Archive for September, 2012:

12 IT certifications that deliver career advancement

12 IT certifications that deliver career advancement
In today’s IT job market, having the right certification can give you the edge over competitors when opportunity arises

Certifications play an important part of any IT professional’s career, although there will always be some debate on how important. Certifications are, like most things in life: The more you put into them, the more you will get out. While the actual knowledge you gain on the journey is the true reward, certifications also indicate to employers that you take your job seriously and that you are knowledgeable on the respective technology.

With more than 1,700 professional IT certifications running the gamut of IT technologies, knowing which certifications are the most important for your specialty can seem an insurmountable task. To help you meet the challenge, we’ve sifted through data from Robert Half Technology to narrow your search and bring you a manageable list of the most relevant IT certifications for the remainder of 2012.
 

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[ Find out the topics and issues affecting tech’s biggest names and news makers as revealed in the IDGE Insider CEO interview series. | Stay ahead of the key tech business news with InfoWorld’s Today’s Headlines: First Look newsletter. | Read Bill Snyder’s Tech’s Bottom Line blog for what the key business trends mean to you. ]

Dice.com, citing Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, reports that Q2 2012 jobless rate for IT techs is at 3.6 percent, much lower than our national average. In a competitive market, you’ve got to do everything you can to distinguish yourself from your peers. Certification is an important part of that process. A recent poll asked users why they chose certification. The number one answer–at 51 percent–was that certification was a way to position themselves for a promotion or potential job.

Knowing which IT certification is right
Before you jump into a specific certification, there are some important questions that you need to ask yourself about your career goals and objectives:

What demographic of IT do you fall into? (Security, Web Development, Programmer and so on)
What are your career objectives?
What IT career are you most interested in?
What type of resources are needed (i.e. money and time)?
Will this certification have a significant impact on my career?

Related Story: Free and Cheap Ways to Study for IT Certifications

Taking the time to think about and document your response to these questions can help solidify your future goals and narrow your list of potential certifications further.

Tip: Once you’ve identified a role you’d like to advance to, look through Monster, Dice, CareerBuilder and other sites for those positions and see what IT certifications employers are looking for. You may find that on-the-job experience is what employers are searching for in one area of your expertise, so it would be logical to invest your time and money into certification in a different area to further your career goals.

Bonus Tip: You’ll find a must-have utility for your IT certification toolbox at GoCertify. The Certification Advisor allows you to plug in your area of expertise, skill level, career goals and more to generate a list of recommended certifications.

If your area of expertise is related to a listed certification’s focus and you don’t have that certification, you will definitely want to delve into it further. Now without further ado, here are our Top 12 IT certifications.

Certifications play an important part of any IT professional’s career, although there will always be some debate on how important. Certifications are, like most things in life: The more you put into them, the more you will get out. While the actual knowledge you gain on the journey is the true reward, certifications also indicate to employers that you take your job seriously and that you are knowledgeable on the respective technology.

With more than 1,700 professional IT certifications running the gamut of IT technologies, knowing which certifications are the most important for your specialty can seem an insurmountable task. To help you meet the challenge, we’ve sifted through data from Robert Half Technology to narrow your search and bring you a manageable list of the most relevant IT certifications for the remainder of 2012.

[ Find out the topics and issues affecting tech’s biggest names and news makers as revealed in the IDGE Insider CEO interview series. | Stay ahead of the key tech business news with InfoWorld’s Today’s Headlines: First Look newsletter. | Read Bill Snyder’s Tech’s Bottom Line blog for what the key business trends mean to you. ]

Dice.com, citing Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, reports that Q2 2012 jobless rate for IT techs is at 3.6 percent, much lower than our national average. In a competitive market, you’ve got to do everything you can to distinguish yourself from your peers. Certification is an important part of that process. A recent poll asked users why they chose certification. The number one answer–at 51 percent–was that certification was a way to position themselves for a promotion or potential job.

Knowing which IT certification is right
Before you jump into a specific certification, there are some important questions that you need to ask yourself about your career goals and objectives:

What demographic of IT do you fall into? (Security, Web Development, Programmer and so on)
What are your career objectives?
What IT career are you most interested in?
What type of resources are needed (i.e. money and time)?
Will this certification have a significant impact on my career?

