SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

How to protect your PC against the Intel chip flaw

Here are the steps to take to keep your Windows laptop or PC safe from Meltdown and Spectre.

by Matt Elliott

Intel

A major security flaw has been discovered in many modern processors that could allow hackers to access data -- passwords, encryption keys and other information you want kept private -- stored in the protected kernel memory of your computer, phone or tablet. Known by the names Spectre and Meltdown, the flaws affect chips from Intel and Arm. Intel's rival AMD believes its chips are safe, saying in a statement, "Due to differences in AMD's architecture, we believe there is a near zero risk to AMD processors at this time."

Click here for a broad overview of the fixes currently available for a variety of devices. Considering the vast number of users with Intel-based Windows PCs and laptops, here's a deeper dive on what you need to do to protect yourself.

Install the emergency Windows patch

Microsoft has released a rare, out-of-band emergency patch for Windows 10 users. It should pop up and ask you to restart your machine so it can be installed, but if you have yet to receive such a notification, then head to Settings > Update & security see if there are updates waiting on the Windows Update page. If you are running Windows 10 version 1709 (Fall Creators Update), the patch you need is labeled Security Update for Windows (KB4056892).

For older versions of Windows 10, here are the patch numbers:

  • Windows 10 version 1703 (Creators Update): KB4056891
  • Windows 10 version 1607 (Anniversary Update): KB4056890
  • Windows 10 version 1511 (November Update): KB4056888
  • Windows 10 version 1507 (Initial Release): KB4056893

Manual install route

If you have yet to receive the patch via Windows Update, you can manually install it by going to this Windows Update Catalog page. Odds are you are running a 64-bit version of Windows, so you'll want to install the file for x64-based systems. For Fall Creators Update, for example, it's the bottom-most option labeled "2018-01 Cumulative Update for Windows 10 Version 1709 for x64-based Systems (KB4056892)."

How can I be sure I'm protected?

To check to see if you have installed the necessary patch, go to Settings > Update & security and click View installed update history. Under Quality Updates, look to see that Security Update for Windows (KB4056892) was successfully installed. You can also check by going to Settings > System > About and scrolling down to the Windows specifications section. After installing the KB4056892 patch, the OS Build will read 16299.125.

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Connected Devices, Remote Security: Data Encryption and Security in the Cloud

By Pete Johnson


Security” used to mean worrying about HTTPS certificates on your websites. The notion of a “device” was a browser and all you really had to do was to guarantee that traffic between it and your web servers was encrypted.

Then the “bring your own device” (BYOD) phenomenon caused system administrators to worry about things like isolating WiFi traffic for visitors and providing VPN tunneling software of iOS and Android, so that employees could access corporate assets in the palms of their hands. “Device” then meant “smartphone.”

But now, “device” means something different. Manufacturing equipment, plane engines and even parking meters all qualify. Devices seem to outnumber people, reminding us why we need IPv6. But this new notion of “device” also requires a very different security model unless you want to fall victim to a hacker because you forgot to secure every thermostat in your building.

Building Multiple Security Levels on top of HTTPS
Different vendors address this more complex security model in different ways, but generally speaking, it has three components to it: Authorization Engine, Handshake Certificates and HTTPS.

HTTPS is still the underlying technology for encrypting traffic, but unlike the old days of web surfing (when we used to argue about the length of the keys), modern device traffic puts two layers on top of that base encryption. First, there is a set of certificate handshakes that makes sure that some cloud entity should be talking to the device in question. On top of that is typically a cloud-driven authorization engine that can confirm or deny specific instructions to the device.

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Startups Seek Tech Solution to Net Neutrality Repeal

From VPNs to mesh networks, efforts to find an alternative route to internet access are gaining ground in Silicon Valley

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Daniela Perdomo, goTenna’s founder, holding the $90 antenna, with engineer Raphael Abrams. PHOTO: RYAN BOBROWSKI

By Douglas MacMillan

Daniela Perdomo is concerned about the power of U.S. telecom giants that stand to gain from the repeal of “net neutrality” rules. Her company offers a way around them: A $90 antenna that lets users send messages without cellular service or Wi-Fi.

Ms. Perdomo is among the entrepreneurs whose vision for an alternative route to internet access is finding takers in Silicon Valley, where tech types were rattled by a recent government decision to overturn rules that required big internet providers to treat all traffic equally.

“Society requires connectivity to function and to advance but we are leaving telecommunications in the hands of a few large corporations,” Ms. Perdomo said. “The lack of a choice is a problem.”

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VerticalWatch: Health Care IT 2.0 for MSPs

 

Hang on fast for a fat opportunity you might have overlooked. It concerns a new approach to health care and pain relief with just a bit of pleasure sprinkled in. I’m discussing the medical and recreational cannabis industries. I discovered this opportunity via research over the course of 2016/2017 in the Seattle area.

High School Jokes Aside…
Once you get the White Elephant out of the room (high school and college jokes), you’ll quakily discover that the cannabis wallpaper 420 9 industry is deadly serious. In my research, it resembles the local pharmacy dispensary business. You have similar legal compliance and supply chain issues.

And most view cannabis as a cure for ailments. Ergo I’m leading with the health care paradigm, not the black market drug dealing nonsense that has often defined cannabis.

 

Facts

  • 5-states (including California) recreational legal plus Washington D.C.
  • 22-states medical legal
  •  California is recreational legal as of January 1, 2018.
  • Massachusetts will become recreational legal in July, 2018

Risks
If you, the entrepreneurial MSP, considers yourself a risk taker, the cannabis vertical is for you! Right now the future is not an assured outcome. At the Federal-level, cannabis is still a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance under Federal law. Furthermore the Trump administration under Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the Cole Memo issued by the Obama administration as of early 2018. You can learn more about the Cole memo here but essentially it states that the Federal government was to stand down on active enforcement at the Federal-level of laws prohibiting cannabis. That effectively allowed the states above to legalize the sales and distribution of cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes. By undoing the Cole Memo, there are legitimate concerns that Federal enforcement against cannabis will happen.

Another industry risk is banking. Currently cannabis-related industry players can’t participate in the banking system at the federal level. There are a couple loopholes such as state chartered credit unions but it’s clearly a business model impediment to not have a full service banking relationship.

MSP Opportunity
Some SMB Nation community members are ideologically opposed to cannabis use and have little interest in this industry. Others are following the money. Say what you must but the cash rich cannabis industry is an ideal vertical market if you like interesting technology work and want to get paid (well). I’ll be defining the MSP opportunity over the next couple of months but the purpose of this blog was a HEADS UP!

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IoT for Real: Sensors

I’ve really struggled to see the Internet of Things (IoT) opportunity for MSPs. While IoT was/is a topic de jour at nearly every MSP-related conference currently, it’s still a pie in a blue sky concept. So what’s the reality of IoT as I write this in early 2018? I’d offer industrial applications that are, to be brutally honest, far afield from the traditional MSP world.

I have two data points to back up my research.

Both involve relationships I have from the Microsoft days. First, there is an employee

who recently returned to Microsoft from other endeavors and spent a year researching IoT in the Azure product group. We had lunch discussing the old Response Point product inside Microsoft Research but more importantly, his view of IoT. Basically the Azure product team is going to view IoT as CONSUMPTION! The trillions of data bits gathered from industrial cafeterias (rea coffee makers needing a maintenance visit) and trucks crossing the country will fill up Azure storage containers. At the end of the day, the Azure business model is timesharing and consumption so the more the merrier.

iot home

 

The other IoT encounter concerns Stijn Henrikse. We worked together inside Microsoft SMS&P during the Small Business Specialist Community (SBSC) era. Recently he landed at Fluke Corporation as the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of its Fluke Digital Systems group. MSPs will fondly recall Fluke as the gold standard for network measurement instruments. We met for coffee over the holiday break and he offered the most practical insights into IoT that I’ve received to date. It concerns industrial applications here and now. Think HVAC systems inside buildings. Then think of a medical campus with a large number of building having different and varied systems. I’d offer Fluke early success in IoT in this realm are akin to the adage “…that which we measure we can manage.”

So how can I relate this to the world of MSPs. There is an emerging answer: NinjaRMM. This spunky ISV has gained traction in the SMB Nation community with its solid RMM product and, equally important, its community participation. In working with NinjaRMM during 2017, I discovered its development roadmap was already pointing towards incorporating IoTisms into its portfolio. Of course the timing isn’t announced but I can tell you this. It’s the underlying commitment to product research and development from NinjaRMM that will make IoT reality for MSPs. How do I define reality? The answer is that it must cashflow (hey – payroll is due on the 1st and 15th mate).

Here is an interesting article we recently curated on the SMB Nation site “The Top 8 IoT Trends for 2018” that you might enjoy.

I’d love to hear how you, the SMB Nation member, is working with IoT. You know how to reach me. Thanks!

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