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711 million unique email address and passwords released on the internet

Be on the lookout for anything unexpected in your inbox after 711 million unique email address "Many containing passwords" have been made freely available on the internet in the last few days. This is being reported as the largest documented data dump to date. This data can be used in a variety of ways.


Worth mentioning a couple of important security practices:

  • DON'T REUSE PASSWORDS for different services, otherwise if www.sarahsmuffins.com.au gets hacked because Sarah doesn't know much about security then the bad guys will get access to all your accounts on the entire internet. Consider a password manager like LastPass or RoboForm.
  • Don't just click on links in emails, at least hover first to see where the link goes, if its an email from Telstra and the link is to www.getyourvirushere.com then don't click. If you are unsure just don't click it at all. Phone or email the sender from a new clean email seeking more details.


Details are here:
https://www.troyhunt.com/inside-the-massive-711-million-record-onliner-spambot-dump/

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Telstra DOT, NBN and VoIP phone lines.

Telstra in their usual style have implemented a closed, non-industry standard system around their VoIP (phone services) running over NBN. I do not recommend that any of my customers get, any Telstra services for NBN, or Telstra VoIP voice services.


If you do chose Telstra as your NBN/VoIP provider not only is the pricing deliberately obfuscated via "bundles" but the cost is significantly more expensive than alternative providers for the same service. Additionally you will be limited to their hardware.

In terms of setup and ongoing support they refuse to provide the required information to enable you to work with your existing or even new high-end industry standard hardware. This means that you are only able to use their limited functionality, domestic grade router hardware and if you have hardware failure you will be unable to use a loan device or purchase equipment locally to get yourself up and running. You will be totally at the mercy of their abysmal tech and customer support.

If you chose Telstra I will not be able to support you as well as I would like to and your support will be more expensive, Telstra are a bad choice. There are better solutions that are less expensive and significantly easier to work with.

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"Telstra" phishing email

 "Telstra" phishing email. don't click. ALWAYS "hover" before you click...

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NBN 100/40

 When you log on to work remotely and your connection speed is 34 times faster than it was yesterday you know its going to be  a good day...

Good quality 100/40 speed FTTN NBN is a wonderful thing even if you are a long way out of a metro area. (Exetel in this case)

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Router reset?

Just like the IT crowd (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2F1rFmyQmY) sometimes the solution *is* turning it off and on again and that applies to the modem router as well.

We sometimes use various phrases to say shutdown and restart, phrases like; Reset, restart, power cycle or reboot. What is meant by all of these is restart or, shutdown wait a few seconds and then start-up again.

What we DON'T mean is reset the device to factory defaults either via a hardware button or via the web interface.
By the way even if Telstra tells you to do a factory reset don't do it then either unless the helpful level 1 Telstra tech support person is planning to drive to your home or office to re-set it up for you.

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Metered connections on Windows 10 post Creators update install

Metered connections on Windows 10 post Creators update install:

For Windows 10 Users on tablets and laptops that connect via phone hotspot or other "low download quota" services you need to be aware that there has been a change in the way that Microsoft handle windows updates over "metered connections"

This page tells us that: 

"A metered connection is an Internet connection that has a data limit associated with it. Cellular data connections are set as metered by default. Wi-Fi and Ethernet network connections can be set to metered but aren't by default. Some apps might work differently on a metered connection to help reduce your data usage. Also, some updates for Windows won't be installed automatically." 

As you can see by the description and by the screen shot below, some updates will still be downloaded even over a metered connection. This is a change from previous versions of Windows and may cause you consume more data than expected especially if you use multiple PCs connected to your "low download quota" service. 

You need to be aware of this and ensure that you have enough download quota to cope with the demand.

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Office changes, If you use Office 365

If you use Office 365…. and a perpetual (rather than subscription based) licence, Microsoft has announced some coming changes with the "supported version" of MS Office. 

Firstly if you don't use Office 365 for mail or SharePoint/OneDrive professional this does not affect you. 

MS has made this statement:
Effective October 13th, 2020, Office 365 will only allow Office client connectivity from subscription clients (Office 365 ProPlus) or Office perpetual clients within mainstream support to connect to Office 365 services. (Please refer to the Microsoft support lifecycle site for Office mainstream support dates.) https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/Office-365-Blog/Office-365-system-requirements-changes-for-Office-client/ba-p/62327 

What this means is that from 2020 onward you will need either a subscription based version of MS office (Office 365) to be able to use it with "cloud based services" or you will need to update (and keep updated) your current version of MS office perpetual licence as the Office 2016 "mainstream support" ends on October 13th, 2020. All previous versions will be in the same situation at this point also. 

