Saturday, August 29, 2015

Why Not Windows 10?


I have been asked one too many times why I oppose Windows 10. Here is some more fodder for thought.

Besides all eventual arguments for or against technical merit here are only three facts that everybody can check out in Microsoft's Terms of Use for Windows 10. Every single install of Windows 10 must agree to Microsoft's Terms And Conditions for use of Windows 10. This is (supposedly) a 12,000 word document. Everybody I know, me included, just clicks on Agree - and Microsoft knows that.

In these Terms we can find that we agree among others goodies to:
  1. Windows 10 is logging all keystrokes
     
  2. Windows 10 is always listening to the microphone
     
  3. Microsoft will turn over all info from/about you to authorities
Re. point #1: 
Programs that log our keystrokes on the functional level of the operating system have always been called Key Loggers and always have by all security systems been flagged as viruses and removed.

Just think of every keystroke being logged and stored at MS (Microsoft); what about your username(s) and password(s)? What about account details like credit card or bank or investment account numbers?
Re. point #2:
Many desktop computers and virtually all laptop computers have microphone. Windows 10 will record and store on MS's servers every spoken word that reaches the microphone while the computer is running. Big Brother is always listening!

Windows 10 will (at least try to) make an automatic backup copy of every file you create on your computer and store that on MS's servers. What about confidentiality requirements? No lawyer, doctor, real estate agent, CPA or PI can ever use Windows 10; actually everybody who by law is required to respect and guarantee any degree of confidentiality should never use Windows 10. 
Re. point #3:
That sounds kind of "normal" and okay - on the surface at least.
BUT: MS does not say that they require a court order or warrant for that.
Any "authority" can request and will receive all your files and all information about you that MS has gathered.

With no court order at all!
Then there is yet another side to the whole thing that, for me at least, is even more scary; although I have to warn you, it will take 30 minutes away from your busy day to listen to this "video" - which actually is a recorded audio interview.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

For whatever reason the darned TOC (Table Of Contents) feature that I got from Google does not work any longer, sorry. And I just don't have the time to hunt down another solution.




Wednesday, August 26, 2015

2015-08-27 WBKV Talking Points (August 27th 2015)


Windows 10
  • For the unsuspecting home user I have decided to give clear warnings:
    Do Not Install Windows 10!
    In it's default settings
    Windows 10 does not respect even basic privacy.
Google Chrome's HTTPS extension can easily be turned OFF by visiting malicious web page!
  • I can't say it often enough: Do NOT, I repeat DO NOT USE Google Chrome!
    About 50% of all malware infections I currently see happened when using Chrome!
Yahoo! slings viruses of he nasty sort – again!
  • Original quote from The Register;
    “Yahoo
    ! has been used to spread ransomware to Windows PCs almost exactly a year after he previous outbreak”.
Users of Apple anything: Check for updates!
Most anything from Apple is affected.

Do yo see advertisements?
Your computer IS NOT SAFE!
The Register:
Internet lowlifes who used Yahoo! ads to infect potentially countless PCs with malware have struck again – using adverts on popular websites to reach millions more people. See this article.
Some affected web sites are ebay, Drudge Report, weather.com plus many others.
This campaign now resides on AOL.com For many years already I tell my customers
Do not use AOL, Yahoo, NetZero, Juno!
My customers have nothing to fear; IMHO a good ad-blocker is mandatory!

Hopefully listener calls with questions.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Yahoo! - Helps to Distribute Malware


I have said it to countless customers and I say it again, publicly and absolutely clear:
If you see advertisements while browsing the internet
then your computer is not set up safely!
I have said it to countless customers and I say it again, publicly and absolutely clear:
Stay away from Yahoo!
And I mean Yahoo! everything; email, finance, sports, EVERYTHING that comes from Yahoo! 

Here is a literal quote from NetworkWorld.com (bolding and links added by yours truly):
Malwarebytes Labs recently uncovered a large malvertising attack on the Yahoo! advertising network that started on July 28. Malwarebytes estimates that up to 6.9 billion readers could have been affected, making it one of the largest malvertising attacks Malwarebytes Labs has seen recently.
Malvertising is defined as crafted advertisements that intentionally infect the computers of anyone who visits the site. A tiny piece of code hidden deep in the ad will reroute your computer to criminal servers without your knowledge, which then determines how exposed your computer is and decides which piece of malware to send you.

In the case of the Yahoo ad, victims are infected with ransomware via the Angler Exploit Kit, but it’s possible that anything from banking Trojans to additional advertising fraud is also being used in this attack.

Malwarebytes said that the infection included Yahoo's main site, as well as subgroups like News, Finance, Sports, Celebrity, and Games. The ads route users to a site on Microsoft Azure, which eventually leads to the Angler Exploit Kit.

But, according to a friend at Malwarebytes, when you are running Adblock Plus or any other ad blocker, then the ad never plays, so no payload is delivered to your PC. So the malware doesn't ever get to touch your PC. Even if you don't click on the ad, the fact is it loads and becomes saved in your browser cache, so it does get onto your PC without the blocker.
My customers do not need to worry about malvertising, they all have Adblock Plus installed. All others please listen up:

If you use ANYthing from Yahoo! and/or
if you see advertisements when web surfing
then your computer is UNSAFE!

Do yourself a favor, get your computer cleaned up and secured.
As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

For whatever reason the darned TOC (table of contents) feature that I got from Google does not work any longer, sorry.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Is Microsoft Really As Dumb As They Act?


I can't believe it!

I am doing my Set-Up job for a customer on a Windows 8.1 computer.My very first thing after getting it to work in desktop mode always is Windows Update until the system is fully up to date; then comes everything else.

Well, maybe if an anti virus or security system is installed I will remove that before I do the bulk of updating; many of these systems make a basic computer run clearly slower.

