School’s out! Reinforce your PC security

The end of labor means a lot of things… the end of summer, a commemoration of workers day, a time to celebrate some time off with your family. For parents, it is usually a reminder that school is about to start. You can see it coming in from the horizon. You begin to make a couple of changes, such as enforce earlier bed times and buy all the necessary school supplies.

On the other side, schools are also preparing for students to arrive. IT professionals are busy at work trying to make many things happen in order to ensure the safety and security of the school network. We’re talking putting anti-virus software, anti-malware, locking down the WiFi and hardwired internet, restricting network usage, among others. After all, a school ground is just a breeding ground for curious students who can, at the click of button give the IT department serious problems. 

There are some instant recovery software that have been designed for problems in schools and other public environments.  One example of this is drive vaccine. It is a software program that functions outside of the Windows operating system, and will load prior to Windows booting up at all. This is a failsafe so if Windows itself gets corrupted, one could simply load up the program first and get the computer back up and running in seconds.

This program is meant to be used and abused and provide true data protection. It will stand up to most anything you throw at it: deleted registry keys, vicious malware and viruses, even ransomware.

Another program that is similar but more advanced in providing desktop security is Rollback Rx. This a PC time machine creates and stores multiple snapshots. You can choose whether you want it to automatically create them on every boot, schedule, certain event, or manually. For example, you can  choose to snap between these images in seconds, so even if you were working on a document and the PC crashes, you could quickly revert to an older snapshot. From there, you can virtually open the state you were just working on, grab your documents to your clean snapshot, and continue your work. 


Microsoft Tech Support Scam: What To Do

There are a series of steps one can take if they receive or fall victim to a Microsoft Tech support scam. The first thing one should do is to report the phone scam immediately. These phone calls are nothing but a series of scammers using Microsoft’s name to get money and personal information from you. 

As a rule of thumb, Microsoft’s employees will NEVER call you for something like this. Knowing this is vital to saving yourself and protecting your data from an IT disaster.

How do you detect a Microsoft Tech support scam?

A phone call from a supposed Microsoft employee, telling you that their systems have detected a virus on your computer. They will tell you that in order to rid your computer of the virus, you will have to allow them to access your computer. Then, they tell you to follow a couple of steps to download a program that will allow them to use your computer from theirs. Doing this would supposedly clean your computer. Then, they would ask for payment, either by depositing in an account number, or asking for your credit card details.

How can you protect yourself against this?

It is better to protect and prevent yourself with some desktop security software rather than wait for something like this to happen. It’s best to invest in some instant recovery software, like Rollback Rx for instance.

Having a software like Rollback Rx will allow you to go a session prior to handing over your PC to the scammer. This PC time machine will have your back in no time, like it never happened. 

If you still are on Windows XP, try with the following software: Rollback XP. This is a freeware that functions like Rollback Rx, made in light of the news that Windows would stop supporting Windows XP come last April. 


Cryptolocker ransomware far from dead

Before, having a anti-virus was enough to protect your computer. Today, it is far from enough. While desktop security software has evolved and gotten better, so have the viruses that attack it. 

One example of this is Cryptolocker, a ransomware that the FBI claimed to have dismantled last June. This however, was a short term success, as it has come back, stronger than ever, bringing with it worse types of ransomware. 

I am talking about Critroni, a or CTB-Locker ransomware that users Tor, a software that hides the user’s location, making it more difficult for it to be traced. Critroni encrypts the hard drive and demands payment through Tor. On top of that, this ransomware’s encryption method is based on elliptic curve cryptography, said to be much faster than other ransomware encryptions. It has also learned from Cryptolocker’s flaws, and will only encrypt the drive once it gets downloaded and installed. This makes the program harder to detect.

Instant recovery software like RollBack Rx and Drive Vaccine have been created to protect users from said ransomware. Even if a computer gets infected to the point of hard drive encryption, simply pressing the ‘Home’ key when the RollBack Rx or Drive Vaccine splash screen appears while booting up the computer will take the user directly to our mini-OS. From there you simply choose to return to an image that was made prior to infection. This software has a trajectory of being able to recover from any ransomware

Windows XP recovery software receives a record number of downloads

Rollback XP, a recovery software created to help protect users from the Windows XP lockdown, has been downloaded 400,000 times. These facts come straight from the company who created the software itself. Considering the fact that it has not even been a month since its release, it is a lot. 

