poindexter investigates teslacrypt, the newest and most dangerous form of ransomware

Help! All of my files are now .mp3?!

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One fateful morning, our client woke their office computer from sleep and noticed something odd. All (or most) of their files were being treated like audio files, specifically .mp3 files. This client is using Windows 7, running Norton Internet Security, and does not keep a regular backup (vulnerable operating system, inadequate anti-virus, and no disaster recovery plan).

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should i wait for windows 10? yes.

With the Holiday Season Gearing Up, Should You Wait for Windows 10?

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Christmas lights are beginning to sparkle all over Iowa and local retailers are teasing us with impressive holiday savings. No doubt Black Friday will feature incredible discounts on all sorts of personal electronics, including PC’s and tablets featuring Microsoft’s most recent version of Windows 8.1. If your goal is to save as much moola as possible, the holidays are a great time to invest in a cost-effective computer. But with Windows 10 set to release next year – and possibly as a free upgrade – is now the time to purchase a new Windows 8.1 computer?

Probably not.

My clients who are using Windows 8 and 8.1 often find that their computer is hopelessly confusing and provides little guidance on how to do basic things like closing an open window or shutting things down. Practice definitely helps, but most clients get very little reward for their effort. At best, they are able to use their computer as efficiently as they used their old one, but the new features of Windows 8 don’t really benefit them.  In my opinion, a computer’s operating system should fit like a well worn glove and Windows 8 is missing a few fingers.

Any PC you buy from major retailers like Best Buy or Wal-Mart will have Windows 8.1. If you’re in the market for a new computer, ask yourself a few simple questions to see if it’s worth the jagged pill of Windows 8.1.

Wait for Windows 10, coming next year.

For Windows 8 users, the new Start Screen is optional. This is great for tablet users who genuinely benefit from the tiled layout.

Windows 10 takes the best parts of Windows 8, but repackages them into an operating system that people can actually use. In Windows 10, the new Start Screen is optional and can be switched to a more traditional start menu. The new Start Screen was largely intended for tablet users, which desktop and non-touch screen laptop users found frustrating.

Windows 10 users can use a smaller start menu, much like older versions of Windows. Live Tiles can be added, which we think is awesome.

Thankfully, Windows 10 includes a desktop corner start menu which resembles Windows of old. It gives the user an easy way to jump to their favorite programs, without gobbling up the whole screen. It also allows the user to customize it, much like the new Start Screen, by adding in Live Tiles. Live Tiles are the animated tiles, like Mail and Weather, viewable on Windows 8 start screens. Live tiles were a great part of Windows 8 and we’re very excited to see them preserved for Windows 10.
All programs open in windows on the desktop, unlike Windows 8.1 programs which sometimes took up the whole screen when you opened them.

Windows 8 and 8.1 suffered from a weird duality. Some programs, called apps, would take up the whole screen when opened. Other programs wouldn’t. This won’t be an issue in Windows 10. All programs open in windows with the familiar maximize, minimize, and close buttons in the top right corner. It’s Windows, like you remember it, but dressed in new duds and ready for a bright new future.

Although Microsoft hasn’t confirmed it yet officially, there are compelling rumors that Windows 10 will be offered as a free upgrade for Windows 8 users. This would be a smart move on Microsoft’s part for a number of reasons and it has big implications for the holiday buying
season. Windows 10 will debut next year. It smartly addresses many problems people have with Windows 8. It will be great for desktops, laptops, and tablets. It will run smoothly on newer and older hardware. It might, might, be a free upgrade. This makes your holiday decision making simple.

Is now the right time for a new computer?

Upgrading from Windows XP? Yes.

This April, Microsoft officially retired Windows XP. In most cases, a new computer will be more cost effective than trying to upgrade your old Windows XP machine. Poindexter does not recommend using a Windows XP computer on the internet any longer, especially for sensitive things like online banking. If you’re switching from Windows XP, yes you should get a new computer, but be prepared for a shock. Windows 8.1 is a heck of change to do in one big step.

Upgrading from Windows Vista? No, wait.

