Fixing iSight Error: There is no connected camera

A rash of users with “There is no connected camera.” problems with their Mac iSight Cameras has prompted a few calls on the subject. The problem manifests as a blank screen with a crossed out camera in iPhoto, with the text “There is no connected camera”. It does not appear to be limited to any particular type of Mac, and has been seen on a brand new 2017, top of the range MacBook Pro within a few weeks of purchase.

Mac Error There Is No Connected Camera Image
Mac Error There Is No Connected Camera

The error message “There is no connected camera.” comes up when the iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air detects an issue with the camera’s connection. The problem appears to be with VDCAssistant, which is the process or daemon that is responsible for the built in iSight camera. Killing this process often fixes issues with the built in web-cam.

To Diagnose ‘There is no connected camera.’

First check If The OS recognises that the camera is installed by doing the following:

  1. Alt + Click on Apple (Top Left)
  2. Then Alt + Click System Information
  3. Under Hardware in the Left Column, click Camera

If no camera appears, then there may be a hardware problem, such as a lose ribbon connection on a laptop, so it is a trip to the Genius Bar or your local Tech Support.

How To Kill the VDCAssistant Process

If the camera is recognised then it is possible that the VDCAssistant process has stalled. To kill the VDCAssistant and any associated processes, close all applications1 that use the camera such as Photo Booth, Face Time or Skype. Then carry out the following steps:

  1. Open the Terminal application: Click on the Spotlight search and enter Terminal, and then select Terminal – Utilities.
  2. Enter sudo killall VDCAssistant in the Terminal window and hit Return.
  3. If the Password prompt appears, enter your password, followed by Return.

Open Photo Booth and see if the camera is working. The green camera light should be on

Still ‘There is no connected camera.’?

If the camera has now been restored, then the process has been killed and then successfully restarted. You can also kill the process by restarting the machine, although that is not always convenient. If you still get the error message “There is no connected camera.”, then the quick fix did not work, and there is a more challenging problem to deal with. In this case it is off to the Apple Genius Bar2 or your local Tech Support. If this did not help, please Contact Us to let us know.

Notes
1. Although not recommended, it is possible to do this with the application(s) running, as the VDCAssistant process will restart automatically.
2. Other support channels are available to help with the error “There is no connected camera.”

Microsoft Phone Scam Still Running

Have you seen reports about people from Microsoft Tech Support, who call you because you have malware on your computer? Have you had a call from a plausible sounding agency saying you have a virus on your PC? Did you feel uneasy about someone who knew your name and had details about how slow your PC was running? Chances are that you have been at least peripherally involved with a Phishing attack. Today’s security incident concerns the Microsoft Phone Scam, which is still running after eight years or so.

Why the Microsoft Phone Scam?

This attempt to get access to PCs, or personal information on them, often targets Windows users, so the scammer claims to be from Microsoft tech support. They target Windows based PCs, because there are a lot of them, but they are equal opportunity criminals. They will attempt to hack a Mac too.

What the Scammers Do

Today the support line received a call from a very helpful gentleman named Derek, who claimed to be from Microsoft tech support. He asked for me by name, which was nice, but then went on to explain how my PC had become infected by malware, and so was running slowly. A safe bet really. Is there anybody who doesn’t think their Facebook response time could be quicker? Pity that his technical report did not tell him I was using a Mac. Still, we decided to let the call run, as we were recording for training purposes.

He then proceed to explain that the fix for this problem was simple, and would only involve typing something into the command line. We got him to repeat the instructions several times to make sure we got it right. Had we actually been following his very patient instructions, we would have connected to fastsupport.com and accepted a GoTo Assist remote call. This would have given him unrestricted access to our PC, at user level, so he could have installed anything he liked.

Unfortunately we developed “technical difficulties” once we received the support key number, and had to hang up on Derek. He was persistent, and called back five times over the next ten minutes. He even let the phone ring for up to two minutes at a time. When we tired of this game, we answered, and informed Derek that we were cyber security specialists, investigating Phishing attacks. We told him that we were recording the conversation, and pointed out that our PC was, in fact, a Mac. He still tried to get us to accept the remote access call!

You couldn’t make this up!

How the scam works

Rather than producing computer virus directly, which is time consuming and involves skill, these scammers resort to Social Engineering. This is the practice of manipulating people so they give up confidential information. If they can trick you into letting them access your computer remotely, they can secretly install their malicious software themselves. That would give them access to your passwords and bank information, as well as giving them control over your computer.

How to deal with Microsoft phone scam calls

As Fast Support is a legitimate company, they have a mechanism to prevent abuse of their system. If you want to get one back at the scammers, play along up to the point that they give you the support key. Get them to repeat it a couple of times, to make sure you have it right, and then hang up and report the incident to Fast Support using the following link:
www.fastsupport.com/abuse. You will only need the support key number, and it only takes a couple of seconds

What Else You can Do

Probably the most important thing you can do is let people know about the Microsoft phone scam. It preys on people’s insecurity about their lack of technical knowledge. The best defence against Social Engineering is sharing knowledge, so tell everyone about it.

