MS Word users warned of ongoing attacks exploiting unpatched bug

Microsoft warns Word users of ongoing attacks exploiting unpatched bug – Computerworld

Biggest worry, says expert, is that exploits are triggered just by previewing malicious messages in Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013

Microsoft today warned users of Word 2010 that in-the-wild attacks are exploiting an unpatched vulnerability in the software.

The company also published an automated tool to protect customers until it issues a patch.

An attacker could cause remote code execution if someone was convinced to open a specially-crafted Rich Text Format (RTF) file or a specially-crafted mail in Microsoft Outlook while using Microsoft Word as the email viewer,” said Dustin Childs, group manager and spokesman for Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing group in a blog Monday.

BOLD in the quote is mine.

Microsoft put out a Security Advisory 2953095 as Corrine noted on her Security Garden Blog including Fix it buttons for enabling and disabling reading email messages in plain text format.

This is one of the things for which both Microsoft in Outlook and Apple in Mail have massively fallen down on the job. This would not be happening if you could easily toggle various view options such as HTML or Plain Text for reading emails, as well as allowing and disallowing images inline.

This is something that I am very thankful that Mozilla Thunderbird got right from the very beginning. Mozilla Thunderbird gives very granular control regarding the various ways to Display email messages such as in PLAIN TEXT, SIMPLE HTML (simple html with javascripting disabled), or ORIGINAL HTML.

You also have control over how images are displayed or not in several ways and differentiating between attached images and remote images.

You can also close to enable do not track in emails. There are Security Add-ons like Adblock PlusEnigmail (OpenPGP), more. As well as lots of specialized Add=ons. One of these that I like is QuickText and a few others. It works on Windows, Mac and Linux.

There is also a pay to play $9.95 I think, but also has a free trial. It was originally for Macs and now there is a Windows version as well. It was created by the original developers of Thunderbird called Postbox. It has some but not all the Add-ons that Thunderbird has.

/rant on

I am not saying everyone should move to Mozilla Thunderbird. What I am saying is that Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mail should give their users these types of granular control so people can choose how they wish emails to be viewed. Both do some things but they stop way short of what is really needed in this day and age with emails.

HTML is like a venetian blind. It hides what is behind it. You can’t see what is behind all that HTML. You can’t decide to see HTML only if you trust the email after viewing what is in that email. This makes it way too easy for phishing emails to look like your bank, PayPal, your credit card company, etc. It also allows companies to track you with web beacons, transparent gif images and other remotely loaded images so they know if and when you view their email.

Something needs to be done about all this. Mozilla Thunderbird makes it so easy for folks to be able to toggle images so they can’t track you, use SIMPLE HTML to keep the ‘form’ of an email message without the more dangerous javascripting. Or allows you to totally view the email in plain text so you can see that that link that appears to be going to your bank actually goes to some strange URL that has nothing to do with your bank or a store you may or may not do business with.

People need these tools. Some may or may not realize it, but they really do.

I have heard so many people say that the email look just like it was from their bank and they fell for it. Or a store they frequent and gave up their login credentials by clicking on the link rather than going to the website because it looked like it was the store’s promotion.

Sure, no one should click on links in email, but if it looks legit, many do. Sure, if you like something in a promotion for a store, it might be better to just go to the store’s website but some stores really don’t have a page on their website that is clickable to get you there, unless you click on the link in an email. Also, the links are often obfuscated by third party trackers and campaign tracking sites, etc. This all makes life very difficult for email users to know what’s good and what’s not.

OK, I will get off my soap box now.

/rant off

 

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XP SP3 and Office 2003 Support Ends April 8, 2014

Windows XP has been around since August 24, 2001 – 12 years ago now. It is getting VERY long in the tooth.

Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 Support Ends April 8th, 2014

Like many Operating System versions, Windows XP was not such a great OS in the beginning. BUT, like many Microsoft products, it got better after Service Pack 1 (SP1), but wasn’t the best it could be till after Service Pack 2 (SP2) and mildly better after Service Pack 3 (SP3). SP3 is the current version of Windows XP.

I loved Windows XP for a long time, even though it was getting long in the tooth. But I have come to love Windows 7 even more. Windows 8 … the jury is still out. For me I use several different operating systems. I also love and use Mac OS X or just OS X (as it is called now) and Debian Linux.

Windows XP has been on life support or Extended Support since April 8, 2009 when Mainstream Support ended. That was after two says of execution as it were since it was supposed to be ended earlier than 2009.

Windows XP has been the main stay for many folks for a long time in the Windows world — the last 12 years. That’s a long time for an Operating System version.

Windows XP still holds the #2 spot at 31.24% of computer users as shown below in the graph from NetMarketShare.com:

NetMarketShare.com Operating System Breakout - November 1, 2013

NetMarketShare.com Operating System Breakout – November 1, 2013

Windows 7 holds the #1 spot for a very good reason. It is still the best of the newer Operating Systems from Microsoft to date — in my opinion and nearly half of all Windows users to date. And Windows 7 is still good to go until January 14, 2020 (end of Extended Support – it is still in Mainstream Support until January 15, 2015). Here’s the break out of the Windows lifecycle fact sheet info:

Windows Life Cycles from the Windows Life Cycle Fact Sheet

Windows Life Cycles from the Windows Life Cycle Fact Sheet

I have said all this because we need to see where were are, and where we need to be as computer users, particularly as Windows users with April 8, 2014 looming over those of us still using Windows XP.

