Monday, June 24, 2013

Internet Explorer 10: Built-in Security and Privacy Features

The web browser is the number one attack surface criminals are using to infect your computer or steal private information.  None of the security and privacy technologies built into any browser are perfect, and will keep you safe at all times.  The bad guys are updating their tools and exploits all the time to try to circumvent these protections.

Internet criminals use weaknesses in a browser or its extensions to execute malicious code on the local computer. Although, by keeping your browser and extensions up-to-date.  Also limiting the number of extensions you install to the bare minimum, you can help protect your computer and your privacy.

In the past Internet Explorer had a bad reputation for being vulnerable to these types of attacks.  Microsoft has worked hard to clean up Internet Explorer's reputation in the last few years.  For more information see the following report from NSS Labs.

Below is a list the more well known Internet Explorer 10's built-in security and privacy features:
  • Tracking Protection: Helps filters out scripts and files that can track you online (more info).
    • Tools, Safety menu, Tracking Protection...
  • SmartScreen: Filters malicious web sites and content
    • Tools, Safety menu, Turn on SmartScreen filters...
  • Disables Flash extensions: Disables the Flash plug-ins by default when a web page is loaded.
    • Note: IE has two interfaces, desktop which supports add-ons, and the touch screen native interface that doesn't.
  • InPrivacy Browsing: Doesn't record the browsing history (cookies, visited sites, etc.).
    • Press: Ctrl + Shift + P
  • Delete Browser History: Automatically purges the browser's history when exiting.
    • Internet Options, check the Delete browsing history on exit checkbox
  • Security Zone: Enables or disables browser features based on the site's URL
    • Tools, Internet Options, Security tab
  • Privacy Settings: Controls how cookies are handled by the browser.
    • Tools, Internet Options, Privacy tab 
  • Family Safety: Controls what content different users can view.
    • Tools, Internet Options, Content tab, press the Family Safety button
  • Password Manager: Stores usernames and passwords for different sites.
    • Tools, Internet Options, Content tab, press the Setting button in the AutoComplete section.
  • Popup Blocker: Prevents web sites from spawning popup windows.
    • Tools, Internet Options, Privacy tab, press the Setting button in the Pop-up Blocker section.
  • More information.
Some additional security/privacy suggestions:
  • If you use Java regularly make sure to keep it up-to-date, otherwise consider uninstalling it.
  • The built-in Reader app in Windows 8 can display PDFs, so you don't need a 3rd party application.
  • Install CCCleaner, it purges private information better then the built-in tools.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Software: Controlling Your PC with Hand Gesture

A company called eyeSight offers software that allows you to control your PC using hand gestures without the use of special hardware (such as the LeapMotion). The eyeSight software utilizes the camera that that is attached to your PC or already built into your laptop.

Note: I have not used this product, so I am not aware of its true advantages or limitations. This information is provided for reference only.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Windows 8: Disabling the Lock Screen

In Windows 8 the lock screen is enabled by default. For some people this is an annoyance rather then a feature. If you want to disable this feature and display the Start screen automatically when you turn on the computer, follow the instructions below:
  • Open the Start screen, or press WinKey+R to open the Run command dialog 
  • Type "netplwiz.exe" press enter, or launch the app when it is displayed. 
  • Select the user account you want to automatically be logged into. 
  • Uncheck the item: Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer
  • Press the OK button, you'll be prompted to enter the password twice. 
Next time when you start up the computer, you will not be prompted with a password. To re-enable the lock screen just run the program netplwiz.exe again, and re-check the item: Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer, and then press the OK button.

Note: If you use this feature, your password will be stored in the registry as plain text.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Windows 8: Advanced Windows Calculator Tricks (Advanced Functions)

The Windows Calculator is one of those features that has been around for a long, long time.  For the most part it gets unnoticed until you need to do some basic calculations.  

To quickly bring up the calculator, from the Start screen type CALC and select the calculator icon, or from the Run... command (WinKey + R) type: CALC.EXE.

When you first start-up calculator it will look like it always does, with just the basic features. To access the more advanced modes (such as the unit or date conversion, and worksheets), open up the File menu or use the keyboard shortcuts below:

Available calculator modes: 
  • ALT+1: Standard
  • ALT+2: Scientific
  • ALT+3: Programmer
  • ALT+4: Statistics
  • CTRL+H: Enable the history feature
  • CTRL+U: Unit Conversion
  • CTRL+E: Date Conversion 
Note: To access the mortgage, vehicle lease and fuel economy worksheets, from the File menu, select Worksheets then select the one you want to use.  To revert the calculator back to its default functionality, press CTRL+F4.
Bonus Tip: It is pretty easy to assign a special key combination to the calculator's shortcut (just right-click the program's icon (in the File Explore, go to "%ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Accessories\" and select Calculator.lnk) select Properties, and click in the Shortcut Key field, then assign a keyboard combination such as Ctrl + Alt + C, and then press the OK button)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Monday, June 10, 2013

Windows 8 vs. Windows To Go, What You Need to Know?

"Windows To Go" is a new feature included in Windows 8 Enterprise edition that allows for the creation of a   "portable bootable Windows workspace" on a USB flash drive.  This workspace is designed to store your OS, applications, and data on a single device that can be easily moved between computers.

Since these drives are fully self contained, no data is written to the host computer.  This prevents the accidental loss of data because it was stored on another computer.

Unfortunately this feature is not available in other editions of Windows 8.  Its worth noting the Windows 8 Enterprise edition is only sold to Microsoft Volume Licence customers.

Windows To Go operates just like any other installation of Windows with a few exceptions that are listed below:
  • The hibernate and sleep features are disabled by default to help prevent accidental data corruption. 
  • Drives attached to the host computer are not available to prevent data from being written to them. 
  • The Trusted Platform Module (TPM) can't be used because its hardware specific  
    • When  BitLocker Drive Encryption is implemented, a pre-OS boot password is utilized. 
  • The Windows Recovery Environment, OS Refresh and Reset features are disabled. 
  • Access to the Windows Store is disabled because apps licensed through the store are linked to hardware for their licensing.
System requirements to run Windows To Go:

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Windows 8: Ultimate Windows Command Line Reference (Updated)

Are you looking for an updated high-level up-to-date reference of all the built-in command line tools and utilities that are available in the current version of Windows?  Check out the following article, its almost everything any Windows power-user or systems administrator will need to know about the built-in command line tools and utilities.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Windows 8: Naming a Tile Group

In the new Windows 8 Start menu, you may have figured out that you can arrange icons into what are called Tile Groups. Which is exactly what the name says, a group of icons that are arranged together for a specific purpose (e.g. Office applications, Image Editing, etc.).

If you're wondering how to name these tile groups there is a little trick that you have to know. Follow the instructions below:
  • Press the WinKey to bring up the Start screen. 
  • Press the minus sign icon in the lower right hand corner (this will zoom out all the icons). 
    • Note: for touch screens you can use the reverse pinching gesture or you can hold down the Ctrl + Scroll wheel 
  • Right-click on the tile group that you want to name (this will select the tile group). 
  • In the application bar at the bottom of the screen, press "Name Group" button. 
  • A small dialog will popup with a Name field. Enter a name for a group, and press the enter key or the name button.