Related Story: Free and Cheap Ways to Study for IT Certifications

Taking the time to think about and document your response to these questions can help solidify your future goals and narrow your list of potential certifications further.

Tip: Once you’ve identified a role you’d like to advance to, look through Monster, Dice, CareerBuilder and other sites for those positions and see what IT certifications employers are looking for. You may find that on-the-job experience is what employers are searching for in one area of your expertise, so it would be logical to invest your time and money into certification in a different area to further your career goals.

Bonus Tip: You’ll find a must-have utility for your IT certification toolbox at GoCertify. The Certification Advisor allows you to plug in your area of expertise, skill level, career goals and more to generate a list of recommended certifications.

If your area of expertise is related to a listed certification’s focus and you don’t have that certification, you will definitely want to delve into it further. Now without further ado, here are our Top 12 IT certifications.

7. Information Technology Infrastructure Library
The ITIL certification is the basis of the worldwide standard for quality IT Service Management and is considered to have laid the groundwork for effective IT departments. It outlines non-organizational specific “best practices” that are used by companies to establish a level of competency. There are four flavors for this cetification: Foundation, Intermediate, Expert and Master. It’s hard to imagine a company these days that doesn’t maintain some type of web presence and as more and more businesses become dependent on IT, the skills to manage IT services have become a “make or break” role. Demand for this certification has skyrocketed over recent years and it should continue to grow into 2013 and beyond. Average “ITIL Expert” salary $98,000.

Cisco certifications
Cisco certifications, like Microsoft and others, have been IT industry standards for years and are used to validate knowledge of Cisco products and technologies. So much business passes through Cisco systems that these always seem to be in demand. The two listed below should continue to grow well into the foreseeable future.

8. Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
CCIE demonstrates that the recipient has all the expert-level skills required to plan, prepare, operate, monitor, and troubleshoot complex data center networks. CCIE is a common goal for network professionals who want to be recognized as experts in their field. Cisco touts this certification as “the most prestigious networking certification in the industry” and this certification has also been called out by RHT as one of the most in-demand certifications for 2012. Average salary, $103,000.

9. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
CCNA certification is a second-level Cisco Career certification. It lets employers know that you have demonstrated the ability “to install, configure, operate and troubleshoot medium-size routed and switched networks, including implementation and verification of connections to remote sites in a WAN”. Anyone who wants to work in the newtworking field or if you happen to work on Cisco hardware on a regular basis should consider adding this certification to their skillset. As mentioned earlier, security is going to continue to grow and according to RHT data so will the need for this credential. Average salary, $86,000

Microsoft certifications
Microsoft software and systems are a staple in most IT departments making these and other Microsoft certifications in demand skills. The RHT Salary Guide calls out all three of the Microsoft certifications listed below as top needed skills in today’s job market.

10. Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP)
MCITP certifications, one of Microsoft’s newer certifications, tests technical proficiency in the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) certifications. There are many different areas of certification. Average salary, $85,000.

Windows Client

MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician on Windows 7

MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator on Windows 7

MCITP: Consumer Support Technician on Windows Vista

MCITP: Enterprise Support Technician on Windows Vista

Windows Server

MCITP: Enterprise Administrator on Windows Server 2008

MCITP: Server Administrator on Windows Server 2008

MCITP: Virtualization Administrator on Windows Server 2008 R2

Microsoft SQL Server

MCITP: Database Administrator 2008

MCITP: Database Developer 2008

MCITP: Business Intelligence Developer 2008

MCITP: Enterprise Project Management with Microsoft Office Project Server 2007

Microsoft Exchange Server

MCITP: Enterprise Messaging Administrator on Exchange 2010

MCITP: Enterprise Messaging Administrator on Exchange 2007

Microsoft SharePoint Server

MCITP: SharePoint Administrator 2010

Microsoft Lync Server

MCITP: Lync Server Administrator 2010

11. Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS)
MCTS certification validates skills on a particular Microsoft technology. As with MCITP, there are many technologies that you can certify for, for example, Exchange server, Lync Server and Office Communications Server, virtualization and more. There are simply to many to list them all by name here, 57 in fact. The entire list can be found here. Average salary: $90,000

12. Microsoft’s Certified Systems Engineers (MCSE)
An MCSE certification demonstrates that the recipient can design, implement and administer technology infrastructures using Microsoft 2000 Windows Server and other Windows server platforms. This certification is common to systems engineers, tech support engineers, system analysts, network analysts and technical consultants. Average salary: $77,000.

