Michael Horowitz

About the Author Michael Horowitz


Windows Defender does not defend Windows 7 against WannaCry

Thanks to Kaspersky, we now know that 98% of the Windows machines infected by WannaCry/WannaCrypt were running Windows 7. Since, once it gets a foothold, the malware can infect an entire network, most of the attention was focused on LAN based attacks. My previous blog was about using the Windows firewall as a defensive measure.

But any malware can spread in multiple ways so there is always a need for anti-malware software on Windows PCs. The May 12th blog post, Customer Guidance for WannaCrypt attacks, in which Microsoft announced the release of a bug fix for Windows XP, mentioned that 

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The Windows firewall is the overlooked defense against WannaCry and Adylkuzz

Despite all the attention currently focused on Windows computers being infected with WannaCry ransomware, a defensive strategy has been overlooked. This being a Defensive Computing blog, I feel the need to point it out.

The story being told everywhere else is simplistic and incomplete. Basically, the story is that Windows computers without the appropriate bug fix are getting infected over the network by WannaCry ransomware and the Adylkuzz cryptocurrency miner. 

We are accustomed to this story. Bugs in software need patches. WannaCry exploits a bug in Windows, so we need to install the patch. For a couple days, I too, ascribed to this knee-jerk theme. But there is a gap in this simplistic take on the issue. Let me explain. 

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Patching Windows XP against WannaCry ransomware

Microsoft just released a patch for Windows XP that fixes a file sharing flaw being exploited by the WannaCry ransomware. Here’s how to install it. 

You can download some versions of the patch using links at the bottom of this May 12th  Microsoft article: Customer Guidance for WannaCrypt attacks. The full list of patch variants, including languages other than English, is in the Windows Catalog, just search for KB4012598. Windows Update does not work on XP.

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Third party antivirus programs interfere with Windows Defender critical patch

Like others running Windows, I have been dutifully updating Window Defender the last few days with a fix for a critical bug. The update procedure is simple. Open the Control Panel, click on Windows Defender, and then check for updates.

The only thing out of the ordinary, on Windows 7, is that the update check is hidden behind a downward pointing triangle just to the right of a white question mark (this is not true in Windows 8 or 10). The “about” panel is also here. If the Engine Version is less than 1.1.13704.0 then it needs to be updated immediately.

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Google made 7 mistakes updating my Google Wifi router

Many of the new mesh router systems self-update their firmware (router operating system). While this is a big step forward from the bad old days, where the task fell to the router owner, it’s only a first step.

On my Router Security site, I go into the difference between self-updating firmware done right and done wrong. With that in mind, here is what went wrong when my Google Wifi router updated its firmware. 

Scheduling

My first gripe is that the software update was a surprise. There was no warning ahead of time, either that an update was available, or that it was about to be installed. In contrast, the Eero app tells you that a firmware update is available well before the update is automatically installed. The screen shot below shows the Google iOS app informing me after the fact that it had updated the router software (the screen shot was taken May 6th).

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7 mistakes Google made updating my Google Wifi router

Many of the new mesh router systems self-update their firmware (router operating system). While this is a big step forward from the bad old days, where the task fell to the router owner, it’s only a first step.

On my Router Security site, I go into the difference between self-updating firmware done right and done wrong. With that in mind, here is what went wrong when my Google Wifi router updated its firmware. 

Scheduling

My first gripe is that the software update was a surprise. There was no warning ahead of time, either that an update was available, or that it was about to be installed. In contrast, the Eero app tells you that a firmware update is available well before the update is automatically installed. The screen shot below shows the Google iOS app informing me after the fact that it had updated the router software (the screen shot was taken May 6th).

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Asus router warnings on privacy and security

I ran across a most unusual router review today, by Daniel Aleksandersen.

For one thing, it was not a review of a specific model (though the author uses an Asus RT-AC87U), instead it reviewed ASUSWRT, the stock firmware (router operating system) used in Asus routers. Think of it as a review of General Motors rather than the Buick Regal. As such, there was none of the usual focus on Wi-Fi speed and range.

And, while most reviews are written after a brief testing period, it was obvious that Aleksandersen has lived with his router for a long time.

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