Friday, February 20, 2009

Microsoft on the Move

It looks like Microsoft is busy readying three new pieces of software for later this year.

  • Windows 7 is their next operating system. There have been many complaints about Vista (some valid, some irrelevant to the average user), so Microsoft is working on a new version that removes some of the bells and whistles and improves functionality.
  • Internet Explorer 8 is, of course, an upgrade on their web browser.  I haven't seen it yet, but since MSIE7 is losing out to Firefox and even Safari (though it's hard to see why -- it is, by far, the worst browser out there), it made sense to come out with a version to compete with some of Firefox's advantages.
  • Microsoft Morro will be a free antimalware solution, focusing on viruses, spyware, and trojans.  I'm a bit skeptical that Microsoft can handle this (their last antimalware produce, Microsoft Defender, really doesn't work all that well), but it may be easy enough to use that more people get protected -- for awhile.

It should be interesting to see how this all shakes out.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Backup Backup Backup

Old guys like me remember saving files to 8 1/2" floppy disks. You always had to save a file twice, on two different disks, so that if one disk went bad (and floppies went bad with discouraging regularity), you could retrieve the data from the other.

Of course, hard drives came along.  These were much more rugged than floppies, and didn't fail all that often.  And people got out of the habit of backing up files.

But hard drives do fail.  Not often, but it only takes once. And that's worse than a failed floppy, which might have only held 10 files. If you don't back up, everything is lost.

I recently got a question about saving files from a student whose hard drive failed. And I had to tell him there was little I can do.

So, even if hard drive failures are rare, it's vital to back up data in the off chance that you have one.

In the past, I have mentioned Mozy. It's a simple way to automatically back up your data.  The free version has limited storage, but it's plenty for your papers and other documents.

If you want back up pictures, use Picasa or flickr or another online picture sharing service (some come with your digital camera). When you upload pictures to share, you are also backing them up, so you win in two ways.

And to be even safe, put your most important file on some additional service. We saw this week how Ruckus collapsed; the same thing can happen to the place where you're storing your data. If Mozy goes under, you can use another option.  I've been trying out Mediafire, but there are many other free file hosting services.

It's best to prepare, so if the worst happens, you can recover as much as possible.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Of Passwords and Common Sense

We recently had a problem with a student who had someone hack into his e-mail account to send spam. And it turned out to be pretty easy for the hacker, since the student sent him his login and password.

This is very hard to understand.  I&TS will never ask for your password -- we just don't need it.  This is true of any IT department or website or bank. No one legitimate will ever ask for your password.

What's even harder to understand was that the e-mail that did the phishing for the password had no connection with Siena.  It wasn't sent from a Siena address, and you were supposed to reply to an address outside of Siena.  If we did need your password (and, as I said, we never do), wouldn't we have sent it from a Siena address?  Wouldn't we have had you reply to a Siena address?

You have to be alert on the Internet, and doubly alert when anything might involve passwords or money. Never trust an e-mail that asks for personal information, especially if you have never contacted anyone about a problem. 

If you have questions about an e-mail like this, you can always contact I&TS, or whoever you think is asking for the information. They can confirm that it's fake.  No one ever has a legitimate reason to ask for your password, and you should never be fooled.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

XP Antivirus Malware is Getting Worse

I haven't talked about this in awhile, mostly because I've become busier removing it from computers.  It's now got a new name:  Antivirus 360. But it's still the same old nightmare.

At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if you told me anything you've seen it do.  So far, there have been cases where:

  • It installs without administrative privileges.
  • It tries to install on a Mac (it won't run, but it downloads and tries to).
  • It hides from your own antivirus.
  • It disables Windows updates.
  • It disables antivirus updates.
  • It prevents cleaning software from doing its job.

Malwarebytes always was the preferred cleaner for infections and was very dependable in cleaning and fixing things.  Not any more. The spyware causes Malwarebytes to hang, and I've had cases where it was not detected in a scan.

A second option is to use SuperAntispyware. It requires a bit more savvy to use, but if Malwarebytes doesn't work, it can do the job for you.  There are also other ways to fix things if you'd rather not use it.

We've set up a web page with cleaning instructions.  It should help you clean your computer. It will be updated as we find new weapons in this battle.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ruckus is no more

We've often recommended Ruckus as a solution for free, legal downloads of music.  But, alas, it appears that Ruckus has closed down. 

Ruckus main page

It's disappointing news.  Ruckus was a very useful service and had a solid library -- including a lot of obscure music that I hadn't heard in ages.  But evidently the bad economy has taken another victim.  It's hard to survive on advertising alone.

More annoying is the way it was handled.  There was no warning, no consideration for people using the service. I understand these things happen quickly, but Ruckus basically just shut down their site and let people discover it.  An e-mail to users (they have everyone's e-mail address) would be the classy thing to do.