Archive for January, 2017

Ransomware – Petya variant targets Human Resources users via Job applications

Ransomware dangers continue to circulate in-the-wild.  SHRM is a major Human Resources professional networking site.  It shares the risks associated with a new Petya variant, this is targeting companies via infected job applications.

HR departments are being targeted by a new ransomware attack that comes disguised as a job application.  The cybercriminals behind the attacks demand about $1,000 in digital currency called bitcoin to restore data on infected computers, according to a recent blog post by Check Point Software.   One bitcoin is worth roughly $894, according to Coindesk, a site that tracks news and information about digital currencies.

Once an applicant applies for a job by filling out the online application, they may be asked to e-mail additional files. The malware arrives in an e-mail with two attachments—a benign PDF that appears to be an applicant’s cover letter and an Excel file containing infected macros—reported Check Point, a San Carlos, Calif.-based malware-protection firm. This ransomware is a variant of one called Petya, which was developed by a cybercriminal who goes by the name Janus, according to Check Point.

Victims receive a ransom message on their screen telling them that their hard disk has been “infected with a military grade encryption algorithm. There is no way to restore your data without a special key” that only the cybercriminals can provide.

Petya and other malware are sold as ransomware-as-a-service products, so it’s “very likely” that more than one cybercriminal is using this type of malware, Check Point said.  To avoid a malware infection, ZDNet advises, don’t enable macros on Microsoft Office documents and watch for unanticipated or notably generic e-mails.  “The most effective solution revolves around security awareness training, specifically utilizing phishing simulation training”

Microsoft Security – Revamped Security Updates portal coming in FEB 2017

Microsoft will be revising their Security Bulletins Portal in February to use CVEs and other changes as described below:

Microsoft will be going live with its new “Security Updates Guide” portal — which will replace the older “Security Bulletins” portal — next month.  The Security Updates Guide is currently accessible as a preview. However, on Jan. 10, 2017, Microsoft will stop publishing the Security Bulletins portal. The Security Bulletin numbering system, using formats like “MS17-00x” to label security bulletin groups, also will be going away next month. Instead of using those bulletin numbers, Microsoft plans to identify its patches using “vulnerability ID numbers and KB [Knowledge Base] Article ID numbers,” the company explained, in a Security Updates Guide FAQ.

Microsoft Security Updates – JANUARY 2017

Below are key resources documenting this recent monthly Microsoft Patch Tuesday release:

Happy New Year to our readers! Today marks the first Patch Tuesday of 2017 with Microsoft releasing their monthly set of bulletins designed to address security vulnerabilities. This month’s release is relatively light with 4 bulletins addressing 3 vulnerabilities. Two bulletins are rated critical and address vulnerabilities in Office and Adobe Flash Player while the other two are rated important and address vulnerabilities Edge and the Local Security Authority Subsystem Service.

Windows 10 – Security updates for original version 1507 end on MARCH 26th

The Windows 10 versioning uses a YYMM format and version 1507 reflects the original JULY 2015 release.  After March 26, 2017, the original release will no longer be updated, as reflected below.  This issue will primarily impact corporate WIN10 versions — as this is the only eligible version, where users can easily turn off updates

IT pros running Windows 10: Update your engines.  As Microsoft noted last year, the company plans to update only two Current Branch for Business versions of Windows 10 at any given time.  Now that Microsoft has released the media for its Windows 10 Anniversary Update — the Windows 10 bits that it released in August 2016, plus a Cumulative Update to it from late last year — the time is winding down for the original version of Windows 10 released in July 2015.

The first release of Windows 10, known as 1507, is the version that Microsoft will no longer update after March 26, 2017. The other two versions of the product in market — the November update (1511) from November 2015 and the Anniversary Update (1607) — will continue to get regular security and feature fixes and updates.

Windows 10 – Overall usage reaches 25 percent

WIN10 usage continues to grow, especially as it comes preloaded on new computers.  However corporate enterprise users are more locked into legacy devices, applications, and desktop management software continue to use WIN7 more extensively.