Related Story: Career Advice: the Value of Certs

Why certs pay off
Certifications are a great way to break into a new technology, cover gaps in your resume or advance your current position. The best people in the IT business are the ones who are passionate about learning and that is a key to being successful. Technology is evolving at a pace that is difficult to keep up with. As the environment moves forward and changes so must you. Regular education is a must whether it’s back to college, buying a book or getting a certification. Choose wisely and always explore your options.

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Report: Microsoft to Address Browser Ballot Concerns

Microsoft is reportedly willing to implement changes that would satisfy concerns about the software giant’s browser ballot effort.

European Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a Saturday speech that Steve Ballmer “has given me assurances that they will comply immediately regardless of the conclusion of the anti trust probe,” according to Reuters.

Almunia did not elaborate on what changes Microsoft might make. The commissioner’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Microsoft.

The controversy dates back to 2009, when the European Commission announced that Microsoft violated European competition law by bundling its Internet Explorer browser with Windows. As a result, Microsoft said it would ship a version of Windows 7 with a “browser ballot” that would allow users to select which browser they wanted during the OS installation process. The EU approved that plan in Dec. 2009 and it started rolling out two months later.

Earlier this year, the commission notified Microsoft that it had received reports of people not seeing the BCS. Microsoft said it investigated and discovered that users of Windows 7 service pack 1 were not seeing the browser ballot due to a technical error. A fix started rolling out to PCs running Windows 7 SP1 in early July.

The EU opened an investigation and Almunia said at the time that “if following our investigation, the infringement is confirmed, Microsoft should expect sanctions.”
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Mcitp Training Bootcamp, The top Method to Get Mcitp Accepting To Validate Your Expertise

The Microsoft Licensed IT In a position (MCITP) is amongst the lots of admired accepting applications of Microsoft. This correct accepting is abominably in need, because it showcases complete skills with the IT experts. The accepting shows analytic and compassionate abilities alternating with extra abstract adeptness within the individual. Afterwards accepting MCITP training and certification, the able gets a affirmation that he holds all the skills to handle a correct occupation particular role of the database agent or even a company messaging administrator. The top solution to accession this accepting in a abominable conceptualized abode is by way of MCITP training bootcamp.

 

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On your way of accepting MCITP training and certification, you aswell acclimatized to coulee various Microsoft Licensed Technologies Professional or MCTS certifications. MCITP bootcamp is audacious to achieve a accepting sector attainable to crop new difficulties as a database administrator. This bureau which you superior total angled and calmly on abstract skills to place, generate, delineate, and architectonics acclimatized programs.

The work certain features are astute in the advancement of advantageous and candid abstract projects in an organization. Server Agent Certified Pros: The MCITP, added activate you come up a abutting role, of:

Company systems administrator IT methods manager Company advocacy administrator Techniques architect Network administrator Apart from ensuring bigger place in the workplace, one aswell gets to be a complete crucial asset for that ceh course alignment and can aswell apprehend a sufficient accession within the salary.

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MCITP trainingand accepting is usually imparted appliance distinctive methodologies nowadays, for instance, on the internet trainings besides accepting in a position by on-site and off-site trainers. One aswell can accustom with on the internet trainers to get acutely amiable inputs to attain best acclimation inside the exams. Starting from training materials, software program to superior query, answers and breeding testing software that facilitate candidate’s adeptness and attain one particular attainable for the acclimatized MCITP exam.

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Windows 8 Consumer Preview embraces the KISS principle

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview released February 29, 2012, is the new poster child for the keep-it-simple-stupid philosophy.

On February 29, 2012, Microsoft made the Windows 8 Consumer Preview available to everyone as a free download. Of course, I downloaded and installed it to a PC right away to see what all the fuss was about.

For an even closer look at the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, check out the accompanying TechRepublic Photo Gallery.
Keep it simple

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I haven’t had time to do a full evaluation of the Consumer Preview, but my first impression of this version of Windows 8 on a desktop PC is one of pleasant surprise. I am surprised because I find myself liking the Metro Interface. The tiles are simple, clean, and straightforward. In fact, some may say they are actually intuitive. Moving between applications is very nimble, and as far as I can tell all the applications work as advertised. You can get more of my initial reactions in the photo gallery.

