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Posted on Mar 22, 2018 in Newsletter, Welcome | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 58 – Cryptomining malware and has Windows 7 got more popular?

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Top Windows Tutorials
TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 58

Hi , welcome to the March 2018 TWT Newsletter!

Early March brought travel chaos to the UK thanks to heavy snow and arctic conditions, but with the snow now melted things are getting back to normal here, or as normal as they ever get these days! Time for another informative TWT newsletter to drop into your inbox and this month we take a look at another new kind of malware threat.

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In this months issue:-

What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
Computer slow?, electricity bill going up? Watch out as cryptocurrency miners go rogue!
Tip of the Month –  Check your router has the latest firmware
Free Utility of the Month – Ditto
Windows Store App of the Month – Penbook (free until 12th March!)
Valve’s user survey shows Windows 7 is still steaming ahead

What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?

Our tutorials for popular anti-spyware package “Spybot – Search and Destroy” were woefully out of date, so we’ve updated those for your spyware squishing pleasure.

 

picture Spybot – Two new tutorials

Search and destroy Windows spyware with Spybot and our easy to follow tutorials. Click here to view the installation tutorial or here to view the scanning tutorial.

 

 

Computer slow?, electricity bill going up? Watch out as cryptocurrency miners go rogue!

We’re all used to Spyware slowing computers down as it goes about it’s nefarious activities, usually collecting personal information about you and your online activities that you’d rather keep private. We’ve also talked a bit about so called “ransomware”, software that is designed to encrypt your files and hold them hostage until you pay a fee to obtain the decryption key. Now, another type of threat is on the increase, cryptocurrency mining malware (seems nobody has come up with a shorthand name for this particular breed of malware yet, can we suggest “moleware”?)

To understand this new threat, we need to explain a few key concepts. First of all, what exactly is “cryptocurrency” ? Cryptocurrency is a type of electronic currency that uses encryption techniques both to issue new currency (usually called coins) and to regulate and facilitate the exchange of coins. Cryptocurrency was created as a way for people to exchange money independently of a central bank or regulatory authority. The most famous of all the Cryptocurrencies is Bitcoin. Bitcoin is the most widely accepted cryptocurrency too, with companies like Microsoft and KFC accepting the digital currency.

In order to issue new blocks of cryptocurrency coins, a process called “mining” is used. This process verifies new blocks of cryptocurrency and ensures they can be used securely by the network. The reward for this mining process is, as you might have figured out, some free cryptocurrency.

Mining bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies is computationally very difficult, particularly for the more mature cryptocurrencies. Trying to mine Bitcoin on your own PC would be a fruitless endeavour, even if you did eventually manage to mine some currency, the amount you were likely to receive would never cover the cost of the electricity you used to complete the process. Indeed, Bitcoin has been criticized by environmental groups precisely because of the amount of electricity the network consumes globally while performing this mining process.

For those determined to mine for cryptocurrency, rather than buying a faster, more expensive computer, you can spread the work-load over several computers, perhaps even hundreds or thousands spread across the internet. Mining “pools” have been set up to facilitate this, allowing users to pool their computing resources for a cut of the spoils from the mining process.

This new breed of cryptocurrency mining malware takes this same approach, but rather than asking your permission, it simply installs itself on your PC like any other malware and then steals your computing time for the purpose of mining cryptocurrency. Obviously this particular type of attack will slow your computer down as these kinds of calculations are very computationally expensive. Other side effects of this type of malware can include:

  • Increased wear and tear on your computer from running the processor at high workloads continually.
  • Increased electricity bills due to increased power consumption
  • Increased heat output from your PC

Users with gaming PCs are particularly at risk – The better your computers graphical processing capabilities, the better it is at mining cryptocurrencies. This means that expensive, gaming PCs present a more inviting target for the authors of this type of malware. Furthermore, cryptocurrency mining will push your computers graphics chip as if it were running a graphically intensive game, again consuming electricity and causing wear and tear on your silicone.

While the value of bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies fluctuate wildly, there’s certainly money to be made in mining and gathering these digital coins. Some sources now state that cryptocurrency mining is more lucrative than ransomware (http://www.zdnet.com/article/cryptocurrency-mining-malware-now-as-lucrative-as-ransomware-for-hackers/).

Fortunately, the mitigations for these kinds of attack are the same as other malware. Keep your antivirus up to date, keep your web browser up to date, don’t open suspicious attachments. Our recently updated article on how to tackle spyware has some great tips too.

Cryptocurrency mining malware has been showing up all over the place, including in some UK government websites and on video streaming sites. Where there’s money to be made, there’s always someone willing to take the risk and create and distribute this kind of software. Stay vigilant out there and don’t make yourself an easy target for this latest attack.

