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Appropriated | Computerworld

This pilot fish gets a request for a new server, and after being satisfied with all his post-install checks, he turns it over to the customers. But they say the server is experiencing intermittent network connectivity.

So fish has the network team check the port, network switch and cable. All seems fine: constant link status and no dropped packets. But the problem persists. Fish calls vendor for help and sends it the diag report from the lights-out interface. But the hardware looks fine.

New day, new strategy. Fish tries “watch nmap” from his workstation; no issues. He tries it from the Kickstart server. And this is interesting: The server is working one run, but no response the next. On a hunch, fish adds ARP check in the watch. Now he’s getting somewhere: ARP is alternating between two MAC address from the same IP, one of which fish doesn’t recognize.

The network team then does its magic to lead fish to an empty desk and its bewildered neighbor, who can only watch while fish and crew check the walls for the suspected network drop. Tech verifies that the device on the unoccupied desk is using the IP assigned to the server built last week.

Fish asks the user to kindly inform the owner of the rogue device that IP addresses must be assigned by the network team after opening a ticket.

“Otherwise, it’ll cause a lot of problems for a lot of people.”

And that “lot of people” march off to deal with the next issue.

Calling all pilot fish! Sharky needs your true tales of IT life. Send them to me at [email protected]. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Will Apple’s iOS 14 really support all of today’s iOS 13-compatible iPhones?

If you’re in the business of budgeting for and managing a fleet of iOS devices in enterprise or education deployments, you’ll be eager to learn whether today’s big  Apple rumor is hot stuff or hot air.

The claim: iOS 14 to support all iOS 13 devices

The claim is that iOS 14 will be hugely backward compatible, to the extent that it will run on every existing iPhone that can run iOS 13, though not the iPad mini 4 and the iPad Air 2. (iOS 13 supports every device back to and including the iPhone 6S and the 2015 iPhone SE.)

That Apple may consider supporting those devices once again with iOS 14 is great news for budget-strapped IT managers. They should not bet on this rumor just yet, as it comes from an obscure French website called iPhonesoft and hasn’t at this time been confirmed by anyone else.

We will likely find out if it is true or false at Apple’s important Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

Reasons it could happen

There are very good reasons Apple might choose to maintain compatibility in older devices, including:

  • Customer loyalty: Apple has the highest customer satisfaction levels in the industry. Supporting older devices will enhance this.
  • The environment: Apple is investing in renewable energy, recycling technologies and wants to develop a closed-loop manufacturing system. And Apple’s vice president for environment, policy and social initiatives, Lisa Jackson has previously said one of the best ways to protect the environment is blindingly simple: Replace your smartphones less often. (Apple is also under some challenge for designing built-in-obsolescence into its devices).
  • And services: Of course, if people buy less devices, Apple makes less money, right? Not really: Apple is offering a growing range of compelling iPhone accessories (watch, AirPods and, one day, glasses), and its services segment is raking in tens of billions for the company. Turns out that offering world-class services to already-happy customers is a good business.

There’s also the ecosystem, the app economy and the fact Apple now has hundreds of millions of people using one of its devices who therefore become more likely to invest in a second.

Put in that context, making iPhones that continue to work for years and years is good business – is there another smartphone operating system vendor offering up compelling OS upgrades to five-year-old devices? 

And remember that security-conscious enterprise managers know they can rely on Apple to ship security updates across its entire ecosystem swiftly in response to flaws, and can benefit from third-party mobile security protection and MDM systems to help further optimize this – think Jamf Protect for mobile.

Reasons it might not happen

There are also reasons for Apple not to do this.

  • Protecting the upgrade opportunity: Apple has a huge upgrade opportunity as iPhone 6 owners switch to a new device, so why would it dampen that enthusiasm by giving older second-user devices more longevity.
  • Market conditions: We know Apple is struggling to make sales in a tough market – and while its struggle looks like success, overall retail sales in some of its developed economies are sluggish to stagnant as consumers slow purchases in reaction to continued uncertainty.
  • Is the rumor true? That the claim emerged from a small French Apple site casts a little doubt on its veracity, though Apple has a very long-established presence in France. Apple rumor-mongering is not a U.S.-only franchise – just ask Ming-Chi Kuo.

It may not happen

Finally, the rumor itself warns that support for iPhone SE and iPhone 6S could be dropped if the iOS development teams hit a snag.

