Monthly Archives : November 2015

Microsoft Gets Rid of OneDrive Unlimited Storage

logo_onedrive2014_hero1It’s time to say adios to unlimited storage from Microsoft’s OneDrive.  Subscribers of Office 365 now have 1TB of space rather than unlimited. The 100 GB and 200 GB paid plans will be replaced with 50 GB storage for $1.99, while Free OneDrive storage will go from 15GB of available storage to 5GB.  These changes will take place next year.

The unlimited storage has given users the ability to back up PCs and even store entire movies collections as well as DVR recordings according to the OneDrive FAQ page, sometimes exceeding 75TB per user.  Although OneDrive has gone from unlimited to set limits, the company still reminded its users of what can be stored with the new changes.  For instance, OneDrive Free with 5 GB is still enough to keep around 6,600 Office documents or 1,600 photos.  The 1TB can keep 1 million documents or 330,000 pictures.

You can check how much space you have consumed by visiting the Manage Storage page. If you’ve taken up most of the available storage, Microsoft will notify you to make changes within 90 days or 12 months depending on your plan. You may need to remove files or purchase more storage if that is the case.

Ransomware not yet a threat to Macs

ransomeRansomware, a malicious type of malware that works by encrypting files in exchange for a ransom, has yet to be a threat to Apple computers. This is not to say that Apple’s operating system is any more secure than Windows, it is just that malware developers have not yet figured out writing ransomware for OS X because infecting Windows machines has been extremely profitable enough.  A few security researchers even demonstrated how easy it could be to develop ransomware that targets Macs.  Rafael Salema Marque’s experiment to show how OS X can be targeted took him just a few days and security expert Perdo Vilaca created a proof-of-concept code for his Mac ransomware.

The infamous Cryptowall has proven that ransomware can be devastating to both companies and consumers alike, with losses of more than $18 million. The cost to get a decryption key could range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars, and it is not unusual for the cyber criminals to not even provide the key despite being paid.

A mac user that encounters ransomware would have to somehow be tricked into running it. Apple uses security technology called Gatekeeper which blocks apps from unidentified developers from running. This will help save those from being fooled into running something that is not available in the app store or is not from an identified developer. However, security experts have found software flaws that show that Gatekeeper can be circumvented. This, along with the experiments conducted by Vilaca and Marque, show that although penetrating the OS X is not something to be worried about as of now, never underestimate the potential of these malware developers because infiltrating Mac is not impossible.


Bitdefender cracks Linux Ransomware

Those infected with the recently released ransomware for Linux should thank researchers from Bitdefender as they have created a tool that can decrypt victims’ files. They did this by discovering a major flaw in the implementation of their encryption algorithm.

The Linux.Encoder.1 ransomware works by using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), which is then encrypted too by using an asymmetric encryption algorithm, RSA. This algorithm has two keys, a public key to encrypt data and a private key to decrypt it. Only the public key is sent to the infected systems and the private is retained by the attackers. However, researchers realized that once the AES keys have been generated, the program has a source of weak data-time and date. This time stamp determines when the key files were created and researchers can reverse the process and recover the AES key. The tool created by Bitdefender determines the initialization vectors as well as the AES encryption keys by analysis of the files and fixing their permissions on the system. You can find complete instructions on how to use the tool on their blog post.

Windows 10 Concerns

windows-10Ever read service agreements? Neither do I. You might want to take a look at Microsoft’s for Windows 10 though because agreeing to all the terms allows them to poke through the data of your machine. Buried within the gargantuan 12,000 word service agreement it states:

We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to.

Thankfully you can opt out of that, but keep in mind that the default of this feature is ON. Change this by going into Settings and Privacy applet. You should really weed through all the tabs as they state what types of data each app on the system can access.

Additionally, there’s Cortana. It has access to your camera, microphone, contacts, calendar, and probably all your documents.  You can turn this off in the Speech applet. You must also create a Microsoft account in order to use many services such as Skype, which is probably just another way for Microsoft to get their hands on your information.

Lastly, Wi-Fi sharing defaults to ON. If you don’t want to be sharing your Wi-Fi with your neighbors better turn this one off too.

Hidden Features of Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Google Now

Google Now on Tap is probably the most useful feature. The new Marshmallow upgrade allows you to bring up Google Now without closing the app you are currently using. Simply long pressing the home button allows you to follow a few steps to activate. Once that is done all you must do is long press the home screen and that familiar Google search screen with appear atop your current page. Now on Tap also provides information to you based on you current page. For instance, if you are listening to music on Spotify, this feature can provide articles on information about the band.


Improved Cut and Paste

Highlighting in Marshmallow gives you a set of options (Cut, Paste, Search) right above the text rather than the top of the screen as in previous forms.


Voice Search on Lock Screen

Before, the only task available directly from the lock screen were the camera and emergency calls. However, Marshmallow now allows a Google voice search-no password or login required. This is a great feature when you want to look something up real quick.


Check if your Security is Up-to-Date

If your device is participating in monthly update regimes, you will be able to check its status by going into Settings>About tablet and checking “Android security patch level.” This will tell you the last time you have received an Android security patch.  Participation among manufacturers and carriers will vary.