Windows Vista was released after XP, but before Windows 7. If your computer is running this and you enjoy using it, there’s no need to upgrade to Windows 8.1. Poindexter recommends waiting for Windows 10.

Upgrading from Windows 7? No, wait.

Windows 7 came after Vista, but before Windows 8 and 8.1 and it remains the most popular operating system on Earth. Even today, many people request specially built computers that come with Windows 7 instead of Windows 8. Most desktop users agree that Windows 7 offers a superior experience as compared to Windows 8.1. At present, there’s no good reason to upgrade to Windows 8.

Buying another Windows 8.1 computer? Wait.

This is a simple choice: don’t buy another Windows 8.1 computer just yet. Windows 10 will be released next year and computer manufacturer’s will scramble to support it. No doubt retailers will offer significant incentives to upgrade. If Microsoft does offer Windows 10 as a free upgrade, your current Windows 8.1 computer will receive the upgrade. If Windows 10 isn’t free, wait until computer manufacturer’s begin to support it next year to avoid getting stuck paying the $100.00 that Microsoft usually charges to upgrade.

apple owners beware, wirelurker can contaminate your apple product

Beware Wirelurker, a New Generation in Apple Malware

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For a long time, Apple products have benefited from being unpopular. When compared to their Windows PC counterparts, iMacs and Macbooks make up only a sliver of global computers (~4%). It makes sense, then, that Windows computers are the target of hackers far more frequently, requiring Windows users to use round-the-clock antivirus solutions. Unfortunately, as Apple products become more popular, this “security through obscurity” approach is showing some cracks. Sure, both OSX and iOS have baked-in features that might make them more secure than Windows, but no computer security holds up for long against enterprising minds when there’s money to be made.

Enter Wirelurker. As reported today by PaloAlto Networks, Wirelurker is a nasty piece of malware currently targeting Chinese Apple users. Wirelurker will find its way into OSX if the user downloads infected software or, more worryingly, if the user plugs in an infected USB drive. More worryingly, Wirelurker can infect an iPhone if it gets plugged into an infected computer, allowing that iPhone to infect other computers it comes in contact with.

For American Apple users, those no immediate threat since the source vector is restricted to Chinese users. Chinese OSX and iOS users are at risk because they commonly “sideload” software onto their Apple products using a Chinese specific AppStore, the Maiyadi App Store. According to PaloAlto, Wirelurker has infected 467 Apps on the Maiyadi App Store and these Apps have been downloaded more than 356,000 times. Wirelurker can even infect through counterfeit mag-safe chargers. With a disease that can spread this easily, global users are at risk of infection. Wirelurker won’t rest in China for long.

Wirelurker is the first of its kind in a number of alarming ways. It’s the first to “trojanize” downloadable applications by replacing their binaries with an infected version. It’s the first to infect already installed, previously safe applications. And it’s the first malware that can install 3rd party applications on non-jailbroken devices. Once infected, Wirelurker can potentially read your sensitive data, including contacts. Not one to rest on its laurels, Wirelurker is regularly uses your internet connection to send data to its motherbase, as well as receive code updates. Yikes.

This is the largest scale infection every reported by PaloAlto Networks. Although the virus has infected hundreds of thousands of users, pumping constant data to the developer’s, their end game is still unknown. The infectivity of WireLurker is unparalleled and, although Chinese users are the primary target, it’s hard to imagine it staying that contained for long.

To try to protect yourself from Wirelurker and other emerging OSX threats, there are a few simple things you can do:

  • Use an antivirus and keep it up to date.
  • Do not download applications from 3rd party sources.
  • Only get your goodies from the AppStore.
  • Keep iOS (for portables) and OSX (for Macbooks and iMacs) up to date.
  • Do not pair your device with untrusted networks or unknown accessories.
  • Do not jailbreak your iOS device. If you do jailbreak, research before you install anything.

If your Apple product already has malware, is running sluggishly, or needs to be updated schedule an in-home visit with Poindexter. Don’t leave your prized Apple product to the wolves – call or schedule a professional consultation today!

Available by appointment // 908-991-6373