Computer News & Safety – Harry Waldron Rotating Header Image

October, 2011:

Windows 8 – Detailed review by ZDNet

Ed Bott’s review provides an excellent detailed assessment of the preview version of Windows 8,

A deeper dive into Windows 8: can Microsoft’s big bet pay off?

QUOTE: There’s no question that this is a thoughtfully designed, thoroughly engineered release. If you had any doubts, just read through the Building Windows 8 blog, where Windows boss Steven Sinofsky and a parade of program managers have published one epic post after another explaining the history, evolution, and design philosophy that went into every new feature in Windows 8.  This deeper dive is divided into four parts:

Page 2: The misunderstood Start screen
No, it’s not the “Metro shell.” It’s a full-screen replacement for the familiar Start menu. Brilliant idea or a bridge too far?

Page 3: What’s next for the Windows desktop?
There are virtually no “immersive,” Metro style apps for the Windows Developer Preview, which means anyone testing this pre-release is going to spend time in an environment that looks an awful lot like Windows 7. So what’s new? And what can we expect to change?

Page 4: To touch or not to touch?
This is the one complaint I’ve heard above all others. Do people really want touchscreens? Will they use them? I share my personal experience with three touch-enabled form factors.

Page 5: Security and reliability – Yeah, I know. Microsoft claims every version of Windows is more secure than the previous one. Windows 8 is no exception, but it pushes some boundaries with new features that have already inspired controversy.

Windows 8 – New Metro UI and start screen

The recent Government Computer News group shared a good write up on the changes associated with the new Metro UI and several more detailed informational links are included from the “Building Windows 8 blog”

Windows 8 – New Metro UI and start screen

QUOTE: Microsoft went a step further than that with the Windows 8 design and laid all of the programs out in a single view on the Start Screen, dropping the taskbar altogether from the Metro UI. That layout, in Microsoft’s view, represents “the evolution of the Start menu.” In this case, “evolution” means a collection of square and rectangular colored tiles, representing programs, all sitting right on the desktop screen.

Next, Alice Steinglass, group program manager for the core experience evolved team, took up the cause of explaining the Start Screen’s design in Windows 8. Her main point is that the Windows 8 Start Screen functions as a sort of “dashboard that helps you stay up to date and connected in a high quality experience substantially improved over the notification tray.” The notification tray on the taskbar was simply dropped in the Metro UI because it just added clutter to the desktop. Similarly, Microsoft dropped the folder approach in the start menu because “folders are a way of burying things, not organizing them.”

MSDN – Building Windows 8 BLOG

This is an informative and excellent resource to track developments for Windows 8

MSDN – Building Windows 8 BLOG

W32.Duqu – Advanced malware threat modeled after Stuxnet

Duqu is a sophisticated new threat which appears to have been written by the same group who authored Stuxnet (one of the most advanced malware attacks developed to date)

W32.Duqu – Advanced malware threat modeled after Stuxnet

QUOTE: Duqu is essentially the precursor to a future Stuxnet-like attack. The threat was written by the same authors (or those that have access to the Stuxnet source code) and appears to have been created since the last Stuxnet file was recovered. Duqu’s purpose is to gather intelligence data and assets from entities, such as industrial control system manufacturers, in order to more easily conduct a future attack against another third party. The attackers are looking for information such as design documents that could help them mount a future attack on an industrial control facility.

Duqu uses HTTP and HTTPS to communicate with a command-and-control (C&C) server that at the time of writing is still operational. The attackers were able to download additional executables through the C&C server, including an infostealer that can perform actions such as enumerating the network, recording keystrokes, and gathering system information. The information is logged to a lightly encrypted and compressed local file, which then must be exfiltrated out.

Privacy – Managing the flow of sensitive information

Privacy invokes the protection of sensitive information as it flows throughout an organization.  F-Secure has an interesting article related to the psychology of this process:

F-Secure: Privacy is a way of managing information flow

QUOTE: Why are people so willing to give away their personal information to complete strangers? It’s because humans want to share information. And in fact, they share information a lot more freely than other “things” such as goods and services.  Which of these are you most likely to provide without thinking much about it?

  •  To give a stranger directions to the bus stop (information).
  •  To take a stranger to the bus stop (service).
  •  To give a stranger bus fare (goods).

If you’re like most people, you’ll freely give directions, but you’ll resist giving away your money.  “Managing our privacy” isn’t a natural act.  What maintained our privacy in the past was that it was generally inconvenient to spy on people. Platforms such as Facebook present a new unique problem and new solutions (filters) are needed, rather than to re-tool old existing filters.

