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January 31st, 2017

img-window7-170px-op1As the saying goes: Out with the old, in with the new. That’s exactly what Microsoft is encouraging Windows 7 users to do as soon as possible. It’s been reported that Windows 7 in 2017 is so outdated that patches are unable to secure it anymore. Maybe it’s the nostalgic qualities that make it hard for users to take the leap. But sentiments aside, Windows 10 is the way to go.

Windows 7 was given extended support in 2015. And with that, Microsoft warned its users that this outdated version would drive up operating costs due to remediating software attacks that Windows 10 systems could otherwise avoid. The three-year countdown toward Windows 7’s twilight officially kicks off with a warning to enterprises that they could face hefty fines for sticking with the platform’s outdated security.

According to Markus Nitschke, head of Windows at Microsoft Germany: Windows 7 does not meet the requirements of modern technology, nor the high security requirements of IT departments. How would this make current Windows 7 users feel? Why are users choosing to remain faithful to the platform’s outdated security? Users can delay upgrades until January 13, 2020, after which extended support for the 2009 OS will end and it will no longer receive patches -- unless the customer is paying for a pricey Microsoft Custom Support Agreement.

Markus also added that “As early as in Windows XP, we saw that companies should take early steps to avoid future risks or costs." The message came as Microsoft published studies that showed Windows 10 Anniversary Update’s built-in security managed to neutralize zero-day exploits, even without patches needed to protect earlier versions of Windows.

Failing to upgrade to Windows 10 means that you and your networks will miss out on noteworthy security features such as the Windows Hello biometric login, the AppContainer sandboxing technology, and Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, which will gain new features after upcoming Creators Update.

On top of missing out on all the security features that Windows 10 has to offer, enterprise organizations on Windows 7 soon won’t have the additional zero-day protection that EMET, or the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit, offered since 2009. Last November, EMET’s expiration date was extended from January 2017 to July 31, 2018.

With the help of newer tools, migrating from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is considerably easier when compared with migrations from XP. Microsoft is still urging corporate users to make the shift before Microsoft permanently terminates support for Windows 7, stating that their business could be looking at real trouble if they fail to comply.

Business owners always do their best to ensure the future of their organization. That includes knowing which tech resources to rely on and which ones to avoid. If you still have questions about Windows 7, feel free to give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
January 13th, 2017

img-windows10-170px-op1In the past year, Microsoft was heavily criticized for forcing the Windows 10 OS update on PC users. After thousands of customer complaints, the tech giant vowed to make changes and appease disgruntled end users. With the new year are signs that the firm is finally tending to these problems. Here are some of them:

A patch and a glitch away Users couldn’t escape the glitches in the frequent Windows 10 updates, which caused an array of problems such as frozen systems, broken webcams, and even PCs being unable to secure an Internet connection. In light of the patching dilemma, Microsoft is offering more options to defer updates. In fact, a leaked preview shows a new option to pause updates for up to 35 days via a switch in the Settings menu.

OneDrive placeholders Since the launch of Windows 10, many users have eagerly awaited Microsoft to re-introduce this beloved feature to the operating system’s built-in OneDrive cloud storage service. In Windows 8.1, placeholders (aka Smart files) allowed users to see all their OneDrive files, whether or not they were stored on the device. Making its return in Windows 10 File Explorer when using OneDrive, the feature shows user files stored locally as well as on the cloud.

Owning up to the update fiasco Not only is Microsoft addressing the various complaints it received, but it’s also owning up to some of them. Just before Christmas, Microsoft’s chief marketing officer, Chris Capossela, admitted that the company had gone too far when it tried to get Windows 7 and 8 users to upgrade to Windows 10. This referred to Microsoft’s decision in early 2016 to change the design for the user prompt for its Get Windows 10 app, the software responsible for scheduling upgrades. The user prompt was altered so that clicking X to close the window causes the user to unknowingly agree to a Windows 10 upgrade. This change puts Microsoft in direct violation of its own user experience guidelines for developers on dialog box design.

