Are you a ransomware victim? The National High Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) of the Netherlands’ police, the Netherlands’ National Prosecutors Office and Kaspersky Lab have been working together to fight the CoinVault ransomware campaign. During our joint investigation we have been able to obtain data that can help you to decrypt the files being held hostage on your PC. We provide both decryption keys and the decryption application. For more information please see this how-to. Please note that this is an ongoing investigation and new keys will be added in the future.
March 31, 2015 / jamie / Comments Off on US outlines how it will cut 28 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 | The Verge
The United States began to outline today how it will achieve the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent by the end of 2025. In a submission to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United States says that it will use executive actions, largely under the Clean Air Act, to cut carbon pollution from new and existing power plants, improve fuel economy standards, and limit methane emissions from landfills and the oil and gas sectors. The submission comes ahead of a UN climate conference in Paris meant to coordinate a global response to climate change and prevent the Earth from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius, a widely accepted target for limiting the effects of warming.
March 12, 2015 / jamie / Comments Off on The Alienware Area 51 is a spaceship disguised as a gaming PC
The Alienware Area-51 is a spaceship disguised as a gaming PC
Take a look inside the world’s most outrageous and overpowered retail PC
This article is to be read to the tune of a heavy metal soundtrack. Because the Alienware Area-51 is heavy, metal, and just as outrageous as Iron Maiden at its finest.
Announced at the end of last summer, the Area-51 was an immediate sensation thanks to its unconventional, otherworldly shape. Hexagons and sharp lines are an established trope in gaming PCs these days, but nobody had thought to make the entire chassis into a hexagon. None of the major manufacturers, anyway. And that’s what really excites me about this big and bold Alienware rig: it’s a huge company acting like a scrappy startup and experimenting with a whole new layout and construction.
FORGET THE SQUARE BOX, TRY THE HEXAGONAL ONE INSTEAD
The first noticeable thing about the Area-51 when it’s seen in person is that it’s surprisingly large. This is not an effort to minimize your PC’s footprint or visibility (like the Falcon Northwest Tiki). With LED lighting embedded into each side and around the front frame of the case, The Area-51 is designed to attract attention. The second thing you’ll notice, should you ever attempt to lift it, is that it weighs about as much as a small person. Alienware isn’t taking any chances with its choice of materials, and the company even claims that in spite of its massive weight, each corner of the Area-51 has been tested to withstand up to five times the weight of the entire system.
All four of the critical bugs could allow attackers to remotely execute programs on a targeted system, something that in the past has allowed hackers to steal personal information such as passwords or take over machines for the purpose of sending spam.
The patches were released as part of the company’s monthly “patch Tuesday” security update for its major software products. The company had originally planned to deliver 16 updates Tuesday, but two are marked as yet to appear. They include one that was expected to carry a critical rating.
At 14, the number of patches is a monthly record for 2013 and 2014.
They include a problem with Windows Object Linking and Embedding that could allow remote code execution if the user visits a website containing malicious code. If the user is logged in as the administrator, the attacker could gain the ability to install programs and change and delete data. A related patch for Internet Explorer fixes the vulnerability with malicious websites and 16 other problems with the software, said Microsoft.
A security update for the Microsoft Secure Channel software in Windows fixes a problem that leaves Windows Server vulnerable to attack from specially crafted packets. The fourth critical patch fixes a hole in Windows that allows attackers to invoke Microsoft XML Core Services from a malicious website and then remotely execute code on a target system.
A further seven patches are marked as important—the second highest rank.
One vulnerability in Microsoft Office allows for remote execution of code, four additional problems allow attackers to assign themselves higher privileges and two allow bypass of certain security features in Windows.
November 1, 2014 / jamie / Comments Off on Article: 5 steps to keep your accounts safe from hackers and scammers
Throughout the flood of hacks and data breaches at retailers, restaurants, health care providers and online companies this year — Home Depot, Target, Subway, Adobe and eBay were just a handful — the one safe haven was the banks. Unlike other companies, banks had a long history of keeping bad guys away from our money and personal data.
Unfortunately, that’s no longer something we can take for granted, as JPMorgan Chase customers discovered recently when the financial giant admitted that hackers had stolen information, including checking and savings account details, from 80 million customers. Even worse, the hack went on for two months before the company noticed anything was amiss. That’s not very comforting.
There’s no way you can prevent a data breach from occurring at a company that has your business. You can, however, make sure your accounts are secure from other forms of attack.
Here are my Top 5 methods to maintain safe and secure online accounts.
