How to make sure your Windows PC won’t get hit by ransomware like WannaCry

Microsoft has released MS17-010 and other patches to block worms like WannaCry. Here are the key details

You need to get your Windows computer protected against WannaCry and its ilk. Here are detailed instructions on how to see if you need patching and, if you do, how to get patched.

By far the easiest method is to simply run Windows Update and install all important patches. You may not be able to do that—or may not want to do that—for several important reasons:

  • You may not want all of the latest patches, whether for compatibility reasons or because you don’t trust Microsoft’s additional snooping in Windows 7 and 8.1 Monthly Rollups
  • If you’re using Windows XP or Windows 8, Windows Update doesn’t work
  • If you’re running Windows 7 or 8.1 on a newer computer (Kaby Lake and Ryzen processors, as well as several others), Microsoft may have gratuitously blocked Windows Update
  • You may have problems running Windows Update for myriad reasons, and you don’t want to futz around with figuring out the reason or resetting while the threat lingers

Your approach to checking if you need the patches, and then installing them, will vary depending on your operating system.

Windows XP, Windows 8

You don’t have the WannaCry patch, unless you downloaded and installed it already. Follow the links under “Further Resources” at the bottom of the Technet page to download and run the installer. Michael Horowitz on Computerworld has detailed instructions for XP.

(Note: I had a question in an earlier post about installing this patch on pirate copies of Windows XP. I’ve seen a lot of pirate copies of WinXP, and I don’t trust any of them. If you install Microsoft’s patch on a pirate XP machine, you may well brick it. On the other hand, if you don’t install the patch, somebody else may come in and brick it for you. If I had to do it, I’d back up everything and roll the dice. But be ready to install Win7 from scratch if the XP pirate doesn’t come back up for air.)

Vista

To see if the patch is already installed, click Start > Control Panel > System and Security. Under Windows Update click the View installed updates link. Look for one marked “Security Update for Windows Vista (KB4012598).” If you don’t have it, download it from the Microsoft Update Catalog, and install it.

Windows 7

If you can’t get Windows Update to work because Microsoft is punishing you for running Win7 on a newer computer, be of good cheer. The fact that you can’t run Windows Update means that you’ve already installed the fix.

For everybody else, if you don’t want to install all of the current patches, you can see if the patch is already installed. Click Start > Control Panel > System and Security. Under Windows Update click the View installed updates link. Scan the list (which can be alphabetized by clicking the box marked Name, or sorted by date) to see if you have any of these patches:

  • 2017-05 Security Monthly Quality Rollup for Windows 7 (KB4019264)
  • April, 2017 Preview of Monthly Quality Rollup for Windows 7 (KB4015552)
  • April, 2017 Security Monthly Quality Rollup for Windows 7 (KB4015549)
  • March, 2017 Security Monthly Quality Rollup for Windows 7 (KB4012215)
  • March, 2017 Security Only Quality Update for Windows 7 (KB4012212)

If you have any of those patches already installed, then you are good to go and you can sleep well at night. There’s no reason to download or install anything, unless you have absolutely none of those patches. I’m not recommending that you install something–just look at the list and see if you have any of these patches.

If you have none of the patches, download and install the March 2017 Security Only Quality Update for Windows 7 (KB4012212) for 32-bit or 64-bit.

(Note that the list is quite deliberate and, I think, exact—except for two earlier Rollup Previews, which are unlikely to appear on your computer. In particular, if you’re manually installing security-only patches in the “Group B” style, you must have the March 2017 Security Only Quality Update for Windows 7 (KB4012212). Other security-only patches don’t include the MS17-010 fix.)

Windows 8.1

Again, if Microsoft is blocking Windows Update because your computer is running on a Kaby Lake, Rizen, Carrizo DDR4, AMD RX-480, or any of a handful of similar newer processors, you’re fine. The fix has already been installed.

Otherwise, to see if the patch is already installed, click Start > Control Panel > System and Security. Under Windows Update click the View installed updates link. Scan the list (which can be alphabetized by clicking the box marked Name, or sorted by date) to see if you have ANY of these patches:

  • 2017-05 Security Monthly Quality Rollup for Windows 8.1 (KB4019215)
  • April, 2017 Preview of Monthly Quality Rollup for Windows 8.1 (KB4015553)
  • April, 2017 Security Monthly Quality Rollup for Windows 8.1 (KB4015550)
  • March, 2017 Security Monthly Quality Rollup for Windows 8.1 (KB4012216)
  • March, 2017 Security Only Quality Update for Windows 7 (KB4012213)

If you have any of those patches, you’re fine. Again, I’m not suggesting that you install anything unless none of those patches are installed. If you have none of those patches, download and install the March 2017 Security Only Quality Update for Windows 8.1 (KB4012213) for 32-bit or 64-bit.