Above mentioned system was brand new and it had been bought from the Microsoft Store as a so called "Signature system", that is guaranteed free of any gunk, trial or other potentially unwanted software.

This was the very first startup of the Windows 8.1 system and I expected GWX not to be present. GWX is Microsoft's trickery software to coax unsuspecting individuals into "reserving" and/or outright downloadung the free upgrade to Windows 10.

When I started Windows Update for the first time it showed 122 important and 6 or 7 optional updates. I checked that there was nothing called anything like "Upgrade to Windows 10" or similar; there was nothing of that kind. I told the system to install the updates.

Imagine my shock when as the very next thing Windows Update showed me exactly this window:


WHAT it screamed inside me; I did not ask for Windows 10! I immediately stopped the download and resolved to talk it over with the customer.

So I called, explained the situation and asked if she would be okay with Windows 10 if I would include for free all the steps to make it respect privacy that I have described in previous articles. The lady was okay with that so I told Windows 8.1 to install the updates - and it showed again above depicted window.

To my greatest surprise Windows 8.1 did all the 8.1 updates, always showing above progress window but actually never downloading or installing the Windows 10 upgrade.

PHEW! 

My very personal conclusion to this story? Some people at Microsoft are either overworked, totally stressed out, simply not at all caring about quality and quality control or they are outright idots. 

Or any combination thereof, you choose.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.
 
For whatever reason the darned TOC (table of contents) feature that I got from Google isn't working any longer, sorry.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Lenovo? NEVER AGAIN!


For years I have recommended not to buy Dell computers because way back when Dell had been caught with dishonest business practices. After years of staunch resistance I have relented for reasons of price/performance. Recently I had to recommend some Dell laptops from the Microsoft Store.

Well, something nasty has happened - again.

I stumbled over an article detailing the most recent failures by Lenovo. Bummer!

Their laptops for quite some time had been on the forefront of machines I recommended.

No more recommending Lenovo computers, at least for the foreseeable future.

Will these companies never learn that they will get caught, hopefully always?

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

NO to Windows 10


Please click this link if you are looking for general information on Windows 10.


My verdict on Windows 10:   
Do not install Windows 10.

If the word privacy and the concept of privacy mean anything to you then you should stay away form the biggest data slurp this world has ever seen. That IMHO is what Windows 10 is going to be.

Here is an example of what others think about Windows 10; this a literal quote from a reply to an article about Windows 10 privacy settings (bolding added by me):
Microsoft has built into Windows 10, the most comprehensive personal surveillance system ever built into an OS. . .
I cannot, for the life of me, envision any reputable business or government entity running this illegal and unconstitutional monstrosity - and still claim that they are able to protect client/citizen's privacy. Doctor's, lawyers, banks or anyplace where client/patient privacy is important should probably avoid Windows Malware 10 at all cost.
And as far as technical "improvements" are concerned here is a snippet from one of the support forums I follow. A user of this forum put it very nicely and IMHO he nailed it precisely:
Personally, I haven't seen a compelling reason to upgrade to Windows 10. ... I haven't found a good reason to upgrade from Windows 8.1...

PRO: Start Menu.
CON: I already have Classic Shell, which is more like the Start Menu to which I am accustomed, and much more configurable.

PRO: Edge Browser.
CON: I'd rather use Firefox.

PRO: Cortana.
CON: This is a security risk just waiting to happen; that being said, this may be a pro... Then again, maybe not. I'm on the fence...

PRO: Multiple Desktops.
CON: Already available to XP and above from Microsoft Sysinternals Desktops 2.0.

PRO: Windowed Universal (Metro/Windows Store) Apps.
CON: I haven't found any Universal Apps that are any better than the desktop programs I already have installed.

PRO: Comes with Solitaire:
CON: You can get solitaire in Windows 8.1 also, from the Windows Store.

PRO: New Mail and Calendar Apps.
CON: Not even as capable as Microsoft's Windows Live Mail 2012 with Microsoft Accounts, and relatively useless with some other accounts. Where are my local folders? Why is the Spam from the junk folder archived forever, it's Spam!?!

PRO: New Photos App.
CON: Better photo editors are out there.

PRO: DirectX 12.
CON: I can't think of a con to this one, except I don't really play games on this computer. That's what consoles are for. (And I don't really care about the XBox App...)

PRO: Unified Settings.
CON: Thanks for moving around the Control Panel again...

PRO: New Task Switcher.
CON: Alt-Tab

PRO: Schedule Restarts.
CON: Forced Windows Updates. Because Microsoft never fudges updates...

PRO: Hello.
CON: Like I have an infrared 3D camera...

etc.
So far for the quote. I had a similar compilation in an earlier article; in case you are interested it is here.

As I said above, my verdict is clear; if you have a well working Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 system there is no compelling technical reason to upgrade to Windows 10; you only would give up what vestiges of privacy there are left in the brave new world of Windows 10 home computing.



As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.
    

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Windows 10 - Better Instructions to Make it "SAFE"


After writing the previous long, long article about how to make Windows 10 running without the glaring privacy issues I discovered on a forum a link to a MUCH better organized article with visual examples for everything from installation to changing the relevant settings.

You find it here: https://fix10.isleaked.com/

I thank the author(s) of this web page; GREAT work!


As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.
   

Windows 10 Settings - What I Recommend


Please click this link if you are looking for general information on Windows 10.

If you absolutely do not mind to be followed by "Big Brother" then please do not read the remainder of this article, you are excused and may leave.

By now I have decided to recommend to my customers NOT to upgrade to Windows 10. There are way too many IMHO serious privacy issues that go along with a so called Microsoft account.

In the following I will give some tips on how to remedy at least some or much of that messy situation. For every instance of something I deem in need of correcting or changing I will preface the paragraph with "Gripe:".