1. Lock down your password
Maintaining good password security is one of the easiest ways to protect your accounts.
Of course, in an emergency, you might need to connect to a sensitive account when you’re on the go. For banking, it’s best to use your bank’s app and a cellular connection.
If you have to use Wi-Fi, add extra security with a Virtual Private Network. This creates a secure, encrypted link with a third-party server, and you access your sites through that link. It’s an extra level of protection that hackers shouldn’t be able to crack. On a laptop, CyberGhost is a good option. On a tablet or smartphone, check out Hotspot Shield VPN or avast! SecureLine VPN.
Know that VPNs slow down your Internet speed. Turn them off for streaming videos and general browsing.
Many online accounts also offer something called two-step verification, or two-factor authentication. This is great. In order to log in from an unfamiliar device or location, you need a password and a code from a separate email account or smartphone text.
While we’re on the subject of two-factor authentication, some banks now feature an embedded chip that generates a new pass code for every use. Ask your financial institution if it offers cards with Chip Authentication Program (CAP) or Dynamic Passcode Authentication (DPA) technology. They don’t advertise this. You have to know to ask.
4. Avoid phishing scams
Even if hackers don’t get your credit card information or account number, they usually get the next best thing: Your name and email address.
That’s exactly what they need to launch a phishing attack. A popular type of phishing attack is a fake email claiming to be from a real company that asks you to click on a link or download an attachment.
Of course, the link will take you to a malicious site disguised as a Chase page, or the email attachment will contain a data-stealing virus. Either way, hackers can get your username and password, or other sensitive information.
Remember, no legitimate company will ask you to click a link or download an email attachment to update your account details.
5. Be vigilant
The best way to make sure your online banking account, or any other account, stays safe is to pay attention. Catching small problems early can prevent hackers from making bigger ones later. Here’s why:
In the cybercriminal world there’s a term, “fullz.” A fullz is all the information a thief needs to assume the identity of someone else and apply for credit under their name.
After buying a fullz, a criminal will test the waters. He’ll place a few small-scale purchases using your account details. If you don’t take any action, he’ll continue making small purchases until he’s earned the amount he paid for your “fullz,” and then some.
Finally, the criminal will max out your card or drain your account without a second thought. How do you stop this? Watch your accounts. If you notice a strange transaction, call your bank or credit card company immediately. Better to err on the side of caution.
Copyright 2014, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.
On the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com
October 25, 2014 / jamie / Comments Off on The Answer Engine: How Humans Can Provide Better Knowledge Than Algorithms
Editor’s note:Michał Borkowski is CEO of Brainly, a social learning website.
When you have a question you need answered, do you ask a friend or a robot? The answer to that question used to be easy. But the rise of Siri, Yahoo and Google has ushered in an era in which we turn not to experts but to search engines for answers.
By failing to solicit human responses in the pursuit of information, I believe we are making a big mistake – in relying excessively on this single source, we open ourselves up to a data blind spot.
When the first hand-curated directories of the early web’s few sites added query forms, becoming search engines, they expected users to enter boolean search strings, just like their computer scientist inventors. But the fact that many of us write questions, not fact-focused strings, into search boxes is a dead giveaway. Humans want to use natural language when they solicit help.
“How tall is President Obama?” Through algorithm updates like “Hummingbird,” Google has evolved to recognize such questions and, increasingly, to answer them itself.
However, for an algorithm to answer questions like these it must first have access to plentiful underlying data, structured in a way that it can be queried. This is not the case for the vast majority of search engines and won’t be for some time if ever. Ultimately, meaning most humanized question queries will lead users to static web pages.
Humans want to use natural language when they solicit help.
Now is the time to bring humans back into the web. At a time when the new Internet of Things trend stands to bring many more machines on to the network, we should realize the valuable role we, as operators, can play in our own creation, asking each other for information and supplying it in the spirit of cooperation.
The problem with robotic search engines is twofold. First, search result signposts have inaccurate understanding of timeliness. The algorithms’ trainers have worked hard to focus their attention on fresher web pages. This can down-weight “stale” information, but it can also falsely present very recent results simply on the basis of freshness, overlooking a five-year-old web page that was more relevant.
Second is the depth issue. When I first started using the Internet in the 1990s, I participated in many special-interest forums. It was great to find like-minded users with deep knowledge in niche areas, seeking help and offering support by supplying detailed responses. Sadly, this seems to be a lost era. Today, search engines and networks operate on a web-wide basis, with little understanding of niche knowledge to match the expertise of specialist practitioners.