App Permissions

Worried about Malware? You should be. The power to prevent individual apps from accessing certain functions on your phone can help. Go to Settings>Apps> [Choose the targeted App]>Permissions.


Google in the Settings Menu

Take care of all your Google settings in one easy to find place. All your account information from the Google Ecosystem can be found in the Settings menu.


Smart Lock

Smart lock allows you to store all you Android app passwords on a Google cloud. With this feature you can keep all your passwords in one secure location by going into Settings>Google>Smart Lock for Passwords. You also have the option of being able to automatically sign in to your accounts or “Never save” for certain accounts such as a banking app.


App Power Saving Exceptions

One great feature is Androids “app standby” mode, which puts inactive apps to sleep to conserve power. If you would like a few apps to keep updating despite this feature you can make exceptions by adding them to a battery optimization exception list. Go into Settings>Battery>Battery Optimization. Use the pull down menu to choose which apps you want optimized (apps set to standby mode) or not optimized (apps functioning at all times).


Easter Egg Game

Find the “hidden” game by going to Settings>About Tablet>Keep tapping The Android Version.


CoinVault and Bitcryptor Ransomware Victims Can Now Recover Their Files

Good news for people whose computers were unluckily infected by the CoinVault or Bitcryptor ransomware-Your encrypted files can be recovered for free, that is, if you still have them. Researchers from Kaspersky Lab obtained the encryption keys from command-and-control-servers that were used by the ransomware threats. Kaspersky’s ransomware decryption service, originally set up in April, has uploaded a set of 750 keys recovered from the servers.

The two men connected with the CoinVault and Bitcryptor ransomeware attacks were arrested in September. The arrests led to the recovery of around 14,000 additional decryption keys which have been added to the research lab’s repository,

After the CoinVault ransomware program was first documented by the Kaspersky researchers, the National High Tech Crime Unit of the Dutch police seized and recovered decryption keys from a CoinVault server.  However, after that raid the program authors ultimately created a new version called Bitcryptor.

The Kapersky lab has since closed the Coinvault case after the arrests and recovery of the all the decryption keys.  Sadly, victims of other such ransomware are not so lucky. Many times there is little security agencies can do to recover victims’ files, so unfortunately it is sometimes advised to just pay the ransoms.

Surface Book Owners Reporting GPU and Display-Related Issues

Although Microsoft’s Surface book has introduced plenty of new features and capabilities, a couple complaints have been made online. Here are a list of some of the reported problems:

  1. Dell 34” U-Wide cannot be used with the dock. Screen goes black every 2-3 minutes for 10 seconds or so
  2. Cannot boot with the dock. Monitor never comes on and my Kef X300 speakers just click over and over. Have to boot with the dock, then plug the dock in.
  3. Strangest problem with color temp changes on web pages as you scroll. Goes from a light white screen to a purple or yellow hue once you hit a certain point in the page, happens consistently on long pages and easy repeatable. Happens on both the external monitor and the laptop screen.
  4. Playing MPEG files on the laptop works fine, playing the connected to the dock will give an unable to decode error sometimes, program closes other times, and plays. After it errors out 2-3 times it refuses to play until reboot.
  5. Going to a web page where there are a lot of animations or movement causes a black screen, won’t come back until you undock /redock.
  6. Cannot detach dock, says I have to close SearchUI but its not a running service that I can find, have to reboot again.
  7. After using for a while cannot run any program getting a Run32DLL.


Videos regarding the temperature problem have been posted on youtube. Visually, you can see the hue change on the page as you scroll.  Other problems include driver issues, greenish hues, and battery drains when utilizing Connected Standby. Another problem reported is the electric grip mechanism, with one side gripping hard and the other releasing easily.

Most of these problems sound like issues that can be fixed in software.

Cryptowall Ransomware Revenue Going to One Group

One of the most prevalent ransomware programs, Cryptoware 3.0, has said to have generated as much as $325 million so far in revenue for its developers.  The malicious program works by encrypting files and demanding a ransom.  Cryptowall is among the several types of ransomware that poses a significant problem to businesses and consumers alike. Once a computer is infected, files are extremely difficult to recover, because they are scrambled with strong encryption.  Unfortunately, there is little recourse for those infected by such ransomware.  The smartest thing to do for protection is to make sure you back up your files and ensure the backup cannot be accessed by the program.  Failing to do so can consequently lead to accepting the loss or paying the ransom, which could range from $500 to as much as $10,000.

The business model implemented by the program authors has been extremely successful, continuing to provide millions of dollars of income to the attackers.  Although reports do not speculate on the location of the group, there is one clue: if the program detects that the computer is running in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan Armenia or Serbia, the program will uninstall itself.

Tips and Tricks for Apple Watch OS2

Personalize your watch face

Use the Force Touch on the watch face and select customize. You can also use your own face as a background by Force Touching on a photo of your choice and selecting “Create Watch Face”

watch display

Use Apple Watch as an Alarm Clock

To activate Nightstand Mode go to Settings>General>Nightstand Mode and switch “on.” This features lets you keep tabs on time, date, battery percentage, and alarms. You can also activate the snooze by pressing on the digital crown.


