Fix for WannaCry

Megan Morrone talks to Iain Thomson about a possible fix for those infected with the Wannacry ransomware. Researchers have found a fix to unlock affected computers. The tool called wannakiwi allows you to avoid paying the bitcoin ransom, but only if you’re running Windows XP, Windows 7, and Windows 2003 AND if you haven’t rebooted your PC since the attack. The key is not magic, its math that works by finding all the prime numbers that are stored in the ransomware’s code. A different tool called WannaKey was released yesterday but only worked on Windows XP and required a second app.

This Week in Tech 611: Bezel Come Back

At the F8 Developer Conference, Facebook shows off its hot new augmented reality technology – which looks a whole lot like Snapchat. Apple is secretly working on non-invasive blood sugar detection, which could be a boon to millions of diabetics. Apple also wants to save the Earth by using 100% recycled materials in its products, covering its headquarters in solar panels, and manufacturing its own sweat. Wait, what? Google, which has made billions in ad revenue, is working on an ad blocker. The Samsung Galaxy S8 came out this week and has yet to explode. Bixby, Samsung’s voice assistant, seems to be fizzling. According to Qualcomm, the first Windows PC using an ARM chip could be out later this year. in completely unrelated news, Intel has canceled the Intel Developer Forum. HTC’s newest phone, codenamed Ocean, will have a squeezable frame and a questionable logo. Steve Ballmer’s new site makes government spending more accessible. Another bad week for Uber. And McDonald’s new uniforms highlight the techno-dystopia we all live in.

Chinese users blast Microsoft’s draconian Windows 10 upgrade

By | PCWorld

Chinese users have complained about Microsoft’s latest aggressive move to get them to adopt Windows 10, according to the news service backed by the country’s Communist government.

“IT giant Microsoft is under fire in China as the company pushes users to upgrade their operating systems to Windows 10,” said China Daily, an English-language newspaper in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), in a story reprinted from Xinhua, the government’s official news agency.

Xinhua’s account resembled those in Western media, describing users whose PCs were upgraded to Windows 10 without their approval or because they overlooked an on-screen notification.

Earlier this month, Microsoft began another push to boost adoption by pre-scheduling the free Windows 10 upgrade. On-screen notices warned users of the impending upgrade, but limited the cancel option to an easily-overlooked, one-word link in the notification’s text. And clicking the red “X” in the upper-right corner of the dialog box — by convention a last resort for users wanting to cancel an operation — instead authorized the upgrade to begin at the allotted time.

“Just because I didn’t see the pop-up reminder does not mean I agreed,” Yang Shuo, an employee of a Beijing-based public relations firm, told Xinhua.

Microsoft remains on shaky ground in China as a two-year-old antitrust investigation continues. But the Redmond, Wash. company has also scored victories, including partnering with one of the country’s largest defense conglomerates to promote and sell Windows 10 to PRC government agencies.

Microsoft has also joined forces with Baidu to distribute the Windows 10 upgrade in China in exchange for making the search provider the default within Edge, the operating system’s newest browser.

The Chinese government often uses Xinhua to express its views on Western technology firms, which makes another quote in the story stand out. “The company has abused its dominant market position and broken the market order for fair play,” Zhao Zhanling, a legal advisor with the Internet Society of China (ISC), told the news service.

The ISC is supported by several Chinese government agencies, including the Ministry of Information Industry, the Ministry of Education and the State Council Information Office.

The Windows 10 upgrade offer is to expire July 29.

Tech support scammers now utilizing ransomware-like lock screens to threaten people

By Justin Luna | Neowin

Some of us may be very well aware of the classic tech support scam stories, where a man randomly calls people, and informs them that they are from “Windows company” and that the call recipient’s computer has been detected full of viruses. These cold callers then use fake Blue Screen of Deaths, and make the victim think there really is something wrong with their PC.

