Fix Troublesome Wireless Connections by Removing their Profile

It can happen that you start having problems with a wireless network which worked well in the past. This might be due to the fact that the its settings may have been changed accidentally or its network profile, as saved on your computer, got corrupted for some reason. In such scenarios it helps to delete the profile of your wireless network and start fresh: have Windows 7 detect it again, introduce your connection details, etc. This tutorial will show how to delete the network profile of a troublesome wireless connection.

Removing the Troublesome Network Profile   Open the Network and Sharing Center. There, on the left side column, click on “Manage wireless networks”.

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In the Manage Wireless Networks window, you can see the profiles of all the wireless networks to which you connected to in the past.

Select the network with which you are having trouble, and click Remove.

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Confirm that you want to remove the network profile.

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The profile of the wireless network is now deleted. Windows will detect that network as if it was a new discovery and you will be able to enter all the details again and connect to it.

Windows 8 Compatibility Check – Issues we have discovered

Recently, we’ve had a couple of users ask us to upgrade their laptops to Windows 8. During the process, a couple of compatibility issues have appeared and seem to be common issues. I am listing the most common, what they mean and what you can do.

DVD Player Applications

Windows 8 is not compatible with certain versions of DVD player software. These include WinDVD, CyberDVD and other programs usually bundled with your laptop. If you don’t need a fancy DVD player or have used VLC Media player, this is the solution for you.

Secure Boot isn’t compatible with your PC

Let me explain what Secure Boot is and why this is only available on newer system. Secure boot attempts to protect the PC against boot loader attacks, which can compromise a system before the OS even loads. Secure boot is actually a feature of Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), a new type of boot environment that has gradually been replacing the standard BIOS process. Windows 8 taps into UEFI’s secure boot to ensure that the pre-OS environment is safe and secure.

Secure Boot should not be used if you plan on having a dual-boot environment, i.e. selecting Windows or Linux when you start your computer. You are also limited to using certified drivers for your hardware. If you get a message saying your driver is not signed by Microsoft, as some 3rd party and beta drivers are, you cannot use Secure Boot.

Screen Resolution is not compatible with Snap

If your screen does not support a 1366 x 768 resolution, you cannot use Snap. This resolution is typical of a wide-screen monitor and some laptops do not have support for this size. Snap is the ability to pin your applications to the left side of the screen to quickly switch and access them, a great feature given the tablet nature of Windows 8. If you have used an iPhone or iPad, you know switching from one app to another requires returning to the home screen to load the other app. While you can easily see running apps by pressing the home button twice, you still have to leave the app to see running apps. For example switching between email and your browser, for example, requires you to return to the home screen to launch apps each time you want to switch between them. With Snap, you swipe the left side of your screen (with mouse or finger) to see and switch to any running app.

Bluetooth Software is not compatible

Most installed software is not compatible and has to be upgraded or removed until an update is made available.

Symantec Endpoint Protection is not compatible

While Norton single user/home product has released a compatible version for Windows 8, corporate users and enterprise users will have to wait for Symantec’s version of its popular Endpoint Protection.

If you use Endpoint Protection, and you are willing to purchase a home use product (or are allowed to by corporate policy), go ahead and remove Endpoint Protection and install Windows 8. Otherwise, you will have to wait until they release a compatible version.

So that’s it! These are the most common issues we have seen so far.

How to prepare your PC for Windows 8

If you’re planning to upgrade to Microsoft’s latest OS, now might be a good time to begin preparing your PC.

Windows 8 has been released to consumers on October 26. Priced at just $39.99, the upgrade is surprisingly affordable. If you’re thinking about upgrading to Microsoft’s latest operating system, now might be a great time to start your preparations. Having an upgrade plan can help mitigate many of the risks involved with a major OS upgrade. Here are some suggestions to help your upgrade go as smoothly as possible: Check your system for compatibility

The first thing you’ll want to do is to check your PC to see if it can run Windows 8 properly. The Windows 8 system requirements are:

  • Processor: 1GHz CPU or faster
  • RAM: 1GB (32-bit) or 2GB (64-bit)
  • Disk space: 16GB (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics: DirectX 9-capable video card with WDDM driver

To use the new Windows Store, you’ll need a screen resolution of at least 1024×768 pixels. Also, to snap apps, a resolution of at least 1,366×768 pixels is required. Be sure to run the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant as well, to check your system for Windows 8 readiness. You can also check the Windows 8 Compatibility Center to manually look up your software and hardware. (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/upgrade-to-windows-8)

Gather your hardware drivers

Windows 8 may not have proper drivers for your PC’s hardware, especially if the components are really old. If the Windows Upgrade Assistant flagged items, check your system manufacturer’s Web site for the latest drivers on things like, printers, touch pads, graphics cards, and audio cards. If you can find at least Vista drivers, they have a good chance of working in Windows 8.

Freshen up your PC

Giving your system a once-over will help the upgrade go faster and allow your new Windows 8 system to run smoothly from the get-go. Free up disk space, check Windows system security, and even physically clean your hardware. Check out our Windows PC spring cleaning tips for more maintenance tasks you can perform to freshen up your PC.

Back up your personal files

Don’t risk losing your personal data during the upgrade. Back up all your documents, pictures, music, and videos to an external hard drive and make sure the drive is disconnected during the upgrade. Don’t forget to back up your e-mail too, if you’re using a desktop e-mail client. Though Chrome and Firefox can sync your bookmarks, it wouldn’t hurt to save a local copy of your bookmarks too.

Collect your software and license keys

If you’re upgrading from Windows XP or Vista, you’ll have to reinstall your software programs. Make a list of the programs you want to reinstall and make sure you have the installation files available. Also, gather up the license keys for those programs. If you can’t find your license keys, Belarc Advisor might be able to pull them for you. After you’ve collected all your software, place them all on an external hard drive or USB flash drive for quick and easy installation.

Deauthorize/deactivate programs

Some programs, like iTunes and Adobe full license products, require you to deauthorize your PC or deactivate your license, before you’re allowed to install them again. Make sure to deauthorize your PC and deactivate licenses to make sure you can reinstall those programs, hassle-free.

Make note of your Wi-Fi password

It’s easy to forget your Wi-Fi password if you haven’t needed it in a while or if someone else set it up for you. Make sure you know what it is before you begin upgrading, so you’re not fumbling for an Internet connection afterward. Some routers, like those from AT&T and Netgear, have unique passwords printed on the router itself. You can also try using WirelessKeyView to help you find your Wi-Fi password, or just use an Ethernet cable until you can figure it out.

Clone your system before you upgrade

If for some reason, your upgrade turns into a nightmare, reverting back to your old version of Windows might become your only choice. Clone your system with Norton Ghost, Acronis True Image, or Clonezilla, so you can go back to your old version of Windows, just in case.

That’s it. Next up, step by step upgrades process.

Windows Server 2012 embraces the data center

Microsoft has taken its server OS a giant step forward with Todays release of Windows Server 2012, making this version the first that can be controlled remotely so it is more suitable for data centers.

The first major upgrade since 2009 features a bevy of new features, most designed to make it more suitable for large-scale data-center deployments. This has been  called Microsoft’s “Cloud OS.”

Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization can now support up to 64 virtual processors and 1TB of memory for guests, a marked improvement from the old limit of four virtual processors and 64GB of memory. The Server Message Block (SMB) network communication protocol has been updated to handle faster data transfers and the OS’s Server Manager has been updated to handle multiple servers at once.

But perhaps the most significant enhancement is one that may not be noticed among these flashy new features. Thanks to the inclusion of the PowerShell, first introduced six years ago, this will be the first version of Windows Server that can be completely controlled through the command line, making it controllable remotely.

PowerShell provides the Windows similar capabilities that chief competitor Unix has long offered, such as the ability to forward, or pipe, the output of one process to the input of another process. It even adds a few new tricks, such as the ability to handle software objects, which have come about from studying Unix’s limitations.

More on Server 2012 once we start working with it in our operations and locations.

Windows 8 vs. Windows 7

Now that Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system has hit the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) stage, it’s time to see how it stacks up against the incumbent Windows 7.   A number of people have released benchmark testing. After reviewing a couple of these, here’s what we can determine:

The first and most obvious is that Microsoft has obviously worked hard to cut system boot times, as Microsoft previously promised.

We don’t reboot our PCs anywhere near as often as we once did, but a fast boot up time is still appreciated, and a PC that arrives at the logon screen or desktop quickly makes a good impression on both Microsoft and OEMs.

Hybrid boot, UEFI firmware and better use of sleep will make startup under Windows 8 even faster.

Next there’s the fact that, as far as the synthetic and gaming benchmarks go, the differences between Windows 7, the Windows 8 RTM, the Consumer Preview and the Release Preview are negligible. It usually takes AMD and NVIDIA some time to optimize and perfect their drivers for a new operating system, with drivers having to mature for several months before we see similar performance between the new operating system and the old one.

This time around it seems that things have settled down quickly and that we’re seeing performance that is on a par with a mature operating system. We can assume that as time goes on the graphics card makers will be able to squeeze more performance out of the operating system.

This is good news for anyone who is planning to make a swift switch to Windows 8 but also for those who want the best performance possible from their hardware.

We’re also seeing quite an improvement when it comes to audio and video transcoding. It’s an area that Microsoft seems to put effort into improving, and that trend continues with Windows 8. As we take more photos and video and handle more content, the ability to process them faster is welcome all round.

From a performance perspective, I’ve very pleased with the way that Windows 8 has turned out. While there are no major performance differences between the Windows 8 Release Preview and the newly released Windows 8 RTM version, performance seems solid, and in areas where the platform lagged behind Windows 7, Microsoft seems to have put in the effort to close the gap.

Recovering Windows Passwords Remotely in Plain Text

There has been a lot of buzz across the web the last few months about a program called “Mimikatz”.   It is an interesting program that allows you to recover Windows passwords from a system in clear text.   Why spend hours, days, or months trying to crack a complex password when you can just pull it from Windows memory as unencrypted text?   We have seen in the past that most Windows passwords less than 15 characters can be cracked in just a few seconds if the attacker can get the Windows Hashes. This is due to the fact that Windows stores these passwords in an easy to crack LM hash.   An old encryption used for backwards compatibility. Microsoft allows you to disable the older LM Hash, but Microsoft still creates the hash and stores it in memory.   No big deal, just make your passwords 15 characters or greater and problem solved. The LM hash will not be created, only the more secure NTLM hash.

Well, not so fast. It seems that the LM hash is not the only version of the passwords Windows keeps in memory; it also keeps a copy of the passwords in plain text which you can even recover remotely…IF you have remote access to the system via malicious JAVA Code – using Mimikatz to recover remote passwords. For example you can use the website Java attack through the Social Engineering Toolkit (SET) to obtain a remote shell. You can create a trap (aka Malware infected website) if you want to see how this works – NOTE: This is NOT RECOMMENED unless you are interested in security and have the time, tools and system to create a hacker site. First thing you will want to do is download Mimikatz and place the files you need (Windows 32 or 64 bit) in a directory on your Backtrack system. Then run SET and pick the website java attack option.   After the target system surfs to our SET webpage and allows the Java code to run, we get a remote shell. After we connect to the created session, we will need to elevate our authority level. We need System level privileges for Mimikatz to work properly, so the first thing to do is run the Bypass UAC script in Meterpreter, and then connect to the newly created session.

Now all we need to do is create a directory on the target system and copy the Mimikatz files up to it.

Now we need to drop to a command shell and run “Mimikatz”.   You will now be in the Mimikatz program console and need to enter the commands “privilege::debug” and then “inject::process lsass.exe sekurlsa.dll”

If you get an error at this point (Yeah I know, it is all in French), you probably don’t have System level authority.   Okay, if all went well, you need to run one last command, “@getLogonPasswords

And that is it! The passwords for anyone who has logged onto this machine will be displayed in plain text. From the picture above you can see two users:   Username: Fred  Password: password   Okay, not a complex (or smart) password, but look at the other user:   Username: Secure_User  Password: CvM*901D0?#(Fg[“MNoP43!Ta$cv2%   Wow, wouldn’t want to have to type that one in every day. That is a 30 character password and Mimikatz recovered and displayed it in plain text with no need to decrypt or crack.   The moral of this story boys and girls is to not allow scripts or programs to run from websites that you do not know or trust. Run a browser script blocking program like NoScript. Also, do not allow your Windows 7 users to use Administrator level accounts. Drop them down to User accounts for their everyday usage.   As always, do not access systems that you do not have permission to do so. And always do your penetration testing learning on test machines and not on live production systems.

Finally, if you implement a task to automatically restart systems every night (Windows 7 makes this easy) as policy, it will clear out the passwords in memory from the previous logins – especially important if you have logged in as an administrator earlier in the day.

Three versions of Microsoft’s Windows 8 OS

For those with Intel-compatible machines, the OS will be available in two versions – Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. For those with devices, largely tablets, powered by ARM-designed chips there will be a Windows RT version.

Microsoft wants to simplify how it markets Windows 8, which is expected to launch in autumn 2012. The complex versions of previous Windows – from basic to home, premium to ultimate – have confused consumers.

Microsoft has called Windows 8 the most significant redesign of the Windows interface since its groundbreaking Windows 95 OS.

The ARM version of the OS is the newest edition and reflects Microsoft’s desire to unify the engine known for running desktop computers with that for tablets and smartphones. Windows RT will sit alongside Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems.

A preview version of Windows 8 launched late last year and more than 100,000 changes had been made since the developer version went public. For the first time since its inception, the trademark Windows “Start” button will no longer appear – instead being replaced by a sliding panel-based menu.