O&O ShutUp10 updated with new privacy features

O&O, the developers behind the privacy tool O&O ShutUp10 for Windows 10, released a new version of the program yesterday.

O&O ShutUp10 1.7 introduces the new Activity History and Clipboard group to the program to provide its users with activity and clipboard privacy controls.

The application is a privacy tool for Windows 10 that users of the operating system may run to modify privacy-related features and functionality.

O&O ShutUp10 displays a long list of privacy options in its interface on start. The program does not need to be installed but requires elevated privileges.

oo shutup10

Options are sorted into categories such as app privacy, Microsoft Edge, or synchronization of Windows Settings.

Each setting may be expanded with a click to display its description; this description provides additional information about the feature and potential consequences if it is changed. Another useful feature of O&O ShutUp10 is that it displays recommendations for each setting.

Items with “yes” are usually safe to turn off whereas items that read “limited” or “no” may have consequences when they are disabled.

The program supports creating system restore points before changes are made to the system; it is highly recommended to create these restore points before changes are made.

O&O ShutUp10 1.7 introduces the new Activity History and Clipboard category. Microsoft introduces clipboard and activity sharing functionality in recent versions of Windows 10 and these controls manage the functionality.

The following options are provided:

  • Disable recordings of user activity.
  • Disable storing user’s activity history on this device.
  • Disable the submission of user activities to Microsoft.
  • Disable storage of clipboard history.
  • Disable the transfer of the clipboard to other devices via the cloud.

O&O recommends to turn these all off. Users who make use of the functionality should not turn these off whereas everyone else may want to do so immediately.

Note that many of the options that O&O ShutUp10 provides are also available elsewhere. If you search for Clipboard in the Settings app, you find options to turn the feature and its synchronization functionality off.

The two main benefits of the program are that it makes numerous settings available in a single interface, and that it makes options available that are not as easy to turn off (as they may require Registry editing).

O&O ShutUp10 1.7 fixes the display of menus on touchscreen devices and makes adjustments to High Contrast modes. Additionally, it is now available in several languages including English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Chinese Simplified.

Now You: Do you use privacy tools? If so which?

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PayPal acquires maker of shopping extension Honey for $4 Billion

PayPal announced the acquisition of Honey Science Corporation on November 20, 2019. The acquired company is best known for its shopping extension Honey.

Honey is one of the most popular extensions for Google Chrome; in fact, it is one of the few extensions that crossed the ten million user mark on the Chrome Web Store. The extension is also available for other web browsers including Firefox and the classic Microsoft Edge web browser.

Honey is a shopping extension that looks up items at other retailers to provide potential shoppers with coupons or better prices. The main idea behind the extension is to inform users if the item is available for a better price elsewhere or if coupons are available to reduce the price on the active site.

The technology that Honey uses tests coupons semi-automatically on the shopping site and may apply the best coupon that works to the checkout process automatically.

honey shopping

The service is also available as a mobile application — called Honey Smart Shopping Assistant — and there are also options to browse available coupons and promotions on the official website. Honey may furthermore track item prices for its users to inform them when the price of an item drops below a set threshold.

There is also a rewards program called Honey Gold which rewards members with a virtual currency that they may redeem for gift cards.

Honey earns money from affiliate commissions. Whenever users of the browser extension or site make purchases, Honey earns a percentage that is paid by the shopping site.

Honey claims that it saved its customers $1 billion in the past year alone, that it has 17 million active users per month, and it works across 30,000 online retailers.

According to Forbes, Honey made an estimated revenue of about $100 million US Dollars in 2018.

PayPal revealed that it paid “approximately $4 billion” US Dollars for the company and its products. The company wants to combine Honey with PayPal’s “two-sided network” to “transform the shopping experience for PayPal consumers” and to increase “sales and customer engagement” for PayPal merchants.

PayPal has not mentioned specifics in regards to integration of Honey in PayPal products or vice versa. It seems likely that Honey and PayPal will benefit from the deal in the long run.

Honey co-founder Ryan Hudson provided the following statement.

