Microsoft kicks fake security software off 400,000 PCs

In the second month of a campaign against fake security software, Microsoft has booted the rogue application “Antivirus 2009” from almost 400,000 PCs, the company recently claimed.

December’s version of the Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT), a free utility that Microsoft pushes to Windows users as part of Patch Tuesday, targeted one of the most popular phony security app, Antivirus 2009. According to Microsoft, the MSRT erased the fake from over 394,000 PCs in the first nine days after it released this month’s edition on Dec. 9.

Last month, Microsoft trumpeted a similar cleaning operation against another family of bogus security software that it said had purged nearly a million machines of programs like “Advanced Antivirus,” “Ultimate Antivirus 2008” and “XPert Antivirus.”

December’s campaign targeted a different family — dubbed “W32/FakeXPA” by Microsoft — that includes fake security software going by names such as “Antivirus XP,” “AntivirusXP 2008” and “Antivirus 2009.”

Windows users increasingly have been plagued with worthless security software as criminals bundle the money makers with other malware or seed significant users with waves of spam touting the programs. According to one researcher, cybercrooks can pull in as much as $5 million a year by installing the rogue programs on PCs, then dunning users with infection claims and constant pop-ups until the victims pay $40 or $50 to purchase the useless applications.

Microsoft also aimed the December version of MSRT at an affiliated piece of malware, called “W32/Yektel,” that works alongside W32FakeXPA and is often bundled with the phony security software.

Classified by Microsoft as a Trojan horse, Yektel takes advantage of users’ worries about browser security by inserting false warnings into Internet Explorer. Those warnings, explained Microsoft researcher Hamish O’Dea in a post to the company’s malware protection center blog two weeks ago, appear at random and mimic IE’s own legitimate drop-down alerts.

Newer variations of the Yektel Trojan go a step further, and insert phony warnings into Google search results, said O’Dea. Whenever these even-sneakier versions detect IE rendering a URL that includes “google,” it inserts a fake message that reads “Google has detected unregistered Antivirus 2009 copy on your computer. Google recommends you activate Antivirus 2009 to protect your PC from malicious intrusions from the Internet.”
The links from Yektel’s IE and Google warnings, of course, take users to a Web site where users are urged to pay $50 to register Antivirus 2009.

Windows users can download the MSRT manually from Microsoft’s Web site or via the Windows Update service.

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The 10 most important business technology products of 2008

10. HP EliteBook laptops

Hewlett-Packard has already overtaken the top spot for worldwide PC sales, but the company is making a stronger run than ever at the business notebook market, where ThinkPads from IBM and Lenovo have been the gold standard for a decade and a half. HP’s EliteBook line of business laptops now offers a variety of industrial-strength features that cater to IT departments. This includes full magnesium alloy chassis, scratch resistant covers, special coating on keyboards and touch pads to guard against wear, torture testing against drops, vibration, dust, high and low temperatures, and humidity, a digital accelerometer to detect bumps and jumps so that it can park the heads on the hard disk, lean image installations to reduce standard software package, the ability to login with a fingerprint at the BIOS level, and the ability to remotely overwrite the hard drive with zeroes and ones seven times to completely sanitize all of the data on the drive.

9. Zoho online productivity suite

While Google occasionally adds new features to its online productivity applications and Microsoft is rumored to be preparing an online version of Microsoft Office that it can release as soon as its market share comes under serious fire from online competitors, Zoho has quietly been building an impressive fleet of Web-based productivity and business applications that are far more numerous and sophisticated than what Google offers and truly take advantage of the Web rather than just bringing offline apps into the browser. Especially for small businesses, Zoho is a viable alternative to Microsoft Office, and it not only saves money but also provides productivity benefits with online collaboration.

