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Posted on Dec 5, 2017 in Newsletter, Welcome | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 54 – Ransomware beating tips, Windows Phone hangs up

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Top Windows Tutorials
TWT Newsletter NG – Issue 54

Hi {name}, welcome to the November 2017 TWT Newsletter

November comes around again and the shops quickly roll out the tinsel and trees now that the Halloween treats and costumes are resigned to the bargain bins. In this months newsletter we take a look into the murky world of Ransomware and also say a farewell to Windows Mobile.

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In this months issue:-

What’s new at Top-Windows-Tutorials.com?
Beware the Ransomware! Keep safe from this nefarious threat!
Tip of the Month – Launch pinned programs with the keyboard
Free Utility of the Month – Pushbullet
Windows Store App of the Month – Fairway Solitaire
Microsoft hangs up Windows Phone

 

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

Last month we updated one of our older articles on computer security. Our guide to understanding computer viruses now talks about newer threats such as ransomware.

 

picture Understanding computer viruses

Updated 30th October 2017 – Worried about computer viruses on your Windows machine? Read this guide to find out what viruses are and how to deal with them.

 

 

 

Beware the Ransomware! Keep safe from this nefarious threat!

This October there was yet another ransomware scare as the devious “Bad Rabbit” ransomware made its way around Europe. Hitting several high-profile targets in Russia and Eastern Europe first, the malicious code has continued to spread across the world. Ransomware is a little different to traditional viruses and spyware, so we thought we’d take a moment this newsletter to give you some insight into this new nefarious software and give you some tips to how to keep safe.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a particular variant of computer virus or trojan software that, once installed on a target machine, sets about encrypting or making unreadable all the users files and data. It does this using encryption software. The same kind of encryption software that people use every day to communicate securely on the internet, or protect files on their computers. Once your files are encrypted and inaccessible, the software then demands that you pay a ransom for the password to unlock them again. Usually, the ransom must be paid by Bitcoin, a special kind of internet-enabled currency that can be spent anonymously.

Attacks like this often target big businesses, the local council here in Lincoln was one recent target, but if a criminal manages to infect your machine, he/she won’t waste the opportunity to try and ransom  your files too.

How can you protect yourself?

Ransomware is a particularly nefarious new trend, but fortunately it’s not that difficult to defend against. Follow the steps below to keep one step ahead of the criminals.

Don’t open suspicious attachments – Most ransomware payloads are delivered as trojans. A trojan takes its name from the old Greek tale about the Trojan Horse that was used to smuggle soldiers inside the city. Trojan’s pretend to be other kinds of files, such as invoices attached to e-mails or, in the case of Bad Rabbit, an update to Adobe Flash player. If you receive an e-mail with an attachment and you’re uncertain about it, do some checking first. If it’s an invoice from a company you weren’t expecting, or if you’re not sure of their e-mail details, give them a ring first. If a random website pops up a message claiming you need to update your media player, simply close the web browser altogether, then check for updates manually. In most web browsers, Flash is updated automatically, or simply not used any more.
 
Keep web browsers up to date – It is always a good idea to run the very latest version of your web browser. Most browsers will update automatically. Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer 11 will update using Windows Update, while you can check for new versions of other browsers by going to the Help menu and choosing “About”. Avoid using older versions of Internet Explorer (such as IE10 or earlier) or other unsupported browsers. Web browsers that are outdated may have security issues that allow malicious or infected websites to automatically download programs and run them without your permission.

Backup backup backup! – One sure fire way to stop ransomware dead in its tracks is to store your backups on a removable hard drive. Simply connect an external USB hard drive every week or so and copy over your important files, or better still use software (https://www.top-windows-tutorials.com/backup-tutorial/) to help you with this task and remind you when it needs doing. Even the most sophisticated malware can’t infect a hard drive that’s unplugged and stashed away in your drawer.
 
Use Anti malware – Anti-malware tools are worth considering, but they should be part of your anti-ransomware arsenal, not the sole thing you rely on. Malwarebytes new anti-ransomware package has proven quite effective at stopping ransomware from encrypting data, but no anti-malware software is infallible.

What to do if the worst happens

If you fall victim to a ransomware attack, you should immediately turn off your computer (buy unplugging it if necessary) and disconnect it from the internet. Then, consult an IT professional for the best course of action. Typically your computers hard drive will need to be re-formatted (after any data salvage is attempted) and Windows re-installed. You should also have any other Windows devices you were using thoroughly checked before you resume using them.

Should you pay the ransom? –  If your data really is valuable, should you just pay up the ransom to get it back? We would advise against this. Quite apart from it funneling money to criminals, there’s no guarantee that you will receive your decryption key after you pay. The criminals may simply demand more money, or perhaps decrypt your files but leave a back door or trojan on your PC so they can try the stunt again.

