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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  • Don't use outdated and unsupported versions of Windows 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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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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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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“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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Windows 10 updates

Q: Now that I have Windows 10 can I stop it from updating at the most inopportune times? 

A: Yes and no, go to start -> settings -> "update & security" -> "Windows update" -> advanced options -> defer updates

This will defer them for a while but does not affect security updates:

"Defer upgrades in Windows 10 - Some Windows 10 editions let you defer upgrades to your PC. When you defer upgrades, new Windows features won't be downloaded or installed for several months. Deferring upgrades doesn't affect security updates. Note that deferring upgrades will prevent you from getting the latest Windows features as soon as they're available.

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-au/windows-10/defer-upgrades-in-windows-10

However that's probably not want you are after. The intended approach is to leave the PC *on* overnight but *not* logged in same way Windows has handled updates for years. That way it will handle all that stuff overnight when you are not using it and restart around 3am - 4am if needed. This would require sleep setting to be set appropriately (I always recommend that sleep is turned off on PC's and laptops anyway), bear in mind that with a Windows tablet that's probably not feasible. 

One of the big changes that Microsoft made in windows 10 is that it WILL do its updates eventually regardless, its created a bit of angst within the industry but the problem they were facing is that people never allowed Windows to update (mostly by turning the PC off overnight every night) and as such Windows didn't get the security fixes and PC's were often vulnerable to the bad guys long after Microsoft had released the patch. 

There are a couple of ways of "hacking" this so that it won't do updates unless you manually force it, but for the reasons above it's not recommend because you really want to get the security fixes without manual intervention. 

Consider leaving your laptops and desktop PC's on overnight (and logged out) or at least over "a" night during the week.

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Passwords...

Interesting article from ZDNet. This is why I prefer a company specified and IT retained password for small organizations. It also means that IT support work can be done outside business hours so as not to impact on staff productivity:

Forcing users to change their passwords may do more harm than good: (ZDNet) http://www.zdnet.com/article/forcing-users-to-change-their-passwords-may-do-more-harm-than-good/

Further, Cranor notes that "There is also evidence from interview and survey studies to suggest that users who know they will have to change their password do not choose strong passwords to begin with and are more likely to write their passwords down."

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Dealing with NBNco, Telstra and your ISP - a helpful guide

I have prepared this handy flowchart to assist with resolving issues when you have to deal with your internet service provider(s) for your actual internet, Telstra for half the infrastructure and NBNco for the rest, enjoy! (After 38 days without internet I certainly am.)

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AFP scam email

Just in case you had any doubt the following email is spam. Note that it links to a Russian site, probably malware, possibly crypto-locker or a derivative.

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Office 2016 licensing

This is a pretty succinct summary of the way that Office 2016 licensing works for a Microsoft store purchase which is slightly different than previous versions. This is AU$299 for 1 (only) PC for the Home and Business edition (with Outlook).

Make sure you have one centrally administered Microsoft account for your organization to hold all these MS office products.


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Buyer beware

Buyer beware... good one Harvey Norman..

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Lies, damned lies and "The Cloud" - Part 1: Cloud accounting…

Lies, damned lies and "The Cloud" - Part 1: Cloud accounting… 

[Warning opinion ahead, your mileage may vary] 

In 2004 I bought QuickBooks accounting, as I recall it was $350. It's still going strong for me and I don't have a reason to change. Admittedly I am a micro-business and I don't pay wages and have to worry about all that. I just had a look at Xero online accounting I watched their introductory video, looked pretty good although they do get a penalty for overuse of the word "beautiful". 

Then I had a look at the monthly fee $50 per month. Let's calculate that out $50 x 12 months x 11 years that's $6600 (plus another $6600 for the next 11 years). No thanks cloud I'm fine thanks with my less beautiful product from 2004. 

Definition of "The cloud" 1: A way of taking something that you would otherwise "purchase" and making you "subscribe" to it while costing you 20 times as much (and counting), but it is "beautiful" and you do get some nice extra features.

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AVG antivirus free has announced that they will collect and sell your data*

We already know that almost nothing comes for free and if you're getting something for free in the world of IT this normally means that your being served up advertising or you are trading your personal data for the purpose of advertising, people differ in their opinion on that, I have heard it said "I love adds because that means that I don't have to pay for the service", others prefer a traditional model where they can just purchase whatever it is and get on with things without interruption. However antivirus manufacturer AVG has sent a few ripples through the tech industry by announcing that if you use their free antivirus product they will collect sell your data, however the data will not be personally identifiable. If you use AVG free for home PC's for example here are some resources to help you consider if your happy with the change. 

http://news.softpedia.com/news/avg-proudly-announces-it-will-sell-your-browsing-history-to-online-advertisers-492146.shtml 

http://now.avg.com/understanding-the-new-privacy-policy/ 

http://www.avg.com/gb-en/privacy-new

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Windows 10 disk image

Microsoft has released a Windows 10 tool to download the required files and make an install DVD disk, USB or ISO image:
http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10ISO

If you have multiple PC's that your upgrading and you don’t want to download 3+GB of data per PC this is the way to go. Also doing this at a time that you specify may be better than risking your PC's auto updating at the most inopportune moment.

The install media also gives you the ability to erase your PC and do a fresh install (after backing up your data) just bear in mind that the mechanics of how licencing and product keys work in terms of your free entitlement is still unknown present.

My initial "don’t upgrade yet" recommendation still stands unless you are a "tech enthusiast" and either way I highly recommend you take a full "system" backup first see here for more detail.

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Microsoft releases Visual Studio Community

Microsoft released Visual Studio Community edition for free this week. If you ever had the urge to develop software (and the time to learn) the same professional software that cost $800 last week is now available for free. You can use it personally, in a business and even to create software for resale.

http://www.visualstudio.com/en-us/products/visual-studio-community-vs

Visual Studio

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Verify your MS account?

Microsoft appears to have recently updated its security policy's for multifactor authentication and is now forcing you to "verify" which essentially requires you to add a mobile phone number to your Microsoft account then enter the code that has been sent to you via SMS.

This has been a "feature" for added security for quite a while but just this morning I have had three outlook.com/hotmail.com/live.com email accounts that have been unable to send email until "verified". Ultimately it's good to have better security (after all you wouldn't want them to be careless an expose your personal photos and information out on the net right?). This will reduce the amount of spam out there as well but it does impose a 5 minute interruption on you.

As always keep your wits about you when handling this type of request.

Here are some notifications I have received:

OutlookVerify

 

OutlookVerify2

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Telstra or Microsoft phone call scam

Scam-AlertIf someone calls up purporting to be from Telstra or Microsoft (or anyone really) and offering to fix your computer please don't let them remotely access your PC and "fix" it for you. I know that sounds obvious but they play the numbers game in saying that they are aware that you are having issues with your PC or internet connection. Inevitably some of the people they will call at any given time will, in fact, be having issues just based on probability.

Having just fixed one of these issues in the last 24 hours I can assure you it's a significant and unnecessary expense to reverse their "fix", get your data back and restore your computer to a working state.

If anyone calls you offering to fix your PC I suggest you just politely decline and hang up on them, also be prepared that they will probably persist.

Also seriously consider NOT being an administrator on your own PC and instead have a separate administrator account. Also, never store banking, credit card details on your PC just in an unencrypted document.

 

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Whats a botnet?

Sometimes in IT things are hard to explain and when I get a good short explanation its sometimes worth sharing. This is from the Sophos antivirus guys:

[A botnet is a collection of] malware-infected computers, individually referred to as bots or zombies, that can be controlled remotely by criminals known as bot-herders or botmasters.

As well as stealing information such as banking passwords from each computer in the botnet, the crooks can also send commands to all the computers in the botnet at the same time, essentially giving them a huge distributed "network cloud" of computing resources.

Botnets can therefore be used to send massive quantities of spam (including spam runs containing email attachments with more malware), to clock up huge numbers of fraudulent but legitimate-looking ad clicks, to carry out online attacks, and more.

Attacks of this sort are hard to block because they originate simultaneously from thousands of innocent-looking computers, so there isn't a single, obvious source of criminality.

http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2014/07/13/gameover-malware-returns-from-the-dead/

Botnet

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Windows 8.0? time for the free upgrade

If your running windows 8[.0] without the free windows 8.1 update you need to install this free update now. If you don't you will no longer receive the security and reliability updates


...Today, June 10, is Microsoft Patch Tuesday. It's also the deadline for consumers running Windows 8.1 to install the Windows 8.1 Update if they want to continue to receive patches and fixes from Microsoft.
win81update1rumors
Microsoft originally imposed a deadline of May 13 on consumer users to move to the Windows 8.1 Update. On May 12, Microsoft announced a deadline extension to June 10.
http://www.zdnet.com/windows-8-1-consumers-its-time-to-move-to-update-1-7000030378/

http://www.zdnet.com/windows-8-1-consumers-its-time-to-move-to-update-1-7000030378/

Today, June 10, is Microsoft Patch Tuesday. It's also the deadline for consumers running Windows 8.1 to install the Windows 8.1 Update if they want to continue to receive patches and fixes from Microsoft.

win81update1rumors

Microsoft originally imposed a deadline of May 13 on consumer users to move to the Windows 8.1 Update. On May 12, Microsoft announced a deadline extension to June 10.

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Ebay hack reported, 128 million active users compromised

Ebay hack reported, 128 million active users account details globally compromised in Feb - March and they are only telling us now, thanks for that.

Do you have unique passwords for each of your online services? Consider yourself warned.

Here are some further details:

http://www.theverge.com/2014/5/21/5737914/ebay-will-ask-all-customers-to-change-passwords-after-massive-breach
https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/massive-breach-ebay-urges-password-105845341.html
http://mashable.com/2014/05/21/ebay-breach-ramifications/

Excerpt:
..."For the time being, we cannot comment on the specific number of accounts impacted," said Ms Ramirez.

"However, we believe there may be a large number of accounts involved and we are asking all eBay users to change their passwords."

Potentially affecting eBay's 128 million active users globally, the attack could be one of the largest affecting a retailer.

It comes after retail giant Target disclosed a security breach which could affect more than 100 million customers....

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