You can also report the incident to the police through reportlite.actionfraud.police.uk. As we have pointed out previously, they will only record the incident for statistical purposes.

Another PayPal Scam Email To Delete

Another day, another PayPal scam email hits the in-box. It would be easy for someone to think that this was genuine, especially when is rendered with PayPal graphics. This is why we investigate each and every scam email to see how convincing they are, and assess the risk of people getting fooled into responding. We then report them through the appropriate channels, and encourage others to do the same.

What to look for on this PayPal scam email

The email, reproduced below, is based on a genuine PayPal notification, but with subtle differences.

PayPal Scam Email Image
PayPal Scam Email

A quick check of the sender by hovering over the from PayPal  shows that it is directing to someone called anitad@uvigo.es.  So the PayPal scam email would send your  reply there, not to PayPal! Be warned.

The Log in now button, does render in the browser as a button, but we have the html blocked to avoid surprises. As you might expect from a scam email it does not point to PayPal either, but an unlikely domain registered in Australia. This site is buried at the bottom of a deep sub-domain chain, so it is possible that the site owner does not know about it. We will be contacting the organisation separately, as they might not even be aware that their site is being used nefariously.

How to deal with PayPal scam emails

Make sure your family, friends and colleges are aware that these emails are out there, waiting to trap the unwary.  If you receive an email claiming to come from PayPal, please do not reply to it. Do not click on any link or button, or open any attachments. Simply forward the email to spoof@paypal.co.uk, then delete it.

You can also report the incident to the police, although they will only record it for statistical purposes. The police suggest that the public can help disrupt fraudsters by reporting scam emails. People are urged to report them through reportlite.actionfraud.police.uk.

What else can we do?

For further advice on fraud and how to avoid it, see the police fraud action  website: www.actionfraud.police.uk (opens new window)
For further information on phishing and malware please use the following links:
www.actionfraud.police.uk/fraud-az-phishing (opens new window)
www.actionfraud.police.uk/fraud-az-malware (opens new window)

VAT Return and Payment Overdue Scam Email

Why User Vigilance Is Important

Today we received a gentle reminder that no matter how hard we work to keep out cyber-threats, there is always a weak link to target in any business system. The users. This exploit concerns a VAT Return and Payment Overdue scam email which was received in the office today. The instant reaction was to jump to the conclusion that we had to do something quickly, to avoid a penalty. Which is just what the reprobate behind the email was hoping.

What To Look For

This is a warning about a VAT Return and Payment Overdue scam email, which may catch out the unwary. If you are a business owner or have responsibility for finance matters please watch out for this innocent looking communication.

VAT Return and Payment Overdue Scam Email image
VAT Return and Payment Overdue Email Scam

How To Tell It Is A Scam Email

VAT Return and Payment Overdue Scam WhoIs Result Image
WhoIs Result

If you hover the mouse over the sender, most good email systems will tell you the address you will be replying to. In this case you will not be surprised to learn that it is not from HM Revenue and Customs  (HMRC) at all! It comes from a suspicious email address which is registered to someone called Denis. Denis apparently lives in Moscow, and is using the unlikely email address of info@hmrccustomersupport157.top.

When The Penny Drops

After a few laps of the office, looking for a quick solution, or a way to pass responsibility over to someone else, the recipient had the good sense to check up via the HMRC website. The information there on the site , which is linked below, made him think twice. He reported the matter to Information Security, fortunately, before clicking on and opening the email attachment.

Cost of the VAT Return and Payment Overdue Scam

In our case, the cost of this particular email scam was trivial. It mostly involved additional wear and tear on the carpet and some lost productivity. According to an anonymous source in finance, there was also some lost paint from the ceiling. It could have been much more costly, if the user had opened the attachment and did not have up to date anti virus.

While HMRC may send you an email if you are overdue with VAT payments, they will use the normal contact email address, and will recommend that customers pay online to avoid further action. These emails will never ask you to provide personal or financial information. You won’t be able to reply to the emails, which will be sent from no.reply@advice.hmrc.gsi.gov.uk.

In Conclusion

This VAT Return and Payment Overdue scam email has been timed to catch the unwary by being the right date, but a month early. Let people know that they should ignore the call to act immediately, and instead report the matter to IT security. Even if there is no malicious payload in the attachment, scam emails like this can disrupt the flow of energy in a business and ultimately cost money.

The Upside

On the upside, this scam is an early reminder that our VAT return has to completed at the end of this month, so I might go and give the finance team a gentle reminder!

