Posts in this category help promote general awareness about recycling, global issues, and going green.

A Different Kind of Virus

Twenty years ago, a dangerous virus emerged from Asia and made its way across the globe. The world had never seen anything like it before. People panicked, businesses closed, and governments tried and failed to stop the spread. Over one million were infected in a matter of hours. How, you may ask, did this virus spread so rapidly?

The ILOVEYOU virus, also referred to as the “Love Bug,” was a computer virus unlike any other at the time. An innocuous subject line, “ILOVEYOU,” seemingly sent by a contact. A short message: “kindly check the attached LOVELETTER coming from me.” A file titled “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.” Many opened this file, expecting a heartfelt message from a relative, or possibly an awkward romantic gesture from a coworker.

What they didn’t realize was that the file wasn’t a text file at all—it was a Visual Basic script file, its .vbs extension hidden from view. The document, once opened, unleashed a worm that wreaked havoc on the system, seeking out and replacing media files with copies of itself. The worm then accessed the user’s Outlook address book and sent an identical email to every contact, many of whom would go on to open the file themselves, repeating the vicious cycle.

Although the United States had prior warning, it failed to protect its government and businesses from infection. The virus hit the Pentagon, nearly every major military base, AT&T, Ford, and other corporations throughout the country, overloading mail servers and shutting down vital operations.

Worldwide, the virus infected over 45 million computers and caused around $10 billion worth of damage. After an investigation, the man believed to be responsible was Onel de Guzman, a college student from the Philippines who had submitted a similar code for his final thesis. Although there was plenty of evidence against de Guzman, he ultimately faced no charges, as the Philippines had no laws at the time concerning cybercrimes.

The ILOVEYOU virus may not have gotten very far had it been sent out today; automatic spam filters and antivirus software often catch such emails before they ever reach a person’s inbox, especially in corporate settings. But that is no reason to become complacent. In fact, users need to be vigilant, because as protections become stronger, hackers become craftier.

Computer “viruses” earned their name for a reason—much like human viruses, one person’s actions have the potential to infect thousands. To further the analogy, antivirus software is like a mask, shielding yourself and others from transmitting the virus; running frequent scans and keeping your software up-to-date is like washing your hands, ensuring threats are eliminated before infection occurs; and practicing common sense cybersecurity habits is like social distancing, avoiding situations where you put yourself and others at risk. This includes not opening attachments—even from people you know—that you are not expecting, not clicking on strange links, and never giving your password to anyone. Just as it is important to protect your physical health, you must also keep yourself safe from threats to your virtual security.

References:
https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/01/tech/iloveyou-virus-computer-security-intl-hnk/index.html
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d73jnk/love-bug-the-virus-that-hit-50-million-people-turns-15

Edit 7/14/2020: This blog post made the mistaken claim that de Guzman was arrested after the virus was released, when in reality, he was never arrested for the crime. This detail has been amended.

EPC Continues to Provide Affordable, Certified Workstations Around the Globe. Check them out now at EPCUSA.Com

E-Waste Disposal is About More Than Just Cleaning

If there’s a pile of e-waste building up in the back of your building, it’s certainly time to call an ITAD company. Haphazard e-waste storage is ugly at best, and dangerous at worst. Old, broken electronics can leech hazardous materials into your work environment; but there are other potential dangers with not disposing your electronics that are less obvious.

About 87% of companies who recycle their e-waste do so to clear up clutter. While this is a good reason, it is not the only reason you should be creating an ITAD plan. Every asset not properly disposed of poses a security risk to your company. If sensitive company info gets into the wrong hands, it can lead to major security breaches and lawsuits.

When choosing an ITAD provider, it is important to make sure they securely dispose of your data prior to resale or recycling. The best way to ensure your data is safe is to make sure your ITAD company adheres to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) guidelines for proper data disposal. Certifications to look for include NAID, e-Stewards, and Blancco Gold.

Clutter is a pain, but it’s not just mess you need to worry about. Make sure your company data is secure and safe in the hands of your ITAD provider.