It was in Microsoft’s Tech Ed conference which took place this past May in Houston, Texas where the team that created this freeware came up with the idea. After hearing that companies would have to pay up to $200 per PC in order to get extended support from Microsoft, they decided to create an alternative and charge nothing to users. 

A brief snippet on the Windows XP lockdown, just to refresh your memory: In April of this year, Microsoft discontinued support for Windows XP operating system on April of this year. Despite being nearly 13 years old, this operating system is still widely used worldwide: a little more than one-fourth of the world’s PCs still run on Windows XP. Once the Windows XP lockdown began, users of this operating system would be left unprotected from hacks or viruses Enterprises and organizations that run Windows XP on their public access kiosk systems would be exposed to the aforementioned problems.

Rollback XP promises to be a viable solution against these problems. 

About the software:

Rollback XP is a comprehensive, instant recovery software Windows XP System Restore software similar to Horizon Datasys’ star product, Rollback RX. It functions on a snapshot-based system that allows your PC to be like an instant time machine. In case of any system crash, users can restore their computer to a previous point in time, even if Windows cannot boot. This is possible because the software operates on a sub-operating system below Windows, enabling it to protect the contents of your entire hard drive. 

Rollback XP only works on Windows XP operating system. Another difference is in the number of snapshots. Rollback XP, a freeware, supports a maximum of ten snapshots. For those who wish to upgrade to a greater number of snapshots, a non-freeware option is being developed.


Microsoft fixes 29 vulnerabilities in IE and Windows

As part of Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday for the month of July, the tech-giant fixed 29 vulnerabilities in IE, or Internet Explorer and supported versions of Windows. Most problems were, however, in…yes, you guessed it, Internet Explorer. 

Post from PCMag

Of the six security bulletins released, only two of them—for Internet Explorer and Windows Journal—are  rated as critical, according to Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday advisory. Three are rated as important, and the final bulletin has only a moderate rating. Both the IE and Windows Journal bulletins address remote code execution flaws. The important bulletins fixed elevation of privilege flaws in the on-screen keyboard, ancillary function driver, and DirectShow, and the moderate bulletin fixed a denial-of-service bug in the Microsoft service bus.

Microsoft said it had not observed any attacks in the wild targeting any of these flaws.

IE Oh My
Microsoft fixed 24 flaws in Internet Explorer (MS14-037), one publicly disclosed bug and 23 privately reported ones. This is after Microsoft patched 59 vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer last month. The issues are critical for Internet Explorer 6 to Internet Explorer 11 on Windows machines, but just moderate on Windows servers.

Attackers can exploit the IE bugs by tricking users into visiting a specially crafted malicious site. Once the attack succeeds, the attacker would have the same user rights as the compromised user. Users with fewer rights—not logged in as Administrator, for example—would be less impacted.

“It remains to be seen if Microsoft has cleaned up the Internet Explorer vulnerability closet for the next few months or if this is the new normal,” said Marc Maiffret, CTO of BeyondTrust.

Obscure Windows Software
The issue with Windows Journal (MS14-038) could allow attackers to remotely execute malicious code. Windows Journal is installed by default on all supported versions of Windows, from Vista to 8.1, but isn’t commonly used. Windows Journal can be used on touch-enabled devices as well as non-touch Windows computers to capture handwritten notes. The vulnerability was in how Windows opened files saved in the Windows Journal (.jnt) format.

The Windows Journal bug is a “great example of how unused software can be abused by attackers,” stated Craig Young, a security researcher at Tripwire.

Windows Journal is not installed on Windows Server versions.

Maiffret recommending treating the file extension as if it was an executable and block it on the Web and email gateways.

If there is a reason why the two critical patches can’t be installed immediately, uninstalling Windows Journal and switching to a different Web browser are sufficient workarounds. “While a patch is always preferred, limiting the attack surface is a good backup,” said Tyler Ranguly, manager of security research for Tripwire.

