Archive for Windows Updates

NHS Cyber Attack – how to build up your protection

Malware terms

Here is some more information about the NHS cyber-attack that started on Friday.

The Ransomware variant is called WanCrypt0r and 81,000 infections were reported in the first 12 hours. It has not only targeted the NHS but has also gone for Banks, Telecoms and Utilities worldwide.

It has been established that the criminals are exploiting a known vulnerability in Windows (MS17-010)  which has already been patched, but those computers which do not have up to date Windows Updates are still vulnerable.

We have warned customers before about the Ransomware threat and the extent of this attack means that we should all consider increasing our defences, especially businesses but also homes, as Ransomware can be spread via emails.

As there is no way to guarantee 100% protection against threats, we have to make it as difficult as possible for the threat to take hold and how much you decide to do depends on the level of risk you wish to take.

1. Ensure that Windows Updates is kept up to date

Windows Updates contain security fixes (amongst other things) and computers that have not been kept up to date are vulnerable, as in the case in this attack. Admittedly Windows 10 gives you little choice when it comes to Updates (you have to have them) but if you are using any previous version of Windows – make sure that Updates are kept up to date.

If you are still using Windows XP or Vista, you shouldn’t be. These versions of Windows no longer get Windows Updates.

Update:
Microsoft have now issued a patch for XP and Vista. Go to this web page to download the patch if you are still using XP and Vista (demand is high so it may take more than one try). Please note – this patches this vulnerability only so you should still move away from these unsupported operating systems.

2. Make sure that you have a good antivirus product that is kept up to date

Good security products give a better degree of protection but they have to be kept up to date, with active subscriptions. Free antivirus is better than nothing but does not give protection that is as comprehensive as paid versions.

3.    Install extra protection.

Usually, you should not have more than one security product installed on your computer at any one time, but there is a product called Malwarebytes, which can be installed as well as your existing antivirus. This increases your protection especially from Ransomware, if you install the premium version.

4.    Consider your backup situation

If a computer is infected, the virus goes across a network and it is possible that any connected storage will also get infected – this includes cloud storage such as Dropbox. Having said that, Dropbox state that within 30 days of the event they can restore your files (here) and you can subscribe to extend the 30 days to 1 year if you choose. If you are using any other Cloud storage, check with them to see if they have a similar service.

It is vital that your important files are backed up and a copy kept separate from your computer. In the event of an infection, you can at least relax a little that your important data has not been encrypted.

5.    Consider downtime – system backups

When a computer has Ransomware, if you have backups of important files you will not need to pay the criminals. It is likely that the computer will need to be wiped clean and Windows reinstalled, which takes time.

There is software available that can take a copy of your whole computer, which could be used to reinstall the whole system in much less time than a full reinstall. A copy once every 2 or 3 months would allow you to get back up and running in much less time.

As mentioned earlier, many viruses are spread through emails, so never click on links in emails and do not open attachments unless you know that they are genuine emails – if in doubt call the sender.

If you would like help with any of the above, give us a call on 01455 209505.

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Microsoft Says Don’t Download Windows 10 Creators Update Yet

Windows 10 logo

Microsoft has advised users NOT to manually download the latest update to Windows 10 – called the Creators Update – but wait for it to be downloaded in the normal automatic update rollout instead.

Despite the massive publicity surrounding the latest Update release, they are finding issues with it particularly with older machines, such as some components no longer working after the Update has installed. This is why they are automatically updating newer machines first and hoping to identify and iron out bugs before the older systems get it during the normal course of events.

Even though Microsoft are deliberately rolling out the Update slowly, users can download the Creators Update themselves so Microsoft are worried that the issues that they have found will result in normal (e.g. non-geek) users having difficulties should they install the Creators Update before Microsoft want them to.

The Creators Update is the equivalent of an operating system upgrade (Windows 10.2 if you will) and it is a major undertaking even without the threat of parts of your machine not working afterwards. Certainly many of us in the I.T. world remember the problems caused by the last big Windows 10 update (the so-called ‘Anniversary Update’ last year) and even though we have learnt the hard way not to jump into the next ‘latest and greatest’ straight away (there are always bugs to be ironed out) it is surprising that they have asked users to stop manual updating so soon after release, so there must be further bugs that they are dealing with.