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For the multitude of TechRepublic members who were predicting doom and gloom for Microsoft and Windows 8, I suggest you download the Consumer Preview and give it a thorough try. It may change your mind. And even if you don’t like the Metro Interface, you may find the more traditional desktop just as functional as the desktop in Windows 7 or XP. There is just no catastrophe to see here.

As time passes, I’ll see if my initial reaction holds sway, but as of right now I think Windows 8 is going to win some users over with its keep-it-simple-stupid (KISS) philosophy. For me the real test is whether Windows 8 can run the games I typically play on the PC. I’ll get back to you on that. (On a side note, I am installing Windows 8 on a tablet as I write this blog post.)

Have you downloaded and installed the Windows 8 Consumer Preview? What are your initial impressions of this latest version of Windows? Can you live with the Metro Interface? Have your experienced any problems?


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Microsoft Confirms Security Breach In IE 9, Earlier Versions

Microsoft is warning Internet Explorer users that a vulnerability has been discovered in the Web browser that could corrupt a PC’s memory and allow hackers to execute malicious code.

Microsoft said the security risks apply to Internet Explorer 9 and earlier versions but will not affect Internet Explorer 10 on the Windows 8 preview release. A security patch is in the works, but Microsoft didn’t specify whether it would be available as soon as possible or be rolled into its October release of monthly security updates.

“On completion of this investigation, Microsoft will take the appropriate action to protect our customers, which may include providing a solution through our monthly security update release process, or an out-of-cycle security update, depending on customer needs,” Microsoft wrote on its Security TechCenter website.

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The Redmond, Wash., software giant said it has received reports of “only a small number of targeted attacks” but is encouraging IE users to enable firewalls, apply the most recent software updates, and install antivirus software to help minimize the risk of attack.

According to a report from the Associated Press, Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security was one of the first to warn users of the breach, saying Internet Explorer’s “weak point is already being used for targeted attacks.” The agency also warned that the malicious code enabling the breach is available openly online, meaning attacks could happen quickly and become more widespread.

The Federal Office for Information Security also urged current IE users, especially those running a Windows XP or Windows 7 operating system, to use alternative Web browsers until a patch is available.

The agency said hackers will most likely try to lure IE users to an infected website, at which point they can seize control and compromise users’ PCs.


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Microsoft, PreEmptive Team to Deliver Exception Analytics to Visual Studio 2012

Microsoft partners with PreEmptive Solutions to deliver exception analytics to Microsoft Visual Studio 2012 right out of the box.

Microsoft and PreEmptive Solutions announced that PreEmptive Analytics and Dotfuscator CE will be included in Microsoft Visual Studio 2012 and Team Foundation Server 2012 to provide exception analytics for developers using the Microsoft flagship developer toolset.

Dotfuscator CE, which has been included with every version of Visual Studio since Visual Studio 2003, prevents the reverse engineering of Microsoft .NET applications and includes basic application monitoring capabilities. The Visual Studio 2012 version, renamed PreEmptive Analytics and Dotfuscator Community Edition, has been expanded to include exception monitoring and response, PreEmptive officials said.

This also means that for the first time, a repository and rules engine that aggregates and analyzes incoming exception alerts will be included with Team Foundation Server 2012, Microsoft said. When rules are triggered, work items are created or updated, providing near real-time visibility into production.

 

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“We’ve worked closely with our longstanding partner, PreEmptive Solutions, to create high-quality tools that help teams successfully manage the development lifecycle of modern applications,” said Mitra Azizirad, general manager of developer tools marketing and sales at Microsoft, in a statement. “Through its integration with Visual Studio 2012 and Team Foundation Server 2012, PreEmptive Analytics quickly connects development and operations teams, improving the operations team’s response time to production incidents and creating a more collaborative development environment.”

“PreEmptive Analytics provides an end-to-end solution connecting development and operations to provide clarity around development priorities, improve application quality and increase operational response,” said Gabriel Torok, CEO of PreEmptive, also in a statement.

