Malware infections tripled in late 2013 thanks to sneaky browser plugin, Microsoft says

Malware infections tripled in late 2013 thanks to sneaky browser plugin, Microsoftsays – PCWorld

A three-fold increase in Microsoft Windows computers infected with malicious software in late 2013 came from an application that was for some time classified as harmless by security companies.

The finding comes as part of Microsoft’s latest biannual Security Intelligence Report (SIR), released on Wednesday, which studies security issues encountered by more than 800 million computers using its security tools.

Microsoft has added detection of this malicious piece of crap to it’s  Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT), and let others know about it as well back in December 2013 according to the article.

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Support Ends today for Windows XP and Office 2003

RIP Windows XP and Office 2003!

Well, like it or not, Windows XP Home and Professional, as well as Microsoft Office 2003 support ends today, April 8, 2014.

Windows XP Home and Professional Support Ends today, April 8, 2014!

Windows XP Home and Professional Support Ends today, April 8, 2014!

 

Windows XP support end: 10 steps to cut security risks – ZDNet

“While doing nothing is an option, we do not believe that most organisations — or their auditors — will find this level of risk acceptable,” vice president and Gartner fellow Neil MacDonald said in a report, Best practices for secure use of XP after support ends.

Between 20 percent and 25 percent of enterprise systems are still running XP, and one-third of organisations continue to use it on more than 10 percent of their machines, Gartner estimates.

For those still using the venerable OS after the end of routine Microsoft updates and security patches, MacDonald has come up with 10 best practices to minimise the risks.

Rest in Peace, Windows XP – PCMag SecurityWatch

Rest in Peace Windows XP 2001-2014 You will be missed!

Rest in Peace Windows XP 2001-2014 You will be missed! Image links to PCMag article.

This is the end. Your Windows XP computer will get its last update today. Oh, it’s not going to roll over and kick the bucket, but continuing to use it will be more and more dangerous, since any new vulnerabilities that arise won’t be patched. We checked in with a number of security experts to discuss just how risky life will be for those who continue to run XP.

It’s the end of the line for Windows XP – USAToday

The software — introduced in an era before texting, Facebook, Snapchat, the iPhone and iPad — has lingered thanks to the reluctance of many consumers and small businesses to change. Despite its age, XP is the No. 2 computer operating system, and many folks are in store for a rude wake-up call.

Microsoft on Tuesday ceases official support for XP. The company will no longer issue patches or system updates to protect against viruses and other malware. If you run into any snags at all, you won’t be able to call Microsoft for technical assistance.

Microsoft Ends Support for Windows XP – Mashable

“Microsoft has provided support for Windows XP for the past 12 years. But now the time has come for us, along with our hardware and software partners, to invest our resources toward supporting more recent technologies so that we can continue to deliver great new experiences,” wrote Microsoft in an announcement.

Launched on October 25, 2001, Windows XP is one of the most successful Microsoft products ever; its successor, Windows Vista, was quickly replaced with Windows 7, and it took as long as September 2012 for Windows 7 to overtake XP as the most popular desktop operating system.

Microsoft ends support for Windows XP and Office 2003 – TheNextWeb

If you’re wondering why April 8, 2014 is the date support for both of these products ends, it’s really quite simple. Microsoft releases regular patches on Patch Tuesday, the second Tuesday of every month.

Microsoft supports its products for many years, and depending on when service packs as well as successors are released, the company eventually announces, in advance, when it will cut off support. April 8 happens to be the last Patch Tuesday for both products, meaning if security holes are found after today’s date, they won’t be plugged.

Excellent point!

Netmarketshare.com for Operating Systems pulled today showed March 2014 tallies:

Networkmarketshare, as of March 2014, pulled today, still shows Windows XP as 27.69% of the MarketShare.

Networkmarketshare, as of March 2014, pulled today, still shows Windows XP as 27.69% of the MarketShare. Link goes to metmarketshare.com

I personally still find it unbelievable that Microsoft, or any company really, would retire/pull support an OS that still garners nearly 30% of Windows users around the world.

Of course if you are an Enterprise company that can afford $200 PER PC for the first year, and increasing amounts each year THEREAFTER for Windows XP updates (security updates only by the way)…

Windows XP support will be available after April 8—just not for you – PCMag

Meet Microsoft’s Custom Support for Windows XP, described as a last-ditch effort for big businesses to quite literally buy some more time to migrate from Windows XP to a more modern operating system. The U.K. paid 5.548 million pounds to Microsoft for an additional year of support to maintain critical and important security updates for Windows XP, Office 2003, and Exchange 2003. Otherwise, Microsoft plans to end support for Windows XP by April 8.

