Quick Bytes News – February 2016

Hello and welcome to my February QBN newsletter!

At last the sun has fought its way through the thick dark-grey cloud base and the incredibly powerful winds have abated, I was wondering if it was time to put a sign outside my home saying ‘No Apocalyptic Horsemen Callers Please’!

 

Windows 10 – When, (no longer, if)

On the topic of unwanted apocalypses, I expect many of you have been increasingly pestered by the Microsoft Windows 10 pusher applications which are now beyond persuasive, and live in the land of heavily coercive! For those of you who wanted and like that operating system then fine, but I add that it tells a lot of stories about you through its telemetry functions which makes you a target for its associated ‘boot in the door’ marketing buddies.

For those of you who, like me, do not want to risk the ‘upgrade’ because of concerns of compatibility with your hardware or your existing software, your privacy from marketing or spying pests and familiarity with the desktop and start menus, you may want to read on.

On the 8th February I saw these 3 updates being offered for me to install.

Updates for W10 Warning

I do not leave my PC set to allow automatic Updates any more, its simply too risky these days because if we leave the back door unlocked, Windows 10 will move in and declare squatters rights. So I investigated these and surely there are accounts on the Microsoft forums that were posted by other watchful Windows users of these and their findings are that these are again likely to be another set of changes to take away your choice of upgrading or not.

 

GWX Tool

There is  a handy prevention tool which you might want to download and run (it doesn’t need to install) called GWX Control Panel. It looks like this when run and as you can see I have already used it on my PC;

GWX - JAN 2016 VERSION

It is simple to use and will remove the installation files that Microsoft have already placed on your PC without your knowledge and prevent your PC from being hijacked by Microsoft and forced to take the free-fall plunge to Windows 10. You can get it here  As always with running programmes these days I urge you to not ‘google’ it and follow links set by the responding sites, always download software from the vendors own sites.

Finally do enable ‘Monitor Mode’ when running this; it looks like this

Monitor Mode

If you wish to know more of why doing this is so important to so many people you can try reading some of these posts.

 

Post 1

Post 2

Post 3

Enough said?

 

Telemetry – the new spy on the block from Microsoft

Luckily for us all people like Safer-Networking (known for the long running Spybot Search & Destroy anti malware) are not only on the ball, they also produce freeware tools such as ‘Anti Beacon‘ to help protect us. They describe this as;
“Spybot Anti-Beacon for Windows 10 is a small utility designed to block and stop the various tracking (aka telemetry) issues that come with Windows 10. Seeing the bunch of incomplete or broken scripts to disable tracking in Windows 10, and the tools that install adware or worse in exchange for their function, we wrapped disabling tracking up in a small tool that’s free and clean. With the upcoming news about telemetry in Windows 7 and 8.1, Spybot Anti-Beacon has added support for those as well”.

Its for Windows 7 and 8.x as well so may I suggest you use it if you have one of those systems?

 

Good News (for a change) about Advertising – You DO have a choice!

I found this website which offers us a chance to opt out from ads from members who are in the European Self-Regulatory Programme and so it becomes easier for us to control the blizzard of unwanted rubbish they spit at us when we browse the web. But do keep in mind that you need to add their add-on to all browsers that you use.

Their website is very comprehensive and gives much detail on how to alter settings in your browser(s) so I advise reading it a couple of times before diving in and do remember that some websites do not function fully if you have disabled cookies or other advertising related functions, so be prepared to back track if this becomes a problem on those websites.

For your perusal here is some of the material from the YourOnlineChoices Website;

“How the beta extension works

The YourOnlineChoices beta browser extension works to preserve your choices expressed on youronlinechoices.eu. This applies specifically for Online Behavioural Advertising (OBA) from participating companies. The websites you visit may still be collecting information for other purposes than OBA. Also, the participating companies may continue to deliver ads to you – but these will not be based on your interests or browsing habits.
 As more companies join the European Self-Regulatory Programme on OBA, they will be added to the Ad Choices page. There is no intervention required from you as a consumer to update the plugin; however, you should note that if new companies are joining the Programme your options will not be automatically set-up, and therefore we encourage you to visit the Ad Choices page from time to time.
Also, you should note that the extension and your respective choices work only in the browser you are using, therefore you should set your choices and preserve them in each browser and computer you may use. This extension is currently in beta and will be updated from while to while.”

http://www.youronlinechoices.com/uk/browser-extension

Hopefully this may help you to keep the pests off your online experience, wishing you good outcomes!