Dotfuscator Software Services Community Edition is scheduled to ship with all versions of Visual Studio 2012 — other than Visual Studio Express — at no additional charge. PreEmptive Solutions’ software and managed services monitor, measure and protect applications across cloud, on-premise, Internet and mobile platforms. Leveraging PreEmptive’s application analytics and protection solutions, development organizations materially improve application quality, user satisfaction and development ROI across today’s distributed and increasingly heterogeneous computing architectures, the company said.

Microsoft formally launched its flagship Visual Studio 2012 tools suite and has already announced an update for the product, Visual Studio 2012 Update 1.

At a Sept. 12 launch event in Seattle, Microsoft officially announced VS2012 before an audience of hundreds of developers in-person and thousands more via webcast.

Visual Studio 2012 and .NET 4.5 are the tools that form the backbone for developing on Windows 8. However, not only on Windows 8, but all of Microsoft’s platforms, the company said. Meanwhile, Microsoft will be delivering VS2012 Update 1 by the end of this year as part of a new strategy to update its developer tools at new, more rapid cadence, Microsoft said.

Soma Somasegar, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s developer division, said “Visual Studio 2012 is the best development tool to enable developers to build ‘modern apps’ for connected devices,” in an interview with eWEEK. VS2012 supports development on Windows 8, Windows Server, Windows Azure and Windows Phone.

The new release of the toolset also supports team development and different methodologies like never before, Somasegar said. The application lifecycle management (ALM) capabilities in the product enable development teams “to operate and behave like a startup,” he said. “We enable teams to adopt Agile methods, continuous feedback, quality, and continuous deployment and evolution,” among other things, he added.


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Training For Microsoft Mcitp Certification 2011

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Windows 8 Update: Ballmer redefines the PC

Also: Windows 8 for games, final Office will be an upgrade to Windows RT

Just as the world is coming to grips with the post-PC era the CEO of PC software behemoth Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, seems to be trying to prolong the age by redefining the iconic business machine to include tablets.

In a Seattle Times interview with Janet I. Tu, Ballmer says PCs will sell well next year, but he acknowledges that some of what might be called tablets could also be considered PCs.

MORE: Windows Server 2012 in photos

CLEAR CHOICE TEST: 6 free email servers for small businesses

This includes Microsoft’s own new hardware device Surface for Windows 8, which has all the features of a tablet but also includes a fold-down cover that becomes a keyboard. That hardware arrangement, when coupled with the version of Windows 8 for x86 processors that supports all traditional Windows applications, is a laptop PC.

Another version, called Windows RT, supports only modern applications, the name Microsoft has given to apps designed for touch. Windows RT could legitimately be considered a tablet with a keyboard.

Here’s what Ballmer said to Tu:

Q: What is Microsoft’s plan if Windows 8 doesn’t take off?

A: You know, Windows 8 is going to do great.

Q: No doubt at all?

A: I’m not paid to have doubts. (Laughs.) I don’t have any. It’s a fantastic product. …

People talk about: “How healthy is the PC market?” There’s going to be close to 400 million PCs sold in the next year, which makes it a big market. And whether it’s 405 [million] or 395 [million], it’s a big market, and Windows 8 will propel that volume.

It also brings us into this world of much more mobile computing and more mobile form factors. I think it’s going to be hard to tell what’s a tablet and what is a PC.

Ballmer also flirted with setting a price for Surface, which is widely compared to Apple’s iPad, but came up short. From the interview:

Q: The iPad has the largest share of the tablet market, but its soft spot, it seems to me, is the price. With the Surface, are you planning to compete with the iPad on price or on features?

A: We haven’t announced pricing. I think we have a very competitive product from the features perspective. …

I think most people would tell you that the iPad is not a superexpensive device. … [When] people offer cheaper, they do less. They look less good, they’re chintzier, they’re cheaper.

If you say to somebody, would you use one of the 7-inch tablets, would somebody ever use a Kindle [Kindle Fire, $199] to do their homework? The answer is no; you never would. It’s just not a good enough product. It doesn’t mean you might not read a book on it. …

If you look at the bulk of the PC market, it would run between, say, probably $300 to about $700 or $800. That’s the sweet spot.