Having all your files held to ransom is a scary thought, but with a few common sense steps you can minimise the likelihood of this happening. As always, the best defense against such attacks is common sense and vigilance.

 

Tip of the Month – Launch pinned programs with the keyboard

Windows 7 introduced the concept of pinning applications to the taskbar. Even when your favourite apps aren’t running, they can stay pinned to the taskbar at the bottom of the screen, so that you can launch them quickly. If you didn’t know this, try right clicking on an icon on the taskbar and choosing “Pin to Taskbar”. It will then stay there even when you close the program.

Did you know you can quickly launch apps on the taskbar using the Windows key on the keyboard? Every app to the right of the start menu or search bar is assigned a number, so to open the first app on the taskbar, press the windows key and the number 1 on your keyboard. If the app isn’t running it will start, otherwise its window will pop up.

 

Free Utility of the Month – Pushbullet

Have you ever been using your phone or tablet and come across a website you then want to view on the bigger, more comfortable display of your PC? Perhaps you snapped a photo and want to instantly send it to the PC for editing, without all that messing about finding your USB cable? For these situations, Pushbullet can come to the rescue. Install Pushbullet on your Windows PC, then download it for your phone too (Android and iOS versions are available). After creating an account, you can then send or “push” web site addresses or pictures to and from your phone.

Do you have friends or family that you regularly send snippets or web addresses to? Add them to your Pushbullet too so that you can quickly share that important or amusing link, or simply send instant messages. If you’re an Android phone user you can have Pushbullet send notifications from your phone directly to your PCs screen and send and receive SMS messages from your PC too.

To find out more about Pushbullet or to download a copy for any of your devices, click here.

 

Windows Store App of the Month – Fairway Solitaire

Yet another Solitaire game? OK sure, this might not be the most original of Windows Store games, but that doesn’t stop it being a great little download. Solitaire and Golf might not be the most likely contenders for a mash-up, but in this Windows Store game that’s exactly what you get. This well presented title is an enjoyable little time waster and what’s more, it can be downloaded entirely for free, with just a small fee required to unlock extra courses.

If you simply can’t get enough of the classic card game, head on over to the Windows Store here to download Fairway Solitaire today, and don’t forget to watch out for the Gophers!

 

Microsoft hangs up Windows Phone

Last month, Microsoft employee Joe Belfiore took to twitter and announced something Windows Phone users have been expecting but dreading for some time now, Microsoft is no longer developing new features or new hardware for Windows Mobile. Existing phones will continue to get security updates for now but there are unlikely to be many, if any, new Windows Mobile phones launched in the foreseeable future.

The future of Windows Phone had seemed a lot brighter just a few years ago. After Microsoft bought Nokia’s phone business in 2014, Windows Mobile seemed to be on a roll. Nokia’s Windows Phones were well received by users and journalists. As Windows 10 launched, the possibilities for growth seemed obvious, finally there was a fully Windows compatible eco-system that would extend from the PC on your desk to the now nearly ubiquitous PC in your pocket that is the modern smartphone. New features like Continuum promised to close the gap between PC and phone even further, by allowing a Windows phone to be docked and instantly turn into a desktop PC.

Things went downhill fast over the last couple of years, however. Newer handsets were not as well received and despite broad customer satisfaction, Microsoft could never close the gap with Apple and Android. At the peak of their popularity, Microsoft phones sold millions of units a year, but even so this wasn’t a big enough market to entice many developers to port their apps to the platform. Frustratingly, the number one reason that customers shunned Windows Phone was the lack of apps compared to either Android or iOS.

While Windows remains dominant on desktops and laptops, Microsoft has been playing catch-up to Apple with mobile devices ever since the first iPhone launched. Back then, Windows Mobile was more powerful, more flexible and had more apps than Apple’s device. Despite this, it wasn’t very much fun or very easy to use, nor was it very stable, and these are features the iPhone focused on even in it’s first iteration. With core usability nailed on the iPhone, it didn’t take long for users to abandon Windows Mobile in droves and the rest is history.

The end of Windows Mobile is affecting the direction of Windows 10 too. Just last month we told you how the Groove Music service was removed from the operating system. This service was Microsoft’s answer to the iTunes music store, but few of us listen to music exclusively on our PCs any more, making it unappealing for most folks. It remains to be seen what happens to Microsoft’s other multimedia services, such as the Films & TV app.

Windows Mobile will be missed by many users, far from the clunky beginnings, the OS had evolved into something really powerful, stable  and user friendly. Had the platform not been so shunned by app developers, it could have flourished and been a serious competitor to Apple and Google.

That rounds off our newsletter for November. 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 December 2017 and will bring you more tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the best out of your PC, be it Windows 7 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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