Microsoft has been warning about the demise of Windows XP support since September, 2007, and Custom Support will extract a heavy toll from businesses that were too slow to act: up to $5 million per year (according to a report from Gartner), negotiated on a custom, per-company basis. Last year, Gartner issued a report claiming that the prices could go as high as $200 per PC, per year. The firm called such prices “punitive”.

Should consumers get the same break?

To date, Microsoft has given no indication that it will extend consumer support for Windows XP after the April 8 deadline, even though it has extended anti-malware support through July, 2015. After that date, any and all vulnerabilities found for Windows XP will live on forever, even though there are some avenues to keep your PC safe and protected after the deadline expires.

BTW: Apple‘s Mac OS X Mavericks holds 3.75% of the market (putting it between Windows 8.1 and Vista), however, if you include all Mac OS X operating systems listed: Mac OS X 10.6 1.29% (support ended), Mac OS X 10.8 1.18%, Mac OS X 10.7 1.05% Mac OS X 10.5 .24% (support ended), Mac OX X 10.4 0.06% (supported ended), and Mac OS X no version reported 0.01%, then the total is 7.58% of the operating system total market share (which puts it on the low end between Windows XP and Windows 8).

But, that does mean that only 1.59% of all Mac OS X users are running expired versions with no support.

Compare that with 27.69% of Windows users running  Windows XP.

NOTE: That doesn’t count the expired/no support users running Windows NT at 0.15%, Windows 2000 at 0.03%. Apparently Windows 98 users have finally fallen off at 0.00%.

Windows XP end of support: why it concerns you – OnWindows.com

Reto Haeni explores the risks of running Windows XP after its end of service and the benefits of migrating to newer operating systems

This article was first published in the Spring 2014 issue of Touch

Designed in a different era

Computers running Windows XP routinely experience a significantly higher malware infection rate than computers running any other supported version of Windows. Much of the elevated infection rate on Windows XP can be attributed to the fact that some of the key built-in security features included with more recent versions of Windows are not present in Windows XP. Windows XP, designed in a different era, simply can’t mitigate threats as effectively as newer operating systems, like Windows 7 and Windows 8. As the threat landscape has evolved over the past twelve years since the release of Windows XP, so has software security.

It’s time folks! If you haven’t done it yet, and if you are still running Windows XP on the Internet, it is high time to correct this by upgrading to a modern OS that is still supported, or disconnect from the Internet.

Please, unless you are a technical person who truly understands the risks and has taken steps to mitigate the overwhelming risks, then please be responsible and disconnect your Windows XP computer now!

Or move to new computer running a current version of Windows, or a Mac from Apple, or the Open Source ‘UNIX like’ Linux operating system and run Windows XP programs with Crossover as suggested here, or you could use Windows XP offline, and use a Linux LiveCD for Internet surfing and email, etc as suggested here and not mess up your offline Windows XP system. No matter how you do it, PULL THE PLUG on Windows XP – Disconnect the Ethernet or Wireless connection to the Internet! Just as soon as you get any April 8th Windows Updates on Patch Tuesday.

Unless you know what you are doing, you will be playing Russian Roulette with your Windows XP computer if you allow it to be online once Microsoft ends support after April 8, 2014. And that has been only Life Line extended support since 2009.

 

Microsoft Office 2003 support ends today, April 8, 2014!

Microsoft Office 2003 support ends today, April 8, 2014!

We also mentioned Microsoft Office 2003. Oh, yes, Microsoft Office 2003 has also expired today. No more security updates will be provided for Office 2003 either, just like Windows XP.

If you are still using Office 2003, it’s high time to remove it and move to a current version of Microsoft Office, or move to one of the Open Source alternatives such as;  Apache Foundation‘s OpenOffice.org or Document Foundation‘s LibreOffice, or move to using online versions of MS Office software like MS Office Web Apps or move over to Google’s online document handling programs; Google Docs.

 

New Twist to Online Tech Support Scam and more

This one has been going on for quite a while, but it is definitely spreading like a bad rash. Just to prove it, one of my clients got a call from one of these while I was actually at their home for an appointment to work on their computer. What’s the chance of that happening? It’s certainly never happened before. And they are definitely using some serious social engineering to fool people into allowing them to get into their computers to quote/unquote fix their computers.

