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Microsoft warns Windows 7 users of looming end to security updates

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Microsoft has rolled out a patch that will warn Windows 7 users that security updates will soon come to an end.

The patch rolled out Wednesday warning users of the impending deadline, January 14, 2020, when the software giant will no longer roll out fixes for security flaws and vulnerabilities. The deadline comes some 10 years after Windows 7 first debuted in 2009, more than half a decade before Microsoft’s most recent operating system Windows 10 was introduced.

Microsoft’s move to stop issuing security updates is part of the company’s ongoing effort to push users to its latest software, which stands on a greater security foundation and improvements to mitigate attacks.

Starting April 18, users on Windows 7 will begin receiving warnings about the approaching cut-off.

Windows 7 still commands some 40 percent of the desktop market, according to Net Applications. With exactly 300 days before the deadline, the clock is ticking on consumer security support.

Enterprise customers have the option to pay for extended security updates until 2023.

For years, Microsoft allowed Windows 7 users to upgrade to Windows 10 for free to try to encourage growth and upgrades. With those incentives gone, many only have the lack of security updates to look ahead to, which will put business data and systems at risk of cyber attack.

It’s almost unheard of for Microsoft to patch end-of-life software. In 2017, Microsoft released rare security patches for Windows XP — retired three years earlier — to prevent the spread of WannaCry, a ransomware strain that piggybacked off leaked hacking tools, developed by the National Security Agency.

The ransomware outbreak knocked schools, businesses, and hospitals offline.

Windows 7’s successor, Windows 8, will continue to receive updates until January 10, 2023.

How to hear and delete Alexa conversations

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Did you know Alexa records everything you say? Here’s how to delete it all

Navigate to the Alexa app you use to control your Alexa device. It’s probably on a mobile device you have, and the icon is a light blue with a white circle. Open up the app, and sign in using your Amazon account password if necessary. If you’ve never used your Alexa app before, or if it’s been a very long time since you’ve used it, Alexa may run you through a quick setup procedure first. This only takes about a minute or so to get through.

When you arrive at the home screen, look in the upper left-hand corner and select the icon that looks like dashed lines, or the main menu. Look down to the bottom of the menu and select the option that says Settings.

Alexa Voice History

From here, look at the top of the new menu and select Alexa Account. This will take you to yet another menu. At the bottom you should see an option that says Alexa Privacy. Select this to begin.

STEP 2: SORT AND GO THROUGH YOUR RECENT ALEXA HISTORY

Alexa Voice History Screen

The Alexa Privacy section will give you several different options for reviewing the sensitive information that Alexa has collected. You may want to spend some time here. But for this particular task, you will want to go to Review Voice History. This will open a new screen with all your recorded Alexa conversations.

At the top of the screen, you will see an option to change the Date Range. You can choose options for seeing today’s commands, yesterday’s, and so on, all the way to viewing your entire history. If you really want to weed through all your recordings, you need to choose All History. This will display all your conversations with Alexa when they occurred, and on what device.

STEP 3: DELETE YOUR HISTORY AS YOU WISH

Alexa Conversations

As you view your recordings, you will notice that some have the text of your conversations, like, “Alexa, is it gonna snow today?” but that other recordings say, “Text not available – audio was not intended for Alexa.” These recordings happen when Alexa is still listening for a second after answering your question (it’s caught me mocking it before), or if nearby conversations sounds like someone said “Alexa” but the voice assistant determines that no one was really talking to it. You can click on these recordings to play them and see what they are if you are curious.

To the left of each recording, you will see a checkbox. Select the checkbox of every recording that you want to delete. Then go up top and choose Delete Selected Recordings to remove them all.

STEP 4: DELETE YOUR WHOLE HISTORY AT ONCE IF YOU NEED TO

If you don’t want to take the time to review all your recordings, or don’t really care what they say, you can also delete them all without looking. Simply look at the top of the Review Voice History menu and select Delete All Recordings for All History.

Delete Alexa Conversations Through Alexa

You can also delete your entire history from your computer without going to the Alexa app. Simply go to Amazon’s Manage Your Content and Devices site, and make sure that you are in the Devices tab. Here you will see all the devices connect to this Amazon account. Select an Alexa device, and then look below the name of the device to see an option that says Delete Voice Recordings. Select this, and Amazon will pop up a quick warning screen. Select Delete, and you should get a message that says Your deletion request was received. All done!

FINAL NOTE ON DELETING ALEXA RECORDINGS

Deleting Alexa recordings is an important part of your privacy, and Alexa recordings have made their way into prosecution cases before, although there’s not a lot of precedence for this sort of thing so far. We understand if you don’t want your recordings existing out there in the cloud. However, there is an important caveat to deleting your messages: Alexa uses your recordings to help improve the accuracy of its listening functions. In other words, the more you talk to Alexa, the smarter it becomes at recognizing your voice and understanding what you’re saying. When you delete all your recordings, you’re getting rid of Alexa’s “memory” of your voice, so Alexa may have more trouble recognizing your commands. It’s a small price to pay, but worth noting. You can always build the recognition back up again with new voice commands.