On the positive side at least Microsoft are warning people and not just releasing code that they know will cause problems to many people, although it is still a pity that testing didn’t show these issues before the Update was released to the public.

It also doesn’t help when you consider that Home and Small Business customers are effectively testing the Update before Enterprise customers get it, as it will not be released to the Enterprise sector for months – until the bugs have been ironed out.

If you have installed the Creators Update already, there is a way to uninstall it until it is more stable, although be aware that some apps/programs may be uninstalled in the process.Of course, as always, you should take a backup of your important files first just in case.

Go to Start > Settings and click ‘Update and Security’. Click on ‘Recovery’ > ‘Go back to an Earlier Build’ or depending on how long ago it was, click on ‘Go back to the previous version of Windows 10’.

If you are experiencing problems with Windows Update, give us a call on 01455 209505.

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Windows 10 Creators Update Coming Soon

Windows 10 logo

In April 2017 Microsoft will begin rolling out the next major Update to the Windows 10 operating system, which they are calling the ‘Creators Update’. Even though this may dismay many people who remember the issues that they had with the ‘Anniversary’ update in 2016, Windows 10 has been specifically designed to have these major updates in much the same way as Apple OSX and iOS does.

Privacy changes

Microsoft has been heavily criticised since releasing Windows 10 because of the amount of private data it collects about users by default – that is unless the data collection is switched off in settings that most people wouldn’t look for. In the Creators Update, users will see a Privacy Settings page when installing initially (or after a major Update) with toggle controls that go into much more detail about privacy settings such as Location and relevant ads. Unfortunately the telemetry and diagnostic data that Windows 10 collects cannot be switched off and the choice will be either minimal data sent or all data is sent to Microsoft – there will be no middle ground.

There is also a ‘Privacy Dashboard’ now available through your Microsoft account, which allows you to manage data collected, such as browsing data and the data that Cortana collects.

Gamer Friendly

The Creators Update includes a Gaming Options section as well as a Game Mode, which tries to tweak hardware resources in a gamer-friendly way. There will also more Xbox compatibility involving streaming and chat.

Paint Revamped

The venerable love-it-or-hate-it ‘Paint’ program will include 3D capability and is believed to include tools and filters that assist in image manipulation, 2D-3D conversion and more sophisticated functions.

Windows Update Improvements

Windows Update has been a necessary evil for many years but even more so with Windows 10, after all Windows Update was the main reason why so many people had their computers ‘upgraded’ to Windows 10 whether they wanted it or not!

If you have the ‘Professional’, ‘Enterprise’ or ‘Educational’ version of Windows 10, you will be able to defer Updates for longer – unfortunately ‘Home’ version users will still be the Windows Update ‘guinea pigs’.

Windows Update ‘Active Hours’ will now be available which many people will be pleased about as it will allow you greater control over when Updates are installed. You will be able to tell the computer what times you want Updates installed and more importantly, when you don’t want them installed – so there should be fewer reboots at the worst possible time in future!

Microsoft Edge Tweaks

Changes will include Microsoft Wallet support, a ‘Set Aside’ function to stash your browser tabs for later, and a Tab Previews bar which allows you to view thumbnails of open tabs.

It will be interesting to see how Edge matures, although many people are still a little sceptical at the moment.

Theme Improvements

There will be enhanced support for customising the look of your computer and you can buy more Themes from – you guessed it – the Windows Store. This will be a welcome addition for the many people we see who do not go for the dark look out of the box.

Windows Defender

The built-in antivirus app in Windows 10 will get more functions, including new scanning options and reports on computer performance and health (much like paid versions). Strangely, it will also include a ‘Refresh Windows’ option, which is a nuclear option that you need to be very careful of, as it removes apps and programs that did not come with the computer.

There are many more changes and tweaks coming with the Creators Update, including being able to drag Start Menu Apps on top of each other (effectively grouping them as if in a folder), Virtual Reality support, automatic locking of the computer when walking away from it, EBooks, Cortana Monthly Reminders and many others.

As this is the new way of getting the “latest and greatest” version of Windows, Windows users will have to get used to getting larger updates at regular intervals which are essentially the equivalent of Windows 10.1, 10.2, etc., although this fact may not be good news for those who still have low broadband speed.

Before doing any kind of upgrades (especially significant Updates like this one), do make sure that you have backups of all your important personal files first. Some updates do go wrong and you need that peace of mind beforehand.

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