 

Tip of the Month –  Check your router has the latest firmware

The router is the device in your home that shares your internet connection between all the computers, tablets, phones and other connected devices. For most users, it’s simply a box with a few antennae on top and a row of blinking lights that sits in a corner. Routers are, in fact, mini-PCs in their own right, and therefore should really be updated whenever a manufacturer releases a software or firmware update for them. If you’ve not checked in on your router in some time, you should probably take the time to log into it and check to see if there is a firmware update. 

Your routers administrator password is usually on a sticker on the router itself or in the instruction manual, if you’ve not changed it from the default (you should probably change it from the default too, just to be on the safe side, that’s two tips this month!). To access your router you need to know its IP address but that’s easy to find. If you don’t know the routers address, simply follow these steps.

  1. On your Start menu/search bar, enter “cmd” and click on the “command prompt” icon that appears.
  2. in the black command prompt window, type “ipconfig”.
  3. The computer will display several bits of information, what you are looking for is the “default gateway”. Usually there’s just one of these but if you see more than one you might need to try them all. 
  4. Open any web browser and type the default gateway into the address bar at the top then press enter (e.g 192.168.1.1). This will take you to your routers log in page.
  5. Log into your router and then use the web interface to check for new firmware. See your routers instruction manual if it’s not clear how to do this.

Keeping your router up to date helps prevent hackers from accessing your home network and makes you more secure online, so it’s well worth checking for updates periodically.

 

Free Utility of the Month – Ditto

Copy and paste is one of the best basic computer skills you can master. If you’re not familiar with it, see our little tutorial here. https://www.top-windows-tutorials.com/windows-clipboard/

The problem with the basic clipboard is that, once you copy something new into it, the contents that were there previously are overwritten. Sometimes, it’s handy to be able to go back over the data you have in your clipboard to the text or image you copied previously. Ditto allows you to do just that. Install the program then click on its notification area icon. You will then get a list showing the last ten items to be placed on the clipboard. Click on any of them to paste them back onto the current clipboard then, from there, into any compatible application.

Depending on your workload, Ditto can be a huge time saver, so give it a try if you think it sounds useful. You can grab a copy of the program here. 

 

Windows Store App of the Month – Penbook (free until 12th March!)

Got yourself a fancy Windows tablet and stylus and wondering what to do with it? Penbook is a neat little note taking app that’s designed specially for Windows tablets with stylus pens. Aiming to give an experience just like writing on real paper, Penbook is a great little gimmick and will make you the envy of all your work colleagues or university friends as you sit scribbling notes on your PC in meetings or lectures. What’s more, Penbook is free until March the 12th, so if you’re a newsletter subscriber and you’re quick, you can grab it now for free. To get your copy, simply click here 

 

Valve’s user survey shows Windows 7 is still steaming ahead

For game players on the PC, the most popular digital distribution service is Valve software’s Steam platform. Every month the platform conducts a survey of its users hardware and operating system, and the most recent survey certainly raised some eyebrows. According to Steam, the most popular operating system among gamers is, wait for it, Windows 7 64 bit.

This is surprising, given that gamers like to have access to the latest and greatest technologies, like DirectX12 and games exclusive to the Windows store. What’s more interesting is that this figure is different from the survey conducted in previous months. September 2017’s survey put Windows 10 64 as the most popular operating system, yet Windows 7 has consistently been the leader of the pack since then.

So, are gamers turning their back on Windows 10? No, this is unlikely. The figure appears to be skewed by the immense popularity of one game, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, with gamers in China especially hoovering up second hand PCs just to play this game and get in on this particular craze. Nevertheless, it shows that, even as a free upgrade, Windows 10 hasn’t managed to make Windows 7 disappear and it looks like the venerable operating system will be around for some time yet. If you’re a die hard Windows 7 fan, remember that, in 2020, support for Windows 7 ends altogether, that includes security updates, so make sure you have an upgrade plan before then.

That rounds off the newsletter for March. On behalf of everyone here at Top-Windows-Tutorials, I’d like to thank you all for your continuing support. The TWT Newsletter will return on the 10th April 2018 and will bring you more tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the best out of your PC, be it Windows 7 (like all the hard core gamer kids) Windows 8 or Windows 10. We hope that you found this newsletter informative and useful. If you did not then please let us know why, you can contact us by visiting this page. If you have enjoyed this newsletter, feel free to pass it on to all your friends and family, or better still encourage them to sign up for their own copy. Until next month, keep checking Top-Windows-Tutorials.com, and enjoy happy, safe and stress-free computing!

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