8. LifeSize HD videoconferencing

With the seismic tremors in the global economy, a lot of businesses are naturally tightening up their 2009 travel budgets. So you can expect that video conferencing will be one of the growing areas of IT in 2009. Cisco Telepresence offers an amazing video conferencing experience, but the price tag is often at least a half million dollars. Meanwhile, LifeSize HD video conferencing is nearly as good and it costs far less (usually under $40K). It also uses a lot less bandwidth, which also saves big money. In the budget-conscious 2009 environment, I think it’s much more likely that high-quality, bargain solutions like the ones from Lifesize and Vidyo will get widespread consideration from IT departments than the high-end telepresence systems from Cisco and HP.

7. Splunk

One of my biggest complaints with today’s IT is that it is great at gathering data and very poor at presenting the data in usable ways that workers can use for better and faster decision-making. In terms of IT management, this problem can be seen in all of the different log files and interfaces that an IT engineer has to check in order to monitor and manage the health of the IT infrastructure. One solution that does a great job of consolidating all of that IT data and making it viewable and searchable: Splunk. Splunk easily gathers data from virtually any system or source and makes it searchable and visual through Web-based reports. Plus, the pricing is simple (you pay per volume of data) and reasonable. In 2008, Splunk introduced a Change Management module and a Windows version that integrates with Microsoft System Center.

6. Force.com

Salesforce.com is arguably the business world’s most popular Web-based application. It is a customer relationship management (CRM) and sales force automation (SFA) tool that is easy to deploy and simple for always-on-the-go sales professionals to access. Now, Salesforce.com has extended this concept to other applications by opening up the platform that Salesforce.com is built on to businesses to allow them to use it to run their own applications, from Salesforce.com extensions to custom line-of-business apps to third-party apps for ERP, supply chain management (SCM), human resource management (HRM), and more. The platform is called Force.com and is aimed at streamlining the amount of time and effort it takes to successfully deploy these types of complicated apps.

5. Amazon Web Services

Another company that is having an important impact on the way business technology is done is Amazon. Like Salesforce, Amazon has taken the platform it used to build its core business and opened it up to other businesses. In this case, Amazon.com’s robust e-commerce platform that runs its $15 billion retail business has been opened up as Amazon Web Services, which offers storage, databases, payment processing, fulfillment services, and Web site scalability. With AWS, you essentially rent computing cycles from Amazon. This allows a company’s site to handle short-term spikes in traffic without being overwhelmed and going offline while simply paying-as-you-go for the extra capacity. And, some companies who aren’t comfortable turning over their Web apps to Amazon, are still using the service as a quick and temporary platform for testing new projects and solutions.

4. Palo Alto Networks next generation firewall

Firewalls are standard plumbing for protecting corporate networks. As a result, it’s normally pretty hard to get excited about firewall products. However, Palo Alto Networks has developed a new line of firewalls that transforms them from blunt objects into much more sophisticated tools. For example, instead of just blocking a specific port or protocol at the firewall, Palo Alto Networks allows IT to set up a policy to block or restrict an entire category of applications (e.g. instant messaging clients that do file transfers) or even a specific program. This policy information is also integrated with Active Directory so that it can be applied to a specific user or group. This can be used to improve compliance, minimize data leaks, simplify security administration, and effectively enforce Web-surfing policies.

3. Apple iPhone 3G

The iPhone is one of only three products that made this list for the second straight year. Last year it made the list because of its revolutionary screen and interface that made Web browsing fully usable for the first time on a smartphone. While the interface has continued to improve with software updates, the second generation iPhone made this year’s list because of the enterprise-grade capabilities that Apple brought to the iPhone in 2008, including Exchange ActiveSync support and remote kill capability for IT. It remains the best-designed and easiest-to-use smartphone on the market, and so far it has helped increase the overall smartphone market.

2. Riverbed WAN acceleration

With businesses looking for easy levers to pull to cut costs out of the 2009 budget, one of the best solutions that IT can recommend is WAN acceleration, which can lower fixed leased-line costs while also improving performance for remote offices and telecommuters. I like to refer to this technology as WAN caching, because that’s primarily what it does, it caches large files so that they don’t have to repeatedly get sent over the WAN. Thus, these appliances can significantly reduce bandwidth consumption and – after the first transfer – dramatically decrease the response time for file transfers and applications that rely on files that get transferred over the WAN. Lots of companies offer WAN acceleration products now, but the market leader is Riverbed.