“Combining PayPal’s assets and reach with our technology, we can build powerful new online shopping experiences for consumers and merchants,” said Hudson. “We’ll have the ability to help millions of retailers efficiently reach consumers with offers that deliver more and more value to Honey members.”

Closing Words

Four billion is a huge sum of money for a browser extension and technology. It is too early to tell if the acquisition will have a negative impact as well.

Now You: Have you used Honey? What’s your take on the news?

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Privacy and anonymity focused Linux distro Tails 4.0 released

A new version of the privacy and anonymity focused Linux distribution Tails has been released this week; Tails 4.0 is a major update of the Linux distribution that improves performance and usability, upgrades included components, and fixes security issues.

The new version is already available for download on the official Tails project website. The Tails 4.0 ISO image has a size of 1.1 Gigabytes. It can be burned to disc or put on a USB stick to boot into the environment. Note that existing distributions cannot be upgraded to Tails 4.0; a manual upgrade is necessary.

Tails was designed specifically to be run from USB or optical discs to run independently of operating systems installed on computer systems. It comes with Tor built-in and features several other tools and components to improve security and privacy.

Tip: check out Mike’s first look at Tails for a general overview of the Linux distribution.

Tails 4.0

tails 4.0

Tails 4.0 is based on Debian 10. The release features impressive performance and usability improvements. The startup time of the distribution should be 20% faster according to the developers. Additionally, Tails 4.0 uses about 250 less Megabytes of computer memory  and is 47 Megabytes smaller than previous versions.

The new version supports devices that use Thunderbolt and USB tethering from Apple’s iPhone is supported as well in the new version.

As far as software is concerned, the team replaced the password manager KeePassX with KeePassXC stating that the latter is more actively developed. Both are based on KeePass, a popular password manager for desktop systems.

The integrated Tor Browser was updated to version 9.0 which was released recently, and OnionShare, a file sharing software designed to share files over the Tor network, was updated to a new version as well.

The metadata scrubber MAT has no user interface anymore; its functionality was integrated in the right-click menu. Just right-click on a file and select the remove metadata option to scrub the information from the file.

Components such as Linux, Electrum, Enigmail, GIMP, LibreOffice, or Tor were updated as well in Tails 4.0.

Additional information about the new release is available on the official project website.

Closing Words

Tails 4.0 is a big update that improves RAM usage and startup performance significantly. Since it also includes security fixes, it is recommended to replace existing Tails distributions with the new version as soon as possible.

Now you: Have you tried Tails? What is your take on the distro?

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Microsoft releases KB4522355 for Windows 10 version 1903

Microsoft released a new cumulative update for the current version of Windows 10, Windows 10 version 1903, on October 24, 2019.

The new update is a non-security update that is completely optional to install; all of its changes will also be included in the November 2019 Patch Tuesday update that Microsoft will release on November 12, 2019 to the public.

The update follows last week’s updates that Microsoft released for earlier versions of Windows 10 and Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 as well as server variants.

KB4522355 for Windows 10 version 1903

KB4522355 windows 10 1903

KB4522355 is made available via Windows Update, Microsoft Update, Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), and as a direct download on Microsoft’s Update Catalog website.

The update includes the following improvements and fixes:

