Windows 7 End of Extended Support

Windows 7 was first released to the public on October 22nd, 2009. As with most software released by Microsoft, it’s life cycle is roughly 10 years.

Microsoft support their products for the first 5 years under mainstream support. The software will receive new features, complimentary phone support, and patches for vulnerabilities. Mainstream support ended for Windows 7 on January 13th, 2015. The product then moved into extended support.

With extended support, the product continues to receive patches for vulnerabilities to keep the device secure. The software no longer receives new features and users no longer receive complimentary phone support. Extended Support for Windows 7 will continue until January 14th, 2020 – which at time of writing is about 14 months.

Windows 7 will still work after extended support ends, but you will be left vulnerable to any zero-day vulnerabilities that are discovered after the support cut off.  A cyber criminal could exploit these vulnerabilities to gain access to your personal data, or use your device and bandwidth for illegal activities.

What should you do?

Plan to upgrade well before the extended support period ends. If you had opted in to receive Windows 10 upgrade when it was first released, installing this now would be your cheapest option to stay up-to-date.

Windows 10 can be purchased and installed via an in-place upgrade if you missed the free upgrade. This varies in price depending on the version you require.

Any device that runs Windows 7, should run Windows 10. If you find your devices is getting slow it may be a good time to look at upgrading your device to something with higher specs that already has Windows 10 installed.

If buying a new device is out of your range, there are plenty of lightweight Linux distributions available. Linux Mint, or Lubuntu are both easy to use and work well on older hardware. Linux distributions come packed with plenty of software, so you can hit the ground running.

Whatever route you take, don’t leave it to the last minute. Start planning your upgrade now to ensure that you are going to keep your devices secure and safe from malware or cyber criminals.

Tech Support Scam (Update September 2018)

Tech support scams have made a resurgence in Grenfell. The scam is nothing new, and the same old scare tactics are being implemented.

Usually, an unsolicited call from a person claiming to be a representative of Telstra, or another well-known company, will claim that your computer has been hacked.

Another tactic being used is an automated call advising you that your “internet has been compromised” and that it will be cut off if you don’t act promptly. You are then required to call the scammer yourself.

The first thing to note here is that Telstra, Microsoft, or any of the other companies that the caller claims to be, will not call you out of the blue to help with your “hacked” device.

Often with these calls, you will notice a delay before you can hear the person on the other end. This can be an indication that the caller may be a scammer.

The scammer will talk you through the steps to open Windows Event Viewer. Event Viewer keeps logs of what is happening on your machine. This includes a section that shows all the errors that have occurred on your device.

It is a simple program to open; hold the windows key and press R, type in eventvwr and press enter.

To the end user, the number of errors in event viewer looks to be of concern – and that is what scammer is praying on.

Unless you are having noticeable trouble with your device. The errors should not be of any concern.

They are not “hacking attempts” as the scammer will try to tell you.

If, so far, the scammer has convinced you that he is legitimate, you will be talked through installing a remote access tool such as Team Viewer.

There are many other remote access tools that have been used.

These remote access tools are legitimate programs and will not be flagged as malicious by your antivirus. The scammer is just using the tool for malicious purposes. Much like a brick is used to build a house, it can also be used as a “tool” to break into a house.

The scammers tactics vary from this point onward.

In some cases the scammer will ask for access to the victims bank account. The premise being that hackers are trying to hack in. Once the victim logs in on behalf of the scammer, the scammer is then able to transfer funds to his own accounts.

Other scammers have installed free software to “fix” the device, after which they charge a fee – in some cases up to $1200.

Once you have allowed remote access to your machine, there is nothing stopping the scammer from setting up a backdoor, stealing personal data, or from simply deleting files.

Whatever the outcome, it is all bad for the victim.

What can you do to avoid these scams

Caller ID: If your phone supports caller ID, screen your calls. If you do not recognize the number, or the number is private, don’t answer the phone.

Of course, use this to your discretion. If you are expecting a call this week from the doctors, you may need to answer that private caller.

Don’t call back: Ignore the automated message advising you to call back on a certain number. This tactic makes the scammers work a lot easier because you have called them and essentially lowered your guard. Sometime the numbers can be a premium service, meaning you may be paying per minute to talk to them.

Call a Friend: If you do get a call and you are not sure, use your mobile (if you have one) and call a trusted friend or family member. Sometimes just talking out loud to someone else will help the scam stand out.

Obtain a Silent Number: Telstra have removed fees associated in having a silent number. This keeps your details out of the White Pages and online directories.  Fees may still apply for other telephone providers. To activate this, call your telephone provider.

Register on the Do Not Call: This isn’t going to stop a malicious caller, but it will prevent some of the legitimate (but still annoying) telemarketing calls.

Educate your friends and family: Share this article with your friends and family. The more we talk about the scams going around, the less likely we are to fall for them.

Scamwatch is run by the ACCC. It provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid, and report scams.

Our Tech Tips articles also have great tips on protecting yourself online, so do check them out as well.

Google Yourself

What does the internet know about you? What have you posted on social media that is visible to everyone? Are you leaking too much data? Google Yourself – “Googling” yourself sounds like something Vanity Smurf would do in admiration of his self-image. But it is something you should do too, not because you are vain, but because it is a great way to see what information is publicly visible online.

Do a Google search for Your Name, what results do you get? I’ll wait.

This information could potentially be viewed by anyone. A stalker, a cyber-criminal, or a potential employer. The data available could lead to an unwanted altercation, your identity being stolen, or not being hired for that job because of a silly social media post.

How to Search

There are many ways to search for data on the internet. Google, which is by far the most popular search engine, is a good start. Mix it up and use Bing or DuckDuckGo as well. Different search engines will provide different results. It is a good idea to cast your net widely.

Here are some basic search terms to try:

Your Name – Without inverted commas. This will bring up search results containing ‘Your’ and ‘Name’ but not always the exact phrase.

“Your Name” – With inverted commas. This will show search results containing ‘Your Name’.

Your Name Town – Will bring up search results containing Your, Name, and Town

“Your Name” + “town” – Will bring up search results that must include ‘Your Name’ and ‘Town’

site:example.com Your Name – Search for the terms on a specific website. You could use this to search for articles in your local newspaper that contain your name.

Other terms to search could be your Phone Number and Email Address. If you can find those in a Google Search, that means anyone is able to.

Privacy

We live in a world where we are increasing losing our privacy.  Whether it is due to another high profile data breach, swapping privacy for monetary value (rewards cards), or just failing to keep our own social media accounts locked down. Someone else is making a living from your data. You could become a hermit, and move into the forest or you could take some steps to reclaim your privacy.

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