See the note above about security-only patches. Again, I believe this list is complete and accurate.

Windows 10

While it’s true that WannaCry doesn’t attack Win10 computers, that shouldn’t make you complacent. The faulty SMBv1 driver is alive and well on Win10 machines, and it could be used in the future to take over your PC. You need to make sure you’re patched.

Creators Update (version 1703) is fine.

Anniversary Update (version 1607) – Check your build number. If you have Build 14393.953 or later, you’re fine. If you don’t, use Windows Update to install the latest build 14393.1198. Yes, I know that violates the current MS-DEFCON 2 setting, but you need to get up to or beyond 14393.953.

Fall Update (version 1511) – Use the steps above to check your build number. You have to be at build 10586.839 or later. Abandon the MS-DEFCON rating system if you must to get up to or beyond that build number.

RTM (“version 1507”) – Follow the same procedure to make sure you’re up to or beyond build 10240.17319. And remember that your system’s toast soon.

======================================

Nice and easy, huh?

Everybody needs to get their systems updated, at least to the point mentioned here. Yes, that includes your sainted Aunt Martha.

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Windows XP is still the third most popular operating system in the world

 

Windows XP is still the third most popular operating system in the world

 

Bill Gates Windows XPMicrosoft cofounder Bill Gates.Microsoft

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People still haven’t learnt their lesson when it comes to running Windows XP, it seems.

Attackers took advantage of a known, major flaw in Windows XP to launch a cyberattack which is still causing chaos globally.

But the operating system still runs on many PCs around the world, even though Microsoft stopped providing security support on April 8, 2014. 

According to statistics from Net Applications, it’s actually the third most popular operating system globally, with 7.04% market share.

That means an out-of-date, unsupported operating system is more popular than any version of Windows 8, any version of Mac OS X, and Linux.

Windows 7 and Windows 10 are more popular than XP, with around 49% and 26% market share respectively.

Here are the top five most popular operating systems, according to Net Applications:

  • Windows 7: 48.5%
  • Windows 10: 26.28%
  • Windows XP: 7.04%
  • Windows 8.1: 6.96%
  • Mac OS X 10.12: 3.21%

How many XP-powered PCs does that translate to?

Analyst house Gartner predicted that there would be 2 billion PCs in use globally by 2014, but there have been no updated figures since then. If we conservatively take 2 billion as the number, that suggests there at least 140 million PCs still running Windows XP.

Europol, the EU’s policing arm, warned that the cyberattack, known as “WannaCry,” will continue to wreak havoc this week as people return to work and log onto their PCs. WannaCry is ransomware — malicious software that encrypts people’s data, then demands payment in exchange for decryption. It has hit at least 200,000 victims across 150 countries so far, according to Europol, and caused chaos in the UK’s NHS, Telefónica in Spain, and many other organisations globally.

Even though it no longer supports XP, Microsoft took the unusual step of issuing an emergency patch for Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003 on Friday night.

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HP issues fix for ‘keylogger’ found on several laptop models

A security researcher says an audio driver is recording every keystroke entered, accessible to any person or malware that knows where to look.

(Image: CNET/CBS Interactive)

An audio driver installed in several HP laptops contains a keylogger-type feature that records every keystroke entered into the computer into a log file, according to a security researcher.

Swiss security firm Modzero said in a security advisory posted Thursday that the keylogger activity was discovered in the Conexant HD audio driver package (version 1.0.0.46 and earlier), found on dozens of HP business and enterprise laptop models, including HP Elitebook, ProBook, and ZBook models — including the latest Folio G1 laptop.

Anyone (or malware) with local access to the user’s files on an affected computer, could obtain passwords, visited web addresses, private messages, and other sensitive information.

HP has since rolled out patches to remove the keylogger, which will also delete the log file containing the keystrokes.

A spokesperson for HP said in a brief statement: “HP is committed to the security and privacy of its customers and we are aware of the keylogger issue on select HP PCs. HP has no access to customer data as a result of this issue.”

