Windows Server 2016

Now available: Windows Server 2016 Security Guide!

Windows Server 2016 includes major security innovations that can help protect privileged identity, make it harder for attackers to breach your servers, and detect attacks so that you can respond faster. This is powerful technology, and all that’s missing is guidance on how to best deploy and use Windows Server 2016 to protect your server workloads.

Microsoft have recently released their Windows Server 2016 Security Guide.

This paper includes general guidance for helping secure servers in your environment as well as specific pointers on how you can utilize new security features in Windows Server 2016. We are committed to continue our effort to provide you with the right security solutions so that you can better protect, detect and respond to threats in your datacenter and private cloud.

MSP

The Evolving Role of the Managed Service Provider

Nearly every enterprise has at least one relationship with a managed service provider today and it’s very likely that relationship has evolved over the years. Get ready, it’s changing again and very much to the advantage of the enterprise.

Managed services has its origins in the beginning of the tech market when companies would turn to a reseller to not only integrate but manage the finished solution. Reselling begot hosting in the late 1990s as the Internet began to crossover from government system to the foundation of our lives, as it exists today. Hosters played two key roles: granting individuals and companies access to the Internet and renting server rack space so corporate applications (mostly web sites) could have a point of presence (POP) on the Internet.

This business evolved from rack hoster to rentable IT admins, who took on the tasks of managing the hardware, OS and increasingly the middleware and applications that ran on those servers. The hosting market was a lucrative and relatively well protected space until cloud computing came along. With the introduction of Software as a Service, applications could now be delivered and managed directly by the software provider themselves. Salesforce led this new market disruption in typical innovator fashion by targeting smaller firms, with lower enterprise-grade expectations and line of business budgets. By the time SaaS started penetrating the enterprise market, its multi-tenant, highly scalable deployment model and new pay-per-user business model was hard for hosters to match and the fight was on.

Public cloud platforms added to the competitive threat by extending the SaaS basics to hosted applications. Now both application outsourcing and the core business of hosting were under threat. A surface examination of these developments might lead you to conclude that the days of the managed service provider were looking pretty gloomy but that’s actually far from the case. It’s simply another evolutionary point in the business life-cycle. While the volume of traditional hosting and application outsourcing opportunities diminish as more applications shift to SaaS or cloud platforms, we aren’t making a binary shift and nor are we getting a free ride from a management and monitoring perspective. Look a little deeper and you’ll find that a large percent of corporate workloads don’t easily fit onto cloud platforms, can’t be cleanly replaced by SaaS and won’t go through such a binary change. In fact the definition of an application is shifting and, for most businesses, already have.

Take, for example, the common business process of eCommerce. Is that a single application? For most companies, absolutely not. It’s a workflow that blends together multiple applications including ERP, CRM, commerce, machine learning, mobile and web, content management and many other elements. And if your company has been around more than 10 years it’s highly likely you have some pretty customized elements in that mix. And it’s a workflow we are constantly refining to stay competitive, improve customer satisfaction with and adapt as end users shift from web-centric to device-centric. So given the changes we are seeing in applications and the shift to cloud that is taking place, what is the end result – a highly blended mix where certain elements are shifted to SaaS, others moved to cloud platforms and others that can’t make the move but must continue as part of the mix.

According to Gartner, Inc., by 2018, more than 40% of enterprises will have implemented hybrid data centers, up from 10% in 2015. Given that we need to accelerate the evolution of this blended model to keep pace both competitively and with our ever-changing customers, what’s the best use of your limited development and IT staff resources? You will pick up some bandwidth as the management of SaaS apps shifts to the SaaS provider and of the infrastructure below the elements you can shift to cloud platforms. But the integration, evolution, security and need for more agile UX improvements all remain. And whether you put your applications on hyper-scale public clouds like Azure or on more localized offerings such as those provided by most MSPs, you still have to manage the Cloud Handshake.

Looking at your task list and cross-correlating this with your IT staff bandwidth, you’ll likely draw the conclusion that managing the Cloud Handshake falls low on the priority list. And this is exactly where the managed service provider can add the most value. And exactly where their business models are evolving. As pointed out in this white paper from Hosting.com, the future of the managed service provider is in managing the blended IT environment. The reality is that your deployment portfolio is evolving to a mix of in-house, hosted, SaaS and multiple cloud platforms. And managing this mix isn’t your core competency and shouldn’t be your priority. MSPs are evolving their business models towards managing this mix so you can focus on the things that are unique to your business.

 

Links in phishing-like emails lead to tech support scam

Tech support scams continue to evolve, with scammers exploring more ways to reach potential victims. Recently, we have observed spam campaigns distributing links that lead to tech support scam websites.