Further Information

For authoritative information about when your VAT return is due, see www.gov.uk/vat-returns/deadlines

To report instances of this email scam, forward the suspicious emails to HMRC phishing team at: phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk

AU Domain Setup for Australian markets

Do you provide goods or services to Australian customers and want a local domain to serve them? Have you ever considered setting up a website with a .au domain name, and wondered how to go about it? It is slightly more complicated than a .com or .uk top-level domain name, but still straightforward. Hence this post will give you all you need for an AU domain setup.

With a global economy and the wide reach of the internet, more and more companies are looking outside their national boarders for customers. Trading abroad can boost your profile, credibility and bottom line. However, customers in some countries prefer to buy from local suppliers, so if we want to break into those markets, we need to have a local distributor, and a local domain name. This post is about setting up a domain to serve Australian customers.

The .au ccTLD

The .au country-code top-level domain name (ccTLD) is an extension that represents Australia, and broadens your site’s audience to Australian residents. This extension is particularly beneficial for companies that conduct business in Australia by making their URLs more recognizable for Australian residents and businesses.
Examples of country-code second-level domain names (ccSLDs) applicable to the Australian market are listed here, together with the intended organisations:

  • .com.au — Intended for commercial entities
  • .net.au — Intended for network infrastructures, such as Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
  • .org.au — Intended for non-profit organizations

How to set up an AU domain

The good news is that setting up the .au domain is similar to other domains, until you come to complete the process, when you have to supply additional information. Every company or sole trader on the Australian Business Register has a unique business number which identifies the entity. So to register an Australian domain, you need to enter the Australian Business Number (ABN) for the business entity.

Who can register .au domain names?
Companies or organizations that are registered to do business in Australia can register .au domain names. All registrations are on a first-come, first-served basis and last for 2 years.

In accordance with Australian Domain Name Policy, to be eligible to register .com.au and .net.au domain names, registrants must be one of the following:

  • An Australian registered company
  • Trading under a registered business name in any Australian State or Territory
  • An Australian partnership or sole trader
  • A foreign company licensed to trade in Australia
  • Be an owner of an Australian Registered Trade Mark
  • An applicant for an Australian Registered Trade Mark
  • An association incorporated in any Australian State or Territory
  • An Australian commercial statutory body

Domain names must be one of the following:

  • An exact match, abbreviation or acronym of the registrant’s name or trademark
  • Closely and substantially connected to the registrant

Other aspects of .au domains to be aware of

  • You can only register .au domain names for 2 years.
  • All .au domain renewals are always in 2 year increments.
  • You can renew your .au domain name 90 days prior to its expiration date.
  • AusRegistry is the registry for .au domain names.
  • AusRegistry operates the public WHOIS service for .au domain names.

Other information and useful resources when setting up an AU Domain Setup are listed below:

Use Photoshop Drop Shadow Effect To Darken an Object

This is another fun thing to do with the Photoshop Drop Shadow effect. If you are building up a graphic from different images, sometimes you need to darken an object to blend it into the correct distance from the viewer. There are a number of ways to do this, but a quick way is to use the Photoshop Drop Shadow Effect on a layer above the object to darken it.

Try the following sequence:

  1. Duplicate the object layer Right Click layer, Duplicate Layer
  2. Click OK
  3. Under the layer tab, select the fx to Add a Layer Style
  4. From the list select Drop Shadow
  5. Click OK to accept defaults
  6. Right Click on Drop Shadow layer and select Create Layer (near the bottom)
  7. If a warning appears that aspect of Effects can not be reproduced with layers, click OK
  8. Finally, delete the temp layer above the new Drop Shadow layer

The original object will now reappear, but quite dark. Simply adjust the Opacity of the flying Drop Shadow layer to achieve the desired result.

So there you have it! A quick way to use Photoshop Drop Shadow Effect to darken an object to adjust its apparent distance in a picture. Experiment, and have fun.

Add Drop Shadow Effect in Photoshop

The Drop Shadow Effect in Photoshop has a number of uses, apart from adding apparent depth to flat images. So over the next few months we are going to run a series of fun things to do with it. First of all, let us start with the normal use of the Photoshop Drop Shadow effect.

Add a Drop Shadow To A Flat Object

Shadows give a touch of 3D imagery to an otherwise flat design, so bring it to life. If we have a flat object to add to a project, we might want to add a shadow to lift it off the background. This may be a character, or text string, or an image cut out, such as a person or shape. In each case use the following sequence:

  1. Select the layer of the object to receive the drop shadow
  2. Under the layer tab, select the fx to Add a Layer Style
  3. From the list select Drop Shadow
  4. On the Layer Style window, under Structure, Select the Opacity (defaults to 75%) say 50%
  5. Set the angle of the light source, for example 135˚, which is 45˚ from the left
  6. Set the Distance slider for example 10px
  7. Experiment with the Spread slider, although 0% is fine
  8. Set the Size slider to a suitable value for example 10px
  9. Finally, click OK

Other Things To Do with the Drop Shadow Effect in Photoshop

The Photoshop Drop Shadow effect has a number of parameters which make it very flexible. Have fun playing with the sliders in the Structure group of the Layer Style window. It is so easy to produce very diffuse shadows, or highly concentrated dark shadows. Finally, try adjusting the angle of the light source to see how the shadow behaves.