If you don't upgrade your $265 MS office home and business perpetual licence from Harvey Norman or Officeworks, you won't be able to connect to office 365. As you are probably aware the MS Office 365 subscription version is continually updated and you are always provided the latest version as part of your subscription. 

For business, the Office subscription is currently $10.50 per month extra for Office 365 (A total of $17.50 per user per month vs. $7.00 per user per month for just mail) https://products.office.com/en-au/compare-all-microsoft-office-products?tab=2 Over a 3 year period your MS office costs you $360 but you have the benefit of installing it for you to use on 5 different devices, for example your desktop PC, your laptop, your tablet and your phone. What you are not licenced to do is install it on another PC for another user to use, the 5 licences are for the single user account. 

In the past you have been able to effectively half the cost of MS office for your organisation by purchasing and then skipping the next version. For example purchase 2010 and (when there is a need) purchase 2016 (skipping 2013). However this appears not to be a viable option any longer and you will be required to update each version anyway which makes the subscription model better value. 

I would expect that there is a new version of Office to be released in 2018 based on the normal 3 year cycle from the last MS office release date which was September 2015. 2020 seems like a long way off but you need to be aware to be able to plan for moving to the subscription based version of MS office, knowing that you would be required to upgrade your MS office perpetual version anyway. 

This probably means any new users/PC should go on the subscription model from now onward.

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Win7 - Win10 free upgrade... still (?)

[Updated 26/05/17 this still works]

Reportedly you can still get a Windows 7 (or 8) - Windows 10 free upgrade the following way: 

(Requires **erasing your PC** and some advanced knowledge of boot selection and install procedures, only for power users and make your own investigations before attempting this) 

  • Ensure that you have your Windows 7 install product key, normally on a sticker on your PC or laptop case 
  • Download the Windows 10 Creators edition install disk image here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-au/software-download/windows10 (make sure you get the correct version based on the version that you are upgrading from Pro or Home for example) 
  • Make the DVD or USB boot device using the tool that you downloaded above 
  • Boot from the DVD or USB Erase the drive and Install Windows entering your Windows 7 product key when prompted 
  • When windows finishes installing Windows 10 should activate with the windows 7 key 

I expect this opportunity will only be for a limited time MAKE YOUR OWN INVESTIGATIONS BEFORE ATTEMPTING THIS. 

THIS INFORMATION PROVIDED WITHOUT WARRANTY OR OFFER OF FREE SUPPORT.

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WannaCryptor protection check utility

ESET /NOD32 have released a small utility which you can use to check if you have the appropriate Microsoft updates that protect you from the NSA EternalBlue Windows vulnerability which includes WannaCryptor and any future copycat malware that uses this vulnerability. 

You can download at the link below and just double click to run. 

It only takes literally a second to do the check. 

https://help.eset.com/eset_tools/ESETEternalBlueChecker.exe

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WannaCryptor Ransomware

Over the weekend, news broke of a new ransomware threat called WannaCryptor. 

WannaCryptor is a worm that was developed thanks to the release of a hacking tool developed by the US NSA in the called EternalBlue. 

If you PC becomes infected, normally by one of the common methods, opening an infected email, an infected USB disk, or an infected website the worm will infect any PC on the network that does not have the appropriate security patch installed. The end result is that all your files will be encrypted and you will have to undertake a massive clean-up and restore from backup or consider dealing with the ransomware creator (with no guarantee of getting your files back). 

Microsoft patched that vulnerability in March this year in supported systems. But PC's and servers that are not patched either automatically or manually will be vulnerable including (and of particular concern) is always those operating systems that are no longer supported. Microsoft has released a one-time update for Windows XP, Server 2003, and Windows 8 even though these operating systems are no longer supported and are in most cases well over 10 years old: https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/msrc/2017/05/12/customer-guidance-for-wannacrypt-attacks/ 

Nod32/Eset antivirus provider have provided this brief statement: "ESET products can detect and block this malware" (http://support.eset.com/alert6442/) However, there will be new variants released over the coming weeks so you should have multiple layers of protection. 

