The Latest Expansions To Office 365 Will WOW You!

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

The availability of productivity apps is astounding. Basic word processors that were the desktop staple haven’t been replaced, but have evolved from requiring installation from a CD-ROM to not even requiring a downloaded program file anymore!

Yes, Microsoft Word, the workplace word processing darling, is accessible online through subscription-based Microsoft Office 365, which has a multitude of integrated apps designed for the flexible workforce.

Create documents in Microsoft Word or spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel and save them to SharePoint or OneDrive, send emails through Microsoft Outlook, design innovative presentations with PowerPoint, and the list goes on.

The list of apps that integrate with Office 365 expands every day! Considering Microsoft Office 365 now includes Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Flow, the possibilities are incredible. If you’ve not yet experienced either of these apps, you’re truly missing out. [Read more…]

Windows 10 Creator’s Fall Update to Bring Hardened Ransomware Protection

jared-stemeye

Jared Stemeye is a Help Desk Technician at Tech Experts.

2017 has seen some of the most high-profile ransomware and cryptoware attacks to date. These incidents have demonstrated that these types of attacks can have catastrophic effects that reach far beyond the ransom demands paid to these attackers.

The cost of downtime and damage control multiplies quickly. Even more damaging is being impacted because critical infrastructure or health care services are unexpectedly unavailable for extended periods of time, consequently costing much more than any monetary value.

Microsoft has stated that they recognize the threat that these cybercrimes represent and have since invested significant yet simple strategies that are proving to be extremely effective as new attacks emerge. These new security features are now coming to all businesses and consumers using Windows 10 with the Creators Fall Update.

These advanced security features are focusing on three primary objectives:

  1. Protecting your Windows 10 system by strengthening both software and hardware jointly, improving hardware-based security and mitigating vulnerabilities to significantly raise the cost of an attack on Windows 10 systems. Meaning hackers will need to spend a lot of time and money to keep up with these security features.
  2. Recognizing that history has revealed vastly capable and well-funded attackers can find unexpected routes to their objectives. These latest security updates detect and help prevent against these threats with new advances in protection services like Windows Defender Antivirus and Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection.
  3. Enabling customers and security experts to respond to threats that may have impacted them with newly updated tools like Windows Defender ATP. This will provide security operations personnel the tools to act swiftly with completeness of information to remediate an attack that may have impacted them.

Microsoft states this is a proven strategy that has remained 100% successful on Windows 10 S, the new secure version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system. Albeit, this version of the operating system does not allow any software from outside the Microsoft App Store to be installed.

Further, Microsoft states that even prior to the fall security updates rolling out, no Windows 10 customers were known to be compromised by the recent WannaCry global cyberattack. Despite this, Microsoft knows that there will always be unforeseeable exploits within their systems.

This is why the Windows 10 Creator’s Fall Update benefits from new security investments to stop malicious code via features like Kernel Control Flow Guard (kCFG) and Arbitrary Code Guard (ACG) for Microsoft Edge. These kinds of investments allow Windows 10 to mitigate potential attacks by targeting the techniques hackers use, instead of reacting to specific threats after they emerge.

Most importantly, Windows Defender security updates coming in this Fall will begin to leverage the power of the cloud and artificial intelligence built on top of the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph (ISG) to promptly identify new threats, including ransomware, as they are first seen anywhere around the globe.

Though no exact date is set in stone, all of the amazing security updates detailed above will be available this Fall 2017 for free. For more information about the Creator’s Fall update beyond the security features, visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/upcoming-features.

Severe Security Vulnerabilities Patched By Microsoft

Early last month, Microsoft released 13 security patches as part of Patch Tuesday.

While such security measures are usual, this one was particularly important because six of those patches were categorized as critical and require user attention to be put into place.

These six patches addressed programming flaws that had the potential to give cyber-attackers the means to gain full user rights in a wide array of Microsoft’s software programs. The remaining seven patches address the elevation of privileges, denial of service, and ways to bypass security features.

The programs that were at risk from these flaws included all supported versions of Microsoft Windows, the new Edge browser, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office (including Services and Web Apps), Microsoft Server Software, Adobe Flash Player, and Microsoft .NET Framework.

According to Microsoft, these flaws were detected before any actual security breaches stemming from these issues actually occurred.

If they had not been discovered, cybercriminals may have been able to gain user rights to Microsoft programs via specially crafted websites from remote locations.