EPC offers e-Stewards, NAID, and Blancco Gold-certified data disposal. Call today at (636)443-1999 or visit https://www.epcusa.com/about-us/contact-us/ to get more info.

What We Can Learn About the Environment From COVID-19

Mere months ago, the biggest threat to the health and wellbeing of our planet present in the public sphere was climate change. Now, as COVID-19 presents the more immediate danger, climate change has been overall set aside in the media. However, as we continue to observe social distancing guidelines, travel has reduced significantly, and more people than ever are working from home, scientists have noticed a positive change in the environment. While some of these alternative social practices are unsustainable in the long run, they still can be a learning opportunity and teach us how we can progress toward a healthier planet in the years to come.

Change is possible. With a global decrease in energy consumption, there is a noticeable difference in our carbon emissions and pollution levels. In China, scientists observed a 25% decrease in CO2 levels over a four-week period. That is a significant for the largest country in the world. Italy showed a similar decrease in pollution during lockdown. This data shows that widespread action is not only possible but can be effective in reducing the negative impact of energy consumption on our environment, and with scientists claiming we have only a decade to save the planet, that news is encouraging.

What’s less encouraging is the threat of emissions rapidly rising after the COVID-19 crisis subsides to meet industrial demands, similar to the aftermath of the 2008 economic recession. Although the drop in pollution is nice, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed to create a lasting positive impact. Still, it’s reassuring to know that our actions matter, and that people and businesses can rise to combat a threat to humanity—it’s a lesson we shouldn’t forget.

Introducing Curbside Pickup

In order to protect our customers and employees, EPC has made the decision to close our retail showroom doors to the public until further notice. However, as of April 1st, we are offering online shopping with curbside pickup. This will allow us to provide our community with necessary equipment at this time.

Here’s how you can use curbside pickup at EPC

  • Buy online or over the phone: Go to epcdeals.com/curbside and select ‘Curbside Pickup’ or call 636-443-1999 for in person customer support
  • Look for an email before you drive to the store: We’ll let you know when your order is ready, then you can drive to the store and pull up to the main entrance curb.
  • Call us at 636-410-0484 when you arrive at the store and a sales associate will deliver your order to your vehicle’s backseat or trunk.

TERMS & CONDITIONS:

  • Most items available for store pick up are available within one hour of placing your order. After placing your order, we will send you a confirmation email, followed by a second email when your order is ready for pick up.
  • Orders containing items which are NOT marked CURBSIDE may be cancelled.
  • All pick-up times are estimates. While we strive to meet all pick-up times as quoted, EPC does not make any guarantee that your order will be available at any specific time. EPC will not have any liability for any order delays.
  • Please have your order number with you when picking up from our St. Charles, MO. location.
  • Orders placed after 4PM, Monday thru Friday, or 1 PM on Saturdays will be processed the next business day.

Our hours are the same,  8-5 Mon-Fri, 9-2 Sat.

If you have any questions, please call at (636)443-1999.

How to Make Your Electronics Last—Even When Companies Don’t Want Them To

Buying a brand-new device is an exciting prospect. The latest iPhone or Samsung, the newest generation of a beloved gaming console, or the sleek, speedy laptop you’ve been eyeing can be a worthwhile purchase for your professional or personal life; and with so many options and new innovations, you’re sure to find something to fit your needs.

However, the same innovations that make buying new tech so exciting can become irritating when your device becomes obsolete in a matter of months. The high-quality camera on your phone, with features considered revolutionary last year, is now overshadowed by Apple’s newest product. Your gaming laptop no longer meets the system requirements for new releases. And that console? The next generation is already in production.

Worse still, sometimes companies intentionally create this frustration using a business practice known as “planned obsolescence.” Planned obsolescence is when a company intentionally designs a product to be replaced at a certain point after release. Not only does this make you spend more, it also contributes to e-waste as old devices get tossed.