Because virtually all of my customers work on the desktop and use a mouse and a keyboard all the following step by step instructions are for desktop mode only.

Immediately after upgrading to Windows 10 your computer will work quite differently than it did before the upgrade.


Gripe:
If you gave the system on first start your email address Microsoft has created on their servers the storage for an immense wealth of information about you that Win10 and it's programs will collect from and about you; and that besides the fact that every email address will have it's unique "advertisement ID" assigned. Guess what that will be used for!

If you want to change your inadvertently created Microsoft Account back into a normal, local account then:
  1. Right click on the Start button
  2. Open Control Panel
  3. Click Settings
  4. Click  ====================to be finished 


Gripe:
Synchronizing personal settings between various computers could under certain circumstances be a convenience. But some of us don’t want the same settings on all of our various Win10 computers. Just imagine using Win10 on your “old” keyboard/mouse computer and on a tablet; ARGGHH!

Plus: My settings are my personal preference and are none of Microsoft's business! Obviously I am way too old for that brave new world where everything is made public! If you are like me here is how to turn synching off:
  1. Right click on the Start button
  2. Open Control Panel
  3. Click Settings
  4. Click Accounts
  5. Click Sync your settings 
  6. Turn OFF Sync settings to disable synchronizing
  
Gripe:
Microsoft Edge, the new web browser, will be the default for all things Internet. You should set that back to Firefox following these steps:
  1. Right click on the Start button
  2. Open Control Panel
  3. Click Default Programs
  4. Click on "Set your default programs"
  5. You should see a list of installed programs
  6. Find and highlight the entry for Firefox
  7. Click on  "Set this program as default" (my cursor points to it)
  8. Click OK to close the window
 

Gripe:
System Protection is the Win10 name for the feature that creates Restore Points. This is turned off after the upgrade on many systems! It is by no means a good backup system but still better than nothing. Here is how to turn it on again:
  1. Right click on the Start button
  2. Open Control Panel
  3. Click System
  4. In the left sidebar click System protection
  5. Highlight your system disk C:
  6. Click Configure (see screen shot)
 
     7. Click on "Turn on system protection" (see screen shot below)
     8. Click OK and OK to close all windows



Gripe:
 Especially important to users of laptops computers are Wi-Fi-credentials

A new Win10 feature — WiFi Sense (online FAQ) — has generated more than its share of controversy. Just read what well renowned security researcher Brian Krebs has has to say about it in a recent column.

Simply said WiFi Sense allows all your Facebook friends, Outlook and Skype contacts to automatically sign in to your WiFi router when they are in range; likewise you can use their WiFi network as soon as you are in range of their router. In short, it “blabs” access to your WiFi network to numbers of people who you might not know well enough. And that feature is turned ON by default! Here is how to turn it off:
  1. Right click on the Start button
  2. Open Control Panel
  3. Click Settings
  4. Click Network & Internet
  5. Click Wi-Fi.
  6. Scroll past your wireless networks and click Manage Wi-Fi settings. 
  7. Turn off  Connect to suggested open hotspots and
  8. Turn off Connect to networks shared by my contacts.



Gripe: 
Simply said, I hate Cortana, the so-called “digital assistant” in Win10.
 
My wife and my best friend may know a lot about me that you don't know and likely even don't want to know. The NSA, Apple and now Microsoft want to know more about every Apple or Win10 user then we want to know about ourselves.

The End User License Agreement (EULA) for Win10 clearly states that Cortana has the ability to collect and use various types of personal information, including your location, calendar data, and programs (called "apps") you use. Cortana collects information about your choice of music, alarm settings, what you view and purchase online, your Bing search history, your use of other Microsoft services, and can even use the camera and microphone of the computer. In short, it is ALWAYS listens when the computer is on. Remember, practically all laptop computers have a microphone and a camera.

This sort of always on data collection worries me deeply; 1984 anyone?

Here is a decent PC World article explaining how to disable Cortana. And don't forget additionally and separately to disable Cortana in the new Edge browser, even if you don't use it!

Remember, Big Brother is always listening, always watching.


Gripe:
Since Microsoft announced that the upgrade to Windows 10 will be free, I have been waiting for the catch. And, surprise, it's very first installment comes with the ubiquitous game of Solitaire.This popular app is included with the new OS, but it includes advertising. To remove the ads, you have to pay a monthly subscription, as reported in a Business Insider story.

Currently I do not know of a hack to get around this.

Just do not go into the trap of recurring payments. There are many free alternatives on the internet. 




Gripe:
Along with forced updates, Win10 also includes — again, on by default — the option to share patches with other computers on your local network or the Internet; this is called peer-to-peer updating. You might want to disable update sharing.

There are serious concerns that attackers might find a way to inject malicious code into the process; many internet connections are metered and with the almost 3GB download size of Win10 you can easily run over your limit and that costs dearly.
 You want to disable peer-to-peer updating obtain patches only directly from Microsoft? Here is how:
  1. Right click on the Start button
  2. Open Control Panel
  3. Click Settings
  4. Click Update & Security
  5. Click windows Update (it is no longer in the Control Panel!)
  6. Select Advanced Options
  7. Click Choose how updates are delivered
  8.  Turn Update Sharing OFF

So much for today. This article is meant to be continued as more details become available.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.
 
 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

2015-08-06 WBKV Talking Points (August 6th 2015)


Windows 10
  • If You use Symantec's Norton security software DO NOT UPGRADE to Win 10!
    Seriously broken Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 systems reported in Norton's forum.
     
  • The vast majority of upgrades seems to go very well and smooth. Well dome Microsoft!
     
  • BUT: There re some “rough edges” Microsoft needs time to smooth those. 
My original advice stands:  Wait and see!  There is plenty of time left to get the free upgrade.


Fake emails supposedly from Microsoft, telling people they are ready to download Windows 10.