The usual security precautions apply to try to prevent getting this (or any other) virus or malware: 

  • Don't open attachments from email where you don't know and trust the sender and be careful what links you click on 
  • Have a good antivirus product and make sure its up to date
  • Be carefully when browsing the web and don't browse to unscrupulous websites 
  • Ensure that your PC's and servers are patched/updated (normally PC updates should be automated and servers are manually updated on a schedule) 
  • Don't be an administrator on your own PC for everyday use
  • Have a good backup that is rotated off the PC or server so that there is always a backup not connected to your server or PC 
  • Don't use outdated and unsupported versions of Windows 
  • Have a disaster recovery strategy
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Microsoft product launch

Microsoft had a big product launch in the US overnight I haven't had time to fully digest it yet but here are some of the highlights: 

  • MS is doing a big push on the education market 
  • A new [additional] version of Windows 10 will be available, Windows 10 "S", its normal windows that is locked to only Windows store apps only, (I'll be checking the fine print!). However, this can be upgraded to Windows Pro which will run all apps. https://tinyurl.com/kos5hmb 
  • MS Office will soon be available as a Windows store app (as well as current options) to suit the scenario above. 
  • MS has released a Surface laptop in a traditional "clamshell" design, 13.5" screen, very slim and excellent battery life (Up to 14.5 hours of video playback!). https://tinyurl.com/ldkbgnn. This fits in alongside the surface tablet (with magnetic clip-on keyboard and kickstand) and the surface book (similar thing but with a "hard" connection between the 2 removable parts) and the surface studio an all in one desktop PC. Note that all of these products are *premium* products incredibly sleek sexy and expensive.
  • No new Windows phone release this time, this is expected next year. Rumour has it that this will be very close to a full PC in your pocket that acts like a phone when it's handheld but acts like a full PC running all PC apps when docked with your keyboard mouse and big monitor.
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A SSD Hard drive provides a significant boost to performance but…

A SSD, or solid state [hard disk] drive provides a significant boost to computer performance over a traditional (platter) HDD additionally this technology generates less heat, less noise and provides for better battery consumption, but because of the cost to manufacture your typically SSD will be significantly smaller than the traditional option. A standard traditional hard drive will be perhaps 1TB or 2TB, a typical SSD might be 250GB (i.e. a quarter of a TB).

Make sure that you have considered your required HDD space before purchasing. You will have to share the hard drive with Windows, its updates, temporary/system files, program files (including games) as well as your data.

In a desktop PC, you may wish to consider two hard drives, a SSD for Windows which allows for fast start-up and general performance and a larger traditional (slower) hard drive for storage of large amounts of data. In a laptop you don’t typically have that option as there is normally (but not always) only space for one hard drive.

Images, video and installed games are the biggest hard disk consumers data wise (besides Windows and other required applications).
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Hills Street Sports Medicine new website

Congratulations Hills Street Sports Medicine on launching your new website http://www.hillsstreet.com.au/

Physiotherapy, functional exercise centre and gym, orthopaedic surgeons, clinical psychologist, massage therapy, room rental, wellness products store and more.

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Every PC deserves a UPS

ALL PC's on a business network should have a UPS (uninterruptible** power supply) as well as the servers and network hardware (such as network switches). 

A workstation or PC UPS will help to protect against hardware failure, database & file corruption and lost time due to unexpected workstation power off events. Additionally (although not really measurable) a UPS can also significantly extend the life of the PC by reducing the voltage fluctuations that come in from the energy company, and the negative effect that low voltages or "sags and brownouts" have on the PC electronics. 

This is the least expensive item I can find from a reputable supplier:
CyberPower 650VA Backup Utility Powerboard UPS $88 Link
However my experience with those cheap ones is that they last for the duration of the warranty but not much more, I have had to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars in the past on support costs for "cheap" UPS units that were purchased to save money. 

A better quality unit would be something like this:
Socomec NeTYS PE Tower Line Interactive UPS, 650VA $139.88 (plus freight - and they are heavy so it can be expensive) Link

A premium product option that should last years and years (with replacement batteries every now and then).
APC SC620I Smart-UPS SC 620VA $289.99 (plus freight - and they are heavy so it can be expensive) Link

UPS power supply units contain a battery similar to a car battery. Like car batteries, they only last for a period of time. Testing the UPS batteries is an important part of system maintenance.

** The word uninterruptible, is a little misleading. Yes, a correctly functioning UPS will prevent interruptions in the event of a short power outage, if the correct size of UPS is purchased you can expect about 20 minutes of battery backup. Before that time the PC needs to be shut down automatic or manually.
The higher the overall "load" the less time you have, or, to put it another way the bigger the UPS (measured in "VA") the longer you will have on battery backup.