Google Says Upgrade To Windows 10 After Critical Flaws Found In Chrome And Windows 7

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Earlier this week Google released an update for the Chrome web browser that it urged users to ensure was implemented immediately. That was because the Threat Analysis Group at Google had uncovered a critical zero-day vulnerability that was already being exploited in the wild. Now a Google security engineer, Clement Lecigne, has warned that another zero-day vulnerability that is also being exploited, impacting Windows 7 users, was being used together with the Chrome exploit to take over Windows systems. Google is now urging all Windows 7 users to upgrade to Windows 10, as well as make sure their Chrome browser is up to date, to escape the attention of the combined threat.

The Windows zero-day is a local privilege escalation in the win32k.sys kernel driver that allows it to escape the security sandbox. The vulnerability can be used to elevate system privileges by an attacker who might then be able to execute remote malicious code. “The vulnerability is a NULL pointer dereference in win32k!MNGetpItemFromIndex when NtUserMNDragOver() system call is called under specific circumstances” Clement Lecigne said, adding “we strongly believe this vulnerability may only be exploitable on Windows 7 due to recent exploit mitigations added in newer versions of Windows. To date, we have only observed active exploitation against Windows 7 32-bit systems.”

The Google Threat Analysis Group disclosed the zero-day to Microsoft who have said they are working on a fix but, as of yet, there is no indication of how long this might take. Currently, the status of this vulnerability has to remain as a critical and unpatched one. For this reason, Google is advising users of Windows 7 should upgrade to Windows 10 and apply patches from Microsoft as soon as they become available. “Not all vulnerabilities are created equal, and many, if considered on their own, are not cause for undue concern,” says Jim O’Gorman, president of Offensive Security, who continues “if they were flagged by the organization’s security solution, they likely would not have been prioritized in patching. It’s when a group of seemingly minor flaws are chained together that they can be used to devastating effect.”

You can follow Davey on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn and find more of his stories at happygeek.com

Update Google Chrome Now

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Google Confirms Serious Chrome Security Problem – Here’s How To Fix It

The problem explained

Although information regarding CVE-2019-5786 remains scarce currently, Satnam Narang, a senior research engineer at Tenable, says it is a “Use-After-Free (UAF) vulnerability in FileReader, an application programming interface (API) included in browsers to allow web applications to read the contents of files stored on a user’s computer.” Some further digging by Catalin Cimpanu over at ZDNet suggests that there are malicious PDF files in the wild that are being used to exploit this vulnerability. “The PDF documents would contact a remote domain with information on the users’ device –such as IP address, OS version, Chrome version, and the path of the PDF file on the user’s computer,” Cimpanu says. These could just be used for tracking purposes, but there is also the potential for more malicious behavior. The ‘use-after-free’ vulnerability is a memory corruption flaw that carries the risk of escalated privileges on a machine where a threat actor has modified data in memory through exploiting it. That’s why Google has issued the urgent update warning, as the potential is there for exploits to be crafted that could enable an attacker to remotely run arbitrary code (a remote code execution attack) whilst escaping the browser’s built-in sandbox protection.

What to do next

Luckily this is an easy problem to fix, just make sure you do it as soon as you’ve finished reading this! First, head over to the drop-down menu in Chrome (you’ll find it at the far right of the toolbar – click on the three stacked dots) and select Help|About Google Chrome. You could also type chrome://settings/help in the address bar if you prefer, which takes you to the same dialog box. This will tell you if you have the current version running or if there is an update available. To be safe from this zero-day exploit, make sure that it says you are running version 72.0.3626.121 (Official Build). If not, then Chrome should go and fetch the latest version and update your browser for you automatically.

Travis Biehn, technical strategist and research lead at Synopsys, said “Google Chrome is some of the most robustly engineered C and C++ code on the planet, the security teams working on Chrome are world-class. Despite Google’s security program, and despite their active collaboration with leading security researchers through generous bug bounty programs, it still suffers from memory corruption attacks related to the use of C and C++. Luckily for the public, Chrome ships with an effective mechanism for update and patching – one that can get a critical fix out to end users in real time.”

You can follow me on Twitter, connect with me on LinkedIn and find more of my stories at happygeek.com

These are Google’ instructions:

Get a Chrome update when available

Normally updates happen in the background when you close and reopen your computer’s browser. But if you haven’t closed your browser in a while, you might see a pending update:

  1. On your computer, open Chrome.
  2. At the top right, look at More More.
  3. If an update is pending, the icon will be colored:
    • Green: An update’s been available for 2 days.
    • Orange: An update’s been available for 4 days.
    • Red: An update’s been available for 7 days.

To update Google Chrome:

  1. On your computer, open Chrome.
  2. At the top right, click More More.
  3. Click Update Google Chrome. If you don’t see this button, you’re on the latest version.
  4. Click Relaunch.

The browser saves your opened tabs and windows and reopens them automatically when it restarts. If you’d prefer not to restart right away, click Not now. The next time you restart your browser, the update will be applied.