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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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Default printer changing by itself in Windows 10?

Default printer changing by itself in Windows 10? See here for the why and how to turn it off.

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FIVE key considerations to help with protecting your data

FIVE key considerations to help with protecting your data, your network, your identity and your money. 

  1. Don't be an administrator on your own PC for normal day to day work. Create a separate admin account and just be a normal "user" unless required. 
  2. Don't run outdated software; Old versions of Windows, Java, adobe other apps 
  3. Have a good quality antivirus installed, working with a current subscription 
  4. Don't visit undesirable or illegal sites (or if you must; learn enough to mitigate the risk, run in a sandbox, another user account, a Virtual PC, or another PC setup for this task) 
  5. Social engineering - Be vigilant when opening links or emails, unsolicited mail or other peoples USB drives 
  6. (Bonus) Get a good antispam/antivirus system that blocks you from as many threats as possible before they enter your network or PC. 
  7. (Bonus) Use complex passwords that are unique for your internet services
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Passwords should be unique

"Take some time to think about the quality and diversity of your online
passwords would all your online accounts fall domino fashion if one was
breached?"

I'm reposting this article from October 2013 even more relevant today than then... 

The recent Adobe hacker-fest has again brought up the subject of passwords so here is my recommendation... 

There are a full set of password rules and suggestions that are already widely recognised as being crucial for online security, see here for a great article: http://www.thegeekstuff.com/2008/06/the-ultimate-guide-for-creating-strong-passwords that pretty much says it all. 

However, particularly relevant for now, you need to ensure that your passwords are always different from each other, if your Adobe password has been compromised you don't want that same password to have been used for your banking. 

Take some time to think about the quality and diversity of your online passwords would all your online accounts fall domino fashion if one was breached? 

If you're having difficulty in tracking all those passwords consider a password manager, there are a number of different product options. I use https://lastpass.com/ which is available in a free version or paid if you want the smartphone apps as well ($12 per year).

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How to logoff or switch users on Windows 10

Finding how to logoff or switch users on Windows 10 is less "discoverable" than it could be, I have made a quick guide on how to do this here.

http://digitalwelcomemat.com/index.php/how-to-guides/34-how-to-lock-log-out-or-switch-user-in-windows-10

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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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Access your virtual machines/servers

If you are a junior IT admin or an administrative staff member that needs to access the servers on occasion *and* you have Microsoft Hyper-V visualization this article may help: (It may just confuse you more as well, sorry about that if that's the case).

Full details here: http://digitalwelcomemat.com/index.php/how-to-guides/33-access-your-virtual-machines-servers

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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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Australia post malware emails

Beware the current run of Australia post malware emails, see below (this one is not really from Australia post). Remember to hover over the link in Outlook with your mouse before you click, in the screen shot below the link goes to a Russian web site: I expect is some sort of ransomware. Click on the link below to see the full post...

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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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digitalwelcomemat to resell a selected few software products

As you know in the past digitalwelcomemat hasn't typically “sold” any hardware or software products and have preferred to keep that at arm’s length to prevent any “possible, perceived conflict of interest” I like to make recommendations free of any perception of favouring a certain product based on profitability, sales volume targets or other benefit for my business.

I hope that by now my valued customers trust my integrity and that I will always recommend the best product for the situation regardless of where it comes from, and I'm just letting you know that I will be reselling a select few software products from now onward.

The reason for this change I have noticed that with a couple of products recently the purchasing experience for customer has been sometimes frustrating and inefficient, particularly with the changeover of Eset NOD32 distributor for Australia so, as a start, I have signed up to be a NOD32 antivirus reseller and will “sell” this product to you directly if you would like to take advantage of that arrangement.

There are another couple of other products which I have become a reseller for as well, both of these are products that digitalwelcomemat has been using in-house and I have been so impressed that I would like to sell these also, more information follow shortly on those.

Please note that in the foreseeable future I will only be providing select software and possibly 3rd party online services as a reseller. Hardware or physical products will still remain on a purely consultative and recommendation basis, additionally if you prefer not to purchase from me that’s fine as well. Based on my reseller profit/volume vs administrative time I am providing this additional service only to supplement my main business income which is providing IT support services.

If you have any questions please let me know.

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Microsoft sway

Sway

If you wanting a hybrid of a PowerPoint presentation and a web site that you can make yourself have a look at Microsoft Sway (preview version) the 2 min video below pretty elegantly describes how it all works and you can have a look at sample “sways” here.

It’s a good way to supplement an existing web site with some great looking user creatable content.

SwayVideo

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Bad email reminder

See the following emails below sent on to me this morning which look legit at first glance. A good reminder to be careful what you click on,  see the link on the bottom one points off to a file stored on the sugarsync service. I don't know what this file does but I'm guessing that its not a great idea to find out unless you want the rest of the day (or week) off work.

Well spotted.

BadEmail1

BadEmail2

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Buying office 2013

When you are purchasing MS Office its always been the case that if you purchase the OEM version with the computer (original equipment manufacturer version) the software is locked to that computer and can't be transferred to another new computer when it gets replaced. If you spend sometimes as little as $5 more and purchase the retail version from Officeworks or your local computer store you can install that on your new PC when it comes up for replacement time.

Remember that you can only install retail version software on one PC at a time, there are lots of other purchasing options if you need something different.

Microsoft had a go at changing that licensing for office 2013 but then pretty quickly changed back to what we have traditionally had in the past see here for more details on that:

Office2013XfertoNewPC

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digitalwelcomemat now has a blog!

Subscribe for the news as it happens, call me for support on 0404 493 770 or access my remote support solution here: http://help.digitalwelcomemat.com/

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

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