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SkyDrive/OneDrive on Windows 10 (and 8/8.1)

When you install Windows 10 (even with Windows 8 or later) or setup a new Windows 8, 8.1 or 10 PC, as one final part of the setup you will see the a similar image to the one below prompting you to store your documents on OneDrive by default.

I strongly suggest that you don't use this preference. This setting synchronizes all your files up to Onedrive "cloud" storage. which creates unnecessary congestion especially on devices that are used on a cellular (mobile network) connection. Additionally depending on how many files you have you will probably get the Onedrive is full error message and "do you want to buy more space?"

If you would like to use Onedrive for online storage/backup this can be a good idea but to do that you probably want to selectively sync some folders only.

 

 

 

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LastPass now free on mobile

From LastPass...

Get LastPass everywhere, for free!

We know you're a person on the go. That's why, starting today, you can use LastPass on any device, from anywhere, for free.

For convenient access to your passwords on all your devices, download LastPass to any computer and get our app for your phones and tablets:

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Change the "default app" in Windows 10

To change the default program in Windows 10 that opens a particular file type, follow the instructions below. In this example Windows 10 defaults to opening PDF files in Microsoft edge browser which significantly reduces your functionality when working with PDF's here is how to change it to Adobe PDF reader . 

  • Locate a file of the type you want to change, right click on the file and select "open with" then "chose another app" (see points 1-3 below). 
  • When the dialog box comes up to make the selection, chose the app that you want to use (see 4 below), tick the "always use this app…" checkbox (see 5 below) and then press OK
  • From that point on this file type will open by default with your preferred program.
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Selecting the default sound device on Windows

Your Windows PC, laptop or tablet can have a lot of external devices plugged in that will play sound here are some examples on just one of my PC's: 

  • 3.5mm stereo socket's (headphones, speakers, even 5.1 surround sound systems)
  • USB speakers 
  • USB headphones 
  • Bluetooth headphones
  • Other Bluetooth speakers (There is a trick here as well) 
  • HDMI (often combined with video) 
  • Optical (Fibre optic cable) 
  • Coaxial (RCA) 

To tell Windows where to send your sound follow the steps here

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Good (normal business grade) NBN

Good (normal business grade) NBN… in my office:

I'm posting this because I have heard a number of comments about NBN being not much faster than ADSL2, of course it depends what NBN are you talking about; $20 a month, no brand, speed limited NBN or something more substantial?

The above graph shows that the measured download speed is over 2 times as fast as the fastest ADSL2 (and perhaps 3 times as fast as the typical ADSL2)

Upload speed is around 20 times as fast as ADSL2

My 39 days of no internet or phones during changeover is just a distant memory now (mostly)

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“AGL Energy” malware

A number of sources in the media are reporting a bogus email purporting to come from AGL Energy that contains malware. This malware typically installs some type of ransomware on your computer that will encrypt all the data files that it has access to (including network shares) and demand a ransom before they [promise to] unlock them.

It's been reported that this has affected over 10,000 Australians in a week. Here are some links for more information:

smh.com.au

heraldsun.com.au

www.yourlifechoices.com.au


So "I guess", be on the lookout for this one however that's in some ways a bad approach. Being on the lookout for an AGL email when the same thing has been coming from emails purporting to be from Australia post, DHL, Telstra and others for some time now isn't very effective. A better approach is to be careful with ALL emails and have the proper prevention and mitigation strategies in place. 

Here are three things you can do as a starting point: 

  • DON'T BE AN ADMINISTRATOR ON YOUR OWN COMPUTER (I may have mentioned that before)
  • Have good backups in pace that are isolated from the system (a single USB drive plugged in to the system isn't adequate)
  • Be thoughtful and careful with what you open or what links you follow, if it doubt don't open it 

Bonus point: 

  • Have a really good quality antispam service that will; 
  1. Identify most bogus messages as being not legitimately from the company in question 
  2. Prevent casual access to suspect emails, suspect emails should be quarantined by default 

(for your information I can recommend that dedicated antispam product for about $3.50 per user per month)


This blog post has been provided for the benefit of digitalwelcomemat IT customers. Treat this information as informative only and do not take actions or make decisions on the basis of the information contained here. All IT decisions and actions should be made after consultation with your chosen IT professional taking into account all the of the relevant factors.

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Digitalwelcomemat provides IT consultancy and services for business customers on the NSW Central Coast in Australia.

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