Beware CryptoLocker

We have seen a rise in CryptoLocker virus attacks; these attacks can cripple the data files on your computer and on your computer network.

CryptoLocker is a destructive, ransomware virus; once downloaded, it locates and encrypts data files, which renders them inaccessible.  CryptoLocker does not announce its presence until all data files (Microsoft Office files, PDF files, etc.) are encrypted; it then asks for payment (ransom) to unencrypt these files.  (This type of ransomware is called “cryptoviral extortion”.)

The usual virus-delivery method is via email; the email looks legitimate and includes an attachment.  Once the attachment is clicked, the virus starts and then continues until all data files are encrypted or until the computer is powered-down.

You will not be able to unencrypt these files.  There is no cure.  There is no fix.

If the infected computer is connected to a computer network, data files on other computers and/or on the server(s) may also be encrypted and made inoperable.

Although payment is demanded to unencrypt the files, it should not be sent since any type of response to these criminals could open your computer network to future attacks.  The only recommended recovery method is to restore the encrypted data files from the latest backup.

Please visit http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/virus-removal/cryptolocker-ransomware-information for more information on CryptoLocker.

Mike Morel, Engineer at Bryley Systems, suggests adopting these practices to reduce the risk of activating the CryptoLocker virus on your computer:

  • Do not open attachments within emails from sources that look legitimate, but are unexpected.
  • If you are expecting an attachment from someone, save the attachment first (without opening it) and then scan the attachment with your malware and anti-virus scanners before opening it.
  • Backup all data files regularly.

If you discover this virus, please immediately power-down the offending computer; if it is connected to a computer server, shutdown the computer network.  Then, call Bryley Systems at 978.562.6077 and select option one for technical support.

For additional information, see our lead article “Cybercrime targets smaller organizations” from the September 2012 edition of Bryley Tips and Information at

https://www.bryley.com/news/newsletter/bryley-tips-and-information-september-2012/.

Upcoming changes to major Microsoft products

Microsoft Windows 8.1 released on October 18th

The second iteration of Microsoft Windows 8, 8.1, occurred on October 18th.  Significant changes to this operating system include:

  • Boot to Desktop – Yes, you can restore the Start button and bypass the tiles, but don’t expect the traditional Start menu to appear since pressing Start takes you to the live tiles of the current Start screen.  (You can, at least, shut-down from the Start button once again.)
  • Help + Tips – Helpful clues are sequenced to usage, permitting an easier start-up and shortening learning times.
  • Smart Search – Windows 8 Search charm on steroids; all search results, local and otherwise, pooled together in a comprehensive summary.
  • Snap – Open up-to four applications and display them simultaneously on a single screen.

An excellent review of Windows 8.1 by Brad Chapos of PC World is available at http://www.pcworld.com/article/2048508/windows-8-1-review-the-great-compromise.html.  He also provides the top-five reasons to upgrade to Windows 8.1 at http://www.pcworld.com/article/2043268/the-top-5-reasons-to-upgrade-to-windows-8-1.html.

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 release date was October 18th

Release 2 (R2) of Microsoft Windows Server 2012 is now available. 

Per Microsoft:  “Windows Server 2012 R2 offers exciting new features and enhancements across virtualization, storage, networking, virtual desktop infrastructure, access and information protection, and more.”

Along with this revision, Microsoft increased pricing on Windows Server Data Center to $6,155 and on Remote Desktop Services (RDS) Client Access Licenses (CALs) to $118.

For details, please visit http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/windows-server/windows-server-2012-r2.aspx.

The end is near for Windows XP, Office 2003, Server 2003, and Exchange 2003

Microsoft is ending support of Windows XP, its most-popular, desktop-computer operating system, on April 8th, 2014.  In addition, Office 2003, Windows Server 2003, and Exchange Server 2003 will reach end-of-life (EOL) on this date.

Basically, Microsoft will discontinue patching and updating these products, which exposes them to security and compliance risks; it will likely also end support for third-party applications that work with these products.

Microsoft’s message:  Upgrade these products now or risk problems later.

Comparing Cloud-based services – Part 1: Productivity suites

Many Cloud-based services fall into one of these categories:

  • Productivity suites – Applications that help you be more productive
  • Storage – Storing to and retrieving data and files from the Cloud
  • Backup and Recovery – Backing-up data and being able to recover it
  • Prevention – Prevent malware, typically spam and related components
  • Search – Find items from either a holistic or from a specialty perspective

In this and upcoming issues, we’ll explore popular options within these categories and compare them with one another.

Productivity suites

Probably the segment with the heaviest hitters, Microsoft and Google are battling for supremacy; Microsoft was late to the Cloud, but is ramping up nicely with its Cloud-services sales exceeding $1B/year. However, Google still owns this segment with an estimated 33% to 50% of Cloud-based, productivity-suite users, mostly on the strength of its free Google Apps and Google Apps for Education, but also with paid subscriptions to Google Apps for Business and Google Apps for Government.

Microsoft built Office 365 on its popular, desktop-based, Microsoft Office suite which includes Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other applications. (The current versions are Office 2003, Office 2007, Office 2010, and Office 2013.) Microsoft Office users will find Office 365 familiar since most versions include the Microsoft Office suite, which can be downloaded to your PC and to other compatible devices.

Office 365 consists of these primary components:

  • Exchange Online – Email, calendar, contacts, and tasks
  • SharePoint Online – Document collaboration and management
  • Lync Online – Online meetings with instant messaging and desktop sharing
  • Office Web Apps – Cloud versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote

Most versions of Office 365 also include:

  • Office suite – Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.
  • SkyDrive – Cloud storage of documents

Full-feature versions range from $96/user per year to $240/user per year. Microsoft now offers its E1 plan free to qualifying non-profit organizations.

Google Apps are, and always were, Cloud-based; they did not start as applications installed onto your computer. As such, they are easy to use and maintain and they work on a wide variety of devices, from PCs to tablets to smartphones. On the downside, due to this setup, they have some functionality and usage limitations when compared to Microsoft Office applications.

Google Apps for Business has a “one size fits all” approach; you get all the features at $50/user per year. Google Apps for Business includes:

  • Gmail – Email with Google-powered search
  • Calendar – Schedule meetings, share calendars, get reminders
  • Drive – Store files in the Cloud and send files to colleagues
  • Docs – Create, share, and work-on documents
  • Sheets – Manage spreadsheet data
  • Slides – Create presentations

Comparing Productivity Suites

Both Office 365 and Google Apps for Business provide desired applications that are somewhat easy to use; while Microsoft relies on its huge base of Office users to consider switching to Office 365, Google lures its users in with its free versions of Google Apps and Google Apps for Education and then provides a simple upgrade to the paid version of Google Apps for Business (or Google Apps for Government).

Basic reasons to choose Microsoft Office 365:

  • Users are familiar and comfortable with Microsoft Office interface
  • Multiple plan options exist to fit your needs and budget
  • Greater functionality within applications

Basic reasons to choose Google Apps for Business:

  • Relatively inexpensive with only one plan to select
  • Low maintenance with no updating necessary
  • Works over a wide range of devices

Get more Microsoft Office 365 versus Google Apps from our August newsletter atBryley.com — Bryley Tips & Information – August 2013