Microsoft strongly urges Windows Vista and later operating system users to ensure the latest updates have been installed, especially if they do not have their systems set for Automatic Updates.

Older Internet Explorer No Longer Supported

Microsoft recently made the announcement that it will no longer offer support for Internet Explorer versions prior to Explorer 11.

It is also only through Explorer 11 that users can receive updates for the following operating systems: Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10. While this does not prevent users from continuing to turn to Internet Explorer for their browsing needs, it does serve as a call to action for optimum usability and security while surfing the web.

Without up-to-date security patches, devices are at risk of malware and other forms of malicious attacks.

In addition to such security risks, users who continue to use unsupported versions of Explorer may lose Independent Software Vendor (ISV) support or encounter compliance issues.

The company also outlined how Explorer users can update to the latest version, at no extra charge. People who use Internet Explorer (IE) can be roughly divided into three categories: Enterprise users, small to medium businesses, and home PC users. Each groups has a slightly different means to upgrade to Explorer 11; however, their experience should be hassle free.

Albeit, some small-to-medium business owners have expressed concerns about their line-of-business (LOB) application having a dependency on a particular Explorer version. Microsoft has addressed this concern by integrating an Enterprise Mode into Explorer 11 that allows backward compatibility with web applications specifically designed for previous versions of Explorer.

Smaller businesses, whose software does not depend on previous IE versions, can upgrade through Automatic Updates or contact a Certified Microsoft Partner like Tech Experts for assistance.

Home PC users could see an automatic upgrade to Explorer 11 via Automatic Updates.

Still, if the home PC upgrades are set to ‘off’, updates to Explorer 11 will have to be done manually through the Control Panel and the Check for Updates button under the Windows Update tab.

Beware The Fake Microsoft Cold Calls

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

The phone rings and you don’t recognize the number or name on the caller ID. You pick up anyway and the caller tells you that they work for Windows Support or Windows Service Center and they are a Microsoft Certified Technician.

They go on to say they have received log files or have determined that your computer is infected and causing corruption throughout your Windows operating system.

They ask if you’re at your computer now and, if not, to go there. Once there, they walk you through how to open your Event Viewer and show you the Administrative Events under the Custom Views folder.

They are quick to point out all of the red circles labeled “Error” are all Malware infections. They then ask you to look at the number of events listed and they go on to advise this is the total number of infections currently on your computer.

The caller then says they can clean your system of all infections, but they will need to have remote access to the computer.

At this point in the call, most people have been thoroughly convinced by the voice on the other end of the phone that their system is indeed infected and needs to be cleaned. After all, the caller knew where to look for the so-called infections and they do sound like they truly want to help.

The Microsoft “employee” will even tell you that if you don’t let them remove the infections, the “hackers” that placed the malware on your system will have complete access to all of your information.

They warn that your identity is in jeopardy of being stolen. You must give them remote access to your computer. They are your only hope and you must trust them. After all, they say they work for Microsoft.

The fact of the matter is that the caller does not work for Microsoft in any capacity. They don’t work for any of their third party vendors nor any security firm that has been retained by Microsoft.

They are in fact the “hackers” attempting to convince you to give them access to your computer to infect your system and steal your data.

If you allow them remote access, they will start to install malicious programs on your computer. They’ll copy all of your information and, in some cases, encrypt your data.

They will tell you that that the infection is too severe for a “standardized” cleaning and you will need to pay money to have them install removal programs to clean the system.

In mid-2013, NBC News Technology reporter Frank Catalano, reported on receiving one such phone call himself.

After his ordeal with the fake Microsoft, Mr. Catalano contacted the real Microsoft. He received the following reply:

“In 2010, Microsoft began receiving reports of scammers making phone calls or sending emails to people,” replied a spokesperson for Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit. They advised that they had referred the cases to the Federal Trade Commission.

One very important thing to remember is that Microsoft (or any of its partners) will never cold call you. They will never ask for remote assistance. They will never ask for usernames and passwords.

If you have fallen victim to such a scam, disconnect your network cable and take your computer to a trusted service center or repair facility and explain in detail what happened as soon as possible.

For questions or advice on what to do about cold call scammers, contact Tech Experts at (734) 457-5000, or by email at info@mytechexperts.com.

Coming Of “Edge:” Microsoft’s New Browser

Up until now, Internet Explorer’s successor has been secretly referred to as Project Spartan during Microsoft’s development stage. At the Microsoft Build 2015 Developer Conference, the project name was finally announced as the company’s newest browser: Edge.

The name was already familiar to those in the know because Project Spartan’s page-rendering engine was known as Edge, but now the name has been elevated to describe the product as a whole.

For those who have had difficulties with Internet Explorer, this new browser is long overdue, but Edge should turn their frowns into smiles because it is much faster and more compatible with modern web standards.

Edge joins its competitors, like Firefox and Chrome, in the use of extensions and actually uses the same JavaScript and HTML standard code.

This means that Microsoft’s new browser can easily adopt its competitor’s extensions. In fact, Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s VP of Operating Systems Group at Microsoft, demoed a couple of extensions at the conference. However, you won’t see the extensions feature in Windows 10 until later this year.

Cortana, Windows 10’s Siri-like virtual voice assistant, makes an appearance in Edge as well. When needed, Cortana shows up in a blue circle in the browser’s toolbar to relay pertinent information related to the landing page, such as directions to a local business or contact information.

Edge users can also summon Cortana for assistance and extra info by right-clicking on text selections to find out more.

Another Edge feature is the new-tab page, a remnant from Internet Explorer with a few tweaks. When Edge users open a new tab, the page displays thumbnail icons for the most frequently visited sites. It also allows users to reopen closed tabs and makes many suggestions for apps and videos and facilitates access to weather or latest sports scores.

Edge also provides the option to view pages in a reading mode free of distractions such as images and advertisements. Users can even make annotations, such as highlights and notes, on webpages for sharing or storing as an image. Microsoft’s new browser also comes with coding support and will function the same across all platforms. Until Edge is formally released, users can test it on non-critical PCs by downloading Windows 10 and joining the Windows Insider Program.

Major Microsoft Windows Vulnerability Discovered

Microsoft recently released details about the newest vulnerability (MS15-034) in the Windows HTTP stack’s armor. With other recent problems in Microsoft patches, the problem may have been downplayed a bit to save face. This vulnerability, however, is more serious than it initially seemed.

The MS15-034 vulnerability is widespread. Although Windows servers are most at risk, this problem affects most products that run Windows. The chink in question lies in the HTTP.sys component, which is a kernel-mode device driver that processes HTTP requests quickly.

This component has been an integral part of Windows since 2003 and is present in all versions up to Windows 8.1. This means that any device running Windows without up-to-date patches is at risk.

It isn’t difficult to exploit this vulnerability. The only thing Microsoft is divulging about how MS15-034 can be used to compromise devices is that it requires “a specially crafted HTTP request.” It seems that this information is deliberately vague.

All one has to do is send an HTTP request with a modified range header, and access to data is granted, although sometimes limited. A similar attack was documented in 2011 on the Apache HTTPD Web server that was later patched.

There is good news though. As in other areas of life, prevention is far more effective than trying to deal with a problem’s aftermath. It isn’t difficult to protect your devices from the MS15-034 vulnerability.

The first step is to ensure that your server has the latest updates that include the patch to fix the problem.

If your server hosts a publicly accessible application, you can verify your server’s vulnerability by going to https://lab.xpaw.me/MS15-034, enter your server’s URL, and press the Check button for an instant report on your site.

If you then see the report that the website has been patched, you’re safe; otherwise, that particular system will need to be patched.

Windows 7 System Information Gadgets

by David Stone, Technician
Microsoft pulled support for desktop gadgets for Windows 7 a while ago, but they are still available and quite handy for getting real time updates on system performance.

If you are an end user that likes to know up-to-the-minute system information, then these are just what you’ve been looking for.

Below is a list of 5 such gadgets that make accessing information fast and are visually appealing.

Margu Notebook Info 2
Margu Notebook Info 2 is used for laptop and notebook specific information and offers a simple to read layout.

This gadget will give you real-time updates for wireless local area network (WLAN) and local area network (LAN) interfaces, net usage, multicore usage, clock/calendar, central processing unit (CPU), battery, uptime, power management plans, RAM/CPU usage and hard disc drive usage.

The graphical user interface (GUI) allows for you to add/remove any of the information you want to display as well as rearrange the layout. This provides one of the best options for laptops.

Xirrus Wi-Fi Monitor Gadget
Xirrus Wi-Fi Monitor Gadget provides you with very detailed information about wireless connections within range.

It allows you to view the data rate, service set identifier (SSID), the channel, signal strength, IP addresses and even local connection layouts.

