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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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Heartbleed vulnerability

heartbleed3Here is a roundup of the easiest to understand information about the heartbleed vulnerability, read these and you should have a pretty fair idea of the lay of the land.

I have told many of you before but best practice recommendation is NOT TO DUPLICATE PASSWORDS each service should have a unique, strong password that won't fall over domino fashion if there is a breach like this one, and the Adobe one a year or so ago and the Sony PlayStation one before that. How do you manage all these passwords?, well see below the info on lastpass.com. Its free on the PC and minimal cost if you want the multiplatform apps. This is important, consider yourself warned.

Here are the details on heartbleed:

From: http://www.pcauthority.com.au/News/382247,heartbleed-memory-bug-leaks-encrypted-data.aspx
Researchers have warned of a serious security bug in OpenSSL that allows encrypted data to be stolen. OpenSSL is an open-source library of SSL/TLS encryption - the transport layer security protocols by which email, IM, and some VPNs are kept secure online.
A bug dubbed "Heartbleed" lets anyone read the memory of systems using vulnerable versions of OpenSSL software, researchers from Codenomicon have revealed. "This compromises the secret keys used to identify service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content," the researchers wrote on a website dedicated to the security bug. "This allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users."...

Office 365? Microsoft say this about Windows based products:

Information on Office 365 and Heartbleed: Microsoft Account, Microsoft Azure, Office 365, Yammer, Skype, along with most Microsoft Services, are not impacted by the OpenSSL "Heartbleed" vulnerability. [The] Windows' implementation of SSL/TLS is also not impacted. A few Services continue to be reviewed and updated with further protections.

From: http://www.theage.com.au/it-pro/security-it/heartbleed-security-bug-what-can-you-do-20140411-zqtff.html
...that chunk of data might include usernames and passwords, reusable browser cookies, or even the site administrator's credentials. While the exploit only allows for small chunks of data to be dumped each time it is run, there is nothing to prevent attackers from replaying the attack over and over, all the while recording fresh data flowing through vulnerable servers. Indeed, I have seen firsthand data showing that some attackers have done just that; for example, compiling huge lists of credentials stolen from users logging in at various sites that remained vulnerable to this bug.

For this reason, I believe it is a good idea for internet users to consider changing passwords at least at sites they visited since this bug became public (Monday morning). But it's important that readers first make an effort to determine that the site in question is not vulnerable to this bug before changing their passwords.

From: http://www.pcauthority.com.au/News/382523,heartbleed-dont-change-all-your-passwords.aspx
Security experts warn that changing all your internet passwords now could do more harm than good
Security experts are warning users to ignore advice to change all of their internet passwords in the wake of the Heartbleed compromise.

Lastpass password manager:

From: http://www.zdnet.com/worried-about-heartbleed-lastpass-security-check-has-you-covered-7000028367/
LastPass has updated its built-in Security Check so that you can now easily see which sites require you to update your passwords to be safe from possible Heartbleed attacks [and which to wait until they have sorted out their own SSL security first]....

Example screenshot:

LastPassHeartBleed

Lastpass: https://lastpass.com/

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Microsoft Onenote software now free

Microsoft Onenote software is now free and with auto-sync to your (free 7GB) Microsoft onedrive/skydrive/livedrive online storage. Its a great product for school, uni, work or home notes. You can share between your team or family so that you can all "be on the same page".

Get the apps too so you can auto-sync with your Windows phone and Windows 8 tablet (supports other lesser products also).

http://www.onenote.com/

(or if you want to pay $89 then you can do that also)

OnenoteFree

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Telstra offers new contract that allows an upgrade after a year.

One of the great things about having a mobile phone on a contract is that you get a shiny new phone for free*every time you renew your contract. The problem is that on a standard 24 month contract with Telstra that only happens (obviously) every 24 months and in 2 years your phone is so out of date it feels like you're making a call with a baked-bean can and a piece of string compared to what's currently available.

Shortly, Telstra will be offering an option to upgrade half way through the contract to a new phone, it does cost extra for the privilege and looks like you have to return the old phone "undamaged and in good working order". (I'm not too sure what that means, as always check the fine print)

See the link below for more details and check it out before you purchase your next phone under contract (preferably a Windows phone):
http://www.itwire.com/your-it-news/mobility/63220-telstra-offers-new-phones-after-a-year-–-but-you-pay-for-it

PhoneUpgrade

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CryptoLocker virus

CryptoLocker From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

CryptoLocker is malware that surfaced in late 2013. A form of ransomware targeting Microsoft Windows-based computers, the trojan encrypts files stored on local hard drives and mounted network drives using public-key cryptography, and then displays a message saying that the files will be decrypted if a fee is paid through an anonymous payment service by a specified deadline, beyond which decryption is no longer possible.

Contents Operation CryptoLocker typically propagates as an attachment to a seemingly innocuous e-mail (usually taking the appearance of a legitimate company e-mail), or from a botnet. The attached ZIP file contains an executable file with filename and icon disguised as a PDF file, taking advantage of Windows' default behaviour of hiding the extension from file names to disguise the real .EXE extension. Some instances may actually contain the Zeus trojan instead, which in turn installs CryptoLocker.

Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CryptoLocker

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