Optimize Windows 10 for better performance

Optimize Windows 10 for better performance

When I first installed it, I thought it was pretty pointless to try to optimize Windows 10. Of course, I installed it from scratch on a computer with an SSD and 16 gigs of RAM. Then I upgraded a couple of computers from Windows 7 to Windows 10, and I started to see why some people might not like Windows 10 all that much.

Upgraded systems almost always run slow, but I’d forgotten how much slower. And while you didn’t have to do much to Windows 7 to make it fast–that’s one reason people liked it–I find some Windows 10 optimization seems to be necessary. But don’t visit dodgy sites like downloadmoreram.com. Follow these tips for things that actually work.
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Catch up on Microsoft patching fast

Last week, Microsoft quietly released its convenience update pack for Windows 7, 8.1., and Server 2008R2. This is a great opportunity to catch up on Microsoft patching, as it incorporates all of Microsoft’s OS-level updates from the release of Service Pack 1 to April 2016.

Here’s how to use this to clear your corporation’s backlog of Microsoft patches. No, I haven’t seen your corporate network, but I’ll bet you have one.

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Simple tips to prevent ransomware

Last week at work, I noticed some odd events in an event log, and when I investigated them, I found they were part of a failed ransomware attack. This got me thinking about how to prevent ransomware at home.

Ransomware, if you aren’t familiar, is an attack that encrypts your data and demands a ransom, usually around $300, in bitcoins, and you get a short deadline until it destroys your files. More often than not, paying the ransom is the only way to get the files back, so it’s much better to prevent it.

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The workstation events you want to be logging in Splunk

Every once in a while the NSA or another government agency releases a whitepaper with a lot of really good security advice. This paper on spotting adversaries with Windows event logs is a fantastic example. It’s vendor-neutral, just talking about Windows logs and how to set up event forwarding, so you can use the advice with any log aggregation system or SEIM. I just happen to use and recommend Splunk. But whatever you use, these are the workstation events you want to be logging.

I want to call your attention to a couple of items in the paper. Most breaches begin on workstations, and this paper has the cure.

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IEcapt is a command-line web browser that outputs screenshots

Sometimes you need to capture a web page in PNG or JPG format. And if you need to do that, it probably helps to be able to do it in an automated fashion, like by a script.

That’s IEcapt‘s purpose in life. IEcapt renders web pages using the Internet Explorer engine, then outputs it as a graphics file. Uses include e-mailing a dashboard to someone or capturing steps when technical writing. Sure, you can use a tool like Snagit, but IEcapt is free and can be automated.

If you need IEcapt, you probably already know it.

A guide for safe and private web browsing

Continuing in the theme I’ve been following for the last couple of days, here’s a guide to security and privacy with web browsers. Like the guide I linked to yesterday, I’m not sure I agree with it 100%–I think saying never use Internet Explorer is too absolute–but I do agree with the overwhelming majority of it, and if everyone did all of this instead of what they’re doing now, we’d be in a much better state.

And, on a somewhat related note, here’s a rundown of what Windows 10 changes in the way of privacy, and some recommendations, but here’s a hint: You’re going to want to type privacy into your Windows search bar, pull up everything related, and start shutting stuff off. Use your discretion, but chances are there will be several things. If nothing else, there are things that are appropriate for a Windows tablet that aren’t appropriate for a desktop PC.

Let’s get back to privacy and safety in general, whatever OS you’re running. Here are some highlights.

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Mechbgon’s guide to safe computing on Windows

Mechbgon.com, the same place that published the outstanding guide to application whitelisting I mentioned last week, also has a guide to general security when building Windows PCs.

I think he overvalues UEFI and Internet Explorer 10, but if everyone followed his advice, there’s no doubt in my mind we’d be much more secure than we are right now. Although I mildly disagree on a couple of points, he has some outstanding advice in there.

The guide hasn’t been updated for Windows 10 yet, but most of what he says, if not all of it, will still apply and won’t be all that different to set up.

How to mitigate MS15-078 or future Microsoft font driver vulnerabilities

Microsoft rushed out an out-of-band patch, MS15-078, to deal with active exploits in their font driver yesterday. Since pushing out patches takes time, my boss asked me what we could do to mitigate the issue in the meantime.

The biggest threat, by far, is exploit-bearing fonts being downloaded from web sites. Ideally you only install trusted fonts from trusted sources locally on your workstations, right? If not, I suggest you start that practice as well.

You have a couple of options when it comes to blocking fonts in browsers.

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Google’s migrating corporate apps to the cloud is less crazy than it sounds

Google is moving its corporate applications to the Internet. A year ago I would have said that’s the dumbest thing I ever heard. Today I’m not so sure.

Sticking stuff in the cloud is the popular answer to everything these days, and I just see the cloud as the new mainframe. It’s not a solution so much as a different take on the same problem, and while I see a couple of potential disadvantages, believe it or not I see some real advantages to the approach as well.

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The new firewall

Monthly patches and upgrades don’t always go well, but getting them down is increasingly critical, especially for applications like Flash, Reader, and the major web browsers. This week I called it “the new firewall.”

Twenty years ago, home users almost never bothered with firewalls. My first employer didn’t bother with them either. That changed in the late 1990s, when worms exploiting weaknesses in Microsoft software devastated the nascent Internet. Firewalls soon became commonplace, along with some unfortunate hyperbole that led some people to believe firewalls make you invisible and invincible, a myth that persists in some circles even today.

For this reason I’m a bit hesitant to declare anything a new firewall, but firewalls are necessary. So is protecting key software.
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