You can help combat the effects of this on the environment and your wallet by keeping your electronics working for longer. Here are some tips on how to do that:

If you want to buy new, keep an eye on the market.
We’ve all been there. You’ve finally got some money to spend, and you want to treat yourself. After going through your mental list of Things You’ve Always Wanted But Could Never Justify Buying, you decide on the latest iPhone, and your shiny new toy arrives in the mail. Then, just two weeks later, Apple announces the next model and its rapidly approaching release date. Suddenly, that shiny toy doesn’t seem so shiny. If only you had waited just a few more months.

When buying a new device, it’s important to do some research. While it’s not always possible to know just when new devices are coming out, rumors and leaks often circulate in the year prior to release. If there’s talk about a new model in the works, it may be best to wait.

Buy what you need.
This may sound obvious, but it’s important to know what you need, and which device is right for you. If you’re looking for a gaming laptop, don’t buy a non-gaming laptop that barely meets the typical system requirements for the games you want to play. This could put stress on the hardware, making your system more likely to require repair or replacement sooner. A phone that lags performing your everyday work tasks will inevitably end up being replaced and tossed quickly. Make sure you are familiar with the technical specifications you require in a device.

Repair when you can.

Some companies, as part of this “planned obsolescence,” purposefully manufacture their devices with brittle parts designed to break quickly. While these designs aren’t always intentional, companies have little incentive to fix them. Fortunately, while some repairs are difficult or even impossible, many can be done. Have your device evaluated by a repair shop. These consultations typically come at little to no cost, and a specialist can help get your beloved device up and running again.

Know when to give up.

Sometimes, it just isn’t worth it.

While it’s good to make your device last as long as you can, eventually it will reach the end of its life. Sometimes, repairs on old devices are more expensive than replacements, or they require so many new parts that you may as well replace the whole product. Other times, your devices are no longer compatible with the software or operating systems required. For example, many older computers are not compatible with Windows 10, meaning those devices don’t get important security updates that protect your device. While repair and maintenance are good things, they aren’t always the right answer.

Remember, you don’t have to buy a new device the minute something goes wrong. Taking steps to maintain and extend the life of your devices can save you money and help the planet. Before you buy that new iPhone, take a second to think, first.

You Can’t Afford a Data Breach

In June of 2005, a multinational financial services corporation announced that in early May of that year, UPS had picked up a box of computer tapes containing the sensitive information of 3.9 million customers to be shipped to a credit reporting agency. The box never reached the destination. In 2006, the US Department of Veteran Affairs lost a laptop containing information about 26.5 million veterans. The department ultimately agreed to a $20 million settlement, avoiding the potential $26 billion payout.

Through the years, hundreds of companies have experienced data breaches, placing millions of customers and employees at risk of fraud and identity theft. Causes of data breaches include hacking, insider leaks, poor security, accidental uploads, and—as in the aforementioned cases—lost or stolen media. Organizations that fall victim to data breaches can be liable for millions of dollars in damages, and most don’t have taxpayer money to bail them out.

Cases like these highlight a major threat to any organization’s security: storage devices. Assets such as laptops, hard drives, phones, and USB drives with sensitive data pose a great risk in the wrong hands. According to recent research by Blancco, “A third of the world’s largest enterprises use inadequate data sanitization to prevent data breaches at end-of-life,” and four percent use no data sanitization method at all. Assets which have not been properly sanitized are dangerous in the wrong hands.

Deleting files and formatting drives aren’t enough. In order to protect your data, you need certified data sanitization and destruction. Finding an ITAD vendor to keep your company safe shouldn’t be a challenge. EPC offers certified data sanitization and destruction according to NIST standards. Give us a call at (636)443-1999 for more information.

Is it Time to Upgrade Your Windows 7 Computer? (Yes.)

It has been a decade since Windows 7 was released to the public, just two years after Microsoft launched the ill-fated Windows Vista, an operating system that struggled to live up to the tech leader’s predecessors. Vista was slow, insecure, and often incompatible with consumers’ existing PCs, requiring the purchase of new systems—an expense few were willing to pay. Many users chose to stick with Windows XP—released in 2001—rather than deal with the unpredictable hassle of what could, in the public’s opinion, barely be considered an upgrade. After this flop, Microsoft scrambled to restore their reputation and develop a new OS, one which would finally live up to the hype the brand name evoked.