HP vice-president Mike Nash said on a call after-hours on Thursday that a fix is available on Windows Update and HP.com for newer 2016 and later affected models, with 2015 models receiving patches Friday. He added that the keylogger-type feature was mistakenly added to the driver’s production code and was never meant to be rolled out to end-user devices.

Nash didn’t how many models or customers were affected, but did confirm that some consumer laptops were affected.

He also confirmed that a handful of consumer models that come with Conexant drivers are affected.

The pre-installed audio driver installs a driver located in the Windows system folder, which is scheduled to start every time the user logs in. Modzero describes the application as a crude way to check to see if a hotkey was pressed by monitoring “all keystrokes made by the user to capture and react to functions such as microphone mute/unmute keys/hotkey.”

The application then logs each keystroke into an unencrypted log file stored in the user’s home directory. The log file is overwritten every time the user logs in.

In the case that a log file doesn’t exist, Modzero says that the driver’s API can allow malware to “silently capture sensitive data by capturing the user’s keystrokes.”

Here’s what it looks like (the keystrokes are stored in hexadecimal code):

(Image: Johan Arwidmark/Twitter)

We weren’t immediately able to confirm the findings, but a security researcher (who wanted to remain nameless) confirmed the findings of the advisory in a message to ZDNet.

Conexant did not respond to a request for comment at the time of writing.

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Government cracks down on tech support scam

The scams tricked people into thinking they had viruses and malware, and charged them for unnecessary repairs.

 

Government cracks down on tech support scam

The scams tricked people into thinking they had viruses and malware, and charged them for unnecessary repairs.

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The pop-up ad looks like this.

FTC

Beware any tech support ads that pop up on your computer.

The Federal Trade Commission, along with federal, state and international law enforcement agencies, said on Friday they caught several scam artists who bilked money out of victims through a tech support scheme.

The scam worked like this: An advertisement designed to look like a security alert would pop up on your computer to warn of a virus or malware, directing the user to call a toll-free number. Some of the messages even included a countdown clock.

Once the person called the number, they were connected to telemarketers claiming to work with well-known companies like Apple or Microsoft. These telemarketers would ask for remote access to the computer and discover a large number of problems (that weren’t really there). They would ultimately charge the user hundreds of dollars for unnecessary repairs.

“Tech support scams prey on people’s fear of losing important work, family photos or sensitive identification information,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in a statement.

The FTC crackdown nabbed people in Ohio, Alabama, Florida and Colorado.

 

 

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11 reasons why Apple and Adobe should fear the new Microsoft

by Lori Grunin May 13, 2017 5:00 AM PDT

Windows to get new look with Fluent Design System

At Microsoft Build, execs show how the company is looking to freshen up the Windows interface with new design tools.

 

It looks to me like Microsoft has wrestled control of our creative future from Apple and Adobe.

When you combine Microsoft’s two most recent updates of its Windows 10 operating system — the first Creators Update and the just-announced Fall Creators Update — with its aggressive work in mixed-reality and computing-related hardware, it looks like Windows is becoming the go-to platform for creative work and cross-device productivity.

 

I’m not saying “OMG Apple and Adobe are doomed!” Of course I don’t believe that. Apple makes those popular phones and tablets you’ve probably heard of. Plus we don’t know what Apple’s got up its sleeve for its own WWDC developer conference next month, or what secret projects it may delight us with.

And Adobe has diversified significantly, with a huge chunk of its business coming from the tools that let marketers track and drip-market to you as well as analyze the footprints you leave in your travels around the web (Marketing Cloud). That’s in addition to the Creative Cloud applications like Photoshop, which most people think is Adobe.

Also, it does produce some of the best professional editing tools available. However, while it benefits from improvements in the operating system, it suffers by comparison when Microsoft improves the creative process in ways Adobe should have been doing but probably can’t because its users mire the interfaces in the past and the business model puts its tools beyond the reach of the nonprofessional.

I’m not saying all these changes are win-win. The data Microsoft’s collecting on you — Microsoft Graph — is at the core of almost all its recent development activities, and I think Microsoft has just accelerated the demise of your privacy. (I’m looking forward to reading the updated privacy policies.)

Microsoft is doing its best to build a walled garden like Apple, just one that encompasses a whole lot more territory. If you can’t see the walls, does it matter that they exist? For a lot of people who aren’t me, the answer to that is no.