This suggests these devices may get some of the software enhancements but may lack some of the new features even if the upgrade does reach them.

The conclusion?

Checking the truth of this claim will be a priority item for many enterprise purchasers this year. We’ll find out more at WWDC, the time and date of which hasn’t yet been announced but customarily takes place in early June.

If it does turn out true, of course, the claim also means fans of small iPhones may get another few months’ use out of their iPhone 5S, even if the company never makes another.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Why manipulation campaigns are the biggest threat facing the 2020 election

Although political espionage has been around for hundreds of years, technological advancements and the widespread use of smartphones and social media have given rise to a new type of propaganda campaign.

This era of political espionage is rooted in manipulative ads, fake news articles and other forms of digital content, which are hardly distinguishable from facts and truths. Today’s espionage is one of the nation’s greatest threats, especially as we approach the 2020 presidential election, and leaders across industries and sectors need to take action now. 

Recent research by the Oxford Internet Institute found that computational propaganda and social media manipulation have proliferated massively in recent years and are now prevalent in more than double the number of countries compared to two years ago. We’ve entered an era where the threat of manipulation on the internet is constant. With the 2020 presidential election looming, it is not only up to the federal government to protect the nation against manipulation campaigns — the private sector must do its part as well.

Lessons learned from the past four years

The impact of political manipulation came to the forefront after the 2016 presidential election when congressional investigators exposed evidence of meddling by Russian parties and other foreign groups.

[ Related: 7 ways to narrow the cybersecurity skills gap in 2020

]In October 2017, The Guardian reported that Russian trolls and automated bots used social media to sow social divisions in the US by triggering disagreement around various controversial topics. Creating distrust and dividing the U.S. on social and political issues through fake ads and posts is precisely the motive of these attackers. Understanding this is one key lesson learned, but the landscape of online manipulation remains complex and unknown.

[ Voting and Blockchain: 5 industries that will be disrupted by blockchain ]

Big Tech is undoubtedly a target for these cyber attacks and slowly, the platform leaders have begun to set an example for the rest of the private sector, as well as for governmental organizations. Over the past few months, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have reported several instances of shutting down thousands of accounts for manipulating its platform.

Log in or subscribe to Insider Pro to read the full article. 

 

Although political espionage has been around for hundreds of years, technological advancements and the widespread use of smartphones and social media have given rise to a new type of propaganda campaign.

This era of political espionage is rooted in manipulative ads, fake news articles and other forms of digital content, which are hardly distinguishable from facts and truths. Today’s espionage is one of the nation’s greatest threats, especially as we approach the 2020 presidential election, and leaders across industries and sectors need to take action now. 

Recent research by the Oxford Internet Institute found that computational propaganda and social media manipulation have proliferated massively in recent years and are now prevalent in more than double the number of countries compared to two years ago. We’ve entered an era where the threat of manipulation on the internet is constant. With the 2020 presidential election looming, it is not only up to the federal government to protect the nation against manipulation campaigns — the private sector must do its part as well.

Lessons learned from the past four years

The impact of political manipulation came to the forefront after the 2016 presidential election when congressional investigators exposed evidence of meddling by Russian parties and other foreign groups.

[ Related: 7 ways to narrow the cybersecurity skills gap in 2020

]In October 2017, The Guardian reported that Russian trolls and automated bots used social media to sow social divisions in the US by triggering disagreement around various controversial topics. Creating distrust and dividing the U.S. on social and political issues through fake ads and posts is precisely the motive of these attackers. Understanding this is one key lesson learned, but the landscape of online manipulation remains complex and unknown.

[ Voting and Blockchain: 5 industries that will be disrupted by blockchain ]

Big Tech is undoubtedly a target for these cyber attacks and slowly, the platform leaders have begun to set an example for the rest of the private sector, as well as for governmental organizations. Over the past few months, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have reported several instances of shutting down thousands of accounts for manipulating its platform.

Microsoft also experienced an attack on its chatbot recently, which helped the artificial technology learn racial slurs and inappropriate language. The tech giant promptly shut it down. To avoid the issue altogether, Spotify announced it would not allow political ads on its platform. While the companies’ timely actions represent a commitment to protecting consumers from online manipulation, these incidents serve as examples of the industry’s unpreparedness – even for the biggest and best-known tech companies – and overall lack of knowledge of how to prevent attacks in the future.