BIG problem, they run CBT Locker which is MUCH WORSE than CryptoLocker.


Google Chrome's HTTPS extension can easily be turned OFF by visiting malicious web page!
  • I can't say it often enough: Do NOT, I repeat DO NOT USE Google Chrome!

    About 50% of all malware infections I currently see happened when using Chrome!


Hopefully listener calls with questions.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

2015-07-23 WBKV Talking Points


Windows 10
  • You will get updates like it or not
    License agreement: 'receive these types of automatic updates without any additional notice'.
  • Will be sold on USB drives (no need for DVD drive!)
    Seen on Amazon.com's pre-order page; US release date likely August 30th
  • Price for Windows 10 Home $119.99, for Windows 10 Pro $199.99
Adobe Flash player
A seemingly endless saga of bugs and updates.
Per July 20
th you should be at version 18.0.0.209; everything below that is potentially dangerous!
Mozilla on July 20th temporarily blocked Flash Player in Firefox!

This month's Patch Tuesday fixed 59 vulnerabilities

Microsoft stops AV support for XP
Microsoft Security Essentials nolonger updated on Window XP
Yes, there are still about
180 million people using it!

WPA-TKIP can be cracked in an hour!
Check your WiFi setup.
I know many (older?) DSL routers that have ONLY WPA-TKIP; they need to be replaced!

Google Chrome to add RED SCREEN warning
Only for ads with malicious content, known malicious web pages and web sites.

CVS's photo web site hacked and off-line
Other possibly affected firms are Walmart, Costco, Tesco, Asda & Marks and Spencer; they all used Canada-based PNI Digital Media.
I recently tried the CostCo web service and was appalled by it's bad user interface; I ran away real quick.

Hopefully listener calls with questions.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Backup - Windows 7 and 8


Please click this link if you are looking for information on Windows 10.

Here are links to articles that should answer most of the questions I get asked about back up.

Windows 7
Build a complete Windows 7 safety net

Windows 8  Understanding Terms
Understanding Windows 8's File History
TechNet: Windows 8 File History explained

Windows 8 Prepare like Microsoft wants it

Microsoft: Set up a drive for File History

Mastering Windows 8's backup/restore system

If you are adverse to Microsoft's built-in tools there are proven free third party backup programs available:
Free Backup programs - Not from Microsoft 
Sadly this otherwise excellent article does not mention Macrium Reflect, an  often recommended free third party backup program.

And here is an interesting discussion about the question where to store the back up:
Internal or External Hard Drive for Backup

And since two customers recently asked about here some words about 
How to back up and restore the registry in Windows

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Windows 10 Broadcasts Wi-Fi Passwords


Please click this link if you are looking for information on Windows 10.

I "stole" the following VERBATIM from a blog post at The Register. 
If you upgrade to Windows 10 and if you have a wireless home network you better turn Wi-Fi Sense in Windows 10 OFF! 
 Wi-Fi Sense is a feature from the world of Microsoft Mobile (cell phones) that sneakily appears in Windows 10.

Here now the article from The Register:

--------------------------    

theregister.co.uk

UH OH: Windows 10 will share your Wi-Fi key with your friends' friends

30 Jun 2015 at 20:59,
Updated A Windows 10 feature, Wi-Fi Sense, smells like a security risk: it can share access to Wi-Fi networks with the user's contacts.
Wi-Fi Sense has been on Windows Phone since 8.1
Those contacts include their Outlook.com (nee Hotmail) contacts, Skype contacts and, with an opt-in, their Facebook friends. There is method in the Microsoft madness – it saves having to shout across the office or house “what’s the Wi-Fi password?” – but ease of use has to be teamed with security. If you wander close to a wireless network, and your friend knows the password, and you both have Wi-Fi Sense, you can log into that network.
Wi-Fi Sense doesn’t reveal the plaintext password to your family, friends, acquaintances, and the chap at the takeaway who's an Outlook.com contact, but it does allow them, if they are also running Wi-Fi Sense, to log in to your Wi-Fi. The password must be stored centrally by Microsoft, and is copied to a device for it to work; Microsoft just tries to stop you looking at it. How successful that will be isn't yet known.
"For networks you choose to share access to, the password is sent over an encrypted connection and stored in an encrypted file on a Microsoft server, and then sent over a secure connection to your contacts' phone if they use Wi-Fi Sense and they're in range of the Wi-Fi network you shared," the Wi-Fi Sense FAQ states.
Microsoft also adds that Wi-Fi Sense will only provide internet access, and block connections to other things on the wireless LAN: "When you share network access, your contacts get internet access only. For example, if you share your home Wi-Fi network, your contacts won't have access to other computers, devices, or files stored on your home network."
That sounds wise – but we're not convinced how it will be practically enforced: if a computer is connected to a protected Wi-Fi network, it must know the key. And if the computer knows the key, a determined user or hacker will be able to find it within the system and use it to log into the network with full access.
In theory, someone who wanted access to your company network could befriend an employee or two, and drive into the office car park to be in range, and then gain access to the wireless network. Some basic protections, specifically ones that safeguard against people sharing their passwords, should prevent this.
The feature has been on Windows Phones since version 8.1. If you type the password into your Lumia, you won’t then need to type it into your laptop, because you are a friend of yourself. Given the meagre installed base of Windows Phones it's not been much of a threat – until now.
With every laptop running Windows 10 in the business radiating access, the security risk is significant. A second issue is that by giving Wi-Fi Sense access to your Facebook contacts, you are giving Microsoft a list of your Facebook friends, as well as your wireless passwords.
In an attempt to address the security hole it has created, Microsoft offers a kludge of a workaround: you must add _optout to the SSID (the name of your network) to prevent it from working with Wi-Fi Sense.
(So if you want to opt out of Google Maps and Wi-Fi Sense at the same time, you must change your SSID of, say, myhouse to myhouse_optout_nomap. Technology is great.)
Microsoft enables Windows 10's Wi-Fi Sense by default, and access to password-protected networks are shared with contacts unless the user remembers to uncheck a box when they first connect. Choosing to switch it off may make it a lot less useful, but would make for a more secure IT environment.
Yes, wireless passwords can be written down and trivially passed along to others: we know network security shouldn't end at the Wi-Fi login prompt. But there's nothing like an OS automating the practice of blabbing passphrases to your mates, eh?

