Category: Windows


Ransomware video

Malware Threats can take over your computer

So much ransomware…

I recently had a rash of what appeared to be ransomware emails show up in my inbox.  I ended up collecting 11 of them in one week.  I decided a video was in order to show what ransomware does.  For the video I created two virtual machines, one with Windows 10 Pro and one with Windows 7 Home.  I thought I might be able to show how different anti-virus products fared, but I didn’t get to that.  To show the effects, I placed a Word file, an Excel file, a simple text file, and several photos on the desktop so it would be easy to see when they were encrypted.

To summarize: Windows 10 was SAFE, Windows 7 got ENCRYPTED!!

I ran Windows 10 first, attempting to open all 11 of the files that had come via email.  Windows 10’s built in Defender anti-virus caught each and every one of the attempts and nothing happened.  The Windows 7 installation didn’t have any anti-virus protection because it doesn’t come with the package.  (I did do another run with Windows Security Essentials installed, and it protected my machine.)  I was only able to get one of the files to run and it encrypted the Windows 7 machine.  Most ransomware requires various pieces of software for them to operate.  It’s possible that the others didn’t work simply because I didn’t have the correct combination of software installed.

Does all ransomware show up in emails?

A lot of the current ransomware will show up as Word or Zip files attached to phishing emails; however, it can also show up when you are on the internet.  It works by redirecting you to an infected web page.  This type of ransomware is know as drive-by.  It requires certain plugins (such as Flash) or vulnerable browsers (such as Internet Explorer) to launch, but they can happen simply by browsing the internet.

The takeaway:

Keep your computer patched and up to date.  Make sure you have anti-virus software and keep it up to date.  Don’t open files sent by email unless you know for sure who they are from and what they are.  If you have to, call the individual to be sure they sent you the file in question.  Once your computer gets encrypted, there is a very slim chance you will recover your files without a good disconnected back-up or by paying the ransom.  The ransomware that infected my machine in the video was in the Locky family.  For more information about this type of ransomware, visit this site:

Ready to see how ransomware encrypts a computer?  Here’s my video:


Protecting yourself

Besides having a good anti-virus software installed, I highly recommend having a back-up system.  If you need help setting one up or just an assessment of your current back-up strategy, contact me.  913-893-1123

Thumbs Up for the Windows 10 Upgrade

I have done the Windows 10 upgrade on a number of systems now including my primary desktop, with very few issues.  I have also been searching for reports of any problems.  The only problems reported that I have found are similar to my own experiences.  One system I upgraded and the advanced sound driver doesn’t work in Windows 10, so I can’t get Dolby Digital sound.  I am hopeful that a manufacturer updated driver will fix this down the road.  For now I have to get by with just stereo.  One older laptop I upgraded had a WiFi driver issue and I had to add a USB dongle to get WiFi working.  Driver issues are the only real problems I have encountered and heard about.

Since most of the upgrades have happened event-free, I am recommending that if you have a newer system and want to upgrade, then go ahead.  If you have a system that is 5 or so years old, you may want to check the manufacturer’s website and see if they have a recommendation.  As always I recommend you have a good back-up of your data and any software install disks just in case – but you should have these anyway.

How to start the upgrade process:  If you have gone through the “reserve” process and are now getting pop-ups asking if you want to upgrade, then simply follow the steps provided.  Close out of all programs and make sure you have an hour or so to allow the upgrade to process.  Once it’s begun, you will not be able to use the computer until it is completed.  If you have a fairly slow machine, allow an hour and a half to two.  It will ask you a few questions up front, so don’t walk away too soon.

If you want to upgrade but haven’t received the notice yet that you are ready to go, then you can go here:  Downloading this program and running it will start the process for you.  It can also be used to create a DVD install disk so if you have several machines and a slow internet connection you can burn a copy and use the disk to upgrade machines.  Note that there are 32-bit and 64-bit versions, and you need to match up with what’s on your machine.  Other than start the process, using this program or clicking on the upgrade notice both do the same thing.

Once the upgrade is complete you can verify things are working correctly.  You may need to check some settings and your default programs may have changed.  So you may not be quite as fast initially with the new version of Windows.  Overall Windows 10 has a very familiar feel and yet some differences, depending on whether you are moving from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.

You may have heard there are some security fears with Windows 10.  Here is a write up detailing some settings you may want to change from the default.  To me, most of these issues just bring Windows more in line with what Apple and Google already do for information collection.  Some of the settings allow for the new Cortana digital assistant to do her thing.  You can’t have an assistant that knows nothing about you.  With the predictive typing and voice recognition there is the fear that keystrokes are being sent to someone else.  The article does mention that there could be a HIPPA violation if you use this service and are in health insurance and/or a medical practitioner.  The biggest issue I have seen is the ability to share your WiFi access with friends on Facebook or Skype.  How exactly this works is a bit of a mystery and so far there doesn’t seem to be a way to only share with certain friends, so for now I recommend disabling this feature.  Windows 10 also introduces a new concept in constant upgrading and I am sure this feature will be one that is adjusted based on negative feedback.

Not all facets of Windows 10 are completely polished yet.  There are still some areas that open screens like the control panel that have the old look and feel.  With Microsoft’s new philosophy on maintaining Windows as a perpetual service instead of a stand alone product I am sure these old vestiges of Windows 7 and earlier will eventually disappear and be replaced by newer more friendly screens.


Windows 10 Available Now!

windows_10_wallpaper_default_previewAt least it will be tomorrow.

Microsoft has been hard at work for some time now on the next edition of Windows.  If you are currently using a Windows 7 or 8.1 version, you will be eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10.  You may have already seen the little Windows symbol in the right hand tray of your system, clicked on it, and reserved your copy.  If you have done that, tomorrow you should be prompted to process the update.

Patience is a Virtue

As with all big upgrades I would caution against jumping into this one too fast.  There will be bugs to work out in the first week or so, especially as people begin to install this new software in droves.  If you have a computer that is not your primary device and you want to try it out right away go ahead.  If on the other hand, you have a single computer and you rely on it for work or other communications I would suggest waiting for a week or two at least.  We will know pretty quickly if installs are going smoothly or not.  It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s Microsoft or Apple or even Google, whenever they release a whole new operating system there are problems.  They all usually get right on them and fix them but it can be a few days to weeks depending on the problem.  Personally I will update a few boxes I have around that are not critical to my daily work.  If all goes well and the dust settles, I will update my primary computers as well, and will post again when that happens.

The Preview

I have been looking at and following the progress on the preview version.  I will say that I am excited about this update.  I liken this to the polish of Windows 7 when it came out.  Vista had been problematic and clunky but 7 ironed those things out.  Likewise Windows 8 and 8.1 have some good underlying technology but the user interface and implementation was clunky.  Windows 10 appears to have streamlined the user interface well, including putting back a good start button.

What to Expect

The user interface is a blend of Windows 7 and 8; I would say the best of both.   The new icons are minimalist but it’s nice to have a refresh.  One of the big changes is that Internet Explorer, while still available, is being put out to pasture.  A new browser “Edge” is taking its place.  Edge looks to be a lot lighter, faster and all around better.  IE will still be available and will be patched if it’s needed for some business applications but it’s not prominently displayed for use.  One of the big additions to Windows 10 is Cortana.  Cortana is the digital assistant similar to “Suri” or “OK Google”.  You can ask Cortana to look things up, to add events to your calendar, or set alarms, send email, play music, get directions and much more.  Of course you need a microphone to make this work.  I won’t try to list all the new features but if you want here is a link to Microsoft and their list of what Windows 10 will have.

As always if you have questions about upgrading or if you need assistance please contact me.