I have a medical office customer who had a computer get infected with Malware yesterday.  This was a winXP machine, non-admin account locked down via a domain controller, and centrally administered A/V.  This computer is locked down so hard they can’t even install a printer without logging in as administrator.  The entire network is behind a $1500 firewall appliance, complete with it’s own paid antivirus and filtering subscription.

The malware completely “installed” a fake A/V, fakealert/loader, proxy, and began showing porn popups.  The customer was simply doing their job, going online getting insurance information.

This kind of malware is written to install without requiring true admin privilege, yet is not easily removed by folks not knowledgeable or well equipped.  The “malware” content isn’t really even detectable by any A/V, period, as it isn’t really a virus until after it runs.  But, it messes things up bigger than life when it does.

These kinds of malware basically can’t be stopped.  Day to day, amongst the networking and other stuff I do, maybe 80% is malware remediation.  80% of that is of the fake antivirus variety.


Mediacom being blacklisted?

Anyone trying to blacklist Comcast?  See article below.  I have mediacom at home but don’t use their mail accounts.  Don’t even know if I got one when I signed up. My comments:

Sounds like a good reason to ditch their mail servers all together and use a 3rd party like gmail or yahoo.  The problem might be cyclical as the spam seems to come in waves, but they will likely continue to have issues.

It’s one thing for them to have their mail servers slowed due to dealing with all the spam coming in, but I found something else really interesting.

They are saying that they are blacklisted by other ISPs or mail servers.  That means that either other organisations are blacklisting them as a whole IP block (the customers themselves) OR blacklisting the emails they send from THEIR servers..

What that means is this:

The other entities would blacklist anything coming from any mediacom customer IP because there are so many compromised computers on mediacom.  Which is true.  There are lots of compromised ppl on mediacom or any major broadband provider.  No doubt some of those compromised computers have spam bots installed.

But, if they are blacklisting any mail sent FROM a mediacom mail server, that means they have a reason to believe that compromised people are using MEDIACOM SERVERS to SEND SPAM.  How can that be?  Wouldn’t any ISP shut down a customer who tries to send out 100k emails a day from the ISP smtp server?  Come on!

If someone is (either knowingly or not knowingly) USING a mediacom mail server to SEND OUT spam, that’s nuts.  But it would explain why they are so slow, LOL.

My guess is that there is a large amount of compromised spambot customers and some people have blacklisted mediacom’s whole IP block.  I’ve heard of some people blocking AOL back in the day, but mediacom?  lol.  Must be pretty bad.


Email Migration Update Return to

Overall Status – As of 12/15/2009 18:00 EST

We continue to move forward on our efforts to reduce network congestion on our mail servers. However, the mail traffic coming in and going out of Mediacom continues to be at an elevated volume due to spam.  This continues to impact email delivery and receipt for our customers.

The following is typically what customers will be experiencing:

  • Delay in mail being sent to Mediacom accounts. The average delay for this type of mail ranges from 5 min to 15 min. These averages are based on delivery times from Google mail, Hotmail/MSN, Yahoo and other major sites. Some customers may be experiencing greater delays.
  • Delay in mail being sent out: The outbound mail performance is showing significant delays. The average delay for this type of mail is approx. 1hr; however, some mail will have more significant delays times due to the backlog or because it is being delayed/blocked by a site that has currently blacklisted Mediacom. This may give the impression that emails are being lost but instead they are holding in queue or waiting for sites to allow them through.
  • Customers using webmail may experience “Server appears to be slow” message or also experience locking of said mail page. If this happens please refer our section on “Email FAQ’s” to troubleshoot.

Here are the steps we are taking to combat these issues:

  • We are deploying new security solutions and are actively identifying and shutting down spammers on our own internal network to reduce load.
  • We have made progress in reaching out to our top blocked sites and are starting to see mail being delivered to these previously blocked sites (some of these more slowly than others)
  • We are adding more servers to handle the increased load on the system while upgrading software on existing servers that will allow us to improve processing and tackle spam.

Doing so will require us to stop and start servers. This may further inconvenience mail performance for short periods as we deploy the mentioned solutions. We apologize for these interruptions; however these steps we are taking are all designed to improve the mail performance to normal operating standards. We expect to realize this over the next few days.