Prior to its launch on October 22nd, 2009, Windows 7 broke the record for highest-grossing preorders on Amazon, a record previously held by the last Harry Potter novel. Upon its release, Windows 7 received high praise from critics for its new and updated features, many of which were improvements upon Vista’s poorly executed ideas. Its speed, enhanced taskbar, and sleek, touchscreen-friendly interface gave users

It’s no wonder people are unwilling to part with the OS. Its successor, Windows 8, received so much criticism from the public upon its 2012 release that Microsoft developed Windows 8.1 within the year. This updated version addressed complaints and improved mechanics many desktop users found clunky, but hardcore Windows 7 users remained unconvinced. Even after the release of Windows 10 in 2015, it took nearly three years for its worldwide market share to surpass that of 7’s, and Windows 7 still holds nearly twenty-eight percent of the worldwide market share today.

A close up of a map

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Table 1. Desktop Windows Version Market Share Worldwide from Mar 2018 to Oct 2019 via StatCounter

But if you’re one of those stubborn Windows 7 fans, you’ll want to reconsider your stance, and soon: Microsoft is officially ending support for the OS on January 14th, 2020.

What does this mean?

Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows 7 in 2015. This meant that no new features would be developed for the operating system. However, the January 2020 date refers to extended support; after January 14th, Windows 7 will no longer receive security updates, and customers who continue to use it will do so at their own risk.

“My computer works just fine,” you say. “I don’t like change. If I don’t have to upgrade, why should I?”

It’s true, you don’t have to upgrade. Come January, you will still technically be able to download, install, and use Windows 7 on your PC (although EPC cannot install Windows 7 on any machine, and newer machines may not be able to run the OS). However, there are many reasons you shouldn’t.

Your PC is already insecure.

Even as Microsoft continues to release security updates, major flaws already threaten your Windows 7 computer. In March, Google announced that two zero-day vulnerabilities affecting Google Chrome and Windows could potentially be exploited together, and that only Windows 7 seemed to be affected. Issues such as these will continue to arise with third-party programs, and developers will no longer prioritize fixing problems exclusive to an old OS.

Your programs will stop working.

Security flaws aren’t the only problem that will go unresolved as time goes on. Third-party programs will stop taking Windows 7 compatibility into account when developing updates and new versions. This means that while a program you use may continue to work, any newer versions or updates run the risk of failing.

Businesses can continue receiving support for their Windows 7 machines, but it will come at a cost.

If your company depends on a program that only runs on Windows 7, you can extend your support for up to three years—for a price. Microsoft’s Extended Security Updates will be available to businesses and other organizations through “qualified Cloud Solution Provider partners.” Prices are not publicly advertised, but companies will pay an increasing amount each year per device, leading to extremely high prices for some companies; the most cost-effective option for companies is an upgrade.

And if you’re a home user looking to extend your support, well…you can’t. Upgrading is the only option.

“So what do I do now?”

If you’ve finally been convinced to upgrade, you have a few options:

Upgrade your current machine to Windows 10

This is almost certainly the best option for Windows 7 users. Windows 10 is Microsoft’s most up-to-date and secure OS and continues to receive regular security updates. Windows 10 is designed to make the upgrade easier by automatically transferring your files (though we still recommend backing up your files beforehand). Windows 10’s interface is friendly to both touchscreen and non-touchscreen users, meaning both types will find their PC habits relatively unchanged. For information on upgrading to Windows 10, read Microsoft’s official FAQ here.

Purchase a new PC.

Some older PCs may run slowly or not work at all with Windows 10. If you are currently running Windows 7 on older hardware, upgrading to Windows 10 may require a few additional steps, including the purchase of a new PC. Luckily, consumers have options, and a new computer doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. You could buy new from Microsoft or another major retailer such as Dell or HP; or you could buy a refurbished PC at reduced cost. EPC offers used, refurbished devices from all major brands, and every purchased PC comes with Windows 10 Pro.