  • Fixed an issue affecting Origin HTTP headers in Internet Explorer.
  • Fixed a Microsoft Narrator issue that prevented it from working in “certain touch mode scenarios”. Fixed another Microsoft Narrator issue that had it stop working.
  • Fixed an issue that affected setting synchronization if “Continue experiences on this device” was set to disabled in the Group Policy.
  • Fixed an issue with assistive technology features.
  • Fixed the error message “OACClearArry: Cannot connect to Trace32 OLE Automation server. Error code: -2147483645.” that appeared when opening apps after enabling NT Virtual DOS Machine and the legacy console mode.
  • Fixed a Magnifier issue that caused it to stop working (users had to restart to get it working again).
  • Updated time zone information for Fiji Islands, Australia and Norfolk Island.
  • Fixed an issue with the color command when setting the default Command Prompt window color.
  • Fixed a Microsoft Windows Search Indexer issue that caused it to “add or repair required access control lists without checking” if those exist.
  • Fixed an issue that had Win32 application controls fail to render correctly when started from logoff scripts using the “run shutdown scripts visible” policy.
  • Fixed an issue caused by too many font installations on a system that caused applications to stop responding.
  • Fixed a high CPU usage issue in the Desktop Window Manager that occurred when disconnected Remote Desktop Protocol sessions.
  • Fixed a scroll bar selection issue in Internet Explorer.
  • Fixed an issue that made the system go to Sleep after 2 minutes of inactivity even if the sleep timer was set to “never sleep”.
  • Fixed an issue that prevented users from resizing windows.
  • Fixed an issue that caused Microsoft SharePoint filenames to appear incorrectly.
  • Fixed an issue that prevented the successful establishing of VPN connections.
  • Fixed a screen flickering or “slow to display” issue when showing application thumbnails on high DPI monitors.
  • Fixed a permission issue on a user’s class Registry keys that could prevent users from “opening files, links, and applications”.
  • Fixed a Photos app tile issue that made it appear larger than it should be.
  • Fixed an issue that made the system stop responding on the sign in screen.
  • Fixed a Windows Hello for Business issue that made it fail to show the default sign-in options.
  • Fixed a Windows Search option that caused it to close unexpected.
  • Fixed an issue that prevented the correct DHCP information from being retrieved.
  • Fixed a diagnostic data processing issue.
  • Fixed an opening issue that affected Internet Explorer.
  • Improved the reliability of UE-V AppMonitor.
  • Fixed an issue that caused Microsoft AppLocker to prevent applications from running or log false positives.
  • Fixed a netdom.exe issue.
  • Fixed an issue that caused Direct Access servers to use a large amount of non-paged pool memory.
  • Fixed an AppContainer firewall rules leak.
  • Fixed an issue that prevented the Windows Update Unified Write Filter servicing mode from working with Windows Server Update Services servers.
  • Fixed an issue that consumed all TCP dynamic ports.
  • Fixed an issue with NetQueryDisplayInformation API or the WinNT provider equivalent.
  • Fixed an issue that disrupted window ordering.
  • Improves access control list checks for Known Folders.
  • Fixed an issue with evaluating the compatibility status of the “Windows ecosystem”.
  • Fixed an issue with Autopilot self-deploying mode.
  • Addressed an issue in which the pszTargetName parameter was set incorrectly in the InitializeSecurityContext() API.
  • Fixed an issue that caused certain core interface elements — Start menu, Cortana Search, Tray icons, Microsoft Edge — to stop responding after installing monthly updates.

Microsoft lists no known issues at this point. We recommend that the update is not installed at this point unless one of the issues is experienced.

Now you: did you install the update?

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New Microsoft Edge gets Potentially Unwanted Application (PUA) protection

The latest version of Microsoft’s upcoming Chromium-based Microsoft Edge web browser includes options to enable protection against Potentially Unwanted Applications (PUAs).

The feature blocks downloads of software programs that Microsoft Defender SmartScreen identified as potentially problematic.

Microsoft introduced a new protective feature in Windows Defender in August 2018 that would detect and block potentially unwanted programs on the system the security feature was enabled on.

PUAs include various types of software bundling, programs that inject advertisement into the browser or system, and “optimizer” programs that detect (mostly) superfluous issues on the system in an attempt to sell a premium version of the program.

microsoft edge new pua

The option in the new Microsoft Edge web browser works similarly. Microsoft added it as an experimental flag to the most recent Chrome Canary version; it is unclear at this point if the option will become available in the Settings directly in the first Stable version of Microsoft Edge and whether it will be enabled.

Here is what you need to do right now to enable it:

  1. Make sure you run the latest Microsoft Edge Canary version
  2. Load edge://flags in the web browser’s address bar.
  3. Search for SmartScreen.
  4. Locate the “Microsoft Defender SmartScreen PUA support” flag on the page.
  5. Set it to enabled.
  6. Restart the web browser.