1. BlackBerry Bold

Despite the buzz and momentum building around the iPhone, BlackBerry remains the predominant smartphone platform for the enterprise, especially in security-sensitive environments such as government and the financial sector. BlackBerry’s backend infrastructure simply offers IT a lot more security and control – albeit at an extra premium for BlackBerry Enterprise Servers (BES). With the BlackBerry Bold, Resaerch in Motion has brought its smartphone to the forefront with 3G, Wi-Fi, a high quality 480×320 screen, a 624 MHz processor, and a bunch of memory space. This device features top performance combined with all of the familiarity and manageability of the BlackBerry platform. While the BlackBerry Storm, which was released around the same time, has gotten a lot of the attention because of its touch screen, for hard-core business users, the BlackBerry Bold is now the most powerful smartphone that money can buy.

Recopied from Tech Republic – http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/hiner/?p=893&tag=nl.e101

2008 IT Trends

I am subscribed to the Tech Sanity Check discussion group and I really find the information useful.  Today’s article was about the five most important trends of 2008.  I agree with the 5 Jason Hiner posted.  There may be some argument about the order but all 5 are game changing for IT service providers.

5.  The rise of ultra-cheap PCs – you can now get a decent laptop for $500 and virtualization is making thin clients more popular which go for under $200.

4. Green IT meets energy savings – it is no longer just a California issue; mainstream is now conscious of saving power.  It doesn’t come to the top of the list in the SMB space but if you can tout your product as being “green”, it does make a slight difference.

3.  Offshoring, H1Bs, and the IT labor deficit – with the economic slow down, it is ever more important to hire locally.  There has been a shortage of skilled technicians which has caused headaches in our organization.

2.  Virtualization and utility computing – the flexibility is making this solution mainstream.  Small businesses will move away from server rooms and to a pay as grow hosted model.  The move to utility computing is a trend that has become popular in 2008 and I feel we will start seeing it in action in late 2009.

1.  IT’s opportunity in the economic tsunami – today’s IT departments tend to be leaner and more ROI focused than in the early 2000s.  The current global recession is forcing small businesses to look toward technology to streamline tasks and to outsource their technology needs.

I highly recommend that you read this posting from tech republic.

http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/hiner/?p=891&tag=nl.e101

Dell – Future of Computing

On December 4th I attended a Dell event in Austin, TX called “Future of Computing.”  I was let down that there was not much material on the future of computing but they did share some of Dell’s new products and services.  Dell is focused on Simplifying IT.  They have a great marketing strategy around this.  They confirmed the buzz I have been hearing all year by focusing on Green technology, virtualization and ease of remote access.  There new line of E products are really great.  They have some really good tiny laptops up to the high performing large screen laptops.  They now come in blue, red and pink.  I learned that making these in green is damaging to the environment (now isn’t that ironic).  These new machines can get up to 19 hours of battery life and have an express charge that charges it in 1 hour.  The USB Powershare will charge peripherals even if the machine is turned off.  How neat is that?  The E series launched in September of 2008.

Dell is increasing their services division.  The principle partner is Uttam Reedy and presented on the future of Services at Dell.  They are focused on SaaS and Microsoft Hosted Services.  They purchased Evergreen for the asset management and encryption services.  They purchased ASAP for the software licensing and management services.  They purchased Message One for the email continuity and archiving services.  They are packaging all of these offerings into their al la carte service model.  You can now pre-load any or all of these services onto your new custom built Dell computer.  The Microsoft Hosted Services is around exchange, Unified Communications, SharePoint and Forefront.  They didn’t give many details here but I believe it is around servicing the mid-size market that wants to implement these Microsoft solutions.

So the day at Dell was insightful even if the title was misleading.