Tag Archives: PC

Microsoft Windows 8.1: Rumoured Price Drop.

Following on from the announcement last month of a release date for Windows 9, which will come as welcome news to pretty much everybody in the world (we blogged about here), Microsoft are rumoured to be reducing the costs for Windows 8.1, as an added incentive to increase uptake of the software giant’s most recent flagship OS.

Bloomberg is reporting that Microsoft are prepared to reduce the cost to OEM’s by up to 70% in a bid to counter the growing popularity of alternative OSs on platforms like of Google’s cheaper Cromebook.

Targeting the low cost PC and tablet market, currently Microsoft charges OEM’s $50.00 per device that retails for under $250, this means the price will reduce to just $15.00.

Microsoft is hoping this new incentive will also help out its floundering (but resugrent, if  you believe the analysts) tablet market share, which is worth a total of $80 Billion table. This is after posting its worst annual decline on record last quarter. With global computer shipments falling and with a continued decline predicted, and the ever increasing popularity of tablets, Microsoft has to act fast to try and attract users away from Apple and Google products, who already have a huge head start on Microsoft.  

This is no easy task, as Apple and Google Chrome Operating Systems currently account for 95% of the tablet and smart phone market. However, if Windows 8.1 builds some momentum on the backup of this price drop, that could change.

Millions of PCs are left unprotected

A study that has been carried out by McAfee has revealed that 1 in 6 computers that are connected to the internet do not have adequate security software installed. This staggering statistic suggests that people from all over the world still have a lax attitude towards data security and continue to put their data at an unnecessary risk by having a blasé attitude towards data security.

The results of this study were collected through a free diagnostic tool, McAfee Security Scan Plus. This tool scanned the user’s PC for security threats, antivirus and firewall defences. This included Windows PC users from 24 countries with between 27 and 28 million users on average participating in this study each month. The results revealed that 17% of all the computers that were involved in this study either had no firewall and antivirus software installed or they have been disabled.

The findings of the report revealed that PC owners in the USA are some of the worst for not protecting their PCs with an antivirus and firewall. The USA was ranked in the bottom five with 19.32% of those who were involved in the study, leaving their PCs exposed as they had no standard security settings in place.
The results from this study should not be considered as a conclusive trend as many of those who installed the diagnostic tool, McAfee Security Scan Plus, did so because they may have already had a problem with their computer. Considering this, the percentage of those who do not have adequate security measures in place is more than likely to be inflated. However, this data is still vital as it has revealed that many people still have a very relaxed attitude towards computer security and the security of their data.

McAfee believe that many people still do not have adequate security in place on their computers because the feel that they will not be affected and that they will not be hit by a virus. In a blog post, McAfee stated “Many consumers still believe that by simply sticking to known ‘safe’ sites, they’ll be protected from all forms of malicious content. The fact is: the prevalence of sophisticated attacks is rising at an alarming rate. Furthermore, with the adoption of smartphones and tablets, mobile malware has become an immediate threat due to easily accessible personal data like financial and credit card information stored on mobile devices.”

Is Your Printer Putting You at Risk?

You spend time and money to protect your computer from hackers – but the next big threat may come from your printer. 

Security is probably the last thing on your mind when you go shopping for a printer. But some experts say your printer may be putting your sensitive information at risk. According to  a group of researchers at Columbia University, hackers are now remotely controlling printers and using them to enter secure networks and steal personal information.

According to the researchers, some printers – especially certain HP models — are easier to attack because they don’t go through the same testing and screening processes like computers. And since there is no printer antivirus software on the market, they are susceptible to attack.

Motives for attacks can vary from physical destruction to identity theft. A hacker can send repetitive instructions to a computer that will heat up the printer’s fuser (the mechanism that dries ink on the paper). The printer paper will then turn brown and set itself on fire. Hackers are also using malicious code to erase programming, break through secure firewalls, and steal personal information.

Researcher Ang Cui at Columbia University demonstrated how a hijacked printer sent information from a printed tax return form to a second computer that then scanned the document for pertinent social security information. Once found, the numbers were automatically published to Twitter.

Cui says his team still hasn’t found a way to tell if hackers have succeeded in infecting printers, and furthermore, are unable to pinpoint and fix the exact security issue.

“If and when HP rolls out a fix, if a printer is already compromised, the fix would be completely ineffective. That’s why this problem is so serious – this is nothing like fixing a virus on your PC,” says Cui. The only option right now, Cui says, may be tossing out your infected printer and starting completely over. Fixing this is going to require a very coordinated effort by the industry.

These printer attacks are further proof that you are responsible for your own protection.  You can’t assume that any equipment rolls out of the factory protected against hackers.

What do you think about this?  Do you think this is a serious threat?  Leave a comment and let me know.