We continue to work round the clock to eliminate these issues and deeply regret the inconvenience we have caused to our users.

Mediacom Customer Service

Email FAQ’s:

  • Will I receive credit for poor email performance? Once Mediacom has completed reinforcing security systems and improving email performance, we will evaluate the overall impact of the migration and take appropriate steps.  Keep in mind that email service is only a portion of the High Speed Internet service that we offer.  We will communicate the course of action in the near future. 
  • Not receiving emails/delay in emails: The average delay for this type of mail ranges from 5 min to 15 min. These averages are based on delivery times from Google mail, Hotmail/MSN, Yahoo and other major sites. Some customers may be experiencing greater delays.
  • Delay in sending email or Mail being returned as blocked by other email providers: The outbound mail performance is showing significant delays. The average delay for this type of mail is approx. 1hr,; however some mail will have significant delays times due to the backlog or because it is being delayed/blocked by a site that has currently blacklisted Mediacom. This may give the impression that emails are being lost but they are actually holding in queue or waiting for sites to allow them through.
  • Webmail Account Hanging or “The server appears to be slow to respond, and may be unavailable” Error. This is due to congestion at the time of the request.

Is Windows 7 Right for Your Business?,1217,a%253D246438,00.asp
Is Windows 7 Right for Your Business?
ARTICLE DATE:  12.01.09
By  Eric Griffith

There may be a lot to switch to Windows 7 at home, but what about at work? Naturally, businesses big and small have been thinking about whether to upgrade to the new operating system. Some analysts say it’s inevitable for businesses that skipped Windows Vista and stuck with XP—if they want to keep up, they’ll have to consider Windows 7 as computers continue to age.

So does Windows 7 make it worth giving up that well-known if not loved XP? What are the benefits and drawbacks specific to SMBs? Take a look at our reasons for and against the upgrade. The points that follow may help you make a decision that will make your work day a little bit better. First the reason for an upgrade.—Next: Yes, You Should Upgrade to Win 7 >

Yes, You Should Upgrade to Win 7

You can still use XP apps. If you need Windows 7 speeds but have applications that only run on eight-year-old Windows XP, XP Mode can save you. This free, downloadable add-on for the Pro, Enterprise, and Ultimate versions of Windows 7 lets your old programs run as if native to Windows 7. XP Mode does not require a separate, licensed copy of XP. Sure, you can accomplish the same thing with third-party software, but that’ll cost you.

Better search. If you’re an organizational pro, you never need to search your hard drive. But the chance that all your employees are equally gifted is about as likely as Steve Ballmer using an iPhone. Search is the killer app on the Web, and Windows 7 might finally have made it so in the OS. Vista integrated a search box throughout the interface; you’ll find one in the Start menu, the control panel, and Windows Explorer. In Windows 7, it’s the results that count. You can narrow the returns on the fly when you get too many. The search bar retains a history of what you’ve looked for, so you can quickly find things again. There’s a better preview available for search results, as well. Finally, you don’t have to worry about employees being organized when it comes to digital data.

Your driver is here. Older systems had a hard time with Vista upgrades due to lack of driver support for the hardware. Heck, so did some newer systems. That’s unlikely to be the case with Windows 7. It has more in common with Vista than not, and Vista’s had lots of time to get all the hardware support it needs. Better yet, Windows 7 is designed to go directly to the driver download pages of major vendors if a compatible driver isn’t found.

DirectAccess may be the best access. DirectAccess is just that: direct access to your business network from anywhere, via secured tunneling using IPsec and IPv6— without the use of a trusted virtual private network (VPN). Don’t worry about IPv6 costs—Windows 7 comes with IPv6-to-IPv4 transition technology that integrates with current networks. It’s a whole new way for connecting securely. The catch: Your network has to run Windows Server 2008 R2, so this solution won’t work for offices without dedicated IT staff. If you do have Windows Server, it’ll only take you a few clicks to connect clients via the Web. It’s significantly easier than setting up a VPN server. Users can be authenticated with Active Directory, so the Windows 7 solution not only provides network permissions, but can push software updates to users as if they’re connected to the business intranet.