When you aggregate people, not just web pages, you unleash something wonderful. You allow them to be each other’s search engines and open up deep specialist knowledge and community spirit.
Creating these conditions on today’s web can be tricky. I think many people ask questions of Google, privately, because they are embarrassed to display their lack of knowledge by posing a question on a web they know is all too public.
What’s crucial for creating people-powered human answer engines is the community of users.
Fortunately, several services are overcoming this factor. Yahoo Answers may have earned a poor reputation for the quality of some of its community’s responses. But creating an environment in which no questioner or answerer is discouraged is vital to creating a web in which human peers take on the task of information delivery. Allowing even the simplest question to be posted in a positive environment is what Yahoo has cracked, creating a mechanism that makes users comfortable with their own contributions. The stats don’t lie – Yahoo Answers’ traffic keeps growing, currently at more than 170 million monthly unique users in the U.S.
Quora, a question-and-answer site, has cracked the nut even harder with resident experts and clearly defined guidelines for contributors. Its growth reflects its popularity. In April 2014 it raised an extra $80 million and is valued at nearly $900 million. Traffic to the site in February 2014 neared 2.2 million visitors solely from the U.S. Quora’s global success can be attributed to several factors, but much of its focus is on our culture’s insatiable desire for the truth.
What’s crucial for creating people-powered human answer engines is the community of users. In Brainly’s user base for example, we know that everybody, no matter what their age, has skill and knowledge that can be shared. This is the substance of crowd learning. The need for truth and being part of a learning community is growing, as we’re reconnecting with people, albeit through technology to reach this goal.
It’s refreshing to know that in this seemingly open-ended world of search engines, algorithms and unregulated forums, Q&A platforms with reliable and knowledgeable contributors still have a very large part to play.
Re-Posted from TechCrunch.com by Michał Borkowski – link to original article below
HDMI allows you to connect almost any device to a TV or another external display, but HDMI requires a wired connection. You might assume there’d be a well-supported standard for wireless displays, but you’d be wrong.
When it comes to mirroring a device’s screen wirelessly or using it as a remote-control for media displayed on another screen, there is still a wide variety of competing standards fighting it out in the market.
Is it time to upgrade? This is probably the most frequent question I get from my clients. And for good reason. It’s not always easy to tell if upgrading makes sense. Not even for IT Pros.
The reason is simple: It’s complicated. There are a lot of factors which have to be considered when deciding to upgrade, and there are many questions you should ask yourself when planning for your future IT needs.
The first thing to consider when evaluating an upgrade is Cost. But even cost is more complex than you might think.
How much does it cost now? What is the cost of support/maintenance over the life of the product? How long should I expect it to last?
What about the costs of lost productivity if I DON’T upgrade?
What about less tangible costs related issues:
incompatibility between versions
poor performance of older versions
security issues due to reduced/absent vendor support
increased support/maintenance costs – older stuff takes more time to keep running
Besides costs, there are also risks. The risk of failure increases with the age of any product. Older stuff breaks. Bottom line.
Besides risk of failure, there are also security risks, especially when we’re talking about software. Older software & hardware drivers are updated less frequently than current versions. Really old software that is out of support may not be updated at all, which can be a problem due to both security and reliability concerns. Some older software may not work properly on newer operating systems, and can pose a risk of data loss due to crashes. Suffice to say you are taking a big risk by using unsupported products on your network. Bottom Line: If you can afford not to, don’t.
Sometimes the question of upgrading is simpler because you might HAVE to upgrade. Forced upgrades are commonplace, and although you may not actually be “Forced”, once you’ve built your company procedures around a piece of technology, you cant always just switch and stop using it.
After technology has been deployed across your business, change can become expensive. Vendors know this, and they’ve learned that most companies will choose to upgrade rather than change software that everyone in the company uses. But even though the costs to deploy a new solution and provide training are more expensive than the upgrade, if your business depends on numerous programs, the cost of upgrades can quickly become a multi-headed monster…one that feeds itself.
The typical scenario goes something like this:
You have to upgrade to the current version of Quickbooks because their payroll feature is no longer supported on the older versions. The new version of Quickbooks won’t run on Windows XP, so now you have to upgrade all of your Quickbooks workstations to Windows 7. Your time keeping program won’t run on Windows 7, so you now have to upgrade that program too, but of course the new version won’t run on Windows XP, so you the rest of the PCs on your network now need to be updated to Windows 7.