Thanks to Windows Secrets and Fred Langa for the link:

Windows Secrets reader Scott Brande was recently on the receiving end of a typical tech-support con. Recognizing it for what it was, he carefully documented the attempted snow job, then sent in his notes as a service to all Windows Secrets readers.

Check out the rest of Fred Langa’s article for the fully documented story.

And from IC3.gov site:

New Twist to Online Tech Support Scam and more – IC3.gov Scam Alerts (Jan 7, 2013)

NEW TWIST TO ONLINE TECH SUPPORT SCAM

The IC3 continues to receive complaints reporting telephone calls from individuals claiming to be with Tech Support from a well-known software company. The callers have very strong accents and use common names such as “Adam” or “Bill.” Callers report the user’s computer is sending error messages, and a virus has been detected. In order to gain access to the user’s computer, the caller claims that only their company can resolve the issue.

The caller convinces the user to grant them the authority to run a program to scan their operating system. Users witness the caller going through their files as the caller claims they are showing how the virus has infected their computer.

Users are told the virus could be removed for a fee and are asked for their credit card details. Those who provide the caller remote access to their computers, whether they paid for the virus to be removed or not, report difficulties with their computer afterwards; either their computers would not turn on or certain programs/files were inaccessible.

Some report taking their computers to local technicians for repair and the technicians confirmed software had been installed. However, no other details were provided.

In a new twist to this scam, it was reported that a user’s computer screen turned blue, and eventually black, prior to receiving the call from Tech Support offering to fix their computer. At this time, it has not been determined if this is related to the telephone call or if the user had been experiencing prior computer problems.

Unbelievable! MICROSOFT DOESN’T DO THAT!

Avoid tech support phone scams

Cybercriminals don’t just send fraudulent email messages and set up fake websites. They might also call you on the telephone and claim to be from Microsoft. They might offer to help solve your computer problems or sell you a software license. Once they have access to your computer, they can do the following:

  • Trick you into installing malicious software that could capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords. They might also then charge you to remove this software.
  • Take control of your computer remotely and adjust settings to leave your computer vulnerable.
  • Request credit card information so they can bill you for phony services.
  • Direct you to fraudulent websites and ask you to enter credit card and other personal or financial information there.

Neither Microsoft nor our partners make unsolicited phone calls (also known as cold calls) to charge you for computer security or software fixes.

More here at Microsoft’s article: Avoid Phone Scams

Some more interesting things in the IC3 Scam Alerts:

You might also find the rest of the IC3 Scam Alerts interesting; including a list of the most popular passwords out there. If you are using any of them as passwords, you might just want to change it now!

Also some info on Java Exploit that is for sale for 5 digits! :

Miscreants in the cyber underground are selling an exploit for a previously undocumented security hole in Oracle’s Java software that attackers can use to remotely seize control over systems running the program, KrebsOnSecurity has learned.

Might want to check out: How to Unplug Java from the Browser

Don’t lose your Internet on Monday – Use the DNSChanger check tool

Internet will vanish Monday for 300,000 infected computers – Computerworld

It’s not just consumer PCs and Macs — DNSChanger was equal-opportunity malware — that remain infected, but also corporate computers and systems at government agencies, said Tacoma, Wash.-based Internet Identity (IID), which has been monitoring cleanup efforts.

Last week, IID said that its scans showed 12% of Fortune 500 firms, or about one out of every eight, harbored DNSChanger-compromised computers or routers. And two out of 55 scanned U.S. government departments or agencies — or 3.6% — also had failed to scrub all their PCs and Macs.

According to the article, the numbers are down though, back in January, the numbers were still 50%!

Without the server substitutions, DNS Changer-infected systems would have been immediately severed from the Internet.

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Denis Cote extended the deadline for shutting down the replacement servers by four months, from March 8 — this Thursday — to July 9, 2012.

Well, now the deadline is coming up again. Monday, July 9, 2012 they will be turning off the safe substitute go-between servers and anyone who still has DNS Changer-infected systems at that time, will be severed from the Internet on Monday.

Checking is pretty easy and generally will determine if you have a DNSChanger infected system. The DNSChanger Working Group (DCWG), a volunteer organization of security professionals and companies has provided a great way to do just that.