Better enterprise features. There’s a lot of good stuff in Windows 7 Enterprise (which is essentially Windows 7 Ultimate bundled on corporate OEM systems) besides DirectAccess, specifically for security and management. That includes Bit- Locker, which encrypts entire hard drives, and BitLocker to Go, which does the same on removable USB flash drives. AppLocker lets IT pros specify exactly what programs are run on Windows 7 systems, so users can’t bring in games from home. And more languages are supported. None of these features needs Windows Server 2008 R2 to function, but it is necessary to have Server 2008 if you want to use the Windows 7 Advance Group Policy Management 4.0 tools to control them from afar.

Less user annoyance. This might be subjective, but anyone who used Vista at all to install a program knows the heart-stopping fear that hit when a screen went blank for a split second. But instead of a crash, it was a feature, not a bug, part of the User Account Control (UAC) that forced you to approve installation of programs (among other things). UAC is still in Windows 7, but it’s far less intrusive. Plus the control panel for it got infinitely simpler, with just a slider-bar to indicate just how much control it should have.

64 whole bits. Not that you couldn’t get a 64-bit version of Vista, but every box with Windows 7 comes with both the 32- and the 64-bit version inside. You’ll want the latter if your hardware can support it. The 64-bit version will work, for example, with more than 4GB of RAM; if you’ve got an older CPU and less RAM than that, don’t bother. You only get one activation key, however, even if it looks like there are two versions of the OS in the box. (Use the free utility to determine if your system can even handle a 64-bit OS. Microsoft also offers an Upgrade Advisor.)

Less useless bloatware. Say goodbye to unused extras like Windows Mail or Movie Maker. You’ll have to get them from Windows Live’s Web site in the future—if you even want them. (See below for more on MSPaint and WordPad, however.) That won’t stop system vendors from shoving some shovelware onto your company computers if you get them at retail; for that, use The PC Decrapifier for a pre-use cleanup.

More work time. In our tests in PC Labs, we found that Windows 7 boots up several seconds faster than Vista on identical hardware. That’s precious time during which your employees can be productive! Okay, that’ll last only a while, until installing new software and everyday use slow down start time, but with the right hardware, Windows 7 should zing along plenty fast in all uses.—Next: No, Keep Your Biz With XP >

No, Keep Your Biz With XP:

No learning curve. There’s a hidden cost when you upgrade users to an OS with as many significant interface changes as Windows 7: training. Windows 7 features big improvements, especially over XP. But, after almost a decade, users know XP backwards and forward; getting them up to speed on Windows 7 might take time your company can’t afford. Even programs like WordPad and MSPaint have a new interface.

XP updates until 2014. You might feel you have to upgrade to Windows 7 because eventually Microsoft will stop patching XP for security and other issues. And it will. But do you consider five years from now soon? If you’re happy with XP (and can live without the tech support from Microsoft, which ended earlier this year), why change?

No direct XP upgrades. Think you can just pop a Windows 7 disc into a system and upgrade the OS but leave your software and data intact? Think again. Microsoft is only allowing “in-place” upgrades from Vista— XP users have to format their drives and do a clean install. LapLink has an elegant solution, iYogi, for one, is offering “migration assistance” to help move data (but not programs), but either will cost you money and time to use. If you’re okay with the nukeand- boot-and-reinstall scenario, do it; why upgrade and wonder if XP is responsible for new Windows 7 problems?

New hardware needed. You’ve been running XP for years just fine on computers that were the top of the line in 2001. The chances of them supporting Windows 7 are slim. We’re not talking just upgrading a couple of components—it’s going to be time to get all-new systems, which can be costly, even if computers are cheaper today. Remember, at the very least, you need 1GB of RAM and 16GB of disk space just to install the 32-bit version of Windows 7. You need even more RAM and disk space to go 64-bit or to run XP Mode. Furthermore, installation from disc requires a DVD drive. You can get around that requirement, however, by copying the files to a bootable USB flash drive; instructions are available online in various places, including here. Slipstreaming the install onto a USB drive has the added bonus of giving you the same Windows 7 image to put on all the company computers.