Especially in the light of the pervasive malware purveyors out there today.

We need to make sure we are all no longer using Windows XP of any kind before or at least by April 8, 2014 when Microsoft will no longer be providing ANY security updates for Windows XP.

A few years back they did the same thing with Windows 2000. It’s now Windows XP’s turn.

Please read the following articles to see why this will be very important:

Windows XP infection rate may jump 66% after patches end in April – Computerworld

Microsoft yesterday again put the scare into Windows XP users, telling them that after April 8, 2014, the chance that malware will infect their PCs could jump by two-thirds.

Windows lifecycle fact sheet – Microsoft.com (image above)

New stats show Windows 8 usage up sharply as XP usage plummets – ZDNet (for curiosity though, look at the difference between the table on ZDNet’s article and the one today).

NetMarketShare (choose Operating Systems from the dropdown to see the chart above in real time)

Gartner Says Worldwide PC, Tablet and Mobile Phone Shipments to Grow 4.5 Percent in 2013 as Lower-Priced Devices Drive Growth – Gartner.com

Source: Gartner Oct 2013 - Worldwide Device Shipments by Segment

Source: Gartner Oct 2013 – Worldwide Device Shipments by Segment

It would appear, that, as predicted, many around the world are moving to other types of computers, in particular mobile devices. This was forecast and it would seem to be coming to pass rather dramatically now.

It is amazing to see the number of people who rarely if ever use their desktop computers these days, relying on their mobile devices for almost all, if not all, their computing and Internet needs. Some folks no longer even have a computer other than a tablet, like the iPad or Nexus Tablet, or Surface, etc., or just use their smartphones for their email, browsing, messaging, gaming, etc. which is the bulk of what people seem to do on the Internet these days. Unless of course if their work or business, or gaming bents, are important to them. Having said that, even gaming has very much gone mobile for many people.

I am hoping that folks will take a look at the overall picture and determine which direction they wish to go now that there are only a few months left before Windows XP will no longer be a viable Internet connected computer.

Will a Desktop or Laptop be the way to go, or will a Mobile device like a Tablet or maybe even just a smartphone be enough for many folks? Staying with Windows or moving to a Mac may also be a consideration.

No matter which way folks ultimately go, deciding will be important and thinking about this is really needed with Windows XP going away in just a short few months.

Over 31% of computer users will need to make this decision before April 8, 2014, if they wish to remain as safe as they can be on the Internet.

Even with Google Chrome continuing to support Windows XP SP3 a year after Microsoft (till 2015), if the Operating System itself has no updates, that will certainly not be enough.

Lots to think about and only a few months to decide … Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 Support Ends April 8th, 2014

Disable Java – Windows, Mac, Linux

US Department of Homeland Security advises disabling Java following fresh zero-day vulnerability – The Verge

A new Trojan horse has been discovered that exploits a flaw found in Java, leaving computers running Windows, Mac OS, and Linux vulnerable to attack. Mal/JavaJar-B allows attackers to remotely trigger code once it infects a system, potentially leading to the installation of malware, or even ransomware. Oracle hasn’t yet patched the vulnerability, which targets even the latest version of Java.

US-CERT RECOMMENDS THAT USERS DISABLE JAVA IN WEB BROWSERS

Apple has already taken care of this on the Mac by updating to disallow all Java except including the new one that hasn’t even been released yet. Excellent move from Apple.

Firefox and Google Chrome has had you click to even use Java for awhile now. From my experience, I believe that includes the current version of Java as well. As noted above, Firefox now includes the current version of Java in their blacklist. You have to personally choose to actually use Java using their Click to Play feature. Thank you Mozilla!

Google Chrome has instituted on December 21, 2012, noted in their blog posting, a feature that disallows silent extension addon installations. I believe this is something that Mozilla did some time ago when they experienced problems with it. Or maybe not.

So you will definitely want to disable Java in all browsers in Windows, Linux and on the Mac just to be safe for now.

Internet Explorer now allows you to disallow plugins by default and only allow those you specifically allow. But if you have allowed Java in the past, you will want to disable it:

How to Disable Java – PCMag

The PCMag article gives instructions for all the main browsers. Check it out and please for your sake don’t use a browser for general use that allows Java at least for now.

Disable it in at least one browser that you can use for general purpose use.

Whichever method you choose, visit the Java test page at http://java.com/en/download/testjava.jsp to confirm that Java is disabled. Yes, you’ll occasionally run across a website that relies on Java. If necessary, you can temporarily enable Java for those sites. But you may be surprised at how little you miss it.

More here at Security Garden, Dottech.org (How to/tutorial with images) and Venture Beat as well.

I have Java totally disallowed in my main browser, and enabled in one of my other browsers so I can still go to Secunia.com to use their OSI (Online Security Inspector) to check plugins and Internet facing programs. I also compare that with Firefox’s plugin checker. This in Windows. On my Mac, I have Java disabled in all but one browser and turn Java on and off as needed overall. In Linux Java is also disabled in my main browser.