Trend Labs – Highlights from Virus Bulletin 2011 Barcelona

Several informative links are noted in this summary

Trend Labs – Highlights from Virus Bulletin 2011 Barcelona

QUOTE: This year, we had the privilege of attending the 21st Virus Bulletin International Conference in Barcelona, Spain. Researchers from Trend Micro presented three topics in the corporate stream and one topic in the technical stream.

Ethan YX Chen covered file-fraction reputation for the technical stream on day 1.

For the corporate steam on day 2, Max Goncharov presented on traffic direction systems as malware distribution tools 

David Sancho and Rainer Link talked about the lessons they learned while sinkholing botnets.

Trend Micro global director of education David Perry talked about the missing metrics of malware.

The presentation entitled, “An OpenBTS GSM Replication Jail for Mobile Malware,” by Axelle Apvrille discussed the challenges security researchers faced when analyzing mobile threats. 

The presentation about fraud malware analysis showed us that FAKEAV/fake tools have been around for some time now and will probably be there for even longer because of their capability to adapt to changes in the computing landscape.

In his presentation, Tim Ebringer of Microsoft brought out the issue regarding difficulties with finding other malware samples related to one particular file.

GNC – Lists Ten of scariest computer viruses of all time

There are many additional ones that could be added to the list including some of these in my own top ten: Conficker, Sasser, CIH, Blaster, Nimda, SQL-Slammer, Klez, SoBig, Netsky, AntiExe, etc

GCN LAB IMPRESSIONS – The 10 scariest computer viruses of all time

QUOTE: The dreary winter months are approaching, and little ghosts and goblins are starting to crawl from their haunts. With the spooky Halloween season about to get into full swing, we thought we might help get into the mood with a look at the 10 most frightening viruses of all time. Hide your hard drives, lock up your files and make sure your AV shields are at maximum power as we enter…the dark realm of computer programs gone bad.

10. Virus infecting U.S. fleet of combat drones
9. Creeper wasn’t actually all that malignant, and it only affected TENEX operating systems in the 1970s.
8. Suddenly, in 2007, Stoned.Angelina came back to infect more than 100,000 PCs running the new operating system.
7. Stuxnet – cripple the Iranian nuclear program.
6. Anna Kournikova virus in 2001
5. Back Orifice is not really a virus per se, but gives remote access privileges to someone at another computer
4. Christmas Tree EXEC program paralyzed a lot of internal networks in 1987
3. Code Red virus was one of the first to successfully target Web servers running IIS in 2001
2. Melissa virus of 1999
1. I Love You virus, which racked up an impressive kill tally of tens of millions of computers in the year 2000.
TOP TEN EMAIL viruses of all time from 2004

Facebook – Avoid McDonalds Happy 44th Birthday link

Below is another attack that is circulating which should be avoided by Facebook users.  It even offers prizes and as noted in the past, “there are no free lunches on the Internet” 

Facebook – Avoid McDonalds Happy 44th Birthday link

QUOTE: I’m sure a McDonald’s themed Facebook scam seemed like a good idea to somebody at the time, but wow is this one all over the place. It’s your typical “Click here to Like”, “Post a spam comment saying how good this is” then “do one of these offers” affair. “Happy 44th birthday to Donald“, they say. Except his name is Ronald and he was created in 1963, which means he’s actually 48. However, things quickly become confusing at this point. This scam targets Facebook users in India, yet as far as I can tell he’s called Ronald there.

Facebook email scam – You have three lost messages

The new email scam is circulating and it is intended to deceive users into clicking on a non-Facebook link that could potentially be malicious

Facebook email scam – You have three lost messages

QUOTE: Or, to put it another way, you didn’t. However, spam mail doing the rounds wants you to think otherwise. “You have three lost messages on Facebook, to recover the messages please follow the link below.”  The links just go to the usual advert / viagra junk. What’s kind of funny here is that an older version of this campaign claimed you were missing one message. Obviously the spammers decided to up the ante so now you have a whole three messages lost to the void.

BlackHole Exploit Kit – Used in new SPAM and Exploit attacks

Trend Labs shares some informative links related to malicious new SPAM attacks

BlackHole Exploit Kit – Used in new SPAM and Exploit attacks

QUOTE: Lately, we have been seeing a renewed increase in the volume of spam attacks that utilize an exploit kit, specifically the BlackHole Exploit Kit to trigger a malicious payload. We have seen this in the latest slew of Automated Clearing House (ACH) spam attacks and the more recent spam run related to Steve Jobs’s death.

In a typical spam campaign that involves malware, cybercriminals lure users through social engineering to perform several actions before the intended payload gets executed. For example, a user needs to download, extract, and execute a supposedly “benign” file for a spam attack to succeed.  Spam campaigns that use exploit kits, however, are a bit more dangerous since these only need to lure the users into clicking a malicious link for the rest of the infection to take place.

In-Depth look at SPAM in today’s business world