The advances coming out of Windows 7 may be more evolution than revolution, but that doesn’t mean they’re not great for your company if you’ve got the right equipment, and the money to buy it, and users capable of handling the change. If so, take the plunge. You’ll likely find the upgraded OS has an interface, security, search, and more to like. But if you don’t like it, be sure to let us know.

Why is my internet slow – take 2

click for larger view

What you’re seeing here is step 1.  I’ve removed vast amounts of unneeded and unused equipment and consolidated the network to one switch.  I removed 4 other switches, one of which had many connections yet was not even powered on.

Why is my internet slow?

A local customer called me to come and check things out, the chief complaint being their internet is slow.

This electrical room is a potential issue, the other being most workstations having zero anti-virus.  Stay tuned for an “after” shot to go along with this “before” shot to see the capabilities of The Restore Store.

IBM Unveils New Virtual Server Security Offering

Product Watch: IBM Unveils New Virtual Server Security Offering – cloud security/Storage – DarkReading

Product Watch: IBM Unveils New Virtual Server Security Offering
VMware offering will help users build security into virtualized data centers, Big Blue says

Nov 13, 2009 | 04:55 PM
By Tim Wilson

IBM today introduced IBM Virtual Server Security for VMware vSphere, a software product designed to help organizations secure and protect their virtual server infrastructures.

The software will help safeguard virtual server environments and allow businesses a more secure path for transitioning critical assets to virtual enterprise data centers, IBM says.

The new security capabilities “are required because of reduced visibility and control that come with the addition of more information technology layers” in virtual server environments, IBM says. “Given this changing landscape, traditional security made for physical computing environments becomes inadequate as a sole solution,” it says.

The new IBM Virtual Server Security for VMware vSphere helps address these concerns, providing protection for every layer of the virtual infrastructure, including the hypervisor, operating system, network, applications, server-based virtual desktops, virtual machine, and traffic between virtual machines, the company says.

By integrating with VMware VMsafe technology, the new software provides clients with better visibility, security granularity, and scalability in their growing virtual data centers, IBM says.

The new capabilities include Virtual Network Access Control (VNAC) to limit network access from a virtual server until security posture is confirmed, rootkit detection and prevention, virtual infrastructure monitoring and reporting to identify vulnerabilities, and autodiscovery to provide visibility and control of the virtual infrastructure.

IBM Virtual Server Security for VMware vSphere will be available in December.

Fully install Windows 7 from the upgrade disc


Fully install Windows 7 from the upgrade disc

Woody Leonhard By Woody Leonhard

Topping the long list of readers’ Windows 7 questions is whether you can use the upgrade disc to perform a full install of the new OS.

You may be surprised to discover that in Windows 7 there’s no difference between the “upgrade” and “full” DVDs and — just as with Vista — the cheaper upgrade version can indeed be used to perform a full install.

But that’s just one of your many Windows 7 questions. From what’s possible, to what’s legal, to what-on-earth-were-they-thinking, here’s the skinny on the ins and outs of Microsoft’s best OS yet. There’s no way to fit all your Win7 queries into a single column, so you can be sure I’ll have many more Win7 FAQs in the weeks to come.

Will a Win7 upgrade disc install the full OS?

* “It looks like you can use the upgrade version of Windows 7 to install a ‘genuine’ copy of Windows 7 on any PC, whether it already has Windows on it or not. Why would anybody pay way more money and buy a full-install version of Windows 7 instead of an upgrade version?”

Good question. So far, the only people I know who’ve paid for the full version of Windows 7 thought they had to buy it because they were running Windows XP. When they read that they couldn’t do an in-place upgrade from XP to Win7, they mistakenly thought they had to buy the full release. They got ripped off.

The terminology stinks, but as you will see below in my discussion of upgrade pricing, almost everybody qualifies for an upgrade version of Windows 7.

In my experience, most people using the upgrade package find that their new Win7 key validates immediately after the PC connects to the Internet. You can maximize your chances of getting instant gratification (validation), however.

If you have a version of Windows running on your PC, start Windows, insert the Windows 7 upgrade DVD, and follow the on-screen instructions. (All of the usual caveats about first backing up your data apply, of course.) If you wish, you can reformat your hard drive at the beginning of the installation process. This wipes out all the old data stored on the drive.

