Category Archives: Security

Keeping users safe online.

Windows 10 Spying and Sharing Is Unstoppable

The more that technical types examine Windows 10, the less of a good thing it seems to be. For ordinary users, that is. For the software giant of Redmond and the National Security Agency, however, Windows 10 might be the answer to a dream. Researchers have found, for instance, that even with every data-sharing setting turned off (all 13 pages of them) and no programs running, Windows 10 contacts some 50 servers in Redmond somewhere around a staggering 500 times an hour! This is all due basically to a special backdoor that cannot be closed. Could this be for technical reasons? While some monitoring might be helpful, such intensity makes it highly unlikely. So perhaps Microsoft is actually partnering with the NSA to collect – who knows? Furry fan fiction? Surf history? Email addresses? Camera stills of users’ naughty bits? Audio? Keystrokes? All of the above? Being in bed together with Big Brother would make sense, given the sneaky ways Microsoft keeps steadily moving to make everybody adopt the new OS, or at least its spyware features, like it or not. If users relent or do not actively prevent this from happening, they’re very likely stuck. Not only is Windows 10 hard to uninstall, but once up and running, Windows Updates cannot be turned off by home users. For them, Windows 10 updates are mandatory as well as automatic. Not only that, but unless users have disabled the default Wi-Fi … Continue reading

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Even Big-Name Sites Are Unsafe

What do the NY Times, the BBC, Newsweek, The Hill,  MSN, AOL, the Weather Network, the NFL, and Realtor.com all have in common? Their popular websites recently served up ads that stealthily try to infect visitors computers with ransomware and other nastiness. The advertisements may have exposed multiple thousands of visitors over the day or so they ran before being noticed. The ads were provided from two domains through big services including Google, AppNexus, AOL and Rubicon, who were tricked somehow into placing them. The campaign started experimenting with smaller targets and toolkits last week. Then it upgraded to the biggest sites and began using the Angler suite of exploits. If holding your data hostage wasn’t bad enough, it also downloads several trojan viruses also. The only good news in all this is that the compromised site first looks for a long list of security products and tools on the visitor’s computer that it wishes to avoid. Only if none are found will it then send out the infected advertisement with the rest of the webpage. As browser add-ons like Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, and Java are targeted by the Angler toolkit, it’s a good idea not to use them unless absolutely needed. And also, to keep your antivirus programs up to date. And above all, back up everything. This applies to Mac owners, too. Just last week the very first Macintosh-targeting ransomware was discovered. Concealed in version 2.90 of … Continue reading

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Windows Tracking Sneakily Added to 7 and 8 – UPDATE

In its burning ambition to get everyone to use Windows 10, Microsoft has now gone so far as to actually hide a splash advertisement for the new operating system within a security update for Internet Explorer. Not only that, once installed, the ad is not listed in the Windows Updates panel as a separate installed update, and thus cannot be removed unless the parent update is. The carrier of this little Easter egg is KB3139929, “Cumulative Security Update for Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 7 for x64-based systems.” The culprit is KB3146449 which is described in the documentation as “Updated Internet Explorer 11 capabilities to upgrade Windows 8.1 and Windows 7” but few further details are given. If you resist switching to Windows 10, you should uninstall it, never use Internet Explorer (a good idea in any case), or just resign yourself to seeing the ad. But for many people, this new step by the software giant completely crosses the line, and has generated a lot of outrage. In the eyes of some, Microsoft is now condemned for hiding malware in security updates.  While the situation is not yet quite that dire, it does make one wonder what the next sneaky trick to get users to use their new spyware operating system will be. In any case, it’s a sad, sad day for the Internet when users must be as suspicious of the leading software provider, the maker of the … Continue reading

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