This Week in Tech 623: Binders Full of CEOs

Disney will build a Star Wars-themed hotel where each guest gets a story. Uber says they are getting lots of applications for their open CEO post, but nobody big seems interested. Apple iPhone 8 rumors abound. Google is trying to eliminate Zika by releasing 20 million bacteria-infected mosquitos in Fresno, CA. Amazon is creating a new messaging app called Anytime. Prime Day was Amazon’s biggest sales day ever, and Best Buy stock dropped $1 billion over the rumor that Amazon is developing a Geek Squad competitor. If you don’t want Homeland Security to scan your face, you shouldn’t travel. Windows Phone 8.1 is dead. US welcomes Afghan girls robotics team, and the “world’s first robot lawyer” – meanwhile, Elon Musk warns that we need AI regulation sooner rather than later.

• Devindra Hardawar is still mad that new iPhones have no headphone jack.
• Georgia Dow needs a house with two VR rooms.
• Jill Duffy is learning Romanian on Duolingo.

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!