Windows 10 has made some decent inroads thus far: it now accounts for somewhere around a quarter of PCs accessing the internet as measured by NetMarketShare. All data like this needs to be looked at in terms of trends rather than details, of course, but in December 2016 – the most current data available, Windows 7 stood at 48 percent, Windows 10 had 24 percent, Windows 8.1 held seven percent, Windows XP nine percent, and Windows 8 had just two percent.

In Windows 7, Microsoft built a good product that companies like. It’s now tried and tested, works with their existing infrastructure and their users are confident using it. And they worry about how big a leap it is to Windows 10, though more will no doubt consider the upgrade as Windows 7 heads towards the end of its lifecycle (Microsoft’s extended support, which included security updates, ends in January 2020).

Mobile Phones – Bad Batteries root cause for Galaxy Note 7 issues

Some of manufacturing techniques created a short in both the original and replacement batteries leading to a loss of over $5 billion as the entire product line had to shutdown and recalled.  A new 8 point safety program was instituted to prevent future issues.

The Galaxy Note 7 counts as the worst smartphone launch on record. The handsets were all faulty, even the models Samsung claimed were fixed after an initial recall. In the end, not only were all Note 7 recalled, Samsung took action to disable any remaining handsets so as to avoid having any still in use exploding and causing more harm.

When metal is machined it can be left with sharp protrusions known as burrs. Battery B suffered from “high welding burrs” which penetrated the insulation tape and separator inside the battery and caused a “direct contact between the positive tab with the negative electrode.” Additionally, some of these B batteries did not include the required insulation tape. The end result was the same: a catastrophic failure of the battery.

So ultimately, Samsung shipped a bad battery, quickly replaced it, but did so with another bad battery.  Unsurprisingly, Samsung is introducing a new 8-point battery safety check going forward. It will ensure all batteries undergo a durability test, visual inspection, X-Ray, charge and discharge test, Total Volatile Organic Compound (TVOC) test, disassembling test, accelerated usage test, and Delta Open Circuit Voltage test.

Leadership – Techniques to encourage personal growth of others

John Maxwell reflects on the need to encourage members of the team in their personal growth in sharing the following three key techniques

Whenever I write or speak on the subject of leadership, I share that the best leaders are always on the lookout for opportunities to help people in their organizations grow. Helping team members grow is a great way to enhance your own growth and develop together as a team.

1. Be Quick to Listen — We live in a world that is clamoring to be heard. Between social media, blogs, video journals, podcasts and traditional media, a lot is being said, but not many are listening. So when you go out of your way to listen, you are communicating two things: one, that the person speaking has value, and two, that you want to add value to them.

2. Be Quick to Laugh — Nothing helps a person more than someone willing to share a laugh in times of stress, or times of trouble, or times of joy. That’s because laughter creates positivity. And positivity is essential for anyone trying to grow. After all, personal growth often comes with mistakes, bumps, and bruises, so it’s especially helpful when we have someone to help us laugh our way through the rough patches.

3. Be Quick to Encourage — It’s important to remember that we often see positive things in others that they don’t see in themselves. They may suspect these truths, but to have someone else come along and honestly point them out is a difference maker in ways we can’t imagine. When someone else sees and says the truth about who someone is capable of being, it goes a long way toward encouraging them to grow into that potential.

Ransomware – New Doxware technique makes sensitive documents public

A new technique described as “Doxware” is where sensitive documents are published in a “wikileaks” type fashion publicly until payment is rendered. While this would be targeted for highly specific companies or individuals, it is designed to bring in greater ransom payments.

The latest form of malware holds computers hostage and compromises the privacy of conversations, photos, and sensitive files. In recent years, ransomware has become a growing concern for companies in every industry. Between April 2015 and March 2016, the number of individuals affected by ransomware surpassed 2 million — a 17.7% increase from the previous year.

