the highest performing security software.  In AV-Comparatives testing, PC Matic blocked 100% of all ransomware, polymorphic ransomware, and other malware during the testing procedure.  Lastly, PC Matic scored an astounding 99.9% detection in both proactive and reactive testing by Virus Bulletin.

    Top 5 Takeaways

    This may have been a lot of information to take in.  However, there are five key things to one must remember:
    • Users are looking for a proactive solution to keep their information secure from modern cyber threats.
    • VARs/MSPs must to keep users educated on today's cyber threats, and offer effective solutions to keep user information and devices secure.
    • Application whitelisting is the most effective method of preventative protection.
    • Whitelisting has been encouraged by various U.S. government agencies including the US-CERT, FBI, NSA, and Department of Homeland Security.
    • PC Matic Pro has been tested and proven effective in thwarting today's cyber security threats, including ransomware.

    Flood of Cyber Attacks Drives Endusers to New Antivirus Solutions

    Ransomware Attacks Drive 44.53% of Endusers to Reconsider Their Antivirus Solutions

    Not only are ransomware attacks taking place daily, but news coverage of these attacks has increased.  Therefore, the public has become more aware of this cyber threat.  The same can be said for another cyber threat, crypto-jacking.  Not long ago, computer users would have no idea what either of those terms meant.  Now, increased awareness is leading users to reconsider their antivirus solutions. In a recent survey conducted by PC Matic, 44.53% of respondents reported reconsidering their current antivirus provider due to the recent news stories related to ransomware and crypto-jacking.  Of those who are reconsidering, approximately 10% have already changed providers. In addition, 17.4% of respondents reported either they or their company, have been hit with ransomware.  However, only 50% of those who have been hit with ransomware have switched antivirus programs in an attempt to prevent future attacks. Perhaps, most importantly, 100% of survey respondents who stated they were currently using a confirmed automated global whitelist antivirus program, reported they have not been victimized by ransomware.

    PC Matic - The Fake Virus Experts

    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 Victim

    Wouldn’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:
    • Hold down the Ctrl+Alt+Delete keys
    • Choose "Task Manager"
    • Click on the browser you were using
    • Select "End Task"
    This will close out the browser.  Users may then open the browser again, which should no longer have the alert populate.  If the issue persists, reboot the device.

    Just One Tool in the Hacker's Arsenal

    This 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:
    • 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.
    To read the full Q2 PC Pitstop Newsletter, click here.

    Is Your Internet Service Provider Giving You Enough Bandwidth?

    February 14, 2017 by Lyle in Research,The Pit Blog
    Is your internet service provider (ISP) giving you the bandwidth you're paying for?  How much bandwidth does the average household need?  The use of internet for downloading music and video and other uses has exploded during recent years.  More devices, such as smart TVs,  game consoles and some household appliances are now making use of the household internet connection. Recently we covered a news article concerning the New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman lawsuit against Charter, and it’s subsidiary Spectrum (previously Time Warner Cable – TWC). The primary premise of the lawsuit is that Charter and its subsidiaries provided  internet speeds that were significantly slower than what the consumer is paying for.  The article also identified consistent internet outages for those customers. We thought it would be interesting to use our database of bandwidth data to gain some insight into the actual download bandwidth test results from some of the more popular ISPs.  Obviously, we don't have visibility of the specific bandwidth plan levels for any given PC that completed our internet speeds test.  However, a 2014 post by the FCC identified that the recommended minimum internet bandwidth for a household with 4 devices (such as a laptop, phone, tablet or game console) with high internet usage is 15 Mbps. Although the FCC report is several years old and internet usage has changed, we used the 15 Mbps as the base for our analysis.

    Internet Speed Analysis Methodology

    PC 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 Results

    Our 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. Top 10 ISP Bandwidth   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. Top 10 ISP Avg Download Speeds   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. Top 10 ISP with Less Than 15 Mbps 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.

    PC Monitor Display Sizes Continues to Grow

    January 16, 2017 by Lyle in Research,The Pit Blog
    Our analysis shows that PC monitor display size continue to grow.   The average desktop monitor diagonal size at the end of 2016 is 22.1 inches.  While on the portable PC side, the average display diagonal size comes in at 16.1 inches.  (Note: This analysis focuses on simple diagonal monitor display sizes.  Obviously aspect ratio, the ratio of height and width, also plays a role in the viewing size of a given monitor.)
    Average Desktop and Portable PC Monitor Display Size
    PC Monitor Display Size

    Average PC Monitor Display Sizes

    Popularity of Monitor Sizes

    Over 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. Desktop PC Monitor Size Trends 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. Portable PC Display Size Trends

    Windows Operating Systems Life Cycle - End of Extended Support Coming for Another Windows Product

    December 27, 2016 by Lyle in Research,The Pit Blog

    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. Windows Life Cycle
    Source: Windows Lifecycle Fact Sheet  - Dec 2016
    The 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 2017

    Many 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.
    Windows Installed Base Pct

    Source: PC Pitstop - 2016


    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.

    Cloud Based File Synchronization Software - What are you Waiting for?

    December 13, 2016 by Lyle in Research,The Pit Blog

    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 Software

    Our 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. Cloud Based File Synchronization Software   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 Base by Manufacturer - Have Brand Loyalty Rules Changed?

    November 22, 2016 by Lyle in Research,The Pit Blog
    Gartner reports that total US shipment of PC were down 6.6% year on year for Q1 of 2016.   Our analysis looks at the brands of the Windows PCs that ran PC Pitstop scans during the past several years.  The PCs installed base analysis reveals that both desktops and portables have shown a consolidation of brand preference.

    PCs Installed Base

    HP appears to be the beneficiary of brand choice for both the desktop and portables PC branded systems. Desktop PCs installed base Its interesting to note that the two leading brands of HP and Dell currently makes up over 50% of PCs in use. Portable PCs installed base

    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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