Author: Susan Bradley

Time for a mid-year browser security check

We’ve reached the mid-point of 2022 and when it comes to security, I feel like we’re not making much headway. I still see people report they’re getting scammed, ransomed, and attacked on a regular basis — and for many users the browser is becoming the most important part of whatever platform you use. So now is a good time to review your browsers, and any extensions you’ve installed to beef up security.

Note, I said browsers —plural. While enterprises might want to standardize on only one browser for better control, for small businesses and individual users, I recommend installing more than one. (I often use three different browsers.)

Why is this important? Because attackers (and trackers) go after browsers. In fact, it’s good to think of your browser a separate operating system, and act accordingly to protect it. Though I focus mainly on Windows issues, these guidelines and recommendations apply to Mac OS, Ubunto, Mint, and others.

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Trouble with Windows? You have support options

So, you finally got around to installing a Windows update from Microsoft, and there’s a problem. Where do you go for support and assistance?

Short answer: it depends.

If you are an Enterprise customer and have an issue with your work computer — whether in the office or remote — there should be a designated IT administrator or help desk for you. You either call the help desk or open a trouble ticket and someone gets back to you. Often, they have tools to remotely connect to your computer and see what’s going on.  If the issue is so serious your machine can’t be fixed, they’ll deploy a new computer or reimage your PC using tools such as Autopilot to deploy a fresh copy of Windows for you.

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Before Patch Tuesday, a to-do list to avoid trouble

You could call today Patch-Tuesday Eve. It’s the day before Windows machines get offered updates from Microsoft. What should you be doing to prepare?

It depends on what kind of computer user you are.

If your files are stored in the cloud

You keep everything in the cloud, you use a Microsoft account, you don’t mind reinstalling your OS if need be. Your data is protected by a username and a password, and if you are savvy, your data is protected by two-factor authentication.  

Prior to Patch Tuesday, you might decide you don’t need to back up your computer system since you know if something happens to your computer, you can reinstall the operating system and merely reconnect to your various online storage services. You’ve double-checked that all cloud services you use have file versioning enabled, so if you need to roll back to a prior version of a file, you can do so.

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After a Windows update, what should you expect?

Let’s get this straight: It’s not normal for a Windows update to remove software. It’s designed to install the update, not change software already in place on your system. 

At least, updates are not supposed to remove software. Since March, however, if you run the RDgateway broker service on Server 2022 (and only that version), the monthly cumulative updates have removed that service. This behavior is not normal; this is a bug.

As Microsoft notes in the Microsoft 365 Admin dashboard: “We have received reports that after installing KB5005575 or later updates on Windows Server 2022 Standard Edition, Remote Desktop Services Connection Broker role and supporting services might be removed unexpectedly. We have expedited investigation and are working on a resolution. Note: Windows Server 2022 Datacenter edition and other versions of Windows Server are not affected by this issue.”

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Windows 11: Should you bypass the hardware block?

If you’re like most PC users, your current computer can’t run Windows 11. Microsoft has placed a line in the hardware sand to ensure that only modern machines with certain specifications that harden security can run Windows 11. 

Well, sort of. The company provides a workaround, as I’ll discuss in a moment. Whether you should take advantage of this loophole to upgrade PCs (whether yours or your users’) to Windows 11 is the question.

First, if you want to know if a computer can run Windows 11, you can use the PC Health Check app, Microsoft’s diagnostic tool. But if your PC doesn’t support Windows 11, Microsoft’s app doesn’t do a great job of explaining why. Instead, I recommend using either the Windows 11 Requirements Check Tool from ByteJams.com or WhyNotWin11, available on Github. Both tools provide granular detail about why a machine won’t run Windows 11. On my personal laptop at home, for instance, the processor can’t support hardware for hypervisor enforced code integrity, nor does Windows 11 like the graphics display.

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Windows 11: Should you bypass the hardware block?

If you’re like most PC users, your current computer can’t run Windows 11. Microsoft has placed a line in the hardware sand to ensure that only modern machines with certain specifications that harden security can run Windows 11. 

Well, sort of. The company provides a workaround, as I’ll discuss in a moment. Whether you should take advantage of this loophole to upgrade PCs (whether yours or your users’) to Windows 11 is the question.

First, if you want to know if a computer can run Windows 11, you can use the PC Health Check app, Microsoft’s diagnostic tool. But if your PC doesn’t support Windows 11, Microsoft’s app doesn’t do a great job of explaining why. Instead, I recommend using either the Windows 11 Requirements Check Tool from ByteJams.com or WhyNotWin11, available on Github. Both tools provide granular detail about why a machine won’t run Windows 11. On my personal laptop at home, for instance, the processor can’t support hardware for hypervisor enforced code integrity, nor does Windows 11 like the graphics display.

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Not all patching problems are created equal

It’s the third week of the month — the week we find out whether Microsoft acknowledges any side effects it’s investigating as part of the monthly patch-release process.

First, a bit of background. Microsoft has released patches for years. But they haven’t always been released on a schedule. In the early days, Microsoft would release updates any day of the week. Then in October 2003, Microsoft formalized the release of normal security updates on the second Tuesday of the month. Thus was born Patch Tuesday. (Note: depending on where you are in the world, Patch Tuesday may be a Patch Wednesday.) The following day, or in some cases, over the next week, users and admins report issues with updates — and Microsoft finally acknowledges that, yes, there are issues.

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Just what does Windows 11 bring to the table?

The other day, my Dad — my bellwether for technology — mentioned in passing that he’d read online that Windows 11 shouldn’t be used and that the operating system wasn’t being adopted.

Dad had a point. He’s more of an Apple user now — I have him on my phone plan to support his tech needs, he uses an iPhone and has an iPad. As his needs have changed, his reliance on Windows devices has decreased. In fact, his current Windows needs involve applications not on the Apple platform. (And because he’s a standalone user, not a domain user, many of the advances in Windows 11 having to do with authentication won’t be available to him.)

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Just what does Windows 11 bring to the table?

The other day, my Dad — my bellwether for technology — mentioned in passing that he’d read online that Windows 11 shouldn’t be used and that the operating system wasn’t being adopted.

Dad had a point. He’s more of an Apple user now — I have him on my phone plan to support his tech needs, he uses an iPhone and has an iPad. As his needs have changed, his reliance on Windows devices has decreased. In fact, his current Windows needs involve applications not on the Apple platform. (And because he’s a standalone user, not a domain user, many of the advances in Windows 11 having to do with authentication won’t be available to him.)

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When humans make tech mistakes

We often think vendors are perfect. They have backups. They have redundancy. They have experts that know exactly how to deploy solutions without fail. And then we see they aren’t any better than we are.

Let’s look at a few recent examples.

In the small to mid-sized business (SMB) space, StorageCraft has long been a trusted backup software vendor. One of the first to make image backups easy to do, it was used and recommended by many managed service providers. After StorageCraft was acquired by Arcserve in March 2021, there were no immediate major changes in how the company ran.

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