Updated to add

A Microsoft PR rep has been in touch about the headline, pointing out that when you share access to your network via Wi-Fi Sense, your contacts cannot share that access to other people. We know this.
The headline still stands because: imagine you and I are friends, and you visit my house. I tell you the Wi-Fi password, or you read it off the fridge. You type it into your Windows 10 device, and access to my network is shared via Wi-Fi Sense with your Windows 10 friends. Your friends now have access to my network, or in other words, my friend's friends now have access to the network.
And that's not good.
--------------------------

So far for the article from The Register.

By now I have installed several versions of Windows 10 Preview and the install process has changed over time - which is to be expected in a preview for testing of a product that is in active development. The last install(s) have asked questions about sharing Wi-Fi keys and I have declined. By the way, I am planning an extensive article about the install process of Windows 10.

I have declined to share Wi-Fi keys because I read the questions before I ACCEPT the default settings. These preselected default settings more often that not help Microsoft rather than the individual user; that at least is my experience with Microsoft software and products since I know them - and that is only since about the early 1980s.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

2015-07-09 WBKV Talking Points (July 9th 2015)

Windows 10
  • What
    It is an in-place upgrade.
    If you want to preserve your Windows 7/8 system DO NOT UPGRADE!
  • When
    Anytime on or after July 29th.

  • Why
    If you want to get rid of Windows 8 annoyances and quirks.
    But you will have to learn a new interface - AGAIN! (boo Microsoft).

  • Why not
    It does not bring anything I consider worth wile the risks of that change.
    There is no realistic simple way to avoid establishing a Microsoft account! Thus every Windows 10 user will become the “target” of the associated “advertisement ID”.
    The install process now even openly mentions the "advertisement ID"!

If your current Windows system is running stable and doing what you want to do I see no compelling reason to upgrade.

Hopefully listener calls with questions. 


As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Repair Scams And New Variants - Again


Please click this link if you are looking for information on Windows 10.

I hardly can count how often I have spoken in my radio shows about repair scams and other tricks crooks use to scare unsuspecting computer users into handing over their credit card info; that is what all these and similar scams come down to.

Here is only a small selection of articles from this blog that deal with various aspects of this situation - with NO claim of completeness at all:
The newest twist in this never ending saga happens as follows: You are on a web site you have been on many, many times, let's say for information on your favorite hobby. Naturally after having used that web site for years you assume it is "clean" and the information from there is valid.

But suddenly you get a pop up window or some other kind of message informing you that "your computer has been reported" to some "Windows Security" team or it "is infected with 567 viruses" or similar.
This sort of pop up is by definition a scam!
  • Do not click anywhere in this window.
  • If applicable DO NOT call the toll free phone number givin in the message.
  • Do NOT "x out" of this window, that is do not click on the "red X" in the top right corner of the window to close it.
The only safe way out of such windows and/or messages is to close them with Alt+F4, that is holding down the Alternate key and while holding this key down pressing function key F4.

Beside getting out of this window safely I would avoid ever again going to this web site. There is almost always some alternative.

Why did I above say "... is by definition a scam"?
  1. There is no "Windows Security" team or company or anything even vaguely similar.
  2. You Windows operating system does NOT report any info to anybody; only malicious software does that!
  3. Neither Microsoft nor any of their partner companies care about your computer's and your well being! 
You don't even have to take alone my word for it; here are links to two very official web pages about that exact same issue: 
  1. Tech Support Scams from the Federal Trade Commission  and
  2. Avoid tech support phone scams from Microsoft's Safety & Security Center

Stay safe and always(!) heed the first of my 10 Commandments Of Safe Computing.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.



Thursday, June 25, 2015

2015-06-25 WBKV Talking Points (June 25th 2015)


Please click this link if you are looking for information on Windows 10.

Emergency patch for Adobe Flash Player; details here (June 24 2015)

Windows 10 not necessary for Windows 7 users, IMHO at least:
  • If you are still running Windows XP I can't help you.
     
  • If you are running Windows Vista you better think about a new computer (mostly).
     
  • If you have a stable Windows 7 system that does dependably what you want to do then don't upgrade to Windows 10.

  • If you are still on Windows 8 you are long overdue to upgrade to 8.1.
     
  • If you have Windows 8.1 then upgrading to Windows 10 will eliminate most of Windows 8's annoying quirks and shortcomings.

Beware of scam phone calls for "computer support". Your computer does NOT "report" about viruses, to nobody.
   -  This is an oldie (Feb. 2013) but still very actively exploited.

Curious about Windows 10? Microsoft has a free book "Introducing Windows 10 for IT Professionals here (scroll down just a few lines to see the title!).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Important Update for Adobe Flashplayer


Please click this link if you are looking for information on Windows 10.

Adobe released an emergency patch for it's ubiquitous Flash Player.

You should now be at least on version 18.0.0.194.

You can check the version in Control Panel, Flash Player; click on the Update tab.

Caution: Adobe gets paid to coax you to download and install McAfee Security Scan.
If you run your computer like I recommend (and may have set up) then you do not need/want this blind passenger!
Adobe's update web page looks like this:


Watch for the always pre-selected check box (big red arrow); please DE-select the check mark before you click on "Install now".