But I do see a lot of important ways in which Apple and Adobe have ceded ground to Microsoft, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

This time, Microsoft changes the interface

Microsoft has a flourishing Xbox platform, which enabled it to bring aspects of game design — such as the use of light, depth and motion physics — into the interface tools informing its new Fluent Design System. In other words, you should be seeing easier to use, more engaging interfaces. It’s been a while since Apple’s interface design moved the needle on a large scale.

Apple has to play catch-up

All the recent big advances in MacOS are concentrated on desktop-to-mobile cross-platform capabilities like Continuum and Siri, which Microsoft has done its best to emulate in the Fall update. But beyond that, Microsoft is aggressively tackling areas that Apple is publicly ignoring, such as mixed reality (a combination of VR and augmented reality).

Windows Mixed Reality developer kits are available for preorder now and are scheduled to ship this summer. Relatively inexpensive headset packages are set to ship in time for the winter holidays, including a new design of motion controllers for interacting with a virtual environment. Even if Apple debuts similar tools at WWDC, there probably won’t be hardware and software ready to go any time soon.

Microsoft introduces VR motion controllers for Windows 10

 

Pro capabilities are just a memory for Apple

Apple abandoned its creative professionals years ago and instead seems to have spent the past few years concentrating on making all its notebooks thinner rather than more powerful or more useful, and trying to convince itself that the iPad Pro would replace them anyway.

In contrast, Microsoft has created innovative devices like the Surface Pro to jump-start new hardware designs, supported them with OS-based touch and ink capabilities, encouraged the development of powerful new systems and supported veteran workstation builders like HP.

But for Mac Pro devotees who’ve bemoaned the lack of updates, as well as the impractical design of the 2013 model (of which I have firsthand experience), Apple announced a minor refresh of the desktop system earlier this year and promised more in the future. Pros can’t live on promises.

Apple only has a pencil

Even if you think the Apple Pencil is Michelangelo’s stylus, ubiquity is going to win here, especially now that Microsoft has streamlined the way styluses interact with software in the fall update. Yes, the Microsoft Dial isn’t an awesome input accessory, but Apple’s Touch Bar will likely be underutilized while Microsoft has a billion partners willing to step into the breach and innovate. And because Apple has no support for inking, it has no handwriting-recognition engine, which leaves a hole in its skill set.

Apple talks mostly to itself

Apple’s tools concentrate on making software that links… Apple devices. Microsoft’s early failure in the phone business has forced it to embrace development for both iOS and Android, making capabilities like Microsoft’s Cloud Clipboard, which theoretically will make it possible to paste from Windows to any device and vice versa.

Microsoft debuts Windows Story Remix to edit and organize your photos and videos

At Microsoft Build, the company shows a new photo-and-video software tool to better edit, organize and store photos and videos.

 

Microsoft tells the story

Given Apple’s lack of mixed-reality action, this isn’t surprising. Microsoft’s Fall Creator Update debuts an application, the rather boringly titled Microsoft Story Remix, that serves to highlight all the new, system-level capabilities available to developers for building the next generation of mixed-reality applications — which, remember, will work on Windows 10 2-in-1 tablets, not just desktops. Much of Story Remix, um, remixes capabilities we’ve seen in other products. But it also lets you integrate 3D objects that you can anchor to moving subjects — you can anchor ink as well — and to automatically and intelligently revise based on a selection of a different subject to highlight within a composition. It can also incorporate videos and photos shot by friends on their iPhone or Android device.

Most of the automation relies on what Microsoft Graph knows about you, including analysis of your photos and videos, to intelligently choose its themes, clips and photos. It can import a couple of standard 3D file formats, as well as take scenes you’ve created in Paint 3D. As an application, it sounds cool; as an indicator of what you’ll be able to do in other applications, it sounds even cooler. And I can’t help but wonder if some of this will make it into Microsoft’s gaming foundation. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen companies attempt to make 3D “easy” and failed. The missing ingredient: operating system support.

Microsoft offers developers candy

Thanks to Microsoft Graph and Cortana, the company is seemingly giving devs access to a huge amount of data about users and unprecedented ability to market to them directly. For example, when you start reading something on your laptop but don’t finish, your phone — iPhone or Android — will be able to poke you and ask if you want to continue reading. Cortana just became the cross-platform nag you never knew you wanted. (You give it your phone information in the new Phone settings panel on Windows 10.)

But it also gives the site or developer the ability to pop up one of those annoying “Please download our app for a better reading experience!” messages. Provided the app is in the Windows app store, that is. In other words, Microsoft has now made it easier to hound you on whatever platform you’re on, even if it’s not Windows. I’m sorry; I meant provide a better experience for you. This is candy for software companies.

Adobe just looks old in comparison

Adobe’s current applications are woefully behind on mixed reality; it’s 360-degree video editing is sort of blah, its Project Felix 3D model interaction interface is old-fashioned, somewhat difficult to use, works only with stills and — oh yeah — it’s not meant for you. Microsoft’s expanded API will let developers more easily build novel applications with far less user baggage attached to them. Adobe owns the pros now, but it’s in danger of losing the pros of the future.

Adobe and Apple are out of sync

One of the big attractions of Creative Cloud is the actual cloud aspect of it. But Adobe’s file syncing implementation for CC is awful. You have to sync everything or nothing, which means sucking up a lot of space on your local drive. Plus there’s no way to meaningfully organize your files when you view them online and you can only see files related to the account you’re logged into. (And I’ve tried, but Google Drive’s implementation is meh, and juggling multiple accounts and selectively synchronizing are both excessively difficult.)

Microsoft’s OneDrive updates fix the syncing issues of the others; you can sync selectively, and it will download a file only on the first access. And it’s more likely that the people you’re sharing files with will be using the same operating system than have access to a pricey Adobe cloud subscription or use the same storage service like Box or Dropbox. As for Apple, iCloud sort of works on Windows if you want to sync files across platforms, but it’s really geared toward Apple-happy friends and families on one end and large corporations on the other, with little in the middle.

New Microsoft Graph helps connect devices to Android and iPhone

Microsoft shows new software at Build that will make it easier for Windows users to connect across devices and cross-share to other platforms like iOS and Android.

by Stephen Beacham

 

Microsoft knows where you’ve been and takes you back

The new Timeline task history, a cross-device-capable card-based list of what you’ve done recently, lets you quickly jump back to, say, the project you were working on yesterday. That looks like it can streamline a design (or any) workflow immensely, especially if software developers can customize the information that appears on the card and what happens when you click on it. I still think a most frequently used option would be more useful, though.

Microsoft wins the kids…and therefore the future

Want to teach kids how to code? Apple invented an entirely new language (Swift), while Microsoft embraces existing tools kids already know how to use, like Codebuilder for Minecraft in Windows 10 S. As much as I dislike some aspects of Windows 10 S, as a way to get cheap computers into schools, it’s a lot more practical than iPads. Even the conceptual graphics tools Microsoft is delivering are better and cheaper than Adobe’s for kids, especially those at underfunded schools.

What will Apple bring at WWDC?

Naturally, there’s still time for Microsoft to blow it. The initial Creators Update removed options (have you tried to disable Windows Defender on Windows 10 Home lately?). And of course, there’s the browser-and-Bing lockdown in the newly minted Windows 10 S. Plus, it remains to be seen how Microsoft is planning to use all that Graph data, especially given how easy the government is making it to monetize you. (According to a Microsoft spokesperson, those policies aren’t publicly available yet.) But at the very least, Apple is going to have to pull some seriously impressive stuff out of its hat during WWDC to top the good parts of Windows 10.

 

 

 

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Windows 10 OneDrive placeholders are coming back as Files on Demand, in preview this summer

OneDrive users rejoice – as Microsoft has announced it is finally giving placeholders the comeback many have been waiting for. Now known as Files on Demand, users will be able to access files on their Windows 10 devices stored on OneDrive without having to actually sync and download them all.

OneDrive Files on Demand

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Die Hard XP Users decimated by latest Attack

While Microsoft quickly issued fixes for the latest versions of Windows last month, this left Windows XP unprotected. Many of the machines attacked today have been breached simply because the latest Windows updates have not been applied quickly enough, but there are still organizations that continue to run Windows XP despite the risks.

UK hospitals, Telefonica, FedEx, and other businesses were hit by a massive ransomware attack on Friday. Around 75,000 computers in 99 countries were affected by malware known as WannaCry, which encrypts a computer and demands a $300 ransom before unlocking it. The malware was able to spread thanks to flaws in old versions of Windows that were originally used by the NSA to hack into PCs before being made public by the Shadow Brokers group last month.

 

THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR RUNNING AN OLD OUTDATED OS CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET.

 

XP was released before the internet and doesn’t have security.  Does anyone remember that Microsoft literally shut down for months to address the disaster? 

I still here from some users how XP is great and everything else since is garbage, that is just outrageous.  XP is like leaving the keys in you car with the door open and big red arrow pointing to it.   

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