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

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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.

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!

New version of Mac OS X Trojan exploits Word, not Java

New version of Mac OS X Trojan exploits Word, not Java – ZDNET

A second variant of the Mac OS X Trojan referred to as Backdoor.OSX.SabPub.a or SX/Sabpab-A is exploiting a Microsoft Word security hole, not the usual Java vulnerabilities used before.

Just a few days ago, a new Mac OS X Trojan was spotted in the wild that exploited Java vulnerabilities and required no user interaction to infect your Apple Mac, just like the Flashback Trojan. Kaspersky referred to it as “Backdoor.OSX.SabPub.a” while Sophoscalled it at “SX/Sabpab-A.” Now, both security firms have confirmed a different variant of this new Trojan that infects Macs by exploiting Microsoft Word, not Java.

Sophos detects the malicious Word documents as Troj/DocOSXDr-A and points to the following Microsoft Security Bulletin: MS09-027. Kaspersky meanwhile points to this security bulletin for the same Microsoft Word security hole: CVE-2009-0563.

So, it looks like uninstalling Java or disabling it is not the biggest threat afterall. 😉 Now you need to upgrade your Microsoft Office software to protect you from this.

Very important to do, and updating your Java is very important too through Apple Software Updates as Apple put out another update that not only fixed the problem, it also removed the malware infection if found.

Better late than never? Apple has released the third Java update in a week for Mac OS X, and this one contains the tool to remove the Flashback malware from infected systems. Beneath the belated fix to help users eradicate the threat, Apple has introduced a proactive approach to reducing security risk, and other vendors should take note.

Java update for OS X patches Flashback malware exploit

Java update for OS X patches Flashback malware exploit – CNET:

Following the recent Flashback malware developments for OS X where unpatched vulnerabilities in the latest Java runtime for OS X were being exploited, Apple has issued an update that brings Java up-to-date and patches these vulnerabilities.

The patch is available via Software Update for systems that have Java installed, but can also be downloaded from the following Apple support Web pages. The update is available only for OS X 10.6 and 10.7, since Apple has stopped supporting prior versions of OS X.

Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 7
Java for OS X Lion 2012-001

EDIT:

Mac Botnet Infects More Than 600,000 Apple Computers – eWeek

Apple’s security code of silence: A big problem – CNET
:

Security industry insiders have long known the Mac platform has its holes. The Flashback Trojan is the first in-the-wild issue that’s confirmed this, and big-time. More will follow unless Apple steps up its game.


Secure your Mac from Flashback infection – USAToday
:

Flashback is technically not a trojan-horse application at all, but a “drive-by download” that infects computers by exploiting a vulnerability in Web software.

That makes it much worse than a trojan: You just need to visit a malicious site, without downloading the wrong app or entering an admin password, to have this program silently take command of your Mac and begin altering the content of Web pages.

Find Out if Your Mac Has the Flashback Trojan — the Fast and Easy Way – Mashable – Two quick Applescript scripts if you are squeemish about running commands in a commandline terminal. I have not used them as I checked in commandline. Use at your own risk.

..

It is tragic that for all the online virus/malware scanners that are out there for Windows users, there do not appear to be any for Mac OS X. Now that is tragic.