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Windows 10 - What We Know


Update 7/30.2015:       Please keep reading anyway for the nitty gritty!
The first reports about upgrades to Windows 10 are in! Generally it seems to have gone surprisingly well with only a few minor glitches. Good job, Microsoft.


This article was originally posted early in June 2015. Because of it's relevance and IMHO importance I have kept it and will keep it up-to-date by adding dated Updates to it. For the time being I will put a reference to this article at the top of all future posts in this blog.

Most home users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 have been graced via Windows Update with a new icon "Get Windows 10" in the system tray;  I wrote about it on June 4th.

I do not claim to be complete but please let me tell you what the major changes (improvements?) in Windows 10 supposedly will be:
  1. "Universal apps" (formerly Metro or Full Screen apps) can now be resized, positioned a.s.o., that is run as a "normal" window. 
  2. The Start Menu is back plus live tiles.
  3. Again we will have a unified Settings panel aka Control Panel.  
  4. On hybrid and/or convertible and tablet computers Windows 10 will move easily between keyboard, mouse and touch usage. 
  5. The Cortana digital assistant enables voice control. 
  6. XBOX and XBOX Live integration (implementation?)  
  7. Spartan web browser instead of IE.
  8. Win 10 will run on cell phones.  
  9. Snap Assist 
  10. Holo Lens (to be seen)
My comments with identical numbering:
  1. For Windows 8.1 users maybe an advantage; but frankly, I know nobody who even uses Windows 8 in Full Screen mode.  
  2. BIG plus for Windows 8 users - but not for my customers who all have a Start Menu.
  3. BIG plus for Win 8 users; a no-brainer otherwise. 
  4. I would have taken for granted this "Continuum Mode" and think of it as a self evident requirement on such computers. 
  5. Careful, it is said to crate permanent web activity and to give results of "shallow" content and gossipy information on a rather low intellectual level. 
  6. Most teenagers I know don't want their parents to even only touch their game consoles. A non-issue for my customers.
  7. A new web browser  from Microsoft is long overdue. For the longest time we have very good alternatives to IE; I recommend my customers stay with Firefox. New is not always good ... 
  8. What a marketing stunt...
  9.  A feature that supposedly suggests "other" documents ... Ha?
  10. Usefulness remains to be seen. New is not always better ...
As you easily can see there is nothing really compelling to upgrade, for me at least.

There will be bugs of the first days, that is unavoidable in such a huge, complex piece of software. No corporate testing can ever simulate what really happens in hundreds of millions of home computers.
And, the free upgrade offer is good at least through July 28 2016.
 
My tip to my customers:
Wait and see.  If you have a stable and well working Windows 7 or 8.1 system Windows 10 has only marginal improvements over Win 7 but it irons out quirks and annoyances of Win 8.
 Let others fight through the problems of the first hour.

Furthermore we still live with Microsoft's word that these "free" upgrades will be "valid", that is legally usable only until January 2020 or 2023 respectively; details in this article.We still do not know what Microsoft's plans are beyond that.

Update 6/16/2015:
Not every computer is worth upgrading. Your computer should have at least 4GB of main memory (RAM) and 120GB (or more) of free disk space on the C: drive.
If you have a computer with less than 4GB of RAM and/or it runs a 32-bit version of Windows 7 and/or it is over 5 years old you might want to consider a new machine.
Update 6/20/2015:
Windows Media Center will disappear. In it's place we will get a new program to play DVDs. Lucky me, I never had the time or inclination to use my PC as a media machine.
And the Sidebar Gadgets are (finally!) gone; they were unsafe anyway.
Then there will be changes to the way updates are delivered. Details are still missing but it may be that MS will in the future deliver updates as soon as they are available.

IMHO for the non-technical home user long overdue!

I do believe that "reserving" an update to Windows 10 is a pointless exercise. It will lead to an upgrade to Win 10 in the course of running Windows Update - which my customers usually do weekly.

I advise to start an upgrade of this magnitude only AFTER you have a full image backup of your system and then to do the upgrade on your own schedule.
 

Previous sentence is of UTMOST IMPORTANCE!

Update 6/25/2015:
And here my advice for my customers concerning Windows 10:
  • I can't help you if you are still running Windows XP.
     
  • If you are running Windows Vista you better think about a new computer (mostly).
     
  • If you have a stable Windows 7 SP1 system that does dependably what you want to do then don't upgrade to Windows 10.

  • If you are still on Windows 8 you are long overdue to upgrade to 8.1.
     
  • If you have Windows 8.1 then upgrading to Windows 10 will eliminate most of Windows 8's annoying quirks and shortcomings.
 But in any case and wherever your system is coming from (7 SP1 or 8.1) your system needs to have ALL updates installed that are available from Windows Update before you think about the upgrade to Windows 10. 

And although I repeat myself you need to have a known good system image backup - and the proven ability to successfully restore it to your system!

These things need to be verified BEFORE you even begin to seriously think about any upgrade of the operating system.  


Update 7/10/15:

Watch out! Microsoft has included Wi-Fi Sense in Windows 10. Here is a lengthy and detailed article about it.

You have to be fully aware that the upgrade to Windows 10 will completely wipe out your current Windows 7 or 8.1 operating system; compatible programs you have installed and you date files will be retained.

Please attempt to upgrade ONLY if you have a proven good full system image backup. This backup needs to be created now, that is before you attempt the upgrade.

We do not know yet if Win 10 will contain any means to roll back if the upgrade fails. And I believe it is really tempting fate to blindly trust an automated tools in these situations. Past experience has clearly shown that a clean install is always better than an in-place upgrade when we deal with the operating system.

And to top it off: 
 If you have a computer that connects to a wireless network, either at home or any place else, then you must read this article!

Update 7/22/15:

If my article is too "technical" for you then read this text from Vic Laurie; Vic has very special experiences and a great talent  to express himself very understandably.


