*Microsoft is patching Windows XP … again

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Microsoft stopped support for Windows XP three years ago. It has ceased to release security updates to help secure the operating system … until last month. The WannaCry ransomware was devastating to computer networks that still use the popular OS. Most individual computer users either upgraded their machines, or simply unplugged their XP box from the Internet.

I have a buddy that has a large storehouse of personal photos on an XP unit. He still uses it as a place to work at home, and build his personal/family library of photos and diaries. For that machine, he has no use for the Internet. All his other computers that need Internet access use a more recent operating system.

And there are many more like him still having a need for an XP box that is still very productive.

But last month Microsoft released a security update for Windows XP to help protect against the WannaCry ransomware, and its potential variants.

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*Nine tips for paranoid Windows 10 users

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Windows 10 is well known for its controversial collection of personal and private data. Many people don’t understand the big deal about keeping their personal lives personal. For instance, they share their recent purchases, where they eat, when they are on vacation and vacant from their homes, if they are cheating, their sex life, their spouse’s arguments, photos of their children, and even themselves in inappropriate or compromising settings … everything about themselves on social media, and think it’s harmless.

What’s more, Microsoft has now joined the ranks of personal data collection with Windows 10 as its most recent operating system. Many computer experts are even calling Windows 10 as ‘spyware’. To some degree that’s true whether it matters to you or not.

But if you are serious about wanting to protect your privacy, here are ways that you can avoid, remove, or turn off features that track you in Windows 10. Some of these tactics may seem extreme, but you can obviously pick and choose, depending on what level of privacy you’re comfortable with.

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*Computing vulnerabilities you should address

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Most people and small businesses are still using hardware and software that is older than five to seven years old. In a general sense, that’s ok. But as the march of improved products and software moves forward, it leaves existing equipment behind. Older than five years is becoming too old to be trusted in today’s world of security breaches.

An old computer that’s still chugging along, running an old operating system and perhaps old programs and applications, doesn’t seem to be a big deal. After all, they still seem to work just fine. Why spend money on new equipment or software if it’s adequate and functioning?

Walker White, president of BDNA, a company that tracks and analyzes end-of-life (EOL) data for hardware, software and medical devices, says that the main problem with out-of-date software and legacy hardware is that once they pass their EOL cycle, the vendor no longer maintains or supports the products, resulting in security vulnerabilities and risk.

Here’s a look at the hardware, software and mobile device vulnerabilities you should tackle now to reduce risk and increase security.

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*Massive Cyber-attack spreads across 74 countries

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Tens of thousands of ransomware attacks are targeting organizations around the world on Friday. The Cyber-attacks that hit 74 countries across Europe and Asia Friday, impacting the public health system in Britain, apparently involved a leaked hacking tool from the National Security Agency.

Security firm Kaspersky Lab has recorded more than 45,000 attacks in 74 countries in the past 10 hours, with many of the attacks targeting Russia.

The attack used ransomware, which is malware that encrypts data and locks a user from their data until they pay a ransom. The tool, which was leaked by a group known as Shadow Brokers, had been stolen from the N.S.A. as part of a wide swath of tools illegally released in 2016.

The ransomware, called “WannaCry,” locks down all the files on an infected computer and asks the computer’s administrator to pay in order to regain control of them. Researchers say it is spreading through a Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) Windows exploit called “EternalBlue,” which Microsoft released a patch for in March.

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*Ransomware Decryption Tools Available for Free

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Ransomware is a piece of malware that typically locks victim’s device using encryption and demands a fee to decrypt the important data.

The No More Ransom project has increased its abilities with new decryption tools added to its now global campaign to combat Ransomware.

No More Ransom is an anti-ransomware cross-industry initiative to help ransomware victims recover their data without having to pay ransom to cyber criminals. Started as a joint initiative by Europol, Intel, and Kaspersky Lab, it is now one of the most trusted websites designed to help overcome ransomware infections.

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*NSA claims it has ceased its illegal collection of American emails

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The National Security Agency recently announced that it had stopped the practice of its warrantless surveillance program of American citizens. This supposedly ends a once-secret form of wiretapping that was started as a response by the Bush administration’s post 9-11 expansion of national security initiatives.

While originally intended as a way to track foreign suspects operating on American soil, former President Obama massively expanded the program to collect all digital communications of American citizens as well.

The National Security Agency has enjoyed relatively broad authority to monitor communications among suspected terrorists and their associates, even when those people happen to be American citizens, and even without a warrant.

The problem, according to privacy advocates, is that computers cannot tell the difference between who is a citizen and who isn’t. Computers can only tell the origin and destination of the messages. As a result, the N.S.A. argued it was necessary to scoop up ALL communications and sort out the differences out later.

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*Two Ways to Securely Wipe Your Hard Drive

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You are ready to sell or give away your old computer… how do you make sure you have securely removed all your previous personal data?

You may have already deleted personal files and information, or you may have de-fragged your hard drive hoping to eliminate information by write-overs. Either way, you’re not quite done.

There’s one important action you should take before you say goodbye to your old friend. And that’s wiping your hard drive clean.

Simply deleting your files doesn’t do the trick since they can be restored from the Recycle Bin. And even if you empty the Bin, your deleted files can often be recovered with the right undelete utility. But what if you want to completely eliminate all readable information on your hard drive? That’s when you need a good hard drive eraser utility.

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