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Windows 10 Free Upgrade: Sincere Apology or Bribery?

In a stunning announcement on January 21, Windows chief Terry Myerson announced that Microsoft will offer an upgrade to Windows 10 for free for the first year to all Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 users.

Microsoft has NEVER done this.  So why are they doing it now?  I suspect we’ll never know the real reasons.

One guess is they’re extending an apology of sorts for the mess they made of Windows 8 – a despised, problem-infested operating system reminiscent of the seriously flawed Windows Vista.

They know frustrated computer users have spent hundreds of dollars of their hard-earned money fixing problems caused by Windows 8.  This may be their attempt to make up for that.

Another theory is Microsoft is bribing people to adopt Windows 10 to boost their numbers.

Prior to its release, Windows 8 received a significant amount of negative publicity.  More than a few people chose to avoid upgrading to Windows 8 because of it (including many smart readers of this column).

Microsoft’s numbers plummeted, especially compared to the release of the stable Windows 7 operating system.

The largest majority of computers running Windows 8 or 8.1 are new computers bought from big box store retailers.  And that’s only because Microsoft forced retailers to stop selling Windows 7 computers soon after they realized Windows 8 wasn’t very popular and most people preferred to avoid it.

Windows 8’s numbers remain pathetically low, which is why it’s theorized Microsoft is offering the free Windows 10 upgrade to alter the numbers.  And we all know Mark Twain’s famous quote, “There are lies, d**ned lies, and statistics.”

Windows 10 is slated to be released sometime in the fall of 2015.  Our testing of the technical preview indicates it’s a promising operating system, correcting many of the problems with Windows 8.  However, Microsoft will continue to modify it over the next few months, so our official review will be made when we see the final release.  (They still have time to screw it up!)

We learned in February that Microsoft is making the Windows 10 upgrade super-easy by allowing it to be downloaded and installed as part of regular Windows updates for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users.

I’m not so sure this is a good thing.

Windows 10 Free UpgradeFirst, Microsoft is notorious for releasing faulty Windows updates.  I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve fixed computers broken by bad updates.

Second, changing operating systems is completely different than just patching one.  It’s the difference between tearing out an existing wall and erecting a new one versus simply patching up a small hole in the drywall.

Too many things could potentially go wrong – even if Microsoft promises it to be seamless.

There’s also the issue of software and hardware incompatibilities.  Some of your existing programs and external devices may not work with Windows 10.  But you won’t know that until it’s too late – after you’ve already upgraded.

My recommendation at this point is WAIT – do NOT install Windows 10 under any circumstances, even if you’re offered it.  Let us thoroughly test the final release version of Windows 10 and report the results to you.

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Preying on Ignorance

Brent called my office reporting a sudden problem with a program on his computer.  He received a prompt reporting it wasn’t activated and that he had a few days left to activate it before it stopped working.

I advised him that it could potentially be an issue with the manufacturer’s online activation system.  However, if it didn’t clear up, he may need to reenter his license key.

“Where would I find the license key?” he innocently asked.

After a few minutes of discussion, it appeared that he never received the proper documentation from where he purchased the software.

Several days later, Brent called back and reported the problem had been resolved.  He contacted the vendor where he purchased the software and they took care of it.  He then needed me to help with a few other issues on his PC.

IntegrityI discovered some suspicious alerts and programs on his computer while fixing his other problems.  After some research, it looked like his activation issue had been “resolved” by using a hacking program to illegally generate a license key the software thought was valid.

* * *

Dave purchased a refurbished computer from an online auction site.  He asked me to get it set up for his use, which I did.

After several months of using it, Dave called me saying that his desktop background image disappeared and a message in the bottom right corner of the screen read, “This copy of Windows is not genuine.”

I remotely logged in to his computer and checked it.  It appeared that the seller had completely erased the computer, reinstalled an enterprise version of the Windows operating system with a stolen or hacked license key, and then sold the computer.  Although it looked legitimate at first, Microsoft’s activation servers eventually detected it as a fraudulent license key, thus generating the message Dave saw.

* * *

Both of these clients got taken advantage of by vendors they trusted.  It’s appalling to think some businesses and individuals would do underhanded things just to make a buck.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”

“Integrity is choosing your thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gains,” says another unknown author.

Consumers place their full faith and trust in service providers – auto mechanics, contractors, furnace repairmen, dentists, computer technicians – when hiring them to consult, diagnose, and repair problems they know little or nothing about.

How many times have we seen investigative news reports reveal unscrupulous businesses throughout the country ripping off customers?  It’s so easy to recommend unnecessary repairs because the customer doesn’t know any better.

