Check your Windows Defender version and update if needed

Last week Google’s Project Zero discovered a “crazy bad” Windows vulnerability that they said was “the worst… in recent memory.” The Project team turned over their findings to Microsoft. It turns out that there was a vulnerability in Windows Defender, which is the default antivirus software in Windows. Microsoft has fixed the vulnerability, and it is important for everyone to make sure that your computer has received the update. Please follow the steps below to check your computer and to update it if needed.

How to Check Your Windows Defender Version

Step 1

1.png

Find your Windows Defender icon on your taskbar.

 

Step 2

Right-click the icon and select Open.

2.png

 

Step 3

Click Settings.

3.png

 

Step 4

A settings window will open. Scroll down to Version info and find Engine version. If your version is at least 1.1.13704, your computer is up to date and no further action is required. If it is anything lower than that, proceed to Step 5.

 4a.png  4.png

Needs to be updated

No update needed

 

Step 5

Go back to Windows Defender and click the Update tab.

5.png

 

Step 6

Click Update definitions.

6.png

After the update completes, check your version number again to make sure your computer is fully updated.

Security alert for Apple device users

There is a news report I have been monitoring for a couple of days—a group of hackers claims to have access to millions Apple ID accounts. They are threatening to remotely erase hundreds of millions of Apple on April 7th if Apple doesn’t pay them a ransom. Apple emphatically denies that they have been hacked, but theoretically (if highly unlikely) the group could have obtained the account credentials through some other service’s security breach. IT security experts are almost universally skeptical about the group’s claims. Still, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take some precautions before April 7th. This Malwarebytes article offers some excellent step-by-step advice: Hackers threaten to wipe Apple devices.

A few other articles:

Motherboard: Hackers: We Will Remotely Wipe iPhones Unless Apple Pays Ransom

MacRumors: Apple Responds to Hack Threats, Says There Were No iCloud or Apple ID Breaches

Business Insider: People are talking about hackers ‘ransoming’ Apple — here’s what’s actually going on

Tom’s Guide: No One’s Hacking Apple Accounts — But Protect Yours Anyway

Fortune: Apple Responds to Hacker’s Threat to Wipe Hundreds of Millions of iPhones

careful

Enable Click-to-Play in Adobe Flash (Do It Now!)

Criminals often exploit vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash to deliver malware to computers. Adobe updates Flash regularly to plug newly discovered security holes, but it can be difficult for end users to keep up with them all. Recently, for example, Adobe released an emergency patch to fix a security hole that enabled criminals to deliver ransomware, even though Flash had just been updated the previous week.

A great way for users to protect themselves is to enable click-to-play in their web browsers. When click-to-play is enabled, Flash content doesn’t play automatically–it only plays when the user gives it permission to run. In this article, the always excellent Graham Cluley (@gcluley) explains how to enable click-to-play in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari.

If you can live without Flash, I recommend uninstalling it altogether. If you need Flash, make sure that you keep it up-to-date and that click-to play is enabled. Enabling click-to-play is not a substitute for keeping Flash updated, but it does give the user an extra layer of protection.

Coming Soon: A Supercharged Internet

It turns out that the major web browser builders, Chromium (Google Chrome), Microsoft (Edge), Mozilla (Firefox), and WebKit (Apple Safari), have all been collaborating on a new standard called WebAssembly. The new standard has the potential to take processor-intensive programs that currently only can be run when installed on desktops and make them work through a web browser. If this project comes to fruition, it could further break down the barriers between different operating systems and platforms. Can you imaging running AutoCAD through a browser?

Via ReadWrite.comWhat WebAssembly Means: More Powerful Web Apps

Web Design With Weebly

For my Capstone class at the University of Alabama, one of my assignments was to create a tutorial website to train people how to use the web design site Weebly. The site was to include:

  • Introduction & what it does
  • Where and how to find & use it
  • Examples of products made with Weebly
  • Examples of professional eportfolios made with Weebly
  • Original media (video, perhaps picture in a picture, if appropriate) on preparing an eport in Weebly.

The goal is for the University to be able to use the module in the future for tutorials in undergraduate classes, graduate school classes, and alumni workshops.

My tutorial site can be accessed here: Web Design With Weebly.

I Am Published!

I am honored that my review of the Dave Eggers novel The Circle was published in the Spring 2014 issue of InterEd, the journal of the Association for the Advancement of International Education (AAIE). The published review is based on the review that appeared in this blog, but the InterEd version contains some extra content.

InterEd: Vol. 41 No. 118 Spring 2014 (entire issue–my review is on p. 44) – 6.25 MB

InterEd: Vol. 41 No. 118 Spring 2014 (p. 44 only) – 184 KB

My Experience With AT&T U-verse Customer Service

June 16

9:30 am: Monday morning I lose Internet connectivity. I call AT&T U-verse tech support and they diagnose the problem as a bad modem. The tech support rep estimates that I will receive my replacement modem by the 20th. This is very bad timing–I took a week of vacation from work so that I could work on a college paper, and now I will be without Internet service for most of the week. I guess I will just have to go into my office to do my research. But these things happen, right? The tech support rep tells me that I will have to take the defective modem to a UPS facility for return. Great–I live in a small town, and the nearest facility is in another city. Also, I have a steep driveway and delivery trucks always leave tire marks.

I also am told that my account will be charged $100, but that it will be credited back within two billing cycles after their warehouse received my defective modem. Q: Can I ignore that charge on my bill and just pay for my service? A: No.

3:00 pm: My modem starts working again, so I call AT&T to cancel the order. The AT&T rep confirms that the order has been cancelled.

Everything is great and I am happy.

June 17

5:38 pm: AT&T sends an email informing me that the new modem has shipped. The email provides a UPS tracking number.

6:42 pm: I call U-verse tech support to stop the shipment. I am told that the order is in the warehouse and it cannot be stopped.

6:56 pm: I call AT&T billing to ask about the $100 charge, and I am told that the charge will not appear on my bill if the shipment is stopped. The AT&T rep is in billing and tech support has to stop the shipment, so she transfers me to tech support. Again I am told that the order is in the warehouse and it cannot be stopped.

7:13 pm: I call back, because surely someone at AT&T can go to the warehouse and remove that package from the outgoing shipments. I explain that the nearest UPS facility is in another city and I don’t often go there. Also, I do not want the UPS truck to come to my house because my driveway is steep and delivery trucks always leave tire marks on it.

After placing me on hold for a few minutes, the rep tells me that UPS already has the package and there is nothing he can do about it. I ask him when that happened, because to that point I had been told that the package is in their warehouse. He asks me who had told me that, and I replied that at least two people had told me that–including him. He insists that UPS has the package. I check the UPS tracking info, and tell the rep that the status is “Order Processed: Ready for UPS.” I am place on hold again for a few minutes, and the tech support rep returns and tells me that he has successfully cancelled the order and that I will not receive the modem.

I am skeptical.

June 18

11:35 am: The next morning I check UPS tracking, which shows that the modem has left AT&T in Memphis and now is in Doraville, GA. It is coming my way.

11:57 am: I call AT&T tech support and inform the rep that I had been assured that I would not receive the modem, but that it appears to still be in route. I ask if she or someone else at AT&T would use UPS Delivery Intercept® to request a return to sender. (I would have done myself that if I could, but the shipper has to initiate that request.) After putting me on hold to check on it, she tells me that AT&T shows the order has been cancelled and that I will not be receiving any equipment from them. I repeat my understanding of the situation back to her and she confirms that UPS will be returning the modem to AT&T and it will not come to my house.

Again, I am skeptical.

June 19

5:30 am: UPS tracking shows that the package is out for delivery to my address.

2:10 pm: The package is presented by UPS and I refuse delivery.

I wish that this was an isolated incident, but since I upgraded my Internet service to U-verse, every single transaction with AT&T has required multiple phone calls, and I have received contradictory information and headaches. Way to go AT&T.

Webinar Review: Chromebooks as the Catalyst for Change in Edmonton Public Schools

google-webinar

On March 24, 2014 I attended the Education Week webinar Chromebooks as the Catalyst for Change in Edmonton Public Schools. This webinar has been archived and may be viewed here. A PDF version of the presentation slides may be downloaded here. The webinar was sponsored by Google for Education and was presented by Angela Mecca, a member of the Google for Education team, and Terry Korte, Technology Integration Planning Coordinator at Edmonton Public Schools in Alberta, Canada. The webinar was targeted at school administrators and IT personnel. The purpose of the webinar was to provide information about the various products and services offered by Google for Education and how Edmonton Public Schools successfully implemented the use of Chromebooks and Google Apps. As a K-12 public school IT Specialist, this webinar held particular interest for me. I have heard great things about Google for Education, but I am interested in learning more.

Mecca began the webinar with the following statistic: 60% of today’s students will one day hold jobs that do not yet exist. We need to equip these students with the tools they will need for future success. The goal of Google for Education is to transform education. Students should have open access to information–anytime, anywhere–while keeping it affordable. “Going Google” in education means 4 things:

  1. Empowerment: giving teachers and students the necessary tools for individualized learning.
  2. Choice: being able to use a chosen device anytime, anywhere. Information should be secure and available regardless of the device being used.
  3. Teamwork: working together in real time using Google’s collaborative tools. “This makes school work more like real work.”
  4. Scalability: technology should be affordable and easy to manage. “4 to 40,000” devices and users can be managed through a web browser. Apps can be deployed through the cloud. Management licenses are $30 each. (One time charge.)

Currently there are approximately 30 million Google Apps for Education (GAE) users, including 74 of the top 100 universities in the United States. Chromebooks are a robust and inexpensive way to make GAE available to a classroom of students. Chromebooks are immune to viruses and never have to be reimaged. Battery charges often last an entire school day. Google also offers solutions for tablet users through Google Play for EducationGoogle offers a number a ways to help find and install apps that have been approved for classroom use.

Mecca then turned the program over to Korte, who explained how successful the GAE and Chromebooks implementation has been at Edmonton Public Schools. Edmonton Public Schools has been using GAE since 2008, and they rolled out GAE and Chromebooks to their schools gradually. No school was required to use the Google products, but today GAE and Chromebooks are being used throughout the school district.

Korte listed several advantages of using GAE and Chromebooks, including:

  • Chromebooks are easy to deploy–just unbox them and connect them to wifi, and they automatically pull policy configurations from the management console. A new Chromebook can be ready for use in a matter of minutes. The school district received very few defective Chromebooks.
  • The school district can set up its own “web store” of approved apps.
  • Teacher and student questions about where to save work have gone away. Everyone just saves their work to Google Drive.
  • New Chrome OS features appear often, and no action is required for implementation; they appear on the Chromebooks automatically.
  • Chrome OS updates are lightweight. Updates can be staggered to groups of Chromebooks so that the network is not saturated.
  • The durability of the Chromebooks is surprisingly good.
  • Edmonton Public Schools found that the cost of supporting Chromebooks is about 15% of the cost of supporting desktops.

The impact of GAE at Edmonton Public Schools has been huge. Teachers have grown accustomed to the Google environment and they are taking the initiative to learn and use other Google products.

Generally, the quality of the webinar was good. The presentation was paced well and did not deviate from the topic. I could hear a bit of an echo through most of the webinar, but it was not so bad that I could not understand the presenters. The presenters took questions for several minutes at the end of the webinar.

I came away from the webinar with some first-hand information about the benefits of GAE and Chromebooks in schools. I recognize, however, that the webinar essentially was a Google-sponsored commercial for their products. The questions we should consider are (a) to what extent did Google influence Korte’s narrative, and (b) what are some of the problems Edmonton Public Schools had to overcome in their implementation?