USB Drive – Security Concerns Growing

A merging problem, closing in on critical mass for corporations, businesses and governments is USB Drive security. There have been many reported breeches in network security recently, many of which were caused simply by someone placing an infected USB drive into a networked PC.

The US Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Emergency Response Team has recently released a report shich stated that two American electrical power plants were compromised late last year and in addition identified a number of glaring electronic vulnerabilities.

In the case of the infected power plants malware infected their control systems. The tainted USB drive came into contact with several computers at the power generation facility. Investigators found sophisticated malware on two engineering workstations which were critical to the operation of the control enviornment.

In addition more computers at the power station were infected in the turbine control room. Once again the malware was spread through an infected USB drive inserted into a workstation.

I am not sure what the “control system” and “turbine control” systems actually do, but if I had to guess they are really, really important.

This and other recent stories should remind us to never-ever pick up a USB drive that you “find” and place it into a computer to “see what’s on the drive”. In fact USB drives should should not be brought into any workplace and inserted into your employer’s computers without prior permission.

Of course additional policies and procedures will have to be drafted and enforced by any organization striving to protect the security of their data.

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Living with a Windows 8 Phone – For a Month Anyway

I combined all of my articles into one paper the desribes in chronological order my one month experience with a Windows 8 Phone. If you are considering switching to Microsoft’s new phone or if you are just interested in learning more check it out here.

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Windows 8 Phone – If Wishes Were Horses

I lasted a month with my Windows 8 phone. We had some goodtimes – we had some not so good times. There is an old saying that  goes something like this that describes my feeling about the Windows 8 phone. It goes like this, “Wishing for something doesn’t make it true”. Don’t get me wrong. I really – really want Microsoft to find success with their Windows phone. There are some unique benefits to their phone that cannot be found anywhere else. However the Windows phone is in the baby stages of development and there is still a little work to be done before Microsoft can truly nudge their way into relevance in the smartphone world.  This is not to be unexpected, the head start Apple (2007) and Android (2008) have over Microsoft (2010) is significant.  If you further consider that Microsoft only launched their Windows 8 phone on December 20, 2012 they truly have a lot of ground to catch up.

After using the Windows 8 phone for a month I came to the following conclusions.

It’s all about the Apps

Sadly it’s all about the Apps for many smartphone users. Android and Apple have done an amazing job of enticing companies to develop apps for their smartphones. If you are a business you almost are required today to develop and release an IPhone and Android app. The amount of Apps has exploded since 2007 and 2008. Microsoft has a lot of catch up to do here if they want consumers to move to their eco-system. The good news is I believe Microsoft realizes this and they are working to increase the amount of Apps available as quickly as possible.

I Want My Music

Yes – I know this is not exactly business related. However most users of smart phones have stopped carrying separate portable music players and rely on their smartphone for this. In addition if Microsoft is going to be successful with their Windows phones they cannot rely only on the professional consumer. This is what RIM did and look what has happened to that company. Microsoft has never got the music player right. Microsoft’s biggest effort with music players was Zune (2006) which never competed with Apple in any meaningful way. This was simply because Zune is not that good. It was overly complicated. The music player on the Windows 8 phone is not much better. Importing music and tags* is erratic and overly complex. This will need to improve as well for the Windows phone to find mass appeal.

* Tags contain the information in music files such as artist name, song name, album title, album year, album art in additional to other details regarding the song file.

The Windows Advantage

There are some great advantages that Microsoft has over Apple and Android even at this early stage. The first and most important is Microsoft Office integration. With the addition of SkyDrive integration accessing documents is far easier and efficient on the Windows phone then any of its competitors. 

Sharepoint and Lync users will also find the integration of these services seemless, which is not true on Android and IPhones.

Microsoft has demonstrated real innovation with the Windows 8 operating system. Moving away from icons that include several screens to a live tile interface is the first real change in smartphones since 2007. Because of this live tile interface no 2 Windows 8 phones look alike once the user begins customizing their phone. This cannot be said for IPhones and Android phones.

I will stay on top of the continued development of the Windows 8 phone. I hope to find myself using a Windows 8 phone again. I truly believe it has the capability to become a true option not just for the everyday consumer but professional organizations as well.  

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Windows 8 Phone – ?

OK – Big announcement tomorrow regarding my experience with the Windows 8 Phone. Let’s just say there is still work to be done. Stay tuned.

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How to Set Up Multiple Email Signatures in iOS 6

Today I was asked if you can have multiple signatures on your IPhone & IPad. The good news is that yes you can, as long as you have upgraded your Apple device to iOS 6. This upgrade was made available earlier last year, so hopefully you have already completed the upgrade.

Before iOS 6, you were allowed only one common signature that appeared on each email account. Other then deleteing and adding a new email signature for each email message there was really no other way to deal with multiple email accounts.