The reality is that sophisticated manipulators are properly equipped to adapt and advance their approaches by learning from the outcome of previous attacks. The biggest lesson that has come out of the manipulation campaigns of the last four years is that to fight this battle, the U.S. will have to come together in an out-all effort by citizens, business leaders, big tech, and officials both U.S. and abroad.

Taking action to soften the blow

However unprepared the nation is for the type of cyber attack that we will inevitably face as the 2020 presidential election ramps up, there are initiatives and actions the private and governmental sectors can take to strengthen the defense.

[ Security: Has the quantum crypto break already happened? ]

On the Federal government’s side, it is critical that committees build easy ways for organizations and individuals to report suspicious activity — whether it be online or elsewhere. One roadblock the country faces with implementing a system like this is the overall lack of knowledge that U.S. citizens have of what irregularities like this might look like, especially as technological advances continue to open up access to social media across demographics. The more educated the U.S. population becomes on the topic, the less they will fall prey to manipulative online campaigns. 

With a strong reporting system in place, the private sector could be better prepared to combat malicious behavior online. Not only would this assist Big Tech in fighting off threats and protecting consumers, but it would help leaders in other industries – such as the energy industry – build their own playbook for targeted manipulation campaigns as well. 

Ultimately, a successful defense against these cyber attacks will be the result of teamwork on a local, national and even global level. In an ideal world, officials, business leaders and citizens across the globe would be safer from these cyber attacks with an international accord in place.  A coalition of nations willing to allocate resources and expertise on election security, and security in general, would be the most effective method to ward off manipulation and digital propaganda. However, this is an effort that will need time to develop.

The U.S. and other countries will undoubtedly face manipulation online by foreign groups, and the sophisticated nature of these campaigns make them unavoidable and risky as we enter the thick of the 2020 presidential election. The private and governmental sectors must come together to inform US citizens of the threat the nation faces and work to fight against the growing cyber risk.



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Microsoft blinks again, promises to clean up after its Win7 ‘Stretch’ black screen mess

I’m housetraining a puppy right now and know exactly how it feels to clean up unwanted messes.

As I mentioned last week, the final, final end-of-service, final update to Win7 introduced a bug in the way “Stretch”ed wallpapers are handled: If you set your Win7 wallpaper to Stretch, after installing the patch it comes up an ominous black.

Talk about an ignoble end to a venerated product. But it got worse.

Somebody at Microsoft finally acknowledged the obvious bug (it only took a week), and added this zinger to the official announcement:

We are working on a resolution and will provide an update in an upcoming release for organizations who have purchased Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU).

Which brought out the tar-and-feathers crowd: How could Microsoft get away with charging people to fix its own bug? 

Many people viewed this as a ham-handed attempt to force folks off of Windows 7 and paying for Windows 10. The greybeards took it for yet another shave from Microsoft’s well-worn Hanlon’s razor.

Looks like the adults in the company woke up over the weekend. The Knowledge Base article has been modified to say:

We are working on a resolution and will provide an update in an upcoming release, which will be released to all customers running Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1.

Which immediately raises the question: How?

Will Windows 7 get a February Monthly Rollup, for everyone? Will it include a fix for this dumb bug, in addition to fixes for as-yet-unannounced security holes? Will there be two Monthly Rollups, one for paying customers and the other for the hoi polloi?

Don’t forget that Microsoft has already announced, in Security Advisory ADV200001, that there’s another security hole in Internet Explorer’s JScript engine, CVE-2020-0674. There’s been no commitment to fixing that security hole in unpaid Win7, either.

We haven’t yet seen a February Monthly Rollup Preview. Nor has there been an official announcement of a Win7 end-of-service reprieve. Those of us who won’t pay for Win7 Extended Security Updates — say, 300 or 400 million of us — are just kind of scratching our heads.

As a service.

Interesting times ahead. We’re following on the AskWoody Lounge.

Thx, @Julia

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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FAQ: What the new Edge offers the enterprise

Two weeks ago, Microsoft launched its reincarnation of Edge, the born-again browser based, not on the company’s homegrown technologies, but ton hose created by Chromium, the Google-centric, open-source project whose code powers Chrome.

Although it will likely deny it, Microsoft went all-in on Chromium because its own browser – browsers, really, since Internet Explorer (IE) is, believe it or not, still a thing – was a shadow of its former self, reduced to minor player status in the battle for share.