Portable devices pose problems for UK IT managers

A new study has found that those in charge of IT management in the UK are failing to keep tabs on the various mobile and portable devices which are used within a given business or organisation, increasing the risks of data loss or theft.

Seventy-five per cent of respondents to a survey conducted by Absolute Software, said that within larger businesses they could not reliably give the precise location of their laptops at a given time. Within SMEs (small and medium-size enterprises) this figure was at the 50 per cent mark.

Sixty-five per cent of those questioned said that they had at one point or another lost or mislaid their mobiles. This is said to show that it is becoming increasingly difficult for IT managers to track and monitor the usage of portable devices, as they are more prolifically employed across businesses of all sizes.

Absolute Software’s Dave Everitt, said that an overall improvement to the management of IT assets was clearly a necessity in the majority of businesses and organisations, to help prevent data loss or theft of mobile devices.

Mr Everitt continued by saying that there was a greater reliance on mobile and portable devices to help increase productivity within businesses in both a working and home environment. He said that this proliferation of portable devices capable of storing sensitive data, meant that IT managers would need to increase their awareness of not only where employees are using such devices, but also how they are being used to avoid disaster.

Forty-four per cent of respondents revealed that the use of both PC and Mac technology, meant that in many cases it was impossible to track both platforms when in use on a single network.

Various significant statistics relating to the loss of portable and mobile devices from within big businesses and organisations, have been released in recent times, with the BBC, The Ministry of Justice and others forced to admit large losses, because of requests put in under the Freedom of Information Act.

PDF flaw actively targeted

Adobe has once again been the focus on line criminal activity after a new vulnerability in the PDF format emerged.

Although the security flaw is due to be patched in an update set for imminent release, experts have reported that it has already been exploited by hackers in order to seize control of an infected machine after initiating a system crash.

It was half way through December 2009 that the vulnerability was first discovered, although Adobe decided to withhold a software update until the scheduled release date, leaving millions of users around the world potentially at risk.

Brad Arkin, who is head of security at Adobe, said that to release a patch earlier would have compromised the timing of the imminent security update, which Adobe releases every three months.

The threat is widely believed to have become a reality amongst members of the data protection industry, with a blog post on a mainstream vendor’s website claiming to have found examples of a modified PDF file allowing hackers to compromise the host’s PC online. The flaw affects both the Adobe Acrobat and Reader programs.

When the malicious PDF is executed it will dump a file named BKDR_POISON.UC onto the host computer. This file will then open up Internet Explorer, access a third party website controlled by the hackers and allow them to modify the infected PC in any way that they may choose.

Although it has decided to hold back the release of a patch addressing this problem to coincide with other essential security updates, Adobe has given its customers a means by which to work around the problem until the fix arrives. Users are being told to disable JavaScript when using Reader, although for some this may not be a particularly convenient solution.

The logistical problems of patching security vulnerabilities are approached in various ways by different companies. Adobe’s approach is not entirely unusual, or indeed deserving of excessive criticism, as the flaw had been discovered but not exploited on a large scale. In the face of serious problems, the firm may well have reacted more swiftly.

Businesses turn to the PC registry in recovering data

Data is the lifeblood of many modern businesses and there is little doubt that in the event of catastrophic data loss, for a business without adequate data protection measures in place, the consequences could be commercially fatal. Data corruption can arise in many ways. With data increasingly distributed around organisations in office applications on PCs and laptops, there is a growing recognition that the humble PC registry can be of significant value in data management.

The registry impacts almost every aspect of the hardware and software installed on computers using the Windows operating system. Even the smallest registry corruption can cause crashes, lock-outs and potential data loss. A cluttered or poorly managed registry can also significantly impact performance. As such it is important to properly maintain the registries of any Windows computers. Whilst installation packs and system add / remove functions should maintain the registry in a reasonably robust fashion, fragments and redundant entries will almost invariably occur over time. In the event of a registry problem, corruption or data loss, the only way in which to reliably recover is to use a reputable registry recovery and protection application.

The main problem facing business owners here is the sheer breadth of choice – searching on Google brings up a host of results and it’s impossible to know which are trustworthy. Giving an unknown program access to your systems can cause big problems.

While there are many free registry programs, the best will be have some level of associated cost. This is particularly true if you are intending to install recovery and protection packages on multiple networked machines, which will require multiple software licences or an enterprise license. However, the price of protecting your PCs and ensuring that any abnormalities and registry issues are fixed without delay should be considered an investment against data disasters.

The best solution for most businesses will be a well designed centralised data architecture with secure online data storage. Not having to maintain and recover distributed data on site will free up IT staff to focus on other systems in building efficiency and profitability. That said, proper registry maintenance is now widely considered to be as important as decent anti-virus and firewall protection. In businesses with data distributed on multiple PCs, it should be considered a key element of a comprehensive data protection and recovery strategy.

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