“Within a couple of hours of that hitting the world, we knew we had gone too far,” recalled Capossela. “Those two weeks were pretty painful and clearly a lowlight for us.” It was then that Microsoft reversed its decision on tweaking the pop-up, so clicking on X would dismiss the upgrade.

It seems that 2017 is the year that Microsoft will start listening more to its users and addressing their complaints. Maybe: Hopefully this renewed strategy will benefit users sooner rather than frustrate them later. Contact us and we’ll keep you up-to-date with the latest Microsoft updates.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
December 29th, 2016

2016december29_windows_aRecently, Microsoft has made new upgrades to their web browser platform. Despite numerous changes, one making the biggest waves for users of all kinds is the lack of instant and easy compatibility with Adobe Flash. Adobe Flash is a web platform and add-on that many business websites have put to extensive use. However, now that Microsoft has made these changes, it can mean big things for business owners and web designers alike. Get to know more about why Microsoft has blocked Adobe Flash and the possible ramifications for those changes.

The primary purpose behind the recent changes made to Microsoft Edge is to make it more competitive with the popular Google Chrome web browser. Among efforts to do just that is the change to how Adobe Flash works on the Edge browser. Now, instead of Adobe Flash plugins playing and loading immediately when a person navigates a website, the application will be blocked.

An alert will come up near the address bar, letting users know that Adobe Flash has been blocked and will give the option to run the add-on or continue blocking it. For businesses that use Adobe Flash throughout their websites, this can be a frustrating change as visitors will need to take an extra step to access the full website.

However, there are numerous legitimate reasons for these changes to the Microsoft Edge browser. The most important of these issues is the fact that Adobe Flash is a security risk and is easily hackable, making it more likely for information and control to be lost to web users. Another issue is the fact that Adobe Flash is a big drain on battery life for computers and other devices.

The theory is that Adobe Flash is on its way out, and that newer, better systems are on their way in. As of now, Windows Insider users are the only ones with access to these updates, but soon the updates will go global and be made available to all users. In fact, Microsoft plans to eventually automatically load HTML5 web information first without loading Adobe Flash content at all.

Because so many sites use Adobe Flash, this can mean major renovations to existing web content. If you worry about the impact this will have on your business, contact us for immediate help and assistance in maximizing your website usability before these changes go live for all Microsoft Edge users.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
December 14th, 2016

2016december14_windows_aWindows 10, the latest version of Microsoft's operating system, has proved to be a system full of many strengths and some very decided weaknesses. One of the biggest flaws of this particular operating system is the fact that Windows Updates are often clunky, take a great deal of time, and use large amounts of processing power. Luckily, Microsoft has recently proposed a fix for that problem in hopes of speeding up the update process for the Windows 10 operating system.

What Microsoft is proposing to streamline for the Windows 10 update process is a system known as a UUP or a Unified Update Platform. A Unified Update Platform is essentially a large series of changes to Windows 10, all of which occur behind-the-scenes and will not affect overall user experience. These changes will work to reduce the amount of processing power required to update Windows as well as make the updates move faster for Windows 10 users who need to keep things moving along quickly.

This UUP ambition will be accomplished in a number of ways, including significantly shrinking the size of the update files for all devices, and especially, making the Windows phone update process much more streamlined than it currently is. One of the ways Microsoft proposes to streamline and speed up the update process is by sending updates that are device-specific rather than distributing a full bundle of updates together, some of which are not necessary for the device in question.

Currently, Windows 10 updates essentially overhaul the entire version of Windows 10 that users have on their device. This makes the update process easier on Microsoft, but not on users. Instead of this system, the UUP will eventually allow updates to occur only to the specific programs and systems that need updating, leaving the rest of the operating system untouched. Larger system-wide updates will also be much faster and more efficient with the UUP system in place.

Should you have further questions about what this new Windows 10 update process could mean for you and your business, contact us as soon as possible. We can help you with all your operating system needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
November 28th, 2016

2016november28_windows_aMicrosoft Paint has long been a staple to the Windows computing platform for many years. And only recently has this cornerstone application been updated with the introduction of a new program, Microsoft Paint 3D. If you have long awaited such an upgrade, you’ll be delighted to hear about the the new changes.