Clicking on a wireless network in the map will return a usage history report of the available networks.

You can even change the skin of the gadget and configure the brightness, although it can be a bit distracting with the constant sonar animation.

Drives Meter
Drives Meter offers up-to-date status of the health of your hard drives as well as set alarms for low disk space. The alarm will make a sound when remaining space left meets the threshold set by the user.

The display shows disk activity, used space, remaining space and total disk space.

This gadget definitely comes in handy when trying to troubleshoot hard drive issues or for keeping tabs on disk usage.

Network Meter Gadget
Network Meter Gadget is an excellent wireless traffic monitor, if not the best.

On one small display screen you can quickly see the wireless service set ID (SSID), internal and external IP addresses, firewall status, signal strength, upload/download speeds, speed test and connection security status.

If you select the fly-out features and see the name of the network, name of the adapter, the maximum speed, the MAC address, the subnet mask, Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) lease details and much more.

System Information
System Information is an all-in-one gadget that allows you to view information on the operating system, CPU, uptime, memory, HDD, network drives, optical drives, battery and network.

You can select how much information you would like to display through the following modes: normal (shows all information), compact (shows headers only) or compressed (only one icon is shown).

Just because Microsoft has determined that support for gadgets will no longer be provided, doesn’t mean that you have to do without these tools.

If you’re looking for tools to hand out system information, you can’t go wrong with one of these gems.

 

Windows XP Support Ending Soon

By Tech Experts Staff
Windows XP set the bar for business friendly operating systems and has been in use for over twelve years now. Microsoft is now pushing users to its new operating system, Windows 8. Many users and administrators alike feel that Windows 8 will not be a suitable business friendly operating system for its users.

Another issue with Windows 8 is that many software providers still do not support it so as a business where should you be looking? Windows 7 has been the most business/application friendly operating system since Windows XP so that would be the best replacement.

Since Microsoft is discontinuing support for Windows XP, what does that mean exactly and when is it going to happen?

Microsoft has set a date of April 8th 2014 as the end of support date for Windows XP. Oh, 2014 you have plenty of time to plan down the road right? Wrong, when Microsoft stops supporting the operating system it will become very vulnerable to attacks so you want to make sure this is completed before Microsoft ends support.

Hackers will develop malware to attack XP and Microsoft will no longer be working to patch the holes that cyber criminals are using to steal your personal information.

Since support is ending it means that doing online banking or other transactions on your personal computer running this operating system will become extremely dangerous. In relation to businesses, they risk exposing client data which can be very costly.
Businesses need to plan these operating system upgrades as it will take a decent amount of time/preparation to complete smoothly and successfully.

Planning means start now don’t wait till the last minute or you will not be able to get everything switched over in a smooth fashion. Since upgrading computers from Windows XP to Windows 7 is the best option to prevent major security risks what needs to be considered to accomplish this?

The first step in getting your company ready for operating system upgrades is making sure your software is compatible. Many organizations use software that is specific to their industry, the software companies that develop this software also needs to be preparing.

Companies should be checking with their software providers to ensure their software will work on Windows 7 and should get documentation on how to smoothly upgrade their computers software for the least downtime possible.

Not only does industry specific software need to be addressed but software you use every day also needs to be looked at. Most computers running Windows 7 are 64 bit operating systems, that being said not all software runs on a 64 bit operating system.

One application I can think of that is not compatible with Windows 7 (we have seen numerous issues) is older versions of Microsoft Office. Businesses need to not only keep their operating systems up to date but this software also should be. Office XP does not function properly on Windows 7 nor do any other old versions.
The other problem with keeping old software like this is the file formats have changed since they have been released. Your clients may start sending documents to you that your copy of Office might not be able to read. Office 2010 pairs well with Windows 7 and it supports all current file versions released by Microsoft.

One final consideration, many businesses and users alike want to know what it will cost to simply upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 however, there are two problems with this.

First, Windows XP to Windows 7 does not offer an in place upgrade, this means that all of your software, user files, etc. would be lost simply doing an “upgrade” to Windows 7. While user files can be backed up, software/applications cannot, they will have to be reinstalled.

Second, upgrading an old workstation may not be worthwhile. In most cases, older hardware was not designed to run Windows 7 and because of this tends to run slower and not perform as well as a computer that was designed for it.

