Possible Fix Found For Windows 10 Error With Taskbar and Cortana.

The release of Windows 10 has been rather odd in many respects, yes it’s an improvement over the much maligned previous OS in terms of user interface, but privacy concerns coupled with a monitoring tool that allows parents to effectively spy on their children’s browsing habits by default has led to a rather mixed reception. Among the many errors and glitches that have befallen consumers is the rather annoying bug that has led to the failure of both Cortana and the taskbar for many individuals, who have been subsequently privileged to a “Critical Error” when attempting to launch both applications. So much so that the official Microsoft answers board has seen consumers vent their frustrations concerning the problem.

Well, this error might have been in part clarified by a redditor that goes by the moniker “Xeasar”, who has seemingly found a fix when this individual attempted to uninstall Avast Anti-Virus. It was found that as soon as this software had been removed, both Cortana and the Taskbar returned to full functionality, leading to the conclusion of compatibility issues with this particular program. Whether this is the sole cause of the problem or down to a variety of incompatible applications remains to be seen.

According to “Xeasar”, Microsoft is aware of the problem and as a result is working on a patch for the issue. On occasions software developers view consumers with suspicion even though in many cases it’s those same people who find a way to fix issues with certain products. It will be interesting to note how and when Microsoft patches this issue and it also conveys the unstable nature of a new OS in its first year.

Thank you Reddit and answers.microsoft for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of techworm

Kaspersky Faked Malware to Harm Rivals

Moscow-based computer security company Kaspersky Labs has been faking malware for the past decade to harm its rivals, two former employees have revealed. According to the allegations, Kaspersky’s duplicitous campaign was designed to trick Microsoft, AVG, Avast, and other anti-virus providers into quarantining or deleting important system files on users’ PCs. The scheme, in operation for over a decade, was at its peak between 2009 and 2013.

The attacks were ordered by company co-founder Eugene Kaspersky to spite rivals he thought were ripping off Kaspersky’s software rather than develop their own, the insiders claim. “Eugene considered this stealing,” one said.

“It was decided to provide some problems” for its rivals, one ex-employee said. “It is not only damaging for a competing company but also damaging for users’ computers.”

Microsoft, AVG, and Avast all claim that they have been aware of a number of false positives induced by unknown parties, but that they had no evidence that Kaspersky were responsible for them.

Kaspersky, of course, denies the accusations, issuing a retaliatory statement. “Our company has never conducted any secret campaign to trick competitors into generating false positives to damage their market standing,” Kaspersky told Reuters. “Such actions are unethical, dishonest and their legality is at least questionable.”

Thank you Reuters for providing us with this information.

Three Android Apps Pulled From Google Play Over Adware Concern

Three Android app have been deleted from the Google Play store after being flagged as adware by security outfit Avast. One of the apps, a card game called Durak, had over 5 million downloads before it was removed. The other two apps flagged as malicious were Iwolt IQ Test and Konka Russian History.

As Avast’s Filip Chytry explained in a blog post, “When you install Durak, it seems to be a completely normal and well working gaming app. This was the same for the other apps.”

“This impression remains until you reboot your device and wait for a couple of days. After a week, you might start to feel there is something wrong with your device. Some of the apps wait up to 30 days until they show their true colors.”

“If you approve you get re-directed to harmful threats on fake pages, like dubious app stores and apps that attempt to send premium SMS behind your back or to apps that simply collect too much of your data for comfort while offering you no additional value.”

“An even bigger surprise was that users were sometimes directed to security apps on Google Play. These security apps are, of course, harmless, but would security providers really want to promote their apps via adware?”

Though the apps have now been removed for download, anyone who has already downloaded them is advised to uninstall them immediately and run an anti-virus scan on their Android device.

Source: The Guardian

Selling Your Google Android Smartphone? Might Want to Double Check All Data is Wiped

Consumers reselling their Google Android smartphones need to focus on overwriting data because simply deleting files isn’t enough anymore, AVAST Software recently discovered.

The security company was able to easily retrieve personal data from smartphones it purchased online, including 40,000 personal images, emails, and text messages.  In a small number of cases, AVAST was also able to identify the previous owner of the device.