This is very important until Oracle gets this updated and is quick to fix these vulnerabilities.

Oracle really needs to get on the stick before they and all the programs that make use of them are made obsolete! And there are millions of them!!!

EDIT: As of 1/11/2013 – Added Mozilla’s and Apple’s change to include blacklisting of the current version of Java due to the Trojan affecting even the current version of Java. See the info earlier in the posting.

Oracle to stop patching Java 6 in February 2013

Oracle to stop patching Java 6 in February 2013 – Computerworld

The article notes that of course this will be a hardship for Mac OS X Snow Leopard users and for users of earlier versions of OS X, but that is not as far as this rabbit hole goes. Very good article. Well worth a read.

That will leave a significant portion of Mac users without the means to run an up-to-date Java next year. According to Web metrics company Net Applications, approximately 41% of all Macs still run versions of OS X older than Lion.

Apple will presumably issue the final OS X patches for Java 6 in February alongside Oracle’s update.

It will also be hard on businesses, and even government agencies and departments, that will now be forced to work over their Java based programs to make sure they will still work with the current versions of Java 7.

That also means that Oracle themselves will have to update their Forms and Reports (or maybe these are things built by the companies using them too), to work with Java 7 so companies and some government agencies and departments can allow vendors that provide service and products to them. Currently, many of them must make use of Oracle Forms and Reports built on Java 6 from a special site like the MyInvoice subdomain that the government military still uses. That site requires a later version of Java 6 even now. This puts them and their vendors at risk by requiring an old Java on their systems in order to even work with them.

And what about the medical community. I have seen them falling down on the job as well on keeping up with the version of Java that physicians must use on their computers in order to read X-Rays remotely from home or on the road.

The article further is concerned about even upgrading to Java 7:

On Tuesday, Polish researcher Adam Gowdiak, who reported scores of Java vulnerabilities to Oracle this year, told the IDG News Service, “Our research proved that Java 7 was far more insecure than its predecessor version. We are not surprised that corporations are resistant when it comes to the upgrade to Java 7.”

Now that is sad news indeed. There are many sites that make use of Java and with good reason! Even Android is based on Linux — C,C++ and Java. As are many embedded systems, phones, and many electronic devices around the home.

Oracle needs to fix this problem and their Java. If they are going to be the owner of Java, they need to do better with the Java programming language that companies are not concerned about moving to their Java 7! So many programming eco systems out there depend on Java.

They inherited Java and the huge eco systems that depend on them, and base of users when they bought out Sun Microsystems. They can’t make swiss cheese with a door and think people will be be fine with this. Even things like OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice depend on Java — thankfully the current Java, but even that is according to this article, problematic. And what about all the embedded devices that depend on Java? When you install Java and are waiting for it to install, Oracle proudly talks about the billions of devices, that run Java. Oracle’s Java.com About page proudly states:

To date, the Java platform has attracted more than 9 million software developers. It’s used in every major industry segment and has a presence in a wide range of devices, computers, and networks.

Java technology’s versatility, efficiency, platform portability, and security make it the ideal technology for network computing. From laptops to datacenters, game consoles to scientific supercomputers, cell phones to the Internet, Java is everywhere!

  • 1.1 billion desktops run Java
  • 930 million Java Runtime Environment downloads each year
  • 3 billion mobile phones run Java
  • 31 times more Java phones ship every year than Apple and Android combined
  • 100% of all Blu-ray players run Java
  • 1.4 billion Java Cards are manufactured each year
  • Java powers set-top boxes, printers, Web cams, games, car navigation systems, lottery terminals, medical devices, parking payment stations, and more.

To see places of Java in Action in your daily life, explore java.com.

The bold on the bullet list above is mine.

Oracle really needs to wake up now before they totally destroy the great reputation that Sun Microsystems had when they conceived and built so much with Java. And all for nothing!

Trust is a terrible thing to waste.

 

 

iOS Printing Made Easy – Print Directly from Your iPad’s Print Menu

[tweetmeme source=”franscomputerservices” only_single=false]iOS Printing Made Easy – Print Directly from Your iPad’s Print Menu – Lantronix

xPrintServer
(iPad not included.)

Designed to help business and consumer users of Apple iOS products print directly from their device to a networked printer, xPrintServer closes the loop on what’s missing for iPad and iPhone users in office settings.

xPrintServer provides wireless printing capabilities for iOS devices such as the iPads and iPhones using their native print menus. It eliminates the need to print through apps, install software, or email yourself documents for printing.

Complete xPrintServer Supported Printer List

Now that’s the missing link for those of us who don’t wish to have to buy a new printer just to print from our iDevices (iPad (iPad/iPad 2*), iPhone (3GS or later), and iPod Touch (3rd Gen or later).
*Since they kept the iPad name for iPad 3rd Generation, I would hope they didn’t have to specify iPad 3rd Generation?
Much more info available on the website.

Thanks to Michael Lasky, Best Hardware section of this week’s WindowsSecrets.com Newsletter for the heads up on this one!

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)