Enable PUA protection in Microsoft Edge

microsoft edge chromium pua protection

Now that the flag is enabled, it is necessary to enable the protection in Microsoft Edge. The flag unlocks the feature but it is still disabled by default.

  1. Load edge://settings/private in the browser’s address bar.
  2. Scroll all the way down on the page to the Services group.
  3. Locate the option “Block potentially unwanted apps”.
  4. Toggle the feature to enable it.

Microsoft created a sample site and application to test the protective feature. Just visit the PUA page and click on the link under Scenario to run a test. The download of the application should be blocked on the system

Closing words

It is unclear at this point whether it is really necessary to enable PUA protection in Microsoft Edge if PUA protection in Windows Defender is enabled. A quick test had the sample application flagged in older versions of the new Microsoft Edge as well on a system with Windows Defender PUA protection enabled.

PUA protection is not enabled by default in Windows Defender, however. Another explanation for this is that the new Edge is also available for other operating systems. Microsoft lists the Mac version as compatible for that particular flag.

There is always the chance that legitimate applications get flagged as PUAs, and that is the main reason why I prefer to keep the protective feature turned off. It may be useful to protect inexperienced computer users who would fall for these programs, however.

Now you:  What is your take on PUA and PUP protections in browsers and security programs? (via Deskmodder)

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Windows 10 version 1903: list of known issues growth, and growth, and growth

If you have followed the development of the Windows 10 version 1809 and 1903, you know that both versions were plagued by lots of bugs. Microsoft had to pull version 1809 even shortly after release and spend six weeks fixing issues before it released an updated version again to the public.

With Windows 10 1903, it appears that every update that Microsoft releases adds to the growing list of known issues. We keep track of those issues here and Microsoft does the same on its Docs website; the latter is an improvement over previous releases as it is now easier to keep track of all the bugs.

Microsoft released the September 2019 security updates for all supported versions of Windows last week. The update for Windows 10 version 1903 fixed a high CPU usage issue caused by Search/Cortana that some users experienced on their devices. The fix resolved the issue but it did introduce a number of new issues at the same time.

windows 10 version 1903 issues

We talked about the Start Menu and Desktop Search issues that some users experienced after update installation; turns out, that is just one of the issues that the new update introduced.

Microsoft lists three additional issues that users may experience when they install the latest update for Windows 10 version 1903:

Issue 1: Audio volume may be quiet in games or different than expected

Microsoft notes that it has received reports from customers that audio is quieter than expected in certain computer games. The company implemented an audio related change in the new update for the operating system that “enabled certain games to query support and render multi-channel audio”.

Microsoft plans to revert the change because “some games and some devices are not rendering multi-channel audio as expected” which causes them to sound different and may have missing channels.

Workaround: Microsoft suggests to disable multi-channel audio in the game settings of affected games if the option is available. Alternatively, customers may open the Windows Control Panel and disable multi-channel audio or virtual surround sound for these games if the options are available (means if the manufacturer added a Control Panel item).

Issue 2:  Wi-Fi connections become unavailable for certain hardware configurations

The issue affects NEC devices with Intel Centrino 6205/6235 and Broadcom 802.11ac Wi-Fi card hardware. Wi-Fi connectivity is unavailable when these devices are upgraded to Windows 10 version 1903.

Microsoft notes that the Wi-Fi driver may have a yellow exclamation point in the Device Manager (open using Windows-X menu), the network icon in the System Tray area may show the “No Internet” icon, and the Network & Internet settings may show no available WiFi networks.

Workaround: Microsoft blocks updates to Windows 10 version 1903 on affected devices. Microsoft notes that customers who run affected NEC devices on Windows 10 version 1903 already may mitigate the issue by disabling and re-enabling the Wi-Fi adapter in the device manager. Wi-Fi connectivity is restored for the session in that case.