In my testing, as long as I started the Win7 installation from within Windows, the upgrade key passed validation. It didn’t matter, in my test runs, whether the PC’s previous version of Windows had ever been validated as “genuine” or not.

If you don’t have Windows running — for example, if you’re installing the OS on a new hard drive — boot from the Win7 upgrade DVD and follow the on-screen instructions. Chances are good that Windows 7 will validate immediately, even if there was no copy of Windows on the drive beforehand.

I have a theory about how and why this straightforward validation just works, but Microsoft hasn’t yet divulged details. I’ll revisit the whys and wherefores in a future column.

If you type in the validation key and see a message stating, “The product key is not valid,” don’t fret. Go ahead and install Win7 without the key and plan on activating the OS later. Remember that you can run Win7 up to 120 days without activating it, as I explained in my Aug. 20 Top Story.

How do I get the upgrade key to activate?

* “I installed the Windows 7 upgrade and the key doesn’t work. What should I do next?”

In such situations, Microsoft recommends that you call the company to validate your copy of Win7 over the phone. In my experience, phone validation works quickly and easily. The people answering the phone bend over backwards to get Win7 validated.

If you want to try this official, phone-it-in approach, review the question in the next section and make sure your PC qualifies for upgrade pricing. If it does, but you can’t get the key to work, gather whatever information you need to verify you qualify and then call Microsoft. The easy way to get Microsoft’s Win7 activation phone number is to click Start, type slui 4, and press Enter.

That said, you can activate with an upgrade key without calling Microsoft at all. There are several ways to do so. For example, writer Paul Thurrott documents in a blog post how you can upgrade in this situation by changing a byte in the Registry and running a single command line.

Failing that, another fairly simple (if more time-consuming) activation method to install from the Win7 upgrade disc and then upgrade Win7 on top of itself. This technique works in Win7 in a nearly identical way to the trick WS editorial director Brian Livingston described for Vista in a Feb. 1, 2007 Top Story.

The short version of that trick is this: Once you’ve installed Win7 from the upgrade DVD, start Win7, and then stick the upgrade disc in the drive again. Follow the instructions to upgrade, but don’t choose Custom — you’re upgrading to Windows 7 from Windows 7. Enter the key when requested, and it’ll validate the next time you’re online.

Does my PC qualify for upgrade pricing?

* “I understand that there are many different ways to upgrade a PC to Windows 7. The $64 question (give or take a few bucks) is whether my PC qualifies for the Upgrade Option for Windows 7 rather than my having to buy the full version. How can I tell?”

Microsoft made it easy in Windows 7 to perform a full install of Windows 7 using only the less-expensive Upgrade Option for Windows 7. In fact, MS made the trick even easier in Windows 7 than it was in Vista, by adding to Win7 the Registry byte change that I mentioned above. The technique in Vista usually required a second install to work. Win7, thanks to changes deliberately added by Microsoft, usually doesn’t require that the setup routine be started twice.

Microsoft’s Windows 7 End-User License Agreement (EULA), however, says you can install an upgrade edition of Win7 only if you had a license for an earlier version of Windows that you’re eradicating.

It’s curious why Microsoft makes it so easy for customers to install an “upgrade” copy of Windows 7 on a PC that supposedly doesn’t qualify. Indeed, why has Microsoft built hooks into the Windows installer to specifically bypass the qualification test — hooks that have been left in place for years?

In any event, the relevant clause in the Win7 EULA says:

* “To use upgrade software, you must first be licensed for the software that is eligible for the upgrade. Upon upgrade, this agreement takes the place of the agreement for the software you upgraded from. After you upgrade, you may no longer use the software you upgraded from.”

By that standard, the number of machines that don’t qualify for upgrade pricing is mighty tiny. (It also raises disturbing questions about multiboot systems, but I’ll discuss multibooting in a future column.)

For example, if you own a computer with a Windows Certificate of Authenticity sticker on the case as proof of ownership — and the certificate is for Vista or XP — there’s no question whatsoever that the PC qualifies for upgrade pricing.