But by becoming a Chrome clone, Edge has a shot at a comeback. Microsoft will pitch Edge to its most important customers – commercial organizations – as the alternative to Chrome. It’s just like Chrome, the message will go, but integrated with other Microsoft wares, notably Office 365. Just as important, Microsoft will say, managing Edge can be accomplished using the same tools, including group policies, that IT already uses to service Windows and Office 365.

Which is why it’s time to answer important questions about exactly what Edge brings to the enterprise.

(Computerworld will be adding to this FAQ or creating sequels as necessary to account for overlooked or brand new Edge-in-the-enterprise tools.)



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Will Apple’s iOS 14 really support all today’s iOS 13-compatible iPhones?

If you’re in the business of budgeting for and managing a fleet of iOS devices in education or enterprise deployments, then you’ll be eager to learn if today’s hot Apple rumor is hot stuff or hot air.

The claim: iOS 14 to support all iOS 13 devices

The claim is that iOS 14 will be hugely backward compatible, to the extent that it will run on every exiting iOS 13-supporting iPhone, though not the iPad mini 4 and the iPad Air 2.

iOS 13 supports every device back to and including the iPhone 6S and the 2015 iPhone SE.

That Apple may consider supporting those products once again with iOS 14 has to be great news for budget-strapped IT managers.

They should not bet on this rumor just yet as it comes from an obscure French website called, iPhonesoft and hasn’t at this time been confirmed by anyone else.

We will probably find out if it is true or false at Apple’s important Worldwide Developers Conference in June 2020.

Reasons it could happen

There are some very good reasons Apple may choose to maintain compatibility in older devices, including:

  • Customer loyalty: Apple has the highest customer satisfaction levels in the industry. Supporting older devices in this way will enhance this.
  • The environment: Apple is investing in renewable energy, recycling technologies and wants to develop a closed loop manufacturing system. And Apple’s VP environment, policy and social initiatives, Lisa Jackson has previously said one of the best ways to protect the environment is blindingly simple: Replace your smartphones less often. (Apple is also under some challenge for designing built-in-obsolescence into its devices).
  • Also services: Of course, if people buy less devices then Apple makes less money, right? Not really: Apple is offering a growing range of compelling iPhone accessories (watch, AirPods and one day glasses), and its services segment is raking in tens of billions for the company. Turns out that offering world-class services to already happy customers is a good business.

Plus, the ecosystem, the app economy and the fact Apple now has hundreds of millions of people using one of its devices who therefore become more likely to invest in a second.

Put in that context, making iPhones that continue to work for years and years is a good business – is there another smartphone operating system vendor offering up compelling OS upgrades to five-year-old devices? 

Not to mention that security-conscious enterprise managers know they can rely on Apple to ship security updates across its entire ecosystem swiftly in response to flaws, and can benefit from third-party mobile security protection and MDM systems to help further optimize this. Think Jamf Protect for mobile.

Reasons it could not happen

There are also reasons not to do this.

  • Protecting the upgrade opportunity: Apple has a huge upgrade opportunity as iPhone 6 owners switch to a new device, so why would it dampen that enthusiasm by giving older second user devices more longevity.
  • Market conditions: We know Apple is struggling to make sales in a tough market – and while its struggle looks like success, overall retail sales in some of its developed economies are sluggish to stagnant as consumers slow purchases in reaction to continued uncertainty.
  • Is the rumor true? That the claim emerged from a small French Apple site casts a little doubt on its veracity, though Apple has a very long-established presence in France. Apple rumor is not a U.S.-only franchise – just ask Ming-Chi Kuo.

It may not happen

Finally, the rumor itself warns that support for iPhone SE and iPhone 6S could be dropped if the iOS development teams hit a snag.

This suggests these devices may get some of the software enhancements but may lack some of the new features even if the upgrade does reach them.

The conclusion?

Checking the truth of this claim will be a priority item for many enterprise purchasers this year. We’ll find out more at WWDC, the time and date of which hasn’t yet been announced but customarily takes place in June.

It it does turn out true, of course, the claim also means fans of small iPhones may get another few months use out of their iPhone 5S, even if the company never makes another.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Sad but true | Computerworld

Suburban high school wants to set up a tip line that students can text to if they are depressed or stressed out, or if they are concerned about another student who might be. So this pilot fish is asked to find an app that will connect the students with professionals who can help them, while keeping the students’ identities completely anonymous.