Switch to Mac or Linux

If you can’t stand the thought of switching to Windows 10, it may be time to try something new. Apple’s macOS and Linux are the two most popular alternatives to Windows, with pros and cons for both. It’s important to research each OS’s features, cost, and the transition process from Windows before making a decision. Keep in mind that Apple hardware is typically much more expensive when buying new, but EPC offers refurbished Mac products in-store or online at a discount.

With so many options to choose from, the only bad choice is doing nothing. You may be reluctant to spend the money or give up the familiar for an upgrade, but the risk to your home or business of keeping Windows 7 is too great to ignore.

Okay, I’ve made the switch. My computer is secure now, right?

Maybe not. While upgrading your operating system is an important step, you also need to keep your software up to date. Using older versions of programs such as Microsoft Office can also pose a security risk. Microsoft Office 365 is the most up-to-date Office product available from Microsoft. Check to make sure each of your programs is running its most current version.

Your transition to a new system doesn’t have to be painful. For more information on how EPC can help you make the switch, visit our store at 3941 Harry S Truman Blvd, St. Charles, Missouri 63301 or call us at (636)443-1999.

References

Desktop Windows Version Market Share Worldwide. (2019, November 11). Retrieved from StatsCounter: https://gs.statcounter.com/windows-version-market-share/desktop/worldwide

Foley, M. J. (2019, October 1). Microsoft to make Windows 7 Extended Security Updates available to all business users. Retrieved from ZDNet: https://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-to-make-windows-7-extended-security-updates-available-to-all-business-users/

Hoffman, C. (2019, October 9). How Windows 7’s “Extended Security Updates” Will Work. Retrieved from How-To Geek: https://www.howtogeek.com/443573/how-windows-7s-extended-security-updates-will-work/

Johnson, B. (2009, October 21). Windows 7 set to break retail records. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2009/oct/21/windows-7-launch

Lecigne, C. (2019, March 7). Disclosing vulnerabilities to protect users across platforms. Retrieved from Google Security Blog: https://security.googleblog.com/2019/03/disclosing-vulnerabilities-to-protect.html

McIntyre, D. A. (2009, May 14). The 10 Biggest Tech Failures of the Last Decade. Retrieved from Time: http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1898610_1898625_1898627,00.html

Warren, T. (2013, June 26). Windows 8.1: A First Look at What Microsoft is Changing. Retrieved from The Verge: https://www.theverge.com/2013/6/26/4465888/windows-8-1-preview-video

The Risks of SSDs (and How to Keep Your Data Safe)

When exploring your options for data storage, you may find yourself tempted by the exciting new technology of flash memory, and it’s no wonder. Solid-state drives (SSDs) are the new craze, and as the technology develops and prices drop, more and more individuals and companies alike are turning their backs on traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) and making the switch. But what makes SSDs so special? 

Unlike your typical HDD, an SSD contains no moving parts—no spinning platters, no read-and-write heads—and does not use magnetic storage. While an HDD is susceptible to external factors such as loud noises, pressure changes, movement, and magnets, SSDs are more resistant, making them an ideal choice for protecting valuable data from damage or loss. 

However, the advantages to SSDs can become challenges when it comes to data disposal. While methods such as wiping, degaussing, and shredding are effective on HDDs, an SSD requires special attention. If you or your business chooses SSDs for data storage, it is necessary to find an ITAD company that can guarantee their methods meet legal standards for data destruction. Not every company can, and that is where EPC comes in. 

EPC offers multiple erasure and destruction methods specifically designed with SSD destruction in mind. If you’re looking to reuse or sell your drives, our erasure software ensures all data is wiped from the drive and is truly unrecoverable. If you’re looking to destroy your drives, our SSD shredder is built to shred them to the legal minimum particle size standard, a feat not possible with typical industrial HDD shredders. 

Scared to ship your drives off-site? EPC can come to you. All data destruction services can be done at your own facility, meaning none of your data is left vulnerable during shipping or transfer. No matter what your needs are, you can rest easy knowing EPC will keep your data secure. 

Watch our SSD shredder in action below! 