We highly recommend upgrading the entire workstation to new hardware, especially in the case of businesses. It just doesn’t make sense to spend all the money on the time involved in upgrading the operating system if you can’t gain speed benefits and make your employees more productive.

Need a hand getting started with your businesses upgrade? Give us a call today at (734) 457-5000 and we can work with you on a plan to get your company switched over to Windows 7 so that your computers remain supported for years to come.

Windows 8, A Diamond in the Rough?

Feature article by Tech Experts
So should you be planning to upgrade to Windows 7 or hold off for Windows 8?

If you’re still running Windows XP, Microsoft is saying to not bother waiting for Windows 8 and jump into Windows 7. That being said, from a business point of view should you wait for Windows 8 or go for Windows 7?

Windows 8 was initially released as a developer preview on September 13th of 2011 and since has been pushed very hard by Microsoft and the media alike to many IT professionals.

After Microsoft boasted over the drastic rethinking of Windows 8 and how it has revolutionized Windows as a whole, IT pros everywhere picked every aspect of Windows 8 apart.

Is Change A Good Thing?
Many feel it is not going to make a very good business operating system for end users. The reason for this? Change. Windows 8 brings a vast amount of change to the table, some good, some not so good…

After the release of the Developer preview and several months of time for Microsoft to further polish their new Operating System, they released the current version Windows 8 Consumer Preview build 8250 on February 29th 2012.

Microsoft again touted the newly improved OS citing it has made over 100,000 code changes since its previously released Developer version.

So, just what is Windows 8? Well Windows 8 is Microsoft’s attempt at making an operating system to bridge the hardware gaps between mobile platforms and the widely used PC.

Complete Overhaul
Windows 8 has been completely overhauled to give end users a similar user experience whether they are sitting at their desktop computer, using it on a tablet, or (as some experts believe) using a new Windows phone.

While Microsoft has not officially stated that this OS is going to be released on the Windows phone platform yet, it surely would not take them much to do so and would allow them to have their devices all synced.

Synced? That’s right! The new OS relies heavily on the cloud. The way this operating system has been developed it will allow users to login on any computer (provided they have an internet connection) and have the same application access they had on their computer at home.

With further integration of cloud services users will also have access to all of their documents, pictures, and videos via cloud based storage.

Many of Windows 8 features have a long way to go still before they are developed enough for everyday public use.

Metro Interface
One of the most notable features of Windows 8 is its new “Metro” style interface pictured above

This screen is your start menu now. Yes, Microsoft removed the start button that has been in Windows for more than 20 years… This new way of accessing your icons and applications allows you to click on (or touch if you have a touchscreen monitor or tablet) an icon and instantly be using it.

Load times for applications are very low, at least with the applications that have been released via their app store at this point.

Applications opened from this screen also do not need to be closed according to Microsoft (Again very similar to many mobile operating systems today).

The only problem with not actually closing the applications is for those people that never turn their computer off, everything you ever open will stay open and if you don’t force close the programs they will continue to run and use system resources which over time will make your computer run slow.

Even though Microsoft has removed the start menu they have kept the desktop..somewhat. The desktop is still able to be accessed via the Metro application menu but again is not meant to be used unless you need access to files and folders.

One other new feature Microsoft has added to Windows 8 is the ability to have “Picture Passwords”. A Picture Password allows you to select a picture you want to use as your password, and then draw three gestures on the picture to allow access to the computer or tablet.

This new feature is meant to increase security as it will make it more difficult for hackers to gain access to a user’s computer (At least via a keylogger).

One of the big reasons to steer clear of Windows 8, at least at this point, is numerous bugs within the OS and the apps it uses. Bugs range from minor issues such as lack of support for common email protocols such as IMAP and POP, to more major issues related to hardware not functioning inside Windows 8 due to conflicts.

At this point with Windows 8 still being in Beta it is perfectly normal to have the issues they are having with the operating system but, if the issues continue into the retail release of the software they will have another Windows Vista on their hands.

If Microsoft turns this operating system into a winner, it could mean big things for Microsoft.

One major point is if Windows 8 becomes popular, Windows will make a break into the tablet market which is predominately Android and iOS based. This would also give Windows an edge on other mobile operating systems as they would be able to operate across multiple platforms without any lapse in functionality.

So, is Windows 8 worth waiting for? At this point it makes more sense to go with Windows 7. If you are the kind of person that is into change…a lot of change…then hold off for Windows 8, but at this point Windows 8 is looking rough.