She narrows the choice to several apps and runs them by the assistant principal for his OK.

His problem with the options: None gives him the phone number of the person initiating the contact. Fish tells him that providing that information isn’t consistent with saying that submissions are anonymous. But he insists: He wants to follow up with each student.

Fish notes that word will quickly spread that the tip line isn’t really anonymous, rendering it pretty useless.

Now the choice seems to be between useless tip line and no tip line at all. No tip line wins the day.

Sharky wants your tips — your true tales of IT life, that is. Send them to me at [email protected]. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Google and Microsoft have gone too far

Google is an advertising company. And advertising revenue is always under siege — from competitors, regulators and market forces.

Today, around 70 percent of Google’s revenue comes from advertising, according to a “featured snippet” on Google Search.

Meanwhile, shareholders expect solid growth. But how do you achieve that with a fickle and fragile business like online advertising. One approach is to resort to dirty tricks.

Google redesigned the look of desktop Search so that ads look like organic results. The typography and placement is the same. And the new look places favicons next to legitimate search results, and a small “ad” icon next to advertising that looks like another favicon. The design is a clear example of “dark pattern” design created to change the user’s behavior in a way that benefits Google at your expense.

This aggressive and unethical change no doubt aims to keep Google on top in online advertising market share, where the company currently enjoys 36.2 percent share.

Google wants to keep you on Google

Google’s latest moves appear to be based on a growing reluctance to send users to other sites, where other companies can make money on those users.

In a move against Pinterest, Facebook and Reddit, Google resurrected the “Collections” idea from its dead social network, Google+, and placed it into Search. (Collections was a Pinterest-like feature of the social network that enabled users to “pin” items of interest on their social profiles. The move is part of Google’s social strategy of “baking” Google+ features into other properties, which I detailed last month in this space.)

Unlike the Collections on Google+, the new Collections feature of Google Search on the mobile app now uses AI pixie dust to help you choose items to “pin” based on your search history. Collections replaces the “recent searches” tab. And, of course, you can share your collections and invite them to participate.

And in a clear move against Amazon, Google also recently promoted Google Shopping results to the main search results page. Even some product reviews will now be visible from the search results page.

Now about half of all searches are served on Google properties, inside knowledge panels, YouTube and so on. Google clearly intends to grow that percentage.

Not all of Google’s recent moves have been objectionable. Google has an outstanding search engine that came out of beta and also went mobile this week. It’s called Dataset Search, and it’s designed for researchers but anyone can benefit from it. Dataset Search, which launched in September 2018, gives access to 25 million datasets owned by thousands of data repositories from libraries, publishers and others. It’s also great for journalism or doing research for enterprise technology purchases.

Still, revenue growth, apparently, will now be driven by Google tricking users into clicking on ads and providing alternatives to external destinations on the Google Search results page.

Maybe Bing is better?

Microsoft parties like it’s 1999

And by “parties” I mean “engages in browser hijacking.”

Microsoft plans to force a change in the default browser from Google Search to its own Bing search engine for PCs running Office 365 ProPlus during that product’s twice-yearly upgrade. The browser-hijacking policy, which is effected with a Chrome extension, goes into effect next month and begins with version 2002 and in the nations of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, the U.K. and the U.S.

ProPlus comes with Office 365 Enterprise E3, Office 365 Enterprise E5 and other versions of Office designed for large organizations.

It’s not a bug; it’s a feature, according to Microsoft. The purpose of the policy is to enable Microsoft Search, which searches Bing and the users’ PC at the same time. (One would think that the desktop-search integration would exist to incentivize voluntary adoption of Bing.)

The company said they’d switch the default search engine in Firefox later.

The extension won’t be installed if Bing is the current default, so the easiest way to avoid the change is to switch to Bing before the update, then switch it back after.

Both Google’s ad confusion policy and Microsoft’s browser-hijacking policy are unethical.

These bold changes are part of a larger shift apparent in the culture in general, including politics: People are overwhelmed with information and therefore aren’t really paying attention. Distraction is the opportunity.

Google can claim that it marked ads as ads, while knowing that most users won’t see the difference. Microsoft can claim that it gave explicit instructions for restoring Google Search as the default for users forcibly switched, while knowing that people generally accept default choices without taking the time to figure out how to reverse them.