And talking of choices being removed, has the Apple gone rotten?

Here is a worrying story from Apple about their iPhone 6 and how having it repaired anywhere but in their own stores (and at their prices) might render it dead useless. 

 …..”We believe Apple may be intentionally forcing users to use their repair services, which cost much more than most third-party repair shops. There is incentive for Apple to keep end users from finding alternative methods to fix their products. Think of it this way: let’s say you bought a car, and had your alternator replaced by a local mechanic. Under Apple’s strategy, your car would no longer start because you didn’t bring it to an official dealership. They intentionally disable your car because you tried to fix it yourself. That is wrong,” PCVA notes on its website.

A London-based lawyer, Richard Colbey of Lamb Chambers told Guardian, Apple’s reckless policy of killing iPhones following a software upgrade breached basic consumer laws in the UK. It could be viewed as an offence under the Criminal Damage Act 1971.”

source:- International Business Times

 

If I can help you with anything in my news letters do give me a call on 01757 900 1747, or email

That’s all for now!

Greg

PCT Door Magnet

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Quick Bytes News November 2015

Up to 30 minutes FREE consultation time.
Up to 30 minutes FREE consultation time.

Welcome to the November edition of Quick Bytes News. In this edition I cover the recent change in EU law that now restricts the open door of the Safe Harbor Pact set up 15 years ago between the EU and the USA.

Up until last month data in the EU could be transferred over to the USA without any formal process being completed, all that has now changed.

Then I cover the newest intentions of Microsoft to coerce Windows 10 into your PC, beware!

Finally I offer alternatives for your consideration from the well proven Linux stables, Mint and Ubuntu.


European Court of Justice rules ‘Safe Harbor’ Pact invalid
Europe’s highest court has ruled that the 15 year old Safe Harbor pact between the EU and US is no longer valid.

The ruling is likely to mean that personal data should no longer be transferred to US bodies solely on the basis they are Safe Harbor certified.

Organisations will now be required to take additional steps to safeguard personal data that they make available to US companies, including cloud services providers. The decision will likely drive up compliance costs for many organisations.”

There is an article on the issue on the BBC website at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-34442618 The relevant part reads:
“Personal data should no longer be transferred to US bodies solely on the basis they are Safe Harbour-certified.
Instead to authorise the “export” of the data, the two bodies involved must draw up and sign what’s referred to as “model contract clauses”

Privacy obligations are described in detail in this document produced by The Information Commissioners Office

Model Contract ClausesInternational transfers of personal data
Data Protection Act
20120228  V1.0

See – https://ico.org.uk/media/1571/model_contract_clauses_international_transfers_of_personal_data.pdf

“It will involve lots of contracts between lots of parties and it’s going to be a bit of a nightmare administratively,” commented Nicola Fulford, head of data protection at the UK law firm, Kemp Little.
“The model clauses themselves are standard form – what you need to put into them are details of the data involved and the security steps being taken.
“It’s not that we’re going to be negotiating them individually, as the legal terms are mostly fixed, but it does mean a lot more paperwork and they have legal implications.”

All of this will drive up costs and potentially cause delays.”

More perspectives here


Stroud Cloud – Safer Harbour – I think!

A little plug for our own Data Storage is in order because as many of you know our Stroud Cloud Data Storage service  will never send your encrypted data anywhere else, it stays in Stroud! Please see here for details.


Windows 10 – Again!

Microsoft Announce they will be sending Windows 10 to you BEFORE they do it (this time, unlike last time).

The ‘option’ of the Windows 10 upgrade window is again being forced open by Microsoft as they try harder to gain the momentum on this skeptically received new OS.

In their own words;

“We will soon be publishing Windows 10 as an “Optional Update” in Windows Update for all Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 customers. Windows Update is the trusted, logical location for our most important updates, and adding Windows 10 here is another way we will make it easy for you to find your upgrade.

Early next year, we expect to be re-categorizing Windows 10 as a “Recommended Update”. Depending upon your Windows Update settings, this may cause the upgrade process to automatically initiate on your device. Before the upgrade changes the OS of your device, you will be clearly prompted to choose whether or not to continue. And of course, if you choose to upgrade (our recommendation!), then you will have 31 days to roll back to your previous Windows version if you don’t love it”.

So be warned if you don’t like having your choices stolen watch out for their updates as they may be rather huge (last time it was 3.6Gigabytes).

http://blogs.windows.com/windowsexperience/2015/10/29/making-it-easier-to-upgrade-to-windows-10


Alternatives do exist and they can be free!