Issue 3: Chinese IME (Input Method Editor) may cause high CPU usage

Chinese IME (maybe other IME as well) may become unresponsive or cause high CPU usage on systems running Windows 10 version 1903. Microsoft notes that the issue affects CHS (Chinese Simplified) and CHT (Chinese Traditional) with Changjie/Quick keyboard.

Workaround: The following steps mitigate the issue according to Microsoft:

  1. Select Start
  2. Type services.msc and hit the Enter-key.
  3. Locate the service Touch Keyboard and Handwriting Panel Service and double-click on it or long-press on it and select Properties.
  4. Locate startup type and change it to manual.
  5. Selet ok.

Closing Words

What is going on at Microsoft? The list of known issues increases and release quality seems to deteriorate with every update the company puts out.

Now You: What is your take on the whole situation?

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Malwarebytes Browser Guard for Firefox and Chrome leaves Beta

Malwarebytes launched a browser extension for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox in early 2018 that it called Malwarebytes for Chrome and Malwarebytes for Firefox initially. The company changed the name to Malwarebytes Browser Extension later on, and announced on September 1, 2019 that it launched the first stable version of the extension.

Going forward, that extension is known as Malwarebytes Browser Guard. The extension is available for Chrome only currently as the Firefox extension was pulled by Malwarebytes because of a few issues that needed fixing.

Tip: Malwarebytes launched the first beta of Malwarebytes 4 recently.

Malwarebytes Browser Guard

malwarebytes browser control

Malwarebytes Browser Guard is available on the Chrome Web Store. It should work in most Chromium-based web browsers and not just Google Chrome. The extension adds an icon to the browser’s toolbar that indicates the number of elements found on the active page. A click on the icon opens the management interface that lists the enabled protection types and the elements found on the page.

Browser Guard protects against four core types of threats: ads & trackers, malware, scams, and potentially unwanted programs. Blocked elements are listed in the interface but there are not any options to interact with them, e.g. whitelist individual items, in any way. It appears that only ad networks and trackers that got blocked are listed there; the statistics showed blocked malware during tests but no information was provided where the malware was found and what it was.

Malwarebytes Browser Guard users may disable some or all of the protection types on select websites. Just use the toggle to set protections to on or off while on the active site. Options to turn specific protections off for all sites are found in the Settings.

malwarebytes browser guard options

The Settings page is bare-bones; besides toggling protections for all sites, there is only one other option to pause and resume the extension.

A Statistics page lists how many items of each type were blocked in the past 30 days by default. You may change the date range.

The extension may display an intermediary page if a site itself is identified as malicious by the extension; this would be the case for known phishing or ransomware websites.

Closing Words

Malwarebytes Browser Guard is a protective browser extension that blocks certain types of outright malicious content and content that may be unwanted. I did not run into any issues using the extension and the ad-blocking part worked fairly well during initial tests.

One of the issues here is that the extension offers no controls other than toggling a protection entirely for a site or globally, another that the extension does not provide a whole lot of information. It is also unclear why the extension needs the ” Communicate with cooperating websites” permission and what the cooperation with msn.com entails.

The extension has a larger memory footprint than uBlock Origin; it was about 50% larger during tests.

Malwarebytes users who trust company products already may be the most suitable candidates for installation of the browser extension. The extensions extend the functionality of Malwarebytes offerings.

Now You: What is your take on Browser Guard? (via Techdows)

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CPU Spike bug in latest Windows 10 1903 update reported to Microsoft

Microsoft released the cumulative update KB4512941 for Windows 10 version 1903 last week; soon thereafter, reports started to emerge on several Internet forums that the update was causing high CPU usage on some systems.

Günter Born was among the first to provide an analysis of the issue. According to the information, it is the Cortana process SearchUI.exe that is causing the load on the system. Windows 10 users can verify that by using Ctrl-Shift-Esc to launch the Task Manager. There they may want to sort the process listing with a click on the CPU header to bring the processes with the highest CPU load to the top of the listing.

Cortana in the Processes tab or SearchUI.exe in the Details tab should be listed there as the culprits on systems affected by the issue. The Start Menu search is not working on affected systems which is a serious issue.