As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Windows 10 - Not Quite Yet!


Recently customers ask me questions about their computer system "wanting" to update to Windows 10. My current take:
Do not allow Windows 10 to be installed - yet.
Officially Windows 10 will be released July 29th 2015. Any offers before that date seem to be "fishy", to say the least.

Here we have a good example that Microsoft is sneaky. This icon and it's associated program(s) came as a recommended upate with Windows Update. This is not a functional improvement of your existing Windows system, it is blunt marketing.

Yes, I consider this to be fishy even if it comes from the legitimate icon that Microsoft puts an our machines via Windows Update. Not every computer should be upgraded to Windows 10 and especially not before the final release is out.

This is not really an offer to upgrade now, it is an attempt to sign you up for a "first in line" upgrade.

But even after the final release patience is recommended; there always have been "bugs of the first hour"; don't get "burned" if you are an average, non-technical home user.

In the near future I will publish another article on updating to Windows 10.

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.




Saturday, May 16, 2015

Windows 10 - Less Fog But Still A Questions

We have news about Windows 10. Microsoft just announced their plans for the release of Windows 10.

All users now running computers with Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 (NO mention of Windows 8!) can via Windows Update download and install Windows 10 for free! Users still running Windows 8: You better update to 8.1 NOW!

Users now running Windows 7 or 8.1 Home Premium will upgrade to Windows 10 Home.
Users now running Windows 7 or 8.1 Professional will upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

This blog is for my customers; all of them are home or small business users and that is why I will not talk about the "corporate" versions; only companies with "Volume License" contracts can get them anyway.

Quote from the original Microsoft blog post (emphasis from me):
"... once a qualified Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, we will continue to keep it up to date for the supported lifetime of the device, keeping it more secure, and introducing new features and functionality over time – for no additional charge."
That IMHO clears the "confusion" about pricing.
If you upgrade a Windows 7 system to Windows 10 you can use it until January 2020 when Microsoft will terminate support for Win 7.

If you upgrade a Windows 8.1 system to Windows 10 you can use it until January 2023 when Microsoft will terminate support for Win 8.1.

And what happens to an upgraded system after January 2020/2023? No mention and maybe Microsoft does not yet know themselves.

This IMHO is a true change in Microsoft's attitude and I welcome it. 

I will keep reporting once the first experiences with upgrades to Win 10 become know.

A recommendation for my customers: Don't rush it, wait a bit.

If your Win7 or 8.1 system is running great and smoothly there is IMHO no compelling reason to upgrade to Windows 10. For my "typical" home users Win 10 just does not contain technical advances that justify the potential risks of such major change to a computer system.

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

2015-05-14 WBKV Talking Points (May 14th 2015)


All Win 7 & 8 users can upgrade to Win10 for free – for one year (only?).
Then licensing will kick in? Home user be careful! I assume MS goes to a subscription model, that is yearly licensing. Win7 is paid for and good until Jan, 2020, Win8 until Jan 2023.
2016 is free but you would have to
pay again for 2017, 18,19 (20, 21, 22).

New ways to infect computers:
“… emails ostensibly sent from legitimate companies with which we might or might not have had previous business. ... often includes a link requesting to update your account. The legitimate company has no idea it’s name is being abused. Anyone who is familiar with the company might click the link and immediately have their machine attacked.”
Even small company's names are now being used.

Most malware is directed at Windows, not Mac and a phenomenal rise in malware for Android phones; Android is an open system. When installing Android apps, you give permission for the app to use various system features. Nobody who installs Android (or Windows) software reads the EULAs and permission notices; we simply accept them with a click.”
Some outrageous statements and demands have been discovered in some EULAs by people who actually read them. A list of some of the funnier ones is here:
makeuseof.com.

Malicious advertising on the rise. My customers are safe if they use the computer as I recommend, that is Firefox browser with Adblock Plus extension enabled.

Windows Server 2003 will go out of support after July 14th. You have to update! Running an outdated server is hazardous to everyone connected to it!

If someone calls you and claims to be in any way affiliated with Microsoft IT IS A SCAM!

Download portals (cnet.com, download.com et al) are huge malware slingers.
Have your DNS settings been tampered with? Test here (but know what is correct…)


Upgrade to Windows 10?

Any time between June and September Microsoft will release Windows 10 ("this summer" is all we know).

Microsoft has officially said that users of Windows 7 and of Windows 8 and 8.1 will for one year be able to upgrade for free to Windows 10. There is a little bit of a disclaimer though: The footnote says "for the lifetime of the device".

Upgrade "for free"? That sounds (almost) too good to be true. Around Microsoft I have learned to be very cautious. Trying to find more information about this I found two very different interpretations:
  1. As long as it happens within one year after Win 10's official release you can upgrade to Win 10 for free "for the lifetime of the device".

    What if your well maintained Win 7 computer still runs great in January 2020 and you want to keep it running? Will you then have to pay for Windows 10? If yes how much? Upgrade or new license fee?
     
  2. As long as it happens within one year after Win 10's official release you can upgrade to Win 10 for free. After the first "free" year Microsoft will switch to a subscription model and you need to pay a monthly or yearly license fee to be allowed to use Windows 10.

    This would amount to a huge money grab. With your current system you have paid for the license to use the operating system; with Windows 7 until Jan. 2020, with Windows 8 until Jan. 2023. Microsoft wants to give you one year for free and then they will start to charge?

    Let's say you upgrade from Win 7 to Win 10; 2016 would be free but you would have to pay an additional license fee for three years (2017, 2018and 2019). For upgrades from Win 8 it would be six more years!
For my customers "the device" certainly is their computer. There is no better definition so I assume that "lifetime" is the time for which Microsoft supports the operating system of the computer. Win 7 support ends in January 2020, Win 8 support ends in January 2023.