Many companies have figured out that they can avoid paying these ransoms by wiping a system clean, restoring it with backup drives, and going about business without being held hostage. But as a result of increased ransom-avoidance, cybercriminals have created an even more insidious threat. Imagine malware that combines ransomware with a personal data leak: this is what the latest threat, doxware, looks like.

With doxware, hackers hold computers hostage until the victim pays the ransom, similar to ransomware. But doxware takes the attack further by compromising the privacy of conversations, photos, and sensitive files, and threatening to release them publicly unless the ransom is paid. Because of the threatened release, it’s harder to avoid paying the ransom, making the attack more profitable for hackers.

Doxware requires strategic, end-to-end planning, which means hackers will target their victims more deliberately. Therefore, malicious players will be more intentional in whom they attack, giving corporate leaders, politicians, celebrities, and other public figures cause for concern.

Intel – 2017 Kaby Lake CPU processor details

This article and slideshow, from Extreme Tech, shares details for INTEL’s 7th generation CPU chips:

Intel didn’t just launch the new Core i7-7700K desktop CPU, it made a comprehensive update to its entire product line. The initial Kaby Lake mobile refresh was limited to a handful of SKUs; with this launch Intel is bringing out a larger number of cores intended for every price point. The new chips are, for the most part, drop-in replacements for the Skylake SKUs Intel launched in 2015 and 2016, though most of the models feature at least a small clock jump over and above what Skylake offered.

Kaby Lake is priced nearly identically to Skylake in virtually every case, but the Core i5-7600K has a 3.8GHz base clock and a 4.2GHz turbo clock, whereas the Core i5-6700K was a 3.5GHz – 3.9GHz chip. These gains are preserved through most of the product stack; the 35W Core i5-7400T has a 2.4GHz base, 3GHz turbo, compared with the Core i5-6400T with its 2.2GHz base and 2.8GHz turbo.

There’s a new nomenclature attached to many of Intel’s 15W and 28W CPUs. These new chips feature what Intel is calling “Iris Plus,” meaning they incorporate a 64MB EDRAM chip alongside the GPU core. The 128MB EDRAM cores that Intel has previously shipped with Skylake and Broadwell aren’t being carried over to the Iris Plus line, at least not for now. OEM uptake on these cores has never been high, even though they can improve integrated graphics performance by almost 100%.

All of the new 7th-Generation chips support VP9 hardware decode, as well as supporting H.265 encode/decode completely in hardware. As a result, all of these cores are comparable with streaming 4K video from Netflix or any other service that agrees to use Windows PlayReady DRM via the Edge browser. Intel has already said it won’t bring its EDRAM to any desktop quad-core SKUs this cycle, so if you were hoping for a non-embedded chip with Iris Plus you’ll have to look for a Skylake-based core or consider the Broadwell-based Core i7-5775C, which does have the 128MB cache.

USB Flash Drives – Kingston 1TB and 2TB devices

Kingston will offer 1TB and 2TB next month with the new DataTraveler Ultimate GT USB flash drive as described below:

We are now spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding how to carry data around. There’s USB sticks, portable hard drives that don’t require a power cable, SD cards, and of course, the cloud. So the limiting factor isn’t how to carry data around in your pocket, it’s how much you can carry?

According to Betanews, Kingston is increasing the answer we can give to that question to 2TB next month with the launch of its DataTraveler Ultimate GT USB flash drive. By squeezing 2TB of storage into the Ultimate GT, Kingston can claim to offer the world’s largest capacity USB flash drive.

The Ultimate GT will be made available in 1TB and 2TB capacities with USB 3.1 transfer speeds, which is a good move considering how much data you can transfer on and off this stick. USB 3.1 offers a maximum of 1,280MB/s transfer speeds, although getting anywhere near that speed depends as much on the USB port as the drive itself.  It uses a zinc-alloy metal casing “for shock resistance,” includes a 5-year warranty