The price is the ballpark range that people pay for an iPad but without a keyboard. It’s a different price bracket than that occupied by Amazon’s Kindle fire, and the Surface itself has a broader set of capabilities.
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Windows 8 for games

Microsoft has teamed up with the cloud-based gaming company Agawi in order to stream games to users of Windows 8 devices, the companies say.

The games would be based in Microsoft’s Azure cloud and be streamed to whatever Windows 8 device the customer had — tablet, laptop, PC.

The goal of the partnership is to make it easier for developers to create games that scale without having to worry about how that will be accomplished. That will be taken care of by the Agawi/Microsoft back end, they say.

Agawi demoed some of the games at Cloud Gaming USA this week.

Meanwhile, Microsoft also plans to open an interactive entertainment studio in London this November that will focus on using Windows 8 devices as the underlying technology.

The goal is to build a business that focuses on entertainment-as-a-service that can be sold to users of Windows 8 tablets such as the Surface devices Microsoft is making itself to best show off the new operating system.

The new studio “will allow Microsoft Studios to explore the many creative and business opportunities that developing new games and entertainment experiences on Windows 8 tablet devices and platforms will afford,” says Lee Schuneman, who will head up the studio. So far the studio hasn’t been named.
Free Surface tablets for Microsoft workers

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer promised at the annual company gathering that all 90,000 full-time Microsoft employees will get free Surface tablets, a Windows 8 PC and a Windows Phone 8 phone.

Employees get to use the tablets and phones for whatever they want, but the PCs are for work only, according to posts on Twitter.

Of course there is a top-of-line Surface model that has the processing power of a PC, so the promise of a tablet and a PC could be fulfilled with a single device.
Office preview at Windows 8 launch

When Windows 8 on ARM-based devices — Windows RT — launches Oct. 26, the version of Office applications bundled with it will just be preview versions, Microsoft says.

These tablet devices only run applications designed specifically for Windows 8 (Microsoft calls them modern apps) with the exception of specially crafted versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

But the final version of these Office apps won’t be ready when Windows RT becomes generally available, Microsoft says in a blog.

“After the final edition of Office Home & Student 2013 RT is released in a customer’s language, their Windows RT device will be automatically updated with the final edition for free via Windows Update (Wi-Fi connection required)” the blog says. “Customers can expect to get these updates starting in early November through January depending on their language. We’ll publish the specific update schedule on October 26.”
IE 10 patched for Windows 8 launch

Microsoft says it will patch a Flash vulnerability in the new Internet Explorer 10 that is designed specifically to better support the touch capabilities of Windows 8.

This is a decision that counters what Microsoft said earlier — that it would wait until after the Windows 8 launch Oct. 26 to patch the browser.

The company must have decided the weakness represented a significant security threat that couldn’t be ignored.

Traditionally IE supported flash via plug-ins, but they have been banned with IE 10 and Microsoft has instead built flash directly into the browser.

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Microsoft finds new computers in China preinstalled with malware

The company said the malware was embedded inside counterfeit versions of its Windows OS

IDG News Service – Brand-new laptop and desktop computers sold in China contain preinstalled malicious software, which has infected millions of computers around the world, according to an investigation by Microsoft revealed on Thursday.
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The malware, embedded in counterfeit versions of Microsoft’s Windows OS, is engineered to spy on users and conduct denial-of-service attacks, Microsoft said. It warned that the findings pose fresh questions over the integrity of computer-part supply chains.

Cybercriminals “are out to get you,” said Richard Domingues Boscovich, assistant general counsel for Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit. “They will do whatever it takes. If the supply chain is how they’re going on get on [computers], that’s what they’re going to do.”

Microsoft’s investigation, dubbed “Operation b70,” culminated with the shutdown of the command-and-control system connected to computers infected with “Nitol,” a piece of malicious software called a rootkit preinstalled on some of the examined computers. Nitol quickly spreads via removable drives.

The company had led an aggressive drive against counterfeit software and botnets to try to stop the source of cybercriminal activity, much of which is targeted at Windows users due to the high use worldwide of the company’s operating system.

Company investigators had Chinese nationals purchase 20 laptop and desktop computers from so-called “PC malls” in various Chinese cities. All of the machines had counterfeit copies of Windows XP or Windows 7, Boscovich said. Three computers contained inactive malware, but a fourth had a live piece of malware, “Nitol.A,” that awoke when the computer connected to the Internet, he said.

The laptop was manufactured by Hedy, a large manufacturer based in Guangzhou, China, and purchased in Shenzhen. The other three computers with inactive malware were from “major manufacturers” but Microsoft is not identifying the brands, Boscovich said.

It is believed that the computers became infected after the devices left the factory. In China, many computers ship with just DOS, and an operating system is installed later. “Somewhere in that retail or wholesale supply chain, something happens,” Boscovich said.

Consumers in Western countries may not be vulnerable to the kind of tampering, but they do face risks if they download counterfeit software from the internet, Boscovich said.

The malware discovery led to a larger investigation into the Nitol botnet, which was controlled through the domain “3322.org.” The domain has been linked to malicious activity as far back as 2008, Boscovich said.

The 3322.org domain contained more than 500 strains of malware hosted on some 70,000 subdomains, Boscovich said. The malware hosted is capable of a range of malicious functions, from turning on a computer’s microphone and video camera to logging keystrokes, according to a Microsoft blog post.

Microsoft obtained permission on Sept. 10 from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to take control of the 3322.org domain. The company filed a civil complaint against Peng Yong, who owns the domain and his company Changzhou Bei Te Kang Mu Software Technology, also known as Bitcomm, and three other unnamed defendants. A hearing is set for Sept. 26.

Boscovich said Microsoft would like Yong to identify those people who have registered the malicious domains, as only he would hold that information since the websites are subdomains. “We are trying to reach out to him now,” he said. “We are not necessarily alleging he is the one running the botnet.”

Microsoft now controls 3322.org. Since the domain also hosts legitimate websites, Microsoft is using DNS (Domain Name System) software from Nominum that will allow legitimate traffic to subdomains of 3322.org but halt traffic to the 70,000 hosted websites that are harmful, a process known as “sinkholing.”

Using the DNS in this way is a new, state-of-art approach, said Craig Sprosts, general manager for fixed broadband for Nominum, which provides DNS services for service providers including Verizon, Comcast and BT. The advantage is that websites that aren’t doing anything illegal will continue to run.

“This operation is somewhat unique,” Sprosts said. “There have been domain take downs, but this one was kind of surgical strike.”

As far as the infected computers, Microsoft will notify ISPs who have infected customers, which then can take action to cleanse the computers of malware.

 

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How to make sure IT certifications and Online IT Training actually Works

How to choose a certification path

To start, you might want to map out certifications you believe are relevant for your career — and you don’t have to stick with a single provider. To prove your hardware know-how, you might consider taking an A+ exam from Comptia. To prove a base knowledge of networking, you might try the Network+ exam (also from Comptia). If project management is more your focus, you might like to focus on the
Project+ exam.

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You might want to prove your ability with Microsoft products; the traditional MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) has been discontinued in favor of the MCTS (Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist) and MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professional) tracks. You might prepare for the Windows Server, SQL, or Exchange tracks if you are looking to focus on the server side or you might prepare for the desktop side with Windows 7 exams. The number of exams you can take is endless.

Another direction you may prefer is to pass exams on technology you know is relevant in your environment. Virtualization is a huge market right now, and you might see the value in pursuing VMware exams to demonstrate your virtualization expertise. (My InfoWorld colleague David Marshall explores such certification in his article “Is it worthwhile to upgrade to a VMware vSphere 4 certification?”)

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Windows 8 ‘doesn’t move the needle’ on security, says Symantec

Symantec said Windows 8 “doesn’t move the needle much” on security as it rolled out new versions of its antivirus software and promised to provide users with several so-called “Modern” apps for the new operating system.

On Wednesday, the security developer released new versions of its consumer titles Norton AntiVirus, Norton Internet Security and Norton 360.

The new programs are optimized for Windows 8’s traditional desktop environment — the side of the new OS that looks much like Windows 7 — said Gerry Egan, senior director, product management, in an interview. When Windows 8 ships in late October, Symantec will offer a trio of apps specific for the tile-based user interface (UI) once known as “Metro” and now often referred to as “Modern.”
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Those apps, which have not yet been given final names, will include one that connects to Symantec’s cloud-based back-end management system to give users a view into the security health of Windows and the hardware; another that uses the company’s “whitelist” technology to sniff out suspicious data and files, including corrupted Modern apps; and a third that uses Internet Explorer 10’s (IE10) engine inside a customized browser that Egan said will let customers “surf online securely.”

The Modern apps will hit the Windows Store — Microsoft’s regulated app store for Windows 8 and Windows RT software — on or just after the Oct. 26 debut of the operating system upgrade.

Initially, said Egan, those apps will be available free to everyone, hinting that at some point they could be restricted to customers who had purchased the traditional Norton desktop security software and had an up-to-date subscription to Symantec’s services.

“It’s a way to explore [the new UI], and introduce customers to our presence there,” said Egan of Symantec’s move into Modern.

“But we need to see where that [malware] flows, what the problems are for our customers, before we do more [on Modern],” Egan continued. “What we do will depend on the attack surfaces in Windows RT and Windows 8. Microsoft has laid down some very stringent guidelines on what’s allowable [on Modern], which also ties our hands. So if there is more to do in the future, we may not be able to because it would infringe those guidelines.”

Egan was mostly referring to policies set by Microsoft that “sandbox,” or isolate, apps from each other and from the traditional desktop in Windows 8 to provide a more secure environment.

Microsoft is relying on sandboxing, as well as the curated Windows Store — it reviews each app prior to approval, looking for everything from malware to undisclosed rights — to secure the tiled side of Windows 8, and all of Windows RT, the touch-first, tablet-oriented spin-off.

Not surprisingly, Egan didn’t think much of Microsoft’s security moves in Windows 8 as he set up several “myths” about the new OS only to then knock each down.

“We’re just not seeing any significant improvements in Windows 8 security … it doesn’t move the needle much,” Egan said, ticking off everything from the new Secure Boot feature to a beefed-up Smart Screen anti-malware filter.

“It’s partially true that Windows 8 is more secure,” said Egan, pointing to the concept of the Windows Store and its approved apps. “But underneath is a traditional Windows-Intel desktop, which is backward compatible with both the good code and the bad.”

Much of Egan’s disparagement of Windows 8’s security can be traced to Windows 8’s bundling of Windows Defender, an old name for a heavily reworked product.

In Windows 8, Windows Defender combines characteristics of both the earlier anti-spyware program of the same name, and the free Security Essentials, the antivirus program that previously was offered as a separate download.

Windows Defender serves as the operating system’s default protection against malware, and will switch itself off only if it detects an active third-party antivirus program that’s receiving signature updates.

Although Security Essentials has stirred third-party antivirus vendors in the past to complain that Microsoft wasn’t playing fair, the move to bundle Defender with Windows 8 hasn’t prodded them to go public with similar beefs.

Egan argued that Symantec’s software does a better job of protecting users than Windows Defender. “We believe we add so much more value over and above [Defender],” he said.

But John Pescatore, a Gartner analyst, said Symantec has bigger problems than Windows Defender.

“They’re all going after a shrinking pool of machines,” said Pescatore of stalled PC sales as smartphones and tablets consume discretionary dollars. “The percentage of devices running Windows is dropping. And there are more players going after that shrinking pool.”

Symantec may play up the Windows 8 angle for its new titles, but the truth, said Pescatore, is that Microsoft’s decision to mimic Apple and Google by offering an app store means traditional antivirus vendors have an unclear future.

“There’s never been a market for security software on iOS,” Pescatore observed. “So if Microsoft pushes the whitelist idea of an app store, there’s less and less need for the [antivirus] commodity.”

Egan’s complaint that the hooks into the boot process — dubbed “Early Load Anti-malware Driver,” or ELAM — doesn’t allow software makers to deploy their full set of weapons is actually a good thing, Pescatore argued.

“It’s better that the [Windows 8] platform doesn’t let security software’s root kits work, because that means it also cripples the bad guys’ root kits,” Pescatore said.

The 2013 editions of Norton AntiVirus, Norton Internet Security and Norton 360 are available at retail stores and from Symantec’s online store. Norton AntiVirus costs $39.99 for a one-year license for a single PC; Norton Internet Security runs $79.99 for one year of protection for up to three Windows machines; and Norton 360 costs $89.99 for a three-PC, one-year.

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