Tokyo Turns E-Waste Into Gold

As the 2020 Summer Olympics draw near, Tokyo is preparing to host the games for the first time since 1964. The Japanese capital has a long road ahead as construction continues on the New National Stadium, and they prepare to welcome millions of visitors to the city. One of the many responsibilities of the Olympic host country is to provide winning athletes with their gold, silver and bronze medals. While the metals used to manufacture these in the past have come from a variety of sources, Japan has turned to an unconventional source: e-waste. 

Nearly ninety percent of Japanese municipalities have participated in collection programs that began in April of 2017. During this two-year campaign, those living in Japan have dropped off used cell phones and other small electronic devices at certain sites. These have been collected and dismantled for precious metals, which are extracted and refined to manufacture the five thousand medals required for the Olympic games. Nearly fifty thousand tons of small electronics have been collected across the country, including approximately 5.07 million used mobile phones. In February, the program met its goals of thirty kilograms of gold, 4100 kilograms of silver, and 2700 kilograms of copper (gold medals are made from silver and only plated in gold). The program will end on March 31st, 2019.

This is the first time the awards will be made entirely from recycled materials; but one must wonder, why hasn’t this been done before? Japan’s initiative sheds light on the potential “gold mine” that exists within the millions of tons of e-waste disposed of each year worldwide. Phones, laptops, gaming consoles, and other electronics containing precious metals in their circuitry sit in landfills like a vein waiting to be struck, yet few companies take advantage of this resource. While one phone may contain only trace amounts of gold, Japan has proven that those traces add up.

The Japanese public’s enthusiasm for the initiative is not only due to the environmental benefits. Many people have expressed feelings of pride over donating their phones. The metals that once sat in their pockets will hang from the necks of the best athletes in the world. This brings a sense of public inclusion previous Olympics have lacked. In some way, every medal awarded is a win for Japan, regardless of their rank in an event.

Tokyo’s Olympics are also promoting sustainability in other ways. Recently, Japan’s Olympic team announced that it will wear uniforms made from recycled athletic textiles. Many of Japan’s top athletes have donated their old clothes for this endeavor. Both campaigns will cut costs for an expensive Olympics with a price tag once estimated at $30 billion. 

EPC appreciates Japan’s efforts to create a more sustainable and environmentally friendly Olympic games. As a company dedicated to responsible e-waste reuse and recycling, we hope this sets a precedent and encourages other nations to find more innovative ways to utilize their old devices. Perhaps Beijing could create a similar campaign for the 2022 Winter Olympics, or Paris will step up in 2024. Maybe we, the USA, can follow Japan’s example when Los Angeles hosts in 2028 for the first time in forty-four years. But whether or not our current devices are future Olympic medals, we can start looking at e-waste differently much sooner than that.

For more information about Tokyo’s e-waste recycling program, visit the link below:

https://tokyo2020.org/en/games/medals/project/

Data Breach

All of us have been into a restaurant in the last 30 days. What would happen if you knew that in addition to taking your order, the data from your ATM/Debit and/or Credit Card were also not only used in your transaction, but TAKEN – stolen in what is sure to become one of the largest data breaches of the year so far? That’ll put a foul taste in your mouth, but also a chill down your spine when you consider how many people it effects.

While this makes the baked potato, chicken sandwich or Gouda Bacon Cheeseburger a bit more on the sour side – what if it were YOUR company that was in the data breach headlines? Have you ever run through the scenario not “if” but “when” it happens in your company.

wendys-image-data-breachResearch shows that – sadly – most companies haven’t and eventually, it will cost you dearly. The blow to your reputation, the cost to ensure that the people and businesses effected are protected, and the publicly-initiated impact are all a blow few companies are prepared to take on and survive. While your company may not be as large, or as public as the one in question here, the always-there question remains:

What if it was YOUR company in the spotlight?

Is YOUR company exposed? What is your company’s “Data Destruction” policy? Do you even have one? It’s time to implement a trusted, NAID-certified ITAD/Data Destruction solution now, and that solution starts with EPC, Inc.With more than 30 years in business, and 9 locations in North America, we stand ready to protect your data, your reputation and your company’s future. http://www.epcusa.com