Coming Soon

Watch out for the next post in the series of fun things to do with the Drop Shadow effect. Enjoy!

How to Insert a Mac Degree Symbol in Mac OS X

Something that we get asked, on a frequent basis, is how to insert a degree symbol in Mac OS X. There are at least four ways to insert a degree symbol into text, for example 45˚ or 100°C. So here is a quick guide to inserting a Mac Degree Symbol.

The quickest way is to use a Degree Symbol Keyboard Short-cut. Move the cursor to the location at which you want to insert a degree symbol. Then, use one of the following keyboard short-cuts:

  • Option-K: inserts a small angular degree symbol (135˚)
  • Shift-Option-8: inserts larger temperature degree symbol (72°C)

For a slightly slower way, use the Special Characters menu (also called the Emoji & Symbols menu in OS X Yosemite and later) which gives hundreds of useful symbols, characters, and emoji from which to choose. To access it, place the cursor where you’d like to insert the degree symbol and then either:

  • Use the keyboard shortcut Control-Command-Space
  • In the Menu Bar use Edit, Special Characters (or Edit, Emoji & Symbols)

Remember the small Mac degree symbol is correctly used for angles, like 360˚, while the larger degree symbol should be used for temperature, 37°C or 98.6°F. So there you have it; how to insert a degree symbol in Mac OS X.

Microsoft Lobbying Practices Accused Again

Once again, Microsoft has been accused over it’s UK government lobbying practices, according to an article in Computer Weekly yesterday.

In the article by Brian Glick, a former director of strategy to David Cameron while opposition leader and as prime minister, Steve Hilton has claimed that Microsoft threatened to shut down research facilities in Conservative constituencies over Tory plans for government IT reforms.

According to The Guardian, Hilton told an event in London to promote his new book that, “When we proposed this, Microsoft phoned Conservative MPs with Microsoft R&D facilities in their constituencies and said, ‘We will close them down in your constituency if this goes through’.”

It appears that Microsoft has lobbied for years to prevent the government pursuing its open standards policy, which arguably levels the playing field for other software vendors. After a somewhat controversial consultation process, the adoption of the open source Open Document Format (ODF) as the standard for document formats was confirmed by government in July last year.

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) had previously approved the open source Open Document Format (ODF) as an international data format standard. The ODF Alliance, a cross-section of industry associations with more than 150 members worldwide, academic institutions and suppliers, had all been lobbying for the decision. The ODF Alliance was created to resolve the potential problem of proprietary software limiting the ability of governments to access, retrieve and use records and documents in the future.

While it is often good sport to knock Microsoft for being a giant of the industry, and stifling (or buying up) the competition, if these accusations are true then the criticism is justly deserved. Round the office, we suspect that the motivation may be less about open standards, and more about potential market share and loss of revenue. If government should enact the long threatened Open Source initiative, then the writing may be on the wall for the big ticket software packages, at least in public service.

Perhaps that would be a good thing for consumers in general, and tax payers in particular.

For more on the story of the open source Open Document Format see the following links:

New Windows XP Support Deal Vetoed by Whitehall Technology Chiefs

In an amazing new twist to the seemingly endless death throws of Windows XP, it seems that someone in the corridors of power has managed to negotiate a contract with Microsoft to further extend support, and so prolong use in government departments.

Sales of Windows XP licenses to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) ceased on June 30, 2008, although they continued for netbooks until October 2010. Extended support for Windows XP ended on April 8, 2014, after which the operating system ceased receiving further support or security updates to most users.

When the previous XP support arrangement was signed last year, the intention was to give 12 months breathing space for government users to move off XP. However, in a move that seems to be right out of an episode of Yes Minister, the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) had negotiated a contract with Microsoft to replace the one-year deal with a contract to support XP and Windows Server 2003, which reaches its end of life on 14 July 2015.

However, according to Computer Weekly sources, the proposed deal was put together without involvement from the Technology Leaders Network, the forum for government CTOs that governs Whitehall technology policy. Fortunately the Whitehall technology chiefs have vetoed new Windows XP support deal.

It is difficult to describe the continuing use of this ancient and venerable Operating System (OS) in government circles, without making reference to zombies, or the walking dead. Whether the metaphor refers to the Windows XP operating system, or the civil servants haunting the corridors of power, we will leave it to your imagination.

For more information on Microsoft and the Extended Windows XP Support see: