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Issue #880: June 2-8, 2024

I’m going to do something a little different in this week’s issue of It’s Geek To Me.  I’m introducing a new feature that I call Tech News You May Have Missed, also known as Something to Write About When the Question Queue is Empty.  I tend to read lots of trade magazines, tech news stories, and security journals that would probably bore most of you Geeks to tears, but which often contain information you should know to help you to navigate and survive the world of technology.  The difference here is that I will explain everything in terms you can understand, rather than how it’s presented in the trades.  So, let’s go!

Up first, the world’s largest (known) botnet was dismantled by authorities last week.  I’ve discussed botnets in the column before, in columns like I.G.T.M. #157, Jul 25, 2010, #275, Sep 28, 2012, #484, Oct 30, 2016, #485, Nov 6, 2016 and others.  To recap, a botnet is a group of computers or computerized devices that have been compromised with malware that turns them into virtual zombies be under the control of a master server somewhere.  This is a “sleeper cell” type of operation in that the remote systems continue to function as normal, but listen for the right command from whomever is at the controls, at which time they go into action.  The most common uses for such a botnet are massive, distributed denial-of-service attacks.  These are nothing more than the zombie devices using their Internet connection to simultaneously send data or command requests to a target site in such a large quantity that the site becomes overwhelmed trying to process all the requests.  Legitimate traffic to and from the site can’t get through, or, at best, the site responds extremely slow.  If the attack is bad enough, it can actually cause the target site to go offline.

The botnet that was recently dismantled consisted of some 19 million infected devices, spread over 190 countries around the world.  If that’s not enough to make you sit up and take notice, the Chinese national found to be at the helm of this beast was leasing it to other threat actors to enable them to commit a wide variety of cyber-attack offenses, including financial fraud, identity theft, child exploitation, personal harassment, bomb threats, and export violations.  Taking this botnet down was a major undertaking, requiring the coordinated efforts of agencies in multiple countries.  I for one applaud the success, but I also fear that the next big botnet may be just over the horizon.

Next, Microsoft’s warnings about Windows 10’s end-of-life have begun to circulate in earnest again.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term, “end-of-life” or EOL for short means that Microsoft will withdraw support for the operating system, and will no longer issue patches or security updates for it.  EOL is nothing new.  Microsoft has been doing it for years, with countless products, which include dozens of versions of Windows, which themselves actually include at least 10 versions of Windows 10 itself.

On April 27, 2023, Microsoft issued the word that Windows 10 version 22H2 will be the final version.  There will be no more versions of Win 10 after that.  Some flavors of 22H2 are hitting EOL as soon as this month, but for most of us, the version of 22H2 that we use will go EOL on October 14, 2025.

Why is this important?  After all, most of us have been through an EOL before.  Well in this case, Microsoft has drawn a line in the sand for hardware that will run Windows 11.  That’s going to leave a large swath of people in the unenviable position of owning hardware for which there is no upgrade path available.  If you’re one of them, you have a little over a year to come up with an exit strategy.  Without further updates, these unsupported versions turn into juicy targets for cyber bad guys, and leave your personal data at risk.

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So, now I want to hear from you!  I need to replenish the question queue that is the normal fuel that keeps the column going, and I know that I don’t need to tell you that your tech questions need not be about computers or Windows.  I’m also looking for topics or story ideas like this column.  I’d love to hear from you!

 


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