Don’t be fooled by fake FBI warnings

The FBI has issued an alert about Reveton, drive-by ransomware that first appeared in early 2012.

The term “drive-by” is typically applied to malware that affects users when they visit an infected web site. To put it another way: your computer can become infected by this malware if you visit an infected web site, even if you don’t click anything on that web site or view anything other than the home page. This is why even web searches have become somewhat dangerous.

“Ransomware” refers to malware that presents a warning to the user, in some cases pretending to be from a government agency, that they have violated some law or regulation. The solution presented is to pay a ‘fine’; any money paid goes to the malware’s perpetrator. Surprisingly, this fools enough people to make it a worthwhile scam.

PCWorld has additional information.

Updates for Adobe Flash, Shockwave and Acrobat Reader

Adobe issued several new bulletins today.

First up is Adobe Acrobat and Acrobat Reader. Adobe security bulletin APSB12-16 announces Reader and Acrobat versions 10.1.4 and 9.5.2, which address a specific crashing problem that could allow an attacker to gain control of affected computers.

Next is Adobe security bulletin APSB12-17. This bulletin announces version 11.6.6.636 of Shockwave. Once again, the new version addresses a security issue.

Finally, a new version of the Flash player is announced in Adobe security bulletin APSB12-18. The new version is 11.3.300.271, and it addresses yet another crash-leading-to-possible-exploit security problem. As mentioned previously here, Google Chrome users will receive the new version of Flash for Chrome with the latest version of that browser. It remains to be seen whether this latest fix will resolve the long-standing crashing problems with the Flash player on Windows 7 systems.

August 2012 Patch Tuesday

Another Patch Tuesday is here, and this time there are nine bulletins, with associated patches affecting most versions of Windows and Microsoft Office. Several of the Windows patches are classified as critical.

Details on the August 2012 patches are posted on the Microsoft Security Bulletin site.

The patches are now available via Microsoft Update. Computers configured for automatic updates should start receiving them overnight.

No way to avoid crappy new UI in Windows 8

As predicted by many, Microsoft has officially adopted Apple’s “take what we give you and like it” approach to software development. The hopelessly clunky, nameless, tablet-oriented new user interface in Windows 8 will not be avoidable.

Microsoft apparently really does think that everyone will like the new UI, and anyone who doesn’t is just not important. Since that last group of people includes everyone who uses their computer for more than web browsing, Skype and email, as well as everyone who reviews and evaluates software and makes software purchasing recommendations for organizations, I’m calling it now: Windows 8 is going to be a disaster.

On the other hand, intrepid developers out there have found ways around Microsoft’s idiocy before, and they’ll no doubt do it again. With any luck, they’re working right now on ways to make Windows 8 a usable O/S. UPDATE: Indeed they are – see how to bring back the Start menu in Windows 8 and Samsung’s attempt to revive the Start menu.

Blizzard’s Battle.net hacked

Blizzard, the company that brought you the Diablo series, as well as World of Warcraft, runs a service called Battle.net. The service ostensibly helps online gamers find servers running their favourite Blizzard games. In fact the service is not much more than DRM: technology used by Blizzard to prevent people from playing their games. And prevent them it does. While Blizzard only really wants to prevent people with ‘pirated’ copies of games from playing, server outages and other technical glitches have caused problems for paying customers since the service began. Even people who purchased Diablo III with no intention of playing online must use Battle.net for the single player game, so they are affected by service outages.

Yesterday, Blizzard added insult to injury when they announced that Battle.net had been hacked. According to Blizzard, no financial (credit card) data was stolen, and although passwords may have been taken, those passwords were encrypted. Still, they are recommending that all Battle.net users change their password as soon as possible.

SANS has a breakdown of the implications to users.

When Blizzard announced that Diablo III would require use of the Battle.net service, even for single player games, I decided to protest by not buying the game, despite having enjoyed the previous two games immensely. That’s starting to look like a wise choice.

August 2012 Patch Tuesday advance warning

Microsoft will be issuing several patches for Windows, Office, and other software on August 14, 2012. According to the advance bulletin, there are nine updates in all, with five affecting various versions of Windows, and three affecting various versions of Office.

A total of 14 vulnerabilities will be addressed by the patches. Five of the bulletins are rated critical.

Additional details will be posted here as they are made available in the lead-up to Patch Tuesday.

Latest Chrome browser includes more stable Flash

According to Google’s Chromium blog, the most recent version of the Chrome web browser (21.0.1180.60) includes a new version of Flash that uses a more stable technology for integration into the browser.

According to Google:

Beyond the security benefits, PPAPI has allowed us to move plug-ins forward in numerous other ways. By eliminating the complexity and legacy code associated with NPAPI, we’ve reduced Flash crashes by about 20%.

That sounds promising. Given the massive, ongoing problems with Flash in all browsers, it’s encouraging to see any kind of progress. Of course, this only affects Chrome. Also, it would be nice to see crashes reduced by a number approaching 100%. Oh well.

News for me, stuff that matters… to me. Windows, Linux, security, tools & miscellany.