You can go directly to their site Detect Help Guide page with the DNSChanger Detect Tool pages:

http://www.dcwg.org/detect/

You will find lists of servers in various languages there and some information about their checker and what it does. One of the English servers available to provide the DNS Changer Check-Up are:

http://www.dns-ok.us/

You should get the following response if your computer does NOT have DNSChanger or other malware that changes your DNS Servers on your computer:

DNS Changer Check - DCWG - Source: Computerworld

DNS Changer Check – DCWG – Source: Computerworld

In case it is too small to read, at the bottom of the DNS Resolution – GREEN image, it says the following:

Had your computer been infected with DNS changer malware you would have seen a red background. Please note, however, that if your ISP is redirecting DNS traffic for its customers you would have reached this site even though you are infected. For additional information regarding the DNS changer malware, please visit the FBI’s website at:
http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2011/november/malware_110911

BOLD emphasis mine.

DNSChanger check tool: Malware infection could cause internet loss Monday, FBI responds – WPTV.com

The WPTV.com article goes a step further and also lists some additional help locations for malware removers, etc.

If your computer is infected, click here to learn how to get rid of the infection: http://www.dcwg.org/fix

The following sites can also help you with free or low-cost products to check and fix your computer if it’s infected:

· Microsoft Safety Scanner – http://www.microsoft.com/security/scanner/en-us/default.aspx

· Kaspersky Labs TDSSKiller – http://support.kaspersky.com/faq/?qid=208283363

· McAfee Stinger – http://www.mcafee.com/us/downloads/free-tools/stinger.aspx

· Hitman Pro (32bit & 64bit versions) – http://www.surfright.nl/en/products/

· Norton Power Eraser – http://security.symantec.com/nbrt/npe.aspx

· Trend Micro Housecall – http://housecall.trendmicro.com

· MacScan – http://macscan.securemac.com/

· Avira – http://www.avira.com/en/support-for-home-knowledgebase-detail/kbid/1199

If you are still concerned that you might lose Internet come Monday, you can use one of the above products to determine if you are infected with the DNSChanger or other malware.

Or just wait till Monday and see, and if you lose Internet, you can use one or more of the products, at that time, or call your computer specialist to help you remove it. With only a few hundred thousand computers still being infected, you could be infected, but chances are, you are not.

Also, without actually running one or more of the programs listed to determine if you are infected, and because the government’s substitute DNS Changer servers are currently in place until Monday, you may not be able to even tell if you are infected from the detect tool alone.

EDIT NOTE: It couldn’t hurt to have a copy of the downloadable antimalware programs and update/run them before Monday: such as McAfee Stinger or Kaspersky’s TDDSKiller just in case — BEFORE they turn off the substitute safe DNS servers. What’s the logic in that? If it turns out you are infected (albeit unlikely), you may not be able to get to the sites to get these antimalware tools later. Of course come Monday, any online tools listed, like Trend Micro’s Housecall and any other online tools would not be available if your computer turns out to be infected and loses Internet.

Adobe Flash Zero Day Bug Emergency Patch

Adobe patches new Flash zero-day bug with emergency update – Computerworld

Adobe today warned that hackers are exploiting a critical vulnerability in its popular Flash Player program, and issued an emergency update to patch the bug.

“There are reports that the vulnerability is being exploited in the wild in active targeted attacks designed to trick the user into clicking on a malicious file delivered in an email message,” the Friday advisory said.

All editions of the Flash player are affected, but those abusing this vulnerability are targeting Internet Explorer with this current exploit and Adobe is giving it their Priority 1 status:

The update was pegged with Adobe’s priority rating of “1,” used to label patches for actively-exploited vulnerabilities or bugs that will likely be exploited. For such updates, Adobe recommends that customers install the new version within 72 hours.

In this case of course it’s already actively being exploited. So don’t wait! Don’t be a target, get your Adobe Flash Player update today!

Mac Malware Targeting Unpatched Office Running on OS X – Not the same as before

Mac Malware Targeting Unpatched Office Running on OS X – eWeek

This is a different issue than reported earlier on this blog here on April 16th.

Microsoft is reporting that malware is exploiting unpatched versions of its Microsoft Office Word 2000 suite to compromise Apple Macintoshes running Snow Leopard or earlier versions of Mac OS X.

Microsoft has discovered malware that’s preying on Apple computers running unpatched versions of its Office application suite.