If you’ve ever paid for a full copy of Windows — one you purchased “off the shelf,” not a copy that was preinstalled on a PC — you own the right to use that copy of Windows on any PC you like, as long as you use it on only one machine at a time. There’s no requirement that you activate it in order for a Win7 upgrade to work on it. How can that not be a legitimate candidate for a Windows 7 upgrade?

The universe of PCs that don’t qualify for upgrade pricing would seem to be limited to those that (1) have been built from scratch or (2) bear counterfeit builds Windows that unsuspecting customers bought from unscrupulous box shops. New virtual machines also require the full version, but that’s about it — this represents a very tiny slice of the consumer-PC pie.

How do I know my Win7 installation is legit?

* “If I can get an upgrade version of Windows 7 to install on my PC and it validates as ‘genuine,’ I’m running everything legally and don’t need to worry about it, right?”

As far as I can tell, if you pass the validation hurdle once with an upgrade version of Windows 7, your computer won’t have to do anything in the future to prove whether you were or were not entitled to an upgrade.

You’ll definitely be running a copy of Win7 that’s validated as genuine. Whether that also means your new copy meets the written definition in Microsoft’s EULA depends on whether you ever owned a legal copy of Windows for that PC. That can sometimes be hard to verify.

Can I upgrade in place from XP to Vista to Win7?

* “I’m running Windows XP. I know I can’t do an in-place upgrade from XP to Windows 7, but can I do an in-place upgrade from XP to Vista, and then another from Vista to Windows 7?”

You can, but that gives Windows two opportunities to shoot you in the foot.

Many of my friends tell me I’m superstitious, but I strongly recommend that people perform a custom (clean) install. Yes, that entails reinstalling programs and re-entering your custom system settings, but it’s still my advice — even if you have a PC that can accommodate an in-place upgrade.

Sticking Win7 on top of an old copy of Windows is like building a new house on old landfill. You never know what’s going to come to the surface, or where, or when. A very large percentage of the problems people are having with Windows 7 installations occur with in-place upgrades.

Which Win7 is right for me: 32-bit or 64-bit?

* “Should I install the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows 7? How do I get the right one?”

Every Windows 7 box that you buy on store shelves — whether an upgrade or full version of Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate — contains two DVDs. One has the 32-bit version and the other has the 64-bit version.

If you ignore the recommendation I made in the above item and insist on performing an in-place upgrade, you can do so only from 32-bit to 32-bit or 64-bit to 64-bit. However, if you do a custom (clean) install on a machine that formerly ran a 32-bit version of XP or Vista, you should seriously consider moving to 64-bit computing.

See my July 16 Top Story for information that will help you determine whether 64-bit is right for you. If you decide that it is, follow the instructions in the article to run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor.

If the Upgrade Advisor indicates your PC can support a 64-bit version of Windows — and it doesn’t warn you that your specific hardware doesn’t have drivers — give 64-bit a try. Although there are some devices from major manufacturers that don’t have 64-bit drivers, several of these vendors have been embarrassed into writing new ones.

Can I upgrade Vista Ultimate to any Win7 flavor?

* “I got suckered into paying for Windows Vista Ultimate. What a waste! Adding insult to pecuniary injury, if I want to upgrade, I have to pay for Windows 7 Ultimate, right?”


If you want to perform an in-place upgrade from 32-bit Vista Ultimate, you have to pay for the Windows 7 Ultimate upgrade and must install the 32-bit version. However, if you perform a custom (clean) install, you can upgrade that Vista Ultimate PC to whichever version of Windows 7 you prefer.

It gets confusing because the term “upgrade” has two completely different meanings. If you want to do an in-place upgrade and avoid reinstalling your programs and updating your settings, you have very limited choices about which versions of Windows you can start with and what you can upgrade to. (See Microsoft’s somewhat-muddled explanation of the Win7 Upgrade Option Program on the official Windows 7 site.)

If you’re willing to perform a clean install, you can upgrade any version of XP or Vista to any version of Windows 7, and you need pay for only the Upgrade Option for Windows 7 — no need to buy the full-install package.

I just saved you about a hundred bucks, yes?

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