Tactics like these can be easily terminated, with the use of a few built-in Windows tools, as well as a few keystrokes. However, scammers have been seen improving their game, and are now incorporating lock screens, in order to threaten a user even more.

This technique can be attributed to the infamous ransomware, where a malicious program encrypts a user’s computer files, and sets a PC to be stuck on a lock screen prompting them to pay up.

As for this one, the scammers trick the victims into thinking that their Windows’ license has expired, and then removes any ability for the user to control their computer. “This is not a fake browser pop up that can easily be terminated by killing the application or restarting the PC. No, this is essentially a piece of malware that starts automatically, and typical Alt+F4 or Windows key tricks will not get rid of it,” according to Jérôme Segura of Malwarebytes Labs.

There is an entire ecosystem on how these malware are being distributed, one of which includes bundling them into Pay Per Install applications. “What you thought was a PC optimizer or Flash Player update turns out to be a bunch of useless toolbars and, in some cases, one of these lockers,” said Segura.

A security researcher, @TheWack0lian has shared a sample on how the new tech support scam tactic works. Through a genuine-looking Microsoft program, which installs without any particular incident, the malware waits for the user to restart their system. Upon rebooting, a user will be welcomed by what looks like Windows configuring updates, though this is already the malware kicking in.

Once its “process” is done, it displays an error screen saying that the user’s Windows license is expired. It even takes the time to display the user’s current license key and computer name, to make it look more legitimate.

Now, to be able to unlock the system, the only choice a user has is to dial the number flashed on the screen, leading them into the said cold tech support scammers who are eager to steal victims’ personal information, as well as their credit card number. Calling the number, it was discovered by the researchers that there is a hidden functionality to the locker. Pressing Ctrl+Shift+T will display an installer for TeamViewer, a remote access computer program. However, the scammer refused to proceed with unlocking the computer unless a payment of $250 is made.

Fortunately, the researchers were able to find a way to bypass the lock screen. Victims of the said issue can press Ctrl+Shift and then the S key. Alternatively, a user can enter either “h7c9-7c67-jb” or “g6r-qrp6-h2” or “yt-mq-6w” into the “Product Key” field to be able to unlock the PC. This however, might only work for some versions of the rogue program.

With these kinds of programs rapidly evolving right before our eyes, it is very alarming to see how much these kinds of malware can take many innocent and susceptible people hostage, and play on their fears in addition to stealing money from them.

It always pays to be wary of where we always go on the internet, as well as what links we click on. Also, a good security software is always handy, to be able to block out the malware that can possibly not only ruin our computers, but also possibly a part of our lives.

Windows Weekly 452: The Ludicrous Ring

Hosts: Leo Laporte, Mary Jo Foley, Paul Thurrott
A new Windows Insider Ring?  A developer ports an iOS app to Windows 10 in 5 minutes (wait for the “but”), Microsoft mistakenly caps some OneDrive users’ storage early, PowerBI’s publish to web feature, the latest mysterious Groove acquisition, do you need the Xbox One Elite Controller?  And more!

What’s ahead for Windows 10: Needed upgrades, forced updates, and developer love

By | PCWorld

Windows 10 was the biggest news story out of Microsoft in 2015, and looking forward to the coming year, it’s slated to continue as one of the pillars of the company’s business.

To recap: Microsoft first announced its new operating system in late 2014, skipping over Windows 9 and showing the world what it wanted to see: a version of Windows that kept some of the key innovations of Windows 8, while smoothing out some of the jarring or rough edges of its predecessor that drove people to stick with Windows 7 (or worse, Windows XP).

That strategy has been remarkably successful for Microsoft, which reported in November of this year that there are 110 million devices running Windows 10 after its launch at the end of July. Of those devices, 12 million are already running in a business setting, which is a good sign for the business prospects of Microsoft’s new operating system.

