Many Microsoft Products Going Off Support Soon – Security Watch

In the coming months Microsoft will be ending support—including security updates—for a number of important products. If you’ve avoided updating so far, you might want to get moving.

The first event will be April 13, 2010 (like all end-of-support days, a patch Tuesday), when support will end for 2 important configurations: Windows Vista with no service packs a.k.a. Vista RTM and Vista SP0, and Windows XP SP2. If you are running these versions after that April 13 you will no longer receive updates or support. In each case, the answer is obvious: Apply the latest service pack SP2 for Vista, SP3 for XP. Better yet, if you’re running XP, go get a new PC running a secure operating system, such as Windows 7.

On July 13, 2010, Windows 2000 in all service packs will reach the end of its “Extended Support Phase,” meaning no updates anymore. Its not in any of the announcements, but I presume that this implies the end of all support for Internet Explorer 5, currently only supported on Windows 2000.

On the same July date, all editions of Windows Server 2003 will be moving from the Mainstream Support phase to the Extended Support phase. This wont matter to many, perhaps most users, but it signals the end of “no charge” support and Microsoft will no longer be providing new non-security hotfixes. So you’ll need to open a paid support case in order to get support from Microsoft.

via Many Microsoft Products Going Off Support Soon – Security Watch.

When webcams go bad: Students sue school officials for remote spying | Between the Lines | ZDNet.com

Big Brother is coming in more ways than one. Technology is often a two-edged sword. In this case, this school district apparently decided that since they owned the laptops they could control it at all times.

If your laptop computer’s webcam could talk about what it sees, what would it say?

Students of a Pennsylvania school district are hauling educators to court over allegations that administrators remotely activated the webcams on school-issued laptops and used that remote access to spy on students and their family members. (Techmeme)

The civil suit (PDF) was filed last week against the Lower Merion School District in Ardmore, PA, its board of directors and the Superintendent. It alleges violations of the electronic Communications Privacy Act, The Computer Fraud Abuse Act, the Stored Communications Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act and Pennsylvania Common Law. In part, the suit reads:

Unbeknownst to Plaintiffs and the members of the Class, and without their authorization, Defendants have been spying on the activities of Plaintiffs and Class members by Defendants’ indiscriminant use of and ability to remotely activate the webcams incorporated into each laptop issued to students by the School District, This continuing surveillance of Plaintiffs’ and the Class members’ home use of the laptop issued by the School District, including the indiscriminant remote activation of the webcams incorporated into each laptop, was accomplished without the knowledge or consent of the Plaintiffs or the members of the class.

The suit notes that there are about 1,800 students in the district’s two high schools and that students were each assigned a laptop computer that was purchased, in part, through state and federal grants secured over the past few years. The suit also notes that all of the written documentation that accompanied the laptop made no reference to the district’s ability to remotely activate the embedded webcam.

The issue came to light in November when an assistant principal informed a student about improper behavior in his home and produced a photograph captured from the laptop’s webcam as proof. The suit did not specify the type of activity the student was engaged in.

Because the webcam would capture images of anything in its range, including the actions of other household members and their guests, the plaintiffs in the case extend to family members, as well as the students themselves.

Sam Diaz

Sam Diaz is a senior editor at ZDNet. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

via When webcams go bad: Students sue school officials for remote spying | Between the Lines | ZDNet.com.

Lesson Learned

I went against a few of my computer “thou-shalt-not” rules the other day and, well, I remembered why they are rules. I was reading a newsletter from a very trusted security site and came across an ad they had posted from a company that claims it’s software can:
Clear malware. Fix PC errors. Restore speed & performance. Prevent crashes & stability issues. Enjoy a ‘just like new’ computer – starting now. More Than 1 Million PCs Fixed.

My home computer is a Media Center PC and I’ve had a cable box plugged into it so that I can watch TV shows on it when the other TVs are being used. For several months, I hadn’t been able to run the media program as one of the drivers was bad and I had to disable the program. The only fix seemed to be reformatting the computer and restoring it back to its original state. I really didn’t want to do that since I’d then have to reinstall programs, etc. so I’d just delayed in doing anything at all. That is until I saw this ad, posted on this reliable newsletter…

So, I went to the site, saw what it claimed to be able to do, downloaded the program and ran the free scan. Sure enough, there in the results was what I was hoping to find. Among the listed items that needed to be repaired was the one dealing with the Media Center program. Well, let’s get to it then. First was that minimal $50 charge to run the fix. If it said it could fix my computer issues without me having to reformat and reinstall then that was okay by me. Then, instead of the 30 minute estimate for repair, it was actually closer to 2 hours, but it was going to fix my computer problem.Then, came the reboot and the test. Sure enough, my Media Center program ran great and I was able to watch TV programs again on my computer, and it did seem to be running a little faster. Cool, no harm no foul.

But wait…why won’t my anti-virus program and firewall program start up? Why is my e-mail program not logging in? What’s going on? I placed a call to the anti-virus company and the tech support mentioned that yes, they had someone else call in with the same problem after running this program and there was probably a fix out there someplace for it but they couldn’t help. So, I went online to the website of the company (Reimage) to contact their tech support and found out that tech support was available by e-mail only but have a look at the FAQ section of the website to see if anything there can help with my issue. Of course, there was nothing that did so I sent an e-mail to the company about my problem. Then, I did a little more searching online and found that this company was pretty bad in getting back to people for help. And, when fixes are done with this software, it rolls back a large majority of Microsoft Updates that need to be reinstalled. And, there were a few other things there that probably would have been nice to know before I had run the fix.

While I was waiting for the e-mail reply from tech support that I wasn’t even sure I was going to get, I was able to fix my anti-virus and firewall programs and downloaded and installed the Microsoft updates I needed, and somehow managed to keep my Media Center program running so all is well that ends well. And I did get a reply back from the company the next day with a supposed fix for my new problems but since I had already fixed those problems I didn’t run their fix.

The lesson learned? If I had done my homework before running Reimage’s fix I most likely wouldn’t have purchased it. I always check user reviews before purchasing hardware but for some reason didn’t even think of it before running this software. Actually, I know why I didn’t. I respected the newsletter that had the ad and believed that they too endorsed that company. Turns out they didn’t and the next newsletter stated that they were not going to be putting ads in their newsletters any longer because they don’t want their readers to think they endorse these companies. My recommendation before purchasing anything is to google the item with the word “reviews” after the item name. Read the user reviews since they are mostly honest. Go to the support page of the manufacturer of the item and see what’s posted there. Usually the FAQ’s will have answers to most common questions about the item but if there’s a blog of any sort, check that out as well. Weigh the positives and the minuses of the user reviews and then make a decision on whether the item is for you or not. My lesson re-learned.

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