With the new Microsoft Paint 3D, users will have the opportunity to create both 2D and 3D graphics and images. It is just as easy as it always was to use pen and paintbrush features to draw a 2D image, but now these images can be converted into 3D. There is also a stamp feature that allows a user to add stickers to their 2D creations to make them 3D.

Additionally, just like in the world outside of the computer, the 3D objects in Microsoft Paint 3D can be written on with pencils, pens, or paintbrushes, adding 2D imagery to 3D creations. One of the additional benefits of Microsoft Paint 3D is that the creations that users make on the app can easily be shared on social media. This makes it easier than ever before to put Microsoft Paint creations to use.

With Microsoft Paint 3D, users are also able to take images from their smart phone and transform them to 3D images in Microsoft Paint 3D. Even further, if you have a 3D printer, you can actually bring the 3D creations from your app to life.

All these new innovations make Microsoft Paint 3D an exciting development in the Microsoft product offerings. This new version of Microsoft Paint will be made available with the latest updated version of Windows 10 Creator's Studio and should be released early in 2017. If you are ready to get started with this program or want more information about what else the Microsoft Creator’s update has in store for you, contact us as soon as possible.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
November 11th, 2016

2016november11_windows_aAs Microsoft outlines new updates to its latest platform, Windows 10, many people do not even realize that changes are afoot. In fact, a lot of the best new features Windows 10 has to offer have been sneakily revealed, and so many people don’t even know that’s been happening. If you are a current Windows 10 user, get to know more about some of the best new features this computing platform has to offer. Then, if you have further questions or want to know more about how to get these features working for you when they are fully available, you can contact us right away to get started.

Groove Music Maker

One of the biggest Windows 10 features that Microsoft sneakily revealed for is a new program known as Groove Music Maker. Presumably designed to compete with Apple's Garageband application, this program allows users to create computer-generated music by using the program’s own digital instruments or by recording their own voice or instrumental work and adding sound effects. Sure, that may not be particularly earth-shattering for most SMBs, but maybe you want to experiment with a new jingle for your local ads?

Windows Store

The Windows Store will also be greatly improved with the ability to make in-app purchases directly from the Windows Store homescreen. This streamlines the experience for users who wish to purchase apps, movies, or music quickly and easily. Make sure that if you have any Windows store apps, they’re optimized for this development.

Microsoft Edge Browser

The Microsoft Edge browser will also have major improvements as well. The tab viewing and browsing process will be made easier by allowing users to set browser tiles aside for later access and use. On top of this feature, Microsoft Edge users will also be able to use scrollable tab previews that let the user get a look at what page is on each tab before they toggle back to that tab. Both these features make the web browsing process easier and help to make Microsoft Edge competitive with the features of other popular web browsers.

Windows Defender

Windows Defender, the built-in security system for Windows 10, will also be improved in these new features and updates. The software will be more user-friendly and include virus protection, firewall, computer performance features, and much more.

Windows 10 Basics

The entire base of the Windows 10 platform will be enhanced as well. Users will be able to pick up where they stopped working from other devices linked to the computer. This streamlines the user experience and can prevent information and data loss. The quick actions menu will also be adjusted so that users can more easily perform necessary actions. The accent color scheme will also be made customizable, and live tiles will be introduced to the Start Menu feature, making it easier to access your latest photos, documents, and recently used apps.

Knowing these are some of the upcoming features that Microsoft plans to add to Windows 10, you can now see how these changes will benefit you and your user experience with Windows 10. For more information about Windows 10 as it is now or will be in the future, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
October 27th, 2016

2016october27_windows_aAs a new and gigantic improvement on versions 7, 8 and 8.1, Windows 10 bears a significant burden in regards to security. Despite being regarded as one of the best Windows operating systems supported, it suffers from imperfections, just like every other piece of software on the market. But with such a swift and thorough response to flaws from its programmers, it’s hard to complain. Make sure to read this article before installing Windows’ most recent patch.