With the new iOS each of your accounts can have it’s own distinct signature. Isn’t technology womderful! So, your work email can give all your professional information while you’re personal account can have more of a personal signature.

Here’s how to set it up:

Go to Settings on your home screen, select Mail, Contacts, Calendars. Scroll way down until you see the Signature option. Tap on it and you’ll see the options shows in the image below.

All Accounts will enable one signature to be sent from all your email accounts. Tap Per Account and each of your accounts will pop up, allowing you to create personalized signatures for each of them. (see image below)

Now, when you send an email, iOS 6 will automatically know which account it’s coming from and apply the correct signature.

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Java Alert Update

Here is another update on last week’s Java security alert. I want to keep this as simple as possible. Oracle’s Java has been and continues to be a security problem. This is probably the result of the very complex code of the application and how it interacts with the internet browser and other applications we run on our computer.

Another element that has probably contributed to this ongoing issue is the popularity of Java with website programmers and that Java itself has grown so complex that the developers of Java (Oracle) are even unsure of their own code and how it is interacting with all of the applications on our computers.  

Oracle continues to try and play catch-up by continually releasing fixes which in turn we need to install. I am not sure where are of this is going to end up but this confusing mess is something that must be dealt with.

Important fact: If Java if used in stand alone programs there is no known security problems. The Java security issues are specifically in how it is interacting in your internet browser.


For now you have 3 options as I see it.

1. Completely uninstall Java from your PC.
2. Update Java and hope for the best.
3. Disable Java from running in your internet browser.
Which do I recommend? I suggest both 2 & 3. You can easily do this by opening the Control Panel and selecting the “Java” application.
 
1. To update Java select the “Update” tab and choose “Update Now”.  
2. To disable “Java” from running in your internet browser select the hyperlink at the bottom of the first tab. If it is enabled simple uncheck the box, select “apply” and take a deep breath.  (images below)
 
Select this hyperlink if Java in enabled. Then Uncheck the Enable box & Apply.
 
 
I believe that these steps are important and critical. That is because the security issues surrounding Java are not going anywhere anytime soon. In fact there is word of yet another security alert just around the corner. I will stay on top of this story so stay tuned.

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2 Week Review of My Windows 8 Phone

OK it’s been about 2 weeks since I gave up my IPhone for a Windows 8 Phone. There have been some tough times during these past 2 weeks and sometimes I actually miss my old IPhone. However that being said I must say I have been adapting to this new smartphone.  The problem in my opnion is that innovation inside of Apple has slowed to a crawl, especially in respect to their smartphone. The IPhone today (IPhone 5) actually in many ways is the same phone as the original (IPhone 3G). Sure the processors have improved, 4G is now available and SIRI is available when you are lonely. Other than this the innovation within Apple has been incredibly slow in respect to the development on the IPhone product. 5 years have passed (2007) between the first 3G model and the current IPhone 5 (2013) model. That’s a really long time in the tech world.

 

Anyway enough of the past and on to my experience with the new Windows 8 Phone. Unlike the IPhone there are various manufactures developing and building Windows phones. Each wireless provider offers different models. I have a Nokia Lumia 822. In previous posts I have written about my disappointment with the Windows Music player and App Store.  Moving on from these issues my experience gets much better.

Here are some of the highlights.

Before I move on to some specifics let me say that the voice quality on the Nokia Lumia 822 is loud and clear. Music playback is also very good. The form factor although a little heaver & thicker than the IPhone 5 is actually very nice. I have found that the battery (which is removable) will easily last 24 hours with normal usage.

The Lock Screenis very customizable. Services such as the Weather Channel, ESPN & Facebook can be used as live wallpaper. Updates can be displayed on the lock screen as well. 


Home Screen Displaying Weather

Microsoft Officeintegration is really where the Windows 8 Phone shines above any of its competitors. With the integration of SkyDrive, accessing & working on your files has never been easier or more efficient. Office even displays your “recent documents” to quickly access a file you are reading or working on. The “recent documents” are linked to the documents on your PC or tablet.
 


SkyDrive has really improved over the past year. Microsoft currently is offering 7 GBs free. If you do not use Office SkyDrive is still there to manage and store documents. SkyDrive can also be accessed on your PC at www.skydrive.com.

The interface of the Windows 8 Phone is also far superior to the IPhone. I also give Microsoft credit here for developing a completely new design for their smartphone. In place of stagnate icons and screens that move from left & right are “live tiles” that can be sized from small to medium to large. When the tiles are medium or large “live” content is often displayed. Because of this no two Windows 8 phones will look alike once the user begins designing their display.

Although managing your music is a much more challanging task as opposed to the IPhone once configured it is actually not that bad. That being said there is work that needs to be done with the music player if Microsoft wants to seriously compete with the non-professional consumer. I have hope here because there is word that SkyDrive integration is around the corner. This would seem to be a natural place to store music in the cloud.