Remaining Patches
The bulletins rated important fixed bugs uncovered during the pwn2own contest back in March. The local elevation of privilege issues can be exploited to give unprivileged users greater access to the vulnerable system. They can be used in chained attacks to compromise the system, suggested Ross Barrett, senior manager of security engineering at Rapid7. “Given the nature of their disclosure, [they] must be known to have exploit code,” Barrett warned.

The ancillary function driver bug can be paired with “something like the Internet Explorer vulnerabilities from this month to allow for drive-by web attacks that result in execution of code in the kernel,” Maiffret said.

Freeware restores Windows XP operating system

Recall how I wrote about the Windows XP lockdown a couple of days back? Well the recovery solution for Windows XP users is now available.

Called Rollback XP, this software is a freeware that preserves and secures the settings of the XP operating system.

The neat thing about this software is that it will restore the contents of the hard drive and cache memory to any earlier time from a pre-OS subsystem. Other programs like Windows System Restore are not able to do so, so if you are unable to boot into Windows itself, the software would be futile.

About the software: The software creates a sub-OS that is pre-boot, giving users the ability to restore their PC to a desired system state in less than a minute, before booting to Windows. It uses sector-level mapping technology, or snapshots, on your hard drive to record exact copies of your system at a given point in time. ‘Snapshots’ are stored at the sector level and cannot be accessed through Windows manually.

A little bit of background about the events that preceded the release of this software: In April of this year, Microsoft stopped its support for the Windows XP operating system. Now, as you may remember, Windows XP is the oldest OS with a stable, large user base. It is still used in many commercial enterprises and public access kiosk systems.

With no more Windows updates, new threats will appear to take advantage of users. Since Windows XP was no longer going to be supported, users that were reluctant to switch to a newer operating systems were now looking at options to protect their PCs. This could also be a transition period for many organizations, whom are looking to protect their PCs until they are ready to deploy a new operating system.

Thus, Horizon Datasys decided to take advantage of this opportunity and lockdown Windows XP by developing Rollback XP. 

As you may recall, this company has had experience with another freeware in the past, Reboot Restore RX, namely a Microsoft SteadyState replacement  and alternative to deep freeze.

If you are interested, you can download it from their website here.


Fujitsu: Fastest circuits in the world?

Fujitsu,  a Japanese multinational IT provider, just announced that their new circuit can reach 56 Gbps, making them the speediest circuit of its type in the world. If this is true, this is more than marvellous news, as it will fasten the performance of servers (double them actually).

Look at this article from PC world:

The technology could greatly boost performance in servers, cloud computing and supercomputers, the company said. Research presented by Fujitsu Labs on Friday at the 2014 Symposia on VLSI Technology and Circuits in Hawaii detailed the innovation.

It uses decision feedback equalizer circuits to compensate for degradation in incoming data signals. By using an anticipatory “look ahead” architecture in the circuit to correct for degradation problems, Fujitsu Labs was able to increase the operating frequency of the circuit and double its speed.

The approach “can be implemented as a parallel process, pre-calculating two candidates based on the selection result for the previous bit, and simultaneously deciding the value of the previous bit and the current bit after deciding the value of the bit two bits previous,” Fujitsu Labs said in a statement.

The technology is different from other products already on the market operating at 56 Gbps, such as 4X FDR InfiniBand, Fujitsu Labs said, because it achieves 56 Gbps within a single receiver circuit, whereas 4X FDR InfiniBand uses four 14Gbps circuits operating in parallel.

The know-how could also boost speeds outside of server applications.

“It is possible to integrate this technology into consumer devices,” Hisakatsu Yamaguchi, a research manager in the Server Technologies Lab at Fujitsu Laboratories, wrote in an email interview.

“Initially, it will be applied in high-end products, but if we look at past technology trends it is likely for it to be applied in consumer devices several years afterwards.”

Fujitsu Labs said it will use the technology in the interfaces of CPUs and optical modules, and aims for implementation in the year to April 2017. It may also be applied to servers, supercomputers and other Fujitsu products.