Maybe it really is time to look for a free and non coercive operating system, maybe one like Ubuntu or Mint from Linux and bundled with them you get a free Office compatible suite of programs, Libre Office. In this suite you get a Word processor,  Spreadsheet, Database and Presentation programs much like MS Office. I have used the free Windows based version of Libre Office for a year and am very happy with it.

The great offerings from the open source (Linux, Firefox, Thunderbird etc) community are well worth taking a close look at and they offer a much reduced attack profile from malware compared to Microsoft.


As always if I can help you do give me a call

Finally to help you I have published my Charges Tarrif on my website now. I have kept these to a minimum as best as possible. They are here

Greg

Quick Bytes News – October 2105

Up to 30 minutes FREE consultation time.

Cafe Conundrums of the Online Flavour?

Welcome to the October version of Quick Byte News

Many of us like to take our mobile devices into public recreational spaces and as we are such busy bees these days we tend to fill every moment.

With the explosion of hand held and lap/table toys we have its so easy to connect to anywhere and exchange all kinds of data. Naturally many will seek to check their bank account, maybe to see if they can afford something they are minded to buy or do. It has become so easy!

Those of us in the I.T engine room tend to pick up on what others are doing which is why I flag up things that come my way which the public ought to know of, especially when this concerns their own banking or other security.

Today I have read this account from Threatpost, a long established online security site. This one flags up concerns about ‘cookies’ (non edible type) and how smart crooks might be able to use them to break into your online security and perhaps steal your data or money.

Previously cookies were fairly innocuous little text files which reported rather ordinary info on your browsing back to websites when you revisited them, mostly harmless and helpful stuff. (unless you have ‘drifted’ from the accepted norm, of course).

So what is this dire warning? You can read it all here.

But if your not minded to take it all in, the part that particularly caught my eyes is below.

“The researchers said the vulnerabilities are present in a number of heavily-trafficked sites—they identify Google and Bank of America by name—and added that a number of consequences could include privacy violations, account hijacking and financial loss.

“You are on a network which the attacker can control (such as at Starbucks or an open WiFi). The attacker temporarily hijacks your browser to insert cookies for a targeted site,” Weaver told Threatpost. “Now, sometime later when you visit the site (on a different network, under different circumstances), your browser presents the bad cookies to the site, and the site acts on the bad cookies in a site-dependent way. e.g, it could just simply track the user, or it could be a full XSS attack buried in the cookie itself.”

This  warning is probably a little ahead of the bad guys (‘n’ gals) for a little while so just for now I don’t think I will be giving up my out of home online habits, but do think it a good idea to be proactive in alerting people.

Your browser can be set to automatically delete cookies on exit of the programme, however this may impact some of the websites you regularly use. So its best to set aside some time for testing if deleting cookies affects those sites you need them active for, at a time when it isn’t a pressure on you to use the site(s). Its a judgement you need to make to balance the convenience with the risk.


Have you considered which browser is best yet?

Do check out the Privacy & Security assessments sections that are done by various online test houses in articles like this one.

These can be very useful in offering you a clear picture of browser features generally, although I suggest that you go directly to the manufacturers own website to download a browser you want. This is because many file distributor websites do earn revenues by adding advertising code to their ‘free downloads’. Otherwise you could end up with annoying new applications that annoy you with distracting ads!


Smartphones & Tablets

I read this week that up to 85% of smart enabled devices may be vulnerable simply because their operating systems are not updated, or applications with web access on them are not updated. The article is here. So if you use yours for anything financial, you know what to do.


Spybot Anti-Beacon for Windows 10 – for those of you affected by Windows 10!

“This is a small utility designed to block and stop the various tracking (aka telemetry) issues that come with Windows 10. Seeing the bunch of incomplete or broken scripts to disable tracking in Windows 10, and the tools that install adware or worse in exchange for their function, we wrapped disabling tracking up in a small tool that’s free and clean. Might or might not become part of the next Spybot, since it’s similar to immunization, but it’s needed now, and it’s still work in progress as more and more information evolves”.
https://forums.spybot.info/showthread.php…


Naturally I will be very happy to help with any tasks mentioned above for you, perhaps as part of a general clean up / service of your PC or laptop.

Please give me a call (or text) on 0757 900 1747, or email – pct@phonecoop.coop

Greg Dance

PC Techniques