The details of what really will happen are unknown. Currently my advice is
Do not upgrade right away, wait until the fog has cleared and we have answers to the questions above.
In another article in the near future I will outline the main "improvements" that will come with Windows 10.

Update 5-15-2015: My concerns about an eventual money grab were unfounded. Something up to now unimaginable has happened, you can read about it here.

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.
 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

2015-05-04 WTKM Talking Points (May 4th 2015)

All Win 7 & 8 users can upgrade to Win10 for free – for one year (only?).
Then licensing will kick in? Home user be careful! I assume MS goes to a subscription model, that is yearly licensing. Win7 is paid for and good until Jan, 2020, Win8 until Jan 2023.
2016 is free but you would have to
pay again for 2017, 18,19 (20, 21, 22).

Macro malware is making a comeback with one nineties nasty infecting half a million computers, Microsoft says. It's 2015 and half a million people still click on stuff we knew was bad in the '90s. Users should stick to MS's decade-old advice and avoid executing macros

Have an LG cell phone? Running LG's Monitor software? If Yes to both your PC is at risk! LG Monitor disables UAC (User Account Control)..

Dell System Detect: All versions older than 6.0.14 are easily hacked! DSD does not get automatically updated, even if Dell's updater is running!

Motorola's DOCSIS 3.0 SBG 6580 cable broadband modem is very easy to hack! Could open your computer to the Internet. Arris, a spin-off brand, has same problem.

Verizon's Risk Assessment Team says that 2 out of 3 times a computer gets hacked the reason was a weak password. Runner-ups are clicking on links in emails and opening attachments.

If someone calls you and claims to be in any way affiliated with Microsoft IT IS A SCAM! 

Download portals (cnet.com, download.com et al) are huge malware slingers.
 
Have your DNS settings been tampered with? Test here (but know what is correct…).

Hackers move away from Java and to Adobe Flash. Check version and update! Per 5-03-15 version 18.0.0.95 is most current. Beware: Many false downloads!





Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2015-04-30 WBKV Talking Points (April 30th 2015)


All Win 7 & 8 users can upgrade to Win10 for free – for one year (only?).
Then licensing will kick in? Home user be careful! I assume MS goes to a subscription model, that is yearly licensing. Win7 is paid for and good until Jan, 2020, Win8 until Jan 2023.
2016 is free but you would have to
pay again for 2017, 18,19 (20, 21, 22).

Have an LG cell phone? Running LG's Monitor software? If Yes to both your PC is at risk! LG Monitor disables UAC (User Account Control)..

Dell System Detect: All versions older than 6.0.14 are easily hacked! DSD does not get automatically updated, even if Dell's updater is running!

Motorola's DOCSIS 3.0 SBG 6580 cable broadband modem very easy to hack! Could open your computer to the Internet. Arris, a spin-off brand, has same problem.

Verizon's Risk Assessment Team: 2 out of 3 times computer gets hacked reason was weak password. Runner-ups are clicking on links in emails and opening attachments.

If someone calls you and claims to be in any way affiliated with Microsoft IT IS A SCAM!

Download portals (cnet.com, download.com et al) are huge malware slingers.

Have your DNS settings been tampered with? Test here (but know what is correct…)

Adobe's cash-less bug bounty program: Can it ever work?

Symantec splitting security (Norton) from storage business. The beginning of the end (like HP)? It will take time; giants die slowly

Hackers move away from Java and to Adobe Flash. Check version and update if necessary! Per 4-29-15 version 18.0.0.95 is current. Beware: Many false downloads!


As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

 


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bye bye Viruses, Hello Carelessness




It's almost like in the Everly Brothers song "Bye Bye Love" from 1957. They sang
Bye bye happiness, hello loneliness...
I am enticed to, no, don't be afraid, not sing but say
Bye bye viruses, hello carelessness...
In August 2014 I wrote in this blog the 2014 Update On Malicious Programs. Everything in this article is still valid today – which in the fast changing world of computers is astonishing all by itself. Self replicating viruses that "find and infect" our computers by their own accord have gone almost extinct.
What has massively changed though are the tricks and methods used by miscreants to foist their malicious junk software on our computers. It is so bad that I feel compelled to say
Do NOT click on any link in any email,
do NOT open any email attachment
and NEVER click in any advertisement.
Does that sound extreme to you? Good, because it is extreme. We are in an extreme situation and it's getting worse so extreme measures seem appropriate.
In the meantime you have learned to immediately delete emails with an unfamiliar sender address. But what about the email from that buddy of yours who always sends all the jokes? My advice is to IGNORE it! Just hit the Delete button. If that email really was from him and if he were a nice guy he would have told you in the email why and what he sends there. If he does not have the decency to do that you better err on the side of caution and delete that email; you may “miss” a joke but what is that compared to $100 or $200 cost for a good clean-up job?
Another way how modern malware (called PuPs) is distributed are dirty tricks pulled on us when we apply required updates. Even big, well known companies participate in these schemes; names that come to mind as examples are Oracle, Norton, McAfee and Adobe. Some visual examples are here.
And don't get me going on advertisements. Listen up:
If you see advertisements on your computer screen then you computer most likely already is compromised. Get it cleaned up!
And then the sneaky methods that well known download web sites like Download.com, Cnet.com and other use. You want to download that nice free little program and what they give you is a specially crafted downloader program that in turn is supposed to download the program you actually want. But what you get are one or several PuPs and then the program you really wanted.
The only method to help here is to watch for the tricks, traps and deceptions. 
In July 2013 I published my 10 Commandments Of Safe Computing. To heed the first of these has become more important than ever before; it reads:
Thou shalt read and think(!) before you click.
Be vigilant, pay attention to details and always remember: If it sounds too good to be true it usually is not true; especially in this day and age on the Internet.

As usual I welcome suggestions and comments right here in the blog.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.