 
 

I will be continuing to use & evaluate this phone. With each passing week I become more convinced and hopeful that the Windows phone can become a real possibility, especially for the professional who wants to have a true “smartphone” that can do it all while remaining customizable and fun.

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Wireless @ Work

OK as I have been suggesting and predicting for almost a year know tablets are going to eventually take over the computing word. They have already begun this take over in the consumer market. You could see this when it was reported that for the first time in a decade computer sales actually fell this holiday season. However the biggest hurdle for tablets is going to be in the professional market. This will happen eventually as well, it will just take a bit more time. With each new innovation in software and hardware development we are inching closer to a tablet dominated workplace. I am not talking ipads here folks. Windows 8 tablets will probably be the winner here.

An example of this trend is my ongoing effort to find new and exciting ways of getting our work done…. at work. Access to work files and programs will eventually be available wherever we go. Today this vision is beginning to come true.

Through a secure wireless network with AD sync here you can see I am running one of our programs on a Windows 8 tablet.

It’s not perfect yet – but yes I have this network application running on a Windows 8 Tablet!

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Java Security Alert – Update

Despite a software pitch for Java software released on Monday, January 14 by Oracle, the Department of Homeland Security warned millions of computer users about a threat “in the wild.” Oracle Released a Java Security Fix yesterday, January 15, 2013; But Homeland Security was still not pleased.

Security experts are warning users to disable Java on their computers to avoid being compromised by hackers. As a result, the department’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team advised PC users to “consider disabling Java in Web browsers, until adequate updates are available.”

Last week, the department warned of the vulnerability of Java, which is owned by Oracle, especially in the latest version 7 of the software. Oracle said it had released a new version, Update 11, to fix the problems. Meanwhile, Microsoft, said it had released a security advisory for its Internet Explorer browser versions 6, 7 and 8, which “could allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code if a user accesses a specially crafted website.”

The flaws are important because of the increasing use of websites for banking, financial orders and retail shopping, where credit card and bank account numbers are entered online. Hackers can buy packs that identify flaws, and then hack into websites or entire retail networks to intercept those numbers.

The Cyber Security task force also said that hackers can access ad networks that take consumers to these same sites or that post malware onto their devices. Oracle said its latest patches address the latest flaws and set the security level on Java to “high” in a bid to alert users that malware could be downloaded onto their machines.

My Java Advice

When you visit a website and Java wants to run you will normally be presented with a pop-up message asking for permission to run. If you are not 100% comfortable with the website you are visiting do not provide approval for Java to run.

How Do You Disable Java in Internet Explorer?

1. If you use Internet Explorer version 7 or above, open Internet Explorer and select Tools | Manage Add-ons then skip to Step 3. If you use an older version of Internet Explorer, open Internet Explorer and select Tools | Internet Options and continue to Step 2.

2. From the Internet Options window, click the Programs tab and select Manage Add-ons.

3. From the Add-ons windows, click once to select (highlight) Java Plug-in then click the Disable button. Click Close and OK to accept the change.

4. Alternatively, you can also click Tools | Internet Options | Advanced. If Java is installed in your browser, you will see a listing for Sun Java in the Internet Options menu. Just uncheck it to disable.

5. When you encounter a site that requires Java (for example, some small online games and calculators), you can re-enable Java easily by following the same steps above, this time selecting the enable option.

You can get more directions for many vesions of Windows & Browsers on Java’s website.

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Avoid Ransomware At All Costs

During the past year many people I know have had their PCs infected with the form of malware that is now being called “ransomware”. But what is “ransomware”?

Ransomware is the big brother of an older type of malware known as “scareware”. When infected with “ransomware” your pc the rogue program begins to threaten to destroy your files if you don’t pay up. The “ransomware” then starts erasing your stuff if you don’t provide a large fee to some account that is provided by the “ransomware”. Other variants claim that you have child pornography on your PC and proceeds to threaten to report you unless you pay. These blackmail scams are why the name “ransomware” is used. 

Both “scareware” and “ransomware” are huge problems because they use trickery and social engineering to get around anti-virus programs. They use false messages to fool people into clicking links on pop-ups. These pop-ups then trigger rogue JavaScript present on web pages that you are sent to after clicking the pop-up message. The pop-up messages can be confusing because they are specifically designed to look like a warning from your own anti-virus program. If you fall for this trick and click on the link you will bypass your anti-virus program and provide the malware permission to install. Once installed these malicious programs are very difficult to get rid of, even for experts. This is because they disable your anti-virus defenses. An example of a phony warning is shown below. Click on this and you really are infected.

Many times the only way of dealing with this sort of infection is to reformat the disk and re-install the operating system and programs. You will then need to restore your personal files from your latest backup. This can be very costly because if you do not know how to do this you will need to pay an expert.

Sadly countless people fail to back up their personal files and that it in the end, makes this situation all the more tragic.

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