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  • What every Windows user should know about IPv6

    Posted on February 28th, 2017 at 19:52 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    You’ve probably heard of it. But do you know how it really works?

    See (and comment on) ch100’s treatise in the Windows forum.

  • Microsoft releases new Win10 Creators Update build 15046

    Posted on February 28th, 2017 at 17:18 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Those of you in the Insider PC Fast ring, fire up your engines.

    I’m expecting some changes in this build. Downloading it now.

    Update in the morning.

  • Amazon S3 cloud storage is down on the east coast

    Posted on February 28th, 2017 at 12:49 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    The Register:

    “Amazon Web Services is scrambling to recover from a cockup at its facility in Virginia, US, that is causing its S3 cloud storage to fail.

    The internet giant did not provide details on the cause of the breakdown that is plaguing storage buckets hosted in the US-East-1 region. The malady has led to major sites, including Imgur and Medium, falling offline, missing images or running like treacle. Just to stress: this is one S3 region that has become inaccessible, yet web apps are tripping up and vanishing as their backend evaporates away.”

    I haven’t seen any problems with AskWoody yet, but my fingers are crossed, wood duly knocked.

  • February missing security patch toll: Two zero-days and counting

    Posted on February 28th, 2017 at 11:28 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Good report from Dan Goodin at Ars Technica.

    Google’s Project Zero sticks to its 90-day notification policy, and a second 0day has been revealed, this time apparently involving CSS tokens.

    The details are important. For example, there’s no exploit code available for this second 0day. But the first 0day, involving a gdi32.dll heap boundary, is still at large.

    So is the SMBv3 bug that causes crashes, and may lead to deeper exploits.

    Security patches are scheduled to resume on March 14.

  • Fascinating detailed study of tech support scammers

    Posted on February 28th, 2017 at 07:42 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    You know the scam: A web page tries to convince you (sometimes forcefully) that your system is infected. Getting away from that site can be very difficult. The scammers feed on naive users, frequently swindling them out of hundreds of dollars.

    In a new study from Stony Brook University, entitled “Dial One for Scam: A Large-Scale Analysis of Technical Support Scams (PDF), authors Najmeh Miramirkhani, Oleksii Starov, and Nick Nikiforakis built “an automated system capable of discovering, on a weekly basis, hundreds of phone numbers and domains operated by scammers.” They also contacted 60 different scammers and collected details about the scams.

    Here are just a few of the study’s many surprising results:

    • While 15 different telecommunication providers were used, four of them were responsible for more than 90 percent of the phone numbers used by scammers.
    • Although the average lifetime of a scam URL is approximately 11 days, 43 percent of the domains were pointing to scams for less than three days.
    • 69 percent of scam campaigns have a lifetime of less than 50 days.
    • The average call center houses 11 technical support scammers, ready to receive calls from victims.

    The study also talks about the use of Content Delivery Networks “such as CDN77, CDNsun, and KeyCDN [which] offer free services without requiring a phone number or a credit card. In addition, every uploaded scam page gets its own random-string-including URL which can not be guessed and thus cannot be preemptively blacklisted.”

    The study includes a long list of social engineering tricks that scammers use; a geographic breakdown (“85.4 percent of them were located in different regions of India, 9.7 percent were located in the U.S., and 4.9 percent were located in Costa Rica”); and a call for browser manufacturers to “adopt one universal shortcut that users can utilize when they feel threatened by a web page.”

    It’s a fascinating expose of a topic that affects all of us.

  • Newly revealed dialogs show how Windows Update can be stalled in the next version of Win10

    Posted on February 27th, 2017 at 15:18 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Ed Bott, who’s become the voice of Microsoft, has just posted a couple of interesting screen shots and an explanation of how Win10 Pro/Enterprise users will be able to delay forced updates in the next version of Win10 – the “Creators Update” due next month.

    You should take the article as gospel truth.