Reply to Emails with Custom Messages

Although it’s not designed for lengthy messages, with watchOS2 you can respond to emails. The device will provide you with a set of pre-set replies that you can customize with your iphone. Just go to My Watch>Mail>Default Replies. Take note that any emails sent will be accompanied with a “sent from my Apple Watch” tagline.


“Wake” the Apple watch display for longer

First generation Apple watch users are used to having the display turn off after only 15 seconds. With the watchOS2, you can keep the display on for 70 seconds. Change this setting by going to My Watch>General>Wake Screen and then selecting “Wake for 70 Seconds.”


10 day weather forecast

Check out what the weather is looking like over the next ten days by simply opening the weather app and swiping upwards.

ten day forecast

Time Travel

With the new feature Time Travel you can be presented with future events such as appointments and weather. Simply rotate the digital crown and you can view notifications of the past, present, and future.

time travel

Left handed Use

The initial setup asks whether you are left or right handed. However, you can change this by going into Settings>General>Orientation and then selecting “Left.”

left hand

Change Your Move Goal

Set your goals to get into better shape by opening up the Activity app and applying Force Touch to change.

move goal

Play Music to Bluetooth headset or External Speakers

Use force touch while within the Music app to stream to speakers or a headphone.


Send Read Receipts

Let people know you have read their messages by opening the Apple Watch app on your iphone and toggle the Read Receipts function in Messages.


Explore different Stopwatch Modes

Four new stopwatch display options are now available.

stop watch

Turn off progress updates

If you’re uninterested in getting updates and alerts about your physical activity, you can turn them completely off by opening the Apple Watch app on your phone and changing it through Activity>Progress Update and either turning off the notifications entirely or have them less frequently.


Looks like Rain

Be presented with the likelihood of certain weather conditions such as the chances of rain at any given time.


Send texts responses as audio clips.

Although this is not a new feature, it is worth highlighting. You can send audio clips of transcribed texts by going into Apple Watch on your iPhone and choosing My Watch>Messages>Audio Messages and Select the “Always Audio” Option.

Power Reserve Mode

This mode is a great way to conserve your battery life, but it turns off most of the device’s functionality. Long press the side button and your watch will bounce back to life.


How to Speed Up Windows 10

Uninstall Crapware

Preinstalled software continues to be a nuisance with new computers. Get rid of these so-called helper programs by going into the Start button (Lower left of the display) and click All Apps. Then right click and choose uninstall.



Limit Startup Processes

When you start up your computer you may notice side processes unnecessarily running at all times.  Limit this by invoking the Task Manager. Start by pressing Ctrl-Shift-Esc and Switch to the Startup Tab. You’ll notice all the programs that run at startup and the impact for each one.  Right click on the status column to reject or enable the program from running at startup.


Clean up your Disk

Type Disk Cleanup from the Start Menu and open up the utility.  Disk Cleanup discovers unwanted junk files, offline web pages, and installer files and gives you the option to delete them all at once.  If the disk defragmentation is not scheduled regularly you can set it up by typing “Optimize Drives tool” in the Cortana search box next to the Start button.


Add more RAM

Adding more memory is a great way to speed up PC operations. RAM makers’ such as Crucial, Kingston, and Corsair present with you on their website which type of RAM your PC takes.


Install an SSD Startup Drive

Install a solid-state startup drive and notice a remarkable speed boost especially if you use applications that take up a lot of storage.


Check for Viruses and Spyware

Run the built-in Windows defending or implement a third-party app to check for viruses, spyware, and malware.


Change your power settings to Maximum Performance

If you’re not concern about saving electricity, utilize this option to boost the speed of your computer. Go to Control Panel>System and Security>Power Options and click the dropdown arrow on the right side to choose High Performance.


Use performance Troubleshooter

Check to see if there are any root causes for you slowdown. Open Cortana’s search box next to the Start Button and type troubleshooting. Under System and Security notice the Check for performance issues and run the trouble shooter to find out if there is anything going on. You can also run other trouble shooters including System Maintenance, Search and Indexing, Hardware and Sounds, and Programs.


Change Appearance in Performance Options Dialog

Easily do this by typing “Adjust appearance” in Cortana and selecting “Adjust for best performance.” You can also pick and choose which feature you can live without from the long list of check boxes.  Keep in mind that if you choose overall best-performance you will lose all visual effects.


Turn off Search Indexing

If you conduct a lot of searches take note that search indexing can consume your system resources.  To turn off indexing, type “index” in the Start button search box, and see the Indexing Options at the top of the list, select Modify and remove locations being indexed.  If you want to leave search indexing on but notice that it occasionally slows you down you can stop the process only when you need the extra speed.  Right-click on Computer in the Start menu>Manage>double-click Services and Applications>Services. Then find Windows Search and double click. In the properties dialog choose the new Automatic (Delayed Start) to help reduce the effect on the systems overall boot performance or simply disable to silence the process by default.