I see Google’s and Microsoft’s latest moves as part of a wider “Ignorance Industrial Complex,” where the public’s distracted and overloaded minds are resources to be exploited for profit.

Maybe it’s time to switch to more ethical browsers? 

Google without Google

startpage privacy browser Startpage

Startpage doesn’t record your IP address, browser brand, operating system or search queries.

Startpage is one of the most interesting privacy search engines out there because it’s the only third-party search engine with access to the full Google search index.

Startpage isn’t new. It started out as Ixquick in 1998 and became the Dutch company Startpage B.V. in 2000 through acquisition and is currently a subsidiary of Privacy One Group. Interestingly, the service grew more privacy-focused gradually, especially in 2005.

Next to every search result is a link that says “Anonymous View.” Choosing that link opens the URL via proxy, which extends your privacy from the search engine to the sites you click on.

The search engine doesn’t record users’ IP addresses, browser brands, operating systems or search queries.

Bing without MIcrosoft

Verizon this week introduced a new privacy-centered search engine called OneSearch, which uses Bing’s search index but which promises no cookies, retargeting, personal profiling, sharing of user data with advertisers and no retention of search history. Verizon monetizes OneSearch with contextual advertising based exclusively on the current search terms.

OneSearch uses Microsoft’s Bing index.

Sounds good. But critics point out Verizon’s history of customer privacy violations, including user-tracking supercookies, selling users’ personal information and cooperation with NSA surveillance — not to mention lobbying Congress for the legal right to sell user data and violate net neutrality. Verizon: Can you hear me now?

Here are 10 great privacy-oriented search alternatives:

  1. DuckDuckGo
  2. Search Encrypt
  3. Swisscows
  4. Gibiru
  5. Yippy
  6. Bitclave
  7. Oscobo
  8. Discrete Search
  9. Qwant
  10. Startpage

(The EU recently forced Google to add DuckDuckGo as one of the default search engines available to European users of Android.)

Something is wrong with search

The bottom line is that something fundamental has changed in the world of search engines. It’s time for us and our organizations to re-think how and where we search.



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Get the January 2020 Patch Tuesday patches installed

This month has seen a whole lotta hand waving and sky-is-falling-caliber rhetoric, but the reality is much more prosaic. If you aren’t running a major network (and thus aren’t susceptible to the imminent problems with Remote Desktop Gateway, the Citrix network bugs or the whopping 334 patches in Oracle), there’s been little reason to install this month’s updates. 

Still, work on cracking the CurveBall CVE-2020-0601 security hole continues at a furious pace. Some security companies are using CurveBall to sell more product, but the free Microsoft Defender catches at least some afflicted programs; Firefox, Chrome and Edge won’t fall for it; and pre-Win10 versions of Windows (Seven Semper Fi!) have never been exposed.

With several working proof-of-concept routines readily available — but no attacks, and indeed no sign that a general attack is imminent — patching for CurveBall falls in the “abundance of caution” bucket. Since we’ve seen few weird problems with the January patches, now seems like a good time to get patched up.

As usual, Patch Lady Susan Bradley has a detailed analysis in her Patch Watch column with a full patch-by-patch reckoning in her Master Patch List (paywall; donation requested).

Here’s how to get your system updated the (relatively) safe way.

Make a full backup

Make a full system image backup before you install the latest patches.

There’s a non-zero chance that the patches — even the latest, greatest patches of patches of patches — will hose your machine. Best to have a backup that you can reinstall even if your machine refuses to boot. This, in addition to the usual need for System Restore points.

There are plenty of full-image backup products, including at least two good free ones: Macrium Reflect Free and EaseUS Todo Backup

Patch Win7, Win8.1 or associated servers

This is the last month we’ll see free Win7 patches — or so we’ve been promised. (I find it hard to believe that Microsoft won’t patch the Win7 Internet Explorer JScript security hole CVE-2020-0674, but Microsoft, eh?)

As for those of you Win7 holdouts worried about sprouting a black wallpaper due to the Win7 January “Stretch” bug, Microsoft now advises:

We are working on a resolution and will provide an update in an upcoming release for organizations who have purchased Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU).

Nice guys. 

Bottom line, for you Win7 folks: Do yourself a favor and change your wallpaper so it isn’t Stretched, before installing the buggy January patch. Follow Lawrence Abrams’s instructions on BleepingComputer.

Microsoft is blocking updates to Windows 7 and 8.1 on recent computers. If you are running Windows 7 or 8.1 on a PC that’s 24 months old or newer, follow the instructions in AKB 2000006 or @MrBrian’s summary of @radosuaf’s method to make sure you can use Windows Update to get updates applied.

For most Windows 7 and 8.1 users, I recommend following AKB 2000004: How to apply the Win7 and 8.1 Monthly Rollups. You should have one Windows patch, dated Jan. 14 (the Patch Tuesday patch). If you see a Monthly Rollup Preview, ignore it.

If you insist on manually installing Security-only patches for Win7 and Server 2008 (I call that the “Group B” approach on AskWoody), get the full list from @PKCano on the AskWoody site. If in doubt, ask questions on the site! It’s easy and free.

Realize that some or all of the expected patches for January may not show up or, if they do show up, may not be checked. DON’T CHECK any unchecked patches. Unless you’re very sure of yourself, DON’T GO LOOKING for additional patches. In particular, if you install the January Monthly Rollup, you won’t need (and probably won’t see) the concomitant patches for December. Don’t mess with Mother Microsoft.

If you see KB 4493132, the “Get Windows 10” nag patch, make sure it’s unchecked.

Watch out for driver updates — you’re far better off getting them from a manufacturer’s website.

After you’ve installed the latest Monthly Rollup, if you’re intent on minimizing Microsoft’s snooping, run through the steps in AKB 2000007: Turning off the worst Win7 and 8.1 snooping. If you want to thoroughly cut out the telemetry, see @abbodi86’s detailed instructions in AKB 2000012: How To Neutralize Telemetry and Sustain Windows 7 and 8.1 Monthly Rollup Model.

If you’re worried about Windows 7 hitting end-of-support, don’t be alarmed. The first missed security patch isn’t until next month. Besides, you have lots of alternatives, and not all of them involve Windows. We watch your options intently in the Seven Semper Fi series on AskWoody.

Patch Win10 and associated servers

If you’re running Win10 version 1803, 1809, Server 1809, Server 2019, or any earlier version of Windows 10, I urge you to upgrade to Win10 version 1903. (You can find your version by typing winver in the Search box in the lower left corner and pressing Enter.) There are detailed instructions in the article Why — and how — I’m moving Win10 production machines to version 1903.

Win10 1903 is far from perfect, but it seems to be relatively stable at this point. The one huge advantage to version 1903: It lets everybody pause updates with a few simple clicks. That feature has my vote for the most important (perhaps the only important) upgrade to Win10 in the past four years.

If you insist on using Win10 version 1809, go through the steps in All’s clear to install Microsoft’s November patches to get 1809 updated. If you’re on Win10 1909, I figure you’ve jumped the gun, but the following instructions will work.

If you’ve been following my usual advice — to click “Pause updates for 7 days” three times — your machine is probably waiting further instructions, displaying an “Updates paused” notice in the Windows Update pane (Start > Settings (the gear icon) > Update & Security > Windows Update). If you see that updates have been paused, click “Resume updates.” Windows will go out and install the January cumulative update, plus any other ancillary patches (for example, for .Net) that you require.

I’m very happy to say that clicking “Resume updates” will not automatically move you to Win10 version 1909. In order to move to the next version — which continues to suffer from bugs, most notably the File Explorer Search bug — you need to click a link that says, “Download and install now.” Don’t click it.

Once you’re updated and rebooted, pause updates for 28 days: Click Start > Settings > Update & Security. Click Windows Update on the left side, then click “Pause updates for 7 days.” Next, click on the newly revealed link, which says “Pause updates for 7 more days,” and click it again, and one last time, for a total of four clicks. That pauses all updates for 28 days, until Feb. 21. With a little luck that’ll be long enough for Microsoft to fix any bugs it introduces in February.

If you see an offer of an Optional update (screenshot), don’t click Download and install now. There’s a reason why Microsoft deems such patches “optional.”

1909 download and install now Woody Leonhard/IDG

February’s Patch Tuesday is on the 11th. That’ll be the first day Win7 users will miss a security update (unless they pay for it). Expect much hand wringing and clucking, but not many fireworks.

Thanks to the dozens of volunteers on AskWoody who contribute mightily, especially @sb, @PKCano, @abbodi86 and many others.

We’ve moved to MS-DEFCON 3 on the AskWoody Lounge.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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