Internet Explorer

In its Windows 10 announcement, Microsoft clarified that it found four zero-day flaws, which are vulnerabilities that have never been seen before. Of the four, the most concerning is the one that allows cyberattackers to remotely take control of your machine with full administrative rights via Internet Explorer. All that is required to deploy the malware is visiting a website with the corresponding code.

Office

Microsoft Office also has a critical flaw that grants attackers the ability to corrupt memory and abuse privileges inherent to the user who opened the mischievous Office document. By amending how documents are saved and how code within a document is executed, Microsoft believes users will be much safer from email attachment schemes.

Exchange Server

For companies with on-premise servers, Microsoft Exchange Server patches need special attention. Without them, a malicious email could grant cyberattackers the ability to remotely insert and execute commands within the server. Patch MS16-108 provides cumulative updates and changes the way hotfixes and service packs are delivered. Lastly, it tries to ensure Microsoft Exchange Server follows a scheduled delivery model.

Microsoft Graphics

This security update for the Microsoft Graphics component of Windows 10 is considered ‘critical’ because of its presence throughout the entire operating system. Patch MS16-106 removes vulnerabilities in graphics processing protocols that would allow attackers to remotely control and exploit target systems.

If your desktops have not automatically updated themselves, users can trigger a manual update by opening the Settings window, selecting Update & Security, and finally Windows Update. Once there, simply select Check for Updates and follow the prompts to download and install the necessary updates.

Managing one machine is hard enough. If you're struggling to keep an entire office up and running, chances are you feel like you’re treading water in steel-toed boots. For total monitoring and maintenance of all your Windows machines, call us today -- we’ll throw you a lifeline and pull you aboard.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
October 12th, 2016

2016october12_windows_aLast month Microsoft announced that over 400 million devices have Windows 10 installed. But despite the general consensus that those adoption rates are a huge success, Microsoft wants more. Because one of the biggest obstacles to large-scale migrations is varied compatibility among workstation hardware and software, a new tool has been released to analyze and report on the feasibility of making the move to Windows 10. If you’ve got any machines waiting for a worrisome upgrade, this article may contain all the information you need to make it easy.

Named the Windows Upgrade Analytics Service (WUAS), Microsoft is gifting administrators and service providers with tools very similar to those it uses to do its own bulk installs. By gathering data on multiple devices, applications, and hardware drivers on a network simultaneously, massive disruptions and troubleshooting events can be avoided entirely.

If any of these variables are customized or outdated, they may not work in a Windows 10, derailing a focused migration workflow. Available right now, this service does more than just inventory your workstations, it also uses the data it has gathered to guide administrators step-by-step through the most efficient order of upgrades possible.

If all your IT components are uniform and compatible with the most recent Windows 10 service pack, it will recommend a straightforward migration. However, if you have pockets of older, or more specialized machines, WUAS may suggest splitting the process up by upgrading those machines first to smooth the process.

Microsoft delivers the features of this service through its cloud-based Operations Management Suite. Make sure it's installed on your machines and add ‘Upgrade Analytics’ from the ‘Solutions Gallery.’ From there, a simple wizard will guide you one item at a time through the four-step process.

Windows gets several updates per year, and it's a waste of company resources for your staff to be stuck waiting for their machines to get back up and running while they update. Why not just outsource the entire process to professionals who will finish the task in a fraction of the time? Our managed services come with a flat fee, regardless of whether you want to upgrade all or just some of your workstations. Don’t believe us? Just call today to find out more!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
September 23rd, 2016

2016september23_microsoftwindowsnewsandtips_aWindows 10’s action center has immense potential, but without proper configuration it’s a messy amalgamation of unnecessary notifications and information. That’s not to say the action center is unsalvageable; it just needs to be properly tailored to suit your preferences. In just three quick steps you can limit the scope of your notifications and how they grab your attention. Let’s get started.

Overarching action center settings

The place to start is customizing system-wide notifications settings. To view these, click on the Cortana icon on your taskbar, type ‘Notifications,’ and click ‘Notifications & actions settings.’ From here you can turn off alerts entirely, adjust those on the lock screen, or customize the alerts for core functions such as alarms and incoming calls.