As for the exact rundown of what was found on the devices, Avast offered this rather amusing – yet frightening assessment:

  • More than 40,000 stored photos
  • More than 1,500 family photos of children
  • More than 750 photos of women in various stages of undress
  • More than 250 selfies of what appear to be the previous owner’s manhood
  • More than 1,000 Google searches
  • More than 750 emails and text messages
  • More than 250 contact names and email addresses
  • Four previous owners’ identities
  • One completed loan application

Here is what Jude McColgan, AVAST Mobile President, in a statement:

“The amount of personal data we retrieved from the phones was astounding.  We found everything from a filled-out loan form to more than 250 selfies of what appear to be the previous owner’s manhood.  We purchased a variety of Android devices from sellers across the U.S. and used readily available recovery software to dig up personal information that was previously on the phones.  The take-away is that even deleted data on your used phone can be recovered unless you completely overwrite it.”

On popular auction website eBay alone, there are more than 80,000 used smartphones for sale everyday – not including Craigslist, Internet forums, and exchanging phones among friends and family.

Thank you to Avast for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Xda Developers

Avast Releases Free Tool to Remove Simplocker Ransomware From Hijacked Phones


Security company Avast has announced the release of the avast! Ransomware Removal, a new tool designed to help compromised Google Android users decrypt files on devices hijacked by Simplocker.

If you’re not familiar, Simplocker is a nasty ransomware, and even though it was coded in a way that allowed security experts to quickly figure it out, it is still infecting Android-powered smartphones and tablets.  The malware encrypts files on the phone’s SD card, locks the device, then makes the victims pay a ransom in exchange for control of their phone again.

Here is what Ondrej Vlcek, Avast Software COO, said in a press statement:

“Simplocker blocks access to files stored on mobile devices.  Without our free ransomware-removal tool, infected users have to pay £12.50 to regain access to their personal files.  Even though we are seeing exponential growth in ransomware on mobile devices, most of the threats to encrypt personal files are fakes.  Simplocker is the first ransomware that actually encrypts these files, so we developed a free tool for people to restore them.”

The Avast! Ransomware Removal is now available via Google Play.

A student from the University of Sussex created a Java key that can be used to unlock the ransomware from compromised devices.  It’s important to see this types of tools released, because it seems like the current version of Simplocker is just a trial run for cyber-criminals to improve their skills.

Thank you to Avast for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Avast

Microsoft Is Leading PC Anti-Virus Vendor According To Report

New research figures by software and IT solutions company OPSWAT suggest that Microsoft dominates the desktop and laptop anti-virus markets with its free Microsoft Security Essentials offering. Microsoft has an impressive 25.4% of the market with all its products combined, though this is mainly comprised of MSE and Windows Defender. Microsoft is followed closely behind by Avast who manage to rack up an impressive 23.6% mainly through their free anti-virus offering. AVG, Symantec, ESET, Avira and Kaspersky also made the list with market shares between 6.5 and 8.3%.

In terms of the single most popular programs well Avast lead the way with their free antivirus followed closely behind by MSE. Windows Defender, Avira and AVG come in third, fourth and fifth respectively meaning the entire top 5 is comprised of free anti-virus solutions – which is hardly surprising. The leading paid anti-virus solutions are produced by ESET, Kaspersky, Norton, Avast and AVG respectively.

For more details and in depth graphs on the current state of the PC anti-virus market, see here.

Image courtesy of OPSWAT

Bitdefender Is Best Windows 8 Internet Security, AVG is Best Free Security

According to the well respected, comprehensive and independent test of internet security packages, done by AV Test, Bitdefender has come out on top as the best overall internet security package. Bitdefender received 17 out of 18 points, followed closely by BullGuard with 16.5 points and Kaspersky with 16.

The test applies to the Windows 8 operating system only and is the most comprehensive and up-to-date internet security test currently available. The results are probably quite similar to what you’d expect to find on Windows 7 too. So as a general rule if you are looking to invest in Internet Security for your Windows 7 or 8 computer you will get the best protection from Bitdefender.

If we take a look at the freely available internet securities, which a lot of people use because they offer nearly as good protection, we can see AVG Free Edition 2013 does the best scoring 15.5 points. AVG Free is followed closely by Avast Free Antivirus 7.0 with 15 points and Panda Security Cloud Antivirus Free 2.1 with 14.5 points. Microsoft’s free included Windows Defender 4.0 does badly scoring 11.5 with the joint lowest protection score.

Funnily enough some paid Internet Security packages like McAfee, with 12.5 points, Comodo Premium, with 10 points, AhnLab V3, with 10 points and Norman Security Suite Pro 10, with 12 points, all did worse than the three best free Internet Security packages.

So we can pull some conclusions from these tests, which are that if you pick the right paid-internet security (Bitdefender, BullGuard or Kaspersky) packages you can get the best security.However, you can get nearly as good free internet security from Avast or AVG and this is very often better than a lot of paid internet security packages on the market today.

To see the full details of the AV Test Internet Security testing then please visit here.