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Here’s What We Know About WannaCry / WannaCrypt / Wcry Ransomware

Over the weekend, businesses, institutions, and individuals in 12+ countries have fallen victim to a ransomware program known as “WannaCrypt”, or a variant thereof. For those unaware, WannaCry is fast-spreading form of malware that remotely targets nearby computers running on unpatched or unsupported versions of Windows.

Once infected, computers with this malware being encrypting all the user files they can find on the network, displaying a red ransom note (below) demanding $300 for a decryption key, with the cost increasing as time goes on.

From a technical perspective, the malware spreads via SMB – that is the Server Message Block protocol – typically used by Windows machines to communicate with file systems over a network.

Microsoft released a fix for the exploits (MS17-010, used as a part of its March “Patch Tuesday” release), but unpatched Windows systems remain vulnerable. If you are certain your PCs were updated after March 28th, you should be safe – if you’re unsure and would like to schedule an assessment, please contact us today!

 

Euclid Network’s Partner Update

For current partners of Euclid Networks, our proactive monitoring and maintenance software ensures all computers on service plans have critical Microsoft patches regularly reviewed, whitelisted by our partner NOC, and deployed to our client’s machines. We strongly believe in a proactive approach to IT Support, and ensuring software is up to date on business systems is our top priority.

Due to the seriousness of this particular outbreak, we are also manually reviewing our partner’s machines to ensure Microsoft security bulletin MS17-010 has been implemented across the board.

Additionally, our Antivirus partner, Webroot, has announced they have deployed preventative measures for this ransomware – and our partners using Dell Sonicwall Firewalls with Comprehensive Gateway Security Suite licenses should rest assured they have another layer of protection, with Sonicwall having discovered this malware and its variants as of mid-April.

 

Your Mitigation Strategies for Ransomware : Backup

In today’s technology environment, having good preventative measures in place is only the first step to having a comprehensive disaster plan in place.

Ideally, you want to have a 3-2-1 backup strategy in place. This means having at least 3 total copies of your data, 2 of which are local but on different physical devices (such as external storage drives) and 1 of which is offsite – preferably cloud based, with versioning capabilities.

If you don’t have a backup strategy in place, or want to re-evaluate your current plan, please contact Euclid Networks for a consultation!

If you’re unsure of how to assess your current needs, just consider your ability to recover from the following scenarios:

  1. All your files become corrupted (or encrypted) and replicated to your backup devices before anyone realizes.
  2. You have backup on one machine or server which is protected, but envision other devices that can communicate with your machine, and how they might be affected by the spread of malware.
  3. Envision a scenario where all your physical devices have been stolen, or your home or business is subject to fire or flood.

Resilience against all of the above scenarios is not difficult, but it takes careful planning, and continually reassessing your technology environment!

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Windows 8.1 Update 1 released, Official MS Support for XP Ends

Today marked two important milestones for business Windows users – the release of Windows 8.1 Update 1 (KB2919355), and the official end of Microsoft support for Windows XP as of April 8th. If your company is still actively using Windows XP, contact us to learn more about what this means for your office’s computers.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 includes some relatively major changes – concessions for folks not using the operating system with a touchscreen. Most notably, the “Start Menu” has been more widely embraced – something MSFT has been reluctant to do, and an option business users have been demanding. Now, even when modern ‘metro’ style apps are in use, the taskbar remains visible. For multi-tasking business users, this feature was sorely missing.

taskbar-improvements-windows-8.1-update

As well, there are updates for the metro style interface – bringing some of the ‘hidden’ right sidebar features (such as search) out into the open. This has been, in our experience, one of the biggest confusing factors for new Windows 8.1 users.

start-screen-revised-small

For our Atlanta business IT support partners running Windows 8.1, rest assured we’ll be rolling this patch out ASAP! For those holding off on upgrading to Microsoft’s latest operating system, this is a small step in the right direction.

Finally, we’ve made some updates of our own to euclidnet.com – We’ve added a dynamic feed of our latest Facebook posts, and our latest Twitter posts, under our ‘about us‘ section. If you haven’t already, remember to Like us on facebook and Follow us on twitter to stay current on one of Atlanta’s best IT support providers, and our tech-tips blog.