The two vulnerabilities in question were patched in the Microsoft Office Word 2000 suite in June 2009, almost three years ago.

At that time, Microsoft put out a critical security bulletin—MS09-027—to close the holes, which can allow an attacker to get control of a system if a user opens a maliciously crafted Word file.

Much more in the article.

These Office Word 2000 installs on Mac OS X should have been patched by users for 3 years now.

Another troubling situation is that the malware seems to be targeting Snow Leopard and earlier versions of Mac OS X; not Lion.

With Lion the particular memory address being abused to run shellcode isn’t vulnerable like in earlier versions of Mac OS X.

So, if you have ANY version of Microsoft Office software running on your Mac, make sure it is up to date.

Better yet, if you have any software running on your Mac make sure it is updated including MS Office, Java, and other Internet facing programs, as well as Mac OS X itself. This should be obvious to must Mac users by now, but certainly bears repeating.

This is not just a Mac problem, but it has been exacerbated on Macs because getting MS updates for MS Office on the Mac apparently hasn’t been done as religiously as it often is on MS Windows systems, which are also vulnerable by the way.

Microsoft Security Bulletin MS09-027 – Critical
Vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office Word Could Allow Remote Code Execution (969514).

For Mac OS X, MS Office 2011/Office 14, Microsoft has a page showing how to check for software updates automatically.

Microsoft has a page to download MS Office Updates (at least back to Office 2004)

Religious websites riskier than porn for online viruses: study

Religious websites riskier than porn for online viruses: study – Raw Story

Web wanderers are more likely to get a computer virus by visiting a religious website than by peering at porn, according to a study released on Tuesday.

“Drive-by attacks” in which hackers booby-trap legitimate websites with malicious code continue to be a bane, the US-based anti-virus vendor Symantec said in its Internet Security Threat Report.

The same article, or variations on the theme have been have been run by many news/technology venues such as InformationWeek, NYDailyNews, WallStreetJournal Blogs, CSO Online, PCWorld, etc. Many created their own stories from the report, so well worth a read.

Where did all this information come from:
Symantec Internet Security Threat Report – 2011
Symantec Logo - Confidence in a Connected World - Click to view Malicious Code Threat Report 2011

Malware in 2011
By analyzing malicious code we can determine which threats types and attack vectors are being employed. The endpoint is often the last line of defense, but it can often be the first-line of defense against attacks that spread using USB storage devices, insecure network connections and compromised, infected websites. Symantec’s cloud-based technology and reputation systems can also help to identify and block new and emerging attacks that haven’t been seen before, such as new targeted attacks employing previously unknown zero-day exploits. Analysis of malware activity trends both in the cloud and at the endpoint can help to shed light on the wider nature of threats confronting businesses, especially from blended attacks and threats facing mobile workers.

Corresponding to their large internet populations, the United States, China and India remained the top sources for overall malicious activity. …

The reference about religious sites?

Moreover, religious and ideological sites were found to have triple the average number of threats per infected site than adult/pornographic sites. We hypothesize that this is because pornographic website owners already make money from the internet and, as a result, have a vested interest in keeping their sites malware-free – it’s not good for repeat business.

And here’s just one more small area of the report:

Exploiting the Web: Attack toolkits, rootkits and social networking threats

Attack toolkits, which allow criminals to create new malware and assemble an entire attack without having to write the software from scratch, account for nearly two-thirds (61%) of all threat activity on malicious websites. As these kits become more widespread, robust and easier to use, this number is expected to climb. New exploits are quickly incorporated into attack kits. Each new toolkit version released during the year is accompanied with increased malicious Web attack activity. As a new version emerges that incorporates new exploit functionality, we see an increased use of it in the wild, making as much use of the new exploits until potential victims have patched their systems. For example, the number of attacks using the Blackhole toolkit, which was very active in 2010, dropped to a few hundred attacks per day in the middle of 2011, but re-emerged with newer versions generating hundreds of thousands of infection attempts per day towards the end of the year.
On average, attack toolkits contain around 10 different exploits, mostly focusing on browser independent plug-in vulnerabilities like Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Reader and Java. Popular kits can be updated every few days and each update may trigger a wave of new attacks.
They are relatively easy to find and sold on the underground black market and web forums. Prices range from $40 to $4,000. …

The whole report is well worth a read! There is only so much you can put into an article.

Much more in the report!