Next, you find out that your older version of Office 2003 is crashing due to incompatibilities with some of the newer software as well, so now you also need to update to Office 2013. File format changes between Office versions mean the Office 2013 upgrade needs to be deployed companywide to keep everyone on the same version.
So you bite the bullet and start upgrading to Windows 7 and Office 2013, in addition to Quickbooks. You buy some new PCs, and upgrade some others hoping to get a few more years out of them. Several $1000s into the upgrade process, someone points out that the older workstations, to which you already upgraded with more RAM and larger drives to allow the OS upgrade, are now being brought to their knees by the resource hungry newer versions of software.
Oh yeah, and two of your printers (you know, the ones you’ve had for years, that print perfectly and that you have 2+ year’s worth of toner for) are no longer supported under Windows 7.
So before you know it you’ve replaced all of the PCs on your network, upgraded all of the major software packages, and replaced a couple of printers that didn’t need replacing. Worse yet, you’ve also just set yourself up to repeat the process about 5-7 years from now.
By the time all is said and done, the whole Upgrade question can get pretty confusing. Figuring out what to upgrade can be a daunting task, and without proper planning the expense and risks only increase.
So what do you do? Here are some guidelines.
Keep all software up to date with regular security patches and updates.
Most major vendors offer frequent software and firmware updates.
Out of date software escalates risks.
Windows Updates and Service packs ensure security and productivity
Productivity apps that are used frequently business-wide, represent the greatest risk of failure or security breach, and must be kept current .
When version upgrades are required, plan to upgrade ALL PCs at once
When all systems are on the same versions, ensured compatibility means better productivity
Support costs are reduced when software platforms are uniform across your business
Don’t run unsupported software.
If the vendor is no longer updating the older version, upgrade to the new version.
If the vendor is no longer offering upgrades, consider an alternative product/vendor.
Avoid upgrading Operating systems by instead replacing PCs.
OS Upgrades are costly.
Purchase price of software license
Cost of support to backup system, install upgrade and resolve issues
Cost of hardware upgrades to meet OS requirements and ensure performance
RAM/Hard drive Upgrades
Reduced productivity: diminished performance resultant to pairing last generation hardware with upgraded OS
Unless you have 25+ PCs, purchasing PCs with OS license is cost effective comparable to Enterprise Licensing
Preinstalled OS saves setup time
OEM licenses are much cheaper than a retail license for Windows
PLAN. PLAN. PLAN.
Budgets are your friends.
When purchasing a new PC, consider the anticipated useful life
Develop a schedule to replace ALL PCs regularly that meets your budget
Choose Vendors for Warranty and Support as well as features and price
Avoid Custom software and hardware solutions if possible
Custom software can be a nightmare to maintain, and vendor support may vary.
Custom vendor support contracts can be expensive, and the hardware/software may become unusable without support. Third party support may be difficult/impossible to find.
What happens if your developer/system builder goes out of business?
Develop a long term plan for the ongoing replacement of all IT equipment
Waiting until everything is really old can be a disaster.
Generally, a 4-7 year rotation schedule is appropriate for most IT equipment
Version consistency for Operating Systems /Software = reduced support costs and increased productivity
So what now?
As you may have heard, support for Windows XP officially ended earlier this year. So, should you update those Windows XP computers now? Or replace them?
Well, I know your old Windows XP pcs have already been replaced/upgraded, right? I’m sure you are NOT wondering how big a risk it might be to put off the upgrade awhile. I mean, if Microsoft says you need to buy 20 new PCs this year, you’re just gonna do it, right? You don’t want to piss of the MotherShip in Redmond now, do you?
Well, let’s say you DON’T have an unlimited IT budget…You probably have some tough choices to make.
To help put the question in perspective, ask yourself these questions if you are debating about the XP upgrade:
Do you run any HIPPA compliant software or keep sensitive data on your networks? – YES, UPGRADE
Do you process credit cards, work with financial data, or pay bills online? – YES, UPGRADE
Do you make purchases or use Internet Banking? – YES, UPGRADE
Is Internet Explorer 9 or greater required for any websites you use frequently? – YES, UPGRADE
Is your system slow and it seems like you are always waiting for it to catch up? – YES, UPGRADE
Do you use Internet Explorer to surf the Internet? – Switch to Chrome or Firefox or UPGRADE
Is any of your CURRENT software UNSUPPORTED on Windows 7? – YES, EVALUATE. Additional software upgrades may be required.
Are all of your printers and peripherals compatible with the new software? – YES, UPGRADE; NO, Evaluate extra costs.
Will the upgrade cause any other problems? -YES, Evaluate. Obviously, every situation is different.
Ever wish you could remember all of those Windows shortcuts?
Well, here they are all in one place.
Some of these actually date back to well before Windows, the days DOS, of text of green on jet black screens. Sorry. I guess I was waxing a wee bit nostalgic for the bad old days of computing. Anyway, here’s the source link to the Microsoft support article, and all the Windows shortcuts are right here:
Mouse click/keyboard modifier combinations for shell objects
SHIFT+right click: Displays a shortcut menu containing alternative commands
SHIFT+double click: Runs the alternate default command (the second item on the menu)
ALT+double click: Displays properties
SHIFT+DELETE: Deletes an item immediately without placing it in the Recycle Bin
General keyboard-only commands
F1: Starts Windows Help
F10: Activates menu bar options
SHIFT+F10 Opens a shortcut menu for the selected item (this is the same as right-clicking an object
CTRL+ESC: Opens the Start menu (use the ARROW keys to select an item)
CTRL+ESC or ESC: Selects the Start button (press TAB to select the taskbar, or press SHIFT+F10 for a context menu)
CTRL+SHIFT+ESC: Opens Windows Task Manager
ALT+DOWN ARROW: Opens a drop-down list box
ALT+TAB: Switch to another running program (hold down the ALT key and then press the TAB key to view the task-switching window)
SHIFT: Press and hold down the SHIFT key while you insert a CD-ROM to bypass the automatic-run feature
ALT+SPACE: Displays the main window’s System menu (from the System menu, you can restore, move, resize, minimize, maximize, or close the window)
ALT+- (ALT+hyphen): Displays the Multiple Document Interface (MDI) child window’s System menu (from the MDI child window’s System menu, you can restore, move, resize, minimize, maximize, or close the child window)
CTRL+TAB: Switch to the next child window of a Multiple Document Interface (MDI) program
ALT+underlined letter in menu: Opens the menu
ALT+F4: Closes the current window
CTRL+F4: Closes the current Multiple Document Interface (MDI) window
ALT+F6: Switch between multiple windows in the same program (for example, when the Notepad Find dialog box is displayed, ALT+F6 switches between the Find dialog box and the main Notepad window)
Shell objects and general folder/Windows Explorer shortcuts
For a selected object:
F2: Rename object
F3: Find all files
SHIFT+DELETE: Delete selection immediately, without moving the item to the Recycle Bin
ALT+ENTER: Open the properties for the selected object
To copy a file
Press and hold down the CTRL key while you drag the file to another folder.
To create a shortcut
Press and hold down CTRL+SHIFT while you drag a file to the desktop or a folder.
General folder/shortcut control
F4: Selects the Go To A Different Folder box and moves down the entries in the box (if the toolbar is active in Windows Explorer)
F5: Refreshes the current window.
F6: Moves among panes in Windows Explorer
CTRL+G: Opens the Go To Folder tool (in Windows 95 Windows Explorer only)
CTRL+Z: Undo the last command
CTRL+A: Select all the items in the current window
BACKSPACE: Switch to the parent folder
SHIFT+click+Close button: For folders, close the current folder plus all parent folders
Windows Explorer tree control
Numeric Keypad *: Expands everything under the current selection
Numeric Keypad +: Expands the current selection
Numeric Keypad -: Collapses the current selection.
RIGHT ARROW: Expands the current selection if it is not expanded, otherwise goes to the first child
LEFT ARROW: Collapses the current selection if it is expanded, otherwise goes to the parent
CTRL+TAB/CTRL+SHIFT+TAB: Move through the property tabs
Press SHIFT five times: Toggles StickyKeys on and off
Press down and hold the right SHIFT key for eight seconds: Toggles FilterKeys on and off
Press down and hold the NUM LOCK key for five seconds: Toggles ToggleKeys on and off
Left ALT+left SHIFT+NUM LOCK: Toggles MouseKeys on and off
Left ALT+left SHIFT+PRINT SCREEN: Toggles high contrast on and off
Dialog box keyboard commands
TAB: Move to the next control in the dialog box
SHIFT+TAB: Move to the previous control in the dialog box
SPACEBAR: If the current control is a button, this clicks the button. If the current control is a check box, this toggles the check box. If the current control is an option, this selects the option.
ENTER: Equivalent to clicking the selected button (the button with the outline)
ESC: Equivalent to clicking the Cancel button
ALT+underlined letter in dialog box item: Move to the corresponding item