How to : Quickly open a command prompt at a location using the Windows Explorer address bar

Ever needed to quickly open a command prompt at a particular location on your hard drive? In the regular course of providing tech support for our Atlanta business partners, we use this quick trick on an almost daily basis.

Simply type ‘cmd’ into your address bar, and voilà – a command prompt at your computer’s current location – in this case c:\Windows.

2014-03-07 tech support command prompt

 

Ridiculously simple, but something many folks don’t know! You can also open any number of other programs in the same manner – the address bar functions in basically the same way as the search dialog in the Windows 7 start menu.

If we’ve helped you out, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Advisory : Microsoft ending support for XP computers and Office 2003 on April 8th, 2014

If you haven’t yet heard, Microsoft is formally ending support for computers running Windows XP, and Office 2003  on April 8th, 2014. Although this date has been announced for some time, we know a considerable number of people who still rely on systems using XP. Read more to find out about what this means to your organization.

2014-01-21 16_51_45-Support ends in 2014 for Windows XP and Office 2003!

Windows XP End-of-Life : What changes?

Although formal support will end for XP and Office 2003, systems will continue running indefinitely. The main changes to expect with XP’s end-of-life event are :

  1. No further operating system patches – Patches keep Windows up to date and at least reasonably protected from malicious attacks. With no further updates being released by Microsoft, XP and Office will become increasingly insecure and vulnerable to 3rd party malware and viruses.
  2. Microsoft Security Essentials will be discontinued for XP – Microsoft’s widely used anti-virus program, and its underlying “Windows Defender” software will no longer be updated. Paired with a lack of new operating system patches, this will only make XP even less attractive to the businesses which rely on it. Luckly (and somewhat bewilderingly), Microsoft just announced (Jan 15, 2014) they would continue releasing updates for MSE until July 14th, 2015.

Analysis and Next Steps

So, what is a responsible business owner to do? The answer, we think, is not simple. A great number of the world’s computers (an estimated 28%) still rely on XP. Integrated systems also tend to rely on XP, as it is a proven and stable development platform. Practically all U.S. ATMs, for instance, are reported to use the operating system. So, the chance Microsoft will extend support for XP is likely – a notion their Jan 15th announcement supports. And others in the community have expressed their disbelief about the true impact of XP’s ‘death’ as well.

But, all the same – while we won’t preach doom and gloom – it does make sense to begin migrating critical business systems from XP to a newer operating system – and of course, we’re here to help.


Deleting files from old Offline File Cache in Windows 7 or XP

As network support providers, we frequently come across come across scenarios where a computer on a business domain has a user profile that has old Offline File Cache data in it. Typically, the user account has moved to a new domain, or is pointing to an old server path, no longer in use. This can happen if the user account has redirected folders enabled on the My Documents or Desktop folders – and the server is no longer in use, or unreachable. This can result in low disk space, or in many cases, duplicate files.

You also may need to delete your offline file cache if you are receiving the error message : “Unable to merge offline changes on \\server_name\share_name. The parameter is incorrect.” in your sync center.

Fortunately, the fix is relatively simple.

Windows 7

Open an elevated command prompt (Start -> type CMD in search box -> Right Click, Run as Administrator)

type : “REG ADD “HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\CSC\Parameters” /v FormatDatabase /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f”

Reboot computer – the Client Side Cache will be cleared on your next login.

THIS WILL DELETE ALL CACHED OFFLINE FILES – DATA WILL NOT BE RECOVERABLE, ENSURE YOU HAVE BACKUPS IN PLACE.

Microsoft’s Notes :

Make sure that files are synchronized before you add this registry entry. Otherwise, unsynchronized changes will be lost.
The actual value of the new registry key is ignored.
This registry change requires a restart. When the computer is restarting, the shell will re-initialize the CSC cache, and then delete the registry key if the registry entry exists.

Windoes 7 Reference : http://support.microsoft.com/kb/942974

 

If you have Windows XP, follow this procedure : http://support.microsoft.com/kb/230738


Windows won’t start after Microsoft Update installation

Windows won’t start after update installation

This is a common problem we run in to while providing IT support with older computers. After applying a Microsoft Update patch, windows will partially boot, or not boot at all. Most of the times, windows will boot to its start screen, with a message similar to the below :

“Configuring Windows updates… 90% complete… Do not turn off your computer.”