It was merely a week ago when Microsoft announced a new opt-in feature on Windows to keep unnecessary and potentially harmful adware — often found in installers –at bay. Although the public reveal by Microsoft insisted that the feature is only available for enterprise users, a simple tweak proves that millions of home- and end-users can also gain the much-needed adware protection.
They’re called PUAs or potentially unwanted applications. Those who try new software or update existing software frequently through installers are likely to be aware of “friendly” toolbars, search-engines and other features bundled into package installers. These small add-ons almost always bring advertising revenue to the developer of the software you’re installing. Adware, to sum it up.
Most times, they’re a mere annoyance. An extra toolbar that takes up unnecessary screen real-estate while you’re browsing or an intrusive search engine that replaces your original. However, adware can also turn into malware when they pose a system and security risk. For instance, banner advertisements in Flash could eat into system resources. Clicking on untrustworthy advertisements could also lead to the installation of malware on a machine.
To curb the threat of such PUAs, Microsoft published a blog post noting a new security feature that is available to all enterprise users. The Redmond giant explained the need for such long-overdue protection by stating:
These applications can increase the risk of your network being infected with malware, cause malware infections to be harder to identify among the noise, and can waste helpdesk, IT, and user time cleaning up the applications.
Bemusingly, Microsoft deemed it prudent to bestow the protection for enterprise user only, instead of the hundreds of millions of everyday home-users who are more vulnerable to adware and adware-related malware.
“The Potentially Unwanted Application protection feature is available only for enterprise customers. If you are already one of Microsoft’s existing enterprise customers, you need to opt-in to enable and use PUA protection,” Microsoft said.
Thankfully, Martin Brinkmann of Ghacks.net has had a look at the feature to reveal that it can be implemented among the Home and Pro versions of Windows too.
Default Adware Protection on your Windows
As revealed by Ghacks, Microsoft’s new ‘Enterprise exclusive’ security feature is, with irony, unsecured. Quite simply, end-users at home and businesses can still make use of the feature that Microsoft claimed was “available only for enterprise users.”
To keep things simple, Microsoft integrated PUA’s virus definition updates into the default OS security program – Windows Defender.
If you are running a Windows machine with Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro, you can enable the feature by simply adding a registry key into the system. Here’s how that goes:
- Hit the Windows-key to type regedit before hitting enter.
- Click Yes if you receive a User Account Control prompt.
- Navigate to the Registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Defender
- Right click on Windows Defender (the folder) and choose New > Key.
- Name that new key MpEngine.
- Now, right-click on MpEngine and choose New > Dword (32-bit) Value.
- Name this Dword MpEnablePus
- Scan to your right and double-click on MpEnablePus to enter the value 1. This enables the feature.
- Restart your Windows PC.
A test conducted by Ghacks revealed the feature to quarantine any potentially harmful or unwanted programs. A few pointers here:
- You can allow these auto-quarantined programs by launching Windows Defender and choosing History to select “allow item” under the list of “quarantined items.”
- The PUA protection feature might block the complete installation of the very software in its entirety if it detects any PUAs.
- To disable the feature, simply navigate back to the registry thread and change the Dword value to 0, instead of 1. You can also delete the MpEnablePus folder entirely if you choose to forego the feature.
A quick scan by Windows Defender caught a common service called OpenCandy, often used to distribute PUAs on target systems during the installation of software.
The simple hack is courtesy of Ghacks.
Featured image from Shutterstock. Additional images from Ghacks and KMPlayer.
The Pirate Bay is Hijacking PCs to Stealth-Mine Cryptocurrency
For the second time in as many months, The Pirate Bay has been caught mining cryptocurrency on your computer without consent. The torrent platform was actually test-driving cryptocurrency mining in your browser – no doubt a lucrative revenue stream.
The Pirates Are At It Again
The news was later confirmed by Bleeping Computer, which reported that,”The Pirate Bay, the internet’s largest torrent portal, is back at running a cryptocurrency miner after it previously ran a short test in mid-September.”
Estimates indicate that the scheme has earned the pirates a total of $43,000 over a three-week period.
Users had no way to opt their computers out of being test-driven by the torrent network. Back in September, The Pirate Bay got away by telling people it was just a test. The site’s owners cannot use the same excuse this time around.
CoinHive advises websites to let their visitors know their browser is being used to mine cryptocurrency.
“We’re a bit saddened to see that some of our customers integrate CoinHive into their pages without disclosing to their users what’s going on, let alone asking for their permission,” the company said.
The good news is most ad-blockers and antivirus programs will block CoinHive, given its recent abuses. That means not all visitors of The Pirate Pay were being used as a conduit for mining Monero.
Monero Joins Global Crypto Rally
The value of Monero (XMR) shot up nearly 8% on Friday, and was last seen trading at $94.17. With more than 15.2 million XMR tokens in circulation, the total market cap for Monero is $1.4 billion, according to CoinMarketCap. That’s enough for ninth on the global cryptocurrency list.
Twelve cryptos have now crossed the $1 billion valuation mark. A handful of others have made their way north of $500 million.
Ethereum Notches Two-Month High as Bitcoin Offspring Triggers Volatility
Digital currency Ethereum climbed to a two-month high on Monday, taking some of the heat off Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, which have slumped since the weekend.
Ethereum Forges Higher Path
Concerns over Bitcoin created a favourable tailwind for Ethereum (ETH/USD), which is the world’s No. 2 digital currency by total assets. Ether’s price topped $340.00 on Monday and later settled at $323.54. That was the highest since June 20.
At its peak, ether was up 10% on the day and 70% for the month of August.
The ETH/USD was last down 2.2% at $315.02, according to Bitfinex. Prices are due for a brisk recovery, based on the daily momentum indicators.
Fractured Bitcoin Community
Bitcoin and its offshoot, Bitcoin Cash, retreated on Monday following a volatile weekend. The BTC/USD slumped at the start of the week and was down more than 3% on Tuesday, with prices falling below $3,900.00. Just last week, Bitcoin was trading at new records near $4,500.00.
Bitcoin Cash, which emerged after the Aug. 1 hard fork, climbed to new records on Saturday, but has been in free-fall ever since. The BTH was down another 20% on Tuesday to $594.49, according to CoinMarketCap. Its total market value has dropped by several billion over the past two days.
Analysts say that a “fractured” Bitcoin community has made Ethereum a more attractive bet this week. The ether token has shown remarkable poise over the past seven days, despite trading well shy of a new record.
Other drivers behind Ethereum’s advance are steady demand from South Korean investors and growing confidence in a smooth upgrade for the the ETH network. The upgrade, which has been dubbed “Metropolis,” is expected in the next several weeks. Its key benefits include tighter transaction privacy and greater efficiency.
Ethereum Prices Unaffected by ICO Heist
Fin-tech developer Enigma was on the receiving end of a cyber-heist on Monday after hackers took over the company’s website, mailing list and instant messaging platforms. The hack occurred three weeks before Enigma’s planned Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for September 11.
In addition to defacing the company’s website, the hackers pushed a special “pre-sale” ahead of the ICO. While many users realized it was a scam, 1,492 ether tokens – valued at $495,000 – were directed into the hackers’ cryptocurrency wallet by unsuspecting backers.
The irony in all this is that Engima is a cryptography company that prides itself on top-notch security protocols. The company issued a statement that its servers had not been compromised.
Spotting a Well-Made Investment Scam
For every reasonably safe investment, there are 1000 scams and 10,000 reasonably toxic investments. Self-served advertising via social media and search engines exacerbates the problem – people sometimes click ads they think were search results, or, as humans are intended to, simply consumes the content on the screen instead of paying attention to where they’re being redirected to.
In this article we will review a recent example of a well-executed investment scam.
The intended victim, who did not actually get scammed but alerted this author to the hustle, was led to believe that the above image was redirecting to a CNN news article. This is the actual URL the link went to:
Now if you visit com-cat.press, all you see is a directory listing. This site’s entire purpose is to make people believe they are visiting legitimate .com websites, when in fact they are visiting others. It doesn’t always have to be a scam, sometimes it is simple an advertisement, but often enough it is a definite funnel to a scam. In this case, here’s where you wind up, at a place that looks an awful lot like CNN Money:
Again, this is not a real article on CNN. This is promotion for 10Markets.eu.
10Markets.eu is extremely professional looking. The platform looks to capture your details even just for demo trading. Most traders expect hurdles, so one can imagine tons of phone numbers and e-mail addresses entered:
The demo trading screen never loaded for this analyst, but the phone number is fake anyway. Took it from a coffee shop in Germany. Funnily, it appears the German exchange code is 030 in the first place, but you can’t edit that part. They also don’t allow you to visit the site at all if you’re in North America.
The tipster was clever enough to find out if 10Markets.eu was a registered broker or not. They’re not. According to ForexBrokerz.com:
10Markets is a forex and CFD broker that is headquartered in Scotland [sic] and supports the popular MetaTrader 4 platform. It is not licensed by any authority and there is not much information about the trading conditions on its website. What is worse, this broker is present in the warning lists of UK’s FCA, Australia’s ASIC and Cyprus’ CySEC, so we don’t recommend doing business with 10Markets.
There are review websites which help. Regarding 10Markets, we came up with this one.
The tipster happens to have been our own Jonas Borchgrevink. He is equipped with years of experience in website publishing, and this is why he quickly noticed that he was not reading a CNN article. The sad fact is that a high percentage of people who read that article believe it to be real, and a percentage of those people end up getting scammed. As such, here is a checklist for new trading outfits that you haven’t used or heard about before:
- Always try to get phone support right away. Before creating an account. If no one answers or there is anything suspicious, this is a scam.
- Always search for “[EXCHANGE NAME]” + “scam,” and read carefully any results that come up. Most scams could stop at one person if others listened to that one.
- In the US, you can use FINRA to check the legitimacy of an exchange or broker. In the UK, you have FCA. Many countries have sites like these, and it’s important to check the one from the country where the broker does business.
- Use ad blockers at least when legitimately searching for financial solutions.
- Check the URL! For every legitimate exchange website, there are a few fake ones designed to steal your account information.
In The Event That You Spot A Scam
Tattle! Spread the word far and wide, not just so others don’t get scammed, but also to give authorities the jump on the thieves. Otherwise, they may exit and get away with all the money before anyone stops them.
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