    The long and short of it: Although the dialogs don’t appear in the current beta build 15042, at some point in the future Microsoft will release a build of Win10 version 1703 that lets you control when cumulative updates are installed.

    One of the dialogs shown in the article gives you the ability to Pause updates “for up to 35 days” by sliding a switch. Although it isn’t stated explicitly, apparently “updates” in this case refers to both cumulative updates and version changes. It also isn’t clear why the slider says “up to” – they’re either paused or they aren’t, I would guess.

    The other dialog, which appears to overlap the “pause updates” dialog, gives you three independent choices:

    • Wait for a version to be declared Current Branch for Business before it’s installed on your computer (the choice that keeps you out of the “unpaid beta tester” category).
    • Defer a version change for up to a set number of days. Bott implies that you’ll be able to defer a version change for up to 365 days after it reaches CBB level.
    • A very poorly worded setting “A quality update includes security improvements. It can be deferred for this many days” with a drop-down box that apparently runs up to 30 days. I’m assuming a “quality” update is a cumulative update. I have no idea how other Win10 updates – servicing branch changes, drivers (particularly for Surface machines), ad-hoc security patches like the just-released IE and Edge patches, and any other security patches that aren’t rolled into cumulative updates — will be affected.

    There’s also no indication of how the “Pause updates for up to 35 days” slider interacts with (replaces?) the “defer quality updates up to 30 days” setting. Are they additive? Do they cover the same patches? Why does one max out at 30 days, and the other sits fixed at 35 days?

    We haven’t seen the dialogs yet. We haven’t seen the group policy settings that conform to (conflict with?) the settings. And we don’t know when we’ll get any or all of the above, except they’ll presumably appear before Creators Update hits RTM.

  • Win10 Creators Update will let you block apps from outside the Store

    Posted on February 27th, 2017 at 07:40 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    This one’s starting to echo around the blogosphere.

    Windows 10 Creators Update brings several old settings – they used to be in the System applet – up to a new high-level applet called Apps.

    In the new Apps > Apps & features setting, there’s a new option called Choose where apps can be installed from. (Presumably, the wording will change before the final version ships, unless we get a new dangling participle option with.) You’re given three choices:

    • Allow apps from anywhere (that’s the default)
    • Prefer apps from the Store, but allow apps from anywhere
    • Allow apps from the Store only

    The buzz is about the last option, which should lock down machines so they can only install apps from the Store.

    Paul Thurrott has the most thorough explanation I’ve seen on thurrott.com, but the options function as you would expect.

    Of course, the worry is that Microsoft is creating a version of Windows that’ll be limited to Windows Store apps, possibly in conjunction with a “free” version of Windows that doesn’t work much better than Windows RT. It’s the “Windows 10 Cloud” direction.

    It might happen at some point, but I don’t think it’s cause for concern at this point. By the time Windows Cloud rolls around, we’ll have plenty of competing options.

  • Be careful with the Word, Excel and PowerPoint viewers

    Posted on February 27th, 2017 at 07:06 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Tero Alhonen just tweeted about a new “feature” in the Word, Excel and PowerPoint viewers that I hadn’t noticed before.

    Microsoft has viewers for Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. You can download and use the viewers for free, even if you don’t own Office. Some people prefer using the viewer over running the free Office Online programs.

    If you go to the official Word Viewer download site and click the Download button, you’re given the prechecked option to set MSN as your default home page, and make Bing your default search engine, in all of your web browsers.

    Your system may vary, but on my Win10 1607 system – running Office Pro Plus 2013 – I’m also offered Office 2007 Service Pack 3, the Office compatibility pack (which works with Office 2003, 2000 and XP), the latest MSRT KB 890830 (I have the Feb version installed already), and Internet Explorer 11 (on Win10 – hello?).

    The Excel viewer includes the same checked-by-default offer to change my default homepages and search engines, as does the PowerPoint viewer.

    Permit me to restate that. The official Microsoft Office viewers ship with a browser hijacker enabled by default.