Settings for individual applications

If you’re interested in taking a far more nuanced approach to your notifications, there are options to create rules on an app-by-app basis. At the bottom of the ‘Notifications & actions settings’ screen is a section titled ‘Get notifications from these senders.’ At first glance it may look as though you can only turn alerts completely off or on for these apps, but that’s not the case.

By clicking on any of the items in this list, you can open a new window full of more graded notifications options. From here, users can specify lock screen, sound, and priority settings for individual software.

Closing the blinds

For users who have no interest whatsoever in the Windows 10 action center, there is a way to banish it entirely. Open Cortana again and search ‘Notification area.’ Halfway down the page, click the menu titled ‘Turn system icons on or off.’ Toggling the Action Center option (third from the bottom) allows you to remove the icon from your taskbar altogether.

While you’re at it, why not take this philosophy one step further? Click the back arrow to return to the ‘Notification area’ window and this time choose ‘Select which icons appear on the taskbar.’ Here you can choose which apps to remove from your taskbar entirely, eliminating any annoying icons that change to alert you of distracting notifications.

Everyone is different. If artists have tools unique to their style, why shouldn’t the tools of your trade be tailored to your preferences? Our paintbrush is technology, and we’d love to show you how we work by helping you achieve new levels of productivity and efficiency on your Windows machine. Get in touch with us today to speak with one of our tech-savvy specialists about your technology goals.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
September 7th, 2016

2016September7_MicrosoftWindowsNewsAndTips_AIt’s hard to deny how quickly the different types of ransomware multiply -- they do so faster than rabbits during mating season. Ransomware vary in appearance, subtlety, and targets. The latest addition to the extensive list of ransomware varieties is Fantom. This cybersecurity nightmare adopts a facade that many would have no qualms trusting. Like many other things, these technologically menacing forces are like “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” -- impending danger lurks beneath the most seemingly innocent guises.

AVG security researcher Jakub Kroustek recently spotted Fantom coded atop an EDA2, a ransomware-building kit that was open-sourced but eventually taken down. EDA2 contained certain flaws that allowed researchers to obtain decryption keys from its C&C server, yet these flaws have since disappeared, indicating that Fantom coders might have found and fixed them before anyone else had a chance to.

Very little is known as to how Fantom is distributed. As for the method of deployment, cybercriminals plant the file onto the target’s computer via spam email or exploit kits. Fantom-infected files are named criticalupdate01.exe; they utilize a “Windows Security Update” to prompt targets into running the file.

After activation, the ransomware starts by locking the user’s screen while displaying fake Windows Update graphics, complete with a fully-functioning percentage-based loading timer that mirrors the original Windows Update screen. However, beneath this pleasant facade, Fantom is encrypting your files right before your eyes. Luckily, the temporary lock screen is removable before it reaches 100% -- simply press CTRL+F4. Unfortunately, the encryption process remains intact.

The MalwareHunterTeam states, “The ransomware uses classic ransomware encryption by locking files using an AES-128 key and then encrypting this key with a dual RSA key, with the private key stored on the crook's server, and a public key left on the user's PC.”

In order to retrieve the private key to unlock your files, you must contact the perpetrators by email. The email address is listed in the ransom note that appears after the process of encryption is complete. Fantom displays ransom notes in the form of HTML and TXT files, while changing the user’s desktop with a custom screenshot that lists the contact details. Lastly, after completing all its operations, Fantom cleans after itself by running two batch scripts wiping all the installation files clean.

Ransomware isn’t new, but the ways that cybercriminals utilize them are. Who would’ve thought that the ever so familiar Windows Update window has fallen prey to malicious intent? Pretend that you’re the Little Red Riding Hood and that the wolf is the ransomware that cybercriminals have disguised as your grandmother. They no longer wait to trap you, instead, they wait for you to walk straight into one instead.

The issue of ransomware is as extensive as it is meticulous. If you have any questions about Fantom or would like to request more information, feel free to get in touch with us! Give us a call or send us an email. Our dedicated staff are more than happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows