Windows 8 Security: What’s New

Windows 8 is a major OS overhaul, but some of the most important additions might be the ones you can’t see. Here’s a look at Windows 8’s new security tools and features.

By Eric GeierPCWorld    May 17, 2012 9:00 pm

start_screen-11361732When Windows 8 comes out later this year, the new Start screen and Metro-style apps will likely be the first changes you’ll notice, but those aren’t the only things that are new. Microsoft is also making some serious security enhancements to help keep your system safer and to improve Windows’ ability to combat viruses and malware. It just may be the biggest improvement to Windows security yet.

Antivirus Comes Preinstalled

For the first time in the history of Windows, you’ll enjoy protection from viruses, spyware, Trojan horses, rootkits, and other malware from the very first day you turn on your Windows PC–without spending a cent. Windows 8 comes with an updated version of Windows Defender that includes traditional antivirus functions in addition to the spyware protection and other security features that it has offered since Windows Vista. Windows Defender now provides similar protection–and a similar look and feel–to that of the free Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus program, which Microsoft has offered to users as an optional download since 2009.

windows_defender-11361745The updated Windows Defender resembles Microsoft Security Essentials.

Since Windows Defender will provide at least basic virus and malware protection, purchasing yearly antivirus subscriptions (such as from McAfee or Norton) or downloading a free antivirus package (like AVG or Avast) is optional, whereas before it was pretty much required if you wanted to stay virus-free. Of course, you may disable Windows Defender and use another antivirus utility that promises better protection and more features, but at least everyone will have basic protection by default.

Better Download Screening

When Microsoft released Internet Explorer 9, it updated the browser’s SmartScreen Filter to help detect and block unknown and potentially malicious programs that you download; the function complements IE’s website filtering, which works to block phishing and malicious sites. Starting with Windows 8, the program-monitoring portion of the SmartScreen Filter is built into Windows itself, and it will work whether you’re using IE, Firefox, Chrome, or any other browser.

In Windows 8, the first time you run a program that you downloaded from the Internet, the SmartScreen Filter checks it against a list of known safe applications, and alerts you if it’s unknown and therefore has the potential to be malware. If the alert does pop up, you could then further investigate the program (and the source where you downloaded it) before running it.

smartscreen_alert-11361729SmartScreen produces an alert if you run an unknown program.

Since Microsoft is adding the SmartScreen feature, the company is removing the previous Security Warning alerts that appeared when you first opened a downloaded program (the old alert would show the verification status of the program publisher and warn you about running programs downloaded from the Internet).

This is a welcome change, as it cuts down on the number of alerts you have to click through–with Windows 8, you’ll see an alert only when something’s amiss.

Faster, More Secure Startup

Starting with Windows 8, Microsoft will begin to promote a new type of boot method, UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface), which improves upon and replaces the archaic BIOS boot system that most PCs have been using for decades. I won’t get into the technical details here, but UEFI offers better security, faster startup times, and a number of other benefits.

Thanks to this new boot method (and other system enhancements), your PC will start up more quickly–in as little as 8 seconds, from the time you press the power button to when Windows fully loads to the desktop. But you’re sure to appreciate the less noticeable improvements too. The Secure Boot feature of UEFI will prevent advanced malware (such as bootkits and rootkits) from causing damage, and it will stop other boot loader attacks (such as malware that loads unauthorized operating systems) as well.

Though Windows 8 will work on PCs with the old BIOS boot system, Microsoft will require new PCs that carry the Windows 8 Certification to use the UEFI boot system with the Secure Boot feature enabled by default. This Secure Boot requirement is causing some concern within the PC industry and among power users, as it could complicate the process of using Linux distributions or dual-booting multiple operating systems. However, Microsoft has promised to keep boot control in users’ hands, and the company requires system makers participating in Windows 8 Certification to offer a way for users to disable the Secure Boot feature on PCs (but not on tablets).

Two New Password Types

Windows 8 introduces two new password types that you can use when logging in to your Windows account: a four-digit PIN and a “picture password.”

For the picture password, you choose a photo or image and draw three gestures (a combination of circles, straight lines, or taps/clicks) in different places to create your “password.”

Windows 8 Security: What's New

Even if you decide to use these new password types, you still must set up a regular password. A PIN offers a faster way to log in, and a picture password gives you a more creative and fun way to do so. Sometimes you’ll have to enter the regular password, such as when you need administrative approval for changing system settings as a standard user, but you can log in to your account using the PIN, the picture, or your regular password.

Other Noteworthy Defense Measures

The enhanced Windows Defender, SmartScreen, boot system, and password protection are the most noticeable security improvements in Windows 8. But the new OS has even more system enhancements that you won’t see at all. A few core Windows components (such as the Windows kernel, ASLR, and heap) have been updated to help reduce common attacks and exploits even further.

Eric Geier is a freelance tech writer. He’s also the founder of NoWiresSecurity, which provides a cloud-based Wi-Fi security service for businesses, and On Spot Techs, which provides on-site computer services.

Apple’s Hiring Letter

The first words you read when Apple hires you

apple_new_hire

 

Starting a new job always creates a mix of emotions. Excitement, trepidation, nervousness. Landing a job at Apple is only going to enhance any and all emotions due to the reputation and high standards the company exudes.

So how does Apple greet new hires? The words above are apparently what awaits every new employee at the company. I think you’ll agree it’s a pretty inspiring, if daunting piece.

As the iPod, iPhone, and iPad have shown, working for Apple does mean developing new devices that you’d be happy to tell anyone you had a hand in creating. The same is true of some of the software and services the company develops to support that hardware. At the same time, the sentence, “That you’d sacrifice a weekend for.” suggests you’ll be spending a long time at your desk and the company expects you to give up your free time when required to achieve that “never compromise” next product launch. But obviously you’ll do it more than willingly because it’s Apple, right?

With companies including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook all fighting for employees from the same talent pool, there’s no doubt the perks and experience of working for any of them is going to be way above average. After all, they really want you to stay if you’re good at your job and will happily provide mutliple restaurants, laundry service, stores, etc. on site to make your life (at work) easier.

But there’s always that question of work/life balance. It doesn’t matter how awesome your job is, spending time away from your desk and with your family and friends is important and likely enhances your performance at work. So take those inspirational words above on board, but also don’t forget to apply them to your life away from work, too.

Inside Apple’s secret plan to kill the cash register

Apple has already built technology into iPhones and iPads to make retail stores work like the Apple store — without cash registers

By Mike Elgan

Computerworld – If you’ve ever been to a store, you know the drill: Browse the merchandise, pick something, carry it to the checkout counter, maybe wait in line, pay, then walk out with your purchases and a receipt.
Whether it’s a clothing store, a grocery store or a coffee shop, you’re likely to find a big counter with a cash register on it, and a person operating that cash register on the other side. You go to them; they don’t come to you. Why?

An American saloon owner named James Ritty invented the cash register in 1879. Since then, all cash registers have shared the characteristics of bigness, heaviness and bulkiness — and have required the old walk-up-to-the-counter behavior in order to buy things.

One notable exception is your local Apple Store. There are no cash registers. If you want to buy something, you flag down some kid wearing a brightly colored T-shirt and hand over your credit card. The kid scans the item’s bar code with a specially outfitted iPhone or iPad, swipes your credit card and emails you the receipt. The transaction can happen anywhere in the store.

And it has a point. Cash registers are obsolete and unnecessary.Apple, apparently, thinks the whole process for buying things in retail stores is dumb. The big counter you have to walk up to? The giant machine for registering the transaction? The paper receipt? Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

So why would Apple’s hotly anticipated iWalletsystem require a cash register?

It won’t, if one analyst has it right. More on that below.

The new world of contactless payments
When people talk about the future of digital wallets — electronic smartphone-based replacements for credit cards, debit cards and cash — you’re likely to hear the initials NFC in the same breath. NFC, for “near-field communication,” is a set of technologies that makes it possible to pay for purchases using smartphones, among other things.

The idea is that all smartphones will contain special NFC chips that enable you to use your phone as a credit card. To make a transaction, you pass your phone over or near a special gadget that’s hooked up to a cash register as an equivalent to swiping a credit card.

Many Android devices and other phones already have NFC chips. A few retail stores use NFC equipment. (As I write this, I’m sitting in a shop that’s part of the Peet’s Coffee & Tea chain. There’s an NFC device near the register at the checkout counter, and there’s a little sign specifying Google Wallet-based payments.)

Everybody’s been waiting for the other 900-lb. handset gorilla — Apple — to shipiPhones with NFC chips in them to kick-start the contactless-payment revolution.

How Apple will kill the cash register
The point-of-sale industry (made up of companies that make and sell cash registers and the software and networked systems that support them) is in crisis. Apple’s iPad is growing as an alternative to big, heavy cash registers and their hard-to-learn systems and interfaces.

Small retail businesses are opening their doors without ever buying a cash register. Instead, they’re using iPads that use Square technology, or something similar, to handle the main functions of cash registers — at a fraction of the cost.

Yet iPad-based point-of-sale systems don’t involve digital wallets. The payment medium is still an old-and-busted credit card.

Apple’s iWallet digital wallet will eliminate the need for both the cash register and the credit card. Why? Because it will use Bluetooth, rather than NFC,according to Pablo Saez Gil, a retail industry analyst with ResearchFarm.

Apple’s solution is already deployed
I told you back in March what I thought the new iPad’s best feature was:Bluetooth 4.0.

Apple, which is notorious for being slow to market with brand-new technologies, was conspicuously early when it came to Bluetooth 4.0. At the time they shipped, the iPhone 4S and the iPad were the only major phone andtablet models to support Bluetooth 4.0.

Why so aggressive with Bluetooth 4.0, Apple?

Gil’s answer: Bluetooth 4.0 is Apple’s answer to the digital wallet and an alternative to NFC.

For starters, Bluetooth can go into ultra-low-energy mode, passively making connections and transferring the information necessary to conduct a financial transaction. And it can make those connections at much greater distances than NFC can — up to 160 feet — eliminating the need for a customer to go to a checkout counter to use an NFC reader.

Everyone has been waiting for Apple to announce the beginnings of a digital wallet system, followed by years of development, rollout and evolutionary acceptance.

But the Bluetooth 4.0 theory means that Apple could announce iWallet software — an app, backed by a new service from Apple — and the program would come into being overnight.

No doubt payment would happen through iTunes accounts as detailed in Apple’s iWallet patent, and Apple would receive a micropayment with every transaction.

Apple has built Bluetooth 4.0 into every computer, tablet and phone it has shipped since the middle of 2011, representing millions of users. The world does not have to wait for a gradual NFC rollout. The underlying wireless technology has already been deployed at scale.

Note that Apple has not announced a Bluetooth 4.0 digital wallet system. But after considering Gil’s analysis, I believe that the introduction of such a system would explain why Apple rolled out Bluetooth 4.0 so aggressively. It would also be in line with Apple’s obvious contempt for cash registers, and it would greatly enhance Apple’s effort to take over retail point-of-sale systems with the iPad.

Bluetooth 4.0 would enable retail stores to roll out instant iWallet point-of-sale systems that use iPads or Apple desktops or laptops. These systems would eliminate the need for iPhone owners to go to a checkout counter or use a credit card.

Stores using cash registers and Google Wallet could also cheaply and easily offer Bluetooth 4.0 iWallet solutions as well. That would give iPhone users the retail equivalent of the airlines’ “business class” status; unlike users of credit cards or Google Wallet, they wouldn’t have to wait in line or even go anywhere near a checkout counter to pay for their purchases.

In restaurants, credit card transactions would continue to require servers to make two trips between the table and the cash register — one to carry the card to the register for approval, and the other to punch in the tip and file the signed credit card slip.

For its part, Google Wallet would require just one trip — for the waiter to bring an NFC device to the table.

But Apple iWallet users wouldn’t need the server at all: They’d just pay on the phone and go.

If Bluetooth 4.0 makes it possible for Apple to simplify restaurant and retail payments to that extent, users would have an incentive to switch to iPhones, restaurateurs and store owners would be inclined to switch to iPads, and financial services companies, including credit card companies, would be willing to play ball with Apple.

It would also give Google an incentive to embrace Bluetooth 4.0 payments as well.

Apple would be crazy not do to it.

If a Bluetooth 4.0-based Apple iWallet is a success, it could be the beginning of the end for the venerable cash register.

Fix Your Website: 5 Things to Change Now

birth-irestaurant-pan_10283After thousands of tests, we’ve identified a few of the most effective ways to improve your website’s landing page.

 

Now you face a lofty goal: to increase results by 50%. You could increase your total budget by $5,000 per month. Or you could try making some tweaks to your landing page to see whether you can increase your conversion rate by just two percentage points. (Translation: You just need to get an additional two out of every 100 people to take the desired action on your site.)The math can be staggering. Let’s say you spent $10,000 a month on your online advertising efforts to drive users to your website to complete an action–fill out a form, purchase a product, etc. And let’s assume your conversion rate–that’s the percent of visitors that actually complete the action–is 4%.

Which would you rather try?

The landing page tweaks sound relatively simple, but you do of course need to know what to test or change. At Wpromote, we’ve conducted thousands of tests for hundreds of clients. Here are the factors we’ve found do the best job at improving the conversion rate of even the best pages.

1. The ‘Submit’ Button

This is one of my favorites. In short, avoid buttons that ask too much.

We recently completed a test of four submit buttons: “Free Consultation,” “Submit,” “Next,” and “Get Started.” The results are at right: The low-commitment-feel of “Next” and “Submit” were clear winners (with “Next” taking the cake).

The big loser? Our original button, “Free Consultation.” Oops–lesson learned.

2. Headline on the Page

This one may seem obvious, but it’s still essential.

Often, companies don’t understand what truly motivates their potential customers. In general, winning headlines are short, snappy and tell the story along with a value proposition.

You also want to make sure that users’ eyes are drawn to the page headline as the first thing they see. To make sure you’re getting readers’ attention, ask your friends to check out the page and tell you what they see first–and if it’s not the headline, redesign the page until it is.

Here are the results of one experiment we did with different headlines on a page:

Or take another example: If you’re a running shoe retailer, “Free Shipping on All Products” doesn’t tell your story; that belongs in your “Selling Points.” (More on those in a minute.) Rather, a headline like “Huge Selection of Discounted Running Shoes” will do a much better job of letting users know that they are in the right place.

In general, avoid the trap of being too creative. Marketing taglines that make snazzy brand advertising rarely have a place in a successful landing page.

3. Limit the Navigation

One possibly surprising rule of thumb: We found after hundreds of tests that the less navigation is on your landing page, the better your page performs.

Now of course, you want to make sure that there is enough content and information to educate users–they need to be comfortable submitting the desired form. But if you give a user too many options and too many things to read, you’ll end up with distracted, confused users who end up hitting the dreaded “back” button.

Nonetheless, simply removing the entire top-level navigation on a lead-capture page almost always serves to improve conversion rate. Similarly, be sure to have the most important content within the main part of the page.

4. Keep Your ‘Selling Points’ Short

The sad truth here is that people hate to read. When you’re trying to explain key selling points, avoid paragraphs and focus on bullet points–even if they seem bland to your inner writer.

Have four to six bullets, all short and digestible, and try to avoid wrapping lines. Oh, and: Always avoid the throwaway “And much more …” bullet. (I am doing my best to rid the Web of that worthless construct.)

5. Rethink Your ‘Hero Image’

This is the image that is above the fold, generally alongside or integrated with your headline and “selling points.” First, make sure you have one; the image is a very useful way to break up text and forms, offering a little bit of “eye relief.”

Now refine it: Be sure to avoid complicated images and images that are overly product-specific–unless they are easy to understand, such as fashion or design products.

You may need to do some testing to get the image exactly right, but here’s one rule that transcends industry: People sell. At our own website, displaying a picture or video of happy Wpromote clients nearly always beats an image of a Google ad or a screen shot of search results.

Put these five tips into practice and you should see a world of improvement. Meanwhile, if you’ve found other changes that bring in a huge payoff, be sure to share them below!

Microsoft Saying Goodbye to Aero in Windows 8

Microsoft is unsurprisingly saying goodby to the “Aero” user interface with Windows 8, calling it “dated and cheesy.” Aero has been a mainstay since the debut of Windows Vista back in 2006, requiring a bit more GPU horsepower from machines than those running 2001’s Windows XP, both of which are still currently being used worldwide.

“Aero was designed to help people focus less on the window chrome itself, and more on the content within the window. It draws the eye away from the title bar and window frames, and towards what is valuable and what an app is about,” writes Jensen Harris, the director of program management for Windows 8’s user experience team,in a very lengthy blog.

“And of course, the Start menu changed again, most notably by making it possible to press the Windows key (introduced in Windows 95) and then just start typing to search from anywhere in Windows. Of course, as with every change along the way, some people expressed reservations about the changes,” he adds.

But for Windows 8, the team ripped out the “glass and reflections” look and went with a “clean and crisp” presentation after sifting through “hundreds” of different UI designs. The team wanted to bring visual harmony to Windows while still preserving much of the familiar feel of the Windows 7 desktop, and not sacrificing the compatibility of existing apps.

“In the end, we decided to bring the desktop closer to the Metro aesthetic, while preserving the compatibility afforded by not changing the size of window chrome, controls, or system UI,” Harris writes. “We have moved beyond Aero Glass — flattening surfaces, removing reflections, and scaling back distracting gradients.”

Microsoft released the Windows 8 Consumer Preview back in April, and plans to unleash the Windows 8 Release Preview in the first week of June. Neither public build offers the complete new UI although users will see “visual hints” in the latter release. Microsoft’s was nowhere this secretive with the UI for Windows Vista and Windows 7.

“The Windows 8 user experience is forward-looking, yet respectful of the past,” he writes. “It reimagines what a PC is capable of, the scenarios for which it is optimized, and how you interact with it. It enables tablets and laptops that are incredibly light and thin, with excellent battery life, which you can use with touch and keyboard and mouse in any combination you prefer. It is also the most capable, lean, and usable OS ever to power desktop PCs and gaming rigs.”

“The new Windows 8 user experience is no less than a bet on the future of computing, and stakes a claim to Windows’ role in that future,” he adds.

To read the entire blog, head here.

Better Work Order Mobile App

BetterWorkOrder iOS App, Fast Mobile Work OrdersComing soon to the App Store, the BetterWorkOrder iOS Application!  The BetterWorkOrder app was born from a need to have a quick and easy work order app for our technicians. We looked everywhere for a simple and fast way to make a work order without having to use dreaded paper. After a long search, we decided to build the best Work Order app on the planet! We have spent years developing our vision for just the right balance of functionality, speed, and ease of use.

 

  • Some of the BetterWorkOrder Features
  • Easily create a work order for your clients
  • Integrates with your iPhone or iPad contacts for quick autofill
  • Autofill Technician data makes it fast to fill in your own personal data
  • Auto date, and times for quick time management
  • Quickly add your service report
  • A customizable parts list with pricing.
  • Take pictures and upload them to your work order and send them to your clients
  • Have your client review the work order and sign it. It even date stamps the signature.

The app is designed to be incredibly fast and have everything you would want to include in a work order. You can get a signature, add parts, and send work orders with ease.

Here are some FAQs
Who does it send the work order to?
The work order app e-mails you, the technican, your client, and a third address of your choosing for easy billing.

I need to add terms and conditions to my work orders.
You can add terms and conditions in the settings which will be included on all work orders sent

I need to add a start and a stop time
Start and Stop times are added when you create the work order, and can be adjusted throughout the work order. Once the work order is sent, the time is frozen in the App so no tampering can occur.

I need to be able to attach pictures
We made it super simple to add as many pictures as you like for documentation purposes. We’ve also found a great size to clarity function so it attaches easily and sends your work order quickly.

Can I save the work order for later?
Yes, the work order is safely saved on your iPhone or iPad so you can send it whenever you like, great for pesky buildings with no internet service.

Can I sort through the work orders?
Absolutely! The BetterWorkOrder app has a search function which searches all text for your work orders. You can also sort by Client, Most Recent, and Status

After I’ve finished with the work order, do I just delete it?
Yes, you can just delete it, or if you would like to save it for later, you can send it to the archive. You can search the archives as well.