Anti-spam filters in Microsoft Exchange Online Protection (EOP) for Office 365 and in Outlook.com blocked the said emails because they bore characteristics of phishing emails. The said spam emails use social engineering techniques—spoofing brands, pretending to be legitimate communications, disguising malicious URLs—employed by phishers to get recipients to click suspicious links.

However, instead of pointing to phishing sites designed to steal credentials, the links lead to tech support scam websites, which use various scare tactics to trick users into calling hotlines and paying for unnecessary “technical support services” that supposedly fix contrived device, platform, or software problems.

The use of email as an infection vector adds another facet to tech support scams, which are very widespread. Every month, at least three million users of various platforms and software encounter tech support scams. However, tech support scams are not typical email threats:

  • Many of these scams start with malicious ads found in dubious web pages—mostly download locations for fake installers and pirated media—that automatically redirect visitors to tech support scam sites where potential victims are tricked into calling hotlines.
  • Some tech support scams are carried out with the help of malware like Hicurdismos, which displays a fake BSOD screen, or Monitnev, which monitors event logs and displays fake error notifications every time an application crashes.
  • Still other tech support scams use cold calls. Scammers call potential victims and pretend to be from a software company. The scammers then ask victims to install applications that give them remote access to the victim’s devices. Using remote access, the experienced scam telemarketers can misrepresent normal system output as signs of problems. The scammers then offer fake solutions and ask for payment in the form of a one-time fee or subscription to a purported support service.

The recent spam campaigns that spread links to tech support scam websites show that scammers don’t stop looking for ways to perpetrate the scam. While it is unlikely that these cybercriminals will abandon the use of malicious ads, malware, or cold calls, email lets them cast a wider net.

An alternative infection path for tech support scams

The spam emails with links to tech support scam pages look like phishing emails. They pretend to be notifications from online retailers or professional social networking sites. The suspicious links are typically hidden in harmless-looking text.

Figure 1. Sample fake Alibaba order cancellation email. The order number is a suspicious link.

Figure 2. A sample of a fake Amazon order cancellation email. Similarly, the order number is a suspicious link.

Fig 3. Sample fake LinkedIn email of a message notification. The three hyperlinks in the email all lead to the same suspicious link.

The links in the emails point to websites that serve as redirectors. In the samples we analyzed, the links pointed to the following sites, which are most likely compromised:

  • hxxp://love.5[redacted]t.com/wordpress/wp-content/themes/acoustician.php
  • hxxp://s[redacted]t.com/wp-content/themes/paten.php
  • hxxp://k[redacted]g.org/wp-content/categorize.php

Interestingly, the redirector websites contain code that diverts some visitors to pharmaceutical or dating websites.

Fig 5. Redirects to support scam site

Landing on typical support scam websites

Tech support scams sites often mimic legitimate sites. They display pop-up messages with fake warnings and customer service hotline numbers. As part of the scam, calls to these phone numbers are answered by agents who trick users into paying for fake technical support.

Fig 6. Tech support scam site with fake warning and support number

The technical support scam websites employ various social engineering techniques to compel users to call the provided hotlines. They warn about malware infection, license expiration, and system problems. Some scams sites display countdown timers to create a false sense of urgency, while others play an audio message describing the supposed problem.

Tech support scam websites are also known to use pop-up or dialog loops. A dialog loop refers to malicious code embedded in sites that causes the browser to present an infinite series of browser alerts containing falsified threatening messages. When the user dismisses an alert, the malicious code invokes another one, ad infinitum, essentially locking the browser session.

More advanced tech support scam sites use web elements to fake pop-up messages. Some of these scam sites open full screen and mimic browser windows, showing spoofed address bars.


This article was first published at microsoft.com

 

Keyboard shortcuts

Windows 10 Tip: keyboard shortcuts to help you work faster

Did you know there’s a world of keyboard shortcuts available to you with Windows 10?

You can check out the full list of keyboard shortcuts here, but here are six to help you get started working faster and smarter:

Minimize all your open windows with Windows key + M

Keyboard Shortcuts

Snap one window to exactly half of your screen with Windows key + either of the side arrow keys, and magically snap a second window side-by-side for easy multitasking.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Need one more window? Press Windows key + the “up” arrow to snap a third.

Open Cortana* in listening (voice-command) mode with Windows key + Shift + C

Keyboard Shortcuts

Open Settings with Windows Key + I

Keyboard Shortcuts

Open the first item you have pinned on the Taskbar with Windows Key + T, then use arrow keys to move between other pinned apps

Keyboard Shortcuts

Open the Action Center to view your notifications with Windows Key + A

Keyboard Shortcuts

 

Head over here for a full list of keyboard shortcuts,