Published February 16, 2016
Click on the image below to view Microsoft’s infographic of The Risky Business of Outdated Technology!
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Published March 18, 2015
Microsoft seems to be (mostly) following Apple’s OSX strategy by making its own upcoming OS “Windows 10” a free upgrade. According to Thurrott.com, “Microsoft says it will deliver the final version of Windows 10 to 190 countries sometime between June 21 and September 23, 2015.” The update will be available to existing Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 customers.
Here is how users will be able to get this free upgrade:
More information from Microsoft regarding Windows 10 can be found here.
Published November 10, 2014
Fake antivirus support is a problem. We know fake “Microsoft representatives” call targeted Windows users to persuade them that their computers are inundated with warnings and errors as shown in the Windows Event Viewer, a legitimate Microsoft application that lists system information. We even watched Jerome Segura, a senior security researcher at Malwarebytes—catch some of these over-the-phone tactics on video.
Unfortunately it seems scammers still use the telephone to cold call folks pretending to work for Microsoft (or some other reputable software company) in order to convince users that their computer needs “fixing.” But as users get smarter, scammers get bolder. Recently, scammers have begun claiming that they need immediate remote access to computers in order to fix security threats. Once they convince the user to allow them remote access in order to “take care of the problem,” these savvy scammers then suggest installing fake malicious software—in order to “protect” the machine from future infections.
Just a few days ago, this happened to one of our clients. After receiving a phone call from someone claiming to be from “Microsoft Security Services,” Sally, as we’ll call her, was told that her computer had been hacked by someone in Austin, TX, and the “representative” claimed he needed to remote in to fix it right away.
Of course, Sally was panicked—a normal and reasonable reaction. Following the scammer’s instructions, she went to a website, entered a few different numbers, clicked a few “ok” prompts, and then allowed the scammer to take control of her computer. As he worked through these steps with her, he used a few tricks to fool her into thinking that her computer was badly infected when, in fact, it was fine.
In order to trick Sally, the scammer pulled up legitimate, normal IT troubleshooting tools - such as:
...etc. in order to confuse her. For someone in the IT business, like us, these screens are commonplace and useful for regular computer maintenance; for others, these look like a bunch of numbers and error messages which make no sense and cause serious alarm or fear that the computer is terribly at risk.
After driving this fear home, the scammer told Sally he could fix the problem for a fee. Sally then gave him her credit card number, but after a few minutes, the scammer claimed that the credit card transaction had failed and that he would need to try a different card. At that point, Sally said she wanted to call us, her IT support. Of course, the scammer tried to convince her otherwise, but she knew better.
After she told me what happened, I not only recommended she immediately cancel her credit card, but I immediately inspected her machine.
After a few minutes on her computer, I realized something wasn’t right. While I performed various diagnostics, the mouse cursor moved, windows closed, and different things stopped running. Thinking it was Sally, I asked her to wait until I finished checking things out. But it wasn’t Sally. Instead, it was the scammer still connected to the machine, and he was trying to install malware!
Immediately it was a race to win full control of the computer. The scammer closed programs and tools as fast as I could get them open. He eventually tried to lock the machine by installing a fake AV program with a bogus warning, “FBI Has Locked This Computer Due To Fraudulent Activity.” He also tried to encrypt files in order to hold Sally’s data for ransom. Luckily I was able to run a quick series of commands to end the rogue processes, before blocking the scammer’s network access. He could have won; it was close—too close.
You might be wondering, “Isn’t antivirus software supposed to protect my computer from this kind of stuff?” Good question. Here’s our answer: AV software does not, and more importantly, CANNOT protect a computer from every threat out there. You have to think of antivirus software like suspenders on pants. They can go a long way in preventing your pants from falling down, but if you pull hard enough, they will still fall off. AV software is just the same. It can go a long way to prevent your machine from becoming infected, but if you click “yes” enough times and give scammers access to your machine, even the best antivirus software will be defeated.
The biggest lesson to learn: educate yourself. User education is the most important factor to not getting infected and/or scammed. Be cautious before clicking “yes” and NEVER trust someone that calls out-of-the-blue, claiming he or she is from Microsoft or some other well-known software or security company. Microsoft and other such companies will NEVER call you to let you know that your computer is infected and then ask for money to fix it.
(In addition, there are convincing illegitimate websites and pop-up ads designed to trick users into believing that their computers are infected, that they need immediate assistance, and that salvation requires a phone call to the scammer. It’s usually something like, “WARNING: Your computer is severely infected. Call 1-800…”)
Published July 24, 2013
On July 1, 2013, Microsoft announced the end of the 15 year program, TechNet Subscriptions. Microsoft’s TechNet Subscription Program is a paid program which allows partners to download full copies of most software titles to be used for lab or testing purposes. In an email announcement to partners, Microsoft said “In recent years, we have seen a usage shift from paid to free evaluation experiences and resources. As a result, Microsoft has decided to retire the TechNet Subscriptions service and will discontinue sales on August 31, 2013″. Many have tried to guess the real reasons behind Microsoft’s decision to end the program because the substitutes Microsoft left in place, though free offerings, are just not adequate.
IT pros are now going to have to struggle with time-limited versions and will be more likely to lose interest when reviewing and testing newer products because, like me, most of us never know how busy we’re going to be. To have to go through the bother of tracking when a particular piece of software was installed or to fire up a program only to get an error that it expired, may not make it worth it.
So, why did Microsoft make this decision? Many believe that Microsoft is shutting down TechNet subscriptions to force IT professionals and companies towards “cloud based” solutions like Office 365, Hosted Exchange and Windows Azure, where profits are based on subscription models rather than one-time purchases.
I know this is crummy news, but their might me a glimmer of hope. Thomas Lee and Jonathan Medd pointed out that Microsoft tried closing the MVP program once. The announcement caused uproar leading to MVPs organizing. They fought closing the program by writing Microsoft directly. Inboxes of Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and vice presidents soon flooded as supporters expressed the value of the MVP program. Three days later, Microsoft recanted and reinstated the MVP program. The event is chronicled here.
The similarities between the MVP and TechNet cancellations are very similar. Despite what skeptics say, it just might be possible to convince Microsoft to keep TechNet open. Microsoft is always listening, believe it or not (Just look what happened with the Xbox One). Microsoft is watching online, and collecting data for evidence that customers are unhappy. Many, many people have taken to blogs and articles to voice their anger. A quick Google or Bing search for “TechNet subscription” will give confirmation. Microsoft just HAS to notice all of this backlash.
If you feel compelled to act, please write Microsoft. Start with Steve Ballmer. His email address should be email@example.com. Outline in your own words reasons for keeping TechNet open and its importance to you. Also, a public petition, entitled, “Continue TechNet or Create an Affordable Alternative to MSDN”, is attempting to gather enough signatures to get attention from Microsoft so they will consider reinstating TechNet subscriptions, or at least, provide an affordable alternative.
The petition has over 6,500 signed supporters from all over the globe. As the word continues to spread throughout the IT community, I expect the number of signatures to keep growing, especially when subscriptions start to run out. If this news is reaching you for the first time, I highly suggest showing your support by signing the petition.
You can sign the petition at Continue TechNet Or Create An Affordable Alternative To MSDN.
Published April 18, 2013
When Microsoft first revealed Windows 8, complaints started rolling in almost immediately. The lack of the traditional Start Menu and the fact that Windows would no longer be booting directly to the Windows desktop were just a couple examples of the many complaints that continue to trickle in regarding the new OS.
Rumor has it that Windows 8.1, codenamed Blue, will possibly offer preferences that will enable booting directly to the Windows 8 desktop and the ability to bring back the Windows Start Menu. On April 14th, MicrosoftPortal.net blogged about how the twinui.dll file found in the leaked Windows Blue Build 9364 contains code that controls whether the computer will boot directly to the desktop. As previous builds of Windows Blue did not contain this option, it’s pretty clear that Microsoft may be giving in to customer complaints and are working to fix them.
As we all know, Microsoft is unpredictable when it comes to making changes. These are just rumors at this point, so we can’t count on these fixes to actually happen. We won’t know until 8.1 is released in August 2013. If you can’t wait for the Windows Blue, programs like Start8 from Stardock may be your answer. Start8 allows users to tweak the Windows 8 experience to more closely mimic that of Windows 7 and XP. You can boot straight to the desktop, skip the new (and sometimes confusing) tiled start menu and bring back the start button.
Windows 8 has some great new features that make it more secure and easier to troubleshoot than previous versions. Bringing back the Start Menu and the ability to boot directly to the desktop will (in my opinion) make Windows 8 the best Microsoft OS yet!