But it’s not right!

I wish I could give you a simple five-step checklist that could guarantee you won’t get duped.  But I can’t.

I can, however, offer these suggestions:

Get to personally know your service provider.

Build a relationship with them.  Learn about how they live their lives, especially outside of their jobs.

“How you do anything is how you do everything,” says T. Harv Ecker.  Listen for how they think and observe how they behave.  Do they ever mention doing something questionable?  If so, it might be a sign of how they do things in their business.

Many ethical service providers give you opportunities to get to know them.  They have conversations with you – not just about what you’ve hired them for.  They share stories about themselves and their lives – both in person and in newsletters.

Ask others for recommendations, especially when you need the services of a provider you’ve never used before.

Happy, satisfied customers who personally know their providers eagerly recommend their services to their friends, family and co-workers .  Because their reputation is on the line, they wouldn’t dare recommend someone who would mistreat or take advantage of the person they referred.

Be as informed as you possibly can.

Do some online research or read books about the symptoms of your issue.  Although you can’t believe everything you read online, sometimes it can help you discern fact from fiction.

When something just doesn’t seem right, get a second opinion.

Trust your gut.  When in doubt, don’t.  There’s never anything wrong with getting a second opinion on anything when you have suspicions that what you’re being told isn’t quite right.  True professionals will understand.

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Virus Attacks: The Worst Just Got Worse

Just when we thought we had seen the worst virus ever known – CryptoWall 3.0 – an infection even worse comes along.

Computer VirusCryptoWall-infected computers have all of their documents and pictures encrypted and held ransom by cybercriminals.  You can’t open or use any of your files unless you pay their exorbitant ransom of hundreds of dollars in hopes they will decrypt your files.  Since they’re criminals, there’s no guarantee they will honor their word after they’ve already pocketed your money.

This threat is very real.  Two clients came to my office in the same day last week with the CryptoWall virus on their computers.  One lost all of his files because he didn’t have any backups; the other recovered many of her files because she had a backup from a year ago.

While CryptoWall 3.0 is extremely difficult to prevent, it uses the old-style method of infecting your computer.  You click on a link in an email or a website, you’re taken to a website that downloads the infection to your computer, and it automatically runs.  Damage done.

But this latest strain of ransomware CANNOT BE PREVENTED.

What’s worse is that it’s attacking your computer from legitimate websites – like Photobucket.com, CBSSports.com, HuffingtonPost.com, Mapquest.com, Realtor.com, and many others.

These are websites that everyday computer users visit all the time.

Time Warner Cable customers.  You’re exposed too, especially if you check your email on their website at mail.twc.com.

This latest threat, known as Fessleak, bypasses all antivirus software because it’s doesn’t install any files on your computer before it does it’s damage.  It initiates a command to a process on your computer via your computer’s memory right from the hijacked website.

These cybercriminals create advertisements that get displayed on popular websites all over the Internet through ad distribution networks.  They use intriguing subject lines to trick you into clicking on the ad.

Recent subject lines they’ve used include: “Grandma’s response to getting an iPhone for Christmas is hilarious” and “These are the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that terrorists thought were worth killing over.”

The subject line paired with a compelling photo summons your curiosity, which makes you click on the ad.

Within moments of clicking on the ad, a full screen message appears telling you that all your files are encrypted and you have to pay a ransom to get them back.

Your computer can also become infected in other ways – without you having to click on anything.  The hackers use vulnerabilities in popular software –like Adobe Flash Player – installed on your computer to infect and destroy.  Again, this goes undetected by antivirus software.

WHAT YOU MUST REMEMBER

Antivirus protection on your PC is a necessity.

BUT … NO antivirus software will prevent 100% of infections.  And it will NOT protect against these latest, most destructive ransomware infections in the wild at all.

WHAT YOU MUST DO

 

First, you MUST religiously back up the important files on your computer.

An off-site backup is preferred.   If you back up to an external hard drive or flash drive, you MUST disconnect it from your computer as soon as the backup is complete.  Otherwise, these infections will destroy your backups, too.

Second, install Windows updates and other software programs as quickly as you can when they are released.

Third, install AdBlocker plugins for your web browsers to prevent advertisements from showing up on websites you visit.  AdBlock Plus (adblockplus.org) is a good plugin to use.

Finally, be careful what you click on.  Don’t let your curiosity get you in trouble.

The days of the safe Internet are long gone.  Prevention is becoming increasingly difficult.  Preparation for the inevitable is now what every computer user must do.