Born suggests that the issue is somehow connected to the cache folder that Cortana uses on Windows 10. An initial workaround had users replace the cache folder with an earlier copy to resolve the issue but most admins would have to uninstall the cumulative update, copy the cache folder before reinstalling it.

According to a user report on Reddit, the issue is experienced on systems on which Bing Search is disabled. Bing Search can be disabled in the Windows Registry or by running one of the many privacy tools for Windows 10.

Microsoft integrated Bing Search natively into Windows 10; users who disliked the integration could turn it off. The company split Cortana and Windows Search in Windows 10 1903, and improved web search in 2017 by adding better previews to the results.

Microsoft has not acknowledged the issue on the official support page for the update. The company pushed the update to the Release Preview ring and some testers have reported the issue during that phase to Microsoft. The reports did not receive many votes however and it seems likely that Microsoft did not prioritize the bug because of that.

bing search enabled

A solution is making the rounds that fixed the issue on some devices reportedly. Admins would have to enable Bing Search — the sending of local search queries to Microsoft’s Bing search engine, to fix the issue for the time being. Here is how that is done:

  1. Use Windows-R to bring up the run box.
  2. Type regedit.exe and hit the Enter-key.
  3. Confirm the UAC prompt.
  4. Go to ComputerHKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionSearch
  5. Right-click on Search and select Export from the context menu to back up the data.
  6. Locate the Dword value BingSearchEnabled.
  7. Either delete the key, or set it to 1.
  8. Restart the PC.

Another option is to uninstall the cumulative update to go back to the previous version.

The incident is not the first on Windows 10. Microsoft broke the option to disable web searching in Windows 10 1803.

Closing Words

It is unclear at this point how widespread the issue is. Microsoft has not acknowledged it and while it has made the rounds on forums and tech blogs, it seems to affect systems with Bing Search turned off only.

Now You: is Microsoft doing enough bug testing?

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Nirsoft's SearchMyFiles 3.00 adds new find text in files option

SearchMyFiles 3.00 is a new version of Nirsoft’s popular Windows search tool; the new version introduces functionality to search for text in Microsoft Office, Adobe PDF, and other documents.

I reviewed an earlier version of SearchMyFiles in 2012 and concluded that it was an excellent desktop search program for Windows that offered a wealth of search parameters and options.

Note: SearchMyFiles has nothing to do with Search My Files, another desktop search program that we reviewed in the past.

SearchMyFiles 3.00

searchmyfiles-3.00

SearchMyFiles 3.00 is a big update for the portable program. You need to download the 32-bit or 64-bit archive from the Nirsoft website and extract it to your system to get started.

The program opens its two windows when you run it: one to configure searches, the other to display search results.

The new version of the desktop search program features two main new features: the option to use Windows search handlers to find text in files, and a change in the Find Folders search behavior.

You may use the program to find text in files. All that is required for that is to select “Text” next to “File contains” in the search options and type text that you want the program to find. You may specify one or multiple base folders, exclude folders, and limit searches to certain file names or file types.

Search returns files that match these search parameters. The program supported searches for file content previously as well but the new version adds another option to the process.

The “Use Windows search handlers to find text inside Microsoft Office documents and other file types” option needs to be checked for that to happen. It switches the text search functionality to Windows Search handlers to find text inside Office documents, PDF documents, and other file types.

One of the core differences between the two options is that Windows search handlers limit the types of files that text search is run on; you may also get different results because search uses a different system.

Nirsoft notes that PDF searching works only if the Microsoft PDF search handler or Adobe’s PDF iFilter is properly installed on the device.

SearchMyFiles 3.00 features another change: the program’s find folders option returns matching folders. The desktop search program displays only folders that match the specified wildcard in the Files wildcard field as of this version.

Closing Words

SearchMyFiles 3.00 is still a great desktop search program. It may look convoluted and confusing at first to some users but it should not take more than a minute or two to understand core program functionality.

The new find text in files option adds another option to the program without taking anything away. You may want to use both to determine which works better for you.

Now You: Which desktop search program do you use, and why?

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