One of Microsoft’s big changes with its new operating system is that it will be regularly updated with new features and fixes, rather than the company holding back key features for a service pack release. That’s a double-edged sword, since Microsoft is also pushing out cumulative updates in an effort to ensure that all of its users are running (roughly) the same version of Windows 10—this means that administrators don’t have control over which update packages they install.

That’s where the operating system has been. So what’s coming next?

A more forceful push for upgrades

Microsoft will keep offering consumers free upgrades to Windows 10 until the end of July in 2016. Expect the company to do more to encourage businesses and consumers alike to pick up the new operating system. Case in point: Microsoft has already revealed that it will start automatically downloading the Windows 10 installer on some Windows computers as a recommended update.

As part of that, the installer will run automatically, though users will have to choose to go forward with the upgrade process themselves. The good news in all of this is that Windows 10 is reaching a point of maturity that Microsoft believes it can get away with downloading an installer on users’ devices that automatically runs. It also means that some people may end up upgrading to Microsoft’s new OS before they’re ready.

On the enterprise side of things, expect a lot of companies to start rolling out Microsoft’s new OS, especially after their experiences with replacing Windows XP.

Gartner analyst Steve Kleynhans expects that half of all enterprises will have at least started their roll-outs of the new operating system by January 2017. That’s a marked difference from the uptake of Windows 7 and Windows 8, and bodes well for the operating system’s long-term prospects.

Enhancements to Cortana, Microsoft Edge and more

When Windows 10 launched, Microsoft focused an awful lot on what was available right then, without giving too many details about what was coming next. That makes sense—the company wants to make sure that users are focused on cool features that are out now, rather than waiting for something that they want in order to upgrade. But there are a couple things the company has said are coming, and more that we can intuit from past upgrades.

If there’s one big thing that Windows 10 users can look forward to in the new year, it’s support for extensions inside Microsoft Edge, the replacement for Internet Explorer that Microsoft shipped with the new OS. Right now, Edge’s feature set is fairly bare bones, and it shipped without extension support, which is a standard feature on all of its competitors.

Earlier this year, Microsoft promised support for extensions inside Edge before the end of 2015, but ended up postponing the feature’s launch. There’s a silver lining in all that, though: accidentally released details about Edge’s extension support suggest that it should be easy for developers to convert existing extensions for Google’s Chrome browser to work on Microsoft’s new software.

Owners of old Windows Phone devices also have to wait until 2016 until Microsoft publicly releases a version of Windows 10 Mobile for them, too. The company revealed last week that it isn’t quite ready to release a consumer version of its new operating system for smartphones that currently run Windows Phone 8.1.

On top of those awaited launches, we can also expect some other surprises. According to Tom Warren at the Verge, an upcoming update to Windows 10 will allow the virtual assistant to leave the Windows 10 taskbar and float around the screen. Given the cadence of Cortana updates thus far, which have included integrations with Uber and Microsoft’s Power BI service, it’s likely that Microsoft’s virtual assistant will remain a focus of its future feature releases.

An appeal to developers

If there’s one thing that Microsoft is banking on with Windows 10, it’s hoping that developers will believe in the new operating system enough to build applications for the Windows Universal App Platform, which lets people make one app that runs across any device running the new OS.

It’s part of the company’s strategy to boost the number of applications available for Windows smartphones and tablets, which have been hurting for native applications. Those new apps will be sold to users through the Windows Store, a digital goods marketplace that includes apps, movies and music.

What remains to be seen is whether that marketplace will actually be profitable for developers. Right now, Microsoft’s app store sits at a crossroads: it could turn into something akin to the iOS App Store, or the Mac App Store. If it’s the latter, that’s bad news for the company’s smartphone plans in particular.

Next year, we’ll get to see how the plans that Microsoft set in motion for Windows 10 this year actually hold up when put into action. Making an aggressive push for upgrades could result in more people making the move to Windows 10, or a sizable backlash, and it won’t be possible to determine the outcome until 2016 is under way.